ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 138

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Anti-government protesters swarm police station after activist summoned, questioned

Itzik Medina released after being grilled over alleged plans for violent activities, protest group calls incident ‘window into future under dictatorship’

Protesters gather outside a Petah Tikva police station on June 26, 2023, where an anti-judicial overhaul activist was being questioned. (Brothers and Sisters in Arms)
Protesters gather outside a Petah Tikva police station on June 26, 2023, where an anti-judicial overhaul activist was being questioned. (Brothers and Sisters in Arms)

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

Driver reportedly held after hitting protester in Petah Tikva

Police have detained a driver suspected of hitting a protester outside the Petah Tikva police station, lightly injuring her.

Protesters outside the city’s police station complained that a car drove through the crowd, which was largely in the road, lightly hurting one female activist.

Video, apparently taken right after the alleged collision, shows a car driving with a large crowd surrounding it, seemingly trying to stop the vehicle. The car eventually takes off, tailed by a cop on a motorcycle, who had also been in the crowd.

Police identify the driver as a 53-year-old Petah Tikva man.

Anti-overhaul protesters gather at police station where activist questioned, released

Anti-judicial overhaul activist Itzik Medina, outside Petah Tikvah police station on June 26, 2023. (Brothers and Sisters in Arms)
Anti-judicial overhaul activist Itzik Medina, outside Petah Tikvah police station on June 26, 2023. (Brothers and Sisters in Arms)

Hundreds of anti-overhaul protesters gather outside a Petah Tikvah police station this evening, where an activist, Itzik Medina, was questioned over alleged plans to carry out violent activities.

Medina has just left the station; police say he has been free to go for some time.

Police went to Medina’s home earlier this evening, and told him they wanted to question him. According to the Brothers and Sisters in Arms protest group, the police arrived at his home at dinner time.

Police summoned Medina for questioning tomorrow, but he arrived at the station this evening of his own will, Hebrew media reports say.

Following a call from Brothers and Sisters in Arms for activists to protest at the police station, hundreds of protesters gathered, an Army Radio report says.

Anti-judicial overhaul protesters outside Petah Tikvah police station on June 26, 2023 (Brothers and Sisters in Arms)

“We warned everyone that this was coming, and now it’s here. This is a window into our future under a dictatorship.  But we the people will never surrender,” says Yiftach Golov, a spokesperson for Brothers and Sisters in Arms, in response to the incident.

US ‘deeply troubled’ by latest Israeli settlement approvals

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller, during a press briefing on June 23, 2023. (Screen capture/ YouTube)
US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller, during a press briefing on June 23, 2023. (Screen capture/ YouTube)

US State Department spokesman Matt Miller is asked during a press briefing for comment on Israel’s advancement of plans to build 5,700 new settlement homes in the West Bank.

Miller does not appear to have a new statement prepared on the latest development; instead, he says, “I will reiterate our longstanding position which we have said publicly from this podium. Privately, we say this directly to Israeli officials — that we believe that settlements are an impediment to a negotiated two-state solution along 1967 lines, which ultimately we believe is the best way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Pressed again for comment, Miller repeats the statement that his office issued last week when Israel announced that it would be making the settlement construction advancements.

Miller says the US is “deeply troubled” by the moves and “opposes such unilateral actions that make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve.”

Russia says it intercepted two British warplanes flying over Black Sea

MOSCOW, Russia — Russia’s defense ministry says it has scrambled two fighter jets, as British warplanes approached its border above the Black Sea.

“As the Russian fighter jets approached, the foreign warplanes turned around and distanced themselves from the Russian border,” the ministry says in a statement.

The ministry says the planes involved are two British Typhoon jets accompanied by an RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft.

“The Russian planes safely returned to their airfield. There was no violation of the Russian border,” says the ministry.

Incidents involving Russian and Western aircraft have multiplied over the Black Sea and Baltic Sea in recent months, as Moscow pursues its offensive in Ukraine.

In May, Moscow said it had intercepted four American strategic bombers above the Baltic Sea in two separate incidents in the space of one week.

Russia also scrambled warplanes to intercept French, German, and Polish aircraft.

In April, an American Reaper MQ-9 military drone crashed in the Black Sea after a confrontation Washington blamed on two Russian fighter jets.

Teen in Ashdod seriously hurt after being hit by car while riding electric scooter

A teenager in Ashdod is seriously injured after being struck by a car while riding an electric scooter in the southern port city.

The Magen David Adom ambulance services says paramedics treated the 16-year-old and took him to a local hospital. It adds that he suffered wounds to his head and limbs.

Halevi stresses support for commanders who fight terror, prevent violence toward Palestinians

IDF chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi speaks at a conference hosted by the Institute for Policy and Strategy of Reichman University in Herzliya on May 23, 2023. (Gilad Kavalerchik)
IDF chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi speaks at a conference hosted by the Institute for Policy and Strategy of Reichman University in Herzliya on May 23, 2023. (Gilad Kavalerchik)

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi reiterates his support for senior commanders in the West Bank, following criticism over the security force’s response to settler riots in Palestinian towns after a deadly terror attack last week.

“Brigade commanders who lead their men, fight terror and protect Israeli citizens, while risking their lives — and also are at the front when they need to prevent harm to Palestinian residents, unfortunately by Israeli citizens — these two missions serve the security of the country and its citizens,” he says at a ceremony this evening.

“Their work is worthy of all admiration and I back them fully and uncompromisingly,” Halevi adds.

The remarks are his first public comments since far-right minister Orit Strock this morning compared Halevi and other security chiefs to Russia’s mutinous Wagner group, after they issued a joint statement condemning the settler rampages as “terrorism.” She later apologized for likening them to the mercenary outfit.

Biden says ‘too early’ to know impact on Russia from Wagner mutiny

US President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington on June 26, 2023. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP)
US President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington on June 26, 2023. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP)

WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden says it is “too early” to draw definitive conclusions on the impact of the Wagner mercenary group’s aborted march against Moscow and stresses his efforts to maintain Western unity on Ukraine.

“We’re going to keep assessing the fallout of this weekend’s events and the implications for Russia and Ukraine,” Biden says at the White House. “It’s still too early to reach a definitive conclusion about where this is going.”

Biden stresses, however, that he and key Western allies are in close touch and that he has also told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that US support will remain strong.

“No matter what happened in Russia, we, the United States, will continue to support Ukraine’s defense and sovereignty and its territorial integrity,” Biden says he told Zelensky over the weekend, as rebel Wagner troops briefly took over a key southern Russian city and threatened to enter Moscow.

Biden dismisses conspiracy theories of Western involvement in the rebellion, saying he coordinated with European leaders on Zoom and “they agreed with me that we had to make sure we gave (Russian President Vladimir) Putin no excuse… to blame this on the West and to blame this on NATO.”

The turmoil was “part of the struggle within the Russian system,” Biden says.

The US president adds that he would be calling key allies again today. He did not say which leaders, but on Saturday he consulted with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

FM Cohen said to tell MKs there is ‘a good chance’ Netanyahu will visit Kyiv

File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during a signing ceremony following their talks in Kyiv, Ukraine, August 19, 2019. (AP Photo/ Efrem Lukatsky)
File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during a signing ceremony following their talks in Kyiv, Ukraine, August 19, 2019. (AP Photo/ Efrem Lukatsky)

At a closed session of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is favorably considering an invitation from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to visit Kyiv, the Walla news site reports.

“There’s no date, but there’s a good chance that it’ll happen,” Cohen is quoted as saying.

The reported remarks Cohen said the Foreign Ministry intends to summon Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk for a reprimand in the coming days, after the envoy slammed Jerusalem’s stance toward Moscow and accused it of working closely with Russia.

Dutch police arrest 2 for sending millions to Hamas

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch investigators have arrested a father and daughter for allegedly sending over five million euros ($5.4 million) to the Palestinian terror group Hamas, in breach of EU sanctions, local prosecutors say today.

The man, 55, and his daughter, 25, both from the town of Leidschendam near The Hague, were arrested on June 22 on suspicion of “large-scale financing” of Hamas, says the public prosecution service.

Investigators found cash during searches of a house in Leidschendam and a business in Rotterdam, and seized a bank balance of around 750,000 euros, they say.

“The public prosecution service suspects them of having sent money, approximately 5.5 million euros, to groups related to the organization Hamas,” the prosecution service say.

“They are also suspected of participating in a criminal organization whose purpose is to support Hamas financially.”

The pair, who remain in custody, were allegedly involved in a foundation that replaced an earlier, sanctioned organization which sent funds to Hamas, prosecutors say.

The probe was launched after reports of unusual transactions, and after newspaper articles about a fundraising event in Europe for Hamas, it adds.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza strip, was placed on an EU terrorism blacklist after the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda terror attacks on New York and Washington.

A lower EU court removed Hamas from the list in 2014, but the bloc’s top court reinstated it in 2017.

EU’s top diplomat: Wagner mutiny shows Ukraine invasion ‘cracking’ Russia

Josep Borrell, the high representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, speaks with members of the European parliament March 14, 2023, in Strasbourg, France. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
Josep Borrell, the high representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, speaks with members of the European parliament March 14, 2023, in Strasbourg, France. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

Wagner’s aborted mutiny shows that Moscow’s war in Ukraine is splintering the leadership in Russia, the EU’s top diplomat says, warning of the risk of instability in the nuclear-armed country.

“What has happened during this weekend shows that the war against Ukraine is cracking Russian power and affecting its political system,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says today, at a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers.

“We are certainly following closely what’s happening, but it’s now the moment to continue supporting Ukraine more than ever. That’s what we will do,” he says.

“Certainly, it’s not a good thing to see that a nuclear power like Russia can go into a phase of instability. It’s also something that has to be taken into account,” Borrell says.

“The most important conclusion is that the war against Ukraine launched by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, and the monster that Putin created with Wagner, the monster, is biting him.”

“The monster is acting against its creator, the political system is showing the fragilities, and the military power is cracking,” Borrell says.

Lapid slams Netanyahu over terror attacks: 12 were killed while I was PM, 28 under you

Opposition leader Yair Lapid speks at the Knesset on June 26, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition leader Yair Lapid speks at the Knesset on June 26, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition leader Yair Lapid hits back at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during today’s Knesset plenum session for his government’s response to terror.

“When I was prime minister there were 12 killed from terror. Under you during the same period there have been 28. Since you entered the post [in late December] 1,700 rockets have been fired toward Israel from Gaza,” Lapid says.

“On the economy, you’ve also made a change for the worse. You can’t be trusted, not with our children’s education, not with security and definitely not with your false facts,” he adds.

Netanyahu: Government to focus on employing Haredim rather than conscripting them

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his government plans to focus on bringing ultra-Orthodox and Arab Israelis into the workforce rather than conscript them to the military, in one of his first public comments on enlistment since retaking office in late December.

“When you get to the optimal size” for the Israel Defense Forces, Netanyahu says from the Knesset rostrum, “you stop enlistment.” Rather, he says, the question is what to do with the “extra people.”

Netanyahu says his government will answer that question by bringing a bill to encourage Haredi and Arab integration into the workforce, in line with yesterday’s cabinet decision.

He also says the coalition will improve benefits for those who do serve and clear the path toward National Service, seen as a religiously appropriate or less political alternative to military service.

Gov’t advances plans for 5,700 settlement homes, breaking annual record in 6 months

This picture taken on May 10, 2022, shows construction work in the West Bank settlement of Givat Ze'ev, near Jerusalem. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
This picture taken on May 10, 2022, shows construction work in the West Bank settlement of Givat Ze'ev, near Jerusalem. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Israeli authorities advance plans for some 5,700 new settlement homes, shattering in just six months the record for most West Bank housing units for Israelis greenlit in a single year.

The 13,056 homes that have now been advanced through a pair of major planning stages thus far in 2023 surpasses the previous record of 12,159 homes, which were greenlit in 2020 when Donald Trump was US president and his administration proposed a peace plan that envisioned Israel annexing all of its West Bank settlements.

The number of homes advanced today is also more than the 4,427 advanced in all of 2022, when a more moderate unity government was in power that was more willing to heed to the Biden administration’s warnings against further entrenching Israel’s presence in the West Bank.

Wagner chief puts out 1st audio statement since mutiny, doesn’t say where he is

In this handout photo taken from video released by Prigozhin Press Service, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, records a video addresses in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, June 24, 2023. (Prigozhin Press Service via AP)
In this handout photo taken from video released by Prigozhin Press Service, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, records a video addresses in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, June 24, 2023. (Prigozhin Press Service via AP)

Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin releases the first audio statement since an aborted armed rebellion he staged on Saturday, defending the move as a reaction to an attack on his force that killed some of his fighters.

“We started our march because of an injustice,” Prigozhin says in an 11-minute audio. He doesn’t offer any details as to where he is or what his future plans are.

2nd off-duty soldier arrested for settler attack on West Bank village

A screenshot from video of settlers firing at the West Bank village of Umm Safa on June 24, 2023. (Twitter video screenshot: Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
A screenshot from video of settlers firing at the West Bank village of Umm Safa on June 24, 2023. (Twitter video screenshot: Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A second off-duty Israeli soldier is suspected of involvement in a settler attack Saturday on a Palestinian village in the West Bank.

He was detained by police and is being questioned by them, the Israel Defense Forces says.

Several dozen settlers rampaged through the village of Umm Safa on Saturday, setting vehicles and homes ablaze and opening fire, on the fifth day of vigilante attacks targeting Palestinian civilians after a Palestinian terror shooting on Tuesday in which four Israelis were killed outside the settlement of Eli.

Five other suspects were detained following the rioting, including another off-duty soldier.

Netanyahu: The law applies everywhere — the Golan, West Bank and Ayalon Highway

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset on June 26, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset on June 26, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears before the Knesset plenum, after opposition lawmakers gathered enough signatures to force his appearance at a session on exemptions from military service for Haredi youth.

Sparring with opposition lawmakers over his coalition’s record, Netanyahu reiterates his condemnation of settler violence after a far-right minister blasted the security chiefs who denounced the phenomenon as “terrorism.”

“We are a country of laws and this applies everywhere — in the Golan, Judea and Samaria [West Bank] and the Ayalon,” he says, lumping the settler rampages with recent Druze rioting over a wind farm project in the Golan Heights and anti-overhaul protesters blocking Tel Aviv’s main highway.

US cyber envoy to attend conference in Israel, meet with officials

US Ambassador at Large for Cyberspace and Digital Policy Nathaniel Fick is in Tel Aviv this week to participate in Israel Cyber Week and meet with Israeli government counterparts and representatives of the US and Israeli private sectors, the State Department says.

Fick will be joined by Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Cyberspace Security Liesyl Franz, and the two “will discuss US efforts to implement an affirmative vision for a secure cyberspace by working with our allies and partners in the region to build a defensible, resilient, and rights-respecting digital ecosystem,” the State Department says.

Fick “will also meet with Israeli government officials to discuss our two countries’ technology and cybersecurity collaboration as we seek to promote peace and prosperity in the region,” according to the US readout.

Milchan finishes 2nd day of testimony in Netanyahu trial, will appear again tomorrow

Israeli film producer Arnon Milchan makes his way to the conference hall in the Old Ship Hotel in Brighton, UK, to testify via video in the trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, June 25, 2023 (Channel 13 screenshot; used in accordance with clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Israeli film producer Arnon Milchan makes his way to the conference hall in the Old Ship Hotel in Brighton, UK, to testify via video in the trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, June 25, 2023 (Channel 13 screenshot; used in accordance with clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan wraps up his second day of testimony in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial and is due to appear again tomorrow.

At today’s hearing, Milchan was further questioned by prosecutors about gifts he gave to the premier and his wife Sara — which he attributed to their friendship — while confirming he sought Netanyahu’s assistance on his US visa, extending a tax law that would benefit him, and regulatory matters.

He was also asked about Australian billionaire James Packer, who also allegedly gave the Netanyahus gifts. Milchan says Packer told him that Netanyahu was “the most impressive person he met, he fell in love with Netanyahu.”

“He was a major admirer of Bibi,” Milchan testifies, using Netanyahu’s nickname. “He connected with [Netanyahu’s son] Yair, bought a house in Caesarea, fell in love with the country, wanted to try to receive an Israeli passport.”

FM Cohen: Two countries Israel has no ties with were due to take part in Negev Forum

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen at the Knesset on June 12, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen at the Knesset on June 12, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen says two countries that don’t have diplomatic ties with Jerusalem were due to take part in next month’s Negev Forum, which host Morocco has postponed over Israeli settlement expansion and anti-Palestinian violence.

Cohen predicts both nations — which he doesn’t name — will attend when the forum eventually does convene, potentially in September.

“I’m happy to say that we’re in touch with a number of countries, which as of today we don’t have ties with, in order to expand the Abraham Accords,” he tells the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, referring to the US-backed normalization agreements.

New poll shows American Jews heavily favor Biden in potential rematch with Trump

US President Joe Biden (L) speaks in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on December 2, 2022. Former US president Donald Trump announces a third run for president as he speaks at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on November 15, 2022. (Manuel Balce Ceneta, Rebecca Blackwell/AP)
US President Joe Biden (L) speaks in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on December 2, 2022. Former US president Donald Trump announces a third run for president as he speaks at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on November 15, 2022. (Manuel Balce Ceneta, Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

WASHINGTON — Jewish voters would favor Joe Biden over Donald Trump by 50 percentage points in a 2024 general US presidential election matchup, according to a survey released today — a stark contrast from polls of the national electorate that predict a close race between the two leading candidates.

The survey of 800 registered Jewish voters, taken by the Jewish Electoral Institute, shows Biden leading Trump 72% to 22% among respondents. An NBC poll of registered voters nationally, released yesterday, gave Biden just a four-point lead over Trump, 49% to 45%.

The Jewish Electoral Institute, which is led by a board composed mostly of Jewish Democrats, commissioned GBAO Strategies to run the survey, which took place from June 4-11. It has a margin of error of 3.5%.

If the two men do face each other in the general election more than a year from now, and the survey results bear out, the Jewish vote will fall roughly along the same lines as it has for decades, with a solid majority of Jews voting for the Democratic candidate. In 2020, surveys showed anywhere between 60% to 77% of Jews voting for Biden over Trump, and a 2016 survey found that 71% of Jews voted for Hillary Clinton.

Today’s survey comes as Trump is widening his lead over rivals in the Republican primaries, commanding a 51% to 22% advantage over his nearest challenger, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, according to the same NBC poll. Trump’s lead is swelling even as he has twice been indicted this year, most recently on federal charges stemming from his alleged mishandling of sensitive government documents. The Jewish survey did not match Biden, who will almost certainly be the Democratic nominee, against other Republicans.

The exception in the poll is its small sampling of Orthodox Jews, who make up 9% of respondents; the vast majority say they support Trump. Surveys of Orthodox Jews ahead of the 2020 election also found that a majority planned to vote for Trump.

The survey finds that 63% of Jews overall view Biden favorably, versus 33% who view him unfavorably. By contrast, only 19% and 21%, respectively, view Trump and DeSantis favorably. Jewish voters view Biden much more favorably than do Americans overall, fewer than 40% of whom have a favorable view of the president, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average.

Herzog slams settler violence as ‘illegal and immoral,’ swipes at far-right minister

President Isaac Herzog hosts an event recognizing outstanding soldiers as part of Israel's 75th Independence Day celebrations, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, April 26, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
President Isaac Herzog hosts an event recognizing outstanding soldiers as part of Israel's 75th Independence Day celebrations, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, April 26, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

President Isaac Herzog condemns settler rioting in Palestinian towns following a deadly terror attack last week.

“I unequivocally condemn this violence. These acts are illegal and immoral,” he says at an awards ceremony for employees of the Shin Bet security agency.

He also appears to rebuke far-right minister Orit Strock after she likened security chiefs to rebellious Russian mercenaries due to a joint letter they issued denouncing the settler violence as “terror” — a missive which Herzog says he backs.

“The unrestrained tongue-lashing toward members of the security services and commanders cannot become a daily occurrence. We must all condemn it forcefully,” the president adds.

Iran says hoping indirect talks with US will lead to prisoner swap

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani holds a press conference in Tehran on July 13, 2022. (Atta Kenare/AFP)
Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani holds a press conference in Tehran on July 13, 2022. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran says it’s hoping indirect talks with the United States can lead to a “positive” outcome for a prisoner swap.

Iran announced earlier this month that it was engaged in Oman-mediated talks with its arch-nemesis the United States over its nuclear deal and a possible prisoner exchange.

“We are negotiating for the release of Iranian citizens through parties who play a role in good faith,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani says today.

“We have to see if the American government is ready to make a final decision in this regard,” he tells reporters, adding that Tehran hopes “to witness such a positive event.”

At least three Iranian-Americans are being held in Iran, including businessman Siamak Namazi, arrested in October 2015 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage.

The other two are venture capitalist Emad Sharqi, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison on spying charges, and Morad Tahbaz, who also holds British nationality, and was jailed for 10 years for “conspiring with America.”

In the past two months, Iran released six European citizens and recovered an Iranian diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, who was convicted of terrorism and imprisoned in Belgium.

Kanani’s comment follow media reports that Washington and Tehran are close to an interim deal to replace the 2015 nuclear accord. The two sides have denied these reports.

Ben Gvir claims ‘selective enforcement’ of law against settlers

Head of the Otzma Yehudit party National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, June 12, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Head of the Otzma Yehudit party National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, June 12, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir attacks “selective enforcement” of the law, claiming settlers are held to a different standard than anti-government and Druze protesters.

“I’m against breaking the law,” says the police minister, who himself has been previously convicted of incitement to racism and supporting a Jewish terror group.

“But there can’t be one law for settlers and another for the Golan Heights and those on the Ayalon,” he says, referencing Druze protests in Israel’s north and anti-overhaul demonstrators blocking Tel Aviv’s main highway.

Netanyahu’s defense lawyers say they oppose prosecutors’ motion to speed up trial

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's attorney Amit Hadad, left, speaks with prosecutor Yehudit Tirosh during a court hearing at the Jerusalem District Court on February 7, 2023. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's attorney Amit Hadad, left, speaks with prosecutor Yehudit Tirosh during a court hearing at the Jerusalem District Court on February 7, 2023. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)

As testimony continues today in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s graft case, his defense team tells the Jerusalem District Court judges they oppose a motion filed by prosecutors to accelerate the trial by lengthening hearings and adding additional ones.

Meanwhile, Arnon Milchan provides further testimony, confirming to prosecutors that he reached out to Netanyahu regarding the extension of a law affecting his tax eligibility and the merger of two television networks.

IDF confirms Palestinian rocket fire from Jenin, says no Israeli towns threatened

A clip published by the so-called Al-Ayyash Battalion purports to show a rocket launched from a northern West Bank village at a nearby Israeli settlement, June 26, 2023. (Screengrab: Telegram)
A clip published by the so-called Al-Ayyash Battalion purports to show a rocket launched from a northern West Bank village at a nearby Israeli settlement, June 26, 2023. (Screengrab: Telegram)

The Israel Defense Forces confirms Palestinians in the northern West Bank attempted to launch rockets at Israeli towns this morning.

The IDF says one of the rockets landed in Palestinian-controlled territory in the northern West Bank. The second apparently failed to launch, footage showed.

“The rocket did not pose a threat to communities in the area,” the IDF says.

No injuries or damage are caused.

The military says forces reached the scene of the launch near the West Bank city of Jenin and launched searches for the suspects.

Smotrich: Don’t ‘collectively punish settlers,’ settlers must leave response to terror to IDF

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich attends a press conference at the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem on May 14, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich attends a press conference at the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem on May 14, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich urges against “collective punishment” for settlers, after Jewish rioters rampaged in several Palestinian towns in apparent reprisal for a deadly terror attack last week.

“It is forbidden to collectively punish settlers, who seek security,” Smotrich says at the outset of his Religious Zionism party’s Knesset faction meeting.

Pushing for increased security for Jewish communities in the West Bank, he says “settlers should not have to feel like ducks at a shooting range. Parents should not go out with their children for a routine day and end it with shattered glass, at best, or God forbid, with injuries or worse, at worst.”

“But it is important to note that the army must focus on the uncompromising struggle against terrorism and take a tough hand against the Arab riots, and settlers must leave the work to the IDF and the defense establishment,” he adds.

He further clarified that “I am not confusing my brother with my enemies,” saying that it’s possible to condemn Jews “taking the law into their own hands” against Palestinians without losing sight of moral support for “brothers.”

Smotrich says that he stands behind his party’s minister Orit Strock, who earlier in the day likened security establishment heads to Russian paramilitary organization the Wagner Group.

“Minister Strock clarified her remarks immediately. She apologized,” Smotrich said. “Everyone makes mistakes.”

Gallant slams ‘attacks by extremist population’ on IDF: If you’ve got beef, come at me

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is seen during a tour of the Lebanon border, March 16, 2023. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is seen during a tour of the Lebanon border, March 16, 2023. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant expresses support for security chiefs after a far-right minister likened them to the mutinous Russian mercenary group Wagner for denouncing recent violence by extremist settlers as “terrorism.”

“I’ve been speaking with commanders and soldiers in recent days and am very worried from what I heard. There are attacks by an extremist population on commanders and soldiers. These attacks are also physical and this is dangerous and worrying,” Gantz says in a statement.

“I turn from here to those who are attacking the IDF chief of staff, Shin Bet head, Israel Police commissioner, IDF commanders in the field… and say to you elected officials — ministers and Knesset members: If you want to attack somebody, attack me, the defense minister,” he adds.

Gallant, who doesn’t name Religious Zionism minister Orit Strock after her remarks this morning, also vows that anyone who harms the IDF or commanders will be brought “to justice in the most severe manner.”

Meanwhile, the head of the Religious Zionism party defends Strock.

“Minister Strock clarified her remarks immediately, she apologized,” Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich says at the outset of a Knesset faction meeting. “Everyone makes mistakes.”

Lapid: Not insubordination to refuse to serve in a non-democratic country’s army

Opposition leader Yair Lapid speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset on June 19, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition leader Yair Lapid speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset on June 19, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Speaking at his Yesh Atid party’s faction meeting, opposition leader Yair Lapid rails at a coalition bill that would block judges from exercising judicial review over the “reasonableness” of government decisions.

“They want to ensure that there will be no judicial review over them, no public criticism, no way to cause them to behave normally,” Lapid says of coalition leaders. “We’ll see the appointment of cronies, only rigged [government] tenders. Corruption will take over the the State of Israel. Honest citizens will have no one to turn to and no one to protect them.”

Taking questions from reporters, he is asked about threats by some IDF reservists to stop showing up for duty if the law passes.

“People saying they will not serve in the army of a non-democratic country isn’t insubordination. As long as the State of Israel is democratic, we’ll continue to serve. I reject attaching the word insubordination to this situation.”

His stance on the matter is the opposite of one expressed by National Union chief Benny Gantz today.

Kremlin says Iran’s Raisi spoke with Putin, offered his ‘full support’

Illustrative: Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, September 15, 2022. (Alexandr Demyanchuk, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Illustrative: Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, September 15, 2022. (Alexandr Demyanchuk, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW — Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi spoke by phone today with Russian President Vladimir Putin and expressed his “full support” following the aborted mutiny of a mercenary chief, the Kremlin says.

“The Iranian president expressed full support for the Russian leadership in connection with the June 24 events,” the Kremlin says. Putin also received a call from Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who also expressed his backing, the Kremlin adds.

Gantz vows any overhaul laws will be abolished by a future coalition he ‘forms or takes part in’

National Unity MK Benny Gantz attends a Constitution, Law and Justice Committee at the Knesset on June 25, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
National Unity MK Benny Gantz attends a Constitution, Law and Justice Committee at the Knesset on June 25, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition party head Benny Gantz call for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire Orit Stock, a far-right minister who this morning compared Israel’s security heads to the Wagner Group.

“Netanyahu should fire her,” Gantz says at the outset of his National Unity party’s Knesset faction meeting. “No condemnations or clarifications,” he adds, in reference to a statement Netanyahu made earlier today.

“Every minute she remains in office is a blow to national security,” Gantz charges, saying: “What message does this send to the forces on the ground? For citizens who need to obey the law?”

Maintaining a pro-IDF line, the ex-defense minister and former military chief similarly says National Unity is against reservists refusing to serve, even if in protest against what he calls the coalition’s “judicial coup.”

“We appreciate the people who express their concern,” he says, but “we are against refusals.”

Gantz, who pulled ahead of Netanyahu’s Likud in a Channel 12 poll last night, says that he would reverse any judicial overhaul legislation as part of a future government.

“In any government that I establish or take part in the future, I will ensure their abolition is established by legislation,” he says.

Milchan says most cigars he gave as gifts went to Netanyahu, acknowledges seeking US visa help

Arnon Milchan (left) and Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference in the Knesset, on March 28, 2005. (Flash90/ File)
Arnon Milchan (left) and Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference in the Knesset, on March 28, 2005. (Flash90/ File)

Asked why he never turned down the Netanyahus’ requests for gifts, Arnon Milchan cites their friendship.

“We were friends and I was happy to give them gifts,” he says during today’s testimony.

He is also asked who received the lion’s share of the cigars he gifted to friends. “Mr. Netanyahu,” he responds.

Milchan acknowledges reaching out to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who has since entered the Jerusalem District Court to watch the remote testimony — about help with extending his US visa, one of several matters that prosecutors allege the premier advanced on the billionaire’s behalf in exchange for the gifts.

“[Netanyahu] didn’t help me, he couldn’t help me at the time. He said ‘call Ambassador Dan Shapiro,'” Milchan says, referring to the US envoy at the time.

He then confirms in his testimony to police that he later arrived at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem with champagne and cigars, and asked Netanyahu about the visa as they met. Milchan confirms that Netanyahu asked his then-aide Ari Harow to look into the matter.

General okays demolishing home of Palestinian terrorist who killed Israeli-American

Elan Ganeles, who was killed in a terror shooting in the West Bank, February 27, 2023. (Courtesy of Consulate General of Israel in New York)
Elan Ganeles, who was killed in a terror shooting in the West Bank, February 27, 2023. (Courtesy of Consulate General of Israel in New York)

The commander of the military’s Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox, has signed off on a demolition order against the home of Maher Shalloun, a Palestinian accused of killing dual American-Israeli citizen Elan Ganeles in a terror attack earlier this year.

On February 27, Shalloun and Luai Ma’arouf allegedly opened fire at Ganeles’s car on the Route 90 highway near Jericho, killing him, before opening fire at several other cars in the area.

The pair were arrested several days after the attack, and in March, the Israel Defense Forces measured Shalloun’s home in the Aqbat Jabr refugee camp near Jericho, in the first step before demolition.

Shalloun’s family was formally notified earlier this month of the military’s intention to raze their home. Last night, Fox signed on the order to seize and later demolish the home, the Israel Defense Forces says.

As a matter of policy, Israel regularly demolishes the homes of Palestinians accused of carrying out deadly terror attacks.

Shalloun’s family can still appeal the decision to raze the home to Israel’s High Court of Justice. But such attempts rarely succeed, though in some cases the court can limit the demolition order to only the parts of the house used by the terrorist.

IDF says drone ‘fell’ over Lebanon; Hezbollah claims it was downed

An Israeli drone that the Hezbollah terror group claims it downed over southern Lebanon, on September 30, 2021. (Central Media)
Illustrative: An Israeli drone that the Hezbollah terror group claims it downed over southern Lebanon, on September 30, 2021. (Central Media)

Lebanese media, citing the Hezbollah terror group, say an Israeli military drone was downed over southern Lebanon.

“The Islamic Resistance downed an Israeli drone that penetrated Lebanese airspace… near the southern town of Zibqin,” the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar television says.

The IDF confirms a drone “fell” in Lebanon during routine surveillance activity. It says there is no fear of sensitive information leaking.

Lebanon regularly complains about Israeli surveillance drones invading its airspace, but the Israel Defense Forces maintains that such incursions are necessary to track the activities of Hezbollah, which the Lebanese government is supposed to keep in check.

Milchan says he began understanding during Netanyahu probe that his gifts ‘were overdone’

Arnon Milchan arrives to testify via video from Brighton in the trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, June 25, 2023 (Twitter screenshot; used in accordance with clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Arnon Milchan arrives to testify via video from Brighton in the trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, June 25, 2023 (Twitter screenshot; used in accordance with clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

For a second day, Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan testifies remotely from England in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial, a day after detailing how he gave the premier and his wife Sara cigars, champagne and other gifts, mostly at their request.

Opening today’s hearing, lead prosecutor Liat Ben Ari asks Milchan about a piece of jewelry he bought for Sara Netanyahu — who is in the room for the billionaire’s testimony — which allegedly cost NIS 10,000. Milchan says he doesn’t remember the exact amount, but believes it was less than that.

She then asks him about gifts that Australian billionaire James Packer gave to the couple.

“I know that Packer really wanted to be connected and endear himself to Netanyahu,” Milchan says.

“I know he’s more generous than me,” Milchan adds, saying that for Packer NIS 100,000 “seemed a small amount.”

He is also asked by Ben Ari how the cigars and champagne impacted his relationship with the Netanyahus.

“[The gifts] didn’t influence [our friendship]. Until the investigation it never occurred to me there was a problem with our friendship. When the investigation began, I started to understand it was overdone,” Milchan says.

He also acknowledges that he never received a gift from Netanyahu or his wife.

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