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Norway wants answers on Israeli seizure of boat trying to break Gaza blockade

Oslo calls for Israel to provide legal basis for its interception of Norwegian-flagged ship as IDF defends its handling of operation

The 'Freedom,' a boat headed to the Gaza Strip in a flotilla defying Israel's blockade, July 2018 (screen capture: Press TV/Twitter)
The 'Freedom,' a boat headed to the Gaza Strip in a flotilla defying Israel's blockade, July 2018 (screen capture: Press TV/Twitter)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.

Corbyn ally claims Jewish ‘Trump fanatics’ making up anti-Semitism in Labour

A close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has blamed Jewish “Trump fanatics” for falsifying claims of anti-Semitism in the UK opposition party.

In a recording released Monday by the Jewish Chronicle, Peter Willsman can be heard ranting at a meeting of the National Executive Committee about supposed supporters of US President Donald Trump in the British community and the ability to tamper with social media.

“I am not going to be lectured to by Trump fanatics making up duff information without any evidence at all,” he says in the recording.

He then refers to a recent letter signed by 68 British rabbis to Corbyn decrying the party for not adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism.

“We should ask the 70 rabbis ‘where is your evidence of severe and widespread anti-Semitism in this party,” Willsman says.

He goes on to ask National Executive Committee members to raise their hands if they’ve ever seen anti-Semitism in the party. “I’m amazed. I’ve certainly never seen any,” he responds after a number of people apparently raised their hands.

Head of Board of Deputies of British Jews calls on party to expel Corbyn ally

The head of the Board of Deputies of British Jews is calling on the UK Labour Party to expel an ally of Jeremy Corbyn over a recording in which he claims Jewish “Trump fanatics” are falsifying cases of anti-Semitism in the opposition party.

Gaza incendiary balloons spark 7 blazes in south

Firefighters have battled seven blazes since the morning sparked by balloons launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel, a spokesman for the Fire and Rescue Services Southern District says.

The spokesman says the fires broke out at the agricultural communities of Nir Am, Tlamim, Erez, Holit, Shokeda and Kissufim. He says firefighters are still working to extinguish a pair of blazes at Kissufim and the fire at Nir Am.

Iranian officials double down on demand Trump must rejoin nuclear deal before talks

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian officials react skeptically on Tuesday to US President Donald Trump’s comments that he’s willing to negotiate with his Iranian counterpart, saying instead that if Trump wants talks, he needs to rejoin the international nuclear deal he unilaterally pulled out of earlier this year.

Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, the head of influential parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, suggests a US return to the nuclear deal, which would bring an end to the economic uncertainty, would be needed before Tehran could think of negotiating.

“There can be no negotiations with the Americans raising the issue of talks from the position of power,” he is quoted as saying on the website of the Iranian parliament, calling Trump’s decision to pull out of the nuclear deal the “biggest blow to diplomacy.”

Reformist lawmaker Mostafa Kavakebian questions negotiating with Trump, calling him “untrustworthy,” and also said now was not the time for talks.

“If this negotiation (is) carried out in any form, then it will be considered as surrender and the Iranian nation will not surrender,” he says.

— AP

Adam settlement residents told to stay indoors over possible security incident

The Adam settlement’s hotline has instructed residents to remain in their homes as authorities investigate a possible security situation.

Last week, a Palestinian teen snuck into the town and stabbed three Israelis, killing one of them.

— Jacob Magid

Firefighters battle large brush fire in south

Firefighters are battling a large brush fire at the southern moshav of Beit Ezra, a spokesman for the Fire and Rescue Services Southern District says.

The spokesman says firefighters have yet to contain the blaze, which continues to spread.

Suicide suspected after man blows himself up at Belgium soccer field

BRUSSELS — A man dies after blowing himself up on an empty soccer field in the eastern Belgian town of Verviers in an apparent suicide, the city’s deputy mayor Hasan Aydin says Tuesday.

“The individual, whose identity is not yet known, blew himself up in the middle of the football field around 08:30 in the morning,” Aydin tells AFP.

“He was alone in the middle of the field,” he adds.

“Suicide seems the most likely reason for the moment because if he had wanted to cause casualties, the man would have chosen another place at another time,” he adds.

“It would seem that he is a European in his fifties and a former career military officer,” the deputy mayor says.

Contacted by the AFP, the federal prosecutor’s Office responsible for terror cases says that it was not responsible for this case, suggesting that police do not believe the incident involves terrorism.

Belgium was hit by jihadist attacks that killed 32 people on March 22, 2016.


Strauss announces hummus recall over salmonella fears

The Strauss Group food manufacturer announces the recall of containers of hummus after a quality control test revealed possible salmonella contamination.

Strauss says consumers who purchased a 650 gram container of its “Achla” brand with an expiration date of September 9 should not eat the hummus.

“Strauss apologizes to its consuming public and is working vigorously to collect these products from the shelves,” the company says in a statement.

“It it is important to note that all other Achla products have been tested and found to be completely sound for consumption,” it adds.

“Strauss apologizes to its consuming public and is working vigorously to collect these products from the shelves,” the company says in a statement.

“It it is important to note that all other Achla products have been tested and found to be perfectly suitable for consumption,” it adds.

Containers of Strauss Group’s “Achla” line of hummus are seen on sale at a supermarket on August 11, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Security forces search area of West Bank settlement after suspicious person seen

Following the spotting of a suspicious figure near the Adam settlement’s fence, security forces are scanning the area checking if someone managed to have infiltrated in the community.

While the alert level has been lowered by the community’s security coordinators, residents have still been instructed to remain in their homes.

— Jacob Magid

IS jihadists cornered in south Syria after losing territory to regime — monitor

BEIRUT — Dozens of Islamic State jihadists are cornered in a pocket of Syria’s Daraa after losing all other territory there to a Russian-backed regime assault, a monitor says.

To get themselves out, IS is using the release of 30 Druze women and children it kidnapped last week as a bargaining chip, says the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“There have been talks since yesterday between regime forces and IS to evacuate around 100 IS fighters and their families from the southwest part of Daraa to the Badiya,” says Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.

The Badiya refers to the vast desert stretching from central Syria to the eastern border with Iraq, and where IS still holds territory.

“In exchange, IS would release 30 hostages it took from Sweida last week,” says Abdel Rahman.

“To put pressure on IS, Russian warplanes carried out strikes on the area today,” he adds.


US firefighters arrive in Israel to battle Gaza balloon blazes

Ten American firefighters have arrived this week in Israel in collaboration with the Jewish Federations of North America to help extinguish blazes in Israeli communities along the Gaza Strip caused by incendiary balloons flown from the coastal enclave, a spokesman for the Fire and Rescue Southern District says.

The firefighters from California, Florida, Maryland, Texas and Michigan have already assisted in putting out fires in more than ten locations in Israel’s south, the spokesman adds.

— Jacob Magid

Iran denies any role in deadly Tajikistan attack

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran denies accusations by Tajikistan police that it was partly responsible for an attack that killed four tourists in the former Soviet republic.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran denies any link with this terrorist attack and categorically denies that there is any military base to train terrorists inside Iran,” says foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi, according to the Mehr news agency.

“We condemn all terrorist acts all over the world, including the recent attack on foreign tourists in Tajikistan,” he says.

Two Americans, a Dutch and a Swiss citizen were killed Sunday about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the capital Dushanbe after being struck by a car and attacked on a popular cycling route.

The Islamic State jihadist group claimed responsibility but this was rejected by Tajikistan police, who blamed a banned Islamist opposition party that it said had undergone “military sabotage” training in Iran.

Ghasemi condemns the “baseless” allegations and says Iran was “ready to cooperate with officials of Tajikistan to shed light on this dark attack.”


Army said to shoot Gazan trying to cut border fence

Palestinian media reports that a Gazan has been moderately injured by Israeli gunfire after attempting to cut the border fence between Israel and the coastal enclave.

The IDF says it is investigating the reports.

The reports say the incident took place east of Gaza City.

— Jacob Magid

7 injured in Golan car crash involving UN vehicle

A car crash between an United Nations SUV and another car in the Golan Heights leaves seven people injured, six of them from the same family.

The Magen David Adom rescue service says a 5-year-old and a 10-year-old boy were taken to Rambam Medical Center after suffering serious head wounds in the crash, which took place on Route 978 near the moshav of Sha’al.

The other five wounded people, one of whom was moderately injured, were brought to Ziv Medical Center in Safed, according to MDA.

The rescue service describes the clash as a head-on collision.

Druze leader meets with IDF head, calls on soldiers to keep politics out of army

After meeting with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Muafak Tarif releases a statement addressing members of his community currently completing their compulsory army service, amid protests from Druze soldiers over the recently passed nation-state law.

“Trust us, we will fight for you. We have no bone to pick with the army – you are soldiers and loyal commanders, and I trust you to leave yourselves and the IDF out of the public debate,” says Tarif.

— Jacob Magid

Senior Iran cleric says Trump’s offer of talks shouldn’t be rejected out of hand

Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri, a senior cleric and member of the influential Expediency Council, says US President Donald Trump’s suggestion Monday that he would be willing to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani should not be categorically rejected.

“It should be discussed in the Supreme National Security Council,” says Nategh Nouri, who is also a former aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Nategh Nouri says, “We have to contemplate” the gesture, but also cautions, “We should not rejoice over this offer and not get excited.”

“Trump may take advantage of this over-excitement,” he says, the state-run IRNA news agency reported. “It could be a test for us.”

— AP

Remand of driver suspected of killing 13-year-old boy extended

A judge at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court extends by six days the remand of the suspect who ran over Eylon Amsalam last Thursday night, killing the 13-year-old boy while he was waiting to cross the street at a Tel Aviv intersection.

The judge states there is a concern that the suspect, 23-year-old, Eli Bar Zakai had tampered with the investigation. Bar Zakai, who police say was drunk at the time of the accident, has not been cooperating with authorities in the investigation.

— Jacob Magid

Army suspends Druze officer over Facebook post criticizing nation-state law

The Israel Defense Forces hands down a 14-day suspension to Druze officer Amir Jamal, who published a Facebook post yesterday denouncing the recently passed nation-state law and calling on members of the minority community to leave the army over the legislation.

“His commanders made it clear to him that he was expected to refrain from publishing the post, which identified himself as an officer in the IDF,” the army says. “There is no place in the IDF for political discourse of any kind.”

— Jacob Magid

Turkish court rejects appeal to release US pastor from house arrest

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s state-run media says a court has rejected an American pastor’s appeal for his release from house arrest and refused to lift his travel ban.

Anadolu Agency says the court in Izmir, western Turkey, on Tuesday reviewed an appeal lodged by Andrew Brunson’s lawyer but rules that there was no change in the “strong criminal suspicion” against him.

The evangelical pastor was arrested in December 2016 and jailed until he was released to home detention last week. He faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted of “committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member” and espionage.

Last week, US President Donald Trump announced possible sanctions against Turkey for its treatment of Brunson.

Brunson’s lawyer Ismail Cem Halavurt cannot immediately be contacted for comment.

— AP

Andrew Craig Brunson, an evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina, arrives at his house in Izmir, Turkey, on July 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Emre Tazegul)

After synagogue vandalized, Indiana governor calls for passing hate-crime laws

The governor of Indiana says he’ll push for the passage of a hate-crime bill after a structure at an Indianapolis-area synagogue was vandalized over the weekend with graffiti of swastikas and the Iron Cross.

“No law can stop evil, but we should be clear that our state stands with the victims & their voices will not be silenced,” Governor Eric Holcomb writes on his Twitter account.

“For that reason, it is my intent that Indiana be 1 of 46 states with hate crimes legislation— not 1 of 5 states without it,” he adds.

The Anti-Defamation League praises Holcomb for vowing to advance hate-crime laws.

Settlement residents told they can leave their homes as army continues searches

The chairman of the Adam settlement secretariat says residents have been told they can leave their homes and return to routine activity after locals were instructed to remain indoors due to a suspected security incident.

A large number of troops, however, are still continuing searches of the area.

— Jacob Magid

Gaza balloons spark 15 fires in south throughout Tuesday

Since this morning, firefighters have worked to extinguish 15 blazes caused by incendiary balloons across Israeli communities along the Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the Israeli Fire and Rescue Services says.

The spokesman says all the fires have been brought under control.

— Jacob Magid

US tells Israel no change in Iran policy after Trump offers talks — source

After US President Donald Trump offers to meet his Iranian counterpart without preconditions, an Israeli diplomatic source says Israel has been informed this does not signal a shift in the US stance toward the Islamic Republic.

“Senior American officials told Israel there is no change in its tough policies toward Iran,” the Israeli source says.

“Israel is in continuous contact with the American administration,” the source adds.

— Raphael Ahren

Facebook uncovers ‘sophisticated’ efforts to disrupt elections

NEW YORK — Facebook says it has uncovered “sophisticated” efforts, possibly linked to Russia, to influence US politics on its platforms.

The company says it removed 32 accounts from Facebook and Instagram because they were involved in “coordinated” behavior and appeared to be fake.

The company says it doesn’t know who is behind the efforts, but said there are may be connections to Russia. Facebook says it has found some connections between the accounts it removed and the accounts connected to Russia’s Internet Research Agency that it removed before and after the 2016 US presidential elections.

The earliest page was created in March 2017. Facebook says more than 290,000 accounts followed at least one of the fake pages. The most followed Facebook Pages were “Aztlan Warriors,” ”Black Elevation,” ”Mindful Being,” and “Resisters.”

— AP

Norway wants answers on Israeli seizure of boat trying to break Gaza blockade

Norway is calling on Israel to explain the seizure of a Norwegian-flagged ship on Sunday attempting to break the maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip.

“We have asked the Israeli authorities to clarify the circumstances around the seizure of the vessel and the legal basis for the intervention,” Reuters quotes a Norwegian foreign ministry spokesman saying.

The ministry says it is providing consular help to the five Norwegians who were among the 22 passengers aboard the ship.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry says it will respond to Norway’s complaints later this week.

The “Return” was the first of two ships in a “Freedom Flotilla” trying to break Israel’s maritime blockade on Gaza. Israel says the naval siege is necessary to prevent weapons and equipment from entering the Palestinian enclave that can be used in attacks.

IDF defends use of force in seizure of Gaza blockade-busting boat

The Israel Defense Forces defends its use of force during the seizure of a Norwegian-flagged ship after an activist group accused soldiers of assaulting passengers on the boat.

“An investigation of the incident shows that during the seizure of the vessel a reasonable use of force was carried out to overcome the resistance of the passengers,” the military says in a statement quoted by Hadashot TV news.

The IDF response comes after the Norwegian-group Ship to Gaza Norway called for an investigation into alleged improper use of force by Israeli troops.

OPPDATERT PRESSEMELDNING! Voldsomt angrep på mannskap og aktivister ombord på #AlAwda som ble skutt med…

Posted by Ship to Gaza Norway on Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Firefighters battle 4 fresh blazes sparked by Gaza balloons

Since 7:00 p.m., firefighters have been working to extinguish four additional fires caused by incendiary balloons in communities along the Gaza Strip.

According to the Fire and Rescue Services, incendiary balloons have caused at least 19 fires since this morning

— Jacob Magid

Firefighters extinguish a blaze near the southern city of Sderot caused by an incendiary balloon launched from the Gaza Strip on July 31 2018. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)
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