The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they happened.
Iranian journalist ‘was saved’ by arrival in Israel, ‘would love to live here’
Hours after she arrived at Ben Gurion Airport, Neda Amin, an Iranian-born Turkey-based blogger for The Times of Israel’s Persian website, thanks the Israeli government for granting her refuge, adding that she has Jewish roots and would love to live in Israel.
During a press conference at The Times of Israel’s Jerusalem offices, Amin, 32, describes her anguish while awaiting likely expulsion from Turkey, where she’s lived for three years, to her native Iran. Amin fled Iran in 2014. She has since written critically about the regime and fears for her life should she be sent back to the country.
“I am very happy. Israel, this is my country,” she says in broken English, adding that she finally feels safe because no one wants to arrest her here.
Amin says she had no immediate plans but indicates that she would seek permanent residence status or citizenship.
“In the meantime, I was saved, I was rescued,” she says in Persian, speaking through an interpreter. “If the Israeli authorities will give me permission, I would love to live here, with all my heart and soul. If not, I will respect their decision.”
Amin says her father’s mother is Jewish and that she always felt sympathetic toward Israel and the Jewish religion.
Amin has blogged regularly for The Times of Israel’s Persian site, and has done some freelance work for the news outlet.
“When her situation came to my attention, which was only two weeks ago, I spoke to the relevant Israeli authorities and told them about the situation,” says Times of Israel founding editor David Horovitz, who greeted Amin at the airport earlier on Thursday. “I felt that we had an obligation — The Times of Israel in particular and the State of Israel in general — to help someone who is in trouble partly because of her connection with Israel.”
The officials at the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul, he stresses, were particularly helpful.
— Raphael Ahren
Suspect in Paris car attack an Algerian national
A police source says the suspect in an attack on soldiers near Paris is a 37-year-old Algerian man who was legally living in France.
The man, Hamou Benlatreche, was known to French police over minor crimes but has never been convicted in court, the officer tells The Associated Press.
French media, who reported the same name, say the suspect was living in the suburb of Bezons, north of Paris, where police searched a building on Wednesday night.
The suspect rammed his car into a group of soldiers Wednesday, injuring six of them. He was arrested by police following a highway manhunt and was hospitalized with bullet wounds.
Guam residents worry of N. Korean attack, but trust in US military
The tiny US territory of Guam feels a strong sense of patriotism and confidence in the American military, which has an enormous presence on the Pacific island. But residents are increasingly worried over Washington’s escalating war of words with North Korea.
The people of Guam wake up Thursday to another pointed threat from Pyongyang, which vowed to complete a plan to attack waters near the island by mid-August — adding a timeline to a threat from a day earlier that North Korea would create an “enveloping fire” around Guam.
Like other US territories, Guam has a sometimes complicated relationship with the US mainland but many across the island say despite the threats and concerns they feel reassured and protected by the military — especially in times of tense, geopolitical sparring.
About 160,000 people live on the island, which extends about 12 miles (19 kilometers) at its widest. The American military presence on Guam consists of two bases — Andersen Air Force Base in the north and Naval Base Guam in the south — which are home to 7,000 US troops.
“I feel that the presence of the military on Guam will help us a lot,” said Virgie Matson, 51, a resident of Dededo, Guam’s most populated village. “They are here to protect the islands, just in case something happens.”
The possibility of a nuclear confrontation is considered remote but international alarm has been escalating in recent days.
Iran drops two soccer stars from national team for playing against Israel’s Maccabi
Iran drops midfield duo Haji Safi and Masoud Shojaei from the national team after they play in a soccer match against Maccabi Tel Aviv for their Greek club Panionios last week, the Iranian sports ministry says.
Deputy Sports Minister Mohammad Reza Davarzani says they could no longer wear the national shirt after they played against the Israeli club in the Europa League third qualifying round second leg in Greece.
“Shojaei and Haji Safi have no place in Iran’s national football team any more because they crossed the country’s red line,” Davarzani tells state television. “They have a financial contract with a club to be paid and play for that team, but to play with the representative of a loathsome regime… this is not acceptable for Iranian people.”
The two players had refused to play in the away leg in Israel despite facing “pressure” and “financial fines” from their club, the sports ministry says. But they played in the second leg in Greece on August 4. Panionios lost 0-1 and 0-2 on aggregate.
Islamic State claims attack on police in Egypt’s Sinai
Islamic State claims responsibility for killing four Egyptian policemen in restive northern Sinai peninsula.
The group says in a Thursday statement carried by its news agency AMAQ and circulated on social media that its fighters carried out the attack on Wednesday in the town of el-Arish.
The Associated Press couldn’t independently verify the authenticity of the statement.
State-run newspaper Al-Ahram newspaper said Wednesday that authorities are hunting the militants who opened fire on the policemen as they were riding in a private car.
Russian man held in Turkey for planning to down a US plane
Turkish authorities detain a Russian national and suspected Islamic State member for allegedly planning a drone attack on US aircraft at Turkey’s Incirlik air base, police say.
Renad Bakiev is detained in the southern city of Adana over suspicions that he plotted to crash an American aircraft or attack the Incirlik air base using a drone, Adana police say in a statement.
Bakiev also intended to attack the local Alevi community in Adana city, the statement says. It says he was affiliated with IS and had previously traveled to Syria.
The Alevi religious minority is an offshoot of Shia Islam and is the largest religious group in Turkey after Sunnis. IS regards Alevis as heretics.
Sydney synagogue meets local council over denied building application
Sydney’s Waverley Council and the Jewish group Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe announce they will jointly advance plans for a new development application to build a synagogue in Bondi, and suggest that a proposed weekend protest would “be unproductive.”
The two parties hold a “without prejudice” meeting to discuss the proposed synagogue and apartments at 105 Wellington Street near the popular Bondi Beach, whose development was blocked by the Land and Environment Court on August 2, in a decision that upheld a Waverley Council ban on the construction of the synagogue in suburban Sydney on the grounds that it could become the target of a terrorist attack.
The refusal received worldwide media attention.
Both parties express their commitment to free speech and freedom of religion, and suggest the planned protest for August 13 would be unproductive.
Rally organizer Avi Yemini tells JTA: “I canceled the rally last night when I was informed by FREE that an agreement had been reached. Our objective was to ensure the shul was going to be built. It will be.”
UK crime agency: Modern slavery more prevalent than thought
Britain’s National Crime Agency says human trafficking and modern slavery are much more prevalent than previously thought, and involve 300 active police investigations across the UK.
Agency official Will Kerr says investigators have found widespread evidence of people as young as 12 being sold for sexual exploitation or forced labor. He says victims can be found working in car washes, on construction sites, in brothels and at cannabis factories.
Kerr tells reporters that “the growing body of evidence we are collecting points to the scale being far larger than anyone previously thought.”
The agency is launching a campaign to raise public awareness of modern slavery. Kerr says signs of slavery include visible injuries, a distressed appearance and any indication an individual is being controlled by another person.
Islamic Waqf denies Israeli forces stole documents in Temple Mount raids
The Waqf Islamic trust at the Temple Mount says Israeli forces left all documents and historically significant materials intact at the mosque and Islamic shrine on the Mount during raids and unrest last month.
Palestinian officials have suggested that Israeli security forces either confiscated or damaged Muslim documents contained in the Waqf’s archive at the site amid tensions after a July 14 terror attack left two Israeli police officers dead.
In a statement, the Waqf does accuse Israeli forces of breaking locks, conducting “unjustified searches,” and confiscating a recording device, Channel 2 reports.
But nothing was taken from the archive or the collections of the Islamic Museum at the site, it says.
Israeli police officers searched the compound for weapons following the attack, in which the three Arab Israeli shooters used firearms that had been previously stashed inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Syrian troops capture wide area on border with Jordan
Syrian government forces and their allies capture an area along the border with Jordan in their latest push against opposition fighters.
Syrian state TV reports the troops captured an area of 1,300 square kilometers (502 square miles) in addition to some strategic hills.
The opposition’s Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirms the push by troops, saying the government took advantage of a truce in nearby Daraa province to launch an offensive in the adjacent region of Sweida that borders Jordan.
The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media says troops captured all the border observation points along 30 kilometers (18 miles) of the border with Jordan.
Syrian troops have captured wide areas around the country over the past year under the cover of Russian airstrikes.
Shin Bet says 5 Palestinians arrested in Israel on terror suspicions
The Shin Bet security service says it arrested five Palestinians in the Israeli town of Azaria, southeast of Tel Aviv, who are “suspected of being involved in terrorism.”
The security service says it cannot yet publicize details about the suspicions against the five.
All are residents of the Hebron area in the West Bank, the agency says.
The arrest operation was conducted by the Shin Bet, the IDF and the Israel Police.
— Judah Ari Gross
French Jews call for extradition of Palestinians accused of terror attack 35 years ago
On the 35th anniversary of a deadly attack on a Paris kosher restaurant, French Jews call for the extradition of three Palestinians suspected of carrying out the terrorist attack.
CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish communities and organizations, issued a statement on the matter on Wednesday, August 9, the date in 1982 when six people were murdered and 22 injured on Rosiers Street in Paris in the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in France after World War II.
The suspects in the attack on the Jo Goldberg deli are wanted for questioning in France as per a 2015 arrest warrant issued at France’s request. One of them lives in Jordan, another near Ramallah in the West Bank and a third in Norway, according to CRIF. None of the relevant governments have agreed to extradite the suspects, who French investigators believe belonged to the Abu Nidal terrorist group affiliated with Fatah.
But Francis Kalifat, president of CRIF, says France is partly responsible for the failure to bring the suspects in for questioning and possibly prosecution.
“We can only regret that France agrees to this situation and has not even complained about it to the Palestinian Authority, which is home to Mahmoud Kader Abed, also known as Hisham Harb, who was the main figure responsible for the attack,” Kalifat writes in a statement referencing one of the suspects.
Among the victims of the attack were two American citizens, Anne Van Zanten and Grace Cutler.
UK investors spend over $100m on Netanya-based IT firm Luminati
A British private equity firm, EMK Capital, buys a majority stake in the Israeli company Luminati, described by the business journal Globes as the “enterprise proxy network division” of the Israeli company Hola Networks.
The Netanya-based Luminati is valued by the sale at some $200 million (NIS 717 million), the journal reports.
The exit is valued at well over $100 million, as EMK is buying a “large majority” stake, the report says.
Globes explains the company’s activities thus:
Luminati is an IP proxy network for businesses. With a proprietary network of over 30 million residential IPs and large network of data centers, Luminati enables businesses to see the internet as real consumers do. The technology behind Luminati has been developed over 8 years.
Polish Jewish community ask ruling party to denounce rising anti-Semitism
The leaders of Poland’s Jewish community write to the country’s most powerful politician, urging him to denounce rising anti-Semitism which they say is leaving them on edge.
Anna Chipczynska, the head of Warsaw’s Jewish community, tells The Associated Press the letter to Jaroslaw Kaczynski was sent last week. She says the community hasn’t yet received a reply.
In the letter she and Leslaw Piszewski, who oversees all Jewish communities in Poland, say they fear that Poland is becoming less secure for Jews.
They note “an intensification of anti-Semitic attitudes in Poland, a brutality of language and behavior, some of which are directed against our community.”
Kaczynski is the leader of the nationalist ruling Law and Justice party. The party spokeswoman isn’t immediately available for comment.
Swastika found painted at Hebrew U campus
A swastika is found at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus campus in the second such incident in the last two weeks.
The swastika is sprayed in green paint outside a window of a building belonging to the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, which is located on the campus.
A swastika was also found scrawled in a bathroom stall below a Star of David at the university two weeks ago, with an equal sign between them.
Israeli star Casspi to teach at NBA’s Israel hoops camp
Golden State Warriors forward Omri Casspi, the first Israeli player in the NBA, and retired San Antonio Spurs legend David Robinson are among instructors at the Basketball Without Borders camp starting Sunday in Israel.
The youngsters who will partake in the 16th European edition of the global camps organized by the NBA and governing body FIBA are announced Thursday.
Top boys and girls from 22 nations will attend the sessions in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Netanya, the first to be staged in Israel.
Casspi, 29, signed a free agent deal with the reigning NBA champion Warriors last month after spending parts of last season with Sacramento, New Orleans and Minnesota. He has also played for Cleveland and Houston since starting his NBA career in 2009.
On Thursday, President Reuven Rivlin met with a NBA delegation at the President’s Residence that included Robinson.
During the meeting, Rivlin hailed the ability of sports to “break down barriers between people from different communities” and said “in Israel, we are working to build this understanding.”
New Air Force chief: Maj. Gen. Amikam Nurkin
Maj. Gen. Amikam Nurkin takes over as the new head of the Israeli Air Force on Thursday, replacing Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, who has served in the position for five years.
Nurkin previously served as head of the army’s Planning Directorate. Eshel, who has served in the IDF for 40 years, will retire from the military.
Defense Minsiter Avigdor Liberman and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot attend the changeover ceremony, lauding both men for their dedication to Israel’s security.
“Amir, thank you for 40 years of meaningful contribution to the security of the State of Israel,” Liberman says. “Nurkin, you are entering the position and will immediately have to deal with many challenges. You will need to continue to turn the long arm [of the IDF] into a much longer arm.”
Eshel replaced Ido Nehoshtan in May 2012 and commanded the air force during the eight-day Operation Pillar of Defense campaign in Gaza in November 2012 and during the 2014 Gaza war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.
“Amir, you are finishing your command of the air force after five years and three or four months. Amir, you had an impact on the air force and I would also say you influenced the General Staff and the IDF with your courageous and creative views, in the way you presented things during discussions and, mostly, in your actions,” Eisenkot says.
— Judah Ari Gross
42% of Israelis agree with Netanyahu that media is against him
A Channel 2 poll suggests close to half of Israelis agree with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s accusation that the media is “leftist” and set against him, but over a quarter say his Wednesday speech lambasting the press made them trust him less.
In a Likud party rally to show support for the premier, who faces multiple graft probes focused on him or his associates, Netanyahu lashed out at the media and insisted the investigations were being exploited for a political “coup” against his government.
The poll finds that 48 percent of Israelis don’t believe the media is set against Netanyahu, but 42% do believe that. Over a quarter, 27%, say the speech weakened their trust in the premier, and just 11% said it strengthened their faith in him.
Perhaps the most disappointing finding of the poll from Netanyahu’s perspective is the huge majority of Israelis who support continuing with the investigations. Asked if investigations against serving prime ministers should be delayed during their term, fully 72% of Israelis said they should still take place, while just 15% said they should be delayed.
Hamas says Israel’s anti-tunnel barrier won’t stop its ‘resistance’
A Hamas spokesperson says Israel’s barrier against tunnels currently under construction along the border with the Gaza Strip won’t stop the group’s attacks, but adds that Hamas does not want a violent escalation at this time.
“The resistance in the Gaza Strip will continue to use all the tools at its disposal to defend the Palestinians from Israeli aggression,” Hazem Kassam says.
“Israel’s threats don’t frighten us, but we nevertheless aren’t seeking an escalation. We don’t fear a conflict. All Israel’s efforts won’t bring it security as long as it continues to occupy our land and besiege our nation,” Kassam tells the Turkish news agency Anadolu.
Egypt inflation soars to near 33% amid subsidy cuts
Egypt’s inflation jumps to almost 33 percent, the government says as Egyptians continue to brace themselves in the face of steep price hikes and austerity measures.
According to figures published by the Central Bank, the urban annual inflation rate reached 32.95 percent in July — up from 29.76% in June. The announcement comes amid forecasts that the inflation rate would remain above 30 in the coming months.
The Central Bank also says that annual core inflation increased to 35.26 percent, up from 31.95 in June. Core inflation excludes volatile commodities such as food and energy.
Dubai-based Arqaam Capital attributes the hike in urban inflation to the increase in fuel prices the month before. It also says a July surge in electricity prices will impact August’s rate.
In June, Egypt raised prices for commonly used fuel — 80-octane gasoline and diesel by 55% and doubled the price of gas canisters, used in the majority of households for cooking. The government later upped electricity prices by more than 40%, followed by surges in public transportation fares and drinking water.
American extreme right calls to ‘unite’ at rally
A sizeable contingent of members of the extreme right and white nationalists are expected to descend on a small US university town Saturday — and a fierce opposition front is uniting against it.
Thousands of white nationalists, including supporters of the Ku Klux Klan white supremacist group, and anti-fascist activists are expected to clash in Charlottesville, Virginia, a sleepy town planning to remove a statue of General Robert E. Lee, who led Confederate forces in the US Civil War.
Last month, a few dozen Ku Klux Klan marchers gathered in Charlottesville to protest the statue’s removal. Though they were outnumbered by hundreds of jeering counter-protesters, images of the extreme right marchers — some donning the traditional white hood of the notorious white power group — spread worldwide.
This time the extreme right hopes to have a stronger showing thanks to the presence of various leaders of the “alt-right” movement that has been emboldened by Donald Trump’s ascent to the White House.
Dubbed the “Unite the Right Rally,” the gathering could mark one of the most significant demonstrations of its kind in decades, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors extremist groups.