The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
Separate Turkish drone strikes kill two members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, officials in the autonomous Kurdistan region says, following a similar incident Sunday.
The first strike hit a PKK car near the village of Jalala in the province of Sulaimaniyah, killing “a PKK intelligence official” and wounding two members of the group, Iraqi Kurdistan’s counter-terrorism services says. Later another car carrying PKK fighters was also hit in a “Turkish drone” strike near the village of Qalaa, also killing one PKK member and wounding two others, they add.
Turkey, and its Western allies, classify the PKK as a “terrorist” organization.
The PKK has waged an insurgency in Turkey since 1984 that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
Ankara maintains dozens of military bases in northern Iraq where it regularly launches operations against fighters of the group who also have positions in the region.
Iran’s foreign ministry summons Britain’s envoy to Tehran to protest his posts on social media calling for the government to release all people “arbitrarily detained” in Iran, including journalists, the state-run news agency reports.
The IRNA news agency says British Ambassador Simon Shercliff was summoned for what the ministry described as “interfering remarks” on the platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
The posting came as Iran marked Journalists Day, commemorating the death of Mohammad Saremi, an Iranian journalist who worked for IRNA, and eight other Iranians killed by the Taliban on Aug. 8, 1998 in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan.
Shercliff noted the commemoration and said: “We pay tribute to all journalists prevented from doing their jobs and facing threats to their safety.” He added: “We reiterate our call for Iran to release all arbitrarily detained individuals, including journalists.”
Asked for comment on Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s decision to freeze funding for Arab municipalities and higher education preparatory programs for Palestinians in East Jerusalem, a US State Department spokesperson refers reporters to the minister to explain his stance but adds, “As a general matter, the United States is deeply committed to the welfare and security of all Israeli citizens.”
Shortly following Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s speech defending his decision not to transfer funds to Arab municipalities, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issues a statement saying that the funds will be transferred with proper oversight.
“The funds for Arab localities in Israel will be transferred after inspection and supervision that they will reach their appropriate destination — to Arab Israeli citizens of Israel and nowhere else,” the Prime Minister’s Office says in a statement.
“Arab citizens of Israel deserve what all citizens deserve and I am committed to that,” says Netanyahu. “This is my demand from all government ministries, and it will happen after a probe which will promise that the funds will get to their destination.”
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich doubles down on his refusal to transfer funds from his ministry to Arab municipalities, saying it would only happen once oversight mechanisms have been put in place.
“Despite all the pressures and the false campaign against me, I am announcing that I will not allow the funds to be transferred without clear mechanisms to ensure that they will reach their destination, and not go to criminal organizations, or incitement to terrorism,” Smotrich says in a speech from the ministry.
The High Court of Justice issues an injunction against the government’s recently passed “reasonableness law,” calling on the government and petitioners to provide an explanation to the court as to why it should stand.
But the court notes that the injunction is not an indication of the value of any of the petitions against the legislation — which limits judicial review of governmental decisions — is merely made “for efficiency reasons only, and is not expressing a position on the substance of things.”
An unprecedented 15-justice panel is slated to hear petitions against the law on September 12.
The White House flatly denies a Wall Street Journal report that it has reached broad terms of an agreement with Saudi Arabia that would see the kingdom normalize relations with Israel.
“There is no agreed to set of negotiations, there’s no there’s no agreed to framework to codify normalization or any of the other security considerations that we and our friends have in the region,” White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby says in response to a question on the matter during a phone briefing with reporters.
“The reporting has left some people with the impression that the discussions are farther along and closer to some sense of certainty than they actually are,” he adds.
Kirby clarifies that Biden has indeed directed his top aides “to see what was in the realm of the possible when it comes to pursuing Israel-Saudi normalization” and that “there is a commitment by the administration to keep talking and to keep trying to move things forward.”
The Biden administration doubles down on its insistence that US President Joe Biden did not invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet him at the White House after the Israeli premier stated as much in a pair of recent interviews with US media.
“We still anticipate that the president will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu sometime in the latter part of this year in the fall, and [that] it’ll be somewhere in the United States,” White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby says in response to a question on the matter during a phone briefing with reporters.
After the leaders spoke on July 17, Netanyahu’s office issued a readout saying that Biden had invited him to meet in the US. The White House readout made no mention of an invitation and a source familiar with the details, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Netanyahu was the one who raised the idea of a meeting on the call and that Biden merely responded that he’d be willing to do so but that no further details were discussed.
Officials in Netanyahu’s office then began reaching out to Hebrew media reporters insisting that not only did Biden invite the prime minister but that the president suggested that the meeting take place in the White House.
Netanyahu himself then told ABC on July 27 that Biden invited him to the White House and told NBC last week that he stood by that assertion.
Ukraine could close the border to Jewish pilgrims on the way to Uman for Rosh Hashana to retaliate for Israel deporting Ukrainian tourists, the country’s ambassador to Israel tells The Times of Israel.
Speaking by phone from Kyiv, where he is meeting Ukrainian officials to prepare for the annual pilgrimage, Yevhen Korniychuk says that Israel is deporting around 10% of Ukrainian tourists who visit the country.
“We have let our feelings on this be known,” he says.
Korniychuk has in the past raised the possibility of pilgrims being turned away at the border because of security concerns. Korniychuk says that if the pilgrimage does go ahead, he hopes Israeli police officers will be present, as they are in most years.
Speaking to protesters gathered outside a speech he gave to the Shayetet 13 elite naval commando unit, President Isaac Herzog tells them that he is still holding dialogue over the judicial overhaul.
“I am holding dialogue with anyone who is ready to hold dialogue in order to ensure that our democracy will remain very strong and very stable,” Herzog tells the gathered activists as they continue to chant as he speaks.
Earlier in his speech to Shayetet 13, Herzog said that “in these days, when Israeli society is dealing with many challenges, seeing the sparkle in the eyes of the brave fighters I met today, we must keep the IDF united and continue to allow them to deal with the security of the State of Israel.”
Supreme Court Justice Noam Sohlberg is appointed to the Judicial Selection Committee, a panel responsible for appointing new judges, in place of Supreme Court Justice Uzi Vogelman whose three-year tenure on the committee expired last week.
Sohlberg is a conservative whose positions have been cited approvingly by the current coalition, although he has also issued rulings against the government in controversial cases, most recently joining a unanimous decision ruling against the coalition’s so-called Tiberias law last week.
The appointment of two representatives from the Supreme Court to the Judicial Selection Committee is done by seniority, and the Supreme Court president joins the two other representatives of the court on the panel.
Supreme Court President Esther Hayut informed Justice Minister Yariv Levin of the decision to appoint Sohlberg earlier this afternoon.
Levin, who chairs the committee, has so far refused to convene the panel, seemingly because he will be unable to have full control of judicial appointments due to the composition of the current panel.
The coalition can count on the votes of Levin, a second government minister yet to be named, as well as coalition MK Yitzhak Kroizer of the ultranationalist Otzma Yehudit party.
Opposition MK Karin Elharrar of Yesh Atid, the two representatives of the Israel Bar Association (IBA), and Supreme Court President Esther Hayut together with Supreme Court Justice Isaac Amit are all likely to support liberal candidates for the judiciary.
Five votes are needed to appoint lower court judges and seven votes to appoint judges to the Supreme Court, meaning committee members from the opposition, Supreme Court and IBA could likely outvote the coalition on lower court appointments, if the committee was convened.
Petitions filed against Levin to the High Court demanding he convene the committee are set to be heard on September 7.
Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran has resumed operations, state media in Iran reports, following a thaw in ties seven years after the mission was closed.
Shiite-dominated Iran and Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia agreed to resume diplomatic relations and reopen their respective embassies following a China-brokered deal announced in March. The long-time regional rivals severed ties in 2016 after Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran were attacked during protests over Riyadh’s execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.
“The embassy of Saudi Arabia in the Islamic Republic of Iran has officially commenced its activities” and has been operating since Sunday, the official news agency IRNA says, quoting an “informed source” at Iran’s foreign ministry.
There has been no official confirmation from Riyadh on the move.
In June, Iran marked the reopening of its embassy in Riyadh with a flag-raising ceremony.
Iranian media had previously attributed the delay in reopening the Saudi embassy to the poor condition of the building, which was damaged during the 2016 protests. The reports said Saudi diplomats would work from a luxury hotel in the Iranian capital pending the completion of the works.
The Israeli Navy has received the first of two landing crafts, though the vessel will only be delivered in the coming months.
During a ceremony yesterday at the Pascagoula Shipyard in the United States, an Israeli flag was raised on the INS Nahshon.
The Israel Defense Forces says the vessels, which weigh 2,500 tons and are approximately 95 meters in length and 20 meters wide, will “act as a central pillar in adapting the Israeli Navy to the modern and multi-arena battlefield.”
The IDF says INS Nahshon and the second landing craft will also “serve as a logistical axis for transporting equipment as well as the soldiers in near and far areas.”
The INS Nahshon will undergo final preparations in the next few months, including training for its crew, before it sets sail for the Haifa Naval Base. During 2024, the Navy expects to declare the vessel operational.
The vessels were procured using funds from US military aid to Israel.
As part of his recent efforts to raise public awareness of the issue of the safety of Israel’s Christian community, President Isaac Herzog visits Haifa’s Stella Maris Monastery to meet with Christian leaders.
“In recent months, we have witnessed extremely serious phenomena in the treatment of members of Christian communities in the Holy Land,” Herzog says in front of the 19th-century Carmelite monastery, “our brothers and sisters, Christian citizens, who feel attacked in their places of prayer and their cemeteries, on the street.”
“It is entirely unacceptable in every way,” says the president.
While there have long been periodic incidents of vandalism and harassment against Christian clergy in Jerusalem’s Old City, there has been a noticeable rise in attacks in recent months. Pointing at the Jewish tradition that the Haifa monastery also houses the grave of the prophet Elisha, members of Breslov Hasidic sect have been showing up at the Catholic complex attempting to pray, leading to a number of physical altercations.
Report: US, Saudi officials agree to ‘broad terms’ of potential Israel normalization deal, though MBS said wary
According to the Wall Street Journal, US and Saudi officials have agreed to “broad terms” for a normalization deal with Israel that will hopefully be hammered out over the course of the coming year.
Citing unnamed US officials, the WSJ says that they hope that the “finer details” of such a deal will be able to be reached although they say the odds are long.
“There’s a work plan to explore the elements of what this would be and test the boundaries of what’s possible,” the newspaper quotes a senior US official as saying.
But the report cites Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as saying that he is unlikely to rush into a deal with the current hardline Israeli government, and that he is “not ready” to establish full ties with Israel the way that the UAE did under the Abraham Accords in 2020.
Remnants of body parts wrapped in plastic are found inside the wall of an apartment undergoing construction in Haifa, according to police.
Police say the remnants are in a state of decomposition, and police officials are investigating the incident.
A Syrian television journalist and two soldiers are killed when a roadside bomb explodes in the southern province of Daraa, state media reports.
“Correspondent Firas al-Ahmad from [privately owned] Sama TV and two members of our armed forces were killed by an explosive device” as they returned from a counternarcotics operation in the province, state television says. “Terrorists” had planted the bomb, it adds.
Daraa was the cradle of the 2011 uprising against President Bashar Assad’s rule but it returned to Damascus’s control in 2018 under a ceasefire deal backed by Russia. The province has been wracked by violence for years.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir sends a letter to Attorney General Gali Baharav Miara requesting that she remove the parliamentary immunity of Hadash-Ta’al MK Ahmad Tibi so that he can be charged with incitement to terror.
In the letter, Ben Gvir cites comments made by Tibi in Arabic earlier this week at a graduation ceremony at the the Arab American University in Jenin.
According to a Hebrew translation of Tibi’s comments, the MK told the university that “our sons and all Palestinians… are opposing and fighting in their own way… they will lead this people to freedom.”
Russian air defenses shot down two drones aimed at Moscow overnight, officials say, describing the unmanned aerial vehicles as Ukraine’s latest attempt to strike the city in an alleged campaign to unnerve Muscovites and take the war to Russia.
The drones were intercepted on their approach to Russia’s capital and there were no casualties, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin says. The Russian Defense Ministry describes it as a “terrorist attack.”
One of the drones came down in the Domodedovo district south of Moscow and the other fell near the Minsk highway, west of the city, according to Sobyanin. Domodedovo airport is one of Moscow’s busiest.
It was not clear where the drones were launched from, and Ukrainian officials made no immediate comment. Ukraine usually neither confirms nor denies such attacks.
Hezbollah operatives have reportedly left a highly contentious tent that they erected recently on the Israeli side of the Blue Line between the two nations.
According to the Ynet news site, the members of the terror group have largely moved to a second tent, which was relocated to the Lebanese side of the border several weeks ago.
Israel has been working behind the scenes diplomatically over the past month to get the tent removed without causing an escalation at the tense border.
An insider in the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party says that despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statements to the contrary, he believes that an “override clause” will be advanced in the next Knesset session.
The Ynet news site cited both an unnamed senior official in UTJ and Avraham Yustman, a member of the faction’s negotiating team, saying that the legislation — which would allow the Knesset to override High Court rulings that strike down legislation — will be advancing, with the support of Netanyahu.
In a series of interviews to English-language media in recent weeks, Netanyahu has repeatedly said that such a clause is no longer on the table. The Haredi parties have pushed for it in part due to their desire to legislate IDF exemptions for yeshiva students — something the court has repeatedly struck down.
“If we need [the clause] in the framework of defending the draft law — of course it will happen,” Yustman says.
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