The Times of Israel liveblogged Friday’s events as they happened.
Report: Russia gives Israel ‘green light’ to strike Iranian targets in Syria
Israel and Russia have reached an agreement granting Israeli jets a “green light” to strike Iranian targets in Syria, as well as the withdrawal of Iran-backed troops from Syria’s border with Israel, Asharq al-Awsat reports.
According to the Arabic-language daily, the agreement will see Iranian forces leave southern Syria, while allowing Israel to strike Iranian assets deep in the country. Israel agreed not to attack Syrian regime targets, the report said.
The reported agreement comes after Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman met his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu in Moscow on Thursday for talks focused on Syria.
Liberman thanked Russia for “understanding” Israel’s security concerns. However, neither Jerusalem, nor Moscow, publicly acknowledged any agreement between the sides regarding Iran’s military presence in Syria.
Ex-Shin Bet chief, current Likud MK calls PM phone-tapping claim a ‘lie’
Likud MK Avi Dichter, a former head of the Shin Bet security service, says a TV report Thursday that claimed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Shin Bet security agency to tap the phones of the leaders of the Mossad and the army in 2011 was a “lie.”
“It is impossible that a prime minister asks the head of the Shin Bet to eavesdrop on a certain person, let alone the leader of the Mossad or the [IDF] chief of staff,” Dichter writes in a Facebook post.
Dichter says there is little likelihood phone taps could be ordered directly by the premier, as any such eavesdropping is overseen directly by the attorney general and State Prosecutor’s Office.
Netanyahu has dismissed the report he asked for the phones of then-Mossad head Tamir Pardo and then-IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz to be tapped as a “complete lie.” Yoram Cohen, the Shin Bet head at the time, was quoted by Channel 10 as saying the report was “nonsense.”
EU, China vow to uphold Iran nuclear deal
BRUSSELS — The European Union and China say they will do their utmost to keep afloat an international agreement to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons despite the US abandoning the pact.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi says Friday that “we will be unswerving in upholding it.”
Speaking alongside EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, he says the agreement has been endorsed by the UN and that “every party has the duty to implement it.”
Mogherini, who helped oversee the implementation of the 2015 nuclear deal, praises China and says Beijing, the EU and other partners are working “in full coordination” to save the pact.
US President Donald Trump last month reneged on the agreement, saying it fails to stop Iran developing ballistic missiles or playing a damaging role in the Middle East.
Japan store bars wine from Golan Heights after protests
TOKYO — A major Japanese department store removes a vendor specializing in wine from Israel’s Golan Heights after protests from citizens’ groups.
Daimaru store says it has withdrawn its offer for Naturael, a Tokyo-based importer specializing in wine from the Golan — highly valued among connoisseurs — to participate at a fair in May.
It says the decision was just for the event and does not reflect the company’s political stance. But its spokesman acknowledges that geopolitical issues could not be ignored.
Naturael says the wine is produced and imported legally and criticized Daimaru for playing politics, saying it could lead to anti-Israel sentiments.
Israel captured the plateau from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed it in 1981. The US and others consider it to be disputed territory.
Oil giant Total says ‘very slim’ chance it’ll receive Iran sanctions waiver
PARIS — French oil company Total says Friday the probability of winning an exemption from US sanctions against Iran to continue a major gas field project is very faint.
The energy giant had already warned that, unless Washington grants it a waiver, it would pull out of the South Pars 11 project which it started in July 2017, two years after Western powers signed a nuclear deal with Tehran prompting the return of many businesses to Iran.
But earlier this month, US President Donald Trump announced his withdrawal from the deal, and told companies that they face sanctions if they do business with Iran.
Iran’s oil minister on Wednesday gave Total 60 days to win a sanctions waiver from Washington or lose its stake in the multi-billion-dollar project.
But on Friday, Total’s chairman Patrick Pouyanne tells shareholders that the prospect of a sanctions exemption are dim. “The probability of us getting an exemption is very slim,” he says.
Total said earlier this month that it has $10 billion of capital employed in its US assets, and US banks are involved in 90 percent of its financing operations, making Total highly vulnerable if targeted by any US actions.
By contrast, Total said it had spent less than 40 million euros ($47 million) on the Iranian project, which it runs with its partner Petrochina and which is dedicated to the supply of domestic gas inside Iran.
Danish circumcision ban to go to parliament
STOCKHOLM — A petition calling for a ban on male circumcision in Denmark will now go to parliament after organizers say Friday it attracted more than the 50,000 signatures required.
“We’re really happy, but now the real work begins. It’s an important but small step,” Lena Nyhus of the Intact Denmark group tells Danish news agency Ritzau.
The petition however faces little chance of success because it has not attracted support from any of the main political parties.
In Denmark, citizens can require parliament to debate an issue by gathering a minimum of 50,000 signatures.
The petition, which cites the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, calls for a six-year prison sentence for those carrying out circumcisions on boys under the age of 18, unless there is a medical reason.
“Society has a special obligation to protect the fundamental rights of the child until they’ve reached an age and maturity where they can take on this responsibility themselves,” the petition reads.
The Jewish community has protested against the petition, saying the ritual has been practiced in Denmark without any problems for more than 400 years.
2 Palestinians said shot during fresh Gaza clashes
Fresh clashes break out on the Gaza border, with Palestinian media reporting two people injured by Israeli fire.
Friday’s violent demonstrations are part of the weekly “March of Return” protests, which Israel has accused Hamas of leading and using as cover to commit attacks and attempt to breach the border.
The clashes come after this week saw the largest flare-up between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in the Strip since the 2014 Gaza war, with Israel striking dozens of targets linked to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in response to the over 100 mortars and rockets fired toward southern Israel.
Iranian official says Israel dealt ‘heavy blow’ in rocket attack on Golan
An Iranian official says Israel was dealt a “heavy blow” by Iranian forces who fired rockets at the Golan Heights from southern Syria last month.
“For the first time since the formation of the Zionist regime, Israel received a heavy blow from the Resistance Front in the Golan Heights,” says Ramezan Sharif, an ex-IRGC spokesman and head of the Intifada and Quds Center at Iran’s Islamic Propagation Coordination Council, according to the Tasnim news agency.
“This is the beginning of a great path,” he adds. “Israel should be aware that it is considered as a cancerous tumor and a violator of all rules in the eyes of the world’s freedom-seekers.”
Israel said Iran fired 32 rockets at the Golan Heights last month in response to an Israeli strike on a Syrian airbase in which seven Iranians were reported killed. Four of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, while the rest fell short of the border and landed in Syrian territory.
Israel struck numerous Iranian-linked targets in Syria following the rocket attack, as well as Syrian air defense systems that fired at Israeli jets during the reprisal raids.
PM: I listen to Arik Einstein and The Beatles, not calls of IDF and Mossad heads
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again dismisses a TV report he asked the Shin Bet security agency in 2011 to tap the phones of the head of the Mossad and the IDF chief of staff.
“This is a complete lie,” Netanyahu says in a video posted to his social media accounts.
“Not only am I saying this, former Shin Bet head [Yoram Cohen] also says: this is nonsense, a lie,” he adds.
Netanyahu then reveals what he “really listens to.”
“The High Windows, The Yarkon Bridge Trio, Arik Einstein,” he says, listing off Israeli musicians.
“The Beatles — the first albums — Abba and also people from today,” Netanyahu says.
He adds that he doubts the media will apologize for the report, which was aired by the “Uvda” investigative program.
IDF: 122,000 West Bank Palestinians travel to Jerusalem for Ramadan prayers
Some 122,000 West Bank Palestinians travel to Jerusalem for Ramadan prayers, the army says, while another 8,200 pray at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron.
Today is the third Friday of the holy month of Ramadan and the number of Palestinians who travelled to the city to pray at the Temple Mount for Friday afternoon prayers is the largest yet this year, according to army statistics.
“IDF troops are deployed in reinforced numbers and are operating along with the Shin Bet, Civil Administration, Border Police and Israel Police in order to allow the Ramadan prayers, as well defending communities and roads and preserving order and security in the area,” the army says.
May sees ‘lowest monthly civilian toll’ in Syrian war
BEIRUT — Fewer civilians died in May than in any other month of Syria’s seven-year war, a monitor says Friday, with less than 250 civilians killed across the country.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 244 civilians were killed last month, including 58 children and 33 women.
It was the “lowest monthly death toll for civilians since the start of the Syrian revolution” in 2011, the Britain-based monitor says.
It comes after government troops secured a string of areas around Damascus, including the former rebel bastion of Eastern Ghouta in April as well as several towns to the capital’s northeast and south.
Those wins came with fierce bombing campaigns over several months that left hundreds dead and even more wounded, but ultimately ended in regime victory.
War fronts were relatively quiet in May, with the regime focused on ousting the Islamic State terror group from a pocket of southern Damascus.
But government bombardment was still behind the highest proportion of casualties, according to the Observatory.
Regime shelling and air strikes killed 77 civilians in May, it says, while 19 died in air raids by regime ally Russia.
Thirty-nine civilians lost their lives in air strikes by the US-led coalition fighting IS, while two were executed by the jihadists.
Syria’s war has killed a total of more than 350,000 people and displaced millions since it started in mid-March 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.
Italy swears in new ministers for populist government
ROME — Italy’s president swears in western Europe’s first populist government, featuring a mix of anti-establishment and right-wing ministers along with some experienced figures who have served in previous governments.
In the gilded Quirinale Palace, President Sergio Mattarella presides over the ceremony Friday in which 18 ministers — five of them women — take the oath of office to officially form a government coalition of the 5-Star Movement and the League party after three months of political deadlock.
The ceremony sets the stage for the formal handing over of the government later Friday. Confidence votes are scheduled on the new government in parliament next week.
Milan’s stock market is higher Friday after the deal was reached late Thursday.
Israel envoy says Abramovich now living in Israel, hopes he’ll invest in country
MOSCOW — Chelsea soccer club’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich has received Israeli citizenship and is now living there, Israel’s ambassador to Russia Gary Koren confirms Friday.
“He has completed the process as far as I know and has moved and is living in Israel and has received an Israeli passport,” Koren says in a Russian-language interview with the Echo of Moscow radio station.
Previously Israeli media reported that the Jewish billionaire had flown into Israel and received a national identity card.
Asked if the 51-year-old Abramovich is now Israel’s richest man, Koren says: “Well probably, I don’t have such a list.”
The Israeli diplomat stresses that Abramovich will receive a warm welcome, adding that he hopes the Russian will “invest at least part of his riches in our economy.”
“Maybe he will support Israeli [soccer] because in fact it’s in a pitiful state,” Koren says, citing Chelsea’s success and adding wistfully: “If only we had a [soccer] team at such a level.”
Ex-Shin Bet chief: PM didn’t order me to tap phones of Mossad, IDF heads
Former Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen says he was not ordered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to tap the phones of the Mossad and the IDF chief of staff.
“I usually don’t address in the media the professional discourse that takes place between the prime minister and the head of the Shin Bet,” Cohen says in a statement. “However, the reports in the media about instructions the prime minister supposedly gave to me when I was serving as Shin Bet head — to listen specifically to the phones of Chief of Staff [Benny] Gantz and Mossad head [Tamir] Pardo — are not correct.”
IDF vehicle fired at during Gaza clashes, grenade planted on border
Thousands of Palestinians take part in clashes on the Gaza border, burning tires and throwing rocks at Israeli troops, the army says.
An IDF vehicle was also fired at during the riots and a Palestinian who breached the border fence in northern Gaza planted a grenade that exploded. No Israeli soldiers are injured.
The army says soldiers are using riot dispersal means against the protesters and live fire in accordance with IDF regulations.
“The IDF is prepared for continued activity against attempts [to carry out] attacks and damage security infrastructure,” the army says.
תיעוד אירוע השלכת הרימון במרחב קרני והפרות הסדר האלימות שהתקיימו במהלך היום ברצועה: pic.twitter.com/8HmC8MkbEW
— צבא ההגנה לישראל (@idfonline) June 1, 2018
Volunteer medic said killed in Gaza clases
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says a 21-year-old female volunteer medic was killed in clashes along the border.
It also says 100 Palestinians were injured during the riots, 40 of them from live fire.
The ministry does not provide details on the circumstances of their injuries.