The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
Netanyahu meets Putin in Moscow amid new round of Syria strikes
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Moscow to meet President Vladimir Putin to discuss military coordination amid new strikes in Syria blamed on Israel.
“The meetings between us are always important and this one is especially so,” Netanyahu said ahead of his departure. “In light of what is currently happening in Syria, it is necessary to ensure the continued coordination” between the two militaries. Netanyahu made no mention of the overnight strikes.
During the visit, Netanyahu and Putin attended a parade in Moscow commemorating the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany 73 years ago.
After the parade, the leaders laid a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Red Square.
— with AP
Khamenei slams Trump nuclear withdrawal: ‘You cannot do a damn thing’
Iran’s supreme leader is challenging US President Donald Trump over America pulling out of nuclear deal, saying: “You cannot do a damn thing!”
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s comments come as he met with a group of school teachers in Tehran, a day after Trump announced he was renewing sanctions on Iran.
Khamenei described Trump’s speech last night as having “over 10 lies,” without elaborating. He also says Trump’s remarks threatened Iran’s people and its theocratic government.
Under Iran’s Islamic Republic, Khamenei has final say on all state matters.
Germany: Preserving Iran deal will prevent ‘uncontrolled escalation’ in Mideast
Germany’s foreign minister is vowing to work to preserve the Iran nuclear deal and prevent an “uncontrolled escalation” of tensions in the Middle East.
Heiko Maas says that “the agreement is working.” He adds that “it is not at all clear what, in the United States’ view, could take the place of the nuclear agreement to prevent Iran verifiably from producing nuclear weapons.”
Maas says it isn’t in Iran’s interests to jeopardize the opportunities created by the nuclear deal. He says “a cool head” will be needed in the coming days as the next steps are discussed.
He adds: “We will also have to analyze what consequences the United States’ withdrawal will have for European companies and how we in Europe can react to them together.”
Border police officer injured in riot after pipe bomb hurled at officers
A border police officer is moderately injured in a riot with Palestinian protesters outside Jerusalem after protesters hurled a pipe bomb at officers, police say
The female officer is injured by a rock thrown by rioters in the West Bank town of Abu Dis. She is taken to Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center for treatment.
The pipe bomb thrown at officers caused damage to the gate of the police base, but no injuries were reported in the explosion. A statement from Border Police says officers were using “nonlethal measures” to disperse the dozens of demonstrators.
— Jacob Magid
2 Palestinians arrested for injuring officer in riot outside Jerusalem
Border police officers arrest 2 Palestinians suspected of injuring an officer during riots in the Palestinian town of Abu Dis, near Jerusalem, police say in a statement.
The officer was moderately injured when Palestinian rioters threw rocks at security forces. The riot was sparked after a pipe bomb was thrown at the border police station.
Merkel says Europe to do all to keep Iran in nuclear deal
Germany, France and Britain will “do everything” to ensure that Iran remains in the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, Chancellor Angela Merkel vows, a day after the US pulled out of the accord.
“We will remain committed to this agreement and will do everything to ensure that Iran complies with the deal,” Merkel says, adding that Berlin had made the decision jointly with Paris and London.
6.2-magnitude earthquake rocks Afghanistan
A strong 6.2-magnitude earthquake rocked Afghanistan, the US Geological Survey says, sending people rushing outside and creating tremors felt as far away as Pakistan’s capital Islamabad.
The quake struck at 1041 GMT near Afghanistan’s northern border with Tajikistan in the Hindu Kush mountains at a depth of 111 kilometers (69 miles), the USGS says.
IAEA says Iran keeping to ‘nuclear-related commitments’ under deal
The UN nuclear watchdog confirms that Iran is implementing “nuclear-related commitments” under its deal with world powers.
Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), reiterated in a statement that “Iran is subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime” and that the 2015 accord was “a significant verification gain.”
UK minister says nuclear deal ‘vital for national security’
UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson tells parliament that Britain has no intention of walking away from nuclear deal with Iran as it is “vital for our national security.”
Trump’s decision “makes no difference” to that assessment, he adds.
Johnson says he will not detail the steps the country will take.
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) May 9, 2018
— with AFP
Trump’s CIA pick says she won’t restart controversial interrogations
US President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the next CIA director says that if she is confirmed by the Senate, the spy agency will not undertake a detention and harsh interrogation program like the one used after 9/11.
“I understand that what many people around the country want to know about me are my views on CIA’s former detention and interrogation program,” Gina Haspel says in the excerpts released by the CIA of remarks to be made at her confirmation hearing today.
“Having served in that tumultuous time, I can offer you my personal commitment, clearly and without reservation, that under my leadership, CIA will not restart such a detention and interrogation program.”
UAE, Bahrain support US exit from Iran deal
Two more Gulf Arab nations, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, express support for US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.
The UAE says the agreement didn’t guarantee Iran would refrain from pursuing a nuclear weapon in the future.
Bahrain, which has accused Iran of arming and training Shiite Bahraini protesters with the aim of destabilizing the Sunni-ruled country, said late last night that Trump’s decision reflects the US commitment to confront Iran’s “continuous attempts to spread terrorism in the region.”
Saudi Arabia — one of Iran’s staunchest regional foes — earlier rushed to express its support for Trump’s decision, saying Iran had exploited the economic benefits of sanctions being lifted to continue its destabilizing activities.
Oman, a Gulf Arab nation that helped mediate talks between the US and Iran that eventually led to the deal, says it “values the stance of the five partners (P5+1) to adhere to this agreement, thus contributing to regional and international security and stability,” referring to the agreement’s co-signers — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — all of which had urged the US to adhere to the deal.
IDF top brass meet with Golan mayors after high alert declared
The IDF’s top brass meets with mayors and local community leaders on the Golan Heights, following a highly unusual call by the army last night to open public bomb shelters to be opened in the area.
“As part of the meeting, the [IDF] commanders updated the local council leaders about the findings of a situational assessment and they discussed the preparedness of the communities and the civilian home front,” the army says.
The meeting is led by IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot, who is joined by the head of the Northern Command Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick, Home Front Command chief Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai and the head of the Bashan Division, which defends the Golan Heights, Brig. Gen. Amit Fisher.
Representatives from the towns of Katzrin, Majdal Shams, Masade, Buqata, Ein Qiniyye and the Golan regional council are also in attendance, the army says.
“The chief of staff expressed his great appreciation for the leadership and civilian resilience shown by the heads of the local governments and residents of the Golan Heights,” the army says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Trump: Pompeo returning from North Korea with 3 American detainees
Three American detainees have been freed by North Korea and are heading home with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, US President Donald Trump said Wednesday.
“I am pleased to inform you that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the air and on his way back from North Korea with the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting. They seem to be in good health,” Trump tweeted.
I am pleased to inform you that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the air and on his way back from North Korea with the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting. They seem to be in good health. Also, good meeting with Kim Jong Un. Date & Place set.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 9, 2018
Secretary Pompeo and his “guests” will be landing at Andrews Air Force Base at 2:00 A.M. in the morning. I will be there to greet them. Very exciting!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 9, 2018
Turkey: Trump pullout from Iran will ‘destroy US credibility’
A top Turkish official says the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal is a worrying development that will also “destroy US credibility.”
Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, says that the decision could lead to new tensions and clashes in the region.
Kalin says that “our position is for this agreement to continue the way it is.”
He adds, however, that Turkey didn’t want nuclear weapons in the region, saying “our main aim is to ensure that our region is completely cleared of nuclear weapons.”
Construction worker crushed to death in trash compactor
A construction worker is crushed to death by a trash compactor in the city of Rehovot this afternoon, the municipality says.
Medics responding to the scene on Moti Kinder Street declared the 67-year-old worker dead upon arrival.
Police have opened an investigation into the circumstances of the incident, but early assessments indicated the man fell inside the compactor accidentally.
— Jacob Magid
Putin expresses ‘deep concern’ at Trump’s Iran move
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said he was seriously concerned by US President Donald Trump’s abandoning the Iran nuclear deal.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RIA Novosti news agency that Putin in comments to his national Security Council expressed “deep concern over such a decision and once more stressed the importance of this document.”
Putin is set to hold talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later today.
Netanyahu: ‘Unbelievable’ Iran still calls to exterminate Jews 73 years after Holocaust
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells Russian President Vladimir Putin it’s “unbelievable” that 73 years after the Holocaust, Iran is seeking the destruction of the Jewish people.
Speaking after a memorial parade marking the anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, Netanyahu said Jews “have never forgotten the great lesson facing a murderous ideology.”
“It is unbelievable, but 73 years after the Holocaust there is a country in the Middle East — Iran — which calls for the destruction of another six million Jews,” he said.
“The difference is that today we have a state,” he says. “I very much appreciate the opportunity to talk with you about the region’s problems — or as you say, the attempts to solve the problems — so that we can counter threats in an informed and responsible manner,” Netanyahu says.
Ex-minister: Israel should threaten to oust Assad in order to stop Iran in Syria
Former Likud minister Gideon Saar says Israel could prevent the Iranian military entrenchment in Syria by threatening to topple the Assad regime.
“Israel must say clearly: If Iran persists in its efforts to establish a new strategic equation in Syria, it will endanger the Assad regime,” Saar says at the Herzliya Conference.
“The result of the move could be the fall of the Assad regime,” he adds.
Saar says the uptick in tensions with Iran is the main security threat facing the country.
“Political rivalries and disagreements on other issues must be set aside and national unity must be built up around the necessity of dealing with this threat,” he concludes.
EU’s Juncker: US abandoning allies, losing influence under Trump
The head of the European Union’s executive says that the United States under President Donald Trump is turning its back on multilateral relations and friendly cooperation “with a ferocity that can only surprise us.”
EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says that in the wake of Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, the United States “no longer wants to cooperate with other parts in the world.”
In an address to Belgium’s Flemish regional parliament, Juncker says that it is up to the EU to take on the mantle of the United States.
Juncker says: “At this point, we have to replace the United States, which as an international actor has lost vigor, and because of it, in the long term, influence.”
Minister says US exit from Iran deal will force Tehran to abandon nukes
A senior cabinet minister says US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement will force the Islamic Republic to abandon its pursuit of a bomb for good.
Intelligence Minister Israel Katz says that “Iran has two options — to align or to fold and crumble.” Speaking to the Herzliya Conference, an annual security gathering north of Tel Aviv, Katz says if Iran doesn’t truly shut down its nuclear ambitions “it will encounter the US economic power, and we know the state of the Iranian economy.”
Katz adds that the 2015 international nuclear deal “was leading toward a nuclear weapon.”
Trump praises North Korea’s release of Americans prisoners
The White House says US President Donald Trump views North Korea’s release of three American citizens “as a positive gesture of goodwill.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the three Americans “appear to be in good condition” and says they were “able to walk on the plane without assistance.”
Trump announced earlier today that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on his way back from North Korea with the three American detainees.
Sanders says, “All Americans look forward to welcoming them home and to seeing them reunited with their loved ones.”
Bush adviser says Iran move sets up North Korea talks
A former top official in the George W. Bush administration says US President Donald Trump’s decision to leave the Iran nuclear deal bodes well for future talks with North Korea.
Elliot Abrams, the deputy national security adviser under Bush, says the “effect on North Korea is salutary in that it suggests the president is true to his rhetoric — he is not going to accept a very bad deal.”
Speaking on the sidelines of the Herzliya Conference, Abrams says that staying in the deal would have sent a negative message that the Americans would buckle under the international pressure to abide by the 2015 deal.
He adds that Trump was strengthening his hand for his upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
After deal pullout, Mattis says US will help counter Iran’s ‘malign’ influence
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis tells a Senate panel the Trump administration will work with allies and partners to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
In an opening statement to the defense subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, focused mainly on the administration’s proposed 2018 defense budget, Mattis notes that US President Donald Trump had announced his decision Tuesday to withdraw American participation in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Without commenting directly on the implications of leaving the nuclear deal, Mattis said the US will work with “others” to address what he called “the range of Iran’s malign influence.”
“This administration remains committed to putting the safety, interests and well-being of our citizens first.”
Ex-defense official: Iran entrenchment in Syria ‘collision course’ for region
Amos Gilad, a retired senior defense official, tells the Herzliya Conference that Iran’s intentions in Syria mean a wider conflagration may only be a matter of time.
“They want to build a second Hezbollah-stan,” Gilad says, referring to the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite terrorist group that last fought a war with Israel in 2006.
“They are determined to do it and we are determined to prevent it,” he adds. “It means we are on a collision course.”
Macron, Rouhani agree to seek ‘continued implementation’ of nuclear deal
French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Iran’s Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday, with the two leaders agreeing to work toward “the continued implementation of the nuclear deal” following the US decision to withdraw from the agreement, the French presidency says.
“The French and Iranian presidents agreed to pursue their joint efforts with all nations involved, with the aim of continued implementation of the nuclear deal and maintaining regional stability,” Macron’s office says in a statement.
Pentagon chief says Trump found Iran deal ‘inadequate’
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal because he found it inadequate and could not affirm that the agreement was being lived up to.
Mattis makes his remarks in response to questions by members of a Senate committee.
The Pentagon chief says that since the deal was made in 2015 there has been no reduction in what he called Iran’s “malicious activities,” such as Tehran’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad. Prior to Trump’s decision, Mattis had said that while he would not have signed the deal, he believed the US should stick with it.
Mattis says the US will now work with allies and other countries to try to steer Iran toward more responsible behavior around the world.
Egypt wants Arab nations to have say in amended nuclear deal
Egypt says it wants Arab countries to have a role in decisions about amending the nuclear treaty with Iran from which US President Donald Trump just withdrew.
In a statement, the Egyptian foreign ministry says it has followed the US decision closely, and that it sees a need to preserve the “security and stability of the region.”
Egypt says it’s important that all concerned Arab parties participate in any dialogue on the future situation in the region, in particular the possibility of amending the deal
Cairo calls “on all regional powers, including Iran, to stop adopting policies or actions against the security of the Arab region,” adding that it “hopes that the current developments will not result in any armed conflicts in the region.”
Tunisia extradition approved for suspect behind 2016 hit on Hamas engineer
A Croatian court clears the way for the extradition of a Bosnian man to Tunisia over the alleged murder of an aerospace engineer described by the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas as one of its members.
Mohamed Zouari, 49, was killed in a hail of bullets outside his house in Tunisia’s second city Sfax in December 2016.
At a hearing, the court says it had “established that legal preconditions for extradition” had been met, a statement reads.
The suspect was arrested in Croatia on March 13 on an international warrant and has been held in custody since, says the statement issued by the court in Velika Gorica, near Zagreb.
Shortly after Zouari’s death, Hamas said he was a drone expert who had worked for the “resistance” for a decade before being killed by Israel.
Israel refuses to respond to the allegations.
Trump warns Iran of ‘very severe consequences’ if it restarts nuclear program
Trump is warning Iran of “very severe consequences if it restarts its nuclear program in response to his decision to pull the US out of the multi-national nuclear agreement last night.
According Reuters, Trump tells reporters that Iran will renegotiate the terms of the accord or “something will happen,” adding that renewed US sanctions will go into effect “very soon.”
Defending nuclear deal exit, Trump says ‘death’ follows wherever Iran involved
Trump is defending his decision to withdraw the US from the Iran nuclear deal, saying “bedlam” and “death” follow wherever Iran is involved.
Speaking during a cabinet meeting, Trump says he is open to negotiating a new deal with Iran, but adds: “We’re going to make either a really good deal for the world or we’re not going to make a deal at all.”
Trump says the Iran deal was “one-sided” and would have led to nuclear proliferation. He adds that he would “advise Iran not to start their nuclear program.”
PM to Putin: It’s ‘our right and duty’ to fend off Iran in Syria
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he reiterated to Russian President Vladimir Putin that Israel will continue to act militarily to rein in Iran’s entrenchment in Syria
“I told President Putin that it is our right and duty to take any steps required for to safeguard our security interests,” he tells reporters on a telephone briefing from Moscow airport, minutes before taking off en route to Tel Aviv.
Netanyahu declines to provide any detail about the conversation he had with Putin, merely saying that his conversations in the Kremlin are always “thorough and effective.”
He refuses to answer if Putin has asked the Israeli Air Force to refrain from violating Syrian airspace, as the Russian president had during a recent phone call between the leaders following an alleged Israeli airstrike on Iranian targets in the war-torn country.
“I said that we will always maintain our right and our duty to take all actions as required,” he says,” adding that he brought up the topic in a “direct and straightforward fashion.”
Netanyahu says he and Putin also discussed the US administration’s decision to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal, but says the conversation focused mostly on Iran’s effort to turn Syria into a forward base to attack Israel.
Netanyahu adds that he is very moved to be the first Israeli prime minister invited to participate in Russia’s VE Day military parade in Moscow’s Red Square earlier today. He also praises Putin for mentioning the Holocaust during his speech at the event.
— Raphael Ahren
Hamas leader vows ‘decisive’ protests during US embassy move next week
The Gaza leader of the Hamas terrorist group says protests along the Israeli border next week will be “decisive.”
Speaking to hundreds of youths, Yehiyeh Sinwar says that weeks of mass protests will climax on May 14, the day when the US opens its embassy in Jerusalem and when Palestinians mark 70 years of “catastrophe” since the founding of a Jewish state.
He says the protests will be “like a tiger running in all directions.”
Sinwar tells the crowd that Hamas leaders are “ready to die along with tens of thousands” to break an Israeli-Egyptian blockade and realize a dream of seeing the removal of the border and the liberation of Palestine.
— with AP
Macron says Trump’s decision to ditch Iran nuclear deal a ‘mistake’
US President Donald Trump’s decision to quit the landmark nuclear deal with Iran is a “mistake,” France’s President Emmanuel Macron says.
“I regret the decision of the American president. I think it’s a mistake and that’s why we Europeans have decided to remain in the nuclear agreement of 2015,” he tells German national broadcasters ARD and Deutsche Welle, in extracts also broadcast by French TV LCI.
Paraguay confirms embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem
Paraguay’s Foreign Ministry is confirming that the country will shift its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, following the US and Guatemala.
It says President Horacio Cartes ordered the move, but didn’t specify a date.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said earlier this week that Cartes will attend the opening ceremony, which he said would occur by the end of May. Paraguay didn’t confirm Cartes’ trip.
The US officially opens its embassy in Jerusalem on May 14 followed two days later by Guatemala.
Kites from Gaza set fire outside kibbutz
Kites from the Gaza Strip, bearing containers of burning fuel, spark a fire in the grasslands outside Kibbutz Kissufim in southern Israel, the fire department spokesperson says.
Local firefighters are working to put out the blaze, the spokesperson says.
Incendiary kites sparking fires in southern Israel have become a routine occurrence in recent weeks, as more Palestinians in the Gaza Strip adopt the tactic.
טרור העפיפונים נמשך: לפני זמן קצר נחתו 4 עפיפונים בוערים ביער כיסופים וגרמו לדליקה, צוותי כיבוי אש וקק״ל פועלים לכיבוי. בסרטון- ארבעת העפיפונים הבוערים רגע לפני שנחתו ביער.
צילום: חאמד אבו סיאם pic.twitter.com/UtQKm38ELK
— Itsik Zuarets (@Itsik_zuarets) May 9, 2018
Hundreds of dunams of grassland and agricultural fields have been burned already, as the Israeli military struggles to find an effective way to counter these so-called “terror kites.”
— Judah Ari Gross
Liberman hints Israel mulling preemptive strike against Iran
Amid heightened concerns that Tehran is looking to carry out a strike against Israel, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman indicates that defense officials are considering a preemptive strike on Iranian targets.
“We are employing a very simple policy: If someone is about to launch missiles at us, we will try to beat them to it,” he tells Hadashot news in an interview.
“We are doing everything to prevent escalation, but we are prepared for any development,” he tells the news channel.
But, Liberman says he does not believe that Israel is on the cusp of war.
“This message will reach its intended audience,” Liberman adds. “You don’t want to launch missiles at Israel.”
Polls show sharp rise in support for Netanyahu amid Iran tensions
Two polls released today show a substantial rise in support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party following US President Donald Trump’s announcement of his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, and heightened concerns that Tehran may launch an attack against Israel.
A survey conducted for Hadashot news gives Netanyahu’s Likud party 35 seats, while a partially released survey for Army Radio shows his party winning 42 seats, which would be the party’s best result since 1981.
Both polls show a huge jump for the Likud, which currently hold 30 seats in 120-seat Knesset.
Saudis will seek nuclear weapon if Iran does, says minister
Saudi Arabia will seek to develop its own nuclear weapons if Iran does, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir tells CNN, amid spiraling tension between the regional rivals.
Asked whether Riyadh would “build a bomb itself” if Tehran seizes on Washington’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran deal to resume a nuclear weapons program, Jubeir says: “If Iran acquires nuclear capability we will do everything we can to do the same.”
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir says his country “will do whatever it takes to protect (its) people” if Iran restarts its nuclear weapons program, including developing its own nuclear weapons capability https://t.co/eUcIn3dpRR
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) May 9, 2018