The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they happened.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — An oil slick believed to have originated from a power plant inside one of Syria’s oil refineries could reach Cyprus’ northeastern tip in the next 24 hours, the Mediterranean island nation’s Fisheries and Marine Research Department says.
The Department says the most recent computer model indicates the oil spill could affect Apostolos Andreas Cape in the breakaway north of ethnically divided Cyprus by tomorrow evening.
It says information and photographs received from ships in the region show the slick is a thin film of oil, rather than thick crude.
The Cypriot government has informed Turkish Cypriot authorities about the slick’s progress and is ready to offer any assistance.
Syria’s state news agency said last week that the spill occurred after fuel leaked from a tank at the Baniyas Thermal Station.
Syria’s oil resources are mostly outside of government-controlled areas, but its two refineries are under government control. This makes Damascus reliant on Iran for fuel, but US Treasury sanctions have hindered the supply network, which spans Syria, Iran, and Russia.
The head of the Karlin-Stolin Hasidic dynasty has called off mass Rosh Hashanah events planned for the group’s members at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, due the elevated COVID-19 morbidity figures, according to the Kan public broadcaster.
The government is considering expanding Green Pass rules to workers in numerous fields, according to Channel 13 news.
The network says the expanded rules would apply to those who work at schools, HMOs, senior living facilities, gyms, restaurants, pools, event halls and cultural and recreation venues.
If approved, employees will have to be vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19, or present a negative vaccine test, with the report saying that those who do not comply would be placed on unpaid leave.
Palestinians head to the Gaza border for a third straight night of riots, as military chief Aviv Kohavi warns that Israel will respond to any violence.
“Calm and security will allow an improvement in civil conditions, but rioting and terror will lead to strong response or operation,” IDF Aviv Kohavi warns in a speech. “If quiet isn’t preserved in the south, we won’t hesitate to set out on another campaign.”
For the third night in a row, Palestinians head to the Gaza border to participate in demonstrations that include setting tires on fire and hurling explosive devices toward the fence. pic.twitter.com/QDUpLfUBgU
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) August 30, 2021
More than 7,000 people in Israel have died from the coronavirus since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to updated Health Ministry figures, with the national toll now at 7,030.
Israel has recently faced a resurgence in morbidity that has also seen a jump in fatalities — with 551 deaths recorded this month — though mortality levels are relatively lower in the current outbreak than in previous waves, following widespread vaccination.
The ministry says 5,885 more infections have been confirmed since midnight, with active cases at 78,700.
There are currently 736 people hospitalized in serious condition, due to COVID complications, including 163 on ventilators.
According to the Health Ministry, 5,968,257 people in Israel have received at least one vaccine dose and 5,478,657 have gotten two shots. Another 2,102,426 have received a third dose, which, as of yesterday, Israel began offering to anyone eligible to be vaccinated, as long as five months had passed since the previous shot.
Israel has officially been removed from a list of nations deemed “epidemiologically safe” by the European Union, due to rising COVID-19 cases in the country.
The move means the European Council is now advising EU member states reimpose travel restrictions on Israelis, though the recommendation is non-binding.
The United States, Kosovo, Montenegro, and North Macedonia are also being scrubbed from the list.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says the start the school year will go ahead as planned on Wednesday, after meeting with top education and health officials on the preparations to reopen schools.
A statement from Bennett’s office says it was decided that Green Pass rules will apply to education workers, meaning they must be vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19, or have a negative test result to enter their workplace. Those who are unvaccinated will have to test negative twice a week.
In grades eight and up, at least 70 percent of kids in each class must have received one vaccine shot for classes to be held in person, according to the statement. Starting September 30, 70% or more of students will be required to have gotten both shots to avoid remote learning.
The statement stresses that one vaccine dose is not sufficient to meet the Health Ministry’s vaccination standards.
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon says it remains prepared to airlift more Americans from the Kabul airport, even as the evacuation winds down.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby tells Monday “there is still time” for remaining Americans to get out. He won’t be more specific about the state of the evacuation. He says a total of 5,400 Americans have been airlifted thus far.
US President Joe Biden has set tomorrow as a deadline for completing the evacuation.
CAIRO — Egypt has released an online comedian, a journalist and a political activist after they spent months in pretrial detention, two lawyers say today.
It is the latest in a series of recent releases amid concerns by the United States and international rights groups over the arrests and harassment of rights advocates and critics of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s government.
Youtuber Shadi Srour, journalist Shaimaa Sami and activist Ziyad Aboel-Fadel walked free last night from a police headquarters in Cairo, say the two lawyers, Khalid Ali and Ismael el-Rashedi.
Security forces had arrested Srour, who is also an actor, at Cairo International Airport in December 2019 upon his arrival from the US.
He became popular on YouTube for his satirical videos that attracted millions of viewers. In 2019, he posted a video titled “Enough el-Sissi” in which he endorsed calls made by the self-exiled Egyptian businessman Mohamed Ali for people to rise up and rebel against the president.
Aboel-Fadl, the activist, was arrested in March 2019 in Cairo, while Sami was arrested in May 2020 in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.
Despite their lengthy detention, those arrested and released have yet to stand trial.
Egyptian lawmakers and other public figures have repeatedly urged authorities to release activists and rights advocates who have been detained in recent years over alleged politically motivated charges.
Egypt’s government has in recent years waged a wide-scale crackdown on dissent, jailing thousands of people, mainly Islamists, but also secular activists involved in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Journalists have also been targeted, with dozens imprisoned and some expelled. Egypt remains among the world’s top jailers of journalists, along with Turkey and China, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
WASHINGTON — The threat to Kabul airport remains “real” and “specific” as the United States winds down its withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby says.
“We’re in a particularly dangerous time right now,” Kirby tells reporters today. “The threat stream is still real, it’s still active, and in many cases it’s still specific.”
The funeral for Barel Shmueli, a Border Police officer who died today, nine days after he was critically shot in recent rioting on the Gaza border, will be held at 9:30 p.m. at the Kiryat Shaul Military Cemetery in Tel Aviv.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will announce his choice as the next head of the Shin Bet security agency later this week, according to his office.
The Prime Minister’s Office says Bennett has interviewed numerous candidates and recently held deliberations on the matter with current and former senior security officials, “with the goal of appointing the most suitable candidate for the position.”
Whoever is selected will replace outgoing Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman, who was to step down in May but had his tenure extended until October.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz says Israel is offering an NIS 500 million ($155 million) loan to the Palestinian Authority in order to prevent its collapse.
This arrangement allows the Israeli government to effectively circumvent a law passed in 2018 that requires it offset the payments the PA makes to Palestinians wounded, jailed, or killed by Israel — including avowed terrorists — by confiscating the same amount from the Palestinian tax revenue that Israel collects.
The half-billion shekel loan that Israel is giving to the Palestinian will be paid off from those confiscated funds.
Gantz’s announcement came after a meeting he held the night before with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who also goes by the nom de guerre Abu Mazen. This was the first such meeting between high-level Israeli and Palestinian officials in nearly a decade.
“I told Abu Mazen that we aren’t going anywhere and that the Palestinians aren’t going anywhere. I went to the meeting in order to build confidence and preserve the interests of the State of Israel and the important ties we have with the Palestinian Authority, which I believe we need to strengthen,” Gantz says.
“As the Palestinian Authority gets stronger, Hamas gets weaker, and so long as it has greater governance, we will have more security and we will have to act less,” he adds.
The defense minister says Israel will also recognize the status of thousands of Palestinians currently living in the West Bank without proper documentation, most of whom came from the Gaza Strip or from abroad without proper approvals over the years. This would only apply to adults and would be performed according to the relevant security protocols, his office said.
Israel was also digitizing many of its permit applications for Palestinian in order to streamline the process and make it cheaper and easier, according to Gantz.
An additional 16,000 Palestinians will also be permitted to work in Israel, 1,000 of them specifically in tourism, and Israel will also approve more building in Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli security control, he says.
Meni Naftali, the former caretaker of the Prime Minister’s Residence, wins a libel lawsuit against a series of ex-premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s associates.
Naftali, who went from being an employee of Netanyahu to one of his most prominent critics, will be paid approximately NIS 170,000 by associates of the former prime minister’s associates over their public statements against him, the Herzliya Magistrate’s Court rules.
The ruling comes more than six years after Naftali filed his original complaint, in a case that dragged on and included testimony from Sara Netanyahu. The libel suit was based on statements made blaming Naftali for excessive spending at the Prime Minister’s Residence by the Netanyahus, which was revealed in a 2015 state comptroller’s report slamming the couple for the outlandish expenses.
Judge Gilad Hess rules that Naftali, Sara Netanyahu and former aide Ezra Saidoff all shared responsibility for the excessive spending, and that attempts to blame Naftali alone are libelous.
“I found that not only did those sued not prove that [Naftali] was an unreliable person and a liar,” writes Hess in his ruling. “The evidence shows that Naftali is a reliable person… His actions in ordering food were not done with the intention of deceiving or lying, but with the intention of pleasing his superiors, in particular Saidoff and Mrs. Netanyahu.”
In a television segment shared on social media, a presenter urges Afghanis not to be scared of the Taliban as armed fighters surround him, following the Islamist insurgency’s takeover of Afghanistan as the US military withdraws after two decades.
Afghanistan TV – surreal
This is what a political debate now looks like on Afghan TV, Taliban foot soldiers watching over the host. The presenter talks about the collapse of the Ghani govt & says the Islamic Emirate says the Afghan people should not to be afraid #Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/oEverVgLOE
— Yalda Hakim (@BBCYaldaHakim) August 29, 2021
Dan Shapiro, a former American ambassador to Israel, has been appointed the US State Department’s point man with Israel concerning Iran, the Walla news site reports.
Citing unnamed State Department officials, the report says Shapiro will be part of Iran envoy Robert Malley’s team diplomatic team and will focus on coordinating with Israel about Tehran’s nuclear program and Iranian regional activities.
According to the news site, Shapiro began working last week and advised White House officials before US President Joe Biden hosted Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for talks last week.
Shapiro was US ambassador to Israel during the Obama administration, when Biden was vice president.
The reported appointment comes as talks have stalled on restoring the 2015 deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, which former president Donald Trump withdrew the United States from.
The Biden administration is seeking to rejoin the deal but insists Iran must return to compliance with the agreement, which it has increasingly violated since the US withdrawal.
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman says he will submit the state budget to the Knesset tomorrow, with the goal of having it approved in a first reading later in the week.
Liberman presents the NIS 432 billion ($134 billion) plan at a press briefing in which he predicts that the budget for 2022 will be even higher, at NIS 452 billion ($140 billion).
The budget for 2021-2022 includes a series of profound changes to the Israeli economy and society.
Israel’s annual budget comprises two bills: the budget allocation plan itself and an accompanying Arrangements Bill that describes how the plan will be implemented. It is the latter of the two that is usually more prone to partisan dispute.
Liberman stresses it is improper for lawmakers to back only the budget and not the Arrangements Bill, telling a press briefing that the “two are one whole; you can’t vote for the first and oppose the second.”
He predicts that the pair of bills will have a majority backing in the Knesset, where the ruling coalition has a razor-thin majority.
CAIRO — The Islamic State group’s affiliate in Afghanistan has claimed responsibility for today’s rocket attack in Kabul, saying it fired at least six Katyusha rockets at the airport in the Afghan capital.
The rockets stuck a neighborhood close to the Kabul airport. The claim of responsibility is carried by the militant group’s media arm, the Aamaq news agency. It doesn’t provide further details.
The US military says five rockets targeted the airport this morning and that US forces on the airfield used a defensive system to intercept them.
The attack didn’t halt the steady stream of US military C-17 cargo jets taking off and landing at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
It was the latest attack by the militants. The Islamic State group launched a devastating suicide bombing Thursday at one of the airport gates that killed at least 169 Afghans and 13 US service members.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other Israeli leaders mourn the death of Barel Shmueli, a Border Police officer who was shot in the head during a recent riot on the Gaza border.
Bennett says Shmueli, 21, “fell defending Israel’s security” and that there are “no words” that can comfort his family.
“Barel was a warrior in life and death,” Bennett says in a statement. “He fought for his life until the last moment.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz also hails Shmueli as “among the country’s best sons.”
“In the name of the security establishment, I send condolences from the depth of my heart to his parents and family members. May you know no more sorrow,” Gantz says.
Barel Shmueli, a Border Police officer critically wounded after being shot in the head during recent rioting on the Gaza border, has died.
Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba says in a statement that despite numerous surgeries, “because of the serious wound, the [medical] team was forced to pronounce his death.”
It adds that it “shares in the family’s deep sorrow.”
Lawyers for Shaul and Iris Elovitch, defendants in former premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial on corruption charges, ask the Jerusalem District Court to prevent prosecutors from further questioning a witness in the case.
“Either the prosecution asks to stop the trial proceedings to conduct a complete investigation, with all the relevant investigatory material, or it refrains from exceptional one-sided moves,” the lawyers say, according to the Kan public broadcaster.
The request comes a day after prosecutors announced former Walla news editor Avi Alkalay had been summoned for questioning in the coming days regarding his correspondence with the website’s ex-CEO, Ilan Yeshua, who has been testifying in the case. The correspondence was found on Yeshua’s phone.
Alkalay too is to be called as a witness in the Bezeq-Walla alleged bribery case, known as Case 4000, in which which Netanyahu is alleged to have abused his powers when he served as both prime minister and communications minister from 2014 to 2017. Netanyahu is accused of illicitly and lucratively benefitting the business interests of Bezeq telecom’s controlling shareholder, Shaul Elovitch, in exchange for positive coverage on the Bezeq-owned Walla news website.
Netanyahu faces charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in the case, while Elovitch and his wife Iris were also charged with bribery. All three defendants deny wrongdoing.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz has picked Galit Altstein to take over as interim commander of Army Radio, which is due to either close or become privatized in the near future, his office says.
Altstein, who worked in the past at the station, is the chief news editor at the financial newspaper Calcalist.
“I found in Galit a true professional, who has the professional skills and the necessary ethical honesty to lead the outlet,” Gantz says.
After years of the Defense Ministry considering the move, last year Gantz announced that he would close Army Radio, a decision that was lauded by the military. The station, which employs soldiers and civilians, has long been considered anachronistic and has regularly been accused of being overtly political in the framework of a military that is meant to be nonpartisan.
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization’s European branch says he agrees with the top US infectious diseases expert that a third dose of coronavirus vaccines can help protect the people most vulnerable, and it shouldn’t be seen as a “luxury booster.”
Dr. Hans Kluge cites “deeply worrying” levels of high transmission, saying 33 countries among the 53 in the WHO Europe region have reported an increase in case counts of 10 percent or more over the past two weeks.
Kluge says he spoke this month with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top infectious diseases expert, and says they share the same conviction that “a third dose of vaccine is not a luxury booster, taking away from someone who is still waiting for a first jab.”
“It’s basically a way to keep the people safe — the most vulnerable,” says Kluge, quickly adding that wealthy countries with excess vaccine doses “need to share” them with countries lacking them.
At WHO headquarters in Geneva, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and other top officials have called for a moratorium on booster shots, saying doses should first be shared to help vaccinate vulnerable populations in countries that are lacking them.
Two more cases of the new Delta offshoot variant AY3 have been found detected among returning travelers over the past week, Army Radio reports.
The Health Ministry announced the first AY3 cases in Israel earlier this month, with the report saying 16 infections caused by the variant have now been detected in the country.
There is no immediate confirmation from the Health Ministry.
The variant is a further mutated version of Delta that is being closely watched around the world. It is not yet known if the strain is more contagious or deadly than the original Delta.
WASHINGTON — The US military says five rockets targeted the Kabul airport this morning and US forces on the airfield used a defensive system to intercept them.
Capt. Bill Urban, spokesman for the US military’s Central Command, says there were no US casualties. He says US forces used a defensive weapon known by the acronym C-RAM — a Counter-Rocket, Artillery and Mortar System — in response to the attack.
It targeted the rockets in a whirling hail of ammunition, Urban says. The system has a distinct, drill-like sound that echoed through the city at the time of the attack.
He says the Kabul airfield remains operational as the evacuation continues today. Other details are not immediately available.
Meanwhile, Ross Wilson, the chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Kabul now working out of the airport, insists that evacuations remain ongoing. He dismisses as false claims that American citizens have been turned away or were denied access to the Kabul airport by US Embassy staff or American troops.
“This is a high-risk operation. Claims that American citizens have been turned away or denied access to HKIA by Embassy staff or US Forces are false,” he says in a message on Twitter, using eh acronym for the Kabul airport. He doesn’t elaborate.
BERLIN — A German woman was arrested on suspicion of helping the Islamic State group by backing efforts to transfer money to militants, prosecutors says.
The suspect, identified only as Denise S., was arrested in Geretsried, near Munich and faces possible charges of supporting a foreign terrorist organization. She is accused of supporting Aymen A.-J., an Iraqi man who was arrested in Germany earlier this year.
Federal prosecutors say the woman’s main job was to establish contact with female IS members and keep them up-to-date on upcoming money transfers.
She is accused of calling for donations for an IS member who was supposed to be freed from a Kurdish refugee camp, to enable her return to the extremist group, and of setting up an account to receive donations.
She also allegedly had Aymen A.-J. transfer 200 euros ($235) to an IS member in Idlib, Syria.
Aymen A.-J. is accused of transferring at least $12,000 to Syria and Lebanon between June and September 2020 to help IS fighters. Prosecutors say he was arrested at the German-Swiss border in January as he left to leave the country to fight for IS in Syria or Africa.
The Shin Bet and Israel Police have arrested five suspects for allegedly attacking drivers near the southern Bedouin town of Lakia in May, during ethnic violence that broke out in the country amid fighting in Gaza between Israel and Palestinian terror groups.
The five, all residents of Lakia, are accused of three attacks on the night of May 11.
According to a Shin Bet statement, the suspects pelted a Jewish woman’s car with rocks and, after she was rescued by a truck driver, set the vehicle ablaze.
The security service says that in another incident, the suspects threw rocks at a vehicle being driven by a migrant worker from Thailand, before violently pulling him from the car and setting it alight. The suspects let the man go after realizing he wasn’t Jewish and he was taken for medical treatment, according to the statement.
The Shin Bet also says the suspects hurled rocks at the vehicle of an Israeli man and tried to forcibly remove him from the car, but he was rescued by police who arrived at the scene. The driver also required medical treatment.
Indictments against the three have been filed at the Beersheba Magistrate’s Court, the Shin Bet says, without specifying the charges.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) August 30, 2021
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