Israeli family hiking in West Bank ravine reported missing
Live updates

IDF forces leave Nablus amid ongoing manhunt for Ariel terrorist

Several Palestinians arrested in raid, 20 hurt in clashes after troops surround home of Abed al-Karim Assi’s father

Illustrative: IDF troops in a raid in the West Bank. (Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative: IDF troops in a raid in the West Bank. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.

Ariel terrorist’s estranged mother calls on him to turn himself in

The terrorist who stabbed to death an Israeli father of four on Monday should turn himself in to security forces, his mother tells Israel’s Channel 10 television news.

Abed al-Karim Assi, 19, is suspected of stabbing to death Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal, 29, at the Ariel Junction in the northern West Bank.

Assi holds Israeli citizenship and lives in Jaffa, defense officials said late Monday. He managed to evade capture following the attack, even after an IDF officer hit him with his car while in pursuit.

Assi’s father lives in Nablus and his mother in Haifa. She tells Channel 10 she “hasn’t seen my son in a long time.” She says his actions “are unacceptable.”

“What he did just ruined his life. He has no right to take a life,” she says.

Gal Gadot gets a cameo as herself on The Simpsons

Gal Gadot, Israel’s latest — and to some, greatest — contribution to American pop culture, is joining an exclusive and rarefied class of American cultural icons: those with appearances on “The Simpsons.”

In a Twitter post Monday, Gadot announced: “I grew up watching @TheSimpsons and now I get to voice myself in an episode!”

According to Hebrew media reports, she will appear as herself in an episode titled “Bart isn’t dead” in the fall — as part of the iconic cartoon’s 30th season.

Palestinian mother, 48, and daughter, 16, held for planning terror attack

A Palestinian mother and her teenage daughter are arrested on suspicion of planning to carry out a terror attack.

According to the Ynet news site, the two, identified by authorities only by their ages — the mother is 48 and the daughter 16 — are also suspected of inciting terror attacks and possession of illegal firearms. The mother is also facing charges for allegedly assaulting the police officers who arrested her.

Their remand is extended on Tuesday until next Sunday.

Former caregiver for Ariel terrorist recalls troubled youth

New details are emerging about the motive of alleged terrorist Abed al-Karim Assi, 19, who stabbed a rabbi to death on Monday.

Assi was “a boy in crisis,” one caregiver from Assi’s troubled youth told the Hadashot television news network.

“His mother didn’t acknowledge him from a young age, and the father lives in Nablus and also didn’t want to acknowledge him [as a son],” the man says.

Assi was “loved by staff and other youth” at the troubled-youth program, the man says, adding that when he heard the name of the suspected terrorist he was “shocked.”

“He never said anything nationalistic. He had no political interests at all, and never expressed any hatred toward us [Jews],” he adds.

Holland mulls ending law against insulting king

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch MPs will this week debate the touchy subject of scrapping royal defamation laws, but the issue has exposed rifts within the fragile ruling coalition, news reports say.

The Netherlands remains one of the few countries that still maintains “lese majeste” laws, dating back to 1830, making it a criminal offense to insult Dutch King Willem-Alexander.

Parliament’s lower house will on Thursday discuss a bill proposed by the progressive D66 party, which would drop clauses against defaming the king contained within wider laws on crimes against the royalty.

First deemed a crime in 1830 and taken up in the Dutch statute books in 1886, in modern times the law “implied restricting freedom of speech,” D66 parliamentarian Kees Verhoeven says in the proposed bill, penned in early 2016.


More deadly regime strikes as Syria toll mounts

SAQBA, Syria — Fresh regime strikes on a besieged rebel-held enclave near Damascus kill 35 civilians on Tuesday despite mounting Western pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The bloodshed comes a day after another 31 civilians were killed in Eastern Ghouta and as the United Nations pleaded for a truce in the seven-year-old conflict to allow for aid deliveries.

Fighting also rages in the northwestern province of Idlib, where the UN says the violence “made a mockery” of the de-escalation zones agreed last year in a bid to pave the way for an end to the war.

The latest casualties in Ghouta, on paper also a de-escalation zone, come as Washington threatens military action over the reported use of chemical weapons in the enclave, which regime and allied forces have besieged since 2013.


Hezbollah threatens to attack Israel over gas reserves

The Lebanese terror group Hezbollah warns that anyone who threatens Lebanon’s gas or oil reserves will face an attack.

The statement, delivered by the organization’s media outlets, is directed at Israel, which Lebanon accuses of seeking to develop natural gas reserves in Lebanese sovereign waters.

Lebanese leaders vow to push back against Israeli border wall

Lebanon’s top three political leaders meet to discuss ways to oppose what they call Israel’s alleged encroachment into Lebanese territory with the building of an Israeli border wall between the two countries.

The three — President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabil Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri — discuss Israel’s “insistence on building a concrete wall across the southern border, and at points along the blue line,” the recognized international border between the two countries.

They also discuss overlapping claims to waters off the coast of both countries where natural gas reserves are believed to be located.

The three conclude the meeting with a decision to pursue action against Israel’s border fence in international forums, which they say will be built inside territory claimed by Lebanon in some places.

Top national security ministers tour northern border

Top ministers tour the Golan Heights to view Israel’s military readiness in light of the threat from Hezbollah and other Iran-backed forces on the northern border.

Ministers in the security cabinet, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, receive briefings from IDF officers while touring the Golan Heights, February 6, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The ministers, all members of the powerful 10-member security cabinet, visit Mount Avital on the Golan, where they are briefed by IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and commanders in the area.

Deputy FM: Israel working to amend Polish Holocaust law

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely vows to continue pressuring Poland to amend the controversial Holocaust bill set to be signed into law in Warsaw.

“Israel has clarified to the Polish government that it will not accept any law that deals with the silencing of history and the denial of the involvement of Polish citizens in the murder of Jews at the time of the Holocaust,” Hotovely says.

US VP Pence doesn’t rule out N. Korea meeting

TOKYO, Japan — US Vice President Mike Pence says he has not ruled out the possibility of meeting with North Korean officials at the upcoming Olympics in South Korea.

“Let me say President Trump has said he always believes in talking, but I haven’t requested any meeting,” Pence says before departing Monday on a six-day Asia trip. “But we’ll see what happens.”

In this Feb. 1, 2018, photo, US Vice President Mike Pence addresses the Republican National Committee (RNC) Winter Meeting in Washington. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Pence arrives Tuesday in Japan, where he will meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US service members.

The vice president’s trip will be highlighted by his stop at the Pyeongchang Games. He says no plans have been made for him to meet with any members of the North Korean delegation.

— AP

Netanyahu visits northern border, says no one should ‘test us’

Fresh from a tour of the northern border and amid new tensions between Israel and Lebanon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he wouldn’t “recommend that anyone try to test us.”

“I just finished a tour we conducted in the [IDF’s] Northern Command with members of the [security] cabinet,” Netanyahu says in a video statement put out by his office. “I’m impressed by the great efforts the IDF has gone to here to protect our borders and our country.”

He concludes: “Our intentions are peaceful, but we’re ready for any scenario, and I wouldn’t recommend that anyone try to test us.”

Bloody day on the roads: 3 killed, 2 seriously hurt in accidents

Three people are killed and two more are seriously hurt in various traffic accidents Tuesday.

A 25-year-old bicyclist is killed in Tel Aviv after being hit by a truck on the city’s Rokah boulevard. Another man, 70, is killed in a collision on a highway near the southern town of Kiryat Gat.

In the northern Galilee, a 16-year-old is killed after his all-terrain vehicle slams into a light pole and overturns.

The wounded include two who are very seriously hurt. One, a 60-year-old man, is wounded in the Kiryat Gat collision. The other is a nine-year-old boy who is hit at a crosswalk in Modiin Illit and is taken to hospital in critical condition.

At least four more people are lightly hurt in traffic accidents.

Jordan approves construction of Iraq oil pipeline

Jordan gives the green light for the construction of a pipeline that would bring oil from southern Iraq to its port of Aqaba, a government spokesman says.

In 2013, the neighboring countries agreed on the idea of the 1,700-kilometer (1,000-mile) pipeline to run from Basra to the Red Sea port at a cost of $18 billion.

But plans for the pipeline — which would run across Iraq — were then put on hold after the Islamic State jihadist group in 2014 swept across large parts of the country.

Jordan’s cabinet late Monday approved a framework agreement to be signed by both countries to build the pipeline to export Iraqi crude and provide resource-poor Jordan with oil, government spokesman Mohammed Momani says.

Momani does not give a timeframe for its construction.


British girl, 6, undergoes special surgery in Israel to keep her leg

A 6-year-old British girl has undergone special surgery in Israel that will allow her to keep her leg, and her doctor called it a success.

Kyra Warrell, of Brighton, located on the south coast of England, is afflicted with proximal focal femoral deficiency, which will leave her left leg about 8 inches shorter than her right if left untreated. The surgery took place on Sunday at Rambam Hospital in Haifa, the Jewish Chronicle reports.

Dr. Dror Paley, an Israeli-born physician who is internationally recognized for his expertise in limb lengthening and reconstruction, told the London-based Chronicle that Kyra will be ready for a more difficult leg-lengthening surgery next year.

The family must now raise $132,000 for the second operation, which will take place in Florida, where Paley is the director of the Paley Institute in West Palm Beach, and require them to remain for three months for daily physiotherapy near the hospital to ensure the best chance of success. The family has said they will sell their house to cover the costs, if necessary.

Doctors at Britain’s National Health Service had decided that an above-the-knee amputation, to allow for a prosthetic limb, would be the best option. But Kyra’s parents, Rima and Neil Warrell, wanted their daughter, who loves dancing and gymnastics, to be able to keep her leg.


UN: Gaza just 10 days away from all hospitals shutting down

The UN says Gaza may be just 10 days away from not having enough fuel to power the territory’s hospitals.

Reuters reports:

Fuel for emergency generators that keep Gaza’s hospitals and sanitation services operating will run out within 10 days, the United Nations said on Tuesday in an appeal for immediate donor support.

The shortage stems from a dispute between Gaza’s dominant Hamas Islamist group and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA). Both signed a unity deal in October but have failed to finalize the details of political power-sharing.

So far generators have stopped at three of Gaza’s 13 hospitals and 14 of its 54 medical centers, said Ashraf Al-Qidra, the Hamas-appointed spokesman for the impoverished territory’s Health Ministry. Officials at the affected facilities said they were directing seriously ill patients to other health facilities and operating at limited capacity.

Bataclan terror suspect Abdeslam refuses to attend Brussels trial

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Paris terror attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam refuses to return to his trial in Belgium this week over a shootout with police in Brussels that led to his capture, the court says.

The fresh show of defiance comes after Abdeslam berated judges for being anti-Muslim, refused to stand, and said that he put his “trust in Allah” on the first day of the trial on Monday.

It appears to dash any lingering hopes that Abdeslam might answer questions about the March 15, 2016 gun battle or about his suspected ties to the cell linked to both the 2015 Paris and 2016 Brussels jihadist attacks.

“The court has received notice from the defendant to tell us that he will not take part in his trial on Thursday. It’s obviously his right not to appear,” Luc Hennart, the court’s administrative head, tells AFP.


Amid manhunt, Palestinians report IDF operating in Nablus

Palestinian media reports say the IDF is operating in the northern West Bank Palestinian city of Nablus, and surrounding a home in the city.

Israel’s Hadashot television news speculates the reported action is part of the manhunt after 19-year-old Israeli Arab terrorist Abed al-Karim Assi, suspected of murdering Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal, 29, in a Monday stabbing attack.

Police to finalize Netanyahu corruption recommendations on Wednesday — report

The top echelons of the Israel Police are set to finalize their recommendations in two corruption probes of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to Hadashot television news, police chiefs, including Commissioner Roni Alsheich, and the heads of the national police force’s Investigations Department to hammer out final recommendations to the prosecution on the two corruption probes dubbed “Case 1000” and “Case 2000.”

The recommendations will be handed to the state prosecution on Monday or Tuesday of next week, Hadashot says.

The recommendations are expected to include an indictment to bribery, and will be made public once presented to the state prosecution.

Speaking to the Times of Israel, a police spokesman declined to confirm or deny the reports.

— Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

Poland offers dialogue on amending Holocaust bill — report

Poland is offering to send an official delegation to Israel to hammer out agreed-upon amendments to Poland’s controversial Holocaust bill, Channel 10 news reports.

Israel has not yet responded to the offer, the network reports.

The delegation would include Poland’s deputy foreign minister and the legal adviser of the prime minister.

Confusion reigns over whether Poland actually enacted Holocaust bill

Confusion reigns over whether Poland’s contentious Holocaust bill has actually passed into law.

Major wire services, including the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse, report that it has, but a Polish diplomat in Israel insists to The Times of Israel that Polish President Andrzej Duda “decided to sign” the bill, but did not actually sign it yet.

IDF surrounds Nablus home of Ariel terrorist’s father

An update on IDF operations in Nablus:

Israeli troops are surrounding two buildings in the Palestinian city as part of a manhunt after terrorist Abed al-Karim Assi, who stabbed to death an Israeli yesterday, the Palestinian news outlet Ma’an reports.

One of the buildings is the home of Assi’s father. The other belongs to a friend of the family, according to Ma’an.

Other Palestinian media outlets report that some low-level clashes between residents and soldiers broke out in the area near where the army is operating. Two Palestinian youths are said to be injured.

The IDF says it cannot immediately verify the reports.

— Judah Ari Gross

IDF forces leave Nablus after several arrests, clashes leave 20 hurt

IDF forces leave Nablus, Israeli media report.

The raid targeted the home of the father of the suspected Ariel terrorist Abed al-Karim Assi. Between four and seven people are arrested by the Israeli forces, according to conflicting Palestinian reports.

At least 20 Palestinians are said to be wounded after clashes with the Israeli troops carrying out the raid.

Assi is the prime suspect in the killing of Itamar Ben-Gal, 29, in a Monday stabbing attack.

Israeli family hiking in West Bank ravine reported missing

A father and his three children are missing after they went for a morning hike Tuesday in the Nahal Darga ravine east of Bethlehem in the West Bank.

According to police, efforts to make contact with the family, who hail from Modiin Illit, have failed.

Police forces, including the Megilot rescue unit, are searching the area.

Mattis: New nuclear missile a bargaining chip with Russia

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration’s proposal to add a sea-launched cruise missile to the US nuclear arsenal, criticized by some as overkill, is meant to provide new negotiating leverage to US diplomats trying to persuade Russia to end violations of a key arms control treaty, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis readies his papers as he takes his seat for a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, February 6, 2018 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

“The idea is, once again, to keep our negotiators negotiating from a position of strength,” Mattis tells a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, which was released last week. The report proposes two new nuclear weapons: a sea-launched cruise missile and a lower-yield version of an existing ballistic missile.

Mattis links the cruise missile to Washington’s charge that Russia has been violating the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty by developing and deploying a ground-based cruise missile that is banned by the treaty. Russia denies the charge.

“I don’t think the Russians would be willing to give up something to gain nothing from us,” he says, suggesting the cruise missile is a bargaining chip. Pressed to say whether the US would, in fact, abandon the sea-launched cruise missile if the Russians return to treaty compliance, Mattis dodges. “I don’t want to say in advance of a negotiation.”

— AP

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Israeli family hiking in West Bank ravine reported missing

A father and his three children are missing after they went for a morning hike Tuesday in the Nahal Darga ravine east of Bethlehem in the West Bank.

According to police, efforts to make contact with the family, who hail from Modiin Illit, have failed.

Police forces, including the Megilot rescue unit, are searching the area.