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Syria accuses Israel of ‘war crimes’ for alleged strike on Aleppo airport

Foreign ministry statement blames Israel for striking Aleppo International Airport for second time in a week and says ‘Israel must be held to account for it’

A purported image shared online shows damage after an alleged Israeli strike targeted the Aleppo International Airport, September 6, 2022. (Social media)
A purported image shared online shows damage after an alleged Israeli strike targeted the Aleppo International Airport, September 6, 2022. (Social media)

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

Obamas unveil their White House portraits

Former US president Barack Obama and his wife Michelle return to the White House for the unveiling of official portraits with a modern vibe: him standing expressionless against a white background and her seated on a sofa in the Red Room wearing a formal light blue dress.

“Barack and Michelle, welcome home,” US President Joe Biden says before he invited the Obamas to the stage to unveil the portraits. Some in the audience gasped, others applauded.

“It’s great to be back,” Obama says when it was his turn to speak. He praises Biden — his vice president — as someone who became a “true partner and a true friend.”

The artist whom Barack Obama selected to paint his portrait says the “stripped down” style of his works helps create an “encounter” between the person in the painting and the person looking at it.

Robert McCurdy likes to present his subjects without any facial expression and standing against a white background, which is how America’s 44th and first Black president will be seen here for posterity, in a black suit and gray tie.

Biden and first lady Jill Biden invited Obama and the former first lady back to their former home to unveil their official portraits. It was Mrs. Obama’s first visit since her husband’s presidency ended in January 2017. Obama himself visited in April to help celebrate the anniversary of the major health care law he signed.

The former first lady chose artist Sharon Sprung for her portrait.

The portraits do not look like any others in the collection to which they will be added, in terms of style and substance.

UEFA, police probe Juventus soccer fans’ alleged racist, Nazi acts

UEFA and French authorities open investigations into claims that some Juventus fans made Nazi salutes and monkey noises during the team’s Champions League game against Paris Saint-Germain last night.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said an investigation was launched into alleged public provocation of racial hatred after police reviewed surveillance video and detained four fans.

UEFA said it opened “a disciplinary investigation regarding allegations of discriminatory behavior by Juventus supporters” at the team’s 2-1 loss in Paris on Tuesday.

Juventus is responsible under UEFA rules for conduct of its fans at stadiums. The Italian club faces punishment including closing part or all of its stadium for a Champions League game and paying a fine.

Details of the allegations were published by three French anti-discrimination groups. The SOS-Racisme group said more arrests could follow in Italy.

The activists called for a strong reaction from UEFA and welcomed an investigation started by the public prosecution office in Paris.

Juventus did not comment publicly on the incidents.

Former IDF general Zvika Fogel joins far-right Otzmah Yehudit

Former IDF general Zvika Fogel has joined the far-right Otzmah Yehudit party.

Brigadier-General (Reserve) Fogel, a former head of the IDF southern command, will be placed in the 10th spot on the Religious Zionism list for the upcoming elections.

Religious Zionism is a merger between Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Otzmah Yehudit and Bezalel Smotrich’s Jewish Home party.

Ukraine admits hitting Russian military bases in Crimea

Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the commander in chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, for the first time admits that Ukraine had carried out missile strikes that hit Russian military bases in annexed Crimea.

Ukraine has “successfully carried out missile strikes on enemy military bases, including Saki airfield,” Zaluzhnyi wrote in an article published by the state-run Ukrinform news agency.

Major blasts at the Saki air base in Crimea last month, which left at least one person dead and destroyed military aviation hardware, have been explained by Moscow as an accident.

But analysts have said that satellite imagery pointed to a likely attack by Ukrainian forces, with no public acknowledgment by Kyiv officials at that time.

Ukraine’s military sarcastically commented on Russia’s “technical difficulties,” saying they may have been caused by smokers in unauthorized areas.

Zaluzhnyi hailed as “successful” the efforts of the Ukrainian armed forces to “physically transfer fighting” to the territory of Crimea in recent weeks.

Russia uses the peninsula as a major base to attack Ukraine after Moscow launched the invasion in February, but Crimea has rarely been targeted.

France slams Iran death sentences for female gay rights activists

France condemns the death sentences issued by Iran against two female gay rights activists on charges of promoting homosexuality, in unusual verdicts that have alarmed campaigners.

The two women, Zahra Sedighi Hamedani, 31, and Elham Chubdar, 24, were sentenced to death by the court in the northwestern town of Urmia, according to rights groups.

They were convicted of “spreading corruption on earth” — a charge frequently imposed on defendants deemed to have broken the country’s sharia laws, the Hengaw Kurdish rights organization says.

“France deplores the death sentences issued by Iran for Mrs Elham Chubdar and Mrs Zahra Sedighi Hamedani,” the French foreign ministry says in a statement, emphasizing its universal opposition to the death penalty and support of gay rights.

The sentences are highly unusual verdicts to be issued over homosexuality and activists say they cannot recall a previous case of execution being ordered for a woman over their sexuality in Iran.

Lapid rebuffs US pressure to change IDF rules of engagement after Abu Akleh killing

Prime Minister Yair Lapid rebuffs American attempts to pressure Israel to reexamine its military’s rules of engagement after an IDF probe into the killing of Palestinian-American reporter Shireen Abu Akleh determined that errant fire from an Israeli soldier was likely responsible.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony of Navy officers at the Haifa naval base, Lapid says he hears “calls to prosecute IDF soldiers” following the death of Shireen Abu Akleh.

“I hear the calls to change our rules of engagement,” he says.

“Israel has expressed sorrow over her death. It was a tragedy that transpired in an incident in which there was heavy enemy fire. The IDF never intentionally shoots at innocent people. We are deeply committed to freedom of the press and to some of the most stringent rules of engagement in the world,” Lapid says.

“But to be clear, I will not allow an IDF soldier that was protecting himself from terrorist fire to be prosecuted just to receive applause from abroad,” Lapid continues.

“No one will dictate our rules of engagement to us, when we are the ones fighting for our lives. Our soldiers have the full backing of the government of Israel and the people of Israel,” he adds.

Yesterday, US State Department Deputy Spokesman Vedant Patel said the US would “continue to press our Israeli partners to closely review its policies and practices on rules of engagement and consider additional steps to mitigate the risk of civilian harm, protect journalists and prevent similar tragedies in the future.”

WHO says newly approved nasal vaccines could help control COVID

Nasal COVID-19 vaccines could help to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control, the World Health Organization says, after homegrown products were approved in India and China.

The WHO welcomes the new front in the fight against the virus — but also said it wanted to see the data behind the vaccines, to assess whether to approve them.

China on Sunday launched the world’s first inhalable COVID vaccine, Convidecia Air, which is made by CanSino Biologics and administered through a nebulizer.

And India approved a nasally-administered COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use on Tuesday, developed by Bharat Biotech.

WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan says nasal vaccines generated immune response in the respiratory mucosa in the lungs.

“You’re generating the first line of defense at where the virus enters and causes a lot of damage,” he explains.

In doing so, nasal vaccines could potentially prevent a person from being infected and passing the virus on.

Victim of alleged rape by her parents sues state for failing to act for years

A woman whose parents are charged with raping her for 13 years and causing two pregnancies is suing the state for failing to act for several years, Channel 12 reports.

The woman is asking for NIS 4 million ($1.15 million) noting that the abuse continued long after she first filed complaints.

A commission that reviews complaints against state prosecutors noted the case took an abnormally long time to go to trial, with over three and a half years passing between the time prosecutors received the case until charges were filed.

According to the charges, the woman’s father raped and sexually assaulted her from the time she turned 17 in 2003 until 2016, and her mother also participated in the assault after the daughter turned 18.

As a result of the rape, the daughter became pregnant twice. She carried the first pregnancy to term, but the baby died at nine months old as a result of rare genetic defects. She aborted the second pregnancy.

Military prosecutors ditch plea deal for officer facing 79 counts of sex crimes

The Military Prosecution announces it has backed away from a plea deal signed with an officer who allegedly filmed his female subordinates while they were nude without their knowledge, following opposition from many of the victims.

Lt. Col. Dan Sharoni is on trial for over 70 counts of sex offenses for his actions, which also included collecting sexual images of soldiers and some civilians over the course of at least eight years.

“After examining the matter as a whole, and in light of the seriousness of the crimes attributed to Sharoni and the severe harm he caused to the victims, the court found that public interest required a withdrawal from the settlement,” prosecutors say in a statement.

While many were opposed, some of the victims supported the deal, whereby Sharoni would admit to the charges and be sentenced to several years in prison, demoted to the rank of private and be required to pay compensation to the 49 victims totaling NIS 250,000 ($72,000).

However, the deal would have seen Sharoni benefit from a significant military pension. Amid outcry over the deal, the chief of the IDF said he would revoke the pension, but Sharoni’s immediate family could still request a monthly stipend, which the disgraced officer would not benefit from.

Gantz demands PA does more to combat West Bank terror

Defense Minister Benny Gantz says he has demanded that the Palestinian Authority act against terror groups in the West Bank, amid rising violence.

“We demand from the Palestinian Authority not only to speak against terrorism but to act against it. The weapons in the streets and the lack of governance first of all harm the Palestinian residents and the Palestinian Authority itself,” says Gantz, following a briefing at the Military Intelligence headquarters.

“I conveyed this message again today to the authority’s leadership. We will not allow armed men who seek to murder Israelis to roam the territory,”  Gantz says.

“We will pursue and stop them in villages, cities, roads, and wherever necessary. At the same time, we will continue to strengthen the moderate elements and allow the majority who are not involved in terrorism [to have] a good livelihood and a daily routine,” he says.

Regarding US pressure on Israel for it to reexamine the military’s rules of engagement, Gantz says only the chief of staff can determine them.

“The chief of staff, and he alone, determines and will continue to determine the open-fire policies, in accordance with the operational need and the values ​​of the IDF,” he says.

“The commanders and soldiers strictly implement the rules. There was and will be no political involvement in the matter,” Gantz adds.

French court upholds Assad uncle’s conviction over ill-gotten assets

France’s top administrative court confirms the conviction of Rifaat Assad, uncle of Syrian President Bashar Assad, in an “ill-gotten gains” case over wealth estimated at 90 million euros (dollars).

Rifaat Assad, 85, is the younger brother of Bashar’s father, former Syrian dictator Hafez Assad, and himself held the office of vice president but fled the country in 1984 after a failed coup.

He had made a final appeal to France’s Court of Cassation after a lower court last year confirmed his four-year jail sentence for conspiracy to launder Syrian public funds between 1996 and 2016.

Egypt demands Netflix, others adhere to ‘societal values’

Egypt’s media regulator demands that Netflix and other steaming services adhere to this majority-Muslim county’s “societal values” — a veiled reference to programs featuring members of the LGBTQ community.

The statement came a day after Gulf Arab countries asked Netflix to remove “offensive content” on the streaming service, apparently targeting programs that show gays and lesbians.

According to the Egyptian government’s statement, streaming services should comply with “societal principles and values of the country” they are streaming in. The statement called for them to undertake “necessary measures if they air content contradicting values of the society.”

The statement by the Supreme Council for Media Regulation did not elaborate. Later Wednesday, Netflix, based in Los Gatos, California, declined an Associated Press request for a comment.

Syria accuses Israel of ‘war crimes’ for alleged strike on Aleppo airport

Syria’s foreign ministry accuses Israel of a “war crime according to international law,” blaming the Jewish state for an airstrike on the Aleppo International Airport.

“Israel must be held to account for it,” a foreign ministry statement says according to the Reuters news agency.

This is the second time in a week that Israel has allegedly carried out strikes on the airport, putting it out of commission again.

US senator disputes IDF claims Shireen Abu Akleh likely killed by accident

A US senator has disputed IDF claims that veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was likely killed by accident by Israeli troops and called for an independent US investigation.

Nearly four months after she was killed, the military said there was a “high probability” an Israeli soldier accidentally killed her  nearly four months ago, based on its investigation into the incident.

The crux of the “defense” in this IDF report is that a soldier was “returning fire” from militants. But investigations by @NYTimes, @AP, @CNN, @washingtonpost & @UN found no such firing at the time,” tweeted Chris Van Hollen, a Democratic senator for Maryland.

“This underscores need for independent US inquiry into this American journalist’s death,” says Van Hollen.

Abu Akleh was also a US citizen.

The 51-year-old Palestinian-American journalist, who was wearing a vest marked “Press” and a helmet, was killed during clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen while covering an Israeli military operation in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank on May 11.

The Israel Defense Forces initially blamed Palestinian gunmen for the shooting, but later acknowledged that Abu Akleh could also have been killed by Israeli soldiers.



Sisters who survived Holocaust die days apart in Alabama

Two sisters who survived the Holocaust as girls and moved to the United States afterward died just days apart in their adopted home of Alabama.

The Alabama Holocaust Education Center said Ruth Scheuer Siegler died Saturday at the age of 95. Her sister, Ilse Scheuer Nathan, died 10 days earlier at the age of 98.

The women were born in Germany and were girls when Adolf Hitler rose to power in the 1930s. After losing their parents and older brother in the Holocaust but surviving Nazi death camps themselves, the two women were inseparable, the center said in an announcement.

“They were always together,” Ann Mollengarden, education director for the Alabama Holocaust Education Center, told “When Ilse died, I think Ruth was ready.”

In early 1944, the girls were selected as workers at the Birkenau camp and separated from their mother, whom they never saw again, according to a biography of the women. They last saw their father at the camp, and their brother died at a camp in Germany.

“The girls worked carrying bricks from one end of the compound to the other for hours at a time. Ilse sewed gun covers and uniforms as well. Working close to the crematory ovens, they saw the mountains of shoes. For the first time, they realized that their fellow prisoners were being killed and cremated,” the biography said.

Each woman married fellow Holocaust survivors in 1949. Ruth and Walter Siegler moved to Birmingham in 1960 to be with Ilse and Walter Nathan, who already lived in the area.

The women, who taught lessons about the Holocaust, were both widows and remained best friends until the end, living within walking distance of each other for years.

IAEA: Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile now over 19 times the limit set by 2015 deal

Iran has continued enriching uranium well over the limits laid down in the ailing 2015 deal with world powers, the UN nuclear watchdog says, with its stockpile now over 19 times the limit in the accord.

According to an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report seen by AFP, Iran’s stockpile as of August 21 stands at an estimated 3,940 kilograms, up 131.6 kilograms from the last quarterly report.

UN watchdog says it ‘cannot assure’ that Iran nuclear program is ‘exclusively peaceful’

The UN’s nuclear watchdog says it cannot guarantee the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program, saying there had been “no progress” in resolving questions over the past presence of nuclear material at undeclared sites.

In a report seen by AFP, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it was “not in a position to provide assurance that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.”

Efforts underway to arrange Lapid-Erdogan meet on sidelines of UN assembly

In a further sign of warming relations between Israel and Turkey, efforts are underway to arrange a meeting between Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

Both leaders are among the 157 world leaders who are planning to attend September’s first totally in-person gathering at the UN General Assembly since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020.

Cult leader rabbi Berland asks permission to leave country to make Uman pilgrimage

Convicted sex offender Rabbi Eliezer Berland, head of the controversial Shuvu Bonim sect, who is on parole has asked for permission to fly to Uman in Ukraine on a pilgrimage.

Berland was granted early release from prison in December after serving a tumultuous month and a half behind bars on a fraud conviction for swindling sick and elderly followers out of millions of shekels.

While serving time, Berland was arrested and then released from remand in connection with two cold case murders from the 1980s and 90s, which two members of his sect were subsequently charged for.

He is now asking to travel abroad for a period of two weeks to join the annual Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to Uman.

Every year, tens of thousands of Hasidic Jewish pilgrims come to Uman from all around the world to visit the tomb of Rabbi Nachman for Rosh Hashanah — the Jewish New Year, celebrated this year between September 25 and 27.

His request comes despite the fact that Ukraine has repeatedly told pilgims not to come this year due to the Russian invasion.

Turkey’s Erdogan says West staging ‘provocations’ against Russia

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses the West of staging “provocations” against Russia that have forced it to cut energy supplies to Europe.

Erdogan has maintained good working relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin while trying to stay neutral in the conflict and supplying Ukraine with weapons and combat drones.

He tells reporters on a visit to Belgrade that he understood Putin’s decision to cut off natural gas supplies to Germany via the Nord Stream pipeline.

“I can say very clearly that I do not find the attitude of the West — no need to mention names — to be correct, because it is a policy based on provocations,” Erdogan says.

“As long as you try to wage such a war of provocations, you will not be able to get the needed result.”

Official says Putin to meet Xi next week amid rising tensions with West

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping plan to meet next week in Uzbekistan, a Russian official says, announcing a summit that could signal another step in warming ties between two powers that are increasingly facing off against the West.

The meeting at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization — a political, economic and security forum that China and Russia dominate — comes at delicate times for both leaders.

Putin is dealing with the economic and political fallout of his war in Ukraine that has left Russia more isolated. Xi, meanwhile, is also facing a slowing economy as he seeks a third five-year term as Communist Party leader. While he’s expected to secure it, that would represent a break with precedent. Both have seen their countries’ relations with the West deteriorate.

Russian Ambassador to China Andrei Denisov tells reporters that the two would meet at the organization’s summit in the Uzbek city of Samarkand on Sept. 15-16. “We are actively preparing for it,” Denisov was quoted by Russia’s state news agency Tass as saying.

The visit to Uzbekistan, if it goes ahead, would be part of Xi’s first foreign trip in 2½ years. Xi has only left mainland China once — to make a one-day visit to the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong — since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in late 2019.

US condemns ‘unprecedented’ cyberattack on Albania, warns Iran of consequences

The White House condemns what it said was an “unprecedented” cyberattack by Iran on US ally Albania and warned Tehran will face consequences.

“The United States strongly condemns Iran’s cyberattack against our NATO Ally, Albania,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson says in a statement, adding that Iran should be “held accountable.”

“The United States will take further action to hold Iran accountable for actions that threaten the security of a US ally and set a troubling precedent for cyberspace.”

Shufersal announces recall of frozen yellow beans after insect found in bag

The Shufersal supermarket chain announces a recall of frozen beans after a customer reported finding an insect in a package.

The recall applies to “frozen chopped yellow beans (800 grams)” sold under the Shufersal brand, the supermarket says, adding that it will be taking the product off its shelves.

The products have an expiration date of March 2024 and bear barcode number 7296073108085.

Shuferal says the recall is carried out “out of an abundance of caution” following a series of major food recalls in recent months.

Those who have purchased the product can return it for a refund.

Shufersal issues a recall of its frozen yellow beans after reports of an insect in a package on September 7, 2022 (Courtesy)

Albania cuts diplomatic ties with Iran over massive cyberattack

Albania breaks diplomatic ties with Iran, Prime Minister Edi Rama says in a statement, as the leader accuses Iran of launching a massive cyberattack against the country this summer.

“The Council of Ministers has decided on the severance of diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran with immediate effect,” says Rama.

Israel lifts entry restrictions on divided village on Lebanon border

Israel is lifting entry restrictions to the divided village of Ghajar on the Lebanese border, Hebrew media reports.

The village is divided by the international border, with half in Lebanon and half in Israel.

Since Israel’s 2000 withdrawal from southern Lebanon, the village has been a closed military area, with people needing special permission to enter and exit.

The decision to lift the restrictions comes as part of an effort to improve residents’ economic situation and make life better for them, the Ynet news site says.

Surviving Lod twin to miss funeral of mother, sister amid fears for her safety

A girl whose mother and twin sister were shot to death in a brutal attack will not be able to attend their funeral, with police fearing for her life, Ynet reports.

Maryam Hajaj, 14, was seriously injured in the Monday night attack in the central city of Lod that left her mother Manar Hajaj and sister Khadra Hajaj dead, the latest in an unrelenting wave of killings in Israel’s Arab community.

She will be kept in a safe house and not allowed to attend the burial “due to concrete threats to her life,” the report says.

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