PM said to have personally proposed sending hidden cameras in Arab voting booths
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URWP demands full West Bank annexation, in exchange for law granting PM immunity

Long list of demands by right-wing party, including limiting authority of High Court and attorney general, to be presented in coalition negotiations starting next week

Left, Bezalel Smotrich, after winning the election for chairman of the National Union, at the Crown Plaza hotel in Jerusalem, January 14, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90). Right, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits a drill of the Armored Corps in Shizafon Base, in southern Israel on January 23, 2019. (Flash90)
Left, Bezalel Smotrich, after winning the election for chairman of the National Union, at the Crown Plaza hotel in Jerusalem, January 14, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90). Right, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits a drill of the Armored Corps in Shizafon Base, in southern Israel on January 23, 2019. (Flash90)

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

87 bomb detonators found at Colombo bus station: Sri Lanka police

Sri Lanka police say they found 87 bomb detonators at a Colombo bus station, a day after a string of attacks on churches and hotels that killed nearly 300 people.

A statement says police found the detonators at the Bastian Mawatha Private bus stand, 12 of them scattered on the ground and another 75 in a garbage dump nearby.

— AFP

Van explodes near bombed Sri Lanka church

A van parked near a Sri Lankan church that was bombed on Easter Sunday has exploded, but no injuries have been reported.

Police went to inspect the van after people reported it had been parked near St. Anthony’s Shrine since yesterday.

They discover three bombs that they try to defuse. Instead, the bombs detonate, sending pedestrians fleeing in panic.

A series of bombings Sunday killed at least 290 people, including at least 27 foreigners. About 500 others were wounded in the blasts. Officials say 24 suspects are in custody for questioning.

— AP

Qatar opens Gaza artificial limb, rehab center after delays

Qatar is inaugurating the Gaza Strip’s first prosthetic hospital and disability rehab center after many delays.

Officials from the oil-rich Arab nation attend the opening in Gaza City.

Qatar built the hospital after its then-emir visited Gaza in 2012. It was the first visit by a head of state since Hamas violently seized control of the territory from the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.

But a lack of qualified staff and funding prevented Hamas from operating the center.

Eventually, the Qatar Fund for Development trained the hospital’s 150-member staff locally and abroad. It has assumed the project’s expenses for now.

Health officials say the 100-bed hospital is vital for Gaza, where more than 130 Palestinians have lost limbs over the past year during ongoing protests and riots along Gaza-Israel perimeter fence.

— AP

Bar Refaeli ordered to pay back taxes on $4.5m in unreported income

The Lod District Court has ordered Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli to pay back taxes on the NIS 16 million ($4.5 million) in income that that she allegedly concealed from Israeli tax authorities.

The ruling was handed down last week, but the court only announces the decision today.

Refaeli’s legal team argued to the judge at the hearing last week that during the period in question, between 2009 and 2010, the model was permanently living abroad and therefore should not have to pay income tax in Israel. Her lawyers pointed to Refaeli’s relationship with then-boyfriend, Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio, and claimed the US was her primary residence during that time.

But the judge rejected those claims, and sided with authorities who insist Refaeli lived Tel Aviv during 2009 and 2010. The court ruled that since she was not considered a foreign resident under Israeli law, Refaeli must pay the massive bill from the Tax Authority she received last June.

Refaeli’s lawyers vow to appeal the case to the Supreme Court, telling the Ynet news site that the ruling by the Lod court “ignored main facts” in Refaeli’s case.

Construction worker killed in Haifa after scaffolding collapses; more feared trapped

A 30-year-old construction worker is killed in Haifa after the scaffolding attached to a ten-story building collapses in its entirety.

A Magen David Adom team of paramedics is searching for other people who may be trapped in the wreckage.

Rescue forces say the rescue attempts are likely to take considerable time.

Five dead as buildings collapse in Philippine quake: official

Five people have been killed when at least two buildings collapsed as a strong earthquake rocked the northern Philippines, a local official says.

Three bodies have been pulled out of a collapsed building in the town of Porac, while an old woman and her grandchild were crushed to death by another building in the town of Lubao, provincial governor Lilia Pineda tells ABS-CBN television.

“The quake has caused a blackout,” she says, hampering rescue efforts in the early evening as night closes in.

Rescue workers carry a woman to an ambulance after she became dizzy following an earthquake hit Manila, Philippines, April 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

— AFP

Doctor with cerebral palsy to be honored at Independence Day ceremony

Dr. Hodaya Oliel, a 27-year-old woman with cerebral palsy who earlier this year made headlines by graduating from the Technion’s medical school and becoming a doctor, will light one of the torches in this year’s traditional ceremony on Independence Day next month, Culture Minister Miri Regev announces.

Hodaya Oliel, born with cerebral palsy, speaks about her drive to become a pediatric neurologist. (Hadashot TV news screenshot)

Oliel was born three months premature and weighed a mere 930 grams (2.0 pounds) at birth, after which she dropped to only 760 grams (1.7 pounds).

After undergoing five operations before entering high school, Oliel graduated with top grades and went on to graduate med school in January despite numerous challenges. She is now starting her residency at Kaplan hospital.

In notes explaining the choice, Regev writes that Oliel “is a symbol for rising above every obstacle and represents the strive to integrate people with disability into society.”

At least 39 foreign tourists among Sri Lanka fatalities

At least 290 people were killed in a series of nine bombings on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. Sri Lankan authorities say 39 foreign tourists died in the attacks, with 28 others injured. A look at some of the countries whose citizens were among the victims:

UK: Sri Lanka’s top diplomat in Britain says authorities know of eight British nationals killed in the bombings.

INDIA: Indian officials say five Indians died in the attacks.

DENMARK: Danish media are saying that three of the four children of Danish business tycoon Anders Holch Povlsen were killed in the attacks.

AUSTRALIA: Australia’s prime minister says two Australian citizens were killed.

CHINA: Chinese state media say two of the country’s citizens died in the blasts.

OTHERS: The United States, Japan and Portugal have also confirmed their nationals were among the dead.

— AP

Kremlin says ‘too early’ to say if Putin can work with Ukraine’s Zelensky

The Kremlin says it is “too early” to say whether it can work with Volodymyr Zelensky, a Jewish comedian who was elected to the Ukraine presidency in a weekend vote.

“It’s too early to talk about President (Vladimir) Putin congratulating Mr. Zelensky, or about the possibility of working together. It will only be possible to judge based on real actions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says.

— AFP

White House announces end of US sanction waivers for Iran oil imports

The White House says the US is ending exemptions from sanctions for countries that import Iranian oil. In a statement, the White House says it is taking “timely action to assure that global demand is met as all Iranian oil is removed from the market.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies before the House Appropriations Committee’s State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee about his department’s 2020 budget request, March 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is to discuss the move at the State Department today. The decision means sanctions waivers for five nations, including China and India and US treaty allies Japan, South Korea and Turkey, won’t be renewed when they expire on May 2.

The move comes as the administration toughens its already strict penalties on Iran by trying to choke off all the revenue the country makes from oil sales.

The waivers had been in place since November, when the administration reimposed sanctions on Iran after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

They were granted in part to give those countries time to eliminate their purchases of Iranian oil but also to ease any impact on global energy markets with the abrupt removal of Iran’s production.

Pompeo says now that production increases elsewhere will make up for the loss of Iranian oil on the market.

— AP

Blue and White taps ex-trade union chief Nissenkorn as faction chairman

Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz appoints former trade union chief Avi Nissenkorn, the party’s No. 5, as the chairman of the faction in the Knesset, according to a party statement.

Histadrut leader Avi Nissenkorn attends a hearing at the National Labor Court in Jerusalem on December 5, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Many Israeli media outlets report the development as a surprise, after Nissenkorn was barely featured in Blue and White’s election campaign out of fear his past in the Histadrut labor union organization was deterring potential voters.

Incoming lawmakers Meir Cohen and Zvi Hauser will help Nissenkorn in managing faction and opposition affairs.

“I am convinced that Avi’s past experience with the Knesset institutions will enable successful work,” Gantz says, wishing him luck.

Netanyahu hails ‘important’ US decision to end Iran sanction waivers

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responds to US President Donald Trump’s announcement ending sanction waivers for five countries on Iranian oil imports.

In a tweet, the premier says the decision “is important in increasing the pressure on the Iranian terror regime.

“We stand by the US determination against Iran’s aggression and this is the right way to stop it.”

Pompeo vows fight on ‘Islamic radical terrorism’ after Sri Lanka attacks

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vows that the United States will keep fighting “radical Islamic terror” after devastating attacks in Sri Lanka.

“Radical Islamic terror remains a threat,” Pompeo tells reporters. “This is America’s fight, too.”

— AFP

Trump: Saudi Arabia will ‘more than make up’ for decrease in Iran oil purchases

After ending sanction waivers on Iranian oil imports for five countries, US President Donald Trump tweets that other nations, mainly Saudi Arabia, can provide the oil instead.

Saudi Arabia is a regional foe of Tehran, and cooperation between Riyadh and Washington has increased in recent years.

Katz says US ending sanction waivers is needed to fight Iran, Hezbollah

Acting Foreign Minister Israel Katz welcomes the US decision to “move to a policy of zero exemptions for energy exports from Iran.”

“Only tough steps of this kind will force the ayatollah regime in Iran to completely stop the development of the dangerous nuclear program and their support for Hezbollah and the other terrorist organizations in the region,” Katz says in a statement. “Israel will continue to be a loyal partner of the United States in the struggle against Iranian aggression.”

Acting Foreign Minister and Transportation Minister Israel Katz speaks in Jerusalem on February 27, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

New York outbreak drives US measles cases toward 25-year record

Outbreaks in New York state continue to drive up the number of US measles cases, which are approaching levels not seen in 25 years.

Health officials say 71 more cases were reported last week, with 68 of them from New York. That brings this year’s total to 626.

A sign explaining the local state of emergency is displayed at the Rockland County Health Department in Pomona, NY, March 27, 2019. (Seth Wenig/AP)

That is already the most since 2014, when 667 were reported for the whole year. The most before that was 963 cases in 1994.

Twenty-two US states have reported cases, but the vast majority have been in New York — mainly in New York City and in nearby Rockland County. Most of the New York cases have been unvaccinated people in Orthodox Jewish communities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the latest numbers today.

— AP

Israelis in Sri Lanka advised to stay away from churches, tourist sites

The Foreign Ministry issues a travel warning to Israelis visiting or planning to visit Sri Lanka, advising them to stay away from churches and tourist sites after suicide bombings yesterday killed at least 290 people at churches and other locations.

The directive also recommends that travelers stay away from scenes of attacks and follow announcements on local media.

“We recommend that you update your family members on your status at all times,” the ministry’s counter-terror center says.

Iran threatens to close Strait of Hormuz in response to US sanction waiver

The commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ navy threatens to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz in response to the US decision to end sanction waivers on Iranian oil imports.

Illustrative: The Iranian warship Alborz, foreground, prepares to leave Iran’s waters at the Strait of Hormuz, in this photo released by the semi-official Fars News Agency, April 7, 2015. (AP/Fars News Agency, Mahdi Marizad)

“According to international law, the Strait of Hormuz is a marine passageway and if we are barred from using it, we will shut it down,” General Alireza Tangsiri says according to the Reuters news agency, citing Iran’s semi-official news agency Fars.

“In case of any threat, we will have not even an iota of doubt to protect and defend the Iranian waters,” he adds.

Reuters also quotes an unnamed source in Iran’s oil ministry as saying that “whether the waivers continue or not, Iran’s oil exports will not be zero under any circumstances unless Iranian authorities decide to stop oil exports … and this is not relevant now.

“We have years of experience in neutralizing efforts by enemies to strike blows against our country,” the source reportedly tells the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

Trump calls Sri Lanka PM to express condolences over attacks

US President Donald Trump calls Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to express condolences over the killing of nearly 300 people in suicide bomb blasts at churches and hotels.

The attacks on Easter yesterday, which Sri Lankan authorities believe were carried out by a local Islamist group, were “one of the deadliest terrorist events since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidely says.

— AFP

Poland’s Catholic Church denounces burning of Judas effigy with long nose

The Catholic Church in Poland condemns Friday’s Easter ritual in the town of Pruchnik in which residents beat, hanged and burned an effigy of Judas Iscariot made to look like a Jew according to anti-Semitic stereotypes such as a long nose and ultra-Orthodox attire.

“The Church clearly expresses its disapproval of practices that violate human dignity,” writes Bishop Rafal Markowski, chairman of the churche’s Council for Religious Dialogue and of its Committee for Dialogue with Judaism.

“The Catholic Church will never tolerate manifestations of contempt towards members of any nation, including the Jewish people,” continues the statement, which is shared by Polish Ambassador to Israel Marek Magierowski.

Hezbollah chief condemns ‘savage and inhumane’ attacks on Sri Lanka churches

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah condemns the Easter Sunday bombings that hit Sri Lankan churches and luxury hotels, killing more than 290 people.

“We add our voice to all of the voices that condemned this savage and inhumane terrorism, which is totally disconnected from human nature and morals and Semitic values,” he says in a televised speech.

Hezbollah is an Iran-backed terror group based in Lebanon.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah speaks on June 29, 2018. (YouTube screenshot)

— Adam Rasgon

Turkey says it ‘won’t accept’ US ending exemptions on Iran oil purchases

Turkey says it will not respect sanctions on oil imports from Iran after US President Donald Trump announced Washington would end waivers to the Islamic Republic’s oil customers.

“We do not accept unilateral sanctions and impositions on the issue of how we will establish relations with our neighbors,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu news agency.

— AFP

Ultra-Orthodox Jew chased with bat in London street

A British Jewish center in the London neighborhood of Stamford Hill publishes footage of an assailant chasing an identifiably ultra-Orthodox Jew with a bat in his hand.

JCC Stamford Hill calls on local police to intervene and ensure the Jewish community’s safety.

Iran denounces ‘illegal’ US sanctions as oil waivers set to end

Iran denounces US sanctions on its oil sector as “illegal” after the United States announced it will no longer grant exemptions to Tehran’s oil customers.

“Since the sanctions in question are principally illegal, the Islamic Republic of Iran did not and does not attach any value or credibility to the waivers,” the foreign ministry says on its official website.

— AFP

4-year-old boy killed by bus in Beitar Illit

A four-year-old boy is killed after a bus hits him in the ultra-Orthodox West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit.

“This is a real tragedy,” says Magen David Adom paramedic Haim Bernstein. “I was on a nearby street when I received the call. A four-year-old boy was sprawled on the road next to the bus, unconscious and with extremely severe injuries.

“I performed several medical examinations, but he had no vital signs and we had little to do besides pronouncing his death.”

IDF denies reports that Israeli spy’s remains were found in Syria

After Israeli and Russian authorities denied reports that Israeli spy Eli Cohen’s remains have been found in Syria, the Israel Defense Forces also says there is no truth to that rumor.

“Following a number of queries, the IDF Spokesperson would like to emphasize that no progress has been made in locating the body of Eli Cohen, and that reports claiming Russian retrieval of his body are incorrect,” the military says, in a tweet.

Bus driver in fatal Beitar Illit accident detained, will be questioned

Police detain the driver of the bus that hit and killed a 4-year-old boy in the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit.

He is expected to be questioned on suspicion of negligent manslaughter, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

This is the third incident in recent years in which a child has been killed by a bus on that same street.

Nasrallah says Israel won’t start war with Lebanon because it is ‘unprepared’

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group, says Israel will not initiate a war against Lebanon because its home front is not prepared to withstand its missiles, citing rockets fired in recent months by Hamas from the Gaza Strip.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah addresses a crowd during the holy day of Ashoura, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

“I am leaning toward the conclusion that Israel is unlikely to carry out a war on Lebanon,” Nasrallah says during a televised speech. “I personally think that it is unlikely they will do so because… its home front is not prepared.

“The events and days have proved the unpreparedness of the Israeli home front,” he continues. “We saw how two missiles were fired by mistake from Gaza and landed in the Tel Aviv surroundings and then another missile was shot off from Gaza and landed north of Tel Aviv. All the Israeli measures were not able to do anything. The Israelis say the home front is not ready.”

“Any theoretical Israeli war needs a ground operation to achieve its desired goal,” Nasrallah adds. “The era in which the air force decides the battle is over. This has become one of the military axioms in the world. If Israel starts a war, it needs a ground operation to achieve its goal for the war. Many reasons make me see this option as unlikely.”

— with Adam Rasgon

AIPAC praises US ending of Iran sanction waivers

The US pro-Israel lobby AIPAC praises the Trump administration decision to end sanction waivers on Iranian oil purchases, thanking US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for his “leadership on the issue.”

PM’s lawyers fail to collect legal papers, in possible attempt to delay hearing

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyers have not picked up the legal documents from Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s office for more than a week, signalling a possible attempt to delay the hearing proceedings against the premier in several corruption probes, Channel 12 reports.

The TV report quotes sources close to Mandelblit as warning that the timetable for the hearing will not change as a result.

Mandelblit has announced graft charges against Netanyahu in three cases, including bribery in one of them, pending a hearing process that is currently at its beginning.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and then-cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit at a weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on February 2, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/File)

Syrian soldiers seen ‘meters’ from Israel border, violating agreement — report

Syrian army forces have been entering the buffer zone with Israel in the Golan Heights, violating the 1974 armistice agreement signed between the countries, the Israeli military is charging.

The Kan public broadcaster publishes footage of what it says are soldiers standing “meters” from the border fence, adding that the Israel Defense Forces has complained to UN forces tasked with keeping peace and preventing violations of agreements.

US officials say 6 people died in Texas small plane crash

All six people aboard a US small plane die when it crashes, while preparing to land in central Texas, authorities say.

The twin-engine aircraft went down just before 9 a.m. (local time), as it was approaching an airport in Kerrville, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) northwest of San Antonio, according to a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.

The pilot and other five people aboard the plane were all killed, and state law enforcement officials are securing the crash site for FAA and National Transportation Safety Board investigators, says Sgt. Orlando Moreno, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The Beechcraft BE58 took off from an airport outside Houston earlier today and crashed about six miles (10 kilometers) northwest of Kerrville Municipal Airport, the FAA spokesman says. Federal authorities have not yet confirmed its tail number.

— AP

URWP demands full West Bank annexation, in exchange for law granting PM immunity

The Union of Right-Wing Parties will officially enter coalition negotiations next week with a long list of demands, including a guarantee from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he will annex all Israeli settlements in the West Bank in exchange for the party’s advancement of legislation that would offer the premier immunity from prosecution.

The right-wing slate’s list of demands confirmed by a party spokesman will include the passing of a law barring the High Court of Justice from overriding Knesset legislation in addition to the reducing of the authority of the attorney general and the state comptroller.

Left, Bezalel Smotrich after winning the election for chairman of the National Union, at the Crown Plaza hotel in Jerusalem, January 14, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90). Right, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits a drill of the Armored Corps in Shizafon Base, in southern Israel on January 23, 2019. (Flash90)

— Jacob Magid

4-year-old boy killed by bus in Beitar Illit is a US citizen — report

The 4-year-old boy who was hit and killed by a bus in the ultra-Orthodox West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit is a US citizen, whose family came to Israel to spend Passover with Israeli relatives, according to the Haredi news website Kikar Hashabbat.

Media reports say the child had been standing with his family on the sidewalk, when he abruptly ran onto the road for unknown reasons and was run over before the eyes of his mother.

PM said to have personally proposed sending hidden cameras in Arab voting booths

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally suggested sending 1,200 activists with hidden cameras to voting stations in the April 9 Knesset elections, Channel 13 reports.

A hidden camera allegedly snuck into a polling station in an Arab town by a Likud observer during parliamentary elections on April 9, 2019. (Courtesy Hadash-Ta’al)

On election day, the Likud activists arrived with hidden cameras in voting booths in Arab towns. Likud has admitted it was behind the scheme, which party officials said was designed to counter alleged voter fraud in high-risk areas.

Netanyahu presented the plan in the very first Likud election meeting, the report says, adding that the project cost NIS 1.5 million ($417,000).

The TV network says it obtained a detailed 40-slide presentation, outlining the operation in detail.

Likud is claiming that the operation “prevented the stealing of the elections and strengthened democracy,” the report says.

US offers $10 million for info to disrupt Hezbollah finances

The Trump administration is offering rewards of up to $10 million each for information that disrupts the finances of Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror organization.

The US State and Treasury Departments say the money will be paid to people who provide information such as the names of Hezbollah donors and financiers, bank records, customs receipts, or evidence of real estate transactions.

The payments will be made by the State Department’s “Rewards for Justice” program that usually offers cash for information leading to the whereabouts of wanted terrorists. This is the first time the program has been used to target a financial network.

Since it began in 1984, Rewards for Justice has paid more than $150 million to more than 100 people who have provided information about terrorists or prevented terrorism attacks.

— Agencies

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Live updates (closed)

PM said to have personally proposed sending hidden cameras in Arab voting booths

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally suggested sending 1,200 activists with hidden cameras to voting stations in the April 9 Knesset elections, Channel 13 reports.

A hidden camera allegedly snuck into a polling station in an Arab town by a Likud observer during parliamentary elections on April 9, 2019. (Courtesy Hadash-Ta’al)

On election day, the Likud activists arrived with hidden cameras in voting booths in Arab towns. Likud has admitted it was behind the scheme, which party officials said was designed to counter alleged voter fraud in high-risk areas.

Netanyahu presented the plan in the very first Likud election meeting, the report says, adding that the project cost NIS 1.5 million ($417,000).

The TV network says it obtained a detailed 40-slide presentation, outlining the operation in detail.

Likud is claiming that the operation “prevented the stealing of the elections and strengthened democracy,” the report says.