UN warns Kurdish independence vote could be ‘destabilizing’
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UN warns Kurdish independence vote could be ‘destabilizing’

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urges dialogue between Baghdad and regional government in northern Iraq

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

  • Iraqi Kurds fly Kurdish flags during an event to urge people to vote in the upcoming independence referendum in Irbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on September 16, 2017. (AFP/Safin Hamed)
    Iraqi Kurds fly Kurdish flags during an event to urge people to vote in the upcoming independence referendum in Irbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on September 16, 2017. (AFP/Safin Hamed)
  • Delegation of Interpol member countries attend the General Assembly in Bali, Indonesia on November 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)
    Delegation of Interpol member countries attend the General Assembly in Bali, Indonesia on November 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)
  • Anthony Weiner leaves federal court in New York after pleading guilty to a charge of sending sexual material to a minor, May 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
    Anthony Weiner leaves federal court in New York after pleading guilty to a charge of sending sexual material to a minor, May 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
  • Hundreds of people rally in Tel Aviv on September 25, 2017 demanding government recognition of the so-called 'Yemenite Children affair.' (Marissa Newman/Times of Israel)
    Hundreds of people rally in Tel Aviv on September 25, 2017 demanding government recognition of the so-called 'Yemenite Children affair.' (Marissa Newman/Times of Israel)
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel (2nd L) holds a bouquet of flowers as she is applauded by members of the CDU as she arrives for a meeting with the party's leadership in Berlin on September 25, 2016. (AFP Photo/Odd Andersen)
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel (2nd L) holds a bouquet of flowers as she is applauded by members of the CDU as she arrives for a meeting with the party's leadership in Berlin on September 25, 2016. (AFP Photo/Odd Andersen)
  • An Iraqi Kurdish man shows his ink-stained finger after casting his vote in the Kurdish independence referendum in the city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, on September 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)
    An Iraqi Kurdish man shows his ink-stained finger after casting his vote in the Kurdish independence referendum in the city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, on September 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

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

Iraqi Kurds vote in referendum on independence from Baghdad

Iraqi Kurds are voting in an independence referendum, defying warnings from Baghdad and their neighbors in a historic step toward a national dream.

The nonbinding vote, initiated by veteran leader Massud Barzani, has angered not only Iraq’s federal government but also neighboring Turkey and Iran, who are concerned it could stoke separatist aspirations among their own sizable Kurdish minorities.

Turkey is warning the Iraqi Kurds would face sanctions over the vote, while Iran closed its border with the autonomous region.

The United States and other Western nations have also raised concerns, saying the vote could hamper the fight against the Islamic State jihadist group in which cooperation between Baghdad and the Kurds has been key.

— AFP

Turkey’s Erdogan threatens Iraqi Kurds with army

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is threatening a military intervention in Iraq in response to the Iraqi Kurdish region’s referendum on independence from Baghdad.

Erdogan, speaking at a conference in the Turkish capital of Ankara as Iraqi Kurds voted in their region on Monday, said that Kurdish independence was unacceptable to his country and that this was a “matter of survival.”

He pointed to Turkish military exercises currently taking place on Turkey’s border with the Iraqi Kurdish region.

Erdogan said: “Our military is not (at the border) for nothing.” He also added: “We could arrive suddenly one night.”

Erdogan also said Turkey would take political, economic as well as military measures against Iraqi Kurds’ steps toward independence and also suggested that Turkey could halt oil flows from a pipeline from northern Iraq.

Erdogan said: “Let’s see where — and through which channels — will they sell their oil. We have the valve. The moment we shut the valve, that’s the end of it.”

Erdogan said a border crossing with Iraq had been closed in one direction and that Turkey would shut it entirely.

— AP

McCain calls brain cancer prognosis ‘very poor’

US Sen. John McCain says doctors have given him a “very poor prognosis” as he battles brain cancer.

McCain underwent surgery in July for a brain tumor that was later found to be a form of glioblastoma, the same type of cancer that took the life of his former Senate colleague Edward M. Kennedy in 2009. McCain tells CBS’ “60 Minutes” in an interview that aired yesterday night that he thinks about Kennedy a lot. He says Kennedy continued to work despite the diagnosis and “never gave up because he loved the engagement.”

McCain says he has “feelings sometimes of fear of what happens,” but counters that with gratitude for having lived “had a great life.”

He adds: “It’s not that you’re leaving, it’s that you — that you stayed.”

— AP

Syria rejects Iraqi Kurdish independence vote

Syria’s foreign minister says his country doesn’t recognize the Iraqi Kurdish referendum on support for independence from Baghdad, saying Damascus rejects any measure that could break up neighboring Iraq.

The Syrian state news agency SANA says Walid al-Moallem spoke on Sunday in New York. Syria has a large Kurdish minority that last week had its own vote as part of a move toward a federal system within Syria.

Syria, like Turkey and Iran, opposes the vote in Iraq, fearing that Kurdish communities within Syria might eventually do the same.

Al-Moallem described the Iraqi Kurdish vote as a “step that we do not recognize” and stressed that the government in Damascus only recognizes a “sole, united Iraq. He says: “We reject any measure that leads to dividing Iraq.”

— AP

Disabled protesters block Ashkelon-area highway

Disabled protesters continue their protests at major highways to campaign for higher disability stipends, blocking an intersection of Route 4 in southern Israel.

Traffic is at a standstill at an intersection near the Yad Mordechai kibbutz.

Police are at the scene and have urged drivers in the area to use different routes.

Netanyahu says Merkel reelection bodes well for him

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Angela Merkel’s reelection as chancellor of Germany for the fourth time bodes well for his prospects of reelection.

“We have many friends, our good friend Angela Merkel has now just won the German government elections,” he says at a toast for the Jewish New Year at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.

“It’s good that someone wins for the fourth time, it’s an omen for a fifth,” he adds.

Netanyahu, who has been elected prime minister four times, has said that he intends to run for reelection in 2019 when his current term is over.

US-backed Syrians say hit by Russian airstrike

The main US-backed Syrian force fighting the Islamic State group says a Russian airstrike on a gas field it recently captured from the extremists killed one of its fighters.

A statement issued by the Syrian Democratic Forces says two other fighters were wounded in Monday’s strike in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour.

It says the attack occurred on the Conoco gas field, which the SDF captured from IS on Saturday.

On September 16, the SDF said a Russian airstrike wounded six of its fighters, but Moscow denied carrying out the attack. Russian officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest allegation.

— AP

Joint List congratulates Merkel, warns of rising xenophobia in Germany

The Joint (Arab) List congratulates Angela Merkel on her reelection as Chancellor of Germany, and warns of the rise of xenophobia after the vote saw a hard-right opposition party make significant gains.

“We congratulate our comrades of Die Linke, whose campaign for equality and peace has led to an increase of their share of the vote from 8.6% to 9.2% in the federal elections yesterday,” the party says in an English-language statement.

“A strong progressive camp is especially important considering the success of the AfD: For the first time an overtly xenophobic party will send representatives to the Bundestag, people who tolerate Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and pursue an openly nationalistic agenda.”

Iraq parliament demands troops go to areas disputed with Kurds

Iraq’s parliament is demanding that troops be sent to disputed areas in the north controlled by the Kurds since 2003 as the autonomous Kurdish area staged a referendum on independence.

“Parliament demands that the head of the army (Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi) deploy forces in all of the zones the autonomous region of Kurdistan has taken control of since 2003,” a resolution says.

The nonbinding vote, initiated by veteran leader Massud Barzani, has angered not only Iraq’s federal government but also neighboring Turkey and Iran, who are concerned it could stoke separatist aspirations among their own sizable Kurdish minorities.

— Agencies

IDF investigating drone crashes in West Bank

Two small IDF drones crashed in the West Bank today for as yet unclear reasons, the army says. They have both been recovered.

One of the unmanned aerial vehicles landed in the city of Hebron, while the second landed in the city of Bethlehem.

The army says there is no risk that intelligence could have been gleaned from the Elbit Systems’ Skylark model drones.

The military says it is investigating the circumstances behind the crash landings.

An army spokesperson says it is not immediately clear if the two incidents were related to one another.

As a result of the crashes, which occur with some regularity, the head of IDF Ground Forces, Maj. Gen. Kobi Barak, grounded the entire fleet of Skylark drones until an investigation can be completed.

— Judah Ari Gross

Iran says Trump claims of North Korea links ‘nonsense’

Iran says that suggestions by US President Donald Trump that it was working with North Korea on missile development were “nonsense.”

Foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi was responding to a tweet by Trump over the weekend in which the US president wrote: “Iran just test-fired a Ballistic Missile capable of reaching Israel. They are also working with North Korea.”

Ghasemi says there are “no similarities nor resemblance” with the actions of North Korea, and that claims they were working together on ballistic missile development amounted to a “clear lie.”

“It is very clear that this is a nonsense and baseless claim,” he tells reporters.

— AFP

Palestinian bid to join Interpol goes ahead despite Israeli objections

The Palestinian Authority’s latest bid to join Interpol will go to a vote at the General Assembly later this week despite Israeli efforts to thwart the bid to the international law enforcement body

The Foreign Ministry says the PA’s request was approved by Interpol’s Executive Committee and will be brought for a vote in the General Assembly later this week. Israeli officials say the PA will likely be able to garner the necessary two-thirds majority at a vote in the Assembly.

In an effort to disqualify the Palestinian bid, Israeli diplomats have reportedly been lobbying behind the scenes for stricter criteria for new members.

Israel has expressed concerns that the PA’s membership in Interpol would result in sensitive information being leaked to Palestinian terror groups.

Interpol’s General Assembly convened today for its annual meeting in China, where the international policing organization will vote on new members.

Anthony Weiner sexting sentencing hearing starts

A prosecutor has urged a judge in New York City to sentence Anthony Weiner to a significant prison sentence to end his “tragic cycle” of sexting.

Assistant US Attorney Amanda Kramer tells a Manhattan federal court judge that Weiner on three occasions in 2016 asked a 15-year-old girl to display her naked body online and to perform for him.

The prosecutor notes that sexting had already ruined Weiner’s congressional career and spoiled his run for mayor of New York City before he began interacting with the teenager.

Kramer says Weiner should go to prison for 21 to 27 months.

— AP

Russian strikes in Syria’s Idlib kill 27 civilians – monitor

Airstrikes by Russian warplanes in Syria’s mainly jihadist-controlled northwest province of Idlib killed at least 27 civilians including two children, a Britain-based monitor says.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says it’s the highest civilian toll in Idlib since the region was designated in May as one of Syria’s “de-escalation” zones agreed in a deal between regime allies Russia and Iran, and rebel backer Turkey.

— AFP

Anthony Weiner says he hit ‘rock bottom,’ asks to be spared prison

Anthony Weiner calls his crime his “rock bottom” as he spoke before a judge in New York City sentences him for his sexting crime.

Weiner fights back tears and occasionally cries as he reads from a written statement on a page he held in front of him in Manhattan federal court. He said he was “a very sick man for a very long time.” He asks to be spared from prison.

The Democrat’s lawyer, Arlo Devlin-Brown, had asked that Weiner serve no prison time. A prosecutor recommended he serve between 21 months and 27 months in prison.

— AP

Anthony Weiner sentenced to 21 months in sexting case

Former representative Anthony Weiner is sentenced to 21 months in prison for sexting with a 15-year-old girl in a case that rocked Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the White House in the closing days of the race and may have cost her the presidency.

Weiner, 53, dropped his head into his hand and wept as the sentence was announced by Judge Denise Cote. He must surrender to prison officials by November 6.

The sentencing completed the sordid downfall of the New York Democrat, whose penchant for exchanging lewd messages and photos with young women online destroyed his career in Congress in 2011, doomed his bid for mayor of New York in 2013, wrecked his marriage to Clinton’s closest aide, Huma Abedin, and became entangled in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Admitting “I have a sickness, but I do not have an excuse,” Weiner pleaded guilty in May to transferring obscene material to a minor, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for illicit contact with a North Carolina teenager.

He sought to be spared from prison, tearfully telling Cote on Monday that he was “a very sick man for a very long time.” Weiner, weeping as he read from a written statement on a page he held in front of him, called his crime his “rock bottom.”

— AP

Iraq hangs 42 death row prisoners

Iraq has hanged 42 prisoners condemned to death for rape, murdering members of the security forces, car bombings and other attacks, a justice ministry statement says.

It says the executions were carried out in Nasiriyah prison in the south after the sentences were confirmed and approved by the presidential council.

The families of those sentenced to death were allowed to attend the executions.

According to rights group Amnesty International, Iraq carries out one of the world’s highest number of executions after China, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

— AFP

North Korea says Trump declared war, threatens to shoot down US planes

US President Donald Trump has “declared a war” on North Korea, the country’s foreign minister says while conveying a threat to shoot down US bombers.

“Trump claimed our leadership would not be around much longer,” North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho tells reporters outside his hotel in New York. “He declared a war on our country.”

— AFP

Egypt court sentences notable opposition leader to 3 months

An Egyptian court sentences a prominent opposition leader widely expected to run against President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in next year’s elections to three months in prison for offending public morals.

Khaled Ali didn’t attend Monday’s trial at the misdemeanor court of Cairo’s Dokki neighborhood, where he was convicted for making an obscene finger gesture.

Ali was ordered to pay 1,000 Egyptian pounds (nearly $57) on bail. The verdict can be appealed but if it stands will bar him from electoral candidacy.

The incident allegedly occurred outside a courthouse in January where Ali and other lawyers had just won a landmark case against the government, blocking its attempts to hand over control of two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. The presidency has since ratified the islands’ transfer.

— AP

NFL spokesman fires back at Trump over protests

NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart is firing back at US President Donald Trump for attacking players who kneel during the national anthem. He says their protests against racial inequality and police brutality are “real locker room talk.”

It was an apparent reference to Trump being caught on tape talking with “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women. Trump later dismissed his remarks made in the 2005 video, which emerged a month before the November election, as “locker room talk.”

Many NFL players on Sunday locked arms with their teammates — some standing, others kneeling — in a show of solidarity. “Everyone should know, including the president, this is what real locker room talk is,” Lockhart says during a conference call.

“We don’t seek to get into political debates or relish being in the middle of it, but extraordinary statements from our clubs and owners demonstrate just how deeply we believe in our players and in our game,” he says.

— AP

Hundreds rally in Tel Aviv for missing Yemenite children

Hundreds of protesters gather in Tel Aviv calling for government recognition of the alleged kidnappings of hundreds of mostly Yemenite children in the 1950s.

Demonstrators chant “Where are the children? Open the files,” and “Recognition, healing, justice.”

Likud MK Nurit Koren and Joint (Arab) List MK Dov Khenin are in attendance.

Koren is heckled by some protesters after reassuring them the government does recognize the kidnappings, pointing to a Knesset committee tasked with hearing evidence on the affair and a bill submitted to the Knesset to open the graves of the missing children, which passed a preliminary reading. Some in the crowd shout angrily at the Likud MK and interrupt her remarks.

— Marissa Newman

Rights group says US-led coalition kills 84 in Syria airstrike

An international human rights group says two airstrikes by the US-led coalition on northern Syria earlier this year killed 84 civilians, including 30 children.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the attack raises concerns that the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group did not take “adequate precautions to minimize civilian casualties.”

The coalition has been targeting IS in Syria since September 2014. Airstrikes intensified in recent months as the extremists are being squeezed on several fronts by different groups.

HRW says it documented coalition attacks in March on a school that was housing displaced families in the town of Mansourah and a market and a bakery in the town of Tabqa, west of the city of Raqqa. It says IS fighters were present at the sites and so were scores of civilians.

— AP

Protest over missing Yemenite children blocking major Tel Aviv street

The hundreds of protesters gathered in downtown Tel Aviv to demand government recondition of the alleged kidnappings of mostly Yemenite children in the 1950s are blocking one of the city’s major arteries.

Police are allowing protesters to block the eastbound lanes of Kaplan Street, just off of the Ayalon Highway.

Polls close in Kurdish independence referendum

Polls have closed across Iraq’s Kurdish region and in disputed territories, where residents cast ballots in a referendum on support for independence, according to local television broadcasts.

The vote is not binding and is not expected to result in independence any time soon, but is being hailed as historic by Kurdish leaders spearheading the campaign.

The vote is widely expected to be an overwhelming “yes” in support of independence. Initial official results are expected tomorrow.

— AP

Netanyahu banned ministers from talking about Kurdish referendum — report

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly instructed ministers in his government to avoid speaking out about the Kurdish independence referendum that is taking place in the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq.

The Prime Minister’s Office and Foreign Ministry would not confirm or comment on the purported gag order, but top officials, speaking anonymously, acknowledged the order.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu publicly backed Kurdish independence, while distancing himself from comments by a retired Israeli general, who said he did not consider the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers Party, a terror group.

Watchdog says Russian strikes in Syria’s Idlib kill 37 civilians

Russian air strikes on northwest Syria’s mainly jihadist-controlled province of Idlib killed at least 37 civilians, including 12 children, a Britain-based monitor says.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says it was the highest civilian death toll in Idlib since the region was designated in May as one of Syria’s “de-escalation” zones under an accord between regime allies Russia and Iran, and rebel backer Turkey.

“The air raids struck several locations and villages in the district of Jisr al-Shughur, leaving 37 dead among civilians, including 12 children,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman tells AFP, updating an earlier toll of 27 dead.

After several months of calm, Idlib province has for the past two weeks been the target of heavy air strikes by the regime and its Russian allies, following a jihadist assault in neighboring Hama province also covered by the de-escalation accord for Syria’s war that has cost more than 330,000 lives since 2011.

The Islamic State group has no fighters in Idlib.

— AFP

UN says Kurdish vote could be ‘destabilizing’

The United Nations warns of the “potentially destabilizing” effects of today’s referendum carried out in Iraq’s Kurdish region.

The statement from the organization’s secretary-general, released after polls closed, says “all outstanding issues between the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government should be resolved through structured dialogue and constructive compromise.”

The vote in a referendum on support for independence has rattled the region’s relations with Baghdad and regional powers.

The vote is non-binding and not expected to result in immediate independence, but Kurdish leaders say it will open the door to negotiations with Baghdad for greater autonomy.

— AP

Netanyahu tells Merkel he’s concerned over rise in anti-Semitism

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a phone call that Israel was concerned over a recent rise in anti-Semitism, after a right-wing nationalist party won seats in Berlin’s parliament.

“Israel is concerned over the rise of anti-Semitism in recent years among political elements from the right and left, as well as from Islamist elements,” Netanyahu’s office quotes him as saying in the call.

— AFP

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