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

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Ya’alon in West Bank: There will be no settlement freeze

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon says Israel will respond with a heavy hand to any threat to its security or sovereignty, the Hebrew-language Walla website reports.

Speaking during a visit to the Hebron Hills in the southern West Bank, Ya’alon also says that “there is not, nor will there be, a freeze in [settlement] construction, given that our legitimacy to settle the land has come under attack.”

Reports: Russia strikes Syria as lawmakers okay military action

Reports are emerging that Russia has begun to carry out air strikes inside Syria, on the same day that Russian lawmakers vote unanimously to let President Vladimir Putin send troops to Syria.

Sky News in Arabic says that the warplanes are targeting areas in the Governorate of Hama.

The Kremlin says Moscow is not going to send ground troops to Syria, and will only use its air force “in order to support the government Syrian forces in their fight against the Islamic State” group, according to AP. But witnesses say the areas hit by Russian strikes, including the village of Al-Lataminah, are not occupied by IS fighters.

Ralph Lauren quits as CEO of his fashion empire

Ralph Lauren is handing off his title as CEO of the fashion and home decor empire that he founded nearly 50 years ago. Stefan Larsson, the global president of Gap’s thriving low-price Old Navy chain, is replacing him in the role.

Speaking from his luxurious office in Midtown Manhattan, the iconic 75-year-old designer, born Ralph Lifshitz to Jewish immigrant parents, says that he’s not slowing down, but sees Larsson, 41, as a partner as the company spearheads future sales growth.

“I am here, and I am not leaving,” said Lauren. “Stefan is coming to the company because I really believe he’s going to be an interesting addition.”

The change is effective from November, and Larsson will report to Lauren who will continue to drive the company’s vision and strategy as executive chairman and chief creative officer.

— AP

US confirms Russian airstrikes in Syria

The US is confirming Russian airstrikes in Syria, with an American official telling CNN that Moscow told Washington not to fly any warplanes in Syria. Sources inside Syria are reporting at least 27 people are dead in the Russian strikes.

The senior official tells CNN that Russia provided no information of the location of its targets in Syria. The source says that American missions are continuing as planned.

Assad welcomes Russian decision to send troops to Syria

The office of Syrian President Bashar Assad welcomes Russia’s decision to send troops to Syria, saying the military support came at the request of Damascus.

Wednesday’s statement says Assad had sent a letter to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, asking for the military support. Assad’s Facebook page also reiterated that the support “came upon a request from the Syrian state.”

The statements came shortly after Russian lawmakers voted unanimously to let Putin send Russian troops to Syria. The Kremlin sought to play down the decision, saying it will only use its air force in the Mideast country, not ground troops.

Russia has been one of Assad’s strongest allies since the Syrian crisis began in March 2011 killing more than 250,000 people and turning millions more into refugees.

— AP

Firefighters battling blaze in south Tel Aviv

Four teams of firefighters are battling a fire that broke out in a garage in south Tel Aviv.

The area in the Florentin neighborhood, is closed to traffic, although there have been no evacuations of people and no one has been injured.

The firefighters are using a crane to extinguish the flames, which according to Tel Aviv Fire and Rescue says is under control.

— Judah Ari Gross

Russian Orthodox Church: Moscow waging ‘holy battle’ in Syria

Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church voices support for Moscow’s decision to carry out airstrikes in Syria against the Islamic State group, calling it a “holy battle.”

“The fight with terrorism is a holy battle and today our country is perhaps the most active force in the world fighting it,” Interfax news agency quotes the head of the Church’s public affairs department, Vsevolod Chaplin, as saying.

Chaplin explicitly says the Church backs Russia’s decision to deploy its airforce in Syria to attack Islamic State.

“This decision corresponds with international law, the mentality of our people and the special role that our country has always played in the Middle East,” Chaplin says.

He says a council representing Russia’s main religions — Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism — would release a joint statement on Russia’s role in Syria.


Putin: If terrorists win in Syria, they will reach Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country’s intervention in Syria is temporary, and warns that the failure to tackle Islamist extremists in the war-torn country would mean that they could reach Russia.

Speaking at a government meeting after Russian warplanes strike targets in Syria for the first time, the Russian leader says his air force will be supporting the Syrian army in its offensive operations, but Russia is “not going to plunge into this conflict head-on.” Russia’s army will help Assad’s troops as long as their offensive operation lasts, he says.

He confirms that his country’s military action will be limited to the air and not involve ground troops.

Putin repeats his earlier call for the world to unite against Islamist militants in Syria, and calls preemptive action the only way to fight terrorists, according to Reuters. He also says he expects Assad to sit down and talk with the Syrian opposition about a political settlement in Syria.

Volkswagen recalling 11,000 cars in Israel

Volkswagen is recalling more than 11,000 vehicles in Israel for checks, in wake of revelations that the manufacturer had doctored tests of emissions in its diesel cars.

According to Channel 10 television, about half of the cars to be recalled are Volkswagen models, while the rest are SEAT and Audi, both of which are owned by VW.

Israeli VW owners are suing the German company via a class action lawsuit in a Tel Aviv court, seeking a total of 4 million shekels in damages, Army Radio says.

Police summon Arab MK over Temple Mount rant

Jerusalem police call in MK Jamal Zahalka of the Joint (Arab) List for questioning after he is filmed shouting abuse at Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount.

The police are declining to specify the suspicions against Zahalka, Channel 2 television says, so that he cannot prepare in advance of his questioning.

Zahalka was videoed on Tuesday shouting at Israeli Jews at the site: “Crazy criminals, you’re all Kahanists, fascists, racists, get out of here, you hurt Muslims.”

Russia gave Israel advance notice of airstrikes in Syria

Russia informed Israel of its plans to launch airstrikes in Syria before they occurred, Channel 2 television says.

The television says Russian officials contacted their Israeli counterparts over the planned assaults and the areas in which they would take place.

Israeli and Russian coordination in Syria, agreed in a meeting in Moscow last week between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Officials preparing to raise Palestinian flag at UN

Preparations are ongoing for the first raising of the Palestinian flag at the United Nations headquarters in New York this evening. Standing near the still-empty flagpole in the Rose Garden, UN officials and Palestinian diplomats are discussing the last-minutes arrangements for the ceremony, which is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. Israel time.

Many senior officials from across the globe are expected to attend — but not PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who is staying in his hotel room a few blocks north to prepare for his speech to the UN General Assembly tomorrow.

— Raphael Ahren

Lapid meets Saudi prince on new peace push

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid meets in New York with former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to the US and UK Prince Turki bin Faisal Al-Saud, with the aim of promoting a regional peace summit between Israel and the Arab states, Ynet reports.

The meeting takes place after Saudi officials read Lapid’s recent speech in which he called the Saudi initiative the basis for talks with the Palestinians, Ynet says.

French source: Russia targeting Syria opposition, not IS

A French diplomat is accusing Russia of targeting opposition groups in Syria and not Islamic State militants as it claims, Reuters reports.

Russia is a self-declared ally of Syrian leader Bashar Assad, and says backing his army is the best way to fight IS.

“If it is Homs, which it seems to be, it is not Daesh (Islamic State) that they are targeting, but probably opposition groups, which confirms that they are more in support of Bashar’s regime than in fighting Daesh,” Reuters quotes the unnamed source as saying.

Jordan: Israeli violations on Temple Mount threaten global religious war

NEW YORK – Israeli “violations” on the Temple Mount site of Haram a-Sharif is “threatening a global religious war,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh tells members of the United Nations Security Council during a top-level meeting of the prestigious world body this morning.

Speaking during a meeting to discuss the settlement of conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa and countering the terrorist threat in the region, Judeh says that the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and the absence of a Palestinian state “was the beginning of the instability in the region which was translated to different forms of instability in the region and outside until this day.”

Judeh is speaking to the council hours before Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to take the podium at the UN to press for immediate action toward Palestinian statehood.

— Rebecca Shimoni Stoil

Syrian opposition: 36 dead in Russia airstrikes

Syrian opposition activists say 36 people died in today’s Russian airstrikes in Homs region, the BBC reports.

The activists say Russian warplanes hit the towns of Zafaraneh, Rastan, Talbiseh, Makarmia and Ghanto, and that children are among the dead. None of the areas hit are under Islamic State control, the activists say.

Lebanon arrests 40 Palestinians trying to sail to Turkey

Lebanese security forces detain 40 Palestinians as they tried to set sail from the coastal city of Tripoli for Turkey, Israel Radio reports.

The Palestinians, from a large refugee camp in the area, were aiming to reach Western Europe via Turkey. The owners of the boat are also arrested.

French FM: Syria barrel bomb attacks ‘have to end’

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius calls for an end to barrel bomb attacks in Syria as a condition for joint action against the Islamic State group.

“It has to end,” Fabius tells a special Security Council meeting, calling on the UN body to “ban, once and for all, the use in Syria of barrel bombs packed with explosives and chlorine.”


Ghana president calls for Israeli settlement freeze

Ghana President John Dramani Mahama calls for an immediate halt to Israeli settlement activities during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly.

Speaking shortly moments before Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas takes the podium, Mahama says his country hopes for a two-state solution leading to a secure Israel living side by side with an independent state of Palestine.

— Raphael Ahren

Abbas takes the podium at the UN General Assembly

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is speaking now at the United Nations General Assembly.

Abbas is speaking a day before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes the podium to address world leaders.

Abbas: Israel committing repeated incursions at Temple Mount

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas tells the United Nations General Assembly that “extremist Israeli groups are committing repeated incursions at the al-Aqsa Mosque,” in order to impose a new reality and divide the site.

Israeli “occupying forces” are entering the mosque while preventing Muslim worshipers from exercising their religious rights, he says, a day before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes the podium to address world leaders.

Abbas: Israel continuing illegal settlement construction

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas tells the United Nations General Assembly that the Israeli government is continuing “its illegal settlement expansion in the West Bank, especially occupied East Jerusalem.”

The Jewish state, he says “continues its blockades of the Gaza Strip, thus deepening the immense suffering of the people there, in defiance of UN resolutions and agreement signed between the two sides.”

Abbas at UN: Settlements destroying two-state solution

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas calls for an end to the “humiliating” checkpoints in the West Bank and for the blockade on the Gaza Strip to be lifted.

Addressing the UN General Assembly, Abbas says that “racist, terrorist, colonial settlement” is destroying the two-state solution. He cites former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who in 1976 called the settlements a “cancer.”

Abbas at UN: We will seek to form national unity government

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas tells the UN General Assembly that the PA will seek to form a national unity government.

“We are determined to preserve the unity of our land and our people,” Abbas says, “we will not accept temporary solutions or a fragmented state. We will not allow this and we will not allow those who are seeking to do this to do this.

Abbas: Israeli government trying to destroy two-state solution

Mahmoud Abbas tells the UN General Assembly that Israel is seeking to bring an end the two-state solution.

“The policies of the Israeli government lead to clear conclusions that they are working with all their efforts to destroy the two-state solution,” he says. “There is no other explanation.”

He calls on the world to recognize the Palestinian state, saying those who advocate the two-state solution “must recognize two states and not just one.”

Israeli deputy PM attends Abbas speech

UNITED NATIONS — The Israeli deputy prime minister, Silvan Shalom, who has been tasked with responsibility for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, enters the UN General Assembly plenum in the middle of Abbas’s speech.

Meanwhile, two anti-Zionist Jews from the Neturei Karta group are on the press balcony, draped in Palestinian flags.

Members of the anti-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox group Neturei Karta attend a speech at the United Nations by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

Members of the anti-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox group Neturei Karta attend a speech at the United Nations by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

Raphael Ahren

Abbas: We won’t abide by agreements until Israel does

Mahmoud Abbas tells the UN that the Palestinian Authority will no longer abide by agreements signed with Israel until Israel is prepared to do the same, and that the Jewish state must “resume its responsibilities as an occupying power.”

“So long as Israel refuses to commit to the agreements signed with us, cease settlement construction and release prisoners, Israel has left us no choice but to insist that we will not remain the only ones committed to these agreements,” Abbas says.

Abbas: No point in wasting time in negotiations

Mahmoud Abbas tells the UN that the Palestinians will no longer waste time holding negotiations with Israel for the sake of doing so.

“It is no longer useful to waste time in negotiations for the sake of negotiations; what is required is to mobilize international efforts to oversee an end to the occupation in line with the resolutions of international legitimacy,” he says.

“Until then, I call upon the United Nations to provide international protection for the Palestinian people in accordance with international humanitarian law.”

Bennett: Abbas is rewriting history

Education Minister Naftali Bennett slams Mahmoud Abbas’ UN speech, saying that the PA president had created his own version of events.

“Abbas is returning to his days as a Holocaust denier, with a speech that rewrites history,” says Bennett.

Liberman: Abbas making empty threats

Yisrael Beytenu chairman and former foreign minster Avigdor Liberman dismisses Mahmoud Abbas’ warning to the UN that the Palestinians will no longer abide by agreements with Israel as “empty threats.”

“This is another empty speech of empty threats,” says Liberman. “In all his years as chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas has incited against Israel and the Jews, and the sooner he vacates his posts, which he holds non-democratically and illegitimately, the better.”

— Raphael Ahren

PM: Abbas speech deceitful, he has no desire for peace

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Mahmoud Abbas’ speech to the UN distorted the truth, and accuses the PA president of having no intention of making peace with Israel.

“Abu Mazen’s [Abbas] speech is deceitful and encourages incitement and lawlessness in the Middle East. In contrast to the Palestinians, Israel is strictly maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount and is committed to continuing to do so in accordance with the agreements between us and the Jordanians and the Waqf,” says a statement from the prime minister’s bureau.

“We expect and call on the [Palestinian] Authority and its leader to act responsibly and accede to the proposal of the Prime Minister of Israel and enter into direct negotiations with Israel without preconditions. The fact that he – time and again – has refused to do so is the best possible proof of the fact he does not intend to reach a peace agreement.”

Netanyahu is scheduled to deliver his own address tomorrow.










Herzog: Abbas speech distorts reality

Opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog says Mahmoud Abbas’s reference to Israel as an apartheid state in his speech to the UN “distorts” the truth and “only benefit the extremists on both sides.”

Herzog also accuses the Palestinian leader and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of engaging in empty rhetoric, the Maariv website reports.

“Israelis and Palestinians deserve the hope of a normal life. Abbas and Netanyahu are leaders who are afraid of making decisions, and instead emit slogans and mutual recriminations while leaving us to face a difficult situation and an uncertain future,” he says.

“Instead take advantage of a rare opportunity in the Middle East to forge alliances with moderate countries who want to be our partners against rampant Islamist terrorism, they indulge in idle rhetoric.”

Abbas hoists Palestinian flag at UN for first time

The Palestinians raise their flag at the United Nations’ New York headquarters for the first time, in a symbolic gesture approved by a General Assembly vote at the world body earlier this month.

“In this historical moment, I say to my people everywhere: raise the flag of Palestinians very high because it is the symbol of our identity,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas tells a huge crowd as the red, black, white and green flag is hoisted in the UN rose garden. “It is a proud day.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas raises the Palestinian flag as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon looks on during a ceremony in the rose garden of the UN's New York headquarters, September 30, 2015. (AFP PHOTO/TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas raises the Palestinian flag as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon looks on during a ceremony in the rose garden of the UN’s New York headquarters, September 30, 2015. (AFP PHOTO/TIMOTHY A. CLARY)


Russia: Jets strike 8 IS targets in Syria, no civilian areas

Russia says its air force struck eight Islamic State targets in Syria today, but insists that no civilian areas were hit.

The jets carried out a total of 20 sorties, the Defense Ministry in Moscow says, according to the Russian news agency Itar Tass.

Syrian opposition forces say 36 people died in the Russian airstrikes, and claims that none of the targets were in areas held by Islamic State.

IDF soldier, officer hurt in West Bank stone attack

An IDF officer and soldier are lightly wounded when stones are thrown at them close to the West Bank village of Beit Ummar, near Hebron.

The two are taken to Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Kerem for treatment.

— Judah Ari Gross


Kerry: Russia’s Syria strikes must target IS, al-Qaeda

US Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States is prepared to welcome Russian military action in Syria as long as it is directed against the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda affiliates.

Speaking at the UN Security Council, Kerry says that the US would have “grave concerns” if Russia conducted strikes against other groups. He says Russian operations must not support Syrian President Bashar Assad or interfere with those of the US-led coalition that is already attacking Islamic States targets.

— AP

Shaked: Abbas lies while Israel upholds Jerusalem status quo

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked accuses Mahmoud Abbas of lying in his UN speech about the current tensions on the Temple Mount, even as Israel makes every effort to maintain the calm.

Abbas “stood on the stage at the UN and spread lies in every direction,” she says. “While Israel maintains the status quo on the Temple Mount to the point of absurdity with a ban on Jewish prayer, Muslim rioters turn the al-Aqsa Mosque into a warehouse for terrorism.”

Shaked vows that “Israel will do everything necessary to preserve its sovereignty in Jerusalem.”