First baby born at IDF field hospital in Nepal
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Likud signs first coalition deals with Kulanu, UTJ parties

Agreements put Netanyahu on road to next government with 46 seats; Haredi faction to take control of Health Ministry and Finance C’tee, roll back Yesh Atid reforms

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Israeli soldiers set up a field hospital together with the Nepalese army in Nepal following the deadly earthquake on April 29, 2015. (IDF Spokesperson)
Israeli soldiers set up a field hospital together with the Nepalese army in Nepal following the deadly earthquake on April 29, 2015. (IDF Spokesperson)

The Times of Israel live blogged Wednesday’s developments as they occurred.

IDF opens field hospital

Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and the Nepalese chief of staff visit Israel’s emergency field hospital outside the capital of Kathmandu, which commenced its activities this morning.

The IDF humanitarian aid mission arrived in Nepal yesterday, three days after a 7.8-magnitude quake flattened large parts of the Himalayan country and killed over 5,000 people.

Koirala thanks Israeli Ambassador Yaron Meir for Israel’s help, Israel Radio reports.

The hospital has already treated dozens of people injured in the quake.

Crew of ship seized by Iran safe, company says

The operator of a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo vessel boarded by Iranian forces as it was traversing the Strait of Hormuz says it has confirmed the crew is safe but the company is still trying to determine why the ship was seized the previous day by Iran.

The MV Maresk Tigris was en route Wednesday to Bandar Abbas, the main port for Iran’s navy, under escort by Iranian patrol boats, according to Maersk Line, the company that had chartered it. Tehran has not offered any clarification on the incident, which comes at a critical time during Iran’s relations with the United States and the West.

Cor Radings, a spokesman for the ship’s operator, Rickmers Ship Management in Singapore, says the company had been in touch by phone with the crew earlier in the day.

“We have had the confirmation that they are in relatively good condition and safe on board the ship,” he says.

Radings confirms reports that there were no Americans on board, identifying the 24 people crew members as “mainly from Eastern Europe and Asia.”

— AP

1 Israeli still missing, Foreign Ministry says

The Foreign Ministry declares that one of the few remaining Israelis in Nepal is missing. Or Asraf is among the few remaining Israelis who haven’t yet made contact with Israeli authorities.

His father, Patrick Asraf, is optimistic, he tells Walla news.

“As the hours tick by we get more reports of people who were there and saw him and report where he was,” Asraf says of his son. “We’re in constant contact with all authorities dealing with it and all signs show that everything is alright.”

Hamas police beat protesters in Gaza

Police in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip beat and arrested protesters at a youth rally in the north of the besieged Palestinian territory, an AFP correspondent says.

More than 400 demonstrators gathered in Shejaiya, a neighborhood in eastern Gaza City that was razed during a July-August war between Hamas and Israel, urging reconstruction and calling for an end to intra-Palestinian division.

— AFP

Israel lets 14k tons of building material into Gaza

Israel allows 14,000 tons of building material into war-devastated Gaza on Wednesday, the defense ministry says of the largest single shipment since a July-August conflict ended in the blockaded territory.

COGAT, the coordinating body for Israeli government policy in the Palestinian territories, tells AFP that some 354 trucks passed through the Kerem Shalom goods crossing in the southern Gaza Strip carrying “construction materials,” without elaborating.

— AFP

A truck loaded with goods enters the Gaza Strip from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing in  the southern Gaza Strip, March 15, 2015. (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

A truck loaded with goods enters the Gaza Strip from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, March 15, 2015. (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Israel advises citizens to leave Nepal

Israel is advising its nationals to leave earthquake-hit Nepal, the Foreign Ministry says, fearing disease and violence after desperate Nepalis clashed with riot police over supplies and aid.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon tells AFP the warning came after helicopters sent to evacuate Israeli citizens were mobbed and attacked by Nepalis trying to get on board.

“We’re advising our citizens to leave Nepal, for both health and security reasons,” he says, but adds the warning was being diffused by Israeli media, rather than through official channels.

— AFP

8 Israelis rescued from Nepalese attackers

A private Israeli search and rescue squad retrieves eight Israeli backpackers by helicopter who were threatened by Nepalese locals, Ynet reports.

The chopper attempted to land in the Langtang region of Nepal but had trouble landing. The Israelis were instructed to move to a lower elevation, and while doing so were reportedly attacked by a group of locals. The Israelis managed to escape and climb aboard the helicopter, and were taken to a Nepalese army base.

The website also reports that in a separate incident three other Israeli tourists were rescued by Israeli Harel Insurance company.

Egypt jails 69 Islamists for torching church

Egypt jailed 69 Islamists for life today for torching a church near Cairo in August 2013 during a crackdown on supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, a judicial official says.

The church was set on fire and a police station was attacked when violence erupted in the town of Kerdasa on August 14 that year, after hundreds of Morsi supporters died in a crackdown on two protest camps in the capital the same day.

— AFP

Zarif to talk about nuke talks in NYC

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is set to speak in New York about the nuclear talks with world powers at an event organized by the New America NYC and the NYU Center on International Cooperation at 5 p.m. Israel time.

A live feed of the talks can be watched here.

UTJ to sign coalition deal with Likud

Ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism is set to sign a coalition deal with the Likud party this evening.

The six-seat party will be the first to sign a deal to join a government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Likud MK Ze’ev Elkin tells Channel 2 that he’s hopeful that the Kulanu party headed by Moshe Kahlon will also ink a coalition deal with Likud this evening.

Netanyahu received a two-week extension from President Reuven Rivlin last week to build a governing coalition after his one-month deadline expired.

United Torah Judaism MK Yaakov Litzman in the Knesset, September 15, 2014 (Photo credit: Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

United Torah Judaism MK Yaakov Litzman in the Knesset, September 15, 2014 (Photo credit: Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Family of missing Israeli gets word he’s ok

The family of missing Israeli backpacker Or Asraf tells Channel 2 that they received secondhand information indicating their son was seen alive and well an hour after the quake, but there is no firm confirmation of this.

Patrick, Asraf’s father, says that an Israeli they spoke to heard from someone else that he’d seen Asraf after Saturday’s earthquake.

Asraf is the only Israeli still missing, the Foreign Ministry said earlier today.

Jerusalemites feel least secure, poll reports

Jerusalem residents feel the least secure out of anywhere in the country, a poll conducted for the Public Security Ministry finds, according to Israel Radio.

Only 65 percent of residents polled say they feel safe, compared to 81% in West Bank settlements.

It wasn’t clear whether the poll surveyed East Jerusalem residents or not. The complete survey results aren’t available on the Public Security Ministry website or on the website of the Central Bureau of Statistics, which conducted the poll.

‘Laughable’ that Netanyahu is anti-nuke ‘guru,’ Zarif says

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif calls it “laughable” that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “has become everybody’s nonproliferation guru.”

“He’s sitting on 400 warheads, nuclear warheads, acquired in violation of the NPT (non-proliferation treaty),” to which Israel isn’t a party, he tells an audience at New York University.

Zarif says that the greatest threat to global security is nuclear weapons possessed by the P5+1 world powers, and next is Israel’s nuclear weapons.

He says that he would welcome Saudi Arabia having the same arrangements and enrichment program as Iran under the  NPT. “It’s their right.”

Video of Jerusalem car attack surfaces

Footage believed to be of the April 15 terrorist attack on a bus stop in which an Israeli man was killed and another injured near Jerusalem’s French Hill neighborhood is published online.

The video appears to show the car swerve across multiple lanes of traffic and careen into the bus stop where Shalom Sherki and Shira Klein stood. The driver then appears to back up, across multiple lanes of traffic, before coming to a stop.

Zarif says ‘no’ to negotiations with Israel

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gives an outright “no” to the possibility of negotiations with Israel. He says Israel should stop hiding behind the “scapegoats and smokescreens.”

Zarif ducks the question of whether Iran would be willing to negotiate with Israel should a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians is reached.

First baby born at IDF field hospital in Nepal

IDF spokeswoman Libby Weiss says the first baby has been born in the Israeli field hospital in Nepal on the first day of operations.

IDF treats first 100 patients after opening Nepal field hospital

Col. Dr. Ofer Merin, the medical manager of the IDF field hospital facility in Nepal, says in a conference call with reporters that the hospital has treated 100 patients since opening its doors Wednesday.

He says the hospital, equipped with an operating room and emergency room, among other facilities, is treating four types of patients: those that have only recently been rescued from the rubble and airlifted to safety; those that were transferred from the adjacent Nepali army hospital, mostly from the overflowing Intensive Care Unit; trekkers, some of whom have frostbite; and city dwellers who were lightly injured by the earthquake but have nowhere else to turn.

He praises the local medical teams, saying they are providing a very high level of care. The IDF team is 250-people strong and is fully self-sufficient.

— Mitch Ginsburg 

Jimmy Carter cancels Gaza trip

A delegation led by former US President Jimmy Carter says it has called off a planned visit to the Gaza Strip.

Carter had planned to make the visit on Thursday in an attempt to draw attention to the humanitarian situation in the war-battered territory. The trip included planned meetings with Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza.

But late Wednesday, the Elders, the group sponsoring the visit, expressed regret that the visit would not take place. It gave no explanation.

Israeli officials, who consider Hamas a terrorist group, have no plans to meet Carter. But Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said Israel was prepared to allow Carter to visit Gaza, and the cancellation was not at Israel’s request.

AP

French cartoonist says won’t draw Muhammad anymore

Cartoonist Luz, who drew Charlie Hebdo’s front cover picture of Mohammed following the massacre of the satirical weekly’s editorial team by jihadists in January, has told a French magazine he will no longer draw the prophet.

“I will no longer draw the figure of Mohammed. It no longer interests me,” he tells Les Inrockuptibles magazine in an interview published on Wednesday.

“I’m not going to spend my life drawing (cartoons of Mohammed).”

UTJ signs coalition deal with Likud

The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party is the first to sign a coalition deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Joining coalition, UTJ to head key Knesset committee

With the signing of the coalition deal between UTJ and Likud, the ultra-Orthodox party will be given the deputy education minister and deputy health minister posts, as well as the chairmanships of the Knesset Finance Committee, and Science and Technology Committee.

According to the agreement, the Netanyahu government agrees to halt conversion and core curriculum reforms and strike down criminal penalties for draft dodgers and cuts to ultra-Orthodox education.

Kulanu, Likud sign coalition deal

Kulanu party leader Moshe Kahlon signs a coalition deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu reportedly tells Kahlon, “I want you back,” at the signing ceremony, Channel 2 reports.

The addition of Kulanu’s 10 seats brings Netanyahu’s coalition up to 46 seats, meaning he requires only 15 more to form a government.

Kahlon’s party to get finance, housing portfolios

The deal reached between Kulanu and Likud on Wednesday stipulates that Kahlon’s party will receive the finance, environmental protection, and housing and construction portfolios, as well as the head of the Israel Land Administration.

The parties also agreed to raise the salary of soldiers, give unemployment insurance to self-employed workers, and set a biennial budget by October, Ynet reports.

Kulanu party leader Moshe Kahlon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands after signing a coalition deal on April 29, 2015. (photo credit: courtesy of Likud party)

Kulanu party leader Moshe Kahlon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands after signing a coalition deal on April 29, 2015. (photo credit: courtesy of Likud party)

Zarif says Iran, world powers to meet Thursday

Iran’s foreign minister says his country and world powers will meet Thursday to start bringing together the elements of a draft on a comprehensive nuclear deal.

He also says meetings will start on Monday in Europe to finalize all its elements.

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told an event in New York that even though Iran certainly wants to meet the June 30 deadline for an agreement, “no time deadline is sacrosanct.”

AP

Lapid knocks Likud draft concession to UTJ

After Likud and UTJ sign a coalition deal, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid says in a statement that Netanyahu sold out Israeli values for the sake of forming a coalition.

“The prime minister, who claims he stands at the head of a Zionist party, today sold the values of equality and jointly bearing the burden to a non-Zionist party,” Lapid says, referring to Netanyahu’s concession of striking down criminal penalties for draft dodgers.

“Netanyahu handed the cost to the public who serves and works, to those same soldiers and reservists who just last summer fiercely defended residents of the south,” Lapid says. “Yesh Atid won’t concede and will fight for this historic law.”

Kulanu vows housing, banking reforms

Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon takes to Facebook after signing a partnership deal with Likud saying the Israeli economy “needs reform” and that the two parties know how to make it happen.

“As we guaranteed, in the next government we will advance reforms in housing, banking, and we’ll work to refuse gaps in Israeli society,” he says. Kahlon says he expects full backing from the coalition and from the prime minister.

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First baby born at IDF field hospital in Nepal

IDF spokeswoman Libby Weiss says the first baby has been born in the Israeli field hospital in Nepal on the first day of operations.