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

Report: Russia disbanding Syrian militia it formed, opening up Golan for Iran

Russia is disbanding a militia it formed, funded, and armed in southern Syria over the past few years, Channel 12 reports, without citing sources.

The network’s Arab affairs analyst Ehud Ya’ari says the Syrian and Iranian regimes have long been unhappy with the force, which did not answer to either of them but rather to Moscow.

Ya’ari says Moscow has now stopped paying salaries to militia members and is demanding that they hand in their arms to the Syrian military.

“This opens a wide door for the Iranians, for Hezbollah, for Assad’s forces… to complete a takeover of all this region near the [Israeli] Golan.”

A United Nations outpost, as seen from the Syrian town Ain al-Tineh, in the Syrian Golan Heights, on March 26, 2019. (Louai Beshara/AFP)

City of Umm al-Fahm calls general strike for Thursday, given murders

The city of Umm al-Fahm has announced a general strike for tomorrow in protest of the ongoing violence and murders in the city, which police are failing to stop.

Businesses, institutions, and schools will all be closed.

The move comes after two men were murdered in the city within 24 hours, bringing the total toll of Arabs killed in community violence this year to 102.

TV: Yamina members told to stay mum on bill that bars Netanyahu from premiership

Channel 12 news reports on tensions within Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party over the bill that would bar a lawmaker charged with a serious crime from becoming prime minister,

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said this morning that she opposes the bill being spearheaded by New Hope party chief Gideon Sa’ar, and which is widely seen as an effort to prevent former premier Benjamin Netanyahu from returning to power.

According to the network, the party’s director-general Stella Weinstein has issued a missive to members to stop commenting on the issue.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked during a memorial ceremony marking 26 years since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, at the Knesset on October 18, 2021 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Sa’ar tells the network that he is working with Bennett on the issue and that his announcement of the bill detail’s yesterday was coordinated with Bennett.

“In fairness, he has not committed to what will happen in the later stages [of legislation], but publishing the draft legislation… was agreed to by the prime minister.”

Health Ministry to check for new Delta strain in past test results — TV

According to Channel 12 news, as the prime minister meets with health officials on the Delta AY4.2 variant, the Health Ministry is planning to review test results from past weeks to check whether the new strain is found in additional patients in Israel, beyond the single case found so far.

It is not clear that the strain is more problematic than Delta, but the ministry does not want to be caught unprepared if it is, the network says.

New Shin Bet chief said to appoint 4 women to top leadership roles

In an unprecedented move, the new head of the Shin Bet internal security agency, Ronen Bar, has appointed four women to the organization’s top leadership, Channel 13 reports.

Two of the women will be promoted to roles equivalent to those of major generals in the military.

New Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar on October 11, 2021. (Shin Bet)

Russia, China, Iran to work with Taliban towards ‘regional stability’

Russia and Central Asia powerbrokers agree to work with the Taliban to promote security in the region and call on Afghanistan’s new leaders to implement “moderate” policies.

Representatives of 10 countries at talks in Moscow agree to “promote security in Afghanistan to contribute to regional stability” while calling on the Taliban to “practice moderate and sound internal and external policies, adopt friendly policies towards neighbors of Afghanistan.”

Taliban members keep watch near the site where a grenade was thrown at a Taliban vehicle at the Deh Mazang Circle in Kabul on October 20, 2021. (WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP)

Nikolas Cruz pleads guilty to 2018 Parkland school massacre

Nikolas Cruz has pleaded guilty to murder in the 2018 high school massacre in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead.

Cruz, 23, entered his pleas in a courtroom hearing attended by a dozen relatives of victims, after answering a long list of questions from Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer aimed at confirming his mental competency. He was charged with 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder for those wounded in the February 14, 2018, attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, located just outside Fort Lauderdale.

A penalty trial will determine whether Cruz will receive a sentence of death or life in prison without parole. Scherer plans to begin screening jurors next month in hopes testimony can begin in January.

As several parents shook their heads, Cruz apologized, saying, “I’m very sorry for what I did… I can’t live with myself sometimes.” He also added that he wished it was up to the survivors to determine whether he lived or died.

Several parents and other relatives of victims broke down in tears while listening to the court proceedings via a Zoom call.

Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz sits at the defense table with defense attorney David Wheeler before pleading guilty, October 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)

2-year-old killed in country’s south after being hit by a car

A 2-year-old has been killed in the country’s south after being hit by a car.

The toddler was brought to a clinic in Hura after being run over and suffering a severe head injury. Paramedics there declared her dead.

US preparing to vaccinate kids aged 5-11 against COVID from November

The US is prepared to start vaccinating children aged 5-11 against COVID-19 starting next month, a move that will make 28 million more Americans eligible for shots, the White House says.

President Joe Biden’s administration says it has already set aside enough supply and partnered with 25,000 sites nationwide — including doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies and even schools — in anticipation that regulators may soon authorize the Pfizer vaccine for kids.

“We expect the FDA and CDC decision on Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 through 11 in the next couple of weeks,” White House COVID coordinator Jeff Zients tells reporters, referring to the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We know millions of parents have been waiting for COVID-19 vaccine for kids in this age group, and should the FDA and CDC authorize the vaccine, we will be ready to get shots in arms.”

The FDA will convene a panel of experts on the issue next week, followed by the CDC on November 2-3, with authorization expected soon after.

Rabbis arrested demanding climate action by Wall Street giant’s Jewish CEO

Three rabbis and six Jewish teenagers were among those arrested Monday at a climate protest at the Manhattan headquarters of BlackRock, the largest investment management company in New York.

The demonstration, organized by the Jewish Youth Climate Movement with support from the interfaith organization, GreenFaith, demanded that the firm stop its investments in and cut ties with companies that fund the fossil fuel industry, which include Enbridge, Inc., Formosa Plastics, and Shell.

Rabbis Rachel Timoner and Stephanie Kolin of Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, vice president of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, were among those arrested.

A demonstrator kneels in front of the headquarters of BlackRock in Manhattan, demanding the investment firm’s CEO Larry Fink defund the fossil fuel industry, October 18, 2021. (courtesy, Erik McGregor)

“Judaism’s highest priority is saving lives,” Timoner says in a statement. “The Jewish youth who are leading us today understand that we are in a life or death moment, that we must divest from fossil fuels now in order to save lives.”

Man sentenced to 12 years in prison for sexual offenses against 48 minors

A 26-year-old has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for sexual offenses committed against 48 minors.

Uria Asis confessed to the allegations, which included contacting girls, tempting them into conversations, and convincing them to take nude photos and commit sexual acts for him. The victims were mostly religious girls.

Most of the offenses were carried out in the virtual space, though he is also accused of physically assaulting a few girls as well.

Likud, Joint List join forces to outvote coalition in bill on Arab teachers

The Knesset has approved by the narrowest of margins a bill proposed by the opposition to form a parliamentary committee to review the assignment of Arab teachers in the education system, amid complaints of high unemployment among Arab teachers.

The bill, proposed by the Joint List’s MK Ahmad Tibi, was passed 47-46, with the coalition opposing.

The bill saw Likud and Haredi factions cooperate with the Joint List to pass the bill, with the former likely chiefly concerned with embarrassing the government.

Bennett to meet with health officials on new AY4.2 variant

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will meet with health officials to discuss the new mutation of the coronavirus’s Delta variant, known as AY4.2. The health minister, ministry director and other top officials will attend.

Ministry chief Nachman Ash told Kan Bet Radio earlier today that the strain appears to be slightly more contagious than the original Delta, but not significantly so.

Health Minister Director-General Nachman Ash attends a press conference about the coronavirus, in Jerusalem on August 29, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Prosecutors appeal judgment against ‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero

Rwandan prosecutors say they have filed an appeal against a court ruling that sentenced “Hotel Rwanda” hero Paul Rusesabagina to 25 years in prison on terrorism charges.

The National Public Prosecution Authority is appealing the rulings against Rusesabagina, a staunch critic of President Paul Kagame, and 20 co-defendants, spokesman Faustin Nkusi told AFP.

Rusesabagina, 67, and his fellow accused were convicted and sentenced on September 20 after a trial that rights groups and his supporters had branded a sham.

At the time, chief prosecutor Aimable Havugiyaremye told reporters the prosecution was “not happy with the verdict because all the accused got lesser sentences than what the prosecutors had prescribed.”

Prosecutors had sought a sentence of life in prison for Rusesabagina, the former hotel manager who was accused of backing a rebel group blamed for a spate of attacks in Rwanda in 2018 and 2019.

Paul Rusesabagina appears in front of media at the headquarters of the Rwanda Bureau of investigations building in Kigali, Rwanda, August 31, 2020. (AP Photo)

Fresh tension in Jerusalem as far-right MKs visit Damascus Gate

Fresh tensions are seen in the area of Jerusalem’s Old City and Damascus Gate, a day after the worst violence there in months as police and Arabs clashed.

Police are deployed in large numbers in the area as members of the far-right Religious Zionism party visit Damascus Gate in an apparent show of force following yesterday’s events.

There are reports of some new violence, and videos shared on social media show officers forcibly detaining a boy who mouthed off at a policeman.

Palestinian who threatened to harm Jews exonerated due to mental condition

A Palestinian who was indicted for threatening to harm Jews during May’s war with Gaza has been exonerated by a Tel Aviv court, with the judge citing his mental instability.

During the May conflict, Majed Alhamamda screamed at people in a Tel Aviv park that he would harm Jews.

The judge accepted the defense’s claims that Alhamamda was known to welfare and mental health authorities. “The accused is not a typical person. He’s a barefoot homeless man who hungers for bread and whose mind was addled by heroin over decades. Anyone who meets him understands immediately that he’s not normal,” the judge wrote.

American victims of 2nd Intifada want Supreme Court to review case against bank

More than 15 years have passed since the end of the Second Intifada, but some American victims of the terror attacks from that period have not given up on their legal battle to hold a British bank accountable for allegedly aiding the terrorists responsible.

A group of about 200 Americans with family members harmed in the early 2000s attacks in Israel are asking the US Supreme Court to review a decision by a federal appeals court decision from April of this year. The appeals court dismissed their suit against the bank due to lack of evidence that the bank “funded terrorist attacks or recruited persons to carry out such attacks,” or received any indication that the bank transfers were made for the purpose of terrorism.

Several Jewish organizations, including Agudath Israel, the Anti-Defamation League, Hadassah and the Orthodox Union, filed an amicus brief last week on behalf of the terror victims. Another amicus brief was filed by a group US senators from both parties, including Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, Marco Rubio and Joni Ernst.

The group originally sued the National Westminster Bank, part of the Royal Bank of Scotland, in 2005 over claims that a charity called Interpal, which held accounts at the bank, was acting as a fundraising arm for Hamas.

Top US official raised Israel normalization with Saudi crown prince — report

The American national security adviser raised the issue of normalization with Israel during a September meeting with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman, Axios reports.

Citing US and Arab sources, the website reports that bin Salman did not reject Jake Sullivan’s overtures, though he said various steps would be necessary first, including some relating to improvements to US-Saudi relations. He also stressed that such normalization would take time.

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan listens to a question during a press conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on August 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images/AFP)

Medical residents leader claims victory: ‘We’ve put an end to 26-hour shifts’

As medical residents and interns end their protest and return to work, they are claiming victory following talks with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz.

“Our justified fight has succeeded. We can say with certainty that we’ve put an end to 26-hour shifts,” says Dr. Ray Bitton, head of residents organization Mirsham.

“The residents won and the public won, because it will not be treated by tired doctors on the 25th hour of their shift. We will all get better medical treatment. This is a historic change that will affect thousands of interns and hundreds of thousands of patients.”

File: Medical interns demonstrate for better work conditions in Tel Aviv on October 9, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Under the new proposal announced by Horowitz, shifts will be shortened in March from 26 to 18 hours at 10 hospitals in outlying areas. Shifts will then be cut at numerous departments at two yet-to-be-determined hospitals in the center of the country in November 2022. Shifts will then be gradually cut at other departments and hospitals, with the aim of having all medical interns work 18-hour shifts by the end of 2025.

Putin keeps Russian workers home for a week as deaths soar

Russian President Vladimir Putin backs the Cabinet’s proposal to declare a non-working week and keep Russian workers away from their offices as coronavirus deaths surge to another daily record.

The government task force reported 1,028 coronavirus deaths over the past 24 hours, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. That brought Russia’s total death toll to 226,353 which is by far the highest in Europe.

Putin says he supports the Cabinet’s proposal to introduce a nonworking period starting Oct. 30 and extending through the following week, when four of seven days already are state holidays. He adds that in some regions where the situation is the most threatening, the non-working period could start as early as Saturday.

In some regions, mounting infections forced authorities to suspend medical assistance to the population as health care facilities were forced to focus on treating coronavirus patients.

A tourist wearing a face mask walks along Red Square in central Moscow on October 20, 2021 (Alexander NEMENOV / AFP)

UK fines Facebook $69.4 million for failing to supply data

Britain’s competition watchdog fines Facebook 50.5 million pounds ($69.4 million) for violating rules during the UK investigation into the social media giant’s purchase of Giphy.

The Competition and Markets Authority says Facebook failed to provide required information during the probe. It says it gave the platform multiple warnings and “considers that Facebook’s failure to comply was deliberate.″

The authority says it is the first time a company has been found to breach a so-called initial enforcement order by consciously refusing to report required information. Such orders are standard practice at the start of an investigation into a completed merger and are meant to prevent companies from further integrating while the probe takes place.

The company was fined 50 million pounds for breaching the order, and another 500,000 pounds for changing its chief compliance officer twice without consent.

A Facebook App logo displayed on a smartphone in Los Angeles, March 1, 2021. (Chris Delmas/AFP/File)

President announces formation of Israeli Climate Forum to address warming crisis

President Isaac Herzog announces the establishment of the Israeli Climate Forum, which his office says “will lead deliberations about the climate crisis and the State of Israel’s role in the fight against it.”

The group will bring together representatives from various authorities and meet several times a year. It will be led by former MK Dov Khenin (Joint List).

“The establishment of the Israeli Climate Forum will underscore the State of Israel’s commitment to stand at the forefront of the global debate about the climate crisis, raise awareness among all parts of Israel’s leadership about the crisis and its severity, promote collaboration between government ministries involved in the matter together with different groups and sectors in Israeli society, and will promote regional and international collaboration to push for a response to the climate crisis,” the President’s Office says.

President Isaac Herzog speaks at the Jerusalem Post conference in Jerusalem, October 12, 2021 (Kobi Gideon, GPO)

Police raid call center for suspected online investment fraud, detain 15

This morning police raided a call center in Petah Tikva and detained 15 individuals suspected of online investment fraud against citizens of Germany.

The raids were carried out at the request of German police, police say in a statement.

After questioning all 15 suspects, police released all but four, who will be brought to Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court today for a remand hearing.

The suspects are part of a group of Israelis who allegedly established call centers in Israel and other countries, police say. They allegedly persuaded investors to invest money in forex and other financial instruments until investors discovered that the investments had been fictitious and that their money was gone.

During this morning’s raid at the Petah Tikva call center, police seized computers, cellphones, documents and cash. Police also froze about NIS 1.2 million in cash in various bank accounts.

15-year-old stabbed, moderately wounded in the northern town of Tur’an

A 15-year-old boy has been stabbed and moderately wounded outside a school in the northern Arab town of Tur’an.

He was assaulted by two masked people who fled the scene. Two 17-year-olds have been arrested on suspicion of involvement.

It is not immediately clear what led to the attack.

Wife of UK-Iranian charged with spying for Israel urges London to ‘pay debt’

The wife of a British-Iranian man being held in Tehran urges the government in London to “pay their debt” and secure his release after his latest appeals were turned down.

Anoosheh Ashoori, a 67-year-old retired engineer from south London, was arrested in August 2017 while visiting his mother and jailed for 10 years on charges of spying for Israel.

His wife Sherry Izadi says she has been told by the British government that his detention is related to a British debt of £400 million ($550 million) owed to Iran.

Tehran told Ashoori’s family on Saturday that the Supreme Court appeal against his conviction had been rejected, as had his application for conditional release, which he was eligible for having served a third of his sentence.

“We thought there may be a small chance, so that was a bigger blow,” Sherry Izadi said of the decision not to grant him conditional release.

“He’s a good prisoner, he’s not a murderer, he’s not a rapist, he’s just an innocent man in prison,” she told AFP.

India invites PM Bennett for first state visit

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invited Israel’s premier Naftali Bennett for his first state visit to the Asian nation.

The invitation is made during a meeting between Bennett and India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, who is currently in Jerusalem.

Queen Elizabeth II ‘advised to rest’ on medical grounds

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II has canceled a planned trip to Northern Ireland on medical grounds, Buckingham Palace says.

Royal officials say in a statement that the 95-year-old monarch “has reluctantly accepted medical advice to rest for the next few days.”

Britain’s domestic Press Association news agency says the decision is understood not to be related to coronavirus and that she is resting at Windsor Castle, west of London.

She is also expected to attend events at the upcoming UN climate change summit in Glasgow next month, it adds.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II visits the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down, England, October 15, 2020. (Ben Stansall/ Pool via AP)

Israel allows 3,000 more entry permits for Gaza merchants

Israeli authorities raise the quota of permits for Gazan traders to enter Israel by an additional 3,000 to a total of 10,000, in the latest easing of Israeli restrictions on the coastal enclave.

“The decision to increase the quota of merchants was made by the political echelon following a security assessment on the matter,” says Israel’s liaison to the Palestinians, widely known by its acronym COGAT.

Israel and Egypt have placed tight controls on movement in and out of Gaza for nearly a decade and a half. Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent an even greater threat from Gaza’s Hamas rulers, while human rights groups lament its impact on Palestinian civilians in the impoverished enclave.

Earlier this month, rumors that Israel intended to issue work permits to Gazans brought crowds of tens of thousands seeking to apply. The trading permits are intended for Gaza merchants to buy and sell their wares, although nonprofit watchdogs contend that some passes have been issued to day laborers.

Illustrative: Palestinians are seen on the Israeli side of the Erez Crossing near the border with the Gaza Strip on September 3, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
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