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Saudi blogger spat on, cursed at during Temple Mount visit

Foreign Ministry condemns ‘cruel and immoral’ harassment of Mohammed Saud, who it is hosting in Israel, during visit to Jerusalem’s Old City

A screenshot from a video clip of Saudi blogger Mohammed Saud being harassed as he visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City on July 22, 2019. (Screen capture: Twitter)
A screenshot from a video clip of Saudi blogger Mohammed Saud being harassed as he visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City on July 22, 2019. (Screen capture: Twitter)

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

Iran leader says Palestinians ‘are equipped with precise missiles’ to resist US peace plan

Iran’s state TV says a visiting delegation from the Palestinian terror group Hamas has met with the country’s supreme leader.

The TV report on Monday says Ayatollah Ali Khamenei held talks with Hamas’s deputy chief, Saleh al-Arouri, who is heading the delegation.

The Hamas delegation also meets with Kamal Kharrazi, an adviser to Khamenei.

The Iranian official news agency IRNA says al-Arouri’s visit to Tehran follows a visit by senior Iranian parliamentary official Hossein Amir-Abdollahian to Lebanon last week.

Khamenei tells the Hamas officials that supporting the Palestinians “is an ideological and religious matter” and strongly condemns the US peace plan, which he says the Palestinians have “precise missiles” to resist.

“The dangerous conspiracy of the ‘Deal of the Century’ is aimed at destroying the Palestinian identity among the Palestinian public and youth,” an English statement on his website quotes him saying.

“Confronting the Deal of the Century requires promotional, cultural, and intellectual efforts and the other method is to make the Palestinians feel advancement. Today Palestinians are equipped with precise missiles rather than stones and this means the feeling of advancement,” Khamenei adds.

He also says “the return of this holy land to the World of Islam is not a strange and unattainable matter” and calls Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s goal of praying at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount “an absolutely practical and achievable aspiration for us.”

Iran backs both Hamas and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.

Iran and Hamas do not recognize Israel and have both called for its destruction.

— with agencies

Shaked seeking leadership, equal representation in right-wing union

New Right chairwoman Ayelet Shaked reveals that she has put forward a merger offer to Union of Right-Wing Parties leader Rafi Peretz, which would see her lead a joint slate with each faction receiving equal representation.

“We made a proposal based on egalitarian [representation]. This is something that can be agreed on as early as tonight. It’s the right thing to do, putting ego aside,” she declares in a statement to the press from the Efrat settlement southeast of Jerusalem, where she and New Right No. 2 Naftali Bennett are touring with the pro-settlement Regavim NGO.

Just hours earlier, Bennett had agreed to step down from the helm of New Right after the fledgling faction failed to cross the electoral threshold in the April elections. Shaked was named chairwoman at a press conference yesterday where she called on the other parties to the right of Likud to merge in a united slate under her rule.

“We will run to the end, even if there are no mergers, but look at the polls yesterday that put us at eight seats. I believe that it is possible to be an independent and strong party, but would prefer to lead a broad right-wing union,” she says.

Shaked adds that she had spoken over the phone with Peretz and the two agreed to meet in person to discuss a possible merger.

However, as additional details regarding the New Right’s initial offer began to surface, URWP officials spoke out against it.

“These arrogant preconditions do not seem to advance us toward unity,” URWP director general Yehuda Vald tweets.

— Jacob Magid

4 Gazans said hurt by Israeli fire during ‘truck march’

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says four Palestinians have been wounded by Israeli fire during a protest on the border with Israel.

The injured demonstrators are reportedly part of a “tractor-trailer march” taking place on the border, with hundreds of Palestinians calling for Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip to be lifted.

Israel maintains the blockade is necessary to prevent arms smuggling into the Strip.

There is no immediate comment on the reported injuries from the IDF.

EU condemns Israeli demolitions in PA-controlled area of East Jerusalem

The European Union is condemning the Israeli army’s demolition of 10 East Jerusalem buildings this morning located in an area under Palestinian Authority control.

“Israel’s settlement policy, including actions taken in that context, such as forced transfers, evictions, demolitions and confiscations of homes, is illegal under international law. In line with the EU’s long-standing position, we expect the Israeli authorities to immediately halt the ongoing demolitions,” the EU’s foreign policy arm says in a statement.

The bloc adds: “The continuation of this policy undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for a lasting peace and seriously jeopardizes the possibility of Jerusalem serving as the future capital of both States.”

Israel says the 10 buildings in the Sur Baher neighborhood are situated on land where construction is barred because of its proximity to the West Bank security barrier. The Palestinians reject this rationale and say the demolitions are to force them out of Jerusalem.

Iran insists seizure of UK-flagged tanker was a ‘legal measure’

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz was a “legal measure,” the spokesman for the Islamic Republic’s government says today.

“Seizing the British tanker was a legal measure by Iran. Iran confronted the ship (to ensure) the region’s security,” Ali Rabiei tells a news conference in Tehran.

Iran impounded the Stena Impero tanker on Friday on allegations it failed to respond to distress calls and turned off its transponder after hitting a fishing boat.

It has faced mounting calls to release the vessel and its crew — 18 Indians, three Russians, a Latvian and a Filipino.

“To all the countries that are calling on Iran to release the tanker, we ask them to tell Britain the same thing,” Rabiei says, referring to the seizure by the British authorities of an Iranian tanker in the Mediterranean on July 4.

— AFP

A picture taken on July 21, 2019, shows an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp ship patrolling around the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero as it’s anchored off the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas. (Hasan Shirvani/Mizan News Agency/AFP)

Toddler left in locked car pronounced dead

A toddler who was in critical condition after being left in a locked car in Modiin Illit has been pronounced dead.

Paramedics were unable to resuscitate the toddler after rescuing him from the car.

Germany says it won’t join US max-pressure campaign on Iran

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says the country will not follow US President Donald Trump’s approach to Iran, instead prioritizing de-escalation through diplomacy.

Maas says in Paris today that Germany does not want to join in the US’s maximum-pressure strategy.

Following discussions with British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian today, the German diplomat says that alongside handling the dangers in the Strait of Hormuz, Europe will continue to play the “diplomatic card.”

He says that “what we need is de-escalation, and my British and French colleagues have the same opinion.”

— AP

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, speaks to the media after a meeting on the divisive migrant issue in Paris, France, July 22, 2109. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Pompeo: Take Iran’s claim of busting CIA spies ‘with a significant grain of salt’

US Secretary of Mike Pompeo is asked about Iran’s claim to have broken up a CIA spy ring and sentenced a number of its alleged members to death.

Pompeo, who headed the CIA before taking over at the State Department last year, won’t comment directly but says the Islamic Republic “has a long history of lying.”

“It is part of the nature of the ayatollah to lie to the world and I would take with a significant grain of salt any Iranian assertions about actions that they’ve taken,” he tells Fox News.

He also addresses the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s seizure last week of a British-flagged tanker in the strategic Strait of Hormuz amid heightened tensions in the area between Iran and the United States.

“The responsibility in the first instance falls to the United Kingdom to take care of their ships,” he says.

Pompeo rejects the idea that Iran seized the ship due to biting US sanctions, saying it did so because of the regime’s “revolutionary zeal.”

Police minister rejects EU criticism of East Jerusalem demolitions

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan pushes back against the EU’s condemnation of Israel for demolishing 10 East Jerusalem buildings in an area under PA control, saying the bloc “bought into the lies of the Palestinians.”

Iran airs video showing crew of seized British ship

Iran’s state broadcaster has released new video showing for the first time the 23-member crew of the British-flagged ship seized by Iran — an apparent attempt to convey they are safe and unharmed.

In the video aired today, the Stena Impero crew is seen dressed in red uniforms and seated around a table onboard the vessel as an unidentified Iranian man is heard thanking them for their cooperation. A cameraman is heard telling them not to look at the camera.

It wasn’t clear if the crew was under duress to take part in the filming.

Other choreographed shots show a man checking on the ship, the crew sharing a laugh and talking next to a coffee machine inside the ship. The crew’s chefs are seen preparing food. Another video, also released by Iran’s state broadcaster, shows Iran’s flag hoisted on the ship’s bridge.

The ship was seized Friday in the Strait of Hormuz. None of the crew are British nationals but are mostly Indian and also Filipino, Russian and Latvian nationals

— AP

Police arrest Jerusalem nursery worker on suspicion of beating toddlers

Police arrest a nursery worker in Jerusalem on suspicion of abusing toddlers under her care.

The suspect works at a nursery in the capital’s Gilo neighborhood and her arrest comes after a series of high-profile cases involving allegations of abuse against nursery and daycare workers.

Cyprus police looking into conspiracy charges in suspected gang-rape

Local police in Cyprus say the group of Israeli teens suspected of gang-raping a British tourist are also now suspected of conspiring ahead of time to commit the alleged rape.

The addition of conspiracy to the investigation could mean charges against some of the young men who were not believed to have engaged in sex with the woman but who witnessed the events or were present in the room at the time.

The British woman, 19, filed a police complaint last Thursday against 12 Israelis, ranging in age from 15 to 18, who were staying at the Pambos Napa Rocks Hotel in the resort town of Ayia Napa, on the island nation’s southeastern coast. The woman accused the Israeli suspects of taking turns raping her over the course of an hour in a hotel room, while two members of the group held her down.

The latest announcement about possible conspiracy charges suggests police are looking to broaden the net from the handful of suspects that DNA evidence proves had engaged in relations with the woman to those who may not have had sex in the hotel room, but allegedly helped organize the gathering.

Trump says Iran’s claim to have busted CIA spy ring ‘totally false

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump denies Iran’s claim that they had dismantled a CIA spy ring and arrested 17 suspects with alleged links to the US intelligence agency.

“The report of Iran capturing CIA spies is totally false. Zero truth,” Trump tweets.

“Just more lies and propaganda (like their shot down drone) put out by a Religious Regime that is Badly Failing and has no idea what to do.”

— AFP

Egypt hands out 11 life sentences for joining Islamic State

CAIRO — An Egyptian court has sentenced 11 people to life in prison on charges of joining the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria and Iraq.

The Giza criminal court says the defendants all traveled abroad to fight for IS and receive military training.

Two other defendants get 15-year sentences, and another is given three years for the same charges. These include possessing weapons and plotting attacks against security forces and state institutions.

The verdicts can be appealed, and the court has dropped the charges against another defendant.

Egypt is battling its own Islamic State-led insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula. That fight intensified in 2013 after the military overthrew an elected but divisive Islamist president.

Militants in Egypt have carried out scores of attacks, mainly targeting security forces and minority Christians.

— AP

After sparring over US, Likud puts out video of Lapid speaking broken English

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party puts out a new campaign spot appearing to poke fun at Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid’s English.

In the video, a narrator asks who Israelis would prefer represent the Jewish state on the world stage, before cutting to an interview of Lapid speaking haltingly in English. The clip then shows footage of Netanyahu addressing a crowd in fluent English.

“The choice is clear,” Netanyahu writes in a tweet accompanying the video.

The release of the clip comes a day after Lapid and Likud sparred over the former’s criticism of Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, a confidant of Netanyahu’s whose term is set to in September, and whether the premier or the Blue and White MK knows the United States better.

UK reiterates demand for Iran to release ship as it weighs response

LONDON — Britain repeats its demand for Iran to release a UK-flagged tanker seized in the Gulf, as Prime Minister Theresa May’s government holds crisis talks on how to respond.

In a dramatic escalation of tensions, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the Stena Impero on Friday in the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

The move came two weeks after British authorities seized an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar on suspicion of breaching sanctions against Syria, and against a backdrop of brinkmanship between Washington and Tehran.

“The ship was seized under false and illegal pretences and the Iranians should release it and its crew immediately,” May’s spokesman says as she chairs an emergency meeting with ministers and officials.

“We do not seek confrontation with Iran but it is unacceptable and highly escalatory to seize a ship going about legitimate business through internationally recognized shipping lanes.”

Iran impounded the tanker after claiming it failed to respond to distress calls and turned off its transponder after hitting a fishing boat.

The British government has warned its ships to avoid the Strait of Hormuz, a chokepoint for about a third of the world’s sea-borne oil.

But questions are being asked in London about why it was not more proactive in protecting ships after the Gibraltar incident, which provoked fury in Tehran.

May’s spokesman says the high volume of ships moving through the Strait of Hormuz “makes it impossible to escort vessels individually.”

However, he says today’s talks will look at how to reassure commercial vessels in the region, as well as Britain’s response to Iran’s action.

— AFP

After joint photo, FM says he’ll invite Bahraini counterpart to Israel

After posing for a rare photo last week with his Bahraini counterpart, Foreign Minister Israel Katz says he’ll soon invite him to visit Israel at his home in a southern farming community.

Watchdog says West Bank outposts have boomed under Trump

An Israeli watchdog group says Israeli settlers have established dozens of unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank, most of them founded since US President Donald Trump entered office.

Peace Now says in a new report published today that Israeli settlers have founded 32 remote West Bank outposts since 2012, often with tacit government support.

The Defense Ministry and COGAT, the defense body responsible for civil affairs in the West Bank, do not respond to requests for comment.

— AP

View of the Sde Boaz outpost, near the Jewish settlement of Neve Daniel on March 6, 2014. (Gershon Elinson/FLASH90)

France condemns demolitions, says they’re a ‘direct threat’ to two-state solution

PARIS — France condemns a move by Israel to demolish Palestinian buildings near Jerusalem, saying the destruction sets a “dangerous precedent” and violates international law.

“France condemns the demolition by the Israeli army of several buildings in the area of Wadi al Hummus, in the southeast of Jerusalem,” a statement from the French foreign ministry says.

“These demolitions have taken place for the first time in an area controlled by the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo Accords. They represent a dangerous precedent, which poses a direct threat to the two-state solution,” it adds.

— AFP

Jailed British-Iranian woman returned to cell

The husband of a British-Iranian woman imprisoned in Iran says she has been transferred from a hospital mental health facility back to prison.

Richard Ratcliffe says that his wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, had been kept in solitary confinement and chained to a hospital bed. He says she described the treatment as “proper torture.”

He says she was returned to Evin prison Saturday after breaking out of her bindings and telling security guards she could self-harm if she stayed in the hospital.

The news comes amid heightened tensions between the UK and Iran over the seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker in the Persian Gulf.

The 40-year-old Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in Iran April 2016 and has been sentenced to five years in prison after being accused of spying, which she strongly denies.

— AP

Richard Ratcliffe displays a family photograph of himself and wife Nazanin with their daughter Gabriella in London, April 2, 2018, on the second anniversary his wife’s detention. (John Stillwell/PA via AP)

Turkey warns it’ll respond to US sanctions over S-400 purchase

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s foreign minister has reiterated that the country intends to respond to any US sanctions over its purchase of Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems.

However, Mevlut Cavusoglu tells Turkey’s TGRT television in an interview today that US President Donald Trump is reluctant to sanction Turkey.

Turkey began taking delivery of parts of the S-400 earlier of this month despite strong objections from the United States, which says the systems are incompatible with NATO and pose a threat to the US-led F-35 fighter jet program.

Last week, Washington suspended Turkey from the F-35 program and could impose sanctions on Turkey under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA.

Cavusoglu says: “If the United States takes negative steps or goes further, we will have a response.”

— AP

US sanctions Chinese oil trader for importing Iranian crude

WASHINGTON — The United States is placing a leading Chinese oil importer on its sanctions blacklist for trading in Iranian crude, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announces today.

“As part of that maximum pressure campaign, I am announcing that the United States is imposing sanctions on the Chinese entity Zhuhai Zhenrong and its chief executive Youmin Li, Pompeo says in a speech.

“They violated US law by accepting crude oil,” he says.

— AFP

After tanker seizure, UK says planning European-led protection force in Gulf

LONDON — British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt says the UK wants to establish a European-led maritime protection force for the Gulf, but emphasizes that London is not seeking a confrontation with Iran.

“We will now seek to put together a European-led maritime protection mission to support the safe passage of both crew and cargo in this vital region,” Hunt tells parliament, after Iranian authorities seized a British-flagged tanker in the Gulf on Friday.

“We will seek to establish this mission as quickly as possible,” he says, adding: “It will not be part of the US maximum pressure policy on Iran”.

Hunt describes Friday’s incident as an act of “state piracy.”

A British warship in the region, HMS Montrose, attempted to warn off Iranian forces and raced to the scene but arrived too late to be able to assist.

Hunt says a second British warship, HMS Duncan, that is being dispatched to the region, would arrive by July 29.

Hunt says all British-flagged ships would be asked to give the British authorities notice when they plan to pass through the Strait of Hormuz, where Friday’s incident happened, “to enable us to offer the best protection we can.”

But he adds: “It is, of course, not possible for the Royal Navy to provide escorts for every single ship or indeed eliminate all risks of piracy.”

— AFP

Trump says ‘getting harder’ to want a deal with Iran

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump says it is becoming more difficult for him to think about negotiating with Iran, following a series of incidents that have sent tensions with the Islamic republic soaring.

“It’s getting harder for me to want to make a deal with Iran,” Trump tells reporters at the White House, hours after Tehran announced it arrested 17 people it said were part of a CIA spy ring.

Trump dismisses that claim as “totally false,” and said late last week that a US Navy ship had destroyed an Iranian drone, an assertion rejected by Iran.

— AFP

US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on July 22, 2019. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP)

Air force pilot said to have mistakenly fired missile into Syria

An Israeli Air Force pilot mistakenly fired a missile at what appeared to be an unidentified target last month, approaching the Israel-Syrian border, Israeli television reports.

However, there was no such suspicious target, according to the reports, and the air-to-air missile exploded in an open area in Syria territory.

Channel 12 says the pilot was suspended from flying following the incident, but was reinstated in recent days.

Saudi blogger spat on, cursed at during Temple Mount visit

A Saudi blogger who is visiting Israel at the invitation of the Foreign Ministry is spat on and cursed at, as he visits the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Video of the incident shows a child spitting on Mohammed Saud as he visited the holy site, while others yell at him to leave.

In another clip, chairs and other objects are thrown at Saud, as he walks through one of the Old City’s alleys.

Foreign Ministry condemns ‘cruel and immoral’ harassment of Saudi blogger

The acting Foreign Ministry spokesman condemns the harassment of a Saudi blogger as he visited Jerusalem’s Old City today.

“We strongly condemn the cruel and immoral behavior of some Palestinians near the Al-Aqsa Mosque toward a Saudi media personality who came to Jerusalem to be a bridge to peace and understanding between peoples,” Nizar Amer writes on Twitter.

He accuses Mohammed Saud’s harassers of using the Temple Mount as a “political tool” and says the Saudi will continue to be an honored guest in Israel.

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After joint photo, FM says he’ll invite Bahraini counterpart to Israel

After posing for a rare photo last week with his Bahraini counterpart, Foreign Minister Israel Katz says he’ll soon invite him to visit Israel at his home in a southern farming community.