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Israel says it foiled bid to smuggle Iran-made explosives over Jordan border

Censor okays publication of new details into July incident near Ashdot Ya’akov; officials suspect weapons were brought in for use by terror groups in the West Bank

Israeli soldiers stand guard at a roadblock following a shooting attack in the West Bank in the Jordan Valley, Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)
Israeli soldiers stand guard at a roadblock following a shooting attack in the West Bank in the Jordan Valley, Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they occurred.

Libyan political rivals slam premier over diplomatic opening with Israel

Following revelations by Foreign Minister Eli Cohen that he met with his Libyan counterpart Najla Mangoush last week in Italy, Libyan presidential candidate Suleiman al-Bayoudi calls to exclude the current internationally recognized prime minister Abdul Hamid al-Dbeibeh from the upcoming elections.

In a post on his Facebook account, al-Bayoudi accuses al-Dbeibeh, leader of a unity government, of promoting normalization with Israel to curry American favor, and says that he has “nothing but Israel’s card to throw in the face of his opponents, after playing all his other cards to continue to remain in power… Israel is the last straw he’s grasping before he drowns.”

“Relations with Israel can only be established after a national consensus has been reached within the framework of elected institutions, and with considerations to all relevant aspects, including the question of Libyan Jews,” he adds.

The meeting between the two top diplomats in Rome, which took place under the auspices of Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, was, according to presidential rival al-Bayoudi, “the confirmation that Dbeibeh intends to keep ruling without running for office.”

Al-Bayoudi calls for al-Dbeibeh’s final exclusion from the elections, for which no date has been set yet but may take place by the end of this year, according to the UN Libya envoy.

Khaled al-Mishri, a former head of Libya’s High State Council affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, also expresses his condemnation of the top-level meeting between Libya and Israel, suggesting that it is probably not the first one, and saying that the “Dbeibeh government has crossed all red lines and must be overthrown,” according to the news website al-Anwan al-Libiya.

Meanwhile, Raphael Faelino Luzon, chairman of the Union of Libyan Jews, writes on his Facebook profile in Arabic that “a lot of work took place behind the scenes to reach this agreement,” sparking speculations among the Libyan press that he may have played a role in organizing the meeting.

Two arrested on trafficking suspicions after Georgian dies near Dead Sea

Two people have reportedly been arrested in connection with a foreign national found dead in the Dead Sea region, suspected to be a victim of human trafficking.

The man, a Georgian national who is thought to have died of heat stroke, was found along with five others in a closed military zone in the region early Sunday and given medical attention.

The five included two Israelis from Bat Yam, who are being held on suspicion of smuggling the group of foreigners, two Georgians and two Sri Lankans, into Israel.

One of the pair of Israelis was rescued in serious medical distress, according to the Haaretz news site, while the others were listed as having only light injuries.

With few screens, ‘Golda’ opens to $1.7 million at US box office

She may have been Israel’s first female prime minister, but Golda Meir seemingly pales in comparison to an 11.5-inch doll (who has been to space and was America’s first female president).

Guy Nattiv’s biopic about the domineering Israeli politician, played by Helen Mirren, opened to $1.7 million over the weekend, according to studio estimates cited by

This image released by Bleecker Street shows Helen Mirren as Golda Meir in a scene from the film ‘Golda.’ (Bleecker Street via AP)

That beat out (barely) the 30th-anniversary release of “Jurassic Park,” but not much else, falling well behind “Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story” and “Barbie,” which each grossed over $17 million to lead the pack.

“Golda” only opened in a relatively paltry 883 theaters nationwide, meaning its average take was actually in fifth place overall, behind the two frontrunners, last week’s top film, the DC Comics release “Blue Beetle,” and Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” about the Jewish physicist.

Attempt to smuggle Iranian-made explosives foiled last month, Israel says

The military has cleared for publication that security forces foiled an attempt to smuggle Iranian-made explosives into Israel from Jordan last month.

The smuggling was foiled on July 24 in the Jordan Valley just south of the Sea of Galilee, near the Ashdot Ya’akov kibbutz.

Initially, few details were permitted for publication.

Authorities believe the explosives were being spirited in for use by terror groups in the West Bank.

Weapons smuggling from Jordan is a constant challenge for Israel, along its long, porous eastern border, and in the West Bank. Officials believe most guns are being used in underworld crime, and have vowed to crack down as part of an effort to end years of bloodshed in the Arab community.

According to police data, security authorities have seized 506 handguns, 24 assault rifles, and eight explosives, in 26 separate smuggling attempts on the Jordan border since the beginning of the year.

Last week, the Shin Bet security agency revealed that in July, four Israeli citizens were arrested for suspected ties to the Hezbollah terror group, and were allegedly involved in smuggling Iranian-made explosive devices into the country.

Public diplomacy czar fires ministry head attacked as ‘leftist’

Israel’s minister in charge of selling the embattled country to the world has fired her top official, even as the nation’s reputation takes hits from even some of its formerly closest friends.

Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distal Atbaryan announces that she has dismissed Gali Sambira over “dissatisfaction with her professional work.”

Sambira had come under fire from members of the government, who urged Distal Atbaryan to fire her due to her supposed “leftist” political views, the Ynet news site reports.

According to Walla, Sambira, a feminist activist, had asked to leave the post several weeks ago once it became clear she couldn’t do her work, but Distal Atbaryan denied the report at the time.

Sambira had been one of only two ministry directors still left in place from the last government, according to the news site, amid concerns that positions once filled by technocrats are instead being politicized.

The move comes hours after the cabinet okayed the appointment of an official to head the public diplomacy office within the Prime Minister’s Office.

Israel invests vast efforts on public diplomacy, also called hasbara, aimed at battling bad press about the state and boosting its image abroad. Critics say the government’s judicial overhaul, and its tacit support for violent settler activity, have turned the nation into a veritable pariah abroad.

Protesters rally at top bureaucrat’s house over threat to Companies Authority head

Hundreds of people are reportedly protesting outside the home of the country’s civil service commissioner, over reports he plans to hold a meeting on firing Government Companies Authority Director Michal Rosenbaum, the Ynet news site reports.

Rosenbaum has been repeatedly targeted for firing by Regional Cooperation Minister David Amsalem, who claims she is not suitable for the job. She claims he is seeking to remove her because she refused to carry out his “illegitimate demands, especially in the realm of appointments and wages.”

Earlier in the day, the Globes news website reported that Civil Service Commissioner Daniel Hershkowitz was planning on meeting Amsalem on the issue Monday.

Elsewhere, dozens of protesters are gathered outside an Israel Defense Forces training base near Paredes Hanna to demonstrate against a decision there last week to bar women from singing in deference to religious soldiers, Ynet reports.

Trump team says over $7 million raised since mugshot

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign says it has raised $7.1 million since the Republican billionaire’s mugshot was released after he was booked on racketeering and conspiracy charges at a Georgia jail this week.

T-shirts, mugs, stickers and beverage coolers bearing the mug shot — arguably now the most famous in US history — were put out by Trump’s team within hours of the photo’s release.

“Close to $20m raised in the last 3 weeks, coinciding with the DC indictment and Atlanta mugshot,” campaign spokesman Steven Cheung confirmed to AFP on Sunday.

“$7.1m since Thursday (Atlanta mugshot). $4.18m yesterday alone, the highest grossing day of the entire campaign,” he continued.

“Organic money has skyrocketed, especially after President Trump tweeted out the picture along with the website.”

AFP cannot independently verify the claims.

Court rejects Rothman request for restraining orders on protesters

A judge has ruled that MK Simcha Rothman cannot demand restraining orders on 400 activists who he feared would protest him while on vacation over the weekend.

Magistrate’s court judge Naeel Mohana initially shortened Rothman’s request from every member of a WhatsApp group dedicated to hounding him over the judicial overhaul to three specific activists. But he also rejects the request for restraining orders on the trio, saying the protest is legitimate speech and he sees no reason to curtail it.

However, the judge also suggests that protests against Rothman when his children are present be limited, to avoid their pictures being taken and distributed against their parents’ wishes.

Rothman, one of the architects of the overhaul, has had a number of run-ins with protesters, including a May incident in which snatched a megaphone from a protester marching behind him while walking in New York City.

OECD ranks Israel as group’s most expensive country

Illustrative: Israeli shoppers buy food from the frozen section of Rami Levi supermarket in Talpiot, Jerusalem. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative: Israeli shoppers buy food from the frozen section of Rami Levi supermarket in Talpiot, Jerusalem. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Israeli cost of living is the highest among the developed world, OECD data shows.

Israel ranks in first place in a list of developed countries with the highest cost of living in 2022, data published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows.

In Israel, prices were 38% higher than the average in OECD member countries, according to the comparative index. The ranking is based on price movements as measured by consumer price indices, and uses market exchange rates for purchasing power parities.

In second place in the table is Switzerland, closely followed by Iceland in third place, and the US in fourth place. The cheapest countries are Turkey, followed by India and Colombia.

Kisch says all efforts being made to avoid school strike

Education Minister Yoav Kisch says he is doing everything to make sure high schools open on time on September 1, as teachers gird for the possibility of a long-haul strike, the Ynet news website reports.

“We’re in intensive talks, and we’ll keep at it until white smoke emerges,” Kisch says, using a papal metaphor. “We’re making every effort to come to an agreement and I’m sure in the coming days we’ll have a breakthrough.”

High school teachers are pushing for a new collective bargaining agreement, threatening to delay the start of the school year if there’s no agreement by Friday.

Kisch tells the station that his ministry’s staff will meet with treasury officials Monday.

On Saturday, union boss Ran Erez promised that teachers would not back down from their demands.

“One hundred percent there will be a strike on September 1st. We are determined not to open the school year and are preparing for a long strike,” he told Channel 13 news.

Foreign minister met with Libyan counterpart, in historic first, Israel says

Libyan Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush speaks at the opening session of the meeting of Arab foreign ministers, in the capital Tripoli, on January 22, 2023. (Mahmud Turkia/AFP)
Libyan Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush speaks at the opening session of the meeting of Arab foreign ministers, in the capital Tripoli, on January 22, 2023. (Mahmud Turkia/AFP)

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met with Libyan counterpart Najla Mangoush last week in Italy, the Foreign Ministry announces, marking the first-ever official meeting between the countries’ top diplomats.

The two met to discuss the possibility of cooperation and the preservation of Jewish heritage sites in Libya. Israeli humanitarian aid and help with agriculture, water management and more were brought up, Israel says.

Cohen calls the meeting “historic” and a “first step” in the creation of ties between the countries.

Libya plunged into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The country split in the chaos that followed, with rival administrations in the east and west backed by rogue militias and foreign governments.

While Israel and Libya have never had ties, there have long been reported contacts between Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam and Israeli officials. The mercurial Gaddafi himself also apparently reached out to Israel on a number of occasions, including to push his proposal for a united Israeli-Palestinian Isratine.

Man shot in central Tel Aviv, suspect collared, motive likely criminal

A man has been rushed to a hospital after being shot in central Tel Aviv, authorities say.

The motive of the shooting is under investigation, but officials believe that it is related to domestic crime and not terror, according to a police statement. A suspect is arrested a short time later.

The victim, 63, suffers a gunshot wound to his abdomen. Police say the man is in serious condition, but the Magen David Adom rescue service lists his condition as moderate.

The shooting took place on Yehuda Halevi Street, just south of the city center.

Yesh Atid puts kibosh on partnering with Otzma Yehudit on local level

Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid is forbidding branches of the party from joining any local council in which the far-right Otzma Yehudit is also a member, the faction says on X.

Yesh Atid has dozens of branches around the country, rivalling the Labor party as the flagship of the center-left in cities around the country.

The statement demands that local factions entering a coalition insist on an agreement committing to not add Otzma Yehudit to the coalition.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid speaks at a conference in Tel Aviv on February 23, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

“Our goal is to build local coalitions with liberal representatives who will safeguard local authorities as strong bastions of liberal democracies working for their citizens,” Lapid is quoted saying in the tweet.

While the idea of a Yesh Atid alliance with the extreme right Otzma Yehudit on the national level seems farfetched, local political dynamics can sometimes create strange bedfellows.

Hadera victims had been visiting son from France, neighbor says

New reported details are emerging about a grisly Hadera slaying this afternoon in which a man is suspected of killing his father and attacking his mother.

A neighbor tells media the suspect lived in the apartment for some nine years and was visited by his parents, who live in Paris, twice a year.

According to the neighbor, the man’s behavior had not raised any red flags in the past.

“They bought him the apartment and helped out financially. They would come each time for a month. They have kids and grandkids in France,” the woman is quoted telling Haaretz.

According to reports, police busted into the home as screams emerged from within. When they entered, the man was trying to attack his mother, but they managed to pull her away by tasing the man.

Channel 12 news reports, without a source, that the victim was beheaded.

Backing spyware panel, Smotrich says essential to ensure police work is ‘clean’

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich says his support for a state panel that will probe police for their use of spyware is based on the shared desire for “strong, independent” enforcement authorities, despite concerns that it will allow the government to interfere in ongoing cases, including against politicians.

“The need for enforcement authorities with clean hands fully protecting civil and personal rights, which are a keystone of the rule of law, is an essential need and there is no argument,” he writes on X.

“If some of the enforcement authorities’ work was flawed, heaven forfend, I’m confident it’s a prime interest of all authorities to find and be rid of the scourge,” he adds.

Iran goes after pop singer for anti-headscarf tune

Authorities in Iran have begun legal proceedings against a prominent pop singer over his latest song urging women to take off their mandatory headscarves, the judiciary says.

The action against Mehdi Yarrahi comes almost a year after the death in custody of Iranian Kurd Mahsa Amini, 22, triggered months of protests around the country.

Amini had been arrested for alleged breach of the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code requiring that a woman’s head and neck be covered.

Yarrahi, 41, on Friday released a song called “Roosarito,” which means “Your Headscarf” in Persian, expressing support for last year’s protest movement.

“A legal case was filed against Mehdi Yarrahi following the release of an illegal song which defies the morals and customs of the Islamic society,” the judiciary’s Mizan Online website says.

It was not immediately clear what the formal charges were. Yarrahi was not in custody.

Greece asks for help as massive wildfires stretch resources

More than 600 firefighters, including reinforcements from several European countries and backed by a fleet of water-dropping planes and helicopters, are struggling to contain three major wildfires in Greece, two of which have been raging for days.

A massive blaze in the country’s northeastern regions of Evros and Alexandroupolis, believed to have caused 20 of the 21 wildfire-related deaths in the past week in Greece, was burning for a ninth day.

The blaze, where smaller fires combined to form one of the largest single wildfires ever to have struck a European Union country, has decimated vast tracts of forest and burned homes in outlying areas of the city of Alexandroupolis.

On the northwestern fringes of the Greek capital, another major wildfire has been blazing for days, scorching homes and burning into the national park on Mount Parnitha, one of the last green areas near Athens. The fire department said 260 firefighters, one plane and three helicopters were trying to tame the flames.

A third major wildfire started on Saturday on the Cycladic island of Andros and was still burning out of control Sunday, with 73 firefighters, two planes and two helicopters dousing the blaze. Lightning strikes are suspected of having sparked that wildfire.

Greece has been plagued by daily outbreaks of dozens of fires over the past week as gale-force winds and hot, dry summer conditions combined to whip up flames and hamper firefighting efforts. On Saturday, firefighters tackled 122 blazes, including 75 that broke out in the 24 hours between Friday evening and Saturday evening, the fire department said.

With firefighting forces stretched to the limit, Greece has called for help from other European countries. Germany, Sweden, Croatia and Cyprus have sent aircraft, while dozens of Romanian, French, Czech, Bulgarian, Albanian, Slovak and Serb firefighters are helping on the ground.

In July, Israel sent firefighting planes to battle a blaze on the island of Rhodes that sparked the biggest-ever fire evacuation in Greece as tourists were spirited to safety.

With their hot, dry summers, southern European countries are particularly prone to wildfires. European Union officials have blamed climate change for the increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires in Europe, noting that 2022 was the second-worst year for wildfire damage on record after 2017.

Man suspected of killing father, in 199th homicide this year

A 43-year-old man has been arrested in Hadera on suspicion of stabbing his father to death, police say.

The slaying marks the 199th killing in Israel this year, according to Haaretz, making this already one of the bloodiest years in Israel’s history, largely fueled by violence wracking Arab society.

The victim, 80, is declared dead at the scene.

According to Haaretz, citing police sources, when cops entered the home, the suspect was choking his mother and holding a knife. He was subdued with a taser and arrested.

Cabinet okays Pegasus spyware inquiry, rejects AG’s reservations

Right-wing activists and Likud supporters protest at Tel Aviv's Habima Square for the establishment of a state commission of inquiry into the Pegasus affair, on February 17, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Right-wing activists and Likud supporters protest at Tel Aviv's Habima Square for the establishment of a state commission of inquiry into the Pegasus affair, on February 17, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The cabinet has voted to form a committee to examine law enforcement’s use of spyware technology, in line with a request by Justice Minister Yariv Levin.

Granted investigative powers by the government, the panel will examine police and State Attorney’s Office conduct in matters touching upon procurement of, surveillance with, and collection of evidence through the use of cyber tools.

Levin said that the matter is directly connected to the police spyware scandal that broke in 2022, which revealed police usage of Pegasus — sophisticated cellphone hacking technology — to obtain unfettered and possibly illegal access to citizens’ devices.

“The spyware affair is one of the most serious ones exposed in recent years. Exposing the truth in the matter, and preventing similar incidents of fatal infringement of Israeli citizens’ right to privacy, is vital and extremely important,” Levin writes in a statement after the committee’s approval.

The panel’s conclusions will help formulate a regulatory structure for how these advanced tools can be used, “in order to strengthen public trust that was damaged by the Pegasus affair,” Levin’s office adds.

Reflecting Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara’s opposition to the panel, Deputy Attorney General Gil Limon expressed concern that the committee may interfere with ongoing cases.

In a letter sent last week to Levin, the attorney general wrote that the minister does not have the authority to form a panel that probes open legal cases, and particularly expressed concern that the committee may interfere with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ongoing trial.

Two years on, advanced spy plane nearly ready for operational takeoff

This undated photo published August 27, shows an Oron spy aircraft at the Nevatim airbase. (Defense Ministry)
This undated photo published August 27, shows an Oron spy aircraft at the Nevatim airbase. (Defense Ministry)

The Defense Ministry says its research division and the Israel Aerospace Industries have completed the equipping of a new spy aircraft, dubbed the Oron, with advanced technologies, more than two years after it was purchased.

The airplane, a Gulfstream G550 Aerospace, has been outfitted with a bevy of sensors and data collection equipment that allows it to rapidly locate targets in all weather conditions, and is now undergoing final test flights.

In 2021, the military first received an Oron aircraft, which it said would improve its ability to gather intelligence and identify targets for attack in Iran, Iraq, Yemen and other far-flung areas in the Middle East.

The ministry says its Directorate of Defense Research and Development and IAI “have fully implemented the aircraft’s intelligence systems as it proceeds toward final delivery to the Israeli Air Force.”

“This achievement represents a significant milestone in the aircraft’s development and testing program,” the ministry says.

The Oron, which the ministry calls “the world’s most advanced aircraft of its kind,” will be operated by the IAF’s 122nd Squadron at the Nevatim airbase in southern Israel, once the test flight phase is completed.

Netanyahu leaves cabinet meeting as Levin pushes for spyware inquest

Ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting have reportedly been presented with an opinion from the office of Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara reiterating its opposition to the creation of a commission of inquiry that would probe the alleged illicit use of spyware by law enforcement in ongoing cases, including those related to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, thought to be one of the main targets of the investigation.

Netanyahu recuses himself and leaves the meeting, putting Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who has pushed for the commission, in charge, according to Hebrew media reports.

At the meeting, Levin reportedly tells Deputy Attorney General Gil Limon that the AG’s office’s opinion is “curtailing human rights.”

But when Limon asks that the inquiry only be mandated to look at closed cases, Levin rejects a blanket exemption on open cases, according to reports.


Russia confirms Wagner mercenary boss Prigozhin killed in plane crash

A portrait of the owner of private military company Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin lays at an informal street memorial near the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, August 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
A portrait of the owner of private military company Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin lays at an informal street memorial near the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, August 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Russia’s Investigative Committee has confirmed that mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was killed in a plane crash.

A private jet carrying Prigozhin and his top lieutenants crashed northwest of Moscow on Wednesday, two months after he led an armed rebellion that challenged the authority of Russian President Vladimir Putin. There is wide speculation that the Wagner leader was targeted for assassination because of his uprising, although the Kremlin has denied involvement.

Netanyahu pick okayed to lead PR for government

Moshe Aviv has been approved to lead Israel’s National Public Diplomacy Directorate, a division of the Prime Minister’s Office in charge of international messaging about government policy and decisions.

Selected by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Aviv has his appointment confirmed by unanimous cabinet vote.

Three arrested over Kafr Kanna shooting attack

Three people have been arrested in connection with a shooting that injured six members of a Kafr Kanna family Saturday, police say.

Two masked gunmen had opened fire in the yard of a home in the Galilee town before fleeing the scene.

A statement from authorities says that officers operating overnight raided “several compounds,” nabbing three suspects, as well as an M-16, a grenade and ammunition that had been hidden.

Cops also prevented a firefight and seized two Carlo-style submachine guns and a pistol, they say.

The attack, which police say was part of an ongoing clan dispute, left two people seriously injured.

“The police call on formal and informal leaders to act to thwart violent and bullying behavior, incidents of which cast a heavy shadow on relationships between residents,” a statement reads.

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