The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s news as it unfolded.
Russia: Only Syrian military should be near Israel border
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says only the Syrian military should be allowed along the country’s southern border region near Israel and Jordan, according to the Russian RIA news agency.
Lavrov’s comment appears to be directed at Iran, which has been building up its presence in areas near the Israeli border.
Italian economist tapped as premier-designate
Italy’s president formally asks economist Carlo Cottarelli to try to form a government after quashing the hopes of the euroskeptic 5-Star Movement and the League to form Western Europe’s first populist government.
President Sergio Mattarella turns to the former International Monetary Fund official to run a technocratic government until an early election can be held. Mattarella’s office announces the president has given a mandate to Cottarelli to try to form a government after about an hour of consultations today.
Mattarella enraged the 5-Stars and League by vetoing their choice for economy minister on Sunday night, throwing Italy into a new round of political uncertainty more than two months after an election created a hung parliament.
Cyclone death toll in Oman, Yemen rises to at least 13
The death toll from Cyclone Mekunu, which hit Oman and Yemen over the weekend, has risen to at least 13, authorities say, as relief workers and aid arrive in hard-hit areas in the two Arabian Peninsula countries.
Flooding and damage remains considerable after the cyclone, the strongest-ever recorded to hit southern Oman and the sultanate’s third-largest city of Salalah.
The cyclone’s remaining hazards are just as deadly days after its landfall early Saturday on the coast of Oman. The Royal Oman Police announces today the death of two additional Omanis who lost control of their car in flood waters in Salalah.
Those deaths come after Oman’s National Committee for Civil Defense earlier announced that four people had been killed. The dead include a 12-year-old girl killed when the storm’s strong winds flung open a metal door that struck her in the head.
While Salalah International Airport already has reopened, there’s still much damage that needs to be repaired in Oman, from downed power lines to whole roadways swallowed by raging flash floods. Water supplies also have been affected.
Before hitting Oman, Mekunu struck Yemen’s Socotra in the Arabian Sea, causing massive damage to the island that UNESCO has recognized as a world natural heritage site. The storm killed at least seven people there while eight remain missing, according to the United Nations.
Abbas says ‘Jerusalem issue’ put him in the hospital
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, after he is discharged from the hospital, where he was in treatment for nine days, implies that recent developments in Jerusalem, notably the US recognition of the city as Israel’s capital, and the transfer of its embassy there, negatively impacted his health.
Wearing a dark suit and speaking in a steady voice, Abbas says he will quickly return to work and thanks supporters around the world for checking in on him while he was in the hospital.
“Thank God I’m discharged from the hospital today in full health, and will return back to work from tomorrow,” Abbas says.
But he hints that the heavy work load and stress of the US recognition of Jerusalem had affected his health.
“If the Jerusalem issue put me in the hospital, I want to leave while Jerusalem is our capital,” he tells reporters in a brief statement.
— with AP
India won’t abide by new US sanctions on Iran, FM says
India will not join sanctions recently reimposed on Iran by the US, the Indian foreign minister says.
Sushma Swaraj says her country will only abide by sanctions imposed by the United Nations, according to Reuters.
“India follows only UN sanctions, and not unilateral sanctions by any country,” she says at a press conference in response to a question about the recent US decision to back out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimpose sanctions.
Swaraj is set to meet in New Delhi with her Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, later today.
Labor MK walks back support for annexation without citizenship for Palestinians
In a dramatic about-face, Labor lawmaker Eitan Cabel, who caused a storm Sunday by stating that Israel should annex settlement blocs and withhold citizenship from Palestinians in those areas, says “there had been a misunderstanding.”
“There will be no different laws in the territories that Israel will annex according to my plan,” says the MK, whose party has been a mainstay of the Israeli left since the country’s founding. “The Palestinians in the blocs will receive citizenship.”
— Jacob Magid
Netanyahu: Iran shouldn’t be ‘anywhere in Syria’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that in meetings next week with the leaders of Germany, France and Britain, he will discuss “blocking Iran’s nuclear aspirations and Iranian expansion.”
Addressing the weekly faction meeting of his Likud party in the Knessset, Netanyahu adds, “When it comes to Syria, our stance is clear: There is no room for an Iranian presence anywhere in Syria.”
He says that stance, which he reiterated shortly after Russia implied Iran should not be allowed near the Israel-Syria border, “reflects the stances of many in the Middle East and as well as outside it.”
Poland seeks permanent US troop presence, offers financing
Poland’s defense minister says that he has held talks with US officials about having thousands of American troops permanently stationed as a deterrent in Poland.
Poland is concerned for its own and the region’s security following Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine and other steps seen as hostile.
Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak says he recently held talks in Washington about having a permanent presence of US troops in Poland, where they are currently on a rotational, temporary, though open-ended mission.
“The result of our efforts is that the US Senate has contacted the Pentagon about an assessment of … (the) permanent presence of US troops in Poland,” Blaszczak says on state Radio 1. “Such presence is of great importance because it deters the adversary.”
The Onet.pl news portal says Poland is seeking the permanent deployment of a US armored division and is offering up to $2 billion to help build the infrastructure. It says the defense ministry has written to U.S. politicians and the US Congress with details of the proposal.
The ministry’s press office confirms to The Associated Press that such a document has been forwarded but declined to give more details.
Other countries in the region would also like to see US land forces stationed permanently in their area, Blaszczak said last week.
US and NATO troops were deployed to Poland and the region last year as a security assurance.
Gaza man said to die of wounds sustained in clashes
The health ministry in the Gaza Strip says that a man who was wounded several days ago in clashes with Israeli forces on the border has succumbed to his wounds.
It does not say exactly when the man, whom it names as Nasser al-Arini, 28, was wounded.
AG decries ‘attack’ on police and judiciary by lawmakers
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit takes aim at recent legislative initiatives that are apparently designed to hinder investigations of public officials, calling them an “attack on both the “independence” of the law enforcement system and the public’s trust in that system.
He also attacks a bill that would allow the Knesset to relegislate any law struck down by the Supreme Court on constitutional grounds.
“Attempts to weaken the Supreme Court and the law enforcement bodies will lead to a general weakening of the rule of law in the country, including a weakening of Israel’s defenses in the international arena,” Mandelblit says at a conference of the Israel Bar Association in Eilat.
His comments come a day after a Likud lawmaker proposed limiting the ability of the media and the public to scrutinize the behavior of public figures.
Miki Zohar’s bill seeks to prohibit the media from reporting on the opening of police investigations into public figures, unless they have special permission, Hadashot TV news reported Sunday.
Furthermore, he has suggested limiting the authority of police to open a probe into a public figure unless they already have a solid evidentiary basis for doing so, the report said.
Zohar claimed that the proposed legislation was aimed at protecting MKs who were critical of the police from the police taking revenge.
It was one of a series of proposals that critics say aim to shield Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other right-wing politicians from corruption investigations.
IDF shells Hamas positions in response to shooting from Gaza
According to Israeli reports, an IDF tank, and possibly aircraft as well, opens fire on Hamas positions after soldiers come under fire.
Palestinian sources confirm that Israeli forces have shelled targets in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip.
According to the Gaza health ministry, one person has been moderately injured by shrapnel.
France says slated demolition of Bedouin village a source of ‘deep concern’
France expresses “deep concern” over the demolition of the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar slated to take place next month after the High Court of Justice rejected an appeal by residents to void the evacuation.
The French Foreign Ministry says in a statement that the razing of the West Bank town outside the Israeli settlement of Kfar Adumim violates international law and “constitutes an immediate threat to a very vulnerable Palestinian community… located in a strategically important area for a two-state solution.”
The statement calls on Israeli authorities not to carry out the demolition and “refrain from taking measures aimed at expanding and perpetuating the settlements.”
— Jacob Magid
IDF says soldiers came under fire while arresting Palestinians who crossed fence
In its first comments on the incident in Gaza, the IDF says shots were fired at a group of Israeli soldiers as they were arresting two Palestinians who infiltrated into Israel from the Strip.
In response, an IDF tank fired at a nearby observation post, the army says.
The Palestinians who breached the security fence were found to be in possession of bolt cutters, knives and flammable liquid. They were handed over to the Shin Bet for questioning.
No Israeli soldiers are reported injured.
— Judah Ari Gross
Roman Abramovich immigrates to Israel — reports
Roman Abramovich, the Russian-Jewish billionaire owner of the Chelsea soccer club, has immigrated to Israel, according to Hebrew-language reports.
Abramovich landed in Ben Gurion International earlier today, the reports say, and received an Israeli identity card, to which he is entitled under Israeli law as a Jewish person.
His British visa expired last month. His previous visa was granted before more rigorous regulations were instituted in April 2015.
Abramovich formally has residency in Jersey in the Channel Islands, a tax haven, but has never taken it up. The Sunday Times put his wealth at 9.3 billion pounds ($12.5 billion) on its Rich List this year. He has owned Chelsea since 2003.
He will be the richest person in Israel.
— with JTA
Iran denies report of talks with Israeli officials in Jordan
Iran denies a report in the Saudi-owned daily Elaph that said Israeli and Iranian officials conducted indirect talks in Amman over the weekend.
#Iran MFA spox Qasemi denied indirect negotiations between Iran & #Israel in #Jordan: ‘This claim is basically untrue & fabricated. Iran does not recognize the fake, terrorist & occupant regime of Israel & that the purpose of such lies is clear.’
— Abas Aslani (@AbasAslani) May 28, 2018
In rare move, Russian embassy to host National Day party in Jerusalem
The Russian embassy in Israel is hosting its annual National Day reception in Jerusalem, in a nod to Moscow’s recent recognition of the western part of the city as Israel’s capital.
Russia’s incoming ambassador, Anatoly Viktorov, is inviting guests to a June 14 reception at Sergei’s Courtyard, a historic complex in the Jerusalem neighborhood known as the Russian Compound, which Israeli authorities handed to Russia a decade ago in a goodwill gesture.
In April 2017, Russia in a surprise move recognized western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. However, Moscow has made plain that it considers the eastern part of the city the capital of a future Palestinian state and vehemently opposed the US administration’s December 6 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
— Raphael Ahren
Cop suspected of breaking activist’s knee put on leave
A police officer who is accused of breaking the knee of a prominent Arab Israeli rights activist during a demonstration in Haifa in solidarity with Gaza earlier this month has been put on leave, a spokesperson for the Israel Police says.
The unnamed officer was questioned under caution last week by the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department (PIID) regarding the events surrounding the alleged assault of Jafar Farah, director of the NGO Mossawa, the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel.
The officer denied he used any physical force against Farah.
“When the ministry of justice concludes the investigation, the police will decide if and what disciplinary or administrative steps should be taken,” the spokesperson says.
“The police are continuing the investigation into the disturbances that took place in Haifa when 21 people were arrested for public disturbances,” he adds.
Hamas implies man killed in Gaza is a member
Hamas appears to acknowledge that the Palestinian who was killed in an Israeli counterstrike in Gaza today is a member of the terror group.
The dead man, who is named as Mohammed al-Rudeia, 30, was a “fighter,” Hamas’s Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades military wing says, using an accolade usually only given to its own members.
— with AFP
MKs pass bill stripping High Court’s power to adjudicate West Bank land disputes
The Knesset passes in its first reading, by 47 to 45, a bill that would strip the High Court of Justice of its jurisdiction in cases regarding West Bank land disputes.
The legislation would require Palestinians who claim ownership of land that has been built on by Israeli settlers to first petition the Jerusalem District Court.
Certain land ownership petitions would still be able to be heard by the High Court, but they would have to go through the district court first.
Although the official purpose of the bill is to lighten the load on the High Court, a Justice Ministry official told The Times of Israel in February that Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked views the High Court as “overly concerned with international law and with protecting the rights of the ‘occupied’ population in Judea and Samaria.”
The Jerusalem District Court, however, is often more concerned with the testimonies of the specific case at hand, focusing less on broader geopolitical implications, the official explained.
After the plenum vote, opposition lawmakers warn that the bill is part of a larger drive to annex and expropriate parts of the West Bank.
— with Jacob Magid
Israeli official says now’s the time to drive wedge between Russia, Iran
An Israeli official says that Russia may be turning on Iran in Syria, and will seek to “change fundamentally the strategic situation” in the war-torn country, where Iranian forces have been seeking to establish a foothold.
“My assessment is that the Russians are interested in stabilizing their achievements in Syria,” Intelligence Ministry Director General Chagai Tzuriel tells Britain’s Telegraph.
“I think they understand that if the Iranians continue on the present course, this will lead to escalation and will blow their plans out of the water,” he says.
His comments are published hours after the Russian foreign minister said that only Syria should be allowed to place soldiers near the southern borders with Israel and Jordan.
They also followed comments by Prime Minister Netanyahu to the effect that Iran should be ousted entirely from Syria.
Tzuriel is quoted as saying that recent Israeli airstrikes in Syria against Iranian and regime targets are driving a wedge between Iran and Russia. Also contributing to that tension, he says, is the US’s recent withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.
“I think this is a moment pregnant with opportunity. My assessment is that the situation we’re in is an opportune moment to try to change fundamentally the strategic situation,” he is quoted as saying.
Police said to arrest 3 suspects in theft of soldier’s gun
Reports say police have arrested three suspects in the theft at gun point of an IDF soldier’s rifle yesterday.
After the incident, the soldier told police he was at the Beit Kama junction north of Beersheba when four people got out of a car and threatened him with a pistol, before taking the gun and fleeing the scene.
Report: AG inclined to indict Netanyahu for bribery in Milchan case
Israel’s Kan public broadcaster reports that the attorney general is leaning toward indicting Netanyahu on bribery charges in so-called Case 1000.
The case, which police handed over to the prosecution in February with recommendations for a bribery charge, involves suspicions that the prime minister and his wife, Sara, received illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, totaling NIS 1 million ($282,000), in exchange for various favors.
It is one of three cases involving the prime minister.
EU foreign ministers seek to keep Iran nuclear deal alive
The European Union is seeking to shield the bloc’s strategic and economic interests in Iran in the wake of the US withdrawal from the international nuclear deal, as the EU foreign policy chief insists that the unity of the member states is unquestioned.
Federica Mogherini says after a meeting of EU foreign ministers that the member states are intensely coordinating their efforts “to protect the economic investments of European businesses that have legitimately invested and engaged in Iran” over the past three years since the nuclear deal was agreed.
Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz, however, says that Poland opposes any EU actions that would weaken US sanctions.
The US pulled out of the pact earlier this month, and wants to impose tough sanctions on Iran, which also might also have an impact on some European companies doing business with Tehran.
European powers say they are committed to keep working together to save the deal because they believe it is the best way to keep Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.
Mogherini insists the EU is not motivated by business profits in trying to keep the deal alive.
“For us, this is not about an economic interest. It is about a security interest,” she says.
Mogherini also downplays reports of friction between Poland and the rest of the EU over how to deal with US President Donald Trump and his hard-line stance toward Tehran.
Mogherini contends that the EU as a whole also shares some of Trump’s concerns when it comes to Iran’s role in the Middle East and its ballistic missile program.
Overall, though, she says, “the first concern we share is one related to the possibility for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon” and sticking to the nuclear deal was the best way to prevent that.
PM touts new defense plan featuring ‘quantum technology’
Netanyahu announces what he says will be a new security plan featuring “quantum technology.”
Addressing a conference in Jerusalem, the prime minister says: “A team of experts will advance Israel in areas that are crucial to security.”
The program, he continues, “will advance Israel in quantum technology, among other things.”
Incendiary kite from Gaza appears to cause fire near kibbutz
A brush fire breaks out in fields around Kibbutz Kissufim, near the Gaza border, apparently caused by an incendiary kite flown into Israel from the Strip.
“Firefighters from the western Negev region are working to put out the blaze,” a spokesperson for the Fire and Rescue Service says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Croatia blocks extradition of suspect in Hamas man’s killing
Croatia’s top court blocks the extradition of a Bosnian man to Tunisia over the alleged murder of an aerospace engineer, described by the Palestinian terror movement Hamas as one of its members.
Mohamed Zaouari, 49, was killed in a hail of bullets outside his house in Tunisia’s second city Sfax in December 2016.
“The Supreme Court accepted the appeal of the suspect… and rejected the request for extradition from the Republic of Tunisia,” the court says in a statement.
At a hearing on May 8, the lower court said it had established that “legal preconditions” had been met for the extradition of Alen Camdzic, 46, who has been named by local media.
The final decision will be made by the justice minister.
The suspect was arrested in Croatia on March 13 on an international warrant and has been held in custody since, the court, in Velika Gorica, near Zagreb, said in a statement.
Camdzic’s arrest was announced by Tunisian prosecutors, who said they believed that two people with Bosnian passports had carried out the assassination.
The second suspect, Elvir Sarac, was briefly detained in Sarajevo earlier this week, but released when a court refused to hand him over to Tunisia, saying there was no extradition deal between the countries.
Shortly after his death, Hamas said he was a drone expert who had worked for the “resistance” for a decade for a decade, before being killed by “Zionist treachery.”
Israel has not responded to accusations that it was behind the killing.