The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s developments as they unfolded.
Netanyahu will travel to Chad ‘soon’ to restore ties
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will soon travel to Chad, where he will declare the resumption of ties between the two countries, severed in 1972, his office says.
The announcement comes during the unprecedented visit of Chadian President Idriss Déby to the Jewish state.
Netanyahu and Déby met in the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday and discussed “common threats and the fight against terror,” as well as agriculture, border control, solar energy, water, health issues and more, his office says.
Iranian Sunni cleric said shot, killed in northern Iran
Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency says a Sunni cleric who had worked to reconcile Sunnis and Shiites, members of the two biggest sects in Islam, was shot and killed.
The report says the cleric, Abdolghafour Jamalzai, was shot in the back with a hunting rifle on Tuesday morning outside of a mosque in the town of Gorgan. The town is about 300 kilometers, or about 190 miles, northeastern of Tehran.
The report did not say how many gunmen were involved or speculate on the possible motives for the assassination. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.
Tasnim says the cleric believed that enemies of Islam are trying to stir up trouble between Shiites and Sunnis. Iran is a majority Shiite nation.
In July, gunmen assassinated a Sunni cleric in southeastern Iran.
Lebanese report: Hamas agrees to cede control of Gaza to PA
The Hamas terrorist group has agreed to implement a reconciliation agreement with the Palestinian Authority that would see the rulers of the Gaza Strip return control of the territory to its West Bank rivals, the Lebanese al-Mayadeen outlet reports Tuesday.
Sources close to Hamas tell the Hezbollah-affiliated newspaper the group would implement the agreement brokered by Egypt last year, on the condition that civil servants in Gaza be paid their salaries and all PA sanctions be removed.
The report says Hamas is demanding that a Palestinian unity government be formed within 45 days, and calls for general elections to be held within six months.
European groups accuse Google of manipulation to track users
Seven European consumer groups file complaints against Google with national regulators Tuesday, accusing the internet giant of covertly tracking users’ movements in violation of an EU regulation on data protection.
The complaints cite a study by the Norwegian Consumer Council that concluded the Internet giant used “deceptive design and misleading information, which results in users accepting to be constantly tracked.”
Council official Gro Mette Moen charges that “Google uses extremely detailed and comprehensive personal data without an appropriate judicial basis, and the data is acquired by means of manipulative techniques.”
Complaints against Google are filed in the Czech Republic, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovenia and Sweden.
They are based on the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which took effect in May.
Google is accused of tracking users’ movements via its Location History and Web & App Activity applications, which are built into all Google accounts.
“For users of mobile phones with Android (operating systems), such as Samsung and Huawei phones, this tracking is particularly difficult to avoid,” the Norwegian council notes.
According to the internet site Statcounter, almost 70 percent of European mobile phones run on the Android system.
Welfare authorities said warned in 2014 that slain girl, 12, was in danger
An organization that helps asylum seekers in south Tel Aviv says it warned welfare authorities four years ago that a young girl, who was found dead on Tuesday, was in danger.
The victim, Sylvana Tsegai, was said to be the daughter of Eritrean asylum seekers. Hebrew-language media reported that the partner of the teen’s mother was the main suspect, and that a manhunt had been launched to find him. He was identified by police as Eritrean national Tesfebarhan Tesfasion.
“Four years ago, we sent a report to welfare [authorities] over fears Tsegai was in danger,” the Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel says, according to Hadashot news.
An Eritrean asylum seeker, identified only as Johnny, tells the Kan public broadcaster that the girl “lived in fear.”
“He murdered her to hurt her mother,” he says, referring to Tesfasion. “On Saturday, Sylvana called the police after he threatened her mother for three months. The neighbors said that in the past two weeks, the girl didn’t want to come home from school.”
Hundreds of bodies exhumed from mass grave in Syria’s Raqqa
A local official in Raqqa says more than 500 bodies have so far been exhumed from one of the largest mass graves discovered near the Syrian city, once the capital of the Islamic State group’s self-styled caliphate.
Raqqa was liberated in a US-backed campaign that ended more than a year ago, but rescuers and recovery teams continue to locate mass graves around the northern city.
More than a month after digging began in the Panorama mass grave, forensic teams continue to lift bodies believed to have been buried there during the four-month campaign to liberate Raqqa.
Estimates put the number of bodies buried there at around 1,500. Hammoud al-Shawakh, a local official involved in the work, says Tuesday that 516 bodies have been exhumed.
Chinese hospital denies approving gene-edited babies experiment
The Chinese hospital linked to a controversial experiment purporting to have created the world’s first genetically-edited babies denied its involvement Tuesday.
Shenzhen Harmonicare Women and Children’s Hospital says in a statement that it suspected the signature on a document approving the experiment, specifically its adherence to ethical standards, was falsified.
It has also asked police to investigate.
“We have always firmly opposed the development of genetic experiments that violate human ethics and morality,” the hospital says on its website.
The experiment, which was led by Chinese professor He Jiankui, claims to have altered the DNA of twin girls born a few weeks ago to prevent them from contracting HIV, and has prompted a heated debate among the scientific community.
Some warned that exposing healthy embryos and children to gene editing was irresponsible, while others denounced He’s experiment as premature and dangerous.
Kremlin warns of possible flare-up of hostilities in Ukraine
The Kremlin warns Tuesday that Ukraine’s declaration of martial law over Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian ships might trigger a flare-up in hostilities in eastern Ukraine, while Kiev blamed Russia for parading captured Ukrainian seamen on television.
The Ukrainian parliament on Monday adopted a motion by the president to impose martial law for 30 days after Sunday’s clash between the two rivals in the Kerch Strait, which links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. That is something Ukraine avoided doing even when Russia annexed its nearby Crimean peninsula in 2014 or sent in clandestine troops and weapons to insurgents in war-torn eastern Ukraine.
On Sunday, near Crimea, Russian border guards rammed into and opened fire on three Ukrainian navy vessels traveling from the Black Sea toward a Ukrainian port. The Russians seized the ships and their crews. A court Tuesday in the Crimean capital of Simferopol ordered one of the Ukrainian seamen to be kept behind bars until Jan. 26.
The Kremlin reacts strongly to Ukraine’s declaration of martial law, with Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, telling reporters Tuesday that it might trigger a flare-up in hostilities in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian troops have been fighting Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2014, a conflict that has left over 10,000 dead, but fighting has eased since a truce in 2015.
The martial law takes effect Wednesday in several parts of Ukraine, including areas bordering territory now held by the separatists.
The Russian intelligence agency FSB claims the ships had Ukrainian SBU intelligence agents onboard with a mission to mount what they called “provocation” in the Kerch Strait.
The SBU on Tuesday confirms the presence of its officers on the ships, but denies any nefarious intentions, saying they were simply fulfilling counterintelligence operations for the Ukrainian navy.
The SBU also demands that Russia stop using “psychological and physical pressure” on the Ukrainians — an apparent reference to the interviews of the crew members that Russia released late Monday. The video broadcast by state television showed three separate interviews with Ukrainian seamen, all of whom agreed with Russian claims that they violated its border.
Trump accuses special counsel Mueller of ‘ruining lives’
A day after US President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was accused of violating a plea agreement in the Russia investigation, Trump is accusing special counsel Robert Mueller of “ruining lives.”
Trump tweets Tuesday that he thinks the media “builds Bob Mueller up as a Saint.”
Trump says that when the Mueller investigation ends it will become evident that people were treated “horribly” and “viciously” and that people’s lives are being ruined for refusing to lie. Trump apparently was referring to conservative author Jerome Corsi, who says he rejected a plea because it would have forced him to falsely admit that he lied to investigators.
Mueller on Monday accused Manafort of violating his plea agreement by repeatedly lying to federal investigators. Manafort denies lying.
British radio presenter found dead in Lebanon
A British radio presenter who hosted one of Lebanon’s most popular entertainment shows was found dead in his home on Tuesday, the national news agency and his employer says.
Gavin Ford’s lifeless body is discovered at his home in Beit Meri, a town east of Beirut where his employer Radio One is also based.
“We are heartbroken to announce the passing of our dear Gavin Ford, a member of our team for many joyful years,” Radio One says in a message posted on social media.
Neither the police nor his employer have elaborated on the cause of his death but Lebanon’s national news agency says the security services are not ruling out a criminal investigation.
Tributes start pouring in on social media for Ford, who had been one of Lebanon’s most loved radio hosts for years.
Netanyahu, Czech president set to inaugurate ‘Czech house’ in Jerusalem
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosts Czech President Milos Zeman and his wife Ivana Zemanová at the Prime Minister’s Residence, ahead of the inauguration of the “Czech House” office space in Jerusalem.
Located in the capital’s Cinematheque, the “Czech House” is billed by Prague as a “first step” toward relocating the country’s embassy to Jerusalem.
During the luncheon, Netanyahu thanks the Czech president for Prague’s decision to open the space in the capital, as well as for his speech to the Knesset on Monday.
Anti-Semitic vandalism painted outside Jewish homes in Seattle
Anti-Semitic vandalism is discovered outside the homes of Jewish residents of West Seattle.
The red spray-painted words were discovered on Monday. Residents believe it was painted there overnight, the West Seattle Blog reports.
The word “JEW” was spray painted on a garage and “F*** JEW THEIVE” on the pavement.
The residents of the affected homes told the blog that they are Jewish, but said that they have not had any problems with neighbors or received any threats. The blog said that the families asked that the images be published on the website.
The Seattle Police Department told the blog that they are investigating the incident.
Crimea court orders 3 Ukrainian sailors held for 2 months
A court in Russian-annexed Crimea on Tuesday orders three Ukrainian sailors to be held in custody for two months after a weekend confrontation at sea with Russian border guards.
“For now, the court has ordered three people held until January 25” on accusations of crossing into Russian territory illegally, Crimea’s rights ombudswoman Lyudmila Lubina tells AFP at the court.
Several others of the more than 20 Ukrainian sailors held by Russia were expected to appear before the court later Tuesday.
Iran’s parliament speaker says US peace plan a ‘plot’ to help Israel
Iran is determined to fight against US Donald Trump’s anticipated Israel-Palestinian peace plan, parliament speaker Ali Larijani says Tuesday according to semi-official news agency ISNA.
Speaking in Tehran, Larijani says the “deal of the century” is a “plot” between Iran’s arch foe Israel and the United States to establish the Jewish state’s domination in the Middle East.
“We will stand against the regime of Israel and won’t let this deal take place in the region,” Larijani says at an annual conference on Islamic unity.
“If Americans are imposing sanctions on Iran today and are putting pressure on Iran, the reason for it is because Iran has stood against Israel,” he adds, quoted by ISNA.
“In order to achieve their objective they try to create new political arrangements in the region,” Larijani says of US-Israeli strategy in the Middle East.
The parliament speaker also singled out regional rival Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as he warned countries against normalizing relations with Israel.
Countries in the region “should know that they would not benefit at all by letting [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu to their countries,” Larijani says.
“People in the region, in any country, regard Israel as a cancerous tumor and hate it,” he adds.
PM says Palestinian issue won’t obstruct Israel ties with Arab states
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will forge ties with Arab states — with or without a peace deal with the Palestinians.
“Peace with the Palestinians is a worthy goal in and of itself, and there is no doubt that making progress to this end will help our ties with the Arab states, but does not guarantee that they will be lasting,” says Netanyahu, according to tweets from a spokesperson.
He suggests the Palestinians are responsible for undermining flourishing Israel-Arab relations in the aftermath of the Oslo Accords, but also indicates that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict no longer poses an obstacle to reconciliation with Israel’s neighbors in the region.
“The fact is that our relations with Arab states that were forged following the Oslo Accords were interrupted by Palestinian intransigence and terrorism,” the prime minister says.
“The fact is that our relations with Arab and Muslim states are being renewed in the absence of a peace process with the Palestinians. This indicates that these relations, which are based on Israel’s assets and power, are to a large extent stronger and more stable,” he says.
PM Netanyahu: We will not condition the development of our relations with the Arab world on peace with the Palestinians. We will pursue peace with everyone, and we will move forward with our neighbors and the countries of the region who want peace. Many want it.
— Ofir Gendelman (@ofirgendelman) November 27, 2018
“We will not condition the development of our relations with the Arab world on peace with the Palestinians. We will pursue peace with everyone, and we will move forward with our neighbors and the countries of the region who want peace. Many want it,” he says.
Defense Ministry body: Qatari money in Gaza likely prevented disease outbreak
The Defense Ministry’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) unit is defending Israel’s decision to allow Qatari money to be transferred into the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, saying the funds likely averted an outbreak of disease.
“Gazan infrastructure has been improved & the likely spread of disease avoided due to money transferred from #Qatar through #Israel and into the #Gaza Strip. Disease knows no borders & it is to everyone’s benefit to see the continued improvement of civilian life throughout region,” it tweets.
Gazan infrastructure has been improved & the likely spread of disease avoided due to money transferred from #Qatar through #Israel and into the #Gaza Strip. Disease knows no borders & it is to everyone’s benefit to see the continued improvement of civilian life throughout region. pic.twitter.com/eIyOQ1tIrF
— COGAT (@cogat_israel) November 27, 2018
Inaugurating Czech House in Jerusalem, President Zeman hopes embassy next
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inaugurates a Czech House in Jerusalem on Tuesday alongside Czech President Milos Zeman, with both hoping it would serve as a prelude to moving the country’s embassy.
Czech House, promoting tourism and trade, has been portrayed as a first step toward moving the European country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as US President Donald Trump did in May.
But the Czech government has also said it will respect the common position of the European Union, which opposes such a move.
“In the near future, I firmly believe, and deep in my heart I do believe, we shall overcome,” Zeman says at the inauguration ceremony during a state visit to Israel.
“There will be… not only the embassy but also a nice Czech tavern with good Czech beer.”
Netanyahu compares the Czech Republic’s support of Israel as similar in spirit to that of his country’s most important ally, the United States.
“No one in Europe understands so readily and immediately the situation of Israel and the challenge of Israel,” Netanyahu says.
Ex-NBA star Dikembe Mutombo moved to tears in Jerusalem
NBA Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo, a fearsome 7-foot-2 center in his playing days, says he was moved to tears when he visited Jerusalem’s Old City.
Mutombo, who hails from a devout Christian community in Congo, says Tuesday that it was an emotional experience knowing that his parents died before they could see the place they spent their lives reading about in the Bible.
He says: “My parents might be gone, but they instilled in me the dream of coming here, and I’ve made it.”
Mutombo is in town to inaugurate a new sports center. He hosts a clinic for a mixed crowd of excited Jewish, Christian, and Muslim children, flashing his signature finger wag and letting out a thunderous laugh as he blocked young players’ shots.
Likud ministers put on security cabinet rotation after Liberman quits
Likud Ministers Yuval Steinitz and Zeev Elkin, both members of the high-level security cabinet, will take turns serving on the panel after the resignation of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman earlier this month.
The forum currently has 10 members, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as defense minister and foreign minister, as well as various coalition party heads and other senior lawmakers. However, according to the 2001 law that created the body, the number of ministers that can sit on the panel is not allowed to exceed half of the number of ministers in the full cabinet, which currently sits at 19.
Trump peace plan to be unveiled in early 2019, says Israel’s UN envoy
US President Donald Trump’s administration has told Israel that it will present its long-awaited Middle East peace plan early next year, Israel’s UN envoy says Tuesday.
Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon tells journalists that the peace plan was “completed” and that the administration had discussed timing with Israel to unveil the proposals.
“As far as we know, they speak with us about beginning of ’19, which is coming soon,” Danon says. “We don’t know the details of the plan but we know that it’s completed.”
The ambassador says early next year was considered the best timing because it will be several months before expected elections in Israel.
A rollout of the peace plan in early 2019 will allow Trump to “present it without interfering in our political debate in Israel,” he says.
Danon says he does not know if the two-state solution is included in the US plan.
Hundreds protest violence against women after murders
Hundreds of residents of Jish in northern Israel protest violence against women, after a 16-year-old resident of the Arab village, Yara Ayoub, is found dead, the Ynet news website reports.
Demonstrations on the issue are also held in Jerusalem, outside the Knesset and prime minister’s residence, after another girl — 12-year-old Sylvana Tsegai — is murdered in south Tel Aviv on Monday evening.
State seeks four-month delay on legislating ultra-Orthodox enlistment
The government has asked the High Court of Justice to further extend the deadline it set to pass a new law on the ultra-Orthodox draft to the Israel Defense Forces by four months.
The postponement is sought after former defense minister Avigdor Liberman quits the coalition, leaving it with the thinnest majority possible.
Last September, the High Court ruled that a 2015 version of Israel’s draft law granting most yeshiva students exemptions from service was unconstitutional, and gave lawmakers a year to institute new guidelines for ultra-Orthodox enlistment.
The court later gave Netanyahu’s government until December 2 to pass an amended version of the bill regulating IDF enlistment. If new legislation is not voted into law, current deferral regulations will expire with the deadline, and thousands of yeshiva students will find themselves unable to renew their deferments, making them eligible to be drafted by the IDF.
Sen. Rand Paul is blocking US military aid to Israel
Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is blocking US military aid to Israel.
Paul, who has previously called to cut defense assistance to Israel, recently put a hold on the US-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018, which codifies into law the $38 billion defense aid package for Israel over 10 years that was negotiated in the final days of the Obama administration.
A hold is a parliamentary procedure that allows senators to prevent a motion from reaching a floor vote.
The Senate passed the act in early August; the House of Representatives followed suit the following month. Now the Senate must pass a final version in line with the bill passed by the House.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, has bought advertisements on Facebook identifying Paul as the main force blocking the act, the Washington Free Beacon reports, citing what it called sources close to the effort.
Meanwhile, Christians United for Israel, or CUFI, sent out an Action Alert email blast on Monday to its supporters calling on them to flood Paul’s office with calls and letters encouraging him to support the legislation. CUFI also invested heavily in ads in Kentucky to target the senator’s constituents directly on the issue, the Free Beacon reported.
Paul, a presidential candidate in 2016, alienated pro-Israel Republicans almost as soon as he became a senator in 2011, when he embraced his congressman father’s longtime call to cut defense assistance to Israel. The younger Paul later backtracked, saying he regarded Israel as a close ally, and would cut assistance only once it was clear the country was self-sufficient in its defense needs.
Route 1 partially closed to traffic as bus catches fire
A bus catches fire on Route 1, prompting emergency services to close the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway to traffic heading to the coastal city.
There are no immediate reports of injuries.
Firefighters are working to extinguish the blaze and prevent it from spreading to the nearby Jerusalem forest.
כביש 1 נסגר בעקבות אוטובוס בוער. התמונות מטורפות והכיבוי חושש מהתפשטות האש pic.twitter.com/Kt90t4KD0L
— Yossi Eli (@Yossi_eli) November 27, 2018
TV: State prosecutor urges bribery charges against PM, newspaper publisher
A state prosecutor appointed to oversee and review the corruption allegations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly recommends that both the premier and the publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily Arnon Mozes be charged with bribery in so-called Case 2000, Channel 10 reports.
The head of the State Prosecution’s Tax and Finance Department, Liat Ben Ari, has presented her final recommendations in Cases 1000 and 2000 to State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan. In her report, she urges that bribery charges be handed to both suspects in the latter case, the network says.
Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid-pro-quo deal between Netanyahu and Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily — the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom — in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
The TV channel reported on Sunday that Ben Ari recommended Netanyahu be indicted in Case 1000, in which the prime minister is suspected of receiving benefits worth about NIS 1 million ($282,000) from billionaire benefactors including Israeli Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, in exchange for assistance on various issues. It did not detail which charges she recommended.
Ben Ari’s recommendations will now be reviewed by Nitzan, who will then present a final recommendation to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, before the latter decides whether to press charges against the prime minister.
Mandelblit has already announced, however, that a final decision on indictments in the two cases will only be made together with the findings of another ongoing investigation, Case 4000.
US lobbies Europe to back UN vote condemning Hamas rocket fire
The United States is leading a push at the United Nations to win crucial backing from European countries for a resolution condemning the Palestinian Hamas group, the Israeli ambassador says Tuesday.
The General Assembly is expected to vote Friday or possibly Monday on the proposed resolution condemning rocket firings into Israel and demanding that Hamas end the use of violence.
Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon tells reporters that US diplomats were in talks with their EU counterparts on the draft text. European backing would significantly boost chances of approval by the 193-nation body.
“The US is negotiating the language with the EU,” Danon tells a briefing. “For us it’s very symbolic to have this resolution presented with the support of the EU.”
If adopted, it would mark the first time that the assembly has voted to condemn Hamas, the terror that has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007.
European diplomats say there are disagreements on the proposed US text, notably including references to UN resolutions and to the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is supported by the United Nations.
A draft text seen by AFP “condemns Hamas for repeatedly firing rockets into Israel and for inciting violence” and “demands that Hamas and other militant actors cease all provocative actions and violent activity.”
Report: Israeli, Sudanese officials met secretly in Turkey last year
Foreign Ministry officials secretly met with Sudanese intelligence officials in Istanbul a year ago in a bid by Jerusalem to forge ties with Khartoum, Channel 10 reports.
The meetings were held in the offices of a Turkish businessman who is close to Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese leader who is wanted for genocide, the television report says.
Television reports on Sunday said Israel was eyeing diplomatic ties with Sudan and Bahrain.
French Senate official accused of spying for North Korea
France’s Senate says Tuesday it has suspended a senior French civil servant arrested on suspicion of spying for North Korea.
Benoit Quennedey, a senior administrator in France’s upper house of parliament and president of the Franco-Korean Friendship Association, is taken into custody late Sunday.
Investigators suspect him of the “collection and delivery of information to a foreign power likely to undermine the fundamental interests of the nation,” a judicial source told AFP.
He is being held at the headquarters of France’s DGSI domestic intelligence agency on the outskirts of Paris.
In a statement the Senate says he had been provisionally suspended from his job as chief administrator in the department of architecture, heritage and gardens and that his Senate office had been searched by police.
“It’s now time to let justice take its course without interference,” Senate President Gerard Larcher says.
The French news and talk show Le Quotidien, which broke the story, says Quennedey, who has written extensively on North Korea, often in admiring tones, was arrested at his home.
It is not clear what type of information he was suspected of trying to pass to Pyongyang.
Thousands attend funeral for murdered teenage girl
Yara Ayoub, 16, who was found dead on Monday, five days after she went missing, is buried in her northern Israel village of Jish.
Thousands are attending her funeral, the Ynet news website reports.
Police identified the primary suspect in the murder as a 28-year-old man from the village of some 3,000. He also faces charges of kidnapping and obstruction of the investigation. The second suspect, 54, is believed to have aided the first after the crime was committed.