IDF treating Israeli’s disappearance near Hebron as kidnapping
search
Live updates (closed)

IDF treating Israeli’s disappearance near Hebron as kidnapping

Army says ‘these are the critical hours’ in tracking down 22-year-old; Iran, world powers announce ‘historic’ framework agreement; Israel slams it

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

IDF soldiers in Hebron (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
IDF soldiers in Hebron (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

A 22-year-old Israeli man went missing near Hebron on Thursday afternoon, after he entered an Arab village without his cellphone and did not return. The army began massive sweeps of the area, and said it was treating the case as a kidnapping and was working under the assumption the man was still alive.

In Lausanne, the P5+1 announced a framework agreement, which it said would ultimately ease all sanctions on the Islamic Republic. A joint statement, read out by the EU’s Federica Mogherini, said enrichment will be limited to the Natanz facility, the Fordo nuclear facility will be converted, and the centrifuge stockpile will be slashed by two-thirds. President Barack Obama hailed the “historic” deal, and sought to reassure Israel that it was its most “effective” option. Officials in Jerusalem castigated it, however, as a dangerous capitulation.

An IDF soldier was indicted for spying for Syria, media reports said. The Druze soldier was accused of conveying sensitive military information to an ex-prisoner and Golan resident who informed the Syrian government. The ex-prisoner, Sidqi al-Maqt, 48, was indicted for spying for Syria last week.

The Times of Israel liveblogged developments as they unfolded.

Soldier suspected of spying for Syria

A Druze soldier from northern Israel is indicted on charges of passing on sensitive military information to Syria.

Corporal Halal Halabi of Daliyat al-Karmel is accused of telling Sidqi al-Maqt, 48 — who spent 27 years in an Israeli prison on terrorism charges and who was indicted last week for spying –about army exercises on the Syrian border, Channel 2 reports. Maqt reportedly then handed over that information to the Syrian government.

The soldier is indicted for “conveying secret information and aiding the enemy.” According to the report, Maqt approached the army base where the soldier was stationed on February 15, and told him that he wanted to write an article about the IDF activity in the area. During that encounter, a man who arrived with Maqt filmed the area. The next day, the two spoke by phone, and Halabi told him more about the army training and invited him to watch the exercises.

The head of the Daliyat al-Karmel municipality tells Channel 2 that the soldier was duped, and likely didn’t understand the implications of his actions.

‘Military option is on the table’ — Steinitz

Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz says that all options including military action are on the table in the face of the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Speaking to public radio as crunch talks on Iran’s nuclear program continue in Switzerland, Steinitz says Israel would seek to counter any threat through diplomacy and intelligence but “if we have no choice we have no choice… the military option is on the table.”

Asked about possible US objections to Israeli military action, Steinitz points to Israel’s unilateral attack against the Osirak nuclear reactor in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1981.

“This operation was not carried out in agreement with the United States,” he says.

Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, March 03, 2015 (photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, March 03, 2015 (photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Steinitz, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, says the Israeli leader had left no doubt as to the country’s response to nuclear-armed Iran.

“The prime minister has said clearly that Israel will not allow Iran to become a nuclear power,” Steinitz says.

AFP

Nuke talks resume after all-night session

Eyes bleary from lack of sleep, senior diplomats from the six countries negotiating with Iran huddle in a morning strategy session meant to advance the pace of agonizingly slow nuclear talks. Iran’s foreign minister says the sides were close to a preliminary agreement, but not yet there.

The talks resumed several hours after a flurry of marathon overnight sessions between Kerry and Zarif, as well as other meetings among the six powers negotiating to curb Iranian nuclear programs that could be used to make weapons.

AP

Iran pans US threat of military strike

Iran’s defense minister lambastes his US counterpart’s comments about military options against Tehran still being on the table despite ongoing nuclear talks, saying they show America cannot be trusted.

Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan, quoted by the official IRNA news agency Thursday, says Pentagon chief Ashton Carter’s remarks were “designed to affect the rational atmosphere of negotiations” between Iran and world powers in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Ashton, who became defense secretary in February, said in an interview Tuesday with NBC News that if a nuclear deal is not reached “the military option certainly will remain on the table.”

“If there is a good agreement to have, obviously it is worth waiting for and completing the negotiations,” he added.

Dehghan dismisses Ashton’s words as an “empty” threat that would not affect Iran’s “reasonable, rational and fair position” in the talks, though they had come at a “sensitive and difficult” time.

“The said remarks are a testament to the Islamic republic’s distrust for the US,” he says, accusing Carter of “suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.”

“If Ashton Carter remembered America’s previous and recent defeats in the region and the world, he would refrain from making such empty remarks,” Dehghan says.

Iran is “at all times and in all situations ready to retaliate against any hostile threats from aggressors,” he adds.

— AFP

‘Foreign troops’ said to land in Yemen

“Foreign troops” of an unspecified nationality have landed in the Yemeni city of Aden, BBC reports, quoting unconfirmed reports.

Meanwhile, the first Saudi soldier is killed on the Yemen border.

15 killed in Al-Shabab attack on Kenya university

Al-Shabab gunmen attacked a college in northeast Kenya early Thursday, targeting Christians and killing at least 15 people and wounding 60 others, witnesses say.

Even as security forces cornered the gunmen in a dormitory at Garissa University College where they could be holding hostages, survivors describe to The Associated Press a harrowing scene, where people were mercilessly gunned down and bullets whistled through the air as they ran for their lives.

Collins Wetangula, the vice chairman of the student union, says he was preparing to take a shower when he heard gunshots coming from Tana dorm, which hosts both men and women, 150 meters (yards) away. The campus has six dorms and at least 887 students, he says.

He says that when he heard the gunshots he locked himself and three roommates in their room.

“All I could hear were footsteps and gunshots. Nobody was screaming because they thought this would lead the gunmen to know where they are,” he says. “The gunmen were saying sisi ni al-Shabab (Swaihi for we are al-Shabab),” Wetangula says.

When the gunmen arrived at his dormitory he could hear them opening doors and asking if the people who had hidden inside whether they were Muslims or Christians.

“If you were a Christian you were shot on the spot,” he says. “With each blast of the gun I thought I was going to die.”

— AP

Security guards haul in ‘hametz’

Security guards at hospitals and universities nationwide are confiscating hametz (leavened) products ahead of the Passover holiday, sparking protests that the move is a violation of privacy, the Ynet news website reports.

Students at the Hebrew University campus at Ein Kerem, which is adjacent to the Hadassah hospital, argued with the security guards on Monday about the directive, while institutions around the country said the policy is not new.

One Orthodox student complains that the guards are overstepping their authority.

“His job is to provide security. That’s why they gave him a gun and not a ‘Hametz-ometer.’ Who are you to come and go through my bag? It’s not yet Passover and I want to finish my hametz and bring cookies to my lab and eat it during the day. Why shouldn’t I be able to do this?” she says.

Indicted Menendez ‘not going anywhere’

Prominent Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez declares that he’s “not going anywhere” after he is charged with accepting nearly $1 million in gifts and campaign contributions from a longtime friend in exchange for a stream of political favors.

The Cuban-American politician is expected to appear in federal court in New Jersey on Thursday in response to charges that he used the power of his Senate seat to benefit Dr. Salomon Melgen, a wealthy Florida eye doctor who prosecutors say provided the senator with luxury vacations, airline travel, golf trips and tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to a legal defense fund.

The criminal charges brought Wednesday cloud the political future of the top Democrat — and former chairman — of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who has played a leading role in Congress on matters involving Iran’s nuclear program and US efforts to improve ties with Cuba.

Menendez, who represents New Jersey, says he will temporarily step aside from his role as top Democrat on the committee, but appears more defiant than ever at a hastily-called press conference that felt more like a political rally, with enthusiastic supporters cheering him on.

“I’m outraged that prosecutors at the Justice Department were tricked into starting this investigating three years ago with false allegations by those who have a political motive to silence me,” Menendez tells reporters.

He later says: “I am not going anywhere. I’m angry and ready to fight because today contradicts my public service and my entire life.”

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, listens to a question while speaking in Garwood, N.J. March 23, 2015 (photo credit: AP/Mel Evans, File)

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, listens to a question while speaking in Garwood, N.J. March 23, 2015 (photo credit: AP/Mel Evans, File)

AP

Zarif hopes for joint statement by midnight

The Iranian foreign minister hopes a joint statement of understandings between Iran and the P5+1 will be issued by midnight, though it has not yet been drafted, the semi-official Fars News Agency reports.

“No statement has yet been prepared,” Zarif says. “We hope to achieve results today.”

“If everything goes well, there will be a formal, public statement by midnight,” he says.

“We have said right from the beginning that no agreement would be signed today. We have always stated that there could be only one agreement which could go into effect at the end of the talks on July 1 if everything goes well,” Zarif adds.

The foreign minister says there is “good hope for reaching a common understanding.”

With regard to the joint statement, he indicates that disagreements between Iran and the world powers may arise in the process of drafting the statement.

“We are supposed to reach consensus and the delegations will start working on the text in the near future,” he says. “Things might grow difficult when drafting starts; now we believe that problems have almost been resolved.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif talks to members of the media while walking through a courtyard at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel during an extended round of talks April 1, 2015 in Lausanne, Switzerland (photo credit: AFP /BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/POOL)

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif talks to members of the media while walking through a courtyard at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel during an extended round of talks April 1, 2015 in Lausanne, Switzerland (photo credit: AFP /BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/POOL)

Germanwings was unaware of co-pilot’s depression

Germanwings says it was unaware that the co-pilot of its plane which crashed in the French Alps last week had suffered from depression during his pilot training.

German airline Lufthansa confirmed Tuesday that it knew six years ago that Lubitz had suffered from an episode of “severe depression” before he finished his flight training.

“We didn’t know this,” says Vanessa Torres, a spokeswoman for Lufthansa subsidiary Germanwings, which hired Lubitz in September 2013.

In this Sunday, Sept. 13, 2009 photo, Andreas Lubitz competes at the Airportrun in Hamburg, northern Germany. Germanwings co-pilot Lubitz appears to have hidden evidence of an illness from his employers, including having been excused by a doctor from work the day he crashed a passenger plane into a mountain, prosecutors said. (photo credit: AP Photo/Michael Mueller)

In this Sunday, Sept. 13, 2009 photo, Andreas Lubitz competes at the Airportrun in Hamburg, northern Germany. Germanwings co-pilot Lubitz appears to have hidden evidence of an illness from his employers, including having been excused by a doctor from work the day he crashed a passenger plane into a mountain, prosecutors said. (photo credit: AP Photo/Michael Mueller)

She declines to explain the discrepancy, citing the ongoing investigation. Torres noted that Lufthansa has said Lubitz held a “fully valid class 1 medical certificate” on the day of the crash.

AP

Boehner says US too ‘hungry’ for Iran deal

In an interview with Politico, House Speaker John Boehner says he is troubled that the Obama administration is racing to sign a deal simply for the sake of reaching a deal.

“What bothers me is it looks like the administration is so hungry for a deal just to have a deal so they can say they have a deal,” Boehner said. “The rest of the world wants something real out of this.”

He also addresses his role in US foreign policy and the upheaval in the Middle East.

US House Speaker John Boehner in Jerusalem on April 1, 2015. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / POOL / DEBBIE HILL)

US House Speaker John Boehner in Jerusalem on April 1, 2015. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / POOL / DEBBIE HILL)

“I wouldn’t have believed that I would be involved in as much foreign policy as I am today,” Boehner says. “And it certainly isn’t by choice. It’s just that the world is on fire. And I don’t think enough Americans or enough people in the administration understand how serious the problems that we’re facing in the world are.”

Read the full interview here.

Houthi rebels seize Yemen presidential palace

Yemeni security officials say Shiite rebels and their allies have captured the presidential palace in Aden following heavy clashes in the commercial center of this southern coastal city.

Aden’s Maasheeq palace is a cluster of colonial-era villas perched atop a rocky hill that juts into the Arabian Sea. The palace was President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s last seat of power before he fled to Saudi Arabia last month amid the Houthi advance.

At least 44 people are killed in fighting between rebels and supporters of the Yemeni President in Aden, medics and a military official says.

Eighteen civilians and six members of a local militia resisting the rebels’ advance were killed in the fighting, a medic says. A military official says 20 Houthi Shiite rebels also died in the clashes.

AP, AFP

Argentine union leader calls minister ‘little Jew boy’

An Argentinian union leader criticizes the country’s interior minister, Axel Kicillof, during a radio interview saying that “the little Jew boy gives no answer” to workers’ demands.”

Luis Barrionuevo on Wednesday discussed a national general strike initiated the previous day by the union, referring to the minister as “el Rusito,” the Little Russian. “Russian” is a popular slang term used to refer to Jews in Argentina.

The president of the national Jewish political umbrella DAIA, Julio Schlosser, tells JTA that these “discriminatory expressions are very upsetting. We regret these statements by Luis Barrionuevo and condemn them.”

Alerted by the show host, Ernesto Tenembaum, that the slur was offensive, Barrionuevo, the leader of the CGT Azul y Blanca, or Blue and white CGT union, justifies it by saying: “that’s how his cabinet colleagues refer to him.” Cabinet Chief Anibal Fernandez responded by saying in his daily meeting with journalists that “the little Russian is a brilliant minister.”

“Everybody calls him this. When I talk with members of the government they refer to the minister as El Rusito. I didn’t discriminate against him,” Barrionuevo says in another radio interview with Jewish journalist Martin Liberman, who asked Barrionuevo if he has problems with Jews. “I have Jewish friends,” Barrionuevo says.

JTA

Winners of annual Zionism prize announced

The winners of the 2015 Moskowitz Prize for Zionism are Temple Mount activist Yehudah Glick, journalist Yisrael Harel, and New Guardians founder Yoel Zilberstein. The three will split the $100,000 prize. The award ceremony will be held on May 19.

Glick survived an assassination attempt by an Islamist gunman last October in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Yehudah Glick (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Rabbi Yehudah Glick (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Second black box from Alps crash found

The second black box from the Germanwings plane that crashed in the French Alps last week has been found after a nine-day search, prosecutors say.

Authorities are hoping to unearth more clues about the disaster from the black box after the first voice recorder suggested that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately locked the plane on a collision course with the mountains.

Oman warns of ‘catastrophe’ if talks fail

Oman’s foreign minister says failure to reach a nuclear accord would result in “catastrophe” in the region, Reuters reports.

“There are those who prefer peace, this is why there are negotiations between the 5+1 and Iran,” Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi says.

“Those who prefer wars – they should be willing to accept losses. Heavy losses. Catastrophe.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry, right, and Oman Foreign Minister Yusuf Bin Alawi bin Abdullah, meeting at the official residence of the US ambassador to Britain, Winfield House, in London, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Matt Dunham)

US Secretary of State John Kerry, right, and Oman Foreign Minister Yusuf Bin Alawi bin Abdullah, meeting at the official residence of the US ambassador to Britain, Winfield House, in London, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Matt Dunham)

Muslim world population could catch up with Christians by 2050

The Muslim and Christian populations could be nearly equal by 2050, with Islam expected to be the fastest-growing faith on the planet, according to projections released Thursday.

The Pew Research Center’s religious profile predictions assesses data from around the world on fertility rates, trends in youth population growth and religious conversion statistics.

“Over the next four decades, Christians will remain the largest religious group, but Islam will grow faster than any other major religion,” according to the report.

The authors predict there will be 2.76 billion Muslims on the planet by then, and 2.92 billion Christians. Those figures would correspond to about 29.7 and 31.4 percent of the world population, respectively.

There were 1.6 billion Muslims on the planet in 2010, compared to 2.17 billion Christians.

“The number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world,” it adds.

Hindus will be third, making up 14.9 percent of the world’s total population, followed by people who do not affiliate with any religion, accounting for 13.2 percent.

The Asia-Pacific region will remain the most popular for Muslims, bolstered by a youthful population with high fertility rates.

Muslims are expected to account for 10 percent of Europe’s overall population, Pew adds.

If the trend continues, Islam will be the most popular faith in the world after 2070, it says.

AFP

Netanyahu sells hametz

The prime minister, along with the chief rabbis of Israel, sells the nation’s hametz to Hussein Jabar of Abu Ghosh in a state ceremony ahead of the Passover holiday.

Acting as finance minister, Netanyahu sells the leavened foods for NIS 20,000 ($5,000).

In a statement, the prime minister says he “is always moved” by the annual ceremony.

“Tomorrow the entire Jewish people will sit and tell our sons and daughters, as we were commanded to do for thousands of years, and will remember that in every generation, they [nations] rise up against us to destroy us,” Netanyahu says, according to a statement.

Jaber Issa, the head of the Abu Ghosh municipality, wished a happy Passover to the Jews in Israel and abroad.

“We trust the prime minister and want to wish him luck, both in forming the next government, and in leading the State of Israel and people of Israel to peace, economic prosperity, and success in every area,” he says.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) seen with Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef (2L) and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau Jerusalem, during a ceremony to sell the hametz of the state of Israel to Arab Israelis before the upcoming Passover holiday. April 02, 2015. (photo credit: Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) seen with Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef (2L) and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau Jerusalem, during a ceremony to sell the hametz of the state of Israel to Arab Israelis before the upcoming Passover holiday. April 02, 2015. (photo credit: Haim Zach/GPO)

Germanwings co-pilot researched suicide methods

The co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525 appears to have researched suicide methods and cockpit door security in the days before he flew the plane into the French Alps, killing 150 people, German prosecutors say.

Duesseldorf prosecutors say investigators found a tablet computer at co-pilot Andreas Lubitz’s apartment in Duesseldorf and were able to reconstruct his computer searches from March 16 to March 23.

Prosecutors’ spokesman Ralf Herrenbrueck says in a statement that Lubitz’s search terms included medical treatment and suicide methods. On at least one day, the co-pilot looked at search terms involving cockpit doors and their security methods.

“(He) concerned himself on one hand with medical treatment methods, on the other hand with types and ways of going about a suicide,” Herrenbrueck says. “In addition, on at least one day (Lubitz) concerned himself with search terms about cockpit doors and their security precautions.”

German prosecutors say personal correspondence and search terms on the tablet, whose browser memory had not been erased, “support the conclusion that the machine was used by the co-pilot in the relevant period.

Investigators are also examining cellphones found in the debris of the jet crash for clues about what happened. A French reporter who says he saw such cellphone video described the excruciating sound of “screaming and screaming” as the plane flew full-speed into a mountain.

AP

Iran deal ‘only steps’ away, Russia says

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says that global powers and Iran are “only steps” from a negotiated deal aimed at cutting back Tehran’s nuclear program, following marathon talks.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (center) and others wait for a P5+1 meeting at the Beau-Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland, on March 28, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (center) and others wait for a P5+1 meeting at the Beau-Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland, on March 28, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)

“The matters that are being decided now are close to being agreed, literally there are only steps, and in some cases half-steps, some things have already been settled,” Lavrov says at a meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (STO), a Moscow-backed security organization, in the Tajik capital Dushanbe.

AFP

Agreement on nuke deal but not on disclosure — officials

Western officials say that Iran and the United States have agreed on the outlines of an understanding that would open the path to a final phase of nuclear negotiations but are in a dispute over how much to make public.

The officials demand anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the negotiations.

AP

Israeli missing near Hebron

An Israeli man is feared missing near Hebron, Channel 2 reports.

The man’s car broke down, the report says, and the Israeli entered a nearby village for help, leaving his cellphone in the vehicle.

The army is searching the area.

More information on missing Israeli

The Israeli who went missing near Hebron was with a friend when the car broke down between Kiryat Arba and Beit Einun.

The friend waited in the car as the man entered the village to find tools to fix the vehicle, according to reports.

After waiting for some 30 minutes, the friend alerted the police by 4:15 p.m.

Description of missing 22-year-old

The Israeli who is feared missing near Hebron is described by Channel 10 as a 22-year-old male, who was wearing jeans and a Jewish National Fund sweatshirt at the time of his disappearance.

Iran talks end

The Iran nuclear talks in Lausanne have concluded.

A press conference will be held shortly.

Missing Israeli a Beersheba resident

The missing Israeli and his friend are residents of Beersheba in southern Israel.

They were on their way home after visiting the Cave of the Patriarchs when the car broke down, Channel 2 reports.

The army and police set up checkpoints, and are sweeping the area.

Shin Bet probing possibility of kidnapping

The Shin Bet is investigating whether the 22-year-old who went missing near Hebron was kidnapped.

There is a large army presence near the West Bank village, and special units are dispatched to the area.

Israeli troops are searching cars and houses nearby.

Channel 2’s Roni Daniel reports that the car did not have a flat tire, as reported earlier, and says it remains unclear why the Israeli man entered Beit Anun.

Highways 35 and 60 are closed off.

Missing man was familiar with area

The missing 22-year-old was stationed in the Hebron area during his army service, Channel 2 reports, and was likely familiar with the area.

Friend’s testimony questioned, as car found intact

Conflicting reports cast doubt on the testimony of the friend of the missing man, after their car was located with its tires intact, contrary to his account, Channel 10 reports.

Moreover, that the missing man’s cellphone was discovered in the vehicle has raised suspicions further that the testimony may not be reliable.

The friend is being interrogated by police.

With nuke talks statement imminent, Obama delays trip

The New York Times’s Peter Baker writes on Twitter that President Obama has postponed his trip to Kentucky, as a joint statement on the nuclear talks is expected out of Lausanne.

EU foreign affairs chief hints at ‘good news’

EU Foreign Affairs Chief Federica Mogherini, en route to the press conference in Lausanne, says there is “good news” in store.

Iran deal must ‘significantly’ diminish capabilities — PM

Netanyahu says that any deal to emerge from talks on Iran’s nuclear ambitions must seriously diminish its capabilities.

“Any deal must significantly roll back Iran’s nuclear capabilities and stop its terrorism and aggression,” he says in a statement.

AFP

‘Found solutions,’ Iranian leaders tweet

President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif write on Twitter that agreements between Tehran, global powers have been reached, and the drafting process of a deal can now begin.

Hebron disappearance may have begun as criminal incident

Channel 2 reports that the incident with the missing man “may have started out criminal, and turned into a nationalistic” attack. It does not elaborate.

The missing man is an ex-border policeman.

The report says that Palestinian security forces maintain they have no information.

A Palestinian security source tells the Ynet news website: “Our preliminary assessment is that this is not security-related, but we are examining all the possibilities.”

Details of Iran framework emerge

Reuters reports that Iran will suspend more than two-thirds of its centrifuges as part of the deal, and nuclear facilities will be monitored by the West for ten years. Enriched uranium supply will be diluted or shipped to a third-party country, it says.

The German Foreign Ministry writes on Twitter that a framework agreement has been reached.

Cousin of missing man urges public to pray

The cousin of the missing man, identified simply as Meir, urges the public “to pray and pray and pray” on behalf of his relative “that he will return in one piece.”

He says his cousin went to work this morning, and then told his mother he was going to pray at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

Nuclear facilities will not be shuttered — report

The Iranian Mehr News Agency reports on Twitter that Tehran’s nuclear facilities will not be shuttered as part of the framework deal.

The press conference in Lausanne is expected to begin soon.

Joint statement with Iran

Federica Mogherini reads joint statement “that we have agreed on with foreign minister Zarif” and world powers:

It says nuclear deal aims to ensure the “exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program and the lifting of all sanctions.”

She hails it as a “decisive step” and says “we have reached solutions.”

Enrichment will be limited, and will not be at no other facility than Natanz, she says. Fordo will be converted into “a nuclear physics and technology center.”

“There will not be any fissile material at Fordo,” she says.

She says “defense material will be exported.”

The IAEA will have access “through agreed procedures.”

She commits to complete final efforts by June 30.

Obama to make address in 20 minutes

President Obama will make a statement in 20 minutes on the framework agreement.

Zarif says nuke facilities won’t be closed

Zarif says “we have done significant work,” and decided “to take steps” to ensure nuclear program “is exclusively peaceful.”

He denies nuclear facilities will be closed, saying the people of Iran “would not accept that.”

“We will continue enriching,” and facilities “will be modernized,” he says.

“We will not enrich in Fordo,” he pledges, saying Iran will store centrifuges there but will not enrich. He says enrichment will be concentrated in Natanz.

He says all Security Council, EU, US sanctions “will be terminated.”

“When we implement our measures, there will be no sanctions against the Islamic Republic.”

Ya’alon briefed on missing Israeli

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon is briefed on the missing Israeli, along with the IDF chief of staff and head of the IDF’s Central Command.

A senior security source tells Ynet that until proven otherwise, the army is treating the incident as a kidnapping.

‘We have serious differences with the US’ — Zarif

“Iran-US relations have nothing to do with this,” Zarif says, adding that the talks were focused on the nuclear program.

“We have serious differences with the US, we have built mutual distrust,” he says.

The foreign minister says this framework agreement is not yet binding, and Tehran is only held to its commitments from the 2013 interim deal.

“No agreement has been reached, so we have no obligations yet,” he says.

Zarif says he hopes that through “courageous” implementation of this agreement,”some of that mistrust could be remedied,” adding that both countries will have to wait and see.

Zarif concedes some sanctions will continue for a while

“Iranian R&D will continue,” Zarif says.

With regard to the Security Council resolutions, he says they will “all be terminated.”

“Now there will be certain limitations that some countries wish to impose on the Islamic Republic,” he says and those elements may continue for a while, and then be cut.

He says all of this will be put in writing and filed to the UN.

He says “Iran has been the victim of many broken promises in the past,” and therefore has “elaborate mechanism” built into to the agreement that won’t allow the deal to be slashed.

Obama hails ‘historic understanding’ with Iran

Obama hails “historic understanding with Iran, which if fully implemented” will prevent it from building nuclear weapons.

If framework reaches final deal “it will make our country,” and “our allies safe.”

He says the agreement is “a long time coming.”

When Iran did not agree to negotiations, the US pushed sanctions which would not halt their program, but which “did help bring Iran to the negotiating table.”

The president says skeptics predicted interim agreement would fail, but “Iran met all of its obligations.”

Announcing deal, he says: “And it is a good deal. A deal that meets our core objectives.”

Defending inspections and scrutiny, he says: “This deal is not based on trust. It’s based on unprecedented verification.”

“Nothing is agreed to, until everything is agreed.”

He says Iran will not develop weapons-grade plutonium, material at Arak will be shipped out of the country. Second, “this deal shuts down Iran’s path to the bomb using uranium.” He says it will cut down stockpile by two-thirds.

“Even if it violated the deal, Iran would be a minimum of a year away from developing a bomb.”

Limitations will last for 15 years, and transparency measures for 20 years or more, he says.

“If Iran cheats, the world will know.”

With this deal, Iran will face many more inspections than any other country, the US president says.

“If Iran violates the deal, sanctions could be snapped back into place,” he adds.

He emphasizes: “Our work is not yet done. The deal is not yet signed.”

He says negotiators will fully brief Congress, and the US people.

The president says a military strike would spark a new war in the Middle East, and only set back the nuclear program by a few years.

Iran will not simply dismantle its program because the world demands it, he says.

He says majority of the world believes agreement is “a fair deal.”

“It is our best option by far,” he says.

Obama says he’ll call Netanyahu today

“It’s no secret” Netanyahu and I don’t agree on this, he says.

“This is the best option” for Netanyahu, he says, adding that he will speak to the prime minister by phone today.

“There is no daylight when it comes to our support for Israel’s security,” he says.

He says US national security experts will be speaking to Israeli officials to strengthen military cooperation.

Obama says this is not simply a deal between US and Iran, but the broader international community and Iran.

If Congress “kills this deal” with no justification or no alternative, it will harm diplomacy, he says.

Obama thanks ‘tireless’ Kerry

Obama thanks P5+1, and particularly “the tireless, and I mean the tireless” secretary of state.

“Their work, our work, is not yet done,” he says, adding that the world should seize the opportunity.

Kerry says deal will be based on proof, not promises

Kerry says the Natanz facility “will undergo dramatic changes” and others will be converted entirely.

“The vast majority of the centrifuges and its infrastructure” will be demolished there, Kerry says, and uranium enrichment will be capped at 3.67%.

“A final agreement will not rely on promises, it will rely on proof,” Kerry says.

He emphasizes sanctions relief will be “in phases.” The US secretary says that if Iran violates deal, sanctions can “snap back” into place.

“Simply demanding that Iran capitulate is a nice soundbite, but it is not a policy,” Kerry says.

“The test is whether it will leave the world safer,” he says of the deal.

The negotiating partners in the P5+1 and all experts agree “that this is the best outcome achievable.”

“We have no illusions that we have ways to travel” before reaching a final deal, he says.

Kerry says the US consulted with allies, “including Israel,” and says it will defend their security.

UK, France, Germany say ‘still more work to do’

Sounding a cautious tone, the French foreign minister says “France will be watchful, as it always is in step with its partners, to ensure that a credible, verifiable agreement be established under which the international community can be sure Iran will not be in a position to have access to nuclear arms,” Reuters reports.

Meanwhile, Germany hails the “big, decisive step forward” but warns that it “is too early to celebrate.”

“It is too early to celebrate. Nevertheless, with the framework agreement we have overcome obstacles that stood in the way of a deal for a decade,” foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says, according to Reuters.

“If a final agreement is achieved, it could in my view not only pave the way for a solution to the Iran conflict, but it would be the first and only conflict in the Middle East where we will have achieved a de-escalation. It could therefore provide hope for an easing of tensions in the region and between Iran and Arab states,” Steinmeier says.

The UK’s Philip Hammond says the announcement is “well beyond what many of us thought possible even 18 months ago and a good basis for what I believe could be a very good deal.”

“But there is still more work to do,” he says.

IDF treating missing Israeli as kidnapping

The IDF is treating the disappearance of a 22-year-old Israeli man near Hebron as a kidnapping, the Ynet news website reports.

“We are treating the incident as abduction of a man in the field, whose condition is unknown. Our working assumption is that he is alive,” IDF spokesman Moti Almoz says, adding that “these are the critical hours.”

UN chief says deal will ‘contribute to peace’

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomes the framework Iran nuclear deal, saying it will pave the way to bolstering peace and stability in the Middle East.

“A comprehensive, negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue will contribute to peace and stability in the region and enable all countries to cooperate urgently to deal with the many serious security challenges they face,” Ban says in a statement from his spokesman.

AFP

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during a press conference at the Gaza donor conference in Cairo, Egypt, on October 12, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Khaled Desouki)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during a press conference at the Gaza donor conference in Cairo, Egypt, on October 12, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Khaled Desouki)

Jerusalem slams Iran deal as ‘dangerous capitulation’

In Jerusalem, officials slam the Iran framework deal as “a capitulation to Iranian dictates.”

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, call it “a bad framework that will lead to a bad and dangerous agreement. If finalized, it will make the world “far more dangerous,” they say.

The agreement constitutes “international legitimization of Iran’s nuclear program” whose “only purpose is to build nuclear weapons,” they add.

“This deal is a capitulation to Iranian dictates, and it won’t bring about nuclear [power] for peaceful purposes, rather nuclear [power] for the purpose of war,” they say.

Boehner: Deal ‘an alarming departure’ from original White House goals

House Speaker John Boehner says he’s concerned about an emerging nuclear agreement with Iran and says he wants Congress to review details of any pact before sanctions are lifted.

In a written statement, AP reports, the Ohio Republican says his visit to the Middle East this week leaves him worried about Iran’s efforts to spread terrorism. He says it would be naive to think Tehran won’t use its nuclear program and any easing of economic sanctions “to further destabilize the region.”

Boehner calls Thursday’s outline of a deal “an alarming departure” from the White House’s original goals.

Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith says President Barack Obama has spoken to the speaker, but Smith declines to provide further details.

US House Speaker John Boehner (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a press conference at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem on April 1, 2015. (photo credit: Debbie Hill/AFP)

US House Speaker John Boehner (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a press conference at the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem on April 1, 2015. (photo credit: Debbie Hill/AFP)

read more:
comments