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

UN rights chief says Israeli annexation plans ‘illegal’

GENEVA — Israel’s aim to annex parts of the West Bank is clearly “illegal,” the UN’s human rights chief says today, warning that the consequences could be “disastrous.”

“Annexation is illegal. Period,” Michelle Bachelet says in a statement, adding that “the shockwaves of annexation will last for decades, and will be extremely damaging to Israel, as well as to the Palestinians.”


Iran issues warrant for Trump over Soleimani killing, asks Interpol to help

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has issued an arrest warrant and asked Interpol for help in detaining US President Donald Trump and dozens of others it believes carried out the drone strike that killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad, a local prosecutor reportedly said Monday.

While Trump faces no danger of arrest, the charges underscore the heightened tensions between Iran and the United States since Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Tehran prosecutor Ali Alqasimehr says Trump and more than 30 others whom Iran accuses of involvement in the January 3 strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad face “murder and terrorism charges,” the semiofficial ISNA news agency reports.

Alqasimehr doesn’t identify anyone else sought other than Trump, but stressed that Iran would continue to pursue his prosecution even after his presidency ends.

Interpol, based in Lyon, France, doesn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Alqasimehr also is quoted as saying that Iran requested a “red notice” be put out for Trump and the others, which represents the highest level arrest request issued by Interpol. Local authorities end up making the arrests on behalf of the country that request it. The notices cannot force countries to arrest or extradite suspects, but can put government leaders on the spot and limit suspects’ travel.

The US killed Soleimani, who oversaw the Revolutionary Guard’s expeditionary Quds Force, and others in the January strike near Baghdad International Airport. It came after months of incidents raising tensions between the two countries and ultimately saw Iran retaliate with a ballistic missile strike targeting American troops in Iraq.

— AP

Liberman takes swipe at Netanyahu, Gantz over hot mic quarrel

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman takes a dig at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz after a squabble between the two over speaking to the press was picked up on a hit mic.

“It’s just embarrassing,” Liberman says at the start of a Knesset faction meeting. “The only thing that interests the leaders of the government of the State of Israel is honor, authority, tax refunds, benefits.”

Top Lebanese finance ministry official resigns amid deepening economic crisis

BEIRUT — The director general of Lebanon’s Finance Ministry and a member of the country’s team negotiating with the International Monetary Fund has resigned from his post amid a worsening economic and financial crisis, the ministry says.

The one-sentence ministry statement gives no details about Alain Bifani’s resignation other than to say that it was received by Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni. Bifani had held the post for 20 years.

The resignation came two weeks after Henri Chaoul, a financial adviser to the Lebanese government in the talks with the IMF, resigned, saying there is “no real will” for reforms in the country.

Lebanon, one of the most indebted countries in the world, recently defaulted on its debt an has been negotiating with the IMF for weeks with no breakthrough so far.

The small country is going through an unprecedented economic and financial crisis that has seen the local currency lose more than 80% of its value against the US dollar in recent months amid soaring prices an popular unrest.

— AP

Lapid slams Netanyahu over handling of pandemic: The world’s not impressed

Opposition leader Yair Lapid assails Prime Minister Netanyahu over his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, after a poll showed slipping support for the premier’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

“A few weeks ago the prime minister said ‘the whole world is learning from us how to manage the corona[virus] crisis.’ Everyone was very impressed, except the world. Because the rest of the world understands that there is a difference between talking and managing a crisis,” Lapid says at the start of a Knesset faction meeting, according to a statement from his Yesh Atid party.

Lapid notes the European Union’s plans to partially reopen its borders, with Israel expected to be left off the list due to the rising number of infections in the country.

“The European Union is opening its borders but Israel is marked as a red country. A red country is one that isn’t effectively managing the coronavirus crisis. Instead of managing the crisis they created the largest, most bloated government in the history of Israel,” he says.

The Yesh Atid chief also says: “Yesterday a poll showed that 85% of the public are worried about their economic future, the rest are all members of the government… This government has no right to exist. They threw all their promises into the garbage, cheated the voters just because they said ‘coronavirus, coronavirus.'”

Ministers said to agree on limiting gatherings to 50 people

The so-called coronavirus cabinet has decided to limit gatherings to 50 people as part of new restrictions to contain the coronavirus, according to Hebrew media reports.

The ministers are also said to agree to limit capacity at event halls to 100 people and allow students to take final examinations from home.

Meretz chief: US ambassador to Israel has ‘obsession with annexation’

The head of the left-wing Meretz party issues strong criticism of US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, accusing him of acting on his own initiative to push Israel to annex parts of the West Bank.

“Besides the US Ambassador David Friedman… no one understands the obsession with annexation,” MK Nitzan Horowitz says at the start of a Knesset faction meeting.

“This is an issue in which Ambassador Friedman only represents himself,” Horowitz adds.

Citing the coronavirus pandemic and accompanying economic fallout, the Meretz chief says, “of course for Americans, just as for Israelis, annexation is at the bottom of the list of priorities.”

“What needs to be done now is to deal with the economy and allow people to live, and to abandon the madness of annexation,” Horowitz adds.

According to reports, Friedman is pushing for Israel to swiftly move forward with extending sovereignty over West Bank lands designated for the Jewish state under US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, but other administration officials have reservations about the move.

Gantz said to demand ‘operative’ control of virus response transferred to Defense Ministry

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the new restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus were approved unanimously and promises that the government will compensate the sectors hurt by the new restrictions.

“The promised money will get to the people, and we will introduce innovative plans to keep our economy moving forward,” Netanyahu says at the opening of his Likud faction meeting, after a meeting of the so-called coronavirus cabinet meeting.

“All the while, we are balancing health and life with preserving the economy,” he says.

In his remarks, Netanyahu doesn’t refer to annexing parts of the West Bank, which he has repeatedly pledged to begin advancing on July 1.

According to Hebrew media reports, Defense Minister Benny Gantz demanded during the cabinet meeting that the “operative” response to the outbreak be transferred to his ministry.

“We must agree on a more efficient management of operations and decision-making,” he reportedly said. “The regulation from top to bottom should be at the Health Ministry, and the implementation at the Defense Ministry and the Home Front Command which has the best operative tools.”

Gantz: Anything not related to ‘fight against the coronavirus can wait’

Defense Minister Benny Gantz says “whatever isn’t connected to the fight against the coronavirus can wait,” appearing to urge Prime Minister Netanyahu to put off his pledge to begin annexing parts of the West Bank this week.

In remarks at a Knesset faction meeting, Gantz warns “the fight against the coronavirus will be long,” which he says is why his Blue and White party agreed to form a government with Netanyahu’s Likud.

“It’s not enough to thinks weeks. It won’t be helpful. We must think at least a year,” he says, without elaborating.

While applauding the government’s move to address the pandemic and accompanying economic problems, Gantz says the decision yesterday to extend eligibility for unemployment benefits to mid-August isn’t enough.

“But let’s be honest, this is only a Band-aid that doesn’t really stop the bleeding for long,” he says.

Ending his remarks, Gantz vows Israel will beat the coronavirus.

“Whatever isn’t connected to the fight against the coronavirus can wait for the days after the virus,” he says.

Prime Minister’s Office releases list of new virus restrictions

The Prime Minister’s Office releases a list of the new restrictions approved by the so-called coronavirus cabinet to curb the rise in new COVID-19 infections.

The measures include:

  • Limiting capacity at event halls and cultural events to 250 people
  • Limiting participation in circumcisions to 50 people
  • Limiting weddings to 100 people at indoor venues and to 250 outside beginning July 9
  • Limiting other gatherings and capacity at houses of worship to 50 people
  • Allowing university and college exams to be taken remotely
  • Having 30 percent of public sector workers work from home

Iran reports 162 more virus deaths, a single-day high

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran reports Monday 162 more deaths from the novel coronavirus, the highest single-day toll since the country’s outbreak began in February.

“This increase in numbers is in fact a reflection of our overall performance, both in terms of reopening and in compliance with health protocols,” health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari says at a news conference.

The previous record daily toll of 158 deaths was reported by health authorities in early April.

Official figures have shown an upward trajectory in new confirmed cases since early May, when Iran hit a near two-month low in daily recorded infections.

Iran reported its first COVID-19 cases on February 19 and it has since struggled to contain the outbreak, the deadliest in the Middle East.

Lari announces an additional 2,536 new cases, bringing the total to 225,205. The overall official death toll is now at 10,670.

Iranian authorities have refrained from enforcing full lockdowns to stop the pandemic’s spread and the use of masks and protective equipment has been optional in most areas.


Netanyahu: Blue and White ‘not a factor’ in annexation moves

Prime Minister Netanyahu tells Likud lawmakers he is working “discreetly” with US President Donald Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace team to advance Israeli annexation of West Bank lands, according to a party spokesperson.

“We’re in contact with the American team, which is here in Israel. We’re doing this discreetly,” he says.

Under his coalition deal with Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, Netanyahu can begin extending sovereignty of parts of the West Bank on July 1, which he has repeatedly pledged to. However, Gantz has signaled opposition to the move and Netanyahu has given few hints about his plans.

“The issue doesn’t depend on Blue and White. They’re not a factor one way or another,” Netanyahu says during the Likud faction meeting.

Iran sends recorder from downed Ukrainian jetliner to France

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has sent the black box flight recorder from a Ukrainian passenger jet that it mistakenly shot down in January to France for further analysis following months of delays, state-run media reports.

The IRNA news agency quotes Tehran military prosecutor Gholamabbas Torki as saying that the recorder was sent to France, without elaborating. He says he recorder was “physically damaged” and that the data could only be recovered with “sophisticated” technology.

He says Iran’s own experts are unable to acquire the necessary converter because of US sanctions.

Iran accidentally shot down the Boeing 737-800, killing all 176 people aboard, after mistaking it for an incoming missile. Iran had been bracing for a counterattack after launching missiles at US bases in Iraq in response to the killing of its top commander, Gen. Qassim Soleimani, in a US strike earlier in January.

Since, then it has been in negotiations with Ukraine, Canada and other nations that had citizens aboard the plane, and which have demanded a thorough investigation.

Iran initially blamed the crash on technical problems and only acknowledged shooting down the plane days later.

— AP

People and rescue teams amid bodies and debris after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers that was accidentally shot down by Iranian forces near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran, January 8, 2020. (Rouhollah Vahdati/ISNA/AFP)

Libyan suspect in court over deadly UK knife attack

LONDON — A 25-year-old Libyan asylum-seeker accused of stabbing three men to death with a kitchen knife as they sat in an English city park makes his first court appearance today but doesn’t enter a plea.

Khairi Saadallah faces three counts of murder and three of attempted murder over the June 20 attack in Reading, 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of London.

Friends James Furlong, 36, David Wails, 49, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, were enjoying a warm Saturday evening in the town’s Forbury Gardens park when they were stabbed. Each died from a single stab wound. Three other men were injured.

Police have declared the stabbings a terror attack.

Prosecutor Jan Newbold says Saadallah stabbed his victims “without warning or provocation,” while shouting “words to the effect of ‘Allahu akbar'” — the Arabic phrase for God is great.

Saadallah appears by video link, wearing a gray prison-issue tracksuit and a blue face mask. He speaks only to confirm his name, birth date and address and is ordered detained until his next hearing on Wednesday.

— AP

Foreign Ministry slams UN rights chief for calling annexation plans ‘illegal’

The Foreign Ministry dismisses the UN human rights chief’s remark earlier today that Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank are “illegal,” accusing her of politicizing her post.

“This isn’t the first time that High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet has used her role to politicize the commission against Israel, while exhibiting a unilateral approach. Therefore, it’s not surprising that she decided today to join the Palestinian campaign against the American peace plan and to come out with declarations before any decision has been made on the matter,” ministry spokesman Lior Haiat says in a statement.

Haiat says Israel long ago “lost faith in the ability of the commissioner to advance human rights in our region in a fair manner” and notes the decision to freeze ties with Bachelet earlier this year for publishing a list of companies that do business in settlements.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in Geneva, March 20, 2019. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)

Gilead to charge $2,340 for coronavirus treatment drug

The maker of a drug shown to shorten recovery time for severely ill COVID-19 patients says it will charge $2,340 for a typical treatment course for people covered by government health programs in the United States and other developed countries.

Gilead Sciences announces the price Monday for remdesivir, and said the price would be $3,120 for patients with private insurance. The amount that patients pay out of pocket depends on insurance, income and other factors.

“We’re in uncharted territory with pricing a new medicine, a novel medicine, in a pandemic,” Gilead’s chief executive, Dan O’Day, tells The Associated Press.

“We believe that we had to really deviate from the normal circumstances” and price the drug to ensure wide access rather than based solely on value to patients, he says.

However, the price is swiftly criticized; a consumer group calls it “an outrage” because of the amount taxpayers invested toward the drug’s development.

The treatment courses that the company has donated to the US and other countries will run out in about a week, and the prices will apply to the drug after that, O’Day says.

In 127 poor or middle-income countries, Gilead is allowing generic makers to supply the drug; two countries are doing that for around $600 per treatment course.

Peter Maybarduk, a lawyer at the consumer group Public Citizen, calls the price “an outrage.”

“Remdesivir should be in the public domain” because the drug received at least $70 million in public funding toward its development, he says.

— AP

Jerusalem restaurateur says he lost kosher certificate for employing Arab cook

Kalo Ben Alul, owner of the Jerusalem restaurant Kalo, tells Channel 12 news that the rabbinate revoked his kosher certificate for employing an Arab cook.

US envoy, Lebanese FM meet over Hezbollah dustup

BEIRUT — The US ambassador to Lebanon says after meeting the country’s foreign minister that they have “turned the page” over a court ruling issued over the weekend barring local and foreign media from interviewing the envoy over her comments regarding Hezbollah.

A judge had ordered the year-long ban after US Ambassador Dorothy Shea told Saudi-owned TV station Al-Hadath that Washington has “great concerns” over the Iran-backed terrorist group’s role in the government.

She said Lebanon is reeling from years of corruption of successive governments and accused Hezbollah of siphoning off government funds for its own purposes and of obstructing needed economic reforms.

Critics viewed her comments as foreign interference in Lebanese affairs, but the judge’s ruling was also harshly criticized by many in Lebanon, where the media enjoys far more freedom than in many other Arab states.

Today, Shea reads a brief statement in which she says her meeting with Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti was “positive.”

“We turned the page on this unfortunate distraction so we can all focus on the real crisis at hand, which is the deteriorating economic situation in Lebanon,” she says.

A few protesters held a sit-in outside the Foreign Ministry during the meeting.

The court ruling remains in effect but appears unlikely to be enforced.

— Agencies

Lebanese Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti, left, meets with US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea, in Beirut, Lebanon, June 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Jewish groups angry at Dutch railway over Holocaust reparations

AMSTERDAM — Jewish organizations criticize the Dutch national railway company for not adequately consulting them in discussions to work out a form of recognition for Holocaust victims the company transported to camps in the Netherlands during World War II — from where they were sent to Nazi concentration camps.

The anger comes after the railway company, NS, announced Friday that it would donate 5 million euros ($5.6 million) to four Dutch memorial centers as a gesture of collective recognition.

More than 100,000 Dutch Jews — 70 percent of the Jewish community — did not survive the war. Most were deported, along with Roma and Sinti, and killed in Nazi concentration camps.

Most of the Dutch victims were rounded up in cities and taken by train to camps in the Netherlands before being sent to the border and put on German trains to concentration camps.

Gideon Taylor, chair of Operations of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, calls the decision a major disappointment for Jewish groups.

“This was an opportunity to sit down with the Jewish community and survivors … to come to terms with a history that led to the death of over 100,000 people,” Taylor says in a telephone interview from New York.

“This is something to be dealt with in discussion, in consultation, in cooperation with representatives of victims and find a way to honor the memory of those who perished,” he adds.

— AP

Finance Ministry announces NIS 2 billion aid package for businesses

Finance Minister Israel Katz and Prime Minister Netanyahu have decided on a new NIS 2 billion ($580 million) aid package to help compensate Israeli businesses for lost revenue during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The prime minister and finance minister noted the goal of the program is to allow an immediate flow of substantial sums of money to self-employed [workers] and the businesses sector… to help them get through the crisis,” a Finance Ministry statement says.

According to the statement, the two also agreed to continue grants to businesses that have brought back workers.

4 ex-cops charged over George Floyd’s death due back in court

MINNEAPOLIS — The four former Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of George Floyd are due in court today for a hearing that could deal with bail amounts and other issues.

It’s the second pretrial hearing for the men, who were fired after Floyd’s May 25 death. Derek Chauvin, 44, is charged with second-degree murder and other counts, while Thomas Lane, 37, J. Kueng, 26, and Tou Thao, 34, are charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin.

Floyd died after Chauvin, a white police officer, pressed his knee against the handcuffed 46-year-old Black man’s neck for nearly eight minutes. The officers were responding to a call about a man trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at a nearby store.

The defendants have not entered pleas. Chauvin’s attorney has not commented publicly on the charges, while Lane’s and Kueng’s attorneys have sought to minimize their clients’ roles and deflect blame to the more senior Chauvin in Floyd’s death, which sparked protests around the world against police brutality.

Among the issues that could be addressed during today’s hearings in Minneapolis are motions to reduce bail. Chauvin remains in custody, with his bail set at $1 million, with a list of common conditions. Thao’s conditional bail was set at $750,000. Lane and Kueng are free on bond. Also unresolved is whether the four will be tried together or separately.

— AP

WHO chief warns coronavirus pandemic ‘not even close to being over’

GENEVA — Six months since the new coronavirus outbreak, the pandemic is still far from over, the World Health Organization says, warning that “the worst is yet to come.”

Reaching the half-year milestone just as the death toll surpassed 500,000 and the number of confirmed infections topped 10 million, the WHO says it was a moment to recommit to the fight to save lives.

“Six months ago, none of us could have imagined how our world — and our lives — would be thrown into turmoil by this new virus,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tells a virtual briefing.

“We all want this to be over. We all want to get on with our lives. But the hard reality is this is not even close to being over.

“Although many countries have made some progress, globally the pandemic is actually speeding up.

“We’re all in this together, and we’re all in this for the long haul.

“We will need even greater stores of resilience, patience, humility and generosity in the months ahead.

“We have already lost so much — but we cannot lose hope.”

Tedros also says that the pandemic had brought out the best and worst humanity, citing acts of kindness and solidarity, but also misinformation and the politicization of the virus.

In an atmosphere of global political division and fractures on a national level, “the worst is yet to come. I’m sorry to say that,” he says.

“With this kind of environment and condition, we fear the worst.”


Health Ministry raises number of new virus cases Monday to 432

The Health Ministry reports 432 new coronavirus cases since midnight, bringing the total number of infections in Israel since the start of the pandemic to 24,276.

According to the ministry, there are 6,768 active cases, with 43 people in serious condition, including 24 on ventilators. Another 59 people are in moderate condition and the rest have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.

The death toll remains at 319.

The ministry says 12,313 tests have been performed so far today.

US, Saudi officials call to extend UN arms embargo on Iran

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — US and Saudi officials call for extending a UN arms embargo on Iran, warning of major implications for regional security amid accusations that Tehran was arming Yemeni rebels.

The embargo, put in place as part of a nuclear accord signed with Tehran in 2015, is set to expire in October but Washington is working to extend the ban as tensions with its arch-rival remain high.

Lifting the ban will “embolden” Tehran, and could trigger a regional arms race, US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook tells reporters in Riyadh.

“This is not an outcome that the UN Security Council can accept,” Hook says at a joint news conference with Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs.

At the venue of the conference, Saudi officials displayed remnants of intercepted missiles and drones they said were supplied by Iran to Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

Iran denies arming the rebels.

The Houthis have recently targeted Saudi cities, including the capital Riyadh, with a series of missile and drone strikes.

“Iran seeks to provide weapons to terrorist organizations. What will happen if the embargo is lifted?” Jubeir says.

“Iran will become more… aggressive,” he adds.

Earlier this month, a UN report said cruise missiles and drones used in attacks last year on Saudi oil facilities were “of Iranian origin.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned last week of a return of UN sanctions on Iran if the Security Council fails to extend an embargo.

France, Britain and Germany, which all still support the nuclear deal, have also said they supported extending the embargo.

No date has been scheduled for a vote on the resolution and it is unlikely to pass, as veto-wielding China and Russia have already spoken out against extending the embargo.


US Supreme Court ruling could force aid recipients to follow American policy on Israel

WASHINGTON — A US Supreme Court decision released today in a case about NGOs, HIV-AIDS funding, and prostitution could force US aid recipients to comply with American policy on Israel.

Foreign nonprofits must hew to US government dictates to receive the money, the high court rules.

“As foreign organizations operating abroad, plaintiffs’ foreign affiliates possess no rights under the First Amendment,” says the 5-3 decision written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The case was brought by a group of NGOs contesting the Trump administration’s requirement that they explicitly oppose sex trafficking and prostitution as a condition for receiving funds to combat HIV-AIDS overseas from the US Agency for International Development. The NGOs argued that the requirement violates speech freedoms and inhibits their ability to reach those who need their assistance.

The case could have implications for nonprofits in the Middle East that the US government considers to be not sufficiently in line with its Israel policies. In May, Kavanaugh appeared during oral arguments to anticipate repercussions a decision would have on such groups.

“Suppose the US government wants to fund foreign NGOs that support peace in the Middle East, but only if the NGOs explicitly recognize Israel as a legitimate state,” Kavanaugh asked the plaintiffs. “Are you saying the US can’t impose that kind of speech restriction on foreign NGOs that are affiliated with US organizations?”

A 2013 Supreme Court decision ruled that US NGOs were protected by speech freedoms. This case decided whether those freedoms extended to foreign affiliates.


Netanyahu said to hint annexation won’t begin on July 1 as he’d pledged

Prime Minister Netanyahu hinted to Likud lawmakers during today’s faction meeting that Israel will not begin moving forward with annexing parts of the West Bank on July 1, as he has repeatedly pledged, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

“I have a positive and topical line of communication with the Americans and when I have something to report, I’ll report [it],” Netanyahu is quoted as saying by the public broadcaster. “This is a complicated process with lots of diplomatic and security considerations that I can’t get into. We said that [annexation] would be after July 1.”

Rocket warning sirens sound in Gaza-area

Rocket warning sirens sound in the Gaza-area Eshkol Regional Council.

The army says it is looking into the matter.

According to Hebrew media reports, the sirens may have been triggered by stray gunfire from Egypt.

Army says warning sirens in Gaza border area weren’t triggered by rocket fire

The army clarifies that the rocket warning sirens in the Gaza border area were only activated in open areas and says they were not triggered by rocket fire.

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