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We’re nearing point where Iran will be forced to respond to attacks — analyst

After Mossad pegged as responsible for latest attack on Islamic Republic’s nuclear sites, Ehud Ya’ari says Tehran unlikely to continue exercising restraint

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Iran's uranium conversion facility near Isfahan, which reprocesses uranium ore concentrate into uranium hexafluoride gas, which is then taken to Natanz and fed into the centrifuges for enrichment, March 30, 2005.  (AP/Vahid Salemi)
Iran's uranium conversion facility near Isfahan, which reprocesses uranium ore concentrate into uranium hexafluoride gas, which is then taken to Natanz and fed into the centrifuges for enrichment, March 30, 2005. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.

US defense chief meets Gantz in 1st visit to Israel by Biden cabinet member

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin kicks off his two-day visit in Israel with a meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, at military headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Following the meeting, Gantz says the two had discussed the threat posed to Israel by Iran and its nuclear program, as well as plans to ensure the Jewish state’s military superiority in the region.

Austin is the first member of US President Joe Biden’s administration to pay an official visit to Israel, and this is the first official visit to the Jewish state by an American secretary of defense since 2017. This is also the first official visit by a foreign dignitary to Israel’s defense headquarters, known as the Kirya, since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

“During our conversations I emphasized to Secretary Austin that Israel views the United States as a full partner across all operational theaters, not least — Iran,” Gantz says.

“We will work closely with our American allies to ensure that any new agreement with Iran will secure the vital interests of the world and the United States, prevent a dangerous arms race in our region, and protect the State of Israel,” he says.

Austin refrains from addressing the Iranian issue directly in his official remarks, simply saying that he and Gantz had discussed “regional security challenges.”

“I was tremendously pleased on our discussion of a number of security issues which are important to our two countries,” Austin says.

“I appreciated hearing Minister Gantz’s perspectives about the challenges in this region,” he adds.

The meeting comes amid ongoing talks in Vienna regarding a return to the 2015 nuclear deal by both Iran and the United States, a move that is staunchly opposed by Israel, particularly by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli defense analysts have warned that there is a growing rift between Jerusalem and Washington on the issue of Iran and its nuclear program, which may have significant ramifications on Israel’s security.

The two defense chiefs say they discussed ensuring Israel’s so-called qualitative military edge, or QME, a technical term referring to the country’s military superiority in the region, which the United States is legally obligated to maintain. Austin also stressed the close ties between US and Israel, despite the apparent tensions between the countries over the Iran nuclear issue.

“I reaffirmed to Minister Gantz: Our commitment to Israel is enduring and it is ironclad, and I pledged to ensure close consultation to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge and to strengthen Israel’s security,” Austin says.

Government kingmaker Abbas out of hospital after successful kidney stone removal

Ra’am party chairman Mansour Abbas, a potential kingmaker following the Knesset elections, has been released from a northern Israel hospital after undergoing a successful operation to remove a kidney stone.

“MK Mansour Abbas is feeling well and being released this morning to his home,” Baruch Padeh Medical Center in Tiberias says in a statement.

Abbas was briefly hospitalized Tuesday at the hospital — also known as Poriya — missing out on the swearing-in of the 24th Knesset.

He was again taken to the hospital on Friday, when he underwent the operation.

“On Friday, we successfully conducted a urological operation to remove the stone from the kidney,” says Dr. Alex Konstantinovsky, head of the hospital’s Urology Unit. “MK Abbas is feeling well and can go back to his home and family.”

Abbas thanked the staff and praised the hospital for serving “residents of the periphery.”

Abbas’s support, likely from outside a government, is seen as crucial to the formation of any potential coalition following the March 23 election. But right-wing parties have been loath to cooperate with the Islamist, non-Zionist party. Religious Zionism, led by Bezalel Smotrich, has ruled out the possibility entirely. Some right-wingers accuse Abbas of being a supporter of the Hamas terror group.

German president: Buchenwald a reminder of Nazi ‘barbarism’

Germany’s president marks the 76th anniversary of the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp by reminding his compatriots of the inconceivable atrocities the Nazis committed there during the Third Reich.

“Communists and democrats, homosexuals and so-called asocials were incarcerated at Buchenwald. Jews, Sinti, and Roma were brought here and murdered,” President Frank-Walter Steinmeier says during a speech in the nearby German town of Weimar, 76 years to the day after US forces liberated the camp.

“With its diversity of victims’ groups, Buchenwald represents the entire barbarism of the Nazis, its aggressive nationalism to the outside, it’s dictatorship on the inside, and a racist way of thinking,” Steinmeier said. “Buchenwald stands for racial fanaticism, torture, murder and elimination.”

Holocaust survivors and their families were not allowed to gather for anniversary observances this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Survivors from different parts of the world instead attended Sunday’s memorial ceremony online. Large-scale commemorations for last year’s 75th anniversary were put on hold due to social distancing requirements.

The Buchenwald concentration camp was established in 1937. More than 56,000 of the 280,000 inmates held at Buchenwald and its satellite camps were killed by the Nazis or died as a result of hunger, illness or medical experiments before the camp’s liberation on April 11, 1945.

“It was a dictatorship, a Nazi leadership that was responsible for the cruelest crimes and the genocide,” Steinmeier said. “But it was human beings, Germans, who did this to other human beings.”

70 dead as battle for Yemen’s Marib rages on three fronts

Fierce fighting for Yemen’s strategic Marib city has killed 70 pro-government and Houthi rebel fighters over the past 24 hours, with battles raging on three fronts, loyalist military officials says.

The Houthis have been trying to seize Marib, the capital of an oil-rich region and the government’s last significant pocket of territory in the north, since February.

Two officials from pro-government forces tell AFP that the rebels were mounting a concerted push that had left 26 loyalist soldiers dead as well as 44 from Houthi ranks. The rebels rarely disclose their losses.

The new toll adds to 53 killed on both sides in the previous 24 hours, according to loyalist military officials.

One of the officials say that the rebels “are launching simultaneous attacks” in the areas of Kassara and Al-Mashjah, northwest of the city, and Jabal Murad in the south.

“They have made progress on the Kassara and Al-Mashjah fronts, but they have been thwarted on the Jabal Murad front,” he tells AFP.

The other official said that warplanes from the Saudi-led military coalition, which entered the Yemen conflict to support the government in 2015, launched airstrikes that “destroyed 12 Houthi military vehicles, including four tanks and a cannon.”

However, the Saudi firepower does not seem to have halted the rebel offensive.

Jordan king, estranged prince make first joint appearance since rift

Jordan’s King Abdullah appears in public alongside Prince Hamzah, state TV shows — their first joint public appearance since a palace crisis implicating the prince rocked the kingdom.

State TV shows a group of royals at a mausoleum where their ancestors are buried.

The palace Twitter account meanwhile publishes a picture of a group of royals at a cemetery, with the caption “HM King Abdullah II, HRH Crown Prince Al Hussein… (and) Hamzah bin Al Hussein… visit tomb of HM the late King Abdullah I.”

Health minister says limitations on Sinai crossing will end

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announces that he will not extend the special limitations on pedestrian traffic at the Taba Crossing that have been in place since it was reopened two weeks ago.

Those restrictions allowed up to 300 people to pass — on foot only — daily on weekdays (Sunday to Thursday), provided that they are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 and received approval for the trip in advance.

All pedestrians have been required to sign up in advance to receive an entry and exit permit to visit the Sinai Peninsula — a vacation hotspot for many Israelis.

Those regulations will expire on Tuesday and the Taba Crossing near Eilat will operate in a similar manner to Ben Gurion Airport from here on out. Pedestrians will still need to prove they’re vaccinated to avoid quarantine and present a negative PCR coronavirus test in order to cross.

Cabinet votes to extend Shin Bet chief’s tenure by four months

The cabinet has approved via telephone vote Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposal to extend Nadav Argaman’s tenure as the chief of the Shin Bet for an additional four months.

Argaman’s tenure was set to end in May, but will now last until at least September.

The vote follows a report in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that Netanyahu planned to appoint his national security adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat, as the new director of the agency, a move Defense Minister Benny Gantz refused to agree to.

Netanyahu, Bennett said to hold coalition negotiation meeting in English

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett held their meeting yesterday in English, even though both of them are native Hebrew speakers.

Netanyahu is known for his flawless English from his time studying in the US while Bennett grew up speaking English at home as his parents are American.

According to Channel 12, the custom started in 2006 when the two met to discuss the possibility of Bennett serving as Netanyahu’s chief of staff when the latter was head of the opposition.

Iranian official: Problem at nuke site ‘strongly suspected to be sabotage’

Malek Chariati, the spokesman for the Iranian parliament’s energy commission, claims the electrical problem at the country’s Natanz nuclear site over the weekend was likely the result of sabotage.

“This incident, coming (the day after) National Nuclear Technology Day as Iran endeavours to press the West into lifting sanctions, is strongly suspected to be sabotage or infiltration,” Chariati tweets.

The Natanz site lost power Sunday just hours after starting up new advanced centrifuges capable of enriching uranium faster, the latest incident to strike the site amid negotiations over the tattered atomic accord with world powers.

As Iranian officials investigated the outage, many Israeli media outlets assessed that a cyberattack darkened Natanz and damaged a facility that is home to sensitive centrifuges.

Smotrich said to order poll to check whether supporters would be okay with party joining Ra’am-backed coalition

Religious Zionism chairman Bezalel Smotrich has ordered a poll gauging whether supporters of the far-right party would back a right-wing government that would rely on the support of the Islamist Ra’am party from the opposition, Walla reports.

According to the poll’s findings, slightly more than 50% of Religious Zionism supporters say they’d prefer such a coalition over a fifth consecutive election.

However, several Ra’am officials in recent weeks have spoken publicly against such a prospect.

Netanyahu taps Likud fixer Miki Zohar to head key Knesset steering committee

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tapped Likud’s former coalition whip to head up the powerful Knesset Arrangements Committee, a move enabled by the premier having been chosen by President Rivlin to form a coalition.

The Arrangements Committee, the first in the Knesset to be formed after an election, determines which parliamentary committees will be formed and who will sit on them. Crucially, it also controls the legislative schedule in the new parliament until a new government is formed.

Likud takes control of the committee since it must be chaired by the party of the current PM-designate.

Zohar is a close ally of Netanyahu who has defended him forcefully amid legal troubles, often going after state institutions such as the state prosecution and the High Court of Justice and backing the prime minister’s claims that he is the victim of a witch hunt.

In 2019, he submitted legislation aimed at granting the prime minister immunity from prosecution.

93 doctors sign letter urging government to hold off on vaccinating children

A group of 93 doctors have signed on to a letter urging the government to hold off on vaccinating children below the age of 16 until more is learned about the coronavirus and the inoculation’s impact.

The letter comes against the backdrop of Pfizer’s request for emergency approval from the FDA to allow for the vaccination of 12- to 15-year-olds.

In their letter, the doctors call for the continued vaccination of vulnerable populations and claim that it is still possible to fully reopen the economy even without vaccinating children who are less likely to become ill from the virus.

“There must be a recognition that we do not understand everything about the virus, the vaccine against it and that the first commandment of medicine is first do no harm,” the doctors say.

Among the letter’s signatories are Dr. Amir Shachar, emergency room director at Netanya’s Laniado Hospital, Dr. Yoav Yehezkeli, an expert in internal medicine and a lecturer at Tel Aviv University, and Dr. Avi Mizrahi, intensive care unit director at Rehovot’s Kaplan Medical Center.

IDF to close West Bank, Gaza crossings to Palestinians for Memorial, Independence days

The Israel Defense Forces announce that it will close all crossings into Israel from the West Bank and Gaza Strip for two days beginning Tuesday night for the country’s Memorial and Independence days.

The closure — a standard practice for religious and national holidays — was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday and last until 12:01 a.m. Friday, pending a “situational assessment,” the military says.

The IDF says exceptions would be made for “humanitarian, medical and special cases” with approval from the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

Memorial Day formally begins at 8 p.m. on Tuesday night with a siren sounded across the nation. Commemorations continue throughout the next day — another siren is sounded at 11 a.m. — until Israelis make the dramatic shift from mourning to jubilation on Wednesday night as the country launches its Independence Day celebrations.

The closure will affect the tens of thousands of Palestinians who legally work in Israel every day, most of them in construction and maintenance.

Israeli citizens will still be permitted to move between the West Bank and Israel.

Iran reports highest daily coronavirus death toll of 2021

Iran reports its highest single-day death toll from COVID-19 this year, bringing the country’s total deaths in the pandemic to nearly 64,500, state TV reported.

The report says 258 new deaths were recorded in 24 hours. Iran’s deadliest day of the pandemic was in mid-November, when more than 480 deaths were tallied.

Today’s news report says health care officials also confirmed 21,063 new coronavirus cases since the day before, bringing Iran’s total confirmed cases to more than 2,070,000.

“We are expecting a heavy rise in hospitalizations in the next week,” Health Minister Saeed Namaki warns. He blamed the increase in cases on shopping, family gatherings and travel ahead of and during the Iranian New Year in late March.

On Saturday, Iran began a 10-day lockdown in the capital, Tehran, and other major cities amid a fourth wave of coronavirus infections. Iran’s vaccination campaign has been slow, with some 200,000 doses administered in the country of 84 million people, according to the World Health Organization.

Last week, COVAX, an international collaboration to distribute vaccines equitably around the world, delivered its first shipment to Iran, 700,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

High Court accepts appeal from Netanyahu defense team for more trial materials

The High Court of Justice partially grants accepts an appeal filed by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s defense team, which demanded it receive additional materials related to the investigations of the premier.

The defense lawyers will be transferred some materials that had not been delivered to them until now as a result of the successful appeal.

Among those materials is testimony given to police by journalist Ben Caspit, Ynet reports.

The evidentiary phase of Netanyahu’s trial on graft charges kicked off last week. It may continue for years and will likely include testimony from hundreds of witnesses.

Bar Refaeli’s mother to appear before prison release committee

Tzipi Refaeli, the mother of Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli, is expected to appear before a prison release committee on Tuesday.

Her appearance at the committee means she could be released early from a 16-month prison term for tax evasion she was sentenced to last September.

Tzipi Refaeli is imprisoned at Neve Tirtza Prison in Ramle, a women’s prison, which houses some 150 inmates. She contracted COVID-19 in prison in January.

She has also requested a pardon from President Rivlin.

Bar Refaeli was sentenced to community service in the case.

Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli, left and her mother Tzipi Refaeli arrive for a court hearing at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, September 13, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Security cabinet set to meet for first time in 2 months to discuss Iran

The high-level security cabinet is slated to convene next week for the first time since early February.

Hebrew media reports say both Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit requested the meeting and that it likely has to do with recent escalations between Israel and Iran.

An Iranian nuclear facility lost power Sunday just hours after starting up new advanced centrifuges capable of enriching uranium faster, in an incident described by an Iranian lawmaker as probable “sabotage” and by unnamed Western intelligence officials as a possible cyberattack.

Iran and Israel have accused each other of attacking maritime commerce in recent months.

Tehran and Washington began indirect talks in Vienna last week to attempt to rescue Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Israel strongly opposes a US return to the accord.

Mossad said behind power cut at Iran nuclear site; Iran calls it ‘terror attack’

Israel’s Mossad security service is responsible for the power cut to Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, causing a significant disruption to uranium enrichment at the site, unidentified Western intelligence sources tell Hebrew media.

Iran calls the incident a “terror attack,” but refrains from identifying who it believes was behind it.

According to Hebrew media, the apparent cyberattack on the Natanz site caused “severe damage at the heart of Iran’s enrichment program.”

Iran acknowledged the power cut this morning, but did not immediately say it was caused by an external actor.

Now, the spokesman for Iran’s nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi, says that the glitch was a “terror attack” and that Tehran “reserves the right to take action against the perpetrators,” according to Iranian state media.

Cabinet to convene tomorrow night as Gantz hopes PM will allow appointment of justice minister

The cabinet will convene tomorrow night at 10 p.m., Hebrew media reports.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit have been calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow for the appointment of a permanent justice minister.

Gantz was serving as interim justice minister until April 1, from which point the position has been vacant.

A cabinet vote is required to appoint a justice minister, but both Netanyahu and Gantz must agree first to bring the matter to a vote.

1 dead in car explosion in Holon

Medics have pronounced the death of a man whose body was found at the scene of a car blast in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon.

Police have opened an investigation into the blast.

Chinese official says Beijing’s vaccines ‘don’t have very high protection rates’

In a rare admission of the weakness of Chinese coronavirus vaccines, the country’s top disease control official says their effectiveness is low and the government is considering mixing them to get a boost.

Chinese vaccines “don’t have very high protection rates,” says the director of the China Centers for Disease Control, Gao Fu.

Beijing has distributed hundreds of millions of doses abroad while trying to promote doubt about the effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine made using the previously experimental messenger RNA, or mRNA, process.

“It’s now under formal consideration whether we should use different vaccines from different technical lines for the immunization process,” Gao says.

Officials at a news conference Sunday didn’t respond directly to questions about Gao’s comment or possible changes in official plans. But another CDC official said developers are working on mRNA-based vaccines.

A staff member inspects syringes of COVID-19 inactivated vaccine products at a packaging plant of the Beijing Biological Products Institute Co., Ltd, a unit of state-owned Sinopharm in Beijing, December 25, 2020. (Zhang Yuwei/Xinhua via AP)

Experts say mixing vaccines, or sequential immunization, might boost effectiveness. Researchers in Britain are studying a possible combination of Pfizer-BioNTech and the traditional AstraZeneca vaccine.

Vaccines made by Sinovac, a private company, and Sinopharm, a state-owned firm, have made up the majority of Chinese vaccines distributed to several dozen countries including Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia, Hungary, Brazil and Turkey.

Around 100,000 Sinopharm doses were sent to the Palestinian Authority.

The effectiveness of a Sinovac vaccine at preventing symptomatic infections was found to be as low as 50.4% by researchers in Brazil, near the 50% threshold at which health experts say a vaccine is useful. By comparison, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been found to be 97% effective.

Beijing has yet to approve any foreign vaccines for use in China.

Egypt prosecutors find gross negligence behind train crash

Egyptian prosecutors say they found that gross negligence by railway employees was behind a deadly train crash that caused public outcry across the country. Drugs were allegedly also involved.

The March 26 crash of two passenger trains in the province of Sohag, about 440 kilometers (270 miles) south of Cairo, was the latest in a series of deadly railway accidents in the Arab most populous country. At least 18 people died and 200 others, including children, were injured.

Prosecutors last month ordered the detention of eight railway employees, including two train drivers, their assistants, the head of traffic control in neighboring Assiut province, and three traffic control guards.

The findings, announced today in a detailed statement by the public prosecution, allege that a driver and his assistant had deactivated the automatic train control system (ATC) before the collision. The ATC system is a mechanism that guides trains’ safe operation and involves a speed control.

Prosecutors also allege that a control tower guard had smoked hashish and an assistant to a train driver had used hashish and the opioid pain killer Tramadol, commonly sold as a street drug in Egypt. The statement did not elaborate as to whether drugs had impacted their decision making at the time of the crash.

Prosecutors say they have yet to conclude their investigation in the crash.

Train wrecks and mishaps are common in Egypt, where the railway system has a history of badly maintained equipment and mismanagement.

Hundreds of train accidents are reported every year. In February 2019 an unmanned locomotive slammed into a barrier inside Cairo’s main Ramses railway station, causing a huge explosion and a fire. That crash prompted the then-transportation minister to resign.

Pubs, hairdressers set to reopen as UK eases virus lockdown

Millions of people in Britain will get their first chance in months for haircuts, casual shopping, and restaurant meals on Monday, as the government takes the next step on its lockdown-lifting road map.

Nationwide restrictions have been in place in England since early January, and similar rules in the other parts of the UK, to suppress a surge in coronavirus infections that swept the country late last year, linked to a more transmissible new variant first identified in southeast England.

Britain has had Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak, with more than 127,000 confirmed deaths.

Infections, hospitalizations, and deaths have all fallen thanks to the lockdown, and a mass vaccination program that has given at least one dose to more than 60 percent of the adult population.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson and epidemiologists have urged caution, saying that many people remain unvaccinated and relaxing social distancing rules or allowing foreign holidays this summer could bring a new spike in infections.

Netanyahu notes ‘major task’ of combating Iran, hours after attack at nuke site attributed to Mossad

In a celebratory toast with security chiefs ahead of Independence Day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu comments regarding Iran, since Hebrew media cited “intelligence sources” that attributed an attack on the Islamic Republic’s Natanz nuclear site to the Mossad.

“The fight against Iran and its metastases and against Iranian armament is a huge task. The situation as it exists today is not necessarily how it will exist tomorrow,” Netanyahu says.

“It is very difficult to explain all that we have accomplished here in Israel, transitioning from a complete helplessness that was unparalleled in the history of nations, to the world power that we have become. We’re certainly a regional power, but in some ways we’re also a global one. I wish for all of us that you continue on this path, and that you continue to keep the sword of David in your hands.”

Trump goes after Pence, McConnell, in speech to party donors

It was supposed to be a unifying weekend for a Republican Party at war with itself over former president Donald Trump’s divisive leadership. But Trump himself shattered two days of relative peace in his closing remarks to the GOP’s top donors, when he insulted the party’s Senate leader and his wife.

Ahead of the invitation-only speech at Trump’s new home inside his Mar-a-Lago resort, the former president’s advisers said he would emphasize his commitment to his party and Republican unity.

Trump veered sharply from the prepared remarks Saturday night, and instead slammed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as a “stone-cold loser” and mocked McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, who was Trump’s transportation secretary.

Trump also said he was “disappointed” in his vice president, Mike Pence, and used a profanity in assessing McConnell, according to multiple people in attendance, who were not authorized to publicly discuss what was said in a private session. He said McConnell had not thanked him properly for putting Chao, who was labor secretary under president George W. Bush, in his cabinet.

The comments left some attendees feeling uncomfortable.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich did not defend Trump as he left Palm Beach on Sunday.

“We are much better off if we keep focusing on the Democrats. Period,” Gingrich said.

Saturday’s speech was the final address of the Republican National Committee’s weekend donor summit in Palm Beach. Most of the RNC’s closed-door gathering was held at a luxury hotel a few miles away from Mar-a-Lago; attendees were bused to Trump’s club for his remarks.

Israeli intelligence firm releases satellite photo of attacked Iranian military command ship

A private Israeli intelligence firm releases a satellite photograph of a suspected Iranian military command ship that was damaged in an alleged Israeli commando raid last week, showing that the vessel has not moved since the attack.

The MV Saviz is officially registered as a cargo ship, but is widely believed to serve as a mobile command center for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps off the coast of Yemen.

Last Tuesday, the ship was damaged by limpet mines in an attack attributed to Israel’s Shayetet 13 naval commandos. Israel has not confirmed carrying out the raid, and Israeli officials have refrained from publicly commenting on it.

The private satellite photography analysis firm ImageSat International releases a picture of the Iranian ship from Sunday, showing that it has not moved since the attack and remains anchored in the Red Sea, between Yemen and Eritrea.

Defense analyst: We’re nearing point where Iran will have no choice but to respond to Israeli attacks

Channel 12 defense analyst Ehud Ya’ari says that, with the Mossad’s apparent leaks to Hebrew media taking responsibility for the latest attack on an Iranian nuclear site, “we’re getting close to the moment” where Tehran will have no choice but to respond with a military strike of its own.

Ya’ari notes that Iran has been restrained until now, despite the November 2020 assassination of its former nuclear chief Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and successive Israeli strikes in Syria.

Moreover, Ya’ari says that, despite the various setbacks attributed to Israel, Iran has continued making progress with its nuclear program.

If they call it “terror… there must be damage, otherwise they wouldn’t call it nuclear terror,” Ya’ari says of the power outage at the Natanz nuclear facility earlier today.

For his part, former CIA director James Woolsey writes that the Iranians already have all the components needed for a nuclear weapon.

Egypt jails man for 8 years in #MeToo case

An Egyptian court has sentenced a man to eight years in prison for sexually harassing three minors and drug possession, in a case that sparked outrage on social media.

Ahmed Bassam Zaki, a former student of some of Egypt’s most elite schools and the American University in Cairo, was sentenced to seven years in jail for sexually harassing three underage girls, and one year for drug possession, a judicial source says.

He can appeal the verdict, the source adds.

Zaki, who is in his 20s, had already been sentenced in December to three years in prison for sexually harassing two young women by Egypt’s economic court, which tries cyber crimes.

The court found that he had sent sexual photos to one of the women and repeatedly contacted the other without her consent.

Claims against Zaki emerged online last year in the form of testimonies — many from classmates — published by the Instagram account, Assault Police.

They included an alleged rape and dozens of instances of assault against girls and women, some involving blackmail.

Zaki was arrested on July 4 and confessed to assaulting and blackmailing six complainants, one of whom was a minor.

The case revived a #MeToo campaign in Egypt, where women complain of rampant sexual harassment, a criminal offense since 2014.

United Nations surveys say most women in the conservative country have been subject to harassment ranging from catcalling to pinching and groping or worse.

Joint List MK files complaint over police beating

Joint List MK Ofer Cassif has filed an official complaint against the police, after he was beaten and punched by officers on Friday, during a protest in East Jerusalem, rejecting the force’s claim that he was to blame for the violence.

Cassif, the only Jewish Knesset member in the predominantly Arab Joint List party, arrives at the Police Internal Investigations Department, which is part of the Justice Ministry, to lodge the complaint.

Before entering, he declares that “the violence against me is a symptom.”

“The violence directed against me is also a violation of the sovereignty and dignity of the Knesset,” Cassif says.

He has said he will ask Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to open his own investigation into the incident.

Cassif was participating in a weekly demonstration in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood against planned evictions when the violence broke out.

Officers initially said that Cassif had hit them first. The most recent version of events offered by police said that the Knesset member had incited the officers to beat him, allegedly saying that he dared them to hit him.

Prosecutor in Netanyahu case planned to quit to become a judge, but backtracked

Yehudit Tirosh, a prosecutor in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s criminal trial, had planned to leave her position after the indictment was filed to try to become a judge, according to Haaretz report.

Tirosh applied for a course for judges held by the Judicial Selection Committee after she joined the case and after its investigatory phase, Haaretz reports.

She passed the committee’s preliminary selection tests and told the case’s lead prosecutor Liat Ben Ari, about her plans.

Committee members interviewed her after the indictment against Netanyahu was filed, but before her name was released as a candidate, she decided to freeze the process and continue in her role as a prosecutor, the report says.

Tirosh applied to become a judge in 2016, and in 2019, after police recommended the case go forward, she decided to take the course for judges and passed it with high marks.

In 2020, a few months before the indictment was filed, the Judicial Selection Committee approved her as a candidate, and she decided to move forward with an interview with committee members, including MK Zvi Hauser and judge Uzi Fogelman.

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