PA officials blast Israeli bill slashing funds over terrorist payouts
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Netanyahu threatens Hamas with ‘unbearable price’ if it goes to war

Commemorating the dead in the previous conflict in Gaza in 2014, PM says 'leading' Arab states 'identify' with Israel's position

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a ceremony in honor of Israel's fallen in the 2014 war in the Gaza Strip, July 3, 2018 (Haim Tzah/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a ceremony in honor of Israel's fallen in the 2014 war in the Gaza Strip, July 3, 2018 (Haim Tzah/GPO)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they took place.

Iran announces talks with world powers on nuclear deal

The foreign ministers of Iran and five world powers still party to the 2015 nuclear deal will meet in Vienna on Friday for talks on the troubled accord, state media in Tehran says.

The top diplomats of Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia will join Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in the Austrian capital, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reports, for their first talks together on the deal since Washington pulled out earlier this year.

During the meeting the ministers will discuss an “incentive package” the European Union is offering to try to persuade Iran to stay in the agreement, IRNA reports.

The meeting will seek “solutions to preserve the Iran nuclear deal after the illegal US action to withdraw,” it says.

The announcement comes with President Hassan Rouhani in Europe to rally support for the deal.

Rouhani, accompanied by Zarif, is in Switzerland today and due to head on Wednesday to Vienna, where the accord was signed in 2015.

— AFP

Austria calls on Iran to lift immunity of detained diplomat

Austria asks Tehran to lift the immunity of an Iranian diplomat suspected of involvement in an alleged plot to bomb a rally by an exiled Iranian opposition group in France.

The diplomat, who is based at the embassy in Vienna, was detained in Germany on Saturday.

Vienna delivers the request to “lift the immunity of the Iranian diplomat” to Iran’s ambassador to Austria, who is summoned to the foreign ministry after news of the alleged plot emerged on Monday, a ministry spokesman says.

Austria also informs Iran that the diplomat would be “deprived of his diplomatic status within 48 hours because of the existence of a European arrest warrant” against him, says the spokesman, Matthias Forenbacher.

The diplomat was one of six people arrested in Belgium, France and Germany over the alleged plot.

The apparent foiled attack was to have targeted a meeting of thousands of Iranian opposition supporters in a northern suburb of the French capital that was also attended by leading US figures, including close allies of President Donald Trump.

— AFP

PA officials blast Israeli bill slashing funds over terrorist payouts

A spokesperson for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says an Israeli law passed yesterday that aims to penalize the PA for sums it pays out to the families of prisoners, including terrorists, and slain attackers is a “declaration of war.”

The law, under which the sums the PA pays out will be deducted from customs on Palestinian-bound goods traveling through Israeli ports, is a violation of the Oslo accords, Nabil Abu Rudeineh says, according to a report in the PA’s official Wafa news agency.

Another Palestinian official, Issa Qaraqe, director of the Palestinian Prisoners Commission, tells Voice of Palestine radio that withholding the funds, which Israel committed to transferring under the Oslo accords, is tantamount to “piracy.”

Still, he says, the PA won’t abandon its “martyrs” and prisoners.

“This is part of our culture and resistance,” he says. “This law intends to delegitimize our national struggle for independence.”

Verdict in German neo-Nazi trial expected next week

The main defendant in a high-profile neo-Nazi murder trial in Germany has denied responsibility for the killings in her closing words at the five-year proceedings.

Prosecutors accuse Beate Zschaepe of being part of the National Socialist Underground group that allegedly targeted migrants, killing 10 people between 2000 and 2007. Two other members of the group were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide in 2011.

Presiding judge Manfred Goetzl says that the Munich state court plans to deliver its verdict in the trial of Zschaepe and other defendants on July 11.

News agency dpa reports that Zschaepe, in her closing statement to the trial, told the court: “Please do not convict me for something that I neither wanted nor did.”

— AP

Erekat says new Israeli law threatens existence of PA

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, says the new Israeli law slashing PA duties over payouts to prisoners’ families threatens the existence of the PA.

“This is a very dangerous decision that amounts to the cancellation of the Palestinian Authority and is piracy and theft,” Erekat tells AFP.

“Israel is stealing the land and money of the Palestinian people and that is a result of the decisions of [US] President [Donald] Trump, who supports Israel.”

— AFP

Netanyahu meets bipartisan group of US House members

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with a bipartisan group of US members of the House led by Florida Democrat Ted Deutch.

According to a readout from his office, Netanyahu expresses his “appreciation for the delegation members’ support for Israel’s security” and speaks with them about “regional issues and Iranian aggression.”

Israel’s Dudi Sela faces Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon

The Israeli tennis star Dudi Sela is set to face the world’s first-ranked player, Rafael Nadal this afternoon in the first round at Wimbledon.

Nadal, a two-time Wimbledon winner, will be returning to action for the first time since lifting an 11th French Open.

Nadal is bidding to win Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same year for the third time.

The 127th-ranked Sela has twice lost to the Spaniard in the past.

The game begins at around 5 p.m. Israel time.

— with AFP

US plan to end Iranian oil exports ‘a fantasy,’ Rouhani says

A plan by the United States to cut Iran’s oil production to zero is a “fantasy,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says during his European tour to rally support for the 2015 nuclear deal.

Washington has said it wants to pressure Iran to change its behaviour by taking away all revenue Tehran generates from crude sales, part of the confrontational approach adopted by US President Donald Trump, who pulled out of the historic nuclear pact in May.

“These are exaggerated statements that can never be implemented,” Rouhani tells reporters in Bern, after holding talks with Swiss authorities on a range of issues, including the nuclear deal.

“Such a scenario would mean the US was imposing its imperialist policy in flagrant violation of international law,” he says.

“This is really a baseless fantasy,” he adds, condemning an “unjust” scenario where all oil producers are allowed to export crude except Iran.

Washington has said it is confident the world has enough spare oil capacity to replace Iranian crude, and Trump has said that he has persuaded Saudi Arabia to balance the market by boosting its own production.

— AFP

Hebron shooter Azaria visits scene for first time since release

Elor Azaria, the IDF veteran convicted of killing an incapacitated and disarmed Palestinian attacker in the West Bank city of Hebron, visits the scene of the crime for the first time since his release from prison in May.

Footage from the scene shows Azaria surrounded by local Jewish residents, who shower him with love.

US senators on rare visit to Moscow ahead of Putin-Trump summit

Republican US senators meet with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on a rare visit to Moscow ahead of a summit between the countries’ presidents, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.

The US delegation is in Russia until Thursday, ahead of the summit planned in Helsinki on July 16, at a time of high tension between Russia and the West.

“We recognize that the world is better off, I believe, if Russia and the US have fewer tensions, get along a little better, maybe put aside some differences,” Senator Richard Shelby says during today meeting with Lavrov at the Russian foreign ministry.

“We are competitors, but we don’t necessarily need to be adversaries,” says Shelby, a Republican senator from Alabama, in televised comments.

“We’re hoping that coming out of the Putin-Trump meeting in Helsinki, it will be the beginning, maybe, of a new day,” Shelby adds. “We will have to wait and see.”

Lavrov, speaking in English, says he hopes that the US senators’ visit “will symbolize the resumption of relations between the (US and Russian) parliaments.”

“I think the resumption of dialogue is going to be a very timely event on the eve of the forthcoming meeting between the two presidents,” he adds.

Lavrov also congratulates the delegation on the forthcoming US Independence Day and wishes them well on hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Russia is currently hosting this year’s tournament.

— AFP

Firefighters battle six fires caused by incendiary balloons from Gaza

Six fires break out near communities in southern Israel, apparently caused by incendiary balloons sent over the border from the Gaza Strip.

The blazes start in the areas of Kibbutz Kissufim, Kibbutz Be’eri and Kibbutz Nahal Oz, according to local authorities.

Firefighters and KKL-JNF teams are able to get control of all the fires.

Minister: Flying incendiary kites from Gaza like firing rockets

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, a member of the high-level security cabinet, says Palestinians who send incendiary kites and balloons over the border into southern Israel should receive the same treatment as terrorists who fire rockets.

“A kite at the Gaza border area should be treated like a rocket at [the city of] Ashkelon,” Shaked tells reporters during a tour of areas surrounding the Strip.

“The State of Israel must use an iron fist against those who launch incendiary kites and against terror operatives,” she adds.

Saudi Arabia says it’s ready to pump more oil to balance market

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top crude exporter, says it is prepared to use its spare production capacity, estimated at two million barrels, to balance the global oil market.

“The kingdom is prepared to utilize its spare production capacity when necessary to deal with any future changes in the levels of supply and demand,” a cabinet statement says following a meeting chaired by King Salman.

— AFP

Defense Ministry team to help implement bill targeting PA stipends for attackers

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announces the establishment of a new task force in his ministry, the “National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing,” in order to implement the law passed yesterday to offset Palestinian payments to the families of prisoners and attackers.

A statement announcing the new team says it will “track the financial activities of terror elements in Israel and worldwide” and, coordinating with other ministries and agencies, “direct the financial battle against terror elements in the international area.”

It says that at the end of every year, the team will report to the cabinet regarding the sums paid out by the Palestinian Authority to the families of attackers and prisoners. Based on those reports, the statement says, “the State of Israel will deduct and freeze from the taxes it collects for the Palestinian Authority a sum equal to the Authority’s payments to terrorists.”

The team will be headed up by Paul Landes, a lawyer and former official in the Prime Minister’s Office, where he did similar work.

“The fight against terrorism rests on two legs — security and finance. We are making an effort to root out terrorism using military means while at the same time drying out its sources of funding,” Liberman says in the statement.

“The financial bureau that I established will lead to a concerted effort, overt and covert, in Israel and the rest of the world, that will deliver a stinging blow to terrorists and their sponsors.”

Palestinian official urges Australia to reverse decision to cut aid

Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi takes the Australian government to task for cutting aid to the PA over its payouts to the families of security prisoners and deceased attackers.

“Australia seems to have succumbed to the U.S. administration’s pressure in compounding the injustice of Israel’s military occupation by punishing its Palestinian victims,” Ashrawi, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, says in a statement.

“This unjustified and cruel move further targets the Palestinians who are already being held captive, while ignoring the persistent violations and war crimes being committed by the Israeli occupation.”

The statement insists that the Palestinians are committed to nonviolent resistance, and urges Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to reverse the decision.

“We strongly urge the government of Australia to reconsider its decision and not embolden Israel in its unilateral and illegal policies,” Ashrawi says. “Bringing Israel to compliance with international law and international humanitarian law would be the most constructive action for governments interested in peace and justice.”

UN concerned over expected demolition of West Bank Bedouin village

The United Nations’ main human rights body is expressing concern over Israel’s expected demolition of a Bedouin hamlet, Khan al-Ahmar, in the West Bank.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says that demolishing the structures would be a violation of international law. It calls on Israel to abandon the demolition plans and “to respect the rights of residents to remain on their land.”

After years of legal battles, the Supreme Court recently approved the demolition. Israel says the structures that make up the Khan al-Ahmar encampment were illegally built and pose a threat to residents because of their proximity to a highway.

Critics say the move is meant to clear the way for new Jewish settlements.

Israel has pledged to resettle the residents, who the UN says number 180 people.

— AP

IDF: Hamas trying to spy on soldiers with fake dating apps

The military says it has uncovered a plot by Hamas activists to spy on soldiers by befriending them on social media and then luring them into downloading fake dating applications that give Hamas access to their smartphones.

A senior intelligence officer says Hamas initially reached out to the soldiers through Facebook, often posing as young women, and then moved the relationship over to the WhatsApp texting service. Following dozens of reports from soldiers receiving unusual messages, the military launched operation “Broken Heart.”

The military says it has uncovered three Hamas-operated apps on Google Play that have been downloaded about 100 times by soldiers since the beginning of the year.

The officer, speaking on condition of anonymity under military regulations, says the Hamas cyber efforts to snoop on soldiers are nothing new. But its methods of infecting phones with malicious applications were a significant upgrade since they could seize control of a phone’s contents, potentially acquiring classified information or compromising images that could be used to blackmail soldiers.

The military says the first two apps were called Glancelove and Winkchat, supposed dating apps. The third, Golden Cup, was filled with information about the World Cup taking place in Russia.

The photos belonged to real women whose photos and personal details were stolen from their Facebook profiles. Some were scantily clad and kissing each other. Conversations were conducted in everyday Hebrew from Israeli mobile numbers and the military said those operating the accounts were not necessarily based in Gaza.

The official said no damage was done, thanks to newly enacted guidelines for military mobile phone use.

“Once again Hamas tried to fool our soldiers on social networks. Once again Hamas failed,” the officer says, in a briefing to reporters at military headquarters.

Hamas has no immediate comment.

— AP

UK Jewish leader who publicly mourned Gazans fired from leading Israel teen tour

A Reform movement youth leader in Britain who participated in a public Jewish mourning event for Palestinians in Gaza is removed as a leader of the youth group’s summer tour in Israel.

Nina Morris-Evans was dropped Monday as a leader for the tour of the movement’s youth wing, RSY-Netzer. The Movement for Reform Judaism said the move is “in the best interests of the participants,” the London-based Jewish News reports.

Her dismissal reversed a decision taken last month, when the group said that Morris-Evans would still lead a tour despite her participation in the mid-May Kaddish for Gaza event.

Several dozen young people gathered at the time outside London’s Parliament Square and recited the Jewish mourning prayer for Palestinians killed by Israeli forces during clashes on the border with Gaza as part of the so-called March of Return.

— JTA

Police chief: Fire kites and balloons are ‘terrorism’

Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh tours areas surrounding the Gaza border that have been targeted by airborne incendiary attacks in recent weeks, saying such attack are “terrorism.”

“On one hand,” he says, “the damage has been significant, but we are glad that so far there have been no casualties.

“There’s a hair’s breadth between miracle and disaster,” he continues, noting that as soon as an incendiary device lands it becomes the responsibility of police, who have often been called in to ensure that such devices aren’t outfitted with bombs.

Rivlin says Gaza rehabilitation depends on Hamas releasing soldiers’ remains

President Reuven Rivlin tells Hamas that the Gaza Strip won’t be rehabilitated so long as the territory’s Hamas rulers insist on holding the remains of two soldiers killed there during the 2014 war.

“Israel was and has remained the only actor in the region that conveys basic staples for the welfare of the residents of Gaza,” Rivlin says, at a ceremony in honor of the fallen in the war, dubbed Operation Protective Edge.

“But we must be clear,” he continues. “As long as Hamas administers Gaza with an eye only to destroying the State of Israel and attacking its citizens, and continues to hold the bodies of our soldiers, Gaza won’t be rehabilitated.”

Hamas is also believed to be holding two Israeli citizens prisoner.

Several Palestinians said trapped in Gaza tunnel demolished by Egypt

Egyptian forces have demolished a tunnel in the Rafah region between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, according to reports in the Palestinian territory.

Several Palestinians are reportedly trapped in the tunnel, and rescue forces are attempting to extract them.

Nadal ousts Israeli Sela in Wimbledon 1st round

Tennis’s world number one, Rafael Nadal, breezes into the Wimbledon second round with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 win over the Israeli Dudi Sela, the world 127.

Nadal, the Wimbledon champion in 2008 and 2010, had fallen to a player ranked outside the top 100 in four of his last five visits to the All England Club.

It was his third victory over the Israeli in three career matches.

— with AFP

Netanyahu threatens Hamas with ‘unbearable price’ if it goes to war

Prime Minister Netanyahu threatens Hamas with an “unbearable price” should it enter into another armed conflict with Israel.

He speaks during a ceremony in honor of the fallen in Israel’s previous war with the terror group in 2014, amid several months of ongoing tensions, the likes of which have not been seen since the end of that war.

Netanyahu says Hamas failed to realize one of its main objectives in 2014, which was “to isolate Israel on the international stage.

“Not only has that not happened, but the exact opposite has happened: Even the Arab states — or leading states in the Arab world — identified with our position, and I have reason to believe that today this is doubly true,” he says.

“I recommend that the leaders of Gaza choose calm,” the prime minister continues. “If they choose escalation, the price they pay will be unbearable, unbearable to them.”

Netanyahu, Putin to meet next week in Russia

Prime Minister Netanyahu will meet next Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Netanyahu’s office says.

The statement doesn’t say what the talks will focus on, though previous meetings between the two men have tended to address the situation in Syria, especially vis-a-vis Iran’s influence in the war-torn country.

Israel insists the Iranian forces withdraw entirely from Syria, a demand that Russia has appeared amenable to in recent statements.

US-Israeli task force established to stoke internal pressure in Iran – report

Israel and the US have established a joint task force geared toward exploiting and amplifying internal pressure on the Iranian regime, Channel 10 news reports.

The report says a recent meeting in Washington between Israel’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and his American counterpart, John Bolton, focused on strategy for turning up the heat on the government in Tehran.

The Islamic Republic has seen multiple mass protests and the reported deaths of several demonstrators in the past week, due to a water crisis and worsening economic conditions triggered by the US pullout from the nuclear deal.

The report quotes a senior Israeli official as saying that the goal of the task force isn’t to topple the regime. (“No one thinks” that can be done, he is quoted as saying.)

Rather, he says, its aim is to exploit internal pressure in Iran in order to force the ayatollahs to “change their behavior.”

The report says the task force has met several times, and links its activities to recent attempts by senior Israeli and American officials to address the Iranian people directly over social media: Prime Minister Netanyahu with a number of videos on Facebook, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Twitter.

Egypt says it destroyed Gaza tunnels, killed 3 terrorists

The Egyptian army says its forces killed three terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula today and destroyed tunnels at Rafah on the Gaza border as part of a vast campaign against jihadists.

Operations carried out in recent days resulted in “the elimination of three takfiris,” the army says, referring to Sunni Muslim radicals.

They also led to the “destruction of a number of tunnels in the city of Rafah in northern Sinai,” it says in a statement.

“A conscript was wounded in clashes with terrorists” and “two civilians died as a result of an explosion from a device targeting forces conducting raids,” it adds.

— with AFP

Trump to rescind Obama-era guidance on affirmative action

The Trump administration is moving to rescind Obama-era guidance that encouraged schools to take a person’s race into account to encourage diversity in admissions, a US official says.

The shift would give schools and universities the federal government’s blessing to take a race-neutral approach to the students they consider for admission.

A formal announcement is expected later today from the Justice and Education departments, according to the official, who speaks on condition of anonymity because the plan has not yet been disclosed.

The guidance from the Obama administration gave schools a framework for “considering race to further the compelling interests in achieving diversity and avoiding racial isolation.” That approach replaced Bush-era policy from a decade earlier.

The new guidance will not have the force of law, but schools will presumably be able to defend themselves from lawsuits by following administration policy.

AP

Adoption files to be opened in lost Yemenite children affair

The Knesset approves a bill to allow families who came to Israel from Yemen in the early days of the state to find out whether children they claim were kidnapped from them were put up for adoption.

According to the new law, anyone who is concerned that a close relative may have been taken from the family and put up for adoption can request a senior social worker to check the records to see if their relative’s name appears there.

If the relative was put up for adoption, the attorney general will be notified, and he will ask the courts to decide whether to give the details of the adoption to the family seeking their missing relative.

Currently, anyone who has been adopted may search for his or her family upon reaching the age of 18. However, families seeking children who have disappeared did not previously have access to the adoption files.

Since the 1950s, more than 1,000 families — mostly immigrants from Yemen, but also dozens from the Balkans, North Africa, and other Middle Eastern countries — have alleged their children were systematically kidnapped from Israeli hospitals and put up for adoption, sometimes abroad.

Likd MK Nurit Koren, who chairs the Knesset caucus tasked with researching the Yemenite Children Affair, and who had a cousin who disappeared, praises the new law.

“This is a historic, revolutionary law that will provide the families with answers,” she says.

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PA officials blast Israeli bill slashing funds over terrorist payouts

A spokesperson for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says an Israeli law passed yesterday that aims to penalize the PA for sums it pays out to the families of prisoners, including terrorists, and slain attackers is a “declaration of war.”

The law, under which the sums the PA pays out will be deducted from customs on Palestinian-bound goods traveling through Israeli ports, is a violation of the Oslo accords, Nabil Abu Rudeineh says, according to a report in the PA’s official Wafa news agency.

Another Palestinian official, Issa Qaraqe, director of the Palestinian Prisoners Commission, tells Voice of Palestine radio that withholding the funds, which Israel committed to transferring under the Oslo accords, is tantamount to “piracy.”

Still, he says, the PA won’t abandon its “martyrs” and prisoners.

“This is part of our culture and resistance,” he says. “This law intends to delegitimize our national struggle for independence.”