Iran says in touch with UK over tanker seized off Gibraltar
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Democratic Camp members meet with Abbas in Ramallah

Issawi Freij and Noa Rothman say they hope talks with PA chief will bring attention to Israeli-Palestinian conflict ahead of elections

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks with Democratic Camp member Noa Rothman at the Mukatta compound in Ramallah on August 13, 2019. (Screen capture: Channel 13)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks with Democratic Camp member Noa Rothman at the Mukatta compound in Ramallah on August 13, 2019. (Screen capture: Channel 13)

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

Likud rejects AG’s opinion that hidden cameras at polls could be illegal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party is slamming Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s legal opinion from last week that placing hidden cameras in polling stations could be a criminal offense.

During the April 9 elections, Likud dispatched monitors with concealed cameras to polling stations in predominantly Arab areas, a move critics have charged was aimed at voter suppression.

In opinion submitted to the Central Elections Committee last week, Mandelblit argued that while the placement of cameras in polling stations may not itself be criminal, if it interferes with the election process it could be.

“The opinion that does not allow voting supervision at the polling stations is unacceptable. Likud has sought to check hundreds of polling stations in which suspicions of counterfeiting in the Arab sector emerged in the last elections – and they have not been examined until now,” Likud says in a statement issued today.

“Now, in every way, they are trying to prevent basic polling supervision in a way that could hurt democracy and the purity of elections. One must not accept this.”

Iran says in touch with UK over tanker seized off Gibraltar

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s port authority says today it has been in contact with British authorities as part of efforts to secure the release of a tanker seized off Gibraltar.

Gibraltar — a British overseas territory — seized the Grace 1 supertanker on July 4 with the help of British Royal Marines on suspicion it was shipping oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

A court in Gibraltar is to decide the fate of the ship on Thursday, when an order for its detention lapses.

The deputy head of Iran’s port authority, Jalil Eslami, says in a report by state news agency IRNA that Britain had shown an interest in overcoming the problem and documents had been exchanged.

“Efforts from Iran and the port organisation have been made for the release of this ship,” he is quoted as saying.

“I hope this problem will be resolved in the near future and that the ship can continue its movement with the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Gibraltar and US officials believed the tanker was destined for Syria to deliver oil, in violation of separate sets of EU and US sanctions.

Iran called the seizure of the ship “piracy” and warned it would not let the interception go unanswered.

On July 19, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards impounded the British-flagged Stena Impero oil tanker in the strategic Strait of Hormuz for breaking “international maritime rules.”

— AFP

Kremlin defends police crackdown on opposition protests

MOSCOW — The Kremlin is defending the police response to recent protests in Moscow and downplays the huge demonstrations.

“We believe the firm action of law enforcement to curb public unrest was absolutely justified,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says today. “We do not agree with those who call what is happening a political crisis.”

Since mid-July tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Moscow demanding free elections after the exclusion of several opposition figures from local polls next month.

Russian national guardsmen detain a man following a rally calling for fair elections in Moscow on August 10, 2019. (Vasily Maximov/AFP)

Police detained hundreds after a huge rally on Saturday and nearly 1,400 at a protest late last month. Some protesters were injured in the crackdown.

“Law enforcement agencies are fulfilling their duties and do everything necessary to ensure security during sanctioned rallies,” Peskov says.

The protests are among the largest since a wave of demonstrations in 2011 and 2012 when Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency after serving a term as prime minister.

Putin has not commented on the Moscow protests.

Peskov says Putin has “paid attention to what is happening” but has not commented because “every day in Russia a huge number events take place.”

— AFP

Suspected ‘price tag’ vandalism found in Palestinian village

A rights group is reporting vandalism was discovered in a Palestinian village in the northern West Bank in a suspected “price tag” attack by Jewish extremists.

Yesh Din says residents of Yatma awoke to find “Jews will not be silent” spray-painted on a building at the entrance to the village. Stars of David were also spray-painted on a number of cars that had their tires slashed, according to the group.

“Price tag” is a term used to describe vandalism and violence carried out by Jewish extremists against Palestinians, the army and other targets in retaliation for policies they consider anti-settler.

2 minors nabbed over swastika graffiti in Jerusalem’s Old City

Two minors were arrested yesterday for spray-painting swastikas and other graffiti on the walls of a street in Jerusalem’s Old City, police say.

The 16-year-olds are under investigation for suspected property damage and committing a crime with a racial motive, according to a police statement.

They will be brought for a hearing today at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.

Radiation up to ’16 times’ the norm near Russia blast site

MOSCOW — Radiation levels are up to 16 times the norm in a nearby town after an explosion at a Russian missile testing site, the national weather service says today.

The explosion at the Arctic facility on Thursday killed five scientists with Russia’s nuclear agency, which later confirmed they were involved in testing new weapons. More victims were hospitalized.

Rosgidromet, the weather monitoring service, says its sensors in Severodvinsk, a town about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the Nyonoksa test site, registered gamma radiation exceeding background levels by “four to 16 times.”

Rosgidromet says the levels were higher at six out of eight of its stations in Severodvinsk and that levels returned to normal after 2.5 hours.

One of the sensors registers a level of 1.78 microsieverts per hour, well above the local average but far below dangerous levels.

Russia’s Rosatom nuclear agency has said its staff were providing support for the “isotope power source” of a missile and were thrown into the sea from the testing platform by the force of the explosion.

US experts have linked the incident to the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile touted by Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this year.

— AFP

Odeh: Hidden cameras part of ‘right-wing offensive’ against Arab Israelis

Joint (Arab) List MK Ayman Odeh weighs in on the ruling Likud party’s criticism of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s legal opinion stating the placement of concealed cameras at polling stations could be illegal.

“Even the attorney general understands that placing cameras at polling stations is part of the all-out right-wing offensive against Arab citizens and the delegitimization of the [Arab] political leadership,” Odeh writes on Twitter.

He also charges that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who heads Likud, is afraid of Arab Israelis.

“Bibi, you’re scared of Arabs but we’re not scared of you. We won’t give into the intimidation tactics of government of incitement and hatred,” Odeh says.

Flight attendant who died from measles named as Rotem Amitai

An El Al flight attendant who died four months after contracting measles is named by Hebrew media as Rotem Amitai.

Amitai, 43, was a mother of three.

“Rotem was a wonderful woman and a devoted mother. We are mourning and hurting over her premature death,” her family says in a statement quoted by Hebrew media.

Barak calls ombudsman a ‘rag’ over new picks to Permits Committee

Former prime minister Ehud Barak has harsh words for new State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman for announcing the expansion of a key oversight committee that has rejected Prime Minister Netanyahu’s request to receive outside funding to foot his legal defense.

After the three members of Permits Committee resigned last week after feuding with Englman, the ombudsman announced yesterday he would expand the number of members of the committee from three to eight. A number of the new members Englman has picked for the committee reportedly have ties with Netanyahu’s Likud party.

“The wretched servant of a Netanyahu, a rag,” Barak, who is running for the upcoming elections with Democratic Camp alliance, says of Englman in an interview with Army Radio.

“A disgrace to the institution of the State Comptroller. People were appointed to the Permits Committee who themselves are in conflicts of interest,” Barak adds.

Before its previous members resigned, the Permits Committee ordered Netanyahu to return some $300,000 he received from his cousin to help pay his legal bills in a trio of graft cases he is implicated in.

According to a Channel 13 report last week, Englman lashed out at the committee members during a meeting for ordering Netanyahu to return the funds, saying they overstepped their authority.

Gaza fire balloon sparks blaze in south

A fire that broke out in the Eshkol Regional Council was sparked by an incendiary balloon launched from the Gaza Strip, according to Hebrew media reports.

Firefighters are working to gain control of the blaze and stop it from spreading.

Shaked cries whataboutism after Barak calls ombudsman a ‘rag’

Yamina leader Ayelet Shaked rebukes former premier Ehud Barak for calling the new state comptroller a “rag” for his new appointments to a key oversight committee, dubbing it a “violent attack.”

“I wonder if we’ll hear cries about the death of democracy,” she tweets in a message apparently aimed at critics who have censured right-wing figures for criticizing the courts and law enforcement.

Shaked, a former justice minister, says others would have reacted differently to Barak’s comments had they been made by Yamina lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich, who earlier this week decried a court ruling barring a gender-segregated concert from being held at a public park.

5-year-old girl found chained up in apartment wasn’t known to authorities

The 5-year-old girl found chained to a shower door yesterday in the central Israeli city of Lod was never entered into the national population registry, a police spokesperson tells the Lod Magistrate’s Court.

More details are emerging about the case a day after police broke down the door to the apartment where the girl was found tied up and bearing signs of severe long-term neglect.

The girl’s mother and father, aged 36 and 41, are both under arrest. The Lod court extends their remand until Monday, citing the need to prevent the parents from obstructing the investigation.

Both parents are on their second marriage, family members tell Hebrew media today. The father has fathered 15 children, 12 with his first wife and three with his current one.

Family members surmise that the girl found yesterday, who was not known to them, may be the mother’s eldest, born during her first marriage.

Gibraltar denies seized Iranian tanker slated for release

MADRID — A senior official in Gibraltar is denying reports that an Iranian tanker seized near the British overseas territory is poised to be released.

The official says a report by Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency that the Grace 1 tanker is leaving tonight are “untrue.”

In this photo from July 6, 2019, supertanker Grace 1 is seen off the coast of Gibraltar. (Jorge Guerrero/AFP)

He speaks on condition of anonymity in line with government rules.

The tanker was seized last month in a British Royal Navy operation off Gibraltar, on the tip of southern Spain. It is suspected of violating European Union sanctions on oil shipments to Syria, and its seizure deepened international tensions in the Persian Gulf.

The Gibraltar government says it is seeking to “de-escalate” the situation over the Grace 1.

The Gibraltar Supreme Court is scheduled to hold a hearing on the case on Thursday.

— AP

Hamas launches outreach campaign to Gaza families

Hamas announces a public outreach campaign to families in the Gaza Strip, which the terror group has ruled for more than a decade.

Hamas spokesman Abdelatif al-Qanou writes on Facebook that the campaign, which started today, will include Hamas officials and members, visiting 700 families in Gaza over three days.

He adds that the campaign “comes in the context of [Hamas] building bridges of communication with our people’s families, elders and local leaders and strengthening the bonds of solidarity with them.”

Photos posted on social media show Hamas chief in Gaza Yahya Sinwar meeting with families in Gaza.

— Adam Rasgon

بمشاركة قيادة الحركة وكوادرها تشرع حركة حماس اليوم بتنفيذ حملة زيارات "تواصل" تستهدف تجمعات ودواوين العائلات وفاءاً…

פורסם על ידי ‏عبيدة عبيدة‏ ב- יום שלישי, 13 באוגוסט 2019

Police launch search for 2 people missing in Mediterranean

Police are searching for two people who went missing in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of the southern city of Ashkelon.

A police statement says the two were riding on a jet ski with a woman who noticed they apparently fell into the water and went missing. She reported them missing to police.

The Kan public broadcaster reports, somewhat differently, that the woman was angered after the two jumped into the water and started kissing, prompting her to leave.

Police naval units and a helicopter are assisting in the search efforts.

2 people missing in Mediterranean found alive

Two people who went missing in the Mediterranean have been found alive and well, police say.

They are being brought to shore aboard a police vehicle. Police say the circumstances of the incident are being investigated.

Poll: Sa’ar the current favorite among Likud voters to succeed Netanyahu

MK Gideon Sa’ar is the current favorite among Likud supporters to take the reins of the ruling party after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a poll released today.

Twenty-two percent of Likud voters in the Channel 12 survey said they want Sa’ar, a former minister who returned to the Knesset after April’s elections following a nearly five year hiatus, to be the party’s next leader.

He is followed by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Culture Minister Miri Regev with 12% a piece. Another 9% say they want Foreign Minister Israel Katz to be the next Likud chairman, while Yuli Edelstein, who finished first in the party’s primary, was the favorite of 6% of Likud supporters.

Twenty-three percent of poll respondents say they don’t know who they want to lead Likud after Netanyahu, while 16% say they prefer someone other than the aforementioned figures.

Netanyahu has led Likud since 2005, when then party chairman and prime minister Ariel Sharon jumped ship to form Kadima. Netanyahu also headed Likud from 1993 to 1999.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Gideon Sa’ar during a Likud party meeting at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem on March 11, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud calls for Barak to be investigated for criticism of ombudsman

The ruling Likud party is calling former prime minister Ehud Barak to be investigated over his criticism of State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman, who he called a “rag” and “wretched servant” of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Ehud Barak excoriated in a wild manner the state comptroller, one of the gatekeepers,” Likud writes on its Facebook page.

“To where did all those who scream about insulting public servants disappear,” it adds, referring to criticism of Netanyahu and his party for their often harsh rebukes of the judicial system and legal officials.

“Now it is clear that in the eyes of the hypocrites on the left, ‘gatekeeper’ is only those who serve the left. Whoever dares to express an independent opinion — it’s open season.”

Norway’s public broadcaster apologizes for ‘Jewish swine’ cartoon

Norway’s public broadcaster has apologized for airing a cartoon in which a Scrabble player forms the word “Jewish swine.”

NRK initially defended the video, which was pulled offline this month, against allegations of anti-Semitism out of its desire to “defend the freedom of speech,” NRK broadcasting manager Thor Gjermund Eriksen tells the Aftenposten daily, but ”occasionally you cross the border and it may happen again.”

Amid an outcry over the July 2 video, NRK’s entertainment director, Charlo Halvorsen, told Aftenpost that “it is not anti-Semitic.” NRK said it was inappropriate some three weeks later.

In the cartoon, a gray-haired man wearing a yarmulke and dressed conspicuously Jewish is playing Scrabble with a younger man in shorts. The Jewish man is frustrated over how long his opponent is taking to construct a word.

The camera switches to the young man’s point of view to reveal that he has constructed the word “Jewswine” (one word in Norwegian). The young man sighs in frustration as the Jewish player taunts him over his Scrabble skills.

“We are clearly on different cognitive levels,” the Jewish man exclaims.

— JTA

Netanyahu pays condolence visit to family of murdered yeshiva student

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pays a condolence visit to the family of Dvir Sorek, who was killed in a terror attack last week in the West Bank.

Sorek, who was studying at a yeshiva in the Migdal Oz settlement as part of a program combining religious study and military service, was stabbed to death outside the settlement as he returned from buying gifts for teachers in Jerusalem.

“The Land of Israel is bought with suffering. The individual murder of Dvir testifies to the murder they would carry out against all of us if they only could,” Netanyahu is quoted saying by the Kan public broadcaster at the family’s home in Ofra.

“The reason they don’t do this is because they can’t,” the premier adds, referring to the assailants. “I defined them as human animals and I think I did an injustice to the animals.”

GOP senator wants Epstein plea deal thrown out

A Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee is asking the Justice Department to “rip up” a controversial plea agreement that Jeffrey Epstein struck in Florida more than a decade ago.

Under the 2008 deal, Epstein pleaded guilty to lesser state charges rather than face much tougher federal prosecution on charges he sexually abused teenage girls at his homes in Florida and New York.

Federal prosecutors said when they charged Epstein that the Florida deal doesn’t apply to prosecutors in New York.

Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, who heads the panel’s oversight subcommittee, asks Attorney General William Barr to confirm it is no longer binding following Epstein’s suicide.

A Justice Department official who speaks on the condition of anonymity says Barr has recused himself from any review of the 2008 plea deal involved in the federal investigation into Epstein.

— AP

Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska., speaks during a legislative summit sponsored by the Omaha and Lincoln Chambers of Commerce, which was held at the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum in Ashland, Nebraska, August 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Democratic Camp members meet with Abbas in Ramallah

Two members of the left-wing Democratic Camp electoral alliance met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas today in Ramallah.

According to Channel 13 news, MK Issawi Freij and Noa Rothman say they met with Abbas to bring attention to the Israeli-Palestinian ahead of general elections in September.

The network quotes Abbas saying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to meet with him multiple times and that he hopes the next government will agree to speak with him.

Rothman, the granddaughter of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, says after the meeting she was “angry and disappointed” Netanyahu hasn’t done more to advance the peace process.

“It is Netanyahu, who through his lack of action and ignoring of the Palestinian problem, who is proving again and again that he himself is not a partner for creating peace for the coming generations,” she tweets.

Netanyahu said to dub Shaked ‘the new Tzipi Livni’

Prime Minister Netanyahu is going on the offensive against Yamina leader Ayelet Shaked in briefings with members of his Likud party, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The network says the premier likened Shaked to Tzipi Livni, the former minister who went from Likud to Kadima and then to Hatnua in an eight year span.

“She [Shaked] is the new Tzipi Livni, jumping from party to party,” Netanyahu is quoted saying.

The prime minister and his associates also reportedly brief top Likud figures that Shaked will do anything to prevent him from forming a government if Yamina gets more than 10 seats in the September 17 vote.

Netanyahu complained last week that right-wing figures were not vocal enough in backing him for another term as premier, drawing a rebuke from Shaked, who noted her electoral alliance has vowed to recommend the prime minister get the first crack at forming a coalition after the elections.

Iran’s Khamenei urges support for Yemen’s Houthi rebels

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian state TV reports that the country’s supreme leader is urging support for Yemen’s Houthis against a Saudi-led coalition that he says is trying to “disintegrate” the country.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with Mohammad Abdul Salam, the spokesman for Yemen’s Ansarallah Movement, in Tehran today. The group is commonly referred to as the Houthis.

Khamenei says Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their supporters seek to break up Yemen, “which must stand firm against this conspiracy.”

A Saudi-led coalition that includes the UAE has been battling the Iran-aligned Houthis in northern Yemen since March 2015 on behalf of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government.

The conflict in the Arab world’s poorest country is largely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

— AP

In this picture released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, listens to Mohammed Abdul-Salam, spokesman for the Yemen Houthis rebels during their meeting at his residence in Tehran, Iran, August 13, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Trump says China is moving troops toward Hong Kong

US President Donald Trump tweets that American intelligence believes that the Chinese government is moving troops to its border with Hong Kong.

Trump also tweets that “Everyone should be calm and safe!” He provides no additional details.

Riot police briefly clashed with pro-democracy protesters outside the Hong Kong Airport for the second day on Tuesday though calm returns to the airport in the early hours of Wednesday.

The airport disruptions are an escalation of a summer of demonstrations against what some in Hong Kong see as an increasing erosion of freedoms. The protests have in recent weeks turned to focus on police brutality against demonstrators.

Earlier Tuesday, Trump called the Hong Kong protests a “very tricky situation,” saying he hopes no one is injured or killed.

— AP

Police scuffle with pro-democracy protesters at Hong Kong’s International Airport on August 13, 2019. (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP)
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Iran says in touch with UK over tanker seized off Gibraltar

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s port authority says today it has been in contact with British authorities as part of efforts to secure the release of a tanker seized off Gibraltar.

Gibraltar — a British overseas territory — seized the Grace 1 supertanker on July 4 with the help of British Royal Marines on suspicion it was shipping oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

A court in Gibraltar is to decide the fate of the ship on Thursday, when an order for its detention lapses.

The deputy head of Iran’s port authority, Jalil Eslami, says in a report by state news agency IRNA that Britain had shown an interest in overcoming the problem and documents had been exchanged.

“Efforts from Iran and the port organisation have been made for the release of this ship,” he is quoted as saying.

“I hope this problem will be resolved in the near future and that the ship can continue its movement with the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Gibraltar and US officials believed the tanker was destined for Syria to deliver oil, in violation of separate sets of EU and US sanctions.

Iran called the seizure of the ship “piracy” and warned it would not let the interception go unanswered.

On July 19, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards impounded the British-flagged Stena Impero oil tanker in the strategic Strait of Hormuz for breaking “international maritime rules.”

— AFP