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PM lauds Israel’s relations with US and Russia after Trump-Putin presser

Netanyahu thanks both leaders after they highlight having discussed Israel’s security concerns with regards to Iranian entrenchment in Syria during their summit in Helsinki

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

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on July 11, 2018. (AFP/Pool/Yuri Kadobnov)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on July 11, 2018. (AFP/Pool/Yuri Kadobnov)

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

Trump to Putin: I really think the world wants to see us get along

Opening up the Helsinki summit, US President Donald Trump tells Russian President Vladimir Putin that he thinks “the world wants to see us get along.”

While Trump acknowledges the poor relations between Washington and Moscow over recent years, he says he hopes an “extraordinary relationship” can be built.

In listing the topics he plans to discuss with Putin, the US president does not mention the issue of Russia’s hacking of the US elections.

In response, Putin tells Trump that “the time has to come to talk in a substantive way.”

— With agencies


Iran supreme leader: Ultimate deal will fail, Zionist regime will be eradicated

In his latest tweet storm, Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei asserts that Trump’s “ultimate deal” peace plan will fail and that “the fabricated Zionist regime will be eradicated.

“Everyone should know that the satanic and vicious plot that the US has for #Palestine— calling it the Deal of Century— will never happen,” he writes.

Khamenei taunts that “to the dismay of the US politicians, #Palestine will never [be] forgotten and #AlQuds (Jerusalem) will remain the capital of Palestine.”

“The turbulent dream that Al-Quds would be given to the Zionists will never come true. The Palestinian nation will stand against it and Muslim nations will back the Palestinian nation, never letting that happen.”

“By God’s grace, the Palestinian nation will certainly gain victory over the enemies and will witness the day when the fabricated Zionist regime will be eradicated,” Khamenei concludes.

Turkish woman released by Israel after charges of smuggling for Hamas

A Turkish woman arrested by Israel for allegedly transferring money to Hamas operatives last month has been released and is now in Turkey, according to Turkish media.

Ebru Ozkan, 27, had been charged last week in an Israeli military court with passing hundreds of dollars to the Hamas terrorist organization, security sources said.

She was detained at Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport on June 11 as she was leaving the country to return to Turkey.

Over a month later, early on Monday, she finally got on a plane to Istanbul.

At the airport in Istanbul she was met by reporters, according to the Turkish outlet Daily Sabah. “Thank God it is over. I am in my country, I am at peace,” she reportedly said. She also thanked Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: “He was kind enough to be very interested in my case.”

— with AFP

Argentina freezes assets of suspected Hezbollah fundraising network

In a first, Argentina’s government has targeted a Hezbollah fundraising network in the northern Triple Frontier with Brazil and Paraguay.

The Financial Information Unit of the Argentine Republic is investigating possible criminal actions by Lebanese citizens living in Argentina that could be involved in money laundering and financing terrorist acts.

Hezbollah has been linked to the 1992 attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 29, and the 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85.

The unit investigated the Barakat Group, also known as the Barakat Clan, a criminal organization linked to Hezbollah, which operates in the area known as the “Triple border” made up of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, led by Assad Ahmad Barakat.

As a result, Argentina’s government issued an administrative order freezing the assets and money of the group’s members, allowed by an article of the national Criminal Code related to financing terrorism.

Argentina is home to a large Lebanese expat community and US authorities suspect groups in that community of raising funds through organized crime to support the Iranian-backed terror organization.

In 2006, the US Treasury targeted the same fundraising network.

Earlier this year, the US and Argentina agreed to work together to cut off Hezbollah funding networks and money laundering financing terrorism across Latin America.


Gabbay: Ministers’ leaking of cabinet meeting debates leading to unnecessary war

Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay warns that right-wing showboating from government ministers is leading the country to an “unnecessary war” with Hamas in Gaza.

“The behavior of the government is leading us to war. A war that no one wants,” Gabbay tells his party’s faction meeting at the Knesset.

“The leaks from the cabinet in recent days are a repeat of 2014 when we were led to a war that Netanyahu didn’t know how to manage,” he says of the Protective Edge military operation.

Reported leaks from high-level security cabinet revealed clashes yesterday between ministers and IDF officials over targeting Gaza Strip Palestinians who launch incendiary balloons and kites toward Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netnayhau later said that he “had ordered the army to put an end to the kite terror.”

Gabbay charges that the leaks came from ministers “trying to win right-wing voters from each other.”

He said that Netanyahu, Yisrael Beytenu head Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Jewish Home leader Education Minister Naftali Bennett were “putting an internal battle over leadership of the right” ahead of the interests of the country.

“Even an unnecessary war is not a red line for them,” he says.

Gabbay also took aim at the government’s “absent strategy” in dealing with the unrest on the border.

“This government is repeatedly playing into the hands of Hamas: letting them provoke us, responding when they want, and letting them dictate when there is a ceasefire,” he says.

— Raoul Wootliff

France expels to Algeria ‘mentor’ of 2015 jihadist attackers

France has expelled a radical Islamic preacher to Algeria after his release from prison, where he became a mentor to at least two jihadis who carried out deadly attacks on a satirical newspaper and a Jewish supermarket in January 2015, officials say.

Djamel Beghal was given a 10-year jail term in 2005 after being sent to France following his arrest in the United Arab Emirates shortly after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in the US.

He was suspected of leading a network charged by Osama bin Laden to attack American interests in France and is considered by French officials to have been a mentor for several generations of aspiring jihadists.

Beghal was arrested again in 2010 as part of a plot to free him as well as Smain Ait Ali Belkacem, an Algerian who helped carry out Paris bomb attacks in 1995 which killed eight people.

His activities have also highlighted the struggle by French authorities to prevent Islamic radicalization in prisons, which have proved fertile recruiting grounds for jihadist fighters.

Beghal, now 52 and stripped of his French nationality, was freed from the Vezin-le-Coquet prison near the western city of Rennes early Monday.

While serving his first prison sentence Beghal met Cherif Kouachi, one of the brothers who massacred 12 people in an attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in January 2015.

France has suffered a wave of deadly terror attacks since January 2015 which have claimed nearly 250 lives, prompting the government to make permanent several state of emergency measures as part of a tough new anti-terror law enacted last year.


UK’s Boris Johnson returns as Telegraph columnist

After resigning as foreign minister last week over Prime Minister Theresa May’s compromise plan for Brexit, Boris Johnson is back at his old job as a columnist at the euroskeptic Daily Telegraph newspaper.

“He’s Back,” the paper says on its front page on Monday.

Johnson was named foreign minister in July 2016 after playing a leading role in the Brexit referendum campaign.

He was forced to give up his regular columns, which a spokesman said were “inappropriate” for his new role.

The 54-year-old Johnson, who is famous for his frequent gaffes and off-color quips, started his career as a journalist and has worked on and off for the Daily Telegraph for 20 years.

Johnson dramatically resigned on July 9 saying that the Brexit “dream is dying” and warning that May’s latest plan risked turning Britain into a “colony” of the European Union.

In his article on Monday he appealed for people to take a more positive view of Britain’s prospects outside the EU but otherwise largely avoided the issue, saying he would resist “for now” the temptation to “bang on about Brexit.”


Iran: If Trump wants to talk, he’ll have to call

Iran says if US President Donald Trump wants to negotiate after pulling his country out of the international deal meant to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, he’ll have to make the call.

The remarks by Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi come after Trump last week said that with the United States increasing sanctions on Iran, “at a certain point they’re going to call me and say ‘let’s make a deal,’ and we’ll make a deal.”

Ghasemi says, however, “maybe someday he will call Tehran and ask for negotiations — this is more likely.”

If Trump calls, it’s not clear whether anyone will answer, with Iran’s top leadership rejecting talks with the US.

Other nations in the deal are negotiating with Iran to try and make it work without Washington.

— AP

Israeli aircraft targets Gazans launching incendiary balloons, Palestinian media says

Palestinian media reports that an Israeli aircraft fired toward a group of Gazans who were launching incendiary balloons from the coastal enclave.

It is unclear whether any of the Palestinians were injured in the airstrike.

The IDF says it is unaware of such reports.


Firefighters work to extinguish blazes along Gaza border

Firefighters are working to put out a number of blazes along the Gaza border.

A massive one near Kibbutz Carmia north of the strip has required firefighting planes and other industrial equipment to help extinguish the blaze, whose cause remains unclear.

In the Eshkol Region east of the coastal enclave, firefighters are working to put out an additional two fires believed to have been caused by incendiary balloons, which were found at the scene.

IDF officer wounded by grenade during Gaza riots released from hospital

An IDF officer moderately wounded Friday afternoon after a grenade was hurled at him by Palestinian assailants during clashes at the Gaza border fence has been released from the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.

A spokesperson for the hospital says the officer arrived with a large chest wound and was placed in the intensive care unit. However, after a considerable improvement in his condition, he was transferred out of the ICU yesterday into a regular unit.

Firefighters dispatched to Ben Gurion terminal after acid spill

Firefighters have been called to Terminal 1 at Ben Gurion Airport after more than 400 liters of acid were spilled in one of the nearby buildings.

Authorities are currently considering whether to evacuate the entire terminal.

Syrian army captures strategic lookout over Golan Heights — state media

The Syrian army has captured a strategic observation point overlooking the Israeli Golan Heights, the state new agency SANA reports.

The move comes after the Assad regime’s forces backed by Russia retook the rebel stronghold of Daraa in southern Syria, which had been seen as their “cradle.”

Netanyahu says controversial nation-state bill will pass in next few days

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that the controversial Jewish nation-state bill will pass in the next few days, calling the legislation “a law of the highest importance.”

“If not in the next few hours, we will pass this law in the next few days,” Netanyahu tells his Likud faction meeting in a nod to ongoing disagreements over the bill.

“This is a law of the highest importance to ensure the foundation of the existence of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people,” he adds.

A special committee established to deal with the proposal will reconvene this afternoon to vote on the final language of a controversial clause that currently sanctions segregated communities.

Speaking to reporters after the Likud faction meeting, coalition chairman David Amsalem said that he believes “all the coalition parties will fall in line” over the bill and it will come to a final vote on Wednesday.

— Raoul Wootliff

Trump, Putin finish their closed-door meeting at Helsinki summit

US President Donald Trump declares that his summit with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin had begun well, after they met one-on-one for two hours.

“Very good start,” Trump says in response to reporters as the leaders were joined by senior officials for further discussions.


Award-winning Palestinian photographer ‘dies in Syria jail’

An award-winning Palestinian-Syrian photographer who documented life in the Yarmouk refugee camp in southern Damascus has died after nearly three years in regime detention, his partner says.

Niraz Saied, who himself hailed from the Palestinian camp, was arrested by security forces in October 2015.

His longtime partner, Lamis Alkhateeb, writes on Facebook that Saied died while in detention. He was believed to be 27 years old.

It is not clear how Alkhateeb had learned of Saied’s death, and she has not immediately responded to AFP’s request for additional comment.


Children among eight migrants who suffocated in Libya truck

Eight migrants, mostly children, have suffocated to death trapped in a refrigerator truck carrying around 100 people in western Libya, security forces say.

Some of the 90 who have survived had to be admitted to hospital for respiratory problems, according to the regional security forces in the western city of Zuwara.

Six children, a woman and a young man died of suffocation, they say.

It is not immediately clear how long the migrants — from Bangladesh and Pakistan as well as Arab and African countries — were left by smugglers locked up in the vehicle just east of Zuwara.

The hospital in Zuwara, a coastal town located 62 miles west of Tripoli and near the Tunisian border, was placed in a state of emergency to deal with the large number of migrants admitted, it says.

Rocked by lawlessness since the NATO-backed 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gadhafi, Libya has become a key transit country for illegal migration across the Mediterranean Sea.

The migrants, who are exploited by smugglers, often try to make the treacherous crossing on unseaworthy boats, hoping to reach Italy and make their way further inland in Europe and start a new life.

Smugglers often use trucks to move migrants before they put them on boats for Europe.


Sirens wail in Hof Ashkelon Regional Council north of Gaza Strip

Red alert sirens go off in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council north of the Gaza Strip.

The IDF says it is investigating the incident, which comes a day after a reported ceasefire was reached between Israel and Hamas.

Despite the reported ceasefire, Palestinians did launch a number of incendiary balloons which caused fires near Israeli communities bordering the coastal enclave.

In response, an IDF aircraft struck two Hamas posts in the northern Gaza Strip near the point from which arson balloons were launched.

IDF says siren triggered by projectile that fell inside Gaza Strip

The IDF says it identified a projectile launched from the Gaza Strip that sparked red alert sirens in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council north of the coastal enclave.

“The projectile seems to have fallen in the Gaza Strip,” the army says.

Lapid accuses Netanyahu of leaking cabinet meeting debates during Gaza war

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid accuses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of having leaked statements from security cabinet meetings during the 2014 Gaza war after the latter claimed he “does not believe in leaks.”

Ministers have accused one another of leaking a conversation between IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and Education Minister Naftali Bennett yesterday, with the latter calling on fellow security cabinet members to take polygraph tests to prevent future leaks.

Netanyahu expressed his distaste for leaks to fellow Likud lawmakers earlier today in an effort to assert that they did not come from his office.

Bill barring unsolicited telemarketing calls clears first hurdle

A bill barring telemarketers from making unsolicited phone calls has cleared its first legislative hurdle after receiving a green light from government ministers.

Having received the Ministerial Committee for Legislation’s approval, the bill must now clear three Knesset plenum votes before coming law.

Under the legislation, telemarketers would be forbidden from calling Israelis registered for a “don’t call me” database, with violators receiving a fine of NIS 66,000 per offending call, according to Channel 10 news.

Putin says summit with Trump ‘very successful, useful’

Russian President Vladimir Putin says his summit meeting with US leader Donald Trump was “very successful,” following several hours of talks in Helsinki.

“I consider them (talks) very successful and useful,” Putin told a news conference alongside Trump, praising the “frank and businesslike atmosphere” of the summit.


Putin says Russia has never interfered in US electoral process

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow had never interfered in the US electoral process during a joint press conference after talks with his US counterpart Donald Trump.

“Mr Trump touched on the theme of Russian interference in American elections. I had to repeat what I have already said many times before — the Russian state has never interfered and is not planning to interfere in the USA’s internal affairs,” Putin says.


Putin says ‘no objective reasons’ for tensions in US-Russia ties

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that there were no “objective reasons” for tensions in US-Russia ties, speaking after several hours of talks with US leader Donald Trump.

“It is obvious to everyone that bilateral ties are going through a difficult period. However there are no objective reasons for these difficulties, the current tense atmosphere,” he tells a press conference in Helsinki.


Putin: Trump emphasized Israel’s security during Helsinki summit meeting

Russian President Vladimir Putin says his US counterpart Donald Trump raised the issue of Israel’s security during their summit meeting in Helsinki.

Trump tells reporters that both of them spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “with regards to the safety of Israel.”

Netanyahu in recent months has aggressively lobbied leaders around the world, particularly Putin, to act in order to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria.

Trump was asked if any specific agreements were reached between him and Putin on the issue, but the US president dodges the question.

Turkey set for new ‘anti-terror’ law after emergency

Turkey’s ruling party has submitted to parliament a new “anti-terror” bill that would bolster the powers of the authorities in detaining suspects and imposing public order even after the current two-year state of emergency ends.

The state of emergency, imposed in the wake of the July 2016 failed coup aimed at unseating President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been extended seven times and seen tens of thousands arrested.

With the government indicating that no new extension will be sought after Erdogan won a new mandate in June 24 presidential elections, the emergency is due to end overnight Wednesday to Thursday.

But state-run Anadolu news agency said that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had submitted amendments to existing laws to parliament to deal with the “fight against terror after the state of emergency.”


Hebron settler throws can of paint at Breaking the Silence tour guide

A group of settlers in Hebron disrupt a Breaking the Silence tour in the flashpoint West Bank city, and hurl a can of paint at the tour guide.

The left-wing NGO says it filed a police complaint after the incident, which followed a wave of other disturbances by Jewish locals, who throw eggs, stones and dirt at Breaking the Silence staffers.

The tour was convened for the group of left-wing activists who staged a walkout from their Birthright trip yesterday in protest of what they said was the organization’s intentional omission of the Palestinian narrative from its trips.

Breaking the Silence publishes testimony of former Israeli soldiers who report on alleged abuses by the IDF in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The organization has raised the ire of many Israeli officials and drawn criticism from those who challenge the authenticity of its mostly anonymous claims, and lament its advocacy work in the international community.

The left-wing NGO offers regular tours of the flashpoint city of Hebron, where several hundred nationalist Israeli settlers live in fortified compounds heavily guarded by the IDF in the midst of 200,000 Palestinian inhabitants whose movements are heavily restricted.

Responding to the incident, Breaking the Silence director Avner Gvaryahu says, “Today the participants saw exactly what Birthright was trying to hide from them — a group of violent nationalists who are taking over the center of a Palestinian city.”

Trump notes Putin’s ‘powerful’ denial of vote meddling

US President Donald Trump refuses to criticize Vladimir Putin over election meddling, noting the Russian president’s “powerful” denial of any interference.

US intelligence agencies believe Putin ordered hackers and propagandists to intervene in the 2016 election to help Trump win, but the US leader appeared to side with the Russian.

“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today, and what he did is an incredible offer,” Trump says.

Putin, standing with Trump at a joint news conference, had just offered to allow US investigators to visit Russia to question 12 intelligence officers who were indicted last week by US special counsel Robert Mueller.


PM lauds Israel’s relations with US and Russia after Trump-Putin presser

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauds Israel’s relations with the United States and Russia after leaders of both countries said they talked about the importance of ensuring the Jewish state’s security during their meeting in Helsinki.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomes the deep commitment of the United States and President Trump to Israel’s security, as expressed in the meeting between President Trump and President Putin. The friendship between Israel and the US has never been stronger,” a statement from the PMO reads.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu also greatly appreciates the security coordination between Israel and Russia and President Putin’s clear position on the need to implement the 1974 separation agreements between Israel and Syria,” the PMO adds.

‘Incendiary falcon’ flown from Gaza ignites fire in southern Israel

A falcon with an ignited cloth attached to its tail has been found dead next to field that was torched near Habesor Stream in southern Israel.

An employee of the National Parks Authority found the bird stuck in a tree near the fire in what appeared to be the newest phenomenon of incendiary objects flown from Gaza with the intent of igniting fires in bordering Israeli communities.


Just 12% passed Israel Bar Association exam — report

Just 12% of those who took the Israel Bar Association exam last month managed to pass, Hadashot news reports.

Students tell the news channel that the bar association has purposefully made the exams extra difficult in order to prevent the continued flooding of the market with new lawyers.

The IBA has denied the claim.

Following quarrel with IDF chief, Bennett asserts Eisenkot’s job is to execute cabinet’s decisions

Education Minister Naftali Bennett asserts that the job of IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot is to execute the orders of the security cabinet.

“We have an excellent chief of staff,” he tells Hadashot news. “His job is to implement. He does not outline a policy.”

The comments came after an argument between the two of them, during Sunday’s cabinet meeting, that was leaked to the press.

In the heated discussion, Bennett asked Eisenkot why the army was not shooting to kill those launching incendiary objects into Israel. The IDF chief responded that this was not the military’s policy, given that the assailants are often young children.

US lawmakers blast ‘shameful’ Trump over Putin summit

US lawmakers blast President Donald Trump over his uncritical comments towards Russia during a landmark summit with Vladimir Putin, calling it “shameful,” “dangerous” and “verging on treason.”

Senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham describes Trump’s Helsinki summit and joint press conference with Putin as a “missed opportunity” to hold Russia accountable for meddling in the 2016 election.

Trump’s answer to a question on election interference, in which he attacked US Democrats rather than Moscow’s spies, “will be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness and create far more problems than it solves,” Graham charges.

Senator Jeff Flake, a fellow Republican and staunch critic of the president, labels his performance “shameful.”

“I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful,” he said in a tweet.

Representative Frank LoBiondo, a Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian election meddling, notes that just on Friday, US prosecutors indicted 12 Russian spies for hacking Democratic computers during the election.

“It is clear Russia’s intentions,” he says. “President Trump missed an opportunity to hold Putin publicly accountable.”

Democrats have much harsher language for the president.

Chuck Schumer, the senior Democrat in the Senate calls Trump’s appearance of siding with Putin over the allegations of election interference “dangerous and weak.”

“In the entire history of our country, Americans have never seen a president of the United States support an American adversary the way @realDonaldTrump has supported President Putin,” Schumer says.


Iran arrests 46 in fresh crackdowns on Instagram models

Iranian authorities have arrested dozens of people in fresh crackdowns on models and associated colleagues posting “immoral images” online.

The official IRNA news agency reported Monday that officials in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas, some 1,250 kilometers, or 630 miles, south of the capital Tehran, arrested eight women and 36 other people in the photography, beauty salons, and wedding businesses, who used Instagram to share what they considered indecent images and clips.

Police said they were “damaging public virtue through the organized spreading of anti-cultural” activities.

Iran conducts regular similar crackdowns to combat Western cultural influence that draws the ire of the Islamic Republic’s hard-liners.

— AP

Top US Republican to Trump: ‘Russia is not our ally’

Paul Ryan, the top Republican in the US House of Representatives, calls on President Donald Trump on Monday to accept that Russia is not an ally of the United States, and must be held accountable for meddling in the 2016 election.

“The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally,” Ryan says, after Trump refused to criticize President Vladimir Putin in a joint press conference, following their Helsinki summit.

“There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals,” Ryan, the House speaker, says in a statement.

“The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.”


Journalist killed in south Syria fighting — state media

A Syrian journalist working with a pro-regime television network has been killed in the southern province of Quneitra, where government forces are battling rebels, state media says.

Government forces have been bombarding rebel-held territory in the region, retaking the area of Masshara bordering the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights.

The journalist, Mustafa Salama, was killed in Quneitra province after “being injured by shelling from terrorist groups in the Masshara area,” the official SANA news agency reports.

The station he worked for described him as a “hero” and said he died “while covering the advance of the Syrian Arab Army on the Quneitra front.”

Since March 2011, more than 350,000 people have been killed in the conflict in Syria — the world’s deadliest country for media workers in recent years.


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