Senate unanimously passes bill to help Holocaust survivors
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Netanyahu says ‘no substitute’ for US role in peace process

At Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony, PM says Trump declaration on Jerusalem makes this year’s holiday this year is ‘extra special’

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

Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara, and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, take part in Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, on December 12, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara, and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, take part in Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, on December 12, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

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

Army denies Gaza drone strike that reportedly killed 2 Palestinian terrorists

The IDF denies carrying out a drone strike in the northern Gaza Strip earlier today that reportedly killed two Palestinian terrorists.

“Contrary to Palestinian reports earlier today, the IDF did not attack in the northern Gaza Strip,” the army says in a statement.

Palestinian media reported earflier that two men were killed by an Israeli drone strike while riding on a motorcycle in Beit Lahiya.

According to the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, Hussein Nasrallah and Mustafa a-Sultan were members of the Islamic Jihad terrorist group.

— Dov Lieber

IDF says stabbing attack thwarted in northern West Bank

The IDF says a stabbing attack was foiled near the northern West Bank city of Ariel.

A statement from the army says the attempted attack took place outside the Palestinian village of Salfit.

According to Hadashot news, IDF troops opened fire on the Palestinian man approaching the soldiers armed with a knife at a checkpoint outside the village.

The would-be attacker reportedly sustained serious injuries. No Israeli forces were injured in the incident.

Poll finds over 90 percent of Palestinians oppose Trump move

A new Palestinian opinion poll finds overwhelming opposition to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The poll found that 91 percent consider Trump’s declaration last week a threat to Palestinian interests. Forty-five percent believe the Palestinians should cut all contacts with the US, submit a complaint to the International Criminal Court and launch an armed uprising.

While Trump said his declaration does not prejudge future talks on the status of Jerusalem, 72 percent of respondents believe his administration will not submit any peace plan. It also found widespread distrust of the Palestinians’ Arab allies.

The poll, conducted by the respected Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, questioned 1,270 adults and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

— AP

Nearly 100 mourners receive medical treatment at Steinman’s funeral

Magen David Adom paramedics and volunteers say 94 people were treated during the course of Rabbi Aharon Yehudah Leib Steinman’s funeral this afternoon in Bnei Brak.

A statement from the ambulance service says the mourners were mainly treated for fatigue and fainting. Five were taken to local hospitals for further treatment.

Hundreds of thousands of mourners attended the funeral of the leader of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Israel, who died earlier in the day at 104 years old.

Galilee ‘Loaves’ church arsonist sentenced to 4 years in jail

The Nazareth District Court sentences Jewish extremist Yinon Reuveni to 4 years behind bars for the 2015 arson attack that heavily damaged a church in northern Israel where Christians believe Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

Earlier this year, Reuveni was charged with arson under aggravated circumstances, destruction of property with a hostile motive, using a vehicle to carry out a criminal act and conpiracy to commit other crimes.

In addition to the jail time, the court also orders Reuveni to pay NIS 50,000 ($14,00) in compensation to the church. He is also handed an additional 2 years’ probation for the attack.

Reuveni’s lawyer, Itamar Ben Gvir, says his client plans to appeal the jail sentence.

Trump says accusations of sexual misconduct ‘fabricated’

US President Donald Trump, pushing back against women accusing him of sexual misconduct, insisted he’s the target of “false accusations and fabricated stories of women who I don’t know and/or have never met.”

Trump lashes out on Twitter a day after three women who previously accused him of sexual harassment shared their stories on NBC’s “Megyn Kelly Today.”

Trump says Democrats “have been unable to show any collusion with Russia” and now are “moving on” to these allegations. He adds: “FAKE NEWS!”

The women — Jessica Leeds, Samantha Holvey and Rachel Crooks — yesterday urged Congress to investigate Trump’s behavior.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders pledged to provide a list of eyewitnesses whose accounts exonerated the president. She did not provide the list by late yesterday.

— AP

French FM says Iran trying to carve out regional ‘axis’ of influence

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian hits out at Iran, accusing the Islamic Republic of trying to carve out an “axis” of influence stretching through Syria to the Mediterranean Sea.

Speaking about the role of Russia and Iran in helping Syrian President Bashar Assad regain the upper hand in the civil war, Le Drian says: “Russia supplies aviation and support on the ground but Iran supplies its militia and supports (the pro-Iranian Lebanese terrorist group) Hezbollah.”

In a France 2 television progam on Syria to air later this evening, Le Drian is particularly critical of Iran, which is vying for regional supremacy with Saudi Arabia.

“Iran’s presence (in Syria) and Iran’s desire to create an axis from the Mediterranean to Tehran: No!” Le Drian declares, insisting that any deal on Syria’s future needed to ensure it remained “independent from the pressure and presence of other countries.”


Polls open in Alabama’s closely watched election

Polls have opened across Alabama in the state’s closely watched US Senate election, which has drawn national attention.

Voting places opened at 7 a.m. this morning and will remain open until 7 p.m.

Cool temperatures were common across Alabama shortly before voting began and the state is expected to see dry weather all day during today’s voting.

Republican Roy Moore faces Democrat Doug Jones in the election.

Multiple women have accused Moore of sexual misconduct with teen girls when he was in his 30s. Moore is now 70 and denies the charges.

— AP

Egypt defense minister says Mideast peace prospects waning

Egypt’s defense minister says chances for a Mideast peace deal have been diminished after the US government’s decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

Sedki Sobhi says talks with his Cypriot counterpart Christoforos Fokaides focus on ways in which the two countries can step up cooperation to deal with common challenges including terrorism and illegal migration.

Sobhi says “the chances to settle the Palestinian issue have declined, particularly after the US decision to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.”

Fokaides says Egypt is a key country for regional stability and that Cyprus is urging is fellow European Union member states to give the country “greater, more substantial and tangible” support.

He says joint training and military drills are planned for next year.

The two countries also sign a cooperation agreement on offshore search and rescue operations.

Greece’s Defense Minister Panos Kammenos will join both men for three-way talks later in the day.

— AP

Islamic Jihad says members killed carrying out ‘jihadist mission’

The Islamic Jihad’s terrorist group says the two Palestinian men who were killed earlier this afternoon in northern Gaza died while on a “jihadist mission.”

The statement does not explicitly blame Israel for their deaths, while earlier Palestinian reports had said the two were killed by an Israeli drone strike.

The Israeli army denied any involvement in the incident.

The two killed were identified as 25-year-old Hussein Nasrallah and 29-year-old Mustafa a-Sultan.

— Dov Lieber

NYC subway bomb suspect charged with supporting terrorism

The New York Police Department says the man accused of the subway bombing has been charged with supporting an act of terrorism.

The NYPD says on Twitter that Akayed Ullah also has been charged with making a terroristic threat and weapon possession.

Federal charges are expected later.

Deputy Commissioner for Counterterrorism and Intelligence John Miller said on CBS “This Morning” on Tuesday that Ullah was not on police or the FBI’s radar before the Monday morning bomb in Times Square.

— AP

IDF opens probe into shooting of Palestinian ‘attacker’ after no knife found

The army opens an investigation after soldiers shot a Palestinian who they said appeared to pull a knife out of his pocket, but no such weapon was recovered at the scene.

In a statement, the IDF says troops spotted a group of Palestinians approaching the fence around the Ariel settlement “in a suspicious manner.”

The soldiers opened fire at one of the suspects after he “appeared to pull a knife out of his pocket,” the army says.

However, upon searching the area, the military found no knife, an army spokesperson says.

The injured Palestinian received treatment on the scene before being taken to the hospital.

“The incident will be reviewed,” the army says.

— Judah Ari Gross

German soldier charged in far-right plot against politicians

German prosecutors have indicted a soldier accused of plotting to kill prominent political figures and blame the attack on refugees — a case that raised concerns about extremism in the country’s military.

Federal prosecutors say they have charged the 28-year-old, identified only as 1st Lt. Franco Hans A. in keeping with German privacy rules, with planning an act of violence as well as violating weapons and explosives laws. He also is charged with theft and fraud.

Prosecutors say that the suspect managed to pose as a Syrian asylum-seeker and planned to carry out his attack under that identity. They say his targets included Justice Minister Heiko Maas and that he got hold of four firearms, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and more than 50 explosive devices.

— AP

EU aims to link visa, crime databases to boost terror fight

The European Union is planning to link together its border, visa and fingerprint databases to plug information gaps and better combat terrorism and international crime.

The European Commission is proposing to upgrade the 28-nation bloc’s information systems so that border officers or the Europol police agency can have fast access to more reliable data.

EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos says the plan aims “to close gaps and remove blind spots in our information systems.”

It would allow visa, police, customs or justice authorities to use one search portal with access to all various databases they currently have permission to use.

The European Commission says the move wouldn’t compromise data protection safeguards while making it easier to cross-check information or catch criminals using multiple or fake identities.

— AP

Netanyahu to be questioned for 7th time in corruption probe

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will reportedly be questioned for a seventh time later this week in a pair of criminal investigations involving suspicions he received illegal gifts and favors from businessmen for advancing their business interests.

Reports in Hebrew-language media say the prime minister will face police again on Friday.

Netanyahu was last questioned two weeks ago when he sat with investigators for four hours at his official residence in Jerusalem.

Russian security agency says it busted IS suicide bomber cell

Russia’s top domestic security agency says it has detained three suspected members of a sleeper cell of the Islamic State group who have been preparing suicide bombings in Moscow.

The Federal Security Service, or FSB, says that the suspects were plotting a series of suicide attacks in the Russian capital during the New Year’s holidays and the presidential election campaign.

The FSB says the suspects, who came from ex-Soviet nations in Central Asia, were manufacturing self-made explosive devices. A search in their rented apartment outside Moscow earlier today uncovered explosives along with assault rifles and hand grenades.

FSB director Alexander Bortnikov says another IS cell was uncovered in the southern Stavropol region.

In April, a suicide bombing in St. Petersburg’s subway left 16 dead and wounded more than 50.

— AP

Netanyahu says ‘no substitute’ for US role in peace process

At a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony at the Foreign Ministry, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says there “is no substitute for the role of the US in the peace process.”

Netanyahu adds that the Jewish holiday this year is “extra special, because it is marked by a historic declaration,” referring to US President Donald Trump’s official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Muslim leaders to convene extraordinary summit for Jerusalem

Leaders and high-ranking officials of Muslim countries will meet tomorrow in Istanbul for an extraordinary summit to discuss “repercussions” from the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation session aims to produce a “unified Islamic position.” The umbrella organization of 57-members called US President Donald Trump’s announcement last week an “illegal decision” and a “serious escalation.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, OIC’s term president, has been vehemently critical of the US move and said yesterday the leaders would relay a “strong message.”

— AP

NYC subway bomb suspect faces federal terror charges

An immigrant from Bangladesh arrested on charges of using a weapon of mass destruction in the New York City subway system in a suicide attack is charged in federal court.

Akayed Ullah was expected to appear before a magistrate judge after a criminal complaint was made public earlier today. A criminal complaint in Manhattan federal court says Ullah told authorities he “did it for the Islamic State.”

Federal authorities charged him in yesterday’s failed suicide bombing with providing material support to terrorists and using weapons of mass destruction. It left Ullah with burns to his body and hands and three pedestrians with harmed hearing and headaches. According to the complaint, Ullah posted on his Facebook account Monday: “Trump you failed to protect your nation.”

It was not immediately clear who would represent Ullah in court.

Authorities say he set off a bomb in an underground passageway near Times Square.

— AP

Amnesty condemns death sentence for Iran academic accused of spying for Israel

Human rights group Amnesty International says that Iran’s courts had “run roughshod over the rule of law” by confirming the death sentence of an academic accused of espionage during nuclear talks with world powers.

Lawyers for Ahmadreza Djalali, an emergency medicine specialist resident in Sweden, were informed Saturday that the Supreme Court had upheld his sentence “without granting them an opportunity to file their defence submissions,” Amnesty said in a statement.

Djalali was a visiting professor at Belgium’s Vrije University when he was arrested during a trip to Iran in April 2016.

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


Rocket fired at Israel from Gaza falls short, lands inside Strip

A rocket fired toward Israel from the Gaza Strip falls short and lands inside the Palestinian territory.

Reports in Hebrew-language media say the rocket lands adjacent to the border in the northern part of the Strip.

No injuries or damage are reported.

Arab lawmakers lead anti-Trump protest at US embassy in Tel Aviv

A group of around 100 Arab Israelis are protesting in front of the US embassy in Tel Aviv against President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Waving Palestinian flags, the protesters are holding signs that read: “We will not give Jerusalem to the occupier,” and “The future of Jerusalem will not be determined by an American cowboy.” Some held posters depicting Trump as a snake.

The demonstration was organized by the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee, and is attended by several Arab lawmakers including Ahmad Tibi, Yousef Jabarin, Taleb Abu Arar and Abd al-Hakim Hajj Yahya.

Palestinian minors detained for throwing rocks at Jerusalem’s Light Rail

Police say two Palestinian minors are being detained for throwing rocks at the Light Rail train in Jerusalem.

The two hurled rocks at the train as it passed through the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood of Shuafat, shattering one of the train’s windows.

The two are brought in for questioning along with their parents.

The Jerusalem Light Rail, September 20, 2017. (Times of Israel/Stuart Winer)

Palestinian sources: Islamic Jihad behind recent rocket fire, not Hamas — report

Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip tell an Israeli news outlet the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization is responsible for the recent rockets launched over the border at Israel, and not Salafist groups.

The sources tell Hadashot news that extremist factions in the Gaza Strip are trying to thwart the implementation of a reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah, by firing rockets at Israel.

According to the sources, General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ foreign operations wing, spoke to senior Hamas officials, urging them to launch rockets toward Israel.

“You have a blank check when it comes to our support for military arms,” Soleimani reportedly tells Hamas.

Senate unanimously passes bill to help Holocaust survivors

The Senate unanimously passes a bill to help Holocaust survivors and the families of victims obtain restitution or the return of Holocaust-era assets.

The measure requires the State Department to report on the progress of certain European countries toward the return of or restitution for wrongfully confiscated or transferred Holocaust-era assets, including property, art and other movable property.

It also requires a report specifically on progress on the resolution of claims for US citizen Holocaust survivors and family members.


Trump to release national security strategy next week

US President Donald Trump is set to unveil his first National Security Strategy next week.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster says the strategy will incorporate four core national interests: the protection of American people; advancing American prosperity; “preserving peace through strength”; and advancing American influence.

He says “geopolitics are back and they are back with a vengeance.”
McMaster said Tuesday the strategy will identify global threats to the US and its interests, including “new generation warfare” from Russia, and North Korean and Iranian weapons development.

He adds the document will reflect Trump’s desire to bolster engagement with other countries under the framework of “cooperation with reciprocity.”

US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster gestures as he answers questions from members of the media during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, November 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

— AP

Former Teva CEO resigns from board citing personal reasons

Dr. Yitzhak Peterburg, the former interim CEO and company chairman of Israeli pharmaceutical giant Teva, announces his resignation from the board of directors effective immediately.

In a statement, Teva says Peterburg’s resignation “is for personal reasons and is not due to a dispute with the company.”

Teva shares in the US have taken a plunge this year as the company has faced harsh financial woes.

The debt-laden company is reportedly preparing to sack thousands of employees in Israel and the US, including one quarter of its Israeli workforce.

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Live updates (closed)

Senate unanimously passes bill to help Holocaust survivors

The Senate unanimously passes a bill to help Holocaust survivors and the families of victims obtain restitution or the return of Holocaust-era assets.

The measure requires the State Department to report on the progress of certain European countries toward the return of or restitution for wrongfully confiscated or transferred Holocaust-era assets, including property, art and other movable property.

It also requires a report specifically on progress on the resolution of claims for US citizen Holocaust survivors and family members.