Army officials say gunfire from Hamas post may not have targeted soldiers
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Army officials say gunfire from Hamas post may not have targeted soldiers

Two Hamas fighters killed in IDF retaliatory strike; but military now acknowledges Hamas fighters may have been taking part in a drill, as terror group has claimed

Illustrative: Israeli soldiers in defensive positions on an embankment near the Gaza border during a violent Palestinian protest, July 27, 2018 (Courtesy IDF)
Illustrative: Israeli soldiers in defensive positions on an embankment near the Gaza border during a violent Palestinian protest, July 27, 2018 (Courtesy IDF)

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

Israeli Arab leaders petition High Court against nation-state law

Israeli Arab leaders file a petition to the High Court of Justice against the nation-state law.

The petitioners include the gamut of Arab Israeli representative groups, including the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee, the umbrella body of Arab Israeli organizations; lawmakers on the Arab Joint List in the Knesset; and the committee of Arab council heads and mayors.

Filed by Adalah, an Arab legal rights group, the petition claims the law passed on July 19 is “racist, massively harmful to fundamental human rights and contravenes international human rights norms, especially those forbidding laws that constitute a racist constitution,” the group says in a statement.

The petition also says the law explicitly rejects Palestinian national rights, which, when applied to areas claimed by Israel beyond the Green Line in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, constitute a violation of the laws of occupation contained in the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Swiss tourism official complains over behavior of Jewish guests

A tourism official from the Davos area in Switzerland pens a letter complaining about the behavior of Jewish visitors, which was then translated to Hebrew and posted publicly at hotels.

Reto Branschi, who heads the tourism office of the Davos skiing village and of nearby Klosters, on July 16 sent to the Jewish community of Davos a letter titled: “Subject: Jewish guests visiting Davos in summer,” the SudOst Schweiz news website reported on Saturday.

In the letter to local Jewish community leader Rafi Mosbacher, Branschi writes, “There have been complaints that diapers and other waste simply gets left behind in the woods,” that “playgrounds have been taken up by large groups, leaving no room for small families,” and that during two tours at a local cheese factory in 2017 and 2018 “Jewish guests held their noses, disturbing some of the other participants.” Mosbacher had the letter translated to Hebrew and Yiddish, the news website Kikar HaShabbat reported. The report did not say how copies of the letter in those languages came to appear on message boards of local hotels.

In recent years, Davos hoteliers have depended on an ultra-Orthodox clientele who flock there during the summer months, which for the skiing region is off season. This trend has allowed Haredi families with large children to enjoy reduced costs for vacations in Alpine resorts with excellent infrastructure, and the local tourism industry to increase the potential of amenities there.

But tensions have begun to form in what some attribute to cultural differences and some inappropriate behavior by the Haredi guests from insular communities, and others maintain is intolerance and xenophobia by some hosts.

Last year in August, the manager of a hotel in Arosa, a village situated 10 miles west of Davos, apologized for posting signs instructing “Jewish guests” to shower before entering the pool and to access the refrigerator at set times. Her action provoked widespread outrage and even a call by Israel’s foreign ministry to prosecute her for discrimination.


Four fires in south caused by Gaza incendiary balloons

Since this morning, firefighters have worked to extinguish four blazes caused by incendiary balloons in Israeli communities along the Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the Israeli Fire and Rescue Services says.

— Jacob Magid

Iran money changers reopen after 5-month absence amid sanctions crisis

TEHRAN, Iran — Money exchange shops across Iran cautiously reopen after being shut for five months amid economic turmoil fanned by America’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal.

Shops open their doors in the Iranian capital, Tehran, though some display no exchange rates late into the morning.

Two traders tell The Associated Press that initial rates likely will be around 93,000 rials to the dollar, down from 98,000 to $1 on the black market the night before.

Iran’s official exchange rate remains 42,000 rials to $1.

Iran announced this week that exchange shops would reopen despite the United States reimposing some sanctions on the Islamic Republic late on Monday.

— AP

German police: Frankfurt Airport terminal partly evacuated

BERLIN — Police evacuate part of a terminal at Frankfurt Airport, Germany’s biggest, over concerns that at least one person may have entered the facility’s security area unchecked.

Federal police say they stopped boarding in area A of the airport’s Terminal 1 and were clearing the security area.

Police spokeswoman Julia Thiel tells The Associated Press that “there were indications that at least one person entered the security area in area A without authorization, and so we have to clear the security area.”

It isn’t immediately clear how many people are affected.

— AP

Hamas warns of ‘escalation’ after IDF kills fighters who fired at troops

After two of its fighters opened fire on an IDF position and were subsequently killed by IDF return fire, Hamas says “Israel is responsible for this entire escalation,” and warns that “the resistance will not accept the [Israeli] policy of attacking its positions and fighters without Israel paying a price.”

Daimler halts Iran activities over US sanctions

German automaker Daimler says it is halting its business activities in Iran after the United States re-imposed sanctions on Tehran.

“We have suspended our already limited activities in Iran in accordance with the applicable sanctions,” a spokeswoman says in a statement sent to AFP, adding that Daimler is closely monitoring political developments.

The move brings a sudden end to Daimler’s expansion plans in Iran, where it was teaming up with two local firms to assemble Mercedes-Benz trucks.

It comes as a first round of renewed US sanctions on Iran come into effect today after the US pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal.

The first sanctions targets access to US banknotes and key industries such as cars and carpets.

A second tranche coming into effect on November 5 is expected to be even more damaging, covering Iran’s vital oil sector.


Egypt keeper, oldest World Cup player, quits national team

Egypt goalkeeper Essam El Hadary is retiring from the national team after becoming the oldest man to play in a World Cup match.

El Hadary started the World Cup as Egypt’s backup goalkeeper, but he played in his team’s final group match in Russia, saving a penalty in the 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia on June 25.

“After 22 years, four months and 12 days, I saw it as the best moment to hang up my gloves,” the 45-year-old El Hadary writes on Facebook. “This is a moment I didn’t want to come … I am very proud to have played with the national team in 159 internationals, participating in unprecedented achievements.”

In this file photo dated Monday, June 25, 2018, Egypt goalkeeper Essam El Hadary deflects a penalty during the group A match between Saudi Arabia and Egypt at the 2018 soccer World Cup at the Volgograd Arena in Volgograd, Russia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

El Hadary made his debut for the national team in 1996. He won four African Cup of Nations titles with Egypt, including three straight with him as goalkeeper in 2006, 2008 and 2010.

— AP

Australian Jewish leaders slam Sky News interview with far-right racist

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry criticizes Sky News Australia’s news director for the station’s green-lighting an interview with a far-right racist who once advocated for the display of images of Hitler in schools.

Blair Cottrell, the former leader of anti-immigration group United Patriots Front, was interviewed by former chief minister of the Northern territory Adam Giles.

Cottrell was convicted last year of inciting contempt against Muslims after staging a mock beheading to protest against the building of a mosque.

Many members of the Australian media criticized the station, including members of its own news team, resulting in a tweet being posted by news director Greg Byrnes that said Cottrell‘s appearance was “wrong.” He announced the interview was removed from repeat time slots and online platforms.

Co-CEO of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Peter Wertheim, tells JTA: “Aussie Diggers who fought and died to stop Hitler’s tyranny would be turning over in their graves at Cottrell’s grovelling admiration of their enemy, and at the mainstreaming of Cottrell’s prejudices by his appearance on Sky. Sky has debased its brand by giving Cottrell its platform to spout his bigotry. Sky’s News Director Greg Byrnes was right to acknowledge that Cottrell should not have appeared on Sky, but Byrnes should have gone on to make a full and unreserved apology.”


Russia ‘deeply disappointed’ by US sanctions on Iran

Russia says it was “deeply disappointed” by US President Donald Trump’s decision to reimpose unilateral sanctions on Iran.

“We are deeply disappointed by US steps to reimpose its national sanctions against Iran,” the Russian foreign ministry says in a statement, adding it will do “everything necessary” to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and protect its shared economic interests with Tehran.


Hundreds of US rabbis urge retraction of ultra-Orthodox letter panning gays

Close to 600 US and Canadian rabbis from across the spectrum of Jewish religious streams sign a letter calling on ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Israel to retract a recent letter which described gay people as perverts who are striving to destroy the notion of family.

The letter, which also urges the government to reverse recent legislation denying single men the right to father children through surrogacy, also advocates greater separation of religion and state in Israel.

It was initiated by A Wider Bridge, a San Francisco-based organization that focuses on ties between US and Israeli LGBTQ communities.

“The enshrining of discrimination into law, and harmful words spoken by religious leaders, sow the seeds of hatred and brutality in the land, and put vulnerable members of Israeli society at risk of violence and worse,” the letter claims.

“We call on the Israeli leadership to reverse its discriminatory policy in favor of equal rights for all citizens. In calling for these rights, including surrogacy, we call on the Israeli leadership to reiterate the separation of religion and state as an ideal of democracy.

“We, therefore, call on Israeli leaders and rabbis to retract these recent actions and return the State of Israel in T’shuvah [repentance], to this higher level of sanctity, dignity and safety,” the letter says.

The hundreds of signatures from rabbis representing Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Jewish communities, were collected since the letter was first published last week, the organization says in a statement.

Syria slams renewed US sanctions on ally Iran

Syria condemns the United States’ reimposition of sanctions on Iran, describing the move against its longtime ally as “illegal” and driven by “arrogance.”

A first wave of renewed US sanctions came into effect on Tuesday, hitting Tehran’s access to US banknotes and key industries such as cars and carpets.

Syria “sharply condemned the American administration’s decision to reimpose economic sanctions on Iran,” says a foreign ministry official quoted by state news agency SANA.

The sanctions on Iran follow US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal in May from a 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran, Washington and other world powers.

“These unilateral actions are illegal under international law and confirm that the US administration’s policies have a proclivity for hegemony and arrogance,” the Syrian official says.

Damascus has long been subject to US sanctions and Iran backs President Bashar Assad in Syria’s civil war, providing political, military and economic support.


North Korean foreign minister visits Iran

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meets his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho, on the same day the US reimposed nuclear-related sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Zarif welcomes Ri and a team of officials at the foreign ministry in Tehran, but no statement is made to reporters.

Ri is on a two-day visit to Tehran, and is due to meet with President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday.

The Fars news agency says the two sides discussed “bilateral relations and regional issues in the Middle East,” without giving further details.

The visit coincides with the United States reimposing sanctions on Iran after US President Donald Trump abandoned a 2015 multilateral nuclear deal in May.

The US is currently also pushing Pyongyang to scrap its nuclear capabilities after Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un agreed a vague commitment to “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” at their summit in June.


Disabled protesters block traffic to Ben Gurion Airport

A group of disability rights activists are blocking the entry and exit roads to Ben Gurion Airport and threatening “more extreme measures” if their demands are not met.

The group, which split off from the country’s main disabled rights group last year after the latter agreed to a compromise with the government sharply boosting disability benefits, has been protesting in recent months demanding another increase to stipends and national insurance benefits for the handicapped that would give many a stipend equal to the minimum wage.

Police are rerouting traffic in and out of the airport, but have not yet begun to forcibly remove the protesters.

The protesters, organized under the group “Handicapped Become Panthers,” announced the move last week, and said they would disrupt traffic to Israel’s main international airport “indefinitely” until their demands are met.

Palestinians say IDF firing at border fence in southern Gaza

Palestinian media reports that IDF forces have opened fire at the border fence in southern Gaza, shortly after Hamas fighters who shot at IDF troops were killed in retaliatory fire.

There was no word on casualties or details about the purported clash. There is also no immediate confirmation from the IDF.

UK politician Boris Johnson draws ire with burqa comments

The chairman of Britain’s governing Conservative Party asks former foreign secretary Boris Johnson to apologize for a newspaper column in which he wrote that burqa-wearing women looked like “letter boxes” and bank robbers.

Johnson, who quit the government last month in a dispute over Brexit, made the remarks in a Daily Telegraph article published Monday.

Johnson said he opposed banning burqas, but wrote that it was “absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.”

His column drew criticism from Muslim groups and fellow politicians.

Middle East Minister Alistair Burt criticizes Johnson for comments he said “many people would find offensive.”

Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis says in a tweet today that he agreed with Burt and had asked Johnson to apologize.

— AP

Police reopen traffic at Ben Gurion Airport

Police reopen the roads in and out of Ben Gurion Airport, ending an hour-long protest by disabled rights activists.

Hamas suggests gunfire that led to deadly IDF strike was part of drill

Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, says that the IDF strike that killed two of the group’s fighters earlier today in northern Gaza took place in the middle of a drill by the organization’s naval commandos.

The statement appears to imply that the gunfire from the fighters that led to the IDF retaliatory strike may have been part of the drill.

Hamas also says senior leaders in the organization were on site when the outpost was destroyed by IDF fire.

Hamas delegation heads to Cairo for talks on Gaza blockade

Hamas is sending a delegation to Cairo to discuss a range of issues, including easing the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza and reconciling with Fatah.

“The Hamas leadership delegation that arrived in Gaza last Thursday will return to the Egyptian capital Cairo bearing the vision of the movement regarding all issues that were discussed,” Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh tells a meeting of Palestinian politicians in the Gaza Strip, according to the Hamas-linked Palestinian Information Center.

“The delegation will return to Cairo bearing the vision of the movement regarding reconciliation, breaking the siege, talk about a ceasefire, confronting the occupation’s acts of aggression and the rebuilding of the Palestinian scene on national foundations,” Haniyeh says.

Buchenwald memorial chief demands answers from far-right MP

The head of the foundation running the memorial at the former Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald says he will confront a German far-right politician with pointed questions when they hold talks Wednesday.

The director of the site, Volkhard Knigge, says he agreed to the meeting requested by Stephan Brandner, a deputy from the anti-migration, anti-Islam Alternative for Germany party, because he wanted to call out the party’s attacks on Holocaust remembrance.

“We want to use the opportunity to ask Mr. Brandner about the historical revisionism and anti-democratic positions of his party and his own position on them,” Knigge says in a statement.

Brandner represents a district in Thuringia state where Buchenwald, the largest former concentration camp on German soil, is located.

Atonement for the Nazis’ crimes makes up a crucial component of German political culture — a fact the AfD has called into question.


Top Turkish official to head to US as strains bash lira

A senior Turkish diplomat is to lead a delegation to Washington for talks in the next days, state media says, as Ankara seeks to defuse a crisis with the United States that has pushed the lira to record lows.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal will travel to Washington for the talks, the state-run Anadolu news agency says. NTV television says he would be joined by officials from the justice and energy ministries.

The NATO allies have slapped reciprocal sanctions on two senior officials on both sides in the row over the detention in Turkey for almost two years of pastor Andrew Brunson.

The row is seen by analysts as one of the most severe between Turkey and the United States since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, and comes on top of a host of other issues causing strain.

The tensions have pushed the already battered Turkish lira to new record lows, with the currency crashing some five percent against the dollar on Monday. The lira has lost 15% against the dollar in the last month alone.


Ten fires caused in southern Israel near Gaza border

Since this morning, firefighters have worked to extinguish ten blazes caused by incendiary balloons in or near Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the Israeli Fire and Rescue Services says.

Disabled activists return to Ben Gurion Airport

Two hours after ending their brief protest blocking access to the country’s main international airport, protesters calling for higher disability stipends return to Ben Gurion Airport and are blocking the port’s main exit road.

Police say they are guiding traffic around the protest.

Trump adviser Bolton says Iran sanctions not about regime change

US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser says US sanctions that kicked in against Iran Tuesday are meant to pressure the government into a broad retreat from its support for international terrorism, its military activity in the Middle East, and its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.

Sanctions against financial transactions involving US dollars, Iran’s automotive sector, and the purchase of commercial airplanes had been eased under a 2015 international agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear activity. But Trump pulled the US out of the deal in May and pledged to reinstate sanctions.

National Security Adviser John Bolton tells Fox News Channel the intent is not to bring about Iranian “regime change.”

Bolton says the US wants to see a “much broader retreat” by Iran from its support for terrorism and its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.

— AP

Israeli envoy to Norway decries ‘anti-Semitic’ cartoon of Netanyahu

Israel’s ambassador to Norway, Raphael Schutz, protests “the most repulsive imaginable antisemitic imagery” published in the popular Dagbladet newspaper in the country.

In a tweet, Schutz writes, “Today in @dagbladet, an example of the most repulsive imaginable #antisemitic imagery, with Israeli PM portrayed as a Nazi swastika punching off a Druze Israeli from a ‘whites only’ bench. We demand dagbladet to remove this sickening image and apologize!”

The post is accompanied by a photo featuring the image.

Air Force appoints first-ever female squadron commander

The Israeli Air Force appoints a female pilot to head a flight squadron, the first woman to hold such a post.

The pilot, whose name cannot be published for security reasons, will command the 122nd Squadron, which operates surveillance aircraft.

With her appointment to the post by IAF chief Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, Maj. G. will be promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

“I’m happy about the appointment,” G. says in a statement put out by the IDF. “It is a great privilege and a great responsibility. The true work is still ahead. I am proud to serve in the Air Force.”

IDF admits it misinterpreted gunfire from Hamas post, struck back in error

The IDF acknowledges that the Hamas shooting that led to a deadly IDF retaliatory strike earlier today did not target IDF troops.

Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the head of the army’s Southern Command, concluded the IDF strike was made in error, as the snipers, part of Hamas’s naval commando unit, were not shooting — as the army believed in real-time — at a border fence patrol of the Rotem battalion of the Givati infantry brigade. The shooting was part of a drill being observed by senior Hamas leaders in the northern Gaza Strip.

The army has sent messages to Hamas via Egypt acknowledging the error but insisting that retaliatory fire on IDF troops would not be tolerated.

Defense minister interviews four candidates for next IDF chief

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman interviews four candidates to replace IDF chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, whose term ends at the end of 2018.

The four are Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, a former head of the Northern Command and former IDF intelligence chief; Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, a former head of Southern Command; Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, a former head of Central Command, of the army’s Operations Directorate, and of its most elite commando unit, Sayeret Matkal; and Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, a former deputy chief of staff and head of Northern Command.

EU says encouraging trade with Iran is crucial to nuke deal

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The European Union’s foreign policy chief encourages companies to do more business with Iran despite new US sanctions, saying Tehran had upheld its commitments under the deal to limit its nuclear program.

Federica Mogherini tells reporters during her trip to Wellington, New Zealand, that it’s up to Europeans to decide who they want to trade with.

“We are doing our best to keep Iran in the deal, to keep Iran benefiting from the economic benefits that the agreement brings to the people of Iran because we believe this is in the security interests of not only our region, but also of the world,” she says. “If there is one piece of international agreements on nuclear non-proliferation that is delivering, it has to be maintained.”

The United States reimposed stiff economic sanctions on Iran on Monday, ratcheting up pressure on the Islamic Republic despite statements of deep dismay from European allies, three months after US President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the international accord limiting Iran’s nuclear activities.

Trump declared that the landmark 2015 agreement was “horrible,” leaving the Iranian government flush with cash to fuel conflict in the Middle East. Trump warned that those who don’t wind down their economic ties to Iran “risk severe consequences.”

— AP

High Court gives government till December to resolve Haredi draft issue

The High Court of Justice grants a three-month extension on a deadline it had set for passing legislation regulating military service for members of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community. The extension is shorter than the government’s request for seven months.

“After considering this matter, we decided to partially respond to the request and postpone the date… so that it will take effect on December 2, 2018,” the court says in its ruling.

The court ruling, which forces the government to tackle the politically destabilizing issue immediately after the Knesset returns from its summer recess in October, may increase the chances that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition will go to early elections in the fall.

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