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Hours after Biden leaves, 2 rockets launched from Gaza, 1 intercepted by Iron Dome

Sirens sound in Ashkelon; no physical injuries reported in attack; 2nd rocket hits open area

A long exposure picture shows the Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepting rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, as it seen from the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, May 14, 2021. (Avi Roccah/Flash90)
A long exposure picture shows the Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepting rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, as it seen from the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, May 14, 2021. (Avi Roccah/Flash90)

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

IDF says 2 rockets launched from Gaza, 1 intercepted by Iron Dome

The Israel Defense Forces says two rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip at Israel a short while ago.

One of the projectiles was intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, while the other landed in an open area, causing no damage.

Sirens wailed in Ashkelon following the rocket launch, causing residents to rush to shelters.

No physical injuries in apparent rocket attack on Ashkelon — medics

The Magen David Adom ambulance services says it did not receive reports of any physical injuries amid the incoming rocket sirens in Ashkelon.

MDA says its medics are treating two people for anxiety.

Interceptor missiles reportedly seen over Ashkelon

Residents of the southern city of Ashkelon report hearing a loud explosion following the incoming rocket alarms.

Video footage circulating online appears to show an Iron Dome interceptor missile exploding over the city.

The Israeli military has not yet confirmed an interception.

Rocket sirens sound in Ashkelon, IDF looking into cause

Incoming rocket sirens are sounding in the southern city of Ashkelon.

The Israel Defense Forces says it is looking into the details.

Biden announces removal of Red Sea island observer force, advancing steps toward Saudi-Israel ties

Tiran Island in the Gulf of Aqaba. (CC BY 3.0/Wikipedia/Marc Ryckaert)
Tiran Island in the Gulf of Aqaba. (CC BY 3.0/Wikipedia/Marc Ryckaert)

In remarks following hours of meetings with Saudi Arabia’s king and crown prince, US President Joe Biden announces the withdrawal of observer troops that secured a pair of Red Sea islands for over forty years.

The move allows their transfer from Egypt to Saudi Arabia in a US-brokered agreement that includes steps by Riyadh toward normalizing ties with Israel.

“We’ve concluded a historic deal to transform a flashpoint at the heart of the Middle East wars into an area of peace. International peacekeepers, including US troops will leave Tiran Island in the Red Sea where they’ve been for over 40 years since the Camp David Accords,” Biden says.

“Five American soldiers died on the strategically located islands in 2020 and its important to remember them today,” he says.

“Now as a result of this breakthrough, this island will be open to tourism and economic development while retaining all necessary security arrangements and the present freedom of navigation of all parties, including Israel,” Biden adds.

Earlier, Saudi Arabia announced that it would open its airspace to all civilian carriers, including from Israel.

Biden says he brought up murder of Khashoggi in meeting with Saudi leaders

In this Oct. 2, 2019, photo, a Turkish police officer walks past a picture of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi near the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)
In this Oct. 2, 2019, photo, a Turkish police officer walks past a picture of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi near the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)

US President Joe Biden says he brought up the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during meetings with the kingdom’s top officials today.

“I raised it at the top of the meeting, and made clear what I thought of it at the time and what I think of it now,” Biden says, regarding the murder.

“I was straightforward and direct about discussing it and I made my view crystal clear. I said very straightforwardly, for an American president to be silent on an issue of human rights, is inconsistent with who we are and who I am,” he says.

After taking office last year, Biden’s administration released US intelligence findings that the Saudi crown prince “approved” an operation targeting Khashoggi, whose gruesome killing in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate sparked global outrage.

Saudi officials deny the prince’s involvement and claim Khashoggi’s death resulted from a “rogue” operation.

After meetings with Saudi officials, Biden says US has ‘accomplished significant business’

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, July 15, 2022. (Screenshot: Youtube)
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, July 15, 2022. (Screenshot: Youtube)

After three hours of meetings with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and crown prince, US President Joe Biden says after months of “quiet diplomacy” the US has “accomplished significant business.”

Biden calls the Saudi decision to open their airspace to all civilian carriers “a big deal, not only symbolically but substantively.”

“This is the first tangible step on the path of what I hope will be a broader normalization of relations”

Biden wraps up 3 hours of meetings with Saudi king, crown prince

US President Joe Biden (3-L) takes part in a working session with the Saudi crown prince (not pictured) at the Al-Salam Royal Palace in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah, on July 15, 2022. (Mandel NGAN / AFP)
US President Joe Biden (3-L) takes part in a working session with the Saudi crown prince (not pictured) at the Al-Salam Royal Palace in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah, on July 15, 2022. (Mandel NGAN / AFP)

JEDDAH — US President Joe Biden has left the Salam Royal Palace after three hours of meetings with Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

He is heading back to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Jeddah, capping off a long day that included stops in East Jerusalem and Bethlehem before he flew directly from Ben Gurion Aiport to Jeddah.

The president will participate in the GCC+3 summit with the leaders of nine other Arab countries tomorrow morning in addition to holding separate bilateral meetings with the leaders of Egypt, the UAE and Iraq.

He will fly home to Washington in the late afternoon.

US official dismisses Russia claim of military target in Vinnytsia

Firefighters take rubbles out of a damaged building following a Russian airstrike in the city of Vinnytsia, west-central Ukraine, on July 14, 2022. (Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)
Firefighters take rubbles out of a damaged building following a Russian airstrike in the city of Vinnytsia, west-central Ukraine, on July 14, 2022. (Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)

WASHINGTON — A US official dismisses Russia’s claim that it targeted a meeting of the Ukrainian air force in Vinnytsia in an attack that Kyiv says killed 23 people, including children.

“I have no indication that there was a military target anywhere near that,” the senior defense official tells reporters on condition of anonymity.

Ukraine announces first delivery of M270 rocket systems

KYIV — Ukraine says it had received its first delivery of a sophisticated rocket-launcher system, adding to a growing arsenal of Western-supplied long-range artillery Kyiv says is changing dynamics on the battlefield.

“The first MLRS M270 have arrived,” Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov says on social media, without mentioning what country had dispatched them.

“They will be good company for HIMARS on the battlefield,” he adds, referring to US precision-rocket systems recently deployed in the conflict.

TV report: IDF chief of staff to visit Arab country next week

IDF chief Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi speaks during a conference in the central city of Modi'in, June 12, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF chief Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi speaks during a conference in the central city of Modi'in, June 12, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Channel 13 news says military chief Aviv Kohavi will visit an Arab country in the region next week, in a first official trip.

The network’s military correspondent, Alon Ben David, says he cannot give any further details on the upcoming trip, including the name of the country.

He says no Israeli chief of staff has visited the country officially before, but other Israeli officials have.

Biden and team now meet with MBS, senior Saudi ministers

US President Joe Biden (C-L) takes part in a working session with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman  (C-R) at the Al Salam Royal Palace in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah, on July 15, 2022. (Mandel NGAN / AFP)
US President Joe Biden (C-L) takes part in a working session with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (C-R) at the Al Salam Royal Palace in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah, on July 15, 2022. (Mandel NGAN / AFP)

JEDDAH — US President Joe Biden and his senior aides have begun their bilateral meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and senior Saudi ministers after the president wrapped up a roughly hour-long sit-down with King Salman.

Biden begins meeting with Saudi King Salman

US President Joe Biden meets Saudi Arabia's King Salman at the Al Salam Royal Palace in Jeddah, July 15, 2022. (Screenshot: Twitter)
US President Joe Biden meets Saudi Arabia's King Salman at the Al Salam Royal Palace in Jeddah, July 15, 2022. (Screenshot: Twitter)

US President Joe Biden has begun a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman at the Al Salam Royal Palace in Jeddah.

Afterward, Biden will hold a longer meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Israeli woman lightly hurt in stone-throwing attack in West Bank

A 30-year-old Israeli woman is lightly hurt after stones are hurled at her vehicle on the Route 60 highway near the Palestinian village of Luban a-Sharqiya in the West Bank, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.

The woman is taken by the Magen David Adom ambulance service to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Biden to meet King Salman, then MBS

US President Joe Biden arrives at the King Abdulaziz International Airport in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah, on July 15, 2022. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)
US President Joe Biden arrives at the King Abdulaziz International Airport in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah, on July 15, 2022. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

JEDDAH — US President Joe Biden will first meet with King Salman for thirty minutes at the Al Salam Royal Palace in Jeddah.

He will then have an hour-long meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his aides, after which White House reporters will be allowed to briefly enter the room for remarks.

Biden bumps fists with Saudi crown prince at Jeddah royal palace

In this photo released by Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, greets President Joe Biden, with a fist bump after his arrival in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, July 15, 2022. (Saudi Press Agency via AP)
In this photo released by Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, greets President Joe Biden, with a fist bump after his arrival in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, July 15, 2022. (Saudi Press Agency via AP)

JEDDAH — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcomes US President Joe Biden at the Al Salam Royal Palace in Jeddah.

In a highly anticipated interaction, Biden fist-bumped the crown prince who greeted him outside the palace.

The president greeted Israeli leaders the same way upon deplaning in Tel Aviv in what was seen as part of the White House’s COVID precautions, but then speculated as part of Biden’s effort to avoid having to shake hands with the Saudi leader who the CIA found was responsible for ordering the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Biden will hold a meeting with the crown prince and his aides, and another meeting with King Salman and his team.

Biden lands in Saudi Arabia for last leg of Mideast trip

Air Force One lands at the airport in the coastal city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, July 15, 2022. (Video screenshot)
Air Force One lands at the airport in the coastal city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, July 15, 2022. (Video screenshot)

JEDDAH — US President Joe Biden has landed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia after a two-day visit to Israel and the West Bank.

He will be making his way to the Al Salam Royal Palace in the coastal city before holding a pair of bilateral meetings with King Salman and his team and Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman and his aides.

Biden will participate in the GCC+3 summit Saturday and meet with the leaders of Egypt, Iraq and the UAE before flying home.

Among the agenda items for the trip are advancing Israel’s integration in the region, bolstering the Yemen ceasefire, and shoring up alliances with Gulf allies in order to combat the Russian invasion of Ukraine and convince them to pump more oil to lower gas prices.

Biden’s national security adviser indicates more Israel-Saudi announcements during Jeddah visit

A man stands under American and Saudi Arabian flags prior to a visit by US President Joe Biden, at a square in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, July 14, 2022. (AP/Amr Nabil)
A man stands under American and Saudi Arabian flags prior to a visit by US President Joe Biden, at a square in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, July 14, 2022. (AP/Amr Nabil)

JEDDAH — US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan indicates that additional announcements vis-à-vis Israel-Saudi ties will be announced during President Joe Biden’s visit to Jeddah.

“We will have things to say on issues related to promoting peace in the region,” Sullivan tells reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Jeddah from Israel.

However, he declines to say whether direct flights between Israel and Saudi Arabia will be announced on the president’s trip, saying he would leave it up to Riyadh to reveal as it is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

He jokes with reporters that they need not get ahead of themselves, as the Saudi agreement on Thursday to allow Israeli flights to use its airspace is “cool” in its own right.

Sullivan says that the announcement from Riyadh was the first step toward normalization with Israel, “but it’s a big step.”

Asked whether Biden would raise the recently passed Iraqi law outlawing normalization with Israel in his meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Sullivan says the sit-down would focus primarily on more traditional issues related to US-Iraq relations and could not speculate as to whether the legislation would also be discussed.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan speaks during a press briefing at the White House, July 11, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Biden tells Abbas Israel’s integration in region can help progress Palestinian cause — US security adviser

US President Joe Biden and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speak together after their statements to the media at the Muqataa Presidential Compound in the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank on July 15, 2022. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
US President Joe Biden and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speak together after their statements to the media at the Muqataa Presidential Compound in the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank on July 15, 2022. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

JEDDAH — US President Joe Biden “made the case” to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas when they met earlier today in Bethlehem that Israel’s integration in the region can “reinforce” progress on the Palestinian track, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan tells reporters in a gaggle aboard Air Force One from Israel to Jeddah.

The PA has been opposed to the Abraham Accords, viewing it as a process that strips Ramallah of its veto over Arab countries who for years said they would not normalize ties with Israel without a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Abbas hinted at the same stance when he voiced his support for the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative during a press conference with Biden. The proposal offers Israel full normalized relations with all 22 members of the Arab League if Israel agrees to a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders and with a just resolution for Palestinian refugees.

The plan was never welcomed by Israel, which now argues that the Abraham Accords prove that the two-decade-old proposal is no longer relevant.

Biden told Abbas during their meeting that the US would “do what it can to preserve the long-term probability of the two-state solution,” Sullivan says.

Lapid thanks police, Shin Bet for efforts during Biden’s visit

Israeli special forces secure US President Joe Biden as he climbs the stairway to board Air Force One at the Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on July 15, 2022.  (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli special forces secure US President Joe Biden as he climbs the stairway to board Air Force One at the Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on July 15, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Yair Lapid calls Public Security Minister Omer Barlev and Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai to thank them for their efforts during US President Joe Biden’s visit.

“The prime minister thanked Israel Police for their hard and successful work throughout ‘Operation Blue Shield 3’ to secure the visit of US President Joe Biden,” the Prime Minister’s Office says in a statement.

“The prime minister also wishes to thank the hundreds of men and women of the Shin Bet security agency who took part in the operation to secure the president,” the statement says.

“You accompany me every day, the president of the United States also got to see how professional you are,” Lapid says.

Police officer lightly hurt after Palestinian runs West Bank checkpoint

Illustrative: Border Police officers stand guard at a West Bank checkpoint on April 22, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/FLASH90)
Illustrative: Border Police officers stand guard at a West Bank checkpoint on April 22, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/FLASH90)

A police officer was lightly injured after a Palestinian driving a car refused to halt at a checkpoint near the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

According to police, officers ordered the car to stop at the checkpoint at the Gitai-Avishar Junction. The Palestinian driver initially stopped but accelerated after an officer approached the vehicle.

The officer is taken to a hospital with minor injuries after the car ran over his foot, police say.

Police say forces are searching the area for the car and that the circumstances of the incident are under investigation, without elaborating on what the Palestinian man was suspected of.

Deposition of Trump, 2 children in NY probe delayed after Ivana’s death

Donald Trump, left, his son Donald Trump Jr., center, and his daughter Ivanka Trump speak during the unveiling of the design for the Trump International Hotel, in Washington, Sept. 10, 2013 (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
Donald Trump, left, his son Donald Trump Jr., center, and his daughter Ivanka Trump speak during the unveiling of the design for the Trump International Hotel, in Washington, Sept. 10, 2013 (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

NEW YORK — Former President Donald Trump and two of his children have their questioning postponed in a New York civil investigation into their business dealings, a delay that follows the death of Trump’s ex-wife Ivana.

The ex-president, son Donald Jr. and daughter Ivanka had been scheduled for depositions — a term for out-of-court questioning under oath — starting as soon as Friday. But New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office says it agreed to postpone them because of Ivana Trump’s death, announced Thursday.

“We offer our condolences to the Trump family,” attorney general’s office spokesperson Delaney Kempner says in a statement.

There are no new dates yet for the depositions.

A message was left with the former president’s lawyer. The younger Trumps’ attorney, Alan Futerfas, declined to comment.

Ivana Trump died at her Manhattan home at age 73. She was married to the former president from 1977 to 1992, and they had three children together: Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric.

Lapid: Saudi overflights a first official step toward normalization

US President Joe Biden shakes hands with Israel's President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Yair Lapid before departing Israel's Ben Gurion Airport on July 15, 2022 for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides is at left. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)
US President Joe Biden shakes hands with Israel's President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Yair Lapid before departing Israel's Ben Gurion Airport on July 15, 2022 for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides is at left. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

Prime Minister Yair Lapid says the Saudi decision to open its airspace to Israeli flights is a “first official step” in a larger diplomatic process to normalization with the Jewish state.

“We woke up this morning to happy news. The Saudi aviation authorities have announced that they will be opening Saudi airspace to Israeli airlines. This is the first official step in normalization with Saudi Arabia,” he says, in remarks to the press gathered at the airport, as Air Force One departs in the background.

“The decision will allow Israeli airlines to fly on a direct route to Asia and Australia. This will save vast amounts of fuel, time and money. The savings will directly reach the pockets of Israeli citizens and lower the price of airline tickets.

“I thank the Saudi leadership for the opening of Saudi airspace. This is only the first step. We will continue working with necessary caution, for the sake of Israel’s economy, security and the good of our citizens,” Lapid says.

He adds cryptically that Biden’s two-day trip also included “achievements that will take years before we can talk about them.”

Biden takes off for Saudi Arabia

US President Joe Biden is wheels up from Ben Gurion Airport, officially on his way to Saudi Arabia.

Just before taking off, Biden stops at the top of the stairs leading to the plane and waves to the crowd, offering a special farewell to Edna Halbani, the indefatigable chief of protocol at the Prime Minister’s Office who has been a near-constant presence during foreign trips for decades.

As the plane departs, Prime Minister Yair Lapid delivers short remarks from the tarmac thanking Biden.

Biden shares warm farewell with Israeli leaders before leaving on plane to Jeddah

President Joe Biden bids farewell to Prime Minister Yair Lapid, President Isaac Herzog, US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides and Israeli Ambassador to the US Mike Herzog after a three-day visit to Israel, at Ben Gurion Airport on July 15, 2022, as he leaves for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (GPO screenshot)
President Joe Biden bids farewell to Prime Minister Yair Lapid, President Isaac Herzog, US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides and Israeli Ambassador to the US Mike Herzog after a three-day visit to Israel, at Ben Gurion Airport on July 15, 2022, as he leaves for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (GPO screenshot)

US President Joe Biden is holding an extended huddle with Prime Minister Yair Lapid, President Isaac Herzog, US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides and Israeli Ambassador to the US Mike Herzog, along with IDF brass and other dignitaries, before climbing the stairs onto a waiting Air Force One.

Despite attempts to avoid contact, Biden has warm handshakes and embraces with several people as they chat at the foot of the staircar.

Not present is Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who took off earlier for London, is also not present for the short send-off.

Biden is set for a two-hour flight to Jeddah, becoming the first US leader to make the trip. George W. Bush flew direct to Riyadh in 2008.

Iranian navy unsheathes sea-borne drones capable of ‘regrettable response’

As Biden’s chopper makes its way around Israel’s airport, Iran’s navy is unveiling its first division of ships and submarines capable of carrying armed drones.

“The first drone-carrier division of the Iranian navy consisting of ships and submarine units carrying all types of drone for combat, detection and destruction has been unveiled,” state television says.

“All types of the latest advanced drones produced by the military and the defense ministry have flown over the Indian Ocean’s waters to demonstrate their capabilities,” it adds, showing images of drones taking off from a naval vessel.

The United States and Israel, the sworn enemies of Iran, have previously accused the Islamic republic of using drones and missiles to attack US forces and Israel-linked ships in the Gulf.

“As we are aware of the aggressive attitude in the (United States’) system of domination, it is necessary to increase our defensive capabilities day-by-day,” Iranian army commander Abdolrahim Mousavi says on television.

“If the enemies make a mistake, (these drones) will present them with a regrettable response,” he warned during the unveiling.

Biden flies to airport for final farewell before Saudi swing

US President Joe Biden’s helicopter is arriving at Ben Gurion Airport to fanfare as Israeli officials prepare to see the American leader off.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog are on hand to bid the leader of the free world adieu as he takes off for Saudi Arabia, where he will attend a summit of Gulf leaders and is expected to speak on steps toward Israeli-Saudi normalization.

US ambassador Tom Nides, Israeli ambassador Mike Herzog and a small honor guard are also on the tarmac to wish the president godspeed.

Biden tells Abbas unilateral measures must be avoided for talks to work

The White House says US President Joe Biden told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that both sides need to avoid unilateral measures if peace talks with Israel are to restart.

Biden has disappointed the Palestinians by stating during his trip to the region that there are no prospects for Palestinian statehood in the near term. He said at a press conference alongside Abbas that the “ground is not ripe” for restarting peace talks.

“President Biden reiterated the importance of fostering a political horizon, and noted the United States stands ready to work with Israelis, Palestinians and regional stakeholders toward that goal,” the White House says in a readout of the meeting. “As he had relayed to Israeli leaders, President Biden conveyed to President Abbas that in order to create the conditions for negotiations, it was important for both parties to avoid unilateral measures.”

Biden also told Abbas that the US’s position on Jerusalem was unchanged.

“President Biden reiterated the US position that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and that it continues to be the policy of the United States that the specific boundaries of sovereignty in Jerusalem must be resolved through final status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians,” the statement reads.

Grocers agree to hold off on charging more dough for bread

As US President Joe Biden makes his way to Ben Gurion Airport outside of Tel Aviv for the short flight to Jeddah, Israelis are getting some good news on a bread and butter issue that actually affects them every day.

The government says major grocery chains Rami Levy, Shufersal, Victory and Yachaninof have agreed to delay implementing planned price hikes on price-controlled bread by two weeks, after a request by Economy Minister Orna Barbivai.

The Finance Ministry plans to update prices on Sunday, the Prime Minister’s Office says.

Talks between Barbivai and major bakery chains are ongoing “to find a governmental solution to answer for the rise in the cost of making price-controlled bread, without hurting consumers,” Lapid’s office says in a statement.

Lapid will hold an urgent meeting on the matter Sunday, the PMO says.

Biden is in Israel looking for a foreign policy win as rocketing prices for essentials at home have sent his popularity tanking.

Biden stops at Bethlehem’s Church of Nativity

US President Joe Biden arrives for a visit at the Church of the Nativity, traditionally believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, at the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Friday, July 15, 2022. (AP/Evan Vucci)
US President Joe Biden arrives for a visit at the Church of the Nativity, traditionally believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, at the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Friday, July 15, 2022. (AP/Evan Vucci)

US President Joe Biden is visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus.

Biden, a devout Roman Catholic, stopped by the church Friday after meeting with Palestinian leaders in the ancient West Bank city. He shook hands with local officials before entering the historic basilica, held sacred by Christians of all denominations.

The White House said Biden’s visit was to “underscore support for Christians who face challenges across the region.”

Inside, he was to meet with church patriarchs and receive a tour of its mosaics and architecture.

The visit is Biden’s last stop on his three-day trip to Israel and the occupied West Bank before he flies to Saudi Arabia to meet with the kingdom’s leaders and Gulf allies.

Morocco helping broker 24/7 Allenby crossing access

Israel’s Transportation Ministry says it is working with Moroccan mediators to open the Allenby Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan 24 hours a day seven days a week.

US President Joe Biden was expected to announce moves aimed at easing Palestinians access to the crossing, the only conduit out of the West Bank that does not go into Israel.

Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli and her staff “have been in contact with US, Palestinian and Moroccan representatives to open the Allenby crossing between Israel and Jordan around the clock, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” the ministry says in a statement.

Illustrative: An Israeli soldier stands at the entrance to the Allenby border crossing, the main border crossing for Palestinians from the West Bank traveling to neighboring Jordan and beyond, March 10, 2014. (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

Talks progressed with Biden’s visit to the region this week, according to the ministry.

The statement says the moves will be implemented as soon as logistical arrangements, including recruiting more staff, are completed.

There is no immediate comment from morocco on the mediation.

Journalists in Saudi Arabia gasp at Biden’s Abu Akleh pronunciation troubles

JEDDAH — Watching the Biden-Abbas press conference from the press center at the Intercontinental Hotel in Jeddah, dozens of reporters let out a gasp of disappointment as the US president struggles to pronounce the name of their slain colleague, Shireen Abu Akleh.

Biden at first pronounces her name “al-Kae’a” and then “al-Kaylee.”

Speaking in Bethlehem alongside Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Biden said the US “will continue to insist on a full and transparent accounting of her death and will continue to stand up for media freedom everywhere in the world.”

Biden said Abu Akleh “was performing very vital work” when she was killed in May.

Biden, who has spoken of his troubles with stuttering and often trips over his own tongue, regularly makes verbal gaffes with even non-foreign sounding words or names, which most Americans have stopped making an issue out of.

At Abbas presser, Biden calls for ‘full accountability’ in death of Abu Akleh

US President Joe Biden listens as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a joint statement at the West Bank town of Bethlehem, July 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
US President Joe Biden listens as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a joint statement at the West Bank town of Bethlehem, July 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

US President Joe Biden laments the death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who died during a firefight between the Israeli army and Palestinian gunmen in May during his statement alongside Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem.

Biden notes that Abu Akleh was “an American citizen and a proud Palestinian” and says she was performing “vital work” as a journalist and for democracy.

A photo of slain US-Palestinian Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh, with a caption in Arabic reading “Shireen Abu Akleh, the voice of Palestine,” is seen ahead of a joint press conference between the US and Palestinian Authority presidents in Bethlehem on July 15, 2022. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

Abu Akleh “was performing the very vital work of independent media and vital work of democracy; her death is an enormous loss to the essential work of sharing with the world the story of the Palestinian people. I hope her legacy will inspire more young people to carry on her work of reporting the truth and telling stories which are too often overlooked,” says the US president.

He says the US will “continue to insist on a full and transparent accounting of her death and will continue to stand up for media freedom everywhere in the world.”

Biden denies PA request to call for East Jerusalem as future Palestinian capital

US President Joe Biden and Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas shake hands after their statements to the media at the Muqataa Presidential Compound in the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank on July 15, 2022. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
US President Joe Biden and Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas shake hands after their statements to the media at the Muqataa Presidential Compound in the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank on July 15, 2022. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

US President Joe Biden refrains from recognizing East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, as the Palestinian Authority had been pushing for him to do in talks ahead of Mahmoud Abbas’s meeting with the US president, according to an official in Ramallah.

Biden instead suffices by saying “Jerusalem is central to the national visions of both Palestinians and Israelis — to your histories, to your faiths, to your futures.”

“Jerusalem must be a city for all its people” where the status quo is preserved at its holy sites where Jordan maintains a custodial role, Biden adds.

“Throughout this holy land filled with so many places of significance to Muslims, Christians and Jews, we must all be free to practice our faith.”

While he doesn’t recognize East Jerusalem, his support for the pre-1967 borders when that part of the city was not under Israeli control does appear to represent de facto backing for the Palestinian goal, though the PA had been hoping he would say so more explicitly.

In Bethlehem, Biden backs two-state solution ‘along 1967 lines with swaps’ for 1st time as president

US President Joe Biden speaks in Bethlehem on July 15, 2022. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)
US President Joe Biden speaks in Bethlehem on July 15, 2022. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

US President Joe Biden calls for a two-state solution “along the pre-1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” for the first time as president, during a joint news conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem. He says this remains “the best way to achieve an equal measure of security, prosperity, freedom and democracy for the Palestinians as well as the Israelis.”

“The Palestinian people deserve a state of their own that’s independent, sovereign, viable and contiguous,” Biden says, in a notable differentiation from the Trump peace proposal, which offered Palestinians only a semi-contiguous state while allowing Israel to hold onto all its settlements. “Two states for two people, both of whom have deep and ancient roots in this land, living side by side in peace and security. Both states fully respecting equal rights of the others’  citizens. Both peoples enjoying equal measures of freedom and dignity.”

In rare comments by a US president regarding the plight of Palestinians, Biden says: “I know the goal of the two states seems so far away while indignities like restrictions on movement and travel or the daily worry of your children’s safety are real and immediate. The Palestinian people are hurting now. You can just feel it… There must be a political horizon.”

Biden says, however, that “the ground is not ripe at this moment to restart peace negotiations” between Israel and the Palestinians, but says his administration will continue to try to foster progress between the two sides.

He says the current warming of ties between Israel and other regional states can be utilized — “we can harness that same momentum to reinvigorate the peace process between the Palestinian people and the Israelis.”

Biden notes that Christians, Muslims and Jews have a deep, intense connection to this land, particularly Jerusalem, a city that “is central to the national vision of both Palestinians and Israelis, to your histories, to your faiths, to your futures.

“Jerusalem must be a city for all its people, its holy sites preserving the status quo,” he says, “with the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan continuing to serve as custodian… We must all be free to practice our faiths in peace, in safety and in dignity.”

Addressing urgent Palestinian needs, Biden announces that the US is allocating “an additional $200 million for the UNRWA” refugee agency, “so it can continue its vital work of helping the most vulnerable Palestinians, especially Palestinian children. Earlier today, he notes, he allocated an extra $100 million for healthcare services via the East Jerusalem Hospital Network.

He says he is also engaging with Israel on ways “to spur greater Palestinian economic growth, including by implementing 4G mobile networks, increasing the supply of renewable energy, improving freedom of movement for Palestinians, both people and goods” — to make life better for Palestinians “right away.”

He adds: “The Palestinian Authority has important work to do as well, if you don’t mind my saying” — “to improve governance, transparency and accountability… and unleash the incredible potential of the Palestinian people.” He urges Abbas to “combat corruption and advance rights and freedoms, improve community services.”

Such work will “help build a society that can support a successful democratic future and a future Palestinian state.

“The United States will work with you, President Abbas, at every step,” he promises. “I hope our visit is the start of a new and reinvigorated dialogue between the Palestinian Authority and the United States, and between the Palestinians and countries throughout the region, including Israel.”

He concludes: “Let’s show young people that the future can be better than it is today.”

Alongside Biden, Abbas ‘extends hand’ to Israel to restart peace talks; says Palestinians ‘are not terrorists’

US President Joe Biden and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speak together after their statements to the media at the Muqataa Presidential Compound in the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank on July 15, 2022. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
US President Joe Biden and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speak together after their statements to the media at the Muqataa Presidential Compound in the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank on July 15, 2022. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

At a press conference in Bethlehem with US President Joe Biden, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas calls for a two-state solution and greater efforts to establish a Palestinian state.

“We have expressed the importance of re-establishing the foundations of what the peace process was based on, the two-state solution on the 1967 borders,” Abbas says in Arabic simultaneously translated into English.

“After 74 of nakba, displacement and occupation, isn’t it time for the occupation to end, and for our steadfast people to again gain their freedom and independence?” Abbas asks, urging an end to “the Israeli occupation of our land — the land of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

The “key to securing peace in our region begins with the recognition of the State of Palestine,” Abbas adds.

Abbas says the Palestinians “want the US consulate to be reopened in East Jerusalem,” as well as the US to remove the PLO from the US terrorist list — “We are not terrorists,” he says — and to reopen the PLO office in Washington. “We are ready to work in a framework of partnership and cooperation to achieve that.”

Abbas protests what he says is Israel’s “racial discrimination and apartheid against our people,” urges an end to settlements and settler violence, and cites Israeli expulsion of Palestinians, demolitions of homes and “storming of cities.” He also calls on Israel to “respect the historical situation in the Islamic and Christian holy sites and the Hashemite custodianship.”

He also references the death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, and calls for Israel to be “held accountable.”

Only with the establishment of a Palestinian state, he says, will “Israel be accepted to live in peace, security and good neighborhood with the countries of the region.”

“The opportunity for a two-state solution on the 1967 borders may only be available today, we don’t know what will happen in the future,” Abbas says. “I take this opportunity to say I extend my hand to the leaders of Israel to make peace,” on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative.

At Abbas-Biden press conference, an empty chair for Shireen Abu Akleh

A photo of slain US-Palestinian Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh, with a caption in Arabic reading "Shireen Abu Akleh, the voice of Palestine," is seen ahead of a joint press conference between the US and Palestinian Authority presidents in Bethlehem on July 15, 2022. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)
A photo of slain US-Palestinian Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh, with a caption in Arabic reading "Shireen Abu Akleh, the voice of Palestine," is seen ahead of a joint press conference between the US and Palestinian Authority presidents in Bethlehem on July 15, 2022. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

Journalists waiting for the press conference of US President Joe Biden and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to start in Bethlehem leave an empty chair for slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

A photo of Abu Akleh with the caption “Shireen Abu Akleh, the voice of Palestine,” is left on an empty chair.

Abu Akleh was shot dead in the West Bank in a volley of gunfire when covering an IDF raid in May during gunbattles between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen. Palestinians have accused Israel of killing her, while Israel has said it cannot draw a conclusive decision about her death. Palestinians have pressured Biden to speak out more forcefully on Abu Akleh’s death during his visit.

The State Department said last week that the prominent Al Jazeera journalist was likely shot from an Israeli position, but that there was no evidence the killing was intentional and that the bullet was too damaged for a conclusive finding.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier this week that he spoke with Abu Akleh’s family and invited them to visit Washington.

German ex-soldier handed 5.5 years for neo-Nazi plot on political, Jewish targets

Franco Albrecht, a German army officer accused of planning a neo-Nazi attack, at a Regional Court in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, on July 15, 2022. (Boris ROESSLER / POOL / AFP)
Franco Albrecht, a German army officer accused of planning a neo-Nazi attack, at a Regional Court in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, on July 15, 2022. (Boris ROESSLER / POOL / AFP)

A German court sentences a former soldier to five and a half years in prison for plotting a far-right attack on senior politicians while posing as a Syrian refugee.

“The accused is guilty of planning a serious act of violence endangering the state,” presiding judge Christoph Koller says.

Defendant Franco Albrecht, a 33-year-old father of three, had been in the dock before the regional superior court in the western city of Frankfurt since May 2021.

The Bundeswehr lieutenant was found to have cited cabinet ministers, MPs and a prominent Jewish human rights activist among his potential targets.

British captive dies in pro-Russian separatist region of Ukraine

Rescue workers stand on the rubble at the scene in the after math of a missile strike that his a residential apartment block, in Chasiv Yar, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, July 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
Rescue workers stand on the rubble at the scene in the after math of a missile strike that his a residential apartment block, in Chasiv Yar, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, July 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Paul Urey, a British man captured by pro-Russian forces in Ukraine, has died in detention, Moscow-backed separatists say. 

“He died on July 10,” Darya Morozova, a representative of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, says on Telegram, adding that he had diabetes.

Non-governmental organizations describe Urey as a humanitarian who worked as an aid volunteer in Ukraine, while Moscow-backed separatists insist he was a “professional” soldier.

Iran says ‘more determined’ to protect nuclear interests after Biden trip to Israel

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian speaks during a joint conference with his Syrian counterpart, in the Syrian capital Damascus, on July 2, 2022. (Louai Beshara/AFP)
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian speaks during a joint conference with his Syrian counterpart, in the Syrian capital Damascus, on July 2, 2022. (Louai Beshara/AFP)

Iran says it is “more determined” to protect its own interests in negotiations to revive a nuclear deal following US President Joe Biden’s visit this week to Israel.

“Reaching a good, solid and lasting agreement is our goal… The puppet show of the White House and Zionism in the region makes us more determined,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian writes in a Twitter post.

Meretz minister Zandberg announces break from politics

Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg attends a discussion regarding violence in Arab society on May 23, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg attends a discussion regarding violence in Arab society on May 23, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Environment Minister Tamar Zandberg says she will be taking a break from political life and not running in the next election.

Zandberg, a lawmaker from Meretz who previously headed the party, says she is taking a break in order to “make room for others.”

Current Meretz chief Nitzan Horowitz announced recently that he will not run for reelection as the party head in its leadership primary but will work to remain an MK. Currently, the only candidate for the Meretz primary is MK Yair Golan.

Biden arrives in Bethlehem to meet PA leader Abbas

US President Joe Biden (right) meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, July 15, 2022. (Screenshot)
US President Joe Biden (right) meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, July 15, 2022. (Screenshot)

US President Joe Biden arrives at the Muqata presidential compound in Bethlehem and is greeted with an honor guard and renditions of the US and Palestinian national anthems.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas welcomes Biden to the city and the two leaders have now begun their meeting.

Biden and Abbas will deliver joint statements following their discussion after which Biden will visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Official suggests US comfortable with Israel refusing military aid to Ukraine

JEDDAH — A senior Biden administration official suggests that the US is comfortable with Israel refusing to offer military aid to Ukraine.

“We encourage nations to support Ukraine in the best way they see fit,” the official says, briefing several reporters.

The US official says that for some countries that means providing only humanitarian aid and for others it means providing security assistance as well.

“Each nation has to decide on its own,” they say.

Israel has thus far refused to offer Ukraine offensive military equipment due to fears of burning a bridge with Russia, whose airspace it operates from in Syria to target Iranian proxies.

But while the US previously publicly called on Israel to ensure it does not become a haven for Russian oligarchs to evade sanctions, the Biden administration official refrains from issuing such a warning regarding military aid.

Israel has provided millions in humanitarian assistance, operated a field hospital to treat refugees and more recently began sending non-offensive military equipment such as helmets and flak jackets.

In Romania, IAF drills heavy transport aircraft for flight in enemy territory

An IAF C-130 transport aircraft is seen flying over Romania, in an image published by the military on July 15, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
An IAF C-130 transport aircraft is seen flying over Romania, in an image published by the military on July 15, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israeli Air Force wraps up a drill that took place over Romania’s skies during the past 10 days.

The exercise, dubbed Blue Sky, was aimed at training the IAF’s C-130 and C-130J heavy transport aircraft for flights in unfamiliar enemy territory at low altitudes, the military says.

“We met the objectives of the exercise, which centered on safe, professional, and accurate training, while flying over high terrain, in dynamic weather, in operational flight designations, and in unfamiliar territory,” says the commander of the IAF’s 131st Squadron, identified only as Lt. Col. G.

“This training drill constitutes a great addition to the IDF’s extensive training schedule and contributes to the operational readiness for all relevant theaters,” he adds.

Biden announces $100 million for Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem

US President Joe Biden speaks during a visit to the Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem on July 15, 2022 (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)
US President Joe Biden speaks during a visit to the Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem on July 15, 2022 (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

US President Joe Biden says during a visit to Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem that Palestinians and Israelis “deserve equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity and dignity, and access to health care when you need it is essential to living a life of dignity for all of us.”

In the president’s speech, he praises nurses and other healthcare workers for providing care and hope to the sick, and announces a commitment of $100 million by the US to Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem.

“The US will continue to work with the Palestinian leadership and the government of Israel and all our international partners to ensure that East Jerusalem’s hospital network remains sustainable and available, and is able to provide high-quality care the Palestinian people deserve,” says Biden.

Pro-Palestinian rally gathers near Biden route

Protesters hold posters for slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh near the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem ahead of a visit by US President Joe Biden, Friday, July 15, 2022 (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
Protesters hold posters for slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh near the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem ahead of a visit by US President Joe Biden, Friday, July 15, 2022 (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

About two dozen pro-Palestinian demonstrators have gathered in East Jerusalem. The protesters are holding Palestinian flags and posters of Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist who was killed in May while covering an Israeli military raid in the West Bank.

The demonstration is several hundred meters from the hospital Biden is visiting, with Israeli police standing at a distance outside the building. It is not clear if Biden’s motorcade will pass by the crowd.

Biden visits Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem

US President Biden has arrived at Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem.

White House press corps arrives in Saudi Arabia ahead of Biden

JEDDAH — The White House press corps has landed in Saudi Arabia ahead of US President Joe Biden’s arrival later today.

Biden is wrapping up a two-day trip in Israel and the West Bank before becoming the first US President to fly directly from Israel to Jeddah where he will hold bilateral meetings with the Saudi leadership shortly upon landing and participate on Saturday in an expanded summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council known as the GCC+3.

He will also hold bilateral meetings with the leaders of Iraq, Egypt and the UAE before flying back to the US on Saturday evening.

The weather in Jeddah is a balmy 96 degrees.

Lapid hails ‘happy news’ of Saudis opening airspace, calls it a ‘first step’

Israel's caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid speaks during a joint press conference with US President Joe Biden, in Jerusalem on July 14, 2022. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)
Israel's caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid speaks during a joint press conference with US President Joe Biden, in Jerusalem on July 14, 2022. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

Prime Minister Lapid weighs in on Riydah’s opening of its airspace:

“After a long and clandestine process, and intensive diplomacy with Saudi Arabia and the US, we are waking this morning to happy news.”

Lapid hails Saudi leadership for “first step” and says the government “will continue to work on this with the required care; for the Israeli economy, Israeli security and Israeli people.”

He thanks Biden, who will depart today, “for his commitment to Israel’s military and diplomatic strength.”

Biden: Saudi Arabia’s ‘historic decision’ helps build more integrated Middle East

US President Joe Biden speaks at Ben Gurion Airport, July 13, 2022 (Screen grab)
US President Joe Biden speaks at Ben Gurion Airport, July 13, 2022 (Screen grab)

In a new statement this morning, US President Joe Biden says Saudi Arabia’s “historic decision” to open its airspace to planes flying to and from Israel “is an important step towards building a more integrated and stable Middle East region.”

He says he will do “all that I can, through direct diplomacy and leader-to-leader engagement, to keep advancing this groundbreaking process.”

Transportation minister hails Saudi overflight decision

Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli welcomes the Saudi decision to open its skies to Israeli overflights.

“This is another step toward good relations with countries of the Middle East,” she says.

Sharp increase in burials in Russian-held areas of Ukraine, NGO says

Dead bodies are placed into a mass grave on the outskirts of Mariupol, Ukraine, March 9, 2022, as people cannot bury their dead because of heavy shelling by Russian forces. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)
Dead bodies are placed into a mass grave on the outskirts of Mariupol, Ukraine, March 9, 2022, as people cannot bury their dead because of heavy shelling by Russian forces. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)

Satellite photos and on-the-ground images reveal a sharp increase in burials in Russian-held areas of Ukraine, according to a new report.

The non-government Centre for Information Resilience analyzed images of burials in six areas — two of them previously held by Russian forces and the rest still under Moscow’s control in southern Ukraine.

“Makeshift burials and the growing number of graves around Ukraine, particularly in and around occupied areas, is a stark illustration of the civilian death toll following the Russian invasion,” says Benjamin Strick, director of investigations at CIR.

 

US Secret Service deleted text messages from Jan 6 insurrection: watchdog

The US Secret Service, the law enforcement agency that protects the president, deleted agents’ text messages sent during the January 6 Capitol riot, a government watchdog says.

Joseph Cuffari, the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, tells Congress in a letter dated Wednesday that his office has had difficulties obtaining records from the Secret Service from January 5 and 6, 2021.

The messages could be crucial to the House of Representatives and Justice Department investigations into whether Donald Trump and his close advisors encouraged the deadly insurrection by the former president’s supporters at the US Capitol, which aimed to prevent the certification of Democratic rival Joe Biden as the winner of the November 2020 election.

Insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump breach the Capitol in Washington, Jan.6, 2021.  (John Minchillo/AP) 

On June 29 a former White House staffer told the House January 6 investigation that Trump had attempted to force the Secret Service to take him to the Capitol to join his supporters on that day.

“The Department notified us that many US Secret Service (USSS) text messages, from January 5 and 6, 2021, were erased as part of a device replacement program,” Cuffari writes in the letter first reported by The Intercept and later published by Politico.

Biden to wrap up visit to Israel with trip to East Jerusalem and West Bank

US President Joe Biden will wrap up his visit to Israel this morning with a trip to East Jerusalem and the West Bank, before heading to Saudi Arabia.

At 10:30 a.m. Biden is expected at Augusta Victoria Hospital on East Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives, where he will announce a $100 million funding package for the East Jerusalem Hospital Network that treats Palestinians.

He will then travel to Bethlehem to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem at 11:30 a.m. He is expected to announce alongside Abbas a package of steps aimed at strengthening the PA.

Biden will head back to Ben Gurion Airport for a 3:30 p.m. flight to Jeddah, though he may make a brief stop on the way at Bethlehem’s Church of Nativity, if time permits.

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