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Border Police to be stationed along Ashkelon coast amid Hamas infiltration fears

In coming weeks, company of officers will carry out patrols along shore of southern city to prevent sea-side incursion, Hadashot news reports

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: Border Police officers take aim at Palestinian rioters during clashes near the West Bank Qalandiya checkpoint, on the outskirts of Ramallah, on December 15, 2017. (Abbas Momani/AFP)
Illustrative: Border Police officers take aim at Palestinian rioters during clashes near the West Bank Qalandiya checkpoint, on the outskirts of Ramallah, on December 15, 2017. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

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

Hundreds of thousands of IDF soldiers’ personal info leaked to marketing firms

The personal details of hundreds of thousands of army recruits were leaked from IDF servers and sold to outside parties, a report by Israel’s Security’s Authority reveals.

According to Hadashot news, the investigation by the ISA found that soldiers and civilian contractors in the Meitav unit, which handles recruitment administration, accessed the files of thousands of incoming IDF soldiers between 2011 and 2014.

The four suspects hacked the data by developing a computer program that combed the files for the contact information of the recruits and their relatives, which they then sold to marketing companies.

The group carried out the scam undetected for a number of years, but an increasing number of former soldiers and their families began to complain of unsolicited marketing calls, prompting the Justice Department investigation.

Brawl between yeshiva students in West Bank leaves one stabbed, seriously injured

Police have responded to a report of a fight between two yeshiva students in the West Bank settlement of Modiin Illit.

A 17-year-old boy has been taken to the Tel Hashomer Hospital in serious condition after being stabbed several times in the upper body by a suspect who then fled the scene.

Police caught the suspect shortly thereafter and he has been transferred for questioning.

Pope ‘begs for God’s forgiveness’ over Irish abuse scandal

Pope Francis “beg[s] for God’s forgiveness” for the Catholic Church’s role in an abuse scandal in Ireland as he wrapped up a two-day visit to the country.

During his address at Knock Shrine in west Ireland, the pope “beg[s] for God’s forgiveness” for the “open wound” of the scandal, demanding “firm and decisive” measures to find “truth and justice.”

— AFP

Emmerson Mnangagwa sworn in as president of Zimbabwe

Emmerson Mnangagwa has officially been sworn in as president of Zimbabwe after winning a bitterly contested election that marked the country’s first vote since Robert Mugabe was ousted from power.

Mnangagwa, whose victory in the July 30 polls was challenged by the main opposition, pledged to “protect and promote the rights of Zimbabweans” in an inauguration ceremony attended by a crowd of thousands at a stadium in Harare.

“I Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa swear that as president of the republic of Zimbabwe I will be faithful to Zimbabwe (and) will obey uphold and defend the constitution of Zimbabwe,” Mnangagwa says.

Once Mugabe’s right-hand man, Mnangagwa of the ruling ZANU-PF party won the election with 50.8 percent of the vote — just enough to meet the 50% threshold needed to avoid a run-off against the main opposition led by Nelson Chamisa, who scored 44.3%.

International observers have said the polls were largely free of the violence which characterized previous votes in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe’s top court on Friday dismissed Chamisa’s bid to have the results annulled because of allegations of vote rigging.

— AFP

Iran’s defense minister visits Syria to boost ties

Iran’s defense minister is in Syria for talks on boosting cooperation and is expected to meet with President Bashar Assad.

Iran has provided key support to Assad in the seven-year civil war, sending thousands of military advisers and allied militiamen to bolster his forces.

Iran’s state-run Press TV quotes Defense Minister Amir Hatami as saying that he hopes Iran can play a “productive role” in Syria’s reconstruction.

Israel has expressed concern over Iran’s growing influence in Syria.

The two-day visit comes as Syria gears up for an expected offensive in the northern Idlib province, the last major rebel stronghold, which also has a large al-Qaida presence. The province is home to nearly 3 million people and borders Turkey, which fears an offensive may trigger a humanitarian and security catastrophe.

— AP

After 5th consecutive drought year, natural water sources in worst state in years

After a fifth consecutive drought year, natural water sources are in “the worst state in years,” according to the Israel Water Authority.

In a new report, the authority warns that water in the Sea of Galilee will likely drop below the “black line,” a dangerously low level that can create irreversible ecological problems, including an increase in the water’s salinity and algae blooms that can do permanent damage to the water quality, and flora and fauna.

Rivlin condemns attack on Arab Israelis at Haifa beach

President Reuven Rivlin condemns the brutal beating of three Arab Israelis by two Jews in Haifa last week.

During a visit to the town of Kafr Kassem, Rivlin tells residents, “We are all destined — not doomed — to live here together in this country, not doomed to live like this,” he adds.

The victims — a doctor and two nurses — said the suspects asked them if they were Arab before they began attacking them.

The Haifa Magistrate’s Court on Saturday ordered that one of the suspects, a 23-year-old Jewish resident of Nesher, be placed under house arrest for the next three days.

Today, the second suspect was released to house arrest.

Youth sports coach, suspected pedophile has remand extended another week

The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court has extended the remand of a youth sports coach and alleged pedophile until next Sunday.

Thirty-five year old Beno Reinhorn is suspected of molesting dozens of underage girls via the internet by persuading them to send him indecent photographs of themselves, including some which allegedly involved acts considered rape.

The youth handball coach was arrested earlier this month. He is suspected of contacting at least 140 girls for sexual purposes over a period of several years.

Afghan officials say Islamic State leader killed by airstrikes

The leader of the Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan was killed by airstrikes over the weekend along with 10 other people, government officials say following a string of deadly attacks by the extremist group.

The intelligence agency says Saad Arhabi died in a joint operation with coalition forces late Saturday in the group’s eastern stronghold in Nangarhar province near the border with Pakistan.

“The Emir of Daesh in Afghanistan along with 10 others was killed,” says in a statement by the National Directorate of Security, calling the group by an Arabic acronym.

Arhabi is the fourth leader of IS’s Afghan branch to be killed since the group first emerged in the country around 2014.

— AFP

PLO official slams reported US plan to abrogate Palestinian right of return as ‘worthless nonsense’

The head of the PLO Refugee Affairs Department slams US President Donald Trump’s reported plan to “abrogate the right of return” for Palestinians, describing it as “worthless nonsense.”

“The issues of Palestinian refugees is the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the region,” Ahmad Abu Holi says in comments published on the official Palestinian Authority news site Wafa. “Its resolution can only be achieved through the implementation of United Nations resolutions, including most importantly [UN General Assembly] resolution 194.”

On Saturday, Israel’s Hadashot News reported that the Trump administration “is expected to a announce a new policy in the coming days that essentially abrogates the Palestinian right of return.”

The new policy is slated to include a series of measures, including the publication of a report that puts the total number of Palestinian refugees at approximately 500,000, the report said. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, a UN body that supports Palestinian refugees, there are 5.3 million Palestinian refugees, including the descendants of those who left Israel in 1948, even if they never lived in Israel and hold citizenship in other countries.

The report said the Trump administration is also expected to announce that it rejects UNRWA’s policy of granting refugee status to the descendants of Palestinian refugees.

— Adam Rasgon

WWII bomb defused in Germany after 18,500 evacuated

A German bomb disposal team has successfully defused an unexploded World War II bomb that had forced the evacuation of 18,500 people in the city of Ludwigshafen.

The 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) aerial bomb, thought to have been dropped by American forces, was discovered during construction work last week.

“Good news: the bomb has been defused! Citizens may return to their homes,” the city of Ludwigshafen says on its official Twitter feed.

It also posted a picture of the freshly unearthed, corroded bomb, strapped to a pallet before being removed from the area.

Authorities in the western city had ordered all those living within a 1,000-metre (0.6-mile) radius of the bomb site to leave their homes from 08:00 am (0600 GMT) as a precaution ahead of the defusing operation.

It took the bomb squad just over an hour to complete the delicate task, and the all-clear was given shortly after 2:00 pm.

More than 70 years after the end of World War II, Germany remains littered with unexploded ordnance, a legacy of the intense Allied bombing campaign against Nazi Germany.

— AFP

Iranian human rights attorney launches hunger strike from prison

Iranian human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh has launched a hunger strike from her prison sell.

In an announcement posted on her husband’s Facebook account, Sotoudeh says she is carrying out the protest due to the recent crackdown against civil rights activists by Iranian security services.

The human rights activist was sent to prison in 2010 for spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm the state — charges she has flatly denied. She served three years of a six-year sentence before being released in 2013 due to US pressure.

She was rearrested in June.

Bennett to settler leaders: We’ve changed conversation from two-states to annexation

In a meeting with settler leaders, Education Minister Naftali Bennett boasts of having helped change the national conversation from one focused on the two-state solution to one concentrated on West Bank annexation.

“The residents of Judea and Samaria (West Bank) are building the land and fulfilling the vision of Zionism. The settlement movement is enjoying a building boom and it is our responsibility to see to it that it continues,” he says.

“Fortunately, in recent years we have been able to change the discourse from one of two states to applying [Israeli] sovereignty [to Judea and Samaria]. This is progress and we must continue at it.”

The education minister says he will also fight against alleged discrimination against Israeli residents of the West Bank.

(From L-R) Yesha Council chairman Hananel Dorani, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Ma’ale Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel, Yesha director general Yigal Dilmoni. (Yesha Council)

 

Italy lets migrants off stranded boat as deal reached

Nearly 140 migrants who had been stranded on a boat at a port in Sicily have been allowed to disembark after Ireland and Albania agreed to take some of them in.

The boat docked at Catania port on Monday but Italy had refused to let those on board disembark in the absence of any EU commitment to relocate them, prompting a new bitter row with Brussels.

But following a deal brokered by the Catholic Church late on Saturday, Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini agreed to allow them to leave the Diciotti, the Italian coastguard ship which rescued them some 10 days ago.

There were initially around 180 migrants on board when it arrived at Catania, but Rome allowed 27 unaccompanied minors to disembark on Wednesday and another 12 people left on Saturday following a health authority request.

Albania, which is not a member of the EU, offered safe haven to 20 of the migrants, with Ireland saying it would take up to 25.

It is not immediately clear what would happen to the others, although Italian media reports suggested Rome was in talks with Serbia and Montenegro.

— AFP

Mocking Israeli weakness, Nasrallah cites increase in IDF psychiatric visits

Citing IDF data, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah mockingly notes that 44,000 Israeli soldiers visited psychiatrists in 2017.

In a nationally televised address, Nasrallah uses the statistic as proof of the Jewish state’s weakness and ill preparedness for war against the Lebanese terror group.

Nasrallah claims “Israeli experts” have determined that the IDF “is not ready to go to a new war.”

The Hezbollah chief also says that the IDF is having a hard time recruiting combat soldiers due to low morale.

Neil Simon, Broadway’s master of comedy, dies at 91

The playwright behind such comedic hits such as “The Odd Couple” and “Plaza Suite,” has died. Neil Simon was 91.

According to Bill Evans, Simon’s longtime friend and the Shubert Organization director of media relations, says the playwright died early Sunday of complications from pneumonia in a Manhattan hospital.

Simon was the American theater’s most successful and prolific playwright in the second half of the 20th century. He won three regular Tonys, plus one for special achievement, as well as a Pulitzer and the Mark Twain prize for humor.

Simon’s successes included “The Sunshine Boys,” ”Plaza Suite” and “Sweet Charity.” Many of his plays were adapted into movies and one, “The Odd Couple,” became a popular TV series.

— AP

UK-Iranian woman returns to Tehran jail after plea rejected

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian woman who has been held in Tehran for more than two years on sedition charges, has returned to prison after temporary release, dashing her family’s hopes of an extension.

“We have just heard the sad news that Nazanin’s extension has been refused and she has returned to prison,” says a tweet on the official “Free Nazanin” Twitter account.

“Here is the moment she said goodbye to a distraught Gabriella,” it adds, along with a picture of Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her four-year-old daughter.

She was unexpectedly released for a three-day furlough on Thursday, and was reunited with members of her family outside the Iranian capital.

Husband Richard Ratcliffe says they had received “mixed messages” from the Iranian authorities on Sunday, ahead of her return to Evin prison.

The charity worker had initially been told her request for an extension had been approved, but then received a call telling her to return to prison by sunset.

“She was shivering and shaking and crying – and said: ‘How can you take me away from my baby, when she needs me?'” he said in a an email received by AFP.

“Gabriella was crying and sucking her thumb — she didn’t want her mummy to go back.”

Ratcliffe said his wife, who has denied all charges filed against her in Iran, spent her time with her parents and daughter in Damavand, a mountain resort near Tehran.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation — the media organization’s philanthropic arm — was arrested at Tehran airport on April 3, 2016.

She is serving a five-year jail sentence for alleged sedition.

— AFP

Some 400 take part in environmental restoration project at Gaza border kibbutz

Some 400 volunteers from around the country take part in an environmental restoration project at Kibbutz Kerem Shalom, following four months marred by incendiary balloons and mortar shells that have targeted the Gaza border community.

“In the face of the terror organizations that are determined to damage the stability, we will prove that the people of Israel love the pioneers in Kerem Shalom and are prepared to move mountains on their behalf,” one of the IDF combat soldier volunteers tells the Ynet news site.

Shooting back at Nasrallah, Bennett mocks Hezbollah leader for ‘sleeping in bunker’

Education Minister Naftali Bennett hits back at Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah, saying that Israel has forced the Lebanese terror chief to “sleep in a bunker.”

“Nasrallah boasts that he is ‘the defender of Lebanon,’ but has become the destroyer of Lebanon” on Iran’s behalf, tweets Bennett.

According to the Education Minister, Nasraellah “spent 20 years turning Lebanese villages into rocket launching pads against Israel, but the Lebanese public now understands that his villages have become a death trap for them.”

Earlier Sunday, Nasrallah mocked Israel as ill-prepared for war. He cited IDF statistics on a steady increase of soldiers requiring psychiatric help as well as a drop in recruitment to combat units.

Leah Goldin to Netanyahus: If Hadar was your son, he’d have been home a long time ago

Speaking at a rally marking four years since the end of the 2014 Gaza war, Leah Goldin addressed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara directly: “If Hadar was your son, he would have been (returned) here long ago.”

Hadar Goldin was killed in Operation Protective Edge and his remains have since been held captive by Hamas.

The Goldins led the rally of several dozen Israelis outside the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Commenting on reports of intensifying negotiations between Israel and Hamas for a long term ceasefire that is not expected to include the return of his son, Simcha Goldin slams the Netanyahu government.

“Whoever is unable to return dead soldiers will be unable to return alive ones either.”

‘Nothing has changed’ in Turkey, says freed German journalist

German journalist Mesale Tolu, who faces terror charges in Turkey, has arrived back home, but warned that “nothing has changed” about Turkey’s human rights situation, even after she was unexpectedly allowed to leave the country.

Tolu, of Turkish origin, spent months in pre-trial detention in Istanbul before being conditionally released in December. But her travel ban was only recently lifted amid a thaw in relations between Ankara and Berlin.

“I can’t really be happy about being able to leave, because I know that nothing has changed in the country where I was locked up,” the 34-year-old tells a news conference after landing at Stuttgart airport.

“I don’t think that anything has changed in the country in the direction of democratization,” she adds.

Tens of thousands of “colleagues, opposition figures, lawyers and students” remain behind bars, she notes, caught up in a mass crackdown following a failed 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Tolu herself was arrested in late April 2017 on charges of membership of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP), which is banned in Turkey as a terror organization.

She was held in an Istanbul prison for nearly eight months, with her now 3-year-old son staying with her for most of that time.

Tolu’s trial will continue in her absence. The next hearing is scheduled for October 16.

— AFP

Joint List MKs said advancing UN resolution condemning Israel over nation state law

Lawmakers in the Joint (Arab) List have been meeting with UN officials in order to advance a resolution in the coming month at the United Nations that would condemn Israel over the recently passed nation state law, Hadashot news reports.

The TV channel did not elaborate whether the resolution would be submitted in the Security Council or the General Assembly, but it is expected to assert that the controversial legislation represents the manifestation of apartheid in the Jewish state.

Border Police to be stationed along Ashkelon coast amid fears of Hamas infiltration

A company of Border Police officers will be stationed in the coming weeks along the coast of the southern city of Ashkelon amid IDF concerns over Hamas intentions to infiltrate Israel through the sea and carry out an attack against civilians.

According to Hadashot news, the officers are expected to arrive ahead of the Rosh Hashanah holiday and will carry out patrols along the coast.

Liberman orders lone Gaza pedestrian crossing be reopened as calm holds

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announces that he has ordered the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel be reopened to Palestinian pedestrians Monday morning, following a period of calm.

Liberman had ordered the lone pedestrian crossing between Israel and Gaza sealed on August 19, two days after Palestinians clashed with IDF troops at the weekly Gaza border crossing.

AG said to reject offer by Sara Netanyahu’s defense team that sought to delay indictment

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has rejected a proposal made by Sara Netanyahu’s defense team that would have seen her return a substantial amount of public funds she is alleged to have misused in exchange for an indefinite delay of legal proceedings against her, Channel 10 reports.

The deal would have allowed Netanyahu to avoid admitting guilt in the affair for which she was indicted in June.

However, the lack of guilt admission was said to have been a deal breaker for Mandelblit, according to Channel 10.

Food, water tested at Egyptian hotel where Britons died

Experts are testing food, water and air conditioning systems at an Egyptian resort hotel where a British couple died under mysterious circumstances, the chief executive of travel company Thomas Cook says.

Thomas Cook Group CEO Peter Fankhauser has pledged to find out what happened to John and Susan Cooper, who died at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Hurghada on Tuesday.

The couple’s daughter, Kelly Ormerod, told British media Friday she was suspicious because her parents had been in perfect health hours before they died. She said John Cooper died in his room, and Susan Cooper died after she was taken to the hospital.

Fankhauser tells Britain’s Sky News there was no evidence of carbon monoxide poisoning. Experts “took probes of the food, of the hygienic systems, of water, as well as the air conditioning systems and all those probes are now in Egypt,” he says, adding that the tests would take 10 days to complete.

Thomas Cook evacuated 300 guests from the Aqua Magic as a precaution after the Coopers died and it emerged that 13 other customers had food poisoning.

But the hotel told The Associated Press in an email that there was no increased level of illness there and attributed the couple’s deaths to “natural causes.”

— AP

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