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3 wounded, 1 critically, in stabbing attack in settlement home; terrorist shot

Residents of Adam in central West Bank told to remain in their homes

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

The scene of a stabbing attack in the West Bank settlement of Adam, July 26, 2018. (Magen David Adom)
The scene of a stabbing attack in the West Bank settlement of Adam, July 26, 2018. (Magen David Adom)

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

Firefighters extinguish blaze along Gaza border caused by incendiary balloon

Firefighters have managed to extinguish a blaze along the Gaza border that they say was caused by an incendiary balloon.

The fire adjacent to the northern part of the coastal enclave follows ten others yesterday in Israeli communities in the south. One of those blazes was also caused by an incendiary balloon, firefighters said.

Netanyahu meeting with Druze lawmakers insulted by nation-state Law

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting with Druze lawmakers who have criticized as discriminatory the nation-state law passed last week.

The meeting is being held at the IDF’s Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv.

In attendance are ministers Yariv Levin, Moshe Kahlon, Avigdor Liberman, and Ayoub Kara, the sole Druze member of the cabinet. They are joined by Druze MKs Akram Hasson and Hamad Amar.

Salah Sa’ad of the opposition Labor party, who along with Hasson and Amar petitioned the High Court of Justice against the Jewish nation-state legislation, was not present.

Netanyahu is not expected to amend the law, though he is said to be open to other measures aimed at improving conditions for Israel’s Druze citizens.

Romania minister apologizes over Auschwitz gaffe

A Romanian minister apologizes for having compared the incineration of dead pigs infected with African swine fever to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

“I respect all the members of the Jewish community and clarify that I only wished to describe the difficult situation facing Romanian breeders due to the African swine fever,” Agriculture Minister Petre Daea says in a statement.

Daea said in a television interview Tuesday that in breeding grounds affected by the disease, “pigs are incinerated, it’s extraordinary work, it’s like Auschwitz.”

“I have never offended anyone. I just expressed my pain,”said the minister, whose statements often cause confusion.

The center-right opposition has called for Daea’s resignation, with former prime minister Dacian Ciolos saying it was “unacceptable to compare the incineration of pigs to a world tragedy.”


Hamas official praises ‘peaceful’ Gaza protest movement, warns factions have finger on trigger

A senior Hamas official praises what he called a “peaceful” protest movement in the Gaza Strip, but said armed factions in the coastal enclave have their fingers on the trigger.

“We are making history with our peacefulness and our peaceful movement,” Fathi Hamad, a hardline Hamas official, says of the protests. “But our hand is on the trigger and we will not take our hand off the trigger.”

Hamad makes the remarks at a funeral for three members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing.

Since March 30, thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have protested along the border fence with Israel to support the return of Palestinian refugees to their ancestral homes in Israel and pressure the Jewish state to lift restrictions on the movement of goods and people in and out of the Strip.

While some protesters have peacefully demonstrated in the border region, others have thrown firebombs and rocks at soldiers, attempted to cross into Israeli territory, launched incendiary kites and balloons into southern Israel, set afire a commercial crossing between the Jewish state and Gaza and carried out other violent acts.

— Adam Rasgon

UK anti-Semitic incidents at near-record high despite decrease, watchdog says

British Jewry’s main watchdog on anti-Semitism recorded 727 hate incidents in the first half of 2018, the second-highest six-monthly total on record.

The report by the Community Security Trust, or CST, for this year’s first six months constitutes an 8 percent drop from the corresponding period last year, CST says in the document published Thursday.

In the first half of 2017, CST recorded 786 incidents, constituting the highest total CST has ever recorded during any six months since the organization began monitoring incidents in 2984. During that entire year, a total of 1,414 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded — the highest tally so far.

British media have devoted unprecedented attention to anti-Semitism since 2015, following the election of Jeremy Corbyn to lead the Labour party. A hard left-wing politician, he has called Hezbollah and Hamas his friends and has defended an anti-Semitic mural in 2013, among other scandals involving his party’s policies on anti-Semitism.


PM concludes meeting with Druze MKs, says government will adopt plan expressing its commitment to them

|Upon concluding his meeting with Druze MKs outraged by the nation-state Law, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that “a plan will be formulated that will express the deep commitment of the State of Israel to the Druze community.”

The Prime Minister’s Office says Netanyahu will meet with dignitaries in the Druze community, including by Sheikh Mawafak Tarif.

The PMO says the meeting was “pragmatic and postive.”

The meeting was held at the IDF’s Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv with ministers Yariv Levin, Moshe Kahlon, Avigdor Liberman, and Ayoub Kara, the sole Druze member of the cabinet. They were joined by Druze MKs Akram Hasson (Kulanu) and Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beytenu).

Salah Sa’ad of the opposition Labor party, who along with Hasson and Amar petitioned the High Court of Justice against the Jewish nation-state legislation, was not present.

Imran Khan claims victory in Pakistan elections

Pakistan cricket legend turned opposition stalwart Imran Khan claims victory in the country’s tense elections, following accusations of poll rigging by rival parties.

“We were successful and we were given a mandate,” Khan says during a live broadcast, adding there was “no politician victimization” in the contest.

Results are still being tallied, hours after Khan’s supporters took to the streets to celebrate winning an election that opponents have said the powerful military rigged in his favor.

The unprecedented delay, along with a surprisingly strong lead in early results for Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, have fueled widespread fears over the legitimacy of the exercise.

Newspapers and television channels have been predicting victory for PTI since late yesterday.


Hamas official tells Gazans: O Muslims, wherever you find a Zionist Jew, you must kill him

Addressing thousands at a funeral for three members Hamas’s military wing, a senior official in the terror group tells Gazans, “O Muslims, wherever you find a Zionist Jew, you must kill him.”

“That is an expression of your solidarity with the Al-Aqsa Mosque…with your Palestine and your people,” says Fathi Hamad, a hardline Hamas official.

Einstein’s theory of relativity passes yet another test

More than a century after Albert Einstein proposed it, his theory of general relativity passes another test.

With giant telescopes pointed at the center of our galaxy, a team of European researchers observed a fast-moving star that got close to a monstrous black hole. They saw that the black hole distorted the light waves from the star in a way that agrees with Einstein’s theory.

The result is reported in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Einstein’s theory says the fabric of the universe is not simply space, but a more complex entity called space-time, which is warped by the presence of heavy objects.

Black holes offer a good opportunity to test that idea. The one that lies at the heart of the Milky Way is 4 million times as massive as our sun.

The new study “feels like we’re kind of beating a dead horse,” says Ohio State University astrophysicist Paul Sutter, who wasn’t part of the research team led by Reinhard Genzel of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany.

“I, just like every physicist in the world, would have loved to finally see a crack in Einstein’s relativity,” Sutter says. “But he’s outsmarted us.”

Scientists know that the theory still doesn’t explain everything about the universe. So they keep testing it time and again. So far, nobody has been able to overthrow it.

— AP

Netanyahu declines another Russian offer to sit down with Abbas — report

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected an offer by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to participate in a summit with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas under the auspice of President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Channel 10 reports.

The offer was made during Netanyahu’s meeting with Lavrov July 14 on the sidelines of the World Cup semifinal match in Russia.

This is the second time that Netanyahu has rejected such a Russian offer, the last time in September 2016.

Lavrov was in Israel earlier this week to discuss developments on the Jewish state’s border with Syria.


Assad regime raises flag over former rebel stronghold Quneitra province

The army of dictator Bashar Assad has raised the Syrian flag in the province of Quneitra, Reuters reports.

The move marks another victory on the regime’s path to retaking the entire Syrian side of the Golan Heights bordering Israel.

Druze leader unmoved by PM’s offer of plan expressing country’s commitment to community

Druze leader Sheikh Mawafak Tarif says he’s happy to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tomorrow, but his intention is to discuss an amendment to the Nation state Law that many in his community have argued discriminates against them.

The assertion comes after Netanyahu met with Druze lawmakers earlier Thursday and announced that “a plan will be formulated that will express the deep commitment of the State of Israel to the Druze community.”

Tarif says he’s uninterested in new plans and only wants to focus on amending the existing Basic Law.

Pence: US will sanction Turkey if detained pastor not freed

US Vice President Mike Pence warns Turkey that the United States will slap sanctions on the country if it does not take “immediate steps” to free an American pastor held since 2016 on terror-related charges.

“If Turkey does not take immediate actions to free this innocent man of faith and send him home to America, the US will impose significant sanctions on Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free,” Pence says at a State Department ministerial meeting to advance religious freedom.

Pence says he had a message to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on behalf of US President Donald Trump: “Release Pastor Andrew Brunson now or be prepared to face the consequences.”

Brunson was moved from jail to house arrest on Wednesday, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the move was “not enough.”


Liberman announces plans to choose next IDF chief of staff

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announces that in the coming days, he will begin the process of picking the next IDF chief of staff.

Gadi Eisenkot will be ending his term on December 31, 2018.

Liberman says he will begin meeting with former prime ministers, defense ministers, chiefs of staff, and senior IDF officials in order to make the decision.

“In the coming years, the army will continue to face threats on several fronts, near and far. The appointment of the chief of staff will have critical significance in shaping the IDF in the face of these many challenges,” the Defense Minister says.

“Luckily, we have excellent candidates. The selection process will be orderly, balanced, and responsible, and in the end I will choose the best chief of staff who will know how to lead the IDF to victory on the battlefield.”

Two incendiary balloons land near swimming pool on Gaza border

Two incendiary balloons have landed in trees next to a swimming pool where children were playing in the Eshkol Regional council, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

No damage or injuries have been reported and firefighters managed to extinguish the blaze right away

Romanian minister will personally apologize to Israel over Auschwitz gaffe

A Romanian minister will pay a visit to his country’s Israeli embassy to personally apologize for having compared the incineration of dead pigs infected with African swine fever to the Auschwitz concentration camp, Kan reports.

“We are shocked by the statement, but emphasize that the prime minister also apologized to the Jewish community on this matter,” the Foreign Ministry tells the public broadcaster.

Agriculture Minister Petre Daea, who made the original remark has also already apologized to Romania’s Jewish community as well.

Daea said in a television interview Tuesday that in breeding grounds affected by the disease, “pigs are incinerated, it’s extraordinary work, it’s like Auschwitz.”

US envoy meets with Taliban officials: report

The top US envoy for South Asia has met with Taliban officials for peace talks in Qatar, the Wall Street Journal street reports

Alice Wells, the senior official for the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asia Affairs, met with the Taliban this week to try to find a new path toward ending Afghanistan’s 17-year conflict, the Journal reports, citing people familiar with the matter.

The State Department did not directly confirm the report, but notes Wells had been in Doha this week, where she met with Qatari government officials “to discuss recent progress towards an Afghan-owned, and Afghan-led peace process.”

“Ambassador Wells welcomed the Qatari government’s constructive partnership and dedication to Afghanistan, and expressed the deep US appreciation for efforts to reach a peaceful resolution to the conflict,” a State Department statement reads.

As recently as last week, US officials were denying reports they were ready to speak directly to the Taliban.

The Taliban has established a political office in Qatar that serves as a de-facto embassy.


Minister: We are on the verge of a military campaign in Gaza

Transportation Minister Israel Katz tells Hadashot news that Israel is on the verge of a military campaign in Gaza.

“We are not willing to accept our civilians being harmed or our property being harmed, and we are certainly not willing accept our soldiers being harmed,” Katz says.

He calls for an aggressive military operation against Hamas.

“This will not be Operation Protective Edge 2,” he says, insisting that Hamas will not be able to recover.

Leading Orthodox rabbis sign letter condemning LGBT protest for ‘casting perverts as heroes’

Over 100 leading rabbis in the national religious camp have signed onto a letter condemning the recent LGBT equality protests, claiming that it is “casting perverts as heroes.”

The letter also accuses the LGBT organizations that have led a nationwide campaign against recent legislation on surrogacy rights that neglects gay couples of engaging in “agressive terrorism” and of “brainwashing the media”

Among the rabbis who signed onto the letter were Yigal Levinstein, who came under fire in 2016 for calling gays “perverts.” He later apologized for using the word.

The Israel Hofsheet grassroots group condemns the letter saying it was written by “Ayatollahs.” The organization points out that many of the rabbis on the list receive funding for their institutions from the government and calls on the state to sever ties with the religious leaders.

PM plans to advance legislation providing incentives to non-Jewish IDF recruits — report

In the backdrop of the Druze community’s criticism of the recently passed nation-state law, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to Druze lawmakers today that he would advance legislation that would provide incentives to non-Jewish IDF recruits, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The legislation would serve as particularly beneficial to the Druze community, who are known to enlist in the IDF in very high numbers.

But the measure is likely to face major hurdles in Netanyahu’s coalition as the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties would oppose such legislation that incentives IDF service.

Accordingly, Kan reports that the Druze lawmakers present in the meeting did not take Netanyahu’s offer seriously.

Iran versus US battle to hit UN’s top court in August

The UN’s top court says it will hold hearings next month in a bitter battle between Iran and the United States, after President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on the Islamic republic.

“The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, will hold public hearings from Monday 27 to Thursday 30 August in the case” concerning Iran versus the United States, the tribunal says.

“The hearings will be devoted to the request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by Iran,” it adds in a statement.

Tehran filed its case with the ICJ last week calling for the judges to order the immediate lifting of the sanctions which they said would cause “irreparable prejudice.”

Iran maintains that restoring the penalties, lifted under the landmark 2015 deal aimed at reining in Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, violated a decades-old treaty.

Nuclear-related sanctions are set to be reimposed by Washington in two phases in August and November, and seek to bar European and other foreign companies from doing business with Iran and blocking its oil sales abroad.

Iran argued in its filing to the court that the move would break a 1955 Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations concluded between the two countries before the Islamic revolution under the regime of the shah. But the two foes have not had official diplomatic relations since 1980.

The court, set up in 1946 in The Hague to rule in disputes between nations, revealed Wednesday that its president, Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, had taken the unusual step to write a letter about the case directly to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.


3 Israelis wounded in stabbing attack in settlement home

A Palestinian terrorist stabs three Israelis after entering a home in the West Bank settlement of Adam, according to the IDF.

One of the victims, in his 50s, is in critical condition and another, in his 30s, is in serious condition, MDA medics say.

The terrorist has been shot, the IDF confirms. His condition isn’t immediately clear, though some reports say he is dead.

The two men who sustained more serious injuries are being evacuated to the Hadassah Mount Scopus hospital in Jerusalem, MDA says.

The third victim is very lightly wounded and being treated at the scene.

Settlement residents told to remain in homes

The Adam settlement is telling residents to remain inside their homes as security forces carry out searches in the area.

The Ynet news site reports that a number of residents claimed to have noticed a suspicious vehicle leaving the central West Bank settlement after the attack.

The Binyamin Regional Council hotline instructs residents to lock their doors and close their windows in the meantime.

Read the full story here.

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