The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s developments as they unfolded.
Abbas says Israel carried out ‘extrajudicial killings’
In a special session at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on the violence in Israel, PA President Mahmoud Abbas accuses Israel of killing unarmed Palestinians.
“Our people’s angry upheaval and the recent successive events are the inevitable outcome of what we had previously warned of,” says Abbas.
The PA president says the Jewish state “recently escalated its criminal practices to the point where it performed extrajudicial killings against unarmed civilians and detaining their corpses, and persisted to terrorize our people with collective punishment.”
— Joshua Davidovich contributed
Hagai Amir released to house arrest
Hagai Amir, the brother and accomplice to the killer of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, is released to house arrest.
Amir, who served a 16-year sentence for his role in the political assassination, was arrested on Tuesday for a perceived threat to President Reuven Rivlin in a Facebook post. After the president vowed that Yigal Amir would not be pardoned on his watch, Hagai Amir wrote that the president and the “Zionist state” will soon “depart from this world.”
PM raps Arab MK for Temple Mount visit
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chides MK Basel Ghattas for going to the Temple Mount earlier today.
“The Temple Mount has been quiet for two weeks now. We are making every effort to keep it that way, but apparently some are bothered by it,” he tells reporters in the Knesset.
Ghattas didn’t ascend to the holy site to pray, Netanyahu says, accusing him of a planned provocation to increase the tensions.
No lawmaker from any party will be allowed to enter the contested site, the prime minister says, calling on everybody to act “responsibly” during these times.
7 soldiers arrested for ‘beating Palestinian detainees’
Seven IDF soldiers from the Netzah Yehuda battalion are arrested on suspicion of beating Palestinian detainees, Army Radio reports.
“This is a serious incident that is not consistent with what is expected from IDF fighters,” the army spokesman says.
Israel violence heading toward ‘catastrophe’ — UN rights chief
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Wednesday warns that a wave of deadly Israeli-Palestinian violence was “dangerous in the extreme” and could lead to a “catastrophe.”
“The violence between Palestinians and the Israelis will draw us ever closer to a catastrophe if not stopped immediately,” he says during a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Abbas urges ‘international protection regime’
Abbas calls in Geneva for the creation of a “special regime” for the protection of his people, as a wave of deadly Israeli-Palestinian violence showed no sign of abating.
Abbas calls on the UN, “more urgently than any time before, to set up a special regime for international protection for the Palestinian people, immediately and urgently.”
Soldier seriously hurt in stabbing wakes up
An IDF soldier who was seriously injured in a stabbing attack earlier this week near Hebron regains consciousness in Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital.
The soldier is communicating with his family and gives a detailed account of the attack, according to Channel 2.
During Monday’s attack, he managed to shoot and kill his attacker, who had stabbed him multiple times, including in his neck.
Palestinian town names street for Old City terrorist
The hometown of a Palestinian who stabbed and murdered two Israelis in Jerusalem is naming a street in his honor.
The municipality of Surda-Abu Qash in the northern West Bank announces it will name a street for Muhannad Halabi, Palestinian Media Watch reports, citing an article by Donia Al-Watan, a Palestinian news agency.
Halabi, a 19-year-old law student, was shot dead on October 3 after stabbing Rabbi Nehemiah Lavi and Aharon Banita to death, and injuring Banita’s wife Adele and their 2-year-old son in Jerusalem’s Old City. The street naming was just one of several honors, including an honorary law degree from the Palestinian Authority Bar Association posthumously awarded to Halabi.
“This is the least we can do for Martyr Halabi,” Surda-Abu Qash Mayor Muhammad Hussein says, according to PMW, adding that Halabi “is a pride and badge of honor for the whole village.”
In first, Iran to join Syria peace talks
Iran confirms that it will take part in international talks aimed at resolving the Syria conflict for the first time as a diplomatic push to end the war gains momentum.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif will join his counterparts from Russia, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Turkey in Vienna on Friday for negotiations it is hoped could help staunch almost five years of bloodshed.
The inclusion of Iran — a key backer of President Bashar Assad — marks a crucial shift after Tehran was excluded from earlier talks mainly because of opposition from Washington and Riyadh.
“We have reviewed the invitation, and it was decided that the foreign minister would attend the talks,” Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham says.
Arab MK slams Temple Mount visit
MK Issawi Frej (Meretz) comes out against Joint (Arab) List MK Basel Ghattas’s Temple Mount visit.
“The mix of politics and religion is dangerous and destructive and we obligated to do everything to prevent it,” Frej says. “It doesn’t matter what side of the political spectrum you are from, it doesn’t matter what your name is, anyone who tries to score political points at religious sites is abusing his position as a public servant.”
Six Arab Israelis indicted for firebombings
Six Arab-Israelis are indicted in two separate firebombing attacks on Highway 6.
The six, residents of Tira, are arrested in a joint operation between the Israel Police and Shin Bet. During their interrogation, the six suspects confessed to carrying out the October 5 and October 7 attacks on Israeli vehicles on the highway, the security service says in a statement.
“The Shin Bet and Israel Police take these attacks very seriously, which only by a miracle did not harm anyone or damage property,” it says.
Abbas slams PM’s link of Palestinians to Holocaust
Abbas criticizes Netanyahu for comments suggesting that a World War II-era Palestinian religious leader persuaded the Nazis to carry out a policy that exterminated 6 million Jews.
Speaking to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Abbas deplores Netanyahu’s comments a week earlier referring to Nazi sympathizer Haj Amin al-Husseini, a former grand mufti of Jerusalem. The remarks aimed to illustrate Netanyahu’s belief that Palestinian incitement at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site goes back decades, but set off an uproar instead.
Abbas on Wednesday called the allegations “false, untrue and baseless” and said they manipulate the sentiments of Jews about “the most horrendous crime known in modern history committed by the Nazis.”
Soldiers foil Hebron stabbing, disarm attacker
IDF soldiers thwart a stabbing attack in the West Bank city of Hebron.
The would-be attacker is subdued, according to preliminary reports. His condition is unknown.
Would-be stabber said shot dead
The attacker in Hebron is shot dead by Israeli soldiers as he attempts to stab them near the Tomb of the Patriarchs, Channel 10 reports.
There are no reports of Israeli injuries.
Pope urges greater interfaith collaboration
Pope Francis marks the 50th anniversary of the turning point in the Catholic Church’s relations with Jews and people of other faiths by calling Wednesday for greater interfaith collaboration in the face of religious extremism.
Francis devotes his usual Wednesday general audience to explaining to the Catholic faithful in St. Peter’s Square the importance of the “Nostra Aetate,” or “In Our Time” declaration, which revolutionized the church’s relations in particular with Jews.
The statement was one of the most important documents to emerge from the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meetings that brought the church into the modern world. It said Christ’s death could not be attributed to Jews as a whole, recognized the shared spiritual patrimony between Christians and Jews and decried all forms of anti-Semitism.
Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists are in the VIP seats in the piazza and are treated to a meet-and-greet session with the pope after the general audience ends. The World Jewish Congress has a particularly large delegation, given that its leaders decided to hold their annual conference in Rome to coincide with the anniversary.
In his remarks, Francis says the declaration had transformed Catholic-Jewish relations from “indifference and opposition to collaboration and good will. From enemies and strangers we became friends and brothers.”
He laments that the rise of terrorism had fomented suspicion and condemnation about religion in general. He says that while no religion is immune from fundamentalists, the world must look instead at the “positive values” that religions promote, especially in caring for the neediest.
“We can walk together, taking care of one another and of creation,” he says.
Initial reports of fresh stabbing in West Bank
Preliminary reports are emerging of a stabbing attack in the Etzion bloc in the West Bank. Details to come.
Israeli woman moderately injured in West Bank stabbing
An Israeli woman in her 30s is moderately injured in a stabbing at the Gush Etzion Junction outside the Rami Levy supermarket.
The attacker flees the scene after the stabbing, but is caught and subdued by police. His condition is not yet known, police spokeswoman Luba Samri says.
The attack comes a day after a soldier is stabbed in the same place by two Palestinians. The two attackers were subsequently shot and killed.
— Judah Ari Gross contributed
Stabbing victim evacuated to hospital
Magen David Adom says the stabbing victim, who is 30-40 years old, is in moderate condition.
Paramedics, along with IDF medics who are nearby, treat her on the scene before sending her to Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem for further treatment, Magen David Adom says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Medic says victim ‘fully conscious’ after attack
MDA paramedic Wally Wolfstahl says the stabbing victim was conscious when he arrived.
“When I arrived to the scene, I saw an approximately 40-year-old woman sitting in her vehicle. She was fully conscious and suffering from a stab wound to the upper body. People on the scene told me they put her in the vehicle after she was stabbed by a terrorist. We gave her medical care with the help of IDF medics that arrived on the scene. After giving her first aid in the field, we sent her to the hospital. She is in moderate and stable condition,” he says.
— Judah Ari Gross
A-G urges compensation for Eritrean man killed in attack
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein recommends that the family of the Eritrean man who was killed in the Beersheba bus station after he was mistaken for a terrorist be compensated, the Ynet news website reports.
Haftom Zarhum, aged 29, died in the hospital after he was shot by a security guard who thought he had just taken part in a terror attack that left an Israeli soldier dead and another 11 people wounded. While writhing on the floor, he was repeatedly beaten by an enraged mob.
Since Zarhum entered the country illegally, he was not recognized by Israel as a terror victim. Weinstein, however, maintains that his family ought to receive monetary compensation from the state for their loss.
Russia warns of IS invasion in Central Asia
Russian intelligence on Wednesday warns of an increased risk of Taliban or Islamic State fighters invading Central Asia.
FSB director Alexander Bortnikov said in comments carried by Russian news agencies that a concentration of Taliban fighters, some of whom had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, at Afghanistan’s northern border make the risk of invasion tangible.
Afghanistan shares a porous border with the former Soviet republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan that has been a source of drugs coming into Russia and is a longstanding worry of Moscow’s.
Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month called the situation in Afghanistan “close to critical” and urged other ex-Soviet nations to be prepared to act together to repel a possible attack.
10,000 households still without power
The Israel Electric Corporation says some 10,000 households, primarily in central Israel, remain without power.
Meanwhile, flooding is reported throughout central Israel as heavy rains batter the region.
ראש עיריית הרצליה לחדשות 2 Online: "זו אנרכיה, אנחנו במלחמה, ביזיון ברמה הלאומית" צילום: דוברות כיבוי והצלה הרצליה pic.twitter.com/Xjm4KKai57
— חדשות 2 (@Channel2News) October 28, 2015
Vienna talks to test if Iran, Russia ‘serious’ on Syria — Saudi FM
International talks in Vienna this week will test whether Russia and Iran are “serious” about a political solution to the war in Syria, the Saudi foreign minister says.
“If they’re serious we will know, and if they’re not serious we will also know and stop wasting time with them,” Adel al-Juberi says at a press conference with visiting British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.
Photos from scene of stabbing attack
Photos emerge from the scene of the stabbing attack at the Gush Etzion Junction.
Jewish-Catholic relations ‘better than ever’ — WJC
Marking the 50-year anniversary of the landmark declaration by which the Vatican ended centuries of officially condoned anti-Semitism and urged bridge-building with all other faiths, the World Jewish Congress says Jewish-Catholic relations are “better than ever.”
“What has happened since ‘Nostra Aetate’ is nothing short of a miracle,” Ronald Lauder, the president of the WJC, says at a press conference in Rome, adding that 150 Jewish leaders had attended the papal audience.
“Relations between Catholics and Jews on many levels, not just the highest, are now better than ever.”
The document, adopted by cardinals and bishops around the world, also reached out to Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims.
— AFP contributed
We must not get used to terror — Liberman
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman says Israelis must not accept daily terror attacks on civilians.
“We must not get used to terror,” he says. “Just as they tried to have us get used to the ‘trickle’ of rockets from Gaza, now they are trying to have us live with daily knife attacks. In both cases, these are serious failings of a government that cannot grant security for its citizens. We cannot accept this and we must demand that the government combat terror without compromise.”
Venezuela elected to Human Rights Council
Venezuela is elected to the UN Human Rights Council, in a move slammed by Israel as “absurd.”
“There is no limit to the absurdity — Venezuela is the greatest ally of Iran and North Korea,” says Israeli envoy to the UN Danny Danon, according to a Hebrew statement. “You should remember this day the next time you hear that the council condemned Israel. When a state like this — that oppresses its citizens with violence, limits freedom of the press for journalists and jails those opposed to the regime — sits on the council, it isn’t surprising that the council chooses to condemn Israel more than any other country in the world.”
MKs vote to make Arabic compulsory in schools
Israeli lawmakers vote to make Arabic classes compulsory for students from the age of six, in a move backers hope would help improve ties between Israeli Jews and Arabs.
Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, votes unanimously in favor of the bill in a first reading on Wednesday, with about half of all deputies in attendance.
It will now be studied in committee before returning to parliament for a second vote.
The bill was introduced by lawmaker Oren Hazan, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party, who says it is meant to reach out to Arab Israelis.
“Language is a door to culture,” he tells AFP. “I am looking reality in the eyes and I understand there is no possibility to walk to peace without understanding each other.”
Rivlin says he fears for democracy, not his life
President Reuven Rivlin says he doesn’t fear for his life or that of his wife, but he does fear for Israel’s democracy.
The president was responding to a perceived threat by Hagai Amir, brother and accomplice to the killer of ex-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, on Facebook. Amir was arrested on Tuesday and freed to house arrest on Wednesday.
“I do not fear for my life. My wife is also not afraid,” says Rivlin. “We fear for democracy.”
The president says that he backs the legal system’s interpretation of the line between free speech and incitement in Israel.
Israel offending 1.5 billion Muslims — Qatari FM
Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid Al Attiyah tells Al-Jazeera that the Israeli “provocation” on the Temple Mount is offending 1.5 billion Muslims.
“You are offending 1.5 billion Muslims when you are talking about the Masjid Al Aqsa…and we have raised the flag before,” he says, referring to the Temple Mount compound which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The foreign minister terms the violence in the West Bank “dangerous” and a “third intifada,” and says it could turn into “the worst intifada” thus far.
“The people who went to the street… [were] born after the Oslo Treaty and they saw there is no hope,” he says.
British MP says Palestinian stabbing attacks ‘fabricated’
Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman says Israel “fabricated” most of the stabbing attacks against Israelis and said “Jewish money” was influencing the Conservative Party to support Israel.
According to the Jewish Chronicle, Kaufman read out a letter from a friend in East Jerusalem with the following accusations:
“More than half the stabbing claims were definitely fabricated. The other half, some were true, the others there was no way to tell since they executed Palestinians and no one asked questions.
“Not only that, they got to the point of executing Arab-looking people and in the past few days they killed two Jewish Israelis and an Eritrean just because they looked Arab.
“They fabricated a stabbing story to justify the killings before they found out they were not Palestinians.”
Kaufman also says “Jewish money” has made Conservative Party pro-Israel.
“It’s Jewish money, Jewish donations to the Conservative Party – as in the general election in May – support from the Jewish Chronicle, all of those things, bias the Conservatives. There is now a big group of Conservative members of parliament who are pro-Israel whatever government does and they are not interested in what Israel, in what the Israeli government does.
“They’re not interested in the fact that Palestinians are living a repressed life, and are liable to be shot at any time. In the last few days alone the Israelis have murdered 52 Palestinians and nobody pays attention and this government doesn’t care.”
Kerry set to speak on US policy in Mideast
US Secretary of State John Kerry is set to address US policy in the Middle East.
Watch the speech live below.
Kerry says US wants to help ‘builders’ in Mideast
Opening speech, Kerry says he’s not “going to be as passionate as he wants to be” in his address, due to mild laryngitis and to save his voice for Vienna meetings.
“It’s an understatement to say today that we’re facing a very different world, a world of remarkable complexity,” he says.
“A world of violence that is not state-on-state, it is non-state actors who are confounding states and the global order,” he says.
Kerry says the US is “more deeply engaged today” in more places, “with more impact” than ever before in its history.
Kerry speaks of Rabin assassination and quotes eulogies by King Hussein on peace and by Rabin’s granddaughter Noa.
“Beyond the cold statistics, beyond the headlines in the daily newspapers… there is humanity. There is humanity of people like us,” he says. He says beyond complexities, there is a struggle “between people who want to open wounds” and “those that want to close them” and heal.
He says the struggle between destroyers and builders is focus of US policy in the region.
“Our goal is to help ensure that builders and healers” have opportunities to accomplish tasks, he says.
Kerry says it would be “directly and profoundly contrary” to US interests to shy away from Mideast intervention.
He says that 9/11 taught the US that regional conflicts turn into larger conflicts quickly.
‘Palestinians, Israelis don’t have faith in leaders’
“The Middle East matters, and it matters way beyond oil,” says Kerry.
“My friends, the potential of this region to be a driving financial center… is simply extraordinary,” he says.
He says the Mideast has “the world’s greatest tourist attractions,” and “has something there for anybody.”
He says neighboring countries are “eager to trade” with Middle East countries.
“Sadly, we have become so accustomed to problems in Middle East,” that we forget its “opportunity.”
He says all people are losing faith in leaders. “Palestinians don’t have belief, Israelis don’t have belief,” he says.
Kerry urges better leadership, and says governments must seize current opportunities without elaborating.
‘Israelis, Palestinians have to be secure’ — Kerry
Kerry says region’s future depends on younger generation.
“Outcome of race between frustration and opportunity” among young people will determine face of Middle East, he says.
He says governments can’t “fake it” and can’t pretend conflicts “will resolve themselves.”
Kerry says the US “believes deeply in the future of the region,” and therefore remains deeply engaged.
The US secretary says “Israelis have to be secure, Palestinians have to be secure, the people in Gaza have to be secure, everyone has to be secure.”
Turning back to builders vs. destroyers delineation, he says: “If the builders succeed, they need to be protected… and America’s security strategy in the Middle East” is to ensure this, he says.
Kerry says Iran sticking to nuclear deal
Kerry discusses the Iran deal, and stresses that Iran has kept its side of the deal since the interim deal. “You haven’t heard of major breaches, because it’s adhered to.”
He says he hopes those opposed to the deal and those in favor will unite to ensure the deal is implemented.
Kerry says Iran deal “was the right thing to do whether or not it leads to other areas of cooperation.”
He says there is an “unprecedented” level of cooperation with Israel on military and intelligence. “We also support Israel’s right to defend itself and its citizens,” he adds.
Kerry says Mideast allies says all agree on ending violence in Israel and “making it clear that the status quo at the Temple Mount… will not be changed.”
He says the violence “hurts everyone.”
“I can’t imagine the notion of just throwing up your hands and walking away and just saying good luck,” he says of stalled peace talks.
He says Israel must create opportunities and Palestinian leaders must cease incitement “and offer something more than rhetoric.”
“Propose solutions that will contribute in a real way,” he urges the Palestinian leaders.
Two-state solution the only ‘viable alternative’ — Kerry
“Firm and creative leadership on both sides is absolutely essential,” continues Kerry. “A two-state solution with strong security protections remains the only viable alternative and for anybody who thinks otherwise, you can measure what unitary looks like by just looking at what’s been going on just in the last weeks.”
He says the US remains “absolutely prepared to do what we can to make that two-state, two peoples living side-by-side in peace and security, to make it possible.”
Kerry says IS fight will take years
Kerry says Islamic State must be destroyed, but says “we said from the beginning that it would be a multi-year effort.”
“We’ve already accomplished a lot,” he says.
‘To defeat IS, have to end Syria war’ — Kerry
“To defeat Daesh, we have to end the war in Syria — and that is America’s goal,” says Kerry, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.
The civil war is “four-and-a-half years of non-stop horror,” and “hell,” Kerry says.
He says Syria needs “a political transition that sidelines Assad.”
Ending Syrian war won’t be easy, Kerry says
Kerry says that in Vienna he had a “remarkable session” with Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United States that “broke some new ground” on ending the Syria war.
He says Iran will join meetings. Kerry says ending war won’t be “automatic” or “easy,” but says political solution is the best option.
“Syria can only be saved through a political settlement,” Kerry says.
“To skeptics who say democracy can’t succeed in the Middle East and North Africa, I reply with one word: Tunisia,” Kerry says to applause. He says birthplace of Arab Spring hasn’t turned into “paradise” but is a place where leaders “from opposing factions are willing to put the interests of their nation above personal ambitions.”
He says Tunisia “is showing what it means to be builders in the Middle East.”
Kerry says Mideast ‘pulsating with life’
Kerry makes a “plea” in wrapping up his speech.
“Please do not accept the view of some that the Middle East must inevitably be divided along sectarian lines, especially between Sunni and Shia Muslims,” he says.
Kerry says this “simplistic and cynical view is not only not true historically, is not true today.”
Switching back to the “horrible evening” in which Rabin was killed, Kerry says that as the prime minister walked toward “his car, and his killer, there was a sheet of paper in his pocket that would soon be stained with blood. And on the paper were the words to ‘shir lashalom,’ the song of peace.”
“The Middle East today is still marred by the sounds and spectacle of violence, but it need not be, because the region is also pulsating with life. It is the home of populations that are youthful, energetic, forward looking… it is in them that we place our faith, it is for them… that we dedicate our collective efforts and it is with them that the US is determined to turn back the destroyers and build a future characterized by prosperity, peace, and by dignity for all people.
“That is a worthy fight,” he concludes.