The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s developments as they unfolded.
Abbas promises to deliver ‘bombshell’ at UN
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas promises to “drop a bombshell at the end of my speech at the General Assembly,” though he refused to reveal “what that bombshell is.”
Abbas is slated to speak to the UN gathering on September 29.
Speaking to Arab media in an interview set to broadcast next week, he said the “bombshell” would concern the peace process with Israel and purported Israeli violations of the Oslo accords, according to the Ynet news site.
He also criticized the idea of a “Jewish state,” something Israeli leaders have demanded the Palestinians recognize in the context of peace talks, saying that justifying a state’s existence on religious grounds gave legitimacy for jihadist movements in the region.
“If Israel wants to be a Jewish state, it provides legitimacy to ISIS and others who seek to establish an Islamic state in Syria, Egypt, and Gaza,” he said.
Opposing visions in Iran of the American ‘Great Satan,’ says NYT
The New York Times’s Thomas Erdbrink reports on “a new kind of struggle” unfolding among Iran’s top leadership:
…where the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Hassan Rouhani have begun to tackle a question Iranians have not thought about much since the revolution 37 years ago: How to deal with their great enemy, the United States, after having reached a compromise with it.
The two leaders are offering starkly opposing visions of Iran’s post-deal future, reflecting their divergent attitudes toward the “Great Satan.”
“We have announced that we will not negotiate with the Americans on any issue other than the nuclear case,” Mr. Khamenei said this month. Speaking to a group of hard-line students recently he was even more explicit, telling them to “prepare for the continuation of the fight against America.”
By contrast, Mr. Rouhani said on Sunday that the nuclear agreement was “not the end of the way,” but “a beginning for creating an atmosphere of friendship and cooperation with various countries.”
Abbas warns of a ‘fifth column’ in the PA
In an upcoming interview in Arab media, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warns of a “fifth column” trying to destroy the PA from within.
“There is a fifth column inside the PA trying to prevent it from existing,” he says cryptically in the interview, which is slated to air next week, according to the London-based pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi.
Abbas also criticizes Israeli demolitions in the West Bank, saying Israel’s willingness to demolish buildings in Areas A and B, defined in the Oslo Accords to be under PA administrative control, is a violation of the pact. Israel’s much-lauded Supreme Court, which approves such demolitions, is complicit in this violation, he says.
Egypt: Officer killed in Sinai drive-by shooting
Egypt’s Ministry of Interior says gunmen opened fire from a car and killed a senior police officer in northern Sinai.
The ministry says Maj. Gen. Khaled Kamal Osman was inspecting security positions late Wednesday in the city of el-Arish when the gunmen started shooting. Police fired back and the attackers fled the scene in a white car.
Security forces are cordoning off the area and searching for the perpetrators.
Palestinians won’t accept separate Jewish-Muslim access to Temple Mount, says Abbas
In an upcoming interview in Arab media, PA President Mahmoud Abbas warns Israel that Palestinians would not accept separate access for Jews and Muslims to the Temple Mount, which Muslims call al-Aqsa.
Israel has not announced such plans, but the PA reportedly believes the Netanyahu government is considering them to prevent recurring violence on the holy site.
“Dividing [access to] al-Aqsa by time or place will not pass,” he says. “Jerusalem is a red line and we will not allow anybody to touch it,” he says in an interview slated to be aired next week on Arab media, according to the London-based pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi.
Abbas also promises to surprise at his upcoming UN speech on September 29: “I will drop a bombshell during the UN speech” regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, “and I won’t reveal what that is.”
He also says he gave some friendly advice to Bashar Assad of Syria, delivered through Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem. “I advised him to come out and speak to his people. That would have an effect.”
Al-Quds al-Arabi tells its readers that the octogenarian Abbas is entirely clear-headed, contrary to purported Israeli rumors about him deteriorating.
Abbas also reiterates in the interview his resistance to Israeli demands that he recognize it as a Jewish state. “A Jewish state would give rationale to building the Islamic State in Syria, Gaza, Egypt,” he explains.
Hamas holds march backing Temple Mount violence
Hamas’s Interior Ministry arranges a march of police through the streets of Gaza “in support of al-Aqsa mosque,” Muslim claims to the Temple Mount and escalating violence by Muslim activist groups on the site.
— Pal.Info.Center (@PalinfoAr) September 17, 2015
Lapid says he’ll propose new regional diplomatic initiative
Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid announces he will propose a “diplomatic program for a regional agreement and the strategic strengthening of Israel” in an upcoming speech at Bar Ilan University.
A conference of business leaders is slated for Sunday at the university’s Ramat Gan campus. Lapid, a former finance minister, is scheduled to speak in the morning.
A statement from his office says he will propose “an alternative to the failed policy of [Benjamin] Netanyahu in recent years, which is isolating Israel and endangering its security.”
Japan parliament battles over new powers for military
Japan’s ruling party pushes contentious security bills through a legislative committee Thursday, catching the opposition by surprise and causing chaos in the chamber.
Opposition lawmakers surge toward the chairman’s seat as they realize something was up after ruling party legislators had gathered at the podium to protect him.
As the scrum intensifies, ruling party lawmakers still in their seats stand up to signal their support for the legislation, though there doesn’t appear to be an audible announcement of what they are voting on.
The legislative standoff is the latest development in a years-long national debate about the way Japan uses its military, a central question for the country since its armed forces were defeated in World War II seven decades ago. The bills would ease restrictions and allow the military to defend Japan’s allies even when the country isn’t under attack, work more closely with the US and other allies, and do more in international peacekeeping.
A senior opposition member later says his party would not accept the vote because the ruling bloc had cheated.
“You saw the scene. We do not recognize there was a vote. How can you tell what happened, what the chairman was calling?” says Tetsuro Fukuyama, committee leader for the Democratic Party of Japan.
If the vote stands, the legislation will go to the upper house of parliament for final approval. The bills were passed by the more powerful lower house in July.
“Although it was unfortunate that the bills had to be approved this way, they are absolutely needed in order to protect the lives and happiness of the people,” Masahisa Sato, a member of the committee for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, tells public broadcaster NHK shortly after the vote.
Islamic State says it’s behind Baghdad suicide blasts
Islamic State claims responsibility for two suicide bombers who targeted Iraqi police checkpoints in commercial areas in central Baghdad during rush hour Thursday, killing at least 21 people, officials say.
Both attacks are carried out by bombers on foot, wearing explosives-laden vests, two police officers say. One bomber strikes in Baghdad’s Bab al-Sharji area, killing nine civilians and three police officers there. Forty-five people are wounded in that explosion.
The second bomber hits in al-Wathba Square, killing nine people, including four policemen, and wounding 31.
In a statement posted on its Twitter accounts, IS claims responsibility for the attacks, saying it targeted police and Shiite paramilitary forces.
Israeli economy grinds to halt with 0.1% Q2 growth
Israel’s economy has ground to a standstill, according to the latest figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics.
The bureau revises the annual GDP growth measure in the second quarter 2015 to just 0.1%, the Globes business journal reports.
In August, the CBS estimate for Q2 was a higher 0.3%. It stood at 1.8% in the year’s first quarter and a robust 6.1% in the last quarter of 2014.
Greece’s neo-Nazis rally voters on anti-migrant plank
Shouting “Foreigners out!” and “Greece for the Greeks,” hundreds of flag-waving neo-Nazi Golden Dawn supporters clamor their anger towards migrants in downtown Athens on Wednesday, just four days before Sunday’s key general election.
“Greece has got to stop hosting foreigners and send them home,” party leader Nikos Michaloliakos tells the crowd of 500 gathered as dusk falls over a down-at-heels corner of Athens frequented by travelers and migrants.
Michaloliakos, whose party is tipped to take third place in the September poll with around six percent support, won 388,000 votes in elections in January, a little less than in June 2012 when it garnered 426,000 votes.
Cheered as he demands the government guard Greece’s borders, he calls for “the army to be sent in!”
It is the 57-year-old leader’s first public rally since being released in March after 18 months in jail on criminal charges, along with other party officials, in connection with the fatal shooting of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas two years ago.
Romania protests Hungary’s anti-migrant fence
Romania protests a decision by Hungary to build a 70-kilometer (43.5-mile) fence along their shared border to deter migrants.
A government statement Thursday says the fence plan “did not conform to European Union norms” after Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto gives details of its length. Hungary has already built a razor-wire fence with Serbia and suggests it may do the same with neighboring Croatia.
The Romanian Foreign Ministry calls in Hungary’s ambassador to Romania, Botond Zakonyi, to protest the planned fence and comments by Hungarian officials about migrants, calling them “totally unjustified” Thursday.
The countries share a 448-kilometer (278-mile) long border.
Liberman to Netanyahu: ‘Apologize and resign’
Yisrael Beytenu chairman MK Avigdor Liberman calls for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “apologize and resign” over continued violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The former political ally of the prime minister says in a Facebook post Thursday, “When on the eve of Rosh Hashanah a Jew is murdered in Jerusalem, when before the holiday and during it there are riots and rocks thrown on the Temple Mount, when after the holiday Iron Dome is deployed in Ashdod for fear of the response of terrorists in Gaza, it’s time for the people of Israel to ask the prime minister where their security has gone, and their money.”
He adds: “And it is appropriate for the prime minister to ask forgiveness from Israel’s citizens for the false promises he has given them. After the apology, it would also be appropriate for him to resign.”
Syrian army stages airstrikes on IS-held town
Syrian activists say the Syrian army has carried out a wave of airstrikes in the northern city of Raqqa, the self-declared capital of the Islamic State group.
Two Syria-based groups as well as the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say warplanes carried out at least 12 airstrikes across the city Thursday. They report casualties but had no specific figures.
The airstrikes occur as the UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is in Damascus. De Mistura meets with Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, who tells him that fighting terrorism was the Syrian government’s priority.
Syrian President Bashar Assad says in an interview with Russian media aired Wednesday that there can be no political solution to the Syrian civil war before terrorism is defeated.
More than 1,000 evacuated in Saudi hotel fire
Emergency officials in Saudi Arabia say more than 1,000 pilgrims are safely evacuated from a hotel in Mecca during a fire there ahead of the hajj pilgrimage.
Authorities say a blaze started Thursday on the eighth floor of an 11-story hotel in Mecca’s Aziziya neighborhood.
Saudi civil defense officials say two pilgrims are being treated for injuries from the fire.
The hajj is expected to start on Monday. More than 1 million pilgrims have already arrived for the annual pilgrimage, which all able-bodied Muslims are required to perform once in their lives.
The fire comes after a crane collapse in Mecca last Friday killed at least 111 people and injured more than 390.
2 Palestinian youths held for Jerusalem stone-throwing
Two Palestinian youths are arrested by Border Police officers for throwing rocks at vehicles on a main road in Jerusalem’s A-Tur neighborhood. There are no injuries reported in the incident.
During their pursuit of the youths, the officers were also pelted with rocks.
The youths are reported to be 10 years old.
A Border Police commander tells the Walla news site that security forces often encounter children engaged in the stone-throwing, and criticized parents in Arab neighborhoods who allow their children to put motorists and themselves in mortal danger by throwing rocks at cars.
Volunteers aid in search for Israeli man missing in Ukraine
Volunteers from the ZAKA rescue organizations fly to the Ukrainian city of Uman to help search for a missing Israeli man, Amir Ohana, who disappeared in the country during a Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage there.
“Efforts include extensive interviewing and checking CCTV footage in order to find leads, as well as an organized physical searching of a wide area using many volunteers on the ground,” a statement from ZAKA says.
Thousands of Israelis visit the Ukrainian city each year on Rosh Hashanah to pay respects to the 18th century Hasidic sage Nachman of Breslov who is buried there.
The ZAKA team includes a search-and-rescue drone operator, the group says. The group is “awaiting approval from the Ukrainian authorities to send out volunteers from the ZAKA Canine unit and the ZAKA Divers unit, in order to provide the fullest response possible to this search mission,” it adds.
Galilee woman hospitalized after wolf attack
A 42-year-old woman from the Galilee town of Beit Jan is hospitalized with light wounds after being bitten by a wolf in the Mt. Meron Nature Reserve.
According to her brother, she was attacked by the wolf as she returned home after working in the family’s vineyard, located on the grounds of the reserve, the news site NRG reports.
Doctors bandage up her right hand and thigh and vaccinate her against rabies.
Acre fifth-graders hospitalized after eating margosa fruit
Eight students in an Acre elementary school are hospitalized after eating the olive-like fruit of a margosa tree. The fruit was apparently rotten.
The six boys and two girls, all in fifth grade, are expected to be released home after checks at the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya confirm there is no lasting damage from the fruit.
Lego Vatican on display in Philadelphia ahead of pope visit
Philadelphia’s science museum is hosting a blockbuster exhibit of Lego sculptures and was preparing to unveil a huge display of Holy See treasures for the pope’s upcoming visit when administrators got a serendipitous inquiry.
Would they like to see a model of the Vatican that a priest built entirely of Legos?
“It’s amazing,” says Larry Dubinski, president and CEO of The Franklin Institute, where the plastic brick structure is now on view in downtown Philadelphia. “People are in awe.”
The Rev. Bob Simon spent about 10 months constructing a mini St. Peter’s Basilica out of a half-million Legos. His architectural feat includes a Lego pope on a balcony overlooking the crowd in St. Peter’s Square, which itself is made up of about 44,000 Lego pieces resembling cobblestones.
A colorful cast of Lego characters populates the piazza, including a nun with a selfie stick and a bespectacled figurine of Simon. All told, the display measures 14 feet by 6 feet and weighs about 100 pounds.
Saudi-led coalition pounds Yemen rebels
A Saudi-led coalition is pounding Yemen’s Shiite rebels on the outskirts of the city of Marib in its push to retake the capital, Sanaa.
The dull thud of artillery fire rumbles across the city Thursday but its residents, many armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles, appear unperturbed by the nearby fighting.
Marib is the capital of the largely desert province of the same name. Authorities say the coalition is targeting Houthi rebel positions near the key Marib dam and the town of Sirwah, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) west on the road to Sanaa.
The provincial capital itself is under control of loyalists to exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is supported by Saudi Arabia. Deputy governor Abdo Rab Ali says 80 percent of the province is controlled by pro-Hadi forces while the Houthis control 20 percent.
UK intel chief cites terror threat in seeking more powers
Britain’s head of domestic intelligence warns that the level of terrorist plotting against Britain is at its highest level in more than three decades.
MI5 chief Andrew Parker on Thursday uses a BBC Radio interview to call for new powers to monitor communications to track terror plots. He says the proliferation of new Internet technologies poses a difficult challenge. It is the first live broadcast interview given by any British intelligence chief.
Parker says “they are using secure apps and Internet communication to try to broadcast their message and incite and direct terrorism amongst people who live here who are prepared to listen.”
Parker says British police and security services had intervened to foil six terrorist plots in the last 12 months, more than at any point in his 32-year career.
Economy minister laments lack of unity government
Economy Minister Aryeh Deri says he made a “terrible mistake” when he failed to demand that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu form a national unity government during the summer’s coalition talks.
Netanyahu wanted to establish a unity government following the March elections, the Shas leader tells Israel Radio in a Thursday interview, but opposition leader Isaac Herzog, head of the Zionist Union list, did not agree to the move.
Deri also speaks to the near-zero growth in GDP in the second quarter of 2015, saying it was caused by a decline in exports. The cabinet will meet after the High Holidays to decide on concrete steps to encourage growth, he promises.
Umm al-Fahm teen badly hurt in 3-story fall
A 15-year-old boy is in serious condition after falling three stories from a building ledge in the Galilee town of Umm al-Fahm.
He is hospitalized in Afula’s Haemek hospital.
EU calls leaders’ summit over refugee crisis
The European Union announces an emergency summit in Brussels next Wednesday to tackle the migrant crisis and address sharp differences over plans to relocate 120,000 refugees around the bloc.
“I convene an extra EUCO (summit) on Wednesday 23 September at 18h (1600 GMT) to discuss how to deal with the refugee crisis,” European Council President Donald Tusk says in a tweet.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Austrian counterpart Werner Faymann had called for a summit after EU interior ministers in Brussels failed to reach an agreement Monday on how to redistribute refugees from overstretched Hungary, Italy and Greece.
Interior ministers from the 28 member states are to hold a new emergency meeting next Tuesday on Europe’s worst migration crisis since World War II.
Firefighters battle blazes near Jerusalem, Tel Aviv
The unseasonably warm weather continues to spark wildfires.
Four firefighting squads are deployed near the Kfar Adumim settlement northeast of Jerusalem battling a brush fire on a hillside between the village and the nearby settlement of Nofei Prat.
A second brush fire is raging near the Tel Aviv suburb of Givatayim. The fire was stopped by three firefighting teams as it inched close to residential buildings in the Givatayim neighborhood of Givat Kozlovsky.
Firefighters have faced dozens of blazes as fields dried out over the course of an unusually dry and hot summer.
Emergency rooms strained by holiday schedule
Israel’s emergency rooms are under strain because of overflow from local clinics as Israel’s sick try to obtain treatment between the holidays, medical officials say.
The Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, near Ramat Gan, says its emergency room on Thursday is at 300 percent capacity.
The Rosh Hashanah holiday earlier this week, the coming Sabbath, and next week’s Yom Kippur holiday have caused many Israelis to try to see their doctors during a small number of intervening days, leading to a long backlog at their local clinics. The clinics are now sending their overflow to emergency rooms, say officials, leading to overflow in the hospitals as well.
The Terem network of emergency clinics, which operates on weekends and holidays, announces it is increasing manpower at its clinics over the holidays to help offset the rush.
Foreign Ministry chief: Abbas is undermining coexistence
Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold slams comments made Wednesday by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount.
“Today the world is divided between those trying to undermine religious coexistence and those trying to protect it,” Gold says in a Thursday statement. “By saying that the ‘filthy feet’ of Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount desecrate it, Mahmoud Abbas has now clarified on which side he stands.”
In a Ramallah address Wednesday, Abbas said, “We will not forsake our country and we will keep every inch of our land. Every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem is pure, every shahid [martyr] will reach paradise, and every injured person will be rewarded by God.”
He adds: “The Al-Aqsa Mosque is ours. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is ours as well. They have no right to desecrate the mosque with their dirty feet, we won’t allow them to do that.”
Female infantry officer wins medal of valor for 2014 battle
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot approves medals of valor for Capt. Or Ben Yehuda and 1st Sgt. (res.) Yuri Zuyev for their role in battles against terrorists who attempted to infiltrate Israel from the Egyptian Sinai.
“The two prevented the infiltration of dozens of terrorists into Israeli territory and fought with initiative, determination, mission commitment and striving for victory” during an October 2014 attempted infiltration, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit says.
Ben Yehuda is an officer in the Karakal mixed-gender infantry battalion that patrols the country’s southwestern frontier. She is a rare example of a female combat infantry soldier winning the medal for her performance under fire.
More bad economic news: 2015 growth estimate drops to 2.6%
In the latest bad news for Israel’s slowing economy, the Treasury says it is updating its growth estimates for 2015 downward to 2.6 percent.
The new estimate is fully 0.5 percentage points lower than the last estimate of 3.1% issued by the Finance Ministry’s Chief Economist in July, according to the Israeli business journal Calcalist.
Growth for 2016 is also pushed down in the latest forecast, from 3.3% to 2.9%.
The announcement follows just hours after the Central Bureau of Statistics announced Thursday that second quarter 2015 GDP growth was just 0.1% annualized, a steep drop from the first quarter’s 1.8%.
The growth estimate update is based on “economic developments in Israel and the world, and the increase in tax collection in recent months,” the Finance Ministry says.
Liberman, not Netanyahu, broke promises to voters, Likud retorts
Likud hits back at Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman, who earlier today called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign over continuing violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Liberman accused Netanyahu of violating his promises to Israel’s citizens.
“It is Avigdor Liberman who promised his voters to join a nationalist government led by Netanyahu,” Likud says in a statement. “Immediately after the elections, he joined the left-wing parties in the opposition. It is he who grotesquely violated his promises to the public.”
In its statement, Likud adds its own characterization of Netanyahu’s performance: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pursuing an aggressive and determined policy of defending the borders from illegal infiltration and guarding Israel’s security through a policy of zero tolerance toward terror. Instead of attacking the prime minister, one might expect of Liberman to support the aggressive steps [Netanyahu] is leading against terror.”
Zionists control American government, says Khamenei
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei continues his recent spate of anti-Israel tweets.
American governments, he says in a tweet, “put their people under Zionists custody.”
In a comment apparently responding to pro-Israel statements by Republican primary contenders in a Wednesday debate — and the epithet-ridden complaint they drew from a right-wing American pundit — Khamenei asks, “Isn’t it a shame that presidential candidates try to satisfy Zionists&prove their servitude?”
US govs put their people under Zionists custody.Isn’t it a shame that presidential candidates try to satisfy Zionists&prove their servitude?
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) September 17, 2015
Iran banks that help terror will see sanctions reimposed, says US official
Iranian banks enjoying sanctions relief under the July nuclear deal would find US sanctions reimposed if Washington discovers they were supporting Hezbollah or the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’s Quds Force, the US says.
Adam Szubin, an official with the US Treasury Department, makes the promise in testimony Thursday to the Senate Banking Committee, Reuters reports.
“We’ll have to see how they behave, but the choice will be theirs,” Szubin says.
The hearing is meant to confirm Szubin as the new under secretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence.
Third Republican attempt to sink Iran deal fails in Senate
Senate Democrats defeat a third Republican attempt to stymie the nuclear deal through legislation.
The latest Republican amendment tries to condition the implementation of America’s part in the agreement to Tehran recognizing Israel and freeing American prisoners, according to the Washington political magazine The Hill.
It fails Thursday in a 53-45 vote in the Senate. Senate procedural rules required 60 votes in favor in order for the amendment to move forward.
The latest effort to sink the nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers is the last the US Congress can undertake, since the legally mandated 60-day review period for the deal ends today.
Train to Ben Gurion Airport to shut Friday for maintenance
Israel Railways is planning maintenance work this weekend on tracks leading to Ben Gurion International Airport.
Beginning Friday at 3 p.m. until Saturday night, the lines between Ben Gurion Airport and the Modiin Central station in the nearby city of Modiin will be closed.
The work includes laying new track to connect the airport to the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv line currently under construction.
Shuttles between the airport and Modiin’s two stations, Modiin Central and Pa’atey Modiin, will be provided throughout the weekend.
Israeli missing in Ukraine has epilepsy, wife says
Amir Ohana, the Israeli man missing since Monday in Ukraine, suffers from epilepsy, his wife Meital tells Israel’s Channel 10.
“He has epilepsy, and there’s a fear that he suffered an epileptic seizure with no one nearby to help him,” she says.
Ohana was on a pilgrimage to the Ukrainian town of Uman, where the 18th-century Hassidic sage Nachman of Breslov is buried, when he disappeared.
“He was supposed to call me immediately after the end of the [Rosh Hashanah] holiday” on Tuesday evening, Meital says. “When he didn’t call I started to make all sorts of calls. After a few hours [a stranger] answered and I understood that he was missing.”
The Israeli consulate, a travel insurance company, local police and the Israeli rescue organization ZAKA have launched a massive search in the Uman area for Ohana, including diving into a local lake and sweeping through nearby forests.
In first, UN to host Yom Kippur ‘tashlich’ ceremony
In a notable first, ambassadors at the United Nations in New York will participate on Monday in a traditional tashlich ceremony in honor of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.
The ceremony includes throwing pieces of bread into a river in a symbolic casting away of one’s sins ahead of the holiday, which focuses on repentance.
Ambassadors from the US, Australia, Canada, France, Tanzania and Sierra Leone are expected to join in the ceremony on the Manhattan shore of the East River.
The event, arranged by Israel’s ambassador Ron Prosor and New York Rabbi Arthur Schneier, is part of an ongoing effort by Israel’s mission to the UN to have Yom Kippur recognized as an official holiday in the world body.
Firebombs thrown at security fence spark brush fire
Firefighters contain a brush fire near Har Adar, northwest of Jerusalem.
Authorities say the blaze was sparked by firebombs thrown by Palestinians near the security fence nearby.
There are no casualties reported in the incident.
UN envoy says Gaza reconstruction speeding up
The United Nations’s Mideast envoy gives a rare upbeat assessment in the Gaza Strip, saying reconstruction from last year’s war between Israel and Hamas is speeding up.
Thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged in the 50 days of fighting. The reconstruction of hundreds of houses started last month with help from Qatar, which has donated millions of dollars to rebuild 1,000 housing units.
“I’m very happy to be able to report today that the reconstruction effort has visibly accelerated within the last two months,” says Nikolay Mladenov, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process.
Construction materials are shipped into Gaza from Israel through a UN-supervised program that ensures the goods are not diverted to Hamas.
The program has approved applications from 3,400 families. Of them, 1,400 have already received cement, steel and gravel to start rebuilding.
UN watchdog rejects oversight of Israel’s nuclear program
The UN’s nuclear watchdog rejects an Arab resolution calling for international oversight of Israel’s nuclear program.
The 61-43 vote in Israel’s favor in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s General Conference Thursday is a rare instance of support for Israel in the world of UN bodies and international organizations. Thirty-three states abstained.
Egypt, Israel’s erstwhile ally against shared jihadist enemies in Gaza and Sinai, led the campaign against Israel’s nuclear program, the Haaretz daily reports.
A similar resolution also failed to pass the IAEA General Conference in 2014.
US releases Moroccan after 14 years at Guantanamo
Another Guantanamo Bay prisoner is released as part of the drawn-out US effort to close the detention center on the US base in Cuba, the Pentagon says Thursday.
Moroccan prisoner Younis Abdurrahman Chekkouri is sent home to his native country after nearly 14 years at Guantanamo after a security review and notification of Congress as required under the law, the Pentagon says in a statement.
Chekkouri, 46, was captured by Pakistan in December 2001 as he fled Afghanistan with other suspected al-Qaeda fighters and was turned over to the United States. He has been held at Guantanamo since May 2002 and has never been charged.
Cori Crider, an attorney for Chekkouri from the human rights group Reprieve, expresses concern that he was not immediately released upon his arrival in Morocco as expected.
“There is no reason for the Moroccan authorities to prolong Younous’ detention after all he has suffered over 14 years,” Crider said.
His release reduces the prison’s population to 115, down by more than half since President Barack Obama took office and pledged to close the prison.
10,000 march in Istanbul against terrorism
More than 10,000 people take part in an anti-terrorism rally in Turkey’s capital Ankara on Thursday, as the army continues a major offensive against Kurdish militants who have killed dozens of security force members since July.
The non-partisan rally was organized by a coalition of NGOs, trade unions and business groups, under the slogan “Yes to unity and solidarity, no to terror.”
It comes three days before another demonstration on the same theme in Istanbul, to be addressed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
With fall in full swing, flu vaccination begins
The weather may feel like summer, but with September already half-way done, health funds are starting to vaccinate Israelis against the flu.
The Clalit fund is already vaccinating members with “high risk” of contracting the flu, including babies and toddlers, the elderly and pregnant women. The fund purchased 1.1 million vaccines, the news site Ynet reports.
Another major fund, Maccabi Health Services, stock up on some 430,000 vaccines and is preparing to begin vaccinating its members on Sunday.
The remaining funds, including the IDF’s Medical Corps, will begin vaccinations at the end of the month.
Enlisted soldiers to get 50% salary boost
The IDF is set to dramatically increase the pay of enlisted soldiers following the recommendations of a government committee.
The cabinet approved the increase in July, but Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon disagree over how to pay the increase. Kahlon wants to increase soldiers’ monthly salary, while Ya’alon prefers the money to be paid through an increase to the grant given soldiers upon their release.
Kahlon’s view appears to have prevailed, Channel 2 reports.
Under the new policy, frontline combat troops will see their monthly salary rise from NIS 1,080 ($280) to NIS 1,620 ($417), combat support soldiers from NIS 780 ($201) to NIS 1,170 ($301) and non-combat troops from NIS 540 ($139) to NIS 810 ($209).
German police kill Islamic extremist after knife attack
German police shoot and kill a known Islamic extremist after he threatens passers-by and attacks an officer with a knife on the streets of Berlin, officials say Thursday.
Officers are called to Spandau, in western Berlin, after reports that a man is waving a knife about on the street. The 41-year-old man seriously injures a female officer before another officer shoots and kills him.
Security officials confirm to The Associated Press that the attacker was Rafik Mohamad Yousef, convicted seven years ago of belonging to an al-Qaeda-linked terror group.
Frank Henkel, the interior minister for the state of Berlin, said the reasons for the attack were still unclear. “There are indications that this wasn’t a planned act,” Henkel said in a statement, but added that due to the man’s history “a religious motif can’t be excluded.”
Police spokesman Stefan Redlich says the injured officer is in a stable condition in intensive care.
Last month was hottest August in 136 years
Last month was the hottest August in modern history, in the latest sign of an unusually warm year across the world’s land and sea surfaces, US government scientists say Thursday.
Record-breaking warmth was seen across much of South America and parts of Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia, says the report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The most scorching August on the planet in 136 years was also the sixth month this year to have broken a monthly temperature record, putting 2015 on pace to beat 2014 as the warmest year ever, scientists say.
Netanyahu thanks 61 states who voted with Israel at IAEA
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanks 61 states that voted against a resolution in a UN nuclear watchdog conference calling to place Israel’s nuclear program under international oversight.
“I personally spoke with over 30 presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers,” Netanyahu says in a statement shortly after the IAEA’s General Conference votes down the Arab-proposed resolution by a 61-43 vote.
“In my conversations, I explained that it is inappropriate to hold a discussion of this sort while the main problem in the Middle East remains Iran’s efforts to obtain nuclear arms and its clear declarations of its intent to destroy Israel,” he adds.
“I want to thank all the states that supported Israel, led by the United States, Australia and Canada. I want to thank the European Union, which voted as a bloc with Israel.”
FBI: NY man tried to help, join Islamic State
Federal agents arrest a New York City man on charges he tried to support and join the Islamic State group.
Court documents unsealed Thursday in Brooklyn detail multiple failed attempts by 22-year-old Ali Saleh to fly abroad between September 2014 and August 2015.
An FBI special agent says in a complaint that Saleh used Twitter to post a message saying he was ready to die for the so-called Islamic caliphate.
An attorney for Saleh hasn’t returned a message seeking comment. Saleh is expected to appear in court later today.
Court papers show Saleh’s first attempt to travel to Syria from New York via Turkey was thwarted after his parents took away his passport. They show he also tried to travel from New Jersey and Philadelphia airports.
High school teachers to strike in solidarity with Christian schools
Israel high school teachers’ union announces that it will go on strike for two hours on Sunday in support of Christian schools currently locked in a budget battle with the government.
Christian schools have been shut since the start of the school year on September 1 to protest steep cuts in public support due to the government’s decision to scale back public funding for private schools.
While talks have been ongoing, and even the Vatican has weighed in on the issue, the announcement Thursday marks the first time teachers in the mainstream public education system are siding with the Christian schools.
The strike means high school classrooms with union teachers won’t open till 10 a.m. on Sunday.
Palestinians inciting Temple Mount violence, Netanyahu tells UN’s Ban
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about continuing violence on the Temple Mount.
Israel is working to end the violence, the prime minister says. “Unlike the Palestinian side’s incitement, Israel is taking pains to preserve the status quo,” Netanyahu is quoted as saying in a statement from his office.
He adds that Israel would respond aggressively to stone-throwing and firebomb attacks, which have caused the deaths of innocent Israelis.
The Prime Minister’s Office statement did not offer Ban’s responses.
EU warns Catalonia independence means leaving bloc
The EU on Thursday warns that Catalonia would automatically drop out of the bloc and would have to apply for re-admission if it secedes from Spain.
“If part of a member state ceases to be part of that state, because of the territory becoming an independent state, the (EU treaties) would no longer apply to that territory,” European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas says when asked about the possible consequences of a September 27 regional vote in Catalonia.
“A newly independent region by the fact of its independence would become a third country in respect of the EU and may apply to become a member of the Union,” Schinas tells reporters in Brussels.
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