Jewish Home central committee votes to keep same slate for next election
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Military court extends remand of rape suspect for additional five days

Law enforcement still confident crime occurred, but acknowledges it had been too quick to indict Mahmoud Qadusa after media exposes holes in account

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Attorney Nashaf Darwish (L) speaks with the brother and son of Mahmoud Qadusa, a Palestinian man charged with kidnapping and raping a 7-year-old Israeli girl, at the Judea Military Court in the West Bank on June 19, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Attorney Nashaf Darwish (L) speaks with the brother and son of Mahmoud Qadusa, a Palestinian man charged with kidnapping and raping a 7-year-old Israeli girl, at the Judea Military Court in the West Bank on June 19, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

Police top brass said shocked by holes in rape case of 7-year-old girl

The head of the police’s investigations unit was “shocked” by the number of gaps in the indictment brought forward by a local law enforcement branch that investigated the alleged rape of a 7-year-old Israeli girl by a Palestinian custodian, Ynet reports.

Gadi Siso took over the probe yesterday and reopened the investigation, citing the need to review the details of the case and look into other possible leads.

According to Ynet, none of the police top brass were made aware of the investigation into the indictment was filed against Mahmoud Qadusa on Sunday.

Following reports about the growing number of holes in the case over the past several days, the remand hearing for Qadusa has been moved up to this afternoon at 3 p.m. where his attorney is expected to demand that the 46-year-old be released immediately.

Japan tanker was hit by mine with ‘resemblance’ to Iranian ones, US army says

A mine that hit a Japanese tanker last week bears “resemblance” to Iranian ones, a US Army official tells AFP.

UN expert calls for ‘targeted sanctions’ against Saudi crown prince

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s “personal assets” should be targeted with sanctions until there is proof he was not responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a UN expert says.

“In view of the credible evidence into the responsibilities of the Crown Prince for (Khashoggi’s) murder, such sanctions ought also to include the Crown Prince and his personal assets abroad, until and unless evidence is provided and corroborated that he carries no responsibilities for this execution,” the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard says in a report.


Likud dismisses Yisrael Beytenu claim it’s behind Knesset run of anti-Haredi Tiberias mayor

A Likud spokesman dismisses accusations from Yisrael Beytenu that his party is behind the Knesset candidacy of Tiberias Mayor Ron Cobi.

Kobi, who has gained notoriety over the past year for what critics have called provocative rhetoric against the expanding Haredi presence in his northern city, announced last week the formation of a new party to run in the September national elections.

His anti-Haredi message is likely to target a similar demographic that Yisrael Beytenu has long catered to.

In response to the Likud statement, Avigdor Liberman’s party issued a subsequent one of their own asserting that Netanyahu was indeed behind Cobi’s run and that the premier is “hysterical.”

Gaza banks to distribute Qatari grants to 60,000 poor families

Postal banks in the Gaza Strip will distribute small Qatari grants to 60,000 impoverished Palestinian families on Thursday, Mohammed al-Emadi, the head of Qatar’s Gaza Reconstruction Committee, says.

Emadi told the Qatari satellite broadcaster Al-Jazeera on Sunday that 100,000 would receive the payouts.

Emadi says in a statement on the Gaza Reconstruction Committee’s website that banks will hand out $100 bills to each of the 60,000 poor families.

He adds that the funds that Qatar originally allocated for the remaining 40,000 families will instead go to “execute other sustainable projects which will be announced in the future.”

— Adam Rasgon

Rouhani says Iran took ‘minimum’ action on nuclear deal

Iran took the “minimum” action it could over the failure of its partners in a landmark 2015 nuclear deal to honor their commitments, President Hassan Rouhani says.

Rouhani announced on May 8 that Tehran would stop observing some restrictions it had agreed to in the agreement, in retaliation for Washington’s withdrawal last year.

Iran’s atomic energy organization said on Monday the country would soon pass the amount of low-enriched uranium allowed under the deal.

“What we are doing, despite some countries’ propaganda against it, is the minimum measure Iran can take,” the official government website quotes Rouhani as saying during a cabinet meeting.

“The basis and the spirit of the (deal) have been seriously damaged by other parties,” he says, adding that the accord’s goal was for Iran to have normal economic ties with the world.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have deepened since the US withdrawal as Iran has faced the crippling economic blow of renewed US sanctions.

Washington has also bolstered its military presence in the Middle East in a campaign of “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran.

“No one can protest or blame us. We act based on law and in the framework” of the deal, Rouhani says.


Police probing ‘anti-Semitic attack’ on American Jewish tourist in Berlin

A Jewish American tourist in Berlin was attacked and injured in an anti-Semitic attack last night, Berlin police say.

The unnamed man, 23, was at a park around 9 p.m. in the Steglitz district of the city when three men accosted him, police say in a statement.

“The 23-year-old suffered a hematoma on the eye due to the blows to the face,” police say, adding that they have opened an investigation into the anti-Semitic incident since the man was attacked “because of his Jewish faith.”

Avi Himi, 60, takes helm of battered, scandal-ridden Bar Association

Attorney Avi Himi, 60, has been elected head of the Israel Bar Association, beating out rival Zion Amir in Tuesday’s vote.

Both Himi and Amir are noted criminal trial lawyers. A Rosh Ha’ayin resident, Himi owns a prominent criminal defense firm.

Exact vote counts are not yet public while vote-counting continues, but Bar Association officials announced this afternoon that Himi’s lead is now too great to be affected by the uncounted votes.

The latest vote also saw continued decline in voter turnout among Israel’s attorneys. Just 18,000 ballots were cast in Tuesday’s vote out of the 67,000 attorneys who are eligible, a turnout of 27 percent, slightly lower than the 28.5% in the last race in 2018 or 31% four years earlier.

Erdogan says Egyptian ex-president Morsi was ‘killed’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his close ally Mohamed Morsi was “killed” and accused Egyptian authorities of failing to intervene to save the ex-president.

“Morsi was struggling on the floor in the courtroom for 20 minutes. Authorities unfortunately did not intervene to save him,” Erdogan says during a televised speech in Istanbul. “Morsi was killed, he did not die of natural causes.”


Iran ‘categorically rejects’ US tanker attack allegations

Iran’s defense minister has “categorically rejected” accusations that Tehran was behind two tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman, describing evidence presented by Washington as “unsubstantiated,” the official news agency IRNA reports.

Washington has blamed Iran for last week’s attacks, releasing images and a grainy video it alleges shows Iranians on a patrol boat removing an unexploded limpet mine attached to one of the tankers.

“Accusations leveled against Iran’s armed forces and the published film with regards to the incident (that) happened to the vessels … are unsubstantiated and we categorically reject these accusations,” IRNA quotes Defence Minister Brigadier-General Amir Hatami as saying.


IDF soldiers uncover First Temple era watchtower near base

IDF soldiers have recently uncovered a watchtower from the First Temple period during an archaeological dig near their base in southern Israel.

The tower, which was dated to the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah in the 8th Century BCE, was likely part of a network of observation posts that used torches as means to send messages between communities, the Israel Antiquities Authority say in a statement.

The IAA says the watchtower, which was discovered near the Paratroopers Brigade training base, was built on high ground overlooking the South Hebron Hills.

Russia, China, block US effort to halt North Korea fuel deliveries

Russia and China blocked an American initiative that aimed to halt fuel deliveries to North Korea, which Washington accuses of exceeding its annual ceiling for 2019, diplomatic sources say.

Moscow and Beijing said more time was needed to study the US request, which was backed by 25 UN members including Japan, France and Germany, according to the sources.

A week ago, the United States, in a report, accused North Korea of breaching the United Nations-imposed ceiling on fuel imports by carrying out dozens of ship-to-ship transfers.

The cap on fuel imports is among a series of tough sanctions adopted by the UN Security Council in response to North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear tests.

The United States insists that “maximum pressure” from the sanctions must remain on North Korea until it agrees to dismantle its weapons program.


Remand hearing for suspect in rape of 7-year-old taking place behind closed doors

The Judea Military Court is currently holding a closed-door remand hearing for the Palestinian maintenance custodian suspected of raping a 7-year-old Israeli girl.

In light of reported holes in the investigation, the defendants attorney is expected to ask that Mahmoud Qadusa be immediately released.

40 evacuated after attack on Iraq Exxon site

An Iraqi intelligence officer says 40 workers for the energy giant Exxon Mobil Corp. have been evacuated from an oil-drilling site in southern Iraq after they came under rocket fire.

The officer tells The Associated Press that security reinforcements have been deployed to the site after a rocket hit before dawn Wednesday near the location of the Iraqi workers, wounding three. Iraqi officials said a Katyusha rocket hit the site in southern Basra province, striking a camp housing workers for Exxon Mobil and other foreign companies.

The official has spoken on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to brief the press.

The official says that immediately after the attack, 16 Exxon Mobil workers were evacuated. Another 24 workers were later evacuated.

— AP

Security cabinet meeting concludes

The security cabinet has concluded its meeting in Jerusalem after a four-hour session.

The meeting centered around growing tensions with Iran.

Palestinian injured in clash with IDF earlier this month succumbs to wounds

Arabic media reports that Musa Abu Me’aleh, a Palestinian who was injured in a clash with the IDF earlier this month in East Jerusalem’s Shuafat refugee camp, has succumbed to his wounds.

Saudi minister slams UN findings on Khashoggi as ‘unfounded’

A Saudi minister has slammed as “unfounded” a UN expert report calling for those involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to be held accountable.

“It is not new. The [UN] report reiterates what has already been published and circulated in the media,” Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, says on Twitter.

“The report… contains clear contradictions and unfounded allegations, casting doubt on its credibility.”


Prosecution asks to extend remand of rape suspect for an additional 10 days

The military prosecution has requested to extend the remand of Mahmoud Qadusa, who is suspected of raping a 7-year-old Israeli, for an additional ten days.

The closed-door remand hearing is ongoing and is expected to take another two hours.

Qadusa has been behind bars since May 1.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, the suspect broke down in tears at the Judea Military Court upon hearing the defense’s remand request.

“What have you been doing until now?” he is quoted as asking after the defense requested for additional time to complete the investigation. Why you are destroying my life.”

2 rockets land on oil company sites in Iraq

Iraqi officials say two rockets have landed on oil company sites in Iraq’s southern Basra province, one landing near the facilities of a Turkish company just hours after a similar attack on an Exxon Mobil Corp. site that injured three local workers, one seriously.

There were no immediate reports of damage at the service company in the compound in Burjesia. The company is affiliated with British Petroleum.

The security and oil officials said the rockets fired were Katyushas. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

Iraqi officials said they are investigating the source of the attack.

The first rocket landed to the south, near the facilities of the Iraqi Drilling Company, not far from the site of energy giant Exxon Mobil. Some 40 staff of Exxon Mobil were later evacuated.

— AP

Newcomer Miriam Adelson tops list of Israel’s richest

Dr. Miriam Adelson, the wife of American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, is Israel’s wealthiest person for 2019, according to a biannual list.

The Haaretz daily newspaper’s Israel’s rich list published today noted that Israel has 128 billionaires, after having only eight in 2003.

Miriam Adelson, 73, is new to the list and jumped right to the top spot, “thanks to a recent transfer of assets from her husband,” according to Haaretz.

Adelson’s personal wealth is placed at $22 billion, most of it in shares in the Las Vegas Sands Corp. given to her last year by her husband, according to the report. Adelson also controls the free distribution newspaper Israel Hayom as its publisher.


Police official: We’re prepared to release rape suspect if evidence not verified

An official with knowledge of the investigation says that police are prepared to drop the indictment against rape suspect Mahmoud Qadusa if it is not able to verify the accusations made against him.

The official says that law enforcement is confident in the veracity of the 7-year-old alleged victim’s account and believes that Qadusa is in fact the culprit. However, he acknowledges that the indictment against the 46-year-old Palestinian had been submitted too quickly.

Law enforcement official says an additional suspect was arrested in rape case but was released

An official with knowledge of the investigation into the alleged rape of a 7-year-old Israeli girl says that an additional suspect was arrested, but was subsequently released due to the lack of evidence against him.

Mahmoud Qadusa remains behind bars as the primary suspect in the case.

In closed forum, Ya’alon blasts Lapid, says No. 2 damaging to Blue and White

Hebrew media reports that in a closed forum earlier this week, Blue and White MK Moshe Ya’alon castigated party No. 2 Yair Lapid as being a liability to the party.

“Lapid is pushing away potential voters on the center-right and in religious communities,” he is quoted as saying.

“Lapid is a liability. He went for a negative campaign, a campaign of hatred that’s causing us damage. He’s attacking groups that could otherwise find their home in Blue and White, or be our partners in the future,” says Ya’alon.

“His rotation for prime minister with Benny Gantz turned voters off.”

“Polls show this, including now. There are many people in the center and on the right who want and can vote for Blue and White but are worried about [Lapid’s] views. He’s seen as ‘anti.’ We thought he would be a more unifying element, but there are those pulling him to the left.”

Ya’alon’s office seems to deny the claim in a statement, though it did not do so explicitly.

“Blue and White will run in the coming elections under the leadership of Benny Gantz, back by a strong and united leadership, in order to form the next government for the benefit of Israelis. Yair Lapid is a friend and partner. I urge our political opponents to focus on public opinion and not on imaginary conflicts,” says the statement.

Six Israeli outlets invited to cover Bahrain economic workshop

Six Israeli media outlets on Wednesday received formal invitations to cover next week’s economic peace workshop in Bahrain.

No Israeli officials were invited to the event, the US administration announced earlier this week, noting that given the fact that the Palestinian Authority refused to attend, the hosts did not want to politicize the event.

However, a number of Israeli businessmen and members of civil society organizations are expected to participate in the so-called Peace to Prosperity workshop.

“We would like to cordially invite you to cover the event, which will take place at the Four Seasons Manama on June 25-26,” read the email sent to reporters from six leading Israeli media outlets.

The invitations were sent out by RokkSolutions, a Washington, DC-based strategic communications company, which was hired to deal with media accreditation for the Manama summit.

Besides The Times of Israel, the Haaretz, Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom newspapers and television channels 12 and 13 were invited to Manama for the workshop.

Israel and Bahrain do not have formal diplomatic relations.

Initially, US and Israeli officials indicated that high-ranking members of the Israeli government would be invited to the event as well. But earlier this week, the White House said that no Israeli officials would be present in Manama.

“This is a workshop where we will present our economic vision for the Palestinian people,” an administration official said. “As such, we want the focus to be on the economic aspect, not the political.”

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the “important conference” in Bahrain, praising the US for trying to “bring about a better future” for the Middle East. “Israelis will be present as well,” he added, not providing any further detail.

Among the Israelis who will attend the workshop are Yoav Mordechai, a former head of the Defense Ministry branch that is responsible for liaising with the Palestinians, and Professor Yitshak Kreiss, the director-general of Sheba Medical Center.

— Raphael Ahren

Jewish Home central committee votes to keep same slate for next election

The Jewish Home party’s central committee has voted to maintain the same list of candidates from the April election for the September race as well.

In April, Jewish Home was part of the Union of Right-Wing Parties along with the National Union and Otzma Yehudit. While the parties are expected to remain united, recent conflicts have been reported between Jewish Home chairman Rafi Peretz and the far-right Otzma Yehudit.

Following this evening’s vote, Peretz says he will do everything in his power to further expand the URWP.

Otzma Yehudit accuses Rafi Peretz of breaking their agreement

The Otzma Yehudit party issues a statement accusing URWP chairman Rafi Peretz of breaking his agreement with the party.

While the far-right faction says that URWP No. 2 Bezalel Smotrich has held up his end of the bargain and is looking into the possibility of passing legislation during the Knesset recess that would allow for two ministers from the same party to resign from their positions in order to make way for additional representatives from the list, Otzma Yehudit claims that Peretz has ignored their requests on the matter entirely.

Military court extends remand of rape suspect for additional five days

An Ofer Military Court judge has ruled to extend the remand of the Palestinian suspect in the rape of a 7-year-old Israeli girl for an additional five days.

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Live updates (closed)

Jewish Home central committee votes to keep same slate for next election

The Jewish Home party’s central committee has voted to maintain the same list of candidates from the April election for the September race as well.

In April, Jewish Home was part of the Union of Right-Wing Parties along with the National Union and Otzma Yehudit. While the parties are expected to remain united, recent conflicts have been reported between Jewish Home chairman Rafi Peretz and the far-right Otzma Yehudit.

Following this evening’s vote, Peretz says he will do everything in his power to further expand the URWP.