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Cabinet said to mull Gaza cease fire that’ll see Qatar fund PA salaries in Strip

Precondition for deal will be cessation of weekly border protests, but Israel expects Abbas to respond to Egyptian-mediated agreement by cutting all funds to strip

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Israeli soldiers taking positions during clashes with Palestinian protesters across the Gaza border on October 19, 2018 near Nahal Oz. (Jack Guez/AFP)
Israeli soldiers taking positions during clashes with Palestinian protesters across the Gaza border on October 19, 2018 near Nahal Oz. (Jack Guez/AFP)

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

Liberman on Gaza: We’ve exhausted all options; time for the army to go in

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman says Israel has exhausted all diplomacy efforts to reach an agreement with Hamas to end months of violence along the border with the Gaza Strip and that the time has come for the cabinet to reach a decision regarding a military option.

Speaking at the start of a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting, Liberman asserts that “we have exhausted all of the options. At the moment it is time to make decisions.”

“My position is very clear. we need to give Hamas a strong blow and that is the only way to get the situation back as it was before and to lower the level of violence to zero, or to nearly zero, or to the level it was on March 29,” the day before the violent March of Return demonstrations started.

The defense minister says such a decision can only be made by the cabinet, and not just himself or the prime minister.

Calls made to Saudi prince’s office day writer slain — report

A member of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s entourage made four calls to the royal’s office from the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul the day Jamal Khashoggi was killed there, a pro-government Turkish newspaper reports.

The report comes just a day before Prince Mohammed’s high-profile investment summit is to begin in Riyadh and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promises that details of Khashoggi’s killing “will be revealed in all its nakedness.”

That yet again adds to the pressure Saudi Arabia faces over the slaying of the Washington Post columnist. The kingdom’s claim on Saturday that Khashoggi died in a “fistfight” met international skepticism and allegations of a cover-up to absolve the 33-year-old crown prince of direct responsibility.

Turkish media reports and officials maintain that a 15-member Saudi team flew to Istanbul on October 2, knowing Khashoggi would arrive for a document he needed to get married. Once he was inside the diplomatic mission, the Saudis accosted Khashoggi, cut off his fingers, then killed and dismembered the 59-year-old writer.

Today’s report by Yeni Safak says Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a member of Prince Mohammed’s entourage on trips to the United States, France and Spain this year, made the calls from the consulate. The newspaper says the four calls went to Bader al-Asaker, the head of Prince Mohammed’s office. It said another call went to the United States.

Yeni Safak cites no source for the information. However, pro-government newspapers have been leaking information about Khashoggi’s killing, apparently with the help of Turkish security forces. Yeni Safak reported last week that Saudi officials cut off Khashoggi’s fingers and then decapitated him at the consulate as his fiancée waited outside.

Officials in Saudi Arabia have not answered repeated requests for comment from The Associated Press in recent days, including on Monday. Saudi Arabia so far has not acknowledged or explained Mutreb’s presence in Istanbul — nor that a forensics and autopsy expert was also on hand for Khashoggi’s arrival at the consulate.

— AP

Putin spokesman: Russia ‘will never attack anyone first’

Russia would never strike first even if threatened with a nuclear attack, the Kremlin spokesman says, following President Vladimir Putin’s remarks that Russians would “go to heaven” as martyrs in case of a nuclear war.

“We will never attack anyone first,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov tells journalists. “We don’t feel that we have the right to inflict the first strike.”

Hamas leaders meet with Egyptian intelligence officials to discuss ceasefire with Israel

Hamas politburo chairman Ismail Haniyeh and Hamas chief in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar meet two Egyptian intelligence officials in the coastal enclave.

Haniyeh, Sinwar and the Egyptian officials were expected to discuss intra-Palestinian reconciliation and a possible ceasefire between armed groups in Gaza and Israel, the Hamas-linked al-Rai reports.

— Adam Rasgon

Authorities pack up tents and supplies at Khan al-Ahmar relocation site

Israeli authorities pack up tents, water tanks and other supplies that had been installed at Jabal West, the relocation site where the government hopes to place the residents of Khan al-Ahmar after razing the West Bank hamlet.

The supplies have been at the site adjacent to the Abu Dis garbage dump for several weeks in anticipation of the demolition which could have taken place as early as October 1.

Yesterday, the cabinet approved a several-week delay of the razing to give another opportunity for the state to reach an agreement with the residents for a voluntary evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar. However, the attorney representing the Bedouin village tells The Times of Israel that nobody from the government has reached out in the past 24 hours.

In veiled attack on PM, Gabbay slams ‘those who cannot mourn’ Rabin murder

Zionist Union and Labor party chair Avi Gabbay slams “those who cannot mourn” the assassination of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, in comments apparently directed at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a day after he clashed with the slain premier’s granddaughter at a memorial service marking his murder.

“The murder was political. This we will continue to say without stammering and without apologizing,” Gabbay tells his faction meeting in the Knesset.

Netanyahu used his speech at the Knesset memorial ceremony for Yitzhak Rabin on Sunday to hit back at claims made by Noa Rothberg earlier in the day that an official in the current Prime Minister’s Office had branded her grandfather a “traitor.”

“This is unfortunately an example of how sometimes, during the discourse on fighting incitement and moderation speech, baseless claims are made, not only against me but an entire community, that have no basis in reality,” Netanyahu said, rebuffing long-made allegations that he contributed to the incendiary political climate that led to the 1995 murder.

— Raoul Wootliff

IDF: Hezbollah conducting clandestine activity under guise of environmental NGO

The Israeli military again accuses the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist group of conducting clandestine activities along the border with Israel under the guise of an environmental group, known as “Green Without Borders.”

The Israel Defense Forces made a similar claim in June 2017, identifying five observation posts owned by the non-governmental organization, which the army said were actually being used to carry out intelligence and reconnaissance work for the Iran-backed terror group.

“Now we are revealing a new position,” says a senior official from the IDF Northern Command.

The alleged Hezbollah observation post is located in the Lebanese town of Aadaysit Marjaayoun, across the border from the Israeli community of Misgav Am, according to the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The officer says the military believed that Hezbollah was using the site to gather intelligence in order prepare to commit attacks against

The senior official says the IDF had already notified the peacekeeping United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) about the site and hoped it would inspect the observation post.

According to the IDF, this alleged Hezbollah position represents a violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 second Lebanon war.

The resolution calls for armed groups besides the official Lebanese military to remain north of the country’s Litani River.

However, the official acknowledges that the IDF has not seen any arms inside the observation post, “at least not visible arms.”

Despite Resolution 1701 referring specifically to “armed forces,” the IDF officer says Hezbollah’s actions in the area still represented a violation as they amounted to forbidden military activities.

— Judah Ari Gross

Lapid lambastes Netanyahu for calling heckler ‘boring’

Yesh Atid chair Yair Lapid slams Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his comments last week to a heckler who he said was “boring.”

“The State of Israel has serious problems and a prime minister who has lost patience to deal with them,” Lapid tells his faction meeting at the Knesset.

Highlighting the fact that life expectancy in Israel’s “periphery” is three years less than in the center of the country, Lapid says that Netanyahu prefers to attack citizens with real complaints rather than deal with them.

“It is time for the government to work hard and seriously deal with the real problems of the citizens of the State of Israel,” Lapid concludes.

— Raoul Wootliff

Likud cancels its weekly faction meeting at which PM was due to speak

The Likud party cancels its weekly faction meeting at the Knesset which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to speak at.

The party gave no reason for the cancelation but party sources said it was because coalition chairman David Amsalem was unavailable to attend.

The last time the faction meeting was canceled, in June, it later came out that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been secretly visiting Jordan to meet with King Abdullah II.

— Raoul Wootliff

Firefighters extinguish three blazes caused by incendiary balloons in southern Israel

Since this morning, firefighters have worked to extinguish three blazes caused by incendiary balloons near Israeli towns along the Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the Israeli Fire and Rescue Services says.

Army files indictment against Palestinian teen who killed Ari Fuld

Israel files an indictment against the Palestinian teen who stabbed to death Israeli father of four Ari Fuld in a West Bank military court, the army says.

Halil Jabarin is being charged with intentionally causing death — the military court’s equivalent of murder — along with a number of lesser charges.

The 16-year-old Jabarin has been in custody since the terror attack, in which he stabbed to Fuld repeatedly outside a supermarket in the central West Bank’s Gush Etzion Junction before he was shot and arrested.

— Judah Ari Gross

State prosecutors admit losing original video of anti-Arab ‘hate wedding’

During a court hearing Monday for the trial of several Jewish suspects accused of celebrating the murder of Palestinians while attending a wedding in December 2015, state prosecutors admit they lost the original video from the event.

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court session had been listening to defense counsel examinations on the admissibility of evidence when the blunder came to light.

Prosecutors say the flash drive containing the video of the wedding was no longer with the rest of the evidence.

Honenu, a group which provides legal aid to far-right Jewish activists, says in a joint statement by defense attorneys that the development could undermine the entire trial and prevent further proceedings.

Chinese vice president lands in Israel for talks on economic cooperation

Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan lands in Israel for a series of high-level talks on economic cooperation.

He is welcomed at the airport by Water and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz.

He is scheduled to meet PM Netanyahu later tonight.

He is being accompanied by two ministers and 12 deputy ministers, the Foreign Ministry says.

— Raphael Ahren

Khashoggi ‘body double’ left consulate after killing – reports

A man appearing to wear Jamal Khashoggi’s clothes left the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul following his killing there, according to a surveillance video, while a member of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s entourage made four calls to the royal’s office around the same time, reports say.

The reports by CNN and a pro-government Turkish newspaper come just a day before Prince Mohammed’s high-profile investment summit is to begin in Riyadh and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised that details of Khashoggi’s killing “will be revealed in all its nakedness.”

That yet again adds to the pressure Saudi Arabia faces over the slaying of the Washington Post columnist. The kingdom’s claim on Saturday that Khashoggi died in a “fistfight” met international skepticism and allegations of a cover-up to absolve the 33-year-old crown prince of direct responsibility.

CNN airs surveillance footage showing the man in Khashoggi’s dress shirt, suit jacket and pants. It cited a Turkish official as describing the man as a “body double” and a member of the Saudi team sent to Istanbul to target the writer. The man is seen in the footage walking out of the consulate via its back exit with an accomplice, then taking a taxi to Istanbul’s famed Sultan Ahmed Mosque, where he went into a public bathroom, changed back out of the clothes and left.

The state-run broadcaster TRT also reports that a man who entered the consulate building was seen leaving the building in Khashoggi’s clothes.

In the days after Khashoggi vanished, Saudi officials initially said that he had left the consulate, implying premeditation on the part of the Saudi team.

— AP

Rivlin opens President’s Residence to public

President Reuven Rivlin inaugurates a new visitors center at his Jerusalem residence which will be open to the entire Israeli public.

“The President’s Residence is the home of all Israelis. Not of the majority, but of the whole people. The gates of the President’s Residence were not built to keep Israeli society out, but rather to give them a dignified entry to their own home,” he says.

“This house, when it was built in the past and now in the present, embodies a commitment that Israeli society should visit, host and be hosted at the President’s Residence in a pleasant, enriching, dignified and respectful way,” he adds.

Trump: US to begin cutting aid to Central America over migrant caravan

US President Donald Trump says the United States will begin cutting aid to three Central American nations because of their governments’ failure to stop a migrant caravan headed for the US border.

In a series of tweets, Trump calls the caravan’s approach a national emergency and said he has alerted the US border patrol and military, setting the stage for a confrontation when the swelling mass of migrants reach the border.

“We will now begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid” that the United States provides to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, he says.

“Sadly, it looks like Mexico’s Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan heading to the Southern Border of the United States. Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in,” he says on Twitter.

“I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National Emergy (sic). Must change laws!”

It was unclear what formal action, if any, Trump had taken to activate the military or the border patrol.

Thousands of people seeking to escape poverty and violence in their homelands have pushed into Mexico despite efforts to hold back the migrant caravan at a bridge on the Guatemala-Mexico border.

Around 3,000 migrants reached the city of Tapachula in the Mexican state of Chiapas on Sunday after a seven-hour trek from the Guatemalan border.


Incumbent indicted for election fraud drops out of mayoral race in Emmanuel

The mayor of Emmanuel, a ultra-Orthodox settlement in the northern West Bank, has announced that he will be ending his campaign for a third term in office nearly two months after he was indicted for election fraud over his conduct during the lead-up to the vote five years ago.

Ezra Gershi says he has reached an agreement with Eliyahu Gafni to serve as his deputy mayor if the latter manages to defeat Moshe Heigel in the October 30 elections.

In August, Gershi was indicted for allegedly bribing local members of the Chabad Hasidic movement and illegally influencing the outcome of the 2013 municipal elections.

According to the charge sheet, Gershi made unlawful commitments to local Chabad members to secure their votes in the 2013 election in Emmanuel, which he eventually won.

The outgoing mayor allegedly agreed with Chabad leadership in the settlement that he would hand over the town’s brand new gymnasium to be turned into a yeshiva in exchange for their support.

Residents of the settlement, population 3,000, have suspected Gershi of abusing his position. There has been a video circulating over the past year in Emmanuel of what appears to be the mayor turning off the street lamps via a switch inside his house before going to bed ostensibly so that he can get a better night’s rest.

In Khan al-Ahmar tour, Likud lawmakers join right-wing NGO in calling for hamlet’s razing

Likud lawmakers Tzipi Hotovely and Yehudah Glick join the right-wing Regavim NGO in a tour overlooking Khan al-Ahmar during which they called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stand by his promise to raze the West Bank hamlet.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu said yesterday that he intends to carry out the evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar. We support his decision and ask him to stand by his word and carry out the evacuation as soon as possible,” says Hotovely.

“The evacuation of this place based on the High Court’s decision cannot be just a matter of words,” says Glick.

To be clear, the top legal body ruled that the state is allowed to demolish the Bedouin hamlet, not that it is obligated to do so.

Chinese VP visits the Western Wall and Church of the Holy Sepulchre

China’s Vice President Wang Qishan visits the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City.

In an unusual step, during his visit in East Jerusalem — which Beijing does not recognize as Israeli territory — Wang is accompanied by two senior officials from the Foreign Ministry, chief of protocol Reuven Meron and deputy director-general for Asia and the Pacific Gilad Cohen.

— Raphael Ahren

Kushner: We’re still working on gathering facts regarding Khashoggi killing

Senior adviser Jared Kushner says the Trump administration is still working on gathering facts regarding the death of Jamal Khashoggi.

“Right now as an administration we’re more in the fact-finding phase,” Kushner tells Van Jones at the Citizen by CNN conference.

“We’re getting as many facts as we can. Then we’ll determine which facts are credible.”

Kushner is seen to have a close relationship with the Saudi royal family which has been accused of having Khashoggi murdered.

Trump’s son-in-law adds that the goal is to maintain Washington’s relationship with Riyadh.

“We have to be able to work with our allies and Saudi Arabia has I think been a very strong ally in terms of pushing back on Iran’s aggression.”


UN force in Lebanon rejects IDF claims that environmental NGO is front for Hezbollah posts

The United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon rejects the Israeli military’s claim the Hezbollah terrorist group is violating UN Security Council resolution 1701.

Earlier in the day, the Israel Defense Forces accused Hezbollah of using the environmental “Green Without Borders” non-governmental organization of serving as a front for the terror group. The military said the Iran-backed Hezbollah set up observation posts along the border, posing as members of the environmental group.

UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti says the force is aware of the IDF’s claims and has inspected the areas indicated by the IDF.

“UNIFIL in cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces closely monitors all activities close to the Blue Line, including sites of the NGO,” the spokesperson says.

“UNIFIL has not observed any unauthorized armed persons at the locations or found any basis to report a violation of resolution 1701 but continues to monitor activities closely,” he says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Kushner: Reasonable Palestinian leaders will come to table upon seeing our plan

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner says that a “reasonable” Palestinian leadership will be willing to negotiate with Israel based on the Trump administration’s peace plan.

“If there’s a reasonable leadership and there’s a reasonable plan, then they’ll come to the table,” Trump’s son-in-law told CNN.

Commenting on the more aggressive approach the White House has taken in dealing with the Palestinians, Kushner says, “one thing about this file is that there are about a thousand ways to fail and what we determined early on is that if we are gonna fail we are not going to do it the same way that people have done before.”

“I think that what we’re working on will allow Israelis to have the security that they want and the Palestinian people to have the opportunity that they want.”

“I think that there’s a bigger gap between the negotiators than there is between the people,” he argues.

“The status quo between Israel and the Palestinians is not acceptable. The situation is only getting worse. At some point the leaders will have to take a bold step and make compromise. We hope to find leaderships that are ready to do so.”

Firefighters extinguish day’s fifth blaze caused by incendiary balloon in southern Israel

Since this morning, firefighters have worked to extinguish five blazes caused by incendiary balloons near Israeli towns along the Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the Israeli Fire and Rescue Services says.

Abbas meets with Omani leader to discuss regional developments

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Omani leader Sultan Qaboos bin Said meet in Muscat.

The two leaders discussed “the latest developments related to the Palestinian issue” and their countries’ bilateral ties, the official PA news site Wafa reports.

Abbas and other Palestinian officials arrived in the Omani capital yesterday.

Earlier this year, Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi visited the West Bank for three days.

Mossad chief: Counterterrorism tech has made it more difficult for us to operate

Speaking at a Finance Ministry conference, the head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency says advances in counterterrorism technology have had the secondary effect of creating new challenges for international espionage.

“Countries’ struggle against global terrorism has affected us as well,” Yossi Cohen says, explaining the move by many nations to biometric passports had complicated operations. “Everywhere we go, we have to take into account the fact that security services are getting stronger.

“For normal people, this is good,” he said, according to Reuters. “For people who don’t want it so much, the matter is of course a challenge of a different order.”

He explained: “You can imagine that a large part of the agency’s problems or challenges speak to the fact that your passport is, essentially, in your fingerprint, in your retina, or in your face…This arena, which very much affects us, has changed beyond recognition and is ballooning.”

Mnuchin to visit Saudi Arabia on Mideast tour

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who last week announced he would not attend an investment conference in Saudi Arabia, is planning on making a stop in the country to discuss efforts to combat terrorist financing.

Mnuchin confirms his visit to Riyadh during his first stop on a six-country Middle East tour in Jerusalem over the weekend. Mnuchin will spend a week in the region. In addition to Israel and Saudi Arabia, Mnuchin is scheduled to visit Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Jordan, and Kuwait.

Last Thursday, Mnuchin announced that he would not attend an investment conference scheduled to be held in Saudi Arabia from October 23 to October 25. Mnuchin’s announcement came after a White House meeting with President Donald Trump to discuss the investigation into the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.


High Court overturns disqualification of a Haifa mayoral candidate

The High Court of Justice overturns the disqualification of a Haifa mayoral candidate in the October 30 local elections, while knocking a candidate from the central ultra-Orthodox city of Elad out of the running.

Einat Kalisch Rotem had been barred from running by the Interior Ministry and the Haifa District Court last week, after her Labor party attorney submitted two candidates, including Kalisch Rotem, to the race, in violation of the election rules. The High Court on Monday evening overturned the lower court’s decision.

NATO soldier killed in Taliban-claimed attack in Afghanistan

A NATO soldier has been killed and two others have been wounded in a Taliban-claimed attack in Afghanistan, days after a US general was wounded in a shooting on a high-level security meeting.

NATO’s Resolute Support mission is not immediately releasing the nationalities of the three soldiers involved in the assault in the western province of Herat, but it is understood that they are not American.

“Initial reports indicate the attack was committed by a member of the Afghan security forces,” Resolute Support says in a statement.

In the incident’s wake, Tadeen Khan — a brother of Raziq and a member of the Afghan security forces — has been appointed acting provincial police chief, interior ministry deputy spokesman Nasrat Rahimi told AFP.

Rumors on Afghan social media networks that Resolute Support carried out the attack on Raziq were dismissed by Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on Monday, who blamed “the enemies of the Afghan people and their regional supporters” for the gossip.

“Such rumors are justifying the enemies’ atrocities,” Abdullah — Afghanistan’s equivalent of prime minister — said in comments at a regular ministerial meeting that were broadcast on Afghan television.


Trump: Close to reaching conclusion that Netanyahu not interested in peace

During a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last month, US President Donald Trump told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that he is close to reaching the conclusion that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not interested in reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians, Channel 10 reports.

During the meeting, Macron told Trump, “my impression is that Netanyahu does not really want to advance in the peace process because he likes the status quo.”

“You know, I’m very close to reaching the same conclusion,” Channel 10 quotes Trump to have responded, basing the report off four diplomatic officials with knowledge of the meeting.

“So why were you tough only with the Palestinians?” Macron is said to have responded in turn.

“I was tough with the Palestinians because they would not talk to us and it’s unacceptable,” Trump is said to have responded

“I gave (Netanyahu) a lot. I moved the embassy to Jerusalem and every year we give them $5 billion.” (The US actually gives Israel $3.8 billion annually)

“You know, I can be tough with Bibi (about my peace plan) as I was with the Palestinians.”

Cabinet said to consider Gaza cease fire that will see Qatar fund PA salaries

The cabinet has been briefed on an Egyptian-mediated agreement between Israel and Hamas that would see Qatar pay the salaries of Palestinian Authority employees in the Gaza Strip, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

A precondition for the deal will be a cessation of the weekly violent protests on the border of the coastal enclave. In turn, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman will allow Qatari-funded fuel to return to the strip.

Moreover, the report says Qatar will also fund the salaries of PA employees in Gaza that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has cut in recent months.

The cabinet is said to expect that Abbas will in turn cut the remaining salaries that he is still paying.

Kan reports that Israel plans to subsequently offset the tax revenues of the Palestinians.

Cristiano Ronaldo says he is an ‘example’ amid rape allegations

Cristiano Ronaldo states that he is an “example” in his behavior on and off the field, amid allegations of rape made against the five-time Ballon d’Or winner in the United States.

“I know I am an example, 100 percent, in the pitch and outside the pitch,” Ronaldo tells a press conference ahead of his return to Manchester United, where he spent six years as a player, with Juventus in the Champions League.


Jewish Home reintroduces Supreme Court override bill to deport migrants

The Jewish Home party introduces legislation aimed at preventing the High Court of Justice from striking down plans to deport thousands of African asylum seekers.

The bill, proposed by Jewish Home Knesset faction chairwoman MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, seeks to amend Israel’s Basic Law so as to allow African migrants to be deported under the Prevention of Infiltration Law, overriding High Court rulings that have struck down the plan as unconstitutional.

The top legal body has blocked previous government deportation plans carried out within the framework of the so-called Infiltrators Law that have either included indefinite detention of migrants or their deportation to countries deemed unsafe.

The new bill marks a less sweeping version of the supercession clause, long advocated by the some on the Israeli right that would effectively downgrade High Court decisions on the unconstitutionality of Knesset legislation to mere recommendations.

— Raoul Wootliff

Israel releases PA official on condition he remain under house arrest for week

Israeli authorities have released the Palestinian Authority’s Jerusalem Governor Adnan Ghaith from a detention center in the city, on the condition he remain under house arrest for the coming week and pays NIS 20,000 bail, the Palestinian official’s lawyer says.

Mickey Rosenfeld, an Israel Police spokesman, has confirmed that Ghaith was released, but is not responding when asked if the Palestinian official was set free on the condition he stay under house arrest and pay bail.

Israeli security forces nabbed Ghaith in Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood Saturday evening on his way out of a family member’s wedding, the Palestinian official’s brother Hani Ghaith said in a phone call earlier this week.

— Adam Rasgon

Mars likely to have enough oxygen to support life, study says

Salty water just below the surface of Mars could hold enough oxygen to support the kind of microbial life that emerged and flourished on Earth billions of years ago, researchers report.

In some locations, the amount of oxygen available could even keep alive a primitive, multicellular animal, such as a sponge, they report in the journal Nature Geosciences.

“This fully revolutionizes our understanding of the potential for life on Mars, today and in the past,” he tells AFP.

Up to now, it had been assumed that the trace amounts of oxygen on Mars were insufficient to sustain even microbial life.

“We never thought that oxygen could play a role for life on Mars due to its rarity in the atmosphere, about 0.14 percent,” Vlada Stamenkovic, a theoretical physicist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. Stamenkovic says.

By comparison, the life-giving gas makes up 21 percent of the air we breathe.

On Earth, aerobic — that is, oxygen breathing — life forms evolved together with photosynthesis, which converts CO2 into O2. The gas played a critical role in the emergence of complex life, notable after the so-called Great Oxygenation Event some 2.35 billion years ago.

But our planet also harbors microbes — at the bottom of the ocean, in boiling hotsprings — that subsist in environments deprived of oxygen.

“That’s why — whenever we thought of life on Mars — we studied the potential for anaerobic life,” Stamenkovic says.


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