Israel news summary

Israel News for 4-30-2021

News Update

At least 44 people were killed and as many as 150 injured, 23 of them critically, when a stampede broke out last night during Lag B’Omer festivities in Meron, in a compound used by the Hasidic Toldos Aharon community.

Over 100,000 people gathered in Meron to celebrate the festive night and day of Lag B’Omer, which is the Yahrzeit (anniversary of the passing) of the holy Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the second century sage who is believed to have authored the Zohar, the cornerstone text of the Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism).

A preliminary police investigation revealed that as over 20,000 people walked through a narrow passage, some of the attendees slipped and fell down the stairs, creating a “human avalanche” that crushed members of the crowd. According to reports, the ground of the walkway was covered with slick metal flooring that may have been wet, causing some people to slip.

Ambulances and six IDF rescue helicopters evacuated the injured to Ziv Hospital in nearby Safed, to Rambam Hospital in Haifa and to the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya.

The PM visited the scene of the tragedy this morning and said that a national day of mourning would be held on Sunday. The attorney general ordered an investigation into how the police handled the events leading up to the disaster. In Jerusalem, Mayor Moshe Lion ordered the flags of the state and the city to fly at half mast. Public Security Minister Amir Ohana said an independent investigation was needed into all aspects of the planning and execution of the tragic event.

Social workers who speak Yiddish, which is a common language among the more conservative ultra-Orthodox communities, were dispatched to the Abu Kabir forensics institute in Tel Aviv, where the bodies of the victims were being identified.

President Reuven Rivlin said last night, “I have been following the reports from Meron in great shock, and I pray for the recovery of the injured. God please heal them.”

Jake Sullivan, White House National Security Advisor, said “Our hearts go out to the people of Israel tonight following the terrible tragedy at Mount Meron. We offer our condolences to the families and friends who lost loved ones in this disaster, and wish a full and swift recovery to those injured.” Other world leaders expressed their shock and condolences.

A terrorist who attempted to stab a soldier and a policeman near the town of Efrat was shot and wounded.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met the head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency and its ambassador to Washington on Thursday, and the Israeli officials expressed “deep concern” about Iran’s nuclear activities. The meeting in Washington followed talks this week between U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart in which the Israeli delegation stressed their “freedom to operate” against Iran as they see fit. Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen told Reuters on Thursday that war would be sure to follow if the United States and other powers reached what Israel considers a bad new nuclear deal with Iran.

Negotiations between Israel and Lebanon over their disputed maritime border will resume next week, according to a Lebanese newspaper report.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 4-28-2021

News Update

Yesterday, PM Netanyahu tried to jam through the appointment of Likud ally Ofir Akunis as justice minister, a move that was overruled by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit as unlawful. According to his coalition agreement with Blue and White, all ministerial appointments must be agreed to by party leader Benny Gantz, and Gantz did not agree to the appointment. Critics have accused Netanyahu of trying to install a friendly justice minister who would then move to curtail the PM’s ongoing fraud trial. Gantz had been serving as temporary justice minister until April 1, when Netanyahu refused to extend his tenure. The High Court demanded that Netanyahu appoint a justice minister immediately.

Today, Netanyahu switched gears and appointed Benny Gantz as justice minister and retract his appointment of Ofir Akunis.

In his effort to form a unity government, Yamina leader Naftali Bennett met with Arab Ra’am party leader Mahmoud Abbas. Netanyahu has until next Tuesday night to form a government. If he fails to do so, which at this point seems to be the case, then the mandate to form a government will be given to either Bennett or Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid. The 2 have been involved in talks to form a unity government along with right wing parties New Hope and Yisrael Beteynu and left leaning parties Blue and White, Labor and Meretz. Bennett and Lapid would rotate as prime ministers, with Bennett taking the first turn.

Thomas Nides is to be named the new U.S. ambassador to Israel according to a report on Wednesday in the Washington Post. Nides, a former State Department official under President Barak Obama, serves as Managing Director and Vice Chairman of Morgan Stanley.

Birthright will resume its educational trips to Israel in May.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 4-26-2021

News Update

Police arrested 12 people last night while dispersing crowds that began throwing stones and bottles at police near the Nablus Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City.  The unrest, which has been continuing nightly since the start of Ramadan, has spread to cities in the West Bank and along the Gaza border.

Last night, Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai ordered the removal of the checkpoints and barricades at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. Following the announcement, hundreds of young Arabs in the area began “victory celebrations” in which they chanted, “In blood and fire we will redeem Palestine.”

Terrorists fired over 40 rockets from Gaza into Israel over the weekend after the Gaza leadership called for Palestinian resistance in Jerusalem. Four Israelis were lightly hurt while running for bomb shelters early this morning. The IDF carried out dozens of strikes against terror targets in Gaza in response to the rocket fire. Israel announced today that it has closed the fishing zone off the Gaza coast.

Naftali Bennett is engaged in talks with Yair Lapid to form a unity government, which would include the parties of Gideon Saar, Avigdor Lieberman and Benny Gantz as well as Labor and Meretz. Bennett would reportedly serve as PM first, in a rotation with Yair Lapid. Lapid would initially serve as Foreign Minister, Gantz as Defense Minister, Saar as Justice Minister and Lieberman as Finance Minister. However, Labor is threatening the deal by depending a senior Ministerial post for its leader.

PM Netanyahu reportedly offered to allow Shas leader Aryeh Deri to serve as Prime Minister in a rotation agreement. He also made the same offer to Gantz. Both men rejected the offer.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 4-23-2021

News Update

Police arrested over 50 Arabs overnight during unrest in Jerusalem. Arab protesters are suspected of throwing rocks, firing fireworks and assaulting police officers. Over 20 police officers were injured. Police used tear gas and stun grenades to break up crowds.

Hundreds of activists of the far-right Lehavah group demonstrated in Jerusalem Thursday night, throwing rocks at police officers overseeing the protest and hurling racial slurs at Arab counter-protesters. The US Embassy in Jerusalem issued a statement today expressing concern over the unrest in the city. Police are preparing for more unrest following Ramadan prayers on Friday.

A Syrian anti-aircraft missile exploded near the Dimona nuclear reactor in the Negev yesterday. The IDF said that the missile was not deliberately fired at the target but was an errant missile fired at an Israeli aircraft during an air strike over Syria. In response, Israeli jets struck air defense systems in Syria, including the battery that fired the missile. Defense Minister Gantz admitted that the IDF attempted to intercept the missile, but was “unsuccessful”. He said that the IDF has launched an investigation to determine why the interception failed.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit intends to indict United Torah Judaism co-leader and Construction Minister Yaakov Litzman. To read more click here.

Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, the founder and former head of ZAKA – the emergency response organization, attempted to hang himself yesterday. He was taken to the hospital, where he is in critical condition. He is under investigation for numerous allegations of rape and sexual assault. Police were reportedly preparing to arrest him next week.

Israel and Bahrain have agreed to mutually recognize each other’s vaccinations and the so-called Green Pass given to those fully inoculated or recovered. Over 5 million Israelis have been vaccinated so far.

The Ministry of Health has published a warning against non-vital travel overseas. In addition, it has published a warning against travel to seven specific countries: Ukraine, Ethiopia, Brazil, South Africa, India, Mexico, and Turkey. The warning applies to everybody, including people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 and people who have recovered from the disease.

Tesla has opened a pop-up store in the Ramat Aviv Mall in north Tel Aviv.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 4-21-2021

News Update

Tensions in Jerusalem are rising amidst growing unrest and violence by Arabs against Jews. Arab youth have been videoing attacks against Jews and posting them on the social media video app Tiktok, in what appears to be a new trend. Since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, police have been clashing with Arab youth congregating outside the Old City’s Damascus gate in the evenings, and at least 50 people have been arrested thus far. Last night, Jewish youths chanted “Death to the Arabs” and attacked at least one Arab man with pepper spray.

President Reuven Rivlin condemned the violence and called on the Palestinian leadership to intervene and join forces with their Jewish counterparts to end the attacks. He added, “These images of Jews suffering such bullying for no reason, in broad daylight, are disturbing.”

Officials at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said Tuesday that special precautions were being put in place to protect Israeli diplomats around the world from possible terror attacks instigated by Iran. The precautions are based on increased intelligence indicated possible Iranian attacks on Israeli diplomats.

Sudan repealed a 1958 law forbidding diplomatic and economic ties with Israel. This means that Sudanese can do business with Israel and visit relatives living there. There are currently 6,000 Sudanese living in Israel.

PM Netanyahu is threatening to sue his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, if he does not apologize for saying, in an interview last week, that Netanyahu and his family suffer from mental illness. According to Channel 12 TV, a Netanyahu family attorney demanded that Olmert apologize within a week and pay 1 million shekels ($306,000) in damages or face a libel lawsuit.

Police were called in when violence erupted at the prestigious Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak yesterday, between 2 rival factions in the yeshiva. The factions, called the “terrorists” and the “haters” have been engaged in the conflict since 1999.  To read more about this unusual situation, and view video, click here.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 4-19-2021

News Update

Rabbi Eliyahu Mali, who heads the Shirat Moshe Hesder Yeshiva in the mixed Jewish and Arab area of Jaffa-Tel Aviv, and Moshe Schendowich, the yeshiva’s director, were attacked and beaten by Arabs yesterday. The attack occurred when they went to examine a nearby building in Jaffa that they were interested in purchasing for the yeshiva. Later, members of the local Jewish community gathered to protest the attack. Arabs staged a counter protest, which turned violent when they began throwing stones and fireworks at the Jewish protesters and police. Eight Arabs were arrested.

Arabs rioted near the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City last night. Five rioters were arrested. Mounted police were used to disperse the rioters.

The security cabinet met for the first time in 2 months, to discuss tensions with Iran and the attempt by the US to reinstate the Iran nuclear agreement. The US has reportedly expressed to Israel its displeasure with Israel’s recent attacks against Iran and what it called “boasting” by Israel regarding these incidents.

Israel and Greece signed their biggest ever defense procurement deal. The agreement includes a $1.65 billion contract for the establishment and operation of a training center for the Greek Air Force by Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems over a 22-year period. The announcement came following a meeting in Cyprus on Friday between the UAE, Greek, Cypriot and Israeli foreign ministers, who agreed to deepen cooperation between their countries.

Bahrain’s flag carrier Gulf Air will be offering direct flights between Manama and Tel Aviv starting June 3. Gulf Air said that economy class tickets are expected to cost $299 per seat.

Israir Airlines, which flies local routes primarily to Eilat, will stop flying on Shabbat. The airline was recently purchased by an investment company owned by Rami Levy and Shalom Haim, both of whom are Sabbath observers.

Israel lifted its mask mandate for outdoor spaces and fully reopened its schools yesterday.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 4-16-2021

News Update

Last night, just after the completion of Independence Day celebrations, terrorists fired a rocket into Israel from Gaza. The rocket fell in an open area near the Gaza border. In response, the Israel Air Force attacked several Hamas targets in Gaza including an arms production facility, an arms-smuggling tunnel and a military post.

Arabs rioted near the Old City in Jerusalem last night for the 3rd consecutive night. A police officer was injured after being hit in the head with a rock and several vehicles were attacked and damaged. Video from the scene showed crowds running in the area and attacking police officers, with one video shared on social media showing a police officer being thrown to the ground. Police are gearing up for more unrest after the first Friday prayer session of Ramadan.

Israel’s outdoor mask mandate ends on Sunday. Masks will still be required in confined spaces.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 4-14-2021

News Update

Today is Yom Hazikaron, the day of remembrance for the 23,928 fallen soldiers and victims of terror. Since last year’s Memorial Day, 112 names have been added to the list of fallen including 69 former soldiers who died as a result of injuries sustained during their service. There are memorial services throughout the country.

Tonight, Israel will begin celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut, Independence Day, marking 73 years since the establishment of the state in 1948.

The Biden administration has told Congress that it is proceeding with more than $23 billion in weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates, including advanced F-35 aircraft, armed drones and other equipment. The sale was initiated by the Trump administration.

Sudan reportedly will send its first official delegation to Israel next week.

Five people were arrested Tuesday night as hundreds rioted near the Old City’s Damascus Gate in Jerusalem after returning from prayers on the first night of Ramadan.

A ship belonging to Israeli businessman Rami Ungar was attacked by a missile off the coast of the UAE. The ship sustained minor damage. This is the third time that an Israeli owned vessel has been attacked in the Gulf. Iran is suspected to be behind the attacks.

Israel will drop the requirement to wear masks outdoors starting next week. Masks will still be required indoors. There were 199 new coronavirus cases recorded yesterday, putting the contagion rate at 0.26%. There are currently 221 coronavirus patients hospitalized in critical condition, including 124 who are connected to ventilators. The total number of coronavirus related deaths since the start of the pandemic is 6,312.

Israel will begin allowing organized tourist groups to enter the country from May 23. Tourists will have to have been vaccinated and be required to undergo testing.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 4-12-2021

News Update

Iran blamed Israel for a sudden power outage at its Natanz nuclear facility yesterday. According to American and Israeli intelligence officials, the power failure was caused by a deliberately planned explosion, which “completely destroyed the heavily protected internal power system that supplies the underground centrifuges that enrich uranium”. They added that it could take at least nine months or even longer to restore the production of uranium at the underground nuclear facility.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Defense Minister Gantz in Israel on Sunday. He said the Biden administration would continue to ensure Israel’s “qualitative military edge” in the Middle East as part of a “strong commitment to Israel and the Israeli people”. Austin made no mention of Iran in his remarks to the press.

An Egged bus was heavily damaged late Saturday by stones and firebombs after it mistakenly entered the Arab neighborhood of Isawiya in east Jerusalem. There were no passengers on the bus at the time except for the driver and his family, who managed to escape and call police. During the search of the area that police conducted after the incident, three residents of the neighborhood, including two minors, were detained and taken for questioning.

Joint List MK Ofer Cassif filed an official complaint against police after he was beaten by officers during a protest in East Jerusalem over the weekend. Cassif is the only Jewish member of the Arab party. Footage from the incident showed police officers tackling and kicking Cassif, breaking his glasses and ripping his shirt.

In his effort to form a 61 seat majority coalition, PM Netanyahu has reportedly accepted that the Religious Zionism party will never sit together with the Arab Ra’am party, which is what he was trying to make happen. He now has turned his attention on trying to convince Gideon Sa’ar and his New Hope party to join the government, despite Sa’ar’s vow never to sit in a government with Netanyahu as PM.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 4-9-2021

News Update

At 10am yesterday, Israel observed two-minutes of silence as sirens wailed across the country in remembrance of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. There were ceremonies and memorials throughout the day. There are currently 174,500 Holocaust survivors in Israel.

Syria’s state news agency reported that Israel carried out a missile attack near Damascus yesterday, wounding 4 soldiers.

Israel said that it does not recognize the authority of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and will not cooperate with its investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes against the Palestinians. Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC and therefore, by definition, not a party to the court.

The U.S. said on Wednesday that it will provide $235 million to the Palestinians and restart funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which assists 5.7 million registered Palestinian refugees. Israel’s UN ambassador Gilad Erdan tweeted, “Israel strongly opposes renewing funding for @UNRWA, an anti-Semitic agency that incites against Israel and uses a twisted definition of who is a “refugee.” Rather than solving the conflict, UNRWA perpetuates it. Any return to funding it must be contingent on essential reforms.”