The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s developments as they unfolded.
Jerusalem cops arrest 137 for rioting
Police say they have arrested 137 suspected rioters in Jerusalem since the Rosh Hashanah holiday on September 13.
Some 61 of the suspects are minors, police say.
Israel army coordinating with Russia on Syria
Israel has set up a joint mechanism with the Russian military to coordinate their operations in Syria and avoid any accidental confrontations, a senior Israel military official says.
The official, who speaks on condition of anonymity because of military regulations, says that teams headed by each of the militaries’ deputy chiefs will hold their first meeting in two weeks and will discuss coordination of aerial, naval and electromagnetic operations around Syria.
Police bar non-Muslims from Temple Mount
Israeli police bar all non-Muslims from entering a sensitive Jerusalem site during a major Muslim holiday.
Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says police decided to allow unrestricted Muslim prayer at the Temple Mount compound for the Eid al-Adha celebrations, and to bar all others from entering.
Netanyahu reaffirms commitment to Jewish pluralism
In a letter to AJC leaders, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirms his commitment to Jewish pluralism, and once again decries comments by the religious affairs minister against Reform Jewry.
In July, Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay said that he did not consider Reform Jews to be Jewish and urged them to embrace Orthodox Judaism.
“I share your feelings regarding the hateful remarks made by the Minister for Religious Affairs. I have reminded him in no uncertain terms that, as a minister, he must represent all of Israel’s citizens,” Netanyahu writes. “The government of Israel which I head remains committed to strengthening the unity of the Jewish people, and will unequivocally reject any attempt to divide us or to delegitimize any Jewish community – Reform, Conservative or Orthodox.
“I will continue to work to ensure that all Jews can feel at home in Israel, and I look forward to meeting with you to discuss concrete steps we can take together to do so,” the prime minister writes.
Iran accuses Saudi Arabia of safety errors at hajj
Iran accuses Saudi Arabia of safety errors after at least 15 of its citizens died Thursday in a stampede that killed several hundred people during the annual hajj pilgrimage.
The head of Iran’s hajj organization, Said Ohadi, said that for “unknown reasons” a path had been closed off near the scene of the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual where the accident later took place.
“This caused this tragic incident,” he says on Iranian state television.
NATO concerned about Russia buildup in Syria
NATO head Jens Stoltenberg tells AFP he is concerned by Russia’s “substantial” military build-up in Syria and urged Moscow to play a constructive role in the fight against Islamic State jihadis.
“It underlines the importance of Russia making clear what are their intentions,” Stoltenberg tells AFP in an interview at NATO HQ in Brussels.
“I think the first step now is to sit down with the United States and to make clear what are (their) intentions… and to try to cooperate and give a constructive contribution to the efforts led by the United States to fight ISIL (Islamic State).”
In no circumstances should the build-up be used to bolster President Bashar Assad, a long-time Russian ally, Stoltenberg says.
UK counterterrorism student questioned for reading textbook
A counterterrorism graduate student in England was questioned by a complaints officer after he was spotted reading “Terrorism Studies,” a textbook, at the Staffordshire University library, the Guardian reports.
“I could not believe it. I was reading an academic textbook and minding my own business. At first I thought I’d just laugh it off as a joke,” says Mohammed Umar Farooq of the incident.
The university later apologized.
“The implications if I did not challenge this could be serious for me. I could go on a police list, I could be investigated without my knowledge. This could happen to any young Muslim lad. I had to fight back,” he says.
Hamas slams Egypt over tunnel flooding
Hamas accuses Egypt of further besieging the Gaza Strip by flooding the border area to the south of the Palestinian enclave.
“Why are they digging those trenches and those water pipes around Rafah?” Hamas’s chief in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, says during a speech to commemorate the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday.
“And why discard neighborly relations and the history of Gaza, which has always defended the regional security of Egypt and Arab countries? We are telling our Egyptian brothers: Stop this project. We will do our duty against those who besiege Gaza and plot against it.”
Top cop candidate to be announced soon, official says
A Public Security Ministry official says that a new candidate for police commissioner will be announced in a week or two.
Netanyahu and Erdan announced on Wednesday night that they were withdrawing the candidacy of Gal Hirsch for the position.
“We are playing it close to the chest, not discussing particular names,” the official says. “But once we have a candidate, we will immediately announce it.”
“We expect to make an announcement [on a candidate for police commissioner] in the next week or two,” the official adds.
— Judah Ari Gross
After White House welcome, pope heads to Congress
After bonding with US President Barack Obama on progressive themes like climate change, Pope Francis on Thursday addresses Congress, where conservatives embrace his moral authority but are less comfortable with the pontiff’s more political preachings.
On Wednesday, his first full day in the United States, Francis was greeted with pomp and ceremony at the White House, and then crisscrossed Washington to huddle with bishops, greet ecstatic well-wishers, conduct mass and elevate a Franciscan friar to sainthood.
Now, he takes America’s grandest political platform, becoming the first leader of the Roman Catholic Church to address a joint meeting of Congress, including more than 500 lawmakers, Supreme Court justices and top administration officials including Vice President Joe Biden.
Following his 40-minute speech, Francis will emerge on a balcony overlooking the Capitol’s west front lawn, where several thousand people were already gathered at daybreak as part of an expected crowd of some 50,000.
No Israelis hurt in Mecca, as far as Foreign Ministry knows
The Foreign Ministry is so far unaware of any Israelis hurt in the hajj stampede, a spokesperson tells The Times of Israel.
— Raphael Ahren
43 Iranians among hajj stampede dead
At least 43 Iranians were among the several hundred pilgrims killed in a stampede Thursday at the annual hajj in Saudi Arabia, an official in Tehran says.
The names of the dead are read out in a live broadcast on state television by a spokesman for Iran’s hajj organization, Mehdi Shahsavari.
Herzog urges PM to appoint female top cop
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog urges Netanyahu to appoint a woman as Israel’s next police commissioner.
“Netanyahu said during elections, ‘If it were up to me, I would see to it that there would be a female police commissioner,'” wrote Herzog in a Facebook post.
“I have news for you, Mr. Prime Minister, it is indeed up to you. I call on the prime minister and public security minister to fulfill their election promise and appoint a woman to the important role of the Israel Police commissioner. This is an opportunity for a worthy appointment who will revamp the police and set a historical precedent for the shattering of the glass ceiling for women in Israel.”
Israel ‘world power’ in cybersecurity — Netanyahu
Netanyahu, speaking at an event marking the Mossad intelligence agency’s 65th anniversary, says Israel is a world power in the field of cybersecurity.
“There is one rule that is certain: No one makes agreements with the weak,” says Netanyahu.
“In the face of this changing world, Israel must be a world power. Not just a regional power, but in some areas, a world power. This only deepens our ability to enhance and leverage our ties in and outside the region. We are exploring completely new areas. The most important, but certainly not the only one, is cybersecurity, which is changing our world remarkably quickly. And Israel is no less than a cybersecurity world power.”
717 pilgrims killed in Mecca stampede
Saudi Arabia’s civil defense directorate says 717 people were killed in a crush of Muslim pilgrims near the holy city of Mecca.
Thursday’s disaster was the deadliest such incident on the annual hajj pilgrimage in more than two decades, and comes nearly two weeks after a crane collapsed in Mecca, killing 100 people.
The civil defense directorate says at least 805 other pilgrims were injured.
70-year-old electrocuted while building sukkah
A 70-year-old man was in serious condition after he was electrocuted while building a sukkah, Magen David Adom says.
The Jerusalem resident was found unconscious in his yard and was transferred to Shaare Zedek hospital for treatment.
NY synagogue said to fire worker for being pregnant at her wedding
The former program director of the oldest Jewish congregation in America says she was fired from her job because she was pregnant at the time of her wedding.
Lawyers for Alana Shultz say in a lawsuit filed in federal court on Tuesday that Congregation Shearith Israel, a Spanish and Portuguese synagogue founded in 1654, fired her after learning she was pregnant at her June wedding. She was about 23 weeks pregnant when she was fired on July 21, according to the 13-page complaint filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, Courthouse News reports.
The congregation “failed miserably in their attempt to merge traditional Judaism with modern civil laws,” the lawsuit charges.
Shultz says in the lawsuit that she told her supervisor about her pregnancy as she left on her honeymoon. The supervisor told the congregation’s rabbi, Meir Soloveichik and a board member, Michael Lustig, according to the lawsuit. When she returned from her honeymoon, Shultz was told that her position was being eliminated due to restructuring, and the congregation asked her to sign a release waiving litigation and agreeing not to badmouth the synagogue in exchange for six weeks’ severance pay. When Shultz hired a lawyer, the congregation offered to reinstate her, the lawsuit says.
Rivlin is a winner… at Temple Run
As Israelis and Palestinians clash over the Temple Mount, President Reuven Rivlin has another temple on his mind — and this one has demon monkeys.
Russia, US said to reach ‘tacit agreement’ to end Syria war
Russia and the United States have reached a “tacit agreement” on ending Syria’s bloody crisis, a senior adviser to Syrian President Bashar Assad says.
“The current US administration wants to find a solution to the crisis in Syria. There is a tacit agreement between the US and Russia to reach this solution,” Bouthaina Shaaban says in an interview with state television late Wednesday.
“The US recognizes now that Russia has profound knowledge of this region and a better assessment of the situation,” she says.
“The current international climate is heading towards detente and towards a solution for the crisis in Syria.”
Shaaban says there was a “change in the West’s positions” over Syria’s war, which has killed more than 240,000 people and displaced millions since 2011.
Croatia says 51,000 migrants have entered
Croatian police say more than 51,000 migrants have entered the country since they first started arriving more than a week ago.
Police say 3,500 people crossed Thursday morning into Croatia from Serbia around Tovarnik, where migrants have been coming in through nearby cornfields.
The influx has caused tensions between the Balkan rivals, with countries slamming each other with border closures and traffic blockades. The migrants began entering Croatia after Hungary closed its border on September 15.
Croatia says it’s so overwhelmed that authorities have been shipping the migrants toward Hungary or Slovenia. Most want to travel on to wealthier nations in Western Europe such as Germany or Sweden.
WATCH: Pope Francis addresses Congress
Pope Francis is about to address US Congress. Watch his address live in the video below.
Yazidis seek ICC probe into IS atrocities
Iraq’s Yazidi minority — the target of brutal attacks from the Islamic State group — urges the International Criminal Court Thursday to launch probes into the militants for genocide and sexual slavery.
Two Yazidi groups hand over documents to the court which show “that ISIS has systematically committed atrocities amounting to genocide and that these crimes fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC,” said Murad Ismael from the Yazda group.
Chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda earlier this year said IS has committed crimes of “unspeakable cruelty” including mass executions, rape and torture.
But she said she could not investigate as neither Iraq nor Syria are signatories to the court and her “jurisdictional basis… is too narrow.”
The new report however specifically names some 20 foreign fighters from countries who have signed the ICC’s founding Rome Statute.
Rivlin says Twitter account was hacked
Rivlin says a Twitter post about his Temple Run video game scores were the result of a breach on his account.
And, it turns out, he prefers solitaire anyway.
“Due to an apparent hack that was taken care of, I have become aware of the existence of the beloved game Temple Run,” he writes on Twitter. “In any case, I remain loyal to solitaire.”
Pope urges ‘balance’ in fighting religious extremism
In his US Congress address, Pope Francis is calling for a “delicate balance” in fighting religious extremism to ensure that fundamental freedoms aren’t trampled at the same time.
He says in his speech to Congress that “no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism.”
He says religious, intellectual and individual freedoms must be safeguarded, while combating violence perpetrated in the name of religion.
The pope cautions against simplistically breaking the world into camps of good and evil.
Francis has expressed deep concern about the slaughter of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East at the hands of Islamic extremists, fearing that the Christian presence in the region is risk. He’s dispatched envoys to Iraq with money and other forms of assistance to help refugees.
Putin to meet Obama in NY on Monday
The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet US President Barack Obama in New York Monday, AFP reports.
Saudi crown prince orders probe into stampede
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince ordered an investigation into the stampede at the hajj pilgrimage that left more than 700 dead on Thursday, the official Saudi Press Agency reports.
Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who chairs the Saudi hajj committee, ordered the probe during a meeting with senior officials responsible for the pilgrimage in Mina, where the stampede took place, SPA reports.
Pope calls for global abolition of death penalty
Speaking to Congress, Pope Francis is calling for an end to the death penalty in the US and across the world.
Francis says that every life is sacred and society can only benefit from rehabilitating those convicted of crimes.
The pope notes that US bishops have renewed their call to abolish capital punishment. That idea is unpopular, however, with many American politicians.
The pontiff does not specifically mention abortion — a particularly contentious issue in Congress at the moment that threatens to force the shutdown of the US government next week.
Still, his remarks referred to the Catholic church’s opposition to abortion. He urged lawmakers and all Americans to “protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.”
Israeli officials foil sulfuric acid transfer to Gaza
Israeli border control officials prevented the transfer of 15 tons of sulfuric acid to the Gaza Strip last week.
The acrid smell of the shipment, which was recorded officially as 30 tons of paint thinner, aroused the suspicion of officials at the Nitzana crossing and the Shin Bet. The truck was then stopped at the Kerem Shalom crossing, before entering the enclave, according to Hebrew reports.
According to Channel 2, the materials were sufficient to produce several tons of explosives.
Not meeting Putin would be ‘irresponsible’ of Obama – US official
Despite clashes over Syria and Ukraine, US President Barack Obama has agreed to meet Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin next week, a senior US official says Thursday, saying to reject the offer of talks would be “irresponsible.”
“The two presidents will meet in the context of the UN General Assembly at the request of President Putin,” the official tells AFP. “It would be irresponsible not to test whether we can make progress through high-level engagement.”
Pope says concept of family threatened ‘as never before’
Pope Francis warns US lawmakers on Thursday that the institution of the family is under threat and young people are facing pressure not to start one.
“How essential the family has been to the building of this country. And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement,” he says, receiving a standing ovation from a joint session of Congress.
“Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without.”
The comments are sure to please Republican lawmakers, many of whom opposed a recent Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage.
Canadian candidate sorry for not knowing what Auschwitz is
A candidate in Canada’s federal elections has apologized for not knowing that Auschwitz was a Nazi death camp.
“Well, I didn’t know what Auschwitz was, or I didn’t up until today,” Alex Johnstone, who is running in the October 19 elections for Parliament in southwestern Ontario for the New Democratic Party, tells the Hamilton Spectator on Tuesday.
Johnstone says she had “heard about concentration camps” before and accuses her opponents of “mud slinging.”
The gaffe came to light when a satirical website found a 2008 Facebook posting of a photograph of part of the electrified fence and its curved concrete supports at Auschwitz.
“Ahhh, the infamous Pollish (sic), phallic, hydro posts,” Johnstone commented underneath. “Of course you took pictures of this! It expresses how the curve is normal, natural, and healthy right!”
Johnstone is vice chair of the local school board and regional vice chair on the Ontario Public School Board Association. She has served as a school trustee since 2010.
“While never intending any malice, this comment was clearly inappropriate,” she posts on her Facebook page Wednesday. “I would like to offer my unreserved apology for this comment.”
US won’t negotiate on Russia’s UN draft on Syria — diplomats
Diplomats say the United States has refused to negotiate over a draft statement that Russia had hoped the Security Council would approve to bolster its position on Syria ahead of a major gathering of world leaders.
A draft of Russia’s council statement, obtained by The Associated Press, urges countries to fight extremist groups “in coordination with the governments of the affected states.”
That language can be seen as a reference to Syria’s government, which Russia supports. Russian military shipments to Syria have alarmed the US and its allies in recent weeks, and President Vladimir Putin is expected to defend them in a UN speech Monday.
The United States had no immediate comment on the draft.
A Kremlin spokesman has said Putin will meet US President Barack Obama on Monday.
Syrian transition could include Assad — Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a fierce critic of Bashar al-Assad, on Thursday suggests for the first time that the Syrian president could have a role to play in a future political transition.
“The process could possibly be without Assad, or the transitional process could be with him,” Erdogan tells reporters after Eid prayers in Istanbul, when asked about a possible solution to Syria’s four-year civil war.
But “nobody envisages a future with Assad in Syria,” Erdogan adds, saying it was “impossible for them (Syrians) to accept a dictator who has led to the deaths of up to 350,000 people.”
Erdogan’s remarks, which came a day after he held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, an ally of Assad, mark a shift from the Turkish leader’s previous insistence that the Syrian leader relinquish power.
His remarks chimed with a comment earlier by German Chancellor Angela Merkel after a summit on the refugee crisis fueled by the Syrian war.
“We have to speak with many actors, this includes Assad, but others as well,” Merkel says.
Corbyn to address pro-Israel event
Jeremy Corbyn, the newly elected leader of Britain’s Labor Party who has been accused of being anti-Israel, will address a pro-Israel event.
Corbyn will speak next week at the Labor Friends of Israel dinner, his office confirms Thursday to The Jerusalem Post. Some 400 people, including about 30 members of Parliament, are scheduled to attend the dinner, which traditionally hosts the Labor Party’s leader.
He has called Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah “friends,” and recently defended an Anglican minister who posted anti-Semitic conspiracy theories online. Corbyn also has publicly endorsed a blanket arms embargo on Israel and the boycott of Israeli universities involved in weapons research.
His Jewish critics have said that if he is to be trusted, he must first clarify or backtrack from such remarks or stances.
Labor Friends of Israel chairwoman Joan Ryan, a British lawmaker, calls the invitation to the dinner “the start of a process.”
“It’s good that we are opening this dialogue. It would be wrong to turn away,” she tells the London-based Jewish Chronicle. “There’s no reason to believe dialogue is not welcome. We have an open door and we will go through it with all our good and strong arguments.”
Does New Zealand’s proposed flag resemble a swastika?
New Zealand First party is protesting against the proposed “Red Peak” design for the flag, saying that it could be used to portray the swastika symbol.
NZ First Godwins the flag referendum debate pic.twitter.com/tNljm9ifPQ
— John Hart (@farmgeek) September 23, 2015
According to The Independent, MP Denis O’Rourke demonstrated in parliament how the Nazi symbol could be created by pasting together four images of the flag.
— Creative Review (@CreativeReview) September 23, 2015
A popular campaign for the geometric design of “Red Peak” prompted lawmakers on Thursday to amend the rules to add it to the original four finalists, all variations of the fern leaf.
The Pacific nation of 4.5 million people is considering changing its flag because many consider it outdated and too similar to Australia’s. It features Britain’s Union Jack in the top left corner, signaling a colonial past that some are eager to put behind them.
A government-appointed panel had winnowed down more than 10,000 designs submitted by the public to four finalists. But many people felt those designs didn’t offer enough choice, with three of them featuring silver ferns and the fourth a representation of an unfurled fern.
The Red Peak does not have any fern but a red triangle topped by a white triangle against a black background.
The fern plant is indigenous to New Zealand and features on sports emblems including the rugby and cricket teams’ uniforms.
The flag that wins in November will be pitted head-to-head against the current flag in a second nationwide vote next March.
— AP contributed
Security cabinet approves tougher measures against rock throwers
The security cabinet unanimously approves harsher measures against stone throwers, Netanyahu announces.
Channel 2 outlines the changes as follows: It allows police to use live fire against assailants if the attacks are considered life-threatening. It imposes a minimum four-year jail sentence for assailants. It permits cops to use of the Ruger rifle. It allows jail time and fines for minors over 14, and strips the child welfare benefits for imprisoned minors. The decisions also stipulate that legislation will be presented suggesting parents be fined for their kid’s attacks.
“The cabinet unanimously approved a series of decisions that I presented in the fight against stone throwing, firebombing, and firecracker [attacks],” Netanyahu says in a tweet, terming these means “murderous objects.”
Palestinian firebomber who was shot by IDF dies
A Palestinian shot and wounded by Israeli troops last week after he hurled a firebomb died of his wounds on Thursday in hospital in the West Bank city of Nablus, his family says.
Ahmed Khatabteh, 25, was wounded on Friday in clashes with troops in Beit Furik, east of Nablus, in which another 51 Palestinians were wounded.
Khatabteh was one of two assailants who threw a firebomb at an Israeli car, apparently missing their target but causing the female driver to lose control of the vehicle and overturn. The driver escaped unharmed.
— AFP contributed
PM’s full statement on rock throwers
Below is Netanyahu’s statement on the approved tougher measures against rock throwers.
“A short time ago the Security Cabinet unanimously adopted a series of decisions in the framework of our fight against those who throw rocks and firebombs, and shoot fireworks,” he says.
“First, we sharpened the open-fire orders. Until recently police would open fire only when their own lives were in danger. As of now, they will be permitted to open fire – and they will know that they have the right to open fire – when they face danger to any lives.
“Second, we decided to impose minimum sentences of four years’ imprisonment for adults who throw firebombs, rocks or other Also, we will impose increased fines, and minimum fines on minors and their parents. These decisions will apply to all citizens and residents of Israel. We intend to change the norm that has become established him, that the state of Israel allows these deadly and murderous objects to be thrown without response and without being thwarted. This will change.”
Jewish frat to raise money to combat violence against women
A historically Jewish fraternity will use its philanthropy for a Jewish group that aims to combat violence against women.
Zeta Beta Tau says in a statement Thursday Jewish Women International would be its third official philanthropy along with its own foundation and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
ZBT is already a partner with JWI and a historically Jewish sorority, Sigma Delta Tau, in presenting programs across the country on consent in dating. That program arose out of concern in recent years about sexual assault on campuses, particularly within the fraternity culture.
In a release, ZBT said its new relationship with JWI, which has a major focus on combating violence against women, will launch next month with a campus program called “Green Light Go.” The program, which will use the childhood game red light, green light to educate about sexual consent, will take place on a number of campuses across the country.
A spokeswoman for JWI, Meredith Jacobs, tells JTA that Guinness World Records will observe the “Green Light Go” event at George Washington University. Organizers hope to attract a record number of participants to a game of red light, green light.
Jacobs says campus chapters of ZBT may raise funds at the event through sponsors, entrance fees, the sale of T-shirts and other paraphernalia.