Palestinian officials deny reports Abbas invited to Iran this week
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Security Council to vote tomorrow on annulling US moves on Jerusalem — report

Proposed resolution drafted by Egypt would invalidate any decision regarding Jerusalem contradicting previous UN decisions on the holy city

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

  • Illustrative: A trail of smoke from a rocket as it was launched from the Gaza Strip toward the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, August 24, 2014. (Edi Israel/Flash90/File)
    Illustrative: A trail of smoke from a rocket as it was launched from the Gaza Strip toward the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, August 24, 2014. (Edi Israel/Flash90/File)
  • Illustrative. A picture taken from the southern Israeli Gaza border shows rockets being fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, on July 24, 2014 (JACK GUEZ/AFP)
    Illustrative. A picture taken from the southern Israeli Gaza border shows rockets being fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, on July 24, 2014 (JACK GUEZ/AFP)
  • French President Emmanuel Macron (R) shakes hands with US President Donald Trump (L) during a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on July 13, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Alain Jocard)
    French President Emmanuel Macron (R) shakes hands with US President Donald Trump (L) during a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on July 13, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Alain Jocard)
  • Supporters of the Pakistan Defense Council, an alliance of hardline Islamist religious parties chant slogans during a rally against America, in Lahore, Pakistan, December 17, 2017. (K.M. Chaudary/AP)
    Supporters of the Pakistan Defense Council, an alliance of hardline Islamist religious parties chant slogans during a rally against America, in Lahore, Pakistan, December 17, 2017. (K.M. Chaudary/AP)
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he delivers a speech at an event in Ankara, Turkey, December 12, 2017. (AP)
    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he delivers a speech at an event in Ankara, Turkey, December 12, 2017. (AP)
  • Teva Pharmaceutical Industries employees  protest in front of the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem against the company's plan to lay off hundreds of workers, December 17, 2017.(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Teva Pharmaceutical Industries employees protest in front of the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem against the company's plan to lay off hundreds of workers, December 17, 2017.(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Following a knife attack on two Danish nationals, police question detained Muslim retail traders in Libreville, Gabon, December 17, 2017. (Steve JORDAN/AFP)
    Following a knife attack on two Danish nationals, police question detained Muslim retail traders in Libreville, Gabon, December 17, 2017. (Steve JORDAN/AFP)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.

Second Gaza crossing reopens after weekend closure due to rocket fire

Israel reopens the second crossing in and out of the Gaza Strip this morning, after closing the pair following numerous rocket attacks on Israel from the coastal enclave, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories says.

The Kerem Shalom Crossing, which is used for transporting goods, operated as normal this morning, a COGAT spokesperson says.

The Erez Crossing, which is used for people to enter and exit the Strip, reopened on Friday.

Palestinians were able to leave Gaza as normal today, though people entering the Strip from Israel were barred from crossing this morning, not due to security considerations, but because of a general strike of Israeli workers.

— Judah Ari Gross

Teva employees barricade themselves inside factory to protest layoffs

Teva employees in Jerusalem are barricading themselves inside the Har Hotzvim factory to protest the pharmaceutical giant’s planned layoffs.

“We are staring to barricade ourselves and we will be setting up a protest tent outside the factory,” the factory union says. “We will not give up our factory. We’ll go to sleep with our children in the factory.”

Teva will make 1,750 employees redundant in Israel as part of plans to slash 14,000 jobs globally over two years, according to Histadrut head Avi Nissenkorn.

The cuts would amount to more than a quarter of the Israeli drugmaker’s global workforce of over 55,000, of which fewer than 7,000 work in Israel.

Teen in central Israel seriously injured when unexploded land mine goes off

A teenager and two children are injured after an unexploded ordnance they were playing with blew up in the Kula forest near the community of Elad in central Israel.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says a 14-year-old sustained serious injuries, and a 9 and 11-year-old are lightly hurt.

— Judah Ari Gross

Security forces nab 15 Palestinians illegally crossing security barrier

Israeli security forces detain 15 Palestinians illegally attempting to cross the security barrier into Israel, the army says in a statement.

The incident occurred the Palestinian village of Arabbuna near Jenin in the northern West Bank.

The Palestinians are detained for questioning.

Government allocates 7% of all public sector jobs to ultra-Orthodox

The cabinet decides to allocate 7% of all public sector jobs in Israel to the ultra-Orthodox community.

The cabinet decision gives a three-year deadline for the employment standards to be put in place.

The decision is part of wider efforts to integrate the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel.

Coalition advancing ‘Jewish state’ bill without equality clause

The coalition agrees the so-called Jewish state bill will be go to the plenum for its first reading later this Knesset session in its current form.

The legislation spearheaded by Likud MK Avi Dichter was being revised in a special committee after Kulanu MK Roy Folkman demanded a clause be added to ensure equal rights for all Israelis.

The coalition said any changes in the law’s wording will take place after its first plenum reading.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear he is eager to see the law — which would for the first time enshrine Israel’s Jewish character in its constitutional Basic Laws — advanced as quickly as possible.

Suicide bombers attack church in Pakistan, killing 8

Two suicide bombers attacked a church in the Pakistani city of Quetta on Sunday, killing eight people and wounding 42 others, officials say.

Sarfaraz Bugti, home minister for the southwestern Baluchistan province, says hundreds of worshipers were attending services at the church ahead of Christmas. He said the attackers clashed with security forces, with one assailant killed at the entrance while the other made it inside.

Baluchistan police chief Moazzam Ansari praises the response of security forces guarding the church, saying the attacker who made it inside was wounded and unable to reach the main building. “Otherwise the loss of lives could have been much higher,” he told reporters.

Quetta police chief Abdur Razzaq Cheema said a search is underway for two suspected accomplices who escaped.

Wasim Baig, spokesman for Quetta main hospital, confirmed the attack’s toll, updating earlier accounts from officials.

No one immediately claimed the attack. Muslim extremists have targeted Pakistan’s small Christian minority in the past.

— AP

Erdogan says Turkey to open embassy in East Jerusalem

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he will open an embassy in East Jerusalem to protest against the decision by US President Donald Trump to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

“We have already declared East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state but we haven’t been able to open our embassy there because Jerusalem is currently under occupation,” Erdogan says at a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) meeting in Karaman according to the Hurriyet Daily News.

“God willing, the day is close when officially, with God’s permission, we will open our embassy there,” he says.

Seeking to steer often disunited Muslim nations into a coordinated response on the changed US policy, Erdogan last week chaired a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) where leaders declared East Jerusalem to be the capital of a Palestinian state.

Thousands rally in Pakistan against Trump’s Jerusalem move

Thousands of Islamists have rallied in two major cities in Pakistan to condemn US President Donald Trump for declaring Jerusalem Israel’s capital.

Supporters of the Jamaat-e-Islami party in Karachi and advocates of US-wanted Islamist Hafiz Saeed in Lahore dispersed peacefully after the rally.

Protests have persisted in Pakistan since Trump’s announcement that sparked protests in the Muslim world.

The chief of Jamaat-e-Islami, Sirajul Haq, called on all Muslim nations to suspend diplomatic ties with the US until it reconsiders its Jerusalem decision.

Hafiz Saeed says that Muslims the world over should put aside any differences and unite around the cause of “liberating” Jerusalem.

Muslim-majority Pakistan has reiterated its support for the Palestinians, who claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their hoped-for state.

— AP

IS claims pre-Christmas suicide bombing of Pakistan church

A suicide bomb attack on a Pakistan church that killed at least eight people and wounded 30 during a service earlier today is claimed by the Islamic State group.

In a brief statement on its Amaq news agency, the jihadist group claimed responsibility.

Earlier, officials said police intercepted and shot dead one attacker outside the church before he could detonate his bomb. But the second managed to reach the church’s main door, where he blew himself up.

“Police were quick to react and stop the attackers from entering into the main hall,” provincial police chief Moazzam Jah tells AFP.

Each attacker was carrying 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of explosive plus grenades, says civil defense official Aslam Tareen.

— with AFP

Teva workers across Israel to continue protesting layoffs tomorrow

The Histadrut labor union says Teva workers will continue various protests against the company’s decision to lay off a quarter of its workforce in Israel.

Teva’s headquarters in Petah Tikva, along with its plants in Ashdod and Netanya, will be closed tomorrow in protest. Workers at Teva’s Jerusalem facilities will continue their general strike and sit-in, and workers at the Kfar Saba factory will strike for four hours.

Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn will meet with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Economy Minister Eli Cohent tomorrow to discuss the mass layoffs in Israel.

Earlier, Teva workers in Jerusalem staged demonstrations outside a company plant, at the entrance to the city and outside Netanyahu’s office as he was convening his cabinet for its weekly meeting.

The workers blocked traffic, beat drums and chanted slogans against the coming layoffs. “Closing Teva is an attack against the State of Israel,” read one poster.

The protest resumed later in the afternoon, when dozens of workers waving Israeli flags again blocked a road near the Jerusalem plant, backing up traffic when rush hour started.

Crime bosses named as suspects in murder of state witnesses

Police reveal that the heads of two major criminal organizations have been arrested in recent months for the murder of two state witnesses earlier this year.

State protectors are expected to file an indictment against crime bosses Yaniv (Nivi) Zaguri and Michael Mor tomorrow.

Four others have been arrested in connection to the murders of Tal Korkus and Elisha Sabah.

Ministers green-light bill for harsher penalties for teacher violence

The Knesset’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation approves legislation that will impose a 5-year jail sentence for assaulting teachers.

The amendment to the Penal Law was proposed by Jewish Home lawmaker Moti Yogev in the wake of several incidents of violence against teachers.

In addition, Education Minister Naftali Bennett says he has instructed his office to ensure that students who attack teachers may be permanently expelled from the school.

“Teachers are our central resource and we are committed to empowering them,” Bennett says in a statement. “We have improved their employment conditions and now we are working to ensure their safety.”

Iran says Macron acting like ‘Trump’s lapdog’ on Middle East

A top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says that French President Emmanuel Macron is acting like US President Donald Trump’s “lapdog” regarding Middle East policy.

“To sustain its international credibility, France should not blindly follow the Americans … The French president is now acting as Trump’s lapdog,” Ali Akbar Velayati is quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.

Velayati also slams the US for accusing the Islamic Republic of supplying Houthi rebels in Yemen with arms.

“This claim shows she lacks basic scientific knowledge and decency,” Velayati says, adding that American UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is like Trump in saying “baseless, ridiculous things.”

“Iran has not supplied Yemen with any missile,” he says.

Germany vows to fight local and ‘imported’ anti-Semitism

Germany should appoint an anti-Semitism commissioner to counter growing hate speech against Jews and Israel from both its home-grown far right and the immigrant community, the interior minister says.

Thomas de Maiziere speaks days after protesters in Berlin burned Israeli flags to protest the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

“Every criminal act motivated by anti-Semitism is one too many and a shame for our country,” de Maiziere, the caretaker minister since inconclusive September elections, tells the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

“Anti-Semitism must never again take hold in Germany,” he says, pointing to a rise of “derogatory remarks, inappropriate jokes and discriminatory behavior against our Jewish citizens.”

— AFP

Beit Shemesh 4-year-old dies falling from 4th floor window

A four-year-old boy dies after falling out of 4th floor window in a residential building in Beit Shemesh.

Magen David Adom paramedics responding to the scene on Ben Ish Hai Street performed emergency life-saving measures on the boy, but were forced to pronounce him dead shortly after arriving.

Trump team claims Russia investigator ‘unlawfully’ got emails

A lawyer for US President Donald Trump’s transition team has alleged special counsel Robert Mueller unlawfully received tens of thousands of emails, in the latest attack on the credibility of the probe into Russian meddling in the US election.

With the ex-FBI director’s investigation making inroads into the president’s inner circle in recent weeks, Republicans have cast doubt on its impartiality and pressed for a new independent prosecutor to investigate anti-Trump bias.

This in turn has led to speculation that the administration could be laying the groundwork for firing Mueller.

In a letter to congressional committees, Trump campaign lawyer Kory Langhofer alleges the General Services Administration (GSA) “unlawfully produced” private materials, including privileged communications which Mueller then used as part of his Russia probe.

GSA is the government agency which supports presidential transitions — the interim period after a new president is elected but before he takes office.

Langhofer writes that Mueller’s office “received from the GSA tens of thousands of emails, including a very significant volume of privileged material,” according to a copy of the letter published by Politico.

The letter adds that a warrant should have been obtained for such materials, and says it violated the Presidential Transition Act.

— AFP

Putin thanks Trump for US help to foil St. Petersburg attack plot

The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin called US President Donald Trump to thank him for a CIA tip that has helped thwart a series of bombings in St. Petersburg.

The Kremlin said Putin told Trump during the call this afternoon that the information provided by the CIA was sufficient to track down and detain a group of suspects that was planning to bomb the Kazan Cathedral and other sites in the city.

The Kremlin says the Russian leader asked Trump to convey his gratitude to the CIA and said Russian law enforcement agencies will hand over any information they get about potential terror threats against the United States, as they have done in the past.

The conversation is the second phone call between the two leaders since Thursday.

— AP

Iran academic accused of spying for Mossad confesses to espionage on state TV

Iran’s state TV airs a broadcast in which an Iranian researcher confesses to relaying information to a foreign intelligence service about Iranian nuclear scientists who were later assassinated in 2010.

In the broadcast, Ahmad Reza Jalali, in jail since April 2016, says that during his studies in a European country, a man he identified as “Thomas” approached him with a job offer and ultimately recruited him to the country’s foreign intelligence service. He added that the service promised to make him a citizen of that country.

He did not name the country, but the broadcast carried images of a Swedish ID card and Rome’s Colosseum.

Jalali has been accused of passing information to Israel’s Mossad intelligence service during the negotiations that led to Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2015.

Rights groups have condemned Jalali’s detention, saying it follows a pattern of Iran detaining dual nationals indefinitely without due process.

— AP

British embassy employee found murdered in Lebanon

A Lebanese security official says the body of a woman found on the side of a road east of Beirut has been identified as a staffer in the British embassy in Lebanon.

A British embassy spokesperson confirms that a British woman had died and that they were contacting her family. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

A forensic official says authorities are investigating the exact cause of the woman’s death, and whether she was sexually assaulted. He said she had been strangled with a rope.

The security official says the woman was found yesterday by the side of a highway east of Beirut. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to reporters.

— AP

Syrian activists say 9 killed in airstrikes on rebel stronghold

Syrian activists say at least nine civilians, mostly women, have been killed in airstrikes on a residential area in the northwestern province of Idlib, a rebel stronghold.

The Syria Civil Defense, a team of first responders also known as White Helmets, says the airstrikes killed two children and seven women. They added that they used incendiary bombs. Rights groups have previously documented dozens of attacks where the Syrian government allegedly used so-called “incendiary weapons” in the conflict, noting that their use in civilian areas is against international law.

Pictures posted by the Civil Defense showed first responders carrying charred bodies, as others struggled to put out a fire in a building.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 10, all of them women and children.

— AP

IDF probing fatal shooting of Palestinian paraplegic in Gaza

The IDF says it has opened an investigation into the fatal shooting of a paraplegic Palestinian man who was shot in the head during a violent demonstration in the Gaza Strip last week.

Palestinian health officials say Ibrahim Abu Thraya was shot while demonstrating along Gaza’s border with Israel. The area has experienced continued unrest since US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital earlier this month.

Earlier, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, blamed Gaza’s Hamas rulers for instigating violent demonstrations that posed a “significant threat” to soldiers and justified the use of live fire.

Still, he says “allegations of the killing of a paraplegic Palestinian rioter are under investigation.” He says the probe is expected to take several days.

— AP

UN Security Council to vote tomorrow on resolution rejecting US move on Jerusalem — report

The UN Security Council will reportedly vote tomorrow on the Egyptian proposal that would nullify US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The proposal states that any decision regarding the status of Jerusalem that contradicts previous UN resolutions on the city will be rescinded, reports in Hebrew-language news sites say, quoting foreign diplomats.

The one-page text reportedly does not specifically mention the US or President Trump.

Rocket sirens blare in Gaza-adjacent Israeli towns

Rocket alert sirens go off in Israeli communities north of the Gaza Strip.

The army says it is investigating.

— Judah Ari Gross

Rocket fired from Gaza strikes home in Negev town

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip strikes a home in a moshav in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, Channel 10 news reports.

The TV station says no injuries were caused by the rocket that landed in the community in the northern Negev.

https://twitter.com/nthrprhsni/status/942471477982572550

The IDF in a statement confirms that two rockets were fired at Israel from the neighboring Palestinian territory.

Palestinian officials deny reports Abbas invited to Iran this week

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has reportedly received an invitation to visit Iran in the coming days, but officials close to him deny this.

The Palestinian Maan News Agency cites anonymous sources who say Abbas “has not rejected” an invitation to the Islamic Republic that he received while visiting Qatar.

However, Senior Abbas adviser Ahmed Majdalani and Fatah spokesperson Osamah Qawasmeh both deny the report.

Abbas has visited numerous Arab and Muslim capitals since US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on December 6.

— Dov Lieber

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Palestinian officials deny reports Abbas invited to Iran this week

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has reportedly received an invitation to visit Iran in the coming days, but officials close to him deny this.

The Palestinian Maan News Agency cites anonymous sources who say Abbas “has not rejected” an invitation to the Islamic Republic that he received while visiting Qatar.

However, Senior Abbas adviser Ahmed Majdalani and Fatah spokesperson Osamah Qawasmeh both deny the report.

Abbas has visited numerous Arab and Muslim capitals since US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on December 6.

— Dov Lieber