The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s developments as they unfolded.
The Labor Party votes to keep Amir Peretz as leader of the party.
It also confirms the continued alliance with Orly Levy-Abekasis’ Gesher party.
The center-left party, which picked up just six seats in the last election, also calls off party primaries.
The Health Ministry says a passenger on a December 12 Georgian Airways flight from Tel Aviv to Georgia, with a return flight on the 16th, was infected with measles.
It warns unvaccinated passengers on the flights, and those born after 1957 who likely did not receive two doses of the measles vaccine, to alert their healthcare provider if symptoms emerge.
Civil Service Commissioner Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz informs Justice Minister Amir Ohana that his candidate for interim state attorney is not sufficiently qualified for the post.
Rejecting the opinion of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and putting himself on a collision course with judicial officials, Ohana had announced Tuesday that he plans to appoint Central District deputy prosecutor Orly Ginsberg Ben-Ari as interim state prosecutor.
Hershkowitz tells Ohana the appointment would undermine the hierarchy of the state prosecution.
On Monday, Ohana rejected a demand by Hershkowitz that he be consulted over the appointment of the acting state attorney, saying he would press on with the temporary posting regardless.
Hershkowitz had informed Ohana and Mandelblit that by law they must consult with him before appointing a state attorney. But Ohana wrote back saying that he had already discussed the matter with Hershkowitz several times, including at two meetings, during which the names of all candidates were raised. The obligation under law to consult with the commissioner was thus “fulfilled, and when deciding from among the candidates, none of them will be a stranger to you,” Ohana wrote.
Russia is considering a slew of major commercial projects in Syria, a senior Russian official says.
Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov says after meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus that Russia will spend $500 million to modernize Syria’s commercial port of Tartus.
Borisov says in remarks carried by Russian news agencies that the four-year modernization program envisages an overhaul of the old port in Tartus and the construction of a new one.
He adds that there is also a plan to build a railway across Syria and Iraq that will link Syria’s Mediterranean coast with the Persian Gulf.
Russia has a Soviet-era naval base in Tartus, the only such facility outside the former Soviet Union.
In 2017, Moscow struck a deal with Assad’s government to extend its lease on Tartus for 49 years. The agreement allows Russia to keep up to 11 warships there, including nuclear-powered ones.
A lack of international assistance to Turkey to support millions of refugees on its soil pushed Ankara to launch operations in northeast Syria, the Turkish president says Tuesday.
“Nobody seems inclined to help us,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan tells global leaders gathered in Geneva.
“When we haven’t received the support we needed from the international community, we had to take care of our own self,” he says of Turkey’s decision to go into Syria to clear the so-called safe zone with the aim of sending some of the more than three million Syrian refugees in Turkey back to their country.
Three people are confirmed dead and a dozen more injured as a powerful storm front packing suspected tornadoes smashed into buildings, downed trees and left a trail of destruction around the Deep South yesterday, authorities say.
One person is reported killed in a suspected tornado strike on a Louisiana home, and two others are reported dead after another storm hit around a community about 55 miles (90 kilometers) west of the north Alabama city of Huntsville.
Lawrence County Coroner Scott Norwood in Alabama says the two people killed were husband and wife. Authorities say the injured people included a 7-year-old-child who was taken to a hospital in Birmingham. Authorities do not release names of the victims.
The area was filled with debris and downed trees when first responders arrived.
“It was total chaos,“ Norwood tells reporters. “We had to make do the best we could.”
The storms prompted numerous tornado watches and warnings yesterday. Some cities opened shelters as a cold front collided with warmer air over northern Gulf Coast states and temperatures were expected to plunge. The National Weather Service said the severe weather threat could last into today.
A cartoonist in Rome sparks a heated controversy in Italy and abroad after depicting the European Union as the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as an escaping prisoner.
Artist Mario Improta posted the cartoon on his Twitter account Saturday, after Johnson’s Conservatives won a majority in the UK election. Johnson ran on a platform of “get Brexit done,” vowing to take Britain out of the European Union by the scheduled deadline of January 31.
The cartoon features Johnson waving a British flag as he flees a concentration camp with the inscription “European Union” in the same position as the words “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work sets you free”) are at the entrance of the Nazi camp.
The comparison between the EU and a concentration camp immediately prompted a wave of criticism from politicians, Rome’s Jewish community and even some of the artist’s followers on Twitter.
The Auschwitz Memorial tweets in Italian, noting that “‘Arbeit macht frei’ was a cynical illusion that the SS gave to prisoners of Auschwitz. Those words have become one of the icons of human hatred. It is painful for the memory of Auschwitz and its victims to see this symbol used and shamefully abused.”
After the widespread criticism, Improta on Monday modified the cartoon, replacing the image of the Nazi camp with a toilet and saying it wasn’t correct to “identify the EU with a concentration camp.”
The indignation of the Auschwitz memorial and of the Jewish community for the Mario Improta cartoon. Brexit is described as Boris Jonhson in a deported uniform coming out of the Auschwitz concentration camp. The word "Arbeit Macht Frei" has been replaced by the European Union. pic.twitter.com/YIpVWgicp4
— Luca Vincenzo Simbari (@SimbariLuca) December 16, 2019
Assailants attack several protest camps in north and south Lebanon early on Tuesday, according to state-run media, demolishing and burning tents as anger boils over in the capital following a video deemed offensive to the country’s Shiites.
The violence — some of it apparently carried out by Hezbollah supporters and their allies — threatened to plunge Lebanon further into chaos amid two months of anti-government protests and a spiraling financial crisis.
In Beirut, charred remains of several torched cars are scattered on a main highway while faint smoke smolders from a fire set in a building overlooking the epicenter of protests after a night of rage by supporters of Lebanon’s two main Shiite groups, Hezbollah and Amal.
It was the third consecutive night of violence in Lebanon, coming after the Lebanese president on Monday postponed talks on naming a new prime minister, further prolonging the unrest in the Mediterranean country.
The violence was fueled by an undated video circulating online of a man, said to be living somewhere in Europe but otherwise from Lebanon’s majority Sunni city of Tripoli, railing against Shiite politicians, religious figures and others. It was unclear what the link was between the video and the attacks on the protest camps.
Former Trump campaign official Rick Gates, who was charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, will learn how much his extensive cooperation with the Justice Department has paid off when he is sentenced in Washington’s federal court.
Neither his lawyers nor federal prosecutors are seeking prison time for Gates, who pleaded guilty in February 2018 to charges relating to lucrative political consulting work he did in Ukraine. The Justice Department says that Gates provided “extraordinary assistance” in multiple investigations and that prosecutors will not oppose his request for probation. The decision will be up to the judge, who is expected to sentence Gates today.
Gates is one of a half dozen associates of US President Donald Trump charged in Mueller’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. All six have either pleaded guilty or been found guilty at trial. The three who have already been sentenced have all received prison time. Two others, former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn and Trump confidant Roger Stone, are awaiting sentencing.
Gates was among the first defendants charged in Mueller’s investigation. An indictment accused him and Paul Manafort, his onetime mentor and the chairman of the 2016 Trump campaign, of failing to disclose the work they did for then-Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych and of hiding their proceeds from US tax authorities to fund lavish lifestyles and pay for personal expenses.
Gates pleaded guilty to charges of false statements and conspiracy against the United States, and he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit says there is a “legal impediment” to Justice Minister Amir Ohana’s appointment of Orly Ginsberg Ben-Ari as interim state attorney.
Ohana announced Tuesday that he plans to appoint Central District deputy prosecutor Ginsberg Ben-Ari as interim state prosecutor.
Mandelblit had reportedly rejected Ginsberg Ben-Ari as a candidate.
In his first public comments, the attorney general suggests Ohana is unauthorized to take such a step.
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz says his party could go along with Likud’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan’s plan to appoint a permanent police commissioner, despite the fact that the nomination would be announced by a transitional government.
“Even in this politicized climate, we will back any responsible and well-considered move on the part of the Israeli government. We will act responsibly, and put Israel’s citizens first, even if it proves damaging to us politically and beneficial to our rivals. So be it,” he says.
“This morning, I heard about Minister Erdan’s plans to finally appoint a permanent Police Commissioner. I think that with due process, in consultation with legal counsel, and with us — who could potentially be leading the government three months down the line — we can certainly find solutions to these problems. It is only appropriate that the Israeli police force be headed by a permanent commissioner.”
Archaeologists in Egypt unveil two new artifacts from antiquity, a rare statue of one of the country’s most famous pharaohs and a diminutive ancient sphinx.
Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities announces that a pink granite statue of celebrated ancient ruler Ramses II was found last week, describing the artifact as “one of the rarest archaeological discoveries.”
Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, says the three-and-a-half-foot statue was crafted in a style that ancient Egyptians used to portray and capture an individual’s essential nature, adding that it was the first such statue to be found fashioned from granite.
A hieroglyphic inscription found on the back of the stone bore the name “strong bull,” a reference to the king’s “strength and vitality,” he adds.
The statue, caked in mud, was found on the property of a man arrested earlier this month for carrying out illegal excavations near the ancient pyramids of Giza, according to the ministry statement. It did not say how the statue came to be on the man’s property.
Catholic clergy will no longer be able to cite papal secrecy in sexual abuse cases after Pope Francis changed the rules, the Vatican says.
Francis’ instructions reference two articles of Vatican law that refer to sexual abuse cases, specifying that “the pontifical secret does not apply to accusations, trials and decisions” involving such offenses.
So-called pontifical secrecy is a rule of confidentiality designed to protect sensitive information related to the governance of the Roman Catholic Church — including diplomatic correspondence, personnel issues and crimes.
The Church has been rocked by thousands of reports of sexual abuse by priests and accusations of cover-ups by senior clergy.
Last May, the pontiff passed a landmark measure to oblige those who know about sex abuse to report it to their superiors, in a move which could bring new cases to light.
In today’s statement, the Argentine pontiff spells out further that “the person who files the report, the person who alleges to have been harmed and the witnesses shall not be bound by any obligation of silence with regard to matters involving the case.”
Unknown vandals have damaged dozens of gravestones at a Jewish cemetery in northern Slovakia, police and a group that worked to preserve the site say.
The Remember group says 59 gravestones were knocked down and damaged at the cemetery in the town of Namestovo.
The cemetery that dates to the second half of the 18th century had been badly neglected for decades before the organization started its renovation in 2010.
Police say they are investigating the attack.
Remember chairman Karol Kurtulik says his group will persist with its effort to preserve the site.
Nine minors from central Israel were arrested last month on suspicion of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl, Hebrew media reports.
The suspects, aged 15 and 16, were recently released to house arrest.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas says he hopes the Israeli election in March will see the rise of a pro-peace government.
“They are important because they take place with our neighbors, and they affect us, especially since this is the third time they hold elections without reaching the possibility of forming an Israeli government,” Abbas says, according to the official Wafa outlet.
“These elections will take place on March 2, 2020, and we hope that they will succeed, and we hope that they will come up with people who believe in peace and accept peace with us, so that we will move in the peace process to the end,” says Abbas.
Regime airstrikes and artillery fire kill 14 civilians in the last major opposition bastion in northwest Syria on Tuesday, a war monitor says
Another 18 are wounded in different areas of the jihadist-held region of Idlib, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backs placing cameras in Likud polling stations for the December 26 leadership primary.
Likud lawmaker Gideon Sa’ar, who is challenging Netanyahu, had demanded Tuesday that cameras be placed at voting stations to prevent voter fraud.
Sa’ar appealed to the party’s internal court, asking that it order the installation of cameras, after Likud officials, in the form of the party’s internal elections committee, rejected his request a day earlier to record the voting and counting process with video cameras.
In response to Sa’ar’s petition, Netanyahu announces his support for the move.
Authorities in Greece say two people have been arrested on terrorism-related charges for allegedly participating in a pair of arson attacks at offices of the extreme-right Golden Dawn party.
The Greek suspects, ages 35 and 36, were arrested Monday on charges that included the intention to cause physical harm. They remained in detention Tuesday, police say.
Founded on neo-Nazi ideology during the 1980s, Golden Dawn saw a surge in support in the past decade and was represented in Greece’s parliament for seven years before losing its seats in the country’s July election.
The attacks in May and November occurred at party offices in central Athens and in a small town north of the capital, causing damage but no injuries.
A group calling itself the Durruti Brigades, named after the late Spanish anarchist leader Buenaventura Durruti, claimed responsibility for the first attack.
Greek authorities for decades have battled far-left and anarchist militant groups that frequently target courts, government offices, and commercial properties.
The US State Department says that recent congressional action to recognize the Armenian genocide does not reflect Trump administration policy.
In a short statement likely to please Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the department says the administration’s position on the matter is unchanged.
The Senate voted unanimously last week to recognize the mass killings of more than a million Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago as a genocide. The House had previously adopted a similar ban over major protests from NATO ally Turkey.
“The position of the Administration has not changed,” department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus says in a terse two-sentence statement. “Our views are reflected in the president’s definitive statement on this issue from last April.”
On April 24, US President Donald Trump commemorated Armenian Remembrance Day in a statement that honored “the memory of those who suffered in one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century.” It did not, however, use the term “genocide” in keeping with longstanding US policy.
A police detective killed in an attack that also left three others dead, plus the two attackers, last week is to be laid to rest.
Funeral services for Jersey City Police Detective Joseph Seals are scheduled for Tuesday morning.
The 40-year-old married father of five was killed in a confrontation a week ago with two attackers who then drove to a kosher market and killed three people inside before dying in a lengthy shootout with police.
Jersey City Director of Public Safety James Shea called Seals “the ultimate detective or officer we would point to to tell young officers, ‘this is how you should behave.’”
The Department of Justice said US Attorney General William Barr will be at the funeral.
Authorities haven’t disclosed why Seals was in the location he was at the time he was killed, or what happened during the confrontation at a cemetery about a mile from the market.
Jersey City officials have said Seals led the department in removing illegal guns from the streets in recent years. In 2008, he was credited with saving a woman from a sexual assault inside her own home on Christmas Eve.
Besides killing Seals, David Anderson and Francine Graham killed three people inside the deli in the Greenville section of Jersey City, including the owner’s wife, a store worker and a shopper. The pair also are believed to have killed a livery driver who was found dead in the trunk of a car in nearby Bayonne the weekend before the kosher market shootings.
US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is rejecting the Democrats’ push for fresh impeachment testimony against President Donald Trump and making a last-ditch plea for them to “turn back from the cliff” of Wednesday’s expected vote to send the case to the Senate for trial.
McConnell’s remarks Tuesday effectively slapped the door shut on negotiations for a deal proposed by the Democratic leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer, who wants to call top White House officials for the Senate trial, which is set to start next year if the House impeaches Trump this week.
“If House Democrats’ case is this deficient, this thin, the answer is not for the judge and jury to cure it here in the Senate,” McConnell says. “The answer is that the House should not impeach on this basis in the first place.”
Schumer’s proposal was the first overture in what were expected to be negotiations between the two leaders over the contours of a weeks-long trial. Trump wants a more showy proceeding to not only acquit, but vindicate him of the impeachment charges from the House.
McConnell and most GOP senators prefer a swift trial to move on from impeachment. Many centrist Democrats have begun to signal that they, too, are ready to vote and move on.
House Democrats are to vote Wednesday to impeach Trump, formally accusing him of abusing his power as president in dealing with Ukraine to help himself politically and then obstructing Congress by blocking the later investigation.
Justice Minister Amir Ohana is brushing off the attorney general’s criticism of his pick for interim state attorney.
“According to [Avichai] Mandelblit’s opinion, in the entire prosecution, with all of its prosecutors, there is only one special candidate who can fill in as state attorney — this is absurd,” says Ohana in an interview with Channel 12. “I consulted with him more than once or twice. His opinion is extremely unreasonable.”
Earlier, Mandelblit said Ohana’s nomination of Orly Ginsberg Ben-Ari faces a “legal impediment.”
The owners of an Austrian guesthouse have dropped their case against a guest who complained online about the “Nazi grandpa” displayed on the hotel’s walls, according to The Guardian.
The complaint was dropped after the tourist apparently unearthed information linking the owners’ relatives to the Nazi Party.
The guest had posted comments on Booking.com and Tripadvisor, saying there had been “a photo of a Nazi grandpa hanging in the hall,” prompting the lawsuit.
The picture was of a soldier in Wehrmacht uniform wearing insignia with a swastika.
One of the owners, in her filing, had argued that it was customary for people in the Tyrol region to hang pictures of dead family members in the entrance halls of their homes.
The portrait was of a family member who had been “forced to enlist” and killed in the war, she said.
But the tourist discovered this information to be false and that the displayed relative had voluntarily joined the Nazi Party in 1941 and 1943, according to The Guardian.
The guesthouse owners are expected to cover the legal fees of the tourist.
— with AFP
As rain poured down Tuesday, thousands of police officers lined the streets of Jersey City to honor a detective killed last week in what authorities are calling a domestic terrorism attack that also left three other civilians dead.
Joseph Seals, a 40-year-old married father of five, was lauded as a model officer who helped get guns off the streets of a city of 270,000 that sits across the Hudson River from New York City. Seals was shot last Tuesday in a cemetery about a mile from a kosher market by two attackers who went on to kill three others at a kosher deli before dying in a shootout with police.
Jersey City Director of Public Safety James Shea last week called Seals “the ultimate detective or officer we would point to to tell young officers, ‘This is how you should behave.’” In 2008, Seals was credited with saving a woman from a sexual assault inside her own home on Christmas eve.
Police officers from towns nearby and throughout the country line up 12 deep for blocks in anticipation of the funeral procession Tuesday. Sgt. Brian Lowe is among four members the Kingston police department, which is about an hour north of New York City, who came to show support.
“You think of all the people who responded, and then of course, you think of the family aspect,” he says.
Former Jersey City residents Matthew and Eileen McGinn drove in from the suburbs to stand in the rain across from the church to pay their respects. Both have close ties to the police force through family — Eileen McGinn said her sister-in-law’s family “are all Jersey City cops” — or familiarity.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Matthew McGinn says. “You can’t come from Jersey City, be active in the community and not know police, especially being Irish.”
US Attorney General William Barr was expected to be among the speakers at the ceremony at St. Aedan’s Church.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani will visit Japan later this week in the first trip to the Islamic Republic by an Iranian head of state for two decades, official news agency IRNA reports Monday.
Rouhani will go to Tokyo on Friday, IRNA says, citing Iran’s vice foreign minister Abbas Araghchi.
Araghchi says the one-day visit will be “very intense” and that it comes as Iran faces maximum pressure from the US and a wide array of plots to isolate it internationally, IRNA reports.
Earlier, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told a press conference in Tehran that the “trip [to Japan] is being finalized.”
Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said discussions would focus on “expanding economic relations” between the two countries.
“Mr Rouhani’s trip to Japan has nothing to do with issues such as negotiations with America,” Rabiei said.
“However, our Japanese friends usually convey messages or initiatives, which we welcome… and seriously examine,” he added, stressing the bilateral focus of the visit.
Rouhani will be the first Iranian president to visit Japan since 2000.
A judge on Tuesday sentences former Trump campaign official Rick Gates to 45 days in jail despite what she says is “extraordinary” cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe and other Justice Department investigations.
The jail sentence, which she says is needed to reflect the seriousness of his crimes, is to be served intermittently during three years of probation.
Prosecutors didn’t seek prison time for Gates, who pleaded guilty in February 2018 to charges relating to lucrative political consulting work he did in Ukraine. They cited Gates’ cooperation, which included testifying in three trials and more than 50 meetings with prosecutors. He shook hands warmly with a prosecutor from Mueller’s team before the hearing began.
Rifaat Assad, uncle of the Syrian president, has been hospitalized in Paris while standing trial for money laundering, his son tells AFP Tuesday.
“He has been in intensive care since last night [Monday]” at the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine west of Paris, Siwar Assad says.
Rifaat Assad suffered from a form of internal bleeding “and is not very well.” He will need to stay in intensive care for two or three days.
The younger brother of the late Syrian president Hafez Assad — father of the current president Bashar Assad — is standing trial in Paris for crimes allegedly committed between 1984 and 2016, including aggravated tax fraud and misappropriation of Syrian funds.
The charges relate to his vast property empire in France.
France’s national finance prosecutor called Monday for a four-year prison sentence and a 10-million-euro fine.
The prosecutor also called for the confiscation of all his real estate, valued at 90 million euros ($99.5 million).
An armed Palestinian man is shot by Israeli aircraft after approaching the security fence with Israel in the southern Gaza Strip, the army says.
Israel allowed the import of around 20 rescue and firefighting vehicles into the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, Palestinian officials say.
The equipment, which was donated by Qatar, includes several SUVs fitted with water pumps. Gaza’s Civil Defense previously had just 33 vehicles to serve the territory’s two million people, including a single fire truck with a hydraulic platform.
Raed al-Dahshan, a spokesman for Gaza’s Civil Defense, says Tuesday’s shipment is “unprecedented.”
The Civil Defense said no firefighting equipment has been allowed into Gaza since 2007, and the last shipment of fire trucks was brought in by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority in 1998.
Billionaire former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg won’t have to file a mandatory financial disclosure until after Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential contest, under an extension granted by the Federal Election Commission this week.
Presidential candidates are required to reveal their investments, businesses and streams of income. Only Bloomberg, fellow billionaire Tom Steyer and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick have yet to do so. Each of those candidates were late entering the Democratic presidential primary.
Bloomberg, who has long eyed a White House bid, sits atop a sprawling business empire and is worth more than $50 billion, easily making him the wealthiest candidate in the contest.
He has been laying the groundwork for a campaign for months and has flooded primary states with over $100 million worth of radio and TV advertising after entering the race last month. But his attorneys say he is not yet prepared to disclose his investments and income.
“Mr. Bloomberg requires additional time to collect information regarding complex holdings and prepare and file his report,” attorney Lawrence H. Norton wrote in a letter to the Federal Election Commission on Friday.
The FEC on Monday granted his request, giving him until Feb. 4 to file — one day after the Iowa caucuses.
IDF soldiers open fire at a Palestinian throwing a Molotov cocktail at Israeli vehicles along the road near Bethlehem, injuring him, the army says.
“IDF troops fired at the terrorist and successfully apprehended him as he tried to escape,” the military says.
The extent of the Palestinian suspect’s injuries is not immediately known.
— Judah Ari Gross