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

UN ‘preparing for the worst’ from Turkey’s Syria operation

GENEVA, Switzerland — The United Nations says it is “preparing for the worst” in northeast Syria after the United States said it would step aside to allow for Turkish military operations in the area.

“We don’t know what is going to happen. We are preparing for the worst,” the UN regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Panos Moumtzis, says in Geneva.

Turkey has threatened an offensive in Syria against Kurdish forces which it considers terrorists.

Moumtzis says there are “a lot of unanswered questions” about the consequences of the operation.

He adds that the UN is “in contact with all sides” on the ground.

But he makes clear his office did not have advance warning about the US decision, which effectively abandons the Kurds, Washington’s main allies in the long battle against the so-called Islamic State group.

Moumtzis says the UN’s priorities are to ensure that any prospective Turkish offensive not result in new displacements, that humanitarian access remain unhindered and that no restrictions be put in place on freedom of movement.


Iran confirms arrest of Russian journalist held for 6 days

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran confirms the arrest last week in Tehran of a Russian journalist, saying the case was a matter of a visa violation.

Government spokesman Ali Rabiei tells reporters that Yulia Yuzik’s case is under “quick review” by authorities and isn’t related to matters concerning the “counter-espionage” department.

The Russian Embassy in Tehran said on Friday that Yuzik flew into Tehran the previous Sunday and that Iranian officials seized her passport at the airport for unknown reasons. She was arrested from her hotel room on Wednesday.

The Russian foreign ministry summoned the Iranian ambassador to Moscow to explain Yuzik’s arrest.

Yuzik, who has worked for several prominent Russian publications and has reported from Iran, posted photographs from her trip on Instagram last week, saying she loved being in Iran.

— AP

French government admits security breach in jihadist police attack

PARIS, France — France’s interior minister acknowledges there was a breach in security that failed to detect signs of radicalization of a police employee who killed four people inside Paris’s police headquarters.

Christophe Castaner tells France Inter radio the attacker had previously “justified” the deadly 2015 Islamic extremist attack on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in front of his colleagues, but no written report was made at the time.

An internal investigation has been launched, in addition to the judicial investigation.

The longtime police employee stabbed four colleagues to death Thursday before he was shot and killed.

The counterterrorism prosecutor has said the attacker was likely in contact with members of an ultra-conservative Islamic movement.

The attacker’s wife was released from police custody Sunday without any charges, Castaner says.

— AP

Russia’s top diplomat in Iraq to discuss US-Iran ‘escalation’

BAGHDAD — Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is in Iraq where he’s meeting with Baghdad officials to discuss the escalating tensions between the US and Iran in the Persian Gulf.

Lavrov tells reporters after meeting his Iraqi counterpart Mohammed Ali al-Hakim today that the aim of both Moscow and Baghdad is to “reduce escalation and we have a unified stance on putting forward initiatives regarding the Gulf region.”

Tensions have spiked since US President Donald Trump last year unilaterally pulled America out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Trump also imposed sanctions that have kept Iran from selling its oil abroad and crippled its economy. Iran has since started breaking the terms of the deal.

Al-Hakim says he and Lavrov talked about reducing tension and protecting shipping in the Gulf.

— AP

Germany warns Turkey invasion could destabilize Syria

Germany has expressed concerns at the prospect of an incursion by Turkey into northeastern Syria, saying such an intervention could further destabilize the war-torn country.

Ulrike Demmer, a spokeswoman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, says Germany is aware of the “special security policy situation” that Turkey faces on its border. But she cautions that successes against the Islamic State group, which she notes were achieved in significant part by Syrian Kurdish forces with international support, “must not be endangered.”

US-backed Kurdish-led forces said American troops began pulling back on Monday from positions in northeastern Syria ahead of the expected Turkish incursion.

Demmer says that a unilateral military intervention “would lead to a further escalation in Syria and contribute to a continued destabilization of the country.” She says it would also have negative security policy and humanitarian consequences.

— AP

Syrian Kurdish official slams US pullout move

BEIRUT — A senior Syrian Kurdish official criticizes a White House statement about transferring to Turkey the responsibility for thousands of foreign Islamic State fighters held in northeastern Syria in the wake of a US pullout from positions there as “illogical.”

Abdulkarim Omar, who acts as foreign minister for the Syrian Kurds, says the US statement is unclear as the detention areas are far from the border zone where Turkey is expected to make its incursion.

Omar says the US troop withdrawal from the border will have “catastrophic consequences” because Kurdish-led forces would be preoccupied with defending the border, instead of protecting detention facilities or the crowded al-Hol camp which houses over 73,000 people, many of them IS families and supporters.

Omar calls on the international community to work to reverse US President Donald Trump’s decision or stop the Turkish offensive.

— AP

Turkey: We’re going into Syria to fight both Kurds and Islamic State

A top Turkish official says Ankara’s planned incursion into northeastern Syria aims to eradicate the threats posed by both Syrian Kurdish forces and the Islamic State group.

Fahrettin Altun, communications director for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, says on Twitter that “Turkey’s intention is clear: to dismantle the terrorist corridor on our border. To fight against (the) PKK, which is the enemy of the Kurdish people. To combat (IS) and prevent its resurgence.”

His comments come after American troops began pulling back from positions along the border in northeast Syria ahead of an expected Turkish invasion to drive Syrian Kurdish fighters away from the frontier.

Turkey considers the US-allied Syrian Kurdish fighters terrorists who are allied with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has waged an insurgency against Turkey for 35 years.

Altun writes: “Areas liberated from PKK will have services provided by Turkey, rather than enduring the occupation by a terrorist militia.”

— AP

Sister of Ethiopian-Israeli teen slain by off-duty police officer makes aliya

The sister of Solomon Tekah, the Ethiopian-Israeli teen shot in July by an off-duty police officer, immigrates to Israel.

Masrat Warika and her two young children land at Ben Gurion Airport. Warika was one of some 8,000 Ethiopian Jews waiting to be brought to Israel.

Her arrival was facilitated in part by Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who told Israeli media that he began working to bring her to Israel after he visited the Tekah shiva home and learned of her plight.

“As someone who has been working for the Ethiopian Jewish community and their journey to Israel for almost 35 years, this is definitely an emotional and joyous occasion for me and for the Tekah family,” Ariel says in a statement also posted on Facebook. “It’s the least we could do to ease the pain and sorrow of the family. Despite the tragic circumstances, I’m certain Masrat and her children’s arrival will help the family unite and find strength. I’m hopeful that soon we will get to see the rest of the Jewish community in Ethiopia that are waiting to make aliyah, here in Israel.”

Her arrival comes hours after Haaretz reported that the off-duty police officer who shot Tekah in a local park in suburban Haifa after feeling threatened while there with his family will likely be indicted for negligent homicide. He could face up to three years in prison. Investigations into the incident determined that the police officer, who remains unnamed, had no justifiable reason to draw or fire his gun.

The police officer fired at the ground. The bullet ricocheted, striking and killing Tekah.


In ‘important’ phone call, Netanyahu wishes Putin a happy birthday

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wishes Russian President Vladimir Putin a happy birthday in an “important” phone call between the two leaders, Netanyahu’s office says.

Putin is 67 today.

Putin in turn congratulates Netanyahu on the Jewish New Year, the statement adds.

“I had an important conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. I met with him several weeks ago on matters that are important to the security of the State of Israel, and this conversation was also important for the security of the State of Israel. We have major challenges around us but we also benefit from important cooperation and coordination with Russia, and this is critical for us and we will continue to be engaged.”

Top Trump ally Graham calls for reversal of Syria border pullback

WASHINGTON — US Senator Lindsey Graham, a top ally of President Donald Trump, says he will be calling on Congress to reverse the president’s decision to withdraw US troops from Turkey’s border with Syria.

Graham, chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee and one of Trump’s most outspoken supporters on Capitol Hill, describes the move as “a disaster in the making” that would be “a stain on America’s honor for abandoning the Kurds.”

The US pullback from key positions along Syria’s northern border, announced late Sunday, effectively abandons the Kurds, Washington’s main ally in the years-long battle against the Islamic State group.

“Also, if this plan goes forward [I] will introduce [a] Senate resolution opposing and asking for reversal of this decision. Expect it will receive strong bipartisan support,” Graham tweets.


Christian embassy prepares for 40th annual evangelical Sukkot pilgrimage

The International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, an Evangelical Christian pro-Israel activist group in the capital, plans to host its 40th annual Feast of Tabernacles festivities in the city over the Sukkot holiday, which begins Sunday evening.

Some 5,000 Christian pilgrims from almost 100 countries are expected to arrive in the capital for the event, a revival of “the ancient tradition of Gentiles joining the Jewish people in Jerusalem for Succot,” according to a statement from group’s president Jürgen Bühler.

It will launch on Sunday evening with a concert in Ein Gedi, then move to Jerusalem for a series of events through Thursday, which will see the annual march through the capital’s streets.

The group also says today it has reached “a new milestone in the ICEJ’s Aliyah efforts, as we have now assisted more than 150,000 Jews in coming home to Israel” through its support for Jewish Agency aliya programs.

Nikki Haley, Marco Rubio slam Trump’s surprise withdrawal from Syria

After Sen. Lindsey Graham lashes the Trump administration’s surprise decision to withdraw from Syria and make way for an expected Turkish offensive against the US-allied Kurds in the country, more Republican voices are slamming the move.

“We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back,” says Trump’s former UN envoy Nikki Haley in a Twitter post. “The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake.”

Sen. Marco Rubio said: “If reports about US retreat in #Syria are accurate, the Trump administration has made a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria.”

Trump tells Turkey, Kurds to ‘figure the situation out’ after US pullback

US President Donald Trump justifies his decision to withdraw US troops from Turkey’s border with Syria, saying the region would have to “figure the situation out” and that America needed to get out of “ridiculous Endless Wars.”

The US withdrawal from key positions along Syria’s northern border, announced late Sunday, marks a major policy shift and effectively abandons the Kurds, who were Washington’s main ally in the years-old battle against the Islamic State group.

“Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out, and what they want to do with the captured ISIS fighters in their ‘neighborhood.'” Trump tweets.

“The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so,” he adds.

“They have been fighting Turkey for decades. I held off this fight for almost 3 years but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home. WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN.”

The US leader again insists that “100% of the ISIS caliphate” had been defeated, but warns that the United States would “crush ISIS again if they come anywhere near us!”


Liberman describes a paranoid Netanyahu, lashes Likud ‘apparatchiks’

Yisrael Beytenu leader MK Avigdor Liberman fires a broadside at the Likud party, his former coalition partner, in excerpts from an interview with the Maariv newspaper.

Liberman says he would not be surprised if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hires private detectives to intimidate him and his family, and calls Culture Minister Miri Regev a “vulgar beast” and Foreign Minister Israel Katz “a miserable liar.”

Of Netanyahu he says, “Bibi’s problem is that as soon as you have an approach or attitude that is different to his, and it contradicts his interests, you immediately become a personal enemy. You are immediately accused of hating the prime minister, that you are a leftist, that you are trying to bring him down. Ignoring the facts.”

He adds: “I would not be surprised if Netanyahu and his people are using private investigators against me and against my family. That is their way to threaten. To my regret, Bibi is not capable of understanding concepts such as friendship and loyalty.”

Liberman calls Regev “an insult to the People of the Book. That is what happens when you take a vulgar beast and put her in the Culture Ministry.”

The Likud party, he says, is “a collection of apparatchiks” who are using the party as “a platform for a personal political career.”

The full interview is to be published Tuesday ahead of Yom Kippur which begins that night.

Liberman’s views on Likud could influence the progress of coalition talks, as Netanyahu has so far been unable to piece together a coalition in the 22nd Knesset.

Israel, Brazil announce joint R&D funding in agriculture, energy, road safety

Israel’s and Brazil’s state innovation funds announce the recipients of a joint research and development initiative.

Brazil’s Agency for Industrial Research and Innovation (EMBRAPII) and the Israel Innovation Authority release the list of four projects, which will receive a combined total of $7.5 million.

The four projects, according to a statement from the two agencies, focus on increasing the survival rate of crop seedlings, energy efficiency in industrial plants, sensors that detect faults in power grids, and upping road safety of large vehicle fleets using data analytics.

University of Warsaw students remember ‘ghetto benches’ segregation of Jews

WARSAW, Poland — Students at the University of Warsaw, one of the largest Polish universities, commemorate the victims of the ghetto benches segregation introduced 82 years ago at the university.

The university’s rector did not participate in the commemoration on Sunday.

The ghetto benches were an official form of discrimination against Jews in prewar Poland. Jewish students were required to sit on designated benches in specific sections in lecture halls or to stand for some classes. In Warsaw, Christian students who wanted to show solidarity with their Jewish colleagues and sat on the same benches with them were beaten by nationalists.

This is the second year in a row that University of Warsaw students have commemorated the victims of such discrimination.

University of Warsaw main gate. (Guillaume Speurt/Wikimedia Commons/via JTA)

They criticized the absence of the rector, Marcin Palys, during the program.

“After over 80 years, the University of Warsaw authorities still have not decided to commemorate the victims of their own anti-Semitic policy and have not detached themselves from right-wing organizations that have sowed terror here,” says Dominik Puchala of the Student Antifascist Committee.

Piotr Wislicki, president of the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland, tells commemoration attendees about the anti-Semitic repression faced by his parents during their studies in Warsaw and Lviv. He thanks the organizers for their commitment and courage in dealing with a difficult past. “History shows that silence is definitely worse than telling the truth. History will never forgive those who were silent.”


France warns Turkey over incursion into Syria

France is calling on Turkey to avoid taking any unilateral action in northern Syria that could hinder the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group.

A statement from the French foreign ministry warns Turkey’s threatened military incursion into northern Syria could “hurt regional stability” and not help with the return of refugees to the area — as Ankara has promised.

The statement comes hours after the White House’s announcement it is pulling US troops from northern Syria, clearing the way for an expected Turkish assault against Kurdish fighters who have been key allies in the campaign against the Islamic State group.

More French fighters joined the extremist group than any other European nationality. France has been reluctant to allow the jihadists home, even to face trial.

— AP

Turkish MPs to vote on further Syria operations

Turkey’s parliament is scheduled to vote to extend by another year a mandate that allows the Turkish military to intervene in Iraq and Syria.

State-run Anadolu Agency says the vote will take place Tuesday, on allowing Turkey to send troops over its southern borders to battle Kurdish rebels, Islamic State group fighters and other groups that Turkey views as terrorists.

The military’s current mandate expires at the end of October.

Turkey has regularly renewed the mandate every year since 2014 for cross border operations in Iraq and Syria.

— AP

Russia calls on Turkey to respect Syria borders

Russia is calling on Turkey to respect Syrian territorial integrity, as Ankara says it is preparing to send a military operation across the border into northeast Syria.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says that Moscow realizes Turkey’s need to ensure its security, but adds that “it’s necessary to respect Syria’s territorial and political integrity.”

Ankara considers the US-allied Syrian Kurdish fighters terrorists linked to a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey.

Peskov would not comment on whether the US withdrawal could push the Kurds to seek a dialogue with Damascus. He reaffirms Moscow’s view that all foreign troops who had not been invited by Syria should leave.

Russia and Iran have helped Syrian President Bashar Assad reclaim control over most of the country following a devastating eight-year civil war.

— AP

Criticized for abandoning Kurds, Trump threatens to ‘obliterate’ Turkish economy

US President Donald Trump threatens to “obliterate” the Turkish economy if Turkey does “anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits” in Syria.

The strange comments come after Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed on an immediate US withdrawal from the country’s northern border ahead of a Turkish incursion against Islamic State and Kurdish groups — who until this week were US allies in the country.

Trump has faced excoriation from fellow Republicans for the move, with some calling his abandonment of the Kurds to the mercies of the Turkish military a “stain on America’s honor.”

“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!),” Trump tweets.

“They must, with Europe and others, watch over the captured ISIS fighters and families. The US has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT!”

Yair Lapid welcomes US calls to sanction Turkey, says world must protect Kurds

Blue and White MK Yair Lapid is the first Israeli politician to respond to US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, abandoning the country’s Kurds ahead of an expected Turkish incursion.

“I join my friends Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Chris Van Hollen in their call to impose sanctions on Turkey and suspend it from NATO in response to any attack on the Kurds in northern Syrian,” Lapid says in an English-language statement.

“I also welcome President Trump making the cost of any such attack absolutely clear to Erdogan,” the Turkish leader.

“‪The world has a moral responsibility to the Kurds who led the fight against ISIS and paid with their blood.”

Four days of Netanyahu’s pre-indictment hearings come to an end

The fourth and last day of pre-indictment hearings in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s three corruption cases comes to a close at this hour.

Attorneys met for over 10 hours today at the Justice Ministry headquarters in Jerusalem.

The last day dealt with Case 1000, in which Netanyahu is suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, and offering his help as the state’s top official in return.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is expected to decide by December whether to indict the prime minister.

‘Very small number’ of troops pulled from Syria-Turkey border: US official

The United States has pulled back a “very small number” of troops from areas of northern Syria along the Turkish border, a senior State Department official says, after US President Donald Trump seemed to indicate a wider retreat.

The pullback only concerns “two very small detachments” — meaning less than 25 people in total — that have been moved a “very short distance,” the official says.

The announcement of the redeployment was interpreted as an American green light for a Turkish military operation against Kurdish forces in northeast Syria.

But the State Department official insists that Trump had clearly told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the US did not endorse any such operation — a message also conveyed by the Pentagon.

“We think this operation is a very bad idea. We do not think this operation will provide more security,” the official says.

He says that, beyond the small pullback of troops, “there’s no change to our military posture in the northeast.”


David Blatt steps down as head coach of Greek basketball team

David Blatt, the former NBA and Israeli basketball coach, will step down as head coach of the Greek Olympiacos team.

The announcement comes less than two months after Blatt announced that he has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Blatt was starting his second season as coach of the Euroleague squad, one of the top teams in Greece.

“After a long and respectful discussion between the owners and myself, our two parties have decided it’s in the best interest of both sides to part ways,” Blatt says in the Olympiacos announcement on its website. “My time in Greece with Olympiacos has been meaningful and significant in many ways.”

The Athens-based team, which finished 15-15 last season under Blatt and barely missed the playoffs, called the separation a “consensual termination of cooperation.”

“It is a difficult moment for everyone since we part ways with a great coach, but most of all a wonderful person,” Olympiacos says in the announcement. “We have had the honor to work with one of the biggest figures of world basketball and we have gained a lot from his presence in our team.”

Blatt was fired in 2016 by the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers after leading the club, powered by the return of star LeBron James, to the 2015 NBA Finals, where they lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games. He was hired by the Cavaliers because of his success coaching Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv and a number of European teams.


Israeli officials reportedly surprised and ‘amazed’ at Trump’s Syria pullout

Channel 13 reports that Israeli officials had no advance warning ahead of US President Donald Trump’s announcement on Twitter of a US withdrawal from Syria’s northern border and the apparent abandonment of the Kurds who had fought with the US against Islamic State.

Israeli sources were “amazed” at the US willingness to leave the Kurds to face alone an expected Turkish incursion into the country, the channel says.

It is not clear how seriously observers should take Trump’s announcement, as a State Department official said a short time ago that only a handful of troops were being deployed, and the US was not carrying out a dramatic withdrawal of all its forces from Syria.

Palestinian Authority said to remove agreements with Israel from schoolbooks

The Palestinian Authority has removed information about agreements signed with Israel from its textbooks, according to an organization that monitors Palestinian educational material.

The only signed agreement still mentioned in books studied by students in the West Bank and Gaza from first grade through high school is the 1993 Oslo Accords, which now is mentioned less favorably and with less detail than in earlier versions of the textbooks, Ynet reports, citing research by the Israeli NGO IMPACT-se, the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education.

The 2019 textbooks do not include the PLO statement calling for “coexistence,” “peace” and nonviolence with Israel, which appeared in the old version of the curriculum, according to the report.

The new curriculum also removes the substantial amount of information provided to Palestinian students about the ancient Jewish history of “Palestine” and the Jewish presence and connection to Jerusalem.

IMPACT-se also reports that there are many fewer references to Israel by name in the curriculum, and instead the textbooks refer to the “Zionist Occupation”; “The Occupation”; “Israeli Occupation”; “The Zionists”; and “The Zionist Entity.”

“If peace agreements with Israel have indeed been deleted from Palestinian textbooks, this action harms young Palestinians first and foremost,” Benny Gantz, a former Israeli military chief and now chairman of the Blue and White party, says in a statement. “Our ability to achieve a better future begins with educating the next generations on peace, tolerance and coexistence, not in incitement and suicide bombings. Deleting the past is essentially an attack on the hope for a better future.”


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