Ashkelon entrance reopens as police scatter protesters following clashes
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Ashkelon entrance reopens as police scatter protesters following clashes

Protesters supporting and against Palestinian detainee Mohammed Allaan throw stones and scuffle outside Ashkelon hospital, 13 arrested

  • Pro-Palestinian protesters rallying for Mohammad Allaan in Ashkelon, August 16, 2015. (screen capture: Ynet)
    Pro-Palestinian protesters rallying for Mohammad Allaan in Ashkelon, August 16, 2015. (screen capture: Ynet)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, second left, and Minister Yuval Steinitz, left, attend the weekly cabinet meeting at Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem on August 16, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, second left, and Minister Yuval Steinitz, left, attend the weekly cabinet meeting at Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem on August 16, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
  • Activists protest outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem against the gas agreement on August 16, 2015. Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Activists protest outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem against the gas agreement on August 16, 2015. Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Israelis cooling off at Lifta spring outside Jerusalem on August 16, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel / Flash90)
    Israelis cooling off at Lifta spring outside Jerusalem on August 16, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel / Flash90)
  • A Trigana air plane (CC BY William D Lukito, Flickr)
    A Trigana air plane (CC BY William D Lukito, Flickr)

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

Search for missing jet suspended

Indonesian authorities say a search for an Indonesian airliner that went down over Papua has been suspended for the night.

The Trigana Air Service plane was flying from Papua’s provincial capital, Jayapura, to the Papua city of Oksibil when it lost contact with Oksibil’s airport, Transportation Ministry spokesman Julius Barata says.

The weather was poor near Oksibil, with heavy rain, strong winds and fog, when the plane lost contact with the airport nine minutes before it was scheduled to land, says Susanto, the head of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency.

A plane was sent to look for the missing airliner, but the search was later suspended due to darkness, says Susanto, who like many Indonesians goes by one name. The search operation will continue Monday morning, he says.

The ATR42-300 twin turboprop plane was carrying 49 passengers and five crew members on the scheduled 42-minute journey, he says.

Much of Papua is covered with impenetrable jungles and mountains. Some planes that have crashed there in the past have never been found.

— AP


Jewish man held for insulting Islam on Temple Mount

A Jewish man has been detained on the Temple Mount for making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad to Muslim worshipers on the holy site, Israel’s Army Radio reports.

According to Israeli news site Walla, the man called Muhammad “a pig” to Muslims who were shouting in his direction as he left the site.

The incident follows the arrest of two other Jewish visitors to the site earlier in the day for praying and disturbing the peace, police say. Jews are allowed to visit the site, considered the holiest in Judaism and third holiest in Islam, but are prohibited from praying.

In July, low-level clashes were sparked in Jerusalem after a woman was shown on tape calling Muhammad “a pig” as she left the Temple Mount.


Kibbutz sweats in 109 degree heat

As the country swelters under yet another heatwave, the Electric Corporation reports brief blackouts to some areas because of a system malfunction.

Temperatures in some areas of the country have soared over 100 degrees as hot weather moves into the region, where it is expected to park itself until late in the week.

In Kibbutz Gilgal in the Jordan Valley, traditionally the hottest part of the country, temperatures were recorded at 109 degrees Fahrenheit (43 Celsius), according to the Ynet news website.

In Beersheba, the mercury hit 107 Fahrenheit (42 Celsius), according to the site.

According to the electric company website, consumers were using 12,504 megawatts of power at 2:30 p.m., well below a record set late last month of 13,800 megawatts during the last heatwave.

Cabinet yet to pass gas deal

White smoke has yet to emerge from the Prime Minister’s Office heralding the expected passage of a controversial gas deal in the cabinet.

A smattering of protesters gathered outside the Jerusalem office earlier to rally against the deal.

Activists protest outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem against the gas agreement on August 16, 2015. Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Activists protest outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem against the gas agreement on August 16, 2015. Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday the agreement with Noble Energy and Delek Drilling to develop offshore gas fields will bring in hundreds of billions of dollars, but detractors say the pact is too favorable toward the businesses.

Analysts expect the measure to easily sail through the cabinet, but have a harder time making it through the Knesset.

At least one minister Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabay, says he will oppose the deal in the cabinet, according to Walla. Others are also said to be weighing voting against the agreement, including Economy Minister Aryeh Deri.

Nusra Front releases US-backed rebels in Syria

Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria has released seven members of a US-backed rebel faction that it abducted late last month, the rebel group says in a statement.

The Division 30 rebel group says in the statement that it hopes the Nusra Front will release the group’s commander, who has been held since July 30.

Days after the abduction, the Nusra Front attacked the Division 30 command in northern Syria, leading to the near-collapse of the group that has dozens of fighters.

The kidnapping and attack on Division 30 came a few days after the US and Turkey announced the outlines of a deal to help rebels push IS back from a strip of territory it controls along the Syrian-Turkish border, replacing it with more moderate rebels backed by Washington and Ankara.

The Nusra Front said at the time it abducted the rebels because they were trained by the US.

The Division 30 statement describes Nusra Front fighters as “brothers” and thanks them for the release, saying, “We value this noble step.”

It says Division 30 is on the “same page with all holy warriors in Syria.”

— AP

Libya asks Arab League to bomb IS affiliate

Libya’s internationally recognized government has appealed to Arab countries to carry out airstrikes against the local Islamic State affiliate which is expanding its hold on the coastal central city of Sirte.

The statement comes after the IS affiliate seized control of a new neighborhood in Sirte. The affiliate shelled the area, killed a senior cleric and hung the bodies of prisoners they killed over bridges. The government also called for an end to the arms embargo imposed since 2011.

The Arab League says it will hold an emergency meeting on Libya Tuesday.

Egypt, which is lobbying for a more active international role in Libya against IS, has carried out multiple airstrikes inside Libya against IS, including some after the group killed 21 Egyptian hostages held in Libya.

— AP

Cabinet passes controversial gas deal

The cabinet has voted to okay the deal between the government and a US-Israeli energy consortium to develop offshore gas fields, the Prime Minister’s Office says in a statement.

“The government has passed the agreement to increase the amount of gas extracted from natural gas field Tamar and the quick development of the Leviathan, Karish and Tanin fields, as well as other gas fields,” the PMO says.

The Knesset will now be tasked with voting through the controversial measure, which backers say will bringing hundreds of billions of shekels into Israel’s coffers but critics fear favors Noble Energy and Delek Drilling too heavily.

Avi Gabai sole ‘no’ vote on gas deal

A total of 17 cabinet members voted for the gas deal, with Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabai the sole naysayer, according to Walla News.

Gabai, appointed by the Kulanu party, is the only minister who is not a Knesset member, but rather a professional appointment.


Cabinet vote on gas deal ‘on ice,’ Herzog says

Opposition head Isaac Herzog downplays the cabinet vote on the gas deal, hinting on Facebook that it won’t pass the Knesset.

“The vote taken now by the government on the gas deal is a signature on ice. A government headed by me would decide on a gas deal that’s fair and decent for Israeli citizens that includes price controls and represents the real concerns for the future of the State of Israel,” he writes.


Deri says gas deal is least bad option

Economy Minister Ayreh Deri, thought to be weighing voting against the gas deal, says he voted for it because it was the “lesser of all evils.”

“It was the lesser of all evils that the interministerial staff presented after five years of total inaction,” he says, according to news site Maariv.

70 killed, hundreds said injured in Syrian strike

At least 70 people have been killed in a string of Syrian government air strikes on a marketplace in Douma, a rebel-held town near Damascus, a monitoring group says.

At least 200 people are injured, with the death toll — mostly of civilians — likely to rise as many of the wounded are in serious condition, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.

“The regime carried out four airstrikes against a market in the center of Douma,” says Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman,

“The preliminary information suggests most of the dead are civilians,” he adds.

Abdel Rahman says locals had gathered at the site after the first strike to help evacuate the wounded when more raids struck.

The devastating attack on Douma comes as UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien made his first trip to Syria since taking the top aid post in May.


Rescuers save pregnant woman, octogenarian hiker

Teams rescue a pregnant woman and her four children hiking in a northern stream after high temperatures cause them to become fatigued. Elsewhere in the north, an 88-year-old woman is rescued from another stream after she becomes ill from the hot weather while hiking.

In the West Bank, a number of brush fires are reported, apparently stoked by high temperatures and dry winds.

Hunger striker’s lawyer petitions for release

The lawyer for hunger striker Palestinian detainee is petitioning Israel’s High Court to order his client released, given his medical condition, Israel’s Army Radio reports.

Mohammed Allaan, who has refused food for nearly two months to protest his detention without charge, is in critical condition and lost consciousness over the weekend, doctors say.

The High Court is expected to consider whether to release Allaan on Monday afternoon.

On Sunday, a doctor appointed by Ramallah was supposed to visit Allaan and assess his condition.

However Joint List MK Ahmed Tibi, who was accompanying the doctor, says on Twitter they were prevented from visiting the prisoner by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Palestinians have threatened violent protests should Allaan die while in Israeli custody.

Iran deal will bring nuclear holocaust – Trump

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says the Iran deal will lead to “nuclear holocaust” and is calling Secretary of State John Kerry “incompetent” for negotiating the agreement.

Outlining his foreign policy views for the first time in a wide-ranging interview that aired today on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the billionaire businessman and former reality TV star says the United States should put ground troops in the fight against Islamic State militants and demand money from Middle East countries supported by the US.

He calls the nuclear agreement forged between Iran and world powers including the US “a bad deal.”

Trump says that Iran will have nuclear weapons and take over parts of the world.

“And I think it’s going to lead to nuclear holocaust,” he says. Instead of tearing up the deal, though, he says he would “police” it.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump eats a pork chop on a stick while campaigning the Iowa State Fair on August 15, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa.   (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump eats a pork chop on a stick while campaigning the Iowa State Fair on August 15, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

On defeating Islamic State militants, Trump says the key is to take away their wealth by taking back the oilfields under their control in Iraq.

Told by “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd that such a move could require ground troops, Trump responds, “That’s OK.”

He says the Iraqis should be given “something” from their oil fields but, in an apparent reference to Iraq War veterans, “we should definitely take back money for our soldiers.”

“We’ve had soldiers that were so badly hurt and killed,” he said. “I want their families to get something. Wounded warriors all over the place. They got nothing. And they can’t even say we had a victory.”

Trump in the past has accused Saudi Arabia of being the world’s biggest funder of terrorism. On Sunday, he says the Gulf nation should be paying the US because it wouldn’t exist without American support. And, Trump says, the only reason the US supports Saudi Arabia is because it needs the oil.

“Now, we don’t need the oil so much,” he said in an apparent reference to US oil and gas production. “And if we let our people really go, we wouldn’t need the oil at all. And we could let everybody else fight it out.”

Trump says Saudi Arabia is going to need help fighting against the kinds of militants who have targeted neighboring Yemen. He says he would assist the Saudis in that event, albeit reluctantly and for a price.

“We defend Saudi Arabia. We send our ships. We send our planes. Every time there’s a little ruckus, we send those ships and those planes. We get nothing. Why? They’re making a billion a day. We get nothing. And this is the problem with the world,” he says.

— AP

The defense minister and the gibberish tweet

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has left Israelis and others scratching their heads over some of his comments in the past, but he may have just taken the cake with a nonsensical tweet.

The quickly deleted tweet, which includes a link to a Volkswagon ad filmed in Israel, contains a string of seemingly random Hebrew letters and the phrase “Premium Car” in English.

Here’s the ad, expertly screen captured for posterity

A gibberish tweet sent out by Moshe Ya'alon. (Screen capture: Twitter)

A gibberish tweet sent out by Moshe Ya’alon. (Screen capture: Twitter)

And here’s the video, in case you want to know what Israel’s defense minister is apparently salivating over.

Locals say they may have seen Indonesian jet crash

Villagers in Papua New Guinea say they saw a plane crash into a nearby mountain, near where an Indonesian airliner with 54 people disappeared earlier Sunday.

Residents of Okbape village in Papua’s Bintang district told local police that they saw a plane flying low before crashing into a mountain, says an Indonesian aviation official. He says about 150 rescuers are heading to the area, which is known for its dense forest and steep cliffs, and would begin searching for the plane early Monday.

Okbape is about 24 kilometers (15 miles) west of Oksibil, where the plane was scheduled to land nine minutes after it disappeared.

— with AP

Possible violent protests expected over hunger striker

Authorities are gearing up for possible violent protests in Ashkelon tonight over the fate of a Palestinian detainee who has been on hunger strike for 61 days.

Protesters in favor of force feeding Mohammed Allaan under a new law, and others in favor of releasing him from administrative detention are expected to face off, Channel 10 news reports.

A violent protest would be a repeat of a clash last week, when the two sides fought outside Ashkelon’s Barzilai hospital.

Allaan has since lost consciousness and is breathing with the help of a machine. Doctors say he is in critical condition.

Palestinians have threatened violent protests should he die in Israeli custody.

Sanders surges against Clinton in new poll

A poll released by Fox News shows Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders surging in the polls against front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Vermont Senator Sanders, who is Jewish, has surprised election watchers by drawing large crowds to rallies and has been steadily increasing his share of support among presumed voters against Clinton, the presumed nominee.

The poll shows 49 percent of Democratic voters saying they plan to vote for Clinton, versus 30% for Sanders and 10% for Vice President Joe Biden. It is the first time that Clinton has dipped below 50% in the Fox News poll. A poll released two weeks ago showed Sanders with 22% to Clinton’s 51% and 13% for Biden.

Among Republicans, billionaire Donald Trump is still in the lead, though his share dropped slightly from 26% to 25%. Ben Carson moved into the No. 2 slot, jumping from 7% to 12% and Jeb Bushed dropped from 15% to 9%, according to the poll.

The poll was conducted last week and carries a margin of error of plus/minus three percentage points.

Jihadists trying to sneak into Jordan with refugees — commander

The commander of Jordan’s Border Guard says militants have been trying to sneak into Jordan from Syria by blending in with Syrian refugees, and that attempts to smuggle weapons and drugs have increased.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Brig. Gen. Saber al-Mahayreh says that surveillance along Jordan’s borders is tight and that his forces can “spot a rabbit” trying to cross. The surveillance system consists of radar and surveillance towers that help detect suspected infiltrators miles away.

The general says all infiltration attempts have been blocked so far. He says Jordan’s security takes priority over humanitarian concerns when receiving refugees.

— AP

US to pull Patriot missile batteries out of Turkey

Turkey and United States say that Washington will withdraw its Patriot missile batteries from the country in October after bolstering Ankara’s air defenses against threats from Syria’s civil war.

The NATO mandate for the two-year mission will run out in October and will not be renewed, but the US is prepared to return Patriot equipment and personnel to Turkey within one week if needed, a joint Turkish-US statement says.

“They will be redeployed to the US for critical modernization upgrades that will ensure the US missile defense force remains capable of countering evolving global threats and protecting Allies and partners, including Turkey,” the statement says.

It also emphasises that Washington remains committed to “support Turkey’s air defense capabilities, including against ballistic missile risks and threats.”

The move comes as Turkey and the US are preparing to jointly launch coordinated cross-border operations against Islamic State targets in northern Syria.


Israeli troops girding for possible attack on north

The Israeli army is reportedly gearing up for a possible attack along the border in the Golan Heights, according to Channel 2 news.

The army held a drill in the Golan a week ago to train for different scenarios, including a large attack on Israeli territory and evacuating residents from the border area.

The drill simulated a large attack on the country’s north, the channel said.

The army apparently wants to prepare for an attack from either Syria or Lebanon, according to the report.

On July 29, Israeli aircraft reportedly struck a car in the Syrian Golan, killing a number of Hezbollah operatives, according to foreign reports.

On Friday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said the balance of power had shifted away from Israel.

“Despite the many differences and divisions within Lebanon, the Israeli enemy knows the resistance’s missiles are aimed at it,” he said, according to Israeli website Walla. He was referring to the tens of thousands of missiles thought to be in the possession of the Iranian-sponsored organization.

Report into pride parade stabbings calls for heads to roll

An internal police probe into failings that led to a fatal stabbing attack on the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade calls for the Jerusalem police chief to be reprimanded and a number of other top officials to be suspended, according to reports.

The results of the report were turned into the police and other relevant authorities Sunday, but officials say it will not be released until all parties have had a chance to see and study the findings.

During the July parade, Yishai Schlissel was able to stab six people, killing 16-year-old Shira Banki. Schlissel managed to infiltrate the parade despite having just been released from prison weeks earlier for stabbing three people at a Jerusalem pride parade a decade earlier.

The parade was also supposed to take place under heavy police guard.

Yishai Schlissel pictured as he walks through a Gay Pride parade and is just about to pull a knife from under his coat and start stabbing people in Jerusalem, Thursday, July 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Yishai Schlissel pictured as he walks through a Gay Pride parade and is just about to pull a knife from under his coat and start stabbing people in Jerusalem, Thursday, July 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Three nabbed for growing cannabis in graveyard

Three men have been arrested after being caught growing marijuana in a cemetery in central Israel, Ynet news reports.

The three, ages 26-28, from the coastal town of Netanya, are accused of growing the herb in a cemetery in nearby Moshav Udim, according to the report.

Police tell the news site that the three said they did not know anything about the marijuana and were in the cemetery to volunteer to clean up gravestones.

Huckabee headed to Israel to discuss Iran deal, raise money

Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee says he will visit Israel later this week to discuss the “insane” Iran deal with officials in Jerusalem.

Huckabee, a frequent visitor to Israel, tells CNN’s State of the Union he will also attempt to raise money for his campaign among American-Israelis during the trip, starting Tuesday.

“I think it is the most dangerous situation that we face, not just for the Middle East but for the rest of the world in a long time,” he says. “The Iranian government is not to be trusted.”


Two arrested during protests at hospital holding hunger striker

Two people have been arrested amid scuffles outside the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, where a Palestinian detainee is being held after going on a hunger strike for over two months, police say.

A statement from police on Twitter said officers had deployed to the area to “keep the peace,” as protesters gathered outside the hospital.

According to Ynet, some 200 people are rallying in support of — as well as against — Mohammad Allaan, who is said to be in critical condition and is breathing with the help of a machine.

According to Ynet, five people from the group rallying against Allaan were detained.

A similar protest last week also turned violent.

Heavy police presence as sides rally in Ashkelon

A video from Ashkelon shows heavy police presence as hundreds of protesters in support of and against a Palestinian hunger-striking detainee rally on opposite ends of a main junction in the southern city.

On one side, some hundred right-wingers wave Israeli flags outside Barzilai hospital, where Mohammad Allaan is being held.

About 100 meters away, a similar number of pro-Palestinian protesters rally in support of Allaan, including MK Hanin Zoabi. The video shows low-level scuffles and arguments breaking out between activists and police.

Protesters on both sides are accused of throwing stones as the protest turned violent and some 10 people have been arrested, according to Israeli reports.

Pro Palestinian protesters rallying for Mohammad Allaan in Ashkelon on August 16, 2015. (screen capture: Ynet)

Pro-Palestinian protesters rallying for Mohammad Allaan in Ashkelon on August 16, 2015. (screen capture: Ynet)


15 reported arrested, entrance to Ashkelon closed off

Channel 2 news reports the main entrance to Ashkelon has been closed off by police amid scuffles between right-wing Israelis and officers.

According to the channel, 10 people on the Israeli right-wing side have been arrested and another five people on the pro-Palestinian side.

Lebanon police raid supporters of arrested hard-line cleric

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency says security forces have conducted several raids near the coastal southern city of Sidon in search of suspects following the arrest of a hard-line Sunni cleric.

NNA says security forces are acting quickly Sunday following the arrest of Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir, so that his supporters won’t be able to escape.

FILE - In this March 4, 2011, file photo, Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir, a Lebanese anti-Syrian regime leader, addresses his supporters during a demonstration against Syrian President Bashar Assad at the Martyrs square in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla,File)

Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir, a Lebanese anti-Syrian regime leader, addresses supporters during a demonstration against Syrian President Bashar Assad in Beirut, Lebanon, March 4, 2011. (AP/Hussein Malla, File)

Al-Assir was detained at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport on Saturday as he was trying to flee the country in a disguise and using a forged passport.

Local TV stations reported that authorities collected DNA samples from al-Assir’s parents to help confirm his identity.

Al-Assir, a firebrand anti-Hezbollah cleric, had been on the run since June 2013 after his armed supporters clashed with the Lebanese army in Sidon.

— AP

Loud explosion heard in region near Gaza, mortar fire feared

The army is looking into the possibility a mortar was shot from Gaza at southern Israel, after a loud explosion was heard in the Eshkol region, Walla news reports.

No siren sounded before the explosion.

Danish police arrest suspect in mosque arson

Danish police say they have arrested a man on suspicion of torching a mosque in Copenhagen earlier in the day.

The fire, which caused only superficial damage to the outside of the building, was quickly contained, police say.

They say the assailant had thrown a flammable liquid at the mosque to start the fire.

The suspect, who was born in 1980, will appear in court on Monday.

The religious association whose members worship at the mosque, denounces the fire as “an act of terrorism” on its website.

This act “was likely the result of political and religious motives… As tragic at it is, it unfortunately does not surprise us,” the center says.


13 arrested, Ashkelon protesters dispersed, police say

Police say the entrance to Ashkelon closed off by protests has now reopened, after most protesters there and in front of the city’s Barzilai Medical Center have been dispersed.

A total of 13 people have been arrested amid violent scuffles, including rock-throwing and tear-gas use by protesters, police say in a tweet.

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