A meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and could-be kingmaker Avigdor Liberman on Thursday ended without any breakthrough, dampening the prospect of forging a coalition government following last month’s election.
This was their first meeting since the Sept. 17 election delivered an indecisive result.
As it stands, Netanyahu does not have the minimum 61 parliament members required to form a coalition.
Liberman, the leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party who decided not to endorse any candidate for prime minister, has enough seats in his party to sway that.
But Liberman has so far refused to lend Netanyahu his support, because he is not willing to sit with ultra-Orthodox parties that would be part of a potential Netanyahu-led government.
September’s election ended in a stalemate between Netanyahu’s centre-right Likud and the centrist rival Blue and White party, a result similar to a general election in April.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin had called for a unity government including both parties, but talks between them have been frozen in light of a lack of progress on major points of disagreement.
Likud released a statement that Netanyahu had invited Liberman to join the government but that “no breakthrough was achieved in the meeting”.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday night, Liberman reiterated his party’s stance that it seeks to be part of a national unity government with Likud and Blue and White.
“We will not be partner to any other government,” he said.
A major obstacle to to this position is an agreement signed by Netanyahu’s Likud with a bloc of right-wing and religious parties that they will not enter a coalition without one another.
Netanyahu’s coalition-building efforts failed following the previous election in April because Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu refused to join his government over disagreements with the ultra-Orthodox parties.
Their meeting came ahead of the inauguration of the 22nd Knesset, which looks similar to the one sworn in 150 days ago.
Edited by Emmanuel Yashim
Israeli army says it hit squad placing explosives along Syria border
The army said it “thwarted an attempt by 4 terrorists” to place the explosives.
“Our troops and aircraft fired toward the squad & a hit was identified,” the IDF said in a tweet, adding that they were “ready for any scenario & hold the Syrian regime responsible for all events in Syria.”
“We understand that they are killed,” a senior IDF officer later told dpa, speaking on the four armed men.
An engineering force was in the area and was about to “neutralise” the bomb, he said.
He was unable to say to which organisation the group belonged.
Throughout the week soldiers on lookout posts with a view of the border had been aware of “suspicious” activity and seen men dressed as shepherds approaching the border fence, the officer said.
On Sunday evening, they again spotted suspects approaching the border at around 8 pm (1700 GMT).
At around 11 pm (2000 GMT) they spotted four armed men approaching the fence, placing an explosive device near the fence.
“After they placed the improvised explosive device, we opened fire at them,” the senior officer, who declined to be named, told dpa, first from the ground, and subsequently also from an Israeli aircraft.
The bomb was placed at an Israeli outpost that “wasn’t manned at the moment, but can be manned when necessary.”
The squad had crossed the so-called alpha line separating the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights and Syria.
However, they had not crossed the fence securing the border, built by Israel several metres inwards from the alpha line.
Israel for the past weeks has been on heightened alert along the borders with Lebanon and with Syria, after it reportedly unwittingly killed a member of the Lebanese Shi’ite Hezbollah movement in an airstrike outside the Syrian capital of Damascus, destroying an arms depot.
Israel has not confirmed or denied the airstrike, but admitted it was being “active” in both countries to prevent Iran from widening its influence in the region, whether through its proxies such as Hezbollah, or its own Revolutionary Guards.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syrian in the 1967 Six-Day War.
It applied its sovereignty over the strategic plateau overlooking the Sea of Galilee in 1981.
The heavily secured border has largely been quiet in recent years and incidents of this sort have been rare.
Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)
Full lockdown dominates West Bank during Eid al-Adha holiday
As part of the precautionary measures against coronavirus, Palestine imposed a full lockdown on the West Bank districts during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha that started on Friday in Palestine.
The lockdown began on Friday upon an earlier government’s decision and will be valid until Sunday morning. The measures include banning transportation between towns and villages all over the West Bank.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said in a press statement that it recorded one death, 394 new COVID-19 infections, and 62 recovered cases in the West Bank during the last 24 hours.
“Since March 5, the ministry recorded 15,232 COVID-19 infections, including 85 deaths, 6,351 cases that recovered, and 8,796 cases still receiving medical care,” said the statement.
The statement added that 14 cases are in critical conditions, including five linked to ventilators at intensive care units.
In Gaza, the Hamas-run Ministry of Health announced that it recorded two new COVID-19 cases on Thursday night, adding that the two infections are of citizens of Gaza who returned in recent days from abroad through Israel.
The ministry said in a press statement that since March 5, it recorded 78 infections, including 71 cases who had recovered in the Gaza Strip.
Israel tests AI wastewater-based system to detect COVID-19 outbreaks
Israel has successfully conducted an artificial intelligence (AI) pilot project to locate coronavirus outbreaks by testing sewer water, the Hebrew-language daily newspaper Israel Hayom reported on Friday.
According to the report, the project was carried out in the southern city of Ashkelon, by Kando, an Israeli company of smart wastewater management solutions, along with the Israel Institute of Technology (Technion) and Ben Gurion University.
The researchers used Kando’s technology, which can identify the outbreaks’ location and intensity, providing the data needed to develop and deploy effective responses.
This technology includes an array of sensors, along with advanced algorithms, AI, Internet of Things (IoT) and advanced data modeling methods.
Thus, after placing the sensors in sewage pits throughout Ashkelon, the researchers were able to locate remnants of the coronavirus.
The results indicated an ability to identify early outbreaks at neighborhoods and even at specific streets, by detecting high concentrations of the virus.
Kando CEO Ari Goldfarb told the newspaper that “monitoring sewage water is like conducting a blood test for a whole city.”
Jordan protests Israel’s “violations” against Al-Aqsa Mosque
Jordan said on Thursday it sent Israel a memo via diplomatic channels, urging Israel to respect the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and stop all violations there.
Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Deifallah Al-Fayez denounced the continued Israeli “violations” against the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the most recent of which was Israel’s allowing hundreds of Jewish extremists to storm the mosque on Thursday.
“What occurred today is an irresponsible and rejected act that provokes the feelings of all the Muslims,” Al-Fayez said in a statement.
The official emphasized that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is a place of worship for Muslims, adding that the Jerusalem Awqaf Department, which is affiliated to Jordan, is the only institution for administering the affairs of the mosque.
He also called on the international community to shoulder its responsibility by ending the Israeli “violations” of the status quo at the mosque.