The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.
Israeli medical student killed in Romania car crash
An Israeli man was killed and four others were injured overnight Tuesday in a car accident outside the Romanian capital of Bucharest, Israel’s Foreign Ministry says.
Mohammad Jibril, a 23-year-old medical student from Lod, was killed after the car he was in collided with a truck just outside of Bucharest.
After the collision, the car swerved into Lake Dâmbovița next to the road. The four other passengers traveling in the car managed to climbed out of the vehicle before it sank.
The Foreign Ministry says the Israeli consul in Bucharest is helping the family bring Jibril’s body back to Israel for burial.
Saudi shoots down ‘smuggled’ Yemen rebel missiles
Saudi Arabia intercepts four missiles fired by Yemeni rebels in what the Saudi-led coalition describes as evidence of arms smuggling through a rebel-held Red Sea port.
The coalition has said previously that it destroyed much of the Shiite rebels’ missile capability early in its two-year-old bombing campaign and says persistent launches show they are receiving new deliveries from abroad.
“Early this morning, four missiles were intercepted,” the coalition says. “The ongoing missile attacks on Saudi cities provide clear evidence of the arms smuggling that continues to take place in Yemen, notably through the port of Hodeida.”
The coalition says that the missiles targeted Khamis Mushait, which houses the coalition’s main airbase for its operations in Yemen, and Abha, another city close to the Yemeni border. They were intercepted without casualties or damage.
2nd Israeli dies of injuries in Romania car crash
A second Israeli medical student has been pronounced dead after a car crash outside the Romanian capital of Bucharest.
Ahmed Dehamsha from the central Israeli town of Lod died of his injuries after the car his was traveling in was hit by a truck and swerved into a nearby lake, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
Wizz Air announces three new Israel routes
Wizz Air, the largest low-cost airline in Central and Eastern Europe, announces three new low-fare routes to Tel Aviv.
The new routes will fly from Lublin, Poland; Craiova, Romania; and Kosice, Slovakia. They will begin from June with bi-weekly flights.
In addition, Wizz Air announced it will increase the frequency of its Bucharest to Tel Aviv flights from four a week to seven and of its Budapest to Tel Aviv flights from seven a week to 10.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin welcomes the announcement.
““I congratulate Wizz Air on its decision to continue expanding operations in Israel and to open three new direct routes into Ben Gurion airport, joining the existing routes,” he says. “I am pleased that cooperation between the Tourism Ministry and Wizz Air has moved up a level, as the company expresses confidence in the Israeli tourism product and significantly expands its operations in Israel.”
Over 300 civilians killed since start of west Mosul operation -UN
Over 300 civilians have been killed since last month in an offensive against the Islamic State group in western Mosul, the UN says, adding the toll could exceed 400 if fresh killings are verified.
“According to information verified by the UN Human Rights Office and the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq, at least 307 people were killed … between 17 February and 22 March,” the UN rights office says in a statement.
“In addition, between 23 and 26 March, reports were received that at least 95 civilians were killed in … (four) neighborhoods in western Mosul.”
Argentina’s president visits Anne Frank House, pledges to spread her lessons
Argentina´s President Mauricio Macri along with the Argentinean-born Queen Maxima of the Netherlands visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.
During the visit, Argentina signed two cooperation agreements to spread Anne Frank´s lessons to Argentinean young people and to promote dialogue and tolerance.
— Anne Frank House (@annefrankhouse) March 27, 2017
Heads of state visiting the Netherlands rarely make official visits to the Anne Frank House
“The message of Anne Frank is one of hope in the midst of darkness. Anne Frank’s father was able to transform his enormous pain into a vision, committing the world to the struggle for human rights. ‘Think of all the beauty around you and be happy,’ Anne Frank wrote. With affection and respect,” Macri wrote in the museum guestbook.
Recorrimos con la reina Máxima la Casa de Ana Frank pic.twitter.com/WhhsI1lye1
— Mauricio Macri (@mauriciomacri) March 27, 2017
— with JTA
Ken Livingstone doubles down on denial he said Hitler was a Zionist
Ahead of a hearing on his future in the UK Labor Party, former mayor of London Ken Livingstone doubles down on his denial that he said Hitler was a Zionist.
Livingstone was suspended from the party after he said on an April 2016 radio interview that Hitler was “supporting Zionism” before “he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”
Releasing on his website a 17-page statement that he plans to give at Labour’s national constitutional committee (NCC) on Thursday, Livingstone says he did not say Hitler was a Zionist but just claimed that Nazi policy “had the effect of supporting” Zionism.
“I did not say or suggest that Hitler was a Zionist. I did not make any equation of Hitler and Zionism. I neither criticised the transfer agreement or the section of Zionism that participated in the agreement. I did not draw any historical parallels with the situation today anywhere, including with the conflict between Israel and Palestine,” the statement reads.
“It has been suggested that my comments were offensive. For the sake of absolute clarity, I reiterate that I had absolutely no intention for my remarks to cause offence, least of all to Jewish people, and I am sorry if they did,” it adds.
3rd day of AIPAC conference starts with Republican Senate majority leader
The third full day of the 2018 AIPAC Policy Conference begins its third day in Washington DC with a speech by Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.
Senate Democratic minority leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi are also set to speak later Tuesday.
McConnell says Trump offers ‘chance for fresh start’ for Israel-US relationship
US majority leader Mitch McConnell tells the annual AIPAC Policy Conference that US President Donald Trump’s administration is a “chance for a fresh start” for the US-Israel relationship.
“The US-Israel relationship was in a terrible state when the new president took office,” McConnell tells the conference plenum.
Saying that Israel “felt abandoned” by the policies of president Barack Obama, McConnell says “today we have the chance for a fresh start.”
Chuck Schumer says anti-Semitism, fear-mongering ‘will not be condoned’
Speaking at the AIPAC annual Policy Conference, Senate Democratic minority leader Chuck Schumer rails against a reported recent rise in anti-Semitism in the US.
“Every time we think for a moment that we have entered a new age of enlightenment, the age of hatred of Israel raises its ugly head again,” he says.
Lamenting what he calls “echoes of our people’s dark history” in the form of anti-Semitism in Europe, Schumer says, “It is far more shocking to see this surge rising again in America.”
With particular not of acts carried out by “white supremacists on the right,” Schumer says the US will not stand for anti-Semitism in any form.
“The perpetrators of these heinous acts will be brought to justice,” he says. “These acts will not be condoned.”
Schumer says US should have vetoed UN anti-settlement resolution
US Senate Democratic minority leader Chuck Schumer tells the AIPAC Policy Conference that the United States, under the Obama administration, was wrong to abstain from a UN resolution criticizing Israeli settlements.
“Maybe someday the UN will become fair to Israel but until that day comes the United States must always come the aid of our friend Israel at the UN,” he tells the annual gathering.
“We cannot be silent when the UN singles out Israel for condemnation. We cannot let the UN impose terms on negotiations with the Palestinians ever. The United States should have vetoed Resolution 2334 in December and it should never, ever use the UN as a forum to put pressure on Israel for any kind of agreement,” he says.
The December 23 resolution condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and neighborhoods in East Jerusalem as a “flagrant violation” of international law. The United States abstained from the vote, effectively allowing it to pass by refraining for using its veto power.
“Resolving the age-old Israeli Palestinian conflict is no simple task my friends but peace will never come from the UN, peace will come from direct negotiations,” Schumer adds.
Mexico City mayor lays foundation stone of $5 million Jewish center
The mayor of Mexico’s capital city lays the foundation stone of a Jewish community center slated to cost nearly $5.3 million.
Miguel Angel Mancera hails the Jewish community’s decision to invest in the city as seen by its decision to erect the new building of the Kehila Ashkenazi, which is located in Mexico City’s Roma Norte district in the Cuauhtemoc borough. The official considers the initiative a sign of trust in the country’s growth, reports La Razon newspaper.
“The Jewish community is showing a substantial, permanent impulse, honoring ancestral values of their people, but living with this dialectic of Mexico, showing affection to the city and to all who live here,” he says.
Mancera points out that the city’s Constitution mentions the fight against anti-Semitism. In turn, the president of the Central Committee of the Jewish Community of Mexico — the country’s Jewish umbrella organization — cited the governmental support provided to carry out local projects.
“It is very important for us that you know that we value a lot the fact that every time we approach any city official to bring up a community theme, they always welcome us very well,” says Moises Romano.
Nancy Pelosi says Trump campaign ’emboldened anti-Semites to desecrate Jewish cemeteries’
Nancy Pelosi says that an “atmosphere” created by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has contributed to rising anti-Semitism in the United States.
Speaking at the AIPAC annual Policy Conference, the US House Democratic minority leader expressed her shock at recent developments that she said has contributed to anti-Semitism.
“A presidential campaign in which hate speech went unchallenged, an atmosphere that has emboldened anti-Semites to desecrate Jewish cemeteries. Hatred crimes continuing to increase. White supremacists and the alt-right feel empowered an connected to the White House,” she said.
“This is unacceptable. Elected leaders must condemn anti-Semitism and bigotry in all forms,” she says.
UN chief urges Arabs to unite against Syria war
Touring a Surian refugee camp in Jordan, UN chief Antonio Guterres calls on Arab leaders to set aside their differences to confront Syria’s six-year conflict
“Arab unity is a very important element in order to allow this region to be stabilized and for… the Syrian refugees to find again a future that corresponds to their aspirations,” Guterres says.
Speaking on the eve of an Arab League summit hosted by Jordan, the UN chief adds: “When Arab countries are divided, it has allowed others to intervene and to manipulate situations, creating instability, breeding conflict and facilitating the lives of terrorist organisations.”
Guterres met with women and girls living in Zaatari, home to some 80,000 Syrian refugees.
Hungarian government honors Bar-Ilan University president
Deputy Prime Minister of Hungary Zsolt Semjén awards a state decoration to Bar-Ilan University President Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz.
Hershkowitz, a former Israeli minister of science and technology, was recognized for his “manifold and committed activities to strengthen Hungarian-Israeli academic and social relations,” according to a statement from the Israeli university.
Upon the recommendation of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, President of the Republic János Áder conferred the Hungarian Order of Merit, Officer’s Cross,upon Hershkowitz, of Hungarian descent, who serves as honorary president of the Hungarian-Israeli Scientific Society, the statement says.
“As the President of Bar-Ilan University, Prof. Hershkowitz is working towards the establishment of high-level scientific and social relations between the homeland of his parents and grandparents and Israel,” the Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office says in a statement.
“In order to promote these, he played an active role in the establishment of the Hungarian-Israeli Scientific Society, which seeks to create a professional and cultural forum for Israeli researchers of Hungarian decent. As the Honorary President of the Society, his activities are characterized by an ongoing desire for, and support of, the development of bilateral social relations.”
In accepting the honor, Prof. Hershkowitz, speaking in Hungarian says: “I am standing here today, in the Hungarian parliament, in one of the most emotional events I have ever experienced. I am a son of two Holocaust survivors. My mother grew up in Budapest, and my father in the Hungarian part of Transylvania, near Deesz. Seventy-two years ago they were expelled from here. My father was in Auschwitz and Buchenwald, my mother in Bergen-Belsen. From there they made their way to Palestine, to our ancient homeland, and took part in building the Jewish state of Israel. And here I am today, receiving from Hungary this extraordinary decoration.”
Liberman hints at support for Elor Azaria pardon
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman drops his most explicit hint so far that he supports calls to pardon Elor Azaria, convicted in January of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a Palestinian stabber in the West Bank city of Hebron.
Sharing a Facebook article on a British court decision to shorten the sentence of a Royal Marine convicted of killing a wounded Taliban fighter in Afghanistan, Liberman wrote: “In Britain they understand that you need to be lenient with soldiers fighting terrorists, even if they have made a mistake.”
Alexander Blackman was convicted of murder and sentenced to a minimum of 10 years by a military court in 2013 for the September 2011 killing in Helmand Province. The Tuesday ruling means he will likely be released from prison within weeks.
Footage from another marine’s helmet camera showed Blackman shooting the militant in the chest at close range, then saying: “Obviously this doesn’t go anywhere, fellas. I just broke the Geneva Convention.”
The article shared by Liberman referred to Blackman as “the British Elor Azaria.” Azaria was filmed shooting Abdel Fattah al-Sharif.
Liberman, who had urged a pardon for Azaria before he took up the top defense job last year, refrained from explicitly calling for Azaria to be pardoned after he was handed an 18-month prison sentence last month. In a Facebook post, he did, however, take pains to note the mitigating circumstances surrounding the case, and seemed to hint that a pardon might be advisable.
Bar Refaeli is pregnant with 2nd child
Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli is pregnant with her second child.
“Something’s cooking,” she writes in a post on Instagram alongside a photo of her displaying her bare midriff, which presumably shows a small baby bump.
Refaeli gave birth to a baby girl, Liv, last August. She married Israeli businessman Adi Ezra in September 2015.
Refaeli is considered Israel’s leading female model and was featured on the cover of the 2009 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. She is a former girlfriend of the Hollywood film star Leonardo DiCaprio and in 2012 was voted No. 1 on Maxim magazine’s Hot 100 list.
Israel suspends two players over coach criticism
Israel has suspended two players over criticism of their manager, the national football association confirms.
Brighton striker Tomer Hemed, 29, and goalkeeper Ariel Harush, 28, are suspended for two games, including the World Cup qualifier with Albania.
Israel lost to Spain on Friday to fall four points behind them and Italy in Group G in the European qualification for Russia 2018. Both players were substitutes and after the game vented their anger over coach Elisha Levy’s tactics to Israeli media.
“If the players will apologize and the coach finds them fit, they will be eligible again (after the two games),” a spokesman for the Israeli Football Association says.
“I don’t care what the reason is, I must be a starter for Israel,” local media quotes Hemed, whose club Brighton is currently in line for promotion to the Premier League this season, as saying.
White House on lockdown after ‘suspicious package’ found
The White House is on lockdown after a “suspicious package” was discovered, according to the Secret Service.
The US agency responsible for the president’s security tweeted that the incident was being investigated.
— U.S. Secret Service (@SecretService) March 28, 2017
Several roads around the building have also been closed.
Germany nabs Taliban fighter accused of killing US soldiers
German prosecutors say they have arrested a 30-year-old Afghan man on suspicion of commanding a Taliban unit responsible for an attack on a convoy that killed 16 American and Afghan soldiers.
Prosecutors says in a statement that Abdullah P., whose last name wasn’t given in line with privacy laws, was arrested last week in Bavaria on suspicion of membership in a terrorist organization and attempted murder.
He’s alleged to have joined the Taliban in 2002 and to have taken over a command from his father in 2004.
Prosecutors say he was involved in “countless” missions against foreign and Afghan soldiers, including the convoy attack. Prosecutors refused to give further details, but said he left his combat unit in 2008, fled in 2009 to Pakistan, and came to Germany in 2011.
Secret Service detain man with package outside White House
The Secret Service detain a man with a suspicious package outside the White House, according to an official.
The building has been on lockdown for most of the past hour.
— with AFP
PM says unnamed country to announce new diplomatic relations with Israel
A country that does not have diplomatic relations with Israel is due to announce the establishment of official ties with the Jewish state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says.
At an event at the President’s Residence — honoring deceased presidents and prime ministers — Netanyahu says the unnamed country will make the announcement next week, but offers no hints as to which country it might be.
The last country that announced the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel was Guinea, in West Africa.
— Raphael Ahren
Thousands protest ultra-Orthodox draft
Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews are protesting in Jerusalem over the arrest of members of the community for failing to show up to their IDF drafts.
Most of the protesters are located on Bar-Ilan Street next to the Geula neighborhood. Extra police units will patrol the area and respond if necessary to any disturbances, a police spokesman says.
Yesterday, a yeshiva student arrested for failing to show up at an IDF induction center was released from a military jail after just nine days of detainment.
The detention of the teenager, the son of an associate of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, sparked protests by followers of the prominent rabbi nationwide over the past week.
He was arrested along with some 100 ultra-Orthodox supporters of Rabbi Auerbach, who had been attempting to disrupt the Jerusalem Marathon earlier this month.
Man detained at White House for ‘suspicious comments,’ package
The US Secret Service detained a male suspect carrying a package and making “suspicious comments” near the White House Tuesday, according to an official who says he was taken into custody and explosives experts were deployed.
A Secret Service official said the man had approached uniformed officers near 15th and Pennsylvania at around 10:15 am, a block from the White House.
The man was separated from the package and detained in a police vehicle, a security perimeter was established and “the package is now in Secret Service custody,” the official said, asking not to be named.
Scottish parliament votes for new independence referendum
Scotland’s parliament votes to allow First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to make a formal request to the British government to hold a new referendum on independence, on the eve of the formal launch of Brexit.
The Edinburgh parliament votes by 69 votes in favor and 59 against in a rebuff to British Prime Minister Theresa May, who had argued that a 2014 referendum against independence had already settled the question.
Netanyahu and Kahlon to meet tonight
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Moshe Kahlon are set to meet this evening in an attempt to come to an agreement over the future of Israel’s new public broadcaster and end a weeks-long coalition crisis that has been threatening elections.
Netanyahu threatened earlier this month to call early elections if the coalition refuses to cancel reforms advanced by his own Likud party that would shutter the Israel Broadcasting Authority and launch the replacement broadcaster, called “Kan,” by April 30.
Kahlon opposes the closure of the new broadcaster, which has been in the works for two years — with hundreds of staff already hired — and whose closure at this late date would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of shekels in wasted spending, according to Treasury officials.
Following the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday at the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu and Kahlon sat down together, along with Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who then left the two men to talk things through. They met again Sunday evening, but an agreement remained elusive.
WHO warns of European measles outbreak that could hit Israel
The World Health Organization is warning of large measles outbreaks in countries where immunization has dropped, including in Israel, after more than 500 cases of the highly contagious disease were reported across Europe in January.
“With steady progress towards elimination over the past two years, it is of particular concern that measles cases are climbing in Europe,” the agency’s regional director for Europe, Zsuzsanna Jakab, says in a statement.
The respiratory disease, characterized by high fever and small red spots, usually triggers only mild symptoms, but it remains one of the leading causes of death among young children globally.
France, Germany, Italy, Romania, Poland, Switzerland and Ukraine were the most affected, accounting for 474 of the 559 cases reported for January. In these countries, national vaccination levels against the virus are below the 95 percent threshold considered necessary for protecting the entire population.
Preliminary figures for February indicate that the number of new infections is rising sharply, the WHO said.
These figures cover the agency’s entire European region, covering 53 countries including Israel.
Trump tells Israel he plans peace push ‘very soon’ — report
US President Donald Trump has sent a message to Jerusalem saying that he intends to advance a plan for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians “very soon,” Channel 2 News reports.
As such, Jason Greenblatt, the representative for international negotiations by the president of the United States, will meet tomorrow with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan at a meeting of the Arab League.
Two weeks ago Greenblatt visited Israel and the West Bank for meetings with dozens of Israeli and Palestinian leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas.
Netanyahu and Greenblatt made “progress on the issue of Israeli settlement construction following up on President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s agreement in Washington last month to work out an approach that reflects both leaders’ views,” said a statement from Netanyahu’s office issued after the second meeting between the two.
Trump envoy meets Mogherini
Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s representative for international negotiations, meets with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini to discuss how two can “advance Israel/Pal peace,” according to a tweet by Greenblatt.
— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) March 28, 2017
They are both in Jordan for the annual Arab League summit.
Outgoing national security chief says Israel’s challenges ‘mostly global’
In what is likely his last speech as interim national security adviser, Yaakov Nagel tells foreign diplomats that the challenges once faced mostly by Israel are now “global,” though the Jewish state’s unique situation made it especially capable to face those threats.
Nagel spoke at the launch event for the Israeli Defense Expo and Conference, which begins in June.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that Nagel would retire from his position as interim head of the National Security Council by the week’s end.
Nagel says, with the threats facing countries around the world, it is “no coincidence” that this year is slated to be the expo’s largest. “The use of non-conventional weapons has become common in conflicts in Syria and Iraq,” he says.
Iran “despite or because of” the nuclear deal is still working to acquire atomic weapons, Nagel says.
Terror attacks, like the ones in London, Paris and Chechnya, present a threat to the world’s governments. And the developing field of cyber warfare will challenge countries across the globe.
Israel, Nagel says, has been at the forefront of developing solutions to all these security risks, which explains why it garners 20 percent of the global investment in cyber security technology.
— Judah Ari Gross
UK’s Boris Johnson slams UN criticism of Israel’s bombing of Hezbollah
UK Foreign Scretary Boris Johnson slams the UN Human Rights Council criticism of Israel’s bombing of Hezbollah positions in the Golan Heights as “absolutely preposterous.
Speaking to lawmakers during a session of parliamentary questions of foreign affairs, John said the condemnation was “a profound absurdity” adding that it was wrong to single out Israel “when after all in that region of Syria we have seen the most appalling barbarity by the Assad regime and that was the point the UK government was rightly making.”
The UN council adopted five resolutions critical of Israel on Friday, including one alleging human rights abuses in the Golan Heights.
Johnson’s comments came immediately after the UK mission to the UN released a statement criticizing the UN decision.
“Israel is a population of eight million in a world of seven billion. Yet since its foundation, the human rights council has adopted 135 country-specific resolutions; 68 of which [have been] against Israel. Justice is blind and impartial. This selective focus on Israel is neither. Israel is the only country permanently on the human rights council’s agenda,” the statement read.