The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they happened.
Gaza power plant shuts down, causes blackouts
Gaza’s power distribution company says supplies to the territory’s 2 million residents have dropped to unprecedented lows, with blackouts lasting for more than 24 hours.
While the Palestinian enclave needs at least 400 megawatts of power a day, only 70 are available since Gaza’s power plant shut down late Wednesday.
Diesel fuel from neighboring Egypt had kept the station running at half capacity since June 21, but deliveries were interrupted after a deadly attack on Egyptian soldiers last week near the border.
Israel, the main provider of power to Gaza, has cut shipments at the request of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinian leader is trying to put pressure on Gaza’s Hamas rulers.
Two killed when truck flips over near Eilat
Two men in their early twenties are killed when a truck overturns on a road near Eilat.
There is no further information immediately available. Authorities are investigating.
Iranian researcher denied US entry has ties to militia
TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian state television is reporting that an Iranian cancer researcher who was denied entry to the US has returned to Tehran.
Images aired on state television Thursday showing Mohsen Dehnavi’s return confirmed that he was the same man who previously headed a student branch of volunteer paramilitary militia.
An earlier report in the semi-official Fars news agency said Dehnavi was appointed the head of the student Basij force at Iran’s Sharif University in September 2007. The Basij is a volunteer militia that is linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
He later served on the unsuccessful 2013 presidential campaign of a prominent hard-liner, former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.
Netanyahu dismisses corruption suspicions as ‘leftist campaign’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells his political allies that the corruption allegations linked to him and his associates are “a coordinated campaign of leftists who want to undermine my government.”
In a meeting with cabinet ministers and lawmakers who are his closest allies, the prime minister insists that he has “evidence for everything, it’s all lies.”
Netanyahu refers to the ongoing “Case 3000” inquiry into alleged corruption in the purchase of German-made submarines for the IDF and a new state comptroller report that alleges violations of transparency rules related to regulating the Bezeq telecom giant.
Netanyahu is not a suspect in the submarines affair, but his attorney David Shimron and other associates are. Similarly, there are no criminal suspicions directed at the prime minister in the Bezeq report.
In the meeting with Likud lawmakers, Netanyahu says the steady stream of corruption allegations is meant to create an “atmosphere of rampant corruption” to hurt him in the next election.
“This will soon be obvious to all,” he says.
Communications Ministry chief sent to house arrest in Bezeq probe
Shlomo Filber, director general of the Communications Ministry is sent to two weeks of house arrest in the ongoing investigation into graft suspicions surrounding the regulation of the Bezeq telecom giant.
The arrest of Filber, a close associate of Prime Minister (and former communications minister) Benjamin Netanyahu, comes a day after a scathing state comptroller report alleging improprieties in decision-making at the highest echelons of the ministry related to Bezeq.
EU takes on Hungary over NGO law seen as targeting Soros
The EU launches legal action against Hungary on Thursday over a crackdown on foreign-backed civil society groups that critics say targets US billionaire George Soros.
The move comes hours after the government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban says it will end a poster campaign attacking Soros that has been accused of anti-Semitism.
Brussels also announces that it is advancing a separate case over an education law that could shut a Soros-backed university, risking a fresh confrontation with Orban.
“We have studied the new law on NGOs carefully and have come to the conclusion that it does not comply with EU law,” European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans says.
Timmermans says civil groups are “the very fabric of our democratic societies and therefore should not be unduly restricted. We await a reaction from the Hungarian authorities within a month.”
Hungary’s parliament last month approved the law, which will force groups receiving more than 24,000 euros ($26,000) annually in overseas funding to register as a “foreign-supported organisation,” or risk closure for noncompliance.
Netanyahu shortens weekend trip to Paris, Budapest
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decides to shorten his upcoming trip to Paris and Budapest. He was scheduled to take off for the French capital on Friday afternoon, heading off potential criticism that he might needlessly violate the Sabbath — which lasts from Friday evening to Saturday night — by explaining that he needed to be at a Sunday morning event in France. The newly scheduled departure time is around midnight on Saturday night. His office does not explain the sudden change of plan.
On Sunday, Netanyahu is scheduled to participate in a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv roundup of French Jews by French authorities under Nazi rule.
Later in the day, he will have his first meeting with new French President Emmanuel Macron.
Netanyahu is slated to fly to Hungary on Monday, marking the first visit to the country by an Israeli premier since the end of Communism. In Budapest, he will meet the leaders of Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
— Raphael Ahren
France, Germany to develop European fighter jet system
France and Germany agree to develop a European fighter jet system that will replace their current fleets, the French presidency announces.
“The two partners hope to finalize a joint roadmap by mid-2018,” it says in a statement.
IDF says two men killed in truck crash were soldiers
The IDF announces that the two people killed in a truck accident north of Eilat earlier today were soldiers.
One of them was a conscripted soldier and the other was a reservist, the army says.
Their identities were not released.
Following the incident, the head of the IDF’s Logistics Directorate announced that it would be investigated by a team led by a colonel.
The IDF Military Police will also conduct its own investigation into the truck crash.
— Judah Ari Gross
As Bezeq probe ensnares associates, Netanyahu insists ‘Elovitz isn’t my friend’
More quotes leak from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with fellow Likud lawmakers in which he discussed the latest corruption suspicions linked to his associates.
“I’ve been wronged by the media,” Netanyahu insists. “They’re trying to connect my name with two investigations that have nothing to do with me — [Shaul] Elovitz and the submarines.”
Elovitz, the controlling shareholder in the Bezeq telecom giant, is being investigated for alleged improprieties surrounding Bezeq’s purchase of shares in the YES satellite television company.
The investigation has extended to public officials in the Communications Ministry, including its Netanyahu-appointed director general Shaul Filber, for allegedly favoring Elovitz in decisions taken regarding the purchase. Filber was sent home for two weeks’ house arrest on Thursday.
“Elovitz isn’t my friend,” Netanyahu insists, but clarifies, “He’s my friend in a sense that doesn’t require reporting [under public service transparency rules].”
After news of the investigation broke, he tells the lawmakers, “I acquiesced to the attorney general’s suggestion and stopped dealing with [issues related to] Bezeq. The Justice Ministry published a legal opinion that says all decisions [made by Netanyahu as communications minister in connection with Bezeq over the past year] were substantive [and not affected by outside interests].”
EU defense projects cement new military cooperation on continent
France and Germany agree to develop a “new generation” of European fighter jets together that will replace their current fleets. The two sides also agree to continue cooperation on a major ground combat system as well as in the Eurodrone program alongside Spain and Italy, a statement from French President Emmanuel Macron says.
They also say they support the European defense fund, calling it an “important pillar of the integration of the European defense sector.”
The fund created by the EU last month, with an annual budget of 5.5 billion euro ($6.1 billion), lays the basis for permanent military cooperation.
Chinese political prisoner Liu Xiaobo dies at 61
SHENYANG, China — Officials say China’s most prominent political prisoner, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, has died. He was 61.
Liu had been hospitalized for advanced liver cancer diagnosed in prison in May. The judicial bureau in the northeastern city of Shenyang says he died of multiple organ failure.
His supporters and foreign governments had urged China to allow him to receive treatment abroad, but Chinese authorities insisted he was receiving the best care possible for a disease that had spread throughout his body.
Liu was imprisoned for the first time in connection with the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 while serving his fourth and final prison sentence, for inciting subversion by advocating sweeping political reforms and greater human rights in China.
Cuban Jewish leaders call on US Jewish community to strengthen ties
Leaders of Cuba’s Jewish community send an open letter to the US Jewish community calling for a strengthening of ties and expressing concern over a reversal of policy by the United States toward the island nation.
“The Jewish Community of Cuba, since its founding, has maintained ties of friendship and brotherhood and sisterhood with the Jewish people of the United States, even in moments when diplomatic relations between both countries did not exist,” says the letter issued Wednesday.
“Knowing that the Jewish communities and institutions of the United States have an interest in the relations with the Jewish people of the world, and especially towards Latin America, we request that we work together so that our countries do not go backwards in what has been accomplished and assure that the Cuban and American people enjoy a peaceful and prosperous future.”
Seven major Jewish leaders in Cuba signed the letter, including Adela Dworkin, the community’s president; David Prinstein, its vice president; leaders of the Sephardic center in Havana, and the country’s Jewish community coordinators.
Last month, US President Donald Trump signed a presidential directive on Cuba limiting business and educational travel to Cuba and restricting commerce. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, had lifted travel and commercial restrictions with Havana.
The Jewish community of Cuba numbers about 1,000.
Hamas court condemns 2 to death for spying for Israel
A Palestinian court in Hamas-run Gaza sentences two men to death for allegedly spying for Israel, the latest in a series of such rulings that have drawn international condemnation.
The interior ministry says three men were convicted, including two to death, for “spying for the occupation” and the other handed a life sentence with hard labor.
The men are not named, but the ministry says in a statement the two sentenced to death were born in 1985 and 1964.
In May, three men accused of collaborating with Israel in the assassination of a senior Hamas leader in Gaza were executed.
The executions were carried out after a brief trial only weeks after the arrests of the three, leading to international condemnation.
In April, the group hanged another three men accused of spying for Israel.
Democratic lawmaker introduces article of impeachment against Trump
Rep. Brad Sherman, a California Democrat, introduces an article of impeachment against US President Donald Trump.
The impeachment article introduced Wednesday accuses Trump of obstructing justice during the federal investigation of Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election. Rep. Al Green, Democrat of Texas, co-sponsors the article.
A majority vote in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is required to impeach a president.
Democrats in the House reportedly have been debating whether it is politically prudent to introduce impeachment proceedings at this time.
Sherman cites the new disclosures by Donald Trump Jr. that he met with Russian officials to receive damaging information about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, the president’s efforts to curtail the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn and the firing of former FBI director James Comey.
“Every day Democrats, Republicans, and the entire world are shocked by the latest example of America’s amateur President,” the Jewish congressman says in a statement. “Ignorance accompanied by a refusal to learn. Lack of impulse control, accompanied by a refusal to have his staff control his impulses. We’re no longer surprised by any action, no matter how far below the dignity of the office — and no matter how dangerous to the country.”
Quartet for Mideast peace meets for first time since Trump’s election
Ambassadors from the US, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations — the so-called Middle East Quartet — meet in Jerusalem “to discuss current efforts to advance Middle East peace, as well as the deteriorating situation in Gaza,” according to a joint statement from the envoys.
US President Donald Trump peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, currently visiting Israel, represents the US.
“The Envoys expressed serious concern over the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza and discussed current efforts to resolve the crisis,” the statement says.
The meeting is the first for the Quartet since Trump’s election last November.
US federal court overturns conviction of ex-NY Assembly speaker
A federal appeals court overturns the conviction on corruption charges of former New York State Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, saying the jury was improperly instructed on the legal aspects of the case.
In overturning the conviction Thursday, the Manhattan court cites a US Supreme Court ruling last year in the case of Bob McDonnell, a former Republican governor of Virginia, that narrowed the definition of the kind of official conduct that can serve as the basis of a corruption prosecution. The conviction of McDonnell also was thrown out.
The Silver case is returned to the original trial court, where the ex-lawmaker, now 73, can be retried, The New York Times reports.
Silver, who for two decades was among the most powerful politicians in New York, was convicted in November 2015 of charges including honest services fraud, money laundering and extortion.
In May 2016, a Manhattan federal court sentenced him to 12 years in prison for corruption. The court also ordered Silver to pay a $1.75 million fine and relinquish $5.4 million that he had earned from his schemes.
Silver, who was prominent in Orthodox Jewish circles in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, was convicted in a scheme involving Dr. Robert Taub, an acquaintance who agreed to refer patients to Silver’s law firm.
Netanyahu: We won’t rest until Oron Shaul, Hadar Goldin are home
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel “won’t rest until it fulfills the sacred mission of bringing back [the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers] Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin.”
Speaking at a memorial ceremony marking three years since Operation Defensive Shield, the prime minister slams the “cruel enemy” Hamas for holding Israelis Avera Mengistu and Hisham a-Sayyid, who entered Gaza on their own accord but are said to be suffering from mental illness.
He says Israel was “continuing to boost its strength in defense and offensive,” and vowed that “quiet will be answered with quiet, but anyone who raises a hand against us will find a determined and powerful response. Our enemies know this. Our enemies in Gaza know this ten-fold.”
Russia says it won’t seek to influence German election
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismisses speculation that Moscow would attempt to meddle in Germany’s upcoming general election.
Speaking to a think tank in Berlin, Lavrov says the Russian government was “flattered” that many international intelligence services thought it had the power to influence the fate of democratic governments but repeated Moscow’s insistent denial.
President Vladimir Putin told Russian reporters last month that hackers can come from any country and conceded it was theoretically possible that a “patriotically minded” hacker could decide to act against those critical of Russia. He insisted however that “we never get involved in this on a state level.”
Asked about the remarks with regard to Germany’s election in September, in which Chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking a fourth term, Lavrov demurrs.
“It flatters us that people try to portray us as a country that could decide the fate of the whole world — the United States, Germany,” he says. “If that were the case, all the former Soviet republics around us would not have such a position toward Moscow.”
IDF releases names of soldiers killed in truck crash
The IDF releases the names of the two soldiers killed earlier today when a military truck overturned on Route 12 near Eilat.
They include Pvt. Hevatmu Abebe, 19, from Kiryat Gat, and reservist Mstr.-Sgt. Yaakov Tuati, 35, from Dimona.
Abebe was promoted upon his death to corporal and Tuati to the rank of command sergeant major.
Collusion by top government official alleged in Bezeq corruption probe
Channel 2 reveals a dramatic development in the Bezeq corruption probe. The Israel Securities Authority now suspects that Communications Ministry Director General Shlomo Filber, who was sent to house arrest today, regularly coordinated policy decisions with Bezeq’s chief shareholder Shaul Elovitz.
Filber allegedly sent Elovitz internal policy documents that could affect the latter’s business interests, and then received edited version of the documents prepared by Elovitz’s staff, Channel 2 says.
Attorney general said opposed to ban on family visits for Hamas prisoners
Top law enforcement officials are said to be arguing over the controversial decision by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to end family visits for Hamas terrorists in Israeli prisons.
Erdan reportedly instituted the visit ban in recent weeks to pressure the terror group’s Gazan leadership to release three Israeli citizens and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers held in Gaza.
But Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has told top cabinet ministers in recent days that he would have a difficult time defending the new policy before the High Court of Justice, Channel 2 reports.
Erdan is reportedly determined to maintain the policy until Hamas expresses willingness to release the Israelis.
White House welcomes Israeli-Palestinian water agreement
The White House welcomes the water agreement signed today between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
In a statement, the Trump administration notes the plan will allocate 32 million cubic meters, 10 of which will be for Gaza.
The statement adds: “Under the leadership of President Donald J. Trump, Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt successfully supported the Israeli and Palestinian efforts to bridge the gaps and reach an agreement on this vital issue. President Trump has made it clear that working towards achieving a lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians is a top priority for him, and he strongly believes that peace is possible. The Administration has urged the parties to undertake efforts to promote an environment that is conducive to advancing peace, and this new agreement, the second major Israeli-Palestinian agreement signed this week, is another indication that the parties are capable of working together to achieve mutually beneficial results.”
Ex-defense minister says ‘corrupt’ Netanyahu should quit
Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “corrupt” and should resign over a possible conflict of interest related to the purchase of German submarines.
Moshe Yaalon, an outspoken critic of Netanyahu’s government, tells Channel 10 that as defense minister he was sidelined from the deal, which went ahead after Netanyahu replaced him last year.
David Shimron, Netanyahu’s cousin and personal attorney, has been questioned by police following revelations he represented the German firm involved in the $1.5 billion deal. Both Netanyahu and Shimron have denied any wrongdoing.
According to police, Shimron is a suspect in the investigation. Netanyahu is not.
Israel has ordered six submarines from Germany over the past two decades, with the final one set for delivery in 2018. The allegations concern a deal to purchase three more to replace aging vessels.
— AP and Times of Israel staff