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As airport chaos reigns, transportation minister holds hearing without solutions

Merav Michaeli reportedly declines to cut down number of flights to alleviate passengers’ hours-long waits, while airports authority says it can’t hire enough workers in time

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

Travelers stand in line to check in at Ben Gurion Airport, June 13, 2022. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
Travelers stand in line to check in at Ben Gurion Airport, June 13, 2022. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

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

Toddler killed after being struck by car in northern town

A toddler has been pronounced dead after being struck by a car in the northern Arab town of Kabul.

The girl, who police say was around 1 year old, was critically wounded when she was hit by the vehicle. Paramedics took her to Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, where she was pronounced dead.

The driver, a 27-year-old Kabul resident, has been detained by police.

According to police, an initial probe indicated the girl crawled from the entrance of her home to the side of the road, where she was struck.

Threat of Russian veto hovers over renewing UN aid mandate to Syria

Unless the UN Security Council extends its approval of aid deliveries to rebel-held parts of northwest Syria next month, food supplies will be depleted by September in the region that is home to some 4 million people, aid agencies warn.

Concerns have been rising in recent months that the situation will get worse in Syria’s Idlib province because Russia may force international aid for the northwest to be delivered through parts of Syria under the control of its ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Currently, aid enters the Idlib enclave directly from Turkey via a single border crossing, Bab al-Hawa. The UN mandate allowing deliveries through Bab al-Hawa ends on July 9, and Russia has hinted it will veto a Security Council resolution renewing the mandate.

Vatican releases thousands of Holocaust-era letters and requests online

Pope Francis orders the online publication of 170 volumes of its Jewish files from the recently opened Pope Pius XII archives, the Vatican announces, amid renewed debate about the legacy of its World War II-era pope.

The documentation contains 2,700 files of requests for Vatican help from Jewish groups and families, many of them baptized Catholics, so not actually practicing Jews anymore. The files were held in the Secretariat of State’s archives and contain requests for papal intervention to avoid Nazi deportation, to obtain liberation from concentration camps, or help finding family members.

The online publication of the files comes amid renewed debate about Pius’s legacy following the 2020 opening to scholars of his archives, of which the “Jews” files are but a small part. The Vatican has long defended Pius against criticism from some Jewish groups that he remained silent in the face of the Holocaust, saying he used quiet diplomacy to save lives.

One recent book that cites the newly opened archives, “The Pope at War,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Kertzer, suggests that Pius was loath to intervene on behalf of Jews, or make public denunciations of Nazi atrocities against them, to avoid antagonizing Adolf Hitler or Italy’s Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

IDF officer under fire after being filmed pulling down pride flag

An apparent IDF officer and another individual are under fire after being filmed today taking down a pride flag flown by local authorities in northern Israel.

In video of the incident, the two are seen walking away with the flag — which was hung by the Emek Hayarden Regional Council — while ignoring a man who asks for their identities.

The man in the IDF uniform, whose identity the military says it is not immediately aware of, wears a kippah and is carrying an M-16 rifle.

“The behavior of the officer in the video does not reflect the IDF’s values. The matter will be examined and dealt with,” the army says.

After Lapid trip, Israel said to weigh narrowing travel warning to Turkey

In the wake of Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s snap visit to Turkey earlier today, Israel is reportedly weighing narrowing its major travel warning to the country.

According to Channel 13 news, Israel is considering somewhat walking back its warning, after earlier this month it instructed all citizens not to visit and called on anyone already in Turkey to return home immediately. Instead, the unsourced report claimed, Jerusalem could state that only non-essential travel should be canceled.

Lapid visited Turkey amid ongoing activities to thwart Iranian attacks on Israeli targets in the country. Ankara reported this morning that it had foiled an attempt by Iranian assassins to kidnap Israelis, following in the wake of multiple similar reports in recent weeks about thwarted attacks.

IsraAID to send humanitarian aid to Afghanistan in wake of earthquake

The Israeli nonprofit IsraAid says it is sending humanitarian aid to Afghanistan in the wake of a massive earthquake in the east of the country that killed at least 1,000 people.

IsraAID says it intends to send bandages, sterile syringes, gauze, suture kits, tourniquets, pain killers, antibiotics and other basic medications.

Israel and Afghanistan do not have any official diplomatic relations, although IsraAID has worked in the past in coordinating assistance to Afghanis, including last year in the wake of the Taliban takeover.

“In the face of this devastating earthquake, we reaffirm our long-term commitment to help them rebuild their lives,” says IsraAID CEO Yotam Polizer. “We have been inspired by their resilience and strength and are proud to stand by and partner with them as they face another difficult time.”

Transportation minister holds emergency hearing over Ben Gurion Airport chaos

Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli holds an urgent meeting to discuss the ongoing chaos at Ben Gurion Airport, where passengers are forced to wait hours in line due to a manpower shortage.

According to Channel 12 news, Michaeli says that she does not intend to limit or cut the number of flights to deal with the overcrowding — because she believes such a move would only increase already high flight prices.

Michaeli reportedly calls on the Israel Airports Authority — which has claimed it has been unable to enlist the necessary workers — to consider creative solutions.

US Supreme Court expands gun rights, striking down New York restrictions

In a major expansion of gun rights, the US Supreme Court says that Americans have a right to carry firearms in public.

The justices’ 6-3 decision follows a series of recent mass shootings and is expected to ultimately allow more people to legally carry guns on the streets of the nation’s largest cities — including New York, Los Angeles and Boston — and elsewhere.

About a quarter of the US population lives in states expected to be affected by the ruling, the high court’s first major gun decision in more than a decade.

In their decision, the justices strike down a New York law requiring people to demonstrate a particular need for carrying a gun in order to get a license to carry one in public. The justices say that requirement violates the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”

California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island all have similar laws.

Readying to pass the baton, Bennett tells new IAF pilots: ‘I did the best I could’

At his likely last military ceremony as prime minister, Naftali Bennett says he “did the best he could.”

“I will soon pass on the baton, at a time when the State of Israel is safe and secure. I did the best I could,” Bennett says at an IAF pilots’ graduation ceremony.

“Our enemies know full well that we will reach every corner of the world, and I want to thank the IDF soldiers and their commanders, that every time I approved an Air Force airstrike, I knew there was someone to trust,” he says.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is expected to become prime minister next week as part of an agreement to dissolve the current government and head to a new election.

Current Lebanese PM tapped to form new government

Lebanon’s lawmakers designate incumbent Prime Minister Najib Mikati to form a new government, more than a month after parliamentary elections that yielded no clear majority.

The 66-year-old billionaire, who had been widely expected to keep his job, secured 54 votes during parliamentary consultations, giving him a clear edge over other potential nominees.

President Michel Aoun now asks him to form a new government, a task analysts fear could take weeks, if not months, despite the economic emergency facing the country.

The powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, whose political alliance lost the clear majority it had in the previous parliament, threw its weight behind Mikati.

Herzog: Israel is working ’24/7′ to protect its citizens around the world

Speaking at an Israel Air Force pilots course graduation ceremony, President Isaac Herzog says Israel is working “24/7” to protect its citizens, following reports of Iranian attempts to harm Israeli tourists in Turkey.

“The security of Israeli citizens is being tested every day. Many challenges lie ahead, visible to the public, and hidden from them. Iran is sending its long arms of terror, into Israel, to our borders, and to other countries as well,” Herzog says.

“We were informed today of attempts to kidnap Israelis and harm them, and believe me that the security arms of the State of Israel operate 24/7, in counterterrorism operations that are often reminiscent of thrillers movies,” he says. “Reality sometimes surpasses all imagination.”

Teen pleads guilty to shooting dead Israeli tourist in Baltimore during robbery

A 17-year-old boy pleads guilty to first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of an Israeli man who was visiting Baltimore for a wedding last year.

Rasheed Morris, 17, is the second of three people charged in the May 2021 shooting death of Efraim Gordon, 31, to enter a guilty plea, The Baltimore Sun reports.

Omarion Anderson, 18, pleaded guilty last month to first-degree murder. William Clinton III, 19, was also charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery and attempted carjacking offenses.

State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said in a statement that Morris will likely be sentenced to life in prison with all but 50 years suspended.

Gordon was shot multiple times during a robbery while walking to his aunt’s and uncle’s house in northeast Baltimore. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Gordon was in town to attend his cousin’s wedding.

Judge approves more than $1 billion deal for victims of Florida condo collapse

A judge gives final approval to a settlement topping $1 billion for victims of the collapse of a Florida beachfront condominium building that killed 98 people, one of the deadliest building failures in US history.

The decision by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman comes a day before the one-year anniversary of the Champlain Towers South disaster in the Miami suburb of Surfside, which claimed the lives of almost 100 people, including many members of the Jewish community.

The judge praises the dozens of lawyers involved for averting what could have been years of litigation with no sure outcome.

“It will never be enough to compensate them for the tragic loss they have suffered,” the judge says. “This settlement is the best we can do. It’s a remarkable result. It is extraordinary.”

The bulk of the $1.02 billion total will go to people who lost family members in the collapse of the 12-story building. About $100 million is earmarked for legal fees, and $96 million set aside for owners who lost one of the 136 units in the building.

Students to return to classrooms tomorrow after teachers’ strike frozen

After a two-day national teachers’ strike, students are slated to return to classrooms tomorrow after the strike has been frozen, the teachers’ union announces.

The union says the move comes following a meeting earlier today with representatives of the Finance Ministry amid an ongoing labor dispute.

Union chief Yaffa Ben David says she “hopes to continue relevant negotiations.”

There was no school nationwide on Wednesday and Thursday due to the strike, following more than a week of late starts and local cancellations as the union ramped up its dispute.

US antisemitism envoy Lipstadt heading to Saudi Arabia

Deborah Lipstadt’s first overseas tour as the State Department’s antisemitism monitor will start in Saudi Arabia, a signal of the kingdom’s efforts to change its image in the West and among Jews.

Lipstadt says she proposed the visit to the Saudis, who were immediately receptive. She says she hopes to meet with political, religious and civil society leaders.

“To talk with them about normalizing the situation of, the vision of the Jews, normalizing the understanding of Jewish history for their population, particularly the younger — not only, but particularly with a younger population — is really important,” Lipstadt said at a briefing at the State Department which was under embargo until today. “It makes a statement about the change.”

Lipstadt is also slated to visit Israel and the United Arab Emirates. She says that her next trip later in the year will be to Argentina and Chile.

Turkish FM: ‘We will never allow’ Iranians to harm Israelis in our country

Speaking in Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says his meeting with his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid was “very constructive.”

“We can never allow such things to unfold in our country, and we will never allow such things to take place in our country,” he says, referring to ongoing Iranian attempts to harm Israeli travelers in Turkey.

He reiterates that warming ties between the countries are continuing with “concrete, tangible actions.”

“We will be continuing with our mutual visits at various levels,” he says, promising that the process would result in the return of ambassadors.

There will be trade meetings in July and in September, Cavusoglu reveals.

“We would also like to continue our dialogue in the field of energy,” he says.

They also discuss the import of Turkish fruit to Israel, and cooperation in fighting wildfires.

Though Lapid avoids the topic in his statement, Cavusoglu says the Israeli-Palestinian issue came up. “We expressed our expectations and sensitivities, and the Israeli side knows all of those very well,” he says, stressing Ankara’s support for a two-state solution and the need to avoid “steps that would harm the peace process.”

Cavusoglu also wishes Lapid success as prime minister, a role he is expected to take up sometime next week.

Lapid in Turkey: Ankara ‘knows how to respond’ to Iranian attacks on Israelis

Standing next to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu after their bilateral meeting, Yair Lapid says that Israel is confident Ankara “knows how to respond to the Iranians” in the wake of ongoing attempts to harm Israeli travelers on Turkish soil.

“Iran is behind these attempted terrorist attacks,” says Lapid. “The intelligence leaves no doubt about it.”

“Israel won’t sit idly by when there are attempts to harm its citizens in Israel and around the world,” he pledges.

The foreign minister says Israel’s immediate goal is to restore calm and lower the travel warning to Turkey ahead of the peak tourist season.

Turning to warming Israel-Turkey ties, Lapid says it is crucial that the two sides finish the process of allowing Israeli airlines to once again fly to Turkey.

“In the last year, there was great progress in the relations between Israel and Turkiye,” says Lapid, using the country’s new official name. “We began to hold discussions on returning ambassadors in the near future, and on improving our economic and political dialogue.”

“I hope we will complete these steps soon.”

Lapid returns to Israel this evening after departing from Ben Gurion Airport around noon.

El Al canceling routes to Toronto, Warsaw, Brussels

El Al announces it is canceling its routes from Tel Aviv to Toronto, Warsaw and Brussels by the end of October.

The struggling airline says that the moves are an attempt to adjust to post-COVID travel demands. Although Hebrew media reports indicate that the decision is being made in the wake of a pilots’ shortage amid an ongoing labor dispute.

After reopening Israeli embassy in Kyiv, staff heads back to Warsaw

After temporarily reopening Israel’s embassy in Kyiv, Ambassador Michael Brodsky and the embassy staff head back to Warsaw.

They opened the consular section for the first time this week, processing around 80 urgent cases.

While in Kyiv, Brodsky met with Ukrainian officials to discuss humanitarian assistance, and sat with other foreign ambassadors and members of the Jewish community. The embassy staff also provided consular services in Lviv on the way back to Warsaw.

The diplomats will return in two weeks, Brodsky tells The Times of Israel, and will open the embassy permanently once the security situation allows.

The Israeli flag remains flying in front of the embassy whether or not the staff is present.

Some Israelis have started returning, but the vast majority who were in the country when the war started have stayed away, Brodsky says.

Lapid sits down with Turkish counterpart in Ankara

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is currently meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, in Ankara.

The two diplomats are holding a one-on-one working session and will then give statements to the press. Lapid landed in Ankara this afternoon for a brief visit amid the ongoing Iranian threat against Israeli targets in Turkey.

Ministers agree to cancel tariff on beef, cattle imports

The Agriculture and Finance ministries announce a deal to cancel tariffs on imports of beef and cattle alongside an investment of NIS 420 million in the local cattle breeders’ industry over the next seven years.

Agriculture Minister Oded Forer says the move will lead to lowering the prices of beef for Israeli consumers.

“The removal of the tariffs will lead on the one hand to lowering the price of beef, a product that has a growing demand year after year, and on the other hand it will make it possible to assist the local breeders and support their hard work,” says Forer in a statement.

The ministries note, however, that in light of the current political situation the agreement will require legal approval before moving forward.

Despite opposition, Gantz moving ahead with attempts to appoint next IDF chief

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has instructed the defense establishment’s attorney general and other legal officials to formulate a response regarding the appointment of the next chief of the Israel Defense Forces during an election season, his office says.

Permanent appointments of senior officials — such as the chief of police or military — are not traditionally made during the terms of caretaker governments, and Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara said yesterday that Gantz would need to present an “essential need” to justify the appointment.

“The defense minister will continue to conduct the process transparently and in accordance with the guidelines of the attorney general,” Gantz’s office adds.

The four-year tenure of the current IDF chief of general staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, is expected to end in January 2023. The position is a three-year post, though it can be extended by a year, or on one rare occasion, two years. Most army chiefs serve for four years.

Coalition attempts to move bill to disperse Knesset away from Orbach-led committee

Forces in the current coalition are attempting to have two pieces of legislation — to disperse the Knesset ahead of a new election and to bar anyone indicted on a serious criminal offense from being prime minister — from the Knesset House Committee led by Yamina MK Nir Orbach to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee headed by Labor MK Gilad Kariv.

Coalition MKs initially claimed that the legislation would be brought up in a hearing in the committee on Sunday morning.

But the Knesset legal adviser quickly notes in response that it remains in doubt whether or not the Kariv-led committee has the legal jurisdiction to consider such legislation.

In addition, the legal adviser notes, such a move is not necessary “as long as the House Committee head is not delaying the legislation.”

Orbach told Prime Minister Naftali Bennett recently that he no longer views himself as a member of the coalition, and he is reportedly exploring the possibility of joining Likud in a new government without the need for a new election, an outcome the outgoing coalition wants to avoid.

In a statement, Kariv says that “the Israeli public cannot be held captive by political exercises,” adding that if the Knesset House Committee “does not advance the process with the required speed, we will do so via the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.”

Israel sends firefighters to help battle blazes in Cyprus

An Israeli firefighting delegation lands in Cyprus to assist with battling fires that are spreading in the north of the Mediterranean island.

The Israel Fire and Rescue Services and Israel Police delegation includes two Air Tractor AT-802 firefighting planes and 17 members who will assist in the firefighting efforts.

The delegation, with various firefighting equipment, was flown to Cyprus aboard an Israeli military plane.

“The Israel Defense Forces will continue to assist on behalf of the State of Israel in any event that may be required, and will contribute its experience and capabilities,” the military says.

Amid Israeli accusations, IRGC says it has replaced intelligence chief

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps replaced its intelligence chief Hossein Taeb, who had held the position for more than 12 years, the Guards say in a statement.

“The Guards’ chief Major General Hossein Salami appointed General Mohammad Kazemi as the new head of the IRGC Intelligence Organization,” Guards spokesman Ramezan Sharif says in the statement.

The move comes days after Israeli media reports identified Taeb as being allegedly responsible for a series of foiled attacks against Israeli targets in Turkey.

Lapid lands in Ankara ahead of meeting with Turkish counterpart

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s plane lands in Ankara ahead of a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Lapid, who is set to assume the premiership next week, is two hours behind schedule because of “technical problems” on his plane.

The joint statements by the two senior diplomats are now set for 4:20 p.m. local time.

Zelensky tells Israeli students he is disappointed by government’s level of support

Stressing the close historical and cultural ties between Ukraine and Israel, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says that his country is disappointed by the level of material and diplomatic support it has received from the Israeli government.

“Unfortunately, for most items of assistance we would want to get from Israel, we can’t say we’ve gotten any of that assistance,” says Zelensky, speaking by video to students and faculty at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem a day before the four-month mark of the Russian invasion.

“Please remember how close we are linked, how our ties are, and what should be the level of understanding between us,” he continues, after referencing the Israeli pioneers who grew up in Ukraine, including prime minister Golda Meir, author Sholem Aleichem, and president Yitzhak Ben-Zvi.

“When governments introduce sanctions against Russia, this is not about business,” he stresses, wearing the khaki t-shirt senior Ukrainian officials have donned during the war. “This is about values and general security. This is about everyone who is willing to destroy another nation has to be held accountable. Unfortunately, we have not seen yet Israel join the sanctions regime.”

“Why we have misunderstandings, miscommunication with representatives of the government, I don’t know,” he laments.

At the same time, Zelensky underscores his admiration and gratitude toward the Israeli people.

“I love your country,” he says. “I am grateful to the people of Israel. I am grateful to you for the sincere and emotional support for Ukraine, for your support of Ukrainians, I’m grateful for the Ukrainian flags on your streets. We see this and we value this very much.”

He also says that he cares deeply about the future of Israel-Ukraine relations.

“We do have a joint future, a great future,” says Zelensky. “Because we have this great history and great past… We will have to look into each others’ eyes for many years to come.”

NIS 110 million budgeted to upgrade Route 90 along Jordan border

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli announce that they have agreed to budget NIS 110 million to upgrade Route 90, the highway that winds along the Jordanian border.

The funds will go to improving the portion of the road between Ketura and Nahal Shita, in the country’s south, and come on top of the NIS 300 million already allocated for the widening of that area of the highway.

“We promised and we are delivering — the Arava road will be upgraded along its entire length,” says Michaeli, praising Liberman for “putting his weight behind these critical steps to save lives of road users. Road 90 has claimed many victims and is also a particularly important road for the residents of Eilat and the south of the country.”

The work is not slated to begin until next year.

Turkey reportedly busts Iranian cell planning attack on Israeli tourists

Turkey has detained eight people allegedly working for an Iranian intelligence cell that planned to assassinate Israeli tourists in Istanbul, according to local media reports.

The eight, who are not all Iranian nationals, were detained in a raid last week in three houses in Istanbul’s popular Beyoglu district, the private IHA news agency reports.

Israel has repeatedly urged its citizens in recent weeks not to travel to Turkey and to leave the country immediately because of “possible” threats from Iranian operatives.

IHA reports that Iran sent agents disguised as businessmen, tourists and students to Istanbul to assassinate Israelis. It says the Iranians split into four groups of two assassins who could better track their Israeli targets.

“The hitmen in the assassination team, who settled in two separate rooms on the second and fourth floors of a hotel in Beyoglu, were [detained] with a large number of weapons and ammunition,” IHA reports.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who is expected to take charge as prime minister of a caretaker government in the coming days, is on his way to Turkey to meet with officials.

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