The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.
US-led strikes on IS stronghold kill dozens
A US-led coalition has carried out some of its heaviest airstrikes yet on the Islamic State group’s de facto Syrian capital, killing more than 30 people, including six civilians, AFP is reporting.
The strikes on Saturday night and Sunday morning also damaged infrastructure in Raqqa city, the group’s bastion in northern Syria.
In Raqqa, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 30 people had been killed in US-led coalition strikes late Saturday and early Sunday.
The dead included six civilians, among them a child, but the rest were IS fighters, the Britain-based monitor said.
The US-led coalition said the strikes were some of its heaviest since it began carrying out raids against IS in Syria last September.
“The significant air strikes tonight were executed to deny Daesh (IS) the ability to move military capabilities throughout Syria and into Iraq,” spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gilleran said in a coalition statement.
“This was one of the largest deliberate engagements we have conducted to date in Syria and it will have debilitating effects on Daesh’s ability to move from Raqa.”
Coalition forces “successfully engaged multiple targets” throughout Raqa, the statement said, destroying IS structures and transit routes.
The strikes “have severely constricted terrorist freedom of movement,” it added.
Dutch lawmakers seek to preserve 6 Holocaust survivors’ aid
Dutch lawmakers are calling on the government to spare six Holocaust survivors whose assistance would be slashed by cutbacks.
The predicament of the six Jewish survivors from The Hague was reported last week by the Algemeen Dagblad daily.
According to the report, they are among approximately 2,000 elderly and disabled people whose eligibility for care at government-funded facilities has been revoked. Instead, they have been offered a plan that gives financial compensation to relatives willing to step in and act as care takers.
The survivors have almost no family. Approximately 75 percent of Dutch Jewry was annihilated during the genocide, a higher percentage than anywhere else in Western Europe save Germany and Austria.
“These vulnerable individuals need to receive the aid they deserve,” Sjoerd Potters, a lawmaker for the ruling VVD party, said on Twitter.
Opposition lawmakers Linda Voortman from GreenLeft and Mona Keijzer from the Christian Democratic Appeal also called on the government not to change the aid package received by the six survivors.
Lower Galilee ruins declared UNESCO world heritage site
The archaeological ruins of an ancient Jewish town in northern Israel have been declared a UNESCO world heritage site, Hebrew media is reporting.
According to the site’s curator, Revital Weiss, the Beit She’arim National Park, south of Haifa, was the site of the Sanhedrin, or ancient Jewish assembly, as well as the location where Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi compiled the Mishna, the oral Torah.
The resolution to include the site in the world heritage list passed successfully, with 17 countries voting in favor, while four countries — Lebanon, Qatar, Algeira and Malaysia — voted against.
Beit She’arim will join an additional eight sites across Israel with UNESCO world heritage status.
Tunisia PM says beach gunman worked in tourism
The Tunisian gunman behind the June 26 attack at a resort that killed 38 foreigners had worked in the tourism industry, Prime Minister Habib Essid says in an interview published Sunday.
“We know he was a member of a dance club and was familiar with the tourism sector, having worked in it as an events organizer,” Essid tells the French-language newspaper La Presse.
Both the authorities and relatives later described the gunman as having been an apparently normal young Tunisian who had been keen on breakdancing.
A resident near where his parents live in the town of Gaafour had previously told AFP that Rezgui worked “in tourism in the area of Kantaoui”, where the attack is thought to have been planned, although there had been no confirmation of this from another source.
The attack on the beach and around the swimming pools of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel was claimed by the Islamic State group, and killed 30 Britons, three Irish nationals, two Germans, one Belgian, one Portuguese and a Russian.
Mother of Tunisia gunman says son ‘a victim’
The mother of the gunman who killed 38 on a Tunisian beach claims in an interview with Britain’s Sunday Times that her son was a victim of “brainwashing” who previously would not have hurt a mouse.
Talking at her home in the farming town of Gaafour, she accuses militants of “brainwashing” her son and claims he too was “a victim like all the others.”
“When they told me my son had killed all these people I said no, it’s impossible,” Radhia Manai, 49, tells The Sunday Times on Saturday
“I can’t believe it,” his mother adds. “Once there was a mouse in the house and I asked Seifeddine to kill it and he refused saying, ‘I can’t kill anything.’
“God bless the victims, all those people and their poor families, and I feel so sorry but I want to tell them it wasn’t my son who did this, it was another Seifeddine.”
“I want to know who is the head of all this, who did this to him and I want them to go to prison or be killed,” she adds.
Kerry, Zarif race against clock in nuke talks
US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart are meeting for high-stakes talks in Vienna, with time running out to nail down a landmark nuclear deal, AFP is reporting.
Ahead of Tuesday’s final deadline, there were signs that an end may be in sight.
“Extending the talks is not an option for anyone… We are trying to finish the job,” Iran’s lead negotiator Abbas Araghchi told Iranian TV late Saturday, saying there was a “positive atmosphere.”
But he added: “If we reach an agreement that respects our red lines then there will be a deal. Otherwise we prefer to return home to Tehran empty-handed.”
One of the thorniest issues — choreographing the complicated waltz of nuclear steps by Iran and reciprocal sanctions relief — a compromise may be emerging, at least among experts thrashing out the complex final accord.
“There are still differences,” an Iranian official insisted, however, while a Western diplomat said that on UN sanctions — as opposed to EU and US ones — there was “no agreement yet.”
Under the mooted accord, building on a framework deal from April, a complex web of sanctions suffocating the Iranian economy will be progressively eased if Tehran massively scales down its nuclear program for at least a decade.
Iran says senior IS commander fled to Turkey
A top Islamic State commander has fled to Turkey, Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency is reporting.
“Amer al-Naklavi nicknamed Abu Mohammad fled Deir ez-Zor into neighboring Turkey,” the reports states, referring to a city in Syria currently the scene of fierce clashes between Syrian government troops and Islamic State fighters.
Hezbollah, Assad enter Lebanese-border town
Syria’s state media is reporting that Syrian forces backed by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters have entered a rebel-held mountain resort near the border with Lebanon, a day after launching a major offensive to capture the town.
State-run Syrian TV says troops entered the town of Zabadani from the western Jamaiyat district Sunday. Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV ran exclusive footage purportedly showing Hezbollah fighters in the town. It showed scenes of heavy fighting including explosions and mushrooms of white smoke.
Zabadani’s capture would tighten Hezbollah’s grip on Syrian territories bordering Lebanon and strengthen the Syrian government’s control over of the Beirut-Damascus highway.
Zabadani has been held by rebels since shortly after Syria’s crisis began in March 2011. The United Nations says the conflict has killed more than 220,000 people and wounded at least a million.
Gaza lion cubs to be transferred to Jordan
A pair of lion cubs are being transferred through Israel from the Gaza strip to a wildlife shelter in Jordan after they were held up at Erez border crossing yesterday, Ynet news reports.
The two cubs, Max and Mona, were raised as pets in a private dwelling in the Rafiah refugee camp. UK-based charity Four Paws International and Israeli authorities have facilitated their transfer to a sanctuary outside Amman where they can be properly cared for.
Hamas reopens offices of Gaza’s only cellphone firm
Hamas authorities have reopened the offices of the Gaza Strip’s only mobile telephone company, five days after closing them on accusations of tax-dodging, AFP reports.
A statement from attorney general Ismail Jaber’s office said that he had “ordered the reopening” of telecom provider Jawwal in Gaza City, but it did not give reasons.
“All Jawwal offices and stores have reopened,” a company executive told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Jawwal provides a lifeline to the outside world for Gazans hemmed in on all sides by an Israeli blockade and Egyptian border crossing restrictions.
Its telecom services were not interrupted during the closure of its premises.
Police in the coastal territory, which Hamas controls, shut Jawwal’s Gaza City office on Tuesday and posted notices saying the closure for “tax evasion” was on Jaber’s orders.
Some observers have said that Jawwal is probably paying taxes to the Palestinian Authority and not the Hamas authorities in Gaza.
Israeli air force jets fly over Lebanon
Lebanon’s official news agency reports that Israeli aircraft have flown over Baalbeck, in the country’s northeast.
According to the dispatch by state mouthpiece National News Agency IAF jets passed over the Beqaa Valley at an “intermediate altitude” before returning to Israel. No incidents were reported.
Turkey mulls military intervention in Syria
Turkey’s armed forces are considering a possible military incursion into Syria, Hurriyet Daily News reports.
The military recalled its top commanders to discuss the details and scope of such an operation. The report did not state why or when such an incursion would take place.
Currently, 54,000 soldiers – around 15 percent of Turkey’s total land force – are deployed near the border with Syria.
Rivlin mourns with family of West Bank shooting victim
President Reuven Rivlin visits the family of Malachy Moshe Rosenfeld, who was shot dead in a drive-by shooting in the West Bank last week.
“All of our hearts are with you here, and I pray that we will be beside you again in the many happier times that await you in the future. The days of mourning are dark days when we have the challenge of, as the verse says, to ‘shake ourselves free, and rise from the dust,’ and we will be here to accompany you on this difficult journey,” Rivlin tells Malachy’s parents, Sarah and Eliezer, in their Kochav Hashahar home.
In response, Eliezer tell Rivlin: “My son just wanted to play basketball, and come home to tell me about the game.”
Kerry says a deal has never been closer
US Secretary of State John Kerry tells reporters in Vienna that a nuclear deal with Iran “has never been closer” but that gaps remains and that “negotiations could go either way.”
We want “a deal based on some sense of reality,” Kerry says, adding that “we have made genuine progress” and that he agrees with an earlier statement made by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that the sides have “never been closer” to finalizing an accord.
“While I agree with Zarif that we have never been closer, these negotiations could go either way,” he says.
“This evening my foreign minister colleagues are returning here to Vienna, and it’s now time to see whether or not we are able to close an agreement. In many ways this negotiation has been going on for a number of years [but] we are not yet where we need to be on several of the most difficult issues.”
“If hard choices are made, we could get an agreement this week. We’re aiming to [close the agreement] in the time frame we set out [by Tuesday evening],” he adds.
Responding to a question regarding the potential for “a bad deal,” Kerry responds: “If we don’t get a good deal, we will be prepared to walk away. [But] it’s not what anyone wants, we want to get an agreement. But we don’t want any agreement, we want a good agreement, and we’re not going to shave at the margins to just get any agreement.”
“We have to close off [Iran’s] four pathways to the bomb. Our hope is that we get an agreement that is fair and that gets the job done. But we’re not there yet, we have difficult issues still to resolve,” he concludes.
Sharansky bemoans conversion reform rollback
Jewish Agency chief Natan Sharansky criticizes a cabinet decision to repeal an initiative that would have recognized conversions to Judaism conducted by a wider circle of rabbis.
“The Jewish Agency for Israel deeply regrets the cancellation of the government’s decision from less than a year ago regarding the establishment of local conversion courts,” Sharansky says in a statement.
“The establishment of the local courts sought to address the needs of tens of thousands of immigrants and their children who require conversion due to their desire to join the Jewish people in a more complete and recognized manner,” he adds.
“We cannot accept the fact that a matter so vital to the future of the Jewish people and to Israel’s existence as a Jewish state is subject entirely to the configuration of the coalition at any given time and to government decisions adopted and then canceled after each election cycle,” he concludes.
25 additional jihadists killed in Egyptian airstrikes
25 Islamist militants have been killed in Sinai in air bombardments carried out by the Egyptian air force, Reuters reports.
The army discovered four militant hideouts and attacked them with Apache helicopters and ground troops.
‘No’ vote seen with slight edge as Greek polls close
Three opinion polls carried out during Greece’s bailout referendum, which could affect the country’s future in the eurozone, indicate the “no” vote will win.
— Christian Sievers (@CHSievers) July 5, 2015
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called Sunday’s referendum last weekend, urging voters to reject creditor reform proposals.
Opposition parties and many European officials have warned that a “no” vote, however, could endanger Greece’s position in Europe’s joint currency, the euro.
The vote was held amid banking restrictions imposed last Monday, with Greeks lining up at ATMs across the country to withdraw a maximum 60 euros ($66) per day. Banks have been shut all week, and it is uncertain when they will reopen.
ADL slams Donald Trump for Mexican immigrant comment
The Anti-Defamation League weighs in on Donald Trump’s remarks last week in which he intimated that Mexican immigrants in the US are largely “killers and rapists.”
“Donald Trump’s hate speech against immigrants is highly inappropriate and we join with the voices of many others around the country who have condemned his offensive remarks,” says ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman.
“It is time for Trump to stop spreading misinformation and hatred against immigrants, legal and illegal,” he adds.
Phone polls point to ‘No’ in Greece vote
Two polls broadcast after a Sunday referendum in Greece on whether to accept tough bailout conditions suggested a narrow win for a “No” vote, which could jeopardize its place in the eurozone, AFP reports.
A poll by the Star television channel carried out by phone during voting on Sunday and the day before gave a 49-54 percent range for “No” ballots against 46-51 percent for “Yes.”
A similar Mega channel poll suggested a 49.5-53.5 percent “No” vote and 46.5-50.5 percent for “Yes.”
The radical left government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had lobbied for a “No” result in the referendum in a bid to strengthen its hand in negotiations with international creditors.
EU’s Mogherini: ‘If nuke deal can be closed, it is now’
European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini tells reporters in Vienna that negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program are on the home run.
“I think this is really the last mile of these negotiations,” Mogherini says, adding that the current atmosphere at the talks is “constructive.”
“If the deal can be closed, it is now. It is getting to the last hours, last days, very last days,” she adds.
— European Policies (@europeanpolicy) July 5, 2015
French FM says ‘all cards on the table’ at Iran talks
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius says that “all the cards are on the table” in nuclear talks with Iran, as he arrives 72 hours before a deadline to nail down an accord.
“These negotiations began 12 years ago and now we are 72 hours away from the moment when they should conclude. Moreover, all the cards are on the table, the main question is to know whether the Iranians will accept making clear commitments on what until now has not been clarified,” Fabius tells reporters as he arrives for talks in Vienna.
Chinese company hired to build Tel Aviv light rail works in Iran
A major Chinese contractor working on the construction of Tel Aviv’s light rail also has business links in Iran, Channel 2 reports.
China Railway Group Limited (CREC) is signed on to build a $2.73-billion high-speed railway network in Iran — from Tehran to the city of Isfahan. CREC is also constructing Tel Aviv’s light rail, at an estimated cost of $3 billion.
The Israeli government may have to investigate whether or not it is permissible to hire a company that engages in business with enemy states such as Iran, the report continues.
Greek projection: ‘No’ will win with 61 percent
A government-backed “No” in Greece’s bailout referendum is set to win by 61 percent, according to an official projection by the country’s Interior Ministry, AP reports.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras halted negotiations with creditors to hold the vote and seek a popular rejection of austerity measures. But European officials have warned a “No” vote could risk Greece’s membership of the eurozone.
Rivlin: ‘We need leadership on both sides’
President Reuven Rivlin tells Muslim community leaders at an iftar meal at his residence that Israelis and Palestinian must strive to build trust rather than “fan the flames” of hatred.
“These have not been easy weeks for anyone who loves this country; for those who believe we have the ability and the duty — as Arabs and Jews — to live together. At this time, in the face of those on both sides who seek to fan the flames, we cannot and must not remain silent,” Rivlin says.
“We must remember that the greatest task that remains before us is to build trust between the Jewish and Arab communities. This mission is not, and must not, be the property of any particular political camp. Because in the building of trust between Jews and Arabs in the State of Israel, in the land of Israel, lies the key to our existence here, to fate, and to our future,” he adds.
“We are working extensively to ensure a festive atmosphere in the Palestinian areas. But the Palestinian Authority has a responsibility to act decisively against terrorists seeking to sabotage our daily lives here,” Rivlin concludes.
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