Trump, world leaders to discuss Iran at G20 in Japan
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Amid tensions, US envoy says war with Iran ‘not necessary’

Iran’s UN ambassador says country’s breach of uranium limit can be reversed if Tehran sees economic benefits

A pilot speaks to a crew member by an F/A-18 fighter jet on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea on June 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
A pilot speaks to a crew member by an F/A-18 fighter jet on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea on June 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

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

Twin suicide attacks target Tunisian security forces, at least 9 injured

Two suicide bombers targeting Tunisian security forces struck nearly simultaneously in the capital, injuring at least nine people, including six officers.

Statements from the Interior Ministry said one bomber set off explosives near a police patrol in the capital’s busy commercial center.

At about the same time, a second bomber struck one of the entrances of the headquarters of the government’s anti-terrorism brigade on the outskirts of the city.

Tunisia has been struck repeatedly by terror attacks. In October a female suicide bomber struck the city center, killing only herself.

Tunisian civilians react at the site of an attack in the Tunisian capital’s main avenue, Habib Bourguiba, on June 27, 2019. (Fethi Belaid/AFP)

— AP

Acre ammonia leak stopped, nearby mall, train station reopened

An ammonia leak at a Unilever plant in Acre has been sealed, according to the Fire and Rescue Services. The leak caused the evacuation of a nearby mall, as well as the closure of an adjacent train station.

Police at the site of an ammonia leak from a Unilever plant in the northern city of Acre, June 27, 2019. (Israel Police)

Croatian capital plans Holocaust memorial that omits collaborators

Croatia’s capital city pledges to erect a Holocaust memorial monument, but local Jews say they’ll have nothing to do with it as it does not mention local complicity.

“There is no place for a monument to six million Jewish in Zagreb and Croatia because such a monument already exists in Berlin,” the Jewish Community of Zagreb said last week in a statement about the municipality’s decision on June 4 to erect the monument.

“European countries have marked the killings of Jews on their respective territories with monuments and memorials,” the statement reads.

The organized Jewish community of Croatia is boycotting government-sponsored Holocaust commemoration events since 2016, citing what communal leaders say is a state-led effort to rehabilitate the Ustasha, a fascist movement led by Ante Pavelić that murdered hundreds of thousands of Serbs and tens of thousands of Jews during World War II.

Adolf Hitler, left, with Croatia’s Vice Chief of State and Minister of Defense Slavko Kvaternik, to his left, and other Nazi officials in 1941. (Heinrich Hoffmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images/via JTA)

In 2016, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic posed during a trip to Canada with an Ustasha flag. The previous year in Israel she expressed her “deepest regrets” to victims “killed at the hands of the collaborationist Ustasha regime.”

— JTA

Viral video shows lucky catch of falling toddler in Istanbul

ISTANBUL — A viral video turns a young man into the hero of the hour in Istanbul after he is seen catching a toddler as she plummets from a second-floor window.

Fawzi Zabaat, a 17-year-old Algerian, was walking in the working-class district of Fatih when he saw the two-year-old Syrian girl playing near the open window of her apartment last week.

On the video, released this week, he is seen trying to alert those around him, before stepping in to catch her as she hurtles toward the pavement.

The teenager is modest when interviewed on Wednesday by the Dogan news agency, which published the images.

“I was just walking in the road when I saw the little girl at the window. She fell, and thanks to God, I caught her before she hit the ground,” he says.

Algerian citizen Fawzi Zabaat (L), 17, poses with Syrian toddler Doha Muhammed, who he caught as she fell from a second-floor window in Istanbul’s Fatih district on June 27, 2019. (STR/DHA/AFP)

— AFP

One police officer reported dead in Tunisia bombings

One police officer is dead after two suicide bombings rock Tunisia’s capital, the country’s interior ministry says.

Call to ‘resist’ US as Iranians mourn Iraq war dead

Iranian authorities call to “resist” archfoe the United States today as large crowds mourn soldiers who died in the war with Iraq more than three decades ago.

Iran regularly organizes funerals for soldiers killed in the 1980-1988 war whose remains are either returned by its neighbor or found in former combat areas, which were mainly in Iran. Mourners gathered in front of Tehran University today around marquees erected on Enghelab (Revolution) Street to shelter the coffins of nearly 150 “loyal companions” under a scorching sun.

Iranian media reports that the dead include two “volunteers” who went to fight in Syria where Iran provides military support to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

“The blessed hand that attacked the American drone confirmed that to resist the enemy, the Islamic Republic has no hesitation,” the head of the country’s judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, tells the crowd.

“The Islamic Republic recognizes America as the main enemy before the Zionist regime [Israel] and, with all its might, is capable of leading them to repentance,” Raisi says before the funeral procession began.

“We will revitalize ourselves with the blood of the martyrs. It is this blood that has watered the great fruitful tree of the Islamic revolution,” he adds.

— AFP

Trump, world leaders to discuss Iran at G20 in Japan

OSAKA, Japan — US President Donald Trump lands in Osaka, Japan, for the annual Group of 20 summit amid a tropical cyclone that is predicted to turn into a typhoon — a possible metaphor for the four days of high-stakes diplomacy that lie ahead. As his re-election bid heats up, Trump is eager to produce breakthroughs on a series of foreign policy challenges including the showdown between the US and Iran, a trade war with China, the threat of fresh election interference by Russia and stalled nuclear talks with North Korea.

His itinerary in Osaka includes sit-downs with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, all of whom have authoritarian tendencies, as well as disquieted allies including Germany’s Angela Merkel and more contented ones such as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The president left Washington days after pulling back from the brink of armed conflict with Iran and as he trades threats over its nuclear program and support for terror groups. With Iran threatening to breach uranium enrichment limits set in the 2015 nuclear accord as soon as Thursday, Trump will be asked to articulate his strategy for containing Iran to skeptical world leaders after pulling the US from the deal last year.

Trump will also meet with the Saudi crown prince, who US intelligence services concluded ordered the grisly killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident. Despite the killing, Trump has continued to pursue a close relationship with Saudi Arabia, a lynchpin to the US Middle East strategy to counter Iran over its support for terror groups, its nuclear program and role in furthering humanitarian disaster in Yemen’s civil war.

Trump will also find himself face-to-face with Putin for the first time since special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation ended without finding evidence that the Trump campaign criminally conspired with Russia during the 2016 election.

— Agencies

Ukrainian court nullifies naming of Kiev streets for Nazi collaborators

A court in Ukraine issues an injunction against the naming of two streets in Kiev after nationalists who collaborated with the Nazis during World War II.

The district administrative court of Kiev issues the injunction, ordering the municipality to reverse the 2016 renaming of two main streets for Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych. But Mayor Vitaly Klitschko takes to Facebook to promise that the municipality will appeal the ruling, the Regnum news agency reports today. In the meantime, the streets in question will be renamed Moscow Avenue and another avenue named for Nikolai Vatutin, a Soviet general who was killed in 1944 by militiamen from Shukhevych’s Ukrainian Insurgent Army, or UPA.

Bandera and Shukhevych were among numerous Ukrainian collaborators with Nazi Germans, including SS volunteers and mass murderers of Jews and Poles, who are now celebrated as anti-communist heroes in Ukraine and by its government. In Lviv last year, hundreds of men marched wearing the SS uniforms of Ukrainian collaborators in a city-approved event. At least three Ukrainian municipalities in recent years have unveiled statues for Bandera’s deputy, Yaroslav Stetsko, who during the Holocaust openly called for “the extermination of the Jews.”

Despite protests by Jews, this glorification became mainstream following the 2014 overthrow of the government of former president Viktor Yanukovych, whose critics call him a corrupt Russian stooge. It ushered in a wave of nationalist sentiment. In 2015, a law passed making it illegal to insult the memory of any anti-Soviet fighter, including war criminals, declared a national hero.

A statue of Stepan Bandera in Lviv, Ukraine, September 2014. (Courtesy of Andrey Syasko/via JTA)

— JTA

US, European diplomats meet in Paris for Iran talks

PARIS — The US special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, is meeting with top French, German and British diplomats in Paris for talks on the Persian Gulf crisis at a time when European powers are trying to save the 2015 nuclear deal struck with Tehran.

European countries want to avoid a further escalation in tensions between the US and Iran and are trying to persuade Iran not to leave the nuclear deal, which the US pulled out of last year. On Wednesday, Iran’s UN ambassador urged Britain, France and Germany to take “timely” practical steps to preserve the agreement, “which is now in critical condition.”

The three are finalizing efforts to put in operation a complicated barter-type system known as INSTEX to keep up trade with Iran and avoid US sanctions, as part of efforts to keep the nuclear deal alive.

In Japan, French President Emmanuel Macron tells reporters today he hopes to convince US President Donald Trump to open talks with Iran and avoid a war that would engulf the Middle East. Macron says he is trying to play the role of mediator to ease the tensions between the US and Iran.

“There is no brief war,” Macron warns. “We know when it’s starting, but not when it’s finishing.”

The French President is to meet Trump during a summit of the Group of 20 starting Friday in Japan.

— AP

Israeli officials in urgent consultations over GPS disruptions

The Communications Ministry is convening urgent consultations over the disruptions to GPS signals experienced in recent days throughout the country, according to Hebrew media reports.

The disruptions have been felt by aircraft flying in and out of Ben Gurion Airport, though officials say the safety of passengers has not been affected.

Civilian and military aviation officials will take part in the consultations.

Israeli officials on Thursday accused Russia of responsibility for the ongoing disruptions.

The Russian embassy in Israel dismissed the allegations as “fake news” that they “couldn’t respond to seriously.”

The issue has not yet caused any accidents or safety incidents, but has a “significant impact on all aspects of operating a plane from the cockpit, as well as on managing air traffic,” the Airports Authority said in a statement Wednesday.

The interference with the airplanes’ GPS reception appears to stem from a form of electronic warfare known as “spoofing,” which Russia has been accused of doing in the past as a defensive measure, despite the disruptions it causes to nearby aircraft and ships.

— with Judah Ari Gross

Acre ammonia leak not contained, streets closed, residents told to stay indoors

After initially announcing they had stopped the dangerous ammonia leak at a Unilever plant in Acre, rescue services are asking residents to stay in their homes amid fears the leak has not been contained.

Official say tests of the air in the area show dangerous levels of ammonia are still present.

The streets Ben Ami, Dereh Hamalka and Dereh Haharoshet are closed by police, and the nearby mall is closed to the public.

Rescue services at the scene of an ammonia leak near a shopping mall in Acre, June 27, 2019. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)

Damascus explosion wounds pro-government analyst’s wife, son

BEIRUT — Syria’s state news agency says a bomb exploded in a car in Damascus, wounding a woman and her son. Activist groups say the victims were the wife and son of a pro-government political analyst.

SANA does not identify the two or say how seriously they were hurt in the explosion this morning. Opposition media activists and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war-monitoring group, say the victims are analyst Taleb Ibrahim’s wife and son. He was not in the car at the time of the blast.

A person who answers Ibrahim’s telephone in Damascus confirmed that, without giving further details.

No group immediately claims responsibility for the attack.

Attacks in the Syrian capital have dropped significantly in recent months, after government forces captured once rebel-held Damascus suburbs.

— AP

Gaza balloons said to spark 8 brushfires in south

Eight brushfires are burning near the Gaza border, three in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, three in the Sha’ar Hanegev area and two in the Eshkol Regional Council, according to firefighters.

The fires are all believed to have been caused by incendiary balloons launched from the Gaza Strip, according to Hebrew media.

Police declare 500-foot no-go area around ammonia-leaking Acre plant

Police and local officials in Acre say they have declared a no-go zone within 150 meters (500 feet) of a believed ammonia leak at a Unilever plant in the city, closing roads and homes and redirecting traffic away from the area.

A leak earlier this morning was sealed, but subsequent air quality tests showed ammonia was still being released into the air.

Firefighters and other officials are working to locate what they say appears to be a second leak.

Germany sees big increase in anti-Semitic acts of violence

BERLIN — Germany’s domestic intelligence agency says the number of anti-Semitic acts of violence rose sharply last year alongside a further increase in those identified as far-right extremists.

The BfV agency says in its annual report today that the number of anti-Semitic acts of violence rose by 71.4 % in 2018 to 48 from 28 the previous year.

It also says the number of far-right extremists rose by 100 to 24,100 people last year with more than half of them potentially violent.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer says, “We can find in almost all areas of far-right extremism hostile attitudes toward Jews … it’s a development that we must take, very, very, very seriously.”

He warns that migrants, Muslims and politicians were considered enemies by the far-right too.

— AP

NY governor says he wants to bring Israeli self-driving tech to NYC’s subways

In Israel for a brief 24-hour visit focusing on economic cooperation and solidarity, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo says today he is interested in applying Israeli driverless vehicle technology to New York City’s train and subway system — a project he says could be worth over a billion dollars.

“New York has probably the largest subway system in the United States of America, if not the world – 600 miles of underground track. We have been trying for years to get state of the art technology to guide the navigation of the trains,” Cuomo says at a gathering at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel.

He says he spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the project in their meeting earlier today.

“It’s over a billion dollar product that we’re willing to purchase, so the economic benefits are amazing. And whoever develops this software system, if you have an application for the New York City subway system, then you can sell it to every train station around the country and around the world,” he says.

In an earlier meeting with Cuomo, President Reuven Rivlin called him “a true friend” to Israel, and thanked him for signing an executive order to withhold funds from supporters of the anti-Israel boycott movement.

— Yaakov Schwartz

At least 12 brushfires in south blamed on Gaza balloons

The number of brushfires in the south believed started by incendiary devices launched from Gaza today hits 12, according to Israeli officials.

One such device landed outside a private home in the Eshkol Regional Council, according to the council. No one was hurt.

Senior Hamas official lashes out at Bahraini FM over comments he made to TOI

A senior Hamas official lashes out at Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa today over comments that the Gulf official made to The Times of Israel yesterday.

Khalifa spoke to ToI in his suite at the Four Seasons Hotel in Manama on the sidelines of the US-led economic workshop, which focused on the economic portion of the Trump administration’s plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The foreign minister of Bahrain calling on the Arab states through ‘The Times of Israel’ newspaper to recognize Israel as a state that will remain affirms that the goal of the workshop is to erase the Palestinian right and normalize the existence of the occupation as a part of the region’s fabric,” Moussa Abu Marzouk, a member of the Hamas Politburo, tweets.

“We affirm our rejection of the conference and this proposal. These [people] are the ones who fought us, spilled our blood and removed us from our homes.”

In his interview with ToI, Khalifa did not call on Arab states to recognize Israel, but he did say, “We do believe that Israel is a country to stay, and we want a better relation with it, and we want peace with it.”

— Adam Rasgon

Wave of incendiary balloons sparks 24 fires in southern Israel

Waves of balloon-borne incendiary devices are launched from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel throughout the day today, sparking at least 24 fires in Israel, according to initial estimates by Israeli authorities.

If the airborne arson attacks continue at the same pace, Thursday will likely see the largest number of fires started by Gazan balloons in a single day since the attacks began last spring.

There have been no injuries reported in the blazes, most of which have occurred in agricultural fields and grasslands. Several fires have also been reported inside Israeli communities in the Sha’ar Hanegev and Eshkol regions.

A balloon-borne incendiary device also landed just outside a home in the Eshkol region, where it was quickly extinguished before the fire could spread.

On Tuesday, in response to the arson attacks that picked up considerably in the past week, Israel halted the flow of gasoline and diesel fuel from Israeli territory into the Gaza Strip, a move that drew criticism from human rights advocates who condemned it as collective punishment.

— Judah Ari Gross

Netanyahu meets US’s former UN envoy Haley, offers ‘heartfelt’ thanks

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara host former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and her husband Michael for lunch at the premier’s Jerusalem residence.

Netanyahu heaps compliments on the former South Carolina governor, saying “The entire people of Israel appreciate the extraordinary way that you represented our alliance between America and Israel and the way you defended Israel and the truth in the UN. You were a great champion of this alliance and you have the enduring gratitude of all the people of Israel, really heartfelt. Thank you.”

Haley thanks Netanyahu, and says the Trump and Netanyahu administrations’ actions have “forever bonded us.”

From right to left: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sara Netanyahu, Nikki Haley, Michael Haley, at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, June 27, 2019. (Haim Zach/GPO)

MK from fire-afflicted south slams ‘uncaring’ Netanyahu

The spate of fires in the south caused by incendiary devices from Gaza is sparking criticism of the government.

MK Alon Shuster, a Blue and White lawmaker from Kibbutz Mefalsim where a Gazan balloon sparked a fire a short time ago, accuses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of not caring “at all” about the blazes.

“The fire has reached inside Kibbutz Mefalsim,” he says in a statement. “Soldiers, security officials, firefighters and kibbutz members are working to put it out. But we get the impression that Netanyahu doesn’t care at all.”

He adds: “The resilience of the residents of the south will weather any challenge, but the neglect by the Israeli government has reached the point of criminal negligence, and it’s time that someone said so.”

Trump’s peace envoy suggests coffee with Abbas to ‘break the impasse’

On his way from Bahrain to Israel, US peace talks envoy Jason Greenblatt notes his path may have crossed with that of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“Heading from Jordan to Israel over the Allenby Bridge. Just heard President Abbas is crossing in the opposite direction,” he tweets.

“If we had been able to coordinate, perhaps we could have had coffee on the bridge. Would have been a quiet, polite way to break the impasse. Perhaps next time?”

The PA has largely boycotted US officials ever since US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017. The PA also boycotted the economic summit in Manama, Bahrain, this week initiated by the Trump administration.

Border clerks announce strike that could shutter Ben Gurion by Tuesday

Israel’s border clerks announce they are preparing to go on strike starting Tuesday over unpaid wages.

The announcement by the union of the Interior Ministry officials responsible for registering people entering and exiting the country, including at Ben Gurion Airport, could mean severe delays at airports and border crossings by mid-week.

The announcement is also timed for the week after school ends for most Israeli schoolchildren, during which there is a spike in exits through Ben Gurion as hundreds of thousands of Israelis head to long-planned vacations abroad.

The union filed a labor grievance two weeks ago over longstanding delays in salary payments and benefit allocation for the agency’s employees.

Police say Acre ammonia scare over after leak found, sealed

The police say the ammonia leak that shuttered part of Acre for much of today has been located and sealed.

“All closures and movement restrictions have been lifted in the area, after the source of the leak was located and action was taken to seal the pipes and dilute [the ammonia] to the extent that removed any concern for the public’s safety,” police say in the statement.

State to ask labor court to prevent strike at airport, border crossings

The Interior Ministry’s Population, Migration and Border Protection Authority says it will turn to the national labor court to ask it to order border clerks not to go on strike next week.

The move comes after the union of border clerks, who register all incoming and outgoing traffic at Israel’s borders, including its airports, announced earlier today they would go on strike by Tuesday to protest a years-long delay in wage talks and ongoing problems with timely salary payments by the agency.

The announcement comes as hundreds of thousands of Israelis prepare to travel abroad at the start of summer vacation for Israeli schools.

German court told Palestinian killed local man because he was ‘rich Jew’

A Palestinian accused of killing a German man said he had targeted a “rich Jew,” a witness says during the murder trial.

The 31-year-old Palestinian man, identified in court as Iyad B., is accused along with an accomplice of strangling real estate investor Michael Reicher in November. The witness, a barber, says the accused said he had targeted a “rich Jew” whose people “destroyed my homeland,” according to a report in the local newspaper Shwartzwalder Bote.

The case is being heard in Horb am Neckar in the southern German state of Baden-Wurttemberg.

It is not clear whether Reicher, 57, is actually Jewish, according to the Jerusalem Post, which first reported the case in English. Reicher helped a local synagogue renovate its sanctuary and worked to assist Syrian refugees.

Iyad’s alleged accomplice was a Syrian refugee, Mohammed Omran Albakr, 28, who allegedly came up with the plan to attack and rob Riecher, with whom he had business dealings.

— JTA

Israel welcomes Bahraini FM’s call for closer ties

Israel’s foreign ministry welcomes the comments this week by Bahrain’s foreign minister in interviews with The Times of Israel and Israeli television channels in which he said Israel was part of the Middle East and that he hoped for peace with the Jewish state.

“We welcome Bahrain FM Shaikh Khalid Al Khalifa’s decision to openly share his views with the Israeli media. The positive comments that were expressed in the interview are very encouraging and offer hope for closer ties bilaterally & a peaceful future for our region,” the ministry says in a statement.

Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon adds, speaking to The Times of Israel: “I’ll be overjoyed to host a delegation of Bahraini journalists and show them Israel. Direct contact is the key to peace.”

— Raphael Ahren

Amid tensions, US envoy says war with Iran ‘not necessary’

The US envoy for Iran says the United States does not want conflict with Iran — but wants to build up international defenses in the region just in case.

Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook tells The Associated Press today that war with Iran “isn’t necessary.” He says “we are not looking for any conflict in the region,” but if the US is attacked, “we will respond with military force.”

Brian Hook, the US special envoy for Iran, during an interview in Paris, June 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Nicolas Garriga)

He says the US is trying to drum up support for an international naval force in the Persian Gulf, notably to protect oil tankers.

Hook estimates that Iran is still at least a year away from building a nuclear weapon. He won’t comment on whether Iran had surpassed a key 300-kilogram stockpile limit of low-enriched uranium, which Tehran had threatened to do by today.

Hook is meeting in Paris with European diplomats who are trying to keep alive the 2015 UN deal curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Hook urged the Europeans to impose more sanctions instead.

— AP

US gets no commitment from NATO for help on Iran threat

BRUSSELS — NATO allies give the US no firm commitments that they will participate in a global effort to secure international waterways against threats from Iran, US Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper says today, wrapping up his first alliance meeting.

Esper says the US will come back next month and provide reluctant allies more details on exactly how the Iranian threat has escalated in recent months, and how nations can work together to deter further aggression.

“At the end of the day what our ask is here, near term, is to publicly condemn Iran’s bad behavior,” Esper says as he prepared to leave Brussels. “And in the meantime, in order to avoid a military escalation, help us maintain the freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz, in the Persian Gulf and wherever.”

He got little of either. But Esper says that some allies privately expressed interest in hearing more.

Esper’s visit to NATO, just days after he took over at the Pentagon, came amid sharply increased tensions between the US and the Islamic Republic. The Trump administration has blamed Iran for recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, as well as bombings in Iraq. Iranian forces also shot down an American drone that it said had flown into its airspace, which the US disputes.

Earlier this week, as he headed to NATO, Esper said his goal was to persuade allies that the confrontation with Iran is a global challenge requiring an international response, and that it is “not Iran versus the United States.”

— AP

Netanyahu: If we give up Jordan Valley, there will be a war

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel cannot relinquish control of the Jordan Valley, part of the West Bank, as doing so would compromise Israel’s security and “ensure” a war.

“We always remember that we must be ready to protect ourselves with our own strength against every threat, that is the basic principle which assures our future,” he says at a ceremony marking the conclusion of the 178th pilots course of the Israeli Air Force.

“We do not have much space separating the country’s borders from populated areas. Hence, we conclude that the area to the west of the Jordan will always be in our hands. If we give up the Jordan Valley, we will ensure that there will be a war.”

Netanyahu has long argued that the Jordan Valley must remain Israel’s security border, even if a Palestinian state is established in much of the West Bank. Palestinian reject the idea as a de facto continuation of Israeli control over their future state.

France: Two wounded in shooting in front of mosque

BREST, France — Shots fired a short time ago in front of a mosque in Brest, northwestern France, leaving two people wounded.

Their lives are not in danger, officials say.

The suspected shooter fled the scene in a car soon found empty by police.

According to the Paris prosecutor’s office, the case is currently being examined by its anti-terrorist section as a possible Islamophobic crime.

— AFP

Huge crowds flock to Istanbul mayor inauguration

ISTANBUL — A vast crowd gathers at Istanbul’s town hall on Thursday to see the inauguration of new mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, whose landslide victory has boosted the opposition for the first time in years.

“Today is a celebration of democracy, a celebration of Istanbul,” he tells a sea of Turkish flags in the city’s historical center.

None of Turkey’s main television channels, seen as cowed by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, carry Imamoglu’s speech.

It is the second time this year that Imamoglu, of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), has been handed the keys to the city.

His first election victory in March was annulled after controversial claims of rigging by Erdogan and the ruling AKP. But he won a decisive victory in the re-run last Sunday, increasing his margin of victory from just 13,000 in March to more than 800,000 against Erdogan’s chosen candidate, Binali Yildirim.

— AFP

Jewish Home leader calls to threaten Hamas leaders over fires

The head of the Jewish Home party calls to threaten Hamas’s leaders over the spike in incendiary balloon attacks from the Gaza Strip this week.

“100 fires in a single week on the Gaza periphery cannot be tolerated,” MK Rafi Peretz says in a statement.

“As a resident of the area, there’s nothing more heartbreaking than the smoke that rises from the fields — a year’s work lost. We have to respond forcefully. Our fields and our citizens are in danger, Hamas’s leader are in danger — that’s the balance” Israel should achieve with Hamas, he says.

Peretz is a former chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces.

Iran FM warns Trump against ‘illusion’ of short war

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s foreign minister warns US President Donald Trump today that he is mistaken to think a war between their countries would be short, as Washington seeks NATO’s help to build an anti-Tehran coalition.

The tensions between the two were exacerbated earlier this month when Iran shot down a US spy drone over the strategic Persian Gulf after a series of tanker attacks that Washington blamed on Tehran, which denies involvement.

Since then the arch-foes have been locked in a war of words, which escalated this week when Trump announced new sanctions against Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“‘Short war’ with Iran is an illusion,” Zarif writes on Twitter today, a day after Trump said he does not want a war with Iran but warned that if fighting did break out, it “wouldn’t last very long.”

The Iranian top diplomat adds: “Whoever begins war will not be the one ending it.”

On Wednesday, Trump hinted that any conflict would be waged with air strikes, saying there would be no US boots on the ground.

In an interview on Fox Business Network, Trump was asked if America was going to go to war with Iran.

“Well, I hope we don’t but we’re in a very strong position if something should happen. We’re in a very strong position,” Trump said. “It wouldn’t last very long, I can tell you that. And I’m not talking boots on the ground.”

— AFP

Army arrests two men entering Israel from Gaza

IDF troops arrest two Palestinian men attempting to cross the border from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

Neither man is armed, according to Hebrew media.

There is no immediate report on what led them to cross the border.

In jab at US plan, Abbas says political solution must precede economic projects

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says the achievement of a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must precede the development of programs and projects to benefit the Palestinian economy.

Abbas makes the comment at a press conference in Ramallah alongside visiting Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, a day after the conclusion of the US-led workshop in the Bahraini capital Manama.

“We say that national rights are not pieces of real estate that are purchased and sold and that arriving at a political solution that guarantees freedom, dignity, independence and justice for our people must precede any economic programs or projects because that will create stability and security for everyone,” Abbas says.

“For that reason, the State of Palestine did not participate in the American workshop that took place two days ago in Manama.”

The PA president and other Palestinian officials made similar comments in the run-up to the conference, which took place on Tuesday and Wednesday.

— Adam Rasgon

Iranian diplomat: Uranium limit breach can be reversed with economic benefits

Iran’s UN ambassador says if his country exceeds limits on low-enriched uranium set by the 2015 nuclear deal, that can be quickly reversed as soon as Tehran sees recovery in its oil and banking sectors.

Majid Takht Ravanchi tells reporters at a briefing today that he didn’t have “any exact information” on whether the 300-kilogram limit has been breached. He says he hopes that at Friday’s meeting in Vienna of the five parties remaining in the nuclear deal “tangible results can be achieved so that we can reverse our decision.”

Ravanchi says Iran isn’t planning to get out of the 2015 agreement, which the United States left last year.

But he says Iran is “not happy with the Europeans” supporting the agreement — Britain, France and Germany — because it has taken so much time to put in operation a program to allow Iran to trade. The three countries said Wednesday they are finalizing a “special purpose vehicle” called INSTEX to facilitate trade while avoiding US sanctions.

The Trump administration has called for dialogue with Iran, but Ravanchi says the US “maximum pressure policy is not designed to prepare for dialogue. They want to act like the older brother telling the younger brother how to behave,” he says. “The right atmosphere” is needed, and right now “it’s an atmosphere of animosity.”

Ravanchi says “sanctions and dialogue are mutually exclusive.”

— AP

East Jerusalem man critically hurt in clash with police

The police say a resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya was shot and critically wounded by officers after he attempted to launch fireworks at a police force from close range.

The incident occurred during a violent altercation in the neighborhood between local residents and police.

The man, in his twenties, has been taken to the nearby Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus.

A police statement insists the man’s actions constituted a threat to the officers’ lives.

Imam hurt in shooting outside mosque in northwest France

A gunman opened fire outside a mosque in northwestern France on Thursday, wounding the local imam and another person, before fleeing the scene and later being found dead, officials say.

It is not immediately clear what motivated the incident in the port city of Brest in Brittany, but Interior Minister Christophe Castaner says he has issued orders to increase security measures around places of worship across France.

Imam Rachid El Jay was hit by four bullets while a worshiper who was with him sustained injuries from two bullets, but neither was thought to have life-threatening wounds, the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) and judicial sources say.

A police source says the suspected shooter was found dead in an area near the airport, some 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the mosque, with a fatal gunshot wound to the head after an apparent suicide.

— AFP

Palestinians free businessman who attended Bahrain workshop

The Palestinian Authority has released from custody a West Bank businessman arrested for attending a US-led conference in Bahrain aimed at starting a Middle East peace effort, according to a family member and business associate.

Salah Abu Mayala, a businessman from the West Bank city of Hebron, was arrested yesterday and released late that night after taking part in last week’s conference which the PA boycotted.

The family of Abu Mayala, who is in his 70s and has health problems, refused to comment on the arrest when contacted by AFP, but a family member in the southern West Bank city says he was back at home.

Fellow Hebron resident and businessman Ashraf Jabari, who also attended the Bahrain workshop, confirms to The Times of Israel on that Abu Mayala had been released.

— with AFP

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Trump, world leaders to discuss Iran at G20 in Japan

OSAKA, Japan — US President Donald Trump lands in Osaka, Japan, for the annual Group of 20 summit amid a tropical cyclone that is predicted to turn into a typhoon — a possible metaphor for the four days of high-stakes diplomacy that lie ahead. As his re-election bid heats up, Trump is eager to produce breakthroughs on a series of foreign policy challenges including the showdown between the US and Iran, a trade war with China, the threat of fresh election interference by Russia and stalled nuclear talks with North Korea.

His itinerary in Osaka includes sit-downs with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, all of whom have authoritarian tendencies, as well as disquieted allies including Germany’s Angela Merkel and more contented ones such as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The president left Washington days after pulling back from the brink of armed conflict with Iran and as he trades threats over its nuclear program and support for terror groups. With Iran threatening to breach uranium enrichment limits set in the 2015 nuclear accord as soon as Thursday, Trump will be asked to articulate his strategy for containing Iran to skeptical world leaders after pulling the US from the deal last year.

Trump will also meet with the Saudi crown prince, who US intelligence services concluded ordered the grisly killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident. Despite the killing, Trump has continued to pursue a close relationship with Saudi Arabia, a lynchpin to the US Middle East strategy to counter Iran over its support for terror groups, its nuclear program and role in furthering humanitarian disaster in Yemen’s civil war.

Trump will also find himself face-to-face with Putin for the first time since special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation ended without finding evidence that the Trump campaign criminally conspired with Russia during the 2016 election.

— Agencies