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IDF chief: Israel has ‘moral obligation’ to ready military response to Iran’s nukes

Days after Biden vowed Tehran would never achieve nuclear weapons, Aviv Kohavi says military ‘continues to prepare vigorously for an attack on Iran’

IDF chief Aviv Kohavi speaks at a ceremony marking the change of the Home Front Command's chief, July 16, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF chief Aviv Kohavi speaks at a ceremony marking the change of the Home Front Command's chief, July 16, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

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

IDF chief: Israel has ‘moral obligation’ to ready military response to Iran’s nukes

IDF chief Aviv Kohavi speaks at a ceremony marking the change of the Home Front Command's chief, July 16, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF chief Aviv Kohavi speaks at a ceremony marking the change of the Home Front Command's chief, July 16, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

In a speech at a ceremony marking the change of the military’s Home Front Command chief, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi says it is a “moral obligation and a national security order” to prepare a military response against Iran’s nuclear program.

“Preparing the home front for war is a task that must be accelerated in the coming years, especially in light of the possibility that we will be required to act against the nuclear threat,” Kohavi says.

“The IDF continues to prepare vigorously for an attack on Iran and must prepare for every development and every scenario,” he says.

Kohavi says “preparing a military option against the Iranian nuclear program is a moral obligation and a national security order,” adding that such preparation is “at the center” of the IDF’s preparations, and includes “a variety of operational plans, the allocation of many resources, the acquisition of appropriate weapons, intelligence and training.”

Poll shows Religious Zionism party would soar if headed by Ben-Gvir

MK Itamar Ben Gvir attends a march by right-wing activists through Jerusalem's Old City, April 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
MK Itamar Ben Gvir attends a march by right-wing activists through Jerusalem's Old City, April 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

A Channel 13 poll finds that if far-right MK Itamar Ben-Gvir takes the helm of the Religious Zionism party from current leader MK Bezalel Smotrich, the party will win 13 seats in the coming election, compared to a predicted 10 under Smotrich.

The extra three seats would shuffle the political map and give Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu 60 seats in his right-wing religious bloc of parties — still one short of a majority.

With Smotrich predicted to bring in just 10 seats, Netanyahu would have just 59 seats in his bloc, according to the poll. Netanyahu’s Likud would get 34 seats, followed by Yesh Atid with 22, Blue and White/New Hope 12, Religious Zionism 10, Shas 8, United Torah Judaism 7, the Joint List 6, Labor 6, Yisrael Beytenu 6, Meretz 5, and Ra’am 4.

The Yamina party now led by Ayelet Shaked was not predicted to cross the electoral threshold for entry into the Knesset.

Israeli TV polls are notably unreliable, but nevertheless often steer the decision-making of politicians. The poll, conducted by Prof. Camille Fox, sampled 703 respondents with a margin of error of 3.8 percent.

Gantz holds meeting with visiting CENTCOM chief

CENTCOM commander Michael Erik Kurilla (left) meets with Defense Minister Gantz (center) and military chief Aviv Kohavi (right), July 17, 2022. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Minstry)
CENTCOM commander Michael Erik Kurilla (left) meets with Defense Minister Gantz (center) and military chief Aviv Kohavi (right), July 17, 2022. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Minstry)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz meets the chief of the US Central Command, Michael Erik Kurilla.

“During my first meeting with CENTCOM Commander General Kurilla, I emphasized the unparalleled defense relations between Israel and the US, as reflected during the historic POTUS visit. I also highlighted CENTCOM’s important role in maintaining regional peace and stability,” Gantz says on Twitter.

“Our discussion today focused on developing regional challenges, including Iran’s destabilizing activities via proxies and in the maritime arena. We also covered opportunities to deepen military ties and to facilitate cooperation with regional partners,” he adds.

Earlier, Kurilla was greeted by military chief Aviv Kohavi.

“The joint interests of the United States and Israel and the continued confrontation with security challenges in the Middle East are a major reason for the close cooperation between the United States military and the IDF,” Kohavi says.

“In this context, we are advancing an innovative defense plan that will provide a broad and accurate operational response to the various threats in the area,” he adds.

Health Ministry site down; reports of Iraqi hacking

The Health Ministry’s website is suffering problems, and reports suggest it was targeted by Iraqi hackers.

The site is currently available to Israeli users, but intermittently unavailable to those abroad.

Three people who returned from abroad diagnosed with COVID BA.2.75 variant

Three people who returned from abroad have been confirmed as carriers of the new BA.2.75 subvariant of coronavirus, the Health Ministry says.

One returned from India and the other two from France.

The variant is thought to be highly contagious, though it is not clear whether it is more dangerous than previous mutations.

Police officer killed in early morning ramming laid to rest in Kfar Saba

Barak Meshulam, the police officer killed early this morning in a ramming in central Israel during a high-speed chase, is being laid to rest in his hometown of Kfar Saba.

Hundreds of people are taking part in the funeral. His mother eulogized him, calling him “the salt of the earth.”

“My boy was murdered,” she cries.

His widow Ariela says she “will tell every day what a father you were. You are my life, you are a hero.”

Biden: We’ll continue to support Israel’s integration in the region

Back in Washington following his first Middle East tour, having visited Israel and Saudi Arabia, US President Joe Biden tweets that the US “will continue to support Israel’s integration in the region” as well as “support efforts to negotiate a lasting peace between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people.”

Lapid instructs Treasury officials to propose solutions to bread price hike

Prime Minister Lapid says he has instructed Treasury officials to provide immediate proposals on stopping the price hikes for subsidized bread.

Lapid says he wants a complete halt to the price rise and has given officials three days to submit their proposals.

On Friday supermarket giants agreed to freeze the price hike on bread, following a request by Economy Minister Orna Barbivai for a reprieve.

Bread products with supervised, or limited, prices include sliced and unsliced white and dark loaves, as well as challah. The expected 20% price rise, which would have increased the cost of the common dark loaf bread from NIS 7.11 (approximately $2) to NIS 8.54 ($2.45), was set to go into effect today.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the rise in bread price is a result of a global food crisis linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is a major exporter of wheat.

Subsidized bread (Noam Moskowitz/Flash 90)

Iran pardons, commutes sentences for over 2,200 convicts

Iran’s supreme leader has pardoned or commuted the sentences of more than 2,200 prisoners, including some on death row, to mark two important Muslim feasts, official sources say.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “granted pardons or commuted the sentences of 2,272 convicts” for the Eid al-Adha and Ghadir religious holidays, which both fall this month, a statement on his website says.

The supreme leader routinely grants collective pardons on major religious occasions, in coordination with the head of the judiciary.

The judiciary’s website, Mizan Online, says 43 of the prisoners had been sentenced to death.

Last week, Muslims across the world celebrated Eid al-Adha, which marks the end of the hajj pilgrimage.

Top Iranian official: We have technical capabilities to manufacture nuclear bomb

An Iranian cleric looks at domestically built surface-to-surface missiles at a military show marking  the 40th anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution that toppled the US-backed shah, at Imam Khomeini Grand Mosque, in Tehran, Iran, on February 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
An Iranian cleric looks at domestically built surface-to-surface missiles at a military show marking the 40th anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution that toppled the US-backed shah, at Imam Khomeini Grand Mosque, in Tehran, Iran, on February 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

A top aide to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei says his country has “the technical capabilities to manufacture a nuclear bomb.”

Kamal Kharazi, the head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, tells Al Jazeera, “It is no secret that we have the technical capabilities to manufacture a nuclear bomb, but we have no decision to do so.”

He says negotiations on a return to the nuclear deal with the US are difficult due to distrust between the sides.

He claims that Israel “is in a phase of weakness, and US President Joe Biden’s support for it will not bring it back to the fore.”

He also warns that “targeting our security from neighboring countries will be met with a response to these countries and a direct response to Israel.”

Herzog offers condolences to slain cop’s family

President Isaac Herzog says he is “very sorrowful for the death of officer Barak Meshulam, who was run over and killed tonight during operational activity.

In a statement, Herzog says Israel Police officers “work night and day, and sometimes endanger their lives, for the security of civilians, and we are deeply grateful for this.”

He offers condolences to Meshulam’s family.

Lapid: Israel, US don’t ‘necessarily agree’ on need for military threat against Iran

Prime Minister Yair Lapid heads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on July 17, 2022. (video screenshot)
Prime Minister Yair Lapid heads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on July 17, 2022. (video screenshot)

At the weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Yair Lapid says the US and Israel do not “necessarily agree” on the need for a credible military threat against Iran at the present time,” Channel 13 reports.

“We came and asked to introduce a credible military threat during President Biden’s visit,” Lapid says. “We want the basis [for world power’s negotiations with Iran] to be a credible military threat. We didn’t necessarily agree on this with the Americans.”

He says he “made it clear to the president and his team that Israel opposes the nuclear deal and maintains complete freedom to act, diplomatically and operationally, in the face of the Iranian nuclear program.”

He calls Biden’s trip to Israel “a historic visit, with achievements in diplomacy, security and the economy.”

Fires scorch France, Spain; temperature-related deaths soar

Police block the access road as wildfire advances near a residential area in Alhaurin de la Torre, Malaga, Spain, Saturday, July 16, 2022 (AP Photo/Gregorio Marrero)
Police block the access road as wildfire advances near a residential area in Alhaurin de la Torre, Malaga, Spain, Saturday, July 16, 2022 (AP Photo/Gregorio Marrero)

Firefighters struggle to contain wildfires raging out of control in France and Spain as Europe wilts under an unusually extreme heat wave that authorities in Madrid link to a rise in excess mortality.

Two huge blazes that have been consuming pine forests for six days just south of the city of Bordeaux in southwest France have forced the evacuation of some 14,000 people, including many who were set to spend their vacation at campsites.

In Spain, firefighters supported by the armed forces’ emergency brigades are trying to stamp out over 30 fires consuming forests spread across the country. Spain’s National Defense Department says that “the majority” of its firefighting aircraft have been deployed. Many areas have rugged, hilly terrain that makes it difficult for ground crews to access.

Drought conditions in the Iberian Peninsula have made it particularly susceptible to wildfires, some caused by lightning, others by accident, and even some intentionally set, after a mass of hot air was blown up from Africa last week.

Abbas thanks Saudi leaders for ‘solidarity and firm stand by our people’

US President Joe Biden (L) is received by Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas in Bethlehem in the West Bank on July 15, 2022. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
US President Joe Biden (L) is received by Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas in Bethlehem in the West Bank on July 15, 2022. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sends a letter of thanks to Saudi leaders “for their commitment, solidarity and firm stand by our people” during the weekend summit with US President Joe Biden.

According to PA news agency Wafa, Abbas conveys thanks to the king and crown prince for “their support for the national rights of our people and their just cause, emphasizing the end of the Israeli occupation of our land and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and thanks to the sister countries participating in the summit for their firm and capable positions towards the Palestinian cause.”

Lapid hangs Jerusalem Declaration signed by Biden in cabinet meeting room

Prime Minister Yair Lapid hangs up the so-called Jerusalem Declaration sisnged by Israel and the US in the cabinet meeting room in Jerusalem, July 17, 2022 (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Yair Lapid hangs up the so-called Jerusalem Declaration sisnged by Israel and the US in the cabinet meeting room in Jerusalem, July 17, 2022 (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s office issues a photo of him hanging up the so-called Jerusalem Declaration in the cabinet meeting room in Jerusalem.

The declaration signed by Lapid and US President Joe Biden during the latter’s visit last week said Washington will “use all elements of its national power” to ensure Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon.

Lapid says he is hanging the statement “in the place intended for historical declarations.”

UAE sentences former Khashoggi lawyer to 3 years in prison

The United Arab Emirates has sentenced an American citizen and the former lawyer of Jamal Khashoggi — the dissident Saudi journalist who was killed at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018 — to three years in prison on charges of money laundering and tax evasion.

The lawyer, US citizen Asim Ghafoor, will be deported, the UAE’s state-run WAM news agency reports, without saying when. The Abu Dhabi Money Laundering Court also ordered that Ghafoor pay a fine of $816,748.

The UAE framed Ghafoor’s arrest as a coordinated move with the US to “combat transnational crimes.” Emirati state-run media said American authorities had requested the UAE’s help with an investigation into Ghafoor’s alleged tax evasion and suspicious money transfers in the Emirates.

Police: Palestinian suspected of murder in killing of cop during chase

The scene of a fatal ramming on Route 4, near Ra'anana, in the early morning of July 17, 2022. (Israel Police)
The scene of a fatal ramming on Route 4, near Ra'anana, in the early morning of July 17, 2022. (Israel Police)

Police say the 17-year-old Palestinian arrested in the ramming of police officer Barak Meshulam earlier today is suspected of murder.

He will be brought before a judge later today for an extension of his remand.

The 29-year-old Meshulam’s funeral will be held in Kfar Saba at 6 p.m.

Meshulam was killed in the early morning when when he was rammed at a checkpoint by a stolen vehicle allegedly driven by the Palestinian teenager, who is suspected of stealing it in the Tel Aviv area. He was being pursued by police when he ran over Meshulam at a checkpoint on Route 4, near the city of Ra’anana.

Meshulam was married and had two children.

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