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

Netanyahu reportedly considering firing Smotrich

Channel 12 news reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering firing Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich from his cabinet, after the far-right politician unleashed a series of broadsides against the premier for his decisions regarding the Temple Mount and other matters.

Transportation Minister Betzalel Smotrich arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on June 24, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

According to the report, the pressure is coming from within Likud.

Among other things, Smotrich has called Netanyahu’s government “weak” and said the justice system was “stupid.”

Speaking to Kan radio Monday morning, Smotrich refused to apologize or backtrack, saying he’s not Miss Manners. His ally Ayelet Shaked has defended him and compared him to Donald Trump.

French ministers seek probe into local links with Epstein

Two French government ministers are calling for an investigation into the alleged child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, saying a US inquiry had exposed links between the disgraced financier and France.

Jeffrey Epstein in New York City in 2005. (Neil Rasmus/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images/via JTA)

Epstein, whose suicide in jail over the weekend has outraged his alleged victims, owned an apartment in Paris and had been in the city just before his arrest in New York last month.

“The American investigation has turned up links with France,” Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa says in a joint statement with French child welfare minister Adrien Taquet.

The ministers do not provide any details of the alleged France links.

Epstein, 66, was accused of raping and sexually exploiting dozens of young girls for years, and of also providing teenage victims for friends and acquaintances.


US ambassador visits family of slain student

US Ambassador David Friedman has paid a condolence call to the family of Dvir Sorek in the West Bank settlement of Ofra.

Sorek, 18, was stabbed to death in an apparent Palestinian terror attack outside his West Bank seminary last week.

“Rough week: mourned the passing of my beloved mother, mourned the calamities that befell the Jewish people on the ninth day of Av, and mourned with the Sorek family the murder of their beloved son. May all those in mourning be comforted from Heaven,” Friedman, who lost his mother last week, writes on Twitter.

Bataclan attacker Abdeslam charged in connection to Brussels bombings

Salah Abdeslam, the sole surviving suspect in the November 2015 Paris attacks, has been formally charged in connection with the Brussels suicide bombings months later, federal prosecutors say.

Salah Abdeslam, the last living suspected gunman in the Paris terror rampage of November 13, 2015. (Federal Police of Belgium/AFP)

Abdeslam is charged with “participating in the activities of a terrorist group,” the federal prosecutor’s office tells AFP, confirming reports in the Belgian media in recent days.

The prosecutor’s office did not give details of his alleged role in the suicide bombings at Brussels airport and a city metro station on March 22, 2016, which killed 32 people and wounded 340 others.

People walk away from the broken windows at Zaventem Airport in Brussels after an explosion on Tuesday, March 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks, which occurred within an hour of each other.


Airport authority says baggage snafu fixed, delays persist

The Civil Aviation Authority says a problem with the baggage handling system at Ben-Gurion Airport has been solved, Channel 12 news reports.

However, there are still widespread delays affecting flights out of the country, on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

“All check-in desks are now open, the crowding is palpable,” an Army Radio reporter writes on Twitter.

The airport says it will take several hours before it is able to catch up with the schedule after the malfunction.

Video shows baby rescued from hot car by passersby

A video shows passersby breaking the window of a car in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak to pull out a baby left inside.

The video shows the baby, sweating but conscious, being carried away.


A medic tells Channel 13 news that the baby was taken to a local hospital suffering from heatstroke and a loss of fluids, but is listed in good condition.

According to authorities, the baby was left in the car for at least an hour. Temperatures in Bnei Brak hit 32° C (90° F) today.


Norway mosque shooting suspect won’t talk

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The defense lawyer for a suspected gunman accused of an attempted terrorist attack on an Oslo mosque and of having killed his teenage stepsister says her client “will use his right not to explain himself for now” in a detention hearing later today.

Unni Fries declines to comment on Norwegian media reports that the suspect was inspired by shootings in New Zealand, where a gunman killed 51 people in March, and on August 3 in El Paso, Texas, which left at least 22 dead.

A picture taken on August 10, 2019 shows medics with a stretcher near the al-Noor Islamic center mosque where a gunman, armed with multiple weapons, went on a shooting spree in the town of Baerum, an Oslo suburb. (Terje Pedersen / NTB Scanpix / AFP)

Her client was arrested Saturday after he entered a suburban Oslo mosque waving weapons. A man stopped the aggressor, who injured one person slightly. Police who raided the suspect’s house found the body of his 17-year-old stepsister.

— AP

Launching campaign, Barak blitzes Gantz for ‘giving in’ to Netanyahu

Launching the Democratic Camp’s campaign, former prime minister Ehud Barak goes on the attack against Blue and White head Benny Gantz a day after the latter appeared to leave open the possibility of a rotation government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Barak says the comment was not a mistake or a case of bad hearing, as Gantz claimed after a similar comment earlier this month, but “the truth leaking out.”

“This is giving in from the start, without a fight, on the central goal of these fateful elections: saving Israeli democracy via a change in government,” he says, according to the Ynet news site. “Will the government formed after elections be a xerox of the Netanyahu government, paralyzed, sodden with fear and victimization, full of incitement and sectoralism, that sees only [enemies] on the outside and traitors within?”

Democratic Camp politician Ehud Barak, left, speaks at a press conference launching their election campaign in Tel Aviv, on August 12, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A poster at the campaign launch puts right-wing leaders on one side under the heading “this is cowardice” and Democratic Camp leaders under “this is courage.” Gantz’s face is split between the two.

Blue and White shoots back that “we won’t take political advice from Barak, who could teach a course on crawling to Netanyahu governments.”

In 2011, Barak split Labor into two separate factions in order to remain as defense minister in Netanyahu’s government.



PA says US backing for Israeli West bank annexation would be ‘illegitimate’

Responding to a report in Zman Yisrael that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking US backing for an Israeli move to extend its sovereignty over settlements in the West Bank, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman says any such process would be “illegitimate.”

Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language site, reported on Sunday that Netanyahu was attempting to obtain public approval from US President Donald Trump for Israeli moves to effectively annex parts of the West Bank ahead of national elections on September 17.

A view of houses in the Etzion bloc settlement of Efrat on November 27, 2018. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

“Any move that infringes on Palestinian rights or international law is unjust and illegitimate,” Nabil Abu Rudeineh is quoted in PA news outlet Wafa saying in response to the Zman report.

“Such a move will have dangerous consequences after Trump’s declaration about Jerusalem being Israel’s capital, the continued incursions of settlers and extremists into the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and the American position on refugees and the salaries of prisoners and martyrs,” the Wafa report adds.

— Adam Rasgon

Netanyahu’s office says annexation story ‘not correct’

An official in the Prime Minister’s Office says a report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking White House support for a move to effectively annex part of the West Bank is “not correct.”

The official refuses to expand.

According to the report, Netanyahu is seeking on-the-record approval from US President Donald Trump ahead of September elections to give him a boost.

— Raphael Ahren

Netanyahu summons rogue minister Smotrich amid pressure to jettison him

Channel 12 and Israel Radio report on Twitter that Netanyahu has summoned Bezalel Smotrich for a meeting.

Walla news reports that the meeting will be at 5 p.m. and Netanyahu still has not decided on firing the contumacious transportation minister, citing “those around Netanyahu.”

The prime minister is reportedly facing pressure from within Likud to give Smotrich the heave-ho.

Iraq says Israel cannot help secure Persian Gulf shipping

Iraq’s foreign minister says Israel’s participation in a US-led mission to secure shipping in the Persian Gulf is unacceptable.

Mohammed al-Hakim tweets that foreign powers are not needed and regional states are capable of securing the strategic waterway themselves.

A speedboat of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard trains a weapon toward the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, which was seized in the Strait of Hormuz by the Guard, in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, July 21, 2019. (Morteza Akhoondi/Tasnim News Agency via AP)

According to Israeli reports, Foreign Minister Israel Katz told a Knesset meeting this month that Israel had a role in the US mission to monitor and potentially escort commercial ships near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, where Iran’s recent seizures of vessels has raised tensions with the West.

Only Britain has confirmed it will take part in the ostensibly international mission.

Al-Hakim says the effort will increase regional tensions.

— with AP

Deri said to tell Netanyahu: Wag your finger, but don’t fire Smotrich

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri has told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he thinks Tranportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich should not be fired from the cabinet, Walla news reports.

Deri tells Netanyahu that Smotrich should be scolded and be made to apologize, but he is a good partner, Walla reports.

Facebook COO Sandberg meets Rivlin, shares condolences, goggles

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, on a visit to Israel, meets with President Reuven Rivlin and presents him with a copy of her book “Option B,” which deals with her coping with the sudden loss of her husband David Goldberg.

Rivlin’s wife Nechama died earlier this year after an unsuccessful lung transplant.

“We both know what it’s like to lose someone you love – and to honor their memory by trying to do good in their name,” Sandberg writes on Facebook.

Honored to meet with Israeli President Reuven Ruvi Rivlin – ראובן רובי ריבלין in Jerusalem. I admire him for standing…

פורסם על ידי ‏‎Sheryl Sandberg‎‏ ב- יום שני, 12 באוגוסט 2019

Sandberg also presents Rivlin with a pair of virtual reality goggles.

“The president thanked her and after trying them on said that what she does is a source of inspiration for people all around the world,” a statement from his office says.

President Reuven Rivlin trying on virtual reality goggles in his office in Jerusalem on August 12, 2019. (Mark Neiman/GPO)

Smotrich arrives at meeting with PM, plays it cool

Bezalel Smotrich has arrived at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem for a meeting with Netanyahu, amid reports he may be fired from the cabinet.

The minister, who has telegraphed a business as usual approach, tweets a picture of him at a meeting of settler leaders planning transportation solutions for settlers in the West Bank.

“We have a ton to do,” he writes, predicting another 500,000 Jewish settlers.

Barkat joins Smotrich, Netanyahu summit

Bezalel Smotrich is still meeting with Netanyahu, but former Jerusalem mayor and current Likud MK Nir Barkat has entered the meeting, Channel 12’s Yair Cherki reports on Twitter.

Asked if he’s going to be the next minster, Barkat replied “don’t think so.”

Fires in south caused by passing freight train

Authorities say a series of brushfires reported along a train line near the Gaza Strip were caused by a passing freight train and not incendiary devices emanating from the Palestinian enclave.

“The times the fires broke out matches the times the train passed those spots,” a statement from a fire services spokesperson says.


Smotrich is acting childish, should apologize, culture minister says

Outspoken Culture Minister Miri Regev lashes out at Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, calling his outburst against Benjamin Netanyahu “childish.”

“He’s crossed all red lines,” she tells Channel 12 News. “It’s not respectful.”

Asked whether Netanyahu should fire Smotrich, she says only that she expects him to apologize. “I don’t give the prime minister advice on appointments,” she says.

She also says she does not trust United Right head Ayelet Shaked, whom she says is not a “natural partner.”

Smotrich meeting ends with no announcement

The meeting between Bezalel Smotrich and Benjamin Netanyahu has ended, according to Hebrew-language reports.

There is no word on an apology or a firing.

Suspect in municipal graft probe dies by suicide — reports

A suspect in a graft investigation has been found after apparently taking his own life, according to initial reports.

The suspect worked for a local authority, according to reports.

The person, in his 30s, is found outside a residential building in Jerusalem, police say. He is not named.

Police are investigating.

Smotrich said to survive meeting without being canned

Several Israeli reporters write on Twitter that Bezlale Smotrich is not being fired from his position as transportation minister.

No source is given and there is no official word from either Smotrich’s or Netanyahu’s bureau.

Smotrich won’t be fired, is expected to walk back criticism — report

Channel 12 reports that Bezalel Smotrich will not be fired.

According to the report, officials in Prime Minister Benjamin’s Netanyahu’s office are expecting Smotrich to issue some sort of statement walking back his criticism of the premier during a speech at 8 p.m. when the United Right is set to launch its electoral campaign.

Smotrich is said to have spoken with United Right leaders Ayelet Shaked, Rafi Peretz and Naftali Bennett about Netanyahu’s demand.

‘Serious irregularities’ at prison where Epstein took own life, Barr says

United States Attorney General Bill Barr says there are “serious irregularities” at the New York jail where Jeffrey Epstein died of an apparent suicide while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

“I was appalled and indeed the whole department was, and frankly angry, to learn of the Metropolitan Correctional Center’s failure to adequately secure this prison,” Barr tells reporters.


United Right to morph into Yemina

The recently named United Right party will be rebranding again when it launches its campaign tonight, as Yemina, or “Rightward,” according to several reports.

Holocaust denier banned from France for 40 years

The United Kingdom anti-racism group, Hope Not Hate, says that British Holocaust denier Alison Chabloz has been banned from France for 40 years.

Chabloz, a blogger and musician who is openly racist, was convicted in Britain 2018 for posting anti-Semitic songs online, including one calling Auschwitz a “theme park.”

Chabloz, who was banned from using social media, posts on far-right platform Gab that she was questioned by French and British authorities upon trying to enter France, and banned until 2059.


Blast reported at Iraqi weapons depot said owned by Iran-backed militia

A massive explosion has been reported at a weapons depot controlled by a pro-Iranian militia in Baghdad.

The blast occurs in the Iraqi capital’s Dora neighborhood. Local media reports that the weapons storehouse is owned by the Sayyid of Martyrs Battalions, an Iraqi Shiite militia supported by Tehran.

— Judah Ari Gross

Diamond tycoon Steinmetz charged in Switzerland over Guinea bribes

Swiss prosecutors say Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz has been ordered to stand trial on corruption and bribery charges, allegedly involving a widow of Guinea’s former president.

Prosecutors in Geneva allege that diamond-mining magnate Steinmetz and two other defendants paid $10 million in bribes to squeeze out a competitor for mining rights in Guinea’s southeastern Simandou region between 2005 and 2010.

Israeli tycoon Beny Steinmetz seen at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court, August 14, 2017. (Flash90)

The three are accused of issuing false contracts and invoices to hide bribes allegedly paid to a wife of Guinean President Lansana Conte, who died in 2008.

The prosecutor’s office said Monday that the charges include corruption of foreign officials and falsifying documents. It said the public prosecutor plans to seek sentences of two to 10 years in detention.

Israeli authorities arrested Steinmetz in December 2016. He was later released under restrictive conditions.

— AP

Police: 12 probed over harassment of AG on WhatsApp

A police spokesman says 12 people are facing possible charges over hundreds of phone messages sent to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit demanding he open an investigation against a public official.

According to police, the 12, from Bnei Brak, Jerusalem, Ashdod, and elsewhere, sent around a link on WhatsApp that allowed users to send messages to harass Mandelblit.

Two of the group are also suspected of creating the link that was distributed.

Police say the 12 were questioned and released on bond, and the case has been transferred to the state prosecutors.

Ordnance seen going off after Baghdad armory bombed

Explosions are apparently still going off at the weapons depot reportedly attacked in Baghdad, sending ordnance into surrounding neighborhoods.

On its Facebook page, the joint military-police Baghdad Operations Command says that the “explosion occurred because of the piling up of ammunition inside the Saqr military base in southern Baghdad.”

There are also unconfirmed reports of sirens and possible shells landing at the US diplomatic compound in the city.

Jerusalem man who killed self amid graft probe named

The Jerusalem municipal official who took his life has been named in the media as Danny Katz.

Medical and rescue workers at the Jerusalem home of a local government official, who was under investigations for corruption, was found dead in a suspected suicide on August 12, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

According to Channel 12 news, Katz, who leaped off his fifth story balcony in the capital, left behind a note proclaiming his innocence, but admitting to contact with central suspect Zion Turgeman, who is suspected of running a bribery scheme.

Shaked: I’m aiming to lead the country

Launching the campaign of her Yemina (nee United Right) party, Ayelet Shaked says she is aiming for the highest office possible.

“I’m aiming as high as possible, to lead the country. I intend to do everything to prevent another destruction that would turn into weeping for generations. We have a second chance, we won’t get a third. Without a large and strong right, Likud will turn to the left,” she says.

Smotrich apologizes, says attack on Netanyahu came from ‘deep sorrow’

Bezalel Smotrich has apologized for his attacks on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He says his comments, in which he attacked the premier as “weak,” with no ability to govern were “said out of deep sorrow,” amid anger over Jews being banned from the Temple Mount on Sunday.

“Things were said in a way that was not fitting, especially not given the relationship between a prime minister and a minister in his government, and for that I am sorry,” he says.

He adds that the party will back Netanyahu amid his legal woes.

“Netanyahu is the leader of the right. He is a good prime minister,” he says.”When there needs to be criticism, we’ll know how to criticize.”

Likud: Netanyahu told Smotrich to apologize or be fired

A Likud spokesman says in a statement distributed to Israeli media that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to fire Bezalel Smotrich from the cabinet if he did not apologize, during a dressing down earlier in the day.

The spokesperson says Netanyahu made clear to Smotrich that “there will not be a second chance.”

Police find 5-year-old tied up in shower and left alone; parents arrested

Police say a 5-year-old girl was found tied up in a shower in a Lod apartment, with signs of neglect and in poor health.

The girl’s parents, who were not present, have been arrested, according to reports.

The child, who was discovered after neighbors heard cries from the apartment, was taken to a local hospital.

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