The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.
RABAT, Morocco — Morocco’s national carrier Royal Air Maroc says it will start regular direct flights to Israel, taking off a year after the kingdom normalized ties with the Jewish state.
The service linking the countries’ respective commercial capitals Casablanca and Tel Aviv will take off on December 12, two days after the first anniversary of Morocco’s “resumption of relations” with Israel under a deal brokered by the former US administration.
The service aims to “respond to the needs of the Moroccan community in Israel which has strong links with its country of origin,” the airline says in a statement carried by the official MAP news agency.
“It also aims to allow tourists and businesspeople to travel between Morocco and Israel,” it says.
The airline says it will offer three flights per week, later moving to five.
The decision comes after the first direct commercial flight between the countries, by Israeli airline Israir, landed in Marrakesh in July.
Jordan has informed Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office that King Abdullah II didn’t discuss diplomatic issues with Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas during their meeting today, according to the Kan public broadcaster.
Citing an unnamed source familiar with the matter, the broadcaster says the Jordanians told Bennett’s office that a statement they put out was a mistake, and that the two did not discuss diplomatic issues.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for months has been trying unsuccessfully to hold a meeting with Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas, Channel 12 news reports.
The Ra’am chief, whose Islamist faction is part of Israel’s ruling coalition, has yet to respond, according to the network.
“If I meet with [Mahmoud Abbas], it’s a controversy, and if I don’t meet with him, it’s a controversy,” Mansour Abbas says in an interview with Channel 12. “Let’s let time do it’s thing.”
The Palestinian Authority leader has recently held meetings in Ramallah with several Israeli ministers, including Defense Minister Benny Gantz, the first senior Israeli official that Abbas has hosted in a decade.
Strauss Group CEO Giora Bardea is also being investigated by Israeli authorities as part of a probe into suspected price fixing between the food and beverage maker and supermarket chain Shufersal, Channel 12 news reports.
The network says Eyal Ravid, the CEO of the Victory supermarket chain, is also being investigated.
Senior officials at additional supermarkets and food producers are expected to be summoned for questioning in the coming days on suspicion of fixing prices via media interviews, according to the report.
STOCKHOLM, Sweden — The trial in Sweden of a former Iranian prison official, accused of handing out death sentences as part of a 1988 purge of dissidents, will relocate to Albania tomorrow to hear two weeks of testimony.
Hamid Noury, 60, has been on trial in Stockholm’s district court since August on a slew of charges including murder, crimes against humanity and war crimes, dating from July 30 to August 16, 1988, when Noury was allegedly assistant to the deputy prosecutor of Gohardasht prison in Karaj, near Tehran.
The entire Stockholm district court is relocating to Durres, Albania, at the prosecution’s request, to hear testimony from November 10 to 18 from seven witnesses “who are unable to travel to Sweden,” court clerk Anna Wester tells AFP.
The seven are members of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), the exiled opposition group, who reside in a camp near Durres.
Noury himself will however remain in Stockholm, Wester says.
He has been held in custody since November 2019, when he arrived in Sweden, where he has family members.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s authorities weigh in to back a controversial Independence Day march dominated by far-right activists, saying the event will go ahead as a state observance, despite having been banned by Polish courts.
The spokeswoman for Poland’s main right-wing ruling party, Anita Czerwinska, confirms that the November 11 march in Warsaw will have an official status and appeals to prospective participants to exhibit a “dignified” approach.
Last month, head of the nationalist Independence March organization defied the court bans and said the march will go ahead but in a smaller form, as required by pandemic restrictions.
The annual November 11 march has earned a bad reputation since becoming dominated by far-right, nationalist groups, with the right-wing government’s consent. It has featured radical slogans and violence, with some people being injured last year and a bookstore and an apartment being set on fire.
Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, a top opposition figure, banned the march this year and Warsaw courts upheld the ban.
But a state veterans organization says today it’s giving the march an official status, which means it will go ahead and will have police and army gendarmerie ensuring security.
DAMASCUS, Syria — The United Arab Emirates’ top diplomat met Syria’s President Bashar Assad in Damascus today, state media says, in the first such visit by a top UAE official since Syria’s war began 10 years ago.
The visit is widely seen as a sign of regional efforts to end Assad’s diplomatic isolation as Syria grapples with a spiraling economic crisis caused by years of conflict and compounded by a spate of Western sanctions.
“President Assad received UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed,” and an accompanying delegation, the official SANA news agency says.
“During the meeting, they discussed bilateral relations between the two brotherly countries and ways to develop cooperation in different sectors that are of common interest,” SANA adds.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed meets President Bashar Al Assad today – ???? via SANA ???????????????? pic.twitter.com/QLgl0pU0M1
— حسن سجواني ???????? Hassan Sajwani (@HSajwanization) November 9, 2021
The UAE broke ties with Syria, which is backed by the UAE’s regional rival Iran, in February 2012, as the repression of nationwide protests demanding regime change was escalating into a devastating war.
In December 2018, the UAE reopened its embassy in Damascus. This was followed by the Gulf country calling in March for Syria to return to the Arab League.
WARSAW, Poland — Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accuses Russian leader Vladimir Putin of orchestrating an unprecedented wave of migrants trying to illegally enter Poland from Belarus and threatening to destabilize the European Union.
“This attack which [Belarus President Alexander] Lukashenko is conducting has its mastermind in Moscow, the mastermind is President Putin,” Morawiecki tells an emergency session of the Polish parliament.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett hails the seizure of arms and arrest of dozens of gunrunners in what the police have touted as the largest weapons bust in Israel’s history.
At an event in Tel Aviv where the weapons were displayed, Bennett describes the number of unauthorized firearms on Israeli streets “as one of the largest illegal arms caches in the Middle East.”
“We’ve just started,” he says.
“To the Arab citizens of Israel, I want to say: You deserve personal security; therefore, we are here taking action and we will continue to do so,” the premier adds.
Bennett also issues a warning to arms traffickers and others involved in violent crime.
“We will not give up, we will not relent. We have you in sight and we will pursue you… We will settle accounts with you and we will put you on trial, and you will pay,” he says.
The US military is testing Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system on the Pacific island of Guam amid concerns over potential Chinese attacks, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The report notes tests that the US Army held in New Mexico this August and says that while the Iron Dome is less effective against cruise missiles than the projectiles launched by Gaza-based Palestinian terror groups, it is able to intercept some cruise missiles traveling below the speed of sound.
The newspaper also cites analysts questioning whether Guam was the best place to deploy the Iron Dome, suggesting it would be better suited for South Korea, near the border with North Korea.
Colombia officially opens a trade and innovation office in Jerusalem, with the South American country’s President Ivan Duque on hand for the ceremony.
“Colombia is a true friend of Israel. Governments make alliances, but it is the people who build bridges. Today, we add another significant layer to the deepening ties between Israel and Colombia,” says Science and Technology Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen, the highest-ranking Israeli official in attendance.
She predicts the facility’s opening will lead to increased cooperation between Jerusalem and Bogota in the fields of science and technology.
“I am certain that Colombia’s official entry into the flourishing Israeli innovation ecosystem will benefit both countries and their tech sectors,” she says.
Duque, who is in Israel on a three-day visit, announced the planned office in 2020 following the ratification of a free-trade agreement between Israel and Colombia.
Brazil and Honduras have also opened trade offices in Jerusalem, and several other countries also have trade and/or defense offices in the city. Israel has touted the offices as diplomatic achievements, though they fell short of hopes for a flood of countries opening full embassies in Jerusalem after the US made the move in 2018.
KHARTOUM, Sudan — Two leading international rights groups urge Sudan’s military in a joint statement to release government officials, activists and others detained during the army’s coup last month.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also appeal for an end to “further arbitrary arrests” and the crackdown that has been taking place on anti-coup protests.
It’s the first time the two prominent groups issued a joint statement on Sudan. They had separately appealed to Sudan’s military to free those arrested during and after the coup.
On October 25, the Sudanese military seized power, dissolving the country’s transitional government and detaining more than 100 government officials and political leaders, along with a large number of protesters and activists. The army also placed the country’s prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, under house arrest in his residence in the capital of Khartoum.
A group of Jews from Brooklyn recently visited the Syrian capital Damascus with the support of the Assad regime, the Kan public broadcaster reports.
The 12 Jewish New Yorkers are natives of Syria who left the country decades ago, according to the report.
One group member claims the visit was partially to receive dental treatment because it is far cheaper in Syria than the US.
The visitors reportedly met privately with a handful of Jews who still live in Damascus and received a request to meet with senior government officials, although that meeting did not materialize.
The New Yorkers were welcomed by the city residents.
“Everyone understood from our language that we were Syrian Jews, everyone remembered us,” one visitor tells Kan.
“We went to shops in every place. They got to know us and said to us, ‘Welcome, this is your country, why aren’t you coming back? Look what happened to the country, please come back.’”
— اسف جيبور assaf gibor (@assafgibor) November 9, 2021
Police have opened a probe into Yamina MK Idit Silman’s allegation that she was recently assaulted at a gas station.
Police launch the probe after receiving investigatory materials from the Knesset Guard, with whom Silman filed a complaint on Sunday after revealing the incident, which came amid a months-long Likud campaign against the government that replaced former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Some critics have questioned why Silman did not go into detail about the gas station incident and have doubted her account, with Netanyahu demanding yesterday that she provide evidence she was attacked by an opponent of the new government or apologize for the claim.
At a press conference announcing the easing of coronavirus restrictions at outdoor gatherings, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz vows that limitations on events at indoor venues will also soon be eased if morbidity further recedes.
Horowitz notes the continued decline in morbidity since the peak of Israel’s fourth major outbreak of COVID-19, which he credits to the rollout of booster shoots.
He cautions against spiking the football, however, saying the ministry is operating on the assumption there will be another significant wave of infections.
“This isn’t a graduation party,” he says.
The Israel Competition Authority raids the offices of the country’s largest supermarket chain and a major food and beverage manufacturer on suspicion of price fixing.
A number of top officials at Shufersal and Strauss Group, including the former’s CEO Itzik Abercohen, are interrogated as part of the investigation.
Shufersal confirms to the stock exchange that Abercohen is under investigation and says documents and computer equipment were taken from the supermarket chain’s offices during the raid.
Immigration Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked say they’ve agreed to speed up the immigration of 5,000 Ethiopians claiming Jewish descent, amid intensifying fighting in Ethiopia.
Those included in the agreement have first-degree relatives in Israel and were eligible to immigrate under a 2015 government decision, under which 9,000 people would be brought to the Jewish state.
Ra’am chief Mansour Abbas traveled to Jordan for talks with King Abdullah II, according to Israeli television, which didn’t specify when this happened.
Channel 12 news says the Jordanian monarch and Abbas, whose Islamist faction is part of Israel’s ruling coalition, discussed issues concerning the countries’ bilateral ties and other regional matters during their meeting in Amman.
Quoting an unnamed source familiar with details of the talks, the Kan public broadcaster reports the meeting was held at the request of the Jordanians.
The report also says Abbas updated Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on what was discussed at the meeting.
As morbidity figures continue their steady decline, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horwitz have agreed to scrap capacity limits on outdoor gatherings, the Prime Minister’s Office announces.
A statement from Bennett’s office says the two also agreed to ease Green Pass rules at “low-risk areas.”
Mask-wearing will also no longer be required at outdoor events with less than 100 people.
“The requirement to wear a mask in enclosed spaces will remain unchanged,” the statement says.
The new rules were expected to be approved by the so-called coronavirus committee in a phone vote later today. Once approved, they must then be okayed by the Knesset’s Law, Constitution and Justice Committee before taking effect.
Bennett says the easing of restrictions was due to morbidity figures falling to “relatively low numbers.”
“We are continuing to act cautiously because outside, mostly on the European continent, there is a tsunami of coronavirus at the moment, at unprecedented scales,” he is quoted saying in the statement.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz vows Israel will not allow advanced weaponry to reach Iran’s regional proxies, amid a recent uptick in airstrikes in Syria that have been attributed to Israel.
“Fifteen years ago, this place burned from Hezbollah rockets and the threat from Iranian [military] entrenchment in Syria,” he said at the inauguration of a new factory opened by Israeli weapons maker Rafael in the northern town of Shlomi.
Gantz touts the factory’s opening as a “clear symbol to our enemies that our determination cannot be undermined.”
“On an operational level, we are acting extensively,” he says. “We won’t allow Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies in the area to be equipped with weaponry that will harm Israel’s [military] superiority in the region.”
WASHINGTON — The US Holocaust Memorial Museum says it has compiled evidence of increasing government repression against Uighur Muslims in China’s western Xinjiang region.
In a new report released today, the museum’s Center for the Prevention of Genocide says there is now “a reasonable basis” to believe that previously alleged crimes against humanity versus the Uighurs are growing amid a concerted campaign to hide their severity.
“The Chinese government has done its best to keep information about crimes against the Uyghurs from seeing the light of day,” says Tom Bernstein, the chairman of the museum’s Committee on Conscience. “The Chinese government must halt its attacks on the Uyghur people and allow independent international monitors to investigate and ensure that the crimes have stopped.”
China has repeatedly rejected charges of human rights abuses and atrocities in the region.
The new findings include allegations of forced sterilization, sexual violence, enslavement, torture and forcible transfer. The US government has already determined that China’s actions against Xinjiang’s Uighur Muslim and other minority populations amount to genocide.
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi says the military is ramping up its preparations for a possible attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.
“The IDF is accelerating operational planning and preparedness to deal with Iran and the military nuclear threat,” he tells the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. “The budget that was approved makes it possible to contend with a variety of threats.”
His comments come as the Israeli Air Force is expected to resume practicing for a strike on Iran’s nuclear program.
In his remarks to the committee, Kohavi also tells Knesset members that Israel faces “many security challenges” on numerous fronts.
“In the past year we’ve continued to act against our enemies in missions and secret operations throughout the entire Middle East. The IDF will continue to act to remove threats and will respond forcefully to any violation of [Israeli] sovereignty,” he says.
ROME — Pope Francis condemns an assassination attempt against Iraq’s prime minister as a “vile act of terrorism” and says he is praying for peace in the country.
The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, sent a telegram to Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi expressing Francis’ solidarity and prayers to al-Kadhimi’s family and those injured in the drone attack on the prime minister’s residence.
“In condemning this vile act of terrorism, His Holiness once more expresses his confidence that with the blessing of the most high God, the people of Iraq will be confirmed in wisdom and strength in pursuing the path of peace through dialogue and fraternal solidarity,” the telegram says.
An Iraqi army general has said indications point to Iran-backed factions as being behind the attack, though a top Iranian general visited Baghdad and said Tehran had nothing to do with it.
Francis met with al-Kadhimi in March when he traveled to Iraq to deliver a message of peaceful coexistence in the first-ever papal visit to the country.
MOSCOW — Coronavirus deaths in Russia hit a new record today and new confirmed cases remain high two days after a nine-day non-working period ended in most of the country’s regions.
The state coronavirus task force reports 1,211 COVID-19 deaths, the highest daily death toll in the pandemic, and 39,160 new cases. The task force has reported around 40,000 cases and over 1,100 deaths every day since late October.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered many Russians last month to stay off work between October 30 and November 7. He authorized regional governments to extend the number of non-working days if necessary, but only five Russian regions have done so.
Other regions have restricted access to restaurants, theaters and other public places to people who either have been fully vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19 within the last six months or tested negative in the previous 72 hours.
The daily tallies of new cases and COVID-19 deaths remained high throughout the non-working period. Officials in the Kremlin argued Monday that it was too early to tell whether the measure had the desired effect.
Russia’s fall surge in infections and deaths comes amid low vaccination rates, lax public attitudes toward taking precautions and the government’s reluctance to toughen restrictions.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid says his sister-in-law has stepped down from her post at Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) following criticism for appointing her to the organization’s board of directors.
Lapid says Keren Ilil has also resigned all her positions in his Yesh Atid party, while continuing to defend appointing his sister-in-law to the KKL-JNF board.
The Yesh Atid chief blames “the wild attacks on social media” and lashes out at opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu for criticizing the appointment.
“Those who spin and the corrupt won this battle. We will remain here to ensure they don’t win the war,” he writes on Facebook.
Likud MK Haim Katz is charged with corruption in a downgraded charge that will see him avoid jail time, after he reached a plea deal with prosecutors.
Katz has been accused of advancing a bill on corporate bond repayment pushed by a financial consultant who was a close friend and financial adviser to Katz himself, and which benefited the adviser financially once it became law. Katz was also accused of concealing those conflicts of interest.
According to the plea bargain, Katz will confess to the lesser charge of conspiring to achieve a legitimate target via illegitimate means. Katz and prosecutors will then jointly ask the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court to sentence Katz to a suspended sentence and a fine.
In a statement, Katz says Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has acknowledged that the advancement of the measure was kosher and didn’t yield any benefit for himself.
“The charges against me relate to the information I should have brought before the Knesset committee members. I take full responsibility for that,” he says. “Over the past five years I have paid a high personal and public price, because the [legal] process is the punishment, and I decided to reach a deal and put the saga behind me.”
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