Catalonian leader suspends independence declaration to allow ‘dialogue’
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Catalonian leader suspends independence declaration to allow ‘dialogue’

US official says unrestrained settlement activity unhelpful to peace; Egypt bulldozes homes along Gaza border to widen buffer zone

  • Catalan regional government president Carles Puigdemont gives a speech at the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona on October 10, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE)
    Catalan regional government president Carles Puigdemont gives a speech at the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona on October 10, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE)
  • Construction in the Israeli West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, near the city of Hebron, on April 2, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)
    Construction in the Israeli West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, near the city of Hebron, on April 2, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)
  • Security forces loyal to the Hamas terror group stand by as bulldozers clear an area for a large buffer zone on the border with Egypt in the southern Gaza strip town of Rafah, on June 28, 2017. (AFP/Said Khatib)
    Security forces loyal to the Hamas terror group stand by as bulldozers clear an area for a large buffer zone on the border with Egypt in the southern Gaza strip town of Rafah, on June 28, 2017. (AFP/Said Khatib)
  • Pro-Israel supporters take part in the annual Jerusalem March during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot on October 10, 2017. (Jerusalem Municipality spokesperson)
    Pro-Israel supporters take part in the annual Jerusalem March during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot on October 10, 2017. (Jerusalem Municipality spokesperson)
  • Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, center, poses with IDF soldiers during an event at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, October 10, 2017. (Defense Ministry)
    Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, center, poses with IDF soldiers during an event at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, October 10, 2017. (Defense Ministry)
  • Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the media  in Belgrade, Serbia,  October 10, 2017. Erdogan is on a two-day official visit to Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
    Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the media in Belgrade, Serbia, October 10, 2017. Erdogan is on a two-day official visit to Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
  • This file photo taken on May 22, 2015 shows US producer Harvey Weinstein arriving for the screening of the film 'The Little Prince' at the 68th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes. (AFP Photo/Loic Venance)
    This file photo taken on May 22, 2015 shows US producer Harvey Weinstein arriving for the screening of the film 'The Little Prince' at the 68th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes. (AFP Photo/Loic Venance)

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

Liberman warns Lebanese army completely under Hezbollah control

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman says the Lebanese army has been fully integrated into the Hezbollah terror organization and now operates under its command.

“Regarding the Lebanese front we are no longer talking about Hezbollah alone. We are talking about Hezbollah and the Lebanese army; regrettably that is the reality. The Lebanese army has become an integral part of the Hezbollah apparatus under its command,” he says at a holiday event at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.

He also says that the defense establishment is operating under the assumption that the next conflict will be a two-front war.

“When the next campaign begins, and it doesn’t matter where it begins, in the north or the south, it will immediately become a two-front campaign. There is no longer a single front, and that is our basic assumption. We are preparing the army for that,” Liberman says.

Iran nuclear agency warns US against undermining 2015 deal

The head of Iran’s nuclear agency is warning the United States against undermining the 2015 nuclear deal, saying international nonproliferation efforts as well as Washington’s global standing would suffer.

Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi told an international conference on enhancing nuclear safety Tuesday that Washington’s recent “illusory negative postures do not augur well” for keeping the deal intact.

He said Iran didn’t want to see the deal unravel but that “much more is at stake for the entire international community than the national interests of Iran.”

US President Donald Trump is set to deliver a speech on Iran this week in which he is expected to decline to certify Iran’s compliance in the landmark 2015 agreement, referring it to Congress, and perhaps targeting Iran’s Revolutionary Guard with new sanctions.

— AP

Israel moves to approve 2,000 new settlement homes

The Defense Ministry body responsible for authorizing construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank will be advancing plans for roughly 2,000 new housing units when it convenes next week, though only some 1,200 of them will be receiving final approval.

Included among those set to earn final approval are projects for evacuees of the illegally built outposts of Ulpana (in Beit El), Migron, and Amona. These were demolished in June 2012, September 2012 and February 2017, respectively, after the High Court of Justice ruled they had been built on private Palestinian land.

A similar ruling was delivered in September 2016 for the Netiv Ha’avot outpost in the Elazar settlement, where 15 homes are slated for demolition in March 2018.

Among the building plans set to be advanced through the “deposit” planning stage is a neighborhood of 30 housing units in the Alon Shvut settlement that will serve as a residential solution for the Netiv Ha’avot residents.

Despite reports of a surge in authorizations for up to 4,000 units, the exact number of housing units that the Civil Administration’s High Planning Subcommittee will be advancing during meetings next Tuesday and Wednesday will be 1,941 — with just 1,196 of them for final approval.

The committee has pushed off its scheduled quarterly meeting for several months to avoid upsetting the Trump administration.

— Jacob Magid

Turkey says doesn’t need US permission to prosecute citizen

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says his country doesn’t need Washington’s permission to prosecute its citizens, the latest swipe in an escalating feud with the United States over the arrest of a US consulate employee.

“Turkey is a state of law. Does the fact that he who committed a crime or is accused of a crime is (a member) of an American mission give him any privileges? Does that mean we have to seek the permission of the (US) gentlemen? Do we need their consent?” Yildirim says in a speech to parliament.

“It is very inappropriate behavior to punish the citizens. It’s behavior that doesn’t befit a great country like the United States,” he continues. “We invite the United States to act with more common sense.”

The US yesterday suspended most visa services for Turkish citizens after the arrest of Metin Topuz, a Turkish staff member at the US consulate in Istanbul, on charges of espionage and alleged ties to Gulen’s movement, saying it wanted to reassess Turkey’s commitment to the safety of US personnel. Turkey retaliated by halting visas services in the US.

US Ambassador John Bass said in a video message released late Monday that Turkish authorities had failed to show any evidence against Topuz and that he had insufficient access to a lawyer. He also said the arrest “raised questions whether the goal of some officials is to disrupt the long-standing cooperation between Turkey and the US”

— AP

Thousands gear up for pro-Israel march through Jerusalem

Major roads in downtown Jerusalem are blocked as thousands of Israel supporters gear up to march through the capital for the annual event.

Israelis join groups from all over the world walk through the streets of the city in celebration of the Sukkot holiday.

The route passes through some of the capital’s central thoroughfares, leading to closed roads and traffic problems, as it does each year.

Police closed off several major streets and junctions in the early afternoon to make way for the carnival-like parade and local media warned motorists to avoid the city center until the event concludes later this evening.

The march takes place each year during the week-long festival of Sukkot, which began last Wednesday night, and includes participants from a wide variety of organizations from Israel and abroad. In previous years, up to 60,000 people took part in the event, including several thousand evangelical Christians from around the world.

Thousands of spectators typically line the streets to watch the march.

Madrid warns Catalan leader ‘not to do anything irreversible’

Spain’s government warns Catalan president Carles Puigdemont “not to do anything irreversible” ahead of a speech in Barcelona in which the separatist leader could declare independence from Spain.

“We call on Puigdemont not to do anything irreversible, not to pursue a path of no return and not to make any unilateral independence declaration, which would lead to illegality,” government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo tells reporters.


Palestinian rivals launch reconciliation talks in Cairo

Palestinian rivals Fatah and Hamas began detailed negotiations behind closed doors in Cairo on Tuesday on ending their crippling decade-long split, a delegate tells AFP.

The talks follow a key breakthrough last week when Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah visited Hamas-run Gaza for the first time since 2015 and his ministers officially took control of government departments there.

“The dialogue committee for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas started work under Egyptian sponsorship,” the Hamas delegate tells AFP.

The talks “began in the headquarters of the Egyptian intelligence to examine the files to enable a Palestinian national unity government to work in the Gaza Strip,” he adds.

Azzam al-Ahmad, who heads the Fatah delegation, told AFP earlier that the main point of discussion would be “empowering the government in Gaza.”

The Hamas terrorist group and the West Bank-based Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have been at odds since they fought a near civil war in 2007.


Trump challenges Tillerson to IQ test

US President Donald Trump suggests he’s smarter than Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, saying in an interview published Tuesday that if Tillerson did call him a moron, as reported, the two should “compare IQ tests.”

“And I can tell you who is going to win,” Trump tells Forbes magazine.

Trump’s tense relationship with Tillerson burst into public view last week. An NBC News story claimed Vice President Mike Pence had to talk Tillerson out of resigning this summer, and that Tillerson had called Trump a “moron.”

Tillerson said he never considered resigning, though he didn’t directly address the reported insult. His spokeswoman later said he never used such language.

— AP

Jordan says hosting Syrian refugees has cost $10 billion

Authorities in Jordan estimate at more than $10 billion the cost of hosting thousands of refugees displaced from neighboring Syria since the civil war broke out there in 2011.

The UN says that some 650,000 Syrian refugees are currently being housed in Jordan, but the government puts the figure far higher at around 1.3 million people.

In a statement released on social media, the foreign ministry says “more than $10.3 billion” (8.7 billion euros) had been spent on putting up the refugees.

That figure covered additional expenses in sectors including health, education and employment, and also extra money spent on public services and subsidised food, it says.

Jordan, which shares a 370 kilometer (230 mile) border with Syria, estimates that almost $1.7 billion will be needed to cover the refugees this year.


Iran: US would be siding with IS if it designates Guards a terror group

Iran says that the United States would be siding with the Islamic State group if it designated the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.

“The Guards are the defender of the nation,” government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht tells reporters.

“If the US wants to put the Guards on the terrorist list, it puts itself in the camp of terrorists.

“Any country that wants to have such a position about the Guards will share this view with the Daesh terrorists,” he says, referring to IS by an Arabic name.

Reports in the Financial Times and other media have suggested US President Donald Trump may call for the Guards to be designated a terrorist group as part of a tougher strategy against Iran to be announced in the coming days.


140,000 Israelis flock to national parks today on Sukkot holiday

Some 140,000 Israelis take advantage of the Sukkot holiday today to visit the country’s national parks and nature reserves, according to the Parks Authority.

The authority says national parks at Caesarea, Yarkon, Masada and Beit Guvrin, along with the nature reserves of Ein Gedi, Tel Dan and Nahal Snir, are especially crowded.

Erdogan says Turkish officials to boycott US ambassador

Turkey will boycott meetings with the outgoing US ambassador to Ankara as it no longer recognizes the envoy as the US representative in the country, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says, stepping up a diplomatic row.

“We have not agreed and are not agreeing to this ambassador making farewell visits with ministers, the parliament speaker and myself,” Erdogan says of US ambassador John Bass, who is shortly to leave Turkey after being nominated the US envoy to Afghanistan.

“We do not see him as the representative of the United States in Turkey,” he says at a news conference with President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade.

It is traditional for outgoing envoys in Turkey to make valedictory visits to bid farewell to top officials before leaving their posts.

Although Bass is expected to leave Turkey in the coming days, it is unprecedented in the history of Turkish-US relations for Ankara to say it no longer recognizes Washington’s ambassador.

— AP

Egypt expands buffer zone along Gaza border

Egypt’s military has bulldozed at least 140 homes and more than 200 acres along the Gaza Strip border, expanding a buffer zone in an effort to cut off the flow of weapons and militants.

The governor of Northern Sinai province, Maj. Gen. Abdel-Fatah Hathour, told The Associated Press last night that the military began a new phase in clearing the zone, which is 1,500 meters (4,900 feet) wide and 10 kilometers (6 miles) long.

Egypt has struggled to combat an Islamic State-led insurgency in the northern Sinai since 2014, and has built the buffer zone to prevent the militants from using a vast tunnel network under the border that was created to evade a decade-old Israeli and Egyptian blockade on the territory.

Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group that rules Gaza, has also worked to secure the border in recent months as it tries to improve ties with Cairo. Hamas has cracked down on more extreme rivals, including supporters of the Islamic State group.

— AP

Ancient pools near Jerusalem set for renovation

Ancient pools that provided water to Jerusalem around 2,000 years ago are to be restored under a $750,000 renovation funded by the United States, officials say.

The three Solomon’s Pools near Bethlehem in the West Bank were key sources of water for the city, according to research from the Institute for Palestine Studies (IPS).

One of Solomon’s pools in the West Bank, 2013 (Roman Klozweg/Wikimedia Commons)

At least six people have drowned in the unmonitored pools since 1993, according to the IPS. The US Consulate in Jerusalem has provided $750,000 for renovations and hopes to see the pools become part of a major tourism site in the West Bank.

“This project is about more than just protecting history. It is about protecting the lives and livelihoods of the people living here today,” US Consul General Donald Blome says.


Trump renews clash with Sen. Bob Corker

US President Donald Trump is escalating his clash with Sen. Bob Corker, saying the Tennessee Republican was “made to sound a fool” when he criticized him in a recent interview.

Trump says on Twitter that “the Failing @nytimes set Liddle’ Bob Corker up by recording his conversation. Was made to sound a fool, and that’s what I am dealing with!”

— AP

Swiss police detain brother of Marseille attacker

GENEVA — A Tunisian man detained along with his wife by Swiss police is the brother of the assailant who fatally stabbed two young women in the French city Marseille earlier this month, police say.

A French police officer cordons off the access to Marseille’s main train station Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017 in Marseille, southern France. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

“The two individuals are a couple,” Swiss federal police say in a statement on the arrests in Chiasso, near the Italian border.

“The man is the brother of the presumed attacker in Marseille.”


Israeli arrested in Sinai with bullet in his bag

An Israeli tourist has been arrested while crossing into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, after Egyptian police found a bullet in one of his bags.

The Foreign Ministry confirms to the Ynet website that Nir Itach, 24 of Rehovot, is being held by Egyptian police, and says it is working to secure his release.

His brother Almog tells Ynet the bullet was left in the bag by mistake.

Illustrative photo of the Taba border crossing between the Israel and Egypt. April 17, 2010. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

“He took along with him a bag from his days in the army which had not been used in a long time. He didn’t clean it out properly and now he’s under arrest.”

US official: ‘Unrestrained settlement activity doesn’t help peace’

Responding to reports that Israel will advance plans for thousands of new settlement homes in the West Bank, a US official says “unrestrained settlement activity does not advance the prospect for peace.”

Construction of new housing in the Israeli settlement of Kfar Adumim, September 25, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The unnamed government official tells AFP that “while we are not going to respond to every announcement or report, our policy toward settlements remains unchanged.

“The administration has made clear that unrestrained settlement activity does not advance the prospect for peace. At the same time the administration recognizes that past demands for a settlement freeze have not helped advance peace talks.”

Spain anxiously awaits Catalan leader’s independence speech

BARCELONA, Spain — Catalonia’s regional leader is preparing to address parliament in a highly anticipated session that could spell the birth of a new republic, marking a critical point in a decade-long standoff between Catalan separatists and Spain’s central authorities.

Security is tight in Barcelona and police have cordoned off a park surrounding the legislative building, where Catalan President Carles Puigdemont is expected to walk a fine line when he addresses regional lawmakers.

Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont arrives at the parliament in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017 (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

The speech will need to appease the most radical separatist-minded supporters of his ruling coalition — but Puigdemont could shut down any possibility of negotiating with Spain if he adopts a hard line.

The Catalan leader hasn’t revealed the precise message he will deliver in the address, but separatist lawmakers and activists have said they won’t be satisfied with anything short of an independence declaration.


Thousands march in Jerusalem to support Israel

Tens of thousands of people from Israel and around the world march in Jerusalem to mark the Jewish festival of Sukkot.

Thousands of Christian Evangelicals and Israelis march at a parade in Jerusalem, marking the Jewish festival of Sukkot, or the Feast of the Tabernacles, on October 10, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Jerusalem Municipality says more than 60,000 people, hailing from more than 80 countries, are participating this year.

Read the report here.

Police arrest West Bank riot suspect, find weapon parts at his home

Border Police have arrested a Palestinian man from the Jerusalem area suspected of participation in riots and rock-throwing incidents, Channel 10 reports.

Security forces found weaponry in the man’s house, including parts used in the production of homemade guns, police say.

Report: Israeli delegation in Cairo ahead of Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks

Unconfirmed reports in Arabic media are saying an Israeli delegation flew into Cairo on a private plane earlier today to conduct talks with high-ranking Egyptian officials.

There is no word on the content of the discussions, but the reports come on the same day reconciliation talks are launched in Egypt between Hamas and Fatah, as the Palestinian Authority seeks to regain sovereignty over the Gaza Strip after a decade of Hamas rule.

Mexican president thanks Netanyahu for Israeli earthquake assistance

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to thank him for Israeli search and rescue efforts in the Central American nation following last month’s earthquake there.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, at the Los Pinos Residence in Mexico City, on September 14, 2017. (AFP/ ALFREDO ESTRELLA)

Peña Nieto told Netanyahu he appreciated Israel’s quick response and its work on the ground to help quake victims.

Catalan leader delays speech, Madrid rejects possible mediation

BARCELONA, Spain — Catalonia’s leader Carles Puigdemont delayed his speech Tuesday on possible independence as he held last-minute “contacts for an international mediation,” a regional government spokesman said, a claim immediately rejected by Madrid.

“It’s not on the cards,” a central government spokesman said, as Madrid waits anxiously to see if Puigdemont will announce a breakaway from Spain.


Harvey Weinstein accused of raping 3 women in new report

NEW YORK — The New Yorker is reporting that Harvey Weinstein has previously raped three women, significantly intensifying the scandal surrounding the disgraced movie mogul. A representative for the mogul vehemently denies the allegations in a statement to the magazine.

Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein attends the Simon Wiesenthal Center 2015 National Tribute Dinner at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 24, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images via JTA)

The expose details allegations not just of sexual harassment but of three incidents involving rape. Actress Asia Argento and a former aspiring actress named Lucia Evans go on the record to allege Weinstein forced himself on them sexually. A third woman speaks anonymously.

“I know he has crushed a lot of people before,” Argento tells the magazine. “That’s why this story — in my case, it’s twenty years old, some of them are older — has never come out.”


Catalan leader begins his speech in parliament

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has arrived at the Catalan parliament and has begun his speech on the results of the region’s independence referendum.


Catalonia’s president stresses ‘need to de-escalate tensions’ with Madrid

Catalonia’s president stresses the “need to de-escalate tension and not contribute to increase it with words or actions.”

He also speaks of the integrity of the recent independence referendum and condemns police violence during the vote.

Moscow says US ‘pretending’ to fight IS in Iraq

MOSCOW — Moscow is accusing the US of reducing air strikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq to let jihadists into Syria and fight the Russian-backed Syrian army, claims the Pentagon is denying.

Russian military spokesman Igor Konashenkov says the Syrian regime was attempting to push the jihadists out of eastern Deir Ezzor province, but that arrivals from Iraq are boosting their numbers.

“The continuing arrival of terrorists from Iraq raises serious questions about the anti-terrorist objectives of the US air force and the so-called ‘international coalition,'” he says.

Illustrative: Smoke rises after an airstrike by US-led coalition warplanes against Islamic State positions in western Mosul, Iraq, Saturday, February 25, 2017. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed)

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Rob Manning flatly denies the Russian claims and points to online tallies that show no let up in the bombardment of IS targets in Iraq or Syria.

“That’s absolutely false,” Manning says. “We remain committed to killing ISIS and denying them safe havens and the ability to carry out strikes in the region or globally.”


Catalonian leader: Independence declaration on hold to allow dialogue

Carles Puigdemont says he is suspending a declaration of independence to allow “dialogue” with Spanish leadership.

Catalan regional government president Carles Puigdemont gives a speech at the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona on October 10, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE)

The leader says he has a mandate to declare independence but proposes waiting a few weeks to encourage talks with Madrid.

North Korea reportedly hacked South’s wartime plans

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean computer hackers have stolen hundreds of classified military documents from South Korea including detailed wartime operational plans involving its US ally, a report says.

Rhee Cheol-Hee, a lawmaker for the ruling Democratic party, says the hackers broke into the South’s military network in September last year and gained access to 235 gigabytes of sensitive data, the Chosun Ilbo daily reports.

South Korean soldiers sit on the top of a military armored vehicle on the road in the border city of Paju on September 3, 2017. (AFP Photo/Donga Ilbo/STR)

Among the leaked documents was Operational Plans 5015 for use in case of war with the North and including procedures for “decapitation” attacks on leader Kim Jong-Un, the paper quoted Rhee as saying.

Rhee, a member of parliament’s defence committee, could not be reached for comment, but his office said he had been quoted correctly.

The report comes amid heightened fears of conflict on the Korean peninsula, fueled by US President Donald Trump’s continued threats of military action against Pyongyang to tame its weapons ambitions.


Paltrow, Jolie join flood of allegations against Weinstein

NEW YORK — Actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie have joined the avalanche of allegations poured out against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

In a follow-up to its earlier expose, The New York Times reports that many actresses have in recent days added to the chorus of accusations surrounding Weinstein.

Paltrow describes Weinstein’s attempt massage her in a hotel room when she was 22. The incident prompted her then-boyfriend Brad Pitt to angrily confront Weinstein at a film premiere.

Jolie says she had a “bad experience” with Weinstein while filming a movie in the 1990s “and as a result, chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did.”

–AP and Times of Israel staff

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