Iran earthquake death toll rises to 483
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Coalition crisis averted as Netanyahu reaches deal with ultra-Orthodox ministers

Impasse over state-sanctioned work on Jewish Sabbath solved after compromise reached with coalition partners

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaks with then-health minister Yaakov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism party, left, at the Knesset on March 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/File)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaks with then-health minister Yaakov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism party, left, at the Knesset on March 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/File)
  • File photo of Yigal Amir appearing in court in 2004 (Yoram Rubin/Flash90)
    File photo of Yigal Amir appearing in court in 2004 (Yoram Rubin/Flash90)
  • Saudi Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman (C) poses for a group picture with other defense ministers and officials of the 41-member Saudi-led Muslim counter-terrorism alliance in the capital Riyadh. (AFP PHOTO / Fayez Nureldine)
    Saudi Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman (C) poses for a group picture with other defense ministers and officials of the 41-member Saudi-led Muslim counter-terrorism alliance in the capital Riyadh. (AFP PHOTO / Fayez Nureldine)
  • Extremist ultra-Orthodox demonstrators, protesting against the army draft, block the entrance to Jerusalem on November 26, 2017. (Flash90)
    Extremist ultra-Orthodox demonstrators, protesting against the army draft, block the entrance to Jerusalem on November 26, 2017. (Flash90)

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

Ministers okay amended bill barring police from recommending charges

The Knesset’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation passes an amended version of a controversial bill that would ban police from informing prosecutors whether there were grounds for indictment upon wrapping up their investigations.

The Knesset plenum will vote on the so-called Recommendations Bill tomorrow.

The bill would jail investigators who issue recommendations for indictment as well as police officials who leak information from ongoing investigations to the press. An earlier clause, which would have jailed journalists for publishing that information, has been excised.

The bill is opposed by both police and the attorney general and is seen as an attempt by Likud lawmakers to shield Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the public fallout should police find sufficient evidence to warrant criminal charges by prosecutors.

Palestinian injured in West Bank clashes with IDF

A Palestinian protester is injured in clashes with the IDF in the West Bank town of Beit Ummar.

According to reports, several dozen Palestinians hurled rocks at soldiers stationed in the West Bank town.

One protester is taken for hospital for treatment. No Israeli forces were injured in the incident.

Saudi Arabia kicks off Islamic counter-terrorism summit

Saudi Arabia gathers officials from 40 Muslim countries on Sunday in the first meeting of an Islamic counter-terrorism alliance, a move Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman declared a “clear signal” to extremism.

“In past years, terrorism has been functioning in all of our countries… with no coordination” among them, he says in his keynote speech. “This ends today, with this alliance.”

Prince Mohammed says the 40 countries were sending a “clear signal” that they would “work together to support the military, financial, intelligence and political efforts of every member state.”

The summit is the first meeting of defense ministers and other senior officials from the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, which officially counts 41 members.

— AFP

Syria regime bombing reportedly kills 19 civilians near Damascus

Syrian regime airstrikes and artillery fire kills 19 civilians across the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta region outside the capital Damascus, a monitor says.

Government airstrikes on the areas of Mesraba and Madira kill 17 civilians, while artillery fire on the town of Douma kills another two civilians, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

“The toll could rise further because of the number of wounded people in serious condition,” says Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

The deaths come despite the area falling within a so-called “de-escalation zone” put in place under a deal between government allies Russia and Iran and rebel backer Turkey.

Eastern Ghouta is already in the grip of a humanitarian crisis caused by a crushing regime siege of the area since 2013 that has caused food and medical shortages.

According to the Observatory, regime bombardment of Eastern Ghouta in the last two weeks has killed more than 100 people.

— AFP

Iran accuses US over Saudi ‘atrocities’ in Yemen

Iran accuses the United States of responsibility for “atrocities” in Yemen through its support for Saudi Arabia, which is leading a coalition fighting Tehran-backed Huthi rebels.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi says a White House statement on Friday in support of Riyadh “clearly and without question proves America’s participation and responsibility in the atrocities committed by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.”

In its statement, Washington had said it was “committed to supporting Saudi Arabia… against the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ aggression and blatant violations of international law.”

Regional arch-rivals Shiite-ruled Iran and Sunni heavyweight Saudi Arabia back opposing sides in conflicts from Yemen to Syria.

— AFP

Palestinian minister says PA controlling 5% of Gaza despite unity deal

Palestinian Authority Minister of Civil Affairs Hussien al-Sheikh says the PA has only five percent control of the Gaza Strip, despite a Palestinian reconciliation deal that calls for West Bank-based government to take full control of the enclave by December 1.

“The [PA] government until this moment, financially, administratively and security-wise, has not been setup [in Gaza] more than five percent,” Sheikh tells the official PA newscast.

Sheikh accuses Hamas of dragging their feet in implementing the deal, saying the terrorist group has not allowed PA ministers to take control of their offices in Gaza and that thousands of government employees who worked in Gaza’s ministries before the Hamas take over in 2007 have not returned to he work.

He also says the PA has not been able to set up an effective tax collection system, adding that Ramallah is “collecting crumbs” at the Kerem Shalom Crossing with Israel.

In a deal with the Hamas terror group signed last month in Cairo, Fatah, which controls the PA, signed a deal with Hamas that would end the group’s ten-year rule of the Strip.

— Dov Lieber

Russian strikes reportedly kill 34 civilians in Syria’s Deir Ezzor

Russian airstrikes kill 34 civilians, among them 15 children, in a village held by the Islamic State group in Syria’s eastern Deir Ezzor province, a monitor says.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the strikes hit the village of Al-Shafah, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, early this morning.

— AFP

IDF investigating rocket sirens along Egyptian border

The IDF is investigating sirens warning of incoming rockets in the western Negev, near the Egyptian border.

The sirens are sounding in the communities of Kadesh Barnea and Nitzana.

PM cancels coalition meeting as ministers protest over Shabbat

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancels the weekly meeting of coalition party leaders after Health Minister Yaakov Litzman resigned his position in protest over railway infrastructure work on the Jewish day of rest.

Litzman quit earlier today over the construction work while and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri skipped the cabinet meeting after learning that a bill granting him authority to close mini-markets on Saturdays was taken off the agenda of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.

Netanyahu reportedly held individual talks with coalition leaders instead.

Army says Negev rocket sirens a false alarm

The IDF says the rocket sirens sounding in the western Negev are a false alarm.

Previous false rocket sirens along the Israeli-Egyptian border have been triggered by internal fighting between the Egyptian Army and Islamic State-linked jihadists.

— Judah Ari Gross

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox take to Jerusalem streets in fresh anti-draft protest

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox take to the streets in downtown Jerusalem to protest the jailing of several seminary students for draft-dodging.

The protest, called at the corner of Jaffa and Sarei Yisrael streets, is blocking rush hour traffic in the capital. Demonstrators have also blocked the light rail tracks at the busy intersection.

The fringe “Jerusalem Faction” called the protests in order to defend the “dignity of the Torah,” after the Jaffa Military Court sentenced 11 ultra-Orthodox draft dodgers to jail sentences ranging from 40 to 90 days earlier today.

Last week, at least 32 ultra-Orthodox demonstrators were arrested in a salvo of demonstrations in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Beit Shemesh, and Modiin Illit.

Saudi Arabia vows new Islamic alliance ‘will wipe terrorists from the earth’

Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince vowed to “pursue terrorists until they are wiped from the face of the earth” as officials from 40 Muslim countries gather in the first meeting of an Islamic counter-terrorism alliance.

“In past years, terrorism has been functioning in all of our countries… with no coordination” among national authorities, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also the Saudi defense minister, says in his keynote speech at the gathering in Riyadh.

“This ends today, with this alliance.”

The summit is the first meeting of defense ministers and other senior officials from the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, which officially counts 41 countries and identifies as a “pan-Islamic unified front” against violent extremism.

— AFP

30 ultra-Orthodox arrested in Jerusalem anti-draft protests

Thirty ultra-Orthodox demonstrators are arrested in Jerusalem during the latest protest against the jailing of military draft dodgers.

A statement from police says the protesters were blocking Jaffa and Sarei Yisrael streets and refused to comply with police orders to vacate the busy intersection.

One protester was lightly injured and is receiving treatment by paramedics at the scene.

The police statement says officers will remain deployed in downtown Jerusalem to stop “the flagrant violation of public order… that harms the safety and security of residents.”

PM unveils NIS 30m. ‘heritage plan’ to keep Jewish identity from ‘disappearing’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayahu at a cabinet meeting unveils a NIS 30 million plan to preserve Jewish identity to mark the 70th anniversary of the United Nations’ vote recognizing the State of Israel.

He says the money will go toward the preservation of the independence building in Tel Aviv and for establishing a museum at the place where Israel’s independence was signed.

“This is part of our heritage plan which we are investing in a great deal of resources, money, thought and attention because ultimately our future is linked to our past, and many nations are wiped off, many cultures disappear off the face of the earth because in the global tsunami identities disappear of the face of the earth,” Netanyahu says.

“That is why it is important to us to connect the nation of Israel and the next generations to our ancient heritage and to our new heritage,” he adds.

Iran earthquake death toll rises to 483

The number of dead in a major earthquake that hit Iran’s western province of Kermanshah this month has risen to 483, official news agency IRNA says.

The rise from a previous toll of 436 reported last week came after some people died from their injuries and authorities identified several dead who were buried in haste, IRNA and other Iranian media outlets reports.

The 7.3-magnitude quake struck the mountainous region bordering Iraq late on November 12, injuring more than 12,000 people and leaving thousands homeless.

Eight people were killed in neighboring Iraq.

Iran sees frequent seismic activity. In 1990, a 7.4-magnitude quake in northern Iran killed 40,000 people, injured 300,000 and left half a million homeless.

— AFP

ORT high school teachers to strike on Monday

High school teachers in the ORT system will strike tomorrow as the teachers union continues its dispute with the treasury over better wages, the union says.

The strike is announced as teachers demand higher salaries and claim the government is procrastinating over talks.

The union has called a number of strikes in recent weeks as negotiations with the Finance Ministry over a monthly gross wage increase from NIS 6,400 ($1,820) to NIS 8,000 ($2,275) have stalled.

Palestinian teen caught with knife at Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs

Border police discover a knife hidden underneath the shirt of a Palestinian teenager who tried to enter the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

The hidden weapon is discovered during a security check at the holy site in the West Bank city.

The suspect is detained and taken away for questioning.

Rabin’s killer Yigal Amir files request for retrial

Yigal Amir, who is serving a life sentence for the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, files a request for a retrial at the Supreme Court, according to reports in Hebrew-language media.

Last week, Michael Achour, a PR adviser representing the Amir family, told The Times of Israel the defense team will claim Amir should never have been tried for murder and that a new trial should be held on attempted murder charges, alleging that someone else killed Rabin just as Amir was trying to.

“We are not saying that Yigal Amir wasn’t there and we are not saying that he didn’t shoot. But there is proof that his bullets didn’t kill Rabin,” Achour said. “He was there, but he didn’t kill him. It should be considered attempted murder.”

German broadcaster cancels Roger Waters show over anti-Semitism claims

German public broadcaster Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) is withdrawing its sponsorship of an upcoming Roger Waters concert after activists lobbied to have the show canceled over the former Pink Floyd front man’s anti-Israel and anti-Semitic views, according to reports in German media.

WDR pulled its support for the show in Cologne scheduled for June 2018 after a local resident launched a petition urging the broadcaster “not to grant support with public money for the anti-Semite Roger Waters.”

In a letter, chairman of WDR Tom Buhrow told the local Jewish community to regard his decision “as a personal message of trustworthiness and understanding.”

Jerusalem mayor urges ‘heavy hand’ to end anti-draft protests

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat urges the city’s police commander to employ a “heavy hand” in dealing with the ongoing anti-draft protests organized by fringe ultra-Orthodox groups.

“The time has come to put an end to the disruption to the lives of Jerusalem residents. The right to demonstrate is a sacred right, when it’s done according to the law,” he tells Jerusalem police chief Yoram Halevy according to a statement.

“Those who break the law for any reason must be dealt with a heavy hand and the police must use all the means at its disposal to disperse these illegal demonstrations.”

The latest anti-draft protest organized by the so-called “Jerusalem Faction” earlier in the day snarled traffic throughout the city, and caused disruptions to the light rail.

London terror scare unexplained, as suspects freed

Two men suspected of involvement in a fight that sparked a terror scare in London’s Oxford Street shopping district have been questioned by police but released without charges, a spokesman says.

Armed officers locked down the area around Oxford Circus for more than an hour on Friday after reports that shots had been fired, and 16 people were hurt as crowds fled the scene.

Police, who responded as if the incident were terror-related, said they found no trace of suspects, evidence of gunfire or casualties.

The British Transport Police later said they believed it all began with an “altercation between two men” on the platform of the Underground station, issuing CCTV image of the pair.

A 21-year-old and a 40-year-old subsequently came forward and were interviewed, but a spokesman for the force on Sunday said: “They have not been arrested or charged.”

No further suspects are being sought.

— AFP

Iran airs video on detained Princeton student

Iranian state television airs a video featuring a Chinese-American graduate student now serving a 10-year prison sentence for allegedly “infiltrating” the country while doing doctoral research.

The new video aired about Xiyue Wang comes after Iranian state television earlier focused on British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Wang was conducting doctoral research on Iran’s Qajar dynasty when he was arrested in Iran, amid the detention of others with Western ties.

The footage aired Sunday accused Wang of trying to take around 4,500 documents from the country. An interrogator asks Wang why he did it, with other footage showing him emotional.

On Thursday, Iranian state television aired footage about Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is serving a five-year prison sentence for allegedly planning the “soft toppling” of Iran’s government.

— AP

Bennett urges Netanyahu to prevent razing of illegal settlement homes

Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett is urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prevent the court-ordered razing of a dozen homes illegally built in an West Bank outpost.

“For too long, Israel’s policies have been moving in the wrong direction, he tells supporters at a rally in support of Netiv Avot residents.

“For too many years has contributed to destroying settlements,” Bennett charges.

Bennett, whose pro-settlement party is a member of Netanyahu’s government, assures the prime minister that if he acts to prevent the razing of homes that “we will be behind you.”

Last year, the High Court of Justice ruled that 17 buildings in Netiv Avot were constructed on private Palestinian land and ordered they be demolished by March 8, 2018.

Israel warns Assad of military intervention if it signs deal with Iran

Israel has reportedly warned Syrian President Bashar Assad that it will get involved in Syria militarily if his government enters into an agreement with Iran.

According to Hadashot news, Israel issued the warning to Damascus through an unnamed third party.

Netanyahu reaches deal with ultra-Orthodox ministers over Shabbat work

The coalition crisis sparked by state-sanctioned work on the Jewish Sabbath has been averted, with Netanyahu reaching a series of compromise deals with the heads of the ultra-Orthodox parties.

According to the agreements, a law to preserve the status quo of not working on Shabbat will be passed, but mini-markets in Tel Aviv will allowed to remain open, and Saturday Premier League soccer games will also allowed to take place.

Netanyahu, United Torah Judaism chairman Yaakov Litzman and Shas chairman Aryeh Deri also agreed to back a proposal by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz that would take several considerations — including Jewish identity — into account when ordering maintenance work on rail lines.

Earlier today, Netanyahu was forced to cancel the weekly meeting of coalition party leaders after Litzman resigned his position as Health Minister and Deri skipped a cabinet meeting in protest of state-sanctioned work on Shabbat.

Supreme court president warns judges against political ties

Supreme Court President Esther Hayut reprimands Israeli judges for having independent contacts with politicians.

“This is not a flattering image, to say the least,” Hayut writes in her first letter to court presidents.

“The politicization of the judicial system can completely undermine its foundations as an independent and self-reliant system,” she says.

“I intend to do everything possible to protect the independence of the judiciary and to prevent it from becoming politicized.”

Hayut’s warning comes in response to an expose on the Channel 12 show, Uvda, last week, that appeared to show judges lobbying politicians in an effort to advance their careers.

First food aid in weeks docks at rebel-held Yemen port

A vessel carrying the first shipment of food aid in three weeks docked Sunday at the rebel-controlled Red Sea port of Saleef in western Yemen, a United Nations official says.

Abeer Etefa, a spokesperson for the World Food Programme for the Middle East and North Africa region, says some 25,000 tons of wheat will be offloaded early on Monday.

She says “strong winds” were preventing the offloading from taking place on Sunday.

Saleef port is around 70 kilometers (45 miles) north of the key port of Hodeida, also on the Red Sea and in rebel hands.

UN officials have warned that Yemen could face the world’s largest famine in decades unless the crippling blockade by the Saudi-backed coalition fighting Iran-backed Huthi rebels is lifted.

— AFP

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Iran earthquake death toll rises to 483

The number of dead in a major earthquake that hit Iran’s western province of Kermanshah this month has risen to 483, official news agency IRNA says.

The rise from a previous toll of 436 reported last week came after some people died from their injuries and authorities identified several dead who were buried in haste, IRNA and other Iranian media outlets reports.

The 7.3-magnitude quake struck the mountainous region bordering Iraq late on November 12, injuring more than 12,000 people and leaving thousands homeless.

Eight people were killed in neighboring Iraq.

Iran sees frequent seismic activity. In 1990, a 7.4-magnitude quake in northern Iran killed 40,000 people, injured 300,000 and left half a million homeless.

— AFP