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US ambassador: Palestinian reaction to Trump’s Jerusalem move ‘anti-Semitic’

David Friedman says response was an 'emotional overreaction;' US Jews now owe the president for his recognition of Israeli capital

Raoul Wootliff covers politics, corruption and crime for The Times of Israel.

American Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attends a meeting of the lobby for Israel–United States relations at the Knesset, July 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
American Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attends a meeting of the lobby for Israel–United States relations at the Knesset, July 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they happened.

Palestinian arrested trying to enter West Bank military court with pipe bomb

Border Police arrest a Palestinian teen who tried entering a military court in the northern West Bank with what appeared to be a pipe bomb.

Forces have closed the entrance to the Samaria Military Court and are clearing the area, a police spokesman said.

A pipe bomb found on a Palestinian trying to enter the Samaria Military Court in the West Bank on December 28, 2017. (Credit: Israel Police)

Earlier this month, police arrested a Palestinian man who tried to enter the same military court with two pipe bombs.

State archives release details of pre-state Israelis

The Israeli State Archives releases a new online archive made public and searchable of the names of over 206,000 Jews who lived in the country before the founding of the State of Israel.

The archive spans ten years, from 1937 to 1947, and is made up of about 67,000 requests for citizenship in British Mandatory Palestine. Some of the requests came from famous future Israelis like the late president Shimon Peres.

Each request includes the names of family members, dates and places of birth and a treasure trove of other information. The documents themselves – requests could reach 20 pages each – also include the names of two sponsors for each aspiring citizen.

The project is a collaboration of the State Archives and the ancestry startup MyHeritage, whose staff has worked for the past year to scan and index the 67,000 requests.

Turkey’s Erdogan holds out olive branch to Germany, EU

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expresses hope for a better relationship with Germany and the EU after a fractious 2017, saying Ankara needs to reduce its enemies and increase its friends.

“Of course, we want to have good relations with the EU and with EU countries,” Erdogan tells Turkish journalists on his presidential plane while on a visit to Africa.

“I always say this. We must reduce the number of enemies and increase the number of friends,” he said, in comments published in Turkish newspapers including the Hurriyet daily.

The past year has seen Turkey’s long-running bid to join the EU grind to a virtual halt and a crisis in relations with Germany over the crackdown that followed the failed July 15, 2016 coup.

— AP

Man killed in collision between car and bus en route to Jerusalem

A man was killed in a collision between a car and a public bus on Route 548 from Ma’ale Michmas to Jerusalem, the Magen David Adom ambulance service report.

Collision between a car and a public bus on Route 548 from Ma’ale Michmas to Jerusalem, December 28, 2017. (Magen David Adom)

Paramedics found the man, in his 30s, unconscious. They declared him dead at the scene.

One other person suffered light injuries, MDA says.

DNA test to prove $1m lottery win

A DNA test will decide the fate of a near $1 million lottery prize after a Thai teacher said he lost the winning tickets which were later claimed by an ex-cop.

A bitter legal wrangle unfolded after 50-year-old teacher Preecha Kraikruan filed a complaint that he had lost the five lottery tickets which won a draw last month. Authorities discovered the 30 million baht ($920,000) prize had already been collected by retired policemen Charoon Wimon, 62, in western Kanchanaburi province.

Illustrative photo of a lotto card from Israel’s Mifal Hapayis national lottery. (photo credit: Flash90/Abir Sultan)

With both parties claiming the cash is rightfully theirs, forensic police are now stepping in to determine whose ticket stubs they are.

“No one has been charged yet in this case as we have to wait for the DNA test results,” Krissana Sapdet, deputy Kanchanaburi provincial police commander, says.

A forensic official with the justice department said the results are expected next month.

— AFP

Turkey ‘laughed off’ ICC demand to arrest Sudan leader

Turkey “laughed off” a demand from the International Criminal Court (ICC) to arrest Sudan’s wanted leader when he attended a summit in Istanbul, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted on charges of genocide and war crimes, on December 13 attended a summit of Islamic nations called by Erdogan to denounce US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Erdogan tells Turkish reporters that the ICC wrote a letter to Turkey saying it had information Bashir was in Istanbul for the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit and he should be arrested and handed over to the court.

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, right, and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands after al-Bashir presented Turkish leader with his country’s highest medal during a ceremony in Khartoum, Sudan, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017.(Kayhan Ozer/Pool Photo via AP)

“Something like this just makes you laugh,” Erdogan was quoted as saying on his presidential plane as he rounded off a four-day trip to Africa.

“Are we going to just go and hand over to you someone who is a member of the OIC and is taking part in such a summit?” he said. “What kind of understanding is this? It’s impossible to understand it. We just laughed it off.”

There was no immediate confirmation from the ICC, which is currently in recess, that it made such a demand.

— AFP

3 Jerusalem soccer fans convicted for violent brawl

Tel Aviv District Court convicts three members of La Familia, a group of far-right football fans of Beitar Jerusalem soccer team, are indicted for a string of violent offences.

The convictions are over involvement in a violent brawl with Hapoel Tel Aviv supporters in which a supporter was badly injured by an ax. Earlier this year, 16 other members of the group were found guilty for involvement in the June 2016 attack.

Beitar Jerusalem fans protest the decision to sign two Chechen Muslims players Zaur Sadayev and Gabriel Kadiev, February 1, 2013. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

David Magidish, 30, was found guilty of plotting to commit a crime and aggravated assault and Aviv Betzalel, 22, and Eliad Moshe, 32, were found guilty of plotting to commit a crime, aggravated assault and endangering lives on public transport.

The attack led to a crackdown on the ultra-nationalist fan group in which dozens of members were arrested on suspicion of selling weapons, various acts of violence, smuggling firecrackers onto soccer fields, as well as several drug-related offenses. Several cases are ongoing.

Last of 3,633 North American olim for 2017 arrives in Israel

With the arrival of a flight carrying 93 new immigrants, a total of 3,633 people from North America made aliyah in 2017, Nefesh B’Nefesh reports.

The group flight that landed at Ben Gurion International Airport on Wednesday included 15 future lone soldiers and a soon-to-be bride, according to the organization which, in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael and JNF-USA, helps facilitate aliyah from North America and the United Kingdom.

Some of the 93 North American immigrants to Israel who arrived on the December 27, 2017, Nefesh B’Nefesh flight. (Courtesy)

Another 103 Americans and Canadians already living or studying in Israel made aliyah on Wednesday at the Nefesh B’Nefesh offices in Jerusalem.

Many of the 3,633 new immigrants arrived on 19 special aliyah flights from North America, bringing 377 families with 677 children, and an additional 1,677 singles. The oldest immigrant in 2017 was 102, and the youngest five weeks old, according to NBN. Most of the new immigrants settled in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ra’anana, and Netanya.

Nearly 29,000 immigrants from around the world arrived in Israel in 2017.

— JTA

Justice Ministry concludes investigation of Abu Al-Qia’an shooting

The Justice Ministry probe by the Police Investigations Department concludes its reexamination into the police shooting of a Bedouin teacher during an operation to demolish homes in his unrecognized village at the beginning of the year and hands its report to the state prosecutor.

The state now has to decided whether to close the case or to continue the investigation.

In November, in light of evidence, the ministry’s Police Investigations Department was told to take another look at the events surrounding the death of Yaqoub Mousa Abu Al-Qia’an, who was slain by police in Umm al-Hiran during a nighttime incident in which his car drove into officers, killing one of them.

The incident was initially ruled terrorism, but authorities have indicated since that Abu Al-Qia’an likely lost control of the vehicle after being shot and did not intentionally hit the officers.

Netanyahu thanks US public for saying he is one of their ten most admired men

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posts a video message thanking the American public for putting him in the top ten of a most admired men list.

In the video, posted to his official Twitter feed, Netanyahu is seen affecting surprise at being told the result of the Gallup poll, released yesterday.

“Really,” he says. “Well, I appreciate that, not merely for me, but first and foremost for my country, Israel. Thank you America.”

The Gallup poll found that the prime minister placed ninth in the list of most admired men, with one percent of Americans naming him as their first or second choice.

Former US president Barack Obama, President Donald Trump and Pope Francis placed first, second and third, with 17, 14 and two percent, respectively, citing them as their first or second choice. Senator Bernie Sanders placed as the highest Jew on the list, coming in at seventh.

 

Thousands pray for rain at Western Wall amid ongoing drought

Thousands of people are gathering at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s old City to pray for rain at an event organized by Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel in light of a nationwide drought.

The mass prayer service coincides with the end of the 10th of Tevet fast marking, among other tragedies, the beginning of the Babylonian siege on Jerusalem which led to the destruction of the First Temple.

A man at the Western Wall, perhaps praying for rain of the non-freezing variety. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)
A man at the Western Wall, perhaps praying for rain of the non-freezing variety. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Since last winter the Sea of Galilee has received just 10% of its annual average inflow, and by February had reached its lowest level in nearly a hundred years.

Israeli meteorologists predicted in early December that the coming months would be drier than an average winter, prolonging an already troubling drought. As of the last reckoning, the water level in the Sea of Galilee stood at 703 feet (214 meters) below sea level, several feet (about a meter) below the point at which ecologists predict damage to the ecosystem and water quality.

No mention of Jerusalem in Tillerson’s 2017 foreign policy review

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson skips President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his plan to move the embassy in his review of foreign policy in 2017.

In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Tillerson didn’t mention Jerusalem at all defended his country’s foreign policy, saying progress had been made in the last year to rein in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and to counter the “immense challenges” posed by Russia and Iran, but failed to mention Jerusalem.

Jerusalem was the lead in a White House tweet of the president’s accomplishments in 2017.

Zimbabwe unveils generous Mugabe retirement package

Zimbabwe’s ousted president Robert Mugabe will get a residence, a car fleet and private air travel as part of a new government-funded retirement package for former leaders, state media reports.

Mugabe will also be entitled to at least 20 staffers including six personal security guards, all paid for from state coffers, according to details of the benefits published in The Herald newspaper.

People gather outside Harare’s airport to welcome former Zimbabwean vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa on November 22, 2017 in Harare. (AFP PHOTO / ZINYANGE AUNTONY)

The 93-year-old, who quit last month under popular pressure following a military takeover, is the first beneficiary of the generous measures unveiled by new President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Local independent media reported last month that Mugabe was granted a $10 million (8.3 million euro) retirement bonus as part of a deal to persuade him to eventually resign. The government denied the claims.

— AFP

Tehran police: No more arrests for flouting dress code

Police in Iran’s capital say they will no longer arrest women for failing to observe the Islamic dress code imposed since the 1979 revolution.

The reformist daily Sharq quotes Gen. Hossein Rahimi, the Tehran police chief, as saying “those who do not observe the Islamic dress code will no longer be taken to detention centers, nor will judicial cases be filed against them.”

Women watch people riding boats on the Persian Gulf Martyrs lake during the ancient festival of Sizdeh Bedar, west of Tehran, Iran, April 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

The semi-official Tasnim news agency says violators will instead be made to attend classes given by police. It says repeat offenders could still be subject to legal action.

Younger and more liberal-minded Iranian woman have long pushed the boundaries of the official dress code, wearing loose headscarves that don’t fully cover their hair and painting their nails, drawing the ire of conservatives.

— AP

Soldier-slapping Palestinian girl remanded for a further 5 days

A military court extendeds the remand of 16-year-old Palestinian Ahed Tamimi, who was filmed slapping IDF soldiers, by an additional five days.

Tamimi’s mother Nariman and cousin Nour were also featured in the widely shared video. Namiran’s extension was also extended by five days but the court ordered Nour be released tomorrow.

Footage from the December 15 encounter in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh shows Tamimi and her cousin Nour Tamimi approaching two Israeli soldiers, before shoving, kicking and slapping them, while filming on their mobile phones. They then move backwards after Nariman arrives and begins pushing the soldiers, herself.

The armed soldiers did not respond in the face of what appeared to be an attempt to provoke them.

Ahed Tamimi (2nd-R) appears at the military court at the West Bank’s Ofer prison on December 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)

Ahed has been accused of “assaulting a soldier, harming the security of the area, incitement, and other felonies,” according to court documents.

In her version of the incident, shared in front of the court during a hearing last week, Ahed said that the same soldiers featured in the video had shot her cousin in the head with a rubber bullet an hour prior to the filmed encounter. “Then I saw the same soldiers who hit my cousin, this time in front of my house. I could not keep quiet and I responded as I did,” the 16-year-old testified.

Putin says terror suspects can be killed ‘on the spot’

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that armed terrorists should be “liquidated on the spot,” calling the blast that tore through a Saint Petersburg supermarket and wounded 14 people an “act of terror.”

Yesterday, a homemade bomb placed in a locker at the supermarket in northwestern Saint Petersburg went off sowing panic among customers and wounding 14 people including a pregnant woman.

“As you know, an act of terror took place in Saint Petersburg yesterday,” Putin says, speaking at a ceremony to award officers who took part in Russia’s Syria campaign.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony to bestow state awards on military personnel who fought in Syria, at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 28, 2017. (Kirill Kudrayvstev/AFP)

He says he had ordered the nation’s security services to “act decisively” and “liquidate bandits on the spot” if armed militants put up resistance.

His spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters later that the Russian leader was referring to all those “who harbor plans to carry out acts of terror in our country.”

— AFP

Netanyahu to Arab demonstrators: ‘Why protest? We believe in progress’

Speaking at a ceremony in the Galilee town of Ein Mahil honoring his contribution to the community, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slams the some 600 Arab Israeli protesters demonstrating against the event.

“At the entrance, I saw a protest. They are holding signs of Fatah of the PLO. Against my visit here? Against what?” he says.

“What are they protesting against? Against the millions who were slaughtered or kicked out of their homes in Syria, Iraq or Libya? Who are you protesting against?” he repeats.

Netanyahu says the protesters should not be demonstrating against Israel, “the only state that protects human rights,” but against atrocities in the region.

“Why protest? We believe in progress, we believe in coexistence, we are working for it, we will continue working for it,” he concludes. “Shame on you!”

 

Explosion hits near police station in southern Turkey

Turkish media reports say a powerful explosion has occurred near a police station in a town in southern Turkey.

The private Dogan news agency says the blast happened in the town of Seyhan, in Adana province on Thursday.

There was no information immediately available on possible casualties or injuries. Dogan says police have been sent to the area.

— AP

Roadside bomb kills senior army officer in Egypt’s Sinai

Egyptian security and hospital officials say a roadside bomb planted by Islamic militants in the Sinai Peninsula has hit a military vehicle, killing a senior army officer.

They say the colonel, who was the military commander of the town of Bir al-Abd, was killed while patrolling in an armored vehicle in an area just outside the town.

Bir al-Abd was the scene of deadliest terrorist attack against civilians on Nov. 24, when militants killed 311 worshippers in a mosque. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has vowed to use “brute force” to crush the long-running insurgency in northern Sinai and given the military and police three months to restore “security and stability” there.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

— AP

US-led coalition in Iraq and Syria acknowledges more civilian deaths

The US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq acknowledges the deaths of 16 more civilians in airstrikes, increasing the toll of civilians killed in three years to at least 817.

The coalition says in a statement that it had completed a review in November of 101 reports of potential civilian casualties, of which 92 were deemed noncredible.

The remaining nine, relating to strikes between March 20 and October 17, were considered credible and resulted in 11 civilian casualties.

Smokes billows on the Syrian side of the Turkish-Syrian border as Turkey’s military and US-backed coalition forces launched an operation to clear a Syrian border town from Islamic State, August 24, 2016. Photo DHA via AP

The coalition also adds another five civilian casualties to its count, based on previous reports of attacks it had earlier said it was not responsible for.

“To date, based on the information available, (the coalition) assesses at least 817 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes” since the beginning of the campaign against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in August 2014, the statement says.

— AFP

Police recommendation in PM graft probes delayed — report

Police recommendations in two corruption cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be delayed for at least another three weeks while investigators decide on which charges to bring against him, Hadashot TV news reports

Last week the channel reported that the recommendations would be submitted to the State Prosecution in the next two weeks.

Police have confirmed to The Times of Israel that they have completed the two investigations and are now working on the summary.

Netanyahu is a suspect in two corruption investigations, known as cases 1000 and 2000. In the first, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon 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.

Israel, US sign secret pact to thwart Iran’s nuclear drive

Israel and the United States have secretly signed a far-reaching joint memorandum providing for full cooperation to thwart Iran’s nuclear drive and its other threatening activities, Channel 10 news reports.

The document was signed on December 12 at the White House. culminating intensive talks between representatives of the major Israeli and American intelligence and defense hierarchies, headed by the US and Israeli national security advisers, H R McMaster and Meir Ben-Shabbat, report says.

Quoting what it said were both American and Israeli officials, the report adds that the document was designed to translate into “steps on the ground” the positions set out by US President Donald Trump in his recent speech on Iran.

Lebanon FM: ‘We are not against Israel living in security’

Lebanon’s foreign minister is facing criticism for saying his country is not opposed to security for Israel.

Gebran Bassil said in a television interview, “we are not against Israel living in security,” Reuters reported. The clip, which aired on Tuesday, has been shared widely by Lebanese social media users.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil delivers a press conference in Paris, November 14, 2017. (AFP/Lionel BONAVENTURE)

One former government minister is urging Bassil to step down, and a lawmaker in parliament criticized him, according to Reuters. Bassil’s office said his words had been twisted by the television channel’s editing process.

Israel and Lebanon are enemy states, and Lebanese citizens are forbidden by law from visiting the Jewish state. Israel has fought wars against Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based terror group and political party that has members sitting in Lebanon’s parliament and cabinet.

Medical records: amputee Palestinian killed in Gaza clash was shot in head

Palestinian medical records in the Gaza Strip show that a man, whose two legs had been amputated, who died during a violent protest along the border with Israel earlier this month was killed by a bullet that struck him in the head.

The records, obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday, shed new light on a case that has become a rallying cry among Palestinians since US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh was killed on December 15 in clashes that broke out along the Israeli border. A military investigation found no “moral or professional failures” by troops.

The medical records say Abu Thurayeh died of severe bleeding after a single bullet entered his head over his left eye.

The army declined to comment on the reports.

US ambassador: Palestinian reaction to Trump’s Jerusalem move ‘anti-Semitic’

US Ambassador David Friedman slams the Palestinian reaction to US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, describing the response as being provocative, unnecessary, and anti-Semitic.

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Friedman, who strongly supported the US policy shift regarding the capital, says the Palestinians were “largely emotional” and “unfortunately overreacted.” Trump, he notes, had made clear that the US was “not taking a position on any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.”

American Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attends a meeting of the lobby for Israel–United States relations at the Knesset, July 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Palestinian response was “ugly, needlessly provocative and antisemitic,” Friedman says.

But despite the Palestinians saying they would no longer accept the US as having a role in the peace process, Friedman remains confident that American would remain involved at Israel’s insistence.

“Israel has made it clear that they will not engage under the sponsorship of any other nation,” he says. “You cannot clap with one hand. Moreover, only the United States has the regional credibility to bring forward a historic peace agreement.”

Houston imam walks back sermon calling for Muslims to kill Jews

A Houston imam walks back a sermon in which he called for Muslims to kill Jews, without specifically apologizing for his comments.

Imam Raed Saleh Al-Rousan of Houston’s Tajweed Institute earlier this month delivered what he called an “impassioned sermon,” according to a statement about the speech.

“I unequivocally affirm and uphold the dignity, sanctity and value of all human life, including – of course – people of the Jewish faith,” Al-Rousan says in the statement. “I must also state in no uncertain terms that I am absolutely and completely opposed to and disgusted by all forms of terrorism, all terrorists, and I oppose anyone who would commit, call for, or threaten violence against civilians. This is why as a person of faith and a religious leader, that I am mortified that an impassioned sermon I gave in light of President Trump’s Jerusalem declaration is being seen as a call for the very things I despise.”

Al-Rousan had delivered his inflammatory speech on December 8, two days after President Donald Trump announced the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“Judgment Day will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews. The Muslims will kill the Jews,” Al-Rousan said.

The imam also asserted in his speech that Jews “killed the Prophets and the Messengers of Allah.” He accused Britain of bringing Jews to Palestine, adding “So do not tell me that Palestine is the country of the Jewish people. No!”

— JTA

Turkey searches for suspect after blast near police station

An explosion apparently targeted a police station Thursday in the southern Turkish city of Adana but no one was hurt, Turkey’s state-run news agency confirms.

The blast occurred at 7:10 p.m. on a street close to the police station in the city’s Seyhan district. It shattered nearby windows and was heard in other parts of the city, the private Dogan news agency reports.

Police believe the blast was caused by a “sound bomb” designed to make a loud noise but not cause any casualties, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. Police teams were investigating the site and a search was launched for a suspect.

“We believe it was a home-made bomb, like a sound bomb,” Anadolu quoted Adana Police Chief Selami Yildiz as saying. “We are continuing our inspections.”

The Dogan news agency said the bomb was placed beneath an electrical pole by a person wearing a mask.

Turkey has suffered a wave of deadly attacks carried out by Kurdish rebels or Islamic State militants in recent years that have killed hundreds of people.

— AP

Democrat Jones officially declared winner over Roy Moore

Democrat Doug Jones’ historic victory over Republican Roy Moore is declared official as Alabama election officials certify him the winner of the special Senate election earlier this month, despite claims of voter irregularities from his opponent.

Jones defeated Moore on December 12 by about 22,000 votes in a stunning victory in a deeply red state. It was the first Democratic Senate victory in a quarter-century in Alabama. Moore was dogged by accusations of sexual misconduct involving teenage girls that occurred decades ago.

Doug Jones (L) and Roy Moore (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP, Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)

The state’s former chief justice refused to concede and even filed a last-ditch lawsuit hours before the certification, but a judge rejected his claims. Alabama election officials also found no evidence of voting irregularities.

A spokesman for Jones earlier called Moore’s lawsuit a “desperate attempt … to subvert the will of the people.”

“The election is over. It’s time to move on,” Sam Coleman wrote in an email.

— AP

Ministers okay bill to put Litzman back in Health Ministry

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approves a bill to allow former health minister Yaakov Litzman to serve as deputy health minister with the authority of a full-fledged minister.

Last month, Litzman stepped down as health minister in protest over state-sanctioned train maintenance work on Shabbat.

The move sparked a small coalition crisis, which ultimately saw Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vow to pass this bill as part of a compromise deal.

After the green light by the committee, the bill will likely be brought to a preliminary reading in the plenum on Wednesday.

The bill marks an attempt to circumvent a 2015 High Court of Justice ruling preventing deputy ministers from fulfilling the role of ministers.

Following the ruling, then-deputy health minister Litzman accepted the full portfolio, after years of reluctance by the ultra-Orthodox community to fully partake in the cabinet of a secular Jewish state. He had received rabbinical backing to become a minister at the time, taking up the portfolio from Netanyahu.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (r) speaks with Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (l) at the Knesset on March 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
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Turkey searches for suspect after blast near police station

An explosion apparently targeted a police station Thursday in the southern Turkish city of Adana but no one was hurt, Turkey’s state-run news agency confirms.

The blast occurred at 7:10 p.m. on a street close to the police station in the city’s Seyhan district. It shattered nearby windows and was heard in other parts of the city, the private Dogan news agency reports.

Police believe the blast was caused by a “sound bomb” designed to make a loud noise but not cause any casualties, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. Police teams were investigating the site and a search was launched for a suspect.

“We believe it was a home-made bomb, like a sound bomb,” Anadolu quoted Adana Police Chief Selami Yildiz as saying. “We are continuing our inspections.”

The Dogan news agency said the bomb was placed beneath an electrical pole by a person wearing a mask.

Turkey has suffered a wave of deadly attacks carried out by Kurdish rebels or Islamic State militants in recent years that have killed hundreds of people.

— AP