The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.
Kibbutz field set on fire, apparently from Gazan incendiary device
A fire breaks out in a field outside Kibbutz Nir Am near the Gaza border on Sunday, apparently sparked by an incendiary device from the Palestinian coastal enclave.
The blaze comes hours after Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced that Israel was prepared to remove the punitive economic measures it put in place earlier this month in response to these “fire kites and balloons,” if the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group stopped the airborne arson attacks.
Firefighters, local security officers and IDF soldiers have been called to the kibbutz, located approximately one kilometer (0.6 miles) from Gaza, in order to prevent the fire from spreading.
An investigation has been launched to confirm that the fire had indeed been sparked by an airborne incendiary device from Gaza, a spokesperson for the fire department says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Top UK diplomat thanks Israel for role in White Helmet rescue
UK foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is thanking Israel for facilitating the rescue of some 800 Syrian White Helmets and their families during an overnight operation.
Fantastic news that we – UK and friends – have secured evacuation of White Helmets and their families – thank you Israel and Jordan for acting so quickly on our request. The WH are the bravest of the brave and in a desperate situation this is at least one ray of hope
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) July 22, 2018
German lawmaker Niels Annen also offers thanks.
— Niels Annen (@NielsAnnen) July 22, 2018
Germany and Britain are two of the three countries, along with Canada, which have agreed to take in the rescued civil defense volunteers.
Majority of Israelis support surrogate parent rights for gay men — poll
As thousands rally for LGBT rights in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and elsewhere, a survey published by the Walla news site shows that over half of the nation is behind the demonstrators.
The poll finds 57 percent of respondents support a law allowing gay men to have children through surrogates, according to the site.
Another 31% are against it and 12% have no opinion.
The poll included 511 respondents over 18 from across the country.
Police reportedly release two arrested at LGBT rights rally
Two people arrested at the LGBT rights rally in Jerusalem have been released, the Ynet news site reports.
The two had been held briefly for disturbing public order, according to police.
The pair includes Eyal Lurie Pardes, a leading gay rights activist and a candidate for Jerusalem city council from the Meretz party.
A video of the arrest posted by Meretz shows Pardes being violently shoved into the back of a police cruiser at Paris Square, outside the Prime Minister’s Residence.
אייל לוריא פרדס Eyal Lurie Pardes, מרשימת מרצ למועצת העיר ואחד ממובילי מאבק הקהילה הגאה בירושלים, נעצר היום לאחר שהוביל את מחאת הלהט"ב בכיכר פריז. גם מול אלימות דורסנית ודיכוי משטרתי של חופש הביטוי והמחאה, מרצ ירושלים תמשיך להתייצב בנאמנות למען זכויות הפרט ולצד הקהילה הגאה בעיר, ללא פשרות או גמגומים.
Posted by מרצ ירושלים – مريتس القدس – Meretz Jerusalem on Sunday, 22 July 2018
Fire at kibbutz not started by device from Gaza, investigators say
Investigators have found that the fire in Kibbutz Nir Am near the Gaza border was not sparked by an incendiary device from the Gaza Strip, a spokesperson for the fire department says.
“Following an investigation, Israeli Fire and Rescue Services determined that the fire was not started by a balloon or kite,” spokesperson Eli Cohen says.
The fire has already been extinguished, he adds.
— Judah Ari Gross
Tweets show Jerusalem activists released
Meretz MK Michal Rozin tweets out pictures showing both LGBT activists arrested in Jerusalem released.
— מיכל רוזין ???????? (@Michal_Rozin) July 22, 2018
A tweet from Meretz shows Eyal Lurie Pardes in handcuffs, with the party promising, “They may try to chain us, but we will continue to fight!”
הם ינסו לאזוק אותנו, אנחנו נמשיך להיאבק! מחזקים את פעילינו בכל הארץ במאבק הצודק והחשוב למען שוויון זכויות. נמשיך לעמוד לצד הקהילה ולמען שוויון זכויות בכל מקום בארץ. חוסר הסובלנות של המשטרה והמעצר האלים מביישים את המאבק הנפלא הזה ואנחנו קוראים להם לגלות סובלנות יתרה. @eyallurie pic.twitter.com/NN5DTqGtDx
— מרצ????️???? (@meretzparty) July 22, 2018
Syrian rebels on Golan border destroy arms stocks
Pictures published by AFP show large explosions on the Syrian border with Israel as rebels being evacuated from the area as part of a deal to end the fighting blow up their arms caches.
Jihadists are not party to these deals, and Russian planes have continued to bombard IS holdouts in the area.
— with AFP
Macron in hot water over video showing aide beating protester
PARIS (AP) — French authorities have opened a judicial investigation into the beating of a protester in May by one of President Emmanuel Macron’s top security aides.
The shocking attack by Alexandre Benalla was caught on camera and is sparking a major political crisis for the French leader.
Paris prosecutor’s office said Sunday that Benalla and four others are being placed under judicial control and are going before a judge, where charges could soon be brought.
Macron has remained silent on the topic. Benalla was fired Friday by the presidential palace and investigators raided his home on Saturday.
Kibbutz Nir Am resident: Hamas is still running our lives
The official determination that a fire at Kibbbutz Nir Am was not sparked by a Gazan kite, balloon, bird, drone or any other device has apparently not lowered the flames on tensions that conflict will ramp back up on the border again.
A kibbutz official tells Israel Radio that they still see Hamas as haunting their lives, indicating unhappiness with the weekend ceasefire.
“We don’t decide on the agenda, Hamas decides when to start or when to get down on all fours and beg for it to end, and so it ends when [Hamas] wants. When they’ll send balloons and when not, and how many balloons to fly. We cannot let that continue,” Ofer Liberman says.
Explosion hits Kabul airport as Afghan VP returns from exile
A blast has rocked Kabul’s international airport, just as Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum was returning to the country after more than a year in exile.
An AFP reporter at the airport says the explosion happened as Dostum was leaving the airport with a large crowd of government officials and supporters.
Casualties are feared.
Light earthquakes rattle Iran
Iran has been jolted by a series of moderate and light earthquakes, with reports of 26 people sustaining slight injuries in one of the locations.
The first temblor, measuring a magnitude of 4.6, rocked the town of Ruydar, in Hormozgan province, earlier in the day. The town is located some 940 kilometers, or 580 miles, south of the capital, Tehran.
It was followed shortly after by a 5.4 magnitude aftershock, according to the United States Geological Survey. Iran’s semi-official news agency had initially reported the magnitude at 5.7.
In the afternoon, a 5.9 magnitude quake rocked an area in western Iran near the border with Iraq in Kermanshah province.
Over 1,400 reported to visit Temple Mount
Two right-wing news outlets report that 1,440 Jews visited the Temple Mount on Sunday, Tisha B’av, when observant Jews mark the destruction of the two ancient Temples.
The number would be unprecedented, breaking a reported record of 1,300 visitors set a year earlier.
Police do not immediately respond to a request to confirm the numbers, reported by Israel’s Channel 20 and the Kipa national religious website.
Some 10 people were arrested while on or near the flashpoint holy site, though several of them have reportedly been released.
MK Yehudah Glick (Likud), who has pushed for more Jewish activity on the compound, says he hopes to see “thousands of Jews visiting the site.” He says several years ago, Jews were often barred from the site for fears of tensions with Muslim worshipers.
The shrine is administered by the Muslim Waqf and Jews are forbidden to pray there.
A video posted by the group Students for the Temple Mount shows large crowds on the esplanade and scuffles with police.
Israel Police – משטרת ישראל השתמשה באלימות ודחפה את עולי הר הבית החוצה לאחר שהם נכנעו לצעקות המוסלמים ממול.(צילום Michael Miller)בנוסף כל מי שעלה אחרי השעה 10:10 עלה לסיבוב קצר.
Posted by סטודנטים למען הר הבית-העמוד הרשמי on Sunday, 22 July 2018
Jordan complains to Israel over visits to Temple Mount
Jordan says it has presented a letter of protest to Israel’s Foreign Ministry over what it says are violations at Israel’s Temple Mount, where hundreds are visiting Sunday while marking the anniversary of the destruction of the Temples that once stood there.
According to the state-run news agency Petra, Minister Jumana Ghneimat condemned “the provocative incursions of extremists and settlers that took place today into the courtyards of the holy site.”
Ghneimat said the visits constituted violations of Israel’s obligations and would enrage Muslims worldwide.
Jordan considers itself the custodian of the site, which is administered by the Amman-funded Waqf.
PA urges action over Jewish visits to Temple Mount
A spokesman for the Palestinian Authority government calls on the international community on Sunday to take immediate action “to protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” hours after hundreds of Jews visit the Temple Mount.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is located on the Temple Mount, a site holy to both Judaism and Islam. The day saw large numbers of Jews visit the site to mark Tisha B’Av, which commemorates the destruction of the Jewish temples.
“Today is a dark day in the history of Jerusalem and Palestine,” Yousif Mahmoud, the spokesman, says in a statement published on Wafa, the official PA news agency.
— Adam Rasgon
MK says 1,440 Jews on Temple Mount; Waqf says 1,023
MK Yehudah Glick, a Temple Mount activist, confirms to The Times of Israel that 1,440 Jewish visitors ascended the Temple Mount Sunday, which would mark an unprecedented amount of visitors for the day.
However, Firas al-Dibis, the media coordinator of the Waqf, puts the number at 1,023, according to PA state-run news outlet WAFA.
Police have yet to respond to The Times of Israel with an official tally.
— with Jacob Magid and Adam Rasgon
Transgender solidarity march set to begin in Tel Aviv
Protesters in Tel Aviv rallying for LGBT rights are beginning to pack up a protest encampment on Rothschild Boulevard to move toward the Florentine neighborhood, where a march against anti-transgender violence will take place at 6 p.m.
At 8:30 p.m. a massive rally is planned for Rabin Square, where tens of thousands are expected to pack the public space to protest the Knesset’s refusal to grant surrogacy rights to gay men and other rights not extended to the LGBT community.
Netanyahu says Trump asked him to save White Helmets
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel’s part in the rescue of the Syrian White Helmets came after US President Donald Trump requested his help.
“A few days ago, President Trump contacted me, along with Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau and others, with a request to help extract from Syria several hundred White Helmets,” he says.
He says he approved the move, which saw Israel secure a corridor for the volunteers to cross into Israel from Syria on their way to Jordan, as an “important humanitarian gesture.”
Canada, Germany and Britain have agreed to take in the volunteers.
He also says Israel is continuing to act in Syria against Iran and is remaining vigilant on the southern border with Gaza.
“Over the weekend, we hit Hamas with a very heavy blow, and if needed, we’ll hit them sevenfold.”
Massive Israeli airstrikes on Hamas positions in Gaza on Friday after the death of a soldier on the border were seen as key to the terror group requesting a ceasefire.
EU ‘recognizes essential efforts’ of Israel, Jordan for White Helmets
EU foreign policy czar Federica Mogherini is noting Israel’s role in the transfer of the Syrian White Helmets out of harm’s way.
“The EU recognises the essential efforts of Israel and Jordan, and of all others – including several EU Member States – who contributed to bringing the White Helmets and their families to safety,” she says in a statement.
14 killed in Kabul airport attack, IS claims responsibility
A spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry says that 14 people, including both civilians and military forces, have been killed in the suicide attack near Kabul’s airport shortly after the country’s controversial first vice president landed on his return from abroad.
Najib Danish adds that 50 other people were wounded in the attack.
The Islamic State group claims responsibility for the attack on its Aamaq News Agency.
Afghan president Ashraf Ghani strongly condemned the attack in a statement released by the presidential place.
French PM says more must be done to return art stolen from Jews during Holocaust
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe says France must work harder to return art and other cultural property stolen from Jews during the Holocaust, at an event to mark the 76th anniversary of the roundup of Paris’s Jews.
Philippe says over 2,000 objects remain unreturned, with only a handful of objects being returned to the owners or their heirs in the past 17 years.
He also voiced support for legislation that would take a harder line against hate speech online.
The Vel d’Hiv roundup saw the mass arrest of 13,152 French Jews in July 1942, by the Vichy regime.
In 1995, then-president Jacques Chirac was the first French leader to admit his nation was guilty of having assisted in the mass murder of Jews
— with AFP
Pompeo discusses Syria with Russian counterpart
The US State Department says Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov a day earlier about the fact that “Russia had violated its commitment in southwest Syria.”
Russia and the US had agreed to a ceasefire in the region bordering Israel’s Golan Heights, but Russian and Syrian regime forces have been carrying out massive bombing campaigns to retake the region from rebel forces.
The description Sunday of the officials’ call also mentions “a broad range of issues,” including counterterrorism, dialogue between US and Russian businesses and “diplomatic access.”
— with AP
Israel said to hit chemical weapons site near Hama
Several reports on social media are claiming that Israeli jets attacked the Scientific Studies and Research Center, known as CERS, near Masyaf in Hama province.
Pictures purportedly showing the strike show smoke rising from the site.
— Qalaat Al Mudiq (@QalaatAlMudiq) July 22, 2018
Israel has reportedly attacked the site, thought to be a chemical arms manufacturer, in the past.
Syrian research site thought to be involved in developing chemical warheads
Western official have long associated the CERS site with the manufacture of chemical weapons.
In September 2017, Israel reportedly carried out a strike on the facility. The bombing came after opposition sources claimed that Iranian and Syrian specialists were working there to develop chemical weapons capability for missiles.
A senior member of the Syrian opposition, citing security officials still working for the regime at the time, told The Times of Israel in 2014 that Assad’s forces were stockpiling chemical substances and missiles carrying chemical warheads at the site, which was not made available to international inspectors tasked with ensuring the destruction of the weapons.
Israeli head of White Helmet transfer op speaks of emotional rescue
The head of the Israeli military project to assist southern Syria says the eyes of the “White Helmet” rescue workers and their families “twinkled from happiness,” when they discovered they were going to be able to escape Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s brutal regime.
“There’s no doubt that it was an emotional position to be in yesterday, to stand on the border fence and accept the families, mostly women and children,” says the lieutenant colonel, whose name cannot be published for security reasons.
In a pre-dawn operation on Sunday, the Israeli military’s 210th Bashan Division oversaw the transfer of 422 Syrians from the “White Helmets” rescue organization and their families from the Syrian Golan Heights through Israel to Jordan.
“The families crossed [the fence], at first apprehensively, but once they reached the border, their eyes twinkled from happiness with the knowledge that they’d gotten their lives back. I am happy to be an officer in an army and in a country that is carrying out this mission and expressing the values of humaneness and compassion,” the lieutenant colonel says.
“This is the nature of our work and this is a significant moment like no other,” he adds.
— Judah Ari Gross
Sara Netanyahu said to be pressuring PM to support gay surrogacy
Israel’s Hadashot News reports that Sara Netanyahu is pressuring her husband, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to find a way to support surrogacy rights for gay men.
Netanyahu has said he supports legislation giving them the right, but was forced by his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners to vote against it.
The channel sites a senior political source with the information.
SANA says military site in Masyaf hit by air attack
Syria’s state-run SANA reports that “one of our military sites in Masyaf was subjected to Israeli air aggression in order to obscure the collapse of the armed terrorist organizations in the rural areas near Dara’a and Quneitra.”
It says there is no information on casualties, but there is damage.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirms a large explosion near a “defense laboratory.”
— Adam Rasgon
Israel said to hit Syrian site from Lebanese airspace
The Al-Mayadeen news site reports that an academic research center was hit by Israeli missiles fired from Lebanese airspace.
The report matches the previous reported Israeli attack on the CERS site, which was also apparently carried out from Lebanese airspace.
Masyaf is located some 40 kilometers (some 25 miles) from Lebanon’s northern border.
Over 10,000 gathered at Rabin Square
Over 10,000 people are gathered in Rabin Square for a protest against the government for shooting down surrogacy rights for gay men, according to Israeli media reports.
Pictures of the large central Tel Aviv square show it brimming with protesters, many waving flags and signs in support of LGBT rights.
Israeli fires on Gazans, breaking shaky calm
An IDF aircraft has fired at a group of Palestinians launching incendiary balloons into southern Israel from the northern Gaza Strip, breaking two days of relative calm along the border, the army says.
Earlier in the day, one such incendiary balloon was discovered in the Eshkol region, though it did not start a fire.
As of 8:45 p.m., there had been no fires in southern Israel sparked by airborne arson devices from the Gaza Strip, according to a spokesperson for the Fire and Rescue Services southern division.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said earlier that Israel would reopen the Kerem Shalom crossing with Gaza if the calm could be maintained for several days.
— Judah Ari Gross
Monitor: Syria strike targeted Iranian missile workshop
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the apparent Israeli airstrike near Masyaf targeted a “workshop supervised by Iranians where surface-to-surface missiles are made.”
“Iranian forces and forces from Lebanon’s (Shiite) Hezbollah movement are deployed in that sector,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman tells AFP.
LGBT activist, novice protester say rally will force change
At the Rabin Square protest, a woman named Eti says she is attending her first protest for gay rights.
“It’s very important. I’m not from the community, but I believe in equality. It’s just not right that some people can’t have kids,” she says.
She expresses confidence that the activism online and in the street will force the government into passing a law giving surrogacy rights to gay men.
“Bibi can’t avoid making a change,” she says, using Netanyahu’s nickname.
Leading Israeli LGBTQ activist Chen Arieli tells Channel 10 news that the LGBT community in Israel was pleased to see such a strong turnout at the Sunday rally.
“When we announced the strike, we did not expect this much support from the Israeli public,” she says. “We feel that today is a historic day.”
“Today everyone understands that an attack on the LGBT community is an attack on Israel’s itself.”
— Noami Lanzkron and Tamar Pileggi
Gazan scientists found dead in Algeria — report
Two Gazan scientists have been found dead in Algeria, the Walla news site reports, citing the Palestinian embassy there.
The two, both from Khan Younis, were found dead in an apartment. The cause of death was either electrocution or gas inhalation, according to the report.