In Israel, Bolton says Syria withdrawal conditioned on defeating IS remnants
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Israel to apologize to Croatia for delay in F-16 deal due to US objection — TV

Defense Ministry director general to travel to Zagreb this week in attempt to resolve tensions; Washington opposing deal since Israel upgraded the fighter jets

  • An Israeli F-16 fighter jet fires a 'Rampage' air-to-ground rocket in an undated photograph. (Israeli Military Industries Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries)
    An Israeli F-16 fighter jet fires a 'Rampage' air-to-ground rocket in an undated photograph. (Israeli Military Industries Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US National Security Adviser John Bolton meeting at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on January 6, 2019. (Matty Stern/ US Embassy Jerusalem)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US National Security Adviser John Bolton meeting at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on January 6, 2019. (Matty Stern/ US Embassy Jerusalem)
  • A car belonging to a Palestinian couple is seen after it was involved in a deadly crash reportedly due to stone-throwing by Israeli settlers at the Tapuah Junction in the northern West Bank on October 12, 2018. (Zachariah Sadeh/Rabbis for Human Rights); Aisha Muhammad Talal Rabi (Courtesy)
    A car belonging to a Palestinian couple is seen after it was involved in a deadly crash reportedly due to stone-throwing by Israeli settlers at the Tapuah Junction in the northern West Bank on October 12, 2018. (Zachariah Sadeh/Rabbis for Human Rights); Aisha Muhammad Talal Rabi (Courtesy)
  • (From L-R) Attorneys Itamar Ben Gvir, Adi Keidar and Hay Haber speak in a press conference outside the chambers at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court on January 6, 2019. (Courtesy)
    (From L-R) Attorneys Itamar Ben Gvir, Adi Keidar and Hay Haber speak in a press conference outside the chambers at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court on January 6, 2019. (Courtesy)
  • US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman in a Times of Israel interview at the US Embassy, Jerusalem, May 30, 2018 (Matty Stern, US Embassy Jerusalem)
    US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman in a Times of Israel interview at the US Embassy, Jerusalem, May 30, 2018 (Matty Stern, US Embassy Jerusalem)

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

Ambassador Friedman: Peace plan roll-out to be delayed by several months

The Trump administration’s long-anticipated peace plan will have to wait a bit longer, as US ambassador to Israel David Friedman says the roll-out of the “deal of the century” will be delayed by several months, according to the Reuters news agency.

Last month, a White House official said the US administration was taking the springtime Israeli election into account in planning the unveiling of its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

The Trump proposal was expected to be rolled out in the coming months. The plan, details of which have been scant, is unlikely to be welcomed by either side.

Israel’s Hadashot TV news suggested last month that the US would likely delay the release of the plan until after the elections, in order not to complicate political life for Netanyahu ahead of the vote with a proposal that would involve compromises by Israel, possibly including over Jerusalem.

Regev slams AG for ‘trying to join the chorus aimed at toppling Netanyahu’

Culture Minister Miri Regev fires back after reports that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will decide whether to indict the prime minister next month, ahead of the April elections, saying it appears the country’s top lawyer is “trying to join the chorus that aims to topple Netanyahu.”

Speaking at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Regev stresses that the prime minister must be given the opportunity to publicly defend himself.

“Mandelblit cannot publish his recommendations without letting the prime minister respond,” Regev says, according to the Kan public broadcaster. “It is impossible for the public to hear only one side. The prime minister also has the presumption of innocence and right to defend himself and to express his position.”

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev attends a Culture, Sports and Education Committee meeting at the Knesset, July 2, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Coalition whip: Public losing trust in legal system over Netanyahu probes

Coalition whip David Amsalem slams former Supreme Court judge Eliyahu Matza, saying his criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are an “absolute disgrace.”

“They shouldn’t wonder why we think the Supreme Court staff represents the left,” Amsalem tells Army Radio. “He would better read a book rather than speaking on the radio.”

The Netanyahu loyalist adds that “a large portion of the Israeli public” is losing trust in the state prosecution and police over the corruption cases against Netanyahu.

In rare move, Malaysia’s king abdicates after two years on the throne

Malaysian King Sultan Muhammad V abdicates after just two years on the throne.

The palace says in a statement that the 49-year-old Sultan Muhammad V has resigned with immediate effect, cutting short his five-year term. No reason is given in the statement.

It’s the first abdication in Malaysia’s history.

Sultan Muhammad V, ruler of northeast Kelantan state, was installed in December 2016 as one of Malaysia’s youngest constitutional monarchs.

He is said to have married a 25-year-old former Russian beauty queen in November. The reports in Russian and British media and on social media featured pictures of the wedding, which reportedly took place in Moscow.

Under a unique system maintained since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957, nine hereditary state rulers take turns as king for five-year terms.

Malaysia King Sultan Muhammad V salutes during the national anthem at the opening of the 14th parliament session at the Parliament house in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, July 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

— AP

Shin Bet arrests Jewish teens suspected of stoning death of Palestinian

The Shin Bet security service releases information on the gagged probe of the murder of Palestinian woman Aisha Rabi.

The 47-year-old mother of eight was struck in the head with a large stone on October 12, 2018 while sitting in the passenger seat of a car driven by her husband near Tapuah Junction in the northern West Bank.

The Shin Bet confirms it has arrested a number of Jewish teens suspected of involvement in the stone throwing that led to Rabi’s death.

Aisha Rabi (Courtesy)

Three boys were arrested last Sunday and had been barred from meeting with their lawyers until Saturday evening. An additional two teens were arrested on Saturday evening and have similarly been prevented from meeting with their lawyers.

The boys are suspected of “terror offenses, including murder,” the Shin Bet says.

The teens are students at the Pri Haaretz yeshiva high school in the northern West Bank settlement of Rehelim.

The Shin Bet says that on Saturday morning, after the attack, a group of far-right activists from Yitzhar drove to the yeshiva — violating religious laws that prevent driving on the Sabbath — in order to coach students they suspected were involved in the incident on how to withstand Shin Bet interrogations.

— Jacob Magid

In Israel, Bolton says Syria withdrawal conditioned on defeating IS remnants

US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, says the country’s military withdrawal from northeastern Syria is conditioned on defeating the remnants of the Islamic State group, and on Turkey assuring the safety of Kurdish fighters allied with the United States.

Bolton, on a trip to Israel to reassure it of the Trump-ordered withdrawal, says there is no timetable for the pullout of American forces in northeastern Syria, but insists it’s not an unlimited commitment.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton visits the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, January 6, 2019. (Ziv Sokolov/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem)

“There are objectives that we want to accomplish that condition the withdrawal,” Bolton tells reporters in Jerusalem. “The timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement.”

Those conditions, he says, include the defeat of remnants of IS in Syria, and protection for Kurdish militias who have fought alongside US troops against the extremist group.

Bolton’s comments mark the first public confirmation that the drawdown has been slowed, as Trump faced widespread criticism from allies and the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis for a policy that was to have been conducted within weeks.

Trump announced in mid-December that the US will withdraw all of its 2,000 forces in Syria. Trump’s move has raised fears over clearing the way for a Turkish assault on Kurdish fighters in Syria who fought alongside American troops against IS extremists. Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, a terrorist group linked to an insurgency within its own borders.

— AP

Saudi asylum-seeker held at Bangkok airport, Thai official says

An 18-year-old Saudi woman seeking asylum has been denied entry to Thailand and held in Bangkok’s airport, a Thai official says.

Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq Alqunun “ran away from her family to avoid marriage and she is concerned she may be in trouble returning to Saudi Arabia,” Thailand’s immigration chief Surachate Hakparn tells AFP, adding that Thai authorities contacted the “Saudi Arabia embassy to coordinate.”

Rahaf and Human Rights Watch tell AFP she was stopped by Saudi and Kuwaiti officials when she arrived in Suvarnabhumi airport and her passport was forcibly taken from her.

— AFP

Dozens try to block entrance to Jerusalem in protest of Jewish teens’ arrest

Dozens of right-wing demonstrators disrupt traffic at the main entrance to Jerusalem in protest of the arrest of five Jewish teens suspected of killing a Palestinian woman in the West Bank in October.

Police say the protesters are attempting to block the road near the Chords Bridge, and the officers are “at the scene, taking action to enable normal traffic.”

Opposition chief calls on Netanyahu to condemn ‘insane’ murder of Palestinian

Opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich calls the murder of Palestinian woman Aisha Rabi an “insane hate crime and nothing short of a terror attack.”

The stoning death by suspected Jewish teenagers, since arrested by the Shin Bet, is likely to fuel revenge attacks and a chain of bloody events, Yachimovich adds.

Taking a dig at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Zionist Union MK calls on him to have the “integrity” to condemn the killing but adds that it will be hard for the premier to do so since he is himself “wildly inciting” against law enforcement bodies.

Shelly Yachimovich leads a State Control committee meeting in the Knesset on December 31, 2018 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Labor MK Hilik Bar hospitalized with severe intestinal inflammation

Labor lawmaker Hilik Bar was hospitalized last night with severe intestinal inflammation and is in stable condition, Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center says in a statement.

Bar will stay in the hospital for several more days to recover and receive additional treatment, the statement adds.

Husband of slain Palestinian woman: Jailing the murderers ‘won’t bring her back’

The husband of a Palestinian woman who was killed in a rock-throwing attack in October says he hopes the suspected murderers will go to prison.

Yakoub Rabi makes the comment after the Shin Bet security service said it had arrested Jewish teenagers over the past week on suspicion of murdering his wife, Aisha Rabi.

“I hope those who killed my wife will go to prison,” Yakoub tells The Times of Israel. “It is important that they go there because others who want to carry out the same crime need to know they will pay a heavy price. I don’t want to see anyone else have to experience what my family has experienced.”

On October 12, 2018, the 47-year-old mother of eight was killed near Tapuach Junction in the northern West Bank after a rock blew through the windshield of a car she was traveling in with her husband and daughter and hit her in the head.

Yakoub, however, adds that sending the Jewish suspects to prison will not personally make a major difference for him.

“The truth is the arrests and legal proceedings won’t make a major difference for me,” he says. “They won’t bring my wife back. They won’t bring the mother of my children back. Nothing can be done to bring her back.”

— Adam Rasgon

Palestinians protest Greek Orthodox patriarch for selling land to Israelis

Dozens of Palestinians are protesting the arrival of the Greek Orthodox patriarch of the Holy Land ahead of an Orthodox Christmas celebration in Bethlehem.

Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III arrives at the Church of the Nativity, built atop the site where Christians believe Jesus Christ was born, to celebrate Christmas according to the Eastern Orthodox calendar, in the West Bank City of Bethlehem, January 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

The protesters shout “traitor” at Patriarch Theophilos III as he makes his way under heavy guard toward the Church of the Nativity, revered by Christians as the traditional site of Jesus’s birthplace. Palestinians have been demanding his resignation for allegedly selling church land to Israelis.

The Greek Orthodox church is one of the largest real estate owners in the Holy Land. It is dominated by Greek clergy while the flock is overwhelmingly Palestinian.

The Orthodox mark Christmas on January 7, according to the Gregorian, rather than Julian, calendar.

— AP

Right-wing demonstration at entrance to Jerusalem ends after protester arrested

Police arrest a right-wing protester for “blatantly disrupting public order” at the main entrance to Jerusalem.

Dozens of demonstrators tried to block the road in protest of the detention of five youths suspected of murdering Palestinian woman Aisha Rabi in the West Bank in October.

The protesters have left the area and traffic has resumed, police adds.

The Honenu legal aid organization says it is assisting the arrested protester.

Israel extradites British man who allegedly sexually assaulted his stepdaughter for years

Israel extradites a British man suspected of sexually assaulting his stepdaughter repeatedly when she was 12-13 years old, the Justice Ministry says in a statement.

The man allegedly entered his then-wife’s daughter’s room about once a week during 2004-2006 and sexually assaulted her in her bed, the ministry says.

The daughter told her mother about the assaults when she was 20. The 59-year-old was arrested and released on bail, but managed to flee to Israel and asked to become an Israeli citizen, according to the statement. He was arrested in November 2017 at Britain’s request.

Last April, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that the man can be extradited. His appeal has now been rejected and he was extradited last Thursday, the statement says.

Lawyers say Shin Bet case against suspected killers of Palestinian ‘crumbling’

The attorneys representing the suspects in the murder of Palestinian woman Aisha Rabi say in a press conference at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court that their clients have nothing to do with Rabi’s death and that the Shin Bet “cynically” waited to lift a gag order on the case until minutes before a judge ruled on extending the suspects’ remand.

The attorneys — Adi Keidar and Hay Haber of the Honenu legal aid organization and Itamar Ben Gvir — claim that their clients have an alibi placing them away from the site near the Tapuah Junction where the stone that killed Rabi in October was hurled.

Confirming fears expressed at settler demonstrations over the past week, the lawyers say their clients underwent torture while in Israeli custody.

(From L-R) Attorneys Itamar Ben Gvir, Adi Keidar and Hay Haber speak in a press conference outside the chambers at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on January 6, 2019. (Courtesy)

“From morning to night [my client] was shackled to a chair, sleeping on a mattress on the floor in a small cell,” says Keidar. “The boy I met was tired, broken and exhausted.”

Ben Gvir argues that the Shin Bet chose to “suddenly” lift its gag order because “its case is crumbling.”

“Just yesterday, it was telling reporters not to publish the information it released today because it would endanger Israeli security. What has happened since?” Ben Gvir shouts.

Ben Gvir adds that the interrogators “cursed, spit on and even sexually harassed” his client. He claims that the Shin Bet agents even performed a jailhouse informant exercise with cops posed as inmates that pressured the suspects to confess. Similar efforts were documented in other Jewish terror probes, including the investigation into the 2015 terror attack in the Palestinian village of Duma in which three members of the Dawabsha family were burned to death.

Commenting on the delegation of far-right activists that violated the Sabbath in order to coach the suspects on how to bare Shin Bet interrogation, Ben Gvir refuses to pass judgement on the group, saying the incident only shows how far the Shin Bet has driven religious Jews in its “excessive” interrogations.

— Jacob Magid

Jewish terror suspect’s lawyer slams Shin Bet ‘torture’ — against Palestinians too

Itamar Ben Gvir, who represents one of the five suspects of murdering Palestinian woman Aisha Rabi in October, tells The Times of Israel that the teens have remained silent throughout the interrogation and “refused to answer any of (the investigators’) questions.”

Attorney Itamar Ben Gvir arrives for a court hearing in what came to be known as the “Hate Wedding” at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on February 27, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Pressed as to why he has not criticized the Shin Bet’s interrogation tactics when they were used against Palestinian suspects, Ben Gvir argues that the two cases are not comparable.

“When a Jew throws a rock at a Palestinian, it is not terrorism. When a Palestinian throws a rock at a Jew, it is terrorism because it’s part of a larger effort to wipe us out from our land,” he argues.

However, he adds, the “extreme” tactics used by the Shin Bet against his client should not be used against Palestinian inmates either.

— Jacob Magid

Court extends remand of suspects in murder of Palestinian by 4 days

The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court rules to extend the remand of all five suspects in the murder of Palestinian woman Aisha Rabi until Thursday.

Two of the teens, who were arrested last night, are still barred from seeing an attorney.

— Jacob Magid

Israel strikes targets in southern Gaza, Palestinian media reports

Israeli Air Force aircraft strike targets in the southern Gaza Strip, near the city of Khan Younis, according to Palestinian reports.

The IDF doesn’t immediately release a comment.

Trump says US, N. Korea ‘negotiating’ on location for next Kim summit

US President Donald Trump says negotiations are underway on the location of the next summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump, who held a historic summit with Kim in Singapore in June, said last week that he received a “great letter” from the North Korean leader but declined to reveal its contents.

“We are negotiating a location,” he tells reporters before boarding a helicopter for the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, where he says he will be discussing a trade deal with China.

The letter from Kim came after he warned in a New Year’s speech that Pyongyang may change its approach to nuclear talks if Washington persists with sanctions.

Trump insists, however, that “with North Korea, we have a very good dialogue.”

— AFP

IDF says it struck Hamas targets in response to explosive device launched into Israel

The IDF confirms that an attack helicopter bombed two Hamas observation posts in the eastern Gaza Strip, saying it was in response to the launch of an explosive device into southern Israel earlier today.

A drone-shaped device from the Gaza Strip, borne by dozens of helium balloons, lands in a carrot field in southern Israel on January 6 ,2019. (Courtesy)

There are no immediate reports of Palestinian injuries.

“Hamas is responsible for everything that happens in the Gaza Strip and [for attacks] from it,” the army says.

The explosive device, which was flown into Israel using balloons and a drone-shaped glider, was detonated as a police bomb disposal robot inspected it, police said earlier.

No injuries were caused by the blast.

— Judah Ari Gross

Trump confirms that after 18 years, plotter of USS Cole attack has been killed

US President Donald Trump confirms that the US military has killed one of the architects of the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole that left 17 American servicemen dead.

The military said Friday that Al-Qaeda operative Jamal al-Badawi was believed to have been killed in a precision strike in Yemen.

“Our GREAT MILITARY has delivered justice for the heroes lost and wounded in the cowardly attack on the USS Cole,” Trump tweets. “We have just killed the leader of that attack, Jamal al-Badawi.”

“We will never stop in our fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism!”

Experts examine the hole on the side of the USS Cole in Aden on October 13, 2000. (AP Photo/Dimitri Messinis)

— AFP

Russian space agency bemoans head’s canceled US trip

Russia’s space agency is complaining that the invitation for its head to visit the US has been canceled without the organization having been informed.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin attends a meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on January 31, 2018. (MAXIM SHEMETOV/AFP)

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told The Washington Post in a story Saturday that he has rescinded the invitation to Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin after several senators raised complaints.

Rogozin is under US sanctions for his role in the Russian annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, when he was a deputy prime minister.

Roscosmos spokesman Vladimir Ustimenko tells state news agency Tass that “it seems strange to us that our NASA colleagues dealt with us through the media and not directly.”

Russian lawmaker Frants Klintsevich says the decision shows that “the US political establishment doesn’t intend to change its Russophobic vector.”

— AP

Man, 50, found dead in his apartment in Hadera

A 50-year-old man is found dead in his apartment in the coastal city of Hadera, Hebrew-language media reports.

Paramedics pronounce the man’s death at the scene. Police open an investigation.

Woman dies of injuries caused in car crash in northern Israel

Diaa Kanaan, a 24-year-old resident of the Arab city of Tamra in northern Israel, dies of wounds sustained earlier today in a car crash on the nearby Route 70, Hebrew-language media reports.

Kanaan was critically injured and taken to Rambam Hospital in Haifa, where doctors pronounced her dead.

A 63-year-old man was moderately injured in the car crash. According to an initial investigation, the crash was caused by a driver running a red light.

Egypt’s Sissi inaugurates cathedral, mosque in new ‘administrative capital’

Egypt’s president is inaugurating a new cathedral for the Coptic Orthodox Church and one of the region’s largest mosques.

Today’s opening ceremony is a highly symbolic gesture at a time when Islamic jihadists are increasingly targeting the country’s minority Christians.

Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a general-turned-president, has made sectarian harmony a cornerstone of his rule, fighting Islamic militancy while advocating equality between the overwhelming Muslim majority and Christians, who account for about 10 percent of Egypt’s 100 million people.

The cathedral and mosque were built in Egypt’s New Administrative Capital, Sissi’s brainchild, in the desert east of Cairo.

The inauguration ceremony falls on Christmas Eve for Egypt’s predominantly Coptic Orthodox Christians, and just hours after a police major was killed trying to defuse an explosive device near a Cairo church.

— AP

Netanyahu, Bolton meet in Jerusalem ahead of joint statement

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu starts his meeting with US National Security Adviser John Bolton in the premier’s Jerusalem residence on Balfour Street.

The two are expected to make a joint statement later tonight.

— Raphael Ahren

Ex-coalition whip questioned for 13th time in corruption probe

Likud lawmaker David Bitan was interrogated earlier today at the Lahav 433 anti-fraud police unit for the 13th time in a corruption probe, police say in a statement.

Bitan stepped down as coalition whip in December 2017, after it emerged that he was suspected of receiving bribes when he served as deputy mayor of Rishon Lezion and later as a member of Knesset.

Coalition chairman Likud party MK David Bitan leaving the Lahav 433 national crime unit of the Israel Police on December 10, 2017. (Roy Alima/Flash90)

Two teens arrested during protest in support of Jewish murder suspects

Police say officers arrested two teenagers earlier today during a protest outside a Rishon Lezion court, where a remand hearing was underway for five Jewish youths suspected of murdering a Palestinian woman in the West Bank in October.

Dozens were protesting against the detention and alleged torture of the teens, whose remand was extended by four days.

The two men, aged 17 and 19, were arrested for disrupting public order, police say.

“Israel Police respects the right to protest, but will not allow disruption of public order or violence,” the police statement says.

PM thanks Bolton for defending Israel, calls for recognition of sovereignty over Golan

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanks US National Security Adviser John Bolton for backing Israel’s right to defend itself and supporting the Jewish state in the UN, during a joint press conference at his Jerusalem residence after the two had a closed meeting.

Netanyahu says he and Bolton will head tomorrow to the Golan Heights — weather permitting — saying it has great strategical significance for Israel.

“When you’re there, you’ll understand why we’ll never leave the Golan Heights, and why it’s important for all countries to recognize Israeli sovereignty” over the region, captured from Syria in 1967, he says. Netanyahu says he has discussed the issue with US President Donald Trump.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US National Security Adviser John Bolton meeting at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem on January 6, 2019. (Matty Stern/ US Embassy Jerusalem)

Bolton hails the “tremendous” achievement of moving of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and says that Jerusalem and Washington enjoy the “best relationship in our history.”

Bolton says its “critical” that this bond continues to counter Iran’s continued threat to achieve nuclear weapons.

He adds that he will discuss the withdrawal of US forces from Syria with Netanyahu, aiming to do so “in a way that ensures” that the Islamic State terror group does not become a threat again.

Reiterating the Trump administration’s committal to Israel’s defense, Bolton warns any country who doubts it to “think again.”

Shin Bet releases footage of Jewish terror suspects burning Israeli flag

The Shin Bet confirms a report in The Times of Israel that, during its arrest of one of the five suspects in Palestinian woman Aisha Rabi’s murder in October, agents of the security service uncovered evidence that “indicate the extreme anti-Zionist characteristics” of the teens allegedly involved.

The evidence includes a video depicting the teens burning an Israeli flag, as well as another flag that had a swastika drawn over the Star of David, along with the phrase, “Death to Zionists” written on top of it.

An Israeli flag with a swastika and a message saying “Death to Zionists,” said by the Shin Bet on January 6, 2019, to have been made by Jewish teens suspected of murdering a Palestinian woman in the West Bank. (Shin Bet)

— Jacob Magid

PM said to ask US to recognize Golan sovereignty to compensate for Syria pullout

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly asked the White House recently to formally recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, as a form of compensation for the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, Channel 10 reports.

The TV report says Netanyahu has sent a letter to the White House seeking the diplomatic gesture, and that he had raised the subject last week, during his meeting in Brazil with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and today, in his meeting in Jerusalem with US National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Shin Bet dismisses ‘false’ torture accusations in prob of Jewish terror suspects

The Shin Bet responds to “false” accusations made by “interested parties” against its interrogation of Jewish teens suspected of murdering Palestinian woman Aisha Rabi, in October.

The agency asserts that the suspects were not “abducted,” as claimed by critics, but rather arrested by officers who were equipped with warrants, and who had notified the minors’ parents.

It acknowledges having barred the suspects from meeting with their attorneys, but points out that such a step is “taken from time to time against both Arab and Jewish suspects… in serious terror acts,” and that the Lod District Court has signed off on the measure despite appeals from their attorneys.

Regarding accusations of torture and violence against the detainees, the Shin Bet says it has been careful to place the suspects away from adult inmates and that the interrogations are being carried out “in accordance with the directives of the medical authorities.”

The security service says the suspects were being examined throughout the interrogation, and “did not raise any complaints to the Israel Prisons Service medical authorities” or with the judges presiding over their remand hearings.

The suspects were also provided with religious items, including prayer shawls in order to observe the Sabbath, the Shin Bet says.

— Jacob Magid

Iraq eyeing improved ties with Israel — report

Iraqi officials have visited Israel three times in 2018, as part of an effort to warm ties between both countries, Hadashot TV reports, making Baghdad the next Arab country seeking a rapprochement with the Jewish state.

The path to reconciliation is long and sensitive, due to the heavy Iranian presence in Iraq.

Palestinian Authority to shutter Gaza-Egypt border crossing, over spat with Hamas

The Palestinian Authority announces it will stop operations at a key border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, in protest of the Gaza arrest by Hamas of what it says are hundreds of members of the rival Fatah party.

The PA says the border crossing, which is used for pedestrian access to and from Egypt, will remain unmanned until further notice.

As a result of the PA plan, Egypt is expected to also close its side of the crossing, Hebrew media reports.

It is the latest development in rapidly deteriorating ties between the two main Palestinian factions, which have been at loggerheads since 2007, when Hamas ousted the Fatah-dominated PA from Gaza.

Kulanu MK to become housing minister, instead of Yoav Gallant, who joined Likud

The Knesset’s Committee on the Rights of the Child is led by Kulanu MK Yifat Shasha-Biton (courtesy)

Kulanu party leader Moshe Kahlon says MK Yifat Shasha-Biton will become minister of construction and housing, until the April elections, instead of Yoav Gallant, who has quit the party and joined the ruling Likud, Hadashot TV reports.

Gallant was fired last week by Kahlon, and will become immigrant absorption minister this week.

Israel to apologize to Croatia for delay in F-16 deal due to US objection — TV

The director-general of the Defense Ministry, Udi Adam, will reportedly travel to Croatia this week, in a bid to resolve tensions over a $500 million arms deal being blocked by the US.

Israeli and Croatian officials tell Channel 10 that Adam will arrive in Zagreb on Wednesday, where he is expected to apologize for the delay in the purchase of 12 used American-made fighter jets from Israel.

Israel last year signed a tentative deal to sell the upgraded F-16 Barak fighters to Croatia, pending US approval for allowing the jets to go to a third party. However, Washington wants Israel to strip off the upgrades it installed, after acquiring the planes some 30 years ago.

Last week, Croatian Defense Minister Damir Krsticevic said that Israel provided guarantees during the contract bidding process that US officials would green-light the sale. Krsticevic gave Israel until January 11 to get US approval for the deal, or it would be cancelled.

Hamas slams PA for deserting border crossing, says it will further isolate Gaza

Hamas has condemned the Palestinian Authority’s decision to stop manning the Rafah border crossing with Egypt until further notice, Hebrew-language media reports.

The terror group ruling Gaza says the move — intended as a protest against the arrest of hundreds of members of the rival Fatah faction — will deal a blow to Egyptian efforts to achieve intra-Palestinian reconciliation, and will isolate the Strip from Egypt.

Six go on trial in Sweden Islamic State terrorism case

The trial of six Uzbek and Kyrgyz nationals accused of financing terrorism and planning a terror attack begins in Stockholm.

They are accused of sending funds to Islamic State to finance its terrorism operations and planning an attack in Sweden, where they all reside.

The prosecution believes they acquired large amounts of chemicals to make explosives, as well as gas masks, walkie-talkies and other military materials as part of their plot.

— AFP

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In Israel, Bolton says Syria withdrawal conditioned on defeating IS remnants

US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, says the country’s military withdrawal from northeastern Syria is conditioned on defeating the remnants of the Islamic State group, and on Turkey assuring the safety of Kurdish fighters allied with the United States.

Bolton, on a trip to Israel to reassure it of the Trump-ordered withdrawal, says there is no timetable for the pullout of American forces in northeastern Syria, but insists it’s not an unlimited commitment.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton visits the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, January 6, 2019. (Ziv Sokolov/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem)

“There are objectives that we want to accomplish that condition the withdrawal,” Bolton tells reporters in Jerusalem. “The timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement.”

Those conditions, he says, include the defeat of remnants of IS in Syria, and protection for Kurdish militias who have fought alongside US troops against the extremist group.

Bolton’s comments mark the first public confirmation that the drawdown has been slowed, as Trump faced widespread criticism from allies and the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis for a policy that was to have been conducted within weeks.

Trump announced in mid-December that the US will withdraw all of its 2,000 forces in Syria. Trump’s move has raised fears over clearing the way for a Turkish assault on Kurdish fighters in Syria who fought alongside American troops against IS extremists. Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, a terrorist group linked to an insurgency within its own borders.

— AP