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Rocket fired from Gaza intercepted by Iron Dome, in 3rd attack in 3 days

Man and child injured running to bomb shelter; uptick in violence comes amid high tensions after Israel captured 4 of 6 Palestinian fugitives and Gaza ceasefire deal breaks down

Rockets fired by Hamas terrorists in Gaza into Israel, seen over the central Israeli town of Kiryat Gat on May 18, 2021. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Rockets fired by Hamas terrorists in Gaza into Israel, seen over the central Israeli town of Kiryat Gat on May 18, 2021. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

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

Man and child injured running to bomb shelter

A man and his young son are injured, after falling while running to a bomb shelter, after a rocket siren sounded in the southern city of Sderot.

Magen David Adom paramedics are providing medical treatment.

Both suffered light injuries, the ambulance service says.

Rocket fired from Gaza intercepted by Iron Dome, in 3rd attack in 3 days

The Israel Defense Forces says that one rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel, and it was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

No injuries or damage have been reported in the attack.

The rocket was the third fired from Gaza in three days, following Saturday’s capture of Palestinian security prisoners who escaped from a high-security prison on Monday.

IDF troops conducting search near Metula on Lebanon border

Residents of Metula are asked to avoid approaching the city’s northernmost road, adjacent to the border with Lebanon, after suspicious activity is reported in the area.

Israel Defense Forces troops are firing flares, and are conducting searches in the area.

There are no further instructions for residents, a spokesperson for Metula says.

IDF chief warns Hamas of ‘heavy price’ if rocket fire continues

Moments before sirens blared in Gaza border communities signaling the third rocket fired from the Gaza strip in as many days, IDF chief of staff Aviv Kohavi warned the Hamas terror group against further escalation.

“If the situation escalates, Hamas and the Gaza Strip will pay a heavy price,” Kohavi says at a naval ceremony.

“The IDF is working to maintain security on all fronts,” he says.

Rocket sirens sound in Gaza border city of Sderot

Incoming rocket sirens sound in the town of Sderot and the surrounding area.

There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Security forces said to conclude escapees tried to reach Jenin, were denied help

Hebrew media reports say that Israeli security forces believe the Palestinian fugitives who escaped a high-security prison last week had intended to reach Jenin, but failed to receive help to take them there.

Five days into a national manhunt for six Palestinian security prisoners who escaped from a jail in northern Israel, police captured four of the fugitives in Nazareth on Friday night. Arab Israelis who encountered the fugitives reported the suspicious sightings to authorities, aiding in their capture.

After interrogating the four Palestinian security prisoners, police and Shin Bet security service investigators concluded they had no accomplices on the outside, or assistance from within Gilboa Prison, according to reports.

The escapees did not spend long in the town — between 20 minutes to an hour according to reports. After showering and changing clothes in the local mosque, the group split up into three separate groups.

Prominent rabbis protest planned designation of far-right Lehava as terror group

Dozens of prominent rabbis in the religious Zionist and Orthodox community are protesting the Public Security Minister’s reported intention to outlaw the extremist Jewish Lehava group.

The list of rabbis includes Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, as well as Shlomo Aviner, Shmuel Eliyahu, and Meir Mazuz, among other leading spiritual leaders.

“Opposition to assimilation is not racism. The organization must be allowed to continue its important activities,” the rabbis write in public letter.

Lehava opposes intermarriage of Jews and non-Jews, as well as LGBT rights, and tries to stifle any public activity by non-Jews in Israel, including coexistence events.

In June, the head of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee urged Defense Minister Benny Gantz to designate Lehava as a terror organization.

Labor party says it has demanded ‘change in national priorities,’ new focus on periphery

The Labor party, a member of the coalition, says it has demanded that the government focus more efforts on improving the socio-economic status of communities on the periphery of the country.

“We entered this government to replace a corrupt and destructive leadership and to change national priorities. Because of that, we made it absolutely clear in today’s cabinet meeting that the delineation of the national priority areas will change,” the party says in a statement.

“We demanded and have received a commitment that joint preparatory work will be carried out over the next five months, in which we will stress the importance of communities in the socio-economic periphery of the country, in the Galilee and the Negev. The current preferences, those that have determined the national priority areas in recent years, will change,” the statement adds.

Security officials said to believe they’ll catch remaining escapees ‘within 2 days’

Channel 13 news reports that security officials believe they are closing in on the remaining two fugitives who escaped from the high-security Gilboa Prison last week.

“We expect that we will catch the terrorists within two days,” the channel quotes an unamed official as saying.

Four of the six escaped prisoners were caught in Nazareth over the weekend, and two remain at large.

The prison break, one of the worst in the country’s history, was made possible by a litany of apparent oversights, mistakes, and blunders by prison guards.

Barlev says authorities were ‘very surprised’ by Arab Israeli violence in May

Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev says rioting by members of the Arab Israeli community in May, that led to the worst ethnic violence between Jews and Arabs in decades, took authorities by surprise and was fueled, in part, by organized crime families that are crossing the line between criminal and nationalist crime.

“The outbreak by the Arab population during Operation Guardian of the Walls very much surprised the country. We weren’t prepared for that,” Bar Lev tells a conference on anti-terror policy hosted at the Reichman University in Herzliya, on Sunday.

However, he applauded the police response to the deadly violence.

“Israel Police acted correctly, despite all the criticism,” says Bar Lev, who at the time of the unrest was still an opposition lawmaker.

51 members of Hebrew Israelites Community of Dimona ordered to leave by Sept. 23

Around 50 members of the Hebrew Israelites Community of Dimona in southern Israel are being told that they must leave the country by September 23 or risk forcible deportation by the immigration police.

In a response to appeals that they be allowed to stay, the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority wrote to each family that neither residency in Israel for long periods, nor work were sufficient grounds for a change of status.

The recipients plan to appeal against the decision to a court in Beersheba, in southern Israel.

Earlier this year, 17 letters were sent to families numbering 51 individuals in total, some of whom were born in Israel and some of whose children have served in the IDF. They were told to leave within 60 days, but were given the right of appeal.

The community, which believes it is descended from an ancient Israelite tribe, began arriving in Israel in 1969, following the late Ben Carter, a Chicago steelworker who renamed himself Ben Ammi Ben Israel and claimed to be God’s representative on earth.

Body of 70-year-old man pulled from Dead Sea

The body of a 70-year-old man is pulled from the Dead Sea near the Ein Bokek beach resort district.

Magen David Adom paramedics say they tried to resuscitate him, but were forced to declare him dead.

According to rescuers, the man apparently lost consciousness while in the water.

Top Qatar diplomat most senior to visit Kabul since Taliban takeover

Qatar’s foreign minister, who is also the country’s deputy premier, visits Afghanistan, becoming the most senior diplomat to visit the country since the Taliban’s takeover on August 15.

A Taliban official tweets that Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani met senior officials of the new Afghan regime, although details of their talks were not disclosed.

Qatar has long acted as a mediator on Afghanistan, hosting the Taliban’s talks with the United States under former US president Donald Trump, and then with the now deposed Afghan government of president Ashraf Ghani.

No country has yet formally recognized the new Taliban government — and only three did during the first rule of the hardline Islamists in 1996-2001.

Lapid proposes ‘new vision’ for Gaza, says Israel must weaken Hamas not PA

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid presents a “new vision” for Israel’s relations with the Gaza Strip, saying that Israel “must move toward a multi-year process in Gaza, of economy in return for security.”

Speaking at the Reichman University’s Institute for Counter-Terrorism Policy conference, Lapid says that the aim of such a move is “to create stability on both sides of the border.”

“This is not a proposal for negotiations with Hamas. Israel will not award prizes to a terrorist organization and weaken the [Palestinian] Authority that works with us on a regular basis.”

IDF troops searching for fugitives in West Bank said to come under fire

Heavy gunfire is reportedly heard in the Jenin region, as Israeli security forces continue the manhunt for two escaped Palestinian prisoners who remained on the run, after the capture of four inmates who broke out of prison with them last week.

Palestinian media reports claim militants opened fire toward Israeli troops near the town of Araqah, west of the city of Jenin, in the northern West Bank.

A spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces says it is unaware of the incident.

KKL-JNF, US embassy hold 9/11 memorial service outside Jerusalem

In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, the Keren Kayemet Le’Israel-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA), and the US Embassy in Israel are holding a joint memorial service at the 9/11 Living Memorial Plaza in the Arazim Valley outside Jerusalem,

The service is being attended by US Charge d’Affaires Michael Ratney, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and former prime minister Ehud Olmert.

The annual ceremony, amid the waterfall pools and lines of trees on the National September 11 Memorial plaza, strives to be apolitical. Politicians can attend, but since 2011, they have not been allowed to read names or deliver remarks.

Police informed of Telegram group selling fake negative COVID tests to Uman pilgrims

Israeli cybersecurity company Check Point has informed the police of a Telegram group selling fake negative tests to pilgrims returning from Uman, Ukraine, Globes reports.

According to Check Point, the group “Covid vaccination certificates/Covid tests” has been operating since June and in recent weeks has been offering “Negative Covid tests for those returning from Uman” for NIS 100.

Check Point passed on the information to the police’s Lahav 433 fraud squad so that they can identify the operators of the group and take legal action against them, the report says.

Dozens of pilgrims infected with the coronavirus flew back to Israel from Uman last week using forged negative test results, as plans put in place to safeguard the annual pilgrimage to the gravesite of Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav appeared to fall into shambles.

There were concerns that there could be hundreds more such cases among the tens of thousands of pilgrims who traveled to Ukraine to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, which began last Monday evening and ended Wednesday night, with concerns it could kick off a renewed surge in infections, just as the country appeared to be turning the tide on a recent wave.

Iran to allow new memory cards in UN’s nuclear site cameras

Iran agrees to allow international inspectors to install new memory cards into surveillance cameras at its sensitive nuclear sites and to continue filming there, potentially averting a diplomatic showdown this week.

Mohammad Eslami of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran announces the development after a meeting held with the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, in Tehran.

Tehran holds all recordings at its sites as negotiations over the US and Iran returning to the 2015 nuclear deal remain stalled in Vienna. Meanwhile, Iran is now enriching small amounts of uranium to its closest-ever levels to weapons-grade purity as its stockpile continues to grow.

A joint statement released by the IAEA and Iran confirmed the understanding, saying only that “the way and the timing are agreed by the two sides.”

“I am glad to say that today were able to have a very constructive result, which has to do with the continuity of the operation of the agency’s equipment here,” Grossi says. It “is indispensable for us to provide the necessary guarantee and information to the IAEA and to the world that everything is in order.”

Police: 5 in Italy slashed with knife; Somali asylum seeker arrested

Italian police are investigating a Somali asylum-seeker for attempted murder after he allegedly slashed two ticket controllers aboard a bus in the beach resort town of Rimini, then wounded three other people, including a boy, as he fled.

Investigators are ruling out terrorism as a motive and hypothesize that the 26-year-old man was under the influence of drugs during the knife attack Saturday night, according to reports on Italy’s state broadcaster RAI.

Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese says she will meet with local security officials on Monday in Rimini to review “the very grave episode.”

The man, who apparently didn’t have a bus ticket, slashed the controllers who had asked to see his ticket, leaving the two women wounded, news reports said. When the bus driver opened the door, the attacker fled. As police gave chase, the man allegedly slashed three more persons along his path. They included a 6-year-old boy who was sitting with his mother in a local outdoor market.

The boy was in critical condition on Sunday after surgery for his wounds, including on his neck.

Police arrested the man after catching up with him on a side street flanking a hotel.

The man, who wasn’t identified, apparently had been denied asylum in several European countries, including Denmark, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands, since arriving in Europe in 2015, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper said.

Iraqi PM meets new Iranian president in Tehran

Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi meets Iran’s recently elected President Ebrahim Raisi to discuss the neighbors’ economic relations.

Kadhemi is the first foreign leader to visit the ultra-conservative Raisi, and brings a “high level political and economic delegation,” says Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

Kadhemi tells a joint news conference that the pair “discussed certain joint economic questions and strategic projects” as well as “increasing trade in the interests of both nations.”

Raisi, who took office last month, says that “financial and monetary relations” were also discussed.

As Iran’s neighbor to the west, Iraq has sought a mediating role between Tehran and Arab nations. It has tried to broker Iran-Saudi talks to soothe tensions between the regional rivals.

PM vows to not return to system of ‘suitcases of cash’ to Gaza

The Prime Minister’s Office denies Hebrew media reports that it plans to return to the “suitcases of cash” system by which Qatari funds were delivered to the Gaza Strip.

Hamas demands the millions in monthly salaries, provided by Qatar, as payments for its civil servants in Gaza. Qatar, Israel, and the United Nations have agreed on transferring other subsidies Qatar provides, including $100 cash payments for 100,000 poor Gazan families.

But the parties have yet to agree on a new mechanism for transferring Qatari funds to Hamas employees. Israel’s new government has said it does not intend to allow Qatar to channel cash directly to Hamas, as was policy under former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The PMO says that, contrary to today’s reports, “there will be no return to the previous system,” and that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz are currently weighing new options after the Palestinian Authority backed out of the deal on Friday.

“When a proper outline is found that ensures that the money does not go to terrorist activities, it will be presented by the defense minister to the prime minister,” says the PMO. “The prime minister will formulate a position after he is presented with the various options.”

Holon apartment building collapses day after it was evacuated

An apartment building evacuated yesterday over fears of imminent collapse in Holon has now collapsed, say Fire and Rescue Services.

First responders were called to the scene yesterday after residents of the building reported hearing the sound of a blast. Images showed cracks on the walls of the building and police said residents were unable to open the front doors of their apartments.

The decision to evacuate the building was made in coordination with professional engineers, according to a police statement.

Police say the building, on Serlin Street in Holon, collapsed this afternoon.

Lapid at 9/11 ceremony: An attack on the US is an attack on Israel

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid says at a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that Israel will always stand by the United States.

“I want to send a message to the people of the United States and all those who seek to harm them: An attack on America is an attack on us,” Lapid says at the ceremony outside the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, where the American flag was lowered to half-staff. “We share the same values of freedom. Of equality. Of tolerance. And we share the same enemies. America is our greatest friend and ally. An attack on our friends is an attack on us.”

The chargé d’affaires of the US Embassy in Israel, Michael Ratney, also attending the ceremony, says: “We lower the flag remembering the shock and horror of one dreadful morning. And we raise the flag recalling how America and its friends and allies and partners — most definitely including Israel — recovered from that initial shock to deliver a new, concerted, global drive against terrorism.”

IDF chief: We will ‘invest all our capabilities’ in catching remaining 2 fugitives

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi says the military will “invest all of [its] capabilities, tools and technology” in the ongoing manhunt to find the remaining two Palestinian fugitives who broke out of Gilboa Prison last week.

“This is an intelligence effort alongside a local security effort. We will continue to invest all of our capabilities, tools and technology in order to serve this effort and to catch the final terrorists who broke out,” he says.

Kohavi makes his remarks following a visit to the IDF Central Command to meet with local commanders and receive the latest update regarding the manhunt.

Government approves NIS 156 million for integration of Ethiopian-Israelis

The cabinet votes to approve a budget of NIS 156 million to help further integrate members of the Ethiopian-Israeli community.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says Israeli society “must continue to change its attitude and its consciousness to immigrants from Ethiopia.”

Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, who herself moved to Israel from Ethiopia at age 3, says there is “still much more work to be done, from shrinking over-policing to equal opportunities in education and promoting fair employment.”

Herzog to police chief: Fighting crime in Arab sector is a top priority

President Isaac Herzog meets with Israel Police commissioner Kobi Shabtai for their first official work meeting since Herzog took office in July.

Herzog thanks Shabtai for the work of the police in capturing four of the six Palestinian security prisoners who escaped from the high-security Gilboa Prison last week.

The president also says that the eradication of crime and violence in the Arab communities is of the utmost importance.

“Citizens in the State of Israel must feel safe when they wake up and go to work and feel that they can return home safely.”

UK drops plan for vaccine passports in England

The UK government is dropping a plan to make people in England show vaccine passports to enter crowded events such as nightclubs, says the health minister.

The government had previously said the measure would be introduced at the end of this month, despite opposition from businesses in the sector and from some Conservative MPs.

Health minister Sajid Javid announces the U-turn, saying the government does not view the move as necessary in the current virus situation, citing high vaccine uptake.

“We’ve looked at it properly and whilst we should keep it in reserve as a potential option I’m pleased to say that we will not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports,” Javid tells the BBC.

Bennett: World powers must set clear red lines for Iran

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says that world powers must not allow Iran to continue to drag out its dealings without setting clear deadlines and red lines.

“I hereby call on world powers not to fall captive to the sleight of hand of the Iranians, which will lead to further concessions,” he says. “Investigating the [nuclear] sites must not be given up, and the most important message that needs to be sent is that a time must be set. They are dragging it out, but a clear and sharp deadline must be set that says ‘until here.'”

Shortly after Bennett’s remarks, Iran agrees to allow international inspectors to install new memory cards in surveillance cameras at its sensitive nuclear sites and to continue filming there.

Earlier this month, the International Atomic Energy Agency in a report said that Iran has continued to increase its stockpile of highly enriched uranium. It also said that verification and monitoring activities have been “seriously undermined” since February, after Iran refused to let inspectors access IAEA monitoring equipment.

The head of the IAEA arrived in Tehran on Saturday for talks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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