The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they happened.
Trump lashes GOP senator, denies equating neo-Nazis to counter-protesters
US President Donald Trump takes a swipe at a fellow Republican, calling Sen. Lindsey Graham a “publicity seeking” lawmaker.
In a daybreak post on his Twitter account Thursday, Trump faults the GOP senator for statements Graham has made about the president’s stance on the violence and death of a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Trump says in his tweet: “Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists and people like Ms. Heyer.” He was referring to Heather Heyer, the woman who was killed when she was struck by a car driven into the crowd.
“Such a disgusting lie,” Trump says of Graham’s remarks. “He just can’t forget his election trouncing. The people of South Carolina will remember.”
In a separate tweet, Trump accuses “the Fake News” of distorting “what I say about hate, bigotry, etc. Shame!”
Syria rebels lose key ally with collapse of Islamist faction
Syria’s opposition loses one of its most powerful factions with the collapse of Islamist heavyweight Ahrar al-Sham, which once walked a fine line between jihadists and more mainstream rebels.
The group has been decimated by deadly fighting, with a former Al-Qaeda affiliate emerging the winner in the only Syrian province entirely beyond regime control.
Clashes between the former allies broke out in mid-July when Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) attacked Ahrar positions across the northwestern province of Idlib.
By the time a ceasefire deal was reached and the guns fell silent, Ahrar had been devastated.
The group was expelled from Idlib city, the lucrative Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey and surrounding territory near the frontier including checkpoints and key roads.
Without revenues from commercial products taxed at Bab al-Hawa, Ahrar’s financial resources will likely be slashed.
Its legitimacy as a governing force may also take a hit with HTS’s takeover of institutions like religious courts.
War would be ‘horrific,’ US says, but N. Korean nukes ‘unimaginable’
A military solution to the North Korean missile threat would be “horrific” but allowing Pyongyang to develop the capability to launch a nuclear attack on the United States is “unimaginable,” the top US military officer says in Beijing.
The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, tells reporters that US President Donald Trump has directly “told us to develop credible viable military options and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
Dunford responds to questions about Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon saying in a new interview that the threat posed by North Korea cannot handled by force.
“There’s no military solution, forget it,” Bannon tells The American Prospect. “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”
In Beijing, Dunford says it’s “absolutely horrific if there would be a military solution to this problem, there’s no question about it.”
But, he adds, “what’s unimaginable is allowing KJU (North Korean leader Kim Jong Un) to develop ballistic missiles with a nuclear warhead that can threaten the United States and continue to threaten the region.”
Russia blocks white supremacist website
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia — Russia’s state communications watchdog quickly blocks the US white supremacist website that demonized the woman killed while protesting a white nationalist rally last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Access to the Daily Stormer, a site taking its name from the Nazi propaganda newspaper Der Stürmer, has been sporadic since Monday, when Google canceled its domain name registration, making its IP address nearly impossible for internet users to locate. The website briefly resurfaced Wednesday with a Russian domain name and registration.
Alexander Zharov, the head of Roskomnadzor communications watchdog, says his agency has ordered to strip the website of the Russian registration as it “propagates neo-Nazi ideology and incites racial and ethnic hatred.”
The site has mocked Heather Heyer, the woman killed when a driver rammed a car into a crowd of demonstrators Saturday.
Israel to release tycoon, adviser arrested for corruption
Israeli police say a prominent billionaire businessman and a political consultant arrested this week on an array of charges will be released under restrictive conditions.
Spokeswoman Luba Samri says that Beny Steinmetz, a Geneva-based diamond-mining magnate, and Tal Silberstein, a former adviser to the Austrian chancellor, reached an agreement where they will be released after their extended remand Friday. She does not elaborate on the terms of their release.
The two were arrested on charges including money laundering, obstruction of justice and bribery following a joint investigation with Swiss and American authorities.
Israeli authorities arrested Steinmetz in December over allegations of bribing officials in the West African country of Guinea to promote business interests there.
Austria’s Social Democratic Party severed relations with Silberstein after his arrest Monday.
3 construction workers killed, 2 seriously hurt in 4 accidents within 5 hours
Three construction workers are killed in the space of five hours today at three separate building sites.
A 25-year-old man is killed when a steel beam on which several workers were sitting collapses and falls on him in a site on Silver Street in the northern city of Nahariya.
A second worker, a 29-year-old man, is hospitalized in serious condition.
Earlier in the day, a 40-year-old man was killed when he fell from a high floor in a construction site in Rosh Ha’ayin, while another 40-year-old was hit by a truck he was directing at a building site north of Tel Aviv.
Another construction worker is seriously hurt after being electrocuted at a building site in Beitar Illit southwest of Jerusalem. He is hospitalized at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem with burns covering parts of his upper torso.
Belgium orders trial for terror suspect Abdeslam over shootout
Belgium orders Paris terror suspect Salah Abdeslam to stand trial over a shootout in Brussels last year with Belgian and French police officers who had been tracking Europe’s most wanted man for four months.
Abdeslam, who has ties to Islamic State and is the sole surviving alleged assailant in the November 2015 Paris massacre, was arrested three days after the shootout on March 15 last year in which several officers were wounded.
Judges on Thursday order Abdeslam, 27, and his alleged accomplice Sofiane Ayari, 24, to stand trial in Brussels criminal court, the federal prosecutor’s office says.
The two will be tried for “attempted murder on several police officers in a terrorist context” and “carrying banned weapons in a terrorist context,” the office says in a statement.
A French woman police officer and Belgian colleagues were wounded at the Forest neighborhood apartment in which an Algerian Islamist suspect was killed.
After finding Abdeslam’s fingerprints in the apartment, they arrested him and Ayari during a raid on March 18, 2016 in the gritty Brussels immigrant neighbourhood of Molenbeek, shooting Abdeslam in the leg.
Investigators suspect that Abdeslam’s arrest precipitated the attacks in Brussels four days later by suicide bombers linked to him as they feared they, too, would be captured before they could carry out their plot.
Amid Charlottesville row, America’s top soldier endorses generals’ anti-racism tweets
US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford strongly endorses the statements by the leaders of the four major US military services, the Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy, who spoke out against racism and extremism after last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
During a visit to Beijing, Dunford says: “I have seen the chiefs’ tweets and I can absolutely and unambiguously tell you that there is no place for racism and bigotry in the US military or in the United States as a whole.”
He said the “chiefs’ statements were important. They were speaking directly to the force and the American people.”
Dunford said the intent was “to the force, to make it clear that that kind of racism and bigotry is not going to stand inside the force. And to the American people, to remind them of the values for which we stand in the US military, which are reflective of what I believe to be the values of the United States.”
The tweets come amid ongoing criticism of the Trump White House for what critics say was US President Donald Trump’s equivocating in his condemnation of white supremacists who marched Friday and Saturday in Charlottesville.
— AP and Times of Israel staff
US culture ‘ripped apart’ by statue removals – Trump
US President Donald Trump says the history and culture of the United States were being “ripped apart” by the removal of statues memorializing the Confederate era.
“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” Trump writes on Twitter.
“You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson — who’s next. Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!”
Firebrand cleric Raed Salah’s arrest extended till Monday
The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court extends the remand of firebrand Muslim cleric Sheikh Raed Salah, arrested overnight Monday, for four more days, till August 21.
Salah, from the Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm, was arrested on suspicion of incitement to violence and terror, as well as supporting and being active in a banned organization — the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, which he heads.
Salah has dismissed his arrest as a tactic to divert attention from various corruption investigations linked to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Police arrest E. Jerusalem man carrying 30-centimeter knife
Police arrest a Palestinian man in his twenties from the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem after finding a 30-centimeter (12-inch) knife in his backpack.
Police are alerted to the knife by a woman from the refugee camp who approaches officers at a checkpoint near the camp and tell them she saw a young man pack a knife into a backpack and board a bus.
The officers then locate the bus, board it and search the man’s belongings, finding the knife hidden in a bag of cotton balls.
In a statement, police say the woman’s report demonstrates the “public’s trust in the police.”
UAE promises $15m per month in aid to Hamas
A Hamas delegation returns to Gaza from Egypt after securing a promise to receive $15 million monthly from the United Arab Emirates and other donor countries to support a committee meant to improve conditions in Gaza.
The Hamas delegation spent six days in Egypt, where it met with associates of Mohammed Dahlan, an exiled Fatah party member currently living in the UAE.
Samir Al-Mashharawi, an ally of Dahlan, reports the existence of the $15 million monthly aid deal in an interview with the Egyptian daily Al-Youm Al-Saba.
Mashharawi says the money will be under the supervision and custody of Egypt.
Dahlan and Hamas agreed during negotiations in Cairo over July to form a joint committee that would work on humanitarian relief and development of the Gaza Strip.
The committee will be run by Dahlan associate and Fatah lawmaker Majed Abu Shammala.
Mashharawi also says the committee spoke with Egyptian officials about permanently opening the Rafah crossing in the coming weeks.
— Dov Lieber
Amid US racial divisions, Auschwitz memorial issues warning
WARSAW, Poland — The memorial site of Auschwitz-Birkenau appears to have weighed in on the debate over US President Donald Trump’s response to the outpouring of anti-Semitic and racially charged hatred in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The state museum writes on Twitter: “One of the hardest lessons for us today. Perpetrators were people. They accepted an ideology that rationalized and promoted hatred & evil.”
Beneath the words is a photo of Auschwitz officers and guards smiling and having fun.
One of the hardest lessons for us today. Perpetrators were people. They accepted an ideology that rationalized and promoted hatred & evil. https://t.co/wqJMUxMOvH
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) August 16, 2017
The message is posted in several languages two days after Trump made comments which appeared to rationalize the actions of neo-Nazis and white supremacists who marched in Virginia.
A museum spokesman told The Associated Press that people are free to interpret the message as they wish.
Auschwitz stands today as a painful reminder of what racist & antisemitic ideologies can lead to, of what may happen when people hate… pic.twitter.com/T1ygdlZwU0
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) August 13, 2017
Rabbi who converted Ivanka slams president’s response to Charlottesville
Haskel Lookstein, the New York rabbi who oversaw the conversion to Judaism of US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, criticizes the president’s response to the violent white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Lookstein weighs in on the issue Wednesday along with other rabbis at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, a prominent modern Orthodox synagogue in Manhattan.
“We are appalled by this resurgence of bigotry and antisemitism, and the renewed vigor of the neo-Nazis, KKK, and alt-right,” the rabbis write in a letter to members of the synagogue and its affiliated Ramaz School. “While we avoid politics, we are deeply troubled by the moral equivalency and equivocation President Trump has offered in his response to this act of violence.
“We pray that our country heeds the voices of tolerance, and stays true to its vision of human rights and civil rights.”
US blacklists Paris and Brussels attacks bomb suspect
The United States adds the suspected jihadist bombmaker said to have supplied the gangs behind the deadly attacks in Paris and Brussels to its terror blacklist.
French and Belgian authorities believe a militant known as Ahmad Alkhald provided suicide vests and explosives expertise before the November 13, 2015 attacks on a Paris concert, bars and football crowd that left 130 dead.
He is thought to have fled to Syria, but remained in contact with a gang that later carried out the March 22, 2016 bombings at Brussels airport and a metro station that killed 32 people.
Dozens hit as truck plows into crowd in Barcelona shopping area
A truck plows into pedestrians in the Las Ramblas shopping district of Barcelona, Spain.
Dozens are confirmed hit, but there is no immediate word on the severity of their wounds or whether any have died.
Emergency responders are on the scene and calling on the public, including the large numbers of tourists at the site, to avoid the area.
— José Luis (@joseluis_md) August 17, 2017
Video of pedestrians fleeing Barcelona truck ramming area
A video of pedestrians fleeing the scene of a truck ramming of tourists in the Las Ramblas shopping area of Barcelona.
— Julian Druker (@Julian5News) August 17, 2017
Barcelona police say ramming carried out by white van
Barcelona police say a white commercial van, and not a truck, drove onto the sidewalk in a packed shopping area near Placa de Catalunya, and hit dozens of pedestrians.
A possible terror motive has not been confirmed by police.
Spanish media say driver fled the scene of Barcelona ramming
The driver of a white van that plowed into dozens of pedestrians in Barcelona’s busy Las Ramblas shopping district was seen fleeing the scene on foot after the incident, Spanish media say.
Police still have not said whether they suspect a terror attack or believe the ramming was an accident.
Israeli eyewitness in Barcelona: ‘People dropped to the ground, dozens wounded’
Barak Ben Gal, an Israeli tour guide in Barcelona, witnessed the ramming.
He tells Channel 2 in a telephone interview, “People dropped to the ground, there were wounded. It was dozens. The area is completely evacuated. Police are everywhere. There are helicopters in the air.”
He adds: “I’ve lived here 14 years, it’s the first time I’ve seen something like this.”
Several said dead, including children, in Barcelona vehicle ramming
According to Spanish media, there are several dead at the scene of the Barcelona vehicle ramming at the Las Ramblas shopping area.
Some of the dead are said to be children, according to initial reports.
Barcelona police call deadly ramming a ‘terrorist attack’
Barcelona police say the Las Ramblas van incident was a “terrorist attack.”
Pictures emerge of aftermath of Barcelona terror attack
Barcelona police cordon off scene of attack
Barcelona police cordoned off the broad, popular Las Ramblas street, ordering stores and nearby Metro and train stations to close. They ask people to stay away from the area so as not to get in the way of emergency services. A helicopter hovers over the scene.
Two said dead in Barcelona ramming
Spanish media report that two people are dead in the van ramming attack in Barcelona’s Las Ramblas shopping district.
Barcelona terror attack took place near two kosher restaurants
The Barcelona van ramming took place near two kosher restaurants in the Las Ramblas shopping area: Yehuda Hamaccabi and Maoz Falafel.
Police have called the deadly ramming a terror attack, but there is no immediate indication the proximity to the kosher restaurants was relevant.
Confused, unconfirmed reports from Barcelona say gunmen at large, explosion heard
Confused reports emerge of possible additional attacks related to the van ramming at Barcelona’s Las Ramblas shopping area. One unconfirmed report in Spanish media says two armed men entered a nearby restaurant. Another unconfirmed report says eyewitnesses heard an explosion at the scene.
None of these reports, carried in Spanish media as eyewitness testimony only, is confirmed by authorities.
No Israelis known to have been hurt in Barcelona attack
Israel’s Foreign Ministry says no Israelis are known to be among the wounded or killed in the Barcelona van-ramming terror attack.
Officials emphasize that not all the injured are identified, and that may change.
Perpetrators of Las Ramblas attack said holed up in nearby bar
The Spanish newspaper El Pais quotes unnamed police sources as saying the perpetrators of the Las Ramblas crash were holed up in a bar in Tallers Street in Barcelona.
There is no immediate police confirmation of the report.
Barcelona chief rabbi: Terror attack didn’t target Jews
Rabbi Meir Bar-Hen, Barcelona’s chief rabbi, tells Channel 2 in a telephone interview that he was informed by police that the terror attack in the city’s Las Ramblas street was not directed at Jews.
He says he plans to cancel community activities and is headed to Las Ramblas to see if his services are needed to help the dead or wounded.
Barcelona death toll reportedly rises to five
Initial report says as many as five people may have been killed in the Las Ramblas terror attack in Barcelona.
Barcelona’s Jewish institutions close after terror attack
Jewish institutions in Barcelona are reportedly closing for the day after the terror attack in the city.
The perpetrators of the van attack in the city’s Las Ramblas shopping district are still at large.
Death toll reports from Barcelona still confused, range from 1 to 5
Reports on the death toll from the Barcelona terror attack seem to contradict each other. Reports from Spain range from one dead to five dead in the attack, with some two dozen said wounded.
The gap may be caused by overlapping figures supplied by emergency services and hospitals. The figure may also rise, as some of the wounded are in serious condition.
Manhunt for Barcelona perpetrators still underway
The Barcelona police’s manhunt for the perpetrators of the Las Ramblas attack continues. Police are walking in formation through the city’s streets.
The perpetrators are reportedly still holed up in a Turkish restaurant in the city, and may be holding hostages. There are unconfirmed reports in Spanish media that police are negotiating with the attackers.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) August 17, 2017
Barcelona terror attack death toll rises to 13
Local Spanish media outlets say the death toll in the Barcelona van-ramming terror attack has risen to 13.
Barcelona police confirm suspect holed up in bar
A person suspected of driving a van into pedestrians on one of the busiest streets of Barcelona on Thursday is holed up in a bar, a Spanish police source says.
“One of the attackers is holed up in a bar,” says the source, who declines to be named, adding that police were looking for a total of two suspects over the attack which has left at least 13 people dead.
— AFP and Times of Israel staff
Wounded count raised to 32 in Barcelona attack
Thirty-two people are reported wounded, ten in serious condition, in the Las Ramblas terror attack in Barcelona.
Netanyahu oversees Foreign Ministry search for Israelis in Barcelona
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads to the Foreign Ministry’s situation room to oversee Israel’s efforts to ascertain if there are Israelis among the dead or wounded in Barcelona.
There are no reports as yet of Israelis hurt in the attack.
80 Israelis still stuck inside Barcelona kosher restaurant
Some 80 Israelis are still trapped inside the Maccabi restaurant in the Las Ramblas shopping street in Barcelona near the site of the deadly van ramming.
Police are forbidding people in nearby establishments from leaving to the street as the manhunt for the perpetrators continues.
Passport found in Barcelona attack van, may identify attacker
Local news station El Pais reports that a Spanish passport was found inside the van used in the attack. The Civil Guard says the van was rented by a man named as Driss Oukabir in the municipality of Santa Perpetua de la Mogada, near Barcelona, El Pais reports.
— Yazmin Jalil (@YazminJalil) August 17, 2017
Some 30 Israelis can’t be reached in Barcelona – officials
Some 30 Israelis known to be in Barcelona have still not been reached by Israeli authorities, Foreign Ministry deputy director general for media and public diplomacy Noam Katz tells Channel 2.
The Foreign Ministry’s situation room is attempting to reach any Israelis believed to be in the area.
August is the height of tourist season, and Barcelona among the most popular tourist destination for Israelis. Tour companies say many thousands of Israelis are thought to be in the city at this time.
Israeli cellular companies offer free calls home from Barcelona
Two Israeli cellphone companies, Pelephone and Partner, say any calls home by their Israeli customers in Barcelona will be free of charge in the wake of the terror attack in the city earlier today.
Bennett offers condolences, help to Barcelona Jewish community
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who also holds the diaspora affairs portfolio, issues a statement on the Barcelona terror attack:
A few minutes ago I spoke with the head of the Spanish Jewish community about the horrific terror attack that took in Barcelona this evening. I conveyed to him my condolences and prayers for the wounded, and made it clear the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs would aid the community in any way possible.
At times like this it is important to understand Islamic terror is attacking the values of freedom and democracy, in Barcelona, London, Paris and Jerusalem. The West must stand strong in the face of terror and defeat it wherever needed.
US offers help to Spain in wake of Barcelona attack
The United States offers its assistance to Spain in the wake of a deadly van attack in Barcelona’s most popular street Las Ramblas.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says consular assistance was being provided to Americans in the city, and urged US nationals to check in with their families.
“Terrorists around the world should know — the United States and our allies are resolved to find you and bring you to justice,” Tillerson tells a press conference with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and their Japanese counterparts.
Barcelona police arrest suspect in terror ramming
Spanish media report that a suspect in the Barcelona terror attack, Driss Oukabir, is under arrest after a two-hour manhunt in the wake of the deadly attack.
Oukabir’s Spanish passport was found inside the van used in the attack, in which at least 13 people were killed in the Las Ramblas shopping area in the city.
He is reportedly the Spanish-born child of Moroccan parents.
— Yazmin Jalil (@YazminJalil) August 17, 2017
Oukabir’s exact alleged role — whether he was the attacker, an accomplice, or has some other link to the attack — has not yet been clarified by authorities.
‘Strong military consequences’ if N. Korea attacks – Mattis
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis insists that America is ready to respond to any North Korean threat, after a senior White House official dismissed talk of a “military option.”
“In close collaboration with our allies, there are strong military consequences if the DPRK initiates hostilities,” Mattis tells reporters, after talks in Washington with his Japanese counterpart.
New York to remove Nazi collaborator Petain plaque
New York’s Democratic mayor promises to remove a plaque dedicated to Nazi collaborator Philippe Petain, who led Vichy France during World War II, following deadly violence in Virginia.
A woman was killed and 19 other people injured Saturday when a suspected white supremacist drove his car into a group of anti-racism protesters at a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“After the violent events in Charlottesville, New York City will conduct a 90-day review of all symbols of hate on city property,” Bill de Blasio announces on Twitter.
“The commemoration for Nazi collaborator Philippe Petain in the Canyon of Heroes will be one of the first we remove.”
The Canyon occupies a stretch of Broadway in Manhattan’s Financial District. Plaques on the sidewalk commemorate those feted with a ticker-tape parade in New York — an honor that Petain received in 1931 as a World War I hero.
But a decade later, he went on to lead the Vichy regime in France that collaborated with German Nazis from 1940-1944.
He passed legislation that subjected Jews to severe discrimination and under his leadership the Vichy regime put to death up to 15,000 people and helped deport nearly 80,000.
Three Barcelona police officers said hurt in separate incident
The Spanish newspaper El Pais says that three police officers in Barcelona are hurt after they were hit by a car that attempted to run past a checkpoint in the city.
It’s not clear if the incident is related to the deadly terror attack earlier in the day in the city’s Las Ramblas shopping district.
The vehicle was a Ford Focus, El Pais reports.
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