China calls for restraint in Persian Gulf
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Jeffrey Epstein was in a business partnership with Ehud Barak — report

Israeli paper says convicted sex offender funded significant portion of ex-PM’s investment in high-tech firm in 2015

In this file photo from July 30, 2008, Jeffrey Epstein, center, appears in court in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Uma Sanghvi/Palm Beach Post via AP, File)
In this file photo from July 30, 2008, Jeffrey Epstein, center, appears in court in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Uma Sanghvi/Palm Beach Post via AP, File)

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

Foreign, defense ministries to stop assisting PM’s trips abroad over budget cuts

Employees of the foreign and defense ministries announce they will no longer assist with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trips overseas amid a budget dispute between the Foreign Ministry and the Finance Ministry.

According to Hebrew media, the move is to protest various cuts to the Foreign Ministry that its workers say hinder their diplomatic work. The announcement is made to all of Israel’s missions in overseas.

A report in the Israel Hayom daily this morning said that as a result of the cuts, the Foreign Ministry was forced to unilaterally cancel student exchange programs with 50 countries.

“Another demonstration of the budgetary disaster in which the Foreign Ministry is subject to and the tough costs that Israeli foreign policy is paying as a result,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon writes on Twitter.

China calls for restraint in Persian Gulf

China is calling on all sides to avoid raising tensions in the Persian Gulf after Britain said three Iranian vessels sought to disrupt the passage of a British oil tanker through the Strait of Hormuz.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang says Beijing hopes the parties involved can “maintain cool and restraint” and safeguard peace and stability in the Gulf region.

Geng tells reporters that China, a huge customer for oil and gas shipped through the strait, recognizes the influence events in the region can have on the stability of the global supply of resources.

China was a signatory to the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and has sought to keep it in effect, despite the US pulling out and re-imposing sanctions.

— AP

Iran’s Guards warn US, UK will ‘strongly regret’ tanker seizure

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s Revolutionary Guards say that the United States and Britain will “strongly regret” the seizure of a tanker off Gibraltar, the semi-official Fars News Agency reports.

“If the enemy had made the smallest assessment they wouldn’t have done this act,” says Rear-Admiral Ali Fadavi, deputy commander in chief of the Revolutionary Guards, referring to the seizure of an oil tanker late last week by Gibraltar’s police aided by British Royal Marines.

He adds that the seizure of the tanker was “stupidity… a trait the American President has in spades and the British to some extent.”

The Guards also deny that they had in turn impeded a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz in a statement published by the force’s Sepahnews site.

“There has been no confrontation in the last 24 hours with any foreign vessels, including British ones,” the statement says.

— AFP

UK far-right activist gets 9 months in prison for contempt

LONDON — A British judge has sentenced far-right activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon to a total of nine months in prison for contempt of court.

He receives six months for filming defendants in a criminal trial and broadcasting the footage on social media and three months for an earlier contempt finding.

Judge Victoria Sharp says in the Old Bailey courthouse that the prison term was necessary to “properly reflect the gravity of the conduct.”

Yaxley-Lennon, who uses the pseudonym Tommy Robinson, was arrested and jailed last year for potentially prejudicing a trial after the Facebook broadcast outside a trial of men accused of sexually abusing teenage girls.

A court later freed him and said more review was needed.

Yaxley-Lennon, who founded the anti-Islam English Defense League, claims to have been exposing “Muslim rape gangs.”

— AP

Founder and former leader of the English Defence League, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson, arrives at the Old Bailey, London’s Central Criminal Court, in London on July 5, 2019. (Tolga Akmen/AFP)

EU cites progress on Iran barter system to bypass US sanctions

The European Union says it is making some progress on its controversial barter-type system to trade with Iran and get around US sanctions as part of its efforts to keep the nuclear deal alive.

EU foreign policy secretary general Helga Schmid says today that beyond the 10 EU nations that are already part of the system, “we now have 7 more member states that have announced they will either join the shareholders or use Instex,” she says, referring to the barter system.

Schmid adds that “from consultations I had last week, I can share with you that more, also non-EU member states, will join.”

Iran has breached the deal’s limitations in an attempt to get other nations to provide economic incentives to offset US sanctions. The Trump administration withdrew from the agreement last year.

— AP

Gaza terror groups reportedly huddle over possible response to Hamas member’s death

The various terror groups in the Gaza Strip convene their joint operations committee to discuss a possible retaliation to the death of a Hamas member by IDF gunfire along the enclave’s northern border earlier in the day, according to Palestinian reports.

— Judah Ari Gross

IDF says ‘misunderstanding’ led troops to kill Hamas member on border

The Israeli military says a “misunderstanding” led its troops to kill a member of the Hamas terror group as he was trying to prevent Palestinian youths from breaching the security fence.

The highly irregular acknowledgment of this kind of mistake appears to be an effort by the Israel Defense Forces to calm tensions along the Gaza border and prevent another round of violence.

“This morning, IDF troops identified a number of Palestinians in the area of the security fence in the northern Strip. An initial investigation determined that this was an operative of Hamas’s restraint force who had come to the area because of two Palestinians who were moving toward [the fence],” the army says.

At this point, the Israeli soldiers opened fire at the Hamas member, fatally wounding him. He was pronounced dead shortly afterwards, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

“The IDF troops who arrived to the area had identified the restraint operative as an armed terrorist and opened fire due to a misunderstanding. The incident will be investigated,” the army says.

— Judah Ari Gross

AG asks High Court to reject petition seeking transcripts of PM’s talks with newspaper owner

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit asks the High Court of Justice to reject a petition seeking the publication of the transcripts of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s conversations with Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes, which are at the center of a corruption case involving the premier.

“The petition should be rejected in the absence of any cause for judicial intervention and because there has been no change in circumstances since the High Court of Justice rejected a petition a year ago in which the petitioners sought an identical step,” Hebrew media quotes Mandelblit writing to the court.

Case 2000, in which Netanyahu is suspected of fraud and breach of trust, involves an alleged illicit quid pro quo between the prime minister and Mozes that would have seen the passage of legislation curbing Yedioth’s rival daily Israel Hayom in exchange for positive coverage. The alleged agreement was never hatched.

The recordings were found by police in a raid during an unrelated investigation into Ari Harow, Netanyahu’s former chief of staff who has turned state’s witness.

Netanyahu is also suspected of fraud and breach of trust in two other cases, as well as bribery in one of them.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes (Composite image: Flash90)

Egypt arrests Mubarak supporter who criticized government

CAIRO — Egypt has arrested the administrator of a Facebook page that supports former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who was forced from power by a pro-democracy uprising in 2011.

Prosecutors on Thursday charge Karim Hussein with spreading false news and undermining national interests after a series of posts that implied Mubarak did more to help the poor than the current government. Hussein was arrested Tuesday.

Egypt has waged a sweeping crackdown on dissent in recent years, jailing activists, bloggers and others under vague laws that criminalize nearly any criticism of authorities. Hussein’s Facebook page, “I am sorry, Mr. President,” has more than 3 million followers.

Egypt’s military overthrew the country’s first elected president, an Islamist who proved divisive, in 2013. Since then authorities have rolled back freedoms won in the 2011 uprising.

— AP

Illustrative: Supporters of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak hold posters of him as they protest outside the Cairo Police Academy-turned-court in Cairo, Egypt, August 25, 2013 (AP/Khalil Hamra)

‘The strong survive’: Netanyahu on cover of new Time magazine

Prime Minister Netanyahu makes the cover of the latest issue of Time magazine.

It is the fourth time Netanyahu has been on the cover of the US weekly.

UK’s Labour in turmoil after new anti-Semitism allegations

LONDON — Britain’s main opposition Labour Party is in turmoil after a television documentary renewed allegations that anti-Semitism is rife within its ranks.

In the BBC program, former staff members of the left-of-center party recounted being subjected to anti-Semitic abuse and alleged that senior party officials interfered in complaint investigations.

Accusations of hostility toward Jews have riven Labour since left-winger Jeremy Corbyn, a longtime supporter of the Palestinians, became party leader in 2015.

The party condemned the BBC documentary, broadcast last night, saying it contained “deliberate and malicious representations.” It alleged the former staffers who took part had “personal and political axes to grind.”

But many Labour lawmakers express dismay at the allegations.

Legislator Pat McFadden tweets that the program was “powerful and shocking. Huge bravery shown by the young people who spoke out.”

Colleague Jess Phillips says on Twitter that the claims made in the program were “worse than I expected. The Labour party response tells me that they don’t care.”

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson says anti-Semitism is “a sickness in our party” that has to be dealt with.

— AP

Britain’s main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks during Question Time inside the House of Commons in London, July 10, 2019. (Jessica Taylor/House of Commons via AP)

Court convicts Arab Israeli for stabbing rabbi to death in terror attack

A court convicts an Arab Israeli man for stabbing to death a rabbi in a terror attack last year in the West Bank.

Abed al-Karim Assi attacked Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal last February at a bus stop outside the Ariel settlement before fleeing. He was arrested over a month later after an extensive manhunt in the Palestinian city of Nablus.

The Central District Court in Lod rules Assi is guilty of murder.

Hezbollah official says US sanctions on 2 of group’s lawmakers are spiteful

A Hezbollah lawmaker says US sanctions targeting two of the group’s members in the Lebanese parliament are spiteful and won’t force a change in their ideology or views.

Ali Mokdad spoke Thursday after the weekly meeting of Iran-backed Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc.

The US Treasury Department said it is targeting two Hezbollah lawmakers and a security official suspected of using their positions to further the aims of the terror group and Tehran’s “malign activities.”

Although the US has been cranking up the pressure on the Iran-backed group, it is the first time it has targeted sitting members of parliament.

Hezbollah has been gaining seats in Lebanon’s parliament since 1992. The group and its allies won a majority in 2018 elections while Hezbollah secured three Cabinet seats, the largest number it has ever controlled.

Mokdad says targeting the head of Hezbollah parliamentary bloc Mohamad Raad and lawmaker Amin Sherri with sanctions is a “continued assault on Lebanon, its people and their choices.”

— Agencies

Ali Mokdad, a Lebanese MP for the Hezbollah terror group’s political party party, speaks to reporters following a meeting for the party’s bloc in the capital Beirut’s southern suburb of Haret Hreik on July 11, 2019. (Joseph Eid/AFP)

Gibraltar police arrest captain, officer of detained Iranian tanker

GIBRALTAR, United Kingdom — Gibraltar police have arrested the Indian captain and chief officer of a seized Iranian tanker suspected of breaching EU sanctions by shipping oil to Syria, a spokesman for the Royal Gibraltar Police says today.

The two men, both Indian nationals, were arrested this afternoon but neither has been charged, the spokesman adds.

— AFP

A British Royal Navy ship (L) patrols near supertanker Grace 1, which is suspected of carrying Iranian crude oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions, after it was detained off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4, 2019. (Jorge Guerrero/AFP)

Trump, Netanyahu discuss blocking Iran’s ‘malign actions’ — White House

US President Donald Trump spoke yesterday with Prime Minister Netanyahu about Iran, according to the White House.

“The two leaders discussed cooperation between the United States and Israel in advancing shared national security interests, including efforts to prevent Iran’s malign actions in the region,” a White House statement says.

Netanyahu praised Trump for tweeting he’ll soon increase Iran sanctions — PM’s Office

Prime Minister Netanyahu praised US President Donald Trump for tweeting he would soon increase sanctions on Iran during their phone call yesterday, the Prime Minister’s Office says.

Similar to a White House statement, the PMO says the two discussed regional security issues, “foremost Iran.”

Top general says US, allies planning naval escort for Gulf tankers

WASHINGTON — The United States and its allies are discussing plans to provide naval escorts for oil tankers through the Gulf, a top US general says after Iranian military vessels menaced a British tanker this morning.

General Mark Milley, nominated to become the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tells a Senate hearing that the US has a “crucial role” in enforcing freedom of navigation in the Gulf.

He says the US was attempting to put together a coalition “in terms of providing military escort, naval escort to commercial shipping.”

“I think that that will be developing over the next couple weeks.”

— AFP

US Army Gen. Mark A. Milley testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing on his nomination to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 11, 2019. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP)

Jeffrey Epstein was a business partner of Ehud Barak — report

Former prime minister Ehud Barak partnered with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein to invest in an Israeli startup, the Haaretz daily reports.

According to the newspaper, Barak set up a limited partnership in 2015 to invest in Reporty, which later changed its name to Carbyne. Barak is the director of the company, which develops IP systems for emergency services.

The report says Epstein funded a significant portion of Barak’s investment, which was estimated in the millions of shekels, making him a de facto partner in Carbyne.

In a response to Haaretz, Barak did not deny Epstein was an investor.

“Because these are private investments, it is not proper or right that I reveal deals of those who invested,” he says.

Barak, who recently announced his return to politics, has been the subject of attack ads by Prime Minister Netanyahu questioning his relationship with Epstein, who was charged earlier this week with child sex trafficking charges.

The former premier has sought to play down his ties to Epstein.

UN inspectors said to find radioactive material at Tehran site flagged by Netanyahu last year

Inspectors from the UN’s nuclear watchdog found evidence of radioactive material at a facility in Tehran that Prime Minister Netanyahu said was being used to store nuclear material, Channel 13 news reports.

According to the network, International Atomic Energy Agency officials visited the site in March and took ground samples to detect any radioactive material. They are now preparing a report on their findings.

Quoting unnamed Israeli officials, the report says the samples tested positive and that extensive evidence of radioactive material was found at the site, indicating Iran stored nuclear materials there that it did not report to the IAEA.

Netanyahu revealed the site during a speech at the United Nations in September. He said the facility “was used for “storing massive amounts of equipment and material from Iran’s secret weapons program.”

Epstein’s lawyers request he be released to house arrest

NEW YORK — Financier Jeffrey Epstein’s lawyers, seeking bail for their client, say today that he feared a “toxic political climate” might cause federal prosecutors to scrap a deal he made with them over a decade ago and charge him again with sexual abuse charges involving underage girls.

The lawyers recommend house arrest and electronic monitoring for Epstein as they counter what they describe as a “drastic demand” by prosecutors that he be detained until trial on charges that he engaged in sex trafficking with dozens of underage girls in Florida and New York from 2002 to 2005.

Epstein, 66, was arrested Saturday as he arrived at a New Jersey airport on a flight from Paris. He pleaded not guilty Monday and a judge asked defense lawyers and prosecutors to submit their bail arguments prior to a hearing next Monday.

In seeking detention, prosecutors say a trove of what seems to be nude pictures of underage girls was found in his mansion after his arrest on charges that he sexually exploited and abused underage girls.

The New York charges, which carry the potential for up to 45 years in prison, say Epstein abused dozens of girls at his mansions in New York and Palm Beach, Florida, in the early 2000s.

— AP

US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019, in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images/AFP)

Gaza incendiary balloon sparks fire in southern Israel

An incendiary balloon launched from the Gaza Strip sparks a fire in the Eshkol Regional Council.

The balloon launch came after the army said Israeli troops mistakenly killed a Hamas member trying to prevent Palestinian youths from breaching the border, leading to concerns of an escalation of violence in the south.

Car bomb explodes near church in northeast Syria

QAMISHLI, Syria — A car bomb detonated near a church in the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli in northeast Syria on Thursday wounding several people, an AFP journalist and state media say.

The metal gate of the church was slightly dented by the blast, but the building otherwise emerged intact, the correspondent says.

People gather at the scene of a car bomb explosion outside the Syriac Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary in a predominantly Christian neighborhood in the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli in northeast Syria on July 11, 2019. (Gihad Darwish/AFP)

There is no immediate claim for the attack, which Syrian state television says wounded 11 people and damaged nearby cars.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, says only seven people were wounded, and that three among them were in critical condition.

Last month, a car bombing near Kurdish security offices in the same city wounded seven civilians, including a child, the Observatory said.

Syria’s Kurds have led the US-backed fight in the war-torn country against the Islamic State jihadist group, which continues to claim attacks despite its territorial defeat earlier this year.

— AFP

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China calls for restraint in Persian Gulf

China is calling on all sides to avoid raising tensions in the Persian Gulf after Britain said three Iranian vessels sought to disrupt the passage of a British oil tanker through the Strait of Hormuz.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang says Beijing hopes the parties involved can “maintain cool and restraint” and safeguard peace and stability in the Gulf region.

Geng tells reporters that China, a huge customer for oil and gas shipped through the strait, recognizes the influence events in the region can have on the stability of the global supply of resources.

China was a signatory to the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and has sought to keep it in effect, despite the US pulling out and re-imposing sanctions.

— AP