The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.
Russian FM: Moscow ‘understands’ Palestinian anger at Trump
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday says Moscow “understands” the anger of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who earlier denounced White House peace efforts as the “slap of the century.”
“We completely understand the emotions the Palestinians currently have. For years they made concessions without receiving anything in return,” Lavrov says at an annual press conference in Moscow.
“We constantly hear that the US is about to unveil an important deal (on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) that would satisfy all sides. We have not seen this kind of document,” Lavrov adds.
Palestinian leaders on Monday held a meeting regarding US President Donald Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Moscow’s chief diplomat added that the chances of direct contact between the two sides are “unfortunately approaching zero.”
Lavrov went on to say “the unresolved Palestinian-Israeli conflict is one of the most serious factors that allows radicals to recruit newer and newer generations of terrorists.”
Nephew of Anwar Sadat pulls out of Egypt’s presidential race
CAIRO — A former Egyptian lawmaker says he has decided not to run in the presidential election in March, saying the political “climate” isn’t conducive to campaigning.
Mohammed Anwar Sadat, nephew of Egypt’s late leader Anwar Sadat, tells reporters on Monday that his decision was partially taken to protect his campaign workers from intimidation or arrest by authorities.
He says he “will not contest a lost battle” while also citing emergency laws and a ban on demonstrations as further reasons for his decision.
Sadat, an outspoken critic of the government, was thrown out of parliament last year amid allegations he had leaked official documents to foreign diplomats.
He is the second presidential hopeful to pull out of the election, which is virtually certain to be won by the incumbent, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
Former deputy head of Mossad joins Yesh Atid
A former deputy head of the Mossad joins Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, the party says in a statement.
The party says it will formally announce that Ram Ben Barak has joined the party during a faction meeting at the Knesset this afternoon.
Barak served as deputy head of the Mossad from 2009 to 2011 and spent 33 years at the spy agency.
Turkey’s Erdogan to ‘drown’ US-backed Syrian Kurdish force
BEIRUT — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vows to “drown” a 30,000-strong border Syrian Kurdish border security force that the United States is setting up.
Erdogan accuses NATO ally US of forming a “terrorist force” at Turkey’s border. Ankara considers the Syrian Kurdish militia as a terror group, claiming it is affiliated with Turkey’s own outlawed Kurdish rebels fighting against the government.
The Turkish president is speaking at an opening in Ankara on Monday.
He says it’s his government’s “duty is to drown this terrorist force before it is born.”
Erdogan also says Turkey’s military deployed at the border with Syria is now striking Syrian Kurdish fighters heavy artillery, “at the moment hitting them with howitzers and we will continue to strike them.”
Germany seeks more detail on what US wants on Iran nuke deal
BERLIN — The German government says it will seek more detail on what the US wants regarding the nuclear deal with Iran after US President Donald Trump demanded that European allies fix what he called “terrible flaws.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, stresses Monday that Germany stands by the nuclear deal. He says that Germany will analyze the situation with its European partners.
Trump threatened Friday to pull the US out of the nuclear deal in a few months’ time. Iran has said it’s not interested in any renegotiation.
German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr says officials will sit down with the Americans and “see what goal and request exactly Mr. Trump’s comments contain.” She says that Trump’s statement appeared to have been directed “first and foremost to his own Congress.”
Labor head attacks Abbas for pushing ‘anti-Semitic fabrications’
Labor party leader Avi Gabbay slams Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ speech, in which he said Israel is a “colonial project.”
“Abu Mazen’s words are grave and false and also included anti-Semitic fabrications,” says Gabbay, using Abbas’ Arabic nickname.
Gabbay is speaking at a Knesset faction meeting of the Zionist Union, an alliance of the Labor and Hatnua parties.
While condemning Abbas, Gabbay says “we must not be confused and must not focus on what the Palestinians say.”
“Before and after Abu Mazen’s speeches, separating from the Palestinians is in our interest,” says Gabbay, adding that Israel has no interest in ruling over the Palestinians.
He also says both sides needs leaders “who want to build trust between them and not to deal with what the world says about them, and definitely not to continue with the blame game that doesn’t lead to anything.”
Finance Committee approves raise for premier, ministers
The Knesset’s Finance Committee approves a NIS 5,500 ($1,600) a month pay raise for the prime minister, as well as a NIS 5,000 ($1,450) raise for government ministers.
The raises bring the base salary of ministers go up to NIS 44,200 ($13,000) a month and the prime minister’s salary to NIS 49,600 ($14,500) a month. In total this will cost the government some NIS 2 million ($600,000) a year.
Coalition chairman David Amsalem (Likud) in November called for raising the salary of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as slashing the salary of the police minister.
Amsalem in recent months has been highly critical of police, who are investigating corruption suspicions against Netanyahu.
Liberman: Hamas fired 3 rockets as part of missile test into Mediterranean
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman says the Gaza-based terror group Hamas carried out a missile test last night.
“Hamas carried out a missile test and fired three rockets toward the [Mediterranean] sea,” says Liberman at a faction meeting of his Yisrael Beytenu party. “This proves that despite the humanitarian situation in the Strip and lack of basic goods, [Hamas] continues to produce and test rockets.”
Liberman says the budget of the terror group’s armed wing was $260 million last year, all of which he said was put into producing missiles and digging tunnels.
Addressing the tunnel threat, Liberman says: “I assume that by the end of 2018 we’ll succeed in eradicating the phenomenon of Hamas’ attack tunneling.”
Clashes in Libyan capital kill 9, close airport
BENGHAZI, Libya — Libyan officials say heavy clashes among rival militias in Tripoli left at least nine people dead and forced the capital’s only functioning airport to shut down.
Health Ministry spokesman Omar Matouq says the death toll from Monday’s fighting is expected to rise.
An airport official tells The Associated Press that staffers were evacuated from Matiga airport and that five flights have been canceled. He says state-run airlines received information that the clashes have caused damage to some of the passenger jets inside the airport, but there was no way to confirm the reports.
The militias are both allied to the internationally recognized government. Both are armed with heavy weapons.
Russian FM says Moscow opposes US effort to adjust Iran deal
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Moscow opposes altering the Iran nuclear deal, after US President Donald Trump called for adjusting the 2015 agreement meant to limit Tehran’s nuclear program.
“We will not support what the United States is trying to do, changing the wording of the agreement, incorporating things that will be absolutely unacceptable for Iran,” Lavrov says at press conference in Moscow, according to Reuters.
He also says changing the deal will only harden North Korea’s refusal to give up its nuclear weapons.
“If the deal is put aside and Iran is told, ‘you keep up with your obligations or we will impose sanctions again,’ then you have to see it from North Korea’s point of view,” he says.
After Abbas speech, Bennett says the ‘era of a Palestinian state is over’
Following PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ speech calling Israel a “colonial project,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett says “the era of a Palestinian state is over.”
Speaking at a Knesset faction meeting of the right-wing Jewish Home party, Bennett says Abbas “has lost his connection with reality.”
“Abu Mazen and the idea of a Palestinian state are passing from the world,” he says, using Abbas’s Arabic nickname.
Bennett says “the era of sovereignty has begun” and calls for annexing chunks of the West Bank.
Netanyahu, Modi ink series of bilateral agreements
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi sign a number of bilateral agreements during their meeting in New Delhi.
“We are proud to be working together to build a better future for our people and for nations throughout the world. Our commitment to this is reflected in the many agreements we are signing today, in cyber, aviation, energy and even film,” says Netanyahu in a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
The two leaders also signed an agreement promoting mutual foreign direct investment between the countries.
3 Palestinians arrested after gun found in their car
Three Palestinians were arrested after a homemade automatic weapon was found in their car, police say.
A police spokesperson says the Palestinians were driving near the West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim without license plates, leading officers to stop the vehicle.
Upon searching the car, police found a Carlo Gustav-style gun and ammunition, the spokesperson says.
The Palestinians, all from the village of al-Abidiya, were arrested and taken in for questioning, according to police.
Deputy FM tells EU envoy Abbas speech a ‘slap in the face’ to Europeans
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely says that European countries must condemn PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech yesterday, in which he said Israel was a European “colonial project.”
“Abu Mazen’s speech is a resounding slap in the face to the international community, especially the Europeans,” Hotovely tells Emanuele Giaufret, the EU’s envoy to Israel, using Abbas’s nickname.
“The Palestinians can’t continue to fund terror and request [the] embrace and support from the Europeans by demanding unilateral recognition,” she adds.
Netanyahu meets with Indian president, invites him to visit Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Indian President Ram Nath Kovind at his official residence in New Delhi.
The two discuss the “special ties” between the countries and how to further strengthen, according to the PMO.
It says Netanyahu invited the Indian president to visit Israel.
Government orders end of medical visits for Hamas members, their relatives
The government will no longer allow members of Hamas or their relatives to enter Israel for medical treatment, the state tells the High Court of Justice in response to a petition.
The petition was filed by the family of the late IDF soldier Hadar Goldin, who was killed in the 2014 Gaza war and whose body is being held by Hamas.
The state also says the National Security Council found that despite the cabinet previously adopting such a policy, it has yet to be implemented.
Military court extends remand of soldier-slapping Palestinian teen
An Ofer Military Court judge extends the remand of 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, who was filmed slapping and shoving soldiers last month in the West Bank village of Nebi Saleh.
At the conclusion of arguments read by Tamimi’s attorney Gaby Lasky and the Military Advocate General, the judge extends the 16-year-old’s remand for an additional two days until he makes a decision on whether to hold her until the end of proceedings.
The judge also extends the remand of Tamimi’s mother Nariman until Wednesday.
Military prosecutors submitted an indictment against Tamimi on January 1 on 12 charges including aggravated assault and incitement.
— Jacob Magid
IDF to hold drills in north, says ‘blasts will be heard’
The army warns that the sounds of explosions will be heard in the Upper Galilee tomorrow, in light of an exercise in the area.
“As part of the drill, a heightened level of troop and vehicular movement will be noticed and blasts will be heard,” the military says.
As always, the IDF notes that the exercise, which is due to last throughout the week, was planned well in advance and is not connected to any particular operational development.
— Judah Ari Gross
Convicted Auschwitz guard bids for clemency to avoid prison
BERLIN — A former Auschwitz death camp guard has launched a bid for clemency in a final effort to avoid serving his sentence as an accessory to murder.
The dpa news agency reported Monday that attorneys for Oskar Groening have filed the appeal with authorities in Lueneburg, where he was convicted in 2015 as an accessory to the murder of 300,000 Jews. He was sentenced to four years in prison.
It wasn’t immediately clear what argument the 96-year-old made for clemency, but a doctor has determined Groening is fit to go to prison if there’s appropriate medical care.
Hannover prosecutors, who have been handling Groening’s case, told The Associated Press that Groening hasn’t yet been summoned to report to prison, but that hearing of the clemency appeal shouldn’t delay that process.
Ritz-Carlton to re-open after serving as Saudi luxury prison
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh, which has been serving as a prison for royals and ministers detained in a sweeping Saudi corruption probe, will re-open for business in February, sources at the hotel say.
One source, who requested anonymity as he was not authorized to brief the press, says there were “preparations to open in February” but could not give further details.
The Ritz-Carlton website now lists rooms as available from February 14.
A hotel employee reached by phone also confirms to AFP that bookings were available as of mid-February.
Asked why there were no bookings currently available, the employee says local authorities “had the whole hotel (booked) for them.”
The hotel has been closed for business and its phone line disconnected since early November, when more than 200 princes, ministers and businessmen were rounded up in an anti-corruption purge.
Pakistan briefs senior US envoy on counterterrorism efforts after Trump tweet
ISLAMABAD — Pakistani officials brief a visiting senior American diplomat on recent efforts to combat terrorism, after US President Donald Trump suspended security assistance to the longtime ally.
The Foreign Office says the delegation led by Acting Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells were briefed Monday on “recent counter-terrorism actions taken by Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies that contributed to visible improvement in the security situation of Pakistan.”
The statement says these actions “would also contribute towards peace and stability in the entire region.”
US officials have long accused Pakistan of harboring militant groups that carry out attacks in neighboring Afghanistan, charges denied by Islamabad. Earlier this month, the US said it would suspend military aid until Pakistan takes decisive action against militants. The decision could affect up to $2 billion in aid.
Iran releases 440 people arrested during anti-regime protests
Iran has released 440 people arrested during recent anti-regime protests.
“More than 440 people who were arrested in Tehran riots have been released,” Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi tells the Mehr news agency, according to Reuters.
He says most of those held were between 18 and 35 years old and came from families with low incomes.
Police say stabbing near Modiin likely criminal
After an initial investigation, police say a stabbing earlier today as a gas station at Shilat junction on the outskirts of Modiin was likely criminal in nature.
Police say a 40-year-old man from Netanya has been detained in connection to the stabbing, in which a woman was lightly wounded.
Italian gubernatorial candidate says immigration endangers ‘our white race’
ROME — An Italian gubernatorial candidate sparks outrage by saying Italy can’t accept all immigrants who want to live in the country if “our white race” is to continue.
Political opponents condemn the comment by Attilio Fontana, who is running in the affluent Lombardy region with backing from a center-right alliance. Jewish leaders say the remark recalls anti-Semitic racial laws enacted during Benito Mussolini’s dictatorship.
Fontana told Radio Padania, the mouthpiece of his anti-migrant League party, on Sunday that being unwilling to “accept all” immigrants isn’t “xenophobic or racist,” but logical. He said Italy needs to decide “if our white race, our society, must continue to exist or be canceled out.”
League leader Matteo Salvini is running for premier in the March 4 election.
Fontana on Monday blames his “white race” remark on an expressive “lapse.”
IDF says Gaza crossing to reopen after closure during tunnel destruction
The army announces that the Kerem Shalom Crossing into the Gaza Strip is scheduled to reopen tomorrow, after it was closed beginning on Sunday, when the army discovered and destroyed an attack tunnel that was dug underneath it.
“The [IDF’s] Southern Command completed the neutralization of the terror tunnel dug under the crossing and thwarted the threat it posed,” the army says in a statement.
“With the completion of the process and following an assessment of the situation, it was decided the crossing will reopen,” the military says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Hamas autopsy: Disabled Palestinian killed by Israeli fire
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The autopsy of a disabled Palestinian protester killed in December showed Israeli fire was responsible for his death, a Hamas-affiliated commission in Gaza says.
Emad al-Baz, from the organization which the Hamas terror group tasks with gathering evidence about alleged Israeli crimes, tells a news conference that multiple tests had been conducted on the body, including X-ray scans.
“The autopsy revealed the bullet entered above his left eye and stayed in his head.”
El-Baz says the autopsy indicated the bullet was fired from some 30 meters (32 yards) away, the distance between protesters and the Israeli army.
Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh died on December 15, during protests and clashes along the Israel-Gaza border against US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
His family says he had lost his legs in an Israeli strike a decade earlier.
Israel’s military said earlier this month that it was opening an investigation into the death of the 29-year-old, after previously saying it had not been able to determine how Abu Thurayeh was killed.
Israeli student badly wounded in Jenin stabbing
An Israeli student from northern Israel is badly wounded after being stabbed near the Arab American University in the West Bank city of Jenin, the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service says.
It says medics treated the student and evacuated her to a hospital in the city.
Witnesses tell the Haaretz daily the young woman’s father was involved in the stabbing and has been arrested.
— with Dov Lieber
MLK III calls out Trump on alleged immigration comments
WASHINGTON — Martin Luther King Jr.’s eldest son is calling out US President Donald Trump, following accusations that the president used a vulgarity to describe African countries during a meeting last week, and expressed a preference for immigrants from countries “like Norway.”
Martin Luther King III is speaking in Washington on Monday, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
King says: “When a president insists that our nation needs more citizens from white states like Norway, I don’t even think we need to spend any time even talking about what it says and what it is.”
He says: “We got to find a way to work on this man’s heart.”
Referring to former Alabama governor George Wallace, King adds: “George Wallace was a staunch racist and we worked on his heart and, ultimately, George Wallace transformed.”
In recording, Haredi MK says inspectors to enforce Shabbat laws
An ultra-Orthodox lawmaker says hundreds of inspectors will soon begin enforcing laws pertaining to Shabbat, according to a recording released by Hadashot TV news.
In the recording, United Torah Judaism’s Moshe Gafni says the inspections will begin in two months.
He also says a future non-religious interior minister will not be able to reverse the implementation of legislation passed last week, allowing the interior minister to cancel city bylaws that permit businesses to open on Shabbat.
Man in Holon shot in suspected gang hit
A man in his thirties was badly wounded after being shot in a suspected gang hit in Holon.
Channel 10 reports suspects opened fire on the man from a passing motorcycle.
The television station says the gunshot victim was previously known to police.
He is being taken by paramedics from the Magen David Ambulance service to the city’s Wolfson Medical Center.
Russian officials move to shutter opposition leader’s foundation
MOSCOW — Russia’s Justice Ministry says it has filed a lawsuit to shut down a company used by opposition leader Alexei Navalny to fund his political campaigning.
The Justice Ministry says Monday that it has asked a Moscow court to close the Fifth Season of the Year foundation, which rents premises for Navalny’s headquarters and employs campaign workers, over unspecified violations.
Navalny has unofficially campaigned for the presidency, despite an implicit ban on his candidacy due to a fraud conviction seen by many as politically driven. Election officials last month formally barred him from the March 18 vote, which President Vladimir Putin is set to easily win.
Navalny has urged a boycott of the election, and tweeted Monday that the ministry’s move reflects authorities’ fear of the “voters’ strike.”
Palestinian arrested on suspicion of throwing rocks, shooting at West Bank road
Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian man suspected of throwing rocks and firing gunshots at a road in the northern West Bank near Qalqilya, using a homemade firearm, the army says.
“After the arrest, the weapon and ammunition were found found on the suspect,” the military says in a statement.
Both the suspect and the firearm have been handed over to the Shin Bet security service.
— Judah Ari Gross
UN envoy calls on secretary-general to condemn Abbas speech
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon writes a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calling on him to condemn PA President Mahmoud Abbas “hateful speech.”
“Among the many vile fabrications in his address, Chairman Abbas repeated the lie that the reestablishment of the nation-state of the Jewish people in our historic homeland is ‘a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism.’ Chairman Abbas also accused European powers of ‘moving Jews from Europe to the Middle East’ as part of a plan to further their economic interests. These statements sadly remind us of the racist words of the worst regimes of the previous century,” wrote Dannon.
“The hateful words of the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, which seem to question the very right of a United Nations member-state to exist, are completely unacceptable and must be unequivocally condemned,” he adds.
North Korea mocks Trump’s nuclear tweet as ‘spasm of a lunatic’
North Korea’s state-run media say US President Donald Trump’s tweet about having a bigger nuclear button than leader Kim Jong Un’s is the “spasm of a lunatic.”
Rodong Sinmun, the ruling party newspaper, lashes out at Trump in a commentary on Tuesday that takes issue with the US commander in chief’s January 3 tweet that said, “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
A summary of the commentary by North Korea’s official news agency describes the tweet as “the spasm of a lunatic.”
“The spasm of Trump in the new year reflects the desperate mental state of a loser who failed to check the vigorous advance of the army and people of the DPRK,” the Rodong Sinmun commentary said, using the acronym for North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “He is making (a) bluff only to be diagnosed as a psychopath.”