The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.
57 said dead in US-led strikes on Islamic State prison
US-led coalition air strikes on a jail run by the Islamic State group in eastern Syria killed at least 57 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says on Tuesday.
“The strikes hit an IS jail in Mayadeen at dawn on Monday, killing 42 prisoners and 15 jihadists,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman tells AFP.
Mayadeen lies in the Euphrates Valley some 45 kilometers (28 miles) southeast of the provincial capital of Deir Ezzor.
Jewish Home ministers meets US Jewish leaders over conversion, Western Wall
Ministers from the Jewish Home party are meeting with American Jewish leaders to look for ways to address their concerns over the conversion bill and the cancellation of the Western Wall framework that have sparked anger and frustration among liberal Jewish streams.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan all attended the lunch meeting in Jerusalem. On the other side of the table sat Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, the agency’s director general Alan Hoffmann, Union for Reform Judaism chief Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the Jewish Federations of North America’s top official in Israel Rebecca Caspi and others.
American Jewish leaders say the latest measures threaten to fracture the relationship between Israeli Jews and those in the Diaspora.
Kremlin slams US warning over Syrian chemical attack
The Kremlin is dismissing the White House’s warning that the Syrian government is preparing a new chemical attack and that President Bashar Assad and his military “will pay a heavy price” if it goes ahead.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov says that “such threats to Syria’s legitimate leaders are unacceptable.”
Russia is Assad’s key backer and sided with him when he denied responsibility for a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of people in Idlib province on April 4.
Days later, US President Donald Trump ordered a retaliatory cruise missile strike on a Syrian government-controlled air base.
Peskov criticizes the Trump administration for using the phrase “another chemical weapons attack,” arguing that an independent investigation into the April attack was never conducted despite Russia’s calls for one.
Liberman, Mattis meet in Munich to talk cooperation
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman meets with his American counterpart James Mattis in Munich, Germany.
The two discuss upping cooperation between the two countries’ defense agencies, according to Liberman’s office.
In Munich w/ SecDef James Mattis. We discussed strategic regional issues & strengthening cooperation btw our defense establishments pic.twitter.com/CbJB3TINIO
— אביגדור ליברמן (@AvigdorLiberman) June 27, 2017
Iran official: US travel ban violates nuke deal
A prominent Iranian lawmaker denounces the US Supreme Court’s partial reinstatement of US President Donald Trump’s travel ban, claiming that it’s an “obvious breach” of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, including the United States.
Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, spokesman of the parliament’s committee on national security and foreign policy, says the ban’s reinstatement is “a new restriction in the post-nuclear-deal era that is considered an obvious breach of the deal.”
Hosseini claims that under the nuclear deal, countries that signed it are prohibited from imposing new restrictions or sanctions on Iranians. But he does not explain how that is connected or relevant to the travel ban.
His remarks are carried by the official IRNA news agency on Tuesday. Iran is one of the six mostly Muslim countries that are included in the travel ban.
Eight hurt in West Bank highway collision
At least eight people are hurt, some seriously, in a collision in the northern West Bank between an empty passenger bus and a packed taxi van.
The accident takes place on the main north-south highway, Route 60, between Ramallah and Ofra, according to the Magen David Adom rescue service.
6 dead, including 3 minors, in head-on collision in West Bank
Six people are dead, including three minors, and a teenager is critically hurt in a car crash in the West Bank north of Ramallah, the Magen David Adom rescue service says.
Initial reports from the scene only said eight people were hurt, but MDA now says a military doctor and the service’s paramedics were forced to pronounce six of them dead at the scene.
The accident involved a head-on collision between an empty Israeli bus and a Palestinian minibus taxi on Route 60 south of Ofra.
The wounded youth, 17, is taken to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus sedated and attached to a respirator. Another man, reportedly the driver of the bus, is moderately hurt and also hospitalized at Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus.
One MDA paramedic, Betzalel Ben Hamu, describes arriving at the scene and seeing “a commercial taxi crushed, alongside a private vehicle and a bus, with the wounded and dead lying around and inside the taxi.”
Five of the six dead in West Bank crash are from the same family
Five of the six Palestinians killed in the car crash north of Ramallah are from the same family, the Haaretz daily says, citing the Palestinian Red Crescent.
The family is not named in the report, but is said to hail from Bethlehem. They included a man and woman in their thirties, two boys and a girl.
They were traveling in a Palestinian minibus taxi that collided head-on with an Israeli bus. The taxi driver was also killed. The Israeli bus driver and an eighth person, a 17-year-old, were wounded and are now at Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus.
Germany, Iran call for negotiations in crisis with Qatar
Germany’s foreign minister says the crisis over Gulf Arab state’s dispute with Qatar will only get worse the longer it lasts, and appeals on all sides to engage in direct dialogue.
Sigmar Gabriel tells reporters Tuesday that “now is the time to not inflame the conflict further and to talk with one another,” and suggests that Kuwait’s emir should moderate between the two sides.
He speaks following talks in Berlin with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Gabriel is asked about the Gulf Arab’s demand to have Qatar’s Al Jazeera be shut down. He says “it’s necessary to come to the table and then negotiate.”
Zarif also calls for talks, saying “what is needed for all countries in the Persian Gulf is to engage in dialogue.”
Mattis: US won’t be drawn into Syrian civil war
The United States will not be drawn into Syria’s civil war, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says, despite an increasingly complicated battle space that has seen US warplanes down pro-regime aircraft.
Speaking to reporters on a military plane late Monday as he heads for meetings in Europe, Mattis says the US-led coalition is determined to keep a strict focus on fighting the Islamic State group.
We won’t fire “unless they are the enemy, unless they are ISIS,” he says, using an acronym for the jihadist group.
“We just refuse to get drawn into a fight there in the Syria civil war, we try to end that one through diplomatic engagement.”
His comments come shortly before White House spokesman Sean Spicer issues a statement saying President Bashar al-Assad’s regime may be preparing for a chemical attack against civilians, warning that the Syrian military would pay a “heavy price” if it took such action.
Mossad will invest in tech startups to have a say in development
The Mossad’s new technology investment fund, Libertad, announced today, marks a “new model” for the espionage agency’s acquisition of advanced technology, a top Prime Minister’s Office official tells The Times of Israel.
“It’s a new model we developed that enables the Mossad to pay for technology development and license intellectual property from technology companies,” explains Eli Groner, the director-general of the PMO, who has worked together with the Mossad on the project for over a year.
“Historically, the Mossad has outsourced technologies. What we’re changing today is that we’re no longer just enabling the Mossad to purchase off-the-shelf products, but rather we’re getting the Mossad involved at the early development stage so that it will have more influence and more degrees of freedom with the technology it licenses,” he tells The Times of Israel.
“The Mossad has always been ahead of the curve, from a technological perspective, throughout its history. The fact of the matter is that the future of technology and the future reality is being developed by startup companies around the world, with a real emphasis on Israel,” Groner says.
— Raphael Ahren
Disabled protesters try to set themselves on fire outside PM’s residence
Disabled demonstrators gather outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem to protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed increase to their disability stipends, calling it insufficient.
At the protest, two protesters begin pouring gasoline on themselves, but are stopped by police officers who leap at them and grab the gasoline containers.
According to police, one individual is taken to the side for medical checks.
Protesters then attempt to set a wheelchair-bound doll on fire, but police put it out with fire extinguishers.
— גלצ (@GLZRadio) June 27, 2017
US justices to hear appeal over seizing Iran artifacts
The Supreme Court will hear an appeal from survivors of a 1997 terrorist attack who want to seize museum pieces in US collections to help pay a $71.5 million default judgment against Iran.
The justices say Tuesday they will review a lower court ruling that said the US victims of a suicide bombing in Jerusalem couldn’t go after collections of Persian artifacts at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History and the University of Chicago.
The victims accused Iran of providing training and support to Hamas, which carried out the attack. They won a judgment and sought assets to pay it after Iran refused to pay.
The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Iran didn’t own some of the collections and said other artifacts were immune under US law.
The artifacts at issue include thousands of Persian tablets known as the Persepolis Collection that are more than 2,000 years old. They are owned by Iran, but have been on long-term loan to the University of Chicago since 1937 for research, translation and cataloging.
The victims say they have a right to pursue the collection under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. They say the law allows victims of terrorism to attach any assets of foreign state sponsors of terrorism regardless of whether they are connected to commercial activity in the US.
Iran argues that the appeals court was correct in determining that the collection is immune.
Justice minister criticizes Netanyahu for surprise Western Wall vote
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked criticizes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the surprise vote in the cabinet earlier this week to freeze the Western Wall agreement, a decision that sparked fury among American and liberal Jewish groups.
“We backed the prime minister on the [Western Wall] framework, and thought it was the right thing to do,” Shaked says Tuesday in an interview with Army Radio.
Ministers were surprised when the vote was announced, she adds.
“It wasn’t okay, even if it’s his right as prime minister, that [the vote to freeze the agreement] wasn’t put on the [cabinet meeting’s] agenda. The right thing to do would be to put it on the agenda so ministers can prepare.”
Syria’s Assad tours Russian military base in Latakia
Syrian military media publishes a video of President Bashar Assad inspecting the Russian Hmeimim air base in western Syria and climbing into the cockpit of a Russian SU-35 fighter jet.
The military media outlet says Assad is accompanied by the Russian Army’s Chief of Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, to inspect the base near the coastal city of Latakia.
Russia’s air intervention from September 2015 against rebels pushed the Syrian civil war decisively in Assad’s favor.
Photos posted by the military media show a Russian helicopter and armored trucks on base.
The president wears a business suit and is accompanied by Russian staff in military uniform.
Police said planning to indict PM for conflict of interest, not illicit gifts
Police are not planning on indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, and will instead push ahead only with the charge of putting himself in a conflict of interest, Channel 2 news reports.
Police are currently probing expensive gifts allegedly given to Netanyahu and his family by wealthy businessmen including US-Israeli movie mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer, and whether any actions subsequently taken on their behalf amount to graft or conflicts of interest. Police are reportedly looking into whether Netanyahu helped Packer gain residency in Israel and aided Michan in his US visa request.
Packer is said to be set to testify Monday as one of the final figures to be questioned in the investigation. Eleven people have been questioned in the last month, the report says.
In his own testimony, Netanyahu reportedly told police that he “acted for the good of Israel’s security.”
A second investigation, dubbed “Case 2000,” concerns the prime minister’s recorded discussions with the publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, Arnon Mozes, about a quid pro quo deal to restrict the activities of a rival newspaper through legislation. No such deal was ever implemented.
— Raoul Wootliff
Three Israeli companies said hit in global ‘Petya’ cyber attack
A massive cyber attack on companies and government agencies in the West is reaching into Israel, Channel 2 reports.
Three Israeli companies are hit with the ransomware software, according to cyber security experts cited by Channel 2.
Screenshots from various victims show that the malicious code encrypts files on victims’ computers and demands some $300 in payment in cryptocurrency to release the information back to its owners.
Gabe Pressman, pioneer of television reporting, dies at 93
Gabe Pressman, a pioneering TV newsman who was a fixture in New York City journalism for six decades, dies at 93.
Pressman, who died Friday, was one of the first reporters to take a camera crew into the streets for live coverage.
“All I know, I was alone out there. I was the only one holding the mike,” he told The New York Times in 1998.
Pressman became a reliable and engaging source for many New Yorkers who tuned into local stations like WNBC and WNEW.
He was honored with many accolades — 11 Emmy Awards, a Peabody and the George Polk Award — for his original reporting, uncovering topics like homelessness and the mentally ill. He also served as president of the New York Press Club from 1997 to 2000.
The Bronx native was the son of two Jewish immigrants who supported his deep interest in reporting. Pressman showed promise at a young age, having started a family newspaper at 8 or 9. He was known by family and friends for his love of all things news and public affairs.
Pressman is survived by his wife, four children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandson.
$23 million recovered from estates of Bernard Madoff’s late sons
The estates of the late sons of Bernard Madoff agree to give up $23 million to help settle claims by victims of his massive Ponzi scheme.
The trustee recovering money for the victims, Irving Picard, reaches an agreement with the estates of Andrew and Mark Madoff that would strip them of “all assets, cash, and other proceeds” related to the scheme, Reuters reports, citing a Monday court filing in Manhattan.
The agreement would leave the estate of Andrew Madoff, who died of cancer in 2014 at 48, with $2 million, and the estate of Mark Madoff, who committed suicide in 2010 at 46, with $1.75 million. The estates also agree to withdraw more than $99 million in claims against their father’s bankrupt company, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC.
The sons said they did not know about the scheme until their father informed them of it a few days before his arrest in December 2008. They were not criminally charged in the case.
Picard estimates that Madoff’s clients, many of them Jewish- and Israel-related philanthropies, as well as individual American Jews, lost $17.5 billion. He has recovered some $11.6 billion.
Bernard Madoff, 79, is serving a 150-year jail sentence at a federal prison in North Carolina.
US ambassador calls for unity among Jews
Commenting on the current crisis between the Israeli government and Diaspora Jewry, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman calls for unity in the Jewish people.
“Yesterday I heard something that I thought I’d never hear. I heard a major Jewish organization say that they need to rethink their relations with Israel. We must do better,” he says at an award ceremony for the 2017 B’nai B’rith World Center Award for Journalism Recognizing Excellence in Diaspora Reportage.
The Jewish Agency, Union for Reform Judaism, Jewish Federations of North America and other groups that work on Israel-Diaspora relations have harshly criticized the cabinet’s decision on Sunday to walk back a compromise agreement to build a prayer platform for non-Orthodox prayer at the Western Wall.
“There’s plenty of room to cast blame, whether on the issue of the Western Wall or conversion,” he says, adding that he does not want to take sides in the disagreement over these issues. “But we can only resolve these issues by mutual respect and understanding.”
Friedman says he just returned to Jerusalem from a tour on the Golan, where he received a security briefing on various Syrian terror groups. Many of the Islamist groups fight each other and have only one thing in common, he explains: their hatred for Israel and Jews.
“Common enemies are not enough to unite us,” he says. “We should unite behind the miracle that is Israel.”
Friedman admits he has been “as guilty as anyone else” on that score, likely referring to derogatory comments he has made about left-wing American Jews. “It has to end,” he says, pledging to start treating all Jews with the respect they deserve. “We have to turn the page.”
Although organizers billed his speech as his “first policy speech since arriving in Israel,” Friedman did not address the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that the US administration is currently working to restart. He says only that US President Donald Trump is “very pro-Israel,” noting he was the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall.
— Raphael Ahren