Likud calls for settlement annexation

The ruling Likud Party's central committee has unanimously endorsed a resolution calling for the annexation of West Bank settlements, sending a tough message to the Palestinians in the wake of President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The decision Sunday night marked the latest step by Likud to distance itself from the internationally backed idea of establishing an independent Palestinian state as part of a future peace deal. The Palestinians condemned the decision and accused Trump of emboldening the Likud Party.

The central committee is only an advisory body, and Sunday's vote did not reflect an official policy change. But its decisions reflect the prevailing opinions in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's party.

Several leading politicians, including senior members of Netanyahu's cabinet, joined the vote to "impose Israeli law on all liberated areas of settlement in Judea and Samaria."

Among them were Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

Netanyahu, however, skipped the vote, and his office declined to comment.

— Associated Press


N.Y., Fla. families killed in plane crash

Costa Rican investigators are looking into what caused a charter aircraft to crash in woods in the country's northwest soon after takeoff, killing two crew members and 10 U.S. citizens, including families from New York and Florida.

The families from Scarsdale, N.Y., and Belleair, Fla., accounted for nine of the dead. It remained unclear who the 10th American victim was.

Costa Rican officials had said they were still seeking to establish the names of the Americans who died when the Nature Air plane went down at midday Sunday in Guanacaste.

But back at home, stunned family and friends began to confirm the victims' identities.

A family in the suburbs of New York City said five of the dead were relatives on vacation. They identified them as Bruce and Irene Steinberg and their sons Matthew, William and Zachary, all of Scarsdale.

In St. Petersburg, Fla., Rabbi Jacob Luski of Congregation B'nai Israel said Monday that victims' relatives had informed him that four members of his congregation were also on the plane.

"It is a tragedy that the Drs. Mitchell Weiss and Leslie Weiss and their two children, Hannah and Ari, died in that terrible crash," he said.

— Associated Press

German conservatives push for tax cuts: Germany's Bavarian conservatives are pressing for corporate tax cuts and cuts to welfare payments for asylum seekers, which could complicate talks with the Social Democrats (SPD) on forming a new government. Chancellor Angela Merkel hopes to secure a fourth term in office by persuading the center-left SPD to extend the "grand coalition" that ruled Germany for the past four years, even though both blocs suffered big losses in a recent election.

Two Egyptian Christians fatally shot: A masked gunman shot dead two Christian brothers at their alcohol shop south of Cairo on Monday, security sources said. The incident took place just days after attacks on a Coptic church and another Christian-owned shop also south of the Egyptian capital that killed more than 10 people, as security forces brace for attacks against the Arab world's largest Christian minority ahead of Orthodox Christmas celebrations.

Several die in Indonesian accident: A speedboat carrying 51 people capsized off Indonesia's part of Borneo island on Monday, killing at least eight passengers, an official said. The accident happened when the boat, called the Anugrah Express, was traveling from Tanjung Selor, the capital of North Kalimantan province, to Tarakan in the same province.

Civilians killed in Yemen airstrikes: Yemeni witnesses and security officials say Saudi-led coalition airstrikes have killed at least 23 people in the port city of Hodeida. They say Monday's strikes also wounded eight others. A blaze erupted in a market after a strike targeted a nearby gas station.

Fire in U.K. destroys hundreds of cars: Hundreds of cars were reduced to burned-out shells in a dramatic multistory blaze in a car park on the waterfront of Liverpool on New Year's Eve, emergency services said on Monday. All the estimated 1,400 vehicles in the car park were destroyed, police said.

Teen charged with punching Israeli soldier: Israel indicted a 16-year-old Palestinian girl on Monday on charges including assault for punching an Israeli soldier in the face two weeks ago, an incident that made her into a hero for Palestinians and was seen as humiliating by right-wing Israelis. Israel has held Ahed Tamimi since arresting her three days after she was filmed punching the soldier at the entrance to her family home in a village in the occupied West Bank.

— From news services