Disabled rights activists, Treasury officials meet over increasing stipends
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Disabled rights activists, Treasury officials meet over increasing stipends

Talks follow weeks of traffic-blocking protests, developing agreement may see stipends for many disabled raised to 80% of minimum wage

Disabled activists block Ibn Gvirol street in Tel Aviv as part of a protest calling for an increase in government stipends, August 31, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Disabled activists block Ibn Gvirol street in Tel Aviv as part of a protest calling for an increase in government stipends, August 31, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

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

Ra’anana stabbing terrorist sentenced to 21 years in prison

The Jerusalem District Court sentences Khaled Basti, 30, a resident of East Jerusalem, to 21 years in prison for the stabbing attack he committed in October 2015 in Ra’anana.

Four people were hurt in the attack, one of them seriously.

Basti is also sentenced to pay NIS 145,000 ($41,000) in reparations to his victims, the Ynet news site reports.

Tel Aviv hospital guards attacked, beaten by patient’s family

Three security guards at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital suffer light-to-moderate injuries after being attacked and beaten by the relatives of a disgruntled patient, hospital officials say.

The incident began around 3 a.m. early Wednesday when the patient, a 19-year-old woman from Jaffa, complained to hospital staff at the Emergency Room about the quality of her treatment. The young woman, who was escorted by her father, also attempted to grab a nurse’s cellphone, leading security guards to intervene.

The woman is believed to have then contacted other members of her family. A short time later five of her relatives drove up to the entrance to the ER and confronted the security guards. The men attacked and beat the guards, causing them light-to-moderate injuries, and then fled the scene.

The patient and her father were arrested following the attack, and are being investigated over their involvement. Police were searching for the five assailants.

— Itamar Sharon

Supreme Court approves $12.7 billion class action suit against gas industry

The Supreme Court gives the green light for an NIS 45 billion ($12.7 billion) class action suit against the private consortium that operates Israel’s only functioning natural gas production complex.

In a ruling against the consortium’s appeal to reject the class action bid, the court also orders the consortium to pay legal costs of NIS 40,000 ($11,300), the Globes financial daily reports.

The petitioner, one Moshe Nazri, suing as a consumer of electricity, claims that that the companies are exploiting their monopoly over the Tamar gas field to charge the Israel Electric Corporation unfairly high prices.

Among the companies targeted by the suit — the biggest in Israel’s history — are Isramco, Dor Energy, Delek Drilling, Avner Oil & Gas Exploration, the Delek Group and US-based Noble Energy.

— Sue Surkes

Sen. Schumer calls for US backing for independent Kurdish state

Sen. Charles Schumer, Democrat from New York and the minority leader in the US Senate, calls on the Trump administration to recognize the Kurdish bid for independence, a position embraced internationally virtually only by Israel.

“Monday’s historic vote in Iraqi Kurdistan should be recognized and respected by the world, and the Kurdish people of northern Iraq have my utmost support,” Schumer says in a statement Wednesday, referring to the referendum in which 92 percent of 3 million voters said they favored Kurdish independence. “I believe the Kurds should have an independent state as soon as possible and that the position of the United States government should be to support a political process that addresses the aspirations of the Kurds for an independent state.”

No other power in the region except for Israel favored the referendum, with Iraq’s government threatening military action and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatening to suspend normalization talks with Israel because of its backing.

Kurds have for decades functioned as a US ally in the region and for even longer have had ties — at times open — with Israel, facilitated by the substantial Kurdish Jewish community in Israel. Kurds in northern Iraq have been semi-autonomous since the late 1990s, when the United States and Britain helped topple the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein whose regime was responsible for the mass murder of Kurds.

— JTA

Building named for Shimon Peres at IDF headquarters

A building at the army’s Kirya headquarters complex in Tel Aviv, occupied multiple times by late president Shimon Peres during his stints at the Defense Ministry over many decades of public service, is officially renamed Shimon Peres House in his honor on Thursday.

Taking part in the an unveiling ceremony are Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, Defense Ministry Director General Udi Adam and members of the Peres family.

Peres, Israel’s ninth president, died September 29 last year at the age of 93 some two weeks after suffering a massive stroke.

The nonagenarian spent more than seven decades in public service, and is credited with helping to establish the Israeli army, Israeli Aerospace Industries, and developing the nuclear reactors in Dimona and in the Sorek research facility in the center of the country.

— Sue Surkes

Toddler in serious condition from scorpion sting

A toddler from a southern village is in serious condition after he was stung by a scorpion.

The two-year-old boy is from a Bedouin village near Beersheba. He is hospitalized at Soroka Medical Center in the city.

Known in Hebrew as the “yellow scorpion” and in English as the deathstalker scorpion, is the most common in Israel, and is ranked among the most poisonous in the world.

The toddler is sedated and intubated, according to media reports.

He is the second toddler to be hospitalized from a yellow scorpion sting this summer.

Siemens wins tender to supply Israel with electric rail cars

German industrial giant Siemens wins a $1 billion tender to supply Israel Railways with hundreds of electric rail cars, a statement to the Israeli stock market says.

Under the terms of the deal, which has yet to be signed, Siemens will provide 330 double-deck electric units, Israel Railways says in a statement to the Tel Aviv stock exchange.

Siemens will receive NIS 3.83 billion ($1.08 billion) for the provision of the rail cars, set to take place over five years beginning in 2020, as well as for their maintenance in a southern Israeli depot.

The deal is part of Israel Railways’ move to switch its fleet from diesel to electricity-powered trains, a statement from the company reads.

The trains will also be used on a new line being constructed between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, hoped to be operational in the first part of next year.

— AFP

Lt. Avshalom Armoni, 22, killed in training accident, laid to rest in Jerusalem

Hundreds attend the funeral of Lt. Avshalom Armoni, 22, killed yesterday in a training accident on the Golan Heights.

Armoni is buried at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

He was killed together with Sgt. Avinoam Cohen, 22, who was laid to rest in the same cemetery on Wednesday.

Weeping Chemi Armoni to his son Avshalom: ‘Come home’

Chemi Armoni, father of Lt. Avshalom Armoni who was killed in a training accident yesterday, weeps at the “too little time” his son was given.

Armoni is being buried at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem. He was killed together with Sgt. Avinoam Cohen, also 22, when his mobile artillery vehicle overturned and tumbled into a ditch during a training exercise on the Golan Heights.

“You fell in defense of the country. I know how much you loved and cared for your soldiers. Enough. We understand. Now come home,” the father eulogized between sobs over his son’s grave.

“Heaven gave you too little time here, but in that short time you managed to do a lot, with unbelievable commitment. You were unique, a modest man who set for us all a high moral and ethical standard. I’m just proud to be your dad.”

Armoni’s mother Tamar: ‘You brought me flowers, now I bring you flowers’

Tamar Armoni, mother of Lt. Avshalom Armoni, says her son “loved life. You invested yourself in your friends and they loved you. You honored your parents. You were funny and witty. The world lost a man who made so many people burst out laughing.”

Armoni, 22, was one of two soldiers killed in a training accident on the Golan Heights on Wednesday. His funeral is taking place at Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem.

Every Friday, when he came home from the Golan front, “you brought me flowers,” the mother remembers. “Now we’re bringing you flowers on Mount Herzl.

Shots reportedly fired at Madrid subway

CNN says there are initial reports of shots being fired in a subway station in Madrid, Spain.

Police are en route. There are no immediate reports of casualties.

Museum of Polish Jewry honored by EU for promoting cultural heritage

WARSAW, Poland — The Jewish cultural heritage educational project led by the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews is one of the laureates of the Europa Nostra Prize, or Our Europe.

The award, announced in April, was presented on Wednesday during a ceremony at the museum in Warsaw.

“It was a very successful project,” says the director of the museum, Prof. Dariusz Stola. “Hundreds of thousands of people took part in the events we organized and millions of people did it through the Internet.”

The project was made up of some 3,500 events. “It would not have been possible without the hard work of our museum staff and our Norwegian partners,” said Stola. “This award belongs to them all.”

Europa Nostra is the award of the European Union for promoting Europe’s Cultural Heritage. It is the highest distinction in terms of cultural heritage in Europe for outstanding achievements in the field of conservation, research, education, training and raising awareness of cultural heritage. This year 29 laureates from 18 countries were honored.

— JTA

Madrid subway gunshots not terror, police say

Police rule out terror in the gunshots heard on the Madrid Subway, saying an altercation between two tourists led one to fire a pistol. Both are under arrest, according to media reports.

Germany investigating 2 former SS death squad members

Two suspected members of Adolf Hitler’s mobile “Einsatzgruppen” death squads identified by the Simon Wiesenthal Center have been tracked down by German reporters but deny participating in wartime massacres.

The Einsatzgruppen were special units made up of SS and police personnel that followed behind the regular German army troops during the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, with the task of killing perceived racial or political enemies of the Nazi regime.

The two suspects located by broadcaster ARD’s Politikmagazin Kontraste program, being aired Thursday night, both appear on Nazi-era roster lists of an SS unit that was attached to Einsatzgruppe C.

Einsatzgruppe C was responsible for one of the most notorious massacres, the shooting of nearly 34,000 Jews at Babi Yar, a ravine northwest of the Ukrainian city of Kiev, on September 29-30, 1941.

The two elderly men were both on a list of 80 former Einsatzgruppen members provided in late 2014 by the Simon Wiesenthal Center to German authorities with the expectation that they could still be alive.

— AP

Iraq’s Kurds brace for flight ban after independence vote

IRBIL, Iraq — Hundreds of passengers wait to board flights out of the Kurdish region at Irbil International Airport on Thursday after Baghdad threatened to ban flights following an independence referendum held by Iraq’s Kurds earlier this week.

Most international carriers who fly to and from airports in the Kurdish region announce they would halt flights beginning Friday night in line with the ban. Also on Thursday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says Turkey has agreed to deal only with Baghdad on oil exports from the self-ruled Kurdish region.

At Irbil’s airport, many of the passengers are foreigners who said they are traveling to avoid possibly being stuck once the flight ban goes into effect Friday.

Iraq’s Transport Ministry ordered international airlines to halt service to Irbil, the Kurdish regional capital, and Sulaimaniyah, its second city, beginning Friday evening.

State carrier Qatar Airways is just the latest airline to announce all flights to and from the Kurdish region would be canceled starting Saturday. Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines, EgyptAir and Royal Jordanian announce Wednesday that flights would be suspended beginning Friday evening.

— AP

One in five Palestinian attacks said motivated by personal troubles

For years, Palestinian laborer Nimer Jamal would make the short daily commute from his West Bank village to this nearby settlement, where he was known as a conscientious worker who earned the trust of local residents, some of whom he even befriended and invited to his wedding.

Then on Tuesday, he pulled out a gun at the back entrance to Har Adar, killed three security men and seriously wounded another before he was shot dead himself.
While Israeli and Palestinian officials traded blame for the shooting, the motive appears to be more pedestrian: Jamal was despondent over his broken marriage and apparently on a suicide mission.

Israeli and Palestinian experts say there have been dozens of similar cases throughout a two-year spate of violence in which suicidal Palestinians plagued by emotional and psychological issues carried out deadly attacks that retroactively were cloaked in nationalism.

Out of some 400 Palestinian attacks tracked by Israel since September 2015, about 18 percent of assailants were driven by personal issues, according to Israel’s Shin Bet security agency. Roughly two-thirds of the cases were ideologically motivated, and 15% were driven by unknown factors, the agency said.

A Shin Bet official said despondent attackers have included the mentally ill, victims of domestic violence, people with economic hardships and women who had “dishonored the family” with sexual indiscretions.

— AP

IS fighters attack Syrian village near Deir Ezzor, monitor says

Syrian opposition activists say Islamic State fighters have attacked an eastern village recently captured by government forces, threatening to cut the main highway that links the capital, Damascus, with the eastern city of Deir Ezzor.

The attack on al-Shola comes three weeks after Syrian troops broke a nearly three-year siege on parts of Deir Ezzor, the capital of the oil- and gas-rich province of the same name.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says al-Shola is under attack. Omar Abou Leila, of the monitoring group DeirEzzor 24, and the IS-linked Aamaq news agency says the extremists have captured the village.

The Observatory reported earlier Thursday that government forces have laid siege to IS-held neighborhoods of Deir Ezzor.

— AP

UN condemns Syria airstrikes that targeted five hospitals in Idlib

A UN official condemns air raids that targeted hospitals in Syrian rebel-held areas this month, saying the facilities were serving hundreds of thousands of people.

Jan Egeland, a top UN aid official for Syria, says the UN does not know who carried out the air raids in the northwestern Idlib province.

Egeland tells reporters in Geneva the air raids in mid-September are “very much associated” with attacks by al-Qaeda-linked forces earlier this month on Syrian and Russian troops in the central Hama province bordering Idlib.

He says government and Russian forces, as well as the US-led coalition striking the Islamic State group, need “to do more to avoid indiscriminate attacks against civilian targets.”

Egeland says “the five or more hospitals” that were hit in Idlib were serving 500,000 civilians.

— AP

US envoy says ‘settlements are part of Israel’

During a Thursday televised interview, America’s ambassador to Israel says he thinks “the settlements are part of Israel.”

“I think that was always the expectation. When Resolution 242 was adopted in 1967, it was, and remains today the only substantive resolution that was agreed to by everybody,” Ambassador David Friedman tells Walla News.

“The idea was that Israel would be entitled to secure borders… The 1967 borders were viewed by everybody as not secure. So Israel would retain a meaningful portion of the West Bank, and it would return that which it didn’t need for peace and security. There was always supposed to be some notion of expansion into the West Bank, but not necessarily expansion into the entire West Bank; and I think that’s exactly what Israel has done. You know, they’re only occupying 2% of the West Bank. There’s important nationalistic, historical and religious significance to those settlements and I think the settlers view themselves as Israelis, and Israel views the settlers as Israelis.”

US ambassador to Israel David Friedman speaks at the official memorial for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 at the KKL-JNF “Living Memorial” outside Jerusalem on September 11, 2017. (screen capture: YouTube)

Asked if some of the settlements would have to “go down” in a future peace deal with the Palestinians, Friedman responded “wait and see.”

The ambassador was then asked when Israelis could expect the White House to put forward a peace initiative, Friedman speculated that there would be one “within months.” However, he qualified his statement, saying “we’re not holding ourselves to any deadline rule. We’ll try and get it done right, not fast.”

After being pushed to confirm whether progress has been made by the Trump administration, the ambassador responded in the affirmative.

— Jacob Magid

Months after being shot, US lawmaker Scalise returns to Congress

Republican US lawmaker Steve Scalise elates colleagues Thursday when he returns to Congress for the first time since being gravely wounded in a mass shooting at a June baseball practice.

A beaming Scalise draws loud cheers, fist bumps, and multiple prolonged standing ovations when he walks using crutches onto the floor of the House of Representatives and addresses the chamber, three and a half months after he nearly died in an attack that also wounded three others and shocked the nation.

“You have no idea how great this feels to be back at work in the people’s House,” Scalise tells the packed chamber in an emotional speech announcing his return to work.

“I’m definitely a living example that miracles really do happen.”

The 51-year-old lawmaker from the southern state of Louisiana faced what doctors described as an “imminent risk of death” when he was rushed to the hospital with a gunshot wound on June 14.

He was shot in the left hip with a high-velocity rifle wielded by a gunmen who stormed a congressional charity baseball game practice.

— AFP

Lebanon sentences Islamist cleric to death

An Islamist cleric who was once Lebanon’s most-wanted fugitive is sentenced to death on Thursday before a military court after being found guilty of terrorism, a judiciary source says.

Arrested in 2015, Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir was tried along with 38 other Islamists accused of killing Lebanese soldiers in the southern city of Sidon in 2013.

The court also sentences to death two other defendants and five Islamists who remain at large, including the cleric’s brother.

Capital punishment is legal in Lebanon, but there has been an effective moratorium in place since 2004, without any executions carried out despite judgments to that effect.

Singer-turned-fundamentalist Fadel Shaker, who was tried in absentia, is sentenced to 15 years in prison, while the other 30 defendants are handed life sentences.

The charges are in connection with clashes between Assir’s supporters and the army that broke out in Sidon on June 24, 2013.

FILE – In this March 4, 2011, file photo, Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir, a Lebanese anti-Syrian regime leader, addresses his supporters during a demonstration against Syrian President Bashar Assad at the Martyrs square in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla,File)

— AFP

IS releases purported audio message from top leader

The Islamic State group releases what it says is a new audio recording of its top leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, indicating he may still be alive.

The recording is released by the IS-run al-Furqan outlet Thursday and the voice sounds like previous recordings of the reclusive leader, who has only appeared in public once. The last purported audio message from al-Baghdadi was released in November.

Russian officials said in June there was a “high probability” that al-Baghdadi died in a Russian airstrike on the outskirts of the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the extremist group. But US officials later said they believed he was still alive.

IS has suffered a number of major setbacks in Iraq and Syria in recent months.

— AP

UN says number of Rohingyas fleeing Myanmar now over 500,000

The United Nations says the number of Rohingya Muslims that have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh since August has now topped 500,000.

UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq tells reporters “it is the largest mass refugee movement in the region in decades.”

Haq says with the latest figure from the UN humanitarian office, “the total number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is believed to be well over 700,000 people.”

Haq adds that aid agencies are working with the government to improve road access to refugee camps and to facilitate humanitarian aid deliveries.

He says that as of Thursday, humanitarian partners have received just $36.4 million of the $77 million the UN called for in early September. Haq says the scale of the emergency has soared and the appeal will be increased.

Rohingya refugees carry supplies through the Jalpatoli refugee camp in the ‘no mans land’ between Myanmar and Bangladesh in Gumdhum district on September 16, 2017. (AFP Photo/Dominique Faget)

— AP

Disabled rights activists, Treasury officials meet over increasing stipends

Officials from the Treasury, Histadrut labor federation and disabled rights groups are meeting tonight to discuss raising the monthly stipend for the severely disabled.

Disabled rights activists are demanding stipends equal to the minimum wage of NIS 5,000 ($1,416) per month, including for some categories of severe disabilities that are not classed as fully disabled.

In recent weeks, protesters have protested by stopping rush-hour traffic in some of Israel’s largest metropolitan areas.

The meeting tonight is the first such meeting since the campaign began.

According to Channel 2, the developing compromise would see the handicapped stipend rise to NIS 4,000 per month and be pegged to the average salary. There is no immediate word on whether the full stipend payments would expand to new classifications of disability.

One of a group of disabled individuals and social activists who blocked the entrance to Jerusalem in their campaign for a rise in disability stipends, September 18, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Erekat blasts US envoy’s ‘false and misleading’ comments on settlements

Saeb Erekat, a longtime top Palestinian negotiator, responds to US ambassador David Friedman’s comments in an interview published today according to which Israel is “occupying only 2% of the West Bank.”

In a statement, Erekat says: “It is not the first time that Mr. David Friedman has exploited his position as US ambassador to advocate and validate the Israeli government’s policies of occupation and annexation. He was the first US ambassador to participate in the Israeli celebrations of the colonial occupation and annexation of East Jerusalem this June, has continuously announced his intention to continue visiting illegal settlements in Occupied Palestine, as well as he has referred to the Israeli occupation of Palestine as ‘alleged.’

“His latest statement about Israel ‘occupying only 2% of the West Bank’ declaring that ‘Israeli settlements are part of Israel’ is not only false and misleading but contradict[s] international law, United Nations resolutions and also the historical US position.”

The statement adds: “Israel is internationally recognized as the occupying power over 100% of Palestine, including in and around Occupied East Jerusalem. Such positions undermine ongoing efforts towards achieving a just and lasting peace between Israel and Palestine on the 1967 border.”

IED explodes in northern West Bank, none hurt

An improvised explosive device explodes near the northern West Bank settlement of Mevo Dotan, the IDF says.

“No injuries have been reported. IDF soldiers are conducting searches in the area,” the army’s statement reads.

— Judah Ari Gross

Julia Louis-Dreyfus announces she has breast cancer

Award-winning “Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus has breast cancer, she announces through social media on Thursday.

The 56-year-old American actress reveals the diagnosis to her 750,000 Twitter followers, posting a note that read: “One in eight women get breast cancer. Today, I’m the one.”

“The good news is that I have the most glorious group of supportive and caring friends, and fantastic insurance through my union,” she continued.

“The bad news is that not all women are so lucky, so let’s fight all cancers and make universal health care a reality.”

Louis-Dreyfus, who has two children with actor Brad Hall, attached an image of the note to a tweet in which she wrote: “Just when you thought…”

The news comes less than two weeks after the “Veep” star won a sixth consecutive Emmy for comedy acting.

A native New Yorker of French stock, Louis-Dreyfus has been one of America’s most popular and influential comedy actors since she found fame with cult sitcom “Seinfeld” in the 1990s.

Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus poses with the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series and Outanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, in the press room during the 68th Emmy Awards on September 18, 2016 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. AFP PHOTO/FREDERIC J BROWN)

— AFP

Spanish government says Catalonia must end referendum ‘farce’

Spain’s central government is demanding Sunday that Catalonia’s president Carles Puigdemont call off an independence referendum in the region which police have intervened to stop, dismissing the vote as a “farce.”

A woman celebrates outside a polling station after casting her vote in Barcelona, on October 01, 2017, in a referendum on independence for Catalonia banned by Madrid. (AFP PHOTO / Josep LAGO)

“Puigdemont and his team are solely responsible for all that has happened today and for all that can happen if they do not put an end to this farce,” Madrid’s representative in Catalonia Enric Millo told a news conference.

— AFP

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