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Abbas, in Germany, says Israel committed ‘holocausts’; beside him, Scholz is silent

Chancellor later tells outraged German media use of term ‘unbearable’; PA leader makes comments while declining to apologize for Munich massacre

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands after a press conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on August 16, 2022. (Jens Schlueter/AFP)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands after a press conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on August 16, 2022. (Jens Schlueter/AFP)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.

In Berlin, Abbas says Israel committed ‘holocausts’ against the Palestinians; Scholz grimaces silently, later condemns remarks

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has caused shock in Germany when, standing beside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin, he accused Israel of committing “holocausts” against Palestinians over the years.

Scholz did not react verbally to Abbas’s comment in the moment, though he grimaced at the use of the word, which Abbas uttered in English. Scholz later said the use of the term in such a context was “unbearable.”

Abbas made his remarks when the two spoke to the media after holding a meeting on Middle East issues.

Abbas was responding to a reporter’s question about the upcoming anniversary of the Munich massacre half a century ago. Eleven Israeli athletes and a German police officer died after members of the Palestinian militant group Black September took hostages at the Olympic Village on September 5, 1972. At the time of the attack, the group was linked to Abbas’s Fatah party.

Asked whether as the leader of the Palestinians he planned to apologize to Israel and Germany for the attack ahead of the 50th anniversary next month, Abbas responded instead by citing allegations of atrocities committed by Israel since 1947.

“If we want to go over the past, go ahead,” Abbas, who was speaking Arabic, said with Scholz at his side.

“I have 50 slaughters that Israel committed….50 massacres, 50 slaughters, 50 holocausts,” Abbas said, taking care to pronounce the final word in English.

Scholz grimaced at the use of the word but did not say anything.

A headline on the website of Germany’s BILD newspaper expresses shock at PA leader Mahmoud Abbas’s use of the term ‘holocaust’ to describe Israeli actions against the Palestinians. (screenshot)

Germany’s popular BILD newspaper published an outraged website-leading story about the incident, under the title “Antisemitism scandal at the federal chancellery.” It expresses shock that “not a word of dissent [was said] in the face of the worst Holocaust relativization that a head of government has ever uttered in the chancellor’s office.”

Germany has long argued the term should only be used to describe the Nazis’ singular crime of killing six million Jews before and during World War II.

A spokesman for Scholz told BILD that “before the Chancellor could contradict this outrageous sentence, the government spokesman had already moderated the press conference — as usual after the last question/answer block — which visibly annoyed Scholz. The government spokesman then told the journalists who were still present, who could not help noticing the chancellor’s annoyance, how outraged the chancellor was about the statement and also that he had not had the opportunity to openly contradict one more time.”

In a statement to the paper, Scholz added: “Especially for us Germans, any relativization of the Holocaust is unbearable and unacceptable.”

Related: At Abbas’s side, German leader rejects his use of ‘apartheid’ in reference to Israel

ToI archive, May 2018: After blaming Jews for Holocaust, Abbas apologizes and condemns anti-Semitism

UN won’t reinstate official transferred for criticizing Islamic Jihad rocket fire

The UN says a senior official in East Jerusalem who was removed from her position after condemning Palestinian Islamic Jihad will remain in a new location, despite Israel calling to reinstate her.

Sarah Muscroft, the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, was removed from her post last week after she condemned the Palestinian terror group’s conduct during the recent Gaza conflict.

Her tweet criticizing the PIJ for “indiscriminate rocket fire” sparked an uproar among Palestinian supporters.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan on Sunday called on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to reverse the decision to transfer her out of her position.

But a UN spokesperson tells The Times of Israel that Muscroft will remain in a new position despite Erdan’s request.

“She’s been reassigned to a different post. I don’t know where that post yet is,” the spokesperson says.

“Her location of work has been changed. That was the decision taken by our Humanitarian Affairs office,” he says.

Israeli killed in Ecuador hiking accident identified as Gil Banks, 25

An Israeli man killed in a fall while attempting to climb the Cotopaxi volcano, the second-highest peak in Ecuador, is identified as Gil Banks, 25, from Caesarea.

Banks, who immigrated to Israel with his family from Scotland 13 years ago, was traveling in South America after finishing his army service in an elite unit.

Friends tell Chanel 12 that Banks was “brilliant, a person with a huge heart.”

Zelensky, Erdogan, Guterres to meet in Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and UN chief Antonio Guterres will meet in Ukraine on Thursday, the United Nations announces.

“At the invitation of President Volodymyr Zelensky, the secretary-general will be in Lviv on Thursday to attend a trilateral meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and the Ukrainian leader,” Guterres’s spokesman says.

Guterres will then visit the Ukrainian port city of Odesa on the Black Sea on Friday before heading to Turkey.

Hundreds join funeral for soldier killed in friendly fire incident

Hundreds attend a funeral for the IDF soldier who was killed in an apparent friendly fire incident last night.

Nathan Fitoussi, 20, was shot dead by a comrade in the Kfir Brigade after he was apparently misidentified upon returning to a guard post along the West Bank border barrier near the Palestinian city of Tulkarem.

Fitoussi, a new immigrant from France, is laid to rest in Netanya.

His sister eulogizes Fitoussi, saying he was a very generous person who only gave to others.

“We have to say thank you to God for taking him, he was a pure soul,” she says.

Soldier who mistakenly shot comrade: I was just following procedures

The Military Advocate General issues a statement on behalf of the soldier who killed his comrade 20-year-old Nathan Fitoussi last night, saying he had “followed orders and instructions.”

“This is a heartbreaking tragic event, in which our client’s best friend lost his life. He wishes to send his sincere condolences to the family for their heavy loss,” the statement says.

“Our client participated all night in investigations of the unfortunate accident that happened during operational activity. Now the soldier is being asked to testify. All that can be said now, while the incident is still under investigation, is that the soldier followed orders and instructions,” the advocate general adds.

Gantz speaks to US defense chief Austin on efforts to prevent Iran bomb

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks with his US counterpart Lloyd Austin about joint efforts to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb.

Gantz says the two discussed a “series of defense topics, including the measures required to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

“In our discussion of operation ‘Breaking Dawn,’ I thanked him once again for US support for the replenishment of the life-saving Iron Dome,” Gantz says referring to last week’s fighting in Gaza with the Islamic Jihad.

“We also spoke about developments in Ukraine, and about Israel’s recent efforts to deliver humanitarian aid and protective gear,” Gantz says.

Kohavi releases initial findings into friendly fire killing of IDF soldier

Military chief Aviv Kohavi releases an initial investigation of last night’s fatal friendly fire incident at the West Bank security barrier near Tulkarem.

According to a statement from the Israel Defense Forces, 20-year-old Nathan Fitoussi left a guard position along the border, and upon returning, his comrade suspected he was a threat and opened fire.

The soldier who opened fire then understood he had shot his comrade, and reported the incident to his commanders, who sent medical teams to the scene. Fitoussi was treated at the scene, then taken to a hospital where he died of his wounds.

The initial probe was conducted alongside Central Command chief Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs and other senior IDF officers.

Fuchs appoints Col. Liron Biton, commander of the 55th Paratroopers Brigade, as the head of a “panel of experts” to further investigate the fatal incident.

The team will present their findings to Kohavi.

Separately, the Military Police is investigating the matter and will present their findings to the Military Prosecution for evaluation.

“I send my deepest condolences to the family of the late Nathan Fitoussi. [Last night’s] incident is serious, difficult, and very unfortunate and we will investigate it thoroughly and professionally,” Kohavi says according to the statement.

“Protecting our people is an integral part of our operational ability to protect the residents of Israel,” he adds.

Netanyahu autobiography ‘Bibi: My Story’ to be published in November

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu will publish his new autobiography on November 22.

The former prime minister’s book “Bibi: My Story” is available for pre-order from Amazon in Hebrew and in English.

The cover of Benjamin Netanyahu’s new book set to be published in November. (Courtesy)

The book, Netanyahu’s first in 20 years, will be published just weeks after Israel goes to the polls again on November 1, with Netanyahu’s leadership again a major issue.

The book “tells the story of his family, his path to leadership, and his unceasing commitment to defending Israel and securing its future,” according to the blurb.

Gantz says IDF will investigate accidental killing of soldier, implement lessons

Defense Minister Benny Gantz expresses his sorrow over the death of an IDF soldier in an apparent friendly fire incident yesterday and says the military will learn the appropriate lessons from the incident.

Nathan Fitoussi, 20, was shot dead by a comrade in the Kfir Brigade late last night, after he was apparently misidentified upon returning to a guard post along the West Bank border barrier near the Palestinian city of Tulkarem.

“The IDF will thoroughly investigate the incident and the lessons will be learned and implanted,” Gantz says during a meeting with Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar.

 

French backpacker missing, believed detained in Egypt for a year, back in Paris

A French backpacker who had gone missing in Egypt a year ago has safely returned home to Paris, a lawyer representing his family says.

It’s not clear what happened over the past year to Yann Bourdon, whose family had speculated that he might have been detained by Egyptian security services. The graduate student at the Sorbonne, who vanished while on a year-long backpacking journey, declines to discuss his disappearance with the media and to share details of his return to France.

Sarah Sakouti, a legal counsel for the Geneva-based Committee for Justice that had pressed the Egyptian and French authorities to investigate the 27-year-old’s disappearance, says Bourdon flew from Cairo to Paris on August 10.

A day before, Bourdon had phoned his sister in Paris from the French Consulate in Cairo, Sakouti tells The Associated Press. The same day, Egyptian state security services had announced they would facilitate Bourdon’s return to Paris.

US tests ICBM after Russia, China-linked delays

The United States successfully tests a long-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missile Tuesday after twice postponing the launch to avoid stoking tensions over Ukraine and Taiwan, the Air Force announces.

The Air Force Global Strike Command launched the unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile over the Pacific from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California just after midnight local time.

The missile carried a test re-entry vehicle, which in a strategic conflict could be armed with a nuclear warhead.

The reentry vehicle traveled about 4,200 miles (6,760 kilometers) to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the western Pacific.

“This test launch is part of routine and periodic activities intended to demonstrate that the United States’ nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, reliable and effective,” the Air Force says in a statement.

“Such tests have occurred more than 300 times before, and this test is not the result of current world events.”

The test was originally scheduled in March but was put off to avoid adding to tensions over Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

It was postponed a second time at the beginning of August as military tensions soared over China’s test launches of multiple ballistic missiles and live-fire exercises in reaction to the visit of the top US lawmaker, Nancy Pelosi, to Taiwan.

Ultra-Orthodox activists establish illegal settlement outpost in southern West Bank

A group of ultra-Orthodox families announce they have established an illegal settlement outpost in the southern West Bank, close to the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Metzad.

There are 15 families, including some with children, who have created the unauthorized settlement, named Derech Emunah, and they have erected at least 15 structures at the site, including a synagogue, yeshiva, and homes for the residents.

Derech Emunah is accessible via a two-minute car ride from Metzad and then a five-minute walk, since the road does not yet reach the outpost.

Moshe Rotman, one of the outpost’s founders and organizers, says the structures were built by dozens of yeshiva students on Sunday night within two and a half hours.

Electricity is provided by a generator and Rotman says there is running water at the site.

According to settler activist Tzvi Succot, this is the first time ultra-Orthodox settlers have established such an outpost.

Rotman says the establishment of an ultra-Orthodox outpost was designed to increase consciousness within the ultra-Orthodox community of the religious commandment of settling the land as well as demonstrating that the housing crisis in the community could be resolved through settlement construction in the West Bank.

Abbas meets German Chancellor Scholz in Berlin

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin.

Abbas asks Scholz to recognize the State of Palestine and its full membership in the United Nations, according to the Palestinian Wafa news agency.

The Palestinian leader also briefs the German leader on “the ongoing Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and their properties, and Muslim and Christian holy sites, as well as on the unprecedented settlement acceleration and seizure of land,” Wafa says.

11 reported killed in Turkish airstrike on Syrian border post

A Turkish airstrike on a Syria border post run by regime forces killed 11 people, following an overnight flare-up between Ankara’s forces and Kurdish fighters that control the area, a war monitor says.

“Eleven fighters were killed in a Turkish air strike that hit a Syrian regime outpost… near the Turkish border,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says, without specifying if the dead were affiliated with the Damascus government or Kurdish forces.

Scotland first country to pass law making period products free for all

A law has taken effect in Scotland to ensure period products are available free of charge to anyone who needs them.

The Scottish government says it became the first in the world to legally protect the right to access free period products when its Period Products Act came into force yesterday.

Under the new law, schools, colleges and universities as well as local government bodies must make a range of period products available for free in their bathrooms. The Scottish government already invested millions of pounds since 2017 to fund free period products in educational institutions, but the law makes it a legal requirement.

A mobile phone app also helps people find the nearest place — such as the local library or community center — where they can pick up period products.

“Providing access to free period products is fundamental to equality and dignity, and removes the financial barriers to accessing them,” Scottish Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison says.

Jill Biden tests positive for COVID-19

US first lady Jill Biden tests positive for COVID-19 and has “mild” symptoms, the White House says.

The announcement comes weeks after President Joe Biden recovered from the virus.

Israel said to urge Russia to find agreement to prevent shuttering of Jewish Agency

Israel is asking Russia to delay a court session on the future of the Jewish Agency in the country in a bid to reach an agreement on the issue, Walla news reports.

The report, citing two Israeli officials, says the message was sent in recent days ahead of the court hearing set for Friday.

Israel believes that the issue can be resolved following a conversation last week between President Isaac Herzog and Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

The officials say Putin reassured Herzog that the issue was a purely legal one and that the move was not intended by Putin to punish Israel for its growing support for Ukraine.

Elite army unit to join search for teen missing since March

An elite IDF unit will join the search for Moshe Klinerman, an ultra-Orthodox boy who has been missing since March, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The move comes after the family appealed to Defense Minister Benny Gantz. There were talks on the issue between the IDF and police, the report says.

Klinerman, 16, was last seen on March 25, when he left his home in the settlement of Modiin Illit with a few friends for a trip to the Mount Meron area in northern Israel. Months later, there have been few developments in the case and no trace of him has been found.

Palestinian hunger striker prisoner to appeal to Supreme Court

The lawyer for a Palestinian prisoner says that his client will appeal his case to the Supreme Court as he continues what his family says is a 165-day hunger strike against his detention.

The release of hunger striker Khalil Awawdeh was among the demands of the Islamic Jihad terror group for a ceasefire to last week’s intense fighting in the Gaza Strip.

Khalil Awawdeh is protesting being held without charge or trial under what Israel refers to as administrative detention. Ahlam Haddad, Awawdeh’s lawyer, says her client’s health is deteriorating and that they asked that he be released. An Israeli military court yesterday rejected an appeal. Israel claims he is a member of a terror group, which he denies.

“Justice was not done with that man,” Haddad said. “We turn to… the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, in order maybe to get the relief requested, which is his release from administrative detention.”

Lapid vows to beef up police forces, restore Israelis’ ‘personal security’

Prime Minister Yair Lapid visits the national police academy today and vows to beef up the country’s police forces to restore “personal security to Israelis.”

“We will place the personal security of the citizens of Israel at the top of our national priorities,” Lapid says.

Lapid promises to put 5,000 cops on the street in a multi-year plan, backed up by 26 Border Police companies and 30,000 volunteers in the national guard.

He also promises 450 traffic patrol vehicles.

Satellite images show first grain ship out of Ukraine ended up in Syria

The first shipment of grain to leave Ukraine under a wartime deal appears to have ended up in Syria — even as Damascus remains a close ally of Moscow, satellite images analyzed today by The Associated Press show.

But Lebanon, which was Razoni’s presumed destination, ended up not taking the shipment, even as it struggles with its own economic crisis. Lebanese media had reported that after a months-long delay due to the war in Ukraine, the merchant who had bought the shipment no longer wanted it.

The arrival of the cargo ship Razoni in Syria comes after the government in Kyiv praised the ship’s initial departure from the port of Odesa as a sign that Ukraine could safely ship out its barley, corn, sunflower oil and wheat to a hungry world where global food prices have spiked in part due to the war.

But its arrival in Syria’s port of Tartus shows how complicated and murky international trade and shipping can be. Syria has already received Ukrainian grain taken from Russian-occupied territory amid Moscow’s war on Kyiv.

Images from Planet Labs PBC analyzed by the AP show the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni at port just before 11 a.m. yesterday. The vessel was just next to the port’s grain silos, key to supplying wheat to the nation.

Data from the Razoni’s Automatic Identification System tracker shows it had been turned off since Friday, when it was just off the coast of Cyprus, according to ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com. Ships are supposed to keep their AIS trackers on, but vessels wanting to hide their movements often turn theirs off. Those heading to Syrian ports routinely do so.

Religious Affairs Ministry left without any minister in charge

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.

Israeli killed while climbing volcano in Ecuador

An Israeli tourist in his 20s was killed after falling while climbing the Cotopaxi volcano in Ecuador, the Foreign Ministry says.

The ministry says the family of the man has been notified, and it was assisting the family in repatriating the body.

No details are provided on how the accident occurred.

Russia says blasts at Crimea arms depot an act of ‘sabotage’

Russia’s defense ministry says a fire that set off explosions at a munitions depot in Moscow-annexed Crimea was caused by an act of “sabotage.”

“On the morning of August 16, as a result of an act of sabotage, a military storage facility near the village of Dzhankoi was damaged,” the ministry says in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

It adds there were “no serious injuries.”

Military court extends detention of Islamic Jihad leader that sparked Gaza conflict

A military court again extends the remand of a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad member, some 10 days after his arrest sparked a round of fighting between Israel and the terror group in the Gaza Strip.

The court orders Bassem Saadi held at least until August 21.

Saadi was arrested on August 1 by Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Jenin. The PIJ at the time announced it was declaring a state of alert, and the Israel Defense Forces said it had concrete indications of an imminent attack on the Gaza border, putting the area on lockdown for several days.

The IDF then launched a series of airstrikes in Gaza against a senior PIJ commander and several anti-tank guided missile squads, which prompted rocket fire from the Strip.

After nearly three days of fighting a ceasefire agreement was signed, which reportedly included “Egypt’s commitment to work towards the release of” Saadi and another Palestinian detainee, Khalil Awawdeh, a terror group spokesperson said.

Israel says it has no intention of releasing him.

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