The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they unfolded.
Court orders immediate release of suspected TA shooter’s brother
The Haifa Magistrate’s Court orders police to release from custody the brother of Nashat Milhem, the suspected terrorist who opened fire on a Tel Aviv bar Friday, killing two.
The court, however, orders Jaudat Milhem not to enter his hometown, the Israeli Arab town of Arara, until further notice, Channel 10 reports. Jaudat Milhem was arrested following the attack on suspicion that he had been an accomplice.
The deadly shooting took place outside the Simta bar on Tel Aviv’s busy Dizengoff Street. Shift manager Alon Bakal, 26, and patron Shimon Ruimi, 30, were killed in a hail of bullets as the gunman opened fire with a submachine gun he stole from his father. Seven people were wounded.
Since Friday afternoon, Nashat Milhem has remained at large. Authorities have warned he is armed, dangerous and capable of striking again.
Russia says IS likely used chemical weapons
Russia assesses that the Islamic State terrorist group used chemical weapons in Syria, the Russian news agency reports.
A Russian Foreign Ministry official says an investigation must be launched on the apparent delivery of sarin gas canisters to Syria.
Terror alert level in Tel Aviv remains unchanged, police say
Tel Aviv Police did not receive orders to lower the terror alert level in the city, despite the Israeli police chief’s suggestion to the contrary earlier today.
Roni Alsheich said it was possible to “dramatically reduce the tension in the Tel Aviv area.” He said he could not elaborate “in order to not cause harm” to the ongoing investigation. Officers in Tel Aviv, however, say they are operating under the same guidelines as they had since terror alerts were raised, according to Army Radio reporter Itamar Katzir.
Alsheich has been accused of failing to communicate the police’s progress in the manhunt for Nashat Milhem, the chief suspect behind Friday’s deadly Tel Aviv shooting.
Search for suspected shooter continues in Tel Aviv
Police forces are still searching in Tel Aviv for 29-year-old Nashat Milhem of the northern Israeli Arab town of Arara, the fugitive suspected terrorist who shot up a bar in the city on Friday.
Israel’s police chief suggested earlier today that the heightened terror alert in Tel Aviv may be lowered, and police sources said they were shifting their main search efforts to Wadi Ara in the north.
State authorizes establishment of new Druze town for first time
The National Council for Planning and Construction authorizes the establishment of new Druze town for first time since the founding of the Jewish state in 1948.
The town will be constructed in the Lower Galilee, near Tiberias, Ynet reports.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that says the new village, as yet unnamed, comes as part of Israel’s efforts to advance the welfare of the Druze community in the country.
UN envoy on Syria holding talks in Riyadh
The UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is in Riyadh for talks with diplomats and Syrian opposition representatives on efforts to end the nearly five-year war, an Arab source says.
His visit comes amid heightened tensions between Saudi Arabia, the main Sunni power in the region, and Shiite-dominated Iran over Riyadh’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric and dissident.
There are concerns that the row could derail growing efforts to end the conflict, as Riyadh backs rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad and Iran supports the Syrian president’s regime.
De Mistura is also expected in Iran later this week and in Damascus on Saturday, according UN sources.
De Mistura will also meet Syrian opposition representatives in Riyadh to discuss the date for peace negotiations, an agenda for the talks and the names of members of their delegation, the source said.
Islamic State said to have lost vast swaths of land in 2015
The Islamic State terrorist organization lost 40% of the land it conquered in Iraq since the beginning of 2015, and 20% of the land it previously held in Syria, representatives of the US-led coalition against the group say.
Earlier, a source at the Russian Foreign Ministry said evidence suggested the Islamic State had used chemical weapons in several attacks against rival groups in Syria.
London mayor: Boy in extremist video should be taken away
London’s mayor says a small child shown threatening non-Muslims in a grisly Islamic State video should be taken from his parents if the family ever returns to Britain.
The boy, thought to be 4 or 5, was identified by a man who told Britain’s Channel 4 News that he is his grandfather. The man, whose daughter converted to Islam and moved to Syria with her family, said the boy does not know what he is doing and is being used for propaganda purposes.
The Associated Press is not naming the grandfather to avoid identifying the child, who is seen on the video wearing camouflage and saying: “Go kill the kuffar (non-believer) over there!”
London Mayor Boris Johnson says that that boy should be placed in foster care.
“This child is a victim of child abuse and he is, as I understand it, a British national,” Johnson said. “I think we have a duty of care.”
Germany stunned by spate of New Year’s sex assaults
The German government condemns dozens of apparently coordinated sexual assaults against women on New Year’s Eve in the western city of Cologne blamed on Arab men but warned against anti-migrant scapegoating.
Justice Minister Heiko Mass calls for a thorough investigation of the rash of attacks, ranging from groping to at least one reported rape, allegedly committed in a large crowd of revelers during year-end festivities at the city’s main train station.
“This represents a new dimension of crime that we will have to get to grips with,” he tells reporters, adding that the assaults had appeared to be “coordinated.”
“The authorities are working intensively to determine who was behind this.”
Asked by a journalist whether the attackers could have been refugees, Maas says police were still working to identify them.
“This is not about where someone is from but what they did,” he says.
“Making an issue out of it, lumping it together with the refugee issue, is nothing but exploitation. Now is the time to determine the facts and then decide on the necessary consequences.”
Police in Cologne say they had received 90 criminal complaints by Tuesday and quoted witnesses as saying that groups of 20-30 young men “who appeared to be of Arab origin” had surrounded victims, assaulted them and in several cases robbed them.
“We assume more people will come forward,” a police spokesman tells German news agency DPA.
Anti-BDS bill introduced in California legislature
A bill squarely aimed at countering the effectiveness of the anti-Israel Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement, or BDS, is introduced in the California legislature.
If adopted, the bill would forbid the California state government from contracting with companies “engaging in boycotts based on race, color, religion, gender or nationality.”
Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen of Huntington Beach in Orange County, in introducing the bill, notes that “California strongly opposes discrimination. Of particular concern lately is the fact that boycotts of entities and individuals affiliated with specific countries can amount to ethnic, religious, racial and/or national origin discrimination.
“No group better demonstrates this fact than the BDS movement, whose use of false, demonizing and delegitimizing propaganda against the State of Israel has become a pretext for the expression of anti-Jewish bigotry,” Allen says.
Woman faces sentencing for giving money to terrorist groups
A Bosnian immigrant formerly from Illinois faces sentencing for giving money to terror groups in Iraq and Syria.
Jasminka Ramic pleaded guilty in September to conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. She is among six Bosnian immigrants indicted in February for funneling money and military supplies to the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda in Iraq. Ramic contributed $700.
She is set to be sentenced in St. Louis federal court.
The other suspects have pleaded not guilty.
Husband and wife Ramiz and Sedina Hodzic, and Armin Harcevic, live in St. Louis County. Also accused are Mediha Medy Salkicevic of Schiller Park, Illinois, and Nihad Rosic of Utica, New York.
Ramic became a US citizen in 2006. She lived in Rockford, Illinois, before moving to Germany, where she was arrested.
Court extends remand for father of Tel Aviv shooting suspect
The Haifa Magistrate’s Court extends by two days the remand of the father of the fugitive suspected terrorist who shot up a Tel Aviv bar on Friday.
Mohammed Milhem, the father of 29-year-old Nashat Milhem, was arrested and questioned this morning along with five family members.
It was the second time he has been arrested since the attack last Friday.
On Monday, father Mohammed made a televised plea to his son to turn himself in, as Tel Aviv residents hunkered down amid ongoing searches for the suspected terrorist.
“Contact me,” he said, appealing directly to his son. “I will help you. Let’s end this saga. These are difficult days for the family.”
Syria’s declared chemical arms said ‘100% destroyed’
All of Syria’s declared chemical weapons arsenal has been destroyed, a global arms watchdog says, more than two years after a historic US-Russia deal to eliminate the dangerous stockpile.
“One hundred percent has been destroyed,” Malik Ellahi, the spokesman for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, tells AFP.
IS British member believed to be former bouncy castle salesman
A masked gunman in an Islamic State group video that threatens action against the United Kingdom is believed to be a former resident of London known who once sold inflatable bouncy castles, Reuters reports.
Siddhartha Dhar has been identified by various media outlets as the spokesman in the group’s latest film, according to Reuters.
Officials were looking for clues Monday about the identity of a masked man who speaks with a British accent on the video before shooting a purported spy in the head. The man says the extremists will soon invade Britain.
Four others accused of spying for Britain are also shot dead by others, who do not speak.
The video, circulated Sunday, features an apparent replacement for Mohammed Emwazi, the British-accented man known as “Jihadi John” who was killed in a drone strike in Syria in November. He had figured prominently in earlier IS propaganda videos.
It also features a young boy who threatens Britons at the end of the video.
Ya’alon visits site of attack on army combat vehicles
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon visited Israel’s northern border earlier today, his office says.
Ya’alon inspected the site of yesterday’s attack against two army combat engineering vehicles near Shebaa Farms, known in Israel as Mount Dov.
The minister spoke with Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan, head of the Northern Command Aviv Kochavi, and Brig. Gen. Yaniv Assor, head of the Bashan Division, which is responsible for the Golan Heights, Ya’alon’s office says.
During his visit, the defense minister applauded the troops there.
“The IDF is prepared to respond as necessary, as it responded yesterday harshly against the attack in the Har Dov area,” Ya’alon said.
“I applaud the IDF and its Northern Command, for both its preparedness towards the attack and its response to that attack. We are prepared for any development.”
Franciscan priest freed from captivity in Syria
Roman Catholic officials says that a Franciscan priest who had been abducted by militants in Syria has been freed.
The custodian of the Catholic Church’s properties in the Holy Land says the priest, Rev. Dhiya Azziz, was released late Monday. The office of the custodian, Rev. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, said the priest was abducted by jihadis who had hoped to “profit” from the abduction.
The statement did not elaborate, and it was not clear which of the multiple militant groups in Syria had been holding the priest or whether a ransom had been paid.
Sir, the news agency of the Italian bishops’ conference, said the Iraqi-born Azziz was abducted on Dec. 23 as he traveled from Turkey to the town of Yacoubiyeh in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province.
The Vatican’s envoy in Aleppo, Monsignor Georges Abou Khazen, told the agency that Azziz had been treated well in captivity but was exhausted and needed to rest.
Sir said it was the second time that Azziz had been abducted. In July he managed to escape after a few days.
Grenade hurled at Border Patrol post near Bethlehem
A Palestinian hurls a makeshift grenade at a Border Patrol post near the site of Rachel’s Tomb, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
None are reported injured.
Iran president criticizes Saudi Arabia over severing ties
Iran’s president says that Saudi Arabia cannot “cover up” its crime of executing a leading Shiite cleric by severing diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic, even as the kingdom’s allies began limiting their links to his country.
President Hassan Rouhani’s comments come as Kuwait announced it had recalled its ambassador to Iran over attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in the Islamic Republic.
The execution last weekend of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Shiite cleric and opposition figure in Saudi Arabia, has heightened the Saudi-Iran regional rivalry, threatening to derail already shaky peace efforts over the wars in Syria and Yemen.
A statement posted on his official website says Rouhani discussed the current diplomatic dispute with visiting Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen.
“The Saudi government has taken a strange action and cut off its diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran to cover its crimes of beheading a religious leader in its country,” Rouhani says. “Undoubtedly, such actions can’t cover up that big crime.”
Iran shows off another underground missile depot
Iran shows off an underground depot which stores surface-to-surface ballistic missiles.
Tasnim news agency and state television video say the facility was inaugurated by the speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani, Reuters reports.
In October, Iran said it had successfully tested a new domestically produced long-range missile, claiming the weapon was the first of its kind that could be guided all the way to targets.
Based on information gathered by the White House so far, the Iranian regime appeared to have violated the international body’s Resolution 1929, which prohibits the Islamic Republic from carrying out any military activity related to the use of ballistic missiles, when it conducted the test, a US official said.
Ashkelon mayor suspected of sexual harassment, bribery
Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni is named as the senior public official arrested this morning on suspicion of sexual harassment and bribery.
Soldier gets 45 months in prison for leaking classified info
An IDF soldier is sentenced to 45 months in prison for transferring classified information to far-right activists.
Elad Sela of the Etzion Brigade is charged with searching for classified information regarding “price tag” attacks against Palestinians and later handing the information to Jewish extremists.
Police remove concrete slabs from Armon Hanatziv
Jerusalem police remove portable concrete slabs between the predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv in the capital’s southeast and the Arab neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber in October.
The concrete wall, 300 meters long and about five meters high, was intended “to prevent the throwing of firebombs at the houses on Meir Nakar Street [in Armon Hanatziv] and to prevent the loss of life. It means nothing more,” a police spokeswoman said.
Russia won’t put Hamas, Hezbollah on list of terror groups
The fighting in Syria will not affect Russia’s decision to keep Hamas and Hezbollah off its list of terrorist organizations, a senior Kremlin official says.
Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told the Interfax news agency last week that while his country concurs with the United States’ definition of some organizations that are operating in Syria as terrorist groups, Russia is “not even discussing Hezbollah and Hamas with the Americans.”
Gatilov’s remark, made in response to a question by an Interfax journalist, came as his country was discussing with Washington the possibility of promoting steps to weaken the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra.
IDF officer killed in training accident
An IDF officer was killed and another soldier was lightly injured this afternoon in a training accident at the Ze’elim base in southern Israel, the army says.
The accident occurred when a mortar shell landed near the area where the officers were viewing the training.
Ground Forces Commander Major General Guy Tzur calls off all training following the incident, Ynet reports.
The IDF is investigating the incident.
Soldier killed in training accident named as Yishai Rosales
IDF officer Yishai Rosales is named as the soldier killed in a training accident. Rosales, an officer in the ultra-Orthodox Netzach Yehuda unit, was killed when a mortar shell landed near him during training at the army’s Ze’elim base.
Another soldier was lightly injured.
Rosales’ family, which immigrated to Israel from Mexico several years ago, has been notified of his death.
UN peacekeepers accused of sexually abusing four girls in C. Africa
UN peacekeepers are facing new allegations of sexual abuse in the Central African Republic that involve four young girls, the UN spokesman says.
The UN mission in Bangui received the claims on Monday and has asked three countries whose troops were allegedly involved in the misconduct to investigate.
Vice News says reporter released on bail in Turkey
Iraqi Kurdish journalist Mohammed Rasool has been released after 131 days in a Turkish prison, the organization he was working for says. Rasool’s arrest on charges of assisting a terrorist organization had been widely criticized by international media organizations.
Rasool, who was arrested in August while covering the conflict in Turkey’s mostly Kurdish southeast, will be required to report to a police station twice a week and is barred from leaving the country.
“Rasool is now looking forward to being reunited with his family, friends and colleagues, who ask for his privacy to be respected during this time,” Vice News says.
Lawyer: Father of alleged TA gunman spoke with son after shooting
The lawyer of the father of a fugitive man suspected of shooting up a Tel Aviv bar on Friday, killing two Israelis, before going on to kill a cab driver elsewhere in the city, says his client spoke to the alleged gunman on the phone right after hearing of the attack.
Mohammed Milhem, the father of 29-year-old Nashat Milhem, was arrested and questioned Tuesday along with five others. He is suspected of being an accessory to the murder, and of obstructing the investigation.
According to Mohammed Milhem’s attorney, Nahami Feinblatt, Nashat Milhem told his father right after the shooting that he was visiting a sick relative, Channel 10 reports. Feinblatt says no one further managed to contact Nashat Milhem after the initial call.
Jenin residents fend off attack by wild hyenas
Residents of the Al-Sharqi neighborhood of the West Bank city of Jenin fend off an attack by a group of wild hyenas, killing one of the animals, Al-Quds reports.
Eyewitnesses say the hyenas came into the town and were walking between the houses and around the local cemetery.
The locals call on the relevant parties to help stop the phenomenon.
A recent attack by wild boars was also reported in the city.
— Lee Gancman