Maccabi Tel Aviv to play Chelsea, Porto in Champions League
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Maccabi Tel Aviv to play Chelsea, Porto in Champions League

Team qualifies for group stage of European soccer competition after tying with FC Basel in home game Tuesday

View of the settlement of Givat Zeev, near Jerusalem. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
View of the settlement of Givat Zeev, near Jerusalem. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

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

Barenboim confirms talks on Tehran concert

Israeli-Argentinian conductor Daniel Barenboim is hoping to take one of Germany’s top orchestras to Iran to perform a concert there, the Berlin State Opera says, drawing angry protests from Israel.

Barenboim, 72, who is general music director of the German capital’s flagship opera house, the State Opera, “is in talks with Iran about a possible concert in Tehran by the Staatskapelle Berlin,” the house says in an emailed statement.

Israel’s Culture Minister Miri Regev said yesterday that she intended to send a letter of protest to German Chancellor Angela Merkel calling on her to block the concert.

Approved as UN envoy, Danon says he’ll represent Israel ‘with pride’

New Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon says that he will represent Israel “with pride, a sense of mission and national responsibility.”

“There is no other democracy in the world that is surrounded by enemies in the form of terrorist organizations, without scruples or morals, whose main aspiration is our annihilation,” he says. “Even so, Israel finds itself under frequent attack in the international arena. It is up to us to fight this contradiction with all of our might.”

PM taps Akunis as new space minister

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to appoint Ofir Akunis as the new minister of science, technology and space, to replace Danny Danon, who was sworn in today as the new ambassador to the UN.

Akunis will serve in the post along with his current position as minister with responsibility for the Israel Broadcasting Authority. The appointment will be brought to the Knesset for approval next week.

“I thank the prime minister for his trust,” Akunis says. “I am proud to head the ministry that is the engine for growth of Israeli industry. Israel’s amazing achievements and breakthroughs in science and technology are known around the world, and the challenge before me is to continue promoting and encouraging Israeli innovation and preventing a brain drain.”

— Raphael Ahren

Facebook test-drives challenge to Siri — report

Facebook Inc. is testing a personal digital assistant to operate within its Messenger application, Bloomberg says.

According to the report, this is a first step toward challenging similar artificial intelligence-based services, such as Siri, which runs on Apple’s iPhones and iPads, and Google Now, which is found on Google’s Android operating system for mobile devices.

EU envoy warns of more anti-settlement steps

The European Union’s outgoing envoy to the Palestinian territories says the 28-nation bloc is moving forward with measures against Israel’s West Bank settlements.

John Gatt-Rutter does not provide a timeframe, but says “there is support within the union to go on.” He says there are “more tools” the EU can use.

The EU, Israel’s biggest trading partner, is exploring guidelines that would require Israel to label settlement products. It already bars goods produced in settlements from receiving customs exemptions given to Israeli goods.

— AP

Palestinians set date for first PNC congress in 20 years

Palestinian leaders have set September 15-16 as the dates for the first Palestine National Council congress in nearly 20 years, after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced his resignation as head of the PLO executive.

The meeting of the PNC, which represents those in the Palestinian territories and the diaspora, is to be held in Ramallah.

“It has been decided to ask the Palestine National Council to convene for a session on the upcoming 15th and 16th September in Ramallah,” says senior Palestinian official Azzam al-Ahmad. “The council’s agenda includes electing a new executive committee for the (Palestine Liberation Organization).”

Ahmad says the congress will also discuss the stalemate in peace talks with Israel, among other issues.


Torah Sages give Litzman the nod for health ministry

The Council of Torah Sages gives Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman its blessing to become the first ever minister from the United Torah Judaism, Haaretz says.

The High Court on Sunday gave the state 60 days to appoint a full minister to the post, which is currently held by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Until now, the members of Litzman’s ultra-Orthodox, non-Zionist party have opted not to be appointed full ministers on religious ideological grounds.

Dozens of migrants found dead in truck in Austria

Dozens of migrants have been found dead inside a truck on a highway in Austria, police said Thursday.

The vehicle, which contained up to 50 bodies, was found on a parking strip off the highway in Burgenland state, police spokesman Hans Peter Doskozil said at a press conference.


British Museum to showcase world’s oldest bible

The British Library is lending the world’s oldest bible to fellow London institute the British Museum, for an exhibit that explores “1,200 years of Christian, Islamic and Jewish faith in Egypt after the pharaohs,” the Guardian says.

“It is quite phenomenal they they are able to lend it to us,” says Elisabeth O’Connell, assistant keeper in the British Museum’s department of ancient Egypt and Sudan, according to the Guardian. “We are absolutely thrilled.”

The Codex Sinaiticus, or Sinai Codex, was found in Sinai in 1844, and is dated to the 4th century CE. The Greek manuscript includes sections of the Old Testament and the entire New Testament. From the Old Testament it includes sections of Genesis, Leviticus and Numbers, as well as parts of the books of Esther, Isaiah, Lamentations and Jeremiah.

‘Iran embassy’ banner in Tel Aviv revealed as movie PR stunt

A massive banner in central Tel Aviv claiming to announce the imminent opening of an Iranian embassy in Israel has been revealed as a publicity stunt for a new Israeli movie.

The banner appeared in recent days opposite Rabin Square, and reads: “The Iranian embassy in Israel will open here soon,” and is accompanied by the Israeli and Iranian flags and a phone number with a Tel Aviv area code.

The film, “Atomic Falafel,” is directed by Dror Shaul, and opens in Israeli cinemas next month. It tells the tale of an Israeli girl and Iranian girl who work together via social media to prevent a nuclear war.


Abbas reopens NGO following EU pressure

Palestinian officials say European intervention has led Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to rescind his decision to shutter an internationally funded peace center run by political rival Yasser Abed Rabbo, Reuters reports.

The Palestinian Peace Coalition (PPC) promotes an unofficial peace plan known as the Geneva Initiative, in conjunction with Israeli counterpart Heskem.

Muhammad al-Madani, Abbas’s liaison with Israeli society, denied last week that the coalition was closed by presidential decree, insisting that it only lost its government involvement.

Wiesenthal Center urges Merkel to cancel Iran trip

The Simon Wiesenthal Center writes to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, asking her to cancel a planned visit to Tehran in October.

The center’s director for international relations, Shimon Samuels, also expresses “astonish[ment] at news that you are to be accompanied by the Berlin Staatskapelle, led by its musical director, Daniel Barenboim.” The Israeli-Argentinian conductor is in talks over a performance by the Berlin State Opera in Tehran.

The letter also highlights recent comments by an Iranian official, who said that Israel “should be annihilated” and that the thawing relations with the West would not translate into a shift in Tehran’s position concerning the Jewish state.

IS kills two Iraqi generals, makes gains in Syria

Two Iraqi generals die in a suicide attack claimed by the Islamic State group in the key battleground province of Anbar, as the jihadists make gains in northern Syria.

Iraqi military spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool says a suicide bomber in an explosives-rigged vehicle struck the Al-Jaraishi area north of Ramadi as Iraqi forces advanced.

The attack killed the deputy head of the Anbar Operations Command, Staff Major General Abdulrahman Abu Raghif, and 10th Division commander Staff Brigadier General Safin Abdulmajid, Rasool says.


Merkel: Deaths of migrants in Austria truck is a ‘warning’

The “horrible” discovery Thursday of between 20 and 50 dead migrants on a truck in Austria is a warning to Europe to come to grips with the migrant crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

“We were all shaken by the horrible news that up to 50 people died… although these were people coming to seek safety,” Merkel said in Vienna. “This is a warning to work to resolve this problem and show solidarity.”


Israel’s Gerbi 5th in judo world championship

Israeli judoka Yarden Gerbi finishes in fifth place in the under-63 kilogram division in the World Judo Championships in Kazakhstan, Ynet reports.

Gerbi won three fights before losing her semifinal match against her friend Clarisse Agbegnenou of France, with an ippon in extra time.

On Tuesday, Israeli judoka Golan Pollack won the bronze medal in the men’s under-66 kilogram weight class.

Police arrest 2 at far-rightist conference

Police swoop in on a right-wing conference on the recent administrative detentions for suspected Jewish extremists, and arrest two people for violating a ban on attending such gatherings, the NRG website reports.

Among those present were Bentzi Gopstein, the head of the anti-integration Lehava organization, and far-right extremists Baruch Marzel and Noam Federman.

The Honenu organization, which offers legal aid to Israeli Jews suspected of nationalist attacks, says that “large numbers” of police arrived at the community center in Nof Ayalon, where the conference was taking place, while NRG says that there were only a few police cars were spotted at the site.

Top Revolutionary Guards officer dies in Syria – reports

A senior officer in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has been killed by Syrian rebels near the northwestern city of Latakia, Channel 10 quotes Arabic-language media outlets as saying.

The reports say that Ahmad Hiari died of his wounds in hospital after he was shot by rebels, Channel 10 said.

According to a site associated with the Revolutionary Guards, Hiari was visited by the Iranian ambassador to Syria during his hospitalization.

Study names Israel a top spot for raising family

Israel ranks fourth in the world for raising a family, according to a new study.

The 2015 Family Life Index poll asks expat parents to rate the country to which they moved for quality, cost and availability of childcare and education.

Topping the list is Austria, followed by Finland, Sweden and then Israel.

The only Arab state on the list is Bahrain, which is ranked No. 19.

IAEA says Iran has expanded Parchin military facility

The UN nuclear watchdog says in a report obtained by Reuters that Iran “appears to have built an extension to part of its Parchin military site since May.”

Reuters quotes the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report as saying that “since (our) previous report (in May), at a particular location at the Parchin site, the agency has continued to observe, through satellite imagery, the presence of vehicles, equipment, and probable construction materials. In addition, a small extension to an existing building appears to have constructed.”

Iran and the IAEA have agreed upon a “roadmap” under which Tehran has to provide the agency with sufficient information about its prior atomic activity for a report by the end of the year.

Jewish cafe re-opens in Shanghai

A cafe in Shanghai that was a popular meeting place for Jewish refugees during World War II is open again, according to the news website Shanghaiist.

The Zum Weissag Rossi’l Cafe, or White Horse Cafe, originally opened in 1939. It opened again in a ceremony Wednesday after being rebuilt, Shanghaiist says.

“A lot of people visited, Jewish people and non-Jewish people,” says Ron Klinger, 74, the cafe co-founder’s grandson, who grew up in the cafe, according to Shanghaiist. “It was like [a] cafe, bar and nightclub. It was very popular.”


Democratic congresswoman opposes Iran deal

Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) says she will oppose the agreement reached last month between Iran and the P5+1 world powers to regulate the former’s nuclear program, saying that the deal does not guarantee that Tehran will not eventually acquire atomic weapons.

“I have given the agreement, which is one of the most important issues to come before the US Congress in decades, the thoughtful and detailed study it deserves,” Maloney writes in an announcement on her website. “There are strong arguments for and against the agreement but, as a matter of conscience, I have decided to oppose it.”

She continues: “This is an agreement with a nation that has not honored its non-proliferation commitments in the past. I am concerned that, even if Iran complies with the restraints spelled out throughout the life of the agreement, the deal does not block Iran from eventually acquiring nuclear weapons. It could also make the region even more dangerous by giving Iran access to financial resources, weapons and power.”

Monaco apologizes for deporting Jews in WWII

Monaco’s Prince Albert II apologizes for his country’s role in deporting Jews to Nazi camps during World War II — more than seven decades after police rounded up scores of people from the seaside principality.

“To say this today is to recognize a fact. To say it today, on this day, before you, is to ask forgiveness,” Albert says, as he unveils a monument at the Monaco cemetery carved with the names of Monaco’s deported Jews.

“We committed the irreparable in handing over to the neighboring authorities women, men and a child who had taken refuge with us to escape the persecutions they had suffered in France,” says the prince.

European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor says in response, “We welcome today’s event and the desire of the principality to properly examine its role during these dark days of the Nazi occupation.”

— AP

Settlers move into East Jerusalem building

Dozens of settlers have moved into a 12-apartment building in the East Jerusalem village of Silwan, saying it was sold to the right-wing Ateret Cohanim organization, local residents say.

The Palestinian news agency Ma’an quotes the Wadi Hilweh Information Center as saying that more than 60 settlers entered the building in the Batn al-Hawa neighborhood at 2:30 a.m. The settlers were accompanied by IDF troops, Ma’an says.

Ateret Cohanim has in recent weeks issued an evacuation notice for the building, Israel’s Haaretz daily says, on the grounds that the true owners are Jews. The newspaper says the building’s Palestinian owners have apparently reached some kind of monetary arrangement with the organization.

Trump: Iran negotiators saw Kerry as ‘a schmuck’

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump lampoons US Secretary of State John Kerry, saying his Iranian counterparts in the recently completed nuclear negotiations must have thought him “a schmuck.”

“Having a deal is good, but we should have doubled then tripled up the sanctions and negotiated from strength,” Trump tells his supporters at a rally in Dubuque, Iowa. on Tuesday. “Instead we have Kerry, that goes on bicycle races… he falls, he breaks his leg, this is our chief negotiator, he’s walking in (and) they’re looking at him like ‘what a schmuck.'”

The businessman and former TV host also accused the secretary of state of being stupid.

“I watched the chief negotiator being interviewed by Charlie (Rose), and after five minutes I tweeted… ‘this guy is too smart for Kerry.’ I was right,” he said.

(Trump begins talking about the Iran deal at 40:20)

Swiss envoy calls Iran ‘pole of stability’ in Mideast

Switzerland’s ambassador to Iran says the Islamic Republic is a “pole of stability” in the Middle East, and calls on companies to make the most of a market about to re-open after years of sanctions, Reuters reports.

“Iran seems still for a lot of people to be bearded, elderly gentlemen with turbans. You see them, but you see not a lot of them, especially when you’re dealing with business,” Ambassador Giulio Haas tells a conference of some 500 Swiss business people in Zurich, according to Reuters.

Haas says his close to two years in Tehran have made him certain that the West is about change its opinion of Iran as an aggressor.

“Iran at the moment is most probably the pole of stability in a very, very unsafe region,” he says.

Palestinians want their flag raised at UN

The Palestinians are asking the United Nations to raise their flag at the world body ahead of next month’s meeting of heads of state.

The move comes as the Palestinians seek to bolster their bid for statehood despite fierce opposition from Israel.

A draft resolution is presented to the General Assembly requesting that the flags of the state of Palestine and the Holy See be hoisted alongside those of the 193 member states.

The Vatican told the Palestinians not to include them in the flag initiative. Both the Vatican and the Palestinians have non-member status at the United Nations.

The resolution, co-sponsored by 21 countries including Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, could come up for a vote before September 15.

Pope Francis is due to address the opening session of the UN General Assembly during his upcoming US visit.


Maccabi Tel Aviv to play Chelsea, Porto in Champions League

Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer team is facing some tough matches in the group stages of the Champions League, drawing English team Chelsea, Portugal’s Porto, and Dynamo Kiev of Ukraine as its group opponents.

Maccabi made it through the next round of the prestigious European competition on Tuesday, after tying 1-1 with FC Basel in a second leg home game at the Bloomfield Stadium. The 24th minute goal by Eran Zahavi gave the home side a final score of 3-3 on aggregate, enough to push the team through.

Hamas shows off restored tunnels in new video

The Hamas military wing releases a video showing renovated tunnels it uses to move weapons under Gaza and launch attacks on Israeli targets, according to the Ynet website.

The video shows Hamas fighters inside one of the tunnels, as well as engaging in intelligence-gathering and fighting in a built-up area, Ynet says.

US believes British IS hacker died in Syria airstrike

US defense officials believe a recent airstrike killed Junaid Hussain, a British hacker for the Islamic State. More than just a hacker for the Islamic State, Hussain is believed to be a key figure in the group as a recruiter.

Two officials say the airstrike was conducted in recent days in or near Raqqa, the Syrian city that the Islamic State considers its capital, and that it apparently killed Hussain. The officials are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and so are speaking on condition of anonymity.

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, says recent US airstrikes have targeted Islamic State leaders but has no specifics to announce.

— AP

Car hits Palestinian teen riding donkey in West Bank

A 13-year-old Palestinian boy is in serious condition after a car hit him while he was riding his donkey in the area of Migdalim Junction in the northern West Bank, Israel’s Maariv website says.

The boy is treated for his head injuries by IDF medics and Magen David Adom personnel before he is evacuated to Beilinson Medical Center in the central town of Petah Tikva.

PM in Milan: Italy, Israel can play bigger role in Africa growth

Israel wants to use its leading edge in agricultural innovation to help improve food production across Africa, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says during visit to Milan.

Visiting Israel’s pavilion at the World Expo on the outskirts of the city, Netanyahu says cooperation with Italy in Africa would be top of his agenda at talks with his Italian counterpart Matteo Renzi in Florence on Saturday.

The PM. who is on his first major overseas trip since being re-elected in June, says Israel is a pioneer in the fields of drip-irrigation, water recycling and desalination.

“We have ten times the population we had when the state was founded 67 years ago, and half the rainfall, yet we have no water problems because we were able to solve this with all these techniques,” he says. “Now we are prepared – and are already doing our share to take this information to people around the world so they can have water, they can have crops, they can have cows that produce more milk and many other things that offer betterment for mankind.”

Netanyahu says that while “Italy and Israel are today cooperating in one African country to better their agriculture,” it could be many more.

“Why one? Why not twenty, why not thirty? If we pool our resources, our knowledge, our technology we can help many, many countries in Africa to not only better agriculture and to better life,” he says.


Jerusalemites protest Shabbat store closures

Dozens of people protest in Jerusalem over the recent move by the city council to enforce the closure of shops on Shabbat, Israel Radio says.

Corner shops or “kiosks” in downtown Jerusalem have been told that will have to remain closed on Shabbat or face heavy fines. Secular councilmen say the crackdown aims to placate ultra-Orthodox residents as the newly built Yes Planet cinema complex and a large cafe in the city center will remain open on Friday nights.


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