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2018 reportedly saw a dramatic rise in ‘price tag’ attacks in West Bank

Security officials tell Channel 12 there were 205 attacks by ultra-nationalists last year, express concerns over rising tensions and potential for escalation of violence

'Over Judea and Samaria there will be a war' is spray-painted in a price-tag attack targeting the central West Bank Palestinian village of Kafr Malik on June 17, 2019. (Kafr Malik Municipality)
'Over Judea and Samaria there will be a war' is spray-painted in a price-tag attack targeting the central West Bank Palestinian village of Kafr Malik on June 17, 2019. (Kafr Malik Municipality)

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

British ambassador to US resigning over Trump criticism

Britain’s Foreign Office says UK Ambassador to the US Kim Darroch has resigned after diplomatic cables criticizing Trump were leaked.

The leaked memos revealed Britain’s ambassador had described the president and his White House as “inept” and “uniquely dysfunctional.”

Trump has raged over the revelations, and has lashed out at both Darroch and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

British Ambassador Kim Darroch hosts an event at the British Embassy in Washington, October 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Sait Serkan Gurbuz)

“The current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like,” Darroch writes in his resignation letter. “I believe in the current circumstances the responsible course is to allow the appointment of a new ambassador.”

— with agencies

Lebanese parliament chief: US sanctions on Hezbollah an ‘aggression’

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri condemns US sanctions imposed yesterday against three leaders of Hezbollah, calling them “aggression” against the country.

The unprecedented sanctions against Hezbollah elected officials constitute “aggression against the House of Representatives, and certainly against Lebanon,” Berri says in a statement issued by the presidency of parliament.

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, in Beirut, Lebanon,May 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

— AFP

Israel expresses ‘full solidarity’ with Cyprus in drilling spat with Turkey

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry expresses support for Cyprus, which has complained that Turkey is drilling in its territorial waters.

“Israel follows with serious concern recent steps taken by Turkey in the waters off Cyprus’s northeast coast and reiterates its full support and solidarity with [Cyprus] in exercising its sovereign rights in its maritime areas and its opposition to any attempt to violate these rights,” Emmanuel Nahshon tweeted.

US proceeding with plan for coalition to deter Iran threats

The US will move ahead with plans to build a coalition of nations to monitor and deter Iranian threats against commercial shipping in the Persian Gulf area, and in a heavy trafficked waterway between the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff says.

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford says the Pentagon has developed a specific plan, and that he believes it will be clear within a couple of weeks which nations are willing to join the effort.

Mark Esper, the acting secretary of defense, raised the issue last month with allied officials at NATO headquarters, but no nations were ready to commit to participating. Esper said at the time that the plans would have to be further refined.

— AP

Merkel suffers new shaking spell, third in a month

German Chancellor Angela Merkel suffered a new trembling spell today, the third time in less than a month, raising questions over her health.

Merkel began shaking involuntarily as national anthems were being played at the reception of Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne, an AFP photographer witnessed.

A government spokesman played down the trembling, telling AFP: “The chancellor is well and the talks with the Finnish prime minister will go on as planned.”

AFP

Body of missing American scientist found on Greek island

Police have recovered a woman’s body on the Greek island of Crete they think belonged to an American scientist who was reported missing while attending a conference.

Suzanne Eaton, a 59-year-old molecular biologist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, was last seen July 2. Colleagues at the conference said they believed Eaton had gone for a run near the port of Chania.

Police say the body found Monday was in a cave near the port. Homicide detectives from Athens were traveling to Crete to lead an investigation.

Eaton’s husband is an Israeli-born molecular biologist.

— AP with Times of Israel staff

Police arrest Palestinian suspected of molesting 13-year-old girl

Police say they have arrested a Palestinian in his thirties on suspicion of molesting a 13-year-old Israeli girl at a school where he worked.

Officials say the crime is believed to have taken place in late May, and the suspect escaped to the West Bank after committing it. He was arrested yesterday.

A judge has extended the suspect’s remand by six days.

Ya’alon: Lapid will be an excellent prime minister when the time comes

Blue and White’s Moshe Ya’alon, no. 3 on the party’s Knesset slate, was reported in recent weeks to be unhappy with the so-called “rotation” agreement between party chief Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, which would have them rotate the premiership between them if they form the next government.

Reports in Hebrew media said Ya’alon was critical of the deal, leading to tensions withing the party leadership.

Today he tweets: “Any who look for cracks in Blue and White will find an iron wall of partnership.

“Yair Lapid, my partner and friend, is an experienced ally… I have no doubt that Yair will be an excellent prime minister when the time comes.”

Arab Israeli convicted of assisting terrorists in Temple Mount attack

Arab Israeli Amjad Jabarin has been convicted of knowingly assisting the three gunmen who killed two police officers outside the Temple Mount compound two years ago.

The indictment said Jabarin transported the three terrorists to Jerusalem, spoke with them about their plans ahead of time, and “even offered to join them in carrying out the attack on at least two occasions.”

Amjad Jabarin arrives in a Haifa District Court on August 24, 2017, where he is charged with accessory to murder in connection with a terror attack on the Temple Mount in July. (Screen capture: Channel 10)

The three terrorists themselves were killed in the attack, which claimed the lives of Master Sgt. Kamil Shnaan and Master Sgt. Haiel Sitawe.

Jabarin will be sentenced at a later date.

Police probing case of suspected child trafficking in ultra-Orthodox community

A court in Nazareth has allowed the publication of details in the investigation of a suspected child trafficking case.

Police suspect that a childless ultra-Orthodox couple enlisted the help of a rabbi’s wife to take a child from a mentally ill pregnant woman.

The rabbi’s wife was reportedly the woman’s legal guardian. The woman was flown to the US where she underwent surgery at a hospital with ties to the ultra-Orthodox community. The infant was removed and handed over to the couple.

The rabbi’s wife has denied any involvement in the child’s adoption.

A lawyer for the biological mother’s family says the case is not an isolated one, but part of a system that has been operating in Israel for some time.

Two teen terrorists involved in deadly stabbing attack given 35 and 32 years

Two Palestinian teenage terrorists involved in a deadly stabbing attack that killed off-duty soldier Tuvia Yanai Weissman and seriously wounded another Israeli man in 2016 have been sentenced to 35 and 32 years in prison, the army says.

A third terrorist involved in the plot was sentenced late last year to 35 years in prison and ordered to pay a NIS 1.25 million ($330,000) fine.

The military prosecution requested life sentences for all three, but this was denied by the court as the terrorists were minors at the time of the attack.

Tuvia Yanai Weissman, 21, an IDF soldier who was killed in a stabbing attack in a West Bank supermarket on February 18, 2016. (Courtesy)

The two assailants given 35-year sentences were convicted for carrying out the stabbing attack in a West Bank supermarket in February 2016. The third terrorist was involved in the planning and intended to take part in the attack, but was turned away by the store’s security guard, preventing him from taking part in the stabbing.

The two men who were sentenced today were also ordered to pay NIS 2.5 million ($660,000) in damages to the families of the victims.

— Judah Ari Gross

Report: UN nuclear watchdog confirms Iran now enriching uranium to 4.5%

The UN nuclear watchdog has said Iran is now enriching uranium to 4.5 percent purity after breaching its enrichment cap earlier this week, diplomats tell Reuters.

Tehran has previously said it would move from the 3.67% agreed under the deal to the 5% needed to operate the Bushehr nuclear reactor.

Iran’s move comes a year after US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the nuclear deal. Since then, America has imposed sanctions blocking Iranian crude oil from being sold on the world market.

Israelis take over East Jerusalem home after court battle

A Palestinian family has been evicted from a home in East Jerusalem near the Old City after Israelis won a court battle that stretched more than two decades, activists say.

The apartment in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan was home to a 53-year-old woman and her four children, according to Israeli left-wing group Peace Now.

Police evicted the residents from the apartment and they will at least temporarily stay with relatives.

View of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on December 3, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An Israeli court found that the Elad foundation, which seeks to increase the Jewish presence in mainly Palestinian East Jerusalem, had legally purchased that portion of the property and ruled in its favor.

— AFP

Israel tried to assassinate Hamas commanders, Gazan sources tell Lebanese paper

Hamas officials claim Israel has made several attempts to assassinate top figures in the Gaza Strip, according to a Lebanese paper.

Citing unnamed Hamas sources, the pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar reports that Israel made the attempts following a botched special forces operation in the Strip in November.

It says a collaborator attempted to poison one top commander, while a hit on another top official was attempted with a booby-trapped package. Both failed, the terror group sources claimed.

Trump says Iran sanctions will soon be ‘increased substantially’

US President Donald Trump warns sanctions against Iran will soon be “increased substantially” after Tehran said it exceeded a limit on enriched uranium reserves under a 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by Washington.

“Iran has long been secretly ‘enriching,’ in total violation of the terrible 150 Billion Dollar deal made by John Kerry and the Obama Administration,” Trump says on Twitter.

“Remember, that deal was to expire in a short number of years. Sanctions will soon be increased, substantially!”

— AFP

Authorities say 2019 has seen sharp decrease in fires from arson balloons

The year 2019 has seen a marked decrease in the number of fires caused by incendiary balloons launched from the Gaza Strip, authorities say.

According to data released by security forces, firefighters and the Nature and Parks Authority, this year has so far seen an average of two fires a day and 10 during flare-ups, compared to 8-10 and 30 during flare-ups last year.

Last year saw 34,000 dunams (8,400 acres) of land burned in such fires, while this year has so far had only 1,400 dunams (346 acres) affected.

Additionally, the average response time for firefighters dropped from eight minutes in 2018 to five minutes this year.

Israeli authorities remove East Jerusalem memorial to slain Palestinian

Authorities in Jerusalem have removed a memorial erected in East Jerusalem to a Palestinian who was shot dead by police last month after launching fireworks at them.

Mohammed Abid of Issawiya was killed on June 27 during clashes between police and Palestinian protesters in the neighborhood. Police said he set off the fireworks from close range “endangering the lives” of officers.

At special IAEA meeting, US urges world to reject Iran’s ‘nuclear extortion’

The United States is admonishing world powers seeking to preserve a deal with Iran on its atomic program not to give in to “nuclear extortion” from Tehran.

The US requested the special board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency after Iran announced last week that it had exceeded the amount of low-enriched uranium it is allowed to stockpile under limitations set in the 2015 nuclear deal. Since then, it also announced it has started enriching uranium past the 3.67% purity allowed, to 4.5%, and IAEA inspectors verified both developments.

US Ambassador Jackie Wolcott waits for the start of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, board of governors meeting at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, Wednesday, July 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

Jackie Wolcott, the US ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, tells Iran and others in the room that Washington was open to “negotiation without preconditions” on a new nuclear deal, and that “the only path to sanctions relief is through such negotiations, not nuclear extortion.

“We are committed to denying Iran the benefits it seeks from these most recent provocations,” she says. “It is imperative that this misbehavior not be rewarded, for if it is, Iran’s demands and provocations will only escalate.”

— AP

Labor’s Peretz and Barak meet to discuss cooperation, agree to continue talks

Newly elected Labor chief Amir Peretz says he has concluded a meeting with the head of the freshly formed Israel Democratic Party, former prime minister Ehud Barak.

The two convened in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan to discuss possible cooperation between their parties in the upcoming election on September 17.

“We had a conversation in a very good atmosphere and with mutual respect. We agreed to continue to talk in the coming days,” Peretz tweets.

Amir Peretz delivers a speech at a Labor party conference in Tel Aviv on January 10, 2019. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Sources close to the pair tell the Ynet news site that relations between the two, who both led Labor in the past, has been tense in recent years, and there is “natural suspicion.”

Labor’s Peretz said courting Orly Levy-Abekasis

Channel 12 news reports that Labor chief Amir Peretz is keen on joining forces with Orly Levy-Abekasis, whose Gesher party failed to enter the 120-member Knesset in the last election.

The report says Levy-Abekasis is also being courted by Likud and Blue and White, but it is not clear whether she will join any of the slates.

However, Channel 12 says Peretz and Levy-Abekasis have agreed to meet.

Jerusalem installing free high-speed Wi-Fi in city center

The Jerusalem municipality has begun installing free high-speed Wi-Fi in the city center for use by the public.

The municipality says users will be able to use the internet at a speed of 16MB a second.

“The deployment of a free wireless internet in the city center places Jerusalem as the capital of Israel’s technological innovation, in line with the world’s smartest cities,” Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion says. “This tech infrastructure will enable internet access at top speeds for all, including the city’s residents, businesses, and millions of tourists.”

Last year reportedly saw dramatic rise in ‘price tag’ attacks

The number of so-called price-tag attacks targeting Palestinians in the West Bank rose dramatically last year, Channel 12 news reports.

The year 2018 saw 205 such attacks, compared to 79 in 2017 and 57 in 2016, according to data received from security officials.

Sources told Channel 12 the rising number of incidents was also raising tensions between Israelis and Palestinians throughout the West Bank.

There was concern this could lead to conflagration in the territory.

“Price tag” refers to vandalism and other hate crimes carried out by Jewish ultra-nationalists ostensibly in retaliation for Palestinian violence or government policies perceived as hostile to the settler movement. Mosques, churches, dovish Israeli groups, and even Israeli military bases have been targeted by nationalist vandals in recent years.

Iran, Russia pour scorn on US at meeting of nuclear watchdog

Iran and Russia are lambasting America’s call for Tehran to adhere to limits in a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers at a special meeting of the UN’s nuclear watchdog.

The meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was requested by the US after it was confirmed last week that Iran had exceeded the stockpile of enriched uranium permitted under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Earlier the US Ambassador to International Organizations in Vienna Jackie Wolcott told the meeting that Iran was engaged in “nuclear extortion.”

Iran’s Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Gharib Abadi speaks to the media after the IAEA board of governors meeting at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, Wednesday, July 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

Her Iranian counterpart Kazem Gharib Abadi now says it is a “sad irony that this meeting is convened with the request of the United States.” He says the current impasse is the result of the US’s “outlaw behavior” and condemns what he calls the “sadistic tendency” of the US to impose sanctions on Iran.

Russia’s Ambassador to the IAEA Mikhail Ulyanov tweets after the meeting that the US “was practically isolated on this issue.” He told the assembled diplomats it was an “oddity” that the meeting had been called by the US, “the country that declared the JCPOA to be a ‘terrible deal.'”

— AP

DNA of Ethiopian-Israeli shot dead by policeman found on rock at scene

The DNA of Solomon Tekah, the Ethiopian-Israeli teen shot dead by an off-duty officer in an incident that sparked nation-wide protests, was found on a rock recovered from the scene, Channel 12 news reports.

The DNA may indicate that Tekah, 19, threw or at least held the rock prior to being shot, and could strengthen the police officer’s case.

The officer claimed he was trying to break up a street fight he came across but was set upon by three youths who hurled stones at him, endangering his life. He said he did not target Tekah but rather fired at the ground.

The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department said a probe into Tekah’s death concluded the officer indeed fired at the ground and the bullet apparently ricocheted into Tekah.

Netanyahu: No settlement will be uprooted, ‘we’re through with that nonsense’

During a visit to the northern West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says: “We will not allow any community in the Land of Israel to be uprooted.”

Netanyahu was attending a ceremony marking 40 years since the establishment of the Samaria Regional Council.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv. June 27, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)

“No communities will be uprooted. Not those of Jews, and by the way, not those of Arabs either. We’re through with that nonsense.”

Council head Yossi Dagan tells him: “Now is the time to extend sovereignty on Judea and Samaria” — in reference to premier’s promise before the April election to annex Israeli settlements.

“Not just on the communities that make up only 3 percent of the territory, but on the empty lands and state lands…that await Jewish settlement,” Dagan adds.

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Israel tried to assassinate Hamas commanders, Gazan sources tell Lebanese paper

Hamas officials claim Israel has made several attempts to assassinate top figures in the Gaza Strip, according to a Lebanese paper.

Citing unnamed Hamas sources, the pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar reports that Israel made the attempts following a botched special forces operation in the Strip in November.

It says a collaborator attempted to poison one top commander, while a hit on another top official was attempted with a booby-trapped package. Both failed, the terror group sources claimed.