ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 140

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Security cabinet approves steps to ‘prevent collapse’ of Palestinian Authority

Proposals said to be backed by security establishment and include economic, travel and security measures aimed at stabilizing Ramallah leadership

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on July 9, 2023. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on July 9, 2023. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s news as it unfolded.

Netanyahu’s coalition still projected to fall short of majority in future elections

Then-defense minister Benny Gantz and then-outgoing prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the Knesset plenum, June 13, 2021. (Noam Moskowitz/Knesset)
Then-defense minister Benny Gantz and then-outgoing prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the Knesset plenum, June 13, 2021. (Noam Moskowitz/Knesset)

Continuing a trend seen in recent surveys, opinion polls published this evening by two major news outlets show that parties in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition would fail to win a majority were elections to be held today.

These parties — Netanyahu’s Likud, along with the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism, and the far-right Religion Zionism and Otzma Yehudit — would together capture 54 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, down from 64 today.

According to the polls, published in the evening newscasts of Channels 11 and 12, opposition parties could assemble a 61-seat coalition without having to rely on the votes of the Hadash-Ta’al party.

The two largest projected parties, Likud and Benny Gantz’s National Unity, continued to trade blows in the latest polls, with the former projected to be the largest in the Channel 12 poll (28 seats), while Channel 11 said National Unity would win a plurality with 29.

While Israeli television polls are notoriously unreliable, they often affect public opinion and drive decision-making among parties.

After first readings tomorrow, bill to cancel ‘reasonableness’ yardstick to go to committee on Tuesday

The Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee announces that on Tuesday, it will begin deliberations on a bill to curtail judicial review of government policies by depriving the Supreme Court of its “reasonableness” yardstick.

The bill, which has reignited the protest movement against the government’s push to overhaul the judiciary, is expected to come up for — and pass — its first readings tomorrow afternoon.

The Constitution committee is headed by Religious Zionism’s Simcha Rothman, a far-right lawmaker considered one of the architects of the overhaul. Hearings earlier this year on other aspects of the overhaul in his committee often devolved into chaotic shouting matches.

Security cabinet votes in favor of steps to ‘prevent PA’s collapse’

Ministers in the high-level security cabinet vote in favor of a series of measures aimed at bolstering Palestinian Authority.

Far-right ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir had vowed to opposed the measures, which ended up passing with one vote against and one abstention.

In a statement, the government says that the vote was geared toward “preventing the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, while advancing the demand that [it] cease its activities against Israel in the international legal-diplomatic arena, [end] incitement in its media and education systems, [and stop] payments to families of terrorists and murderers and illegal construction in Area C.”

Sunday’s vote follows a major counterterror operation carried out by Israeli forces last week in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, which Israel views as a hotbed of terror and where the PA has little authority.

According to Hebrew media reports, the proposals deliberated today are backed by the security establishment and include economic, travel and security measures aimed at stabilizing the PA.

Security officials told Channel 13 news that they have warned the political leadership of the PA’s possible fall and called for advancing the measures quickly. Many of the steps mentioned in the reports have been promised by past governments led by Netanyahu but have yet to come to fruition.

The measures are also intended to counter Iran’s influence in the West Bank, Ynet reported, following a series of attacks claimed by the Tehran-backed Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups.

The decision also comes weeks after Netanyahu pledged that Israel will work to develop a natural gas field off the coast of the Gaza Strip, a proposal that has been repeatedly floated for more than two decades.

The move is seen as a olive branch to the Palestinians and, if carried out, is expected to bring in billions of shekels to the PA.

The PA’s collapse would likely create chaos and a power vacuum in the West Bank, and an opportunity for terror groups to seize control, similar to the situation in Gaza, where Hamas violently ejected the PA in 2007. The PA has increasingly lost control over the northern West Bank, empowering terror groups, and spurring Israeli forces to carry out regular operations in the area.

Netanyahu told ministers he might fire the attorney general – report

Channel 12 reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu has told ministers that he may fire the attorney general.

Correspondents for the channel point out that the government could forestall judicial review of a decision to oust Gali Baharav-Miara by legislating its bill to cancel “reasonableness” as a yardstick for judging its policies.

Channel 12 does not say when the supposed conversations took place during which Netanyahu said he would oust Gali Baharav-Miara.

Issuing a denial of sorts, Netanyahu’s Likud party says that the prime minister “ruled out firing the attorney general during [Sunday’s] cabinet meeting and asked ministers to refrain from debating the issue.”

‘We must return to dialogue,’ says Gantz in response to Herzog

Gantz, the opposition National Unity party leader, embraces President Herzog’s call for renewed negotiations on the judicial overhaul.

“We must return to dialogue. We must stop the one-sided legislation that’s tearing the people apart,” Gantz tweets.

Iran soccer boss says women can attend top league games

TEHRAN, Iran — Women in Iran, who have long been barred from attending soccer matches except for rare occasions, will be allowed into stadiums during the upcoming season, a top official says.

“This year, one of the prominent features of this league… is that we will witness the entry of women into stadiums,” says Mehdi Taj, head of Iran’s Football Federation.

He speaks during a live broadcast of the draw ceremony for the upcoming season of Iran’s top-level soccer league. The 16-team tournament is set to begin next month.

Iran has largely barred female spectators from soccer and other sports stadiums since the Islamic revolution of 1979, despite no law banning their participation.

Clerics, who play a major role in decision-making in Iran, have argued that women must be shielded from the masculine atmosphere and sight of semi-clad male athletes.

Some officials have blamed lacking infrastructure in sports facilities.

Taj says some stadiums in the cities of Isfahan, Kerman and Ahvaz — but not the capital Tehran — are “ready” to host women.

In August, women were allowed for the first time in years to attend a national soccer championship match, when Tehran club Esteghlal took on Mes Kerman.

In another rare instance in October 2019, some 4,000 women were allowed to attend Iran’s 2022 World Cup qualifier against Cambodia at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium.

Iran has faced mounting pressure to allow women into matches after the 2019 death of soccer fan Sahar Khodayari, who set herself on fire for fear of being jailed after trying to attend a match disguised as a man.

Khodayari became known as the “blue girl” after the colors of her favorite team, Esteghlal.

Herzog says deal on ‘reasonableness’ within reach, urges resumption of overhaul talks

In his speech, Herzog also addresses the now-frozen talks that he mediated on judicial reform, saying that compromise on reducing the scope of “reasonableness” as a yardstick to judge government decisions is “within reach.”

“I can tell you — agreements are possible — in general, and certainly on the specific issue of the ‘reasonableness clause.’ An agreement is attainable. And yet, still no one is willing to sit down and talk, now, without preconditions. This is a blunder of historic proportion,” he says.

In recent weeks, the government has been forging ahead with legislation that would prevent the court from invoking reasonableness in relation to appointments and other policies.

The talks between the opposition and the Netanyahu government had been going on for several months, but broke down a few weeks ago, after the coalition refused to convene the panel that selects judges.

“I ask our representatives in the Knesset: Is it worth it? Is it really worth it? The numbers, the data, the surveys, and the debates reflect a real and significant public need for dialogue and consensus,” adds Herzog.

“It’s clear as day. This is the moment to try together. This is the moment to think about the bigger picture. Now is the time to think about the consequences. Put egos aside. Come and talk. Cease the terrible divisions. The people expect you to come to your senses, and quickly.”

Herzog condemns growing attacks on Christians as ‘evil’ and ‘a disgrace’

Calling such incidents “evil” and “a disgrace,” President Isaac Herzog condemns growing attacks against Christians “in Israel in general and in Jerusalem in particular, including spitting and desecration of graves and churches.”

Speaking at the state memorial ceremony for Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl, Herzog says there has been a recent rise in incidents.

“Israel is committed to eradicating this phenomenon,” he pledges.

“I am also working, and will continue to work with all my might, together with law enforcement and other agencies, to lead initiatives that will bring an end to this disturbing reality, a sick evil, and a true disgrace, for us as a society and as a country,” says Herzog.

He also condemns the recent burning of a Quran in Sweden.

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen will be visiting the Vatican this week, but it remains unclear whether he will meet with Pope Francis.

Palestinian woman tries to stab guard on Jerusalem light rail, is shot

A Palestinian woman attempts to carry out a stabbing attack at the Ammunition Hill light rail station in Jerusalem and is shot, according to first responders.

There are no other injuries in the suspected attack.

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai is at the scene, across the street from police headquarters.

According to law enforcement officials, the alleged assailant attempted to stab a light rail security guard, who shot her in the leg.

A knife a Palestinian woman attempted to stab a security guard with at the Ammunition Hill light rail station in Jerusalem, July 9, 2023. (Israel Police)

The alleged assailant is in good condition, according to police.

The security guard who shot the suspect tells Shabtai that the woman approached him in a suspicious manner.

“I asked her if she needed any help, and she put her hand in her bag and pulled out a knife. I stepped back, cocked my gun and fired two shots in the air, and told her to drop the knife,” he says.

“She didn’t drop it so I fired once at her knee.”

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai at the scene of an attempted stabbing attack at the Ammunition Hill light rail station in Jerusalem, July 9, 2023. (Israel Police)

Biden: US a ‘long way’ from brokering Israeli-Saudi normalization

US President Biden says his administration is a “long way” from brokering a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

“We’re a long way from there. We got a lot to talk about,” Biden tells CNN after he is pressed on the issue.

“We’re making progress in the region, [but a normalization deal] depends upon the conduct and what is asked of us for them to recognize Israel,” the president says.

“Quite frankly, I don’t think they have much of a problem with Israel,” he notes.

“Whether or not we would provide a means by which [Saudi Arabia] could have civilian nuclear power [and whether the US could] be a guarantor of their security — that’s… a little way off,” Biden says.

Biden says Netanyahu’s government has some of ‘the most extreme’ members he’s seen in Israel

US President Joe Biden speaks during an interview with CNN on July 9, 2023 (screenshot: Twitter)
US President Joe Biden speaks during an interview with CNN on July 9, 2023 (screenshot: Twitter)

US President Joe Biden says that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition has some “of the most extreme” cabinet ministers he’s ever seen in Israel, and accuses ministers who back settling “anywhere they want” in the West Bank of being “part of the problem” in the conflict.

CNN presses the president on what it would take for him to extend an invitation to Netanyahu to visit the White House, but the president manages to dodge the question, noting that President Isaac Herzog will be coming to Washington next week. Herzog was invited by congressional leadership to address a joint session in honor of Israel’s 75th year of independence. He is also expected to meet with Biden in the White House but those invites are traditionally extended only a few days ahead of time.

Netanyahu has yet to receive a similar invitation, even though he’s been back in office for over six months. Biden told reporters in March that Netanyahu would not be coming in the “near term” amid US frustration over his government’s effort to radically curb the judiciary.

Despite the lack of an invitation, Biden stresses that he is an “unyielding supporter of Israel for… as long as I have been around.”

As for Netanyahu, Biden says, “I think [he] is trying to [figure out] how he can work through his existing problems in terms of his coalition.

The US president stresses that “Israel’s ultimate security rests on a two-state solution” with the Palestinians but laments: “I think it’s a mistake to think that, as some members of his cabinet — and this is one of the most extreme members of cabinets that I have seen. And I go all the way back to Golda Meir and all. Not that she was extreme, but I go back to that era.”

None of the current cabinet members have gone on record in recent years backing a two-state solution. Netanyahu said last month that Israel must “crush” Palestinian aspirations for a state.

Biden says that Israel is not all to blame for the latest uptick in violence in the West Bank, but “they are a part of the problem — particularly those individuals in the cabinet who say… we can settle anywhere we want, [and that the Palestinians] have no right to be here.”

Biden notes that the Palestinian Authority “has lost its credibility” not only because of Israel. But as a result, a “vacuum for extremism” has been created among the Palestinians. “There are some very extreme elements,” he says.

The US president says his administration is in regular contact with Israel, “trying to tamp down what’s going on.”

He then turns to the crisis over the Israeli government’s effort to overhaul the judiciary and says, “Hopefully, Bibi will continue to move toward moderation in changing the court.”

Ministers again delay decision on bill that would grant Ben Gvir sweeping powers

For the third consecutive week, a government panel puts off making a decision on a bill that would grant far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir the power to order administrative detention for criminal suspects, among other expanded powers.

Proposed by Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit party to counter an ongoing violent crime wave in Arab communities, the bill has been slammed by the State Attorney’s Office as a “threat to democracy” and is said to be opposed by the Shin Bet.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation again delays issuing a decision by a week, and the bill is expected to feature on the panel’s agenda next Sunday. The committee’s support would significantly smooth the bill’s passage through the Knesset.

Administrative detention is a controversial practice whereby suspects are jailed without charge, trial, or guaranteed access to evidence against them for renewable terms of up to six months. In practice, suspects can be held almost indefinitely.

Currently administrative detention is a tool reserved for the defense minister to hold terror suspects. There are about 1,000 Palestinians and a small number of Jewish Israelis being held in administrative detention.

Gantz: Cabinet meeting is ‘culmination of a fear-mongering campaign’ against police

MK Benny Gantz, leader of the opposition National Unity part, says today’s cabinet meeting was “the culmination of a fear-mongering campaign against law enforcement officials.”

Addressing party members, he adds that “the Netanyahu and Ben Gvir horror show raises the concern that the government is not seeking equal enforcement, but rather bullying enforcement,” against the anti-overhaul protesters.

“The cabinet calling a meeting regarding enforcement in the case of a protest [movement] against it [the government] is an unprecedented act of public corruption,” Gantz says, according to Ynet.

“As soon as the gatekeepers and the judges will be appointed by politicians, as soon as judicial review is curtailed, it is an opening for the government to act without any restraints.”

US claims to kill Islamic State leader in Syria drone strike

In this image from video released by the US Air Force, a Russian SU-35 flies near a US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone on July 5, 2023, over Syria. (U.S. Air Force via AP)
In this image from video released by the US Air Force, a Russian SU-35 flies near a US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone on July 5, 2023, over Syria. (U.S. Air Force via AP)

WASHINGTON — A US drone strike killed an Islamic State group leader in Syria hours after the same MQ-9 Reaper drones were harassed by Russian military jets over the western part of the country, according to the Defense Department.

Three Reapers had been flying overhead searching for the militant on Friday, a US defense official says, when they were harassed for about two hours by Russian aircraft. Shortly after that, the drones struck and killed Usamah al-Muhajir, who was riding a motorcycle in the Aleppo region, says the official, who is not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity to describe details of the military operation.

The official says al-Muhajir was in northwest Syria at the time of the strike, but that he usually operated in the east.

It is not immediately clear how the US military confirmed that the person killed was al-Muhajir; no other details were provided.

In a statement, US Central Command says there are no indications any civilians were killed in the strike. The military is assessing reports a civilian may have been injured.

Friday was the third day in a row that US officials complained that Russian fighter jets in the region had conducted unsafe and harassing flights around American drones.

Lt. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, head of US Air Forces Central Command, said in a statement that during the Friday encounter, the Russian planes “flew 18 unprofessional close passes that caused the MQ-9s to react to avoid unsafe situations.”

Lapid urges police to respect right to protest, refrain from using force

In a letter penned to Commissioner Shabtai, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid urges the police to respect the right to protest and only use force in “exceptional cases.”

Lapid sends his letter as cabinet ministers conduct a tense debate with the attorney general and Shabtai regarding the proper police and legal response to public disruptions by protesters.

“I call on you to instruct your people to respect the citizens and the democratic protest, to sharpen the guidelines for the use of force only in exceptional cases, and not to let the background noise inflame the spirits,” Lapid writes to Shabtai.

Shabtai has been under considerable pressure from far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir to step up enforcement against protesters who block roads, amid six months of demonstrations against the government’s judicial overhaul.

“Millions of citizens take to the streets to defend democratic values, to defend the law you are entrusted with, to defend our beloved country,” writes Lapid. “The Israel Police has a responsibility to be there for them. Give them the space to protest and express their concern and pain. They are fighting for the future of the country.”

Lapid, who leads the opposition against the judicial shakeup, says that demonstrators are “outstanding people” and that “this is the most wonderful protest in the history of the country.”

Police chief says anti-overhaul protesters have not been attacking police

During the cabinet meeting Israel Police chief Kobi Shabtai says protesters against the judicial overhaul have refrained from attacking officers.

“In this protest movement, attacks against police are relatively negligible,” he says, according to Haaretz, reportedly adding that “not a single officer was taken to a hospital for treatment” during the protests.

Also during the meeting, the attorney general addresses the blocking of roads by demonstrators and reportedly says that “there can be no effective protest without disturbing public order,” a statement that Netanyahu is said to call “shocking.”

Jordanian security forces kill 3, including 2 escaped prisoners, in gun battle

AMMAN, Jordan — Jordanian security forces killed three men, including two escaped inmates, in a shootout in a remote part of the country, authorities say.

The Public Security Directorate says that the two prisoners had recently fled from jail, prompting a search that ended with the gun battle. The third man killed had alleged ties to a militant group and was wanted in connection with unspecified crimes, the directorate says.

One of the two escaped inmates was charged in connection with the 2022 killing of a senior police officer.

The officer, Abdul Razzaq Abdel Hafez Al Dalabeh, was killed during clashes with protesters that broke out over high fuel prices. Three additional officers were killed while trying to arrest suspects in connection with Al Dalabeh’s death.

A statement by the directorate says Saturday’s shootout took place in a rugged area in the kingdom’s southeast. It says authorities are investigating how the two men had escaped from prison.

Doctors ask police to stop using water cannons after protesters injured

Police use a water cannon to disperse demonstrators blocking the freeway during protest against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to overhaul the judicial system in Tel Aviv, July 5, 2023 (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Police use a water cannon to disperse demonstrators blocking the freeway during protest against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to overhaul the judicial system in Tel Aviv, July 5, 2023 (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

The Israel Association of Public Health Physicians and the Israel Society of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery send a letter to Israel Police chief Kobi Shabtai asking that officers suspend their deployment of water cannons, at least until their injurious use against protesters on July 5 are investigated.

The letter characterizes water cannons as “weapons” that cause “exceptional and serious” damage by spraying water at high pressure.

“Water cannons can spray 20 liters per second to a distance of 70 meters. This amounts to pressure of five to 10 bars or even higher. This kind of pressure can lead to a body being damaged directly, or as the result of being knocked against a wall or the ground, or by flying debris,” the letter says.

“There is a high risk of injury from a direct hit to the face by a water cannon. These include serious and irreversible injuries to the eye and eye socket, including blindness,” it continues.

The letter follows the injury of 14 protesters, who were brought to Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital on July 5 after Israelis took to the streets following Tel Aviv police chief Amichai Eshed’s resignation, which he characterized as a removal for refusing to use undue force against protesters.

Brothers in Arms member Udi Ori at the hospital on July 7, 2023, after suffering an eye injury when taking a direct hit from a water cannon during a protest against the judicial overhaul in Tel Aviv on July 5, 2023. (Courtesy)

Six of the anti-overhaul protesters sustained eye and skull injuries due to police use of water cannons.

Among those injured was Udi Ori, a colonel in the Israeli Air Force. He required eye surgery after taking a direct hit from a water cannon during the protest, and has said that he will no longer volunteer for reserve duty, vowing not to serve under a “dictatorship.”

The physicians claim that the police violated their own regulations against the use of water cannons less than 20 meters from people or directed at people’s heads.

These regulations also prohibit the use of water cannons in a way that could cause individuals to be thrown against a wall or fall from heights. The machines may also not be used near the elderly, children, and pregnant women.

Netanyahu to AG: You’re doing nothing to address ‘sedition’ in the military

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also assails Baharav-Miara, the attorney general, claiming she and her office aren’t addressing threats of disobedience by military personnel in protest of the government’s judicial overhaul plans.

“You are doing nothing to counter those who incite disobedience… in the Israel Defense Forces and those who are promoting sedition,” he charges.

“This is total inaction!” Netanyahu adds, according to Ynet. “This is a threat to national security.”

David’s Sling missile defense system succeeds in series of tests – Defense Ministry

The David’s Sling system (Defense Ministry)

The Israeli Air Force and Rafael defense firm recently completed a successful series of tests of the David’s Sling medium-range air defense system, the Defense Ministry and military say.

According to a joint statement, the David’s Sling faced off against “advanced threats, which expand the system’s capability and significantly improve the air defense layers of the State of Israel.”

“The existing capabilities of the system were tested in a number of challenging scenarios, which prove the capabilities of the system during a conflict,” the ministry says, calling it an “important milestone.”

The David’s Sling successfully made its first real-world interceptions during a recent flareup of violence between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group in May.

Before that, the system failed to intercept rockets launched from Syria in 2018.

Doctor arrested for smuggling 5,000 bullets on flight from Georgia

Police announce that they’ve arrested a 60-year-old medical doctor at Ben Gurion airport on suspicion that she attempted to smuggle some 5,000 rounds of ammunition in her luggage.

In a statement, police say detectives located several suspicious suitcases that arrived on a flight from Georgia and arrested the woman when she attempted to pick them up.

Police say that her intention was likely to sell the ammunition.

UN chief says Sudan is on the brink of ‘full-scale civil war’

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres addresses the media during a visit to the UN office in the capital Nairobi, Kenya, May 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi, File)
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres addresses the media during a visit to the UN office in the capital Nairobi, Kenya, May 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi, File)

CAIRO — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says Sudan is on the brink of a “full-scale civil war” as fierce clashes between rival generals continue unabated today in the capital, Khartoum.

He warns that the war between the Sudanese military and a powerful paramilitary force is likely to destabilize the entire region, according to Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for the secretary-general.

Sudan descended into chaos after months of tension between military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, and his rival Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, exploded into open fighting in mid-April.

The secretary-general also decries the large-scale violence and casualties in the western region of Darfur, which has experienced some of the worst fighting in the ongoing conflict, Haq said in a statement.

“There is an utter disregard for humanitarian and human rights law that is dangerous and disturbing,” Guterres says.

Israeli kidnapped in Iraq to pressure Israel to release Iranian prisoner – report

The kidnapping of Russian-Israeli researcher Elizabeth Tsurkov was carried out to pressure Israel to release an Iranian held by Israel, Iraqi sources tell Asharq Al-Awsat, a London-based Arabic daily.

That Iranian in question could be Yousef Shahbazi Abbasalilo, whom Israel announced in June it had snatched from Iranian soil for planning attacks on Israeli targets in Cyprus.

Israel has not revealed when it took Shahbazi Abbasalilo, and whether it was before Tsurkov was kidnapped.

Some sources tell the outlet that talks are being mediated by Russia, “which may result in the release of Tsurkov in the coming days.”

Asharq Al-Awsat also says it received conflicting reports about her location, with some sources saying she is being held in Iraq by the pro-Iranian militia Kataib Hezbollah, and others indicating she was moved to Iran.

Pope Francis names new Jerusalem prelate among 21 new cardinals

Pope Francis delivers the Angelus noon prayer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, July 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Francis delivers the Angelus noon prayer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, July 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis announces he has chosen 21 new cardinals, including prelates from Jerusalem and Hong Kong — places where Catholics are a small minority.

The pope announces his picks during his customary weekly appearance to the public in St. Peter’s Square, saying the ceremony to formally install the churchmen as cardinals will be held on September 30.

Among those tapped are several prelates holding or about to assume major Vatican posts, like Argentine Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, whom the pope names to lead the office for ensuring doctrinal orthodoxy.

The new cardinals also include Hong Kong Bishop Stephen Sau-yan Chow and the Vatican’s top official in the Middle East, Monsignor Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Ministers assail AG at cabinet meeting; Regev calls for her ouster

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara is assailed and condemned by ministers during a weekly cabinet meeting over the manner in which law enforcement agencies have dealt with protestors who have allegedly broken the law during anti-government demonstrations.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir says the small number of indictments against protestors is “disgraceful,” and Transportation Minister Miri Regev declares that Baharav-Miara should be fired in light of what she says is the attorney general’s unwillingness to prevent public order disturbances.

According to numbers presented during the hearing, the police have arrested 572 protesters since the demonstrations began in early January for disturbing the peace, not obeying police instructions, or attacking police officers. Of those cases, six indictments were filed, all for attacking police officers.

“If the attorney general decides everything but isn’t willing to help the government to function, maybe she should be fired,” Regev is quoted as saying by several Hebrew outlets, while minister in the Justice Ministry Dudi Amsallem says, “Your selective enforcement for the last 27 weeks has been driving me crazy.”

Baharav-Miara tells the cabinet she hopes that “the government is not asking me to say that it wants more aggressive enforcement to suppress the protest against it, which is not in accordance with the professional judgment of the [police] commanders on the ground and the state prosecution.”

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