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July 4 gunman planned attack for weeks, apparently fired randomly at crowd — police

US authorities offer new details on deadly Highland Park shooting, say perpetrator wore women’s clothes to blend in

US law enforcement search in downtown Highland Park, a Chicago suburb, after a mass shooting at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade, July 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
US law enforcement search in downtown Highland Park, a Chicago suburb, after a mass shooting at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade, July 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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

Governor of Ukraine’s Donetsk province urges evacuation of 350,000 residents

As Russian forces escalate their offensive after fully conquering an eastern Ukraine province yesterday, the governor of a neighboring region urges more than a quarter-million residents to evacuate.

Pavlo Kyrylenko says that getting the 350,000 people remaining in Donetsk province out is necessary to save lives and to enable the Ukrainian army to better defend towns from the Russian advance.

“The destiny of the whole country will be decided by the Donetsk region,” he tells reporters in Kramatorsk, the province’s administrative center and home to the Ukrainian military’s regional headquarters.

“Once there are fewer people, we will be able to concentrate more on our enemy and perform our main tasks,” Kyrylenko says.

Jewish Agency source: Moscow’s steps against us ‘no real threat’ to operations in Russia

Recent steps taken by Moscow against the Jewish Agency’s operations in Russia are not an existential threat to the organization’s activities there, a source in the Jewish Agency says.

“It’s a nuisance, but no real threat,” according to the source, who asks not to be named.

Late last week, the Russian government sent a letter to the Jewish Agency’s offices in Moscow, making a number of allegations and issuing a number of difficult demands on the group, which would make it difficult for the organization to operate freely in Russia.

The Jewish Agency says it is working with Russian authorities on the matter, with assistance from the Foreign Ministry and other government bodies.

At Jerusalem 4th of July event, US envoy Nides hails ‘unbreakable’ bond with Israel

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, President Isaac Herzog and Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett take part in a 4th of July event at the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem.

“We are celebrating the unbreakable bond between the two countries,” Nides says. “President [Joe] Biden will arrive next week. He has been visiting Israel since Golda Meir was the prime minister. He declares himself a Zionist. We are looking for a fruitful visit.”

“Who knew, 246 years ago, that the ties of the United States of America and the Jewish people would be so close,” he says, adding: “Even as we celebrate here, we need to keep the people of Ukraine in our minds, as they are still suffering.”

Speaking next, Herzog says: “It is a pleasure to celebrate American independence here in Jerusalem.”

“Let me send my condolences on behalf of the State of Israel to the victims of Highland Park. Here in Jerusalem, we know very well the meaning of such a shooting in the streets,” he adds, referring to past Palestinian shooting attacks.

Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at a 4th of July event at the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem, July 5, 2022. (Tal Schneider/Times of Israel)

Bennett says in his address: “We commonly say that the two countries share values. Both people were prosecuted and fled their original countries with courage to search for a better life with freedom.

“Faith does not contradict the pursuit of freedom and patriotism,” he notes. “My parents grew up in the 1950s in San Francisco. My dad was arrested as he protested against a hotel that did not hire black people. He later became a man of faith and came to Israel to protect our country.”

“President Biden is our great friend. He says that one would need to invent it if it did not exist,” Bennett says, concluding that “we always know that America has our backs. We will never ask America to send troops to fight for us.”

2 key UK cabinet ministers quit, in blow to Boris Johnson’s leadership

Two of Britain’s most senior cabinet ministers have quit, a move that could spell the end of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s leadership after months of scandals.

Treasury chief Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid resign within minutes of each other. Javid says: “I can no longer continue in good conscience.”

Johnson has been hit by allegations that he failed to come clean about a lawmaker who was appointed to a senior position despite claims of sexual misconduct.

Sunak says “the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously.”

“I recognize this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.”

Meretz MK Frej announces timeout, won’t run in next Knesset election

Meretz MK Esawi Frej announces that he will not run in the upcoming Knesset elections and is taking a break from the parliament, “but not from public life.”

In a tweet, Frej says he will work in full force for “the success of Meretz and the bloc led by Prime Minister Yair Lapid.”

He says he will try to persuade the Arab public “that it is important to vote for the future of the Arab society, the state and the partnership between its citizens.”

US police: July 4 gunman planned attack for weeks, apparently targeted victims at random

US police say the suspected gunman who opened fire at a July 4 holiday parade in a Chicago suburb planned the attack for weeks and wore women’s clothes to try to cover up his facial tattoos.

Police confirm that the alleged shooter bought the gun legally, adding that the victims of the attack appear to have been targeted at random.

EU says window for revived Iran nuclear deal is narrowing

The window for an agreement to bring Iran back into compliance with a nuclear deal along with the US is closing, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warns.

“If we want to conclude an agreement, decisions are needed now. This is still possible, but the political space to revive the JCPOA may narrow soon,” he tweets.

The JCPOA is the 2015 nuclear deal under which Iran committed to curbing its nuclear program in return for lifting international sanctions.

Former US president Donald Trump severely weakened the pact when he pulled the US out of it in 2018, prompting Iran to drop its own compliance. The Islamic Republic has now enriched uranium close to the level needed to build atomic weapons.

Efforts led by Borrell and his deputy Enrique Mora to get Iran and US back under the nuclear deal’s terms have stalled, largely because of a late added demand by Tehran that Washington remove Iran’s Revolutionary Guards from a terror blacklist.

Israeli at Highland Park parade recalls moment he realized fireworks were gunshots

Chicago — An Israeli at yesterday’s Highland Park 4th of July parade recalls the first moments of the shooting in an interview with The Times of Israel, noting that responses to the incident from locals have seemed far more “drastic” than what they would have been had such an event taken place in Israel.

Chaim Vachman moved with his family to the nearby suburb of Deerfield from the central Israeli town of Mazkeret Batya in 2019 and was at the Highland Park parade with his wife and seven-year-old daughter, less than 200 feet from where the bullets sprayed.

Vachman, 45, says he did not register the initial gunshots, assuming they were fireworks, but realized that he was in the midst of a mass-shooting attack when he heard the gunman, Robert Crimo, lock in his second bullet magazine. He glanced at his wife who quickly ran with their daughter away from the shooting while Vachman stayed behind and took cover.

Explaining his decision not to flee with the rest of the crowd, Vachman says, “I didn’t feel like the bullets were coming in my direction. If I ran away, I would be with my back to the incident, and I wouldn’t have been unable to properly respond.”

The Israeli Navy veteran was armed at the time but did not draw his weapon, noting that there were already dozens of police officers there and that his doing so would have sparked more chaos.

Israeli expats Elisheva and Chaim Vachman, who were at witnesses to the mass shooting at the Highland Park 4th of July parade on July 4, 2022. (Courtesy)

Vachman admits that gun carriers are relatively rare in the north shore suburbs. “Guns are seen as something impure, and people living here prefer to view it as a sterile bubble, regardless of the fact that seven other people were gunned down in Chicago on the same weekend.”

The Israeli expat also notes how locals have had a much more difficult time processing the incident, given that such mass shootings are far less commonplace in Highland Park than in Israel.

“People here are very emotional and easily have taken this kind of incident to all sorts of drastic directions,” Vachman says, pointing to announcements by nearby towns to cancel their respective 4th of July parades after news of the shooting broke and the decisions by locals to continue sheltering in place even after it was clear that the threat had subsided.

“These reactions are human and happen everywhere, but in Israel, people are more used to this sort of thing and the circle of panic isn’t as wide,” he says.

Still, Vachman says the experience has not changed his perception of the area or his family’s plans to stay in the Chicago area for the foreseeable future.

IDF announces siren system test tomorrow in northern Hof HaCarmel region

The Israel Defense Forces announces it will hold a test of the siren systems and emergency preparedness in the Hof HaCarmel Regional Council, south of Haifa, tomorrow evening.

The sirens will sound in Kfar Galim, Tzrufa, Ein Carmel, Bat Shlomo, Beit Hananya and Merkaz HaCarmel community center at 6:05 p.m.; Megadim, Nir Etzion, Atlit, Meir Shafya, Sdot Yam and HaBonim at 6:15 p.m.; Caesarea, HaHotrim, Ein Chod, Beit Oren, Geva Carmel, Dor and Ofer at 6:25 p.m.; Kerem Maharal, Nahsholim, Maayan Zvi and Yemin Orde Youth Village at 6:35 p.m.; and in Ein Ayala, Neveh Yam, Ein Hod and Maagan Michael at 6:45 p.m.

Residents of the area are asked to enter bomb shelters when they hear the sirens and to ensure that their shelters are well-stocked for an emergency.

In the case of an actual attack, the sirens will sound twice, the military says.

55 Israelis diagnosed with monkeypox so far — Health Ministry

The Health Ministry says 55 Israelis — all of them men — have so far been diagnosed with monkeypox, an infectious disease that has caused an outbreak in Europe.

The ministry says it is tracking information about the outbreak around the world and has obtained a small amount of vaccine doses.

It adds Israel is in talks with the only firm in the world developing a third-generation monkeypox vaccine to purchase the shots.

IDF launches manhunt after attempted drive-by shooting in northern West Bank

The Israel Defense Forces says troops were targeted in a drive-by shooting near a checkpoint by the entrance of the illegal Homesh outpost in the northern West Bank.

According to the IDF, troops returned fire but the vehicle fled, with several suspects in it.

No Israeli injuries are reported.

The military has launched a manhunt for the gunmen.

Police probing attempted kidnapping of 16-year-old girl in Pardes Hanna

Police say they are investigating a suspected attempt to kidnap a 16-year-old girl in the northern city of Pardes Hanna-Karkur.

Police say that on Sunday evening, they received a report of an unknown attacker who tried unsuccessfully to force the teenager into a car trunk while she was engaging in sporting activity.

Officers arrived and met the girl, who didn’t require medical attention, and started collecting evidence and searching for suspects, police say.

‘World must respond’ to Iran’s nuclear threat, Lapid tells Macron

Speaking alongside French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Prime Minister Yair Lapid urges the world to respond to Iran’s rogue nuclear activity.

Lapid says Israel and France might disagree about the content of a potential nuclear deal, but not about the facts.

“The facts are that Iran is violating the agreement and continues to develop its nuclear program,” he says. “Iran is hiding information from the world, it is enriching uranium beyond the level it is allowed to, and it has removed cameras from its nuclear sites.”

“The world must respond,” Lapid declares.

Referencing a 2018 speech by Macron, Lapid calls for “a deal that is more efficient and better defined, a deal with no expiration date, a deal with coordinated international pressure that would prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state.”

“You were right then, and you are even more right today,” he says.

Lapid lays out Iran’s regional terror activities, including the recent plot to attack Israeli tourists in Turkey.

“A few days ago, Iranian-made UAVs tried to attack an Israeli gas rig near the Lebanese coast,” Lapid continues. “These UAVs were sent by Hezbollah, a terrorist organization that threatens Lebanon’s stability, violates its sovereignty, pushes it towards a dangerous escalation with Israel, and harms the national interests of Lebanon — a country I know is dear to your heart.”

“Israel will not sit back and do nothing given these repeated attacks,” he pledges.

Lapid calls Israel and France “strategic partners,” adding: “This past year, with the war in Ukraine and the terrorism from Iran, we are reminded that not only does democracy protect us, but we must also protect democracy. Sometimes there is no choice but to use the force of war to protect the peace.”

Meeting Lapid, Macron calls 2015 nuclear deal ‘a good agreement’

Standing beside Prime Minister Yair Lapid at the Elysee Palace in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron calls the 2015 nuclear deal “a good agreement” that must be defended.

At the same time, Macron points out the threat of Iran’s ballistic missile program and its destabilizing activities in the region. “Our values are worth fighting for,” he says, adding that French and European security are at stake.

Macron, who embraced Lapid warmly before their statements, speaks at some length about the importance of reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians, saying that Lapid can be a “historical figure.”

Macron, speaking in French, calls for a deal that recognizes Palestinians’ “legitimate aspirations,” and emphasizes that there is “no alternative to a return to a political dialogue.”

He also stresses France’s interest in ensuring stability in Lebanon.

US ‘alarmed’ at Iran’s nuclear progress, deal may become ‘a thing of the past’ — envoy

The United States and other Western powers are “alarmed” at Iran’s progress toward nuclear capabilities, Washington’s Iran envoy Robert Malley tells NPR radio in an interview.

“They’re much closer to having fissile material for a bomb,” Malley warns. “To our knowledge, they have not resumed their weaponization program, which is what they would need to develop the bomb. But we are of course alarmed, as are our partners, at the progress they’ve made in the enrichment field.”

He adds that Iran now has enough uranium to build a bomb within weeks, if it so chooses, adding that if that happened, the US would know and respond forcefully.

Malley describes as a “wasted occasion” recent talks in Qatar on reinstating a nuclear deal resembling the 2015 agreement, which aimed to curb Tehran’s nuclear activity in exchange for sanctions relief. Former US president Donald Trump withdrew from that deal.

He says Iran has “added demands that I think anyone looking at this would be viewed as having nothing to do with the nuclear deal, things that they’ve wanted in the past, that clearly us and Europeans and others have said, ‘That’s not part of this negotiation.'”

“The discussion that really needs to take place right now is not so much between us and Iran, although we’re prepared to have that. It’s between Iran and itself. They need to come to a conclusion about whether they are now prepared to come back into compliance with the deal,” he says.

“They’re going to have to decide sooner or later, because at some point, the deal will be a thing of the past.”

Iran’s maritime activity in Red Sea is the most significant in a decade, Gantz says

Defense Minister Benny Gantz reveals satellite images he says show the “most significant” Iranian maritime activity in the Red Sea in a decade.

“Iran is expanding its activities in the maritime arena. Over the last year, Iran has seized international tankers and attacked vessels. Today we can confirm that Iran is methodically basing itself in the Red Sea, with its ships patrolling the southern region,” Gantz tells officials at the Economist Government Roundtable conference held in Greece.

“In recent months, we have identified the most significant Iranian military presence in the area in the past decade. It is a direct threat to trade, energy and the global economy,” he says.

Gantz also warns that Iran’s recent tests of a satellite launcher could be used to carry warheads. “This test demonstrates that the Iranian regime has the capability to develop intercontinental missiles, that may reach as far as central Europe,” Gantz says.

“This is in addition to the operational ballistic [missiles] and UAVs, that can already reach as far as the Eastern Mediterranean,” he adds.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at the Economist Government Roundtable conference, Greece, July 5, 2022. (Screenshot: Youtube)

Israeli consul says 2 to 4 Jews are among fatalities in Chicago shooting

Israel’s consul in Chicago, Yinam Cohen, says he has confirmation that two of those killed in the July 4 parade shooting are from the Jewish community in Highland Park, and there are “indications that two of the other fatalities may also be members of the [Jewish] community.”

“Despite rumors [to the contrary]… all the indications are that there are no Israelis among the dead. None of the dead hold Israeli citizenship,” Cohen tells Israel’s Channel 12 news.

Asked whether the attack was aimed at the Jewish community, he says: “We are all examining that question. At present, there are no indications that this was an antisemitic incident, even though the profile of the attacker might be thought to match such an incident.

“The incident took place at a July 4 parade. There is nothing to connect to a Jewish incident. The investigation continues. We are in close contact [with the authorities]… I’m sure more details will emerge.”

Health Ministry officially recommends vaccine for ages 6 months to 5 years

Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash officially approves the administration of COVID-19 vaccines for children between the ages of six months and five years, falling in line with the US FDA’s recommendation from last month.

Ash’s approval was the last one required before the beginning of vaccines for that age group in Israel, after a Health Ministry advisory panel on infectious diseases voted unanimously last week in favor of the measure.

Lapid greeted in Paris, heads for meeting with Macron

Prime Minister Yair Lapid lands at Paris’s Charles De Gaulle airport, where he is greeted by the French Foreign Ministry head of protocol, France’s ambassador to Israel Eric Danon, Israel’s envoy in France Yael German, the diplomatic staff at the embassy in Paris and a military honor guard.

Lapid enters a convoy to head to the Elysee Palace for his meeting with Emmanuel Macron.

US antisemitism envoy ‘deeply disturbed’ by ultra-Orthodox disruption of Western Wall bar, bat mitzvahs

Deborah Lipstadt, the US special envoy on antisemitism, responds to an incident last Thursday in which ultra-Orthodox extremists disrupted three bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies at the egalitarian plaza of the Western Wall, shouting, calling the worshipers “Nazis,” “Christians” and “animals,” blowing whistles and ripping up prayer books.

Commenting on The Times of Israel’s coverage, Lipstadt tweets she is “deeply disturbed” by the incidents, arguing that had it occurred outside Israel, it would have widely been regarded as antisemitic.

IDF busts attempted cocaine smuggling from Egypt to Israel

Troops foiled an attempt to smuggle cocaine into Israel from Egypt this morning, the Israel Defense Forces says.

According to the IDF, soldiers found some 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of cocaine, estimated to be worth NIS 3 million ($850,000) near the border.

No arrests have been made. The drugs have been taken by police for investigation.

‘Massive’ Russian shelling on Ukraine’s Sloviansk

Russian forces are pounding Sloviansk with “massive” shelling, its mayor says, as the eastern Ukrainian city becomes Moscow’s next target in its campaign in the Donbas region.

“Sloviansk! Massive shelling of the city. The center, the north. Everyone, take shelter,” Vadim Lyakh writes on Facebook.

‘Israeli Madoff’ arrested in Bosnia over $150m Ponzi scheme, Israel to ask for extradition

An Israeli man accused of running a $150 million Ponzi scheme has recently been arrested in Bosnia, and the Jewish state intends to file a formal extradition request, Hebrew media reports sasy, citing state prosecutors.

Michael Ben-Ari, also known as Michael Greenfield, is an American Israeli accused of defrauding hundreds of people in both countries in a 15-year scam. Hebrew media has dubbed Ben-Ari “the Israeli Madoff.”

Israel arrested Ben-Ari in April 2021. But he fled the country a month later on someone else’s passport following his release to house arrest after he posted a NIS 2 million ($625,000) bond, according to the Israel Securities Authority.

Last August, a US federal bankruptcy court in Manhattan authorized a lawyer representing Israel to recover assets from the Ponzi scheme, believed to be the worst such scam ever carried out in the Jewish state.

Prison officer fired over claims he ‘pimped’ female guards to Palestinian inmates

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev approves the firing of a prison officer over claims he “pimped” female guards at Gilboa Prison to Palestinian terror inmates to keep the prisoners happy several years ago.

Female soldiers first alleged in 2018 that they were forced into close contact with prisoners as sexual bargaining chips, leading to them being harassed and assaulted, but the case was closed due to a lack of evidence.

In December, state prosecutors ordered police to reopen the probe and Israel Prisons Service (IPS) chief Katy Perry ordered the beginning of proceedings to oust the intelligence officer at the prison, Rani Basha, who has been implicated in the case.

“In light of the circumstances of the case, the nature of the acts to which the officer admitted, and the existing [evidence] against him at the criminal level, I would like to approve your decision to dismiss Basha, due to a serious violation of his duties as a prison guard, and due to his inadequacy to continue service in the organization,” Barlev — who oversees the IPS — writes in a letter to Perry, published by the Ynet news site.

He adds that the decision has been made in part “to prevent serious damage to the public’s trust in the [IPS].”

Basha has been on leave since November last year, after Freddy Ben Shitrit, the warden of the prison in northern Israel, made bombshell remarks regarding the allegations, which led state prosecutors to order police to reopen the probe.

Gantz meets Greek, Cypriot defense ministers, discusses cooperation vs Iran threat

Defense Minister Benny Gantz meets with his Greek and Cypriot counterparts on the sidelines of the Economist Government Roundtable conference held in Greece.

Gantz says his discussion with Cyprus’s Defense Minister Charalambos Petrides “covered challenges of mutual interest in the [Eastern Mediterranean], and areas of cooperation that are critical for the security of our citizens and for peace and stability in the region.”

After meeting Greek Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, Gantz says the two discussed “increasing cooperation between the [countries’] military industries, and additional challenges we are facing, first and foremost the Iranian threat.”

Russia claims Western arms sent to Ukraine are going to Middle East, black market

Russia claims that some of the weapons the West is sending to Ukraine are spreading across the Middle East and ending up on the black market.

Speaking in televised remarks, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says Ukraine has received more than 28,000 tons of military cargo so far, and some of the Western weapons are appearing in the Middle East.

He does not provide any details to back up his claim.

“In the hope of prolonging the conflict in Ukraine, the collective West is continuing large-scale arms supplies to the Kyiv regime,” Shoigu says. “According to information at our disposal, some of the foreign weapons supplied by the West to Ukraine are spreading across the Middle Eastern region and are also ending up on the black market.”

France repatriates 51 women and children from IS camps in Syria

French authorities today repatriated 51 women and children from the former Islamic State-controlled areas in Syria, according to a statement from the national anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office.

It’s the single largest return of women and children to France from camps in northeastern Syria since the territorial defeat of the Islamic State group in March 2019. France saw more of its citizens leave to join IS than any other country in Europe.

Today’s group comprises 16 women, aged 22 to 39, and 35 minors, seven of whom are coming to France unaccompanied by adults. All but two of the women in the group are French citizens. Twelve women have returned with their children and four of the women previously agreed to the return of their children, according to the prosecutor’s statement.

Eight women have been taken into custody for questioning and the other eight have been detained on arrest warrants. The children have been placed in the care of the child protective services attached to the Versailles Judicial Court.

One of the 35 minors is in police custody on suspicion of participating in activities of a terrorist criminal enterprise, according to the prosecutor’s statement. The minor will shortly turn 18, the statement says.

Greece frees Israeli arrested on ‘mistaken’ Interpol warrant, but he can’t leave yet

Greece releases an Israeli man from detention but temporarily prohibits him from leaving the island of Rhodes, where he has been held for 14 days due to what he and Israel claim is a mistaken Interpol warrant.

The court orders that Dudi Ashkenazi remain in Rhodes until a final decision on his fate is made.

He arrived on vacation with his wife last month and was detained for alleged drug offenses committed in Peru in 2012.

Israel has told Greek authorities that the photo on the Interpol warrant doesn’t match Ashkenazi, and that the whole ordeal has been a mistake.

The Walla news site reports that Ashkenazi wasn’t in Peru in 2012 and that a salary slip from the same month as the alleged offense shows he was in Israel at the time, working as a driver for the Dan bus company.

His attorney Morachai Tzivin says he doesn’t expect the Greek courts to extradite his client to Peru, adding that Ashkenazi may be due compensation over the apparent mistake.

“There is a possibility of getting financial compensation from Interpol for gross negligence over its decision to put out the international arrest warrant.”

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