The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they happened.
NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says he is running for president.
The Democrat announces his bid with a video released by his campaign early this morning.
In announcing his candidacy, de Blasio is seeking to claim a role on the national stage that has eluded him as mayor of the biggest US city.
The 58-year-old could face obstacles in distinguishing himself in a field crowded with left-leaning Democrats.
He also faces skepticism at home. A recent poll found 76% of New Yorkers say they believe he shouldn’t run.
De Blasio has shrugged off bad polls, saying he believes his message of fighting financial inequality will resonate with everyday Americans.
On the campaign trail, he’ll be able to cite accomplishments such as expanding full-day prekindergarten citywide.
Iran says it has successfully tested a firewall to prevent cyberattacks on industrial facilities.
Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi says in a post on his Instagram page that the firewall was designed by Iranian students, without providing further details.
Iran blamed Israel for a cyberattack on its communications infrastructure in November.
The Islamic Republic moved to boost its cyber capabilities in 2011 after the Stuxnet computer virus destroyed thousands of centrifuges involved in its contested nuclear program. Stuxnet is widely believed to be an American and Israeli creation.
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. از حمله استاکسنت حتما شنیدین! #خبرخوب اینکه، امروز یک گزارش دریافت کردم. از مدتی قبل با سفارش سازمان فناوری اطلاعات، دانشمندان جوان دانشگاههای ایران، یک سپر دفاعی (فایروال) برای سیستمهای اتوماسیون صنعتی ساخته بودند که عملا خرابکاری صنعتی مثل استاکسنت را در شبکههای برق و امثال آن خنثی میکنه. این سپر، موفقیتآمیز آزمایش شد. در روز جهانی ارتباطات، از این دستاورد بیشتر خواهیم گفت. پ.ن: برای افزایش تابآوری زیرساختهای حیاتی، لازم است که این تجهیزات در شبکههای مورد نظر نصب شود که طبیعتا این موضوع با هماهنگی مرکز ملی فضای مجازی، عملیاتی خواهد شد. با تکیه به #جوانان، از تهدیدات فرصت میسازیم.
A post shared by Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi (@azarijahromi) on
The High Court of Justice rejects an appeal against the shuttering of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount to Jewish visitors on Jerusalem Day, which marks Israel’s capture of the holy site and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War.
This year’s Jerusalem Day, which falls on June 1, will coincide with the final days of Ramadan, when the Temple Mount is always closed to non-Muslim visitors.
The last time the Temple Mount was closed to Jews on Jerusalem Day was in 1988, when it also coincided with the end of Ramadan.
Each year, tens of thousands of Israelis mark the anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification in a parade through Jerusalem’s Old City that is frequently marked by tension with local Palestinians.
Police file charges against an Israeli man for spitting on Poland’s ambassador to Israel earlier this week.
The indictment alleges Arik Lederman, a 65-year-old resident of Herzliya, showed up at the Polish embassy in Tel Aviv, banged on the roof of Ambassador Marek Magierowski’s car and spat at him twice.
Lederman is charged with assault and making threats.
He apologized yesterday over the incident, which came amid already strained ties between the countries amid Warsaw’s refusal to discuss restitution for Jewish properties seized during the Holocaust.
Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations says the Islamic Republic is not interested in escalating regional tensions but has the “right to defend ourselves.”
Majid Takht-e Ravanchi makes the comments in an interview Thursday on NPR’s “Morning Edition.”
Ravanchi says: “We are not interested in the escalation of tensions in our region. If something goes wrong, everyone loses.”
However, he adds: “It is our right to be prepared. It is our right to defend ourselves.” He accuses the US and regional nations of airing “false allegations” about Iran.
In recent days, the United Arab Emirates has alleged four oil tankers off its east coast were targeted in sabotage attacks, while Iranian-allied rebels in Yemen launched a coordinated drone attack on Saudi Arabia.
The US has sent an aircraft carrier and bombers into the Mideast to counter a still-unexplained threat it perceives from Tehran.
CAIRO — Egypt says five soldiers and dozens of militants were killed in recent clashes in the country’s restive northern Sinai Peninsula.
Military spokesman Tamer al-Rifai issues a statement saying the five slain troops included an officer. He says four were wounded and as many as 47 militants were killed.
The statement doesn’t specify when the clashes took place. The last update on Sinai released by al-Rifai was on March 11.
The statement says scores of militant hideouts and much ammunition and bombs were uncovered. It says the bombs were safely detonated by the Egyptian forces.
Egypt has been battling Islamic militants in Sinai for years. The area remains off limits for journalists, diplomats and other observers so information from there cannot be independently verified.
US President Donald Trump will discuss setting up a channel to communicate with Iran when he hosts his Swiss counterpart at the White House today, CNN reports.
Trump has recently said he wants to hold talks with Iran, but Iranian leaders have said they will not negotiate with the US. The two countries are at odds over the international agreement meant to curb Iran’s nuclear program — which Trump pulled out of last year — as well as Tehran’s support for groups in the Middle East such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen.
As the US and Iran have no diplomatic ties, the Swiss embassy in Tehran handles US interests in the country. Switzerland also hosted negotiations to finalize the nuclear deal.
TOKYO — Iran’s foreign minister says there is “no possibility” of negotiations with the United States to reduce spiraling tensions, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reports.
“No, there is no possibility for negotiations,” the news agency cites Mohammad Javad Zarif as telling reporters in Tokyo, where he is meeting with Japanese officials.
Kyodo says the comment was in response to a question on whether he would be open to bilateral talks with Washington aimed at easing tensions.
It doesn’t immediately carry additional comments from Zarif, but public broadcaster NHK also quotes the foreign minister as describing US pressure on Iran as an “act of suicide.”
Zarif also reportedly dismisses US President Donald Trump’s assertion in a tweet that Iran would soon seek negotiations.
“I don’t know why President Trump is confident, but it’s totally wrong,” NHK quotes Zarif as saying.
The quotes on NHK are published in Japanese, and it isn’t immediately clear whether they are translated from English or Farsi.
The top Iranian diplomat, who met with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday, earlier accused Washington of an “unacceptable” escalation in tensions, and said Tehran was showing “maximum restraint.”
Madonna has signed a contract to perform at the Eurovision Song Contest in Israel, ending uncertainty after calls for her to boycott the event, the Kan public broadcaster announces.
“Now it’s official,” Kan, which is producing the event with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), writes on its website.
“After some tense days, a contract between Madonna and the Eurovision producers was signed today,” it says.
The 60-year-old pop diva said Tuesday she was determined to perform at the contest finals in Tel Aviv on Saturday.
But the EBU had said the day before that the final contract for her participation had yet to be finalized.
Sky News is reporting that the UK has raised the threat level for British personnel in Iraq because of a heightened risk from Iran.
Sky also says on Thursday that British forces and diplomats in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar have also been placed on an increased state of alert.
The Ministry of Defense declines to comment. But it said Wednesday that it recognizes threats in the region to British, American and coalition forces and acts accordingly.
The ministry says it keeps “the security of our deployed personnel and assets under constant review” and that it has a “very robust range of force protection measures.”
It says that Britain “has long been clear about our concerns over Iran’s destabilizing behavior in the region.”
BAGHDAD — Two key pro-Iran Iraqi armed groups Thursday reject a US claim of an “imminent” threat against American personnel that prompted Washington to order the evacuation of some staff from its Baghdad embassy.
Nasr al-Shomari, a military commander for the Iran-backed Harakat al-Nujaba, tells AFP the claim was “a pretext” by Washington to create “an uproar” in Iraq.
The head of the pro-Iran Asaib Ahl al-Haq group, Layth al-Azari, says the allegations are part of a “psychological war” by the United States.
The mother of the Palestinian terrorist who shot to death two Israelis at the West Bank’s Barkan Industrial Park in October is convicted by a military court for failing to stop the attack.
The judge says that Wafaa Na’alowa was aware of her son’s desire “to become a martyr” and carry out an attack on Israelis but did not report him to authorities.
Ashraf Na’alowa, the assailant, was killed in December following a two-month manhunt after opening fire at Israeli forces who came to arrest him.
הרשעתה של וופא נעאלווה: לפי כתב האישום, המחבל שביצע את הפיגוע בברקן הזהיר את אמו שבוע מראש כי כוחות הביטחון יגיעו לביתם לבצע חיפושים, ואף הורה לה לרוקן את הבית מחפצים יקרי ערך. וופא, שידעה מראש על כוונתו של הבנה, לא ניסתה לעצור בעדו
(אורלי אלקלעי) pic.twitter.com/bRVqW61y8e
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) May 16, 2019
UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt says he and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are on the same page regarding “the heightened threat posed by Iran.”
Hunt’s tweet came after a British general in the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group said earlier in the week there was no increased threat in Iraq and Syria from Iran, contradicting American assessments and drawing a rebuke from the US military.
.@SecPompeo and I discussed #Iran last week in London and again in Brussels on Monday. We share the same assessment of the heightened threat posed by Iran. As always we work closely with the US ???????? ????????
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) May 16, 2019
Two construction workers have died after falling today at building sites in central Israel.
One of the workers died after falling five stories in Petah Tikva, while the other fell three stories in Bnei Brak.
Their deaths bring the total number of workers killed in construction accidents this year to 16, according to the Haaretz daily.
BOSTON — A fire outside the suburban Boston home of a rabbi that serves at a Chabad center is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
Police in Arlington, Massachusetts, have asked for the public’s help in identifying a person caught on a neighbor’s video camera walking away from the home Saturday night around the time of the fire.
Firefighters put out the small fire that burned the shingles of one side of the Center for Jewish Life in Arlington-Belmont, home to Rabbi Avi Bukiet, his wife and their three children.
Police and town officials have no evidence yet that the location or its Jewish homeowners were targeted because of their religion, but “are leaving open and actively investigating the possibility of a hate crime,” according to a statement from Julie Flaherty, the town’s acting chief of police, and Christine Bongiorno, director of the Health and Human Services Department.
Police have added extra patrols to the home and the area.
Arlington, which is less than 10 miles northwest of Boston, has seen a number of anti-Semitic and racist incidents in recent years, including a widely reported incident one year ago in which 14 juveniles admitted to painting anti-Semitic and homophobic graffiti and vandalism at the public high school.
A state-aligned Saudi newspaper is calling for “surgical” US strikes in retaliation against alleged threats from Iran.
The Arab News published an editorial in English today, arguing that after incidents this week against Saudi energy targets, the next logical step “should be surgical strikes.”
The editorial says US airstrikes in Syria, when the government there was suspected of using chemical weapons against civilians, “set a precedent.”
It adds that it’s “clear that [US] sanctions are not sending the right message” and that “they must be hit hard,” in reference to Iran, without elaborating on what specific targets should be struck.
The newspaper’s publisher is the Saudi Research and Marketing Group, a company that had long been chaired by various sons of King Salman until 2014 and is regarded as reflecting official position.
Yisrael Beytenu says it is “making every effort” to help form a right-wing government but won’t compromise on party chief Avigdor Liberman’s demands for joining a coalition.
Liberman announced earlier this week he would hold no further coalition negotiations unless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party agrees to five conditions he laid out, threatening to take his party to the opposition.
“We’re making every effort to form a true right-wing government and are ready to go ahead with our potential partners on all matters, except for the five clauses,” Yisrael Beytenu says in a statement.
While saying it would reluctantly support a bill increasing the number of government ministers and an expanded version of the “Norwegian Law,” the party cites a lack of agreement on the “critical issues” of granting Liberman a larger say on security policy and proposed legislation concerning military conscription for ultra-Orthodox seminary students.
“Until we receive a positive response on these points, we see no reason for a meeting of the negotiating teams,” it says.
WASHINGTON — Congressional leaders are receiving a classified briefing on Iran as members of both parties demand more information on the White House’s claims of rising threats in the Middle East.
The briefing today with the so-called Gang of Eight comes after Democratic lawmakers warned US President Donald Trump against war with Iran and criticized the White House for not keeping Congress informed of the rising threat in the Middle East.
The US yesterday ordered all nonessential personnel to leave Iraq, and last week an aircraft carrier group and B-52 bombers were shifted to the Gulf region.
The White House says the actions are in response to an increased threat from Iran, but they are being met with skepticism in the US and among foreign allies.
US President Donald Trump says he hopes currently heightened tensions with Iran do not descend into war.
“I hope not,” Trump says in response to a reporter’s question ahead of his meeting at the White House with the Swiss president.
Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar says he opposes proposed legislation that would grant immunity to serving lawmakers, which critics charge is meant to shield Prime Minister Netanyahu from prosecution in a series of corruption cases.
Speaking with Channel 12 news, Sa’ar says the passage of such a bill “will hurt Likud” and won’t help Netanyahu.
“Legislation like this has no benefit and maximum harm,” he says. “There are additional Likud members who are bothered by legislation like this.”
Sa’ar, a former Likud minister, was reelected to the Knesset in April’s elections following a hiatus from politics. Seen as a future Likud leader, Sa’ar has been accused by Netanyahu of scheming to remove him from power, a charge he has vociferously denied.
Following the interview, the network quotes Likud sources accusing Sa’ar of “being self-righteous” and working against Netanyahu.
WASHINGTON — A US official says today that Iranian missiles loaded on small boats in the Persian Gulf were among the “threats” that have triggered a beefed-up military deployment in the region.
“The missiles on civilian boats are a concern,” says the official, who asks not to be named.
The official is confirming reports in The New York Times saying that Washington reacted to aerial photos from US intelligence agencies showing traditional boats carrying Iranian missiles in the Gulf, one of the world’s most strategic waterways.
The fully-assembled missiles were loaded on the boats by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, which the US has designated a foreign terrorist organization, the newspaper reported.
“What the military and the intelligence are concerned about is the intent,” the US official tells AFP.
The Trump administration has been ramping up pressure on Tehran for the past 10 days, reinforcing its military presence in the Gulf region to ward off what it warned were Iranian threats to US assets and allies there, without providing any evidence of the danger.
The Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, did not deny the shipment of the missiles in an interview with National Public Radio.
A source in the Likud party slams Gideon Sa’ar after he said he would oppose legislation that would shield Prime Minister Netanyahu from corruption charges.
“It isn’t for nothing that the left-wing media keeps embracing Sa’ar because he never misses an opportunity to undermine Netanyahu and try to topple him,” the source says.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia has reopened a key oil pipeline after it was shut down by drone attacks claimed by Iran-aligned Yemen rebels, an official says Thursday.
The official from state oil giant Aramco tells AFP that the East West Pipeline “is fully operational.”
Yemen’s Houthi rebels had claimed responsibility Tuesday for twin drone strikes on the pipeline from the oil-rich Eastern Province to the Red Sea coast.
The second round of the semifinal of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest kicks off in Tel Aviv.
Unless you are living in the United States, you can watch the livestream on the Times of Israel website.
Following the countdown to the start of the semifinal, a huge cheer erupts at the announcement that Madonna is confirmed to perform at the international song contest’s Saturday finale.
Srbuk, the 24-year-old pop and soul singer whose career took off after taking the runner-up spot in “X Factor Armenia” in 2011, gets a huge round of applause after her performance of “Walking Out.”
Crowd waves Irish flags and sings along to Irish performer Sarah McTernan’s “22.”
Moldova’s Anna Odobescu takes the stage against a dramatic backdrop of live art and performs the song “Lyrics of Stay.”
The crowd applauds to the impressive special effects.
Swiss singer Luca Hanni is getting a great response from the audience as his four backup dancers move to the beat against a flaming red backdrop.
His big smile and killer dance moves gets huge cheers from the crowd.
Performer Sabine Zuga sings “That Night” while getting lots of love from the audience.
It’s the 20th time Romania has participated in the Eurovision competition and no victory yet, but the country has finished in the top five on three occasions.
Twenty-year-old Leonora is talented beyond singing – she’s also an accomplished figure skater who won the Danish championship three times and participated in the Junior World Championships.
If you are watching the livestream on Times of Israel, you can sing along too… the chorus is:
Love is forever
Love is forever and everyone
Love is forever
Love is forever and everyone
Tens of thousands of people are gathered at Tel Aviv’s Eurovision village to watch the semifinal broadcast, though police are asking people not to come to the area due to the large crowds. More than 50,000 people watched the first semifinal in the Eurovision village on Tuesday night. Tonight the city is also hosting White Night events throughout the city, drawing even larger crowds.
John Lundvik hopes to move Sweden back into the win column and add a seventh Eurovision title for his country. What was Sweden’s first victory? ABBA, of course!
The jazzy style of PÆNDA’s song “Limits” is a big change from the glitzy acts before her, but she garners huge cheers at the end of her song.
Belting out his song “The Dream,” Roko is hoping his lyrics will come true for Saturday’s final: “A dream as beautiful as it is extreme”
There are great special effects as Michela sings “Chameleon,” with the lighting and background changing to her lyrics.
Lithuania’s Jurij Veklenko is already an accomplished pop star at home.
The crowd is waving hands and flags as he finishes by telling the crowd “let your heart free and go wild!”
The Russian star previously represented his country in 2016, where he finished third.
And the answer is a big yes – the audience erupts in cheer as Lazarev is announced. Don’t try this at home… Eurovision just showed him doing parkour on Jerusalem’s Old City walls.
Is he really singing in the rain? Impressive visual effects during his song “Scream” ends with huge cheers, but are viewers at home sending in their votes?
Against jets of fire on stage, Jonida Maliqi sings “Restore the Earth,” or “Ktheju tokës” in Albanian.
KEiiNO is singing “Spirit in the Sky” and trying to get Norway’s fourth Eurovision championship.
He may be one of the favorites and is solo on stage singing at a piano.
The crowd is singing along with his chorus:
Oh, oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh
All I know, all I know
Loving you is a losing game
No doubt, thousands of people at home are doing the same.
North Macedonia and Azerbaijan are the final two performances… tension is building.
She’s singing “raise your voice and sing out loud” and the crowd is cheering her on.
Tamara gives a big “thank you” to the crowd… looking like she thinks she hit it right on… the votes are coming up soon!
His tempo had the audience going and he’s finishing off with them on their feet.
Chingiz has been moving up the ladder… almost time to find out who the winners of the semifinals are.
The hosts are reminding viewers to register their votes via the Eurovision app or mobile phone.
As Eurovision fans around the world vote for their favorite songs, the rules are that you cannot vote for your own country.
Half of the votes come from viewers and the other half are determined by the Eurovision jury. Who are they?
Eurovision says: “The other half of the result of both the Semi-Finals as well as the Final will be determined by professional juries. In each country, five music industry professionals, such as song writers, composers, radio presenters and singers, gather to listen to the songs with professional eyes and ears. They have been asked to judge the vocals, the quality and originality of the songs, the acts and the overall impression of the performance. All judges signed a declaration stating that they are not related to any of the contestants in such a way that they cannot vote independently, and their judging process is being monitored by an independent notary in each country. All judges must be citizens of the countries they are voting from.”
The band of special-needs performers from Israel is now singing.
Singing a hit song from the musical The Greatest Showman, Shalva gets the first standing ovation of the evening.
Here is a reminder of the 18 countries, singers and their songs that were performed this evening. Ten of them will be at the gala final on Saturday night:
Armenia – Srbuk with Walking Out
Ireland – Sarah McTernan with 22
Moldova – Anna Odobescu with Stay
Switzerland – Luca Hänni with She Got Me
Latvia – Carousel with That Night
Romania – Ester Peony with On A Sunday.
Denmark – Leonora with Love Is Forever
Sweden – John Lundvik with Too Late For Love
Austria – PÆNDA with Limits
Croatia – Roko with The Dream
Malta – Michela with Chameleon
Lithuania – Jurij Veklenko with Run With The Lions
Russia – Sergey Lazarev with Scream
Albania – Jonida Maliqi with Ktheju tokës
Norway – KEiiNO with Spirit In The Sky
The Netherlands – Duncan Laurence with Arcade
North Macedonia – Tamara Todevska with Proud
Azerbaijan – Chingiz with Truth
Votes from Eurovision fans around the world are being added up and combined with the decisions of the judging panels.
As that is taking place, Eurovision is showing a medley of the top hits from the last six decades of the contest.
Meet Shalva. They’re one the most beloved musical acts in Israel. And it’s not because they inspire us to think differently about challenges and acceptance.
— Eurovision (@Eurovision) May 16, 2019
The thousands of people in the audience were on their phones voting up to the last minute available.
Israelis, as part of big six, can’t actually vote in second semifinal, and neither can anyone from big five (France, Italy, Germany, UK and Spain).
Of course, it all remains to be seen Saturday night when the big five plus Israel take the stage with the other finalists.
As the great recognition moments in Eurovision history, created by Israeli Ophir Kutiel, was shown, people in the audience were pointing at the screen at their favorites.
— Eurovision (@Eurovision) May 16, 2019
Many fans said they were kind of hoping that Madonna would show up tonight, but there’s no sign of the American diva.
Not making the cut for the finals are Armenia, Ireland, Moldova, Latvia, Romania, Austria, Croatia and mighty Lithuania.
That’s it. mention Madonna’s upcoming performance at the Saturday final and the crowd heads for the exits.
Outside the concert venue, Tel Aviv is just starting to party as the city marks its annual White Night all-night festival. The annual city-wide hootenanny is usual held in early June, but organizers moved it earlier to coincide with Eurovision.
That’s it for our liveblog until Saturday evening ahead of the Eurovision Grand Finale.
Until then, goodnight and good luck.
Residents and visitors in downtown Tel Aviv are facing huge traffic jams this afternoon, as the city gears up for the Eurovision final later this evening.
Herbert Samuel Esplanade is gridlocked for vehicles traveling in both directions, and the areas adjacent to Charles Clore Park, home of the Eurovision Village, is also blocked to most traffic.
Police said all of the parking garages in and around the Eurovision Village are at capacity, and have started to direct traffic in the area.
The Netherlands and Australia are the bookmakers’ favorites going into tonight’s Eurovision song contest finals.
Dutch contestant Duncan Laurence — whose chances of winning are close to even — hopes to end a 44-year drought for the Netherlands in the long-running spectacle, when he sits at the piano to sing his power ballad “Arcade.”
— Eurovision (@Eurovision) May 16, 2019
He came out as bisexual in 2016 and has called for tolerance and understanding, saying his love of music provided a refuge during a difficult upbringing as a “mini-Harry Potter lookalike.”
Despite only coming into the competition in the last few years, Australia is ranked as the second strongest contender, with odds on the Eurovision site giving it an 11 percent chance of winning.
— DW Culture (@dw_culture) May 14, 2019
Dressed in an extravagant white dress, Kate Miller-Heidke’s version of “Zero Gravity” appears likely to propel her to stardom far beyond her country’s own borders.
— with AFP