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Hezbollah chief vows ‘appropriate’ response to any Israeli airstrike in Lebanon

‘This maintains the existing rules of engagement,’ Hassan Nasrallah says after Lebanese terror group fired largest rocket barrage at Israel since 2006 war

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah gives a speech, on August 7, 2021. (Screen capture: Twitter)
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah gives a speech, on August 7, 2021. (Screen capture: Twitter)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Saturday’s events as they happened.

Likud apologizes for Netanyahu’s release of statement on Shabbat, claims ‘technical error’

Opposition chief Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party apologizes for his putting out a statement congratulating Olympic gold medalist Linoy Ashram during Shabbat, claiming its release on the Jewish day of rest was due to a “technical error.”

“Likud always safeguarded the honor of Shabbat and made sure not to publish statements to the press during Shabbat, and thus we will continue to act,” the party says.

Haredi MKs join in criticizing Netanyahu over Olympic congratulations on Shabbat

Haredi party leaders Aryeh Deri of Shas, center, and Yaakov Litzman, left, and Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism, at a press conference at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on May 6, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Haredi party leaders Aryeh Deri of Shas, center, and Yaakov Litzman, left, and Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism, at a press conference at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on May 6, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ultra-Orthodox party heads follow Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich in criticizing ex-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for publicly congratulating Linoy Ashram on her Olympic win during Shabbat.

“The Olympic Games are not an act of saving a life, opposition leader is a state post and it’s forbidden to put out a statement desecrating Shabbat,” United Torah Judaism MK Ganfi says, referring to Netanyahu’s current post.

He adds: “I’m happy that the president and prime minister waited until the end of Shabbat, as Mr. Netanyahu should have also done.”

Fellow UTJ MK Yaakov Litzman also censures Netanyahu, saying there was no “real need” for him to put out the statement on Shabbat.

“It’s expected of someone with an official state title to respect the Sabbath day, as the president and prime minister did in this case,” Litzman says.

Shas chief Aryeh Deri says Netanyahu’s release of the statement “hurt a great many Shabbat-observing Jews and hurt his loyal partners for whom the holy Shabbat is very dear to their hearts.”

Deri also says Shabbat is so holy, one can’t desecrate it then ask for forgiveness.

Like Smotrich’s party, UTJ and Shas are allied with Netanyahu’s Likud.

Far-right leader slams Netanyahu for congratulating Linoy Ashram during Shabbat

Religious Zionist leader Bezalel Smotrich  speaks during a Knesset faction meeting, on July 12, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Religious Zionist leader Bezalel Smotrich speaks during a Knesset faction meeting, on July 12, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich slams opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu for releasing a statement congratulating Linoy Ashram on her Olympic gold medal win during Shabbat.

“I’m happy about Linoy’s gold, sad about the desecration of Shabbat. I’m happy that the prime minister and president waited with the congratulations until the end of Shabbat, sad that Netanyahu put out a statement in the middle of Shabbat,” he tweets.

Smotrich, whose far-right party is allied with the former premier’s Likud, adds, “It’s sad there are those here who take advantage of medals to laugh at Shabbat and those who observe it.”

Serious COVID cases pass 300, a 4-month high; 14 deaths on Friday

Serious coronavirus cases surge to 324, according to Health Ministry, the first time they have topped 300 since early April.

The death toll jumps to 6,535, with 14 fatalities recorded yesterday.

There are 31,736 active cases in Israel, including 49 people on ventilators. So far this weekend, 6,315 new infections have been recorded.

The positive test rate yesterday was 3.79 percent.

Since Israel began giving third COVID-19 vaccine doses to Israelis over 60 and the immunocompromised, 412,308 people have received a booster shot. In total, 5,805,286 have received at least one shot and 5,393,198 two doses.

Health official: We’re relying on vaccines, not restrictions

An Israeli woman receives a third coronavirus vaccine injection at a senior center in Jerusalem, on Wednesday, August 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
An Israeli woman receives a third coronavirus vaccine injection at a senior center in Jerusalem, on Wednesday, August 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

A senior health official tells Channel 13 news that increased vaccination is the key to stem a resurgence in coronavirus cases, before tightened Green Pass restrictions take effect tomorrow.

“We aren’t relying on the Green Pass restrictions that will begin tomorrow, but the vaccination of the population,” the unnamed official says.

Albany sheriff says NY Governor Cuomo could face misdemeanor in groping case

In this image taken video provided by Office of the NY Governor, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo makes a statement on a pre-recorded video, released Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021, in New York. (Office of the NY Governor via AP)
In this image taken video provided by Office of the NY Governor, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo makes a statement on a pre-recorded video, released Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021, in New York. (Office of the NY Governor via AP)

ALBANY, New York — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo could face misdemeanor charges if investigators substantiate a criminal complaint accusing the governor of groping an aide last year, the Albany County sheriff says.

Sheriff Craig Apple promises a “very comprehensive” investigation in partnership the Albany County district attorney’s office, but says it would be premature to commit to a timeline or say whether Cuomo himself will be questioned.

“We have a lot of factfinding to do. We have a lot of interviews to do,” Apple tells reporters. “I’m not going to rush it because of who he is. And I’m not going to delay it because of who he is.”

The complaint, filed this week, is the first known instance where a woman has made an official report with a law enforcement agency over alleged misconduct by the Democratic governor.

The aide says Cuomo reached under her shirt and fondled her when they were alone in a room at the Executive Mansion last year. The woman also told investigators with the attorney general’s office that Cuomo once rubbed her rear end while they were posing together for a photo.

Cuomo’s lawyer, Rita Glavin, has said the allegation was fabricated.

“He is 63 years old. He has spent 40 years in public life and for him to all of the sudden be accused of a sexual assault of an executive assistant that he really doesn’t know, doesn’t pass muster,” Glavin said.

Hezbollah chief vows ‘appropriate’ response to any Israeli airstrike in Lebanon

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah gives a speech, on August 7, 2021. (Screen capture: Twitter)
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah gives a speech, on August 7, 2021. (Screen capture: Twitter)

In a televised address, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah says that the terror group does not seek escalation with Israel, but will respond in kind to any Israeli air strikes in south Lebanon.

“We wanted to tell our Israeli enemy that any airstrike against Lebanon will absolutely be met with a response — but in an appropriate, proportional way,” Nasrallah says.

Nasrallah delivers his remarks during a speech celebrating Hezbollah’s self-described “victory” in the 2006 war against Israel. The address was scheduled before tensions escalated between Israel and the terror group along the Lebanese border.

Israel struck targets in south Lebanon late Wednesday in response to rocket fire by Palestinian terror groups in the area, according to the Israeli military. The next day, Hezbollah fired missiles towards open areas in northern Israel.

For now, Nasrallah says, Hezbollah’s response has been confined to open military zones in Har Dov, which Lebanese see as occupied territory.

“This is a message that is clear as day: you bombed open areas, so we bombed open areas,” Nasrallah says. “This maintains the existing rules of engagement.”

Nasrallah adds, however, that if Israel continues to conduct airstrikes in Lebanon, Hezbollah may broaden its range of fire.

“Our response could be in the Galilee, or parts of the Lebanese Golan that Israel has occupied. But this will all be considered in due time,” Nasrallah says.

Lebanon has been undergoing a spiraling economic and political crisis in recent months, with some observers warning the ever-fragile state could totally collapse. Nasrallah says, however, that Hezbollah will not allow the domestic political situation to affect its ability to fight Israel.

“We always say — we do not want war. But we are not afraid of it, we are ready for it, and we wait for it each day. And we shall win it, with God’s help, as it is His promise and that of his prophet,” Nasrallah says.

Iranian Kurdish party accuses Iran of killing senior official in Iraq

ERBIL, Iraq — Iran’s oldest Kurdish separatist party, now based in neighboring Iraq, accuses Tehran of murdering one of its leaders.

Mussa Babakhani, a member of the central committee of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), was “assassinated by a terrorist affiliated” with Iran, a statement from the party says.

Tehran refers to the KDPI, which is based in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, as a “terrorist” group.

Babakhani was “kidnapped Thursday by two terrorists and found dead and bearing marks of torture” on Saturday in a hotel room in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, the statement says.

Kurdish security forces have said they are investigating his death.

The KDPI accuses Iran of murdering several of its leaders in recent years. It says Babakhani, born in 1981, joined the party in 1999.

The group was banned after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Political leaders hail Ashram on winning gold: ‘A tremendous pride to the whole country’

Israeli gold medalist Linoy Ashram competes in the individual all-around final of the Rhythmic Gymnastics event during Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, on August 7, 2021. (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP)
Israeli gold medalist Linoy Ashram competes in the individual all-around final of the Rhythmic Gymnastics event during Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, on August 7, 2021. (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP)

President Isaac Herzog speaks by phone with Linoy Ashram to congratulate her on winning an Olympic gold medal in rhythmic gymnastics.

“You’re a tremendous pride to the whole country. When we saw the tears flowing from your eyes, the Israeli flag being raised, ‘Hatikva’ being played and the gold medal on your neck — we were excited to the point of tears,” Herzog is quoted saying in a statement from his office.

He also says “don’t take any objections to heart,” referring to Russian protests against the judges granting of the gold medal to Ashram.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also hails Ashram as a “symbol of effort and hard work.”

“Like her mother Hedva said: A true wonder woman,” Bennett adds.

Culture and Sports Minister Chili Troper says she’s one of the greatest athletes in Israel’s history.

“Thank you for letting us take part in your incredible journey,” he says, according to Army Radio.

Defense officials think there could soon be days of fighting with Hezbollah – report

The defense establishment estimates that there could soon be days of battle between Israel and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, according to Channel 12 news.

EU official: Iran nuclear talks could resume in September

BRUSSELS — Iran is ready to resume talks over reviving the nuclear deal with world powers under new president Ebrahim Raisi, and meetings could take place in Vienna starting in early September, an EU official says today.

The senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity, says the EU’s negotiator on the file, Enrique Mora, attended Raisi’s swearing-in in Tehran on Thursday and spoke with the Iranian official designated to take charge of the nuclear talks, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

Amir-Abdollahian “is supposed to be the new foreign minister” in Raisi’s cabinet, but that has not yet been announced, the EU official says.

He adds that it’s unclear whether the nuclear talks will remain under the responsibility of the Iranian foreign ministry or be taken over by another body, such as Iran’s National Security Council.

IDF nabs suspect who entered Israel from Lebanon

The military says troops arrested a suspect that crossed the Lebanese border into Israeli territory near the town of Arab al-Aramshe.

The unarmed man was arrested shortly after crossing the border fence in the village of Jordeikh, the IDF says.

The IDF adds that there is no fear of a security incident.

US now averaging 100,000 new daily COVID infections

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida — The US is now averaging 100,000 new COVID-19 infections a day, returning to a milestone last seen during the winter surge, in another bleak reminder of how quickly the Delta variant has spread through the country.

Health officials fear that cases, hospitalizations and deaths will continue to soar if more Americans don’t embrace the COVID-19 vaccine.

Nationwide, 50 percent of residents are fully vaccinated and more than 70% of adults have received at least one dose.

“Our models show that if we don’t [vaccinate people], we could be up to several hundred thousand cases a day, similar to our surge in early January,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Rochelle Walensky said on CNN this week.

It took the US about nine months to cross the 100,000 average case number in November before peaking at about 250,000 in early January.

Cases bottomed out in June, averaging about 11,000 per day, but six weeks later the number is 107,143.

Hospitalizations and deaths are also increasing rapidly, though all are still below peaks seen early this year, before vaccines became widely available.

More than 44,000 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the CDC, up 30% in a week and nearly four times the number who were hospitalized in June. More than 120,000 were hospitalized in January.

The seven-day average for deaths also increased, according to Johns Hopkins University. It rose from about 270 deaths per day two weeks ago to nearly 500 a day as of yesterday. Deaths peaked at 3,500 per day in January. Deaths usually lag behind hospitalizations, as the disease normally takes a few weeks to kill.

Linoy Ashram: Since I was little I dreamed of winning Olympic gold medal

Israel's Linoy Ashram poses with her gold medal during the podium ceremony of the individual all-around final of the rhythmic gymnastics event, during Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics center in Tokyo, on August 7, 2021. (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP)
Israel's Linoy Ashram poses with her gold medal during the podium ceremony of the individual all-around final of the rhythmic gymnastics event, during Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics center in Tokyo, on August 7, 2021. (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP)

Olympic rhythmic gymnastics champion Linoy Ashram says it was her dream to win a gold medal since she was little.

“There are no words, I’m the happiest person in the world. I thank everyone who supported me. This accomplishment is not only mine, but it is the entire State of Israel’s,” she tells Army Radio.

Thousands evacuated as forest fires rage in Greece

THRAKOMAKEDONES, Greece — Wildfires rampage through Greek forests for yet another day, threatening homes and triggering more evacuations, a day after hundreds of people were plucked off beaches by ferries in a dramatic overnight rescue.

One volunteer firefighter has died and at least 20 people have been treated in hospitals. Dozens of fires are burning across the country today, blazes that one official describes as “a biblical catastrophe.”

Scores of homes, businesses and farms have been burnt over the last week in fires that broke out during Greece’s most protracted and intense heat wave in three decades.

One massive fire advanced up the slopes of Mount Parnitha, a national park north of Athens that features some of the last substantial forests near the Greek capital.

The blaze sent choking smoke across Athens, where authorities set up a hotline for residents with breathing problems. Overnight and throughout the day, fire crews struggled to contain constant flare-ups.

In apocalyptic scenes that went into the night, small ferries and other boats evacuated 1,400 people from a seaside village and beaches on Evia, an island of rugged, forested mountains popular with tourists and campers, after approaching flames cut off other means of escape. Behind them, towering flames and smoke blanketed the hills.

The scale of Greece’s wildfires has been breathtaking, with more than 100 breaking out across the country over the past few days. Most were quickly tamed, but several rapidly burned out of control, consuming homes and causing untold ecological damage.

German disease control center says vaccines saved more than 38,000 lives

BERLIN — Germany’s disease control center estimates that coronavirus vaccines have saved the lives of more than 38,000 people in the country.

The Robert Koch Institute says that according to a model calculation, mass vaccinations in the last 6 1/2 months have also kept 76,000 COVID-19 patients out of hospitals and almost 20,000 people out of intensive care units.

Germany’s vaccine drive also prevented more than 706,000 confirmed cases this year, the institute says.

“The high effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign shows in an impressive way that vaccinations pave the way out of the pandemic,” the institute says in a statement.

Germany started vaccinating residents against the virus in late 2020, and more than 45 million people have been fully vaccinated, or 54.5 percent of the population.

Some 51.8 million, or 62.3%, have received at least one shot, German Health Minister Jens Spahn says today.

But after a sluggish start that only really gained traction from March onward, the country’s vaccination rate has dropped in recent weeks.

Officials worry of a fourth wave of infections as travelers return from summer vacations and schools start to open again with most children and teenagers still unvaccinated.

Commander of Iran Guards meets with Hezbollah No. 2, day after attack on Israel

The commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has met with Hezbollah No. 2 Naim Qassem, according to photos published today.

The meeting between Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami and Qassem, who is in Tehran for the inauguration of new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, comes a day after Hezbollah fired 19 rockets at Israel in the heaviest barrage since the 2006 Second Lebanon War. Israel responded with limited artillery fire.

Salami tells Qassem that “Hezbollah’s latest move in response to the Zionist army’s aggression proved to the new prime minister [Naftali Bennett] of the Zionist entity that the equation of response has not changed.” according to Al-Alam, the Arabic-language service of the Iranian state television.

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