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Israel completes new stretch of security barrier near Hebron

US, Europeans push UN for action over Iran rocket launch; Jordan's king to donate $1.4 million to Temple Mount Waqf; IDF seals off terrorist’s West Bank town after attack

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

  • Israeli machines and workers build parts of the Israeli security barrier near the West Bank city of Beit Jala, outside Jerusalem, on April 17, 2016. (Wisam Hashlamoun/FLASH90)
    Israeli machines and workers build parts of the Israeli security barrier near the West Bank city of Beit Jala, outside Jerusalem, on April 17, 2016. (Wisam Hashlamoun/FLASH90)
  • File: Jordan's King Abdullah II speaks during a press conference with US President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden at the White House on April 5, 2017. (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)
    File: Jordan's King Abdullah II speaks during a press conference with US President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden at the White House on April 5, 2017. (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)
  • Police and medics respond to a stabbing in a supermarket in the central Israeli city of Yavneh on August 2, 2017. (United Hatzalah)
    Police and medics respond to a stabbing in a supermarket in the central Israeli city of Yavneh on August 2, 2017. (United Hatzalah)
  • Screen capture of the National Library of Israel's online manuscript archive, August 2, 2017. (National Library of Israel)
    Screen capture of the National Library of Israel's online manuscript archive, August 2, 2017. (National Library of Israel)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.

Haifa Chemicals workers protest outside Negev ammonia plant

Hundreds of workers from Haifa Chemicals are protesting the impending closure of the company, hours after the fertilizer maker announced the company would be closing and that all 800 workers would be fired.

Workers protesting against the closure blocked the entrance to the company’s ammonia plant in the Negev.

Earlier today, Haifa Chemicals owner Jules Trump announced he was shutting down operations and letting go of all workers after a compromise for the continued operations of the firm was not reached with the government.

“With great sorrow, and after many efforts, we have reached a point in which we can no longer contain the activities of the company in Israel,” writes Trump writes in a stinging letter directed at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I understand that we will not get the permit to return to our activities in the near future and so we don’t have a choice but to shut down the firm immediately,” he writes.

The Haifa Chemicals’ ammonia plant in the Haifa Bay was ordered to be shut down in 2013, pitting local residents concerned over the potential for a deadly chemical leak against those who say its closure would adversely affect the economy.

— with Shoshanna Solomon

Family of Kansas City JCC shootings settles gun lawsuit

The family of two people fatally shot outside the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas, settle a lawsuit with Walmart over one of the guns used in the shooting.

The Kansas City Star reports the settlement’s terms between Walmart and the family of William Corporon and his grandson, Reat Underwood, are confidential.

The two were killed in April 2014 by F. Glenn Miller Jr., who was trying to kill Jews. He also killed Terri LaManno at a nearby care center. None of the victims was Jewish.

The lawsuit contends at least one Walmart employee was present when another man bought the shotgun used to kill Corporon and Underwood at a Walmart in Republic, Missouri. Miller could not buy a gun because he was a felon.

A similar lawsuit filed by LaManno’s family is pending.

— AP

German prosecutor says ‘Bookkeeper of Auschwitz’ fit to serve sentence

A former Nazi SS guard known as the “Bookkeeper of Auschwitz”, now 96, is fit to serve out his sentence, say German prosecutors.

Oskar Groening was found guilty in July 2015 of being an accessory to the murders of 300,000 people at the camp and sentenced to four years in prison.

“The prosecutor has rejected the application from the defense for a sentence suspension,” court spokeswoman Kathrin Soefker tells AFP, confirming local media reports.

A summons for the start of the sentence has not been issued, she says, adding that the prosecutor will make a decision separately on this.

— AFP

Footage of apparent terror stabbing in Yavneh released

Authorities release footage of an apparent terror attack earlier today in which a Palestinian teenager stabbed and critically injured an Israeli supermarket employee.

Graphic security camera footage from inside the Shufersal store shows a 19-year-old Palestinian man from the West Bank city of Nablus begin stabbing the 43-year-old as he stocked shelves.

After the employee’s back was turned, the attacker can be seen drawing a knife and stabbing the man in the upper body several times.

Medical officials say the victim suffered stab wounds to the chest, neck and head and is in unstable condition.

After the stabbing, the Palestinian teenager fled and was tackled to the ground by civilians.

— with Judah Ari Gross

ADL praises Google, YouTube for expanding efforts to combat extremism

The Anti-Defamation League welcomes progress announced by Google and YouTube in blocking and removing extremist content on YouTube.

“The fight against terrorist use of online resources and cyberhate has become one of the most daunting challenges in modern history,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s CEO.

“Google has been a leader in this area from the beginning. The reality is extremists and terrorists continue to migrate to and exploit various other social media platforms. We hope that those platforms can learn from and emulate what YouTube is doing to proactively identify and remove extremist content.” he says in a statement.

Google recently began utilizing machine learning technology to remove over 75 percent of extremist and violent videos posted on YouTube in the last month.

Israel National Library launches digital manuscript archive

Israel’s National Library launches an online database aggregating tens of thousands of digitized Jewish manuscripts belonging to collections from across the globe.

Starting today, scholars and laypersons can access almost half of the known handwritten Jewish texts from Spain to Afghanistan, which have been digitized and cataloged online.

The National Library partnered with some of the largest collections of Jewish manuscripts, including the British Library, Parma’s Palatina Library and the Vatican Library, in an effort to bring the nearly 100,000 known texts under one digital roof.

The archive currently contains nearly 4.5 million images from 45,000 manuscripts, including prayer books, biblical texts and commentary, philosophy, literature and scientific writings, in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, Judeo-Arabic and more.

Work is ongoing to get the remaining thousands of volumes online.

— AP

Knife-carrying Palestinian arrested at Gush Etzion Junction

Israeli soldiers in the West Bank arrest a Palestinian woman carrying a knife at the Gush Etzion Junction, the army says.

According to the IDF, the Palestinian woman walked toward a group of soldiers guarding the intersection while displaying suspicious behavior.

After the soldiers called on the suspect to stop she threw her knife to the ground. She was arrested and taken in for questioning.

IDF raids Hebron home of Yavneh supermarket terrorist

Israeli soldiers raid the West Bank home of a Palestinian terrorist who stabbed and critically injured an Israeli man at a supermarket in the coastal Israeli city of Yavneh earlier today.

Ismail Ibrahim Ismail Abu Aram, 19, from the village of Yatta near Hebron, attacked a 43-year-old employee of the Shufersal supermarket, stabbing him multiple times in the chest, neck and head.

According to the Shin Bet security service, Abu Aram entered Israel illegally, without the required permit.

He had no history of terrorist activity. Police handed Abu Aram over to the Shin Bet for further questioning, the security service says.

An IDF spokesperson said the soldiers had not arrested anyone, but were “conducting searches” in the house. She would not elaborate further on what the troops were looking to find.

— Judah Ari Gross

Over 70% of Jewish Israelis support death penalty for terrorists, poll finds

A vast majority of Jewish Israelis support recent calls made by high-profile politicians for the implementation of the death penalty for terrorists, according to a new poll.

According to the latest monthly Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University Peace Index poll, 25.8% of respondents said they “moderately” supported the “the execution of Palestinians found guilty of murdering Israeli civilians for nationalist reasons,” while another 44% expressed “strong” support. Only 24% expressed opposition.

In the wake of a brutal terrorist attack in the West Bank settlement of Halamish last month in which three members of a family were stabbed to death, a number of prominent ministers, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, expressed their belief that Israeli military courts should seek the death penalty for the Palestinian attacker.

Jordan’s king to donate $1.4m to Temple Mount Waqf

Jordan’s King Abdullah II will reportedly donate 1 million Jordanian dinars ($1.4 million) to the Waqf, the Islamic authority that administers the Temple Mount holy site in Jerusalem.

According to reports, the donation will go to fund an Islamic museum on the compound.

Jordan, which acts as custodian of the Temple Mount and funds the Waqf, has played a key role amid the ongoing crisis, sparked after Israel installed metal detectors following an attack at the Mount on July 14 in which three terrorists used guns smuggled into the sacred compound to shoot dead two Israeli policemen guarding outside.

Earlier today Abdullah said his government was “closely monitoring the situation in Jerusalem. The challenge is a political one, not just security.”

Qatar and Italy sign a nearly $6b deal for naval vessels

Qatar announces a five billion euro order for seven warships from Italy in the midst of a nearly two-month diplomatic crisis with neighboring Saudi Arabia and its allies.

“We have signed a contract on behalf of the Qatari navy to acquire seven warships from Italy for five billion euros ($5.9 billion),” Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani says at a Doha press conference with his visiting Italian counterpart Angelino Alfano.

It follows the signing of a preliminary contract in June 2016 for the deal between the Italian group Fincantieri and Qatar for four corvettes, an amphibious vessel and two patrol boats.

In June this year, the United States agreed a $12-billion sale of F-15 fighter jets to Qatar, re-affirming support for the emirate in the throes of the worst diplomatic crisis to hit the Gulf in decades.

— AFP

Russia said deploying troops to Syrian Golan Heights

Russia is deploying troops to southern Syria, near the Israeli border, Ynet reports citing reports in Arabic-language media.

According to the Lebanese-based Al Mayadeen news channel, Russia is building a military base in the area of Quneitra and Dara’a, on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

The report says the Syrian army is withdrawing from the area, which has been a rebel stronghold throughout the bloody civil war.

Trump signs bill imposing sanctions on Russia into law

US President Donald Trump signed into law a package of sanctions against Russia, the White House says, after he had privately opposed the measures and his aides had lobbied against them.

Two White House sources say Trump signed the bill behind closed doors and away from the cameras — in signing it, he avoided the humiliating prospect of Congress overriding his veto.

The package introduces tough additional sanctions against Russia over alleged meddling in last year’s election and its annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine.

— AFP

Netanyahu can stay in power if indicted, justice minister says

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked says Netanyahu will not be forced to resign if he is indicted in either of the investigations into his alleged financial and political corruption.

“According to the law, the prime minister does not need to step down, so let’s wait and see what happens,” Shaked tells the Ynet news website.

“It needs to be something extreme to warrant toppling a government; holding elections is not a small thing,” she adds.

Netanyahu is under investigation for receiving expensive gifts from friends and business associates as well as for attempting to reach a quid pro quo deal with the owner of Yedioth Ahronoth that would secure him more favorable coverage.

US, Europeans push UN for action over Iran rocket launch

The United States, backed by France, Britain and Germany, is pushing for action at the UN Security Council following Iran’s launch of a satellite rocket, described by Washington as a threatening and provocative step.

In a letter, US Ambassador Nikki Haley argues on behalf of the four countries that the Simorgh space launch vehicle system, “if configured as a ballistic missile,” would have a range of over 300 kilometers (185 miles) and enough payload capacity to carry a nuclear warhead.

“This launch therefore represents a threatening and provocative step by Iran,” says the letter seen by AFP. “Iran’s longstanding program to develop ballistic missiles continues to be inconsistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2231 and has a destabilizing effect in the region.”

Iran launched the rocket on July 27, prompting the United States to impose sanctions on six companies that Washington said were linked to Iran’s missile program.

— AFP

IDF seals off terrorist’s West Bank town after attack

After this morning’s terror stabbing attack at a Yavneh supermarket in which an employee was critically injured, the army is imposing a closure on the West Bank hometown of the attacker.

The IDF in a statement says the checkpoints have been set up on all roads leading to the Hebron-area twon of Yatta.

Earlier today, 19-year-old Ismail Ibrahim Ismail Abu Aram attacked a 43-year-old employee of a Shufersal supermarket, stabbing him multiple times in the chest, neck and head. He was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries.

Abu Aram fled the scene but was tackled and pinned to the ground by civilian bystanders until police arrived and arrested him.

After signing new sanctions, Trump calls measures ‘seriously flawed’

President Donald Trump says a bill imposing sanctions on Russia, North Korea and Iran is “seriously flawed” because it hinders his ability to negotiate.

In a statement, Trump says he signed the bill, which imposes tough measures to “punish and deter bad behavior by the rogue regimes in Tehran and Pyongyang” and enhance existing sanctions on Moscow.

But Trump says “the bill remains seriously flawed — particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate.”

Trump adds that “by limiting the Executive’s flexibility, this bill makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people, and will drive China, Russia, and North Korea much closer together.”

But he says, he is signing the bill “for the sake of national unity.”

— AP

Olmert’s son threatens to sue Yair Netanyahu over ‘racist and homophobic’ Facebook post

The son of former prime minister Ehud Olmert hits back at Yair Netanyahu for claiming he had “an interesting relationship with a Palestinian, that could have had national security implications.”

In a Facebook post, Ariel Olmert criticized Netanyahu for his lifestyle and threatened to sue anyone who “disseminates false, racist and homophobic slurs.”

“I’ve never lived at the prime minister’s residence, I don’t have a driver or guards paid for by the state, I also don’t hang out with millionaires,” Olmert tells Netanyahu. “I actually have to work for a living and I pick up my dog’s poop.”

Olmert’s post comes in response to a Facebook post Netanyahu wrote yesterday in which he slammed his critics, complaining that other children of Israeli leaders were not subject to the same scrutiny.

State witness in submarine case to be charged with tax evasion, not corruption

Miki Ganor, the businessman turned state’s witness in the so called “submarine affair,” will not be charged with corruption in the so-called “submarine affair.”

According to Channel 2, Ganor reached a deal with state prosecutors that will see him charged for various tax offenses, and will serve one year in jail.

Ganor, a former agent for the German submarine company ThyssenKryupp, last month signed a deal to turn state’s witness in what legal analysts described as major development in the corruption case that could lead to indictments of senior public officials.

Miki Ganor is seen at a hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court following his arrest in the 'Case 3000' affair on July 10, 2017. (Moti Kimchi/Pool/Flash90)
Miki Ganor is seen at a hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court following his arrest in the ‘Case 3000’ affair on July 10, 2017. (Moti Kimchi/Pool/Flash90)

PM’s former chief of staff to testify in ‘submarine affair’

Ari Harow, a former chief of staff and aide to Benjamin Netanyahu who turned state’s witness as part of the ongoing investigations into alleged corruption involving the prime minister, will also reportedly testify in the so-called “submarine affair.”

Harow was originally slated to testify two corruption investigations into Netanyahu, but according to Channel 2, the ex-aide will also share what he knows about the corruption investigation that could lead to indictments of senior public officials.

Netanyahu is not a suspect in the case but police are planning to summon him to testify on the issue.

Ari Harow, former chief of staff of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a Likud meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Ari Harow, former chief of staff of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a Likud meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Israel completes new stretch of security barrier in southern West Bank

The defense ministry says it has completed another 42-kilometer stretch of its security barrier in the southern West Bank.

In a statement, the ministry says the latest stretch was completed between the Palestinian town of Tarkumia and the Israeli settlement of Meitar.

Netanyahu last March ordered that a gap in the barrier in the Tarkumia be closed as a priority after a spike of Palestinian attacks inside Israel.

— with AFP

Taliban suicide bomber kills two US troops in south Afghanistan

Two US soldiers were killed in Afghanistan’s restive southern province of Kandahar earlier today when a Taliban suicide bomber rammed a vehicle filled with explosives into a convoy of foreign forces.

“Two US service members were killed in action in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when their convoy came under attack,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis says. “US Forces Afghanistan will provide additional information as it becomes available.”

The assault is the latest blow to NATO forces, who ended their more than a decade-long combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014.

Since then Afghan troops and police, beset by soaring casualties, have struggled to beat back the resurgent Taliban, while facing the growing menace of the Islamic State group.

— AFP

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Russia said deploying troops to Syrian Golan Heights

Russia is deploying troops to southern Syria, near the Israeli border, Ynet reports citing reports in Arabic-language media.

According to the Lebanese-based Al Mayadeen news channel, Russia is building a military base in the area of Quneitra and Dara’a, on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

The report says the Syrian army is withdrawing from the area, which has been a rebel stronghold throughout the bloody civil war.