The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s developments as they unfolded.
Erdogan: Israel the ‘most fascist, racist state’ in the world
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday brands Israel the “most fascist, racist state” in the world after Israel’s parliament passed a new law defining the country as the nation state of the Jewish people.
“This measure has shown without leaving the slightest room for doubt that Israel is the world’s most Zionist, fascist and racist state,” Erdogan says in a speech to his ruling party.
In one of his toughest recent onslaughts against Israel, Erdogan claims there is “no difference between Hitler’s obsession with the Aryan race and Israel’s understanding that these ancient lands are meant only for Jews.”
“The spirit of Hitler, which led the world to a great catastrophe, has found its resurgence among some of Israel’s leaders,” he adds.
Around six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust by the Nazis during World War II.
Netanyahu hits back at Turkey, slams ‘dark dictatorship’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Turkey is becoming a “dark dictatorship” as he hits back at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s harsh criticism of a “racist” new Israeli law.
“Erdogan is massacring Syrians and Kurds and has imprisoned tens of thousands of his citizens,” Netanyahu says in a statement.
“Turkey under Erdogan is becoming a dark dictatorship, while Israel is meticulously maintaining equal rights for all its citizens, before and after the law.”
He says the Turkish leaders’s criticism of the Jewish state law is “the biggest compliment.”
— with AFP
Bennett brands Erdogan a dictator, murderer of Kurds
Education Minister Naftali Bennett lashes out at Erdogan after the Turkish leader likens the Israeli government to Adolf Hitler and brands the new Jewish State law proof that it is the “most fascist, racist” country in the world.”
“The State of Israel will not be preached to by a dictator who hunts down and murders the Kurdish minority in his country and outside it,” Bennett tweets.
Residents report explosions, trail of interceptor missile
Residents of northern Israel report seeing white trails in the sky, like those left by air defense interceptor missiles.
The sirens came a day after Israel launched two David’s Sling interceptor missiles at a pair of Syrian surface-to-surface missiles carrying approximately a half ton of explosives that appeared to be heading toward Israel, but ultimately landed inside Syria.
— Judah Ari Gross
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) July 24, 2018
Death toll in Greece wildfires climbs to 60
The death toll from the wildfire ravaging the seaside areas around Athens has increased to 60 in Greece’s deadliest blaze in more than a decade, a local official tells AFP.
“We have counted 60 dead,” Myron Tsagarakis, a local official in Rafina, the largest town in the area most affected by the fires, tells AFP, confirming earlier reports by local media.
Israel shoots down Syrian fighter jet that traveled 2 kilometers into country
The Israeli Air Force shoots down a Syrian fighter jet that traveled two kilometers into Israeli airspace, the military says.
“Two Patriot missiles were fired at a Syrian Sukhoi-model fighter jet,” the IDF says in a statement.
The military says the aircraft was being monitored as it approached the border.
“It penetrated two kilometers into Israeli airspace and was shot down,” the army says.
The military stresses that it will continue to enforce the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement, which requires Syria to abide by a demilitarized zone between the two countries.
— Judah Ari Gross
Palestinian wounded in Gaza clashes in May dies of injuries
A Palestinian wounded in May by Israeli fire during deadly clashes on the Gaza border has died of his injuries, the Hamas-run health ministry in the Palestinian enclave says on Tuesday.
Majid Aqeel, 26, succumbs to his wounds more than two months after being shot in northern Gaza during mass protests along the border on May 14.
— AFP, with TOI staff
For first time since 2011, Syrian regime forces control frontier with Israel
Syrian state media says government forces have reached the frontier with the Israeli Golan Heights after capturing territory from rebels and Islamic State terrorists.
Al-Ikhbariya TV on Tuesday broadcasts footage from the fence demarcating the UN buffer zone between Syrian and Israeli forces inside the Golan Heights.
The camera shows an Israeli observation post 400 meters (440 yards) away.
It is the first time government forces have taken up positions along the frontier since an uprising against President Bashar Assad swept through the country in 2011. Islamic State terrorists later seized territory from rebels along the frontier region.
Syrian military claims warplane targeted by Israel was in Syrian airspace
A Syrian military source accuses Israel on Tuesday of firing at one of its warplanes as it carried out operations against jihadists over Syrian territory.
The source, cited by state news agency SANA, says Israel “targeted one of our warplanes… in Syrian airspace.”
Israel’s army had earlier said it shot down a Syrian fighter jet after the plane infiltrated Israeli airspace.
North Korea said to be dismantling key parts of launch site
North Korea appears to have started dismantling key facilities at its main satellite launch site in a step toward fulfilling a commitment made by leader Kim Jong Un at his summit with US President Donald Trump in June.
While Pyongyang could be trying to build trust with Washington as they engage in talks to resolve the nuclear standoff, analysts say dismantling a few facilities at the site alone wouldn’t realistically reduce North Korea’s military capability or represent a material step toward denuclearization. And they express concern that the work is being done without verification.
The North Korea-focused 38 North website says commercial satellite images from July 20 to 22 indicate the North began dismantling key facilities at the Sohae launch site. The facilities being razed or disassembled include a rocket engine test stand used to develop liquid-fuel engines for ballistic missiles and space-launch vehicles and a rail-mounted processing building where space launch vehicles were assembled before being moved to the launch pad, according to the report.
“Since these facilities are believed to have played an important role in the development of technologies for the North’s intercontinental ballistic missile program, these efforts represent a significant confidence building measure on the part of North Korea,” analyst Joseph Bermudez writes in the report.
An official from South Korea’s presidential office says Tuesday that Seoul has also been detecting dismantlement activities at the Sohae launch site but did not specify what the North was supposedly taking apart.
Trump considering pulling security clearances of critics
US President Donald Trump is considering revoking the security clearances of six former top national security officials who have been critical of his administration, a move that opponents and experts say would be an unprecedented politicization of the clearance process.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says that the president is “exploring the mechanisms” to strip clearance from former CIA director John Brennan as well as five other former officials who have held some of the most sensitive positions in government: former FBI director Jim Comey; James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence; former CIA director Michael Hayden; former national security adviser Susan Rice; and Andrew McCabe, who served as Trump’s deputy FBI director until he was fired in March.
The leaders have served in both Democratic and Republican administrations, including Trump’s.
Sanders accuses the officials of having “politicized and in some cases monetized their public service and security clearances” by making “baseless accusations” that the Trump administration had improper contact with Russia or was influenced by Russia.
“The fact that people with security clearances are making these baseless charges provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence,” she says.
Sanders does not cite specific comments made by any of the officials. But the US president has been seething over the backlash to his meeting last week with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the ongoing investigations into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, whether his campaign aides were involved in the effort and whether he obstructed justice.
After Israel visit, Lavrov meets Germany’s Merkel on Syria
The German government says Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the head of the Russian military have met Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin for talks on Syria and Ukraine.
The government says Tuesday’s meeting between Lavrov, German counterpart Heiko Maas, Merkel and the chief of the Russian military’s general staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, was agreed last week between Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin. It hadn’t previously been announced publicly.
In a written statement, the government gives few details of the meeting’s outcome. It says “the situation in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, was at the center of the discussion. The conflict in eastern Ukraine was also addressed.”
The meeting comes after Lavrov and Gerasimov met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem Monday, also to discuss Syria.
IDF says Syrian plane was moving fast before it was downed
The Israeli military says the Syrian plane it shot down departed from the Syrian T4 air base, which Israel is believed to have attacked earlier this year.
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus says Tuesday that the plane flew toward Israel at “relatively high speed” before breaching the country’s airspace. He says it is unknown if the plane deliberately crossed into Israel or what happened to its pilot. The plane crashed in the southern part of the Syrian Golan Heights, he says.
He says the increased activity near Israel’s frontier with Syria put the military on “elevated alert” and prompted Israel to issue a number of warnings through different channels to ensure a 1974 agreement which sets out a demilitarized zone along the shared Syria-Israel frontier would not be violated.
Russian news report: Syrian pilot killed by Israeli missile
Amran Mara’e, a Syrian pilot, is killed after Israel struck down the plane he was flying while on a mission targeting Islamic State fortifications in southern Syria, a Syrian military source tells Sputnik, a Russian government-backed news outlet.
The IDF said on Tuesday that it shot down a Syrian plane after it entered its airspace.
The fate of a second pilot, who was in the plane with Mara’e, was unknown as of Tuesday afternoon, the military source adds.
— Adam Rasgon
Russia: Jewish state law will ‘increase regional tension’
The Russian Foreign Ministry condemns Israel’s new Jewish state law, saying it “complicates the peace process” and is liable to “increase regional tension.”
The statement is reported by the Russian Interfax agency.
It comes a day after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made a surprise visit to Israel for talks largely centered on the Iranian military presence in Syria.
Hamas leader meets UN envoy over humanitarian crisis, Jewish state law
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov met in the Gaza Strip and discuss ways to ameliorate the humanitarian crisis in the coastal enclave, Hamas’s official website reports.
The coastal enclave suffers from severely inadequate water, electricity and health infrastructure, widespread poverty and a high unemployment rate.
Haniyeh and Mladenov also discuss about the Knesset’s passage last week of a quasi-constitutional Israeli law that enshrines Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, the report on the Hamas webpage says.
It’s unclear when exactly the meeting took place.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum blasted the law on Thursday, asserting that it “legalizes Israeli racism.”
— Adam Rasgon
Liberman urges Gazans to oust Hamas from power
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman urges Palestinians to remove the Hamas leadership of the Gaza Strip from power.
“The choice is in your hands,” says Liberman. “We can be your partners in making Gaza the Singapore of the Middle East. If your leadership is not ready, replace your leaders.”
Netanyahu endorses Likud’s Elkin for Jerusalem mayor
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorses Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) for mayor of the capital in the late October race.
“As an MK, a minister, and particularly as minister of Jerusalem affairs, Minister Elkin did much for our capital and proved it is close to his heart and very dear to him,” said Netanyahu on Twitter. “I wish him much luck!”
Also in the running is Netanyahu’s former bureau director general Moshe Lion, Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria, Hitorerut candidate Ofer Berkovitch, and several others.
Death toll in Greece wildfires climbs to 74
The death toll from wildfires ravaging the region around the Greek capital Athens rose to 74, a firefighting official say.
Fire service spokeswoman Stavroula Maliri raises the toll from an earlier count of 60. She says the toll was not yet final since firefighters are still searching for victims.
Israel envoy to UN: Hamas running missile factories in south Lebanon
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon accuses the Hamas terrorist group of operating Iran-backed missile factories in southern Lebanon.
“In recent months, Hamas has expanded its cooperation with Hezbollah and increased its activity in Lebanon,” Danon tells the UN Security Council. “It is now part of an international operation that runs from Turkey, through Lebanon and Syria, and ends in Iran. With Iran’s support, Hamas is now operating missile factories and training camps in southern Lebanon. Hamas is becoming a regional and international threat. ”
“Too many people in this building have forgotten what Hamas truly is: A murderous terrorist organization that terrorizes Israel and holds Gazans hostage,” adds Danon. “And as Hamas is a growing international problem, the time has come for the Security Council to recognize that Hamas is no different from al-Qaeda or ISIS. The Security Council must recognize Hamas as a terrorist organization.”
The Gaza-based terror group “has burned over 7,400 acres of land in Israel, the land area as half of Manhattan. Just imagine if half of Manhattan would go up in flames as a result of terrorism,” says Danon.
After Syrian jet shot down, Netanyahu says Israel won’t tolerate infiltrations
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemns the infiltration of a Syrian military jet two kilometers into Israeli airspace as a “flagrant violation of the disengagement agreement with Syria from 1974.”
The Syrian plane was shot down by the Israeli army.
“We will not tolerate any infiltration or spillover [of fire] into our country, not from land and not from the air,” adds Netanyahu.
Backing the Israeli military response, Netanyahu says: “We insist Syria strictly adhere to the separation agreements between us.”
UN envoy: ‘Devastating’ Israel-Hamas clash averted in Gaza
The UN Mideast envoy says Israel and Hamas were “minutes away” from another “devastating confrontation” in Gaza on Saturday — a clash averted after UN and Egyptian diplomatic efforts got both sides to “step back from the brink.”
Nikolay Mladenov tells the Security Council Tuesday that he just returned from Gaza and “the situation is calming down although tensions remain” and the situation remains “perilous.”
He expresses hope that “with collective efforts by all sides we can avoid another war.”
But Mladenov warns that “unless we begin in earnest the crucial work required to change the current deteriorating dynamics, another explosion is almost a certainty.”
He stresses that “Gazans deserve to live their lives in freedom and dignity” and progress will require de-escalation and calm, greater coordination, and financial support.
Schumer chides Trump for heated rhetoric on Iran
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says US President Donald Trump’s tweet on Iran is a sign he is desperate to distract Americans from last week’s summit meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Schumer says that when Trump runs into trouble, he creates a firestorm somewhere else.
Trump warned Iranian leadership, in a tweet in all capital letters, to never threaten the US again, or suffer the consequences.
Schumer says the tweet suggests a pattern in which the president uses heated rhetoric so that he can later pretend to ride in and save the day with a more measured tone.
He says, “It seems as if the president’s foreign policy is to commit arson so he can play the firefighter.”
IDF fires at Palestinians launching flaming balloons from Gaza
An IDF aircraft shoots at a group of Palestinians launching incendiary balloons into southern Israel from the northern Gaza Strip, the army says.
According to the Hamas-linked Shehab news outlets, three Palestinians are injured in the strike, two lightly and one with a head wound.
The group had been launching balloons east of Gaza City, Shehab reports.
A short while ago, a terrorist squad was launching arson balloons from the northern Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. In response, an IDF aircraft fired towards the squad.
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 24, 2018
— Judah Ari Gross
Orthodox Union won’t certify kosher beef slaughtered using controversial method
The Orthodox Union has told its approved beef purveyors in South America to stop using a controversial slaughter method.
The OU, which is the largest kosher certifying agency in the United States, sent a letter to its meat purveyors in June notifying them that it would no longer accept meat slaughtered using the “shackle and hoist” method, says Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the organization’s kosher division.
The letter comes after Israel decided to ban the import of any meat slaughtered using the method, in which the animal is pulled into the air by its legs and then flipped onto the ground before being slaughtered. Critics of the method, which is commonly used in South America but not permitted in Israel, say it puts unnecessary stress on the animal and is inhumane.
Denmark charges imam over sermon that called for killing Jews
An imam in Denmark is charged with incitement for calling in a sermon for the killing of Jews, marking the first time that charges have been issued under a new hate speech law on religious preaching.
In March, Mundhir Abdallah of the Masjid Al-Faruq mosque in Copenhagen cited a call in the Koran to “fight the Jews and kill them.” In May, the local Jewish community filed a complaint with police about the speech.
Abdallah is charged Tuesday in Copenhagen District Court, the AFP news service reported. The hate speech law was passed last year.
“These are serious statements and I think it’s right for the court to now have an opportunity to assess the case,” public prosecutor Eva Ronne says in a statement, according to AFP.
The man who killed a Jewish volunteer security guard in a shooting attack during a bat mitzvah celebration at a synagogue in Copenhagen in February 2015, Omar El-Hussein, reportedly attended the mosque where Abdallah preached the day before the shooting.
Syrian regime pilot confirmed killed
The Syrian pilot who entered Israeli airspace, prompting a missile strike, was killed, Reuters reports, citing a “a non-Syrian source close to Damascus.”
The pilot is not named by Reuters.
TV: Syrian pilot believed to have made navigation error
The Syrian pilots who flew a warplane into Israeli airspace before being shot down are believed to have made a navigation error and likely did not plan to attack, Hadashot television news reports.
According to the TV report, air raids by regime forces have resumed in southern Syria, near the frontier with the Israeli Golan Heights.
Netanyahu conveys condolences to Greece over wildfires casualties
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras to express his condolences over the dozens of deaths in a spate of deadly wildfires near Athens.
“Israel is mourning the loss of life together with the Greek people. My deepest condolences to the families who lost their loved ones,” says Netanyahu.
"Israel is mourning the loss of life together with the Greek people. My deepest condolences to the families who lost their loved ones."
— Raphael Ahren (@RaphaelAhren) July 24, 2018
At least 74 people were killed by the wildfires.
Poll: 70% Israelis unsatisfied with government’s handling of kite threat
A poll by Hadashot news shows widespread displeasure with Israel’s handling of the incendiary kite threat, with 70 percent of respondents saying they were unhappy with the military response and just 21% saying it was satisfactory.
The survey also shows that a majority of Israelis (56%) support surrogacy for gay couples, including over half of Likud (51%) and Jewish Home (58%) voters. The poll comes after wide protests in favor of a policy change on the issue.
The poll shows a dip in support for Likud, with the governing party predicted to receive 30 seats if elections were held today (recent polls had the number of seats at 35). The centrist Yesh Atid party would receive 19 seats, the Labor party would receive 15, the Joint (Arab) List 12, the Jewish Home 8. The Kulanu, United Torah Judaism, and Yisrael Beytenu parties would each receive seven seats, while Meretz, Shas, and a party by independent candidate Orly Levy-Abekasis would each win five seats, according to the poll.
TV: Police suspect PM tried to broker sale of news outlet to Larry Ellison
Police suspect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to broker the sale of the Walla news website to American billionaire Larry Ellison, Channel 10 reports.
According to the report, the prime minister was trying to help the ailing news site’s owner, Shaul Elovitch, avoid bankruptcy. His intervention reportedly came to pay Elovitch back for flattering coverage of the premier on his news site.
Netanyahu was confronted with this claim during his last police questioning, Channel 10 says, as were his confidants who are being investigated in a separate case, David Shimron and Yitzhak Molcho.
The new details refer to the so-called Bezeq affair, also known as Case 4000, in which investigators suspect Netanyahu advanced regulatory decisions benefiting Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in the country’s largest telecommunications firm — despite opposition from the Communication Ministry’s career officials — in exchange for positive coverage from Elovitch’s Walla news site.
Haredi candidate will run for Jerusalem mayor, after clinching rabbis’ support
Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Yossi Deitch announces he’ll run for mayor in the October elections, after receiving the backing of ultra-Orthodox rabbis of the Agudath Yisrael faction.
Deitch is the first Haredi candidate in the race.
Earlier in the day, Netanyahu endorsed Likud Minister Ze’ev Elkin for mayor of Jerusalem. Also running is Moshe Lion, Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria, Hitorerut candidate Ofer Berkovitch, and more.
Trump hails start of dismantling N. Korean missile site
US President Donald Trump welcomes Tuesday reports that North Korea has started dismantling facilities at its main satellite launch station, which is seen as a testing ground for intercontinental ballistic missiles.
New satellite imagery shows “that North Korea has begun the process of dismantling a key missile site, and we appreciate that,” Trump says during an event in Kansas City, Missouri.
“We had a fantastic meeting with Chairman Kim and it seems to be going very well,” Trump adds, referring to his summit last month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
US-based website 38 North published imagery Monday indicating that Pyongyang has begun taking down a processing building and a rocket-engine test stand that had been used to test liquid-fuel engines at its Sohae Satellite Launching Station.
Haley: Arab countries need to ‘step up’ on Palestinian aid
US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Tuesday criticizes Middle Eastern countries for not doing enough to help Palestinians and move the peace process forward, saying that they need to “step up.”
“It is time for the regional states in particular to step up and really help the Palestinian people, instead of just making speeches thousands of miles away,” Haley says at a monthly meeting of the UN Security Council on the Middle East.
“Where are the Arab countries when it comes to encouraging reconciliation between Palestinian factions, which is essential to peace? Where are the Arab countries when it comes to denouncing Hamas terrorism? Where are the Arab countries when it comes to supporting compromises that are necessary for peace?” she says.
Haley highlights American assistance to the Palestinians, saying that in addition to aid to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), Washington provided $300 million in bilateral aid last year, and “over six billion — with a B — dollars in bilateral assistance to Palestinians” since 1993.
“How much have the Arab countries — some of whom are wealthy countries — how much have they given to the Palestinians?” she asks.
“Last year, Iran’s contribution to UNRWA was zero. Algeria’s contribution to UNRWA was zero. Tunisia’s contribution to UNRWA was zero,” Haley says, without mentioning the significant reduction in the US contribution to the agency this year.
Her French counterpart Francois Delattre asks the US to reconsider that decision, calling on Washington “to shoulder its responsibilities and maintain its commitments on this crucial issue” to help fill the estimated $200 million gap in UNRWA.
Trump says he’s ready for new Iran nuclear deal
US President Donald Trump tempers his threatening rhetoric toward Iran Tuesday, two days after he sent an all-caps warning of future conflict.
Addressing the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Trump hails pulling the US out of the Iran nuclear accord, but says his administration stands ready for Iran to come back to the negotiating table.
“We’re ready to make a real deal, not the deal that was done by the previous administration, which was a disaster,” he says. While US intelligence agencies maintained that Iran complied with the Obama-era agreement to halt its nuclear program, Trump had complained that the deal didn’t do enough to curb Iran’s malign influence in the region.
Ivanka Trump announces closure of namesake fashion brand
Ivanka Trump on Tuesday announces the closure of her namesake clothing, footwear, and accessories brand, which had become a target of opponents of her father US President Donald Trump.
After experiencing a sharp rise in sales in 2016, the brand suffered a backlash after her father took office, and has been dropped by several retail chains.
The 36-year-old Ivanka currently serves as an advisor to her president father, and she has faced criticism about possible conflicts of interest with her business.
“When we first started this brand, no one could have predicted the success that we would achieve,” Ivanka says in a statement.
“After 17 months in Washington, I do not know when or if I will ever return to the business, but I do know that my focus for the foreseeable future will be the work I am doing here in Washington,” she adds.
“So making this decision now is the only fair outcome for my team and partners.”