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

Khamenei: Countries that confront Iran ‘will be hit multiple times’

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says the time when Iran’s enemies can “hit and run” is over.

“They know if they enter military conflict with Iran, they will be hit multiple times,” he says in comments during a meeting with workers, according to his website.

Later, in a series of tweets, Khamenei accuses the US of creating instability in the Middle East, and warns it will “certainly suffer from defeat” if it confronts the Islamic Republic.

“Wherever US entered, it created instability, brought misery to people… [the] US must exit this region,” he says in a series of tweets. “The one whose feet should be cut off is US, not Islamic Republic. We are from here. Persian Gulf, West Asia are our home.”

“US’s plan is to provoke some ignorant govts. with little knowledge, in our own region, to confront the Islamic Republic,” he says. “If these govt. officials gain some wisdom, they won’t confront the Islamic Republic; but, if they stand against Iran, they will certainly suffer from defeat.”

He goes on claim the American policy of “agitating” the Saudis and not the “Zionists” proved it was intentionally seeking to sow division among Muslims.

Assad reportedly tells Iran latest strikes are ‘direct aggression against Syria’

Syrian President Bashar Assad calls the predawn strikes on a military base that killed mostly Iranian soldiers “direct aggression against Syria.”

The Hezbollah-affiliated news outlet Al-Akhbar says that Assad made the remarks earlier today during a meeting with Iranian military officials in Damascus.

Israel has not commented on the strikes, which some Arab media outlets have blamed on the Jewish state.

Israel’s live fire use in Gaza protests in first legal test

The IDF’s use of live fire against Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border is facing its first legal test before the Supreme Court.

Six human rights groups are asking the court on to restrict or ban the use of live ammunition, after 39 Palestinian were killed and more than 1,600 wounded in weekly border protests over the past month.

The rights groups say rules of engagement of law enforcement apply, under which officers can only resort to lethal force if their lives are in imminent danger. They say the military’s use of lethal force against unarmed protesters is unlawful.

The IDF says the border protests are part of a long-running conflict with Gaza’s ruling terrorist group Hamas, and says rules of armed conflict apply.

— AP

Kremlin says Putin, Macron in favor of keeping Iran nuclear deal

Russian President Vladimir Putin and French leader Emmanuel Macron call for the “strict observance” of the Iran nuclear accord, with US President Donald Trump still deciding whether to scrap the agreement.

“The Presidents of Russia and France spoke in favour of keeping the Plan and its strict observance,” the Kremlin says, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The statement was released after Macron called Putin to inform him of his talks with Trump in the United States.


Pro-Assad official: Syria strike destroyed 200 missiles, killed 16 Iranians

Missile strikes against Syrian regime forces in the central province of Hama overnight destroyed 200 missiles and killed 16 people, including 11 Iranians, an official from a pro-Assad alliance says.

The unnamed official tells The New York Times that 16 people were killed in total when the storage facility at the 47th Brigade base early this morning.

He says other regional officials allied with Iran believe Tehran will retaliate against Israel for the strikes in the near future.

In the hours after the strikes, media reports said that 18 members of Iran’s military, including a senior officer, were killed in the raids. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said 26 pro-regime fighters, most of them Iranians, had been killed. There were conflicting reports on the number of casualties, with some opposition-linked outlets placing the overall number of fatalities at 38.

Labor chief vows to fight ‘capricious’ court override bill

Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay harshly criticizes coalition-backed legislation that would limit the Supreme Court’s ability to strike down unconstitutional Knesset legislation, and vows to fight the “capricious” measure.

“We are fighting against any law that erodes democracy, it is not a game of 61, 65 or 70 [votes],” he says at the start of a faction meeting according to a statement. “Basic laws are basic laws are basic laws.”

“They cannot be bypassed by capricious legislation. We will fight in the Knesset and beyond, everywhere. Including on Shabbat in Tel Aviv.”

Netanyahu cancels faction meeting over emergency Syria talks

Minutes before it is due to begin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancels a Likud faction meeting set to open the Knesset’s summer session at 3 p.m., due to an ongoing security cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv.

The high-level forum convened for an emergency meeting earlier this afternoon, hours after missile strikes in Syria reportedly killed some 16 Iranian troops.

Ministers were told to arrive at the Kirya military base, which is also home to the Defense Ministry, in Tel Aviv at 1:30 p.m. The impromptu meeting was to focus on the rising tension on Israel’s northern borders.

The Likud faction meeting was due to include a celebratory opening of the new Knesset session, in keeping with party tradition.

— Raoul Wootliff

Thousands rally in Moscow for internet freedom

At least several thousand people are rallying in Moscow to protest against recent restrictions on internet freedom in Russia.

Protesters flock to a central street on Monday, which is a public holiday in Russia, to rally against authorities’ move to block parts of the internet in Russia.

Russian authorities this month began to block popular messaging app Telegram over its refusal to hand over encryption keys. Telegram, which was developed by Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov, has refused to share data, citing privacy concerns. It has promised to keep the app running despite the ban.

In a battle to cripple Telegram’s operations, the Russian communications watchdog earlier this month blocked some servers owned by tech giants Google and Amazon, affecting millions of Russian websites.

— AP

Assad, Iranian official meet in Syrian capital

Syrian President Bashar Assad is meeting with a visiting Iranian official who claims “the project” of the United States and its allies in Syria has been defeated.

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, who heads Iran’s parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, speaks hours after reports of a missile attack that killed dozens of Iranian fighters in northern Syria on Monday.

Syrian state media reported the meeting of the two and Boroujerdi’s remarks. The report did not did not mention Monday’s missile attack but referred to the March 14 joint attack by the United States, Britain and France on Syria.

Assad says the international map is being redrawn, adding that the recent “escalation of the aggression against Syria” is a sign that insurgents have failed and this will only make Damascus more determined “to wipe out terrorism.”

— AP

Hamas rejects rare PLO congress vote, says Abbas trying to ‘gain fake legitimacy’

The Hamas terrorist group says it will not accept the outcome of the Palestine Liberation Organization, as the top leadership group convenes to elect new members to its executive committee.

In a statement, the Gaza rulers say the Palestinian Authority’s insistence on going ahead with the three-day-meeting in Ramallah was a “clear attempt by Abbas to gain a fake legitimacy through the [Palestine National Council] meeting.”

The Hamas statement went on to claim that the leadership meeting “is related to the suspicious plans prepared to target the Palestinian interests,” referring to the US peace plan.

Starting with an Abbas speech later tonight, the PLO parliament, or Palestinian National Council, will kick off four days of meetings in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Later in the week, delegates elect a new PLO Executive Committee, the top decision-making body, with 18 members.

Meretz chief vows to fight against PM’s ‘brazen’ court override bill

Meretz chair Tamar Zandberg, hosting her first public party faction meeting as new elected leader, vows to block proposed legislation that could curb the activities of the Supreme Court.

“In the previous Knesset session, the police and the prosecution were put to the stake, this time it is the Israeli legal system,” she says, referring to a coalition bill that would quash the Supreme Court’s ability to strike down unconstitutional Knesset legislation. “We will not let them harm Israeli democracy.”

Zandberg says that the legislation, as well as other bills on the table during the Knesset summer session which begins today, is the fruit of a unstable government that continues to serve despite corruption allegations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The current wave of legislation is the outcome when you have a prime minister facing police recommendations for bribery indictment who is so brazen as to try and take hold of the Israeli rule of law,” she charges.

— Raoul Wootliff

Netanyahu to reveal ‘significant’ developments on Iran nuclear program at 8

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces that he will deliver a speech at 8 p.m. to unveil new “significant” intelligence regarding Iran’s nuclear program, his office says in a statement.

The announcement comes after the high-level security cabinet convened for an emergency meeting, hours after missile strikes in Syria reportedly killed some 18 Iranian troops.

Ministers were told to arrive at the Kirya military base, which is also home to the Defense Ministry, in Tel Aviv at 1:30 p.m. The impromptu meeting, which lasted for an hour and a half, focused on the rising tension on Israel’s northern borders.

Nuclear chief: Iran able to enrich uranium higher than pre-deal levels

The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, says Iran is able technically to enrich uranium to a higher level than it could before it signed a 2015 deal designed to curb its nuclear program, Reuters quotes him as telling state media.

“Iran is not bluffing … Technically, we are fully prepared to enrich uranium higher than we used to produce before the deal was reached… I hope Trump comes to his senses and stays in the deal,” he says.

US President Donald Trump has set a May 12 deadline to decide whether to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal — something he appears likely to do despite heavy pressure to stay in from European and other parties.

Deputy FM says Iran ‘fully prepared’ for US nuclear deal exit

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi tells state media that Iran is “fully prepared” for any scenario, as US President Donald Trump’s deadline to re-impose sanctions on the Islamic republic quickly approaches.

“Iran [is] fully prepared for any US scenario on the 2015 nuclear deal,” he tells the ISNA news agency.

Trump is due to decide by May 12 whether to reimpose nuclear-related sanctions on Tehran, putting in peril the 2015 accord, which most world powers see as key to preventing Tehran from getting the bomb.

Liberman back in Israel after talks with top US officials in DC

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman arrives back in Israel, following a work trip to the United States where he met with his counterpart US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Adviser John Bolton.

As he was in transit at the time, Liberman missed a security cabinet meeting held in the army’s Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv earlier this afternoon.

“He landed in Israel a short while ago and is now making phone calls to the relevant figures,” his office says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Michael Oren urges Israel to ‘energetically’ welcome Trump peace plan

Deputy Minister Michael Oren says his government has never had a more favorable ally in the White House and Israel should welcome the administration’s forthcoming peace plan regardless of its content.

Oren, the deputy minister for diplomacy in the Prime Minister’s Office, says that US President Donald Trump’s much-awaited plan will undoubtedly require Israeli concessions but that it would be foolish to reject it.

Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington, tells foreign reporters he will strongly recommend the government “accept this plan with an open mind, if not open arms, that we engage with it energetically and that we certainly don’t reject it out of hand.”

Trump has promised to pursue the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians.

Ex-US ambassador: Netanyahu announcement on Iran ‘fully coordinated’ with US

Former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “significant development” regarding the Iran nuclear deal that he will reveal in a speech this evening has been coordinated with the US.

“Obviously, Netanyahu’s announcement tonight on the Iranian nuclear program is fully coordinated with the US side. The call with Trump yesterday and Pompeo’s visit would have locked it in,” he posts on Twitter.

According Israeli news reports, Netanyahu will reveal intelligence information, based on a large cache of documents recently obtained by Israel, which he believes proves Iran has duped the world regarding the state of its nuclear program.

Iran orders internet providers to block Telegram

Iranian authorities order internet service providers to block access to Telegram, a popular messaging app used by an estimated 40 million Iranians.

State TV reports that the Tehran prosecutor has ordered that the app be blocked in a way that would not allow users to bypass the restrictions using a virtual private network (VPN).

Iran said last month it would block Telegram, which bills itself as an encrypted message service, for national security reasons. The app was used by the organizers of protests earlier this year, and was temporarily shut down during demonstrations in January.

Iranian authorities say the app is used by terrorists and pornographers.

After Iran announced it would block the app, many government-affiliated users have switched to local alternatives.

— AP

Ahead of speech, Iran’s Zarif taunts PM as ‘boy who cried wolf’

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is taunting Netanyahu ahead of his televised speech in which the Israeli leader said he would reveal “significant” developments regarding the Iran nuclear deal.

“The boy who can’t stop crying wolf is at it again. Undeterred by cartoon fiasco at UNGA,” Zarif says in a tweet. “You can only fool some of the people so many times.”

The tweet accompanied a picture of Netanyahu’s speech to the UN General Assembly in 2012 in which he presented a visual aid of a cartoon bomb to illustrate how far Iran’s nuclear program had progressed.

Knesset speaker quashes ‘baseless rumors’ that war with Iran imminent

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein quashes “baseless rumors” spreading on social media platforms that Israel is gearing up for an Iranian attack in the coming days.

“It’s no secret that over the past day or so, winds have been blowing from the north. It has been brought to my attention that baseless rumors have been circulated on social networks and in WhatsApp groups over recent hours that are causing the public unnecessary tension,” Edelstein tells lawmakers at the Knesset.

“Without going into detail and without knowing exactly what the future holds for us, but I want to tell all the citizens of Israel that you can rely on the commanders and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces” he adds.

Edelstein’s remarks come just before Netanyahu is scheduled announce a “significant development” regarding Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in a live speech at 8 p.m.

Netanyahu said set to present Mossad info on Iran ‘duping the world’

Hadashot TV news says the prime minister, in his imminent address, will present information gleaned by Mossad on Iranian nuclear activity.

The TV report says a central part of the press conference will be in English.

It will include some kind of slideshow presentation.

The report says Netanyahu will present information showing that Iran has “duped the world.”

Asked if Israel is heading for war with Iran, one of Netanyahu’s Likud ministerial colleagues, Tzachi Hanegbi, says, “We greatly hope not. We believe not. There is not reason” to think so.

“This is not a declaration of war on Iran,” says Hanegbi.

Netanyahu: Files obtained by Israel show Iran ‘lied big time’ about nukes

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is going to reveal “new and conclusive proof” that Iran lied about the nature of its nuclear program and tried to hide it.

“After signing the nuclear deal in 2015 Iran intensified its efforts to hide its nuclear files,” he says in a press conference.

“In 2017 Iran moved its nuclear files” to highly secret location in Iran, he says, showing a picture of the archive in Tehran.

He says the 55,000 pages of files were obtained by Israel in “a great intelligence achievement.”

Secret docs ‘conclusively prove’ Iran sought nuclear weapons

Netanyahu says Iran’s secret nuclear files reveal that Iran’s nuclear program was designed to “test and build nuclear weapons.”

In a nationally televised address, Netanyahu says Israel recently obtained 55,000 documents and 183 CDs of information from Iran’s “nuclear archives.”

“These files conclusively prove that Iran is brazenly lying when it says it never had a nuclear weapons program,” he says at a press conference in Tel Aviv. “The files prove that.”

He says the US has vouched for the authenticity of the secret archive obtained by Israel, and that Israel will make the documents available to the UN atomic agency and other countries.

PM says Iran continued to develop nukes after vows to stop

Netanyahu says that even though Iran halted its nuclear program, dubbed project Amad, in 2003, it didn’t suppress its nuclear ambitions.

“Iran planned at the highest levels to continue work related to nuclear weapons under different guises and using the same personnel,” the prime minister says.

Netanyahu goes on to say that Iran is continually expanding the range of its nuclear-capable missiles.

“They can reach Riyadh, Tel Aviv, Moscow, but they’re working on far longer ranges,” he adds.

‘Terrible’ Iran deal gives Tehran ‘clear path’ to bomb, says Netanyahu

Netanyahu slams the Iran nuclear deal as “terrible” and accuses Tehran of continually lying about its nuclear ambitions.

“Here’s the bottom line: Iran continues to lie,” he says before showing a clip of Iran Foreign Minister Zarif saying last week that Iran never sought nuclear weapons.

“Yes, you did,” Netanyahu remarks at the end of the clip.

He goes on to say that the 2015 agreement gives Iran a “clear path” to obtaining nuclear weapons and “completely fails” to address Iran’s missile program and its illicit nuclear weapons program.

“This is a terrible deal. It should never have been concluded,” Netanyahu says.

PM confident Trump will ‘do the right thing’ on Iran deal

Netanyahu says he is sure Trump will “do the right thing” when deciding if the US should remain in the Iran nuclear deal.

“I’m sure he’ll do the right thing,” Netanyahu says in a press conference. “The right thing for the United States. The right thing for Israel. And the right thing for the peace of the world.”

The full text of Netanyahu’s address is here.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showcases material he says was obtained by Israeli intelligence from Iran’s nuclear weapons archive, in Tel Aviv on April 30, 2018 (Amos Ben-Gershom (GPO)

EU diplomat says revelations on Iran shows nuclear deal needed

A European diplomat says that while Netanyahu’s revelations that Iran lied about its nuclear ambitions before signing a 2015 deal with world powers hurt Tehran’s standing, it is the reason why the EU wants to preserve the 2015 accord.

“All of this obviously raises some questions regarding Iran’s credibility,” a European diplomat tells The Times of Israel after Netanyahu’s press conference. “But we made the nuclear deal precisely because we don’t trust the Iranians, not because we considered them very trustworthy.”

— Raphael Ahren

Trump responds to Netanyahu revelations on Iran

US President Donald Trump responds to Netanyahu’s revelations that Iran lied about the nature of its nuclear program before entering into a multinational nuclear accord.

“In seven years, that deal will have expired and Iran is free to go ahead and create nuclear weapons,” he says during a press conference with visiting Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. “That is not acceptable.”

Trump says Netanyahu’s press conference along with other recent events show that he has been “100 percent right” about Iran.

Trump says Iran’s behavior is “just not an acceptable situation.” He points to missile tests, saying Iran is “not sitting back idly.”

He has declined to say whether he will withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal, but this afternoon says if the US does pull out, he still may negotiate a “real agreement.”

In West Bank, PLO parliament holds first session since 1990s

Hundreds of delegates are attending the first full session of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s parliament in more than two decades.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas is speaking to the Palestinian National Council, launching four days of meetings during which an aging PLO leadership group is up for election.

The meeting comes at a time of deep internal divisions between Abbas and his rival, the terrorist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

Hamas has raised its leadership profile in recent weeks with mass protests on the Gaza border with Israel. By comparison, Abbas’s longstanding strategy — statehood through US-led talks with Israel — is seen as a failure.

Abbas suspended contacts with the Trump administration after its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December.

— AP

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