Security cabinet to meet Sunday to discuss UN proposal for Gaza
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Druze leader accuses Netanyahu of leading Israel to an ‘apartheid state’

Netanyahu cuts meeting with community leaders short in row over accusation; Druze activist calls author of nation-state legislation a 'Nazi'

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Muafak Tarif at his office in Jerusalem on August 1, 2018. (Prime Minister's Office)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Muafak Tarif at his office in Jerusalem on August 1, 2018. (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Likud MK Oren Hazan takes a selfie with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, and MK David Bitan, right of Netanyahu, after the passage of the nation-state law at the Knesset on July 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Olivier Fitoussi)
    Likud MK Oren Hazan takes a selfie with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, and MK David Bitan, right of Netanyahu, after the passage of the nation-state law at the Knesset on July 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Olivier Fitoussi)
  • Participants take part in the annual Jerusalem Gay Pride parade on August 2, 2018.  (AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)
    Participants take part in the annual Jerusalem Gay Pride parade on August 2, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)
  • Surveillance footage released by the IDF that it says shows a group of armed jihadist fighters in southern Syria approaching the Israeli border on August 2, 2018. (courtesy: IDF)
    Surveillance footage released by the IDF that it says shows a group of armed jihadist fighters in southern Syria approaching the Israeli border on August 2, 2018. (courtesy: IDF)
  • Col.-Gen. Sergei Rudskoy of the Russian Military General Staff speaks to the media as a screen shows the map of Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon in Moscow, Russia, August 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)
    Col.-Gen. Sergei Rudskoy of the Russian Military General Staff speaks to the media as a screen shows the map of Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon in Moscow, Russia, August 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)
  • Ultra-Orthodox Jews, demonstrating at the arrest of a draft dodger, are sprayed with water cannons by Israeli security forces in Jerusalem on August 2, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)
    Ultra-Orthodox Jews, demonstrating at the arrest of a draft dodger, are sprayed with water cannons by Israeli security forces in Jerusalem on August 2, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)

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

Russia says UN peacekeepers back on Israel-Syria border

Russia’s Defense Ministry says United Nations peacekeepers have returned to patrol the border between Syria and Israel for first time in years.

Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoy of the Russian General Staff says the UN peacekeepers, aided by Russian forces, conducted their first patrolling mission in the area on Thursday.

Rudskoy talked to reporters at a press conference in Moscow.

The peacekeeping mission was halted in 2014 amid the violence in Syrian’s civil war.

— AP

37 ultra-Orthodox arrested in Jerusalem anti-draft protest

At 37 least ultra-Orthodox men are arrested during an anti-draft protest after a yeshiva student was arrested for refusing to enlist to the IDF.

The protesters were arrested after blocking Jaffa Road, a major Jerusalem artery.

Large traffic jams are reported in the area.

IDF: Syria jihadists were less than 200 meters from Israeli border

IDF Spokesman Ronen Manelis says the Islamic State jihadists in Syria who were struck in an overnight Israeli airstrike were less than 200 meters from the Israeli border.

Manelis says there was no imminent threat to Israeli communities along the northern border, but did not indicate whether the jihadists intended to attack IDF targets nearby.

Longtime Abbas spokesman appointed to 2 ministerial posts

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s longtime spokesman, is appointed deputy prime minister and information minister, PA spokesman Yousif al-Mahmoud tells the official Wafa news agency.

Abu Rudeineh, who also is a Fatah Central Committee member, will continue to serve as Abbas’s spokesman despite taking on the new job, a source in the PA president’s office says in a phone call.

Abu Rudeineh, 66, will become the PA government’s second deputy prime minister, alongside Ziad Abu Amr.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri pans Abu Rudeinah’s appointment to the two ministerial roles, asserting that “the Ramallah government is no longer a consensus government following the addition of Nabil Abu Rudeinah.”

In a 2014 agreement to advance reconciliation efforts, Hamas and Fatah consented to the formation of “a consensus government” that only included ministerial appointments of who both sides approved.

Even though reconciliation efforts between Hamas and Fatah have floundered, “the consensus government” is technically still in office.

— Adam Rasgon

UK Jewish leader: Corbyn apology for Labour anti-Semitism ‘half-hearted’

The head of one of Britain’s main Jewish groups says the leader of the opposition Labour Party must make an “abject apology” to British Jews for allowing anti-Semitism to fester in the left-of-center party.

Allegations of anti-Jewish prejudice within Labour have grown since veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader in 2015. Some in the party allege that Corbyn, a longtime critic of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, has allowed abuse to go unchecked.

Corbyn has apologized for the “concerns and anxiety” caused when, as a pro-Palestinian campaigner, he shared platforms with people “whose views I completely reject.”

But Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, tweeted Thursday that Corbyn was “hiding behind a half-hearted ‘apology’ no doubt crafted by his spin-doctors.”

— AP

Police investigating double murder in Netanya homeless shelter

Two people are found murdered at a homeless shelter in the northern city of Netanya, police say in a statement.

Police were called to the shelter on Tehila Street to respond to the stabbing of one employee. He was declared dead by Magen David Adom paramedics who arrived at the scene.

When police searched the area, they found another body nearby.

One person has reportedly been arrested.

An investigation into the murders has been opened, police say in a statement.

Multiple protests in Iran over currency drop, economic woes

Scattered protests break out in several Iranian cities over the dramatic drop of the country’s currency and other economic problems ahead of the imposition of renewed American sanctions, Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reports.

About 100 people take to the streets in the northern city of Sari, as well as unspecified numbers in the cities of Shiraz, Ahavz and Mashhad, IRNA says.

The agency reports all protests had taken place without official permission and were subsequently broken up by police.

Yesterday and Tuesday, about 200 people demonstrated in the city of Karaj, west of Tehran, IRNA reported. Police said the demonstrators had attempted to damage public buildings but were unable to, IRNA said without providing further details.

In videos circulated on social media and purporting to have been taken in the town of Gohardasht, a suburb of Karaj, dozens of demonstrators can be seen in the streets, setting fire to police vehicles and shouting “death to the dictator.” Police responded with tear gas.

— AP

Captain of Norwegian boat en route to Gaza slams ‘horrific’ Israeli seizure

The captain of a Norwegian boat carrying pro-Palestinian activists en route to Gaza accuses Israeli authorities of violating the law by boarding the vessel, which was attempting to break the maritime blockade on the Strip.

“We were arrested in international waters and we were closer to Egypt than Israel,” the boat’s captain Herman Reksten says when he returned to Norway this morning after being held for three days in an Israeli prison.

“Israel has broken all the rules; it’s horrific that they board a Norwegian ship in international waters and force it to moor in Israel,” he tells Norwegian public broadcaster NRK.

On Sunday, the Israeli navy seized the “Freedom” and arrested the 22 passengers who were attempting to breach the blockade on Gaza. Israel defended its use of force during the takeover, saying that “reasonable force was employed to overcome the passengers’ resistance.”

Norway has asked Israel to explain the circumstances surrounding the arrests and “the allegations of excessive use of force,” a Norwegian government spokesman tells AFP.

— with AFP

Security cabinet to meet Sunday to discuss UN proposal for Gaza

The security cabinet will convene on Sunday to discuss the United Nations proposal to deescalate tensions in the Gaza Strip.

According to reports, the ministers will meet in an underground bunker in the Jerusalem area for an update on the progress made by UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov.

Mladenov is reportedly pushing a ceasefire proposal in cooperation with Egypt and other Arab states that would see Israel remove recent border restrictions and all sides agree to a ceasefire that would include the cessation of the cross-border arson attacks from Gaza into Israel.

Police block off Jerusalem streets as Pride Parade sets off

Police have blocked a number of streets in central Jerusalem near and along the route of the city’s annual Pride Parade.

Keren Hayesod, Palomar, King George, Hillel, Menashe Ben Israel, Agron, Elhanan, Shalom Aleichem, Mapu, Ahad Ha’am, Avida, KKL, Histadrut and Azza streets are all closed until later this evening.

Jerusalem authorities have urged drivers to avoid the downtown area and use the WAZE traffic application for up-to-date traffic information.

State prosecutor criticizes Jewish state law, calls for upholding of minority rights

State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan publicly criticizes the nation-state law, joining opposition to the law over concerns it will sanction discrimination toward the country’s non-Jews.

At an event for outgoing Supreme Court justice Uri Shaham, Nitzan warned the law could curtail the rights of minorities in Israel.

“I hope that Israeli society will be able to find a way to allow [them] to feel they have equal rights, to strive to improve their status, and to allow them to… find some rest, some peace,” he says.

Jordan says army killed IS jihadists who tried to breach border

The Jordanian army says it killed a number of Islamic State group jihadists on Tuesday night who were trying to approach its northern border with Syria.

IS jihadists “tried to approach our border” but Jordanian troops prevented them by pounding them “with all types of weapons” and “killing a number of them,” the army statement adds, without specifying how many.

The Jordanian army said that on the Syrian side of the border, regime forces cornered the jihadists in a pocket of southern Syria around the Yarmouk Basin and neighboring villages.

The operation to secure the area continued into yesterday morning, the statement said.

The Jordanian announcement came hours after Israel said it had killed seven terrorists believed to be linked to IS in an airstrike late last night. The terrorists were believed to be trying to infiltrate Israel from the Syrian Golan Heights, the IDF said.

Police disperse ultra-Orthodox draft protest in Jerusalem, arrest 46

Police say the ultra-Orthodox anti-draft demonstration in Jerusalem has been dispersed, and the roads at the entrance of the city have re-opened.

Forty-six protesters were arrested for disrupting public order, police say in a statement.

Earlier, hundreds of ultra-Orthodox men protesting the recent arrest of a draft-dodging yeshiva student had blocked traffic on Jaffa Road, near the central bus station, causing heavy traffic delays in the area.

IDF releases footage of Syria jihadists approaching Israeli border

The IDF releases footage of the armed jihadists crossing the 1974 ceasefire line into Israeli territory late last night, and the IDF operation to secure the area afterwards.

Earlier, the IDF said it killed seven Islamic State fighters believed to have been en route to attack Israel.

The army said troops found a number of explosive belts and a Kalashnikov rifle during searches of the area this morning.

Thousands gathering for Jerusalem Pride Parade

Thousands gather for the start of Jerusalem’s annual Pride Parade in Liberty Bell Park.

The crowd of mostly young Israelis congregate for opening music acts and speakers after passing through two lines of police security.

All participants are being questioned and searched before entering the parade route.

Opening speakers include representatives of the Jerusalem Open House, the flagship LGBT organization in the city.

— Luke Tress

People gather for the annual Pride Parade in Jerusalem on August 2, 2018. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

Livni: Fighting for LGBT rights has ‘never been so important’

Knesset opposition leader Tzipi Livni calls for legislation to be amended to guarantee equal rights for the LGBT community in Israel.

Speaking at the start of the Jerusalem Pride march, Livni says that while the annual parade is a joyful occasion, it is not enough.

“We won’t be satisfied with just having parades, the real change will occur when legislation is amended and there is a significant social and political shift,” Livni says.

“We are united in this fight that has never been so important,” she adds.

4 anti-LGBT protesters arrested during Jerusalem Pride march

Four members of the extremist organization Lehava are arrested during an anti-LGBT demonstration held on the sidelines of the Jerusalem Pride Parade.

Reports in Hebrew-language media said that a number of Lehava members scuffled with security forces near the start of the march route, near Liberty Bell Park.

Police in recent days have warned anti-gay activists to stay away from the city during the annual march, and said in a statement earlier they would not permit any “disturbance to public order” during the parade.

Russia FM says US can do more to rebuild Syria

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the United States and the West could do more to help rebuild warn-torn Syria to improve the lives of refugees there.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a summit in Singapore, Lavrov says the US and the EU are only willing to provide “basic humanitarian aid” in Syria, the state news agency reports.

But Lavrov laments that the US is “is very cautious about reconstructing infrastructure facilities” in Syria. Such an effort is necessary to encourage people to resettle the areas, he says.

Lavrov adds that such an approach “will only punish people” living in government-controlled areas and those wanting to return to their homes.

— AP

White House says Trump received new letter from Kim Jong Un

The White House says US President Donald Trump received a new letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un Wednesday following up on their Singapore summit.

Trump tweeted early today his thanks to Kim “for your nice letter — I look forward to seeing you soon!”

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders says the correspondence is “aimed at following up on their meeting in Singapore” and “advancing the commitments made” in the leaders’ joint statement there.

The White House is not addressing whether Trump and Kim may again meet.

Vice President Mike Pence and US military leaders in Hawaii on Wednesday received the remains of missing US soldiers from the Korean War.

The letter comes amid concerns over North Korea’s ballistic missile program and commitment to denuclearization.

— AP

Organizers say 21,000 marching in Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade

Organizers of the Jerusalem Pride Parade say 21,000 people are attending the annual march through the capital city.

Waving rainbow flags and blasting music, revelers are marching amid tight police security.

Four anti-gay protesters were arrested at the start of the march route.

Jerusalem Pride revelers call on Netanyahu to resign

Marchers at the Jerusalem Pride Parade are calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign, expressing anger over a recently passed surrogacy law that excludes homosexual fathers.

Marchers carry signs calling to replace the government and demanding greater social justice in Israel. Some are seen with signs denouncing the recently passed nation-state law as “shameful.”

This year’s festivities are mixed with outrage after Netanyahu last month pledged to pass legislation supporting surrogacy for gay fathers, but then voted against it, apparently under pressure from ultra-Orthodox Jewish coalition partners.

Ceremony marks 75 years since Treblinka death camp revolt

Israeli Ambassador Anna Azari joins Polish officials and the relatives of former inmates in a ceremony marking 75 years since the revolt of prisoners at the Nazi German death camp of Treblinka.

Ada Krystyna Willenberg, the widow of revolt fighter Samuel Willenberg, appeals for a proper museum to be built at the site of the former camp. The current memorial consists of boulders bearing the names of locations that the inmates came from.

Some 900,000 Jews, chiefly from Poland, were killed from 1941 to 1944 at Treblinka, considered one of the deadliest Nazi death camps in occupied Poland during World War II.

Only some 300 inmates managed to escape during the Aug. 2, 1943, revolt. Only a few dozen of them avoided being caught and survived.

— AP

JFNA slams Jewish state law as ‘a step back for all minorities’

The Jewish Federations of North America criticizes the Israeli government for passing the nation-state law, saying the legislation was a “step back for all minorities.”

“As strong supporters of Israel, we were disappointed that the government passed legislation which was effectively a step back for all minorities,” the umbrella group says in a Facebook post.

“Jewish Federations stand shoulder to shoulder with the Druze community and urge Israeli legislators to work with the community as soon as possible to address their very real concerns,” it says.

Apple becomes 1st public company worth $1 trillion

Apple has become the world’s first publicly traded company to be valued at $1 trillion.

The milestone marks the financial fruit of stylish technology that has redefined society since two mavericks named Steve started the company 42 years ago.

The peak reached today seemed unimaginable in 1997 when Apple teetered on the edge of bankruptcy, with its stock trading for less than $1.

To survive, Apple brought back its once-exiled co-founder, Steve Jobs, as interim CEO and turned to its archrival Microsoft for a $150 million cash infusion to help pay its bills.

Jobs eventually introduced such popular products as the iPod and iPhone that have driven Apple’s rise.

Apple shares rose 2.7 percent to an all-time high of $207.05 around midday. They’re up 22 percent so far this year.

— AP

Gaza arson balloons spark 13 fires in Israel today

Since this morning, firefighters have been working to extinguish 13 fires sparked by incendiary balloons that were launched into Israel from Gaza, the Fire and Rescue Services say.

The Fire and Rescue service says all of the blazes are under control.

On Tuesday, a group of 10 US firefighters arrived in Israel to help firefighters in southern Israel battling the near daily blazes caused by the airborne incendiary devices from Gaza.

Yemeni officials say Saudi-led airstrikes kill 10 in Hodeida

Yemeni medical officials say Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in the rebel-held Red Sea port city of Hodeida have killed at least 10 people and wounded at least 32 others.

The officials say the airstrikes fell close to the city’s main public hospital, al-Thawra, situated near a popular fish market. The wounded, mostly civilians, were hospitalized.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

The Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s internationally recognized government has been seeking to retake rebel-held areas along Yemen’s west coast including the vital city of Hodeida, the main entry point for food in a country teetering on the brink of famine.

The coalition has been at war with the Iran-aligned rebels, known as Houthis, since March 2015.

— AP

United Airlines announces new nonstop service between Tel Aviv and Washington, DC

United Airlines announces a new nonstop flight between Washington, DC, Airport and Tel Aviv

The announcement says the thrice weekly flights between Dulles International Airport and Ben Gurion will start in May 2019, pending government approval.

The US airline already operates direct flights to Tel Aviv from New York and San Francisco.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin says he is “thrilled to welcome another United Airlines flight to Israel.”

“Today’s announcement is a wonderful way to celebrate United’s 20 year history in Israel and opens many more opportunities for both countries to continue to build strong relationships while growing business and expanding tourism,” Levin says according to the announcement.

Ivanka Trump says news media not ‘enemy of the people’

Ivanka Trump says that she does not view the news media as “the enemy of the people,” breaking with one of US President Donald Trump’s frequent attacks on the press.

The senior White House adviser spoke at an event hosted by Axios, where she also says she agreed that the separation of children from their parents at the border was a “low point” for the administration.

Asked if she agrees with the description of the press frequently invoked by her father, Ivanka Trump says “no, I don’t.”

Sharing her “personal perspective,” she says: “I’ve certainly received my fair share of reporting on me personally that I know not to be fully accurate. So … I have some sensitivity around why people have concerns and gripe, especially when they sort of feel targeted. But no, I do not feel that the media is the enemy of the people.”

The president has broadly labeled the news media the “enemy of the people” and regularly accuses reporters of spreading “fake news” — his term for stories he dislikes.

— AP

Druze activist berates author of Jewish state bill, calls him a ‘Nazi’

Avi Dichter, the Likud MK who authored the nation-state law, is confronted over his controversial legislation during a scholarship-giving ceremony in the northern city of Carmiel this afternoon.

A Druze professor and community activist burst on stage while Dichter was speaking, calling him a “Nazi,” and slamming Dichter’s law that “will ensure our status as second class citizens.”

Dr. Hanifas, who is among the leaders of the Druze campaign against the law, told the MK that “nobody will stop us from challenging this racist law.”

PM said to cut short meeting with Druze leaders over Jewish state law

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly cuts short his meeting with Druze leaders over the controversial Jewish state law after an activist branded Israel an “apartheid state.”

According to reports in Hebrew-language media, Netanyahu leaves the meeting after Druze army officer Amal Assad interrupts him and made the remark.

He tells the Druze representatives at the meeting that he was committed to working on a compromise, and left the meeting.

US says Iran conducting naval exercise in Persian Gulf

Iran launches a naval exercise in the Persian Gulf, just days before the US reimposes sanctions on Tehran, a defense official tells AFP.

The timing of the exercise is unusual, as it appears to be similar in scale and nature to a drill that ordinarily happens later in the autumn.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, says several dozen boats were out training early Thursday morning.

The vessels are mostly small attack boats, and there have been no interactions with US ships in the area, the official adds.

In a statement, Captain Bill Urban, the military’s Central Command spokesman, says the US is “aware of an increase” in Iranian naval operations in the Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Gulf of Oman.

“We are monitoring it closely, and will continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waterways,” Urban says.

The exercises come at a time of increased tension between Iran and the United States, which has pulled out of a historic nuclear pact and is slapping fresh sanctions on Tehran on Monday.

— AFP

Trump administration releases millions in frozen aid to PA security forces

The Trump administration has recently transferred tens of millions of dollars to Palestinian Authority security forces to facilitate their continued security coordination with Israel, the Haaretz daily reports.

The US aid to the Palestinians has been frozen since the start of the year, when the White House announced it was “re-examining” American financial assistance to the PA government.

A senior state department official tells the paper that $61 million of the frozen aid money was released to the PA because of their counter-terrorism activities.

US says Russia still carrying out ‘pervasive’ election meddling

The US government on is accusing Russia of carrying out a “pervasive” campaign to influence public opinion and elections, in a public warning just months before crucial legislative elections.

“We continue to see a pervasive messaging campaign from Russia to try and weaken and divide the United States,” says Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence.

A slew of top US officials including Coats, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen say they would continue to investigate and prosecute those who were trying to sway US opinion or carrying out what Wray described as “information warfare.”

“This is not just an election cycle threat,” Wray says. “Our adversaries are trying to undermine our country on a persistent and regular basis, whether its election season or not.”

The two men dismissed suggestions that US President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly denied Russia helped him get elected, is not taking the issue seriously.

— AFP

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Security cabinet to meet Sunday to discuss UN proposal for Gaza

The security cabinet will convene on Sunday to discuss the United Nations proposal to deescalate tensions in the Gaza Strip.

According to reports, the ministers will meet in an underground bunker in the Jerusalem area for an update on the progress made by UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov.

Mladenov is reportedly pushing a ceasefire proposal in cooperation with Egypt and other Arab states that would see Israel remove recent border restrictions and all sides agree to a ceasefire that would include the cessation of the cross-border arson attacks from Gaza into Israel.