The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s developments as they unfolded.
Russia brushes off US criticism over Iran base use
The Russian foreign minister is rejecting allegations that Russia’s use of Iranian military bases for airstrikes in Syria violates any UN sanctions on Iran.
Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday rejects allegations by US State Department spokesman Mark Toner, who the day before said Russia’s operation out of Iran could violate the UN resolution that prohibits the supply, sale and transfer of combat aircraft to Iran unless approved by the Security Council.
Lavrov says “there has been no supply, sale or transfer of combat jets to Iran” and insisted that the Russian Air Force’s presence in Iran is only about using its facilities.
The minister also calls on the US not to “nitpick about what is happening in terms of the remaining restrictions on trade and ties with Iran.”
Turkey to release 38,000 prisoners to make room for coup detainees
Turkey issues a decree Wednesday paving the way for the conditional release of some 38,000 prisoners, the justice minister says — an apparent move to reduce its prison population to make space for thousands of people who have been arrested as part of an investigation into last month’s failed coup.
The government decree, issued under Turkey’s three-month long state of emergency that was declared following the coup, allows the release of inmates who have two years or less to serve of their prison terms and makes convicts who have served half of their prison term eligible for parole. Some prisoners are excluded from the measures: people convicted of murder, domestic violence, sexual abuse or terrorism and other crimes against the state.
The measures would not apply for crimes committed after July 1, excluding any people later convicted of involvement in the failed July 15 coup.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag says on his Twitter account the measure would lead to the release of some 38,000 people. He insists it was not a pardon or an amnesty but a conditional release of prisoners.
The government says the attempted coup, which led to at least 270 deaths, was carried out by followers of the movement led by US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen who have infiltrated the military and other state institutions. Gulen has denied any prior knowledge or involvement in the coup but Turkey is demanding that the United States extradite him.
Turkey demands Germany explain ‘Islamist platform’ claim
Turkey says it wants a clarification from Berlin over reports in Germany about a confidential government document that says Turkey has become a platform of action for Islamist groups.
The document, first reported by ARD public television and obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday, was contained in a classified section of a reply from the German Interior Ministry to questions from an opposition party.
A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement on Wednesday dismisses the reports as the “work of the distorted mentality” in Germany that aims to harm Turkey.
The ministry insists Turkey is a country that fights “all forms of terrorism with sincerity.”
The German document, dated August 10, cited “numerous statements of solidarity and supportive actions” for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Islamist opposition groups in Syria.
Trump shakes up senior campaign staff — reports
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has again shaken up his senior campaign staff, appointing a conservative website executive and a pollster to head his team amid sinking poll numbers, news reports early Wednesday say.
Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of the influential Breitbart News site, will serve as the campaign’s chief executive.
Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, a longtime Republican pollster, will become campaign manager.
The moves were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman who in recent days has come under scrutiny for his links to the pro-Russia former president of Ukraine, will remain in his current role, the reports say.
“I want to win,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday night after disclosing the staffing changes. “That’s why I’m bringing on fantastic people who know how to win and love to win.”
Conway confirms the moves to The New York Times, but denied they constituted a shake-up.
“It’s an expansion at a busy time in the final stretch of the campaign,” she tells the newspaper.
Israel reconciliation deal said submitted to Turkish parliament
The reconciliation deal with Israel is submitted to the Turkish parliament for the final approval, Reuters reports.
Once ratified, Israel will pay Turkey compensation over the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident and diplomatic ties between the two countries will be fully restored.
Israelis getting married later — survey
The average marriage age has climbed to 27.6 for men and 25 for women in 2014, Ynet reports, citing a report by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
In 1970, the average age for Israelis tying the knot was 21 for women, 25 for men.
As a result, in 2014, 65% of men and 50% of women ages 25-29 were unmarried, it says.
The figures are released ahead of Tu B’Av, the Jewish/Israeli day of love.
Jerusalem rabbinical court seeks cap on ketubah alimony pledges
Jerusalem’s regional rabbinical court asks Israel’s chief rabbinate to set a 1 million shekel limit on the compensation that Jewish grooms may prenuptially pledge to pay their wives in case of a divorce.
The unusual request earlier this month follows a divorce in which a man’s ex-wife demanded he pay her NIS 555,555 (roughly $145,000) because that was the sum he pledged to pay on his ketubah – the Hebrew-language name for a marriage contract conforming to Orthodox Jewish law, the news site NRG reported Monday.
Her ex-husband argued he made the pledge as a testament of his love and appreciation for her, not thinking it would be legally binding. But in Israel, where rabbinical and other religious tribunals act as family courts within the framework of the judiciary, ketubot are admissible as a prenuptial agreement.
Many grooms pledge sums they cannot afford, attaching many zeros to the number 18, which is associated with life because of Jewish numerology, or to 555,555, which is especially popular among Sephardic Jews who believe it is lucky. The custom of reading out the ketubah to the wedding guests adds incentive to name high figures, which the court defined as unrealistic.
The panel of three rabbinical judges, or dayanim, reviewing the divorce case in question was divided, with one dayan ruling in favor of the ex-wife’s demand. But his colleagues were of the opinion the ex-husband should not be made to pay the full sum. The rabbinical court, or beit din, finally awarded the woman the equivalent of $31,600 from her ex-husband, or NIS 120,000.
In the regional beth din’s request to the rabbinate to set a 1 million shekel cap on ketubah pledges, the dayanim demonstrated that unrealistic undertakings date back centuries. They quoted a senior dayan in Morocco, Rabbi Shaul Even Danan, who 200 years ago denounced the custom.
“The unwanted addition to custom of the inflated ketubot, which has spread through our lands reaching the millions, has become a laughable matter. Paupers without so much as a slice of bread to their name cannot be trusted to pay even a fraction of what they commit to paying – an action which is tantamount to lying outright,” he writes.
Palestinians bring diplomats to West Bank to highlight demolition fears
The Palestinian Authority brings foreign diplomats to a school in the West Bank to highlight what it says is a renewed threat of demolition by Israel.
The school for Bedouin children was slated for demolition and highlights the battle over 60 percent of the West Bank that remains under exclusive Israeli control, known as Area C.
Palestinian Education Minister Sabri Seidam urges diplomats Wednesday to “help in protecting the school.”
Palestinian arrested over last week’s Jerusalem stabbing
A Palestinian teenager is arrested in connection with Thursday’s stabbing attack in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of A-Tur, the Shin Bet security agency says.
The suspect is identified as Ahmad Na’im A’shayer, 19. He is also suspected of hurling firebombs and firecrackers at security services on April 15, the Shin Bet says.
The Palestinian lightly-to-moderately injured a Jewish teenager after stabbing him with a “sharpened plank” on Thursday, near the Mount of Olives cemetery.
Jerusalem pride parade killer hospitalized after prison brawl, again
Yishai Schlissel, who is serving a life sentence for the July 2015 murder of Shira Banki at the Jerusalem pride parade, is hospitalized after he is involved in a brawl in prison.
The convicted murderer was involved in another prison fight earlier this month, which also left him hospitalized with unspecified injuries.
Norway opens $1 billion credit line for Iran
Iran says Wednesday that Norway had offered the Islamic Republic a $1 billion credit line following a meeting between their foreign ministers in Tehran.
Borge Brende and Mohammad Javad Zarif signed three “export credit” deals aimed at funding “development and infrastructure projects,” Iran’s foreign ministry says in a statement.
Iran has struggled to tap international finance as many banks fear US penalties if they do business with the Islamic republic.
“After the lifting of sanctions, good opportunities have emerged for cooperation and Norway is ready to utilize the post-deal situation to expand cooperation in various fields,” Brende says, according to the official IRNA news agency.
The Norwegian minister met other top officials during his one-day visit, including Supreme National Security Council secretary Ali Shamkhani, before leaving for Pakistan.
Ahead of first briefing, Trump disses US intelligence
Donald Trump expresses distrust of US intelligence as he prepares to get his first intelligence briefing Wednesday.
The Republican presidential nominee says the intelligence services have made “such bad decisions.”
Asked whether he trusts intelligence, Trump tells Fox News: “Not so much from the people that have been doing it for our country, I mean look what’s happened over the last 10 years … it’s been catastrophic.”
One of Trump’s advisers, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, was the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. He will accompany Trump to the briefing.
Trump says he will choose different advisers than “sort of your standards.”
Democrats have expressed concerns about Trump receiving sensitive information, but Trump says Hillary Clinton is the one who “can’t keep anything private.”
German police arrest man over suspected bomb plot
German police on Wednesday arrest a 27-year-old man on suspicion that he was planning a bomb attack, local authorities say.
“There are suspicions that an explosive attack was being prepared,” says a spokeswoman for the regional government of Brandenburg.
Investigators are still searching the suspect’s apartment, says the spokeswoman, adding that witnesses said the man “had converted to Islam.”
Belgium hunts cousin of Brussels attacks brothers
Belgian authorities are hunting a cousin of the El Bakraoui brothers who blew themselves up in the Brussels airport and metro attacks, a source close to the inquiry says Wednesday.
Oussama Atar, who spent years in jail in Iraq before returning to Belgium in 2012, is wanted on suspicion of involvement in the March 22 Islamic State-claimed bombings, the source tells AFP on condition of anonymity, confirming Belgian media reports.
Police arrested Atar’s mother, sister and one of his friends during raids in Brussels on August 11 but released them shortly afterwards, says the source who was not authorized to speak on the record.
Investigators have “very strong” suspicions that Belgian-Moroccan national Atar was linked to the attacks in which his cousins Ibrahim and Khalid El Bakraoui blew themselves up with a third bomber, killing 32 people, the source says.
Atar was one of the “most wanted in Belgium and even in Europe,” the source adds.
NY family says school made disabled child sign terrorism confession
The family of a 12-year-old Muslim special-needs student in New York says in a civil rights lawsuit that school officials forced him to sign a false confession saying he was a terrorist.
According to Newsday, the lawsuit says bullies called seventh-grader Nashwan Uppal a terrorist and asked when he was going to blow up their East Islip school.
His family says because of his learning disability, Nashwan mimicked the older students and replied that he would “blow up the school fence.”
The lawsuit says school officials screamed at Nashwan and ordered him to confess that he was “part of ISIS,” an acronym for the Islamic State group, and “knew how to make bombs.” It says his mother was told he was being suspended for criminal activity.”
The school district declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.
3 soldiers court-martialed for hurling stun grenade at Palestinians
Three soldiers have been court-martialed after unnecessarily throwing a smoke grenade at a group of young Palestinian men in the northern West Bank, an army spokesperson says.
The sergeant responsible for the unit is found by his battalion commander to have acted “contrary to what is expected of him,” an army spokesperson says.
He has been sentenced to prison, though it is not yet clear for how long, while the other two have been confined to their base by their battalion commander.
In a video, which was released on Palestinian social media on Tuesday, the soldiers can be seen driving up to the group of men and throwing a small object at them.
The Palestinians, seeing the device, panic and run away, knocking over chairs, before the device explodes in a flash of light and smoke.
Initially, the incident was incorrectly said to have taken place in Ramallah. In fact, it happened in Kafr Laqif, a village southwest of Nablus, the army says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Unveiling new plan, Liberman seeks to bypass PA
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announces a plan to increase benefits for Palestinian villages in the West Bank from which no terrorists have emerged as an incentive to curb the nearly year-long wave of violence, while sanctioning the hometowns of terrorists.
He reiterates his opposition to returning the bodies of terrorists for burial and says if Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit won’t defend the practice to the High Court of Justice, he would step in.
The defense minister also slams the Palestinian Authority and says the ministry will work to engage with the Palestinians directly.
“We can have dialogue without Abu Mazen [Abbas] because he obstructs and is unhelpful,” says Liberman, according to Israel Radio.
Israeli composer Nachum Heiman dies at 82
Israeli composer Nachum Heiman has died in a hospital in Kfar Saba at the age of 82.
Netanyahu pays tribute to the Hebrew songwriter and Israel Prize recipient, calling him “is one of the greatest songwriters the State of Israel has had.”
“The songs that he left behind have planted in our hearts the love of the homeland and people and will accompany Israel for generations to come — like a wildflower,” says Netanyahu, referring to one of Heiman’s most famous works, “Like a Wildflower,” sung by Chava Alberstein.
Tributes pour in for iconic songwriter Heiman
Israeli politicians mourn the death of iconic songwriter Nachum Heiman, praising his contributions to Israeli music and hailing the Israel Prize winner as a man who instilled the “love of the land” among Israelis.
President Reuven Rivlin says Heiman was “a man who knew how to compose all our emotions. He composed the Israeli tune for [its] earth, nature, the Israeli sun, to the stalks, the sea, and the accordion that appeared to be created for him.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett says Heiman “paved the path of the love of the beautiful land of Israel for my generation.”
“Thank you for everything you gave. We will remember you always, we will always sing your [songs],” Bennett adds.
Zionist Union MK Merav Michaeli pays tribute to the “talented composer who was a partner in writing the music about our lives in this beautiful, beloved, complicated land.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein says there are “not many [people] like Nachum Heiman who left such a deep mark on Israeli music.”
A-G says no justification for holding Palestinian bodies
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit says there is no justification for Israel’s practice of holding the bodies of Palestinian terrorists.
Mandelblit says that the heads of the various security agencies have reviewed the issues and determined that there are no “security conditions” that “justify the total prevention of returning bodies.”
— Judah Ari Gross
Ex-PM Barak launches scathing attack on Netanyahu
Ehud Barak launches an attack on Netanyahu, saying the prime minister is “weak” and “afraid,” and claims he recently mismanaged a challenge to Israel’s security — but says he cannot elaborate on the matter.
Barak accuses Netanyahu of “hesitation and zigzagging… pessimism, passiveness, panic and helplessness.”
“Netanyahu is regarded as a weak person, with a talent for deception,” who squanders opportunities to bolster Israel’s security, Barak says.
Barak says there’s “also a heavy price in another incident in which, again, [there was a] worrisome combination of inability to judge deep security interests… a lack of internalization of the cooperation potential with the United States, as well as careless operational behavior.”
“All these led to a most troubling exposure of Israel to a key security challenge. Due to the sensitivity of the matter I won’t be able to clarify further,” he says.
Barak says Netanyahu is only concerned about his own political survival, something he predicts will soon come under threat.