The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.
Zahalka: I never advocated violence over Temple Mount
Arab MK Jamal Zahalka denies his recent call for Palestinians to stop Jews from ascending the Temple Mount was a call to violence.
Speaking for first time since the PM asked the attorney general to look into whether the remarks were incitement to violence, the Joint (Arab) List MK tells Army Radio: “To immediately say that my every utterance has a violent bent … is nonsense. I never called for violence, it is not my way, it is not my thought [process].”
Syrian refugees taken in by pope: He gave us a new life
The Syrian refugees taken in by Pope Francis following his visit to Lesbos yesterday hail the pontiff as a “savior” for offering them a new life.
Talking to Italian daily La Stampa after their first night in Rome at a Catholic charity, the families express their gratitude to the pontiff for his “gesture of hope.”
“We saw friends and relatives die in the rubble, we fled Syria because we no longer had any hope,” says Hasan, an engineer from Damascus, who is in Italy with his wife Nour and two-year-old son.
Palestinian PM: Israel has made our land a prison
Palestinian Authority PM Rami Hamdallah condemns the number of Palestinian children held in Israeli jails in a statement to mark Palestinian Prisoner’s Day.
“The Israeli occupation has transformed our homeland into a large prison,” he says, according to Palestinian news agency Ma’an. He calls on the international community to “protect the human rights of Palestinian prisoners and detainees, especially the children who are subject to psychological and physical harm.”
According to Palestinian prisoner rights group Addameer, Israel is currently jailing 438 Palestinian minors, including 98 under the age of 16.
Assad party cleans up in Syria parliamentary vote
Syria’s ruling Baath party and its allies win a majority of seats in last week’s parliamentary elections across government-held parts of the country, the national electoral commission announces.
In a widely expected victory in polls labeled a “farce” by Syria’s opposition, President Bashar Assad’s Baath movement and its allies — running under the “National Unity” coalition — win 200 of the parliament’s 250 seats.
A list of winners published by Syria’s national electoral commission includes every candidate on the 200-strong “National Unity” list, according to Syria’s state news agency SANA.
Herzog questioned under caution in graft probe
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog is questioned under caution over claims that he received unlawful financial contributions during his successful 2013 campaign for the Labor party leadership.
Herzog, who is questioned by police with the permission of the attorney general, is also suspected of failing to report a donation and making a false statement.
— Judah Ari Gross
Meretz head: Herzog can’t stay as opposition leader
The head of the left-wing Meretz party Zehava Galon calls on Isaac Herzog to step down as head of the opposition after he is questioned under caution for allegedly receiving illicit campaign funds.
“Herzog cannot continue in the role of chairman of the opposition,” Galon says, according to Channel 2. “Perhaps he needs to suspend himself.”
Herzog on graft probe: I have total faith in police
Isaac Herzog says he has “complete faith” in the police as he is questioned under caution over allegations that he received illicit donations during his successful 2013 campaign to head the Labor party.
“I went this morning to present my version at the request of law enforcement officials,” Herzog writes in Hebrew on Facebook. “From the moment that the existence of a probe leaked… I requested permission to respond so that I could put the matter behind me. I have complete faith in the law enforcement officials and I thank them for their respectful and fair treatment.”
Axl Rose to join veteran rockers AC/DC on tour
Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose announces that he will join veteran hard rock group AC/DC on tour.
The singer makes the announcement to the crowd at the Coachella festival as he appears onstage with Gun N’ Roses guitarist Slash, who until this month had not joined his on-off nemesis for more than two decades.
Sanders puts in screen time at Coachella festival
Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders appears on screen at the Coachella music festival in California.
The senator offers a brief introduction to a project of Atlanta rapper Killer Mike, one of his prominent supporters.
He praises Killer Mike’s “depth of passion — his knowledge and commitment to community,” saying the rapper “is an inspiration to me and I value his friendship immensely.”
Zionist Union’s Cabel: I believe in Herzog
Senior Zionist Union MK Eitan Cabel offers his support to party leader Isaac Herzog, as the latter is questioned under caution over alleged campaign financing violations.
“I believe in his honesty,” Cabel says, according to Israel Hayom.
South Sudan gunmen kill 140 in raid in Ethiopia
Armed men from South Sudan killed around 140 people and kidnapped a number of others in a cross-border raid into Ethiopia, the Ethiopian government says.
Ethnic Murle gunmen “attacked near Gambella and killed close to 140 people. They also abducted some of them,” says foreign ministry spokesman Tewolde Muluteg.
The Murle, a tribe from South Sudan based in the eastern Jonglei region, often stage raids to steal cattle.
Hamas: We have assets that will force Israel to negotiate
The spokesman for the Hamas military wing, Abu Obeidah, says that Hamas is holding assets that will guarantee a prisoner swap with Israel, the Walla news website reports.
“In the hands of the [Izz ad-Din al-Qassam] Brigades, we have something that will promise a prisoner swap with the Israeli enemy, and free the prisoners and our nation,” he says on Palestinian TV, in an official statement to mark Palestinian Prisoner Day.
“We promised to free the prisoners, and we are certain that the Brigades can do it,” he says.
Hamas claims to be holding the bodies of two IDF soldiers who were killed in the 2014 war in Gaza, as well as two living Israelis who were seized by the terror group after they entered Gaza.
Police summon senior official in Herzog’s 2013 campaign
Police summon for questioning under caution a senior member of Isaac Herzog’s 2013 Labor leadership campaign over allegations of financial wrongdoings during the campaign, Channel 10 says.
Herzog is also questioned under caution over the allegations that he received an illicit donation during the campaign.
Yachimovich on Herzog probe: Must decide next steps as party
Shelly Yachimovich calls for the Zionist Union party to discuss future steps after leader Isaac Herzog is questioned under caution over alleged campaign financing violations.
“I am convinced Herzog has in mind the best interests of the party and the opposition, and I will work alongside him and the members of our party to decide on the steps to take,” she says. “There is no doubt that the party chairman and opposition leader being questioned under warning makes the situation more serious. I have complete trust in the police and law enforcement authorities.”
Herzog is accused of accepting an illicit donation during the 2013 Labor leadership race, in which Herzog defeated then-party chair Yachivmovich.
American Jew arrested for praying on Temple Mount
A Jewish American tourist is arrested on Temple Mount for praying, an act that is banned under the fragile status quo at the flashpoint Jerusalem holy site.
The man is detained by Israeli police officers after he is overhead quoting from Psalms in Hebrew as part of a longer biblical commentary in English, Jewishpress.com reports. When his companions argue that he is not praying, a police officer reportedly says: “On the Temple Mount I decide what’s prayer.”
— Amanda Borschel-Dan
WATCH: SNL pits ‘Bernie Sanders’ against Seinfeld’s ‘Elaine Benes’
Comedian Larry David reprises his role as his Democratic doppelganger Bernie Sanders for a Saturday Night Live skit in which the Jewish senator answers questions from Seinfeld’s Elaine Benes, played again by Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
David was the executive producer of the hit New York-based sitcom for almost all of its nine-year stretch, which came to an end in 1998.
Syria: We will retake Golan by any means
Syria’s deputy foreign minister hits back after Netanyahu vows the Golan Heights will remain part of Israel, and warns that the war-torn state will retake the plateau “by any means necessary, including using military force.”
Faisal al-Mekdad tells Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen network that “the Arab Syrian Golan is an occupied territory,” and that UN Security Council resolutions affirm that the area is Syrian, i24 reports.
The minister adds that “Israel is trying to be provocative, but do not give in to it.”
Iran absent as oil producers meet in Qatar to discuss cap
Oil-producing countries meet in Qatar to discuss a possible freeze of production to counter low global prices, although Iran decides to skip the summit.
At least 15 oil-producing nations — representing about 73 percent of world output — are expected at the Doha meeting, according to Qatar’s energy and industry minister, Mohammed bin Saleh al-Sada, has said.
The gathering follows a surprise Doha meeting in February between Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, in which they pledge to cap their crude output at January levels if other producers do the same.
The countries hope the cap will help global oil prices rebound from their dramatic fall since the summer of 2014, when prices were above $100 a barrel, though no one is talking seriously about the more dramatic step of cutting production.
Prices dropped briefly to under $30 a barrel, a 12-year low, in January, but have climbed to the mid-$40s this week.
Reports: Blast on bus in central Istanbul
An explosion goes off on a bus in the center of the Turkish city of Istanbul, local reports say, according to Channel 10.
The are no reports as yet of injuries or damage.
Israel’s envoy to US ‘briefed Trump’s AIPAC speechwriter’
Haaretz says Israel’s ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, briefed Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kurshner on Israeli diplomatic and security policy before he wrote the GOP front-runner’s speech to the AIPAC conference last month.
The report says the two held a telephone conversation days before the speech, with Dermer outlining the government position on a range of issues.
According to Haaretz, a source at the Israeli embassy in Washington confirms the two spoke by phone, saying that “the ambassador spoke to the people of all the leading presidential candidates.”
Turkey: Border guards not firing on fleeing Syrian civilians
Turkey denies claims that its border guards shot at Syrian civilians fleeing the Islamic State group.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic says that such claims “are irrelevant to reality.”
The comments come after Human Rights Watch, which is urging Turkey to allow in thousands of Syrians fleeing violence, quotes a Syrian refugee who says Turkish guards shot at hundreds of people approaching a border wall.
Bilgic says aid agencies are taking “necessary precautions on both sides” of the border to help Syrians displaced in the latest fighting.
Turkey is reportedly building three container cities with the capacity to house about 40,000 Syrians.
Ecuador president: Quake death toll rises to 233
Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa says at least 233 people are dead in the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the country’s Pacific coast.
“The official figure of the number killed has risen to 233,” Correa says on his Twitter account, marking a significant rise from the earlier toll of 77 dead and some 600 injured.
PA sending medical team to earthquake-hit Ecuador
A Palestinian medical team is to set out Monday from the West Bank to Ecuador, to help the victims of a powerful earthquake that killed more than 200 people in the South American country, the PA health minister says.
Jawad Awwad says he is acting under instructions from PA President Mahmoud Abbas to send medics and medical equipment to Ecuador, the Ma’an news agency reports.
Herzog on graft probe: I am calm, party should be too
Isaac Herzog says he is unfazed by being questioned under caution earlier today over claims that he accepted illicit funding for his 2013 campaign to lead the Labor Party.
“It’s no secret that over the past few weeks I have said again and again that I will go anytime and anywhere and present my version and this is what I did this morning, and if needed, I will go and help with anything they need. So that this episode is behind us. I presented myself this morning without delay, I trust the law enforcement officials and I thank them for their respect and fairness,” the opposition leader tells unionists at a pre-Passover toast.
“Believe me, I am calm, and you should also be calm and if there is anyone in the party who is not calm — then they should calm down,” he says. “The role of a leader is to deal with such phenomena, overcome them, carry on, lead and win.”
UN: No food or water at Palestinian camp in Syria
Conditions are “desperate” inside a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, with shortages of food and water, the UN says.
UNRWA, the UN refugee agency for Palestinians, says violent battles between extremists have left residents of the Yarmouk camp without food or water for more than a week.
“Civilians in Yarmouk are facing starvation and dehydration alongside the heightened risks of serious injury and death from the armed conflict,” says UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness.
The camp, a built-up neighborhood once home to an estimated 150,000 people, is ravaged by fighting between the Islamic State and al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the al-Nusra Front, while government forces regularly shell it from outside.
Rio school named for Brazilian Jewish leader who survived Holocaust
A Brazilian public school is named for Aleksander Henryk Laks, the late iconic president of the Brazilian Association of Holocaust Survivors.
Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes leads the naming ceremony, which is also attended by Jewish and government officials.
“Mr. Laks’ dedication to preserve the memory of the Shoah is the legacy he left for the Jewish leadership,” says Osias Wurman, Israel’s honorary consul and a former president of the Rio Jewish Federation. “We need to illuminate the past to lighten the future. He was an icon for a generation among Holocaust survivors.”
The Aleksander Henryk Laks School, in Rio’s Jacarepagua neighborhood, will house some 850 students aged 11-14. Polish-born Laks, who survived Auschwitz and other concentration camps, died from a lung infection last year at the age of 88.
Greek stores offer discounts to Israeli tourists
Israeli tourists will be offered 20-percent discounts this year at many Greek stores as part of an initiative to help the struggling Greek economy, Greek officials say.
The plan will also apply to visitors from the United States, Russia and Turkey.
Greek stores will voluntarily opt in to the program and the discounts will be in addition to tax-free benefits for which tourists are already eligible, says Vassilis Korkidis, the president of the Hellenic Federation of Commerce and Enterprise.
Police chief: MKs banned from Temple Mount
Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich announces a new open-ended ban on Israeli lawmakers visiting the flashpoint Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
“In light of attempts by many extremist elements from both sides to create provocations… I surmise that at this time, ascent to the Temple Mount by Knesset members is likely to result in an exacerbation of tensions and escalation of incidents that would cause a real endangerment of the security of the state,” he writes in a letter to Netanyahu, Channel 2 reports.
The letter continues: “I have decided to continue the ban on members of Knesset going up to the Temple Mount until further notice. The issue will be considered anew once the [holiday season is] over.”
Air France plane lands in Iran for first time in 8 years
An Air France passenger plane lands in Tehran international airport, marking the resumption of Paris-Tehran flights suspended in 2008.
The resumption of flights follows a landmark nuclear deal reached with world powers that went into effect in January.
French Transport Minister Alain Vidalies and 15 representatives from French businesses are among the passengers on the plane.
Air France will fly to Iran three times a week. German carrier Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines also run several flights a week connecting Iran and Europe.
Air France has landed in Tehran (reporters not allowed on the runway …) pic.twitter.com/zJSt53cLuT
— Golnar Motevalli (@golnarM) April 17, 2016
Sanders’ brother: Clashing with Netanyahu isn’t sign of self-hating Jew
Bernie Sanders’ brother Larry tells Channel 2 that the senator’s disagreement with Netanyahu on Israeli policy does not make him “a self-hating Jew.”
Relating to his brother’s recent comments that Israel had a disproportionate response in Gaza in 2014, Larry Sanders says:
“What Bernard is saying — and I think he’s 100 percent right — you will not have a peaceful, decent future for Palestinians or for Jews in Israel if you do not have a negotiated solution. There’s no way.”
He continues: “Bernard is not a self-hating Jew. There was never a moment in our life when we had any reason to be self-hating. The fact that he does not agree with Netanyahu on politics does not make him a self-hating Jew.”
Sanders also rules out the possibility that Donald Trump could ever win the White House, but warns that the GOP front-runner becoming president would be a “world catastrophe.” Trump, he says, has “elements of fascism.”
A Trump presidency, he says, “would be a dark day, not just for America but for the world.”
Singapore’s PM making historic trip to Israel
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will arrive in Israel tomorrow for the first ever official visit by the Singaporean head of state. He will be accompanied by a 60-member delegation, including his foreign minister and water resources minister.
The trip includes a reception at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where the prime minister will receive an honorary doctorate.
The PM will also tour the Old City of Jerusalem, Yad Vashem and Jaffa, and meet with Netanyahu, Herzog, Rivlin and former president Shimon Peres. He will also travel to Ramallah, in the West Bank.
Hollande in Egypt: Human rights help, not hinder, in war on terror
French President Francois Hollande meets in Cairo with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, with security and economic cooperation on the table.
Respecting human rights is not a hindrance in the fight against “terrorism” but an aid, Hollande says at a press conference after the meeting, while Sissi takes a defensive stance as his country’s human rights record become the focus.
Hollande, who arrived from talks in Lebanon, brings a delegation of business leaders in tow, and he and Sissi are expected to also discuss Middle East crises, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war against Islamic State.
After Cairo, Hollande on Tuesday heads to Jordan’s Prince Hassan air base, where French aircraft taking part in the coalition battling IS in Syria and Iraq are stationed.