Netanyahu said to warn Gaza war possible before March 2 elections
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Mortars fired from Gaza Strip toward Israel

Projectiles apparently strike open area near the Palestinian enclave, set off alerts on smartphones

Illustrative: Palestinian terrorists fire a mortar shell during a graduation ceremony in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 29, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Illustrative: Palestinian terrorists fire a mortar shell during a graduation ceremony in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 29, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they happened.

Draft UN resolution condemns West Bank annexation

A draft United Nations Security Council resolution condemns calls in Israel to swiftly annex parts of the West Bank and says US President Donald Trump’s peace plan “breaches international law.”

A copy of the text “stresses the illegality of the annexation of any part” of the West Bank or East Jerusalem and “condemns recent statements calling for annexation by Israel.”

It also calls on the international community “not to recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 borders” and says efforts should be made to “launch credible negotiations on all final status issues.”

The resolution is being shared with Security Council members by Indonesia and Tunisia, according to Reuters.

The resolution would likely face a US veto.

Palestinian Authority Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas, who has rejected the Trump plan out of hand, is expected to address the Security Council next week about the plan.

Jared Kushner, the US president’s son-in-law and key architect of the proposal, will speak to UN ambassadors tomorrow.

“Enough with the shows already. Instead of coming to the UN, come to the negotiating table,” UN Ambassador to Israel Danny Danon says in a statement condemning the draft resolution.

Sudanese PM rattled by meeting of country’s leader with Netanyahu

CAIRO — Sudan’s prime minister appears rattled by the meeting this week between the head of his country’s transitional council and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, insisting that all decisions related to Sudan’s foreign affairs “should be made” exclusively by his Cabinet.

Sudanese Prime Minister Abddalla Hamdok’s remarks today are the latest in a flurry of comments from government officials, Sudanese political parties and public figures who were stunned by the meeting, which was kept secret until Netanyahu announced during a visit to Uganda that he had met there with Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan and that Israel and Sudan were working towards normalizing relations. For Israel, it was a major diplomatic breakthrough with a Muslim-majority African state.

Hamdok’s government said it wasn’t consulted and only learned of the meeting through the media. Burhan is Sudan’s de facto leader and heads its military-civilian transitional council established following autocrat Omar al-Bashir’s ouster in a popular uprising that ended his 30-year rule last April.

“The road to meaningful change in Sudan is riddled with challenges and obstacles,” Hamdok tweets. “However, we must understand that abiding to legal institutional roles and responsibilities is key to building a truly democratic state.”

“The transitional government as a whole must ensure accountability, responsibility and transparency in all decisions made,” he adds.

Hamdok however welcomes Burhan’s statement yesterday that Sudan still backs the Palestinian people’s aspirations to have their independent state.

— AP

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, center, waves to people in the conflict-affected remote town of Kauda, Nuba Mountains, Sudan, January 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Wuhan baby tests positive for coronavirus just 30 hours after birth

BEIJING — A baby in China’s epidemic-hit Wuhan city has been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus just 30 hours after being born, Chinese state media reports today.

The infant is the youngest person recorded as being infected by the virus, which has killed nearly 500 people since emerging late last year.

CCTV quotes experts as saying it may be a case of “vertical transmission,” referring to infections passed from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or immediately after.

The mother had tested positive for the virus before she gave birth.

The official Xinhua news agency reported Monday that a baby born last week to an infected mother had tested negative.

The disease is believed to have emerged in December in a Wuhan market that sold wild animals, and spread rapidly as people traveled for the Lunar New Year holiday in January.

China’s national health commission said yesterday that the oldest person diagnosed with the virus is a 90-year-old, and that 80 percent of reported deaths have been of patients 60 years of age and older.


After Abbas, Iran’s FM phones Hamas, Islamic Jihad heads to condemn Trump plan

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif phones the heads of the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups to underscore Tehran’s opposition to the Trump peace plan.

The calls with Ismail Haniyeh and Ziad al-Nakhala come a day after Zarif spoke by phone with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to condemn the US proposal for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Sudan military backs leader’s meeting with Netanyahu

KHARTOUM, Sudan — The Sudanese military says it backs a surprise meeting between the country’s leader and Israel’s prime minister in Uganda this week, saying the opening would help boost national security.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, chairman of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Entebbe on Monday in a previously unannounced meeting.

Israel remains technically at war with Sudan, which supported hardline Islamists including al-Qaeda during the three-decade rule of autocrat Omar al-Bashir, ousted amid mass protests last year.

Yesterday, Burhan briefed the sovereign council and top ministers about his meeting, saying he took the step to meet Netanyahu “to protect the national security of Sudan.”

The vote of support for Burhan from the military came after top officers met at army headquarters in Khartoum.

“There was a meeting at the army headquarters today, and those present in the meeting were briefed about the visit of the army’s commander to Uganda and its impact on Sudan’s national security,” military spokesman Brigadier Amir Mohamed Al-Hassan tells AFP.

“The army is in favor of this (Burhan-Netanyahu) meeting as it is in the interest of Sudan’s national security.”

Soon after the Monday meeting, Netanyahu’s office put out a statement saying that said he believed that post-Bashir Sudan was headed “in a positive direction.”


Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan waves to his supporters at a military-backed rally in Omdurman district west of Khartoum, Sudan, June 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Israel to restrict Gaza fishing zone following rockets, balloon attacks

The Israeli military announces it will be restricting the Gaza fishing zone by a third in light of continued rocket fire and airborne explosive attacks.

“Following security consultations, it has been decided today (Wednesday), to restrict the fishing zone of the Gaza Strip from 15 nautical miles to ten nautical miles, starting from 4PM until further notice,” the Israeli military liaison to the Palestinians, known by the acronym COGAT, says in a statement.

“The decision was made following the continuity of rocket fire and the launching of explosive balloons from the Gaza Strip to the territory of the State of Israel,” COGAT says.

The Defense Ministry body says Israel holds the Hamas terror group — the de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip — responsible for the attacks.

— Judah Ari Gross

Palestinian fishermen take to the Mediterranean sea in Gaza City on June 18, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Iraqi PM-designate reaches out to anti-government protesters

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s premier-designate Mohammad Allawi has met with dozens of representatives of the protest movement rocking the capital and Shiite-majority south since October, a participant in the meetings says.

The protesters have been demanding an overhaul of the ruling elite and have rejected Allawi as a product of the political class they have been protesting against for months.

When he announced his designation on February 1, Allawi extended a hand to the protesters and urged them to keep up their demonstrations.

“Since the beginning of the week, Mohammad Allawi has held a string of meetings with several dozen representatives of protesters from the eight provinces taking part in the uprising,” says Hisham al-Hashemi, an Iraqi security expert present at the meetings.

An Iraqi woman lifts a picture of the premier-designate Mohammad Allawi with the inscription “rejected,” during an anti-government demonstration in the capital Baghdad’s Tahrir square, on February 4, 2020. (Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP)

According to Hashemi, Allawi pledged to release Iraqis detained for demonstrating, compensate the families of those killed in protest-related violence and work with the United Nations to implement the demonstrators’ demands.

Allawi, 65, served as communications minister twice since the US-led invasion of 2003 but stepped down both times, citing corruption in the government.

Rooting out graft in Iraq — the 16th most corrupt country in the world according to Transparency International — has been a key demand of protesters.

Hashemi says Allawi promised the demonstrator delegations that he would take on embezzlement and the bloated public sector by changing up to 170 “acting” government officials and 450 directors-general in the ministries.

The PM-designate also said up to two ministers in his cabinet, which he has until March 2 to form, would be activists themselves and that demonstrators could have a say in up to five ministerial nominations.


Iran denies Zarif referred to East Jerusalem in phone call with Abbas

Iran’s foreign ministry is denying the country’s top diplomat referenced  East Jerusalem in a phone call yesterday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi writes on Twitter that Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said “Holy Quds” when he spoke with Abbas and not “Eastern Quds.” Al-Quds is the Arabic name for the city.

A statement on the PA’s official Wafa news agency says Zarif voiced support for a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem while phoning Abbas to condemn Trump’s peace plan.

Iran does not recognize Israel and many of its leader have called for the Jewish state’s destruction.

Soccer player charged by English association over tweet about Rothschilds

LONDON — Port Vale forward Tom Pope is facing a fresh ban relating to his use of social media after the English soccer player wrote an allegedly anti-Semitic post on Twitter.

The 34-year-old has already served two one-game suspensions this season over his online activity.

In tweets sent in early January, Pope, having been asked to “predict the WWIII result,” wrote: “We invade Iran then Cuba then North Korea then the Roth(s)childs are crowned champions of every bank on the planet.”

Port Vale’s Tom Pope, right, during a soccer match in Manchester, England, January 4, 2020. (Martin Rickett/PA via AP)

Pope later deleted the tweet and insisted he was unaware it could be perceived as anti-Semitic, but the post became the subject of both Football Association and club investigations.

An FA statement issued today says Pope has been charged with an “aggravated breach” of FA rule E3.

The governing body says such a breach “is defined in FA Rule E3(2), as it included a reference, whether expressed or implied, to race and/or religion and/or ethnic origin.”

Shortly after deleting the message, Pope issued a statement apologizing for any offense caused.


With far-right backing, German state gets new governor

BERLIN — A pro-business politician is elected unexpectedly as the governor of an eastern German state today after a far-right party throws its votes behind him, a result that raises awkward questions for Germany’s mainstream center-right parties.

Left-leaning parties assail their rivals for allowing the far-right Alternative for Germany, which is particularly strong in the ex-communist east, to help put a center-right candidate in power in Thuringia state — the first time this has happened.

Thomas Kemmerich of the Free Democrats, a party that only just secured enough support to enter the state legislature in an October election, threw his hat in the ring after left-wing incumbent Bodo Ramelow failed to secure a majority during two rounds of voting by lawmakers.

AfD parliamentary party leader Bjoern Hoecke, right, shakes hands with Thomas Kemmerich of the Free Democrats, in Erfurt, Germany, February 5, 2020. (Martin Schutt/dpa via AP)

State legislators elect Kemmerich in a 45-44 vote, with one abstention. Alternative for Germany, or AfD, the second-strongest party in Thuringia, fielded a candidate of its own but then ended up supporting Kemmerich in the final vote.

The result draws withering criticism from left-leaning parties. Norbert Walter-Borjans, a leader of the Social Democrats — the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s national government — describes it as “inexcusable” and “a scandal of the first order.” He points the finger at Kemmerich’s party and Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats, which are traditional allies.

AfD’s Thuringia branch has a particularly radical image and its regional leader, Bjoern Hoecke, has come under scrutiny from Germany’s domestic intelligence agency.

— AP

Palestinian teen reportedly shot dead in Hebron clashes

A Palestinian teenager was shot dead by Israeli security forces during clashes in Hebron, official Palestinian Authority news site Wafa reports.

Unnamed local sources identify the teenager as 17-year-old Mohammed al-Haddad, the Wafa report says.

The IDF says it is aware of the reports and is looking into the matter.

Haddad threw a firebomb at Israeli soldiers before he was shot, according to Hebrew media reports.

— with Adam Rasgon and Judah Ari Gross

Sudan leader says Israeli flights can use country’s airspace

Sudan’s leader says the African country will allow flights to and from Israel to use Sudanese airspace, days after he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Uganda.

However, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan says that Israeli airliner El Al will not be allowed to traverse Sudan’s skies, according to Al Jazeera.

The use of Sudan’s airspace would ease air travel between Israel and South America by allowing for more direct flights.

Netanyahu said yesterday that Israeli had received permission to fly over Sudan and that only a technical matter remained before finalizing the agreement.

According to Al Jazeera, Burhan also says that Sudan’s cabinet and transitional ruling council will set up a joint committee to weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks of ties with Israel.

IDF confirms shooting Palestinian teen who hurled firebomb

The military says that soldiers opened fire at a Palestinian teenager who threw a Molotov cocktail at them during a riot in the city of Hebron.

“During a violent riot that took place a short time ago in the city of Hebron, IDF troops spotted a Palestinian throwing a Molotov cocktail at them. They responded with live fire in order to remove the threat,” the military says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Merkel’s party urges snap vote in Thuringia state after far-right shock

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party calls for fresh elections in Thuringia after a regional politician was unexpectedly elected today as the state’s premier with votes from the far-right AfD, breaking a political taboo in Germany.

“The CDU has said time and again there can be no cooperation with the AfD,” says Paul Ziemiak, secretary-general of the center-right CDU. “New elections would be the best thing for Thuringia.”


Plane skids off runway at Istanbul airport, breaks into pieces

ANKARA, Turkey — A plane skids off the runway today at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport, crashing into a road. Authorities say there are no immediate reports of any casualties.

Television footage shows serious damage, with the fuselage appearing to be broken into three pieces. Passengers were being evacuated through the cracks. NTV television reports that the plane caught fire after skidding but it has since been extinguished.

The plane, belonging to Pegasus Airlines, arrived from the city of Izmir, private NTV television reported. NTV says the airport has been shut down.

The Turkish transportation ministry says there were 177 passengers on board but it says no one has been killed. There is no word on injuries.

The ministry says the accident was the result of a “rough landing.”

— AP

US Senate set to acquit Trump, boosting his reelection bid

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump is set to win acquittal from impeachment on Wednesday, hours after his partisan State of the Union speech triggered unprecedented protests from Democrats in a seething display of US political divisions.

Trump’s exoneration on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after a nearly three-week Senate trial is expected to come along party lines, highlighting his firm lock on Republican loyalty — and the Democrats’ profound disdain.

Democratic senators are expected to spend today making last-minute arguments for his conviction ahead of a 4:00 p.m., but the outcome is not in doubt: conviction requires a two-thirds majority of the body, and Republicans hold 53 of the 100 seats.

Acquittal won’t mean an end to Democratic-led investigations of the US leader, but will give Trump momentum in his bid to win reelection for another four years in the White House after a tumultuous first term.


US President Donald Trump arrives to deliver his State of the Union address in the chamber of the US House of Representatives at the Capitol in Washington on February 4, 2020. (Olivier Douliery/AFP)

Baghdad tells military officials to minimize reliance on US

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi government has told its military not to seek assistance from the US-led coalition in operations against the Islamic State jihadist group, two senior Iraqi military officials say, in the latest tensions between Washington and Baghdad after an American strike killed a top Iranian general and Iraqi militia commander.

Officially, the Iraqi military announced January 30 that it and the coalition resumed joint military operations after a three-week halt. The pause was called amid soaring tensions following the Jan. 3 US airstrike ordered by US President Donald Trump that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and senior Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

But in practice, Iraqis are seeking to minimize coalition assistance against IS, based on government orders, two Iraqi military officials and one militia official said this week.

“After the killing of Soleimani, the Iraqi government decided to inform us formally not to cooperate and not to seek assistance from the US-led international coalition in any operation,” a senior military intelligence official tells The Associated Press.

The US-led coalition paused its mission to fight IS in Iraq on January 5 in the wake of the strike. That same day Shiite lawmakers, irate by what they called a flagrant violation of sovereignty, pushed a non-binding resolution requesting that the government cancel legal agreements that provide the basis for US troop presence in the country.

Outgoing Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi has stated publicly that US troops must go, but has stepped back from unilaterally cancelling existing agreements, saying the matter was up to the next prime minister to decide. Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi has not made his policy toward the troop presence known.

— AP

AG drops opposition to justice minister’s pick for acting state attorney

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announces he will not oppose Justice Minister Amir Ohana’s selection for acting state attorney.

The decision to back the candidacy of Dan Eldad, director of the Economic Crimes Division of the State Prosecution, marks a reversal for Mandelblit, who had opposed the appointment for unclear reasons.

“I decided — not without hesitation — not to stand behind my opposition to the appointment,” the attorney general reportedly says in a letter to the State Attorney’s Office.

The state attorney position became vacant when Shai Nitzan concluded his five-year term in December.

Ohana’s last attempt to appoint an acting state attorney — choosing Tel Aviv District economic crimes prosecutor Orly Ginsberg Ben-Ari in December — fell through when Ginsberg Ben-Ari withdrew her candidacy following a firestorm of criticism at her selection, including by the attorney general.

Mandelblit has insisted Ohana’s authority to appoint key officials is limited because he serves as a caretaker justice minister in an unelected government. Ohana was appointed to his post by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in June, after the indecisive April election and ahead of the equally indecisive September race.

UN to hold emergency session after Syria, Turkey clashes

UNITED NATIONS — The UN Security Council will meet tomorrow for an emergency session on Syria following clashes between the Turkish and Syrian military, diplomats say.

They say the meeting, which will be open to the public, was requested by the United States, France and Britain.

The UN envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, is expected to report on the situation in Idlib, the northwestern Syrian province where the two armies clashed on Monday, the diplomats say.

More than 20 people were killed in the exchanges of fire, threatening to further destabilize the Idlib region, already suffering a humanitarian crisis.

An offensive by the Damascus regime, backed by Russian air power, against the last stronghold of jihadist and rebel opponents has drawn strong warnings from Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“If the regime does not pull back, Turkey will be obliged to take matters into its own hands,” Erdogan said today in Ankara.

Yesterday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a “cessation of hostilities” between Turkey and Syria, calling the fighting an “extremely worrying” escalation.


Clashes reported in Hebron during funeral for teen shot dead in riot

Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces reportedly break out in the West Bank city of Hebron during the funeral for a teenager shot dead earlier today by Israeli troops.

In video on social media, a group of Palestinians can be seen moving toward a military vehicle when a gun is apparently fired multiple times. There are no reports of injuries.

The army earlier said troops fired at a Palestinian, identified as 17-year-old Mohammed al-Haddad, as he threw a Molotov cocktail at soldiers during rioting in Hebron.

Netanyahu said to warn Gaza war possible before March 2 elections

Prime Minister Netanyahu told municipal leaders in the Gaza area that Israel could launch extensive military operations in the Palestinian enclave before the upcoming Knesset elections if the launching of rockets and airborne explosive devices continues, Channel 13 reports.

Netanyahu told the leaders during a meeting today that while Israel is making significant efforts to ensure calm in the area, the military was ready for an operation in Gaza if needed, according to the network.

The reported comments come after a week of near-daily rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza and dozens of balloon-borne explosive devices being launched from the Hamas-ruled Strip toward southern Israel.

Palestinians will take anti-Trump plan resolution to General Assembly if US vetoes it

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will travel to the United Nations next week to push for a Security Council resolution condemning US President Donald Trump’s peace proposals, Palestinian officials say today.

The resolution will almost certainly be vetoed by the United States.

“The draft resolution that will be voted on in the Security Council will include the rejection of the Trump-Netanyahu deal,” Saleh Rafat, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, tells AFP, referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He calls Trump’s plan, which Netanyahu enthusiastically supports, “the opposite of the UN Security Council resolutions on the Palestinian conflict.”

If vetoed at the Security Council, the issue will be taken to the UN General Assembly, Rafat adds.

The permanent representative of Palestine to the UN, Riyad Mansour, tells the official Voice of Palestine radio that Abbas will arrive in New York on Monday and address the Security Council on Tuesday.


At least 120 injured in Istanbul plane accident

ISTANBUL — At least 120 people were injured today when a plane skidded off the runway at an Istanbul airport and split into three after landing in rough weather, the city’s governor says.

“At the moment, 120 people who were injured have been hospitalized,” says governor Ali Yerlikaya, adding that most of them were “doing well, aside from one or two people.”

The Boeing 737 operated by Turkish low-cost carrier Pegasus Airlines had flown into Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport from the Aegean port city of Izmir.


Rescuers work to extract passengers from a Pegasus Airlines Boeing 737 airplane, after it skidded off the runway upon landing at Sabiha Gokcen airport in Istanbul on February 5, 2020. (Stringer/AFP)

Accuser in LA case testifies at Weinstein’s NY rape trial

NEW YORK — The final accuser at Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial takes the witness stand, where she is expected to detail how he groped her in a hotel bathroom as prosecutors push to show the once-powerful movie mogul had a habit of preying on women.

Model and actress Lauren Marie Young alleges Weinstein stripped naked, masturbated in front of her and groped her breast in the bathroom of his Beverly Hills hotel room just days before the Oscars in February 2013.

“I was excited. I got ready. I put on my best dress,” the 30-year-old Young testifies today about first connecting with Weinstein at the hotel. “I was excited to network and pitch my ideas.”

Harvey Weinstein arrives at a Manhattan courthouse for his rape trial in New York, February 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

At some point Weinstein said, “let’s finish this conversation upstairs,” explaining that he had to present an award to Quentin Tarantino, she adds before her testimony was interrupted by a lunch break.

Prosecutors have said a female friend of Weinstein’s who was in the hotel there shut the door and trapped Young in the bathroom with him.

Young is the third of three women prosecutors are calling to bolster their effort to portray him as a serial offender even though their accusations aren’t part of the underlying criminal charges at issue in the New York City trial.

Weinstein’s New York trial involves just two allegations: that he raped a woman in March 2013 and forced oral sex on a TV and film production assistant in 2006. Weinstein, 67, has insisted any sexual encounters were consensual.

— AP

Romney says he will vote to convict Trump, likely the only GOP senator to do so

WASHINGTON — Utah Senator Mitt Romney will vote to convict US President Donald Trump, likely the only Republican senator to favor ousting the impeached president. Romney makes his announcement on the Senate floor today.

Romney calls Trump’s actions — the president was impeached on charges of abuse of power and obstructing Congress— “perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of oath of office that I can imagine.”

— AP

Mortar shells fired from Gaza Strip toward Israel

Two mortars were fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, the military says.

The attack triggers alerts on smartphones in the area, but not sirens in any Israeli communities as the projectiles were not heading toward a populated area, it adds.

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Netanyahu said to warn Gaza war possible before March 2 elections

Prime Minister Netanyahu told municipal leaders in the Gaza area that Israel could launch extensive military operations in the Palestinian enclave before the upcoming Knesset elections if the launching of rockets and airborne explosive devices continues, Channel 13 reports.

Netanyahu told the leaders during a meeting today that while Israel is making significant efforts to ensure calm in the area, the military was ready for an operation in Gaza if needed, according to the network.

The reported comments come after a week of near-daily rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza and dozens of balloon-borne explosive devices being launched from the Hamas-ruled Strip toward southern Israel.