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

British teen pleads not guilty to filing false rape report against Israelis

PARALIMNI, Cyprus — A British teenager accused of falsely claiming she was gang raped by 12 Israeli tourists in Cyprus pleads not guilty to causing public mischief.

The court adjourns the trial until October 2 and the 19-year-old is released on 20,000-euro bail on condition she surrenders her passport and presents herself to police three times a week.

Her Cypriot lawyer Nicoletta Charalambidou informs the court that she will request that the Cypriot attorney general suspends criminal proceedings against her client on the grounds that her rape claim retraction was coerced.

The teenager was also represented at the Famagusta District Court in Paralimni in southeast Cyprus by British lawyer Lewis Power QC with Michael Polak from British legal aid group Justice Abroad supporting the legal team.

If convicted the woman, who has not been named, could face up to one year in prison and a fine of around 1,700 euros.

Initially, the teenager had alleged that 12 Israelis raped her on July 17 at a hotel in the resort of Ayia Napa, a magnet for younger tourists attracted by its beaches and nightlife.

The Israelis aged 15 to 18 were released last month after the woman was arrested on suspicion of “making a false statement about an imaginary crime,” according to Cypriot police.


Russia begins delivery of second S-400 battery to Turkey

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s defense ministry says Russia has begun delivering the second battery of its S-400 missile defense system that has strained ties between Ankara and Washington.

Turkey took delivery of the first battery of the Russian-made system last month, despite strong objections from its NATO ally, the United States.

Washington says the Russian system is incompatible with NATO and poses a threat to the US-led F-35 fighter jet program. It suspended Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program and has threatened sanctions against Ankara.

The Turkish defense ministry says in a statement posted on Twitter that the shipment resumed today as Turkish media reported that a Russian cargo plane landed at an air base near Ankara.

— AP

Zarif says Iran to further curb adherence to nuclear deal on September 6

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif threatens that Iran will further curb its adherence to the international agreement limiting its nuclear program next week.

“The third phase (of freezing nuclear obligations) will start on September 6,” Zarif tells the German Sueddeutsche Zeitung in an interview published today, according to Iran’s Tasnim news agency.

He is quoted adding Iran will reassess the move if it reaches an agreement with European powers before then.

Iran has accused the EU signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal — Britain, France and Germany — of failing to provide sufficient economic relief since US President Donald Trump pulled out of the accord last May and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.

Trump has faulted the agreement, which was also signed by China and Russia, for not addressing Iran’s ballistic missile program or support of militant proxy groups in the region.

Amid the growing bite of US sanctions, Iran has twice scaled back its commitment to the nuclear deal in recent months and in June the UN’s atomic watchdog did not explicitly state that the Islamic Republic is in compliance, the first time it has not done since the accord was inked.

The publication of the interview came as Zarif ruled out the possibility of a meeting between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Trump, after the latter said yesterday alongside his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that such a sitdown could soon be in the works if the right conditions were met.

Trump’s announcement came a day after Zarif received a sudden invite from Macron to meet on the sidelines of the G7 meeting in France.

Macron: Efforts to bring US, Iran together are ‘fragile’ but rapprochement possible

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron is acknowledging that his efforts to bring Iran and the US together are “fragile” but says he still sees a “possible path” to rapprochement after decades of conflict.

After inviting the Iranian foreign minister as a surprise guest to the Group of Seven summit in France, Macron says today that his risky diplomatic maneuver helped create “the possible conditions of a useful meeting.”

He expressed hope at the G7 yesterday that US President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani could meet within weeks. Trump said there was a “really good chance” that could happen — but Rouhani said Tuesday that the US president must first lift sanctions imposed on Tehran.

Macron says afterward that it’s France’s responsibility to play the “role of a balancing power” and that his efforts allowed hope for a “de-escalation” of tensions.

— AP

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during the annual French ambassadors conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, August 27 2019. (Yoan Valat, Pool via AP)

Amid US concern over military ties, Turkey’s Erdogan opens air show in Russia

MOSCOW — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir have underscored their close links as they opened a major Russian air show.

Erdogan is Putin’s guest of honor today at the opening of the MAKS aviation show outside Moscow and even got to peek inside the cockpit of Russia’s newest fighter jet, the Su-57, which was unveiled at the show.

Turkey’s military ties with Russia have been a cause of concern for NATO and the United States after Ankara went ahead with its purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.

The United States says the Russian system is incompatible with NATO and poses a threat to the US-led F-35 fighter jet program. It suspended Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program and has also threatened sanctions against Ankara.

— AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin, 3rd left, Russian Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov, 4th left, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 5th left, inspect Sukhoi Su-57 fifth-generation fighter during the MAKS-2019 International Aviation and Space Show in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, Russia, August 27, 2019. (Maxim Shipenkov/Pool Photo via AP)

Report: Israel-linked Beirut drone attack hit Hezbollah precision missile parts

A drone attack on a Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut that has been attributed to Israel targeted the Lebanese terror group’s precision missile project, the British Times newspaper reports.

In the predawn hours of Sunday morning, two drones crashed in the Dahiyeh neighborhood of Beirut. One of them was reportedly brought down by teens pelting it with rocks, the other exploded while still in the air, causing damage.

According to the Times, the blast struck two crates that were carrying materials for Hezbollah’s program to turn its stock of simple rockets into precision-guided missiles — a prospect that is of deep concern to Israel as it would significantly increase the threat posed by these projectiles.

One of the crates contained a computerized control unit and the other held a mixer used to make solid-state fuel, the Times reports.

The outlet says that these two crates were in Dahiyeh temporarily before being transferred to the factory where the actual work on the precision missile project was being done.

— Judah Ari Gross

A Lebanese army soldier walks past military intelligence intelligence investigators as they inspect the scene where two drones came down in the vicinity of a Hezbollah media center in the south of the capital Beirut, August 25, 2019. (Anwar Amro/AFP)

IDF: Multiple mortar shells fired from Gaza, one lands in Israel

A number of mortar shells were fired toward Israel from the Gaza Strip, with one of them landing inside Israeli territory, the army says.

No injuries or damage were reported in the attack, according to local government.

One of the shells cleared the border and struck an open field in Israeli territory, the military says. The others appear to have landed inside Gaza.

— Judah Ari Gross

Israeli aircraft bombs Hamas post after Gaza mortar fire

An Israeli aircraft bombs a Hamas observation post along the Gaza border in response to a mortar attack from the coastal enclave, the army says.

The Israeli retaliatory strike strikes a Hamas post east of Juhor ad-Dik in the central Gaza Strip, the Hamas-affiliated Shehab news outlet reports.

— Judah Ari Gross

Knesset speaker vows to ‘do everything’ to prevent third elections

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein promises to prevent a third consecutive general election from being called, as polls forecast continued political gridlock after Israelis go to the polls for a second time this year on September 17.

“I don’t believe a scenario like this will be brought to the table,” Edelstein says in an interview with the Walla news site. “If there will be attempts like that I’ll do everything so it won’t happen.”

“But everyone will need to sit at the table and talk,” he adds.

Edelstein, a member of the ruling Likud party, says he hasn’t heard Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu float such a possibility and that the premier isn’t to blame for his failure to cobble together a government after elections in April.

“In the last elections Netanyahu wasn’t exactly the problem. He tried with all his might to arrive at coalition and there were some who decided to reject him,” Edelstein says, apparently referring to Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman.

Concerning Liberman, who has mentioned Edelstein as possible replacement for Netanyahu as Likud leader, the Knesset speaker notes both he and the Yisrael Beytenu head came to Israel from the Soviet Union, “but that doesn’t mean I can speak for Liberman.”

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman (L) shakes hands with Likud lawmaker Yuli Edelstein at the Knesset on March 14, 2013. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

New Zealand suspends aid to UNRWA over corruption allegations

The government of New Zealand has suspended funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the United Nations’ aid agency for Palestinians.

The funding is on hold until the release of the October report by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services on allegations against the agency including misconduct, corruption, links to terror groups, perpetuation of the Israel/Palestinian conflict and anti-Semitism.

“We expect UNRWA to cooperate fully with the investigation under way and to report back on the investigation’s findings and recommendations,” the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says in a statement. “The Ministry will review the findings of the UN OIOS report once the investigation is complete and, after that point, will provide advice to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on future funding.”

From January to June of this year, New Zealand provided nearly $1.6 million to the UNRWA.

Last month, the Netherlands and Switzerland announced the suspension of funding for UNRWA, following a damning report alleging corruption at the organization’s highest levels.


A Palestinian rides on a pickup carrying sacks of food aid provided by UNRWA in the southern Gaza city of Rafah on June 25, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Lapid: Trump shouldn’t meet with Iran until it cedes nuclear program, missiles

Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid says US President Donald Trump should not meet with senior Iranian officials for talks on the country’s nuclear program, after the American leader said he could soon sit down with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani.

“I believe and hope that President Trump will not meet with senior officials in the ayatollah regime before they announce they’re giving up their nuclear program and ballistic missiles and cease terrorism against Israel,” Lapid writes on Twitter.

Hezbollah said planning ‘calculated strike’ on Israel designed to prevent war

Hezbollah’s response to the death of two of its fighters in an Israeli airstrike over the weekend will be a “calculated strike” designed to prevent a war, two sources close to the Lebanese terror group tell Reuters.

One of the sources say the retaliatory strike “is being arranged in a way which wouldn’t lead to a war that neither Hezbollah nor Israel wants.”

“The direction now is for a calculated strike, but how matters develop, that’s another thing,” the source adds.

In addition to the Israeli strike in Syria, Hezbollah has also accused Israel of being behind the explosion or crash of two drones in an area of Beirut controlled by the Shiite group.

US judge to allow Epstein accusers to speak at hearing

NEW YORK — A federal judge in New York is giving Jeffrey Epstein’s accusers a chance to speak at a hearing involving the late financier’s sex trafficking case.

US District Judge Richard Berman says at the hearing this morning that Epstein’s August 10 suicide was a “stunning turn of events.”

He says accusers have been included in the hearing “because of their relevant experiences.”

Up to 30 women were expected to address the court along with prosecutors and Epstein lawyers.

Epstein had pleaded not guilty to charges he sex trafficked women in the early 2000s.

— AP

Foreign Ministry confirms Honduras to open trade mission in Jerusalem

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, says Honduras will be opening a diplomatic facility in Jerusalem next week and that she’s responsible for the move.

In a Facebook live stream with Culture Minister Miri Regev, Sara Netanyahu claims that the move came after a government-funded trip she took last year to Guatemala, which neighbors Honduras.

“When I visited Guatemala I spoke with Patricia Morales and her husband the president [Jimmy Morales], I asked them to operate vis-a-vis Honduras so it’ll move its embassy to Jerusalem,” Sara Netanyahu says.

“I’m happy to announce on Sunday Honduras is opening a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem, a step on the way to [moving] an embassy.”

Shortly after Netanyahu’s comments, the Foreign Ministry confirms the move and says Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and his wife will arrive in Israel Saturday evening ahead of the opening of a trade mission in Jerusalem.

The Israeli ministry describes the opening of a trade office as a step toward Honduras moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

At the beginning of the year, Honduras and Israel agreed to work toward opening embassies in Jerusalem and Tegucigalpa.

IDF identifies Iranian general allegedly responsible for drone attack plot

The IDF identifies an Iranian general who it says was responsible for an Iran-led attack plot on Israel using drones.

The army says Javad Ghafari, a brigadier general in the IRGC’s Quds Force, oversees Iranian forces in Syria and is in charge of Iran’s efforts to establish a military presence in the country.

“Tens of thousands of Shiites from various nations are operating under Ghafari in Syria,” an IDF statement says.

According to the IDF, Ghafari was in charge of a cell in Syria that planned to fly explosives-laden drones at Israeli territory, which was struck over the weekend.

The IDF publishes an organizational chart that shows Quds Force head Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Ghafari and two Hezbollah fighters killed in the Israeli strike.

On Sunday, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said Soleimani personally oversaw the planned drone attack.

Iranian journalist flees Zarif delegation in Sweden, applies for asylum

STOCKHOLM — An Iranian journalist covering Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s Nordic tour has fled the official delegation and applied for residency in Sweden, officials in Stockholm say.

The Swedish Migration Agency says Amir-Tohid Fazel, a political reporter for Iran’s ultra-conservative news agency Moj, has “applied for a residence permit in Sweden on 21 August 2019.”

It provides no further details.

Fazel was traveling with Zarif’s delegation as part of an international tour to Finland, Sweden and Norway and other countries.

On August 20, “when I was in Sweden, one of my colleagues in Tehran contacted me via internet and said ‘four plainclothes came to the news agency with a warrant for your arrest,'” he says in an interview with Swedish television SVT.

He had recently published a list of names of Iranian officials who allegedly hold dual citizenship in countries the Iranian government views as “hostile states.”

Iran does not recognize dual citizenship and refuses to provide consular aid to Iranian dual nationals.

“The Iranian government officially announced that it will file a complaint,” Fazel tells SVT.

The day after his colleague in Iran tipped him off, while still in Sweden, Fazel managed to slip away from the delegation.

“It was very difficult because of the 48 bodyguards that were there to provide security for Dr Zarif and keep an eye on the reporters,” he says.

Iran occupies spot 170, out of 180, in the 2019 Reporters Without Borders rankings of countries’ press freedoms.


Egypt said to warn Hamas against continued rocket fire from Gaza

Egypt is warning Hamas it will cease its role as a mediator in truce talks with Israel if the Palestinian terror group does not put a lid on rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, Al Arabiya reports.

Citing Egyptian sources, the Saudi TV network says Egypt will adopt new measures to ease pressure on Gaza and work to achieve calm in order to facilitate the entry of further aid to the Palestinian enclave.

Al Arabiya also quotes the sources as saying Egypt demands Israel adhere to its efforts to end the violence coming from Gaza. The sources reportedly say Egypt is working to broker a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, which rules Gaza.

The report comes as a Hamas delegation was in Cairo to hold talks with Egyptian officials amid a recent uptick in rocket fire from Gaza and attempts by armed fighters to infiltrate into Israel.

According to Al Arabiya, Egypt warned Hamas against becoming involved in a military conflict with Israel on behalf of Hezbollah and Iran amid growing tensions between them and the Jewish state.

Bolton: Trump’s readiness to talk with Iran doesn’t mean shift in stance

US President Donald Trump’s willingness to hold direct talks with Iran doesn’t mean there is any change in his administration’s stance toward the Islamic Republic, his National Security Adviser John Bolton said.

“Talking with them [Iran] does not imply for President Trump changing your position and the idea that Iran would receive some tangible economic benefit merely for stopping doing things it shouldn’t have been in the first place is just a nonstarter,” Bolton tells Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in an interview as he visits Ukraine.

“If there is a comprehensive deal then of course the sanctions will come off at point. When the regime in Iran is ready to talk about that then there’ll be a meeting,” he adds.

After reported Israeli strikes, Iraqi PM says will respond using ‘all means’

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi will respond using “all means” to any attacks in his country, following a series of airstrikes on Iranian-backed militias in Iraq blamed on Israel.

“Iraq will reply back any attacks by all means, whether it was an attack from inside or outside Iraq,” he is quoted saying by the Iraqi News Agency.

Abdul Mahdi makes the remark at a meeting of the Iraqi cabinet, which backs his stance on pursuing dialogue and ensuring Iraq does not became an arena for other’s battles.

The report says the cabinet also reaffirmed that Iraq has the right to use all legal and diplomatic means at its disposal to ensure its sovereignty and security.

Israel has not commented on the strikes attributed to it, which have reportedly targeted facilities storing weaponry and arms shipments by paramilitary groups linked to Iran.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi speaks to the media at a news conference during a visit to Ankara, Turkey, May 15, 2019. (Burhan Ozbilici/AP)
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