The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.
US envoy condemns clashes between Syrian Kurds, Turkey
Clashes between Turkish forces and units affiliated with a US-backed Kurdish-led alliance in Syria are “unacceptable,” a US official said Monday, calling on all sides to “stand down.”
On his Twitter account, US envoy to the coalition against the Islamic State group Brett McGurk said the Pentagon condemned the clashes south of the Syrian town of Jarablus, adding that American forces were not involved in the fighting and did not support them.
DOD: We want to make clear that we find these clashes — in areas where #ISIL is not located — unacceptable and a source of deep concern.
— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) August 29, 2016
DOD: The United States was not involved in these activities, they were not coordinated with U.S. forces, and we do not support them.
— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) August 29, 2016
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier said his country would continue targeting a Syrian Kurdish militia in Syria if it failed to fulfill promises to retreat east of the Euphrates River, accusing the group of ethnic cleansing.
“The YPG (People’s Protection Units) first of all… needs to cross east of the Euphrates as soon as possible. So long as they don’t, they will be a target,” said Cavusoglu.
“In the places where it has moved, the YPG forces everyone out — including Kurds — who do not think like it does and carries out ethnic cleansing,” he added.
Suspected listeria outbreak spreads to popular Aroma coffee chain
The popular Aroma coffee chain has stopped selling two lychee coconut iced drinks after finding possible listeria, the latest in a series of food health scares this month.
According to news site Ynet, the chain, among the most popular coffee shops in the country, posted on Facebook that it had stopped selling the drink, after “a routine check found suspicion of listeria in one of the components of the product. Therefore we have decided to stop marketing the product until a check of the factory is completed.”
The post, which adds that Aroma hopes to begin selling the drink again soon, is no longer visible on their Facebook page.
The Health Ministry says in a statement it had been informed of the possible outbreak Sunday evening and is carrying out a check of the product. It says the factory is being cleaned and disinfected.
The outbreak concerns only the Aroma Israel chain and not the separate Aroma Tel Aviv chain, which has similar branding but is technically under its own management.
The Health Ministry has had its hands full of listeria and salmonella scares since the Telma cereal brand said salmonella-infected cornflakes had found their way to consumers in early August.
Trains boss says halting Shabbat work will add years, cost millions
An internal Israel Rails document predicts that prohibiting work on new train lines on Shabbat will delay the project by years and cost tens of millions of shekels extra, Army Radio reveals.
The document’s contents are confirmed by Israel Rails director Baoz Zafrir, who tells the station that “if there’s not work being done all the time we are ready, it will delay many projects.”
He adds that stopping train work is equal to taking 10,000 buses off the road.
Religious parties threatened a coalition crisis over the weekend after the Transportation Ministry gave the go-ahead for major works to be done over Shabbat to build a new trestle at the Hashalom Station in Tel Aviv, shutting down the normally busy Ayalon Highway as workers installed the new bridge during the day of rest.
EU: Reports of US trade pact’s death greatly exaggerated
Both the European Union’s lead negotiator in trade talks with the United States and the spokesman for Germany’s chancellor on Monday downplayed assertions that negotiations on the proposed landmark pact have collapsed.
German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who is also Germany’s vice chancellor, had said Sunday that “in my opinion, the negotiations with the United States have de facto failed, even though nobody is really admitting it.”
Asked Monday by The Associated Press whether Gabriel’s claims were true, chief EU negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero says: “No, no. Remember what Mark Twain said.” Twain once quipped that reports of his death were “greatly exaggerated.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said that while Europe and the United States still disagree over certain parts of the free trade deal, known as TTIP, the talks aren’t over yet.
Steffen Seibert also tells reporters in Berlin it is “right to continue negotiating,” noting that often a breakthrough is only achieved “in the final round.”
Liberman: Reporters keeping soldiers from doing their jobs
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman accuses the Israeli press of preventing IDF soldiers from being able to do their job over fear that they will be judged harshly in the media.
“I would expect from the Israeli press to work hard to strengthen the Israeli deterrent capability against our enemies and not deter Israeli soldiers from fighting terrorists and fighting terror,” Liberman says during a tour of southern Bedouin communities.
“I want a free press, not a press that deters IDF soldiers,” he adds, during a tour of southern Israel.
Liberman’s comments come amid two developing cases in which soldiers have been suspected of killing Palestinians without cause.
Elor Azaria is currently standing trial for an incident in March in which he shot dead a disarmed Palestinian assailant following a stabbing attack in the West Bank city of Hebron.
In the second case, a soldier from the ultra-Orthodox Netzah Yehuda Battalion shot and killed a Palestinian man who approached an army outpost near the West Bank settlement of Ofra on Friday. Though he has not been formally charged, the Netzah Yehuda soldier has been questioned by Military Police “in connection with the killing,” an army official told The Times of Israel.
During the tour, Liberman tells reporters: “Remember that in Israel, like in every democratic country, the only one that convicts is the court of law. Not the press, but the court. So long as the person hasn’t been convicted, they are innocent, and that includes Elor Azaria and the soldier from Netzah Yehuda.”
“Another thing, I want to remind you that people are fighting terror on a daily basis, fighting terrorists, they can’t go out to a mission with an attorney at their side and therefore sometimes the thought process is correct and sometimes it is not,” Liberman says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Turkey says goal of Syria push to prevent Kurd corridor
Turkey says one of the key aims of its unprecedented operation in northern Syria is to prevent the creation of a corridor stretching from Iraq to the verge of the Mediterranean controlled by Kurdish militia, confirming long-help suspicions.
The goal of the operation is to rid the region of Islamic State jihadists and prevent the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia “from completing an end-to-end corridor” across Syria, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus is quoted as saying by NTV television.
“If that happens, it means Syria has been divided,” he adds.
Soldier stabs buddy to test armored vest
While Defense Minister Liberman is chiding the press for keeping soldiers from doing their jobs, a couple of Keystone troops are showing what a good job they can do.
Namely, a soldier in the Golan Heights is being treated for light stab wounds after being knifed by his friend.
The reason for the stabbing? Reportedly to check how well their armored vests withstand knife jabs.
The test wasn’t strictly necessary, as in January, a Channel 1 reporter was treated for light wounds after testing a knife-proof vest and being stabbed in the back with a commando knife.
Iran claims to ward off American recon drone
Tehran claims an American reconnaissance drone based in Afghanistan was dissuaded from crossing into Iran after being warned off by an air defense base.
According to the report in the semi-official Fars news agency, the drone “was dissuaded from accomplishing its mission after Khatam ol-Anbia Air Defense Base gave it a serious warning.”
There is no confirmation of any such incident from the US military.
The incident comes as leaders in Tehran have made several threatening statements recently about fending off American “aggression,” following an incident in which Iranian gunships chased an American warship. The US military said the ship was “harassed” while in international waters.
France probing restaurateur for anti-Muslim tirade
A French prosecutor has opened an investigation into suspected racial discrimination after two Muslim women said they were ordered out of a restaurant amid tension over France’s burkinis controversy.
The prosecutor in the Paris suburb of Bobigny says Monday that his case concerns a smartphone video produced by one of the women in Le Cenacle, a restaurant in nearby Tremblay-en-France. French media have widely broadcast the video.
In Saturday’s recording, the owner can be heard blaming all Muslims for recent attacks and saying: “I don’t want people like you in my place. … Get out.”
France’s minister for women’s affairs, Laurence Rossignol, denounced the restaurant owner’s behavior and called for him to face criminal sanctions.
The owner issued an apology Sunday night to all Muslims on BFM television.
Son of terror victim urges Scouts to drop Palestinians
The son of Richard Lakin, an American man killed in a Jerusalem terror attack, has called on the world Scouts organization to drop the membership of the Palestinian Scouts, which has glorified his father’s killer.
The Palestinian Scout Association, which was accepted six months ago as full member of the World Organization of the Scout Movement, named its leadership training course which started last week after Lakin’s killer.
Publicity for the course, called the “Martyr – Leader Baha Alyan Course,” shows Alyan in a Palestinian scouts uniform. The Palestinian Scouts were a non-voting conditional member of the world body for 10 years prior to receiving acceptance to full membership.
“Should you allow the Palestinian Scout Association to keep its membership in the World Organization of the Scout Movement at the same time as they are presenting a murderer as a role model for future scout leaders, then your organization is effectively a co-sponsor of this terror promoting course,” Micah Lakin Avni writes to the world Scouts organization, in an open letter published by The Times of Israel.
“As long as Palestinian leaders nurture a culture of hate, encouraging school children to go out and kill, more violence is inevitable. By encouraging hatred, they distance all of us from the love of and belief in peaceful coexistence for which my father stood,” Lakin Avni also writes.
Anthony Weiner’s bulging underwear pops back up with new scandal
Anthony Weiner, the Jewish New York politician who has become a sexting joke that refuses to go away, is back in the news amid reports that he sent a lewd photo of a bulge in his underoos to a woman, with his 3-year-old son sitting next to him.
Weiner, whose wife Huma Abedin has been campaigning with Hillary Clinton, sent the picture on July 31, 2015, according to the New York Post, which has published the picture and a series of cringe-inducing and emoji-laden online exchanges with an unnamed woman.
Weiner, whose correspondence with the woman frequently involved explicit sexual references, wrote “someone just climbed into my bed.”
“Really?” she replied.
He then sent a picture of him in his underwear, clearly aroused, next to his son.
“You do realize you can see you[r] Weiner in that pic??” the woman, who also sent him pictures in her underwear, wrote back.
Weiner, once considered an up-and-coming star in the Democratic Party, was forced out of politics in 2011 after it emerged that he sent a simiar picture of a bulge in his underwear to a woman, using the name “Carlos Danger.”
A mayoral bid in 2014 failed after he was caught continuing to sext other women.
He has recently been put back in the spotlight by a documentary about his attempted comeback and his wife’s work on the presidential campaign.
Syrian Kurds agree to withdraw south, but not east
Kurdish-backed forces in northern Syria say they will withdraw south from their current positions in order not to put the lives of civilians in danger, following attacks by Turkey-backed Syrian rebels.
The announcement by the Jarablus Military Council, which is part of the predominantly Kurdish Syria Democratic Forces, comes hours after Turkey’s foreign minister ordered Kurdish Syrian forces to withdraw east of the Euphrates River “immediately” or face more strikes.
The move is not likely to please the Turks who are demanding a full withdrawal from all areas west of the Euphrates.
The council says its fighters will withdraw to areas south of the Sajour River, a tributary of the Euphrates.
They say they will withdraw in order for the rebels not to “have any justification to continue shelling civilians.”
Death toll in Yemen bombing up to 71
The death toll in an Islamic State attack on an army recruiting center in Aden, Yemen, has risen to 71, making it the deadliest jihadist attack on the Yemeni city in over a year.
Security officials tell AFP the attacker drove the car bomb into a gathering of recruits at a school in the north of the port city.
The assault killed at least 71 people and wounded 98, medical sources tell AFP.
The recruits were among 5,000 newly enrolled soldiers being trained to fight the Houthi rebels in the north along the border with Saudi Arabia, military sources said.
Although the complex was locked as recruits registered inside, the attacker drove in when the gate was opened for a delivery vehicle, officials say.
Witnesses say some recruits were buried when a roof collapsed after the blast which left a gaping hole on the building’s facade.
Debris was scattered around the complex and nearby buildings were damaged.
Turkish planes bomb Kurd positions in Iraq
Turkish warplanes bombed Kurdish targets in northern Iraq, state media says.
Turkish air force jets launched strikes against targets of the “separatist terrorist organization” in Gara in northern Iraq, Anadolu news agency said, referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The targets were “destroyed,” Anadolu adds.
The airstrikes in northern Iraq were the first since Turkey began a military operation in Syria on Wednesday.
The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States and its command is based in the Qandil mountains of northern Iraq.
Beit Jann leads way in matriculation rates, Haredi towns at bottom
As the school year is set to kick off, the Education Ministry releases a survey detailing which cities have the highest rates of students passing the bagrut high school matriculation exam.
At the top of the list are a smattering of small towns in the north and center of the country, including Beit Jann (99%), Abu al-Hija (98%), Kiryat Ekron (96%), and Givat Shmuel and Kedumim with 93%.
Among the big cities, Rishon Lezion leads the way with 77%, followed by Haifa (76%), Tel Aviv and Beersheba (70%), and, way below, Jerusalem, with 47%.
Not surprisingly, the bottom of the list is made up of heavily Haredi towns and some poorer Arab villages. In the cellar is Modiin Ilit and Kiryat Ye’arim (Telz-Stone), which both got a big goose egg. Doing slightly better are Bnei Brak (11%) and Jisr al-Zarqa (15%).
Ancestor Lucy died in fall from tree 3 million years ago, research suggests
Lucy, an ancient ape-like human relative, met a brutal end when she plummeted from a tree, new analysis of the famous fossil suggests, resolving the three million-year-old mystery of how she died.
Lucy’s upper-arm bones were shattered by the impact of the fall some 3.2 million years ago — a type of trauma also common in car crash victims, researchers from the United States and Ethiopia write in the journal Nature.
Lucy was a member of an early human species that lived in Africa between about 4 million and 3 million years ago. Her partial skeleton was recovered in 1974.
She was a young adult when she died.
Facebook’s Zuckerberg books face time with pope
Pope Francis has met with Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Zuckerberg’s wife, Priscilla Chan, at the Vatican.
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke says one topic of discussion at Monday’s meeting was “how to use communication technologies to alleviate poverty, encourage a culture of encounter, and make a message of hope arrive, especially to those most in need.”
The atmosphere appeared informal, with the chat taking place in the Santa Marta residence, the guest house in Vatican City where the pope lives.
Zuckerberg wore a dark suit and tie for the occasion while Chan wore a black, knee-length dress.
Ben-Eliezer’s son said to be shunning funeral for fear of prosecution
The son of former defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer will not attend his father’s funeral for fear of being detained by police for his role in an ongoing graft case, according to a Channel 2 report.
Ophir Ben-Eliezer, who lives abroad, is considered to be a person of interest in the bribe-taking case, which embroiled the former Labor leader in the years before his death at age 80 Sunday.
Police say they will not stop Ben-Eliezer from attending the Tuesday funeral in Holon, but are likely to keep him from trying to leave the country and will seek to question him when the seven-day shiva mourning period ends, according to the report.
Clinton aide Abedin leaving husband Weiner over sausage pics
Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin says Monday that she is separating from husband Anthony Weiner, after the former congressman was accused in yet another sexting scandal.
“After long and painful consideration and work on my marriage, I have made the decision to separate from my husband,” she says in a statement issued by Clinton’s presidential campaign. “Anthony and I remain devoted to doing what is best for our son, who is the light of our life. During this difficult time, I ask for respect for our privacy.”
The New York Post published photos late Sunday that it said Weiner had sent last year to a woman whom it identified only as a “40-something divorcee,” who lives “out West” and is a supporter of Donald Trump.
The photos included several shots of Weiner bare-chested and two close-ups of his bulging underwear. In one of the pictures, Weiner is in bed with his toddler son while he is texting the woman, according to the Post.
Donald Trump was quick to weigh in on the announcement and look to make political hay of it.
““Huma is making a very wise decision. I know Anthony Weiner well, and she will be far better off without him,” Trump said in a statement, according to the New York Times.
“I only worry for the country in that Hillary Clinton was careless and negligent in allowing Weiner to have such close proximity to highly classified information,” he added. “Who knows what he learned and who he told? It’s just another example of Hillary Clinton’s bad judgment. It is possible that our country and its security have been greatly compromised by this.”
— with AP
Erodgan: We’ll stay in Syria, until IS, Kurds defeated
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey will press ahead with its military operation in Syria until the Islamic State group and the Kurdish Syrian fighters no longer pose a security threat to Ankara.
The Turkish leader issues a message saying Ankara is determined to take all steps necessary both inside Turkey and abroad to protect Turkish citizens.
The Turkish military says Turkey-backed Syrian rebels have cleared 10 more villages of “terrorist entities” and are now in control of an area totaling some 400 square kilometers (154.44 sq. miles) south and west of the northern Syrian town of Jarablus.
Turkish military officials say Syrian opposition forces are continuing with their operations to clear IS-controlled areas by moving west of zone under their control.
“The Jarablus operation was a reflection of our determination. Our operations will continue until terror organizations such as Daesh, the PKK and its Syrian arm, the YPG, cease to be threats for our citizens,” Erdogan says, using an Arabic name for the Islamic State group.
Bennett attempts to bury hatchet with Netanyahu
Education Minister Naftali Bennett tells Channel 2 news that he does not plan on getting into any more tiffs with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after the two fought a public spat over the latter’s conduct in the lead up to the 2014 war with Gaza.
Bennett says he is busy with educational issues — school begins in three days — and vows to bury a previously prickly relationship and work with the prime minister and let the state comptroller have the final word on missteps in the lead-up to the 2014 war.
“Even if he attacks me, I don’t intend to attack him back. We are in the same government and working together. What I’m busy with now is education and not answering the prime minister’s attack on me,” he says.
LAX panic sparked by arrest of ‘Zorro’ with plastic sword
Los Angeles airport officials say a false report of gunshots that sent panicked travelers fleeing came right after officers with guns drawn detained a man dressed in black and possibly carrying a sword.
The sword was plastic, but, soon after, hundreds of passengers raced onto streets or the tarmac, causing major flight delays that the airport was still recovering from Monday morning.
Video shows at least six officers confronting the man, who is dressed as fictional crime fighter Zorro, outside Terminal 7 around 8:40 p.m. on Sunday.
Airport police say false reports of an active shooter quickly spread, and passengers in five terminals evacuated or pushed through security checkpoints.
Airport spokeswoman Nancy Castles said Monday about 280 flights were delayed and at least 27 flights were diverted to other airports.
Settlement building ramped up in recent months, UN charges
Israeli settlement expansion has surged in the two months since the diplomatic Quartet called for a halt to the construction of Jewish outposts on Palestinian land, the UN envoy says.
Nickolay Mladenov, the UN coordinator for the Middle East peace process, tells the Security Council that the Quartet’s appeal for Israel to stop building in settlements had fallen on deaf ears.
“Its recommendations continue to be ignored, including by a surge in Israeli settlement-related announcements and continuing demolitions,” Mladenov says.
Since July 1, Israeli has advanced plans for over 1,000 housing units in occupied east Jerusalem and 735 units in the West Bank, Mladenov says.
Israel has undertaken a land survey on the outskirts of Bethlehem for the establishment of a new settlement in a move that would contribute to the “dismemberment of the southern West Bank,” said Mladenov.
Mladenov also charges that demolitions of Palestinian homes are on the rise in the West Bank, with over 130 structures destroyed.
“All of these plans would essentially create new illegal settlements and I call on Israel to cease and reverse these decisions,” he says.
Brussels Air agrees to serve settlement snack after Jerusalem outcry
After being treated to some Israeli government lobbying, Brussels Airline says it will continue to stock supplies of a halva snack made in the West Bank on flights, days after an uproar took off over it pulling the sweet, saying it had been put in an inflight meal by accident.
In a letter to Israel’s Belgium ambassador, Brussels Airline calls Israeli company Achva, based in the Barkan industrial zone in the West Bank “one of our trustful suppliers,” an about face from last week, when it said the Achva halva had been placed on a plane by accident.
“It is clear that Achva remains one of our trustful suppliers and without any distinction related to the origin of the product and therefore we will continue to accept Achva’s products on board our flights, especially given its positive role in the community,” the statement reads, according to the Foreign Ministry.
The move, which will be likely to draw protests from Palestinians and others, comes after the ministry embarked on a campaign to have Brussels Airlines rethink the decision not to stock Achva, accusing the airline of joining a boycott of Israel.
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry credits “the quick work of the Foreign Ministry, at the direction of director Dore Gold, the deputy head of public advocacy and the advocacy unit and our embassies in Brussels and Berlin.”
The uproar began when a passenger was served a meal with an Achva halva snack and complained to the company, which said it removed it because it had only been supplied as a mistake.
A spokesperson for the carrier told The Times of Israel that it had no interest in any boycotts or in being involved in politics and emphasized the Tel Aviv market was incredibly important to the company.
In the wake of the incident, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin had called for the airline to be banned from Israel.
Liberman says bodies of KIA soldiers in Gaza won’t be returned
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, on a tour of the south earlier in the day, said that the bodies of two Israeli soldiers being held in Gaza would not be returned, a dramatic 180-degree turn from his predecessor and other Israeli officials’ vows to bargain for the remains, Channel 10 reports.
“In my estimation, the troops’ bodies won’t come back to Israel, I don’t see it happening,” he said, according to the report. “I opposed in the past the Shalit deal as well and I don’t intend to make a deal in the future with Hamas.”
The families of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin have lobbied for the government to secure the release of the remains of their sons, presumed killed during the 2014 war, and officials have vowed to do everything in their power to do so.
In the past, remains have often been traded in return for large numbers of Palestinian prisoners being freed, with the lopsided deals seen as the price paid for a country’s commitment to not leaving any soldier behind.
In a response to Channel 10, the Goldin family calls for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to set Liberman straight.
“A defense minister who decides to give up knowingly on returning bodies from the battlefield has no moral currency to remain as Israel’s defense minister,” the family says in a statement. “We call on the prime minister to clarify to the Israeli defense minister the government’s stance regarding returning Hadar and Oron home.”
Liberman’s office tells the channel in response that the minister’s stance against deals with Hamas has not changed.
Liberman’s office denies he said he won’t return soldiers’ remains
Avigdor Liberman’s office denies to The Times of Israel that the defense minister said he didn’t see the bodies of two IDF soldiers being returned, but does confirm that the defense minister is against negotiations with Hamas.
“Despite the report in Channel 10, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman did not discuss the topic of returning the bodies of soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin today or in recent days,” his office says in a statement.
However, the office adds, “Minister Liberman has always been opposed to prisoner deals of the sort done until today. As a reminder, Minister Liberman voted against the Shalit deal.”
— Judah Ari Gross
Syrian rockets strike Turkey, wounding five children
Turkey’s state-run news agency says three rockets fired from Syria have hit a Turkish border town, wounding five children between 8 years and 12 years of age.
The Anadolu Agency is citing military officials as saying that Turkish artillery immediately responded to the rockets fired on the town of Kilis on Monday by firing at targets across the border.
The report says one of rockets has struck the wall of a house, while the other two have landed on empty land. At least one of the wounded children is reported to be in serious condition.
Kurds retreat to east side of Euphrates — US
US-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria have “all” gone east of the Euphrates River, a US defense official said Monday, a move Washington hopes will reduce conflict between two partner forces.
Speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing operations, the official told AFP the development — a key demand from Ankara — had occurred over the past day or so.
“All the YPG are on the east of the Euphrates,” the official said, referring to the Kurdish militia that has worked closely with United States advisers to fight the Islamic State group.
Still, he acknowledged, some Kurds may remain to the west of the river, but these were not part of the YPG.
Obama and Erdogan to talk Syria on G20 sidelines
US President Barack Obama will meet his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday in China on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit, with Syria high on the agenda, top aide Ben Rhodes says.
The Turkish operation inside Syria against Islamic State jihadists and the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) has put Washington in a difficult position between its Kurdish partners and Ankara.