The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they unfolded.
Jewish extremist arrested to appease public, lawyer says
Attorney Yuval Zemer, who represents far-right activist Meir Ettinger, says authorities arrested his client to appease an Israeli public outraged by an arson attack that killed a Palestinian infant, and denies that his client had anything to do with that attack.
“There was no urgent need to arrest here, other than some kind of desire to show, ‘Here, we’re doing something, here, we’re arresting,'” Zemer tells Army Radio. “Of course, what is better than the number one most wanted target?”
— AP contributed
8 men face indictment for gang rape
The district attorney’s office of Israel’s central region announces that it will indict seven migrant men and an Israeli man in the alleged gang raping of an Israeli woman in late June.
According to the allegations, the eight abducted the woman and took her to an apartment in Rishon Lezion, south of Tel Aviv, where they held her against her will and raped her.
EU urges ‘proportionate’ Turkish response to Kurdish attacks
The EU says it is deeply concerned about recent bloody clashes between Turkey and Kurdish militants, urging Ankara to be “proportionate” in its response so as not to endanger a faltering peace process.
EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn tells Turkish EU Minister Volkan Bozkir that the 28-nation bloc “acknowledged the commitment of the Turkish authorities to stepping up the fight against IS and re-affirmed the EU’s strong support for these efforts.
“At the same time, the Commissioner expressed the EU’s deep concern about recent developments which have a negative impact on the Kurdish-Turkish settlement process,” Hahn is quoted as saying in a statement.
Last month, Turkey began attacks against Islamic State jihadist fighters across its southern border with Syria while also launching extensive bombing raids against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) inside Turkey and in northern Iraq.
Ettinger relative: Police arrested him because Kahane was his grandfather
Nitza Kahane, the daughter-in-law of the late Jewish ultranationalist Rabbi Meir Kahane, says the arrest of her nephew, far-right activist Meir Ettinger, was a show of force by police, who wanted the public to see they were taking action after the killing of a Palestinian baby.
She also claims Ettinger’s relation to Kahane, a mentor of present-day extremist settlers, was at play in the decision to arrest him.
“I think the fact that he’s Rabbi Kahane’s grandson was a far deeper motive in his arrest than any shred of information that they wanted to extract,” Kahane tells Galei Israel radio.
She also defends Ettinger’s aspirations to replace the Israeli government with a Jewish theocracy, saying, “It’s legitimate in a democratic country to want to change things. He wants to replace the laws of the state with the laws of the Torah, and that’s his right.
“If he succeeds in persuading enough people, he can realize it.”
Arab MK decries ‘Jewish neo-Nazis’
Joint (Arab) List Knesset member Ahmad Tibi says the perpetrators of a firebombing attack that killed a Palestinian child in the West Bank were “Jewish neo-Nazis” and termed the attack “Kristallnacht.”
“The most terrible thing is that the prime minister wasn’t here to beat his breast over the Kristallnacht in Duma last week, which was perpetrated by Jewish neo-Nazis who live in settlements,” Tibi says in a speech during a stormy Knesset session dealing with the recent violence.
“They aren’t just bad apples; that’s a broken record,” he says, before moving on to lay blame for the attack at the doorstep of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet.
Tibi asserts that the perpetrators of the attack and others, according to suspicions Jewish extremists, had “political backing in the cabinet.”
He continues, “They’ve already burned Palestinian homes on 15 occasions and were not caught. This heinous murder won’t be the last, because the policy won’t change.”
Public transportation prices to drop sharply
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz announces a sharp reduction in the prices of public transportation in the coming weeks.
Among the plan’s goals is to encourage more commuters to leave their cars in the driveway and take the bus or the train to work so as not to overwhelm the streets of Tel Aviv, where ground was broken this week on a light rail system.
The new policy will allow travelers to board an unlimited number of buses, trains, and light rails within 90 minutes of buying a ticket.
Meanwhile, prices for monthly passes will drop significantly – by up to 40 percent – with an annual cost to the state of some NIS 120 million ($31.6 million) the announcement says.
Katz says the reform will offer a “modern, efficient” pricing scheme reminiscent of “the standard in European countries.”
Rescue forces assisting 150 stranded hikers
Police say volunteers in the Carmel region search and rescue unit have been working to extract some 150 hikers who have become stranded in the Ma’apilim Stream, in the eastern foothills of Mount Carmel, due to extreme heat conditions.
A helicopter has located most of the hikers, the Israel Police says in a tweet.
מתנדבי יחידת החילוץ כרמל פועלים לחילוצם של כ-150 מטיילים שנקלעו למצוקה בנחלים מעפילים ויגור בשל החום הכבד. מרבית המטיילים אותרו בסיוע מסוק
— משטרת ישראל (@IL_police) August 4, 2015
J Street ad features Israeli generals supporting Iran deal
The liberal American Jewish lobbying group J Street has published a new video extolling the nuclear deal signed between six world powers and Iran and asserting that it is “good for Israel; good for America.”
The video quotes several former top security officials in the Israeli army and intelligence agencies, to the effect that the deal will prevent the Islamic Republic from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
The video is published in the midst of a fierce debate between supporters and opponents of the deal in the US Congress, which is in the midst of a review period before it votes on the deal.
Most US Jewish groups, including the powerful American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, have aligned with Israel, which opposes the deal.
Minister Steinitz: If I were American, I’d oppose Iran deal
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, the Israeli government’s unofficial point man on the Iran nuclear deal, says that if he were American, he would oppose the agreement.
Steinitz’s statement comes in response to American Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who asserted Monday that, were he Israeli, he would support the deal.
“If I were American, I would oppose the agreement,” Steinitz says, according to a press release. “I would oppose the agreement because it ensures from the outset Iran’s becoming a nuclear power capable of producing dozens of atomic bombs per month, ten years from today.
“I would oppose the agreement because it is likely to lead to a nuclear arms race between Iran and the Sunni Arab states -– in complete contravention of the avowed policy of the US.
“I would oppose the agreement because even in the short term, the inspections are not immediate and invasive, as was promised at the start.
“I would oppose the agreement because it harms the national security of the United States, Israel and every Western country.”
Qatar seeks tighter relationship with Iran
Qatar’s top diplomat calls for deeper engagement with Iran in the wake of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers, saying there is a need for “serious dialogue” to solve challenges facing the region.
Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiyah speaks a day after US Secretary of State John Kerry met with the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council in Qatar to reassure them of America’s commitment to their security in the wake of the deal, which gives Iran broad sanctions relief in exchange for guarantees it won’t build a nuclear bomb.
Al-Attiyah says a “firm agreement between the major players and Iran” is the best way to resolve the issue. And he suggests there is now scope to work with Iran on other issues too.
“We should have a serious dialogue with our neighbor, the Iranians, and … lay down our concerns from both sides, and solve them together. Iran is our neighbor in the region. We have to live together,” he says.
The Gulf states have welcomed the deal despite deep-seated mistrust of Iran, a non-Arab, Shiite power that they see as increasingly assertive through its support for sympathizers and militant groups throughout the region.
Iran to let BBC in for ‘special report’
An Iranian government official says the Islamic Republic will allow some BBC journalists to report there for a week’s time, loosening restrictions on a news organization often vilified in local media, amid signs of warming diplomatic ties to Britain.
Islamic Culture and Guidance Ministry spokesman Hossein Nooshabadi tells The Associated Press that a team of BBC journalists will be allowed to report. He says the BBC’s Persian-language service was still banned there.
“The permission is only for one week time for a special report,” based on a BBC World Service request, Nooshabadi says. “The permission for activity and producing is for the report by the English-language BBC, while observing all laws and regulations” of the country.
Iran stopped the BBC’s Persian service from operating in the country in 2009, later expelling a World Service journalist during turmoil surrounding its disputed 2009 presidential election.
The BBC says it has had no word from the Iranian government on the decision, though one of its international correspondents has said she recently spent a day in Tehran.
Dehydrated toddler in critical condition
Several people are hospitalized after suffering heatstroke as temperatures spiked throughout Israel, including a toddler in critical condition after she was dehydrated Monday in the northern city of Safed.
Meanwhile, an 18-year-old youth is in serious condition after suffering heatstroke in Jerusalem. A 59-year-old laborer also collapses after suffering from heatstroke in the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, just east of Jerusalem.
Both the youth and the laborer are hospitalized in Jerusalem.
In photo, MK seen lounging next to dime bag
A photograph posted to the internet by a friend of Knesset member Yinon Magal of the right-wing Jewish Home party shows Magal lounging on the couch with what appear to be a dime bag of marijuana resting on a coffee table in front of him.
Magal, an advocate of legalization, has acknowledged using cannabis and other drugs, but asserts that he quit as soon as he became a lawmaker.
It wasn’t clear when the photo was taken.
— Mizbala (@Mizbala) August 4, 2015
Netanyahu: ‘Still waiting’ for world to condemn anti-Jewish terror
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the bedside of Inbar Azrak, 27, an Israeli woman who was moderately wounded in a Molotov cocktail attack in Jerusalem Monday night.
Netanyahu recalls that he visited the wounded family members of a Palestinian baby killed early Friday in a West Bank firebombing, allegedly carried out by Jewish extremists, and calls on the international community to condemn acts of terrorism against Israelis.
“Terrorism is terrorism,” Netanyahu says, “We have a policy of zero tolerance toward terrorism. No matter where it comes from, we condemn it and fight it.”
He goes on to note that the international community had condemned the attack that killed the Palestinian baby, “and I expect them to join in [my] condemnation of the same terrorism when it is directed against Jews. I’m still waiting.”
Anti-Arab activist remanded in custody
An Israeli court has ordered that the head of a Jewish extremist group be kept in detention after his arrest following the burning to death of a Palestinian baby, judicial sources say.
The court in Nazareth, northern Israel, has extended the incarceration of Meir Ettinger until at least Sunday, the sources say.
Ettinger, whose grandfather Rabbi Meir Kahane founded the anti-Arab movement Kach, was arrested on Monday “because of his activities in a Jewish extremist organization,” a spokesman for the Shin Bet internal security service told AFP.
Police say Ettinger, 23, was suspected of “nationalist crimes” but have not accused him of direct involvement in last week’s firebombing of a Palestinian home in the West Bank, in which a toddler was burned to death.
Saudi court convicts ex-soldier of joining IS
Semi-official Saudi news websites say a former soldier has been found guilty of fighting for the Islamic State group in Syria and has been sentenced to nine years in prison.
A court in Jiddah found the soldier guilty of taking part in training and violent operations with the Islamic State group in Syria. Saudi Arabia is part of the US-led coalition carrying out airstrikes against the group in Syria and Iraq.
The court also barred him from traveling abroad for nine years after he completes his prison sentence and fined him 5,000 Saudi riyals (approximately $1,300).
News websites Alriyadh, Okaz and others carry the verdict, saying the soldier had been working in the military corps before fleeing to Syria via Turkey.
Youth dies of heatstroke
A youth, 18, who was hospitalized for heatstroke earlier Tuesday, dies.
Several other Israelis are being treated for heatstroke and dehydration, some in critical condition, amid a fierce heat wave that has swept the country.
Police seek help in Duma firebombing case
The Israel Police has appealed to the public with a request for assistance in its search for the perpetrators of a deadly firebombing the Palestinian village of Duma in which a baby was killed and his parents and brother were critically wounded.
Although police arrested notorious far-right activist Meir Ettinger in the wake of the attack, he has not been named as a suspect.
Damascus doubts US will target Assad’s forces
A US warning that it would use its air power to defend Pentagon-trained rebels against Syrian troops is met with skepticism by officials in Damascus.
A political figure close to the regime tells AFP that the US had “relayed a message to Damascus not to worry about these statements.”
“It’s about hitting Al-Nusra hard, not the Syrian army,” he says, referring to the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front, which has been battling both the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad and moderate rebels, some of them US-trained.
On Monday, the US administration said it was prepared to take “additional steps” to defend US-trained rebels from Al-Nusra, warning Assad’s regime “not to interfere.”
A US-led coalition has provided air support for Kurdish and rebel militia fighting the radical Islamic State group since September 2014, but has not struck regime positions.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday that Assad’s regime could be targeted if it attacked the new US-backed forces.
US official says deal never aimed to address Iran terror support
WASHINGTON — The United States never considered addressing in the nuclear agreement with Iran the issue of Tehran’s sponsorship of terrorism and its calls for Israel’s annihilation, a senior US administration says.
Israel knew this all along but then decided to turn these issues into make-or-break conditions for support of the deal, the official tells Israeli reporters.
Jerusalem’s insistence that any deal address these issues would have killed any prospect of reaching an agreement, the senior official continues, adding that the conditions that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outlined in his contentious Congress speech in March made plain that Israel would object to any nuclear deal with Iran.
“This has been a nuclear negotiation for over two years with the P5+1 and Iran, with very vigorous consultations with successive Israeli governments about the details of that negotiation,” the senior official says, referring to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany. “Frankly, in none of our conversations with Israel over the years about the Iran nuclear negotiations were we contemplating bringing in those other elements of Iranian behavior.”
Iranian nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi had a different take on the matter, telling Iranian journalists on Saturday: “We said during the talks that we cannot not provide weapons to Hezbollah, and we are not willing to sacrifice them for our nuclear program. Therefore, if you want to keep the weapon sanctions as part of the agreement, we will continue with our efforts. We discussed this matter for a while.”
— Raphael Ahren with Times of Israel staff
Youth who died of heatstroke was a soldier
Authorities announce that the 18-year-old youth who died of a heatstroke Tuesday afternoon was an IDF soldier.
The soldier is named as Dan Sela of Afula.
Netanyahus’ electrician grilled over suspected irregularities
Avi Fahima, an electrician who carried out projects in the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem and private villa in Caesarea, is interrogated by police for six hours over suspicions of misconduct.
A February state comptroller report said that, for several months in 2010, Fahima did not produce receipts for his labor, and allegedly received fees far higher than those that appeared in his initial cost estimates.
The report also faulted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, for enlisting Fahima’s services on the weekends and even on Yom Kippur at the couple’s private residence in Casearea.
The attorney general in July ordered a criminal investigation into the hiring of Fahima and other alleged financial irregularities in the Prime Minister’s Residence.
Ezra Saidoff, the deputy director general for operations at the Prime Minister’s Residence, is expected to face police interrogation in the coming days.
IDF to probe soldier’s heatstroke death
The IDF will investigate the death of soldier Dan Sela, 18, of heatstroke Tuesday, the army announces.
The team investigating Sela’s death will be headed up by a colonel in order to “thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the incident,” the IDF says in its official Twitter account.
“We share in the sorrow of the family and will help them with anything they require,” the army said in a tweet.
Sela, who lived in the northern city of Afula, died during an army activity in Jerusalem.
Second man arrested in wake of Duma firebombing
Eviyatar Slonim, a settler who was ordered to stay away from the West Bank due to his suspected participation in extremist activities, has been arrested, the Shin Bet security service announces in a statement.
Slonim is the second right-wing activist to be arrested in the wake of a firebombing attack in the Palestinian village of Duma early Friday that killed a toddler and critically wounded his parents and brother.
He was arrested in Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem, on suspicion of “active participation in an extremist, violent Jewish organization,” the Shin Bet statement said.
Like the first far-right activist arrested after Friday’s attack, Meir Ettinger, there was no indication that Slonim was linked to the firebombing in Duma.
A-G okays detention without trial for 3 Jewish extremists
Following consultations, Attorney General Yehuda Weinsten has given his approval for security forces to hold three suspected Jewish extremists without trial in the wake of the Duma firebombing, Channel 2 reports.
Security forces had initially requested that the measure, known as administrative detention, be applied to four suspects, the report says.
Administrative detention has never been used against Israeli citizens, the report notes, although it is currently being wielded in the case of hundreds of Palestinian suspects, who can be held without trial for renewable periods of six months.
Before the measure can be applied to Israeli suspects, the defense minister must lend his case-by-case approval.
Netanyahu: ‘Three fatal flaws’ in Iran deal
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says there are “three fatal flaws in the nuclear deal with Iran.”
In an address to Jewish groups in the US, he says that there has been “disinformation about the deal and about Israel’s position.”
He says the agreement “doesn’t block Iran’s path to bomb, but rather “paves” its path to the bomb.
The agreement, which is being pushed by US President Barack Obama, gives Iran “two paths to the bomb”: Tehran can obtain a weapon both by keeping the deal and waiting for it to elapse, and by violating it, he says.
Iran deal will cause ‘a real nightmare’ — PM
“Iran can keep the deal or Iran can cheat on the deal,” Netanyahu says. Either way, it will have the bomb.
“Hundreds of bombs,” in fact, he says.
Netanyahu warns of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East — “the most volatile part of the planet — in the wake of the deal, he says.
“That’s a real nightmare,” Netanyahu adds.
Netanyahu: ‘Overwhelming majority’ of Israelis oppose deal
Netanyahu says “a huge majority of Israelis” oppose the nuclear deal with Iran.
He says that since it is not a partisan issue in Israel, it shouldn’t be a partisan issue in the US either.
“Rise above partisan politics,” he urges American Jews. “Judge it on substance, and on substance alone.”
“Oppose this dangerous deal,” he implores.
Netanyahu accuses supporters of the Iran deal of trying to “stifle debate” and says they are misrepresenting the agreement in order to win support.
“This deal will bring war,” he asserts, rejecting the assertion that opponents of the deal have offered no alternative to the deal other than war.
PM: ‘Increase the sanctions’ on Iran
“Increase the sanctions, increase the pressure,” Netanyahu says, in presenting his alternative to the nuclear deal.
He asserts that Iran would not back away from the negotiating table, even if subjected to harsher sanctions, and would agree to more stringent curbs on its nuclear program.
Iran building missiles to hit US, Netanyahu says
Iran is building intercontinental ballistic missiles in order “to hit you,” not Israel, Netanyahu tells US Jews.
“Here’s the bottom line,” he adds. “Oppose this bad deal.”
Rivlin tells Molotov cocktail victim Israel will ‘stop’ terrorism
President Reuven Rivlin speaks with Inbar Azrak, who was wounded in a Molotov cocktail attack in Jerusalem on Monday and assures her that Israel would “stop the terror.”
“I spoke now with Inbar, who is suffering in severe pain, who bravely survived an horrific terror attack when a Molotov Cocktail was thrown at her car yesterday evening,” Rivlin says in a statement. “Despite the difficulty of her injuries, she explained to me how her heart has been warmed by the outpouring of love and support she has received from the whole people, she told me of the dedicated and professional care she has received from the hospital staff, and of what she called the ‘beauty of the people of Israel.’
“I said to Inbar that we will stop the terror, and the terrorists, our enemies, who harmed her and the dear people who went to her aid. This is our duty,” he says.
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