The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.
Russia is warning the US against bolstering its troop presence in the Middle East, accusing Washington of trying to spark a war against Iran.
“For quite a while, we have been witnessing the United States’ continuous attempts to increase political, psychological, economic and military pressure on Iran. I think that such actions are rather provocative and cannot be considered as anything other than a deliberate policy to instigate a war,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov tells reporters from Russian news agencies.
Rybakov also condemns the US for what he calls the use of “the language of direct threats,” against Iran.
On Monday, the Pentagon authorized an additional 1,000 troops to the region, after Iran threatened to ramp up uranium enrichment.
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov urges all sides “to show restraint.”
“We would prefer not to see any steps that could introduce additional tensions in the already unstable region,” he tells journalists.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi warns all sides “not to take any actions to provoke the escalation of tension in the region, and not to open a Pandora’s box.”
— with AFP
Firefighters are battling a wildfire that has broken out next to the community of Ramot Naftali in the northern Galilee.
Police have closed Route 866 to traffic as the forest fire nears the road.
— חדשות 13 (@newsisrael13) June 18, 2019
Clashes between pro-government forces and jihadist-led groups that control Syria’s northwest killed at least 45 combatants on Tuesday, a war monitor said.
The fighting flared on the edge of Hama province when the jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham launched a dawn attack on regime positions, leaving 14 pro-government forces dead, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Egypt’s authorities are panning Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director with the Human Rights Watch, for criticizing the Egyptian government’s “failure to allow [Mohamed Morsi] adequate medical care, much less family visits.”
Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president ousted by the military in 2013, collapsed during a trial session on Monday and died.
Egypt’s state information service says Whitson’s statements were “nothing but false claims” and reaffirm what it called HRW’s tradition of “circulating lies.”
The service added that a court had approved Morsi’s request in November 2017 asking that he be “treated at his own expense.”
Democratic hopefully Amy Klobuchar says she will bring America back into the Iran nuclear deal if elected president.
The promise is one of 100-plus executive orders she says she’d sign in her first 100 days in office, in a lengthy list released Tuesday.
“The 2015 nuclear agreement imposed verifiable limits on Iran’s nuclear program that would prevent it from building a nuclear weapon. Senator Klobuchar will negotiate to bring the United States back into the nuclear agreement with the goal of avoiding war and a nuclear-armed Iran,” the statement reads.
The Minnesota senator also says she will work to “rebuild the relationship with our allies that President Trump has undermined,” and make her first international trips to Canada and Europe.
President Reuven Rivlin has issued warnings against Lebanon and Hezbollah against attacking Israel at the behest of Tehran.
“We warn Hezbollah not to tie Lebanon to the Iranian agenda, and we warn Lebanon not to be used as a base for attacks against Israel,” Rivlin says at a ceremony marking the anniversary of the Second Lebanon War.
“We don’t seek war, but the IDF is girded to respond to any threat and any eventuality,” he adds.
Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed terror group, is part of the Lebanese government. Some Israeli politicians have called for the IDF to treat Lebanon and Hezbollah as a single entity in any future conflict.
Earlier Tuesday, a false rocket alarm in the town of Dishon near the Lebanese border briefly raised fears. A wildfire has since broken out in the area, though there is no known connection.
Yoav Mordechai, a former head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), will attend the US-led economic workshop in Bahrain next week, a source with knowledge of the matter tells The Times of Israel.
COGAT is the Defense Ministry branch that is responsible for liaising with the Palestinians.
Mordechai received an invitation to attend the conference from the White House, the source says in a text message.
Hebrew news sites reported on Tuesday morning that Mordechai confirmed his participation in the workshop. Mordechai, an Arabic speaker, concluded his term as COGAT chief on May 1, 2018.
A White House source said Monday that no Israeli officials would attend.
— Adam Rasgon
A Jerusalem resident has been accused of of molesting dozens of young girls by secretly taking naked photos of them.
Shlomi Maron, 32, was arrested this week, according to police. A police statement says he posed as a fashion photographer and solicited girls online between the ages of 12 and 14 to take photos of them. He is accused of hiding cameras in bathrooms he used for shoots and of paying some of them for naked photos.
He has been ordered held in prison until Sunday while the investigation continues.
The Israel Defense Forces says it has arrested an unarmed Palestinian man who sneaked into Israel from northern Gaza.
The man was transferred for questioning, the military says.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she is okay after appearing unsteady and visibly shaking as she greeted new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the hot sun in Berlin
Merkel’s whole body visibly shook and she pursed her lips as she tried to contain the situation as she stood with Zelensky in the 28-degree Celsius (82-degree Fahrenheit) heat while a military band played their national anthems outside the chancellery.
Following the anthems, Merkel seemed better, walking quickly along the red carpet with Zelenskiy into the building, pausing to greet the military band and take a salute.
Merkel, who turns 65 next month, tells a reporter at a press conference she just needed to hydrate.
“Since then I’ve drunk at least three glasses of water, which I apparently needed, and now I’m doing very well,” she said.
The UN human rights office is calling for an “independent inquiry” into the death of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, who died in state custody.
“Any sudden death in custody must be followed by a prompt, impartial, thorough and transparent investigation carried out by an independent body to clarify the cause of death,” says Rupert Colville, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
UK lawmaker Crispin Blunt, who led a review last year of the detention of Morsi, also urges an international probe into his death.
“Dr. Morsi’s death in custody is representative of Egypt’s inability to treat prisoners in accordance with both Egyptian and international law,” says the Tory MP.
Cairo “has a duty to explain his unfortunate death and there must be proper accountability for his treatment in custody,” he says.
The US Department of Education is investigating a conference on the Middle East held at the University of North Carolina after a legislator raised complaints that participants were biased against Israel.
The conference titled “Conflict Over Gaza: People, Politics, and Possibilities,” was co-sponsored in March by Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill.
The McClatchy news company reports that Raleigh Republican Rep. George Holding asked for an investigation in April, citing “reports of severe anti-Israeli bias and anti-Semitic rhetoric at the taxpayer-funded conference.”
UNC says it used $5,000 in education department grants for the conference, and will cooperate with the inquiry.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos tasks investigators with determining whether the spending complied with requirements.
Japan has issued a tsunami advisory after a strong 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit the northwest of the country.
A wave of one meter (three feet) is expected to hit the coast of the Sea of Japan, north of Tokyo, the nation’s meteorological agency says.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says her country is taking “very seriously” the new US information about Iran’s alleged responsibility for attacks last week on two oil tankers near the Persian Gulf.
Merkel says “there’s a high level of evidence. But that won’t stop me from saying we have to do everything to solve the conflict situation with Iran in a peaceful manner.”
Iran denies the US accusation.
She says Germany is in close contact with the United States and “will do everything to impress on all sides, but especially to make clear to Iran, that this serious situation mustn’t be aggravated.”
Merkel also says Germany wants Iran to abide by the 2015 nuclear accord, adding that “if that isn’t the case that will of course have consequences.”
The Fire and Rescue Service says it is battling a large brushfire near the city of Beit She’an.
The service says the fire is threatening homes in the city, which is situated some 25 kilometers (15 miles) south of the Sea of Galilee.
Seven squads of firefighters and four firefighting planes are attempting to beat back the blaze.
The UN Security Council will meet today in open session to discuss Syria, where intense fighting is playing out between pro-government and jihadist-led forces, diplomats say.
Such a meeting was not on the council agenda for the day but it was requested by Belgium, Germany and Kuwait, non-permanent council members overseeing UN humanitarian operations in Syria, a diplomat says.
The United States asked that political aspects of the conflict also be addressed at the meeting, another diplomat says.
In May, the council held several meetings on Syria and the situation in the rebel-held province of Idlib. The UN feared a humanitarian catastrophe if fighting in the northwest region continued.
In recent weeks, Idlib has been the target of nearly daily bombardments by the Syrian regime and its ally Russia.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirms that Israelis will be present at the Bahrain economic peace workshop being held next week, and says Israel has secret ties with “most” Arab countries.
“In the open or in secret, we are in contact with many leaders from the Arab world and there are prodigious ties between Israel and Arab countries — with most Arab countries,” Netanyahu says at a memorial for those killed in the 1948 bombing of the Altalena arms ship.
He adds that he praises the US “for trying to bring a better future to the region” and calls the Bahrain meeting very important.
The US said Monday that no Israeli officials would be invited to the conference to keep it apolitical.
On Tuesday former general Yoav Mordechai said he was invited and would attend the conference.
Netanyahu also plays up a meeting in Jerusalem next week between Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and his US and Russian counterparts John Bolton and Nikolay Patrushev.
“This is an extremely important summit for ensuring the stability of the region,” he says.
With the country gearing up for another blistering election campaign, President Reuven Rivlin is issuing a call for unity.
“We cannot let the dialogue of factionalism destroy our better selves,” Rivlin says at a ceremony marking 71 years since the Altalena weapons ship was bombed.
The ship, which was carrying weapons for the right-wing Irgun militia during the War of Independence, was bombed by the newly formed Israel Defense Forces during a skirmish between the groups.
“This day reminds us that the greatest threat to us, even 70 years after the formation of the state, resides within us,” Rivlin says.
Speaking after Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that “unity does not mean uniformity” and complains that voices in defense of the right-wing Irgun have been “pushed into the corner” for decades.
“Only thanks to our work has the work of the ‘fighting family’ received their proper due,” he says, using a nickname for the Menachem Begin-led paramilitary.
The National Library has digitized a rare collection of communal ledgers from long-lost Jewish communities of Europe, offering the public a chance to study an era seen as a golden age of Jewish self-governance before the Holocaust.
The documents, known as pinkasim, were used by European Jewish communities hundreds of years ago to keep track of financial transactions, political happenings, relations with non-Jewish government bodies, and even funny moments.
Yoel Finkelman, curator of the library’s Judaica collection and manager of the project, says any Jewish community with a governing body had a pinkas.
He says that makes the ledgers “some of the most significant documents for understanding early modern Jewish European history.”
He said that currently they also are some of the “least accessible.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he doesn’t believe that Egypt’s former president Mohammed Morsi died of natural causes.
“Mohammed Morsi walked to join God during the trial. Whether this was a normal walk, or were there some other conditions involved, this is something to think about,” he says at an an Istanbul mosque, where hundreds held funeral prayers for the ousted Egyptian president.
“I don’t believe that this was a normal death,” he adds.
Morsi died Monday after collapsing during a trial session.
Erdogan also criticizes authorities in Egypt for not allowing Morsi to be buried at his family’s cemetery in his hometown.
The city of Ra’anana, a sleepy bedroom community north of Tel Aviv, has held its first-ever Pride parade.
Some 2,300 people took part in the parade through the city’s main thoroughfare, according to local news site Mynet.
The police say seven people were arrested on suspicion of planning to disturb the event. Several people held a small rally against the parade outside a local synagogue, Mynet reports.
Eitan Ginzburg, a former Ra’anana mayor who is now a Blue and White MK says on Twitter that the parade shows “how this city is really amazing and made up of many communities and everyone has a place.”
In 2012, a Pride parade scheduled in the town was canceled after the city said some locals were not comfortable with it.
“It’s exciting to see thousands celebrating tolerance and equality,” Blue and White MK Idan Roll says in a statement. “The parade is more proof of liberalism victory over extremism.”
On Friday, some 250,000 people celebrated in Tel Aviv’s Pride Parade.
Authorities say they are searching for four teens who went hiking in the Judean desert.
The four, aged 17, left Tuesday morning for a hike in Darga River, a canyon that runs from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea through the West Bank.
They have not been heard from since.
The police will take a second crack at investigating an alleged rape that has shocked the country, after unspecified new information came to light, as questions have been raised about possible holes in the case.
Palestinian Mahmoud Qadusa, 46, from the central West Bank village of Dir Kadis, has been accused of kidnapping and raping a 7-year-old girl in a central West Bank settlement where he worked as a school janitor.
Relying largely on the testimony of the 7-year-old, police have been unable to determine the exact day, week or even month when the alleged rape took place. No other witnesses have come forward, despite the incident allegedly occurring in the middle of the day.
Though prosecutors initially alleged the crime occurred in the suspect’s home, they later changed their claim after Qadusa provided an alibi.
“In order to clarify suspicions about others involved in the crime, and given new information that has been received after the case was publicized, it was decided to task the central unit of the precinct with carrying out additional investigative action,” a police spokesperson says in a statement.
The attorney general will be involved in the case, given its sensitivity.
Qadusa’s lawyer Nashaf Darwish told reporters outside a hearing at the Judea Military Court earlier the prosecution’s version of events “doesn’t add up” and said he was confident that court rulings in the coming days would exonerate his client.
According to Channel 12 news, the new information received by police points to Qadusa being involved in another crime.
US envoy Jason Greenblatt says Israel should not move ahead with possible plans to annex parts of the West Bank, at least before the Trump administration’s peace plan comes out.
“I don’t think anyone should make unilateral moves until we at least reveal the plan. I don’t think that’s helpful to anybody,” he tells Channel 12 news.
Greenblatt, speaking from a Chabad house in the US in an interview taped Monday evening, confirms to the news channel that Israeli officials will not be present at the Bahrain economic workshop.
“To depoliticize the issue, we have decided to not have the Israeli government there and just have the Israeli private sector there,” he says.
He adds that Israeli officials will be brought in at a later point and will “be very helpful in the ideas that are generated and improve them as well.”
While expressing confidence in Israel and chiding the Palestinian Authority for boycotting the conference, he cautions against possible West Bank annexation plans, but does not discount a move being made once the administration’s long-awaited peace plan is revealed.
He defends the workshop as one part of a two-part scheme meant to plan for what economic benefits Palestinians can enjoy if a peace deal is reached, and says claims that the workshop is for an economic peace are “completely untrue.”
He says he is not disappointed in the Palestinians because he is not surprised by their decision to stay away from the meeting.
“They make decisions not helpful not only for peace, but also for their people,” he says of the PA.
Asked about the plan possibly failing, he says “I do think that we have to try to work toward something, but if we fail I understand why as well,” without elaborating.
US President Donald Trump says his pick for defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, has withdrawn, leaving the Pentagon without a permanent boss for more than six months just as tensions soar in the Middle East.
Shanahan “has decided not to go forward with his confirmation process so that he can devote more time to his family,” Trump tweets after Shanahan faced questions over his past personal life and an allegation of domestic violence.
….I thank Pat for his outstanding service and will be naming Secretary of the Army, Mark Esper, to be the new Acting Secretary of Defense. I know Mark, and have no doubt he will do a fantastic job!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2019
Trump says the army secretary, Mark Esper, will come in as acting secretary of defense.
There hasn’t been a full secretary of defense since the resignation of James Mattis in December last year after splits in the administration over Trump’s sudden decision to remove US troops from Syria.
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is in Israel, where he says he wants to learn about the country.
“This is a part of the world which gets a lot of attention internationally, and
this is a chance for me to look beyond the headlines and learn more about the history and culture of this land,” Watson says in a pres release sent out by Israel advocacy organization America’s Voices in Israel.
Watson’s visit includes a trip to Shiloh, an archaeological site deep in the West Bank adjacent to an Israeli settlement of the same name.
The Pro-Bowler is considered one of the NFL’s premier up-and-coming quarterbacks.
Also visiting Israel this week is New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who is receiving the $1 million Genesis Prize, touted as the Jewish Nobel.
In 2017, several NFL players pulled out of a tour of Israel after they said they were misled about the opportunity, which was used by the Israeli government for public advocacy and garnered protests from Palestinians.
A similar tour last year was kept under wraps ahead of time, as was Watson’s.
Watson has spent the off-season trotting across the globe, visiting Egypt and Venice, according to the Houston Chronicle.