search
Live updates (closed)

Mossad chief said to discuss detained Israeli couple with Turkish counterpart

Public broadcaster says Israeli sources split on how long it will take to resolve case of Natali and Mordy Oknin, who are being held for photographing Erdogan’s palace

Mossad chief David Barnea at a ceremony marking his taking the helm of the agency, on June 1, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Mossad chief David Barnea at a ceremony marking his taking the helm of the agency, on June 1, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

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

Head of UN atomic watchdog to visit Tehran next week

Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Mariano Grossi (center) speaks with Deputy Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Behrouz Kamalvandi (left) upon his arrival at Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport, Iran, on September 11, 2021. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)
Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Mariano Grossi (center) speaks with Deputy Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Behrouz Kamalvandi (left) upon his arrival at Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport, Iran, on September 11, 2021. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

TEHRAN, Iran — The head of the UN nuclear watchdog will visit Tehran on Monday to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, the spokesman for Iran’s atomic agency says, as several key dates approach.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi had expressed concern on November 12 over lack of contact with the Iranian government, describing it as “astonishing.”

He said he had hoped to meet Iranian officials ahead of the next meeting of the IAEA’s Board of Governors, which is scheduled for November 22.

Iran responded three days later by inviting the UN nuclear chief to Tehran.

The head of the agency “will arrive on the evening of Monday, November 22 in Tehran”, Iran’s atomic agency spokesman tells Fars news agency today.

Grossi will meet Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and the head of Iran’s atomic agency, Mohammad Eslami, the spokesman adds.

Grossi’s last visit to Tehran was in September, when he said he had “technical discussions” with Eslami.

He clinched a deal on access to surveillance equipment at Iran’s nuclear facilities but had hoped to return to the country soon for more detailed discussions.

Grossi’s visit comes ahead of the resumption on November 29 of nuclear talks in Vienna, stalled since June. The talks aim to restore a 2015 deal that offered Tehran relief from sanctions in exchange for major curbs on its nuclear activities.

The US unilaterally pulled out of the deal in 2018 under the administration of then-president Donald Trump, but talks to revive it began earlier this year.

The Vienna talks will be attended by the remaining parties to the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — while the US will participate in negotiations indirectly.

Pfizer asks US regulators to approve promising anti-COVID pill

Pfizer's COVID-19 pill. (Pfizer via AP)
Pfizer's COVID-19 pill. (Pfizer via AP)

WASHINGTON — Pfizer says today it is asking US regulators to authorize its experimental pill for COVID-19, setting the stage for a likely launch of the promising therapy in the coming weeks.

The company’s filing comes as new infections are rising once again, driven mainly by hot spots in states where colder weather is driving more Americans indoors.

It is one of a handful of pills that have recently been shown to significantly cut hospitalizations and deaths among people infected with COVID-19. If authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration, it could be a major step toward managing the pandemic and returning to normal, offering an easy, effective way for patients people to treat themselves at home.

“We are moving as quickly as possible in our effort to get this potential treatment into the hands of patients, and we look forward to working with the US FDA on its review of our application,” says Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s CEO, in a statement.

All FDA authorized treatments against COVID-19 require an IV or injection given by a health professional at a hospital or clinic.

FDA regulators will scrutinize company data on the safety and effectiveness of the drug, which will be sold as Paxlovid, before making a decision.

The FDA is holding a public meeting later this month where outside experts will scrutinize a competing drug from Merck, before voting on whether to recommend approval. The FDA is not required to convene such meetings and it is not yet known whether Pfizer’s drug will undergo a similar public review.

Milchan aide said to testify Sara Netanyahu asked to replace bracelet that ex-PM said looked ‘Romanian’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his wife Sara at a Likud post-election gathering early on March 24, 2021, after the end of voting in the fourth national election in two years. (Menahem Kahana / AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his wife Sara at a Likud post-election gathering early on March 24, 2021, after the end of voting in the fourth national election in two years. (Menahem Kahana / AFP)

An aide to Israeli mogul Arnon Milchan recently told investigators that Sara Netanyahu asked that a bracelet bought for her be returned because her husband — former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu — said it looked “Romanian,” according to television reports.

Hadas Klein reportedly made the remark while giving fresh testimony in one of the three graft cases that Netanyahu is on trial for. The ex-premier, who made a rare court appearance today, denies wrongdoing.

A statement on Netanyahu’s behalf denies the report and calls it “political manipulation.”

“Another criminal leak to the media,” the statement says.

US envoy to UN urges Gantz: Refrain from moves that undercut two-state solution

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield meets with Defense Minister Benny Gantz in northern Israel on November 16, 2021.  (Matty Stern/ US Embassy Jerusalem)
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield meets with Defense Minister Benny Gantz in northern Israel on November 16, 2021. (Matty Stern/ US Embassy Jerusalem)

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield urged Defense Minister Benny Gantz during their meeting this evening to avoid taking steps that undermine prospects of a two-state solution, such as settlement activity and home evictions, her office says in a statement.

During the meeting in the Galilee, Thomas-Greenfield “expressed the United States’ ironclad commitment to Israel’s security, including efforts to curb Iran’s regional aggression and the replenishment of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system,” her office says.

They also discussed expanding upon the Abraham Accords and lowering tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, according to the US readout.

“The two leaders expressed support for a strengthened UNIFIL mandate, and addressed the importance of Sudan’s returning to a civilian-led transition,” the statement adds.

Israel is believed to have established working ties with the Sudanese military, which took control of the country in a coup last month. The US has reportedly been pushing Israel to encourage the Sudanese military to return power to the civilian-led transitional council. The Sudanese army had been the driving force behind the country’s effort to normalize with Israel. While the civilian government went along with the initiative, it was seen as more apprehensive.

Mossad chief said to discuss detained Israeli couple with Turkish counterpart

Mossad chief David Barnea at a ceremony marking his taking the helm of the agency, on June 1, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Mossad chief David Barnea at a ceremony marking his taking the helm of the agency, on June 1, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Mossad chief David Barnea spoke with his Turkish counterpart about an Israeli couple arrested for photographing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s palace in Istanbul, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

According to the report, Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz also spoke with a senior official in Turkey in an effort to clarify the situation.

The broadcaster also says Israeli sources are split on how long it will take to resolve the matter.

Meanwhile, the couple’s Israeli lawyer met today with Natali Oknin, who is being held along with her husband, Mordy.

“I didn’t see an ordinary woman, I saw a lion,” Nir Yaslovitzh is quoted as saying by Channel 12 news.

Bat Yam apartment building evacuated over collapse fears

Emergency services evacuate residents of a four-story apartment building in Bat Yam due to concerns it could collapse.

Residents had reported difficulty opening windows and doors, and noted the building is full of cracks.

Bat Yam Mayor Tzvika Brot ordered that residents of the building be provided a place to sleep at the coastal city’s expense, according to Army Radio.

Health Ministry confirms testing rules set to be eased for arriving travelers next week

Travelers at Ben Gurion International Airport, on June 30, 2021, heading for COVID-19 tests. (Nati Shohat/FLASH90)
Travelers at Ben Gurion International Airport, on June 30, 2021, heading for COVID-19 tests. (Nati Shohat/FLASH90)

The Health Ministry issues a statement confirming plans to issue testing rules for travelers next week, allowing those flying to Israel to present a rapid antigen test before boarding the plane.

The ministry says results from home testing kits will not be accepted and that travelers must be tested by a “known body in the foreign country,” without elaborating.

Anyone traveling to Israel will still have to take a PCR test at Ben Gurion Airport upon arrival.

“Quicker, more accessible and cheaper,” Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz writes in a tweet about the new policy.

Gantz tells US envoy to UN that ‘Iranian aggression’ destabilizing region

Defense Minister Benny Gantz meets with US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield on November 16, 2021. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz meets with US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield on November 16, 2021. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz meets with visiting US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

According to a statement from Gantz’s office, the defense chief thanked Thomas-Greenfield for “her professional and personal contribution” to Israel-US ties.

He also raised “the Iranian aggression that is undermining regional stability,” citing Iran’s nuclear program and backing of proxy groups.

Report implicates Belarus in cyber campaign against Eastern European NATO members

BOSTON, Massachusetts — Cybersecurity researchers say they have uncovered evidence that Belarus has been involved in a hybrid hacking and disinformation campaign against Eastern European NATO members since 2016 that aimed to sow discord in the military alliance, steal confidential information, and spy on dissidents.

Today’s report by the prominent US cybersecurity firm Mandiant appears to mark the first time Belarus has been blamed in the campaign known as Ghostwriter. European Union members have said they suspected involvement by Belarus’ close ally Russia, and Poland has directly accused Moscow of hacking government officials’ emails and leaking them online.

While Mandiant says it has compelling forensic evidence that Belarus was involved in the hacking — whose targets have also included German lawmakers — it says it has no direct proof of Russian participation, though that does not rule it out and attributing cyberoperations can be difficult.

The Belarus government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A press officer at the Russian embassy in Washington had no immediate comment on alleged Russian involvement in Ghostwriter. Russian officials regularly reject accusations that they are involved in hacking and disinformation activity.

Israel said set to let returning travelers take rapid COVID test before flying

Arriving travelers at Ben Gurion Airport on November 1, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/ Flash90)
Arriving travelers at Ben Gurion Airport on November 1, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/ Flash90)

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz is set to announce that arriving travelers will be able to take a rapid coronavirus test before boarding their flights, instead of having to present a negative PCR test, according to Hebrew media reports.

Under the proposed change, which still requires government and Knesset approval, travelers will be able to present the results of an antigen test taken within 24 hours before flying. Alternatively, a PCR test from 72 hours before the flight, as is the current policy, would be accepted.

Iran said to resume work at centrifuge plant allegedly targeted by Israel

The alleged Karaj centrifuge parts plant near Karaj, Iran, seen in a photo posted online by Google user Edward Majnoonian, in May 2019. (Screenshot/Google Maps)
The alleged Karaj centrifuge parts plant near Karaj, Iran, seen in a photo posted online by Google user Edward Majnoonian, in May 2019. (Screenshot/Google Maps)

Iran has resumed producing parts for advanced centrifuges at a site allegedly targeted by Israel, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Citing unidentified diplomats, the US newspaper reports that operations at the Karaj facility resumed in August and have ramped up, with one diplomat saying enough parts for 170 centrifuges have been produced since then.

The diplomats say there has no been no UN monitoring of the site. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said last month that its monitoring program at Karaj was “no longer intact.”

The IAEA has said one of its cameras was destroyed and another heavily damaged in a blast at Karaj in Jun, which Iran alleges was an Israeli sabotage attack.

Iranian law to boost population takes effect; UN experts warn it will limit women’s rights

TEHRAN, Iran — A law aimed at boosting Iran’s population comes into force today after concerns were raised that it would limit women’s access to reproductive healthcare.

The “Youthful Population and Protection of the Family” legislation was approved by parliament in October and entered into effect by notification from Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

The law renders reproductive screening optional, imposes restrictions on abortion and limits access to contraception, while providing added benefits to families with more children.

It also tasks public broadcasters with producing content that encourages women to have more children and denounces celibacy or abortion.

About 46.6 percent of Iran’s population of 83 million is under 30 years old, according to the latest data published in 2019 by the national statistics office.

The population under 30 has dropped since 2010, however, at a negative rate of 3.24 percent.

According to the World Bank, Iran’s population growth rate has sharply declined from over four percent in the early 1980s to 1.29 percent in 2020.

The law has been criticized by United Nations experts, as well as by women’s rights activists and other rights groups.

“The consequences of this law will be crippling for women and girls’ right to health,” the UN experts say in a statement today.

They add that it “represents an alarming and regressive U-turn by a government that had been praised for progress on the right to health.”

US judge vets potential jurors for Ghislaine Maxwell trial

In this courtroom sketch, Ghislaine Maxwell, center, listens during a court hearing flanked by her attorneys, Bobbi Sternheim, left, and Jeffrey Pagliuca, right, November 1, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams)
In this courtroom sketch, Ghislaine Maxwell, center, listens during a court hearing flanked by her attorneys, Bobbi Sternheim, left, and Jeffrey Pagliuca, right, November 1, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams)

NEW YORK — Prospective jurors get their first glimpse of Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite charged with helping Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse girls and women, when a US judge began questioning them individually today.

Wearing a black suit, Maxwell hugged her lawyers when she entered the courtroom and briefly sketched a courtroom artist who was drawing her.

Judge Alison J. Nathan’s questions in Manhattan federal court are aimed at seeing if potential jurors can stay impartial in the sordid case against Maxwell. Nathan sits about 10 feet (3 meters) away from each prospective juror as they are put in the jury box to sit alone during questioning that is to last about 10 to 15 minutes each.

The 12 jurors and six alternates who will hear the case will not be chosen until November 29, when opening statements will begin.

Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to charges she groomed underage victims to have unwanted sex with Epstein. She has vehemently denied wrongdoing.

Epstein was arrested in 2019, but the case against him took a shocking turn when the financier and convicted sex offender killed himself while awaiting trial.

After Epstein’s death, prosecutors turned their sights on Maxwell, his ex-girlfriend.

The wealthy, Oxford-educated socialite is the daughter of British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell, who died in 1991 after falling off his yacht — named the Lady Ghislaine — near the Canary Islands while facing allegations he’d illegally looted his businesses’ pension funds. Ghislaine Maxwell holds US, British and French citizenships and was repeatedly denied bail in the run-up to her trial.

Israeli diplomats visit couple detained in Turkey

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 today visited the Israeli couple being held on espionage suspicions for photographing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s palace in Istanbul last week.

The Foreign Ministry says Natali Oknin was visited by Israel’s consul in Istanbul, Ronen Levy, while the consul-general in Turkey, Udi Eitam, visited her husband Mordy. The diplomats gave the pair clothes and other supplies.

Levy and Eitam also meet with prison authorities to verify the Oknins are being given the appropriate accommodations in prison, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz update the Oknins’ family after the visit.

Touring Iron Dome, US envoy pledges to replenish missile system

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield is given a military briefing during a tour of the Israel-Lebanon border, November 16, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield is given a military briefing during a tour of the Israel-Lebanon border, November 16, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield tours Israel’s Lebanon border, accompanies by IDF Galilee Division Commander Shlomi Binder.

The envoy is briefed on the security challenges Israel faces amid Lebanon’s ongoing economic collapse, the entrenchment of Hezbollah in the country and Iran’s influence in the area, the army says in a statement.

She also receives an up-close look at Israel’s US-funded Iron Dome and David’s Sling weapons systems, “which our nations developed together to save the lives of innocent civilians,” Thomas Greenfield tweets.
“We will replenish the Iron Dome system and support Israel’s ability to defend itself,” she adds, emphasizing a pledge made by US President Joe Biden.

The House overwhelmingly passed legislation to provide $1 billion in supplemental funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system, which worked on overdrive during last May’s Gaza war. The legislation is being held up in the Senate though, by Republican Rand Paul, who is demanding that funding for it be stripped from US aid to Afghanistan.

Later in the day, Thomas-Greenfield meets with the World Food Program’s Palestine director Samer Abdel Jaber, discussing the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

“We’re committed to working with the UN & partners to marshal support and provide targeted humanitarian assistance directly to Palestinians in dire need,” the envoy tweets after the meeting.

Israeli spyware firm’s tech allegedly used to hack Middle East Eye, Iran-linked sites

Illustrative: In this February 17, 2016 photo an iPhone lock-screen is seen. (AP /Carolyn Kaster, File)
Illustrative: In this February 17, 2016 photo an iPhone lock-screen is seen. (AP /Carolyn Kaster, File)

PARIS — Technology sold by Israeli spyware company Candiru appears to have been used for a campaign of cyberattacks targeting high-profile Middle Eastern websites, an analysis by cybersecurity firm Eset says today.

“We think it was a client of Candiru that carried out these attacks,” Eset investigator Matthieu Faou tells AFP.

Eset doesn’t name the client, but points to an investigation by researchers at the University of Toronto that suggested in June that Saudi Arabia may have used similar techniques.

Based in Tel Aviv, Candiru sells sophisticated spyware to governments.

It was blacklisted by the US government earlier this month.

The offensive revealed by Eset used what are known as “watering hole” attacks, which add malicious code to legitimate websites that the targeted user is likely to visit.

Once the person visits the site, the code can then be used to infect their computer — potentially to spy on them or inflict harm in other ways.

The websites targeted in this campaign included UK-based news site Middle East Eye as well as Yemeni media outlets like Almasirah linked to the Iran-backed Houthi rebels battling the Saudis, Eset says.

Another victim was thesaudireality.com, which Eset says was likely a dissident media outlet in Saudi Arabia.

Internet service providers in Yemen and Syria were also targeted along with the Iranian foreign ministry, Syria’s electricity ministry, and Yemen’s interior and finance ministries.

Other targets included sites run by the pro-Iranian terror group Hezbollah, Italian company Piaggio Aerospace and Denel, a state-owned South African aerospace and military technology conglomerate.

“The attackers also created a website mimicking a medical trade fair in Germany,” Eset notes in a press release, adding that the intrusions were recorded between July 2020 and August this year.

Al Jazeera says Sudan released Khartoum bureau chief

Sudanese opponents of the military coup wave national flags as they take part in a protest in the city of Khartoum North near the capital, on November 13, 2021. (AFP)
Sudanese opponents of the military coup wave national flags as they take part in a protest in the city of Khartoum North near the capital, on November 13, 2021. (AFP)

KHARTOUM, Sudan — The Qatar-based satellite news network Al Jazeera says that Sudanese authorities released its bureau chief today, two days after he was detained in the African country.

Security forces arrested El Musalmi El Kabbashi on Sunday, following a raid on his home in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum. That came a day after thousands of pro-democracy protesters took to the streets across Sudan to rally against the military’s coup last month.

Al-Jazeera doesn’t elaborate further on the circumstances of El Kabbashi’s release in its statement on Twitter. Sudanese authorities have not commented on the reporter’s detention.

The October 25 military takeover upended a fragile planned transition to democratic rule in Sudan, more than two years after a popular uprising forced the removal of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist government.

The coup has drawn international criticism and massive protests in the streets of Khartoum and elsewhere in the country. At least 23 protesters have been killed so far, and hundreds of others have been wounded due to excessive force used by the country’s security forces, according to Sudanese doctors and the UN.

UK police release 4 men arrested after Liverpool taxi bombing

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

LONDON — A suspected bomber who died when his homemade device exploded in a taxi outside a Liverpool hospital was an asylum-seeker from the Middle East who had converted from Islam to Christianity, British police, church officials and others say today.

Police say 32-year-old Emad Al Swealmeen was killed when a blast ripped through the vehicle as it pulled up outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital on Sunday morning. The taxi driver was injured.

Police have called the blast a terrorist act and believe the dead man built the bomb, but they are still working to determine his motive, how the attack was planned and whether anyone else was involved.

Four men in their 20s who had been detained under the Terrorism Act as part of the investigation were released late yesterday. Russ Jackson, the head of counterterrorism policing for northwest England, says “following interviews with the arrested men, we are satisfied with the accounts they have provided and they have been released from police custody.”

Jackson says police now had “a much greater understanding of the component parts of the device, how they were obtained and how the parts are likely to have been assembled.” But he says “there is a considerable way to go to understand how this incident was planned, prepared for and how it happened.”

Security Minister Damian Hinds says police need “time and space” to investigate.

“There’s always the possibility that further links can be detected,” Hinds tells the BBC. “People sometimes talk about lone wolves and so on — people are rarely totally alone because they talk to others and so on.”

Turkish minister: Detained Israeli couple ‘marked’ Erdogan’s residence

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu at the parliament in Ankara, Turkey, November 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici, File)
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu at the parliament in Ankara, Turkey, November 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici, File)

Turkey’s interior minister claims an Israeli couple arrested for photographing a presidential palace in Istanbul was not doing so innocently, in the first official Turkish comment on the matter.

Minister Suleyman Soylu tells reporters that the Israelis “focused” on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s residence while photographing it and “marked it.”

He also says prosecutors believe Mordy and Natali Oknin committed “what can be called diplomatic and military espionage,” but that the court will decide.

Israel has firmly and formally rejected the allegation that the Oknins are Israeli spies.

Bennett, Gantz urge tougher line on Iran, warn Israel ready to act alone

From left to right: IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz attend a military drill in northern Israel on November 16, 2021. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
From left to right: IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz attend a military drill in northern Israel on November 16, 2021. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

Top Israeli officials call on the world powers to take action against Iran, but warn that Jerusalem is prepared to act alone if necessary against the Islamic Republic, ahead of the nuclear talks scheduled to restart later this month.

“We have been seeing Iran’s policies within Iran in terms of its nuclear program, and in terms of its armament outside of Iran and its influence in Syria and Lebanon. The world needs to act against Iran, and Israel is prepared to do what is needed on all of these fronts and on the northern front in particular,” says Defense Minister Benny Gantz, after visiting a large Israel Defense Forces exercises in northern Israel.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who visited the same exercise, discusses the nuclear negotiations, which are slated to restart in two weeks.

“We are dealing with Iran and its proxies, in Lebanon and Syria. No matter what happens between Iran and the world powers — and we are certainly concerned about the fact that there is insufficient severity in dealing with Iranian violations — Israel will protect itself with its own forces,” Bennett says.

In recent days, a number of top American officials have visited Israel to discuss the Iranian nuclear issue, ahead of the renewed talks and amid general Iranian aggression against Israel and American interests in the region.

US official says America ‘fully committed’ to selling F-35s to UAE

Mira Resnick, a US deputy assistant secretary of state for regional security in the bureau of political-military affairs, looks at night-vision goggles on display in the American section of the Dubai Air Show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, November 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
Mira Resnick, a US deputy assistant secretary of state for regional security in the bureau of political-military affairs, looks at night-vision goggles on display in the American section of the Dubai Air Show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, November 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The US remains “fully committed” to a proposed sale of advanced F-35 stealth fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates, despite the Biden administration slowing down the deal, a senior American official overseeing arms exports says.

Mira Resnick, a deputy US assistant secretary of state in the Biden administration, also tells The Associated Press at the Dubai Air Show that Gulf Arab partners are not looking to purchase weapons from Russia as a hedge over American concerns about human rights in the region.

A high-level Russian delegation met today with Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, at the air show, which prominently featured Moscow’s competitor to the F-35, the Sukhoi Su-75 Checkmate.

“The F-35 is already in this region, whether it’s Israelis flying the F-35, whether it’s American F-35,” Resnick says. “We would like the UAE to be able to operate the F-35 in a way that (they) can be our security partners and to deter threats, including from Iran.”

The proposed sale of 50 F-35s came at the end of President Donald Trump’s administration, rising out of a deal that saw the UAE recognize Israel. The $23 billion sale also included armed drones and other defense equipment sought by the Emirates, a hereditarily ruled federation of seven sheikhdoms also home to Dubai.

After US President Joe Biden came into office, his new administration put the arms sale and others on hold. That in part came over criticism of the UAE and Saudi Arabia over their yearslong war in Yemen, which has sparked the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and rages on today.

Only Israel flies the F-35 in the region, part of its so-called “qualitative edge” granted by America after Israel fought several wars against its Arab neighbors since its founding.

Resnick says she’d heard no concerns from Israel or other allies over the F-35 sale to the Emirates.

Tourism minister, virus czar to visit Russia for talks on tourists vaxxed with Sputnik

Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, April 9, 2021. (Antonio Calanni/AP)
Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, April 9, 2021. (Antonio Calanni/AP)

Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov and coronavirus czar Salman Zarka will fly to Moscow tomorrow for talks on allowing tourists vaccinated with Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine into Israel, according to the Ynet news site.

Razvozov met yesterday with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who, the report says, told the minister to fly to Russia as soon as possible to finalize an agreement on the matter.

Israel had been set to granting entry to tourists inoculated with Sputnik yesterday, but the Tourism Ministry announced it was pushing off the move until December 1.

Raisi says Iran ‘absolutely serious’ about upcoming nuclear talks

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addresses the parliament in Tehran on November 16, 2021. (Atta Kenare/AFP)
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addresses the parliament in Tehran on November 16, 2021. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran is “absolutely serious” about nuclear talks expected to resume late this month, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi tells his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in a phone call today.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is absolutely serious about the negotiations and we are equally serious about our people’s rights to have sanctions lifted,” Raisi says, according to a statement published on the presidency’s website.

His remarks come a day after Tehran invited the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, to visit and meet Iran’s foreign minister, after the UN official expressed concern over lack of contact with Iranian officials.

Nuclear talks, which have been on hold since Raisi’s election in June, are set to resume in Vienna on November 29 in a bid to revive a 2015 deal that offered Tehran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear activity.

The deal was torpedoed when the US unilaterally pulled out of it in 2018 under the administration of president Donald Trump.

The other parties to the deal — Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France — will participate in the Vienna talks in the presence of European negotiator Enrique Mora.

The US will meanwhile take part in the negotiations indirectly.

According to a Kremlin statement, Putin expressed hopes “that the talks scheduled for late November will be constructive.”

Russia admits destroying satellite in missile test, denies endangering space station

In this image from video provided by NASA, the International Space Station is seen as astronauts in the SpaceX Dragon capsule undock on November 8, 2021, (NASA via AP)
In this image from video provided by NASA, the International Space Station is seen as astronauts in the SpaceX Dragon capsule undock on November 8, 2021, (NASA via AP)

MOSCOW — Russia’s defense ministry today admits to destroying one of its satellites during a missile test but rejects US accusations that it had endangered the International Space Station.

US officials accused Russia of a “dangerous and irresponsible” strike on a satellite that had created a cloud of debris and forced the ISS crew to take evasive action.

The move reignited concerns about an escalating arms race in space, encompassing everything from laser weapons to satellites capable of shunting others out of orbit.

“The Russian defense ministry successfully conducted a test, as a result of which the Russian spacecraft ‘Tselina-D,’ which had been in orbit since 1982, was destroyed,” the military says in a statement.

US officials said they were not informed in advance of the anti-satellite missile test — only the fourth ever to hit a spacecraft from the ground — which generated over 1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said yesterday that the danger was far from over and the debris would continue to threaten satellites and activities on the ISS.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg describes the test as a “reckless” and “concerning” act.

“It demonstrates that Russia is now developing new weapon systems that can shoot down satellites,” he says today at a meeting with EU defense ministers.

Man seriously hurt at Jaljulia cemetery said believed to be target of fatal shooting

A Magen David Adom ambulance at the scene of a deadly shooting at a cemetery in the central town of Jaljulia, November 16, 2021. (Magen David Adom)
A Magen David Adom ambulance at the scene of a deadly shooting at a cemetery in the central town of Jaljulia, November 16, 2021. (Magen David Adom)

A man shot dead while leaving a funeral in Jaljulia has been identified as Mahmoud Ibrahim Odeh.

A second man who was seriously wounded after being shot is reported to be Nadim Shteiwi.

According to Hebrew media reports, Shteiwi was apparently the target of the shooting, and Odeh was hit by mistake.

The shooting was part of a feud between rival gangs, the Kan public broadcaster says, without citing a source.

Britain’s Prince Charles visits Jordan on 1st royal tour since COVID began

Britain's Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, arrive to Amman, Jordan, November 16, 2021, on a four-day tour to Jordan and Egypt. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)
Britain's Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, arrive to Amman, Jordan, November 16, 2021, on a four-day tour to Jordan and Egypt. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)

AMMAN, Jordan — Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, arrive in Jordan today as part of the first royal tour since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Charles and his wife are greeted on the tarmac by a Jordanian color guard. They are slated to meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Queen Rania at the royal palace in Amman, and later visit religious and historical sites during their three-day trip to the kingdom before heading to Egypt on Thursday.

The British Embassy said last month that the visit was aimed at shoring up “strong bilateral relations” on the centenary of relations between Amman and London.

The royal visit will be putting particular emphasis on combating climate change in the wake of the Glasgow conference, and interfaith tolerance.

Man shot to death, 2nd seriously hurt while leaving funeral in Jaljulia

A Magen David Adom ambulance at the scene of a deadly shooting at a cemetery in the central town of Jaljulia, November 16, 2021. (Magen David Adom)
A Magen David Adom ambulance at the scene of a deadly shooting at a cemetery in the central town of Jaljulia, November 16, 2021. (Magen David Adom)

A man has been fatally shot and a second seriously wounded at a cemetery in the central town of Jaljulia.

The two men were reportedly leaving a funeral when they were shot.

Magen David Adom paramedics took them to Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, where one of the men is pronounced dead. Police say the man who was killed is 52, and the other man is 32.

Police say they are investigating the shooting.

Joint List MK Osama Saadi, who was at the funeral, says it was an “ambush.”

“The man who was killed wasn’t connected and was accidentally shot,” Saadi tells the Kan public broadcaster.

According to the Abraham Initiatives nonprofit, the man was the 109th Arab to be killed in a suspected homicide in Israel since the start of the year.

Top European court says Hungary’s ‘stop Soros’ migrant law violated EU law

This photo taken on July 5, 2017 in Budapest, shows an anti-Soros campaign reading "99 percent reject illegal migration" and “Let’s not allow Soros to have the last laugh”. (AP Photo/Pablo Gorondi)
This photo taken on July 5, 2017 in Budapest, shows an anti-Soros campaign reading "99 percent reject illegal migration" and “Let’s not allow Soros to have the last laugh”. (AP Photo/Pablo Gorondi)

BRUSSELS — The European Union’s top court rules that Hungary broke EU law by making it a criminal offense for people or organizations to help migrants and refugees apply for asylum, in a new legal blow to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing government.

Hungary erected a razor-wire barrier on its border with Serbia and Croatia in 2015 as well over 1 million people, most fleeing conflict in Syria, entered the EU, often from Turkey via Greece. Tens of thousands moved north, deeper into the EU, in search of sanctuary and better lives.

As more people arrived, Orban began to accuse Hungarian-born US billionaire George Soros and groups linked to him of encouraging the migrants. In 2018, Hungary’s government introduced legislation known as the “Stop Soros” laws that would make it an offense to help people apply for asylum.

The European Court of Justice says Hungary has failed to fulfill its EU obligations “by criminalizing, in its national law, the actions of any person who, in connection with an organizing activity, provides assistance in respect of the making or lodging of an application for asylum in its territory…”

The Luxembourg-based court says the legislation restricts “the right of access to applicants for international protection and the right to communicate with those persons,” as well as the right of the migrants themselves to consult a legal advisor or counselor.

The court says the law cannot be justified by the aim of preventing “the assistance of misuse of the asylum procedure and of illegal immigration based on deception.”

Pfizer announces licensing deal to make COVID drug pill cheaper in poor countries

This Feb. 5, 2021, file photo shows the Pfizer logo displayed at the company's headquarters in New York.  Pfizer says its experimental pill for COVID-19 cut rates of hospitalization and death by nearly 90% among patients with mild-to-moderate infections. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
This Feb. 5, 2021, file photo shows the Pfizer logo displayed at the company's headquarters in New York. Pfizer says its experimental pill for COVID-19 cut rates of hospitalization and death by nearly 90% among patients with mild-to-moderate infections. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

GENEVA — US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announces a deal to make its oral antiviral COVID-19 medication available more cheaply in poorer countries, if it passes trials and regulatory approval.

The deal with the global Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) will make the candidate drug available at a lower cost in 95 low- and middle-income countries covering around 53 percent of the world’s population.

New Shin Bet chief met in Ramallah with Abbas — reports

Ronen Bar, the new Shin Bet chief, leaves his home in Rishpon on October 11, 2021. (Flash90)
Ronen Bar, the new Shin Bet chief, leaves his home in Rishpon on October 11, 2021. (Flash90)

New Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar met last week with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, according to Hebrew media reports.

The two reportedly discussed security coordination in the West Bank and efforts to reach a long-term ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group.

It was the first time the two have met.

There is no confirmation of the meeting from the Shin Bet.

On Sunday, Bar reportedly visited Egypt for talks with his Egyptian counterpart that also addressed Gaza.

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed