German Jewish community ‘sad and aghast’ at rape-murder of Jewish teen
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Trump seizes upon Obama-era license aimed at helping Iran

US president writes on Twitter — incorrectly — that predecessor’s attempt to give Iran access to US financial system was ‘totally illegal’

US President Donald Trump speaks following a meeting on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC June 1, 2018. (SAUL LOEB/AFP)
US President Donald Trump speaks following a meeting on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC June 1, 2018. (SAUL LOEB/AFP)

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

Tourist, policeman hurt in Temple Mount violence

A tourist and a police officer are hurt Thursday in an apparent violent protest on the Temple Mount.

According to police, Palestinians threw rocks, chairs and “other objects” from within the Al-Aqsa Mosque toward a group of tourists, lightly hurting one tourist in the leg.

When police moved to respond, one officer was lightly hurt as well from the thrown objects and was taken away to receive medical care.

A lightly wounded tourist being carried off the Temple Mount by police officers after being hit by a rock thrown by a Palestinian protester from within the Al-Aqsa Mosque, June 7, 2018. (Israel Police)

Police proceeded to arrest two suspects believed to have taken part in the stone-throwing.

“Actions are being taken to identify other participants” in the violence, a police statement reads.

Visits continue at the site unhindered after the incident.

Islamic State threat hangs over Russia World Cup

While moribund in Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State group poses a real threat to Russia’s World Cup that must be taken seriously, security experts warn.

Alarm bells have been ringing since disturbing photo-montages began to appear on social media late last year, the work of the IS propaganda arm known as the Wafa Media Foundation.

Crude and explicit, they show superstars such as Lionel Messi and Neymar dressed in the frighteningly familiar orange suits used for videotaped executions.

Lying on the ground, with knives up against their throats or dying in flames, the message accompanying them was blunt: “You will not enjoy security until we live it in Muslim countries,” the posts say.

Brian Glyn Williams and Robert Troy Souza, authors of a report published last month by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) on the dangers IS poses to the June 14 to July 15 World Cup, say the propaganda campaign unfurled by IS was “unprecedented.”

“In just the past few years, there have been numerous successful terror attacks or thwarted plots in Russia by terrorists linked to or inspired by the Islamic state,” they write. “This suggests the group may have the capacity to launch attacks in Russia during the World Cup.”

— AFP

Israeli organizers say Qatar, Turkey caused Argentina match cancellation

Israeli organizers of the Argentina-Israel friendly soccer match on Saturday night that was canceled by the Argentinean team on Tuesday say Qatar and Turkey were involved in convincing Argentina’s national team to pull out.

According to Amichai Stein, a reporter for Israel’s public broadcaster Kan, negotiations are now underway to replace the canceled game with two friendly matches, and “one of them might be in Jerusalem.”

Israeli newspapers have previously reported that Qatar paid Argentina’s cancellation fee.

New Jordan PM says working on changes to tax plan

Jordan’s newly appointed prime minister tells parliament he hopes to have a “clear vision” on a reformed tax system by the end of the day.

In his first appearance since his appointment after protests forced out his predecessor, Omar Razzaz says Thursday he is open to listening to the dissenting voices in society.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II appointed Razzaz this week after Hani Mulki quit amid mounting protests against a tax plan viewed as unfair to the poor and middle class.

Razzaz was meeting with Parliament Speaker Atif al-Tarawneh, who says he advised Razzaz to remove new changes in the tax bill that sparked the protests. Al-Tarawneh says a majority of parliament rejects the changes.

— AP

Tel Aviv green lights plans for 100-story tower

A Tel Aviv municipal committee gives the green light to construct a 100-story tower in the city.

The Bein Arim Tower will be the tallest skyscraper in the city when it is completed, the business daily Globes reports.

Plans for the site, which is owned by the municipality, also includes more than 120,000 square meters (140,000 square yards) of space for offices, hotels, commerce, and public areas, according to Globes.

— JTA

Syria regime ‘no longer immune’ from retaliation — Netanyahu

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime is “no longer immune” from retaliation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns during a visit to London on Thursday.

“He is no longer immune, his regime is no longer immune. If he fires at us, we will destroy his forces,” Netanyahu says, speaking at an event organized by the Policy Exchange think tank.

“I think there is a new calculus that has to take place and Syria has to understand that Israel will not tolerate the Iranian military entrenchment in Syria against Israel,” he says.

“The consequences are not merely to the Iranian forces there but to the Assad regime as well,” he says, adding: “I think it’s something that he should consider very seriously.”

— AFP

Pre-military academy that lost 10 students to flash flood closes to ‘rebuild’

The pre-military academy that suffered the deaths of ten incoming students in a flash flood during a school-sponsored hike in southern Israel will close temporarily.

The Joint Council of Pre-Military Academies announced the temporary closing of the Bnei Zion Academy this week, Ynet reports.

The council “sees great value in the continued existence of the Bnei Zion Academy as part of the family of academies,” it says in a statement. The council says it will partner with the academy to “rebuild” its program in a “process that is public and transparent.”

“We believe that the academy should not be opened before the completion of this process,” it says.

Nine girls and one boy were killed at Nahal Tsafit, south of the Dead Sea, when a flash flood rushed through the riverbed, following unusually heavy rainfall on April 26. Fifteen other hikers were rescued. The hikers were all 17- and 18-year-olds on a bonding trip ahead of entering the pre-military academy in September.

— JTA

Stockholm truck attacker sentenced to life in prison for terrorism

A Swedish court sentences a rejected Uzbek asylum seeker to life in prison for terrorism after he mowed down pedestrians with a stolen truck in central Stockholm last year, killing five people.

Rakhmat Akilov, 40, who swore allegiance to the Islamic State group on the eve of his attack, told the court during his trial that IS members had given him the green light on encrypted chat sites to carry out a suicide attack, but the group never claimed responsibility.

— AFP

Saudi condemns four to death for forming ‘Iran cell’

A Saudi court sentences four people to death for links to regional rival Iran, alleging that they were plotting the assassination of “prominent figures,” state media says.

“The criminal court has sentenced four terrorists to death for forming a cell for Iran,” the state-owned Al-Ekhbariya TV reports.

“The terrorists were trained in camps in Iran” and “planned to assassinate prominent figures,” Al-Ekhbariya says, without giving any more details on those convicted.

— AFP

IDF drops flyers in Gaza warning residents not to join Friday border protests

The Israeli Air Force drops flyers across the Gaza Strip, calling on Palestinians not to take part in violent protests along the security fence, the army says.

The military expects thousands of Gaza residents to riot on the border on Friday as part of the “March of Return,” a series of demonstrations supported by the Hamas terror group that rules Gaza.

In a statement, the army says it is “ready and prepared” for a number of scenarios along the fence and is “determined to protect the citizens of Israel and its sovereignty.”

With the flyers, the army tells Gazans that Hamas is trying to use them and their children for its own “political” goals.

“For your own benefit, it is better for you to not take part in violent demonstrations along the border or cross it. And don’t let Hamas turn you into a tool for its narrow interests,” the army writes on the flyers.

“Behind those interests stands Shiite Iran, with its goal of setting fire to the region for its own religious and tribal interests,” the army writes.

— Judah Ari Gross

Police to probe sudden death of 10-year-old Taibe girl

A 10-year-old girl from the Arab Israeli town of Taibe passes away at Kfar Saba’s Meir Hospital after being hospitalized earlier today in critical condition.

The girl arrived unconscious at the hospital. The cause of her condition is not made public.

Police open an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding her death.

Despite claims, Messi didn’t accuse Israel of ‘killing Palestinian children’

Argentina’s national soccer team player Lionel Messi did not accuse Israel of “killing innocent Palestinian children” and explain with that accusation the cancellation of the planned Saturday night match in Israel.

According to the AFP news service, social media accounts were sharing a fake report according to which Messi told the TyC Sports channel in an interview: “As a UNICEF ambassador, I can not play against people who kill innocent Palestinian children, we had to cancel the match because we are human beings before being football players.”

But a fact-check by AFP uncovers that Messi wasn’t even interviewed by TyC Sports since the cancellation and, as a Spanish reporter notes, is not known for making politically charged comments.

US delegation visits Syrian Kurdish town amid deal with Turkey

Syrian Kurdish officials say a US delegation is visiting the strategic town of Manbij, days after a delicate US-Turkey deal that is expected to see an American-backed Kurdish militia pull out of the area.

The head of the Manbij Military Council, who goes by the name Mohammed Abu Adel, says the delegation assured him there will be no Turkish troops inside Manbij.

Abu Adel says joint US-Turkish patrols will only take place along already-delineated front lines between the strategic town and other Turkish-controlled areas to the west. He says the local military council will remain in charge of the town and Washington is keeping them informed of details of the deal.

The commander of the anti-IS US coalition, Maj. General James Jarrard, and veteran Middle East diplomat William Roebuck are part of the delegation.

In this April 4, 2018 file photo, a US-backed Syrian Manbij Military Council soldier passes a US position near the tense front line with Turkish-backed fighters, in Manbij, north Syria. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

— AP

In election bid, Zimbabwe opposition pledges better ties with Israel

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s main opposition party announces it will create a $100 billion economy within a decade and improve ties with Israel — a major foreign policy shift — if it wins July 30 elections.

The MDC-T, which has re-energized under 40-year-old leader Nelson Chamisa, launches its election manifesto Thursday while the state broadcaster, which is closely aligned with the ruling party, provides rare live coverage.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took power in November when longtime leader Robert Mugabe stepped down under pressure from the military and ruling party, has promised free and fair elections in a country with a history of disputed polls. This will be the first vote without Mugabe since independence from white minority rule in 1980.

Both Mnangagwa and the opposition are pledging to improve the once-prosperous economy, which collapsed under Mugabe, and attract foreign investors put off by years of international sanctions over alleged human rights abuses.

Deepening political ties with Israel by opening an embassy there would mark an important shift for Zimbabwe, which enjoys close relations with the Palestinians, who have maintained a diplomatic mission in the southern African country since 1980.

The opposition says it wanted to get closer to Israel “for spiritual renewal.”

Chamisa also pledges to re-engage the West, which has indicated that a free and fair election is a key step toward lifting sanctions. “We will not look West or East, but we will look everywhere following the dollar,” he says.

— AP

German Jewish teen raped, murdered, allegedly by Iraqi, Turkish asylum seekers

A 14-year-old Jewish girl is found dead Thursday near the German city of Wiesbaden, with police saying two asylum seekers, one Iraqi and one Turkish, are believed to have raped and murdered her.

Susanna F. went missing two weeks ago. On Thursday, following the finding of her body, police issue a statement confirming she had been raped, killed and buried during the night of May 22.

Prosecutors say Thursday that two men — a 20-year-old Iraqi and a 35-year-old Turkish citizen, both of whom lived at homes for asylum seekers in the city — are suspected of raping and killing the girl on the evening she went missing. They believe the two then buried her body.

Police say the Iraqi man, whom they identified as Ali Basar, appears to have left abruptly with his family last week, flying to Erbil, Iraq, via Istanbul. He is also a suspect in a string of previous offenses in the Wiesbaden area, including a robbery at knifepoint.

He’s believed to have arrived in Germany in October 2015, at the height of the migrant influx to Germany, and was appealing the rejection of his asylum application when he suddenly left the country.

— Raphael Ahren

German Jewish community ‘sad and aghast’ at rape-murder of Jewish teen

The Jewish community of Mainz, Germany, reacts with shock and horror to the news that a 14-year-old member of the community is found dead Thursday near the city of Wiesbaden.

“I am as shocked, sad and aghast about the violent death of Susanna as one can be,” says Rabbi Aharon Ran Vernikovsky, who leads the Mainz Jewish community. “I am shocked and speechless,” he tells the Juedische Allgemeine weekly, adding that the community will do everything in its power to help and support her family.

Susanna F.’s case has preoccupied German media for several days. News of her body’s discovery Thursday, and police confirmation that she was raped and murdered, allegedly by two Muslim asylum seekers, made headlines nationwide, though most newspapers did not initially mention the fact that she was Jewish.

On Thursday afternoon, the Central Council of Jews in Germany confirms that the victim was Jewish and expresses its condolences to her friends and family.

“A young life was ended in a gruesome fashion,” the statement reads. “Our deepest sympathies are with family and friends. Susanna was a member of the Mainz Jewish Community.”

— Raphael Ahren

German Jewish group: Not yet clear if Jewish teen’s murder was anti-Semitic

The Central Council of Jews in Germany says there is no information as yet about the motives of two Muslim asylum seekers suspected of raping and murdering a Germany Jewish teen on May 22. It is also not yet clear whether they were aware that she was Jewish, the Jewish umbrella group says.

“Currently, the background of the deed is still unclear,” the Council says in a Thursday statement. “We expect from law enforcement authorities to speedily and comprehensively solve the case, as well as [deliver] harsh consequences for the perpetrator or the perpetrators. Premature conclusions or speculations, however, must not be made.”

— Raphael Ahren

Egypt repatriates stolen ancient artifacts from France

Egypt says it has repatriated nine illegally smuggled artifacts, including statuary and coffins, from France.

Thursday’s statement by the Foreign Ministry says French authorities had seized the artifacts at a train station in Paris in 2012.

The Egyptian Antiquities Ministry says the artifacts include parts of five coffins, two statues of cats, a depiction of a human head made of basalt, and a pharaonic mask made of wood.

Egypt has drastically stepped up efforts in recent years to stop the trafficking of its antiquities. It has warned foreign museums that it will not help them mount exhibits on ancient Egyptian sites unless they return smuggled artifacts.

In November 2014, France agreed to return 239 pieces to Egypt.

— AP

With nuclear deal under threat, Iran shows off new centrifuges

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The star of a live television interview in Iran’s new nuclear workshop wasn’t the head of the country’s atomic agency, but in the background, labeled in English, were three centrifuges —  advanced devices Tehran is prohibited from using by the nuclear deal with world powers.

The placement of the centrifuges, identified as IR-2M, IR-4, and IR-6, may have served as a subtle warning to Europe as it tries to salvage the atomic accord after US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from it and restore US sanctions.

In recent days Iranian officials from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on down have vowed to boost the country’s uranium enrichment capacity. The moves they have outlined would not violate the 2015 nuclear accord, but would allow Iran to quickly ramp up enrichment if the agreement unravels.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s nuclear agency, said Wednesday night that the IR-6 is 10 times more effective than the IR-1 model which Iran currently has operational at its Natanz nuclear facility.

In this June 6, 2018 frame grab from Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting, IRIB, state-run TV, three versions of domestically-built centrifuges are shown in a live TV program from Natanz, an Iranian uranium enrichment plant, in Iran. (IRIB via AP)

During the live state television interview at Natanz, whose underground bunkers are protected from airstrikes, Salehi said a new workshop there that was nearly ready to open could build 60 centrifuges a day. He said it could build all three of the displayed models.

— AP

A dozen brushfires started near Gaza border today

Over a dozen brushfires were put out near the Gaza border today. One is still raging, with officials suspecting some of the fires were likely caused by firebomb-bearing kites launched from the Gaza Strip.

Putin: Russian military not building long-term bases in Syria

MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin says Russia has no plans to pull its military out of Syria, but isn’t building permanent facilities there.

The troops “will stay there for as long as it is to Russia’s advantage, and to fulfill our international responsibilities,” he says during his annual televised call-in show. But, he says, “we are not building long-term installations there and if necessary can withdraw our servicemen quite quickly without any material losses.”

Syria is Russia’s only military foothold in the Middle East, using leased facilities for ships at Tartus and for an air base in Hmeimim.

— AP

Egypt president asks housing minister to form new government

Egypt’s President Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi on Thursday appoints a new prime minister, picking his housing minister Mustafa Madbouly to form a government.

The appointment comes three days after the outgoing premier, Sherif Ismail, submitted his government’s resignation, in keeping with political tradition at the start of a new presidential term. El-Sissi was sworn in on Saturday for a second, four-year term in office, after being re-elected in a vote in which he faced no serious challengers.

El-Sissi and Ismail are known to enjoy a close working relationship. Ismail sought medical treatment in Germany late last year. He returned home a month later showing considerable weight loss, some of which he has since regained.

During Ismail’s treatment in Germany, Madbouly served as acting prime minister in November and was widely seen as likely to succeed Ismail.

— AP

IsraAid team in Guatemala to help those hardest hit by eruption of Fuego volcano

The Israeli humanitarian aid coalition IsraAid begins work in Argentina in the wake of the eruption of the Fuego volcano that has left at least 99 dead and many more missing or injured.

The organization’s Emergency Response Team landed in Guatemala on Tuesday, launched a “comprehensive needs assessment,” and began delivering aid to one of the worst hit areas, Escuintla, according to a statement from the group.

The team is now working on assisting the thousands of people housed in temporary shelters who lack basic goods, from hygiene products to baby care items.

Trump seizes upon Obama-era license aimed at helping Iran

US President Donald Trump is seizing upon an investigation by Senate Republicans that found the Obama administration secretly tried to give Iran brief access to the US financial system by sidestepping US sanctions in place after the 2015 nuclear deal.

Trump writes on Twitter — incorrectly — “This is totally illegal” and is calling for an investigation.

But the plan failed when two US banks refused to participate. And the Obama Treasury Department’s issuing of a license to allow Iran to convert $5.7 billion it held at a bank in Oman was not illegal.

Senate Republicans say the Obama administration misled the American people because it had promised Congress that Iran wouldn’t gain access to America’s financial system. Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal last month.

— AP

Argentina: Soccer match canceled because it was moved to Jerusalem

Argentinean Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie contradicts Israel’s sports minister and explains the Argentinean national team’s cancellation of its Saturday night friendly match in Israel as a response to Israel’s decision to move the game from Haifa to Jerusalem.

Sports Minister Miri Regev explained Wednesday that the game was canceled because of death threats from pro-Palestinian activists against Argentina’s star player Lionel Messi.

But, according to Faurie, the Argentinean national team canceled the match at the recommendation of the country’s foreign ministry, which recommended that the game not take place in Jerusalem.

“The game, as everyone knows, was supposed to take place in Haifa. Although Haifa is also in Israel, it doesn’t have the connotations of Jerusalem,” says Faurie, explaining that “the noise around the issue of Jerusalem” arose due to the US embassy’s move to the city on May 14, a move that was fiercely opposed by Palestinians.

7-year-old boy dies after falling from bicycle in southern West Bank

A seven-year-old boy dies from a blow to the head after he falls from his bicycle on Thursday.

The boy, Emmanuel Zviel, fell while riding in the settlement of Ma’ale Hever, near Hebron.

He was a student at the Kiryat Arba Elementary School, the Har Hevron regional council says in a statement.

According to reports, Zviel passed away despite resuscitation efforts while being rushed to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

Man, 27, seriously hurt by snake bite in northern town of Ma’alot

A 27-year-old man from the northern town of Ma’alot is in life-threatening condition after a snake bite.

The man drove himself to a Kiryat Shemona clinic after seeing a rash in the area of the bite. As his condition worsened, he was taken by ambulance to Ziv Hospital in Safed, where his condition is categorized as serious.

Most Israelis say Regev’s move of Argentina match to Jerusalem a mistake – poll

A majority of Israelis say Sports Minister Miri Regev’s insistence on transferring the now-canceled Israel-Argentina friendly match scheduled for Saturday night from Haifa to Jerusalem was a mistake, according to a Channel 10 poll.

The survey finds 61 percent of respondents believe Regev’s decision was wrong.

About half of those, 31%, say the move to Jerusalem was the cause for the cancellation. (Argentina’s foreign minister said earlier today that this was, in fact, the case.) Just 28% believe Regev’s own explanation — that pro-Palestinian activists’ death threats against star player Lionel Messi led to the cancellation. Another 26% say both factors contributed, and 11% say they don’t know the reason.

Canada poised to legalize recreational marijuana

Canada’s Senate is set to vote Thursday on legalizing recreational marijuana, a move that would make the country the first member of the Group of Seven nations to legalize the production, sale, and consumption of pot.

Bill C-45, or the Cannabis Act, is finally ready for passage after months of debate over the ramifications of legalization.

Legalizing weed was a 2015 campaign promise of Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has admitted having smoked a joint with friends “five or six times.”

The initial timeline for legal pot sales called for it to be available by July 1, Canada’s national day, but August or September now appears more likely.

Once the Senate approves the Cannabis Act it will go back to the House of Commons, which passed the bill in November 2017 but will need to sign off on any changes made by the Senate. It would then be up to Canada’s provinces and territories to set up distribution networks and enforcement.

— AFP

Tel Aviv prepares for 20th annual Gay Pride Parade Friday

Much of Tel Aviv will shut down on Friday as thousands of Israelis are set to flock to the streets to celebrate the city’s 20th annual Gay Pride Parade.

Police say authorities are set for the event, scheduled to take place from noon to 7 p.m.

Many of Tel Aviv’s largest streets will be blocked to traffic.

The colorful parade will commence at Ben Zion Boulevard in southwestern Tel Aviv, and pass through Bograshov, HaYarkon, Frishman, and Herbert Samuel streets before ending at Charles Clore Park.

Annual Gay Pride Parade kicks off in Tel Aviv

The annual Gay Pride Parade begins in Tel Aviv, with over 200,000 people expected to take part in this year’s event.

The parade is now in its 20th year.

Turkey blasts ‘anti-Islam’ Austria over imam expulsions

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s presidential spokesman on Friday lambasts Austria’s decision to expel up to 60 Turkish-funded imams and shut seven mosques as an “anti-Islam” and “racist” move.

“Austria’s decision to close down seven mosques and deport imams with a lame excuse is a reflection of the anti-Islam, racist and discriminatory populist wave in this country,” Ibrahim Kalin says on Twitter after Vienna announced the move in a crackdown on “political Islam.”

— AFP

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German Jewish community ‘sad and aghast’ at rape-murder of Jewish teen

The Jewish community of Mainz, Germany, reacts with shock and horror to the news that a 14-year-old member of the community is found dead Thursday near the city of Wiesbaden.

“I am as shocked, sad and aghast about the violent death of Susanna as one can be,” says Rabbi Aharon Ran Vernikovsky, who leads the Mainz Jewish community. “I am shocked and speechless,” he tells the Juedische Allgemeine weekly, adding that the community will do everything in its power to help and support her family.

Susanna F.’s case has preoccupied German media for several days. News of her body’s discovery Thursday, and police confirmation that she was raped and murdered, allegedly by two Muslim asylum seekers, made headlines nationwide, though most newspapers did not initially mention the fact that she was Jewish.

On Thursday afternoon, the Central Council of Jews in Germany confirms that the victim was Jewish and expresses its condolences to her friends and family.

“A young life was ended in a gruesome fashion,” the statement reads. “Our deepest sympathies are with family and friends. Susanna was a member of the Mainz Jewish Community.”

— Raphael Ahren