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Islamic State claims Beirut suicide bombings

At least 41 killed as bombings rock Hezbollah bastion in Beirut; court upholds demolition of five terrorists’ homes

Elie Leshem is deputy editor of The Times of Israel.

  • Jewish winemakers inspecting grapes at a winery in the West Bank settlement bloc of Gush Etzion, September 8, 2014. (Gershon Elinson/FLASH90)
    Jewish winemakers inspecting grapes at a winery in the West Bank settlement bloc of Gush Etzion, September 8, 2014. (Gershon Elinson/FLASH90)
  • Emergency personnel gather at the site of a twin suicide bombing in Burj al-Barajneh, in the southern suburbs of the capital Beirut on November 12, 2015 (AFP PHOTO/ANWAR AMRO)
    Emergency personnel gather at the site of a twin suicide bombing in Burj al-Barajneh, in the southern suburbs of the capital Beirut on November 12, 2015 (AFP PHOTO/ANWAR AMRO)
  • Illustrative photo of a demolished illegal building in Beit Hanina,  East Jerusalem. (Sliman Khader/FLASH90)
    Illustrative photo of a demolished illegal building in Beit Hanina, East Jerusalem. (Sliman Khader/FLASH90)
  • An Israeli police vehicle drives in front of Palestinian protesters running away during clashes on October 13, 2015 in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. (AFP/MUSA AL-SHAER)
    An Israeli police vehicle drives in front of Palestinian protesters running away during clashes on October 13, 2015 in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. (AFP/MUSA AL-SHAER)
  • Tourism Minister Yariv Levin in the Knesset on July 13, 2015 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
    Tourism Minister Yariv Levin in the Knesset on July 13, 2015 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

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

Minister: Palestinians a ‘recent invention’

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin asserts that there is no occupation in the West Bank, because a people cannot be an occupier “in its own land.”

Addressing the Haaretz Conference on Peace in Tel Aviv, Levin calls the Palestinian people a “recent invention,” and says the Jewish people have been residing in the Land of Israel “long before Islam” came on the scene.

Addressing the “left and the UN,” he adds: “Your way has failed. Your position is wrong. You’ve strengthened the extremists. You’ve distanced peace.”

Levin says Palestinians discriminate against women and LGBT people, and glorify killers. The crowd boos.

“A society that doesn’t know how to accept the other within their own society — how do you think they’re going to accept us?”

Despite the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week publicly endorsed a two-state solution to the conflict, Levin asserts that there will be no Palestinian state.

“Two states for two nations — I don’t want to get into the discussion about whether there are two nations here but we all know there won’t be two states,” he says.

Instead, Levin urges a regional effort: “The way to peace is not from the inside out, but from the outside in.”

He claims that the “peace industry” should set aside the Palestinian issue and instead invest its money in ties between Israel and the Arab world.

The crowd boos him again.

Marissa Newman contributed

2 construction workers badly injured in TA

Two construction workers are in critical condition after being hit by a beam that fell in a construction site in Tel Aviv.

Paramedics are administering emergency care before they can be evacuated to a hospital.

Eilat stabbing was terrorism — police

The stabbing of an Israeli woman in Eilat on October 29 was a terror attack, the Israel Police confirms, crediting an investigation conducted jointly with the Shin Bet security service.

Police at the scene of a stabbing in Eilat, October 29, 2015. (screen capture: Twitter)

Police at the scene of a stabbing in Eilat, October 29, 2015. (screen capture: Twitter)

A 24-year-old suspect in the stabbing has confessed, police say.

The woman was lightly wounded in the attack in the southern resort town.

UN envoy says Israel should do more for Gaza

Nikolay Mladenov, the UN Middle East envoy, says there has been “good cooperation from Israel” with regard to the Gaza Strip crossings, but “much more needs to be done.”

There is “increasing helplessness in Gaza,” which is creating an “explosive situation,” he tells the Haaretz peace conference, adding that all parties are responsible for the current situation. The international community must increase its financial support for projects in the Palestinian enclave, and the Palestinian leadership needs to step up, he says.

Israel still needs to improve access for Gaza imports and exports, and support projects to address Gaza’s electricity shortages and water contamination, he says.

— Marissa Newman

Former Turkish envoy: PM no peace partner

Former Turkish ambassador to Israel Namik Tan tells the Haaretz conference that “Netanyahu is not an ideal [partner] for any peace effort.”

He’s met by lots of applause.

“The reasonable people, and most of them are here today” — more applause, laughter — “we have to continue to fight. We cannot sustain this situation.

“This is not good for Israel. As a friend of Israel — and I admire this country… we should continue to do our part as much as we can.”

— Marissa Newman

Injured construction workers die

The two construction workers who were critically wounded in an accident in Tel Aviv have died.

Ex-Turkish envoy sees little hope for regional confab

Tan, the former Turkish diplomat, casts doubt on the prospects for a regional conference on Israeli-Palestinian peace.

“Everything is possible, if you have the political will,” he says, noting that he doesn’t believe that Israel, the US, or the international community “have the political will.”

The region “is in a mess,” he says. “How can you think of a regional conference?

“I see, honestly speaking, no hope [for a regional conference].”

Tan says strained ties with Israel prevent Turkey from pushing a peace deal.

“For us, the political problems between the two countries tie our hands, at present,” he says. But Tan adds he is “hopeful” that Israel-Turkey ties will be normalized.

It is up to another country to advance peace efforts, he says. “Israel is the strongest partner, so perhaps Israel should take the first step, the courageous step.”

— Marissa Newman

Google execs said to stay away from Israel due to ‘security situation’

Channel 2 reports that several employees of Google who were slated to appear as defense witnesses in a trial involving the company in Israel have refused to come to the country due to the “security situation.”

Instead, the two will be appear via a video link from Ireland, the report says.

“Due to the current security situation in Israel, and specifically in light of the terror wave, the witnesses have in recent days expressed a tangible fear that prevents them from traveling to Israel at this time,” Google’s lawyers in Israel are quoted as saying in a written request to the court to postpone the proceedings.

Lawyers for the plaintiff said Google’s request stems from “prejudice,” the report said.

“There are more stabbing incidents per capita in Ireland and the United States,” they say. “It’s just that there they get less coverage. The defendant’s request is based on prejudice, hysteria, and anti-Israel [sentiment].”

Nephews of Venezuelan first lady face drug charges in US

Two nephews of Venezuela’s powerful first lady are facing arraignment in New York after being arrested in Haiti on charges of conspiring to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into the US, people familiar with the case say.

The arrest of Efrain Campos and Francisco Flores is likely to exacerbate already tense relations between the US and Venezuela and cast a hard look at US accusations of drug trafficking at the highest levels of President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist administration.

The case also comes just three weeks before key legislative elections that opinion polls have been suggesting could hand the ruling party its worst defeat in 16 years as Venezuela’s struggles with triple-digit inflation and widespread shortages of basic goods.


UN envoy: If you recognize Israel, recognize Palestine too

UN envoy Mladenov says recognizing the right of the State of Israel to exist should entail recognizing a State of Palestine.

He says Netanyahu has to back his support for the two-state solution with actions.

“We need a new process, we need a new framework,” he says.

“I think it is possible, I think it is doable.”

Marissa Newman

Attempted stabbing reported near Bethlehem

Reports are coming in of a failed stabbing attempt at a crossing between Bethlehem in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

There are no Israelis wounded.

The would-be stabber is at large, the reports say.

Benny Begin says ‘no solution’ to conflict

Knesset member Benny Begin asserts that there is “no solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Addressing the Haaretz conference, he also rules out reaching any sort of “agreement with Hamas.”

The Palestinian Authority “cannot sign a deal that includes giving up the Palestinian right of return” and recognizing the Jewish state, he says, noting that Israel cannot impose a peace deal on the PA.

There is an “entirely misguided assumption that the PA is the answer,” he adds.

In the absence of a viable peace deal, Israel has two options, he continues: unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank, or continued Israeli sovereignty in the area. Pointing to the unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, he says “there is no alternative” to remaining in the West Bank.

“Unfortunately, this basic situation is not going to change in the near future,” he says.

Considering his views and the makeup of the audience, his speech receives a surprising burst of applause.

— Marissa Newman

At least 8 said killed in Iran flash flooding

At least eight people, including five children, have died in flash floods in south Iran, state television reports.

Heavy rain hit Iran this week, causing casualties and damage in the southern provinces of Fars, Hormozgan and Kerman.

Three children died in the floods in Fars province, where torrents washed away some 400 kilometers (250 miles) of pathways used by local tribes.

A car was also swept away on Thursday morning when a river in Hormozgan province burst its banks, drowning all five passengers including two children.

About 75 villages were cut off from nearby cities due to flooding in the area of Roudan in the same province, some 130 kilometres east of the southern port city of Bandar Abbas.

Sewage and power infrastructure in 52 villages in the Kerman province also suffered damage estimated at 15.4 billion rials ($510,000), the ISNA news agency reports.

The province also suffered at least $450,000 in damages last week, ISNA says.


Stabbing attack in northern West Bank — reports

Fresh reports are coming in of a possible stabbing attack in the northern West Bank.

The army is looking into the reports.

Arab MK blasts ‘radical’ Netanyahu administration

Knesset member Ahmad Tibi, of the Joint (Arab) List, tells the Haaretz conference that “Netanyahu is not a partner in the peace process for the two-state solution.”

The Netanyahu current government is so “radical” that the “most moderate person in it is Benjamin Netanyahu,” he says.

— Marissa Newman

IDF says no stabbing in northern West Bank

The report about a stabbing incident was a false alarm, the army says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Palestinian tried to stab soldier near Bethlehem — army

While the IDF says reports about a stabbing in the northern West Bank are false, it provides information about an earlier incident at a crossing between Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

The army says that a Palestinian man attempted to stab IDF soldiers at the Rachel Crossing.

The assailant then threw the knife at the soldiers before fleeing the scene. Troops are still searching the area for the attacker, an army spokeswoman says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Did PM mean what we think he meant about Reform Jews?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s November 10 announcement at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly about a joint Israeli governmental/Jewish Agency program that is investing “in strengthening Reform and Conservative communities within Israel” has left many in the Jewish World scratching their heads.

Was his statement elaborating on a roundtable announced in July, after Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay’s controversial remarks about the status of Reform Jews? Then, it was reported that the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem had convened a roundtable of representatives from Jewish religious movements and government ministries to address the concerns of the Reform, Conservative and Modern Orthodox movements in Israel.

That squares with Netanyahu’s remarks at the GA: “As a testament to my commitment to this principle [of inclusion], I have established a roundtable, headed by my cabinet secretary, to address the concerns of the different streams of Judaism in Israel. That’s significant. That’s a governmental decision.”

Chairing the roundtable, which, according to a JAFI spokesman, has as yet convened only informally, is JAFI head Natan Sharansky and Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit. It is meant to be a forum for inter-religious dialogue among the Israeli representatives of the denominations and their institutions in Israel to address issues of institutional funding and bureaucratic bottlenecks.

“This is a roundtable of the government of Israel in which the various streams of Judaism sit together side-by-side to discuss problems and, more importantly, to discuss solutions,” said Netanyahu in DC.

The other, more obscure section of the Netanyahu announcement apparently concerns a matching funds initiative between the Jewish Agency and the Prime Minister’s Office.

“And now, for the first time, the government of Israel is joining with the Jewish Agency to invest in strengthening Reform and Conservative communities within Israel,” said Netanyahu.

Currently, the Jewish Agency disburses just over $1 million to Reform institutions and programs, and over $1 million to Conservative institutions and programs. Additionally, although not specifically mentioned by Netanyahu, the Jewish Agency also disperses $546,000 to Modern Orthodox institutions and programs.

A total of some $2.73 million were distributed among Reform, Conservative, and Modern Orthodox programs in 2015.

According to the Jewish Agency, “This funding mechanism has been in place for more than 15 years and has provided tens of millions of dollars to Reform, Conservative, and Modern Orthodox institutions and programs over the years.”

The Times of Israel has contacted the Prime Minister’s Office for a comment.

— Amanda Borschel-Dan

After audacious Israeli raid, PA ups hospital security

The Palestinian Authority prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, instructs the PA’s security forces to redouble their efforts to secure West Bank hospitals, the PA says.

The announcement comes a day after a daring raid that saw undercover Israeli agents descend on a hospital in Hebron, arrest a man suspected of stabbing a settler, and kill his cousin, who the Shin Bet said tried to attack the agents.

Turkey said to detain 11 IS suspects in Istanbul

Turkey’s state-run news agency says police have detained 11 people in a new security sweep in Istanbul against suspected Islamic State militants.

The Anadolu Agency says the suspects, including seven foreign nationals, were detained Thursday during simultaneous raids on some 20 addresses in the city.

The report says the suspects had arrived in Turkey to join the IS group. There is no information on their nationalities.

Turkey has detained dozens of IS suspects in recent weeks, including some 20 in or near the city of Antalya, which will be hosting US President Barack Obama and other G-20 leaders at a summit meeting Sunday and Monday.

— AP

Al-Aqsa preacher indicted for incitement

The Jerusalem public prosecution indicts a prominent Islamic preacher who regularly speaks from the pulpit at the Al-Aqsa Mosque for inciting violence and racism.

Sheikh Khaled al-Mughrabi was arrested last Wednesday after videos published on Palestinian networks showed him speaking against Jews in recent sermons at the mosque, atop the sensitive Temple Mount site.

The arrest came as Israeli officials have said they will crack down on speech they see as inciting others to violence, amid a fresh round of Palestinian attacks on Israelis.

Sheikh Khaled al-Mughrabi at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court after being arrested for inciting against Israelis and Jews, on November 4, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Sheikh Khaled al-Mughrabi at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court after being arrested for inciting against Israelis and Jews, on November 4, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Israeli officials have pointed to Palestinian incitement regarding a Jewish presence on the Temple Mount as one of the driving forces behind the violence.

A video of Mughrabi delivering a sermon saying that Jews will be “wiped out” was flagged by watchdog group Palestinian Media Watch and sent to police, PMW says.

“We will go after the Jews everywhere,” Mughrabi is seen proclaiming in one video. “They won’t escape us, they won’t be able to escape us. The Children of Israel will all be wiped out.”

— Times of Israel staff contributed.

PM back in Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is back in the country after touching down at Ben Gurion Airport.

Netanyahu has described his meeting Monday in Washington with President Barack Obama — the centerpiece of his visit to the US this week — as one of the best meetings the two men have had.

Court turns back petitions against terrorist home demolitions

The High Court of Justice upholds demolition orders against the homes of five Palestinians accused of murdering Israelis.

The homes in question are those of the alleged murderers of Danny Gonen and Malachi Rosenfeld, who were killed in separate West Bank drive-by shootings this year, as well those belonging to the families of three Hamas members accused of killing Eitam and Naama Henkin, also in the West Bank, on October 1.

However, the court does cancel one demolition order, saying it was issued for a rented apartment in a large building, and that demolishing that unit would be disproportionate.

The petition against that demolition order was filed by the owner of the building.

According to a statement from the court, the panel of judges, headed by court president Miriam Naor, also rejected an appeal against the entire practice of home demolitions.

— Raoul Wootliff contributed.

Indyk admits 2014 peace push was a ‘failure’

Martin Indyk, the former US ambassador to Israel, admits that Washington’s 2014 peace bid spearheaded by John Kerry was a “magnificent failure.”

Indyk says he tells himself that it’s “better to try and fail than not to try at all,” but, he tells the Haaretz conference, he does “heshbon nefesh” (Hebrew for soul-searching) on whether that’s true.

“The alternative to not trying is what we are facing today,” he adds.

Indyk says there are “lots of reasons it [the 2014 peace push] failed” but “the heart of the matter is trust.”

The people on both sides didn’t trust each other, they didn’t press their leaders, and the leaders themselves didn’t trust one another, he says.

Indyk draws applause when he turns to Israelis and says, “You are not victims. You are not.” He says Israelis are actors in their own fate, which means “being generous to the other side,” even if they are as “difficult” as the Palestinians.

He then moves on to call for a settlement freeze, saying such a policy decision means PA President Abbas “could be a partner tomorrow.”

Netanyahu may insist that settlements are not the problem, but from Indyk’s experience, “they are the problem.”

Indyk says he believes Netanyahu when the prime minister says he doesn’t want a binational state, but Netanyahu “can’t have it both ways.” The prime minister can’t give lip service to the two-state solution while insisting that Israel must hold on to the West Bank “for the foreseeable future,” he says.

— Marissa Newman

Indyk: Recognizing Israeli claim to Golan a bad idea

Indyk says he believes US involvement in the peace process, which allows it to be “Israel’s second line of defense,” is essential.

“When you put your arm around someone, it gives reassurance,” he says, but it also allows you “to give a little nudge.”

Indyk says it’s “in your DNA, in our DNA as Jews” to feel like victims. We are “a deeply insecure people,” he says, who have “enough enemies to justify this concern.” But he says Israelis should not allow their leaders to make them feel like victims.

When it comes to peace, “the US is willing to help,” but at the end of the day, it’s up to the people, he says.

He says Netanyahu’s bid to push recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights is a “really unwise thing to pursue.” As Syrian rebels, the Islamic State and others battle on the Golan Heights “giv[ing] them a reason to focus on Israel — what a good idea,” he quips sarcastically.

He says five Israeli prime ministers, including Netanyahu, were prepared to give up the Golan Heights for peace.

— Marissa Newman

Top Arab MK blasts minister on Palestinian statehood

MK Ayman Odeh, who leads the Joint (Arab) List, responds to Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who said earlier in the day that the Palestinian people was a “recent invention.”

“There is a Palestinian nation that has the right to self-determination and a place under the sun,” Odeh tells the Haaretz conference.

He also criticizes Zionist Union MK Amir Peretz for his comments about Arabs posing a threat to Israel’s demographic makeup.

“Anyone who doesn’t view the Arab community as an integral part of the state won’t achieve peace with the Palestinians,” he says.

Odeh says he doesn’t think “there is one nation occupying another nation here. There is an establishment that is enslaving both nations, and must set both nations free from their servitude.”

Marissa Newman

CUNY pro-Palestinian groups in Million Student March blame ‘Zionists’

Pro-Palestinian groups participating in a student protest against tuition increases at the City University of New York are blaming the high cost of education on “Zionists.”

In a Facebook post announcing its participation in Thursday’s Million Student March, the Students for Justice in Palestine writes: “The Zionist administration invests in Israeli companies, companies that support the Israeli occupation, hosts birthright programs and study abroad programs in occupied Palestine, and reproduces settler-colonial ideology throughout CUNY through Zionist content of education. While CUNY aims to produce the next generation of professional Zionists, SJP aims to change the university to fight for all peoples liberation.”

The post is signed by: NYC Students for Justice in Palestine; Students for Justice in Palestine at Hunter College; Students for Justice in Palestine at Brooklyn College; Students for Justice in Palestine- St. Joseph’s College; Students for Justice in Palestine at College of Staten Island; Students for Justice in Palestine at John Jay College; CUNY School of Law Students for Justice in Palestine; Students for Justice in Palestine at Pace University – Pleasantville; NYU Students for Justice in Palestine; and Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine.

The Million Student March is a national effort aimed at protesting rising higher-education debt and calling for free tuition at public universities. The national effort does not employ anti-Israel rhetoric.

Students from more than 100 universities across the US are scheduled to participate in the protest.


Explosions rock south Beirut suburb

Twin explosions have rocked a suburb in southern Beirut, according to Lebanese reports.

Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV channel reports casualties in the blasts.

Lebanese official confirms explosions

A Lebanese security official confirms an explosion has taken place in a predominantly Shiite suburb south of Lebanon’s capital, Beirut.

The official says said the blast was heard near a security office in the suburb of Burj al-Barajneh.

The official says the nature of the explosion was not immediately clear, although other reports indicate it may have been a suicide bombing.

The southern suburb of Beirut is a stronghold of the militant Hezbollah group and has been hit by several bombings in the past that have killed dozens.

— AP contributed

Seven said killed in Beirut bombing

Lebanese reports say at least 7 people were killed and 15 wounded in the explosions south of Beirut, said to have been a double suicide bombing.

Reports say one of the bombings targeted a religious gathering:

Here are more pictures said to be from the incident:

As many as 30 said killed in Beirut bombing

At least eight people were killed in the twin suicide bombings in a Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut, police and medics say.

Other reports put that number as high as 30:

— AFP contributed

Chants of ‘death to Israel’ at funeral for Jordan shooter

Thousands of mourners have chanted “Death to America, Death to Israel” during the funeral of a Jordanian police captain who killed five people, including two American instructors, in a shooting rampage at a police training center this week.

It remains unclear if the shooter had political or personal motives. Anwar Abu Zaid’s family has argued that he was both a victim and a martyr” for killing Americans.

His brother Fadi led about 3,000 marchers in Thursday’s funeral procession. Fadi accused the government of trying cover up Monday’s events at the training center, and demanded that security camera footage be released.

Jordan’s government has said little about the shooting. The incident has raised questions about the kingdom’s image as an island of relative stability in a turbulent region.

— AP

Attack targeted shopping center in Hezbollah stronghold

More information on the attack in Lebanon is coming out.

AFP quotes Lebanese police as saying that two men on foot set off suicide vests in front of a shopping center in Burj al-Barajneh, in the southern suburbs of the capital, where Hezbollah is popular.

The explosions happened around 6:00 p.m., witnesses say.

An AFP photographer saw extensive damage to buildings around the site of the blast and bodies inside some of the nearby shops.

There was blood on the streets, and security forces were trying to cordon off the scene and keep people from gathering.

The blast is the first to target Beirut’s southern suburbs since June 2014, when a suicide car bomb killed a security officer who had tried to stop the bomber.

But prior to that, a string of attacks targeted Hezbollah strongholds throughout the country.

Between July 2013 and February 2014, there were nine attacks on Hezbollah bastions, most claimed by Sunni extremists.

The groups claimed the attacks were in revenge for Hezbollah’s decision to send thousands of fighters into neighboring Syria to support President Bashar Assad’s forces against a Sunni-dominated uprising.


Ya’alon on hospital raid: ‘We control the area’

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon says that a daring commando raid in a Hebron hospital last night was a message to Palestinian attackers, who have increasingly been turning themselves in to the Palestinian Authority in order to avoid trial in Israel.

“Ultimately, they know that if the Palestinian Authority ever releases them in the future, we’ll put our hands on them,” he says in an interview with a local radio station, Radius 100FM.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon looks through binoculars during a visit at an army exercise of the Armored Corps, in the Golan Heights on October 22, 2015. (Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense)

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon looks through binoculars during a visit at an army exercise of the Armored Corps, in the Golan Heights on October 22, 2015. (Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense)

Ya’alon confirms that the man arrested in the raid is suspected of carrying out a stabbing attack in the eastern Etzion Bloc, and claims that a Palestinian who was killed during the incident in the hospital – the alleged stabber’s cousin – was shot while “resisting.”

He says Israeli forces have for years been operating “every night” in the West Bank’s Area A, which is officially under Palestinian control.

“We control the area in terms of intelligence,” he says, “and when it’s necessary, operationally as well.”

Lebanon death toll rises to 37 — Red Cross

The Lebanese Red Cross says the death toll in the bombings has risen to 37 with 181 wounded.

Protesters block road over planned synagogue demolition

Police arrest six people suspected of blocking a road in the settlement of Givat Ze’ev north of Jerusalem.

According to police, some 10 people blocked Route 436 and lit tires, apparently in protest over plans to demolish a nearby synagogue built on private Palestinian land.

Police say the tires were cleared off the road, which was then reopened to traffic.

US OK with EU labeling rule for settlement goods

The Obama administration says it doesn’t consider a new European Union rule outlawing “Made in Israel” tags on goods from the West Bank as a boycott of the Jewish state, only a technical guideline for consumers.

The US clarification of its position comes a day after the decision by the EU, which applies to goods produced in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

“We do not believe that labeling the origin of products is equivalent to a boycott,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner says. “And as you know, we do not consider settlements to be part of Israel. We do not view labeling the origin of products as being from the settlements as a boycott of Israel.”

Before the EU acted, the US position was more ambiguous. Toner and other officials stressed only that Washington opposed any boycotting of Israel, while saying the EU’s response “shouldn’t come as a surprise” given Israel’s continued construction of settlements on land the Palestinians seek for their future state.

“We understand the objective is to provide EU consumers correct information on the origin of products, as required by EU law,” Toner says. “The EU has made clear that measures are not a boycott, and the EU has also made very clear that they oppose boycotts against Israel. EU guidelines for products that are sold in EU countries are for the EU to determine.”

— AP contributed

Death toll in Lebanon bombing tops 40

At least 40 people were killed in the suicide bombing in southern Beirut, AFP reports, quoting Lebanese officials.

At least 181 were injured, the report says.

Body of third would-be bomber found at scene

According to a Lebanese security official, one suicide attacker detonated his explosives’ vest outside a Shiite Mosque, while the second blew himself up inside a nearby bakery.

An apparent third suicide attacker was found dead, his legs blown off while he still wore an intact explosives’ belt, says the official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. The official speculates the third may have been killed from the explosion of the second suicide attacker, as he was reportedly close to that blast.

The Al-Mayadeen TV also reports there was a third would-be suicide attacker, describing him as a bearded young man who wore an explosives’ belt. The report says he was killed before he was able to detonate the explosives.

Hospitals in southern Beirut are calling on people to donate blood and appealing on residents not to gather at the hospital gates so that ambulanced and emergency staff can work unhindered.

Shortly after the explosions, ambulances rushed to the area and started evacuating the wounded and the dead as Lebanese troops and Hezbollah gunmen cordoned the area, preventing anyone from getting close.

“There is a massacre inside and we will not let you take photos,” a Hezbollah member screamed at an Associated Press photographer at the scene.

Hezbollah also called on people to leave all coffee shops in the area, which are usually packed with people, and urged residents to inform the group about any suspicious moves.

— AP

Islamic State claims Beirut bombings

The Islamic State group takes responsibility for the bombing in Beirut.

The bombing targeted an area in Beirut associated with the Shiite Hezbollah group, which is fighting in the Syrian civil war alongside embattled President Bashar Assad.

The Sunni Islamic State is a bitter rival of Assad.

“In a security operation that pleases Allah, the soldiers of the Caliphate were able to park an explosive bike and blow it up in a crowd of infidels… in the southern Dahieh suburb of Beirut,” IS says in a statement.

The statement later refers to another man waiting for a crowd to assemble before blowing up his suicide vest.

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