The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they unfolded.
Saudi Arabia intercepts Yemeni rebel missile over Riyadh
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen’s Shiite rebels says a missile fired over Riyadh has been intercepted. The Yemeni rebels say they targeted the royal palace in the kingdom’s capital.
The announcement by the coalition is carried by Saudi state TV on Tuesday as people in the kingdom post videos on social media showing a small cloud of smoke in the sky.
Meanwhile, Mohammed Abdul-Salam, spokesman for the Shiite rebels in Yemen, says they fired a ballistic missile targeting the Yamama palace. Abdul-Salam tweets that a ballistic “Volcano H-2” missile was used in the attack.
— Saudi Gazette (@Saudi_Gazette) December 19, 2017
Mother of Palestinian girl filmed hitting troops arrested
Police arrest the mother of a Palestinian girl filmed slapping and harassing IDF soldiers in the West Bank on suspicion of assault and harassment.
A lawyer for the mother tells Haaretz she was arrested by police while trying to learn what happened to her daughter, who the army said earlier Monday was arrested overnight for taking part in violent riots in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on Friday.
Teva workers block street near PM’s office ahead of meeting with CEO
Some 2,000 employees of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries block Jerusalem’s Zusman Street, which runs near the Prime Minister’s Office, ahead of Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with the company’s CEO over Teva’s plan to lay off some 1,700 Israeli workers.
The demonstrators try to enter the Prime Minister’s Office, but are blocked by police.
Decked out for Pence’s visit, Jerusalem forced to store away flags, barriers
Flags and security barriers set up for US Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Jerusalem “will be taken down and kept for the visit whenever it takes place,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman says.
There is no word on the cost of the preparations.
Pence was set to arrive in Israel on Wednesday, but the White House said Monday his visit would be delayed until an unknown date in mid-January due to the Trump administration’s current efforts to shepherd tax reform through Congress.
— Raphael Ahren
1 of 2 Swedish synagogue firebomb suspects released
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A Swedish prosecutor says one of two men held for allegedly throwing firebombs at a synagogue in the Swedish city of Goteborg has been released.
Stina Lundqvist says the 18-year-old man, who is not further identified in line with Swedish practice, remains a suspect in the December 16 attack in Sweden’s second largest city.
She says there is not sufficient evidence to keep him jailed while police investigate the attack. No one was injured and the firebombs didn’t damage the building.
Iran condemns US veto of UN Jerusalem resolution
Iran condemns the United States veto of a UN Security Council resolution rejecting US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which it calls “provocative and unwise.”
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi says the US administration “showed its lack of compliance with international resolutions by its provocative and unwise decision to recognize Al-Quds as the capital of the Zionist occupying regime.”
He says Washington’s veto despite the rest of the council supporting the resolution “proved that it seeks a compromise by trampling on the legal rights of all Palestinians.”
Ghasemi’s statement says Tehran was unsurprised by the American recognition, given its “racist and hostile policies that unilaterally back the Al-Quds occupiers.”
Iran “strongly condemns this move and urges all countries and the international community to… prevent its implementation to preserve international peace and security,” he adds.
UN: Israel probe of Palestinian amputee’s death insufficient
GENEVA — The UN human rights office says an internal Israeli military probe that cleared troops of any wrongdoing in the death of a paraplegic Palestinian protester was “insufficient.”
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein calls for an independent and impartial investigation.
He says “facts” gathered by his staffers strongly suggest that excessive force was used against 29-year-old Ibrahim Abu Thraya, who used a wheelchair.
Palestinian health officials say Abu Thraya was shot in the head while demonstrating Friday in Gaza amid unrest following US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Israel’s military says no live fire was aimed at Abu Thraya and it was impossible to determine the cause of death.
Teva CEO meets with Netanyahu, Kahlon over planned layoffs
Teva CEO Kare Schultz meets with Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon regarding the pharmaceutical giant’s plans to lay off around 1,700 Israeli workers and close some of its factories in the country.
Employees of the company are demonstrating against the planned job cuts outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, where the meeting is taking place.
Iran summons Swiss envoy over missile remarks by Nikki Haley
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s official news agency reports that the foreign ministry has summoned the Swiss envoy to Tehran to protest remarks by the US ambassador to the United Nations.
The Tuesday report from IRNA says that Iran strongly protested “uncalculated and baseless” allegations by Nikki Haley, who displayed parts of a missile last week as “undeniable” evidence that Tehran has been arming Yemen’s Shiite rebels.
The Swiss Embassy in Iran looks after US interests because Washington and Tehran don’t have diplomatic relations.
Macron slams Assad for comments on France supporting terror
PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron hits back at his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad’s allegations that France supported terrorism in Syria, insisting that the US-led international coalition should be credited for the military successes against the Islamic State group.
Speaking after a meeting today with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, Macron says that Assad’s comments were “unacceptable” because France’s priority is “the war against Daesh,” using an Arabic term for the group.
Macron is reacting to comments made by Assad, who said earlier this week that France had no right to be involved in the peace process because “since the beginning France has been the spearhead of supporting terrorism in Syria.”
Macron reiterates that Assad can’t be ignored in the peace process when IS is defeated in Syria.
Pope, Jordan’s king talk US Jerusalem recognition
VATICAN CITY, Holy See — Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Pope Francis discuss the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as well as the former’s role as custodian of the city’s Muslim and Christian holy sites.
“My dear friend and brother,” says Abdullah as he greets the pontiff at the Vatican, presenting him a painting of Jerusalem’s Old City, featuring the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Vatican says the pair had “cordial conversations focused above all on the theme of the promotion of peace and stability in the Mideast, with particular reference to the question of Jerusalem.”
They discuss “the role of the Hashemite Sovereign as Custodian of the Holy Places” and pledge “to encourage negotiations among the interested parties, as well as promoting inter-religious dialogue,” it says in a statement.
Egypt court sentences presidential hopeful to 6 years
CAIRO — An Egyptian lawyer says a military court has sentenced an army colonel to six years in prison after he announced his intention to run against President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in next year’s elections.
The lawyer, Asaad Heikal, tells The Associated Press that Col. Ahmed Konsowa was present at Tuesday’s sentencing hearing by a Cairo military court. He was convicted of violating military regulations banning political activism by active duty officers.
The verdict can be appealed.
Konsowa, 42, was detained following his December 2 announcement that he would run against el-Sissi, a general-turned-president who took office in 2014.
Nazi hunters recommend 9 for prosecution in Germany, Austria
BERLIN — Germany’s Central Office for Investigation of Nazi Crimes hands nine potential new cases against former concentration camp guards to prosecutors in Germany and Austria.
If tried, the nine men and women — who variously live in both countries — would be charged as accessories to murder in several camps. The cases, already investigated by the Central Office in Ludwigsburg, are handed to local prosecutors for potential indictment, according to news reports in the Berlin-based daily Taz newspaper, and elsewhere.
Jean Rommel, who heads the Central Office in Ludwigsburg, Germany, confirms to German news media that the nine men and women, most of them in their 90s, were stationed at the Ravensbrück and Buchenwald concentration camps in Germany, at Mauthausen in Austria, and at the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Teva CEO’s sit-down on job cuts with Netanyahu, Kahlon ends
Teva CEO Kare Schultz’s meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon ends.
The head of the pharmaceutical giant met with the two to discuss the company’s plans to lay off around 1,700 Israeli workers and close some of its factories in the country.
East Jerusalem man handed 15 years for ramming, stabbing attack
A resident of East Jerusalem is sentenced to 15 years in prison today for a combined ramming and stabbing attack in October 2016.
The verdict says Murad Rajabi, from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, struck one person with his motorcycle before attempting to stab another.
It says Rajabi sought out people with an appearance of “observant religious Jews.”
He is convicted of attempted murder, aggravated injury and possession of a knife.
UN General Assembly to debate US Jerusalem move on Thursday
The United Nations General Assembly will debate Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Thursday at 10 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.
The body is expected to overwhelming pass a measure condemning the move. General Assembly resolutions have no legal binding.
The debate will come after a Security Council resolution criticizing the move was vetoed by the US on Monday.
Fatah official says Arab countries shot down emergency summit on Jerusalem
Some Arab countries refused to hold an emergency summit in order to discuss the decision of Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a senior Palestinian official says.
“We requested an Arab summit over Jerusalem. Some Arab countries refused,” says Muhammad Shtayeh, a senior Palestinian official and Fatah central committee member, in an interview with the PA’s official TV station.
Shtayeh adds that just five heads of state attended the Organization of Islamic Countries meeting held in Istanbul last week to discuss the Jerusalem issue.
He doesn’t specify which Arab countries refused to hold a summit.
— Dov Lieber
Teva CEO rebuffs PM’s entreaty to reverse planned Jerusalem factory closures
Teva CEO Kare Schultz will not reverse his company’s decision to close some of its factories in Jerusalem despite a request by Netanyahu, the Prime Minister’s Office says.
The PMO says Schultz instead offered to work with the government to assist the 1,700 workers set to be laid off by the pharmaceutical giant find other employment.
It also says Schultz stressed his commitment to ensuring Teva’s headquarters and research and development center remain in Israel.
Synagogue sexton indicted for sexually abusing bar mitzvah students
A sexton at a synagogue in Ashkelon was indicted for sexually abusing seven minors he was training for their bar mitzvahs, according to an indictment cleared for publication today.
The charge sheet, which was filed last month, says the 63-year-old would kiss the minors and touch their behinds.
Prosecutors request he be held in custody until the end of the legal proceedings.
Austrian far-right leader vows to be a ‘partner’ in fighting anti-Semitism
Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache addresses Israel’s decision to forbid “for the moment” direct contact with ministers from his far-right Freedom Party.
“We are striving for an honest, sustainable and friendly contact with Israel. My party will be an essential partner in Europe´s fight against Antisemitism,” says Strache, according to a tweet by Austria’s Ambassador to Israel Martin Weiss.
The new Austrian government, a coalition of the conservative People’s Party and the Freedom Party, was sworn in Monday.
Austria´s Vice-Chancellor @HCStracheFP on Israel´s decision to have – for the time being – no contacts with FPÖ Ministers: "We are striving for an honest, sustainable and friendly contact with Israel. My party will be an essential partner in Europe´s fight against Antisemitism"
— Martin Weiss (@martinoweiss) December 19, 2017
Remand of Palestinian girl filmed hitting troops extended
The detention of a Palestinian girl filmed hitting troops in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh in an apparent effort to provoke a violent response was extended until Thursday, police say.
The remand of 17-year-old Ahed Tamimi’s mother, who was arrested on suspicion of assault and incitement, was also extended until Thursday.
Jewish Home reveals draft amendment allowing Knesset to overturn High Court rulings
Jewish Home ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked publish a draft bill of an amendment to a Basic Law allowing the Knesset “to overcome” High Court rulings with a simple majority of 61 MKs.
While it would still allow the High Court to strike down laws, the court would only be able to do so with a bench of at least nine judges.
The amendment would also make it more difficult for the High Court to overturn Basic Laws passed by the Knesset.
Jewish Home has been highly critical of the court in recent years for its rulings on a number of pieces of legislation favored by the party.
Suspect in car-ramming at white nationalist Charlottesville rally indicted
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia — An Ohio man accused of driving into a crowd protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville has been indicted on 10 felony counts, including first-degree murder.
Court records show a grand jury returned an indictment Monday against 20-year-old James Alex Fields.
Prosecutors say Fields drove into peaceful counterprotesters the day of the rally that drew hundreds of white nationalists to the Virginia college town. A woman was killed, and authorities say 35 people were injured.
Fields, described by a former teacher as fascinated with Nazism, was initially charged with second-degree murder. The charge was upgraded last week.
Also indicted Monday were three men charged in connection with an attack on a man in a parking garage the day of the rally, and a man charged with firing a gun.
Erdogan calls for nations to back General Assembly motion on Jerusalem
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s president is calling on nations to back a non-binding resolution that is expected to be brought to the UN General Assembly and seeks the cancellation of US President Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes the appeal during a joint news conference with Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh, a day after the US vetoed such a resolution in the UN Security Council.
Fourteen other members of the Security Council supported the resolution — a move Erdogan describes as “important and meaningful.”
The Turkish leader says: “I invite all UN member countries to defend Jerusalem’s historic status (in the 193-member General Assembly).”
Erdogan has been among the most vocal critics of Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem.
Abbas sends envoys to China, Russia to seek replacement for US in peace process
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sends delegations to China and Russia in the hopes of finding international sponsorship for the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.
Senior PA official Ahmad Majdalani says “the two delegations will convey a message from President Abbas to Russia and China, the purpose of which is to find a new international sponsor for the peace process, in the framework of the United Nations, in order to replace the American sponsorship,” according to a report in the official PA news site Wafa.
Majdalani will be leading the delegation to China while Abbas’s foreign affairs aide Nabil Shaath will be leading the delegation to Russia.
Majdalani also denies a report by the Hebrew daily Haaretz that the Palestinian delegations plan to hold any talks with Israeli officials while in Russia or in China.
— Dov Lieber
Foreign Ministry instructs embassies to lobby against UN Jerusalem vote
The Foreign Ministry instructs Israeli embassies to push countries to vote against a General Assembly resolution on Thursday condemning Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
In the case of countries backing the resolution, the Foreign Ministry advised diplomats to encourage countries to at least refrain from expressing public support for it.
Israeli diplomats have also been told to emphasize the measure is one-sided and will harm prospects for peace, and may also lead to further violence.
Austrian leader meets Israeli envoy, says government committed to stronger ties
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz meets with Talya Lador, Israel’s envoy to Vienna, a day after his conservative party’s coalition with the far-right Freedom Party was sworn in.
In a trio of tweets, Kurz says his government is committed to strengthening ties with Israel and that he looks forward to meeting with Netanyahu.
He also says his government is working on offering Austrian citizenship to Holocaust survivors.
— with Raphael Ahren
Unser Regierungsprogramm sieht vor, Nachkommen von Opfern der Nationalsozialisten die Staatsbürgerschaft anzubieten. Ich freue mich auf den weiteren engen Austausch, auch mit @IsraeliPM #Netanyahu. @IsraelinAustria 3/3 pic.twitter.com/OHxQbHDpNa
— Sebastian Kurz (@sebastiankurz) December 19, 2017
Liberman backs troops filmed being slapped by Palestinian girl
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman says he supports the IDF soldiers who were filmed last week getting slapped and harassed by a Palestinian teenage girl, after the video footage raised concerns that the servicemen should have reacted more forcefully in response to the provocation.
“No soldier is a computer and no one knows how to make the most correct decision every second. That’s why I gave support to Elor Azaria” — an IDF soldier convicted of manslaughter for killing a disarmed Palestinian assailant — “and also to the soldiers from the incident whose footage was revealed yesterday,” the defense minister says.
Liberman makes his remarks to a group of soldiers with whom he was lighting the eighth and final candle for the Hannukah holiday.
“We all support all the soldiers. You have to understand that there are complicated situations and no matter what, the political leadership and military leadership will back up every soldier,” Liberman adds.
— Judah Ari Gross
Netanyahu heckled over arms sales to human rights violators at Bible contest
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at a national Bible contest is interrupted by a group of activists opposed to Israeli arms sales to human rights violators.
The activists specifically call for Israel to halt all military assistance to Myanmar, where the ruling military junta has been accused of committing genocide against the country’s Muslim Rohingya population.
According to the Israeli government, the group’s request has already been achieved, as weapons exports were frozen several months ago in light of the situation in the Asian country.
— Judah Ari Gross
Austrian chancellor respects Israel’s decision to boycott far-right ministers
Austrian Chancellor Kurz respects Israel’s decision to boycott ministers from his junior coalition partner, the far-right Freedom Party, Austria’s envoy to Israel says.
“I fully respect this decision. It will be our task to do a good job at home as well as to convince abroad. I am optimistic that we will dispel all concerns,” Kurz says, according to a tweet from Martin Weiss.
Austria´s Chancellor @sebastiankurz on Israel´s decision to have – for the time being – no contact with FPÖ Ministers: "I fully respect this decision. It will be our task to do a good job at home as well as to convince abroad. I am optimistic that we will dispel all concerns"
— Martin Weiss (@martinoweiss) December 19, 2017
Airport in Egypt’s Sinai targeted as ministers visit
EL-ARISH, Egypt — Egypt’s military spokesman says a “projectile” hit the airport in the city of el-Arish in the turbulent north of the Sinai peninsula while the country’s defense and interior ministers were visiting.
In a statement posted on his official Facebook page, the spokesman says an officer was killed and two “other” people were wounded in Tuesday’s attack. A helicopter was also damaged, he adds, but gives no further details.
Visits to el-Arish or any other part of northern Sinai by senior officials are carried out in secrecy.
News of the attack provides the first word that the ministers were visiting.
Egyptian security forces have been battling Islamic militants in Sinai for years, but the violence has intensified and become more widely spread after the military in 2013 ousted an Islamist president.
Trump speaks to UK’s May for first time since Twitter row
WASHINGTON — A White House official says President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May of the UK spoke Tuesday morning for the first time since she condemned the American leader’s Twitter habits.
A British government spokesperson confirms the call.
A White House official, who was not authorized to discuss the call on the record, says the tweets did not come up during their call.
Trump’s sharing of unverified videos distributed by a far-right group Britain First claiming to depict violence perpetrated by Muslim immigrants in Europe sparked a row in the special relationship between the trans-Atlantic powers. A spokesman for May last month rebuked Trump, saying he was “wrong” to have shared the videos, prompting Trump to lash back at the prime minister.
Israeli lawyer demands Israel halts arms sales to Honduras
A group of Israeli activists is demanding that Israel halt arms exports to Honduras amid violent protests there following disputed elections.
A group representative, lawyer Eitay Mack, sent a letter to Israel’s Defense Ministry asking that it freeze or annul the arms sales over accusations of human rights abuses committed by Honduran security forces. The letter, sent last week and obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday, comes after weeks of protests following Honduras’ November 26 election, in which at least 14 people have been killed.
Israel typically keeps its arms exports classified and Israel’s Defense Ministry had no immediate comment. Honduras disclosed details of a $209 million arms deal last year that includes communications equipment and surveillance drones for the army and cyber security systems for Honduras’ intelligence service.
Netanyahu says Western Wall will always be part of Israel
Netanyahu says the Western Wall “has always been ours and will always be ours.”
Speaking at a Hanukkah event for Likud activists, Netanyahu says Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will be remembered for generations, just like the US president’s visit to the Western Wall in May.
Netanyahu calls corruption investigations involving him a ‘witch hunt’
Netanyahu calls the corruption investigations involving him “a witch hunt” in a speech to Likud activists.
To chants of “Bibi!, Bibi!,” Netanyahu attacks the Israeli left and the press, saying they are trying to use the legal system to topple him.
Regarding the investigations, he repeats his mantra “there will be nothing because there is nothing.”
PM says recommendation for his indictment may not end in charges
Netanyahu says that even if there is a recommendation to charge him in a pair of corruption cases, he may not be indicted.
“Most recommendations end with nothing. [They] start with explosive headlines and end with nothing. In the meantime they destroy people’s lives.”
Then-MK Rivlin was investigated by police in 2001 on suspicion that he received money from a building contractor in exchange for advancing legislation that would have benefited the businessman. The investigation didn’t lead to any charges.
“Does anyone at all remember these recommendations?,” Netanyahu says.
UK’s May calls on Trump to advance peace plans
During a phone call today, Theresa May tells Donald Trump to advance plans for reaching a Middle East peace deal in the wake of his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Reuters reports.
“They discussed the different positions we took on the recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, and agreed on the importance of the US bringing forward new proposals for peace and the international community supporting these efforts,” a spokesman for the British prime minister says.
May has expressed her opposition to Trump’s declaration on the holy city.
Netanyahu claims Tel Aviv anti-corruption demos backed by New Israel Fund
Benjamin Netanyahu claims weekly anti-corruption protests on Tel Aviv’s leafy Rothschild Boulevard are funded by the New Israel Fund, which funds a number of NGOs critical of Israel.
Referring to the demonstrators, who have called for his ouster, Netanyahu says “because they can’t beat us at the ballot box they try to beat us with slander and demonstrations orchestrated and organized by the new fund of the left, among others.”
Iran sanctions-busting case heads to a finish
NEW YORK — A New York criminal trial that has strained relations between the US and Turkey is reaching a conclusion.
Closing arguments are set for Tuesday afternoon in the trial of Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla, who is accused of helping Iran evade US sanctions and launder billions of dollars in oil revenue.
Atilla denies doing anything illegal and has testified in his own defense in the case.
The trial featured the testimony of wealthy gold trader Reza Zarrab, who said he paid millions of dollars in bribes to Turkish officials to carry out the conspiracy.
Zarrab testified he believed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan personally approved the sanctions-busting effort.
Turkish officials say that testimony was coerced and based on fabricated evidence, an allegation the US calls “ridiculous.”
Police officials: PM’s speech on possible recommendation to indict ‘very weird’
Senior police officials tell the Ynet news site that Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech dismissing the implications of a police recommendation for his indictment in a pair of corruption cases was “very weird.”
“Netanyahu likely directed his words towards the attorney general because he is aware of what is in the case,” the police officials say.