Netanyahu to Hamas: IDF response to arson attacks will intensify ‘as necessary’
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Netanyahu to Hamas: IDF response to arson attacks will intensify ‘as necessary’

After overnight flare-up in tensions, PM warns Gaza terror group the ‘steel fist of the IDF will powerfully strike anyone who attempts to harm us’

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the CyberWeek conference at Tel Aviv University, on June 20, 2018. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the CyberWeek conference at Tel Aviv University, on June 20, 2018. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
  • A cluster of balloons with a small explosive device attached to them, which landed and got stuck on a trampoline in a backyard in the Eshkol region of southern Israel on June 20, 2018. (Eshkol Security)
    A cluster of balloons with a small explosive device attached to them, which landed and got stuck on a trampoline in a backyard in the Eshkol region of southern Israel on June 20, 2018. (Eshkol Security)
  • An explosion is seen in Gaza City after an airstrike by Israeli forces on June 18, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
    An explosion is seen in Gaza City after an airstrike by Israeli forces on June 18, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
  • Israelis at a kibbutz near Gaza inspect the scene where a rocket fired from the Strip fell near houses, smashing windows, on June 20, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Israelis at a kibbutz near Gaza inspect the scene where a rocket fired from the Strip fell near houses, smashing windows, on June 20, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • US President Donald Trump speaks in the Hall of Columns as he arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 19, 2018, to rally Republicans around a GOP immigration bill. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
    US President Donald Trump speaks in the Hall of Columns as he arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 19, 2018, to rally Republicans around a GOP immigration bill. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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

IDF: Israeli response to Hamas arson balloons could get tougher

IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus says the overnight Israeli strikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip were more intense than previous sorties, and could increase if the Palestinian terrorist group continues to launch “arson balloons” into Israeli territory.

“We struck at a greater intensity, with the intended message for Hamas to understand that we will not allow this situation to continue,” Conricus tells reporters. “They [incendiary devices] may look like toys but I can assure they are not toys, they are weapons intended to kill and to inflict damage.”

He says that so far Israel had sought to warn off those launching the airborne devices but that could change.

“We have warned verbally, we have fired various munitions in close proximity to (them), we have fired various munitions on various related supporting infrastructure and equipment, vehicles et cetera, related to efforts to launch kites — that may not remain the situation,” Conricus says.

Iran’s top leader opposes joining anti-money-laundering body

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has publicly opposed joining a global anti-money laundering convention.

Referring to recent debates in country’s parliament on joining the Financial Action Task Force, Khamenei tells lawmakers: “It is not necessary to join conventions whose depths we are unaware of.”

Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, says the parliament should instead prepare its own bills against money laundering and terrorism, accusing the convention of merely “securing the interests” of big powers.

Earlier last week the parliament suspended debate on joining FATF for two months out of fear that membership could thwart helping Iran’s allies abroad, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas. Both are considered terrorist organizations by the United States.

FATF was established by a G-7 Summit in Paris in 1989.

— AP

Yemeni forces say they seized Hodeida airport runway

Yemeni fighters backed by the United Arab Emirates say they seized the southern runway of the international airport near the key Yemeni city of Hodeida, as fighting raged between pro-government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition and Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels.

The Amaleqa brigades, a fighting force backed by the coalition that includes the UAE, also says in a statement they seized areas on the west and east sides of the airport. They have been advancing toward an area near Kilo 16 road, aiming to cut off the link between Hodeida and the capital Sanaa, a statement says.

Col. Turki al-Malki, coalition spokesman, claims the forces took over the airport and that Yemeni forces are currently clearing the airport of Houthi landmines. He adds in a statement that there were no civilian casualties in the fighting and that after liberation of the airport, the coalition will press the Houthis to accept a political settlement.


Bill banning sexual orientation discrimination passes first reading

Knesset lawmakers approve a bill that will outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, despite opposition from the coalition.

The bill would include sexual orientation and identity discrimination to existing anti-discrimination laws in Israel.

Thirty-seven lawmakers backed the bill, and 36 voted against it.

Bennett defends call for lethal force against Gaza arsonists

Education Minister Naftali Bennett defends his statement yesterday in which he called to use lethal force against against Palestinians launching incendiary devices from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory.

After Housing Minister Yoav Galant slammed Bennett for calling to “shoot an eight-year-old child,” Bennett tweets: “if someone shoots at your family, you shoot at him… if someone sends burning and exploding balloons, you shoot at him.

It is so obvious that I find it hard to believe that I need to explain,” he says.

Bennett later posts photos of a group of Palestinians involved in the launching of incendiary balloons, saying: “They are not eight-year-old children. They are trying to kill our eight-year-old children.”

Rocket attack in southeast Turkey kills 2 soldiers

Turkish officials say a rocket attack by Kurdish rebels on a military vehicle in southeast Turkey has killed two soldiers and wounded one other.

A statement from the governor’s office for Hakkari province said the attack occurred as the vehicle was leaving a hilltop base near the town of Cukurca, close to the border with Iraq.

The attack came as Turkey intensified cross-border airstrikes against suspected bases belonging to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq, including Qandil mountain — where the group’s leadership maintains its headquarters.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said of Qandil: “Our aim is to drain the biggest of terrorist swamps.”

The PKK has waged a more than three-decade-long insurgency in southeastern Turkey. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people.

— AP

Russia calls out US ‘cynicism’ after UN rights council exit

Russia voices surprise at the US decision to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council, accusing Washington of “gross cynicism” and “disregard” for the world body.

“The US has once again brought a powerful blow to its own human rights reputation by demonstrating its disregard for the UN and its bodies,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova tells a briefing in Moscow.

She charged the US with “stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the existence of serious human rights problems at home while at the same time trying to shape the council under its own interests.”

She also criticized the US for “imposing a specific American understanding of human rights on other countries.”

Zakharova says the withdrawal was “unexpected” for Moscow although “a precedent was already set with UNESCO,” the UN’s Paris-based cultural body that Washington left in October last year.

“The UN Human Rights Council has worked effectively without the US in the past and we hope that it will continue to do so,” she adds.


Dozens of firefighters tackling blaze in northern Israel

Ten firefighting teams and four firefighting planes are working to put out a brush fire that broke out near the Nahal Snir Nature Reserve in northern Israel.

The Nature and Parks Authority have closed the hiking trail and evacuated visitors.

IDF fires warning shots at Gaza balloon arsonists

The IDF again fires a warning shot at a group of Palestinians who tried to launch incendiary balloons toward Israel from the Gaza Strip, the army says.

The military says an aircraft shot close to where they were standing, in northern Gaza.

— Judah Ari Gross

Pope says Trump immigration policy ‘immoral’

Pope Francis is criticizing the Trump administration’s immigration policy, telling a news reporter earlier this week that he agrees with US Catholic bishops that separating children from their parents at a border is “immoral.”

Continuing his criticism, he tweets: “A person’s dignity does not depend on them being a citizen, a migrant, or a refugee. Saving the life of someone fleeing war and poverty is an act of humanity.”

Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has quoted the Bible in defending the policy, which calls for every person who crosses the border illegally to be prosecuted and detained. The result has been more than 2,000 children detained without a guardian and no clear plan on how the families will be reunited.

Pope Francis told Reuters in a wide-ranging interview Sunday that he agrees with recent statements by US Catholic bishops who called the separation of children from their parents “contrary to our Catholic values.” He said “it’s not easy, but populism is not the solution.”

— AP

US still working with UN on rights despite council exit

The United States is emphasizing that its pullout from the United Nations’ main human rights body doesn’t mean it’s stopping its work with the UN’s rights chief.

A US official in Geneva says the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights — currently Jordanian prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein — “performs valuable work in promoting human rights.”

“We have a very strong relationship with the OHCHR and will continue to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms through that relationship,” the press office of the US mission in Geneva said in an email.

The human rights office, or OHCHR, is a permanent UN organization that ultimately falls under Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The United States is traditionally one of its largest donors.

The Human Rights Council is a 47-country body that draws its mandate from the UN General Assembly, and meets three times a year in Geneva. The US announced its withdrawal from the council on Wednesday, citing among other things its alleged anti-Israel bias.

— AP

Bill criminalizing some filming of IDF passes first Knesset vote

A bill that would criminalize the filming of certain Israeli military activities, including clashes between IDF soldiers and Palestinians, passes its first Knesset reading.

The controversial bill, sponsored by the Yisrael Beytenu party with the support of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, would subject anyone caught filming or publishing footage of military activities with the purpose of harming “the soldiers’ morale” to up to five years behind bars.

Robert Ilatov, the Yisrael Beytenu MK who authored the legislation, says his bill will “put an end to the unacceptable interfering with IDF soldiers while carrying out their duties and attempts to disgrace them in the media.”

The legislation is opposed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who said he would not be able to defend the law.

US allies disappointed with exit from UN body

US allies, including Australia and the European Union, have joined voices expressing disappointment and regret that the United States is quitting the UN’s main human rights body.

Diplomats from several countries made the statements in a brief break in the Human Rights Council’s regular schedule on Wednesday to allow for comments about the Trump administration’s decision Tuesday to pull out from the 47-member council.

The US is the first country to exit voluntarily in the council’s 12-year history.

Elizabeth Wilde, deputy head of mission in Geneva for Australia, said her country “shares many of the US’s concerns about the HRC,” but will continue to support the council “despite its flaws.”

President Borut Pahor of Slovenia — the home country of US first lady Melania Trump — said the American withdrawal was “bad news” for the council, the United Nations, the US and “everybody” who cares about human rights.

Earlier, deputy permanent representative Yu Jianhua of China — which has sporadically faced US criticism over its human rights record — said his delegation was “disappointed” about the US pullout. He said: “All delegations attach great importance to this body.”

— AP

Zandberg slams ‘foolish’ ‘populist’ legislation banning filming soldiers

Meretz chair MK Tamar Zandberg slams the bill that would ban filming IDF soldiers as “populist” and “foolish,” after the controversial legislation passed its first Knesset reading.

“This is another populist government-sponsored law passed a preliminary reading, a foolish law that doesn’t recognize that we are in 2018 and bans photography,” she says.

Zandberg says the law is designed to “incite against human rights organizations and challenge the basic principles of Israeli democracy.”

Trump says he’s ‘working on’ immigration bill

US President Donald Trump says on Twitter he is “working on something” related to immigration following his Tuesday night meeting with House Republicans.

Trump is again placing blame on Democrats, asserting that “they won’t give us the votes needed to pass good immigration legislation.” The president’s party, the Republicans, control both chambers in Congress.

He writes, “Republicans want security. But I am working on something – it never ends!”

Republican leaders in the House are trying to put together an immigration bill that would keep immigrant children in detention indefinitely, but housed with their parents.

— AP

Explosives-laden balloons land in southern Israeli towns

A number of balloons with small explosive devices attached to them, which were launched from the Gaza Strip, landed in nearby Israeli communities, a spokesperson for the Eshkol region says.

Two of these clusters of balloons landed in Israeli citizens’ backyards, with one of them getting stuck on a trampoline. A third boobytrapped balloon landed in an agricultural field in the Eshkol region.

Sappers have been called to the scene to take care of the explosive devices, the Eshkol spokesperson says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Hamas, Islamic Jihad take responsibility for overnight rocket barrage

Hamas and Islamic Jihad take responsibility for launching dozens of rockets at Israel overnight.

In a joint statement, the Palestinian terrorist groups say the assault is a response to the “ongoing Zionist aggression.”

“We are committed to retaliating after each attack. We will not allow the enemy to dictate a new formula,” the statement says.

Cabinet minister warns Israel on the brink of another Gaza war

A security cabinet member says Israel could be on the brink of an all-out war with Hamas, which he says would spell the end of the terrorist group’s rule over the Strip.

Speaking to Hadashot News, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz blames “foreign parties” like the Palestinian Authority and Iran for the latest escalation of tensions in Israel’s south.

“We can’t know how it ends, when it ends, but it looks like we are on the way to an escalation,” he says, warning the current flare-up could “reach the levels of [Operation] Protective Edge number two, and I believe it will be different.”

“I think this time it will be the end of the story for Hamas’s rule over Gaza. We don’t want to go there, but it certainly looks like it’s going to a very bad place,” Steinitz adds.

Netanyahu warns Hamas: IDF response to arson attacks will intensify ‘as necessary’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns Hamas that Israel’s response to the ongoing balloon arson attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip will “intensify as needed.”

“The intensity will increase as necessary,” he says. “We are prepared for every scenario, and its best that our enemies understand this, and now.”

“The steel fist of the IDF will powerfully strike anyone who attempts to harm us,” he adds.

IDF chief says army working ‘around the clock’ to thwart Gaza attacks

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot says the army is working “around the clock” to fend off attacks and protect Israeli citizens.

“The events of the past few weeks in the north and the south demonstrate how volatile things are. The IDF works around the clock with a power that is known to our enemies,” he says.

“We will continue to strike those who wish us harm and will bring back security to the residents of the south, as it is in other part of the country. I am convinced that we will achieve this quickly, with wisdom and determination,” Eisenkot says.

The army chief makes his remarks at a graduation ceremony for new IDF officers.

— Judah Ari Gross

Iran leader says Trump immigration policy illustrates US ‘evil’

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei slams the United States for the “crime” of separating migrant children from their families, joining widespread criticism of the policy.

“The matter of separating thousands of children from their mothers is a serious issue. One cannot watch with a sound state of mind these children crying on TV,” he tells lawmakers in a speech published online.

“How can they commit such a crime of separating children from their mothers for the excuse of implementing some policy? This shows how evil they really are.”

Criticism of the Trump administration over the issue has also come from international rights groups, Christian evangelicals, former US first ladies and the president’s own Republican Party.


Bolton: US exit from UN rights body about ‘self-government’

The US national security adviser has defended the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the United Nations Human Rights Council, saying “we don’t need advice by the UN or other international bodies on how to govern ourselves.”

John Bolton tells Fox News the decision was made by US President Donald Trump weeks ago and had nothing to do with the high commissioner’s criticism of the US immigration policies.

He says the exit is about US self-government, saying it’s “an assertion of American determination to stick by its Constitution and not to recognize that there’s some higher authority at the UN — whether it’s the council or the high commissioner for human rights — to judge our performance or give us advice on how to implement the Constitution.”

— AP

Britain says US wrong to separate migrant kids

British Prime Minister Theresa May says the United States is wrong to separate migrant children from their parents, but has rejected calls to cancel President Donald Trump’s visit to Britain next month.

May says that images of children in cages were “deeply disturbing. This is wrong. This is not something that we agree with.”

Opposition lawmakers rebuked May for not criticizing the Trump administration in stronger terms.

Trump is due to meet May and Queen Elizabeth II during a visit to Britain on July 13.

May says Britain and the United States has a “special, long and enduring relationship,” and she has “a range of issues” to discuss with Trump.

She says the close UK-US bond meant “when we disagree with what they are doing, we say so.”

— AP

Erekat: US advancing ‘international anarchy’ with exit from UN rights body

A senior Palestinian official says the United States was advancing “international anarchy” after it withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council over its alleged bias against Israel.

Palestine Liberation Organization secretary-general Saeb Erekat says the US move aligned it with “Israel’s colonization of Palestine, rather than the rule of international law and UN resolutions.”

“The Trump administration continues its efforts to promote international anarchy by withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council,” he says in a statement.

Erekat says the move came after the United States failed to “normalize” Israeli settlement expansion and “other systematic violations of Palestinian national and human rights.”

Haley blasts rights groups for undermining US

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is accusing human rights groups of undermining the United States and putting themselves “on the side of Russia and China” by seeking to prevent the US from leaving the UN Human Rights Council.

Haley criticized the non-governmental organizations in a letter the day after she announced the US was exiting the council. A copy of the letter was obtained by The Associated Press.

Haley says the organizations wrote a joint letter to members of the Human Rights Council urging them to oppose a US-sponsored resolution to reform it. She says they tried to “block negotiations” and “thwart reform.” Haley says that was “a contributing factor” in the US decision to leave the council.

Haley urged the groups to play a constructive, not destructive, role in human rights in the future. She added the US will work with non-governmental groups that share US goals, “but not with ones who undermine them.”

— AP

Trump says will sign executive order to avoid family separations

US President Donald Trump says he will sign an executive order to keep migrant families together at the border with Mexico, amid an escalating uproar over the separation of children from their parents.

Heart-rending scenes and sounds of crying children taken from their families have aroused a firestorm of opposition to Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

After long insisting that Congress alone could solve the problem, the Republican president seemed ready to take the matter into his own hands.
“We are signing an executive order in a little while,” Trump says at the White House, noting that he hoped it would happen in parallel with legislation passed by Congress.

“We are going to keep families together. But we have to maintain toughness, or our country will be overrun by people, by all of the things that we don’t stand for,” Trump says at a meeting with cabinet members and Republican lawmakers.

The US House of Representatives is due to consider a bill on the issue tomorrow.


Uruguay win ends Saudi, Egypt hopes at World Cup

Luis Suarez celebrates his 100th international appearance with a goal that helped Uruguay reach the round of 16 and ended the chances of Saudi Arabia and Egypt advancing at the World Cup.

Suarez struck from close range in the 23rd minute for his 52nd international goal, and Uruguay hung on for a 1-0 win over the Saudis.

The result means Uruguay and Russia are ensured progression from Group A after winning their first two games, while the Saudis and Egypt are out of contention following two losses apiece.

— AP

Jews separated from families during the Holocaust condemn US border policy

A group representing children hidden during the Holocaust are criticizing the US border policy of separating families seeking asylum.

“Separation of the family for us is probably the worst thing that ever happened to us,” says Rachelle Goldstein, who was separated from her parents in Belgium when she wasn’t even 3 years old.

Goldstein, the co-director of the Hidden Child Foundation, and her husband, Jack, who also was separated from his parents as a child, appear in a video released yesterday by the Anti-Defamation League.

The Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the southern US border has drawn criticism this week from across the political spectrum. More than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents, according to The New York Times.

“When you take a child away from the parents, from the home, from everything that they know, they are never the same,” Goldstein says in the video, adding that many children separated from their parents during the Holocaust had still not overcome the trauma.

“Most hidden children are now in their late 70s, 80s, some are even 90, and they still think about it, and it still hurts, it still aches,” she adds.


Hungary adopts ‘Stop Soros’ laws penalizing migrant aid groups

Hungary’s parliament adopts a controversial package of laws penalizing NGOs that help migrants, a key proposal of the firebrand nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Dubbed the “Stop Soros” laws after liberal US billionaire George Soros, accused by the government of orchestrating migration to Europe, the package of legislation was voted through by 160 votes to 18.

The laws will bring in a punishment of up to a year in prison for anyone convicted of helping a person who entered Hungary illegally from outside the Schengen zone, and whose life wasn’t in immediate danger.

MPs also approve a change to the constitution stipulating that no authority is allowed to affect “the make-up of the Hungarian population,” a clause designed to prevent Hungary participating in any EU scheme for mandatory refugee resettlement.


Rivlin to reject ex-minister’s clemency request — report

President Reuven Rivlin will reject a request for clemency from former Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, who is serving a 15-month prison term on breach of trust charges, Channel 10 news reports.

Misezhnikov, a Yisrael Beytenu lawmaker who served as minister in 2009-2013, was prosecuted for allotting ministry funding for a student festival in 2012 in the southern port city of Eilat and then asking organizers to employ his romantic partner in return. Organizers complied, paying her tens of thousands of shekels during the period in question. The ministry’s funding came to some NIS 1 million ($270,000).

The charges against Misezhnikov were linked to a massive corruption investigation into a number of Yisrael Beytenu party officials.

2 airlines ask US not to put migrant children on flights

American Airlines and United Airlines say they have asked the Trump administration not to put migrant children who have been separated from their parents on their flights.

The CEOs of both airlines say that the administration’s recent immigration policy of separating migrant families conflicts with their values.

“We have no desire to be associated with separating families, or worse, to profit from it,” American Airlines CEO Doug Parker says in a statement.

United issues a statement in which CEO Oscar Munoz said the company’s purpose is to connect people. “This policy and its impact on thousands of children is in deep conflict with that mission and we want no part of it,” he says.

Netanyahu said extending term of US ambassador, citing ‘unique circumstances’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is extending the term of Israel’s ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, for another year, Channel 10 reports.

According to the report, Netanyahu is extending Dermer’s term due to “the unique political circumstances in the international arena.”

It will be the second time Netanyahu has extended ambassador’s tenure.

US envoys Kushner, Greenblatt hold talks with Saudi crown prince

US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner hold talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ahead of an expected Israeli-Palestinian peace push.

A White House statement says the talks included discussions on the Gaza humanitarian situation and US efforts to “facilitate peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

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