The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
Three more ships filled with grain will sail from Ukraine on Friday under a UN-backed deal lifting Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea, Turkey’s defense minister says.
“It is planned that three ships will set sail tomorrow from Ukraine,” the Anadolu state news agency quotes Defense Minister Hulusi Akar as saying, one day after the first ship passed Istanbul on its way to Lebanon.
A new poll from Channel 13 gives Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc a 62-seat majority in the November election.
The poll shows Likud at 35, with Religious Zionism 12, Shas 8 and United Torah Judaism at 7, for a total of 62. Prime Minister Yair Lapid would get 21 seats, Blue and White-New Hope 12, Labor 6, Joint List 6, Yisrael Beytenu 5, Meretz 4 and Ra’am 4.
Ayelet Shaked’s Zionist Spirit and Eli Avidar’s Israel Free fail to pass the electoral threshold.
The pollsters spoke to 701 people representative of the Israeli public and had a margin of error of 3.7 percent.
It should be remembered that polls only give general indications, particularly in elections where a single seat or two could decide the results.
Mourners pour out onto the streets of Tehran to pay their respects to several Iranian officers killed in Syria, a testament to the human cost of Iran’s involvement in the civil war and a public display of nationalist fervor as nuclear talks resume in Vienna.
The remains of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard members were recently recovered in Khan Tuman, a village 9 miles (about 15 kilometers) south of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city that was for years the war’s most important front line.
The Guard identified the five deceased fighters, providing few details about their deaths with the exception of Gen. Abdollah Eskandari — a decorated commander who became known as the “headless general” after his capture and beheading by Syrian rebels in May 2014. Their bodies were repatriated after a lengthy process of recovery and DNA analysis.
— F.mohammadi (@f_mohammadi1364) August 4, 2022
Iran has increasingly admitted casualties since it intervened to rescue Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, a ground presence that coincided with Russia’s air campaign and helped Assad recover control over most of the country. Although Iran has only acknowledged its forces as having an advisory role, dozens of Iranian soldiers have been killed fighting the Islamic State group and other extremists in Syria.
Funeral marches snaked through cities across the country this week, beginning Monday in the northeastern city of Mashhad before moving south, returning each officer’s body to his birthplace for burial.
Joint List MK Ofer Cassif will be questioned Sunday by police’s Lahav 433 special crimes unit over a filmed incident several months ago in which he was seen assaulting a police officer.
Earlier this week, police obtained permission from the attorney general to investigate the incident despite Cassif enjoying parliamentary immunity in most instances as a member of Knesset.
In May, Cassif was caught on camera striking a police officer on the head after security forces blocked his vehicle from reaching a protest in the West Bank.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) May 13, 2022
US basketball star Brittney Griner’s drug conviction and nine-year prison sentence from a Russian court is “unjustified and unfortunate, but not unexpected,” NBA and WNBA leaders say.
“Today’s verdict and sentencing is unjustified and unfortunate, but not unexpected and Brittney Griner remains wrongfully detained,” say WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert and NBA commissioner Adam Silver in a joint statement.
“The WNBA and NBA’s commitment to her safe return has not wavered and it is our hope that we are near the end of this process of finally bringing BG home to the United States.”
Military chief Aviv Kohavi is currently meeting with leaders of communities near the border with the Gaza Strip, according to Hebrew-language media reports.
The Kan public broadcaster says Kohavi is updating the mayors on the IDF’s preparations for the coming days, amid the threat of an attack on the border.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid holds an assessment with security officials at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, amid sweeping Gaza-area road closures due to fears of an attack by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group in response to the arrest of its West Bank chief.
“We understand the difficulty experienced by the southern residents, and we share it,” Lapid is quoted by Ynet as saying. “We won’t accept a situation in which terror groups disrupt the residents’ daily lives.”
“We won’t shy away from using force to resume daily routine in the south, and we won’t stop the policy of arresting terror operatives” in the West Bank, he adds.
The military will boost its forces near the Gaza Strip amid widespread road closures due to fear of a revenge attack by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, the Israel Defense Forces says.
The Gaza Division will be reinforced with artillery, engineering, infantry, armored and special forces, according to the military.
US basketball star Brittney Griner’s defense team says it will appeal the verdict after the athlete was sentenced to nine years in prison by a Russian court.
“The court completely ignored all the evidence of the defense, and most importantly, the guilty plea,” the defense team says in a statement. “The verdict is absolutely unreasonable. We will certainly file an appeal.”
US President Joe Biden brands as “unacceptable” a Russian court’s sentencing of US basketball star Brittney Griner to nine years in prison.
“Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It’s unacceptable and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends and teammates,” Biden says in a statement.
The US president reiterates that he will “work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue” to repatriate Griner and another detained American in Russia, Paul Whelan. Negotiations are reportedly underway to swap the two for Russians incarcerated in the United States, including the notorious arms smuggler Viktor Bout.
A judge in Russia has convicted and sentenced American basketball star Brittney Griner to nine years in prison for drug possession and smuggling.
Judge Anna Sotnikova says the time Griner has served in custody since her arrest in February will count toward the sentence.
Griner reacts to the sentence with little emotion. She listens to the verdict with a blank stare on her face.
While recapping the evidence and giving her findings, the judge says the 31-year-old Griner illegally brought drugs into Russia.
Before the unusually quick verdict was announced, Griner made a final appeal to the court. She said she had no intention to break the law by bringing vape cartridges with cannabis oil into the country when she flew to Moscow in February to play basketball in the city of Yekaterinburg.
A member of the UN’s ongoing, open-ended Commission of Inquiry into last year’s 11-day fight between Israel and Hamas in Gaza has issued an apology for remarks he made last month, which were widely slammed as antisemitic and condemned by at least 16 countries.
Miloon Kothari, a member of the commission, told a podcast last month that the “Jewish lobby” controls social media and questioned why Israel is allowed to be a member of the UN, sparking widespread criticism and calls for his dismissal or the commission’s disbanding.
The head of the commission claimed the remarks had been “deliberately misrepresented,” the UN’s top rights official asked for clarifications, and Prime Minister Yair Lapid urged the disbandment of the “tainted” probe.
In a public letter, Kothari says he would like to “sincerely express my regret and unequivocally apologize,” adding that “the offense I have caused by using these words has deeply distressed me.”
He says his comments on Israel’s UN membership were aimed at highlighting “the non-compliance of Israel with UN decisions related to its obligations under international law.” He argues that he never “questioned the existence of the State of Israel.”
BREAKING: Condemned by the world for antisemitism, UNHRC commissioner Miloon Kothari's non-apology apology letter argues his remarks were not antisemitic but only “perceived and experienced” to be such. “I have always condemned discrimination in all its forms.” What a scoundrel. https://t.co/iZ2SFsfISs pic.twitter.com/v8cKsLiW61
— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) August 4, 2022
A Russian court finds US basketball star Brittney Griner guilty of smuggling and storing narcotics after prosecutors requested a sentence of nine and a half years in jail for the athlete.
The court “found the defendant guilty” of smuggling and possessing “a significant amount of narcotics,” judge Anna Sotnikova tells a court in the town of Khimki just outside Moscow.
China sent 22 fighter jets briefly across the “median line” running down the Taiwan Strait today, Taipei’s defense ministry says in its latest briefing on large-scale military drills conducted by Beijing’s forces.
The Ministry of National Defense says “air defense missile systems” were deployed to track the jets and radio warnings were broadcast, according to an update on its website.
The Likud electoral committee has invalidated the candidacy of David Laniado, the leading candidate in the party’s primary for the spot reserved for a Tel Aviv District candidate.
Media reports last months said Laniado served a year in prison in 2011 for breaking into homes.
Last night, Channel 12 news reported that he was also convicted in 2010 for assaulting a woman while under house arrest, and also attacked a cop and resisted arrest following the incident. He was sentenced to 4.5 months in jail.
A baby, several days old, has been found abandoned in Acre, with police launching an investigation, Hebrew media reports.
The municipality says the infant was found in a cardboard box next to the Underground Prisoners Museum, fully conscious.
A passerby called police and medics were called in to examine the baby, who was fine except for bleeding near the umbilical cord.
The infant has been taken to Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya.
Four of the five Chinese ballistic missiles that appeared to land in Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) are “believed to have flown over Taiwan’s main island,” Tokyo’s defense ministry says.
Japan has lodged a diplomatic protest with China over the presumed missile landings in its EEZ, as Beijing holds large-scale military drills in the waters around Taiwan following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island nation.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid has called off his vacation in northern Israel planned for later today, Hebrew media reports.
The cancellation comes after Lapid was criticized for intending to go on a getaway while residents of Gaza-area communities have their movement severely restricted by road closures ordered by his government, amid threats posed by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group.
A large section of Beirut’s giant port grain silos, shredded by a massive explosion two years ago, collapses as hundreds march in Beirut to mark the second anniversary of the blast that killed scores.
Northern section of ##BeirutBlast Silos has just collapsed 04.08. Fires had been burning for over three weeks but Government & “responsible” authorities took no action. This is wilful, criminal neglect: intention is that fires destroy collective memory! pic.twitter.com/xocOQy7g4J
— Nasser Saidi (@Nasser_Saidi) August 4, 2022
The northern block of the silos consisting of four towers, which has been slowly tilting for days, collapses causing a huge cloud of dust that covers the structure that shielded Beirut’s western neighborhoods when the blast occurred on August 4, 2020, killing nearly 220 people, wounding over 6,000 and causing damage worth billions of dollars.
The collapse occurs an hour before hundreds of people were to gather outside the facility to mark the second anniversary of the blast. Authorities evacuated parts of the port earlier this week as a precautionary measure and there is no indication that anyone has been hurt.
The 50-year-old, 48 meter (157 feet) tall silos withstood the force of the explosion two years ago that destroyed much of the port. Many in Lebanon, including families of the victims, have been demanding that the silos be kept for future generations to witness the result of one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history caused by widespread corruption and mismanagement in the small Mediterranean nation.
More Beirut silos collapse as Lebanon marks two years since the blast, with a cloud of smoke and dust eerily similar to that from the explosion rising into the sky. pic.twitter.com/ujwEWIvwNB
— Timour Azhari (@timourazhari) August 4, 2022
— Ici Beyrouth (@Icibeyrouthnews) August 4, 2022
The chief of the military’s Gaza Division tells residents of towns near the Gaza Strip that the road closures in the area will last “as long as necessary.”
“Forces of the Gaza Division have been on high alert in recent days. We have detected Islamic Jihad intentions to commit attacks against residents and soldiers, and therefore we have placed checkpoints throughout the area,” says Brig. Gen. Nimrod Aloni, in a video published by the Israel Defense Forces.
“The roadblocks will continue as long as necessary. The safety of the residents comes first,” Aloni says.
He adds that his division has been bolstered with troops in recent days, in case of a potential escalation.
Ukraine’s foreign minister criticizes as “unfair” a report from Amnesty International alleging Kyiv is putting civilians at risk by stationing troops in residential areas as it fights Russia’s invasion.
“This behavior of Amnesty International is not about finding and reporting the truth to the world, it is about creating a false equivalence — between the offender and the victim, between the country that destroys hundreds and thousands of civilians, cities, territories, and a country that is desperately defending itself,” Dmytro Kuleba says in a video posted on Facebook.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz instructs security officials to prepare “various civilian and military measures” in order to remove the threat of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad attack on the Gaza border.
According to Gantz’s office, during a meeting with top military and security officials, he has also instructed the security establishment to assist residents of towns along the border, some of which are locked down entirely due to movement restrictions, and to continue to assess the situation so that southern Israel can return to “full normalcy.”
“The defense minister emphasized that all operational activity in all areas will continue,” his office says.
Iran’s intelligence ministry says it has arrested 10 Islamic State suspects who were planning attacks targeting religious commemorations, days ahead of the major Shiite mourning ritual of Ashura.
The ministry says that “10 Daesh terrorists,” using another name for the Islamic State group, have been arrested, adding that they were “sent to carry out several terror operations among the mourners.”
Two intelligence agents were injured in a gun battle during the arrests, it adds.
Iran is currently commemorating the first 10 days of the Islamic holy month of Muharram, culminating in Ashura on Monday, when worshipers throng mosques and take part in processions.
A Yesh Atid minister has drawn criticism after appearing to liken her party leader, Prime Minister Yair Lapid, to none other than God during a campaign speech yesterday.
At a Yesh Atid campaign event, Economy Minister Orna Barbivai said: “There were many skeptics along the way. They told us: ‘You won’t succeed, it will be like this and like that.’ There is one called the Creator of the World, and there is one called Yair Lapid who said: ‘I’m willing to make concessions'” — agreeing to let Naftali Bennett go first as premier and ultimately paving his own way to the country’s top spot.
Barbivai gets slammed for the remark, especially by members of the Likud-led opposition.
Asked about it during a Channel 12 interview, fellow Yesh Atid minister Yoel Razvozov claims Barbivai was “misunderstood,” refusing to elaborate.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid speaks with local and regional council chiefs representing Gantz-area localities that have been under a de facto lockdown for three days amid road closures due to threats of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad attack.
Lapid updated the local leaders by phone on recent security developments and said he fully understands the harm to daily lives in the communities, according to a statement from his office.
He notes that he won’t allow the current situation to continue for much longer, adding that he will hold more security assessments today and will take action against any organization that threatens Israeli citizens.
The phone call is attended by Lapid’s chief of staff and military secretary, alongside the mayor of Sderot and the heads of the Eshkol, Hof Ashkelon, Sdot Negev and Shaar Hanegev regional councils.
A former guard at Gilboa Prison has been summoned by the police to give testimony, Hebrew media reports, days after she came forward to describe how she was allegedly sexually assaulted by a Palestinian terror convict during her tenure at the maximum-security facility, with some knowledge from her superiors of the general environment.
The woman spoke to Channel 12 news on Tuesday under the pseudonym Shirli and backed up claims from other female guards that daily life at the Gilboa Prison was largely dictated by prisoner Mahmoud Atallah.
Atallah is at the center of a sexual assault scandal at the facility, where reports of female IDF soldiers and guards being sexually harassed and assaulted surfaced again recently, following initial details several years ago.
He has been in solitary confinement since 2018 when reports first came to light that an intelligence officer at the prison allegedly “pimped” female guards to him and to other Palestinian inmates, at his request. Atallah was a prominent figure among prisoners and kept Palestinian inmates quiet, which he allegedly did in exchange for having female guards in his ward and for sexual favors for himself and other Palestinian prisoners.
Female soldiers first alleged in 2018 that they were forced by the intelligence officer into close contact with prisoners as sexual bargaining chips, leading to them being harassed and assaulted, but the case was closed due to a lack of evidence.
At least six female guards have since reported sexual abuse by Atallah, including one who said she was raped and sexually assaulted by him multiple times.
Russian prosecutors have asked a court outside Moscow to sentence American basketball star Brittney Griner to 9.5 years in prison on cannabis possession charges.
Closing arguments in Griner’s trial are taking place, nearly six months after her arrest at a Moscow airport and subsequent detention in a case that has reached the highest levels of US-Russia diplomacy.
Although a conviction appears almost certain, given that Russian courts rarely acquit defendants and Griner has acknowledged having vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her luggage, judges have considerable latitude on sentencing.
Lawyers for the Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist have pursued strategies to bolster Griner’s contention that she had no criminal intent and that the canisters ended up in her luggage due to hasty packing. They have presented character witnesses from the Russian team that she plays for in the WNBA off-season and written testimony from a doctor who said he prescribed her cannabis for pain treatment.
Russian shelling of a bus stop in the frontline east Ukraine town of Toretsk has killed eight people and left four wounded, the regional governor says.
“According to preliminary information, there was artillery fire. They hit a public transportation stop, where there was a crowd of people at that time,” Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Ukraine-run Donetsk region administration, writes on Telegram.
Israel Defense Forces chief Aviv Kohavi has instructed staff to increase the military’s readiness for an escalation, strengthen defenses, and increase intelligence efforts, during his visit to the Gaza Division earlier today.
According to the IDF, Kohavi has also approved plans for offensive actions in the event of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad attack on the border, expected in response to Israel’s arrest of a senior member of the terror group earlier this week in the West Bank.
Kohavi is presented with an intelligence assessment of the situation along the Gaza Border, as well as how tanks and artillery units are preparing in the area.
The Taliban breaks its silence, days after a US drone strike killing al-Qaeda’s top leader in Afghanistan’s capital, acknowledging his slaying and pledging to launch an investigation.
The killing of Ayman al-Zawahiri on the balcony of a Kabul safe house Sunday has further strained relations between the Taliban and the West, particularly as it seeks an urgent infusion of cash to handle an economic catastrophe there following the US withdrawal from the country a year ago.
“The government and the leadership weren’t aware of what is being claimed, nor any trace there,” Suhail Shaheen, the head of the group’s political office in Doha, Qatar, tells The Associated Press in a text message.
That claim, however, directly conflicts with what US officials have said about the strike. They say al-Zawahiri was staying at the home of a top aide to senior Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani. Haqqani is the deputy head of the Taliban, serves as interior minister in its government and heads the Haqqani network, a powerful faction within the movement.
The Taliban promised in the 2020 Doha Agreement with the US that they would not harbor al-Qaeda members or those seeking to attack the US.
An “investigation is underway now to find out about veracity of the claim. The leadership is in constant meeting in this regard. Findings will be shared with all,” Shaheen adds.
Negotiators from Iran, the United States and the European Union resume months-long indirect talks over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal, even as international inspectors have acknowledged the Islamic Republic has begun a new expansion of its uranium enrichment.
The resumption of the Vienna talks, suddenly called yesterday, appears not to include high-level representation from all the countries part of Iran’s 2015 deal with word powers. That comes as Western officials express growing skepticism over a deal to restore the accord and the EU’s top diplomat has warned “the space for additional significant compromises has been exhausted.”
Iran’s top negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, has arrived in Vienna for the talks, Iranian state media reports. Tweets show he has met EU diplomat Enrique Mora. As in other talks, the US won’t directly negotiate with Iran, instead speaking through Mora.
— Abas Aslani (@AbasAslani) August 4, 2022
US Special Representative for Iran Rob Malley is also on hand, tweeting yesterday that “our expectations are in check.”
The US hasn’t had direct talks with Iran since then-president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord in 2018. Mora has also met Russian Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov, who has represented Moscow’s interests in the talks.
Going into the negotiations, Iran has laid out a maximalist stance. Through its state-run IRNA news agency, Tehran denies that it has abandoned its effort to get the US to delist its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization as a precondition to the talks. Meanwhile, IRNA also quotes Iran’s civilian nuclear chief as saying turned-off surveillance cameras of the International Atomic Energy Agency only will be switched back on once the West abandons an effort to investigate manmade traces of uranium found at previously undisclosed sites at the country.
Those positions could doom the talks. Iranian officials have been trying to offer optimistic assessments of the negotiations while alternating blaming the US for the deadlock, likely worried a collapse of the talks could see its rial currency plunge to new historic lows.
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