Jewish group joins criticism of German president over Iran telegram
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Syria’s Assad meets Iran supreme leader in Tehran on rare visit abroad

In first visit to Islamic Republic since outbreak of civil war, president thanks Khamenei for backing his government

In this picture released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, speaks with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Tehran, Iran, February 25, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)
In this picture released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, speaks with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Tehran, Iran, February 25, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

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

Interior minister bars PFLP member from leaving Israel

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri signs an order barring a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist group from leaving Israel for at least a month.

A statement from Deri’s office said that Halil Abd Latif is a “key PFLP activist… who maintains regular contact with terrorist operatives abroad.”

The order was signed after Deri became “convinced that Latif’s departure from the country is liable to damage national security and increase the risk of terrorist activity in Israel.”

Deri’s order will expire in a month, at which time the minister can either extend it or let it lapse.

The Interior Ministry has previously issued similar orders prohibiting Latif from traveling outside of Israel.

Erdan praises Britain for designating Hezbollah’s political wing a terror group

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan thanks the British government for blacklisting Lebanon’s Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, including its political wing.

In a statement, Erdan says that he discussed the issue before with Britain’s Home Secretary Sajid Javid, and told him it was “an important way to combat the group’s murderous agenda. We cannot allow terrorist groups to hide behind the veil of a legitimate political or government entity.”

A draft order laid in the UK Parliament today will ban membership of Hezbollah, alongside two other groups. Subject to Parliament’s approval, the order will go into effect on Friday and being a member, or inviting support for Hezbollah will be a criminal offense, carrying a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks at a ceremony for a new municipal police station in Beit Shemesh, January 7, 2019. (Yaakov Lederman/Flash90)

Hezbollah made electoral gains in Lebanon last year and now has three ministers in the government. The US and others accuse the group of destabilizing the region through its military intervention in Syria on the side of President Bashar Assad’s government.

There was no immediate comment from Hezbollah officials in Beirut.

EU says military intervention in Venezuela must be avoided

The European Union is urging countries to avoid any military intervention in Venezuela, the spokeswoman for diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini says.

“We must avoid a military intervention,” Maja Kocijancic tells reporters, as Venezuela’s opposition leader and self-declared president Juan Guaido was in Bogota to hold talks with allies in the regional Lima Group of countries, on measures to compel President Nicolas Maduro to leave office.

— AFP

Venezuelan Bolivarian National Guard members check damages at the Francisco de Paula Santander international bridge in Urena, Venezuela on February 24, 2019, following protests in the region. (LUIS ROBAYO / AFP)

14 Israelis involved in Chile boating accident still hospitalized, 4 in serious condition

The 14 Israeli tourists injured in the boat accident in southern Chile over the weekend remain hospitalized in local medical centers, with four of them listed in serious condition, according to an update by the Foreign Ministry.

Four Israelis being treated for light injuries are expected to be released from the hospital later today, the statement says.

The ministry says it’s working to help return of the bodies of the two Israeli women killed in the river rafting accident late Saturday evening.

A boat that overturned in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile, on February 23, 2019, injuring 16 Israeli tourists. (Chilean Navy via Channel 13 screen capture)

The Israelis, all in their 60s and 70s, were on a tour of Chile’s Torres del Paine national park when their boat overturned in the water.

According to unconfirmed initial reports, the raft overturned after the captain lost control of the vessel and crashed it into a fence.

The Foreign Ministry statement says the Israeli ambassador to Chile has asked the government to investigate the circumstances of the incident.

German court: Trial of Nazi guard unlikely to be restarted

A German court says it’s unlikely the trial of a former Nazi concentration camp guard that collapsed in December over concerns about the defendant’s health will resume, after a doctor found the 95-year-old still unfit to face the court.

The Muenster state court says that judges still need to make a final decision and the prosecution can appeal, but it seems unlikely Johann Rehbogen’s trial can be restarted.

The trial was broken off in December after Rehbogen, a former SS guard at the Stutthof concentration camp, was hospitalized for heart and kidney issues, causing several hearings to be canceled.

The court ended the trial under German legal regulations preventing overly long gaps, but said it could be restarted from the beginning if Rehbogen’s health improved.

— AP

Lapid welcomes UK move to ban Hezbollah under anti-terror laws

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid thanks the British government for moving to label Lebanon’s Hezbollah a terrorist organization, including its political wing.

In a tweet, Lapid extends his “appreciation to the UK, which is joining the US, Canada and the Netherlands in recognizing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. I am confident the final approval from the British parliament will not be far behind.”

Iran-backed Hezbollah made electoral gains in Lebanon last year and now has three ministers in government. The US and others accuse the group of destabilizing the region through military intervention in Syria on the side of President Bashar Assad’s government.

Britain’s Home Secretary Sajid Javid leaves after attending a cabinet meeting in Downing Street in London, September 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Earlier, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the government was “no longer able to distinguish” between the organization’s military and political wing, and accused the organization of destabilizing the fragile situation in the Middle East.

A draft order in the UK Parliament today will ban membership in Hezbollah, alongside Ansaroul Islam, which seeks to impose its strict view of Salafist Sharia law in Burkina Faso, and Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam Wal-Muslimin, which has similar aspirations in Africa’s Sahel region.

Would-be Bangladesh hijacker was armed with fake gun — official

A would-be hijacker shot and killed by Bangladesh commandos yesterday was carrying a fake gun and told negotiators he wanted to commandeer a Dubai-bound flight because he had troubles with his wife, according to officials.

The 25-year-old was shot and later died of his wounds after taking a crew member hostage on the Biman Airlines jet, forcing it to make an emergency landing at Chittagong airport late Sunday.

Some 134 passengers and 14 crew were released unharmed after an operation that lasted barely 10 minutes.

Bangladeshi security personnel stand guard near a Dubai-bound Bangladesh Biman plane on the tarmac of the Shah Amanat International Airport in Chittagong on February 24, 2019, following an emergency landing after a man apparently attempted to hijack the aircraft. (Photo by STR / AFP)

Airport manager Wing Commander Sarwar-e-Jaman says the hijacker was “psychologically imbalanced.”

“The reason he gave for the hijack was that he had troubles with his wife and he wanted to talk to the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina,” Sarwar tells AFP.

Flight BG 147 was going from Dhaka to Dubai via Chittagong when the hijacking started. The man reportedly wielded a gun in the cabin and tried to storm the cockpit, forcing an emergency landing.

One passenger told reporters he may have fired the weapon twice, but civil aviation authority chairman Air Vice Marshall Nayeem Hasan says the gun he was carrying was not real.

“According to those who have seen it, it appears that the gun was fake,” Hasan says.

Bangladesh’s elite police unit, the Rapid Action Battalion, meanwhile identified the suspect as Mohammad Polash Ahmed from Narayanganj, just outside the capital Dhaka.

“His details matched a criminal on our database,” the RAB says in a statement, adding he was arrested in 2012 over an abduction case and served 20 days in prison.

— AFP

Police open murder investigation after Karmiel man killed at home

Police have opened a murder investigation after the body of a 75-year-old man was found dead in an his home in the northern city of Karmiel, according to a statement.

Police say there is no indication of a terror motive. According to reports, police’s working theory is that the man was victim of a botched robbery.

A Magen David Adom ambulance was called to an apartment building on Katif Street just after noon, where paramedics found the man’s body with signs of a violent attack.

Egypt’s leader says Europe cannot ‘teach us’ about rights

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is defending his country’s widely-criticized human rights record and warning the countries of Europe not to lecture the Arab world.

Speaking after an EU-Arab League summit, Sissi says: “You are not going to teach us about humanity.”

He tells reporters in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh that Europeans “have your rules ethic and values. We respect yours. You should respect ours.”

Sissi says that Europe is prosperous while many Arab countries struggle simply to prevent conflicts. He was applauded by local media after his remarks.

EU leaders have avoided publicly criticizing Egypt even amid an unprecedented crackdown on dissent and a recent spike in executions.

— AP

Hitting back at Lapid, Likud says Blue and White ‘has no choice’ but to woo Arab parties

The Likud party hits back at Blue and White co-leader Yair Lapid who said yesterday the newly formed faction would be willing to join a Likud-led government if it did not include Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a statement, the party repeats claims made by Netanyahu that Blue and White intends to cooperate with Arab Israeli parties in its bid for leadership change.

“Lapid and [ex-IDF chief Benny] Gantz will form a weak, leftist government with the support of a bloc of Arab parties, they have no other choice.”

“Lapid’s first call will be to [Meretz MK] Tamar Zandberg, who said today she is willing to give up the Golan Heights,” the ruling party says. “Only a large Likud party can prevent a leftist government.”

Blue and White party leaders Benny Gantz, left, and Yair Lapid, right, at the new alliance’s unveiling in Tel Aviv on February 21, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

At a campaign event in Karmiel last night, Lapid stressed that the party would not band together with the Arab parties to form a government or to block Netanyahu from forming his own coalition.

Instead, Lapid said that if Blue and White is tasked with forming the next government, its first phone call will be to the current ruling party.

“We won’t form a government with the Arab parties, we will contact Likud — the post-Netanyahu Likud, that is — to form a national unity government at this time of division and rifts,” he said, claiming that “Netanyahu won’t stay if he loses.”

Katz welcomes UK Hezbollah ban, vows to lobby for similar policy change at UN

Acting Foreign Minister Israel Katz praises the British government for moving to label Lebanon’s Hezbollah a terrorist organization, including its political wing.

Katz says there is no difference between Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and the “terrorists carrying out his objectives or those carrying out Iran’s mission against Israel and other Arab states in the region.”

Earlier, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the government was “no longer able to distinguish” between the organization’s military and political wing, and accused the organization of destabilizing the fragile situation in the Middle East.

Katz says he will urge UN agencies to adopt a similar policy toward the Iran-backed paramilitary group in his meeting with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York next week.

Britain ‘will not turn blind eye to Hezbollah terror activities’ — foreign minister

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt backs the government’s move to ban Hezbollah’s political wing under British anti-terror laws.

“We cannot and will not turn a blind eye to Hezbollah’s terrorist activities,” he says in a tweet. “So today we have announced they will be proscribed in full by the UK govt.

“This decision does not change our staunch support for Lebanon, nor our strong and broad relationship with the Lebanese people,” Hunt says.

Earlier today, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the government was “no longer able to distinguish” between the organization’s military and political wing, and accused the Iran-backed group of destabilizing the fragile situation in the Middle East.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt speaks at the the United Nations Security Council meeting on North Korea, September 27, 2018 at the United Nations in New York. (AFP PHOTO / Don EMMERT)

Iran-backed Hezbollah made electoral gains in Lebanon last year and now has three ministers in government. The US and others accuse the group of destabilizing the region through military intervention in Syria on the side of President Bashar Assad’s government.

A draft order in the UK Parliament today will ban membership in Hezbollah, alongside Ansaroul Islam, which seeks to impose its strict view of Salafist Sharia law in Burkina Faso, and Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam Wal-Muslimin, which has similar aspirations in Africa’s Sahel region.

— with AP

Kushner: Economy and ‘redrawing of boundaries’ the main points of Trump peace plan

US President Donald Trump’s senior Middle East adviser, son-in-law Jared Kushner, says the administration’s much-awaited Middle East peace plan will focus on the “redrawing of boundaries and resolving final status issues.”

In an interview with Sky News Arabic, Kushner says since “very little has changed over the last 25 years,” the Trump team worked to “formulate realistic solutions for the issues of 2019, which will improve quality of life.

US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner, right, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on June 22, 2018. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Jerusalem/Flash90)

“We want to bring peace, not fear. We want to ensure there is free flow of people and of goods,” he says according to translations of his remarks in Hebrew-language media. “We must create new opportunities.”

He also calls for reconciliation between the Palestinian Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority rivals in the West Bank.

“We want to see the Palestinians united under one leadership, the Palestinians want a non-corrupt government that cares for their own interests,” he says.

Kushner adds that the plan will “have a broad economic impact, not only on Israel and the Palestinians, but on the entire region as well.”

Last week, Kushner said the Trump administration would unveil the “Deal of the Century” after the Israeli elections on April 9.

Jewish group joins criticism of German president over Iran telegram

Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is coming under fire over a congratulatory telegram sent to Iran on the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, with a Jewish community leader this afternoon joining the chorus of criticism.

Taking aim at Steinmeier for failing to include criticisms of the Islamic regime in the message, Josef Schuster, who heads Germany’s Central Council of Jews, says that “routine diplomacy appears to have overtaken critical thinking.”

“It is incomprehensible that sensitivity was missing in the topic of Iran in the president’s office,” Schuster tells Bild daily.”If it was necessary to send congratulations on this anniversary, then the president should have at least found some clear words of criticism the regime.”

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaking in Jerusalem on May 7, 2017. (Dov Smith/Hebrew University)

Human Rights Watch’s director for Germany, Wenzel Michalski, has also called the message “shocking.”

The foreign policy chief of the business-friendly FDP party, Frank Mueller-Rosentritt, said the telegram must have felt like a “resounding slap in the face for our friends in Israel who are exposed to constant threats of annihilation by Iran.”

The telegram has not been made public by the president’s office. But Bild last week quoted excerpts of the message, which it said included Steinmeier’s promise to do all in his power to implement the nuclear deal on limiting Tehran’s atomic program.

The newspaper said there was no mention of Tehran’s backing of Hamas and Hezbollah in the message.

At the government’s weekly briefing, foreign ministry spokesman Rainer Breul said there had been a “misunderstanding,” and that the message was issued on the occasion of Iran’s national day celebrations, which falls on the same day as the anniversary of its Islamic Revolution.

— AFP

Bennett says Trump peace plan will ‘endanger existence of Israel’

Education Minister and New Right Party chairman Naftali Bennett says the Trump administration’s yet-to-be unveiled peace plan will present “a danger to the existence of Israel.”

“Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ will be unveiled immediately after the elections, employing the same failed paradigm that brought us over 1,000 deaths and thousands of rocket attacks,” he says in a statement. “It presents a clear and immediate danger to the existence of Israel.”

Bennett says that only a religious Zionist party with “a vision for a Greater Israel” can protect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party from “embarking on this kind of dangerous adventure.”

His remarks come in response to an interview given by US President Donald Trump’s senior Middle East adviser, Jared Kushner, who said the administration’s Middle East peace plan will focus on the “redrawing of boundaries and resolving final status issues.”

Kushner told Sky News Arabic the Trump team worked to “formulate realistic solutions” for Israelis and Palestinians. He underscored the need for a unified Palestinian government, and said the plan that will be unveiled after Israeli elections in April will “have a broad economic impact” on the region.

Pence to Venezuela’s Guaido: Trump ‘with you 100 percent’

United States Vice President Mike Pence passes on a message from Donald Trump to Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido on Monday, telling him “we are with you 100 percent.”

Pence and Guaido are meeting in Colombia’s capital Bogota during a summit of regional allies the Lima Group to discuss its next move regarding Venezuela’s crisis and the strategy to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

Pence’s appearance before the Lima Group comes two days after a US-backed effort to deliver humanitarian across the border from Colombia ended in violence.

Forces loyal to Maduro fired tear gas and buckshot on activists accompanying the supplies and setting the material on fire. Four people have been reported killed and at least 300 wounded.

— Agencies

Amnesty calls on Hamas to cancel trial of reporter who exposed corruption

A leading rights group is calling on Gaza’s Hamas rulers to cancel the trial of a Palestinian journalist who exposed government corruption.

Amnesty International says the prosecution of Hajar Harb was “an outrageous assault on media freedom.”

A 2016 report by Harb highlighted misconduct at the Hamas-run health ministry, where healthy people purportedly paid doctors to help them get around the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip by issuing referrals to hospitals abroad.

A year later, a Hamas court sentenced Harb in absentia to six months in prison and a fine. She appealed the ruling and has a hearing Tuesday.

Rights groups often charge that fair litigation is not guaranteed in Hamas’s judiciary system. Hamas wrested control of Gaza from the internationally-recognized Palestinian Authority in 2007.

— AP

Syria’s Assad meets Iran supreme leader in Tehran

Syrian state-run media says President Bashar Assad has visited Iran and met with officials there on a rare trip abroad.

SANA said Assad met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani on the trip — the first time he has traveled anywhere other than Russia since the Syrian civil war erupted nearly eight years ago.

Tehran has given the Syrian government billions of dollars in aid since the conflict began and sent Iran-backed fighters to battle alongside his forces.

Syrian state TV says Assad “thanked the Islamic Republic’s leadership and people for what they have given to Syria during the war.”

The visit comes a day before a trip by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Russia for talks expected to focus on Iran’s role in Syria.

— AP

Syria force carries out major evacuation from last Islamic State holdout

US-backed forces evacuated over 40 truckloads of people from the Islamic State group’s last Syria redoubt on Monday, as they sought to clear out civilians before a final push to crush the jihadists.

The Syrian Democratic Forces has slowed down its offensive on the final pocket due to the presence of civilians, with just a scrap of the IS “caliphate” remaining from a territory that once spanned Syria and Iraq.

An AFP correspondent saw at least 46 trucks crammed with men, women and children approaching an SDF outpost, 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the jihadist bastion.

This picture taken on February 22, 2019 shows a convoy of trucks transporting people who fled the Islamic State (IS) group’s last holdout of Baghouz in Syria’s northern Deir Ezzor province. (Bulent KILIC / AFP)

One vehicle was packed with women clad in black and men who covered their faces. Wounded people were also among the latest evacuees.

Holdout IS fighters and civilians, mostly relatives of jihadists, are trapped inside less than half a square kilometer in the village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border.

— AFP

Gazans set off fireworks, explosives at nightly border protest

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip set off fireworks and explosives near the border as part of nightly riots along the security fence.

The blasts could be heard throughout the Israeli communities abutting the coastal enclave.

“A number of riots are being held at several locations along the Gaza side of the border. As a result, explosions will likely be heard throughout the region,” the Eshkol Regional Council says in a statement to residents.

The Eshkol local government also alerts residents to a planned military exercise in the area, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., which will likely see large numbers of army vehicles and aircraft traveling through the region.

— Judah Ari Gross

Gabbay welcomes peace framework outlined by Kushner

Labor party chairman Avi Gabbay welcomes the direction of the Trump administration’s peace plan, after the US president’s senior Mideast adviser said the focus of the proposal was the “redrawing of boundaries and resolving final status issues.”

“Separation from the Palestinians on the basis of a two-state solution is in Israel’s interest. This is our way in the Labor party,” he says according to the Walla news site.

“We welcome the Kushner initiative to jump-start the peace process,” Gabbay adds.

Earlier this evening, Sky News Arabic aired an interview with Kushner in which he outlined major points of the long-awaited proposal. He said the Trump plan included a “redrawing of boundaries and resolving final status issues” between Israel and a unified Palestinian government. Kusher said the proposal would have “broad economic impact” for region.

Kushner’s outline drew criticism from right-wing lawmakers, including New Right chairman Naftali Bennett, who said the Trump administration’s proposal “endangers the existence of Israel.”

German mayor apologizes for publishing Nazi-era memorial ad

The mayor of Hildburghausen in Germany apologizes for publishing a Nazi-era memorial ad as part of an official notice commemorating the town’s bombardment by Allied forces during World War II.

Mayor Holger Obst was widely criticized over the weekend for posting the ad, which described the February 23, 1945, bombardment as a “terror attack” and listed a memorial event that included an address from Adolf Hitler.

In a follow-up published on the town’s website today, Obst says it was a mistake to publish the historical notice without further comment, but insisted he hadn’t intended to downplay the Nazi dictatorship.

Far-right groups frequently try to portray Germans as victims in the war by highlighting instances involving large numbers of civilian casualties, such as the February 1945 bombing of Dresden.

— AP

Trump heads to Vietnam for 2nd summit with N. Korea’s Kim

Donald Trump departed Washington Monday bound for Vietnam and a second historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with the US president saying he will push for Korean denuclearization.

Trump and Kim will discuss one of Asia’s biggest security challenges: North Korea’s pursuit of a nuclear program that stands on the verge of threatening any target on the planet.

US President Donald Trump, right, meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sentosa Island in Singapore, June 12, 2018. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Before leaving Washington on Monday, Trump told the nation’s governors that “I think we’ll have a very tremendous summit.”

Trump says the US wants denuclearization. He appears to be holding out economic progress for North Korea as a potential reward. He says of North Korea, “I think he’ll have a country that will set a lot of records for speed in terms of an economy.”

Trump was the driving force behind this week’s Vietnam summit. It’s his second meeting with Kim after the first yielded few concrete results.

— Agencies

UK’s Labour says it will back new Brexit vote

Britain’s main opposition Labour Party has thrown its weight behind efforts to hold a new referendum on the country’s European Union membership.

The party has previously said it would support a referendum as a last resort if it could not secure a new election or make changes to Prime Minister Theresa May’s EU divorce deal.

In a change of emphasis, the party says leader Jeremy Corbyn will tell Labour lawmakers later today that the party is committed to “putting forward or supporting an amendment in favor of a public vote to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit being forced on the country.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks after Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May lost a vote on her Brexit deal in the House of Commons, London, Tuesday January 15, 2019. (House of Commons/PA via AP)

Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29 but Parliament has so far rejected the deal struck between May’s government and the bloc. Parliament is due to hold a series of votes Wednesday on next steps in the Brexit process.

— AP

Rabbi rejects Otzma demand to apologize for Nazi comparison

A prominent rabbi who compared the policies of the far-right Otzma Yehudit to those of Nazi Germany’s says he will not apologize for his remarks as demanded by the party to avoid a lawsuit.

In a letter sent through his lawyers, Rabbi Benny Lau says he “rejects all that was stated in your letter, including your demands for compensation and a public apology.”

“The rabbi’s statements are part of legitimate, important and necessary public discourse,” the letter says.

Lau’s attorneys say Otzma has no “legal or factual basis” to demand NIS 100,000 ($27,700) in damages and an apology from Lau.

In a Saturday sermon, Lau railed against the extremist party, saying Otzma’s policies were akin to Nazi Germany’s anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws.

In response, Otzma candidate Itamar Ben Gvir threatened to sue Lau for defamation unless he apologized and paid the party NIS 100,000 in damages.

Riyadh played ‘considerable’ role in drafting Trump peace plan — report

A senior official from Saudi Arabia says Riyadh played a major role in drafting the Trump administration’s Mideast peace plan, Channel 13 news reports.

According to the report, Deputy Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told a Western diplomat several weeks ago that many of Saudi Arabia’s demands were included in long-awaited proposal.

“We, the Saudis, were able to influence the content of the Trump proposal considerably, and so we are not worried about it,” Jubeir is quoted as saying in the report.

Earlier, US President Donald Trump’s senior Middle East adviser, Jared Kushner, said the administration’s peace plan will focus on the “redrawing of boundaries and resolving final status issues.”

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman told the Arab League yesterday that an independent Palestinian state was a top priority for his government.

Netanyahu lawyer reportedly asked Justice Minister for help in Bezeq case

One of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyers asked Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to help obtain documents he hopes will help clear the premier in one of the corruption cases against him, according to a Channel 12 news report.

Navot Tel-Zur at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on February 9, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Navot Tel-Tzur approached Shaked asking she make the documents pertaining to Netanyahu’s dealings with former Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch available to him immediately, the report says.

Attorney-General Avihai Mandelblit is expected to announce in the coming days whether he will charge the prime minister with corruption.

US strike in Somalia kills 35 ‘terrorists’ — Pentagon

US forces have conducted an airstrike in Somalia that killed 35 Al-Shabaab militants, officials say, in the latest in a string of attacks against the Al-Qaeda affiliate.

Yesterday’s strike took place in the Hiran region of central Somalia and targeted armed Shabaab fighters “as they were transitioning between locations in a rural area” and trying to “mass their forces,” the US military’s Africa Command says in a statement.

“At this time, it is assessed this airstrike killed 35 terrorists,” the statement says.

Although the military did not specify, such airstrikes in Somalia are typically carried out by armed drones.

The Pentagon has increased the rate of strikes in Somalia in recent years, partly because US President Donald Trump loosened constraints on when the US military can take action against alleged terrorists.

— AFP

Police suspect Litzman intervened on behalf of second sex offender

Lahav 433 investigators suspect that Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman used his position to help another sex offender evade punishment, according to reports in Hebrew-language media.

Litzman is suspected of personally coercing a state psychiatrist to list the ultra-Orthodox man serving a jail sentence for sex offenses as eligible for a special rehabilitation program. According to Channel 13 report, the program is reserved for offenders the state believes are ready for counseling and rehabilitation, and can they apply for an early release if they complete the program.

Police are already investigating Litzman, who is suspected of using his position to help an accused sex offender avoid extradition to Australia. Litzman, who heads the United Torah Judaism party, was questioned by police last week on suspicions he sought to obtain a falsified psychiatric report that would have prevented Malka Leifer’s extradition on medical grounds.

Pompeo commends UK for move to label Hezbollah political wing as terror group

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomes the move by the UK government to ban Hezbollah’s political wing under British anti-terror laws.

In a tweet, Pompeo says the US “commends our British allies for banning Hezbollah.”

“This Iran-sponsored terrorist group has American blood on its hands & continues to plot & carry out attacks in the Mideast, Europe & around the world,” he says. “International unity to confront Iran’s regime continues to grow.”

Earlier today, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the government was “no longer able to distinguish” between the organization’s military and political wing, and accused the Iran-backed group of destabilizing the fragile situation in the Middle East.

A draft order laid in the UK Parliament will ban Hezbollah and two other groups. Subject to Parliament’s approval, the order will go into effect on Friday and being a member of, or inviting support for, Hezbollah will be a criminal offense, carrying a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Until now the military wing of the Lebanon-based group has been outlawed in Britain, but not its political arm.

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Jewish group joins criticism of German president over Iran telegram

Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is coming under fire over a congratulatory telegram sent to Iran on the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, with a Jewish community leader this afternoon joining the chorus of criticism.

Taking aim at Steinmeier for failing to include criticisms of the Islamic regime in the message, Josef Schuster, who heads Germany’s Central Council of Jews, says that “routine diplomacy appears to have overtaken critical thinking.”

“It is incomprehensible that sensitivity was missing in the topic of Iran in the president’s office,” Schuster tells Bild daily.”If it was necessary to send congratulations on this anniversary, then the president should have at least found some clear words of criticism the regime.”

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaking in Jerusalem on May 7, 2017. (Dov Smith/Hebrew University)

Human Rights Watch’s director for Germany, Wenzel Michalski, has also called the message “shocking.”

The foreign policy chief of the business-friendly FDP party, Frank Mueller-Rosentritt, said the telegram must have felt like a “resounding slap in the face for our friends in Israel who are exposed to constant threats of annihilation by Iran.”

The telegram has not been made public by the president’s office. But Bild last week quoted excerpts of the message, which it said included Steinmeier’s promise to do all in his power to implement the nuclear deal on limiting Tehran’s atomic program.

The newspaper said there was no mention of Tehran’s backing of Hamas and Hezbollah in the message.

At the government’s weekly briefing, foreign ministry spokesman Rainer Breul said there had been a “misunderstanding,” and that the message was issued on the occasion of Iran’s national day celebrations, which falls on the same day as the anniversary of its Islamic Revolution.

— AFP