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UK spy chief doubts Iran supreme leader will back nuclear deal

‘The deal is absolutely on the table but I don’t think the Iranians want it,’ MI6 director tells security forum

Richard Moore, the Chief of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6, in London, November 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Richard Moore, the Chief of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6, in London, November 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

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

Gantz: Elected officials’ support for attempts to build illegal outposts is ‘grave’

Defense Minister Benny Gantz lauds security forces for “acting professionally and decisively in the past two days, stopping the establishment of illegal outposts” in the West Bank.

He says the fact that some elected officials supported and encouraged such lawbreaking “is very grave and worthy of condemnation.”

He may be referencing several members of the far-right Religious Zionism party who took part in some of the events. But Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, a former justice minister, also tweeted her support yesterday, calling the youth who attempted to illegally establish communities “wonderful” and “a true inspiration.”

Jerusalem Film Festival opens at capital’s Sultan’s Pool

The Jerusalem Film Festival opens this evening, running through July 31.

The festival will shocase over 200 Israeli and international films, ranging from director David Cronenberg’s sci-fi return to the big screen, to several South Korean flicks, a Leonard Cohen documentary, a stream of dystopian and dark fantasy tales, and a dreamy tour of modern-day Tahiti.

The first international film of the event is Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund’s “Triangle of Sadness,” opening the festival today with an outdoor screening at Jerusalem’s Sultan’s Pool.

Lapid speaks with Bahrain’s crown prince

Prime Minister Lapid spoke earlier with Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa. The latter congratulated the Israeli prime minister on his new post and wished him luck, the Prime Minister’s Office says.

The PMO says the two discussed closer cooperation in various areas.

Calls grow for Iran morality police to change course

In a rare move, Iranian newspapers today criticized the country’s morality police, tasked with ensuring respect for Islamic laws, after a viral video of a woman pleading for her daughter to be released.

The criticism emerged as public debate about the hijab, a required female head covering, resurfaced after local media reported measures that may indicate tighter controls.

Morality officers became a much less common sight after moderate president Hassan Rouhani came to power in 2013, but the force has had a renewed presence over the past weeks under his successor, ultraconservative Ebrahim Raisi.

The video, widely shared on social media in Iran, showed a woman standing in front of a green-striped white van of Tehran’s morality police — commonly known as Gasht-e Ershad, or “guidance patrol.” She screamed that her daughter, allegedly being carried away in the van, is ill.

The veiled women kept holding on to the vehicle, trying to stop it as it started moving slowly, before eventually being pulled aside. The van sped away.

Biden says ‘doing great’ after COVID diagnosis

President Joe Biden says he is “doing great” after the White House announced he had contracted COVID-19 and was isolating with mild symptoms.

“Folks, I’m doing great,” Biden tweets, above a picture showing him seated at his desk, smiling, with smartphones and documents laid out in front of him. “Thanks for your concern. Keeping busy!”

At Japan embassy, Lapid writes note for Abe: ‘A brave leader, true friend of Israel’

Prime Minister Lapid visits Japan's embassy in Israel and writes a note of consolation for slain former prime minister Shinzo Abe, July 21, 2022 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Lapid visits Japan's embassy in Israel and writes a note of consolation for slain former prime minister Shinzo Abe, July 21, 2022 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Lapid visits Japan’s embassy to Israel and writes a note of consolation for slain former prime minister Shinzo Abe.

“In the name of the people of Israel I offer my deepest condolences to his family and loved ones… and the entire Japanese people,” Lapid writes.

“Shinzo Abe was a brave and value-driven leader. He was a true friend of Israel who did much to mold the relationship between Israel and Japan. He left behind an eternal legacy.”

Lapid also sat down for a meeting with Ambassador Koichi Mizushima.

Lapid says Israel to dispatch team to Russia amid Jewish Agency crisis

Prime Minister Yair Lapid says a team will be sent to Russia next week to ensure the continued operations of the Jewish Agency in Russia.

The delegation will include members of the Prime Minister’s Office, Foreign Ministry, Justice Ministry and Immigration and Absorption Ministry.

Concluding a meeting with Foreign Ministry and National Security Council officials, Lapid says: “The Jewish community in Russia is deeply connected to Israel and its importance is raised in every diplomatic conversation with Russian leadership. We will continue to act through diplomatic channels so the agency’s important work does not stop.”

Search teams find body of man sucked under swimming pool

Search teams have found the body of the man who was sucked into the earth under a ruptured swimming pool in Karmei Yosef earlier, after hours of efforts to locate him.

UK spy chief doubts Iran supreme leader will back nuclear deal

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses the nation in a televised speech marking the Iranian New Year, in Tehran, Iran, March 21, 2021. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses the nation in a televised speech marking the Iranian New Year, in Tehran, Iran, March 21, 2021. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Britain’s spy chief voices doubt that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will back a return to the 2015 nuclear accord despite marathon negotiations.

“I don’t think the supreme leader of Iran wants to cut a deal. The Iranians won’t want to end the talks either so that they could run on for a bit,” MI6 chief Richard Moore tells the Aspen Security Forum.

“I think the deal is absolutely on the table. And the European powers and the administration here are very, very clear on that. And I don’t think that the Chinese and Russians on this issue would block it. But I don’t think the Iranians want it,” Moore says.

IDF launches major engineering drive to strengthen defenses along West Bank border

In this image issued by the Israeli military on July 21, 2022, engineering vehicles work to dig a trench along the border with the West Bank in the Judaean Desert area. (Israel Defense Forces)
In this image issued by the Israeli military on July 21, 2022, engineering vehicles work to dig a trench along the border with the West Bank in the Judaean Desert area. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces has launched a major engineering operation to strengthen defenses along the border with the West Bank, after several terror attacks earlier this year were committed by Palestinians who easily managed to cross the security fence.

The IDF says 60 engineering vehicles and three battalions led by the commander of the military’s Combat Engineering Corp, Brig. Gen. Ido Mizrahi, are working to build a barrier in the Judaean Desert area of the West Bank.

The plan includes digging a deep trench over dozens of kilometers to prevent the passage of people and vehicles.

Five kilometers of the trench have already been dug, in coordination with the Nature and Parks Authority and the Antiquities Authority, the IDF says.

“Along with forces in the area, we are protecting an area that several months ago was totally open,” says the engineering commander of the IDF’s Central Command, Col. Ido Journo. “I believe this plan will prevent the passage of [people for] terror attacks as well as criminal activity.”

Last month the Defense Ministry began to upgrade a section of the barrier in the northern West Bank, and in April, the IDF began to patch up holes in other areas of the fence.

Searches ongoing for man sucked into earth below swimming pool

Searches continue for a missing person in Karmei Yosef where a sinkhole opened up below a swimming pool during a party earlier.

Teams have identified “tunnels” in the earth under the pool and are searching through them, officials say.

“The longer it takes the chances go down but we are still hoping to find him alive,” a spokesman for police says. “There is a great depth [under the ground] with paths in many directions. The suspicion is he was sucked into one of them.”

Ukraine war must end to prevent nuclear ‘abyss’ — Belarus leader

Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko looks on during a press conference in Minsk on August 9, 2021. (Pavel Orlovsky/Belta/AFP)
Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko looks on during a press conference in Minsk on August 9, 2021. (Pavel Orlovsky/Belta/AFP)

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko says Russia, Ukraine and the West must agree to halt the Ukraine conflict to avoid the “abyss of nuclear war” and insists Kyiv should accept Moscow’s demands.

“We must stop, reach an agreement, end this mess, operation and war in Ukraine,” Lukashenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top ally, tells AFP in Minsk.

“Let’s stop and then we will figure out how to go on living,” he says. “There’s no need to go further. Further lies the abyss of nuclear war. There’s no need to go there.”

Lukashenko accuses the West of seeking a conflict with Russia and of provoking the Ukraine war.

“You have fomented the war and are continuing it,” he says. “If Russia had not got ahead of you, members of NATO, you would have organized and struck a blow against it.”

Biden tests positive for COVID-19, has ‘mild symptoms’

US President Joe Biden speaks to members of the media after exiting Air Force One, July 20, 2022, at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Joe Biden speaks to members of the media after exiting Air Force One, July 20, 2022, at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

US President Joe Biden has tested positive for COVID-19, underscoring the persistence of the highly contagious virus as new variants challenge the nation’s efforts to resume normalcy after two and a half years of pandemic disruptions.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre says that Biden is experiencing “mild symptoms” and has begun taking Paxlovid, an antiviral drug designed to reduce the severity of the disease.

She says Biden “will isolate at the White House and will continue to carry out all of his duties fully during that time.”

Biden, 79, is fully vaccinated, after getting two doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine shortly before taking office, a first booster shot in September and an additional dose March 30.

IDF chief concludes Morocco trip, invites counterparts to Israel

IDF chief Aviv Kohavi and head of Intelligence Research Amit Saar meet with Moroccan military officials, July 20, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF chief Aviv Kohavi and head of Intelligence Research Amit Saar meet with Moroccan military officials, July 20, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF head Aviv Kohavi wraps up his trip to Morocco, the first for an Israeli army chief.

Kohavi returned to Israel a short while ago, after his three-day visit to the North African nation with the military’s international cooperation commander, Effie Defrin, and the head of the Intelligence Research Division, Amit Saar.

The IDF says Kohavi has invited senior Moroccan military officials to visit Israel.

“This unique visit is a result of a shared history, a deep friendship and a promising future. The deep and special bond between our nations is not just a bond between governments and militaries, but a bond between individual people, families and cultures,” Kohavi says in remarks provided by the IDF.

“Our common values and challenges create a strong foundation for the deep cooperation between our militaries at the strategic, intelligence and operational levels. This visit is another example of the historic change in the region and the role the IDF has in creating future partnerships,” he adds.

Gantz meets with US cyber official at Aspen Security Forum

Defense Minister Benny Gantz is taking part in the Aspen Security Forum, meeting with Anne Neuberger, deputy US national security advisor for cyber and emerging technology.

“We discussed Israel’s strategic challenges and regional security issues, particularly in the cyber arena,” he tweets.

Report: Mossad caught, interrogated senior IRGC member in Iran

The Saudi-sponsored London-based TV channel Iran International claims Israel’s Mossad spy agency captured a senior member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on Iranian territory, interrogated him and had him confess “to his role in sending weapons to other countries.”

The channel’s report on Yadollah Khedmati cannot be verified and its sourcing is unclear.

Facebook removes Afghan media pages controlled by Taliban

Facebook has removed the accounts of at least two state-owned media outlets in Afghanistan, the company confirms, saying it is complying with laws in the United States listing the Taliban as a “terrorist organization.”

The Taliban have made liberal use of Facebook and Twitter since seizing power in August last year, and have a firm grip on state-owned media in the country — including radio and TV stations, and newspapers.

“The Taliban is sanctioned as a terrorist organization under US law and they are banned from using our services,” a Meta spokesperson says. “We remove accounts maintained by or on behalf of the Taliban and prohibit praise, support, and representation of them.”

Security cameras to replace international peacekeepers at Red Sea islands — report

This photo taken on January 14, 2014, through the window of an airplane, shows the Red Sea's Tiran (foreground) and the Sanafir (background) islands in the Strait of Tiran between Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and Saudi Arabia. (Stringer/AFP)
This photo taken on January 14, 2014, through the window of an airplane, shows the Red Sea's Tiran (foreground) and the Sanafir (background) islands in the Strait of Tiran between Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and Saudi Arabia. (Stringer/AFP)

Security cameras will replace the departing international peacekeepers on a pair of Saudi Red Sea islands, Reuters reports.

The news agency cites an unidentified official in one of the countries involved in the recent deal involving the US, Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to give the Saudis great control over the islands.

US President Joe Biden announced the planned withdrawal of the multinational observer force earlier this month, paving the way for the Saudis to allow Israeli airlines to fly over their territory while heading east.

Saudi Arabia has for years sought sovereignty over the islands in order to develop them as a tourist zone, and Egypt agreed to relinquish them, but Israel’s approval was needed for the transfer to go through.

Tiran and Sanafir were previously held by Israel, which agreed to transfer them to Egypt as part of their 1979 peace treaty on the grounds that a multinational observer force be stationed there and that it would receive assurances for freedom of transport around the islands.

Diaspora minister: Punishing Jewish Agency for Israel’s stance on war ‘deplorable’

Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai attends the Jewish People's Lobby, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on November 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai attends the Jewish People's Lobby, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on November 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli ministers rail against the decision by the Russian government to attempt to halt the Jewish Agency’s activities in the country, with one saying it is retaliation for Israel’s support of Ukraine, which Moscow invaded earlier this year.

“Russian Jews will not be held hostage by the war in Ukraine. The attempt to punish the Jewish Agency for Israel’s stance on the war is deplorable and offensive,” says Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai.

“The Jews of Russia cannot be detached from their historical and emotional connection to the State of Israel,” he says.

Immigration and Absorptions Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata says she is working with the prime minister and the Foreign Ministry to address the matter.

“There is no justifiable reason for halting the [Jewish] Agency’s operations, and there are therefore diplomatic efforts underway to clarify the situation and resolve the matter accordingly,” Tamano-Shata says.

“As we have known how to cooperate with Russian authorities for many decades, I have no doubt that we will find appropriate solutions,” she adds.

One man injured, another missing after sinkhole opens up at private pool

One man has been injured and another is missing after a sinkhole opened up in a inground pool at a home in central Israel.

The incident occurred during a pool party.

Rescue teams are at the scene in Karmei Yosef. One person in his thirties is being treated with bruises to his extremities. Another is missing and may have been dragged down into the earth by the receding pool water.

Russian state media: Moscow moves to ‘dissolve’ Jewish Agency operations

File: A view of the Kremlin with Spasskaya Tower and St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, Russia, June 20, 2020 (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
File: A view of the Kremlin with Spasskaya Tower and St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, Russia, June 20, 2020 (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

The Russian Justice Ministry has officially called for the Jewish Agency’s operations in the country to be “dissolved,” filing an appeal to that effect with the district court in Moscow, according to state media.

“The court received a lawsuit filed by the main department of the Ministry of Justice in Moscow on the dissolution of the… Jewish Agency,” the court says in a statement that was carried by the Russian outlet RIA.

This represents a significant step forward in Russia’s campaign against the Israeli quasi-governmental organization, which facilitates and encourages Jewish immigration to Israel.

The first hearing of this lawsuit is scheduled to be held on July 28.

Late last month, Russian authorities informed the Jewish Agency in a letter that they planned to take legal action against the group. The Jewish Agency initially sought to address this matter quietly and alone, but has since called in the Israeli Foreign Ministry to intervene on its behalf.

The Jewish Agency maintains that in the meantime it is working as normal in Russia.

The aggressive posturing by the Russian government is seen as highly unusual, coming in apparent retaliation for Israel’s stance on Moscow’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine and for Israel’s ongoing campaign against Iran in Syria, which Russia at times opposes.

Supreme Court okays revoking citizenship of terrorists

Illustrative: Security prisoners during a visit session at Ofer Prison near Ramallah, August 20, 2008 (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
Illustrative: Security prisoners during a visit session at Ofer Prison near Ramallah, August 20, 2008 (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

The Supreme Court rules that the state can revoke the citizenship of those who carry out terror attacks and commit other actions that constitute breach of trust against the State of Israel.

The court rules that carrying out terror attacks, actions that constitute treason, severe espionage, or acquiring citizenship with the right for permanent residency in an enemy state would constitute this kind of breach of trust.

The ruling states that citizens who carry out such actions can have their citizenship revoked even if they have no other citizenship, but said that the interior minister would then be obligated to provide that person with a residency permit.

Right-wing lawmakers warmly welcome the ruling. Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman says that a situation in which citizens can “commit cruel acts of terrorism [and] hold Israeli citizenship is intolerable” and he praises the court for “ending this absurdity.”

Police forces working to evacuate newly established settlement outpost

Police forces are evacuating the brand new “Givat Netanel” illegal settlement outpost, according to the Nachala organization which established it.

A spokesperson for the group, which tried to set up seven new outposts on Wednesday, says the evacuation of the hundreds of activists at the site began in the last hour and is being conducted very slowly.

At the same time more activists are making their way to the outpost.

A spokesperson for the West Bank police district says such operations are complex and need to be conducted “wisely and patiently.”

The Nachala activists are likely to move on to new sites after being evacuated from Givat Netanel. This is one of the tactics relayed by Nachala operatives to the activists during the course of Wednesday.

Kahana on Netanyahu: He won’t take responsibility for Meron, shouldn’t lead country

Opposition leader former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to testify before the Meron Disaster Inquiry Committee, in Jerusalem, on July 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition leader former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to testify before the Meron Disaster Inquiry Committee, in Jerusalem, on July 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

After former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu denies responsibility for last year’s Meron disaster, Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana, who oversaw this year’s event, lashes out at the opposition leader.

“A person who will not take responsibility should not seek to steer the country,” Kahana tweets of Netanyahu’s efforts to regain the premiership in the coming November election.

Netanyahu earlier told the state commission of inquiry into the events that he had not been aware of critical safety issues at the annual event.

“I take responsibility for what was in front of me and that was the epidemiological disaster — and that I prevented. I can’t take responsibility for what I didn’t know,” he said.

Angry Iraq mourns dead from shelling blamed on Turkey

Pallbearers carry the casket of one of the victims killed a day earlier in a Kurdish hill village in an attack blamed on Turkey, before being flown to their cities from the airport in Arbil, the capital of Iraq's northern Kurdish autonomous region, on July 21, 2022 (SAFIN HAMED / AFP)
Pallbearers carry the casket of one of the victims killed a day earlier in a Kurdish hill village in an attack blamed on Turkey, before being flown to their cities from the airport in Arbil, the capital of Iraq's northern Kurdish autonomous region, on July 21, 2022 (SAFIN HAMED / AFP)

Iraq holds a day of national mourning for nine holidaymakers killed in the bombardment of a Kurdish hill village that the government has blamed on neighboring Turkey.

Turkey denied its troops were responsible, instead blaming rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), prompting Germany to call for an urgent investigation.

The coffins of the nine dead, draped in Iraqi national flags and festooned with flowers, were put on board a flight to Baghdad from Kurdish regional capital Arbil by an honor guard led by top officials.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein and Kurdish regional president Nechirvan Barzani led the pallbearers carrying the smallest of the coffins, a child’s, onto the military plane, an AFP correspondent reports.

In Baghdad, the bodies are to be handed over to their families for burial.

EU expresses concern over ‘continuously increasing settlement expansion’

In a new report, the European Union’s mission to the Palestinians criticizes the “continuously increasing settlement expansion on occupied Palestinian territories.”

The EU mission says that in 2021 the number of settlement units advanced throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem more than doubled, from 6,288 the previous year to 14,894. It notes this happened despite the current government promising to maintain the status quo vis-à-vis the Palestinians.

It particularly singles out construction in the area surrounding Jerusalem and the so-called E1 corridor as potentially disconnecting East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, which would “have serious implications on Palestinian urban continuity and pose a serious threat to a viable two-state solution.”

It also notes “a worrisome trend of rising settler violence” in Palestinian territories.

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