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Elections committee chair rules Likud’s filming of Arab polling stations illegal

Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer issues sweeping prohibition against parties filming ballots, warns even seeing the footage may be a crime, calls for new election monitoring unit

Illustrative: An Arab Israeli woman casts her ballot at a voting station in municipal elections on October 30, 2018, in Kafr Kasm. (Roy Alima/Flash90)
Illustrative: An Arab Israeli woman casts her ballot at a voting station in municipal elections on October 30, 2018, in Kafr Kasm. (Roy Alima/Flash90)

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

Hamas slams fuel shipment reduction by Israel as ‘collective punishment’

Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif al-Qanua slams Israel’s decision to limit fuel shipments into Gaza in the wake of a surge in rocket fire at Israeli towns.

The decision amounts to an Israeli policy of “collective punishment,” he charges.

The reduction also “contradicts the understandings that were reached with Egyptian and Qatari mediation,” he says, referring to an informal ceasefire agreement with Israel reached after the last round of violence.

Merkel hails ‘big step forward’ on Iran at G7 summit

BIARRITZ, France — German Chancellor Angela Merkel is hailing what she describes as a “big step forward” on Iran at the Group of Seven summit.

G7 leaders held what Merkel describes as a constructive discussion on Iran Saturday night, which was followed by a surprise visit Sunday by Iran’s foreign minister for discussions with the French hosts.

Merkel says today: “It is a big step forward that we not only don’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons, but we also (want to) achieve the solution by political means.”

Merkel is pressed by reporters on what progress she sees exactly, and on whether US President Donald Trump is prepared to accommodate any move toward alleviating sanctions against Iran. She replies: “I can’t say that at the moment. There is an atmosphere here in which talks are welcomed, in which talks between the Europeans and Iran and particularly France and Iran are welcomed — this is happening in coordination with the United States of America, and that is already a lot.”

US President Donald Trump, right, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, shake hands during a bilateral meeting at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

— AP

Politicians shouldn’t violate censorship laws for an election campaign – expert

One expert in media and politics slams top Israeli politicians who rushed to tweet congratulations to the security services today for reportedly catching the terrorists behind Friday’s deadly bombing attack in the central West Bank.

The boasting, says Dr. Tehilla Schwartz Altshuler, an expert on media and law at the Israel Democracy Institute and Hebrew University, amounts to violations of Israel’s military censorship laws just to score political points.

“Elections are rife with censorship violations by politicians. This was true in the past and remains true today,” she says.

“Taking advantage of immunity to commit censorship crimes could be justified if it’s to reveal failures by the security forces, but not [for politicians] to advance themselves personally during elections,” she adds.

The congratulations from Avigdor Liberman of Yisrael Beytenu and Ayelet Shaked of Yamina prompted an exceedingly rare rebuke from the Shin Bet security service, which said in a statement that the search effort was still underway.

“The statements regarding the capture of the terrorists who committed the attack in Dolev do not express the opinion of the Shin Bet nor did they receive approval from the Shin Bet, which is leading the investigation,” the security service said.

Trump denies report he wanted to nuke hurricanes

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump denies an Axios report that he wanted to drop nuclear bombs on hurricanes before they made landfall in the United States, calling it “ridiculous.”

During a briefing, Trump asked if it would be possible to disrupt hurricanes forming off the coast of Africa by dropping a nuclear bomb in the eye of the storm, a report on the Axios website said on Sunday.

According to an anonymous source, the news website said that attendees left the hurricane briefing thinking, “What do we do with this?” Axios did not say when this conversation took place.

But Trump slams the story, calling it “fake news,” in his latest swipe at the media.

“The story by Axios that President Trump wanted to blow up large hurricanes with nuclear weapons prior to reaching shore is ridiculous. I never said this. Just more FAKE NEWS!” he tweets.

The White House declined to comment on the report earlier, but Axios quoted a senior administration official as saying Trump’s “objective is not bad.”


G7 to finance fire-fighting aircraft for Amazon rainforest, France says

BIARRITZ, France — The G7 countries have agreed to release 20 million euros ($22 million) for the Amazon, most of which will be used to send fire-fighting aircraft, a source in the French presidency says, amid unprecedented and devastating wildfires burning through the world’s largest tropical rainforest.

The group — comprising Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — has also agreed to support a medium-term reforestation plan which will be unveiled at the United Nations in September, a presidential aide says.


Trump says ‘great unity’ in G7 over Iran nuclear issue

BIARRITZ, France — US President Donald Trump says the G7 group is unified over Iran with a common goal to ensure the country does not acquire nuclear weapons.

There is “great unity,” he says alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G7 summit in the southwestern French resort of Biarritz.

“We’ve come to a conclusion, more or less,” he says, explaining this meant the non-nuclear status for Iran. But Merkel says talks on how to achieve this were “slowly moving.”


Russia says radioactive isotopes released by missile test blast

MOSCOW, Russia — Russia says radioactive isotopes were released in a recent accident at an Arctic missile test site that caused widespread alarm as authorities kept details under wraps.

The August 8 blast killed five scientists and caused a spike in radiation levels but Russia did not admit nuclear materials were involved for several days.

The accident released swiftly decaying radioactive isotopes of strontium, barium and lanthanum, news agencies reported, citing tests by the Rosgidromet national weather and environmental monitoring agency.

Alexander Uvarov, editor of the independent news site, said the isotopes did not pose a threat to the population. They are products of nuclear fission of uranium, he told RIA Novosti news agency.

Russia’s Rosatom nuclear agency has said that its specialists killed in the accident were developing “new weapons” and providing support for a missile with an “isotope power source.”


Trump skips G7 meeting on climate

US President Donald Trump has missed a discussion on climate with other world leaders at the Group of Seven summit in France.

Trump was scheduled to attend Monday’s session on climate, biodiversity and oceans, but his chair was empty during a portion of the meeting reporters were allowed to witness.

French President Emmanuel Macron says that while Trump didn’t attend, his aides were there.

The president started the morning behind schedule. His meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel was delayed about two hours. He then met with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where he was asked about attending the climate session. He said it would be his next stop and that he wants clean air and water.

Trump is a climate change skeptic who once had claimed it’s a hoax that was invented by the Chinese.

From the left, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, French President Emmanuel Macron, Egyptian President and Chairman of the African Union Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a work session focused on climate in Biarritz, southwestern France, August 26, 2019, on the third day of the annual G7 Summit. The empty seat at third right was the place reserved for US President Donald Trump, who according to Macron had skipped Monday’s working session on the climate. (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)

— AP

Trump plugs his private Miami resort as venue for next year’s G7

US President Donald Trump says his private golf resort near Miami is the likely venue for next year’s Group of Seven summit. He says no decision has been made, but claims no other venue under consideration matches what his resort — Trump National Doral — can offer.

This year’s G7 summit is ending Monday in France and the US is hosting the 2020 gathering of the seven nations.

Trump says the property, which is just minutes from the Miami airport, has a lot of acreage and properties that would allow delegations from each G7 country to have its own building.

— AP

Settlement group welcomes PM promise of 300 new homes in Dolev

The Yesha Council, a West Bank settlement advocacy group, welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise to build new housing units in the Dolev settlement, near where a terror attack last week killed 17-year-old Rina Shnerb.

“We welcome any step whose purpose is to strengthen the settlement and deepen our roots in Judea, Samaria and Jordan Valley. The terrorism that wants to remove us from our land will fail. The construction of a new neighborhood with hundreds of housing units in Dolev will meaningfully expand the Israeli presence in the western Binyamin region and strengthen our hold in the area,” the group says in a statement.

Netanyahu said today he had directed the Defense Ministry body responsible for authorizing West Bank construction to advance a plan for a new neighborhood in Dolev.

“We will deepen our roots and strike at our enemies. We will continue to strengthen and develop [Israeli] settlement,” Netanyahu said in a statement announcing the directive for some 300 new homes.

Last Friday, a terrorist bombing at a natural spring near Dolev killed Shnerb and wounded her father and brother.

Syria regime airstrikes kill 6, including woman, her child – report

BEIRUT — Airstrikes target Syria’s last major rebel stronghold in the northwestern province of Idlib on Monday, killing six people, including a woman and her child, a war monitor says.

The attacks come as Syrian government forces turn their focus on another rebel-held town in Idlib, Maaret al-Numan, following gains they made last week. The troops have been on the offensive since April 30, and have also captured all rebel-held areas in the adjoining Hama province, as well as the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib. From the town, they are now pushing north.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the airstrikes killed six people in Idlib, including three in the village of Basqala on the southern edge of the province. Among the three killed in Basqala were a woman and her child, it says.

Maaret al-Numan sits on the highway linking Damascus with the northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest. Government forces are trying to eventually open that highway. The months of fighting have also displaced more than half a million toward northern parts of Idlib, already home to some 3 million people.

This photo released by the activist-operated Thiqa News Agency, shows smoke rising after airstrikes hit the town of Ihsem, in Idlib province, Syria, August 26, 2019. (Thiqa News Agency via AP)

— AP

Homes evacuated in Beit Shemesh, northern village as brushfires advance

Firefighters are battling multiple brushfires threatening to force evacuations from towns throughout the country amid unseasonably warm and dry weather.

Several of the fires are near the Beit Shemesh area, including a wild grove near the edge of town that has led authorities to evacuate the first line of homes facing the fire.

At least ten firetrucks are deployed to battle the blaze.

In the north, 15 families are evacuated from Mashhad near Nazareth as firefighters battle a brushfire creeping toward the village. Five trucks and a firefighting plane are battling that blaze.

A firefighter battles a brushfire raging along Route 375 west of Jerusalem. (Channel 13 screen capture/Jerusalem District Fire and Rescue Services)

A fire near Kafr Kana has been brought under control, authorities say.

Another forest fire is raging along Route 375 in the hills west of Jerusalem. Firefighting planes are being deployed to help stem its advance.

Illustrative: A firefighting plane tries to extinguish a brushfire near Petah Tikva, on May 1, 2018. (Roy Alima/Flash90)

Hamas officials head to Cairo in Egyptian bid to reduce tensions with Israel

As tensions rise between Israel and Gaza amid a flurry of rocket attacks and mutual threats, Egyptian officials invite Hamas leaders to Cairo for talks aimed at restoring calm, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

Two top Hamas officials, Rawhi Mushtaha and Tawfik Abu Naim, are to lead the delegation, which is slated to leave Gaza today, Kan says.

A delegation from the Islamic Jihad terror group is expected to head to Cairo in the coming days as well.

Lebanon’s Aoun says alleged Israeli drone strikes like ‘a declaration of war’

Lebanese President Michel Aoun slams the “Israeli assault on the southern suburbs of Beirut” in a meeting today with UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis, Reuters reports.

The Lebanese army confirmed on Sunday Hezbollah’s claim that two armed Israeli drones exploded outside the organization’s propaganda offices in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, causing damage to the structure.

“Two of the Israeli enemy’s drones penetrated Lebanese airspace above the Madi neighborhood in the southern suburb of Beirut. The first fell to the ground and the second exploded in the air, only causing material damages.”

Lebanon’s Naharnet website quotes Aoun telling Kubis that the purported Israeli strikes “resemble a declaration of war and Lebanon has the right to defend its sovereignty.”

As tensions rise on borders, Netanyahu orders security briefing for rival Gantz

Amid rising tensions on the northern and southern borders, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, a former head of the army, received a security briefing from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s top military advisers.

Prime ministers traditionally brief the head of the opposition in case of possible war. The briefing, announced by Netanyahu’s office, could indicate the security cabinet is preparing for possible outbreak of hostilities.

Gantz was briefed by National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat and Netanyahu’s military secretary Brig. Gen. Avi Blot.

Tensions are sky-high in the north, where at least four purported Israeli strikes on Iranian and Hezbollah targets over the past 24 hours led to a direct threat by the Lebanese terror group’s chief Hassan Nasrallah, who promised retaliation.

In the south, a spate of rocket fire and ongoing violence led Israel to limit fuel shipments into the Gaza Strip today, and sparked fears of an escalation in violence along the border.

While there is no formal coalition or opposition in the current Knesset elected in April, Gantz leads the largest faction after Netanyahu’s Likud and is running to replace him as premier in the September 17 race.

Security cabinet met for four hours on rising tensions

The security cabinet met for four hours on today amid rising tensions on the northern and southern borders.

The south has seen increasing rocket fire and Israeli retaliatory raids, while multiple Israeli strikes in Syria and Lebanon against Iranian and Hezbollah targets have been reported by foreign media.

There was no word on what the cabinet decided.

Whatever it may have decided, Netanyahu ordered the briefing for rival Blue and White leader Benny Gantz immediately after the meeting. Israeli prime ministers traditionally update opposition leaders ahead of any expected military action or significant escalation.

As wildfires stemmed by firefighters, residents told they can go home

Initial reports say that firefighters have gained control of the fire threatening homes on the outskirts of Beit Shemesh.

Families living on Hagefen Street in the city, which lies west of Jerusalem, were evacuated earlier today as at least ten firefighting teams battled the blaze.

A separate fire in a nearby grove was also put out.

Firefighters also gave the all-clear to residents of the northern village of Mashhad, near Nazareth, to return to their homes after bringing a nearby brushfire under control.

Russia to resume S-400 missile deliveries to Turkey

ANKARA, Turkey — The Turkish defense minister says Russia will resume the delivery of its S-400 missile defense system to Turkey this week.

Turkey took delivery of the first part of the Russian system last month despite strong objections from the United States, which had been pressing Turkey to cancel the deal with Russia and has threatened sanctions against Turkey.

Washington says the Russian system is incompatible with NATO and poses a threat to the US-led F-35 fighter jet program. It has suspended Turkey’s participation in that program.

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar says Russia will begin transporting parts of the system’s second battery to Turkey on Tuesday.

He says: “Our aim is to protect our country and people from external aerial and missile threats.”

— AP

Harvey Weinstein pleads not guilty to new indictment as trial delayed

NEW YORK — Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein pleads not guilty to a new indictment that includes revised charges of predatory sexual assault, a development that causes the judge to delay the start of his trial until early next year.

The tweak to the case is intended to open the door for an actress to testify against Weinstein in a rape and sexual assault trial that had been scheduled to start on September 9.

Weinstein rushes in and out of a Manhattan courthouse quickly to enter the plea. He doesn’t speak with reporters.

After the hearing, his lawyers say they will ask the judge to dismiss the indictment, which they call a “desperate” attempt to salvage the case.

Harvey Weinstein arrives in court, August 26, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

“I think the case itself is weak,” says his lawyer Donna Rotunno.

Weinstein previously pleaded not guilty to charges accusing him of raping a woman in 2013 and performing a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006.

Prosecutors say the new indictment was needed to bring evidence involving Annabella Sciorra, best known for her work on “The Sopranos.” She says Weinstein raped her inside her Manhattan apartment after she starred in a film for his movie studio in 1993.

Weinstein, 67, who’s free on $1 million bail, denies all accusations of non-consensual sex.

— AP

Iraq to probe deadly drone attack attributed to Israel

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraq launches an investigation into a purported Israeli strike that killed a paramilitary fighter, its military says, renewing fears of a proxy war in the battered country.

Sunday’s attack struck a position held by Brigade 45, a Hashed al-Shaabi unit based near Iraq’s desert western border with Syria, killing one fighter and severely wounding a second.

“An investigation is ongoing now to determine what happened with the strike,” Iraq’s military spokesman Yehya Rasool tells AFP.

But the Hashed, a powerful paramilitary force that fights alongside Iraq’s military, was quick to blame Israel in a statement on Sunday. It said two Israeli drones had targeted the Brigade 45 position near Al-Qaim, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) from the border, with US air cover.

The attack killed Kazem Mohsen, Brigade 45’s “logistical support chief” who was also known by his nom de guerre Abu Ali al-Dabi.


In apparent jab at Netanyahu, Gantz won’t comment on security briefing

In an apparent jab at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz says he won’t confirm or deny or otherwise comment on a security briefing he received earlier today from the prime minister’s top military advisers.

“As a general rule, Blue and White chairman Lt. Gen. (res.) Benny Gantz does not make a habit of discussing even the existence of security briefings, not to mention their content,” a statement from Blue and White says.

The statement comes a short time after Netanyahu’s office said the PM had ordered a briefing for Gantz amid rising tensions in several theaters.

While briefings of opposition leaders are traditionally held ahead of military actions, they are not usually publicized afterward. Blue and White’s top leaders, which include three former army chiefs of staff, have accused Netanyahu of publicizing classified and sensitive defense actions for his political benefit.

Macron says ‘conditions created’ for Trump-Rouhani meet

BIARRITZ, France — French President Emmanuel Macron says that “the conditions for a meeting” between US President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani had been created.

Macron says he hopes it can take place in the next few weeks, adding: “Nothing is for sure, things are eminently fragile.”

Speaking alongside Trump on Monday, Macron says G7 leaders had agreed that Iran needs to meet its nuclear obligations and that there was a hope for a diplomatic breakthrough in the tensions that have grown since the US left the 2015 nuclear accord.

Macron spoke at the end of the G7 summit in Biarritz, France.

— Agencies

Lebanon base said struck by Israel was Hezbollah’s – Saudi media

A Saudi media outlet says the Lebanese base purportedly struck by Israel early this morning did not belong to the PFLP-GC terror group, as that group claimed, but to Hezbollah.

Arabic media had claimed this morning that Israeli aircraft had carried out an airstrike on the base deep inside Lebanon, just hours after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed to shoot down any Israeli aircraft violating Lebanese airspace.

The reports said the strikes hit a base belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), a Syria-based terrorist group that fights alongside Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

The base is located in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon, near the border with Syria.

According to Al-Hadath, however, the base served as a Hezbollah weapons-smuggling center in Bekaa valley, part of the broader effort by Iran to arm its proxy Hezbollah for a future war with Israel.

Trump says ready to meet Iran’s Rouhani in ‘correct’ circumstances

BIARRITZ, France — US President Donald Trump says he is ready to meet his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani if the circumstances are “correct.”

“If the circumstances were correct, I would certainly agree to that,” he says at the G7 summit in France, where President Emmanuel Macron attempted to defuse the tensions between Tehran and Washington by hosting Iran’s foreign minister for talks.

Trump speaks shortly after Macron tells reporters that “the conditions for a meeting” between Trump and Rouhani had been created. Macron says he hopes it can take place in the next few weeks, adding: “Nothing is for sure, things are eminently fragile.”


Are Likud’s efforts to get small right-wing parties to drop out succeeding?

Facing a tight race, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried but failed to engineer a broad far-right bloc ahead of the September 17 race that would ensure as many right-wing votes as possible would be counted on election day.

In the end, the Yamina alliance of right-wing factions left out the extremist Otzma Yehudit and the nationalist-libertarian Zehut, which themselves could not agree on a joint ticket.

Netanyahu’s efforts since have focused on convincing those parties to drop out of the race altogether, in the hope that their voters will instead support either Likud or Yamina, and so ensure as large a right-wing bloc as possible after election day.

Channel 12 says Zehut leader Moshe Feiglin is seriously considering bowing out of the race after Netanyahu reportedly promised him a senior economy-oriented ministerial appointment if he does so.

Asked for comment, Zehut tells Channel 12 that it is running.

At the same time, Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir meets today with Netanyahu’s longtime fixer and closest political confidant Natan Eshel.

Ben Gvir claims he asked for the meeting, and the idea of Otzma Yehudit dropping out of the race didn’t come up. Ben Gvir says the meeting consisted of him apparently trying to enlist Likud’s help for Otzma Yehudit’s campaign. He says he told Eshel that without his faction passing the 3.25 percent electoral threshold, “there won’t be a right-wing government.”

Otzma Yehudit has struggled to draw half that figure in recent polls.

Bahrain FM backs strikes on Iran-backed forces attributed to Israel

Bahrain’s foreign minister appears to back Israel after it reportedly struck at Iranian and Iran-backed militias’ installations in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon in recent days.

“Iran is the one who has declared a war on us, with its Revolutionary Guards Corps, its Lebanese party [Hezbollah in Lebanon], its Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, its Houthi arm in Yemen and others,” Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa says on Twitter.

“So one who strikes and destroys the piles of their ammunition is not to blame. That is self-defense,” he adds.

Bahrain recently hosted the Trump administration’s economic summit for the Palestinians, billed as part of Washington’s forthcoming Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, during which Khalifa gave an interview to The Times of Israel saying his country recognizes Israel’s right to exist and wants peace with it.

Days after deadly Dolev bombing, army says it foiled another IED attack

Israeli security forces find and disarm an improvised explosive device planted along a northern West Bank highway, the army says.

A military tracker spotted a suspicious object along a road near Nablus and called in police sappers to investigate. As a precautionary measure, the highway was closed to traffic, the IDF says.

Upon inspection, the sappers determined that the object was an IED and “neutralized” it, the military says.

This foiled IED attack comes days after a bomb that had been planted next to a natural spring in the central West Bank was triggered by terrorists as an Israeli family was visiting the site, killing the teenage daughter and seriously injuring her father and brother.

— Judah Ari Gross

Iran says it will let women attend soccer World Cup qualifier

TEHRAN, Iran — Women fans will be allowed into the stadium for Iran’s next football World Cup qualifier in October, a sports ministry official says ahead of a deadline to allow their attendance.

FIFA has been stepping up pressure on Iran to ensure women are allowed to attend qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup, reportedly giving it until Saturday to comply or else face consequences.

An official at the sports ministry said on Sunday that women would be able to watch Team Melli — as the national team are known — at their next home game in Tehran’s Azadi stadium.

“Women can go to the Azadi stadium on October 10, 2019 to watch the match between the Iranian national team and Cambodia for the Qatar World Cup qualifier,” said Jamshid Taghizadeh, the sports ministry’s deputy for legal and provincial affairs. “There is no legal ban (on the presence of women in stadiums] and we must activate the infrastructure, which is underway,” he said, quoted by state news agency IRNA.

“Our view on women, at all levels, is to prepare the necessary conditions for women’s success.”

Iran has barred Iranian women spectators at matches since the 1979 Islamic revolution, with clerics arguing they must be protected from the masculine atmosphere and sight of semi-clad men. The authorities have allowed foreign women to go to matches in the country in the past.

And while a small number of Iranian women have attended select international matches on previous occasions, others have faced prosecution for entering stadiums at other times. Four women were recently detained at Azadi stadium before being released, according to a report by the semi-official ISNA news agency on August 18.


Moldova’s dwindling Jewish community reopens synagogue seized by Soviets

CHISINAU, Moldova — Jews in this city reopen a synagogue in its former home, a building seized by Soviet authorities nearly 80 years ago.

The Wooden Synagogue, or the Lemnaria Synagogue, was reopened Sunday in the cellar of the Kedem Jewish Community Center. About 300 people attended the ceremony under the auspices of the Limmud FSU biannual conference of Jewish learning in the center of Chisinau, also known as Kishinev.

The original synagogue was established in 1835 and nationalized in 1940. In 2005, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee opened the JCC in the building that once housed the synagogue. But the building did not have a synagogue until Alexandar Bilinkis, president of Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova, donated the funds.

The local Jewish community is dwindling due to emigration and assimilation. Moldova has about 19,000 people with a Jewish grandparent and 3,000 citizens who are Jewish according to traditional Jewish law, or halacha.

Rabbi Shimshon Izakson, second from left, praying with congregants at the Wooden Synagogue in Chisinau, Moldova on August 26, 2019. (Cnaan Liphshiz/JTA)

With the Wooden Synagogue’s reopening, the community now has four synagogues. It had more than 80 before the Holocaust, according to the rabbi of the Moldova Jewish community and the Wooden Synagogue.

Moldova, a landlocked country of about 3 million people, is sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine. It is widely believed to be Europe’s poorest nation, with a median monthly income under $340.


Kahlon: Some of the strikes attributed to Israel ‘aren’t ours’

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, perhaps in an effort to cool regional tensions, says some of the strikes in the region attributed to Israel in recent days “aren’t ours.”

“We’ve gone through a tense and critical 72 hours,” he says at a housing development opening ceremony in Kiryat Bialik.

“Two things are important for me to note: First, all IDF actions are intended to prevent an attack on Israel. We will continue to act in accordance with the decision of the security cabinet. We won’t stop — not the prime minister, not the cabinet, not the IDF and the security forces, who deserve an enormous pat on the back” for their recent efforts.

He adds: “Second, the prime minister once remarked that every explosion in the Middle East is attributed to Israel. I want to tell you that there are also things being attributed to us that aren’t ours. Since I can’t say what was us and what wasn’t, I’m saying that there are things being attributed to us that aren’t ours.”

Netanyahu warns Israel will defend itself ‘by any means necessary’

Amid reports of a wave of Israeli strikes against Iranian targets and Iran-backed militias in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu releases a 17-second Hebrew-language YouTube video, apparently meant for Israelis, in which he vows that Israel will continue to “defend its security by any means necessary.”

“Iran is acting in a broad front to produce murderous terror attacks against Israel,” he says.

“Israel will continue to defend its security by any means necessary.”

He concludes: “I call on the international community to act immediately to ensure Iran stops these attacks.”

Israel warns Lebanon a Hezbollah attack will bring reprisal against Lebanon

Israel has told Lebanon that any Hezbollah attack against Israel would bring an Israeli response against Lebanon as a whole, Channel 13 says.

According to the report, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday to pass a message from him to Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

The message: If Hezbollah responds to reported Israeli strikes against Iranian and pro-Iran militia targets in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, in recent days, Israel “will respond severely against Lebanon as a whole. It won’t distinguish between Lebanon and Hezbollah,” in the words of Channel 13.

Netanyahu offers Feiglin a cabinet post, pot deregulation to bow out of race

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer to Zehut party chief Moshe Feiglin to convince him to drop out of the race is more generous than previously reported, according to Channel 13.

Netanyahu not only offered Feiglin a senior ministerial post dealing with the economy — the economy ministry? Or even the vaunted finance ministry? — but purportedly promised to cover Zehut’s campaign debts and pass legislation further easing access to medical cannabis, a signature Zehut demand.

Netanyahu is reported to have offered even more if Feiglin leaves the race and publicly backs Likud.

Netanyahu is hard at work attempting to convince marginal far-right parties like Zehut, Otzma Yehudit and Noam to drop out of the race in order to increase the chances that their voters will back parties like Likud and Yamina, upping the Knesset representation of right-wing parties after September 17.

Channel 13 also says that the Noam party, which is running almost single-mindedly against the LGBT community and LGBT rights, is planning to bow out of the race.

Regime air strikes kill 9 civilians in Syria’s northwest, monitor says

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Regime and Russian air strikes kill nine civilians in northwest Syria, where heightened bombardment has claimed hundreds of lives since late April, a war monitor says.

Russian air raids on several areas in the south of Idlib province leave six civilians dead, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.

Regime air raids kill three civilians in the same region, which is controlled by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Britain-based monitor adds.

The bombardment wounds 20 other civilians in total, it says.

Regime forces have in recent days chipped away at the jihadist-dominated region of Idlib on the Turkish border after months of deadly bombardment. The gains come despite a deal reached between rebel backer Turkey and regime ally Russia last year to set up a buffer zone around the region to protect its some three million inhabitants.


IDF flares light up Lebanese border area, Lebanese media say

Lebanese media report the Israel Defense Forces has launched flares over the contested Shebaa Farms area along the Israel-Lebanon border, amid heightened tensions between the Jewish state and the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group.

Shebaa Farms, known by Israel as Har Dov, is a disputed region along the border that was the site of a deadly anti-tank missile attack by Hezbollah against Israeli troops in 2015, in which two soldiers were killed and seven were wounded.

The area is on high alert after Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah said yesterday his group would retaliate for strikes in recent days against Hezbollah targets in Syria and Lebanon attributed to Israel.

— Judah Ari Gross

Elections committee chair rules Likud’s filming of Arab polling stations illegal

Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, who chairs the Central Elections Committee, delivers a sweeping decision prohibiting political parties from carrying out mass surveillance at polling stations on election day.

Likud boasted after the April election that it had deployed 1,200 body cameras hidden on the shirts of its polling station monitors in Arab towns, in an apparent bid to catch Arab voter fraud and claim the election results — presumably if they tilted against the party — were corrupted by massive fraud.

Critics said the effort was a bid to depress Arab voter turnout. Proponents insisted the Arab community was rife with such fraud.

The ruling party apparently failed to find such fraud on election day, as no videos of cheating have yet surfaced from the effort.

In his decision, delivered only moments ago, Melcer expressly forbids anyone who is not the Central Elections Committee itself from deploying cameras at polling stations, and warns that holding such footage or even simply looking at it might be a criminal offense. He says allowing such surveillance would require passing legislation expressly permitting it. He also orders the formation of a special unit under the aegis of the Central Elections Committee that will monitor and, in cases where it is deemed necessary, have to sole power to film polling stations, with severe limits on how the footage is used and who can see it.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is cited in Melcer’s decision as supporting it.

Likud had boasted that it planned an even larger surveillance operation on September 17, and has already reportedly spent millions purchasing the cameras and training staffers.

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