Major Jewish groups urge PM to resolve Western Wall crisis
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Major Jewish groups urge PM to resolve Western Wall crisis

High Court to hold hearing on Western Wall next month; Israel says Iran using Star of David for target practice; Hamas creating buffer zone with Egypt; Errant mortar fire from Syria hits Golan

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

Young Jewish men pray at the men's section of the Western Wall, the most holy site where Jews can pray, in Jerusalem's Old City on June 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)
Young Jewish men pray at the men's section of the Western Wall, the most holy site where Jews can pray, in Jerusalem's Old City on June 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)

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

Palestinian with knife arrested at West Bank checkpoint

A Palestinian woman is caught with a knife at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

According to reports, the 36-year-old tells security forces that she planned to carry out a stabbing attack in Jerusalem.

The suspect is taken in for questioning.

Russia said negotiating Golan safe zones with Israel, US and Jordan

Russia is negotiating safe zones in southern Syria with Israel, Jordan and the US, Army Radio reports.

The talks are focused on establishing areas of operations for the respective militaries in the Syrian side of the Golan Heights near Israel’s northern border.

Citing Russian media reports, the negotiations were called following four recent US-led coalition airstrikes on regime targets in the area.

6 suspected IS jihadists arrested across Europe

Six suspected members of the Islamic State group are arrested in Spain, Britain and Germany in an operation led by Spanish authorities investigating a jihadist recruiting network, the Spanish interior ministry says.

The raids are targeting a group based on the island of Majorca and led by an Islamist imam, who was arrested in Britain, the ministry says in a statement.

The imam, 44, was the target of a European arrest warrant and seized by the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit on behalf of the Spanish authorities.

“The investigation focuses on terrorism material created for use online,” the West Midlands police says, adding that prosecutors would seek his extradition to Spain later today.

— AFP

Hamas to create buffer zone with Egypt to improve ties

Hamas says bulldozers in Gaza are creating a 100-meter-wide (330-foot) buffer zone along the Egyptian border as part of the Palestinian terrorist group’s efforts to combat extremists and improve ties with Cairo.

The Hamas-run Interior Ministry says the creation of a 12-kilometer-long (7.5-mile) corridor was agreed upon in recent face-to-face negotiations with Egyptian officials. It expressed hope that Egypt would reopen the Rafah border crossing with Gaza on a regular basis once the buffer zone is complete.

Egypt has long accused Gaza’s Hamas rulers of aiding an insurgency in the northern Sinai Peninsula, allegations denied by Hamas. Egypt and Israel have imposed a blockade on Gaza since Hamas seized power in 2007.

— with AP

AIPAC delegation coming to Israel to discuss Western Wall reversal with PM

A delegation of senior members from the American pro-Israel lobby AIPAC are reportedly traveling to Israel to discuss with Netanyahu his government’s decision to freeze the implementation of a hard-won agreement to create an official pluralistic worship area at the Western Wall.

According to the Walla news site, the delegation includes AIPAC President Lillian Pinkus and Vice CEO Richard Fishman. They are expected to meet with the prime minister tomorrow.

The government’s decision to suspend the pluralistic pavilion, along with advancing a bill granting the ultra-Orthodox a de facto monopoly over conversions to Judaism in Israel, was met with outrage by many US Jews.

Bnei Brak construction worker crushed to death by concrete beam

A worker at a construction site in the central city of Bnei Brak is crushed to death by a concrete beam that slid off a work truck.

The 30-year-old man is pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics responding to the scene on Jabotinsky Street.

Earlier this month, a construction worker at the same work site was seriously injured after being electrocuted.

A police spokesperson says authorities have opened an investigation into the incidents.

Police among six charged in UK over 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster

Four former senior policemen were among six people charged on Wednesday over the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster in England that killed 96 Liverpool football supporters.

Prosecutors said there was “sufficient evidence to charge six individuals with criminal offences” including manslaughter by negligence, perverting the course of justice and misconduct in public office.

The disaster occurred on April 15, 1989, during an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, in Sheffield, northern England.

— AFP

China frees 3 activists who probed Ivanka Trump shoe supplier

Chinese authorities release on bail three activists who had been detained after investigating labor conditions at a factory that produced shoes for Ivanka Trump and other brands.

The three activists walked out of a police station in Ganzhou, a city in southeastern Jiangxi province todafy, the final day of their legally mandated 30-day detention period limit.

The activists were working with China Labor Watch, a New York-based group, and were investigating Huajian Group factories in the southern Chinese cities of Ganzhou and Dongguan.

The company has denied allegations of excessive overtime and low wages. It says it stopped producing Ivanka Trump shoes months ago.

China Labor Watch says the three men were released on bail pending trial.

— AP

30 civilians said killed in airstrikes on IS-held area of Syria

At least 30 civilians were killed in airstrikes on an area of eastern Syria held by the Islamic State group on Wednesday, a monitoring group say.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says it is not immediately able to say whether the strikes in Deir Ezzor province were carried out by the US-led coalition, or by the Syrian army or its Russian ally.

They came just two days after a suspected coalition strike on an IS jail in the province killed 42 prisoners and 15 jihadists, according to an Observatory toll.

— AFP

Pentagon chief says Assad took Trump’s chemical warning ‘seriously’

US President Donald Trump’s warning to the Syrian government not to carry out a chemical weapons attack appears to have worked, Pentagon chief Jim Mattis says.

“It appears that they took the warning seriously,” Mattis says, referring to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer warned Monday night that if “Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

The warning came after US intelligence noticed suspect activity at the airbase used to launch a suspected chemical strike two months ago.

“I think the president speaking about (these preparations) says how seriously we took them. He wanted to dissuade them,” Mattis tells reporters as he flies to Brussels for a NATO defense ministers meeting.

— AFP

At Ariel University, Netanyahu vows West Bank city will remain Israeli

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the West Bank city of Ariel will always remain part of Israel.

“We are building in Ariel and Ariel will always be part of Israel,” he says in his remarks at the cornerstone laying ceremony for a new School of Medicine and Health Sciences at Ariel University.

“Universities are an open and pluralistic institution, which reflects the true spirit of Israel,” he adds.

The ceremony is also attended by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, who donated $5 million to the university’s medical school.

North Korea threatens to kill South’s ex-president Park

North Korea is threatening to “impose the death penalty” on the South’s former president Park Geun-Hye over an alleged plot to assassinate its leader Kim Jong-Un.

Park had “pushed forward” a supposed plan by Seoul’s intelligence services to eliminate the North’s leadership, Pyongyang’s security ministry and prosecutors say in a statement carried by its official Korean Central News Agency.

“We declare at home and abroad that we will impose death penalty on traitor Park Geun Hye,” it says.

— AFP

More UK buildings fail fire tests as politicians trade blame

British Prime Minister Theresa May says that 120 high-rise buildings in 37 parts of Britain have failed fire-safety tests — a 100 percent failure rate.

Authorities are urgently testing buildings’ cladding in the wake of the June 14 blaze at London’s Grenfell Tower, which killed at least 79 people.

Fire officials say panels affixed to the building’s exterior helped the blaze, which began with a refrigerator fire, shoot up the 24-story tower.

The tragedy has prompted hard questions about building regulation and fire safety.

Political leaders are trading accusations about who is to blame. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn says that shows “the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners.”

But May said “there is a very wide issue here” that can’t be pinned on any single government.

— AP

Israel dismantles Palestinian solar project in West Bank

Israeli authorities dismantle and confiscate some 60 solar panels in a Palestinian village in the West Bank, saying permits had not been issued for the project.

The solar panels, built by a joint Palestinian-Israeli green energy NGO, provides electricity for Jubbet al-Dhib’s 160 residents, a local mosque and school.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) tells The Times of Israel the solar panels were erected “without the necessary permits, and that stop work orders had previously been sent to the village authorities.”

“We emphasize that the village has other electricity sources,” COGAT says.

However, the head of the village council, Rateb Abu Mahamid, tells the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency that Jubbet al-Dhib is surrounded by Israeli settlements and as a result is not connected to basic infrastructure.

EU extends Russia economic sanctions

The European Union formally rolls over damaging economic sanctions against Russia for another six months, saying Moscow had failed to live up to its Ukraine ceasefire commitments.

EU leaders endorsed the move last week, charging that Russia had not halted its support for pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine nor put pressure on them to respect a ceasefire brokered by France and Germany which was meant to help end a deadly conflict dating back to early 2014.

The European Council, which groups the EU’s 28 member states, says the decision followed a summit briefing on the situation by French and German leaders Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel.

— AFP

Up to 100,000 civilians trapped in Syria’s Raqqa, says UN

As many as 100,000 civilians are trapped in Syria’s Raqqa, as US-backed fighters battle to retake the city from the Islamic State group, the UN rights chief warns.

“The intense bombardment of Al-Raqqa over the past three weeks has reportedly left civilians terrified and confused about where they can seek refuge,” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein says in a statement, cautioning that “up to 100,000 civilians are effectively trapped as the air and ground offensive intensifies.”

— AFP

High Court to hold hearing on Western Wall next month

The High Court sets a July 30 date for a hearing regarding the government’s decision to freeze the implementation of a pluralistic prayer area at the Western Wall.

The court orders the state to present its arguments by July 12.

The ruling comes in response to a petition filed by Women of the Wall, an Israeli NGO that has worked extensively to promote non-Orthodox worship at the Western Wall.

Israel to UN: Iran using Star of David for target practice ‘abhorrent’

Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon complains to the Security Council that the Iranian military is using a Star of David as a target for missile drills.

Danon circulates new satellite imagery showing a large Star of David painted in white on the ground as the intended target of the Qiam, a medium-range MTCR category one ballistic missile.

In one photo, a crater from the impact of a missile is visible next to the Jewish symbol.

“This use of the Star of David as target practice is hateful and unacceptable,” Danon writes in a letter to member states, adding that “the targeting of a sacred symbol of Judaism is abhorrent.”

“The missile launch is not only a direct violation of UNSCR 2231, but is also a clear evidence of Iran’s continued intention to harm the State of Israel,” he adds.

London police raise Grenfell fire toll to 80

British police increase the toll in the Grenfell Tower fire to 80 dead or presumed dead.

Metropolitan Police Det. Supt. Fiona McCormack was updating reporters on the June 14 inferno. Police had previously said the fire claimed at least 79 lives.

Earlier today, UK Prime Minister Theresa May said authorities have tested 120 high-rise buildings in dozens of areas across Britain and found that all were fitted with external cladding panels that failed fire safety tests.

Flammable cladding has been blamed for the rapid spread of the Grenfell blaze.

— AP

US to up security on international flights in lieu of laptop ban

The Homeland Security Department is set to announce new security measures for international flights bound to the United States, which could lead to a lifting of a ban on laptops and other electronics in passenger cabins from certain airports.

Industry and US officials briefed on the announcement say airlines flying directly to the US will be required to implement the enhanced measures. If they don’t, their passengers may be barred from carrying laptops and other large electronics in passenger cabins.

Such a laptop ban has been in place at 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa since March amid concerns about an undisclosed threat described only as sophisticated and ongoing.

The new policy will provide a roadmap for airlines and airports that could lead to those bans being lifted.

— AP

Settlers torch Palestinian olive grove in West Bank

Residents from the northern West Bank settlement of Yitzhar torch dozens of Palestinian olive trees at the nearby village of Burin, the IDF tells The Times of Israel.

The suspects were spotted by an IDF lookout, but were able to flee before security forces arrived at the scene, the spokesperson says.

The incident marks a week of attacks stemming from the radical settlement, which have targeted IDF soldiers, an army ambulance as well as Palestinian civilians.

— Jacon Magid

Police seeking to keep Olmert material seized in publisher raid — report

Police are seeking permission to retain materials it seized during a raid on the Yedioth Books publishing house as part of its preliminary investigation into whether jailed former prime minister Ehud Olmert committed a criminal offense by divulging classified information in his memoirs, bypassing the military censor.

Last month, one of Olmert’s attorneys was allegedly caught by prison officers with classified material belonging to the former prime minister after a visit to his jail cell. During a search of the cell, security officers found additional classified documents.

Police last week raided the Rishon LeZion publisher and confiscated pages from Olmert’s memoirs in search of classified information.

The Justice Ministry later said police would return the material to Yedioth Books by tomorrow, but according to Channel 2, police are seeking an extension to the deadline citing the discovery of additional classified information.

WJC head Lauder laments divisiveness caused by Western Wall reversal

World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder says he is “deeply perturbed” over the divisiveness within Jewish communities that has arisen in the wake of an Israeli cabinet decision to freeze the implementation of a pluralistic worship area at the Western Wall.

“The Western Wall is an integral part of Jewish history and holds deep significance for all of us, regardless of religious practice or orientation,” Lauder says in a statement. “I am deeply perturbed by the divisiveness that has arisen in recent days over the controversy surrounding this sacred site.”

“As the president of the World Jewish Congress, I have received messages from leaders of Jewish communities around the world expressing deep concern about the current situation,” he says. “For many of these communities, praying at the Western Wall is a rite of passage, and they are understandably anxious that they will not be welcome there.”

Jewish groups urge PM to ‘move expeditiously’ to resolve Western Wall crisis

The leaders of two major Jewish organizations urge Netanyahu to quickly resolve the crisis that erupted with Diaspora Jewry in the wake of a cabinet decision to freeze a plan to add a pluralistic prayer pavilion at the Western Wall.

In a statement, chairman Stephen Greenberg and executive vice-chairman Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations tell the prime minister that it is “imperative the government move expeditiously to address this matter and come up with a resolution that is equitable to all, as you sought to do in the agreement that was reached before.”

They warn the decision would cause a rift between Israel and US Jewry.

“A lack of unity could lead to an erosion of support, which has been identified by Israel’s National Security Council as a vital security asset for Israel,” Greenberg and Hoenlein say.

The statement further implores Netanyahu to “convey the sense of urgency regarding this matter” to the cabinet “and all those in a position to help resolve this issue.”

Arab party chair Ayman Odeh meets Pope Francis in Vatican

Chairman of the Joint (Arab) List Ayman Odeh meets with Pope Francis as part of a series of meetings with senior Vatican officials in the historic city.

Odeh tells the Pontiff and other Vatican officials of the discrimination and challenges faced by Christian schools in Israel.

He also discusses other regional diplomatic issues with Secretary of State, His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, including the peace process, Israel’s family reunification policy and the fate of displaced Christian residents from two Galilee villages.

He also presents the Pope with a painting by a local artist of Mary at Nazareth’s Church of the Annunciation.

Errant shell from Syria hits Golan Heights again

An errant projectile fired from Syria strikes the northern Golan Heights, the army says.

The projectiles exploded near Israel’s border with Syria, causing no casualties or damage, according to the IDF statement.

It was the eighth such incident in under two weeks and came as fighting between President Bashar Assad’s regime and the numerous rebel groups in southern Syria has escalated.

Around 10 mortar shells from Syria struck the Golan Heights on Saturday, prompting an Israeli response that reportedly killed two Syrian soldiers.

On Sunday, several more projectiles hit Israel in what the army said was spillover fire from fighting between regime forces and rebels. The IDF again responded, confirming it targeted a Syrian military vehicle. Arabic media reports said five people were injured in the Israeli raid.

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