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

EU ‘concerned’ by Iran nuclear enrichment announcement

The European Union voices concern at Iran’s announcement that it would resume uranium enrichment at an underground plant, in a fresh step away from the 2015 nuclear deal.

“We are concerned by President Rouhani’s announcement today to further reduce Iran’s commitments under the JCPOA,” EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic tells reporters.


Russia concerned over Iran decision to resume enrichment

Russia is expressing concern about Iran’s decision to resume uranium enrichment at an underground plant south of Tehran, in its latest step back from an agreement with major powers.

“We are monitoring the development of the situation with concern,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov tells reporters.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov in Moscow, Russia, April 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

“The dismantling of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) does not bode well, of course,” he says. “We support the preservation of this deal.”

At the same time, Peskov says Russia understood Tehran’s concerns over the “unprecedented and illegal sanctions” against the country.

Washington’s abandonment of the 2015 deal in May last year, followed by its reimposition of crippling sanctions, prompted Tehran to begin a phased suspension of its own commitments this year.


Turkey says Kurdish fighters still remain near Syrian border

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calls on Russia and the US to keep to their promises to ensure that Syrian Kurdish fighters pull out of Syrian borders areas with Turkey.

Erdogan says the Kurdish fighters are still present in several areas.

Erdogan also says that Turkish troops are being attacked by some Syrian Kurdish fighters from areas they had retreated to, adding that Turkey would not “remain a spectator” to these assaults.

Two ceasefire agreements — brokered by the US and Russia— halted Turkey’s military offensive into Syria to allow for the Kurdish fighters to withdraw 30 kilometers, about 19 miles, away from the border.

Erdogan spoke as Turkish and Russian troops carried out their second joint patrols in northeast Syria under a deal reached with Moscow.

— AP

In last days, Baghdadi sought safety in shrinking domain

Associates say in his last months on the run, Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was agitated, fearful of traitors, sometimes disguised as a shepherd, sometimes hiding underground, always dependent on a shrinking circle of confidants.

For months, Baghdadi also kept a Yazidi teen as a slave, and she told the Associated Press how he brought her along as he moved.

Syrians ride a motorcycle past a burnt vehicle near the site where a helicopter gunfire reportedly killed nine people, including Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, near the northwestern Syrian village of Barisha in the Idlib province along the border with Turkey, October 27, 2019. (Photo by Omar HAJ KADOUR / AFP)

The reports paint a picture of a man trying to find safety as the extremists’ domains crumbled. In the end, the brutal leader once hailed as “caliph” left former IS areas completely, slipping into hostile territory in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province run by the radical group’s al-Qaeda-linked rivals. There, he blew himself up during an October 26 raid by US special forces on his heavily fortified safe house.

— AP

Lebanese army opens roads closed by protesters amid scuffles

Lebanese troops are deployed in different parts of the country to reopen roads and main thoroughfares closed by anti-government protesters faced resistance in some areas, leading to scuffles.

In most places, protesters are withdrawing peacefully as the troops moved in. But in Beirut’s northern suburb of Zouk Mosbeh, a scuffle erupted when some demonstrators refused to move away from the main highway linking Beirut with northern Lebanon.

Lebanese soldiers remove a protester as they open the Tripoli-Beirut highway blocked earlier amid ongoing demonstrations in Zouk Mosbeh, north of the capital Beirut, on November 5, 2019.(JOSEPH EID / AFP)

Several protesters were detained by troops. One protester, an older man, fainted and was rushed away in an ambulance; the Lebanese Red Cross later said he was in stable condition.

Human rights activist Wadih al-Asmar says dozens were detained during the scuffles north of Beirut.

Anti-government protesters have been holding demonstrations since October 17, demanding an end to widespread corruption and mismanagement by the political class that has ruled the country for three decades. The protesters have paralyzed Lebanon by closing roads inside cities as well as major highways.

— AP

Israeli study shows early humans migrated from Europe to the Levant 40,000 years ago

A study by Israeli researchers has found that early humans migrated from Europe to the Levant some 40,000 years ago, strengthening the theory that the decline of the Neanderthals was not brought on by human immigration to Europe.

Researchers from Tel Aviv University, the Israel Antiquities Authority and Ben-Gurion University found six human teeth in Manot cave in northern Israel, and using modern dental analysis, were able to confirm that early humans called Aurignacians were a combination of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens.

Aurignacians were culturally sophisticated, and are known for producing tools, jewelry and other artifacts out of bone.

A view to Manot cave with a mark of the area where some of the 40,000-year-old teeth were found. (Prof. Israel Hershkovitz)

Researchers long believed that the arrival of modern humans in Europe led to the extinction of Neanderthals. However, genetic testing done in recent years has indicated that the archaic humans who lived in Eurasia until about 40,000 years ago simply assimilated into the new human population.

The six  human teeth found in northern Israel bolsters that theory, a TAU statement says.

“To date, we have not found any human remains from this period in Israel,” said TAU professor Israel Hershkowitz in the statement. “So the group remains a mystery. This groundbreaking study brings for the first time the story of the population responsible for some of the world’s most important cultural contributions.”

US Mormon family, including 4 children, shot dead in Mexico

Relatives say at least five US citizens, including four children, who live in a religious community in northern Mexico were killed in a shooting attack they suspect may have been a case of mistaken identity by drug cartel gunmen.

As many as 13 other members of La Mora — a decades-old settlement in Sonora state founded as part of an offshoot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — were missing after the attack on a convoy of three SUVs carrying community members, said a relative who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.

The relative said he had located the burned-out, bullet-ridden SUV containing the remains of his nephew’s wife and her four children — twin 6-month old babies and two other children aged 8 and 10.

Authorities in Sonora state and the US Embassy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

— AP

France urges Iran to reverse decision to resume enrichment at key plant

France is urging Iran to reverse a decision to resume uranium enrichment at a key underground nuclear plant, saying the move violated the 2015 deal aiming to defuse the atomic standoff with Tehran.

“The announcements by Iran… go against the Vienna agreement,” the French foreign ministry says in a statement after President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would resume enrichment at the Fordow plant. “We urge Iran to go back on its decisions which contradict the accord,” it added.


Three suspects in alleged rape of Israeli girl released

Police say the three men detained earlier today in connection with the alleged rape of a seven-year-old girl earlier this year in a West Bank settlement have been released.

The suspects are two Palestinian construction workers who were questioned in the case in the past, and an Israeli driver who transports Palestinian construction workers in the area, according to a police spokeswoman.

The spokeswoman says the three are not suspected of direct involvement in the rape. An unnamed law enforcement official told the Walla news site earlier today they were not expected to be charged.

The questioning comes months after the case against police’s main suspect Mahmoud Qadusa fell apart in June under intense public scrutiny, in an affair that drew accusations of shoddy police work.

Europe hopes US will rethink choice to pull out of Paris climate pact

The European Union voices regret at the US government’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement but remains hopeful that one of the world’s biggest CO₂ emitters will backpedal on its decision and rejoin.

European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva says that the global deal signed in 2015 remains “the most important international agreement on climate change” and insisted that the EU will continue to “fight global climate change under this legal framework.”

Despite the US departure, Andreeva says that the 28-member bloc will continue working with various US-based entities and stakeholders who remain committed to the deal.

Protesters hold up signs during a demonstration in front of the White House in Washington, DC on June 1, 2017, objecting to US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate accord.(AFP PHOTO / PAUL J. RICHARDS)

“The Paris agreement has strong foundations and is here to stay. Its doors remain open and we hope that the US will decide to pass (them) again one day,” Andreeva says.

Nearly 200 nations signed the landmark 2015 climate deal to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, with each country providing its own goals for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

— AP

Mom of jailed US-Israeli backpacker withdraws appeal against Russian hacker

The mother of an Israeli-American woman jailed in Russia on drug charges has asked the Justice Ministry to cancel the family’s petition requesting a delay in extraditing an alleged Russian hacker to the United States

“After a hard look at the situation, I decided to reverse my decision to appeal,” Yaffa Issachar is quoted as saying in Hebrew-language media outlets.

“Naama will not be a pawn for the Russian hacker and his people,” she says. “I pray that my decision will not aggravate Naama’s situation in Russian prison, and I fully trust in the president and the prime minister as they continue to work with the Russian president to bring about Naama’s immediate release.”

Naama Issachar and her mom Yaffa in a post to Issachar’s Instagram page in July 2018.

On Sunday, the High Court of Justice ordered a temporary halt to the extradition of Aleksey Burkov, an IT specialist, was arrested in Israel in 2015 at the request of Interpol. He is wanted in the US on embezzlement charges in a massive credit card scheme that saw him allegedly steal millions of dollars from American consumers.

Burkov’s pending extradition is believed by Israeli officials to be linked by Moscow to the seven-and-a-half-year prison sentence handed down by a Russian court earlier this month to Naama Issachar for alleged drug trafficking.

Iran to begin fueling centrifuges at underground plant on Wednesday

Iran announces it will begin enriching uranium at its underground Fordo nuclear site tomorrow.

Earlier in the day, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says the Islamic Republic is restarting the Fordo facility, but refrained from providing additional details.

In a press conference, Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) says the country will begin pumping uranium gas — uranium hexafluoride, or UF6 — into Fordo’s centrifuges starting tomorrow.

A satellite image of Iran's Fordo uranium enrichment facility (photo credit: AP/DigitalGlobe)
A satellite image of Iran’s Fordo uranium enrichment facility. (AP/DigitalGlobe)

“After President Hassan Rouhani’s statement and the order to the [Atomic Energy Organization of Iran] to commence gas injection in Fordow, an official letter has been sent to the IAEA announcing that the injection of UF6 gas to centrifuges in Fordow will commence tomorrow, and the [IAEA] was requested to send its inspectors to monitor the process,” Iran’s permanent mission in Vienna said in a statement.

This is widely seen as a provocative move by Iran, as it engages in high stakes brinkmanship with the United States over its nuclear program.

— Judah Ari Gross

Trump offers to help Mexico fight drug cartels after Mormon massacre

US President Donald Trump is offering Mexico’s government unspecified help to “wage war” on drug cartels after a family from a breakaway faction of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints was massacred in northern Mexico.

“This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth. We merely await a call from your great new president!” Trump says in a series of tweets addressing the tragedy.

Trump adds that the US government stands ready to get involved. He says that Andrés Manuel López Obrador has made fighting drug cartels a top issue.

“But the cartels have become so large and powerful that you sometimes need an army to defeat an army!”

López Obrador has favored a less militaristic approach to the problem, saying a policy of frontal confrontations by his predecessors led only to more violence.

Suspect arrested after Minnesota school marked by swastika

Police in a Minneapolis suburb have arrested a suspect after a swastika and other offensive graffiti were found at an elementary school.

In an email to Edina School District families, Superintendent John Schultz writes that “when an act of hatred occurs anywhere in Edina, it affects our entire community.”

Police say the arrest occurred yesterday after the suspect was caught on security video. The vandalism happened over the weekend.

The Star Tribune reports Schultz says the district has turned to the Jewish Community Resource Council for guidance as they work through the issue.

— AP

Israel remains committed to Paris climate pact despite US withdrawal — minister

The Ministry of Environmental protection says Israel will not be following the United States in withdrawing from a global climate pact.

“The US decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement will not cause us to withdraw from it as well,” Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin says.

Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on June 2, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Israel ascribes great importance to dealing with the climate crisis, and is committed to meeting our goals,” he says.

Nearly 200 nations signed the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, with each country providing its own goals for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

Earlier today, the US formally notified the United Nations it was withdrawing from the landmark deal, triggering expressions of concern and regret from other major powers.

Yemen’s government, separatists sign power-sharing deal

Yemen’s internationally recognized government has signed a power-sharing deal with Yemeni separatists that are backed by the United Arab Emirates.

The deal aims to halt months of infighting between the two groups. They are both part of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition that is fighting Yemen’s Houthi rebel group.

Saudi Arabia’s state TV broadcast the signing ceremony in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. That’s where Yemen’s president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, has been in exile since 2014, when the Houthis took control of the Yemeni capital.

The deal envisages a new cabinet and allows for President Hadi to return to the temporary capital in Aden.

A copy of the deal obtained by The Associated Press shows the separatists agreed to disband their militias, which would be integrated into Hadi’s forces.

— AP

Gantz says Netanyahu refusing any compromise in unity government talks

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to negotiate on any of his demands in the ongoing coalition talks will ultimately lead to a third election in Israel in under a year.

In a tweet, Gantz says Netanyahu is preventing a Blue and White-Likud unity government from being formed by refusing to abandon his immunity or 55 seat-strong bloc of right-wing allies.

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, on October 27, 2019. (Elad Malka)

“Netanyahu isn’t willing to give up his bloc. Netanyahu isn’t willing to give up his his immunity,” Gantz tweeted. “Netanyahu isn’t willing to discuss the fundamentals of a unity government.”

“Netanyahu wants to drag Israel to a third election, ” the prime minister’s rival charges. “I will do everything to prevent that.”

Cyprus detains 2 Syrians over boat filled with 131 migrants

Cyprus police detain two Syrian men on suspicion of human trafficking following the arrival of a boat loaded with 131 Syrian migrants on the island nation’s northeastern coast.

Police say the two men were aboard another vessel that had shadowed the boat ferrying the migrants as it approached the Cypriot coastline yesterday.

Cypriot authorities had tracked the movements of the migrants’ boat by radar.

The men, ages 43 and 53, were arrested after a marine police patrol boat intercepted their vessel off the Akamas nature preserve.

Syrian refugees speak to friends and family from across the fence inside the Temporary Accommodation Center in Kokkinotrimithia, outside the Cypriot capital Nicosia on November 5, 2019. (Iakovos Hatzistavrou / AFP)

Both men face charges including aiding and abetting the illegal entry of migrants in Cyprus and people trafficking by a sea route.

All 131 migrants, including five women and eight minors, were taken to a reception center on the capital’s outskirts.

— AP

3 protesters killed in clashes as Iraq tries to reopen port

At least three anti-government protesters have been killed in clashes with security forces in southern Iraq today, officials say, as authorities try to reopen the country’s main port, which has been blocked by demonstrators for three days.

Security and medical officials say a protester was killed and eight more were wounded in Umm Qasr, a key oil terminal on the Persian Gulf. The Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, a semi-official agency, said two people were killed and 23 wounded in clashes in the southern city of Nasiriyah.

Iraqi protesters block the highway leading to Umm Qasr port during ongoing anti-government demonstrations in southern Iraq on November 3, 2019. (Hussein FALEH / AFP)

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters, say security forces in Umm Qasr fired live ammunition and tear gas, and that protesters seized an armored vehicle.

Security forces in Iraq have killed at least 267 protesters in two major waves of anti-government demonstrations since Oct. 1 in Baghdad and across the mostly Shiite south. The protesters want an overhaul of the political system established after the 2003 US-led invasion, accusing the government and major parties of corruption and incompetence in dealing with the economy and unemployment.

— AP

Ashkelon man arrested for threatening to kill Netanyahus in Facebook post

Police arrested a 55-year-old Ashkelon man earlier today on suspicion he threatened to kill Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family.

The suspect, who went by “Tzvika Sabag” on social media, was arrested this morning by police’s Lahav 433 cyber crimes unit.

According to reports, the man is facing charges of inciting violence, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in jail. He will be brought before the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s court tomorrow for a remand hearing.

Yesterday, the suspect posted: “Israel Police. Get ready to direct traffic to the funerals of Benjamin, Sara and Yair Netanyahu.”

In another message, he wrote: “If there is one conclusion I reached on the eve of the [Rabin assassination] anniversary, it’s that Bibi should get a bullet in the head!”

In a statement later on Monday, Netanyahu said he had asked acting police chief Motti Cohen to investigate the account.

France: West Bank settlement construction accelerating at ‘alarming’ rate

France condemns Israel for green-lighting construction plans for 2,342 housing units in West Bank settlements, saying approvals were distancing chances for a two-state solution to the conflict.

In a statement, the French government also criticizes the decision to approve the expansion of a road that connects settlements to Jerusalem while bypassing Bethlehem.

“These decisions were made in the alarming context of accelerating settlement growth in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which undermines the conditions needed for a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians based on the two-state solution,” the statement says.

UK says Iran resuming enrichment threatens national security

UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab says Iran further reducing its compliance to the 2015 nuclear deal poses a threat to Britain’s national security.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State Dominic Raab walks through Downing street in central London on September 10, 2019. (ISABEL INFANTES / AFP)

“Iran’s latest actions clearly contravene the deal and pose a risk to our national security,” Raab says in a statement.

“We want to find a way forward through constructive international dialogue but Iran needs to stand by the commitments it made and urgently return to full compliance,” he says.

Egypt’s president lavishly praises Trump on social media

Egypt’s president lavishes praise on US President Donald Trump on social media, calling him a “man with unique power to confront crises.”

Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s comments are the latest public example of the two leaders’ closeness.

Sissi thanks Trump for his “generous concern” for helping revive Egypt’s deadlocked dispute with Ethiopia over its construction of a massive upstream Nile dam.

A former army general who seized power in 2013 coup, Sissi has carried out a widespread crackdown on dissent, silencing critics and jailing thousands.

US President Donald Trump (R) meets with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on April 9, 2019. (Jim Watson/AFP)

Trump has avoided censuring Sissi for his repression, instead admiring his efforts to combat terrorism.

Trump has drawn criticism for his relationships with autocratic leaders such as North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

— AP

Trump chief of staff summoned to testify in impeachment probe

US House impeachment investigators summon US President Donald Trump’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney for a deposition, saying he has “substantial first-hand knowledge” of Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine.

“The investigation has revealed that you may have been directly involved in an effort orchestrated by President Trump, his personal agent, Rudolph Giuliani and others to withhold… nearly $400 million in security assistance in order to pressure [Ukraine] to pursue investigations that would benefit President Trump’s personal political interests,” the chairmen of the three committees leading the probe write.

White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney announces that the G7 will be held at Trump National Doral, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Mulvaney is the highest-ranking White House official to be summoned in the impeachment probe, although he is unlikely to testify on Friday as requested given the White House’s opposition to administration officials cooperating with the probe.


IDF general warns Iran could launch ‘sophisticated’ attack against Israel

In a leaked recording, a senior Israel Defense Forces general warns that Iran could inflict heavy damage if it chooses to attack Israel, as he asks for a budget increase to counter the threats from Tehran.

“There are Iranian Quds forces in the Golan Heights, and that’s not fear-mongering, they’re there,” head of IDF Operations, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, can be heard saying in the remarks carried by the Kan public broadcaster.

“All signs are indicating that… 2020 has the potential to be an unfavorable year from a security perspective.”

Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva during a ceremony in June 2014. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

Haliva mentions the attack on Saudi oil facilities in September as an example of what Iranian forces are capable of.

“It was a sophisticated attack that managed to evade both US and Saudi defenses… whoever says that it can’t happen to us isn’t a professional,” he says.

Haliva made the remarks earlier today to the Finance Ministry’s Budget Department.

Poll shows tight race between Gantz and Netanyahu if direct elections were held

A new poll predicts a close race if direct elections for prime minister were held in a bid to solve the current political stalemate — a far-fetched option floated this week by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri.

Despite pundits agreeing that the likelihood of such a move going forward is very low, Channel 12 airs results of a survey conducted on the matter.

According to the results, if those elections would be held today, Netanyahu would get the support of 40 percent of Israelis, slightly more than Gantz’s 36%. The remaining 24%, almost one in four respondents, say they were undecided or that they wouldn’t show up to vote.

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speak on election night in Tel Aviv at separate party events, September 18, 2019. (Miram Alster, Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Among those who described themselves as right-wing voters, 66% say they would vote Netanyahu, 15% say they would back Gantz and 19% were undecided or wouldn’t vote.

Of the self-described center-left voters, 67% say they would support Gantz, 7% would vote Netanyahu, and 26% say they don’t know or would not vote.

The poll was conducted by the Midgam polling agency, in association with the iPanel online polling agency. Channel 12 does not detail the margin of error or the number of respondents.

Netanyahu vows to ‘fight back’ after Iran nuclear enrichment announcement

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vows to never allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, after the Islamic Republic announced it would resume uranium enrichment at an underground plant south of Tehran in its latest step back from a the crumbling 2015 agreement with major powers.

‏”Iran expands its aggression everywhere. It seeks to envelope Israel. It seeks to threaten Israel. It seeks to destroy Israel. We fight back,” Netanyahu says at the inauguration of the new visitors’ center at Agamon Hula Park.

“Given Iran’s efforts to expand its nuclear weapons program, expand its enrichment of uranium for making atomic bombs, I repeat here once again: We will never let Iran develop nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu says at the event being held at Jerusalem’s Waldorf Astoria hotel. “This is not only for our security and our future; it’s for the future of the Middle East and the world.״

The suspension of all enrichment at the Fordow plant in the mountains near the Shiite holy city of Qom was one of the main curbs on its nuclear activities that Iran accepted in return for the lifting of international sanctions.

But Washington’s abandonment of the deal in May last year followed by its reimposition of crippling sanctions prompted Iran to begin a phased suspension of its own commitments in May this year.

Under the terms of the agreement, Iran has retained more than 1,000 first-generation centrifuges at the Fordow plant, which have been running empty or remained idle since it took effect.

IDF soldiers filmed assaulting Palestinian father in Hebron

Israeli soldiers in Hebron earlier today were filmed assaulting a Palestinian man in front of his young child, whom they claimed was throwing rocks at security forces nearby.

The video being circulated by Palestinian media outlets shows two soldiers shoving him and cocking a gun in his face as he tries to protect his son, who appears to be 6 or 7 years old.

The Israel Defense Forces told the Kan public broadcaster the army is looking into the incident.

Iran official says uranium will be enriched to 5% at underground facility

Iran announces that it will step up its enrichment of uranium to five percent beginning tomorrow in what will be a fresh violation of the 2015 nuclear deal, the country’s media reports.

The decision comes hours after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the country was restarting its uranium enrichment program at the heavily fortified Fordo facility in Iran’s Qom Province.

The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, says the uranium enrichment increase will be carried out in front of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), according to Iran’s Mehr news.

Screen capture from video showing Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s nuclear agency, right, and three Iranian-produced uranium enrichment centrifuges in the background. (YouTube)

“Salehi said that it had been decided that there will not be [20%] uranium enrichment at Fordow for the time being,” the Iranian outlet says.

Under the 2015 nuclear accord, Iran was limited to enriching uranium up to 3.67%, which is enough for peaceful pursuits but is far below weapons-grade levels of 90%. This summer, it began surpassing this level, in violation of the agreement, up to 4.5%, as a form of retaliation toward the United States, which has been steadily imposing sanctions on Iran since the White House pulled out of the nuclear deal last year.

— Judah Ari Gross

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