The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they happened.
The Religious Affairs Ministry is currently being run by its director general, with no minister in charge after the terms of the most recent ministers, newly independent MKs Matan Kahana and Naftali Bennett, expired, according to two advisers to Kahana.
Former religious affairs minister Kahana quit his post to return to Knesset as a lawmaker in May, amid coalition instability that ultimately proved fatal to the government he and Bennett sat in. His ministry automatically reverted to then-prime minister Bennett for a period of three months.
Although Bennett appointed Kahana as his deputy and Kahana functionally ran the ministry, the two were unable to cement Kahana’s reappointment due to dissension from both opposition and coalition ranks.
Gal Shem Tov will run the ministry until another political appointment is made.
An Israeli soldier has been hurt in an apparent incident of friendly fire near the West Bank city of Tulkarem earlier tonight.
The soldier is taken to a hospital for treatment.
The circumstances of the possible friendly fire incident are still under investigation.
The Israel Defense Forces initially requested that media not publish details relating to the soldier’s injury until his family had been notified.
An Israeli military official says the shooting near the West Bank city of Tulkarem may have been an incident of friendly fire, and not an attack by Palestinian gunmen.
The Israel Defense Forces does not immediately provide further details on the incident.
Israeli troops are seen in the West Bank city of Tulkarem, according to footage published by Palestinian media, following a reported shooting attack in the area.
Earlier, the Israel Defense Forces reported that troops came under fire near the area, without providing further details.
The troops are reportedly searching for the alleged gunmen in the city.
عاجل| قوة خاصة من جيش الاحتلال تقتحم مدينة طولكرم. pic.twitter.com/9bAkaFhMPl
— المركز الفلسطيني للإعلام (@PalinfoAr) August 15, 2022
The Israel Defense Forces says troops came under fire in the West Bank security barrier area, near the Palestinian city of Tulkarem.
The IDF does not provide any further details, and it is unclear if any soldiers are hurt in the incident.
MOSCOW, Russia — Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and UN chief Antonio Guterres have discussed the security situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine, which is currently under Moscow’s control and has been the target of fighting, Moscow says today.
“Sergei Shoigu conducted telephone negotiations with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres regarding the conditions for safe operation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,” the Russian defense ministry says in a statement.
LONDON — The accused attacker of British author Salman Rushdie was transformed by a trip to Lebanon in 2018, when he became more religious and less outgoing, his mother says.
Lebanese-born Silvana Fardos, of Fairview, New Jersey, describes her 24-year-old son Hadi Matar as “a moody introvert,” increasingly fixated with Islam after the visit to see his estranged father.
“One time, he argued with me, asking why I encouraged him to get an education instead of focusing on religion,” she told Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper, according to a report on its website.
“He was angry that I did not introduce him to Islam from a young age,” she said in an interview published online last night.
Matar was arrested at the scene of the attack on Rushdie, 75, at a literary event in upstate New York on Friday.
He pleaded not guilty the following day to charges of attempted murder and assault with a weapon, and is being held without bail.
Prosecutors have described a planned, premeditated assault on Rushdie, who was stabbed approximately 10 times.
Police have provided no information about the suspect’s background or his possible motive.
Fardos said she was “shell-shocked” to receive a call from one of her twin 14-year-old daughters telling her that the FBI was at the family’s home and her son was allegedly responsible.
“I just cannot believe he was capable of doing something like this. He was very quiet. Everyone loved him,” she said.
Her son “changed a lot” after his trip to Lebanon, she said. Matar’s father moved backed to Lebanon after the two divorced.
“I was expecting him to come back motivated, to complete school, to get his degree and a job, but instead he locked himself in the basement,” she said.
“I couldn’t tell you much about his life after that because he has isolated me since 2018,” and also said little to the rest of his family for months.
Matar’s family hails from the southern Lebanese village, where support is strong for the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group. The mayor told Reuters that Matar stayed in a building in Yaroun while visiting Lebanon.
Far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir announces his ultra-nationalist Otzma Yehudit party will be running separately on its own list, instead of with the Religious Zionism party, due to what he says is that faction’s failure to negotiate in good faith.
“I have tried in every way to achieve unity between us, but since [Religious Zionism leader] Bezalel [Smotrich] has refused every concession of mine, I declare tonight with a full heart that Otzma Yehudit will run by itself in the elections.
Ben Gvir asserts that he made a series of concessions to Smotrich, including not having parity for his party on a joint list of candidates with Religious Zionism, and giving up on leading the party as well.
He says that Smotrich had not really intended to have an honest negotiation, which led to his decision to run alone.
Smotrich earlier urged Ben Gvir not to run separately, saying that dividing the right-wing, religious camp would harm the pro-Netanyahu political bloc.
Despite Ben Gvir’s comments, an entire month remains before the deadline for submitting party lists on September 15, meaning that there is time for negotiations to resume.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party asked MK Itamar Ben Gvir to keep the door open to potentially reuniting with the far-right Religious Zionism, as he declares he will run alone in the November elections, according to Channel 12 news.
Netanyahu was reportedly instrumental in brokering the alliance between Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich and Ben Gvir last year, helping putting the latter in the Knesset for the first time.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has arrived in Berlin for an official visit, says a top confidante of the PA leader.
Abbas will meet tomorrow with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, according to Hussekin al-Sheikn, secretary general of the PLO Executive Committee.
— حسين الشيخ Hussein Al Sheikh (@HusseinSheikhpl) August 15, 2022
MOSCOW, Russia — Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny says prison officials ordered him to serve at least three days in solitary confinement, citing a minor infraction, in retaliation for his activism behind bars.
A post about the punishment appears in Navalny’s social media accounts today. It is not immediately clear how the politician got the information out — the post says that those in solitary confinement are not allowed to have visitors, letters, or parcels. The only possessions at Navalny’s disposal are “a mug and a book,” and he gets to have a pen and some paper for just over an hour a day.
Navalny, who is President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest foe, was arrested in January 2021, upon returning from Germany, where he had been recuperating from nerve-agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin. He received a 2½-year sentence for violating the conditions of his parole while outside Russia.
In March, Navalny was sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of fraud and contempt of court, allegations he rejected as a politically motivated attempt by Russian authorities to keep him behind bars for as long as possible.
During his time behind bars, his social media accounts have been regularly updated with posts about life in prison. Just last week, Navalny announced setting up a labor union for convicts, of which he said he was the only member at the time. Navalny said the union has successfully argued for replacing backless stools with chairs in the prison’s sewing shop where he works.
According to the post published today, the union activity was the real reason prison officials sent him to solitary confinement: “The Kremlin wants to see its GULAG consisting of voiceless slaves. And here I am, instead of begging for pardon, uniting some people and demanding that some laws be observed.”
The post says Navalny was summoned by prison officials and told that video surveillance showed he regularly unbuttoned his prison garb while in the work area. “This certainly characterizes me as a hopeless villain. So, a decision has been made to send me to punitive solitary confinement” for three days, the post read.
If Navalny “doesn’t change (his) attitude,” his stay there would be extended, prison officials told him, according to the post.
Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich urges MK Itamar Ben Gvir not to break off from the far-right alliance and run alone in the upcoming Knesset elections.
“We still have another month until the closing of the [electoral] lists. Let’s return to the negotiating room — we’ll talk about everything… we’ll reach an agreement on how best to run together to maximize our strength and bring a win to the national camp,” Smotrich says in a video statement.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine says it has struck a base used by a Russian paramilitary group, as well as a bridge near the occupied city of Melitopol.
Sergiy Gaiday, governor of the Lugansk region in eastern Ukraine, says the base of the Wagner group was “destroyed by a precision strike.”
Little is known about the shadowy paramilitary group, which is believed to be linked to Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close associate of President Vladimir Putin.
The presence of Wagner paramilitaries has been documented in Libya, Mali, and Syria, among many other countries — particularly in Africa.
Ukrainian authorities also say that saboteurs blew up a railway bridge southwest of the city of Melitopol, which is held by Russian troops.
The Central Bureau of Statistics reports that its consumer price index rose by 1.1 percent in July, causing the inflation rate to accelerate to 5.2% over the past year.
The price rises were spread across numerous sectors, including housing, fresh fruit, transportation and entertainment, among others. The latest rise in housing costs brings the yearly increase to 17.8%, the highest in over a decade.
Former prime minister Naftali Bennett takes an active hand in enabling the coalition’s revenge against errant Yamina member Idit Silman: He splits off from his own party along with MKs Matan Kahana and Shirly Pinto in order to enable them to run on other party’s slates in the November elections without resigning from the Knesset, though Silman is blocked from doing the same.
Three out of Yamina’s seven MKs needed to split off in order to create a separate faction without being subject to sanctions.
Silman initiated the coalition’s eventual demise when as coalition whip she resigned from the political alliance, depriving the coalition of its parliamentary majority and setting off a tumultuous three months before its leaders, Bennett and Yair Lapid, called it quits.
Neither Silman nor Kahana nor Pinto plans to remain with Yamina, whose now-leader Ayelet Shaked merged the party with the Derech Eretz faction to form the Zionist Spirit slate. Kahana plans to run with the newly formed National Unity party, while Pinto’s plans are not yet formed.
Bennett, as announced last month, is not running in the upcoming election and will take a break from politics.
If Silman wants to run with another party, she must resign her Knesset seat by September 15.
An Israeli citizen drowned in the Sinai Peninsula, the Foreign Ministry says.
The ministry says it won’t give further details at the moment. Hebrew media outlets identify the victim as a 50-year-old man, without naming him.
DAMASCUS, Syria — A Syrian Cabinet minister says that Syrian refugees in neighboring Lebanon can start returning home, where he says they will get all the help they need from authorities.
Tiny Lebanon is home to 1 million Syrian refugees who fled war in their country after the conflict began in March 2011. The large number of refugees in the small Mediterranean nation makes it one of the highest per capita host countries of refugees in the world.
Minister of Local Administration Hussein Makhlouf makes his comments during a meeting in Syria’s capital Damascus with Issam Charafeddine, Lebanon’s caretaker minister of the displaced.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and rights groups oppose involuntary repatriation to Syria and say the practice risks endangering the returning refugees.
“The doors are open for the return of Syrian refugees,” Makhlouf says, adding that the state is ready to assist returnees and give them all that they need.
Makhlouf says that includes shelters for those whose homes were destroyed during the conflict that killed hundreds of thousands and displaced half the pre-war population of 23 million.
More than 5 million Syrians are refugees, most of them in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.
Few Syrian refugees have returned home since President Bashar Assad’s forces got much of the country under their control over the past few years with the help of allies Russia and Iran.
The calls for the return of Syrian refugees to their country have increased in Lebanon since the small nation’s economic meltdown began. The downturn has left three-quarters of Lebanese living in poverty. For Syrians, living conditions have become worse since the economic crisis began in October 2019.
Israeli security forces this morning arrested three Palestinian suspects in the illegal trade of stolen antiquities in the northern West Bank.
The Israeli military liaison to the Palestinians says in a statement that its forces along with Border Police uncovered rare archaeological findings worth hundreds of thousands of shekels as well as weapons during a raid on the suspects’ homes in the villages of Burka, Hawara and Silat al-Daher.
Security forces arrested a prominent northern West Bank-based antiques dealer several months ago in what led to an undercover investigation that culminated with the overnight arrest.
Among the items recovered were coins, titles, stone doors from the Roman and Byzantine periods, and ancient tools from the Iron Age and the 7th century.
“We will continue to act in order to protect the archaeological sites and natural treasures in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and act against those who try to harm them,” says a statement from Feras Atila, who heads the Civil Administration unit within COGAT military liaison office.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, whose US pharmaceutical firm developed a leading vaccine against COVID-19, says he has tested positive for the disease.
“I am thankful to have received four doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and I am feeling well while experiencing very mild symptoms. I am isolating and have started a course of Paxlovid,” he writes on Twitter. “We have come so far in our efforts to battle this disease that I am confident I will have a speedy recovery.”
After reaching a deal with her estranged Yamina party to break away in order to run with another faction in the November 1 election, MK Idit Silman is being blocked by four coalition MKs from other parties who want her to “get what she deserves.”
“Silman will get what she deserves,” yells Yisrael Beytenu lawmaker Yulia Malinovsky after she, Labor MK Emilie Moatti and Yesh Atid lawmakers Boaz Toporovsky and Moshe Tur Paz torpedo the Knesset House Committee vote necessary to approve her exit from Yamina.
Tur-Paz confirms to The Times of Israel that his intention is to block Silman’s graceful exit from Yamina.
Without the approval, Silman will need to resign from the Knesset by September 15 if she wishes to run with another party in the upcoming election.
Hamas responds to Israel’s announcement that it discovered and blocked a tunnel leading out of the Gaza Strip that was dug by the terror group.
“The Palestinian resistance has the right to use all means to enhance its capabilities against the arrogance and criminality” of Israel, Hamas says.
The far-right Religious Zionism alliance may split up, with MK Itamar Ben Gvir expected to announce this evening that his Otzma Yehudit faction will run as a separate party in the November 1 elections, according to Hebrew media reports.
Religious Zionism has recently seen a boost in its poll numbers, with one survey giving the party 13 seats if led by Ben Gvir, a disciple of the late extremist rabbi Meir Kahane.
Ben Gvir threatened last month to run alone amid disagreements with party leader Bezalel Smotrich on the makeup of Religious Zionism’s electoral slate.
AMSTERDAM — A Dutch municipality has renamed a park that had been named for a mayor who helped the Nazis hunt his city’s Jews.
The municipality of Hogeveen, a city of about 55,000 roughly 80 miles northeast of the Dutch capital of Amsterdam, last month renamed Mayor Tjalma Park, according to a report on the news site Jonet.nl. The new name is Municipal Park.
In 2020, a local historian discovered that Jetze Tjalma, who had been mayor of Hoogeveen for 30 years until 1958, was the first mayor in Nazi-occupied Netherlands to hand over a list of local Jews after the German army invaded in 1940.
There were about 250 names on the list. In 1951, Hogeveen had only 27 Jews, according to the Jewish Historical Museum of Amsterdam.
Tjalma shared the list voluntarily, according to Brand van Rijn, a local politician whose party, SGP, initiated the research into Tjalma’s wartime record. SGP had for years lobbied for a more critical approach to the legacy of Tjalma, whom many have considered a model mayor, according to the broadcaster RTV. The park was named for Tjalma shortly after his death in 1985.
Several years after World War II, the city under Tjalma took over part of the local Jewish cemetery and paved a road on it. That part of the cemetery was returned to Jewish hands in 2019.
The Amsterdam-based Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies earlier this year confirmed the research done in Hogeveen by local historian Albert Metselaar, prompting the municipality to change the park’s name on July 26, Jonet reported.
A Syrian opposition source tells Israel’s Kan public broadcaster that Iran is believed to have carried out a drone attack on a US military base in Syria earlier today.
The unidentified source adds the attack could be a response to airstrikes in Syria last night that were attributed to Israel.
The Israeli national team takes gold in the men’s group marathon at the European Athletics Championships in Munich.
Israel’s Marhu Teferi also wins a silver medal at the competition, while fellow Israeli Gashau Ayale picks up a bronze medal.
Along with Teferi and Ayale, the other members of the gold medal squad are Omer Ramon, Yimer Getahun and Girmaw Amare.
The strong showing for Israel comes 50 years after 11 Israeli athletes were murdered by Palestinian terrorists during the Munich Olympics.
The Shin Bet security agency announces that in recent weeks three Arab men were arrested for affiliation with Islamic State, two of whom allegedly planned to join the jihadist group in Africa.
On July 14, Muhammad Farouk Yousef Agbaria and Abd al-Mahdi Masoud Muhammad Jabarin, both 21 from the northern city of Umm al-Fahm, were detained over their alleged plans to fly to Africa to fight alongside Islamic State, the Shin Bet says.
The Shin Bet says the pair were “closely monitored by security forces, given that they were identified to have extreme Salafi-jihadist ideologies.”
According to the Shin Bet, Agbaria and Jabarin consulted another Umm al-Fahm man, who recently returned to Israel from fighting with al-Qaeda in Africa, on how to travel there.
The pair also practiced shooting ahead of their planned trip to Africa, the agency says.
In a separate case, a Bedouin man from a village in the Rafa’i’a area, east of Beersheba, was detained on July 22 for alleged affiliation with Islamic State.
In his interrogation, Muhammad al-Rafa’i’a, 30, admitted he supported Islamic State and its goals, and sought to fight for the group in Israel, the Shin Bet says.
Agbaria, Jabarin, and al-Rafa’i’a were each charged with “serious security offenses” and other weapons-related offenses, according to the Shin Bet.
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s foreign minister says Tehran will deliver its “final” proposal later today on talks to revive its 2015 nuclear accord with world powers, after Washington accepted key demands.
“The American side has verbally accepted the two demands” from Iran, says Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, as quoted by state news agency IRNA, without specifying what the demands were.
“We will send our final proposals in writing by midnight,” he adds.
“If our opinion is accepted, we are ready to conclude and announce the accord at a meeting of foreign ministers.”
IRNA said Friday that Iran may accept a final compromise worked out in Vienna to save the landmark 2015 deal, which aimed to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.
The deal has been moribund since the 2018 withdrawal of the United States under then president Donald Trump.
The major powers are awaiting Tehran’s response to a proposal submitted on July 26 by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
Shortly before he was stabbed at an event in New York on Friday, author Salman Rushdie had agreed to serve as a traveling envoy advocating for fellow writers in peril, according to the co-founder of group that offers refuge to exiled scribes.
“I asked Salman would he be willing to travel to promote the idea of cities of asylum and grow them in the US,” Ralph Henry Reese of the Pittsburgh-based City of Asylum tells the Guardian. “He signed up.”
Henry Reese was moderating the event, and was also injured in the attack.
He says Rushdie was in very good spirits prior to going onstage in and that the two were looking forward to further talking about exile for writers in danger. “We go out minutes later on stage,” Reese says. “He wanted to talk about welcoming writers in exile into communities and how positive that is for everyone.”
Then came the attack, in which Rushdie was stabbed multiple times and left seriously injured. “It was a tragic irony in so many ways,” Reese says. “The horror of it, all the layering of the realities.”
“Here was Rushdie who had lived this already, who was speaking so courageously for many years, who was about to talk about his experiences and the value of protecting writers, and now we have this extraordinary materialization happening right on stage. It was so resonant of why we need to defend precisely those values,” he adds.
Erstwhile Yisrael Beytenu MK Eli Avidar resigns from the Knesset as he gears up to run as the head of his new Free and Democratic Israel party in the upcoming elections.
At a press conference, Avidar doesn’t rule out running on a joint slate with other factions opposed to former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but vows “we’ll continue until the end” if a merger doesn’t pan out.
He is asked specifically if he intends to link up with the left-wing Meretz party.
“We opened the door but it doesn’t only have to be Meretz,” he is quoted as saying by the Walla news site.
LONDON — The UK’s drug regulator says today it has approved an updated Moderna vaccine against the coronavirus that targets the Omicron variant as well as the original form.
The Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) says in a statement it has approved the vaccine for adult booster doses “after it was found to meet the UK regulator’s standards of safety, quality and effectiveness” and to prompt a “strong immune response” against both strains.
BEIRUT — An attack with drones hit a compound run by American troops and US-backed Syrian opposition fighters in eastern Syria today, the US military says, adding that there are no casualties or damage.
The military says the attack took place in the vicinity of al-Tanf base near where the borders of Syria, Jordan and Iraq meet. There is no claim of responsibility for the attack.
US and coalition troops are based at al-Tanf to train Syrian forces on patrols to counter militants from the Islamic State jihadist group. The base is also located on a road serving as a vital link for Iranian-backed forces, stretching from Tehran all the way to Lebanon.
The military statement says coalition troops in coordination with opposition fighters — known as Maghaweir al-Thowra — “responded to an attack by multiple unmanned aerial systems in the vicinity of al-Tanf Garrison” on Monday morning.
It says the troops successfully engaged one of the drones preventing its impact while a second one detonated within the opposition forces’ compound, “resulting in zero casualties or reported damage.” The other attempted drone strikes were not successful, it adds.
Maj. Gen. John Brennan, the commander of Combined Joint Task Force, condemns the drone strike. “Such attacks put the lives of innocent Syrian civilians at risk and undermine the significant efforts by our Partner Forces to maintain the lasting defeat of ISIS,” he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.
The attack occurred hours after airstrikes attributed to Israel on western and central Syria reportedly killed three soldiers, wounded three others and caused material damage. A report earlier today said the strikes targeted sites linked to Iran.
In October last year, US officials said they believed Iran was behind a drone attack that month in al-Tanf saying at the time that they believe that the attacks involved as many as five drones laden with explosive charges. It said the drones hit both the US side of al-Tanf garrison and the side where Syrian opposition forces stay.
The October attacks came days after a reported Israeli airstrike on central Syria.
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