The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
Trains ordered to stay under 80 km/h
Large brush fires erupt as Israel experiences the hottest day in a decade.
As of this afternoon, a fire in Tel Mond consumed three private homes. Near Beit Shemesh, a large forest fire is blazing.
Flights are being delayed from taking off and the Israel Railways company limited the speed at which trains are allowed to travel to 80 kilometers per hour (50 mph).
President honors families of organ donors
President Reuven Rivlin and his wife host a ceremony honoring the families of organ donors.
“You chose life and mutual responsibility between people. You have granted the gift of life to many others, and have chosen to donate organs knowing full well that they will be transplanted in whoever needs them, regardless of religion, race or sex,” the president says.
In his speech, the president calls on the citizens of Israel to sign the Adi organ donors card, and adds that he himself has signed the card long ago. “Since then I carry it with me wherever I go. Signing the card makes me a partner in saving lives. The willingness to give of yourself and your body to others is a sign of the strength of our society, and the testimony to cooperation between all sectors and layers within it.”
UK to hold referendum on remaining in EU
Britain’s first all-Conservative government in two decades unveils its plans for power Wednesday, including laws to hold a referendum on European Union membership, give Scotland more autonomy and toughen immigration policies.
The list of proposed legislation was read by Queen Elizabeth II at the State Opening of Parliament, an annual blend of politics and pomp replete with gilded throne, diamond-studded crown and officials in antiquated garb.
It follows a May 7 election that unexpectedly gave Prime Minister David Cameron’s center-right Conservatives a parliamentary majority — and with it the power to implement a political agenda without coalition compromises.
The Queen’s Speech, delivered by the monarch but written by the government, included legislation to cap welfare benefits, freeze some taxes for five years and hold a vote on EU membership by the end of 2017 — all key Conservative election promises.
The queen said the government would adopt a “One Nation approach, helping working people get on.”
Hezbollah said using drone to spot Sunni rivals
A group of terrorists from the Sunni group al-Nusra Front were killed in an attack by Hezbollah near the Syrian border.
According to Lebanese website Naharnet, quoted by Ynet, the terror cell was spotted by a drone operated by Hezbollah.
Indictment served against accused IDF rapist
An indictment was served at the Jaffa Military Court against Din Tawil, the main suspect in a brutal gang rape that took place at the Hatzerim air base and was made public in late April.
Tawil is accused of rape, sodomy, indecent acts, breach of privacy and destroying evidence, as well as obstruction of justice.
The soldier is accused of having attacked other female soldiers on the base where he served. The military made his identity public – an unusual course of action – in the hope that other victims may come forward and testify.
Byron Sherwin, Jewish scholar-ethicist, dies
Rabbi Byron Sherwin, a Jewish scholar and ethicist who served on the faculty of Chicago’s Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership for more than 40 years, has died.
Sherwin died on May 22 following a long illness at the age of 69.
He served as Distinguished Service Professor and Director of Doctoral Programs at the Spertus Institute and had been on its faculty since 1970.
Sherwin, who graduated from Columbia University, earned his doctorate in the History of Culture from the University of. He was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he studied under Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.
Sherwin studied Jewish philosophy, mysticism and Jewish ethics, and was involved in interreligious dialogue, and was the author of dozens of books and articles on the subjects.
Denmark to hold general election in 3 weeks
Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt on Wednesday calls a general election for June 18, even as opinion polls show her center-left coalition trailing the opposition.
“Denmark is back on track, we are out of the crisis… It’s time to ask the Danes if they want to maintain this direction,” says Thorning-Schmidt, who under election regulations had to call a vote to be held by September 14.
“I want all of Denmark with (me). The growth must benefit everyone,” she adds.
Denmark was badly hit by the financial crisis of 2008, which caused the country’s property bubble to burst.
‘Saudi Arabia blacklists 2 Hezbollah members’
Saudi Arabia blacklists Khalil Yussuf Harb and Muhammad Kablan, two Hezbollah officials defined as “senior commanders,” for “disseminating terrorism,” Ynet reports.
According to the report, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are following the bank accounts of 44 citizens of Lebanon who are members of Hezbollah and are active in Saudi Arabia.
According to Saudi officials, Harb is responsible for Hezbollah activities in Yemen and among other things was involved in transferring money to Houthi rebels. Kablan is allegedly a pivotal member of a Hezbollah terror cell in Egypt that was planning attacks on tourist sites in the country.
Today’s peak temperatures
Temperatures across Israel peaked at 3 p.m., one hour ago.
In Kibbutz Yotvata in the south, 44° Celsius (111° Fahrenheit) was measured.
Beersheba saw 43°, Tel Aviv 40°, Haifa 41°, Jerusalem 37° and Safed 34°, according to Ynet.
EU asks states to admit 40,000 asylum seekers
The EU on Wednesday asks its member states to admit 40,000 asylum seekers from Syria and Eritrea landing in Italy and Greece, which have been overstretched by an influx of migrants.
The emergency proposal, which comes atop another one to resettle in member states some 20,000 refugees who are outside Europe, is in response to a surge in migrants making the dangerous crossing over the Mediterranean.
Both Rome and Athens, which are struggling with the wave of migrants, appealed to the 26 other EU states to share the burden.
“We… have a proposal for an emergency mechanism to relocate 40,000 asylum seekers to other European (member) states,” EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos tells a press conference.
France to nix Iran deal without military site inspections
France says it will oppose a nuclear deal with Iran without military site inspections. More details will follow.
Hungarian arrested for anti-Semitic invective against Israeli consul
A Hungarian citizen was arrested in Budapest after shouting anti-Semitic curses at an Israeli diplomat.
The man, a resident of Budapest, began shouting anti-Semitic invective in Hungarian after hearing Israel’s Consul to Hungary Motti Rave quietly speaking Hebrew with a companion, the Israeli news website Ynet reports.
“Dirty Jews – it’s a shame Hitler didn’t finish the job. If I had a rifle, I’d shoot you,” the man reportedly shouted at them in Hungarian.
Rave is the son of Holocaust survivors and is fluent in Hebrew.
The men were standing and talking outside of a café in Budapest’s 13th district, home to a large number of Jews, according to Ynet,
Rave called the Israeli Embassy’s head of security, who called the police, who arrived at the scene and arrested the man.
“I have personally never encountered such blunt anti-Semitic behavior,” Rave told Ynet. “I unfortunately heard of similar cases in Hungary but it hasn’t happened to me yet.” He said he would testify against the man in court.
Likud MK seeks to bolster teaching of Arabic
Likud MK Oren Hazan files his first bill since becoming a lawmaker: Implementing the teaching of Arabic in all state-subsidized education institutions beginning in the first grade.
In his preview to the bill, Hazan writes “this bill is intended to strengthen knowledge of the Arabic language in the education system and to enforce the duty to learn both languages [Hebrew and Arabic] on all strata of society.
“Just as it is inconceivable that an Arab citizen who completed 12 years of education in a state-recognized school will not speak Hebrew, so it is impossible to continue in a situation where a Jewish citizen who concludes 12 years of study in an official institution will not speak Arabic,” Hazan writes.
Arabic is an official language in Israel and appears on road signs, in public institutions and in government ministries.
“Since language equals culture, teaching the mother tongues of Israelis should be the first priority, because this is what allows the pupil and then the citizens to understand their fellow men […] Knowing and understanding the language gives a sense of security. Improving the ability for communication among people can be a bridge between people,” Hazan writes.
Tony Blair resigns from Mideast Quartet
A Quartet official tells AP that Mideast envoy Tony Blair submitted his resignation. More details to follow.
Blair suffered ‘frustration’ with power limits
Officials in Jerusalem familiar with the work of the Quartet say former British prime minister Tony Blair has written a letter to United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon to confirm his resignation.
Blair took the office in 2007 with great promise, put in charge of helping develop the Palestinian economy and institutions. But he struggled in the position, and one official says there had been “frustration” over his limited authorities.
Coalition pounds rebels in Sanaa, 36 dead
Saudi-led coalition warplanes bombed a rebel troop headquarters in the Yemeni capital on Wednesday, killing 36 soldiers, witnesses and a health official said.
The coalition launched airstrikes on March 26 against Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels and allied forces loyal to former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh in a bid to restore UN-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to power.
The jets on Wednesday targeted the command headquarters of special forces loyal to Saleh in southern Sanaa, as well as an arms depot in Fajj Attan, a neighborhood overlooking the capital, residents said.
An official from the rebel-held health ministry tells AFP that “36 soldiers and officers were killed and 100 others were wounded” in the raids, raising an earlier toll of 15 dead.
Other raids on Wednesday severely damaged a rebel-controlled naval base in the province of Hodeida on the Red Sea coast, residents say.
Rivlin not against direct talks with Hamas
President Reuven Rivlin says he is not against negotiations with Hamas, and that both Israel and the Palestinians share an interest in improving the quality of life of residents of the Gaza Strip.
“I have no fear of negotiations with whoever is willing to speak to us,” the president says during a tour of the north, according to NRG.
“Restoring the Gaza Strip is in our interest,” says Rivlin, commenting on the firing of a rocket toward Israel yesterday evening, which turned out to be the result of internecine fighting among rival groups inside the Gaza Strip.
A Hamas official was quoted by NRG as saying that “the shooting [of the rocket] is not conducive to keeping the calm and the works to restore the Strip. Those who fire the rockets are crazy, they don’t think of the repercussions.” The official confirmed that there were talks with Israel, but said they were indirect and done with Egyptian mediation.
During his tour, Rivlin says that the IDF will respond to any shooting directed at Israel, but that a distinction should nevertheless be made between terror groups and civilians.
“We are without a doubt with the residents of Gaza in our hearts. We and the world are not succeeding in reaching the point where Gaza is restored. An international initiative with Israeli accompaniment is necessary so that the hostility against us will end,” says the president.
Kerry to address AJC weeks before Iran deadline
US Secretary of State John Kerry will address the American Jewish Committee’s annual Washington conference just weeks before a deadline on an Iran nuclear deal.
The AJC on Wednesday posted on Twitter its announcement that Kerry would be addressing its June 7-9 Global Forum.
Kerry last spoke to the AJC Global Forum in June 2013, when he asked the US Jewish community to back the Israeli-Palestinian peace effort he was about to launch. That effort collapsed within a year.
This year, Kerry will address the AJC weeks before the June 30 deadline for a nuclear deal between the major powers and Iran.
The Israeli government and a number of pro-Israel groups, including the AJC, have expressed concerns that the emerging sanctions relief for nuclear rollback deal is too generous to the Iranian regime.
New UN report ‘compares Gaza children to Boko Haram victims’
A UN-sanctioned report that will be published soon and focuses on the situation of minors in conflict situations compares the kidnapping of girls in Nigeria by Boko Haram to the condition of children in the Gaza Strip following Israel’s Operation Protective Edge against Hamas last summer, according to Channel 2.
South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, the station reports, is furious at the comparison and threatened the UN to pull the report or the US may withdraw funding for the UN. The international body, headquartered in New York, receives a quarter of all its funding from the US.
According to Channel 2, the Foreign Ministry is also trying to prevent the publication of the report.
Jewish Agency head supports Rabbi Riskin
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky issues a statement saying he supports the continuation of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s tenure as the rabbi of Efrat.
“The Jewish people and particularly the people of Efrat deserve the continued service of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, a Jewish leader and Israeli patriot.
“Rabbi Riskin’s contributions to Aliyah, to building the State and Land of Israel, to connecting the Jews of the Diaspora to their homeland, and to connecting all Jews to the Torah are of historic proportions.
“In view of these outstanding and unparalleled achievements, there should be no questions about his qualifications for his continued service,” Sharansky says, according to the statement.
Hamas official Abu Marzouk back in Gaza for good
A senior Hamas official says he is moving to the Gaza Strip for good, underscoring the gradual shift of the Islamic militant movement’s power base from exile to the Palestinian territory.
Moussa Abu Marzouk entered Gaza on Wednesday, after heart surgery in Qatar.
He told The Associated Press that he is “in good health” and is “staying in Gaza for good.” Abu Marzouk, once based in Egypt, has been spending months at a time in Gaza since late 2013.
Hamas has ruled Gaza since seizing it from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007. Hamas’ leaders in exile used to be the main decision-makers, and the group chief, Khaled Mashaal, is still based in Qatar. However, after three Israel-Hamas wars, the Hamas center of power gradually has shifted to Gaza.
Next US election ‘a referendum on Obama’s foreign policy’, says Graham
Senator Lindsey Graham tells Channel 2 news that he is concerned that the “weakness President Obama is showing in Syria, Iraq…. It sends the wrong signal to the Iranians,” outlining his disagreement with the White House’s urgency in trying to seal a deal with Iran on its nuclear program.
Graham says new bipartisan legislation gives Congress oversight of any future deal. “The chances of Congress having a say on [the Iran deal] it is now one hundred percent,” he says. Graham says any future president of the US would “have to certify every 90 days” that Iran is abiding by the agreement.
Graham lamented Obama’s foreign policy for “singling out” Israel and says the next US election would be “a referendum on Obama’s foreign policy.”
“America has to be more aggressive in leading the world,” he adds.
Graham says he supports the two-state solution but “if I’m president, Israelis can sleep soundly.”
He says that while relations between PM Netanyahu and Obama deteriorated, the relations between Israel and the US have not “changed fundamentally” and that Congress supports Israel.
Graham is expected to announce his candidacy for president in the coming days.
MDA treats 143 for weather-related injuries
Magen David Adom teams treated 143 people who suffered injuries related to the unseasonably hot weather.
Among the injuries were heatstroke, dehydration, fainting and fatigue. The number of people treated is 60 percent higher than the average for this time of year.