The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.
Suspected killer of Dafna Meir charged in military court
A Palestinian teenager who confessed to killing Dafna Meir in her West Bank home last month has been charged with the murder in an Israeli military court.
Morad Bader Abdullah Adais, 16, was arrested in Beit Amra on January 19, two days after Meir’s killing in the nearby Jewish settlement of Otniel. During an interrogation with the Shin Bet security service, the teenager confessed to the crime, the agency says.
Adais is charged with killing the 38-year-old mother of four and foster mother of two in the entryway to her home, located just south of Hebron.
He is suspected of entering Meir’s home and killing her before fleeing the scene. Three of Meir’s children were home when she was killed, and one, 17-year-old Renana, gave security forces a description of the killer.
— Judah Ari Gross
Arab MK says plight of flooded Bedouin ignored
As heavy rains lash Israel, causing flooding in some parts of the northern Negev, Joint List MK Taleb Abu Arar lashes out at the Israeli government and media for ignoring the plight of Bedouin in unrecognized towns in the weather-stricken area.
Abu Arar says thousands of students were unable to reach school and the entrance into some villages has been blocked by raging floodwaters.
“Since this morning the media has talked about damage from the storm, but the total cutting off of a number of unrecognized villages from the outside world is completely forgotten,” he says in a statement released by the Joint List spokesperson.
The rain is expected to last until Tuesday in most of the country, with sunny skies set to return on Wednesday, the Israel Meteorological Society said.
Lawyer seeks delay of Ben-Eliezer graft trial
The attorney for former defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer has asked the court to push off his trial on graft charges which began Monday, arguing that Ben-Elizer is unwell, Ynet reports.
Yaakov Weinrot says he asked the state prosecutor to delay the proceedings as Ben-Eliezer, 80, is too sick to deal with them.
Ben-Eliezer, a former leader of the Labor Party accused of taking bribes, is not present at the trial in the Tel Aviv District Court.
Ben-Eliezer’s attorneys last year attempted to reach a settlement in the case without going to trial, citing his poor health, but Weinstein rejected the request.
Ben-Eliezer has suffered from various health issues for a number of years, and in December 2014 underwent a kidney transplant. Several months later, he was hospitalized with a serious case of influenza, at which time he was hooked up to life support until his condition improved.
Ya’alon: US military aid package almost complete
Kicking off the Juniper Cobra joint US-Israeli military drill in Haifa, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon says a new 10-year military aid package from Washington should be finalized “in the coming weeks.”
“Israel has held talks over the last months on keeping its high-quality security in the Middle East with the goal of finalizing a budget for the next decade,” he says alongside US ambassador Dan Shapiro, after touring the USS Carney.
The US and Israel have been in renegotiating the military aid package, which currently stands at $3 billion annually. Israel wants to up the amount by several hundred million at least according to reports, and officials have threatened to hold out until President Barack Obama leaves office in the hopes of securing a better deal.
Ya’alon, who last week criticized the West’s approach to Syria, also expresses doubt that a US-Russian ceasefire in the works for the country can hold, and says Israel won’t intervene except to preserve its interests, “something the US and Russia understand.”
IS releases last group of captured Syrian Christians
BEIRUT — A Christian official in northeastern Syria says the Islamic State group has released the last group of Assyrian Christians taken hostage last year.
Younan Talia of the Assyrian Democratic Organization tells The Associated Press that about 40 remaining Christian captives were released and are on their way to the northeastern town of Tal Tamr.
The freed Christians were part of about 230 Assyrian Christians captured last February by the extremists after they overran Assyrian communities on the southern bank of the Khabur River in northeastern Hassakeh province.
Younan says the release came after mediation led by a top Assyrian priest in northern Syria.
The Assyrian Church of the East Relief Organization says that 43 Assyrians, who make the “final number of hostages in Khabur,” were released on Monday.
Assailant flees after aborted attack near Nablus
The Israeli military says it is searching for a would-be assailant who tried to stab soldiers in the West Bank Monday morning.
The IDF says the attacker “charged at forces” at the Bitot Junction south of Nablus with a knife.
The suspect fled after warning shots were fired in the air and searches are now taking place, the army says.
The junction was the site of an attempted stabbing attack a day earlier. In that instance, forces shot and killed the assailant.
Watchdog head warns of nuke material falling into wrong hands
The head of the UN nuclear agency warns of the dangers of nuclear material falling into the hands of terrorists and urges nations to sign on to an agreement meant to minimize such dangers.
Yukiya Amano of the International Atomic Energy Agency says 11 more nations must agree to adhere to the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material before it can enter into force.
He says that its application would “reduce the likelihood of terrorists being able to detonate a …’dirty bomb,'” which can spread radioactivity over a wide area. It would also reduce the risk of an attack on a nuclear power plant.
He notes that nearly 2,800 incidents of radioactive material going missing have been reported to his agency since 1995.
Israel accepted the amendment in March 2012, but has maintained reservations.
— with AP
Lapid says he convinced London to take down anti-Israel ads
Yesh Atid opposition party head Yair Lapid takes credit for the removal of anti-Israel posters that showed up on London’s Tube subway system Monday.
Lapid, speaking at his Knesset faction’s weekly meet-up, says London Mayor Boris Johnson told him he would see to it that anti-Israel posters in the Tube subway system are removed, after Lapid approached him.
These ads showed up on the London Tube to mark Israeli Apartheid Week. pic.twitter.com/DbWSZ0YfY9
— Karen (@kazahann) February 22, 2016
According to the Jewish Chronicle, posters calling Israel an apartheid state and accusing the BBC and other British concerns of supporting Israel and its “massacre” of Palestinians were put up on the subway system early Monday by pro-Palestinian activists.
Transport for London said the posters were “unauthorized acts of vandalism” and would be taken down, according to the report.
But Lapid appeared to take credit for the coup, accusing the government of sitting idly while he takes charge of fighting anti-Israel efforts on the world stage.
“It seems we can win, we just need to do something,” he says.
— Anthony Shaw (@AnthonyShaw_) February 22, 2016
Opposition attacks Bennett’s ‘united Jerusalem’ study plan
Zionist Union Knesset faction members are attacking Education Minister Naftali Bennett over a plan reported on earlier in the day to make a “united Jerusalem” the focus of the next school year.
“I heard Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who woke with a need for headlines and announced the year of united Jerusalem,” opposition head Isaac Herzog says at the faction meeting. “We all love Jerusalem, but I wonder which Jerusalem Bennett means.”
MK Merav Michaeli says at the meeting that Jerusalem is already divided, recounting that she saw only police during a morning visit to the Western Wall.
“Israelis are afraid to go. This isn’t a terror wave. The army is making concrete proposals and the government has its ears glued shut,” she says.
Bennett defends plan to create generation of ‘Jerusalem lovers’
Speaking at his own Jewish Home’s faction meeting, Naftali Bennett defends his plan to focus on a “united Jerusalem” in the next school year, seemingly responding to attacks from the left.
“Our history began in Jerusalem, and our mission is to raise a new generation of lovers of the city,” he says.
MK draws online guffaws for saying Jews came from Egypt
Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir is being mocked on social media for a misguided attempt to school Naftali Bennett in Jewish history.
After Bennett announced his united Jerusalem education plan, Shaffir wrote on Twitter:
“Sorry for being petty, but the education minister should know that according to the Torah, we came from Egypt.”
Humorist Hanoch Daum responds on Facebook with the iconic photo of soldiers reaching the Western Wall in 1967 replaced by pyramids.
Other jokes include imaginary scenarios in which Shaffir accuses the mufti of enslaving the Jewish people.
The Jewish Home party writes on Facebook that Shaffir’s comments show that the Labor Party has gone a long way since the days of Yitzhak Rabin.
Netanyahu vows to push through MK suspension measure
At his Likud faction meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defends his campaign for a law allowing 90 MKs to boot a fellow lawmaker for unseemly behavior.
Netanyahu says the same measure exists in the US, Canada and Britain, with even lower thresholds for lawmakers being kicked out.
“It’s interesting that measures and regulations they have in other democracies are described as anti-democratic when Israel tries them,” he says. “We won’t be warned off and we will pass this, as it is elementary when Knesset members are holding moments of silence in memory of those who killed kids and we will act as they certainly would in the US, Canada and Britain if there were those who stood in memorial for Jihadi John or other murders.”
He also pushed back against a claim by Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid that the government isn’t fighting anti-Israel efforts, saying he instructed Foreign Ministry director Dore Gold to deal with pro-Palestinian ads posted in the London Underground.
Lapid had claimed he had been the only one to deal with the problem by calling Mayor Boris Johnson. Transport for London said it acted to take down the illegal ads as soon as they were discovered.
Study finds global arms exports on the rise
A Swedish think tank says global arms exports increased 14 percent during the five years to 2015, with the US retaining top position after its sales grew 27 percent from the previous five-year period.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says sales from the next biggest exporters, Russia and China, also increased but fell for numbers 4 and 5, France and Germany.
The top five exporters accounted for 74% of all arms sales, with the US and Russia supplying a total of 58%.
The think tank said in its report Monday that China saw the largest growth during the five-year period of 88%.
The five biggest weapons importers were India, Saudi Arabia, China, the United Arab Emirates and Australia.
Berlin excoriates ‘cold-hearted’ anti-migrant mob
The German government has condemned the “cold-hearted and cowardly” mob that tried to stop a bus from taking migrants to a shelter for asylum seekers, calling the ugly episode “deeply shameful.”
About 100 people in the Saxony town of Clausnitz shouted “We are the people” and tried to block the bus carrying about 20 asylum seekers on Thursday night.
The images captured on video, which show some terrified migrants crying, have gone viral on social media, sparking widespread outrage.
“I want to say on behalf of the chancellor and the entire government that what happened in Clausnitz is deeply shameful,” said Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert.
“How cold-hearted and cowardly one must be to stand in front of a bus with refugees and shout with the aim of frightening the passengers, including women and children,” he said, calling for a “clear response from government institutions and the majority of citizens.”
UN envoy: Syria bombs may show Islamic State feels ‘cornered’
The UN special envoy for Syria says deadly weekend bombings in Homs and a Damascus suburb claimed by the Islamic State group suggest it is feeling “cornered” amid an intensified diplomatic push to end the country’s five-year war.
Staffan de Mistura told The Associated Press on Monday that this week is shaping up as crucial in the diplomatic efforts to help end the war, though he declined to provide details of the negotiations.
The UN said earlier that de Mistura “strongly condemns” Sunday’s explosions in Homs and the Sayyida Zeinab suburb that killed nearly 130 people.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has said a “provisional agreement” has been reached on a cessation of hostilities that could begin in coming days. Diplomats say some details remain to be worked out.
Suspect allegedly went home to watch movie after killing Dafna Meir
The indictment for Morad Bader Abdullah Adais, accused of killing Dafna Meir in a January stabbing attack in the West Bank settlement of Otniel, includes the fact that after carrying out the killing, Adais allegedly went home, washed the blood off his hands, and watched a movie with his family.
According to the charge sheet, Adais used a butcher knife he took from his home and attacked Meir at the entrance to her home after spotting her from a hiding place in the weeds.
Adais, 16, was indicted in a military court earlier today for the murder.
German nationalist leader denies stoking anti-migrant hatred
The leader of a rising German nationalist party is rejecting accusations that her rhetoric has helped stoke anti-migrant hatred, a day after a fire at a former hotel being turned into a refugee home.
Frauke Petry also says her party offers a “very necessary” option for disgruntled conservatives ahead of regional elections next month.
Her Alternative for Germany, or AfD, party is expected to enter three state parliaments in elections on March 13 — benefiting from concerns over the influx of more than a million migrants into Germany over the past year and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s struggles to secure a European solution to the problem.
The party advocates much tougher controls on asylum seekers and has faced criticism over various comments made, including an interview last month in which Petry herself suggested police could shoot refugees trying to enter Germany.
Alexander Ahrens, the mayor of the town of Bautzen, where the former hotel burned over the weekend as onlookers celebrated, earlier accused Petry of “spiritual arson”— a phrase often used in Germany to denounce incitement.
“To say something like that about a political opponent is cheap polemics,” Petry tells foreign reporters in Berlin. She also dismissed as “laughable” suggestions from Germany’s center-left Social Democrats that the domestic intelligence agency should monitor AfD.
US, Russia reach fresh Syria ceasefire deal – report
Al-Jazeera reports that diplomats at the UN, including the US and Russia, have reached a deal to cease Syrian fighting, though the regime and rebel groups have yet to sign on.
The channel says the deal was reached in the framework of a UN task force chaired by Washington and Moscow.
The deal, like an earlier one that failed to take effect, would not include ceasing fighting against the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front terror groups.
There is no official confirmation.
Palestinian said to be longest-fasting hunger striker since 1981
An advocacy group says Palestinian detainee Mohammed al-Qiq has entered uncharted medical territory with a hunger strike of 89 days — longer than fasts by other Palestinians or by Irish prisoners in 1981.
Amani Dayif of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel says al-Qiq’s condition is rapidly deteriorating. She says no one else “has survived this much” time.
The case of al-Qiq, a Hamas activist, highlights Israel’s controversial practice of holding Palestinians without charge or trial, usually people suspected of terror activities.
Al-Qiq launched his hunger strike November 25 to win release from such detention.
His fate has been discussed in recent top-level meetings, including on Sunday by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and US Secretary of State John Kerry.
US officials confirm new Syria ceasefire pact
US officials have confirmed that the United States and Russia agreed on a plan for a ceasefire in Syria starting Saturday that would exclude attacks on the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda’s local affiliate.
The officials say that the two sides have agreed on the terms and conditions for the “cessation of hostilities.” A formal announcement is expected after presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin speak on the matter by telephone. The officials aren’t authorized to speak about the matter publicly.
The announcement would cap weeks of diplomacy that intensified in the past few days, aimed at reaching a temporary truce that would allow the parties to return to the negotiating table in Geneva.
A first round of indirect talks collapsed rapidly last month after the government launched a massive offensive backed by Russian airstrikes in the northern province of Aleppo, near the Turkish border.
Residents of the Syrian capital earlier expressed skepticism about talk of a “provisional agreement” for a truce, a day after a wave of Islamic State bombings killed about 130 people in government-held areas near Damascus and another city.
Details of the tentative ceasefire between the government and insurgents, announced in Jordan on Sunday by US Secretary of State John Kerry, have not been made public. Even if a truce were to take hold, IS would not be a party to it.
Polish town to protect Jewish cemetery from developer
A town in central Poland will protect a Jewish cemetery from being developed into a residential complex with underground parking.
The City Council of Grodzisk Mazowiecki has leased the land to the Jewish cemetery within its historic boundaries from developer Futura G.M., preventing the company from building a residential complex on the land.
Local authorities plan to ensure the cemetery is properly recognized.
The agreement signed by the Futura G.M. company and the city of Grodzisk is for an indefinite period. After identifying the legal status of the leased parcels and determining ownership, the municipality intends to purchase the land. The agreement was signed in January but first reported by local media late last week.
Futura G.M. has already left the area of the cemetery.
“All work to clean the area will be conducted in a way that guarantees respect for those buried there, former Jewish residents of Grodzisk Mazowiecki, in close cooperation with and supervision of the Jewish Community of Warsaw,” the mayor of Grodzisk, Grzegorz Benedykciński, tells JTA.
IDF to probe why soldier slain at market wasn’t carrying weapon
The Israeli military is probing why IDF soldier Tuvia Yanai Weissman did not have his service rifle with him when he was stabbed to death at a West Bank supermarket on Thursday.
As a part of the investigation, Col. Amos HaCohen will determine whether all soldiers in the Nahal Brigade he heads should carry their rifles with them, including when they are off duty, given the wave of street violence gripping the country, a military source tells The Times of Israel.
Weissman, 21, served as a soldier in the infantry brigade, and was killed while out with his wife and daughter on regular leave.
— with Judah Ari Gross
Lod shooting critically injures 1; likely non-terror
One person has been rushed to a hospital in critical condition after being shot in the central city of Lod.
According to initial reports, police believe the incident to not be terror related. An investigation has been launched
A second person is lightly injured in the incident, according to Channel 2 news.
The shooting took place near a shopping center in the working-class city, which has been wracked by gang violence in recent years.
Syrian rebels back truce deal ‘in principle’
The leader of a Saudi-backed Syrian opposition alliance says that rebel factions have agreed “in principle” to an internationally mediated temporary truce.
Riad Hijab, who heads the group known as the High Negotiations Committee, also called on Russia, Iran and the Syrian government to stop their attacks, lift blockades and release prisoners in Syria.
His statement does not elaborate on the terms of the truce reached.
US officials earlier said the United States and Russia agreed on a plan for a ceasefire in Syria starting Saturday that would exclude attacks on the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda’s local affiliate.
Victim in Lod shooting dies
The critically injured victim in a Lod shooting has died of his wounds, according to media reports.
The man was in his 20s.
Police say the incident was not terror related.
Syrian official pessimistic on ceasefire chances
A Syrian official says a temporary truce will not stop the government and its allies from striking “other terrorist groups” besides the Islamic State, expressing scant hope it will succeed.
Omar Osso, a member of parliament who was on the Syrian negotiating team in Geneva earlier this month, says a truce might be “relatively successful” in some areas, but said the government has the right to continue to combat terrorism.
He tells The Associated Press in Damascus that he was “not optimistic that clashes will stop because we are dealing with criminals who have hundreds of state sponsors” and various loyalties.
Syrian officials routinely refer to all rebel groups as “terrorists.”
At the same time, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomes the ceasefire agreement for Syria as a “long-awaited signal of hope” and urges all sides to abide by it.
— with AP and AFP
Lebanon to seek Gulf aid after Saudis shut wallet
Lebanon’s prime minister says he will head a ministerial delegation to visit Gulf states in the near future after Saudi Arabia halted security assistance deals worth $4 billion.
The Saudi move comes after Lebanon failed to back the Sunni kingdom in its spat with Shiite powerhouse Iran, the leading backer of Hezbollah.
In a statement Monday, Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam insists Beirut stands by Arab countries.
Salam says it is necessary to rectify relations between Lebanon and its “brothers,” and “remove the stains” that surfaced recently.
Salam heads a unity cabinet that includes members of an Iran-backed coalition headed by Hezbollah and the Saudi-supported March 14 group.
Salam says Lebanon will maintain its policy of “disassociation” from regional conflicts.
Report: Convict in Abu Khdeir murder found fit to be sentenced
Yosef Ben David, convicted of murdering Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir in July 2014, has been found mentally fit by the official state psychiatrist, Channel 2 news reports.
Ben David was found guilty of kidnapping, beating and burning to death Abu Khdeir, 16, along with two minors, but has yet to be sentenced after his lawyers claimed he was mentally unstable.
The court had ordered an evaluation before handing down sentencing. It is not clear when the court will accept the state evaluation and hold a sentencing hearing.
The two minors, whose names are protected by a gag order, were sentenced last month — one to a life sentence; and the other to 21 years behind bars.
3,000-year-old fingerprints on Egyptian coffin to go on display
Researchers at a UK museum say they have found 3,000-year-old fingerprints left on an Egyptian coffin.
The prints were first discovered in 2005 and have since been studied to teach researchers more about the crafting of coffins in ancient Egypt.
The coffin, belonging to a priest from Thebes, is to go on display on Tuesday as part of a new exhibit exploring how coffins were made.
Islamic State collected millions for freed Christians
The Islamic State group collected millions of dollars in ransom for a group of Assyrian Christians it kidnapped in Syria a year ago, Christian officials and an opposition group say, as the last of the 230 hostages were freed.
The release ended a yearlong saga for the Christians — many of them women and children — during which families had no news from their loved ones.
Younan Talia, of the Assyrian Democratic Organization, tells The Associated Press that about 40 remaining captives were released early Monday and arrived in the northeastern town of Tal Tamr. He says the release came after mediation led by a top Assyrian priest in northern Syria.
The extremists captured the Assyrians, members of an ancient Christian sect, last February after overrunning several communities on the southern bank of the Khabur River in northeastern Hassakeh province.
Talia says IS demanded a ransom of $18 million for the Assyrian Christians. He said the figure was later lowered following negotiations. He said he did not know the final amount.
Putin, Obama discuss Syria ceasefire by phone
US President Barack Obama has held a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the Syrian ceasefire pact, the White House says.
Putin calls the ceasefire agreement on Syria a “real step that can stop the bloodshed.”
Putin also reportedly likens the ceasefire to the 2013 deal that saw Assad give up his chemical stockpile in exchange for staving off US airstrikes.
— with agencies
After slaying, soldiers told to take rifles with them off base
IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot has reportedly ordered all combat soldiers to carry their weapons with them on leave, hours after the army said it was investigating why a soldier killed at a supermarket was made to leave his rifle on the base.
The order will stay in effect until further notice, Channel 10 news reports.
Many soldiers in the standing army are told to leave their weapons on base when they go home for regular leave, a move implemented following the 2006 Second Lebanon War in order to cut down on troop suicides.
Israeli soldier are generally given leave once every couple of weekends.
Tuvai Yanai Weissman, an infantry soldier, was stabbed to death while shopping with his wife and child in a West Bank supermarket on Thursday.
Earlier on Monday, the army said it would investigate why he was told he could not carry his weapon off base, and would also probe whether to change rules for soldiers carrying weapons, given a wave of attacks over recent months.
Last year, the Public Security Ministry loosened rules allowing guards and other armed professionals to carry weapons while off duty.
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