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

Jewish Agency head urges Corbyn to launch external probe of Labour anti-Semitism

Jewish Agency chief Isaac Herzog urges UK Labour party head Jeremy Corbyn to form an external investigative committee to probe allegations of anti-Semitism in the party.

Herzog, in a letter to Corbyn, refers to a recent BBC program on Labour’s handling of anti-Semitism claims, calling the party’s treatment of allegations “scandalous.”

“It is difficult to grasp the reckless and dismissive manner in which party institutions treated members who distributed anti-Semitic imagery or engaged in anti-Semitic slander,” he writes.

Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog speaks during the main ceremony of the March of the Living, at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp at Oswiecim, Poland, May 2, 2019. (March of the Living feed screen capture)

Herzog, a former head of Israel’s Labor party, speaks out against the “demonization” of Israel and a double standard no other country is subjected to.

He urges an immediate and thorough investigation after which “British Jews will be able to once again feel safe and wanted in Labour, as they were before.”

Daily Mail defends story linking Israel’s Barak to Epstein

The Daily Mail defends its decision to publish photos of former prime minister Ehud Barak entering the mansion of disgraced US financier Jeffrey Epstein in 2016.

The US-based says it stands by the story “100 percent.” (The article has not appeared in the main Daily Mail tabloid newspaper in Britain.)

Barak’s lawyers wrote to the Daily Mail on Wednesday demanding that it retract Tuesday’s story and pay “substantial damages to vindicate his reputation and compensate him.”

Screenshot of Daily Mail website showing article relating to Ehud Barak, July 16, 2019

But the Mail says it “stands by its recent story concerning Ehud Barak’s relationship with the convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein 100 percent… We note that Mr Barak’s assertion that he was not party to Mr Epstein’s illegal activities is a denial of a claim we have never made.”

— with AFP

24 dead in suspected arson attack on Japan animation studio

A suspected arson attack on an animation production company in Japan has killed 24 people and injured dozens more on Thursday, with flames gutting the building in the city of Kyoto.

Police say the fierce blaze appeared to have been started deliberately, but there is no immediate information on a possible motive.

If arson is confirmed, the attack will be among the deadliest criminal acts in decades in Japan, where violent crime is very rare.


Gantz: World must respond with strength to Iran’s seizure of tanker

Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz responds to news Iran has seized an oil tanker in the Persian Gulf.

“It’s time the world, and particularly European countries, woke up,” he says. “Some things must be nipped in the bud, and with strength.”

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz speaks at a press conference in Tel Aviv on June 26, 2019. (Flash90)

“The Iranians must know Israel can and will defend itself, and the world must send a similar message.”

MDA paramedics prepare faith groups in Milwaukee to respond to attacks

Israel’s EMT service Magen David Adom this week carried out a training seminar in Milwaukee on response to attacks on public religious institutions.

The training session was held in response to recent attacks in schools and houses of worship in the US.

Magend David Adom says it is uniquely trained in responding to such attacks due to its experience with terror attacks in Israel.

Organizers say over 150 people from dozens of faith-based groups completed the course.

Magen David Adom paramedic Raphael Herbst during a training course in Milwaukee, July 2019 (MDA)

“Unfortunately, over the years, we had a lot of experience with terrible events and one of the things that we saw is everybody can save lives,” MDA paramedic Raphael Herbst tells ABC News. “It doesn’t matter if you’re Christian, Muslim, religious, nonreligious, it’s for everyone. Every human being should be able to know how to save people’s lives.”

Turkey calls on US to reverse decision on F-35 exclusion

Washington’s decision to exclude Turkey from an American-led fighter jet program goes against the “spirit of alliance,” the Turkish government says, calling on its NATO ally to reverse the decision.

In a major break with a longtime ally, US President Donald Trump’s administration on Wednesday said Turkey is being kicked out of the F-35 program because it is buying the Russian S-400 air defense system. The United States says the S-400 would compromise the F-35 program and aid Russian intelligence.

In a statement, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry rejects that assertion.

An F-35 fighter plane flies over the White House on June 12, 2019, in Washington DC (Eric Baradat/AFP)

“This unilateral step is incompatible with the spirit of alliance and is not based on any legitimate justification,” the ministry said. “Not only is it unfair to keep Turkey out of a program of which it is a partner but the claim that the S-400 will weaken the F-35 is invalid.”

The ministry says: “We call on the United States to come back from this mistake that will cause irreparable damage to our strategic ties.”

— AP

UK lawmakers impede path to no-deal Brexit with new motion

British lawmakers have put a roadblock in the path of any attempt to take Britain out of the European Union without a divorce deal.

The House of Commons has passed a motion that stops the government from suspending Parliament in the weeks before the UK’s scheduled October 31 departure date.

Boris Johnson, who is likely to be elected Britain’s new prime minister next week, has not ruled out such a suspension if lawmakers try to block his Brexit plan. He says the country must leave the EU on schedule, even if that means quitting the bloc without a divorce deal.

Conservative MP and leadership contender Boris Johnson takes part in a Conservative Party Hustings event in Perth, Scotland, on July 5, 2019. (Andy Buchanan/AFP)

Most economists say a no-deal Brexit would batter the economy, and a majority of lawmakers opposes leaving without an agreement.

The 315-274 Commons vote saw several ministers abstain rather than support the government’s call to keep suspending Parliament as an option.

— AP

33 dead in suspected arson attack on Japan animation studio

A suspected arson attack at an animation production company in Japan has killed 33 people and injured dozens more, after a man reportedly doused the building with flammable liquid and shouted “drop dead.”

A motive for the apparent attack remains unclear hours after the blaze. If arson is confirmed, the attack will be among the deadliest criminal acts in decades in Japan, where violent crime is extremely rare.

The fire gutted the three-story building in the city of Kyoto that housed Kyoto Animation, behind famous anime television productions. The incident sparked an outpouring of support from the industry and fans worldwide, including a viral fundraising campaign.


Dad of Ethiopian-Israeli killed by cop slams ‘false reports slandering’ his son

The father of an Ethiopian-Israeli teenager killed last month by a policeman denounces what he called “false reports” slandering his son, following the release of the autopsy results.

Solomon Tekah, 19, was shot dead by an off-duty officer in Haifa on June 30. The officer, who has not publicly been named, has maintained he was trying to break up a street fight and was set upon by three youths who hurled stones at him, endangering his life.

According to the autopsy, Tekah had drunk alcohol prior to the shooting and the bullet ricocheted off the ground before killing him, corroborating the officer’s account. The autopsy also showed that he had smoked cannabis, Channel 12 news reported.

Speaking during a press conference at Bar-Ilan University, Worka Tekah assails “the false reports slandering Solomon’s name” and criticized authorities over their conduct in the aftermath of the shooting.

“We had hope that law enforcement would investigate and arrive at the truth but instead we have come to slander and harm to his reputation,” he said through a translator. “How can one desecrate the name of a man buried in the earth and is incapable of defending himself and clearing his name? They are killing my son for a second time,” Tekah adds.

He calls for the probe into the officer to be conducted “without any bias” and said the family lacked faith in law enforcement.

IDF soldier indicted for selling weapons and ammunition to Bedouin villagers

An IDF soldier has been indicted for stealing weapons and ammunition from his army base and selling them to a pair of residents from the village of Ar’ara, the army says.

The 22-year-old Netanya resident was arrested several weeks ago along with the two Ar’ara residents. They all remain behind bars.

In exchange for tens of thousands of shekels, the suspect sold both automatic and semi-automatic rifles and thousands of bullets.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry says it’s probing envoy to Palestinians who ‘liked’ anti-Israel tweets

Germany’s Foreign Ministry says it has opened an investigation after learning the head of the country’s mission to the Palestinians had “liked” anti-Israel tweets.

Bild newspaper reported that the “likes” came from the verified Twitter account of German diplomat Christian Clages, titled “Germany in Ramallah.”

The multiple “likes” included one for a video praising an attack by Palestinians on Israeli soldiers, and another for a tweet downplaying rock-throwing by Palestinians, a tactic which has killed several Israelis and wounded many others.

The latter tweet showed photos of Brazilian soccer player Neimar during an exaggerated reaction to a foul, and said “Israeli soldiers when a Palestinian kid throws a rock at their tank.”

On 25th anniversary of AMIA bombing, Argentina declares Hezbollah a terror group

Argentinian authorities announce that they have designated the armed Lebanese group Hezbollah as a terror organization.

The announcement comes as Buenos Aires marks the 25th anniversary of the AMIA Jewish center bombing that killed 85 people.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has pushed for the move along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is currently in Argentina.

Cypriot mayor where Israelis allegedly gang-raped a British tourist calls for tighter rules on alcohol sales

The mayor of a Cypriot resort town where 12 Israelis were arrested on suspicion of raping a British tourist is calling for tighter rules on alcohol sales and noise pollution following the alleged incident.

Speaking with the Eastern Mediterranean island country’s Omega TV channel, Ayia Napa Mayor Yiannis Karouzos says that although bars and other establishments close at 3:30 a.m., people are still able to purchase alcohol from convenience stores, leading to potentially unruly behavior.

Karouzos complains that the convenience stores operate with little oversight or regulations and called for legislation to address noise made by tourists late into the night.

Earlier Thursday, the 12 suspects were remanded in custody for an additional eight days.

Rights group probe concludes 9-year-old Palestinian shot in head by live IDF fire

The B’Tselem rights group announces that its investigation into the head injury of a 9-year-old Palestinian from the northern West Bank village of Qadum has concluded that it was caused by IDF live fire.

After the boy’s serious injury was first reported following last week’s clash, the IDF said that it had not been the result of live fire.

Responding to the B’Tselem report, the army says it has opened a probe into the incident.

Denied bail, Jeffrey Epstein to remain jailed as he awaits sex crimes trial

A federal judge in the US has denied bail for Jeffrey Epstein, who is being accused of child sex trafficking.

The disgraced financier will remain behind bars as he awaits trial.

In making his decision, US District Judge Richard M. Berman sides with prosecutors who argued that Epstein poses a danger to society and is a flight risk given the foreign passport he has in his possession.

US sanctions 2 Iran-linked militia leaders in Iraq

US Vice President Mike Pence says that the United States is imposing sanctions on the leaders of two Iranian-linked militia groups in Iraq.

“Let me be clear, the United States will not stand idly while Iranian-backed militias spread terror,” Pence tells a high-level meeting on religious freedom, without naming the individuals targeted.


Labor chairman to hold ‘dramatic’ press conference in an hour

Labor chairman Amir Peretz says he will be holding a “dramatic” press conference in an hour at Tel Aviv’s Beit Sokolov.

Peretz has been in talks with the Meretz party, led by Nitzan Horovitz, about a possible merger in recent weeks.

Rouhani urges Macron to ‘accelerate’ efforts to save Iran nuclear deal

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urges French President Emmanuel Macron in a phone call to “accelerate” efforts to save the Iran nuclear deal.

“We are determined to leave all doors open to save the nuclear deal… The Europeans should accelerate their efforts to salvage the pact,” Rouhani says.

— with AFP

Peretz reportedly set to announce new members to party at presser, not alliance with Meretz

Labor chairman Amir Peretz will announce the addition of at least one new member to the party in a press conference later this evening, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

There had been speculation that Peretz was going to announce a merger with Meretz.

Orly Levy-Abekasis said set to run with Labor party in election

Labor chairman Amir Peretz will announce at a press conference later this evening that former MK Orly Levy-Abekasis and her party Gesher will run on a joint slate with Labor in the upcoming election, according to multiple media reports.

Levy-Abekasis ran in the April elections as the head of the Gesher party, which focused on socio-economic issues, but failed to cross the electoral threshold.

Meretz laments Labor chief’s ‘destroying possibility of mergers on the left’

Meretz laments Labor’s apparent decision to merge with Orly Levy-Abekasis’s Gesher in the upcoming election.

Peretz “is repeating the mistake of [former chairman] Avi Gabbay and is destroying the possibility of mergers in the left-wing bloc,” the party says in a statement.

“In the moment of truth Peretz decided to repeat the mistake of his predecessor and refused an alliance between Meretz and Labor.”

Levy-Abekasis was previously a member of the hard-right Yisrael Beytenu party. Though she largely focuses on social issues, she has remained largely identified with the right.

Report: Tzipi Livni refused offers from Peretz and Barak to join their parties

Former Hatnua party chief Tzipi Livni rejected offers from Labor chief Amir Peretz and Israel Democratic Party Ehud Barak to run in their parties in the upcoming election, Ynet reports.

Hatnua party chief Tzipi Livni holds a press conference in Tel Aviv on February 18, 2019, announcing her departure from politics. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Israeli and Bahraini FMs take joint photo in Washington

In a rare sign of improving ties, Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz takes a photograph with his Bahraini counterpart, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa.

US Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt tweets a photo of the two in Washington, notes a “friendly exchange” between the two and hails it as “terrific progress.”

Labor’s Amir Peretz and Orly Levy-Abekasis announce joint run in election

Gesher party head Orly Levy-Abekasis is holding a press conference with Labor chief Amir Peretz as they announce their parties will merge for the September 17 election.

According to Channel 12 news, Gesher will receive three seats in the joint slate’s first 10 spots. It is not clear where exactly party members will be placed.

Levy-Abekasis: Time to let go of ‘left’ and ‘right,’ come together for country

At their press conference, Peretz praises Levy-Abekasis as a fighter for social rights, “a ground-breaking woman” who has always impressed him with her “inspiring” work for the public.

Levy-Abekasis says she received merger offers from right and left but “when the offer came from Amir it felt natural to me to bring down the walls and look at what unites and connects us…it’s time we let go of the terms ‘right’ and ‘left’ and came together for the good of the country.”

She adds that some offers were “more enticing and safer, but I preferred to go with someone I could trust. He’s proven himself in the past.”

Amir Peretz said to tell associates: No merger with Ehud Barak’s party

According to the Ynet news site, Labor chair Amir Peretz has told associates in private conversations that his party will not run alongside Ehud Barak’s Israel Democratic Party in the upcoming election.

Trump says not happy with backers’ ‘send her back’ chant

US President Donald Trump says he was unhappy with his supporters chanting “send her back” after he assailed a young Democratic congresswoman who he’s suggested should leave the US.

Speaking in the Oval Office, Trump claims he tried to stop the chant, which came after he recited a litany of complaints about Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who fled to the US as a child with her family from violence-wracked Somalia.

Video shows the president pausing his remarks, appearing to drink in the uproar and not admonishing his supporters as they chanted.

“I was not happy with it,” Trump says after some prominent Republicans criticized the chant at the president’s reelection event. He says he “would certainly try” to stop the chant should it return at a subsequent rally.

— AP

Bennett won’t vote to disband Knesset again: ‘Israel will exist after Netanyahu’

New Right party chief Naftali Bennett tells Channel 12 news that he will not vote to disband the Knesset again should Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fail to form a coalition after the September 19 election.

“I will vote against disbanding the Knesset…it won’t happen,” he says in excerpts from an interview. “The State of Israel existed before Netanyahu and will exist after him.”

He adds that there are currently “five, six or seven” politicians who could do a good job as prime minister other than Netanyahu.

It is not clear whether Bennett’s resolve will matter: his party failed to clear the electoral threshold in the last national vote in April and he is currently outside the Knesset.

Report: URWP chief Rafi Peretz being pressured to move aside for Ayelet Shaked

Officials in the Union of Right-Wing Parties are increasingly pressuring chairman Rafi Peretz to move aside and allow former justice minister Ayelet Shaked to lead the Knesset slate into the election, Channel 12 news reports.

The popular Shaked has reportedly demanded the No. 1 spot as a condition to join the alliance.

Education Minister Rafi Peretz arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on June 30, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Peretz has refused to budge, but Channel 12 says he is becoming more and more isolated in that position.

Shaked ran alongside Naftali Bennett in the New Right party in the April election, but their slate fell just shy of the required number of votes to enter the legislature.

Katz says he and Bahraini FM discussed ‘Iran, regional threats’

Foreign Minister Israel Katz calls his photographed meeting with Bahrain’s FM “Another example of our growing diplomatic connections.”

A statement from Katz’s office adds that “The two discussed Iran and regional threats and cooperation between the nations, and agreed to maintain contact.”

It says Katz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have agreed “to promote normalization and a push for peace agreements between Israel and the Gulf’s Arab nations in the coming years.”

— with Raphael Ahren

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