The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
Bennett eulogizes slain West Bank terror victim
Thousands of people attend the funeral of Malachy Moshe Rosenfeld in Kochav Hashachar. Rosenfeld, 25, was murdered in a shooting attack on a road in the West Bank on Monday night. He succumbed to his wounds on Tuesday.
“Dear Malachy, my beloved. How this name fit you, you angel! How proud of you we were,” his father, Eliezer, mourned. The father was commenting on the name Malachy, which means angel in Hebrew.
Rosenfeld leaves behind his parents, Eliezer and Sarah, and seven siblings. Thirteen years ago, his eldest brother, Yitzhak, an IAF pilot, was killed during a hike in the south. Malachy’s parents donated his corneas after he died.
Eliezer Rosenfeld, a musician, said: “Malachy – I started playing when God took away your uncle, Yitzhak. Twenty-two years later, He also took sweet Yitzhaki [Malachi’s brother]. This was the second act, and then I started singing. To stand on a stage every evening and to play when one’s heart is burning, to make people happy. And now this is the third act. What, dear Lord? Have we not sung well enough? What did we do wrong?”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett attended the funeral. He said: “Rosenfelds, I cry with you and salute you today. ‘We went to play basketball and they wanted to murder us,’ said Yair Hoffer [one of the other people hurt in the shooting attack] who is with us today. In basketball opponents play on the same court with the same rules. Our enemies live also on the same court, the same ground, but they don’t have the same rules. We play by the rules of Jewish morals and they behave like savages. We risk our lives not to hurt the innocent, while they risk their lives to hurt the innocent. Our enemy is not like us, they are not a member of the family of nations.”
Iranian media: IAEA chief in Tehran tomorrow
The head of the UN agency tasked to monitor a nuclear deal with Iran will visit Tehran tomorrow to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and discuss an impasse over interviewing experts he suspects may have worked on atomic arms, Iranian media report.
Yukiya Amano of the International Atomic Energy Agency will “receive Iran’s alternative proposal to nuclear scientists’ questioning,” said the reports Wednesday.
An IAEA probe of the allegations has been essentially stalemated for nearly a decade, with Iran dismissing them as phony evidence planted by the US and Israel.
Washington insists that the agency be given greater powers in its investigations as part of any overall nuclear deal. That includes questioning people possibly involved in the alleged weapons work — something Tehran rejects.
The IAEA Wednesday had no immediate comment on the reported trip.
Amano will also reportedly meet with Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.
The reported trip comes as world powers use the seven-day window created by Tuesday’s decision to extend negotiations on the nuclear deal amid differences on how much access Iran must give Amano’s agency and other disputes.
IDF raises level of alert along Sinai border
The IDF raised its level of alert along the Sinai border after a terror attack in northwestern Sinai left at least 20 Egyptian soldiers dead, with some reports claiming as many as 64 dead.
An Egyptian paper meanwhile tweets that reports saying the city of Sheikh Zuweid has fallen into the hands of Ansar Beit al Maqdis, a terror group that pledged allegiance to Islamic State, are incorrect:
Sheikh Zuweid police station official to Daily News Egypt: We are under siege, town hasn't fallen
— Daily News Egypt (@DailyNewsEgypt) July 1, 2015
Israel closed crossings to the Gaza Strip following the attack.
Large brush fire erupts outside Jerusalem
Ten firefighting teams and two planes are battling to douse a large brush fire that erupted near Abu Gosh, outside Jerusalem.
A three-story building in the area and two other houses were evacuated, firefighting teams say.
Egypt PM says country ‘in midst of real war’
Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab says in the weekly government meeting in Cairo: “We are in the midst of a real war,” according to Ynet.
Mahlab speaks after a massive terror attack in the northwestern Sinai and the assassination of the Egyptian attorney general earlier this week.
Mahlab says he will hand to President Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi several bills that will facilitate the Egyptian government’s war against terror.
Eypt has a presidential system of government; the leader of the executive branch is the president, Sissi.
Funeral interrupts power balance at Knesset
Coalition MKs fume after Zionist Union MKs refused to decrease their attendance in the Knesset in order to keep the balance of votes between coalition and opposition and allow a representative of the government to attend the funeral of Malachy Moshe Rosenfeld at Kochav Hashachar.
Jewish Home MK Moti Yogev says: “I announced I will go to the funeral even without [the opposition] cutting back [on attendance]. I know the faction secretary eventually found an MK [who would stay away from the plenum] but at great effort. I said I would go to the funeral at any cost.”
Yogev says, “The Labor party, called Zionist Union, hit rock bottom […] you are the Zionist Union? You should be known as the anti-Zionist Union. And you, Boujie [Isaac] Herzog, you should be ashamed of yourself. The people of Israel lives and you will never lead it!”
MK Robert Ilatov, from Yisrael Beytenu, eventually decided to be absent from the vote. Several coalition MKs and ministers attended the funeral, including Jewish Home’s Moti Yogev and Bezalel Smotrich and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, and Likud MK Oren Hazan.
Woman, 38, dies from snake bite
A 38-year-old woman who was bitten by a snake in the Golan Heights on Saturday died in Ziv Hospital in Safed.
The woman was evacuated by Magen David Adom paramedics in serious condition and was treated in the hospital’s intensive care ward and the trauma room. Her condition did not improve and she died today, Ynet reports.
Blackouts in Europe as heatwave intensifies
The mercury was pushing 40°C across much of northern Europe on Wednesday as a blistering heatwave saw blackouts in France and emergency ice cream handed out to lemurs at a Dutch zoo.
As the hot front continued its sweep up from Africa, the UN warned heatwaves were growing more frequent and intense due to climate change, and called on more countries to put warning systems in place to inform people of the dangers.
At the Safaripark Beekse Bergen zoo in The Netherlands, staff had already put their emergency procedures in place — including ice cubes for baboons, cold showers for the elephants, and special meat- and fruit-flavoured ice cream for the ring-tailed lemurs.
Around a million homes in western France were left without power overnight Tuesday after the heatwave moved in from Spain, and another blackout struck the western Vannes region Wednesday morning, cutting electricity to 100,000 houses.
Prosor urges Ban to condemn attacks
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor calls on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to condemn the recent terror attacks against Israeli citizens including the murder of Malachy Moshe Rosenfeld, as he condemned recent attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait, Israel Radio reports.
According to Prosor, since the beginning of Ramadan, two weeks ago, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of attacks against Israelis. Prosor says the recent attacks are part of a growing trend of global terrorism and says attacks against Israelis are a “direct result” of incitement by the Palestinian Authority in the media and the education system.
Prosor also calls on the Palestinian leadership to break its silence regarding the attacks and condemn the killing of innocents.
PM, Ya’alon visit terror victims in hospital
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon visit the female border police officer who was stabbed at a checkpoint the West Bank early this week, and one of the people who were wounded in the shooting terror attack in which Malachy Moshe Rosenfeld was killed. Both the border police officer and the man are hospitalized in the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu says: “We just visited the wounded who have shown courage, composure and strength of spirit. We wished them, the defense minister and me, a quick recovery and of course we hurt with Eliezer and Sarah, who have lost their son Malachy – a unique and unusual person. There is no greater pain than the pain of parents who lose a son or a daughter and the hearts of all the citizens of Israel are with them.”
Netanyahu adds that Israel “foiled more than 200 attempts to carry out terror attacks since the beginning of last year, and we will also get to these terrorist murderers. We will extract a heavy price from the terrorists and those who sent them and who support them.”
Egypt F-16s strike IS as Sinai fighting rages
Egyptian F-16 jets struck Islamic State group terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula where dozens were killed in attacks and ongoing clashes Wednesday, security officials and a witness say.
Security officials say the fighter jets bombarded IS positions in the town of Sheikh Zuweid, where the terrorists have taken up positions on rooftops and mined streets leading to the police station.
Cuba says Havana, DC embassies to open July 20
The Cuban Foreign Ministry says Havana and Washington will reopen embassies in both countries on July 20.
Netanyahu sends condolences to Egypt
Prime Minister Netanyahu sends his condolences to Egypt after several dozen soldiers and cops were killed in a terror attack in the Sinai this morning.
“We send our condolences to the government of Egypt, to the Egyptian people and to the families of Egyptians who were slaughtered by this brutal terrorism,” Netanyahu says.
Speaking at the Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem, where he arrived to visit a female border police who was wounded in a terror attack earlier this week, Netanyahu says: “Terror is knocking at our borders, Daesh [the Arabic term for ISIS, or Islamic State] is not just facing the Golan [Heights], it is now also in Egypt, across from Rafah, that is across from our border,” Netanyahu says.
“Islamic terrorism is guided by Iran, extremist Shiites, Daesh, radical Sunnis and other factions like Hamas. We fight them, we know that they strike inside our borders as happened here, but we know also know that we foiled more than 200 attempts to carry out terror attacks since the beginning of last year,” Netanyahu adds.
Prague’s Jewish museum launches new permanent exhibit
The Jewish Museum in Prague launches a new permanent exhibition in the historic Maisel Synagogue in the Czech capital.
The exhibition, which opened Wednesday following a year-long renovation of the synagogue, focuses on the history of the Jewish people in Bohemia and Moravia. It features an aerial projection of the former Prague Jewish quarter, which was largely destroyed in the late 19th century.
“Visitors can also use touch screens to learn about the history of various Czech Jewish leaders and their communities, and browse through rare Hebrew manuscripts and prints,” one of the creators of the exhibition, Alexandr Putik, told reporters.
The Maisel Synagogue is located in the heart of the former Jewish district. Built in the late 16th century as a private temple, the synagogue was rebuilt in the neo-Gothic style at the turn of the 20th century — an appearance that was restored during the reconstruction.
The Prague Jewish museum, which attracts about 550,000 annual visitors to make it one of the Czech Republic’s most popular attractions, is also planning to revitalize the Spanish Synagogue, a classic example of Moorish-style architecture.
Parts of Sheikh Zuweid reportedly in hands of IS
An Associated Press reporter heard two explosions from the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with Gaza and saw smoke rising, as a massive terrorist assault on Egyptian troops was underway some 40 kilometers (25 miles) away.
It was not immediately clear what caused the explosions or if the incident was linked to the coordinated assault on military targets in the northern Sinai Peninsula, which killed at least 50 Egyptian soldiers.
The coordinated assault, claimed by an Islamic State affiliate, is the deadliest attack in the Sinai since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Clashes were still ongoing through Wednesday afternoon.
Israeli and other media report that despite the airstrikes by Egyptian F-16s and the efforts of the Egyptian military, many parts of Sheikh Zuweid fell into the hands of the terrorists.
Previous reports that the town was overtaken by Islamic State were denied by the government in Cairo.
— AP contributed to this report.
Former Auschwitz guard asks God for forgiveness at trial
A 94-year-old former SS sergeant who served in Auschwitz testified Wednesday in Germany that he helped the death camp function in his role sorting cash and valuables seized from Jews after they arrived in cattle cars.
Oskar Groening told the Lueneburg state court in a statement read by his attorney that it was hard today to understand the blind obedience he had to the Nazi system even when witnessing the terrible atrocities perpetrated at the death camp in German-occupied Poland.
“There was a self-denial in me that today I find impossible to explain,” Groening said. “Perhaps it was also the convenience of obedience with which we were brought up, which allowed no contradiction. This indoctrinated obedience prevented registering the daily atrocities as such and rebelling against them.”
Groening is accused of helping Auschwitz function in his job at the camp for which the German press has dubbed him the “Accountant of Auschwitz.” He guarded prisoners’ baggage on the ramps, but his main task was to collect and tally money stolen from the new arrivals and then send it to Berlin.
Though pleas are not entered in the German system, as Groening’s trial on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder opened in April he told the court he felt a moral guilt for what he had done. He faces a possible three to 15 years in prison if convicted.
In his statement, Groening said even though he had known what was going on at Auschwitz, the personal stories of the co-plaintiffs during the trial had brought home the enormity of the atrocities.
“I can only ask my God for forgiveness,” he said.
9 Muslim Brotherhood killed in raid on Cairo home
Egyptian security officials say special forces killed nine members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, including a former member of parliament, during a raid on a Cairo apartment.
Wednesday’s raid came as Islamic militants launched a massive coordinated assault on Egyptian troops in the northern Sinai Peninsula that left at least 53 soldiers dead. It was not immediately clear if the incidents were related.
The officials say security forces came under fire when they entered the home in the Sixth of October suburb and returned fire, killing nine men, including Nasr al-Hafi, a former Brotherhood MP.
The officials say three automatic rifles and a hundred rounds of ammunition were found in the residence. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief journalists.
Kerry says Iran nuclear talks ‘making progress’
Talks between Iran and major powers towards a historic nuclear deal are facing tough issues but are making progress, US Secretary of State John Kerry says during a break from talks in Vienna.
“We are working very, very hard and we have some very difficult issues but we believe we’re making progress and we’re going to continue to work because of that,” Kerry tells reporters.
His comments, a day after negotiators gave themselves until July 7 to agree a deal, follow a meeting in the Austrian capital with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Earlier Zarif said: “We have made progress and we will make progress and we will use every opportunity to make progress.”
The foreign ministers of France and China, Laurent Fabius and Wang Yi, are expected to join the negotiations in Vienna Thursday along with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
The aim is to finalize a framework accord agreed in April under which Iran will curb its nuclear activities — making any drive to make nuclear weapons all but impossible — in exchange for relief from painful sanctions.
Israel to allow Egypt to deploy more troops to Sinai
An Israeli official tells Reuters that Israel may allow Egypt to deploy more troops to the Sinai Peninsula, to fight Islamic State-affiliated terrorists who have reportedly overtaken large parts of the town of Sheikh Zuweid in the northeastern Sinai.
The incident, the official says, is a “game-changing” event.
According to the peace accord between Israel and Egypt, the Sinai is a demilitarized zone. Many of the Egyptian military forces deployed there are therefore defined as police officers.
Israel has in the past agreed to requests by Cairo to deploy military forces in the Peninsula. Each surge in the number of troops requires renewed agreement from the Israeli defense establishment.
Israel has closed border crossings with Egypt and Gaza following the Islamic State attack this morning.
Egypt cabinet approves new anti-terror laws
Egypt’s state news agency MENA says the Cabinet has approved an anti-terrorism draft law as well as a long-awaited draft election law.
The approval came as Egyptian troops struggled to fend off a massive assault by Islamic terrorists in the northern Sinai Peninsula that killed more than 50 soldiers. On Monday, Egypt’s chief prosecutor was assassinated in a Cairo bombing.
Both draft laws now await President Abdel-Fattah Sissi’s approval before they can be passed by decree.
The MENA report did not describe the proposed laws.
Egyptian media reported Tuesday that the anti-terrorism law would give prosecutors more powers to detain suspects for long periods of time and enable authorities to inspect the bank accounts of those facing terror-related charges.
Protest outside PM’s Residence calls to halt money transfers to PA
Dozens of protesters are demonstrating outside the Prime Minister’s Residence, demanding that the government act more forcefully to halt a recent wave of terror attacks in the West Bank.
The demonstration, Ynet reports, was organized by the Judea and Samaria Council and the NGO Yisrael Sheli (My Israel).
Protesters, mostly residents of the West Bank, are calling on the government to resume building in the settlements and to halt money transfers to the Palestinian Authority.
Miri Regev sued by Facebook user, not protected by immunity
Culture Minister Miri Regev recently took issue with a play starring Norman Issa called “Boomerang.”
A ruling by the Haifa District Court today drives home the point that what goes around, comes around.
Regev filed a libel lawsuit several months ago against an Israeli who called her a “whore with a filthy mouth” on Facebook. Regev was acting based on recent libel legislation which allows citizens to sue for up to NIS 330,000 (almost $90,000) in damages without needing to prove that the libel in question actually affected the complainant.
The man decided to counter-sue, and Regev said that her parliamentary immunity protects her. Today, the Haifa District Court rejected her claims and said she cannot be protected by her immunity in this case.
“When an MK decides of her own volition to take legal action, it will be incorrect to limit the defendant’s recourse to the law, who is allowed – as part of his defense against the lawsuit – to counter sue,” a panel of three judges wrote.
The man took to slamming Regev on Facebook after she posted parts of an interview on Channel 1 in which she criticized former president Shimon Peres for his comments on Israel’s operation against Hamas in Gaza, Protective Edge.
“Miri Regev! Let me tell you something! Who the hell do you think you are to talk shit against Shimon Peres? You’re just a whore with a filthy mouth!!! You took way beyond you’re supposed to, you illiterate miserable person!!!”
Regev’s lawyers were swift to act and sent the man a letter demanding an apology. When he refused, they filed the lawsuit.
In his defense, the man said that by making public the letter demanding an apology, Regev exposed his home address. Following the publication of his address on Facebook, the man says his “life became a nightmare, and had to escape the apartment and hire a security guard.” The man sued for the same sum – NIS 330,000.
Regev demanded that the counter lawsuit be removed on account of her immunity. The court, as mentioned above, rejected her claim.
Jewish Home to PM: Cancel Ramadan gestures to Palestinians
The Jewish Home faction demands from Prime Minister Netanyahu to immediately annul steps taken to ease Palestinian movement during the month of Ramadan, in response to a recent wave of terror attacks in the West Bank over the last two weeks.
The members of the faction also demand that the prime minister issue clear diplomatic clearance for construction in the West Bank.
Earlier today, protesters who gathered outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem made similar demands.
Egypt army statement on number of casualties contradicts eyewitness reports
Official statements by the Egyptian military contradict eyewitness reports on dozens of casualties among its troops.
While reports from news agencies put the number of dead among Egyptian troops at more than 50, with some going as high as 70, an official army statement says 17 army officials were killed, including four officers, and 13 others were wounded.
“The armed forces succeeded in handling the terrorists and preventing them from achieving their goals. We killed at least 100 terror activists and wounded many others, and we destroyed 20 vehicles used by the terror activists,” a statement from the military was quoted by Ynet as saying.
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