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UN nuclear watchdog head Rafael Grossi lands in Israel ahead of meeting with Bennett

Meeting comes amid stalled Iran nuclear talks and days after Israeli prime minister publishes documents he claims prove Iran spied on International Atomic Energy Agency

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Rafael Grossi, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, speaks to the press at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, March 4, 2022. (Joe Klamar/AFP)
Rafael Grossi, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, speaks to the press at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, March 4, 2022. (Joe Klamar/AFP)

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

Russia urges Turkey not to launch offensive in Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi on September 29, 2021. (Vladimir Smirnov/Pool/AFP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi on September 29, 2021. (Vladimir Smirnov/Pool/AFP)

Russia hopes Turkey will “refrain” from launching an offensive in northern Syria, a diplomatic spokesperson says, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan renewed threats of a military campaign targeting Kurdish “terrorists.”

“We hope that Ankara will refrain from actions that could lead to a dangerous deterioration of the already difficult situation in Syria,” Russia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says in a statement.

Zandberg meets with Swedish foreign minister in Stockholm

Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg attends a discussion regarding violence in Arab society on May 23, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg attends a discussion regarding violence in Arab society on May 23, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Environment Minister Tamar Zandberg meets with Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde at the Stockholm+50 UN-sponsored climate conference.

According to Zandberg, the pair discussed “bilateral cooperation between Sweden and Israel in the field of climate change.”

Linde tweets that they had “good discussions on the need to address climate change, our strong bilateral relations and the importance of peace,” adding a hashtag at the end emphasizing a “two-state solution.”

UN nuclear watchdog chief Grossi lands in Israel

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi shows the inner of a case of an IAEA monitoring device during a press conference in Vienna, Austria, December 17, 2021. (AP/Michael Gruber)
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi shows the inner of a case of an IAEA monitoring device during a press conference in Vienna, Austria, December 17, 2021. (AP/Michael Gruber)

Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, lands in Israel, the Israeli prime minister’s office says.

Grossi is slated to meet tomorrow with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

His visit comes as nuclear talks with Iran in Vienna have been stalled for months, and observers say it appears unlikely that any agreement will be reached. Tehran has demanded that the US delist the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, something Washington has refused to do.

On Tuesday, Bennett unveiled what he said was proof that Iranian intelligence spied on the IAEA in order to better cover up its rogue nuclear activities.

New US sanctions on Russian oligarchs include VP of World Jewish Congress

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on during the Victory Day military parade marking the 77th anniversary of the end of World War II in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2022. (Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on during the Victory Day military parade marking the 77th anniversary of the end of World War II in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2022. (Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

The US announces new sanctions on Russian oligarchs and elites, including some of the richest men in Europe and their families, as well as penalties targeting more Kremlin officials, businessmen linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin and their yachts, aircraft and firms that manage them.

The latest US penalties imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine include real estate mogul God Nisanov, one of the richest men in Europe, who is also a vice president of the World Jewish Congress.

Also included in the announcement by the departments of Treasury, State and Commerce are sanctions on Sergei Roldugin, considered a custodian of Putin’s offshore wealth, and Alexey Mordashov, one of Russia’s wealthiest billionaires, along with his wife and two adult children.

The actions are part of US President Joe Biden’s promise, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, to pursue Russian elites’ “ill-gotten gains.”

“Russia’s elites, up to and including President Putin, rely on complex support networks to hide, move, and maintain their wealth and luxury assets,” Brian Nelson, undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement. “We will continue to enforce our sanctions and expose the corrupt systems by which President Putin and his elites enrich themselves.”

Defense Ministry director visits Japan, Vietnam

Defense Ministry director-general Amir Eshel meets with Vietnamese Defense Minister Phan Van Giang in Vietnam in June 2022. (Defense Ministry)
Defense Ministry director-general Amir Eshel meets with Vietnamese Defense Minister Phan Van Giang in Vietnam in June 2022. (Defense Ministry)

Amir Eshel, the director-general of the Defense Ministry, visits Japan and Vietnam this week “to promote cooperation between the ministry and the countries,” the ministry says in a statement.

In Tokyo, Eshel met with senior Japanese government and security officials to discuss cooperation “in the fields of procurement, research, and development.”

In Vietnam, the ministry says, Eshel met Vietnam Defense Minister Phan Van Giang, and signed a joint memorandum of understanding “to strengthen cooperation in various fields such as defense exports and research and development.”

Police nab two suspects carrying tear gas near Jerusalem Pride Parade

Participants march under heavy security in the annual Pride Parade, in Jerusalem, June 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Participants march under heavy security in the annual Pride Parade, in Jerusalem, June 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Police say they have arrested two individuals suspected of intending to harm those marching in today’s Pride Parade in Jerusalem.

According to police, officers searched a car it deemed suspicious near Emek Refaim Street and found tear gas inside the vehicle. Police say they suspect the two men, both in their 20s and from Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh, of intending to attack people marching in the parade.

Thousands of officers are deployed along the parade route, which is going on after threats against some of those taking part, and seven years after a teenage marcher, Shira Banki, was stabbed to death by a religious extremist. Earlier today, a man was arrested for threatening the parade’s organizer.

Iran marks first day without COVID deaths, says health minister

People leave after receiving their COVID-19 vaccines at a vaccination center in Iran Mall shopping center in Tehran, Iran, Monday, August 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
People leave after receiving their COVID-19 vaccines at a vaccination center in Iran Mall shopping center in Tehran, Iran, Monday, August 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iran’s health minister says the country has marked its first day after more than two years without a single COVID-19 death, lauding this as a significant milestone for a nation that long had the highest number of coronavirus cases in the Middle East.

The ministry reports 175 new cases over the past day, bringing Iran’s number of confirmed cases during the pandemic to more than 7,230,000. Iran’s officially registered death toll stands at 141,318.

“Iran has experienced the first day without a coronavirus death while America and Europe still have high casualty rates,” tweets Health Minister Bahram Einollahi.

Blinken: Saudi Arabia ‘critical partner’ in expanding Abraham Accords

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends the Informal Meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Berlin, Germany, May 15, 2022. (Kevin Lamarque/Pool via AP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends the Informal Meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Berlin, Germany, May 15, 2022. (Kevin Lamarque/Pool via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Saudi Arabia is a “critical partner” in countering Iran’s force in the region as well as helping to expand the Abraham Accords between Israel and its neighbors.

Blinken was asked at a virtual event yesterday how the Biden administration is balancing its efforts to push Saudi Arabia on its human rights record with its desire for Riyadh’s assistance with the current energy crisis and for the Gulf kingdom to take steps toward normalizing ties with Israel.

“When we came in, President Biden was determined that we recalibrate the relationship with Saudi Arabia, and to make sure that the relationship was serving our own interests, as well as our values, as we move forward. But also preserving it, because it also helps us accomplish many important things… And that’s largely what we’ve done,” Blinken says.

“Saudi Arabia is a critical partner to us in dealing with extremism in the region, in dealing with the challenges posed by Iran, and also I hope in continuing the process of building relationships between Israel and its neighbors both near and further away through the continuation, the expansion of the Abraham Accords,” he adds.

Palestinian teen said killed by IDF fire near West Bank security fence

Illustrative: Israel's security fence near Modiin Illit. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative: Israel's security fence near Modiin Illit. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

A 17-year-old Palestinian died after Israeli troops opened fire at him near the security fence in the central West Bank, according to the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry.

The Israeli army says it is looking into the reports.

Palestinian health officials say the teenager, who has yet to be publicly identified, was shot near al-Medya. The small town lies north of the central Israeli city of Modiin.

IDF arrests man trying to cross from Syria into Israel

Illustrative: View of the Israel-Syrian border near Tel Saki, Southern Golan Heights, on September 15, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)
Illustrative: View of the Israel-Syrian border near Tel Saki, Southern Golan Heights, on September 15, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

IDF soldiers arrested a suspect who was trying to cross from Syria into Israel near Mount Hermon, the military says.

According to the IDF, the suspect was ambushed and detained and has been taken in for further investigation.

Gantz to Modi in India: We should deepen security cooperation between our nations

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left) meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, June 2, 2022. (Indian prime minister's office)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left) meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, June 2, 2022. (Indian prime minister's office)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi.

“We have an opportunity to deepen security cooperation between our nations,” Gantz tells Modi according to a statement from his office. “India is an industrial power, and Israel is a technological power — cooperation between our countries can significantly strengthen our ability to meet the challenges we are facing.”

Gantz also met with Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, as well as with members of the local Jewish community in New Delhi.

High Court: Government must provide update on Homesh outpost by August

People walk by the water tower on the ruins of Homesh, on August 27, 2019. (Hillel Meir/Flash90)
People walk by the water tower on the ruins of Homesh, on August 27, 2019. (Hillel Meir/Flash90)

In a ruling, the High Court says the state must update the government on its policy on the illegal Homesh outpost within the next two months.

“We have noted the statement of the respondents that ‘[Homesh] will be evacuated’ and that enforcement operations will continue, as specified in their court filing,” the three empaneled justices — including Chief Justice Esther Hayut — write in a brief ruling.

The justices say they expect an update within two months and “further action on the matter” will be determined accordingly.

Originally a settlement, Homesh was evacuated during the Gaza disengagement in 2005. Settlers have since repeatedly returned to the hilltop to maintain a yeshiva there. The Israeli military has quietly tolerated their presence — although it flies in the face of Israeli law barring Jewish settlement at the scene.

An Israeli state attorney acknowledged during the hearing that the army possessed a list of 40 to 45 Israelis who had been approved to reside at the outpost. Thousands of Israelis have reached the outpost in recent months in mass rallies organized by local settler leaders.

“It is well known that Homesh is an illegal outpost that must be evacuated immediately. But the High Court also cowers in the face of the violence of Homesh’s settlers,” says Meretz lawmaker Mossi Raz.

Marchers, ministers, MKs set off along Jerusalem Pride Parade route

Yesh Atid MK Yorai Lahav Hertzano takes part in the annual Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, on June 2, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yesh Atid MK Yorai Lahav Hertzano takes part in the annual Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, on June 2, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

After threats, arrests and amid a heavy police presence, participants and a handful of government ministers and MKs begin marching in the annual Jerusalem Pride Parade.

Social Equality Minister Merav Cohen, Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai are all slated to be taking part. MKs Gilad Kariv, Eli Avidar, Yorai Lahav Hertzano, Naama Lazimi, Eitan Ginzburg and others are also marching.

At 7 p.m. the march is slated to end in a concert and party in the city’s Independence Park, where Uri Banki, the father of Shira Banki, who was murdered at the parade in 2015 by a religious extremist, is slated to speak.

Rights group claims administrative detentions of Palestinians reach six-year high

Palestinians hold posters against administrative detention and in support of Palestinian prisoners Bilal Kayed, Muhammad and Mahmud al-Balboul outside the United Nations building in the West Bank city of Ramallah, August 22, 2016. (Flash90)
Palestinians hold posters against administrative detention and in support of Palestinian prisoners Bilal Kayed, Muhammad and Mahmud al-Balboul outside the United Nations building in the West Bank city of Ramallah, August 22, 2016. (Flash90)

The HaMoked rights group reports that administrative detentions in Israeli jails have reached a six-year high, with 640 prisoners currently being held under the controversial procedure.

According to HaMoked, the current 640 detainees mark the highest number since August 2016, the tail end of a wave of Palestinian “lone wolf” terror attacks.

Under administrative detention, suspects are held without charges on classified evidence. Israel says the procedure is necessary to fight terrorism and take attackers off the streets when concrete intelligence indicates they constitute a threat. Palestinians and rights groups say Israeli security forces abuse the measure, which is intended for extreme cases.

The bump in administrative detainees comes as Israel grapples with the deadliest series of terror attacks in years. Shootings and stabbings in Israeli cities have left 19 people dead since March 22. At least 30 Palestinians were killed over the same period, according to Palestinian health officials, some in firefights or violent clashes with troops, while others appear to have been uninvolved civilians.

Silman said to be planning not to vote for coalition’s settler civil law legislation

MK Idit Silman chairs a Knesset Health Committee on May 10, 2022. (Flash90)
MK Idit Silman chairs a Knesset Health Committee on May 10, 2022. (Flash90)

Renegade Yamina MK Idit Silman reportedly says she does not plan to vote in favor of legislation renewing Israeli civil and criminal law for West Bank settlers.

According to the Israel Hayom newspaper, Silman informed the heads of the coalition that she won’t support the bill, which would leave it unlikely to pass in the 60-60 Knesset.

Silman reportedly says that she will not support the bill even at the price of being sanctioned and ousted from the party.

Greece urges global action to free Iran-held tankers

The Greek-flagged oil tanker Prudent Warrior, one of the ships seized by Iran, is seen as it sails past Istanbul, Turkey, April 19, 2019. (Dursun Çam via AP)
The Greek-flagged oil tanker Prudent Warrior, one of the ships seized by Iran, is seen as it sails past Istanbul, Turkey, April 19, 2019. (Dursun Çam via AP)

The Greek government and shipping industry calls for a global mobilization to free the crews of two oil tankers held by Iran in an ongoing dispute with Athens.

“We call on all nations to act in order to end this unacceptable incident, and to ensure it does not happen again,” Merchant Marine Minister Ioannis Plakiotakis tells reporters.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on Friday seized the two Greek-flagged tankers in the Gulf, days after Athens said it would deliver to Washington Iranian oil it had seized from a Russian tanker in April.

Plakiotakis says last week’s incident poses a “threat” to shipping safety and trade and has “cast a shadow” over Greece’s top shipping fair Posidonia, which opens Monday with over 1,900 companies from nearly 90 nations participating.

Foreign Ministry director meets Bahrain crown prince in Manama

Foriegn Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz attends a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, June 9, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Foriegn Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz attends a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, June 9, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Alon Ushpiz, the director general of the Foreign Ministry, meets Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa in Manama.

“It was an honor and a pleasure to pay a visit to HRH the CP and PM Salman bin Hamad,” tweets Ushpiz. “Fortunate to have the opportunity to discuss matters that will decide not only the future of Israel-Bahrain relations but will also contribute in a major way to regional prosperity and stability.”

Ushpiz is leading an Israeli delegation that will take part in the second bilateral steering committee meeting between the two countries. The first meeting took place in Israel last August.

Israel and Bahrain established full diplomatic relations in September 2020 as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords.

Iranian exiles claim to have hacked Tehran’s surveillance cameras

Illustrative: A sandstorm covers Tehran, Iran, May 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Illustrative: A sandstorm covers Tehran, Iran, May 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Government-run surveillance cameras around Iran’s capital are reportedly “disrupted,” while an exile group claims it hacked into over 5,000 cameras around Tehran ahead of commemoration of the death of the founder of the Islamic Republic.

The Young Journalists Club, an affiliate of Iranian state television, acknowledges the disruption on Twitter after the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq claims it penetrated the cameras, including around the mausoleum of the late Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The website for Tehran’s municipality also went down, as well as “communication systems” used by the city, the report says.

The semiofficial ISNA news agency quotes Tehran’s municipality as acknowledging the hack.

The Mujahedeen-e-Khalq releases a video clip it claims shows the municipality website and others defaced with a graphic that criticized the “anti-human Khomeini.” It also includes an image of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei with a red “X” over his face, as well as images of MEK leaders Massoud Rajavi and his wife, Maryam Rajavi, while calling for an “uprising until overthrow.”

IDF soldier seriously hurt by snake bite

Illustrative photo of IDF soldiers on the Golan Heights, Northern Israel, July 4 2007. (IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of IDF soldiers on the Golan Heights, Northern Israel, July 4 2007. (IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

An Israeli soldier was seriously hurt after being bit by a snake in a military base in northern Israel last night, the army says.

The Israel Defense Forces says he has been taken to a hospital for treatment.

A similar incident occurred last month.

Zelensky says Russia now controls ‘about 20%’ of Ukraine

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office on May 29, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits the war-hit Kharkiv region. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office on May 29, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits the war-hit Kharkiv region. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky says Russian troops control about one-fifth of his country, including the annexed Crimean peninsula and territory in the east held by Moscow-backed separatists since 2014.

“Today, about 20 percent of our territory is under the control of the occupiers,” he says during an address to lawmakers in Luxembourg, as Russian forces are solidifying their hold on the eastern Donbas region and pushing toward Ukraine’s de facto administrative center there.

Gantz in India: We share common challenge of war on terror

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, right meets with Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh in India, June 2, 2022. (Virender Singh)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz, right meets with Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh in India, June 2, 2022. (Virender Singh)

After several delays, Defense Minister Benny Gantz arrives in India for an official visit.

“India and Israel share common challenges of border protection and the war on terror – together we can strengthen the security and economic interests of the two countries,” Gantz tells his counterpart, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, according to his office.

The two exchange a memorandum of understanding to mark 30 years of security ties between their two countries and agree to build further cooperation.

During their meeting, the ministers discuss international strategic issues, military and industrial cooperation, and joint work on weapons research and development, a statement from Gantz’s office says.

German prosecutors drop probe of far-right ‘KKK’ group

Illustrative: Members of the National Socialists Movement and the White Knights of the Klu Klux Klan salute during a rally April 21, 2012, at the Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky. (AP Photo/John Flavell)
Illustrative: Members of the National Socialists Movement and the White Knights of the Klu Klux Klan salute during a rally April 21, 2012, at the Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky. (AP Photo/John Flavell)

German prosecutors say that they have closed an investigation of people suspected of founding a far-right group calling itself the National Socialist Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Deutschland.

Stuttgart prosecutors say that they were unable to establish with sufficient certainty after more than three years that the group’s aim was to commit crimes, German news agency dpa reports. Fifty-seven people had been under investigation.

In January 2019, authorities conducted raids on suspected members in several parts of Germany and seized more than 100 weapons, including air guns, swords, machetes and knives. They said at the time that the people under investigation were suspected of glorifying Nazism and, in some cases, of harboring “violent fantasies.”

Although prosecutors have dropped the main investigation into the suspected founding of a criminal organization, 23 people remain under investigation for suspected violations of weapons and drug laws, and for incitement. It was not clear whether the alleged group is still active.

UN says Yemen’s warring parties agree to renew truce

This picture shows the damage following overnight airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition, targeting the Huthi rebel-held Yemeni capital Sanaa, March 26, 2022. (MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP)
This picture shows the damage following overnight airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition, targeting the Huthi rebel-held Yemeni capital Sanaa, March 26, 2022. (MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP)

The United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen says that Yemen’s warring parties have agreed to renew a nationwide truce for another two months.

Hans Grundberg commends the two sides in a statement, calling the truce “a significant shift in the trajectory of the war.”

The ceasefire between Yemen’s internationally recognized government and the Houthi rebels first came into effect on April 2. It has been the first nationwide truce in six years in Yemen’s conflict.

Jerusalem on high alert ahead of Gay Pride Parade, rabbi’s funeral

People take part in a rally marking the annual Pride Parade in Jerusalem, June 3, 2021. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
People take part in a rally marking the annual Pride Parade in Jerusalem, June 3, 2021. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

The confluence of two high-profile events in Jerusalem this afternoon have police on high alert and citizens bracing themselves for traffic snarls and restricted movement.

Around 3 p.m., the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade is slated to kick off from the Liberty Bell Park near the German Colony and march down Keren Hayesod and King George streets in the center of the capital.

An hour later, the funeral of Rabbi Uri Zohar, a famed figure in Israel’s film world who later became a Haredi rabbi, is slated to begin in the Romema neighborhood near the entrance to the city.

Threats have been made this year against the organizers of the Jerusalem parade, which is always under high security due to the opposition from many of the capital’s religious residents, and following a deadly stabbing attack at the 2015 march.

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