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Netanyahu: Hezbollah is playing with fire, any attack to be met with great force

PM, defense minister conclude security consultations following northern clash, warn Lebanon and terror group will bear full responsibility for violence

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press briefing following an incident on the Israel-Lebanon border in which Israel said it thwarted a Hezbollah attack, July 27, 2020 (screenshot)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press briefing following an incident on the Israel-Lebanon border in which Israel said it thwarted a Hezbollah attack, July 27, 2020 (screenshot)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s developments as they unfolded.

Nissenkorn pans attempts to ‘twist civil rights’ by limiting protests

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn reacted angrily to reports that Public Security Minister Amir Ohana is attempting to stifle protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Nizzenkorn tweets that as part of pandemic limitations “we insisted that the right to protest not be harmed. That is how a strong democracy acts during a time of emergency.

“Any attempt to twist this decision is an attempt to twist civil rights. We must ensure that no forbidden measures are used [against protesters] or any inordinately high fines are handed out.”

New Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn speaks during a ceremony at the Justice Ministry on May 18, 2020. (Shlomi Amsalem/GPO)

Coronavirus Committee discusses dire state of culture workers

The Knesset’s Coronavirus Committee has concluded a meeting on the dire state of culture in Israel, which had been largely shut down since the outbreak of the pandemic in March, leaving some 150,000 people out of work.

Itamar Grotto, deputy director-general of the Health Ministry, told the committee he supports examining steps to allow culture events to resume.

Committee chief Yifat Shasha-Biton said the government would look at ways in which events could be held, primarily outside. “We will discuss ‘how’ and not ‘if,'” she said.

MK Yifat Shasha-Biton at a Knesset Coronavirus Committee meeting on July 19, 2020. (screen capture: Knesset livestream)

She says theaters should be allowed to hold shows outside, though it is not yet clear how this will be done.

Tzipi Pines, director of Tel Aviv’s Beit Lessin Theater, told the committee: “The earth is shaking. We’ve been at home for five months and there’s no goal date… If this goes on, we’ll never be able to reopen.”

Woman accused of joining IS arrested on return to Germany

German prosecutors say a German woman who allegedly joined the Islamic State group in Syria was arrested upon her return to the country. She is accused of membership in a foreign terrorist group, war crimes against property and other crimes.

Federal prosecutors say in a written statement that the woman, identified only as Nurten J. in line with local privacy laws, was arrested Friday at Frankfurt Airport.

Prosecutors allege she traveled with her then 4-year-old daughter to Syria in 2015 to join IS. There, she married a man who had also come from Germany and they started a family.

The woman allegedly raised her children according to IS ideology and in return she received a monthly payment from the extremist group and lived successively in five different apartments whose former tenants were either killed or evicted.

After IS lost its territories in Syria, J. and her family were captured by Kurds and were eventually taken into deportation custody in Turkey. It was not clear if she was returned to Germany in custody and and the fate of her children was not known.

— AP

Poll: US leadership remains popular in Israel — elsewhere, not so much

A majority of Israelis (64 percent) approve of US leadership under President Donald Trump, a Gallup survey has found — with the country being an outlier among European, Asian and North and South American nations.

Of dozens of countries polled throughout the four continents, Israel was third in its approval rating of the American government, behind only Albania (67%) and Kosovo (82%).

The vast majority of countries surveyed saw approval rating below 50%. In Europe the median approval rating was 24%, in Asia 32% and in the Americas 34%.

US leadership was, however, more popular in Africa, where the median stood at 52%.

Some 1,000 people were polled in each country.

US President Donald Trump holds a face mask as he speaks during a news conference at the White House, Tuesday, July 21, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Rivlin: Right to protest of supreme importance, violence impermissible

In a message to anti-government protesters and their opponents, President Reuven Rivlin stresses that “the right to demonstrate is of supreme importance in our democratic culture and must not be impaired.”

But alongside the freedom of protest, he says, Israelis must avoid “any kind of violence. Those who incite, those who call to violence, those who hurt protesters — must be dealt with severely by law enforcement.”

Lapid: Netanyahu should fire Ohana immediately for trying to quell protests

At a faction meeting of Yesh Atid-Telem at the Knesset, opposition leader Yair Lapid says the prime minister should “fire [Public Security Minister Amir] Ohana this very day” for seeking to eliminate protests in the capital.

But “he won’t do that because he’s the one who sent him and is using him to silence the demonstrators.”

MK Yair Lapid speaks at the Maariv newspaper conference in Herzliya, on February 26, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Netanyahu: No reason for elections — we need a budget as soon as possible

Speaking at the Likud faction meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu says he does not want elections.

“There’s no reason to go to elections. We need a budget as soon as possible,” he says.

The government must pass a budget by mid-August or elections wil lbe automatically triggered, with Netanyahu and coalition partner Benny Gantz sparring over whether to pass a budget only for the rest of 2020, as the premier wants, or through 2021, as their agreement stipulates. There has been speculation that the premier would use a budget crisis to bring down the coalition and trigger elections.

“Another thing we need is coalition discipline,” he says of the recent vote for a bill to ban gay conversion therapy, which was supported by Blue and White and several Likud officials despite the official coalition position being to vote against it.

“Discussions have their place but once a decision is made by the coalition, it needs to be respected… I say this both to our partners and to us as well.”

EU grants will allow Ramallah to pay June salaries to civil servants

The Palestinian Authority will be able to pay the June salaries of more than 43,000 civil servants thanks to a €23 million ($27.03 million) grant provided by the European Union.

PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announces that the PA is continuing to reject tax revenues which Israel collects on its behalf, in protest of Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank. Refusing the revenue, which makes up around 70% of the PA’s 2020 budget, left the PA in a deep fiscal crisis.

The PA had previously announced that it would only be able to pay 50% of the promised salaries to its employees, whose wages constitute around 20% of Palestinian GDP.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh speaks during a press conference at the Foreign Press Association in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on June 9, 2020. (Abbas Momani/Pool Photo via AP)

“Our contribution today will help maintain the delivery of key public services to the Palestinian people amid this extraordinary crisis,” EU Representative Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff says in a statement.

— Aaron Boxerman

IDF: ‘Security incident’ at Lebanon border, Israelis in area must remain at home

The Israeli military orders residents of communities along the Israeli-Lebanese border to remain inside their homes in light of an unspecified “security incident” taking place in the Mount Dov area on the frontier.

Channel 12 reports there may be exchanges of fire between military forces and Lebanese gunmen.

The Israel Defense Forces says it has also closed roads in the area and orders all farmers, hikers and tourists to immediately leave all open areas and farmlands.

“Please continue to be updated on directives that are being put out by media outlets and listen to all orders by security forces and the IDF, which are operating in the area,” the military says.

Additional information is available by dialing 104 from any Israeli phone.

— with Judah Ari Gross

Report: IDF troops ambushed gunmen who tried to infiltrate border

Channel 12 reports that it appears gunfire was exchanged between a military unit lying in ambush and a cell of Hezbollah gunmen who attempted to cross the border.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz have both been receiving updates on the events in the north, Walla news reports.

Lebanese media is reporting IDF strikes in the Kfarchouba area, near Mount Hermon.

Hezbollah fighters said killed in exchanges of fire; no reports of Israelis hurt

Channel 12 news reports that the Lebanese gunmen involved in the incident near the border have apparently been killed.

It says gunmen may have tried to fire anti-tank missiles at an IDF position.

There are currently no reports of casualties among IDF troops.

Netanyahu tells faction members: ‘We are in a difficult security incident’

The prime minister is said to tell members of the Likud faction at the Knesset: “We are in a difficult security incident.”

Prior to the incident breaking, Netanyahu told the faction of the tensions along the border: “We are constantly monitoring what is happening on our northern border. When I say ‘we,’ that means myself, the defense minister, the chief of staff — all of us together.

“Our policy is clear: First, we will not allow Iran to entrench militarily on our border with Syria. This is the policy that I set years ago. We uphold it consistently.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference at the Health Ministry, July 23, 2020. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

“Second, Lebanon and Hezbollah will bear the responsibility for any attack against us emanating from Lebanese territory.

“Third, the IDF is prepared for any scenario. We are active in all arenas for the security of Israel – both close to our borders and far from them.”

— with Raphael Ahren

Lebanese media says Hezbollah fired anti-tank guided missile at Israeli tank

Conflicting reports emerge in Lebanese media.

Some outlets reporting that a Hezbollah cell fired an anti-tank guided missile at an Israeli tank.

Meanwhile others report that the Israel Defense Forces thwarted the attack, killing the terror group’s fighters.

More as we get it.

Army said scanning for additional armed cells along the frontier

Hebrew media reports that the army is scanning the entire sector for additional possible Hezbollah cells, with heightened alert along the entire frontier for additional possible attacks along the border.

Fighting is “ongoing,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Office says.

Video shows apparent aftermath of Israeli strike in Lebanon

A video from Lebanon purportedly shows the aftermath of an IDF strike near a village in Lebanon.

Channel 12 news reports that the area is currently quiet, with no gunfire or explosions heard in the past few minutes.

Netanyahu, Gantz head to IDF headquarters to hold security consultations

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz are on their way to IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv for security consultations.

Speaking prior to the incident at a faction meeting in Jerusalem, Gantz addressed the growing tensions on the northern frontier.

“Iran and its proxies are still trying to strangle our northern border in an Iranian chokehold,” he said. “The IDF and our security forces will continue to block Iranian entrenchment, as well as the transfer of destabilizing weapons, and precision weapon systems.

“As defense minister, I suggest that no enemy dare test us. Anyone who attempts to do so will find a ready and resolute army, prepared to protect the citizens of Israel and its sovereignty,” he said. “Let me stress this once again: the responsibility rests on the shoulders of Syria and Lebanon for any activity on or originating in their territories.”

— Raphael Ahren and Jacob Magid

No gunfire or blasts heard in past 20 minutes at border — report

Channel 12 news reports that in the past 20 minutes no gunfire or explosions have been heard in the Har Dov region where the incident took place.

Hezbollah network al-Manar is also reporting that artillery fire has stopped but said air force planes are still heard overhead.

Army: Hezbollah cell tried to carry out attack, was fired upon

The Israeli military says it thwarted a Hezbollah attack in the Mount Dov area, opening fire at a group of fighters from the terror group that entered Israeli territory from Lebanon.

Military sources tell Channel 12 Hezbollah fighters attempted to infiltrate the border and attack an IDF outpost. They were identified by the army, which tracked them moving through foliage toward the outpost, located at Har Dov, at a location where no border fence exists.

When the fighters passed the Blue Line, the international border, Israeli troops opened fire.

Heavy IDF shelling followed to prevent any further attacks including anti-tank fire at troops.

The Israel Defense Forces says no soldiers were injured and denies Lebanese media reports that a Kornet anti-tank guided missile was fired at an Israeli tank.

According to IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman, the military considers the incident to be ongoing. There are “tense and complicated days are before us,” he says.

According to Zilberman, the Hezbollah cell entered a few meters into Israeli territory before troops opened fire with machine guns, tanks and artillery cannons, driving them back.

“We don’t know their conditions at this point,” he says.

Zilberman says the IDF does not yet know precisely what type of attack the Hezbollah cell intended to carry out in Israel.

Army confirms no Israelis hurt in border incident, civilians return to routine

The military confirms no Israelis were hurt in the exchanges of fire along the northern border.

Meanwhile Israeli civilians in the north have been told they can return to their daily routines, with the incident now under control.

Army officials: Coming hours will be tense and critical

Amid a return of tentative calm to the border, officials in the IDF’s Northern Command tell Channel 12 the coming hours will be tense and critical to how things develop.

Israel said to warn Hezbollah of ‘disproportionate response’ if shooting continues

Israel has conveyed messages to Hezbollah that it will “respond disproportionately if shooting continues” along the northern border, Channel 12 reports.

Meanwhile a video released by Syrian state media claims to show the aftermath of Israeli bombing in Lebanon.

UK’s chief rabbi accuses Twitter and Facebook of ‘complicity’ in anti-Semitism

British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis accuses Twitter and Facebook of “complicity” in anti-Semitism on their platforms, by failing to do enough to stem hate speech online.

Mirvis writes to the company chiefs that “the woeful lack of responsible leadership… cannot be allowed to stand,” the Guardian reports.

“Your inaction amounts to complicity. I urge you to take swift action to challenge the hatred that currently thrives on your platform.”

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis speaks at a National Holocaust Memorial Day event at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, on January 26, 2017, in London, England. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

His letter comes amid a 48-hour boycott of Twitter and Instagram throughout the UK in response to an anti-Semitic rant by UK rap artist Wiley, who posted a stream of anti-Semitic tweets Friday, claiming connections between the Jewish community and the Ku Klux Klan, as well as repeated tropes about Jews and money.

The tweets were up for 12 hours before Twitter finally deleted some of them under its “hateful conduct policy,” though others remain.

He also posted anti-Semitic content on Instagram, which remained on the site.

Hezbollah-affiliated TV claims no Hezbollah fighters killed in border incident

The Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen news outlet reports that no Hezbollah fighters were killed during the group’s failed attack on Mount Dov.

The Israel Defense Forces says three to four members of the group attempted to carry out an attack along the Israeli-Lebanese border, but at least some of them were forced back into Lebanon by Israeli troops who opened fire at them.

The IDF says it does not know the conditions of the Hezbollah operatives.

— Judah Ari Gross

Likud minister claims Jerusalem protesters ‘acting against Israeli democracy’

Likud minister David Amsalem, who serves as liaison between the Knesset and the government, once again blasts protests being held in Jerusalem by anti-government activists.

“You’re acting against Israeli democracy because you’re not accepting the will of the voter,” Amsalem charges while responding to a no-confidence motion at the Knesset.

“We are in the midst of anarchy… People are closing streets in the capital. I don’t remember anything like it in Jerusalem.”

Four-year-old dies after being found inside abandoned car in Fureidis

A four-year-old child has died after being found in an abandoned car in the town of Fureidis, according to media reports.

A passerby noticed the child in the vehicle and notified authorities. He was apparently inside the vehicle for an extended period of time.

Medics rushed the child to Hadera’s Hillel Yaffe Medical Center, where he was declared dead.

Court bans Health Ministry from giving sick days to quarantined Israelis

The High Court of Justice has canceled the Health Ministry’s authority to give sick days to Israelis forced to enter quarantine due to concerns they’ve been infected with the coronavirus.

Up until now the ministry automatically gave people sent into quarantine sick day approval, forcing employers to keep paying them while they remained at home.

View of the Supreme Court as seen from a rooftop in Jerusalem on September 7, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The court has accepted the petitions of employer organizations that complained of being forced to shoulder the burden.

Now the government must either find a way to compensate quarantined individuals, or they will remain without pay for the duration of their quarantine.

Police arrest 2 suspected of attacking policeman, reporter during protests

Jerusalem police announce the arrest of two suspects under suspicion of involvement in “violating public order” during anti-government protests in Jerusalem on July 14, one of whom allegedly attacked Channel 13 journalist Avishay Ben Haim.

Police believe both suspects attacked a police officer that same night. The officer was sent to the hospital with an injured leg.

Police use water cannon on demonstrators during a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem, July 14, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

During that night’s demonstrations protesters broke through police barricades on Keren Hayesod Street and reached the city center. After clashes took place, police deployed water cannons to disperse protesters.

Police did not comment on claims by the organizers of the protests that those who attacked Ben Haim were “provocateurs” and not members of the protest movement.

— Aaron Boxerman

Haredi leaders say more worshipers will be allowed at synagogues for Tisha B’Av

Leaders of ultra-Orthodox parties meet with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and say he has agreed to raise the number of worshipers allowed at synagogues for Tisha B’Av, held this Wednesday night and Thursday.

It is not yet clear how many will be allowed to congregate at any one time. Currently up to 10 people are allowed to gather at synagogues, in line with the general restrictions on indoor gatherings.

People pray with masks at a synagogue in Moshav Tzafria, on July 22, 2020 (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Netanyahu, Gantz confer with security chiefs on northern incident

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz are currently holding security consultations at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv with the heads of the Israeli security establishment.

Netanyahu has once again told ministers not to comment on today’s incident in northern Israel, warning that events are still in motion.

UN mission urges ‘maximum restraint’ after Lebanon-Israel border clashes

United Nations peacekeeping force UNIFIL calls for “maximum restraint” after clashes on the border between Lebanon and Israel.

“Major General [Stefano] Del Col has been in contact with both parties to assess the situation and decrease tension while urging maximum restraint,” UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tenenti says.

“The firing has now stopped,” he adds.

— AFP

Hezbollah denies attack, clashes at Lebanon border, says response still coming

Hezbollah is now denying that it carried out any attack or exchanges of fire with Israeli forces earlier today along the border.

In a statement from the terror group read aloud on its al-Manar television network, Hezbollah says: “All that the enemy claims in the media about thwarting an infiltration operation from Lebanese territory into occupied Palestine, as well as talk of the fall of martyrs and wounded Hezbollah members in bombing operations that took place in the vicinity of the occupation sites in the Shebaa Farms — is absolutely false.”

It asserts that “these announcements are absolutely false attempts to generate illusory and fake victories.”

A picture taken from the Israeli side of the Blue Line that separates Israel and Lebanon shows smoke billowing above the Shebaa Farms sector after clashes in the border area, on July 27, 2020. (Jalaa MAREY / AFP)

“The Islamic Resistance affirms that there has been no attack or shooting on its part. Rather, it was only one party, which was the fearful, anxious and tense enemy,” it says, adding that “the enemy is running scared both on the ground and in the media, scared of its own shadow.”

Appearing to indicate the matter is not over, Hezbollah says its response to the killing of one of its fighters in an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria last week “is definitely coming. The Zionists have only to wait for their crimes to be punished.”

It also says it will respond to Israel’s artillery fire that took place during today’s clashes.

— Aaron Boxerman

Netanyahu, Gantz to give press statement on events at 8 p.m.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Gantz are set to hold a press conference at 8 p.m., on the day’s events in the north.

Latest figures show 1,817 virus cases diagnosed in past 24 hours

The Health Ministry has released it latest coronavirus figures, showing the nation’s total case count at 63,581 — 1,205 new cases since midnight and 1,817 in the past 24 hours.

Of those 35,982 are active cases, with 310 people in serious condition (96 on ventilators), 165 in moderate condition, and the rest displaying only mild symptoms or no symptoms.

Another person has died, taking the death toll to 474.

Testing appears to continue to be low, with only 5,854 tests carried out so far today. Previously testing stood at some 30,000 a day but has dropped in recent days without explanation.

Animal campaigner Haimovich gets animal welfare moved to her Knesset panel

Abused, incarcerated, and neglected animals will find a welcoming heart and a determination to help, as animal campaigner and lawmaker Miki Haimovich’s succeeds in getting animal welfare moved from the Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee to the Committee for Internal Affairs and Environmental Protection that she heads.

The bill necessary to make this happen was passed in the Knesset today. Prior to the second and third readings, Haimovich, of the Blue and White Party, said, “The treatment of animal rights in Israel is lacking and that’s an understatement. Animals are the weakest group, exposed to much harm and to insufficient protection by the state.

Former TV broadcaster and Blue and White Party environmental campaigner and animal rights activist Miki Haimovich pictured at a dog shelter appealing to viewers to give Shimi and other abandoned dogs a home. (YouTube screenshot)

“We see many cases of serious abuse, negligence, failures in the holding and rearing of animals, poor living conditions and a serious lack of enforcement and punishment.”

The many issues facing her committee now will include trying to stop the live shipment of animals to Israel for fattening and slaughter, and attempts to ban poultry cages.

— Sue Surkes

Changes in criteria for tests are behind the drop in test numbers — report

Channel 12 cites three factors for the recent precipitous drop in coronavirus tests each day:

– Proximity to the weekend, when fewer tests are generally conducted.

– A change of criteria for tests, that has led health officials to stop testing asymptomatic people, unless they have been exposed to a known patient.

– A change in policy for quarantined individuals to end their self-isolation. Previously quarantined individuals required two negative tests but now they can automatically end quarantine after 10 days.

Netanyahu: Hezbollah is playing with fire, any attack will be met with force

At a briefing to the press, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Hezbollah is “playing with fire” and warns “Hezbollah and Lebanon bear full responsibility” for attacks emanating from Lebanon.

Netanyahu says: “Any attack against us will be met with great force.”

Gantz: Israel more determined than ever to defend its sovereignty

Defense Minister Benny Gantz says Israel “is more determined than ever to prevent harm to its sovereignty and its soldiers, and certainly its citizens.”

He says “IDF soldiers and commanders responded professionally and accurately and prevented a severe incident that could have cost human lives.

“Anyone who dares to test the IDF’s might endangers himself and the country from which he operates.”

Knesset passes handouts bill in its first reading

The Knesset has passed in its first reading legislation to allow the government to give stimulus grants to most Israeli citizens.

The bill was passed with 80 votes of approval and none against. It will now go to committee before going up for its second and third readings.

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Report: IDF troops ambushed gunmen who tried to infiltrate border

Channel 12 reports that it appears gunfire was exchanged between a military unit lying in ambush and a cell of Hezbollah gunmen who attempted to cross the border.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz have both been receiving updates on the events in the north, Walla news reports.

Lebanese media is reporting IDF strikes in the Kfarchouba area, near Mount Hermon.