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

Hezbollah, IRGC denounce Bahrain over normalization with Israel

Hezbollah and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps denounce Bahrain over the Gulf kingdom’s decision to normalize diplomatic ties with Israel.

“All of the efforts to justify the Bahraini regime’s move can’t justify the betrayal and painful stabbing in the back of the Palestinian people,” Hezbollah says, according to the Ynet news site.

The Iran-backed Lebanese terror group adds: “We see Bahrain’s recognition of the Zionist entity and normalization of ties with it as another [step] in the public betrayal of the Palestinians. All of the Arab peoples and the Palestinians in the resistance axis in the region need to oppose these moves.”

The IRGC warns Bahrain of “harsh revenge” from its majority Shiite population.

“The executioner ruler of Bahrain should await the harsh revenge of the Mujahideen (Islamic fighters) aiming to liberate Quds (Jerusalem) and the proud Muslim nation of this country,” the military organization says in a statement to Reuters.

Rabbi with ties to Bahraini king: There’s ‘momentum’ in Gulf for peace with Israel

A New York rabbi with ties to Bahrain’s king says there’s “momentum” among Gulf states states to establish relations with Israel, after Manama followed Abu Dhabi in agreeing to normalization with Jerusalem.

“In the Gulf there’s momentum for peace with Israel. It’s a matter of when with Oman and also with Saudi Arabia. [Saudi Crown Prince] Mohammed Bin Salman and his brothers said they can’t establish themselves as a power without Israel,” Rabbi Marc Schneier tells the Kan public broadcaster.

Rabbi Marc Schneier and Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (courtesy)

UK police arrest man after explosive device sent to London home

LONDON — UK counter-terrorism police have arrested a man in his 20s after a package containing a small improvised explosive device was sent to a residential address in north London.

The Metropolitan Police say the suspect was detained in Cambridge this morning on suspicion of attempting to cause an explosion, or making or keeping explosives with intent to endanger life or property.

It says armed officers from Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s Armed Response Unit were deployed during the arrest “as a precautionary measure.”

The Met says the man had been taken into custody at a south London police station and that officers were searching two addresses in Cambridge.

In a statement, the Met says specialist officers attended reports of a suspicious package in Cricklewood in north London and “made safe what was assessed to be a small improvised explosive device.”

— AP

Nearly 1 million Israelis required to quarantine since start of July

Nearly 1 million Israelis have been required to quarantine since the start of July 1 over concerns they were exposed to a coronavirus carrier, according to a Health Ministry report presented to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

The 978,000 Israelis ordered to quarantine since July 1 include 164,655 requested to self-isolate last week, the Ynet news site says.

The high number of people required to enter quarantine is apparently due to Israel’s use of advanced spy tools to trace the whereabouts of coronavirus carriers.

Blue and White MK Zvi Hauser, the head of the committee, calls to weigh shortening the amount of time people are required to quarantine.

Lebanese protesters clash with army near presidential palace

BEIRUT — Lebanese soldiers fire rubber bullets and live rounds in the air to disperse hundreds of protesters trying to march to the presidential palace during an anti-government demonstration.

Tension is high in Lebanon following last month’s devastating explosion at Beirut’s port that killed nearly 200 people, and after another mysterious and huge blaze at the same site Thursday.

The August 4 explosion was caused by the detonation of nearly three thousand tons of ammonium nitrates that had been improperly stored at the port for years. More than five weeks later, it is still not clear what started the fire that ignited the chemicals, and no one has been held accountable so far.

The explosion, which created a massive shockwave that shattered glass and blasted windows, doors and injured 6,500 people, came on top of an unprecedented economic and financial crisis blamed on decades of corruption and mismanagement by the country’s political class.

Protesters had called for today’s march to the presidential palace in the suburb of Baabda to express their anger and call for accountability. Supporters of President Michel Aoun called for a counter-protest at the same location, adding to the tension.

Hundreds of Lebanese soldiers separate the two camps. Later, as anti-Aoun protesters attempted to break a security cordon blocking their path on the highway leading to the palace, troops fired at first live rounds in the air, then rubber bullets, in an effort to disperse them.

Some protesters throw stones and tree branches at the troops, injuring several of them. Some sit in the middle of the highway vowing to stay there. A group climbs on a sign post and hangs ropes tied into nooses.

The public blames the corruption and negligence of Lebanon’s politicians, security and judicial officials, many of whom knew about the storage of the chemicals that exploded and did nothing.

— AP

Pence drops plan to attend fundraiser hosted by QAnon backers

BILLINGS, Montana — US Vice President Mike Pence has canceled plans to attend a Trump campaign fundraiser in Montana following revelations that the event’s hosts had expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory.

President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign tells The Associated Press that Pence’s schedule had been changed, but the campaign doesn’t provide a reason or say whether the fundraiser might be held at a later time. The change comes after the AP reported Wednesday that hosts Cayrn and Michael Borland in Bozeman, Montana, had shared QAnon memes and retweeted posts from QAnon accounts.

The baseless conspiracy theory alleges Trump is battling an entrenched bureaucracy and sex trafficking ring run by pedophiles.

Three Republicans seeking election in Montana also had been scheduled to attend the fundraiser: US Senator Steve Daines, who faces a November challenge from Democratic Governor Steve Bullock; US Rep. Greg Gianforte, a Republican running for governor; and state auditor Matt Rosendale, a candidate for the US House.

The Borlands have donated over $220,000 to Trump’s reelection bid, the bulk of which was made in Caryn Borland’s name, and they were guests at the national GOP convention last month.

The QAnon narrative has grown to include other long-standing conspiracy theories, gaining traction among some extreme Trump supporters. The movement is often likened to a right-wing cult. Some followers have run for office, primarily in the Republican Party, though some have been independent or run as third-party candidates. Trump has refused to say QAnon is false.

Pence has said it’s a conspiracy theory and last month told CBS, “I don’t know anything about QAnon, and I dismiss it out of hand.”

— AP

Number of coronavirus cases recorded in Israel passes 150,000

The number of coronavirus cases in Israel since the start of the pandemic passes 150,000 as the Health Ministry reports 3,961 new infections over Shabbat.

The ministry also reports another 11 deaths, raising the national toll to 1,101.

According to the Health Ministry, there have been a total of 152,525 infections recorded in Israel, including 37,926 active cases.

There are a record 495 people in serious condition, with 138 on ventilators. Another 202 people are in moderate condition and the rest have mild or no symptons.

The ministry says 43,377 tests were performed yesterday.

Gantz hails Israel-Bahrain normalization deal

Defense Minister Benny Gantz issues his first statement on yesterday’s announcement of a US-brokered agreement between Israel and Bahrain to normalize diplomatic ties.

“I praise the prime minister and the king of Bahrain for advancing normalization between Israel and Bahrain, and in the name of Israeli citizens thank President Trump and the American administration for the extraordinary efforts to build a more stable Middle East,” Gantz says in a statement following Shabbat.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, the No. 2 in Gantz’s Blue and White party, spoke with his Bahraini counterpart on the phone earlier today.

“We agreed to stay in touch with the aim of improving and deepening the ties between the countries and to contribute to the peace and balance in the Middle East,” Ashkenazi tweets.

Anti-Netanyahu protesters hold weekly demonstrations

Protesters rally in Jerusalem and elsewhere across Israel as part of the weekly protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his indictment on graft charges and handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

In Jerusalem, protesters are gathering at the Chords Bridge at the entrance to the city for a march to the Prime Minister’s Residence.

Anti-Netanyahu protesters begin march through Jerusalem

A few thousand protesters have begun marching for a fourth straight week from the Chords Bridge at the entrance to Jerusalem to the Prime Minister’s Jerusalem residence, the site of the weekly anti-Netanyahu demonstrations.

Protesters wave Israeli flags and chant “you take from the poor and give to the rich, what a corrupt government!”

36-year-old Sagi Golan from Sderot says he is here to protest against a prime minister whose every act is “driven by his desire to escape his legal judgement.” Golan has been unemployed for half a year and has been a regular at the anti-Netanyahu protests this summer.

Although the march is unapproved, Jerusalem police have allowed it to take place in previous weeks, albeit with occasional scuffles breaking out between protesters and law enforcement.

— Anat Peled

Finance Ministry said to forecast holiday lockdown could cost economy up to NIS 20 billion

The Finance Ministry forecasts the planned imposition of a lockdown over the upcoming holidays could cost the economy up to NIS 20 billion ($5.8 billion), Hebrew media reports say.

Trump set to announce direct flights between Israel and Morocco — TV

US President Donald Trump will soon announce the introduction of direct flights between Israel and Morocco, Channel 12 news reports.

The unsourced report also says Israel is currently in talks with Sudan about dispatching a plane carrying aid amid major flash floods in the African country.

Israel does not have ties with either Morocco or Sudan, both of which have been suggested as countries that could soon normalize ties with the Jewish state, following the UAE and Bahrain.

Rivlin hails Israel-Bahrain accord, says deal with UAE opened ‘new chapter’

President Reuven Rivlin hails the US-brokered agreement between Israel and Bahrain to normalize diplomatic ties, saying the UAE’s decision to do so last month opened a “new chapter” in the Middle East.

“I would like to express my appreciation to the prime minister, the King of Bahrain, the President of the United States and all those who have worked on this wonderful achievement. I call on other Arab and Muslim countries to make peace with Israel — peace between peoples, peace for peace,” Rivlin says in a statement from his office.

Anti-PM protesters now rallying on Balfour Street

Anti-Netanyahu protesters have arrived outside the Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem after marching there from the Chords Bridge at the entrance to the city.

There were no scuffles between police and protesters or any interruptions to the march.

— Anat Peled

Protesters demonstrate against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his official residence in Jerusalem on September 12 2020. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Economy minister Peretz says he’ll oppose national lockdown

Economy Minister Amir Peretz says he will vote against a full lockdown in the cabinet tomorrow, saying he supports nighttime closures via which 80% of the economy would remain open.

“Hundreds of thousands of employees and independent business owners are in existential anxiety… If we limit, we must compensate. I’ve appealed to the prime minister, demanding the immediate formation of a team to determine a compensation plan that will be clear to everyone.”

Education Minister Yoav Gallant says he opposes closing schools on Wednesday, before the national lockdown begins, and that they should shut down Friday, along with everything else.

“A functioning education system is necessary to every child and every family, and is a basic condition for the economy to function,” he says.

Knesset coronavirus committee chair: Scrap the lockdown

The chairwoman of the Knesset’s coronavirus committee says she hopes ministers will scrap the planned lockdown over the upcoming holidays.

Ministers are set to vote Sunday on a lockdown from Friday for some two weeks, at the first stage.

MK Yifat Shasha-Biton, a Likud maverick whose committee has several times stymied ministerial restrictions related to the battle against COVID-19, also says the government is only taking such an “extreme step” because it didn’t deal “bravely” with infection hotspots.

“The public loses faith when [leaders] don’t show the true picture, and when they don’t tell it why they’re actually taking these steps,” she tells Channel 12 news.

Knesset Member Yifat Shasha-Biton (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

In a separate interview with the network, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein insists there won’t be any “negotiations” over the lockdown plan ministers are set to approve tomorrow.

Businessman uncle of Syria’s Assad dies from coronavirus

DAMASCUS, Syria — Syrian businessman Mohamad Makhlouf, uncle of president Bashar Assad and father of top tycoon Rami Makhlouf, died today from COVID-19, two sources close to his family tell AFP.

Makhlouf, 88, the maternal uncle of Assad, was once seen as a pillar of the regime of Hafez Assad, the late father of the current president.

His grandson, also called Mohamad Makhlouf, mourns his death in a message posted on Instagram.

Makhlouf, one of the most prominent Syrian businessmen during the 1970s and 1980s, was taken to hospital in the capital Damascus on August 23, local media reported.

His businesses had already long been handed over to his son Rami, who developed a commercial empire estimated at several billion dollars.

Rami Makhlouf was close to his cousin Assad, but earlier this year they fell out in a power struggle.

Since the start of the pandemic, Syria has officially recorded 3,476 cases of COVID-19, with 150 deaths registered in zones controlled by the Damascus government, according to health ministry figures.

The novel coronavirus has added to the woes of a nation ravaged by civil war since 2011.

More than 380,000 people have died in the conflict.


EU welcomes Israel-Bahrain deal, ‘remains firm’ in backing for two-state solution

The European Union issues a statement welcoming the agreement between Israel and Bahrain to normalize diplomatic ties.

“The EU recognises the role played by the United States in this regard and believes that these developments represent a positive contribution to peace and stability in the Middle East,” it says, also referring to last month’s normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

The statement adds: “A comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict requires a regional inclusive approach and engagement with both parties. In this regard, the EU remains firm in its commitment to a negotiated and viable two-state solution built upon the internationally agreed parameters. The EU remains ready to support the Israelis and the Palestinians in efforts to resume meaningful negotiations on all final status issues in order to achieve a just and lasting peace.”

German FM on Israel-Bahrain deal: ‘Another important step toward peace in the region’

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas hails the normalization agreement between Israel and Bahrain.

“The establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Bahrain is another important step toward peace in the region,” Maas says in a statement.

Maas says he discussed the matter with his Bahraini counterpart Abdullatif Al Zayani when he hosted him yesterday in Berlin.

“I am hopeful that new impulses for the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians will emerge [from] this agreement,” Maas adds. “Germany and the EU continue to endorse the goal of a negotiated two-state solution as a basis for a just and viable peace. We will continue to work toward this.”

— Raphael Ahren

2 ministers to enter quarantine after exposure to coronavirus carriers

Culture Minister Chili Tropper will enter quarantine after the director-general of his ministry tested positive for coronavirus.

Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel will also quarantine after being exposed to a confirmed carrier of the virus.

Family of man who served in Israel-backed militia starts foundation for families of US hostages

DOVER, New Hamphshire — The family of an American man who was jailed for months in Lebanon over decades-old murder and torture charges that he always denied has started a foundation in his name to help families of Americans held hostage overseas.

Amer Fakhoury, a Dover, New Hampshire, restaurant owner, died of cancer last month at age 57, following his March release.

His children tell in a story that the goal of the Amer Fakhoury Foundation is to honor their father and help fill financial and advocacy gaps for people who have been kidnapped and for their families.

“There are so many other people that are in my dad’s shoes right now we don’t know about,” says Macy Fakhoury, one of Amer Fakhoury’s daughters. “So many of them can be hidden or brushed under the table. … We want to help these people and we want to bring light to this injustice.”

The family is seeking donations through the website, and is applying for grants.

Fakhoury was imprisoned last September while visiting family in Lebanon.

Lebanese officials alleged he tortured prisoners in the 1990s at a prison run by the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army.

Fakhoury’s lawyer said he worked at the prison, but had no direct contact with inmates and didn’t torture anyone.

— AP

Pompeo condemns Iran’s ‘vicious’ execution of wrestler

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemns the “vicious” execution of a wrestler in Iran, joining a chorus of shock and censure — including from the International Olympic Committee — against the killing.

“The Iranian regime’s execution of Navid Afkari is a vicious and cruel act. We condemn it in the strongest terms. It is an outrageous assault on human dignity, even by the despicable standards of this regime. The voices of the Iranian people will not be silenced,” Pompeo tweets.


Tourism minister to reportedly vote against lockdown plan for holidays

Tourism Minister Asaf Zamir of the Blue and White party will vote against a planned lockdown over the holidays when the cabinet convenes tomorrow, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

Some protesters at anti-Netanyahu rally demonstrate against planned lockdown

Some of the protesters at this evening’s rally in Jerusalem against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are demonstrating against a planned lockdown set to begin next weekend.

Surrounded by dozens of demonstrators, a woman calls out “Israel, Israel won’t shut down” into a megaphone.

Yoav Marks-Hazani, whose wife runs a restaurant in Jaffa, holds a sign reading “thou shalt not close.” Marks-Hazani says this is his second time attending the weekly protests.

“Our income has dropped around 40% due to the crisis…we’re digging into our savings, asking our parents. It’s a mess,” Marks-Hazani says.

“This lockdown is politically motivated and won’t solve anything. Even if it slows the spread the virus, it won’t stop it,” he adds.

— Aaron Boxerman

A thousand anti-Netanyahu protesters still at Paris Square; several detained

Around a thousand anti-Netanyahu demonstrators remain at Paris Square in Jerusalem.

While police appear to have detained a few demonstrators, the protesters have not yet been ordered to disperse.

Jerusalem police superintendent Nisso Guetta, a senior officer filmed at an early rally beating protesters for no apparent reason, arrived to survey the scene.

“Lock Nisso up! You beat civilians!” protesters chant.

— Aaron Boxerman

Police order anti-Netanyahu protesters to clear the streets

Police have ordered the protesters at the rally in Jerusalem against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to clear the streets.

Cars are already beginning to be pass through the intersection at Paris Square, although dozens of protesters remain in the street, chanting “there are no revolutions from the sidewalk.”

Police say those who remain will be fined.

— Aaron Boxerman and Anat Peled

Police forcibly clear anti-Netanyahu protesters in Jerusalem

Police have begun dispersing demonstrators by force at Jerusalem’s Paris Square.

A senior police officer approaches the remaining demonstrators to ask them to leave. When that is unsuccessful, ranks of riot police enter to clear the intersection.

“We won’t disperse until Bibi [Netanyahu] resigns,” the demonstrators chant.

— Aaron Boxerman

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