Barak and Panetta in Jerusalem - Ariel Hermoni - August 1, 2012
Defense Minister Ehud Barak and U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in Jerusalem, August 1, 2012. Photo by Defense Ministry / Ariel Hermoni
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Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday and the two emphasized the close defense ties between Israel and the U.S. "The defense ties between Israel and the United States are stronger and tighter than they have ever been and the credit now has to go, most of it, to you, Leon," Barak said while greeting Panetta at the Israeli defense headquarters in Jerusalem.

A second Israeli man who set himself on fire in protest of his economic difficulties has died of his injuries, the Sheba Medical Center said on Wednesday. Akiva Mafa'I, a 48-year-old IDF veteran, set himself on fire two days after Moshe Silman died.

Bulgarian police have released a computer-generated image of the suicide attacker involved in the bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver two weeks ago.

Israeli swimmer Gal Nevo qualified Wednesday afternoon for the semifinals of the men's 200-meter individual medley. Nevo finished heat number five in fifth place with a time of 1:59.56 minutes, good enough for 12th place overall. The semifinals in Nevo's event are scheduled to commence Wednesday at 10:41P.M. Israel time.

Israel's armor defense system, Me'il Ruach (Windbraker), was triggered near the Gaza border on Wednesday. The IDF is examining whether an anti-tank missile launch had activated the system. Shots were also fired into Israel during an IDF arrest of smugglers Wednesday morning

An Israeli artist is planning an art installation made from shells of sunflower seeds, produced by dozens of 'expert' Arab and Jewish seed-eating shell-spitters from across Israel. According to the artist, several London galleries have already expressed interest in the project, which was conceived in response to the sunflower seed installation exhibited two years ago by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in the Turbine Hall of London's Tate Modern museum.

Syrian President Bashar Assad said on Wednesday that the army's battle with rebel forces would determine the fate of his country, and praised soldiers for confronting what he said were "criminal terrorist gangs."