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UN envoy in Syria talks heads to Riyadh, then Tehran

Staffan de Mistura ‘hopes that consequences of tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran do not affect peace process with the Syrians’

  • Arab League diplomats attend a meeting at the league's headquarters in Cairo on January 5, 2015. (AFP/Mohamed el-Shahed/File)
    Arab League diplomats attend a meeting at the league's headquarters in Cairo on January 5, 2015. (AFP/Mohamed el-Shahed/File)
  • View of the Israel-Lebanon border from Israel's Western Galilee. April 25, 2015. (Nati Shohat/ Flash90/ File)
    View of the Israel-Lebanon border from Israel's Western Galilee. April 25, 2015. (Nati Shohat/ Flash90/ File)
  • Bahraini women hold posters bearing portraits of prominent Shiite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr during a protest against his execution by Saudi authorities, in the village of Jidhafs, west of the capital Manama on January 3, 2016. (Mohammed al-Shaikh/AFP)
    Bahraini women hold posters bearing portraits of prominent Shiite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr during a protest against his execution by Saudi authorities, in the village of Jidhafs, west of the capital Manama on January 3, 2016. (Mohammed al-Shaikh/AFP)
  • Two knives police found being carried by two Arab teenagers near Herod's Gate in Jerusalem on January 4, 2016. (Israel Police)
    Two knives police found being carried by two Arab teenagers near Herod's Gate in Jerusalem on January 4, 2016. (Israel Police)
  • Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon arrive to the weekly government conference in Jerusalem on January 3, 2016. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)
    Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon arrive to the weekly government conference in Jerusalem on January 3, 2016. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

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

Bahrain follows Saudi Arabia, cuts ties with Iran

Bahrain announces that it cuts diplomatic ties with Iran, a day after Saudi Arabia cut ties with the Islamic Republic.

Iranian diplomats in Manama were requested to leave the small Gulf kingdom within 48 hours, according to a report in Reuters.

Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran yesterday, after the execution of a Shiite cleric by Riyadh brought tensions between the Sunni and Shiite state to a boiling point.

UN says Palestinian territories monitor quit over lack of access

The United Nations expert on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories resigns, complaining that Israel had never granted him access to the areas he is meant to monitor.

“The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, Makarim Wibisono, today submitted his resignation to the President of the Human Rights Council, effective as of 31 March 2016,” the UN says in a statement, adding that he “expressed deep regret that, throughout his mandate, Israel failed to grant him access to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

— AFP

Sudan also expels Iranian ambassador

Sudan notified the Iranian ambassador that he and his staffers must leave Khartoum, Channel 2 reports.

It is the third country to expel Iranian diplomats, after Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

Saudi Arabia cut ties after Iranians stormed the Saudi Embassy in Tehran following Riyadh’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.

UAE joins ‘Sunni boycott’ against Iran

Iran tweets that the United Arab Emirates also downgraded diplomatic ties.

Palestinian held after knife found on his body at West Bank checkpoint

Border Police officers are holding a 26-year-old Palestinian resident of Jenin who arrived at the Tapuah checkpoint in the northern West Bank with a knife on his person.

As the man approached the checkpoint, the officers ordered him to halt. When he refused to stop, he was detained and frisked, whereupon the knife was discovered.

Knife found by police on a 26-year-old resident of Jenin at Tapuah Junction in the northern West Bank on January 4, 2016. (Israel Police)

Knife found by police on a 26-year-old resident of Jenin at Tapuah Junction in the northern West Bank on January 4, 2016. (Israel Police)

Germany sees Schengen ‘in danger’ with new EU border curbs

Germany says it sees the passport-free Schengen zone “in danger” after Sweden and Denmark announced new controls at their borders to stem a migrant influx.

“Freedom of movement is an important principle — one of the biggest achievements (in the European Union) in recent years,” foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer tells reporters.

“Schengen is very important but it is in danger,” he adds, when asked about Denmark’s announcement of checks at the German border, on the same day Sweden introduced controls on its frontier with Denmark.

— AFP

Man lightly hurt in goat attack

A man in his 50s working on a road in Haifa was attacked by a goat that charged at him, Channel 10 reports.

A Magen David Adom director who was in the area treated the man and called an ambulance. The man was evacuated to Bnei Zion hospital in light condition, suffering from bruises all over his body.

Gov’t exceeded goal in selling housing lots — Kahlon

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon says the number of lots sold for construction in 2015 exceeded the goal set by the government. Land was sold for the construction of 44,000 apartments last year, says Kahlon.

At the opening of a meeting of the housing cabinet, the finance minister says this accomplishment was possible thanks to his ministry’s recently expanded powers.

Housing Minister Yoav Galant, a member of Kahlon’s Kulanu party, says at the meeting that it is clear to all those involved in the field of housing and construction that “something new is happening,” according to Israel Radio.

Galant also says that a rise in the cost of housing that began in the last decade has finally been halted.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon arrive to the weekly government conference in Jerusalem on January 3, 2016. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on January 3, 2016. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

IDF again shelling Lebanon

The IDF again fires artillery shells into Lebanon, Ma’ariv reports quoting Lebanese media.

Some 20 shells were fired today at the Shebaa Farms, known in Israel as Har Dov.

An IDF official tells the Israeli news site that the goal of the artillery firing is to scare away goatherds from coming too close to the border.

But over the past few days officials said the military wants to prevent Hezbollah operatives from laying roadside bombs in the area, where Israeli army jeeps perform patrols.

Tel Aviv shooter’s father in plea – ‘Call me’

Mohammed Milhem, father of the alleged Tel Aviv terrorist Nashat Milhem, said that his son should “call me, maybe I can help you.”

He was speaking at the Haifa Magistrate’s Court.

Nashat Milhem is still at large and believed to be in hiding.

2 Palestinian teens held after knives found on their persons

Two Palestinian teens of approximately 15 years of age were detained near Herod’s Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem and knives were found on their person.

Police officers noticed two teens that raised their suspicion. Upon approaching to examine them they noticed a blunt object hidden underneath the clothes of one of them. The cops frisked the teens and found knives on their bodies. The teens were taken for further interrogation.

Two knives found by police that were being carried by two Arab teenagers near Herod's Gate in Jerusalem on January 4, 2016. (Israel Police)

Two knives found by police that were being carried by two Arab teenagers near Herod’s Gate in Jerusalem on January 4, 2016. (Israel Police)

Herzog says this is no wave, it’s an intifada

Zionist Union chairman and opposition leader Isaac Herzog says at the opening of a faction meeting that “if Israel had a prime minister, he would not incite against a fifth of the citizens of Israel and term them criminals….

“If Israel had a prime minister he would work day and night to stop the terrible terrorism rampaging on the streets. This is not a traffic collision, not a malignant disease… this is not a wave that will subside but a third intifada.”

Zionist Union party leader MK Isaac Herzog in the Knesset, December 21, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Zionist Union party leader MK Isaac Herzog in the Knesset, December 21, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ya’alon holds last work meeting with outgoing Mossad head

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon holds a final work meeting with outgoing Mossad head Tamir Pardo.

Explosion reported in north, no soldiers hurt

A bomb detonated near an IDF unit in Mount Dov, also known as the Shebaa Farms.

No soldiers were hurt. The military is checking whether the explosion was from a roadside explosive device or an anti-tank missile.

UNIFIL checking report of shells fired into Lebanon

UNIFIL is investigating reports of artillery shells fired from Israel to Lebanon, UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti says.

— Judah Ari Gross

IDF closes northern roads to civilian traffic

The IDF closes all roads in northern Israel to civilian traffic, for fear that the military and Hezbollah would exchange fire.

Lebanese media reports wounded in IDF shelling

Several people were wounded when the IDF bombed the towns al-Wazzani and al-Abasiya in southern Lebanon, according to a report in Lebanese channel Al Mayadeen

According to the report, IDF shells targeted a post used by the Lebanese Armed Forces.

The IDF did not comment on the report.

Lebanese media: Target was car carrying Mossad officer

The bomb that exploded in the Shebaa Farms was targeted at a civilian car carrying a senior Mossad officer, a Hezbollah official tells the Lebanese Naharnet network.

There is no Israeli confirmation of the report.

‘Samir Kuntar Martyrs’ claim northern attack

The group that claimed the roadside bomb earlier today that detonated near the border but caused no harm is Samir Kuntar Martyrs, according to a report in the Hezbollah-affiliated al-Manar network.

The group is previously unknown.

2 cops hurt in stabbing attack

Two police officers were stabbed and lightly wounded in Jerusalem, near the headquarters of Israel Police.

The stabber was shot and seriously wounded.

Wounded being taken to hospital

Magen David Adom paramedics are evacuating a woman, around 20 years old, with very light wounds to her leg and a man, 29, suffering an anxiety attack.

Both were taken to the nearby Hadassah Mount Scopus hospital.

Northern border back to normal

The IDF announces a return to normal along the northern border, shortly after an explosive device was detonated in Mount Dov, known in Lebanon as the Shebaa Farms.

Arab League to hold emergency talks on Iran-Saudi row

The Arab League will hold emergency talks at the request of Saudi Arabia on Sunday to discuss attacks in Iran on the kingdom’s embassy and consulate, its deputy head said.

Ahmed Ben Helli tells reporters that the meeting, which comes after Saudi Arabia broke off ties with the Islamic republic amid a row over Riyadh’s execution of a Shiite cleric, is also aimed at “condemning Iranian interference in Arab affairs.”

— AFP

Jerusalem attacker is holder of Israeli citizenship

The stabber who lightly wounded two people in Jerusalem is a 17-year-old resident of East Jerusalem and is an Israeli citizen, police says.

IDF chief holds assessment after border incident

IDF spokesperson Moti Almoz says in a statement that the military’s general staff “concluded a special situation assessment headed by IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot following the incident in Mount Dov, on the northern border.

“Our troops responded with artillery fire toward targets in Lebanon. We see this incident severely and are at a high level of readiness, as the situation demands,” Almoz says.

IDF re-arrests hunger striker Adnan

Islamic Jihad activist Khader Adnan, who was released in July from administrative detention (detention without trial) after an extended hunger strike, was arrested this evening by IDF troops at the entrance to the village of Silwad, east of Ramallah, the Walla news website reports.

Protest in support of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan earlier this month (photo credit: Sliman Khader/Flash90)

FILE: Protest in support of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan earlier this month (photo credit: Sliman Khader/Flash90)

Father, son arrested after guns found in their home

A 41-year-old resident of Umm al-Fahm and his 17-year-old son were arrested after a search of their home turned up large amounts of weapons and ammunition.

Two 9-mm handguns, an AK-47 assault rifle, dozens of cartridges, hundreds of bullets of different calibers, and flares were found in the home.

Police officers also found 155 grams of cocaine, according to a report in Ynet.

Samir Kuntar’s brother says ‘we scored a point against Israel”

Bassam Kuntar, brother of Samir Kuntar, says that “at 3:10 the cell named after the shahid Samir Kuntar scored a point against Israel,” according to a report on the Hebrew-language website Ynet.

The report did not say where Bassam Kuntar made the comments.

Ban tells Saudi FM decision is ‘regrettable’

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the Saudi foreign minister today that Riyadh’s decision to cut ties with Tehran was worrying, according to a report in Reuters.

Calling the decision “regrettable,” Ban made the comments during a phone call with Adel al-Jubeir.

Ban spoke yesterday with Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and told him that the UN was calling on both countries to avoid any actions that could increase tensions.

Man killed when hit by car on Route 443

A man in his early 20s was killed when he was hit by a vehicle on Route 443 near the Shilat Junction, according to a statement by the Magen David Adom emergency medical services.

Paramedics initially tried to resuscitate the man, who was badly injured when he was hit by a car. They did not succeed and pronounced him dead at the scene.

 

Grants to Arab sector to be conditional on ‘law enforcement’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appoints ministers Ze’ev Elkin and Yariv Levin to oversee the condition of law enforcement in Arab Israeli towns and communities, Channel 2 reports.

Proper enforcement of the law in Arab towns by the local Arab authorities was one of the main points stressed by Netanyahu during comments he made on Saturday night at the scene of a terror attack that took place on the city’s Dizengoff Street on Friday.

According to the report, enforcement will be considered a minimum condition in order to receive assistance in the framework of a plan announced last week to boost Arab communities to the tune of NIS 15 billion ($4 billion).

When the plan was announced, the budget was hailed as a significant step. There was no mention, however, of the criteria to be met.

Khader Adnan released after short detention

Islamic Jihad activist Khader Adnan has been released, Israeli media outlets report.

Adnan was arrested just hours ago at the entrance to the Palestinian village of Silwad, in the Ramallah area.

The reason for his short detention is unknown.

UN envoy for Syria heads to Saudi, Iran

The UN envoy for Syria is heading to Saudi Arabia and Iran to gauge the impact of the rupture in relations between the two longtime regional rivals on efforts to end the Syrian conflict.

UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq says Staffan de Mistura is en route to Riyadh on Monday and will visit Tehran later this week.

Haq says de Mistura “hopes that the adverse consequences of the tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran do not affect the peace process with the Syrians.”

Iran, a staunch supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Saudi Arabia, a key backer of the opposition, have participated in three rounds of international talks aimed at finding a political solution to the conflict. De Mistura has set a Jan. 25 target date for a fourth round of talks.

— AP

US treads warily amid Iran-Saudi tensions

The Obama administration tread warily Monday around inflamed tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia that threaten several key US foreign policy objectives.

The White House says Secretary of State John Kerry spoke yesterday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, while the official Saudi Press Agency reported that Kerry spoke today with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

US officials say the administration is loath to insert itself into the row between Riyadh and Tehran but wants to ensure the viability of the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, nascent attempts to end Syria’s civil war and the Iran nuclear deal.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest calls on both countries to show restraint and avoid further inflaming sectarian tensions between Sunni-led Saudi Arabia and Shiite-ruled Iran. He urges Saudi Arabia and Iran not to let the conflict derail fragile talks aimed at securing a cease-fire and a political transition to end the war in Syria.

“Hopefully they will continue to engage,” Earnest says. “It is so clearly in the interests of both countries to advance a political solution to the situation inside of Syria.”

— AP

White House spokesman Josh Earnest during a press briefing, September 22, 2014 (screen capture: YouTube/The White House)

White House Spokesman Josh Earnest during a press briefing, September 22, 2014 (screen capture: YouTube/The White House)

Workers at Dimona nuclear facility threaten strike

Employees at the Dimona nuclear reactor announced sanctions and are threatening to escalate them to a full-fledged strike, Channel 2 reports.

The reactor’s employee union, headed by Oded Dana, decided today to stop work at the facility over what they call unilateral steps taken by management against employees. The workers are protesting what they call harm to their rights as employees and their union.

They claim the facility’s management is recruiting workers from the outside and is signing private contracts with them, secretly and without oversight from the union.

Employees also say that management is promoting employees without publishing tenders for their positions.

The management of the facility — one of the most secret in the country — says in response that there is “no justification” to steps taken by the employee union. “There is a new union head there who hopes through this futile steps to resolve internal disagreements in the union. The management of the Bureau for Nuclear Research works according to labor agreements, but the employee meeting today was disorderly, illegal and not in line with work agreements,” the statement ends.

The Nuclear Research Center NEGEV, located in Dimona. (screen capture: YouTube, via Channel 10)

The Nuclear Research Center NEGEV, located in Dimona. (screen capture: YouTube, via Channel 10)

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UN says Palestinian territories monitor quit over lack of access

The United Nations expert on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories resigns, complaining that Israel had never granted him access to the areas he is meant to monitor.

“The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, Makarim Wibisono, today submitted his resignation to the President of the Human Rights Council, effective as of 31 March 2016,” the UN says in a statement, adding that he “expressed deep regret that, throughout his mandate, Israel failed to grant him access to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

— AFP