In Soleimani letter before his death, Tehran will never neglect Palestinian people
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IDF probes West Bank attempted shooting as terror attack

Army says gunman tried to fire at Israeli vehicle sitting in traffic near Hawara; driver then got out of car and fired twice in air, as suspect fled the scene

The scene of an attempted terror attack near the Hawara Junction in the northern West Bank on May 20, 2020. (Samaria Regional Council)
The scene of an attempted terror attack near the Hawara Junction in the northern West Bank on May 20, 2020. (Samaria Regional Council)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.

Brazil records over 1,000 deaths in single day

Brazil’s daily death toll has crossed 1,000 for the first time, with the country’s health ministry announcing 1,179 deaths on Tuesday, boosting the nation’s death toll to 17,971. Brazil has 271,628 confirmed cases, the third most in the world after Russia and the US.

US President Donald Trump says he is considering barring entry to flights coming from Brazil due to the spread of COVID-19 in Latin America’s hardest-hit country. It was the second time Trump has said he is studying such a measure.

Aerial view of cemetery workers unloading a coffin from a truck at an area where new graves have been dug at the Parque Taruma cemetery, during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in Manaus, Amazonas state, Brazil, on April 21, 2020. (MICHAEL DANTAS / AFP)

“I don’t want people coming in here and infecting our people. I don’t want people over there sick either. We’re helping Brazil with ventilators. We’re sending them ventilators,” Trump tells reporters during a cabinet meeting at the White House.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who like Trump has previously downplayed the disease and encouraged supporters to go back to work, neither responds to Trump’s remarks nor commented on the record daily figure.

Worldwide there have been 4.9 million confirmed infections and over 323,000 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

— Agencies

Synagogues, beaches officially reopen

Synagogues and beaches are reopening Wednesday morning after being shuttered for some two months as part of regulations meant to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Pictures on social media and in the Hebrew-language press show worshippers attending morning prayers.

“We missed this! Back to Synagogue, Halleluyah!” tweets former Likud MK Yehudah Glick from a prayer service.

Under the rules, synagogues may host up to 50 people, so long as they maintain a distance of two meters between each other and wear masks. They must also appoint a coronavirus coordinator, kind of like a sexton, but for a pathogen.

Beaches are also officially opening, though Israelis have not exactly been staying away amid a sweltering heatwave. Under new regulations, the beaches will need to keep “Purple Badge” hygienic standards, including regular disinfecting of public facilities, like bathrooms.

Israelis on the beach in Tel Aviv on May 16, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Museums okayed to reopen

The government also announces that museums may reopen, though hands-on activities or exhibits are out of bounds.

The museums must restrict entry to one person per 15 square meters of space.

Ministers also voted to allow those who can prove they can self-quarantine at home to do so, granted that they don’t take public transportation from their point of entry to their place of quarantine. Those who cannot meet the necessary qualifications must still go to quarantine hotels.

Many skeptical over Abbas voiding agreements with Israel, US

Mahmoud Abbas’s announcement that he is cancelling all agreements with Israel and the United States has many puzzling over the actual ramifications of the announcements and whether it means vital security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will be canceled.

Al-Jazeera notes that Abbas did not explicitly say he was dissolving the PA, a body that was formed by the Oslo Accords, one such agreement that has ostensibly been canceled.

“Mahmoud Abbas has announced I can’t remember how many times that he’s suspended this agreement or that agreement and the fact is that he’s never (actually) done that. He’s never (actually) suspended an agreement,” says anti-Israel activist Ali Abunimah to the station. “The reality is that the Palestinian Authority cannot move a salt shaker from one side of the table to another without the permission and help of the Israelis.”

Daniel Levy, the president of the US/Middle East Project, tells The Guardian that “the bar is very high,” for Abbas to back up his words with actions and show this is not another empty threat.

Former IDF general Alon Evyatat tells Army Radio that Abbas is waiting to see if Israel actually annexes before making an actual move.

“This is the sharpest we’ve heard Abbas regarding agreements — but he has not burned [the bridge],” he says.

 

 

 

PLO officials: Abbas not bluffing, security cooperation over

The New York Times quotes senior Palestinian officials saying PA President Mahmoud Abbas is not bluffing with his announcement that agreements with Israel and the US are canceled, effectively ending security cooperation.

Members of the Palestinian Authority security forces patrolling in the village of Beitunia in the central West Bank on April 6, 2020. (Credit: Wafa)

The paper cites Maj. Gen. Adnan Damiri, a spokesman for the Palestinian security services, saying that Palestinian officials understood from Abbas’s words that they are to no longer cooperate on security with Israel or the CIA.

“This decision is for immediate implementation,” Wasel Abu Yousef, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, tells the paper. “It is not to be studied or discussed in committees.”

Mahmoud al-Habbash, Abbas’s religious affairs adviser, tells the paper that “there’s no room for maneuvering.”

Security cooperation is seen as a vital mechanism for thwarting terror in the West Bank and while Abbas has threatened to cut it off in the past, he has never actually done so.

IDF troops shoot suspect crossing from Jordan

Israeli forces shot and injured a man spotted crossing from Jordan into Israel, according to Hebrew media reports.

The man was brought to an Israeli hospital and is listed in moderate condition, according to Channel 12 news.

Soldiers early Wednesday called for the man to halt, but when he did not fired at his legs, hitting him, according to the channel. It is not immediately clear what the suspect’s motivation was.

Israeli tourists in front of the border crossing into the Island of Peace, January 29, 2019. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

The incident occurred near Kibbutz Gesher, south of Tiberias and near what was until recently the so-called “Island of Peace” where Jordanians and Israelis both has nearly free access.

On Tuesday evening, the IDF said two Sudanese men crossed into Israel from Lebanon, ostensibly searching for work.

UN chief says Africa navigating virus crisis, but more help needed

United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres is warning that the coronavirus pandemic threatens Africa’s progress and could push millions into extreme poverty.

Guterres says in a video message launching a policy briefing on “The Impact of COVID-19 in Africa” that countries on the continent have responded swiftly to the crisis, “and as of now reported cases are lower than feared,” with more than 2,500 deaths.

But the UN chief says “much hangs in the balance,” and calls for “international action to strengthen Africa’s health systems, maintain food supplies, avoid a financial crisis, support education, protect jobs, keep households and businesses afloat, and cushion the continent against lost income and export earnings.”

To help address the devastating economic and social consequences of the pandemic, Guterres says Africa needs more than $200 billion and “an across-the-board debt standstill for African countries.”

The pandemic “will aggravate long-standing inequalities and heighten hunger, malnutrition and vulnerability to disease,” he warns.

— AP

Jordanian suspect accused of weapons smuggling

A brushfire has broken out near Kibbutz Gesher following the shooting of a man crossing the border from Egypt, the Kan news outlet reports.

The suspect is identified by the station and other media outlets as a Jordanian man, 49, who had been trying to smuggle weapons across the border.

Israelis cast doubts on seriousness of Abbas

Eitan Dangot, a former general who once headed the Defense Ministry body for coordinating with the Palestinians, joins the ranks of Israelis casting doubt over the practical ramifications of Mahmoud Abbas’s declaration ending agreements with Israel and the US.

“He’s just ratcheting up the threat level. Abbas won’t take a practical step, and is trying to put pressure on Israel,” he tells Army Radio.

An analyst for the station notes that the timing of the announcement — during Ramadan — and Abbas’s relatively jolly tone also do not line up with the seriousness of such a move.

However Nasser Laham, the head of the Palestinian Maan news agency, calls Abbas’s speech “historic” and “serious.”

“The man who signed the Oslo Accords 25 years ago is ending them and opening up all kinds of possibilities,” he tweets.

Iran claims hack attack on port failed to cause significant damage

Iran’s Tasnim news agency is quoting an unnamed official claiming that no major disruptions were caused at the Shahid Rajaee port near Bandar Abbas during a hacking attack attributed to Israel. earlier this month.

The official claims that civil defense units were able to mostly thwart the attack “due to their timely and effective response to the infilration attempt.”

The report, dated Tuesday, also quotes Mohammad Rastad, managing director of the Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran, saying that the hack didn’t damage any of its systems but “was only able to infiltrate and damage a number of private operating systems at the ports.”

According to the Washington Post, the attack caused “total disarray” at the port.

Satellite images of the port on May 11 and May 12 taken by Planet Labs and seen by The Times of Israel appeared to show a large number of ships idling off the port and a buildup of containers on dry land, days after the alleged Israeli cyberattack.

IDF says weapons seized during smuggling attempt on Jordan border

The IDF confirms an incident in which an suspected weapons smuggler was shot while trying to sneak into the country from Jordan.

The army says the suspect was lightly injured and is being treated in Israel. A second person managed to escape back to Jordan, according to the IDF.

“Nine pistols, six rifles, and other arms were seized,” a statement from a spokesperson says.

Fires that were sparked by flares have been brought under control and no troops are injured, the IDF says.

Iran arrests parkour athlete for rooftop kiss videos

An Iranian parkour athlete has been arrested for committing “vulgar” acts, police say, after he posted photos online of himself kissing a woman on Tehran’s rooftops.

“We are against this individual and his companion’s norm-breaking and vulgar behaviour and the police and the judiciary will certainly deal with them,” the capital’s police chief Hossein Rahimi is quoted as saying by semi-official news agency ISNA, without naming the person who was arrested.

The individual appeared to be Alireza Japalaghy, a Tehran-based parkour athlete with more than 133,000 followers on Instagram.

View this post on Instagram

همش‌ یه جا .

A post shared by @ alirezajapalaghy on

Japalaghy had posted a series of photos and videos last week showing him and an unidentified woman in revealing outfits hanging off buildings and kissing.

According to Rahimi, the woman in Japalaghy’s photos “will also be arrested soon.”

— AFP

Norwegian Law pulled from agenda over reported coalition row

A bill that would allow ministers to resign from the Knesset, thus allowing more lawmakers from a party slate to enter parliament, has been taken off the legislative agenda according to Hebrew media reports.

Issues regarding the so-called Norwegian Law within the coalition have seemingly delayed it moving forward, a day after the Knesset Arrangements Committee approved the bill for a plenum vote.

The law is included in the coalition deal signed last month between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White.

On Tuesday, opposition lawmakers revolted over the fact that a parallel bill they were promised would be moved forward at the same time, meant to increase unemployment benefits for small business owners who have been hurt by the coronavirus crisis, had been left on the cutting room floor.

Ministry shuts beach due to bad water

Mere hours after being given the go ahead to head back to the seashore, Israelis are being told to stay away from the popular Dor Beach south of Haifa.

The Health Ministry says the beach is being shut due to irregular results from a test of the water quality, without elaborating.

 

Opposition praises removal of costly Norwegian law

The Yesh Atid-Telem faction is praising the removal of the Norwegian Law from the Knesset agenda.

“Whether it’s because of disagreements within the coalition, or someone in this disconnected government realized the travails of the public, it’s good that the Norwegian Law has been taken off the table.”

According to the Ynet news site, passing the law would allow 12 more lawmakers into the Knesset from government parties, and cost the government NIS 1.7 million ($480,000) per person per year.

Should the government last the full four years (it’s set to last for three years, but the law allows for a one-year extension), it would mean an extra NIS 81.6 million ($23.4 million) to pay for the extra lawmakers and their parliamentary activities.

Israeli hack of Iranian port was minor, intended only to send message — report

Despite what the Washington Post reported as a massive disruption to Iran’s Shahid Rajaee port, and Israeli reports that the port is the most important terminal for the Islamic Republic, the New York Times reports that the damage caused by an alleged Israeli hack on the site was minor — and by design.

“The attack on the computer systems at the Shahid Rajaee port in the strategically important Strait of Hormuz was limited in scope, creating traffic jams of delivery trucks and some delays in shipments, but causing no substantial or lasting damage,” the Times reports.

According to the report, the port has been hampered by US-led sanctions on Iran and only handles 20 ships a month at most.

The Times says the attack, in retaliation for a minor attack on Israeli water infrastructure, was meant to send a message more than to do actual damage, and Israeli officials originally did not even think it warranted a response.

According to the report, the retaliation was pushed by outgoing defense minister Naftali Bennett, who also ordered that it be leaked to international media.

 

Outrage after teacher makes girl remove dress in school

New Education Minister Yoav Gallant is vowing to investigate an incident in which a young girl was told to take off her dress in school and was left for the rest of the day in a T-shirt and underwear.

The incident occurred at a Petah Tikva elementary after the girl’s teacher objected to the sleeveless dress as inappropriate and had her change into just a T-shirt.

The incident draws shock and criticism of the teacher’s behavior after a relative posts about the incident on social media.

The girl’s mother tells Kan that the girl has language troubles, but the teacher should have guided her. She says her daughter was embarrassed by the incident and does not want to return to school.

She also says that the teacher would not let her wear her own T-shirt above the dress, because it does not have the school logo on it, though it’s unclear why she did not wear the shirt below the dress, or the T-shirt with the school logo she was given above the dress.

“I was sure she would put the shirt over the dress, but instead she asked the girl to go to the bathroom, take off her dress and put on the shirt – and so the girl was left in just the shirt and her underwear. When she returned from the bathroom [the teacher] did not say that there was anything was wrong [with her apparel] and let her stay in her underwear and the T-shirt for the rest of the day,” the mother tells Ynet.

An attorney representing the family says a police complaint has been filed.

EU tells Palestinians to check if funds are going to terrorists

A senior European Union official says he asked the bloc’s representative in Israel and the Palestinian territories to investigate whether any EU funds are benefiting terrorists or their supporters.

“I asked both the heads of delegations in Tel Aviv but also in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, they will have to look deep, and if there is any concern — any concern — we will act immediately,” Olivér Várhelyi, the Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, says at a meeting of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

“There is no terror financing from EU funds, as long as there are EU funds that will not be happening, this will not be tolerated, and if it happens, it will be rectified. And I will see to it myself that it is done and delivered,” adds Várhelyi, a Hungarian national.

Earlier this month, Brussels and Jerusalem argued over the EU’s ostensible funding of terrorists and their supporters, after the bloc’s envoy to the Palestinian territories said in a letter that individuals affiliated with or supportive of terrorists organizations are not automatically ineligible for EU support. The EU insists that it careful vets all recipient of aid and makes sure no funds are going to supporters of terrorism.

— Raphael Ahren

Sex dolls in stands blow up in Seoul soccer’s face

As Israeli soccer readies to restart its season without fans in the stands, it may want to avoid mistakes made by FC Seoul, which is facing sanctions over its decision to stock its bleachers with sex dolls.

About 25 mannequins were supplied by a local company and dressed in FC Seoul colors and masks. The Yonhap news agency reported that fans posted suspicions about the life-size dolls on social media during the match and one banner showed the names of an adult toy manufacturer and of models who had inspired those dolls.

In this May 17, 2020 photo, cheering mannequins are installed at the empty spectators’ seats before the start of soccer match between FC Seoul and Gwangju FC at the Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul, South Korea. (Ryu Young-suk/Yonhap via AP)

Such advertising is in breach of the competition’s rules, and K-League officials have referred the matter to a disciplinary committee.

If found guilty, FC Seoul could be fined about $4,000 or have points deducted. The club could also be punished for damaging the prestige of the league at a time when it had been basking in unprecedented international attention.

Israel may want to instead look to Borussia Mönchengladbach, which filled its stands with cardboard cutouts of fans. Over 12,000 fans paid 19 euros (NIS 73) a pop to have their likeness watch the game for them.

Israeli soccer is set to restart on May 29.

— with AP

No new coronavirus figures reported by ministry

The Health Ministry has yet to publish figures showing new coronavirus infections, deaths and other data as of Wednesday morning.

The ministry has consistently published numbers twice a day since mid-March, though it has on occasion missed an update, usually in the evening.

Though Israel has seen daily cases dwindle, it has still recorded dozens of new infections each day, and deaths have continued to climb. As of Tuesday night, there were 16,659 infections and 278 deaths. The number of active cases has dropped below 3,000.

It’s unclear if the lack of update is due to a change in policy or an oversight.

Brush fire shuts major highway, trains near Tel Aviv

Route 6, a major north-south artery, has been shut down in both directions near Rosh Ha’ayin as firefighters battle a large blaze that broke out nearby.

Train service has also been shut down in the area, east of Tel Aviv.

The Israel Fire Service says five squads are fighting the brush fire near an old train station and the Tel Afek Fortress.

Female students protest discriminatory shorts ban in school

A protest against a ban on high school girls wearing shorts to class is growing, with hundreds of students wearing the prohibited items and being sent home, the Ynet news site reports.

On Sunday, the first day back at school, several girls in one Tel Aviv-area school were sent home for wearing shorts. On Wednesday, schools across the country see protests by shorts-sporting girls in high schools and middle schools demanding equality in dress, especially during a sweltering heat wave.

“Why let him in, he’s wearing the same shorts,” students in Modiin call out. (It sounds better in Hebrew).

The protests, coupled with an affair in which a young girl was made to stay in school in her underwear rather than wear a sleeveless dress, has brought the dress code issue to the fore.

Appearing to back the protest, Meretz party leader Nitzan Horowitz says on Twitter that “this is coercion of girls only, due to a view of women needing to be more ‘modest.’ Why? This all comes from deep discrimination against women. Hegemony and control.”

Toddler falls from moving vehicle, in moderate condition

An 18-month-old child has been hospitalized after falling from a moving vehicle in Ashdod.

The toddler is listed in moderate but stable condition with bruising to his body.

In August 2018, a toddler fell from a car moving through an intersection in the same city. In that incident, caught on camera, the child suffered only minor scratches.

Girl wasn’t in school in underwear, just very short shorts — principal

The principal of a school in Petah Tikva is pushing back after being criticized for seemingly forcing a girl to set in class in her underwear after she came to school in a sleeveless dress.

The principal tells the station that the girl was not in her underwear, but rather very short shorts.

The station also reports, citing “sources close to the principal,” that the teacher did not notice anything strange, nor did any of the other students mock her, since short shorts are normal at the school.

Jerusalem Day march to be replaced with 700-person chain around Old City

Police and organizers have come to an agreement on holding a smaller, more coronavirus-friendly Jerusalem Day march on Thursday.

The day is usually marked by a right-wing march through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter ending at the Western Wall, and has in the past been blamed for increased tensions between Jews and Arabs.

According to the agreement, instead of a march through the Old City’s narrow warren of streets, 700 people will be allowed to form a human chain around many of the Old City gates.

Young national-religious men take part in the Jerusalem Day Flag Dance at the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem on May 13, 2018. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

In addition, a car caravan will drive around Jerusalem and circle the Old City. The events will culminate in a ceremony at the Western Wall attended by 450 people who register in advance.

Organizers had sought permission for a 3,000 person human chain, with two meters between links, stretching from the center of western Jerusalem through the Old City.

The agreement comes after a High Court hearing on the matter.

Jerusalem Day marks the anniversary of Israel’s capture of the eastern half of the city from Jordan in 1967.

Israel still sizzling, ACs working on overdrive

Temperatures are soaring yet again, with Israeli cranking up the air conditioning to keep cool.

The Jordan Valley is again seeing temperatures of 46º (115º F) and areas of the inland plain are baking under temperatures between 40º (104º F) and 42º (107.6º F).

Figures posted by the electric company show that usage is higher than at any other point excluding Tuesday afternoon’s all-time day record. According to reports, usage over the last three days has been higher than ever.

Israel will keep sweating under the sun’s oppressive rays until mid-day Friday, when the week-long heat wave is expected to mercifully break.

Slight improvement in condition of soldier seriously injured in West Bank ramming

Doctors at the Soroka Medical Center report a slight improvement in the condition of the soldier who was seriously injured in a car ramming attack last week in the southern West Bank.

Shadi Ibrahim has been weaned off anesthesia, is awake and his condition has stabilized, the hospital says, adding that he remains in the ICU.

Doctors were forced to amputate one of his legs last week due to his extensive injuries.

Israel Katz brings on his Transportation Ministry director for same post at Finance Ministry

Finance Minister Israel Katz has appointed the former director of the Transportation Ministry he headed in the last government to the same position in his new office.

Keren Terner Eyal made headlines last week when then incoming transportation minister Miri Regev informed her while she was still on maternity leave that she would be removed from the post come Sunday.

Former transportation minister Israel Katz appointed Terner Eyal to the position in 2016, making her the first woman to hold the office. She gave birth to her third child a month ago.

She will be the second ever female director of the Finance Ministry.

Court rejects Netanyahu’s request to skip opening of his trial

The Jerusalem District Court has rejected a request from Prime Minister Benjamin  Netanyahu tat he be allowed to skip the opening hearing of his criminal trial this coming Sunday.

The court argues that the law requires defendants to be present for the readout of the charges against them.

“This is the case in every criminal trial, and so too in the current criminal procedure. We have not found that there is any reason for the applicant to justify an exception to this rule,” the judges write.

The court dismisses Netanyahu’s argument that he has already read and understands the charges against him, and therefore does not need to announce this publicly in court. The judges assert that this is part of the procedure in any case, and they must hear him say this aloud.

The judges also dismiss the prime minister’s claim that with his large security detail, the court won’t be able to adhere to the Health Ministry’s social distancing guidelines if he is indeed required to attend the trial. They write that they have instructed the relevant authorities to prepare and that there will be no issue with following the guidelines.

Report: Netanyahu confidants say PM will attend trial after court compels him to do so

Channel 12 reports that “Netanyahu confidants” say the prime minister will attend the opening hearing of his criminal trial next week after the Jerusalem District Court rejects his request to skip the hearing.

Settler group adopts resolution opposing major tenets of Trump peace plan

In what is effectively a gesture against the Trump peace plan, the Yesha Council umbrella group of settlement mayors has adopted a series of principles that include supporting West Bank annexation while vehemently opposing the establishment of any Palestinian state.

The Trump plan, which was released last January, envisions Israel annexing roughly 30% of the West Bank and provides a list of conditions for the establishment of a Palestinian state on the remaining land beyond the Green Line.

The council convened for the vote last week in the Ma’ale Adumim city settlement, but publicized the decision today.

A spokesman for the Yesha Council tells The Times of Israel that 15 of the 24 mayors participated in the session and that the measure passed by a large majority. He declined to provide the exact numbers of the vote, saying the body never reveals such numbers.

The resolution passed included six tenets:

1. The Yesha Council welcomes the positive change in the US policy towards [West Bank] settlement.

2. The Yesha Council calls on the new government and the Knesset to act to apply sovereignty in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley as soon as possible.

3. Applying sovereignty is the responsibility of the State of Israel only (i.e. not something that requires American approval).

4. The Yesha Council opposes any recognition or agreement of any kind to the establish a Palestinian state.

5. The Yesha Council will not agree to a construction freeze in [settlements] or restrictions on construction in any locality.

6. The Yesha Council does not accept any map which creates isolated  enclaves that will hamper their future development.

In a statement reflecting on the adopted resolution, Yesha Council chairman David Elhayani says, “For years, the Yesha Council has been working to apply sovereignty [in the West Bank], and we’ve gone from a situation in which almost no one talked about the subject and did not know it, to the unprecedented situation where the prime minister and the US president discuss an agreement that includes sovereignty.”

“However, we will not agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the heart of the Land of Israel.

“If the result of the [Trump] agreement is to establish a terror state in Judea and Samaria (West Bank), include the creation of isolated enclaves and a freeze on construction, we are ready to give up sovereignty, despite all the hard work and resources we have invested in the issue in recent years,” Elhayani adds.

The Trump plan allows Israel to continue building within the borders of existing settlements, while barring construction in the areas that are earmarked for a possible Palestinian state.

In Soleimani letter before his death, Tehran will never neglect Palestinian people

Before his assassination by the US in Janaury, Islamic Revolution Guards Corps commander Qassem Soleimani wrote to senior Hamas leader Mohammed Deif that Tehran would continue supporting “Palestine despite all pressures and sanctions,” in a letter published by the Hezbollah-affiliated al-Mayadeen news channel.

“Everyone should rest assured that no matter how much pressures increase and sanctions are intensified, the Islamic Republic of Iran will not abandon Palestine and the Palestinian people,” Soleimani wrote.

“Defending Palestine is an honor for the Islamic Republic of Iran and Iran will not renounce and give up its duty for the benefit of the world. Palestinians are our friends, and enemies of Palestine are our enemies and this is and will be our policy,” he added.

Ahead of Quds Day, Iranian president vows to ‘liberate Palestinian lands’

In a cabinet meeting address ahead of the country’s Quds Day on Friday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says, “Quds will not be forgotten. Quds will not remain under occupation of oppressors.”

“The Palestinian lands will one day be liberated. We do not accept and tolerate this cruelty, oppression and aggression at all. We will commemorate the highly important Quds Day,” the Fars news agency quotes him as having said.

US hits top Iranian officials with sanctions for rights abuses

The US Treasury Department announces that it has issued a fresh round of sanctions against nine senior Iranian officials, including Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli.

The sanctions also target three entities — a pair of prisons and a law enforcement group — according to a notice posted on the Treasury Department’s website.

— with AFP

Four days before start of trial, PM tweets articles calling for AG’s ouster

Just four days ahead of the opening of his corruption trial, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publishes a pair of tweets linking to articles in Israel Hayom that are highly critical of the attorney general who indicted him.

One article claims the prosecution has set up the prime minister and the other calls on Avichai Mandelblit to either release the recordings from the Harpaz Affair or resign.

WATCH: In Arabic address, Likud Knesset speaker sends holiday greetings to Muslim citizens

In an Arabic address earlier today in the Knesset plenum, Speaker Yariv Levin sends warm holiday greetings to the country’s Muslim citizens ahead of Eid al-Fitr which starts on Saturday night.

PA cabinet to meet tonight to discuss implementation of Abbas declaration

The Palestinian Authority cabinet of Ministers will convene for an emergency session at 9:30 p.m. to discuss the implementation of the declaration made by President Mahmoud Abbas last night that the PA was no longer obligated by any of its agreements with Israel and the US, including security cooperation, PA government spokesman Ibrahim Milhim says.

Gaza health ministry reports 7 new virus cases, bringing total in enclave to 30

The Gaza health ministry announces seven new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number in the coastal enclave to 30.

All seven of the patients had been recent arrivals in the strip and had been staying at quarantine facilities on the border when they were diagnosed.

The number of cases in Palestinian areas of the West Bank remains at 368, the PA health ministry says.

Russian FM relays Moscow’s strong opposition to annexation to Israeli counterpart

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov relayed Moscow’s strong objection to the Israeli government’s West Bank annexation plans in a conversation with his counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi, Channel 13 reports.

 

Responding to Khamenei’s ‘final solution,’ PM warns those who threaten Israel put selves at risk

Responding to a poster published by Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei envisioning a “final solution”  in which Palestine is liberated, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweets, “Khamenei’s threats to carry out “The Final Solution” against Israel bring to mind the Nazi ‘Final Solution’ plan to annihilate the Jewish People. He should know that any regime that threatens the destruction of the State of Israel faces a similar danger.”

Pompeo says he hopes security coordination will continue despite Abbas announcement

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that he hopes Israeli-Palestinian security coordination will continue despite a declaration to the contrary last night by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“We hope the Palestinian leadership will see that it is in the interest of their people [for coordination to continue],” Pompeo says in a press conference.

El Al announces extension of flight freeze until June 20

El Al Airlines announces that it is extending its freeze on flights until June 20 due to the ongoing restrictions on travel.

AG refutes claim he’s appointed himself state prosecutor

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit dismisses claims that he has appointed himself state prosecutor, saying that he is only filling the role in the interim.

Responding to a High Court petition against his filling of the role, Mandelblit says he is following the agreement that was reached after the most recent state prosecutor Shai Nitzan stepped down last December. Then, Mandelblit took on the responsibilities of Nitzan’s office until an interim state prosecutor was appointed.

Dan Eldad served in the post for 12 weeks from February to the beginning of May at which point Mandelblit again began assuming the duties of the position until a permanent appointment is made.

On Tuesday, new Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn said he would initially hold off on appointing a new acting state attorney, a position that was at the center of a feud between his predecessor Amir Ohana and Mandelblit.

Under the coalition deal between Blue and White and Likud, the parties agreed to hold off for six months on making senior appointments that require government approval. They later agreed to scale that back to 100 days after criticism from the High Court of Justice.

UN envoy: Abbas announcement ‘a desperate cry for help’

UN Middle East envoy Nikolay Mladenov characterizes as a “desperate cry for help” PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s announcement last night that Ramallah is no longer beholden to signed agreements with the US and Israel because of the latter’s annexation plans.

“If I may speak openly and very frankly on the issue, whatever our individual assessments of the Palestinian reaction to the Israeli threat of annexation may be, it is certainly one thing – it is a desperate cry for help. It is a call for immediate action. It is a cry for help from a generation of a leadership that has invested its life in building institutions and preparing for statehood for over a quarter of a century,” Mladenov says during a Security Council briefing.

Pompeo denies retaliation but won’t explain watchdog ouster

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo adamantly denies that he recommended firing the State Department’s independent watchdog in retaliation for investigations into Pompeo’s conduct as America’s top diplomat. But Pompeo again declined to provide specific reasons for Steve Linick’s dismissal as inspector general.

Pompeo takes an unusually harsh shot at the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez. Pompeo accuses the senator’s office of being behind allegations that Linick’s ouster was motivated by revenge. Pompeo says he would not take ethics lessons from Menendez, who was once prosecuted by the Justice Department on corruption charges, but his trial ended in a hung jury and prosecutors decided in early 2018 not to retry him.

“I don’t get my ethics advice from Sen. Menendez,” he says.

Menendez responds by saying Pompeo’s use of “diversion tactics by attempting to smear me is as predictable as it is shameful.”

He says in a statement that Pompeo faced an investigation “into this improper firing and into his attempt to cover up his inappropriate and possibly illegal actions,” and that it was no surprise Pompeo was lashing out against lawmakers for their congressional oversight.

Pompeo does acknowledge that he was aware of an investigation into his decision last year to bypass congressional objections to approve a multibillion-dollar arms sale to Saudi Arabia because he had answered written questions about it posed by Linick’s office, but Pompeo maintains he did not know the scope or scale of the investigation.

Trump fired Linick late on Friday in what congressional aides have suggested was a move to preempt investigations into Pompeo’s personal conduct or possible impropriety in the Saudi arms sale. Pompeo, who previously told The Washington Post that Linick had been “undermining” the State Department’s work, said he had recommended Linick’s removal, but refused to cite specific reasons.

— AP

11 new virus cases in last day, as confirmed case tally climbs to 16,665

The Health Ministry announces that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has risen to 16,665, an increase of 11 over the past 24 hours.

The country’s death toll from COVID-19 stands at 279, up one since last night.

According to the Health Ministry, 46 people infected with COVID-19 were in serious condition, 40 of whom were on ventilators.

Another 36 people are in moderate condition and the rest have mild symptoms.

So far, 13,574 people have recovered from the virus, while 2,812 are still sick; 3,504 tests have been conducted today, and 6,938 yesterday.

Clarifying his ‘final solution’ poster, Khamenei says he’s not for eliminating Jews… just Israel

Clarifying a poster he publicized earlier on social media which calls for freeing Palestine through a “final solution,” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei now writes that he’s not calling to eliminate the Jews, just the State of Israel.

Or, as he puts it, “the Zionist regime.” He adds: “it will happen.”

Report: Russia trying to organize US-Palestinian summit to jumpstart ties

Russia is working on organizing a meeting between US and Palestinian officials in Geneva in the coming weeks in order to jumpstart ties between Washington and Ramallah which have all but dissipated in the Trump era, Channel 13 reports.

The goal of the meeting is to allow the Palestinian Authority the opportunity to offer changes to the Trump peace plan and prevent an escalation on the ground.

The report cites Western diplomatic officials who say the UN and the EU are involved in the Russian effort and see it as an opportunity to prevent the implementation of Israeli plans to annex the West Bank.

“The only way to prevent annexation is to renew relations between the Palestinians and the American administration,” a Western diplomat tells Channel 13.

In order to overcome the two-and-a-half-year Palestinian boycott of the Trump administration, the Russians are proposing that a mini-summit, which will also be attended by representatives from the Quartet — the EU, the UN, the US and Russia — addition to representatives from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the Palestinians. It is not clear yet whether Israel will also be invited to the summit, Channel 13 reports.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and US peace envoy Avi Berkowitz spoke by phone Tuesday to discuss the proposed meeting. Sources familiar with the call tell Channel 13 that Berkowitz did not reject the initiative out of hand, but said the condition for American participation would be that the meeting would deal with the Trump plan and that the Palestinians should come with alterations they’d like to see be made to it.

Bogdanov also phoned PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat yesterday to discuss the initiative. Erekat did not reject the idea either, but also did not give a definitive answer whether the PA would attend such a summit

Doctor says virus behaving ‘differently’ in northeast China patients

In an indication that the coronavirus is adapting as it spreads throughout the world, a prominent doctor tells Reuters that he’s noticed that COVID-19 is behaving differently in patients in northeast China than it had in patients in other parts of the country.

After largely gaining control of the virus, a new cluster of cases has sprouted in recent weeks in the northeast border provinces of Heilongjiang and Jilin.

The National Health Commission’s Qiu Haibo tells Reuters that the average incubation period among northeastern China virus patients was longer than that of Wuhan patients.

“This causes a problem, as they don’t have any symptoms. So when they gather with their families they don’t care about this issue and we see family cluster infections,” Reuters quotes Qiu as having told state broadcaster CCTV.

33-year-old becomes Israel’s latest coronavirus fatality

Avishalom Rosilio became one of Israel’s youngest coronavirus fatalities, succumbing to COVID-19 at the age of 33 at Tel Hashomer Hospital.

Rosilio was a native of Migdal Haemek and a cancer survivor.

He had been hospitalized for almost a month and had been placed on a ventilator. His condition had briefly improved but his symptoms returned.

Rosilio leaves behind a wife and baby son.

In phone call, Gantz and British FM discuss regional developments

Defense Minister Benny Gantz says he spoke on the phone with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab about the “special relationship” between Israel and the UK.

“We discussed the coronavirus challenges, recent developments in the Middle East, as well as our cooperation in the international area aimed at promoting stability and peace in the region, while ensuring Israel’s security,” Gantz adds in a tweet.

Justice Ministry says prosecutor in PM corruption trial to get security detail

The Justice Ministry, upon recommendation from the police, says it plans to assign a security detail to deputy state prosecutor Liat Ben Ari, who is the lead prosecutor in the Netanyahu corruption trial, Haaretz reports.

The Justice Ministry is also looking into the possibility of allowing Ben Ari to enter Sunday’s hearing using the judge’s entrance in order to better ensure her safety.

Disputing NYT report, Channel 13 insists attack on Iranian port was indeed severe

Disputing an earlier New York Times report, Channel 13 insists that the strike on an Iranian port that was attributed to Israel was more serious than what has been conveyed.

Computer systems at Shahid Rajaee port are still not back up, the network says.

Earlier Tuesday, the Times reports that Israel’s cyberattack on Iran’s largest port earlier this month, in fact, caused only minor damage — and by design.

“The attack on the computer systems at the Shahid Rajaee port in the strategically important Strait of Hormuz was limited in scope, creating traffic jams of delivery trucks and some delays in shipments, but causing no substantial or lasting damage,” the report said.

Interior Minister approves return of 400 foreign caretakers

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri announces that he has approved the return of 400 foreign workers who work in nursing homes or are homecare providers. They had been stranded abroad due to coronavirus travel restrictions.

The foreign workers will be allowed into the country but will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days before returning to work.

Footage shows Palestinian man torching field outside settlement

As authorities probe a number of fires that have ravaged the West Bank this week during the ongoing heatwave, the Kan public broadcaster publishes footage of a Palestinian man getting out of his car on a road outside the Shiloh settlement and proceeding to ignite a brushfire before driving away.

Police says it can’t ‘determine exact cost’ of security for anti-Zionist rabbi visit

Israel Police says it does not know how much it spent in securing the visit of the anti-Zionist Satmar Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum last December.

This was the response given by police to a query from the Shakuf transparency group that asked authorities to reveal the costs of the police convoy that accompanied Teitelbaum throughout the ten-day trip.

“After having taken reasonable measures, it became clear that it would not be possible for us to determine the exact cost of securing the convoy and the cost of the events in which the Satmar rabbi participated,” police say in their response the query, rejecting the FOI request

IDF probes West Bank attempted shooting as terror attack

The IDF says it has opened an investigation into an attempted shooting attack on an Israeli vehicle by a Palestinian man near the Hawara Junction in the northern West Bank.

According to witnesses, the Palestinian man approached the Israeli vehicle with three people inside — the driver and two hitchhikers in the back — pointed his rifle and tried to fire, the army says.

The shooter’s gun jammed, giving the driver time to get out of the car and confront the attacker, firing twice in the air.

The suspect managed to flee the scene and the IDF has launched a manhunt.

No one was injured as a result of the incident, the army says.

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In Soleimani letter before his death, Tehran will never neglect Palestinian people

Before his assassination by the US in Janaury, Islamic Revolution Guards Corps commander Qassem Soleimani wrote to senior Hamas leader Mohammed Deif that Tehran would continue supporting “Palestine despite all pressures and sanctions,” in a letter published by the Hezbollah-affiliated al-Mayadeen news channel.

“Everyone should rest assured that no matter how much pressures increase and sanctions are intensified, the Islamic Republic of Iran will not abandon Palestine and the Palestinian people,” Soleimani wrote.

“Defending Palestine is an honor for the Islamic Republic of Iran and Iran will not renounce and give up its duty for the benefit of the world. Palestinians are our friends, and enemies of Palestine are our enemies and this is and will be our policy,” he added.