The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they occured.

Ministers urge right-wingers to attend pro-overhaul rally

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir are joining other government figures urging massive turnout at a right-wing rally planned for tomorrow, with both claiming wide support for the government’s plan to overhaul the judiciary.

“Tomorrow we will clarify in a clear voice that the nation supports the reforms and our votes will not be stolen,” says Ben Gvir, head of the hardline Otzma Yehudit party.

“Your support is very important ands significant to us. You are the ones who put the wind at our backs to continue with all our might,” he adds.

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi (Likud) also joins in, saying attendees old and young will “ratify our mandate,” and claiming that “the democratic rules of the game are still the best way to settle disputes.”

The rally and expected demonstrations by anti-overhaul protesters mark the likely return to months of chaos seen as the government attempted to push its legislation forward, sparking huge demonstrations that only calmed once compromise talks were announced late last month.

The ensuing weeks had given way to calls for unity as Israel geared up for Memorial Day and Independence Day.

At a rally in favor of compromise outside the President’s Residence, Yaakov Amidror, a former aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, warns that without a deal Israel could descend into civil war.

Biden says North Korean regime ‘finished’ if it uses nukes

US President Joe Biden is warning North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that his regime would be finished if he were to launch a nuclear attack on the United States or its allies.

“A nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its allies or partisans — partners — is unacceptable and will result in the end of whatever regime were to take such an action,” Biden tells a joint news conference with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.

Yoon says that peace on the peninsula will come through force and that US nukes will play a role in a counterattack should Pyongyang use its nukes against the south.

At the press conference, Biden also waves off concerns about his health as he embarks on a bid for reelection in 2024, telling reporters that he feels good. He calls presumptive repeat opponent Donald Trump a “danger” to US democracy.

Netanyahu website, Facebook page targeted by hackers

The group of hackers calling themselves Anonymous Sudan claims to have taken down the personal website of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The website indeed appears to be knocked offline briefly, seemingly the result of a DDoS attack, a fairly rudimentary method for disabling access to a website for a short period.

Anonymous Sudan is thought to be closely linked or synonymous with Russian hacking collective Killnet.

In recent days, Israeli sites have been repeatedly targeted by the group, which claimed to take down the Mossad’s website earlier this week and again Wednesday afternoon. Earlier this month, the group said it disabled several banking and other Israeli sites, timed to coincide with Iran marking its annual day of protests against the Jewish state.

Netanyahu’s Facebook page is also briefly hacked so that it shows a video clip of a mosque with praying in Arabic heard, the Ynet news site reports. According to the outlet, hackers used a Facebook feature that allows collaboration between pages in order to break into the page without taking it over.

Channel 12 news reports that some of the content on the page is replaced with Persian writing.

The Shin Bet is investigating.

Man shot in Elad, likely not terror-related — reports

A man has been shot and seriously injured in the central city of Elad under unclear circumstances.

Reports indicate that authorities believe the incident was not related to terror, but a domestic criminal case.

The man is being rushed to a hospital in critical condition, the Magen David Adom ambulance service says.

Last year, Elad was the scene of a deadly attack in which two Palestinian men armed with machetes and knives hacked three people to death during an Independence Day celebration.

Levin looks to pump up crowd size for planned right-wing ‘million-person march’

Justice Minister Yariv Levin is urging right-wing voters to show up en masse for a large rally in support of the government and its judicial overhaul project planned for Thursday in Jerusalem.

Organizers have dubbed the rally a “million-person march” under the slogan “They won’t steal the election from us,” with hopes of bringing upwards of 250,000 demonstrators and as many as half a million to outdo the numerous massive anti-overhaul protests staged over the last four months.

“I need you. We need everyone to come to Jerusalem so a clear voice in favor of the reform will be heard,” he says in a short video.

Police are gearing up for the rally, with realistic expectations of some 100,000 participants, Channel 12 news reports.

Levin is slated to speak at the rally, according to Kan news.

Pro-compromise crowd rallies for overhaul deal outside Herzog residence

Some 400 people are demonstrating outside the official residence of President Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem, demanding that negotiators succeed in hashing out a compromise between the government and opposition on proposed changes to the judiciary.

The demonstrators hail from a group calling itself Kriat Haskama (“Call to Compromise”), which claims that a large majority of Israelis want to see a grand bargain between those who want to transfer many court powers to the government and those who demand the court’s ability to act as a check on government power be preserved.

Organizers say demonstrators include both those who are for the reforms and those against.

“Our goal is to send a clear message to decision-makers that we, proponents and opponents of the reform, are in favor of wide agreement,” one official from the group is quoted telling the Ynet news site.

Speaking at the rally is legendary ex-general and former minister Avigdor Kahalani, who was honored Tuesday night as a torch-lighter at the official state ceremony to begin Independence Day.

“We’ve gone insane. We’re fighting with ourselves and paying no attention to where we are headed. We’re in the midst of trauma,” he says, according to the Masorti Movement, which represents Conservative Judaism in Israel and also backed the demonstration. “I hope it doesn’t take a slap in our face from those sharpening their swords abroad to snap us out of it.”

Driver in fatal crash being checked for drugs, alcohol — report

Police have reportedly taken a sample of blood from the man who was driving the vehicle that collided with a van carrying a family earlier today, killing a 1-year-old and leaving his father and brother fighting for their lives.

Investigators believe the driver swerved suddenly into the path of a car carrying the Domnovitch family on Route 40 in the Negev desert, Channel 12 reports.

Police will check the blood for traces of drugs or alcohol as they probe why the driver swerved, the station reports.

After fretting about civil war, Herzog says raging protests a boon for democracy

President Isaac Herzog tells diplomats at an Independence Day reception that the bruising national ruction over the government’s bid to overhaul the judiciary proves the vigor of Israel’s democracy.

“Debate and disagreement in a democracy are not only natural. They are critical,” Herzog says to the approximately 400 foreign officials from nearly 120 countries invited to the event, according to Herzog’s office.

“The fact that, as we mark 75, Israelis are fiercely debating fundamental questions about our system of checks and balances demonstrates that our democratic discourse is vibrant and that our citizens are fully engaged,” he adds.

Herzog has led efforts to bridge that debate by sponsoring talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing religious coalition and parties in the opposition. The talks have yet to provide any tangible results and distrust is high, with the government thought ready to begin ramping legislation back up in the coming weeks, and intense protests that preceded the talks continuing.

But Herzog says the quarrel is “a mark of pride.”

“Even as it demands of us to show up for the difficult work of hearing and listening to each other. And recognizing that there exists a multitude of opinions in our society,” he says.

President Isaac Herzog delivering an address at the President’s Residence on April 26, 2023. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

The comments are something of a reversal from earlier statements expressing worry over Israel’s fate and damage done to societal amity by the legislative blitz and ensuing protests, which were among the most intense the country has ever seen. In mid-March, as protests were hitting their peak, he warned that the country was on the cusp of “civil war” and an “abyss,” unless an agreement is reached.

He says the compromise talks are ongoing.  “I am driven by the firm belief that with goodwill and a willingness to engage in honest dialogue, our democracy can emerge from this reckoning stronger than ever,” he says,

The president does not speak out against the overhaul plan, which has also sparked criticism from abroad, but accuses Israel’s foes of trying to take advantage of Israel due to what he says is their misperception of the country as weakened by the divisions.

“Iran and its proxies in Gaza, Syria, and Lebanon—Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad—have, in recent weeks, sought to capitalize on Israel’s domestic debate, misreading the vitality of our internal democratic discourse as a weakness; as an opening to wreak havoc,” he says.

Likud minister: Both sides trying sincerely for judicial overhaul compromise

Education Minister Yoav Kisch says talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition and the Knesset opposition over the contours of changes to the judiciary are pushing ahead in earnest, despite recent indications that the compromise effort is floundering.

“There’s genuine, sincere efforts from both sides to reach a draft with as wide agreement as possible,” Kisch says in a speech during the annual Israel Prize awards ceremony at Binyanei Hauma International Convention Center in Jerusalem.

Yoav Kisch, chairman of the Interior Affairs Committee, leads a meeting regarding the deportation of African asylum seekers at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, January 29, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Talks brokered by President Isaac Herzog have yet to show any tangible fruit, but have produced a full crop of mostly anonymous accusations and recriminations in the media from both sides in the media, often attempting to portray the other side as insincere.

Kisch, who is part of the Likud negotiating team, says Israel has been stuck in an “internal crisis” in recent months “filled with weighty worries and fears.”

Far-right MK’s home catches fire, arson not suspected

A spokesperson for MK Almog Cohen says the Otzma Yehudit lawmaker was not at home when part of his home caught fire earlier today, and is unscathed.

A picture sent out by the MK’s office shows a closed-in balcony at Cohen’s home in the southern city of Ofakim with significant fire damage to walls and furniture.

The spokesman notes that the fire is not being investigated as a possible arson, but does not give a cause for the blaze.

Cohen, a former cop, is considered among the most extreme lawmakers in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition.

After 78 years, Switzerland approves first-ever official Holocaust memorial

Switzerland’s executive body has agreed to help pay for a national memorial to honor the six million Jews and other victims of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution, in what the leading Swiss Jewish group is calling the country’s first official monument of its kind.

The Federal Council, the seven-member executive branch, approved 2.5 million Swiss francs (about $2.8 million) for the memorial that will be erected at an unspecified “central location” in the capital, Bern, at a time when the number of Holocaust survivors has dwindled and antisemitism has risen again.

“The Federal Council considers it of great importance to keep alive the memory of the consequences of National Socialism, namely the Holocaust and the fate of the six million Jews and all other victims of the National Socialist regime,” a government statement says.

Switzerland and its capital, through the move, were “creating a strong symbol against genocide, antisemitism and racism, and for democracy, the rule of law, freedom and basic individual rights,” it said.

The statement does not mention of whether the memorial would make any direct reference to any Swiss role in the persecution of people during the Nazi regime in Germany.

The Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities, an umbrella group, says Switzerland has about 60 small, private sites remembering the Holocaust and other crimes of the Nazis.

“There is, however, no official or national memorial for the numerous Swiss victims of persecution, for the thousands of refugees repelled at the borders or deported, but also for the many courageous helpers in this country,” it says, noting that the memorial would be created to honor them all.

Family from Nokdim settlement named in deadly Negev crash

Authorities name the small child killed in a traffic crash in Israel’s south as Ma’ayan David Domnovitch, from the settlement of Nokdim, southeast of Jerusalem.

Ma’ayan David Domnovitch in an undated picture provided by the family. (courtesy Domnovitch family via Gush Etzion Regional Council)

The 1-year-old was killed when the car his family was riding in collided with another vehicle on Route 40 in the Negev desert just before noon on Wednesday.

The child’s father Ilya Domnovitch and brother Uri, 7, remain in serious condition at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba.

Mother Ayala Domnovitch asks for prayers on behalf of the family, the Gush Etzion Regional Council says. She is hospitalized with moderate injuries alongside her sons Neta, 6, and Shachar, 4.

Germany says Iranian death sentence for dual citizen ‘completely unacceptable’

Germany’s foreign minister is calling on Iran to reverse a death sentence handed down to Jamshid Sharmahd, an Iranian-German dual citizen and opposition figure accused of masterminding deadly attacks.

German officials say they were not allowed to attend the hearing at which the sentence against Sharmahd was upheld.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock calls the verdict “completely unacceptable.”

“At no point did Jamshid Sharmahd have even the beginnings of a fair trial,” she writes on Twitter. “We call on Iran to immediately reverse this arbitrary verdict.”

In this file photo taken on February 6, 2022, Jamshid Sharmahd (L front), who is accused by the Iranian government of being a leader of the US-based “Tondar terrorist group” behind a deadly attack in Iran in 2008, attends the first hearing of his trial in Tehran. (Koosha MAHSHID FALAHI/MIZAN NEWS AGENCY/AFP)

Germany’s ambassador to Iran is on his way back to Tehran from a work trip to intervene on Sharmahd’s behalf, Baerbock added.

Sharmahd had been residing in Glendora, California, prior to his detention. Iran accuses the 67-year-old of leading the armed wing of a group committed to restoring the Western-backed monarchy that ruled Iran before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Alleged Hezbollah money man set to appear in New York federal court

An alleged financier for the Hezbollah terrorist organization is set to be arraigned in a federal court in New York this morning.

Mohammad Bazzi is accused of funneling millions of dollars to the Lebanese terror group. The US Department of Justice branded him a “key financier” of the organization.

He was arrested in Romania in February and extradited to the US yesterday.

The US Treasury has labeled Bazzi a “specially designated global terrorist for assisting in, sponsoring, and providing financial, material, and technological support and financial services to Hezbollah,” the US Attorney’s Office says in a statement.

Bazzi, 58, has been indicted on three counts related to conspiring to finance a terrorist group, and money laundering conspiracy. Each count carries up to 20 years in prison.

He allegedly provided Hezbollah with millions of dollars he had made through business activities in Belgium, Lebanon, Iraq and West Africa. Bazzi is a citizen of Lebanon and Belgium.

He and another defendant in the case, Talal Chahine, allegedly conspired to force someone in the US to liquidate real estate assets and covertly transfer them to Lebanon.

The defendants are accused of attempting to conceal the transaction from US authorities in several ways, including by making fake purchases of restaurant equipment from a Chinese company, inventing a fictitious loan to family in Kuwait, and manufacturing a fake franchise agreement for opening a Lebanese restaurant chain in the US.

Bazzi will appear before a US federal court in Brooklyn at 11 a.m.

Erdogan cancels campaign stops day after falling ill on live TV

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has canceled planned appearances due to a stomach bug less than three weeks before the country’s crunch election.

The 69-year-old leader’s announcement comes a day after he cut short a live television interview late after getting sick on air.

Erdogan had three appearances in the central Anatolian provinces planned for Wednesday.

But he said Vice President Fuat Oktay would take his place instead.

“Today I will rest at home under the advice of our doctors,” Erdogan said on his official Twitter account.

His television appearance on Tuesday began more than 90 minutes behind schedule and then went to a commercial break in the middle of a question 10 minutes into the show.

The camera shook and the reporter asking the question stood up from his chair when the broadcast cut off. “Oh wow,” an unidentified voice could be heard saying off camera.

Erdogan returned about 15 minutes later to apologize for getting sick, but looked ashen and ended the program a few minutes later.

“Yesterday and today were hard work. That’s why I got a stomach flu,” Erdogan told the interviewer.

Anti-government activists try to make splash with floating protest off Tel Aviv

Activists from the Brothers in Arms military veterans protest group say some 150 swimmers have unfurled replicas of the Israeli flag and Declaration of Independence off the coast of Tel Aviv.

The group, which has taken a leading role in ongoing demonstrations against the government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary, says the protest is led by navy veterans.

Pictures and videos show the large floating display hundreds of feet from Tel Aviv’s crowded beaches, though it appears only those with a birds-eye view can appreciate the stunt.

Holiday revelers pack parks, beaches, army bases

Some 210,000 Independence Day celebrants have packed the nation’s parks and nature reserves so far Wednesday, the Ynet news site reports, citing Nature and Parks Authority figures.

The grilling and chilling hordes are also thronging beaches, city parks, military bases and IDF demonstration centers, some of which are forced to close due to overcrowding.

In the north, the Union of Kinneret Cities says 18,000 revelers have visited its beaches around the Sea of Galilee. Several beachside parking lots have closed due to overcrowding, it says.

Army chief says troops must be unified so that others may bicker

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi says that in “these days of division” over the judicial overhaul, the Israel Defense Forces “must be a unifying factor.”

Answering soldiers’ questions as part of an event for Israel’s 75th Independence Day, Halevi says “the moment we are in uniform, we leave the disagreement aside.”

The military protects the country so that “disagreements can occur without our enemies interfering,” he adds.

China’s Xi, Zelensky speak for 1st time since Russian invasion; Moscow angry

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says he and Chinese leader Xi Jinping had a “long and meaningful” phone conversation today, their first known contact since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago.

The phone call, which officials say lasted nearly an hour, is a significant development in efforts to resolve the conflict. It comes two months after Beijing, which has long been aligned with Russia, said it wanted to act as a peace mediator in the war against Ukraine and after Xi visited Moscow last month.

“I believe that this call, as well as the appointment of Ukraine’s ambassador to China, will give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations,” Zelensky says in a Facebook post without elaborating.

Ukraine’s presidential office says more details of what was said would be published later in the day.

In China, the phone call was reported by state media. China Central Television says Beijing intends to send an envoy to Kyiv to discuss “a political settlement” for the war.

Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova commended China’s approach but was scathing about Ukraine’s stance.

Referring to the call, she praised Beijing’s “readiness to strive to establish a [peace] negotiations process,” while slamming what she called Kyiv’s “rejection of any sound initiatives aimed at a settlement.”

Moscow accused Kyiv of undermining any peace attempts and says it rejected “any sensible initiatives aimed at a political and diplomatic settlement.”

Iran says Belgium prisoner swap ‘finalized,’ Brussels denies

Iran says a prisoner exchange with Belgium was “finalized,” hinting at the release of Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele, which Brussels swiftly denied.

Vandecasteele, 42, was sentenced in January to 40 years in prison and 74 lashes for “espionage,” Tehran’s judiciary said at the time, after a trial his family and Belgian authorities dubbed “unfair.”

“The agreement on the transfer of convicts between Iran and Belgium has been concluded and finalized, and the documents have been transferred,” judiciary spokesman Massoud Setayeshi says on Wednesday during his weekly press conference.

In a potential swap, Brussels would release Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, sentenced in Belgium to 20 years in prison over a plot to blow up an Iranian opposition event in 2018 outside Paris.

“The other party had applied, we also applied [for the transfer], and God willing, this action will take place,” Setayeshi says without elaborating.

A Belgian government official tells AFP shortly after the Iranian announcement that “we deny the information suggesting the possible release of Olivier Vandecasteele,” arrested in Tehran in February 2022.

Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne denies the Iranian spokesman’s remarks and says in a tweet Tehran was seeking to “sow confusion” in a “very delicate” case.

Vandecasteele’s family recently reported “serious health issues” that put his life at risk, regretting he was held in solitary confinement without access to medical treatment.

The Belgian government has declined to comment on whether Iran had officially requested Assadi’s transfer.

A prisoner exchange treaty between Iran and Belgium allowing a potential swap entered into force on April 18.

Iran upholds German dual national’s death sentence

Iran’s top court has confirmed a death sentence for a German-Iranian national whose trial over a deadly mosque bombing in 2008 has strained relations with Berlin, the judiciary says.

“Jamshid Sharmahd’s sentence has been upheld by the Supreme Court,” judiciary spokesman Massoud Setayeshi tells reporters in Tehran, saying “measures” ahead of the 68-year-old’s execution “will be taken later.”

Berlin is “dismayed” by the reported Iranian decision, a spokesman for the German foreign ministry tells a press conference. “If this is the case, then the situation is in fact extremely serious.”

The Tehran Revolutionary Court in February sentenced Sharmahd to death after he was convicted of involvement in the April 2008 attack in the southern city of Shiraz that killed 14 people.

Germany has condemned the sentence as “unacceptable” and declared two staff members at Iran’s embassy in Berlin personae non gratae, ordering them to leave the country.

Tehran, in turn, expelled two German diplomats last month.

Prosecutors had also accused Sharmahd, a US resident, of having established contact with “FBI and CIA officers” and of having “attempted to contact Israeli Mossad agents.”

Iranian authorities announced in August 2020 Sharmahd had been apprehended in what they described as a “complex operation,” providing no specific details of the arrest.

His family says he was kidnapped by the Iranian security services while in transit in Dubai and then brought to Iran.

Putin, Xi, EU leader, Germany, Hungary and others wish Israel a happy birthday

President Isaac Herzog receives congratulatory letters from world leaders in honor of Israel’s 75th Independence Day, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s President Xi Jinping.

“I am convinced that the further development of relations of friendship and cooperation between Russia and Israel fully meets the interests of our peoples and goes in line with enhancing security and stability in the Middle East,” writes Putin.

“Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Israel, the two countries have witnessed rapid and sound development of bilateral ties, and ever deepened friendship between the Chinese and Israeli people,” writes Xi.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen writes that “a dream was realized” with Israel’s birth. She also calls Israel “a home in the Promised Land.”

“Your freedom is our freedom,” she writes.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a close friend of Herzog, says in a video greeting that “we want to use all the strength of our friendship to support Israel’s path to the future, in freedom, justice, and security, with equality of social and political rights as the Declaration of Independence promised 75 years ago.”

President Katalin Novák of Hungary writes that “I believe that it is the common interest of Jews, Christians, and Muslims for Israel to be safe and enjoy security.”

As of midday, US President Joe Biden had not sent a message to Herzog.

Celebratory messages were also received from Korea, Guatemala, Switzerland, Malta, Malawi, Sri Lanka, Romania, Croatia, Greece, Latvia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Montenegro, Spain, Thailand, and Canada.

Ex-FM Ashkenazi pushes ’emergency’ unity gov’t without Ben Gvir and Smotrich

Former foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi, who served in a short-lived unity government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz in 2020-2021, calls for the formation of a similar coalition amid growing disquiet over the current hardline government.

‘The feeling is that the extremists have taken the country hostage. It might be time to launch Hannibal Protocol,” Ashkenazi tells the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, referring to a military order that grants troops broad permission to do whatever is necessary to prevent the abduction of a fellow soldier.

“If they were to form an emergency national government for one year without [Finance Minister Bezalel] Smotrich and [National Security Minister Itamar] Ben Gvir, I’d support this. We have to reach a compromise otherwise we’ll all lose,” he says.

“Bibi understands this. I see signs that he is beginning to open his eye,” Ashkenazi says, pointing to the premier’s decision to temporarily halt the judicial overhaul, reversing the dismissal of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, asserting that the yet-to-be-formed national guard will not fall under the control of Ben Gvir and barring non-Muslims from visiting the Temple Mount during the final days of Ramadan.

Ashkenazi argues that the public appreciates the more “statesmanly” approach of compromise, highlighting Benny Gantz’s meteoric rise in the polls.

However, he acknowledges that one must remain skeptical of Netanyahu.

“After Netanyahu signed a deal with the UAE, I thought that [Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed] bin Salman was more important to him than Ben Gvir, but I was wrong,” Ashkenazi says. “But the conclusion from this is that Netanyahu cannot be left alone.”

Former NBA journeyman Omri Casspi stars in Foreign Ministry’s Independence Day video

The Foreign Ministry has issued an Independence Day video starring former Israeli NBA journeyman Omri Casspi.

Hardline lawmakers join hundreds at abandoned settlement Homesh

Hundreds of people, including Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, take part in a celebratory prayer service at the site of the former settlement of Homesh in the northern West Bank, Haaretz reports.

The gathering, which is attended by far-right MKs Limor Son Har-Melech and Tzvi Sukkot, marks the first time since the Knesset pared back a law prohibiting settlement at the site that the army has allowed such a large group to make its way there.

The settlement was cleared out in 2005, but there has been growing momentum in the settlement movement, backed by government ministers, to re-establish a permanent Jewish-Israeli presence there. A makeshift yeshiva has long operated at the site.

Smotrich tweets out a video showing him and other settlement movement leaders in the center of masses of men dancing around during morning prayers.

Elsewhere, the head of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council in the West Bank tells Israel National News that he hopes there will be 150,000 settlers in his area alone within 10 years, nearly double its current population of 80,000 Israelis.

Bird strike forces F-35 out of fly-by show

An F-35 taking part in the annual Independence Day fly-by has sustained light damage after colliding with a bird, the IDF says.

The army says the plane carried out a routine landing at an airbase in the south following the collision.

It is the second incident knocking an aircraft out of the parade of planes and helicopters buzzing Israel’s cities to celebrate the nation’s 75th birthday.

A fighter jet flies over the beach in Tel Aviv during Israel’s 75th Independence Day celebrations, April 26, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

Earlier, an Apache helicopter was forced to land in a field near Kibbutz Ga’ash after suffering a technical fault.

Over 100 Israeli aircraft are taking part in the fly-bys, as well as a few jets from foreign air forces.

Girls outsmart boys in Bible Quiz, Gedera teen takes top prize

With an answer of “Leviathan,” 11th grader Emunah Cohen of Gedera takes home the top prize in the International Bible Contest.

Cohen beats out Neta Lax, also from Israel, in the annual competition, which traditionally takes place on Independence Day. That marks the first ever time that girls have taken the top two spots in the competition.

Lax, an 11th grader from the settlement of Halamish, had an opportunity to tie on the final question — when was the first time King David cried? — but was unable to come up with the correct answer: After meeting Jonathan following the affair with the arrows.

Cohen managed to answer Leviathan correctly on the penultimate question, which was in regard to creatures mentioned in the book of Job.

Girls dominated boys in this year’s competition, which featured 10 girls and six boys from around the world answering questions about biblical minutia.


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