The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they happened.
Expulsion of Qataris from Gulf states comes into effect
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The deadline for Qataris to leave neighboring Gulf Arab states comes into effect as the diplomatic standoff persists between Gulf Arab nations despite multiple mediation efforts.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar on June 5 and announced that Qatari residents would have 14 days to leave. The deadline is Monday.
Officials later clarified there would be exceptions for mixed-nationality families in the Gulf.
Still, the United Nations human rights chief and rights groups such as Amnesty International have criticized the expulsion of Qataris, saying there are people who risk losing their jobs and students who cannot sit for exams.
Gulf Arab states, outraged by Qatar’s support of Islamists, accuse it of backing terror groups. Qatar says the allegations are politically motivated and that it denounces terrorism.
Emirati minister says Qatar’s isolation could last ‘years’
PARIS, France — Qatar’s diplomatic isolation could “last years,” a United Arab Emirates minister says Monday, accusing the Gulf state of “supporting jihadists.”
“We do not want to escalate, we want to isolate,” state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash tells journalists during a visit to Paris.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain broke off relations with Qatar two weeks ago and have closed land and sea borders and imposed severe restrictions on airspace.
The minister says Qatar’s rivals were “betting on time,” but says a solution could not be brokered until it abandoned its support for “extremist Islamists.”
“They have built a sophisticated podium for jihadism and Islamic extremism, we have a golden opportunity to break this support,” the minister says.
He calls for countries like the United States, France, Germany and Britain to help monitor any agreement reached with Qatar to ensure they are not cooperating with jihadists.
Death toll in London tower fire rises to 79
Seventy-nine people are dead or missing and presumed dead from last week’s London high-rise blaze, police say on Monday as Britain holds a minute’s silence for the victims.
“As of this morning, I’m afraid to say there are now 79 people that we believe are either dead or missing and I sadly have to presume are dead,” police commander Stuart Cundy tells reporters.
Police had earlier put the toll at 58 presumed dead.
He says only five people had been formally identified so far by police, after officers earlier warned that some may never be identified due to the condition of the remains.
Cundy says the search and recovery operation is ongoing in the burnt-out 24-story building.
Police probe hate as motive for killing of US Muslim teen
Police are considering hate as the motive for the assault and murder early Sunday of a Muslim teenager on her way home from prayers at a mosque in northern Virginia, a half hour’s drive from Washington, DC.
The body of the girl — apparently Nabra Hassanen, 17 — was found at around 3 p.m. dumped in a pond in the town of Sterling, a ten minute drive from her home town of Reston, the Washington Post reports.
An autopsy will be carried out to confirm the identity and help determine the cause of death.
A 22-year-old man, Darwin A Martinez Torres, who police say had been “driving suspiciously in the area,” has been charged with the girl’s murder.
Police say they are investigating whether the murder was fueled by racist hatred.
— Sue Surkes
Likud planned anti-Obama campaign ad in 2015, scrapped it — report
During the 2015 election campaign, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud reportedly planned, and later scrapped, negative campaign ads against then-US president Barack Obama, based on internal Likud polls of Israeli voters indicating most were negatively predisposed toward the US leader, the Haaretz daily reports.
Likud commissioned 18 polls ahead of Netanyahu’s decision to call early elections, the paper says.
Three of the surveys included questions on public perceptions of Obama and then-US secretary of state John Kerry, on the heels of the failed US-led peace talks and as the US inched toward finalizing the nuclear deal with Iran.
In one, 54 percent held a negative view of Obama, including 22% of respondents who described their view as “very negative.”
Some 53% also described their opinion of Kerry as negative in the same survey. Another poll had 52% of respondents express a negative opinion of Obama, with 34% holding a positive view of the US president.
On the basis of these findings, Likud had reportedly planned a negative campaign ad on social media, focusing on an unflattering photo of Obama on the phone, with the tagline: “We aren’t interested in who answers the phone in the United States; we’re interested only in the security concerns of the State of Israel.”
British PM condemns mosque attack, fends off criticism
LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May responds to complaints from some in the Muslim community that police failed to quickly respond to the attack on the north London mosque early Monday and declare it terrorism.
Speaking outside her Downing Street office, May says officers responded to the attack in one minute and declared it a terror attack within eight minutes.
May says hatred and evil of this kind will never succeed and she says the government will “stop at nothing” to defeat extremism.
Ten people were wounded in the attack on Muslim worshipers leaving the Finsbury Park mosque, with eight of them sent to hospitals. Police are investigating whether a man who died while being given first aid at the scene was killed by the attack or something else.
Yesh Atid to propose its own nation-state Basic Law
Yesh Atid leader MK Yair Lapid says his party is proposing its own Jewish nation-state bill — the version formerly presented to the Knesset by Likud MK Benny Begin.
“I urge Likud, not for the first time: Don’t go down the path of dividing the nation, but rather unify the nation,” Lapid says at the start of his party’s weekly Knesset meeting. “Let’s advance the nation-state bill together.”
The government is currently backing a version of the bill proposed by Likud MK Avi Dichter.
Begin’s version is a paragraph-long affirmation that Israel is a Jewish nation-state, while Dichter’s longer text explains that the law is intended “to protect the status of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people in order to anchor in Israel’s Basic Laws the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence.”
Dichter’s proposal includes over a dozen specific articles that give constitutional standing to Israel’s state symbols and anthem and the Hebrew calendar, as well as affirming the state’s responsibility to protect religious rights and holy sites for all religions.
Netanyahu last week said the Jewish nation-state bill would be passed into law by the end of the Knesset session in late July.
— Marissa Newman
Google intensifies campaign against online extremism
Google is intensifying its campaign against online extremism, saying it will put more resources toward identifying and removing videos related to terrorism and hate groups.
Google says in a blog post that it will nearly double the number of independent experts it uses to flag problematic content and expand its work with counter-extremist groups to help identify content that may be used to radicalize and recruit extremists.
It will also train more people to identify and remove extremist and terrorism-related content faster.
Google Inc. says it will also take a tougher stance on videos that don’t clearly violate its policies, like those that contain inflammatory religious or supremacist content. That content may still appear, but with a warning.
It is also increasing resources for engineering solutions to identify extremist videos.
Russia suspends coordination with US in Syria, may target US planes
AP quotes Russia’s defense ministry saying it is suspending coordination with the United States in Syria over so-called “de-confliction zones” after the Americans downed a Syrian government fighter jet.
The United States and Russia, which has been providing air cover for Syrian government forces since 2015 in their offensive against the Islamic State group, have a standing agreement that should prevent in-the-air incidents involving American and Russian jets engaged in operations in Syria.
The Russian defense ministry says in a statement on Monday that it is suspending the deal after the US military confirms that it downed a Syrian Air Force fighter jet on Sunday after it dropped bombs near US partner forces.
The ministry says it views the incident as Washington’s “deliberate failure to make good on its commitments” under the de-confliction deal.
According to Reuters, the statement goes on to say that Russia would, in the wire service’s words, “view as targets any flying objects over Syria in the areas of the country where its air forces operate.”
Bennett says united Jerusalem is ‘basis of peace’
Jewish Home leader Education Minister Naftali Bennett touts his right-wing party as the “backbone of the government” as he hails his party’s bill, submitted Sunday, that would require a steep two-thirds majority in the Knesset for any decision to divide Jerusalem in a future peace deal with the Palestinians.
At the start of Jewish Home’s weekly faction meeting in the Knesset, Bennett says his party has repeatedly set the government’s agenda, pointing to his efforts to draw attention to the cross-border Gaza tunnels in 2014 and the so-called Regulation Law that requires the retroactive legalization of wildcat West Bank outposts.
“The basis of peace is a unified Jerusalem,” he says. “it’s important the world know that a unified Jerusalem is the starting point, so that we avoid a lot of misunderstandings.”
He also addresses concerns raised by settler leaders that building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has been stalled by the Netanyahu government.
“We are working with the prime minister to free up construction in the State of Israel,” he adds.
— Marissa Newman
Livni slams PM’s ‘spineless’ purported backtracking on Qalqilya plan
Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni calls Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “spineless” for backtracking and sending mixed messages on a plan to build thousands of housing units in the Palestinian city of Qalqilya, which was approved by the security cabinet last year.
Speaking at the start of the weekly Zionist Union faction meeting in the Knesset, Livni accuses Netanyahu of “lacking a spine…. The common denominator between the Qalqilya story, the [new] public broadcaster and even the [fight] in the Hadassah [pediatric cancer] department is a prime minister who is unable to stand behind his own decisions.”
The Qalqilya plan, first reported by Channel 2 on Wednesday, would see 14,000 new apartments built on 2,500 dunams (617 acres) in Israeli-controlled Area C surrounding the city, potentially more than doubling its population, from 50,000 to 110,000. Responding to that report, and to fierce opposition voiced by settler leaders, the Prime Minister’s Office said last Wednesday that the proposal was “presented by the defense minister last year and approved by the cabinet.” Since that time, it also noted, “over 10,000 homes have been approved for planning and construction in the Jewish communities.”
But Netanyahu’s office now says Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman had failed to present the cabinet with the full details of the now controversial plan ahead of a ministerial vote on it last year.
Livni on Monday also condemns a police raid on the Yedioth Ahronoth publishing house, calling it “problematic” and demanding explanations.
— Marissa Newman and Raoul Wootliff
Netanyahu: This government is the best ever for settlements
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells Likud lawmakers that “There hasn’t been and won’t be a government that’s better for settlements than our government.”
Speaking at the start of Likud’s weekly Knesset faction meeting, he hits back at accusations by settler leaders and the far-right that his government is overseeing a de facto “settlement freeze.”
“We’re building in all parts of the land, doing so with determination, systematically, and wisely,” Netanyahu insists.
And he warns them of the consequences of attempting to destabilize his government.
“I want to remind you what happened the last time a right-wing government was undermined from the right,” he says, a reference to the 1992 toppling of Yitzhak Shamir’s government by far-right parties. The resulting election ushered in the Labor-led administration of Yitzhak Rabin and launched the Oslo peace process.
“That’s the biggest mistake we could make, and I’m sure we won’t repeat it.”
Egypt’s Azhar condemns London mosque attack
CAIRO — Egypt’s Al-Azhar institution, a leading authority of Sunni Islam, condemns Monday’s “sinful” terror attack near a London mosque and urges Western countries to take steps against Islamophobia.
“Al-Azhar affirms its total rejection of this terrorist, racist, sinful act, calling on Western countries to take all precautionary measures to limit the phenomenon of Islamophobia,” it says in a statement.
A 48-year-old driver plowed a van into a crowd of Muslims near Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, leaving one person dead and injuring 10 others.
The mosque says the van “deliberately mowed down Muslim men and women leaving late evening prayers,” before being detained by onlookers and later handed over to police.
Others linked the attack to an increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes, particularly since the London Bridge rampage on June 3 that left eight people dead that was claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group.
Defense minister shrugs off Iran missile strike in Syria
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman says Israel is not concerned by Iran’s missile strike in Syria on Sunday.
“Israel is not worried — Israel is prepared for every development. And we are prepared, we have no concerns or worries,” Liberman says at his Yisrael Beytenu party’s weekly faction meeting in the Knesset.
— Marissa Newman
Liberman blasts ‘Likud party fixers’ for Qalqilya row
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman doubles down on his statement that the security cabinet was fully apprised last year of his plan to allow the building of thousands of new homes in the Palestinian city of Qalqilya, noting that the high-level meetings were recorded and transcribed.
He says that a document was distributed to the ministers by a planning committee saying that while 14,000 housing units should be built in the Qalqilya area, under Israeli building restrictions a maximum of 6,187 units could realistically be constructed in the Palestinian city.
And Liberman is projecting that the construction will only start in 2030.
He says the uproar was tailor-made for “primaries,” and for “Likud party fixers,” a reference to the rightist flank of Likud’s activist base and Central Committee members.
Liberman scoffs at ministers’ vows to reexamine the issue. “From my perspective, let them have discussions morning and night,” he says. “It’s the defense minister’s decision.”
“Qalqilya was one of the quiet cities during the last terror wave,” he notes. “This was part of the carrot and stick approach that, incidentally, was publicized in the media.”
— Marissa Newman and Times of Israel staff
Haredi lawmakers threaten to jump coalition over Shabbat violations
The ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties threaten to leave the coalition over construction work on train lines on Shabbat, new “pirate” public transportation lines and industrial activity on the Jewish day of rest.
“The prime minister must intervene,” says Health Minister Yaakov Litzman at a rare joint UTJ-Shas faction meeting.
If the situation stays as is, it will be a violation of coalition agreements “and we aren’t sure we will continue to sit [in the government],” says Litzman.
Fellow party lawmaker Moshe Gafni urges Netanyahu to convene a meeting between ministers and the Haredi parties to discuss ending railway construction work on Shabbat.
“If the situation does not go back to the way it was, we will go to the [parties’ respective] Torah sages and they will tell us what to do,” he says.
Noting that a final decision on opening supermarkets in Tel Aviv on Shabbat is pending a High Court of Justice petition, Gafni says that if the court rules in favor of the stores, the ultra-Orthodox parties will push a bill that same day to bypass the court ruling.
United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler threatens to violate coalition discipline and vote against the government. “Either there is mutual respect, or there will be mutual disrespect,” he says.
— Marissa Newman
After missile strikes in Syria, Netanyahu warns Iran: ‘Don’t threaten Israel’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells Likud lawmakers he has “one message to Iran: Don’t threaten Israel.”
His comments follow Iran’s Sunday launch of missiles at Islamic State positions in Syria.
“The IDF and our security forces are always following Iran’s activities in the region,” Netanyahu says at the weekly Likud faction meeting in the Knesset. “This activity includes attempts to establish themselves in Syria, and of course to transfer advanced weaponry to Hezbollah, as well as other activities.”
British Jewish leaders condemn van attack on Muslim worshipers
The van ramming attack at a mosque in London is “a painful illustration of why we must never allow hatred to breed hatred,” Britain’s chief rabbi says.
Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis says his thoughts are with those affected by the early Monday morning attack on the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, in which a van drove into a group of people standing in front of the mosque, leaving one person dead and injuring 10.
Horrific attack at #finsburypark a painful illustration of why we must never allow hatred to breed hatred. Thoughts with all those affected.
— Chief Rabbi Mirvis (@chiefrabbi) June 19, 2017
The Board of Deputies of British Jews condemns the attack in a statement issued shortly after it occurred just after midnight on Monday morning.
“All good people must stand together and join in rejecting hatred and violence from wherever it comes. The way forward is to strengthen the moderate majority and repudiate and marginalize extremism of every type,” the statement says, adding: “Hatred of people because of their religion has no place in our society.”
— Board of Deputies (@BoardofDeputies) June 19, 2017
Police operation underway at Paris’s Champs Elysees, one detained
Paris police say an operation is underway in the Champs Elysees.
Incident unfolding at Champs Elysees in Paris, as heavily armed police arrest man. pic.twitter.com/3J1or8JsZW
— Josh Caplan (@joshdcaplan) June 19, 2017
Witnesses say on social media that a man is being detained by police while a vehicle nearby is on fire.
Police are not offering more details.
AFP: Car aflame after hitting police van on Paris’s Champs-Elysees
PARIS — A car crashes into a police van Monday on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris before bursting into flames, police say.
The driver is “on the ground… unconscious,” a police source says, without indicating whether the incident was an accident or a deliberate act.
Police say Champs-Elysees car exploded after armed driver hits police van
A car explodes and bursts into flames after it crashes into a police van on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on Monday, police and investigators say, adding that the driver was armed.
A source close to the investigation says the driver was “seriously injured.”
Police said earlier that the driver was “on the ground… unconscious.”
Police and judicial sources say they suspect the incident was a deliberate act.
The incident comes just two months after a policeman was shot and killed on the world-renowned avenue, three days before the first round of France’s presidential election.
A note praising the Islamic State group was found next to the body of the gunman, Karim Cheurfi, in that incident.
Paris police: Champs-Elysees attacker probably dead
PARIS — A French security official says that the attacker on Champs-Elysees avenue is probably dead and the bomb squad is on the scene.
Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet says the driver whose car exploded as he tried to ram a police vehicle is “most probably” dead.
Brandet says bomb squads were still securing the scene. He says the attacker appears to have acted deliberately.
World Jewish Congress condemns mosque attack
The World Jewish Congress is condemning the attack on a crowd outside a London mosque, saying all people must “stand together to defend the critical values of tolerance and freedom that make our society strong.”
WJC President Ronald Lauder says in a statement that the organization stands together with the people of London “in confronting another horrible act of terror.”
He says, “I condemn the abhorrent and vicious attack carried out against innocent people gathered to worship during the holy month of Ramadan.”
London mosque attack suspect now arrested on terror grounds
LONDON — The man suspected of plowing a van into Muslims taking a break from late-night prayers in London is now under arrest on terror grounds, police say.
The 47-year-old man was arrested for attempted murder after the incident in Finsbury Park early Monday. One man was pronounced dead at the scene.
“He has further been arrested for the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism including murder and attempted murder,” Scotland Yard police headquarters says in a statement.
France to extend state of emergency, minister says after attack
France’s interior minister says the attempted attack on security forces on the Champs-Elysees shows the threat level is still very high in the country and justifies the state of emergency.
Gerard Collomb says he will present a bill on Wednesday at a Cabinet meeting to extend the state of emergency from July 15, its current expiration date, until November 1.
He says the current situation in France shows a new security law “is needed” and the measure would “maintain a high security level” beyond the end of the state of emergency.
France has been under a state of emergency since the November 2015 attacks by Islamic extremists in Paris.
France condemns Friday attack that killed policewoman Hadas Malka
France’s foreign ministry issues a statement condemning the Friday attack by three Palestinian terrorists outside Jerusalem’s Old City in which police staff sergeant Hadas Malka was killed.
The statement reads:
France utterly condemns the heinous attack in Jerusalem on Friday evening which killed one person.
We extend our heartfelt condolences to the victims’ families.
France, together with its partners in the international community, is resolutely committed to fighting terrorism.
Champs-Elysees attack leaves visitors trapped in nearby museum
Visitors to an art exhibit of Auguste Rodin’s works in central Paris are confined inside the Grand Palais for an hour after an attacker rammed into a police convoy on the nearby Champs-Elysees.
Victoria Boucher and daughter Chrystel say they’re hoping the Champs-Elysees reopens soon. They came in from the suburb of Cergy-Pontoise for a Paris visit and weren’t afraid to go to the famed avenue.
Chrystel says, “We were better off inside than outside.” But both agree that, as Victoria says, “Unfortunately, we now are used to this.”
“The show must go on,” her daughter says in English. “They won’t win.”
The attacker was killed in Monday’s incident.
Just 1 of 7 Iranian ballistic missiles launched at IS hit its intended target — report
Channel 2 reports that of the seven ballistic missiles launched by Iran at Islamic State targets in Syria, just one reached its intended target.
The launch was part of “Iran trying to play at being a great power,” the channel’s Mideast analyst Ehud Ya’ari explains. “There was no operational need” to attack IS from afar, he claims.
But three of the missiles, launched from a Kurdish region in eastern Iran, didn’t even reach Syria, falling in Iraqi territory. Another one struck hundreds of meters away from its intended target. A fifth hit the Deir Ezzor region, far from the IS installation it was aimed at, Ya’ari says.
There is no word on the fate of a sixth missile.
Oscar-winner Marlee Matlin, in Israel, fears US funding cuts for disabled
Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin says she is “extremely concerned” about funds being cut from services for the disabled in the US.
Matlin, who was the first deaf person to receive an Academy Award, speaks Monday in Tel Aviv. Matlin is in Israel to receive the prestigious Morton E. Ruderman Award for her lifelong activism for people with disabilities.
She says it would be a “disaster” if health care is cut back in the US.
Congressional Republicans are targeting the Medicaid health program, which helps the poor and disabled, and funds nursing home care for millions of older people who could not otherwise afford it.
Matlin says “people with disabilities need to be more outspoken.”
Matlin won the Oscar for best actress for 1986’s “Children of a Lesser God.”
Saudi Arabia says it captured 3 Iranian Revolutionary Guards from boat
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia says it captured three Iranian Revolutionary Guards aboard an explosive-laden boat heading to an oil platform in the Gulf.
The three “are now being questioned by Saudi authorities,” the Information and Culture Ministry says in a statement, at a time of already heightened tensions with Iran.
“It is clear this was intended to be a terrorist act in Saudi territorial waters designed to cause severe damage to people and property,” the ministry says.
The latest statement comes more than 12 hours after Saudi Arabia says it had seized weapons from a boat captured in the Gulf’s Marjan field at about 8:30 p.m. Friday.
On Saturday, Iran accused the Saudi coastguard of killing one of its fishermen after two fishing boats may have strayed into Saudi waters.
Trump’s peace envoy Greenblatt visits family of murdered cop
Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s peace envoy, pays a shiva call to the family of murdered border police staff sergeant Hadas Malka, who was killed by Palestinian terrorists on Friday outside Jerusalem’s Old City.
“Today I paid a shiva call to family of Hadas Malka. She was murdered by terrorists. This violence is intolerable!” Greenblatt tweets.
A formal statement attached to the tweet adds: “Mr. Greenblatt offered condolences on behalf of the Trump Administration. Incidents such as this underscore why it is vital to realize President Trump’s vision of a Middle East free from the threats of terrorism and extremism.”
Today I paid a shiva call to family of Hadas Malka. She was murdered by terrorists. This violence is intolerable! pic.twitter.com/9IgSPq2LB2
— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) June 19, 2017
Trump being updated on London mosque terror attack
The White House says US President Donald Trump is receiving updates on the incident in north London in which a car plowed into a crowd of pedestrians near a mosque, an incident being investigated as an anti-Muslim terror attack by British authorities.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer says the administration’s thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families.
Spicer says the US has “made it very clear to our British allies that we stand ready to provide any support or assistance they need.”
— Agencies and Times of Israel staff
Hamas asks Europe, UN, Arabs to intercede with Abbas to restore Gaza’s electricity
Gal Berger, Palestinian affairs reporter for Israel’s public broadcaster Kan, reports that that the Hamas terror group is asking the United Nations, European governments and Arab states to intercede with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and pressure him to restore Gaza’s electricity supply from Israel.
The Israeli cabinet voted last week to acquiesce to Abbas’s request to cut electricity provisions to Gaza, which is under a joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade, amid an ongoing spat between the PA and Hamas over control of Gaza and of Palestinian tax monies.
According to Berger, Hamas’s letters to the various governments indicate the group believes the electricity cuts could make conditions in the coastal territory intolerable.
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