The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s developments as they unfolded.

Israel comes to standstill with two-minute siren

Israelis stand still for two minutes as a siren sounds in memory of Israel’s fallen soldiers and terror victims.

President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, and IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot are set to speak at a state ceremony at the Mount Herzl military cemetery.

We must always remember their sacrifice, PM says

Netanyahu addresses a gathering at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery.

“We, the members of bereaved families, don’t need Memorial Day to remember our beloved ones,” he says, “but on this day, Memorial Day, the entire nation is with us, embracing us with love.”

He says shortly after he was drafted to the IDF in 1967, two of his friends — David and Zohar — were critically hurt. David “passed his last moments in my arms, between life and death, and when we got to Tel Hashomer, both were pronounced dead,” he says.

“Even decades later, when I got to visit David’s warm family, I saw his mother left his room” exactly as he left it, he says.

Netanyahu tells of another encounter with the mother — a Holocaust survivor — of a fallen comrade, Chaim. “Her tone said everything,” he says. “Every family has its suffering.”

“At the moment we are told, our worlds are destroyed,” Netanyahu says.

Political and military leaders observing a moment of silence at the official Memorial Day commemoration ceremony at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on May 11, 2016. (screen capture: Channel 2)

Political and military leaders observing a moment of silence at the official Memorial Day commemoration ceremony at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on May 11, 2016. (screen capture: Channel 2)

He says that when he hears soldiers have been killed “my heart breaks with his family.” The prime minister says he makes decisions about military operations “with his heart no less than with his head.”

Addressing the recent terror wave, he praises policewoman Hadar Cohen, killed in action in February by Damascus Gate. He notes that days later, an Israeli family chose to name their baby Hadar. “In Israel, boys and girls are named for the defenders of our people,” he says.

“The bereavement crosses ethnic lines and unites between them,” he says.

“We should remember at every moment the price” people have paid, and the “sacrifice of our heroes,” Netanyahu says.

He wishes a speedy recovery to those injured, and says Israel will work to return the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul. “I promise we won’t give up,” he says.

Ya’alon says IDF soldiers must recognize limits of force

In his Memorial Day address at the Kiryat Shaul military cemetery, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon urges soldiers to show restraint, uphold their values, and not “lose their heads” in the “most difficult moments.”

In comments that appear to be referring to the manslaughter indictment of Sgt. Elor Azaria, who is accused of killing a disarmed Palestinian stabber in Hebron, Ya’alon cautions that excessive force is liable to lead Israel to “the abyss.”

“Even in the difficult moments, when our blood boils and the rage is great, woe to us if we lose our way and our values,” Ya’alon says at a ceremony. “Our path and sacred values have accompanied us for generations, and compromising them would likely lead Israel to the abyss. Use force when necessary, but also understand its limitations and ability to make us numb. Uphold the purity of arms and humanity, and we won’t lose our heads.”

Bennett says soldiers killed because of army’s ethics

Education Minister Naftali Bennett says Israel “pays a heavy price for being the most moral army in the world.”

“There is no other army that sends fliers before it bombs the houses of its enemies, that prevents harm against innocents to the extent of endangering the lives of its soldiers. The Jewish values often cost us dearly. And no one, no one, has the right to preach values and morality to this wonderful nation. The tombstones in this cemetery — they are the terrible testimony to that,” he says.

Photos of Israelis pausing during siren

People stand still as a two minute siren sounded across Israel, marking Memorial Day which commemorates the fallen Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem on May 11, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

People stand still in Jerusalem as a two minute siren sounded across Israel, marking Memorial Day on May 11, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

People stand still as a two-minute siren sounds across Israel, marking Memorial Day which commemorates the fallen Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem on May 11, 2016. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

People stand still in Jerusalem as a two-minute siren sounds across Israel, marking Memorial Day on May 11, 2016. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

People stand still as a two-minute siren sound across Israel, marking Memorial Day which commemorates the fallen Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem on May 11, 2016.(Nati Shohat/Flash90)

People stand still in Jerusalem as a two-minute siren sound across Israel, marking Memorial Day on May 11, 2016.(Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Herzog says Israel must always pursue peace

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, speaking at the Netanya military cemetery, says Israel must always pursue peace.

“From the early days of the State of Israel, we upheld a principle that the founders of our nation dictated: One hand will always be on the trigger, to defend the security of the state and its citizens in the face of the enemy, while the other hand will be extended in peace,” says Herzog.

“We must ensure this principle continues to exist today,” he adds. “Peace is central to security and does not contradict it. The pursuit of it is our moral obligation to those who laid down their lives for the State of Israel. It is our obligation for the next generations. The price of peace is not easy, but the tombstones in front of us are evidence that the cost of war is beyond comprehension.”

Livni says she won’t let outsiders judge IDF

Like Bennett, Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni defends the army, saying she won’t allow outside criticism of the IDF’s ethics.

“The IDF is a moral army that fights terror and we won’t let anyone say otherwise. We won’t allow an outsider to judge us with their warped view,” she says.

Bereaved families flock to cemeteries

Bereaved Israelis from across the country are visiting the cemeteries where their slain relatives and friends are buried.

Bereaved Israelis mourn next to graves of fallen soldiers at the Mt. Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on Israeli Memorial Day. May 11, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Bereaved Israelis mourn next to graves of fallen soldiers at the Mt. Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on Israeli Memorial Day. May 11, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Bereaved Israelis mourn next to graves of fallen soldiers at the Mt. Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on Israeli Memorial Day. May 11, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Bereaved Israelis mourn next to graves of fallen soldiers at the Mt. Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on Israeli Memorial Day. May 11, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Bereaved Israelis mourn next to graves of fallen soldiers at the Mt. Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on Israeli Memorial Day. May 11, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Bereaved Israelis mourn next to graves of fallen soldiers at the Mt. Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on Israeli Memorial Day. May 11, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Bereaved Israelis mourn next to graves of fallen soldiers at the Mt. Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on Israeli Memorial Day. May 11, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Bereaved Israelis mourn next to graves of fallen soldiers at the Mt. Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on Israeli Memorial Day. May 11, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Bereaved Israelis mourn next to graves of fallen soldiers at the Mt. Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on Israeli Memorial Day. May 11, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Bereaved Israelis mourn next to graves of fallen soldiers at the Mt. Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on Israeli Memorial Day. May 11, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

2 Arab Israelis indicted for planning stabbing

Two Arab Israelis from northern Israel are indicted for planning a stabbing attack at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate.

The pair arrived in Jerusalem on two occasions, armed with knives, the indictment says. The first time, they decided not to carry out the attack because they didn’t have a firearm. The second time, one of them, again armed with a knife, headed to the area but the attack was foiled by security forces, according to Channel 10.

Ceremony for terror victims begins

The memorial for Israel’s 2,576 victims of terror attacks begins at Mount Herzl.

Netanyahu heckled at terror victims’ memorial

The prime minister is heckled at the terror victims’ memorial in Jerusalem by a bereaved relative.

“Believe me, I understand you all, and you,” Netanyahu says to the man who yelled at him before his address began.

You are not alone, PM tells terror victims’ families

Netanyahu speaks to the families of terror victims.

“We are in a national fight” against terror that has lasted over 100 years, Netanyahu says.

Our enemies “see us all of us as a target,” including mothers and elderly women “as happened yesterday,” says Netanyahu, referring to the Jerusalem stabbing on Tuesday morning.

He is dismissive of so-called “lone wolf terrorism” and says terror is a result of incitement.

“In the depths of the darkness,” Israelis step up and place themselves on the line to save others, he says, revealing “bravery” and “giving.”

“We always get up,” he says.

“This is a difficult day. The wounds reopen,” Netanyahu says. But “you are not alone.”

Trump plans pre-election visit to Israel

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump tells Israel Hayom that he is planning to visit Israel before the US presidential election in November.

“I heard you are going to visit us soon, before the election,” Israel Hayom journalist Boaz Bismuth asks Trump. “Yes. I will be coming soon,” Trump says.

“I just want to say that my support for Israel is great and strong, and I have always loved the Israeli nation,” Trump tells Israel Hayom. “I have many friends in Israel. We will ensure that the situation in Israel will be very good, and will remain that way forever.”

Swiss panel: No secret government deal with PLO in ’70s

A Swiss panel finds no evidence that a minister in the 1970s struck a secret deal with the PLO, offering diplomatic support in return for a halt in terror attacks against Swiss targets, Reuters reports.

The claims were made in a book by Swiss journalist Marcel Gyr, who writes that Switzerland was in turmoil after a spate of Palestinian terror attacks, leading then-foreign minister Pierre Graber to clandestinely contact the PLO and made the offer.

Jewish Agency holds ceremony for Jews slain in anti-Semitic attacks

The Jewish Agency holds a remembrance service for Jews killed in anti-Semitic attacks around the world.

The ceremony, which takes place on Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terror victims, is held at the Agency’s Jerusalem headquarters.

Among those present are the family of Jewish teacher Moshe Ya’ish Nahari, who was murdered in an anti-Semitic attack in Yemen in 2008.

“The war on our right to be a free people in our land has no borders. We have been attacked in France, in Copenhagen, and in Argentina,” Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky tells attendees.

“Our enemies keep trying to destroy Jewish life and we continue to build it. They try to sever the chain of generations and we keep it going strong. Our tool is aliyah. The entire Nahari family made aliyah after their father’s murder and was successfully integrated into Israeli society.

“We will continue to strengthen the connection between Jews and Israel around the world in order to ensure that the final words of Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl and Jewish teacher Moshe Ya’ish Nahari — ‘we are Jews and we will remain Jews’ — live on.”

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky kindles a memorial flame together with two relatives of slain Yemeite Jew Moshe Nahari (faces blurred at the family’s request), on May 11, 2016. (Photo credit: Sasson Tiram for The Jewish Agency for Israel)

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky kindles a memorial flame together with two relatives of slain Yemeite Jew Moshe Nahari (faces blurred at the family’s request), on May 11, 2016. (Sasson Tiram for The Jewish Agency for Israel)

52 die in Baghdad bombing claimed by Islamic State

Officials say a car bombing claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group kills at least 52 people at a market in a Shiite area of north Baghdad.

The blast, the single deadliest attack in the Iraqi capital this year, comes as the government is locked in a political crisis that some have warned could undermine the fight against IS.

The officials add that at least 65 people are hurt in the bombing in the Sadr City area.

The blast sets nearby shops on fire and leaves debris including the charred, twisted remains of a vehicle in the street.

Dozens of angry people gather at the scene of the bombing, blaming the government for the carnage.

“The state is in a conflict over [government positions] and the people are the victims,” says a man named Abu Ali, adding: “The politicians are behind the explosion.”

— AFP

Egypt briefly opens Gaza crossing for first time in months

Egypt announces the opening of the Rafah Border Crossing on its border with the Gaza Strip, for the first time in 85 days. The crossing will be open for 48 hours, Channel 2 reports.

Some 30,000 Palestinians are waiting to enter Egypt from Gaza, the report says.

A Palestinian family sit next to their luggage as they wait for their turn to enter the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 11, 2016. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)

A Palestinian family sit next to their luggage as they wait for their turn to enter the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 11, 2016. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)

Brazilian skinheads sentenced to 8 years for Nazi propaganda

Two skinheads are sentenced to eight years in jail in Brazil for promoting Nazi content, racism and conspiracy.

“This is a longtime action on which we have been working for some three years. We follow closely on the internet, we patrol the publications,” says Salvador Ohana, president of the Jewish Federation of the state of Minas Gerais. “We have tracked their Nazi content and the police joined us. Our lawyers served as accusers.”

The judge rejects an attempt by both defendants to plead mental insanity, and the two are sentenced to semi-open detention, whereby they work outside the jail during the day but must return to detention jail overnight.

— JTA

Shaked: Better to be strong and criticized than weak and downtrodden

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked defends Israeli military policy on Memorial Day, saying it is better to be strong and criticized than weak and downtrodden.

“Memorial Day marks the assumption of responsibility for us,” Shaked says during a ceremony at the military cemetery in Petah Tikva.

“We will never place our safety in the hands of others,” she says. “It is better to be strong, even if criticized, than to be weak, pitiful and downtrodden.”

Erdogan says Turkey killed 3,000 IS extremists

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkish forces have killed some 3,000 Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, insisting that no other country has matched Turkey’s efforts against the extremist group.

In an address to the military chiefs of Balkan nations, Erdogan also denounces nations who have accused Turkey of supporting IS as “vile.”

“There have been those who have … been vile by showing Turkey as a country that helps Daesh (Islamic State). No country in the world has conducted the struggle we are conducting,” Erdogan says.

The presidents figures contradict those of the Turkish military chief, who earlier in the same meeting puts the number of IS militants killed in Syria and Iraq at 1,300. Erdogan’s aides cannot immediately be reached to explain the differing figures.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, talks with Turkey's Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, left, as he poses for photographs with military chiefs of Balkan nations following his speech at their conference, in Istanbul Wednesday, May 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, talks with Turkey’s Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, left, as he poses for photographs with military chiefs of Balkan nations following his speech at their conference, in Istanbul Wednesday, May 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

— AP

Manchester police probe suspected arson at kosher deli

Police in Manchester are investigating a suspected arson at a kosher restaurant and deli in a heavily Jewish area of the city.

Security camera footage shows the Glatt kosher Ta’am Restaurant in Prestwich being doused with a liquid by two unidentified men before bursting into flames on Friday night, the Manchester Evening News reports.

No one is hurt in the incident, and the attack only causes minimal damage, according to the report.

The owners say believe the attack could be motivated by their Jewish heritage, although police say they have found no evidence that is the case.

CCTV footage shows two men soaking a kosher restaurant in Manchester with fuel before setting it alight on May 6, 2016 (screen capture)

CCTV footage shows two men soaking a kosher restaurant in Manchester with fuel before setting it alight on May 6, 2016 (screen capture)

— JTA

Court returns Ashkelon mayor to post despite graft allegations

Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court says Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni can return to his duties after his suspension for suspected corruption, Israel Radio reports.

The court rejects a request by police to extend the suspension, but agrees to delay Shimon’s return until Monday in order to give the police time to appeal the decision.

 

PM meets with terror victim who heckled him at memorial speech

Netanyahu meets with Rahamim Cohen, the terror victim who heckled the PM during his Memorial Day speech a short time earlier.

Cohen was stabbed more than 12 times in a terror attack in 2000, while his brother Zvika was critically injured by an ax-wielding Palestinian in February of this year. During Netanyahu’s speech on Mount Herzl, Cohen accuses him of being too soft on terror.

 

French PM: UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem ‘unfortunate, clumsy’

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls describes a UNESCO resolution on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem as “clumsy” and “unfortunate” and says it should have been avoided.

The Paris-based UN cultural body adopted the resolution in April, sparking outrage in Israel and among Jewish organizations who decried its total disregard of a Jewish connection to the holiest site in Judaism. The resolution refers to the Temple Mount area solely by the Muslim terms Al-Aqsa Mosque and Al-Haram Al Sharif, except for two references to the Western Wall Plaza that were put in parentheses.

“This UNESCO resolution contains unfortunate, clumsy wording that offends and unquestionably should have been avoided, as should the vote,” Valls tells parliament.

— JTA and AFP

Trump touts Giuliani to head probe on jihadist terrorism

Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump says he may establish a commission of inquiry into terrorism and suggests there may be a role for former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

“Not only here but throughout the world it’s a real problem,” Trump tells Fox News in a comment about jihadist terrorism.

“I am thinking about setting up a commission, perhaps headed by Rudy Giuliani, to take a very serious look at this problem,” he says.

Britain raises threat level from N. Ireland terrorism

Britain raises its security threat level from Northern Ireland-related terrorism from moderate to substantial, Home Secretary Theresa May tells Parliament.

“This means that a terrorist attack is a strong possibility and reflects the continuing threat from dissident republican activity,” May says. “As a result of this change, we are working closely with the police and other relevant authorities to ensure appropriate security measures are in place.”

The level was substantial when the rating was first published by the MI5 domestic intelligence service in 2010 but was lowered to moderate in 2012.

— AFP

3 US men on trial over conspiring to join Islamic State

Three Minnesota men are due to go on trial today in federal court in Minneapolis over accusations that they plotted to join the Islamic State group.

Prosecutors say the three young men were part of a larger group of friends in Minnesota’s Somali community who met several times to plan how to travel to Syria.

All three are pleading not guilty to multiple charges. The most serious charge is conspiracy to commit murder outside the United States, which carries the possibility of life in prison.

Opening statements are expected today.

— AP

Paul Ryan: GOP needs to unify to defeat Clinton

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan says the party needs to be unified to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election.

Ryan speaks to reporters ahead of his meeting tomorrow with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Ryan stunned the GOP last week when he said he wasn’t ready to endorse the billionaire businessman.

Ryan, who has faced some criticism for his reluctance to embrace Trump, says the party needs a “real unification” and must be at full strength to win the presidential election.

— AP

Doctor: IDF officer hurt in Hizme blasts is now stable

An IDF officer wounded in a West Bank attack last night is now in stable condition, according to one of his doctors.

The officer sustains serious, extensive head and face wounds when four pipe bombs exploded near him at a checkpoint outside the Palestinian village of Hizme, north of Jerusalem.

A “multi-disciplinary team” at Hadassah Hospital, Ein Kerem in Jerusalem performed 12-hour surgery to remove the shrapnel and bomb fragments embedded in his face. He is now in an intensive care unit for further treatment, but is no longer in life-threatening condition, the doctor says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Cuban Jewish women on Israel trip aiming to ’empower and inspire’

Ten Cuban-Jewish mothers arrive in Israel from Havana, as part of a visit sponsored by The Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) and the Diaspora Affairs Ministry.

The women will travel the country as part of the JWRP Momentum trip, including visits to Safed and Masada, according to a statement issued by the project. JWRP says the recent thaw in relations between Cuba and the US made the trip possible.

The Cuban visitors will join more than 800 other Jewish mothers at JWRP’s Momentum Mega Event May 16 at Bar-Ilan University on the outskirts of Tel Aviv.

The entire experience, JWRP says, “is designed to empower the women, inspire them to engage with Israel and Israelis, connect to their Jewish identities, and to develop new leadership skills in order to build their communities and the wider world.”

Islamic State pushing back to Syria’s Palmyra

Islamic State militants advance toward the Syrian city of Palmyra, threatening to besiege the world-famous ancient site only several weeks after the government recaptured it from the extremists.

Media allied with the group and other activists say IS fighters seized a strategically located but deserted rocket-launching site close to an air base less than 60 kilometers from Palmyra. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and other activists confirm the IS advance.

The capture of the deserted site “helps in severing the supply routes of the (Syrian) army from T-4 base to Palmyra, and tightening the siege on the city,” says the IS-linked Al-Bayan radio station.

— AP

Trump pulls close to Clinton in new Reuters poll

Donald Trump is now running nearly neck and neck with Hillary Clinton among likely US voters, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll says.

The survey finds that 41 percent of likely voters support Clinton, while 40% back Trump, and 19% are still undecided.

The online poll of 1,289 people was conducted from Friday to Tuesday and has a credibility interval of error of 3 percentage points.

London mayor: I’m a leader for all, not a Muslim leader

New London mayor Sadiq Khan says he is not a Muslim leader but represents everyone in the city.

“Let me be very clear, I’m not a Muslim leader or Muslims’ spokesperson, I’m the mayor of London. I speak for all Londoners,” the 45-year-old says in a wide-ranging media briefing.

Khan, the son of Pakistani immigrants, adds however that his election proves “it’s possible to be Muslim and a Westerner. Western values are compatible with Islam.”

He repeats his criticism of presumptive US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has proposed banning all Muslims from entering the United States.

Khan, a member of Britain’s opposition Labour party, says Trump is “ignorant about Islam” and is “playing into the hands of the extremists.”

— AP

NJ state Senate passes anti-BDS bill

The New Jersey Senate unanimously approves a bill that would require the state’s public worker pension fund to divest from companies that boycott Israel.

A similar bill in the state Assembly is in committee.

The bill bars the state Division of Investments from investing the public workers’ $68.6 billion pension fund in any company “that boycotts the goods, products, or businesses of Israel, boycotts those doing business with Israel, or boycotts companies operating in Israel or Israeli-controlled territory.”

It also requires the fund to divest from any companies participating in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel within 18 months of the passage of the legislation.

“The activities of any company solely providing humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people through either a governmental or non-governmental organization shall not render the company subject to the provisions of this act unless it is also engaging in the prohibited boycotts or otherwise discriminating against goods, products, or businesses of Israel, or entities operating in Israel or Israeli-controlled territory,” the bill reads.

— JTA

Israel Prize winner giving award money to pro-Palestinian group

Linguist and left-wing activist David Shulman says he will donate the NIS 75,000 he receives for winning the Israel Prize to Ta’ayush, an Israeli organization works with Palestinians in the West Bank.

The Hebrew University professor is an active member of the group, says Haaretz newspaper.

Shulman will receive the prize during tomorrow’s Independence Day celebrations, for his work on Indian languages and culture.

Israel moves from mourning to joy as Independence Day gets underway

Israel ends its Memorial Day and moves onto the celebrations of Yom Haatzmaut (independence day) with a ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. The ceremony includes the lighting of torches, lit by a selection of Israelis who are seen to have made an outstanding contribution to society.

Cities and towns across Israel traditionally mark the country’s birthday with street parties and concerts on the night of the celebration, while tomorrow is a day usually given over to barbecues.

At Independence Day ceremony, Edelstein warns of social divisions

In his speech at the start of Israel’s 68th Independence Day, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein warns against the divisions in Israeli society.

“The serious phenomena of denigration and incitement has not, to my regret, passed the Israeli public by,” he says.

“The tensions that characterize us, and which are often healthy, have exceeded the boundaries of good taste. Widespread freedom of expression, the lifeblood of democracy, is often characterized by offensive discourse. Utterances have become more and more extreme: sector by sector, belief against belief and worldview against worldview.”

WATCH: Netanyahu delivers Independence Day message

Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a special video message for Independence Day.

“I send you warm greetings from Jerusalem on Israel’s Independence Day,” he says. “Sixty-eight years ago the state of Israel was founded; it was a tremendous historic event. For thousands of years, the Jewish people longed to regain their independence and sovereignty. Today, we have it. We control our destiny, we protect our lives.”

Israelis crowd to Sea of Galilee for Independence Day

The local council closes several beaches at the Sea of Galilee due to overcrowding.

More than 15 beaches are also at maximum occupancy, NRG reports.

Italy joins rest of Europe in giving rights to gay couples

Italy joins the rest of Europe in giving some legal rights to gay couples.

The lower Chamber of Deputies votes 369-193 with two abstentions to approve legislation already passed in February by the Senate.

Gay rights activists hail the vote as historic, given that Italy was the last of the European Union’s 28 nations to grant legal recognition to civil unions. But they voice disappointment that the government sacrifices a provision to allow gay adoption to ensure passage.

The legislation grants same-sex couples many of the same rights as married couples: the possibility of having the same last name, inheritance rights, hospital visitation rights and medical decision-making rights. It stops far short, however, of authorizing gay marriage, which the Vatican opposes.

— AP

US gears up missile defense system in Europe to Russia’s ire

A US missile defense system aimed at protecting Europe from ballistic missile threats is moving into higher gear this week, with a site in Romania becoming operational tomorrow and officials breaking ground at another site in Poland on Thursday.

NATO and US officials say the system is aimed against potential long-range threats from the Middle East, mainly with Iran in mind. But Russia is adamantly opposed to having the advanced military system on its doorstep and the development is certain to further exacerbate tensions between Russia and the West that are more strained than at any time since the Cold War.

The United States and NATO say the missile shield — which is able to track and shoot down incoming missiles — is purely defensive and is, in any case, powerless against Russia’s large stockpile of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

— AP

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