Iran says Trump’s sanctions closed door on talks
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Gantz, Netanyahu meet at President Rivlin’s residence to launch unity talks

President seeks agreement before choosing either man, has called for unity government after election deadlock

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) shakes hands with Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz (R) as President Reuven Rivlin looks on, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on September 23, 2019. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) shakes hands with Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz (R) as President Reuven Rivlin looks on, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on September 23, 2019. (Haim Zach/GPO)

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

Completing party consultations, Rivlin invites Netanyahu and Gantz to meet

After concluding his consultations with the newly elected factions in the 22nd Knesset, and with neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz receiving majority support for prime minister, President Reuven Rivlin invites both men to a meeting in a bid to hammer out a compromise and enable the formation of a unity government.

Both men confirmed that they will attend.

The meeting is slated to take place this evening, and will be closed to the press, the president’s office says.

Netanyahu received 55 recommendations to Gantz’s 54, after three lawmakers from the Balad party, part of the Arab Joint List, refused to endorse Gantz together with the remainder of the Arab factions.

Netanyahu has repeatedly called for a unity government, while Gantz has been more tight-lipped, and is holding out for a government without the Likud leader.

— Raoul Wootliff

Seven children killed, scores hurt in Kenya school collapse

NAIROBI, Kenya — Seven children die and scores are injured when a school building collapses in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, in an accident blamed on shoddy construction.

“So far we can confirm that we have seven fatalities and 57 others are in hospital,” government spokesman Cyrus Oguna says at the scene.

Hundreds of angry residents of Dagoretti, a poor suburb where many live in makeshift homes, surround the site where rescuers picked through the rubble.

— AFP

Israel bans entry for most players on Gaza soccer team

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israel denies travel permits to most players on a Gazan soccer that which had hoped to cross through Israel and into the West Bank to play a local championship final against a rival Palestinian club, Palestinians say.

Khadamat Rafah is set to play Balata FC in the West Bank on Wednesday. But without the hard-to-obtain Israeli travel permits, the game is unlikely to take place as scheduled.

“We think that this is clear evidence that this Israeli occupation is cruel but from our side we keep raising it at all the levels of FIFA. We insist that this is our right and we’ll continue exerting every effort to allow this team to do this match,” the head of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, tells The Associated Press.

The soccer team’s predicament highlights the daily difficulties Gazans face under a joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade, imposed after the Hamas terror group seized control of the territory in 2007. Citing security grounds, both Israel and Egypt greatly restrict movement of Gazans into and through their territory, including to other Palestinian population centers in the West Bank. Israel requires travelers such as students and medical patients to obtain permits to leave.

Critics say these are increasingly hard to come by and are often withheld arbitrarily. Israel disputes this and says it grants tens of thousands of permits for Gazans with no ties to terror groups.

Under the Palestinian Football Association’s terms, the winners of the Gaza league play the West Bank champions in a two-leg final, one in the Gaza Strip and one in the West Bank. The Gaza game took place earlier this year and this week’s game, which had already been delayed for two months over access to permits, was to take place near the West Bank city of Nablus. The winner of the final game goes on to compete in the Asian Champions League.

— Agencies

Gantz to meet secularist Liberman ahead of unity talks with Netanyahu

Blue and White’s Benny Gantz will be meeting with Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman this afternoon before heading to Jerusalem for a dramatic meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over forming a unity government.

Gantz and Liberman are slated to meet in Tel Aviv at 4 p.m., and Gantz and Netanyahu at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem at 7:30, according to spokespeople for Gantz and Rivlin.

Gantz reportedly promised Liberman last week he would not join a coalition without his secularist Russian-speaking Yisrael Beytenu party.

Macron looks to mediate between US, Iran at UN summit

France’s president says he still hopes to mediate between Iran and the US to help ease tensions in the Persian Gulf.

Speaking to reporters flying with him to the United Nations in New York, Emmanuel Macron says he remains “cautious” in attributing responsibility for attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.

The US, Saudi Arabia and Britain blame Iran for the attacks.

As US President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are taking part to the high-level UN meetings, Macron says “both protagonists are there … Something may happen.”

Trump has suggested he is open to meeting the Iranian leader.

Macron has taken a leading role in efforts to try to save a 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, following Trump’s decision to pull the US from the deal and impose new sanctions.

— AP

Trump envoys tout ‘cordial’ meeting with Benny Gantz

US President Donald Trump’s envoys to Israel, Ambassador David Friedman and US Special Representative Jason Greenblatt, generally viewed as closely identified with Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu, seem keen to show their bipartisan bona fides, at least when it comes to Israeli politics.

The US embassy releases a photo of the two meeting a short time ago with Blue and White leader, and possibly Israel’s next prime minister, Benny Gantz.

The photo accompanies a brief statement saying the three men “had a cordial discussion on various topics, including the importance of the US-Israel relationship, security challenges within the region and efforts to promote peace.”

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, left, Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz, center, and US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, right, meeting at the US Embassy’s branch office in Tel Aviv on September 23, 2019. (Courtesy/Matty Stern/US Embassy Jerusalem)

Iran rebukes British leader Johnson over oil attack blame

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran is criticizing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson after he said Britain has concluded Iran was responsible for attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry.

Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency quotes Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi condemning “fruitless efforts against the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Mousavi says “the British government should stop selling lethal weapons to Saudi Arabia” over its war in Yemen.

Johnson told reporters flying with him Sunday to New York for the UN General Assembly that Britain “is attributing responsibility with a very high degree of probability to Iran” for the September 14 drone-and-missile attack.

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani reviews a military parade marking the 39th anniversary of the outset of the Iran-Iraq war, in front of the shrine of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran, September 22, 2019. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Saudi Arabia and the US also blame Iran. Iran denies being responsible. Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels claimed the attack, though analysts say the cruise missiles used didn’t have the range to be fired from Yemen.

— AP

Amid uproar, Trump suggests he raised the Bidens with Ukraine’s president

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump suggests he raised former vice president Joe Biden and Biden’s son in a summer phone call with Ukraine’s new leader, as Democrats press for investigations into whether Trump improperly used his office to try to dig up damaging information about a political rival via a foreign power.

Trump tells reporters that the July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “congratulatory” and focused on corruption in the East European nation. In his remarks to reporters, he then raises Biden as an example, although there is no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden or his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company while Biden was vice president.

“It was largely the fact that we don’t want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” Trump says as he leaves the White House for a trip to Texas.

Biden, who is among the front-runners for the Democratic presidential nomination, accuses Trump of making a baseless political smear.

The matter has sparked a fierce debate over whether Trump misused his office for political gain and whether his administration is withholding from Congress critical information about his actions. The incident is part of a whistleblower complaint, but the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, has refused to share details with lawmakers, citing presidential privilege.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has resisted calls for impeachment for other alleged Trump transgressions, said Sunday that unless Maguire provides information to Congress, administration officials “will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation.”

US President Donald Trump talks with reporters before leaving on Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, September 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

— AP

Islamic State women on trial for attempted attack near Notre Dame

PARIS — Two French women who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terror group go on trial today for trying to blow up a car near Notre Dame Cathedral in 2016, in a case that authorities hope sheds light on the wave of extremism that has hit France.

The trial is also highlighting the role of women in recruiting and violence by IS extremists.

The Notre Dame terrorist plot fell apart after the gas canisters doused with fuel failed to explode, and no one was hurt.

But the women had been recruited by one of France’s most notorious jihadists, and prosecutors say the attempted explosion — in September 2016, long before the fire that ravaged the medieval cathedral this year — could have killed dozens of people in one of the French capital’s most-beloved, tourist-friendly neighborhoods.

In this March 27, 2016 file photo, a French police officer stands guard as worshipers arrive for the Easter mass at Notre Dame Cathedral, in Paris. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)

The two main suspects, who face life in prison if convicted, are subdued as the trial opens in a special Paris terrorism court. Six other people are also on trial for related charges.

Ines Madani, now 22, is considered the key player. She was just a teenager when she and fellow suspect Ornella Gilligmann joined a channel on the social network Telegram run by French jihadist Rachid Kassim, according to court documents.

Kassim was central to French recruiting efforts for IS, prosecutors say, and was believed linked to a gruesome attack on a French priest inside his Normandy church and the killing of a French police couple at home in front of their child. Kassim moved to Syria in 2015, and during the summer of 2016 he multiplied his threats against France on social networks and released a guide detailing how followers should commit attacks. Among his suggested methods were group stabbings or “filling a vehicle with gas cylinders and spraying them with fuel.”

Madani and Gilligmann tried to do just that, after sending Kassim videos pledging allegiance to IS, court documents say.

— AP

A cryptic Liberman says he and Gantz ‘exchanged views,’ may speak again later

Benny Gantz and Avigdor Liberman finish their meeting in Tel Aviv ahead of the launch of Gantz’s unity talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this evening at President Reuven Rivlin’s official residence in Jerusalem.

Liberman posts a cryptic tweet from the meeting: “Just finished the meeting with Blue and White chairman MK Benny Gantz. We exchanged views and perspectives. If necessary, we’ll speak again later on.”

UK tanker believed to be still in Iranian waters

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s government spokesman says legal proceedings against a British-flagged oil tanker held by Tehran since July have concluded, though he doesn’t know when the vessel will leave.

Ali Rabiei makes the comments Monday amid growing speculation about the fate of the Stena Impero. However, the ship has not turned on its satellite-tracking beacon in 58 days nor has there been any sign that it has left its position off the Iranian coast near the port city of Bandar Abbas.

Stena Bulk, the ship’s Swedish owners, also has not said anything about the ship’s departure.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard seized the Stena Impero in July after authorities in Gibraltar seized an Iranian crude oil tanker. That ship has since left Gibraltar, leading to hopes the Stena Impero would be released.

— AP

Vilnius, a hub of Torah study destroyed by Nazis, to get new yeshiva

A rabbi in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is opening there what he says is the city’s first yeshiva, or Jewish religious seminary, since World War II.

The Vilna Yeshiva will have about a dozen students when it opens this fall, Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky, the Chabad-Lubavitch movement’s emissary to Vilnius, tells the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Vilnius used to have many dozens of yeshivas and synagogues before the Holocaust, when it was a major hub of Jewish religious and cultural life. The Nazis and local collaborators, however, killed more than 90 percent of Lithuanian Jewry. Today, about 3,000 Jews live in Lithuania and Vilnius has one functioning synagogue, the Choral Synagogue, where Krinsky officiates.

“The Vilna Yeshiva will restore a semblance of that intensive Torah study, back to its roots,” Krinsky says. Krinsky and other teachers will teach the teenagers attending the yeshiva, he says. They hail from Jewish religious Orthodox families from several countries and will study at the yeshiva on a full-time basis, he adds.

The interior of the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius, Lithuania. (Wikimedia Commons/via JTA)

— JTA

US official in Lebanon to talk Hezbollah sanctions

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s central bank governor says a senior US Treasury official is visiting Beirut to explain the motives behind recent US sanctions targeting Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah group.

Treasury Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing, Marshall Billingslea, who is on a two-day visit to Lebanon, meets with the prime minister, parliament speaker and the central bank governor.

Central Bank chief Riad Salameh plays down reports in local media that the US will impose further sanctions on Lebanon’s dollar-strapped banking system, saying that Billingslea “is not coming here to squeeze Lebanon.”

Last month, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned Jammal Trust Bank and added it to its list of global terrorist organizations.

The bank denied US charges about “knowingly facilitating banking activities” for Hezbollah.

— AP

Egypt: Lawyers say police rounded up hundreds over protests

CAIRO — Egyptian rights lawyers say security forces have rounded up hundreds of people following small and infrequent anti-government protests.

The protests broke out in several Egyptian cities including the capital, Cairo, over the weekend, calling for President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to step down.

All protests were quickly broken up by police. But they marked a startling eruption of street unrest, which has been almost completely silenced in recent years by draconian measures imposed under Sissi.

Lawyers Malek Adly and Khaled el-Masry say security forces had arrested at least 400 people in Cairo and elsewhere across the country.

El-Masry says prosecutors have questioned at least 220 people, over claims that they took part in activities of an outlawed group, a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood group, and disseminating false news.

— AP

Convicted Nazi who escaped justice dies in Germany at 96

BERLIN — Karl Muenter, a former SS soldier who was convicted in France of a wartime massacre but who never served any time for his crimes, dies in northwestern Germany. He was 96.

Marcus Tischbier, a representative of the district mayor’s office in Nordstemmen, the village where Muenter lived, confirms today that he died on Friday. He has no further details.

Muenter was a sergeant with the 12th SS Panzer Division “Hitler Youth,” which was responsible for the massacre of 86 men in Ascq, France in April 1944, about two months before the Allied D-Day landings.

After partisans blew up a railroad line being used to shuttle German troops to Normandy, Muenter and other members of the division were ordered to arrest all males in the town. The victims, ranging from teenagers to the elderly, were lined up and shot.

He was convicted in absentia of war crimes and sentenced to death by a French court after the war, along with other participants in the massacre.

But by the time he was tracked down in 2013 in the Lower Saxony village where he lived by the great-grandson of one of the Ascq victims, the statute of limitations had passed.

— AP

PA security said to disrupt Islamic Jihad effort to build rockets in West Bank

Palestinian security services reportedly disrupted efforts by the Islamic Jihad terror group to construct rockets in the West Bank meant for attacks on Israeli population centers.

According to Channel 12, citing Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah, the Iran-backed terror group is working to export its strategy of periodic rocket attacks against Israel from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank.

PA security officials reportedly uncovered the effort and notified Israel’s Shin Bet security service.

Iran says Trump’s sanctions closed door on talks

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s top diplomat says US President Donald Trump “closed the door to negotiations” with the latest US sanctions, which raised the status of Iran’s central bank to a “global terrorist” institution.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tells reporters at the UN: “I know that President Trump did not want to do that,” adding he “must have been misinformed.”

Zarif also says he has no reason to believe Yemen’s Houthi rebels were lying when they claimed responsibility for the recent attack on key Saudi oil facilities, which was blamed by Saudi Arabia, Britain and the US on Iran.

He calls it a “high-precision, low-impact” attack with no casualties, and says: “If Iran was behind this attack, nothing would have been left of this refinery.”

Zarif says President Hassan Rouhani will be proposing a new Hormuz Peace Initiative for the region with two key principles: Non-intervention and non-aggression.

— AP

Mother of soldier whose body is held in Gaza asks world to help return remains

GENEVA, Switzerland — The mother of an Israeli soldier killed in Gaza in 2014 demands international action to bring him home, suggesting aid to the enclave should be contingent on Hamas returning his remains.

Leah Goldin gives an emotional appeal to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, lamenting that Hamas had “cruelly tormented our family” for five years by denying her son a proper burial.

Lt. Hadar Goldin was 23 when he was killed in August 2014, shortly after a UN-backed ceasefire was declared in the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas.

Goldin’s remains and those of another soldier killed in the war, Oron Shaul, are believed to be in the hands of Hamas. Two Israeli civilians — both reputed to be mentally unstable — are also believed to be in Hamas custody after entering the blockaded Gaza Strip.

“For five years, Hamas has been holding our son… in flagrant violation of Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law,” Leah Goldin tells the council, urging members to “please imagine just for a moment: What if this was your son?”

Goldin, who was invited by the non-governmental organization UN Watch to take its allotted spot and briefly address the council during a general debate, voices hope that the passage of a Security Council resolution in June could mark a turning point. Resolution 2474 states that nations are jointly responsible for ensuring the prompt return of people who go missing during armed conflict, and urges UN special envoys to make the issue a priority.

— AFP

Health officials shut popular northern streams over unsafe bacteria levels

Just days before the start on Sunday of the Jewish High Holidays, when hundreds of thousands of Israeli families take to the outdoors, officials announce they have detected unsafe levels of contaminants in several popular streams along well-known hiking trails in the country’s north.

In a statement by the ministries of environmental protection and health, officials say six streams concentrated north of the Sea of Galilee were found in routine checks to contain “anomalous amounts of bacteria,” and order them “temporarily closed.”

The streams are El Al, Banias, Zaki, Meshushim, and Jilaboun, and the Jordan River from its northernmost tip to where it empties into the Sea of Galilee.

Health officials say the water will be tested regularly.

Nazi symbols found painted on synagogue in northern Michigan

HANCOCK, Michigan — Officials say graffiti that included Nazi symbols was found spraypainted on a synagogue in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

David Holden, president of Temple Jacob in Hancock, says the graffiti was discovered Saturday by someone who noticed the vandalism and called police. The Daily Mining Gazette reports swastikas were spraypainted on the synagogue, as well as the symbol of the SS, a Nazi paramilitary organization.

Holden says nothing was damaged inside the synagogue. Police are investigating.

The newspaper reports that people came by the scene the same day the damage was reported to help clean off the graffiti. Holden says that response was “really remarkable.”

The vandalism was noticed on the same day as the annual Parade of Nations, a communitywide event that includes a parade and a multicultural festival.

— AP

Future US sanctions will hit Hezbollah benefactors, US said to warn Lebanon

BEIRUT, Lebanon — A US official warns Lebanese politicians today that future US sanctions would target any party suspected of providing “material” support to the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah, a Lebanese source tells AFP.

US Assistant Treasury Secretary for Terrorist Financing Marshall Billingslea met Prime Minister Saad Hariri and parliament speaker Nabih Berri on Monday, during a two-day visit to Lebanon.

During the meetings, Billingslea warned that US sanctions may extend beyond direct affiliates of Hezbollah, according to a source present at the talks.

“The US will sanction any group that provides material support to Hezbollah, be it through supplying weapons or money,” the source quotes Billingslea as saying.

But sanctions “will not target groups who are only tied to Hezbollah politically,” he adds, easing concern that the group’s political allies, including President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement and Berri’s Amal Movement, could be targeted.

As well as maintaining a large paramilitary force that has fought both Syrian rebels and Israel, Hezbollah is a key political force in Lebanon.

Billingslea, who arrived in the country on Sunday for meetings with banking and government officials, aims to “encourage Lebanon to take the necessary steps to maintain distance” from the group, says a statement released by the US embassy in Beirut.

— AFP

Military court sentences last member of Palestinian cell in deadly 2015 shooting

A military court hands down a life sentence to a member of a Palestinian terrorist cell that carried out a deadly shooting attack in 2015 that killed 25-year-old Malachy Rosenfeld.

Faiz Hamed was convicted of intentional cause of death — the military legal system’s equivalent to murder — and attempted intentional cause of death.

He is sentenced to life in prison and ordered to pay damages to Rosenfeld’s family.

Hamed and two other men carried out the attack, opening fire at a car in which Rosenfeld and three others were riding in the central West Bank. Rosenfeld was killed and his three friends were injured.

The cell had also carried out a number of other shooting attacks, including one against an Israeli ambulance.

Hamed is the final member of the cell to be sentenced.

— Judah Ari Gross

Macron announces separate meetings at UN with Trump, Rouhani

French President Emmanuel Macron announces separate meetings with counterparts US President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, as he tries to engineer a meeting between the two, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

“I had an informal meeting with Trump this morning. I will see Rouhani this evening and Trump again tomorrow (Tuesday),” Macron tells reporters.

— AFP

Gantz, Netanyahu arrive at President’s Residence for unity talks

Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu arrive at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, after President Reuven Rivlin invited the two earlier today to begin talks toward a unity government.

Benny Gantz, left, Reuven Rivlin, center, and Benjamin Netanyahu meeting at the President’s Residence on September 23, 2019. (Screen capture/GPO)

Rivlin orders Gantz, Netanyahu to pose for handshake photo

President Reuven Rivlin asks his staff to take a photograph of the two frontrunners for prime minister shaking hands, part of his efforts at forcing the two men to find common ground in order to begin negotiations toward a unity government.

Since neither Benny Gantz nor Benjamin Netanyahu has a clear-cut majority in the 22nd Knesset, the president has some leverage to force such a compromise.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) shakes hands with Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz (R) as President Reuven Rivlin looks on, at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, on September 23, 2019. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Boris Johnson says US should strike new deal with Iran

TEHRAN, Iran — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is urging the United States and its allies to strike a new nuclear deal with Iran to replace the current, fraying agreement.

US President Donald Trump pulled the US out of that deal last year and slapped new sanctions on Tehran. Those sanctions have hurt Iran’s struggling economy. Tehran has resumed enriching uranium to limits beyond those set in the agreement.

Speaking today at the United Nations, Johnson says, “Whatever your objections with the old nuclear deal with Iran, it’s time now to move forward and do a new deal.”

Johnson’s 10 Downing St. office clarifies that Britain still backs the existing deal and wants Iran to return to compliance.

Johnson is due to meet both Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani this week at the UN General Assembly in New York.

Trump, when asked about Johnson’s call for a new Iran deal, says: “Boris is a very smart man.” He does not elaborate.

— AP

Palestinian protesters clash with IDF over security prisoners’ hunger strikes

Some 100 Palestinians take part in violent protests today at a number of sites in the West Bank in solidarity with Palestinian security prisoners carrying out hunger strike in Israeli prisons.

Protesters outside Ramallah throw rocks and firebombs at IDF soldiers and Border Police, who respond with crowd-dispersal weapons. Eight protesters are injured in the clash.

In Jenin, soldiers reported being targeted by live fire. No one was hurt in the encounter.

Trump says meeting with Kim Jong Un ‘could happen soon’

UNITED NATIONS — US President Donald Trump says another meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “could happen soon.”

Trump does not elaborate at the start of UN meetings in New York about a possible fourth meeting with Kim over the North’s expanding nuclear program.

North Korean nuclear talks have been stalled despite past meetings between Trump and Kim, and the North has staged a series of short-range missile and artillery tests recently. Trump meets with South Korean President Moon Jae, later Monday.

The president will also speak Tuesday before the UN General Assembly, two years after he used the moment to deride Kim Jong Un as “Little Rocket Man” and threaten to destroy North Korea.

— AP

After more than an hour, Rivlin leaves Gantz, Netanyahu alone together

President Reuven Rivlin leaves the room where Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz are meeting to discuss a unity government. The meeting has gone on for over an hour. The two leaders are now alone in the room at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.

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Iran says Trump’s sanctions closed door on talks

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s top diplomat says US President Donald Trump “closed the door to negotiations” with the latest US sanctions, which raised the status of Iran’s central bank to a “global terrorist” institution.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tells reporters at the UN: “I know that President Trump did not want to do that,” adding he “must have been misinformed.”

Zarif also says he has no reason to believe Yemen’s Houthi rebels were lying when they claimed responsibility for the recent attack on key Saudi oil facilities, which was blamed by Saudi Arabia, Britain and the US on Iran.

He calls it a “high-precision, low-impact” attack with no casualties, and says: “If Iran was behind this attack, nothing would have been left of this refinery.”

Zarif says President Hassan Rouhani will be proposing a new Hormuz Peace Initiative for the region with two key principles: Non-intervention and non-aggression.

— AP