8 Jordanian students killed in flash flood near Dead Sea
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US peace envoy to arrive in Israel next week as Trump readies peace plan

White House official confirms Jason Greenblatt visit, says it ‘reflects the administration’s commitment to productive engagement’

Jason Greenblatt, Donald Trump's special representative for international negotiations, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on March 14, 2017. (Flash90)
Jason Greenblatt, Donald Trump's special representative for international negotiations, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on March 14, 2017. (Flash90)

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

NYPD responding to reports of suspicious package in Manhattan

New York police say they’re responding to reports of a suspicious package.

It’s unclear if the report is related to pipe bombs sent to prominent Democrats including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The New York Police Department says Thursday’s report involves the Tribeca neighborhood in Manhattan. A bomb squad unit on Thursday morning drove in a caravan through the city after leaving the neighborhood.

Authorities said on Wednesday the pipe bombs were packed with shards of glass and were intercepted. None of the seven bombs detonated, and nobody was hurt as authorities in New York, Washington, DC, Florida and California seized the suspicious packages.

One of the explosives was sent to CNN, which prompted the evacuation of the Time Warner Center in Manhattan, where CNN has offices.

— AP

New York City Police Department officers arrive outside the Time Warner Center, in New York, on October 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Saudis say killing of dissident journalist was premeditated

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia says Thursday the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul was premeditated based on information supplied by Turkey, state media reports.

“Information from the Turkish authorities indicates that the act of the suspects in the Khashoggi case was premeditated,” the public prosecutor says in a statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.


Second Gaza power turbine goes online after fuel deliveries resume

The United Nations envoy for Middle East peace says power production in the Gaza Strip is at its highest level since January, after Israel allowed the resumption of fuel shipments to the Palestinian enclave.

Qatari-purchased fuel entered Gaza on Wednesday for the first time in over a week after Israel’s decision to halt the shipments shortly after they began over an increase in violence emanating from the Strip.

Netanyahu: Arab states have ‘thirst’ for Israel, normalizing ties

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israeli prowess in high-tech is creating diplomatic openings to counties in the Arab world.

“I’m not speaking theoretically. A number of neighboring countries at the moment are extending a hand to Israel and normalizing their ties to Israel. This is a step toward peace, because of innovation,” he says at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation in Tel Aviv.

The prime minister says these Arab countries, which he does not name, don’t only want Israel technology for military purposes but also civilian ones, listing off water, health and solar energy, among others.

Netanyahu also says establishing ties to Arab countries could help bring peace with the Palestinians.

“We always thought that if we solve the Palestinian problem, this will open doors to peace with the Arab world,” he says. “But it also likely true in equal measure and maybe more, that if we develop ties with the Arab world and normalize relations with them, this will lead in the end to the possibility of reconciliation and peace with the Palestinians.”

While insisting Israel must pursue both tracks, Netanyahu says “the openness and thirst the Arab world has for Israel” shouldn’t be ignored.

“And the main reason for this is innovation,” he says.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation in Tel Aviv on October 25, 2018. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Suspicious package sent to De Niro appears linked to other explosives

A New York City police bomb squad has removed a suspicious package from a Manhattan building associated with Robert De Niro.

A law enforcement source tells The Associated Press that the device found Thursday appeared to be linked to the others sent to Democratic figures and CNN’s New York City hub. The package looked similar to the others and had a similar device inside, the source says.

The NYPD says the device was taken from 375 Greenwich Street in the Tribeca neighborhood around 6:30 a.m. Thursday.

A spokesman says police were called for a report of a suspicious package at the location around 5 a.m.

— AP

Suspicious package also sent to Joe Biden — US media

US media outlets report a suspicious package has been sent to former US vice president Joe Biden.

Quoting federal authorities, CBS says the package was discovered at a facility in New Castle, Delaware. Biden was a US senator for the state before becoming vice president.

NBC News also reports law enforcement were operating at a postal facility in New Castle but doesn’t mention Biden.

Paramedics work to resuscitate 4-year-old caught in flooding

Paramedics from the Magen David Adom ambulance service are working to resuscitate a 4-year-old pulled from the water near the southern Bedouin town of Kuseife.

The incident came as flash flooding was reported in the south due amid heavy rainfall, with police shuttering a portion of Route 90 along the Dead Sea after it was flooded.

Gaza fire balloons spark 3 blazes in south

Since this morning, firefighters have worked to extinguish three blazes near southern Israeli towns caused by incendiary balloons launched from the Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the Israeli Fire and Rescue Services says.

— Jacob Magid

Suspicious package sent to Biden similar to others containing bombs

A law enforcement official says a package addressed to former US vice president Joe Biden appears similar to packages containing bombs sent to prominent Democrats and has been intercepted at a Delaware mail facility.

The official isn’t authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday on the condition of anonymity.

The FBI confirms there is law enforcement activity at the US mail facility in New Castle, Delaware. It says federal agents and New Castle County Police are responding to the facility.

Several packages containing pipe bombs packed with shards of glass have been intercepted in the last few days. They targeted Hillary Clinton, former president Barack Obama, CNN and others. A New York City police bomb squad has recovered a suspicious package addressed to Robert De Niro.

None of the bombs detonated, and nobody was hurt.

— AP

4-year-old caught in flooding near Bedouin town declared dead

A 4-year-old who was swept away by flooding near the southern Bedouin town of Kuseife has died.

Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba says the child arrived at the hospital without a pulse and was declared dead there.

Further portions of Dead Sea road closed due to flooding

Police announce that further portions of Route 90 near the Dead Sea have been closed amid flooding caused by heavy rains.

Police call on the public to follow officers’ instructions in order to avoid injury or property damage.

Ex-CIA head targeted by mail bomb hits out at Trump

One of the targets in a string of mail bombs is telling US President Donald Trump to stop blaming others for the anger in American society.

The tweet Thursday by former CIA head John Brennan comes shortly after Trump tweeted that much of the anger in society is caused by the “purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media.”

Brennan, a frequent critic of Trump, says: “Look in the mirror. Your inflammatory rhetoric, insults, lies, & encouragement of physical violence are disgraceful. Clean up your act….try to act Presidential.”

He says “your critics will not be intimidated into silence.”

A package containing a pipe bomb was sent to Brennan but addressed to CNN’s New York office. No one was hurt in that attempted attack or other mail bombs aimed at critics of Trump.

— AP

Speaker of Germany’s Bundestag says no plans to outlaw BDS

Germany is not planning to outlaw the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, the speaker of its parliament says.

“We fight it politically, but we don’t believe that it is fought more successfully through prohibitions,” Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble tells journalists in Jerusalem.

Earlier this year, the Bundestag passed with an overwhelming majority a resolution rejecting any attempts to boycott Israel.

However, Schäuble says, “We are relatively hesitant regarding prohibitions, since our constitution doesn’t give the parliament much room to enact prohibitions, correctly so, because we believe that is up to an independent judiciary.”

Schäuble, a member of the ruling Christian Democratic Union and former finance minister, dismisses concerns about controversial legislation that was passed in the Knesset in recent months, such as the Jewish nation-state law.

“I have few worries about the stability of Israel’s democracy,” he says. “Israel has such a high degree of democratic maturity and diversity, and also a high degree of debate culture and I don’t even mean that ironically, so that I am really not worried.”

— Raphael Ahren

President Reuven Rivlin (R) meets with Bundestag President Wolfgang Schauble at his official residence in Jerusalem on October 25, 2018. (Mark Neiman/GPO)


Rivlin accepts credentials of new ambassadors, meets Bundestag speaker

President Reuven Rivlin accepts the credentials of new ambassadors from Cameroon, Guatemala, Germany, Hungary and Japan, and also meets with the speaker of the German Bundestag.

Speaking to Mario Adolfo Bucaro Flores, the new Guatemalan envoy, Rivlin hails the country as “one of Israel’s oldest friends” and notes it was one of the first countries to recognize the Jewish state.

Bucaro mentions that he arrived at the President’s Residence from the Guatemalan embassy in Jerusalem, which along with the US embassy are the only chief diplomatic missions in Israel’s capital.

Meeting the Hungarian ambassador, Rivlin thanks him for Budapest’s support of Israel in the European Union and warns of rising anti-Semitism in Europe.

“We must be clear that there is zero tolerance for anti-Semitism,” Rivlin tells Levente Benko. “We will continue to work together with you to ensure that the Jewish community in Hungary is safe and secure.”

Benko assures Rivlin anti-Semitism won’t be tolerated in Hungary, whose president has faced criticism over his election campaign earlier this year against Jewish billionaire George Soros.

Separately, Rivlin meets Bundestag President Wolfgang Schauble, who calls modern Germany “a kind of a miracle” and says the country was given a “second chance” after Nazi rule.

Russia claims US took control of drones over Syria, flew them at Russian base

MOSCOW — Russia’s deputy defense minister claims Thursday that a US military aircraft took control of 13 drones over Syria and attempted to have them attack a Russian military base there, but the drones were downed before they could reach their target.

Alexander Fomin says the drones were heading toward Hmeimeem air base in Latakia province when a US Boeing P-8 Poseidon flying over the Mediterranean “took control” of them. He doesn’t say who the drones belonged to or when the alleged incident happened.

Fomin, speaking at a security conference in Beijing in remarks carried by Russian news agencies, says the drones were destroyed before they could reach the base. There is no US comment on the claim.

Fomin’s comments mark the first time Moscow has directly accused the United States of coordinating an attack on Russian assets in Syria.

Asked about Fomin’s statement, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, says the information was “very troubling.” He adds that he “doesn’t exclude” that Putin could raise the issue when he meets with US President Donald Trump in Paris when they both attend November 11 events marking 100 years since Armistice Day.

— AP

Soros-backed university in Hungary partly moving to Vienna

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Academic freedom in Hungary comes under question Thursday as Central European University says it will move its US-accredited programs from Budapest to the Austrian capital of Vienna because of the “uncertain” academic environment in Hungary.

The government calls the university’s announcement “a political ploy” to discredit the nation.

The university’s fate is seen as collateral damage from the ideological struggle between Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s nationalistic, anti-immigrant government and the founder of CEU, Hungarian-American billionaire and philanthropist George Soros.

Central European University, which Soros founded in 1991, has said for months that it has complied with a host of new requirements for it to remain in Budapest. But the university says Thursday it has been kept in “legal limbo” by Orban’s government, which has refused to sign an agreement needed for CEU to remain in Hungary.

Changes to Hungary’s higher education law in 2017 were seen as mainly targeting CEU, which is chartered in New York State but did not conduct educational activities there, one of the new requirements. CEU has since established educational programs with New York’s Bard College.

“Nonetheless, the Hungarian authorities have indicated that they would not sign the New York State agreement,” the university says Thursday in a statement. “All attempts to find a solution that would enable CEU to remain as a US degree-granting institution in Budapest have failed.”

Orban’s government derides the announcement as “a Soros-style political ploy.”

“Up to now, CEU has operated here, it does so now, and we think that it will continue to do so in the future,” says a statement from Orban’s Cabinet office. “The Hungarian government does not concern itself with Soros’s political ploys.”

— AP

In this photo from April 9, 2017, demonstrators hold posters as they protest against the efforts to close Central European University in Budapest, as part of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s plan to transform Hungary. (Janos Marjai/MTI via AP, file)

FBI confirms similarity between suspicious packages

The FBI is confirming packages addressed to former US vice president Joe Biden and actor Robert De Niro are similar in appearance to those used to send bombs to prominent Democrats.

The FBI provides the update in a tweet Thursday morning.

New York City police early Thursday recovered a package addressed to De Niro with the same return address used on the other packages.

A law enforcement official said two packages addressed to Biden were intercepted at Delaware mail facilities in New Castle and Wilmington.

The official wasn’t authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Pipe bombs addressed to Hillary Clinton, former president Barack Obama, former CIA director John Brennan, and former attorney general Eric Holder have also been intercepted in recent days.

— AP

Ahed Tamimi says all Palestinians should slap Israeli troops

A Middle East media watchdog publishes video of Ahed Tamimi calling on all Palestinians to slap Israeli troops.

Tamimi, 17, was released from an Israeli prison in July after serving an eight-month sentence for slapping an Israel Defense Forces soldier in the West Bank village she is from.

The teenager become a Palestinian icon after she was arrested over the incident in December and since her release has been touring Europe and the Middle East.

“The world should not be shocked or taken aback by a Palestinian slapping an [Israeli] soldier… we should always be slapping soldiers, wherever they may be,” Tamimi told a Tunisian radio station earlier this month, according to a translation of her remarks by MEMRI.

Tamimi went on to say all Israeli troops should be slapped, irrespective of their actions.

“They occupied our land and they shoot at little children and target homes and people,” she claimed. “Everyone should be slapping soldiers.”

In the radio interview, Tamimi also vowed to “continue on the path of the martyrs” and said she was prepared to die “for the sake of liberating Palestine.”

MEMRI also publishes a separate interview Tamimi gave to Tunisian television, in which she called for “the liberation of Palestine in its entirety.”

Rights group says murdered journalist’s son has left Saudi Arabia

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The son of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Salah, and his family have left the Gulf kingdom after the government lifted a travel ban, Human Rights Watch says Thursday.

“Salah and his family are on a plane to [Washington] DC now,” Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s executive director for the Middle East and North Africa, tells AFP.

There is no immediate comment from Saudi officials, but Whitson says that they were apparently allowed to leave after a travel ban on Salah was lifted.


In this photo released by Saudi Press Agency, SPA, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, shakes hands with Salah Khashoggi, a son, of Jamal Khashoggi, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on October 23, 2018. (Saudi Press Agency via AP)

Suspected incendiary balloon found in Jerusalem

Balloons suspected of carrying an incendiary device were found in Jerusalem, police say.

Police sappers arrive at the spot the balloons landed in the city’s Ramat Eshkol neighborhood.

There is no word on where the suspicious balloons may have been launched from.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been flying incendiary airborne devices toward Israel since the start of border clashes there in March, though the considerable distance between Jerusalem and the coastal enclave makes it unlikely it was launched from there.

Balloons carrying a suspected incendiary device are seen in Jerusalem’s Ramat Eshkol neighborhood on October 25, 2018. (Israel Police)

8 Jordanian students killed in flash flood near Dead Sea

AMMAN, Jordan — Eight school pupils died Thursday when their bus was swept away by flash floods near the Dead Sea in Jordan, emergency services say.

A further 11 students were injured in the incident, says an official from the civil defense, Jordan’s fire service, who asks not to be named.

“Heavy rains caused a flash flood close to the Dead Sea that washed away a school bus carrying 37 students and seven minders,” the official says.


IDF sends elite rescue unit to Jordan following deadly flash floods

The Israel Defense Forces is assisting in rescue efforts in Jordan after a school bus there was swept away in flash floods on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea.

The IDF says that at the Jordanian government’s request, a number of helicopters carrying soldiers from the elite 669 search and rescue unit were dispatched to Jordan to help locate students still missing.

Soldiers are “doing everything in their abilities to assist the survivors in the area of the despite the weather conditions,” the army says.

The dispatching of IDF troops comes despite diplomatic tensions between Jerusalem and Amman over King Abdullah II’s decision to not renew clauses in the peace treaty between the countries leasing Jordanian lands to Israel.

The AFP news agency reported eight students were killed in the flood and another 11 injured. It was not immediately known how many students were missing.

State news agency: 10 Jordanians killed in Dead Sea flash floods

Jordan’s official Petra news agency is reporting 10 people were killed and 22 injured by flash floods near the Dead Sea that swept away a school bus.

Poll: Likud would still be biggest party if Netanyahu rival heads party

After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar of seeking to oust him, a new poll released this evening says the ruling party would lose seats in fresh elections if it were headed by Sa’ar, but still remain the largest faction in the Knesset.

According to the Channel 10 news survey, Likud would get 30 Knesset seats under Netanyahu, as opposed to 25 under Sa’ar. The party has 30 seats in the current Knesset.

Followed by Likud is the centrist Yesh Atid party, which the survey says would win 19 seats whether squaring off against Netanyahu or Sa’ar.

While the right-wing Jewish Home and Yisrael Beytenu parties would win 10 and 5 seats respectively if Netanyahu heads Likud, the poll says Jewish Home would pick up three of the seats lost to the ruling party under Sa’ar, while Yisrael Beytenu would get the other two.

In a separate poll aired Thursday by Hadashot TV news, 17 of percent respondents say they believed Netanyahu’s version of events, 35% say Sa’ar and 48% say they don’t know. Among Likud voters, those numbers are 37%, 13%, and 50% respectively.

US peace envoy to arrive in Israel next week as White House readies peace plan

US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt will arrive in Israel for talks next week, a White House official says.

“This trip reflects the administration’s commitment to productive engagement, as well as the value it places on understanding the situation on the ground, especially amid recent tensions,” the official says.

According to Channel 10 news, Greenblatt will be in the country for nearly a week and will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials ahead of the rollout of the US peace plan.

US President Donald Trump said in September he was hoping to publish the plan in the coming four months.

Pope decries US synagogue attack as ‘inhuman act of violence’

Pope Francis calls the deadly attack on a synagogue in the United States “an inhuman act of violence,” expressing his “closeness to the Jewish community.”

A man suspected of bursting into the synagogue in Pittsburgh yesterday during Shabbat services and gunning down 11 people has been charged with murder, in the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in recent US history.

“We are all, in truth, wounded by this inhuman act of violence,” Francis says at the end of the Angelus prayer in Saint Peter’s Square.

“May the Lord help us put out the flames of hate that develop in our societies, strengthening the sense of humanity, respect for life, moral and civil values and holy fear of God.”


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Live updates (closed)

8 Jordanian students killed in flash flood near Dead Sea

AMMAN, Jordan — Eight school pupils died Thursday when their bus was swept away by flash floods near the Dead Sea in Jordan, emergency services say.

A further 11 students were injured in the incident, says an official from the civil defense, Jordan’s fire service, who asks not to be named.

“Heavy rains caused a flash flood close to the Dead Sea that washed away a school bus carrying 37 students and seven minders,” the official says.