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Escaped security prisoners dug a tunnel from their cell’s shower basin — report

Prisons Service said to have reinforced toilet area after attempted 2014 jailbreak, but failed to do the same with the shower area

In this photo provided by Israel's Prisons Service, a hole in a floor is seen after six Palestinian prisoners escaped from the Gilboa prison in northern Israel, on September 6, 2021. (Israeli Prisons Service via AP)
In this photo provided by Israel's Prisons Service, a hole in a floor is seen after six Palestinian prisoners escaped from the Gilboa prison in northern Israel, on September 6, 2021. (Israeli Prisons Service via AP)

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

Taliban flag flies at Afghan presidential palace

A Taliban official says that the group raised their flag over the Afghan presidential palace in a brief ceremony today — the same day the US and the world mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

The milestone anniversary takes place just weeks after the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the return to power of the Taliban, the faction that sheltered the al-Qaeda terror network founded by Osama bin Laden that carried out the attacks.

The Taliban’s new Prime Minister Mohammad Hasan Akhund raised the flag in a ceremony at 11 a.m. local time to mark the official start of work by the Taliban’s 33-member caretaker government, says Ahmadullahh Muttaqi, multimedia chief of the group’s cultural commission.

Taliban soldiers stand guard in Panjshir province northeastern of Afghanistan, on Wednesday, September 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Mohammad Asif Khan)

Escaped prisoners dug a tunnel from their cell’s shower basin – report

The six Palestinian security prisoners who escaped Gilboa Prison earlier this week dug a tunnel from the shower basin in their cell, according to initial findings by the Israel Prisons Service, reported by the Kan public broadcaster.

The prison saw an attempted jailbreak in 2014, in which inmates tried to dig a tunnel under their toilet basin. After that foiled attempt, the Prisons Service reinforced that area with concrete and metal and replaced the toilet bowls.

However, they didn’t reinforce or replace the equivalent area under the showers, according to the report.

White House says Taliban was ‘businesslike and professional’ in new evacuation

The Taliban was businesslike, “professional” and cooperative in facilitating the latest evacuation of US nationals from Afghanistan, the White House says.

“The Taliban have been cooperative in facilitating the departure of American citizens and lawful permanent residents on charter flights from HKIA,” US National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne says of today’s flight from Kabul to Qatar.

“They have shown flexibility, and they have been businesslike and professional in our dealings with them in this effort,” Horne adds, stressing that efforts to facilitate such evacuations of Americans and Afghans who worked with the US mission will continue.

Prosecutors say they’re renewing criminal enforcement of quarantine rules

The State Prosecutor’s Office announces that it is renewing criminal enforcement of quarantine rules for confirmed COVID-19 carriers, saying that the move follows professional opinions by the Health Ministry regarding the response to the current outbreak.

However, in the past, there were rarely any criminal charges pressed for quarantine violation, with most violators receiving an administrative fine.

Police raise alert level following prison break — now 1 level below highest

The Israel Police have raised the alert level throughout Israel to 3, one below the highest level, as it ramps up the search for the six Palestinian security prisoners who escaped Gilboa Prison earlier this week.

Police will reinforce their presence in public gatherings and shopping centers, and is preparing for the scenario of a quick move to an emergency amid fears that the current tensions will escalate into a round of armed conflict with terror groups.

Bennett says steps taken to reduce overcrowding at COVID testing centers

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says that the government has taken several steps to reduce overcrowding at COVID-19 testing stations.

He says that there are now 130 teams examining the samples, up from 115, meaning that some 5,000 more people can be tested each day.

Bennett adds that some NIS 500,000 ($156,000) have been allocated to local authorities to employ stewards at testing centers, adding that resources are being focused on the most crowded facilities.

US Navy sets up Gulf drone task force amid Iran tensions

The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet says that it has launched a new task force in the Gulf incorporating drones and artificial intelligence following maritime attacks blamed on Iran.

A statement by the US Naval Forces Central Command, or NAVCENT, says that the task force will rely on regional and coalition partnerships.

“The bottom line on why we’re doing this is so that we can develop and integrate unmanned systems and AI as a means to do two things,” NAVCENT commander Brad Cooper says. “One, enhance our maritime domain awareness, and two, increase deterrence.”

Since February, Iran and Israel have been engaged in what analysts have called a “shadow war,” in which vessels linked to each nation have come under attack in waters around the Gulf in tit-for-tat exchanges.

US Navy spokesman Tim Hawkins tells AFP that the task force is “dedicated to rapidly integrate unmanned systems and artificial intelligence with maritime operations in the Fifth Fleet region.”

“When we talk about the integration of new unmanned systems, we’re talking about systems that can be used under, on and above the water,” he says.

The Fifth Fleet is based in the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain.

EU official says Palestinian textbooks have ‘deeply problematic content’ — watchdog

The acting director of the European Commission, the European Union’s executive branch, has said that official Palestinian school textbooks contain “very deeply problematic content” and that changes are “essential,” according to an Israeli watchdog group.

The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-SE) says in a statement that the comments were made this morning by Henrike Trautmann during a meeting of the EU Parliament’s Working Group Against Antisemitism in Brussels.

“It is very clear that the study does reveal the existence of very deeply problematic content… changes to the curriculum are essential,” said Trautmann, whose directorate oversees all aid to the Palestinian education sector, according to IMPACT-SE.

“Full compliance of all educational material with UNESCO standards of peace, tolerance, coexistence and non-violence must be ensured as must any reference of antisemitic nature need to be addressed and taken out,” she adds.

No operative decision has been made to cut any funds. The parliament’s Budget Committee will make that — and other — decisions at a meeting later this month.

Minister confirms probe into prison break: ‘We will leave no stone unturned’

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev confirms in an official statement that he has decided to form a government commission to probe the escape of six Palestinian security prisoners from Gilboa Prison earlier this week.

The statement says that the move has been coordinated with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Barlev says that he has received the approval of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit for the move, and he will soon ask the government to approve it.

“We will leave no stone unturned,” Barlev says. “I trust the Government of Israel to approve my recommendation so that we can get to the bottom of the events that led to the grave outcome.”

Minister said seeking to form government commission to probe prison break

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev has decided to form a government commission to probe the escape of six Palestinian security prisoners from Gilboa Prison earlier this week, Hebrew media reports.

Barlev has reportedly received the approval of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit for the move, and he will soon ask the government to approve it.

The commission will be headed by a former judge.

Bennett meets settler leaders, reportedly tells them he won’t freeze construction

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meets with a group of settler leaders from the Yesha Council umbrella organization, where they discuss matters related to the development of settlements in the West Bank and the strengthening of local authorities, Hebrew media reports.

They are said to have agreed to continue working together to advance those issues.

One unsourced report says that Bennett told the leaders that he is “committed” to settlements and won’t freeze construction there.

Vessel runs aground, briefly blocking part of Suez Canal

A bulk carrier vessel became wedged today in Egypt’s Suez Canal, briefly blocking traffic in one lane of the crucial global waterway, Egyptian authorities say.

The Suez Canal Authority says in a statement that the Panama-flagged Coral Crystal ran aground in a double-lane stretch of the canal, forcing the officials to redirect other vessels in the convoy to the other lane.

It says the canal’s tugboats managed to float the southbound vessel, which carries cargo weighing 43,000 tons. The Coral Crystal then resumed its voyage, the canal says.

Officials have not said what caused the vessel to run aground.

The ship was built in 2012 with a length of nearly 225 meters (738 feet) and a width of over 32 meters (104 feet). It was en route to Port Sudan on the Red Sea, according to Traffic Marine, a vessel tracking firm.

Today’s incident comes less than six months after the massive Panama-flagged Ever Given ran aground in the single-lane stretch of the canal. The hulking vessel blocked the canal for six days before being released in a massive salvage effort by a flotilla of tugboats.

The blockage earlier this year disrupted global shipment. About 10% of world trade flows through the canal, a pivotal source of foreign currency to Egypt. Some 19,000 vessels passed through the canal last year, according to official figures.

Number of unvaccinated eligible Israelis now under 1 million — health chief

The number of people in Israel who haven’t received any doses of vaccine despite being eligible has dropped under 1 million, Health Ministry Director General Nachman Ash says in a media briefing.

Ash says the number of unvaccinated citizens is now around 900,000, but adds that the progress that has been made “isn’t enough.”

He hails the fact that the basic reproduction number, or R0, has gone under 1 this week for the first time in some three months, meaning that the outbreak is waning, but he also cautions against complacency.

He says the recent downturn in the spread of the coronavirus can be attributed to the third vaccine dose, which so far some 2.7 million Israelis have received.

First evacuation flight since US troop withdrawal takes off from Kabul

Some 200 passengers, including US citizens, have taken off from Kabul airport on the first flight carrying foreigners out of the Afghan capital since a US-led evacuation ended on August 30.

AFP correspondents have seen the evacuation flight take off for Qatar, the first since a chaotic airlift of more than 120,000 people came to a close on August 30.

Inmates set cell alight in Ramon Prison; blaze under control

As Palestinian terror convicts in Israeli jails continue to protest changes imposed after the escape earlier this week of six security prisoners, a cell in Ramon Prison has been set ablaze.

The Israel Prisons Service says prisoners started a fire in their cell in Wing 7, and that officials have gained control of the blaze.

The inmates that set the cell on fire are reportedly affiliated with Fatah, not the Palestinian Islamic Jihad that has been leading the prison unrest in recent days.

Guard tower overlooking tunnel used in prison break was unmanned — reports

In a further failure said to have aided the escape of six security prisoners from Gilboa Prison earlier this week, various Hebrew media outlets are citing prison guards as saying a guard tower overlooking the entrance to the tunnel used in the prison break was unmanned at the time.

Ynet says it isn’t clear why there was nobody at the guard post. It says a camera was pointed at the tunnel’s opening, but nobody was looking at the footage.

However, Haaretz says the tower was vacant for over a month at the orders of the prison commander Freddy Ben Shitrit due to a manpower shortage.

Time Out ranks Tel Aviv as world’s ‘funnest’ city, 8th-best city overall

Time Out magazine has ranked Tel Aviv as the world’s eighth-best city in the world in its 2021 ranking.

In a survey among 27,000 city-dwellers, the magazine also says Israel’s second-largest city has been ranked the “funnest” in the world, came second in the food and drink category, and is the city most likely to be described as “good for people like me.”

“When Covid hit tourism, this high-tech hub hit the Reset button,” Time Out writes. “The pandemic caused the ‘city that never stops’ to take a well-needed pause. Spaces like Dizengoff Square and Park HaMesila played host to picnics, gigs, screenings and talks. After the lockdowns, Israel led the vaccination race and before long locals were back sipping cappuccinos in cafes and doing yoga on the beach.”

The magazine says 81% of Tel Aviv residents say their city is “fun” and 84% say they can “express themselves,” adding that the city “is home to the region’s biggest Pride Parade, the widest choice of vegan options, and its nightlife always offers a real alternative.”

Palestinian official warns of major unrest if any of prison escapees is killed

The governor of the West Bank city of Jenin warns that major unrest could erupt if any of the six Palestinian security prisoners who escaped this week is killed during an operation to recapture them.

Speaking with the Kan public broadcaster, Akram Rajoub says that while he doesn’t believe the recent developments will lead to a full-blown intifada, or uprising, “if their lives are harmed — the situation will be very bad.”

Rajoub, an associate of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, says Ramallah won’t cooperate with the Israeli efforts to locate and re-arrest the terror convicts.

“That would be a severe step that would harm the prisoners’ lives and Palestinian morale,” he says. “The responsibility is on the Israelis. Prisoners have a sacred place, the nation won’t abandon its sons.”

Jordanian court upholds conviction of 2 men in alleged royal plot

A Jordanian court upholds the conviction of two former senior officials on sedition and other charges connected to an alleged plot against the kingdom involving the half-brother of King Abdullah II.

Bassem Awadallah, who has US citizenship and once served as a top aide to the king, and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a member of the royal family, were sentenced to 15 years in prison in July by a state security court. They are accused of conspiring with Hamzah, a former crown prince, and of seeking foreign assistance.

They were swept up in a wave of arrests in April. Prince Hamzah, who was placed under house arrest that month, denied being part of any conspiracy and said he was being targeted for speaking out against corruption. The king later announced that the royal rift had been resolved within the family, and Hamzah was never charged with anything.

Awadallah’s US-based lawyer, Michael Sullivan, slammed the initial verdict, saying there was a “complete lack of due process” and that his client suffered “inhumane treatment, including beatings and psychological torture.” Jordanian prosecutors have denied those allegations.

The Court of Cassation dismisses an appeal filed by lawyers for the two men, saying they were convicted in accordance with the law, according to the state-run Petra news agency.

Main Paris attacks suspect claims three co-accused ‘knew nothing’ about plot

The main suspect in the trial over the November 2015 attacks in Paris claims three co-accused knew nothing about the plot, in his latest unscheduled intervention to disrupt proceedings.

“They helped me but they knew nothing at all” about the attacks plot, says Salah Abdeslam, the sole survivor of the group of assailants who killed 130 people.

“They are in prison but did nothing,” he adds before his microphone is cut by the presiding judge who then suspends the hearing.

COVID testing sites overwhelmed, with some people said to wait 3 hours

Congestion and extremely long waits are being reported at coronavirus testing centers after they were also seen over the Rosh Hashanah holiday, drawing criticism of the government.

“It is unreasonable that a year and a half into [the pandemic], operational difficulties are still being discovered at the testing stations around the country,” an unnamed health official tells the Ynet news site. “Unreasonable queues are causing the public to abandon and give up on the vital tests to deal with the spread of the coronavirus.”

Some people have been reportedly waiting some three hours to be tested over the holiday and today.

Other testing centers, such as in East Jerusalem, have much less traffic, the Walla news site reports.

The long waits on Rosh Hashanah have been blamed on fewer testing centers and the fact that many students are going to get tested ahead of their return to school or after they were exposed to a confirmed case.

In Moscow, Lapid says Iran must be denied nukes ‘no matter the price’

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid praises Israel’s friendship with Russia in a press statement with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, during a visit to Moscow.

Lapid notes that next month will mark 30 years since the countries renewed their ties after the end of the Cold War, adding that “Russia is one of Israel’s most significant and important partners” and that he and Lavrov “discussed ways to strengthen and deepen the relations.”

“We all aspire to bring security and stability in our region and to the world. Unfortunately, there won’t be stability in Syria, or in the wider Middle East, while there is an Iranian presence,” Lapid says. “Iran is the world’s number one exporter of terror. It threatens us all.

“We will maintain our ability to defend ourselves in the face of threats from Syria and elsewhere,” he adds. “We of course recognize that Russia has key interests in the region. That is why we formed the military deconfliction mechanism – which is both necessary and effective.”

He also speaks about Tehran’s nuclear program.

“The message to Iran must be loud and it must be clear. Iran’s march towards a nuclear weapon is not only an Israeli problem, it’s a problem for the entire world,” he says. “The world needs to stop Iran from getting a nuclear capability, no matter the price. If the world doesn’t do it, Israel reserves the right to act… Israel will not allow Iran to become a nuclear state, or even a nuclear threshold state.”

Beitar Jerusalem owner Hogeg leaves soccer team, citing opprobrium of racist fanbase

Businessman Moshe Hogeg makes a surprise announcement that he is selling Beitar Jerusalem, one of Israel’s most famous soccer teams, three years after he bought the club and after a tumultuous time as owner that saw him confront an anti-Arab fanbase and try — and fail — to sell half of it to an Emirati businessman.

In a statement, Hogeg says that after consulting his family during the Rosh Hashanah festival he has decided to immediately leave Beitar and appoint lawyer Itzhak Yunger as a temporary trustee, citing the racist La Familia fan group as the reason.

“Beitar Jerusalem isn’t a business,” he writes. “I and others before me have donated a lot of money to this club for its community. I have never asked for a medal or even a small thank-you. But on the other hand, with all due respect, it is unacceptable for me to donate massive sums every month, almost NIS 120 million ($37.5 million), and that when I enter the stadium to hear nonstop curses against me, my wife and even my children.

“I was never deterred by La Familia. I fought racism and violence without fear, I brought in a Muslim player and never gave up, even today,” he says. “This struggle isn’t stopping and will continue after me.”

200 non-Afghans to leave Kabul in first airlift since US retreat

About 200 non-Afghans including American citizens are to fly out of Kabul in the first airlift since the US withdrawal and Taliban takeover, a source in Doha says.

“Not all 200 are US citizens. There are American citizens amongst the group departing Kabul to Doha,” says the source, who has been briefed on the operation.

Mass data leak after Bar Ilan University refuses to pay hacker $2.5m

Hundreds of thousands of documents and lists containing personal details of students and lecturers at Bar Ilan University have been leaked online, after the institution refused to pay some $2.5 million demanded by a hacker.

The cyberattack happened about three weeks ago, with the hacker — known as “darkrypt” — demanding a ransom. The central Israel university negotiated, but didn’t pay — at the recommendation of the Shin Bet security agency and the National Cyber Directorate.

After the money wasn’t paid, the hacker leaked research, lab documents, papers and lists containing personal information of thousands of people — totaling some 20 terabytes — on the hacker’s website and in a Telegram group.

Online Bar Ilan systems, including a payment system, have crashed, but the university says that isn’t related to the cyberattack and will be fixed within hours, according to the Ynet news site.

Some students are said to be planning to sue the university after their details were leaked and their online passwords were changed, locking them out of some systems.

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