The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.
Navy said to stop Gaza blockade-busting ship, tow it to Ashdod
The Israeli Navy has stopped a boat trying to break the maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip and is bringing the vessel to the port in Ashdod, unconfirmed Palestinian reports say.
The Israel Defense Forces will not confirm the reports, which came shortly after the “Freedom Flotilla” group said the boat received a warning from the navy.
The “Awda,” or “Return” in Arabic, is part of a three-boat flotilla that set off from Sicily in a bid to thwart the naval blockade Israel maintains on the Palestinian enclave.
Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent weapons and other materials from reaching Gaza that could be used to attack Israel.
Abbas meets soldier-slapping teen after her release from prison
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas hosts teenager Ahed Tamimi at his office in Ramallah following after she was released from prison this morning.
Tamimi was arrested in December and incarcerated for eight months after video showed her slapping an Israeli soldier outside her home in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas receives and honors Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi right after her release from Israeli jails.
29 July 2018 pic.twitter.com/PotGuadKcd
— Quds News Network (@QudsNen) July 29, 2018
Swastika, Iron Cross graffiti spray-painted on structure at Indiana synagogue
Swastikas and the Iron Cross symbol were spray-painted on a structure at a synagogue in Indiana during Shabbat, the synagogue says.
“You may have heard about anti-Semitic vandalism of the shed to our garbage container at Congregation Shaarey Tefilla,” Congregation Shaarey Tefilla writes on its Facebook page. “While we know that the vandalism took place in the wee hours of Saturday morning Shabbat services were unaffected.”
The synagogue, which is located in the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel, says it has been in touch with police over the incident.
I’m disgusted and furious tonight that this has happened and that my beautiful State of Indiana is one of only five…
Iran’s currency hits record low as American sanctions loom
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s currency is continuing its downward spiral as increased American sanctions loom, hitting a new low on the thriving black market exchange.
The Iranian rial falls to 112,000 to the dollar on Sunday, from 98,000 to $1 on Saturday. The government-set exchange rate is 44,070 to the dollar, compared to 35,186 on January 1.
The Iranian rial’s been declining steadily for years but the drop has accelerated in recent months after the US decision to pull out of the nuclear deal with Iran in May and announcement of increased sanctions beginning next month.
The government last week replaced the country’s central bank governor Valiollah Seif, whose policies have also been blamed for the rial’s fall, and eased regulations on bringing foreign currencies into the country to combat black market trading.
Gaza blockade-busting ship confirms it was stopped by Israeli Navy
The “Return,” one of three vessels in a “Freedom Flotilla” trying to break Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip, confirms reports it has been stopped by the Israeli Navy.
The Israeli military has to comment on the reports.
#FreedomFlotilla boat carrying medical supplies for #Gaza hijacked by Israeli forces. Please contact your governments & demand #FreePassage #FreedomOfMovement for #AlAwda with her cargo of solidarity & hope for a Just Future for #Palestinehttps://t.co/Dv7lDa2nSZ #CountdowntoGaza pic.twitter.com/HlHhnKO7jy
— Freedom Flotilla (@GazaFFlotilla) July 29, 2018
Meeting with Druze leaders, Netanyahu rebuffs calls to alter nation-state law
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Druze heads of regional councils on the nation-state law amid ongoing complaints from members over the legislation.
Also taking part in the meeting are Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and Communications Minister Ayoub Kara, a member of the ruling Likud party and the only Druze member of the cabinet.
Netanyahu reiterates he opposes altering the law, which defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
“There are unceasing attempts to undo the definition of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. We passed the nation-state law in order to ensure that Israel remains the nation-state of our people — this is the purpose of the state’s existence,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office quotes him as saying.
“The law does not diminish the individual rights of anyone,” the prime minister adds.
Acknowledging the “true feelings” of the Druze community, Netanyahu says his chief of staff of Yoav Horowitz will head a team tasked with presenting recommendations for how to “strengthen the the important ties between us.”
ראש הממשלה נתניהו והשרים יריב לוין ואיוב קרא נפגשו היום עם ראשי מועצות מהמגזר הדרוזי כחלק מהשיחות שמקיים רה״מ עם בני העדה בימים האחרונים. pic.twitter.com/f1lR2INKDU
— ראש ממשלת ישראל (@IsraeliPM_heb) July 29, 2018
Tamimi’s lawyer accuses army of trying to limit press coverage of her release
Speaking to reporters ahead of a press conference, Ahed Tamimi’s attorney asserts the 17-year-old’s release today was manipulated by the IDF for its own political gain.
Gaby Lasky says Israeli authorities did not let Tamimi’s family know when and where exactly she would be released in order to limit press access to the event.
“There is some concern of what the authorities might do if she tried to demonstrate,” Lasky adds.
Reflecting on her client’s decision to accept a plea bargain, Lasky clarifies that Ahed was not denying any of the accusations against her.
“We were just saying that these things are legal in the fight against occupation. The court disagrees,” says Lasky.
However, Lasky says it was still a major accomplishment by Ahed who managed to “bring her story and the reality of the occupation” to the livingrooms of people around the world.
Tamimi was imprisoned for eight months for slapping a soldier outside her home in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.
— Jacob Magid
Ahed and her mother Nariman were immediately mobbed by press (not me) upon their arrival in Nabi Saleh pic.twitter.com/bsL9UOD0SN
— Jacob Magid (@JacobMagid) July 29, 2018
Tamimi gives first press conference since release, slams Israeli media
Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi gives her first press conference since she was released from an Israeli prison this morning after serving eight months for slapping an Israeli soldier outside her West Bank home.
“I want to thank everyone who has stood with me while I was in prison. I want to thank all the people who had campaigned for me. I hope that the campaigns that were done on my behalf will continue for all the other political prisoners, especially the young children,” Tamimi tells reporters in her hometown of Nabi Saleh.
She expresses her solidarity with residents of the Gaza Strip and Khan Al-Ahmar “fighting against the occupation.” The latter is a West Bank Bedouin village slated for demolition by Israel.
“I come to also reiterate the message that Jerusalem is and will always be the capital of Palestine,” Tamimi says.
She thanks her mother, Nariman, who was also released from prison today. “Her ability to remain strong is what helped me continue,” says Ahed.
“I want to say that women are a key part of the Palestinian fight for freedom,” the teenager says.
Tamimi also announces she is boycotting the Israeli media as “they have consistently defamed my family and our struggle.”
She adds that she would not take any questions from Israeli reporters present.
— Jacob Magid
IDF confirms Gaza blockade-breaking ship stopped by navy, being towed to port
The Israeli military confirms the navy has stopped a ship trying to break the maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip.
“The ship was tracked and captured in accordance with international law,” it says, adding there were no “unusual incidents” during the operation.
The military says the boat is now being towed to the port in Ashdod.
Head of UN probe into Gaza clashes vows to keep an ‘open mind’
The head of the UN Human Rights Council’s probe into the months-long clashes at the Gaza border vows to approach the topic fairly and without bias.
“As Chair of the Commission of Inquiry for Gaza and East Jerusalem I can assure all parties and constituents that the Commission will conduct its investigation fairly and with an open mind with no preconceived positions or perspectives,” David Crane tells Times of Israel in an email.
Currently a professor at Syracuse University College of Law, Crane was appointed last week to preside over the three-member “Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
The other members are Sara Hossain, a Bangladeshi lawyer educated in the UK, and Kaari Betty Murungi, a lawyer and human rights activist from Kenya.
— Raphael Ahren
Police recommend trying Jerusalem deputy mayor for bribery, fraud
Police announce there is sufficient evidence to try Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman and others for bribery, fraud, breach of trust and theft.
“Based on the investigation and evidence gathered, it is suspected that Turgeman received valuable favors in exchange for advancing others’ benefit,” police say.
The case will be transferred in the coming days to prosecutors, who will decide whether to indict Turgeman and the other suspects.
Police do not provide the names of the other suspects.
Erdogan phones soldier-slapper Tamimi after she leaves prison
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan phones Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi after her release from an Israeli prison, where she was serving an eight-month sentence for slapping an IDF soldier outside her West Bank home.
— ANADOLU AGENCY (ENG) (@anadoluagency) July 29, 2018
Netanyahu to travel to Colombia for new president’s inauguration
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to travel to Colombia early next month for the inauguration of President Iván Duque Márquez.
This will be Netanyahu’s second trip to the South American state in less than a year.
On September 14, 2017, Netanyahu spent three hours in Bogota, meeting with outgoing president Juan Manuel Santos. Colombia has been one of Israel’s closest friends in Latin America.
— Raphael Ahren
Saudi-led coalition says it struck missile launch sites of Iran-backed rebels
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia says it has destroyed sites used by Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen to launch missiles at the kingdom.
In a statement reported by Saudi Arabia’s government-run Al Ekhbariya TV, the coalition announces the “destruction of ballistic missile (launch) sites run by the Houthi militias in Saada,” a northern Yemeni province bordering Saudi Arabia and controlled by the Houthis.
Riyadh and its allies are fighting alongside Yemen’s government against the Iran-backed Houthis in a war that has claimed nearly 10,000 lives and pushed impoverished Yemen to the brink of famine.
Saudi Arabia has come under increasingly frequent missile attacks launched by the Houthis from northern Yemen this year.
NYT publisher tells Trump anti-press attacks ‘dangerous and harmful’
WASHINGTON — The publisher of The New York Times says Sunday he warned US President Donald Trump that his attacks on the press were “dangerous and harmful to our country.”
A.G. Sulzberger comments on the July 20 meeting after Trump tweets they had “spent much time talking about the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, ‘Enemy of the People.’ Sad!”
Sulzberger says he had accepted the meeting to raise concerns about the president’s “deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric” and implored him “to reconsider his broader attacks on journalism, which I believe are dangerous and harmful to our country.”
Had a very good and interesting meeting at the White House with A.G. Sulzberger, Publisher of the New York Times. Spent much time talking about the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, “Enemy of the People.” Sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2018
Rivlin tells Druze leaders: ‘We must make sure you also feel equal’
President Reuven Rivlin meets with Druze leaders following their meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the recently passed nation-state law that has drawn the ire of the minority group.
“Our partnership exists at the foundation and basis of this country,” Rivlin says of the Druze community.
“I have no doubt that legally you are equal and we must make sure you also feel equal,” he adds.
In an unusual move for a president, Rivlin sent a letter to lawmakers calling on them to amend the legislation, which defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Much of his criticism focused on a since-removed clause allowing members of a religious group or nationality “to establish a separate communal settlement.”
IDF defends employing anti-missile system against Syrian missiles
The Israel Defense Forces is defending the decision to launch David’s Sling anti-missile interceptors last week at a pair of Syrian surface-to-surface missiles in what ultimately turned out to be a false alarm.
“The decision-making process, in the face of identifying the threat and taking into account the short timetable, was correct,” Hebrew media quotes the military as saying.
The two short-range ballistic missiles fired by Syria were not directed at Israel and ultimately fell short of the border.
The incident marked the first known operational use of David’s Sling since it was declared operational last year.
Flaming balloons from Gaza spark 7 fires in south
Incendiary balloons launched from the Gaza Strip sparked seven fires in Israel this morning, a spokesperson for Israel Fire and Rescue Services Southern District says.
The spokesperson says the fires broke out at the Gaza-area farming communities of Erez, Sa’ad, Be’eri and Kissufim.
Fresh harassment allegations against Zionist Union MK
Zionist Union MK Eitan Broshi is facing fresh allegations of sexual harassment after coming under fire for touching the behind of a fellow lawmaker in the opposition faction earlier this month.
In a Channel 10 news report Sunday, a woman alleges she was sexually assaulted by Broshi when he was head of the Jezreel Valley Regional Council, a post he held from 1999-2006.
The woman, who does not give her name and speaks to Channel 10 with a voice changer, says the incident occurred as they rode an elevator during a course they were both taking.
“He didn’t allow me to get off [the elevator] as he touched my intimate organs,” recalls the woman, who says she was able to eventually push Broshi away and get out of the elevator.
The network reports the woman sent a letter to Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay about the alleged harassment.
Broshi initially said he didn’t remember the incident when asked about it by Channel 10, but his lawyer denies it took place at all and says the MK intends to file a libel suit against the woman.
Broshi was forced to apologize to MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin after he touched her buttocks during a trip for members of the Zionist Union.
Greece raises death toll in fire to 91; 25 still missing
Fire officials in Greece raise the death toll from a wildfire that raged through a coastal area east of Athens to 91 and report that 25 people are missing, six days after blaze.
Before the national fire service updated the official number of fatalities Sunday night, it had stood at 86. Greek officials previously had not provided a tally of the people reported missing.
The fire sped flames through the village without warning on July 23. A database maintained by the Centre for the Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters in Brussels shows it as the deadliest wildfire in Europe since 1900.
The vast majority of victims died in the fire itself, though a number drowned in the sea, while fleeing the flames.
Dozens of volunteer divers, some of them retired Navy Seals, keep searching the sea on Sunday looking for the bodies of more possible victims.
Zionist Union MK called on to step down after new harassment allegations emerge
Lawmakers call on Zionist Union MK Eitan Broshi to resign after a TV report this evening details fresh sexual harassment allegations against him.
“Broshi and all the other sex offenders of his kind have no place in the Knesset or the public arena, even if no criminal proceedings have been initiated against him,” Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich writes on her Twitter account.
“It is true there is no way at the moment to remove him against his will, but come on, Broshi, go home,” adds Yachimovich.
She also says an incident earlier this month in which Broshi touched the buttocks of fellow Zionist Union MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin during a trip for lawmakers from the opposition faction should have ended his political career. Broshi later apologized for the incident.
Meretz MKs Tamar Zandberg and Michal Rosin also call on Broshi to resign.
“It appears there was rather a systematic behavior of harassment, and it can’t be that an elected official continues in his role,” tweets Rosin.
The Haaretz daily meanwhile reports that Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay is expected to dismiss Broshi, following a Channel 10 report this evening in which a women detailed alleged harassment by Broshi 15 years ago.
Zionist Union head suspends MK over harassment allegations
Zionist Union head Avi Gabbay announces he has suspended MK Eitan Broshi, after Channel 10 airs new harassment allegations against him.
“I spoke with MK Broshi this evening and informed him of his immediate suspension from party activity,” Gabbay writes on his Twitter account.
“I demanded he take responsibility for his shameful actions and resign from the Knesset,” Gabbay adds. “There is no place for sex offenders on the street or in the Knesset.”
Labor MK rejects party’s right to suspend him over harassment claims
A Labor lawmaker who was temporarily suspended yesterday by the party leader amid allegations of sexual harassment, says that the measure has no legal basis.
MK Eitan Broshi’s defiance comes amid mounting calls from members of his own parliamentary faction that he step down in light of a television news report of accusations that he sexually harassed a colleague 15 years ago in an elevator.
He also recently touched a female MK from his party inappropriately, and then apologized for his action.