Israel ignores PA request to cut electricity supply to Gaza
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Live updates (closed)Latest: Islamic State claims shooting attack at Manila casino

Regev booed at festival she threatened to defund over nudity

PA official says Israel agrees to expand Palestinian power in parts of West Bank; Trump rejects moving embassy to Jerusalem; Palestinian town won't rename center honoring terrorist

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

  • Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev speaks during a conference in Jerusalem, February 13, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev speaks during a conference in Jerusalem, February 13, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Palestinian and foreign activists set up the Bab el-Shams (Gate of the Sun) outpost, comprising 25 tents, in the contested E1 area between Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
    Palestinian and foreign activists set up the Bab el-Shams (Gate of the Sun) outpost, comprising 25 tents, in the contested E1 area between Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
  • US President Donald Trump at residence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, May 22, 2017 (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
    US President Donald Trump at residence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, May 22, 2017 (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
  • President Reuven Rivlin speaks at the 50th anniversary of the reestablishment of the Jewish community in Hebron, in the West Bank city of Hebron on  June 1, 2017. (Kobi Gidon / GPO)
    President Reuven Rivlin speaks at the 50th anniversary of the reestablishment of the Jewish community in Hebron, in the West Bank city of Hebron on June 1, 2017. (Kobi Gidon / GPO)
  • The US Embassy building in Tel Aviv,  December 28, 2016. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)
    The US Embassy building in Tel Aviv, December 28, 2016. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US President Donald Trump speak upon the latter's arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport on May 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US President Donald Trump speak upon the latter's arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport on May 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

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

Palestinian town won’t rename center honoring ‘hero’ Dalal Mughrabi

A Palestinian town is refusing to change name of a women’s center in the West Bank named after a notorious terrorist, saying local residents would not capitulate to international pressure.

Earlier this week, both the UN and the Norwegian government withdrew support for the center named after Dalal Mughrabi, condemning the move as “offensive” and a glorification of terrorism. Norway’s foreign minister went a step further and demanded the money his government donated for the center’s construction be returned.

The head of Burqa’s city council, Sami Daghlas, told the official PA news outlet Wafa this week that local residents had chosen to “commemorate a Palestinian hero who sacrificed herself for her country and therefore they have no intention of changing its name, regardless of the price.”

He said locals would “never capitulate to pressure or blackmail,” and would not oppose returning Norway’s donation, saying it only amounted to “few thousand dollars.”

Regev threatens to pull festival funding over nudity

Culture Minister Miri Regev is threatening to pull funding for a major arts festival over performances with full frontal nudity, saying such displays harmed “Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

Regev told the Israel Festival in a Tuesday letter that she will withdraw funding for the three-week event opening Thursday unless the two shows featuring nudity are canceled.

Festival director Eyal Sher says performances with nudity are an “integral part of the artistic programs” and will go ahead as planned. He noted they don’t take place in public and that the audience can choose which shows to attend.

Regev, a former military censor turned politician from the nationalist Likud Party, has had a series of clashes with Israel’s liberal cultural establishment in her current post.

— AP

4 construction workers injured in building site collapse

Four construction workers are injured when a roof at a building site in central Israel collapses.

One of the workers, a 24-year-old man, is reportedly in serious condition.

Ambulance crews evacuate all four injured workers to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva.

Police say they unaware of anyone was trapped in the Ganei Tikva building but that searches are ongoing.

Herzog hails Kahlon, Palestinian PM for seeking to improve economic ties

Leader of the opposition Isaac Herzog praises yesterday’s “important” meeting between Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah aimed at improving economic ties between Israel and the PA.

“The meeting between Kahlon and Hamdallah is positive and important,” Herzog says in a statement. “Cooperation and the creation of economic stimulus measures are positive steps toward stopping terrorism and laying the groundwork needed to jump-start the peace process.”

West Bank stabbing attack captured in part on security camera

A video from a stabbing attack earlier today is released, showing the moments before and after a Palestinian woman stabbed an IDF soldier before being shot by other troops on the scene.

Closed circuit footage from the settlement shows the assailant walking calmly up to the front gate, before she goes out of frame. A few moments later, after she stabs the serviceman, she can be seen running from the scene with one uniformed soldier and an armed off-duty soldier in pursuit.

The moment the assailant stabbed the soldier and when she was shot do not appear in the footage.

— Judah Ari Gross

Prosecution, defense attorneys in Azaria case meet for possible mediation

Military prosecutors invite the defense team in the Elor Azaria case for a meeting, signaling that the two sides may be starting a mediation process requested by a military court last week.

A statement from IDF’s Chief Military Prosecutor Col. Sharon Zagagi Pinhas says Azaria’s defense attorney Yoram Sheftel has been invited to meet lead prosecutor Nadav Weisman.

Both sides have appealed the 18-month jail sentence that the Israeli soldier received after being convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead a wounded Palestinian assailant as he lay on the ground after attacking another soldier.

Last week, military Judge Zvi Segal urged the two sides to enter mediation in an effort to “rise above” the enmity heard in the course of the contentious trial.

Steinitz laments Trump pulling US out of Paris climate deal

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz laments that US President Donald Trump is reportedly poised to pull the US from the Paris climate agreement, and calls for the reduction of the risks of global warming.

“I hope that the US will continue to lead the global campaign to save the planet and the future of humanity,” he writes in a Facebook post. “Even if there’s a 50% probability that climate change and global warming are man-made phenomena, we must act to reduce those risks.”

“As Israel’s energy minister, I declare my commitment to reducing the use of polluting coal and replacing it with natural gas has not changed, regardless of the decision of the US president,” Steinitz writes.

He calls the 2015 Paris agreement a “rare case in which the world united out of concern for the health for the future generations.”

“It’s very important that — even if changes are made — that this historic initiative not fail.”

Israel ignores PA request to cut electricity supply to Gaza

Despite a request from the Palestinian Authority, Israel is not reducing the supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip over unpaid bills.

The West Bank-based PA had asked Israel on June 1 to begin halving the amount of electricity supplied to the Palestinian territory amid an escalating struggle for dominance with its Gaza rival, the Hamas terrorist group.

But in a twist, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz this week refused the request, and blocked further electrify cuts to the Palestinian territory.

He said Israel should not be drawn into an internal Palestinian problem, but his decision effectively shields Hamas, Israel’s enemy, against the internationally backed PA.

Trump opts to keep US embassy in Tel Aviv

US President Donald Trump signs a waiver preventing the moving of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, White House sources say.

Although Trump campaigned on a pledge to complete the long-anticipated establishment of an embassy in the Israeli capital, administration officials tell US media outlets the president has deferred the decision for another six months.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official confirms Trump signed a legal waiver that keeps the embassy in Tel Aviv, but insisted this was delay not a reversal.

“It’s a question of when, not if,” the official says, adding that “he doesn’t think the timing is right, right now.”

“In timing such a move he will seek to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians.”

A formal announcement is expected later today.

Ministry to launch initiative to unite pro-Israel activists

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan announces his new initiative aimed at uniting pro-Israel activists all over the world.

In a statement from the ministry, Erdan says the initiative, called “4IL,” will include a website and mobile app that offers activists information and resources about Israel and the Middle East.

“The State of Israel is under constant attack by de-legitimizers working to demonize Israel online and undermine our legitimacy as the nation-state of the Jewish People,” Erdan says in the statement.

He says 4IL will help “all of us fight hatred together.”

Erdan will officially launch his global campaign at the annual Celebrate Israel Parade in New York on Sunday.

Putin denies involvement in hacking, praises Trump

President Vladimir Putin insists that Russia has never engaged in hacking and says Moscow will wait out the current political storm in the US to forge constructive relations with President Donald Trump, whom he praised as a straightforward person with a “fresh set of eyes.”

The Russian leader acknowledges the possibility that some individual “patriotic” hackers could have mounted some attacks amid the current cold spell in Russia’s relations with the West, but scoffs at allegations that hackers could influence the outcome of elections in the United States or Europe.

“I can imagine that some do it deliberately, staging a chain of attacks in such a way as to cast Russia as the origin of such an attack,” Putin says. “Modern technologies allow that to be done quite easily.”

— AP

After US embassy move waived, Herzog says PM should learn from Trump

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog says Trump’s waiving of a law requiring the US to move its embassy to Jerusalem should teach Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that there are no shortcuts to diplomacy.

“Netanyahu has learned another lesson today: there are no shortcuts,” he says. “Anyone who seeking international recognition must reach a courageous political settlement, and what Trump understands, I hope that after 50 years Netanyahu will internalize.”

J Street welcomes Trump’s ‘prudent’ delay in moving US embassy

The American Jewish group J Street welcomes Trump’s decision not to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem for now, and says it is in keeping with longstanding bipartisan tradition.

“We are glad that the administration has heeded the advice of veteran officials in the diplomatic and security communities, and decided to maintain the prudent policy of its predecessors on this issue,” the hawkish organization says in a statement.

J street warns that relocating the American embassy in the absence of a final peace agreement “carries the risk of sparking potential violence.”

Elkin ‘disappointed’ by Trump breaking campaign promise on US embassy

Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin says he is disappointed that Trump is shying away from a major campaign promise by deciding not to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

“I am disappointed with President Trump’s decision, who promised his voters that he would move the embassy to Jerusalem, but did not fulfill [his promise],” he says in a statement. “All embassies should be in our capital, Jerusalem.”

He calls on the US president to announce the embassy’s relocation at the next earliest opportunity, noting that Israel this year is marking the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War.

“Moving the embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing unified Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, as Congress asserted, not only will not harm the chances of true peace with the Palestinians, but will make it very clear to the Palestinians what the vast majority of Israelis already know, that Israel will never agree to divide Jerusalem,” he adds.

Levin expresses ‘great disappointment’ at Trump for waiving embassy move

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin also expresses disappointment at Trump’s decision to waive a law requiring the US to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

“President Trump is a true friend of Israel,” Levin says. “This is precisely why the disappointment over the non-transfer of the embassy is so great.”

PM: Keeping US embassy in Tel Aviv ‘drives peace away’

The Prime Minister Office says Trump’s decision to postpone moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem diminishes chances for peace between Israelis and Palestinians because it keeps false narrative alive.

“Israel’s consistent position is that the American embassy, like the embassies of all countries with whom we have diplomatic relations, should be in Jerusalem, our eternal capital,” the statement from Netanyahu’s office says.

“Maintaining embassies outside the capital drives peace further away by helping keep alive the Palestinian fantasy that the Jewish people and the Jewish state have no connection to Jerusalem.

Though Israel is disappointed that the embassy will not move at this time, we appreciate today’s expression of President Trump’s friendship to Israel and his commitment to moving the embassy in the future,” it says.

— Raphael Ahren

Bennett: Delaying embassy move ‘damages prospects for lasting peace’

Education Minister Naftali Bennet says Trump’s decision to postpone moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem will damage prospects of reaching peace with the Palestinians.

“There is no peace based on the division of Jerusalem,” Bennett says in an English-language statement.

“Delaying the US Embassy move will in fact have an opposite affect and damage the prospect of a lasting peace by nurturing false expectations among the Palestinians regarding the division of Jerusalem, which will never happen,” he says.

“Only recognizing a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty will end illusions and pave the way to a sustainable peace with our neighbors,” he adds.

Bennett, the chairman of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, has repeatedly called on the US president to fulfill his campaign promise and move the embassy to Jerusalem.

Palestinian envoy to US says delaying embassy move ‘gives peace a chance’

The Palestine Liberation Organization’s envoy to the US says Trump’s decision to uphold longstanding American policy by waiving the law requiring its embassy in Israel be moved to Jerusalem, will lay the groundwork for peace.

“This is in line with the long held US policy and the international consensus and it gives peace a chance,” Dr. Husam Zomlot says in a statement.

“We are ready to to start the consultation process with the US administration. We are serious and genuine about achieving a just and lasting peace,” he adds.

Jordan praises Trump for listening to allies regarding embassy move

Jordan welcomes Trump’s decision to delay moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the capital Jerusalem.

Government spokesman Mohammed Momani says that “we strongly welcome the decision and highly value the message it is sending.”

Momani says the president’s decision shows “how much the administration values the advice of its allies” and that the focus must be on relaunching serious Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

— AP

Israel agrees to expand Palestinian control of Area C, PA official says

Palestinian officials say Israel has agreed to broaden Palestinian Authority control in parts of Area C, the bulk of the West Bank which is under Israeli security and civilian control.

According to reports in Palestinian media, the measure was agreed to by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah during their rare meeting last night in Ramallah.

Israel had announced a series of measures aimed at improving the Palestinian economy measures at the request of US President Donald Trump ahead of his May 22 visit to the region.

The measures include construction permits for Palestinians in parts of the West Bank that had previously been off limits, economic concessions and expanded hours at the Jordan border crossing.

Germany suspends Afghan refugee deportations after Kabul attack

Germany temporarily suspends the group deportations of rejected Afghan asylum seekers following the Kabul truck bomb attack, Chancellor Angela Merkel says.

The foreign ministry would reassess security in the country by July, and until then Germany would carry out only “voluntarily repatriations and deportations of violent extremists and criminals in individual cases,” she adds.

Germany says the previous day it had postponed a scheduled deportation flight of rejected Afghan asylum seekers after the truck bomb killed at least 90 people and wounded hundreds.

The bombing in Kabul’s diplomatic quarter killed an Afghan guard at the German embassy and wounded two embassy staff, one of them German, the other one Afghan.

— AFP

Putin prepared to sell Turkey S-400 missile batteries

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he is prepared to sell the Russian S-400 systems to Turkey, according to a report in Russia Today.

Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Putin says he discussed the possible sale with his Turkish counterpart President Erdogan.

“We discussed the possibility of selling S-400s [to Turkey]. We are ready for this,” Putin tells journalists. “We are ready to deliver these newest and most efficient systems. President [Recep Tayip] Erdogan and our countries’ militaries are aware of it.”

The Russian premier indicated the sale of the missile defense system depends on the readiness of the Turkey’s manufacturing industry.

Ex-FBI director Comey set to testify on Russia next week

Former FBI director James Comey is set to testify June 8 before the Senate intelligence committee investigating Russian activities during last year’s election.

The committee says that Comey will testify in an open session, which will be followed by a closed session.

Then-FBI Director James Comey sworn in prior to testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC,  May 3, 2017. (AFP/JIM WATSON)
Then-FBI Director James Comey sworn in prior to testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, May 3, 2017. (AFP/JIM WATSON)

The committee’s Republican chairman and senior Democrat have said members want to hear from Comey on his role in the development of the US intelligence agencies’ assessment that Russia interfered in last year’s election.

They say they also hope Comey’s testimony will answer questions that have arisen since Comey’s sudden firing by President Donald Trump.

— AP

19 dead in blast, shelling in south Syria, monitor says

A roadside bomb and government shelling kills at least 19 people, most of them rebel fighters, in southern Syria’s Daraa province, a monitor says.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that an explosive device placed on a road by government forces detonated as a convoy of rebel fighters passed by.

“After the blast, civilians from nearby came to the scene and the regime shelled the area,” says Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

He says 13 of the dead were from local rebel factions, and at least three others were civilians. The identities of the remaining fatalities had not been confirmed.

— AFP

US boosts North Korea sanctions over nuclear program

The US slaps fresh sanctions on several North Korean entities and officials as well as two Russian companies trading with Pyongyang, adding more economic pressure on the isolated regime over its nuclear weapons push.

The sanctions, which seek to lock the entities and individuals out of the international financial system, took aim at government units and companies that earn much-needed foreign exchange for North Korea and sell oil to the country.

“The United States will continue to target individuals and entities responsible for financing and supporting North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs,” says John Smith, director of the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

“Treasury is working with our allies to counter networks that enable North Korea’s destabilizing activities, and we urge our partners to take parallel steps to cut off their funding sources,” Smith adds.

— with AFP

Top Shas official brands Deri probe a witch hunt

Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Shalom Cohen says the police investigation into the party’s chairman Aryeh Deri amounts to a witch hunt.

“We are being persecuted, its all a lie. We will double our numbers,” he says as he leaves Deri’s home in Jerusalem.

Police have been investigating Deri for unreported real estate, money laundering, fraud and breach of trust, theft by an authorized person, fraudulent registration and tax offenses.

The minister served 22 months in prison from 2000 to 2002, after he was convicted of taking bribes while serving as interior minister. He returned to politics earlier this decade.

8-year-old injured falling off 6-meter cliff at Wadi Qelt

An 8-year-old child is in moderate condition after falling off a 6-meter cliff at Wadi Qelt in the Judean Desert, east of Jerusalem.

Magen David Adom paramedics responding to the scene near the town of Alon took the boy to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem for further treatment.

Wadi Qelt and the Monastery of St. George (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)
Wadi Qelt and the Monastery of St. George (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)

Jailed ex-PM Olmert may face criminal charges over classified documents

Law enforcement decide to open a preliminary investigation into jailed former prime minister Ehud Olmert after his attorney was found with classified materials following a visit to the jailed ex-premier in prison.

According to Channel 2 news, law enforcement will determine if a criminal investigation into Olmert is warranted.

The findings of the preliminary investigation will be presented to police and the Shin Bet security service.

Regev booed at festival she threatened to defund over nudity

Culture Minister Miri Regev is booed by the audience as she makes opening remarks at the opening of the Israel Festival in Jerusalem.

Regev stirred controversy this week when she threatened to defund performances at the annual festival that featured nudity.

Regev is booed by the audience for over 10 minutes, before the minister tells them: “I won’t leave this stage until after I’ve finished what I have to say.”

Shouts of “go home” were heard extensively from the crowd, while others turned their back to the stage while the minister spoke.

Regev reaffirms her controversial position on the shows saying: “I will not support nude shows.”

The Israel Festival is the country’s largest and most important interdisciplinary arts festival, featuring performances by domestic and international artists.

Rivlin: Hebron not an obstacle to peace, but a test of coexistence

President Reuven Rivlin says the flashpoint city of Hebron is not a an obstacle to reaching a peace agreement, but a test of Israeli-Palestinian coexistence.

“Hebron is not an obstacle to peace, Hebron is a test of our abilities to live together, side by side,” he says at the 50th anniversary marking the reestablishment of the Jewish community in Hebron.

He goes on to call on the government to better the living conditions of both Jewish and Arab residents of the city.

“After 50 years the State must make every effort to improve the quality of life the residents of the whole area – it is clear that in any agreement Jews and Arabs will continue to live here, and so all of us must take an interest to care for the prosperity and flourishing of Hebron and Kiryat Arba,” he says.

Islamic State claims shooting attack at Manila casino

Gunfire is reported at a hotel and a casino resort in the Philippine capital, the operator of the complex says, and the Islamic State group quickly claimed responsibility.

“Resorts World Manila is currently on lockdown following reports of gunfire from unidentified men,” the company said on its Twitter account.

–AFP

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Live updates (closed) Latest: Islamic State claims shooting attack at Manila casino

Israel ignores PA request to cut electricity supply to Gaza

Despite a request from the Palestinian Authority, Israel is not reducing the supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip over unpaid bills.

The West Bank-based PA had asked Israel on June 1 to begin halving the amount of electricity supplied to the Palestinian territory amid an escalating struggle for dominance with its Gaza rival, the Hamas terrorist group.

But in a twist, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz this week refused the request, and blocked further electrify cuts to the Palestinian territory.

He said Israel should not be drawn into an internal Palestinian problem, but his decision effectively shields Hamas, Israel’s enemy, against the internationally backed PA.