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Israeli jets said to target site in coastal Syrian city of Tartus

Arab media reporting Israeli jets flew over Lebanese coast before launching missiles; footage said to show Syrian air defenses engaging targets

Syrian air defenses are reportedly seen over the Lebanese coast, August 14, 2022. (Screenshot: Twitter)
Syrian air defenses are reportedly seen over the Lebanese coast, August 14, 2022. (Screenshot: Twitter)

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

Israeli jets said to target site in coastal Syrian city of Tartus

Al Arabiya reports that Israeli jets are targeting a site in the coastal Syrian city of Tartus.

According to a Syrian-based correspondent for the London-based Rai al-Youm paper, the Israeli jets first flew over the Lebanese coast before launching their missiles.

The Syrian state-run SANA broadcaster says air defenses are engaging “hostile targets” over the area, without elaborating.

Footage circulated online shows bright objects in the sky, which appear to be Syrian air defense missiles engaging the Israeli jets or their missiles.

At launch of new alliance, Eizenkot emphasizes commitment to minority rights, separation from Palestinians

Gadi Eizenkot speaks at the launch of the National Unity Party, August 14, 2022. (Screenshot: Channel 12 news)
Gadi Eizenkot speaks at the launch of the National Unity Party, August 14, 2022. (Screenshot: Channel 12 news)

Former military chief Gadi Eisenkot emphasizes his commitment to minority rights and separation from the Palestinians, during a press conference launching the National Unity party on Sunday night, together with party leader and Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar.

Eisenkot says the Jewish state “must provide for equal rights for all its citizens without regard for religion, race, or sex,” an implicit rebuke of far-right parties in the opposition who are antagonistic to Israel’s Arab population.

The former military chief adds that he believes Israel is sliding “dangerously” towards a bi-national state with the Palestinians, which he says poses “a danger to the Zionist project.”

Gantz says that his new centrist faction will seek to “prevent the formation of an extremist government” by the right-wing which would “endanger democracy in Israel,” and insisted that the ultra-Orthodox parties could be partners in a centrist government.

Saar, who is opposed to a two-state solution, papers over differences between him and Eisenkot over policy towards the Palestinians, saying neither a Palestinian state nor annexation of the West Bank by Israel will be achieved in the near future.

Instead, he says their focus will be on “reducing the conflict” with the Palestinians and increasing their self-governance.

TV polls predict Eizenkot joining Gantz’s party to change little in election results

Former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eizenkot attends the INSS conference in Tel Aviv on April 12, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/ Flash90)
Former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eizenkot attends the INSS conference in Tel Aviv on April 12, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/ Flash90)

The addition of former military chief Gadi Eizenkot to the alliance between the New Hope and Blue and White parties — now named National Unity — will cause little change in the coming elections, according to four polls published this evening.

Perhaps more importantly, all the surveys predict that the Likud-led right-religious bloc will not garner 61 seats, meaning Israel’s years-long political crisis, which has already generated five election cycles in under four years, is poised to continue.

Polls during the past two weeks had placed the New Hope and Blue and White alliance at between 10-12 seats.

Following are the results of a survey by the Kan public broadcaster:

Likud 35
Yesh Atid 22
Blue and White-New Hope 14
Religious Zionism 9
Shas 8
United Torah Judaism 7
Joint List 6
Yisrael Beytenu 5
Labor 5
Ra’am 5
Meretz 4
Zionist Spirit below threshold, at 1.6%

The results of a Channel 13 news poll:
Likud 34
Yesh Atid 23
Blue and White-New Hope 12
Religious Zionism 11
Shas 8
UTJ 7
Joint List 6
Labor 5
Ra’am 5
Yisrael Beytenu 5
Meretz 4
Zionist Spirit below threshold, at 1.2%

The results of a Channel 12 news poll:
Likud 34
Yesh Atid 23
Blue and White-New Hope 14
Religious Zionism 10
Shas 8
UTJ 7
Joint List 6
Labor 6
Yisrael Beytenu 4
Meretz 4
Ra’am 4
Zionist Spirit below threshold, at 2.1%

The results of a Channel 14 news poll:
Likud 34
Yesh Atid 22
Blue and White-New Hope 13
Religious Zionism 11
Shas 9
UTJ 7
Joint List 5
Yisrael Beytenu 5
Labor 5
Ra’am 5
Meretz 4
Zionist Spirit below threshold, at 1.8%

Israel’s UN envoy pens letter to secretary general asking to cancel firing of senior official

OCHA OPT Head Sarah Muscroft speaks in a video address on June 10, 2021. (Screen capture/YouTube)
OCHA OPT Head Sarah Muscroft speaks in a video address on June 10, 2021. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan has sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, asking to cancel the firing of a UN senior official.

Sarah Muscroft, the head of one of the UN’s offices serving the Palestinians, was fired after she posted a tweet in which she condemned Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s “indiscriminate rocket fire” during the recent Gaza conflict.

“While we have not always agreed with all of Ms. Muscroft’s tweets, or those of her UN counterparts, Israeli disagreement or criticism has been expressed in a normative way,” Erdan writes in the letter.

“However, Israel is disturbed to see that Palestinian outrage over tweets
would so quickly devolve into ending the ability of a senior UN staffer to keep her job, and to express herself,” he says.

“We ask that the issue of Ms. Muscroft be examined with utmost concern. We call on OCHA and the UN to reverse this unfortunate decision which is perceived as a reward for intimidation and threats,” Erdan says.

“While Israel supports constructive engagement with UN officials and agencies, we cannot accept such blatant double standards,” he adds.

Iran’s top automaker sets sights on Russian market

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s leading automaker is seeking to prioritize exports to Russia, its CEO says, as both countries reel under Western economic sanctions.

Iran Khodro unveiled the latest model of its crossover Rira vehicle at its factory west of Tehran, where CEO Mehdi Khatibi announced the manufacturer’s ambitions for the Russian market.

“We are going to pay special attention to the Russian market, and we are also thinking of partnering with Russian investors,” he says.

“We have held good negotiations with Moscow. The Russian market, with its capacities, will be one of our important markets,” Khatibi adds.

“We will begin exporting this year” to Russia, he said.

Iran Khodro had previously exported vehicles to Russia, notably between 2007 and 2009, according to Iranian media.

Fireworks blast at Yerevan market kills 1, injures 51

Smoke rises from Surmalu market about two kilometers (1.2 miles) south of the center Yerevan, Armenia, August 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Daniel Bolshakov)
Smoke rises from Surmalu market about two kilometers (1.2 miles) south of the center Yerevan, Armenia, August 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Daniel Bolshakov)

YEREVAN, Armenia — A strong explosion at a fireworks storage area tore through a popular market in Armenia’s capital earlier today, killing at least one person, injuring 51 others, and setting off a large fire.

Firefighters labored for hours after the early afternoon blast at the Surmalu market to put out the blaze that sent a towering column of thick smoke over the center of Yerevan. Rescue workers and volunteers searched for victims who might be trapped under slabs of concrete and twisted metal, while fireworks continued to explode.

Armenia’s national health ministry gave the casualty toll.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw two people pulled from the rubble — a woman with an injured leg and a young man who appeared to be unconscious. Emergencies Minister Armen Pambukhchyan also said two sisters were pulled alive from the rubble.

The market, located two kilometers (over a mile) south of the city center, is popular for its low prices and variety of goods.

There is no immediate word on what caused the fireworks to ignite.

Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant ‘risks are increasing every day,’ mayor says

Russian servicemen stand on the road towards the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control, southeastern Ukraine, May 1, 2022. (AP)
Russian servicemen stand on the road towards the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control, southeastern Ukraine, May 1, 2022. (AP)

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine — The risk of disaster at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant occupied by Russian troops is “increasing every day,” the mayor of the city where the facility is located says.

“What is happening there is outright nuclear terrorism, and it can end unpredictably at any moment,” Energodar mayor Dmytro Orlov tells AFP.

“The risks are increasing every day.”

Rushdie’s son says family ‘extremely relieved’ he is off ventilator

Author Salman Rushdie speaks during the Mississippi Book Festival, in Jackson, Mississippi, on August 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Author Salman Rushdie speaks during the Mississippi Book Festival, in Jackson, Mississippi, on August 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

LONDON — The family of Salman Rushdie is “very relieved” he has been taken off a ventilator following his stabbing, and the British author has retained his “defiant sense of humor,” his son says.

“We are extremely relieved that yesterday he was taken off the ventilator,” his son Zafar says on Twitter.

“His usual feisty & defiant sense of humour remains intact.”

Man dies after crashing car, firing gun near US Capitol, police say

US Capitol Police officers work near a police barricade on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on August 14, 2022.(Daniel SLIM / AFP)
US Capitol Police officers work near a police barricade on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on August 14, 2022.(Daniel SLIM / AFP)

WASHINGTON — A man died near the US Capitol building after driving his car into a barricade and firing shots into the air before turning his gun on himself, police say.

A statement from the US Capitol Police did not identify the man or speculate on a motive.

The Congress is currently in recess, and police say “it does not appear the man was targeting any members of Congress.”

The Supreme Court, still behind security fencing after its bitterly divisive ruling on abortion, is also nearby on Capitol Hill.

The incident occurs amid heightened tensions and violence-filled chatter on social media following the surprise seizure of several boxes of classified government documents from former president Donald Trump’s Florida resort estate.

The police statement says the man drove his car into a vehicle barricade at East Capitol Street and Second Street shortly after 4:00 am local.

“While the man was getting out of the car, it became engulfed in flames,” the statement says.

“The man then fired several shots into the air.”

When officers responded to the sound of gunfire and approached the man, “he shot himself,” police say.

No one else is hurt.

The DC Metropolitan Police Department is leading an investigation into the man and his background.

Salman Rushdie ‘on the road to recovery,’ agent says

Author Salman Rushdie appears at a signing for his book "Home" in London on June 6, 2017. Rushdie was attacked while giving a lecture in western New York.  (Grant Pollard/AP)
Author Salman Rushdie appears at a signing for his book "Home" in London on June 6, 2017. Rushdie was attacked while giving a lecture in western New York. (Grant Pollard/AP)

MAYVILLE, NY– Salman Rushdie is “on the road to recovery,” his agent says, two days after the author of “The Satanic Verses” suffered serious injuries in a stabbing at a lecture in upstate New York.

The announcement followed news that the lauded writer was removed from a ventilator Saturday and able to talk and joke.

Andrew Wylie continues to caution that although Rushdie’s “condition is headed in the right direction,” his recovery would be a long process.

Rushdie, 75, suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and an eye, Wylie had previously said, and was likely to lose the injured eye.

Hadi Matar, 24, pleaded not guilty Saturday to attempted murder and assault charges in the attack at the Chautauqua Institution, a nonprofit education and retreat center.

Court extends detention of Jerusalem terrorist until next week

Amir Sidawi is escort by police as he arrives to a court hearing at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on August 14, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Amir Sidawi is escort by police as he arrives to a court hearing at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on August 14, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court extends the remand of a Palestinian man who is accused of shooting and wounding seven people, two of them seriously, near the Western Wall overnight.

According to police, Amir Sidawi from East Jerusalem, will remain in custody until next Monday, August 22.

His detention is likely to be extended further next week.

A relative of Sidawi who was also detained will remain in custody until Tuesday, police say.

American wounded in Jerusalem terror shooting recounts: ‘Everyone was ducking and screaming’

Speaking to reporters at the Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem, Menachem Pallas, a visiting American , describes the terror shooting he and six others were wounded in near the Western Wall.

“I sat right next to the window and heard a gunshot. I looked and saw the whole window was shattered,” Pallas says.

“So I quickly ducked, and I saw I had blood everywhere over here,” he says, pointing to his shoulder.

“Everyone was ducking and screaming ‘Shema Yisrael,’ it was a pretty scary sight,” he says.

“Because of all the adrenaline, I didn’t know I had a bullet inside me,” he adds.

Gantz sends condolences to victims of Egypt church fire

Defense Minister Benny Gantz sends his condolences to Egypt, after a fire at a Coptic church killed at least 41 people.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Egypt following the fire incident at Abu Sifine Church in Giza,” Gantz says on Twitter.

“I wish to express my condolences to the families of victims, and a speedy recovery to the injured. The State of Israel stands with you in this difficult time,” he adds.

Former prison guard confronts terror inmate who allegedly raped her

Screen capture from video of a former IDF soldier who alleged she was raped by a security prison when she was serving as a guard at the Gilboa Prison, seen during an interview with Channel 12, August 8, 2022. (Channel 12)
Screen capture from video of a former IDF soldier who alleged she was raped by a security prison when she was serving as a guard at the Gilboa Prison, seen during an interview with Channel 12, August 8, 2022. (Channel 12)

A former prison guard who claims she was repeatedly raped by a terror inmate during her service at the Gilboa Prison seven years ago has confronted the alleged rapist during an ongoing investigation into the case, her lawyer says.

During the confrontation arranged at the Lahav 443 police anti-crime unit, the woman, who uses the pseudonym “Hila,” accuses the inmate of ” being a rapist and a liar who ruined her life,” a statement from her lawyer, Keren Barak, says.

The prisoner, who has been widely identified as Mahmoud Atallah despite a gag order on the case, at the time was the representative for the Palestinians charged with terror, referred to in Israel as security prisoners, at the facility.

Atallah claims in the confrontation that the sexual relations were consensual and Hila had initiated them, the statement says.

The statement adds that according to the inmate, Hila was jealous of the other girls Atallah “did touch,” and he therefore gave in to her demands.

“After the particularly stormy confrontation, Hila feels strong after the confrontation, that she was finally able to stand in front of the rapist who murdered her soul in prison and not fear him anymore,” Barak says.

Brothers wounded in Jerusalem terror shooting reunited at hospital

Elazar, 19, and Dovi, 16, two brothers wounded in the shooting attack in Jerusalem, are reunited after being hospitalized this morning.

“My two brothers were together last night, waiting for the bus… Elazar helped the woman get on the bus, and my 16-and-a-half-year-old brother Dovi was still at the bus stop when the shooting started. Both were hit in the shoulder and were evacuated,” Yair, the teenagers’ older brother, tells Channel 13 news.

“When the incident happened, Dovi called himself and told us that they were both hit by a bullet, that he was conscious, and that he was quite well. It calmed us down. He even had time to say that Elazar was helping to treat the wounded at the scene, because he is an MDA paramedic,” he says.

“We were shocked and immediately left for the hospitals where they were hospitalized. Now Dovi has arrived and we have reunited,” Yair says from Hadassah Mount Scopus hospital.

Yair says the doctors told him that if the bullet had hit Elazar a few centimeters over, “he would not be alive.”

“It is a real miracle,” he says.

More US lawmakers visiting Taiwan 12 days after Pelosi trip

Taiwan Air Force Mirage fighter jets taxi on a runway at an airbase in Hsinchu, Taiwan, Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Johnson Lai)
Taiwan Air Force Mirage fighter jets taxi on a runway at an airbase in Hsinchu, Taiwan, Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Johnson Lai)

TAIPEI, Taiwan — A delegation of American lawmakers is visiting Taiwan just 12 days after a visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that angered China. China responded to Pelosi’s visit by sending missiles, warships and warplanes into the seas and air around Taiwan.

The five-member delegation is led by Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts and is in Taiwan on Sunday and Monday as part of a visit to Asia, the American Institute in Taiwan says. They will meet senior leaders to discuss US-Taiwan relations, regional security, trade, investment, and other issues.

A Taiwanese broadcaster shows video of a US government plane landing at about 7 p.m. at Songshan Airport in Taipei, the Taiwanese capital.

China claims self-ruled Taiwan as its territory and objects to it having any official contact with foreign governments.

Shelling kills 1 in Ukraine; Russia wants nuke plant pledges

A general view of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control, southeastern Ukraine, August 7, 2022. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)
A general view of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control, southeastern Ukraine, August 7, 2022. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

KYIV, Ukraine — Russian forces fire rockets at the Mykolaiv region in southern Ukraine, killing at least one person.

The Mykolaiv region is just to the north of the Russian-occupied city of Kherson, which Ukrainian forces have vowed to retake. The Ukrainian emergency service says one person was killed in shelling this morning, in the Mykolaiv region settlement of Bereznehuvate.

Meanwhile, a Russian diplomat calls on Ukraine to offer security assurances so that international inspectors could visit a nuclear power station that has come under fire.

As fighting steps up in southern Ukraine as Russia’s war closes in on six months, concern has grown sharply about the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is held by Russian forces and has been hit by sporadic shelling.

Both Ukraine and Russia blame each other for the shelling, which officials say has damaged monitoring equipment and could lead to a nuclear catastrophe.

The Zaporizhzhia facility is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

Russia’s envoy to international organizations based in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, calls on Ukraine to stop attacking the plant in order to allow an inspection mission from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“It is important that the Ukrainians stop their shelling of the station and provide security guarantees to members of the mission. An international team cannot be sent to work under continuous artillery shelling,” he is quoted as saying by Russian state news agency Tass.

Ministers approve ‘immediate’ aid to Gaza border communities after round of fighting

Prime Minister Yair Lapid leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on August 14, 2022. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)
Prime Minister Yair Lapid leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on August 14, 2022. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)

Government ministers approve an “immediate assistance and compensation package” for residents of towns close to the Gaza Strip, following last week’s three-day battle with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group.

“This government will not disappear from their lives as soon as the firing stops. We have sat with the local authority heads from the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip and the package being submitted today is the result of working with them,” a statement says.

According to the statement, the compensation will cover also the three days before the round of violence, when movement restrictions imposed by the Israeli army in anticipation of an attack on the border left many towns effectively on lockdown.

The plan includes prioritization and advancement of payments, covering expenses that local authorities were required to spend during the fighting.

Additionally, the plan aims to assist in strengthening the authorities’ communication systems and emergency electrical systems, and place more mobile bomb shelters, the statement adds.

Retired Supreme Court justice Menachem Mazuz tapped to head senior appointments committee

Supreme Court Justice Menachem (Meni) Mazuz at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, November 10, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Supreme Court Justice Menachem (Meni) Mazuz at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, November 10, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The cabinet approves the appointment of former Supreme Court justice and attorney general Menachem (Meni) Mazuz, 67, as chairman of the Senior Appointments Advisory Committee on Sunday.

The Senior Appointments Advisory Committee is responsible for vetting candidates for major positions, such as chief of the military, the police commissioner, head of the Shin Bet, and head of the Mossad, among other positions

Mazuz’s selection is bitterly opposed by right-wing parties in the opposition who object to him on political grounds, as well as due to their insistence that an interim government should not engage in appointments to key positions.

Following pressure from the right, Yamina leader Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked earlier called on Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to veto the appointment, but he declined to do so.

Mazuz and his committee will likely need to vet a new IDF chief of staff in the near future. Defense Minister Benny Gantz is seeking to appoint a new IDF chief in the face of furious objections by the opposition.

Rushdie taken off ventilator, able to talk a day after being stabbed, agent says

Salman Rushdie has been taken off a ventilator and was able to talk, his agent says.

Fellow author Aatish Taseer posted on Twitter last night that Rushdie was “off the ventilator and talking (and joking).”

Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, confirms that information without offering further details.

The suspected stabber, Hadi Matar, pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault charges.

41 dead in blaze at Cairo Coptic church, officials say

A fire at a Coptic Christian church in the Egyptian capital killed at least 41 people, church officials say.

The blaze ripped through the church in Cairo’s densely populated neighborhood of Imbaba. It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze. An initial investigation blamed an electric short-circuit, police say.

Fifteen firefighting vehicles were dispatched to the scene to put out the flames while ambulances ferried the casualties to nearby hospitals.

Church officials say the blaze killed 41 people, while the health ministry says 55 people were injured.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi spoke by phone with the Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II to offer his condolences, the president’s office says.

Copts comprise about 10% of Egypt’s primarily Muslim population.

Iconic Israeli pop singer, songwriter Zvika Pik dies aged 72

Israeli pop composer and singer Zvika Pik, on September 21, 2004. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Israeli pop composer and singer Zvika Pik, on September 21, 2004. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Pop singer Zvika Pik, considered one of Israel’s musical treasures, died at home this morning. He was 72.

Pik came of age as a singer in the 1970s, when he played a lead part in the Hebrew version of the musical “Hair,” becoming a known entity in the Israeli music scene.

Pik migrated into writing songs for other singers in the 1980s and 1990s, penning some of the most iconic music of the era, such as the children’s song “The Soap Cried So Much.”

He suffered ill health for the last few years of his life.

“Zvika was a revolutionary artist of his generation, one of the pillars of Israeli pop,” Prime Minister Yair Lapid says in a statement.

“Zvika passed away today, but the songs and melodies he left behind will continue to play for many years to come. Sending warm condolences to his family and all his fans,” he adds.

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