Trump’s lawyer Cohen to testify before Congress in September
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Live updates (closed)Latest: Court remands teacher suspected of sexually abusing 2nd graders

Trump’s lawyer Cohen to testify before Congress in September

3 arrested in connection to murder of Ramle teen; Israel restores New Zealand ties after settlements resolution spat; PM to help mediate crisis at Hadassah’s pediatric cancer unit

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

  • In this Dec. 16, 2016 file photo, attorney Michael Cohen arrives in Trump Tower in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
    In this Dec. 16, 2016 file photo, attorney Michael Cohen arrives in Trump Tower in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem on August 4, 2015 to visit the victim of firebombing attack. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem on August 4, 2015 to visit the victim of firebombing attack. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu with New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully in Jerusalem, June 3, 2015.  (Flash90)
    Prime Minister Netanyahu with New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully in Jerusalem, June 3, 2015. (Flash90)
  • Henriette Kara, a relative of Supreme Court Judge George Kara, was found murdered in a Ramle apartment on June 13, 2017. (Facebook)
    Henriette Kara, a relative of Supreme Court Judge George Kara, was found murdered in a Ramle apartment on June 13, 2017. (Facebook)
  • A still image taken from cellphone footage of security forces surrounding a knife-wielding Israeli Arab woman after she allegedly tried to stab a security guard at Afula bus station on Friday, October 9, 2015.  (screen capture)
    A still image taken from cellphone footage of security forces surrounding a knife-wielding Israeli Arab woman after she allegedly tried to stab a security guard at Afula bus station on Friday, October 9, 2015. (screen capture)
  • A Palestinian family eats dinner by candlelight at their makeshift home in the Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, during a power outage June 11, 2017. (AFP/SAID KHATIB)
    A Palestinian family eats dinner by candlelight at their makeshift home in the Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, during a power outage June 11, 2017. (AFP/SAID KHATIB)

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

Turkey’s Erdogan slams ‘inhumane’ isolation of Qatar

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slams the economic and political isolation of Qatar as inhumane and contrary to Islamic values after key Gulf states broke off ties with Ankara’s ally.

“Taking action to isolate a country in all areas is inhumane and un-Islamic,” Erdogan says in televised comments to his party in Ankara, after Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain broke off relations with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting “terrorism.”

Erdogan adds he will hold three-way phone talks on the crisis later today with French President Emmanuel Macron and Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

— AFP

Kremlin slams Moscow protest as ‘dangerous’ for public

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov slams the actions of demonstrators at an unauthorized anti-corruption protest in central Moscow as dangerous and defends police action against them.

“Their actions were dangerous for the public and police take adequate measures against such individuals,” he tells journalists, adding that other protests that had been sanctioned had been “organized and peaceful.”

— AFP

Court remands teacher suspected of sexually abusing 2nd graders

The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court extends the remand of Shaul Shamai, the substitute teacher suspected of molesting and sexually harassing second grade girls at a local elementary school.

Judge Hayuta Kochan denies the defense team’s request that Shamai be released to house arrest, saying the number of girls who have complained that he sexually abused them has risen from 4 to 10 since the start of his trial last month.

She also says Shamai has actively tried to disrupt the police investigation into the suspected abuse, and intentionally concealed his criminal past in order to work at the northern Tel Aviv elementary school.

“This is a sophisticated criminal who knowingly concealed the fact that he had been convicted of a similar sex offense in order to pave the way for him to be in close proximity to minors.

Kochan orders Shamai held in custody for another week.

Trump says travel ban ruling comes at ‘dangerous time’

US President Donald Trump says the latest federal court ruling against his proposed travel ban comes at a “dangerous time.”

The president tweets: “well, as predicted, the 9th Circuit did it again – Ruled against the TRAVEL BAN at such a dangerous time in the history of our country. S.C.” It was not immediately clear what “S.C.” refers to in his tweet.

Yesterday, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a judge’s ruling that blocked the temporary ban on refugees as well.

The 4th US Circuit also has called Trump’s national security concerns an after-the-fact justification for a policy that was “rooted in religious animus.”

The Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to immediately reinstate its ban on travelers from six mostly Muslim countries.

— AP

Hungary passes tough anti-foreign NGO law

Hungary’s parliament approves a crackdown on foreign-backed civil society groups despite an international outcry, in a move seen as targeting US billionaire George Soros.

A new law, passed by 130 votes to 44, will force groups receiving more than 24,000 euros ($26,000) annually in overseas funding to register as a “foreign-supported organization,” or risk closure for noncompliance.

They will also have to use the label “foreign-supported organization” on their websites, press releases and other publications.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed his government would pursue a similar bill that would restrict foreign government funding to Israeli organizations.

The proposal would primarily apply to human rights groups, many of which receive the bulk of their funding from abroad, and significantly ratchet up pressure on left-wing groups critical of Israeli policies.

— with AFP

Court commutes sentence of 2015 Afula bus station ‘attacker’

A Nazareth woman who was shot by security forces when she brandished a knife at a bus station in the city of Afula two years ago has had her 6-month jail sentence commuted, and will serve community instead.

A police investigation into the October 2015 incident revealed that Asra’a Zidan Abed was suicidal and wanted to be shot and killed by police.

After the court determined she never intended to carry out a terror attack, Abed in late 2015 was charged with carrying a dangerous weapon, and sentenced to six months in jail.

Abed’s lawyer Meni Albir says the Nazareth District Court accepted their appeal to commute Abed’s jail time.

“We are extremely pleased that the court accepted our appeal and we think that the decision makes an important statement. Asra’s never intended to harm anyone and the proportional punishment given by the court today reflects that,” Albir says.

“Following the incident, Asra sought much-needed psychological help and is still in treatment today.”

— Raoul Wootliff

PM says Israel not seeking escalation with Gaza electricity cut

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the cabinet’s decision to reduce Gaza’s power supply is the result of an internal Palestinian political rivalry, and that Israel is not seeking to escalate tensions with the Islamist rulers of the Strip.

“Hamas is demanding that the PA pay for its electricity, and the PA is refusing to pay. This is an internal Palestinian debate,” he says at an event in Be’er Ya’akov.

“I want to make clear that Israel has no interest in escalation, and any other interpretation is incorrect,” he says. “But we do have an interest in security and our policies on security are clear and have not changed.”

On Sunday, the cabinet decided to cut the amount of power it supplies to the Gaza Strip at the behest of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is seeking to ramp up pressure on Hamas, his Fatah party’s bitter rival.

Egyptian watchdog says authorities blocking more websites

An Egyptian watchdog says authorities have increased their blocking of critical websites, and are now shifting toward preventing internet users from obtaining software that would allow them to bypass such restrictions.

A statement late yesterday by The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression says Egypt has blocked five additional sites, bringing the total number of blocked sites to 62 since a censorship campaign began in late May.

Back then, Egypt’s official news agency reported that the government ordered internet service providers to block access to 21 news websites, alleging they supported terrorism or reported “false news.”

However, prominent investigative news platform Mada Masr and other publications such as Daily News Egypt were also blocked.

The developments come as Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi expands his crackdown on dissent.

— AP

Tillerson says North Korea released US citizen Otto Warmbier

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says that North Korea has released Otto Warmbier, an American serving a 15-year prison term with hard labor for alleged anti-state acts.

Tillerson says that Warmbier is on his way back to the US to be re-united with his family. He says in a statement that the State Department secured Warmbier’s release at the direction of President Donald Trump. Tillerson says the State Department continues discussing three other detained Americans with North Korea.

The announcement comes as former NBA player Dennis Rodman is paying a return visit to North Korea.

Warmbier is a University of Virginia student from suburban Cincinnati. He was sentenced in March 2016 after a televised tearful public confession to trying to steal a propaganda banner.

— AP

Murdered Ramle teen was relative of incoming Supreme Court Judge George Kara

The 17-year-old girl found dead in a Ramle apartment earlier today was a relative of incoming Supreme Court judge George Kara, reports in Hebrew-language media say.

Henriette Kara was found dead with multiple stab wounds to her upper body, and police have opened a murder investigation.

Henriette Kara, a relative of Supreme Court Judge George Kara, was found murdered in a Ramle apartment on June 13, 2017. (Facebook)
Henriette Kara, a relative of Supreme Court Judge George Kara, was found murdered in a Ramle apartment on June 13, 2017. (Facebook)

According to the reports, Kara had filed a domestic violence complaint against her mother several weeks ago.

Justice Kara reportedly learned of Henriette’s death during a special swearing-in ceremony at President Reuven Rivlin’s Residence this afternoon.

Israel restores diplomatic relations with New Zealand

Israel and New Zealand have restored full diplomatic ties, ending a months-long spat over Wellington’s co-sponsorship of an anti-settlement resolution in the United Nations Security Council last year.

A statement from Netanyahu’s office says the prime minister spoke with New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English on the phone yesterday and the two leaders agreed to end the diplomatic spat.

“First and foremost, I regret the damage that was done to Israel-New Zealand ties as result of UN Security Council 2334,” English told Netanyahu according to the statement. “We welcome the return of the Israeli ambassador to Wellington.”

After the conversation, Netanyahu instructed the Foreign Ministry to restore Israel’s diplomatic presence in the country.

US envoy to Qatar to step down in midst of crisis

The US ambassador to Qatar says she is leaving her post in Doha, in the midst of the worst diplomatic crisis involving America’s Gulf allies in years.

“This month, I end my 3 years as US Ambassador to #Qatar. It has been the greatest honor of my life and I’ll miss this great country,” Dana Shell Smith posts on Twitter earlier today.

Shell Smith did not say why she was stepping down, if she was staying within the diplomatic service or who would replace her.

Many US ambassadors leave their posts after serving around three years.

Her departure comes with Washington sending mixed signals over the Gulf crisis, which saw Saudi Arabia and several of its allies cut ties with Qatar claiming that Doha supported extremist groups.

Qatar strongly rejects the allegations.

— AFP

Bypassing blockade, entrepreneur to airlift 4,000 cows to Qatar

A Qatari entrepreneur is reportedly planning to airlift 4,000 dairy cows to the Gulf state in an effort to alleviate the sanctions imposed by Saudi Arabia and its allies.

Moutaz Al Khayyat, chairman of Power International Holding, says he plans to airlift the cows to his home country on 60 Qatar Airways flights from the US and Australia.

“This is the time to work for Qatar,” he tells Bloomberg in an interview.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are among several countries which last week announced the suspension of all ties to Qatar over what they say is the state’s support for extremist groups and its political proximity to Shiite Iran.

Riyadh has also closed the Qatari peninsula’s only land border, threatening imports of both fresh food and raw materials.

Michelle Obama to speak at New York synagogue this fall

Former US first lady Michelle Obama will speak at the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center in New York this fall.

The event, set for October 25, is billed as “An Evening with Former First Lady Michelle Obama.” No topic for her talk has been announced.

Obama advocated for healthy eating and reversing childhood obesity with her “Let’s Move” program, and for empowering girls. She also showed her support for military families during her time in office.

— JTA

Police arrest 3 suspects in connection to teen’s murder in Ramle

Police arrest three people in connection to the murder of 17-year-old Henriette Kara in Ramle earlier today.

In a statement, police confirm the arrests, but decline to give further information in accordance with a gag order issued this afternoon by the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court.

Reports in Hebrew-language media say the victim is a relative of incoming Supreme Court Justice George Kara.

Palestinian teen who brandished a knife arrested in Jerusalem

A 14-year-old West Bank Palestinian is reportedly arrested in Jerusalem for brandishing a knife on Bar-Ilan Street.

The teen and his father are detained by police after he pulled the knife at a group of teenagers who were teasing him, reports in Hebrew-language media say.

Police found the knife at the scene.

PM to help mediate crisis at Hadassah’s pediatric cancer unit

Netanyahu will reportedly intervene in the ongoing management crisis at Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center’s pediatric cancer unit.

The ward’s entire team of senior doctors quit en masse two months ago over what they claim is the hospital’s systemic failure to invest in its staff.

In recent days, a number of MKs have urged Sara Netanyahu, a trained child psychologist, to intervene and help solve the conflict.

According to reports, Sara Netanyahu took the matter to her husband, who called for mediation between the six senior doctors and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman.

Litzman has agreed to attend the meeting; the group of physicians has yet to respond to the request.

Turkey sends military assessment team to Qatar

Turkey has sent a team of military experts to Qatar to evaluate troop deployments, as several Arab countries continue to isolate the small Gulf country over allegations of supporting terror groups.

In a statement, the Turkish military says the country sent a three-person team yesterday to scout and coordinate preparations for deployment.

The military said such military visits have been ongoing since 2015. Turkey and Qatar have developed close ties over the years and reached agreement in 2014 to set up a Turkish military base there.

In a show of support for Qatar, the Turkish parliament and the president rapidly passed legislation for increased military cooperation last week, which foresees troop deployment and military training.

— AP

EU sanctions Hungary, Poland, Czechs over refugees

The EU launches legal action against Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic for refusing to take in their share of refugees under a controversial solidarity plan.

The move shows the frustration in Brussels over the slow response to the scheme, which aimed to relocate 160,000 migrants from frontline migrant crisis states Italy and Greece but which has so far seen only 20,000 moved.

Migrants and refugees arrive at the railway station in Szentgotthard, 246 kilometers southwest of Budapest, Hungary, near the Austrian border, Saturday, September 19, 2015. (Gyorgy Varga/MTI via AP)
Migrants and refugees arrive at the railway station in Szentgotthard, 246 kilometers southwest of Budapest, Hungary, near the Austrian border, Saturday, September 19, 2015. (Gyorgy Varga/MTI via AP)

“I regret to say that despite our repeated calls, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland have not yet taken the necessary action,” EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos tells a news conference.

“For this reason the (European) Commission has decided to launch infringement procedures against these three member states,” he says at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

Brussels last month set a June deadline for Warsaw and Budapest to start accepting migrants under the plan to ease the burden on Italy and Greece, or risk sanctions. Prague also came under pressure after effectively dropping out.

— AFP

Tillerson says Russia relations deteriorating

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says Washington’s relationship with Russia is at an all-time low and deteriorating further.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Tillerson says talks with Moscow on stabilizing the conflict with Syria are progressing but it’s too early to tell if the discussions will bear fruit.

Tillerson’s appearance comes as the Senate is considering a new package of sanctions against Russia in retaliation for Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its aggression in other parts of the world, including Syria and Ukraine.

Tillerson says he’s still reviewing the package. He tells the committee it’s important to have the flexibility “to turn the heat up” on Russia if necessary. But he also says he doesn’t want promising channels of communication preemptively shut down.

— AP

Palestinians take FIFA to court over Israeli soccer clubs

The Palestine Football Association (PFA) files an appeal to the world’s top sports court, seeking to force FIFA to rule on the future of Israeli clubs playing in the West Bank.

The complaint to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is aimed at voiding a FIFA resolution, passed at its Congress last month, to push back a decision on the Israeli clubs until March 2018 at the latest.

The PFA argues that the presence of six Israeli clubs on its territory is in breach of FIFA statutes, which forbids another member association playing on another territory without permission.

Palestinians hold banners as they demonstrate in the center of Ramallah, demanding the suspension of Israel from FIFA, May 20, 2015. (AFP/Abbas Momani)
Palestinians hold banners as they demonstrate in the center of Ramallah, demanding the suspension of Israel from FIFA, May 20, 2015. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

The Palestinians had called for a resolution stating that as a full FIFA member the PFA has the right to block Israeli teams from playing on its land.

In its CAS appeal, the PFA called for FIFA’s postponement decision to be declared “null and void” and that “FIFA be ordered to immediately vote” on the issue, the Lausanne-based court said in a statement.

— AFP

Israel grounds entire Apache fleet over damaged helicopter blade

The Israeli Air Force grounds its fleet of Apache attack helicopters, after a technician found a crack in the blade of one of the air craft earlier today during a routine check, a military official says.

IAF chief Amir Eshel called for an investigation into what caused the damage to the blade and ordered all the air force’s helicopters to remain on the ground until that examination is complete, the senior IDF officer says.

Israel’s Apache attack helicopters fly out of the air force’s Ramon Air Base in the Negev desert.

— Judah Ari Gross

Ex-journalist pleads guilty in JCC bomb threats case

A former journalist from St. Louis accused of threatening Jewish organizations as a way to harass his ex-girlfriend has pleaded guilty to cyberstalking.

Juan Thompson also pleaded guilty to a charge of conveying false information and hoaxes. He apologized during his court appearance Tuesday in New York.

Federal prosecutors said Thompson sometimes used his girlfriend’s name while making threats against Jewish community centers, schools or other facilities.

Juan Thompson, 31, from St. Louis, suspected of making at least 8 hoax bomb threats against Jewish institutions in recent weeks. (Bric TV)
Juan Thompson, 31, from St. Louis, suspected of making at least 8 hoax bomb threats against Jewish institutions in recent weeks. (Bric TV)

They said one message claimed he had placed two bombs in a Jewish school and was “eager for Jewish Newtown,” a reference to the 2012 school massacre in Connecticut.

The government collected evidence from about two dozen laptops, tablets and cellphones seized from his home.

Thompson was fired from the online publication The Intercept last year.

— AP

Disabled protesters block main roads in Tel Aviv

Hundreds of disabled people take to the streets of Tel Aviv to demand better disability benefits from the government.

The protesters are demonstrating against what they say are low monthly stipends, and are demanding the amount be raised to the equivalent of a minimum wage salary.

Protesters are blocking the intersection of Namir Rd. and Arlozorov St., two major thoroughfares in the city.

IDF dismisses officers who lied about death of reservist

Two low-ranking IDF officers were dismissed from their positions after they were caught lying repeatedly during an investigation into the death of a reservist who collapsed on a cross-country run earlier this year, a senior IDF officer says.

A deputy brigade commander was also formally censured, and more servicemen are expected to be punished in the near future, the officer says.

However, the military official stresses that the officers’ conduct did not “in any way” cause the reservist’s death, who was found to have died of heart failure.

On March 21, Cpt. (res.) Elhanan Brezler, 36, of the IDF’s [Jordan] Valley Reservists Brigade died after running approximately four kilometers as part of an army-organized run from the Dead Sea to the Sea of Galilee by way of the Jordan Valley.

During an investigation into the incident, the lieutenants in question were asked if they had prepared a document on safety procedures for the run, as required by IDF rules. They had not, but one of them told investigators that they had prepared such a document, the military official says. The officers then fabricated a set of safety procedures after the fact, which they offered to investigators as evidence.

In light of the “gross moral failure,” the commander of the brigade dismissed both officers.

— Judah Ari Gross

Citing Mideast, Swiss to tighten monitoring of aid projects

Switzerland’s foreign minister says his country will step up monitoring of its humanitarian aid activities and its support for non-governmental groups “with particular attention on the Middle East.”

Didier Burkhalter spoke as news reports over the weekend said Switzerland is re-evaluating funding it gives to an organization in the West Bank city of Ramallah that contributed money to a women’s center named after Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who participated in a deadly 1978 attack in Israel.

Speaking Tuesday in parliament’s upper house, Burkhalter said Switzerland will make sure its contracts will do more to block discrimination, racism and incitement of hatred, and will involve a deeper political “risk analysis.”

The Swiss parliament is considering a measure aimed to cut off misuse of public funds for racist, anti-Semitic or hateful ends.

— AP

Trump lawyer Cohen to testify before House panel in September

US President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer says the House Intelligence Committee has summoned him to appear before a panel on September 5, Bloomberg reports.

Earlier in June, the House Intelligence Committee issued subpoenas for Cohen who was allegedly part of discussions between the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak in December.

The report comes hours before US Attorney General Jeff Sessions is set to testify before Congress in another point of high drama regarding the Russia election meddling probe.

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