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Ben Gvir toning down extremist views in pre-election ‘trick,’ says his party member

Network films senior Otzma Yehudit candidate Almog Cohen telling activists the faction leader is employing a tactic similar to Trojan Horse, to avoid being disqualified for racism

Far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir speaks during a press conference in Ramat Gan, August 15, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir speaks during a press conference in Ramat Gan, August 15, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

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

Lapid tells Jordan’s king Israel ‘will fight all forms of terror’ against citizens

Prime Minister Yair Lapid discusses calming tensions in the West Bank with Jordan’s King Abdullah II on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

According to a readout from Lapid’s office, the prime minister stresses that “Israel will not stand by, and will fight all forms of terror directed at Israel, and will not allow harm to the security of its citizens.”

The potential for further escalation is especially high with the Jewish High Holidays beginning next week.

The two leaders are also discussing expanding economic cooperation.

This is the first time the two have met since their sit-down in Amman in July.

Labor chief Michaeli says next government must work toward 2-state solution

Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli says that she wants the next government to work towards a two-state solution to resolve Palestinian national aspirations, as she launches her Labor party’s campaign in Tel Aviv.

“The next government must renew political discourse and stop hiding behind empty words like ‘managing the conflict’ or ‘reducing the conflict,'” Michaeli says.

Her comments follow her Sunday push at the government’s weekly cabinet meeting to reopen the currently dormant issue of Palestinian statehood.

“Without a two-state solution, we will stay with one state for two nations and that’s the end of the State of Israel as we know it and love it, and we won’t let it happen,” the center-left Labor leader reaffirms.

Lapid, Jordan’s King Abdullah start their meeting on UN sidelines

Prime Minister Yair Lapid begins his meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City.

They are expected to discuss the security situation in the West Bank, an issue that particularly concerns Lapid.

At campaign event, Shaked apologizes for joining the previous government

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked apologizes to her supporters, and to right-wing voters in general, for having joined the outgoing ideologically diverse government, but insists that she always upheld right-wing policies in that government.

Speaking at the campaign launch for the Jewish Home party she now leads, she blames the establishment of the right-center-left government on Religious Zionism party leader Bezalel Smotrich and New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar for failing to agree on terms for a right-wing coalition led by former premier Benjamin Netanyahu.

Jewish Home is struggling badly in the polls and will not enter the Knesset according to the latest surveys.

“I believe that you will find a place in your hearts to forgive me,” says Shaked, adding that she knows her decision to help form the last government “broke a million hearts” and “deeply hurt” her supporters.

Shaked also calls on right-wing voters to look at her record in the government, and points to what she described as several successes such as “the Palestinian issue having dropped off the agenda,” reforming the justice system and advancing right-wing economic policies.

Ben Gvir toning down extremist views in pre-election ‘trick,’ says his party member

A candidate in the far-right Religious Zionism party is recorded telling activists that the extremist party No. 2 Itamar Ben Gvir has toned down his racist anti-Arab rhetoric only as part of a “trick” to avoid being disqualified from running in the November 1 election, likening the scheme to a Trojan Horse.

Ben Gvir, the leader of the increasingly popular Otzma Yehudit faction within Religious Zionism, is a longtime follower of racist rabbi Meir Kahane, who advocated deporting Israel’s Arab population.

Since becoming a lawmaker, he has toned down that rhetoric, replacing his common chant of “Death to Arabs” with “Death to terrorists” and distancing himself from Kahane’s legacy.

Channel 13 airs footage filmed by a staff member posing as an Otzma Yehudit activist at a recent campaign event, and joined other activists who asked Almog Cohen — Otzma Yehudit’s No. 3, who is seventh on Religious Zionism’s electoral slate and is highly likely to become an MK — why Ben Gvir has distanced himself from the faction’s founding ideology.

Itamar Ben Gvir of the Otzma Yehudit party speaks during a ceremony in Jerusalem marking the 27th anniversary of the killing of extremist rabbi Meir Kahane, November 7, 2017. The sign behind him reads, “Kahane was right!” (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“I’m saying a simple thing: All is fair in love and war,” Cohen answers. “Those who don’t use tricks, lose. Believe me, nobody here is more right-wing than me. [But] there are journalists here.”

He then describes the concept of a Trojan Horse, a huge hollow wooden horse said to have been given as a gift by the Greeks to Troy thousands of years ago, but which contained many Greek fighters who later emerged to defeat their rivals.

His apparent meaning is that Ben Gvir is purposefully concealing his true views and plans in order to avoid being disqualified and repelling more moderate voters, and will then implement his actual plans when he becomes minister, something senior members in opposition chief Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party have said will happen.

“In the end, there is a very clear and very simple question: do you want to be right or to be smart?,” Cohen is filmed saying. “You can be right for many years, you’ll even die being in the right, but if you’re smart, you’ll change [your tactic]. And Itamar is smart, he already changed. Look at the discourse today. A year back, who would’ve dared think 100-150 people would come here [to the campaign rally]?”

Launching campaign, Labor’s Michaeli says far-right Ben Gvir poised to ‘destroy’ Israel

Center-left Labor party leader Merav Michaeli attacks far-right MK head Itamar Ben Gvir, who she says is poised to destroy Israel.

Of Ben Gvir, Michaeli says “I saw upfront the same violence, incitement and racism that threatens us since they threatened Yitzhak Rabin, those who were then ‘rogue weeds’ are today MKs. And they can be ministers.”

Ben Gvir, the leader of the Otzma Yehudit faction within the Religious Zionism party, first captured public attention when he was filmed bragging about stealing an emblem from then-prime minister Rabin’s car in 1995. “We got to his car, and we’ll get to him, too,” the then-teenager bragged, shortly before Rabin’s assassination.

Michaeli, whose party is across the ideological spectrum from Ben Gvir, says that his actions might bring “destruction” to Israel, while speaking at her campaign launch event in Tel Aviv.

The two were both at Ramat Gan’s Blich High School earlier today, where Michaeli made comments echoing the sentiment.

US denounces ‘sham’ Russian-planned referendums in Ukraine

The US denounces Russia’s planned referendums to annex parts of Ukraine as “sham” actions and says it will not recognize the results.

“These referenda are an affront to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity that underpin the international system,” says White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

“If this does transpire, the United States will never recognize Russia’s claims to any purportedly annexed parts of Ukraine,” he says.

Separatists in the Donbas and Kherson regions have said the referendums to join Russia will take place on September 23-27.

Sullivan says the referendums and a reported Russian plan to call up more troops reflect Moscow’s recent setbacks in the war, losing large areas of territory to the Ukrainian military.

“These are not the actions of a confident country. These are not acts of strength, quite the opposite,” Sullivan says

Woman stabbed to death in northern Israel; son arrested on suspicion of murder

A woman in her 50s has been pronounced dead in the northern town of Abu Snan, with her son arrested on suspicion of murder.

The woman was found stabbed in her upper body and with no signs of life.

First Israeli to scale Mount Everest rescued by chopper from forest fire in Canada

Mountain climber Doron Erel, the first Israeli to scale Mount Everest, was rescued in a helicopter several days ago after becoming trapped in a forest fire in Canada, according to the Ynet news site.

The 63-year-old, who reached the summit of the world’s highest mountain in 1992, now lives in Canada.

He was hiking with his son at a mountain ridge in British Columbia and they set up a camp at 1,800 meters above sea level after climbing for seven hours through a forest.

The following morning, there was smoke rising from the forest that quickly got denser, and the experienced Erel realized the danger early.

“The area was completely covered in smoke and returning was impossible. We had to find an alternative plan. A possible route along the forest road would have taken at least 10 days, a journey we weren’t prepared for. The decision to ask for immediate help was clear,” he told Ynet.

Within 1.5 hours, a chopper belonging to the Rescue One company, working with Israel’s Harel insurance company, arrived and took them to safety.

Murder probe launched into woman’s death in Holon; possible nationalistic motive

Police and the Shin Bet security agency are investigating the apparent murder of an elderly woman in Holon.

According to police, the 84-year-old was found seriously wounded after being assaulted on the central city’s HaHashmona’im Street.

The Shin Bet’s involvement in the case comes following suspicions that the attack was nationalistic in nature.

Police have obtained security camera footage of the incident, according to Hebrew-language media reports.

At UN, Erdogan calls to end ‘illegal settlements,’ says 2 states the ‘only solution’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calls for an end to “illegal settlements” in his address to the UN General Assembly, in relatively mild criticism of Israel.

Israel and Turkey’s relations have warmed in the past year after a long period of frayed ties, and Erdogan and Lapid are set to meet while in New York for the UN, the first meeting between leaders of the countries in years.

Erdogan’s lengthy speech mentions the Israeli-Palestinian conflict among other global crises, including Ukraine, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“We need to finalize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once and for all through the establishment of a two-state solution,” he says.

“We have to preserve the historical and cultural identity of Jerusalem and we have to respect Haram al-Sharif,” he says, referring to the Temple Mount by its Arabic name. He delivers the speech in Turkish.

“We have to stop the illegal settlements in the occupied regions, establishing security for the lives and commodities of the Palestinians. We have to establish a permanent and fair solution for the region with East Jerusalem becoming a capital,” Erdogan says. “A free and sovereign Palestinian state. There are no other solutions.”

“This is going to be for the best interests of the world, for the Palestinian people, for the Israeli people and the region,” he says.

He also calls for more international aid for the Palestinians and expressed concern about the Iranian nuclear program. He lashes Greece for its refugee policies and vows to “defend our rights” in the Eastern Aegean.

IDF announces closures on West Bank, Gaza border crossings during upcoming holidays

The Israeli army announces it is imposing a closure on border crossings between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the upcoming Jewish holidays.

Closures during Rosh Hashanah will begin September 25 at 4 p.m. and last until 11:59 p.m. on September 27.

On Yom Kippur, closures will begin October 4 at 12:01 a.m. and last until 11:59 p.m. on October 5.

During Sukkot, closures will begin October 9 at 4 p.m. and last until 11:59 p.m. on October 10, as well as between October 16 at 4 p.m. and October 17 at 11:59 p.m.

In all cases, the Israel Defense Forces says the border crossings for Palestinians will reopen “subject to a situational assessment.”

Exceptions during the upcoming closures will be made for humanitarian and other outstanding cases, but will require the approval of the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

Such closures are standard practice during festivals and holidays, in what the military says is a preventative measure against attacks at those times, which are seen as periods of increased tension.

During the holiday of Purim in March this year, the military skipped the closures altogether for the first time in five years.

Before meeting Lapid, Jordan’s king warns of ‘undermining Jerusalem status quo’ at UN

Jordan’s King Abdullah II warns against “undermining” the status quo in Jerusalem in his opening address to the UN General Assembly, ahead of his meeting today with Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

Jordan is the custodian of the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem, a focal point of tensions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. An activist group said yesterday that Jewish visitors are going to the site in record numbers.

“The future of Jerusalem is an urgent concern. The city is holy to billions of Muslims, Christians and Jews around the world. Undermining Jerusalem’s legal and historical status quo triggers global tensions and deepens religious divides,” Abdullah says.

“The holy city must not be a place for hatred and division and as custodians of Jerusalem’s Muslim and holy sites we are committed to protecting the historical and legal status quo and to their safety and future,” he says.

He also claims Christians are “under fire” in Jerusalem. Israel has had some recent disputes with Christian leaders in the capital, with courts handing settler groups control of former church property.

“As a Muslim leader, let me say clearly that we are committed to defending the rights, the precious heritage of the Christian people for our region. Nowhere is that more important than in Jerusalem. Today, Christianity in the holy city is under fire. The rights of churches in Jerusalem are threatened. This cannot continue,” he says.

He calls for support for Palestinian refugees and their descendants, and for a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as the shared capital.

“Peace continues to be elusive. Neither war nor diplomacy has held the answer to this historic tragedy. It is the people themselves, not politics and politicians, who will have to come together and push their leaders to resolve this,” he says. “What would our world look like now if the conflict had been settled long ago? If walls had never gone up and people had been allowed to build bridges of cooperation instead?”

Without “the injustices of occupation, how many generations of youth could have grown up in the optimism of peace and progress?”

Chile leader, after severe spat with Israel, nods to Israeli security in UN speech

Chile’s President Gabriel Boric, after a severe diplomatic dispute with Israel, nods to Israel’s security in his opening address to the United Nations General Assembly.

Last week, Boric rebuffed Israel’s new ambassador to the country because he was angered by Israel killing a Palestinian during a gunfight in the West Bank. The dismissal at the last moment set off an uproar and threatened to cloud relations between the countries.

Boric is a harsh Israel critic and has created tensions over the issue with Chile’s Jewish community.

In his address to the General Assembly, Boric calls on the world body to “not normalize ongoing violations of human rights of the Palestinian people, to uphold international law and the resolutions which this very assembly takes year after year.”

However, he then calls on the UN to support “guaranteeing Israel’s legitimate right to live within safe and internationally recognized borders.”

Woman dies after being hit by bus in Raanana

A 61-year-old woman has died after being hit by a bus and getting trapped under it in the central Israel city of Raanana.

After working to get her out from under the bus, medics declare her dead.

Woman, 85, found dead on Holon street; police said to suspect she was attacked

An 85-year-old woman has been pronounced dead after being found bruised and unconscious on a street in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon.

Police have opened an investigation, with Hebrew media reporting that officials suspect the woman was violently attacked while walking down the street.

UN leader condemns Israeli West Bank military rule as General Assembly begins

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemns Israel’s military rule in the West Bank in his opening address to the General Assembly, the UN’s annual gathering of world leaders.

“In Israel and Palestine, cycles of violence under the occupation continue as prospects for peace based on a two-state solution grow ever more distant,” Guterres says.

The opening of Guterres’s speech focuses on the Ukraine war, global food crisis and climate change.

He mentions the Israeli-Palestinian situation alongside global conflicts including Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Iraq, Libya, Myanmar and Syria.

The Palestinian delegation to the UN says Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas delivered Guterres a letter calling on the UN leader to ensure “the right to self-determination, independence, and return.”

The UN says Guterres and Abbas met yesterday to discuss the occupation, UNRWA and shared commitments to a two-state solution.

Israel, Bahrain launch talks on free trade agreement

Israel and Bahrain have initiated talks on establishing a free trade agreement, two years after the countries normalized their relations, the Economy Ministry says.

The ministry tweets a photo of Economy Minister Orna Barbivai meeting her Bahraini counterpart Zayed bin Rashid Alzayani yesterday in Manama.

“A free trade agreement with Bahrain as part of strengthening broader regional cooperation will strengthen economic relations between the countries, increase the scope of investments, remove trade barriers and create opportunities for entrepreneurs and companies in Israel and Bahrain,” Barbivai says, according to a translation by Reuters.

Blich school mock elections, once seen as prophetic, hand Lapid’s Yesh Atid easy win

A poll at a Tel Aviv-area high school once seen as a bellwether of general election results has given Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party a landslide victory over Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, in contrast to public surveys which consistently place the latter ahead.

In yesterday’s mock elections by eleventh and twelfth graders at the Ramat Gan Blich High School, Yesh Atid has won a whopping 45.1% of electoral votes, while Likud garnered 24% of the votes.

Lapid took to Twitter to thank the students for his victory, and expressed hope that “also this time they will correctly predict the real results.” However, while up until 2013 the traditional Blich poll was seen as a largely reliable forecaster of election results, in more recent years it has been inaccurate.

The centrist National Unity party received 12.4% of the votes, Labor got 5%, and the far-right Religious Zionism — which includes extremist Itamar Ben Gvir, who visited the school recently — got 4.6%. Meretz, Yisrael Beytenu, the Joint List (which recently broke up into Hadash-Ta’al and Balad factions), both ultra-Orthodox parties, and the Fiery Youth protest party failed to meet the 3.25% election threshold in the poll.

Under the circumstances predicted by the Blich election, parties opposing Netanyahu would comfortably form a government.

Gantz: Israel has arrested or targeted over 1,000 terror operatives in recent months

Defense Minister Benny Gantz says Israeli troops have arrested and shot more than 1,000 Palestinians engaged in terror activity in recent months, as the military presses on with an operation in the West Bank following a series of attacks earlier this year.

“In the last few months we have arrested and hit more than a thousand terrorists,” Gantz says after touring the military’s West Bank division base.

“We act decisively and in the right way against terror, to allow those who are not involved to have a life of economic and civil well-being,” he says.

“The perpetrators of terror are the ones who harm the Palestinian population, their livelihood, and the ability to advance their interests,” Gantz adds.

US court sets April trial for gunman in 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue massacre

The long-delayed capital murder trial of Robert Bowers in the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue massacre will begin in April, a US federal judge has ruled.

Robert Bowers, a Baldwin resident who has pleaded not guilty, could be sentenced to death if convicted of the shootings. He faces more than 60 federal charges stemming from the October 27, 2018, attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh that killed 11 worshipers in the deadliest attack on Jews in US history.

US District Judge Robert Colville issues an order setting the trial date for April 24, when jury selection will begin.

Bowers, armed with a rifle and three handguns, is accused of shooting 18 people and trading gunfire with officers, getting shot three times before he was taken into police custody. His social media history included posts about a false conspiracy theory that the Holocaust was a hoax and expressed contempt for a nonprofit Jewish group that helps refugees.

Bowers’ lawyers have long sought a deal for him to plead guilty and get a life sentence if the government would take the death penalty off the table. They and prosecutors have been sparring over pretrial motions and discovery issues for years.

Senior Israeli and US officials hold ‘productive’ meeting on Lebanon maritime talks

National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata and Foreign Ministry Director General Alon Ushpiz have met with US energy envoy Amos Hochstein and US National Security Council Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk in New York.

The meeting, which dealt with talks over the disputed maritime border with Lebanon, was “good and productive,” according to Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s office.

For 2nd time today, shots are fired at IDF troops operating along West Bank barrier

Shots have been fired toward Israeli troops operating along the northern West Bank security barrier near the town of Faqqua, the military says.

The Israel Defense Forces says no soldiers were hurt in the incident, and that a manhunt for the gunmen has been launched.

Earlier today, Palestinian gunmen opened fire at a military base in another area along the northern West Bank security barrier, before fleeing.

Abu Akleh killing referred to ICC in complaint on family’s behalf

A coalition of lawyers and advocacy groups says it has referred the fatal shooting of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh to the International Criminal Court on behalf of her family, calling on prosecutors to investigate what it describes as Israel’s “deliberate targeting” of the veteran reporter.

Palestinian officials, Abu Akleh’s family and Al Jazeera accuse Israel of intentionally targeting and killing the 51-year-old journalist, who was wearing a helmet and a protective vest marked with the word “press” when she was shot in May in the West Bank during a gunfight between IDF soldiers and Palestinian gunmen.

Israel has acknowledged that Israeli fire probably killed Abu Akleh, but vigorously denies allegations that a soldier intentionally targeted her.

That point of contention has become central to Palestinian efforts to hold Israel accountable for the shooting. Abu Akleh’s advocates say they have added her case to a legal complaint taken by the ICC that accuses Israel of deliberately killing and wounding Palestinian journalists wearing press vests in the West Bank and Gaza.

“Our family shouldn’t have to wait another day for justice,” Anton Abu Akleh, Shireen’s brother, tells reporters from The Hague. “No other Palestinian-American or journalist family should have to endure what ours has.”

Filing a complaint with the court does not guarantee that prosecutors will open an investigation. If opened, such an investigation could take years, with actual prosecution far off.

UN General Assembly opens, with Guterres warning of upcoming ‘winter of discontent’

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warns international leaders of a looming “winter of global discontent” in a world beset by multiple crises from the Ukraine war to a warming climate.

“A winter of global discontent is on the horizon,” Guterres says as he opens the annual General Assembly.

“Trust is crumbling, inequalities are exploding, our planet is burning. People are hurting — with the most vulnerable suffering the most.”

Italy’s frontrunner party suspends candidate who praised Hitler

A parliamentary candidate for Italy’s far-right Fratelli d’Italia party — the favorite to win the upcoming election despite its fascist history — has been suspended after it was revealed that he praised Adolf Hitler on social media.

The move comes as Giorgia Meloni, the frontrunner for prime minister, tries to improve the image of her party, which is rooted in Benito Mussolini’s fascist ideology.

Calogero Pisano, the leader of the party’s local branch in the province of Agrigento in Sicily, and member of its national leadership, is suspended “with immediate effect” from his party duties, says a statement sent to AFP.

He “no longer represents FdI at any level and he is prohibited from using its logo,” it says, adding that he has been summoned before the party’s governing bodies for possible additional sanctions.

In a Facebook post from 2014, commenting on a campaign poster featuring Meloni with the slogan “Italy above everything,” Pisano commented that the poster “reminds me of a great statesman 70 years ago, specifying that he was not speaking of Mussolini but of a “German.”

Other publications indicate an attachment to historical fascism, according to La Repubblica.

Suzanne Patt Benvenisti named as next head of Hadassah’s Israel offices

Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, announces Suzanne Patt Benvenisti as the next executive director of its Israel offices.

The US Jewish organization, which fundraises for community programs and health initiatives in Israel and campaigns for women’s rights and religious autonomy, says Patt Benvenisti has joined as current executive director Audrey Shimron’s deputy, and will “represent Hadassah’s interests in Israel and oversee the staff of fundraising and other professionals.”

In January, she will take the helm as Shimron steps down and becomes executive director emeritus after 40 years at Hadassah.

Patt Benvenisti’s background includes decades of work in social and health care policy, child welfare, youth programs and nonprofit management.

Ukraine vows to ‘eliminate’ Russian threat after annexation vote announced

Ukraine vows to “eliminate” Russian threats against the war-torn country, after pro-Moscow separatists said they will hold referenda to join Russia later this week.

“Ukraine will solve the Russian issue. The threat can be eliminated only by force,” says the Ukraine presidency’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak.

Ukraine’s Donbas to hold Russia annexation vote Sept. 23-27, say pro-Moscow separatists

Moscow-backed separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region say they will hold referenda on becoming part of Russia from September 23 to 27.

The votes will take place in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics that Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized as independent shortly before sending troops to Ukraine in February, according to officials and news agencies.

Man, 22, gets 10-year sentence for raping 2 women in Eilat in 2019

The Beersheba District Court sentences a 22-year-old man to 10 years in prison for raping two female soldiers in Eilat in 2019.

The court also orders Tal Elmalach to pay NIS 80,000 ($23,200) to each of his victims.

The women were unconscious when Elmalach exploited their situation to rape them, the court says.

Worker, 35, dies at Beitar Illit construction site after 3-story fall

A construction worker in the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit falls to his death at a building site.

The 35-year-old worker suffered severe head trauma after the three-story fall. Medics tried to resuscitate him before pronouncing him dead.

Putin blasts US attempts to ‘preserve global domination’

Russian President Vladimir Putin blasts what he describes as US efforts to preserve its global domination, saying they are doomed to fail.

Speaking while receiving credentials from foreign ambassadors to Moscow, Putin says that “the objective development toward a multipolar world faces resistance of those who try to preserve their hegemony in global affairs and control everything — Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa.”

He adds that “the hegemon has succeeded in doing so for quite a long time, but it can’t go on forever… regardless of the developments in Ukraine.”

Putin has repeatedly cast his decision to send troops into Ukraine as a response to alleged Western encroachment on Russia’s vital security interests.

The Russian leader describes Western sanctions against Russia over its action in Ukraine as part of efforts by the US and its allies to strengthen their positions, but charges that they have backfired against their organizers and also hurt poor countries.

“As for Russia, we won’t deviate from our sovereign course,” Putin says.

Israeli population tops 9.5 million, is set to reach 10 million by end of 2024

Israel has just over 9.5 million residents, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) says in data released to mark the upcoming Rosh Hashanah holiday, the start of the Jewish new year.

According to the statistics, 9.593 million people live in Israel.

Of those, 7.069 million (74%) are Jewish, 2.026 million (21%) are Arab and 498,000 (5%) are neither.

The government agency says the population is expected to reach 10 million by the end of 2024.

The population of Israel grew by around 187,000 people since Rosh Hashanah 2021, the CBS says, a rate of 1.8% — a slight increase over last year.

Throughout the year, 177,000 babies were born in Israel. Some 53,000 people died, around 4,000 of them as a result of the coronavirus.

About 63,000 people were added to the population in the immigration balance, of which about 59,000 are new immigrants — a massive jump compared to previous years, fueled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Palestinian gets 9-year sentence for years of terror activity in several Gazan groups

The Beersheba District Court sentences a Palestinian man to nine years in prison after convicting him of harming national security by being a member of multiple Gazan terror groups for several years.

The court says Salem Abu Daher served in several roles over the years in the groups, from minor roles to being an instructor and even initiating and carrying out terror attacks.

The ruling says Abu Daher’s activity “escalated” after he joined Palestinian Islamic Jihad and took part in rocket launches at Israel.

US court orders Hezbollah to pay $111 million to victims of rockets in 2006 war with Israel

A US court has ordered the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah to pay millions of dollars in damages to a group of Americans who sued saying they were wounded by the group’s rockets during the Second Lebanon War with Israel in 2006.

The case was brought under the US Anti-Terrorism Act and alleged that Hezbollah caused the plaintiffs physical and emotional injury and damaged their property.

The judge orders Hezbollah to pay damages of $111 million to the plaintiffs.

Such civil lawsuits brought against terror groups are difficult to enforce but Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, says it is an important legal victory against the Iran-backed group.

“Only by exacting a heavy price from those who engage in the business of terrorism can we prevent the suffering and loss of additional victims to their violence,” the Israeli Darshan-Leitner says in a statement.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006. Israel pounded targets in Lebanon while Hezbollah launched thousands of rockets at cities and towns in Israel’s north. The heavily armed Shiite jihadist group still poses a major threat to Israel.

In Friday’s ruling, Judge Steven L. Tiscione of the federal court in Brooklyn, New York, said the plaintiffs successfully established that Hezbollah’s actions were a violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act and held the group liable.

A Hezbollah spokesman declines to comment.

UN calls for probe into Iranian woman’s death amid protests

A top United Nations official demands an independent investigation into the death of an Iranian woman held by the country’s morality police.

The woman’s death has ignited demonstrations across the country, including the capital, Tehran, where demonstrators have chanted against the government and clashed with police.

The UN Human Rights Office says Iran’s morality police have expanded their patrols in recent months, targeting women for not properly wearing the Islamic headscarf, known as hijab. It says verified videos show women being slapped in the face, struck with batons and thrown into police vans for wearing the hijab too loosely.

A similar patrol detained 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last Tuesday, taking her to a police station where she collapsed. She died three days later. Iranian police have denied mistreating Amini and say she died of a heart attack. Authorities say they are investigating the incident.

“Mahsa Amini’s tragic death and allegations of torture and ill-treatment must be promptly, impartially and effectively investigated by an independent competent authority,” says Nada Al-Nashif, the acting UN high commissioner for human rights.

Iran’s government does not immediately comment on the statement but has previously criticized the work of UN investigators examining rights issues in the country.

Lapid lands in New York, will meet Jordanian king on UN sidelines

Prime Minister Yair Lapid arrives at JFK airport in New York, ahead of the UN General Assembly.

Lapid will meet Jordan’s King Abdullah II later today, his office says shortly after he lands.

Lapid’s office has been seeking the meeting since last week, as the prime minister is eager to discuss escalating tensions in the West Bank.

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