The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s developments as they unfolded.
Israeli warplanes said to hit Assad-controlled building
Israeli warplanes on Wednesday reportedly strike a building controlled by the Syrian government near the city of Quneitra on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.
According to Arabic media reports, the planes bomb a target in the city of Medinat al-Ba’ath, near the demilitarized zone in Syria.
It isn’t immediately clear what purpose the building served, or whether it is occupied at the time of the strike. There are no immediate word on casualties.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that the planes targeted Hezbollah operatives in the area.
— Ilan Ben Zion
Assad forces say Al-Nusra, not Israel, behind strike
Sources close to the Assad regime say the strike in Quneitra was carried out by Al-Nusra Front fighters, not Israel, Lebanese TV Al-Mayadeen reports.
There are reports of casualties after two missiles strikes a building.
Knesset approves Facebook bill in preliminary vote
The Knesset plenum approves in a preliminary vote a bill that would force social media sites to remove content that encourages terrorism or face considerable fines.
The bill by opposition member Zionist Union MK Revital Swid, which has coalition support, is approved with 50 lawmakers in favor and four opposed.
“Facebook is not responsible for the terror wave, but it does have the ability to locate and remove those videos that drive the lone [attackers] to the streets,” says Swid. “Currently, they locate and remove, within seconds, content that is pornographic or pedophilia, and in the precisely the same way, they can act with content that incites to terrorism.”
Swid says she’s dedicating the bill to Richard Lakin, who was killed in a terror attack on a bus in Jerusalem in October 2015.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan hails the bill’s passage. This bill is “correct, necessary, and one can even say imperative,” he says.
The bill is sent to the Knesset’s Science and Technology Committee to prepare it for a first reading.
‘Lone wolf’ attacks rising, hard to track, Europol warns
Europe is at major risk of so-called “lone-wolf” terror attacks, its policing agency says Wednesday, with the latest incidents showing “how difficult it is to detect and disrupt suspects.”
Recent incidents including Monday’s attack on a German train and last week’s carnage in Nice which left 84 people dead “remain a favored tactic by the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda,” Europol says in a statement.
“Both groups have repeatedly called on Muslims living in western countries to perpetrate lone actor attacks in their countries of residence,” it says.
In the latest incident, the Islamic State group Tuesday released a video purportedly featuring a 17-year-old migrant who went on an axe rampage on a train at Wuerzburg in southern Germany, injuring five people, two critically.
“Although IS has claimed responsibility for the latest attacks, none… seem to have been planned, logistically supported or executed directly by IS,” Europol says.
Despite the attackers’ pledges of allegiance to the IS group, “their actual involvement… cannot be established,” Europol says.
The Hague-based policing organization also released its 2015 “EU Terrorism and Trend Report” saying 151 people died and more than 350 others were injured in terror attacks last year in the 28-member bloc.
Syrian rebel group denies Israel struck in Syria
Media belonging to moderate Syrian rebels says the al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front fired rockets containing “highly explosive material” at border communities on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, including the cities of Ba’ath and Qunietra.
The report says the attack killed an unknown number of people.
According to the Syrian rebel media group located in Lebanon, there is “no truth” to the report of Israeli airstrikes in the area.
— Dov Lieber
Hezbollah denies Israel behind Quneitra strike
The Hezbollah terror group denies Israel is behind the strike in Quneitra, the Walla news website reports.
All 84 people killed in Nice attack identified
All 84 people killed in the Nice truck attack have now been formally identified, according to a top French official Wednesday, who says the death toll for the Bastille Day carnage has not increased despite several remaining in critical condition.
Prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre says some of the 84 French and foreign nationals who lost their lives after last Thursday’s massacre died subsequently in the hospital.
Authorities have not released an official list naming the dead from the July 14 Bastille Day rampage in the southern French city.
In a speech to army reserves on Wednesday, French President Francois Hollande says 15 people wounded in the Nice attack are still in the hospital “between life and death.” He praises the French emergency and security services’ work during and after the attack in which Mohamed Lahouaiyej Bouhlel, a troubled 31-year-old Tunisian, drove a truck down a seaside boulevard full of people who had watched a fireworks show.
Germany says train attacker appears to have acted alone
A 17-year-old Afghan asylum seeker who went on a rampage on a Bavarian train with an ax and a knife appears to have acted alone, goaded on by online Islamic extremist propaganda, Germany’s top security official says Wednesday.
Five people were injured in the attack and two remain in critical condition, “and it is not yet clear if they will all survive,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere tells reporters in Berlin.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack and though German authorities have said that they have found no direct link to the extremists, an IS flag was found among the suspect’s possessions and he refers to himself as a “soldier of the Islamic State” in a video that was posted by the group.
De Maiziere says it is not yet clear when the video was made, but confirms that investigators had determined it was authentic. It shows the young man waving a knife as he talks into the camera.
“It appears to be a classic farewell video of a suicide attacker,” de Maiziere says.
Turkey to purge 21,000 over alleged Gulen ties
Turkish media says the government is expanding its purge of suspected coup backers and has begun to revoke the licenses of 21,000 teachers at private schools.
The state-run Anadolu news agency report the teachers are believed to have ties to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the government has accused of being behind the failed military coup last week. Gulen has strongly denied the accusations.
Turkey has already announced the firing of 15,200 teachers at state institutions, demanded the resignations of 1,577 university deans and halted all foreign assignments for state-employed academics. In addition, thousands of other state employees have been fired in half a dozen agencies, all accused of being Gulen followers.
France extends state of emergency for another six months
French lawmakers vote massively Wednesday to extend a state of emergency as President Francois Hollande says that a call to boost reserve forces has paved the way towards a “National Guard.”
After seven hours of fraught debate into the night, during which the opposition accused the government of being lax on security, the lower house of parliament votes by 489 to 26 to prolong the state of emergency for a further six months.
Hollande had planned to lift the measures on July 26 but changed tack after the Nice attack by Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel.
Israel to announce renewed ties with African Muslim country
Later this afternoon, Israel will formally announce renewed diplomatic ties with an as-yet unnamed Muslim African nation.
— Raphael Ahren
Ya’alon slams national religious ‘radicalization’
Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon comes out against Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, who last week called homosexuals “deviants.” Levinstein’s remarks point to a broader “radicalization” within the national religious community, charged the former Likud minister.
“The fact that this discourse is being led by someone who is supposed to be an educator points to radicalization,” says Ya’alon. “In the army, too. These comments should have the heads of the pre-army programs and members of the [national religious] community engage in soul-searching, because unfortunately — in the Knesset and in other places as well — the national religious community is leading a process of radicalization in a most dangerous way.”
Weed found in Knesset bathroom
A bag of marijuana is discovered in a bathroom in the Knesset, near the lawmakers’ offices, Channel 2 reports.
A parliamentary aide who made the discovery hands it over to Knesset security, which is investigating, the TV report says.
Israel renews diplomatic ties with Guinea
In Paris, Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold signs an agreement with his Guinean counterpart to resume diplomatic ties between the two countries.
The two countries severed ties in 1967.
The Foreign Ministry in a statement hails the move, saying both countries have come “full circle,” and urging other African countries who do not have a relationship with Israel to follow suit.
— Raphael Ahren
Amnesty International says Turkey crackdown curtails media
Amnesty International says authorities in Turkey are conducting a crackdown of exceptional proportions following the failed coup attempt over the weekend.
Besides tens of thousands of public servants and teachers being dismissed, Amnesty says Wednesday the crackdown has extended to censoring media and journalists, including those critical of the government. It says authorities have blocked access to more than 20 news websites, canceled press cards for 34 journalists, and issued an arrest warrant for one journalist for her coverage of the coup.
The London-based organization also says there are local reports that the licenses of 25 media houses were revoked.
Amnesty calls on authorities to protect press freedoms while they investigate the failed coup.
Iran speaker says US ‘leaves no option but confrontation’
Iran’s influential parliament speaker hits out at Washington Wednesday, accusing it of disrupting implementation of last year’s landmark nuclear deal and failing in the fight against the Islamic State group.
Ali Larijani, a conservative who helped the nuclear deal pass in parliament last year, warns that Washington risks forcing Tehran into a path of renewed confrontation by putting obstacles in the way of its promised readmittance to the world economy.
“With great sadness, parliament… warns the US administration, House of Representatives and Senate that the efforts to undermine the nuclear agreement have reached a point that leaves no option for Iran but confrontation,” he says.
Larjiani says the West had failed to give Iran sufficient recognition for its contribution to the fight against IS and hit out at the United Nations for continuing sanctions against its foreign operations commander.
Larijani says Western governments should be “thankful to Iran and (its elite Revolutionary Guard foreign operations unit) the Quds Force who have helped Iraq against the bestial terrorists” of IS.
“You, who neither have the courage to confront Daesh (IS), nor know how to fight it, as they carry out bloody attacks in three European countries… how dare you call the admirable Quds Force’s fight a violation?” he asks.
Turkey opens probe into all military judges, prosecutors
Turkey’s state-run news agency says the country’s defense ministry has sacked at least 262 military court judges and prosecutors.
Anadolu also says an investigation is launched Wednesday into all military judges and prosecutors as Turkish authorities continue with a crackdown on people suspected of backing a failed military coup, which the government has blamed on a US-based cleric
The government has already sacked tens thousands of judiciary officials, public servants and teachers as part of the crackdown.
Brussels police surround ‘bomb suspect,’ cordon city center
Police backed by bomb disposal teams cordon off part of central Brussels on Wednesday where they surrounded a “suspect” individual wearing a long coat with wires showing, the police and media say.
“Following police intervention, a cordon has been established” around part of the Place de la Monnaie and adjoining streets, Brussels police say in a tweeted message.
Brussels has remained on high alert since Islamic State-claimed suicide bomb attacks at the airport and in the metro in March that left 32 people dead.
Belga news agency, quoting a police spokesman, says the suspect was “under control” as the bomb squad waited to check if he had any explosives concealed under his coat.
Local media footage showed troops, police and firemen in and around the cordoned-off area, with the streets largely deserted in what is normally a very busy shopping district.
Rivlin says delay in broadcaster launch undermines democracy
President Reuven Rivlin says a government decision to push off the opening of the public broadcaster to 2018 — rather than 2017 — compromises Israel’s democracy.
“Without a public broadcaster, we will be a democratic state with a certain disability,” says Rivlin. “Woe to us if we reach a situation in which there is no public broadcaster in Israel.”
US court reverses Iran ruling benefiting terror victims’ families
A record terrorism-related forfeiture order benefiting families of some September 11 victims and others has been reversed on appeal.
The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals rejects a judge’s reasoning Wednesday in ordering the sale of a 36-story Manhattan office building worth about $1 billion and other properties.
In 2013, the judge said revenue from the buildings passed through a state-owned Iranian bank, violating a US-trade embargo.
The appeals court disagreed that the properties were controlled by Iran.
Settling creditors also include families and estates of victims of the 1983 bombings of a US Marine barracks in Beirut, the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia and attacks in Israel.
Buildings also were to be sold in the Queens borough; Houston; Carmichael, California; Catharpin, Virginia; and Rockville, Maryland.
Jenner says harder to come out as Republican than transgender
Caitlyn Jenner says it was easier to come out as transgender than it was as a Republican.
The transgender activist and Olympic gold medalist is speaking at a breakfast at the Republican National Convention to promote LGBT inclusion in the GOP. She says Democrats do a better job on the issue.
Jenner is crediting President Barack Obama for taking positive steps for LGBT individuals. She receives a smattering of applause from fellow Republicans for acknowledging his move to eliminate the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military.
Jenner says the issue of which bathrooms transgender people use has been used politically for many years. She says she hasn’t had any problems.
Formerly known as Bruce Jenner, Caitlyn Jenner transitioned to her new identity last year.
US places sanctions on 3 Al-Qaeda officials in Iran
The US Treasury announces Wednesday sanctions on three Iran-based senior Al-Qaeda officials allegedly involved in moving funds and weapons around the Middle East for the group.
The Treasury says Faisal Jassim Mohammed al-Amri al-Khalidi, Yisra Muhammad Ibrahim Bayumi and Abu Bakr Muhammad Muhammad Ghumayn have important logistics roles in Al-Qaeda, which is officially designated by the United States and the United Nations as a global terrorist organization.
The Treasury says Khalidi, a 31-year-old Kuwait-born Saudi national, was “part of a new generation” of Al-Qaeda operatives who in May 2015 participated in a senior leadership meeting as the military commission chief.
Egyptian Bayumi, 48, is an Al-Qaeda veteran involved recently in raising and deploying funds for the group.
Ghumayn, a 35-year-old Algerian, took control of the financing and organization of Iran-based Al-Qaeda members last year.
PM says Israel will soon mend ties with another African country
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says another country will restore diplomatic ties with Israel in the coming days.
Shortly after the announcement about Guinea, Netanyahu says: “Today it was done with Guinea, in the coming days another country will join. It’s part of the process of opening Israel up to Africa.”
Israel to build new security barrier in Hebron area
Netanyahu announces that a new 42 kilometer (26 mile) barrier will be built in the West Bank, in the Hebron area, to prevent Palestinians from entering Israeli territory illegally.
The site, which will extend from Tarkumia to the settlement of Meitar, will include warning systems and will replace the current security barrier in the area. The construction will take a year, according to a statement from the Defense Ministry.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the construction site, along with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, and the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avi Dichter.
“We have decided to close the gaps,” says Netanyahu. “We will prevent illegal Palestinians and attackers from entering Israeli cities. It will be complicated, but we must protect the settlements, and we must also deal with the chain of criminals, including employers, accomplices, and those who host [illegal Palestinians.”
Keter plastics sold for $1.7 billion to UK-based BC Partners
Israel’s Keter plastics giant will sell 80% of the company to the London-based BC Partners for a whopping $1.7 billion, according to Israeli reports.
Staffer says ‘mistake’ led to Trump speech kerfuffle
A Trump Organization staff writer says she made a “mistake” in including passages from a Michelle Obama speech in Melania Trump’s convention speech.
Meredith McIver says she offered her resignation, but Donald Trump rejected it.
McIver explains her role in the Trump plagiarism controversy in a statement issued Wednesday.
McIver says Mrs. Trump read passages of Mrs. Obama’s 2008 convention speech during the writing process. She says her notes from that conversation made it into the final version.
She says she feels terrible for the “chaos” she caused.
The Trump campaign has denied accusations of plagiarism, saying the similarities were coincidence.
Argentina seeks Iranian ex-minister’s extradition over AMIA attack
Argentina asks Singapore and Malaysia Wednesday to extradite a former Iranian foreign minister, whom it accuses of involvement in a 1994 bombing that killed 85 people at Jewish community center.
An investigating judge issues the request after learning that Ali Akbar Velayati, who is on the Interpol wanted list, is on a lecture tour to the two Southeast Asian countries, a judicial source tells AFP.
Argentine investigators accuse Velayati and four other Iranian former officials, including ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, of orchestrating the July 18, 1994 car bombing at the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association in Buenos Aires.
Democrats blame Trump for anti-Semitism in Republican Party
Democrats blame Republican nominee Donald Trump for what they depicted as burgeoning anti-Semitism in his party.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, on Wednesday says the Republican convention has brought to the fore an “anti-Semitic environment that Donald Trump embraces.”
“The anti-Semitism that is threaded throughout the Republican Party of late goes straight to the feet of Donald Trump,” she says.
Wasserman Schultz’s blunt assessment is a clear sign that Democrats intend to include anti-Jewish bias among the offenses they say Trump has made more prominent. On a conference call on the third day of the Republican convention in Cleveland, Wasserman Schultz, who is Jewish, join Reps. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., and Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, who is black, in listing a litany of their grievances.
Wasserman Schultz includes the controversy over Trump’s use of an image that juxtaposed presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton with wads of cash, corruption charges and a red six-pointed star resembling a Star of David. She also refers to his reluctant disavowal of the support of David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader, and the Republican convention’s shutdown of comments on its YouTube livestream of the convention after anti-Semites flooded it with epithets when Linda Lingle, the Jewish former Hawaiian governor, addressed the hall.
“He shared anti-Semitic images on Twitter,” she says. “There is so much anti-Semitism in the Republican Party that on Monday night while Linda Lingle, the former gov of Hawaii who is Jewish was speaking, they shut down their live chat.”
Kerry supports Turkey putting down coup
The United States fully supports Turkey’s efforts to put down a coup attempt against its elected government, Secretary of State John Kerry says Wednesday.
Kerry, flanked by allied foreign ministers, restated US support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government as it pursued a vast purge of suspected putsch supporters.
Turkey to close down 626 private schools after coup
Turkey’s state-run news agency says authorities are closing 626 private schools and other establishments following a failed coup attempt, blamed on followers of a US-based Muslim cleric.
Anadolu Agency says the decision was made Wednesday by the Education Ministry and that the schools were under investigation for “crimes against the constitutional order and the running of that order” — without saying the schools are linked to a movement led by the cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Earlier, media reports said the government, expanding its purge of suspected coup backers, has begun to revoke the licenses of 21,000 teachers at private schools.
Gulen has denied being behind the failed coup.
GOP delegate says Clinton should be shot for treason
A prominent Donald Trump delegate from New Hampshire says Hillary Clinton should be “put in the firing line and shot for treason,” over the Benghazi, Libya, attacks that killed four Americans.
New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro appears frequently with Trump and serves as an adviser on veteran’s issues. He makes the remarks Tuesday when asked on a Boston radio program if Clinton was responsible for the Benghazi deaths.
He says Clinton “is a disgrace for the lies she told those mothers about their children,” adding, “Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason.”
He’s also calling Clinton a “piece of garbage” for using a private email server while she was President Barack Obama’s secretary of state.
Baldasaro is known for making controversial comments in his role as a New Hampshire lawmaker. He does not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Kerry tells Turkey to provide evidence on Gulen
Kerry is calling on Turkey to provide hard evidence that a US-based cleric was behind a foiled coup attempt last weekend if it wants him extradited.
Kerry says Wednesday he had made that clear in several phone calls with Turkey’s foreign minister in recent days that mere allegations of wrongdoing against Fethullah Gulen would not meet US extradition requirements.
Turkey submitted documents about Gulen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania, to the Justice Department on Tuesday. US officials have not yet said whether they constitute a formal extradition request.
White House says plagiarized speech shows Americans ‘share values’
White House spokesman Josh Earnest says that passages incorporated into Melania Trump’s convention speech from Michelle Obama’s convention speech in 2008 shows that Americans admire similar values in their political leaders.
Earnest is reacting to news that Meredith McIver, a Trump Organization staff writer, says she made a mistake in including the passages. He says that admiring the same values shows the nation isn’t as divided as it may seem. That’s a point made recently by President Barack Obama.
Earnest says Mrs. Obama’s speech in 2008 drew widespread praise. He says “I’m confident in the future, aspiring first ladies or potential first husbands will draw on the same kind of sentiments to advocate for their spouse.”