Netanyahu says no way to prevent closure of Sde Dov airport
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Israeli intel firm: All of Syria’s S-300 air defenses ‘probably operational’

ImageSat International says all 4 of the powerful Russian-supplied anti-aircraft batteries appear ready for use

Satellite photos released by ImageSat International appear to show all four missile launchers of the S-300 air defense system in the raised position in the northwestern Syrian city of Masyaf on June 30, 2019. (ImageSat International)
Satellite photos released by ImageSat International appear to show all four missile launchers of the S-300 air defense system in the raised position in the northwestern Syrian city of Masyaf on June 30, 2019. (ImageSat International)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.

PM slams Palestinians for rejecting Bahrain conference, says they’re ‘determined’ to continue conflict

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the Palestinians are “determined to continue the conflict at any price.”

Speaking at his weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu criticizes the Palestinian leadership’s rejection of last week’s Mideast peace conference in Bahrain aimed at providing economic assistance.

Netanyahu says while Israel welcomed the US’s $50 billion Palestinian development plan, the Palestinians themselves denounced it and even arrested a Palestinian businessman who participated in it.

Netanyahu says: “This is not how those who want to promote peace act.”

Palestinian forces have since released businessman Saleh Abu Mayala.

He also defends the unofficial truce with Hamas reached over the weekend that saw Israel relieve some restrictions on Gaza in exchange for quiet along the border. Netanyahu says he is prepared to re-impose the measures if Hamas does not uphold its side.

“Last week we applied sanctions on Hamas, including stopping fuel, and if necessary, we will impose much tougher measures on them,” he says.

— with AP

Sudan braces for showdown between protesters and army

Sudan’s pro-democracy movement is organizing marches in the capital, Khartoum, and across the country to pressure the military to transfer power to civilians.

Today’s demonstrations mark the 30th anniversary of the Islamist-backed coup that brought Omar al-Bashir to power in 1989, toppling Sudan’s last elected government. The military removed al-Bashir in April amid mass protests against his rule.

The military council has warned protest leaders that they will be held responsible for any destruction or damage by “vandals” and people “with an agenda” during the marches.

The demonstrations come as the African Union and Ethiopia have accelerated their efforts to restart negotiations between the ruling generals and the protesters.

The talks collapsed when security forces violently broke up a protest camp in Khartoum earlier this month, killing over 100 people.

— AP

Palestinians free businessman who attended Bahrain workshop

The Palestinian Authority has released from custody a West Bank businessman arrested for attending a US-led conference in Bahrain aimed at starting a Middle East peace effort, according to a family member and business associate.

Salah Abu Mayala, a businessman from the West Bank city of Hebron, was arrested yesterday and released late that night after taking part in last week’s conference which the PA boycotted.

The family of Abu Mayala, who is in his 70s and has health problems, refused to comment on the arrest when contacted by AFP, but a family member in the southern West Bank city says he was back at home.

Fellow Hebron resident and businessman Ashraf Jabari, who also attended the Bahrain workshop, confirms to The Times of Israel on that Abu Mayala had been released.

— with AFP

Trump leaves South Korea for US after historic step into the North

US President Donald Trump leaves South Korea after a trip to Asia that took in a G20 summit in Japan and a historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the peninsula.

Trump departs on Air Force One just before 1000 GMT (7 p.m. local time) en route to Washington, a few hours after he became the first sitting US president to step onto North Korean soil.

— AFP

Turkey official says Ankara ready to retaliate after threats by Libya’s Haftar

Turkey’s defense ministry says it’s ready to retaliate against any attacks on Turkish vessels and interests by the forces of Libya’s Khalifa Haftar.

Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar says there would be “heavy” consequences to any “hostile attitude or attacks.”

The comments come after a spokesman for the self-styled Libyan National Army called Turkish assets in Libya “legitimate targets,” accusing Turkey of helping rival militias allied with the U.N.-supported government.

Akar said Turkey was in Libya to support “regional peace and stability.” His comments were carried by the official Anadolu news agency.

The LNA, led by Haftar, controls much of the country’s east and south. It launched an offensive against the weak Tripoli-based government in April. The fighting threatens a new wave of violence in Libya.

— AP

Palestinians: 15 injured in overnight clashes with police in East Jerusalem

Palestinian officials say 15 residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya were injured in overnight clashes with Israeli police.

It was the third consecutive night of violence in Issawiya following the shooting death of a Palestinian man late Thursday.

Israeli police say 20-year-old Mohammed Obeid had hurled fireworks at officers and presented a lethal threat when he was shot. But residents accuse police of using excessive force and shooting Obeid from a very short distance.

Palestinians throw stones during clashes with Israeli police in Jerusalem’s neighborhood of Issawiya on June 28, 2019, a day after a Palestinian was shot and killed by police during a protest in the same neighborhood. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Mohammed Abu Homus, a community leader, say the family is demanding an autopsy. The family has also asked a court to order the release of Obeid’s body.

Israel frees Palestinian Authority’s minister for Jerusalem affairs

Israel releases the Palestinian Authority minister for Jerusalem affairs from custody after questioning him over claims he organized activities in the city in violation of Israeli rules, his lawyer says.

Palestinian minister for Jerusalem affairs Fadi al-Hadami had been arrested in his East Jerusalem home early this morning and taken for questioning, with a police spokesman saying he had been involved in unspecified “activities in Jerusalem.”

Screen capture from video of Palestinian Authority Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Fadi al-Hadami. (YouTube)

His lawyer Mohannad Jbara says the arrest was due to recent activities that have included accompanying Chile’s president during a visit to Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque complex.

Jbara says Hadami was released this afternoon.

— AFP

Sudan police fire tear gas at Khartoum protesters

Sudanese police fired tear gas at protesters in three districts of Khartoum as thousands gather in response to a call for a mass demonstration against the ruling generals, witnesses say.

Tear gas was used in the northern district of Bari and in Mamura and Arkweit, eastern Khartoum, as protesters chanted “Civilian rule! Civilian rule!”

Security forces also fired tear gas at demonstrators in the eastern town of Gadaref, a witness says.

UN chief urges action to avert climate change ‘catastrophe’

UN chief Antonio Guterres says climate-related devastation was striking the planet on a weekly basis and warned Sunday that urgent action must be taken to avoid a catastrophe.

“We are here because the world is facing a grave climate emergency,” Guterres tells a two-day Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting to prepare for a Climate Action Summit in New York in September.

“Climate disruption is happening now… It is progressing even faster than the world’s top scientists have predicted,” the UN secretary general says. “It is outpacing our efforts to address it. Climate change is running faster than we are.”

“Every week brings new climate-related devastation… floods, drought, heatwaves, wildfires and super storms,” Guterres says.

He warned the situation would only deteriorate unless “we act now with ambition and urgency,” but some of the world’s decision-makers still did not realize the dangers.

— AFP

Airlines told to clear planes from Sde Dov by midnight — report

Charter airlines Arkia and Israir have reportedly been instructed to remove their planes from the Sde Dov Airport by the midnight deadline, in a signal the last-ditch efforts to stave off the closure of the small Tel Aviv airfield were unsuccessful.

The Kan public broadcaster says the owners of private planes were also instructed to clear Sde Dov in the coming hours.

The report comes after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held an emergency overnight meeting with newly appointed Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich in an effort to save the airport that is seen by some as vital for tourism to the southern city of Eilat.

Illustrative: Sde Dov Airport in Tel Aviv. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Smotrich has proposed a plan to delay the closure until construction plans at the site are approved, which is expected to take three years. However, the passage of the legislation in the Knesset is expected to take no less than 48 hours, meaning Netanyahu isn’t likely to announce a last-minute change of plan.

Protests have been held in Eilat and other locations in recent weeks against the plan to shutter the Sde Dov airport on Monday, July 1, some 81 years after it was constructed.

Planned strike at Ben Gurion called off after court issues injunction

A general strike at Ben Gurion International Airport planned is called off after a court issues an injunction barring the protest action that was planned for Tuesday.

In a hearing this afternoon, the Tel Aviv Labor Court orders the government to resolve the ongoing spat with Population and Immigration Authority, whose airport workers say their salaries are often delayed or not paid in full.

After the workers threatened to strike last week, a number of airlines warned they would cancel all flights in and out of Tel Aviv on Tuesday if there would be no immigration services available.

The planned strike would have affected some 80,000 passengers on 540 flights arriving and leaving Israel.

Taliban bombers kill 19, including Afghan election workers

Taliban bombers targeting a district center in southern Afghanistan have killed at least 19 people, including eight election workers, according to officials.

The attack comes as a new round of talks between the United States and the Taliban to end the 18-year long war in Afghanistan entered a second day in Qatar.

The militants rammed four armored vehicles packed with explosives into a government compound in Maruf district late Saturday, a police spokesman in southern Kandahar province said.

“Unfortunately 11 policemen were martyred and 27 more injured,” Qasim Afghan tells AFP.

Eight election workers who were stationed at the center to register voters ahead of the presidential polls in September were also killed in the attack, says Zabiullah Sadaat, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC).

Afghanistan’s twice-delayed presidential election is now slated for September 28.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, with a spokesman tweeting that their fighters had captured the district center, killing 57 security forces.

Afghanistan’s interior ministry however rejected the claim, saying in a statement that the militants had been beaten back and 25 insurgents killed.

— AFP

Activists say Istanbul Pride banned by Turkish authorities

Activists in Istanbul say Turkish authorities have banned a pride march for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex rights for the fifth year.

In a statement, the volunteer group organizing Istanbul Pride says the governor’s office banned the march in central Taksim district as well as a square designated for demonstrations west of the city.

Amnesty International called on Turkey this week to lift the “arbitrary ban.” It said authorities rejected all suggested locations in the city by deeming the LGBTI community “societally objectionable.”

An LGBT rights activist carries a flag in rainbow colors as a banner under a portrait of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on July 1, 2018 in Istanbul, after Turkish authorities banned the annual Gay Pride Parade for a fourth year in a row. (AFP Photo/Bulent Kilic)

Up to 100,000 people gathered for a pride march in Istanbul in 2014, but police have blocked such marches since.

Activists said they would continue voicing their demands.

— AP

US envoy: Attending opening of E. Jerusalem archaeological site not political

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman denies that attending the inauguration of controversial archaeological tourist site in East Jerusalem is a political move.

In remarks at opening the City of David’s Pilgrim’s Road — located in the mostly Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, Friedman says “the pursuit for truth” is driving excavations at the site.

He praises US President Donald Trump for recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, saying those who opposed the decision should walk the ancient subterranean stairway that is said to have served as a main artery for Jews to the Temple Mount thousands of years ago, saying the discovery “lays all doubts to rest.”

The event is also attended by US and Israeli officials.

Friedman’s participation at the event has drawn criticism from the Palestinian Authority and a left-wing Israeli organization who say that excavating the site is an effort to extend Israeli sovereignty in the eastern part of the city.

One arrested at protest against US participation in East Jerusalem event

A Peace Now activist is arrested outside the City of David archaeological site while protesting the participation of US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and White House Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt at the event in East Jerusalem.

Photos and videos uploaded online show security forces cuffing, then detaining, a man who filming the protest.

Greenblatt and Friedman are attending the event marking the completion of an archaeological project next to the Old City in mainly Palestinian East Jerusalem. Their attendance angered the Palestinian Authority and left-wing Israeli groups, who say the excavation is a bid to further extend Israeli sovereignty in the eastern part of the city.

Netanyahu says no way to prevent closure of Sde Dov airport

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says there is no way to prevent or delay the Sde Dov Airport from closing down, and the small airfield north of Tel Aviv will close at the midnight deadline as planned.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office says that after “extensive discussions with the transportation minister, legal advisers and professionals,” Netanyahu determined that “there is no way to stop the evacuation of Sde Dov and that any attempt to do so will cost the state billions of shekels.”

In a bid to assuage concerns by Eilat city officials who say the closing Sde Dov will negatively impact their tourism industry, Netanyahu says he is advancing an economic development plan for the southern resort city to the tune of NIS 400 million ($112.5 million).

Sudan police fire tear gas as protesters near presidential palace

Sudanese police fired tear gas Sunday at crowds of protesters approaching the presidential palace, an AFP correspondent reported, as thousands rallied against the ruling generals to demand a civilian administration.

Police fired at least five tear gas canisters about 700 meters (some 765 yards) from the palace in downtown Khartoum, as members of the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces were mobilized to stop the crowds.

— AFP

Israeli intel firm says Syria’s S-300 air defenses ‘probably operational’

An Israeli satellite imagery analysis company says Syria’s entire S-300 air defense system appears to be operational, indicating a larger threat to Israel’s ability to conduct airstrikes against Iranian and pro-Iranian forces in the country.

Until now, only three of the country’s four surface-to-air missile launchers had been seen fully erected.

Earlier this year, the firm, ImageSat International, said the Russia-supplied battery appeared to be operational, based on multiple satellite images of the anti-aircraft battery.

“The images of the three erected launchers at various times in Syria indicate that they are probably operational,” the firm wrote on its website in February.

The satellite imagery company said at the time that the fourth launcher, which has now been seen erected, was “possibly an invalid, dummy or a different element that serves as deception.”

— Judah Ari Gross

Bennett’s New Right party launches election campaign

The New Right party launches its election campaign ahead of September’s national ballot with a series of online ads boasting of leader Naftali Bennett’s achievements as education minister and chairman of the Jewish Home party.

“What have we done already?” asks the tagline of the ads rhetorically, responding in one, “We reduced class sizes from 40 to 32,” and in another, “We stopped the release of more terrorists.”

New Right failed to clear the electoral threshold to make it into the 21st Knesset in the April 9 elections, but, having left Jewish Home to form the new party, Bennett is looking to make a political comeback in the September 17 elections.

Notably missing from the new ads is any mention of Bennett’s co-chair, former justice minister Ayelet Shaked, who has yet to confirm whether she will run again with New Right or seek a senior position on another electoral slate.

— Raoul Wootliff

Eilat residents protest closure of Sde Dov airport

Residents of Eilat are protesting the imminent closure of the Sde Dov airport, accusing the government of abandoning the southern resort city.

A group of protesters in Eilat throw away their identity cards, as they call Netanyahu’s decision not to interfere and stop the midnight deadline “shameful.”

Local airline Arkia also decries the decision, saying in a statement that closing the small airport that mainly serves Eilat is a “social, economic and national mistake.”

Earlier, Netanyahu said that last-ditch efforts to devise a plan that would delay or stop the closure of Sde Dov were unsuccessful. He said there was “no way” to prevent the airport’s closure without costing the state billions of shekels, and offered an economic development plan for Eilat to the tune of NIS 400 million ($112.5 million).

AG defends Netanyahu probes, decries efforts to ‘delegitimize legal system’

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit defends the handing of the corruption cases into Netanyahu, strongly rejecting accusations of bias against the prime minister.

Speaking at a conference in Herzliya, Mandelblit decries efforts to “delegitimize” the legal system by “significantly weakening the institutions whose role is to guard and defend the legal security.”

Mandelblit, who has recommended Netanyahu be charged in a trio of corruption cases, promises to him to give him a fair shake at his October hearing.

“I’ve heard that there are those who already know, before me, of course, what decision I will make at the end of the hearing,” he says. “They also know that the decision will not be made for professional reasons.”

Ankara says six Turks held in Libya, by forces linked to Haftar

Turkey says six of its nationals are being held by forces of Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar and warns there will be consequences if they were not immediately released.

“The detention of six of our citizens by illegal militia forces linked to Haftar is an act of thuggery and piracy. We expect our citizens to be immediately released,” the foreign ministry says in a statement.

The incident comes after Haftar ordered attacks on Turkish ships and interests after he recently lost ground to the UN-recognised Libyan government which is also backed by Ankara.

Lapid: Blue and White won’t team up with Barak in bid to topple Netanyahu

Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid rules out an electoral alliance with former prime minister Ehud Barak’s new party, throwing a wrench in the former Israeli leader’s plan of a large center-left bloc to challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We won’t team up with Ehud Barak. He belongs to the left and that’s alright,” Lapid tells Channel 13 news.

At a press conference announcing his political comeback earlier this week, Barak said his as-yet-unnamed party would work with other opposition parties to create a large enough bloc to form a parliamentary majority after the September 17 election.

Blue and White, which drew even with the Likud in the April 9 election, is Netanyahu’s main challenger in the snap polls.

Iran announces visa waiver for Chinese tourists

Iran will no longer require Chinese visitors to obtain visas, state media reports, as the sanctions-hit country attempts to boost tourism in the face of an economic crisis.

“The cabinet has agreed to waive visa requirements for Chinese nationals entering the Islamic Republic of Iran,” state news agency IRNA said.

Tourism board chief Ali Asghar Mounesan tells IRNA that “we aim to host two million Chinese tourists per year using our country’s numerous attractions.”

He says the sector is “unsanctionable” and could help offset the economic hardships caused by tough sanctions Washington reinstated after withdrawing from a multilateral nuclear deal last year.

The sanctions have particularly targeted Iran’s vital oil exports and international financial transactions, and were a major factor in the country’s ongoing recession.

According to IRNA, some 52,000 Chinese tourists visited Iran during the 12 months to March.

— AFP

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Netanyahu says no way to prevent closure of Sde Dov airport

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says there is no way to prevent or delay the Sde Dov Airport from closing down, and the small airfield north of Tel Aviv will close at the midnight deadline as planned.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office says that after “extensive discussions with the transportation minister, legal advisers and professionals,” Netanyahu determined that “there is no way to stop the evacuation of Sde Dov and that any attempt to do so will cost the state billions of shekels.”

In a bid to assuage concerns by Eilat city officials who say the closing Sde Dov will negatively impact their tourism industry, Netanyahu says he is advancing an economic development plan for the southern resort city to the tune of NIS 400 million ($112.5 million).