ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

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Police let protesters into Golan community where PM vacationing after court petition

Hundreds march toward hotel where Netanyahu staying, as they are allowed to approach within a few hundred meters

Israelis protest against the visit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, in Moshav Neve Ativ, August 7, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)
Israelis protest against the visit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, in Moshav Neve Ativ, August 7, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

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

Supreme Court to review police appeal of decision to release settler suspect

Police have petitioned the Supreme Court against a lower court’s decision earlier to free Elisha Yered, a settler activist suspected of involvement in the killing of a young Palestinian man on Friday.

Yered was released to house arrest by the Jerusalem District Court.

The Supreme Court will review the police’s request to return him to custody tomorrow morning.

Israeli climber dies on Mont Blanc, French police say

Illustrative: Visitors hike on a trail leading to the Lac Blanc area in the Aiguilles Rouges nature reserve which faces Mont Blanc, above Chamonix, Haute-Savoie, on July 31, 2023. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)
Illustrative: Visitors hike on a trail leading to the Lac Blanc area in the Aiguilles Rouges nature reserve which faces Mont Blanc, above Chamonix, Haute-Savoie, on July 31, 2023. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)

A 55-year-old Israeli climber has died when he fell on an access route for Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe, French police say.

The accident occurred mid-morning, at an altitude of over 3,000 meters (9,800 feet), the authorities say.

The climber was part of a group, who were not roped together, when he was dislodged by falling rocks. No one else was injured.

Rockfalls are common on the passage along the Gouter Route, the most popular route to reach the Mont Blanc summit, often occurring later in the season when the mountain is drier.

Last summer, all ascents via the route were suspended because of the rockfall risk.

Gantz: Smotrich’s move to withhold Arab funds has whiff of racism

National Unity party chief Benny Gantz gives a statement to the media, July 24, 2023. (Video screenshot)
National Unity party chief Benny Gantz gives a statement to the media, July 24, 2023. (Video screenshot)

National Unity party chief Benny Gantz says Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s decision to withhold hundreds of millions of shekels from Arab locales “has a whiff of racism” about it.

The move “harms not only [the municipalities] but all of Israeli society,” he says.

Gantz says the Arab community, which has seen over 140 murders since the start of the year, needs investment “not just in police enforcement but in all areas — education, infrastructure, welfare and more.”

19-year-old shot dead in the Arab town of Shfar’am

A 19-year-old has been shot dead in the Arab town of Shfar’am.

Medics who arrived on the scene declared him dead.

The circumstances of the shooting are not immediately known.

Officials at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center say relatives of the young man attempted to break into the hospital’s trauma room, leading to a brawl with security and to their eventual arrest.

Amid right-wing boycott, chair of Strauss Group said to get death threats

Strauss Group chairperson Ofra Strauss during a press conference, at Strauss's main offices in Petah Tikva, April 28, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Strauss Group chairperson Ofra Strauss during a press conference, at Strauss's main offices in Petah Tikva, April 28, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Ofra Strauss, chairwoman of the Strauss Group food corporation, has received upped security in recent days, amid reported threats on her life.

Strauss recently announced it would halt advertisement on the right-wing Channel 14 over its controversial content, and specifically after a network panelist called for the release of Yigal Amir, the assassin of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Since then, supporters of the channel have announced a boycott of Strauss products in a bid to punish the company. According to Channel 12, this has now escalated to several concrete threats on the chairwoman’s life.

Channel 14 fired panelist Ari Shamai quickly after he made his comments, but Strauss has said it will go back to advertising there only when it is satisfied that the station operates in accordance with ethical guidelines.

Police let protesters into Golan community where PM vacationing after court petition

Workers and police prepare for the arrival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhu and his wife Sara in Moshav Neve Ativ, August 7, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)
Workers and police prepare for the arrival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhu and his wife Sara in Moshav Neve Ativ, August 7, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

Police have let hundreds of anti-government protesters into the Golan Heights community of Neve Ativ after a two-day standoff, and the latter are now marching toward the hotel where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is vacationing.

Police had closed off all entry to the moshav yesterday, leading to complaints from residents as well as activists, with the latter petitioning the High Court against the move.

Cops have now said the demonstrators can gather some 300 meters from the hotel.

Demonstrators slept in tents outside Neve Ativ after police closed off the community, only allowing in residents and hotel guests. Protest organizers then claimed this morning that the authorities were also preventing further activists from joining their encampment and supplying them with food, water and shade.

Opposition Leader Lapid meets with Emirati FM in Italy

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid has met Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Italy.

The two met for some three hours at the request of the Emiratis, Hebrew media reports. They previously met last year, when Lapid served as prime minister.

Notably, the meeting takes place though United Arab Emirates officials have not yet met with any member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-right cabinet.

Netanyahu has repeatedly planned visits to the UAE since returning to office only to have them canceled for various reasons. Abu Dhabi is thought to be unhappy with the direction of the current Israeli government and its far-right elements.

Lapid says the two discussed strategic cooperation between the countries and joint projects.

“I was happy to meet my friend Abdullah bin Zayed. Together we laid the groundwork for relations between the countries, and we’ll continue to work together to deepen our joint interests and relations.”

Foreign Minister Cohen talks Uman pilgrimage with Moldova’s president in Chisinau

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and Moldova's President Maia Sandu in Chișinău, August 8, 2023. (Courtesy)
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and Moldova's President Maia Sandu in Chișinău, August 8, 2023. (Courtesy)

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen meets Moldova’s President Maia Sandu and Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu in Chisinau, where they discuss plans to facilitate the arrival of tens of thousands of Jewish worshipers on their way to Uman in Ukraine for Rosh Hashana.

Ukraine’s airspace has been closed since the beginning of the war in February 2022, and over 20,000 pilgrims arrived last year, mostly through Moldova, the closest country to Uman. Cohen is accompanied by Minister of Jerusalem and Jewish Tradition Meir Porush.

The sides also discuss cooperation in agriculture, trade and foreign workers.

Report: Russia’s FSB could gain access to Israelis’ data through Yango service

An ad for the Yango Deli grocery app (Video screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
An ad for the Yango Deli grocery app (Video screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Russian opposition outlet Meduza claims that through new legislation, Russia’s FSB security service will soon gain access to the entire database of users of tech company Yandex, enabling it to gather data on its users around the world, including in Israel.

Beyond serving as a search engine, Yandex provides various international services. In Israel it is behind the Yango taxi-hailing app, the Yango Deli grocery shopping app and the Wind scooter-sharing app.

Meduza says the FSB will, starting on September 1, have “round-the-clock” access to the data of Yandex users.

Reuters reports that regulators in Norway and Finland, where Yandex also offers taxi services, are banning Yandex from providing any data on local users to Russia.

“There is an acute risk to privacy as Russian authorities could potentially monitor the movements of Norwegian citizens via Yango,” Norway’s Data Protection Authority says.

Yango Israel tells Channel 12 the company is an Israel-based subsidiary and “Russian regulation has no effect nor an ability to affect” it.

“No client data is provided to Russia today, nor will it be in the future. Personal data of Yango customers is stored under the strictest privacy standards” and cannot be transferred to local or international authorities without court orders, it says.

Peace Now: Israel approved more settlement development in 2023 than any previous year

Construction equipment and caravan houses are seen at the new illegal outpost of Hamor near the West Bank settlement of Maale Levona on June 22, 2023, following a deadly terror attack at a nearby gas station two days before. (Courtesy)
Construction equipment and caravan houses are seen at the new illegal outpost of Hamor near the West Bank settlement of Maale Levona on June 22, 2023, following a deadly terror attack at a nearby gas station two days before. (Courtesy)

The Peace Now organization says Israel has approved more settlement construction and development in the seven months since the start of 2023 than in any other previous year.

Under the hardline right-wing government, authorities have advanced the approval of 12,855 homes, passing the previous record of 12,000 in 2020, the organization says.

It has also retroactively legalized 22 illegal outposts, another unprecedented number, the group notes.

Dichter downplays US claim of settler terror: ‘They are drawing on media reports’

Agriculture Minsiter Avi Dichter visits at the Gaza border, southern Israel, May 26, 2023. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
Agriculture Minsiter Avi Dichter visits at the Gaza border, southern Israel, May 26, 2023. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter has downplayed the US use of the term “terror” in describing suspicions against two settlers in the killing of a young Palestinian on Friday.

“I wouldn’t advise treating the US definition as a precise professional definition. At the end of the day, they are not drawing on intelligence, but on media reports,” Dichter told Army Radio, in comments published by Reuters.

“Everything gets poured into media reports — things that are correct, things that are wrong, tendentious and other things. In the end of the day, what is important as far as we are concerned is what happened there.”

Police suspect two settlers in the killing outside the West Bank town of Burqa. One is currently hospitalized for injuries sustained during clashes. The other was released earlier today to house arrest.

Minister to Smotrich: No justification or reason to revoke grants for Arab towns

Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli speaks at the AJC Global Forum in Tel Aviv, on June 14, 2023 (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli speaks at the AJC Global Forum in Tel Aviv, on June 14, 2023 (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Diaspora and Social Equality Minister Amichai Chikli of Likud calls on Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich to end the freeze on funds for Arab local councils.

“There is no justification or reason to revoke grants” to the municipalities, Chikli says in a letter to Smotrich.

Acknowledging that some criminal elements have become involved in public tenders in Arab towns (Smotrich has cited fears of misuse of funds in his decision), Chikli says the freeze still cannot be justified and notes the municipalities “counted on the grants in their budgetary planning.”

Withholding the funds “will lead to deficits and a halt of basic services to residents.”

Chikli goes on to list various actions that can be taken to ensure funds are not misused.

Smotrich has faced growing criticism for a number of decisions to freeze funds aimed at improving life for the Arab public, with some accusing him of racist motives.

Foreign Ministry says working to aid Israelis and Jews caught in Ethiopian unrest

While in Moldova, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen conducts a situational assessment on events in northern Ethiopia.

Numerous Israeli nationals are thought to be in the Gondar area of northern Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers declared a state of emergency in the region amid clashes between locals and the military.

The Foreign Ministry has contacted 160 Israelis and 54 Ethiopians who are eligible to make aliyah, according to the ministry.

Cohen directs ministry Director-General Ronen Levy to work with the ministry situation room and Israel’s embassy in Addis Ababa to examine the possibility of rescuing Israelis and local Jews if needed.

He says that the Foreign Ministry is working with the Prime Minister’s Office and the National Security Agency on the issue. “We will spare no effort to ensure the welfare of all Israelis and Jews trapped in the region,” he pledges.

Man suspected of fatally shooting and stabbing adopted son

A resident of Maccabim in central Israel is suspected of stabbing and shooting his adopted son dead during a fight.

The 23-year-old was killed a month ago. He suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome, had a history of criminal behavior, and had previously stayed at a hostel for troubled individuals.

The suspect claimed that during a fight over a potential return to the hostel, the adopted son tried to stab him, and he acted in self-defense.

Prosecutors doubt this claim, as the victim had eight gunshot wounds to the head, chest and back, and stab wounds to his heart.

The suspect is expected to face murder charges.

Israel’s fiscal deficit widens to 1% in July as tax income falls, expenditure grows

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich attends a discussion about the state budget, during a Finance Committee meeting at the Knesset, July 3, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich attends a discussion about the state budget, during a Finance Committee meeting at the Knesset, July 3, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel’s fiscal deficit widens to 1 percent of GDP, or NIS 18.3 billion ($4.9 billion), in July over the prior 12 months, as state revenue from taxes continues to slide, led by a slump in real estate tax collection and expenditure increases, preliminary figures released by the Finance Ministry show.

In recent months, economists have been warning that the country will find it challenging to meet its fiscal deficit target for this year of around 1% amid expectations for a continued decline in income from taxes as the global economy is undergoing a slowdown and higher borrowing costs are hampering the pace of real estate deals. Adding to this is concern that uncertainty over the planned judicial overhaul will hamper local economic activity.

The new figures show that in July state revenues amounted to NIS 39.2 billion. Total state revenues in the first seven months of the year dropped 4.1% and state income from taxes fell 4.3% year over year. State expenditure stands at NIS 39.7 billion in July versus NIS 37.3 billion during the same month last year. Since the start of the year expenditure jumped 6.8% year-on-year.

Suspect in Palestinian’s killing, a former aide to an MK, is released to house arrest

Elisha Yered, suspected of involvement in the death of 19-year-old Palestinian Qusai Jamal Matan in the West Bank village of Burqa a day earlier, arrives for a hearing at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, August 5, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Elisha Yered, suspected of involvement in the death of 19-year-old Palestinian Qusai Jamal Matan in the West Bank village of Burqa a day earlier, arrives for a hearing at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, August 5, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

One of the suspects in the killing of a Palestinian in the West Bank over the weekend has been released to house arrest.

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court accepted the appeal by the Honenu legal aid organization to release Elisha Yered from detention.

Yered is a former spokesman for far-right Otzma Yehudit MK Limor Son Har-Melech.

Yered and Yehiel Indore are suspected in the fatal Friday shooting of 19-year-old Qusai Jamal Matan outside the West Bank town of Burqa, close to Ramallah. According to the PA’s official Wafa news agency, clashes had broken out after settlers attacked the village, leading residents to confront them.

While Indore, currently hospitalized in serious condition following clashes at the scene, is suspected of firing the weapon that killed Matan, Yered is alleged to have taken the gun and hidden it in an attempt to thwart the investigation.

Yered says he never meant to hide the weapon, and took it so it would not fall into the hands of Palestinians.

Shin Bet says it foiled West Bank terror cell’s plans for shooting attacks

Khaled Abu Alhaija, left, and Aalam Qaabi, held by Israel on suspicion of terror activity (Shin Bet)
Khaled Abu Alhaija, left, and Aalam Qaabi, held by Israel on suspicion of terror activity (Shin Bet)

The Shin Bet security agency says it has foiled plans by a terror cell of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the West Bank to carry out attacks. It says the cell received orders from an operative living in Lebanon.

According to the Shin Bet, Aalam Qaabi, originally from Nablus in the northern West Bank, was deported to the Gaza Strip in the 2011 Shalit deal, and currently lives in Lebanon. “Qaabi leads terror activity [in the West Bank], as part of which he recruits Palestinian terror operatives, some of whom are relatives, in order to carry out attacks against Israelis,” the agency says.

The Shin Bet names two suspects indicted in connection to the terror cell: Murad Qaabi, a resident of the Balata refugee camp near Nablus and a relative of Aalam Qaabi, and Khaled Abu Alhaija, a resident of Jenin.

The agency says that during the investigation of Murad Qaabi, “it emerged that he was instructed by Aalam to carry out shooting attacks.” Two M16 assault rifles in Murad Qaabi’s possession were seized, the Shin Bet adds.

In the investigation of Abu Alhaija, the Shin Bet says it emerged he was recruited by Aalam Qaabi “to carry out attacks and to head a military unit that would operate in the Jenin area.”

The pair are charged with “serious” security offenses, according to the agency. Several other suspects were also detained over suspicions they were recruited by Aalam Qaabi, the Shin Bet adds.

Australian Jewish groups pan Canberra for new policy on Palestinians

View of houses in the West Bank settlement of Efrat, south of Jerusalem. October 25, 2021. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
View of houses in the West Bank settlement of Efrat, south of Jerusalem. October 25, 2021. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Jewish groups in Australia are criticizing their government’s change of policy in referring to the “Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

The Zionist Federation of Australia and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry say the change “is inaccurate, ahistorical and counterproductive.”

It “effectively denies any Jewish claim to the West Bank and Jerusalem. The most important Jewish holy sites of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall are in East Jerusalem, and there has been an unbroken Jewish presence in the West Bank for thousands of years.”

“Israelis and Palestinians have agreed to negotiate the division of the West Bank between them. Describing the territories as ‘Palestinian’ not only pre-empts the outcome of negotiations but is counterproductive.”

Gallant warns Hezbollah not to make ‘mistake’ or ‘we’ll return Lebanon to the Stone Age’

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (right) and head of the IDF Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin, look toward Lebanon from the Mount Dov area, August 8, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (right) and head of the IDF Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin, look toward Lebanon from the Mount Dov area, August 8, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Visiting the tense Mount Dov region on the border with Lebanon, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant threatens the Hezbollah terror group, which has been carrying out provocations along the frontier in recent months.

In a video statement, Gallant warns the chief of the Iran-backed Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, “not to make a mistake.”

“You have made mistakes in the past, you have paid very heavy prices. If… an escalation or conflict develops here, we will return Lebanon to the Stone Age. We will not hesitate to use all our power, and erode every inch of Hezbollah and Lebanon if we have to,” says Gallant after touring the area with senior Israel Defense Force officers.

“Don’t mistake us, we don’t want war, but we are ready to protect our citizens, our soldiers, and our sovereignty,” Gallant adds.

Gallant toured the border area with the head of the IDF Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin, and commander of the 91st Regional Brigade, Brig. Gen. Shai Kalper, along with other senior officers.

In Mount Dov, also known as Shebaa Farms — an area claimed by Lebanon — Gallant held an assessment with the officers, and was updated on “the defensive efforts being made along the border, and of the progress of the construction of the barrier that is currently being carried out,” his office says.

Police arrest crime boss at airport, 7 others in alleged extortion case

Police arrest Ismail Jarushi, head of a southern crime organization, at Ben Gurion Airport.

Jarushi, who was on his way out of the country, is under arrest for alleged extortion of millions of shekels from a building contractor in the south.

Seven other suspects are under arrest in the case.

Police say they arrested several of the suspects yesterday after following them to an industrial zone near Ashdod where they once again threatened the alleged victim.

Israeli ophthalmologist recognized as one of world’s top 10

Prof. Anat Loewenstein (Courtesy Ichilov)
Prof. Anat Loewenstein (Courtesy Ichilov)

Prof. Anat Loewenstein, director of Tel Aviv Medical Center – Ichilov Hospital’s ophthalmology department and vice dean of the Tel Aviv Medical Faculty, is one of the first ophthalmologists and scientists to be inducted into a new Ophthalmologist Hall of Fame.

The Ophthalmologist is a publication providing eyecare professionals with the latest research breakthroughs, innovations, and professional insights from the field. Since 2013, it has published an annual “Power List” honoring the impact of the 100 most influential and inspirational people in ophthalmology. To celebrate the publication’s tenth anniversary, it has added a Hall of Fame.

Loewenstein, who has appeared many times on the “Power List,” has now been singled out as one of the top 10 ophthalmologists and scientists in the world “whose impact on the field will last beyond their lifetimes,” according to The Ophthalmologist.

Loewenstein is a renowned expert on age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a common condition that affects the middle part of a person’s vision.

“From her leading work in clinical trials to her guidelines for treatment of retinal disease, Prof. Loewenstein has done much to improve outcomes and helped so many people maintain and preserve their vision for as long as possible. She has worked not only to treat individuals but to change systems and her work has undoubtedly contributed knowledge that not just brings treatment options but brings a cure for AMD closer,” the Hall of Fame presenter said in a video posted on The Ophthalmologist’s website.

Golan Heights community remains cordoned off as PM vacations, activists rally

The Golan Heights community of Neve Ativ remains closed off to all but residents and confirmed guests as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vacations there with his wife, and police try to prevent anti-government protesters from reaching the premier.

The standoff has lasted a day now, with demonstrators setting up tents outside the cordoned-off area, vowing to remain there so long as the prime minister stays.

Protesters have petitioned the High Court of Justice to force police to allow them to rally inside the community.

Baruch, a resident, tells Channel 12 residents “are completely besieged. We can’t reach the orchards, the entrances are shut off, and a technician can’t even come to fix my tractor.”

Baruch says police and community leadership had agreed in advance on security arrangements “and none of this is being upheld.”

“We’re entirely helpless.”

Australia says it will resume using the term ‘Occupied Palestinian Territories’

The Labor-led Australian government says it will resume use of the term “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” which had been largely abandoned by the previous governments led by the Liberal Party.

“The Australian government is strengthening its opposition to settlements by affirming they are illegal under international law and a significant obstacle to peace,” Foreign Minister Penny Wong says.

Noting this is in line with allies including the European Union and the UK, Wong says: “In adopting the term we are clarifying that the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza, were occupied by Israel following the 1967 war and that the occupation continues and reaffirms our commitment to negotiate a two-state solution in which Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist.”

IDF chief says army is ‘Israel’s greatest opportunity’ in national dispute

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi (center) speaks with new conscripts at the Tel Hashomer military induction center in Ramat Gan, August 8, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi (center) speaks with new conscripts at the Tel Hashomer military induction center in Ramat Gan, August 8, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi tells newly conscripted soldiers that the Israel Defense Forces is “the greatest opportunity for the State of Israel” amid national tensions over the government’s controversial plans to overhaul the judicial system.

“Today there is a disagreement in Israeli society, a serious disagreement. The IDF is the greatest opportunity for the State of Israel in this dispute. Because we know how to be together,” Chief of Staff Halevi tells soldiers drafting to the Golani Infantry Brigade and Armored Corps.

“We know how to be different together, we know how to see one goal and we all aim for the same goal. To show both to our enemies, our families and young siblings and young friends, that the IDF, no matter what happens in Israeli society… protects the country, is an example of cohesion, and that the State of Israel is strong together and knows how to withstand difficult challenges,” Halevi adds.

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