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Cabinet ministers ‘shocked’ by army media briefing regarding Gaza ceasefire

Sources said to accuse IDF officials of trying to cast government as solely responsible for truce, cite ‘classified’ reason fighting was stopped

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) with IDF commanders after a security briefing in Beersheba, May 6, 2019. (Amos Ben Gershom/ GPO)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) with IDF commanders after a security briefing in Beersheba, May 6, 2019. (Amos Ben Gershom/ GPO)
  • Illustrative: A barrage of rockets being fired from the Hamas-run Gaza into Israel on May 5, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)
    Illustrative: A barrage of rockets being fired from the Hamas-run Gaza into Israel on May 5, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)
  • Palestinians carry an injured boy outside a hospital in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza strip on May 5, 2019. (ANAS BABA / AFP)
    Palestinians carry an injured boy outside a hospital in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza strip on May 5, 2019. (ANAS BABA / AFP)
  • A car bursts into flames after it was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod on May 5, 2019. (Flash90)
    A car bursts into flames after it was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod on May 5, 2019. (Flash90)

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

Islamic Jihad says ceasefire conditioned on Israel easing Gaza blockade

An Islamic Jihad official says the reported Gaza ceasefire is contingent on Israel easing its blockade of the Palestinian enclave.

The official says the measures include the easing of limits on fishing and improvements in Gaza’s electricity and fuel situation.

The IDF has declined to comment on the deal, but there has been no rocket fire or Israeli strikes after the Egyptian-brokered deal was due to take effect.

Israel lifts emergency measures in implicit confirmation of Gaze truce

The IDF is lifting all emergency measures for residents of southern Israel after a reported ceasefire with terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip appears to take affect.

Schools in Beersheba, Sderot, Yavne and Kiryat Malachi announce that there will be classes as usual today. School in the the Eshkol, Shaar Hanegev and Sdot Negev regions, which are closer to Gaza, is still canceled.

Overnight Saturday, as terror groups continued to fire rockets and mortar shells at Israel, the IDF had announced a number of security measures for Israeli cities and towns within 40 kilometers of the Gaza border, including cancelling all schools and public gatherings.

According to reports in Palestinian media, Israel and the Gaza groups reached a ceasefire that went into effect from 4:30 p.m. Israel has not officially confirmed the ceasefire, in keeping with its policy of refraining from commenting on its negotiations with terror groups.

IDF says it bombed 350 ‘terror targets’ during Gaza airstrikes

The Israeli military says it bombed some 350 “terror targets” in the Gaza Strip in the last 48 hours, in response to the barrages of rockets fired from the coastal enclave.

The military says it targeted “rocket launch sites, terror squads & operatives, command and training centers, weapon facilities, observation posts and military compounds” after hundreds of rockets and mortars were fired at Israel over two days.

The army says the targets are connected to both the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza, and the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

“Terror targets civilians, we target terror,” the military says.

Gantz slams reported ceasefire, says Israel capitulated to Hamas ‘blackmail’

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz says the rocket onslaught from the Gaza Strip over the past two days is the result of Israel losing deterrence against Palestinian terrorist groups.

The former IDF chief of staff, who is expected to become opposition leader, says that in order to end the violent flareup, Israel surrendered to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

“Nearly 700 projectiles were launched at Israeli territory, four were killed and many are wounded,” Gantz posts on Twitter. “All of this is the result of losing our deterrence, and it’s ending with another surrender to blackmail from Hamas and other terrorist groups.”

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz gives an impromptu press conference in a bomb shelter at Yad Mordechai as rockets fly overhead on May 5, 2019. (Raoul Wootliff/Times of Israel)

“All the government has done is, once again, lead us to the next confrontation,” he says.

Yesterday, Gantz said that Israel must respond to the latest barrage of rockets from Gaza with “uncompromising force” in order to “restore the deterrence that has been eroded catastrophically for more than a year.”

Likud MK Sa’ar slams Gaza ceasefire agreement as ‘very lacking’ for Israel

Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar levels criticism against the decision to accept an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire deal in Gaza, saying the terms of the agreement will have little to no benefit and will not prevent future violence.

“The circumstances in which the ceasefire was reached are very lacking for Israel,” Sa’ar posts on Twitter, in very rare implicit criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from within his own party.

“The time in between rounds of violence targeting Israel and its citizens is decreasing, while terrorist groups in Gaza are getting stronger,” he says. “A campaign was not prevented, but postponed.”

Sa’ar is Netanyahu’s political rival and is seen as a potential challenger to his rule.

Lapid rips into Netanyahu’s ‘total surrender’ to Hamas

The Blue and White’s party’s No.2, Yair Lapid, castigates Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his “total surrender” to Hamas by tacitly approving a ceasefire agreement with terrorist groups in Gaza early this morning.

“Netanyahu used the residents of the south as a flak jacket on his way to total surrender to Hamas,” Lapid tweets. “Netanyahu will not solve the problem in Gaza, he doesn’t have the operational or political courage to do so.

Yair Lapid of the Blue and White party, in Tel Aviv on February 21, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

“The minimum he has to do is explain to the people of Israel what’s going on, and he doesn’t even have the courage to do that.”

There was no official confirmation of the ceasefire from Israel, but the intense fighting in and around Gaza over the past two days appeared to come to a sudden halt early this morning.

The IDF lifted protective restrictions on residents in southern Israel, indicating that it had accepted the terms of an Egyptian-brokered deal announced by the terror groups in Gaza.

Smotrich laments that Israel didn’t kill hundreds in Gaza

Far-right MK Bezalel Smotrich criticizes the government for not inflicting more damage on the Gaza Strip during the violent flare-up over the weekend, saying the IDF should have killed hundreds of “terrorists” while carrying out retaliatory airstrikes in the Strip.

“The fighting in Gaza should have ended with seven hundred dead terrorists (one for every missile fired at Israel) and extensive physical damage to Hamas — so that it will take them years to recover and even think about attacking again,” Smotrich posts on Twitter.

The remains of what the IDF says was the Hamas terror group’s cyber unit in the Gaza Strip, which was destroyed in an Israeli Air Force strike on May 4, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza reported 23 deaths from the Israeli raids on Saturday and Sunday. The toll includes at least nine fighters from terrorist groups, a 12-year-old boy as well as two pregnant women and two babies.

Four Israelis also killed from the onslaught of rockets and mortars fired across the border over the weekend.

Gabbay welcomes Gaza truce, but slams PM for ‘strengthening’ terror groups

Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay welcomes the apparent ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, but criticizes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the violent escalation in the Strip.

Avi Gabbay, leader of the Labor party, seen during a press conference in Tel Aviv on February 13, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

“After 20 years of Netanyhau strengthening Hamas — releasing [late Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmad] Yasin, the [Gilad] Shalit prisoner exchange and the Qatari money — this year he has also decided to strengthen Islamic Jihad, who are participating in the Cairo negotiations as if they’re an equal partner,” he posts on Twitter.

Though he welcomes news of the reported ceasefire, Gabbay warns that “without a long-term political solution, the next escalation is only a matter of time.”

Economy minister says workers, businesses in south eligible for compensation

Economy and Industry Minister Eli Cohen says that workers and business owners in southern Israel affected by the two-day onslaught of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip are eligible for financial assistance.

Cohen tells the Ynet news site that “full compensation will be given to both workers and businesses” in the wake of the deadly flare-up on Saturday and Sunday.

He goes on to say that “it’s clear to all of us that the next round of hostilities will come.”

Israelis stand outside their building after it was hit by a rocket fired from Gaza in the costal city of Ashkelon, Israel, Sunday, May 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

“Hamas is a terrorist organization and we must bring it down,” he says. “Anyone who thinks we will be able to reach a political settlement does not understand reality.”

“We are expecting a major confrontation, one that is vital for the residents of the south who have become prisoners of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.”

Netanyahu says Gaza campaign not over, Israel ‘preparing to continue’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Israel hit Palestinian terrorist groups hard in Gaza, but says the country is preparing for another round of confrontations in the coastal enclave.

“In the past two days, we have hit Hamas and Islamic Jihad with great force,” he says in a statement released a few hours after an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement apparently went into effect.

“We struck more than 350 targets, hit terrorist operatives and their leader, and destroyed terrorist infrastructure.”

Smoke billows from a targeted neighbourhood in Gaza City during an Israeli airstrike on the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave on May 5, 2019. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP)

Still, “the campaign is not over, it requires patience and deliberation,” he says. “We are preparing to continue.”

There was no official ceasefire announcement from either side, but the intense fighting over the past two days appeared to come to a sudden halt early this morning and residents on both sides are going back to their daily routines.

Netanyahu has traditionally been cautious in his handling of Gaza for fear of sparking an open-ended war with no clear endgame, but he is facing criticism from members of his own party and prospective coalition partners for not going further to quash the Gaza terror groups.

Hamas pans ‘ridiculous’ Netanyahu claim that IDF strikes devastated Gaza groups

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri slams Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for claiming that Israel’s retaliatory strikes targeting Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip over the weekend delivered a major blow to both Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

“Netanyahu’s remarks about the strikes on the resistance are ridiculous,” Zuhri says in a statement carried by Palestinian media outlets.

“The resistance succeeded in deterring Netanyahu’s army, and dragged its nose through the dirt,” he says. “Our message is that this round is over but the conflict will not end until we regain our rights.”

Earlier, Netanyahu released a statement saying that while the IDF hit “Hamas and Islamic Jihad with great force” in a series of airstrikes over the last two days, the confrontation was not over, and that Israel was “preparing to continue.”

Gaza health ministry says Palestinian death toll in two-day flare-up rises to 31

The Hamas-run Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip says two more people were killed in overnight Israeli airstrikes, bringing the death toll in the Palestinian enclave to 31 since Friday.

The ministry says the bodies of two men were pulled from underneath rubble of their home in the northern Gaza Strip earlier this morning.

The Palestinian death toll in the two-day escalation in violence includes at least 11 terrorists, The Times of Israel has confirmed. Gaza health officials say two pregnant women and two babies were also among the casualties.

Footage shows Gaza rocket crashing through Ashdod building

Newly released security camera footage shows the moment a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip explodes into the side of a residential building in Ashdod yesterday.

The explosion killed 21-year-old Pinchas Menachem Prezuazman, who was running for cover when the rocket came crashing through the stairwell of his building.

IDF chief says Israel will continue to ‘strike with force’ in Gaza ‘as needed’

Despite a ceasefire agreement that went into effect earlier this morning, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi says that Israel will continue to operate in the Gaza Strip as needed.

“The terrorist army operating in the Gaza Strip that hides among its own civilians has witnessed the strength of the IDF and our defense establishment,” he says at a Memorial Day event at the Mt. Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem.

“The IDF will continue to strike with force, as demanded, wherever it’s needed,” he says.

In the last 48 hours, Kohavi says the IDF destroyed hundreds of targets linked to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, in response to the barrages of rockets fired at Israel from the coastal enclave.

Earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was “preparing to continue” confrontations with Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.

Likud MK’s criticism of Gaza ceasefire slammed as ‘uncalled for’

Culture Minister Miri Regev criticizes her fellow Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar for denouncing the decision to accept an Egypt-brokered ceasefire deal in Gaza as “very lacking” for Israel.

This morning, in very rare implicit criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from within his own party, Sa’ar tweeted that “terrorist groups in Gaza are getting stronger. A campaign was not prevented, but postponed.”

Culture Minister Miri Regev at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on November 8, 2018. (Alex Kolomoisky/Yedioth Ahronoth/ Pool/ Flash90)

Speaking to reporters at the Knesset, Regev reacts: “I think we all have some criticism. Gideon Sa’ar, who was a minister and cabinet member, knows that decision-making isn’t simple and that the prime minister makes decisions responsibly.

“I think Gideon Sa’ar’s remark was uncalled for,” she adds.

Sa’ar is Netanyahu’s political rival and is seen as a potential challenger to his rule.

‘From now on, you will only suffer failures,’ Hamas boasts in Hebrew video

The Hamas terror group says Israel has failed to eavesdrop on its internal communications network in a new video it publishes in Hebrew.

In the video, the Palestinian movement that rules Gaza cites two alleged instances when the Israeli security forces tried to listen in but “failed.”

“From now on, you will only suffer failures,” it concludes.

East Jerusalem resident charged with spying for Hamas

Prosecutors file an indictment against East Jerusalem resident Obada Alami, 39, accusing him of espionage, contact with a foreign agent and terror activities, the Justice Ministry says in a statement.

According to the charge sheet, filed at the Jerusalem District Court, Alami had been in contact since October 2018 with two operatives of the Hamas terror group who were in Turkey.

At their request, he filmed and gathered information about strategic security sites in Israel, including military bases and airports, knowing he was doing so to help Hamas military operations, the indictment says.

It says the Hamas members also asked Alami to give them names of people suspected of selling land to Jews or of cooperating with Israeli security forces.

Additionally, he is accused of collecting money from 2017 to 2018 and transferring it to Hamas to fund its operations.

Prosecutors have asked for the suspect to be held until the end of legal procedures against him.

Netanyahu, Foreign Ministry send condolences to Russia after plane fire

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Foreign Ministry send condolences to Russia over a plane accident last night in which an airliner burst into flames while making an emergency landing at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, killing at least 40 people.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on July 11, 2018. (AFP/Pool/Yuri Kadobnov)

“I send condolences to President [Vladimir] Putin and the Russian people for the loss of life in the plane disaster in Moscow,” Netanyahu writes in a statement. “We strengthen the Russian nation at this difficult hour.”

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon tweets: “Israel expresses its deep condolences following the flight disaster in Moscow and the terrible loss of life. Condolences to the bereaved families and best wishes of recovery to the wounded.”

Rivlin pays condolence calls to families of Israelis killed in Gaza flare-up

President Reuven Rivlin visits the families of three of the four Israelis killed yesterday by Gaza terror groups in the flare-up in southern Israel to console them.

The three are Moshe Agadi, 58, killed when a rocket landed next to his home in Ashkelon; Ziad al-Hamamda, 47, killed in another rocket attack on a factory in Ashkelon; and Pinchas Menachem Prezuazman, 21, struck by rocket shrapnel while running for cover in Ashdod.

The fourth fatality was Moshe Feder, 68, killed when an anti-tank missile fired from Gaza struck his car near Kibbutz Erez.

In a tweet, Rivlin says terror hits all parts of Israeli society and vows the state will “never surrender to it.”

Meghan, duchess of Sussex, goes into labor with first child — UK media

Meghan Markle has gone into labor with her first child, British media reports.

No information is immediately available about where the Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry’s wife, is having the baby.

High Court lets 100 Palestinians into Israel for joint memorial event

The High Court of Justice accepts a petition filed by the Combatants for Peace group and rules that Israel must allow a hundred Palestinians into Israel to participate in a joint Memorial Day event in Tel Aviv mourning both slain Palestinians and fallen Israeli soldiers and terror victims.

The judges rejected the state’s position and said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, could not prevent the Palestinians’ participation and “intervene in the way a family wants to express their private grief.”

Likud MK pans ‘outrageous’ High Court ruling enabling Israeli-Palestinian memorial

Likud MK Yariv Levin, who reportedly is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s preferred candidate for justice minister, slams as “outrageous” the High Court decision to allow a hundred Palestinians into Israel for a joint Memorial Day event dedicated to both Israelis and Palestinians killed in the conflict.

“If anyone needed further evidence of the vital and urgent need to fundamentally fix the justice system, and specifically changing the nature of the Supreme Court, they got it in the form of this outrageous ruling,” Levin says.

Hamas says official killed by Israel in Gaza airstrike was its field commander

The Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Palestinian terror group Hamas, officially declares that Hamed Hamdan al-Khodari, killed yesterday in his car in Gaza in an Israeli airstrike, is its field commander.

The Israeli military said yesterday that Khodari was responsible for bringing Iranian money into Gaza for its terrorist rulers.

Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan have healthy baby boy

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, are the proud parents of a new baby boy.

The baby, who has not yet been named, is seventh in line for the British throne and is Queen Elizabeth II’s eighth great-grandchild.

It is the first child for Harry and Meghan, who married a year ago. Harry spoke before cameras on Monday afternoon.

The duchess is a 37-year-old retired American actress formerly known as Meghan Markle. The 34-year-old prince is the son of Prince Charles — who is next in line for the throne — and Princess Diana, who died in a Paris car crash in 1997.

Harry has long spoken of his desire to start a family.

— AP

Israel to shut West Bank, Gaza crossings during Memorial, Independence days

The Israeli military announces it will be closing the crossings to the West Bank and Gaza Strip for Israel’s Memorial and Independence Days this week, as is standard practice during festivals and holidays.

The closure will begin at midnight tonight and continue until 12:01 a.m. on Friday.

Exceptions will be made for “humanitarian, medical or other exceptional cases” with permission from Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians, Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, the army says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Nazareth imam convicted of incitement, support for terror

The Nazareth Magistrate’s Court convicts Sheikh Nazem Abu Salim, an imam at the Shihab A-Din Mosque in Nazareth, of incitement to violence and terrorism and supporting a terror group.

According to a statement by the Justice Ministry, the court ruled that Abu Salim used his position as spiritual leader to propagate incitement and “an ideology that has guided terror group Al-Qaeda.”

The indictment was filed in 2010 and the court originally sentenced him in 2012 to three years in jail and an 18-month suspended sentence. However, the following year the local district court ordered parts of the trial repeated due to failures in Abu Salim’s representation in court.

Ashkelon municipality says sappers to carry out controlled detonation of rocket

Sappers are to carry out a controlled detonation of one of the rockets fired at the city of Ashkelon, the municipality says.

“You may hear the sounds of explosions as a result of the neutralization,” the city says in a statement to residents.

— Judah Ari Gross

After facing criticism, PM boasts that ‘we have changed the rules of the game’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a security discussion with military staff in Beersheba and tells reporters that “we have changed the rules of the game, and Hamas knows that very well.”

“In the last two days we renewed the policy of assassinating senior terror officials, killed dozens of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists and destroyed terror towers,” Netanyahu says, after facing extensive criticism from right and left for accepting a ceasefire following a two-day flareup in Gaza.

“However, this isn’t the end of the battle, and therefore I ordered [the army] to prepare for what comes next and leave armored and artillery forces around the Gaza Strip,” he adds.

“I want to praise the residents of the south for their steadfast stance, and IDF soldiers and commanders for their firm actions.”

Earlier, Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, visited several wounded soldiers in Beersheba’s Soroka hospital.

Netanyahu slams ‘disappointing’ ruling enabling Israeli-Palestinian memorial event

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounces as “wrong and disappointing” a High Court ruling that rejected his position and ordered the state to allow a hundred Palestinians to enter Israel for a joint Memorial Day event dedicated to both Israeli and Palestinian victims of the conflict.

“There is no place for a memorial ceremony likening the blood of our people and that of terrorists,” Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, says in a tweet.

“That is why I refused to enable the ceremony participants’ entry and I think the High Court shouldn’t have intervened in that decision of mine,” he adds.

Despite ceasefire, arson balloon launched from Gaza sparks fire in Israel

A balloon-borne arson device launched from the Gaza Strip sparked a fire today in a wheat field in the Eshkol region of southern Israel, Fire and Rescue Services says.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze earlier in the day. Afterward, investigators were able to determine that the cause of the fire was an “arson balloon,” a fire department spokesman says.

He adds that there was another blaze in the area today that was not caused by an arson attack from Gaza.

The apparent attack comes despite an unofficial ceasefire since this morning that has seen no rockets fired from the Strip or Israeli airstrikes after a two-day flareup.

— with Judah Ari Gross

Hundreds gather in Kfar Saba to bury Moshe Feder, killed by Gaza anti-tank missile

Hundreds of people attend the funeral of Moshe Feder, 68, who was killed yesterday near Kibbutz Erez by a Cornet anti-tank missile launched by terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

Participants gather at the cemetery in Feder’s hometown of Kfar Saba, near Tel Aviv.

Among those in attendance are MK Moshe Ya’alon and former MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli.

Gaza ceasefire can collapse within days or weeks — security source

A security source says the army’s assessment, which has been presented to the government and is supported by intelligence officials, is that without increasing diplomatic efforts to improve the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, the current ceasefire will only hold for several days or weeks.

The security establishment cannot promise that the Islamic Jihad terror group will not try to disrupt daily life in Israel ahead of the Eurovision contest next week, the source adds, according to Hebrew-language media.

The government demanded that the flareup reach its end as quickly as possible and “with the most achievements possible,” the source says.

The source says the prevailing assessment in Israel is that one of the reasons Islamic Jihad agreed to the ceasefire was that for the first time since 2014, its targets were struck as well as Hamas’s sites.

John Lukacs, iconoclastic historian, dead at 95

John Lukacs, the Hungarian-born US historian and iconoclast who brooded over the future of Western civilization, wrote a best-selling tribute to Winston Churchill, and produced a substantial and often despairing body of writings on the politics and culture of Europe and the United States, has died.

Lukacs, who was Jewish, died of heart failure early Monday at his home in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, according to his stepson, Charles Segal. He was 95 and had lived in Phoenixville since the 1950s.

A proud and old-fashioned man with an prominent forehead, cosmopolitan accent, and erudite but personal prose style, Lukacs was a maverick among historians.

In a profession where liberals were a clear majority, he was sharply critical of the left and of the cultural revolution of the 1960s. But he was also unhappy with the modern conservative movement, opposing the Iraq war, mocking hydrogen bomb developer Edward Teller as the “Zsa Zsa Gabor of physics” and disliking the “puerile” tradition, apparently started by Ronald Reagan, of presidents returning military salutes from the armed forces.

— AP

Turkey election body orders Istanbul vote re-run: state news agency

Turkey’s top election body has ordered a re-run of the Istanbul mayoral election after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party complained about its shock defeat in the vote, the state news agency reports.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) narrowly lost Turkey’s biggest city in March 31 local elections, ending the party and its predecessors’ 25-year control of the metropolis.

The AKP claims there were “irregularities and corruption” in the vote that required a re-run of the mayoral election, which was won by Ekrem Imamoglu, of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) by just 15,000 votes.

Imamoglu received his official mandate after two weeks of recounts, sending shock-waves through the ruling party since Erdogan, former mayor of the city, once said winning Istanbul was like winning the whole of Turkey.

Erdogan had presented the local elections as a matter of national survival. He campaigned heavily, even though he was not running himself.

The AKP still won the most seats nationwide, but anger over the deteriorating economy led it to lose mayorships in both Istanbul and the capital Ankara.

The party did not request a re-run of the election for the Istanbul local assembly, in which it won a majority of seats.


Mossad said to tip US on Iranian threat to target its forces, leading to deployments

A US defense official says the deployments of an aircraft carrier strike group and land-based bombers to the Middle East are in response to indications that Iran and its proxy forces were preparing to possibly attack US forces in the region.

Israel’s Channel 13 reports that the information that led to that assessment came from Israel’s Mossad spy agency.

The USS Abraham Lincoln deploys from Naval Station Norfolk, in the vicinity of Norfolk, Virginia, on April 1, 2019. (Kaitlin McKeown/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)

The US defense official tells The Associated Press that the Pentagon approved the deployments of the USS Abraham Lincoln and its strike group of ships and combat aircraft.

The official says US forces at sea and on land were thought to be the potential targets. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and requested anonymity.

A White House statement says the military resources were deployed to send a message to Iran that “unrelenting force” will meet any attack on US interests or those of its allies.

Israel said to allow $30 million cash shipment into Gaza as part of ceasefire

According to the understandings that led to the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, Jerusalem will allow a transfer of $30 million from Qatar to the Gaza Strip very soon, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The cash shipment will be delivered “very soon,” the report says, adding that, until now, the periodical transfer was only $20 million. Israel is also expected to open the border crossings.

Also according to the truce agreement, the Hamas terror group that rules Gaza has committed to reigning in Islamic Jihad, which initiated the recent two-day flareup.

Additionally, the weekly border protests and riots will be scaled down and held farther away from the border fence with Israel, the report says. Terror groups will also stop the launching of balloon-borne arson devices into Israel.

Israel to build wall to protect road targeted with anti-tank missile near Gaza

After admitting that the threat of anti-tank missiles to roads near the Gaza Strip was underestimated, leading to the attack yesterday that killed 68-year-old Moshe Feder, security authorities have decided to build a wall to protect the road that was targeted, Channel 13 reports.

The wall is planned to be two meters (6.56 feet) high and 600 meters long, blocking off the currently exposed area.

Plans for the wall’s construction have already begun, the report says.

PM said to offer to make Smotrich police minister, give him influence over justice system

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered Union of Right-Wing Parties (URWP) No. 2 Bezalel Smotrich the public security portfolio, along with an equal share of the decision-making regarding the justice system, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

Left, Bezalel Smotrich, after winning the election for chairman of the National Union, at the Crown Plaza hotel in Jerusalem, January 14, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90). Right, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits a drill of the Armored Corps in Shizafon Base, in southern Israel on January 23, 2019. (Flash90)

Smotrich has been repeating his demand to be the next justice minister, but Netanyahu — who must secure URWP’s support to form his future coalition — is designating that position for Likud MK Yariv Levin.

Additionally, Netanyahu has offered URWP two spots in the top-level security cabinet — Smotrich and URWP leader Rafi Peretz — the report says.

It adds that Netanyahu is “willing to give even more” to woo Smotrich.

Cabinet ministers ‘shocked’ by army media briefing regarding Gaza ceasefire

Members of the government’s top-level security cabinet severely criticize remarks that appeared in an army briefing to journalists regarding the ceasefire in Gaza.

In the briefing, an unidentified security source urged diplomatic efforts to improve the humanitarian situation in the Strip or the fighting would be renewed within days or weeks. The source also said the government demanded that the flareup reach its end as quickly as possible.

The unidentified cabinet ministers, cited by Channel 12, accuse the army officials of trying to attribute responsibility for the truce solely to the government.

“We were shocked by the remarks,” one of them is quoted as saying. “They aren’t consistent with the assessment the IDF chief of staff himself conveyed to the cabinet.

“There was another, classified, special reason not to continue fighting” and to stop the violence at this time, the minister says, without going into details.

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