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US calls for probe into death of Palestinian boy, 7, during IDF operations

‘We are heartbroken by the death of an innocent child,’ says State Department deputy spokesman after Rayan Suleiman dies during Israeli search for stone throwers in West Bank town

Illustrative: Israel troops operate near Kfar Qaddum in the West Bank city on September 23, 2022. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)
Illustrative: Israel troops operate near Kfar Qaddum in the West Bank city on September 23, 2022. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

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

US calls for investigation into death of Palestinian boy

The Biden administration is calling for an ” immediate and thorough investigation” into the death of a 7-year-old Palestinian who died under disputed circumstances during IDF operations in the southern West Bank town of Tuqu’.

“We are heartbroken by the death of an innocent child,” says US State Department Deputy Spokesman Vedant Patel during a press briefing.

Palestinian health authorities said Rayan Suleiman was killed after falling while being chased by troops.

The Israel Defense Forces denied any involvement in the child’s death, citing a preliminary probe of the incident. It said it had entered the town after reports of youths hurling rocks at Israeli cars, but there were no clashes amid the searches, and troops did not deploy any riot control measures, such as tear gas.

A military source told The Times of Israel that an IDF officer questioned the young boy’s father at their home. Troops also questioned several other Palestinian parents over their children’s alleged involvement in the stone-throwing.

The boy’s uncle, Muhammed Suleiman, told the Haaretz daily that Rayan “had a heart attack” after Israeli troops arrived at the family’s home.

Putin claims pipeline leaks linked to ‘international terrorism’

Russian President Vladimir Putin told Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday in a call that leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines linking Russia to Europe were “international terrorism.”

Russia’s president gave his “assessment of the unprecedented sabotage, in fact, of the act of international terrorism, against the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines,” according to a readout of a call from the Kremlin.

A ship works offshore in the Baltic Sea on the natural gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 from Russia to Germany, on November 11, 2018. (Bernd Wuestneck/dpa via AP, File)

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov earlier claimed that the Nord Stream pipeline accidents would have been impossible without a government’s involvement.

“It looks like a terror attack, probably conducted on a state level,” Peskov told reporters. “It’s a very dangerous situation that requires a quick investigation.”

He dismissed media reports about Russian warships detected in the area as “stupid and biased,” claiming that many more NATO aircraft and ships “have been spotted” there.

European officials have noted that Russia benefits from higher gas prices when supplies to Europe are disrupted.

Suspect killed in shootout with police in Nazareth

A suspect was killed and a second suspect seriously injured during a shootout with police responding to gunfire targeting a house in Nazareth, authorities say.

Police patrolling the city rushed to the source of gunfire, after hearing shots ring out and spotted a suspicious car, giving chase, police said.

Suspects in the car opened fire and police responded, hitting two of the suspects.

There were no reports of injuries among police.

Two other suspects in the car were arrested, police said. Three M-16 rifles were found in the vehicle.

Arab communities in Israel have been roiled in recent years by a massive uptick in deadly violence, much of it thought linked to underworld activity, with police struggling to crack down on near-daily shootings.

Palestinian inmate likely won’t be charged with raping female guard — reports

A Palestinian inmate suspected of raping and sexually harassing female guards will likely not be charged with rape, according to reports in Hebrew language media.

Mahmoud Atallah may still be charged with other sexual offenses, Walla reports.

Atallah has been in solitary confinement since 2018, over a scandal in which intelligence officer Rani Basha allegedly “pimped” female guards to him and to other Palestinian inmates, at his request.

In July, a female former IDF soldier who had served as a prison guard, alleged that she was repeatedly raped by a prisoner, later named as Atallah.

Reports of female soldiers and prison officers being sexually harassed and assaulted in Israeli prisons surfaced several years ago, but then were largely dropped until last year when a probe was reopened following new allegations that emerged during an investigation into a prison break at Gilboa.

UN chief rejects planned Russian annexation, warns of ‘dangerous escalation’

The United Nations chief says Russia’s planned annexation of four Ukrainian regions will be a “dangerous escalation” that flouts the UN Charter and will have “no legal value.”

In unusually strong and blunt language, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters Thursday that any annexation “stands against everything the international community is meant to stand for,” and “must not be accepted.”

The Kremlin announced that a ceremony will be held Friday to launch the process of annexing the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia.

Guterres said “the so-called `referenda’” cannot be called “a genuine expression of the popular will” because they were conducted during armed conflict in areas under Russian occupation, and outside Ukraine’s legal and constitutional framework.

He reiterated an October 24, 1970 General Assembly declaration, which has been repeatedly cited by the International Court of Justice, that “no territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognized as legal.” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Guterres conveyed this message to Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia during a meeting on Wednesday.

Balad mulling whether to sit out election after disqualification — report

The Balad party has yet to make a decision on whether to turn to the High Court and ask that it overturn a Central Elections Committee decision to bar it from running in upcoming elections, Channel 13 reports.

According to the report, some in Balad, a hardline Arab nationalist party, prefer to boycott the elections, which could have a chilling effect on already low Arab turnout numbers.

The party is expected to convene Friday to decide whether to petition for reinstatement or not, Channel 13 says.

The party is expected to win on appeal, as it has in the past, given the high bar the High Court sets for disqualification, though in at least some of those cases the party had been running on a joint slate with more moderate Arab parties.

IDF reopens work permits to Palestinians from hometown of gunmen in deadly attack

Israel is unfreezing entry permits to Israel for residents of Kafr Dan, the hometown of two Palestinian gunmen who killed an officer earlier this month, on the West Bank security barrier.

In a statement, the military’s liaison to the Palestinians says the decision, which comes two weeks after the deadly shooting, was made by Defense Minister Benny Gantz during a recent assessment.

Ahmed Abed and Abdul Rahman Abed, from the village near Jenin, were killed in the gun battle with Israeli troops who sought to arrest them on September 14.

Maj. Bar Falah, 30, the deputy commander of the elite Nahal reconnaissance unit, was killed when the gunmen opened fire.

Hundreds of people attend the funeral of Maj. Bar Falah at the military cemetery in Netanya on September 14, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Dozens of work permits belonging to the immediate family of the two gunmen are still frozen, COGAT says.

In the past year, over 2,500 work permits belonging to family members of Palestinian terrorists have been revoked, the statement adds.

Barred from running for Knesset, Chikli will be minister instead, Netanyahu says

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu tells a crowd at a campaign event in Ramle that he will make Amichai Chikli a minister if he retakes power, a day after the Central Elections Committee barred Chikli from running for Knesset.

Chikli, who had been placed #14 on Likud’s electoral slate, entered the Knesset last year with Yamina, but refused to vote in favor of the big tent coalition it enabled and led, and was later ejected from the faction.

Inviting Chikli on stage next to him at the campaign event, Netanyahu calls him a “fighter for truth and justice.”

MK Amichai Chikli at a Knesset House Committee meeting on the Yamina party’s request to declare him a ‘defector,’ on April 25, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Amichai, those that don’t want you as an MK will get you as a minister,” he says.

The left-wing Meretz party had filed the petition to knock Chikli out of the race, claiming that he did not resign in a timely manner after leaving Yamina and thus should be personally sanctioned from running with a sitting Knesset party in November.

Likud has said it will petition the High Court to overturn the election panel decision, a standard practice.

Responding to the move to bar him on Wednesday evening, Chikli lamented the “bizarre and political decision” calling it “an unparalleled injustice.”

Israel allows parties to appoint ministers who are not elected members of the Knesset.

Members of Lev Tahor cult overpower guard, escape Mexican shelter

About 20 members of an extreme ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect overpowered guards and escaped a government shelter in southern Mexico where they had been held since one of their leaders was arrested last Friday, on organized crime and human trafficking allegations.

Mostly made up of children wearing long, flowing robes, members of the Lev Tahor sect pushed their way out of the complex Wednesday night, climbing over one guard from a private security company who had fallen to the ground. The federal government’s shelter for children and families in Huixtla usually receives migrants detained by immigration officials.

They climbed aboard a waiting truck outside and headed toward Mexico’s border with Guatemala. Local police, National Guard, and Mexico’s immigration agency said they did not pursue them.

On Friday, authorities arrested Menachem Endel Alter of Jerusalem, a leader of the Lev Tahor sect on allegations of organized crime and human trafficking in Tapachula near the Guatemalan border. Members of the sect said a second leader was also arrested, but authorities did not confirm it.

The sect is known to have members in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, and Israel.

Police disperse Haredi protest blocking Jerusalem entrance

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men clash with police as they protest against the arrest of a Haredi Jewish man who failed to comply with the mandatory military draft, in Jerusalem, September 29, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men clash with police as they protest against the arrest of a Haredi Jewish man who failed to comply with the mandatory military draft, in Jerusalem, September 29, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)

Police say the main entrance to Jerusalem has been reopened to traffic after a protest by ultra-Orthodox Jews demonstrating against the mandatory military draft was dispersed.

Hundreds of black-clad religious demonstrators blocked traffic near the Bridge of Strings and chanted: “I will not join the army of destruction.”

Police say the protesters were disturbing order and the demonstration was broken up using “riot dispersal methods.” High pressure hoses from trucks were used against the protesters.

No arrests are announced.

Democrats choose progressive Cicilline to head key Foreign Affairs subcommittee

Progressive Rep. David Cicilline has defeated centrist Rep. Brad Schneider in a vote by House Democrats on the Foreign Affairs Committee for who will chair the Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counterterrorism subcommittee.

Cicilline, who has been endorsed by both AIPAC and J Street, soundly defeated Schneider 18-6.

Cicilline will replace Rep. Ted Deutch who will be retiring at the end of the month.

Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., questions witnesses during a House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing looking into the firing of State Department Inspector General Steven Linick, on September 16, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP, File)

“At a time of instability around the world, including in the Middle East, I believe that it is more important than ever that we work together, as Members of the Committee, to do everything we can to address humanitarian crises, human rights abuses, and political upheaval throughout the region,” Cicilline says in a statement, noting his bipartisan efforts. “At a time when the United States is leading a historic international coalition against Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, it is more important than ever that we are able remain unified.”

The Israel Policy Forum tweets its congratulations to the Rhode Island congressman, saying that it “look[s] forward to working together to ensure Israel’s future as Jewish, democratic, and secure through two states.”

IDF says it busted Hamas financing ring at West Bank university

The Israel Defense Forces says it recently arrested a number of students at the Birzeit University near Ramallah for allegedly funneling funds for the Hamas terror group.

Avichay Adraee, the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesman says on Twitter that the students were arrested in possession of credit cards they used to finance Hamas activities in the West Bank.

The funds allegedly came from Hamas in Gaza, as well as operatives based in Turkey, Adraee says.

Adraee says the money would be brought into the West Bank by couriers under the guise of humanitarian cases or for work purposes, and then the suspects would withdraw it from ATMs in Ramallah.

Israel often arrests Palestinian university students in the West Bank for affiliation with Hamas or other terror groups.

Meretz to go to court over panel’s decision that Silman can run

The Meretz party says it will turn to the High Court after the Central Elections Committee declined yesterday to disqualify Idit Silman from running in the upcoming election.

Silman had been a Yamina MK and whip of the coalition that included Meretz before she jumped ship in May, helping bring down the government. Over the summer she officially switched to Likud, and is running on the party’s slate.

Meretz had based its petition for her to be barred on Basic Law: The Knesset’s Section 6a, which states that a lawmaker who does not resign from her office immediately after leaving her party cannot run for Knesset with another sitting party. “Leaving” the party can include voting against the party’s position on expressing confidence in the government, if it was done with the promise of political compensation.

The Central Elections Committee is seen by many as overly politicized, and its decisions are regularly overturned by the High Court.

NATO vows response if infrastructure attacked, indicates pipeline hit by sabotage

NATO says it would retaliate for any attacks on the critical infrastructure of its 30 member countries as it suggested that damage to two gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea is the result of sabotage.

“Any deliberate attack against Allies’ critical infrastructure would be met with a united and determined response,” NATO ambassadors say in a statement Thursday. They say that the damage to the pipelines between Russia and Germany “is of deep concern.”

The alliance also says that “all currently available information indicates that this is the result of deliberate, reckless, and irresponsible acts of sabotage” and that the leaks are causing risks to shipping and “substantial environmental damage.”

The Swedish coast guard on Thursday confirms a fourth leak on the Nord Stream pipelines off southern Sweden.

Protesters try to storm Iranian embassy in Oslo, 90 detained

Policemen stand guard as demonstrators gather outside Iran's embassy in Oslo, Norway, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, to protest the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in custody in Iran after she was detained by the country’s morality police. (Terje Pedersen/NTB Scanpix via AP)
Policemen stand guard as demonstrators gather outside Iran's embassy in Oslo, Norway, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, to protest the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in custody in Iran after she was detained by the country’s morality police. (Terje Pedersen/NTB Scanpix via AP)

Several people in a violent crowd attempted to enter the Iranian Embassy in Oslo, police say, with scuffles breaking out and rocks being thrown at officers. Authorities say 90 people have been detained.

A crowd had gathered outside the diplomatic mission in Oslo to protest the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in custody in Iran after she was detained by Iran’s morality police.

Several were shouting, others had Kurdish flags around their shoulders. Some called for freedom for Kurdistan, women’s freedom and shouted the name of Amini.

Police in the Norwegian capital say “many people were behaving violently.”

Police scuffle with demonstrators outside Iran’s embassy in Oslo, Norway, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, as they protest the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in custody in Iran after she was detained by the country’s morality police. (Terje Pedersen/NTB Scanpix via AP)

Amini was arrested for allegedly breaking headscarf rules and died on Sept. 16. The Iranian police said she died of a heart attack and wasn’t mistreated, but her family has cast doubt on that account.

Protests over her death have spread across dozens of Iranian cities, towns and villages. Iranian embassies in other European capitals have also seen scuffles between protesters and police.

In shift, IDF to station security equipment in illegal outposts

The Israel Defense Forces will station mobile security units in unauthorized outposts, seemingly granting the wildcat outposts a degree of unofficial state recognition, according to Hebrew media reports.

The units, apparently unmanned, will include early detection and warning systems, lighting equipment and fire-fighting apparatuses.

The units are being supplied to all West Bank settlements as part of an effort to bolster security amid an intensified period of tensions.

In the past, the IDF protected such outposts, but would rarely station equipment or soldiers in them.

The army says in a statement carried by Hebrew media that the units are being deployed after a year-long survey, calling it a “wide-ranging shift from policies in place for years.”

“The IDF’s role is to protect any place where Israeli citizens are located,” Central Command officer Elitzur Trabelsi is quoted saying in Haaretz.

Ynet reports that the units are slated to be deployed in the coming days.

EU-Israel Association Council to meet for first time in decade

The European Union confirms that the first meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council since 2012 will take place in Brussels on Monday.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell will head the European side. It remains unclear whether Prime Minister Yair Lapid will attend in person.

While the EU statement said that the Israeli delegation  “will be led” by Lapid, sources in the Prime Minister’s office tell The Times of Israel that no definitive plans have been made, and chances are he will not travel.

The Jewish High Holiday of Yom Kippur begins on Tuesday night.

The Association Council is a meeting that is meant to occur annually between Israel and the EU to cover matters of mutual concern, but meetings fell by the wayside after 2012. During his recent stint as foreign minister, Lapid made it a goal to reconvene the forum.

According to the EU, the meeting will cover the war in Ukraine, the global energy crisis and food insecurity.

The EU statement stressed that the “Middle East Peace Process” would be discussed, saying the body “hopes to build on the momentum generated at the UN General Assembly.”

Lapid endorsed a two-state solution during his UN address last week, calling it “the right thing for Israel’s security, for Israel’s economy and for the future of our children.”

The EU does not mention Iran at all.

Flooded Floridians rescued as Hurricane Ian spreads mayhem inland

The US Coast Guard began performing hurricane rescue missions on barrier islands off southwest Florida early Thursday, as soon as the winds died down, Gov. Ron DeSantis says at a news conference.

“The Coast Guard had people who were in their attics and got saved off their rooftops,” DeSantis says. The most vulnerable areas were along the barrier islands of Lee, Charlotte and Collier counties, along with inlets and inland areas along rivers.

A man takes photos of boats damaged by Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers, Florida, on September 29, 2022. (Giorgio VIERA / AFP)

Power failures from Hurricane Ian are significant, he says. Two counties, Lee and Charlotte, “are basically off the grid at this point,” the governor says, and will likely have to rebuild the power structure.

“We’ve never seen storm surge of this magnitude,” DeSantis says. “The amount of water that’s been rising, and will likely continue to rise today even as the storm is passing, is basically a 500-year flooding event.”

An earlier report of hundreds of deaths in Lee County has not been confirmed and was likely an estimate based on 911 calls, the governor says.

Streets signs are down in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Punta Gorda, Florida on September 29, 2022. (Ricardo ARDUENGO / AFP)

He later speaks to US President Joe Biden about next steps in the federal response to Hurricane Ian, with central Florida counties also being battered as Ian marches across the state.

Ian is expected to regain near-hurricane strength after emerging over Atlantic waters near the Kennedy Space Center later in the day, with South Carolina in its sights for a second US landfall.

Election vetting panel says Balad can’t run in upcoming vote

The Central Elections Committee votes to block Balad’s run in November’s election, after the committee accepted a petition that sought to disqualify the Palestinian nationalist political party.

With nine committee members voting in favor and five against, Balad is currently knocked out of the race. However, the party is expected to appeal the decision to the High Court of Justice, just as it has with past disqualifications by the Committee.

“I really don’t know why we’re here again, with Balad and several claims that were already heard in the Supreme Court,” party chief Sami Abou Shehadah told the Central Elections Committee before the vote.

Hadash-Ta’al slams Lapid, Michaeli for refusing to block barring of Arab parties

The Arab-led Hadash-Ta’al faction is striking out against attempts to disqualify two other Arab parties, Ra’am and Balad, from running in the upcoming November elections, though doing so would help its own electoral chances.

The Central Elections Committee is currently debating a petition to disqualify Balad and already dismissed two against Ra’am, but several parties, including Likud, Religious Zionism, Otzma Yehudit, Labor, and Yesh Atid are sitting out the vote.

Hadash-Ta’al accuses Labor leader Merav Michaeli and Prime Minister Yair Lapid — who runs Yesh Atid — of running away, and says it will affect their ties.

“Instead of sending a democratic message of fighting racism, they choose to ignore Arab society and silently agree with the discourse of incitement and harm to its representatives,” a statement reads.

Disqualifying Ra’am or Balad would help Hadash-Ta’al garner a bigger chunk of the Arab vote, growing their non-aligned wedge and likely hurting opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s bid to regain power by shrinking the size of his camp, which is currently polling stronger than parties hailing from the Lapid-led anti-Netanyahu bloc.

Journalist who covered Mahsa Amini funeral arrested by Iran

Iran has arrested a reporter who covered the funeral of Mahsa Amini, her lawyer says, the latest of a growing number of journalists to be detained since protests erupted over the young woman’s death.

Elahe Mohammadi was summoned by the judicial authorities but was then arrested by security forces while she was on her way to questioning, her lawyer Mohammad Ali Kamfirouzi writes on Twitter.

Writing for Iran’s Ham Mihan newspaper, Mohammadi had covered the funeral of Amini, 22, who had spent three days in a coma following her arrest by Tehran’s notorious morality police and died on September 16.

The funeral in Amini’s home town of Saqqez in Kurdistan province was one of the sparks that ignited the protest movement, with mourners shouting slogans and mourners removing their headscarves in defiance of the Islamic Republic’s dress rules.

Mohammadi’s husband says on Twitter that she had said in a short phone call she was being held in Tehran’s Evin prison and had not been informed of any charges.

Her arrest comes after police detained journalist Nilufar Hamedi of the Shargh daily, who went to the hospital where Amini lay in a coma and helped expose the case to the world.

Rights groups accuse Iran of carrying out a major round-up of critical journalists still inside the country, targeting especially those who have covered the case of Amini. Internet access is also severely restricted.

The Washington-based Committee to Protect Journalists says at least 25 journalists have been arrested since the protests erupted.

Rabbi apologizes to colleague for kashrut kerfuffle, avoiding libel suit

The chief rabbi of the northern town of Nesher, Rabbi Yithak Levi, has issued a formal public apology to Rabbi David Stav, the head of the progressive Orthodox Tzohar movement, for claiming he’d abandoned Orthodox Judaism and could no longer be trusted on matters of kashrut.

Levi made his remarks last year in an interview with the ultra-Orthodox Kikar Hashabbat news site over Stav’s support for then-religious services minister Matan Kahana’s kashrut reforms. Stav, in response, sued Levi for libel, seeking hundreds of thousands of shekels in damages.

The presiding judge in the case encouraged the two sides to reach a compromise instead of going to trial as the case opened today. Levi agrees to apologize, saying that it was a “slip of the tongue” and did not reflect what he truly believed.

“I never meant to claim that Rabbi Stav wasn’t Orthodox. Not then, and not now. I want to ask forgiveness from Rabbi Stav — may he live a long, good life, amen — for the great suffering that was caused to him by the viciousness of my comments,” Levi says.

Stav accepts the apology. “I hope that in the future, discussion between learned people — even when they disagree — will be respectful and respecting as is the way of the Torah,” he says.

Likud flip-flops on disqualifying Arab parties, calls attempts a ‘circus’

The Likud party is boycotting the Central Elections Committee’s ongoing hearings on whether or not to disqualify two Arab parties, calling the matter a “political circus” geared towards harming its right-wing bloc.

Without Likud representation, the committee has already voted to dismiss petitions filed against Ra’am, and will discuss Balad’s case later this afternoon.

“Today the circus continues to try to disqualify Balad in order to kosher Ra’am, Hadash and Ta’al. The whole process is designed to save votes in the left bloc and harm the right bloc,” reads a statement released by Likud.

“We will not participate in this show,” the Likud statement adds.

In the past, Likud has petitioned both the Central Elections Committee and the High Court of Justice to disqualify the Joint List and lawmakers from Balad.

Balad split from its Arab political partners in the now dissolved Joint List, and is not expected to clear the electoral threshold to make it into Knesset without Hadash-Ta’al. Its leader has pledged to run until the end, eating votes that might otherwise have gone for Hadash-Ta’al.

While Ra’am bucked tradition and joined the outgoing coalition last June, Balad and Hadash-Ta’al constitute a non-aligned wedge, opposed to camps both in favor of Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and against him.

Knesset seats are allocated by a proportional share of votes. If Balad were to burn votes and shrink the non-aligned Arab wedge, it would proportionally grow the size of the other two blocs. As the Likud-led camp is currently outpolling the outgoing coalition’s bloc, it is best poised to benefit from Balad staying in the race.

Lapid orders forces to remain on high alert after Shin Bet briefing

Prime Minister Yair Lapid is ordering Israeli security forces to remain in an enhanced state of readiness after a meeting with Shin Bet security agency chief Ronen Bar in Tel Aviv.

During the meeting, Lapid received an intelligence and operational briefing on events in the West Bank, including army operations, a statement from his office says.

“The prime minister emphasized that the policy is to constantly act to defuse terror in all areas, especially the Gaza, Judea and Samaria arenas,” the statement says, referring to Gaza and the West Bank. “This is a necessary requisite for being able to keep normal routines and strengthening security for residents.”

Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces in the West Bank city of Jenin on September 28, 2022. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Police and army have been on heightened alert since last week amid the Jewish holiday season, with tensions already higher due to an Israeli anti-terror offensive that has seen dozens of Palestinians killed and more arrested in near-nightly raids in the West Bank.

Israel says nearly all of those killed were either wanted terrorists or actively engaged in fighting Israeli forces.

Central Elections Committee rejects bids to disqualify Ra’am

The Central Elections Committee votes to dismiss two petitions to disqualify the Ra’am party from running in the upcoming elections, clearing the Islamist party’s way forward to November’s ballot box.

Fourteen of the committee’s members voted against the two petitions and none for it, with the majority not present.

Choosing Life, a forum for bereaved families, and the right-wing organization Ad Kan each filed a petition to disqualify Ra’am’s election bid, alleging that the party was affiliated with organizations supporting terror.

Ra’am, the party of the Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement, had come under fire over Aid 48, a charity run by the movement. Both petitioners argued that Aid 48 channels funds to Hamas and terrorists, among other claims.

Ra’am has repeatedly denied right-wing accusations that it channels money to Hamas. Party officials have defended charitable activities by the Islamic Movement in Gaza as purely humanitarian.

Ra’am’s faction director does not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The panel is expected to vote on a petition to disqualify another Arab party, Balad, in the coming hours.

Army reportedly says it did not chase Palestinian boy who died

The Israeli army is denying chasing a 7-year-old Palestinian boy who fell to his death, according to Hebrew-language media reports.

According to Army Radio, citing an anonymous security source, the child had been throwing rocks at cars on a road in Tuqu in the West Bank. Soldiers found the boy’s father and asked that he stop his kid from throwing stones, but did not chase the child, the source tells Army Radio.

Walla news reports that the army claims the boy died of a heart attack while being brought to a hospital and that it did not chase kids who had been throwing stones from a school.

A road running through the town links two settlement blocs south of Jerusalem, and Israeli cars there are occasionally targeted in stone throwing attacks.

The IDF has not released an official statement on the incident.

North Korea fires ballistic missile hours after US VP Harris visits South

US Vice President Kamala Harris is given a tour near the demarcation line at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea, in Panmunjom on September 29, 2022. (LEAH MILLIS / POOL / AFP)
US Vice President Kamala Harris is given a tour near the demarcation line at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea, in Panmunjom on September 29, 2022. (LEAH MILLIS / POOL / AFP)

North Korea has fired an unidentified ballistic missile, Seoul’s military says, in what was Pyongyang’s third launch in less than a week, just hours after US Vice President Kamala Harris left South Korea.

“North Korea fired an unidentified ballistic missile into East Sea,” Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff says in a statement, referring to the waters more commonly known as the Sea of Japan.

Japan’s coast guard also confirms a possible ballistic missile launch from North Korea, citing information from Tokyo’s defense ministry.

While in South Korea, Harris toured the country’s heavily fortified border with the nuclear-armed North, part of a trip aimed at strengthening the security alliance with Seoul.

Speaking at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), Harris said the US commitment to South Korea’s defense was “ironclad,” adding that the allies were “aligned” in their response to the growing threat posed by the North’s weapons programs.

Jerusalem court orders state to recognize online marriages performed via Utah

A Jerusalem District Court has ordered the Interior Ministry to recognize marriages conducted over video-conferencing through the US state of Utah, in another step toward civil marriage in the State of Israel.

Just before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the state of Utah reformed its marriage process, allowing ceremonies to be performed through video conferencing software, such as Zoom, so long as at least one of the people involved — including the officiant — was located physically in the state.

The State of Israel recognizes only religious marriages, a situation that often causes trouble for interfaith couples, couples where one of the partners is not considered Jewish according to Orthodox law, and LGBT couples. However, it recognizes civil marriages performed abroad, meaning Israelis could be married by the state of Utah while staying home.

However, the Interior Ministry has refused to recognize the Utah marriages and update their status on identity cards and in the official state records. The government argued that despite the official Utah license, these weddings were in fact held in Israel, not in Utah.

The decision by judge Avraham Rubin in the class-action suit, brought by the religious rights group Hiddush on behalf of eight couples, marks a broader victory than an earlier ruling by a Lod District Court in favor of the Utah nuptials, which had found that the legally significant licensing and registration were indeed performed in the state of Utah.

An Israeli couple marries in an online civil marriage ceremony under the auspices of Utah County in the US State of Utah. (Courtesy WedinSea)

Rubin orders the state to begin recognizing the marriages immediately, though the Population Authority may use bureaucratic workarounds to wait until the government decides whether it will appeal the decision before the High Court of Justice.

Neither the Population Authority nor Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, whose office controls the Population Authority, immediately respond to a request for comment.

Fuel prices to stay steady despite falling cost of oil

Despite a drop in oil prices, Israelis won’t see any new relief at the pump when the calendar rolls over to October, the Energy Ministry announces.

A 10 agorot per liter drop in the cost of CIF MED fuel oil will be matched by a 10 agorot per liter hike in the gas tax, leaving the price at NIS 6.37 per liter ($6.81 per gallon).

At NIS 2.62 per liter, the gas tax is still below the NIS 2.70 Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman dropped it to in April, when Israelis were paying NIS 7.44 per liter ($7.93/gallon) for gas.

Gas prices have fallen since hitting a high of NIS 8.08 per liter ($8.61/gallon) in July.

The government sets a maximum price for gas monthly. While fuel providers can lower prices below the cap, few do.

Moscow to formally annex four Ukraine regions Friday

Moscow will formally annex four Russia-occupied regions of Ukraine at a Kremlin ceremony tomorrow, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman says.

“Tomorrow in the Georgian Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace at 15:00 (1200 GMT) a signing ceremony will take place on the incorporation of the new territories into Russia,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov says.

He adds that the Russian leader will make a major speech at the event.

Moscow organized what it called referendums in Ukrainian territories under its control — Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia — with Kremlin-installed officials saying this week residents backed joining Russia.

A woman smiles as she votes with her children at a polling station in Luhansk, Luhansk People’s Republic controlled by Russia-backed separatists, Ukraine, September 27, 2022. (AP Photo)

All four Moscow-backed leaders of the regions said they were in Moscow and expecting a meeting with Putin.

The West has warned Russia not to press ahead with he annexations, with the G7 saying it would “never recognize” the move.

Attorney general opposes Balad disqualification from Knesset run

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara is recommending that the Central Elections Committee not bar the hardline nationalist Palestinian Balad party from running in upcoming Knesset elections.

Baharav-Miara writes in an opinion submitted to the vetting panel that though “Balad is still close to meeting the bar outside of which parties cannot run, there is no evidence” that Balad has worked to actualize the verboten parts of its platform.

The party may nonetheless be banned by the CEC, which is made up of political party representatives and led by a Supreme Court justice. Benny Gantz has ordered members of his National Unity party to oppose Balad running when the panel votes later today, though factions united behind opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu are opposing its disqualification, as a split Arab vote may hurt the center-left at the polls.

Members of the Balad party speak to the media outside the election committee at the Knesset on September 15, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Members of Balad along with the faction as a whole, which is running solo for the first time in years after splitting with Hadash and Ta’al from the Joint List, have been disqualified before at the urging of Netanyahu’s Likud, but usually are reinstated by the High Court.

Under Article 7A of the Basic Law of the Knesset, the candidacy of a member of the Knesset must be disqualified if their actions or statements have the effect of denying the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, inciting racism, or supporting an armed struggle of an enemy state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

Palestinian boy, 7, dies in fall while being chased by IDF troops — PA

The Palestinian Authority health ministry says a 7-year-old Palestinian boy has died after falling from an unspecified height after being chased by soldiers in a town near Bethlehem.

The ministry says Rayan Suleiman fell near the Palestinian town of Tuqu’, south of Bethlehem.

#تقوع 29/9/2022 : استشهاد الطفل ريان ياسر علي سليمان 7 سنوات اثر سقوطه وتوقف قلبه بعد مطاردة جيش الاحتلال لطلبة المدارس في بلدة تقوع .

Posted by ‎بلدية تقوع – Tuqu' Municipality / الصفحة الرسمـية‎ on Thursday, September 29, 2022

He was taken to a hospital where his death was declared by medical officials.

Army Radio, without citing a source, says the young boy was throwing stones at soldiers in the area.

The Israel Defense Forces says it is looking into the incident, but provides no further details.

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