Netanyahu Says Jerusalem’s ‘Noble Sanctuary’ To Reopen Sunday

NetanyahuIsrael will reopen the Noble Sanctuary-Temple Mount compound on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday, after the holy site had been shut down following a deadly shooting.

On Friday, three Arab-Israeli gunmen shot dead two Israeli policemen on the outskirts of the compound, holy to Muslims and Jews, and were then killed by security forces. It was one of the most serious attacks in the area in years.

Israeli authorities then shut the compound down citing security concerns, just hours before Muslim Friday prayers.

That move prompted anger among Muslim worshippers and was condemned by Palestinian religious and political leaders, Jordan and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a world Islamic body, among others, who called for the site to be reopened immediately.

Netanyahu who spoke upon his departure to Paris, said the site, known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, would be open from Sunday noon to Muslim worshippers, tourists and Jewish visitors.

Trump, Netanyahu’s Wife Lament Negative Media Coverage

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, offered sympathetic words to visiting U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania on Monday, telling them that people still loved them despite negative media coverage.

Standing on the red carpet and chatting minutes after Trump and the First Lady had arrived at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport in Air Force One, Sara Netanyahu was caught on camera exchanging a few private words with the visitors.

“The majority of the people of Israel, unlike the media, they love us, so we tell them how you are great and they love you,” Sara said to Trump and his wife.

Trump then interjected: “We have something very much in common.”

Trump’s presidency has received widespread negative coverage in the U.S. and international media, not least over his firing of FBI director James Comey and amid an investigation into ties between his administration and Russia.

In Israel on the second leg of his first overseas trip since entering office, Trump is to hold talks separately with Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a stopover lasting barely 28 hours.

Speaking over the noise of the president’s jet, Sara Netanyahu added: “I talk every place about how great you are,” she said, and Netanyahu backed her up saying: “I can testify to that.”

Netanyahu and his wife have a tense relationship with the Israeli media, which they have both described as biased against them. In January, Netanyahu described the media as “left-wing” and “Bolshevik” and said they were out to bring him down.

Israeli PM Remembers Brother Killed In Entebbe Rescue

NetanyahuIsraeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, began an African tour on Monday, attending a memorial service at Entebbe Airport in Uganda where his commando brother was killed rescuing hostages 40 years ago – an event which he has said shaped his future.

Lt. Col Yonatan “Yoni” Netanyahu led an assault team of 29 commandos who stormed the terminal in 1976 to rescue Israelis and others who had been on board an Air France flight diverted to Uganda by Palestinian and German hijackers.

“I am touched to stand in this place, this very place, where my brother, Yoni, fell,” the Prime Minister said at Entebbe Airport. “Entebbe is always with me, in my thoughts, in my consciousness, deep in my heart.”

The old building where the hostages were held still stands, but a new terminal now serves the airport at Entebbe, which lies a few miles from the capital Kampala.

Some former Israeli commandos involved in the raid also attended the ceremony.

The Prime Minister’s elder brother was the only Israeli soldier killed in the 1976 raid. The hijackers, three hostages and dozens of Ugandan soldiers died.

More than 100 mostly Israeli hostages were freed. Ugandan autocrat Idi Amin, in power at that time, broke ties with Israel after the raid.

“My brother’s death changed my life and directed it to its present course,” he said in an interview with Newsweek in 2012.

Speaking on Monday before talks with President Yoweri Museveni, Netanyahu said, “Exactly 40 years ago, Israel soldiers carried out a historic mission in Entebbe.

“Forty years ago they landed in the dead of the night in a country led by a brutal dictator. Today we landed in broad day light in a friendly country led by a president who fights terrorists.”

Uganda has been targeted by Somali Islamist group, al Shabaab, which has said it wants to drive out Ugandan and other soldiers fighting with an African Union peace force in Somalia.

Netanyahu was accompanied by an 80-strong delegation of Israeli business executives from more than 50 companies.

After talks with Museveni, he was to attend a summit with leaders from Rwanda, Kenya, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Zambia.

“Africa is a continent on the rise. Israel looks forward to strengthening ties with all its countries,” he said.

After Uganda, the Israeli Prime Minister travels to Kenya where Israel provides training for the security forces and has other investments.

“Israel is a critical partner to Kenya, with its development assistance in security and defense, agriculture and particularly irrigation are important investments here,” Kenyan presidential spokesman, Manoah said ahead of the visit.

The tour will also take Netanyahu to Rwanda and Ethiopia.

23 Palestinians, 1 Israeli Die As Israel Widens Ground Offensive

Israeli rocket is fired into the northern Gaza StripThe Israeli has stepped up its ground offensive in Gaza early on Friday, pounding targets with artillery fire and using tanks and infantry to battle Hamas fighters.

Orange flashes illuminated the eastern Gaza Strip as Israeli gunboats off the Mediterranean coast fired shells and tracer bullets, and helicopters fired across the border. Hamas fired rockets back into Israel towards the southern towns of Ashdod and Ashkelon.

Palestinian health officials said 23 Palestinians had been killed since Israel launched its ground offensive against the densely-populated strip of 1.8 Million Palestinians on Thursday. Israel said one of its soldiers had been killed in fighting.

A video clip released by the military showed six tanks rolling in through the sand dunes of Gaza, after a soldier opened a border fence, and two long rows of foot soldiers.

“We are using a very high level of fire power and artillery,” Israeli military spokesman, Brigadier General Motti Almoz said. “A great number of soldiers are in action in the Gaza Strip, soldiers are overtaking their targets, tunnels, Hamas targets,” Almoz said, and several “points of friction” with gunmen.

Israel signalled the invasion would be limited in scope – targeting tunnels dug by gunmen – and said it was not intended to topple Hamas, the Gaza Strip’s dominant Islamist group.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri responded with defiance, saying, “We warn (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu of the dreadful consequences of such a foolish act”.

Live television showed interceptions of rockets by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system and no casualties were reported.

Almoz said one soldier had been killed and several wounded in fighting, Israeli media said was concentrated in several areas in the north and south of the territory.

The soldier was Israel’s second fatality in eleven days of fighting which spilled over into a land offensive late on Thursday. A rocket attack killed a civilian two days ago. In all, 251 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed since the fighting began on July 8.

Israeli military Spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, said on Twitter that Israel had killed 14 Palestinian gunmen in “exchanges of fire throughout Gaza” and destroyed 20 rocket launchers.

Hamas’s armed wing said in a statement they had detonated three explosives in northern Gaza and “clashes are ongoing”. It also said its fighters had repelled Israeli forces trying to enter another Gaza town, Beit Hanoun, wounding seven soldiers.

Israel began the air and sea offensive in what it called a response to mounting rocket salvos, more than 100 a day, fired by Gaza militants into its cities, sending hundreds of thousands of Israelis dashing to shelters as far north as the Tel Aviv business hub.

At least 20 more rockets were fired at Israel on Friday, a military spokeswoman said.

Hamas leaders have talked up their “tunnel campaign” against the Israeli enemy. One publicity video showed Palestinian fighters hauling rockets through a narrow passage to load onto a launcher that appears buried in an orchard. It is then fired remotely after its mechanized cover slides open.

French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, will visit the Middle East on Friday to try to defuse the crisis, and for discussions about putting a European mission on the Gaza-Israel border, a diplomatic source said on Thursday.

Israel last mounted a large-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip during a three-week war in late 2008 and early 2009 that claimed 1,400 Palestinian and 13 Israeli lives.

 

Gaza truce pressure builds up as diplomatic interventions intensify

Hopes of a positive truce have been raised as diplomatic interventions intensify to stem the tide of violence in Gaza between Hamas and Israel as the conflict enters its seventh day.

Israeli leaders met late into the night to discuss Egyptian proposals to end the violence.
Further talks are expected to take place in Cairo on today.

More than 100 people have died in the Gaza strip since the Israel bombardment began and at least three Israelis have been killed by rockets fired by Palestinian militants.

However, Israeli officials are quoted as saying that any possible ground invasion of Gaza has been put on hold while the ceasefire talks continue.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his top ministers debated their next moves in a meeting that lasted into the early hours of Tuesday.
“Before deciding on a ground invasion, the prime minister intends to exhaust the diplomatic move in order to see if a long-term ceasefire can be achieved,” a senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said after the meeting.

Any diplomatic solution may pass through Egypt, Gaza’s other neighbor and the biggest Arab nation, where the ousting of U.S. Ally Hosni Mubarak and election of President Mohamed Mursi is part of a dramatic reshaping of the Middle East, wrought by the Arab Spring and now affecting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mursi, whose Muslim Brotherhood was mentor to the founders of Hamas, took a call from Obama on Monday telling him the group must stop rocket fire into Israel – effectively endorsing Israel’s stated aim in launching the offensive last week. Obama, as quoted by the White House, also said he regretted civilian deaths – which have been predominantly among the Palestinians.

“The two leaders discussed ways to de-escalate the situation in Gaza, and President Obama underscored the necessity of Hamas ending rocket fire into Israel,” the White House said.

“President Obama then called Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and received an update on the situation in Gaza and Israel. In both calls, President Obama expressed regret for the loss of Israeli and Palestinian civilian lives.”

Three Israeli civilians and 108 Palestinians have been killed. Gaza officials say more than half of those killed in the enclave were civilians, 27 of them children.

Israel asks U.S. for arms to attack Iran

The Israeli government has asked the United States for advanced “bunker-buster” bombs and refueling planes that can improve its ability to attack Iran’s underground nuclear sites.

Official sources say the request was made during the Israeli Prime Minister’s (Benjamin Netanyahu) visit to Washington on Monday.
A front-page article in a local Israeli newspaper, Ma’ariv, on Thursday disclosed that Obama has assured Netanyahu that Washington would supply Israel with upgraded military equipment in return for assurances that there would be no attack on Iran in 2012.
Isreal is widely assumed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal but its conventional firepower may not be enough to deliver lasting damage to Iran’s distant, dispersed and well-fortified facilities, many experts say.

Israel has limited stocks of older, smaller bunker-busters and a small fleet of refueling planes, all supplied by Washington. Western powers suspect Iran’s uranium enrichment program is aimed at stockpiling fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Iran says it is strictly for civilian energy uses.

Obama, Netanyahu give no sign of narrowing gap on Iran

President Barack Obama appealed to Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to give sanctions more time to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but the Israeli prime minister gave no sign of backing away from possible military action.

The two men, who have had a strained relationship, sought to present a united front in the Iranian nuclear standoff as they opened White House talks. But their public statements revealed differences over how to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

In one of the most consequential meetings of U.S. and Israeli leaders in years, Obama and Netanyahu made no mention of lingering disagreements that Washington fears could lead to an Israeli rush to attack Iran’s nuclear sites in the coming months.

Obama took a double-barreled approach, seeking to assure Netanyahu that the United States was keeping the military option open against Iran and always “has Israel’s back,” but also urging Israeli patience to allow sanctions and diplomacy to work.

Netanyahu, speaking in historical terms about the Jewish state’s determination to be the “master of its fate,” focused on Israel reserving the right to defend itself against Iran. Israel sees Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to its existence.

“We believe there is still a window that allows for a diplomatic resolution,” Obama said, even he sought to convince Netanyahu of stiffened U.S. resolve against the Islamic republic.

In cautioning against renewed international diplomatic engagement with Iran, Netanyahu has warned Western powers not to fall into a “trap” of letting Iran buy more time.

There was no immediate sign from Monday’s talks that Obama’s sharpened rhetoric against Iran and calls for restraint by Israel would be enough to delay any Israeli military plans against Tehran, which has called for the destruction of the Jewish state.

Despite that, the body language between the two leaders was a stark contrast to their last Oval Office meeting in May 2011 when Netanyahu lectured Obama on Jewish history and criticized his approach to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

This time, Obama and Netanyahu appeared cordial and businesslike, smiling at each other and sometimes nodding as the other spoke.

Even though Obama has ratcheted up his rhetoric against Iran in recent days, he and Netanyahu went into the talks divided over how quickly the clock is ticking toward possible military action, and the meeting appeared unlikely to change that.

They remain far apart on any explicit nuclear “red lines” that Tehran must not be allowed to cross, and they have yet to agree on a time frame when military forces might need to be applied.

PRESERVING TRUST

Obama’s encounter with Netanyahu was considered crucial to preserving the trust of America’s closest Middle East ally, which fears that time is running out for an effective Israeli strike on Iran, and to counter election-year criticism from Republican rivals who question his support for the Jewish state.

He is also trying to tamp down increasingly strident talk of another war in the region that could cause further spikes in global oil prices and hit the fragile U.S. economic recovery – dire consequences that could threaten his re-election chances.

Speculation is mounting that Israel could opt to act militarily on its own unless it receives credible guarantees that the United States will be ready to use force against Iran if international sanctions and diplomacy fail.

Israel fears that Iranian nuclear facilities may soon be buried so deep that they would be invulnerable to its bunker-busting bombs, which are less powerful than those in the U.S. arsenal.

Obama said both he and Netanyahu “prefer to resolve this diplomatically” and that both understand the cost of military action.

Netanyahu did not echo that point in his own brief public remarks, saying instead: “If there’s one thing that stands out clearly in the Middle East today, it’s that Israel and America stand together.”

What is clear, however, is the potential political liability for Obama’s re-election bid if hostilities break out in the Middle East before the November 6 U.S. presidential election.

Netanyahu’s visit comes one day before the pivotal “Super Tuesday” round of Republican presidential primaries, with Obama’s Republican rivals seizing on the chance to accuse him of being weak in backing a staunch ally and in confronting a bitter foe.

Further complicating matters is a trust deficit between Obama and Netanyahu.

In their last Oval Office meeting a year ago, Netanyahu embarrassed Obama by lecturing him on Jewish history and flatly rejecting his proposal that Israel’s 1967 borders be the basis for negotiations on creating a Palestinian state.

But relations have thawed somewhat since then as Obama has taken a tougher line on Iran while refraining from any new Middle East peace drives. Obama also scored points with Israelis for opposing a Palestinian bid for U.N. statehood recognition last September.