Israeli intelligence purportedly linked Iran to UAE tanker sabotage — report
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Israeli intelligence purportedly linked Iran to UAE tanker sabotage — report

US to present Mossad-gathered evidence to Security Council in coming days; source tells public broadcaster attack on Gulf oil vessels was ‘a pretty good operation’

  • An Emirati coast guard vessel passes an oil tanker off the coast of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, on May 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
    An Emirati coast guard vessel passes an oil tanker off the coast of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, on May 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
  • Members of the Syrian Civil Defense (known as the White Helmets) carry a wounded man on a stretcher following an air strike on the town of Maaret al-Numan in Idlib province on June 3, 2019. (Abdulaziz Ketaz/AFP)
    Members of the Syrian Civil Defense (known as the White Helmets) carry a wounded man on a stretcher following an air strike on the town of Maaret al-Numan in Idlib province on June 3, 2019. (Abdulaziz Ketaz/AFP)
  • A picture taken on June 3, 2019, during a guided tour with the IDF shows soldiers walking near the entrance to a tunnel at the Israeli side of the border with Lebanon.  (Jack Guez/AFP)
    A picture taken on June 3, 2019, during a guided tour with the IDF shows soldiers walking near the entrance to a tunnel at the Israeli side of the border with Lebanon. (Jack Guez/AFP)
  • Left, Bezalel Smotrich, after winning the election for chairman of the National Union, at the Crown Plaza hotel in Jerusalem, January 14, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90). Right, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits a drill of the Armored Corps in Shizafon Base, in southern Israel on January 23, 2019. (Flash90)
    Left, Bezalel Smotrich, after winning the election for chairman of the National Union, at the Crown Plaza hotel in Jerusalem, January 14, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90). Right, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits a drill of the Armored Corps in Shizafon Base, in southern Israel on January 23, 2019. (Flash90)
  • Architect's impression of the planned cable car station on Mount Zion. The Dormition Church can be seen to the left. (From plans submitted to the National Planning Council)
    Architect's impression of the planned cable car station on Mount Zion. The Dormition Church can be seen to the left. (From plans submitted to the National Planning Council)
  • A Sudanese protester walks past burning tires as military forces tried to disperse the sit-in outside Khartoum's army headquarters on June 3, 2019. (ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)
    A Sudanese protester walks past burning tires as military forces tried to disperse the sit-in outside Khartoum's army headquarters on June 3, 2019. (ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)
  • MK Bezalel Smotrich of the Union of Right-Wing Parties arrives at a Jerusalem Day event at Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem, June 2, 2019. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)
    MK Bezalel Smotrich of the Union of Right-Wing Parties arrives at a Jerusalem Day event at Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem, June 2, 2019. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)
  • US President Donald Trump inspects an honour guard during a welcome ceremony at Buckingham Palace in central London on June 3, 2019, on the first day of their three-day State Visit to the UK. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)
    US President Donald Trump inspects an honour guard during a welcome ceremony at Buckingham Palace in central London on June 3, 2019, on the first day of their three-day State Visit to the UK. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

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

Relaunching campaign, Gantz slams Netanyahu for leading Israel into ‘total chaos’

Opposition leader Benny Gantz kicks off his election campaign, accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of leading the country into “total chaos” and slamming his decision to call a national election for the second time in under 6 months as a “farce” and a “national joke.”

“We are witnessing one big farce, an outrage, a disgrace, a national joke worth NIS 4-5 billion ($1.1-1.4 billion),” Gantz charges during a Blue and White faction meeting in the Knesset.

“The citizens of Israel know we are going to elections only because [Netanyahu] wants to save himself” from criminal charges in the three cases open against him, he adds. “Netanyahu could have returned the mandate to the president,” thus giving another party a chance to form a coalition. “We would have formed a government. Why is he not doing that?”

PM to delay appointing interim education, justice ministers until next week

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not appoint new justice and education ministers until next week, his spokesman Yonatan Urich tells reporters. Citing Netanyahu’s desire to discuss the matter with “the coalition and Likud [members] in the coming days,” Urich says the portfolios will be not be given out before the beginning of next week.

Hence, it seems that as of tomorrow morning, Netanyahu himself will be acting education and justice minister. The prime minister holding the latter portfolio could turn out controversial, as he faces corruption allegations in three cases.

Yesterday, Netanyahu fired Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, from the rival New Right party, a move that will take effect in 48 hours.

— Raphael Ahren

Iran president rules out talks until US acts ‘normal’

Iran’s president is ruling out negotiations with Washington until it acts “normal,” after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US is ready to talk to Tehran without preconditions.

“The party that has left the negotiating table, the party that has trampled the pact must return to a normal” behavior, Hassan Rouhani says in a televised speech. “If the enemy truly realizes that the path it took was wrong, that will be the day to sit at the negotiation table and fix any issue.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at a ceremony commemorating the ‘National Day of Nuclear Technology’ in Tehran, Iran on, April 9, 2019. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Tensions have spiked in recent weeks between Tehran and Washington, which last year pulled out of a landmark Iran nuclear accord and imposed tough sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

But yesterday, Washington’s top diplomat appeared to soften the US stance, saying “we are prepared to engage in a conversation with no preconditions.”

Washington is “certainly prepared to have (a) conversation when the Iranians will prove they are behaving as a normal nation,” Pompeo said in Switzerland, which represents Washington’s interests in Iran in the absence of bilateral relations.

Pompeo however gave no indication that lifting sanctions would be on the table.

— AFP

Sudan protesters say military raid on sit-in kills 13

Sudanese protest leaders say at least 13 people have been killed in the military’s assault on the sit-in outside the military headquarters in the capital, Khartoum. The protesters have announced they are suspending talks with the military regarding the creation of a transitional government.

The Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change, which represents the protesters in transition negotiations, says that protesters are unable to evacuate “the bodies of our martyrs.” It says hundreds of people have also been wounded.

The leaders have called for an open general strike and civil disobedience, and for the international community “not to recognize the coup.”

A Sudanese protester walks past burning tires as military forces tried to disperse the sit-in outside Khartoum’s army headquarters on June 3, 2019. (ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

The leading opposition Umma Party is calling for people to set up other sit-ins, both in the capital and across the country.

The party says the military’s raid showed that it is standing in the way of “the Sudanese revolution.”

— AP

Liberman warns against Smotrich, saying his statements not simply those of a ‘delusional hilltop youth’

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman slams far-right MK Bezalel Smotrich for saying he wants the Israeli justice system to adhere to religious Jewish law.

Smotrich, an MK from the Union of Right-Wing Parties (URWP), is gunning to be named interim justice minister after Netanyahu fired Ayelet Shaked yesterday.

Earlier today, Smotrich drew ire for saying Israel should aspire to run itself as “in the days of King David,” saying his party “wants to restore the Torah justice system.”

“Listen to what Smotrich, a candidate for the justice minister post, has been saying,” Liberman tells party members at a faction meeting according to reports in Hebrew-language media.

“These are no longer comments coming from a delusional hilltop youth, but a statement of intent,” he says

Ultra-nationalist activists known as the “hilltop youth” are often accused of stoking violence against Palestinians and Israeli security forces in West Bank settlements. Smotrich is a hardline, pro-settlement MK who has previously defended the actions of West Bank extremists.

Trump, first lady meet Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace

US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania were greeted on the grand lawn of Buckingham Palace by Queen Elizabeth II and inspected the Guard of Honor formed by the Grenadier Guards wearing the traditional bearskin hats.

Royal gun salutes were fired Monday from nearby Green Park and from the Tower of London as part of the pageantry accompanying an official state visit, one of the highest honors Britain can bestow on a foreign leaders.

The ceremony took place under clear blue skies on the spacious garden next to the 775-room palace that is the official residence of the queen.

Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, and his wife Camilla welcomed the Trumps as they walked down the steps of their helicopter.

— AP

Lawmakers approve Netanyahu pick for state comptroller in Knesset vote

Knesset members approve Netanyahu’s nominee, Matanyahu Englman, to be the next state comptroller in a 67-48 plenum vote. Five lawmakers abstain from the secret-ballot vote.

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman (Courtesy/Technion)

Englman is the CEO of the Council of Higher Education. The other nominee nominated for the job was Giora Romm, Israel’s former military attaché in the US and ex-deputy commander of the Air Force.

It’s the first time in 30 years that Israel’s attorney general will not be a retired judge.

Pompeo holding talks on Iran with Dutch government

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is visiting the Netherlands for talks with his Dutch counterpart that are expected to touch on rising tensions between Washington and Tehran as well as the crisis in Venezuela and NATO funding.

Pompeo’s brief stop in The Hague this afternoon is the third leg of a four-nation tour of Europe in which he is both trying to calm nerves over rising US-Iran tensions and stressing that America will defend itself and not relent in raising pressure on the Islamic Republic with economic sanctions.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, front left, and his wife Suzan, front center, listen to a tour guide during a sightseeing walk as part of Pompeo’s visit in Bern, Switzerland, June 1, 2019. (Peter Klaunzer/Keystone via AP)

Yesterday in Switzerland, Pompeo said the Trump administration is ready for unconditional discussions with Iran in an effort to ease tensions that have sparked fears of conflict.

The United States has long accused Iran of destabilizing the Mideast region.

Tal Russo giving up no. 2 spot on Labor list, mulling run for party leader

Labor’s Tal Russo says he is stepping down from the no. 2 position on the party’s Knesset list, and may run for leader of the beleaguered party.

Russo, a former general who joined the party ahead of the April election, says, “I joined this party to make a difference and not to stick to a seat,” according to reports in Hebrew-language media.

Labor party chairman Avi Gabbay (podium) flanked by Tal Russo (right) and former Labor leader Amir Peretz (left) addresses supporters and media as the results in the general elections are announced in Tel Aviv, on April 09, 2019 (FLASH90)

“In light of the dissolution of the Knesset and the calling of new elections, I am giving up my number 2 spot on the list while I consider running for party leadership.”

Labor saw its worst election outcome since the founding of the state in the April elections, receiving just six of the 120 Knesset seats. Recent polls suggest Labor could further shrink to 4 seats in the September polls.

Rivlin to Christian leaders: Israeli sovereignty will never erode religious freedom

President Reuven Rivlin assures Christian leaders that Israel is committed to upholding religious freedom for all faiths.

At a meeting with the heads of the Christian community at Jerusalem’s Franciscan Church ahead of Ascension Day, Rivlin says that “the State of Israel, as guardian of this city, is deeply committed to the religious rights of worship and activity of all communities of faith in Jerusalem and Israel.”

“Christians, Muslims and Jews will always be free to worship here,” Rivlin says according to a statement from his office. “Israeli sovereignty will never compromise religious freedom.”

“These are difficult and painful times for Christians in the Middle East,” he adds. “I am proud that Israel is the only country in our region where the Christian community is not shrinking, but in fact is growing.”

Indian air force plane disappears near Chinese border

An Indian air force plane has disappeared near India’s northeastern border with China with 13 people on board.

Officials say the plane was scheduled to land at 1:30 p.m. Monday at a high-altitude airstrip in Mechuka, a small town in the state of Arunachal Pradesh about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the India-China border.

Arunachal Pradesh administrator Swatika Sachan says the plane last had contact with the ground at 1 pm.

The identities of the eight crew members and other passengers were not immediately known.

A search operation comprising two air force planes and Indian army soldiers is underway.

— AP

Trump complains CNN reports of London trip ‘negative,’ suggests boycott of AT&T

US President Donald Trump began complaining about his limited access to US news immediately after he arrived in London for a pomp-filled state visit to Britain.

Trump tweeted Monday that CNN is his chief source of such reports but that “after watching it for a short while, I turned it off. All negative & so much Fake News, very bad for US.”

Trump asked why doesn’t AT&T “do something” and suggested a boycott would force AT&T to make “big changes” at CNN. CNN is owned by Turner Broadcasting System, a division of AT&T’s WarnerMedia.

There was no immediate comment from CNN or WarnerMedia.

Trump has long criticized CNN over its coverage of him and his administration.

Fox News Channel is his preferred network.

— AP

Infrastructure committee advances controversial Jerusalem cable car plan

The National Infrastructure Committee approves a controversial plan to to link West Jerusalem to the Old City by a cable car, passing the project on to the government for the next stages of approval.

The committee approved the Tourism Ministry-backed plan despite dozens of objections by local residents, archaeologists, tour guides, NGOs, environmentalists and city planners, as well as the Karaite and Christian communities.

“The plan offers a real solution to the problems of difficult access to the southeastern part of the Old City,” the committee said in the statement announcing its decision.

Architect’s impression of the planned cable car station on Mount Zion. The Dormition Church can be seen to the left. (From plans submitted to the National Planning Council)

The NIS 200 million ($55.2 million) plan calls for a 1.4-kilometer (nearly a mile) track running from the First Station shopping area over a valley mainly populated by East Jerusalem Palestinians to the Old City’s Dung Gate, near the Western Wall.

Supporters of the plan say it will attract tourists and is the greenest, least disruptive, and most financially feasible way to get tourists to and from the holy site.

Opponents, however, say that the plan is obtrusive, culturally and politically irresponsible, and that rather than solving traffic problems it will simply shift gridlocks to other parts of the city.

— with Sue Surkes

Sweden won’t seek Assange’s detention, court rules

A Swedish court has ruled that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is now jailed in Britain and suspected of rape in Sweden, shouldn’t be detained in absentia.

The ruling by the Uppsala District Court doesn’t mean a preliminary investigation in Sweden should be abandoned, only that Assange wouldn’t be extradited and could be questioned in Britain.

Last month, the 47-year-old Assange was evicted from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he had been holed up with political asylum since 2012. He was then immediately arrested by British police on April 11 and is currently serving a 50-week sentence in Britain for jumping bail in 2012.

He is also fighting extradition to the US, which accuses him of publishing secret documents.

— AP

Netanyahu rejects Smotrich call to rule Israel by Jewish religious law

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that “Israel will not become a Halachic state,” rejecting remarks made by far-right MK Bezalel Smotrich who called for the justice system to adhere to religious Jewish law.

Smotrich, an MK from the Union of Right-Wing Parties (URWP), is gunning to be named interim justice minister after Netanyahu fired Ayelet Shaked from the post yesterday.

MK Bezalel Smotrich of the Union of Right-Wing Parties arrives at a Jerusalem Day event at Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem, June 2, 2019. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

Earlier today, Smotrich drew ire for saying that Israel should aspire to run itself as “in the days of King David,” adding that party “wants to restore the Torah justice system.”

Syrian troops take village deep within last rebel stronghold

Syrian government forces have captured a village deep within the last rebel stronghold in the northwest province of Idlib, after intense clashes with militants.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, says that the troops have reached the village of Qassaibyeh.

The pro-government Syrian Central Military Media also confirmed that Syrian troops have captured the village.

Members of the Syrian Civil Defense (known as the White Helmets) carry a wounded man on a stretcher following an air strike on the town of Maaret al-Numan in Idlib province on June 3, 2019. (Abdulaziz KETAZ / AFP)

Human rights and war monitor groups say the government campaign to retake Idlib over the past month, supported by airstrikes, has killed dozens of civilians. The area is overcrowded with refugees and displaced persons from the war.

The province is the last area standing in President Bashar Assad’s way as he seeks a final victory against the armed opposition after eight years of civil war.

— AP

US aircraft carrier deployed over Iran threat remains outside Gulf

A US aircraft carrier the White House ordered to the Mideast over a perceived threat from Iran remains outside of the Persian Gulf amid efforts to de-escalate tensions between Tehran and Washington.

The USS Abraham Lincoln remains in the Arabian Sea, some 200 miles off the coast of Oman.

The flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea, on May 19, 2019. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Garrett LaBarge/US Navy via AP)

While US Navy officials repeatedly decline to discuss why they haven’t gone through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf, they insist they are ready to launch any mission in the region.

However, Capt. Putnam Browne, the commanding officer of the Lincoln, also tells The Associated Press: “You don’t want to inadvertently escalate something.”

Tensions with Iran have worsened since US President Donald Trump pulled America out of Iran’s nuclear deal last year and imposed sanctions on Tehran.

— AP

Russia blocks UN criticism of attacks in northwest Syria

Russia blocks a UN Security Council statement criticizing Syria’s military campaign in the Idlib region that Western powers fear will lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.

Russia says in a note seen by AFP that the proposed statement was “unbalanced” because it did not mention the towns of Hajin or Baguz, where civilians have suffered during US-backed fighting against the Islamic State group.

Belgium, Germany and Kuwait had put forward the proposed text, following two emergency meetings of the council on the worsening violence in the jihadist-held region.

Russia last month blocked a separate statement also warning of a humanitarian catastrophe from an all-out assault on Idlib region, home to three million people.

Council statements require unanimous support by all 15 members.

— AFP

UN chief condemns excessive force against Sudan protesters

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemns the use of excessive force by Sudan’s security forces against protesters and called for an independent investigation into the deaths from the violence.

Guterres says he is “alarmed” by reports that security forces had opened fire inside a hospital in Khartoum.

— AFP

Labor MK Stav Shaffir to run for party leader if open primaries held

Labor MK Stav Shaffir tells Channel 13 News that she will run for leadership of the party if it holds open primaries ahead of September elections.

Shaffir has repeatedly criticized party leader Avi Gabbay over his having considered an offer to join a government under Benjamin Netanyahu.

On Saturday, she called for Labor to “hold open primaries for those who want… to save Israel from turning into a dictatorship. That is our job, to be on the front lines.”

Labor saw its worst election outcome since the founding of the state in the April elections, receiving just six of the 120 Knesset seats. Recent polls suggest Labor could further shrink to four seats in the September polls.

PM said to cancel delay in appointing interim justice minister after backlash

Netanyahu will tap an interim justice minister tomorrow instead of next week, after his delay in naming a replacement for Ayelet Shaked drew widespread criticism.

According to Channel 13, the prime minister is reversing his decision to delay the appointment that would have seen him temporarily assume the job. Netanyahu assuming the role of justice minister sparked criticism, as he faces corruption allegations in three cases.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett hold a press conference of the New Right Political party, in Tel Aviv on March 17, 2019. (Flash90)

Channel 13 says Netanyahu is reversing the decision in the wake of the public outcry and after consultations with a Justice Ministry attorney, who voiced concern over the legality of the move.

PM agreed to ultra-Orthodox demand for gender-segregation in public — report

Netanyahu reportedly agreed to an ultra-Orthodox demand for gender segregation in public places during the coalition negotiations last month, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaks with then-health minister Yaakov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism party, left, at the Knesset on March 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/File)

According to the report, Netanyahu sought to soften the demand in his talks with his would-be coalition members, but ultimately agreed to the condition laid out by Shas, United Torah Judaism, and the Union of Right Wing parties.

The Likud denies the report, telling Kan that no such agreement was made.

US condemns ‘brutal’ Sudan crackdown, urges civilian-led government

The United States condemns Sudanese military leaders’ “brutal” crackdown on protesters and says that better relations with Washington would be contingent on moving toward a civilian-led government.

“This was a brutal and coordinated attack, led by the Rapid Support Forces militia, that mirrors some of the worst offenses of the Bashir regime,” tweets Tibor Nagy, the assistant secretary of state for Africa, referring to toppled strongman Omar al-Bashir.

— AFP

Intel purportedly linking Iran to UAE tanker sabotage sourced by Israel — report

Intelligence indicating that Iran is responsible for sabotaging four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates last month was sourced by Israel’s Mossad, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

An Israeli describes the purported Iranian attack on the tankers as “a pretty good commando operation.”

The Emirati-flagged oil tanker A. Michel, May 13, 2019, one of four ships damaged in what Gulf officials called a ‘sabotage’ attack off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. (UAE National Media Council via AP)

Kan says the US is preparing to present the evidence gathered by Israel to the UN Security Council in the coming days.

Last month, a senior Pentagon officer accused Iran and its proxies for the tanker bombings and a rocket attack in Iraq. Vice Admiral Michael Gilday did not provide direct evidence to back up claims tying Iran to the attacks, but told reporters that the conclusions were based on intelligence and evidence gathered in the region.

Iran denies being involved in the attack.

Sudan protesters say death toll in military raid rises to 30

Sudanese protest organizers say the number of people killed in the security force’s raid of a sit-in protest camp as risen to more than 30.

The Sudan Doctors’ Committee says the death toll is rising and has been difficult to count in the sit-in area outside the military complex in Khartoum.

The group says hundreds of people have been wounded, many by gunfire.

The committee is a member of the Sudanese Professionals Association, which has been spearheading protests against army rule.

— AP

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