The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they happened.
Syria accuses Israel of 2nd attack, this time in Damascus
Syria’s state-run SANA news agency says air defenses are engaging a second Israeli airstrike, now over the capital Damascus.
SANA claims that a number of “hostile missiles” have been downed over Damascus and the surrounding countryside.
There are no immediate reports of injuries in the alleged attack.
Israeli strikes said to hit Aleppo airport in northern Syria
Syria’s state-run SANA news agency says Israel targeted the Aleppo International Airport earlier this evening.
SANA says the airstrikes cause damage to the airport in northern Syria, without elaborating further.
There are no immediate reports of injuries in the alleged attack
#حلب: استهداف مطار حلب الدولي بعدد من الصواريخ والأضرار اقتصرت على الماديات pic.twitter.com/g7quVGkGG5
— أخبار سوريا الوطن Syrian ???????? (@SyriawatanNews) August 31, 2022
Poll indicates Labor, Meretz union to bring fewer seats than separate runs
A poll published tonight indicates that the left-wing Labor and Mertz parties will fare better in the upcoming elections if they run separately, despite pressure on them to unite.
The Channel 12 poll predicts that each party will get five seats individually, but only nine if they run together.
The poll also predicts a continued political deadlock, with the pro-Netanyahu parties winning 59 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, the anti-Netanyahu coalition 56 and Joint List five.
The poll indicates that if elections were held today Likud would get 33 seats; Yesh Atid 24; National Unity 12; Religious Zionism 11; Shas 8; United Torah Judaism 7; Yisrael Beiteinu 6; Labor 5; Meretz 5; Joint List 5 and Ra’am 4.
Ayelet Shaked’s Zionist Spirit would fail to cross the electoral threshold.
Palestinian hunger striker to end fast after Israel agrees to set him free — report
Palestinian media, citing the family of hunger-striking detainee Khalil Awawdeh, say he will end his near-six-month fast after reaching an agreement with Israeli authorities to release him from administrative detention.
According to reports, 40-year-old Awawdeh will end his hunger strike immediately, after officials agreed in writing to grant him a full release on October 2.
Israel suspended his arrest earlier this month, but he remains in custody at the Asaf Harofeh hospital in central Israel.
The High Court has so far rejected Awawdeh’s appeals for a full release.
Israel says administrative detention is needed to keep dangerous terrorists off the streets without revealing sensitive intelligence. Palestinians and rights groups say it denies detainees the basic right of due process.
Islamic Jihad demanded his release as part of a cease-fire that ended a flare-up of violence in Gaza earlier this month but did not identify him as a member.
Likud court rejects appeal against Netanyahu reserved spots on Knesset list
A Likud court rejects an appeal against allowing party leader Benjamin Netanyahu several reserved spots on the party roster ahead of the November 1 elections.
Likud has reserved spots on its slate at 14, 16, 28, 37 and 43, to be filled at Netanyahu’s discretion.
Two outgoing MKs seen as likely to get two of the reserved spots are former Yamina party members Idit Silman and Amichai Chikli, whose separate rebellions against Naftali Bennett were key to the collapse of the coalition government.
WHO: New COVID cases, deaths keep falling nearly everywhere
The number of new coronavirus cases and deaths reported globally continued to fall nearly everywhere in the world in what the World Health Organization describes as a “welcome decline.”
The UN health agency says there were 4.5 million new COVID-19 cases reported last week, a 16% drop from the previous week. Deaths were also down by 13%, with about 13,500 fatalities. WHO says COVID-19 infections dropped everywhere in the world while deaths decreased everywhere except for Southeast Asia, where they climbed by 15% and in the Western Pacific, where they rose by 3%.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warns that with the coming onset of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the possible emergence of a more dangerous new COVID-19 variant, experts expect to see a spike in hospitalizations and deaths. Tedros says vaccination rates, even in rich countries, were still too low, noting that 30% of health workers and 20% of older people remain unimmunized.
“These vaccination gaps pose a risk to all of us,” he says. “Please get vaccinated if you are not and a booster if it’s recommended that you have one.”
White House ‘cautiously optimistic’ of return to Iran nuclear deal
The United States is ‘cautiously optimistic that it will return to the Iran nuclear deal along with Tehran, a top official says.
“We do believe we’re closer now than we had been in certain recent weeks and months, due in large part to Iran being willing to drop some of their demands that were not related to the deal at all,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby tells reporters.
“So we’re cautiously optimistic that things can continue to move in the right direction,” he says.
Kirby also confirms a call between US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
Lapid says they spoke “at length” about the emerging nuclear deal, which Israel opposes.
Obamas to unveil White House portraits after Trump snub
Former US president Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will finally unveil their official portraits at the White House next week after being denied the honor by Donald Trump.
The September 7 ceremony, announced by the administration today, traditionally gives presidents the chance to pay homage to their predecessors.
But Trump, who led the United States for a single term after Obama’s eight years in office and frequently attacks his predecessor, declined to continue with the custom.
Instead, President Joe Biden — who served as Obama’s vice president — and his wife Jill Biden will host the couple.
Ministers hail ‘historic’ deal with Teacher’s Union that averts strike
Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton hails a “historic” agreement between the Teacher’s Union and the Treasury.
“The agreement addresses so many aspects that have been dealt with for many years. It’s a historic agreement that puts the Israeli student at the forefront,” she says at a press conference with Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Israel Teachers Union chief Yaffa Ben David.
Liberman says the deal provides for stability until 2026, but acknowledges that it is “not ideal but was the most that could be achieved. ”
Ben David also praises the agreement.
“We have brought great news for those in education, the agreement pushes the education system forward.
Lapid speaks to Biden about emerging Iran nuclear deal
Prime Minister Yair Lapid speaks to US President Joe Biden, with talks focusing on the emerging Iran nuclear deal, Lapid’s office says.
The statement says the two “talked at length” about the negotiations for the US and Iran to reenter the deal.
The conversation also focuses on “various efforts to stop Iran’s progress towards nuclear weapons” and Iran’s terror activities” in the region.
There was no readout of the call from the White House.
Gorbachev funeral to be held in Moscow on Saturday
The funeral of last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev — who has died at the age of 91 — will take place in Moscow on Saturday, Russian news agencies report citing Gorbachev’s daughter and his foundation.
The ceremony will be held on September 3 in the Moscow Hall of Columns, then Gorbachev will be buried at the prestigious Novodevichy cemetery, the Interfax news agency reports, citing Gorbachev’s daughter Irina.
EU foreign policy chief hopeful on Iran nuclear deal in ‘days’
The EU’s foreign policy chief says he is hopeful the Iran nuclear deal could be revived “in the coming days” after receiving “reasonable” responses to his proposed text from Iran and the United States.
“I am hoping that in the coming days we are not going to lose this momentum and we can close the deal,” Josep Borrell says after an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Prague.
“It’s clear that there is a common ground, that we have an agreement that takes into account, I think, everyone’s concerns,” he says.
French man killed in suspected antisemitic attack to be buried in Israel
A Jewish man killed in France in a suspected antisemitic attack will be buried in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba tonight, says Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai.
Eyal Haddad, 34, was killed by his Muslim roommate, who told police he committed the crime because of 100 euros he was owed and because the victim was Jewish.
Haddad, originally from Djerba, Tunisia, had family in Beersheba and was an Israeli citizen.
Shai calls on France to take strong action against mounting antisemitism.
“I call on the authority in France to bring the killer to justice and impose the most severe sentence,” says Shai, noting that a “number of horrific antisemitic attacks have been carried out against France’s Jews in recent months.”
Top US diplomat heading to region for talks with Israelis, Palestinians
A senior US diplomat is heading to the region for talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials, the Axios news site reports.
Barbara Leaf, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, will arrive in Israel tomorrow.
The report says Leaf will primarily try and persuade the Palestinians not to pursue a bid at the UN Security Council for full UN membership.
US approves updated COVID boosters targeting newest variants
The US authorizes its first update to COVID-19 vaccines, booster doses that target today’s most common omicron strain. Shots could begin within days.
The move by the Food and Drug Administration tweaks the recipe of shots made by Pfizer and rival Moderna that already have saved millions of lives. The hope is that the modified boosters will blunt yet another winter surge.
Until now, COVID-19 vaccines have targeted the original coronavirus strain, even as wildly different mutants emerged. The new US boosters are combination, or “bivalent,” shots. They contain half that original vaccine recipe and half protection against the newest omicron versions, called BA.4 and BA.5, that are considered the most contagious yet.
The combination aims to increase cross-protection against multiple variants.
Israel, Germany announce compensation deal reached for families of Munich victims
Israel and Germany announced that a compensation agreement has been reached between Germany and the families of the victims of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre.
“We welcome the fact that soon before the fiftieth anniversary of the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, an agreement has been reached for a historical inquiry, the taking of responsibility, and suitable compensation for the victims’ families,” says a joint statement from President Isaac Herzog and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
“We welcome the results of the discussions. This agreement cannot heal the wounds, but it includes an acceptance of responsibility on Germany’s part and its recognition of the terrible suffering of the victims, whom we shall commemorate next week, and of their loved ones.”
Members of the Palestinian group Black September terror group broke into the Olympic Village, killed two athletes from Israel’s national team and took nine more hostage on Sept. 5, 1972. The attackers hoped to force the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel as well as two left-wing extremists in West German jails.
All nine hostages and a West German police officer died during a rescue attempt by German forces. Relatives of the athletes accuse Germany of failing to secure the Olympic Village, refusing Israeli help and then botching the rescue operation.
Report: Victims’ families to attend Munich ceremony after reaching deal with Germany
The families of 11 Israeli athletes killed by Palestinian attackers at the 1972 Munich Olympics have reached a deal with the German government over a long-disputed compensation claim, German media reports.
Ankie Spitzer, a spokesperson for the families, tells Germany’s RND news that an agreement has been finalized with the federal government. “The families will come to Munich,” Spitzer tells RND.
Earlier this month, the families had threatened to boycott Monday’s 50-year anniversary ceremony in Munich organized by German authorities because they said the amount they had been offered was too low.
Several media outlets reported today that Germany increased its offer to the families to around 28 million euros (dollars.)
German media have reported that during negotiations over the last few weeks, the German government initially offered 10 million euros to the families, which would include the payments already made. The government has not publicly revealed how much money it has offered.
AP contributed to this report.
Labor, Meretz sign surplus vote-sharing agreement
The Labor and Meret party announce that they have signed a surplus vote-sharing agreement ahead of the November Knesset elections.
A joint statement quotes Labor’s Ram Shefa and Meretz’s Michal Rozin as saying the upcoming elections are critical to prevent the far-right from entering government.
Vote-sharing agreements, which are widely used in Israeli elections, allow parties to ensure that extra votes they win that don’t add up to a Knesset seat do not go to waste. Instead, a party transfers those votes to another party through a special agreement.
Under the law, the combined leftover votes go to the party closest to winning another seat — and are often sufficient to add that seat to its tally, making the votes potentially decisive in a close race.
Such deals only count if both parties pass the electoral threshold of 3.25 percent of the votes.
Two Lebanese ministers filmed throwing rocks at Israeli border
Two Lebanese government ministers are filmed throwing rocks at the Israeli border while on a tour of the country’s south yesterday.
In the video, Energy Minister Walid Fayad and Social Affairs Minister Hector Hajjar can be seen throwing rocks, laughing and saying they “need to practice.”
The video draws criticism on social media from within Lebanon, which is in the midst of a major economic crisis, with one commentator noting that Fayad only manages to provide the country with one hour of electricity a day and Hajjar should be dealing with the 80 percent of the country who are below the poverty line
Internet shutdowns hit cash-strapped Lebanon due to strike
Internet shutdowns have rippled through cash-strapped Lebanon since yesterday after employees of the country’s state-owned telecom company went on strike, demanding higher wages.
It is the latest reflection of one of the world’s worst economic disasters, which has pulled three quarters of Lebanon’s 6 million people into poverty. The Lebanese pound in three years has lost over 90 percent of its value against the US dollar.
Employees of Ogero and other public sector institutions have not had their wages adjusted to accommodate the pound’s depreciation and skyrocketing inflation.
“Unfortunately at my level there is very little to do,” Ogero Chairman Imad Kreidieh tells The Associated Press. “Ogero does not have the funds to deal with the matter.”
Kreidieh added that the issue is Lebanon’s parliament and caretaker government’s to resolve.
According to Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency, internet shutdowns have hit several towns across the country, including in several neighborhoods of Beirut.
Caretaker Telecommunications Minister Johnny Corm does not immediately respond to the AP when asked if the government is working to resolve the internet shutdowns.
Legislator Paula Yacoubian tells the AP that Parliament’s telecommunications committee will meet Monday next week to discuss the issue.
IDF soldier killed in training accident named as Eitan Fichman, 19
The Israeli soldier killed in a tank accident last night in northern Israel is named as Eitan Fichman.
The 19-year-old from Beersheba has been posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant.
Fichman, a loader in the 82nd Armored Corps Battalion, was found unconscious with a “severe head injury” inside a tank during the live fire drill in the Golan Heights.
He was later declared dead.
The military has opened an investigation into his death.
Survey finds half of Israelis plan to vote for same party as in 2021 elections
A survey published today finds that half of Israelis plan to vote for the same party as they did in the previous 2021 elections, with some 25% undecided.
According to the survey by the Israel Democracy Institute’s Viterbi Family Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research, despite the fluidity, only some 6% say they will vote for a party in a different bloc.
The last four elections have largely focused on a division between those who support Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and those who oppose him.
Still, the survey finds that when asked what will influence their vote, respondents ranked parties’ economic agendas as the most influential factor.
“The identity of the party leader only ranked in second place, with the exception of Likud voters, for whom the identity of the party’s leader was cited as the most important factor in voting for that party,” the survey says.
Among Jewish Israelis, the survey finds greater indecisiveness among those who voted for a member of the coalition, with 25% saying they were still unsure who they would vote for.
Among those who voted for the opposition parties last time, only 12 % are undecided.
The majority of those willing to switch blocs are also from the current coalition, with most of them Yamina voters, the survey says.
Among Arab Israeli voters, 65% of those who voted for the Joint List say they intend to do so again, while only 45% of those who voted for Ra’am plan to do so.
Route 16 is inaugurated, serving as a new entrance to Jerusalem
Officials today inaugurate Route 16, a new stretch of highway that provides Jerusalem with another entrance.
The 6-kilometer (3.7 mile) section connects motorists from Route 1 directly into the Givat Shaul neighborhood and is expected to significantly ease traffic for those heading to the city’s southern and Western neighborhoods.
The road, which consists of four tunnels and seven bridges, will officially open to traffic after midnight.
כביש 16 נפתח היום לתנועה – הזזת הפקקים החלה!
לאן לדעתכם? pic.twitter.com/pg0Fj0JPtY
— נעם בנעט – نوعم بنعط – Noam Bannett (@aravimislam) August 31, 2022
1989 letter shows Iran’s Khomeini invited Gorbachev to embrace Islam
Two years before the fall of the Soviet Union, its leader Mikhail Gorbachev received an unusual letter from the Islamic Republic of Iran’s founder, inviting him to embrace Islam.
The last leader of the USSR passed away in Moscow yesterday at the age of 91, leaving behind a legacy that polarized observers on either side of the Iron Curtain.
But in January 1989, as Europe’s communist regimes were taking their last breath, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini sent a delegation to Moscow to deliver a letter to Gorbachev.
“Mr. Gorbachev, it is clear to everyone that communism belongs in the world’s political history museums, because Marxism does not meet any of humanity’s true needs,” Khomeini wrote.
Iran’s supreme leader chose to send the letter because, according to him, Gorbachev had “entered, since assuming office, a revisionist phase of the Soviet system.”
“Mr. Gorbachev, you must face the truth: the principal problem of your country is not the question of property, economy and liberty, but the lack of true belief in God. The same problem has led or will lead the West to decadence and deadlock,” Khomeini wrote in his letter.
The ayatollah said communism had no future “because it’s a materialist school, incapable of saving man from the crisis of disbelief in spirituality, the most fundamental suffering of human society in the West and the East.”
The solution, according to the supreme leader, who died five months after sending the missive, was Islam.
“I call on you to seriously study Islam. The high and universal values of Islam can be the source of comfort and salvation for all nations and resolve the fundamental problems of humanity,” the letter said.
Gantz sanctions 20 people, companies operating as a front for Hamas money laundering
Defense Minister Benny Gantz signs an order imposing economic sanctions on 20 individuals and organizations accused of laundering money internationally for the Hamas terror group.
According to a statement from Gantz’s office, Hamas manages investments worth hundreds of millions of dollars through a network of shell companies “operating under the guise of legitimate companies and concealing Hamas’s control over their holdings.”
These companies deal mainly with real estate and infrastructure projects and operate in Sudan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Algeria,” the statement says, adding that local authorities and financial institutions were
were unaware Hamas was behind the companies.
Among those sanctioned are Osama Ali, who is identified as the head of the investment system and a member of the Hamas ruling council.
Companies named include Al-Rowad for Real Estate Development Company Ltd (Sudan); Anda, a Saudi real estate and construction company; Sidar Company and Agrogate Holding.
“This is a significant operational and international announcement,” says Gantz.
“Our policy is clear: we will continue to support the flow of money that goes to civilians (in Gaza) — and we will continue to thwart any attempt to send money that goes to strengthen the military capabilities of the Hamas terrorist organization,” he says.
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