The Times of Israel liveblogged Saturday’s events as they happened.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish air and naval forces conduct joint training exercises in the Aegean Sea, the country’s Defense Ministry says, amid strains with neighbor Greece over hydrocarbon discoveries.
F-16 fighter jets took part alongside warships to “enhance, maintain and improve the operational capability of joint inter-forces operations,” the ministry tweets.
The announcement came as NATO members Turkey and Greece are facing off in the eastern Mediterranean Sea over gas and oil exploration and a day after Turkey declared significant gas discoveries in the Black Sea.
Two weeks ago, Turkey sent a warship-escorted research vessel to prospect in waters where Greece claims exclusive rights to the underlying seabed. Athens responded by sending its own warships to the area and placing its military on alert. France also sent warships and planes to join drills with Greek forces.
Greek officials said yesterday that the United Arab Emirates would also dispatch fighter jets to the southern Greek island of Crete for joint training next week.
Relations between Greece and Turkey have traditionally been tense. The two have come to the brink of war three times since the mid-1970s, including once over drilling exploration rights in the Aegean Sea that separates the two countries.
French relations with Turkey are strained over Ankara’s involvement in Libya’s civil war. The UAE is a bitter rival of Turkey in a broader struggle over political Islam, while Abu Dhabi and Ankara back rival factions in Libya.
Israeli officials warn of an ecological disaster in southern Israel as sewage from the Gaza Strip flowed across the border.
The officials allege today’s outflow was a deliberate act by Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Strip.
“In recent days, Palestinians in the Strip threatened that if there was not fuel for sewage generators in the Strip they will close, and all the flow will go to Israel. Apparently they went through with the threat,” one official says, according to the Ynet news site.
Residents of southern Israel near the northern part of Gaza report a strong odor of sewage.
Israeli officials fear that if sewage facilities in Gaza do not resume operations, the situation will deteriorate further, and thousands more cubic meters of sewage will flood the area.
The treatment plant that ceased operating handles sewage from the Gaza communities of Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza. After it stopped operations, the sewage was redirected to the Hanoun riverbed, which crosses the border and connects to the Shikma River in southern Israel.
With possible new elections looming, Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg calls on the coalition’s Blue and White party to ditch Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and form an alternative government, claiming there’s a majority in the Knesset to do so.
“The center-left bloc has a majority [of] 61 in the current Knesset. All that needs to be done is for Blue and White to vote in favor of a constructive no-confidence [vote] on Monday… and there’s a government that will pass a budget and can deal with citizens and not with itself, without elections or racism,” she writes on Twitter.
Despite Zandberg’s assertion, there doesn’t appear to be a majority in the Knesset for the move, as Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel and MK Zvi Hauser of the Derech Eretz faction of Blue and White — whose support would be needed — have previously ruled out working with the majority-Arab Joint List party to form a government without Netanyahu.
Protesters are set to rally in Jerusalem and elsewhere this evening against Prime Minister Netanyahu as part of ongoing demonstrations over the premier’s indictment on corruption charges and handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
As in past weeks, the center of the protests will be at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem. Smaller rallies are also expected to be held outside Netanyahu’s private home in the coastal town of Caesarea, as well as at highways, junctions and overpasses across the country.
In Jerusalem, protesters are seeking to march from the Chords Bridge at the entrance to the capital to Paris Square outside the Prime Minister’s Residence, but police are refusing to approve the march, saying it would interfere with traffic and residents’ routines. Police offered several alternatives, but these were rebuffed.
“We won’t let you suppress the protests. We’ll march with you or without you. Your role is to protect us, our role is to protect a collapsing country,” protest organizers say in a statement quoted by the Walla news site.
Rocket warning sirens sound in the Gaza border city of Sderot and the nearby town of Ibim.
The IDF says it is looking into the matter.
NEW YORK — The world hits a grim coronavirus milestone today with 800,000 confirmed deaths and close to 23 million confirmed cases.
That’s according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Governments have been attempting to balance public health with economic health.
Officials believe the true numbers are far higher because of a lack of testing and reporting. In the US, the nation with the most infections, health officials believe there may be 10 times more cases than the confirmed 5.6 million. The US also leads the world in deaths, with more than 175,000.
The news comes as South Korea, once considered a coronavirus success story, bans large gatherings, shuts nightspots and churches and bans fans from professional sports to slow a viral resurgence. Germany, which also initially slowed the virus, reports a four-month high of more than 2,000 cases today. Schools there reopened two weeks ago, and at least 41 schools this week reported students or teachers were infected.
In the US, schools have begun to reopen, with coronavirus outbreaks triggering sudden closings, quarantines and anxiety among parents.
Warning sirens in the south were triggered by a “failed [rocket] launch” by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza, the military says, indicating the projectile landed in the Strip.
The rocket fire comes amid heightened tensions on the border that have seen regular arson attacks and rocket fire from Gaza, as well as nightly retaliatory strikes by Israel in the Hamas-ruled enclave.
Balloon-born incendiary devices launched from Gaza have sparked 35 fires in the south so far today, according to the Kan public broadcaster.
Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner will head an American delegation that will visit Israel and several Gulf states at the start of next month, according to the Walla news site.
Kushner will be accompanied by Avi Berkowitz, US President Donald Trump’s peace envoy, the report says. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and Brian Hook, the US pointman on Iran, are also expected to join the trip.
The reported visit to the region comes on the heels of the US-brokered normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
Demonstrators are gathering at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem and near Benjamin Netanyahu’s home in the coastal town of Caesarea ahead of demonstrations against the premier this evening.
In Jerusalem, a few hundred protesters have begun marching from the Chords Bridge to the Prime Minister’s Residence, despite police refusing to grant permission for the march.
There is a large number of cops in the area and police have stationed water cannons near the entrance to the city and by the Supreme Court, according to the Haaretz daily.
ירושלים חוזר אלייך.
וככה זה נראה ליד בית המשפט העליון, מכתזיות וכוחות גדולים מאוד של משטרה בכניסה לעיר ובגשר המיתרים לקראת התהלוכה הלא מאושרת של המפגינים נגד נתניהו. המפגינים מתכוונים לצאת בצעדה לבלפור, המשטרה לא מתכוונת לאפשר חסימת הכניסה לעיר.
יש פה במיתרים כמה מאות. יהיה שמח pic.twitter.com/tIVhf7iGTq
— Josh Breiner (@JoshBreiner) August 22, 2020
Police have arrested a suspect in connection to an alleged gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in the Red Sea resort town of Eilat.
He is the second suspect arrested today and fourth since the investigation began.
“The police will request today to extend the remand of one of the minors who was arrested and tomorrow will bring the second minor to remand [hearing],” a police statement says.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s party is leaning toward backing a bill delaying Monday night’s deadline to pass a state budget by 100 days, Channel 12 news reports, pushing off the possibility of new elections.
The bill is part of a comprise floated by Derech Eretz MK Zvi hauser that will see Likud agree with the Blue and White party on a budget by the end of the 100 days, according to the network.
The parties also agreed to form a committee to weigh how senior officials are chosen, the report says. No appointments will be made until the committee releases its conclusions.
Additionally, Likud and Blue and White reportedly agreed to focus on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and the flu during the winter, as well as with the potential security threats on the northern and southern borders.
New Health Ministry statistics show 1,140 new coronavirus cases were recorded over Shabbat, bringing the number of infections since the pandemic began to 101,856.
The ministry reports 10 more fatalities, raising the death toll to 819.
Of the 22,393 active cases, there are 398 people in serious condition, with 119 on ventilators. Another 177 people are in moderate condition and the rest have mild or no symtpoms.
The ministry says 27,112 tests were performed yesterday.
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration will send two top officials to the Middle East this week in a bid to capitalize on momentum from the historic agreement between Israeli and the United Arab Emirates to establish diplomatic relations.
Three diplomats say Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner plan to make separate, multiple-nation visits to the region in the coming days to push Arab-Israeli rapprochement in the aftermath of the Israel-UAE deal.
Pompeo is expected to depart tomorrow for Israel, Bahrain, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Sudan, according to the diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the itinerary has not yet been finalized or publicly announced. Kushner plans to leave later in the week for Israel, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, the diplomats say.
Neither trip is expected to result in announcements of immediate breakthrough, the diplomats say, although both are aimed at finalizing at least one, and potentially more, normalization deals with Israel in the near future.
Pompeo also plans to meet in Qatar with members of the Talban to discuss intra-Afghan peace talks that are key to the withdrawal of remaining US forces in Afghanistan, the diplomats say.
The White House and State Department have no comment on the planned trips, which will come as the administration steps up efforts to push for Arab-Israeli normalization even without a resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
They also come as the administration has taken the controversial step of triggering the restoration of all international sanctions on Iran, something that only Israel and the Gulf Arab nations have publicly supported.
Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced on August 13 they would establish full diplomatic relations, in a US-brokered deal that required Israel to halt its contentious plan to annex occupied West Bank land sought by the Palestinians.
The historic agreement delivered a key foreign policy victory to Trump as he seeks reelection and reflected a changing Middle East in which shared concerns about archenemy Iran have largely overtaken traditional Arab support for the Palestinians.
US and Israeli officials have suggested that more Arab nations may soon follow the UAE’s lead, with Bahrain and Oman believed to be closest to sealing such deals.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz signals his Blue and White party could back a proposal floated by Derech Eretz MK Zvi Hauser that would push off Monday night’s deadline to pass a budget, delaying by 100 days the possibility new elections will be called.
The proposed compromise will also see the parties form a committee to weigh how senior government officials are chosen and agree to not make appointments for the 100 day period.
“From my perspective, this committee needs to be and can be formed, and [should] weigh the ways in which we make appointments; and in any case we’ll have to reach an agreement on this matter,” Gantz says in an interview with Channel 13 news.
He says if elections are called, it will because of Netanyahu’s “personal reasons,” referring to the premier’s indictment on graft charges.
Gantz adds: “Netanyahu needs to ask himself, ‘what did I do as prime minister so there won’t be elections?’ He didn’t comply with the clause [in the coalition deal] on the budget. We’re ready for solutions. All that needs to happen is to return to the deal. There’s no reason to take us to elections.”
Over 10,000 people are currently taking part in the anti-Netanyahu protest outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, according to Hebrew media estimates.
Video from the protest outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem shows a police officer violently striking demonstrators.
In the short clip, the officer shoves a protester in the face, while another demonstrator appears to reach toward the cop’s face. The policeman then charges toward the second protester, striking him on the back of the head and knocking him to the ground.
A group of officers then huddle around the protester before taking him away, as they push back other demonstrators.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) August 22, 2020
This evening’s protest calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign could be the largest since the movement took off two months ago.
Paris Square is crowded with tens of thousands of demonstrators as hundreds more continue to stream in from the surrounding streets.
Hundreds of protesters gather on two sides of a police blockade on Keren Hayesod Street, demanding to be allowed to march into the city center. Mounted police are deployed behind ranks of Yassam riot police.
Police finally pull aside the roadblocks, allowing the protesters to advance up Keren Hayesod.
Police say seven people were arrested during a march from the Chords Bridge at the entrance to the city to Paris Square, which is next to the Prime Minister’s Residence, for allegedly disturbing the peace and assaulting officers.
Police earlier declared their willingness to begin enforcing noise regulations by 9:30 p.m. For the first time in weeks, water cannons are staring down demonstrators. Police tell the demonstrators they are in violation of noise regulations.
“We ask everyone to remain quiet,” an officer announces from a water cannon truck.
Protesters, undeterred, walk up in front of the cannons and chant slogans.
— Aaron Boxerman
Police have declared that the protest in Jerusalem calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s resignation is now illegal due to noise violations.
Mounted police ride into the crowd of thousands remaining in Paris Square.
According to police, an officer was injured by a rock thrown at him during the protest.
The officer was taken for medical treatment. A police statement doesn’t specify the severity of the injury.
— Aaron Boxerman
The government will not meet tomorrow for the weekly cabinet meeting, according to Hebrew media reports, apparently due to the coalition crisis that could lead to early new elections if a compromise isn’t reached on the budget by Monday night.
Two weeks ago, the cabinet didn’t convene for its weekly meeting due to a disagreement between the Likud and Blue and White parties over the agenda.
Thousands of anti-Netanyahu protesters are in a standoff with police on King George Street in Jerusalem. Police have ordered demonstrators to leave, but they are refusing to do so.
Police say they are enforcing noise violations and occasionally enter the crowd to confiscate drums and horns.
Without anything with which to make noise, many protesters began banging on the metal police barricade. Police responded by climbing onto the barricade and violently pushing demonstrators away.
Demonstrators chant “revolution” and “shame” at the ranks of Yassam riot police on the other side of the barricade.
— Aaron Boxerman
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosts Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh for talks in Istanbul.
Also taking part in the meeting are Hamas No. 2 Saleh al-Arouri, a top military commander in the Palestinian terror group who has a $5 million US bounty on his head, and Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan.
The meeting comes amid heightened tensions between Israel and Hamas that have seen regular arson attacks and rocket fire from Gaza, as well as retaliatory Israeli strikes in the Strip.
It also comes after Israel and the UAE, one of Turkey’s regional rivals, announced a preliminary agreement to normalize diplomatic ties.
— T.C. Cumhurbaşkanlığı (@tcbestepe) August 22, 2020
Police say a chief superintendent filmed striking anti-Netanyahu protesters in Jerusalem was assaulted by one of the protesters, who tried to remove his mask, according to the Kan public broadcaster.
ORADOUR-SUR-GLANE, France — French President Emmanuel Macron vows that everything will be done to find out who defaced a memorial for one of the worst single massacres in France by the Nazis during World War II.
Politicians from across the spectrum denounce the desecration of the main entrance sign for the memorial at Oradour-sur-Glane in central France, where 642 people were slaughtered on June 10, 1944 by a German SS division.
The word “martyr” was crossed out in the sign with white paint.
A blue cover is placed over the sign today, but images on social media accounts indicate the word in French for “liar” had been added next to it along with other slogans claiming to deny the massacre had taken place.
The inscriptions were discovered yesterday morning when the memorial center opened, its president Fabrice Escure tells AFP.
“It is a complete outrage,” he says, adding that a legal complaint had already been filed and security cameras may be able to provide evidence.
On June 10, 1944, Nazi forces sealed off the village after reports said that a senior SS commander had been captured by the French resistance.
They grouped together all the men of the village in barns and shot them and then forced the women and children into a church which was set on fire.
After the war, resistance leader and later president Charles de Gaulle ordered that the village not be rebuilt but left in ruins as a reminder. A new village was built nearby.
The memorial center, now visited by 300,000 every year, was later constructed to assist visitors.
“Everything will be done to ensure that the authors of this are brought to justice,” Macron says in a statement released by the Elysee Palace, adding that he condemns in the most vehement terms this “unspeakable” act.
The incident comes amid growing concern in France over remembering World War II, after repeated vandalization attacks on Jewish cemeteries.
Jerusalem police again tell demonstrators that the protest outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem has been declared illegal. If the protesters do not disperse, an officer announces, they will be removed with “reasonable force.”
Thousands of demonstrators remain in Paris Square, seemingly without any intent to leave.
— Aaron Boxerman
Thousands of anti-Netanyahu protesters remain at Jerusalem’s Paris Square, refusing to abide by a police order to disperse.
Police officers aggressively shove protesters who refuse to disperse down Keren Hayesod street.
Police announce the protest is illegal and that the if protesters do not leave they will be “forced to use force.”
Protesters chant “you will not be national police chief” in reference to Jerusalem district commander Doron Yadid, who is widely seem as aspiring for the position.
— Anat Peled
Dozens of police officers have entered Paris Square and are dispersing the remaining protesters by force.
Some cops are dragging protesters out of the area, appearing to detain them. Water cannon trucks are on standby nearby.
— Anat Peled
Hundreds of police officers have forcibly dispersed the anti-Netanyahu protesters. Some of them were dragged out from Paris Square and appeared to been detained.
Police continue to push the remaining demonstrators down Agron Street away from the square.
This dispersal appeared to be more violent and with more detained than in previous weeks.
— Anat Peled
Several lawmakers criticize police over their conduct during a tense demonstration this evening against Prime Minister Netanyahu outside his official residence in Jerusalem.
Intelligence Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen of the Blue and White party calls for a probe after a senior officer was filmed striking protesters. Police say the officer, Chief Superintendent Niso Guetta, was attacked by one of the protesters.
“Power is responsibility, not lawlessness!” she tweets.
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid also appears to weigh in on the incident.
“The protesters in the most just protests in the history of the country can’t suffer from police violence. This can’t be allowed to happen and we’ll demand a quick and decisive investigation of this evening’s events in Jerusalem,” Lapid, who heads the Yesh Atid party, writes on Twitter.
Labor MK Merav Michaeli also weighs in.
“When the police are required to work for Netanyahu instead of the public, this mistake happens,” she writes in a tweet that includes video of the incident.
She adds: “The role of the police is to guard the public and the wellbeing of the public, not to be an authority the public fears. Netanyahu has no expectations of the public but dear police officers, if the public despairs of you, it will be very bad.”
Police issue an official statement after an officer was filmed striking two protesters during Saturday evening’s anti-Netanyahu demonstration in Jerusalem.
Police say the officer reported he was attacked, but “nonetheless, the incident will be checked and investigated.”
The statement also says: “Despite the efforts and many resources invested by the Israel Police to guarantee a safe protest and freedom of expression for all, it’s clear that various groups chose the way of provocation, including physical and verbal violence against officers whose role is to maintain security and order, including the protesters themselves.”
Police say they’re acting to ensure the right to protest and expression for all citizens during this “complicated period.”
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) August 22, 2020
Senior Jerusalem police officer Ofer Shomer calls reports of police violence at Saturday evening’s protest “fake news.”
“The protesters are using our names and inciting against us,” says Shomer, adding that protesters attacked cops during the demonstration.
“This protest saw very harsh behavior towards police,” Shomer adds.
Asked about a video of a police officer violently attacking protesters, he says that the violence had begun with the demonstrators.
Shomer doesn’t have a specific figure on the number of people detained by police, saying “they were still counting them.”
— Aaron Boxerman and Anat Peled
The military confirms an IDF drone went down in Lebanese territory today.
“There is no concern of information leaking,” the IDF says in a statement.
It doesn’t specify what caused the drone to crash.
The statement comes shortly after Hezbollah claimed to have downed the drone near the Lebanese village of Ayta ash Shab and said it was in possession of it.
The Ashkelon Magistrate’s Court agrees to extend the remand of a suspect in the alleged gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in Eilat by a day.
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