The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they happened.
CIA chief: Islamic State working to send operatives to the West
WASHINGTON – CIA Director John Brennan will tell Congress on Thursday that Islamic State militants are training and attempting to deploy operatives for further attacks on the West and will rely more on guerrilla-style tactics to compensate for their territorial losses.
In remarks prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee, Brennan says IS has been working to build an apparatus to direct and inspire attacks against its foreign enemies, as in the recent attacks in Paris and Brussels — ones the CIA believes were directed by IS leaders.
“ISIL has a large cadre of Western fighters who could potentially serve as operatives for attacks in the West,” Brennan says, using another acronym for the group. He says IS probably is working to smuggle them into countries, perhaps among refugee flows or through legitimate means of travel.
Brennan also notes the group’s call for followers to conduct so-called lone-wolf attacks in their home countries. He called the attack in Orlando a “heinous act of wanton violence” and an “assault on the values of openness and tolerance” that define the United States as a nation.
He says IS is gradually cultivating its various branches into an interconnected network. The branch in Libya is likely the most advanced and most dangerous, but IS is trying to increase its influence in Africa, Brennan says.
The IS branch in the Sinai has become the “most active and capable terrorist group in Egypt,” attacking the Egyptian military and government targets in addition to foreigners and tourists, such as the downing of a Russian passenger jet last October.
UN: Islamic State committing genocide against Yazidis
GENEVA – A UN investigative panel on Syria says the Islamic State group is committing genocide and other war crimes against the Yazidi community in Iraq and Syria, and wants countries to do more to stop it.
The Council of Inquiry on Syria issues its first report Thursday specifically looking at IS crimes against Yazidis following the group’s attack on unarmed Yazidi communities in northwestern Iraq in August 2014. Many Yazidis were taken into Syria.
The report says IS still holds over 3,200 Yazidi women and children.
The 41-page report cites slave markets in Syria where Yazidi women and girls are sold exclusively to IS fighters. It says IS has within the last year begun holding online slave auctions with an encrypted application to circulate photos of captured Yazidi women and girls.
Revolutionary Guards battle Kurdish insurgents in Iran
BAGHDAD — Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is battling armed members of an insurgent Kurdish group, leading to fatalities.
A report Thursday by Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency quotes Gen. Mohammad Pakpour, the chief of the Guard’s ground forces, as saying the clashes happened Wednesday near Oshnavieh, a predominantly Kurdish town in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province near its border with Iraq and Turkey.
Pakpour does not identify the insurgents. However, Mohammed Nazif Qadiri, a member of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, tells The Associated Press that the fighters belong to his organization.
Both sides give conflicting death tolls from the fighting. Pakpour says the Guard killed 12 insurgents while three of its members died. Qadiri says the Kurds killed over 12 Guard members, including a colonel.
Pakpour says the fighting ended Thursday.
Police find, confiscate multiple weapons caches in north
Police raids in Arab towns in the Galilee uncover several weapons caches over the past two weeks, according to officials.
In one Nazareth raid, police find an M16 assault rifle variant — apparently the M4A1 — and an FN handgun with four magazines of bullets.
In a raid in Tuba Zangariya, officers find eight pipe bombs, and in Araba an improvised “Carlo” firearm.
In Dir al-Assad and Majdal Krum, some 180 firecrackers are uncovered and confiscated.
Mayors and lawmakers from Arab towns have long demanded that police crack down on crime and weapons smuggling in their communities, many of them scarred by gang and inter-clan violence.
Hundreds march for slain French police couple
MANTES-LA-JOLIE, France — Some 2,500 people march in silence in honor of a policeman and his domestic partner who were knifed to death by an extremist pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group.
Many in the crowd of police, gendarmes, firefighters and locals weep as they walk from the police station where the couple worked in the Paris suburb of Mantes-la-Jolie to their home in Magnanville where they were killed on Monday.
The attack comes in the midst of the Euro football championship — already dogged by terror fears — and is the first since Islamic State gunmen and suicide bombers struck Paris in November, killing 130.
“I don’t feel a form of fear, rather disappointment,” says Alain, the head of a Parisian police unit who has told his officers to “be careful — we have to change our behavior.”
In Monday’s assault, 25-year-old Larossi Abballa, previously convicted for jihadism, killed 42-year-old police commander Jean-Baptiste Salvaing outside his home in Magnanville.
He then entered the house, taking Salvaing’s 36-year-old partner Jessica Schneider and the couple’s three-year-old son hostage, before slitting her throat.
Abballa was later killed in a police raid on the house, where officers found the little boy traumatized but unhurt.
Kasich says he can’t yet embrace Trump as GOP nominee
WASHINGTON — Gov. John Kasich says he’s still not ready to endorse Donald Trump as the Republican Party presidential nominee.
Kasich says, “I’m not making any final decision yet but at this point I just can’t do it.”
Kasich, who finished well behind Trump in the delegate hunt, concedes in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that he’s feeling pressure from some circles to embrace Trump.
He says there are people “who pound on me,” but adds that “I’m not prepared to do it.” He says Trump is “going to have to change.”
He says, “It’s difficult. … There’s this thing called Republican loyalty.”
Kasich declines to speculate on any moves by GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, saying “they don’t care what I think.”
Israel believes vast new gas reserves await offshore
There may be a lot more natural gas under Israel’s Mediterranean waters than is currently known to exist, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz says.
Citing Israeli, American and European assessments, Steinitz says that “there are another some 2,200 billion cubic meters of gas” under Israeli territorial waters, equal to four times the amount in Leviathan, the largest known Israeli field.
Speaking to the Herzliya Conference Thursday, the energy minister says the assessments have a “50 percent likelihood, and by this fall we will open the ocean to exploration. Another find will turn Israel into a gas exporter, and we’re examining the feasibility of installing a gas pipeline from Israel to Turkey at a reasonable cost.”
Ya’alon slams Netanyahu, says he will run against him
Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon announces he plans to challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for national leadership.
Speaking at the Herzliya Conference, Ya’alon, who served as defense minister until last month, criticizes Israel’s current leaders.
“Israel’s leadership needs to stop scaring its citizens, and start dealing with the real problems facing the country.” He adds: “Israel does not face an existential threat at this time.”
Fmr. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon speaking at the Herzliya Conference. >>> pic.twitter.com/dz12hwaJ3f
— Judah Ari Gross (@JudahAriGross) June 16, 2016
Rather, “we need leadership that leads with a [moral] compass and a conscience, not based off polls and surveys. It’s intolerable to me that the leadership of 2016 separates [Israelis] based on [their being] Arab or Jew, left or right,” he says.
“Good people are deterred from entering politics. But we can’t throw up our hands and say someone else will take care of it,” he adds, slamming the “violent” rhetoric of Israeli politicians.
“I’ll be an alternative to the current leadership,” he adds.
— Judah Ari Gross contributed
Turkey ex-soccer star on trial for insulting Erdogan
ISTANBUL – Former Turkey soccer star Hakan Sukur goes on trial on Thursday at an Istanbul court in absentia on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on social media.
Sukur is one of several thousand people, including journalists, politicians and the occasional celebrity, to face legal proceedings on hugely controversial accusations of insulting the Turkish leader.
The lawyer of Sukur, one of the stars of Turkey’s third-place performance in the 2002 World Cup, tells the court that his client has moved to the United States.
Ali Onur Guncel says his client could give testimony from the United States if evidence provided by the defense was found to be insufficient.
According to Turkish media, Sukur accused Erdogan of theft in a tweet in February 2015, without naming him directly.
Prosecutors ask in the indictment for Sukur to serve up to four years in jail.
Liberman to visit US for first time as defense minister
Israel’s new Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman is to visit the United States this weekend for talks with his US counterpart, his office says Thursday, after Washington raises concerns over his appointment.
Lieberman’s trip will be his first abroad since being sworn in on May 30, though he is familiar to US officials from an earlier stint as foreign minister.
It comes with the United States and Israel in the process of negotiating a new 10-year defense aid pact to replace the current one, which expires in 2018 and grants the Jewish state more than $3 billion per year.
Liberman leaves on Saturday and is set to meet US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Monday.
He will also attend a ceremony in Dallas next Wednesday marking the development of US defense firm Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet, which Israel is purchasing, and tour a factory of Israeli weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems.
Following Liberman’s nomination, US State Department spokesman Mark Toner, in a rare comment on Israeli internal politics, said the new ruling coalition with Liberman raised “legitimate questions” over Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution in its conflict with the Palestinians.
Livni: Israel must decide between annexation and partition
Zionist Union number two MK Tzipi Livni says plans are underway to establish a “democratic bloc” in the Knesset that will seek a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Speaking at the Herzliya Conference on Thursday, she responds to comments minutes earlier by former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, who criticized the Netanyahu government as “unethical” and said he would run in the next election in a bid to replace Netanyahu.
“I’m glad that Ya’alon is going to war over values, but the real question is what we’re going to do with the territories,” she says, referring to the West Bank.
Ya’alon is considered a liberal on many domestic issues, including gay rights and rule of law, but opposes an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank in the near term on security grounds.
“Israel must make a decision right now that it has avoided making for 50 years,” she says. “Without a decision on annexation or partition, we’re bumbling about without a direction, without choosing our future, while the conflict seeps in and undermines Israel’s values.”
British Labour lawmaker injured in shooting
LONDON – Britain’s Press Association reports Labour lawmaker Jo Cox has been injured in a shooting near Leeds.
The association quotes eyewitness Hithem Ben Abdallah as saying Cox got involved in a scuffle between two men in the village of Birstall on Thursday. Abdallah says one of the men was fighting with Cox and then a gun went off twice and “she fell between two cars and I came and saw her bleeding on the floor.”
The shop owner says emergency services arrived about 15 minutes later and tended to her with a drip.
Police say a “serious incident” has taken place, but don’t immediately identify the victim or provide any more details.
Cox’s assistant confirmed to the PA she had been attacked.
Black box of crashed Egyptian plane found, pulled from sea
CAIRO — Egypt’s investigation committee says the cockpit voice recorder of the doomed EgyptAir flight 804 plane has been found and pulled out of the Mediterranean Sea.
The committee says the so-called black box has been damaged but that the vessel searching for the wreckage has managed to safely pull the “memory unit which is the most important in the recorder.”
Thursday’s announcement comes a day after the committee said that the vessel John Lethbridge, which was contracted by the government to join the search for the plane debris and flight recorders, has spotted and obtained images from the wreckage of the EgyptAir plane.
Likud: Ya’alon ‘changing his spots now that he’s a politician’
In a statement, Likud slams former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, who earlier today criticized the Netanyahu government as “divisive” and vowed to compete against Netanyahu in the next elections.
“It’s entertaining to see how quickly Ya’alon changes his spots,” a party spokesperson says.
“Only a few months ago, he said: ‘Iran is an existential worry for Israel,'” Likud notes, apparently quoting from Ya’alon’s speech to the Munich Security Conference in February.
“Today at the Herzliya Conference, now that he’s a politician, he says Israel faces no existential threats,” the statement adds.
Hamas decries terrorists’ home demolitions, promises attacks
Hamas calls for collective effort by Palestinians to prevent the demolition of Palestinian terrorists’ homes in Qalandiya and Yatta in the West Bank in the coming days.
In a statement published on the terror group’s website, Hamas calls for the residents of the Qalandiya refugee camp and the town of Yatta, near Hebron, “to stand together” and not allow Israel to demolish the homes.
The group warns Israel won’t “enjoy security through the decision to destroy homes of resistance fighters” and promises there will be a “powerful response,” including “high-quality operations that will surprise.”
— Dov Lieber
Haredi men scuffling with Reform, Conservative activists at Western Wall
Dozens of Haredi men are reportedly scuffling with Reform and Conservative activists at the Western Wall plaza.
According to initial reports, police are working to separate the groups.
The liberal Jewish streams are conducting an egalitarian prayer service in the plaza, adjacent to the prayer site after Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar led a group of Haredi protesters earlier this week and placed a mehitza, or separation wall dividing men’s and women’s prayer sections, in the government-established egalitarian plaza.
Haredim shout, whistle to drown out liberal worshipers at Western Wall
Video footage streamed online of the Western Wall plaza shows Haredi men protesting the egalitarian prayers by singing loudly and whistling to drown out the liberal worshipers.
Tensions rise between competing Western Wall protests
Tensions at the Western Wall plaza are high as liberal activists insist on making their point — that if Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar would deny them an egalitarian plaza, they cannot be kept out of the main one — while Haredi activists seek to silence the protest.
— Religion and State (@religion_state) June 16, 2016
— Religion and State (@religion_state) June 16, 2016
Egalitarian prayer activists accuse police of failing to protect them
Egalitarian prayer activists accuse police of failing to protect them at the Western Wall protest underway now.
One Reform leader, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, tells Army Radio that Haredi protesters are “cursing and shoving, and police aren’t lifting a finger.”
— Religion and State (@religion_state) June 16, 2016
Man convicted for attempted murder of boss who fired him
The Beersheba District Court convicts a local man for attempting to murder a boss who fired him.
Ilan Adnani, who was let go from the “Of Hanegev” factory by the plant manager two years ago, sought to avenge his firing.
According to the Ynet news site, he broke into the plant and slit the throat of the manager.
He stands convicted of aggravated assault, breaking and entering, and obstruction of justice.
Video of egalitarian prayer as Haredi protesters arrive
Video of egalitarian prayer activists gathered at the Western Wall a short time ago.
Western Wall protests disperse
The egalitarian prayer demonstration, as well as a counter-protest by Haredim, disperse at the Western Wall plaza.
Netanyahu says he’ll keep working for Western Wall compromise
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticizes Haredi protesters at the Western Wall today and promises to keep seeking a compromise agreement that will allow “all Jews to feel at home at the Western Wall.”
An English-language statement read: “As I have said many times before, the unity of the Jewish people is a source of our strength and one of the values closest to my heart. As we continue to work towards a solution that will allow all Jews to feel at home at the Western Wall, there are those who would prefer to divide our people and even to say that other Jews are wicked or aren’t Jews at all. We all must unequivocally reject these inappropriate words and deeds, which run counter to the basic spirit of the State of Israel.”
Video footage from an egalitarian prayer rally at the holy site today showed a handful of Haredi protesters shouting and whistling to drown out the worshipers, as well as occasional shoving and shouts from some observers that the Reform and Conservative Jews gathered at the site “aren’t Jews.”
A Hebrew-language statement has not been issued.
Iran Air cleared to resume flights to Europe
BRUSSELS — The European Union eases restrictions against Iran Air and is allowing most of its planes to resume flights to Europe.
EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc says Thursday that a successful “technical assessment” was carried out at Iran Air in May, weeks after she visited the country.
She says the EU can now “allow most aircraft from Iran Air back into European skies.”
Iran’s air safety record has been spotty, with parts nearly impossible to get for the country amid world sanctions over its nuclear program.
Last month was hottest May in modern history: US
WASHINGTON – Last month was the hottest May in modern history, marking the 13th consecutive month that global heat records have been shattered, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says Thursday.
“The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for May 2016 was the highest for the month of May in the NOAA global temperature dataset record, which dates back to 1880,” the agency says in a statement, adding that the temperature was 1.57 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 Celsius) above the 20th-century average of 58.6 degrees Fahrenheit (14.7 Celsius).
Man said arrested in France for ‘planning attack’ on tourists
PARIS – A 22-year-old man is arrested in France over suspicions he was planning to attack American and Russian tourists, legal sources say Thursday.
The suspect had gone to the southwestern city of Carcassone “with a view to carrying out a violent act, in particular targeting Americans and Russians,” a judicial source says.
A source close to the investigation says the suspect was arrested in possession of a knife and a small mallet.
Cameron cancels Gibraltar pro-EU rally after MP attack
GIBRALTAR, United Kingdom – British Prime Minister David Cameron cancels a pro-EU rally in Gibraltar Thursday after a member of parliament is shot in England, as he began a historic visit to the overseas territory.
Cameron was due to address thousands of people in the tiny rocky outcrop on Spain’s southern tip, which fears that a vote to exit the European Union in next week’s referendum will leave it at the mercy of Spain.
The Rock, as it is known, has long been a source of friction between London and Madrid, which wants it to come back under its control centuries after it was ceded to Britain in 1713.
“I won’t go ahead with tonight’s rally in Gibraltar,” Cameron tweets upon landing in Gibraltar, minutes after campaigning for the crucial EU vote next Thursday is suspended over the shooting.
Jo Cox, a 41-year-old mother-of-two from the opposition Labour Party, is in a critical condition after being shot in broad daylight in a northern English town.
4-year-old Sanusey is 4,000th child helped by Save a Child’s Heart
Four-year-old Sanusey from Gambia is the 4,000th child to receive life-saving heart surgery through the Israeli charity Save A Child’s Heart, the organization announces.
Sanusey suffers from a congenital heart defect that could only be corrected through an operation not available in Gambia.
Sanusey has been in Israel for the past month, together with 12 other children from Tanzania and Gambia brought by the charity for heart surgery.
After a successful hours-long operation at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon in mid-May, the boy is reportedly recovering quickly.
A statement from the charity says:
Dr. Lior Sasson and his medical team operated on Sanusey for hours. Penda sat in the waiting room, crying and hoping for the best. Thankfully, the surgery was successful! Only three days after his operation, Sanusey was sitting up in bed and smiling. He is currently recovering at the Save a Child’s Heart Children’s Home in Holon. His contagious laughter bellows through the house as he plays with volunteers and the array of toy trucks and arts and crafts activities. He radiates confidence and it is a pleasure to see him play with the other children from all over the world, smiling, happy, and finally healthy.
Bringing Sanusey to Israel for life-saving heart surgery would not have been possible without the help and support of SACH UK and SACH Switzerland, who connected Save a Child’s Heart to the Sherman Trust who co-sponsored Sanusey’s surgery, and Brussels Airlines, who helped sponsor Sanusey’s flight.
British lawmaker Jo Cox dies after shooting
Police say British lawmaker Jo Cox has died after being shot in the town of Birstall, part of the area she represented.
Acting Chief Constable Dee Collins of West Yorkshire Police says authorities can’t discuss any motive for the shooting yet but they have made an arrest and are not looking for anyone else in connection with the attack.
They say a man was also injured but is expected to survive.
Groups on both sides of the referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union have suspended campaigning.
Hitler’s socks, Goering’s underpants on auction in Germany
An auction of Nazi memorabilia in Munich includes underpants worn by Hermann Goering and socks worn by Adolf Hitler.
The auction scheduled for this weekend at the Herman Historica International auction house in Munich also includes dresses that belonged to Hitler’s lover Eva Braun and the case that held the cyanide capsule that Goering, second in command to Hitler, used to take his life the night before he was scheduled to be hanged in 1946 following his conviction on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg trials.
Jewish groups have condemned the auction, and the mayor of Munich has asked the auction house to cancel it, fearing the objects will be glorified by neo-Nazis, the Telegraph reports.
The memorabilia is part of a collection owned by John Kingsley Lattimer, an American doctor who served as a medical officer during the War Crimes Trials in Nuremberg, where he cared for the prisoners as well as members of the Allied forces staff. He collected many of the artifacts during his time at the trials, according to the auction catalog.
Goering’s underpants, silk with a blue monogram reading “HG,” will be offered at a starting price of $700. Bidding on his brass cyanide capsule case will start at about $3,500.
Former PM Barak: World ‘doesn’t believe one word’ Netanyahu says
Former prime minister Ehud Barak lashes out Thursday against the Netanyahu government.
He doesn’t hold back in his criticism.
“A fanatical nucleus has taken over Likud, manipulating their primary process to take over its leadership from anyone for whom democracy was important,” Barak says at the Herzliya Conference. “This is not the Likud of Jabotinsky and Begin,” he adds, referring to the iconic ideological and political founders of the Israeli center-right.
Netanyahu “bears responsibility” for his government’s “hijacking” by the far-right, he rails.
The world “doesn’t believe one word that comes out of Netanyahu’s mouth,” he says.
“Our closest supporters fear that Israel intends to continue to rule the territories forever, that Israel isn’t interested in the two-state solution, that Israel is waiting for the world to get used to this reality and that terror and conflict will distract [the world from the conflict], that Israel will accept autonomy [for Palestinians] with limited rights, but not a state, that Israel will continue discreetly with construction of settlements.”
The world may be right, Barak suggests, and warns that this “slippery slope to a one-state solution” is “the only truly existential threat that faces the Zionist project.”
Barak: Binational state ‘will lead to generations of bloodshed’
At Herzliya, Ehud Barak accuses the Netanyahu government of plotting to retain permanent control over the Palestinian population, and that this “will bring necessarily, necessarily to a single state, either apartheid, a state that will be outcast from the whole world, or a binational state with a Jewish minority in permanent civil war between its two parts. These possibilities both signal an end to Zionist project. There’s no other possibility. We’re at the cusp of this slippery slope.”
He warns: “Life intertwined with Palestinians will lead to generations of bloodshed. It’s happened before, with Muslims and Christians in Lebanon, in Bosnia, between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.”
Barak accuses Netanyahu of ‘Hitlerization’ of Israel’s enemies
Ehud Barak reiterates comments heard hours earlier today at the Herzliya Conference from fellow ex-IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon, saying Israel faces “no existential threats” from regional enemies.
He slams Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for magnifying the threats from terror groups and Israel’s enemies, saying Netanyahu is committing “Hitlerization” of every enemy — depicting even relatively modest threats as equal in gravity to the Holocaust.
“Hitlerization by the prime minister cheapens the Holocaust. Our situation is serious even without Hitler,” says Barak in what turns out to be an extraordinarily fiery and critical speech.
Barak served as Netanyahu’s defense minister until 2013.
Controversial Arab MK to join new flotilla to Gaza
Arab Joint List lawmaker Hanin Zoabi is planning to join a new flotilla to Gaza slated for September-October of this year, according to Channel 2.
Zoabi, of the Palestinian nationalist party Balad, has been a lightning rod for anger after questioning whether the killing of Israelis was terrorism, joining a Turkish flotilla to Gaza in 2010, among other actions.
The 2010 flotilla turned deadly when activists aboard one of the ships, the Mavi Marmara, resisted IDF commandos who boarded the ship to enforce Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
The upcoming flotilla will be crewed entirely by women, the television channel reports.
Iran denies secret talks with Israel over fate of Ron Arad
Iran’s Foreign Ministry rejects reports that Iranian and Israeli officials held talks over the fate of missing airman Ron Arad, according to an official Iranian news outlet.
“The source, structure and contents of the report is all based on psychological warfare waged by the Zionist regime for years and shows the fake nature of the report,” a ministry official tells the Nasim Online news site, according to the Fars News Agency.
Fars cites an Israeli news site, 0404, that claimed talks took place one month ago between Israel and former officials from Iran’s Rafsanjani government, which ruled Iran until 1997.
“The officials of the former governments are also aware that they are not allowed and cannot negotiate with the Israelis on such sensitive and security issues,” the Iranian diplomatic official is quoted as saying.
MK Hanin Zoabi ‘undecided’ over new Gaza flotilla
Arab Joint List lawmaker Hanin Zoabi denies a report earlier this evening that she plans to join a new flotilla to Gaza slated for September-October of this year.
In a statement to reporters following the Channel 2 report, Zoabi says it’s not clear that the flotilla, which organizers say will be crewed entirely by women, will even take shape.
Zoabi, of the Palestinian nationalist party Balad, has been a lightning rod for anger from many Israelis, especially right-wing lawmakers, after questioning whether the killing of Israelis was terrorism and joining a Turkish flotilla to Gaza in 2010.