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

1 million liters of fuel from Egypt eases Gaza electricity crisis

An official says the sole power plant in electricity-starved Gaza has resumed operations after receiving 1 million liters of fuel from neighboring Egypt.

The shipment undercut Western-backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who has been exerting financial pressure on Gaza’s ruling Hamas to cede ground in the territory he lost in 2007.

This week, Abbas reduced the flow of electricity funded by his West Bank autonomy government and delivered to Gaza via Israel.

Gaza electricity company spokesman Mohammed Thabit says electricity sent from Israel is down 40 percent.

He says the power plant resumed operations on Thursday with Egyptian fuel, making up for the Abbas-initiated cuts.

The fuel shipment results from an alliance of convenience between former rivals, including Hamas and Mohammad Dahlan, a disgruntled ex-Abbas aide seeking to make a political comeback.

— AP

600 English high-rises thought to have Grenfell-style cladding

Six hundred apartment buildings in England alone are believed to have the same cladding as Grenfell Tower, the government says, after the panels were widely blamed for the spread of a deadly fire there.

Emergency checks ordered by the government revealed that combustible cladding had so far been confirmed on three high-rise buildings in Britain as a whole, the government says.


Herzog: Netanyahu incapable of reaching peace with Palestinians

Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau is incapable of making peace with the Palestinians, and he will eventually wear out Washington’s patience on the matter.

Speaking at an annual security conference at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Herzog further accuses the prime minister of being engaged in his own political survival and therefore following the lead of right-wing Jewish Home party leader and Education Minister Naftali Bennett in order to maintain an image of being rightist.

“I say with certainty that Netanyahu is not capable of reaching peace with the Palestinians,” says Herzog who leads the Zionist Union faction. “He can talk, procrastinate and bluff. One day, the White House will have had enough.

Netanyahu cannot give Trump what Trump needs to get the Palestinians to negotiate – because Netanyahu is not really ready to go for the establishment of a Palestinian state,” he says.

Herzog claims that Jared Kushner, son-in-law and special adviser to US President Donald Trump, was subjected to the same treatment when he met with Netanyahu yesterday.

— Stuart Winer

US interrogates detainees in Yemen prisons rife with torture

Hundreds of men swept up in the hunt for al-Qaeda militants have disappeared into a secret network of prisons in southern Yemen where abuse is routine and torture extreme — including the “grill,” in which the victim is tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire, an Associated Press investigation has found.

Senior American defense officials acknowledges that US forces have been involved in interrogations of detainees in Yemen but denied any participation in or knowledge of human rights abuses. Interrogating detainees who have been abused could violate international law, which prohibits complicity in torture.

— AP

Disability benefits to increase to NIS 4,000 per month

Coalition chairman David Bitan announces that disability benefits will increase to NIS 4,000 ($1,100) per month, up from the NIS 2,342 ($640) those entitled to financial assistance currently receive.

The move comes amid dozens of protests by disabled Israelis who have been demanding the monthly benefits be raised to the same amount as the minimum wage.

Minimum wage in Israel is NIS 5,000 ($1,410) per month.

UNESCO warns Mosul minaret destruction ‘deepens wounds’ of Iraqis

The destruction by jihadists of Mosul’s leaning minaret “deepens the wounds” in war-torn Iraq, UNESCO chief Irina Bokova says.

Calling in a statement for “immediate and strengthened international mobilization,” the head of the UN’s cultural agency says: “This new destruction deepens the wounds of a society already affected by an unprecedented humanitarian tragedy.”

She pledges UNESCO’s “renewed solidarity and readiness to support, restore and rehabilitate cultural heritage whenever possible.”

The 12th-century minaret blown up along with the Nuri mosque on Wednesday was one of Iraq’s most recognizable monuments, sometimes referred to as its Tower of Pisa.


4 detained in raids linked to Brussels train station attack

Belgian authorities say that police detained four people in a series of raids in Brussels linked to the failed bombing at a rail station this week by a man shouting “Allahu akbar.”

The federal prosecutor’s office says that the four were picked up during searches in the Molenbeek neighborhood, as well as in Anderlecht and Koekelberg. The attacker in Tuesday’s violence at Brussels Central Station was a 36-year-old Moroccan national also living in Molenbeek, but he wasn’t known to authorities for being involved in extremist activities.

Many of the suspects linked to attacks in Brussels and in Paris in November 2015 lived in or passed through the Molenbeek neighborhood

Prosecutors say in a statement that the four suspects allegedly linked to the latest incident in Brussels were “taken in for thorough questioning” and that an investigating judge would decide later today whether to keep them in custody. Authorities didn’t say whether anything had been seized in the raids, and declined to provide further details.

— AP

Church of England head says it ‘colluded with’ sex abuse

The Church of England “colluded” with and helped to hide the long-term sexual abuse of young men by one of its former bishops, the head of the church says.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby apologizes to the victims who spoke out and helped bring ex-bishop Peter Ball to justice as the church published a detailed report into how it handled the case.

Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, talks to fellow Anglican leaders in Amman, Jordan, May 2, 2017. (AP/Sam McNeil)
Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, talks to fellow Anglican leaders in Amman, Jordan, May 2, 2017. (AP/Sam McNeil)

Welby ordered the report after Ball was convicted and imprisoned in 2015 for misconduct in public office and indecent assaults against teenagers and young men over a period of 20 years. Ball, who admitted to abusing 18 people, was released after serving 16 months.

The report said Ball’s conduct “caused serious and enduring damage to the lives of many men,” and that “the church at its most senior levels and over many years supported him unwisely.”

Describing the report as “harrowing reading,” Welby said: “The church colluded and concealed rather than seeking to help those who were brave enough to come forward.”

“This is inexcusable and shocking behavior,” he said, adding that while most of what happened took place years ago, “we can never be complacent, we must learn lessons.”

— AP

Russia fairly sure it killed IS leader in Syria airstrike

Russia’s Foreign Ministry says there is a “high degree of certainty” that it killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi outside the group’s de facto capital in Syria in late May, the RIA news agency reported.

Last week, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed al-Baghdadi and other senior group commanders were killed in an airstrike, but said his death was still “being verified through various channels.”

Bezeq CEO questioned in probe into securities law violations

Bezeq CEO Stella Handler is questioned by the Israel Securities Authority as part of an investigation into Shaul Elovitz, the Israeli telecom giant’s controlling shareholder.

Handler is a close associate of Elovitz, who was questioned this week by ISA investigators over suspected securities law violations.

Bezeq’s Tel Aviv offices were raided on Tuesday as part of the investigation.

Katz calls for full Saudi ties, says Netanyahu should visit Riyadh

Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz calls for fully normalized ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and calls on Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Riyadh for an official visit.

“I call upon Salman, the Saudi King, to invite prime minister of Israel Netanyahu to visit Saudi Arabia,” Katz says at the annual Herzliya security conference near Tel Aviv. “The Palestinians have no veto power when it comes to normalizing ties with the Gulf.”

Katz goes on to invite the newly appointed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Israel, promising that he would be a “very welcome guest” in the Jewish state.

Trump disputes Russian meddling in 2016 election, then blames Obama

US President Donald Trump questions why the Obama administration didn’t try to stop Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The president’s tweet Thursday appears to cast doubt on the assessment of 17 intelligence agencies that blame Russia for election meddling.

The president tweeted: “By the way, if Russia was working so hard on the 2016 Election, it all took place during the Obama Admin. Why didn’t they stop them?”

Trump also claimed former Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson “is latest top intelligence official to state there was no grand scheme between Trump & Russia.”

However, Johnson didn’t say that in testimony Wednesday before the House intelligence committee; Johnson said was he wasn’t aware of efforts by Trump or his campaign to collude with Russia beyond what the intelligence community already knows.

— AP

Champs-Elysees attacker pledged allegiance to Islamic State

A French prosecutor says a man who was killed when he drove a car packed with arms and explosives into a police convoy had pledged allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State group.

Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins says the attacker had a huge cache of weapons both at home and in the vehicle used in Monday’s rampage.

Molins says evidence from the investigation shows the suspect wanted to join IS forces in Syria and Iraq.

The driver in the latest attack on one of the French capital’s busiest shopping and tourist districts set off a fiery blast when he drove his car into police patrolling the Champs-Elysee.

Witnesses said gendarmes jumped out of the vehicle, ran to the car, smashed its windows and pulled out the driver in an apparent attempt to save him.

Police officials earlier identified the suspect as 31-year-old Adam Djaziri from the Paris suburb of Argenteuil.

— AP

Mourners gather for funeral of student detained in North Korea

Hundreds of mourners gather to celebrate the life of an American Jewish college student who was detained in North Korea for over a year and died shortly after being returned home to Ohio in a coma.

Otto Warmbier’s brother, sister and friends were among the scheduled speakers for the funeral Thursday at a high school in his hometown of Wyoming, near Cincinnati.

A rabbi was officiating at the public service, which was closed to the news media.

— AP

Qatar Airways seeks 10% stake in American Airlines

Qatar Airways notifies American Airlines it wants to buy about a 10 percent stake in the US carrier, which confirmed the move in a securities filing.

In this Jan. 15, 2015 file photo, the new Airbus A 350 of Qatar Airways coming from Doha, Qatar, approaches the gate at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany. (Photo credit:AP/Michael Probst-file)
In this Jan. 15, 2015 file photo, the new Airbus A 350 of Qatar Airways coming from Doha, Qatar, approaches the gate at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany. (Photo credit:AP/Michael Probst-file)

Qatar Airways discloses that it planned to buy at least $808 million in shares, and Qatar Airways’ chief executive told his counterpart at American that the carrier sought a stake of about 10 percent, American Airlines says.

“The proposed investment by Qatar Airways was not solicited by American Airlines and would in no way change the Company’s Board composition, governance, management or strategic direction,” American says in the filing.


Netanyahu bars work on Tel Aviv-Jerusalem train line on Shabbat

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decides to call off construction work on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem train line scheduled for Saturday, after a meeting with Ultra-Orthodox cabinet ministers who complained the work would desecrate the Jewish Sabbath.

During the meeting with Aryeh Deri (Shas) and Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), Netanyahu agrees that the status quo of not working on Shabbat unnecessarily should be maintained.

Israel demands UN intervention after disguised Hezbollah outposts found

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon tells the Security Council that Lebanon’s Hezbollah has erected of outposts along the border with Israel under the guise of an agricultural organization.

In a letter, Danon says that in April 2017 a UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) patrol was denied access to an observation post flying the NGO “Green Without Borders” flag by a group of locals.

Danon calls on the UNSC to demand the Lebanese government dismantle the Hezbollah outposts.

Egypt says 7 militants behind attacks on Copts killed in raid

Egypt’s Interior Ministry says it has killed seven people in connection with recent attacks on the country’s embattled Christian minority, including three church bombings and a deadly bus shooting, all claimed by the Islamic State group.

The ministry statement that the militants, who were killed in an exchange of fire, were hiding in a western desert camp. It did not provide any further details.

Attacks on Coptic Christians have claimed the lives of more than 100 people and injured scores since December.

Earlier, the state-run MENA news agency reported that Egypt’s Cabinet approved a three-month extension of the state of emergency, declared by President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi following twin Palm Sunday church bombings.

— AP

Trump says he didn’t tape his conversations with Comey

US President Donald Trump says he “did not make” and doesn’t have any recordings of his private conversations with James Comey — his fired FBI director.

Trump also tweets that he has “no idea” whether other “tapes” or recordings exist.

Trump has disputed Comey’s assertion that Trump asked Comey for a pledge of loyalty during a dinner meeting they had.

When news of Comey’s account broke, Trump tweeted that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

Under a post-Watergate law, presidential recordings belong to the people and eventually can be made public. Destroying them would be a crime.

The House committee investigating Russian meddling in the election set a Friday deadline for the White House to hand over any tapes.

— AP

Egypt extends state of emergency

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi extends a state of emergency declared after twin church bombings in April by jihadists, in a decree issued in the official gazette on Thursday.

The renewed three-month state of emergency will start on July 10, according to the decree.

Parliament approved the initial state of emergency in April after the two church bombings claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group that killed at least 45 people.


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