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Sudanese diplomat: Apparent coup won’t dramatically affect Israel normalization

Unnamed official quoted saying arrested PM Hamdok had intended to travel to Washington soon to sign the deal; warns military takeover could eventually erode public support for move

A Sudanese demonstrator flashes the victory sign during a demonstration in the capital Khartoum, on October 25, 2021 (AFP)
A Sudanese demonstrator flashes the victory sign during a demonstration in the capital Khartoum, on October 25, 2021 (AFP)

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

Turkey’s Erdogan lifts threat to expel 10 Western ambassadors

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan steps back from a threat to expel the ambassadors of 10 Western nations over their support for a jailed activist, defusing a potential diplomatic crisis.

The envoys, including those of the US, Germany, and France, last week called for the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala, who has been in a Turkish prison for four years awaiting trial on charges many view as unfounded.

The ambassadors of the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and New Zealand also joined the appeal.

As the cabinet meeting was underway, the US embassy in Ankara tweeted that it “maintains compliance” with Article 41 of the Vienna Convention, which outlines diplomats’ duties to respect the laws of the host state and not to interfere in internal affairs. Other missions posted the same message.

State-run Anadolu news agency interpreted this as a “step back.” Citing presidency sources, it reported that the development was “received positively” by Erdogan.

“We believe that these ambassadors, who have fulfilled their commitment to Article 41 of the Vienna Convention, will now be more careful in their statements,” he says in televised remarks following a three-hour cabinet meeting in Ankara.

“Those who have shaped our country as they wished in the past panicked when Turkey made its own stand,” Erdogan asserts after the meeting.

He portrays the “outrageous” initial statement as a direct attack on Turkey’s judiciary and sovereignty. “Our intention is never to create a crisis, but to protect the dignity of our country,” the president says.

Poll: Less than half of parents of kids aged 5-11 are sure they will have them vaccinated

Ahead of the start of vaccination of kids aged 5-11 — which is reportedly expected to happen within a few weeks — a poll shows that less than half of the parents are certain that they will have their children inoculated.

A Channel 12 poll shows 48% of parents are sure their kids will be vaccinated when the move is okayed by authorities, 29% are hesitant or think they will not have their kids vaccinated, and 23% are certain they will not seek the vaccine.

EU watchdog backs Moderna booster for over-18s

The EU’s drug watchdog approves booster doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for all people aged 18 and over, amid concerns that protection levels dip after initial shots.

Spikevax is the second booster to be given the green light after Pfizer/Biontech’s vaccine, which received the green light earlier this month.

“Data showed that a third dose of Spikevax given six-to-eight months after the second dose led to a rise in antibody levels in adults whose antibody levels were waning,” the European Medicines Agency says.

Sudanese diplomat: Apparent coup won’t dramatically affect Israel normalization

A senior Sudanese diplomat is quoted by Israel’s Kan public broadcaster as saying that the country’s apparent military coup today is not expected to dramatically affect plans to normalize ties with Israel.

The report says this is because the military leaders, many of whom support the normalization efforts, have strengthened their position.

The outlet quotes the unnamed diplomat as saying Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was arrested today, had intended to soon travel to Washington to formally sign the normalization deal.

The diplomat warns, however, that in the long term, the fact that establishing ties with Israel is an idea primarily identified with the army, without civilian officials, could erode public support in Sudan for the move.

The military “made a big mistake by throwing away the partnership with the civilian officials,” the diplomat says. “They are underestimating the response of the people, which is fed up of military coups, and they may face an uprising.”

Florida to start divesting from Ben & Jerry’s parent firm over West Bank boycott

The US state of Florida is set to divest from conglomerate Unilever, over the settlement boycott announced several months ago by its subsidiary, the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company, local reports say.

The move will take effect tomorrow, three months after Governor Ron DeSantis ordered the State Board of Administration to add the London-based Unilever to its list of “scrutinized companies” that boycott Israel. This meant that starting 90 days later, if the position on Israel is not reversed — and it has not — Florida will not invest in or contract with Unilever or its subsidiaries.

Last month, Arizona became the first state to pull the trigger on divesting from Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s, in response to its settlement boycott.

Texas has officially added Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company Unilever to a list of companies that boycott Israel, a further step on the path to the state divesting some $100 million from the companies.

New Jersey has announced that it was on the path to follow suit, while New York, Illinois, Maryland, and Rhode Island have launched formal proceedings.

Two dead in bus explosion near Kampala, Uganda

At least two people have died and several others are wounded in an explosion on a bus near Kampala, police say, following a deadly attack claimed by Islamic State in the Ugandan capital.

“The death of two people has been confirmed,” Ugandan police spokesman Fred Enanga says in a statement, adding that several wounded people are being evacuated.

Opposition said to lift boycott of Knesset committees, but Likud still hesitant

The opposition decides to stop boycotting Knesset committees after the High Court rejected a petition alleging their makeup is unfair, Hebrew media reports.

The ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties have already started divvying up the committee slots allocated to them, but the main opposition party, Likud, has not yet taken that step.

IDF arrests Gazan trying to cross into Israel

The Israel Defense Forces says a Gazan man has been arrested while trying to enter Israel in the northern Strip.

The military says the suspect has not been found to be carrying any weapons. He is being questioned at the border point where he was stopped.

Sudan army kills two, wounds 80 among anti-coup protesters — medics

Sudanese soldiers have killed two people and wounded more than 80 others, seeking to stem protests against a military coup overthrowing the transition to civilian rule, medics say.

“Two people were killed in gunfire by forces of the military council coup,” says the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors, an independent union of medics.

The union says doctors have also counted “more than 80 wounded.”

Footage shows alleged settler attack on rights activists

Rabbis for Human Rights, a left-wing human rights group, says its activists were attacked by settlers while helping Palestinians harvest olives near the West Bank village of Awarta.

The group says attackers came on foot and on ATVs.

Footage published by the group shows a man shouting profanities and threats at the activists, ordering them to leave and stop filming him.

At one point he is seen — unprovoked — spraying a substance identified as pepper spray by Rabbis for Human Rights, which says one worker required medical attention.

IDF soldiers are seen observing the incident closely, at one point placing themselves between the settlers and the activists, but not taking further immediate action.

Avi Dabush, head of Rabbis for Human Rights, alleges that such attacks are committed almost daily by “Jewish terror activists,” calling for government action to stop them.

EU says it will hold nuclear talks with Iran in Brussels ‘this week’

The EU’s top negotiator will meet his counterpart from Tehran this week in Brussels for talks on restarting negotiations over Iran’s nuclear deal, a spokesman for the bloc says.

“I can confirm that a bilateral meeting with his Iranian counterpart is planned for this week,” spokesman Peter Stano tells AFP, after a tweet from Iran’s deputy foreign minister said talks would take place on Wednesday.

Bennett pans ‘populist’ opposition running ‘fake news campaign’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says his government is under a “very powerful fake [news] campaign,” calling the coalition’s formation “an extraordinarily patriotic act.”

“We don’t need to apologize to anyone for anything,” he says after months of nonstop, scathing attacks — primarily on social media — by loyalists of former premier Benjamin Netanyahu, who was ousted in June after 12 consecutive years in power.

Hosting a Yamina faction meeting, Bennett accuses the opposition of presenting “populist” law bills on “all the things they neglected and were afraid to deal with for years.”

Adds Bennett: “I understand how hard and challenging this is, mentally and personally, but I ask you to look at the reality and lift your heads from Twitter.”

Lebanese judge charges 68 people over deadly clash south of Beirut

A Lebanese judge has charged 68 people in this month’s deadly clash in Beirut that left seven people dead and dozens wounded, the state news agency reports.

The clash south of Beirut on October 14, the worst fighting in the capital in years, broke out during a Hezbollah-organized protest against the judge leading the investigation into last year’s massive Beirut port blast.

The National News Agency says Judge Fadi Akiki, a government representative at the military court, has charged the 68 people with crimes including murder, attempted murder, inciting sectarian strife, having unlicensed weapons and sabotage.

The battle went on for five hours between supporters of Lebanon’s two powerful Iran-backed Shiite armed groups, Hezbollah and Amal, and gunmen believed to be supporters of the Christian Lebanese Forces party. It took place on the line between Beirut’s Chiyah and Ain el-Rumaneh neighborhoods, the same frontline that bisected the capital into warring sections during the country’s civil war.

The NNA says 18 people are in detention while the remaining 50 remain at large. It does not give a breakdown showing to which groups the 68 belong.

US envoy says Iran talks at ‘critical phase,’ warns of ‘other tools’ if they fail

Commenting on the suspended Vienna nuclear talks, US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley says “the official reasons from Iran for why we are in this hiatus are wearing thin.”

“At the same time that they are not coming to the table and they are not prepared to discuss how we can resume mutual compliance with the JCPOA, they are taking steps to expand their nuclear program, and they are putting additional obstacles on the work of the IAEA,” he says. The JCPOA is the official name of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Malley says during the phone briefing that the US is intensifying its diplomacy and consultation with allies to coordinate how they will respond. He says that he and his team traveled to Moscow in September and to the Gulf last week to speak with concerned parties.

“All of our interlocutors – whether they’re in the region or in Europe – share deep and growing concern over the pace and direction of Iran’s nuclear progress,” he says.

He also indicates a “shared impatience” over Iran’s delay in returning to nuclear talks.

Though the preference is to find a diplomatic solution, Malley reiterates that the US will use “other tools” to stop Iran from achieving nuclear weapons if the Vienna talks fail.

“We are in a critical phase of the efforts to see whether we can revive the JCPOA,” he emphasizes.

Iran court ridiculed for sentencing man to jail, lashes for stealing cashews

An Iranian court has sentenced a man to 10 months in prison and 40 lashes for stealing three packs of cashews, Fars news agency reports.

The conservative news agency describes the verdict as surprising and points to the “disproportion between the sentence and the crime committed.”

It calls on the judiciary to “explain or correct” the ruling against the 45-year-old father of three.

The judiciary’s Mizan Online agency announces the formation of a “special commission” in Qom province to study the issue of the “proportionality of the offense.” It does not specify where the trial took place.

The commission “will try to use all legal abilities to reduce the sentence,” Mizan Online says.

It adds that the offender had “been sentenced to one year in prison for theft in 2019, but his sentence had been suspended due to the return of the stolen goods.”

The latest ruling draws ridicule on social media, with many drawing a comparison with the classic Victor Hugo novel “Les Miserables.”

“Nearly 160 years after the publication of Les Miserables… the Jean Valjeans continue to be condemned,” one user writes, referring to the ex-convict depicted in the book.

Fars explains that the sentence is final because it has not been appealed. It does not disclose the name or location of the convicted man.

Israel, Bahrain sign deal for mutual recognition of vaccination certificates

Israel and Bahrain sign an agreement to recognize each other’s COVID-19 vaccination certificates and Green Passes.

The deal reached by Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz with the Gulf state that normalized ties with Israel last year means that travel between the countries for their vaccinated citizens will now be freely allowed.

EU urges Israel not to proceed with construction of 1,300 settlement homes

The European Union denounces Israel’s declaration yesterday that it will build 1,300 new homes in West Bank settlements.

“Settlements are illegal under international law and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace between the parties,” the bloc says. “The European Union has consistently made clear that it will not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by both sides.

“We call upon the Government of Israel to halt settlement construction and to not proceed with the announced tenders.”

Saudi-led coalition says 105 Yemen rebels killed in Marib battle

The Saudi-led coalition backing the government in Yemen says it has killed 105 Houthi rebels in airstrikes near the strategic city of Marib.

Thirteen military vehicles were destroyed and 105 insurgents were killed in strikes in the past 24 hours in Al-Jawba, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Marib, and Al-Kassara, 30 kilometers northwest, the coalition says, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

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

UN chief calls for release of Sudanese officials

The United Nations has denounced the ongoing military coup in Sudan and urgently called for the release of the country’s interim prime minister and other top cabinet officials.

In a tweet, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says that Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and all other officials detained by Sudanese security forces this morning “must be released immediately.”

“There must be full respect for the constitutional charter to protect the hard-won political transition,” Guterres writes. “The UN will continue to stand with the people of Sudan.”

Moderna reports ‘robust’ COVID vaccine response in children aged 6-11

US pharmaceutical giant Moderna reports a “robust neutralizing antibody response” to its COVID-19 vaccine in children aged 6-11, and says that it will submit the trial data to global regulators soon.

“We are encouraged by the immunogenicity and safety profile of mRNA-1273 in children aged 6 to under 12 years and are pleased that the study met its primary immunogenicity endpoints,” chief executive Stephane Bancel says in a statement.

Data from clinical trials with more than 4,700 children in the age range “demonstrate strong immune response… one month after the second dose,” Moderna says in the statement.

The results come after Pfizer said last week that its COVID vaccine is 90% effective in preventing symptomatic disease among children aged 5-11.

‘Don’t get in the way of the war on terror,’ Blue and White tells Labor chief Michaeli

Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party issues a strong response to Labor leader Merav Michaeli, who slammed Israel’s designation of six prominent Palestinian rights groups as terror organizations.

“We suggest that Merav Michaeli, who doesn’t know the details, not get in the way of the war on terror,” the party says in a statement, adding to already inflamed tensions within the coalition.

High Court rejects opposition petition against makeup of Knesset committees

The High Court of Justice rejects a petition filed three months ago by six opposition lawmakers against the “unfair” makeup of Knesset committees, ruling that after changes were made since the complaint was filed, the remaining gaps don’t call for judicial intervention.

The petition by four members of the Likud party and two members of Shas had asked to cancel a July 12 decision by the temporary Arrangements Committee that formed and set the makeup of the permanent parliamentary committees, arguing that the decision gave coalition members disproportionate control.

The court had rebuked the coalition in a previous hearing in August.

Labor chief Michaeli says blacklisting of Palestinian groups ‘shouldn’t have happened’

Labor party leader Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli chastises Friday’s declaration of six prominent Palestinian rights groups as terror organizations.

“The way the declaration was made caused big harm to Israel,” she says, adding that it “could harm Israel’s interests and shouldn’t have happened. Such steps should be made with adequate preparation.”

Syria slams alleged Israeli strikes, threatens to respond

Syria’s foreign ministry denounces Israel’s alleged overnight strikes on Hezbollah-linked targets, calling them “a new aggression as part of its repeated aggression against the sovereignty of the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic.”

According to state news agency SANA, a ministry official is claiming the strikes came after successful reconciliation efforts in the Daraa region and are “a desperate attempt by the Israeli occupation entity to support its tools and agents from the defeated terrorist groups.”

Damascus “affirms Syria’s right and its ability to respond to these attacks and curb the aggressive tendency of the occupation authorities,” the report says.

Court rules cable car crash survivor Eitan Biran, 6, will be returned to Italy

A Tel Aviv family court rules that Eitan Biran, the 6-year-old boy who was the sole survivor in an Italy cable car crash that killed his parents, brother and two great-grandparents, will be returned to “his regular place of living” in Italy since that is where he has lived since the age of one month.

Biran will stay with his relatives in Italy until a local court rules on the bitter custody dispute between his Italy-based paternal relatives and his Israel-based maternal relatives. It has involved the boy’s grandfather taking him from Italy to Israel without authorities’ knowledge.

The court also orders the grandfather, Shmuel Peleg, to pay NIS 70,000 ($21,800) in court fees.

After more than a decade, Israel lifts travel warning to Morocco

The National Security Council cancels a travel warning on Morocco that has been in effect for over a decade.

In a statement, the council says the decision has been made following a top-level assessment that the estimated threat level to Israelis in Morocco has decreased after last year’s normalization deal between the countries.

“Simultaneously, it is advised to continue being on high alert while staying in the country,” the statement says.

Lapid indirectly criticizes new settler homes; says gov’t dealing with neglected issues

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid says at the opening of his Yesh Atid faction meeting that the current coalition is successfully dealing with issues that have been neglected “for ten years,” but indirectly criticizes Prime Minister Naftali Bennett over yesterday’s decision to build 1,300 new homes in West Bank settlements.

“Next time, I will be in the room during decisions on such matters,” Lapid says, after left-wing coalition parties complained about being blindsided by the decision.

Lapid adds: “I want to clear all the [background] noise and focus on what’s important: The budget will pass. The coalition is working. A big part of the difficulty is because we are insisting on dealing with things that weren’t dealt with for ten years.

“Look at what happened yesterday in the government and the Knesset. [We are] dealing with [crime in] the Arab community, the climate crisis, Holocaust survivors, youth groups, the LGBT community, people with disabilities, everything that was neglected for years.

“When you take care of things, there will be disagreements and conflicting interests. Action has a cost, but we are willing to pay it,” he says. “Israel is making progress.”

Sudan general dissolves transitional authorities, says committed to international deals

The chairman of Sudan’s ruling body General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan announces the dissolution of the transitional government and the sovereign council and declares a nationwide state of emergency.

Just hours after the information ministry said most of the civilians in the two bodies had been detained, including the prime minister, Burhan reiterates his commitment to “the transition towards a civilian state.”

He says he will form a “competent” government, pledged to create numerous state institutions like the supreme court, and says Sudan remains committed to international agreements it has signed.

It isn’t immediately clear whether this means the new leadership will follow through on last year’s normalization deal with Israel.

Arab League, Organization of Islamic Cooperation voice concern about Sudan coup

The Arab League and the Saudi-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation release statements of concern about the apparent military coup in Sudan.

The Secretary-General of the 22-member bloc, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, urges all parties to “fully abide” by the constitutional declaration signed in August 2019, which had aimed to pave the way for a transition to civilian rule and democratic elections following the ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

“There are no problems that cannot be resolved without dialogue,” Aboul Gheit says after Sudan’s military detained the country’s interim prime minister along with other top Cabinet officials.

“It is important to respect all decisions and agreements that were decided upon … refraining from any measures that would disrupt the transitional period and shake stability in Sudan,” the statement adds.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, in a statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency, urges Sudanese leaders to “abide by the constitutional document and what has been agreed upon during the transition period.”

The 57-nation OIC is based in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia.

Thousands of Sudanese protesters have flooded the streets as fears of a military coup grip the country two years after mass protests ousted al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan with an iron fist for three decades.

UN mission denounces arrest of Sudan leaders as ‘unacceptable’

The United Nations Mission to Sudan has issued an emphatic rebuke of what it calls an ongoing coup and attempts to undermine the northeast African nation’s fragile democratic transition.

The first reports about a possible military takeover began trickling out of Sudan before dawn Monday. By mid-morning, the information ministry confirmed that the prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, had been arrested and taken to an undisclosed location. Several senior government figures were also detained, the ministry said in a Facebook post. It said their whereabouts were unknown.

“The reported detentions of the prime minister, government officials and politicians are unacceptable,” says the recently formed UN political mission, which has a mandate to assist the country’s political transition and protect human rights.

The mission calls on Sudan’s security forces “to immediately release those who have been unlawfully detained or placed under house arrest” and urges all parties to “exercise utmost restraint.”

Diplomats have joined in a chorus of concern over the events that have rocked Sudan, as Sudanese security forces detained senior government officials in undisclosed locations and thousands flooded the street in protest, two years after mass demonstrations helped topple former autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

US ‘alarmed’ by apparent Sudan coup; EU expresses ‘utmost concern’

The European Union has joined the United States in expressing grave concern about an apparent military takeover underway in Sudan.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell tweets that he’s following events in the northeast African nation with the “utmost concern.”

“The EU calls on all stakeholders and regional partners to put back on track the transition process,” Borrell writes, referring to Sudan’s fragile transition from autocracy to democracy after the ouster of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir in 2019.

Earlier, US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman said Washington was “deeply alarmed” and indicated that a military coup would threaten American aid to the impoverished country.

“As we have said repeatedly, any changes to the transitional government by force puts at risk US assistance,” the US Bureau of African Affairs wrote on Twitter.

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