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Israel said expected to soon offer COVID boosters to all eligible for vaccine

TV report says approval likely this week; more than 14,100 new cases confirmed over weekend, serious cases pass 700; minister says there won’t be a lockdown over Rosh Hashanah

A Magen David Adom paramedic administers a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to an Israeli man, on August 24, 2021, in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
A Magen David Adom paramedic administers a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to an Israeli man, on August 24, 2021, in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

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

Hamas health ministry reports 11 Gazans hurt in border clashes

Palestinians burn tires during rioting along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, east of Gaza City, on August 28, 2021. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
Palestinians burn tires during rioting along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, east of Gaza City, on August 28, 2021. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza reports 11 Palestinians were wounded in border clashes with Israeli troops this evening.

According to the ministry, three of those wounded were hit by live fire and are in moderate condition. The other eight are said to have been lightly hurt from rubber bullets or shock grenades.

Likud: Bennett folded on Israel’s security for a photo at the White House

US President Joe Biden meets with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the Oval Office of the White House, on Friday, August 27, 2021, in Washington, DC. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Joe Biden meets with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the Oval Office of the White House, on Friday, August 27, 2021, in Washington, DC. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party slams Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for reportedly pledging to US President Joe Biden not to publicly lobby against an American return to the Iran nuclear deal.

“For a picture at the White House, Bennett completely folded in front of Biden and harmed Israel’s security when he promised not to fight publicly,” Likud says in a statement. “This is a dangerous statement that combines inexperience, irresponsibility and a lack of leadership.”

“Iran is galloping toward the bomb and the weak government in Israel proved that it does not intend to fight against it.”

Netanyahu openly campaigned against the deal before it was signed in 2015 under then-US president Barack Obama and has recently been vocal in opposing Biden’s intention to restore the agreement.

Arab Israeli man shot to death in central town of Kafr Qasim

Abed Qurmata. (Courtesy)
Abed Qurmata. (Courtesy)

An Arab Israeli man seriously wounded in a shooting in the central town of Kafr Qasim has been pronounced dead after being taken to the hospital.

The shooting victim is identified as Abed Qurmata, a 26-year-old from Jaljulia.

Police have opened an investigation. There is no immediate word on a suspected motive.

Qurmata is the 76 Arab citizen to die in a homicide since the start of the year, according to the Abraham Initiatives.

Gaza border riots wind down for the night

A Palestinian swings a slingshot near burning tires during rioting along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, east of Gaza City, on August 28, 2021. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
A Palestinian swings a slingshot near burning tires during rioting along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, east of Gaza City, on August 28, 2021. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian rioters along the Gaza border appear to have ended for the evening.

There has not yet been confirmation of the injury toll from the Hamas-run health ministry.

160,000 protest across France against COVID pass system

A Frenchman dressed as Jesus holds a cross and a sign reading 'Vaccine = lethal poison' during a rally against the compulsory COVID-19 vaccination for certain workers and the mandatory use of the health pass, near Place du Colonel Fabien in Paris, on August 28, 2021. (Sameer Al-Doumy/AFP)
A Frenchman dressed as Jesus holds a cross and a sign reading 'Vaccine = lethal poison' during a rally against the compulsory COVID-19 vaccination for certain workers and the mandatory use of the health pass, near Place du Colonel Fabien in Paris, on August 28, 2021. (Sameer Al-Doumy/AFP)

PARIS — A total of 160,000 people protested today across France, the interior ministry says, angered at the country’s COVID health pass system, which they say unfairly restricts the unvaccinated.

By early evening, the authorities have logged 222 separate protest actions, including 14,500 people who turned out in Paris.

Sixteen people were arrested and three police officers slightly injured, in what was the seventh consecutive weekend of COVID protests.

“The vaccine isn’t the solution,” says retiree Helene Vierondeels, who attended a right-wing protest in Paris.

“We should rather be stopping the closures of hospital beds and continuing the barrier measures,” she adds.

In Bordeaux, several protesters say that they are refusing to get their children vaccinated, just days before the start of the new school year.

“We aren’t laboratory rats,” says one 11-year-old boy who was marching with his father.

“We live in a free country, there are no figures that justify mass vaccinations,” his father says, likening the increased pressure to vaccinate to rape.

Under the COVID pass system, introduced progressively since mid-July, anyone wishing to enter a restaurant, theatrer, cinema, long-distance train, or large shopping center must show proof of vaccination or a negative test.

The government insists that the pass is necessary to encourage vaccination uptake and avoid a fourth national lockdown, with the unvaccinated accounting for most of the COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital.

Today’s overall figure was slightly down from the 175,000 protesters who turned out the previous weekend.

Biden: US believes fresh attack on Kabul airport ‘highly likely’ over next day

US President Joe Biden speaks on the preparations being made by FEMA for Hurricane Ida at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, on August 28, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Joshua Roberts/Getty Images/AFP)
US President Joe Biden speaks on the preparations being made by FEMA for Hurricane Ida at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, on August 28, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Joshua Roberts/Getty Images/AFP)

WASHINGTON — US military commanders believe that another terror attack similar to the deadly suicide bombing at Kabul airport is “highly likely in the next 24-36 hours,” US President Joe Biden warns.

After a briefing from his national security team, Biden says in a statement that a US drone strike targeting the Islamic State-Khorasan group, which claimed responsibility for Thursday’s carnage at the airport, was “not the last.”

“The situation on the ground continues to be extremely dangerous, and the threat of terrorist attacks on the airport remains high. Our commanders informed me that an attack is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours,” Biden says.

8,482 new COVID infections confirmed Friday; serious cases at 703

A Magen David Adom paramedic takes swab samples at a coronavirus rapid testing site in Jerusalem, on August 19, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
A Magen David Adom paramedic takes swab samples at a coronavirus rapid testing site in Jerusalem, on August 19, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Updated Health Ministry figures show 8,482 new coronavirus cases were confirmed yesterday, while the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in serious condition ticks up slightly to 703.

Another 5,635 infections have been verified since midnight, with active cases rising to 81,217. There have been 1,045,212 confirmed cases in Israel since the pandemic began.

The positive test rate yesterday was 6.65 percent.

The death toll stands at 6,950, with 13 fatalities yesterday and another five since midnight.

The ministry reports that 5,950,975 people have received at least one vaccine shot, 5,468,538 have gotten two, and 1,955,229 have received a third dose.

Interior minister says there won’t be a lockdown over Rosh Hashanah

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks during a conference in Jerusalem, on August 1, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks during a conference in Jerusalem, on August 1, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked tells Channel 13 news that there won’t be a national coronavirus lockdown over the Jewish New Year, which begins on the evening of September 6.

“We’ll spend Rosh Hashanah together with the whole family,” Shaked, a member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party, says in an interview.

She also predicts that further COVID restrictions won’t be imposed.

US military starts final pullout from Afghanistan amid terror threats

US military aircraft takes off at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon)
US military aircraft takes off at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon)

WASHINGTON — On alert for new terror attacks, the United States military has begun its final withdrawal from Afghanistan, in the closing stages of a frantic airlift of Americans, Afghans and others desperate to escape Taliban rule before the evacuation shuts down.

The remains of 13 American troops killed in an airport attack on Thursday by members of the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate, known as ISIS-K, are on their way to the US, the Pentagon says today.

Their voyage marks a painful moment in a nearly 20-year American war that cost more than 2,400 US military lives, and is ending with the return to power of a Taliban movement that was ousted when US forces invaded in 2001.

The Pentagon released the names of the 13 killed — 11 Marines, one Navy sailor and one Army soldier.

Twelve of them were in the 20s. Some were born in 2001, the year America’s longest war began. The oldest was 31.

They were the first US service members killed in Afghanistan since February 2020, the month the Trump administration struck an agreement with the Taliban, in which the militant group halted attacks on Americans in exchange for a US agreement to remove all troops and contractors by May 2021.

US President Joe Biden announced in April that the 2,500 to 3,000 troops who remained would be out by September, ending what he has called America’s forever war.

With Biden’s approval, the Pentagon earlier this month sent thousands of additional troops to the Kabul airport to provide security and to facilitate the US State Department’s chaotic effort to evacuate thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans who had helped the US during the war.

The evacuation was marred by confusion and chaos as the US government was caught by surprise when the Afghan army collapsed and the Taliban swept to power August 15.

The US military force at the Kabul airport, which peaked at about 5,800, was at or below 4,000 today, according to a US official who discussed details not yet publicly released on condition of anonymity.

The Pentagon has said that, for security reasons, it will not provide a day-by-day description of the final stages of the military’s withdrawal, which includes flying home troops as well as equipment.

Israeli troops clash with Gazans in nighttime border riots

Israeli troops clash with hundreds of Palestinians along the Gaza border, as the Hamas terror group’s “nightly confusion units” resume their activities.

Images from Gaza show rioters setting tires ablaze and appearing to throw explosive devices. The military is responding with riot dispersal tactics.

At least four Palestinians have been wounded by live fire, according to reports in Gaza.

Iraq hosts Mideast rivals for rare meeting in bid to ease regional tensions

Iraqi President Barham Salih, left, welcomes Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Baghdad's Presidential Palace, on August 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
Iraqi President Barham Salih, left, welcomes Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Baghdad's Presidential Palace, on August 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

BAGHDAD — Arab heads of state and senior officials from the region, including archenemies Iran and Saudi Arabia, are holding a rare meeting at a conference hosted by Iraq. The meeting is aimed at easing Middle East tensions and underscores the Arab country’s new role as mediator.

French President Emmanuel Macron is also attending the Baghdad meeting, hailing it as a major boost for Iraq and its leadership.

The country had been largely shunned by Arab leaders for the past few decades because of security concerns amid back-to-back wars and internal unrest, its airport frequently attacked with rockets by insurgents.

Iraqi leaders were on hand today at Baghdad International Airport to receive the red carpet arrivals. They included Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, Jordan’s King Abdullah and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

It is the first official visit to Iraq by the Qatari emir, whose country’s ties with Saudi Arabia are also fraught with tensions. Relations have improved recently since a declaration was signed with the kingdom and other Arab Gulf states to ease a years-long rift.

Also among the participants are the foreign ministers of Iran and Saudi Arabia, whose rivalry over regional supremacy has often played out to deadly consequences in Iraq and other countries across the region, including Yemen and Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia is represented by its foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, and Iran with its foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

It is not immediately clear if the two ministers held a meeting on the sidelines. Asked whether they did, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hassan demurs, saying that numerous bilateral meetings took place, without specifying. One such meeting was between Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, and the Iranian foreign minister.

Iraqi special forces are being deployed in Baghdad, particularly around the Green Zone, the seat of the Iraqi government, where the meeting are being held.

Participants are expected to discuss a regional water crisis, the war in Yemen, and a severe economic and political crisis in Lebanon that has brought the country to the point of collapse.

Lebanon, which has been without a functional government for the past year, and Syria, which has been suspended from the Arab League since 2011, aren’t represented at the meeting.

‘Nightly confusion units’ head to Gaza border ahead of expected riots

Images show Palestinian “nightly confusion units” heading to Gaza’s border with Israel ahead of expected rioting this evening.

Health Ministry said expected to make COVID boosters available to everyone 12 and older

A Magen David Adom paramedic administers a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to an Israeli man, on August 24, 2021, in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
A Magen David Adom paramedic administers a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to an Israeli man, on August 24, 2021, in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

The Health Ministry is expected to approve COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for all Israelis over the age of 12 next week, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

The shots will be available to anyone five months after receiving their second vaccine dose. Last week, Israel expanded the booster shot campaign to people over the age of 30.

The report also says that the Health Ministry is considering easing quarantine rules for those who’ve received a booster shot, once more Israelis have been administered a third dose.

Bennett said to vow he won’t campaign publicly against US return to Iran nuclear deal

US President Joe Biden meets with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the Oval Office at the White House, on August 27, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Sarahbeth Maney-Pool/Getty Images/AFP)
US President Joe Biden meets with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the Oval Office at the White House, on August 27, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Sarahbeth Maney-Pool/Getty Images/AFP)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett pledged to US President Joe Biden that despite opposing the US potentially rejoining the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, he will not wage a public campaign against a possible American return to the accord, the Walla news site reports.

Citing two American sources familiar with the details of Bennett and Biden’s meeting yesterday at the White House, the news site says that the premier stressed the same point in his sit-downs with US Secretary of State Antony Blinen and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

According to the sources, Bennett said that he believes dialogue will lead to a better outcome and that the White House was very appreciate of his stance on the matter, with many administration officials having served under former US president Barack Obama when he clashed with then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the deal.

“Even though there are disagreements, I want us to work according to rules of honesty and decency,” Bennett told Biden, according to an Israeli source quoted in the report.

Arson balloons from Gaza spark 2 blazes in southern Israel

Firefighters try to extinguish a blaze in southern Israel that was sparked by a ballon-borne incendiary device launched by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, June 15, 2021. (Flash90)
Illustrative: Firefighters try to extinguish a blaze in southern Israel that was sparked by a ballon-borne incendiary device launched by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, June 15, 2021. (Flash90)

The fire department confirms two blazes sparked in the southern Eshkol Regional Council were caused by balloon-borne incendiary devices launched from the Gaza Strip.

The brushfires come ahead of expected rioting by Palestinians along the Gaza border and after the Strip’s Hamas rulers threatened to resume arson attacks on Israel.

Israel said to be transferring intel on far-right groups to terror financing watchdog

Far-right extremists gather to commemorate the death of Adolf Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess, in Berlin's western district of Spandau, on August 19, 2017. (Maurizio Gambarini/dpa via AP)
Illustrative: Far-right extremists gather to commemorate the death of Adolf Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess, in Berlin's western district of Spandau, August 2017. (Maurizio Gambarini/dpa via AP)

Israel has recently passed on intelligence about far-right and antisemitic groups across the globe to an intergovernmental organization tasked with combating money laundering and terror financing, according to the Ynet news site.

The news site says that the transfer of the intelligence to the Financial Action Task Force, which was founded by the G7, comes as the organization is due to publish a report on terror financing.

Macron vows French troops will stay in Iraq even if US withdraws

French President Emmanuel Macron holds a press conference at the guest house in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, on August 28, 2021. (Ludovic Marin/AFP)
French President Emmanuel Macron holds a press conference at the guest house in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, on August 28, 2021. (Ludovic Marin/AFP)

BAGHDAD — French President Emmanuel Macron says that his country will continue to deploy troops in Iraq to battle terrorism even if the US were to withdraw.

“No matter what choices the Americans make, we will maintain our presence in Iraq to fight against terrorism,” Macron tells a news conference in Baghdad where he is attending a regional summit.

“We have the operational capacity to ensure this presence,” he adds after the meeting, which has been overshadowed by the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and Thursday’s suicide bombing in Kabul claimed by an Islamic State group affiliate.

Austrian Chancellor Kurz reelected as leader of conservative People’s Party

In this handout photo released by Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service, Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz listens to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during their talks in Vienna, Austria, on August 25, 2021. (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)
In this handout photo released by Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service, Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz listens to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during their talks in Vienna, Austria, on August 25, 2021. (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)

BERLIN — Austria’s conservative People’s Party, or OVP, votes overwhelmingly to reelect Chancellor Sebastian Kurz as its leader at a party gathering.

Kurz, 35, receives the backing of 533 of 536 delegates, or 99.4 percent. He has led the party since 2017, and became the country’s youngest-ever chancellor later that year.

Addressing colleagues before the vote in St. Polten, Kurz spoke about a range of topics and policy priorities. He stressed the need to continue the country’s coronavirus vaccination campaign, and with regard to refugees from Afghanistan, said that Austria “shouldn’t take in more people than we can integrate.”

Today’s vote was a sign of the OVP’s confidence in Kurz, who has had a few difficult months politically. In May, he was put under investigation by anti-corruption authorities on suspicion that he made false statements to a parliamentary commission.

The hearings in question were to investigate the Ibiza affair, a scandal involving the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) leader Heinz-Christian Strache that triggered the collapse of Kurz’s previous governing coalition in 2019. Kurz has denied the allegations and resisted calls for his resignation.

He alluded to the situation in his speech, saying that it had shown him the “dark side” of politics and admitting that there were days where he “questioned everything.” Still, he added, he has grown in response.

“The experience has actually made me even more resilient,” he said on Saturday. “It has made me stronger, and it has made me more determined.”

Fire breaks out in south amid Hamas threats to renew arson attacks

Illustrative: Firefighters try to extinguish a blaze in southern Israel that was sparked by a balloon-borne incendiary device launched by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, on June 15, 2021. (Flash90)
Illustrative: Firefighters try to extinguish a blaze in southern Israel that was sparked by a balloon-borne incendiary device launched by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, June 15, 2021. (Flash90)

A fire has broken out in the southern Eshkol Regional Council.

There is no immediate word on what sparked the blaze, which comes as the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group threatens to resume arson balloon attacks.

Pentagon says two ‘high profile’ Islamic State targets killed in Afghanistan strike

WASHINGTON — A US air strike in Afghanistan kills two high-profile ISIS targets and leaves another wounded, the Pentagon says.

No civilians are hurt from the attack early today, which follows a suicide bombing on Thursday that killed scores of people, including 13 US troops, at the Kabul airport, Major General Hank Taylor tells a news conference.

Bennett holds Shabbat service for Israeli delegation at DC hotel

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrives for a Friday evening sabbath service organized for the Israeli delegation at their Washington hotel, on August 27, 2021. (Screenshot/Channel 12)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrives for a Friday evening sabbath service organized for the Israeli delegation at their Washington hotel, on August 27, 2021. (Screenshot/Channel 12)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett organized a Kabbalat Shabbat service for the entire Israeli delegation, including the traveling press, at the hotel where they are staying in Washington.

The delegation was not scheduled to stay the weekend, but after Bennett’s meeting with US President Joe Biden was delayed due to the deadly terror attack in Kabul, the premier’s team made arrangements for him to spend Shabbat at the hotel, including setting up a makeshift synagogue.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett greets members of the traveling press who are with him on his US trip, at a Friday evening sabbath service organized for the Israeli delegation at their Washington hotel. (Screenshot/Channel 12)

Hamas threatens to escalate violence along Gaza border

Masked Hamas members apparently prepare incendiary balloons to be launched toward Israel from the Gaza Strip, on May 8, 2021. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
Masked Hamas members apparently prepare incendiary balloons to be launched toward Israel from the Gaza Strip, on May 8, 2021. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

Ahead of planned border riots this evening, the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group’s “nightly confusion units” vow to gradually escalate up violence along the border with Israel.

Following tonight’s riots, Hamas says that it will resume launching incendiary balloon-borne devices tomorrow.

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