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Defense official: Evidence tying 6 Palestinian groups to terror is ‘ironclad’

After international backlash against Israel’s blacklisting of civil society organizations, Shin Bet and Foreign Ministry envoys to travel to US to present ‘unequivocal’ info

Palestinian employees at the offices of Addameer in the West Bank city of Ramallah, after IDF forces raided 3 Palestinian NGOs, on December 11, 2012. (Issam Rimawi/FLASH90)
Palestinian employees at the offices of Addameer in the West Bank city of Ramallah, after IDF forces raided 3 Palestinian NGOs, on December 11, 2012. (Issam Rimawi/FLASH90)

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

Jordan condemns new settlement homes, says move ‘undermines’ peace efforts

Jordan’s foreign ministry strongly condemns Israel’s announcement of 1,300 new homes in West Bank settlements, arguing that the move violates international law.

“This is an illegal policy that undermines efforts to achieve a two-state solution and any step toward peace,” the ministry says.

Israel to get 6 million Pfizer vaccines in January to for kids aged 5-11: report

Israel will get a shipment of 6 million Pfizer vaccines in early January to help a campaign to vaccinate children aged 5-11 that is expected to kick off in the coming weeks after the FDA approves it, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

Kan says Israel currently has enough doses to start the vaccination drive, and that the new shipment will help expand it and also give booster shots to teens aged 12-15, who will become eligible for their third dose mid-January.

Israel okays $9 billion plan to fight gaps between Jewish and Arab citizens

The government approves a far-reaching plan that allocates NIS 30 billion ($9.4 billion) over five years to fight persistent gaps between Arab and Jewish Israelis.

Now passed by the cabinet, the proposal will head to the Knesset, where it is set to be passed alongside the state budget next month.

The plan includes NIS 9.6 billion (nearly $3 billion) to improve education in Arab cities and towns; NIS 5.2 billion ($1.6 billion) for Bedouin Arabs in the southern Negev desert; NIS 650 million ($202.7 million) to bridge health gaps between Arabs and Jews; NIS 2 billion (some $624 million) to improve Arab communities’ crumbling infrastructure, and more.

Passing such a plan was a key campaign promise of the Islamist Ra’am party, the first Arab Israeli faction to sit in the coalition in decades.

Minister says widescale operation needed to stem ‘national threat’ of Arab crime

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev during a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting, at the Knesset in Jerusalem on September 13, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev during a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting, at the Knesset in Jerusalem on September 13, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev calls on Israel to take urgent action against the crime epidemic in the Arab community, likening the situation to rampant Palestinian terror attacks that prompted Israel in 2002 to launch a widescale operation to stop them.

“This is a national threat to the State of Israel,” Barlev says in a phone briefing with reporters. “The crime organizations don’t just rule the streets… they control bidding for public projects and have taken over hundreds of millions of shekels in public funds, they threaten some Arab mayors and have even taken over bidding on national contracts.”

“We’ve reached the 11th hour,” he warns. “In 2002, Israel reached a consensus after harsh terror events to launch Operation Defensive Shield, we must also launch a mission to stop this downward spiral.

“The prime minister said that he understands this, and that if additional budgets are needed… the budget will not be an issue,” Barlev says.

Security official: Evidence tying 6 Palestinian groups to terror is ‘ironclad’

A senior security official tells reporters in a briefing that the intelligence connecting six prominent Palestinian civil society organizations to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group is “ironclad.”

The official says the material includes “unequivocal evidence that includes video footage, photos, payment receipts that tie the said groups to backing of terror activity.”

Envoys from the Shin Bet and the Foreign Ministry will be sent to the United States with “unequivocal” information proving the groups’ terror ties, the security official says.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price has said that Israel did not warn Washington of the move. Israeli officials, speaking anonymously, deny the charge.

Serious COVID cases drop under 300 for first time in nearly 3 months

The number of serious COVID-19 cases drops under 300 for the first time since August 6, as the downward trend continues after the country’s fourth wave.

Health Ministry figures show there are 284 serious cases, including 148 on ventilators.

Active cases are also rapidly dropping, standing at 11,977 after passing 90,000 in early September.

Since midnight, 423 new cases have been identified in the country.

The death toll has increased by three since this morning, reaching 8,049.

Former IDF general: May bombing of Gaza media building was an ‘own goal’

The building housing the offices of The Associated Press and other media in Gaza City collapses after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike, May 15, 2021. (Hatem Moussa/ AP)
The building housing the offices of The Associated Press and other media in Gaza City collapses after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike, May 15, 2021. (Hatem Moussa/ AP)

A former Israeli general says the military’s bombing of a tower in Gaza Strip during May’s conflict that housed The Associated Press amounted to an “own goal,” causing more damage to Israel’s image than it provided operational benefit.

“Bringing down the tower with the AP offices was equivalent to a ‘public relations terror attack’ and an own-goal. The operational benefit was not worth the damage that it caused diplomatically and in terms of perception,” Maj. Gen. (res.) Nitzan Alon says.

Alon, who led the military’s investigation into the public relations-related issues connected to May’s conflict, known in Israel as Operation Guardian of the Walls, makes his comments at a conference hosted by Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies.

He is referring to a strike on the 12-story Al-Jalaa tower in Gaza City during the conflict, which sparked immediate criticism from around the world, including from American lawmakers who have long been staunch advocates for Israel. Israel claimed the tower was used by Hamas and was used by the group to set up equipment to block GPS signals in a goal of interfering with the military’s Iron Dome missile defense system, which Israel was using to intercept the rockets, mortar shells and drones being launched from Gaza during the conflict.

Meretz decries ‘unilateral steps’ on Palestinians, says they undermine the gov’t

The management of the left-wing Meretz coalition party publishes a statement voicing “concern about a series of unilateral steps taken by government ministers regarding policies toward the Palestinians in the territories and settlement expansion.”

The statement says that “these steps endanger the future of the State of Israel and its diplomatic horizon, and they undermine the basis on which the change government was established.”

The right-center-left government formed in June was nicknamed the “change government” since it ousted Benjamin Netanyahu from power and pledged to change the political discourse and only advance moves agreed upon by all coalition parties.

The statement refers to Friday’s blacklisting of prominent Palestinian rights groups as terror organizations, as well as today’s announcement of 1,300 new homes in West Bank settlements.

Hasan Abu Ghariba named as psychiatrist accused of sexual crimes against patient

A court okays for publication the identity of a psychiatrist arrested earlier this month on suspicion of sexual misconduct against a patient.

Hasan Abu Ghariba, 32, from the Bedouin town of Laqiya in southern Israel, is accused by a young woman of committing serious sexual crimes against her as part of the treatment at a Beersheba facility.

His remand in custody has been extended several times.

Husband of detained Iranian-British woman Zaghari-Ratcliffe goes on hunger strike

Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of imprisoned British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and their seven year old daughter Gabriella pose for the media backdropped by the scaffolded Houses of Parliament and the Elizabeth Tower, known as Big Ben, in Parliament Square, London, to mark the 2,000 days she has been detained in Iran, September 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of imprisoned British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and their seven year old daughter Gabriella pose for the media backdropped by the scaffolded Houses of Parliament and the Elizabeth Tower, known as Big Ben, in Parliament Square, London, to mark the 2,000 days she has been detained in Iran, September 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

The husband of UK charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been detained for more than five years in Iran, has gone on a hunger strike again after a court decided she has to spend another year in prison.

Richard Ratcliffe starts his fast outside the British government’s Foreign Office in central London.

He plans to maintain a “constant vigil” by sleeping in a tent outside the building’s main entrance in an effort to pressure Prime Minister Boris Johnson to secure the release of his wife and other detained dual British-Iranian nationals, Amnesty International says.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe served five years in prison after being taken into custody at Tehran’s airport in April 2016 and convicted of plotting the overthrow of Iran’s government, a charge that she, her supporters and rights groups deny.

In May, she was sentenced to an additional year in prison on charges of spreading “propaganda against the system” for having participated in a protest outside the Iranian Embassy in London in 2009 — a decision upheld this month by an appeals court. The verdict includes a one-year travel ban, meaning she wouldn’t be able to leave Iran until 2023.

Ratcliffe went on a 15-day hunger strike two years ago outside the Iranian Embassy, a move he credits with getting their 7-year-old daughter Gabriella released.

“We are now giving the UK government the same treatment. In truth, I never expected to have to do a hunger strike twice. It is not a normal act,” Ratcliffe says on his change.org petition.

He says Iran remains the “primary abuser” in Nazanin’s case, but the “UK is also letting us down. It is increasingly clear that Nazanin’s case could have been solved many months ago – but for other diplomatic agendas. The PM needs to take responsibility for that.”

Elkin on Meretz rebuke of settler homes: I didn’t stop them from meeting Abbas

New Hope Minister Ze'ev Elkin in the Knesset on June 28, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
New Hope Minister Ze'ev Elkin in the Knesset on June 28, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Construction Minister Ze’ev Elkin of the right-wing New Hope party rejects criticism voiced by the left-wing Meretz coalition party over his decision to okay the construction of 1,300 new West Bank settlement homes.

“About 10% of Israeli citizens live beyond the Green Line. They also deserve apartments and that’s natural,” Elkin tells Channel 13 news.

“I am not imposing on Meretz people whether they go to meet [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] or not; I would behave differently. So they will of course not impose [their opinion] on me and force me to freeze construction in Judea and Samaria,” he says, using the biblical name of the West Bank.

Several Meretz members have been holding meetings with Abbas in Ramallah, drawing the ire of right-wing coalition members.

The tiff comes as Prime Minister Bennett has urged unity within the coalition ahead of the passage of the state budget, asking members to avoid public disagreements and controversial moves.

5 suspects in cold case murders remanded for 5 more days

Jerusalem District Police say five suspects in the suspected murder of a teenage boy and the unsolved murder of a man in the 1980s and 1990s have again been remanded in custody.

The suspects, connected to the extremist ultra-Orthodox Shuvu Bonim sect, will remain in custody for an additional five days.

2 new Border Police companies to help curb crime in Arab community

The Border Police says two companies have been recruited to aid efforts to curb a wave of violent crime in Israel’s Arab community.

The dozens of new officers will operate in southern Israel to “increase deterrence and governance” starting Thursday.

Saudi-led coalition says it has killed over 260 Houthi rebels in Yemen

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen says it has killed more than 260 Houthi rebels in the past three days near the strategic city of Marib.

“Thirty-six military vehicles were destroyed and more than 264” rebel fighters were killed in strikes in the past 72 hours in Al-Jawba, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Marib, and Al-Kassara, 30 kilometers northwest, the coalition says, cited by the Saudi Press Agency.

The Iran-backed Houthis rarely comment on losses, and AFP cannot independently verify the toll.

9 vultures found dead in Judean desert; authorities suspect malicious poisoning

Nine dead vultures are found in the Judean Desert, in what the Israel Nature and Parks Authority suspects is a case of malicious poisoning.

The corpses are located in the area of the Kina and Kamrir streambeds after suspicious information was received from transmitters attached to the birds.

Next to them is a dead goat, which had apparently been poisoned and was being eaten by the vultures.

All the corpses are being taken to the veterinary institute at Beit Dagan in central Israel for further examination, while Nature and Parks Authority inspectors continue to roam the area as far as Sde Boker and Hamakhtesh Hakatan (The Small Crater) with a special sniffer dog.

Finding of an investigation will be relayed to the Israel Police.

The incident is a blow to Israel’s already endangered vulture population.

Deputy defense minister cautiously says some headway made on Hamas prisoner swap

Deputy Defense Minister Alon Schuster March 19, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)
Deputy Defense Minister Alon Schuster March 19, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

Deputy Defense Minister Alon Schuster says Israel and Hamas are making certain progress in negotiations for a prisoner swap deal, but cautions that “everything is possible.”

Israel has been in talks about freeing some Palestinian security prisoners in exchange for Israeli civilians and bodies of IDF soldiers believed to be held by the terror group in Gaza.

“The Middle East is a tricky entity. We are nearing something; I hope the lights we see are the end of the tunnel rather than a train coming our direction,” Schuster tells Channel 13 news.

“Everything is possible, we’re working tirelessly,” he says. “I don’t want to send out positive vibes when I know how sensitive the reality is. We are doing all we can to resolve the issue.”

Israel announces it will advance approval for over 1,300 settlement homes

Construction work is seen in the West Bank settlement of Yakir, on June 11, 2020. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)
Construction work is seen in the West Bank settlement of Yakir, on June 11, 2020. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

Construction Minister Ze’ev Elkin announces the advancement of the construction of more than 1,300 homes in West Bank settlements, the first declaration of its kind since US President Joe Biden took office in January.

The development comes after Hebrew media reported last week that over 3,000 settlement homes will be advanced this week alongside some 1,300 Palestinian homes in the West Bank’s Area C.

MK Mossi Raz of the left-wing coalition party Meretz criticizes the declaration, saying that “building in settlements outside of Israel harms Israel.”

Iran’s supreme leader urges reversal of Arab states’ normalization with Israel

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during a video conference with a group of university students, in Tehran, Iran, on May 11, 2021. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during a video conference with a group of university students, in Tehran, Iran, on May 11, 2021. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Arab nations that normalized ties with Israel last year have “sinned” and should reverse those moves, Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei says.

The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco all said in 2020 they would normalize ties with Israel, as Washington under the administration of then-US president Donald Trump made Arab-Israeli rapprochement a foreign policy priority.

“Some governments have unfortunately made errors — have made big errors and have sinned in normalizing (their relations) with the usurping and oppressive Zionist regime,” Khamenei says, referring to Israel.

“It is an act against Islamic unity, they must return from this path and make up for this big mistake,” Khamenei adds, in a speech marking a public holiday honoring the birth of the Prophet Mohammed.

“If the unity of Muslims is achieved, the Palestinian question would definitely be resolved in the best fashion,” Khamenei says.

In May, Khamenei characterized Israel as a “terrorist base” and “not a country.”

PA chief meets Qatari envoy to Gaza amid efforts to stabilize Israel-Hamas truce

The Qatari envoy to the Gaza Strip, Mohammed al-Emadi, speaks during an interview in his office with AFP in Gaza City on August 24, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
The Qatari envoy to the Gaza Strip, Mohammed al-Emadi, speaks during an interview in his office with AFP in Gaza City on August 24, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Qatar’s envoy to the Gaza Strip, Mohammed al-Emadi.

“[They discussed] the latest developments throughout the meeting,” Abbas’s office says in a laconic statement.

Al-Emadi is highly involved in efforts to stabilize the fragile ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas terror group following an 11-day military escalation in May.

The Qatari diplomat is currently seeking to find an agreement to channel Qatari funding for Hamas civil servants in Gaza into the coastal enclave. A previous framework would have funded the salaries through Palestinian banks, but they eventually withdrew from the deal, fearing international sanctions.

Israel okays $4.8 billion plan to deal with climate crisis

The government approves a NIS 15.5 billion ($4.8 billion) plan to deal with the climate crisis.

The program, passed a week before a major climate summit in Glasgow, spans 14 ministries and will implement the Environmental Protection Ministry’s strategy to reduce carbon emissions.

The plan includes incentives for developing innovative technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, preparation for the ramifications of climate change, improvement of the treatment of organic waste, and funds for switching public transportation to electric vehicles and improving bicycle infrastructure.

UN official: Israel’s ban on 6 Palestinian groups shows its terror laws ‘flawed’

Clement Voule, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of association, says he’s “outraged” by Israel’s designation of six Palestinian rights groups as terror organizations, adding that Israel’s terrorism laws are “flawed.”

Israel claims the targeted groups were a front for a small PLO faction with a violent history, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Israel, Germany agree NIS 20 million to be added to Holocaust survivors’ stipends

The governments of Israel and Germany agree that Berlin will allocate an extra NIS 20 million ($6.25 million) per year to add to the monthly stipends some 3,700 Holocaust survivors receive from Germany.

This will increase each stipend by 100 euros per month.

Those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease will get an annual payment of 500 euros in addition to the monthly stipends.

Gantz takes off for a 4-day security visit to an unnamed foreign country

Defense Minister Benny Gantz attends a conference for retired Israelis in the Eshkol region, on July 13, 2021. (Flash90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz attends a conference for retired Israelis in the Eshkol region, on July 13, 2021. (Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz is scheduled to take off today from Israel for an official visit to a foreign country, his office says.

The name of the country is barred from publication until his return, the ministry says.

His office says the trip will be focused on security issues.

Gantz is expected to land back in Israel on Thursday afternoon.

Top Iran official says if Israel attacks, response will cost trillions to repair

Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani in Tehran, Iran, January 17, 2017. (Ebrahim Noroozi/ AP/ File)
Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani in Tehran, Iran, January 17, 2017. (Ebrahim Noroozi/ AP/ File)

One of Iran’s most senior leaders threatens that if Israel attacks, Tehran’s response will require the Jewish state to spend “tens of thousands of billion dollars” to reconstruct the country.

Tweeting in English, Hebrew, Arabic and Persian, Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, comments on reports last week that Israel has approved a budget of some NIS 5 billion ($1.5 billion) to be used to prepare the military for a potential strike against Iran’s nuclear program.

“Instead of allocating 1.5 billion dollars budget for atrocities against #Iran, the Zionist regime should focus on providing tens of thousands of billion dollars funding to repair the damage that is going to be caused by Iran’s shocking response,” says Shamkhani in his English tweet.

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