Israel cuts back Gaza fishing zone over incendiary balloons
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Milchan said to tell police he felt ‘disgusted’ by Netanyahus’ gift requests

Israeli TV quotes billionaire telling investigators ‘do you want me to fall on the ground laughing,’ when asked if Sara Netanyahu ever gave him a present

  • People take part in the annual Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem on June 6, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
    People take part in the annual Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem on June 6, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
  • People take part in the 18th annual Jerusalem Gay Pride parade on June 6, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
    People take part in the 18th annual Jerusalem Gay Pride parade on June 6, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
  • People take part in the annual Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem on June 6, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    People take part in the annual Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem on June 6, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Justice Minister Amir Ohana, Israel's first openly gay minister, attends the annual Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem on June 6, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
    Justice Minister Amir Ohana, Israel's first openly gay minister, attends the annual Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem on June 6, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
  • People take part in the 18th annual Jerusalem Gay Pride parade on June 6, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
    People take part in the 18th annual Jerusalem Gay Pride parade on June 6, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
  • Participants in the annual Jerusalem Gay Pride parade place flowers at a memorial for Shira Banki, who was murdered during the parade in 2015, on June 6, 2019. (Times of Israel)
    Participants in the annual Jerusalem Gay Pride parade place flowers at a memorial for Shira Banki, who was murdered during the parade in 2015, on June 6, 2019. (Times of Israel)
  • People take part in the 18th annual Jerusalem Gay Pride parade on June 6, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
    People take part in the 18th annual Jerusalem Gay Pride parade on June 6, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
  • People take part in the annual Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, on June 6, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    People take part in the annual Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, on June 6, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

Israel cuts back Gaza fishing zone over incendiary balloons

Israel has cut the fishing zone it allows off Gaza, an official says Thursday, in the third such response in a fortnight to Palestinian incendiary balloons.

The Israeli official tells AFP on condition of anonymity that as of Wednesday the fishing limit for Gaza fishermen had been reduced from a maximum of 15 nautical miles to 10.

A spokesman for the Israeli fire service said incendiary balloons from Gaza caused three blazes on Tuesday.

It was only on Tuesday that Israel restored the limit to 15 miles after a previous reduction in response to fire balloons last week.

It imposed a similar cut on May 23.

The limit of up to 15 nautical miles set ahead of the April general election is the largest allowed in years.

— AFP

Egypt: Troops kill 14 jihadists day after IS attack in Sinai

CAIRO — Egypt says security forces killed 14 jihadists while pursuing attackers behind an assault on a police checkpoint in northern Sinai that authorities said left eight policemen dead.

The Islamic State extremist group had claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack near the city of el-Arish.

Egyptian security officials initially said as many as 10 policemen died in the attack but the discrepancy in the accounts could not be reconciled. The area is off limits to reporters.

The Interior Ministry says that while pursuing the attackers, security forces located a group of insurgents hiding inside a deserted house in the city. A shootout ensued, killing 14 militants who had automatic rifles, bombs and explosive belts in the possession.

Egypt has battled Islamic militants for years in northern Sinai, where the IS affiliate is based.

— AP

Japan’s Abe to visit Iran in bid to cool tensions between Washington, Tehran

TOKYO — Shinzo Abe plans to travel to Iran next week, the first visit by a Japanese prime minister in more than four decades, as Tokyo hopes to ease Middle East tension by mediating between Washington and Tehran.

A government official tells AFP that Tokyo was still arranging details, including who Abe will meet, but local media have said he will hold talks with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani.

As tensions intensify between Iran and Japan’s key ally the United States, Abe has reportedly proposed serving as a go-between by directly holding talks with Iran’s key leaders.

“We believe it is extremely important that, at the leadership level, we call on Iran as a major regional power to ease tension, to adhere to the nuclear agreement and to play a constructive role for the region’s stability,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga tells a regular press briefing.

The visit, from June 12-14, will be the first by a Japanese leader in 41 years, Suga saus.

During his state visit to Tokyo in late May, US President Donald Trump said he remained open to talks with Tehran, appearing to give the green light to Abe’s plan.

— AFP

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, shake hands at Abe’s official residence in Tokyo May 16, 2019. (AP/Eugene Hoshiko, Pool)

Public worker charged with unauthorized transfer of classified info

The cyber division in the State Prosecutor’s Office files charges against a public worker for transferring classified information without authorization.

The indictment filed at the Jerusalem District Court charges the suspect with theft by a public employee, possession of classified information and transferring classified information.

Prosecutors request the suspect remain in custody until the end of legal proceedings.

A statement from the Justice Ministry says the accused gave “secret” and “top secret” information to another party.

A gag order has been placed on publishing further details in the case.

Netanyahu meets with Erdan amid reported push to name him UN envoy

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan as he reshuffles his cabinet after firing a pair of right-wing rivals earlier this week.

A statement from the ruling Likud party doesn’t say what the two discussed, but the meeting comes amid reports that Netanyahu is seeking to name Erdan as Israel’s UN ambassador.

“At this stage no decisions have been made,” Likud says.

Erdan has reportedly turned down previous offers of the post, which is currently being manned by Danny Danon, a former Likud minister who had clashed with Netanyahu and unsuccessfully challenged him for the party leadership.

Danon’s term is up in a few weeks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan arrive fora cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on October 1, 2017 (Amit Shabi/Pool/Flash90)

NATO commander in Iraq says mission not affected by US, Iran tensions

BRUSSELS — The head of the NATO mission in Iraq insists that the recent increase in tension between the US and Iran has not hampered the alliance’s work in the country.

Washington ordered the evacuation of non-emergency staff from its Baghdad embassy last month due to an alleged growing threat from Iranian-linked Iraqi militias, while Germany and the Netherlands suspended their training missions.

But Canadian General Dany Fortin, who leads NATO’s 500-strong training and advisory mission in Iraq, says his forces had “sufficiently mitigated” the threat and were able to continue working.

“There’s no doubt there’s still risk and as reported in the media in the last few weeks there was a critical threat, cause for concern for the US and for all of us,” Fortin tells reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

“We have force protection measures in place to ensure that we’re vigilant, unpredictable, we change things, but we can continue our activities. So it hasn’t affected our advising, our training activities whatsoever.”

The NATO mission aims to train local Iraqi forces and improve military education centers to try to avoid a repeat of 2014, when the Islamic State jihadist group seized large areas of Iraq and Syria.

— AFP

Meeting ex-deputy of UN atomic agency, PM accuses Iran of lying about nuclear work

Prime Minister Netanyahu hosts the former deputy head of the UN’s atomic agency at his Jerusalem office, thanking him for his “honest analysis” of Iran’s nuclear work.

“It is completely clear Iran is lying. Iran continues to work to acquire an arsenal of nuclear bombs and we must stop it,” Netanyahu tells Olli Heinonen, according to a Hebrew-language statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

“I thank you for talking about what Iran is doing,” the premier adds.

Heinonen spoke yesterday at a defense conference in Israel and in an interview with Army Radio said Iran is six- tp eight months away from amassing enough nuclear material for a bomb.

Netanyahu’s office quotes Heinonen thanking the prime minister for uncovering documents related to Iran’s nuclear weapons work that the Mossad secreted out of Tehran.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with Olli Heinonen, the former deputy head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, at his office in Jerusalem on June 6, 2019. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Foreign Ministry workers said to ask FM to stop PM’s selection of loyalist as Egypt envoy

Foreign Ministry workers in recent days have asked Foreign Minister Israel Katz to try to prevent Prime Minister Netanyahu’s reported intention to appoint Communications Minister Ayoub Kara as Israel’s ambassador to Egypt, the Haaretz daily reports.

According to the newspaper, the employees have asked Katz to support the appointment of Amira Oron, a career Foreign Ministry official who was tapped for the position last year.

Kara, a Netanyahu loyalist who failed to secure a realistic spot on Likud’s electoral list to enter the next Knesset, is known for having made a number of diplomatic gaffes, including reportedly being detained at Dubai’s airport last year for refusing to follow instructions of airport officials.

Communications Minister Ayoub Kara at a press conference in the northern city of Safed, July 10, 2018. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Jerusalem Pride begins under heavy police presence

Festivities for the 18th annual Gay Pride parade begin Jerusalem, under a heavy police presence.

Participants in the parade have begun gathering in the city’s Liberty Bell Park, from where they will march to Independence Park at 5 p.m.

Some 2,500 officers have been deployed throughout the city to protect the march, which an estimated 30,000 people are expected to take part in.

Meeting Macron, Trump says Iran ‘failing as a nation’

US President Donald Trump meets his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, with recent tensions between the US and Iran featuring prominently in their conservation.

“I don’t think we have differences over Iran. The [French] president doesn’t want to see Iran have nuclear weapons and neither do I,” Trump says as the two meet in the French city of Caen.

“They’re failing as a nation and I don’t want to see them fail as a nation. We can turn that around quickly,” the US president adds.

Undercover cops nab suspect carrying knife near Jerusalem Pride parade

Police arrest a man near the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade carrying a knife.

According to a police statement, the man aroused the suspicion of undercover officers, who subsequently searched him and found a knife on his person.

Police say the suspect refused to identify himself and was taken in for questioning after being arrested.

Israel’s first gay minister makes appearance at Jerusalem Pride parade

Justice Minister Amir Ohana, Israel’s first openly gay minister, arrives at the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade.

Ohana, a member of the right-wing Likud party, was picked yesterday by Prime Minister Netanyahu to be justice minister in the transitional government that is serving until fresh Knesset elections on September 17.

As he makes his way through the crowds, a number of participants protest Ohana’s presence, chanting “shame.”

Abbas calls Rivlin to offer condolences on wife’s passing

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday to offer his condolences on the passing of his late wife Nechama Rivlin, the official PA news site Wafa reports.

Rivlin thanked Abbas for the phone call and wished him happy holidays on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim festival that takes place following Ramadan, the Wafa report adds.

— Adam Rasgon

President Reuven Rivlin and his wife Nechama meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right) during the State funeral for late former President Shimo Peres at Mount Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem, on September 30, 2016. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

Netanyahu selects ex-settler leader as his settlements czar

Prime Minister Netanyahu picks ex-settler leader Avi Roeh as his Defense Ministry adviser on settlements.

Roeh is a former head of the Yesha Council, an umbrella organization for West Bank settlements.

His appointment comes just days after Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, fired Kobi Eliraz from the post, sparking anger among settler leaders.

Eliraz was appointed by former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and stayed on after Avigdor Liberman took charge at the ministry. Both Ya’alon and Liberman are now political adversaries of Netanyahu, with the latter falling out with the prime minister during failed talks to form a government last month.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Yesha Council head Avi Roeh (L) shake hands at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on June 6, 2019. (Courtesy)

17 arrested, detained on suspicion of trying to disrupt Jerusalem pride parade

Seventeen people have been arrested or detained on suspicions of seeking to disrupt the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade, according to police.

“Police security measures continue in and around the area as the parade is taking place,” a police statement says.

Jerusalem police chief Doron Yadid tells reporters that those arrested include a person with a knife and another with pepper spray.

PA to cancel ministers’ raise following uproar — UN envoy

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The cash-strapped Palestinian Authority government has pledged to suspend a secret increase in ministerial salaries, the United Nations envoy on the Israel-Palestinian conflict says Thursday after reports of the raise sparked anger.

Documents leaked online appeared to show that in 2017, PA President Mahmoud Abbas had quietly agreed to increase monthly salaries of ministers from $3,000 to $5,000, as well as boosting the prime minister’s salary from $4,000 to $6,000.

The revelation, by an anonymous online group known as “Against the Current,” came as the Palestinian government faces desperate financial shortfalls.

Nickolay Mladenov, United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, says Thursday he had spoken to recently installed PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, who had agreed to cancel the raises.

“At a time when the #Palestinian people are struggling with economic hardship, when salaries were cut in #Gaza, such decisions defy logic and rightly anger people,” Mladenov tweets in reaction to the news of the salary increase.

“I spoke to @DrShtayyeh who committed to end this practice immediately and investigate.”

Shtayyeh, who replaced predecessor Rami Hamdallah in April, is not immediately available for comment.

— AFP

10,000 people taking part in Jerusalem Gay Pride parade

10,000 people are currently taking part in the annual Jerusalem Gay Pride parade, police say.

Army probing reported rocket launch from Syria

The Israeli army is investigating reports of a rocket launch from Syria toward Israel’s Mount Hermon on the Golan Heights.

The projectile is said to have fallen short of the border and landed within Syrian territory.

— Judah Ari Gross

Army says reported Syria rocket launch was anti-aircraft fire, didn’t land in Israel

The Israeli military says its radar systems detected anti-aircraft fire from Syria, which initially appeared to be rockets heading toward Israel.

An army spokesperson says the surface-to-air missile did not land inside Israel nor did it represent a threat to Israelis.

— Judah Ari Gross

Netanyahu gripes over AG’s rejection of his request to delay pre-trial hearing

Prime Minister Netanyahu reacts to Attorney General Avichai Mandelbit’s decision to reject his request to further delay his pre-trial hearing, which is scheduled for early October.

“The repeated elections, which were forced in an unprecedented manner, are an exceptional event that requires exceptional attention on the part of the law enforcement authorities regarding the date of the hearing,” Hebrew media quotes a statement from Netanyahu’s office saying.

Hundreds protest against Jerusalem Gay Pride parade

Hundreds of people are taking part in a demonstration against the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade.

The event was organized by the right-wing group Hazon and is being held under the banner “To be a normal nation in our land — say yes to the family!”

Among those taking part in the demonstration is Union of Right-Wing Parties MK Moti Yogev.

“This is normality and naturalness of life — generations upon generations of a father, mother and children. This is a normal life,” Yogev says.

Blue and White raps PM for complaining over rejection of hearing delay request

Leaders of the opposition Blue and White party criticize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the premier condemns Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s rejection of a request to delay his pre-trial hearing.

“All of Netanyahu’s moves are aimed solely at obstructing, delaying and bypassing the legal process,” Blue and White leader Benny Gantz writes on Twitter.

“Attorney general, you are the last barrier against one suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust,” he adds.

“Don’t fold!”

Yair Lapid, Blue and White’s No. 2, also lambastes Netanyahu.

“Twice [we’ve] gone to elections so a prime minister can escape from trial,” Lapid tweets. “Go to court like any citizen accused of bribery.”

Interior Minister Deri grilled by police on corruption allegations

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri was questioned Thursday morning by police investigators as part of an ongoing corruption probe, police say.

In November, police recommended filing charges against Deri on suspicion of committing fraud, breach of trust, obstructing court proceedings, money laundering and tax offenses involving millions of shekels. Some of the incidents allegedly occurred while Deri was a cabinet minister.

He is suspected of diverting hundreds of thousands of shekels in state funds to NGOs run by members of his immediate family, as well as suspected tax fraud linked to the sale of apartments to his brother.

Deri, who heads the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, would have to resign his ministerial post if prosecutors press charges. He already served 22 months in prison from 2000 to 2002, after he was convicted of taking bribes as interior minister in the 1990s.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri leads a Shas faction meeting at the Knesset on May 27, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

German FM to visit Iran in bid to salvage nuclear accord

BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister is traveling to Iran next week to discuss the faltering nuclear accord between Tehran and leading world powers, his office says.

Heiko Maas’s visit to Iran will be part of a broader trip to the Middle East starting Friday, with stops in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr says.

Maas plans to meet his Iranian counterpart Mohammed Javad Zarif on Monday to discuss Tehran’s role in the restive region and the 2015 nuclear accord.

“We want to preserve this nuclear agreement because we believe it is a good agreement that prevents Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons,” Adebahr says.

Maas discussed the trip with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a recent visit to Berlin, she says.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord last year and reinstated sanctions against Tehran, saying the agreement failed to sufficiently curb Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons or halt its support for groups that the US says destabilize the Middle East.

Iran has threatened to also walk away from the deal unless the other signatories — China, Russia, France, Germany and Britain — take steps within the next month to neutralize the effect of US sanctions.

Adebahr says Germany shares many of the US concerns about Iran’s role in the region and its nuclear ambitions, but believes sticking to the accord is the best solution.

“I think it’s no secret that we currently have different views on the way to reaching a shared goal,” she says.

— AP

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speaks during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after a meeting at Villa Borsig in north Berlin on May 31, 2019. (Odd Andersen/AFP)

49 people arrested or detained for trying to disrupt Jerusalem Pride march

Police say a total 49 people have been arrested or detained on suspicion of trying to disrupt the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade.

Minister responds to demonstrators who booed him at Jerusalem Pride march

Justice Minister Amir Ohana, Israel’s first openly gay minister, puts out a video statement responding to demonstrators who booed him at the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade today.

“The Jerusalem [pride] march is very important to me because Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and the seat of government and legal institutions. As a liberal who believes with all his heart in freedom of expression, I said to the group of protesters who demonstrated against me — [who] weren’t ultra-Orthodox or religious — it is important they came here,” Ohana says.

“I hope this doesn’t overshadow the main message meant to come out of this event: It doesn’t matter if you’re religious or secular, left-wing or right-wing, LGBT or no, the message is one of tolerance.”

Justice Minister Amir Ohana, Israel’s first openly gay minister, attends the annual Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem on June 6, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Putin claims Russia didn’t meddle in US vote, despite evidence

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Russian President Vladimir Putin reaffirms his staunch denial that his government meddled in the 2016 US presidential election despite the extensive evidence to the contrary, and insists Moscow has no intention of interfering in any future votes, either.

Speaking in response to a question from The Associated Press during a meeting with chief executives of international news agencies in St. Petersburg, the Russian leader says that “we didn’t meddle, we aren’t meddling and we will not meddle in any elections.”

Putin and other Russian officials have hotly denied any interference with the US vote to help Donald Trump win the presidency, even though US special counsel Robert Mueller has uncovered evidence of a Kremlin operation to interfere with the 2016 vote. He charged 12 Russian military intelligence officers with breaking into Democratic Party emails, and also indicted other Russians who used phony social media accounts to spread divisive rhetoric and to undermine the US political system.

Putin insists that “we don’t have and never had any plans to interfere in US domestic politics,” but adds that the Russian government can’t stop private citizens from expressing their views about developments in the US online.

— AP

DC Dyke March bans Jewish Pride flags

The DC Dyke March is returning after a 12-year hiatus, with a new request: no “nationalist symbols” including flags and banners that represent “nations that have specific oppressive tendencies.”

This includes the Jewish Pride flag of rainbow colors with a white Star of David in the middle, which organizers say too closely resembles the flag of Israel.

Palestinian flags will be welcome, however.

The march will take place on Friday, a day before the annual Capital Pride Parade. Its theme is “displacement.”

Yael Horowitz, a Jewish organizer of the DC march, tells the Washington Post that “pro-Israel and pro-Jewish are very different things.”

She says in a Facebook message “Jewish stars and other identifications and celebrations of Jewishness (yarmulkes, talit, other expressions of Judaism or Jewishness) are welcome and encouraged. We do ask that participants not bring pro-Israel paraphernalia in solidarity with our queer Palestinian friends.”

The decision to ban Jewish Pride flags comes two years after three women were asked to leave the 21st annual Chicago Dyke March after being told that their rainbow flags with a white Star of David in the center would be a “trigger,” or traumatic stimulus, for people who found them offensive. The women reportedly were asked to leave after they started defending Israel and Zionism.

— JTA

Milchan said to tell police he felt ‘disgusted’ by Netanyahus’ gift requests

Israel-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan told police investigators he felt “disgusted” by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara’s requests for gifts, according to Channel 12 news.

Milchan is a central figure in Case 1000, one of three corruption cases in which Netanyahu faces criminal charges, pending a hearing. According to the attorney general, Milchan and James Packer, an Australian billionaire, gave Netanyahu and his wife gifts amounting to NIS 701,146 ($195,000), most of it cigars and champagne.

In portions of Milchan’s testimony aired by Channel 12, the Israeli mogul is asked whether Sara Netanyahu ever gave him gifts.

“Do you want me to fall on the ground laughing? The answer is no,” Milchan is quoted saying.

Netanyahu faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in Case 1000. He also faces those charges in a pair of other investigations known as cases 2000 and 4000. The attorney general has also recommended Netanyahu be charged with bribery in Case 4000.

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Israel cuts back Gaza fishing zone over incendiary balloons

Israel has cut the fishing zone it allows off Gaza, an official says Thursday, in the third such response in a fortnight to Palestinian incendiary balloons.

The Israeli official tells AFP on condition of anonymity that as of Wednesday the fishing limit for Gaza fishermen had been reduced from a maximum of 15 nautical miles to 10.

A spokesman for the Israeli fire service said incendiary balloons from Gaza caused three blazes on Tuesday.

It was only on Tuesday that Israel restored the limit to 15 miles after a previous reduction in response to fire balloons last week.

It imposed a similar cut on May 23.

The limit of up to 15 nautical miles set ahead of the April general election is the largest allowed in years.

— AFP