The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.

Russian military says 2 dead, 6 injured by rocket explosion

Russia’s Defense Ministry says two people were killed and six others were wounded when a rocket engine exploded during a test.

The ministry says the rocket engine exploded at a military shooting range in the northwestern Arkhangelsk region, causing a fire. It says two people died and another six servicemen and civilian engineers were injured and hospitalized.

The explosion follows a massive fire that erupted Monday at a military ammunition depot near Achinsk in eastern Siberia’s Krasnoyarsk region. The blaze triggered powerful explosions that continued for about 16 hours, killing one person, injuring another 13 and forcing over 16,500 people to flee their homes.

— AP

Hamas refers to multiple ‘fighters’ in heaping praising for deadly attack

The Hamas terror group refers to multiple people who carried out the terror attack that killed a religious seminary student, whose body was found this morning outside a settlement in the Gush Etzion area, describing it as “heroic.”

The body of Dvir Sorek, 19, was discovered in the predawn early morning hours, bearing stabbing marks, the Israel Defense Forces said, adding that he was killed in a terror attack.

“We salute our people’s heroic fighters who carried out the heroic operation that killed a soldier in the occupation’s army, who was studying at a military college known for graduating extremists who hold Talmud- and Torah-based beliefs that support killing our people and seizing its lands,” the Hamas terror group says in a statement, stopping short of taking responsibility for the killing.

Sorek studied at the Machanayim yeshiva in the Migdal Oz settlement as part of a military program known in Hebrew as hesder. Though formally a soldier, Sorek was unarmed and not in uniform at the time of the attack, nor had he yet undergone military training.

Sorek was missing since yesterday evening. He was last seen leaving Migdal Oz for Jerusalem to buy books.

Earlier, the Islamic Jihad terror group said: “The heroic operation is a natural response to the occupation’s terrorism and crimes at the expense of our people, land and holy sites. It is the right of our people to push back against the destruction and demolition of citizens’ homes in Wadi Hummus, a crime that requires a painful and deterring response.”

— with Adam Rasgon

Former SS guard of Nazi camp, 92, to go on trial in Germany

A Hamburg court says a 92-year-old former SS private will go on trial on 5,230 counts of accessory to murder on allegations that, in his role as a guard, he helped the Stutthof concentration camp function.

The main gate leading into the former Nazi German Stutthof concentration camp in Sztutowo, Poland, July 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Spokesman Kai Wantzen tells The Associated Press that the suspect, identified by German media as Bruno Dey, will go on trial October 17, after experts determined his health was good enough, so long as sessions are limited to two hours a day.

More than 60,000 people were killed at the Nazi German camp built east of Danzig, which is today the Polish city of Gdansk.

Dey is accused of serving as a guard there from August 1944 to April 1945, which prosecutors say makes him an accessory to murders during that time.

— AP

‘Whoever didn’t know him missed out,’ says father of murdered student Dvir Sorek

The father of Dvir Sorek, the young yeshiva student murdered in a terror attack in the West Bank, describes his son as “a kid with light in his eyes,” adding that “whoever didn’t know him missed out, he used to help the weak around him who were in need of a friend.”

“Our Dvir was sweet,” Yoav Sorek, himself a scholar and a journalist, tells reporters in tears outside his home. “Two months ago he had a karate exam and he didn’t get a high grade because his teacher said he performs the movements well, but lacks ‘murder’ in his eyes. Now someone with murder in his eyes has taken him.

“We received a gift for almost 19 years — for that gift we are grateful, we will carry the pain from now on,” he said.

Sorek will be buried this evening at 8 p.m. at the cemetery in his hometown, the settlement of Ofra.

Earthquake with magnitude of 6.0 shakes western Turkey

Turkey’s disaster management agency says an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 6.0 has hit the west of the country.

The Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency says the quake was centered on the town of Bozkurt, in Denizli province.

It is not immediately clear what damage was caused or whether there are any casualties.

Turkey is prone to earthquakes.

— AP

Iran: Israeli involvement in Gulf mission could have ‘disastrous consequences’

Iran’s defense minister says the formation of a US-led flotilla in the Gulf will “increase insecurity” and any Israeli involvement will have “disastrous consequences” for the region.

“The military coalition that America is seeking to form with the excuse of securing maritime transport will only increase insecurity in the region,” Defense Minister Amir Hatami says in a conference call with counterparts from Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.

Reacting to reports of Israeli willingness to join the coalition, he says it would be “highly provocative and can have disastrous consequences for the region.”

There have been reports in the Israeli media of the country’s possible involvement although it was not clear in what capacity.

Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami speaks at the Conference on International Security in Moscow, Russia, April 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Tehran and Washington have been locked in a battle of nerves since US President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran last year and reimposed sanctions.

Tensions have soared in the region, with drones downed and tankers mysteriously attacked in Gulf waters. Washington and its Gulf allies have accused the Islamic Republic of the tanker attacks, which Tehran denies.

In response, the US has been seeking to form a coalition whose mission– dubbed Operation Sentinel — it says is to guarantee freedom of navigation in the Gulf.

Britain, which already has warships on protection duty in the Gulf after a UK-flagged tanker was seized by Iranian Revolutionary Guards, has said it will join the planned operation. But other European countries have kept out, for fear it might harm European efforts to reach a negotiated settlement with Iran.


Russia freezes assets of Kremlin critic Navalny’s anti-graft group

Russia has frozen the assets of an anti-corruption group that top opposition figure Alexei Navalny set up to expose the questionable wealth of senior government officials, his spokeswoman says.

Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny at the Echo Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) radio station in Moscow, Russia, December 27, 2017. (Pavel Golovkin/AP)

The ruling comes amid a crackdown on the opposition that has seen Navalny jailed and thousands of people detained at a series of rallies in Moscow calling for free and fair elections.

The Foundation for Fighting Corruption (FBK) has published reports detailing the lavish lifestyles of figures close to Russian President Vladimir Putin including Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

A Moscow district court froze 75 million rubles ($1.1 million) held in accounts of the FBK and those of several staff members, Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh writes on Twitter.

“This is the amount that they considered to be ‘laundered’,” she writes on Facebook.


Netanyahu wants Gantz to join his coalition, but without Lapid — Likud MK

A loyalist of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the Likud party is interested in having rival Benny Gantz in the next government, but without the Blue and White chief’s partner Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid faction.

“We have no problem going with Gantz — without Yesh Atid,” Likud MK David Bitan tells Radio Darom in an interview, confirming an earlier report by the Kan public broadcaster that Netanyahu wants Gantz’s Israel Resilience faction since it is the most likely to agree to join a right-wing coalition.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with MK David Bitan in the Knesset plenum on October 24, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

3 members of committee dealing with PM’s request for legal defense funds resign

Three members of the State Comptroller’s Permits Committee are quitting, according to the Ynet website.

Avigdor Ravid, Nurit Israeli and Ezra Kama have sent a letter announcing their resignation. No reason is cited for the move.

The committee, chaired by former judge Shalom Brenner, recently discussed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for an approval to receive financial donations from wealthy associates to fund his legal defense in three corruption cases against him.

It recently ruled that Netanyahu must reveal the details of his personal wealth to receive donations.

Committee members said to quit due to clash with comptroller over PM’s legal defense

The resignation of three members of the State Comptroller’s Permits Committee is due to a clash between them and the newly appointed ombudsman, Matanyahu Englman, Channel 13 reports.

Englman has accused the committee members of overreaching their authority in their dealing with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for an approval for legal defense funding from wealthy benefactors.

That has created a bad atmosphere that has now resulted in the resignations, the report says.

American Airlines says it will launch its first flights to Israel next year

American Airlines announces its first flights to Israel, with a Dallas-Tel Aviv route that will start operating on September 9, 2020 — the first direct flight from Israel to the Southwestern United States.

At first, there will be flights three times a week in the company’s new Dreamliner planes, the company says.

The flight is expected to take 12 hours and 15 minutes, shortening the current travel time by some 25 percent, it adds.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz welcomes the move, as does Gilad Katz, Israel’s consul in Houston, Texas.

An American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 sits at a boarding gate at LaGuardia Airport, March 13, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

US shooting suspect’s mother called police over son’s gun: lawyers

The mother of a young man suspected of gunning down 22 people at a Walmart in the US state of Texas called police weeks before, concerned about a military-style weapon he owned, the family’s lawyers has told CNN.

The report comes with bipartisan sentiment for action on gun safety appearing to grow after the killings in El Paso and another mass shooting hours later in Dayton, Ohio that left nine people dead.

This image provided by the FBI shows Patrick Crusius, the suspected gunman who opened fire in an El Paso, Texas, shopping area packed with people during the busy back-to-school season Saturday, August 3, 2019. (FBI via AP)

CNN reports that the mother of the El Paso suspect, Patrick Crusius, called police in the Dallas suburb of Allen weeks before the attack because she was concerned about his owning an “AK”-type firearm, the network quotes family lawyers as saying.

AK usually refers to a Kalashnikov, a type of semi-automatic rifle.

The lawyers, Chris Ayres and R. Jack Ayres, of Dallas, tell CNN that Crusius’s mother was worried given her son’s age, maturity level and lack of experience with such a weapon.

They add that, during the call, a police officer told her that — based on what she described — her 21-year-old son was legally able to purchase the weapon.

But the mother’s call was “informational” and not motivated out of a concern that her son posed a threat, the lawyers say, adding the mother did not give police her name or her son’s name.

“This was not a volatile, explosive, erratic behaving kid,” CNN quotes Chris Ayres as saying. “It’s not like alarm bells were going off.”


IDF chief tours scene of West Bank terror attack

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi visits the scene of the terror attack where yeshiva student Dvir Sorek was killed in the Gush Etzion area of the West Bank.

Army spokesman Ronen Manelis says Kohavi is being briefed on details of the attack and of the widespread manhunt for the terrorist.

Jason Greenblatt condemns Hamas over ‘reprehensible’ West Bank terror attack

US President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt condemns Palestinian terror group Hamas over a West Bank terror attack that killed yeshiva student Dvir Sorek, which Hamas has praised as ‘heroic.”

“More murder & boasting by Hamas – reprehensible actions by an org that chooses death & destruction over taking care of the people they claim to lead. Our deepest condolences to the family,” Greenblatt tweets.

Investigators suspect West Bank terror attack wasn’t an attempted kidnapping

Security officials investigating the West Bank terror attack in which yeshiva student Dvir Sorek was killed are postulating that the perpetrators did not try to kidnap their victim before stabbing him to death, Hebrew-language media reports.

The belief is that the terrorists noticed Sorek on the road leading to the settlement of Migdal Oz, murdered him and dumped his body on the side of the road.

PM visits scene of terror attack, vows to ‘settle the score’ with perpetrators

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the scene of the West Bank terror attack in which yeshiva student Dvir Sorek was killed.

“We lost Dvir here, a precious member of the Sorek family that also lost its grandfather years ago. Our hearts are with them and we are embracing them at their difficult time,” says Netanyahu, who is also defense minister.

“We can see here the U-turn made by the car after the murder,” he says.

“Our answer to the murderers is double: They come to destroy and we are building. Our hand will reach them and we will settle our score with them. The investigation is going forward and is as its height,” he adds.

EU condemns West Bank attack, saying ‘no justification for violence’

The European Union’s ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret condemns the West Bank terror attack in which a yeshiva student was killed, saying there is “no justification” for it, and sends condolences to the victim’s family.

UN envoy blasts West Bank terror attack as ‘cowardly, dangerous’

United Nations peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov calls the West Bank murder of Dvir Sorek “cowardly and dangerous,” condemning terrorism and saying the act “undermines trust” between Israelis and Palestinians.

Jordan blasts Israel’s ‘illegitimate’ plans for 2,300 settlement homes

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi condemns Israel’s advancement of plans for 2,300 homes in West Bank settlements.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi speaks during a joint conference with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit in the Jordanian capital Amman on January 6, 2018. (AFP Photo/Khalil Mazraawi)

“Israel’s decision to expand illegitimate settlement building by constructing 2,300 new settlement units in occupied Palestine is a condemned, unilateral move that requires the international community to pressure Israel to halt its practices that are undermining peace efforts,” Safadi tweets in Arabic.

During sessions on Monday and Tuesday, the Civil Administration’s High Planning Subcommittee, a Defense Ministry body, cleared 1,466 homes through an early-planning stage while 838 homes received final approval for construction throughout the West Bank.

The majority of the homes advanced will be located deep in the West Bank, beyond the so-called settlement blocs.

— Adam Rasgon

UK envoy expresses shock over ‘callous murder’ of Dvir Sorek

The United Kingdom’s ambassador to Israel, Neil Wigan, joins other foreign diplomats in condemning the West Bank terror attack that killed yeshiva student Dvir Sorek.

Family of terror victim Dvir Sorek to donate his organs

The family of terror victim Dvir Sorek, murdered today in the West Bank, has asked to donate his organs, the National Transplant Center says in a statement.

His corneas will be donated in the coming days.

Yoav Sorek, Dvir’s father, says: “Had we been able to ask Dvir, that would have been his wish.”

Wife of US student held in Iran appeals for international effort to free him

The wife of a Princeton University graduate student imprisoned in Iran is appealing for international cooperation to get him released.

Hua Qu, the wife of Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University graduate student being held at an Iranian prison, speaks at a news conference to mark the third anniversary of her husband’s imprisonment, August 8, 2019, at the National Press Club in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Hua Qu tells reporters in Washington that there have been no recent productive conversations between the US and the Iranian government about Xiyue Wang.

She urges the US, Iran and China to work together on her husband’s case in a speech at the National Press Club to mark the third anniversary of his imprisonment.

Her Chinese-American husband was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of “infiltrating” Iran and sending confidential material abroad. She says he’s “definitely not a spy.”

Efforts to free him and other Americans held in Iran have been complicated by increased tensions between the US and Iran.

— AP

Funeral for terror victim Dvir Sorek begins in Ofra

Hundreds of people attend the funeral of 19-year-old yeshiva student Dvir Sorek, murdered this morning in a West Bank terror attack.

The funeral begins at the synagogue in the settlement of Ofra, Sorek’s hometown, and is making its way to the community’s cemetery.

Synagogue reopens in Lithuania after gov’t vows security

Lithuania’s Jewish community reopens the Vilnius synagogue, after top politicians vowed to guarantee security there in response to a spate of threats that led to its closure earlier this week.

The tensions come amid a highly charged public debate over commemorations to wartime officials who the Lithuanian Jewish Community (LJC) claims were either involved in the Holocaust or openly anti-Semitic.

Vilnius authorities recently removed a plaque to one of the men and renamed a street named after another — sparking a backlash that the LJC claims has been stoked by some politicians, who have called for protests.

Jewish Community leader Faina Kukliansky praises President Gitanas Nauseda and Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis for their security assurances and messages of support.

“We do not see the threat at this moment and we trust the state leaders who offered security assurances,” she tells AFP, confirming that both the synagogue and the Jewish community headquarters were reopened.

Two days earlier she announced their closure after receiving “threatening telephone calls and letters.”


Thousands sing songs in memory of Dvir Sorek at his funeral

Thousands are at the funeral of slain yeshiva student Dvir Sorek in the West Bank settlement of Ofra, and are singing songs in his memory.

Father of Dvir Sorek says he ‘can’t avoid smiling’ when thinking about him

Yoav Sorek, father of terror victim Dvir Sorek, mourns his son at the funeral in the West Bank settlement of Ofra.

“Dear precious, loved Dvir, in a few days we were supposed to celebrate your 19th birthday,” he says. “I think of these 19 years and I can’t avoid smiling because your memory reminds me of a bright face, positive thought, innocence and love for humanity.

“We received a gift for almost 19 years, a gift that spread light and goodness inside the family and outside of it. Without pretentiousness and without cynicism, for this gift I have said and I will say again: God giveth and God taketh away.

“Evil lovers of death took your life, my Dvir, but they did not harm your innocence, light and love. You left us pure, and we will try to bring about light and goodness, to strengthen our family despite the pain and to choose life.”

German ex-diplomat won’t head Iran trade body after anti-Semitic past exposed

A former German diplomat nominated to head INSTEX, the European body established this year to facilitate trade with Iran while avoiding US sanctions, is forced to resign after his anti-Semitic past surfaces, according to Germany’s BILD daily.

Bernd Erbel, 71, the former German ambassador to Iran and to Iraq, has said that “the Palestinians are the victims of our victims,” according to the report, and has given several interviews to anti-Semite Ken Jebsen who has said the US is “controlled by Jews,” Israel “strives for a final solution for Palestinians and to exterminate them,” and “Freud’s nephew invented the Holocaust as PR.”

Trump criticizes French president for sending Iran ‘mixed signals’

US President Donald Trump accuses France’s President Emmanuel Macron of getting in the way of US policy and sending “mixed signals” to Iran.

“Iran is in serious financial trouble. They want desperately to talk to the US, but are given mixed signals from all of those purporting to represent us, including President Macron of France,” Trump tweets.

Trump has imposed crippling sanctions on Iran and sought to sink an international deal for managing the country’s contested nuclear industry, but several major allies and other partners, including France, have resisted the US attempt to isolate the Iranians.


Jordan slams ‘barefaced Israeli violations’ in Temple Mount

The Jordanian Foreign Ministry slams Israel for using force against Palestinians at the flashpoint Jerusalem holy site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

“The Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Ministry condemns the continuation of barefaced Israeli violations against the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the last of which was Israeli forces’ aggression against worshipers and members of the Jerusalem Awqaf’s administrative staff in the noble sanctuary,” Sufyan Qudah, the ministry’s spokesman, says in a statement.

Palestinian Muslims shout at Israeli security forces (unseen) in the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem on August 11, 2019. (Photo by Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

Clashes broke out between Palestinians and Israeli police forces on the Temple Mount this morning.

According to the Israel Police, thousands of Muslim worshipers gathered near the Mughrabi Gate during the morning and began throwing rocks and other objects at police forces.

Police said it decided to clear those rioting on the Temple Mount with “dispersal means.”

Qudah also says that Jordan sent a letter of protest to Israel through official diplomatic channels and called on it to “respect the sanctity of the mosque and the feelings of the worshipers.”

Sunday marks both the start of Eid al-Adha, an Islamic holiday commemorating the end of the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, and the Jewish fast day of Tisha B’Av, when Jews mourn the destruction of the temples that once stood on the Temple Mount and other disasters in Jewish history.

— Adam Rasgon

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