Trump says John Kerry telling Iranians not to call him
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Rivlin: Peace between Israel and the Palestinians would be a boon for region

‘We continue to dream of peace with all our neighbors,’ president says at Independence Day event for diplomats stationed in Israel

President Reuven Rivlin speaks during an Independence Day event at his official residence in Jerusalem on May 9, 2019. (Haim Zach/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin speaks during an Independence Day event at his official residence in Jerusalem on May 9, 2019. (Haim Zach/GPO)

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

Iran says it wants to put nuclear deal ‘back on track’

After Iran announced yesterday it would stop honoring parts of the international deal curbing its nuclear powers, a spokesman for the country’s Atomic Energy Organization says Tehran wants to bring the accord “back on track” following the US withdrawal last year.

“Our goal is to strengthen the JCPOA (the acronym for the nuclear agreement) and bring it back on track,” state news agency quotes Behrouz Kamalvandi, according to Reuters.

Rights group accuses Yemen’s Iran-backed rebels of storing weapons near civilians

CAIRO — A prominent international rights group says Yemen’s Houthi rebels had stored explosives in a warehouse in a residential area in the capital that caught fire last month, killing at least 15 children and wounding more than 100 people.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch and an independent Yemeni rights organization releases a joint statement on Thursday urging the Houthis to “stop storing large concentrations of volatile materials in densely populated areas.”

In Yemen’s civil war, the Iran-backed Houthis have been fighting a Saudi-led military coalition backing Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s forces since March 2015.

The Houthis control the capital, Sanaa.

The statement says the initial cause of the fire remains unknown. However, it cited media reports saying Saudi-led forces had launched an airstrike in this area that day.

— AP

Israeli Air Force marks Independence Day with annual flyover

The Israeli Air Force is marking Israel’s 71st Independence Day with its annual flyover of cities across the country.

The event kicked off this morning with a number of airshows at bases around Israel before the flyover passed over communities in the south of the country, which the military added to the itinerary this year in a show of support for locals after last’s weekends heavy rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

By the early afternoon, the flyover was passing over the Jerusalem area before returning to the south, where it is set to wrap up in Beersheba around 2:45 p.m.

Visitors to the bases could also see the IAF’s Iron Dome missile defense system, which has been used to intercept rockets fired at Israel from Gaza, as well as other military equipment.

People watch the Israeli Air Force’s annual flyover for Independence Day on a beach in Tel Aviv, May 9. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Putin sends Independence Day greetings to Netanyahu, Rivlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin sends congratulatory messages to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin for Israel’s 71st Independence Day.

“It is symbolic that this year your country’s national holiday coincides with the Day of the great Victory, which rid the world from the brown plague and saved the Jewish people from extermination,” Putin is quoted saying in a statement from the Kremlin, referring to Russia’s annual commemorations of the surrender of Nazi Germany in World War II.

According to the Kremlin, Putin hailed Israeli-Russian ties and said he believed the countries would continue to work closely together.

The statement also says Putin told the Israeli leaders Moscow will make additional efforts to reach a “fair comprehensive settlement” in the region and is committed to guaranteeing Israel’s security and future development.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech during the Victory Day military parade at Red Square in downtown Moscow on May 9, 2019. (Mladen Antonov/AFP)

Macron on latest Iran nuclear moves: ‘We must not get jumpy’

SIBIU, Romania — French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday calls for calm in the Iran crisis after Tehran said it would stop abiding by parts of the 2015 nuclear deal.

“We must not get jumpy or fall into escalation,” Macron says as he arrives for an EU summit in Romania.

— AFP

France’s President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he arrives for an EU summit in Sibiu, Romania, on May 9, 2019. (Daniel Mihailescu/AFP)

Israeli beats out American to win International Bible Quiz

Israeli teenager Yonatan Weissman is crowned champion of the International Bible Quiz, which is held annually on Independence Day.

Weissman, a Jerusalem native, beats out American Benjamin Colchamiro of New Jersey’s Kushner yeshiva high school.

Finishing in third and fourth place respectively are Israelis Yarin Bar and Adar Geller.

US aircraft carrier passes through Suez Canal on way to Gulf amid Iran tensions

The head of Egypt’s port authority says the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln has passed through the Suez Canal on its way to the Persian Gulf amid an escalation with Iran.

The state MENA news agency quotes Mohab Mameesh, the Suez Canal authority chief, as saying he observed the passage of the carrier through the canal on Thursday morning.

MENA says the director also met the US defense attache in Cairo, Gen. Ralph Groover, who had travelled to the Suez Canal area to check on the status of the US warship.

The White House on Sunday dispatched the aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf. On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened Iran could start to enrich its uranium stockpile closer to weapons-grade levels in two months.

— AP

The USS Abraham Lincoln sails south in the Suez Canal near Ismailia, May 9, 2019. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)

Italian neo-fascist publisher barred from Turin book fair

TURIN, Italy — An openly neo-fascist publishing house is excluded from the Turin book fair Thursday after an outcry over the inclusion of the far-right company, which has ties to Italy’s Matteo Salvini.

Francesco Polacchi, head of the Altaforte publishing house, is stopped at the doors to the exhibition with his latest release, a book of interviews with Salvini, who is interior minister and head of the anti-immigrant League party.

The city of Turin filed a complaint against Polacchi Wednesday over statements to the media in which he described dictator Benito Mussolini as “the best Italian statesman” and said “a little dictatorship” did “no harm.”

There had been growing calls for Altaforte, which has ties to the Italian neo-fascist party CasaPound, to be excluded, with the Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum saying it would lead a boycott of the international fair.

Any apology for fascism is illegal in Italy, and punishable by six months to two years in jail.

“I have been denounced for the crime of having an opinion,” says Polacchi, who describes his exclusion as “an attack on the interior minister.”

He tells journalists outside the fair that the book on Salvini will be launched in Turin this weekend at a new location.

— AFP

Altaforte publishing house head Francesco Polacchi speaks with the media outside the Turin International Book Fair on May 9, 2019, in Turin, Italy. (Marco Bertorello/AFP)

4 people critically injured in car crash near Modiin

Four people have been critically injured after their minibus collides with a wall on Route 443 near the city of Modiin, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.

MDA says another person was moderately injured in the crash and that nine people were lightly hurt.

4 critically hurt in car crash near Modiin die of injuries

Four people critically injured in a car crash on Route 443 have died, the Magen David Adom ambulance service says.

Netanyahu wants Israel to put a Bible on the moon

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyanu says he wants Israel to put a Bible on the moon during its next attempted lunar landing.

Speaking at the International Bible Quiz held annually on Independence Day, Netanyahu refers to the crash landing last month of SpaceIL’s Beresheet spacecraft, which was carrying a digital copy of the Bible.

“We are going to send the spacecraft another time and it is very likely we’ll bring a little Bible. I want the Bible to land on the moon because it is written, ‘When I behold Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast established,” he says, quoting a line from Psalms.

Netanyahu says he wants Israel to become the fourth country to have successfully landed a space vehicle on the moon, following the Soviet Union, United States and China.

“There is a very good chance that within two to three years, we will be the fourth country,” he says.

Thousands of Arab Israelis march in north to mark Nakba

Thousands of Arab Israelis take part in the annual “March of Return” to mark the Nakba (Arabic for “catastrophe”) of Israel’s founding.

Participants wave Palestinian flags during the march in northern Israel and call for the return of lands that Palestinians fled or were expelled from during the War of Independence.

A number of lawmakers attend the march, including MKs Ahmad Tibi and Ofer Kassif of the majority Arab Hadash-Ta’al faction.

“We stress our right to the homeland and are against the Nation-State Law, which treats the Arab public as visitors. But we’re the owners of the place and are fighting to be equal citizens in our homeland,” says Tibi in a video from the event.

Tibi was referring to legislation last year putting into law Israel’s status as the nation state of the Jewish people. Critics of the law have said it discriminates against the country’s non-Jewish citizens, while proponents say it is necessary to guarantee Israel’s Jewish character and does not diminish the status of existing legislation guaranteeing equality.

Arab Israelis wave Palestinian flags as take part in the annual “March of Return” held on Israel’s independence day,, near the northern city of Umm al-Fahm, on May 9, 2019. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Hezbollah politicians in Lebanon condemn US over Iran policy

The parliamentary bloc of Lebanon’s Hezbollah has blasted the United States over new sanctions it imposed on Iran, describing them as “unjustified.”

The bloc says in a statement that the American moves against Iran show the US administration’s “tyrannical and dictatorial trend.”

Hezbollah, which is backed and armed by Iran and is represented in Lebanon’s Cabinet and parliament has been hit by US sanctions for many years.

The group says that America’s unilateral sanctions do no respect international laws and Washington “behaves in accordance with the law of the jungle.”

It says Iran has the power to defend itself.

— AP

200,000 Israelis visit national parks for Independence Day

Some 200,000 Israelis visited national parks and nature reserves across the country today to celebrate Israel’s 71st Independence Day, according to the Nature and Parks Authority.

Among the sites with the highest number of visitors were Tel Afek and Tel Ashkelon, which the authority says saw some 7,000 visitors apiece.

Driver of minibus in deadly crash detained for questioning

The driver of a minibus that was involved in a fatal car crash earlier today has been detained for questioning.

An initial investigation by police has reportedly determined the driver lost control of the vehicle before crashing into a wall on Route 443 near Modiin.

Jordan reshuffles cabinet to tackle economic challenges

AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan’s King Abdullah II has approved a cabinet shuffle amid escalating economic pressures, bringing new officials into such key portfolios as interior, planning and labor.

Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz announces today the appointment of eight new ministers.

State-run media reports the reshuffle will try to tackle economic challenges that have mounted in the wake of neighboring Syria’s civil war, and prepare Jordan for the Middle East peace plan that the Trump administration has promised to release in coming months.

Today’s reshuffle is the third since Razzaz replaced Hani al-Mulki as prime minister amid nationwide protests against proposed tax increases and price hikes.

The frequent government changes are seen as a way of deflecting public frustration in a country that has long struggled with economic mismanagement and declining living standards.

— AP

Egyptian delegation said to arrive in Gaza for talks on Israel agreement

A delegation of Egyptian intelligence officials has entered the Gaza Strip through the Erez border crossing for talks with Hamas leaders on an agreement with Israel to prevent renewed fighting in the Palestinian enclave, according to the Ynet news site.

Rivlin: Peace between Israel and the Palestinians would be a boon for region

President Reuven Rivlin hosts diplomats posted in Israel at his official residence in Jerusalem for the country’s 71st Independence Day, touting the Jewish state’s democracy and status on the world stage.

“From the day Israel was born until today, we have faced enemies. Yet despite the severe security threats, we have built a thriving democracy with an independent judiciary, a free press, and religious freedom for all. This is a modern miracle,” Rivlin is quoted as saying in a statement from his office.

“Israel is a small country, but we have big dreams. In fact, we are already becoming a world superpower. Not a superpower of military might -though we will always do what is necessary to defend ourselves – but a superpower of hope,” he adds.

Rivlin expresses hope for the establishment of diplomatic ties between Israel and regional countries, saying they could lead to “tremendous development and prosperity” in the Middle East.

“Peaceful relations between Israel and its neighbors, especially our Palestinian neighbors, could bring such tremendous development and prosperity to the region. We continue to dream of peace with all our neighbors, because I deeply believe that we are not doomed to live together, we are destined to live together,” he says.

Rivlin’s office says the president received congratulatory messages from a number of world leaders, including US President Donald Trump, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and King Felipe VI of Spain, among others.

Iran’s Zarif says ‘US has bullied Europe’ on nuclear deal

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responds to the European Union statement earlier today in which the EU said it won’t accept “ultimatums” from Iran to preserve the 2015 international agreement curbing the country’s nuclear program.

Russia condemns new US sanctions on Iran, calls for talks

MOSCOW — Russia denounces new US sanctions on Iran’s mining industry and calls for talks to preserve the nuclear deal with Tehran.

“The United States has just introduced a new package of sanctions affecting the mining industry in Iran. We strongly condemn this step,” the foreign ministry says in a statement.

Because of the “seriousness of what is happening,” Iran and world powers should meet “to determine ways to normalize the situation,” the ministry says.

Moscow says it understood why Iran, in the face of US sanctions, had decided to suspend some of its commitments under the deal.

But it urges Tehran to “refrain from further steps to curtail the fulfillment of its obligations,” while calling on other partners in the deal to meet their promises.

Among the steps that needed to be taken, it says, were moves to facilitate financial transactions and to continue trade and economic cooperation.

“We urge everyone not to cut off economic ties, including the purchase of Iranian products, first of all energy.”

— AFP

Trump says John Kerry telling Iranians not to call him

US President Donald Trump says he is open to holding negotiations with Iran and accuses former secretary of state John Kerry of telling Iranian leaders not to speak with him.

Speaking at the White House, Trump is asked about his decision to speedup the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf.

“We have information that you don’t want to know about. They were very threatening,” Trump says.

“What I’d like to see with Iran, I’d like to see them call me,” he adds.

Trump claims Kerry, who was America’s top diplomat when the 2015 deal curbing Iran’s nuclear deal was finalized, is in frequent contact with the Iranians.

“You know John Kerry speaks to them a lot. John Kerry tells them not to call. That is a violation of the Logan Act and frankly he should be prosecuted on that,” Trump says, referring to a rarely enforced US law barring unauthorized persons from conducting foreign policy.

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Trump says John Kerry telling Iranians not to call him

US President Donald Trump says he is open to holding negotiations with Iran and accuses former secretary of state John Kerry of telling Iranian leaders not to speak with him.

Speaking at the White House, Trump is asked about his decision to speedup the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf.

“We have information that you don’t want to know about. They were very threatening,” Trump says.

“What I’d like to see with Iran, I’d like to see them call me,” he adds.

Trump claims Kerry, who was America’s top diplomat when the 2015 deal curbing Iran’s nuclear deal was finalized, is in frequent contact with the Iranians.

“You know John Kerry speaks to them a lot. John Kerry tells them not to call. That is a violation of the Logan Act and frankly he should be prosecuted on that,” Trump says, referring to a rarely enforced US law barring unauthorized persons from conducting foreign policy.