Knesset speaker warns political stalemate could lead to economic collapse
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Iraq anti-government protesters burn down Iranian consulate

Protesters torch diplomatic mission in Shiite holy city of Najaf as unrest continues; Iranian staff escape blaze and angry mob unharmed

An Iraqi protester throws a tire on a stack of burning tires at a roadblock in the central holy shrine city of Najaf on November 26, 2019. (Haidar HAMDANI / AFP)
An Iraqi protester throws a tire on a stack of burning tires at a roadblock in the central holy shrine city of Najaf on November 26, 2019. (Haidar HAMDANI / AFP)

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

Gaza banks begin distributing Qatari cash to needy Palestinian families

Postal banks in the Gaza Strip begin distributing the latest installment Qatari cash to impoverished Palestinian families in the territory, according to a spokesman for Doha’s Gaza Reconstruction Committee.

“The distribution has been underway as of this morning,” the spokesman says in a phone call.

Mohammed al-Emadi, the head of the Reconstruction Committee, said yesterday that 70,000 needy families would receive the payouts in the form of a $100 bill.

Palestinians receive financial aid from Qatar at a post office in Gaza City, June 20, 2019.
(Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

In the past year, the banks have distributed $100 Qatari grants several times to tens of thousands of needy families in the coastal enclave. The Gulf nation has agreed to provide the grants to poor families in Gaza as a part of ceasefire understandings between Israel and terror groups in the Strip.

— Adam Rasgon

Overnight clashes in Lebanon injure dozens as tensions rise

The Lebanese Red Cross says dozens of people were injured in overnight confrontations between supporters and opponents of the country’s president. Fistfights and stone throwing erupted in a northern city and a mountainous town.

Lebanon’s massive nationwide protests against the country’s ruling elite remained overwhelmingly peaceful since they began last month. But as the political deadlock for forming a new government drags on, tempers are rising.

The protests have slid into violence in recent days. That’s particularly after supporters of the main two Shiite groups attacked protesters in Beirut Sunday night.

Anti-government protesters wave Lebanese national flags as hold smoke flares during separate civil parade at the Martyr square, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon on November 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

President Michel Aoun has yet to hold consultations with parliamentary blocs on choosing a new prime minister.

Last night, Aoun’s supporters and opponents clashed in the city of Tripoli and in the mountain town of Bikfaya injuring 34.

— AP

Arab rights group, lawmaker decry decision to withhold bodies of Palestinian attackers

An opposition lawmaker and a human rights organization are denouncing Defense Minister Naftali Bennett’s decision to withhold the bodies of Palestinian assailants as a new deterrent against terrorism.

“Bennett is despicably politicizing a humanitarian issue, and that should be steadfastly opposed,” says Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen. “Holding on to bodies and preventing immediate burial are immoral and violate international law. This is what the occupation looks like: Land is stolen, torture is approved, homes are demolished, bodies of Palestinians are withheld and their relatives are collectively punished after they did nothing wrong.”

Arab Israeli rights group Adalah says it “denounces the minister’s announcement and the continuation of Israel’s inhumane and cruel policy on this matter.”

“Withholding bodies, whether as bargaining chips or as a method of deterrence or punishment, is contrary to the most basic humanitarian principles.”

Earthquake death toll in Albania now at 26

The Albanian Defense Ministry says the death toll from Tuesday’s earthquake has now reached 26.

Some 650 people were injured, and rescuers are still digging through rubble in search of survivors.

The earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.1, brought down several apartment buildings in the city of Durres and a town close to the epicenter.

— AP

PA official: Withholding attackers’ bodies proves Israel a ‘terrorist entity’

The Palestinian Authority condemns Defense Minister Naftali Bennett’s decision to withhold the bodies of Palestinian attackers, saying it proves that Israel is a “terrorist entity.”

Qadri Abu Bakr, the chairman of the PA’s Prisoners Affairs Commission, says Bennett’s announcement was “full of hate and extremism.”

“The world needs to take a real and clear stand against this entity, which proves day after day that it is a terrorist entity that acts against Palestine, its land and its people, amid the ongoing international failure to silence and stop its gross violations.”

German army apologizes over ‘retro’ Nazi uniform post

The German army is apologizing for posting a photo on Instagram of a military uniform complete with two Iron Crosses bearing the Nazi swastika and appearing to celebrate it as “retro.”

After media reports sparked outrage, the army removed the picture of the Nazi-era Wehrmacht uniform and explained that it was an “unacceptable mistake.”

The Bundeswehr says it was seeking to do a photo essay on the influence of military uniforms on fashion through the ages but failed to provide the correct historical context in its captions.

“We are very sorry,” it says.

“The uniform is an item on exhibition in our military history museum in Dresden. But we did not correctly label the image historically and gave it a wrong and unsuitable caption,” it added on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

— AFP

At least 2 protesters shot dead in Baghdad

At least two Iraq demonstrators were shot dead in Baghdad during clashes between protesters and security forces this afternoon, medical and security sources say.

An AFP correspondent at the scene reports volleys of gunfire from behind concrete barricades where security forces are deployed.

— AFP

Jordanian, Iranian athletes refuse to face Israeli kickboxing champion

Jordanian and Iranian athletes are refusing to compete against an Israeli opponent at the European Kickboxing championships in Europe, citing the boycott of the Jewish state.

Ameer Asad, a 22-year-old kickboxer from the Arab Israeli town of Jatt, is currently competing at the championship in Turkey in the under-74 kilogram (163 pound) weight class.

The 2018 European champion was due to meet an opponent from Jordan this afternoon, but his opponent never showed up for the bout.

In his next match, the quarterfinal, Asad was supposed to meet Iran’s Morteza Godarzi, who also no-showed.

“There shouldn’t be politics in sport,” Asad tells Hebrew-language media. “We are coming to compete as athletes.”

Knesset speaker huddles with Likud, Blue and White before public address

Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein is meeting with members of Likud and Blue and White’s negotiating teams in a last-ditch effort to end the political deadlock in the country.

Edelstein told reporters earlier that he will make a public address after the meeting.

“The time has come for a responsible adult who will prevent a third election,” he said yesterday after meeting with Netanyahu.

Knesset speaker warns political stalemate could lead to economic collapse

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein says that negotiating teams from Likud and Blue and White will meet again tonight in a last-minute bid to solve the political deadlock, calling it a national emergency.

“Everyone understands that Israel is in the midst of governmental state of emergency that could lead to a social and economic collapse. There is real cause for alarm,” he tells reporters at the Knesset.

“Today I approached the two major party leaders and asked them to meet with me in an attempt to form a government and prevent further election.

“This is the moment of truth for Israel’s political system… this is the moment to choose between leadership and cowardice.”

Air force chief praises soldiers on board chopper that made emergency landing

Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin praises the crew of a helicopter whose engine caught fire yesterday, saying they saved the lives of those on board by making an emergency landing quickly.

“The helicopter crew operated well, and the quick and correct decisions that the pilots took upon discovering the fire in the Yasur [helicopter] saved their lives and the lives of the soldiers on the helictoper,” Norkin says in a statement.

A firefighter works to extinguish the blaze engulfing a helicopter that made an emergency landing in a field outside of Rahat in the Negev desert on November 26, 2019. (Fire and Rescue Services)

In total, 14 people were on board the helicopter, which was completely destroyed in the fire. The two pilots, mechanic and 11 elite commandos managed to escape the aircraft unscathed after the airmen landed the helicopter less than a minute after realizing that its engine had caught fire.

An investigation into the cause of the blaze is ongoing, the army says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Rivlin meets UK chief rabbi who denounced Labour’s Corbyn

President Reuven Rivlin meets with British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis in London, a day after the rabbi publicly denounced Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for allowing the “poison” of anti-Semitism to take root in the opposition party.

“Zero tolerance for anti-Semitism means providing security for Jewish communities, and countering religious extremism,” Rivlin says during the meeting.

“It means insisting that there is no room for anti-Semitism in the halls of power, and no room for incitement on social media,” the president adds. “It means effective legislation and effective Holocaust education.”

Iraq officials say 6 protesters killed in 24 hours

Iraqi officials say six protesters have been killed amid ongoing violence with security forces firing live rounds and tear gas in Baghdad and southern Iraq.

Security and hospital officials say two protesters were killed when security forces fired live rounds to disperse them from Baghdad’s historic Rasheed Street.

Officials said one protester also died in Karbala on Wednesday afternoon, raising the death toll in clashes in the province to four in the past 24 hours.

The officials requested anonymity in line with regulations.

Iraqi demonstrators help an injured youth during clashes with security forces in the capital Baghdad’s al-Rasheed street near al-Ahrar bridge, on November 26, 2019, during ongoing anti-government demonstrations. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)

Protesters also burned tires near Ahrar bridge, blocking security forces from accessing it. Demonstrators are occupying part of three strategic bridges – Ahrar, Jumhuriya and Sinak – in a standoff with security forces.

At least 350 protesters have died and thousands wounded in mass demonstrations since Oct. 1.

— AP

70-year-old man killed in Jerusalem apartment fire

Paramedics say a 70-year-old man was killed in an apartment fire in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem neighborhood.

Magen David Adom said its crews attempted to resuscitate the man but were unsuccessful, and he was declared dead at the scene.

Firefighters manged to extinguish the fire before it spread to other parts of the residential building.

Egypt sentences high-profile jihadist to death

An Egyptian military court hands down a death sentence to one of the country’s most high-profile jihadists for his participation in scores of attacks on government targets.

The court earlier today convicted Hisham el-Ashmawi, a former army officer turned Islamist militant, and sentenced him to hanging. He was captured in Libya by Cairo-allied forces and returned to Egypt last year.

In response to Islamist militant attacks, Egypt has granted police forces and courts sweeping powers, but rights observers say the crackdown violates due process of law.

Egyptian authorities link el-Ashmawi, 40, to several major attacks, including a 2013 attempt to assassinate Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim and a 2017 ambush that killed 30 Christian pilgrims. He is also been convicted of leading assaults on security forces near Egypt’s desert border with Libya.

— AP

Israeli envoy to Myanmar wishes ‘good luck!’ to team contesting genocide case

Israel’s ambassador to Myanmar Ronen Gilor wishes good luck to the legal team contesting a genocide case at the International Court of Justice over the country’s crackdown on Rohingya Muslims two years ago that set off their exodus to Bangladesh.

“We’re hoping for a good decision and good luck!” Ronen Gilor posts on Twitter earlier today according to Haaretz.

The tweet has since been deleted.

Myanmar’s military has been accused of carrying out mass rapes, killings and arsons against Rohingya during a counterinsurgency campaign initiated in western Myanmar in August 2017 after rebel attacks.

Despite widespread condemnation, Israel remains on friendly terms with Myanmar and has remained relatively silent on what even the US Holocaust Memorial Museum has called “compelling evidence” of genocide in the country that straddles South and Southeast Asia.

Rohingya refugees carry an elderly woman from Rakhine state in Myanmar along a path near Teknaf in Bangladesh on September 3, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / R. ASAD)

Blue and White’s Ya’alon: No power-sharing deal with Likud unless PM acquitted

Senior Blue and White party member Moshe Ya’alon says the centrist faction will not enter a coalition agreement that includes a power-sharing arrangement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while he is under indictment.

“I made it clear that Blue and White is trying to form a unity government with the Likud, as we announced from the outset,” he says after his meeting with Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein, earlier this afternoon.

“We will not sit in a government headed by Netanyahu, unless a court acquits him of the serious charges against him,” he adds.

Edelstein is hosting coalition negotiators from Blue and White and Likud tonight in “a final attempt” to form a unity government.

Thanking supporters, Netanyahu urges respect for police, courts

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanks his supporters who came to a solidarity rally last night in Tel Aviv.

“You moved me, but I have one request: It’s important to act responsibly, within the bounds of the law, without over-zealousness or violence,” Netanyahu says in a video.

“We respect the law and the courts — I’m sure justice will be served,” he adds.

Last night, thousands of people gathered in downtown Tel Aviv in a show of support for the prime minister, five days after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced criminal charges against him.

Netanyahu and his spokesperson insisted after the rally that 15,000 people had attended, but at the time, the Tel Aviv municipality estimated turnout to be between 2,000 and 5,000.

France warns of possible re-imposition of Iran nuclear sanctions

France is raising the possibility of triggering a mechanism included in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that could lead to the reimposition of UN sanctions, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian tells the national assembly.

“Every two months, there is another notch (from Iran), to the extent that we are wondering today, and I say very clearly, about the implementation of the dispute resolution mechanism in the treaty,” Le Drian warns.

— AFP

Trump to designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist groups

US President Donald Trump says he will “absolutely” designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations.

But the Mexican government is pushing back, arguing that such a step would be an assault on its sovereignty.

Trump told former Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly during a radio interview this week that he will formally label the cartels as terrorist groups because the drugs they bring into the United States kill tens of thousands of Americans annually. Trump offered no timetable for an announcement.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says he does not want to enter a “political confrontation” on Thanksgiving eve. López Obrador says he instructed Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard to explain Mexico’s position to Washington.

Ebrard tweeted later that he had been in touch with the US and would use diplomacy to “defend sovereignty.”

— AP

Rights group says Iran ‘covering up’ unrest deaths

Human Rights Watch accused Iran on Wednesday of “deliberately covering up” deaths and arrests during a crackdown on demonstrations this month.

Protests broke out across sanctions-hit Iran on November 15, hours after a sharp fuel price hike was announced.

Reports of deaths and arrests emerged, as security forces were deployed to rein in demonstrations which had turned violent in some areas, with dozens of banks, petrol pumps, and police stations torched.

Iranian officials have blamed the street violence on the intervention of “thugs” backed by royalists and Iran’s arch-enemies — the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

Iranian protesters gather around a fire during a demonstration against an increase in gasoline prices in the capital Tehran, on November 16, 2019. (AFP)

The extent of the crackdown remains unclear, however, primarily due to an internet outage that was imposed during the unrest.

HRW charged that Iranian authorities were “deliberately covering up the scale of the mass crackdown against protesters” and called on them to “immediately announce the number of deaths, arrests and detentions.”

The group’s deputy Middle East director, Michael Page, criticized Iran for so far having “refused to provide an accurate death toll and instead threatened detainees with death.”

— AFP

For third week in a row, organizers cancel Friday’s Gaza border protest

For the third week in a row, organizers in the Gaza Strip have cancelled Friday’s protest along the border with Israel.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, the move “has nothing to do with the recent understanding reached with Israel,” with organizers insisting it is to protect Palestinian protesters from Israeli troops at the border.

Iraqi protesters burn down Iranian consulate

An Iraqi police official says anti-government protesters have burned down the Iranian consulate in southern Iraq.

Protesters torched the Iranian consulate building in the holy city of Najaf, the seat of the country’s Shiite religious authority. Iranian staff working in the consulate escaped through the back door and were not harmed.

Protesters took to the streets on October 1, to decry rampant government corruption, poor services and rising Iranian influence in Iraqi state affairs. At least 350 people have died since the unrest started.

— AP

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Knesset speaker warns political stalemate could lead to economic collapse

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein says that negotiating teams from Likud and Blue and White will meet again tonight in a last-minute bid to solve the political deadlock, calling it a national emergency.

“Everyone understands that Israel is in the midst of governmental state of emergency that could lead to a social and economic collapse. There is real cause for alarm,” he tells reporters at the Knesset.

“Today I approached the two major party leaders and asked them to meet with me in an attempt to form a government and prevent further election.

“This is the moment of truth for Israel’s political system… this is the moment to choose between leadership and cowardice.”