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US urges calm in Lebanon; nation’s army makes arrests after deadly violence

As many see street violence as reminiscent of country’s bloody civil war, President Michel Aoun says ‘we all agreed to turn this dark page of our history’

Lebanese Army soldiers patrol the clashes area in the southern suburb of the capital Beirut, on October 14, 2021 (ANWAR AMRO / AFP)
Lebanese Army soldiers patrol the clashes area in the southern suburb of the capital Beirut, on October 14, 2021 (ANWAR AMRO / AFP)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s developments as they unfolded.

Sexual harassment claims against Peres aired from 2nd woman

A week after Colette Avital, a former Labor member of Knesset and a former Israeli consul general to New York, claimed that the late president Shimon Peres sexually assaulted her in the 1980s, Channel 12 airs a short statement from a second person accusing Peres of sexual harassment.

The channel says the woman contacted one of its reporters and described an incident where he pressed her up against a wall and slipped his hand into her shirt without her consent.

The woman was said to have been a former senior secretary. It was unclear when the alleged assault took place.

Iran says it agreed to hold further dialogue with EU on resuming nuclear talks

Iran and the EU have agreed to hold further dialogue in Brussels aimed at resuming talks on a faltering 2015 nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic and world powers, Tehran says.

The European Union envoy charged with coordinating talks on reviving the Iran nuclear deal, Enrique Mora, met with Iranian deputy foreign minister Ali Bagheri for several hours, as Western powers lose patience with Tehran over the continued absence of a firm date for resuming talks.

Dialogue on the deal has been stalled since June.

“At the end of this meeting, the two parties agreed to continue dialogue on questions of mutual interest in the coming days in Brussels,” Iran’s foreign ministry says in a statement, which notes that Mora said the EU was “ready to collaborate with Iran and the other parties.”

The talks coincided with a visit by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to Washington for talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who on Wednesday warned of “other options” if diplomacy fails.

US urges calm in Lebanon, army makes arrests after deadly violence

The United States urges an easing of tensions in Lebanon, as deadly violence in Beirut sparks fears of a return to sectarian strife.

“We join Lebanese authorities in their call for calm, their calls for a de-escalation of tensions,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price tells reporters.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun, in a televised speech, also calls for calm.

“Weapons cannot return as a means of communication between Lebanese parties, because we all agreed to turn this dark page of our history,” he says in reference to the country’s 1975-1990 civil war.

He says political leaders are “heading towards a solution” out of the crisis.

The army says it has “raided a number of places looking for the shooters, and detained nine” people in total, including individuals from both sides. One of those arrested is of Syrian nationality, it says.

Air Force to host 7 other nations for massive biennial Blue Flag exercise

The Israeli Air Force will host a massive multi-national aerial exercise beginning next week and lasting through the end of the month, which will include fly-bys over Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Teams from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, Greece and India will participate in the biennial Blue Flag exercise, the Israel Defense Forces says. A variety of fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft will take part in the drill, including the F-35, F-15, Eurofighter and Dassault Rafale.

“During the exercise, the participants will simulate in-air battles and ground-to-air battles, and will practice dealing with the threat of advanced surface-to-air missiles and combat behind enemy lines,” the military says.

Though most of the participants have already landed in Israel, the exercise will formally kick off on Sunday and will conclude on October 28. It will be run out of the Ovda airbase, near Eilat.

Israeli and foreign fighter jets fly in formation over the Negev Desert during the ‘Blue Flag’ exercise at Ovda Airfield near Eilat, on October 21, 2015. (Israeli Air Force)

On the first day of the exercise, the Israeli Air Force and German Luftwaffe will conduct a fly-by over Jerusalem and will use colored smoke to “paint” the skies with the colors of the Israeli and German flags, the military says.

“The fly-by expresses the strong partnership and connection between the air forces and the countries, as well as the commitment to the continued cooperation in the future,” the IDF says.

The fighter jets participating in the exercise will also perform another fly-by over Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, at low altitude, on Sunday afternoon.

Head of Knesset defense panel suspends aide who met with extremist cleric

Yesh Atid MK Ram Ben Barak says he has suspended his aide Linir Abu Hazaz after she took photos with former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine Ekrima Sa’id Sabri, who has expressed support for suicide bombings.

Ben Barak, a former deputy head of Mossad who serves as the head of the Knesset’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, is currently abroad. In a tweet, he says he will probe the matter thoroughly and make decisions when he returns.

According to her Facebook page, Abu Hazaz apparently took the photos as part of a course she was taking for Al Aqsa Mosque tour guides.

Ram Ben-Barak, leads a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on July 5, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Returning to UN Rights Council, US to ‘oppose disproportionate attention on Israel’

The Palace of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, home of the UN Human Rights Council (CC BY-SA Henry Mühlpfordt/Wikipedia)
The Palace of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, home of the UN Human Rights Council (CC BY-SA Henry Mühlpfordt/Wikipedia)

The United States returns to the UN Human Rights Council today, three-and-a-half years after its dramatic walk-out — time seized upon by China to assert wider influence.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield says that with Washington’s return to the Council, “we can work to ensure this body lives up to these principles.”

The US “will oppose the Council’s disproportionate attention on Israel, which includes the Council’s only standing agenda item targeting a single country,” she says.

To promote human rights worldwide, “We will use every tool at our disposal, from introducing resolutions and amendments to wielding our vote when needed. Our goals are clear: stand with human rights defenders and speak out against violations and abuses of human rights.”

US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks to reporters during a news conference, at United Nations headquarters. on March 1, 2021. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

The United Nations General Assembly elected 18 new members of the UN’s top rights body, with countries kicking off their three-year council term from January 1.

The council is tasked with promoting and protecting human rights worldwide, addressing violations and making recommendations, but the election of Eritrea again raises the issue of having authoritarian regimes on the body. Israel has repeatedly complained that the council focuses on it disproportionately while allowing major rights abusers to take part in its activities.

Under former US president Donald Trump, the United States quit the council in 2018, accusing it of hypocrisy and obsession with haranguing Israel.

US rejoins UN Human Rights Council, years after walk-out

The United States returns to the UN Human Rights Council today, three-and-a-half years after its dramatic walk-out — time seized upon by China to assert wider influence.

The United Nations General Assembly elects 18 new members of the UN’s top rights body, with countries kicking off their three-year council term from January 1.

Though member states were chosen in a secret ballot, the election was a non-contest, with 18 candidate countries standing for 18 seats.

Beyond the United States, the other states elected are: Argentina, Benin, Cameroon, Eritrea, Finland, Gambia, Honduras, India, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Montenegro, Paraguay, Qatar, Somalia and the United Arab Emirates.

The UN Human Rights Council in Geneval discusses a resolution condemning Israeli actions on the Golan Heights, on March 22, 2019. (Screenshot/UN WebTV)

The council is tasked with promoting and protecting human rights worldwide, addressing violations and making recommendations, but the election of Eritrea again raises the issue of having authoritarian regimes on the body.

Under former US president Donald Trump, the United States quit the council in 2018, accusing it of hypocrisy and obsession with haranguing Israel.

Bannon defies Jan. 6 panel’s subpoena, risks contempt charge

A congressional committee investigating the January 6 insurrection could soon recommend criminal contempt charges against former White House aide Steve Bannon, as he defies a subpoena for documents and testimony about his interactions with former US president Donald Trump ahead of the violent siege of the Capitol.

The committee scheduled a Thursday deposition with Bannon, but his lawyer has said that, at Trump’s direction, he won’t appear.

A second witness called for a deposition on Thursday, former Defense Department official Kashyap Patel, also will not appear, according to two people familiar with the confidential negotiations who were granted anonymity to discuss them. But Patel is still engaging with the committee, the people say.

Former US president Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, speaks with reporters in New York after pleading not guilty to fraud charges, on August 20, 2020. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP)

Two other aides who worked for Trump — former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and longtime Trump social media director Dan Scavino — are scheduled for depositions on Friday. It is unclear whether they will appear. Like Patel, Meadows is speaking with the committee.

Bannon’s testimony is just one facet of an escalating congressional inquiry, with 19 subpoenas issued so far and thousands of pages of documents flowing in.

But his defiance is a crucial moment for the committee, whose members are vowing to restore the binding force of congressional subpoenas after they were routinely flouted during Trump’s time in office.

Number of serious COVID patients drops below 400

The number of Israeli coronavirus patients in serious condition has dropped below 400 for the first time in months, according to the Health Ministry, as the fourth wave of the pandemic continues its decline.

The number currently stands at 385.

Iranian exiles file rights abuse claim in UK against Raisi

An Iranian opposition group has filed a complaint with Scottish police for human rights abuses and genocide allegedly committed by Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi, its members says in Glasgow.

Hossein Abedini, a member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) coalition of opposition parties, says at a press conference that Raisi has to be held accountable for taking part in the massacre of around 30,000 political prisoners in 1988.

“Raisi should be held accountable for genocide and the many crimes against humanity that he committed as a senior official of the Iranian regime,” Abedini tells reporters.

Hossein Abedini, National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) foreign affairs committee member, speaks during a press conference organised by The UK Representative Office of the NCRI in Glasgow, on October 13, 2021, after they filed legal complaints against Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. (Andy Buchanan/AFP)

“The international community must act to investigate the 1988 massacre and Raisi’s role in it.”

The NCRI calls for Raisi, a hardline cleric elected to office in August, to be arrested if he travels to Glasgow to attend the UN climate change summit from October 31.

“He shouldn’t be allowed to set foot in countries outside Iran and this is why a formal request has been made with Police Scotland to arrest Raisi for crimes against humanity if he decides to attend COP 26 in Glasgow,” Abedini says.

Jewish leaders: Lapid spoke of unparalleled relationship between Israel, US

The heads of America’s Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issue a statement on their meeting with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

“Lapid addressed the unparalleled relationship between Israel and the US and the importance of a bipartisan commitment to the safety and security of the world’s only Jewish State,” they say. “A critical part of that effort includes engaging Jewish communities everywhere to continue to strengthen the relationship between Israel and the American Jewish community.”

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations executive vice president Malcolm Hoenlein (eight) and CEO William Daroff at The Times of Israel offices in Jerusalem, on February 6, 2020. (Times of Israel)

Gantz instructs IDF to act ‘uncompromisingly’ against settler violence

Defense Minister Benny Gantz calls on the Israel Defense Forces to act “systemically, aggressively and uncompromisingly” against violence by Israeli settlers toward Palestinians and Israeli security forces, after a number of cases of attacks by far-right nationalists in the West Bank in recent weeks.

Gantz issues this directive following a meeting with top officials from the IDF and Defense Ministry regarding the recent violence and the military’s preparations for the upcoming olive harvest, a sensitive period in the West Bank that regularly sees attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians and their olive groves.

“Gantz ordered the IDF to act systemically, aggressively and uncompromisingly — together with the Shin Bet security service and the police — against all forms of violence, against Palestinians, Jews and of course against security forces,” his office says.

Masked settlers near the Palestinian hamlet of al-Mufaqara in the South Hebron Hills, on Tuesday, September 28, 2021. (Courtesy)

The defense minister makes his remarks a day after two IDF soldiers were lightly injured when an Israeli settler attacked them with pepper spray near the Palestinian town of al-Mughayyir in the central West Bank.

“The defense minister condemned the recent incidents in which IDF soldiers and Border Police officers were injured and said that action must be taken immediately and in a targeted way in order to root out this phenomenon,” his office says.

TV: Lapid, US officials discussed Iran options that weren’t on the table before

During Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s visit to Washington this week, new options that were not previously on the table were discussed for dealing with Iran’s nuclear threat, Channel 12 reports, citing a senior official in the minister’s entourage.

Washington has become increasingly frustrated with Iran’s refusal to swiftly return to the 2015 nuclear deal.

The official also tells the network that on the subject of the US plan to reopen its Jerusalem consulate for the Palestinians, the Israelis made clear to their hosts that the issue “could have significant political ramifications for the Israeli government.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accompanied by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, left, and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyanin, right, appear at a joint news conference at the State Department in Washington, on Wednesday, October 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

The right flank of the government is strongly opposed to the reopening of the consulate in Jerusalem closed by the Trump administration, and the matter is seen as potentially destabilizing the coalition.

When the Trump administration moved the US embassy to Jerusalem, the mission was subsumed into the embassy as the Palestinian Affairs Unit, which was regarded by Palestinians and others as a major blow to their diplomatic standing.

 

Hezbollah, Amal blame Christian militia for deadly Beirut shootings

Hezbollah and Amal have blamed the Lebanese Forces, a Christian party that is staunchly opposed to the Iran-backed group, for the shootings in Beirut today during the groups’ rally that killed at least six.

The charge in a joint statement that the the Lebanese Forces “fired sniper shots with the aim to kill.”

Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea hits back, saying the real reason for the violence was the “widespread proliferation of arms,” in reference to Hezbollah’s arsenal.

Lebanese Army soldiers patrol the clashes area in the southern suburb of the capital Beirut, on October 14, 2021 (Anwar Amro/AFP)

21-year-old suspected of selling nude images online to be kept under arrest

A 21-year-old suspected of disseminating nude photos and videos of hundreds of Israeli women will remain under arrest, after a judge accepted a police appeal against a decision to release him to house arrest.

The young man will remain in custody until at least Monday.

Police had argued that as they had yet to get their hands on the man’s accomplices, freeing him could undermine the investigation.

The man was arrested on suspicion that he traded images and videos of naked women and girls on the internet without their permission or knowledge.

Some of the media featured minors as young as 14, police said.

The suspect, 21, was arrested at his home in Ofakim in the south of the country following an undercover operation by the Tel Aviv region police department’s cybercrime unit.

Northern police chief: We’re not in struggle against Arab crime, we’re at war

The Israel Police’s Northern District Chief Shimon Lavi has said the country is “not in a struggle against crime in Arab society, we are at war.”

Lavi is quoted by Haaretz saying during a conference in Acre that with around half of the population in the country’s north being Arab, “those 50% are responsible for 99% of murders, 99% of shootings, 65% of arson and 80% of robberies.”

He adds that he is glad that “there is an understanding that this is not a problem of Arab Israelis, but of all Israelis. That if we don’t wake up in time it will reach other places too.”

Commander Shimon Lavi speaks during an exchange ceremony of the North District Police Command, on July 9, 2019. (Flash90)

Also speaking at the conference, Public Security Minister Omer Barlev says the violence in the Arab public came from “neglect by the state” and was cultivated on “a bed of frustration, discrimination and anger.”

European drug watchdog reviews AstraZeneca’s anti-COVID cocktail

Europe’s drug watchdog says it has started evaluating AstraZeneca’s anti-COVID cocktail called Evusheld, which could eventually lead to the authorization of its use in the EU.

The move comes after AstraZeneca this week said trials showed that the drug, made from a combination of two monoclonal antibodies, reduced severe COVID-19 symptoms and deaths.

The decision to start the rolling review “is based on preliminary results from clinical studies, which suggest that the medicine may help protect against the disease,” the European Medicines Agency (EMA) says.

It can take several months between the start of a rolling review by the EMA and any eventual green light.

Monoclonal antibodies — which recognize a specific molecule of the target virus or bacteria — are synthetic versions of natural antibodies.

Hundreds of liters of hydraulic oil leak from Navy boat into Red Sea

Hundreds of liters of hydraulic oil have leaked from a Navy boat into the Red Sea in the Eilat Bay.

The Navy carried out several actions to quickly absorb as much of the oil as possible, according to the Environment Protection Ministry.

It is not yet clear what caused the leak.

The ministry is investigating the incident and its ramifications.

View of the Jordanian city of Aqaba, as seen from the Israeli city of Eilat. November 10, 2019. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

Consortium behind probe into Israel-based NSO Group wins EU journalism prize

The top European Union journalism prize goes to the consortium of journalists behind the Pegasus Project investigation into malware from Israel-based NSO Group, which provided further evidence that it was used to spy on journalists, human rights activists and political dissidents.

The European Parliament says in a statement that the “unprecedented leak of more than 50,000 phone numbers selected for surveillance by the customers of the Israeli company NSO Group shows how this technology has been systematically abused for years.”

The list was obtained by the Paris-based journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories and the human rights group Amnesty International and shared with 16 news organizations. Journalists were able to identify more than 1,000 individuals in 50 countries who were allegedly selected by NSO clients for potential surveillance.

FILE – In this Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021, file photo, a logo adorns a wall on a branch of the Israeli NSO Group company, near the southern Israeli town of Sapir (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, File)

They include 189 journalists, more than 600 politicians and government officials, at least 65 business executives, 85 human rights activists and several heads of state, according to The Washington Post, a consortium member. The journalists work for organizations including The Associated Press, Reuters, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde and The Financial Times.

The EU’s inaugural prize of 20,000 euros (around $23,000) is named after Daphne Caruana Galizia and is a tribute to the Maltese investigative journalist, who was killed in a car bomb attack four years ago.

Report: Israeli soldiers’ uniforms could soon be manufactured by Palestinians

Israeli soldiers’ uniforms could soon be manufactured by Palestinian workers, the Ynet news site reports.

The website looks at a bidding process for uniforms being led by the Defense Ministry. It notes that one of the companies has a plant in the West Bank that employs Palestinians.

According to the report, concerns have been raised that during times of increased tensions or conflict, Palestinian workers might not show up for work.

But the ministry tells Ynet that those concerns have been taken into account and would be handled should the matter become relevant.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, right, speaks to soldiers from the IDF’s Ghost Unit as they take part in a weeks-long training exercise in July 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

Syria War monitor claims 9 fighters killed in Israeli strike in Syria last night

The alleged Israeli strike in central Syria yesterday night killed nine pro-government fighters, four of them Syrians and five of undetermined nationality, a Britain-based war monitor claims.

The Syrian state news agency SANA earlier quoted a military source as saying that the attack near the city of Palmyra had killed a soldier and wounded three others.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, says the attack targeted several Iranian positions, among them a communication tower, near the T4 airbase east of Palmyra.

It reports that the attack killed four Syrians fighting with pro-Iran groups backing the Damascus government including one soldier, as well as five others whose nationality was not immediately clear.

The Observatory is an opposition-linked group with unclear funding and has at times been accused of inflating casualty numbers.

Report: Cypriot police now believe plot against Israeli likely terrorism

Cypriot police have found evidence that the Azeri suspect arrested for allegedly planning to assassinate an Israeli businessman was part of a terror plot, Cypriot media reports.

Israel said soon after reports of the plot to kill Teddy Sagi emerged that it was an Iranian attempt to hit Israelis, but so far local authorities had not confirmed this.

Now, PhileNews reports that the most likely scenario at this time is terrorism targeting Israelis and was “intended to send a message.”

Yesterday a local Cypriot website reported that a second suspect has been arrested in connection with the plot — a 27-year-old food delivery worker originally from Pakistan.

As for the Azeri suspect, during a hearing in Cyprus last week, officials unsealed documents listing 11 charges the man is being investigated on, including terror activity, attempted murder, belonging to a criminal organization, conspiracy to commit a crime, and being in the country illegally, Channel 12 news reported.

Report: Relative calm returns to Beirut after hours of deadly factional fighting

Al Jazeera reports that relative calm has returned to Beirut after some four hours of fighting between rival factions in the Lebanese capital.

Footage from a bit earlier shows armored personnel carriers driving through the capital amid chaotic scenes of gunfire.

It is still not clear who exactly fired at whom, how the clashes broke out and why.

The Hezbollah group and its Shiite allies from the Amal Militia, who had called for a protest against the lead judge probing last year’s massive blast in the city’s port, say their protesters came under fire from snipers deployed over rooftops in the Tayouneh area.

Qatar once again distributes aid in Gaza

Tens of thousands of impoverished families in the Gaza Strip begin receiving Qatari humanitarian funds, for the second time since Israel agreed to a new distribution mechanism involving the United Nations.

Recipients of the money queued from the early hours outside 300 distribution centers spread across the Hamas-ruled Palestinian enclave.

Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi says the $100 handouts will be provided to “95,000 needy families” in Gaza through the UN.

After the latest flare-up between Israel and Hamas in May, Israel objected to a resumption of the funding under the previous terms, saying money was being used by armed groups rather than strictly for humanitarian needs.

The stalemate was resolved in August, when Israel and Qatar announced the approval of a new mechanism to distribute the funds, with money transferred directly to individuals by the UN.

Under the scheme, Israeli-approved recipients in Gaza are issued UN credit cards to withdraw the funds.

Gantz signs off on plan to use army medics in national flu vaccination effort

Defense Minister Benny Gantz signs off on a plan to use military medics in the national flu vaccination effort, his office says.

Under this proposal, some 900 Israel Defense Forces medics — conscripts and reservists — who are already taking part in the national coronavirus vaccine campaign, at healthcare clinics and COVID-19 vaccination centers will also inoculate people against the flu. The plan will be voted on during the cabinet’s upcoming meeting on Sunday.

Health officials have raised concerns about a possible “twindemic” of both the coronavirus and the flu this coming winter, which could put yet more stress on the country’s hospitals.

An IDF medic gets vaccinated against the COVID-19 coronavirus at the medical center of Tzrifin military base in Rishon Lezion on December 28, 2020. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Gantz’s office says the plan to have soldiers also inoculate people against the flu is meant to “increase the number of people vaccinated against the flue and minimize the burdens on hospitals this winter.”

“The entire security establishment and the IDF will continue to assist in all national efforts to fight the coronavirus and to preserve the Israeli economy and Israeli society. Anywhere that the IDF’s operational capabilities can provide solutions, the IDF will be there for Israeli citizens, in full coordination with the healthcare system and all relevant bodies,” Gantz says.

Iran warns Israel not to attempt ‘military adventure’ against nuclear program

Iran warns Israel not to attempt a “military adventure” against its nuclear program in a letter to the president of the UN Security Council, after Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said yesterday that Israel reserves the right to use force against Tehran.

“We warn against any miscalculation and any military adventure of the Israeli regime against Iran and its nuclear program,” says the text by Iranian Ambassador to the UN Majid Takhtarvanchi published by the Tasnim news agency.

“In recent months, the number and intensity of the provocative and adventurous threats from the Israeli regime have steadily increased to alarming levels,” he writes, calling for a response against Israel to “end to its threats.”

He says the “systematic and explicit threats by the Zionist regime… prove that it is responsible for terrorist attacks against [Iran’s] peaceful nuclear program in the past.”

The US has also warned Iran that time is running out for it to return to the 2015 accord, as it increasingly advances its program since breaking away from the deal.

Norway says deadly bow-and-arrow attack appears to have been act of terror

Norway’s security agency says the bow-and-arrow attack that killed five people appears to have been an act of terrorism.

The Danish man who is in custody is a Muslim convert who had previously been flagged as having being radicalized, police said earlier.

The victims were four women and one man between the ages of 50 and 70.

The 37-year-old Dane is suspected of having shot at people in a number of locations in the town of Kongsberg on Wednesday evening. Several of the victims were in a supermarket, police said.

Police officers cordon off the scene where they are investigating in Kongsberg, Norway after a man armed with bow killed several people before arrested by police on October 13, 2021. (Håkon Mosvold Larsen / NTB / AFP)

Talking trash: Jerusalem bin thanks you for not littering

A bin installed next to a bus stop in Jerusalem this week applauds those who use it. Drop a piece of trash in, and a recording of a child’s voice says “Thank you very much!”

It’s part of an initiative by local residents to clean up the streets in the Pat neighborhood of the city. Jerusalem is known for its world-famous religious sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. But it’s also a congested modern city of nearly 1 million residents, with the earthly blights of traffic, potholes and litter.

The trash cans, which also have popped up in some European cities, are equipped with solar panels, sensors and a device that expresses appreciation in a variety of voices when anything is dropped in.

“Our neighborhood is dirty and we want to make a difference,” said Talya Tomer, a local resident and street artist. “We want to have clean, clean streets that look nice and are nice to walk in.”

China warns against ‘manipulation’ of WHO virus probe

China’s Foreign Ministry warns against what it calls possible “political manipulation” of a renewed probe by the World Health Organization into the origins of the coronavirus, while saying it will support the international body’s efforts.

The WHO yesterday released a proposed list of 25 experts to advise it on next steps in the search for the virus’s origins after its earlier efforts were attacked for going too easy on China, where the first human cases were detected in late 2019.

Beijing was accused of withholding raw data on early cases during a visit by a WHO team in February and has since resisted calls for further investigation, saying the US and others were politicizing the matter.

Foreign Ministry spoksperson Zhao Lijian says China will “continue to support and participate in global scientific tracing and firmly oppose any forms of political manipulation.

“We hope that all parties concerned, including the WHO secretariat and the advisory group, will effectively uphold an objective and responsible scientific attitude,” Zhao tells reporters.

In this Jan. 14, 2021, file photo, a worker in protective coverings directs members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team on their arrival at the airport in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

Videos show chaos in Beirut as demonstrators come under fire

Footage from Beirut shows crowds flee as fire was opened at them by unidentified gunmen.

One video shows a man fire an RPG amid the chaos in the Lebanese capital.

A second video appears to show the RPG gunman being shot down. Warning: Graphic content.

Another clip shows people seek safety amid the exchanges of fire.

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