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Mossad said to have foiled Iran terror attacks against Israeli targets in Africa

Report says Tehran’s Quds Force has unsuccessfully plotted to target businessmen in Senegal and Ghana, safari tours in Tanzania

Esmail Ghaani, the head of Iran's Quds Force, speaks during a ceremony on the occasion of first anniversary of death of the force's previous head Qassem Soleimani, in Tehran, Iran, January 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Esmail Ghaani, the head of Iran's Quds Force, speaks during a ceremony on the occasion of first anniversary of death of the force's previous head Qassem Soleimani, in Tehran, Iran, January 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

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

Meretz coalition party said urging halt to plan to double homes in Jordan Valley

The left-wing Meretz coalition party is reportedly demanding a halt to Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin’s plans to double the number of settler homes in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley.

Last month, Elkin announced his ministry’s plan to double the number of homes in the Jordan Valley, in order to reach 3,000 families living in the area by 2026. Elkin said the ministry plans to invest NIS 224 million ($70 million) to build 1,500 new homes in 21 settlements in the area. The homes have yet to be approved by the relevant authorities.

Channel 13 news says Meretz MKs Mossi Raz and Gaby Lasky today sent Elkin a letter saying their “patience has run out.”

“This government’s power lies in promoting issues we can agree on together,” they reportedly wrote. “This decision is far from that. We urge you to immediate halt the plan and not bring it for government approval.”

Model says businessman Moshe Hogeg sexually assaulted her; agent silenced her complaint

A well-known model has said that Moshe Hogeg, a businessman who until recently was the owner of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club, sexually assaulted her years ago, when she was 17, Channel 13 news reports.

The network cites the model saying Hogeg entered her hotel room and tried to force himself on her, but she managed to fend him off.

She told her agent about the incident, but the agent — who had business dealings with Hogeg — did not report it to her parents or to law enforcement authorities. The model did not file a police complaint.

Channel 13 says its investigation yielded many more significant details that have been barred from publication after the agent secured a court gag order.

Hogeg denies the accusation and says the sexual act was consensual, adding that he has taken a lie detector test confirming that. He says the timing “isn’t a coincidence” and says he is being targeted with a “smear campaign” by an individual who recently blackmailed him, demanding $4.5 million or else the sexual misconduct allegations will be published.

UN chief ‘strongly condemns’ attack on Iraqi PM

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “strongly” condemns the attack that targeted Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi, calling for restraint and a rejection of violence.

“The secretary-general strongly condemns the assassination attempt against Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi earlier today. He calls for the perpetrators of this crime to be held accountable,” his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, says in a statement.

Guterres also calls on Iraqis “to exercise utmost restraint and reject all violence and any attempts to destabilize Iraq.”

Report: US mediator to give up if no Israel-Lebanon border deal reached soon

The US mediator in Israel-Lebanon talks over the demarcation of their maritime border has said that if no deal is reached in the coming months, he will cease his involvement, according to the Walla news site.

The outlet cites senior Israeli sources with knowledge of the matter saying that Hochstein, visiting Israel today, said the window of opportunity to reach a deal in the coming months, before the Lebanese elections scheduled for March 2022.

After visiting Lebanon 10 days ago, Hochstein met Energy Minister Karine Elharrar and a series of officials in the energy, foreign affairs, and defense ministries.

Walla quotes an Israeli official saying that Hochstein has made it clear that he will not renew the direct talks held and halted earlier this year.

“[Hochstein] said he doesn’t intend to propose an offer that both sides will be happy with — it will be more of an offer both sides won’t be happy with,” the official is quoted as saying. “If, within a few months, he sees the sides aren’t closing in on a deal, he will leave the issue.”

Biden condemns ‘terrorist attack’ on Iraqi PM

US President Joe Biden condemns the attack that targeted Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi and says his administration will help Iraqi security forces identify those responsible.

“I strongly condemn the terrorist attack targeting the residence of Iraqi Prime Minister al-Kadhemi,” Biden says in a statement. “I am relieved the Prime Minister was not injured and commend the leadership he has shown in calling for calm, restraint, and dialogue to protect the institutions of the state and strengthen the democracy Iraqis so richly deserve.”

Pfizer booster shot said to offer protection for 9-10 months — initial data

Pfizer’s booster COVID-19 shot is effective for 9 – 10 months and maybe even longer, according to preliminary data from Israeli research leaked to Channel 12 news.

The network says the study’s initial results are set to be made public in 2 – 4 weeks, and will show that the third shot offers different protection from the first two doses.

The booster shot yields more antibodies, and the antibodies are also better at preventing the disease.

Channel 12 cites a Health Ministry official saying it may be best to wait longer between shots, and that could become the government’s policy later on.

Mossad said to have foiled Iran terror plots against Israeli targets in Africa

The Mossad spy agency has foiled a series of Iranian terror attacks against Israeli targets in several African countries, Channel 12 news reports.

The network says the attackers, from Iran’s powerful Quds Force, have for months been trying to target Israeli businessmen in Senegal and Ghana, as well as safari tours in Tanzania attended by Israelis.

Iran has been attempting to avenge the death of its nuclear program chief Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, which Tehran blames on Jerusalem.

West Ham soccer club bans 2 fans who sang antisemitic song on plane to game

Britain’s West Ham soccer club has banned two supporters who were filmed singing an antisemitic song as a Jewish man walked down the aisle to take his seat on a plane.

A video was posted on social media on Thursday showing fans on a flight to Belgium singing the offensive song. The fans on the flight were on their way to watch West Ham play Belgian side Genk in the Europa League.

Police have arrested two men on suspicion of hate crimes as they flew back to England.

First sexual assault police complaint filed against LGBT activist Gal Uchovsky

After last week’s exposé about alleged sexual assault incidents committed by producer Gal Uchovsky, one of Israel’s most prominent LGBT activists, a police complaint has been filed against him for the first time, Hebrew media reports.

Last Monday, the Kan public broadcaster published testimonies of two men who said that Uchovsky sexually assaulted them in recent years.

In response, Uchovsky, a popular TV personality, apologized and said he would be stepping down as president of IGY – Israel Gay Youth, a leading nonprofit organization serving LGBTQ youth in Israel.

Bennett backs ally Silman after doubts cast on her account of being attacked

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett issues a statement backing his Yamina party member, coalition whip idit Silman, who says she was physically attacked by a man at a gas station in Modiin amid a scathing, months-long online campaign against her joining the new government that ousted Benjamin Netanyahu.

Many have doubted Silman’s account of the attack, noting that she has refused to go into detail about when and where exactly it happened.

In a tweet, Bennett avoids commenting directly on the alleged attack.

“Over the past months, and especially as the passage of the national budget neared, Idit Silman and her family have been subjected to very severe pressure, smears and attacks that have been experienced by few politicians,” he says.

“I commend Idit and very much appreciate her steadfastness and the hard and comprehensive work she has been doing in the Knesset to get Israel back on track.”

Yael Arad, Israel’s first Olympic medalist, to head Israel Olympic Committee

Retired judo athlete Yael Arad, Israel’s first-ever Olympic medalist, has been chosen the next head of the Israeli Olympic Committee.

Arad, the silver medalist from Barcelona 1992, will be the first woman to hold the position.

Arad, 54, was the only contender for the role. She will succeed Igal Carmi.

Prominent Iranian cartoonist dies of COVID-19

Prominent Iranian cartoonist Kambiz Derambakhsh, who published and exhibited his art across the world, has died of COVID-19 at the age of 79, media reports.

Derambakhsh was born in the southern city of Shiraz and won acclaim both at home and abroad for his cartoons during a career spanning 60 years.

His drawings were published by newspapers including in the United States and Germany, and his work went on display as far as Japan.

The artist was particularly known for his character representing an ordinary man without a face, sketched with a simple line.

“Although Derambakhsh has passed away, his precious heritage, that understood the Iranian people, will stay forever in our memories,” Iran’s Culture Minister Mohammad Mehdi Esmaili says in a statement.

In 2014, he received the prestigious French Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres award in recognition of his work.

Iran has been the Middle East country hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Suspect in hit on entrepreneur Eldad Peri has no criminal record

The main suspect in last month’s assassination of debt-ridden real estate businessman Eldad Peri is a 64-year-old man with no criminal record, a court releases for publication.

The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court extends the suspect’s remand by 10 days.

The suspect’s name is still barred from publication until Wednesday. All other details of the investigation are currently under a gag order.

Saudi-led coalition says 138 rebels killed near Yemen’s Marib

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen says it has killed 138 Houthi rebels over the previous 24 hours in raids near the government stronghold of Marib.

The coalition, which has militarily backed the internationally recognized Yemeni government since 2015, has reported strikes on a near-daily basis with high tolls each time.

The Houthis rarely comment on the strikes but have continued their advance towards Marib, the last remaining government stronghold in the north.

AFP cannot independently verify the death tolls — well over 2,000 since the strikes began in October.

“Seventeen military vehicles were destroyed and 138” rebels have been killed during the air raids on Al-Jubah, south of Marib, and Al-Kassara to the northwest, according to a coalition statement reported by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Yemen’s civil war was sparked after the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa in 2014, prompting Saudi-led forces to intervene to prop up the government the following year. Tens of thousands of people have died and millions displaced in what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Kamala Harris set to condemn singling out of Israel spurred by ‘anti-Jewish hatred’

US Vice President Kamala Harris is set to denounce the singling out of Israel “because of anti-Jewish hatred” in a speech at the Anti-Defamation League’s annual Never is Now conference.

“Three years ago, we suffered the most deadly attack on the American Jewish community in the history of our nation at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” Harris will say, according to prepared remarks Harris’s office has released ahead of her appearance at the virtual conference this evening. “And I want to be very clear about this: When Jews are targeted because of their beliefs or their identity when Israel is singled out because of anti-Jewish hatred that is antisemitism. And that is unacceptable.”

The conference comes as the organizers of the 2017 Unite the Right rally that left a woman dead in Charlottesville stand trial. US President Joe Biden has pointed to that rally, where a collection of extreme right-wing and neo-Nazi groups chanted slogans like “Jews will not replace us” as one of the events that motivated him to run for president against Donald Trump.

Harris’s emphasis on antisemitism expressed through singling out Israel comes just weeks after she drew criticism from Republicans and some Jewish leaders for not forcefully rejecting in the moment a student’s claim that Israel committed “ethnic genocide.”

The conference will be held virtually for the second time due to the pandemic and will feature a number of other high-profile speakers, including Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Olympic gold medalist Sue Bird, actor Daniel Dae Kim and journalist Kara Swisher.

Tear gas fired also at second Sudan anti-coup protest

Sudanese security forces have fired tear gas at a second anti-coup rally in Khartoum following a call for civil disobedience against last month’s military takeover, according to a witness.

“Protesters gathered in Burri in east Khartoum, barricaded the streets, and set car tires ablaze, chanting against military rule,” says protester Mosab Abdalla. “Security forces later dispersed the protest by firing tear gas and began removing the barricades.”

Earlier, Sudanese security forces dispersed a protest by teachers in Khartoum using tear gas.

Joint List MK pans ‘persecution’ of 6 Palestinian rights groups

Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman slams the IDF’s decision to designate six Palestinian rights groups as terror organizations in the West Bank, enabling Israel to take concrete action against them.

“The persecution of six human rights groups in the West Bank is moving to practical aspects,” she says. “The groups’ workers are under danger of being arrested, and the organizations are in danger of being closed.

“Israel is trying to destroy Palestinian civil society and to turn human rights advocacy into an act of terror.”

High winds delay ISS astronauts’ return to Earth

A capsule carrying four astronauts home will leave the International Space Station tomorrow rather than today, NASA says, blaming high winds at the landing site for the delay.

The group, consisting of France’s Thomas Pesquet, Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide and US spacefarers Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, will undock at 1905 GMT tomorrow.

Dubbed Endeavour, their Crew Dragon capsule built by private company SpaceX is expected to arrive off the Florida coast.

In orbit on the space station since April 24, the Crew-2 astronauts will still return to solid ground before the arrival of the next four-person mission to the ISS.

Crew-3 has also been delayed several times, including by bad weather.

Coalition whip Silman meets Knesset security chief over her claim of being attacked

Coalition whip Idit Silman has met the head of the Knesset Guard regarding a recent incident in which she says she was physically attacked at a gas station in the city of Modiin, Channel 12 news reports.

“A man grabbed me after I refueled at a gas station in Modiin and physically pushed me against the car,” Silman said last night in an interview with the network.

Many have since pointed out that Silman didn’t go into detail and have doubted her account, saying she should file an official complaint if it is true.

Lawmakers for the opposition Shas party have written to the Knesset Guard, urging a probe into the incident and additional security for her if it is accurate. The move is seen by many as an attempt to embarrass Silman, in case no CCTV footage or other evidence of the attack is found.

Silman, a member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party, faced protests and threats earlier this year when her faction teamed up with a disparate coalition of parties to form the unity government that toppled Benjamin Netanyahu after 12 consecutive years as premier. Netanyahu’s Likud and allied factions accused Yamina of betraying the right in joining a coalition that includes other right-wing, centrist and left-wing parties plus an Islamist faction.

Channel 12 says that in her meeting with the security official, Silman hasn’t provided concrete information on the alleged attack. Instead, she has urged a probe of all incitement and threats against her.

Her office is cited as saying she will file an official account of the attack later in the day.

IDF blacklists 6 Palestinian rights groups, enabling Israel to act against them

The Israel Defense Forces officially designates six Palestinian rights groups as “unauthorized organizations,” the military legal equivalent of terrorist organizations, following a similar decision by Defense Minister Benny Gantz last month, despite international criticism against the move.

Israel maintains that the six Palestinian organizations — Al-Haq, Addameer, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees — serve as fronts for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group, something that the groups have repeatedly denied and that has been questioned by their European and international funders.

Last month, Gantz declared them terrorist organizations, a designation with comparatively little immediate impact, as the groups operate within the West Bank and thus officially outside of Israel’s jurisdiction.

Today, however, the head of the IDF Central Command, who has formal legal authority over the West Bank, has also now outlawed the groups “after he was presented with copious, varied and reliable information that indicates that these organizations represented a wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group,” the military says.

With this official designation, the military now has the power, among other things, to shutter the organization’s offices and arrest its members.

Sally Rooney’s Israeli publisher bucks move to boycott her books

The Israeli publisher of Irish writer Salley Rooney says it will not stop selling her titles even after the country’s two biggest bookshop chains took them off their shelves in protest of her refusal to translate her latest book into Hebrew due to her criticism of Israel.

The 30-old-author of three novels said last month that she could not partner with a Hebrew publisher that did not “publicly distance itself from apartheid and support the UN-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people.”

That prompted a furious reaction in Israel, including by the Steimatzky chain, which has 130 branches. The company removed Rooney’s works from its website, including the title at the center of the controversy, “Beautiful World, Where Are You.”

Tzomet Sfarim, a chain of about 90 branches, also stopped marketing Rooney’s 2018 “Normal People” online.

However, Modan Publishing House, which has translated her works, tells AFP it will keep selling Rooney’s books despite her stance toward Israel.

“We do not support a cultural boycott, and therefore we will continue to sell Sally Rooney’s works as usual,” says Tali Thelet, a company spokeswoman.

Sudan security fires tear gas at anti-coup rally

Sudanese security forces have fired tear gas at an anti-coup rally in Khartoum to protest last month’s military takeover, a witness says.

“We organized a silent stand against Burhan’s decisions, outside the Ministry of Education,” says Mohamed al-Amin, a geography teacher who took part in that stand against the country’s top general, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

“Police later came and fired tear gas at us though we were simply standing on the streets and carrying banners” which read: “No, no to military rule,” and called for transition to “full civilian rule,” he adds.

Iran urges ‘vigilance’ after drone attack on Iraqi PM

Iran condemns a drone attack targeting Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi and urges “vigilance to foil plots aimed at the security and development” of his country.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Said Khatibzadeh directs the blame at the United States, which led the 2003 invasion of Iraq and toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, kicking off years of sectarian conflict.

“Such incidents are in the interest of those who have violated the stability, security, independence and territorial integrity of Iraq over the past 18 years,” says Khatibzadeh. “They have sought to achieve their sinister regional goals by creating terrorist groups that seek to cause sedition.”

The overnight drone attack, which was not immediately claimed, is the first to target the residence of Kadhemi, in power since May 2020, who was not harmed.

It comes at a time when political parties are negotiating to form parliamentary coalitions based on the preliminary results of the October 10 legislative elections.

Ramallah slams Israel over opposition to reopening US consulate in Jerusalem

The Palestinian Authority slams Israel for rejecting the promised reopening of the US consulate in Jerusalem, a move that would restore Washington’s main diplomatic mission for the Palestinians in the city.

US President Joe Biden has pledged to reopen the consulate, but the issue has been a sticking point between Israel and the US, as well as among some members of Congress. The consulate was shuttered by then-US president Donald Trump in 2019 and its staff was folded into the US embassy — which had been moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem a year earlier — in what the Palestinians view as a downgrading of their ties with the US.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said last night that there was no room in Jerusalem for another American mission.

In a statement, the Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry says it views the reopening of the consulate as part of the international community’s commitments to ending Israel’s control over the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“East Jerusalem is an inseparable part of the occupied Palestinian territory and is the capital of the state of Palestine. Israel, as the occupying power, does not have the right to veto the US administration’s decision,” the statement says.

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