The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they happened.
Labor chief Avi Gabbay calls for an immediate investigation of an alleged network of fake social media accounts promoting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Bibi’s web of deceit and fraud has been revealed,” he says. “Investigate it now, so Israeli leadership will not be stolen away. Netanyahu will cross every red line to stop himself from being indicted.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone.
The two discussed military cooperation and “regional issues,” Netanyahu’s office says.
The conversation comes days after a deadly strike in Syria that has been attributed to Israel.
Blue and White’s Gabi Ashkenazi says a growing ultra-Orthodox population that does not work, study or pay taxes is unsustainable, calling the situation “dangerous” for Israeli society.
He says under the party’s model outstanding Torah students will receive exemption from military service, in similar vein to star athletes, but the rest will be required to serve the country.
Likud accuses pollsters of misleading voters by not publishing the public’s view on Yair Lapid’s suitability for the post of prime minister.
Polls regularly release public opinion on Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz’s popularity. But Likud says that as Gantz and his number 2 Lapid have agreed to “rotate” the post if they form the next government, Lapid’s suitability should also be under review.
In a press conference responding to a report on Likud’s alleged network of fake social media accounts, Blue and White chief Benny Gantz says the prime minister “has nothing left but to spread lies and poison. Netanyahu’s house of cards is falling down.”
He adds: “I’m sure there will be more lies spread. Netanyahu can smear me as much as he likes, it won’t make a difference. I will win.”
His No. 2 Yair Lapid says the premier “has had enough of running in free elections. So he has decided to cheat.”
“Bibi is trying to play the people for fools. Don’t believe anything you hear from Netanyahu in the last week of the elections,” he says.
— Raoul Wootliff
More from Gantz on Likud’s alleged fake news network. The Blue and White chief says “Netanyahu is leading a campaign of info-terrorism against the citizens of Israel.”
He says, “In recent months Israelis have been inundated with messaging and fake news on digital platforms.”
He says the information in today’s report by the New York Times and Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth is only “the tip of the iceberg.
“There’s a whole infrastructure here paid for with big money…an infrastructure Netanyahu is using to steal the election.”
Some of the alleged Likud fake account holders mentioned in reports by the New York Times and Yedioth Ahronoth are speaking out.
One of the Twitter users named in the report as being a fake account tells the 103FM radio station that his account has been online since 2010. Ziv Knobler denies being part of an organized Likud campaign or receiving money from the party. Knobler says he is considering suing the paper over the report.
Another user, Giora, whose runs the Twitter account “Captain George,” tells the station, “I am not a bot, I am not a robot, I am 63 and will soon have my 64th birthday.
“On my profile it shows I have been active since December 2017,” Giora says. He also denies receiving payment or being part of a campaign network.
The news stories cited a report by Israeli social media watchdog Big Bots Project. Led by activists and tech experts Noam Rotem and Yuval Adam, Big Bot Project has organized several hackathons to uncover bot networks aimed at influencing the election.
— Stuart Winer
Likud has issued a video lambasting accusations the party is running a fake news social media network.
“They’re calling you, Likud voters, ‘bots,'” it says. “They won’t believe how many ‘bots’ are active in Likud. On April 9 the ‘bots’ are surging to the polling stations.
“We won’t let them bring the right down,” it says.
הבוטים נוהרים לקלפיות pic.twitter.com/YnNJWfeWHp
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) April 1, 2019
The High Court of Justice has frozen the planned demolition of the home of Palestinian Arafat Irfaiya, suspected in the February rape and murder of Israeli teen Ori Ansbacher in Jerusalem.
A judge has issued a temporary injunction to study a petition filed by Irfaiya’s family.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group denies reports it is planning a large-scale attack on the Gaza border.
Nafez Azzam, a member of the group’s political bureau, says in a statement “there is no truth to this news propagated by Israel.”
He claims Israel “is trying to spread confusion in the Palestinian arena” in order to justify attacks on the Gaza Strip.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the report of a Likud fake news network is a “lie” and “libel” propagated by his opponents and the media.
At a special news conference to address the report, the premier says, “Our opponents have no way to counter our achievements” and thus every other day invent “a new libelous tale.
“Today they outdid themselves…[with] the bot libel,” he says. “Boldly, with interminable arrogance, they lie, they say you people speaking online aren’t real.”
He says “almost all of the examples” of supposed fake news accounts provided by the report, “maybe all of them, have been revealed to be real people.”
He introduces one such person sitting beside him, Giora, who he says is identified on Twitter by the moniker Captain George. “Tell me Giora, are you a real person? Are you a bot?” he asks. “Giora says what he thinks. It’s such a huge lie.”
Netanyahu goes on to claim Likud is “almost the only party” not to run fake accounts online.
He says Blue and White has “bots [working for it] in the media…[and] an army of bots online. They’re running the most deceitful campaign ever.”
He claims the media is lying to the citizenry “from dawn to dusk.”
Blue and White is now hitting back at Netanyahu. “Never has there been a prime minister who lied and slandered so much,” the party says in a statement.
“He should explain where the millions of shekels that funded his [online] network of lies came from. And how did he pay without reporting it?”
Braving the Jerusalem rain, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is joined by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Western Wall.
Bolsonaro thus becomes the first foreign head of state to visit the contested site together with a senior Israeli official.
— Raphael Ahren
Two soldiers have been lightly injured by a firecracker during a military exercise in southern Israel’s Tze’elim Base.
The two were taken to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center for treatment. The army says the incident is being investigated.
Here are photos of Brazilian Presiden Jair Bolsonaro’s visit to Jerusalem’s Old City and Western Wall a short time ago.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh met earlier today with UN envoy to the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov.
According to a Palestinian source quoted by Channel 13 news, Hamas raised the issue of the conditions of Hamas prisoners held in Israeli jails following recent riots in which two Israeli guards were stabbed. Haniyeh warned that prisoner agitation could raise tensions between the sides.
Hamas officials told Mladenov prisoners will take unspecified steps if the “attacks” against them aren’t stopped. They asked Mladenov to intervene.
The sides also reportedly discussed international projects in the Strip as part of ceasefire understandings between Hamas and Israel.
A delegation of Egyptian intelligence officials has returned to the Gaza Strip after two days of meetings with Israeli defense officials, as Cairo continues its efforts to mediate a long-term ceasefire between the sides, the Ynet news site reports.
A suspicious object has landed in the city of Sderot after apparently falling from an incendiary balloon launched into Israel from Gaza.
Police sappers have been called to deal with the object, believed to be a small pipe bomb.
Diplomats and activists denounce intense Chinese lobbying, pressure and even threats to rein in criticism of Beijing during last month’s session of the UN Human Rights Council.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) charges that the Chinese mission in Geneva sent a letter to a number of missions urging them to stay away from a US-organized event on March 13 about China’s treatment of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province.
The letter, signed by Ambassador Yu Jianhua and seen by AFP, tells countries “not to co-sponsor, participate in or be present at this side event… in the interest of our bilateral relations and continued multilateral cooperation.”
Chinese officials, HRW’s Geneva director John Fisher says, are now “using public as well as private pressure to block concerted international action.”
A young man aged around 20 has been critically injured in a car crash northeast of Jerusalem.
Three other people were injured in lighter capacities, and their specific status is not immediately clear.
Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry says four people were executed today for drug trafficking, including one woman, bringing to 53 the number of people put to death this year.
Two Pakistani men, a Yemeni man and a Nigerian woman were executed in the holy city of Mecca, the ministry said in statements carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
Fifty-three people have been executed in the kingdom since the beginning of the year, according to a count based on official data released by SPA.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has conveyed to Lebanon a message from Israel warning Beirut of action by Iran and Hezbollah to covertly construct a new missile production facility in the country, Channel 13 news reports.
A senior US official tells the station: “Pompeo raise before [Lebanese] Prime Minister [Saad] Hariri his concerns over Hezbollah’s actions in Lebanon. The actions of Hezbollah are a threat to Lebanon.
“We made it clear to the government of Lebanon that…the danger of escalation with Israel as a result [of Hezbollah’s actions] is real.”
Channel 13 news reveals crude comments by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair to police, during his past questioning as part of Case 4000 — the corruption probe into his father’s dealings with Bezeq controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch.
Yair Netanyahu is said to have told investigators police were akin to the Nazi “Gestapo” and called reporters “shits.”
He also called the Walla news site at the center of the corruption scandal “Walla Akbar” — a play on the Muslim cry of “Allahu Akbar” and an apparent implication that the website has a left-wing slant.
Hamas prisoners held in Israeli jails are threatening a hunger strike starting Sunday, and are warning this will include no water, Channel 12 news reports.
According to the report the strike will first be carried out by leaders and will gradually be widened to all 1,400 prisoners.
Prisoners from Fatah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are also said to be considering joining the strike.
Prisoners are protesting their incarceration conditions — particularly an ongoing effort by Israel to restrict cellphone usage by the prisoners, including the installation of jamming systems.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan says no negotiations will be held with the inmates.
President Reuven Rivlin holds a working meeting with Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau.
Ahead of the meeting Rivlin thanked Trudeau for his strong stance against boycotts of Israel and anti-Semitism.
He also spoke of Iran’s regional influence in the Middle East and said “the world cannot allow Iran” to build “a Shiite axis in Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.”
He called for “concerted international pressure and targeted military action whenever needed” to prevent Tehran from achieving this.
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