The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.
Tehran will reportedly take further steps to reduce its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal signed with world powers.
“Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization tomorrow at the Arak heavy water site will announce preparatory steps that have been taken to further decrease Tehran’s commitments under the deal,” Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported, according to a translation by the Reuters news agency.
According to the Mehr news agency, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran will release “very important information” regarding the “limitless increase of Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile” at the Arak heavy water reactor facility, that was shuttered under the terms of the deal.
Tehran has previously said it would stop complying with the nuclear deal’s uranium enrichment restrictions if the deal was not salvaged, and resume building a heavy-water reactor at Arak that was shut down as part of the 2015 accord.
Iran’s parliament speaker hints that Washington could be behind the “suspicious” tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman to pile pressure on Tehran, official news agency IRNA reports.
“The suspicious actions against the tankers… seem to complement the economic sanctions against Iran considering that (the US) has not achieved any results from them,” Ali Larijani tells lawmakers.
He backs his claim by saying there had been a precedent “during World War II, when Americans targeted their own ships near Japan to create an excuse for hostility.”
A non-belligerent state at the beginning of World War II, the US went to war after Japan’s surprise attack on the American Pearl Harbor base in Hawaii on the morning of December 7, 1941.
A Japanese-owned tanker, the Kokuka Courageous, and a Norwegian-operated one, the Front Altair, were attacked on Thursday and left ablaze as they were passing through the Gulf of Oman
Washington accused Tehran of being behind the attacks, that took place at the same time that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Tehran for talks aimed at defusing tensions between Iran and the United States.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed the US claim as “baseless” and said Washington had “immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran — (without) a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence.”
Egypt is strongly condemning two drone attacks by Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis, that targeted airports in southwestern Saudi Arabia.
An Egyptian Foreign Ministry statement calls the attacks “wanton aggressions.”
The Houthis claimed late Saturday night that they’d attacked airports in the cities of Abha and Jizan. Saudi Arabia said early today that it had shot down one Houthi drone.
Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of arming the Houthi rebels, which Tehran denies. Egypt backs the Saudi-led military coalition of mostly Arab states that has been at war against the Houthis in Yemen since 2015.
The attacks come just days after the rebels said they launched a cruise missile that struck the Abha airport. Saudi Arabia said that attack on Wednesday wounded 26 people.
Thousands of Hong Kong residents, mostly in black, are jamming streets and subway stations to protest the government’s handling of a proposed extradition bill.
The crowds, walking slowly and shouting “withdraw” and “resign,” spill into the street from downtown Victoria Park and are marching toward the Central district where the government headquarters is located.
In Hong Kong, aerial footage shows thousands of protesters gathering to march in opposition to a controversial extradition bill. Many are dressed in black and wearing white ribbons on their chests: https://t.co/zbrvayAaKo pic.twitter.com/VytfOV7RdE
— CNN International (@cnni) June 16, 2019
Protesters want Chief Executive Carrie Lam to resign and withdraw rather than just suspend the legislation. Lam backed away from pushing through the legislature the measure that would enable suspects to be sent to stand trial in mainland Chinese courts.
Many in Hong Kong fear threats to civil liberties and an independent judicial system that were promised to the former British colony when communist-ruled China took control in 1997.
A senior Hamas delegation met with Iran’s intelligence minister in Tehran yesterday to discuss developments in the region, including the upcoming rollout of the US peace plan.
The Saudi-owned A-sharq Al Aswat daily says the Palestinian delegation met with Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi at Tehran’s Embassy in Damascus on Friday.
Reports in Iranian media identified the Hamas deputy leader Salah al-Aruri, Hamas’s Lebanon representative Ahmed Abdul Hadi and its foreign relations chief Osama Hamdan.
According to Al Aswat, Alavi and the Hamas representatives stressed the importance of opposing the American peace plan, and urged an “interconnected role of the resistance axis’ forces and countries in the region in confronting schemes and threats that target Iran, Syria, Palestine and Lebanon.”
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is warning that there is a “great risk” of escalation in the Gulf, adding that Washington wants the situation to end in negotiations.
A Japanese-owned tanker, the Kokuka Courageous, and a Norwegian-operated one, the Front Altair, were attacked on Thursday and left ablaze as they were passing through the Gulf of Oman.
Britain has concluded that responsibility “almost certainly” lies with Iran.
Asked on BBC television about the possibility of escalation, Hunt says: “This is the great risk of the situation that we are in.
“Both sides in this dispute think that the other side wouldn’t want a war. We are urging all sides to de-escalate,” he says. “Having spoken to President Trump, I am absolutely clear that for America they want this to end in negotiations.”
“Let’s see Iran stop its destabilizing activities in Lebanon through Hezbollah, in Yemen where they are firing missiles into Saudi Arabia, on the Gulf as we have seen. That is the long-term solution.”
A massive outage blacked out Argentina and Uruguay Sunday, leaving both South American countries without electricity, according to power companies.
“A massive failure in the electrical interconnection system left all Argentina and Uruguay without power,” Edesur Argentina says on Twitter.
Uruguay’s UTE power company says “a fault in the Argentina network affected the interconnected system, leaving the entire national territory without service, as well as several provinces of the neighbor country.” It said the system went down at 7:06 am (1006 GMT).
Summer camp is the newest front in the battle to contain the worst US measles outbreak in nearly three decades.
Vaccinations are being mandated this summer for campers and staff in several counties north of New York City that annually fill up with kids from the Orthodox Jewish communities that have been hit hardest by measles.
The state eliminated the religious exemption Thursday to vaccine requirements for schoolchildren. But even before that, individual counties mandated the measles vaccine or proof of immunity at all day camps and overnight camps. Ulster County announced a mandate this week following similar actions from Rockland, Sullivan and Orange counties.
There have been more than 1,000 measles cases reported this year in the US. Many are in ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn and suburban Rockland County.
Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam apologizes for the way her administration tried to pass a law allowing extraditions to China, the cause of unprecedented protests and clashes this week.
“The chief executive admitted that shortcomings in the government’s work has led to a lot of conflict and disputes in Hong Kong society and has disappointed and distressed many citizens,” a statement from her office says.
“The chief executive apologizes to the citizens and promises to accept criticism with the most sincere and humble attitude,” it adds.
The Fire and Rescue Service says two fires were sparked in southern Israel earlier today by balloon-borne arson devices launched from the Gaza Strip.
Firefighters extinguished the blazes in the Eshkol and Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Councils earlier this afternoon. Afterward, investigators were able to determine that the cause of the fires was arson balloons, according to a fire department spokesman.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) June 16, 2019
Blue and White number 2, Yair Lapid backs a call made by Yisrael Beytenu chief’s call for a unity government with the Likud party in the next government.
“A unity government headed by Blue and White is the right thing for Israel,” Lapid posts on Twitter.
“We need a government that is working to fix the challenges of the country and not with the legal challenges of the prime minister,” he says, adding that he is “happy that [Avigdor] Liberman also understands this was the right thing.”
Yesterday, Liberman told Channel 13 News that after the upcoming elections he would force an “emergency” coalition with the Likud and Blue and White parties to block ultra-Orthodox parties from entering the government.
His call for an emergency government involving both Likud and Blue and White is essentially a demand for a government without Netanyahu since Blue and White leader Benny Gantz has vowed not to join a government led by Netanyahu, who is facing indictment in three criminal cases.
Argentina’s main energy company says it’s “slowly beginning to restore” electricity after a massive power failure left large swathes of the South American country and neighboring Uruguay in the dark.
It’s unclear how many people are affected by the blackout, but the nations have a combined population of more than 45 million.
Edesur says on Twitter that power had been returned to 34,000 customers as of Sunday morning.
“The return of electricity generation to the interconnected system of the Federal Capital and Greater Buenos Aires has begun,” it says, noting the process would take several hours.
Uruguayan energy company UTE tweets that its system is being reinstated from scratch.
“There are already coastal cities with service and work continues toward general restoration,” it says .
It says the blackout was due to a “flaw in the Argentine network” which left the entire country and several regions of Uruguay without electricity.
Argentina’s energy secretary said that the blackout occurred around 7 a.m. local time, when a key interconnection system collapsed. It said the causes “are being investigated and are not yet determined.”
The blackout affected the entire Argentine capital of Buenos Aires, in addition to provinces in the north and south.
Israel has a “key role to play” in laying the groundwork for the US peace plan for the region, Foreign Minister Israel Katz says, a week before the unveiling of the proposal’s economic component in Bahrain.
Speaking at the Jerusalem Post conference in New York, Katz says that the US, backed by Israel is “leading a process of regional economic cooperation” for the benefit of the entire Middle East.
“This includes promoting ties with the pragmatic Arab countries in the region, via security cooperation and joint economic initiatives. A central part of these efforts is the planned Bahrain ‘Peace to Prosperity’ economic workshop,” he says. “Israel has a key role to play in this process.”
With its experience and capabilities, the Jewish state “can participate in these efforts and contribute in different fields of interest,” Katz adds.
Katz, who is also transportation minister, goes on to speak about his “Tracks for Regional Peace” initiative, with which he hopes to connect Israel and the Palestinian Authority with Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
“It is a practical vision for the future, which can bring economic, political and strategic benefits,” Katz says. “As foreign minister, I intend to promote regional economic cooperation as a top priority.”
The Manama conference is widely seen as the rollout of the first part of the Trump administration’s peace plan. The president’s senior Middle East peace negotiator, Jason Greenblatt, listens to Katz’s speech in the audience.
— Raphael Ahren
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convenes the weekly cabinet meeting in the new community in the Golan Heights named after US President Donald Trump.
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and officials from the Golan Regional Council also attend the ceremony unveiling the new community of “Ramat Trump.”
Foreign Minister Israel Katz says Israel will participate in the US-led economic peace conference in Bahrain next week.
Katz makes the remarks to reporters on the sidelines of the Jerusalem Post conference in New York.
Egypt, Morocco and Jordan have agreed to attend the unveiling of the economic component of a new US peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at a workshop set for June 25 and 26 in Bahrain.
Israel did not say whether it was participating in the two-day conference, although reports indicated Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon would attend.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador David Friedman take part in a ceremony naming a community in the Golan Heights after US President Donald Trump.
US Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt blasts the Palestinian leadership for skipping next week’s economic conference in Bahrain, calling it the “opportunity of a generation.”
The Palestinians have dismissed the long-awaited US peace plan for the region, and said they will not attend the Bahrain summit, rejecting it as heavily biased in favor of Israel.
In a CNN op-ed, Greenblatt says the long-awaited proposal could “unlock the incredible potential of the Palestinian and regional economy.”
“The Palestinian leadership portrays participation in the workshop as treasonous. That is preposterous,” he says.
Greenblatt directly addresses senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, calling his criticism of US summit as “off base completely.”
“Perhaps Saeb knows he will never get the peace deal he has promised over the decades he has worked on this file, and rather than admit that, and instead of being willing to work to achieve a realistic, implementable deal which can lead to great things for the Palestinians, he wants to give up before he even starts,” he says. “How sad for the Palestinians.”
Earlier, Foreign Minister Israel Katz said that Israel would attend the summit set for June 25 and 26 in Bahrain. Egypt, Morocco and Jordan have also agreed to attend the unveiling of peace plan’s economic component.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inaugurates a new community in the Golan Heights in honor of US President Donald Trump.
Netanyahu unveils a “Ramat Trump” sign to mark the site of the new settlement, which comes after the US president in late March recognized Israeli sovereignty over the part of the strategic plateau it captured from Syria in the 1967 war.
“We are making an important step towards the placing on the ground of the settlement of Ramat Trump, that proudly carries the name of a very great friend of the state of Israel, and I am very proud to say a great friend of mine, Donald Trump.”
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman praises President Donald Trump
“We all checked the history book…it almost never happens anywhere in the world that an entire community is dedicated in the name of a sitting president,” he says at a naming ceremony for the new community in the Golan Heights to be called Ramat Trump.
“President Trump will be honored to be in that small cadre of Israeli heroes,” he says.
“My only regrets is that neither the president nor I are in the real estate business any more because if we were, I’m sure it this would be high on our list for places that we would think about developing.”
Friedman calls the Golan Heights, a mountainous plateau Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 war, “incredibly important territory for Israel.”
US Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt says the White House might delay the publication of its long-awaited peace plan until November.
Greenblatt is discussing US efforts to resume Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at the annual Jerusalem Post conference in New York today.
He says that the Trump administration would have published a blueprint for its peace plan this summer if Israel had not dissolved its parliament and declared another election for 2019.
US Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt says he backs remarks made by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who told The New York Times last week that he believes Israel has the right to retain parts of the West Bank.
“David [Friedman] spoke elegantly and I support what he said,” Greenblatt says on stage at the annual Jerusalem Post conference in New York.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vows the US will guarantee free passage through the vital Strait of Hormuz, as he accuses Iran of recent attacks on oil tankers and the downing of a US drone.
Pompeo confirms in an interview with CBS that a US MQ-9 “Reaper” drone was shot down June 6, with a missile fired from Yemen “that we assess had Iranian assistance.”
Pompeo would not be drawn on what options the US is considering to protect shipping — or to punish Iran — in the wake of Thursday’s attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, but reiterated that President Donald Trump is not seeking war with Iran.
“What you should assume is we are going to guarantee freedom of navigation throughout the strait,” he says in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
“This is an international challenge, important to the entire globe. The United States is going to make sure that we take all the actions necessary, diplomatic and otherwise, that achieve that outcome,” Pompeo said.
Iran has denied the US charges as “baseless” and said they were made without “a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence.”
A third of the world’s seaborne oil supply passes through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow channel bordered to the north by Iran that links the Gulf with the Gulf of Oman.
The deputy of Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi arrives in the Gaza Strip Sunday for talks with Hamas leadership, according to reports in Palestinian media.
The reports say the Qatari deputy crossed from Israel to Gaza, via the Erez border crossing, hours ahead of Emadi’s expected arrival in the Strip with fresh delivery of Qatari cash.
The delegation was expected to arrive yesterday, but they were delayed by a day, due to discussions with Israeli officials on issues relating to the calm along the border.
Organizers say “almost two million” people turned out for Sunday’s mammoth protest in Hong Kong opposed to a deeply unpopular extradition law, an estimate that is nearly double last weekend’s already record-breaking crowds.
“Today’s march we had almost 2 million people,” Jimmy Sham, from the Civil Human Rights Front, tells reporters.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to appoint Rafi Peretz and Bezalel Smotrich as education and transportation ministers respectively, according to Channel 13 news.
According to the report, the leaders of the nationalist Union of Right-Wing Parties will also be appointed to the high-level security cabinet during the meeting at Netanyahu’s office tomorrow.
The URWP has been aggressively lobbying for ministerial posts since Netanyahu fired education and diaspora affairs minister Naftali Bennett and justice minister Ayelet Shaked, in a reshuffle of his interim government, ahead of the September elections.
The Kremlin is warning against “baseless accusations” over last week’s attacks in the Gulf of Oman on two oil tankers, blamed by Washington and Riyadh on Iran.
“Such incidents can undermine the foundations of the world economy. That’s why it’s hardly possible to accept baseless accusations in this situation,” says Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov.
“We always urge a sober appraisal of the situation and to wait for more or less convincing evidence to appear,” Peskov says on Russian television, extracts of which are published by the RIA Novosti news agency.
A Japanese and a Norwegian oil tanker were targeted in attacks last week in the Gulf of Oman. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The official Iranian news agency IRNA said the attacks took place within 30 nautical miles of Iran’s coastline. Iran rejected US accusations it was to blame, with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeting that the US had “immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran without a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence,”
Saudi Arabia, Iran’s arch-rival in the region and the world’s top oil exporter, joined Washington in accusing Tehran of the attacks, with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman saying he “won’t hesitate” to tackle any threats to the kingdom.
Argentine energy company Edesur says that electricity has been restored to more than 1.5 million people.
President Mauricio Macri also says that 50 percent of the country had power after a massive failure in Argentina and Uruguay this morning left many in the dark.
Macri says on Twitter: “As time passes, service will be restored for all customers.”
The cause of the blackout was not immediately clear.
Edesur said that a failure in the Argentine interconnection system originated at an electricity transmission point between the power stations of Yacyretá and Salto Grande in the northeastern part of the country.
Uruguayan energy company UTE said 75% of service had been restored in its country.