The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they happened.
US adds launchers to THAAD as dozens hurt in S. Korea protests
SEOUL, South Korea — Dozens of people are injured in clashes between South Korean protesters and police Thursday as the US military adds more launchers to the high-tech missile-defense system it installed in a southern town to better cope with North Korean threats.
Seoul has hardened its stance against Pyongyang after its torrent of weapons tests, the latest a detonation Sunday of what North Korea said was a thermonuclear weapon built for missiles capable of reaching the US mainland.
The clashes come as South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meet in Russia’s Far East and repeat their calls for stronger punishment of North Korea over its nuclear ambitions, including denying the country oil supplies. The demand contradicts the stance of their host, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has dismissed sanctions as a solution.
Putin says he believes US President Donald Trump’s administration is willing to defuse tensions over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
Four Israelis go incommunicado as Hurricane Irma batters St. Martin
The Foreign Ministry reports that there are believed to be four Israelis currently residing on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, in the path of Hurricane Irma, who could not be reached by authorities.
Communications networks on the island are down, officials say, so there is no immediate reason to believe they are not well.
Hurricane Irma has killed at least 10 people as the dangerous Category 5 storm continues its destructive march across the Caribbean.
At least eight people have been killed and 23 injured in French Caribbean island territories, France’s interior minister said. Speaking Thursday on French radio France Info, French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the death toll in Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthelemy could be higher because rescue teams have yet to finish their inspection of the islands.
— AP contributed to this report
Irma most enduring superstorm on record
PARIS, France — Hurricane Irma, rampaging across the Caribbean, has produced sustained winds at 295 kilometers per hour (183 miles per hour) for more than 33 hours, making it the longest-lasting, top-intensity cyclone ever recorded, France’s national weather service says.
“Such an intensity, for such a long period, has never been observed in the satellite era,” which began in the early 1970s, says Etienne Kapikian, a forecaster at Meteo France.
“And it is continuing,” he tells AFP, adding that Irma would probably remain a Category 5 storm at least until it hits the Bahamas.
Rivlin thanks Merkel for support, warns of Iranian entrenchment in Syria
President Reuven Rivlin tells German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Iran’s entrenchment in Syria “constitutes a direct threat to Israel and the stability of the entire region.”
In Berlin on a state visit, the president thanks Merkel for Germany’s close military support for Israel, which includes the provision of strategic weapons systems such as Israel nuclear-capable submarine fleet.
“We all hope this commitment will remain between the two countries forever, regardless of which coalition is in power in either country,” Rivlin says.
Remand extended for key suspect in naval bribery case
The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court extends the remand for a key suspect in the Case 3000 criminal probe into alleged bribery surrounding Israeli naval acquisitions from Germany.
The suspect, David Sharan, a former top aide to Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has his remand extended until September 12.
FIFA opens case against German soccer federation over fans’ ‘Sieg Heil’ chants
The governing body of international soccer, FIFA, opens a disciplinary case against the German soccer federation after fans who traveled to the World Cup qualifier in Prague shouted Nazi-era chants.
About 200 fans chanted “Sieg Heil” on Sept. 1 during the Germans’ 2-1 victory over host Czech Republic. The fans also whistled and chanted during a moment of silence for two Czech officials who died.
The Czech federation also is under investigation since the home team is responsible for providing security at their own stadiums and controls ticket sales.
Verdicts in the investigations are expected at the end of the month.
German national team coach Joachim Loew said at a news conference following the Sept. 1 game that the fans “bring shame on our country.”
Penn State offers kosher food for campus dining
Pennsylvania State University has begun providing a kosher food option for campus dining on a one-year trial basis.
Penn State senior Aaron Goldberg of Philadelphia last year approached Lisa Wandel, director of residential dining, about the need for a kosher dining option, bringing 10 pages of requests from other students and ideas about how the provision of kosher food could be approached, the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent reports.
Goldberg said he had met Jewish students who would have liked to attend Penn State but chose other places because they could not get kosher prepared food on campus.
The dining space, called Pure, opened last month at the start of the new school year. It is part of a new campus dining hall that also provides Halal-certified meat for Muslim students, as well as a food allergen-free station. The kosher dining will be open for Sunday brunch and dinner Monday through Thursday. If the trial is successful, the dining service is considering providing packaged kosher lunches as well, Wandel tells the newspaper.
“The University is committed to supporting cultural and religious diversity among its students, and we are very excited to be creating new spaces for students to come together to share meals, customs and ideas,” Penn State President Eric Barron says in a statement issued by the university.
There are about 5,000 Jewish students, some 10 percent of the campus population, at Penn State.
Dry Jordan launches project to grow crops from seawater
AQABA, Jordan — Water-poor Jordan launches a project using seawater to produce crops with clean energy.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, which contributed most of the $3.7 million cost, inaugurate the facility Thursday in the kingdom’s Red Sea port city of Aqaba.
Haakon tells reporters he was “impressed by the way innovative ideas have been translated into a plant the size of four football fields.”
The facility, surrounded by rocky desert, uses seawater to cool greenhouses. Desalinated seawater irrigates crops, such as pesticide-free cucumbers. A small desalination station is irrigated by solar energy.
Last month, a report by Stanford University suggested that Jordan, one of the world’s driest countries, could face more severe droughts unless new technologies are applied in farming and other sectors.
Jewish candidate for Illinois governor drops running mate over BDS
WASHINGTON — A Jewish candidate for Illinois governor drops his running mate over a disagreement about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.
“Growing up with an Israeli mother, grandparents who survived the Holocaust, and great-grandparents who did not survive, issues related to the safety and security of the Jewish people are deeply personal to me,” Daniel Biss, a state senator, and a mathematician, says in a statement Wednesday on his campaign website explaining what he said was a “difficult” decision to part ways with Chicago Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa just a week after announcing their ticket.
“I strongly support a two-state solution,” Biss says. “I support Israel’s right to exist, and I support Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. I also care deeply about justice for Palestinians and believe that a vision for the Middle East must include political and economic freedom for Palestinians. That’s why I oppose the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, or BDS, as I believe it moves us further away from a peaceful solution.”
Biss says that he had raised BDS in the interview process and he understood that Ramirez-Rosa opposed it. In a statement to the Chicago Sun-Times, Ramirez suggested that he opposed BDS on the local and state level — he notably voted against it in a council vote in 2015 — but supported it at the federal level.
“The difference of opinion we have on the role the BDS movement plays at the federal level would make it impossible to continue moving forward as a ticket,” Ramirez-Rosa says.
Biss came under pressure after it was revealed that Ramirez-Rosa, in an interview a year ago, prior to the Democratic National Convention, said that “for too long the US government has subsidized the oppression of the Palestinian people.” Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Illinois, a Jewish Chicago-area congressman, dropped his endorsement of Biss, running in a crowded field of nine for the Democratic nomination for governor.
Stanley Fischer resigns from Federal Reserve citing ‘personal reasons’
Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer submitted his resignation, citing “personal reasons.”
Fischer, 73, who has been a member of the Federal Reserve’s board of governors and its vice chairman for more than three years, said his resignation is effective in October. His term as vice chairman had been set to expire in October 2018, and his term on the board of governors in 2020.
“Stan’s keen insights, grounded in a lifetime of exemplary scholarship and public service, contributed invaluably to our monetary policy deliberations. He represented the Board internationally with distinction and led our efforts to foster financial stability,” said Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen in a statement announcing Fischer’s resignation. “I’m personally grateful for his friendship and his service. We will miss his wise counsel, good humor and dry wit.”
Fischer, a dual US-Israeli citizen, was governor of the Bank of Israel from 2005 to 2013. He previously held senior positions at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Prior to that he was a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of technology.
His resignation leaves only three members on the seven-seat board of governors. Yellin’s four-year term ends in February at which time US President Donald Trump can either replace her or reappoint her for another term.
Europe’s social dining site buys Israel-founded competitor EatWith
VizEat, Europe’s largest social eating platform, that helps users explore food events around the world, says it has acquired Israeli-founded competitor EatWith, which is North America’s dominant communal dining player.
The terms of the deal are not disclosed.
The acquisition will enable San Francisco, California-based EatWith, founded in 2012 by Israelis Guy Michlin and Shemer Schwartz, to join forces with VizEat and get access to new resources, according to a statement by VizEat. It also makes VizEat a global leader in the social eating experiences field, the statement says.
VizEat was founded in Paris in 2014 and has hosted some 25,000 guests in 130 countries via its app, that allows tourists and locals to discover and share meals and food workshops and tours around the world. In September 2016, VizEat raised its second funding round, securing €5 million (NIS 21 million) to date from investors.
— Shoshanna Solomon
After alleged Syria strike, Liberman says Israel ‘not looking for adventures’
Hours after Israeli warplanes allegedly struck a chemical weapons facility in southern Syria, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman says Israel isn’t looking to intervene in the Syrian conflict, but indicates the Air Force would continue to hit Iran-backed Hezbollah military targets there.
“We are not looking for adventures, and we do not wish to be dragged into one conflict or another,” he tells the Radius 100FM radio station.
“We are ready and determined to defend ourselves and ensure the safety of Israeli citizens,” he says. “We will do whatever it takes to prevent a Shiite corridor from Iran to Damascus.”
Earlier on Thursday, the Syrian army confirmed that a military site near Masyaf was bombed, where the regime is said to have stockpiled chemical weapons and missiles.
Police say graft suspicions ‘bolstered’ against PM’s ex-bureau chief
The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court orders a former bureau chief to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be held in jail for a further six days, saying that the suspicious against him have been “bolstered” in the Case 3000 criminal probe surrounding Israeli naval acquisitions from Germany.
The suspect, David Sharan, a former top aide to Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz before joining the Prime Minister’s Office as chief of staff to the premier in 2014, had his remand extended until September 12.
“The suspicions against Sharan have been significantly bolstered,” said Judge Einat Ron during the hearing. Police say Sharan, one of a number of high-profile public officials arrested in the affair, is suspected of taking bribes, fraud, breach of trust and conspiring to commit a crime.
“There have been a number of developments of the past few days regarding the suspects, including Sharan,” Ron says, adding that there was an additional suspicion he could obstruct the investigation if released from police custody.
Sharan and five other suspects were arrested Sunday in early morning raids as part of the ongoing corruption investigation into the multi-million-dollar purchase of vessels from Germany.
— Raoul Wootliff
Israel says it is watching Irma, preparing aid for Caribbean islands
Israel says it is watching Hurricane Irma’s progress through the Caribbean islands and is preparing to offer aid in its aftermath.
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry says it is “carefully tracking the scale of damage in the Caribbean islands and is preparing for the possibility of offering aid to the islands that are affected, chiefly Barbuda.”
“We will continue to update over the details and scale of the aid,” the statement says.
German policeman investigated for wearing far-right patch
BERLIN — A German police SWAT team officer is under investigation for wearing a symbol used by right-wing extremists while assigned to keep the peace at a demonstration against racism.
The dpa news agency reports the Saxony police officer wore a patch on his uniform depicting the Norse god Odin’s two ravens, which isn’t banned in Germany like the swastika and other Nazi symbols, but is used by the extreme right.
Police spokesman Tom Bernhardt saysso far there are no indications the officer wore the patch to show solidarity with the far-right or as a political statement during the demonstration in the town of Wurzen, just east of Leipzig, last weekend.
But Bernhardt says officers are prohibited from wearing symbols on their uniforms, and they’re “taking the incident very seriously.”
Suspects in France’s explosives lab probe linked to Syria
PARIS — French investigators believe that three suspects linked to an explosives lab found in an apartment in a Paris suburb had talked about wanting to target a bank and had made phone calls to unidentified contacts in Syria, authorities say.
Two men were detained Wednesday and the third man on Thursday. The Paris prosecutor’s office says the men are between 36 and 47 years old but provides no further information.
After finding the explosive TATP in the apartment in the town of Villejuif, investigators discovered more explosive components in a nearby cache. TATP, a peroxide-based explosive, has been employed by Islamic extremists.
A judicial official says more products that can be used to make explosives were found in a lock-up garage rented by one of the three suspects detained in the case. A police official confirmed the new discovery that was made in Thiais, a suburban city close to Villejuif.
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said on Francetvinfo that the suspects apparently wanted to set off explosives in a bank to steal money and had spoken by phone with people in Syria.
Greek church land investors threatening to cancel leases, KKL boss says
The chairman of KKL-JNF Jewish National Fund on Wednesday launched a blistering attack on a group of anonymous investors who bought large tracts of prime real estate in Jerusalem from the Greek Orthodox Patriarch.
The deal has plunged more than 1,000 homeowners into uncertainty because they sublease the land on which their homes are built from KKL-JNF, which currently holds the primary leases.
In a letter to the residents of Talbieh and Nayot, Daniel Atar charges that the representative of the investors sent a letter to KKL-JNF last week threatening to cancel the current lease, which runs out in the early 2050s.
He claims that the investors “continue to harden their positions for the sake of profit, cynically using you, the residents, as ‘hostages’ in order to maximize their profits.”
“There is no doubt that the government of Israel cannot allow a situation in which veteran residents are at the mercy of a group of private investors (whose identity is not completely known), without any regulation of the matter,” A KKL-JNF spokesperson tells The Times of Israel.
Avraham Aberman, a partner at Ephraim Abramson, who represents the investors, hit back Wednesday, telling The Times of Israel that the threat was delivered after the KKL-JNF had failed to pay lease installments for more than 10 years, and that the contracts inherited from the Patriarchate provided for the landowners to cancel the leases if the dues were not paid within three months of a warning, although without harming homeowners’ rights.
At issue are 570 dunams (140 acres) of land in the upscale neighborhood of Talbieh, in central Jerusalem, as well as the neighborhood of Nayot, extending into large parts of the Valley of the Cross, a rare tract of undeveloped land in the center of the capital, revered as the place where – according to Christian tradition – the wood was taken to make the crucifix for Jesus. It also includes much of the Israel Museum and well known hotels such as the Inbal and the Dan Panorama.
— Sue Surkes
As Irma approaches, Israel shutters Miami consulate, evacuates staff
Israel shutters its consulate in Miami as Hurricane Irma approaches south Florida.
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry notes the area has been declared an emergency zone by local authorities.
The consulate is now closed “until further notice,” and Israel’s diplomats and their families are being evacuated from the area “until the storm passes and [local] authorities allow residents to return to their homes,” the statement says.
The consulate’s emergency numbers will continue to operate for Israelis who require emergency assistance. the numbers are +1-305-469-4466 and +1-786-663-3780.
Syria complains to UN about alleged Israeli strike
The Syrian Foreign Ministry files a complaint about Israel’s alleged bombing of a military site in the country’s north early Thursday.
In a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the Syrian letter claims Israel’s repeated alleged attacks are an effort on Israel’s part to protect the Islamist terror groups Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State.
It demands the UN Security Council take action against Israel.
Netanyahu said to believe attorney general will quash indictments
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expects that police will recommend indictment in a pair of corruption cases against him but is convinced that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will decide not to bring charges and will “bury” the indictment, Channel 2 reports.
Hebrew media reported last week that police will recommend filing indictments against Netanyahu in two cases — the so-called Case 1000 and Case 2000 — as the investigations appear to be strengthened by “significant material” provided by Netanyahu’s former chief of staff and aide, Ari Harow, who recently turned state’s witness.
In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.
Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister hobble a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, through Knesset legislation in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
A police recommendation does not carry legal weight. It is for state prosecutors to decide whether to press charges.
The Prime Minister’s Office tells the channel in response to today’s report that Netanyahu “never said such a thing about the attorney general and has only said, time and time again, that nothing will come of this as there is nothing there.”
— Raoul Wootliff
Red Cross chief warns settlement growth leads to ‘de-facto annexation’
The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross slams Israeli settlement expansion as leading to a “de-facto annexation” of the West Bank.
“The settlements have facilitated the process of de-facto annexation,” Peter Maurer says at a press conference in East Jerusalem, wrapping up a three-day visit to Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Expanding settlements are a “source of legal and humanitarian concern” as it has “enormous impact on people,” Maurer says, citing limitations on freedom of movement and access to agricultural lands and water resources.
Mauerer says his delegation visited detainees in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, but that he was not granted access to the Israelis held by Hamas in the coastal strip. He maintains that Hamas is violating international humanitarian law by denying families any information about relatives detained in the context of military hostilities, but says it was not the Red Cross’s place to mediate between Israel and Hamas.
“This is an issue that the respective parties have to negotiate,” Maurer says. “We are not in the business to negotiate these issues.”
— Raphael Ahren
Attorney general said to tell Sara Netanyahu she will be indicted
Channel 2 reports that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has told Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that he has decided to file an indictment against her in the so-called “residences affair.”
Netanyahu is suspected of misusing almost NIS 400,000 ($112,000) in public funds spent on the Netanyahus’ private and public residences.
The indictment will be filed tomorrow, according to Channel 2.
US Hurricane Harvey aid measure grows to $15b as Irma bears down
WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans have almost doubled the size of the disaster relief package for Harvey to more than $15 billion, a first installment to help communities in Texas rebuild from the storm — and stock reserves for looming damage from Hurricane Irma.
The must-do legislation, paired with a short-term increase in the government’s borrowing authority and a temporary government funding bill, is on track to pass the Senate as early as Thursday. The federal government’s disaster aid reserves are rapidly dwindling as Irma takes aim at Florida.
US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, unveiled the measure late Wednesday, adding $7.4 billion in community development block grants to US President Donald Trump’s $7.9 billion request, which overwhelmingly passed the House on Wednesday. McConnell also added a temporary extension of the federal flood insurance program.
Trump: “There is a chance there could be peace’ between Israel, Palestinians
US President Donald Trump expresses reservations about reaching a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians but says he thinks “there is a chance there could peace.”
Speaking alongside the Emir of Kuwait at a WHite House press conference, Trump said: “I think there is a chance that there could peace but again I say that a little bit reluctantly.”
“We have tremendous talent working on that particular transaction,” he added.
Asked if he was about to start a new peace initiative Trump said, “We are discussing, we are working” towards peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
“It is something that could happen,” he said.
Last month Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas separately met with Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, peace envoy Jason Greenblatt and Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy Dina Powell during a visit by the US delegation to Israel.
After the delegation met with Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, where Kushner told the prime minister that Trump is “very committed” to help broker a peace deal, Netanyahu said believed peace with the Palestinians was “within our reach.”
Sara Netanyahu to join PM on visit to Latin America — despite looming charges
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, will join her husband this evening as he departs for a 10-day trip to Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and the US, even as she faces an impending fraud indictment for misuse of state funds, the Prime Minister’s Office says.
Until hours before their departure it was unclear whether Sara Netanyahu would be joining the prime minister on his four-day trip to Latin America. In an unusual step, the PMO, in a statement about the upcoming visit issued Friday, mentioned only his name, leaving unanswered the question of whether she would be coming along.
Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced on Friday that he intends to indict Sara Netanyahu for fraud for allegedly diverting some NIS 360,000 ($102,000) in public funds for her own use.