The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
Hamas praises US senator’s call to probe Israel ‘extrajudicial killings’
The Hamas terror group welcomes a request by US Senator Patrick Leahy and 10 House members for John Kerry to investigate alleged Israeli human rights abuses and to determine whether they are reason enough to cut military aid.
“The request from a number of American Congress members to open an investigation into the Israeli occupation reflects the global perception of Israeli racism and the ugliness of the crimes committed against the Palestinian people,” says Hamas spokesman Sami Zuhri.
“Hamas considers [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s denial of these crimes to be worthless and contrary to the truth shown by cameras and eyewitnesses,” he says.
— Dov Lieber
8 killed, many trapped in overpass collapse in eastern India
An overpass collapses while under construction in Kolkata, eastern India, killing at least eight people and injuring scores of others in trapped cars, trucks and other vehicles, officials say.
Army troops join efforts to rescue those trapped inside vehicles that lay under massive concrete blocks and metal debris. Huge cranes and other rescue vehicles reach the site to clear the rubble.
The Press Trust of India news agency, quoting police sources, puts the death toll at eight. More than 40 injured are admitted to two hospitals in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal state, hospital officials say.
“The area was very, very crowded. Motorized rickshaws, taxis … there was a lot of traffic,” one witness tells the New Delhi Television news channel, or NDTV.
Another adds: “We heard a loud rumble and then saw a lot of dust in the sky.”
Television images show the bloody legs of some of the trapped people jutting out of the collapsed girders and concrete slabs
In addition to army troops, personnel of the National Disaster Response Force are also working on the scene in Bara Bazaar, a busy residential and shopping area in central Kolkata.
O.P. Singh, the NDRF chief, says the operation is a “very, very challenging task.”
Building collapses are common in India, where builders use poor enforcement of regulations and use substandard materials.
Belgian police hold new raid linked to foiled French terror plot
Belgian police carry out a new raid in connection with a foiled attack plot in France whose main suspect was charged this week with membership in a terrorist organization, prosecutors said.
“A raid is under way in connection with the (Reda) Kriket case. It is taking place at Marke, in the town of Courtrai” in northwestern Belgium, says Eric Van Der Sypt, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office.
Soldiers and police officers are seen taking part in the operation near a busy motorway, according to images from local media.
French national Reda Kriket was arrested near Paris last week and at his apartment police found a cache of assault rifles, handguns and TATP, the highly volatile homemade explosive favored by Islamic State (IS) jihadists.
2 IDF tanks in friendly fire incident; no injuries
An IDF tank accidentally fires a mortar at another tank during a military drill in the Golan Heights, the Walla website reports.
There are no injuries in the incident, although one of the tanks sustains damage.
Report: Swedish airport evacuated over bomb threat
Sweden’s second largest airport is evacuated due to a bomb threat, the Swedish media reports.
According to the reports, police and emergency services have been dispatched to Landvetter Airport outside Gothenberg, after suspicious packages are found in the domestic flights lounge.
Ulf Wallin, head of Sweden’s state-owned airports operator Swedavia, says they are awaiting further instructions from the police, according to SVT, the Swedish national broadcaster.
British comedy icon Ronnie Corbett dies at 85
British comedian Ronnie Corbett, half of much-loved duo The Two Ronnies, dies at the age of 85.
Corbett’s publicist says he died Thursday surrounded by his family. The cause of death is not disclosed.
Edinburgh-born Corbett came to prominence on the satirical 1960s TV show “The Frost Report.”
In 1971 he teamed up with Ronnie Barker for a sketch show, “The Two Ronnies.” It ran for a dozen series over 16 years and at its peak had 17 million viewers.
The duo’s verbal dexterity, comic timing and physical incongruence — the bulky Barker towered over the diminutive Corbett — made them favorites with millions of comedy fans. Their signature signoff — “Now it’s goodnight from me.” ”And it’s goodnight from him” — became a popular catchphrase.
General, leading rabbi win Israel Prize for lifetime achievement
Major General Doron Almog (res.) and national-religious Rabbi Eli Sadan are named as this year’s winners of the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement, for their contribution to society and the state, Israel Radio says.
Explaining the decision, the award committee says that after Almog devoted much of his life to the state through his military service, he then revolutionized society’s treatment of people with special needs. The panel cites Almog’s initiative to establish a unique village for adults with cerebral palsy, which it says offers a framework that allows people to live meaningful and dignified lives.
Regarding Rabbi Sadan, the prize committee writes that Bnei David, the military preparatory program (mechina) he founded, was a breakthrough in the integration of the national-religious public in the army.
Russia archaeologists ‘offer to rebuild Palmyra’
Russian archaeologists are offering to help rebuild the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, which was decimated by the Islamic State group before it was driven out this week, Al Jazeera reports.
A Syrian expert for UNESCO, the UN cultural body that declared Palmyra a world heritage site, tells AFP she is “very doubtful” that the destruction caused to the city’s ancient monuments can be repaired.
“Everyone is excited because Palmyra has been ‘liberated,’ but we should not forget everything that has been destroyed,” says Annie Sartre-Fauriat. “I am very doubtful about the capacity, even with international aid, of rebuilding the site at Palmyra.”
A general view shows graffiti on a stone reading in Arabic: “Shooting without the permission of the chief is prohibited” near the remains of the entrance to the iconic Temple of Bel that was destroyed by IS in September 2015.
Hebron soldier facing manslaughter, not murder charges
Military prosecutors say the IDF soldier who shot a disarmed Palestinian attacker in the head last week in Hebron is facing manslaughter charges and not murder.
The Maariv newspaper quotes the prosecution as saying, “There have been very significant developments in the past two days,” that led to the decision to change the investigation to manslaughter.
The decision is announced as the still unnamed soldier from the Kfir Brigade appears in military court in Qastina.
Prosecutor: Soldier said Palestinian attacker ‘deserved to die’
The military prosecutor tells a court hearing that the soldier who shot a disarmed Palestinian attacker in Hebron last week said after shooting the man that “the attacker lived, and he needed to die.”
A soldier who was present at the incident confirms to the court that the infantryman had made the comments seconds after he shot the Palestinian in the head, Channel 10 reports.
Another soldier tells the court that the accused man said after the shooting: “The attacker stabbed my friend and deserved to die.”
Arab MKs: No surprise that Hebron soldier not charged with murder
Joint (Arab) List MKs Ahmad Tibi and Osama Saadi condemn the military prosecutor’s decision to bring charges of manslaughter and not murder against the soldier who shot a disarmed Palestinian in Hebron last week.
“This is a soldier who committed a criminal act of murder, as is clearly seen in the video, and the decision [to charge him with manslaughter] was influenced by the comments of the prime minister, who asked that the family of the soldier be considered,” say the two MKs. They say the decision “proves once again that such incidents must be investigated by an international war crimes tribunal.”
“We were not surprised as we had not hung our hopes on the judge of the occupation army,” the lawmakers say, adding that the IDF should also “investigate and punish the soldiers and officers and medical staff who stood by and did not lift a finger either before or after the murder.”
Boots offer by ‘Zionist’ Messi sparks uproar in Egypt
A offer by Argentinian soccer star Lionel Messi to donate his boots for auction for charity provokes outrage in Egypt, where a lawmaker and soccer official decry the gesture and accuse the sporting legend of being Jewish and a Zionist.
After Messi makes the offer during an interview with private satellite channel MBC Misr, Egyptian MP Said Hasasein attacks Messi on his own TV show, calling the move “an insult to Egyptian people.”
Egyptian Football Federation spokesman Azmi Mogahed also phones in to the show to express his outrage. “Even in our religion…” he begins to say, when Hasasein interrupts: “His religion is Jewish!”
Mogahed agrees: “I know he’s Jewish, he donates to Israel and visited the Wailing Wall and whatever … we don’t need his shoe and Egypt’s poor don’t need help from someone with Jewish or Zionist citizenship.”
But former Egyptian soccer star Mido defends the Catholic Barcelona forward, writing on Twitter that, “The most precious thing a writer has is his pen, and the most precious thing a football player has is his boots.”
Assad: I’m willing to hold early presidential vote
Syria’s embattled ruler Bashar Assad says he is willing to hold early presidential vote.
The comment comes a day after the publication of an interview in which he proposes a national unity government and rejects a key opposition demand for a transitional ruling body with full powers.
Lawyer for Hebron soldier: Witnesses support his version of events
The lawyer for the soldier who shot dead a disarmed Palestinian in Hebron last week says there are witnesses who support his client’s claim that he acted out of fear for the lives of those around him.
Eyal Beserglick says the unnamed soldier was at the time of the shooting standing close to medical personnel whose own investigation shows there was no check to see if the Palestinian was free of explosive devices, Channel 10 reports.
Brussels airport says it’s ‘technically ready’ to reopen
Brussels airport says it is “technically ready” to reopen following last week’s deadly suicide bombings, but that there will be no flights before Friday evening at the earliest.
The departure hall at Zaventem airport was badly damaged when two attackers set off their bombs on March 22 and the airport this week started tests for a temporary check-in system.
“Brussels Airport Company has received the go ahead from the fire services and the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority for a partial restart of passenger flights at the airport,” the airport says in a statement.
“The airport is thus technically ready for a restart of passenger flights in the temporary infrastructure foreseen for check-in,” it adds. “However, the authorities have yet to take a formal decision on the restart date. Until Friday evening no passenger flights will take place at Brussels Airport.”
Kasich: Trump lucky Jon Stewart no longer on ‘Daily Show’
GOP presidential hopeful John Kasich says Donald Trump is lucky that Jon Stewart is no longer hosting “The Daily Show,” taking aim at the Republican front-runner for his recent statements on abortions.
“The past 24 hours revealed in the clearest way yet that Donald Trump is not prepared to be president. On top of all his previous inflammatory statements, yesterday he proposed punishing women who receive abortions, attacked the Geneva Conventions and said he’d nominate Supreme Court justices based on who will look into Hillary Clinton’s email scandal,” the fervently anti-abortion Kasich says in a statement, according to Politico.
“You can’t operate like this,” Kasich says on ABC. “People around the world must be having a field day, and you know what Donald ought to be happy about is that Jon Stewart’s not running ‘The Daily Show.'”
Herzog on graft probe: Those trying to hurt us will pay price
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog hits back at claims that he violated campaign financing laws in his successful 2013 bid to take over the Labor party, saying that those “who try to harm me, who try to harm us, will receive a blow they will not forget.”
It is unclear if Herzog is referring to those who perpetrated the alleged offense or anyone who may be trying to frame him for doing so.
State prosecutor recuses himself from Herzog probe
State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan recuses himself from the investigation into alleged corruption by Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog due to a conflict of interest, Haaretz reports.
The newspapers says Nitzan has disassociated himself from the investigation over “familiarity with one of those involved with police.”
Herzog denies that he has committed any infraction and vows to make those behind the allegations pay a heavy price.
Strong blast hits Turkish city, casualties reported
A bomb goes off near a bus terminal in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir in the southeast of the country, wounding at least seven people, hospital and security sources say.
Three of the injured in Diyarbakir are members of Turkish security forces, the sources add.
Turkey’s security forces are engaged in an operation against Kurdish rebels from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the region.
Security sources say the bomb exploded as an armored vehicle of the security forces passed by.
Ex-wife of EgyptAir hijacker: He bragged of killing Israeli soldiers
The former wife of the man who hijacked an Egyptian plane in order to see her says he is extremely dangerous and even bragged of killing three Israeli soldiers, the Guardian reports.
Seif Eldin Mustafa, 59, pretended to have a bomb belt when he commandeered a plane full of passengers and diverted it to Cyprus on Tuesday in order to see Marina Paraschou, who divorced him in 1990.
Paraschou tells the Guardian that Mustafa is a “fanatical” PLO supporter who was jailed for four years in Syria. She says that he “terrorized his family” and assaulted her and their four children.
High Court: State will recognize non-Rabbinate Orthodox conversions
The High Court rules that conversions to Orthodox Judaism that are not conducted within the framework of the ultra-Orthodox Chief Rabbinate will nonetheless receive official recognition by the state.
In its ruling, the court writes: “There is no law that specifically gives the state the authority to grant exclusivity to its mechanism for conversions,” Army Radio says.
Saudi king meets Republican delegation ahead of Obama visit
Saudi Arabia’s official news agency says King Salman has met with a Republican Congressional delegation ahead of US President Barack Obama’s scheduled visit next month.
Today’s meeting comes 10 days after four other American senators held talks with the Saudi monarch in Riyadh.
The Saudi Press Agency says the US team is led by Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and includes Senators Thom Tillis of North Carolina and David Perdu of Georgia, as well as Congressmen David Jolly of Florida, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Tom Rice of South Carolina.
The six-member delegation was in Israel yesterday, and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Obama is due in Riyadh on April 21 to attend a summit with Salman and leaders of Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman.
Dayan: Wrong of me to call J Street ‘un-Jewish’
Dani Dayan, who is tapped to become Israel’s next consul-general in New York, backtracks on calling the liberal J Street lobby “un-Jewish.”
Taking to Twitter, Dayan writes that he never directly used the term to describe J Street, but rather their actions. Nonetheless, he goes on to apologize for what he says was a “wrong” decision.
Dayan was named as the new consul-general designate for New York earlier this week, following an unsuccessful attempt to name the former settler leader as the Israeli ambassador to Brazil.
Contrary to the headlines, I never called @jstreetdotorg "unJewish" but only a specific action it took. Nevertheless it was wrong. 1/3
— Dani Dayan (@dandayan) March 31, 2016
— Dani Dayan (@dandayan) March 31, 2016
Mistakenly, along with the gong to end the program, I used the short & undoubtedly wrong form. 3/3
— Dani Dayan (@dandayan) March 31, 2016
4 policeman die in Turkish blast — reports
Turkish news agencies say four policemen are dead and 14 people wounded in an explosion near a bus terminal in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in the southeast of the country.
The state-run Anadolu Agency says a bomb detonated as a special forces vehicle passed by and that civilians are among the wounded.
The private Dogan news agency reports the same toll and attributes the cause of the explosion to a car bomb. The agency blames “terrorists” for the incident, using the government designation for Kurdish rebels.
An opposition politician based in Diyarbakir, Omer Tastan, confirms an explosion in the city, which has suffered renewed violence between security forces and Kurdish militants.
Belgian court okay extraditing suspect Abdeslam to France
Belgium has approved the extradition of Paris suspect Salah Abdeslam to France, prosecutors say.
Abdeslam and French authorities had both been seeking to have the suspect extradited to face justice over his role in the deadly November 13 attacks in Paris that left 130 dead.
Earlier, Abdeslam’s lawyer said he would cooperate with French Authorities once he was extradited to France, which he wanted to happen swiftly.
Abdeslam is thought to be the sole surviving attacker from the assault. He was arrested in Belgium on March 18.
Israel denies permits to Gazans for Palestine Marathon
Israel denies entry permits to 102 Gaza Strip residents who planned to take part in tomorrow’s Palestine Marathon in the West Bank. The decision is down to an administrative dispute, officials say.
Among the Gazans prevented from travelling is reigning champion and Olympian Nader al-Masri.
Israel says the forms for 102 runners from Gaza were “submitted in too short notice and given a timeframe which is not the adequate amount of time for dealing with such requests.”
The Gisha NGO, which campaigns for freedom of movement for Palestinians, says the people of Gaza are caught in an administrative dispute.
“We are disappointed, if not surprised, to hear that civilians in Gaza are again paying the price for the apparent negligence and disregard of both Israeli and Palestinian officials,” a statement says.
Deri downplays property holdings: I discovered I’m real estate mogul
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri seeks to downplay reports that he owns a large home with two swimming pools in northern Israel.
“Yesterday I found out that my wife and I have become real estate moguls,” he says, according to Channel 2. “We have had an apartment for about 25 years, in which we raised nine children and for which we are still paying the mortgage. In addition, we have a vacation home in Safsufa for the extended family, including the grandchildren.”
Police seeking indictments for driver, Egged officials in deadly bus crash
Police are seeking indictments for the driver and senior officials in the Egged bus company over a deadly collision last month.
The packed bus slammed into a truck standing on the side of Route 1, killing six people. The driver, Haim Bitton, is suspected of tampering with the tachograph, a device tracking the driver’s speed over the previous 24 hours.
Senior Egged officials are suspected of knowing that Bitton had a history of dangerous driving but was still allowed to continue operating a public bus.
“We know this driver has a record,” police officials said shortly after the crash. “We want to know whether senior officials at Egged did everything so that he received all the training and qualification necessary [before retaking the wheel].”
PM to father of Hebron soldier: Trust the inquiry process
Netanyahu tells the father of a soldier who shot dead a disarmed Palestinian attacker in Hebron last week that he should trust in the Military Police investigation currently underway.
“As the father of a soldier, I understand the distress you are in,” Netanyahu tells the soldier’s father, according to Channel 2. “I trust the army, the IDF chief and the inquiry 100 percent, and I think that you too must trust the commanders and the inquiry.”
Despite storm, PM determined to name Baratz as communications chief
Benjamin Netanyahu is determined to appoint Ran Baratz as his new communications chief, five months after the appointment was put on hold due to his controversial social media postings, Channel 2 reports.
Shortly after Baratz was tapped, it emerged that he has posted a series of controversial Facebook posts attacking senior figures in Israel and abroad. Most notably, he called US President Barack Obama anti-Semitic, which led Netanyahu to freeze his nomination.
One of the government’s most senior positions, with responsibility for explaining the prime minister’s policies and coordinating the country’s public diplomacy strategy, the post has been vacant since August.
Hebron soldier to be detained on military base
A military court judge rules that the soldier who is facing manslaughter charges for shooting a disarmed Palestinian attacker is to be released to an IDF base, Channel 2 says.
The military prosecutor had been seeking a remand extension for the soldier, who maintains that he acted out of fear that the wounded Palestinian had been carrying a concealed bomb.
Witnesses, however, say that the soldier claimed after shooting that the Palestinian deserved to die.”
Erdogan’s guard attack protesters at DC event
Security officials of Turkish President Erdogan attack protesters outside the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, according to images and videos appearing on social media.
— Brian Reeves (@BrianNReeves) March 31, 2016
The security detail also apparently tries to eject a journalist from inside the event, where Erdogan is speaking about issues including the Syrian refugee crisis, Turkey in the coming decade, relations with Europe, and Mideast crises.
The institute’s own officials apparently step in to ensure that the journalist remains.
Here: Turkish security tries to kick a journalist out. Brookings security protects the journalist. Moments ago pic.twitter.com/k0mATo3fh8
— ilhan tanir (@WashingtonPoint) March 31, 2016
Tzohar Rabbinical Organization welcomes court ruling on conversions
The Tzohar Rabbinical Organization hails a High Court ruling that the State of Israel will recognize all Orthodox conversions to Judaism, including those conducted outside of the Israeli Rabbinate.
“Tzohar’s interest has always been to ensure that halakhic conversion is made possible for those who seek it out genuinely and with the hope that this decision will make that process easier, it should be commended.” the organization says.
“We look forward to reviewing and better understanding the implications of this decision, with the full confidence that it will assist many thousands of well-intentioned people on that road to halakhic conversion.”
PM to Greek president: Israel prevents mass passage of refugees to Europe
Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu hails the “common values” of the two countries, and announces an expansion of bilateral ties in “Energy, tourism, knowledge, innovation and others.”
He adds: “Israel contributes to stability in the Middle East. A strong Israel prevents the passage of masses of refugees to Europe.”
Pavlopoulos also refers to the importance of cooperation on the refugee crisis, saying, “Only together will everyone be able to resolve the refugee problem and not each country on its own.”
AG opens criminal probe into Deri corruption claims
The attorney general is opening a criminal investigation into Interior Minister Aryeh Deri for alleged corruption, Channel 2 reports.
According to Haaretz, the probe apparently centers around real estate property owned by Deri and members of his family, including a vacation home in northern Israel and apartments owned by each of his nine children.
Abbas to Israeli TV: Hebron shooting was inhuman
PA President Mahmoud Abbas tells Israeli television that the shooting of a disarmed Palestinian by an IDF soldier in Hebron was “inhuman.”
Speaking on Channel 2’s “Uvda” (Fact) program, Abbas says he opposes the stabbing attacks on Israelis. “At every opportunity we say that it is not allowed for us to escalate the situation,” he claims. “I don’t want the stabbings to continue.”
He concedes that there is incitement in the PA, but maintains that it exists in Israel as well.
Abbas to Israeli TV: PA on verge of collapse
The Palestinian Authority is on the verge of collapse, its president Mahmoud Abbas tells Israeli TV.
Speaking to Channel 2’s Uvda program, Abbas urges PM Netanyahu to meet with him at any point, and bemoans the Israeli military presence in the West Bank.
He calls for Israel to test the PA leadership by allowing him to “have authority over the territories.”
Abbas also claims that IDF troops even came up to his own front door. “There was almost an incident,” he says.
Abbas: Israeli government does not believe in peace, two-state solution
Mahmoud Abbas accuses the current Israeli leadership of not wanting a solution to the Middle East conflict.
“The Israeli government does not believe in peace, does not believe in a two-state solution,” he tells Israels’ Channel 2 TV. “They build settlements day and night.”
He calls for a meeting with Netanyahu, saying that fresh peace talks could go a long way in reducing the six months of Palestinian violence.
“If he [Netanyahu] … tells me that he believes in a two-state solution and we sit around the table… this will give my people hope and nobody dares to go and stab and shoot,” Abbas says in a mixture of English and Arabic.
The 81-year-old leader also expresses a desire to reach a peace agreement with Israel in his lifetime.
“I want to see peace in my life, why not?” he says.
“We can make peace now, now,” he adds, before jokingly clarifying, “Not Peace Now, your movement.”
“I want to put an end to the conflict,” he maintains. “I believe that the Israeli people want peace and the Palestinian people want peace… Either the politicians do it, or leave it to the people.”