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In rare move, Abbas hosts Hamas delegation in Ramallah

PA president praised by group’s officials for handing of Temple Mount crisis; Netanyahu’s former chief of staff will reportedly sign deal with prosecutor to provide details in corruption cases against PM

Raoul Wootliff is the Times of Israel's former political correspondent and producer of the Daily Briefing podcast.

  • Ari Harow, former chief of staff of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a Likud meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    Ari Harow, former chief of staff of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a Likud meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Jewish visitors wait to enter the Temple Mount complex in the Old City of Jerusalem, August 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Jewish visitors wait to enter the Temple Mount complex in the Old City of Jerusalem, August 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi speaks during a press conference in the capital Amman on July 25, 2017. (AFP/Khalil Mazraawi)
    Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi speaks during a press conference in the capital Amman on July 25, 2017. (AFP/Khalil Mazraawi)
  • An orthodox Jewish man looks at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem Old City, August 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    An orthodox Jewish man looks at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem Old City, August 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Jewish men pray at the Wall Western in the Old City of Jerusalem, August 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Jewish men pray at the Wall Western in the Old City of Jerusalem, August 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, right, speaks to media as he attends the Executive Committee Meeting of Organization of Islamic Cooperation on August 1, 2017 in Istanbul.  (AFP/ OZAN KOSE)
    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, right, speaks to media as he attends the Executive Committee Meeting of Organization of Islamic Cooperation on August 1, 2017 in Istanbul. (AFP/ OZAN KOSE)
  • Iranian president and presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani attends a campaign rally in the capital Tehran on May 13, 2017. (AFP/Atta Kenare)
    Iranian president and presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani attends a campaign rally in the capital Tehran on May 13, 2017. (AFP/Atta Kenare)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.

US-backed Syria force makes key advances in IS stronghold

US-backed forces battling to oust the Islamic State group from its Syrian bastion Raqa advance in the city’s south, seizing a new neighborhood, a spokesman and monitor said Tuesday.

The Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces militia (SDF) began a campaign to capture Raqa from IS last year, slowly encircling the city before breaking into it for the first time in June.

Backed by US-led coalition air strikes, the alliance now controls more than 50 percent of the city, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor.

“Overnight, the SDF advanced in the south of the city, after taking control of the Nazlet Shahada neighborhood,” says Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

— AFP

Foreign Ministry workers’ strike threatens school Poland trips

Poland trips for Israeli students may be canceled over the latest Foreign Ministry workers’ strike, Army Radio reports.

As part of the strike calling for higher salaries, diplomats are refusing to give diplomatic passports to security guards who accompany school groups traveling to Poland.

The fight between the diplomatic service and the Finance Ministry over diplomats’ stagnant pay has been going on for several years. The diplomats have argued that past agreements were not honored and budgets were not approved.

After a number of previous strikes since 2013, unions renewed civil action this week.

Some 70 schools and over 8,000 students are likely to be affected in the latest strike, the report says.

In response, the Finance and Education ministries are turning to the regional Labor Court in Jerusalem to force Foreign Ministry workers to supply the passports.

Jordanian parliament repeals ‘marry the rapist’ clause

The lower house of Jordan’s parliament votes to scrap a provision in the kingdom’s penal code that allowed a rapist to escape punishment if he married his victim.

The vote is being hailed as a major step forward for women in the conservative kingdom.

“This is a victory for the women’s movement and human rights movement in Jordan,” says Salma Nims, the secretary general of the Jordanian National Commission for Women.

Despite a pro-Western political orientation outlook and cosmopolitan urban elites, many areas of Jordan remain socially conservative, with entrenched notions of “family honor.”

This includes the belief that having a rape victim in the family is shameful, and that such “shame” can be expunged through marriage.

— AP

Iran says new US sanctions breach nuclear deal

Iran is complaining to the UN Security Council over sanctions imposed by the United States in July, claiming they breach the 2015 deal to limit the country’s nuclear capability, according to Reuters.

The deal, signed by Iran and six powers including the United States, led to the lifting of most sanctions against Tehran in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

“Iran’s JCPOA supervisory body assessed the new US sanctions (on Tehran) and decided that they contradict parts of the nuclear deal,” speaker of the Iranian parliament Ali Larijani was quoted by the Tasnim news agency as saying, Reuters reports.

“Iran has complained to the UN Security Council for the breach of the JCPOA by America,” he added.

Pence says Trump will sign Russia sanctions soon

US Vice President Mike Pence says President Donald Trump will sign a bill on a new package of sanctions against Russia.

The Senate voted last week to approve the new financial sanctions against Moscow. The legislation bars Trump from easing or waiving the penalties on Russia unless Congress agrees.

Pence, who is visiting the former Soviet republic of Georgia Tuesday, says the Trump administration “had concerns” about the bill when it was drafted in the Senate, but that Trump will sign it soon.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America, Thursday, June 15, 2017, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, Pool)
Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America, Thursday, June 15, 2017, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, Pool)

Russia on Friday ordered the US Embassy and three US consulates in Russia to drastically cut its personnel there. President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday it would mean 755 staffers will have to be dismissed.

— AP

2 East Jerusalem Palestinians arrested for throwing Molotov cocktail

Police have arrested two men from East Jerusalem after one of them was seen preparing, lighting and throwing a Molotov cocktail at officers then fleeing in the other’s car.

The incident took place last night, police said in a statement.

Both suspects, aged 20, will remain in police custody until Thursday.

2 said injured in courthouse shooting outside Moscow

Russian news agencies are reporting that two people have been injured in a shooting inside a courthouse in a Moscow suburb.

The agencies on Tuesday quoted a lawyer who was at the courthouse and saw a guard and a court official injured.

According to the Tass agency, Nataly Osipova, spokeswoman for the Moscow Regional Court, said the incident took place at a hearing in a case of a gang of nine people who have terrorized Moscow roads, killing more than a dozen motorists.

No other details were immediately available.

— AP

Greek Patriarch denounces Israeli court’s real estate ruling

The Greek Orthodox Church is denouncing an Israeli court decision that ruled a 2004 sale of prime church property to companies representing Jews seeking to expand their presence in Jerusalem’s Old City was done legally.

In an ad published in the Al Quds newspaper Tuesday, the Greek patriarch asserts the deal was conducted illegally under the watch of the previous patriarch — who was deposed as a result.

The Rumanian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem. The church's walls were spray painted with anti-Christian graffiti on May 9, 2014 in a suspected price tag attack. (Photo credit: Ilan Ben Zion/Times of Israel staff)
The Rumanian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem. The church’s walls were spray painted with anti-Christian graffiti on May 9, 2014 in a suspected price tag attack. (Photo credit: Ilan Ben Zion/Times of Israel staff)

The court’s decision paves the way for three Old City structures to be leased for 99 years to Ateret Cohanim, a group associated with West Bank settlers. The patriarch says it will “exert all the efforts and legal and financial means to cancel this deal.”

Most of Jerusalem’s Orthodox Christians are Palestinian, and reject selling land to Jews.

— AP

3 gang suspects shot dead trying to flee Moscow court — officials

Three defendants on trial for 17 gang murders were killed in a shootout at the Moscow regional court on Tuesday after they tried to seize their guards’ weapons and flee, officials say.

While in n elevator, five suspects “attacked police officers and tried to seize their weapons,” Moscow regional police said. In the subsequent shootout “three of the prisoners were liquidated and two wounded,” while a law enforcement officer was hospitalized with gunshot wounds, police say.

— AFP

Israel’s last bottle recycling factory to close

Israel’s only remaining recycling plant for plastic bottles, which won an industry prize, is set to close because it cannot compete with lower production costs overseas, the Marker business daily reports.

Recent years have seen an increase in the number of bottles for recycling and a growth in the quantities sent abroad, particularly to Turkey, for processing.

A bottle recycling cage, not unlike the type employed by SodaStream for its ads. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)
A neighborhood bottle recycling cage. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Aviv Recycling Industries, a private family industry which has been operating for 25 years in the Negev, in southern Israel, has already laid off 30 of its 70 workers, and workdays have been cut, the factory’s director Yaron Mizrahi told Army Radio.

Mizrahi said the company had been in talks with government ministries for two years but that now “we’re done, we’ve reached the stage where we’ve reached the limit of our ability.” The company was losing millions of shekels each year.

— Sue Surkes

Poles commemorate Warsaw Uprising on 73rd anniversary

Poles are marking the 73rd anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, the revolt against Nazi Germany during World War II that US President Donald Trump paid homage to during his recent visit to Poland.

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda laid a wreath in the Warsaw district of Wola, the site of one of the worst massacres of Polish civilians at German hands during the occupation, with more events to follow.

US President Donald Trump holds his thumb up as he stands in front of the Warsaw Uprising Monument on Krasinski Square during the Three Seas Initiative Summit in Warsaw, Poland, July 6, 2017. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)
US President Donald Trump holds his thumb up as he stands in front of the Warsaw Uprising Monument on Krasinski Square during the Three Seas Initiative Summit in Warsaw, Poland, July 6, 2017. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)

The Warsaw Uprising — not to be confused with the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising — broke out August 1, 1944, with Polish insurgents taking up arms against the powerful German forces. They held out for 63 days before the Germans crushed the revolt.

Some 200,000 Poles were killed and the Germans destroyed most of Warsaw in retaliation.

During a July 6 visit to Warsaw, Trump paid homage to the “desperate struggle to overthrow oppression.”

— AP

Bible, Quran removed from Indian president’s memorial after Hindus protest

Indian authorities have removed a copy of the Bible and the Quran from a new statue of a former president after a complaint by a Hindu nationalist party, officials say.

The removal of the books has fueled a religious row over a carving depicting a Hindu holy book placed next to the statue of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam at Rameswaram in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Kalam, who as a scientist played a leading role in India’s landmark 1998 nuclear weapons tests, was president from 2002 to 2007 and a strongly secular figure.

The sculpted Hindu “Bhagavad Gita” book was placed next to the statue before it was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week on the second anniversary of Kalam’s death.

Relatives placed the Bible and the Quran next to the Gita in protest. That infuriated the Hindu Makka Katchi nationalist party, which said it made the complaint to police.

“The authorities removed the Bible and the Quran at the site. We are also looking at the complaint filed with us,” police superintendent Om Prakash Meena told AFP.

— AFP

Man arrested for arson of Brooklyn ‘mitzvah bus’

A man is under arrest on charges of setting fire to a bus decorated with Jewish symbols.

Jackson Joseph, 30, was arrested on Monday for setting fire to the so-called “Mitzvah bus” when it was parked on June 26 in Crown Heights. Joseph was identified by surveillance video.

Joseph has been charged with arson, ABC NY reports, but not with a hate crime, despite the fact that the bus was covered with Jewish symbols.

The bus is owned by a Brooklyn artist Lev “Leviticus” Schieber, who uses it as a studio and gallery for his paintings in the Crown Heights neighborhood, as well as at festivals and parades. It was seen in the popular music video “I’m a Jew and I’m Proud” by singer Benny Friedman.

Last summer, the tires on the bus were slashed.

Schieber said he plans to buy a new mini-bus, though he has not decided how he will paint it, according to the Vos Iz Neiz website.

— JTA

Jordan FM warns record Jewish visits to Temple Mount could spark further tension

Jordan’s foreign minister is criticizing Israel for the record number of Jews who visited the Temple Mount on today’s fast commemorating the destruction of the Jewish Temples that stood there.

Speaking at an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Ayman Safadi says that “the number of extremists who stormed Al-Aqsa today stands at a record number that has not been recorded since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967.”

Despite fasting, over 1,300 people braved the heat and went up to the Mount during the morning visiting hours, while hundreds more waited in line to visit the holy site with some three hours remaining of the commemorative day.

Tisha B’Av commemorates the destruction of both Temples, as well as several other disasters in Jewish history.

Jews visit the Old City of Jerusalem's Temple Mount compound on the Tisha B'Av fast day commemorating the destruction of the Jewish temples that once stood at the holy site, on August 1, 2017. (screen capture: Facebook)
Jews visit the Old City of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount compound on the Tisha B’Av fast day commemorating the destruction of the Jewish temples that once stood at the holy site, on August 1, 2017. (screen capture: Facebook)

Just days after violent tensions surrounding the site, Safadi warned that the visitors could spark further conflict.

“The crisis is over but further and more dangerous crises will break out as a result of Israel’s continued provocation, if Israel will not uproot the source of the tension, if the occupation will not end and if East Jerusalem will not become the capital of an independent Palestine,” Safadi adds.

Relative calm returned to Jerusalem this week following almost two weeks of Palestinian protests over security measures at the Temple Mount, installed after a July 14 terror attack in which three Israeli Arabs shot dead two Israeli policemen with weapons they had smuggled into the compound.

Muslim worshipers had refused to enter the Temple Mount until the security installations at entrances to the site were removed, while Palestinian protesters staged near-daily protests in and around East Jerusalem and the West Bank, some of which turned violent.

Police gag details on state witness in submarine corruption investigation

The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court accepts a police request to bar publication of all details related to the testimony of a suspect turned state’s witness arrested as part of the ongoing investigation into the allegedly corrupt multi-million-dollar purchase of naval vessels from Germany.

On July 21, Miki Ganor, a former agent for the German submarine company ThyssenKryupp, signed a deal to become a state’s witness in what legal analysts described as major development in the corruption case that could lead to indictments of senior public officials.

Following the publication of details of Ganor’s testimony, the court rules to impose a gag order on further reports until September 17.

Miki Ganor, arrested in the submarine affair also known as 'Case 3000,' is brought for a court hearing at the Magistrate's Court in Rishon Letzion, July 10, 2017. (Moti Kimchi/Pool)
Miki Ganor, arrested in the submarine affair also known as ‘Case 3000,’ is brought for a court hearing at the Magistrate’s Court in Rishon Letzion, July 10, 2017. (Moti Kimchi/Pool)

“The gag order relates to all details from the investigation related to or included within the testimony of the state’s witness or to proceedings that took place before his signing of the deal to become state’s witness,” police say in a statement.

Yesterday it was reported that Ganor’s testimony includes claims that David Shimron, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cousin and personal attorney, was to receive 20 percent of his own commission of the $45 million deal.

Justice Einat Ron wrote on the gag order that the extensive reporting on the case “has the potential to seriously damage the ongoing investigation.”

PM’s former chief of staff to turn state’s witness — report

Ari Harow, a former chief of staff and aide to Benjamin Netanyahu, is set to turn state’s witness as part of the ongoing investigations into alleged corruption involving the prime minister, according to Hebrew media reports.

Harrow has been under investigation since mid-2015 on suspicion of using his ties to Netanyahu to advance his private business interests. Police have recommended he be indicted for bribery and breach of trust but the attorney general has yet to file formal charges.

That investigation sparked at least one corruption investigation of Netanyahu himself, after investigators uncovered recordings on Harow’s computer of meetings between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes in late 2014 and early 2015. In the recording, the two seemed to discuss an illicit quid pro quo deal that would have seen the prime minister hobble a rival daily to Yedioth, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

That investigation, dubbed “Case 2000” by police, is ongoing, as is another corruption investigation into allegations that the prime minister receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors.

Ari Harow, former chief of staff of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a Likud meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Ari Harow, former chief of staff of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a Likud meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Harrow was unavailable to comment on the reports. A spokesperson for his 3H Global consultancy firm, implicated in the investigation against him, declined to comment.

Harow first worked for Netanyahu as foreign affairs adviser during his stint as leader of the opposition. He then spearheaded the 2009 election campaign that catapulted Netanyahu back into office. Following the election, he served as the prime minister’s bureau chief until 2010, managing Netanyahu’s schedule and advising him on a range of issues.

Harow took a break from politics in 2010, when he founded 3H Global. He later returned as chief of staff of the Prime Minister’s Office in 2014, serving there for a year before leaving to run the 2015 election campaign for Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Trump says he won’t stay off social media

US President Donald Trump may be trying for a reset in the West Wing, but he is making clear that he is not changing his Twitter habit.

On Twitter Tuesday, Trump said: “Only the Fake News Media and Trump enemies want me to stop using Social Media (110 million people). Only way for me to get the truth out!”

The tweet comes one day after retired General John Kelly took over as Trump’s new chief of staff.

Tapped to bring order to the chaotic West Wing, Kelly quickly made his presence known on Monday — ousting newly appointed communications director Anthony Scaramucci and revising the command structure so that all senior staffers report to him.

— AP

Kushner on peace process: ‘What do we offer that’s unique? I don’t know’

In a private, off-the-record conversation with congressional interns on Monday, Jared Kushner said he was not sure the Trump administration could offer anything “unique” to solve the Israeli Palestinian conflict and praised Israel’s handling of a recent crisis over the Temple Mount.

The discussion was tape recorded by one of the interns present and subsequently leaked to Wired, which published Kushner’s entire answer to a question about the White House’s attempts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, which US President Donald Trump has repeatedly referred to as the ultimate deal.”

US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and chief Middle East adviser, Jared Kushner left, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his office in Jerusalem on June 21, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom)
US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and chief Middle East adviser, Jared Kushner, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his office in Jerusalem on June 21, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom)

“What do we offer that’s unique? I don’t know,” he said. “I’m sure everyone that’s tried this has been unique in some ways, but again we’re trying to follow very logically. We’re thinking about what the right end state is. And we’re trying to work with the parties very quietly to see if there’s a solution.”

“And,” he went on, “there may be no solution, but it’s one of the problem sets that the president asked us to focus on. So we’re going to focus on it and try to come to the right conclusion in the near future.”

— Eric Cortellessa

Palestinian steals car in roadside attack on settler

A Palestinian man attacked a settler on the side of an inter-city road in the West Bank and stole his car, according to police.

The settler, a resident of the Samaria region in the West Bank, says that he was waiting next to his car on the shoulder of Route 505 near the city of Ariel when he saw the suspect running towards him. The man “attacked him and forced his way into the car,” police say in a statement.

The suspect then drove the car “towards the Palestinian villages in the area,” the statement continues.

Police have opened an investigation and are searching the area for the car.

Explosion at mosque in Afghanistan’s Herat

An explosion has struck the entrance to a mosque in Afghanistan’s main western city of Herat, injuring at least 10 people, police and government officials say.

“There has been an explosion at the gate of Jawadya mosque in Herat city, possible caused by a car bomb. Ten wounded have so far been reported,” interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish tells AFP.

— AFP

Turkey, Qatar launch joint military exercises

Turkey and its main regional ally Qatar launch military exercises in the emirate that will involve some 250 Turkish troops and 30 armored vehicles.

The exercises come as Ankara presses on with its unequivocal backing of Doha, in the crisis triggered by the political and economic isolation of Qatar by Gulf and other Arab states led by Saudi Arabia.

Turkish state media says that the Turkish frigate TCG Gokova had docked in Doha earlier this week, carrying 214 soldiers who would take part in the exercises.

The exercises got underway on Tuesday and would initially involve ground forces, with naval forces joining later on, NTV television said. An observation day involving top commanders would take place on August 7-8, it adds.

A total of 250 Turkish soldiers and 30 armoured vehicles will take part, it said.

— AFP

Kushner says Trump campaign was too dysfunctional to collude

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law told a group of congressional interns that the Trump campaign couldn’t have colluded with Russia because the team was too dysfunctional and disorganized to coordinate with a foreign government, Foreign Policy reports.

The remarks on Monday by Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to the president, came in response to a question about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign worked with Moscow.

Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, at the White House in Washington, DC, June 19, 2017. (AFP/Nicholas Kamm)
Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, at the White House in Washington, DC, June 19, 2017. (AFP/Nicholas Kamm)

Kushner’s comments were intended to be off the record. “They thought we colluded, but we couldn’t even collude with our local offices,” Kushner said, according to the website.

Saudi Arabia says there’s no proof it backed 9/11 attacks

Saudi Arabia says it should be dropped from a September 11 lawsuit victims’ families filed because no evidence links it to the terrorist act.
Lawyers for Saudi Arabia made the request in papers filed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court.

The US ally argued that after 14 years it is time to free it from the $100 billion lawsuit.

It said claims against Saudi Arabia were based on thousands of pages of hearsay and speculation with no real proof the kingdom caused the attacks by knowingly or recklessly aiding terrorists.

After the filing, a New Jersey-based group representing 9/11 families and survivors said there’s overwhelming evidence against Saudi Arabia.

It said Saudi Arabia was trying to “duck, dodge and distract” from overwhelming proof of its involvement.

— AP

In rare move, Abbas hosts Hamas delegation in Ramallah

Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas holds a rare meeting in Ramallah with a delegation from Hamas over possible reconciliation between the battling Palestinian factions.

The meeting comes amid reports of lightning talks aimed at restoring PA control in Gaza and getting the PA to lift sanctions against Hamas in the Strip are underway. The talks were reportedly initiated by Abbas.

The Hamas delegation was headed by former Palestinian education minister Nasser al-Din al-Shaer, and included Hamas lawmakers, Mahmoud Al-Ramahi, Mohammad Totah, Ayman Daraghmeh and Samir Abu Eisha.

According to a report of the meeting in the PA official news outlet Wafa, the sides “reviewed the general situation, ways of strengthening unity and ending division.”

The Hamas group, according to the report, also congratulated Abbas for “defending the Al-Aqsa Mosque and preserving the historical and legal status of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Abbas threw his support behind two weeks of Palestinian protests in Jerusalem against Israeli security measures put in place at entrances to the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharig, following the killing of two policemen at the site by three Arab Israelis who smuggled weapons from with the compound.

Dov Lieber

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