The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
Carter makes surprise stop in Baghdad
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter arrives unannounced in Baghdad during his post-Iran deal mission to the region, in his first visit since taking office.
Carter is expected to hear the latest on the Iraqi army’s plan to recapture the key city of Ramadi from the Islamic State, but is unlikely to announce any major change in US strategy or increase in US troop levels.
In a brief stop at the Iraqi Counterterrorism Service Academy, Carter tells commanders: “Your forces have performed so very well, so very bravely. And I know that you have suffered great losses too, but I just wanted to tell you that it is very clear to us in Washington what a capable force this is. So it’s a privilege for us to be your partners.”
Iran backs terror all over Mideast – Rivlin
President Reuven Rivlin says Iran not only poses a nuclear threat to Israel and the world, but is also behind terrorist organizations in Gaza, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and the Sinai Peninsula, Israel Radio reports.
In a meeting with Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović in Jerusalem, Rivlin calls for direct talks with the Palestinians, saying it is the right course of action for Israel.
‘No Arab lawyer will apply to be a judge’
Retired Israeli Arab judge Hashim Khatib lashes out at Yisrael Beytenu MK Robert Ilatov, who has vowed to appoint only judges willing to sing the national anthem, Hatikvah.
“No self-respecting Arab lawyer is now going to put himself forward to become a judge,” Khatib tells Israel Radio, shortly after Ilatov issued his ultimatum.
Ilatov joined the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Thursday morning, thanks to deal between his party leader Avigdor Liberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
IS more dangerous than al-Qaeda – FBI chief
FBI chief James Comey tells a meeting of present and former US national security officials that Islamic State’s efforts to recruit troubled Americans is a bigger terror threat to the country than an al-Qaeda attack, Sky News reports.
Comey tells the Aspen Security Forum that Islamic State has influenced a significant number of Americans through a social media campaign calling on Muslims who cannot travel to the Middle East to “kill where you are.”
He says: “The people the Islamic State is trying to reach are people that al-Qaeda would never use as an operative, because they are often unstable, troubled drug users.” Referring to IS’s use of encrypted communications, he adds: “I worry very much about what I can’t see.”
IDF official says treasury stalling Gaza fence
While Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon contemplates a budgetary overhaul to the IDF, a senior army official is accusing the treasury of endangering Israelis in the Gaza border area by delaying funding for a new protection program.
An official from the IDF Southern Command says that Finance Ministry stalling has stymied construction of a half-billion-shekel “smart fence” along the Gaza border, Channel 2 reports.
“The funding for the program is stuck at the Finance Ministry,” the official says. “We are waiting for the ministry to unfreeze the funding.”
Aside from the smart fence, the report says, the new program includes a plan for mass evacuation of entire Gaza-area communities during war. The evacuees will be housed in motels, the report says.
Clashes at funeral of Palestinian shot by IDF
Palestinian sources are reporting clashes at the funeral of the man shot dead by IDF troops in the West Bank earlier today, Israel Radio says.
Thousands of people turned out for the funeral, the report says, and dozens suffered from tear gas inhalation during the clashes.
Spanner in works for Teva hostile takeover
It appears that Israeli pharmaceutical giant Teva has a battle on its hands in its hostile takeover of Dutch-based American rival Mylan.
Mylan’s independent foundation says it will exercise a call option allowing it to buy shares to control half the company in order to thwart the Teva maneuver. Mylan is a mass producer of generic drugs, and claims that one in 13 of all prescriptions in the US is filled by one of its products.
The American company’s foundation “formed its independent judgment that Mylan’s best interests are at risk as a consequence of the uncertainty and threats associated by a possible takeover by Teva,” says a Mylan statement.
Teva also tried unsuccessfully to acquire Mylan in April.
No grounds to shun Iran deals — Germany
BERLIN — Germany’s economy minister and vice chancellor is dismissing criticism of his recent trip to Iran, saying Tehran’s poor human rights record and refusal to recognize Israel aren’t legitimate reasons to avoid doing business with the country.
Sigmar Gabriel says the sanctions against Iran were based solely on the nuclear dispute and now that is resolved it would be wrong to restrict economic ties with the country.
Gabriel tells reporters in Berlin that despite Germany’s strong support for Israel and human rights, refusing to do business with Iran would be seen as failing to reward the country for solving disputes through peaceful means.
Gaza border towns get improved attack alert
The IDF is using a new warning system for incoming mortar attacks in the Gaza border area, Army Radio says. The new system apparently extends the warning time for incoming short-range projectiles, giving local residents more time to take shelter.
The system is already in use in communities closest to the border fence, the report says.
Amnesty rips Iran ‘execution spree’
Amnesty International is protesting what it calls a “staggering execution spree” in Iran that has seen almost 700 people put to death so far this year.
“Iranian authorities are believed to have executed an astonishing 694 people between 1 January and 15 July, 2015,” says the rights group, calling it an unprecedented spike.
“At this shocking pace, Iran is set to surpass the total number of executions in the country” recorded by Amnesty for the whole of 2014.
Said Boumedouha, deputy head of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Program, says the spike “paints a sinister picture of the machinery of the state carrying out premeditated, judicially-sanctioned killings on a mass scale”.
Amnesty says the surge “reveals just how out of step Iran is with the rest of the world when it comes to the use of the death penalty.”
Saudi position on Hamas unchanged, FM says
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir says his country’s suspicious approach to Hamas has not changed despite a visit by a delegation from the Palestinian Islamist group.
Jubeir tells reporters that after a meeting with his Egyptian counterpart that the Hamas talks were not an official visit, but rather a meeting on the sidelines of a pilgrimage.
“The visit of Hamas to the Saudi kingdom made by Khaled Mashaal and his colleagues [was a] visit to the holy city of Mecca … The position of the kingdom with regards to Hamas has not changed,” Jubeir said.
4 Egyptian soldiers die in roadside bombing
Egypt’s army says four of its soldiers have been killed by a roadside bomb in the Sinai Peninsula, where it is battling Islamist insurgents.
One officer and three soldiers died in the attack on their vehicle near the border town of Rafah, a military spokesman says via Facebook.
Militants loyal to Islamic State have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers since the army overthrew Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in 2013. The military says it has killed more than 1,000 militants in Sinai.
In flip-flop, Saudi FM says deal may stop Iran nukes
RIYADH — In an apparent reversal of position, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister says the Iran nuclear deal appears to have the provisions needed to curtail the Islamic Republic’s ability to obtain an atomic weapon.
Adel al-Jubeir says the kingdom, which was long opposed to a deal, has been reassured by Washington while consultations continue on the agreement. He says it allows for effective inspections, including of military sites, and the possibility of snap-back sanctions.
The foreign minister, who visited Washington in mid-July, says the Saudis are “currently in talks with the American government regarding these details, but it [the deal] generally seems to have achieved these objectives.”
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited the kingdom yesterday.
Haifa woman, left in car for hours, dies
A 62-year-old woman living a care home for people with mental illness dies after being left in a vehicle in Haifa for three hours in the middle of the day.
The woman, who was a resident of the city, was taken to the hospital in serious condition yesterday after the driver realized he had left her in the vehicle.
The driver is now being questioned by police.
Kerry wins applause at Iran deal hearing
WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State John Kerry draws a round of applause as he enters on crutches to give testimony on the Iran nuclear deal to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew are all facing a grilling from the committee, which is led by Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn).
Corker is the author of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act that mandates the administration to disclose details of the deal before Congress.
— Rebecca Shimoni Stoil
US ‘fleeced’ in Iran deal, Corker tells Kerry
Republican Senator Bob Corker accuses Secretary of State John Kerry of allowing the United States to be “fleeced” by Iran during the negotiations on the nuclear deal agreed last week.
“I believe we’ve been fleeced and in the course of being fleeced you turned Iran from being a pariah into Congress being a pariah,” Corker says at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the agreement.
“A few weeks ago, you said that no deal was better than a bad deal,” he adds. “What you say now is that somehow if Congress were to turn this down, the only option is war.”
Corker also targets the administration’s attitude toward Israel and the Gulf states, about whom he says Kerry speaks “with a degree of disdain.”
He tells Kerry: “I believe that you have crossed a new threshold in US foreign policy where it is now the policy of the United States to allow a state sponsor of terror to develop a sophisticated nuclear program.”
— Rebecca Shimoni Stoil
AIPAC-backed ad takes aim at Iran deal
An new advertisement partially financed by AIPAC lambastes the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program that was drafted by Tehran and world powers last week.
The 30-second spot warns that the agreement allows Iran to keep its nuclear facilities, its military sites “can go uninspected,” and “restrictions end after 10 years.”
The ad was produced by a group called Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, whose website warns that the “deal has too many loopholes,” “will make the world less safe” and “will fuel a dangerous nuclear arms race in the Middle East.”
We didn’t aim for whole nuke program – Kerry
Kerry tells the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the United States never intended to dismantle Iran’s entire nuclear program.
“It’s a question of how you dismantle their weapons program, not their whole program,” Kerry says.
“Nobody has ever talked about dismantling their whole program,” Kerry asserts during impassioned testimony, arguing that when dismantlement was indeed the policy, Iran multiplied their nuclear program a hundredfold.
“Under this program, Iran has agreed to remove 98% of their stockpile of enriched uranium,” Kerry argues.
Better Iran deal was ‘a fantasy’, Kerry argues
John Kerry defends the Iran agreement, telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “a better deal” was a “unicorn arrangement,” and “complete capitulation” by Tehran was “a fantasy.”
“The choice we face is between an agreement that will ensure
that Iran’s nuke program is limited, rigorously scrutinized and wholly peaceful, and no deal,” he says.
“If Iran fails to comply we will know it – we will know it quickly and we will be able to respond accordingly up to the most draconian sanctions that we have today.”
Sanctions would crumble without deal, says Lew
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew tells the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the United States’ international partners in negotiating the Iranian nuclear deal would “balk” if the US asked them to continue to impose economic sanctions without implementing the diplomatic solution reached with Tehran.
If that happened, Lew says, the US would be left with neither a nuclear deal, nor any effective sanctions.
He says it is “unrealistic to think that additional sanctions pressure would force Iran to totally capitulate.” It’s impractical to think, Lew added, that the US could marshal a global coalition of partners to impose such sanctions pressure after turning down a deal that the other world powers “believe is a good one.”
— Rebecca Shimoni Stoil
Austrian president announces Iran trip
VIENNA — The office of Austrian President Heinz Fischer says he will in September make the first visit to Iran by a European head of state since 2004.
The announcement comes nine days after an agreement was reached in VIenna on Iran’s nuclear program.
“After the success of the Vienna accord on July 14, 2015, concluding several years of nuclear talks, President Heinz Fischer will make a working visit to Iran from September 7 to 9,” the presidency says.
Germany’s Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has already visited Tehran since the agreement was signed, and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is heading to Iran next week.
NASA announces discovery of Earth-like planet
NASA says it has found what may be the closest match to Earth yet — a potentially rocky planet circling its star at the same distance as the Earth orbits the Sun.
Not only is this planet squarely in the “Goldilocks zone” — where life could exist because it is neither too hot nor too cold to support liquid water — its star looks like an older cousin of our Sun, the US space agency says.
That means the planet, which is 1,400 light-years away, could offer a glimpse into the Earth’s apocalyptic future, scientists say.
Known as Kepler 452b, the planet was detected by the US space agency’s Kepler Space Telescope, which has been hunting for other worlds like ours since 2009.
“Kepler 452b is orbiting a close cousin of our Sun, but one that is 1.5 billion years older,” NASA says in a statement.
Israel gives Jordan choppers to defend borders
Israel has given Jordan retired combat helicopters supplied by the US to help it battle insurgent threats on its borders with Syria and Iraq, says Reuters, quoting a US official.
“These choppers are for border security,” the official tells Reuters, adding that 16 helicopters were supplied.
Jordanian, Israeli and American officials are declining to comment.
Rouhani, Hollande talk Iran deal by phone
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says on Twitter that he and his French counterpart Francois Hollande discussed the Iran nuclear deal by phone today.
In a series of tweets, Rouhani says Hollande “welcomed” agreement and “Iran’s constructive role in negotiations, leading to peace in [the] region.”
— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) July 23, 2015
The Iranian president says he “emphasized [the] importance of commitment” to the deal for “all counterparts”, especially that “which will result in regional peace & stability.”
AIPAC flying members to DC to fight Iran deal
WASHINGTON — AIPAC is flying hundreds of activists from across the country to Capitol Hill next week to press members of Congress to reject the nuclear deal with Iran.
AIPAC says it has a multi-pronged effort aimed at killing the agreement, including TV ads, calls and emails by activists to their congressional representatives, and attendance at town hall meetings at which lawmakers are expected to convene during the August congressional recess.
Beitar fans get ban over Belgium match melee
Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court bans 12 Beitar Jerusalem fans from soccer pitches in Israel over unruly behavior at an away game against Belgium’s Sporting Charleroi this month, Army Radio says.
The fan who hurled a firework onto the pitch is banned for two full seasons, while others are banned for periods ranging from 90 days to a full season.
The ban includes training sessions and cup matches. The fans will be required to present themselves at a police station when games are on.
The ban comes in time for the return match in Jerusalem tonight.
UNRWA makes urgent appeal for funds
The United Nations is making an urgent appeal for contributions to the its relief agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), saying it faces an unprecedented financial crisis.
The UN special coordinator on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Nicholay Mladenov, warns the Security Council that UNRWA has a $100 million shortfall that needs to be closed in the coming weeks.
Otherwise, he says, “there is a serious risk that UNRWA schools, which educate 500,000 children throughout the Middle East, will not open.
“This will have grave implications for Palestine refugee children in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, and for the stability and security of a region already in turmoil.”
Kerry raps Menendez over ‘classified’ Iran clause
John Kerry rebukes fellow Democrat Robert Menendez for revealing what he says is a “classified” clause in the Iran nuclear deal stating that Iran will be the one to provide the UN atomic agency with samples from sites with suspected nuclear activity.
“That is a classified component of this,” Kerry says when the New Jersey senator asks about the section of the deal. Menendez says it is “the equivalent of the fox guarding the chicken coop.”
Police detain Jewish pol at Iran deal protest
New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind is arrested outside the Manhattan office of Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) during a protest against the Iran deal.
“Schumer be a shomer,” Hikind can be seen chanting along with others in the video above, using the Hebrew word for “guard” as play on words on the Jewish senator’s name.
France to ‘step up cooperation’ with Iran
The office of French President Francois Hollande confirms his phone call with Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, saying the two discussed “conditions for implementing” the Iran nuclear accord.
The statement says the presidents agreed to “step up bilateral cooperation in this new context,” with Hollande “express[ing] the wish for Iran to contribute positively to the resolution of crises in the Middle East.”
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is due to visit Iran next Wednesday, hot on the heels of the German vice chancellor and economy minister, Sigmar Gabriel, who visited Tehran last week.
West must fight, not facilitate, Iran — Ya’alon
Defense Minster Moshe Ya’alon takes to Twitter to warn that the Western world has endangered itself with the Iran nuclear agreement.
“The free world, instead of fighting with determination against terrorist regimes is allowing it to enter through the front door of the family of nations. It is worthwhile remembering that terrorism is terrorism is terrorism,” he says in one of series of tweets blasting the deal.
“The time that has passed since the signing of the agreement with Iran increasingly shows the scale of the risk that the West took it upon itself, and its willingness for unprecedented concessions to the bloody regime in Tehran,” he writes.
“As time passes it becomes clear that this agreement poses serious dangers to the Western world, which cannot be underestimated.”
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