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Iran denies carrying out long-range missile test

Defense minister says no such launch took place after general trumpets accuracy of 2,000 kilometer-range rocket; Netanyahu declares end to saga over general's seeming comparison of Israeli society to Nazi Germany

  • Benjamin Netanyahu, center, at a pre-holiday toast for top defense brass, including Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, far left, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, left,  IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, right and Director General of the Defense Ministry Dan Harel, in army headquarters in Tel Aviv on May 9, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
    Benjamin Netanyahu, center, at a pre-holiday toast for top defense brass, including Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, far left, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, left, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, right and Director General of the Defense Ministry Dan Harel, in army headquarters in Tel Aviv on May 9, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
  • Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon speaking at a memorial for fallen Defense Ministry employees on May 9, 2016. (Dana Shragai/Defense Ministry)
    Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon speaking at a memorial for fallen Defense Ministry employees on May 9, 2016. (Dana Shragai/Defense Ministry)
  • Father Gabriel Naddaf, right, seen at the Knesset on May 9, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
    Father Gabriel Naddaf, right, seen at the Knesset on May 9, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
  • Lawyer Sebastien Courtoy talks to the press at the start of the case against the jihadist cell from Verviers, at the Brussels correctional court, on May 9, 2016. (AFP/Belga/Benoit Doppagne)
    Lawyer Sebastien Courtoy talks to the press at the start of the case against the jihadist cell from Verviers, at the Brussels correctional court, on May 9, 2016. (AFP/Belga/Benoit Doppagne)
  • French Prime Minister Manuel Valls gives a press conference after an interministerial meeting on delinquency, radicalization and terrorism, Paris, May 9, 2016. (AFP/Eric Feferberg)
    French Prime Minister Manuel Valls gives a press conference after an interministerial meeting on delinquency, radicalization and terrorism, Paris, May 9, 2016. (AFP/Eric Feferberg)
  • Lebanese security forces stand guard outside a polling station as people head to cast their votes for the municipal elections on May 8, 2016 in the capital Beirut.  (AFP/ANWAR AMRO)
    Lebanese security forces stand guard outside a polling station as people head to cast their votes for the municipal elections on May 8, 2016 in the capital Beirut. (AFP/ANWAR AMRO)
  • Shimon Peres, in suit, with soccer players and future soccer players at the Peres Center For Peace's Mini Mondial for Peace in Herzliya on May 9, 2016. (Efrat Saar/Courtesy)
    Shimon Peres, in suit, with soccer players and future soccer players at the Peres Center For Peace's Mini Mondial for Peace in Herzliya on May 9, 2016. (Efrat Saar/Courtesy)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.

Ya’alon: Gaza shooting a result of anti-tunnel developments

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, speaking at a ceremony for ministry employees killed in the line of duty, says a recent uptick in violence along the Gaza border was brought on by use of Israel’s secret technological system for detecting cross-border tunnels, warning that Israel will hit Hamas hard if sporadic shooting does not stop.

“In the last few days, we’ve seen different attempts from Gaza to disturb our lives and threaten us. They are coming as a result of Israel having developed the ability to detect tunnels, an advanced technology that the Defense Ministry and its workers have been involved in developing and using these days,” he says, according to a Defense Ministry transcript.

“Against this terror stands the IDF and different security forces who are responding decisively to the shooting from the Strip. Shooting that, if it continues, will lead to a more severe response for Hamas and other terror organizations in the Strip, until they understand it’s not worth their while to test us.”

 

44 migrants rescued trying to reach Spain by boat

A maritime rescue service says it has picked up 44 sub-Saharan African migrants that set off in a boat from the west coast of Africa in a bid to reach Spain.

The service says the 42 men and two women were taken to the port of Arguineguin in Spain’s Canary Islands late Sunday after being rescued off the Western Sahara coast, some 100 nautical miles (200 kilometers) south of the islands.

The service says it began the search for the boat after receiving a warning call from a non-government organization. The migrants were said to be in good health.

Thousands of migrants try to reach Spain each year either by attempting perilous sea journeys from the western Africa or across the Mediterranean Sea.

— AP

North Korea names Kim Jong Un party chairman

North Korea’s ruling-party congress has bestowed a new title on Kim Jong Un: party chairman. The move highlights how the country’s first congress in 36 years is aimed at bolstering the young leader.

The news emerged Monday during the few minutes a small group of foreign media was allowed the watch the congress in the ornate April 25 House of Culture.

A man walks past a propaganda poster at a silk factory in Pyongyang on May 9, 2016. (AFP/ Ed Jones)

A man walks past a propaganda poster at a silk factory in Pyongyang on May 9, 2016. (AFP/Ed Jones)

As a military band in full uniform played the welcoming song used whenever North Korea’s leader enters a public place, Kim strode onto the stage, generating a long loud standing ovation from the several thousand delegates attending.

Kim Yong Nam, the head of the North’s Parliament, stood to read a roster of top party positions — calling Kim Jong Un chairman for the first time.

— AP

Austrian chancellor quits after far-rightists surge

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann has resigned, his spokeswoman says, following the triumph by the far-right last month in the first round of presidential elections.

“He has resigned from all functions,” spokeswoman Anja Richter tells AFP.

The anti-immigration candidate from Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, Norbert Hofer, is the favorite to win the presidential run-off election on May 22, bolstered by anti-migrant sentiment.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Austrian counterpart Werner Faymann shake hands following a press conference at the Chancellery in Berlin on September 15, 2015, after their meeting on the refugee crisis. (AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Austrian counterpart Werner Faymann shake hands following a press conference at the Chancellery in Berlin on September 15, 2015, after their meeting on the refugee crisis. (AFP/John Macdougall)

Austria sits at the crossroads of the two major migrant routes, from the Balkans and from Italy, and saw hundreds of thousands of migrants cross its territory in 2015.

Authorities have received around 90,000 asylum applications from people fleeing war, persecution and poverty who have opted to settle in the country.

On Saturday European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker raised the alarm over Austria’s response to the migrant crisis which he said had tempted other countries to close their borders while making far-right politics “presentable” elsewhere in Europe.

“What we see in Austria we have unfortunately seen in other European countries, where (political) parties play with people’s fears,” he said.

— AFP

Hezbollah wins big in local Lebanon voting

The deputy leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah says their candidates and allies won a vast majority of seats in areas where they ran in local elections in eastern Lebanon.

Sheikh Naim Kassem said on Monday that Hezbollah, considered by Israel to be a terror group, and its allies ran in 80 municipalities out of 143 where voting took place the previous day in the Bekaa Valley and won almost all the seats.

Lebanese security forces stand guard outside a polling station as people head to cast their votes for the municipal elections on May 8, 2016 in the capital Beirut. (AFP/ANWAR AMRO)

Lebanese security forces stand guard outside a polling station as people head to cast their votes for the municipal elections on May 8, 2016 in the capital Beirut. (AFP/Anwar Amro)

He says that includes all municipal seats in the eastern historic city of Baalbek and the major town of Brital along the Syria border.

Kassem says Hezbollah’s opponents secured some seats in six towns in the area.

The Lebanese voted Sunday in municipal elections in Beirut and the Bekaa Valley, the first balloting in the country since 2010.

Results for Beirut are expected later Monday.

— Agencies

Minister proposes requiring culture halls to fly blue and white

Culture Minister Miri Regev is pushing forward a plan to force any cultural or sports facility built with state funds to fly the Israeli flag, and is taking some heat for it.

Regev’s plan, first reported in Ynet, would fall on any building getting state funding, including money from the state lottery, and would also be enforced in Arab towns, some of which have taboos on displaying the blue and white.

The flag will fly “at Teddy Stadium and at Doha Stadium,” Regev says in an official announcement, referring to soccer fields in Jerusalem and in Bnei Sakhnin, both of which have seen Israeli-Arab tensions flare.

“It’s not just our obligation, but our privilege and pride to fly the Israeli flag from every state institution,” Regev writes on Facebook, heralding the plan.

In the Knesset, Meretz leader Zehava Galon takes the government to task for the idea.

“This is a government that is oppositional to its state and its public, a government lacking all responsibility,” she says. “The most important thing is flying a flag from every culture hall?”

 

Israeli thoughts on US presidential race muddled, poll finds

A monthly survey published by the Israeli Democracy Institute shows Israelis are undecided between preferring Republican Donald Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton to be the next US president, with Trump seen as more committed to protecting Israel, but less of a good thing for the Jewish state.

When asked if Trump will be “committed to safeguarding Israel’s security,” 62 percent of Jewish Israelis say yes, while only 48% of them think Clinton “will block any attempt to attack or isolate Israel.”

However, 40% say they prefer Clinton be elected for Israel’s sake, while only 30% say the same thing about Trump.

An earlier study found that Israelis were undecided, but thought either of them would be better than current US President Barack Obama.

The survey also finds a slight decrease in the number of respondents saying they fear a terror attack, from 69% in March to 65% in April, reflecting a drop in violence on the ground.

According to the study, 71.5% of Israeli Jews say Israel’s hold on the West Bank is not an occupation, while the exact same number of Israeli Arabs say the opposite.

Trial of terror plotters linked to Paris attacker kicks off in Belgium

Under heavy security, a trial in Belgium of a suspected extremist cell linked to the now-dead ringleader of last year’s lethal attacks in Paris has begun.

Sixteen defendants, including nine who are still at large, are accused of involvement in what Belgian authorities say was a terrorist plot being mounted in the eastern city of Verviers. Lawyers for some of the accused contend their clients did nothing illegal.

Marouane El Bali, the trial’s star defendant, was “bringing one or two pair of sneakers to his friend” when arrested, attorney Didier De Quevy says. “He’s is not at all a radical.”

Belgian police stormed the suspected plotters’ hideout Jan. 15, 2015, killing two men and arresting El Bali, 26, who surrendered. Police were fired on at least 40 times, and reported finding three Kalashnikov-style assault rifles, four handguns, chemicals to make explosives and 23 items of police uniforms inside the Verviers residence.

According to Belgian authorities, the suspects were being directed from afar by Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was hunted down by French police and killed days after the November 13 attacks that killed 130 victims in Paris. Like El Bali and the two men killed in the Verviers raid, Soufiane Amghar and Khalid Ben Larbi, Abaaoud was from the multiethnic Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussels.

In a summary of the Verviers investigation read by presiding judge Pierre Hendrickx, Belgian officials say they linked Abaaoud to the plot by tracing a Greek cellphone being used by someone calling himself “Omar.”

— AP

Population rises to 8.5 million, including 6.3 million Jews

Israel is home to 8,522,000 people, according to new statistics released by the Central Bureau of Statistics ahead of Independence Day, 182,000 more souls than the year before.

The number includes 6,377,000 Jews and 1,771,000 Arabs, as well as 374,000 others.

The statistics show that 36,000 immigrants moved to Israel, 192,000 babies were born and 47,000 people died since Israel last celebrated Independence Day.

The bureau also touts growing affluence in the country since the Jewish state’s salad days, noting that while there were 34,103 cars tooting about in 1951, in 2014 there were 2,965,727 clogging Israel’s roadways.

View of Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv in 2015. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

View of Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv in 2015 (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Similarly, while in 1956/1957 only 12 percent of Israelis had washing machines, today 96% do.

The same number of people have cell phones today, while in 1963, only 13% had a phone line.

Hebrew speakers and good decoders of clip-art can read the rest of the stats here.

Police to look into sexual claims against priest Naddaf

Police spokesperson Luba Samri says officials are looking into sexual harassment claims against Father Gabriel Naddaf, a controversial leader of Israel’s Arab Christian community, after accusations surfaced against him Sunday night.

Channel 2 aired recordings and transcripts of conversations allegedly between Naddaf and a series of unidentified young men — including both Israeli soldiers and Palestinians — in which the priest appeared to promise to help them in exchange for sexual favors.

“Some of the claims have reached the police and they will be checked by professionals in the police investigations and intelligence unit as needed,” Samri says.

Father Gabriel Naddaf, right, seen at the Knesset on May 9, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Father Gabriel Naddaf, right, seen at the Knesset on May 9, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The police move is not an official probe or investigation, but may lay the groundwork for one.

Naddaf, who heads a group promoting IDF service among Arab Christians, has been named as one of the ceremonial torch lighters at the state’s Independence Day ceremony in Jerusalem next week, has firmly denied the allegations against him.

“The only truth is that I didn’t harm anyone and didn’t take advantage of my position to get benefits from anyone or [give them] to anyone,” he says in response, according to Army Radio. “I will light the torch on Independence Day.”

 

Funeral held for East Jerusalem attacker after court ruling

The body of a Palestinian attacker has been buried in Jerusalem after Israel returned his remains, the first such burial since the country’s top court recommended returning bodies of assailants.

The funeral took place in the early hours of Monday near the Old City of East Jerusalem under strict conditions imposed by Israeli authorities, a lawyer for the family, Mohammed Mahmoud, says.

Only 30 family members were allowed to attend and no mobile phones were permitted during the ceremony.

People watch behind a police line as Israeli police officers work at the site of an attempted stabbing attack outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

People watch behind a police line as Israeli police officers work at the site of an attempted stabbing attack outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, November 10, 2015. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

The family gave a deposit of 20,000 shekels ($5,200/4,600 euros) to Israeli authorities as a guarantee the funeral conditions would be met, Mahmoud adds.

Mohammed Nimr, a 37-year-old father of three, was shot dead after trying to stab security guards near the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City on November 10.

Israeli authorities had held his body since the attack.

— AFP

Austrian deputy chancellor to step up after leader quits

Austrian Deputy Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner will replace Chancellor Werner Faymann on an interim basis following the latter’s resignation, a spokeswoman for the presidency tells the Austria Press Agency.

Faymann is due to formally notify President Heinz Fischer of his resignation later Monday. Mitterlehner is from the center-right People’s Party (OeVP), coalition partner to Faymann’s Social Democrats (SPOe).

— AFP

Netanyahu tells Belgian FM no dice on French peace plan

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has met with Belgium Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, who thanked Israel for its support following the March terror attacks in Brussels, the Prime Minister’s Office says.

Netanyahu told Reynders that Israel is opposed to a French effort to convene a peace conference to kick off multilateral negotiations to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace arrangement.

“Netanyahu emphasized that such initiatives allow the Palestinians to avoid direct negotiations thereby making peace more remote,” the PMO says in a press statement.

The two also talked about the threat of Islamic extremism, according to the release.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, meets with Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynder at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem. May 9, 2016. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, meets with Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. May 9, 2016. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Swedish deputy PM steps down amid party turmoil

Swedish deputy prime minister Asa Romson has stepped down as co-leader of the Green Party following a series of scandals within the party, including a minister ousted for comparing Israel to Nazi Germany.

Romson, who served as environment minister, had last month come under fire herself for calling the September 11, 2001, terror attacks accidents.

According to Swedish news site TheLocal, Romson and party co-head Gustav Fridolin have been under increasing pressure to bring new blood to the top of the party given the series of scandals and plummeting popularity.

Fridolin is expected to stay on as party co-chair.

Asa Romson appearing on Swedish television on April 19, 2016. (screen capture: YouTube/SVT)

Asa Romson appearing on Swedish television on April 19, 2016. (screen capture: YouTube/SVT)

Romson made the comments about 9/11 while talking about party colleague Mehmet Kaplan, who days earlier had stepped down after it emerged he compared Israel to the Nazis in 2009.

“He has been chairman of Young Muslims in tough situations like the September 11 accidents and similar,” Romson told public broadcaster SVT in praise of Kaplan, according to TheLocal.

She later clarified that despite her reference to the “accidents,” she was aware that the September 11, 2001, attacks were acts of terror.

In 2015, Romson was earlier criticized for calling the migrant crisis “the new Auschwitz.”

Critics, including Jewish leaders, called the comparison to the Nazi death camp misguided and offensive. About 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, were killed in Auschwitz during World War II.

Romson apologized in a tweet, saying,“It was wrong to make the comparison with Auschwitz.”

EasyJet says flyers booted for being rowdy, not for being Jewish

Dismissing reports that it discriminated against Jewish passengers in Spain, the British low-cost airline EasyJet is accusing the complainants of rowdy behavior and causing a delay.

“Flight EZY3920 from Barcelona to Paris Charles de Gaulle on 1 May 2016 with 180 passengers on board returned to the gate in Barcelona and was met by police due to a group of passengers behaving in a disruptive manner,” EasyJet spokesperson Andy Cockburn tells JTA.

His account follows a JTA query for reaction from EasyJet on an article published Thursday on the news website jpupdates.com, which said some passengers aboard EZY3920 felt they had been removed from the plane because they were Jewish.

View of an Easyjet Airline flight at Ben Gurion International Airport (Photo credit: Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

View of an Easyjet Airline flight at Ben Gurion International Airport (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

But Cockburn denies this, saying the passengers separated were taken by police for questioning due to their disruptive behavior.

“All passengers were asked to disembark at the request of the police so they could speak to a small number of passengers in order to investigate the incident,” he says.

— JTA

Egypt to open crossing into Gaza for first time in months — report

Egypt will open the Rafah crossing between the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip on Wednesday and Thursday, the Palestinian Ma’an news site reports, citing the Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza.

The opening will be the first such move in 85 days, according to the report, which comes as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas visits Egypt.

The days coincide with Israel’s Memorial Day and Independence Day, when the crossings between Israel and the Strip may be shut, as is often done on holidays.

Israel and Egypt both maintain a partial blockade on Gaza. Israel says it restricts entry of certain materials into the territory to keep Hamas and other terror groups from being able to build weapons and cross-border tunnels.

Egypt has been engaged in a years’-long campaign to quell Islamist insurgents in the Sinai and has accused Hamas of forming links with the Salafi groups there.

Tensions have flared on the Israel-Gaza border in recent days as troops working to uncover attack tunnels reaching into Israeli territory have come under mortar fire, drawing Israeli reprisal attacks.

Knesset lawyer nixed discussion on leaked Gaza report

The Knesset’s legal adviser has put the kibosh on lawmakers holding a requested debate on a leaked draft of a State Comptroller report into government failings in the lead up to, and execution of, the 2014 Gaza war.

In a written decision, Eyal Yanoun says using a leaked report with classified material as the basis for discussion would run in contravention of normal procedure.

The leaked report, which says Netanyahu, Ya’alon and then-IDF chief Benny Gantz kept information about Gazan tunnel construction from the cabinet, has become a major political football in recent days.

Opposition lawmakers have gathered enough signatures to demand a discussion on the subject.

Cameron warns Brexit would threaten European peace

Prime Minister David Cameron is using the shadow of the Second World War to make his case against a British exit from the EU, saying doing so would threaten peace on the continent.

He says a “Brexit” would threaten Britain’s strength and security in the world, along with peace on the continent if “Europe’s foremost military power” quit the European Union.

“Isolationism has never served this country well,” Cameron says in a speech at the British Museum in London. “Whenever we turn our back on Europe, sooner or later we come to regret it. We’ve always had to go back in, and always at a much higher cost.”

Russian servicemen march at Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on May 9, 2016, marking the 71st anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. (AFP/KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV)

Russian servicemen march at Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on May 9, 2016, marking the 71st anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. (AFP/Kirill Kudryavtsev)

British war graves on the continent “stand as silent testament to the price this country has paid to help restore peace and order in Europe,” he said.

“Can we be so sure that peace and stability on our continent are assured beyond any shadow of doubt? Is that a risk worth taking? I would never be so rash as to make that assumption,” he says.

— AFP

Culture minister indicates she won’t strip priest of torch lighting honor

Miri Regev, whose Culture Ministry determines who will light Independence Day torches at the main state ceremony Wednesday night, says she won’t rush to judgment against Father Gabriel Naddaf.

Her statement appears to indicate she won’t ask Naddaf, accused of sexual harassment, to step down from his role as torch lighter, seen as a major honor.

“I trust law enforcement officials to carry out their check into the case around the priest Gabriel Naddaf,” she says, according to Channel 2 news. “Everyone has the right to remain innocent until proven otherwise.”

Police earlier said they would carry out a preliminary probe into Naddaf, a Christian Arab leader, after claims surfaced Sunday that he tried to elicit sexual favors from soldiers and young men.

Russia, US agree to ‘redouble’ efforts to end Syria fighting

Russia and the United States have agreed to step up efforts to find a political solution to the Syrian conflict and extend a truce across the whole of the country.

“The Russian Federation and United States are determined to redouble efforts to reach a political settlement of the Syrian conflict,” according to a joint US-Russian statement published by the Russian foreign ministry.

The two sides, co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), note “progress” in curbing fighting, but stress the “difficulties faced… in several areas of the country, especially in the recent period, as well as remaining problems in ensuring humanitarian access to the besieged areas.

“As a result, we have decided to reconfirm our commitment to the (ceasefire) in Syria and to intensify efforts to ensure its nationwide implementation,” the statement reads. “We also intend to enhance efforts to promote humanitarian assistance to all people in need.”

To this end Russia “will work with the Syrian authorities to minimize aviation operations over areas that are predominantly inhabited by civilians or parties” to the ceasefire, it says.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, right, arrives to attend a meeting about Syria at the French foreign ministry in Paris on May 9, 2016. (AFP/POOL/PHILIPPE LOPEZ)

US Secretary of State John Kerry, right, arrives to attend a meeting about Syria at the French foreign ministry in Paris on May 9, 2016. (AFP/POOL/PHILIPPE LOPEZ)

Washington meanwhile says it is “committed to intensifying its support and assistance to regional allies to help them prevent the flow of fighters, weapons or financial support to terrorist organisations across their borders.”

A temporary ceasefire between Syrian regime forces and rebel groups came into force last week in Syria’s second city Aleppo, after an earlier cessation of hostilities from February 27 had collapsed.

Yet Monday has still seen multiple air raids on rebel-held areas while shelling hit government-controlled parts of the northern city of Aleppo Monday, hours before a five-day cease-fire is to expire, two opposition monitoring groups and Syrian state media report.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committee say the airstrikes hit several areas in Aleppo, including the neighborhood of Rashideen. Monday’s airstrikes come a day after opposition fighters shelled the government-held neighborhood of Midan, killing a child, state media and activists say.

— Agencies

UNIFIL head: Unprecedented calm on Israel-Lebanon border in last decade

The head of the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon holds a meeting with Lebanese leaders in Beirut, saying that the last 10 years since the bluehats have been deployed there have seen hostilities nearly come to a halt.

In this period, an overall calm has prevailed in southern Lebanon at a level unprecedented in its recent history,” UNIFIL Maj. Gen. Luciano Portolano says in comments after the meetings.

File: A Spanish UNIFIL peacekeeper drives an armored vehicle in the Lebanese town of Adaisseh, near the border with Israel, on January 19, 2015. (AFP/Mahmoud Zayyat)

File: A Spanish UNIFIL peacekeeper drives an armored vehicle in the Lebanese town of Adaisseh, near the border with Israel, on January 19, 2015. (AFP/Mahmoud Zayyat)

He also thanks the Lebanese armed forces for their help in securing the border region since the bloody 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

“The arrangements we have put in place through UNIFIL’s liaison and coordination with the parties have proven their worth in ensuring a degree of stability along the Blue Line through these challenging times and despite some very serious situations we have had to address in the area,” he says.

 

Boy charged with setting bus ablaze outside NY Jewish school

An 11-year-old boy has been charged in New York with setting a school bus parked outside a Jewish school on fire a day earlier.

The boy has been released to his parents, according to WABC-TV.

Video of the incident outside the Beis Rivkah elementary school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, shows a number of boys set the bus ablaze before running away.

The bus was engulfed in flames and took an hour to get under control.

There were no injuries reported.

Degas stolen by Nazis returned to Jewish owners

France has restored to its rightful owners a drawing by Edgar Degas that was stolen by the Nazis from its Jewish owner in 1940.

In a moving ceremony in Paris Monday, Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay says that “Trois danseuses en buste” — a late 19th-century charcoal sketch of three ballerinas — was found in 1951 in a cupboard in the Occupation-era German Embassy. It had since remained unclaimed in the Louvre.

A picture taken on May 9, 2016 at the Culture ministry in Paris shows "Danseuses en buste," a charcoal by late French artist Edgar Degas confiscated by the Nazis in 1940 during its restitution ceremony to  heirs of late French collector Maurice Dreyfus. (AFP/LIONEL BONAVENTURE)

A picture taken on May 9, 2016 at the Culture ministry in Paris shows “Danseuses en buste,” a charcoal by late French artist Edgar Degas confiscated by the Nazis in 1940 during its restitution ceremony to heirs of late French collector Maurice Dreyfus. (AFP/LIONEL BONAVENTURE)

Viviane Dreyfus accepts the drawing for her father Maurice, who died in 1957 without ever speaking of the lost work.

She says she is “extremely touched,” especially because she didn’t know the work existed.

There are 2000 unclaimed works sitting in French museums, of which at least 145 were stolen by the Nazis.

— AP

Egypt to use Security Council post to defend Palestinians

Egypt will use its influence as chair of the UN Security Council in May to defend the interests of the Palestinian people, the presidency says.

The pledge, made during talks between President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, comes after France called for an international conference later this month to relaunch peace talks.

Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations have been frozen since a US-brokered initiative collapsed in April 2014.

Last month, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said France will host a meeting of ministers from 20 countries on May 30 to try to relaunch the peace process.

Abbas and Sisi discussed “ways of coordinating Arab efforts and the steps that need to be taken within the UN Security Council” as Egypt holds the rotating presidency of the council for the month of May, a statement says.

The two leaders say efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict should be bolstered in light of regional and international initiatives, including France’s decision to host a conference.

The Palestinian leadership has welcomed the French initiative but Israel opposes it, insisting that direct and unconditional negotiations with the Palestinians are the only way forward.

— AFP

 

Hepatitis C outbreak in Jerusalem possibly linked to scanner

Health officials say they are investigating a possible link between an outbreak of Hepatitis C in the capital and a CT scanner at a small hospital in the city.

Five people have been diagnosed with Hepatitis C in recent weeks, all of whom went through a CT scan at the Misgav Ladach hospital on March 17 and who were given a contrast medium fluid, according to Hebrew media reports.

The CT scanner at the hospital has been shut down, according to Channel 10 news, which notes that 38 people were checked by the device on March 17, including 12 who were given contrast mediums.

Netanyahu: Yair Golan saga closed, let’s move on

A day after reigniting a firestorm over comments by IDF deputy chief Yair Golan by criticizing the general, Benjamin Netanyahu now says the affair is behind the country.

“The story of the speech is behind us. I see this as a one-off thing, and from here we’ll all continue together,” Netanyahu says at a pre-holiday toast with top army officials.

The comments would appear to put an end to calls from the right for Netanyahu to sack Golan over comments made at a Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony, in which he seemed to draw parallels between segments of Israeli society to Nazi Germany.

Deputy IDF Chief of Staff Yair Golan lays a wreath at a memorial during a ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum as Israel marks the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day, May 5, 2016. (Olivier Fitoussi/Pool)

Deputy IDF Chief of Staff Yair Golan lays a wreath at a memorial during a ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum as Israel marks the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day, May 5, 2016. (Olivier Fitoussi/Pool)

Golan quickly clarified his comments, amid an outcry, but on Sunday, Netanyahu embarked on a rare public attack on Golan, accusing him of cheapening the Holocaust.

A number of politicians seized on Netanyahu’s comments as hypocritical, given claims he himself has used the Holocaust for political gain.

 

Turkey asks German court to gag media boss over Erdogan insult

A lawyer for Turkey’s president says he is seeking a court injunction against the head of one of Germany’s biggest publishing houses.

Mathias Doepfner, the chief executive of Axel Springer, has expressed solidarity with a TV comedian who wrote a crude poem about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan’s German lawyer Ralf Hoecker said Monday that he has petitioned the Cologne regional court because Doepfner had repeated an accusation of bestiality contained in the poem.

Hoecker said the court has already gagged a filmmaker who made a video inspired by the poem.

TV comedian Jan Boehmermann, who authored the poem, is being investigated on suspicion of insulting a foreign head of state. Under German law, the probe required government permission to go ahead, which was granted.

— AP

Israelis indicted in JPMorgan hack to be extradited to US

Israeli authorities have approved the extradition to the United States of two nationals indicted over a cyber attack against JPMorgan Chase, one of the largest computer frauds in history.

Gery Shalon, 32, and 41-year-old Ziv Orenstein were arrested in Israel last July and will be extradited following a US request, the justice ministry says.

They risk lengthy prison sentences if convicted, it says, adding that both suspects had consented to the extradition.

It does not say when this would take place.

Shalon and Orenstein were among four people indicted in a massive hacking scheme by a “diversified criminal conglomerate” that compromised data from millions of customers of JPMorgan Chase and other firms, US officials said in November.

The two Israelis and US citizen Joshua Samuel Aaron were charged with multiple counts of fraud, conspiracy and other charges related to the hack.

— AFP

 

Iranian defense minister denies test-firing new missile

Iran’s Defense Minister has denied that Iran launched a new long-range missile late last month, after a general earlier announced the Islamic Republic had test-fired a weapon with a 2,000 kilometer range.

“We have not tested a missile with such a range as media reports said,” General Hossein Dehghan said, according to the official IRNA news agency.

Earlier, General Ali Abdolahi trumpeted the accuracy of the weapon in the test-firing.

“A missile with a 2,000-kilometer (1,250-mile) range was tested two weeks ago,” he said, adding that it has a negligible margin of error of just eight meters.

“We can guide this ballistic missile. It leaves the Earth’s atmosphere, re-enters it and hits the target without error,” the armed forces deputy chief-of-staff said, quoted by the website of state broadcaster IRINN.

— AFP

France urges Syrian regime, rebels back to talks

France is urging the Syrian government and rebel forces to return to the negotiating table in Geneva “as soon as possible.”

Speaking after a meeting in Paris with several Arab and Western backers of the Syrian opposition, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault also calls for “concrete guarantees on the maintenance of the ceasefire” and access for humanitarian aid on the ground.

Syria’s main opposition High Negotiations Committee suspended its formal participation in the UN-brokered talks in Geneva three weeks ago.

Ayrault met with his Saudi, Qatari, Turkish and UAE counterparts as Russia and the United States issued a joint statement saying they agreed to step up efforts to find a political solution to the Syrian conflict and extend a truce across the whole of the country.

The French foreign minister is to hold separate talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris later on Monday.

— AFP

US signs check for $50 million in aid to Gaza

The United States has announced a $50 million aid program for the Gaza Strip.

US officials said Monday that the money will be used over five years to provide basic humanitarian assistance and create jobs. The money will be distributed by the US Agency for International Development in partnership with Catholic Relief Services.

A Palestinian woman walks past a graffiti painted on a wall of the United Nations school of Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, on May 9, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)

A Palestinian woman walks past a graffiti painted on a wall of the United Nations school of Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, on May 9, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)

The US Consul General in Jerusalem, Donald A. Blume, says the effort is meant to address “the dire needs that are obvious in Gaza.”

The US considers Hamas, which rules the Strip, a terror organization and has no official relations with the group.

— AP

US general in Jordan calls for cross-border fight against IS

The new commander of the US Special Operations Command says an international coalition of special forces fighting Islamic State extremists must cooperate more closely and “adapt faster than the enemy.”

Army Gen. Raymond Thomas tells an international military conference in Jordan that “gaps and seams created by (national) boundaries … have provided trans-regional terrorist organizations with maneuver space that needs to be addressed.”

Thomas says cooperation with special forces from Nigeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Indonesia will become more important in the battle against IS.

He says other countries in the region, including Jordan, are already part of a special forces network. Jordan borders Syria and Iraq, where IS controls large chunks of territory.

Monday’s conference precedes a bi-annual international defense exhibition in Jordan known as SOFEX, which Israel has not been invited to.

— AP

Islamic State leader in Iraq killed in airstrike — Pentagon

A US-led coalition airstrike has killed a senior Islamic State leader in Iraq’s Anbar province and three other jihadists, the Pentagon says.

“On May 6, a coalition air strike targeted Abu Wahib, ISIL’s military emir for Anbar province and a former member of Al-Qaeda in Iraq who has appeared in ISIL execution videos,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook says, using an acronym for the IS group.

— AFP

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