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Jewish Home ministers to oppose long-term Gaza ceasefire agreement

Naftali Bennett slams play by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to reopen Kerem Shalom Crossing if quiet continues; says such moves give Hamas time to prepare future attacks

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

Education Minister Naftali Bennett at farewell ceremony for Issac Herzog at the Knesset, Jerusalem, July 18, 2018 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett at farewell ceremony for Issac Herzog at the Knesset, Jerusalem, July 18, 2018 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

State psych eval deems sex abuse suspect Malka Leifer fit for extradition hearing

A state psychiatric examination submitted in front of a Jerusalem District Court judge deems Malka Leifer fit to continue facing an extradition hearing.

The former principal of an ultra-Orthodox girls’ school in Melbourne is wanted on 74 charges of child sexual abuse in Australia. She was arrested in Israel in February following a police undercover operation that cast doubt on  her claim that she is mentally unfit to appear in court.

Leifer’s attorney Yehuda Fried disputes the conclusions submitted by Jerusalem District Psychiatrist Dr. Moshe Weisbroth and demands that the defense be allowed to have its own medical professionals evaluate the suspect.

Judge Chana Lomp accepts the request and ordered Fried to submit his own psychiatric assessment of Leifer by October 14. The next hearing will be held a month later on November 14 where each side will be given the opportunity to question the conclusions of the other.

Russia to help UN peacekeepers patrol Israel-Syria border

The Russian military says its forces in Syria would help UN peacekeepers fully restore their patrols along the frontier between Syria and the Israeli Golan Heights.

Lt. Gen. Sergei Kuralenko tells reporters that Russian military police have set up four checkpoints in the area and plan to bring their number to eight.

He says the Russian military would secure the area and help clear mines left by jihadists to allow the peacekeepers to resume their operations.

The UN peacekeeping force known as UNDOF first deployed along the frontier in 1974 to separate Syrian and Israeli forces after Israel captured the Golan Heights in the 1967 Six Day War, but was halted on the Syrian side of the border in 2014 amid the violence in the country’s civil war.

— AP

Motorway viaduct collapses in Genoa; no injuries yet reported

A section of a viaduct on the A10 motorway collapsed on Tuesday in Genoa, Italian firefighters say, with cars and trucks trapped among the rubble.

Television images showed the viaduct in the mist with a huge chunk missing, with Italian media reporting that 200 meters of the “Morandi” bridge had fallen.

The Italian fire service says that the viaduct, located in an industrial area in the west of the city, collapsed at around 12:00 p.m. local time.

A fire service spokesperson tells AFP that the bridge had mostly fallen on rail tracks 100 meters below and that “cars and trucks” had fallen with the rubble.

No casualties have yet been reported.

Genoa is located between the sea and the mountains of northwestern Italy. Its rugged terrain means that motorways that run through the city and the surrounding area are characterized by long viaducts and tunnels.


Rescuers say ‘tens of victims’ in Genoa bridge collapse

Rescuers at the scene of a bridge collapse in Genoa say there have been “tens of victims” in the disaster, according to Italian media.

The head of the Genoa brach of emergency response Francesco Bermano gives that estimation to a number of Italian outlets, and it has been confirmed to AFP by his secretary.

The same source tells AFP that four seriously injured people had been taken to hospital.


US, Israeli embassies in Berlin receive letters with powder

Berlin police say threatening letters containing a white powder have been sent to both the American and Israeli embassies in the German capital.

Police spokeswoman Kerstin Ismer tells The Associated Press that the Israeli Embassy received a letter July 24 and the US Embassy on July 26. Ismer says police have opened two investigations on suspicion of disturbing the peace by threatening a crime.

She says both contained a powder but would not comment on whether it had been determined to be dangerous or other details due to the ongoing investigation. She would also not say whether the two letters were thought to be connected or whether there were any suspects yet.

Neither embassy had any immediate comment, saying in general they do not comment on security issues.

— AP

Trump urges ‘toughness’ against ‘animals’ in London attack

US President Donald Trump urges tough action against the “animals” behind a suspected terror attack outside Britain’s Houses of Parliament.

“Another terrorist attack in London…These animals are crazy and must be dealt with through toughness and strength!” Trump tweets after a driver crashed his car into barriers outside the parliament buildings and injured several pedestrians.


Four injured, one seriously, in French knife rampage; terror motive ruled out

An Afghan asylum-seeker was arrested after launching a drunken and frenzied knife attack in the sleepy southwestern French town of Perigueux, injuring four people including one seriously, police say.

The incident began Monday evening with the 19-year-old man, who was known to have psychological problems according to local authorities, lashing out at cars outside his home.

The head of the ambulance service for the area, Jean-Jacques Girard, tells the regional Sud-Ouest daily that he was seen “kicking and banging a first vehicle with his feet and fists, then a second” and also “rounding on female motorists.”

Two paramedics who witnessed the incident tried to calm the man down but after disappearing inside his home he returned with a knife and attacked them, leaving them with injuries to the head and neck.

He then turned on two brothers aged 64 and 68 living next door, leaving one with a perforated lung and the other with stab wounds to the back.

The man was eventually overpowered by one of the brothers and a man of Cameroonian origin, who stepped in to help wrestle his knife away.

Police have arrested the man and placed him in custody on charges of aggravated violence.

They have ruled out any terrorist motive.


Number of Israelis who left county for long-term in 2016 lowest in 10 years

The Central Bureau of Statistics releases findings showing that the number of Israelis who left the country for a long-term stay in 2016 was the lowest in over a decade.

Additionally, the number of Israelis who returned from long-term stays abroad was the highest in four years.

However, there was still a net negative of 6,300 leaving the country in 2016 adding to the over 560,000 Israelis residing abroad, according to the CBS.

Liberman: If quiet remains, Israel will reopen Gaza goods crossing

Israel will reopen the Kerem Shalom Crossing into Gaza and extend the Strip’s permitted fishing zone tomorrow morning, provided there is no violence from the coastal enclave until then, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s office announces.

The defense minister says this is meant to be a sign to Palestinians in the Strip that “maintaining the quiet is first and foremost in the interest of Gaza residents.”

The defense minister reached this decision during a meeting with senior defense officials this afternoon.

“During the discussion, it was decided that if the relative quiet along the Gaza border that began this week continues until tomorrow morning, the Kerem Shalom Crossing will reopen at 9 a.m. tomorrow and the fishing zone will be extended back to nine nautical miles (10.4 miles) from the coast,” his office says.

— Judah Ari Gross

State prosecutor ends investigation of Jerusalem mayoral candidate Moshe Lion

The State Attorney’s Office announces the closing of a corruption probe into Jerusalem mayoral candidate Moshe Lion.

Lion was questioned on suspicion of illegally transferring money to Interior Minister Aryeh Deri in exchange for the latter’s support in the previous mayoral election in 2013.

The State Attorney’s Office says in a statement that the evidence was not sufficient to prosecute. Moreover, the transfer of funds was done before Deri returned to public life in 2013.

Deal reached to ensure Eurovision will be held in Israel

After a long period of doubt whether Israel would host the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in the country, a last-ditch deal ensures that the popular international competition will be coming to the holy land after all.

Holding last-minute discussions as the deadline for submitting a guarantee of €12 million ($14 million) was approaching, representatives of the public broadcaster Kan on Tuesday accepted a proposal by the Finance Ministry, meaning that Eurovision will officially be held in Israel.

Kan will transfer the required money to the European Broadcasting Union, it said, after the Finance Ministry promised to reimburse the broadcaster if Eurovision is eventually not held in Israel for reasons out of Kan’s hands.

— Michael Bachner

Hebron shooter says denial of gun license ‘stab in the back’

Elor Azaria releases a statement responding to a report that the Israel Police have denied him a gun license, calling the move “another stab in the back and spit in the face.”

Azaria was released in May after serving nine months of what was initially an 18-month prison term for killing Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, a Palestinian who had earlier stabbed an Israeli soldier and had already been shot and subdued.

Azaria claims he applied for permission to own a gun after threats had been made against him due to the 2016 Hebron shooting incident.

“Today, when I read the news, I came across a story that just out of nowhere, without any warning, the police decided to respond to deny my request, saying that ‘there is no danger to life or to my family,'” he writes.

According to the Ynet news website, police in their decision said Azaria did not meet the criteria to carry a firearm and could pose a threat to public safety.

Azaria wonders why he is allowed to be armed as a reserve duty soldier, but not as a civilian.

“After everything I have given and endured for the sake of the security of our country, (this ordeal) hurts and is tearing me from the inside,” he adds.

Security cabinet to meet tomorrow to discuss long-term Gaza agreement

The security cabinet will meet Wednesday morning to discuss an Egypt-brokered long-term ceasefire agreement with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Hebrew media reports.

The session will be the fourth in ten days on the subject.

Italy interior minister says around 30 dead in bridge collapse

Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini says that “around 30” have been killed after a motorway bridge collapsed in the northwestern port city of Genoa.

“Unfortunately there are around 30 dead and many injured in serious condition,” Salvini tells reporters in the Sicilian city of Catania.


Bus accident in Ecuador kills 23

A bus carrying travelers from Colombia and Venezuela crashed in Ecuador early Tuesday, killing 23 people and injuring 20 others, officials say.

The dead included an unspecified number of Venezuelans and Colombians, whose embassies were notified of the accident, says Christian Rivera, a security official in Quito said.

The bus, which had foreign license plates, was on a downward stretch of highway 30 kilometers (19 miles) east of Quito when it struck an all-terrain vehicle and overturned, slamming into three houses on the side of the road, officials say.

Three Ecuadorians in the all-terrain vehicle were among the dead, Rivera said. Also killed were three children, he says.

“The work is focused on identifying the Colombian and Venezuela citizens, most of whom have died,” he says.

On Sunday, 12 people were killed and 30 injured when a bus carrying fans of Barcelona S.C., Ecuador’s most popular football club, ran off the highway and flipped.


Public intellectual Reza Aslan says he was detained by Shin Bet at border

Public intellectual and former CNN host Reza Aslan reveals that he too was detained and interrogated by the Shin Bet security service at Israel’s border with Jordan.

In a thread of tweets, Aslan says he decided to share the experience that took place two weeks ago after author Peter Beinart disclosed his own detention.

“’We can make it so you don’t see your kids for a long time,'” Aslan recalled being warned by the Shin Bet interrogator.

The Iranian-American author says he was asked why he hates Israel. when I responded that he did not, the interrogator replied “But you hate our Prime Minister.”

“I’m sorry is your Prime Minister Israel?” Aslan recalls having responded.

He was then accused of opposing Israel’s right to exist, which Aslan says is not the case. “I’m against the occupation not Israel.”

The interrogator then asked Aslan to write down the names of Palestinians, journalists, and relevant organizations that he associates with.

“In the end, after hours of this, she warned ‘I may let you into Israel but, who knows, I may not let you out. I will keep you here and kick out your family. It depends on you. You would miss your kids yes?’ That my friends is the classic police state trick. Iran has perfected it,” Aslan writes.

AG to look into recent Shin Bet detentions of leftists at Israeli border

The Attorney General’s Office announces that it will be looking into the recent slew of Shin Bet detentions and interrogations of Israelis and foreigners upon their entry into the Jewish state.

The announcement reported by the Haaretz daily follows the public disclosure by left-wing authors and activists including Simone Zimmerman, Moriel Rothman-Zecher, and Peter Beinart, who said they were asked about their political views and urged to disclose their connections with Palestinians.


White House not picky over whether Gaza deal includes returning PA to Strip — report

The Trump Administration will accept any long-term Gaza ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, whether or not it includes returning the Palestinian Authority to govern the coastal enclave, the Haaretz daily reports.

The report quotes a White House official who says Washington would prefer having the PA rule the Gaza Strip “so we can get on with making lives better.” However, the official clarifies that it is not a stipulation for whether the administration would welcome a deal.

The official tells Haaretz that the US fully supports Egyptian efforts to broker an agreement between Israel and Hamas.

Turkey court orders release of 2 Greek soldiers held since March

A Turkish court orders the release of two Greek soldiers detained since March on espionage charges for illegally crossing the border, in a case that has added to tensions between Athens and Ankara.

The court in the northern Edirne region rules that the two soldiers would now be tried without being held in detention, the state-run Anadolu news agency says. It was not immediately clear if they would be able to return home to Greece.


Jewish Home ministers to oppose long-term Gaza ceasefire agreement

Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett announces that the ministers in his party will oppose the long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza that the cabinet is slated to debate tomorrow morning.

The Education Minister says such agreements give the terror group an opportunity to regroup and restock its weaponry in preparation for its next attack on Israel.

Bennett also slams an announcement made earlier today by Avigdor Liberman in which the defense minister said Israel would reopen the Kerem Shalom Crossing tomorrow morning if the quiet on the Gaza border continues.

Firefighters extinguish day’s lone blaze caused by incendiary balloon from Gaza

Firefighters extinguish Tuesday’s only blaze caused by an incendiary balloon flown from the Gaza Strip that fell near Kibbutz Nahal Oz, a spokesman for the Israeli Fire and Rescue Services says.

Goldin parents accuse Netanyahu of ‘abandoning’ son in wake of Gaza deal with Hamas

As speculation over a possible long-term ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas intensifies, Leah and Simcha Goldin accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government of “abandoning” their son Hadar, whose remains have been held by the terror group ruling Gaza since 2014.

“Netanyahu and cabinet ministers are selling us out and abandoning Hadar. After the shameful agreement with Erdogan and Turkey, the Israeli government is now surrendering to Hamas as well,” they write from their joint Twitter account.


Firing back at Bennett, Yisrael Beytenu says education minister’s criticism on Gaza ’empty slogans’

Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party fires back at Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who criticized the defense minister’s decision to reopen the Kerem Shalom crossing so long as quiet is upheld on the Gaza border.

“As always, Minister Bennett rushes to the press with empty slogans which are no more than petty politics at the expense of the IDF and the security establishment. It would be better for him to deal with the rising violence at schools.”

Israeli schools are currently on break for the summer.

Appointment of next IDF chief of staff staff delayed — report

While Avigdor Liberman was planning on submitting the names of his two candidates to the Goldberg Committee responsible for vetting senior appointees, the head of the body has alerted the defense minister to expect a delay in the process.

According to Hadashot news, the committee cannot currently function due to a pair of High Court appeals against two members over their ties with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as other alleged conflicts of interest.

Rivlin to shorten sentence of rape victim who murdered husband

President Reuven Rivlin announces that he will shorten the sentence of a young women was convicted of murdering her husband who brutally raped her.

The statement from the president’s office said the woman had undergone considerable rehabilitation since entering prison at the age of 17.

She is now expected to face a parole board where she could be released after serving five years of her 11 year sentence.

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