The Times of Israel is liveblogging Thursday’s events as they unfold.
Shin Bet denies having tortured Duma murder suspects
The Shin Bet security service says far-right activists are attempting to disrupt the ongoing investigation into the murder of three Palestinians in July in an attack carried out by suspected Jewish terrorists.
“Over the last few days a false smear campaign against the Shin Bet and its employees has been going on,” the agency wrote in a statement.
The Shin Bet stressed that the suspects being held in connection to the murders were not tortured or subject to illegal interrogation methods, as was suggested by right-wing activists.
“These claims are false and devoid of any connection to reality,” the Shin Bet said.
“The purpose of these lies flying around is to blacken the name of the Shin Bet, thus trying to hurt its ability to perform its job – by disrupting the investigation and damaging the image of the agency and its employees.”
The suspected existence of a Jewish terror network has made headlines recently as the Shin Bet’s investigation of the Duma attack progresses. The developing case has caused tension within the Israeli right, between those who see Jewish terrorism as a real threat and those who deny its existence or seriousness.
Russia says it identified groups behind plane explosion in Sinai
The head of Russia’s Federal Security Service, Alexander Bortnikov, says Russia identified groups behind the explosion of a Russian plane in Egypt.
The jihadist Islamic State group has said it smuggled a bomb onto the Russian jet on October 31, which blew up killing all 224 people on board.
On November 17, Moscow said an investigation had found that the plane which took off from the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh was brought down by a bomb on board, a view shared by aviation experts.
Man attempts to sell baby in order to cover debts
A man is arrested after allegedly attempting to sell his baby daughter off in order to pay his debts, police say.
An undercover officer made contact with the suspect, a 30-year-old resident of Jerusalem, and met with him several times on order to discuss the transaction.
During the meetings, the man attempted to persuade the undercover cop to buy his daughter for the sum of NIS 100,000 (about $25,000) in order to pay debts he incurred as a result of gambling.
The man’s wife, 27, was also arrested. The baby was transferred to the Jerusalem Municipality’s welfare division.
Palestinian killed in clashes with IDF
A Palestinian is killed in clashes with Israeli forces at the Qalandiya checkpoint in the West Bank.
Palestinians shoot at IDF at West Bank checkpoint
Palestinians open fire at IDF soldiers at the Qalandiya checkpoint in the West Bank.
The soldiers fire back in response. At least one Palestinian is reported killed in the incident.
Shin Bet denies distributing infamous wedding video
The Shin Bet security service denies that it distributed a wedding video showing far-right wing Israeli extremists dancing at a wedding in celebration of the murder of Palestinians, a spokesperson said Thursday.
The video, published by Channel 10 news on Wednesday, drew widespread condemnation from across the political spectrum, though some right-wing lawmakers accused security officials of leaking the video to demonize Jewish extremists being investigated over the murder of three members of a Palestinian family in July.
Police spokesperson Luba Samri said police had begun looking into the video on Wednesday afternoon before it was screened on TV. The clip shows dozens of young Israeli right-wing extremists, said to be linked to the suspected perpetrators of the Dawabsha family murder, celebrating the killing at a Jerusalem wedding last week.
Violent mob assaults IDF soldiers in Qalandiya
During IDF activity in the Qalandiya refugee camp, in which soldiers came to arrest suspects in a shooting attack, the forces were assaulted by a violent mob, the army says.
The troops were shot at and had an explosive device, Molotov cocktails and rocks thrown at them, the IDF says.
“In response to the immediate danger, the force fired toward the gunmen. Hits were confirmed,” an IDF spokeswoman says.
During the scuffle, one soldier, approximately 20 years old, was lightly injured when he was struck in the head by rocks thrown at the troops, the Magen David Adom rescue service says.
He received medical care on site and was brought to a Jerusalem hospital for further treatment, according to the MDA statement.
Christians in Bethlehem mark Christmas amid violence
Christian faithful from around the world descend on the biblical city of Bethlehem for Christmas Eve celebrations at the traditional birthplace of Jesus, as an outburst of Israeli-Palestinian violence dampened the typically festive mood.
Bethlehem has been a focal point for clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters during the three-month-long wave of violence that has gripped the region. While the annual festivities in the city’s Manger Square were set to go on, other celebrations in the city were canceled or toned down because of the violence.
“We’re in Bethlehem celebrating Christmas, celebrating the birthday of our lord Jesus Christ. This is the birthplace of the king of peace so what we want is peace,” says Rula Maayah, the Palestinian tourism minister.
Thousands of people were crowding into Manger Square, admiring the town’s Christmas tree and listening to holiday music played by marching bands and scout troops.
Doctors checking hospitalized 4-year-old for swine flu
A 4-year-old girl is hospitalized in serious condition at the Assaf Harofeh Hospital near Rishon Lezion, with doctors attempting to determine whether the girl has swine flu.
One woman has died of swine flu and another ten people have been hospitalized with the disease. Four of them are on artificial respiration.
Four women are hospitalized at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba with the disease, three of them pregnant. The four women had come to Soroka complaining of flu symptoms. Tests showed they were infected with H1N1, popularly known as swine flu.
Five women have been hospitalized in Jerusalem, the health ministry confirmed – three at Shaare Zedek, where one, a woman in her 40s, is on artificial respiration in the emergency ward and another, in her 20s, is being tested for the virus, according to news reports. One woman is hospitalized at the capital’s Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem and another at Hadassah, Mount Scopus. In central Israel, one person has been diagnosed with the flu at Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv and one at the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer in Ramat Gan, a Health Ministry spokesperson said.
AG closes investigation into claims of harassment by top cop
The attorney general decides to close the investigation against top cop Roni Rittman who was suspected of sexually harassing a fellow female officer.
Rittman, the head of the Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit, has denied the allegations against him and said that a senior officer in the Israel Police’s intelligence was framing him.
Rittman has held the position of head of the Lahav 433 unit since August 2014, making him one of the highest-ranking officers in the Israel Police. The unit has been involved in some of Israel’s most sensitive cases, including a corruption scandal populated by politicians in the Yisrael Beytenu party. The former head of the anti-corruption unit, Menashe Arviv, stepped down in 2014 over corruption allegations.
Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich will decide soon whether to take any disciplinary action against Rittman.
Two more hospitalized with suspected swine flu symptoms
A man and woman are hospitalized in critical condition in the northern city of Nahariya. Doctors suspect the two may have swine flu.
One woman has died of swine flu and another ten people have been hospitalized with the disease. Four of them are on artificial respiration.
The H1N1 virus became a global pandemic in 2009, and has killed thousands around the world since, including at least five in Israel.
Some 1.46 million Israelis have been vaccinated so far this season against flu – the injection includes inoculation against swine flu – including 60 percent of elderly people and around 20% of babies and children up to age six, the Israel Hayom newspaper reported on Thursday.
11% increase in immigrants from Ukraine
Data released by the Absorption Ministry indicates an 11% increase in the number of immigrants from Ukraine in 2015 compared to last year’s numbers.
According to the data, the total number of immigrants from Ukraine in 2015, as of mid-December, is 6,953, compared to 5,921 the year before.
Syria says it’s ready to enter new peace talks
Syria’s regime says it is ready to take part in new talks in Geneva aimed at ending the war but appears to make its participation conditional on which opposition groups will attend.
The statement came as the Islamic State jihadist group pushed further into a key city in eastern Syria in fighting that reportedly left more than two dozen regime loyalists dead.
During an official visit to China, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem says Damascus “is ready to participate in the Syrian-Syrian dialogue in Geneva without any foreign interference.”
He adds that the government’s negotiating team “will be ready as soon as we receive a list of the opposition delegation.”
Shin Bet says it treated Jewish extremists as ‘ticking time bombs’
A security source tells Ynet that the Shin Bet, in cooperation with its legal department and in consultation with the Justice Ministry, received an investigative permit to apply intense interrogation techniques to suspected Jewish extremists by treating them as “ticking time bombs.”
The Shin Bet says it applied the techniques for fear that some suspects who had not yet been arrested in connection with the Duma murders may want to carry out another terrorist attack.
Earlier, the Shin Bet security service denied all allegations that it tortured detainees in an ongoing investigation into a terror attack by suspected Jewish extremists, calling the claims “deceitful” and “entirely disconnected from reality.”
The families and attorneys of those currently being investigated for carrying out the deadly firebombing of the Dawabsha family home in late July have accused Israel’s internal security agency of beating the suspects, spitting on them, shocking them with electricity and hitting them in the genitals.
Syria regime raids kill 20, including 7 children
Air raids by Syrian government warplanes kill 20 civilians, including seven children, in an area southeast of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor says.
Dozens more people are also wounded in the raids on the center of Hammuriyeh in Eastern Ghouta, the largest rebel stronghold in Damascus province that is regularly bombed by the forces of President Bashar Assad, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman says.
Turkey says it will buy military systems from Israel
Turkey wants to resume military cooperation with Israel after the signing of a reconciliation agreement last week, and intends to acquire advanced technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles and surveillance systems from the Jewish state, a security official tells the Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman.
Turkish-Israeli relations are on the verge of a dramatic improvement after years of disconnect, following a secret meeting last week in Switzerland between senior Turkish and Israeli officials.
According to a PMO official, the agreement is to provide for: both countries to return their ambassadors; a cancellation of pending lawsuits against IDF soldiers; the establishment by Israel of a fund for the welfare of victims of the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident; a Turkish commitment not to tolerate any “terrorist activities” on its sovereign territory; Turkey barring from its soil Salah Arouri, a Hamas operative who allegedly orchestrated the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June 2014; Turkey allowing Israel to lay down a gas pipeline on its soil; and the opening of immediate negotiations on the sale of natural gas from Israel to Turkey.
Bodies of two Palestinian would-be stabbers handed over to PA
The bodies of two Palestinians who attempted to carry out a stabbing attack in the northern West Bank lat month are transferred to the Palestinian Authority at a checkpoint near Nablus.
The bodies belong to a 16 and a 17-year-old who were shot after trying to stab Israelis in two separate incidents in November.
PM slams extreme right groups, Jewish terrorism
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemns extreme right-wing activists and says they do not represent the Israeli right at large, amid a period of shock and anger within Israeli society following the broadcast of a video showing right-wing activists dancing at a wedding with guns, knives and a Molotov cocktail while stabbing a photograph of the murdered Ali Dawabsha.
“The group in question is a radical fringe group,” the prime minister says at a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary since the start of Soviet Jewish immigration to Israel.
“We do not accept terrorism by either side,” Netanyahu continues, referencing the firebombing of the Dawabsha family home in late July by suspected Jewish extremists.
“The marginal group does not represent the right. It’s not the right I know. We will not accept a situation in which a certain group refuses to accept the laws of the country and carries out murder.”
200 al-Shabab fighters pledge allegiance to IS
About 200 Islamic extremist fighters split from Somalia’s al-Shabab rebels, who are allied to al-Qaeda, and instead pledge allegiance to the Islamic State group, Kenya’s police chief says.
The splinter group is operating around the Somali border in Kenya’s north, and has carried out at least two attacks in the last two weeks, killing one soldier and two civilians in Mandera County, Joseph Boinett tells The Associated Press.
The split in al-Shabab poses an extra challenge for Kenya’s security forces, Boinnet said. Among those who have joined the pro-IS faction of al-Shabab is Mohamed Kuno, alias Gamadhere, who is wanted for the April 2 attack by al-Shabab gunmen on a Kenya’s Garissa University in the country’s east, in which 148 people were killed, Boinnet said.
Al-Shabab has vowed retribution on Kenya for sending troops to Somalia to fight the Islamic extremists. Kenya has experienced a series of al-Shabab attacks since it sent its troops to Somalia in 2011.
Eizenkot: Investigate how weapons ended up in extreme right-wing hands
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot instructs the military police to investigate how extreme right-wing activists dancing at a wedding with guns, knives and a Molotov cocktails while stabbing a photograph of a murdered Palestinian child acquired their weapons.
Eizenkot also calls to investigate check if any soldiers attended the event.
Yinon Magal questioned over sexual harassment allegations
Former Knesset member Yinon Magal is questioned over allegations he sexual harassed and molested several female employees of the Walla news site, where he served as editor-in-chief.
Police are also investigating the complaints of women who claimed to have been harassed by Magal.
Dozens protest Duma terror suspects’ detention
Dozens of people protest at the Chords Bridge in Jerusalem, accusing the Shin Bet security agency of torturing the Jewish extremists being investigated for allegedly carrying out the deadly firebombing of the Dawabsha family home in late July.
The Shin Bet has denied all allegations that it tortured detainees in an ongoing investigation into the terror attack, calling the claims “deceitful” and “entirely disconnected from reality.”
The Shin Bet accused right-wing activists of attempting to divert the public’s attention away from the “heinous terrorist acts” that the extremist group in question has been accused of and make the conversation instead about the “legitimacy of the investigation which uncovered their actions.”
Since the attorneys of the suspects in the Dawabsha murders accused the Shin Bet of torture, right-wing activists across the country have several times taken to the streets in protest, blocking traffic at the entrance to Jerusalem and demonstrating in front of the home of Yoram Cohen, the head of the Shin Bet.
Bennett calls far-right groups ‘terrorists’
Education Minister Naftali Bennett once again reiterates his criticism of extremist elements in the religious Zionist public, saying in an interview with Channel 2 that the individuals behind the firebombing of the Palestinian Dawabsha family in the West Bank village of Duma in July were “terrorists.”
“This group of people are terrorists,” he says. “They want to topple the state, they murdered a baby in his sleep.”
“They are mistaken… they do not represent religious Zionism.”
Egypt PM says companies not yet allowed to import gas from Israel
Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail Mohamed says his government did not yet allow any company to import gas from Israel.
Yesterday, the Israeli government approved the export of gas to Egyptian companies.