96-year-old Arthur Ashkin wins physics Nobel for laser ‘tweezers’
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US NATO envoy threatens to ‘take out’ new Russian missile system

Washington believes deployment of new nuclear-capable cruise missiles contravene 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands at the beginning of a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands at the beginning of a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

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

Rejecting Netanyahu criticism, IAEA says it visited all Iranian nuclear sites

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency rejects Israel’s claims that Iran continues to maintain secret facilities related to its nuclear program that the watchdog has not examined, saying it has visited “all the sites and locations in Iran which it needed to visit.”

The statement from IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano comes after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week revealed to the UN General Assembly what he said was a previously unknown nuclear site in Tehran.

“As I stated in my reports to the IAEA Board of Governors, evaluations regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities for Iran remain ongoing,” Amano says. “The Agency continues to evaluate Iran’s declarations…and has conducted complementary accesses…to all the sites and locations in Iran which it needed to visit.

“The Agency…does not take any information at face value,” Amano insists. “In line with established safeguards practices, all information obtained, including from third parties, is subject to rigorous review and assessed together with other available information to arrive at an independent assessment based on the Agency’s own expertise. It is not the practice of the Agency to publicly discuss issues related to any such information.

“The Agency’s work related to nuclear verification is and must always be impartial, factual, and professional. In order to maintain credibility, the Agency’s independence in relation to the implementation of verification activities is of paramount importance.

“It should be noted that under the existing verification framework the Agency sends inspectors to sites and locations only when needed,” Amano says.

— Stuart Winer

Three fires near Gaza-periphery towns caused by incendiary balloons

Since this morning, firefighters have worked to extinguish three blazes caused by incendiary balloons near Israeli towns along the Gaza Strip border, a spokesman for the Israeli Fire and Rescue Services says.

— Jacob Magid

96-year-old Arthur Ashkin wins physics Nobel for laser ‘tweezers’

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Three researchers share the 2018 Nobel Physics Prize for inventions in the field of laser physics which have paved the way for advanced precision instruments used in corrective eye surgery and industry, the jury said.

Arthur Ashkin of the United States, who is Jewish, wins one half of the nine million Swedish kronor (about $1.01 million) prize, while Gerard Mourou of France and Donna Strickland of Canada share the other half.

Ashkin, 96, is honored for his invention of “optical tweezers” that grab particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells with their laser beam fingers.

With this he was able to use the radiation pressure of light to move physical objects, “an old dream of science fiction,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences says.

Meanwhile Mourou, 74, and Strickland — only the third woman to win the Physics Prize — won for together developing a method to generate ultra-short optical pulses, “the shortest and most intense laser pulses ever created by mankind,” the jury says.

Their technique is now used in corrective eye surgery.

— AFP

Police uncover illegal firearms cache in Kafr Qassem, arrest 2

Police arrest two brothers from Kafr Qassem, ages 30 and 31, after finding an illegal cache of firearms in the younger brother’s home.

The cache includes two M-16 assault rifles and 10 magazines for the rifles, two handguns, a sniper scope and 41 packages of bullets of various types.

The Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court extends their remand until Sunday.

Five stabbed, lightly hurt in school brawl in Jaljulya

Five students at a high school in the central Arab town of Jaljulya are lightly injured from stab wounds after a brawl at the school.

The school will be closed tomorrow after police launch an investigation into the violence.

The school has seen bouts of violence in the past. Unknown assailants carried out a drive-by shooting at the home of the school’s principal in September. A student was moderately hurt in February after he was shot by a man who entered the school and opened fire.

Local residents blame police for ignoring the city’s rampant crime problem. The suspect in the February shooting has not been detained, according to the Ynet news site.

Jerusalem police arrest 4 in Sunday’s racist assault on Arab youths

Police arrest four Jewish residents of Jerusalem on suspicion of assaulting Arab youths from the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Safafa, at a public park in the capital on Sunday.

The four suspects, three in their twenties and the fourth aged 16, are being investigated on charges of racist assault.

Another suspect in the attack was detained shortly after the incident.

Syrian FM says Iran’s missile strikes in eastern Syria ‘legitimate’

BEIRUT (AP) — Syria’s foreign minister says Iranian ballistic missiles that targeted Islamic State forces in eastern Syria yesterday are part of “legitimate” cooperation between the two countries to combat terrorism.

Walid al-Moallem tells the Beirut-based Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen TV the strikes were coordinated with Syria’s government.

Iranian officials said the strikes were in retaliation for an attack on a military parade in Iran last month, after IS claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war in Syria, said the strikes killed eight people.

The Syrian government and its allies, as well as the US-led coalition, are separately battling IS, which still controls a sliver of land along Syria’s border with Iraq.

— AP

Arthur Ashkin is oldest Nobel laureate ever

STOCKHOLM — American Arthur Ashkin, one of the winners of the Nobel Prize for physics on Tuesday, is the oldest person ever named as a laureate for any of the prestigious awards.

At age 96, Ashkin, affiliated with Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, is six years older than Leonid Hurwicz was when he won the economics prize in 2007. The economics winner in 2012, Lloyd Shapley, was 89.

But the economics prize was not part of the awards established by industrialist Alfred Nobel’s will; it was later established by Sweden’s central bank in Nobel’s honor.

The oldest winners of the prizes established by the will were 88 — Doris Lessing for literature and Raymond Davis for physics.

— AP

Seoul: North Korea has 20-60 nuclear weapons

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A top South Korean official tells lawmakers that North Korea is estimated to have up to 60 nuclear weapons, in Seoul’s first public comment about the size of the North’s secrecy-clouded weapons arsenal.

Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon told parliament Monday the estimates on the size of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal range from 20 bombs to as many as 60. He was responding to a question by a lawmaker, saying the information came from the intelligence authorities. The National Intelligence Service, South Korea’s main spy agency, couldn’t immediately comment.

Cho may have unintentionally revealed the information. His ministry said Tuesday Cho’s comments didn’t mean that South Korea would accept North Korea as a nuclear state, suggesting Seoul’s diplomatic efforts to rid the North of its nuclear program would continue.

The South Korean assessment on the North’s arsenal is not much different from various outside civilian estimates largely based on the amount of nuclear materials that North is believed to have produced.

— AP

French court to rule on WWII looted Pissarro painting

PARIS, France — A French court will rule Tuesday on an American couple’s appeal against an order to hand over a painting they bought which had been looted from a Jewish collector during World War II.

Bruce and Robbi Toll, wealthy art collectors, bought the painting “La Cueillette” (“Picking Peas”) by Impressionist master Camille Pissarro in 1995.

They say they did not know it had been seized from Jewish collector Simon Bauer in 1943 by the anti-Semitic wartime French government which collaborated with the Nazis.

But in November, a French court ruled that Bauer’s descendants were the rightful owners of the painting, which the Tolls bought at Christie’s in New York for $800,000 (690,000 euros).

The verdict mirrors other legal disputes over art and property looted from Jewish owners by the Nazis which were subsequently sold on to often unsuspecting new owners.

Bauer was dispossessed of 93 paintings in 1943 by the French government.

The wealthy businessman narrowly escaped death when a train drivers’ strike stopped him from being sent to a concentration camp.

Bauer recovered a few of his paintings after the war, but never La Cueillette, which Pissarro had painted in gouache in 1887.

— AFP

Spain smashes jihadist ring operating in 17 jails

MADRID, Spain — Police in Spain dismantle a group that allegedly indoctrinated and recruited jihadists at 17 prisons across the country, the interior ministry says.

Police have questioned 25 prisoners in different jails who are “accused of being part of a group close to Daesh which was dedicated to radicalizing other prisoners,” the ministry says in a statement, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State (IS) group.

The majority were Moroccans or Spanish nationals of Moroccan origin, a Spanish anti-terrorism source tells AFP. The rest were Spanish nationals who had converted to Islam and a Danish national.

The ring, which was made up of prisoners with a history of jihadism or who were themselves radicalized while behind bars, also sought to unite prisoners serving time for terrorist crimes in a so-called “Prison Front.”

The ministry does not give details of the group’s activities but the anti-terrorism source says the ring did not have a “concrete plan” to carry out an attack. But it created a “belligerent state of mind towards prison staff.”

— AFP

Saudi Arabia said to use Israeli spyware to track dissident

The Saudi government allegedly used Israeli phone-hacking technology to spy on an outspoken dissident and political activist, according to a Monday report.

The Herzliya-based NSO Group developed the controversial Pegasus spyware program, which turns smartphones into listening devices.

Toronto-based Citizen Lab says it has “high confidence” that the Israeli technology was used to spy on 27-year-old Omar Abdulaziz, an outspoken Saudi dissident who sought asylum in Canada.

The NSO Group has insisted in the past that it sells its software to clients on the condition that it be used only against crime and terrorism, and has denied it bears responsibility in cases where it was allegedly used for civil rights abuses by governments.

Iran’s rial unexpectedly rallies after weeks of steep falls

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s currency, the rial, unexpectedly rallies after weeks of depreciation following US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers, sending Iranians rushing to exchange shops to cash in.

In the Iranian capital, money exchange shops offer 135,000 rials for one US dollar. Only yesterday, the Iranian rial was selling 170,000 to $1, with prices recently going as high as 190,000 to the dollar.

But whether this will be a permanent rally remains unclear, as US sanctions targeting Iran’s vital oil industry loom in early November.

Analysts offered various reasons for the rally, including a new policy allowing the Central Bank to more muscularly intervene to support the rial, as well as allowing the import of more foreign currency from abroad.

There is also hope in Iran that Europe will be able to shield the country from further US sanctions due in November and targeting Iran’s oil industry. Rising oil prices also have some more hopeful about the Iranian economy. Benchmark Brent crude now trades near $85 a barrel and some analysts believe it could reach $100 a barrel by the end of the year.

— AP

Lebanon’s Aoun slams Israeli claim about Hezbollah missile sites as ‘baseless’

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun rejects Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s charge last week that Hezbollah was hiding missile sites near civilian areas in Beirut, including a soccer stadium, the harbor and the city’s Rafic Hariri International Airport.

“Allegations of Netanyahu about military bases around the airport’s vicinity are baseless and conceal an Israeli threat to Lebanese sovereignty,” Aoun is quoted as saying by the Lebanese website Naharnet.

Aoun promises to “confront any Israeli aggression against its sovereignty.”

French police seize weapons, detain 3 in anti-terror raids

PARIS — French police detain three people and seize weapons during raids of a dozen homes and the headquarters of a Muslim association based outside the port city of Dunkirk during an anti-terrorism operation early Tuesday, officials say.

Authorities freeze the funds of the Centre Zahra France, along with those of three other organizations and four men linked to the groups.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb says the prefecture of the region is in the process of closing the prayer room of Zahra France, headquartered in Grande-Synthe. He says the three detained were taken in for illegal weapons possession.

About 200 police officers search homes and the headquarters of the association.

Some French media reports say that Zahra France is a leading center for Shiite Islam in Europe and is suspected of links to Iranian-backed Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, and fighting in Syria or to the Palestinian Hamas. The information can’t be immediately confirmed.

— AP

Kavanaugh not returning to teach at Harvard Law

WASHINGTON — Harvard Law School says US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh will not return to teach in January.

The announcement was made in an email from administrators to law students on Monday. The email says, “Judge Kavanaugh indicated that he can no longer commit to teaching his course in January Term 2019, so the course will not be offered.”

A Harvard Law School spokeswoman confirms Kavanaugh’s decision to The Associated Press today.

Kavanaugh was scheduled to teach a three-week course called The Supreme Court Since 2005. He has taught at the law school for about a decade.

The FBI has reopened a background investigation to examine allegations of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh dating to when he was in high school and college. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.

— AP

Iran denies French accusations over alleged bomb plot

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran denies French accusations that one of its diplomats was involved in an alleged bomb plot targeting an exiled opposition group near Paris in June.

“We deny the accusations and forcefully condemn the Iranian diplomat’s arrest and call for his immediate release,” the foreign affairs ministry says in a statement.

It describes the allegations as a conspiracy to “sabotage Iran’s ancient and long-standing relations with France and other significant European countries.”

The statement is released minutes before a French diplomatic source tells AFP that security services believe the Iranian intelligence ministry was behind the foiled plot.

In retaliation, France announces it had frozen assets belonging to two suspected Iranian intelligence operatives as well as Iran’s ministry of security and intelligence.

“This extremely serious act envisaged on our territory could not go without a response,” France’s interior, foreign and economy ministers say in a rare joint statement.

The opposition meeting allegedly targeted was also attended by leading US figures, including close allies of US President Donald Trump.

— AFP

Palestinian said hurt from IDF fire at Gaza border protest

A Palestinian demonstrator is said wounded from IDF fire amid a violent protest east of Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip.

Protests along the Israel-Gaza border have increased in frequency in recent weeks, and have included attacks on IDF troops and attempts to damage the security fence on the border.

US NATO envoy threatens to ‘take out’ new Russian missile system

BRUSSELS — The US envoy to NATO says Russia must halt development of new missiles that could carry nuclear warheads and is warning that the United States could “take out” the system if it becomes operational.

NATO fears the 9M729 system contravenes the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The Cold War-era pact bans an entire class of weapons — all land-based cruise missiles with a range between 500-5,500 kilometers (310-3,410 miles).

US Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison says, “It is time now for Russia to come to the table and stop the violations.”

She says that if the system “became capable of delivering” then the US “would then be looking at the capability to take out a missile that could hit any of our countries in Europe and hit America.”

— AP

Russia, India to sign deal on S-400 air defense system this week, Kremlin says

MOSCOW, Russia — Russian President Vladimir Putin will oversee the signing of a $5 billion deal this week to supply New Delhi with the S-400 air defense system, a top Kremlin aide says ahead of Putin’s trip to India.

“The president is leaving for India on October 4,” Putin’s top foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov tells reporters.

“The key feature of this visit will be the signing of the agreement to deliver S-400 air defense systems,” he says. “The value of the contract will be more than $5 billion.”

Moscow has been negotiating to sell the S-400 long-range surface-to-air missiles to India for months.

The sale has irked India’s defense partner Washington, which has wanted to wean India off Russian technology, and a senior Pentagon official said in August that sanctions against India would come under consideration if the purchase goes through.

— AFP

Netanyahu dares IAEA to visit Iran site with radiation sensors

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog has not visited the specific site he mentioned in his UN speech, despite insistence from the organization’s head that his agency had visited all the sites it “needed to visit.”

“The IAEA relates to inspections that it has carried out in various places in Iran but it does not relate to the specific site in Turquzabad which Prime Minister Netanyahu referred to in his UN speech,” a statement from his office says.

“There is no reason to wait,” the Netanyahu statement continues. “The IAEA must inspect the site and immediately dispatch monitors with Geiger counters and the prime minister’s words will be seen as verifiably true.”

The statement is a rebuttal to comments by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano earlier today that his agency had checked all the relevant sites for breaches of the nuclear deal.

“As I stated in my reports to the IAEA Board of Governors, evaluations regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities for Iran remain ongoing,” Amano said in a statement. “The Agency continues to evaluate Iran’s declarations… and has conducted complementary accesses… to all the sites and locations in Iran which it needed to visit.”

In his speech last week before the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu revealed what he said was a previously unknown Iranian nuclear site in Tehran, and later accused the IAEA of failing to investigate findings about the site that he provided to it earlier this year.

Secret recording has Polish PM slamming ‘greedy’ Jewish, other hedge fund owners

Poland’s prime minister was heard making allegedly anti-Semitic remarks in secret recordings from 2013, before he rose to power.

The recordings of Mateusz Morawiecki complaining to friends about “greedy” and rich “Americans, Jews, Germans, Englishmen, and Swiss” that run hedge funds are published today by the news site Onet.

Part of a corruption scandal, the remarks appear in a 3-hour recording of Morawiecki, who was then a senior banker, discussing politics and finance with his friends at a prestigious Warsaw restaurant.

That conversation was part of a series of tapes that hammered the popularity of the then Civic-Platform led government and helped drive it from power in 2015, when it was replaced by Morawiecki’s right-wing Law and Justice party.

But now, the content of the Morawiecki tape is coming back to haunt him ahead of a trip to the United States on one of his government’s most sensitive foreign-policy issues – its relationship with Jews and Israel.

In February, Morawiecki, who does not have a history of public statement about Jews, came under attack for speaking about Jewish collaborators with the Nazis in the Holocaust, equating them with the actions of Poles who collaborated with the Nazis.

— JTA

French court upholds return of Vichy-looted painting to family of Jewish collector

PARIS, France — An American couple loses their bid today to win back a painting by Impressionist master Camille Pissarro, as a French court confirms it must be handed to the family of the Jewish collector it was looted from during World War II.

Wealthy art collectors Bruce and Robbi Toll had launched an appeal after a court ruled in November that the painting belonged by rights to the descendants of Simon Bauer, a Jewish businessman disappropriated by the Nazis in 1943.

The Tolls insisted they had no idea the painting, “La Cueillette” (“Picking Peas”), had been looted when they bought it at Christie’s in New York in 1995 for $800,000.

But the Paris appeals court rules Tuesday that the original court decision stands, in a move hailed by the Bauer family.

The ruling “gives victims of the savagery committed by the Vichy government the right to recover their looted possessions, without a time limit,” their lawyer Cedric Fischer says in a statement.

The Vichy regime, France’s anti-Semitic wartime government which collaborated with the Nazis, seized 93 paintings from Bauer. The wealthy businessman narrowly escaped death when a train drivers’ strike stopped him from being sent to a concentration camp. Bauer recovered a few of his paintings after the war, but never La Cueillette, which Pissarro had painted in gouache in 1887.

— AFP

Netanyahu to be questioned Friday in Bezeq graft probe

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to be questioned Friday in the Bezeq graft probe, Hadashot television news says.

Officers from the Israel Police’s national graft unit Lahav 433 are due to question the prime minister at his Jerusalem residence as part of the so-called “Case 4000” investigation.

Netanyahu is suspected of aiding Bezeq’s controlling shareholder, the businessman Shaul Elovitch, in regulatory decisions that favored Bezeq’s bottom line in exchange for favorable coverage in the Walla news site, which is also owned by Elovitch.

Friday’s questioning will be the 12th corruption interrogation the prime minister has undergone in three separate criminal graft probes. It will be the sixth questioning related to Case 4000.

Germany: 8th man arrested over alleged far-right plot

BERLIN — German authorities say they have arrested an eighth man on suspicion of forming a far-right terrorist organization that planned to attack foreigners and political enemies.

Federal prosecutors say Tuesday that the 28-year-old German was arrested late Monday in the Chemnitz area of eastern Germany.

The man, identified only as Maximilian V. in line with German privacy rules, is alleged to have joined seven others in founding the group “Revolution Chemnitz.”

Prosecutors had already announced the arrest of six other men Monday and another last month.

Several of the suspects are alleged to have been involved in an attack on a group of migrants in the center of Chemnitz on September 14.

Authorities intercepted communication between the men indicating that they were trying to obtain firearms.

— AP

Parcels sent to Pentagon suspected to contain ricin

Two or more packages delivered to the Pentagon this week are suspected to contain the deadly poison ricin, an official says.

Defense Department spokesman Chris Sherwood says at least two suspicious packages, addressed to someone in the Pentagon, were intercepted at a nearby screening center on Monday.

“As part of the screening process, [authorities] recognized some suspicious packages,” Sherwood says, noting they were “suspected to be ricin.”

He stresses that authorities were still waiting for confirmation that the packages contained ricin. Pentagon police referred the matter to the FBI for investigation.

“FBI Special Agents took possession of two suspicious envelopes that had been screened at the Pentagon mail facility. Those envelopes are currently undergoing further testing,” the FBI says in a statement.

— AFP

Russian defense minister says delivery of S-300 to Syria completed

Russian defense minister Sergey Shoigu tells Russian President Vladimir Putin that the promised delivery of the S-300 air defense missile system to Syria has been completed.

The delivery comes after Syrian air defenses brought down a Russian spy plane last month while attempting to hit Israeli jets during an IDF airstrike.

Trump administration praises Obama’s $38 billion, 10-year defense agreement

The Trump Administration praises the support for Israel shown in the new ten-year defense agreement signed in 2016 under President Barack Obama.

The 10-year $38-billion Memorandum of Understanding went into operation on Monday, the first day of the new fiscal year.

Under the memorandum, the United States will set funding for Israel at levels of $3.3 billion in Foreign Military Financing and $500 million for cooperative programs for missile defense over each of the next ten years, the State Department said in a statement.

The agreement marks “a significant increase enabling Israel to acquire additional advanced military capabilities from the United States that will, over time, enhance Israel’s security and strengthen our bilateral relationship,” said the statement.

“Our implementation of this historic MOU reflects the enduring and unshakable commitment of the President, this Administration, and the American people to Israel’s security. The MOU was negotiated under the previous Administration, reflecting the bi-partisan nature of this commitment,” it said.

— JTA

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96-year-old Arthur Ashkin wins physics Nobel for laser ‘tweezers’

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Three researchers share the 2018 Nobel Physics Prize for inventions in the field of laser physics which have paved the way for advanced precision instruments used in corrective eye surgery and industry, the jury said.

Arthur Ashkin of the United States, who is Jewish, wins one half of the nine million Swedish kronor (about $1.01 million) prize, while Gerard Mourou of France and Donna Strickland of Canada share the other half.

Ashkin, 96, is honored for his invention of “optical tweezers” that grab particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells with their laser beam fingers.

With this he was able to use the radiation pressure of light to move physical objects, “an old dream of science fiction,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences says.

Meanwhile Mourou, 74, and Strickland — only the third woman to win the Physics Prize — won for together developing a method to generate ultra-short optical pulses, “the shortest and most intense laser pulses ever created by mankind,” the jury says.

Their technique is now used in corrective eye surgery.

— AFP