The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
Kahlon okays construction permit for US embassy move to Jerusalem
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon signs a waiver allowing the US State Department to make the changes needed to turn its consulate in Jerusalem into the new US embassy in Israel.
In a statement, Kahlon calls the move a “historic moment that we’ve waited many years for.”
“As finance minister, as a citizen of Israel and as a Jew, there is nothing more important to work on, to invest effort in, than bringing the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” he says.
Yesterday, the National Council for Planning and Construction approved the new construction work at the US Consulate in Jerusalem ahead of its planned transformation into the American embassy in time for Israel’s 70th independence day, on May 14.
Macron: Slain French officer symbolized ‘French spirit of resistance’
French President Emmanuel Macron pays tribute to the heroic policeman who died after swapping himself for a hostage in a jihadist attack, saying he symbolized the “French spirit of resistance.”
Addressing mourners at a solemn ceremony at the Invalides military museum in Paris, Macron compares Arnaud Beltrame’s sacrifice to those of France’s World War II heroes and said his example would “remain etched in French hearts.”
Trump: Good chance North Korean leader will do ‘what is right’
US President Donald Trump says there’s “a good chance” that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will “do what is right for his people and for humanity” and make moves toward peace.
In a pair of tweets earlier today, Trump says Chinese President Xi Jinping has told him a meeting Xi had with Kim this week “went very well.”
Trump says that according to Xi, the North Korean leader “looks forward” to meeting the American president. The White House has said Trump plans to meet Kim by May amid nuclear tensions between the two nations.
Trump says that meanwhile “and unfortunately, maximum sanctions and pressure must be maintained at all cost!”
Australian lawmaker proposes motion apologizing for failure to act during Holocaust
An Australian lawmaker has proposed a motion in parliament that would oblige the government to apologize for its failure to assist Jewish refugees in the years leading up to the Holocaust.
“Our nation’s government turned its back on our Jewish friends at the exact time they needed us. Our parliament said nothing,” Stuart Robert tells parliament in a special session according to News 9.
He says Australia’s refusal to accept Jewish refugees from Europe in 1938 contributed to the Holocaust’s enormous death toll.
The Australian parliament will debate issuing the apology at a later date.
Palestinian double amputee not shot dead by IDF, military investigation said to find
A military investigation has reportedly determined that a wheelchair-bound Palestinian protester was not killed by Israel Defense Forces troops attempting to quell a riot near the Gaza border fence in December.
The death of Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh sparked angry denunciations by Palestinians and others, who said he could not have presented a serious threat during the protest. His image emerged as an international symbol of resistance to Trump’s December 6 Jerusalem declaration, which the Palestinians see as siding with Israel. Thurayeh had said he lost his legs in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza in 2008.
The investigation revealed that Israeli snipers stopped firing at the riot at least an hour before Palestinians say Abu Thurayeh double amputee, who used a wheelchair, was killed, the Ynet news site reported.
About 1,000 Palestinians participated in the violent riot near the fence on December 15, 2017. Some threw stones at the fence and hurled Molotov cocktails as well as a pipe bomb.
According to the report, Abu Thurayeh, a regular at such protests, visited his family the night before he was killed and apologized that he would be becoming a martyr.
— with JTA
UN calls for $150m for urgent relief in Syria
A UN official in Syria says aid groups need $150 million to provide urgent relief to a quarter-million people recently displaced by separate offensives by the Syrian government outside Damascus and by Turkish-led forces in the north.
UN coordinator Ali al-Za’atari says at least 80,000 people have fled the government’s offensive in the eastern Ghouta suburbs, where shelling and airstrikes have killed hundreds of people in recent weeks. He says 50,000 are still living in shelters, with many requiring medical care.
He says another 180,000 displaced Syrians are in need in the northern town of Tel Rifaat, after Turkish forces seized the Kurdish-controlled town of Afrin.
This morning, he told reporters in Damascus that “finance is coming, but is still beneath the required level.”
Jordan approves new Israeli ambassador
Jordan has approved the appointment of the new Israeli ambassador to the kingdom, according to reports in Hebrew-language media.
Last month, the Foreign Ministry announced the appointment of Amir Weissbrod as Israel’s new ambassador to Jordan.
The announcement came after Israel and Jordan reached an agreement to end a diplomatic standoff over the July 23, 2017, shooting deaths of two Jordanian men by an Israeli embassy security guard. Israel says the guard opened fire in self-defense after being attacked by one of the men.
Facebook announces new steps to protect users’ privacy
Facebook says it will overhaul its privacy settings tools to put users “more in control” of their information on the social media website.
“We’ve heard loud and clear that privacy settings and other important tools are too hard to find and that we must do more to keep people informed,” Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan and Deputy General Counsel Ashlie Beringer say in a blog post.
“We’re taking additional steps in the coming weeks to put people more in control of their privacy,” they confirm.
The updates include improving ease of access to Facebook’s user settings, a privacy shortcuts menu and tools to search for, download and delete personal data stored by Facebook.
Court to release controversial Islamic cleric to house arrest
The Haifa District Court orders the conditional release of a controversial Islamic cleric who has been in jail since for inciting terrorism.
Sheikh Raed Salah, a leading member of Israel’s now-outlawed Northern Branch of the Islamist Movement, was arrested in August for praising three Arab Israelis who shot dead two police officers near the Temple Mount a month before.
The court rules that Saleh will be eligible to be released to his home tomorrow pending an appeal hearing.
Israel denounces ‘heinous’ murder of French Holocaust survivor
The Foreign Ministry condemns the “heinous” murder of an 85-year-old French Holocaust survivor in what police are treating as an anti-Semitic attack.
“Israel is appalled at the heinous murder of Mireille Knoll in Paris,” the ministry says in a statement.
“The murder of the 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, prompted by antisemitism and blind hatred, underlines the need to continue combating antisemitism in all its variations,” it says.
A march to honor Knoll is set to take place later this afternoon near her Paris home.
Israel arrests unarmed Palestinian who crossed into Israel illegally
Israeli soldiers arrest an unarmed Palestinian man who infiltrated from Gaza into Israeli territory, near the community of Zikim, in the third such case in under a week, the army says.
The IDF says he was picked up moments after he crossed into Israel.
He has been handed over to the Shin Bet security service for questioning, the army says.
— Judah Ari Gross
In defiance of US, PA allocates $355m in terrorist stipends for 2018
In defiance of the US, the Palestinian Authority has reportedly allocated NIS 1.24 billion ($355 million) from its 2018 budget to pay monthly stipends to terrorists and the families of slain attackers.
Palestinian Media Watch says the payments will come out of the PA’s total operating budget for the coming year, which has been set at NIS 16.6 billion ($4.76 billion).
The report comes days after US President Donald Trump signed legislation that would further cut US aid to the Ramallah-based government until it ended the controversial practice.
Macron attends funeral of slain Holocaust survivor
French President Emmanuel Macron is attending the funeral of slain Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll.
A statement from Macron’s office says the president went to the funeral at the Bagneux cemetery “to support the family.”
— William Galibert (@WGalibert) March 28, 2018
Police say ‘car ramming’ in London Jewish neighborhood appears to be an accident
A local Jewish group says the car that slammed into a group of shoppers in a predominately Jewish neighborhood in London appears to be an accident and not a deliberate attack.
The Community Service Trust says in a tweet that police are treating the incident on Golders Green Road as an accident.
Golders Green today – car mounts pavement into shop two injured pic.twitter.com/IFehxddbjJ
— Campaign4Truth (@Campaign4T) March 28, 2018
With Netanyahu out sick, Liberman leads cabinet meeting
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman leads the security cabinet meeting this afternoon due to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s illness.
Netanyahu was rushed to a Jerusalem hospital last night, where doctors diagnosed him with a viral infection.
The prime minister’s personal physician said that Netanyahu had been ill in recent weeks and his condition worsened because he had not rested enough to fully recover.
Netanyahu was released from Hadassah Ein Kerem shortly after midnight last night and ordered by doctors to rest.
Israel hopes new database will make it medical powerhouse
Israel says it’s launching a domestic digital health database that could make it a global medical powerhouse.
Eli Groner, director-general of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, said on Wednesday that “the database will be unlike anything in the world.”
He says people will get health alerts before they become patients, helping prevent disease early with data relevant to each individual.
If successful, the database could improve public health worldwide but critics warn it risks compromising personal privacy.
Groner says the launch is expected by the end of 2018, stressing that divulging data depends on individual consent.
The innovation is possible thanks to Israel’s health care system. Most of the country’s 8.7 million citizens are members of four main health care providers, which have been maintaining their records digitally for years.
Canadian man pleads guilty to Quebec City mosque murders
A white supremacist on trial for the 2017 attack on a Quebec mosque pleaded guilty this morning to the killing of six worshipers and six other charges of attempted murder.
Alexandre Bissonnette, 28, who had initially pleaded not guilty, changed his plea to guilty after passing a court-ordered psychiatric assessment earlier in the week.
Tel Aviv woman stabbed to death, husband arrested
Police arrest the husband of a woman who was found stabbed to death in their Tel Aviv apartment earlier this afternoon.
Paramedics responding to the scene said the 40-year-old victim was still alive when they arrived at the apartment on Shalma Street, but she died shortly after.
Police have opened an investigation into the incident.
Slovakia to recall its ambassador to Moscow
Slovakia’s foreign minister says the government has decided to recall its ambassador to Moscow for consultations over the nerve agent attack on a former spy in Britain.
But Miroslav Lajcak says after a meeting of the country’s Security Council that the government is not yet ready to join two dozen other countries in expelling Russian diplomats over the incident.
Although Lajcak calls Slovakia’s move “a serious diplomatic step,” the British ambassador to Bratislava, Andrew Garth, is not impressed.
Garth has told the Slovak public television and tweeted that the seriousness of the attack “requires a firm response.”
The ambassador adds that “I acknowledge the decision. But cannot say I am not disappointed.”
Israel disturbed by Polish treatment of anti-racism activist
Israel’s Foreign Ministry says it is “very disturbed” that a Polish official has verbally attacked a leading anti-racism activist who spoke about Polish anti-Semitism at a recent conference in Jerusalem.
Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon tweeted this afternoon that “this is not the way to deal with anti-Semitism — in Poland or anywhere!”
Rafal Pankowski, head of the Never Again association, gave a presentation last week at the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem in which he described examples of anti-Semitic rhetoric in Poland that have accompanied a controversial new Holocaust speech law.
Rafal Pankowski, co-founder of Never Again, was last week at #GFCA2018. @IsraelMFA is very disturbed to see the antisemitic attacks on Rafal in Poland, following the tweet by the Adviser of Poland's PM. This is not the way to deal with antisemitism – in Poland or anywhere!
— Emmanuel Nahshon (@EmmanuelNahshon) March 28, 2018
Andrzej Pawluszek, an adviser to Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, later said that Pankowski had “attacked his own country.” Pankowski has since been denounced as a traitor and threatened in online comments.
German police raid homes of suspected neo-Nazi supporters
German police have searched the homes of 10 people suspected of providing support to a far-right extremist group.
Officers seized weapons, computer storage devices and Nazi propaganda material in the raids early Wednesday in the states of Saxony, Lower Saxony and Bavaria. No arrests were made.
German news agency dpa reports that authorities suspect the three women and seven men, aged 19 to 53, of supporting the so-called “Freital Group.”
Eight members of the Freital Group were sentenced earlier this month to between four and 10 years in prison for forming a far-right terrorist organization, attempted murder and carrying out bomb attacks on asylum-seeker facilities and left-wing political targets.
Netivot toddler dies after being left in car
A four-year-old boy from the Negev city of Netivot died this afternoon after his parents accidentally left him in the family car.
The boy was discovered alive and rushed to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, but was pronounced dead shortly after arriving.
A neighbor who rushed to the scene after hearing the mother screaming, said the parents couldn’t immediately call paramedics because of poor cell service.
Temperatures in the Negev city reached a high of 33°C (92℉) today.
PA: 4.78m Palestinians in West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem
Palestinian officials say preliminary census results show the Palestinian population in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem has grown by 27 percent in a decade, to 4.78 million.
The findings released this afternoon by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics come amid renewed debate over when Arabs could reach numerical parity with Jews in the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.
Israeli demographer Sergio Della Pergola has predicted parity in a generation — a prognosis dismissed by right-wing Israeli as baseless and hailed by supporters of an Israeli-Palestinian partition deal as a call for action.
The Palestinian bureau says 2.881 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and 1.899 million in Gaza.
African migrant baby dies at Tel Aviv daycare
A one-year-old boy died this evening at a Tel Aviv daycare serving the community of African asylum seekers in Israel.
Daycare workers called paramedics after the boy did not wake up from his nap. His mother told the Ynet news site that he had been unwell since yesterday.
Police have opened an investigation into the incident, and detained one of the daycare workers for questioning.
Paris Jewish student group office vandalized with anti-Israel graffiti
Vandals have scrawled anti-Israel and anti-Semitic graffiti and ransacked the offices of a Jewish student group at a Paris university, on the same day that marches are being held around France to protest anti-Semitism.
Sacha Ghozlan, president of the French Jewish Students Union, told The Associated Press that the damage was inflicted Wednesday at the group’s facilities at the Pantheon-Sorbonne campus of the University of Paris.
“Our office was ransacked while the campus is currently occupied by radical left-wing students. A cabinet was thrown on the ground and there were inscriptions such as ‘Death to Israel’, ‘Viva Arafat’ on the wall”, Gozlan says.
A video published on the organization’s Twitter account showed other inscriptions, including “Zionist racist anti-goy office” and “Palestine will prevail.”
Ghozlan said he would file a complaint with Paris police, and urged university officials to “act quickly” to identify the perpetrators.
University president Georges Haddad tweeted his condemnation of “this odious act” and said he would seek an investigation. Minister of Higher Education, Frédérique Vidal, also condemned the anti-Semitic vandalism as “shameful.”
The vandalism came ahead of marches Wednesday in Paris and other cities to resist racism and to honor 85-year-old Mireille Knoll, stabbed to death in what authorities are calling an anti-Semitic attack.
Pentagon confirms senior Al-Qaeda terrorist killed in Libya strike
A high-ranking Al-Qaeda operative and another jihadist were killed in a US air strike in Libya, the Pentagon confirms
The March 24 strike near Ubari in southern Libya killed “two Al-Qaeda terrorists, including Musa Abu Dawud, a high ranking Al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) official,” the US military’s Africa Command says in a statement.
Officials say the strike had been coordinated with the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.
“Dawud trained AQIM recruits in Libya for attack operations in the region,” the statement read. “He provided critical logistics support, funding and weapons to AQIM, enabling the terrorist group to threaten and attack US and Western interests in the region.”
Paris march for murdered Jewish woman draws thousands
Several thousand people took part in a silent march in Paris on Wednesday in memory of an 85-year-old Jewish woman, killed in a grisly attack considered anti-Semitic.
The leaders of several political parties, including far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, took part in the march for Mireille Knoll, whose partly burned body was found in her Paris home at the weekend.
Police searching for flag-burning ultra-Orthodox protesters
Police in Jerusalem say they are searching for a group of ultra-Orthodox protesters who were seen burning the Israeli flag.
The group was seen along the Givat Moshe Boulevard earlier this afternoon.
Ultra-Orthodox communities have staged dozens of protests in recent weeks against the mandatory IDF draft.
Russia in ‘no rush’ to retaliate to diplomat expulsions
A senior Russian diplomat says that Moscow is in “no rush” to retaliate to the wave of expulsions of Russian diplomats over the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov tells the RIA Novosti news agency that Russia is “thoughtfully and thoroughly” considering its response to the expulsion of more than 150 Russian diplomats by more than 20 nations in a show of solidarity with Britain.
Britain has accused Russia of a nerve agent attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Russia has fiercely rejected the accusations, calling them baseless.
Ryabkov tells Interfax that the expulsions were directed by London and Washington, adding that other nations succumbed to their pressure. He added that “all options are on the table” regarding Russia’s response.
French boo far-right Le Pen at memorial march
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has been booed and insulted at a march to honor an 85-year-old woman who escaped the Nazis 76 years ago yet was stabbed to death in her Paris apartment.
Cries of “Go home!” and “Nazi! Nazi!” rang out at march in Paris, which drew thousands. Le Pen had insisted on attending the march despite objections by France’s largest Jewish group. She was protected by a phalanx of supporters and bodyguards.
The son of Mireille Knoll, the slain woman, has countered that “everyone, without exception” was welcome at the march.
Le Pen, National Front president, has broken ties with her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, the party founder who’s been convicted of anti-Semitism and racism.
Knoll’s death has taken on national importance, reminding France of both historic anti-Semitism and its resurgence in recent years.
French Israelis memorialize murdered Holocaust survivor
Dozens of French Israelis gathered in downtown Jerusalem to honor the memory of a Holocaust survivor who was brutally murdered in what police suspect is an anti-Semtic attack.
A group of 80 or so people were seen lighting candles in Paris Square on the same day that marches are being held around France to protest anti-Semitism.