Knesset approves sweeping anti-terror reforms
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Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to reporters on Mar. 1, 2015 before boarding a plane to Washington where he will appear before Congress. Netanyahu's speech has received criticism in Israel and abroad. (Screen capture: Channel 10 news)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to reporters on Mar. 1, 2015 before boarding a plane to Washington where he will appear before Congress. Netanyahu's speech has received criticism in Israel and abroad. (Screen capture: Channel 10 news)
  • View of a special plenum session marking the 50th anniversary of the Knesset's current building, January 19, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    View of a special plenum session marking the 50th anniversary of the Knesset's current building, January 19, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Fatah Central Committee Member Muhammad Al-Madani (Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)
    Fatah Central Committee Member Muhammad Al-Madani (Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)
  • Members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, at the funeral of fellow terrorist Ahmed al-Zahar in the village of Al-Moghraga near the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on  February 3, 2016. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
    Members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, at the funeral of fellow terrorist Ahmed al-Zahar in the village of Al-Moghraga near the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on February 3, 2016. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
  • Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold in Jerusalem, June 1, 2015. (AFP/Thomas Coex)
    Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold in Jerusalem, June 1, 2015. (AFP/Thomas Coex)
  • Arab lawmakers are prevented by police from ascending to the Temple Mount on June 8, 2016 (Courtesy)
    Arab lawmakers are prevented by police from ascending to the Temple Mount on June 8, 2016 (Courtesy)
  • Orlando gunman Omar Mateen (R) with his wife Noor Zahi Salman and son (YouTube screenshot)
    Orlando gunman Omar Mateen (R) with his wife Noor Zahi Salman and son (YouTube screenshot)
  • Screen capture of a forest fire that started in the outskirts of Jerusalem , June 15, 2016. (YouTube/Times of Israel)
    Screen capture of a forest fire that started in the outskirts of Jerusalem , June 15, 2016. (YouTube/Times of Israel)

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

Arab MKs blocked from visiting Temple Mount

Joint (Arab) MKs Masoud Gnaim and Taleb Abu Arar attempted last Wednesday to visit the Temple Mount, in violation of an eight-month ban on lawmakers from the holy site, but were stopped by police.

“The Al-Aqsa Mosque is a holy site for Muslims, and it is our natural right as Muslims to enter and pray there,” the two lawmakers say in a statement on Wednesday. “For years we consistently prayed at the mosque and it was never a problem; the arrival of Minister Uri Ariel at the site is a provocation that led to violence.”

The Knesset Ethics Committee on Tuesday upheld the ban on lawmakers from entering the Temple Mount, but said it would adapt its decision in accordance with police recommendations. Police were considering lifting the ban in the first week of July — the last week of Ramadan — for Muslim MKs, and easing restrictions on Jewish lawmakers a week later.

The Temple Mount and Western Wall in Jerusalem, as seen from the Israeli Air Force's annual fly-by on Independence Day, May 12, 2016. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

The Temple Mount and Western Wall in Jerusalem, as seen from the Israeli Air Force’s annual fly-by on Independence Day, May 12, 2016. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

Dore Gold says Arab ties will precede Palestinian solution

Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold says the Palestinian cause is not moderate Arab states’ top priority, ranking “toward the bottom” of the list. Gold says he hopes stronger ties with Arab states will help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but says the former will precede any sort of peace accord.

Of Israel’s discreet ties with Arab states, he says, “under the ice, a lot of hot water is flowing.”

“We have many new opportunities, primarily because many states fear Iran’s empowerment,” Gold says. “The Palestinian issue is no longer the number one [priority], it’s close to the bottom [of the list]. That doesn’t mean we don’t need to try and find a breakthrough with the Palestinians, but it is no longer the currency to forging ties with Sunni Arab states.”

Dore Gold (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Dore Gold (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

“We hope to use our new ties in the Arab world, along with the ties in Africa and Asia, to build better relations with the Palestinians, too,” says Gold. “It’s part of Netanyahu’s vision and we hope to implement it.”

“Twenty years ago, people said that if we solve the problem with the Palestinians, then we will also have peace with the Arab world. Today it’s the opposite.”

Gold says the “stars have aligned as never before” and pledges Israel will “take advantage of all efforts and overturn every stone to ensure that we bring about a safer Middle East for Israel.”

New Channel 10 chairman won’t take office until court decision

The appointment of Rami Sadan as chairman of Channel 10 News will not go ahead until the High Court rules on a petition lodged against him.

Sadan reportedly insulted the Shas party and its leader Aryeh Deri last week, prompting furious backlash from the party, which demanded his immediate resignation over the “racist” comments against Sephardic Jews. Shas lawmakers have boycotted Knesset votes, compromising the coalition majority, in protest of Sadan’s appointment.

Rami Sadan, 2012 (screen capture: YouTube)

Rami Sadan, 2012 (screen capture: YouTube)

PM dismisses ‘panic’ over reported cut in US defense aid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday dismisses widespread “panic” over reports implying the US government is refusing to increase financial aid for Israeli missile defense.

“Attempts to turn the dialogue with the US into a domestic Israeli political tool are improper, and all expressions of panic are not warranted,” his office says in a statement.

While not denying the reports, which led opposition politicians to harshly criticize Netanyahu, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office insists that American aid for the missile defense system protecting Israel will not only not be cut, but will increase.

On Tuesday, the White House said it was opposed to a move by the House of Representatives to increase funding for Israeli missile defense procurement by an additional $455 million above the administration’s budget request for the 2017 fiscal year.

Despite “multiple misleading reports,” the PMO says, “there is no cut in US aid.” Rather, there is an “internal debate” between Congress and the White House over the size of the annual increase to the American missile defense program.

Netanyahu is seeking to anchor this additional aid as a part of his ongoing negotiations over the extension of an US-Israel memorandum of understanding, which regulates US military aid to Israel, the statement notes.

“Not only will the security assistance for missile defense not be cut, it will be increased.”

Raphael Ahren

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on March 13, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on March 13, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Belgium maintains security alert level despite threat report

Belgium’s security threat analysis center says Wednesday it is keeping the security alert status at its current level despite reports that fighters from Syria could pose an imminent threat.

“We are still on level three, quite a high level of threat,” says Benoit Ramacker, spokesman for the Crisis Center. Level three out of a possible four means the threat is considered serious, possible and probable.

The Derniere Heure tabloid reports Belgium’s anti-terror office has warned police that fighters with access to weapons could have left Syria about 10 days ago bound for Belgium and France.

The paper, which says it had obtained an alert message, says fighters traveling without passports are believed to be trying to reach Europe by boat via Turkey and Greece. A Brussels shopping mall, an American fast-food chain and police could be among their targets.

Ramacker says, “These kinds of potential targets are under protection anyway” and that “nothing has changed in terms of security.”

He declines to comment specifically on the reports, saying only that “there is a lot of information coming in.”

Brussels police say they had not seen any such warning from the anti-terror office.

AP

Culture minister probes troupes that shun settlements

Israel’s polarizing culture minister has dispatched a contested questionnaire to theaters and dance troupes to find out whether they are performing in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a first step toward changing regulations to will allow her to penalize cultural institutions that refuse to perform there.

Miri Regev’s office says Wednesday she is proud to lead a “revolution” that shuns boycotts and makes culture accessible to all Israeli citizens. Critics, however, say it’s politicizing the art world and impinging artistic freedom.

Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev speaks to press in Jerusalem, August 31, 2015. Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev speaks to press in Jerusalem, August 31, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

 

Israeli artists, like their counterparts worldwide, tend to lean liberal, and have long been some of the country’s most vocal critics of the settlements.

In the circulated document, various artistic institutions are asked whether they have refrained from performing in the northern and southern peripheries of the country as well as in West Bank settlements.

Regev has said these results will influence the organizations’ future government funding.

“Minister Regev is leading a policy of incentivizing state-supported cultural institutions to perform in the periphery and Judea and Samaria, based on a view that culture is a basic right of all citizens,” her office says in a statement.

AP

British-Iranian woman accused of bid to ‘overthrow regime’

A British-Iranian woman who was arrested in Iran in April is accused on Wednesday of seeking to “overthrow the regime,” according to a statement from the powerful Revolutionary Guards.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, an employee of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, is accused of being “involved in the soft overthrow of the Islamic Republic through… her membership in foreign companies and institutions,” the Mizan news agency quotes a regional Guards branch as saying.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 37, was arrested at Tehran airport on April 3 as she prepared to return to Britain with her daughter after visiting family in Iran, her husband told AFP last week.

Iran doesn’t recognize dual citizenship and, if put on trial, she will be considered an Iranian.

According to the Guards, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was “identified and arrested after massive intelligence operations” as one of “the heads of foreign-linked hostile networks.”

She is alleged to have conducted “various missions… leading her criminal activities under the direction of media and intelligence services of foreign governments.”

“Further investigations are being done and her case has been sent to Tehran for legal proceedings,” the statement adds.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe is being held in a furnished room in a prison in the southeastern city of Kerman, it adds.

Her husband says she was held in solitary confinement for 45 days.

AFP

Kerry tells Russia US patience on Syria ‘very limited’

US Secretary of State John Kerry warns Russia on Wednesday that US patience on the Syria conflict and the issue of President Bashar Assad’s fate is running out.

“Russia needs to understand that our patience is not infinite, in fact it is very limited with whether or not Assad is going to be held accountable,” Kerry says during a visit to Norway.

“We also are prepared to hold accountable members of the opposition” who have been involved in continuing violence, he says after a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Peace talks aimed at ending the five-year conflict have stalled and Damascus has stepped up its military campaign against the Islamic State group and rebels in the second city of Aleppo.

“It is very clear that the cessation of hostilities is frayed and at risk and that it is critical for a genuine cessation to be put in place. We know that, we have no illusion,” Kerry says.

“This is a critical moment and we are working very, very hard to see if we can in the next week or two come to an agreement that has a capacity to more fully implement a ceasefire across the country and deliver humanitarian access in a way that then provides for a genuine opportunity to bring people to the table and start talking about a transition.”

AFP

Facebook aiding probe of live-streamed France killings

Facebook says Tuesday it is cooperating with French authorities probing the killing of a police commander and his partner in an incident that included a live-streamed video statement on the leading social network.

“We are working closely with the French authorities as they deal with this terrible crime,” Facebook says in a statement following Monday’s fatal stabbing of 42-year-old police commander Jean-Baptiste Salvaing and his 36-year-old partner Jessica Schneider in a town near Paris.

“Terrorists and acts of terrorism have no place on Facebook. Whenever terrorist content is reported to us, we remove it as quickly as possible. We treat takedown requests by law enforcement with the highest urgency.”

AFP

French police alerted to possible arrival of IS fighters

French police and anti-terrorism investigators have been alerted to the possibility that small groups of extremists have left Syria for France and Belgium with plans to stage attacks.

Belgian intelligence services sent a note to French counterparts about the possible groups, and it was sent to police across France on Tuesday, a French security official says Wednesday.

French authorities remain “very cautious” about the information because they receive such notes routinely, the official says.

The official says the information does not change the French government’s overall understanding of the threat. France is already under high alert because Islamic State extremists targeted Paris last year and have threatened violence during the European Championship soccer tournament taking place at the moment.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to be able to discuss sensitive security information, had no information about specific targets or how many extremists could be en route.

AP

Orlando gunman’s wife has Palestinian roots, was married before

She was a sweet, pretty California girl with Palestinian roots who left an arranged marriage only to find love with a man who committed the worst mass shooting in modern US history.

Little by little, details have begun to emerge about 30-year-old Noor Zahi Salman, who grew up in the small suburb of Rodeo, California, tucked in the dry hills near the oil refineries 25 miles northeast of San Francisco.

Her romance with Omar Mateen — security guard, bodybuilder and devout Muslim — began online, according to a neighbor, and they were married on September 29, 2011, near her hometown, according to public records. The couple has a 3-year-old son.

According to marriage documents on file in the Contra Costa County Recorder’s office, Salman was born in the United States while her parents’ birthplaces were listed as “Palestine.”

It’s unclear when her parents, who served as witnesses for the wedding, came to the United States, but their naturalization papers allowing them to stay in the country were approved in 1984.

Jasbinder Chahal, who has lived across the street from Salman’s childhood home for the last 15 years, said Salman is “very nice…not the smartest, but she was beautiful.

“Noor never played in the street, and the girls were never allowed to drive,” Chahal said.

Orlando gunman Omar Mateen (R) with his wife Noor Zahi Salman and son (YouTube screenshot)

Orlando gunman Omar Mateen (R) with his wife Noor Zahi Salman and son (YouTube screenshot)

 

The neighbor quoted Salman’s mother as saying Mateen also kept her daughter from driving, until he recently allowed her to take a test to get her driver’s license. Salman’s marriage to Mateen was her second, said Chahal. Mateen had previously been married as well.

Her first marriage had been arranged in the land claimed by Palestinians as their own, said Chahal, adding that the union did not work out.

“He was in Chicago and they were living there, but they were not married long,” Chahal said. “They had cultural differences since she grew up here and was American.”

On one of her sister’s Facebook pages — next to a family photo — there is a box with the words: “Solidarity with Gaza.”

Salman rarely came home to visit after she married because Mateen would not let her, Chahal said. She quoted Salman’s mother telling her that Mateen even tried to keep the daughter from traveling home to see her father when he was sick.

The younger Salman managed to scrape together the money to visit before her father died in a local hospital, Chahal said.

AP

More innocent people will die by terror, says French PM

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls defends the security forces Wednesday after the first deadly jihadist attack on the nation’s soil since the Paris massacres last November.

Valls rejects criticism that the authorities could have thwarted the assault, in which a knife-wielding attacker killed a police officer and his partner at their home.

“I will not let anyone say there was any negligence or lack of judgement” by the security forces, he tells France Inter radio.

He notes that a lone attack was hard to prevent and repeats a warning that terrorism was an inevitable threat.

“We will experience further attacks in the future because we are facing a terrorist organization which is on the retreat in Syria and Iraq and which is projecting itself in our countries in various forms… in order to sow fear and division,” Valls says.

“More innocent people will lose their lives. It’s very hard to say this… but unfortunately it is the truth,” he says.

AFP

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (L), and French President Francois Hollande (R), walk back to the Elysee palace on June 15, 2016, in Paris after a ceremony at the Ministry of Interior to pay a tribute to a French policeman and his partner, who were killed on June 13 by a man claiming allegiance to the Islamic State group. (AFP PHOTO / ALAIN JOCARD)

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (L), and French President Francois Hollande (R), walk back to the Elysee palace on June 15, 2016, in Paris after a ceremony at the Ministry of Interior to pay a tribute to a French policeman and his partner, who were killed on June 13 by a man claiming allegiance to the Islamic State group.
(AFP PHOTO / ALAIN JOCARD)

Next war with Hamas must be the last, defense official says

A senior defense official tells Israeli reporters the next round of fighting in the Gaza Strip against the Hamas terror group must be the last.

“A war of attrition is not an option. The next confrontation must be the last in terms of Hamas’ regime,” the official says.

Israel launched operations in Gaza in 2009, 2012, and in 2014 waged a 50-day campaign against Hamas to eliminate the tunnel threat.

The defense official stresses that Israel does not seek another war, but says “Hamas is a growing threat.”

“Their goal is destroying the State of Israel,” the official adds.

The unnamed senior source also slams PA President Mahmoud Abbas, saying he does not have the authority to sign a peace deal.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, center, and head of the Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, left, inspect a newly discovered 'terror tunnel,' believed to have been dug by Hamas terrorists from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel, on April 18, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson/FLASH90)

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, center, and head of the Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, left, inspect a newly discovered ‘terror tunnel,’ believed to have been dug by Hamas terrorists from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel, on April 18, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson/FLASH90)

Liberman revokes entry permit for PA liaison

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman revokes the entry permit for Muhammad Madani, the PA’s liaison to Israel and an aide to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, the Ynet news website reports.

Liberman was supported by the Shin Bet security agency in barring Madani from Israel for “subversive” activities, the report says.

“A foreign diplomatic official who is trying to intervene in political life in Israel is illegitimate,” Liberman says.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during an Israel Beytenu faction meeting at the Knesset on June 6, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during an Israel Beytenu faction meeting at the Knesset on June 6, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Orlando mayor says shooter drove around before attack

An official says the gunman in the massacre at a gay nightclub was driving around the Orlando area the night before the mass shooting.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer says that Omar Mateen drove around on Saturday night before he opened fire at the Pulse club about 2 a.m. Sunday.

Dyer says, “What I know concretely is that he was driving around that evening and visited several locations.”

When asked exactly where Mateen visited, and whether the locations included theme parks as reported in some media stories, Dyer says, “I think it’s been pretty accurately depicted on the news.” He does not give further details.

AP

Turkey jails 4 IS members over 2014 attack

A Turkish court on Wednesday sentences three members of the Islamic State group to multiple life jail terms and one other to several years in prison over a deadly gun attack in March 2014, reports say.

The attack in the central Anatolian region of Nigde left two Turkish security personnel and one civilian dead and is seen by the authorities as the first attack by IS inside the country.

The Nigde criminal court hands Cendrim Ramadani five life sentences and 174 years and six months in prison, Benyamin Xu four life sentences and 179 years and six months and Muhammed Zakiri one life sentence and 124 years and six months, the Dogan news agency reports.

The three suspects are found guilty of murdering public officials and seeking to disrupt order in the country. The sentences are believed to be the heaviest ever handed out to suspected jihadists.

The fourth suspect, Fuad Movsumov, is given 13 years and 9 months jail after being found guilty on lesser charges of being a member of a terror group.

All those sentenced are believed to be foreign nationals but their citizenship is not specified in the reports.

AFP

Forest fire in Jerusalem reignites due to strong winds

A forest fire raging in Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul neighborhood, which earlier was said to be under control, spreads due to strong winds in the area. Firefighting teams are working to contain the blaze.

In a separate incident in Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, a synagogue catches fire. There are no injuries, but the building sustains damage.

Screen capture of a forest fire that started in the outskirts of Jerusalem , June 15, 2016. (YouTube/Times of Israel)

Screen capture of a forest fire that started in the outskirts of Jerusalem, June 15, 2016. (YouTube/Times of Israel)

Egypt FM: Parliament can annul deal on islands

Egypt’s foreign minister says the country’s parliament has the power to annul a decision by the president to hand over two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

The minister, Sameh Shukry, is being quoted by the state MENA news agency Wednesday as saying that President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s decision on the two islands would be considered “non-existent” if the parliament — which has constitutional rights to review and endorse international accords — votes against it.

Shukri’s comments come at a time when a high court in Egypt is reviewing a lawsuit against eSissi’s decision to hand over Tiran and Sanafir islands to the kingdom.

The deal, announced during a high-profile visit by Saudi King Salman in April, has sparked the largest anti-government protests since the former army chief became president.

AP

Tiran Island in the Gulf of Aqaba. (CC BY 3.0/Wikipedia/Marc Ryckaert)

Tiran Island in the Gulf of Aqaba. (CC BY 3.0/Wikipedia/Marc Ryckaert)

Outrage in Iran at revelations of exorbitant public salaries

Revelations of exorbitant salaries paid to senior officials sparks widespread anger in Iran, threatening to undermine public support for President Hassan Rouhani as he prepares to run for re-election next year.

Rouhani’s government has launched an investigation into public pay following the reports of executives at the state insurance regulator earning more than 50 times the base government salary.

The president’s opponents are demanding answers on behalf of struggling Iranians who have yet to see the promised economic benefits of the country’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press-conference following a meeting his Swiss counterpart in the capital Tehran, on February 27, 2016. (AFP/ATTA KENARE)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press-conference following a meeting his Swiss counterpart in the capital Tehran, on February 27, 2016. (AFP/ATTA KENARE)

The Iranian parliament’s conservative speaker, Ali Larijani, hammered the message home in the legislature on Tuesday, announcing the Supreme Audit Court would release a report on the issue next week.

“These excessive salaries have caused anxiety in society,” Larijani says, responding to a claim from another conservative MP that a senior health ministry official was earning 2 billion rials ($58,000) a month, far above the base public sector salary of about $400 a month.

The revelations surfaced two months ago, when the salaries of several senior executives at the Central Insurance of Iran (CII), the state insurance regulator, were revealed on social media.

In some cases the salaries ranged between 700 million and 800 million rials ($20,000 to $23,000) per month.

AFP

Fatah slams Liberman for revoking PA official’s entry permit

Fatah responds to the decision by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to revoke the entry permit for Muhammad Al-Madani, head of the Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society and a close aide to PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

“The Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society is working to deliver a real Palestinian peace message to various segments of Israeli society based on the principle of a two-state solution on the borders of June 1967,” says a statement published in Arabic began on Fatah’s official Facebook page.

Fatah says the statement by Liberman about Madani contained many lies, including that Madani is working to cause political instability by trying to assemble a party with Bedouins and other Israelis.

“If partnership between Israeli Jews and Arabs in Israeli political life causes Liberman such frustration and anger, this reflects how far the current Israel is from any attempt to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the region, especially since Liberman’s decision came two days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his rejection of the Arab Peace Initiative,” the statement says.

“The current government in Israel is a government of war in every sense of the word and not a government of peace,” the statement adds.

Dov Lieber

Fatah Central Committee Member Muhammad Al-Madani (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)

Fatah Central Committee Member Muhammad Al-Madani (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)

Hanegbi to be tasked with probe in Yemenite children affair

Minister-without-portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) will be appointed to oversee a probe into whether the government should declassify documents linked to the so-called “Yemenite children affair,” Netanyahu tells Likud MK Nurit Koren.

Families from Yemenite and North African Jewish communities maintain the government systematically kidnapped their children from Israeli hospitals and put them up for adoption with the influx of immigration in the 1950s. Over the past several decades, the government has appointed three investigative committees to probe the case, with all concluding the majority of children died in the hospital and were buried without the families’ involvement. The last panel to probe the affair in 2001 reached similar conclusions, but sealed various testimonies from the probe in the state archive until 2071.

Recently, groups representing the families have urged the government to declassify the documents, arguing that if the several hundred children had indeed died, the government should have nothing to hide. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked earlier this month said she would bring up the issue with Netanyahu, and a petition has been filed to the High Court.

Koren, who has also been spearheading efforts to have the documents declassified, meets with Netanyahu on the subject. Netanyahu, in response, says he will have Hanegbi investigate.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with MK Tzachi Hanegbi (R) at the weekly Likud party meeting at the Knesset on March 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with MK Tzachi Hanegbi (R) at the weekly Likud party meeting at the Knesset on March 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

US open to further clarifying Iran sanctions relief

The Obama administration has met its sanctions relief obligations to Iran under last year’s landmark nuclear deal but is willing to further clarify what is and isn’t allowed in response to renewed Iranian complaints that it’s not getting all the benefits it deserves, US Secretary of State John Kerry says on Wednesday.

Speaking after meeting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Oslo, Kerry says the administration had lived up to both the letter and the spirit of the agreement and had gone the extra mile to explain to foreign firms what they are now permitted to do.

“We have lifted the sanctions we said we would lift and we have completely kept faith with both the black-and-white print as well as the spirit of this effort,” Kerry says. “In fact, I have personally gone beyond the absolute requirements of the lifting of sanctions to personally engage with banks and businesses and others who have a natural reluctance after several years of sanctions to move without fully understanding what they are allowed to do and what they are not allowed to do.”

The meeting, at which Kerry also raised the importance of Iran influencing Syria’s government to ensure humanitarian aid deliveries and respect a fragile truce, comes just a day after Iran’s supreme leader and Zarif renewed accusations that the US is not living up to its commitment to ease sanctions under the agreement that gave Iran the relief in exchange for curbing its nuclear program.

AP

French President Francois Hollande (2nd R) shakes hands with US Secretary of State John Kerry prior to an international meeting on reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, in Paris on June 3, 2016. (AFP Photo/Pool/Saul Loeb)

French President Francois Hollande (2nd R) shakes hands with US Secretary of State John Kerry prior to an international meeting on reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, in Paris on June 3, 2016. (AFP Photo/Pool/Saul Loeb)

Knesset approves sweeping anti-terror reforms

The Knesset passes into law sweeping anti-terror reforms, with 57 lawmakers in favor and 16 opposed.

The legislation marks the first time penalties for terror attacks are enshrined into Israeli law.

Terrorism is defined in the legislation as an action or threat done out of a “political, religious, nationalistic or ideological” motive, which is designed to sow fear or apply pressure on the government or international organizations. The definition requires there to be “serious harm” to people, the public safety and health, property, religious sites — including graves — infrastructure, the economy, or the environment.

The law does not differentiate between Jews and Palestinians or soldiers and civilians.

The law also outlines procedures to designate terror groups as such, seize their assets, and detention laws for terror suspects.

In terms of sentencing, the general rule outlined in the legislation is that terrorists will receive double the jail time as perpetrators of those crimes without a terror motive, but no more than 25 years. But it also details specific sentences for various terrorism offenses:

• Leader of a terror group — 25 years. But if the group carried out lethal attacks, the leader is given a life sentence.

• Other administrative positions in the terror organization — 10 years.

• Membership in a terror group carries a five-year sentence, and for those active in the organization, a seven-year sentence.

• Recruiters get seven years, and accomplices five years, unless they can prove they didn’t know they were working for a terror group. The law doesn’t differentiate between accomplices paid or unpaid, and says if they were suspicious but didn’t investigate whether they were working for a terror group, they will be liable for prosecution.

• Publicly identifying with a terror group, including publicizing praise, waving the terror group’s flag, or singing its anthem can carry a three-year sentence.

• A person who has concrete information about an attack, but fails to report it — 3 years in jail.

• And terror threats can land people in jail for seven years.

• Arms dealing for terror groups carries a 20-year sentence or 10 times the fine, and for chemical or radioactive weapons — 25 years or 20 times the fine.

• Terrorists who carry out a mass casualty attack will receive life sentences. Those who use chemical or radioactive weapons or target “sensitive sites” will similarly get life sentences.

For life sentences, there will be no requests for presidential pardons for 15 years and the parole board will recommend the culprits remain jailed for 40 years, the legislation says.

The legislation also allows the courts to hear testimony without the defendants present under some circumstances, and permits it to accept some intelligence information as testimony.

WATCH: PM supports LGBT community after Orlando attack

Netanyahu expresses solidarity with the LGBT community after the deadly shooting in an Orlando gay club on Sunday, which left 49 people dead.

Orlando shooter passed psychological evaluation in 2007

Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen passed a psychological evaluation in 2007 as part of his application to be a private security guard.

Florida records show Mateen was determined to be mentally and emotionally stable in September 2007 so he could work for The Wackenhut Corp., later renamed G4S Secure Solutions. The records state he took a written psychological test or had an evaluation by a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Mateen also stated in his 2007 firearm application that he neither had been diagnosed with a mental illness nor had a history of alcohol or substance abuse.

The documents were obtained by The Associated Press under open records laws. They are part of paperwork he filed to the state agency that issues firearms and security officer licenses.

Records show Mateen also scored well on his firearms tests.

AP

Mourners hug as they pay their respects at a memorial in front the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts for the victims of the Pulse gay nightclub shooting where Omar Mateen allegedly killed 49 people on June 13, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)

Mourners hug as they pay their respects at a memorial in front the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts for the victims of the Pulse gay nightclub shooting where Omar Mateen allegedly killed 49 people on June 13, 2016, in Orlando, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)

US official pledges Israel will receive missile funding it needs

A US official tells Israel Radio that the Obama administration is committed to Israel’s missile defense and will work with Congress to ensure the funding it receives will cover all the essential costs.

However, the US official reiterates opposition to increasing the missile defense aid for Israel by $455 million, arguing that money would come at the expense of US ballistic missile programs.

Arab MKs slam ‘draconian’ terror bill

Joint (Arab) List MKs slam the anti-terror legislation which was signed into law by the Knesset earlier Wednesday.

The terror law is “draconian, expands the authority of the security forces and occupation authorities, in order to undermine the right to oppose the crimes of the occupation,” MKs Ahmad Tibi and Osama Sa’adi say in a joint statement. “The law does not define what terror is and represents a stain on the State of Israel’s horrifying law books. Indeed, this is a dark day for the Knesset.”

MK Ahmad Tibi seen in the Knesset, Jerusalem, January 19, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

MK Ahmad Tibi seen in the Knesset, Jerusalem, January 19, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

MK Hanin Zoabi rails against the “bad” and “immoral law.” The law “itself is an act of terror,” says Zoabi. “Terror against the freedom of speech, against the freedom of assembly, and terror against civilian freedoms.”

Trump signals support for barring gun sales for terror suspects

Republican White House hopeful Donald Trump signals Wednesday he could support banning people on terror watch lists from purchasing guns, a move that would place him in opposition to members of his own party.

Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, regularly touts his support for the constitutionally enshrined right to bear arms.

He has said after terrorist attacks, including the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday, that death tolls would have been lower if private citizens had been armed and able to shoot back.

But he suggests he is prepared to consider restrictions on gun purchases, after it was revealed the Orlando shooter legally bought a rifle and handgun in Florida despite having been investigated by the FBI about possible extremist ties.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as he arrives at a campaign rally at a private hanger at Greater Pittsburgh International Airport in Moon, Pennsylvania, Saturday, June 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives at a campaign rally at a private hanger at Greater Pittsburgh International Airport in Moon, Pennsylvania, June 11, 2016. (AP/Keith Srakocic)

“I will be meeting with the NRA, who has endorsed me, about not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns,” Trump tweets Wednesday.

Trump’s announcement may place him on a collision course with the National Rifle Association, which tweeted Tuesday that “restrictions like bans on gun purchases by people on ‘watch lists’ are ineffective, unconstitutional, or both.”

But the group opens the door to the Republican flag bearer Wednesday, saying they would be “happy to meet” with Trump.

AFP

Police use tear gas to disperse English soccer fans

French police use tear gas to disperse English soccer fans at the European Championship on Wednesday, the fourth time England fans have been involved in violent incidents since the start of the tournament.

After a match between Russia and Slovakia ended in the north French city of Lille, police chase large groups of English fans through the back streets around the city’s main railway station.

A group of about 200 English fans had been getting progressively rowdier and noisier, singing songs taunting Russia, when a loud explosion is heard and some bottles are thrown.

Police appear to make at least one arrest, pinning a man against the ground. Police then charge, spraying tear gas in front of them as they run. Some bystanders take refuge in a nearby pharmacy.

England plays in the nearby city of Lens on Thursday and thousands of their supporters have gathered in Lille.

AP

PM’s office slams ‘obsessive persecution’ by media on spending

The Prime Minister’s Office slams the “obsessive, petty persecution” of Netanyahu, following media reports of the prime minister’s lavish spending during a New York trip last year.

“The costs of security and the burden of tight security are not up to Prime Minister Netanyahu, as you tried to hint in the reports,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office says. “This attempt at hinting that it is due to Prime Minister Netanyahu that the security costs are high is wrong and misleading.”

The Shin Bet security service determines the security arrangements, and the media reports are “an invasion of privacy,” Netanyahu’s office adds.

Netanyahu racked up an expenses bill of NIS 2.1 million ($541,886) during a visit to the United Nations in New York City last year, a fact his office tried to prevent the public from learning. Among the prime minister’s expenses was $1,600 for hair styling and $1,750 for makeup. The biggest expense on the bill was the NIS 1.5 million ($386,992) flight. A total of NIS 625,000 ($161,344) was spent while actually in New York.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boards a plane to go on an official state visit to Poland, on June 12, 2013. Photo by Kobi Gideon / GPO /Flash 90

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boards a plane to go on an official state visit to Poland, on June 12, 2013. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash 90)

Threats against US Muslims must stop, authorities say

The FBI and US federal prosecutors say Wednesday that threats against Muslims would not be tolerated, after alleged incidents in the wake of of the Orlando gay club massacre, which was carried out by a Muslim gunman.

“Civil rights violations are a priority for the FBI,” assistant special agent Ron Hopper tells reporters. “We will investigate reported incidents against individuals based upon any class, any protected class, to include race, religion, and sexual orientation.”

US attorney Lee Bentley chimes in: “Making these threats is not only wrong, in most cases. Making these threats is illegal. Stop it. Any threats like this detract from what we’re doing in law enforcement.”

AFP

Obama going to Orlando to pay respect to victims

The White House says President Barack Obama will travel to Orlando on Thursday to pay respects to the victims of Sunday’s nightclub shooting and to stand in solidarity with the community.

The White House did not provide more details about the trip. Obama had canceled what was to be his first campaign event with presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the wake of the shooting at a gay nightclub that killed 49 and wounded dozens more. That event was scheduled for Wednesday.

Obama has called the shooting an act of terrorism and an act of hate. He notes that the site of the shooting was more than a nightclub. He says it’s a place where people came to raise awareness, speak their minds and advocate for their civil rights.

AP

A man lights a candle as he pays his respects at a memorial in front the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts to the victims of the Pulse gay nightclub shooting where Omar Mateen allegedly killed 49 people on June 14, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)

A man lights a candle as he pays his respects at a memorial in front the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts to the victims of the Pulse gay nightclub shooting where Omar Mateen allegedly killed 49 people on June 14, 2016, in Orlando, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)

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Knesset approves sweeping anti-terror reforms

The Knesset passes into law sweeping anti-terror reforms, with 57 lawmakers in favor and 16 opposed.

The legislation marks the first time penalties for terror attacks are enshrined into Israeli law.

Terrorism is defined in the legislation as an action or threat done out of a “political, religious, nationalistic or ideological” motive, which is designed to sow fear or apply pressure on the government or international organizations. The definition requires there to be “serious harm” to people, the public safety and health, property, religious sites — including graves — infrastructure, the economy, or the environment.

The law does not differentiate between Jews and Palestinians or soldiers and civilians.

The law also outlines procedures to designate terror groups as such, seize their assets, and detention laws for terror suspects.

In terms of sentencing, the general rule outlined in the legislation is that terrorists will receive double the jail time as perpetrators of those crimes without a terror motive, but no more than 25 years. But it also details specific sentences for various terrorism offenses:

• Leader of a terror group — 25 years. But if the group carried out lethal attacks, the leader is given a life sentence.

• Other administrative positions in the terror organization — 10 years.

• Membership in a terror group carries a five-year sentence, and for those active in the organization, a seven-year sentence.

• Recruiters get seven years, and accomplices five years, unless they can prove they didn’t know they were working for a terror group. The law doesn’t differentiate between accomplices paid or unpaid, and says if they were suspicious but didn’t investigate whether they were working for a terror group, they will be liable for prosecution.

• Publicly identifying with a terror group, including publicizing praise, waving the terror group’s flag, or singing its anthem can carry a three-year sentence.

• A person who has concrete information about an attack, but fails to report it — 3 years in jail.

• And terror threats can land people in jail for seven years.

• Arms dealing for terror groups carries a 20-year sentence or 10 times the fine, and for chemical or radioactive weapons — 25 years or 20 times the fine.

• Terrorists who carry out a mass casualty attack will receive life sentences. Those who use chemical or radioactive weapons or target “sensitive sites” will similarly get life sentences.

For life sentences, there will be no requests for presidential pardons for 15 years and the parole board will recommend the culprits remain jailed for 40 years, the legislation says.

The legislation also allows the courts to hear testimony without the defendants present under some circumstances, and permits it to accept some intelligence information as testimony.