The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.
15,000 security on hand for massive Istanbul rally
ISTANBUL — Crowds are gathering in Istanbul for a massive rally to mark the end of nightly democracy demonstrations following Turkey’s abortive July 15 coup that killed over 270 people.
Sunday’s “Democracy and Martyrs’ Rally” aims to represent Turkish unity, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urging attendees to bring only the Turkish flag instead of party banners. He says “there we will stand together as a single nation, a single flag, a single motherland, a single state, a single spirit.”
The event will be attended by the highest levels of Turkish leadership and two of Turkey’s three opposition parties. The pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party, or HDP, was not invited.
Nearly 15,000 police will be providing security at the event, which the state-run Anadolu news agency estimates could be attended by millions.
Ultra-nationalist Jerusalem soccer fans charged
Prosecutors have charged 19 members of the ultra-nationalist La Familia group of Beitar Jerusalem soccer supporters with a litany of crimes, including attempted murder and racist actions, news site Ynet reports.
The move comes about two weeks after police rounded up over 40 members of the group in a large raid, confiscating weapons and other materials.
Charges include attempted murder of a Hapoel Tel Aviv fan, great bodily injury, aggravated fraud, racist crimes, criminal use of a weapon and offenses related to the law against sports violence, according to the report.
More charges are expected in the coming days, the site reports.
Iran confirms it hanged nuke scientist for handing over info
An Iranian judicial spokesman says the country executed a nuclear scientist convicted of handing over “top secret” information to the United States.
“Shahram Amiri was hanged for revealing the country’s top secrets to the enemy (US),” Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejeie is quoted as saying by the Mizan Online news site.
Amiri disappeared in Saudi Arabia in June 2009 and resurfaced a year later in the United States. Iranian officials welcomed him on his return to Iran shortly after but there has been little information released since.
His family said he was executed on August 3 and that they had been allowed to visit him the day before, according to local press reports over the weekend.
Belgium says machete attack to be probed as terror
Belgium’s prime minister has announced a “terror” probe into a machete attack that wounded two policewomen, in what appeared to be the latest in a string of jihadist attacks in Europe.
“We have been informed by federal prosecutors that an investigation has started for attempted terrorist murder… given certain elements [in the case],” Charles Michel tells reporters.
The prime minister is referring to the attacker’s cry of “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) during the assault in front of a police station.
Pope says Syrian children paying price of war
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis says civilian victims of Syria’s civil war are paying the price for the “the lack of desire for peace by the powerful.”
The pope, speaking Sunday after the traditional Angelus prayer, said that “it’s unacceptable that so many helpless — including many children — must pay the price of the conflict, the price of closed hearts and the lack of desire for peace by the powerful.”
He cites in particular the suffering around Aleppo, which is at the center of a battle between the rebels and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.
The Syrian government seized the only route into rebel-held areas in northern Aleppo last month, prompting a rebel counteroffensive from the city’s south. The UN said 300,000 people were trapped, making Aleppo one of the largest besieged areas in Syria.
Rebels earlier in the day said they had breached the siege imposed by the Syrian government on opposition neighborhoods in the northern city, a major military breakthrough after intense fighting.
— Jenan Moussa (@jenanmoussa) August 7, 2016
A broad coalition of rebel groups posted videos Sunday of fighters roaming the Ramouseh district, where the siege was breached following overnight clashes. The district houses a number of military colleges.
The war media arm of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the group fighting alongside the Syrian government, conceded the rebels’ advance, adding that airstrikes leveled one of the military colleges after forces withdrew.
Police stop trains between TA University and Bnei Brak
Train service between Tel Aviv University and Bnei Brak stations has been cut in both directions because of an undisclosed “police action,” several Hebrew-language media outlets reports.
It is not immediately clear what the cause of the stoppage is.
The move is likely to affect commuters traveling between northern Tel Aviv and the city’s northeastern suburbs.
Police confirm trains stopped for manhunt
A police spokesperson confirms they have stopped train service between Tel Aviv and Bnei Brak as officers search for a suspect who is believed to be hiding in northern Tel Aviv or Ramat Gan.
Police have not indicated when train service is expected to continue, but say they will update the public “if there are additional details.”
— Judah Ari Gross
Report: Police searching for terrorist in north Tel Aviv
The man police are hunting for in North Tel Aviv is a member of the Islamic Jihad terror group suspected of planning an attack, according to Channel 10 news.
The report names the suspect as Jenin resident Mustafa Salah, 42.
There is no confirmation from police on the identity of the suspect.
German ‘attacker’ found dozing in restaurant basement
An injured man who barricaded himself in a restaurant in the western German city of Saarbruecken on Sunday morning was later found asleep in the basement of the building and detained, police said.
Wiesbaden police also say the 43-year-old man, who was not identified, didn’t have a weapon as authorities had initially reported.
Police spokesman Kurt Schwindling says the man, a relative of the restaurant owner, had initially entered the place, screamed at security staff and sent them outside. Schwindling says the man was probably suffering from psychological problems.
It was not clear why the man was injured.
Germany has been on edge after seeing several attacks in the last month.
Train service resumes, suspect still on loose
Train service has returned between Tel Aviv University and Bnei Brak, polcie say, after shutting the rail for about half an hour during a hunt for a reported terror suspect.
However, police say they have yet to locate the suspect, who is reportedly a Palestinian member of the Islamic Jihad terror group from Jenin.
Police do not confirm the suspect’s identity.
— Judah Ari Gross
Relative of Hebdo killer arrested trying to enter Syria
A relative of one of the jihadist killers of journalists at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has been arrested in Turkey on his way to Syria, a judicial source says.
Mourad Hamyd, brother-in-law of Cherif Kouachi who was behind the January 2015 attack in Paris that killed 12, was detained in Turkey last month on suspicion of seeking to enter Syria, the source says.
Hamyd, wrongly identified on social media in the aftermath of the attack as being one of three Charlie Hebdo killers, was denied entry to Turkey and sent to a detention center in Bulgaria on July 28, the source adds.
The source said French anti-terrorist investigators are preparing a European arrest warrant for Hamyd.
Hamyd came under initial suspicion of acting as the brothers’ getaway driver and he was briefly detained before being released without charge.
He later told AFP in an interview he was shocked by the killings, which he described as “a horrible crime.”
Death toll in freak Macedonian storm hits 20
The death toll around the Macedonian capital of Skopje has reached 20, after fierce storms packing strong winds and torrential rains lashed the area overnight.
The freak weather included winds blowing at more than 70 kilometers (43 miles) an hour and resulted in flash floods and landslides, with cars swept away by the violent torrents.
Weather officials say the average rainfall for the whole of August fell on Skopje in the space of just two hours.
“Unfortunately, 20 people have died,” says Health Minister Nikola Todorov, who is coordinating rescue operations.
Local media reports that about 100 others suffered injuries, most of them minor, while a hospital source tells AFP that an 8-year-old girl is among the dead.
Saudi Arabian forfeits Olympic judo match, possibly to avoid Israeli
In Rio, where the second day of Olympic Games are getting underway, Saudi Arabian Joud Fahmy forfeits her first round judo match against Christianne Legentil from Mauritius, perhaps to avoid the possibility of facing Israeli Gili Cohen in the next round.
Cohen and Legentil are slated to face off in the 52 kg round of 16 competition in the next hour.
On the men’s side, Israeli Golan Pollack is readying to match up against Mathews Punza from Zambia in the 66kg competition.
IS claims Belgium attacker as its own
The Islamic State has claimed the man who attacked and wounded two policewomen with a machete in Belgium as one of its soldiers, according to the terror group’s Aamaq news agency.
The response mirrors other statements from Aamaq claiming previous terror attacks in Europe.
— Rita Katz (@Rita_Katz) August 7, 2016
At the same time, Belgian prosecutors say the man was an Algerian national known to police for criminal offenses but not terrorism.
The two police officers survived the attack but the assailant was shot dead.
The 33-year-old attacker, identified by the initials K.B., had been living in Belgium since 2012, the federal prosecutor’s office says in a statement.
— with AFP
Israeli judoka Pollack knocked out in shock upset
Israeli judoka Golan Pollack has been eliminated just over a minute into his opening match against Zambian Mathews Punza, in a massive upset.
Punza managed to get the heavily favored Pollack on the floor and hold him there, clinching the requisite 100 points and moving to the next round.
The loss for Pollack continues Israel’s poor showing thus far in the Rio Games.
Lebanese Olympics head rebuked for bus bust-up with Israel
The head of Lebanon’s Olympic Committee has been summoned by the Games organizers for a dressing down following a kerfuffle with the Israeli delegation after they were told to share a bus to the opening ceremony Friday night, Israeli news site Walla reports, citing the head of the Israeli committee.
The Lebanese delegation refused to allow the Israeli players to board the bus, leading to a spat that injected politics into the Games’ opening.
Eventually organizers put Israel on a separate bus.
According to the report, the Lebanese were warned against repeating the gesture or anything like it, a warning likely intend to reverberate against other teams who normally chafe at having to share sporting space with Israel.
The Lebanese official, for his part, says the tiff was a simple misunderstanding, according to the report.
Police continuing ‘low intensity search’ for Tel Aviv suspect
Israel Police are continuing their search for a suspect in the Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan area, albeit at “low intensity,” a spokesperson says.
Officers have focused their search on the area surrounding the Meymadion water park in Ramat Gan.
Police will not yet officially reveal the suspect’s identity or what he is accused of.
Earlier reports indicated he may have been a terror suspect.
— Judah Ari Gross
Judoka Gili Cohen booted by Mauritius
Israeli judoka Gili Cohen loses to Christianne Legentil of Mauritius in the Women’s 52kg tournament, failing to score a point in the round of 16 matchup.
The loss is the latest in a string of disappointments for Israel’s Olympic delegation thus far.
Israel’s next hope for Olympic glory will be in about an hour as Shani Bloch hops on her bike for the women’s Road Race Cycling competition.
Elite commando unit cited for anti-terror fight
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot has decided to award the Duvdevan commando unit with a citation of excellence for their “nonstop efforts” in combating terrorism in the West Bank, the army says.
Throughout the past year, which marked a considerable uptick in the number of attacks, the elite unit, which often operates undercover, has played a dominant role in counterterrorism, the IDF says.
“The unit has taken part in hundreds of operations, under complex fighting conditions, with the goal of arresting suspects, foiling terror attacks and striking a blow at the terrorist infrastructure,” the army says in a statement.
A video compiled by the army to mark the occassion shows the unit carrying out operations in homes and urban areas of the West Bank.
“The Duvdevan unit has developed and made use of specialized weaponry that has strengthened its operational effectiveness and increased the capabilities of undercover soldiers,” the army adds.
The date of the award ceremony has not yet been announced.
— Judah Ari Gross
Kasich says he can’t support Trump or Clinton
Ohio Gov. John Kasich says he has no idea how he’ll vote come November because he doesn’t support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. He also says he isn’t sure whether Trump can win Ohio if he remains so divisive.
Kasich, who lost the GOP primary to Trump and shunned the Republican National Convention in his home state, tells CNN’s “State of the Union” that four years of Hillary Clinton would mean “total gridlock.”
But Kasich says he can’t swing behind Trump either, and that any candidate who wants to win his support has to “operate in the light,” and not on the “dark side of the street.”
Turks paint Istanbul red with massive unity rally
Istanbul’s Yenikapi meeting area by the Marmara Sea waterfront in Istanbul’s European side is a sea of red as millions of flag-waving Turks gather for a “Democracy and Martyrs’ Rally,” meant to mark the end of pro-democracy demonstrations following a failed coup.
Religious leaders and two of Turkey’s three opposition parties are attending the event, aimed to represent Turkish unity and billed as a cross-party event.
A 60-meter (200-foot) stage has been set up for the event, framed by two platforms and draped with massive national flags and banners depicting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkey’s founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. A roll call of those who died opposing the coup is read out as the event begins.
Crowds formed hours before the official start of the rally on Sunday afternoon, with people braving scorching temperatures as they wait to hear speeches from Erdogan and Turkey’s top political leadership. Construction cranes suspend giant Turkish flags beside the meeting area, while flag-draped boats and yachts zip back and forth along the water.
Nearly 15,000 police are providing security at the event. Anti-aircraft batteries are also set up at the event grounds, while two helicopters circle overhead.
Likud minister tries to get rapper uninvited from party
Minister Tzahi Hanegbi has reportedly asked the director of his Likud party to look into forbidding ultra-nationalist rapper Yoav Eliasi from joining the party.
The move comes hours after Hanegbi said he would not allow Eliasi, known better as The Shadow, to join Likud “since his views do not match up with the party’s.”
Eliasi earlier said Hanegbi’s graft conviction and time with the Kadima party disqualified him from passing judgement, saying the minister was afraid of him.
“This is a fascist attempt to remove me,” Eliasi told Channel 2.
Eliasi’s announcement late last week that he would join the party invited scorn by more moderate elements within the right-wing Likud.
The outspoken Eliasi has rejected the criticism, calling those against him leftists and vowing to return the party to “the true right.”
Clinton doubles lead over Trump post conventions
With the dust settled following both party’s conventions, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has emerged with an eight-point lead over the GOP’s Donald Trump, according to a new Washington Post poll.
The 50 percent to 42% advantage doubles the 4-point lead Clinton held in mid-July, before the two parties conventions.
Among likely voters, Clinton leads 51% to 44% and in a four-way race with Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Jill Stein, she leads 45% to 37%.
Ministers Deri, Erdan form committee to kick out BDSers
A new interministerial committee is being launched to hunt down and deport anti-Israel protesters as well as keeping others from entering the country, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan announce.
The committee will focus its work on supporters of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement which seeks to put Israel on a global black list and which has become a main target of Israeli government policies in recent months.
The two decided on the formation of the committee during a meeting earlier Sunday, according to a statement from police spokesperson Luba Samri.
The police force falls under the aegis of the Public Security Ministry.
The statement accuses dozens of anti-Israel groups of operating in the country to gather information to be used in “delegitimizing” Israel, and activists in the West Bank of seeking to stir up protests among the local Palestinian population. It does not name any specific groups.
Erdan says a committee has also been formed to explore legal options against the activists.
“This is a needed step, given the evil intentions of the delegitimization activists working to spread lies and distortions about realities in our area,” Erdan says in the statement.
Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia seek to boost trade
Azerbaijan’s president says he expects an upcoming summit with the leaders of Iran and Russia to give a major push to construction of a new international transport corridor.
President Ilham Aliyev says he and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani agreed on Sunday to speed up construction of the North-South corridor and they expect further progress when Russian President Vladimir Putin joins them in Baku on Monday.
The North-South corridor running between Russia and India is intended to reduce freight costs and increase trade along the route.
The Kremlin also says the summit will focus on the transport corridor, particularly construction of a railroad between Iran and Azerbaijan.
Russia says trade with Iran was up 70 percent in the first five months of 2016, with Russian exports accounting for most of it.
Ministry: Firm was negligent in tainted cornflakes scandal
The Health Ministry says it has suspended a manufacturing license given to multinational corporation Unilever, after cornflakes tainted with salmonella managed to reach Israeli consumers.
The ministry says in a statement it carried out a check of the Arad plant, with the full cooperation of the company, and found Unilever to have been negligent, but not malicious, in running the plant.
“This was a series of negligent mistakes, and not an incident with malicious intent from the side of the firm’s management and quality control procedures,” the statement reads.
The company initially refused to alert the public, saying that the tainted cereal had not left the plant, but only late last week admitted some 240 boxes had reached consumers.
The ministry says in a statement its investigation is ongoing and the source of the bacterial outbreak has not been located.
“Given the incident, and together with the hearing, the Good Manufacturing Practice license of the company has been suspended, until they carry out a number of fixes and report on them,” the statement reads.
Swimmer Amit Ivry fails to advance in 100m breaststroke
Israeli swimmer Amit Ivry puts in a 1 minute 9 second time in the women’s 100 meter breaststroke in Rio, finishing well out of the top 16 and missing a chance to move onto the semifinals.
The next hope from Israel comes from Yakov Toumarkin, who will swim in the the third heat of the men’s 100 meter backstroke in the coming minutes.
Toumarkin puts in lackluster effort in Rio pool
Yakov Toumarkin, swimming in the seventh lane, races to a 54.66 finish in the 100 meter backstroke, which will likely not be enough to push him into the next round.
The 7th-place swim continues a streak of losses for Israelis in the games so far.
Toumarkin out, Bloch in back, but hope springs eternal in Rio
With the last swimmers in the 100 meter backstroke finishing up, Toumarkin does in fact miss the semifinals, putting all of Israel’s hopes for Sunday on cyclist Shani Bloch, who has 60 kilometers to go in her Rio road race, where she is well back in the pack.
But fear not, for the sun also rises on Israeli hopes of Olympic glory on Monday, with blue-and-white competitors in men’s air rifle, men’s 73kg judo, women’s 200-meter freestyle, and men’s 200-meter butterfly.
Fearing violence, European activists call off pro-migrant rally
A pro-migrant activist group is calling off an unauthorized protest after Italian border police detained three demonstrators trying to cross from France armed with clubs, knives, a hatchet, a wrench and hoods.
Police say one Italian and two French citizens are being held.
Tensions along the border have been escalating in recent days, after dozens of migrants crossed into France by plunging into the sea, evading border controls.
The No Borders activist group says it called off the protest, aimed at pressing for open borders, to avoid provocations. Fearing clashes, authorities are preventing other demonstrators from arriving from elsewhere in Italy.
The 140 migrants who crossed into France are being returned to the border town of Ventimiglia, where many arrive after being rescued at sea, hoping to reach northern Europe.
Serbia offers to help patrol Turkish-Bulgarian border
Serbia has offered to help patrol the border between Bulgaria and Turkey to curb the influx of migrants seeking to reach the European Union through the Balkans.
Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic makes the offer in a meeting with Bulgarian counterpart Rumyana Bachvarova at the border between the two neighboring states.
Stefanovic says the idea is to ease the pressure on the Serbian border and to “show our neighbors that they can rely on us,” according to a statement by the interior ministry. He says Serbian authorities have discussed the issue with EU leaders.
Serbia has recently deployed joint army and police patrol on its border with Bulgaria, where migrants have been coming in through illegal routes, mostly guided by people-smugglers.
Balkan nations closed their borders to migrants in March.
Erdogan tells gargantuan rally he’ll back death penalty
There is no official figure, but Turkish media are estimating the number of people at a massive rally in Istanbul in the millions, saying it could be the largest in the country’s history.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is currently addressing the crowd, honoring the 240 people who died during a failed coup last month and saying that he is not opposed to imposing the death penalty.
“If the parliament accepts the reintroduction of death penalty, I will accept it,” he tells the crowd, according to Turkish news site Hurriyet. “If the people want death penalty, I think the political parties will also accept it.”
The rally is being held under the flag of unity, with opposition parties also there to praise Turkish democracy.
— Rami #CloseIncirlik (@RamiAILoIah) August 7, 2016
“July 15 has opened the door for our reconciliation,” said main opposition Republican People’s Party Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu says. “There is now a new Turkey after July 15. If we can further this power, this culture of rapprochement, we will all be able to leave our children a great Turkey.”
— with AP