Live updates (closed)

Bennett speaks to Biden about Kabul as new meeting set for Friday morning

Bennett's office says summit to start at 10:25 a.m., president thanked Israeli PM for understanding delay; US raises death toll among troops to 13; report puts Afghan toll over 70

Wounded Afghans lie on a bed at a hospital after a deadly explosion outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. (AP/Mohammad Asif Khan)

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

Biden, Harris holding national security meeting on Afghanistan in Situation Room

In this image released by The White House, US President Joe Biden speaks with his national security team during a briefing on the situation in Afghanistan on Aug. 22, 2021, in the White House Situation Room in Washington. (Erin Scott/The White House via AP)

US President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are currently meeting with the White House national security team in the Situation Room to discuss Afghanistan.

Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Milley, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Director of National Intelligence Avil Haines and Secretary of State Antony Blinken were all seen arriving at the White House this morning, CNN reports.

The Afghanistan issue is likely to overshadow Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s meeting that is scheduled to take place at 10:30 a.m.

Over 100,000 evacuated from Afghanistan, US says

The United States has evacuated more than 100,000 people from Afghanistan since August 14, the eve of the Taliban’s return to power, the White House says.

“Since August 14, the U.S. has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of approximately 100,100 people,” the White House says in a statement issued hours after Islamic State suicide bombers attacked crowds gathered outside Kabul airport hoping to flee.

13 US troops killed, 18 injured, Pentagon confirms

The US Defense Department says the number of American troops killed in the suicide bombings at Kabul airport rose by one to 13, and the number of injured was 18.

“A thirteenth US service member has died from his wounds suffered as a result of the attack on Abbey Gate,” Central Command spokesman Captain Bill Urban said in a statement.

Bennett-Biden meeting set for 10:25 Friday morning — PMO

Naftali Bennett’s office announces that the prime minister will meet US President Joe Biden at 10:25 a.m. Friday, 5:25 p.m. in Israel.

The two will hold a one-on-one meeting before giving public statements at a photo opportunity, followed by working meetings between their staffs.

Bennett speaks to Biden by phone

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has spoken with US President Joe Biden by phone to offer his condolences over the deaths of US servicemembers in Afghanistan and discuss their postponed meeting, Bennett’s office says.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office says Bennett told Biden Israel stands by the US during the difficult hour.

He also tells Biden he is looking forward to their meeting tomorrow. The PMO says Biden thanked Bennett for his understanding over the delayed meeting, and that he’s looking forward to their meeting Friday.

No time has been announced for the meeting. There is no immediate White House readout of the call.

Bennett had been slated to meet Biden Thursday morning. Due to the change, he is likely to have to stay in Washington two extra days, due to Shabbat travel restrictions.

 

 

ראש הממשלה, נפתלי בנט, ונשיא ארה”ב, ג’ו ביידן, שוחחו לפני זמן קצרהנשיא ביידן אמר לרה”מ, כי הוא מצפה לפגישתם שתיערך מחרנשיא ארצות הברית, ג’ו ביידן, התקשר היום (ה’), 26 באוגוסט 2021, י”ח באלול תשפ”א, לראש הממשלה, נפתלי בנט.בשם ממשלת ישראל ובשם אזרחי ישראל, הביע ראש הממשלה את תנחומיו העמוקים בעקבות האירועים וציין, כי ישראל משתתפת בצערה של ארה”ב. “אנו עומדים לצדכם בשעה קשה זו כפי שארה”ב עומדת לצד ישראל לאורך השנים”, אמר רה”מ לנשיא.הנשיא ביידן הודה לראש הממשלה על שגילה הבנה כלפי השינוי במועד פגישתם נוכח האירועים באפגניסטן.עוד הוסיף הנשיא ביידן, כי הוא מצפה לפגישתו עם ראש הממשלה שתיערך מחר.

13th US servicemember confirmed killed in Kabul — report

CBS news reports that a 13th US servicemember has been confirmed killed in the Kabul attack.

There is no official announcement on the higher death toll.

The network also reports that the total death toll is 90, citing an Afghan official.

Biden says US evacuation will continue

Among his remarks, US President Joe Biden says the United States will not be deterred from its mission to evacuate thousands of civilians from Afghanistan despite the deadly suicide attack on Kabul airport.

“We will not be deterred by terrorists. We will not let them stop our mission. We will continue the evacuation,” Biden says.

He also confirms that the attack was carried out by Islamic State’s Afghanistan affiliate, known as ISIS-K.

Biden, tearing up, tells nation that Kabul attackers will be hunted down

An emotional US President Joe Biden is vowing to push ahead with the mission to evacuate America and allies from Afghanistan, while threatening those who carried out the deadly attack: “We will hunt you down.”

Biden pays tribute to the 12 US servicemembers killed, calling them heroes. He tears up as he recalls his son Beau, a veteran who dies of cancer after returning from war.

He also vows to take revenge on those who carried out the attack.

“We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” Biden says.

He ends his speech by quoting from the prophet Isiah, leading a moment of silence, and then begins to speak off the cuff about remaining steadfast.

Biden addresses nation on Kabul attack

US President Joe Biden begins his address on the Kabul attack.

You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRxMiM17KJE

Bennett expresses condolences for American troops killed in Kabul: ‘Israel stands with the US’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett expresses his condolences for the American servicemen killed in a suicide attack outside the Kabul airport.

“On behalf of the people of Israel, I share our deep sadness over the loss of American lives in Kabul,” he tweets. “Israel stands with the United States in these difficult times, just as America has always stood with us.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of the United States.”

Bennett is currently in Washington and was scheduled to meet with US President Joe Biden today, but the meeting was delayed until tomorrow, due to the attack.

Latest blast in Kabul apparently a controlled explosion by US military

The latest blast heard in Kabul was a controlled blast by the US military, according to local reports and the Taliban’s spokesman.

US says around 1,000 Americans still in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — The US State Department says it is tracking roughly 1,000 American citizens whom it believes may still be in Afghanistan, as evacuation efforts proceed, despite deadly suicide attacks outside the Kabul airport.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said yesterday that some 1,500 US citizens were still thought to be in the country, but the department says today that it confirms that about 500 of them had been evacuated.

In the meantime, it says another 500 people claiming to be Americans wanting to leave have gotten in touch with the US embassy, but that it expects the majority of them would turn out not to be US citizens. Of the 1,000 Americans the department believes to be in Afghanistan, it says about 75 percent are making preparations to leave.

Lapid ‘shocked and saddened’ by ‘horrific’ Kabul attack

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid heads a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on August 2, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid tweets his condolences over the deadly Kabul bombings, saying he is “shocked and saddened,” and adding that Jerusalem stands “shoulder to shoulder with the United States in the fight against terrorism.”

White House: Biden to make address on Afghanistan in an hour

US President Joe Biden will give a public address at 5:00 p.m. local time (2100 GMT, midnight in Israel) on the suicide bombing attack against the US evacuation operation from Kabul’s airport, the White House says.

Biden will make “remarks on the terror attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport, and the US service members and Afghan victims killed and wounded,” the White House says.

Another huge blast heard in Kabul

Various reporters are saying a fresh, huge explosion has been heard in Afghan capital Kabul, after twin blasts earlier today, claimed by the Islamic State terror group, killed at least 60 Afghans and 12 US troops.

Bennett-Biden meeting in Washington rescheduled for Friday at 11:30 a.m.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Oval Office meeting with US President Joe Biden has been rescheduled for tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. local time (6:30 p.m. Israel time).

This means Bennett, who is Orthodox, will spend Shabbat in the United States.

UN chief calls permanent Security Council meeting on Afghanistan

Illustrative: Members of the United Nations Security Council, with visiting German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, convene a meeting on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, February 26, 2020, at UN headquarters. (AP Photo/ Bebeto Matthews)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called a meeting of the permanent members of the Security Council to discuss the chaotic situation in Afghanistan, diplomats say.

Guterres sent letters formally inviting the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and China to meet on Monday, the diplomats tell AFP.

A spokesperson for Guterres confirms the meeting.

US general warns of more attacks in Afghanistan, says evacuation will continue

The US general overseeing the evacuation from Afghanistan says the United States will “go after” the perpetrators of the Kabul airport attacks, if they can be found.

Gen. Kenneth McKenzie says the attacks will not stop the United States from continuing its evacuation of Americans and others.

McKenzie warns that there are still “extremely active” security threats at the airport in the Afghan capital.

“We expect these attacks to continue,” he says, adding that Taliban commanders have been asked to take additional security measures to prevent another suicide bombing on the airport’s perimeter. He says he sees no indication that the Taliban allowed today’s attacks to happen.

Islamic State claims responsibility for Kabul blasts

The Islamic State terror group claims responsibility for today’s attack outside the Kabul airport in Afghanistan.

In a message shared on its Amaq News Agency, the group claims the blasts killed and wounded some 160, and includes a photo of a man it says was a suicide bomber.

US determined to retaliate against Islamic State for Kabul attack: general

The head of US Central Command vows retaliation for the deadly attack at Kabul airport he blames on “two suicide bombers assessed to have been ISIS fighters.”

“We are working very hard right now to determine attribution, to determine who is associated with this cowardly attack, and we’re prepared to take action against them,” says General Kenneth McKenzie.

He adds that US forces are “prepared and ready to defend against” possible further IS attacks.

Gantz sends condolences over Kabul blasts: ‘We stand with our American partners’

Defense Minister Benny Gantz sends his condolences to the loved ones of the victims of the Kabul attack.

In a tweet, Gantz also says: “We stand with our American partners.”

US General McKenzie: 12 US troops killed, 15 wounded in Kabul attacks

The commander of US Central Command, Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., briefs reporters on the status of operations in the CENTCOM area of responsibility, at the Pentagon, Washington, March 13, 2020. (DoD/Lisa Ferdinando)

Twelve US servicemen were killed and 15 injured in two suicide bombing attacks in Kabul by Islamic State jihadists, the head of US Central Command says.

“A number of Afghan civilians were also killed and injured in the attack,” says General Kenneth McKenzie.

US defense secretary indicates Kabul attack won’t change withdrawal plans

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin tweets his “deepest condolences” to the loved ones of the US soldiers killed in the Kabul blasts, but indicates the attack won’t change the country’s withdrawal plans.

“Terrorists took their lives at the very moment these troops were trying to save the lives of others,” he says in a statement.

“But we will not be dissuaded from the task at hand,” he says. “To do anything less — especially now — would dishonor the purpose and sacrifice these men and women have rendered our country and the people of Afghanistan.”

Sunday’s cabinet meeting canceled — reports

Hebrew media says that after the Kabul blasts caused Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s meeting with US President Joe Biden to be delayed and German Chancellor Angela Merkel canceled her visit, Sunday’s scheduled cabinet meeting in Jerusalem has also been called off.

Iran urges regional cooperation to promote ‘calm’ in Afghanistan

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi speaks before parliament in the capital Tehran, on August 25, 2021. (ATTA KENARE/AFP)

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi calls for regional cooperation, especially between the Islamic Republic and Pakistan, to promote “security and calm” in Afghanistan.

He makes the remarks during a meeting in Tehran with Islamabad’s top diplomat Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who also meets his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

Iran and Pakistan are the top host countries of Afghan refugees in the world.

“Regional countries, especially Iran and Pakistan, can through cooperation prepare the ground for interaction between active ethnicities and groups to establish security and calm in Afghanistan,” Raisi is quoted by the government’s official website as saying.

“The presence of Americans and foreigners not only fails to bring about security but causes problems,” he adds.

US officials: 11 Marines and Navy medic killed in Afghanistan

At least 12 US service members were killed in the Afghanistan bombings, including 11 Marines and one Navy medic, according to two US officials.

Officials say a number of US military troops were wounded. They warn, however, that the numbers may grow.

White House: Bennett-Biden meeting postponed to Friday

The White House says US President Joe Biden’s meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has been moved to tomorrow, as Biden has cleared his agenda to deal with the Kabul bombing.

“The president’s bilateral meeting… has been rescheduled for tomorrow,” the White House says.

Initial reports of a third explosion at Kabul airport

Unconfirmed reports say that there has been a third explosion at the Kabul airport, hours after two bombings killed dozens of people. No further details are immediately available.

Biden said still aiming to host Bennett for meeting today

The White House still aims to host Prime Minister Naftali Bennett later today, after his meeting with US President Joe Biden was delayed because of the Afghanistan crisis, Bloomberg reports.

 

US media says 10 American soldiers, 60 Afghans killed in Kabul blasts

Medical staff bring an injured man to a hospital in an ambulance after two powerful explosions outside the airport in Kabul on August 26, 2021. (Wakil KOHSAR / AFP)

According to the Wall Street Journal, 60 Afghan civilians have been killed in the Kabul airport bombings, with 150 others wounded.

Fox News reports that the number of American servicemen slain in the attack has climbed to 10.

There is no official confirmation of the death toll.

Germany ends evacuation operation in Afghanistan — defense minister

Germany has pulled all of its soldiers out of Afghanistan, with its last evacuation flight from Kabul, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer says.

“All soldiers, members of the foreign ministry, and federal police who have led this mission to a safe end for us on the ground have been flown out of Kabul,” she says.

The military evacuation mission has therefore now ended, she says, adding that she was “relieved that our soldiers who carried out this dangerous operation have safely left Afghan airspace.”

Germany had flown out 5,347 people since August 16, the minister says.

Amid conflicting tolls, Taliban says 13-20 people killed in Kabul blasts

The death toll from two blasts in crowds outside Kabul’s airport could be as high as 20, a spokesman for the Taliban tells AFP.

“Our initial information shows between 13 and 20 killed and 52 wounded,” chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid says.

There are conflicting reports on the death toll, ranging from six deaths to 40.

Pentagon confirms US servicemen, Afghans among dead in Kabul bombing

Medics and hospital staff bring an injured man on a stretcher for treatment after two blasts outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 26, 2021. (Photo by Wakil KOHSAR / AFP)

The Pentagon says a “number of US service members were killed in today’s complex attack at Kabul airport. A number of others are being treated for wounds,” without elaborating further.

“We also know that a number of Afghans fell victim to this heinous attack,” the Pentagon says.

The Wall Street Journal says four US Marines have been killed, and three others have been injured.

4 US soldiers killed in Kabul airport bombing — report

Four US soldiers were killed in the bombing outside of Kabul’s airport, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Another three American servicemen are wounded, the report says.

US projected to see 100,000 more COVID deaths by December 1

Illustrative: A Houston Fire Department paramedic arrives to transport a woman with COVID symptoms to a hospital on August 25, 2021, in Houston, Texas. (John Moore/Getty Images/AFP)

The US is projected to see nearly 100,000 more COVID-19 deaths between now and December 1, according to the nation’s most closely watched forecasting model. But health experts say that toll could be cut in half if nearly everyone wore a mask in public spaces.

In other words, what the coronavirus has in store this fall depends on human behavior.

“Behavior is really going to determine if, when, and how sustainably the current wave subsides,” says Lauren Ancel Meyers, director of the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium. “We cannot stop Delta in its tracks, but we can change our behavior overnight.”

That means doubling down again on masks, limiting social gatherings, staying home when sick, and getting vaccinated. “Those things are within our control,” Meyers says.

The US is in the grip of a fourth wave of infection this summer, powered by the highly contagious Delta variant, which has sent cases, hospitalizations, and deaths soaring again, swamped medical centers, burned out nurses and erased months of progress against the virus.

Deaths are running at over 1,100 a day on average, turning the clock back to mid-March. One influential model, from the University of Washington, projects an additional 98,000 Americans will die by the start of December, for an overall death toll of nearly 730,000.

The projection says deaths will rise to nearly 1,400 a day by mid-September, and then decline slowly.

But the model also says many of those deaths can be averted if Americans change their ways.

“We can save 50,000 lives simply by wearing masks. That’s how important behaviors are,” says Ali Mokdad, a professor of Health Metrics Sciences at the University of Washington, in Seattle, who is involved in the making of the projections.

Taliban condemn blasts in ‘area where US forces are responsible’

The Taliban condemns deadly blasts outside Kabul airport, in an area they said was under the control of US military.

“The Islamic Emirate strongly condemns the bombing targeting civilians at Kabul airport,” a statement released by the group’s spokesman on Twitter says.

“The explosion took place in an area where US forces are responsible for security.”

Merkel condemns ‘heinous’ Afghan airport attack

German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemns the “heinous” attack outside Kabul airport on people seeking evacuation from Afghanistan.

“We don’t know all the details yet, but the terrorists targeted people waiting at the airport gates who were hoping to leave,” Merkel says. “They wanted security and freedom, and that is why it is an absolutely heinous attack in a very, very tense situation.”

4,811 recovered Israeli COVID patients got reinfected — TV

Hadassah Ein Kerem team members wearing safety gear as they work in the coronavirus ward of the Hadassah Ein Kerem medical center, in Jerusalem on August 25, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Health Ministry data cited by Channel 13 suggests the Delta variant may be more effective at causing COVID reinfection among recovered patients than earlier strains of the coronavirus.

According to the data, 4,811 Israelis have been reinfected with coronavirus, accounting for 0.47 percent of the total recoveries. (The data provided refers to over 900,000 recovered Israelis, though the figure has since surpassed a million).

However, just 0.08% of the reinfection cases were recorded in 2020, while the number climbed to 0.71% in 2021 when the Delta variant became the dominant strain in Israel. In the past month, 2,702 recovered patients contracted the coronavirus again, or some 1.8%, the report says. It is unclear to what extent the Delta variant is more effective and to what extent the reinfections are the result of waning antibodies.

The majority of reinfections are among the young, according to the report.

Awaiting retrial, convicted killer Zadorov released to house arrest

Convicted murderer Roman Zadorov at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on November 10, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Fifteen years after his conviction, Roman Zadorov, currently awaiting a retrial in the murder of a 13-year-old schoolgirl, is released to house arrest.

Zadorov is set to be tried again on the basis of new evidence, after more than a decade behind bars for the 2006 murder of Tair Rada, which he maintains he did not commit.

His release to house arrest is aired live on Israeli television. Rada’s murder case has long gripped the country, both due to the brutal way in which she was killed and the continuing claims by some that it was not Zadorov who committed the murder.

Death toll in Kabul bombing climbs to 40 — NYT reporter

A Kabul-based reporter for The New York Times says the death toll in the bombing in Afghanistan stands at least 40. Fahim Abed says 120 people are wounded, most of them critically.

https://twitter.com/fahimabed/status/1430925438344388611

Eyewitnesses to Kabul airport bombing describe ‘total panic’

Medical and hospital staff bring an injured man on a stretcher for treatment after two blasts, which killed at least five and wounded a dozen, outside the airport in Kabul on August 26, 2021. (Wakil KOHSAR / AFP)

Deadly blasts at Kabul airport caused “total panic” among Afghans who had thronged outside in the hope of fleeing to safety, away from the country’s new Taliban rulers.

Wounded men in blood-soaked clothes were ferried away from the scene in wheelbarrows, while a boy clutched the arm of a man with a head injury, in images posted on social media.

“Bodies, flesh, and people were thrown into a canal nearby,” Milad, who was at the scene of the first blast, tells AFP.

“When people heard the explosion there was total panic. The Taliban then started firing in the air to disperse the crowd at the gate,” a second witness says.

“I saw a man rushing with an injured baby in his hands.”

In the confusion, he says he dropped the documents he hoped would help him board a flight with his wife and three children.

“I will never ever want to go (to the airport) again. Death to America, its evacuation, and visas.”

The Pentagon said one explosion was at the Abbey Gate of Kabul airport, and at least one more blast hit the nearby Baron Hotel.

Shortly after, an AFP photographer saw several bodies arriving at a Kabul hospital, and more than a dozen injured.

Women with blood-stained faces and clothes wept, as the wounded were taken into the clinic on stretchers.

Another witness, 26-year-old Akram Lubega, who works for a catering firm, says he heard the explosion and did not know what was happening.

“Of course we are all scared,” the Ugandan national says.

“Everyone is tense and the army is taking positions around the airport.”

Amid Kabul crisis, Biden scraps video conference with governors

In addition to disrupting the long-planned Oval Office meeting with Israel’s new prime minister, the crisis in Kabul prompts cancellation of a scheduled video conference between US President Joe Biden and state governors, who are set to house Afghan refugees from the massive US airlift.

The daily briefing by Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, is also delayed, as the White House scrambles to cope with the emergency.

TV: With Shabbat looming, Bennett could remain in DC longer after summit delayed

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s advisers are reassuring White House staffers that they completely understand the delay in the planned summit with US President Joe Biden, due to the bombings in Afghanistan, saying the Israeli delegation will make itself available as necessary, according to Hebrew media reports.

According to Channel 12, which does not cite a source, Bennett’s staff is preparing for the possibility of extending the trip over the weekend, as the Orthodox prime minister will not travel over Shabbat.

Bennett had been rushing back to Israel on Thursday night, due to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s planned trip to the Jewish state over the weekend. But with Merkel canceling that trip earlier today, similarly due to the situation in Afghanistan, he could remain in Washington longer, the report indicates.

France seeks to evacuate ‘several hundred’ more from Kabul

France is still seeking to evacuate hundreds more people from Afghanistan, ahead of a looming deadline, President Emmanuel Macron says, warning of an “extremely risky” situation, in the wake of blasts around Kabul airport.

“We will do everything we can” to bring to France Afghan citizens and dual nationals who were in the French embassy, and are currently outside the perimeter of the airport in 20 buses, Macron says on a visit to Ireland.

“We are talking about several hundred people who are still in danger,” he says. “I cannot guarantee you today that we will be able to carry out these operations, because the security situation is not under our control.”

Treasury transfers NIS 100 million to hospitals to end partial strike

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman says the treasury has transferred NIS 100 million ($31 million) to public hospitals who have been protesting the government’s failure to provide adequate healthcare funding amid the pandemic.

The hospitals will receive additional funds when they meet certain criteria laid out by the ministry, adds Liberman.

“We will continue to support the healthcare system and enable life alongside the coronavirus,” tweets Liberman.

Since Wednesday morning, Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital and both hospitals in the Hadassah system; Bnei Brak’s Mayanei Yeshua; Netanya’s Laniado; and Nazareth’s St. Vincent de Paul, Holy Family Hospital, and Nazareth Hospital, have only been performing life-saving procedures and have refused to admit new patients from the Magen David Adom emergency service.

No new time set for Biden-Bennett meeting; Israeli delegation returns to hotel

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) and US President Joe Biden. (Composite/AP)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office says the meeting with US President Joe Biden is further delayed. No new time has yet been set.

Israeli journalists are being removed from the White House briefing room.

The Prime Minister’s Office stresses the meeting has not been canceled, but the Israeli press delegation is returning to their hotel.

Israeli reporters leave the White House as the meeting between US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is delayed, August 26, 2021 (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)

NATO chief slams Kabul airport terrorist attack

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg condemns the twin suicide bombings at the Kabul airport as a “horrific terrorist attack” that targeted desperate Afghans trying to leave the country and the alliance’s efforts to evacuate them from Afghanistan.

Stoltenberg says on Twitter after the explosions: “I strongly condemn the horrific terrorist attack outside #Kabul airport. My thoughts are with all those affected and their loved ones. Our priority remains to evacuate as many people to safety as quickly as possible.”

The bombings struck outside Kabul’s airport, where large crowds of people trying to flee Afghanistan have massed, killing at least 13 people and wounding 15, according to Russian officials. Western nations had warned earlier in the day of a possible attack at the airport in the waning days of a massive airlift.

Family of activist who died in PA custody seeks international justice

Maryam Banat, 67, mother of Palestinian Authority critic Nizar Banat, holds a poster with his picture at a rally protesting his death, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, July 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

The family of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat, who died in Palestinian custody in June, steps up its quest for international justice, turning to British police and the UN.

Banat — a leading critic of the Palestinian Authority and its 86-year old president Mahmoud Abbas — died after security forces stormed his home in the flashpoint city of Hebron and dragged him away.

An autopsy found he had been beaten on the head, chest, neck, legs and hands, with less than an hour elapsing between his arrest and his death.

Banat’s family has said it has no confidence in the PA’s capacity to deliver justice, and called for an international probe.

A statement from the family’s lawyers, the British firm Stoke White, says they have asked Britain’s Metropolitan Police to open an investigation under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

For a small number of serious offenses, Britain’s courts can hear cases even if the alleged crimes were committed abroad.

Nizar Banat, an outspoken critic of the Palestinian Authority, speaks to journalists at the family house, in the West Bank city of Hebron, May 4, 2021. (AP/Nasser Nasser)

Stoke White also says it has asked multiple branches of the United Nations human rights system to open investigation, including the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions and four special rapporteurs.

Ghasan Khalil Banat says his brother’s “murder” was a “tragedy for our family, but also a tragedy for the Palestinian people.”

“The so-called investigation that was carried out into his murder is an embarrassment and the PA should feel ashamed of it,” he says in the statement.

The head of international law and Stoke White, Hakan Camuz, says: “Responsibility for the murder of Nizar Banat very clearly lies with the senior leadership of the Palestinian Authority including President Mahmud Abbas and Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh.”

Shtayyeh and the PA have promised accountability over Banat’s death.

Camuz accuses the PA of a longstanding bid to silence dissent.

“They cannot be allowed to get away with this and this is why we are submitting these complaints and petitions to the British police and the UN,” he says in the statement.

AFP: At least 5 killed, a dozen injured in Kabul airport bombing

At least five bodies and more than a dozen injured were taken to a Kabul hospital after two blasts outside the Afghan capital’s airport, an AFP photographer at the clinic says.

“There were many bodies and injured — at least five dead,” the photographer says at the Emergency Hospital, well known for treating victims of explosions.

Bennett’s meeting with Biden delayed over Kabul airport bombing

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s spokesman announces that the premier’s meeting with US President Joe Biden is delayed because of the bombing in Afghanistan.

British PM convenes emergency talks after Kabul airport blast

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson convenes crisis talks after a large explosion at Kabul airport, his office announces.

A Downing Street spokesperson said Johnson had been “updated on the situation at the airport in Kabul” and calls a meeting of the COBR emergencies committee for later Thursday.

US: Kabul blast was ‘result of complex attack,’ Americans among casualties

The Pentagon says the explosion outside the Kabul airport was “the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of US & civilian casualties.”

“We can also confirm at least one other explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate. We will continue to update,” tweets spokesperson John Kirby.

Russia says 2 killed, 15 hurt in Kabul airport bombing

The Russian Foreign Ministry says a suicide attack outside Kabul airport killed at least two people and wounded 15.

It is the first official report specifying a number of casualties from Thursday’s explosion, which occurred among crowds of people outside the airport.

Thousands of Afghans have flocked to the airport hoping to board a US-led airlift since the Taliban took over the country earlier this month.

US official: IS suicide bomber carried out airport attack

The Islamic State is responsible for the suicide bombing at Kabul airport, a US official tells Politico.

The terror group has yet to officially claim responsibility.

Bennett prepares for Biden meeting, in shadow of Kabul attack

Amid the chaos unfolding in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett releases a photo of his preparations for his meeting with US President Joe Biden in an hour.

Reports of second explosion at Kabul airport

US media reports a second explosion outside Kabul’s airport. There are no further details immediately available.

Taliban official: At least 13 killed, including children, in Kabul blast

A Taliban official tells Reuters the bombing outside Kabul’s airport has killed 13 people, including children.

Numerous Taliban guards are among the injured, the official says.

At least 2 US servicemen said among injured in Kabul airport explosion

Two or three American servicemen are believed to be among the injured in the Kabul airport bombing, a US official tells Reuters.

Citing American officials, US media reports are widely reporting that the attack is believed to be a suicide bombing.

Kabul blast was a suicide bombing, caused Afghan casualties — report

A US official tells Fox News that the explosion outside the airport in Kabul was a combined suicide bombing and firefight.

There are Afghan casualties, the official says, without elaborating.

The information is not immediately confirmed by US authorities.

Biden briefed on Kabul airport blast — CNN

US President Joe Biden is being briefed on the explosion outside the airport in Kabul, an official tells CNN.

The incident comes shortly before Biden’s meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Pentagon confirms blast at Kabul airport; casualties unclear

The Pentagon confirms there has been an explosion outside Kabul airport.

“Casualties are unclear at this time. We will provide additional details when we can,” tweets spokesperson John Kirby.

Large explosion heard at Kabul airport — reports

Unconfirmed reports say a large explosion has been heard at Kabul’s airport, after Western nations warned a terror attack there could be imminent.

The circumstances are unclear.

Merkel cancels visit to Israel over Afghanistan crisis — Bennett’s office

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a plenary session at the Bundestag in Berlin on August 25, 2021. (Tobias Schwarz/AFP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has canceled her upcoming trip to Israel, according to a spokesperson for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Bennett speaks with Merkel from his hotel in Washington and learns that she will not be coming to Israel next week  as planned because of the Afghanistan withdrawal and the need to pull German troops from the country, according to his office.

Bennett says he understands, and expresses his hope that the withdrawal will be successful and will be carried out without casualties. The prime minister also says that he hopes to host her in the future in Israel.

Merkel’s visit had been scheduled for August 28-30.

German media reports have said the evacuation of Germany’s troops ended on Tuesday, however.

Top court criticizes coalition over makeup of Knesset panels

Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut speaks during High Court of Justice deliberations on petitions against Benjamin Netanyahu being appointed prime minister, on May 3, 2020. (Screen capture)

The High Court of Justice urges the government to more equitably divide the Knesset’s committees between the coalition and opposition.

Addressing a petition by the opposition Likud and Shas parties, the court says that in the absence of agreements between the two sides, the coalition should see to “a more balanced makeup of the committees.”

Last month, the Knesset’s Arrangements Committee approved the makeup of the parliament’s 11 permanent committees without the opposition’s agreement. A week later, the Knesset House Committee approved the establishment of four new permanent committees. Opposition parties had complained they were not chairing any of the key Knesset committees.

The opposition has attempted to block the formation of the Knesset committees at every opportunity, in what is seen to be an effort to prevent debates on the state budget, which the government, sworn in in June, has until early November to pass.

The petition was filed by Likud MKs David Bitan, Miri Regev, Keti Shitrit and Fateen Mulla along with Shas lawmakers Moshe Arbel and Michael Malchieli. It didn’t come from the entire Likud party, many of whose members don’t believe the court should have a say in the Knesset’s work.

Canada ends Afghanistan evacuation operations

Canada says it has ended its evacuation operations in Afghanistan, where foreign governments are rushing to airlift their citizens and Afghan allies in the wake of a Taliban takeover and ahead of an August 31 deadline.

“Over the last day, our evacuation operations have ceased,” Canadian defense ministry representative Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre tells a press conference.

“We wish we could have stayed longer and rescued everyone who was so desperate to leave. That we could not is truly heartbreaking, but the circumstances on the ground rapidly deteriorated,” he adds.

Photos of Israel’s first Orthodox PM praying before Biden meet shared widely online

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett recites morning prayers at his hotel in Washington on August 25, 2021. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Two photos released by the office of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett showing Israel’s first Orthodox premier praying in his Washington hotel room, ahead of his first meeting with US President Joe Biden, are shared widely online.

The pictures were released by the PMO yesterday afternoon. He meets with the US president later today.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett recites morning prayers at his hotel in Washington on August 25, 2021. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Evidence of extensive corrosion found in collapsed Surfside condo

Crews work in the rubble of the demolished section of the Champlain Towers South building, as removal and recovery work continues at the site of the partially collapsed condo building, on July 12, 2021, in Surfside, Florida (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Video released by a team of federal investigators shows more evidence of extensive corrosion and overcrowded concrete reinforcement in a Miami-area condominium that collapsed in June, killing 98 people.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology also announces it will conduct a five-pronged investigation into the Champlain Towers South collapse, which will be led by Judith Mitrani-Reiser. She is a Cuban-born engineer who grew up in Miami.

The video shows densely packed steel reinforcement in various sections of the building, along with extensive corrosion where one column met the building’s foundation.

“The corrosion on the bottom of that column is astronomical,” Dawn Lehman, a professor of structural engineering at the University of Washington, tells the Miami Herald. She says that amount of corrosion should have been obvious and documented as part of the 40-year inspection that was ongoing when the building in Surfside, Florida, collapsed June 24.

“If there’s that amount of corrosion, this should have been fixed,” she says.

The images show beams, walls and columns that appear to be overcrowded with steel reinforcement, which suggests potential weaknesses, she explains.

“There is no reason there should be that kind of bar congestion,” Lehman says.

Crews from the United States and Israel work in the rubble Champlain Towers South condo, June 29, 2021, in Surfside, Florida. (AP/Lynne Sladky)

The risk posed by “congested” vertical rebar in columns would have been even worse in spots where the rebar overlapped, which is known as “lap splice” regions, Abieyuwa Aghayere, a Drexel University engineering researcher who also reviewed the video, tells the newspaper.

While it’s already congested with rebar, at the splice regions, it would have been “even further congested,” Aghayere tells the Herald.

He says he was struck by how “powdery” and white the concrete in columns appeared in the newly released video. Stone-like aggregates used to strengthen concrete during construction typically remain visible but they were not in the images from the collapse site.

“The white color just stuns me,” Aghayere tells the newspaper. He adds that instead of seeing aggregate material mixed into the concrete, “it’s just homogenous,” which is likely indication of saltwater damage.

He says it is impossible to tell from just the images whether the concrete used in original construction was weaker than the designs called for, or whether the apparent weakness was due to damage over time.

“It doesn’t look like normal concrete to me. What’s going on?” Aghayere says.

Archaeologists expose Torah ark of Vilna synagogue burned by Nazis

The excavation of the Great Synagogue of Vilna in Lithuania showing the area of the Torah ark and two flights of stairs destroyed by the Nazis and the Soviets, August 2021. (Jon Seligman/Israel Antiquities Authority)

A joint Israeli and Lithuanian excavation exposes the Torah ark and bimah (raised prayer platform) of the Great Synagogue of Vilna, which had been destroyed by the Nazis during the Holocaust and later razed again by the Soviets, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

A school had been built on the premises of the 17th century Vilnius synagogue and its surrounding Jewish communal center, known as the Shulhoyf, which had been burned down by the Nazis. The Soviets in 1956-1957 destroyed what remained.

“When we arrived to excavate the aron kodesh and the bimah, from which generations of Jews read the Torah scroll for 300 consecutive years, it became clear, unfortunately, that the core of the synagogue had been greatly damaged by Soviet destruction. Still, two impressive staircases, clearly visible in the many images of the synagogue before its destruction, were discovered and are evidence of their existence,” according to Dr. Jon Seligman of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Justinas Rakas, of the Kultūros paveldo Išsaugojimo pajėgos.

“In addition, the excavation of the bimah was completed including the entire façade of the bimah and the complete remains of one of the four huge pillars that supported the roof of the Great Synagogue.”

(Hebrew video shows the finds here.)

This morning, the archeologists make another discovery at the site.

“Just this morning, while sifting the soil in front of the aron kodesh, we found a silver yad. The yad is a pointer used to read from the Torah scroll,” the IAA says in a statement.

The silver Yad found this morning at the Great Synagogue of Vilna (Courtesy/Jon Seligman, Israel Antiquities Authority)

IDF: False rocket alarm caused by technical issue, not cyber attack

The false alarm earlier in the day that triggered sirens throughout southern Israel was caused by a “technical malfunction,” not a cyber attack, the military says.

The Israel Defense Forces says the malfunction occurred during a “routine test of the alert system.”

“During this test and afterwards, there was no damage to the operational capacity of the alert system,” the military says.

Russia says it hasn’t decided yet whether to recognize Taliban

The Kremlin says that Russia will closely follow the developments in Afghanistan before making a decision on whether to recognize the Taliban’s rule.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov says that Moscow will watch the Taliban’s “future steps to ensure order and security of the country’s citizens and provide security for the Russian diplomats.”

Peskov emphasizes that Russia wants to see peace and stability in Afghanistan and hopes that efforts will be taken to stem the flow of drugs coming from the country.

Moscow, which fought a 10-year war in Afghanistan that ended with the Soviet troops’ withdrawal in 1989, has made a diplomatic comeback as a mediator over the past few years, reaching out to feuding Afghan factions including the Taliban even though the group was added to the Russian list of terrorist organizations in 2003.

Bennett-Biden meeting set for 6:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) and US President Joe Biden. (Composite/AP)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is set to meet US President Joe Biden in the White House at 6:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. EST).

Bennett is in Washington for the first time since becoming prime minister, holding a series of meetings with top administration officials, with the Iranian nuclear threat the most pressing issue on his agenda.

Yesterday Bennett met with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

Health Ministry to reconsider school openings as COVID cases spike

Illustrative: Israeli schoolkids wearing face masks return to school in Tel Aviv on February 11, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Health Ministry will reconsider the scheduled opening of the school year on September 1, as COVID infections in the country spike, a representative of the ministry tells a Knesset panel.

“In the coming days there will be a reevaluation of the reopening of the school year,” says Ilana Gens, who oversees public health services, according to Hebrew reports.

The move comes as the number of active coronavirus cases in the country approaches 80,000, with 8,880 new infections diagnosed Wednesday.

Egypt reopens Gaza crossing as Israel eases restrictions

Members of Palestinan security forces stand guard at the closed off Rafah border crossing to Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 23, 2021 (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Egypt partially reopens the Rafah crossing with the Gaza Strip, allowing one-way traffic into Palestinian enclave, as Israel eases import restrictions.

Rafah, Gaza’s only gateway to the outside world not controlled by Israel, was shuttered on Monday by Egypt, which gave no reason for the move.

But it came after Gazans on Saturday staged protests and violent riots along the border with Israel. A Palestinian rioter was killed, dozens of others were injured and an Israeli soldier was in critical condition from a gunshot wound.

Egypt, a key mediator between Israel and Hamas, has previously used Rafah closures as a punitive measure against the Gaza rulers.

Late Wednesday, Hamas’s interior ministry announced that Rafah would open to incoming traffic on Thursday and to two-way traffic on Sunday.

People had begun to cross after midday, an AFP journalist says.

The Israeli military branch responsible for civil affairs in Palestinian territories (COGAT) says more goods would be allowed to enter Gaza from Thursday, including “equipment for international civilian projects” and new vehicles, among other measures, it says in a statement.

Israel also agrees to boost by 1,000 the number of merchants allowed through its Erez crossing to Gaza.

“The civilian measures approved by the political echelon are conditional upon the continued preservation of the region’s security stability, while further expansion of these measures will be examined in accordance with a situational security assessment,” COGAT adds.

NYT: Netanyahu reduced intel-sharing with US on Iran when Biden took office

Left: US President Joe Biden speaks about Russia in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, April 15, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik); Right: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a memorial ceremony for fallen soldiers at the Yad LeBanim House on the eve of Memorial Day, in Jerusalem, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (Debbie Hill/Pool Photo via AP)

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu scaled back Israel’s intelligence-sharing with the United States when President Joe Biden took office, according to a New York Times report.

According to the report, the US is increasingly dependent on Israeli intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program, as Tehran has effectively cracked down on the American spy network in the country.

But Israel, American and Israeli officials say, has withheld information to prevent the US government from curtailing its covert military operations to obstruct Iran’s nuclear program. This was the case with the strike on the Natanz nuclear plant in Iran, attributed to Israel in April, when the White House was given two hours’ notice of the plan, the report says.

The report says Netanyahu’s distrust for Biden was the reason for the policy change. Some Israeli officials quoted in the report say the move was over fears Washington would leak the information, as US administrations did with other operations. American officials deny the charge.

According to the report, former Mossad intelligence chief Yossi Cohen tried to patch up the relationship two weeks after the Natanz bombing, meeting Biden and CIA officials in Washington to discuss the issue. He was given a warm reception, the report says.

The report comes as Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Biden are set to hold their first meeting today.

read more:
comments