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Syrian media reports possible Israeli strike near the border

Explosions heard in Quneitra area; footage shows object flying through the air before it explodes

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

An Israeli military outpost in the Golan Heights is pictured from the Syrian town of Quneitra on March 26, 2019. (Louai Beshara/AFP)
An Israeli military outpost in the Golan Heights is pictured from the Syrian town of Quneitra on March 26, 2019. (Louai Beshara/AFP)

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

Syrian media reports IDF strike near border

Syrian state media reports that explosions were heard in the Quneitra province near the border with Israel, in what appears to be a strike against an observation post in the area.

Reports claim the IDF carried out a strike in the area.

Footage taken from the Israeli side of the fence shows an object flying through the air before it explodes.

There is no immediate comment from the Israeli army on the incident.

Health Ministry said to weigh expanding booster doses to those over 40

An Israeli man receives a COVID-19 vaccine during a mass vaccination drive at Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv, on the night of August 14, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
An Israeli man receives a COVID-19 vaccine during a mass vaccination drive at Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv, on the night of August 14, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Health Ministry officials will consider in the coming days expanding its COVID vaccine booster dose campaign to those over age 40, reports Channel 12 news.

Israel rolled out third doses of the vaccine to those over age 60 on August 1, and expanded it to those older than 50 over the weekend. According to the TV network, health officials are slated to meet this week to discuss the potential of further expanding the booster shot eligibility.

More than 1 million Israelis have already received a third dose of the vaccine, and initial results show new infections among those over 60 tapering off, Channel 12 reports.

US officials are ‘talking’ to Taliban about safe passage for refugees

US soldiers stand guard along a perimeter at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Shekib Rahmani)
US soldiers stand guard along a perimeter at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Shekib Rahmani)

The United States says that the Taliban have promised safe passage for thousands of civilians seeking to reach Kabul airport in order to leave Afghanistan.

“The Taliban have informed us they are prepared to provide the safe passage of civilians to the airport, and we intend to hold them to that commitment,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan tells reporters at the White House.

Sullivan says the US is also “talking” with the Taliban about the timetable for the removal of thousands of American citizens and Afghans fleeing the country on US military aircraft.

Fire chief: Unclear if Jerusalem-area blaze was arson, but it was man-made

Fire Commissioner Dedy Simhi attends a press conference regarding the major fire which broke out in a forest outside of Jerusalem, on August 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Fire Commissioner Dedy Simhi attends a press conference regarding the major fire which broke out in a forest outside of Jerusalem, on August 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Fire and Rescue Services Commissioner Dedy Simhi says that fire officials cannot confirm if the fire that blazed outside Jerusalem for three days was arson — but they are certain that it was instigated by humans.

“I’m not certain yet that it was arson, although as I have said continually, it was man-made,” Simhi tells Channel 13 news, leaving room for the possibility of an accident or negligence.

“In order to confirm that it was arson, we need all sorts of elements, which is more police work than firefighting work.”

While Simhi said earlier today that the fire in the towns west of Jerusalem was under control after 52 hours — firefighting forces will not leave just yet.

“We’ll be staying all night and also tomorrow to confirm completely that the fire will not reignite,” he says.

Simhi also points to an extensive series of fires currently blazing across the Middle East and Europe, saying the overarching issues “demand immediate attention” from officials.

Israel not striking Gaza in order to give Hamas negotiations a shot – report

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Defense Minister Benny Gantz  and IDF Chief Aviv Kochavi tour the IDF Gaza Divison, on August 17, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF Chief Aviv Kochavi tour the IDF Gaza Divison, on August 17, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The IDF did not respond militarily to a rocket fired yesterday from Gaza due to sensitive ongoing negotiations with Hamas, reports Channel 12 news.

According to the report, which did not cite a source, there is a possibility of a breakthrough in a deal that will both ensure Qatari funds will enter Gaza and could include the release of Israelis being held by Hamas.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz held meetings at the IDF Gaza Division earlier today. IDF intelligence officials and the Shin Bet reportedly told Bennett and Gantz that they should hold back in responding to the rocket in order to give the negotiations a chance, and they agreed to do so.

The rocket fired yesterday was purportedly launched by Islamic Jihad fighters who were then arrested by Hamas. Hamas then reportedly informed Israel that it was not behind the rocket fire and is not interested in an escalation.

Earlier today, while touring the IDF Gaza Division, Bennett vowed to respond to the rocket fire “on our terms, and not anyone else’s.”

EU’s Borrell: We will have to talk to Taliban, but not recognize their rule

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks as he attends a meeting of EU foreign ministers to discuss the situation in Ukraine, at the European Council building in Brussels, on April 19, 2021. (Francois Walschaerts, Pool via AP)
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks as he attends a meeting of EU foreign ministers to discuss the situation in Ukraine, at the European Council building in Brussels, on April 19, 2021. (Francois Walschaerts, Pool via AP)

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says the EU will have to talk to the Taliban after the group seized control of Afghanistan.

“The Taliban have won the war, so we will have to talk with them,” he says, while stressing this does not mean moving quickly to officially recognize their rule.

Borrell speaks following an urgent meeting of EU foreign ministers, called after the rebels overthrew the Afghan government.

The EU, many of whose members are also NATO allies which fought the group, is concerned about the fate of their citizens in Afghanistan, as well as local Afghan employees.

It is also worried that the Taliban’s brutal reputation and imposition of Islamist rule could hurt women’s rights and trigger a new wave of migration towards Europe.

Borrell says that Brussels will “engage in a dialogue as soon as necessary to prevent a humanitarian and a potential migratory disaster.”

He adds: “This dialogue will also have to focus on the means to prevent the return of a foreign terrorist presence in Afghanistan.”

“It is not a matter of official recognition, it is a matter of dealing with them,” he says. “If I want 400 people, Afghans and their families, that have been working for us today in the European Union delegations, to reach the airport, you can understand that I will need to talk with the Taliban authorities.”

“So we have to engage with them,” he adds. “And at the same time, remain very vigilant on the respect of their international obligations.”

Pakistan says it will consult on whether to recognize Taliban government

Pakistani soldiers check the documents of stranded Afghan nationals wanting to return to Afghanistan at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman, on August 15, 2021. (AFP)
Pakistani soldiers check the documents of stranded Afghan nationals wanting to return to Afghanistan at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman, on August 15, 2021. (AFP)

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s information minister says that his country will make a decision about the recognition of a Taliban government in Afghanistan only after consultations with regional and international powers.

Fawad Chaudhry says at a news conference that Pakistan does not want to take any “unilateral decision” about this matter. He says Pakistan was pleased that so far there hasn’t been much violence and bloodshed in Afghanistan during the Taliban takeover.

Pakistan was among three nations which recognized the Taliban government when it came into power in the 1990s.

The Taliban were ousted by the US-led invasion following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. They had at the time sheltered al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, the leader of the network.

PM Bennett won’t commit to opening schools on September 1

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on August 8, 2021. (Ohad Zwigenberg/Pool)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on August 8, 2021. (Ohad Zwigenberg/Pool)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett refuses to commit to opening schools nationwide on September 1 as scheduled, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

“That decision we will make in the next week, according to the situation with the pandemic,” Bennett tells a reporter from Channel 13 news when asked about the slated start of schools.

Yesterday, the government approved a plan for high-contagion areas that will see classrooms with low levels of vaccinated students switch to online remote learning.

Under the rules of the new plan, only classrooms in which more than 70 percent of students are either vaccinated, recovered, or pass a positive serological test for antibodies will be allowed to meet in person.

Classrooms that fall below that level will be required to switch to home learning.

More than 8,700 Israelis tested positive for COVID yesterday, a figure not seen in Israel since early February. There are currently 946 Israelis hospitalized with COVID, 579 in serious condition, and 97 on ventilators.

Jerusalem-area blaze finally under control, says fire official

A first responder looks out over burnt trees following a major fire which broke out in the Jerusalem hills, on August 17, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A first responder looks out over burnt trees following a major fire which broke out in the Jerusalem hills, on August 17, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Fire and Rescue Services Commissioner Dedy Simhi says that after 52 hours of battling the flames, the Jerusalem-area blaze is contained.

According to a statement from fire officials, firefighters fought back flames at seven different locations, with the backing of 20 firefighting planes. Ten different communities in the areas west of Jerusalem were fully evacuated, and the vast majority have returned home, says the statement.

The three-day operation included 1,500 firefighters, as well as 190,000 liters (50,200 gallons) of flame retardant materials dispersed over 238 total flight hours. Twenty firefighters from the Palestinian Authority also assisted in the efforts.

The announcement came about an hour after the Israel Air Force deployed its “Super Hercules” aircraft to dump 16 tons of flame retardant chemicals on the relevant areas.

Turkey releases French-Jewish man imprisoned on drug charges to France

Fabien Azoulay, a French Jewish gay man serving a prison sentence in Turkey for drug offenses. (Courtesy of the Azoulay family via JTA)
Fabien Azoulay, a French Jewish gay man serving a prison sentence in Turkey for drug offenses. (Courtesy of the Azoulay family via JTA)

JTA — Turkish authorities have released and repatriated a French-Jewish man who had been serving a 16-year prison sentence in Turkey for buying a small amount of drugs.

Fabien Azoulay, 43, lands in France today after four years in prison in Turkey, his lawyers write on Twitter.

Azoulay, who came to Istanbul in 2017 for hair implants, went online to order a substance called GBL — a party drug popular in French nightclubs.

GBL was legal in Turkey until being outlawed six months before Azoulay purchased it with his credit card. Azoulay claimed he did not know he was breaking Turkish law.

According to LCI Radio, Azoulay is being transferred to France as a prisoner, supposedly to carry out the remainder of his sentence there. However, French authorities have no intention of holding him, as his actions do not violate French law.

French President Emmanuel Macron reportedly intervened on Azoulay’s behalf, asking high-ranking Turkish officials to release him.

IDF deploys ‘Super Hercules’ to fight Jerusalem-area blaze

Israel Air Force plane Lockheed C-130, dubbed the Super Hercules, helps to extinguish a large fire in the Jerusalem mountains, on August 17, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Israel Air Force plane Lockheed C-130, dubbed the Super Hercules, helps to extinguish a large fire in the Jerusalem mountains, on August 17, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israel’s Air Force deploys its ‘Super Hercules’ transport plane, known locally as Samson, in order to dump firefighting chemicals on the flames still burning in the areas surrounding Jerusalem.

For the first time, the Israel Air Force is taking part in local firefighting operations. The Super Hercules plane can hold up to 18,000 liters (4,755 gallons) of firefighting materials, compared to 3,000 liters (792 gallons) in its standard firefighting planes. An army spokesman says the plane dumped 16 tons of flame retardant chemicals in the relevant areas.

“This is a historical and complex trial for dealing with firefighting efforts in Israel,” says the Fire and Rescue Services in a statement. “The use of the ‘Samson’ aircraft will allow in the future for an improved response to large-scale fires as well as around the clock efforts when needed.”

IDF to call up reservists to conduct serological tests of students

A Magen David Adom worker takes  blood for a serological test for COVID-19 from a child in the ultra-Orthodox town of Kiryat Ye'arim (Telz-Stone), outside Jerusalem, on August 9, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A Magen David Adom worker takes blood for a serological test for COVID-19 from a child in the ultra-Orthodox town of Kiryat Ye'arim (Telz-Stone), outside Jerusalem, on August 9, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz approves calling up 6,000 reservists to assist the IDF Home Front Command in carrying out serological tests among children ahead of the opening of the school year.

Before school is slated to open nationwide on September 1, the government has vowed to test all 1.6 million kids in kindergarten and grades 1-6 to check if they have COVID-19 antibodies.

Those who are found to have recovered from the disease will receive a Green Pass that exempts them from quarantine if they are exposed to confirmed carriers.

The serological testing has already begun in Haredi communities, who started school last week.

In initial results, 20 percent of those tested — who were not previously confirmed to have recovered from COVID — were found to have antibodies.

Taliban spokesman vows to honor women’s rights within Islamic law

Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Zabi Karimi)
Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Zabi Karimi)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A Taliban spokesman pledges to honor women’s rights, but within the norms of Islamic law.

Zabihullah Mujahid, who has been a shadowy figure issuing statements on behalf of the militants for years, makes the comments at his first news conference.

His assertion that the Taliban would protect women’s rights comes after the Taliban’s earlier rule saw women’s lives and rights severely restricted.

Mujahid also says that the Taliban wants private media to “remain independent,” but stresses that journalists “should not work against national values.”

He also stresses that Afghanistan will not allow itself to harbor anyone targeting other nations, and promises that the insurgents will secure Afghanistan, after they took over the country following a blitz that lasted over a week.

Mujahid says the insurgents seek no revenge and insists that everyone has been pardoned by the Taliban, even if they worked with the former government or with foreign governments or forces.

“We assure you that nobody will go to their doors to ask why they helped,” he says.

Firefighting official: It will take decades to repair blaze damage

A first responder looks out over burnt trees following a major fire which broke out in the Jerusalem hills, on August 17, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A first responder looks out over burnt trees following a major fire which broke out in the Jerusalem hills, on August 17, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Fire and Rescue Services Jerusalem District Commander Nissim Twito says the damage caused to the areas surrounding Jerusalem by the ongoing blaze will take decades to be fully repaired.

“I’m returning now from a patrol of the fire-fighting areas, and the sights are difficult,” says Twito. “I saw how the green lung of the Jerusalem area is blackening under the flames.”

“You don’t have to be an expert botanist in order to understand that it will take decades in order to rehabilitate what was lost,” he continues, noting the great environmental and ecological damage done by the fire. “The intensity of the fire burned the trees along their entire lengths. Therefore, the rehabilitation and recovery from such a fire will take many years and will leave the area burned for a long time.”

Fire officials say about 25,000 dunams (6,200 acres) have already been burned in the blaze, which is ongoing in some areas. That figure surpasses what was burned during the devastating Mount Carmel forest fire in 2010.

US says it is in touch with Taliban to coordinate Kabul evacuations

Afghan security guards stand on a wall as hundreds of people gather outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday, August 17, 2021. (AP)
Afghan security guards stand on a wall as hundreds of people gather outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday, August 17, 2021. (AP)

The Defense Department says US military commanders at the Kabul airport are in touch with Taliban leaders as they coordinate the evacuation effort of US citizens and Afghan allies.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby tells reporters that necessary interactions with Taliban leaders will continue as the US evacuates people. He adds that there have been no new hostile encounters with Taliban fighters at the airport.

Asked whether US commanders had an agreement with the Taliban for safe passage to the airport of Afghan allies and others awaiting evacuation, Kirby says: “There are interactions at the airport, by our commanders, with the Taliban leaders” outside the airport.

Officials hope the pace of evacuations will pick up so that as many as 9,000 people could be taken out of the country each day. After their sweep into Kabul on Sunday and the takeover of the country, Taliban fighters are guarding Kabul airport’s entry points and gates.

Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center officially recognized as university

The IDC Herzliya campus. (Courtesy)
The IDC Herzliya campus. (Courtesy)

The Council for Higher Education grants official recognition to the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) as a university.

Following the decision, the institution will change its name to “Reichmann University,” after Prof. Uriel Reichmann, who founded the institution 27 years ago.

“Recognizing the Interdisciplinary Center as a university is an important milestone in the evolution of the Israeli higher education system,” says Professor Amnon Rubenstein, chairman of the IDC board of directors. “Were it not for Prof. Uriel Reichmann, who envisioned and executed the IDC’s establishment with extraordinary talent and dedication, the IDC would have never existed, and none is more worthy of having a university named after him.”

Jordan, Israel sign deal for agricultural imports during shmita year

A general view shows agricultural land at the border area of ​​Baqoura, near the Israeli-Jordanian border, on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)
A general view shows agricultural land at the border area of ​​Baqoura, near the Israeli-Jordanian border, on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)

Jerusalem and Amman sign an agreement to prioritize agricultural imports from Jordan to Israel during the upcoming shmita year.

During shmita, the biblical sabbatical year that begins in September, observant Jews avoid consuming produce from Jewish-owned lands in Israel, which are supposed to rest.

Agriculture Minister Oded Forer meets with his Jordanian counterpart — as well as the nations’ respective ambassadors — to discuss boosting agricultural cooperation in a variety of areas.

Under the deal, Jordanian agricultural imports will be prioritized “to attend to the observant population in Israel on the one hand, as well as implement the benefits [to Jordan] stipulated in the trade agreement,” says the Foreign Ministry.

Labor MK hospitalized with COVID symptoms

Labor MK Gilad Kariv chars a meeting of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on July 5, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Labor MK Gilad Kariv chars a meeting of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on July 5, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Labor MK Rabbi Gilad Kariv has been hospitalized after suffering symptoms following him testing positive for COVID-19.

According to his office, Kariv is being treated at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer after consulting the Knesset phsyician. The MK and Reform rabbi is receiving oxygen, feeling well and under medical supervision in the hospital’s coronavirus ward, says his office.

Four other lawmakers caught the virus in the past week: Ofer Cassif (Joint List), Inbar Bezek (Yesh Atid), Simcha Rothman and Itamar Ben-Gvir (both Religious Zionism).

UK regulator approves Moderna COVID vaccine for children ages 12-17

A medical worker readies to administer the Moderna coronavirus vaccine to a Palestinian laborer at a temporary medical facility set up at a checkpoint on March 9, 2021, in Jerusalem. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
A medical worker readies to administer the Moderna coronavirus vaccine to a Palestinian laborer at a temporary medical facility set up at a checkpoint on March 9, 2021, in Jerusalem. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Britain’s medicines watchdog says it has approved the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 17, after previously giving the green light to Pfizer.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency says in a statement that the shot is “safe and effective in this age group.” But it adds it would now be up to government advisory body the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) to recommend whether to start giving the vaccination.

Earlier this month, the UK government said it would offer shots to all 16- and 17-year-olds but, unlike other countries, held off rolling out the program to younger children. The JCVI said only 12- to 15-year-olds deemed vulnerable should receive a vaccine — a more cautious approach than in the United States and the European Union.

Israel — which is vaccinating all populations over age 12 — has a small stockpile of Moderna vaccine doses. It has so far been administering only the Pfizer vaccine to those under 18.

Fire in north forces residents to evacuate homes

A fire blazing near the town of Nof Hagalil in Israel’s north has forced the evacuation of some residents, as firefighters attempt to control the flames.

Residents living on the outskirts of Nof Hagalil, formerly known as Nazareth Illit, have been told to leave their homes. Multiple firefighting planes are working alongside ground forces to counter the blaze.

Israel’s firefighting forces are stretched particularly thin as they also battle flames raging in the towns surrounding Jerusalem for a third straight day. While Israel declined international assistance in fighting those fires, it accepted help from Palestinian Authority firefighters who joined the efforts earlier today.

Moscow in ‘no rush’ to recognize Taliban government

Taliban fighters stand guard in the main gate leading to Afghan presidential palace, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Taliban fighters stand guard in the main gate leading to Afghan presidential palace, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Russia’s top diplomat says Moscow is “in no rush” to recognize the new Taliban government in Afghanistan and calls for an inclusive dialogue of all political forces in the country.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Russia is “just like all other countries” and “in no rush to recognize” the Taliban government. At the same time, Lavrov notes “encouraging signals from the Taliban, who are declaring their desire to have a government with the participation of other political forces.”

His remarks come as the Taliban in Kabul declare an “amnesty” across Afghanistan and have urged women to join their government. Lavrov also says Moscow supports “the beginning of an inclusive national dialogue with the involvement of all political and confessional forces in Afghanistan.”

Russia designated the Taliban a terrorist organization in 2003, but has since hosted several rounds of talks in Afghanistan, most recently in March, that involved the group.

Gantz thanks Abbas for sending Palestinian firefighters to battle blaze

Firefighter planes try to extinguish a wildfire at Giva'at Ye'arim outside Jerusalem on August 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Firefighter planes try to extinguish a wildfire at Giva'at Ye'arim outside Jerusalem on August 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz thanks Palestinian Authority firefighters for joining their Israeli counterparts in battling the flames blazing in the towns surrounding Jerusalem.

Four fire trucks and 20 firefighters from the PA are assisting Israeli efforts to tackle the fires, which have been blazing since Sunday.

“I would like to thank Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for his initiative to send firefighting forces to assist Israel today,” Gantz tweets. “Mutual assistance and saving human lives are the common interest of all of us.”

Daily Beast to review editorial standards after writer calls Israel ‘genocidal’

JTA — The Daily Beast has edited an article to remove the word “genocidal” as a description for Israel’s military.

Criticizing the choice of Mayim Bialik as a host of the game show “Jeopardy!” the article, published last week, said that in 2014, the Jewish actor had “proclaimed her donation toward bulletproof vests for the genocidal Israeli Defense Forces.”

The story drew condemnation from Jews and Jewish organizations on social media, including the American Jewish Committee.

Appearing to respond to the criticism, the article’s author, Tirhakah Love, who recently joined the Daily Beast as an entertainment reporter, tweeted: “the Zionists should really stop emailing me cus girl I do not care.” In a subsequent tweet, Love called Zionism “an articulation of white supremacy.”

The word remained in the story on Monday morning. But later in the day, it had been removed. A subsequent sentence had been added about the April 2021 Human Rights Watch report that said some of Israel’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza “amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”

“The story has been updated to replace the word genocidal in reference to the IDF,” the Daily Beast says in response to a request for comment from JTA. The website adds: “The Daily Beast is developing an editorial standard for future use of the word.”

The Daily Beast has not responded to a follow-up question about Love’s tweets, which are still up.

Residents of some towns near Jerusalem allowed to return home after blaze

Smoke billows from a forest fire near Shoresh, outside Jerusalem, on August 16, 2021. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
Smoke billows from a forest fire near Shoresh, outside Jerusalem, on August 16, 2021. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Resident of Givat Ye’arim and Kibbutz Tzova outside Jerusalem have been cleared to return to their homes after flames in those areas have come under control, say firefighting officials.

Firefighters are still working to battle flames in other areas of the hills surrounding Jerusalem for the third consecutive day as high winds threaten to reignite some areas.

Separately, a forest fire is raging near a school in Nof Hagalil (formerly known as Nazareth Illit). Four firefighting planes are working to douse the flames, with forces stretched thin due to efforts near Jerusalem.

Senior Haredi rabbi kicks out anti-vax student

Rabbi Ben Zion Mutzafi (Screenshot/Kikar HaShabbat)
Rabbi Ben Zion Mutzafi (Screenshot/Kikar HaShabbat)

Ben Zion Mutzafi, a leading Haredi rabbi, kicked out a man attending his lecture due to the attendee’s opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine, reports the ultra-Orthodox news site Kikar HaShabbat.

In video of the incident posted by the news outlet, the rabbi — who ordered all his followers to get the vaccine earlier this year — can be seen shouting: “More than 6,500 people died, stop making things up, go, get out of here, you’re crazy” at one man in the audience.

“You’re crazy, I am declaring you crazy — get out of here,” he continues. “I will not allow you to speak, you are a heretic.”

The incident occurred Sunday evening in a synagogue in Jerusalem.

US to house Afghans at American military installations

US soldiers take up positions as they secure the airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021. (Shakib Rahmani/AFP)
US soldiers take up positions as they secure the airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021. (Shakib Rahmani/AFP)

WASHINGTON — A top US defense official says plans are being made to temporarily house thousands of Afghans at three US military installations.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby says that up to 22,000 Afghans and their families could be housed at the installations. Kirby did not identify more specific locations.

Thousands of Afghans who assisted the US as interpreters and in other roles have been desperate to leave Afghanistan since before the government fell to the Taliban over the weekend, in the shadow of an August 31 deadline for the withdrawal of US forces.

Kirby tells ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the US Defense and State departments are working together to evacuate as many Americans and Afghans as possible as quickly as possible.

Kirby says several thousand US service members now arriving in Afghanistan will remain there for the next couple of weeks to help with the evacuation.

Bennett at Gaza border: We will operate when it suits us

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett pays a visit to IDF soldiers stationed near Gaza, on August 17, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett pays a visit to IDF soldiers stationed near Gaza, on August 17, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

During a visit to soldiers in the IDF Gaza Division, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says Israel will carry out operations on its own terms.

“We will operate at a time, place and conditions that suit us, and not anyone else,” Bennett says during the visit alongside Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi.

The prime minister says Hamas is ultimately responsible for any rocket fire out of Gaza, “not rebels and not anyone else — just Hamas.” He says the purpose of his visit is “to see that the IDF, the Southern Command and the Gaza Division are prepared — and they are indeed properly prepared. Our mission is to provide long-term security for the residents of the south and the residents of the Gaza envelope area.”

Palestinian terrorists fired two rockets from the Gaza Strip toward the town of Sderot yesterday afternoon in what appeared to be the first such attack since May’s 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, the IDF said. Some officials in the Gaza envelope area have criticized the government for not immediately responding to the rocket fire.

France evacuates dozens from Kabul overnight

PARIS — France has evacuated several dozen people from Kabul in a military plane after the Taliban took power in Afghanistan.

The flight early Tuesday brought the evacuees to a military air base in Abu Dhabi, and several of the passengers were then sent back to France.

The French military did not say whether there were Afghan or other citizens among the several dozen people brought on the overnight flight. France withdrew its last troops from Afghanistan in 2014 and has already evacuated more than 1,000 Afghans who supported French forces.

Images released by the military showed French troops checking their weapons and guarding the plane in the Kabul Airport while others checked the documents of those boarding the flight.

President Emmanuel Macron promised yesterday that France would not abandon Afghans who worked for the country, from translators to kitchen staff as well as artists, activists and others potentially under threat with the collapse of the Afghan government.

Iran appoints new navy chief

Iran’s supreme leader appointed a new chief for the country’s navy, state media reports.

The official IRNA news agency says Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed Adm. Shahram Irani as the new navy chief under the country’s army. Adm. Irani was working as a senior army officer so far, and will now succeed Adm. Hossein Khanzadi, who has held the post since 2017.

In his decree, Khamenei urges Irani to improve the Navy, though no reason was given for the replacement.

Iran’s Navy, under the army, is mainly in charge of operations in the Sea of Oman and beyond in international waters. The paramilitary Revolutionary Guard oversees a separate navy in the Persian Gulf. The US Navy occasionally complains about harassment by the Guard’s gunboats.

Safed rabbi convicted of sexual assault to be released early from prison

Rabbi Ezra Sheinberg, suspected of sexual abuse against several women, is seen at the courtroom of the Kiryat Shmona Magistrates Court on July 8, 2015. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)
Rabbi Ezra Sheinberg, suspected of sexual abuse against several women, is seen at the courtroom of the Kiryat Shmona Magistrates Court on July 8, 2015. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

Ezra Sheinberg, a well-known rabbi from Safed, has been granted early release from prison where he was serving a seven-and-a-half-year term on multiple counts of sexual assault.

Sheinberg was convicted in 2017 in Nazareth District Court as part of a plea deal over a series of crimes committed against women who came to him for advice and counseling. The specific charges were not publicized by the court, and the criminal proceedings were under a gag order preventing publication of any details of the incidents due to the “egregious nature” of the crimes and to protect the privacy of the victims.

He was arrested on July 1, 2015, while attempting to flee the country as allegations against him emerged, and has been in prison since that time.

The Prison Parole Board orders him released early, with a week delay granted in order to allow an appeal. Victims’ groups are slamming the decision to shorten his sentence.

Palestinian firefighters help to battle Jerusalem-area blaze

Firefighters try to extinguish a fire near moshav Givat Ye'arim, near Jerusalem, on August 16, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Firefighters try to extinguish a fire near moshav Givat Ye'arim, near Jerusalem, on August 16, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Palestinian Authority firefighters are assisting Israeli firefighting forces in battling the flames blazing in the areas surrounding Jerusalem. Four firefighting trucks and 20 firefighters and rescue workers have already joined the efforts to put out the flames that have been raging in the hills and towns west of Jerusalem since Sunday.

Senior PA Foreign Ministry official Ahmad al-Deek confirms the story to The Times of Israel.

“Although we, unfortunately, don’t possess firefighting airplanes, we often work together with the Israelis on snuffing out fires,” adds al-Deek. A spokesperson for the Palestinian Civil Defense could not immediately be reached for comment.

Israeli and Palestinian firefighters regularly perform joint training exercises, such as a 2019 training session in Jenin. During previous destructive wildfires — such as a series of 2016 fires near Haifa and Jerusalem — Palestinian firefighters also joined the fray.

Supply trucks enter Gaza for first time since May conflict

For the first time since Operation Guardian of the Walls ended in May, Israel is allowing the entry of 10 trucks carrying tires and engines into the Gaza Strip, reports Palestinian media.

Beginning on Thursday, additional trucks carrying imported goods, including building materials, are slated to be granted entry.

In addition, around 1,800 Gazan businesspeople and traders entered Israel today for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, says a security source.

UN says world will ‘scrutinize’ Taliban actions

Taliban fighters stand guard along a street in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan's 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city's airport trying to flee the group's feared hardline brand of Islamist rule. (Wakil Kohsar / AFP)
Taliban fighters stand guard along a street in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan's 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city's airport trying to flee the group's feared hardline brand of Islamist rule. (Wakil Kohsar / AFP)

GENEVA — The United Nations is urging the Taliban to keep its “promises,” including its pledges to grant amnesty to former government workers in Afghanistan, show inclusiveness for women and allow girls to remain in school.

“The Taliban have made a number of statements that on the surface are reassuring,” UN human rights office spokesman Rupert Colville tells reporters in Geneva. “But their actions speak deeper than words, and it’s very early now – it’s very fluid.”

Colville says the Taliban’s promises “need to be honored.”

“Understandably, given their past history, these declarations have been greeted with some skepticism,” Colville adds. “Nevertheless, the promises have been made, and whether or not they are honored or broken will be closely scrutinized.”

He also calls on UN member states to “use their influence” with the Taliban to protect civilian lives.

Meeting to approve West Bank building delayed

View of the Israeli settlement of Ariel, in the West Bank on July 2, 2020. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)
View of the Israeli settlement of Ariel, in the West Bank on July 2, 2020. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

Despite being announced last week, a rare approval of more than 800 housing units in West Bank Palestinian towns did not take place today as initially planned.

A spokesperson for COGAT, the Defense Ministry body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, says the delay is due to a “labor dispute” by civilians working in the ministry’s Higher Planning Committee. The committee is responsible for overseeing construction in the West Bank’s Area C, where Israeli authorities maintain civilian control under their agreements with the Palestinian Authority.

The committee members have imposed sanctions on their employer as they bargain for better employment terms, the spokesperson says.

Israel rarely approves Palestinian construction in Area C, which constitutes around 60% of the West Bank. Most Palestinian towns in the zone are unrecognized; between 2016 and 2018, Israel rejected around 98% of Palestinian applications for permits, according to Defense Ministry figures.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was subjected to harsh criticism from his national-religious constituency for approving the Palestinian construction. His government also pledged to advance over 2,200 units in West Bank Israeli settlements as part of the same announcement. The meeting to approve that construction is also expected to be delayed.

Bennett is expected to fly to Washington later this month and meet with US President Joe Biden, who has spoke out against settlement building.

Protesting farmers attempt to breach Lebanon border

Protesting farmers attempt to breach the border with Lebanon on August 17, 2021. (Screenshot/Kan)
Protesting farmers attempt to breach the border with Lebanon on August 17, 2021. (Screenshot/Kan)

A group of farmers and agricultural workers protesting in the north attempt to breach the border with Lebanon as part of their demonstration.

According to Maariv, about 1,000 farmers are holding a protest in the Avivim moshav against the planned government reform in the food industry. About 200 of them attempted to breach the border with Lebanon and were immediately halted by security forces.

One of the protesting farmers tells Army Radio that the border breach was an act of “desperation. We have no way to talk with the decision makers. We apologized to the security forces who came and tried to remove us by force.”

דר. כוחות משטרה פועלים במקום pic.twitter.com/3XC9HqU8ef

— Adar Gitsis | אדר גיציס (@_Gitsis_) August 17, 2021

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