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Israel said to agree to set up port for Gaza in Cyprus

Report says plan requires Hamas return soldiers’ bodies, missing Israelis in exchange for port’s establishment

Palestinian fishing boats are seen at the sea port in Gaza City on April 1, 2016. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)
Palestinian fishing boats are seen at the sea port in Gaza City on April 1, 2016. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

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

3 sentenced to prison in Sweden for arson attack on synagogue

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A Swedish court finds three men guilty of attempted arson against the Jewish synagogue in Sweden’s second-largest city of Goteborg last year, causing minor damage. Two men get two years in jail and the third is sentenced to 15 months.

The Goteborg District Court says Monday the case involved two Palestinians and a Syrian. The 22-year-old Palestinian had his asylum application turned down following the December 9 attack and will be deported after serving his sentence. The others, aged 19 and 24, have Swedish residency permits.

The court says they were part of a masked group who threw burning objects at the synagogue, which the prosecution says was a reaction to the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

All three pleaded innocent. They were the only people charged.

— AP


Report: Protesters swarm Iran’s Grand Bazaar in Tehran

TEHRAN, Iran — Protesters in the Iranian capital reportedly swarm its historic Grand Bazaar on Monday and force shopkeepers to close their stalls, apparently angry over the Islamic Republic’s troubled economy, months after similar demonstrations rocked the country.

The unplanned demonstration comes a day after protests forced two major shopping centers for mobile phones and electronics to close in Tehran.

It isn’t immediately clear who is leading the protests. Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency describes the protests as erupting after the Iranian rial dropped to 90,000 to the dollar on the country’s black market, despite government attempts to control the currency rate.

Videos posted to social media shows protesters at the bazaar heckling shopkeepers who refuse to close, shouting in Farsi: “Coward!”

Iran’s latest economic troubles come against the backdrop of international firms pulling away from the country after US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

At the end of last year, similar economic protests roiled Iran and spread to some 75 cities and towns, becoming the largest demonstrations in the country since its 2009 disputed presidential election. The protests in late December and early January saw at least 25 people killed and nearly 5,000 people arrested by authorities.

— AP

Army launches snap drill, tells public to expect sirens

The Israel Defense Forces launches a surprise drill for its communications and cyber defense units, alerting the public emergency sirens will be used as part of the exercises.

As part of the drill, an automatic dialing system calls up reservists.

The army tells the public to expect a large presence of troops and the sounding of alarms at the Tzrifin base in central Israel.

“The drill was planned in advance and is meant to maintain the fitness and readiness of the forces,” the army says.

The army also informs the public that explosions and flares will be used in a planned exercise in the Western Galilee.

The IDF’s notification that alarms will be heard comes after the sounding of sirens as part of an unannounced drill in Tel Aviv Sunday led to a minor panic among residents.

Opposition chief tells ‘failed’ Netanyahu government to take a hike

Zionist Union chief Avi Gabbay calls on the “failed” government to disband and hits out at Benjamin Netanyahu over allegations of misuse of state funds at his official and residences after the prime minister’s wife was indicted on suspicion of tapping public coffers to pay for fancy meals.

“This governmens has failed. It doesn’t provide security, apartments or hope to young people. This failed government needs to go home,” Gabbay says at the start of the weekly Zionist Union faction meeting at the Knesset.

Gabbay lashes out at Netanyahu for allegedly causing public officials to spend their time dealing with his personal expenses rather than government services and calls on the premier not to use state funds for his private home in Caesarea.

“Make a simple decision — the expenses at Balfour [the Prime Minister’s Residence] the public will pay for and the expenses at Caesarea you’ll pay for yourself,” says Gabbay.

“Let the state’s employees deal with the problems of the public and not your problems,” the Zionist Union leader adds.

Zionist Union head Avi Gabbay leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on June 18, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Livni warns she could bolt Zionist Union if not named opposition leader

MK Tzipi Livni says it is “essential” she be tapped as the next leader of the opposition in order to maintain her Hatnua party’s alliance with Labor, which together make up the Zionist Union.

“Leading the opposition is essential to me for the continuation of the partnership and can be a wonderful opportunity to strengthen the partnership and also decisions regarding the future,” she says at the start of the Zionist Union faction meeting.

Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay, who will choose the next opposition leader but cannot name himself as he isn’t a serving MK, doesn’t answer questions at the faction meeting on who the position will go to.

The position is now in contention after current opposition leader Isaac Herzog was officially named the next head of the Jewish Agency on Sunday. Herzog earlier today endorsed Livni to succeed him.

Livni congratulates Herzog on his new role and touts the “special friendship” between them.

“Together we started the Zionist Union out a concern for Israel and the Jewish people. I am convinced that from this same sense of mission together with [Herzog’s] many skills, he will lead the Jewish Agency to many achievements,” she says.

Zionist Union head Avi Gabbay and MK Tzipi Livni at a Knesset faction meeting on November 6, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Protesters confront police outside Iran’s parliament

Videos posted on social media appear to show Iranian demonstrators confronting police officers in front of Iran’s parliament in Tehran.

The footage on Monday shows tear gas in the air and protesters screaming, “They attacked us with tear gas!” Another man is heard shouting: “Come back!”

The protest comes after demonstrators in the Iranian capital swarmed its historic Grand Bazaar earlier in the day and forced shopkeepers to close their stalls in apparent anger over the Islamic Republic’s troubled economy.

At the end of last year, similar economic protests roiled Iran and spread to some 75 cities and towns, becoming the largest demonstrations in the country since its 2009 disputed presidential election. The protests in late December and early January saw at least 25 people killed and nearly 5,000 people arrested by authorities.

— AP

Asylum seekers in Israel: Eritrea sent people to beat us

Eritrean asylum seekers in Israel are protesting their country’s ambassador, saying he sent people to beat them for speaking out against the African dictatorship.

About 200 demonstrators gather outside Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Monday, saying the ambassador doesn’t represent them.

Blutus Iyasu, an organizer with the group United Eritreans for Justice, says the ambassador’s people have attacked and threatened them in south Tel Aviv, creating a climate of fear and division in the community. Iyasu says they’re “trying to crush the spirit of standing up against the government.”

Eritreans make up the majority of the 35,000 African asylum seekers in Israel. They say they fled danger and persecution from a country with forced lifetime conscription and one of the world’s worst human rights records.

The Eritrean Embassy has no comment.

— AP

Asylum seekers from Eritrea protest against the Eritrean ambassador to Israel outside the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on June 25, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Save a Child’s Heart wins UN Population Award

Save a Child’s Heart is presented with this year’s UN Population Award, making it the first Israeli organization to receive the prize.

SACH, which works to better pediatric cardiac care in developing nations, is given the award for “saving the lives of thousands of children with heart disease from around the world, and for its outstanding achievements in population and health”

The award is presented to the organization by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at United Nations headquarters in New York.

Netanyahu revved up for Prince William’s ‘historic’ visit

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touts the “historic” first ever official visit of a UK royal to Israel ahead of Prince William’s arrival later today.

“We will receive today the duke of Cambridge, Prince William, for the historic first visit in Israel of a representative of the British royal family,” he says at the start of the Likud faction meeting.

“I must say this is not exactly true because there is a representative, his great-grandmother Princess Alice, one of the Righteous of the Nations who saved Jews in Greece during the Second World War and requested to be buried in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu adds.

He jokes he would invite all of the Likud lawmakers to meet Prince William but “it is a little cramped at the Prime Minister’s Residence.”

Monitors criticize ‘uneven field’ in Turkey vote

International observers criticize the uneven playing field in Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections and say some monitors were obstructed while carrying out their mission.

Audrey Glover, who headed an OSCE delegation, says Monday that unbalanced media coverage in favor of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling party resulted in voters not being able to “get informed choice.”

She says Turkey had “work” to do to ensure that future elections meet democratic standards.

Ignacio Sanchez Amor, the mission’s special coordinator, says the observers “profoundly regret” that two observers were denied entry into Turkey over alleged bias against the country. He calls the move an “utterly unacceptable attempt to influence” the process.

Monitors, however, praise the high turnout in the Turkish vote, which was reported to be over 87 percent by the state-run Anadolu Agency.

— AP

Putin invites Netanyahu to World Cup final, Abbas to attend

Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to attend the World Cup final in Moscow next month, according to Hebrew media reports, after it was announced Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will attend the game.

Netanyahu is weighing whether to travel to Moscow for the game, the reports say, citing sources at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Abbas was invited to attend the game by FIFA head Gianni Infantino and will meet with Putin while in Moscow, the official Wafa news agency reported the head of the Palestine Football Association saying earlier today.

There is currently no indication Netanyahu would meet with Abbas in Russia if he decides to attend the game.

Russia in recent years has expressed its willingness to host such a meeting and while both Netanyahu and Abbas have said they were open to meet, such a sit-down has yet to happen.

Military ombudsman issues warning on IDF’s preparedness for war

The army ombudsman releases his annual report, which warns about the Israel Defense Forces’s preparedness for war.

In his report, Maj. Gen. (res) Yitzhak Brik cites the shortening of the mandatory military service for men from three years to 32 months and an unwillingness by junior officers to sign on for additional service, among a number of other reasons, for the decline in the IDF’s readiness for battle.

He also points to the poor upkeep of military equipment in many units, saying in one case he visited a base where a civilian contractor was hired to clean the guns of soldiers after a drill.

Berlin museum returns Nazi-looted sculpture to heirs of Jewish owners

BERLIN — A Berlin museum Monday says it has formally restituted a 15th century religious wooden sculpture to the heirs of former owners, a Jewish couple who fled the Nazi regime.

The heirs in turn agree to sell back the medieval artifact, “Three Angels with the Christ Child,” at an undisclosed price to the Bode Museum, which will keep it in its collection.

The agreement means “righting an injustice,” says the head of Berlin’s public museums, Michael Eissenhauer, who thanks the heirs for the “grand gesture” that will keep the priceless piece on public display.

The delicately carved 25 centimeter (10 inch) tall sculpture from around 1430 shows three floating angels in the clouds holding a cloth on which lies the sleeping infant Jesus.

It once belonged to the private collection of Ernst Saulmann, a Jewish industrialist, and his wife Agathe, an architect’s daughter who was one of the few female pilots of her era.


One of the heirs of former owners, a Jewish couple who fled the Nazi regime, Felix de Marez Oyens (L) and his wife Theodora de Marez Oyens stand in front of a 15th century religious wooden sculpture during its restitution on June 25, 2018 in Berlin. (AFP Photo/Bernd von Jutrczenka)

Prince William lands in Israel for first ever official visit by UK royal

Prince William arrives at Ben Gurion International Airport in the first ever official visit by a member of the British royal family.

Prince William disembarks from plane, greeted by Likud lawmakers

Prince William descends from his plane at Ben Gurion International Airport and is greeted by Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and Likud MK Amir Ohana.

Ex-NATO chief Solana denied entry to US over Iran trips

MADRID — Former NATO chief Javier Solana says Monday his online application to enter the United States was turned down for having traveled to Iran, where he took part in negotiations on a nuclear deal.

“It’s a petty decision,” he tells Spanish television, explaining he had gone to Iran in 2013 to attend President Hassan Rohani’s swearing-in ceremony.

“I went as a representative for all those who negotiated” a deal later reached in 2015 aimed at ensuring Tehran would not develop a nuclear bomb, from which the United States withdrew in May.

“People must go to the most complicated countries to keep going with negotiations.

“What seems most shocking to me is that these people are treated the same way as others,” in terms of being allowed or denied entry.

The online entry application has to be completed by EU residents before trips to the United States of three months or less.

But since 2015, people having previously traveled to Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, or Yemen can no longer get this fast-track authorization and have to apply for a visa.

The restriction does not normally apply to government employees, but Solana did not hold such a post in 2013.


Minister says Prince William’s visit boosts England’s chances in World Cup

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) says he told Prince William upon arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport that his visit to Israel during the World Cup will boost the English team’s chances of winning the soccer tournament.

“I welcomed him to Israel and told him there is no better time to be in the Holy Land than during the World Cup because this increases the chance of winning the trophy,” says Levin, the most senior government figure to greet the British royal at the airport.

A number of Israeli ministers have implied Argentina’s World Cup woes are due to the team’s cancellation of its warm up match in Jerusalem against Israel’s national team.

Palestinian from Syria convicted of Berlin assault on kippa-clad Israeli

BERLIN — A German court on Monday convicts a Palestinian man from Syria, on assault charges for lashing out with his belt at an Israeli man wearing a kippa.

Knaan al-Sebai, 19, is sentenced to four weeks’ juvenile detention, but is allowed to walk free, having already served over two months in pre-trail detention.

“I made a mistake and I have learned from it,” he tells the Berlin court, after a trial in which he had denied thatthe April 17 attack was motivated by anti-Semitism.

A video of the street assault, filmed by the victim on his smartphone, sparked widespread public revulsion as it spread on social media, and triggered street rallies in solidarity with Jews.

The footage shows the attacker, one of a group of three, shouting “yahudi” — Jew in Arabic — before striking the victim, leaving him injured.

The victim, a 21-year-old student, later revealed that he is not Jewish, but an Israeli Arab named Adam Armush, who was walking at the time with a German-Moroccan friend aged 24.

Armush, a veterinary student, said they had wanted to test whether wearing a kippa was safe in the fashionable inner Berlin district of Prenzlauer Berg.


Report: Israel agrees to set up port for Gaza in Cyprus

Israel has agreed to set up a seaport serving the Gaza Strip in Cyrpus in exchange for the release of the bodies of two soldiers and a pair of Israelis being held by the Hamas terror group in the Palestinian enclave, Hadashot TV news reports.

The report says Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman agreed in principle to the port’s establishment, during a meeting last week in Cyprus with the country’s president.

The plan will include the establishment of an Israeli overnight mechanism to ensure Hamas does not use the port for weapons smuggling, according to the report.

The network quotes a senior Israeli security official saying that as soon as the plan is finalized, it will be presented directly to residents of Gaza “over Hamas’ head.”

“We will openly put the benefits package on the table and clarify: This is possible, this is the price, take it or leave it,” the official says.

Likud holds steady in new poll, would still win handily if Gantz launches party

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party would cruise to victory if fresh elections were held, a Hadashot TV news poll released this evening says.

Likud would win 32 seats in new elections, up from its current 30, followed by Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, which would place well behind Likud with 18 seats. The party currently has 11 Knesset seats.

The Zionist Union, an alliance of Labor and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua, would place third with 15 seats. Though well down from the 24 seats it now holds, the result is an improvement on recent polls that gave the party around 10 seats.

The Zionist Union would be followed by the Joint (Arab) List at 12 (13), Jewish Home at 7 (8), Kulanu at 7 (10), United Torah Judaism at 7 (6), Shas at 6 (7), Yisrael Beytenu at 6 (5) and Meretz at 5. A yet to be named party led by independent MK Orly Levy-Abekasis would win 5 seats, according to the poll.

The poll also asked respondents how they would vote if former IDF chief of staff were to run at the head of a new party. In such a case, Likud would win 28 seats, Yesh Atid 14, Gantz’s party 13 and the Zionist Union at 10.

Asked who they prefer for prime minister, 34 percent of respondents say Netanyahu, 13% Gantz, 9% Lapid, 5% Kulanu head Moshe Kahlon, 3% Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, and 3% Zionist Union chief Avi Gabbay.

Former Mossad No. 2 applauds Liberman over reported Gaza port in Cyprus

A former deputy head of the Mossad gives kudos to Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, after Hadashot TV news reported he had agreed to set up a special port for the Gaza Strip in Cyrpus if Hamas returns the bodies of two soldiers and a pair of missing Israelis.

“I am happy that Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman adopted the initiative that I have promoted since 2015 when I was directoral-general of the Intelligence Ministry under the ministers Yuval Steinitz and Israel Katz to establish a dedicated platform at a port in Cyprus for the benefit of residents of the Strip, without harming Israel’s security” tweets Ram Ben-Barak, who earlier this year joined the centrist Yesh Atid party.

“It is possible and also necessary to put this plan into action,” he adds.

Trump welcomes Jordan’s King Abdullah II to White House

WASHINGTON, DC — US President Donald Trump is hosting Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the White House.

The president and First Lady Melania Trump greet Abdullah and his wife, Queen Rania, on Monday afternoon. The couples will be meeting in the Oval Office before Trump, Abdullah and their aides sit down for talks.

The White House had said the allies would be discussing “terrorism, the threat from Iran and the crisis in Syria, and working towards a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner recently met with Abdullah, as part of a Middle East trip to lay the groundwork for an expected Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

It is likely to face steep resistance from the Palestinians, who have cut ties with the US since Trump recognized contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

— AP

Jordan’s King Abdullah II (R) is greeted by US President Donald Trump at the White House on June 25, 2018. (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)
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