The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.
Security coordination in West Bank not ending, officials say
Palestinian and Israeli sources tell the Times of Israel that a meeting held last week between both sides was to discuss continuing security cooperation, and not cutting it off, as had been reported earlier.
The sources say high level intelligence officials on both sides are continuing contacts and consulting as well as passing information.
Both Jerusalem and Ramallah see security coordination as key to keeping the West Bank from falling to more extreme elements and terror groups.
Palestinians have reportedly threatened to cut off cooperation as the security situation between the sides has deteriorated over the past several months. A small number of attacks by members of the Palestinian security forces, including one Sunday night, have also cast a shadow over continued coordination.
— Avi Issacharoff
Top PA minister defends attacks as ‘sacrifices’ for greater good
Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki saays Palestinians are sacrificing themselves by carrying out attacks against Israelis for the sake of the rest of their countrymen.
Malki points to ongoing Israeli control of the West Bank, which began in 1967, saying Palestinians born under it have seen nothing “but humiliation, soldiers’ check-points, deaths and killing.”
“They are born without any hope for the future… that’s why sometimes they (teenage assailants) decide to sacrifice their lives even at the age of 15… for the better lives of the rest of the Palestinians,” Malki tells a press conference.
He is visiting Japan with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later Monday.
During the meeting, Abe pledged $78 million in fresh economic assistance, according to Jiji Press and Kyodo News.
Abe also “expressed Japan’s intention to continue its political and economic support so that Palestine will be an independent, democratic, viable and contiguous state,” Kyodo says a joint press release issued after the meeting as saying.
Malki, at his press conference, also says Palestinian authorities do not advocate violence and are trying to prevent it.
“But the international community has to understand that there is a limit to everything,” he said.
Man arrested on suspicion of planning attack freed
An Arab man arrested on suspicion of planning a terror attack at the Beersheba bus station Friday has been freed by court order, Walla news reports.
No weapon was found on Masoud Tura and police apparently found no evidence he was planning an attack.
Tura was arrested Friday after somebody told police they saw a suspicious person in the bus station they thought was about to carry out an attack and he matched the description, according to police at the time.
Ethiopian-Israeli’s family cries out after cops cleared in death
Family members of an Ethiopian Israeli man found dead in 2014 have spoken out angrily at a Knesset panel discussion a day after an internal investigation cleared police in the death.
“I’m burning [mad],” the mother of Yosef Salamsa says at the hearing called to discuss allegations of police violence against members of the Ethiopian Israeli community.
Salamsa was found dead in a quarry in the northern city of Binyamina in July 2014. Police determined he had committed suicide.
But Ethiopian-Israeli community activists and his family say Salamsa was the victim of repeated abuse by police officers, a factor that may have contributed to his suicide.
On Sunday, investigators said no evidence was found of criminal conduct by police officers, though several instances of misconduct warranted internal disciplinary steps.
Salamsa’s sister, also at the hearing, makes an impassioned plea for the officers to be punished, according to Ynet.
“Our child is no more and the Police Investigations Department clears the officers who need to stand trial, what country are we living in?” she asks angrily.
MK Karin Elharar, chairing the panel, calls the decision to close the case “shocking” and accuses police of not even “using a Band-Aid” to deal with the problem.
State Comptroller Yosef Shapira, also at the hearing, says a report to be released in the coming days contains an extensive chapter tackling police abuse of Ethiopian Israelis.
A police representative at the hearing says police have a right to defend themselves and says no evidence was found of criminal wrongdoing, according to the report.
Rivlin to UN envoy Power: Tell Abbas we want talks
President Reuven Rivlin, meeting with US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, asks her to pass on a message to PA President Mahmoud Abbas that Israel is seeking renewed peace negotiations and rebuffing unilateral moves.
“I know that you are meeting the Palestinians, and I would ask to transfer once again a message to President Abbas, that he must understand the conflict between us — the tragedy between us — can only be solved through direct negotiations. No solution can be imposed on either side, and we must negotiate to come to an understanding,” he says, according to a statement from his office.
Power, who met with PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Saturday, says she wants to hear Rivlin’s ideas for getting the peace process rolling again.
“At a time of difficult and tragic violence in which so many Israeli and Palestinian families have suffered, I am keen to hear your thoughts about how tensions can be calm, and how we can get back on track in the hope that a solution can be negotiated,” she says.
Abbas is currently in Japan and it’s not clear if Power is scheduled to meet with him.
PM tells Power PA to blame for incitement to violence
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office says he has met with Samantha Power and discussed the ongoing wave of violence between Israelis and Palestinians.
Netanyahu accused the Palestinian Authority of inciting violence, and screened for Power a video showing instances of Palestinian incitement in schools, official media and speeches from leaders, according to a statement.
Also in the meeting were US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and Danny Danon, Israel’s envoy to the UN.
There is no immediate statement from Power on the meeting.
Netanyahu also met Monday morning with foreign ministers from Iceland and Norway in separate meetings, discussing bilateral ties and telling them the same things he told Power, according to the statement.
He is scheduled to fly to Germany in the coming hours where he will meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel and other officials in the framework of a government-2-government conference, his office says.
Israel arrests head of Fatah armed wing
The IDF arrested the head of the Tanzim terrorist organization, a faction of Fatah, overnight Sunday, the Shin Bet security services announces.
Jamal Abu Lel, 48, ran Tanzim out of the Qalandiya refugee camp outside of Ramallah, the Shin Bet says.
Through the organization, Abu Lel worked to funnel money and direct shooting attacks against Israelis, the security services says in a statement.
The Shin Bet does not detail who the money is funneled to, but says “money was transferred in order to finance militant activities.”
Abu Lel is a resident of Kfar Aqab, an East Jerusalem neighborhood, and possesses an Israeli ID card.
Fatah, headed by Abbas, currently controls the Palestinian Authority and is considered more moderate than their Hamas rivals.
— Judah Ari Gross
Woman tries to carry out stabbing attack at Damascus Gate
A woman attempted to stab people at the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem, police say.
No casualties have been reported.
The assailant was “neutralized,” but no additional information about her condition is known at this time, a police spokesperson says.
I'm afraid to take pictures. I'm at Damascus Gate and soldiers are aiming rifles to all directions
— jeruSalem Yahoodi (@yoskesh) February 15, 2016
A cacophony of sirens are heard in central Jerusalem as police rush toward the area next to the Old City.
Arabic media reports the woman may have been a journalist.
— Judah Ari Gross
Police arrest girl, 15, after pulling knife at Damascus Gate
Police arrested a Palestinian girl who pulled a knife from her pocket near the Damascus Gate outside of the Jerusalem’s Old City, a spokesperson says.
Hebrew-language media were reporting her age to be 15.
The girl “raised the offiicers’ suspicions,” and when they approached her, she took out the knife,” police say.
The officers subdued the young woman and arrested her. Upon searching her bag, officers found an additional knife, the spokesperson says.
A video from the area shows droves of police in the area, which late Sunday night was the scene of a gunbattle between Palestinian assailants and border guards. Both assailants were killed in that incident, and there were no Israeli injuries.
BREAKING VIDEO: Female Palestinian terrorist neutralized, after attempted stabbing attack at Damascus Gate. pic.twitter.com/yewDsDaNh1
— Israel News Feed (@IsraelHatzolah) February 15, 2016
The Damascus Gate has been the scene of several attacks, including a shooting attack earlier this month in which a Border Police officer was killed.
— Judah Ari Gross
Police confirm attacker was 15
The assailant was a 15-year-old resident of East Jerusalem, police confirm.
“The watchfulness and situational awareness of the officers prevented injury to life,” the deputy chief of Jerusalem police says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Islamic State used chemical agent in Iraq, tests show
Laboratory tests confirm that mustard gas was used by the Islamic State terror group against Kurdish fighters in Iraq last year, a diplomat tells Reuters.
A source with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons tells the news agency that tests came back positive for the use of the chemical.
Some 35 troops reported getting sick in August 2015 after the attack near Irbil, the de-facto Kurdish capital in northern Iraq.
According to the agency, experts think IS either pilfered the agent from a Syrian stockpile or produced it on ita own.
Nasrallah to tackle exiled pol Hariri in Tuesday speech
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah plans to address statements made by exiled Lebanese politician Sa’ad Hariri when he gives a speech to honor “martyred” leaders of the group Tuesday, a Lebanese news site reports.
On Sunday Hariri, back in Lebanon to mark 11 years since the assassination of his father, former prime minister Rafik Hariri, said Lebanon would not be a client state to Iran, seemingly taking aim at Hezbollah.
He also accused the group of spending resources fighting in Syria instead of working to break a political deadlock in Lebanon, without naming them.
“Nasrallah, in his televised speech, is expected to snap back at Hariri and warn against the dangers of a Saudi-Turkish involvement in northern Syria,” Lebanese news site Naharnet reports.
Hezbollah is widely suspected to have been behind Hariri’s assassination in 2005.
Nazi hunter Beate Klarsfeld given Israeli citizenship
German Nazi-hunter Beate Klarsfeld has received Israeli citizenship from Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, in a ceremony in Jerusalem.
At the ceremony, Deri and Yad Vashem head Avraham Shalev give Klarsfeld, 77, an Israeli passport and ID.
Klarsfeld, a non-Jewish German journalist, got the Israeli citizenship for her contribution to the Jewish people with her husband Serge Klarsfeld, 80, a French lawyer and President of the Association des fils et filles des deportes juifs de France (Sons and daughters of Jews deported from France).
The two are known for working to track down ex-Nazis, including efforts to have top SS official Alois Brunner deported from Syria.
Beate Klarsfeld was banned from Syria in 1982 and arrested in Damascus in 1991 after sneaking in and holding a lone protest.
Israeli citizenship is nearly impossible for non-Jews not born to Israeli citizens to acquire. Jews can obtain citizenship nearly freely under the law of return.
Videos show prisoner Olmert’s pimped-out new digs
Israeli media is publishing pictures and video of the inside of cell-block 10, the special unit of Ma’asiyahu clink in Ramle where former prime minister and current prisoner Ehud Olmert will spend the next 19 months.
The pictures show clean rooms and cushioned chairs, with air conditioners, an equipped (and kosher) kitchen, and no shortage of bright orange pay phones.
The block can hold up to 18 prisoners, 3 per cell, and will house other top officials who like Olmert ran afoul of the law.
Power visits bilingual school
US envoy to the UN visits the Max Rayne Hand-in-Hand bilingual Hebrew-Arabic school in Jerusalem, where she plays some music with kids.
Power refuses to take questions from a press gaggle accompanying her but speaks to a group of high schoolers.
The school was the site of an arson attack by Jewish extremists in 2014.
Power is expected to deliver a policy address at a visit to a school outside Tel Aviv later Monday.
— Marissa Newman
15 presumed dead in strike on Syrian hospital — doctors’ group
Doctors Without Borders says an attack on a clinic in northern Syria supported by the group has killed seven people and that another eight are presumed dead.
The international medical charity, also known by its French acronym MSF, said in a statement released Monday that the hospital in the northwestern town of Maaret al-Numan was hit by four missiles a few minutes apart that destroyed the building.
The group says five patients were killed, as well as a caretaker and a hospital guard. The eight missing are all hospital staff. It says other patients are still missing, but did not have an exact number.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the attack was carried out by Russian warplanes. It says nine people were killed, including a nurse and eight civilians.
Court okays moving hunger-striker to East Jerusalem
The High Court has ruled that a hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner cannot be moved to a hospital in Ramallah, but may be transferred to one in a Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem, Haaretz reports.
Journalist Mohammed al-Qiq has refused food for nearly three months to protest his incarceration without charge under administrative detention, and along the way become a cause celebre, with near daily rallies in support of him.
He is currently being held in Israel’s Haemek hospital near the city of Afula in the Lower Galilee.
Qiq’s lawyer had requested an okay to move him to Ramallah, closer to his home, but Justice Elyakim Rubinstein said he could only be moved to the al-Maqsid hospital in neighboring East Jerusalem, which is under Israeli control.
The government opposes moving Qiq at all, according to the report.
Qiq’s lawyer plans on meeting with him on Tuesday and making a final decision on whether to move him.
Most suspects in Cologne New Year’s mayhem refugees — prosecutor
Most of the suspects identified in connection with a series of robberies and sexual assaults in Cologne during New Year’s celebrations are refugees, prosecutors say.
The crimes, described as unprecedented by authorities, sparked uproar in Germany and a heated debate about the country’s ability to integrate almost 1.1 million people who sought asylum there last year.
Cologne prosecutor Ulrich Bremer says 73 suspects have been identified so far — most of them from North Africa. A total of 1,075 criminal complaints have been filed, including 467 alleging crimes of a sexual nature ranging from insults to rape.
“The overwhelming majority of persons fall into the general category of refugees,” Bremer tells The Associated Press, saying recent reports describing only three of the suspects as refugees were “total nonsense.”
Army lifts one closure, imposes another
Israeli forces have lifted a closure on the Palestinian village of Nahalin, and imposed a partial closure on another Palestinian town, an IDF spokesperson says.
The army closed Nahalin last week after an assailant, who stabbed an Israeli jogger near the adjacent Israeli settlement of Neve Daniel, ran off in that direction Tuesday.
Israel has not said if any suspects were detained during the closure, which consisted of army checkpoints surrounding exits in and out of the village.
The IDF has begun imposing closures on Palestinian towns in response to attacks inside settlements, though they are usually lifted after a few days. Palestinians and others say the measure amounts to collective punishment.
Also Monday, Israeli forces surrounded the Palestinian town of Araka in the northern West Bank, following clashes there Sunday that led to the deaths of two Palestinian teens who, the IDF said, were armed.
The army says access to Araka is still possible, but only through Route 897.
Vehicles entering and exiting will undergo an inspection, an IDF spokesperson says.
Riots also broke out in Araka on Monday.
— with Judah Ari Gross
Iran reformists join Rouhani allies for parliament run
Iranian reformists seeking greater democratic change and so-called moderates supporting President Hassan Rouhani’s outreach to the West have formed an alliance to increase their chances ahead of February 26 parliamentary elections.
Prominent reformist Mohammad Reza Aref, a former vice president and a candidate in the upcoming vote, says his supporters and Rouhani allies have agreed to release a joint list of candidates in order to more effectively challenge hard-liners and conservatives, who remain split.
Some 6,200 candidates – including 586 women – have been approved to run for Iran’s 290-seat parliament. Over 12,000 hopefuls had initially registered for the election.
The vote will largely be a referendum on Rouhani following last summer’s landmark nuclear deal, which curbed Iran’s atomic activities in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.
Injured bus riders fume driver was allowed behind wheel
Passengers injured in a fatal bus crash on the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway are pointing an accusatory finger at bus operator Egged after it emerged that driver Haim Bitton had been involved in a similar accident in the past.
“I don’t understand how they let him go back to driving. It seems they forgot they were talking about transportation for people and not animals,” Yanon Yazdi tells the Ynet news site.
Bitton crashed on the same route in 2013, also smashing into a truck and overturning the vehicle on the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv artery. Several passengers were injured in that incident, after which the Egged bus company banned him from intercity routes.The ban was only lifted a few weeks ago and he was permitted to drive the Jerusalem to Tel Aviv line once again, Channel 2 reported.
Six people died in the crash Sunday, after the 402 bus smashed into a truck parked on the side of the highway.
“I’m in shock over Egged’s behavior. It seems that only after this crash will they wake up to the need to pay attention to what they have with this driver,” Yitzhak Zev Even tells the news site.
Bitton was arrested Sunday night and he is suspected of obstruction of justice and negligent homicide, police said.
According to suspicions, after the crash he tampered with the vehicle’s tachograph, a device installed in public buses that monitors the driver’s speed and has a role similar to the black box on an airplane.
Egged says it cannot respond while the police investigation is ongoing.
US tells Russia and Turkey to cool their jets
The United States is urging Turkey and Russia to avoid any further escalation after the two traded verbal blows over their respective military actions in war-torn Syria.
“It is important that the Russians and Turks speak directly, and take measures to prevent escalation,” a State Department spokesperson tells AFP.
Turkey cries foul over US call to stop shelling Syrian Kurds
A Turkish official says Ankara received with astonishment Washington calls on Turkey to hold fire against US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria.
US Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday called Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to address the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in northern Syria.
During that call, according to a White House transcript, Biden emphasized the need for de-escalation and urged Turkey to cease artillery strikes in the area.
He also said the US was pressuring Syrian Kurdish forces from exploiting circumstances to seize additional territory near the Turkish border.
Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic tells reporters such statements were received “with astonishment” ”because they put US “ally Turkey and a terrorist organization in the same equation.”
Shin Bet: 228 attacks since October, mostly in West Bank
The Shin Bet security service says there have been 228 attacks or attempted attacks against Israelis between October 1, 2015, and February 10, 2016, the lion’s share of them in the West Bank.
The agency says 169 attacks took place in the West Bank, 37 in Jerusalem, and another 22 in Israel proper, in statistics it has released.
Similarly, 174 of the attackers hailed from the West Bank, while only nine are Israelis and 36 are from Jerusalem. A full 40% of the West Bank attackers are from the Hebron area.
The numbers also show that 155 of the attackers were between the ages of 16 and 25. An additional 22 attackers have been below the age of sixteen.
All but 24 have been men.
The Shin Bet says the stats only count “significant attacks.”
Merkel backs no-fly zone over part of Syria
German Chancellor Angela Merkel Monday is backing a call from Turkey for a no-fly zone over parts of Syria, saying it would alleviate the situation of displaced Syrians.
“In the current situation it would be helpful, if there could be such an area, where none of the parties are allowed to launch aerial attacks, that is to say, a kind of no-fly zone,” she tells the daily Stuttgarter Zeitung, when asked about opening up such areas to host people fleeing fighting in the war-torn country.
She acknowledges that it was impossible to negotiate with “terrorists from the Islamic State”, “but if it’s possible for the anti-Assad coalition and the Assad-supporters to come to an agreement, that would be helpful.”
Turkey, which is already hosting around 2.2 million Syrian refugees, has been calling for a secure zone within Syria where the displaced could find refuge.
Russia tells Israelis, Palestinians to quit fighting
The Russian Foreign Ministry is urging Israelis and Palestinians to deescalate tensions, after a series of deadly confrontations earlier this week.
“Moscow concerns grow because of continuous whipping up of a spiral of violence in Palestinian-Israeli relations,” a statement from Moscow reads, according to a TASS translation. “We urge the Israeli and Palestinian sides to be conservative and responsible for the future of their people and do their utmost to deescalate the situation.”
The statement also urges the sides to continue trying to work toward a two-state solution.
US envoy Power pans UN bias against Israel
US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power criticizes the world body for its disproportionate criticism of Israel while giving a speech to high school students at a school outside Tel Aviv.
“Bias has extended well beyond Israel as a country, Israel as an idea,” she says of the UN Human Rights Council.
But she says the problem is not the UN, but the players.
“When we see bias, injustice or the continuation of strife within the United Nations, it is not because the UN created all of this, it is because the UN gathers governments and gathers problems, and being in the UN doesn’t change the biases of those governments,” she says.
She also speaks in support of the two-state solution, and says she hopes one day to see a state of Palestine at the UN.
Report: Olmert to get month off jail term because of sentencing error
Channel 10 News reports that former prime minister Ehud Olmert will only serve 18 months in jail — and not the 19 months a judge tried to sentence him to — because of an error.
Olmert had been sentenced to 18 months for his part in the Holyland real estate corruption affair plus an additional month for obstruction of justice, after judge Avital Chen decided it could not be served concurrently last week.
He had also been sentenced to eight months for taking money from American businessman Morris Talansky, which was to be served concurrently.
According to Channel 10, the extra month was tacked on to the Talansky sentence and not the Holyland sentence, meaning he will serve nine months concurrently, and 18 months in total.
The report could not be immediately confirmed.
It was not clear if the issue arose because Chen was not allowed to tack on an extra month to the Holyland sentence, or because of an error in the way the sentence was handed down.
Rivlin lashes into MK suspension bill
President Reuven Rivlin has come out against a proposed bill to suspend or depose Knesset members over unethical behavior if 90 lawmakers vote to do so, saying it places too much power in the hands of the parliamentarians.
“The law to depose a Knesset member oversteps the reality that the Knesset is representative of the sovereign, not the sovereign itself, and places the elected above the public,” he says at a book launch.
“We cannot allow the Knesset, whose representatives are chosen by the public, to independently overturn the public’s choices. …The Knesset cannot be allowed, as a legislative body, to become judge and jury.”
Rivlin also condemns the behavior of three Joint (Arab) List MKs who visited the families of terrorists — which sparked the drive for the bill — and accuses them of “spitting in the face of the Israeli public.”
But he calls on the attorney general, and not lawmakers, to decide whether they need to be punished.
“Heaven help us if the Knesset is the one to sit in judgment,” he says.
US, UN slam Russia after scores killed in strikes on schools, hospitals
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says close to 50 civilians have been killed and many more wounded in missile attacks on at least five medical facilities and two schools in northern Syria.
UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Monday that victims of the attacks included children.
He quotes the secretary-general as calling the attacks “blatant violations of international law” that “are further degrading an already devastated health care system and preventing access to education in Syria.”
Haq quotes Ban as saying the attacks “cast a shadow on commitments” made by nations seeking to end the Syrian conflict at a conference in Munich on February 11, which included a cessation of hostilities within a week and an end to attacks on civilians.
In Washington, State Department spokesman John Kirby condemns the strikes and says they cast doubt on Russia’s commitment to ceasing hostilities.
“That the Assad regime and its supporters would continue these attacks, without cause and without sufficient regard for international obligations to safeguard innocent lives, flies in the face of the unanimous calls by the [International Supporters of Syria Group], including in Munich, to avoid attacks on civilians and casts doubt on Russia’s willingness and/or ability to help bring to a stop the continued brutality of the Assad regime against its own people,” he says.
EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini says that the attack on a Doctors Without Borders hospital “is completely unacceptable,” but says nothing about who was responsible.
Russia has reportedly blamed the US for the strikes.
— with agencies