Iran, Hamas agree to ‘confront dangers’ of US peace plan
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White House said to inform Israel it won’t be invited to Bahrain meet

US officials quoted as saying Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, other government representatives won’t attend conference next week to keep gathering focused on economic issues

Jason Greenblatt, left, meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to Jerusalem, March 13, 2017. (Government Press Office)
Jason Greenblatt, left, meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to Jerusalem, March 13, 2017. (Government Press Office)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s developments as they unfolded.

Qatari envoys in Gaza to distribute cash funds

Gulf state Qatar is set to distribute more than $10 million in aid to thousands of cash-strapped Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, a Qatari official says on Monday.

The money was brought into the Hamas-controlled enclave Sunday evening by the Qatari ambassador to Gaza and is expected to be distributed Monday or Tuesday, the official says on condition of anonymity.

More than 100,000 families will each receive payments of $100, he adds.

Disbursement of the funds from post offices had yet to begin Monday lunchtime.

Another $15 million would be provided for infrastructure and cash-for-work projects, the official says.

AFP

Rivlin, Netanyahu reiterate importance of rule of law

President Reuven Rivlin is rebuking newly appointed Justice Minister Amir Ohana for suggesting the government is not always required to honor High Court rulings.

“It is our obligation to respect the laws of the state and the authorities of its branches, including in the comments by our elected officials,” says the president.

After appearing to suggest in a TV interview Wednesday that not all court rulings need be adhered to, Ohana scrambled to clarify he would respect High Court decisions. Nevertheless, his remarks were sharply rebuffed Thursday by Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Court decisions are binding upon everyone,” Netanyahu wrote on his personal Twitter account on Thursday.

Netanyahu on Monday also echoes Rivlin’s remark.

The prime minister says he agrees with Rivlin “about the centrality of the court and I don’t forget its importance for a moment.”

“Its rulings are binding upon all,” adds Netanyahu.

PM urges world to reimpose sanctions if Iran enriches uranium beyond deal limits

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vows Israel will not let Iran obtain a nuclear weapon, as Tehran says it will break the uranium stockpile limit set by the nuclear deal with world powers in the next 10 days.

“Today Iran threatened to enrich its uranium beyond the limits of the nuclear deal — this does not surprise us,” says Netanyahu. “In the event it acts upon its threats and violates the nuclear deal, the international community must immediately impose the sanctions that were set previously. Israel will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.”

Under terms of the nuclear deal, Iran can keep a stockpile of no more than 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of low-enriched uranium. A spokesperson for the atomic agency said that given Iran’s recent decision to quadruple its production of low-enriched uranium, it would pass the 300-kilogram limit on Thursday, July 27.

with AP

UAE papers urge calm after oil tanker attacks

Editorials in English-language newspapers in the United Arab Emirates are urging calm and diplomacy after a further spike in tensions following last week’s attack on oil tankers near the Persian Gulf.

Abu Dhabi’s The National says a diplomatic resolution with Iran is still possible, and while it quotes neighboring Saudi Arabia’s crown prince as saying that Iran was behind the first attacks on oil tankers in the region last month, the editorial says investigations are still ongoing and “their source is yet to be confirmed.”

It says the UAE has been calling for de-escalation and believes “diplomacy must always come first.”

Dubai’s Gulf News similarly stresses that “all the major players, including Iran, do not want war.”

It says that “because of skyrocketing tensions, it is incumbent that all parties exercise caution and restraint going forward.”

AP

Lebanon arrests Syrian IS suspect planning attacks on churches, Shiite sites

Lebanon says Monday it arrested a Syrian suspected of links to the Islamic State group who was plotting attacks on Christian and Shiite sites in the south of the country.

The Internal Security Forces (ISF) says they “tracked down and identified a man in southern Lebanon who actively publishes IS propaganda on social media networks and recruits new members” for the jihadist group.

The suspect, a 20-year-old Syrian national from the south Lebanon village of Yater, was in contact with people abroad who helped him set up social networking sites to disseminate IS propaganda, it says in a statement.

He also used the sites to discuss plans to carry out IS attacks on churches — inspired by the deadly Easter bombings in Sri Lanka — and Shiite religious centers, it adds.

According to the ISF, the suspect had shared an IS video published in April purporting to show the group’s supremo Abu Bakr al Baghdadi hailing the Sri Lanka bombings.

He also downloaded a manual compiled by followers of the jihadist group instructing readers on how to build explosives, the statement adds.

AFP

Democrat senator says leaving nuclear deal was ‘foolish’

A US senator says Iran’s decision to break its uranium stockpile limit under the 2015 nuclear deal puts his country in a bind.

Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat and vocal opponent of President Donald Trump, says on Monday that Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 accord curbing Iran’s nuclear powers was “foolish.”

Iran announced today it would break the uranium stockpile limit set by the nuclear deal by Iran and world powers in the next 10 days.

Leahy says that it’s “harder for us to say much now when we were foolish enough to pull out of the agreement.” He speaks to The Associated Press at the Paris Air Show.

The nuclear deal steadily has unraveled since the Trump administration pulled America out of the accord last year and re-imposed tough economic sanctions on Iran.

AP

Liberman: Rape of young girl ‘terrorism,’ attacker should get death penalty

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman calls for the death penalty for the Palestinian school janitor accused of raping a seven-year-old Israeli girl.

“The rape of the seven-year-old girl caused me deep shock,” writes the former defense minister on Facebook. “It’s not pedophilia, it’s pure terrorism, one of the most serious cases I’ve heard of in the past few years.”

“This is precisely the kind of case in which I would not hesitate to demand from the court to issue the death penalty for the heinous terrorist. It’s a shame Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to torpedo the death penalty for terrorists bill despite his written and public commitment [to pass the law].”

Although the death penalty formally exists in Israeli law, it has only ever been used once — in 1962 in the case of Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Holocaust. It is technically allowed in cases of high treason, as well as in certain circumstances under the martial law that applies within the IDF and in the West Bank, but currently requires a unanimous decision from a panel of three judges, and has never been implemented.

Legislation that would have expanded the use of the death penalty in terror cases failed to advance late last year amid political wrangling after Liberman, who had been pushing the bill, left the coalition.

Netanyahu, who as defense minister oversees the military prosecution, backed the death penalty bill in November. He also called for the death penalty after a 2017 terror attack in which several members of a family were knifed to death inside their home in the West Bank settlement of Halamish.

Police have described the motive in the rape of the young girl as likely criminal.

Netanyahu condemns ‘shocking’ rape of Israeli girl

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemns the rape of a young Israeli girl, allegedly by the Palestinian school cleaner, in a West Bank settlement.

“The shocking rape of a young girl shakes all of our hearts,” says Netanyahu, sending well-wishes to the seven-year-old girl’s family, a day after an indictment was handed down.

He urges law enforcement to seek the toughest penalties possible against “whoever is responsible for this terrible act.”

‘Explosion’ near China-North Korea border causes small quake

A “suspected explosion” near the China-North Korean border caused a small earthquake on Monday, Chinese seismology authorities say, less than an hour after news broke about Chinese President Xi Jinping’s upcoming trip to Pyongyang.

According to the China Earthquake Networks Center, the 1.3-magnitude earthquake occurs the 19:38 (GMT 11:38) in Hunchun city in northeastern Jilin province with a zero-meter depth.

AFP

Iran claims CIA agents arrested as ‘large US cyber espionage network’ busted

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council secretary Ali Shamkhani is claiming CIA agents were recently arrested when authorities busted a “large US cyber espionage network,” according to Reuters.

Details on the alleged operation are scant, though it was apparently uncovered through intelligence-sharing between Iran and its allies.

French-Israeli billionaire Drahi acquires Sotheby’s in $3.7 billion deal

French-Israeli telecoms and media mogul Patrick Drahi is acquiring Sotheby’s auction house, one of the world’s biggest art brokers, in a $3.7 billion deal, the British-founded company announces.

Drahi, the billionaire head of the Altice empire which owns Virgin Mobile and several French media houses including BFM news channel and Liberation newspaper, is paying $57 per share to acquire Sotheby’s through his company BidFair USA, the art house says.

The deal sees Sotheby’s return to private ownership after 31 years as a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange.

Drahi’s offer represents a 61 percent increase over Sotheby’s closing price on Friday.

“Known for his commitment to innovation and ingenuity, Patrick founded and leads some of the most successful telecommunications, media and digital companies in the world,” Tad Smith, Sotheby’s CEO, says in the statement.

“This acquisition will provide Sotheby’s with the opportunity to accelerate the successful program of growth initiatives of the past several years in a more flexible private environment,” he adds.

AFP

Altice group’s Chairman Patrick Drahi poses for photographers at the Scopus Awards of the French Friends of the Hebrew University, in Paris, France on March 18, 2015. (AP/Thibault Camus, File)

Judge rejects request to amend Sara Netanyahu verdict

A Jerusalem judge rejects a request by district prosecutors to correct what they said was an error in the verdict of Sara Netanyahu, who was convicted the previous day of illegally procuring catering services at the Prime Minister’s Residence.

The meals were not ordered to provide food for hosted dignitaries, as the verdict currently states, but rather primarily to feed the Netanyahu family, prosecutors claimed in papers filed at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.

“The State Prosecutor’s Office seeks to correct an erroneous statement that deviates from the facts of the indictment agreed upon in the plea bargain and seeks to clarify that the indictment relates only to private meals and not to official or diplomatic meals,” judicial officials said in a statement earlier on Monday.

Judge Avital Chen turns down the request.

Peretz tapped as education minister, Smotrich gets transportation

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appoints the Union of Right-Wing Parties’ Rafi Peretz and Bezalel Smotrich as ministers in his interim cabinet.

Peretz receives the education portfolio and Smotrich snags the Transportation Ministry, according to the Likud party.

Smotrich is also made a member of the high-level security cabinet and Peretz receives observer status.

“The sides agreed to fully uphold the status quo on matters of religion and state as was custom in Israel for decades,” the statement says. Likud and URWP also agreed to maintain their “deep partnership” in the upcoming September elections.

Netanyahu recently angered Smotrich after giving the Justice Ministry coveted by the URWP No. 2 to Likud MK Amir Ohana. The move came after Smotrich voiced support for Israel being governed by Jewish religious law.

Bezalel Smotrich (R) and Rafi Peretz (L) of the Union of Right Wing Parties hold a press conference after a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on April 16, 2019, (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Iran, Hamas agree to ‘confront dangers’ of US peace plan

Iran’s intelligence minister and top officials of Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas have agreed to “confront the dangers” of Washington’s peace plan for the Middle East, state news agency IRNA reports Monday.

A Hamas source in Lebanon tells AFP the two sides held talks Saturday at the Iranian embassy in Beirut.

According to IRNA, Mahmoud Alavi met with Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Aruri and other officials including the movement’s representative in Lebanon, Ahmad Abdulhadi.

The two sides agreed on the need to “confront challenges and dangers arising from the US government’s insistence on imposing” its so called “deal of the century,” IRNA reports.

The US peace plan, yet to be unveiled, has already been rejected by the Palestinians, who say President Donald Trump’s policies have been blatantly biased in favor of Israel.

AFP

Meretz leader blasts promotion of ‘messianic warmonger’ Smotrich

Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg condemns the appointments of URWP MK Bezalel Smotrich as transportation minister and security cabinet member and leader Rafi Peretz as education minister.

“Netanyahu just gave the people who want to turn Israel into a state of halacha [Jewish religious law] the keys and didn’t stop there, but rather also made sure to include a messianic warmonger in Israel’s [security] cabinet,” says Zandberg.

“Any deal — at the expense of Israeli citizens — is possible for Netanyahu in order to evade trial,” she says, referring to URWP’s support for advancing immunity for the prime minister from prosecution in three criminal cases against him.

URWP thanks Netanyahu for ministerial appointments

URWP’s Rafi Peretz releases a statement, on behalf of himself and MK Bezalel Smotrich. thanking Netanyahu for the ministerial appointments.

“I want to thank Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for placing his faith in us by appointing us as ministers in his government, myself and my colleague MK Bezalel Smotrich… I want to be the education minister for every child in Israel… and recognize and cherish the value of teachers in Israel,” says Peretz.

with Jacob Magid

Iran slams Saudi Arabia over tanker attack allegations

Iran hits back at Saudi Arabia on Monday over allegations Tehran was involved in tanker attacks in Gulf of Oman, saying Riyadh’s “wrong policies” have caused current regional tensions.

The allegations were “a continuation of the wrong path taken in the past and an attempt to escape all problems that Saudi Arabia’s wrong policies have brought upon the region,” foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi writes in a statement on his Telegram channel.

Mousavi says the kingdom lacked a “proper understanding of the region’s dynamics” and followed “an approach based on militarism and causing crises and tension.”

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accused rival Iran on Saturday of being behind attacks last week on two oil tankers in the Sea of Oman, a vital shipping lane for global oil trade, echoing claims by US President Donald Trump.

Tehran has vehemently denied any involvement in the attacks and hinted that Washington itself could have done it to pile pressure on the Islamic Republic on top of economic sanctions.

AFP

Gantz derides Netanyahu over ministerial appointments

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz berates Netanyahu for handing out ministerial portfolios instead of dealing with Israel’s yawning deficit.

“Netanyahu doesn’t have a minute to deal with a NIS 50 billion deficit, but has time in abundance to hand out jobs and appoint Smotrich as transportation minister and security cabinet member,” tweets Gantz. “The next stage — replacing the traffic laws with halacha [Jewish religious] laws.”

Egypt agrees to pay Israel $500 million to end gas dispute

Egypt says it has struck a deal with the state-owned Israel Electric Corp. to settle a fine for halting deliveries of natural gas.

A statement from Egypt’s Petroleum Ministry says the settlement deal, which was signed Sunday, would reduce the $1.7 billion fine to $500 million.

It says Egypt will pay the amount over eight and a half years.

In return, the Israeli company will drop other claims resulting from a 2015 arbitration decision.

Israel Electric had sued the state-owned Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation and Egyptian Natural Gas after a 2005 deal to export natural gas to Israel collapsed in 2012 amid militant attacks on a pipeline in the Sinai Peninsula, where Egypt has been battling insurgency for years.

Israel relied on the pipeline to meet its energy needs.

AP

Gazans frustrated as Qatar money distribution stalls

Gazans are expressing frustration over delays in distributing the cash handouts from Qatar to residents of the coastal enclave.

Palestinians line up outside post offices throughout Gaza to receive their funds, but are ultimately turned away.

Kamal Musbah, 46, tells AFP at midday he had been waiting since the early morning outside a post office in Gaza City.

“We don’t know anything yet,” he says.

Musbah and around 200 other people erupted with complaints when they were told in the afternoon to return the next day.

More than 100,000 families will each receive payments of $100, according to a Qatari official. Another $15 million would be provided for infrastructure and cash-for-work projects, the official says.

with AFP

Germany, UK warn Iran over uranium stockpile plans

Germany and Britain warn Tehran not to breach uranium stockpile limits set by the 2015 nuclear deal, as the EU’s diplomatic chief dismissed Iranian threats as “political dialectics.”

Iran set a 10-day countdown on Monday to exceed the 300-kilogram limit set on its enriched uranium stocks, dealing another blow to the crumbling nuclear accord signed by Tehran and six international powers.

The EU has battled to save the agreement since US President Donald Trump withdrew and reimposed sanctions, but Iran said it would step back from exceeding the 300-kg limit on June 27 only if “other parties live up to their commitments.” The move comes as Iran tries to step up pressure on the deal’s other signatories — Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia — to help it sidestep US sanctions and in particular enable it to sell oil.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas rejects the Iranian ultimatum and insists Tehran must stick to its commitments under the deal.

“We have already said in the past that we will not accept less for less. It is up to Iran to stick to its obligations,” Maas says after talks with EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

“We will certainly not accept a unilateral reduction of obligations.”

A spokesman for the British government echoes the call, saying the E3 — the European signatories to the deal — has “consistently made clear that there can be no reduction in compliance.”

“For now Iran remains within its nuclear commitments. We are coordinating with E3 partners on next steps,” the spokesman adds.

AFP

Reports: Ousted Egyptian leader Morsi dies in court

State TV in Egypt says ousted president Mohamed Morsi has died during a court hearing at the age of 67.

Egypt’s ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi gestures from behind the defendant’s bars during his trial at the police academy in Cairo on May 7, 2016. (AFP Photo/Khaled Desouki)

Morsi, who hailed from Egypt’s largest Islamist group, the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, was elected president in 2012 in the country’s first free elections following the ouster the year before of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak. The military ousted Morsi in 2013 after massive protests and crushed the Brotherhood in a major crackdown, arresting Morsi and many others of the group’s leaders.

With AP

Israel blocks access to 1,700 pedophile sites

Israel blocks access on Monday to about 1,700 websites displaying pedophile pictures and videos, the Justice Ministry says.

The action is taken by the state prosecutor following a joint operation by the cyber-crime department, police and Interpol, the ministry says in a statement.

“The Tel Aviv court has ordered the blocking of access to about 1,700 websites displaying pedophile photos and films that were available on Israeli portals,” it says.

In May, Interpol said it had broken up an international network of pedophiles connected to the dark web.

Israel’s Justice Ministry said it had acted on information from Interpol.

Internet service providers would be required to block access to the websites or else face sanctions, it adds.

AFP

Official sources confirm Morsi’s death

Former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi died on Monday in a Cairo hospital, after fainting during a session in court, judicial and security sources confirm.

“He was speaking before the judge for 20 minutes, then became very animated and fainted. He was quickly rushed to the hospital where he later died,” a judicial source says.

The official Al-Ahram news website also reported the death of Morsi, who was Egypt’s first democratically elected president, but spent just one turbulent year in office after the 2011 uprising before the army toppled him in July 2013.

AFP

Turkey’s Erdogan pays tribute to ‘martyr’ Morsi after his death

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday pays tribute to former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, who died in a Cairo hospital after fainting during a court session, calling him a “martyr.”

“May Allah rest our Morsi brother, our martyr’s soul in peace,” says Erdogan, who had forged close ties with Morsi.

AFP

France’s Macron ‘regrets’ that Iran might break nuclear deal

French President Emmanuel Macron says he “regrets” Iran’s announcement that it could break the uranium stockpile limit set by the nuclear deal with Iran and world powers in the next 10 days.

Speaking at a news conference in Paris, Macron said Iran so far still respects its obligations under the 2015 accord.

France “strongly encourages Iran to maintain a patient and responsible attitude,” he adds.

Macron declines to comment about who was behind the alleged attacks on oil shipping in the Gulf of Oman as France is still in the process of collecting information.

He reaffirms that he is in favor of maintaining the nuclear deal, but wants new talks to encompass Iran’s ballistic missile activities and the main crises in the Middle East.

AP

Muslim Brotherhood official blames Egypt prison service for Morsi’s death

Morsi’s son, Ahmed, confirms the death of his father in a Facebook post.

And Mohammed Sudan, leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood in London, described Morsi’s death as “premeditated murder,” saying that the former president was banned from receiving medicine or visits, and there was little information about his health condition.

“He has been placed behind glass cage (during trials). No one can hear him or know what is happening to him. He hasn’t received any visits for a months or nearly a year. He complained before that he doesn’t get his medicine. This is premediated murder. This is slow death.”

A judicial official says Morsi had asked to speak to the court during the session. The judge permitted it, and Morsi gave a speech saying he had “many secrets” that, if he told them, he would be released, but he adds that he wasn’t telling them because it would harm Egypt’s national security.

AP

TV report: White House decides Israel won’t be invited to Bahrain confab

The White House has decided not to invite Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon or other Israeli government representatives to the economic workshop in Bahrain next week, during which it will unveil the economic side of its Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, according to Channel 13, which cites US officials.

The Trump administration informed Netanyahu’s office of the decision yesterday, according to the report.

“The goal of the workshop in Bahrain is to present our economic vision for the Palestinian people. As such we want to focus on the economic aspects and not the political ones,” a US official is quoted as saying.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Sunday that Israel would attend the conference. The Palestinians have already said they won’t attend.

Qatar ruler expresses ‘deep sorrow’ over Morsi death

Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani expresses his “deep sorrow” Monday, following the “sudden death” of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, who died in a Cairo hospital after fainting in court.

“We received with deep sorrow the news of the sudden death of former president Dr. Mohamed Morsi. I extend to his family and to the Egyptian people brotherly condolences,” Al-Thani writes on Twitter.

Qatar was a leading backer of the Islamist president during his brief tenure as Egypt’s leader.

AFP

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Iran, Hamas agree to ‘confront dangers’ of US peace plan

Iran’s intelligence minister and top officials of Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas have agreed to “confront the dangers” of Washington’s peace plan for the Middle East, state news agency IRNA reports Monday.

A Hamas source in Lebanon tells AFP the two sides held talks Saturday at the Iranian embassy in Beirut.

According to IRNA, Mahmoud Alavi met with Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Aruri and other officials including the movement’s representative in Lebanon, Ahmad Abdulhadi.

The two sides agreed on the need to “confront challenges and dangers arising from the US government’s insistence on imposing” its so called “deal of the century,” IRNA reports.

The US peace plan, yet to be unveiled, has already been rejected by the Palestinians, who say President Donald Trump’s policies have been blatantly biased in favor of Israel.

AFP