First Eurovision semi-final to kick off in Tel Aviv at 10 p.m.
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Eurovision officially launches in Tel Aviv with first semi-final

17 countries compete for 10 spots in Saturday’s grand finale. Watch the livestream here, starting 10 p.m.

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they unfolded.

Anti-Semitic crime in Germany up, amid uptick in hate crimes

German security officials say the number of anti-Semitic and anti-foreigner incidents rose in the country last year, despite an overall fall in politically motivated crimes.

Anti-Semitic incidents rose 19.6 percent to 1,799 — 89.1% of those involving far-right perpetrators. Xenophobic incidents rose 19.7% to 7,701 amid an overall uptick in hate crimes to 8,113 from 7,913.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer says politically motivated crime overall was down 8.7% in 2018 to 36,062 incidents, praising the trend but saying the figures are still too high.

— AP

Saudi Arabia says its oil infrastructure attacked by drones

Saudi Arabia says drones attacked one of its oil pipelines as other assaults target energy infrastructure elsewhere in the kingdom, shortly after Yemen’s rebels claim a coordinated drone attack on the Sunni power.

The assaults mark the latest incidents challenging Mideast security after the alleged sabotage of oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates earlier this week amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran.

In a statement carried on the state-run Saudi Press Agency, Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih says drones attacked a petroleum pumping station supplying a pipeline running from its oil-rich Eastern Province to the Yanbu Port on the Red Sea.

— AP

Montana Gov. Bullock joins 2020 Democratic presidential race

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announces he is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, distinguishing himself among nearly two dozen candidates as the field’s only statewide elected official to win a state that President Donald Trump carried in 2016.

The 53-year-old governor is running as a centrist Democrat who has advanced party values while navigating a Republican legislature and a GOP-leaning electorate.

“What we need to do is get the country back on track, make sure everybody has a fair shot at success,” he tells The Associated Press in an interview before launching his campaign via online video. “I’ve been able to get meaningful things done that impact the people of my state. I believe they’ll be a strong reception for that.”

— AP

Iran’s foreign minister visits India amid falling oil revenue

Iran’s foreign minister has met with his Indian counterpart in New Delhi, days after India decided to follow US restrictions on buying Iranian oil.

India’s foreign ministry says Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif held discussions with Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today on issues of mutual interest, including the evolving situation in Afghanistan. It didn’t give any details.

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, right, talks with her Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, May 14, 2019 (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Iran is the third-largest oil supplier for India after Iraq and Saudi Arabia. India bought 23.6 million tons of Iranian oil in the financial year ending in March 2019.

India says it will buy crude oil from other major oil producing countries to protect its interests.

— AP

Jewish woman stabbed, seriously injured in Sweden

A Jewish woman was seriously injured in a knife attack in the Swedish city of Helsingborg earlier today, Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reports.

The woman, in her 60s, was attacked in the street by an unknown assailant who fled. Police say they are treating the case as one of attempted murder.

The woman is said to be active in a local congregation. It is not currently clear whether a hate crime is suspected.

Kremlin: Arms control, Iran and Syria on agenda as Pompeo arrives

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives in Russia for talks that are expected to focus on an array of issues including arms control and Iran.

Pompeo lands in the Black Sea resort of Sochi for his first visit to Russia at a time relations between the two countries are at a post-Cold War low.

Pompeo will be sitting down for talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov before he meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, tells reporters that he expects the meeting to focus on arms control, Iran, Syria, Venezuela and North Korea’s nuclear program.

— AP

Iran ‘too great’ to be intimidated, Rouhani says

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani says the Islamic Republic is “too great to be intimidated by anyone,” as tensions rise with the United States.

“God willing we will pass this difficult period with glory and our heads held high, and defeat the enemy,” he said at a meeting with Sunni clerics late Monday, government website dolat.ir reports.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during the inauguration ceremony of four projects at the South Pars gas field on the northern coast of the Persian Gulf, in Asaluyeh, Iran, March 17, 2019. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

He spoke after four ships, including two Saudi oil tankers, were reportedly attacked off the UAE coast Sunday, amid mounting regional tensions.

Iran has called for an investigation into what it called an “alarming” incident. On Tuesday, a senior member of Iran’s parliament blamed Israel for the attacks.

— AFP

Ex-congressman Weiner leaves halfway house, hopes for ‘life of integrity’

Former Rep. Anthony Weiner leaves a New York City halfway house after completing his prison sentence for illicit online contact with a 15-year-old girl.

“It’s good to be out,” the disgraced former congressman says, according to the New York Post. “I hope to be able to live a life of integrity and service. I’m glad this chapter of my life is behind me.”

Weiner, a once-rising star in the Democratic Party who served in Congress for nearly 12 years, had been living in the halfway house since February after serving most of his 21-month prison sentence at a prison in Massachusetts. He still faces three years of court supervision.

Anthony Weiner leaves federal court in New York after pleading guilty to a charge of sending sexual material to a minor, May 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Weiner pleaded guilty in May 2017 to transferring obscene material to a minor.

— AP

Figures show boosted settlement construction since Trump’s election

Israel’s government went on a spending binge in West Bank settlements following the election of US President Donald Trump, according to official data obtained by The Associated Press.

New figures obtained in a freedom of information request show a 39 percent increase in 2017 spending on roads, schools and public buildings across the West Bank.

Hagit Ofran, a researcher with the anti-settlement monitoring group Peace Now, says it appears that Trump’s election has emboldened Israel’s pro-settler government.

A crane is used at the construction site in the West Bank settlement of Amichai on September 7, 2018. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

“They are not shy anymore with what they are doing,” she says. “They feel more free to do whatever they want.”

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, says: “This proves that the current US administration encouraged settlement activities.”

— AP

Peace Now: 20,000 settler homes started in decade of Netanyahu rule

Also from Peace Now: the NGO says Israel began construction on nearly 20,000 settler homes in the West Bank during the past decade of Benjamin Netanyahu’s premiership.

It says that construction of 19,346 settler homes had started between 2009 — the year that Netanyahu became prime minister for a second time — and the end of 2018.

It did not provide figures on how many of the homes were completed.

“The Israeli government is digging the country a pit to fall in,” says a Peace Now statement accompanying the report.

— with AFP

Ultra-Orthodox MK: Liberman ‘trying to hinder a right-wing government’

United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler attacks Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman for his list of demands to enter the coalition — including several that clash with ultra-Orthodox interests.

“Liberman is trying to hinder a right-wing government,” he says at the Knesset.

He calls — whether seriously or not — for a rerun of the elections, saying the right lost many votes on parties that fell below the threshold.

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on April 30, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

“If we go back to elections and call on the right to only vote for those who pass, we won’t need to be as beggars on the doorstep, giving Liberman the Defense Ministry and forcing his positions upon an entire nation.”

Tourist dies after losing consciousness at pool in national park

A 28-year-old tourist from the United States has died after losing consciousness in a pool at Gan Hashlosha National Park (Sakhne) in northern Israel.

Paramedic at the scene attempted without success to resuscitate the man, who was a member of a group of tourists visiting the site.

Police are investigating.

Swedish stabbing victim said to be in critical condition

A Jewish women stabbed in an attack earlier today is in critical condition following her assault, Channel 12 news reports.

The victim is 60 years old, the network adds.

There are still no details on any potential suspect in the attack.

Prosecutors to appeal house arrest for teen in murder of Palestinian woman

The State Prosecutor’s Office announces it will appeal a court’s decision to release to house arrest the teen charged with murdering a Palestinian woman.

The announcement comes hours after the Lod District Court handed down its ruling and gave the prosecution until tomorrow to appeal.

During that hearing, the defense presented a legal opinion in which the chief pathologist at the National Center of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir cast doubt on the state’s version of the events that led to Aisha Rabi’s death in October, as he argued that the stone the suspect is charged with having hurled at Rabi’s car may not have been what killed her.

— Jacob Magid

Swedish stabbing victim is wife of Jewish community leader

Israel’s Foreign Ministry says the woman in critical condition after being stabbed in Helsingborg, Sweden, is the wife of the head of the local Jewish community.

The ministry says it is in contact with local authorities to determine the motive for the assault.

Rouhani adviser to Trump: ‘Looks like you are going to get war’ with Iran

A close adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warns US President Donald Trump that it “looks like you are going to get a war” with Iran.

In an English-language tweet tagging Trump, Hesameddin Ashena says: “You wanted a better deal with Iran. Looks like you are going to get a war instead.”

In an apparent reference to National Security Adviser John Bolton, he adds: “That’s what happens when you listen to the mustache. Good luck in 2020!”

Gaza singers protest Israel hosting Eurovision on rubble of bombed building

Palestinian singers are protesting Israel’s hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest by performing on the rubble of a building destroyed in recent fighting in the Gaza Strip.

Several dozen people are attending the concert at the ruins of the multistory al-Qamar building in Gaza City that Israeli warplanes leveled in an airstrike during fighting earlier this month, during which terrorists launched hundreds of rockets at Israeli communities.

Israel is hosting Eurovision in Tel Aviv, and is set to hold the first semi-final round of performances this evening.

Somaya Khatry, one of the Gaza event’s organizers, says it is aimed at delivering “the image of Gaza that reflects the [bad] face of Israel and its racist and aggressive occupation.”

— with AP

Ashkenazi: History will judge those who give immunity to criminal suspects

Former IDF chief of staff and new Blue and White Knesset member Gabi Ashkenazi says in his inaugural Knesset address that “No one is above the law, including the prime minister.”

He warns members of the prospective coalition: “Don’t allow immunity for those suspected of criminal activities in your coalition deals. History will judge your behavior and choices during this time.”

Gabi Ashkenazi, one of the leaders of the Blue and White political alliance, speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv on March 18, 2019 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Ashkenazi adds that Israel is a strong nation and does not face existential outward threats. The real threat, he asserts, “is the internal threat to its character, image, unity and social fortitude.”

PM defends Eurovision on Shabbat: ‘Majority of participants not Jewish’

At a faction meeting of the United Torah Judaism party in Bnei Brak, UTJ leaders read out a letter from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding Shabbat desecration during the Eurovision Song Contest.

Ultra-Orthodox parties have complained of the singing contest’s finals in Tel Aviv being held on Saturday.

“The Eurovision contest is a singular international event set to predetermined international standards outside the control of the government,” Netanyahu says.

“The Israeli government is not interested in desecrating Shabbat… the majority of participants in the event are from abroad and are not Jewish,” he says.

Rivlin: Stabbing of Jewish woman in Sweden shows need to fight anti-Semitism

President Reuven Rivlin says the stabbing of a Jewish woman in Sweden shows need to combat anti-Semitism.

“Once again, Jews in Europe are in danger. Today’s brutal stabbing of a woman in Helsingborg, Sweden reminds us that we cannot rely on fading memories of the Holocaust to keep today’s Jewish communities safe,” he says.

President Reuven Rivlin at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva on April 3, 2019. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

“We will combat anti-Semitism until it is eliminated and we will not stay silent in the face of such events.”

Swedish authorities have not indicated at this point that the attack was a hate crime.

Friedman says US Embassy ‘a new shrine in the ancient city of Jerusalem’

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman at an event to mark the one-year anniversary of the US Embassy’s move to Jerusalem says: “We have done something that hasn’t been for a really long time. We have created a new shrine in the ancient city of Jerusalem, and we’re extremely proud of it.”

Friedman adds: “We’re able to project clarity, purpose and strength like never before.”

The envoy also said that “Israel has one strength, it’s on the side of God.”

— Raphael Ahren

Hungary far-right party forms uniformed ‘self-defense’ group

A far-right party in Hungary says it is forming a uniformed “self-defense group” in the spirit of the Hungarian Guard, which a court ordered disbanded in 2009.

Laszlo Toroczkai, head of the Our Homeland Movement, says the new National Legion will primarily focus on the “guarding of traditions” and teaching basic military skills. He says it will be available to provide help after natural disasters and to support people facing evictions from their homes.

Laszlo Toroczkai, first row center, head of Hungary’s far-right Our Homeland Movement, announces the formation of the National Legion, a “self-defense group” created in the spirit of the Hungarian Guard, in Budapest, Hungary, May 14, 2019 (AP Photo/Pablo Gorondi)

Vince Szava, head of a minority rights advocacy group, condemned the National Legion plan and called for preventing “the advance of neo-Nazi ideas.”

— AP

Trump denies planning to send 120,000 troops to counter Iran

US President Donald Trump rejects a report that he is considering sending 120,000 troops to counter Iran, but doesn’t rule out deploying “a hell of a lot more” soldiers in the future.

“I think it’s fake news,” Trump says of a New York Times report that the White House is considering a plan to send 120,000 troops to the region as part of a tightening pressure campaign against the Iranian government.

“Now, would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that,” Trump tells reporters. “Hopefully we’re not going to have to plan for that. If we did that, we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that.”

US President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 14, 2019, before boarding Marine One. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meanwhile, says: “We fundamentally do not see a war with Iran,” during a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Sochi.

— AFP

US official in Beirut to discuss border dispute with Israel

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri is receiving a US official as Washington mediates a maritime border dispute with Israel.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield has begun a two-day visit to meet officials in Lebanon, which is in an economic crisis. He did not speak to journalists after his meeting with Hariri.

Satterfield’s visit comes a week after President Michel Aoun presented the US ambassador to Lebanon with a “unified stance” regarding the demarcation of the maritime border between Lebanon and Israel.

There are some 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of waters claimed by the two countries, which are technically in a state of conflict. Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah fought a monthlong war in 2006.

— AP

Islamic Jihad official: Mass protests in Gaza Wednesday for Nakba Day

A top Islamic Jihad official in the Gaza Strip says there will be mass protests along the Israeli border Wednesday to mark Nakba Day, Ynet reports.

Palestinians will mark the 71th anniversary of the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” of Israel’s creation in 1948.

Khaled al-Batsh calls on Palestinians to participate in order to reiterate their right of return to lands that now make up Israel.

He also expresses hope that no one will be killed in the demonstrations.

Iran’s supreme leader: ‘There will not be a war with the US’

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei says, “There will not be a war with the US.”

In a television speech, he also stresses, however, that Tehran will not negotiate with Washington over the nuclear deal which the latter quit last year.

Khamenei speaks soon after a close adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned US President Donald Trump that it “looks like you are going to get a war” with Iran.

In an English-language tweet tagging Trump, Hesameddin Ashena said: “You wanted a better deal with Iran. Looks like you are going to get a war instead.”

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses a group of women in Tehran on September 1, 2018. (Screen capture: Khamenei.ir)

Swedish rabbi says woman’s stabbing appears anti-Semitic; attacker said Muslim

A leading rabbi in Sweden says the attack on a Jewish woman that left her critically injured appears to have been anti-Semitic in nature.

Rabbi Uzi Lavian made the statement to Channel 12 news, though authorities have yet to make any official statement on the matter.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Foreign Ministry reports that the assailant is a Muslim man known to authorities.

Netanyahu thanks Trump for ‘politically incorrect decision’ to move embassy

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanks US President Donald Trump for his “politically incorrect decision” to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem last year.

At a gala event marking the one-year anniversary of the move, Netanyahu says that for many years, the nations of the world refused to recognize the city as Israel’s capital, until, “one day, out of the blue,” Trump decided that Jerusalem is indeed Israel’s capital, and formally recognized it.

“It’s politically incorrect, in a sophisticated way,” he says, to laud applause from gathered guests.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at an event marking one year since the transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, on May 14, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

He also thanks the US administration for merging its consulate on Jerusalem’s Agron Street — which historically served the Palestinians — with the embassy earlier this year.

“It’s so clear, so obvious. But it takes leadership,” the prime minister says.

— Raphael Ahren

Trump: Jerusalem embassy ‘a reminder of importance of keeping a promise’

US President Donald Trump is also celebrating the anniversary of the American embassy’s move to Jerusalem.

“Our beautiful embassy stands as a proud reminder of our strong relationship with Israel and of the importance of keeping a promise and standing for the truth,” he tweets.

First Eurovision semi-final to kick off in Tel Aviv at 10 p.m.

Just over 90 minutes left until Eurovision officially launches in Tel Aviv with the first of two semi-finals.

The show tonight will see 17 countries compete for 10 spots on Saturday’s finals.

The program begins at 10 p.m. local time (19:00 GMT) and will be available to live-stream here (though not in all regions).

Meanwhile, producers say Madonna, set to perform in the finals, is en route to Israel and set to land at 11 p.m.

‘Toy’ homage by people with special needs seeks to raise awareness for integration

Ahead of this evening’s Eurovision festivities, Chimes Israel showcases a special version of Netta Barzilai’s hit “Toy” with dozens of Israelis with special needs.

Participants aged 10-70 sing along with the song in a bid to raise awareness for stronger integration with the community.

The organization says the clip is “inspired by the social message of the song that talks about accepting the different and the other” and hopes to “empower those people, to inspire artistic endeavor and to call for the right of people with disabilities, to participate equally and actively in the community — in all spheres of life.”

US-led coalition officer says no rise in Iranian threat in Iraq, Syria

The US-led military coalition combating the Islamic State group has detected no greater recent threat to its troops in Iraq or Syria from forces backed by Iran, a senior coalition officer says, in an apparent contradiction of Trump administration claims.

“No, there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” British Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika told reporters at the Pentagon in a video conference from coalition headquarters in Baghdad. “We’re aware of their presence, clearly, and we monitor them, along with a whole range of others because that’s the environment we’re in.”

Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika during an interview. (YouTube screenshot)

His comment comes amid heightened tensions in the Middle East, including assertions by administration officials that they have detected signs that Iranian or Iranian-backed proxies are preparing for possible attacks against American interests in the Mideast.

The administration cited the threats as the reason for expediting the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group and other military resources to the region.

— AP

Pompeo tells Russia: No more election interference

On his first trip to Russia as US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo says he warned his Russian counterpart against any “unacceptable” Russian meddling in US elections.

At a news conference following three hours of meetings, Pompeo says he told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov any such action by the Russians in the 2020 elections “would put our relationship in an even worse place than it has been.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gestures during his and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s joint news conference after their talks in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, southern Russia, May 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, Pool)

Both diplomats say the meeting in the resort city of Sochi covered an array of issues that have heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington. These included Iran, Syria and Venezuela, where the United States supports opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president and Russia backs President Nicolas Maduro.

— AP

Likud MK rebuffs critics of his daughter dating an Arab: ‘Get out of her life!’

Likud’s Gideon Sa’ar rebuffs far-right activist Bentzi Gopstein‘s call that he stop his daughter from dating an Arab Israeli.

“Alona, my beloved child, is a private individual. Get out of her private life!” Sa’ar tweets.

Gopstein had written to Sa’ar that it was his responsibility as a Jewish father to “lovingly” remind his daughter about her heritage and “the preservation of the Jewish people,” after media reported on the couple.

US, France and Norway to assist in probe of ship sabotage in Gulf

Three Western countries will be part of an investigation into the mysterious “sabotage attacks” on ships in the Gulf, an Emirati official says.

The official, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, says the United States, France and Norway are involved in the investigation along with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

The official says the investigation into Sunday’s incident was launched with the support of the Western experts.

— AFP

Livestream Eurovision’s first semi-final here

We’re ending the blog for this evening. Less than half an hour until it’s showtime at the Tel Aviv Expo. Here, once again, is a link to the official livestream of the Eurovison’s first semi-final.

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Live updates (closed)

First Eurovision semi-final to kick off in Tel Aviv at 10 p.m.

Just over 90 minutes left until Eurovision officially launches in Tel Aviv with the first of two semi-finals.

The show tonight will see 17 countries compete for 10 spots on Saturday’s finals.

The program begins at 10 p.m. local time (19:00 GMT) and will be available to live-stream here (though not in all regions).

Meanwhile, producers say Madonna, set to perform in the finals, is en route to Israel and set to land at 11 p.m.