The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they happened.
Jewish man held for attempting to run over, attack Palestinians
Prosecutors say they plan to indict a resident of Beitar Illit who is suspected of at least six acts of racist violence against Palestinians.
The suspect, a 25-year-old resident of the ultra-Orthodox West Bank settlement, was arrested on Wednesday after police received a complaint by a Palestinian man employed by the city as a street cleaner. According to the complaint, the suspect drove up to the Palestinian at the side of the road, got out of his car and engaged in conversation in an attempt to confirm that the man was Arab.
The suspect then allegedly returned to his car and accelerated at the man, attempting to hit him repeatedly with his car before speeding away. The Palestinian was not hurt. He filed a complaint with police later in the day.
During his questioning, the suspect confessed to five other unsolved instances of violence and vandalism targeting Palestinians in Beitar Illit.
The suspect’s remand is extended on Monday for four more days while prosecutors prepare the indictment.
More civilians killed as Turkey pursues Syria campaign
AFRIN, Syria — Clashes and airstrikes again hit Syria’s border region of Afrin on Monday, with new civilian casualties reported as Turkey pursues an offensive against Kurdish forces.
The operation, launched on January 20, sees Turkey providing air and ground support to Syrian opposition fighters in an offensive against a Kurdish militia in northwestern Syria.
Ankara, which considers the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria a “terror” group, has vowed to continue and possibly expand the operation despite international concern and strained relations with Washington.
Turkish airstrikes and artillery fire continue Monday in northern and western parts of a Afrin, a predominantly Kurdish region of Syria on the border with Turkey, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.
At least 14 people, including five children, died Sunday in Turkish airstrikes on the region, the Observatory says.
Turkey detains over 300 for ‘terror propaganda’ against Syria operation
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish authorities detain 311 people suspected of disseminating “terror propaganda” over Ankara’s offensive against a Kurdish militia in Syria, the country’s interior ministry says.
The suspects have been taken into custody since the operation against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia began on January 20.
Ankara views the YPG as a “terrorist” offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state.
The operation, supporting Syrian rebels with Turkish ground troops and air strikes, seeks to eliminate the YPG from its western enclave of Afrin in Syria close to the Turkish border.
Although the interior ministry does not give details, police raids have taken place across the country, from Izmir on the Aegean Sea to Igdir and Van in the east.
Rights groups have expressed renewed concerns over freedom of expression in Turkey. Human Rights Watch last week criticized Ankara’s “intolerance of criticism.”
Yair Lapid slams Netanyahu for negotiating with Poland over Holocaust bill
Yesh Atid chairman MK Yair Lapid slams Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his decision to open a dialogue with the Polish government aimed at “reaching an understanding” over proposed legislation in Warsaw criminalizing blaming Poles for Holocaust atrocities.
“We don’t negotiate over the memory of the deceased,” Lapid tells fellow party lawmakers at the weekly faction meeting at the Knesset. “This law needs to be buried in the Polish ground, which is saturated with the blood of Jews.”
The law would allow for punishments including prison time for anyone using the term “Polish death camps,” and criminalizes the mention of Polish complicity in Nazi crimes as “distortion of the truth, the rewriting of history and the denial of the Holocaust.”
Lapid says that instead of negotiating, “Israel needs to tell Poland one thing: If this law passes you will need to prosecute us.” The Yesh Atid leader adds that it was “not by chance” that most of the concentration camps were in Poland and Israel must not shy away from speaking the truth.
— Raoul Wootliff
Trial beginning for US man accused of killing Lebanese neighbor
TULSA, Oklahoma — A jury trial is set to begin for a Tulsa man accused of first-degree murder and a hate crime in the slaying of his Lebanese neighbor.
Stanley Vernon Majors is expected in district court on Monday morning. The 63-year-old is accused in the August 2016 killing of 37-year-old Khalid Jabara.
Prosecutors say Majors fatally shot Jabara after bombarding him with racial insults in a feud with Jabara’s family that lasted several years.
Majors previously pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and malicious intimidation and harassment, which is Oklahoma’s hate-crime law.
Labor chief Gabbay slams Netanyahu over Rwanda genocide resolution
Amid a diplomatic spat between Israel and Poland over legislation in Warsaw that would criminalize blaming Poles for Nazi atrocities, Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay slams Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government for “imitating” those attempts to rewrite history in its own support of a controversial Rwandan move to rename the day of memorial for the 1994 genocide in the central African country.
Speaking at his weekly faction meeting, Gabbay says that Israel must do all it can to prevent the Polish proposal to ban the use of the phrase “Polish death camps” from becoming law.
“This parliamentary effort to change the past will not succeed,” he insists, saying that the law will allow anti-Semitism to flourish.
But Gabbay also takes aim at the Israeli government for supporting what he suggests is a similar attempt to whitewash history.
“The State of Israel must place utmost importance on its foreign policy but that interest must not come before the truth and we must oppose the far-right parties that spread the message of hatred of foreigners, fear, segregation, hunting down internal enemies, marking rivals as traitors and using democracy in order to destroy it,” he says.
“After we got used to ‘fake news,’ they’re now trying to rewrite history. That is the case with this legislation and it is also the case with the proposal put forward by Rwanda last week,” Gabbay charges.
Israel has backed a UN resolution pushed by Rwanda to designate a day of commemoration for the country’s genocide as specifically against the Tutsi ethnic group, supporting a move widely seen as downplaying the deaths of thousands of Hutus during the 1994 genocide.
Yesterday it was reported that while the resolution was opposed by the US and European countries, it won support from Israel as part of a quid pro quo for Rwanda accepting African migrants the Israeli government wants to deport to the country under a new Knesset law.
Gabbay says that Israel “must not learn from or imitate” the methods of European far-right parties, which he likens to those of the Rwandan government.
“It is in complete opposition to the Zionist vision and to our Declaration of Independence,” he says.
Gaza hospital said to suspend services due to fuel shortage
A hospital in Gaza stops services Monday after it runs out of fuel, the Hamas-led health ministry in the territory says, in a further example of a severe electricity shortage facing the blockaded Palestinian enclave.
Beit Hanoun hospital in northern Gaza had “suspended medical services because of the lack of fuel,” with patients to be transferred to other hospitals, says ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra.
He says some 60,000 people are usually served by the hospital, which had been treating dozens of patients in serious condition.
Other hospitals, including the Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest, remain open.
Gaza is suffering from crippling energy shortages, with residents receiving only a few hours of power per day.
Gabbay: Netanyahu should resign if he becomes a suspect in submarines affair
Labor Party chair Avi Gabbay says that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must take a leave of absence if he is made a suspect in the continuing police investigation into suspected graft in the purchase of naval vessels from a German shipbuilder.
The investigation is focused on suspicions that state officials were paid bribes to influence a decision to purchase four patrol boats and three Dolphin-class submarines, at a total cost of 2 billion euros (NIS 8.4 billion), from ThyssenKrupp, despite opposition to the deal from the Defense Ministry.
Netanyahu is not currently a suspect, though some of his top advisers are. It was reported this week that he may be designated a suspect as police consider questioning him under caution. Among the current suspects in the case are Yitzhak Molcho, Netanyahu’s chief negotiator and personal envoy for over a decade; attorney David Shimron, Netanyahu’s cousin and personal attorney; David Sharan, the premier’s former bureau chief; and Avriel Bar-Yosef, chosen by Netanyahu to be his national security adviser.
Speaking at the weekly Zionist Union faction meeting in the Knesset, Gabbay says the investigation is “undoubtedly one of the most serious corruption cases we have ever had as it involves people closest to the prime minister acting with complete conflict of interest between the good of the state and their own clients.”
“A prime minister who is investigated as a criminal suspect in a bribery case involving national security matters must announce a leave of absence until the end of the investigation and cannot continue to make decisions regarding the security of the State of Israel,” Gabbay adds.
— Raoul Wootliff
Last-known Sobibor death camp survivor dies in Ukraine
BERLIN — Arkady Waispapir, the last known survivor of the Nazis’ Sobibor death camp, dies in Ukraine. He was 96.
The Berlin-based Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe says that Waispapir died January 11 in Kiev.
Born in southern Ukraine, Waispapir was captured by the Germans while serving in the Soviet Army and shipped to Sobibor because he was Jewish.
He was one of a few inmates spared immediate death and instead ordered to a work detail.
The memorial says he was one of eight prisoners who organized the 1943 uprising in the camp, which allowed more than 200 prisoners to escape. Waispapir was one of 47 escapees who survived the war.
Waispapir lived and worked in eastern Ukraine until retiring in 1994 and moving to Kiev.
IDF reorganizing forces around Jerusalem to better counter West Bank threats
The IDF is reorganizing its West Bank structure in order to bring the entire area surrounding Jerusalem under one brigade, rather than split between two as is the case now, the army spokesperson says.
Under the proposal, which was the result of several months of General Staff-level planning, the areas close to Jerusalem that are currently under the Etzion Regional Brigade will instead become part of the Binyamin Regional Brigade, the military says.
This decision was made in light of increased attacks coming from the West Bank areas surrounding the city of Jerusalem in recent years. By bringing all the area under one roof, the army hopes to make its law enforcement and counter-terrorism efforts more efficient and better coordinated.
Increased cooperation between the Etzion and Binyamin Brigades is set to begin immediately, but the formal transfer of responsibility will only take effect later this summer when new brigade commanders are named, the spokesperson says.
In addition, a few months later, some of the northern parts of the Binyamin Regional Brigade will become the responsibility of the Samaria Regional Brigade.
The army notes the plan is an internal reorganization, and will not affect the deployment of forces in the area.
— Judah Ari Gross
Jordan’s king vows to stick up for Palestinians on Jerusalem
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordan’s king assures the Palestinians he will defend their “legitimate rights” to independence and a capital in East Jerusalem in dealings with the international community.
Abdullah II meets Monday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is pushing back against last month’s US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
US President Donald Trump further infuriated the Palestinians last week when he declared Jerusalem now “off the table.”
Jordan’s royal court says the king “affirmed Jordan’s continued efforts in all international forums to defend the Palestinian cause.”
Saeb Erekat, an Abbas aide, says the two sides agreed in the meeting to coordinate positions and that “great efforts are now being made to limit the damage” from the Trump policy pivot.
Rivlin to attend Greek Holocaust museum ceremony
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Israel’s president meets with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras during a visit to Athens that will include a foundation stone-laying ceremony for a Holocaust museum.
Reuven Rivlin is also set to meet with his Greek counterpart, Procopis Pavlopoulos, in the capital on Monday.
On Tuesday, Rivlin and Tsipras will travel to the northern city of Thessaloniki for the museum ceremony.
Thessaloniki’s 55,000-strong Jewish population was deported by Nazi forces during World War II and most of its members were murdered in German concentration camps.
Thessaloniki’s new museum will be built next to the railway station where the city’s Jews boarded the trains taking them to the camps.
Netanyahu, Putin conclude meeting on Iran, Lebanon
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin wrap up their hour-and-a-half meeting in Moscow.
According to a diplomatic source, “it was a very deep conversation, in which the prime minister presented in detail Iran’s activities, including its attempt to turn Lebanon into a missile factory. The prime minister presented Israel’s vehement opposition to these steps.”
— Raphael Ahren
Iran eases restrictions on reformist Mousavi
TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian authorities grant limited visiting rights to reformist leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, under house arrest following protests sparked by a contested 2009 election, two media outlets report Monday.
Mousavi, 75, his wife Zahra Rahnavard and fellow reformist Mehdi Karroubi were placed under house arrest in 2011 over their role in the millions-strong Green Movement protests.
The protests — known as “the sedition” by hardliners — followed allegations of rigging in the 2009 presidential election won by hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Neither of the men has been charged with a crime.
On Monday, reformist-linked ILNA news agency says some restrictions on visits to Mousavi and Rahnavard “have been lifted… over the past week.”
Yemen’s president says fighting in Aden amounts to ‘coup’
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen’s embattled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi says Monday that a “coup” is underway in his government’s seat of power in the southern city of Aden, where separatists allied with the United Arab Emirates were battling his forces for a second day.
In the Aden district of Khor Maksar, the two sides deploy tanks and exchanged heavy gunfire as shops and schools remain closed for a second day. Snipers are seen on rooftops and fighting spreads to the nearby Crater district. The clashes leave the two districts bitterly divided.
Hadi renews his call for a ceasefire, saying “rebellion and weapons won’t achieve peace or build a state.”
“The real and the main battle is with Iranian Houthi militias and any other side problems will impact the main battle,” he says. “Any assault on legitimacy is a coup.”
The violence has killed at least 12 people and wounded over 130. It has also exposed deep cracks within the Saudi-led coalition, which has been fighting Yemen’s Houthi rebels on behalf of Hadi’s government since March 2015. The UAE is a key member of the coalition, but relations with the president have been tense for months.
Rivlin: Denial of Israel’s right to exist the ‘main obstacle’ to peace
President Reuven Rivlin says the denial of Israel’s right to exist is the “main obstacle” to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
“We can talk about anything but if there are people on the other side who challenge our right to exist, we will not remain silent or stand idly by,” Rivlin tells Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras during a visit to Athens, according to his spokesman.
The president says Greece can be a “real force” in convincing the Palestinians to return to peace talks.
“We are in a serious crisis of trust between us and the Palestinians and significant elements such as the Greek government can be a real force in influencing our neighbors, and persuading them to return to the negotiating table. We must learn to live together,” he says.
Iranian woman jailed for lack of hijab was freed, lawyer says
TEHRAN, Iran — A woman arrested for posing without a headscarf in public in defiance of Iran’s Islamic dress code has been released after nearly one month in detention, a lawyer says Monday.
Nasrin Sotoudeh, a renowned human rights lawyer, tells AFP she saw the woman’s file at the prosecutor’s office and was told by a judicial official that she had been “freed.”
The woman has not been seen in public since she stood on a pillar box at one of Tehran’s busiest thoroughfares without the headscarf or long coat required under Islamic law.
Images posted on social media showed her waving a white scarf on a stick — an apparent reference to so-called “White Wednesday” protests against mandatory clothing rules for women.
Western Wall rabbi apologizes for gender segregation during Pence visit
The rabbi of the Western Wall apologizes for separating female reporters from their male colleagues during US Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the holy site last week.
“I would like to express my sorrow at the distress caused to the diplomatic correspondent at your paper,” Shmuel Rabinovitch says in a letter to the Globes business daily.
The paper’s Tal Schneider said last week she would sue Rabinovitch over the separate fenced-off area female reporters were required to stand in during Pence’s visit.
Gazans farm along Israeli border for first time since 2006
A group of Gazans are allowed to farm their land near the border with Israel for the first time since 2006 after a deal agreed with Israeli authorities.
The deal, brokered by the International Committee of the Red Cross, sees around a dozen farmers set foot on land they had not been able to access since Israel began imposing restrictions measures on the Palestinian enclave, more than a decade ago.
It is part of a wider ICRC project that aims to see around 280 farmers return to their land, between 100 and 300 meters from Israel’s border fence.
Some parts of that territory still have to be cleared of munitions from conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians.
Farmer Anwar Dababi is scattering wheat on the ground near the border close to Rafah in southern Gaza, the first time he has accessed that part of his land since 2006.
“If I came here, I was putting my life in danger, for example, from being shot or a missile. There was no possibility of entering the place with the children to enjoy it,” he says.
Guislain Defurne, head of the ICRC in Gaza, says the return was the result of lengthy negotiations.
“We helped farmers access to their land,” he says. “Forty-five percent of the agricultural land in Gaza is in the border areas so it makes a lot of sense.”
Regime strikes said to kill 33 civilians in northwest Syria
Regime airstrikes have killed 33 civilians in the past 24 hours in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, where government forces are fighting jihadists, a monitor says.
On Monday alone, the strikes killed 16 civilians, including 11 in a vegetable market in the town of Saraqeb, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.
The 17 others were killed on Sunday in raids on various areas of the province, large parts of which are controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which is dominated by Al-Qaeda’s former Syria affiliate.
“Regime war planes have intensified their strikes over the past 24 hours after relative calm due to bad weather,” Observatory chief Rami Abdul Rahman says.
Syrian troops had been advancing on Idlib as part of a fierce offensive launched in late December with Russian backing.
Netanyahu: Putin understands Israel’s position on Iran
Prime Minister Netanyahu says Russian President Putin fully appreciates Israel’s determination to prevent Iran from building up its militarily presence in Syria and stop Lebanon from building precision missiles.
“The question is: Does Iran entrench itself in Syria, or will this process be stopped? If it doesn’t stop by itself, we will stop it,” he tells Israeli reporters from Moscow after meeting with Putin for several hours.
“We also spoke about Lebanon, which is becoming a factory for precision-guided missiles that threaten Israel. These missiles are a grave threat that Israel cannot accept,” he says, adding that he told Putin that Israel will act whenever it feels threatened.
“I explained our policy; these are not idle words,” he says. “They understand our position, they understand well the significance that we give to these threats,” he adds, acknowledging, however, that he cannot say the Russians “accepted” the Israeli position.
Netanyahu says that his conversation with Putin was “frank, very straightforward, in the positive sense of the word.”
As a gift, the Russian president handed him an original letter from Oskar Schindler to his wife, Netanyahu says.
— Raphael Ahren
Ousted senior cop cries foul over internal affairs ‘leak’
The head of the Israel Police’s Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit, who resigned his position last week, files a complaint with the Justice Ministry against the ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department, demanding an investigation into leaks of recordings relating to the sexual harassment complaint against him.
Roni Rittman says that audio footage of Israel Police brass discussing his case, as well as conversing with the female subordinate who had filed the complaint, could indicate the investigation in his case had been obstructed.
Rittman, 53, was pushed out after the High Court of Justice slammed his reinstatement to the force.
He claims the recordings may have been leaked, “casting a dark shadow” over the investigation.
German car makers face heat over tests on monkeys, humans
Public criticism of the German auto industry escalates, with reports that diesel exhaust tests were carried out on both monkeys and humans.
The tests were reportedly carried out by a research group funded by major German auto companies.
The German government condemns the experiments and Volkswagen seeks to distance itself from them, with its chairman saying that “in the name of the whole board, I emphatically disavow such practices.”
Revelations of the tests add a twist to the German auto industry’s attempt to move past Volkswagen’s scandal over cheating on diesel tests and the resulting questioning of diesel technology across the industry.
Volkswagen Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch says the tests must be “investigated completely and without reservation,” the dpa news agency reports.
A report by the New York Times finds that the research group, financed by top German car manufacturers, commissioned experiments in which one group of monkeys was exposed to diesel exhaust from a late-model Volkswagen, while another group was exposed to fumes from an older Ford pickup.
Hezbollah said to threaten attack over Israeli border barrier
The Hezbollah terror group has conveyed to Israel, via the UN forces in southern Lebanon, a threat to attack, if Israel does not cease construction of a barrier along the border, Hadashot TV news reports.
The report says Jerusalem is “unimpressed” with the threat and is determined to complete construction on the barrier, which is situated in Israeli territory and is geared toward preventing cross-border attacks.
The report cites sources in Israel as saying Hezbollah will “pay dearly” if it attempts to sabotage the works or otherwise spark a conflagration in the area.
PM’s office says agreement reached on disability benefits bill
The Prime Minister’s Office says an agreement has been reached on a bill that would raise disability benefits.
The announcement comes hours after a dispute between the Finance and Welfare ministries threatened to hold up the draft legislation’s advancement in the Knesset.
In a statement, the PMO says the agreement, which will allocate an additional NIS 4.2 billion ($1.23 billion) for disability benefits, was reached during a conference call between Prime Minister Netanyahu, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Welfare Minister Haim Katz.
It says the bill will now advance to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, whose approval is necessary if the legislation is to receive the coalition’s backing on in the Knesset.
The government bill was scheduled to be voted on today by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, then by the Finance Committee, and followed by a first reading in the Knesset — all by the end of the day.
However, the ministerial committee put off the vote after the Finance Ministry’s budgeting department failed to reach agreement with the Welfare Ministry over whether the allowances would be linked to the average wage index.
Disability allowances are currently linked to the consumer price index.
— Stuart Winer