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Attorney of Israeli couple visits client in Turkish prison: I tried to bring hope

Lawyer Nir Yaslovizh says his client, Mordy Oknin, is in a state of despair and his detention conditions are poor

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Mordy and Natali Oknin, arrested in Turkey for photographing Erdogan's palace. (Courtesy)
Mordy and Natali Oknin, arrested in Turkey for photographing Erdogan's palace. (Courtesy)

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

Bennett to US envoy: The reality here is different from what you hear at the UN

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meets with US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield in Jerusalem on November 15, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meets with US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield in Jerusalem on November 15, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meets with US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield during her first visit to Israel.

In public remarks ahead of their closed-door meeting, the premier expresses hope that, during her trip, the US envoy will see that “there’s such a stark contrast between the reality on the ground here and what one might hear in the corridors of the United Nations.”

Bennett says he also hopes Thomas-Greenfield will gain a “better picture of the unique challenges that we’re facing here, you know, with Iranian backed terror groups across our borders.”

He then thanks the ambassador for her support for Israel at the UN.

Thomas-Greenfield thanks Bennett for the hospitality and relays that “President Biden shares Prime Minister Bennett’s commitment to a ‘new spirit of cooperation’ as we address the full range of regional and global challenges together.”

The UN envoy says she looks forward to discussing advancing the Abraham Accords along with measures to support Israel-Palestinian peace building.

“We believe Israelis and Palestinians alike deserve equal measures of freedom, prosperity, security, and dignity. This is important in its own right and as a means to advance prospects for a two-state solution,” Thomas-Greenfield says, repeating what likely is the most commonly used Biden administration talking point on the issue.

Thomas-Greenfield also met with President Isaac Herzog, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli at the Knesset earlier today in addition to paying a visit to Yad Vashem.

US envoy to the UN ‘deeply moved’ by visit to Yad Vashem

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield pays a visit to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, on November 15, 2021. (David Azagury/ US embassy, Jerusalem)
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield pays a visit to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, on November 15, 2021. (David Azagury/ US embassy, Jerusalem)

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem, during the busy first day of her trip to Israel.

“I was deeply moved by my first visit to Yad Vashem. Thank you to all those involved in creating this institution devoted to Holocaust remembrance and education and to combating Holocaust denial and distortion,” she tweets after the trip.

Thomas-Greenfield also met with President Isaac Herzog, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli at the Knesset.

“Encouraged to hear about the tangible progress of the Abraham Accords during my meeting with Yair Lapid. The United States will continue to encourage countries in the region to normalize relations and expand cooperation with Israel, including at the UN,” she posted after her meeting with the foreign minister.

Following her meeting with Michaeli, Thomas-Greenfield tweeted: “Like @POTUS, [Michaeli] knows infrastructure is a national security issue. And I applaud her work to advance gender equality in all areas of society.”

Group of ex-IDF generals urges MKs to back US reopening of Jerusalem consulate

Matan Vilnai, a former cabinet minister and IDF general. (Flash90)
Matan Vilnai, a former cabinet minister and IDF general. (Flash90)

WASHINGTON — The chairman of a group of more than 300 ex-IDF generals and security agency chiefs pens a letter to Israeli lawmakers and cabinet members urging them to back the Biden administration’s plan to reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem.

Last May, Washington announced that it would reopen the mission that historically served as the representative office to the Palestinians, which was shuttered by former president Donald Trump in 2019. Jerusalem opposes the plan, saying it encroaches on its sovereignty in the city, which should not host diplomatic missions serving non-Israelis.

In his letter, Matan Vilnai, head of the group Commanders for Israel’s Security, argues that supporting the move would be in line with the new Israeli government’s stated policies of strengthening the PA and “shrinking the conflict.”

“Few political/diplomatic measures — with no security downside — can make a greater contribution to strengthening the stature of the PA among Palestinians, stabilize its governance capacity, and hence secure the continuity of security coordination, more than reopening of the American consulate,” he writes.

Vilnai notes that pushing back on the Biden administration’s plan could damage Jerusalem’s efforts to rebuild ties with Democrats and broader bipartisan support for Israel in the US.

“The consulate reopening is bound to upgrade the US-PA dialogue, thus enhance Washington’s capacity to affect PA policies on matters of importance to Israel,” he adds.

He cautions lawmakers against “our tendency to artificially inflate issues to existential proportions.”

“It was not the existence of the consulate that divided Jerusalem. Its closure did not unite the city, nor will its renewal affect in any way the freedom of sovereign decisions of this or future governments regarding the fate of the city,” Vilnai says.

Jordan thinks Iran women’s soccer team goalkeeper is a man, demands investigation

Iran's goalkeeper takes the field for the AFC Women's Asian Cup India 2022 Qualifiers against Jordan, September 25, 2021 (Youtube screenshot)
Iran's goalkeeper takes the field for the AFC Women's Asian Cup India 2022 Qualifiers against Jordan, September 25, 2021 (Youtube screenshot)

Jordan has called on the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to launch an investigation to determine the gender of the goalkeeper on the Iranian women’s football team, with Tehran denying foul play.

Iran beat Jordan 4-2 on penalties, after a goalless draw on September 25, to qualify for the 2022 Women’s Asian Cup for the first time in its history.

The president of the Jordan Football Association, Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein, tweeted on Sunday a letter “requesting a gender verification check” on the Iranian player in question, suggesting that the keeper was a man posing as a woman.

Hussein described it as “a very serious issue if true,” and called on the AFC to “please wake up.”

But Iran team’s selector, Maryam Irandoost, dismisses the allegation. “The medical staff have carefully examined each player on the national team in terms of hormones to avoid any problems in this regard, and so I tell all fans not to worry,” Irandoost tells sports news site Varzesh3. “We will provide any documentation that the Asian Confederation of Football wishes without wasting time.”

Attorney for Israeli couple held in Turkey says detention conditions are poor

Mordy and Natali Oknin were arrested in Turkey for photographing Erdogan's palace, November 2021. (Screenshot)
Mordy and Natali Oknin were arrested in Turkey for photographing Erdogan's palace, November 2021. (Screenshot)

An attorney for the Israeli couple being detained in Turkey after photographing the palace of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says their detention conditions are poor.

“I can tell you that the conditions Mordy is being held in are not simple,” attorney Nir Yaslovizh tells Israeli news outlets, after being granted access to visit his client, Mordy Oknin, who is held in detention along with his wife, Natali Oknin. “I explained to him the situation. I explained to him that the whole country is following his story… I tried to provide him with hope and faith.”

Yaslovizh says that both he and Mordy shed tears during the visit. “I promised him that I will bring him home, and I intend to achieve that,” adds Yaslovizh.

Lapid thanks US envoy to UN for ‘fighting’ on behalf of Israel

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets with US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield on November 15, 2021. (Asi Efrati/ GPO)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets with US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield on November 15, 2021. (Asi Efrati/ GPO)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets with US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who is visiting Israel for the first time.

Lapid says Thomas-Greenfield is a “true friend of Israel, who fights shoulder-to-shoulder with us at one of the most complicated international forums.”

The foreign minister says the US-Israel relationship and cooperation is based on a “shared world view.”

Thomas-Greenfield met earlier in the day with President Isaac Herzog. Upon arriving in Israel, she tweeted that she was “looking forward to meetings with Israeli officials to reinforce the strong relationship between our nations and discuss US-Israeli cooperation at the UN.”

Iran, Turkey vow to boost their bilateral ties

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (C-R) along with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu (C-L) give a joint press conference in the capital Tehran on November 15, 2021. (AFP)
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (C-R) along with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu (C-L) give a joint press conference in the capital Tehran on November 15, 2021. (AFP)

Regional powers Iran and Turkey express a willingness to step up ties, as Ankara’s foreign minister visits Tehran.

The neighbors have historically close economic relations, but occasionally find themselves on opposite sides of regional conflicts, including in Syria.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu meets Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi after talks with his counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

The two sides “should be ready to increase their relations from the current level to an overall cooperation,” says a statement from Iran’s presidency. This should be done “by finalizing the roadmap for strengthening collaborations, which is on the agenda of both countries,” it says.

On Twitter, Cavusoglu says he and Raisi “discussed our bilateral relations, including trade, investments and [the] fight against terrorism” as well as the “latest developments in our region.”

The pair “reaffirmed our mutual will to further develop our relations,” the minister adds.

Turkey says it won’t be deterred from gas drilling in contested east Mediterranean

People take photos of the 'Tungsten Explored' drilling ship, in the southern coastal city of Larnaca, Cyprus, November 3, 2021. (AP Photo/ Petros Karadjias)
People take photos of the 'Tungsten Explored' drilling ship, in the southern coastal city of Larnaca, Cyprus, November 3, 2021. (AP Photo/ Petros Karadjias)

Turkey’s deputy president says his country is “not afraid of anyone” and will not be deterred from continuing drilling for oil and gas in disputed waters that have been a source of tension between Ankara and ethnically-divided Cyprus.

“We are not afraid of anyone. Those who seek an adventure in the eastern Mediterranean will get an answer,” Deputy President Fuat Oktay says during a ceremony to mark the 38th anniversary of the Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence.

Oktay’s remarks come after the Cypriot government said that ExxonMobil and partner Qatar Petroleum would resume drilling in a few weeks, in an area southwest of Cyprus, where they are licensed to prospect for oil and gas.

A consortium made up of energy companies Total of France and Italian Eni will also resume drilling off Cyprus’ southern coast in the first half of next year.

Turkey does not recognize Cyprus as a nation and contests waters where the Cypriot government claims exclusive economic rights. Ankara says a large chunk of those waters either overlap its continental shelf or belong to the Turkish Cypriots. The Cypriot government insists Turkey’s actions contravene international law.

IDF nabs terror suspect during Nablus raid

Illustrative: Border Police officers with the Yamam counterterrorism unit during an operation. (Israel Police)
Illustrative: Border Police officers with the Yamam counterterrorism unit during an operation. (Israel Police)

IDF forces and Border Police officers have nabbed a suspect in Nablus believed to have carried out terror attacks against soldiers, says the military.

According to the IDF, security forces entered Nablus to arrest the suspect, who attempted to flee. The military opened fire, and the man was wounded, arrested and taken to receive medical treatment. The military says that the suspect will be brought to the Shin Bet for questioning following his treatment.

Minister Frej to sit down with PA prime minister in Norway

Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Frej at the Knesset in Jerusalem on July 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Frej at the Knesset in Jerusalem on July 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Frej will meet with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in Norway in the next few days, the minister tells The Times of Israel.

Frej will meet with Shtayyeh during a meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, which coordinates international financial aid to the Palestinians. The meeting is set to take place this Wednesday in Norway.

Diplomats and observers have warned that the Palestinian Authority is undergoing a serious fiscal crisis. An economic crisis sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, compounded by a severe drop in foreign assistance over the past year, has raised fears that the PA will no longer be able to pay its own civil servants.

Frej says he will urge donor countries to renew their aid to Ramallah.

“During our meetings in the coming days, our message to international donors will be to provide more aid to the Palestinians,” the minister says. “The neglect over the past years has created a financial crisis that threatens not just the Palestinian Authority, but the region as a whole.”

Gantz heading to Morocco next week, will sign defense deal

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at Haaretz Democracy Conference in Jaffa, on November 9, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at Haaretz Democracy Conference in Jaffa, on November 9, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz is scheduled to pay a visit to Morocco next week, says his office.

Gantz is expected to sign a defense deal with Rabat during his visit, as well as meet with his counterpart and with the Moroccan foreign minister.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visited Morocco in August to officially open up the Israeli Liaison Office in Rabat as well as meet with officials and sign a series of agreements.

Lapid tells US envoy on Iran that Tehran doesn’t intend to rejoin deal — report

Robert Malley, US Special Envoy for Iran, in Vienna, Austria, on June 20, 2021. (AP/ Florian Schroetter)
Robert Malley, US Special Envoy for Iran, in Vienna, Austria, on June 20, 2021. (AP/ Florian Schroetter)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets with Rob Malley, the US special envoy on Iran, during his visit to the region.

According to the Ynet news site, Lapid reiterates Israel’s position that Iran is simply trying to buy time with negotiations over its nuclear program until the issue of rejoining the 2015 nuclear deal is no longer relevant. The foreign minister reportedly told Malley that Iran has no intention of actually returning to the deal, which the US pulled out of in 2018 under then-president Donald Trump.

Malley is slated to meet Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Mossad chief David Barnea during his visit. He is not expected to meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Malley is currently on a tour of the Middle East with stops in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Despite strong Israeli opposition, the next round of talks aimed at restarting the Iran nuclear deal are slated to begin at the end of the month in Vienna.

Cyprus rolls out COVID booster shots to all those over 18

People wait in line to receive a vaccine shot against COVID-19 at a 'Walk-in' vaccination center on the grounds of Cyprus' State Fair in the capital Nicosia, Cyprus, on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Philippos Christou)
People wait in line to receive a vaccine shot against COVID-19 at a 'Walk-in' vaccination center on the grounds of Cyprus' State Fair in the capital Nicosia, Cyprus, on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Philippos Christou)

Cyprus says it will offer COVID-19 vaccination booster shots to all adults 18 and over.

The decision comes less than two weeks after the east Mediterranean island nation expanded its booster shot drive to include everyone over 50.

The only prerequisite to receive a booster shot is that six months needs to have elapsed since full vaccination with the Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna or Johnson&Johnson vaccines.

Like many parts of Europe, Cyprus has seen a rise in coronavirus infections in the last couple of weeks. Health experts say the increase is largely caused by those who haven’t been vaccinated. Around 80% of adults in Cyprus have been fully vaccinated.

World War I-era shell discovered at building site in central Israel

An explosive shell dating back to World War I was uncovered at a building site in Ganei Tikva in the center of Israel, according to Hebrew media reports.

The shell is believed to have belonged to British forces. It was detonated by experts in a controlled explosion.

Close Trump ally Steve Bannon taken into custody on contempt charges

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon arrives at the FBI Washington Field Office, Monday, Nov., 15, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Former White House strategist Steve Bannon arrives at the FBI Washington Field Office, Monday, Nov., 15, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Steve Bannon, a longtime ally of former US president Donald Trump, surrenders to federal authorities to face contempt charges after defying a subpoena from a House committee investigating January’s insurrection at the US Capitol.

Bannon is expected to appear in court later this afternoon. The 67-year-old was indicted on Friday on two counts of criminal contempt – one for refusing to appear for a congressional deposition and the other for refusing to provide documents in response to the committee’s subpoena.

The indictment came as a second expected witness, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, defied his own subpoena from the committee on Friday and as Trump has escalated his legal battles to withhold documents and testimony about the insurrection.

If the House votes to hold Meadows in contempt, that recommendation would also be sent to the Justice Department for a possible indictment.

Officials in both Democratic and Republican administrations have been held in contempt by Congress, but criminal indictments for contempt are exceedingly rare.

UK expands COVID booster dose campaign to those age 40-plus

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures with Arzou Miah, as he visits the Woodgrange GP Surgery vaccination center, in East London, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. (Jeremy Selwyn, Pool Photo via AP)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures with Arzou Miah, as he visits the Woodgrange GP Surgery vaccination center, in East London, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. (Jeremy Selwyn, Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warns of a “blizzard” of new coronavirus infections coming into the UK from continental Europe, as his government extends the vaccine booster program to younger people in an effort to keep a lid on the pandemic during the winter months.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, the independent body of scientists that makes vaccine recommendations to the British government, says people aged 40 to 49 will also be eligible for a vaccine booster shot six months after their initial shot. Up until now, people aged 50 and over, as well as those deemed to be vulnerable in younger age groups, had been eligible for Pfizer or Moderna vaccine boosters.

The committee says that second doses of the Pfizer vaccine have also been approved for 16- and 17-year-olds 12 weeks after their first. It says the broadening of the booster campaign and the offer of a second shot to older teens will “help extend our protection into 2022.”

Johnson urges people to get their booster to get the extra level of protection amid growing concerns of the virus outlook in Europe following fresh lockdowns in Austria and the Netherlands.

Taliban launches operation against Islamic State in southern Afghanistan

Taliban fighters stand guard near the Sardar Mohammad Dawood Khan military hospital in Kabul on November 2, 2021, after at least 19 people were killed and 50 others wounded in an attack on a military hospital. (Wakil Kohsar / AFP)
Taliban fighters stand guard near the Sardar Mohammad Dawood Khan military hospital in Kabul on November 2, 2021, after at least 19 people were killed and 50 others wounded in an attack on a military hospital. (Wakil Kohsar / AFP)

The Taliban says at least four Islamic State operatives and two civilians were killed in a crackdown on the group’s hideouts in southern Afghanistan after a recent increase in bloody attacks.

The operation against Islamic State-Khorasan — the local chapter of the jihadist group — began around midnight in at least four districts of Kandahar province and continued through Monday morning, Taliban provincial police chief Abdul Ghafar Mohammadi tells AFP.

“So far, four Daesh (IS) fighters have been killed and 10 arrested… one of them blew himself up inside a house,” he says. A Taliban official later tweets that three IS operatives were killed and two civilians “martyred” in the operation. There was no explanation for the disparity.

Local media quotes a Taliban official as saying there had also been a blast in a western suburb of Kabul this morning with no casualties.

UK raises terror threat level to ‘severe’ following taxi explosion

Emergency services outside Liverpool Women's Hospital in Liverpool, England, November 14, 2021. (Peter Byrne/ PA via AP)
Emergency services outside Liverpool Women's Hospital in Liverpool, England, November 14, 2021. (Peter Byrne/ PA via AP)

The UK government increases the terror threat level to severe, meaning an attack is highly likely. The decision follows an taxi explosion in Liverpool yesterday that killed one person.

Home Secretary Priti Patel says the terror threat level has been raised because there have been two attacks in the space of a month.

British police say that an explosion in a taxi outside a hospital that killed a man is being treated as a terrorist incident, but the motive remains unclear. Russ Jackson, the head of Counterterrorism Policing in northwest England, says the blast yesterday at Liverpool Women’s Hospital involved an improvised explosive device. The male passenger in the taxi died in the explosion, and the taxi driver was injured. Four men in their 20s have been detained under the Terrorism Act.

IDF called to scene of clash after settlers attack Palestinians near Homesh

Settlers from Homesh hurl stones at Palestinians on March 26, 2020. (Yesh Din)
Illustrative: Settlers from Homesh hurl stones at Palestinians on March 26, 2020. (Yesh Din)

The Israel Defense Forces says its troops were called to the scene after a group of Israeli settlers attacked a number of Palestinians in the northern West Bank with rocks and firearms, injuring at least three of them.

According to the left-wing rights group Yesh Din, the Palestinian farmers had gone up to the area near the nominally abandoned Homesh settlement, which Israelis were meant to have left following the 2005 disengagement but is in practice the site of a still-occupied illegal outpost.

“As they were on the way to their lands, a vehicle blocked the path behind them, while at the same time, about 15 settlers charged towards them while throwing stones and armed with clubs. The settlers managed to trap one of the Palestinians,” the director of Yesh Din says.

According to the group, the Palestinian man was beaten with clubs and rocks and was pepper-sprayed. Two other Palestinian men were also injured by stones.

The IDF says there was “mutual rock throwing,” but acknowledges that the Israeli settlers were armed with guns and fired them into the air during the clash.

“The conflict has broken up. IDF troops are in the area,” the military says.

According to Yesh Din, which published a number of graphic photographs of the Palestinians’ injuries and of the attack itself, the Israel Police and military were immediately called when the assault began, but “it took the police and army a long time to arrive at the scene.”

Herzog thanks US ambassador to UN for her support of Israel

President Isaac Herzog meets with US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield at his residence in Jerusalem on November 15, 2021. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog meets with US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield at his residence in Jerusalem on November 15, 2021. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

President Isaac Herzog hosts US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.

According to Herzog’s office, the president thanks Thomas-Greenfield for “standing by Israel’s side at the United Nations, including during Operation Guardian of the Walls.”

Thomas-Greenfield is visiting Israel for the first time, and is accompanied by Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan.

Herzog tells her that “Israel is interested in collaborating with the United States on promoting innovative environmental technologies.”

Thomas-Greenfield is slated to also meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as well as with Palestinian officials in the West Bank and is scheduled to later travel to Jordan.

Defense Ministry to hold drill in Jerusalem simulating radiological attack

Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem ahead of the reopening of the soccer season, May 27, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem ahead of the reopening of the soccer season, May 27, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Defense Ministry will hold a large exercise in Jerusalem tomorrow simulating a terror attack with a radiological device, it says.

The drill will be held at Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium and the adjacent Pais Arena. The Defense Ministry and Israel Police will lead the exercise, with participants from the military, Fire and Rescue Services, Magen David Adom ambulance service, the Health Ministry, Environmental Protection Ministry and the Jerusalem municipality.

The exercise is meant to simulate how the country’s government and emergency services would respond to a non-conventional terror attack with a so-called dirty bomb, which includes radioactive elements. The exercise will be closed to the press and the public.

“The Defense Ministry stresses that this is an exercise that was planned in advance and is not connected to any specific scenarios,” it says. The ministry adds that people in the area will likely notice a larger than normal number of security forces and emergency vehicles.

Justin Bieber to play concert in Israel next year

Justin Bieber attends The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating the opening of the "In America: A Lexicon of Fashion" exhibition on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, in New York. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Justin Bieber attends The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating the opening of the "In America: A Lexicon of Fashion" exhibition on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, in New York. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Pop superstar Justin Bieber will play a concert in Israel next year, according to his official website.

Bieber, who last played in Israel in 2017, is reportedly set to perform in Tel Aviv in October 2022. It will be the singer’s third appearance in Israel.

The concert date listed is October 13, 2022 — during the intermediate days of Sukkot — after two shows in South Africa and ahead of an appearance in Australia.

Environmental group to appeal state decision to not charge Dea Sea companies

Hikers walk next to sinkholes across a dried-up sea area which exposed and created a salt plain, some 20 kilometers south of Kibbutz Ein Gedi in the southern part of the Dead Sea, on January 15, 2021. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)
Hikers walk next to sinkholes across a dried-up sea area which exposed and created a salt plain, some 20 kilometers south of Kibbutz Ein Gedi in the southern part of the Dead Sea, on January 15, 2021. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

A leading environmental group says it will petition against the companies operating at the Dead Sea as well as the Tax Authority after the authority said it will wipe out a NIS 65 million debt it earlier said was owed to the state.

Adam Teva V’Din says the Tax Authority’s decision is illegal. “This decision is significant to every one of us, because the payment would have lowered the price of water,” said the organization’s CEO Amit Bracha.

A Tax Authority official says that the reasons for the decision will remain confidential. An earlier TV report indicated that the Justice Ministry feared that it could lose a legal battle against the Dead Sea Works company in court. The company claims that it did not have to pay anything beyond the original deal its parent company, Israel Chemicals (ICL), signed in the 1960s.

Sa’ar: Netanyahu begged me to join his coalition and serve 1st in rotation deal

New Hope party leader and Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar speaks at the Knesset on November 8, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
New Hope party leader and Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar speaks at the Knesset on November 8, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar claims that former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu begged him to join his governing coalition and offered him to serve first in a rotation deal.

Several months ago, says Sa’ar during a New Hope faction meeting today at the Knesset, Netanyahu “begged me to establish a government together, and promised that I would serve first in a rotation deal.”

Sa’ar adds that, at the time, Netanyahu promised — of his own initiative — to support a bill that would limit the term of a prime minister. “He even agreed to legislate it in a retroactive manner,” says Sa’ar.

The justice minister was speaking shortly after Netanyahu slammed the legislation limiting the term of the prime minister — which advanced yesterday — as an “Iranian” and anti-democratic measure.

Netanyahu slams bill to limit term of prime minister as ‘Iranian’

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset on November 8, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset on November 8, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Opposition leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu slams legislation that would limit a prime minister to serving only eight years in office.

“The current government is dropping in the polls, and the opposition is rising in the polls,” claims Netanyahu in a speech to a meeting of his Likud faction. “So what do they do? They’re trying to pass an Iranian law that will create a situation whereby someone can win an election — but not oust them.”

Yesterday, ministers backed a bill setting term limits for the position of prime minister, barring a premier from serving for more than eight years. The proposal must now clear three Knesset plenum readings before becoming law.

This kind of law “does not exist in any parliamentary democracy,” adds Netanyahu. “In a democracy, the person who decides who leads is the public, and not some arbitrary law.”

First shipment of COVID vaccines for under-12s to arrive Wednesday — report

Leo Hahn, 11, gets the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Leo Hahn, 11, gets the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The first shipment of the Pfizer COVID vaccine designated for children ages 5-11 is slated to arrive in Israel on Wednesday, reports the Ynet news site.

According to the news report, the shipment will contain hundreds of thousands of the vaccine doses, which are about one-third of the dosage of the adult vaccine.

The Health Ministry formally approved administering the COVID vaccine to children ages 5-11 yesterday, and the rollout of the shots is expected to begin shortly after the shipment’s arrival.

Israeli diplomats granted right to visit couple held in Turkish prison

Mordy and Natali Oknin were arrested in Turkey for photographing Erdogan's palace, November 2021. (Screenshot)
Mordy and Natali Oknin were arrested in Turkey for photographing Erdogan's palace, November 2021. (Screenshot)

Israeli diplomats will be allowed to make a consular visit to Natali and Mordy Oknin, the Israeli couple held in Turkish custody for photographing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s palace in Istanbul.

The Foreign Ministry says that the embassy in Ankara and the consulate in Istanbul are working to find the earliest possible time for the visit.

Israel has firmly and formally rejected the allegation that the couple, both of whom are Egged bus drivers, are Israeli spies.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid says Israel is “working around the clock” to ensure the couple’s release, and asks MKs, ministers and Israeli media outlets to speak about the issue responsibly in order to ensure their safety.

US Jewish journalist jailed in Myanmar for six months is freed

In this photo provided by the Richardson Center, former US Ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson, right, poses with journalist Danny Fenster in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. (The Richardson Center via AP)
In this photo provided by the Richardson Center, former US Ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson, right, poses with journalist Danny Fenster in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. (The Richardson Center via AP)

American journalist Danny Fenster, who was recently sentenced to 11 years of hard labor after spending nearly six months in jail in military-ruled Myanmar, has been freed and is on his way home, says a former US diplomat who helped negotiate his release.

Fenster, the managing editor of the online magazine Frontier Myanmar, was convicted on Friday of spreading false or inflammatory information, contacting illegal organizations and violating visa regulations. His sentence was the harshest yet among the seven journalists known to have been convicted since the military ousted the elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in February.

“This is the day that you hope will come when you do this work,” Bill Richardson, a former governor of New Mexico and past ambassador to the UN, says in a statement emailed by his office. “We are so grateful that Danny will finally be able to reconnect with his loved ones, who have been advocating for him all this time, against immense odds.”

Fenster was handed over to Richardson in Myanmar and will return to the US via Qatar over the next day and a half, according to the statement. He has been in detention since he was taken into custody at Yangon International Airport on May 24 as he was headed to the Detroit area in the United States to see his family.

Danny Fenster, right, with his brother Bryan at a friend’s wedding in Krakow, Poland, September 2019. It was the last time they saw each other. (Courtesy of Bryan Fenster)

Israel, UAE sign deal to convert passenger planes to cargo aircraft

An Emirates Airline plane taxis at the Dubai airport in the United Arab Emirates, May 9, 2018. (Kamran Jebreili/AP)
An Emirates Airline plane taxis at the Dubai airport in the United Arab Emirates, May 9, 2018. (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

The state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries signed an agreement with Dubai’s Emirates Airlines to convert four passenger aircraft into cargo planes, the Israeli firm says.

The agreement comes after IAI and the United Arab Emirates made a related arrangement earlier this summer to set up a facility in Abu Dhabi for plane conversions.

Under the agreement signed today, IAI will convert the four Boeing B777-300ER passenger planes into cargo carriers, with potential for the Israeli firm to “provide passenger-to-freighter conversion services to more aircraft,” according to the company.

The work on the planes is scheduled to begin in early 2023.

This is one of the first such public defense-related deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates since the two countries normalized ties last year under the Abraham Accords.

“This agreement between IAI, the global leader in the cargo conversion industry, and the cargo division of Emirates is a testament to the strong ties between IAI and the UAE,” the Israeli company says.

Roadside bomb in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul wounds two people

Taliban fighters secure the area after a roadside bomb went off in Kabul Afghanistan, Monday Nov. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Taliban fighters secure the area after a roadside bomb went off in Kabul Afghanistan, Monday Nov. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

A roadside bomb blew up on a busy avenue in the Afghan capital Kabul today, wounding two people, say police.

The bomb detonated as a taxi was passing by in the Kota-e Sangi district of western Kabul. The Taliban spokesman for Kabul police, who goes by a single name Mobin, says two people were wounded. Witnesses say one was a woman in the taxi and the other a man passing by.

There is no immediate claim of responsibility.

The explosion came two days after a bomb exploded in a minibus in another district of western Kabul dominated by members of the mainly Shiite Hazara ethnic group. At least one person was killed — identified by colleagues as Hamid Sighyani, a journalist with Ariana TV — and five people wounded. The Islamic State group said in a statement late Sunday that it carried out the attack and that it was targeting Shiites.

Nurse fired for handing out 150 fake COVID vaccine certificates

A healthcare worker prepares a shot of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in the Negev's main Bedouin town of Rahat, on February 17, 2021. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)
A healthcare worker prepares a shot of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in the Negev's main Bedouin town of Rahat, on February 17, 2021. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

A nurse in the Bedouin town of Rahat has been fired after giving out fake COVID vaccine certificates to locals, according to Hebrew news reports.

The nurse reportedly handed out around 150 fake vaccine certificates to patients at at Clalit health clinic in Rahat who had not actually received the shot. After the system flagged unusual activity, the situation was investigated and the nurse admitted to her actions and was immediately fired, say reports.

Bennett vows to ‘continue full throttle’ against violent crime in Arab sector

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a ministerial meeting in Jerusalem on November 15, 2021, to discuss violent crime in the Arab sector. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a ministerial meeting in Jerusalem on November 15, 2021, to discuss violent crime in the Arab sector. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a meeting in Jerusalem of the Ministerial Team on Fighting Crime and Violence in the Arab Sector following several violent incidents in recent days.

“Crime in the Arab sector, especially the weapons and the quantities of illegal weapons that are enough for a small army, the arsenal that has accumulated and expanded over many years, needs to be emptied,” says Bennett.

“Friends, we are taking action,” adds the prime minister. “We have started to work. I am pleased to report that the Israel Police has started to work with full force. We are making a critical effort throughout the country against weapons and munitions.”

The head of the Shin Bet and the Israel Police as well as Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Public Security Minister Omer Barlev and Welfare and Employment Minister Meir Cohen and a range of other officials take part in the meeting.

“Now our task is not to take the foot off the gas but to continue full throttle: More and more operations, to continue pressing until the mission is completed,” says Bennett.

Car bomb outside Liverpool hospital being treated as ‘terrorist incident’

A police officer stands guard near the scene of a car blast outside the Women's Hospital in Liverpool on November 15, 2021. (Paul ELLIS / AFP)
A police officer stands guard near the scene of a car blast outside the Women's Hospital in Liverpool on November 15, 2021. (Paul ELLIS / AFP)

Police in northwest England say they are treating a deadly blast outside a hospital in Liverpool as a “terrorist incident” involving a homemade bomb.

Russ Jackson, in charge of counter-terrorism policing in the region, says the motivation for yesterday’s blast in a taxi is unclear but the device was “built by the passenger” who died.

An explosion engulfed a cab outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital yesterday, seconds before Britain fell silent at 1100 GMT to honor its war dead on Remembrance Day.

A passenger was killed but the driver escaped with light injuries, after city authorities and newspapers described how the cab driver locked the man inside after growing suspicious about his intentions.

Poland arrests three people linked to antisemitic demonstration

Nationalist rally-goers burn a book representing a historic pact protecting the rights of Poland’s Jews in Kalisz, Poland, Nov. 11, 2021. (Screenshot from Karolina Pawliczak/Twitter)
Nationalist rally-goers burn a book representing a historic pact protecting the rights of Poland’s Jews in Kalisz, Poland, Nov. 11, 2021. (Screenshot from Karolina Pawliczak/Twitter)

Poland’s interior minister says three people have been arrested in connection with an antisemitic demonstration last week where far-right participants shouted “death to the Jews.”

The demonstration took place last Thursday, on Poland’s Independence Day, in the central Polish city of Kalisz. Participants at the gathering also burned a copy of a medieval document that offered Jews protection and rights in Polish lands.

Poland’s Jewish community says that Polish Jews “have not experienced such contempt and hatred expressed in public for years.”

“Poland is our homeland. We are both Jews and Poles. We are asking, however, why our right to regard Poland as our home is being questioned ever more often and ever more openly,” the Union of Jewish Religious Communites says.

Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski announces the arrest on Twitter, saying “there is no consent to antisemitism and hatred based on nationality, religion or ethnicity.”

“In the face of the organizers of the disgraceful event in Kalisz, the Polish state must show its ruthlessness and determination,” Kaminski says.

Polish authorities have faced questions as to why it took so long to make the arrests given that the incident was widely reported in Poland.

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