The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.
Right-wing lawmakers praise cabinet decision to begin legalizing West Bank outpost
Right-wing lawmakers praise the cabinet’s decision to advance the legalization of the Havat Gilad settlement outpost following the murder of resident Rabbi Raziel Shevach.
“Whoever tries to harm settlement and the settlers should know we won’t give up and won’t surrender to murder,” Likud Minister Ze’ev Elkin tweets. “Continued settlement and construction through Judea and Samaria are the Zionist response to this criminal murder.”
“The government is fulfilling its obligation to regularize the settlement as we promised to the family of Rabbi Raziel after the attack,” Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely says in a tweet. “All those who use abominable terror will understand today that these actions will only deepen our hold on the land of our country.”
Iran says Trump’s hostility to nuclear deal scaring off investors
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran says US President Donald Trump’s hostility to the 2015 nuclear deal is dampening foreign investment in the energy sector despite the lifting of sanctions.
Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh tells reporters on Sunday that the uncertainty over the future of the agreement, which Trump has repeatedly threatened to scrap, is scaring off potential investors.
Trump re-certified the deal in January but said he would not do the same in May unless it is fixed.
Iran hopes to attract more than $150 billion to rebuild its energy industry after years of sanctions. Last year it signed a $5 billion gas deal with France’s Total SA and a Chinese oil company to develop a massive offshore gas field.
Roadside bomb in Sinai kills 2 Egyptian security forces
EL-ARISH, Egypt — Egyptian security officials say a roadside bomb targeted a pickup truck carrying members of the security forces in the turbulent north of the Sinai Peninsula, killing two.
The officials say the Sunday blast took place on a road just south of the coastal city of el-Arish. Five other members of the security forces and a civilian were wounded in the attack.
There is no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State jihadist group, now leading a long-running insurgency in Sinai.
The insurgency has expanded and become deadlier since the military’s 2013 ouster of Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist president whose one-year rule proved divisive.
Palestinian agrees to plea deal for murder of pregnant Israeli partner
Prosecutors reach a plea deal with a Palestinian man who has confessed to killing a pregnant Israeli woman with whom he was romantically involved.
As part of the plea deal, Nablus resident Muhammad Harouf confesses he murdered Michal Halimi for nationalistic reasons, the Ynet news site reports. He will get life in prison.
Halimi, a resident of the West Bank settlement of Adam, was reported missing last May. Her body was found by police in Holon’s Sand Dunes Park on July 24.
Italian police: No remorse from far-right gunman
MILAN — The Carabinieri commander in the Italian city of Macerata says the extreme right-wing suspect in drive-by shootings targeting African migrants was “lucid and determined, aware of what he had done.”
Col. Michele Roberti tells Sky TG24 on Sunday that the suspect, Luca Traini, has demonstrated no remorse for the two-hour shooting spree Saturday that wounded five men and one woman, all African migrants.
Roberti says “it’s likely that he carried out this crazy gesture as a sort of retaliation, a sort of vendetta” after a Nigerian man was arrested in the gruesome slaying of an Italian teenager a few days previously in the same city.
He says investigators had determined there was no connection between 28-year-old Traini and the slain victim, Pamela Mastropietro.
Traini has been jailed as police investigate a shooting rampage motivated by racial hatred.
Tzipi Livni slams cabinet vote on legalizing West Bank outpost
Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni slams the cabinet’s decision to begin the process of legalizing the Havat Gilad settlement outpost in response to the murder of resident Rabbi Raziel Shevach.
“The answer to terror is a firm military hand, drawing a border and not [the] government’s surrender to a minority that is leading us to annexation, an Arab state and along the way a message that it pays to violate Israeli law,” Livni says on Twitter.
Trial of Palestinian teen soldier slapper postponed to February 13
The trial of Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi before an Israeli military court has been postponed for a week and is now scheduled to begin on February 13.
Tamimi, who turned 17 in prison last week, was charged with assault and incitement after she slapped and punched two Israeli soldiers in her West Bank village in December. The incident was captured and widely shared online.
Defense lawyer Gaby Lasky says that the trial, which was set to begin Tuesday, was delayed because the prosecution was slow in sharing evidence.
The military confirms the new starting date.
Remand of Tel Aviv deputy mayor extended in corruption case
The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court orders the remand of Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor Arnon Giladi be extended for five days.
Giladi was arrested this morning over his suspected involvement in a corruption scheme involving officials from Tel Aviv and Rishon Lezion centered on Likud MK David Bitan, who was previously deputy mayor of Rishon Lezion.
Iran confirms granting brief prison leave to ailing US citizen
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s judiciary confirms that it granted leave to an ailing 81-year-old US citizen convicted of espionage.
The judiciary’s website, Mizanonline.ir, quotes spokesman for the judiciary Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehi as saying “I think his leave has come to an end today or yesterday,” referring to jailed Iranian-American dual citizen Baquer Namazi.
Ejehi says Namazi was not freed but had his three-day leave extended for another three days for medical checkups.
The temporary reprieve came almost two years to the day after he was arrested in Iran while trying to secure the release of his son, Siamak, a businessman who had been arrested a few months earlier. Both men were eventually convicted of espionage.
Knesset speaker says cabinet vote on West Bank outpost a ‘victory over terror’
Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein praises the government decision to legalize the Havat Gilad settlement outpost in response to the murder of resident Rabbi Raziel Shevach.
“Recognizing Havat Gilad is a victory over terror. ‘As they beat us, we will multiply and spread,”” he says in a statement, paraphrasing a passage from the book of Exodus.
Edelstein says the move will ensure that the death of Shevach “will not be for nothing.”
“We will continue to work toward providing infrastructure, lighting and security needs across Judah and Samaria in order to provide citizens with maximum possible security,” he says of the West Bank.
— Raoul Wootliff
Rouhani criticizes new US plan to expand nuclear arsenal
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani criticizes a new American plan to expand its nuclear arsenal, saying it showed US hypocrisy in opposing Iran’s missiles.
“You see the kind of insolent language Americans are using with Russia, threatening them with new nuclear weapons,” Rouhani says in a televised speech Sunday.
“How can they then say this is a time of peace, brotherhood and coexistence, and we don’t need defensive power? We will always be in need of a defensive power.”
— with AFP
Police hold snap drill simulating major terror attack
Police wrap up a snap drill in southern Israel simulating a response to a large-scale terror attack.
The exercise, which included officers from police units such as the Border Police and special forces, tested the units’ ability to respond to a number of threats, as well as to work with other security bodies such as the IDF, police say in a statement.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan attends a portion of the drill simulating a Hamas attack from the sea and warns the terror group’s leaders they’ll pay a “heavy price” in the next war with Israel.
Italian police: Far-right shooting suspect had copy of ‘Mein Kampf’
MILAN — Italian authorities seize a copy of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” in the house of an extreme right-wing suspect who shot and wounded six Africans during a rampage in the central Italian city of Macerata.
Video of the suspect’s bedroom provided by the Italian Carabinieri on Sunday shows Hitler’s infamous autobiography, other publications linked to Nazism and a flag with a Celtic cross — a symbol commonly used by white supremacists.
Luca Traini is being held for investigation of attempted murder with an aggravating circumstance of racial hatred for targeting Africans in a series of drive-by shootings on Saturday.
Italian broadcaster RAI reports that the victims ranged in age from 22 to 33 and originally were from Ghana, Gambia, Nigeria and Mali.
Police photos of the 28-year-old Traini show he has a neo-Nazi tattoo on his forehead.
Lobbyist arrested in Rishon Lezion corruption probe named as Likud activist
The lobbyist arrested this morning as part of the a wide-ranging corruption probe is named as Likud activist Merav Shmueli.
The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court extends her remand by five days.
The corruption investigation, which has ensnared municipal officials from Rishon Lezion and Tel Aviv, centers on suspicions Likud MK David Bitan took bribes while serving as deputy mayor of Rishon Lezion in exchange for awarding construction tenders.
Priebus: I never felt Trump wanted Mueller fired
WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump’s first White House chief of staff says he never felt the president wanted to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.
Reince Priebus says Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Trump was very clear about his concerns over what he saw as Mueller’s possible conflicts of interest. But Priebus pushes back against a New York Times report that Trump ordered that Mueller be fired last June but backed off after the top White House lawyer threatened to resign.
Trump fired Priebus at the end of July.
Priebus says he never heard “the idea or the concept” that Mueller needed to be fired. He says he’d know the difference “between a Level 10 situation” and “what was reality.”
Priebus says the Times report “wasn’t reality.”
Iraq releases names of its 60 most wanted; Islamic State head not on list
BAGHDAD — Iraqi security services on Sunday publish the names of 60 people wanted on suspicion of belonging to the Islamic State terror group, Al-Qaeda or the Baath Party of late dictator Saddam Hussein.
The list, seen by AFP, includes the name of Saddam’s daughter Raghad, who lives in Jordan.
It also features 28 suspected IS jihadists, 12 from Al-Qaeda and 20 Baathists, giving details of the roles they allegedly play in their organizations, crimes of which they are suspected and in most cases, photographs.
All are Iraqis apart from Maan Bashour, a Lebanese man accused of recruiting fellow citizens to fight in Iraq.
The name of elusive IS head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is absent from the list. A senior security official contacted by AFP declines to explain why.
Minister said to criticize IDF spox for number of articles on women, homosexuals
A minister from the national-religious Jewish Home party criticized the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit during a cabinet meeting Sunday for publicizing a large number of articles focusing on the equal treatment of women and homosexuals in the army, Channel 10 reports.
“Why does the IDF Spokesperson always push articles in the media about the integration of women, homosexuals and transgender [people] in the IDF? Why is this good?” the report quotes Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel as saying during the meeting, which was attended by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.
The TV station reports Ariel then addressed Eisenkot directly, saying: “Check the number of articles on these things and see if I’m right or not and if this suits you.”
The report says a number of ministers came to Eisenkot’s defense, including Naftali Bennett, Ofir Akunis and Miri Regev, and that Eisenkot vowed the army would not change its policy regarding service for women and homosexuals.
Netanyahu accuses New Israel Fund of funding protests against deporting migrants
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accuses the New Israel Fund of funding protests against the deportation of African migrants from the country.
“This won’t help you. Today we began an operation to remove illegal infiltrators from Israel, just as other modern countries do, chiefly the United States,” Netanyahu writes in a Facebook post.
“Just as we blocked the infiltration to Israel with the fence I put up on the border with Sinai, I will keep my promise to remove infiltrators to our country,” he adds.
Netanyahu links to an article from the right-wing Mida news site, which quotes a New Israel Fund letter saying it would provide a special donation for the campaign against expelling the asylum seekers from the country.
Iran sentences suspect to 6 years for nuclear espionage
TEHRAN, Iran — Tehran’s prosecutor-general says a court has sentenced a suspect to six years in prison for relaying information on the country’s nuclear program to a US intelligence agent and a European country.
Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi tells the judiciary website — Mizanonline.ir — that the convict allegedly met the agent nine times and provided him with information about “nuclear affairs and sanctions.”
Dolatabadi adds that he provided the information to a European country too.
He says the court also ordered the confiscation of the money he received for the information.
The report doesn’t identify the convict or provide additional details.
IDF demolishes school building paid for by EU in West Bank Bedouin village
Israel on Sunday demolishes a two-classroom school in a Bedouin community in the West Bank, saying the EU-funded structure was built illegally without proper permits and that it was in a precarious condition. The school served nearly 30 third and fourth grade students who were moved to a nearby guesthouse and barbershop to continue classes.
A statement from COGAT, the Israeli defense body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, says the demolition came after a challenge in the Supreme Court was overruled.
The demolition takes place near the settlement of Maale Adumim, in the 60 percent of the West Bank known as Area C that remains under full Israeli control. Israel has imposed severe restrictions on Palestinian development in this area, home to dozens of Israeli settlements.
The EU funds the construction of many homes, schools and other structures in the area and says the projects are needed for humanitarian reasons and economic development.
Israel says that any assistance to Palestinians in Area C must be coordinated with authorities.
German FM warns of ‘renewed nuclear arms race’ after release of US plan
FRANKFURT, Germany — Europe must lead the way in pushing for nuclear disarmament after Washington proposed upgrading and expanding the United States’ nuclear arsenal, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel says Sunday.
“As in the times of the Cold War, we in Europe are especially endangered” by “a renewed nuclear arms race,” Gabriel says.
“That is why precisely we in Europe must begin new initiatives for arms control and disarmament.”
Gabriel is responding to a so-called Nuclear Posture Review released Friday by the Pentagon that details the US military’s vision of nuclear threats and its response in the coming decades.
Erdogan heads to Vatican to discuss Jerusalem recognition with pope
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s president is on his way to Italy to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican, where the status of Jerusalem is expected to top their agenda Monday.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says before leaving Turkey on Sunday that the United States is “alone” in the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Erdogan says Turkey leads 1.7 billion Muslims worldwide since the country currently holds the term presidency of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the pope is “number one” among Catholics.
He notes: “These two important blocks are in fact decisive elements in this region,” emphasizing Jerusalem’s importance to several world religions.
Syria, the migrant crisis, Islamophobia and racism also are on Francis and Erdogan’s discussion list
Eisenkot said to warn possibility of Gaza war growing
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot warned ministers during a cabinet meeting this morning that the possibility of another war with the Gaza-based terror group Hamas is growing, in light of the deteriorating conditions in the coastal enclave, Channel 10 reports.
The report says Eisenkot pointed to the lack of electricity, potable water and food in the Gaza Strip, while warning that the limited electricity supply was most problematic because of the need for heating in the winter.
Soros denies funding protests against deporting African migrants
Billionaire financier George Soros denies funding protests against the deportation of African migrants after being accused earlier today of doing so by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Contrary to Netanyahu’s false claims, I’m not financing the protest against the plan of the Israeli government to expel thousands of asylum seekers,” he says in a statement to Channel 10.
Soros adds that he “deeply believes that in accordance with the 1951 Refugee Convention and international law it isn’t right to forcibly send asylum seekers back to countries where they may be persecuted or killed.”
Jordan’s king says no Israeli-Palestinian peace without US
WASHINGTON — King Abdullah II of Jordan says Sunday that the United States remains essential to any hope of a peaceful solution between Israel and the Palestinians, despite widespread criticism of the new US stance on Jerusalem.
“We cannot have a peace process or a peace solution without the role of the United States,” the monarch tells CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.
This was true even after US President Donald Trump decided to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv — where nearly every other country has its embassy — to Jerusalem, he says.
Abdullah notes on Sunday that Trump’s decision had “created a backlash” by leaving Palestinians feeling “that there isn’t an honest broker.”
But, he adds, “I’d like to reserve judgment, because we’re still waiting for the Americans to come out with their (peace) plan.”
“I think we have to give the Americans the benefit of the doubt and all work together” once the White House issues a peace plan, Abdullah says, while adding that “if it is not a good plan … I don’t think we’ve got a Plan B at this stage.”
Minority groups in Poland decry anti-Semitism, in wake of Holocaust bill
WARSAW, Poland — Minority group representatives in Poland have written to the president to express concern about what they see as a rising wave of aggression based on nationality, race and religion.
The leaders of Ukrainian, Tartar, Jewish and other groups say in a letter published by the Polish Press Agency late Saturday that they especially oppose recent “numerous and loud manifestations of anti-Semitism.”
They attribute the voicing of anti-Semitic remarks to lawmakers’ passage of legislation seeking to outlaw statements blaming Poles as a nation for World War II crimes committed by Nazi Germany.
Israel and international Jewish organizations have strongly criticized the proposal.
The opposition sparked anti-Semitic comments on social media in Poland that some members of the ruling Law and Justice party have retweeted.
Schumer urges Trump to support release of Dem memo
WASHINGTON — Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer calls on US President Donald Trump to back the public release of a Democratic rebuttal to a GOP memo alleging abuses of FBI surveillance powers.
Schumer says in a letter to Trump that the public is getting a one-sided account of the FBI’s role in the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible Russia ties. Schumer says Trump’s refusal to back the Democratic memo’s release would show his intent to undermine the investigation.
Trump has said the GOP memo “vindicates” him.
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted last week to only release the GOP memo.
The GOP document contends that the FBI relied excessively on an ex-British spy whose opposition research was funded by Democrats when investigators applied for a surveillance warrant on a onetime Trump campaign associate.
Heavy pollution shutters schools in Tehran
TEHRAN, Iran — Primary schools will be closed on Monday in Tehran, as thick fog caused by pollution smothers the Iranian capital and most of the surrounding province, local authorities say.
They are also announcing on Sunday that they will impose traffic restrictions in Tehran, home to 8.5 million inhabitants, allowing cars onto the streets in alternating shifts, depending on their number plates.
Similar measures were taken in December when primary schools in Tehran and most of its province were forced to close for several days because of the pollution.
Average concentrations of the finest and most hazardous airborne particles hit 144 micrograms per cubic meter in Tehran on Sunday and peaked at 169 in some areas, municipal authorities say.
That is far above the World Health Organization’s recommended maximum of 25 micrograms per cubic meter on average over a 24-hour period.
Greenblatt slams Hamas for pursuing terror rather than improving Gazans’ lives
US President Donald Trump’s peace envoy Jason Greenblatt slams the Hamas terror group for spending money on its military wing rather than on humanitarian causes.
“Hamas should be improving the lives of those it purports to govern, but instead chooses to increase violence and cause misery for the people of Gaza,” writes Greenblatt in a series of Twitter posts. “Imagine what the people of Gaza could do with the $100 million Iran gives Hamas annually that Hamas uses for weapons and tunnels to attack Israel!”
He also slams Tehran for sponsoring terror groups that target Israel.
“Iran spends almost a billion dollars a year sponsoring terrorism in Lebanon, Israel and West Bank/Gaza. This blood money only increases violence and does nothing to help the Palestinian people,” he says.