The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.
DAMASCUS, Syria — Syria’s foreign minister says the “thunderous defeat” by the United States in Afghanistan will lead to similar defeats for American troops in Syria and other parts of the world.
Faisal Mekdad makes his comments today following a meeting with his Iranian counterpart, who began an official visit to Syria.
Mekdad says the US withdrawal from Afghanistan “is a strong lesson for the allies and tools of the United States in the region and the world.”
Mekdad appears to be referring to Kurdish-led fighters allied with the United States who control wide parts of eastern Syria, including the country’s largest oil fields.
Hundreds of US troops are stationed in northeastern Syria, working with Kurdish-led fighters in battling the Islamic State jihadist group.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will meet with senior officials tomorrow to discuss final preparations for the start of the school year on Wednesday.
Among the officials who will take part in the meeting are Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.
Bennett’s office also says the so-called coronavirus cabinet will meet tomorrow to approve expanding Green Pass rules to public sector workers and to okay curbs on traditional penitent prayers at the Western Wall.
A number of Palestinians have been wounded by IDF live fire and tear gas during violent protests along the Gaza border, according to video footage.
There is no immediate comment from health authorities in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
Palestinians in the area are setting fire to tires, as part of the “night confusion activities.”
لحظة وصول إصابة لشاب بقنبلة غاز من مخيم أبو صفية للمستشفى الإندونيسي شمال القطاع pic.twitter.com/owpmLI2ScI
— Newpress | نيو برس (@NewpressPs) August 29, 2021
NEW ORLEANS — Hurricane Ida makes landfall as “an extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm in Louisiana, according to the National Hurricane Center, 16 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region.
“Extremely dangerous Category 4 Hurricane Ida makes landfall near Port Fourchon, Louisiana,” the NHC writes in an advisory. Ida strikes the port, which is located 100 miles (160 kilometers) directly south of New Orleans, with packing maximum sustained winds estimated at 150 miles per hour.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz warns against the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, predicting it would set off an arms race in the Middle East.
“It’s very important that the entire world enlists for the mission before it is too late, because the risk of a nuclear Iran is not only that it will threaten Israel and increase its aggressiveness in the region, but also lead to a regional armaments race that will endanger many states,” he says, at a memorial event for Channel 12 news’s late military correspondent, Roni Daniel.
Iran’s obtainment of an atomic bomb “is likely in the future to also put advanced weapons in the unstable, irresponsible hands and in the hands of regimes that are controlled by terrorists,” Gantz warns.
WASHINGTON — The government’s top infectious disease expert says the US is sticking with its recommendation for Americans to get COVID-19 booster shots eight months after receiving the vaccine, but will be open to changes based on evolving data.
Dr. Anthony Fauci says that there is “no doubt” in his mind that people will need to get an extra shot after they have received the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, given the highly contagious Delta variant.
He indicates that the administration remains focused on doing that in an “expeditious” and “feasible” way after the eight-month mark, with doses beginning the week of September 20, pending approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
US President Joe Biden had suggested on Friday that his administration was considering whether to give booster shots as early as five months after vaccination, citing advice he received from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during their meeting at the White House.
But today, Fauci says, regarding the eight-month US guidance, quote “We’re not changing it, but we are very open to new data as it comes in. We’re going to be very flexible about it.”
Fauci spoke on ABC’s “This Week,” CNN’s “State of the Union” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada — who has never made a public appearance — is in Afghanistan, deputy spokesman Bilal Karimi says today.
“I can confirm that he is in Kandahar. He will soon appear in public,” Karimi tells AFP.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has landed at Ben Gurion Airport after his trip to Washington, where he met with US President Joe Biden at the White House.
The number of serious coronavirus cases has risen by 45 since midnight to 751, after remaining fairly stable for much of last week.
According to the Health Ministry, 4,234 new COVID-19 infections have been confirmed so far today. There are 78,084 active cases out of 1,051,152 verified infections in Israel since the pandemic began.
The national death toll stands at 6,989, with seven fatalities since midnight.
The Health Ministry also says 5,955,264 people have received at least one vaccine shot, 5,471,030 have gotten a second dose, and 1,989,465 have been administered a booster.
Earlier today, the Health Ministry announced that anyone over 12 eligible for the vaccine may receive a booster shot at least five months after getting a second dose.
For the second night in a row, Palestinians head to the Gaza border to take part in “night confusion activities,” which usually include setting tires ablaze and hurling explosive devices toward the security fence.
Last night, 11 Palestinians were hurt by live fire and other riot control measures used by the Israel Defense Forces during the clashes, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
Hamas-affiliated groups have said that the nightly riots on the border will continue until at least Thursday, with this evening’s riots set to start around 8 p.m.
Palestinians for the second night in a row head to the Gaza border to participate in "night confusion activities," which usually include setting tires on fire and hurling explosive devices toward the fence. pic.twitter.com/zIQLnnoTf9
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) August 29, 2021
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman announces the government has approved a NIS 60 million (some $18.6 million) plan to help rehabilitate parts of the Judean Hills near Jerusalem that were recently ravaged by a massive wildfire.
“We have a great responsibility to the citizens, environment, and landscape of our beautiful country,” Liberman writes on Twitter, without further elaborating.
WASHINGTON — The United States has the capacity to evacuate the approximately 300 US citizens remaining in Afghanistan who want to leave before President Joe Biden’s Tuesday deadline, senior Biden administration officials say, as another US drone strike against suspected Islamic State militants underscored the grave threat in the war’s final days.
“This is the most dangerous time in an already extraordinarily dangerous mission these last couple of days,” America’s top diplomat, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, says, not long before confirmation of that airstrike in Kabul, the capital.
The evacuation flow of Americans keeps pace even as a new State Department security alert, issued hours before the military action, instructs people to leave the airport area immediately “due to a specific, credible threat.”
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, says that for those US citizens seeking to leave Afghanistan immediately, by the looming deadline, “We have the capacity to have 300 Americans, which is roughly the number we think are remaining, come to the airport and get on planes in the time that is remaining. We moved out more than that number just yesterday. So from our point of view, there is an opportunity right now for American citizens to come, to be admitted to the airport, and to be evacuated safely and effectively.”
Sullivan says the US does not currently plan to have an ongoing embassy presence after the final US troop withdrawal. But he pledges that the US “will make sure there is safe passage for any American citizen, any legal permanent resident” after Tuesday, as well as for “those Afghans who helped us.” But untold numbers of vulnerable Afghans, fearful of a return to the brutality of pre-2001 Taliban rule, are likely to be left behind.
Former national coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu appears to take a swipe at government health officials over their approach to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m angry that the automatic answer every time there is a wave of morbidity is ‘let’s close down the country.’ We need to change tack — manage the coronavirus like any disease,” Gamzu, who heads Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, tells Army Radio.
He also predicts that after schools reopen on September 1, they will be shuttered again in response to rising cases.
“Enough! We can’t manage like this. We are in this pandemic for a year and a half already,” he says.
DAMASCUS, Syria — Iran and Syria vow Sunday to take “mighty steps” to confront US sanctions imposed on the two regional allies, saying their relations will strengthen under Iran’s new leadership.
The announcement is made by Iran’s new Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who is received at the airport for a visit to Damascus by his Syrian counterpart, Faisal Mekdad.
Iran has been one of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s strongest backers, sending thousands of fighters from around the region to help his troops in Syria’s 10-year conflict that has killed half a million and displaced half the country’s prewar population of 23 million.
With the help of Russia and Iran, Syrian government forces now control much of Syria. But the country has been suffering for years under American and European Union sanctions.
US Treasury sanctions have targeted a network that spans Syria, Iran and Russia, and which is responsible for shipping oil to the Syrian government.
American sanctions were imposed on Tehran after former US president Donald Trump pulled America out of a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in 2018.
The sanctions have caused severe fuel shortages in Syria, which has been relying mostly on Iranian oil shipments that have been subjected to mysterious attacks over the past two years. Syria has blamed Israel for the attacks.
“The leadership of the two countries will together take mighty steps to confront economic terrorism and reduce pressure on our people,” Amir-Abdollahian says at the airport. He doesn’t say how the two countries will fight the sanctions.
Amir-Abdollahian’s visit to Syria comes a day after he represented Iran in a conference attended by officials from around the Middle East aimed at easing regional tensions.
Amir-Abdollahian describes Syria as the “land of resistance,” adding that Damascus and Tehran had worked together “on the ground and achieved joint victories.”
WASHINGTON — US officials say an American drone strike has hit a vehicle carrying multiple Islamic State suicide bombers heading for the Kabul airport. A military official says the strike today caused “significant secondary explosions” indicating the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material in the vehicle.
Two senior US officials say the US believes it was a successful strike and that the intended target was hit. This is the second airstrike the US has conducted against the jihadist group, which claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing Thursday at the Kabul airport gate that killed 13 US service members and scores of Afghans struggling to get out of the country and escape the new Taliban rule.
The officials say that initial reports indicate there are no civilian casualties caused by the airstrike, but one official says they are assessing reports of any other collateral damage.
There have been reports of an explosion at a house near the airport, but it isn’t clear the two explosions are connected. The officials speak on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations.
Barel Shmueli, a Border Police officer hospitalized in serious condition after being shot during rioting along the Gaza border, is suffering a deterioration, according to Hebrew media reports.
Shmueli, 21, has been receiving treatment at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba since he was wounded earlier this month.
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s president has appointed a new director of the country’s nuclear department, state TV reports, replacing the nation’s most prominent nuclear scientist with a UN-sanctioned minister who has no reported experience in nuclear energy but ties to the defense ministry.
Iran’s newly elected hardline President Ebrahim Raisi chooses Mohammad Eslami, a 64-year-old civil engineer who previously oversaw the country’s road network, to lead Iran’s civilian nuclear program and serve as one of several vice presidents. He succeeds Ali Akbar Salehi, a US-educated scientist who was a key player during the years of intense international diplomacy that led to Tehran’s now-tattered 2015 landmark nuclear deal with world powers.
The deal curbed Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, but then-president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the agreement and reimposed crushing sanctions. Iran, in response, has gradually and publicly abandoned all restrictions on its stockpiles of low-enriched uranium.
In 2008, when Eslami served as head of Iran’s Defense Industries Training and Research Institute, the United Nations sanctioned him for “being engaged in, directly associated with or providing support for Iran’s proliferation sensitive nuclear activities or for the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems.”
The UN linked the blacklisting to his “involvement in procurement of prohibited items, goods, equipment, materials and technology,” without elaborating.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett hails the Health Ministry’s approval of COVID-19 booster shots for anyone eligible to be vaccinated.
“This is a privilege that no other country has,” Bennett says in a statement. “Israel is the only country in the world that did this.”
The premier calls on anyone over 12 who can get a third vaccine dose to do so, noting there has been a slowdown in the increase in serious morbidity since Israel first began administering boosters.
“Whoever is still not vaccinated at all must do so immediately,” he says, calling vaccination the best way to protect “health and livelihoods.”
KABUL, Afghanistan — A Taliban spokesman says a US military airstrike has targeted a suicide bomber in a vehicle who wanted to attack the Kabul international airport amid the American evacuation there.
Zabihullah Mujahid says in a message to journalists that the strike happened today.
US military officials can’t be immediately reached for comment.
The incident happened as police say a rocket struck a neighborhood just northwest of Kabul’s international airport, killing a child, as the US evacuation there winds down following the Taliban’s lightning takeover of the country.
The two strikes initially appear to be separate incidents, though information on both remain scarce.
WASHINGTON — Only 300 American citizens still in Afghanistan are seeking to leave the country, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says, just days ahead of the US deadline for evacuations.
“We are down to a population of 300 or fewer Americans who are still on the ground there, and we are working actively in these hours and these days to get those folks out,” he tells ABC.
Some Americans, Blinken says, have chosen to stay beyond the August 31 deadline set to complete the evacuation, but he insists “they are not going to be stuck in Afghanistan.” He says the US has “a mechanism to get them out.”
KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan police chief says a rocket has struck a neighborhood northwest of Kabul’s international airport amid the US evacuation there, killing a child.
Rashid, the Kabul police chief who goes by one name, says the rocket struck this afternoon.
No group immediately claims the attack.
The rocket fire comes as the United States winds down a historic airlift that saw tens of thousands evacuated from Kabul’s international airport, the scene of much of the chaos that engulfed the Afghan capital since the Taliban took over two weeks ago.
After an Islamic State affiliate’s suicide attack that killed over 180 people, the Taliban increased its security around the airfield as Britain ended its evacuation flights yesterday.
Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash announces that COVID-19 booster shots will now be offered to all Israelis eligible to receive the vaccine.
“From today the third dose is available to everyone,” Ash says at a press conference.
The boosters will be available to anyone 12 and older, provided five months have passed since getting a second dose.
The Health Ministry says those who get a booster shot will only have to quarantine for 24 hours after returning from abroad or upon receiving a negative coronavirus test result, rather than a full week.
KABUL, Afghanistan — A loud blast was heard in the Afghan capital Kabul today by AFP journalists, hours after US officials warned of the possibility of a terror attack.
A security official from the recently deposed government tells AFP it was a rocket that “initial information shows hit a house.”
A house near to Kabul airport hit by a rocket. pic.twitter.com/t3Ue3AXD0s
— Shafi Karimi (@karimi_shafi) August 29, 2021
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation announces it has begun some maintenance work on the Mughrabi Bridge, the sole entry point for Jews and tourists to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, due to a risk of collapse.
“The work, being overseen by engineers, will continue over the next few days and will necessitate closing off part of the women’s section of the Western Wall Plaza,” the foundation says in a statement.
הבוקר החלו עבודות לשיפוץ בגשר המוגרבים ברחבת הכותל אשר תמשכנה בימים הקרובים ובמהלכן תגודר חלק מעזרת הנשים pic.twitter.com/WyRZjMkE6y
— שלומי הלר (@Heller_shlomi) August 29, 2021
The Health Ministry has told HMOs to start getting ready tomorrow to expand COVID-19 vaccine booster access to all those eligible to be inoculated, Channel 13 news reports.
The booster shots are currently available to those 30 and up, while anyone 12 and up can get the first two vaccine doses.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates announces it will resume issuing visas to all tourists fully vaccinated against COVID starting tomorrow, a month before Dubai hosts the delayed Expo 2020 trade fair.
The move comes amid a drop in coronavirus infections in the oil-rich Gulf country, after it reported less than 1,000 cases per day last week for the first time in months.
The UAE’s decision to reopen its doors to tourists from all countries was made in order “to achieve sustainable recovery and economic growth,” the official WAM news agency reports today.
Those eligible have to be fully inoculated with one of the COVID-19 vaccines approved by the World Health Organization, which include AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Sinopharm and Sinovac.
“The decision applies to citizens of all countries, including those arriving from previously banned countries,” WAM says.
“Passengers arriving on tourist visas must take a mandatory PCR test at the airport,” it adds.
The UAE is made up of seven emirates including the capital Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
While life in the country has largely returned to normal amid the COVID pandemic, it continues to enforce strict rules on wearing masks and social distancing.
A pair of diplomats have told Reuters that the European Council will remove Israel from a list of “epidemiologically safe countries” due to rising COVID-19 infections in the Jewish state, with EU member states advised to reimpose travel restrictions on Israelis.
The move is expected to be announced tomorrow, according to the news agency, which says Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, North Macedonia and the United States are also expected to be removed from the list.
EU members are not legally required to enforce testing and quarantine requirements in accordance with list.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Strikes on Yemen’s largest airbase today killed at least 30 pro-government troops and wounded scores more, say medical and loyalist sources who blame Iran-backed Houthi rebels for the attack.
“More than 30 have been killed and at least 56 were injured,” armed forces spokesman Mohammed al-Naqib, who had earlier accused the Huthis of being behind the attack, tells AFP.
A military medic confirms the death toll after it jumped from seven fatalities earlier in the day.
Likud MK Avi Dichter tells the Kan public broadcaster that he’ll run in the next party leadership primaries, even if ex-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks another term as party chief.
Dichter, a former head of the Shin Bet security service, has previously expressed his interest in becoming Likud leader and eventually premier, most recently in June following the swearing-in of the new government that unseated Netanyahu — who is now opposition leader — after 12 consecutive years in the Prime Minister’s Office.
KABUL, Afghanistan — A Taliban fighter shot dead an Afghan folk singer in a restive mountain province under unclear circumstances, his family says. The killing reignited concerns among activists that the insurgents will return to their oppressive rule in the country after their military blitz toppled the government.
The slaying of Fawad Andarabi comes as the United States winds down a historic airlift that saw tens of thousands evacuated from Kabul’s international airport, the scene of much of the chaos that engulfed the Afghan capital since the Taliban took over two weeks ago. After an Islamic State affiliate’s suicide attack that killed over 180 people, the Taliban increased its security around the airfield as Britain ended its evacuation flights Saturday.
US military cargo planes continue their runs into the airport today, ahead of a Tuesday deadline earlier set by US President Joe Biden to withdraw all troops from America’s longest war.
The shooting Friday of the folk singer came in the Andarabi Valley for which he was named, an area of Baghlan province some 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Kabul. The valley had seen upheaval since the Taliban takeover, with some districts in the area coming under the control of militia fighters opposed to the Taliban rule. The Taliban say they have since retaken those areas, though neighboring Panjshir in the Hindu Kush mountains remains the only one of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces not under its control.
— BILAL SARWARY (@bsarwary) August 28, 2021
The Taliban previously came out to Andarabi’s home and searched it, even drinking tea with the musician, his son Jawad Andarabi tells The Associated Press. But something changed Friday.
“He was innocent, a singer who only was entertaining people,” his son says. “They shot him in the head on the farm.”
His son says he wants justice and that a local Taliban council promised to punish his father’s killer.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tells the AP that the insurgents would investigate the incident, but has no other details on the killing.
Prosecutors inform the Jerusalem District Court that they plan to further investigate after new evidence was found on the phone of a key state’s witness in former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial.
In a filing with the court, prosecutors say they’ve summoned former Walla news editor Avi Alkalay for questioning in the coming days regarding correspondence between him and the website’s ex-CEO Ilan Yeshua, who has been testifying in the case. Alkalay is also a witness in the case.
According to prosecutors, the correspondence involves “issues that Alkalay addressed in his investigation.”
They also say the investigation won’t impact the timing of the trial, noting he is not set to testify for some time.
The trial is set to resume on September 13, following a court order that defense attorneys be provided with new evidence gleaned from messages and emails on Yeshua’s phone.
Yeshua is the first witness to give testimony in Netanyahu’s trial. He is a top witness in Case 4000, in which Netanyahu is alleged to have abused his powers when he served as both premier and communications minister from 2014 to 2017.
Netanyahu, who is now opposition leader, faces charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in the case. He was also indicted on fraud and breach of trust charges in two other cases. The ex-premier denies any wrongdoing.
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