The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they happened.
The Israel Defense Forces announces it will begin offering COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to soldiers in its ranks.
The military says there are some 1,300 soldiers who meet the Health Ministry’s current eligibility requirements for a third dose — troops over 50 and medical staff who are over 30-years-old.
Fire and Rescue Services chief Didi Simchi tells Channel 13 news that Jerusalen’s Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem will certainly not need evacuating tonight.
“Tonight, [the fire] will not get near [to Hadassah hospital], that I can promise you. We’ve deployed large forces… To my relief, the fire is not moving in that direction. And if it does move in that direction, the firefighters… will protect Hadassah Hospital,” he says.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad congratulates the Taliban on their conquest of Afghanistan, which the Palestinian terror group calls “the liberation of [Afghani] land from the Western and American occupation.”
“It has been the Muslim people which has performed the greatest jihadist heroics against all invaders over the course of their honorable history,” Islamic Jihad says in a statement.
“We pray to God Almighty to grant the Afghan people security, safety, might and peace, and to make them one, as they declare God’s oneness, under the banner of Islam,” the terror group adds.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks with his Cypriot counterpart, Nikos Christodoulides, who says Cyprus is prepared send firefighting planes to help battle a large forest fire outside Jerusalem, according to Hebrew media reports.
Israel Fire and Rescue Services chief Dedi Simchi says the massive forest fire outside Jerusalem is on the same scale as the 2010 Mount Carmel fire.
“Only a few houses burned without any injuries and I think this is a big achievement,” he tells reporters.
In the 2010 blaze, 44 people were killed.
Simchi also says the fire was caused by the result of human action.
“We don’t know if this was negligence malice or arson but we’ll continue investigating,” he says.
The Defense Ministry is working to rent six planes from a private aviation company to assist in the firefighting effort against a massive blaze outside Jerusalem, the ministry says.
“The planes are expected to go into service beginning tomorrow morning and to expand our aerial firefighting capability. At the same time, the possibility of commandeering additional civilian aircraft for firefighting missions is also being considered,” the Defense Ministry says in a statement.
The six planes that are poised to enter service tomorrow are being rented from the civilian aviation firm Chim-Nir.
WASHINGTON — The US military is sending another battalion of about 1,000 troops to help safeguard the Kabul airport, as American forces killed two armed individuals there during a chaotic evacuation.
That is according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, who is briefing reporters today.
The development is a sign of the ongoing turmoil and violence, as thousands of Afghans rushed onto the tarmac of Kabul’s international airport, following a swifter-than-expected Taliban takeover of the country.
The speed at which the Taliban seized power, two weeks before the US is set to complete its troop withdrawal after a costly two-decade war, has stunned the Biden administration and many in Afghanistan and the international community.
Over 1 million Israelis have now received a third coronavirus vaccine dose, the government announces, weeks after Israel became the first country to begin administering booster shots to older citizens.
With the milestone, more than half of some 1.9 Israelis over age 50 who were fully vaccinated over five months ago have now received a booster, according to the government.
Israel first began offering boosters to people older than 60, before opening up eligibility to those over 50 last week. Booster shots are also available to the immunocompromised.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett cheers “the great achievement,” but says there is more work to do on the vaccine front.
“Anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated, go get vaccinated now,” he says.
Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem begins clearing out some of its parking lots, as officials consider evacuating the medical center, due to a massive forest fire nearby.
The hospital says the police issued the directive to evacuate the parking lots.
The Foreign Ministry is requesting assistance from Greece, Cyprus, Italy, France, and other regional countries for help in fighting a massive forest fire outside Jerusalem.
A statement from Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s office says he spoke with his Greek counterpart, Nikos Dendias, asking him to send firefighting planes. Dendias said Greece would help as much as it can, according to the statement.
Lapid also speaks with the head of the Israel Fire and Rescue Services to hear what is needed.
WASHINGTON — All military and civilian flights have been halted at the Kabul airport because of the crowds of civilians that have surged out onto the runways, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby says.
“US military forces are on the scene working alongside Turkish and other international troops to clear the area of people. We do not know how long this will take,” Kirby says.
Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital says the current decision is to not evacuate patients from the medical center in Ein Kerem, as a major forest fire rages outside the city.
The decision comes after senior hospital officials held an assessment on the matter with the police, Health Ministry and fire department.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett gives the go-ahead for Israel to consider seeking international assistance to help battle a large wildfire raging outside Jerusalem.
A statement from Bennett’s office says he instructed the Defense Ministry and military to provide any necessary help and to consider if the Israeli Air Force has additional tools that can be utilized.
“The prime minister again stressed that it is of supreme importance to save lives and therefore will not hesitate regarding the evacuation of communities and people… and will evacuate everyone,” the Prime Minister’s Office says.
Far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir has tested positive for COVID-19.
Ben Gvir says he feels well and entered quarantine yesterday after experiencing symptoms.
The Knesset says Ben Gvir was last at the parliament building on August 11.
WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden will return to the White House to address the nation on the American evacuation from Afghanistan, a day after the Taliban took control of the country.
The White House says Biden will travel back to Washington from the Camp David presidential retreat to speak at 3:45 p.m. local time from the East Room. It will be his first public remarks on the Afghanistan situation in nearly a week.
Poland’s foreign ministry says the Polish ambassador to Israel, Marek Magierowski, will remain in Warsaw for the time being and that his newly appointed deputy will not be dispatched to Tel Aviv.
The move comes after Israel recalled its charge d’affairs over Poland’s approval of a law that effectively bars heirs to property seized by the Nazis during the Holocaust from seeking restitution. Israel also told Magierowski to remain on vacation at home.
The military has dispatched several transport helicopters to assist in the evacuation of Givat Ye’arim due to the massive forest fire raging outside Jerusalem, Channel 12 news reports.
Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski says Poland is examining whether to continue allowing the annual Holocaust education trips in which Israeli high schoolers visit Nazi death camps that operated in the country.
“The trips do not take place in a proper manner. They sometimes instill hatred for Poland in the heads of young Israelis,” says Jablonski. “We will make the right decisions about these trips. We deal with anti-Polish sentiment in Israel, and one of the reasons for this is the way in which Israeli youth are educated and raised.”
The statement comes after Israel lambasted Poland for approving legislation that would effectively prevent heirs to property seized by the Nazis during World War II from claiming restitution.
WASHINGTON — A US defense officials says the head of Central Command has met face-to-face with senior Taliban leaders to urge their fighters not to interfere with the US military’s evacuation operations at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan.
The official says that in the meeting today in Doha, Qatar, Gen. Frank McKenzie won Taliban agreement to establish a “deconfliction mechanism” — an arrangement by which evacuation operations at the airport can continue without interference by the new rulers of the country.
The official speaks on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive talks not yet announced publicly. The official says McKenzie urged the Taliban not to interfere with the evacuation and says the US military will respond forcefully to defend the airport if necessary.
Israel Fire and Rescue Services chief Dedi Simchi orders a general call-up of firefighters and rescue personnel to help battle a massive wildfire raging outside Jerusalem.
According to Channel 12 news, Simchi told Public Security Minister Omer Barlev that Israel needs international assistance to battle the blazes.
Police say they are prepared to possibly evacuate Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem over concerns of a large wildfire spreading outside the city.
The hospital states “unequivocally” that it isn’t evacuating patients or visitors.
Firefighters evacuate residents of Givat Ye’arim from their homes as a large wildfire outside Jerusalem spreads into the community.
“The pace of the fire’s advance is extremely rapid,” a statement from the Fire and Rescue Services says.
Residents of Ein Rafa and Ein Nakuba have been instructed to prepare to evacuate their homes.
WARSAW, Poland — An appellate court in Poland rejects a lawsuit brought against two Holocaust scholars in a case that has been closely watched because it was expected to serve as a precedent for research into the highly sensitive area of Polish behavior toward Jews during World War II.
Poland is governed by a nationalist conservative party that has sought to promote remembrance of Polish heroism and suffering during the wartime German occupation of the country. The party also believes that discussions of Polish wrongdoing distort the historical picture and are unfair to Poles.
The Appellate Court of Warsaw argues in its explanation that it believes it’s not the responsibility of the courts to judge scholarly research.
The ruling is welcomed by the two researchers, Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking, who declare it a “great victory” in a Facebook post.
“We greet the verdict with great joy and satisfaction all the more, that this decision has a direct impact on all Polish scholars, and especially on historians of the Holocaust,” they say.
Residents of Kibbutz Tzuba are instructed to evacuate their homes as a large wildfire approaches the community in the hills outside Jerusalem.
The blaze is also nearing the Eitanim psychiatric hospital.
According to the Fire and Rescue Services, 10 firefighting planes are operating in the area.
BERLIN — The withdrawal of Western troops from Afghanistan is the “biggest NATO debacle” since the founding of the alliance, the head of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party says.
With the Taliban sweeping to power after NATO troops withdrew, CDU party chief Armin Laschet says: “It is evident that this engagement of the international community was not successful. It is the biggest debacle that NATO has suffered since its founding, and we’re standing before an epochal change.”
A large wildfire outside Jerusalem has begun to spread again as the wind picks up, leading police to evacuate some residents of Sho’eva as the blaze nears the community.
Police say a fire near Eitanim hospital has also renewed and that some sections of routes 395 and 3955 have been closed to traffic in both directions.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) August 16, 2021
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan — An Afghan military plane has crashed inside Uzbekistan, the Central Asian country’s defense ministry says, confirming earlier reports.
“The military plane illegally crossed the border of Uzbekistan. An investigation is under way,” ministry spokesman Bakhrom Zulfikarov tells AFP, confirming Uzbek media reports of a crash taking place last night in Uzbekistan’s southern province of Surkhondaryo, which borders Afghanistan.
Hamas praises the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, which it calls “a crowning victory after twenty years of struggle.”
In a statement, the terror group “blesses the Afghani Muslim nation for the fall of the American occupation in all Afghani territory.”
Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk implicitly draws parallels between the Taliban’s fight against the American-backed Afghani government and Hamas’s fight against Israel in a tweet last night.
“The Taliban are victorious today after being accused of backwardness and terrorism. They emerge today as a smarter and more realistic movement. They confronted America and its agents, and refused to compromise with them. They were not deceived by bright headlines about ‘democracy’ and ‘elections,'” Abu Marzouk says.
“This is a lesson for all oppressed peoples. Will they learn the moral of this story?”Abu Marzouk asks.
WASHINGTON — US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan says the failure of the Afghan military is to blame for the Taliban’s swift takeover of Afghanistan.
Sullivan says American President Joe Biden didn’t want the US to enter a “third decade of conflict” in Afghanistan and believed it was time for the Afghan army to defend the country two decades after billions of dollars of investment and training by the US.
But Sullivan says, “we could not give them the will and ultimately they decided that they would not fight for Kabul.”
He adds that the “worst-case scenario” for the US would be to send thousands of troops to fight in a civil war when the Afghan army “wasn’t prepared to fight itself.”
Sullivan says Biden faced “bad choices” on the subject. The president ultimately opted to bring US troops home and leave the Afghans to fight for themselves.
He says “it’s heartbreaking” to see what’s happening in Kabul but that Biden “stands by” his decision.
Sullivan speaks on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and NBC’s “Today.”
Israeli troops have arrested an armed Palestinian dressed as a soldier near the settlement of Ma’ale Levona, according to the Binyamin Regional Council.
A statement from the council says Israeli residents of the area spotted the suspect walking along Route 60 and alerted local authorities, who in turn informed the military.
The Israel Defense Forces confirms the arrest and says the suspect has been taken for questioning.
Photos of the Palestinian dressed as an IDF soldier, armed with a hunting rifle, a knife, and pepper spray, who was arrest near Ma'ale Levona in the West Bank pic.twitter.com/cTTSphpuSg
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) August 16, 2021
Tamir Idan, head of the Sdot Negev Regional Council, also urges a response after Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fire a rocket at Israel for the first time since the 11-day conflict in May.
“The government must respond with a strong hand and immediately, without any delay,” Idan is quoted saying by the Kan public broadcaster.
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s new ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi says the “defeat” of the United States in Afghanistan must usher in a durable peace in the neighboring, war-wracked country.
“The military defeat and the US withdrawal from Afghanistan should offer an opportunity to restore life, security and lasting peace in that country,” Raisi says, quoted by his office.
The presidency statement comes after the Taliban seized control of Kabul, but it doesn’t mention the Taliban nor the fall of the Afghan capital.
Raisi, who makes the remarks in a call with outgoing Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, says the Islamic Republic wants good relations with Afghanistan.
Iran is “closely monitoring the evolution of events in Afghanistan” and wants good neighborly ties with it, he says.
Raisi tasked Zarif and Iran’s Supreme National Security Council to give him updated reports on the situation in Afghanistan, the statement adds.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz has okayed the seizure of 23 tons of chocolate, the sale of which was intended to help fund the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror groups, his office says in a statement.
According to the statement, Hamas uses funds from the sale of basic goods such as chocolat to fund operations, including those of its military wing.
“Israel will continue to act to prevent the strengthening of Hamas, which is building a military force instead of caring for the residents of the Strip who are collapsing under the economic burden. We will continue to pursue terror funds,” Gantz says.
The mayor of the Sha’ar Hanegev regional council calls on the government to respond to the rocket launch that triggered sirens in communities in his region, saying the attack was particularly heinous considering it took place in the middle of the day.
“This is the first launch since Operation Guardian of the Walls, which ended some two months ago. Until now, the operation had proven itself and I hope and expect that the State of Israel knows how to ensure the deterrence that was put in place after the operation,” says Mayor Ofir Liebstein.
“Any launch, even if it is intercepted, interrupts our daily lives, especially when it is at a time when children are in summer activities and not at home with their parents. Fortunately and unfortunately, the educational teams in our region are experienced in dealing with such things and they are now helping children get back to their routines in the best and healthiest way possible,” he says.
The Israel Defense Forces says its air defenses intercepted a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip at southern Israel.
This is the first rocket attack from Gaza since May’s 11-day conflict between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in the Strip.
The launch comes after repeated threats by Palestinian terror groups over the slow pace of Gaza reconstruction and the entrance of Qatari money into the Strip.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) August 16, 2021
President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett welcome Israel’s most successful-ever Olympic delegation in a joint ceremony, congratulating the athletes for their success and thanking them for the pride they brought to the country.
“You made the history that Israeli athletes have dreamed of for years. The anthem was played not once, but twice,” Herzog says.
“Linoy [Ashram], Artem [Dolgopyat], the judo team, Avishag [Semberg] and all the athletes — those who gave everything, those who were so close, and those who gave their whole soul — on behalf of the people of Israel I say thank you. Thank you for the inspiration you gave to future generations and to all our people. Thank you to our stars. You are our heroes and we are very proud of you.”
Herzog also quips that the size of the medal haul could perhaps be attributed to him and Bennett assuming their new jobs.
“The delegation provided us with moments of pride and happiness during a complex time for all of us,” Bennett says. “The Israeli flag was raised over the winners’ podium four times and twice we were privileged to hear the Israeli national anthem, ‘Hatikvah.’ An entire country was moved and wiped away a tear.”
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has recorded a record high number of deaths from COVID-19 for a second day in a row.
The official IRNA news agency says today that 655 patients died in the previous 24 hours, and health workers found some 41,194 new cases over the same period. Yesterday, Iran reported 620 deaths.
The report comes as the country imposes a five-day lockdown starting today. It includes a travel ban on personal cars crossing between provinces.
The new surge has been fueled by the contagious Delta variant. Iranian authorities say less than 40% of the population follows measures such as wearing face masks and social distancing. Iranian health officials have regularly warned that hospitals in the capital, Tehran, and other major cities are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
This is the fifth wave of coronavirus infections as the country struggles to vaccinate its people. Some 4% of Iranians have been fully vaccinated.
Incoming rocket sirens sound in the town of Sderot and surrounding communities.
There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.
The Israel Defense Forces says it is looking into the matter.
Photographs from southern Israel indicate that at least one Iron Dome interceptor missile was launched after the sirens sounded.
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