The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s developments as they unfolded.
No change to Israel policy on Sweden — official
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is unaware of any changes in Jerusalem’s foreign policy to bar Swedish officials from entering the country, a senior Israeli official says, according to Haaretz.
Earlier, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely declared that officials from Stockholm were unwelcome in Israel, a day after Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, called for an investigation to determine whether Israel has been conducting extrajudicial executions of Palestinians during the current wave of violence.
France bans 3 ‘radical’ Islamic groups
France has banned three Islamic cultural associations which ran a mosque in the Paris area that was shut down following November’s jihadist attacks on the capital, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says Wednesday.
“There is no place in the French republic for groups which provoke and which call for terrorism or call for hate,” Cazeneuve says.
US sailors seized in Gulf depart Iran — Pentagon
Ten US Navy sailors held by Iran in the Gulf leave Wednesday aboard the two vessels they were operating when they were picked up, the Pentagon says.
“There are no indications that the sailors were harmed during their brief detention,” a statement says, adding: “The Navy will investigate the circumstances that led to the sailors’ presence in Iran.”
Danish lawmakers debate seizing refugees’ valuables
Denmark’s parliament is to begin debating a controversial plan to seize refugees’ valuables, with the bill widely expected to pass a January 26 vote after being backed by a majority of lawmakers.
The bill, proposed by Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen’s right-wing Venstre party, would allow Danish authorities to seize migrants’ cash exceeding 10,000 kroner (1,340 euros, $1,450), as well as any individual items valued at more than 10,000 kroner.
Wedding rings would be exempt, along with other items of sentimental value, such as engagement rings, family portraits and medals.
The government has faced a wave of criticism over its proposal, which had initially put the limit for migrants at 3,000 kroner.
It has since backtracked, and finally reached agreement with other parties in parliament on Tuesday to secure a majority for the vote.
Number of Germans killed in Istanbul rises to 10
The number of Germans killed in the Istanbul suicide bombing rises to 10.
Officials initially said that at least eight Germans were among the dead in Tuesday’s explosion.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Sawsan Chebli tells reporters in Berlin on Wednesday: “the number of Germans killed has unfortunately risen to 10.” Information released by regional authorities shows that the victims came from across Germany and included two couples.
Greece proposes return trips for illegal migrants
A senior Greek official says the government will ask Europe’s border protection agency Frontex to help set up a sea deportation route to send migrants who reach the country illegally back to Turkey.
The official tells The Associated Press the plan would involve chartering boats on Lesbos and other Greek islands to send back migrants who were not considered eligible for asylum in the European Union.
The official speaks on condition of anonymity because Athens hasn’t yet formally raised the issue with other European governments.
More than 850,000 migrants and refugees reached Greece in 2015 on their route through the Balkans to central Europe. But the EU is seeking to toughen and better organize procedures for asylum placements, while Balkan countries outside the EU have also imposed stricter transit policies.
Parents detained for chaining son to bed
The Israel Police announce that a couple from the Wadi Ara region was arrested on Tuesday, after their 14-year-old son is found chained to his bed.
The parents say they regret the incident, but maintain it was the first time they had done so. It’s the only way we can control him, the parents contend, according to the Israel Police.
— וואלה! חדשות (@wallanews) January 13, 2016
Police probe anti-Semitic vandalism in NYC suburb
The vandalism of a Jewish family’s home in an affluent New York suburb that was spray-painted with swastikas is being investigated as a bias incident, police say.
Police in Hastings-on-Hudson said Monday that they believe the perpetrators of the December 29 vandalism are youth and that the incident grew out of a conflict among individuals, Lohud.com reports.
Six swastikas and “Jews” are spray-painted on the house, which is also plastered with eggs.
“We don’t believe this was random,” Police Chief Anthony Visalli says, according to Lohud.com.
Mayor Peter Swiderski says, “This is not something that happens in our community. We have a reputation for tolerance and inclusiveness. This is sad and disturbing, but there is no indication of something blossoming in our community.”
Biden denies US apologized to Iran
US Vice President Joe Biden says that America did not apologize to Iran over US sailors allegedly entering Iranian territorial waters.
Biden makes the comments Wednesday in an interview with “CBS This Morning.”
The vice president says: “There’s nothing to apologize for. When you have a problem with the boat, you apologize the boat had a problem? No, and there was no looking for any apology. This was just standard nautical practice.”
Biden says that the Iranians realized the US sailors “were there in distress and said they would release them and released them like ordinary nations would do.”
The nine American men and one woman were held in an Iranian base on Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf after being detained nearby on Tuesday. The US military has said that mechanical trouble with one of the boats caused them to drift into Iranian territorial waters near the island, where they were picked up by Iran.
Arab Muslim youths say IS, al-Qaeda distort Islam — poll
A majority of Arab Muslim youths see the actions of extremists such as the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda as a perversion of Islam’s teachings, according to a new poll.
The Zogby Research Services poll of 5,374 young Muslim men and women from the Middle East and North Africa also finds that many millennials blame corruption and repressive governments for the rise of jihadist groups.
“At least three-quarters of millennial respondents in all countries surveyed” say movements like IS and Al-Qaeda “are either a complete perversion of Islam’s teachings or mostly wrong,” the polling firm says.
The survey was conducted in October and November 2015 with respondents aged 15 to 34 in Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories.
More than 90 percent of respondents in Morocco and the UAE called both extremist groups a “complete perversion of Islam,” as did 83 percent of respondents in Egypt and more than 60 percent in Bahrain and Jordan.
More than 55 percent of respondents in the Palestinian territories and Saudi Arabia also say the radical groups were distorting Islam’s teachings.
Father of Abu Khdeir calls killers ‘new Nazis’
At a sentencing hearing for the killers of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the father of the slain East Jerusalem teenager says: “I am the father of the shahid [martyr] that these criminals, these new Nazis, burned,” according to the Walla news website.
“We lived happily and now our lives are changed,” Hussein Abu Khdeir says.
Arab jailed for 1 year for ‘Facebook incitement’
A Palestinian resident of Beit Hanina is sentenced to a year in prison on three counts of incitement to violence, and nine counts of supporting a terror group for various posts on his Facebook profile.
The defendant, Obaidah Tawil, confesses to the charges as part of a plea bargain.
Kerry thanks Iran for resolving sailor dispute
US Secretary of State John Kerry thanks Iran Wednesday for resolving the dispute over 10 captured US sailors “peacefully and efficiently.”
“I want to express my gratitude to Iranian authorities for their cooperation in swiftly resolving this matter,” Kerry says in a statement.
“That this issue was resolved peacefully and efficiently is a testament to the critical role diplomacy plays in keeping our country safe, secure, and strong,” Kerry adds.
Prosecutors call for life sentences for Abu Khdeir killers
Israeli prosecutors are urging life sentences for the killers of Palestinian teen Muhammed Abu Khdeir, AFP reports.
Abu Khdeir urges home demolitions for killers
Hussein Abu Khdeir says that if the government would have demolished the homes of his son’s killers, the Dawabsha family would not have been murdered in the July 31, 2015, firebombing attack in the West Bank village of Duma.
“My Jewish clients ask me if I hate them, and I tell them no, I hate those that burned [my son],” he says in court, according to Channel 10. “I ask that you give them the harshest punishment, demolish their homes, just as they do for Arabs. There must be equality in punishment. If they would have demolished their homes, the Dawabsha family would not have been burned. Light sentences encourage them to commit these sorts of attacks.”
Iran expects nuclear deal implementation by Sunday
The final implementation of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers is expected by Sunday, the Iranian state media says, quoting Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi.
A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, concluding that Iran had fulfilled its obligations under the agreement, will come out on Friday, broadcaster IRIB quotes Araqchi as saying, paving the way for sanctions to end.
The IAEA findings would be followed by “reaching the end of the line and the announcement of the implementation during Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” the official IRNA news agency quotes Araqchi as saying.
There is no immediate confirmation from the IAEA of Araqchi’s comments about the timing of “Implementation Day” when the deal comes into effect, but US and European officials have recently said it could be just days away.
White House says open lines with Iran were key to release
The White House says new lines of communication with Iran established during nuclear negotiations were key to getting 10 US Navy sailors released quickly.
White House chief of staff Denis McDonough says he’s hesitant to draw big lessons from the incident about the state of US-Iran relations.
But he says open lines established recently are “extraordinarily important” in resolving situations such as the one in the crowded Persian Gulf. He says US Secretary of State John Kerry’s relationship with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif played a key role in this case.
Kerry and Zarif grew acquainted through the recent nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic and world powers. But President Barack Obama and Kerry have said the nuclear deal was separate from other issues between the US and Iran.
McDonough tells a Christian Science Monitor breakfast Wednesday the White House is very pleased to have the sailors “back with us.” He says that’s “where they should have always been.”
Happy to see dialog and respect, not threats and impetuousness, swiftly resolved the #sailors episode. Let’s learn from this latest example.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 13, 2016
Army defuses two bombs planted on Gaza border
The IDF says it “defused and detonated two explosive devices” planted on the northern Gaza border “by the terror cell targeted earlier today.”
One Palestinian man was killed in an Israeli air strike earlier Wednesday and three more were injured, according to Hamas, which claimed the attack came not from an aircraft, but from an Israel Navy ship. Israel said earlier the Palestinians targeted were placing an explosive device on the border.
Manfred Mann cancels TA show over security fears
Manfred Mann cancels its Tel Aviv show in September 2016 over security fears, Israel Radio reports.
According to the report, the band expresses concern about “the ongoing problems in Israel, and that people are being shot and beaten to death in the streets.”
Likud leadership primaries canceled
The Likud leadership primaries — for which Netanyahu was the only candidate — are called off, with the Likud’s internal court declaring the prime minister the winner.
Hamas sentences 4 to death for ‘spying’
A military court in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on Wednesday sentences four Palestinians to death on charges of spying for Israel, a statement and court sources says.
The court says in a brief statement that a 23-year-old man from the Zeitoun area south of Gaza City had been sentenced to death on espionage charges. It does not provide his name.
Three other men who “fled from justice” are also found guilty in absentia, it says.
A court source tells AFP the four were convicted on “charges of spying for the occupation,” including “surveillance” and providing information about cars and homes to help Israel plan alleged assassinations.
Before these sentences, 167 people had been sentenced to death by courts in Gaza and the West Bank, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
Austrian bar bans ‘all asylum-seekers’ over alleged harassment
A bar owner in Austria says Wednesday she banned “all asylum-seekers” after alleged attacks on guests, sparking strong criticism from human rights groups.
Karin Siebrecht-Janisch, who runs Charly’s Bar in the picturesque spa town of Bad Ischl in Upper Austria state, says she took the decision after male migrants had repeatedly harassed her female clientele in recent months.
Things escalated on New Year’s Eve when “several asylum-seekers” groped a waitress, according to Siebrecht-Janisch.
“After that I had enough and I decided to ban them all until we find the culprits. I need to protect my guests and my family,” she tells AFP.
Siebrecht-Janisch says she had also hired bouncers and introduced a two-euro door charge, which she expected “migrants aren’t able to pay.”
10 American sailors now in Qatar — US official
A senior US defense official says the 10 American sailors briefly held by Iran are heading to a US military facility in Qatar and likely have already arrived there.
The official says the sailors also will be debriefed by naval officials and will get medical checkups, even though there’s no sign any were harmed.
The official speaks to The Associated Press on Wednesday on condition of anonymity as the information had yet to be made public.
The nine men and one woman were held in an Iranian base on Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf after being detained nearby on Tuesday. The US military has said that mechanical trouble with one of the boats caused them to drift into Iranian territorial waters near the island, where they were picked up by Iran.
— Abas Aslani (@abasinfo) January 13, 2016
4 charged over German anti-migrant ‘terror’ group
German prosecutors say Wednesday they have charged four people with forming a right-wing extremist “terror” group which was allegedly planning a bomb attack at a refugee shelter.
The suspects are accused of starting a “far-right terrorist organization” called Oldschool Society with a larger group of people in 2014.
Germany has recorded a sharp jump in crime attributed to the far-right in tandem with the surge in asylum seeker arrivals which reached 1.1 million last year.
At its first meeting in November 2014, the group allegedly “discussed the manufacturing of explosives as well as attacks on Salafists and asylum seekers,” federal prosecutors say in a statement.
By May 2015, when they were arrested, they had hatched a plan “for a bomb attack at an inhabited refugee shelter.”
Kerry says nuke deal to be implemented soon
US Secretary of State John Kerry says that Iran will likely be in compliance with a landmark nuclear deal within days, and other officials say it could be as early as this weekend.
Just hours after welcoming Iran’s release of 10 detained US sailors, Kerry says Wednesday implementation of the deal will take place soon. He says in the coming days, but others say an announcement could come as soon as Friday. Those officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
That would mean the UN atomic watchdog has found Iran to have met its obligations to curb its nuclear program. It would require the US and other nations to immediately suspend many sanctions they have imposed on the Islamic republic.
Canada welcomes 10,000th Syrian refugee
Canada has welcomed its 10,000th Syrian refugee, the government announces Wednesday, although almost two weeks behind schedule and far fewer than it had originally planned to resettle by now.
A planeload landed in Toronto late Tuesday, putting the number of arrivals of asylum seekers at 10,121 since November when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals took office.
Swedish envoy summoned over FM’s comments
Netanyahu has ordered the Foreign Ministry to summon the Swedish ambassador for a meeting, after the Swedish foreign minister said Israel should investigate the “extrajudicial killings” of Palestinian terrorists.
Earlier Wednesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said Swedish officials would not be welcome in Israel, but a senior official said the prime minister — who is also the Israel’s foreign minister — was unaware of any policy changes.
Iran to satisfy nuke deal by ‘as early as Friday’
Iran could comply with last summer’s nuclear deal as early as Friday or this weekend, officials say, requiring the US and other nations to immediately suspend billions of dollars’ worth of economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Secretary of State John Kerry predicts Wednesday the achievement “within the next coming days.”
Others in Washington and elsewhere say the announcement could come within two days. In Vienna, a senior diplomat from one of the six countries that cut the deal with Iran says it would be formally declared implemented “most probably Friday.” Those officials speak on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
US justices divided over Iran terror-related appeal
The US Supreme Court is struggling with whether to put a new roadblock in the way of terrorism victims who are trying to obtain nearly $2 billion in judgments against Iran.
The justices hear arguments Wednesday between the central bank of Iran and relatives of terrorism victims, including many who were among the 241 Marines killed in Lebanon in 1983.
The issue is whether Congress butted into the business of federal courts when it passed a 2012 law allowing the families to be paid from assets of the central bank that are held in the United States.
Several justices raise questions about whether Congress impermissibly tried to dictate the outcome of the dispute. Chief Justice John Roberts says it is “our job to decide cases.”
Turkey arrests 4 more suspects in blast probe
Turkey’s prime minister says authorities have detained four more suspects as part of the investigation into the suicide bombing in Istanbul that killed 10 Germans.
Ahmet Davutoglu reiterates Wednesday that the attack was linked to the Islamic State group. A total of five people have been detained in connection with the blast investigation.
Earlier, Turkey’s interior minister had announced the arrest of another person.
House passes bill to increase oversight of nuclear deal
The US House of Representatives passes Republican-backed legislation that would give Congress greater oversight of the landmark Iran nuclear agreement.
Lawmakers vote 191-106 Wednesday to approve the bill. They act less than 24 hours after Tehran detained, and then released, 10 US Navy sailors who had drifted into Iranian territorial waters.
Republicans seize on the incident as further evidence Iran can’t be trusted. They say that since the agreement was reached in July, Tehran has tested ballistic missiles in violation of existing UN sanctions and continued to support terrorism.
The White House says the bill could upend the agreement and that the president will veto the measure if it reaches his desk.
The US is set to begin lifting sanctions against Iran as Tehran fulfills its obligations under the deal.
Hollande says ‘intolerable’ for Jews to have to hide skullcaps
French President Francois Hollande says it’s “intolerable” for Jews to have to hide their skullcaps.
Calls for French Jews to leave their skullcaps at home in the wake of a jihadist attack on a kippa-wearing teacher sparked an emotional debate Wednesday pitting security concerns against a desire to uphold Jewish identity.
Israel condemns Swedish FM’s ‘bias, hostility’
The Foreign Ministry’s Aviv Shir-on rebukes Swedish ambassador to Israel Carl Magnus Nesser for Wallstrom’s “hostile” attitude toward Israel.
Shir-on protested Wallstrom’s comment, and also conveyed the “fury of the government and people of Israel over the distorted presentation of reality, as well as another comment which indicates that her approach to Israel is biased, and even hostile,” a statement from the ministry says.
“Wallstrom’s comments point to her misunderstanding of what is happening in our region, and she is likely unaware of the difficult situation Israeli citizens are in, with constant danger of murderous terror attacks. In light of the damaging and baseless positions of the Swedish minister, she has removed herself, and Sweden, in the near future, from any role — or any semblance of a role — in handling the relations between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold, addressing the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, says: “Whoever attacks Israel’s right to defend itself against terror attacks effectively encourages terror,” according to a statement.
— Raphael Ahren contributed
Netanyahu won’t back down on Dayan appointment
Channel 2 reports that Netanyahu is refusing to name another candidate for Brazilian envoy other than former settler leader Dani Dayan.
If Brazil rejects Dayan over his political views, the report says, there will be no replacement, effectively downgrading ties between the two countries.
Real Madrid invites Ahmad Dawabsha for visit
Real Madrid says it has invited a young Palestinian boy who is the sole survivor of a West Bank arson attack last summer to visit the team and meet star player Cristiano Ronaldo.
Team spokesman Raul Serrano Quevedo says Wednesday that the team agreed to host the boy after receiving a request from the Palestinian embassy. He says details are still being worked out, and it’s not clear when the boy, Ahmad Dawabshe, will visit.
Ahmad, who is five, is still recovering in an Israeli hospital from the July 31 fire that killed his 18-month-old brother and their parents. His family says it expects him to be discharged in three months.
Ankara: Istanbul bomber entered Turkey as a migrant
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Wednesday says the suicide bomber who killed 10 German tourists in Istanbul had entered the country as an “ordinary migrant” from war-torn Syria.
“This person was not being followed (as a wanted suspect). This person entered Turkey as an ordinary migrant,” Davutoglu says in Istanbul. “All his links will be worked out now.”
Israel reportedly won’t condemn Istanbul bombing
Israel won’t condemn the deadly bombing in Istanbul, which killed 10 German tourists because “Turkey did not condemn attacks by us,” Channel 2 reports.
President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday morning spoke to President Joachim Gauck of Germany to express Israel’s condolences.
Ukrainian, French teen killed in avalanche
A 14-year-old schoolboy and a Ukrainian man are killed on Wednesday when an avalanche sweeps away skiers in the French Alps, including a group of school children, local officials say.
The avalanche hits a trail at the Deux-Alpes resort in eastern France that was still closed to the public, engulfing a group of nine French school children and their teacher, according to police sources.
One of them is killed, three are seriously injured — including the teacher — and five children were still missing. Another escaped unhurt.
A Ukrainian man who was not part of the group was also killed, police say.
Obama, Jordan’s king hold brief meet amid talk of snub
President Barack Obama and Jordan’s King Abdullah meet for around five minutes at a military base near Washington on Wednesday, hoping to quash suggestions of a White House snub of the monarch.
Before hitting the road to sell his State of the Union address in Nebraska, Obama met Abdullah in the VIP lounge of Joint Base Andrews.
Abdullah had been in Washington for days without meeting Obama, raising questions about the health of a normally close relationship.
White House aides denied there was any snub of the king, citing scheduling problems because of the Tuesday evening primetime address.
“The president regrets that he is unable to meet with him personally on this visit due to scheduling conflicts, including the State of the Union address,” a White House spokesperson said.
Abdullah instead met with Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry.
Kerry spoke to Zarif 11 times since January 1
For diplomats from countries without diplomatic relations, Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javid Zarif sure are doing a lot of diplomacy.
As Iran races to satisfy the terms of last summer’s nuclear deal and the US prepares to suspend sanctions, Kerry is talking to Zarif more than any other foreign leader. Those talks included several emergency calls Tuesday to secure the release of 10 US sailors Iran detained in the Persian Gulf.
Since January 1, Kerry and Zarif have spoken by phone at least 11 times.
By contrast, America’s top diplomat has talked to Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister twice. He has consulted once each with the Saudi deputy crown prince, Jordan’s king and the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the EU.
Kerry told Iran sailor capture could be made into ‘good story’
Kerry told Iran’s foreign minister that Tehran’s capture and release of 10 US sailors could be turned into a “good story” for both countries, a US official says Wednesday.
Kerry called Zarif at least five times on Tuesday to secure the safe release of the boat crews after they strayed into Iranian territorial waters in the Gulf and were captured.
During the calls, a senior US official tells reporters, Kerry urged his counterpart to consider the potential crisis an opportunity to showcase the strengths of the thawing diplomatic relationship between the old foes.
“They speak relatively regularly. None of this is unusual in the wake of the dialogue we’ve had on nuclear issues,” he says, adding that Kerry had already had a scheduled call with Zarif before the news broke.
Kerry explained to Zarif that the sailors — crews in two US Navy patrol boats — had been on a routine transit mission between Kuwait and Bahrain and urged him to ensure that they were released quickly and unharmed.
And he added “if we are able to do this in the right way it would be a good story for both of us.”
Kerry to meet Saudi minister in UK to discuss Iran
Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling to London to try to calm tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Kerry departs Wednesday evening. He will meet Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in the British capital.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner says discussions will also focus on Syria’s civil war and other matters.