The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.
BEIRUT — Prime Minister Saad Hariri condemns Israel for allegedly sending drones that fell over southern Beirut as a “blatant attack on Lebanon’s sovereignty.”
“This new aggression… forms a threat to regional stability and an attempt to push the situation towards more tension,” he says in a statement.
Hariri also charges that it was in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 that ended a 2006 war between Israel and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.
BIARRITZ, France (AP) — The first fissures emerge among G-7 leaders over how to deal with Iran, as US President Donald Trump denies he had signed on to an agreement on giving France a leading role as a go-between with the world’s major democracies.
Trump had tried to play down tensions among Group of Seven leaders after an intimate dinner Saturday in the southwest French resort of Biarritz, but comes out swiftly to dispute France’s claim that they had agreed to let French President Emmanuel Macron deliver a message to Iran on their behalf.
For several months, Macron has taken a lead role in trying to save the 2015 nuclear accord, which has been unraveling since Trump pulled the US out of the agreement.
No details are provided on what the G-7 message to Iran would be but Macron said the goal is to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons and avoid a further escalation in tensions in the Middle East.
“I haven’t discussed that,” Trump says this morning. He describes the dinner as “very, very good” and blames the media for anything that implied otherwise.
Police have found the body of a Palestinian man on a major highway in the West Bank.
According to a police statement, the man’s body was found on Route 60 near the Efrat settlement.
Police say officers are at the scene and a probe has been opened.
The release of a photograph of a drone that crashed in the Lebanese capital Beirut earlier Sunday morning casts doubt on the claim by the Hezbollah terror group that the craft belonged to the Israeli military, with some Israeli analysts speculating the unmanned aerial vehicle was in fact an Iranian model.
In the predawn hours of this morning, a UAV exploded in the air outside the offices of the Iran-backed Hezbollah, causing damage to the building. A second crashed nearby and was retrieved by the terror group.
Both Hezbollah and the Lebanese military claimed the drones belonged to Israel.
Official Lebanese state media has just released a photograph of the quadcopter-style UAV that crashed. The aircraft does not resemble any of the UAVs used by the Israeli military.
Several well-connected Israeli commentators, including a former IDF general, say the drone appeared to be of an Iranian design.
The Israel Defense Forces refuses to publicly comment on the incident, saying it does not comment on “foreign reports.”
Former head of Military Intelligence Amos Yadlin, who now heads the esteemed Institute for National Security Studies think tank, speculates that the drone may have been part of a plot by Tehran to send armed drones into northern Israel to bomb military installations and national infrastructure, an attack that the IDF said it foiled late Saturday night with a series of airstrikes in Syria.
“Were Iranian drones prevented from taking off from the Beirut area?” Yadlin writes on Twitter.
The former intelligence chief says it appeared as though both Israel and Iran were looking to calm the situation following the late-night airstrikes.
— Judah Ari Gross
BIARRITZ, France — French President Emmanuel Macron says he has no formal mandate to speak for the G-7 leaders in delivering a message to Iran, but says he would be able to address the issue in the context of what they agreed to during a dinner.
His comments come after US President Donald Trump denied agreeing to anything regarding how to negotiate with Iran. Macron described the dinner as “an informal discussion, free, intense, extremely long” that touched especially on the fires in the Amazon, the Ukrainian crisis and Russia.
He says Trump is the president of the “world’s number one power” who has to defend his voters’ interest, and had made his views on Iran and other subjects quite clear. Macron is walking a fine line as the host of this year’s G-7 summit of major democracies, which is focused on the threat of a global recession, climate change and other major issues.
Blue and White MK Ram Ben Barak pushes back against racism accusations for saying the difference between his party and the ruling Likud was “black and white.”
At a cultural event yesterday, Barak contrasted Blue and White with Likud, which he said is “against equality, clearly differentiates between Jews and Arabs… it harms the courts.”
“You want to call this right and left? Call it right and left. You want to call it black and white? Call it black and white. They’re black and we’re white,” Ben Barak said.
Hitting back at Ben Barak, Likud accuses him of using “racist slurs,” lumping together his comments with past criticism of Likud voters that was seen as racially charged.
“We will bring our voices to the ballot box and overcome this patronizing tone,” the party says in a statement.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who heads the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox party Shas, calls on Blue and White to denounce the comments and says Ben Barak should “be ashamed.”
Ben Barak dismisses the criticism as “nonsense.”
“The intention was darkness and light, black and white, liberal and fascist. Anything else is simply not true. And it’s a pity to take it there,” he writes on Twitter.
The Israel Defense Forces says the attack drones that Iran intended to use against the Jewish state on Saturday night had been flown into Syria from Tehran several weeks ago, along with a number of Iranian military officials.
According to IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, four members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps planned to fly the explosive-laden kamikaze drones into a number of targets in northern Israel.
“Each one of these attack drones would carry several kilograms of explosives,” he says.
Conricus says the military has been monitoring the Iranian plot for “a number of weeks.”
Last Thursday, the IRGC-backed cell first tried to fly these attack drones into northern Israel from the Syrian village Erneh, the IDF spokesman says, but this effort was blocked by the Israeli military.
Conricus refuses to comment on the exact method used to thwart the attack, but says it was “not necessarily kinetic,” appearing to indicate that some method of electronic warfare was employed.
According to the spokesman, the Iranian drones used in the attack were of a similar variety that Tehran-backed militias have used elsewhere in the Middle East, namely by Yemen’s Houthis.
“The modus operandi is similar to what we have seen in other places in the Middle East — in Yemen and Saudi Arabia,” Conricus says.
He says the equipment, as well as a number of operatives, were flown in from Tehran through the international airport of Damascus.
The spokesman says their base of operations was in the village of Aqrabah, near Damascus.
Conricus says Israel sees Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s regime as responsible for the attacks as it aware of the plot and gave it de facto support by allowing it to take place.
— Judah Ari Gross
A war monitor raises the death toll from an Israeli strike on Iranian targets in Syria to five.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, two of those killed were operatives from the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah and one was a member of an Iranian militia. It says the identity of the other two casualties are not yet known.
IDF chief Aviv Kohavi says IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani personally led the plot to attack a number of targets in northern Israel with explosives-laden attack drones from Syria.
“The person who led this attack and commanded it was Qassem Soleimani personally. He funded, coached and trained Shiite operatives, who were supposed to carry it out,” Kohavi says in a video of a meeting in the IDF Northern Command late Saturday night, released by the military.
The army chief warns that the military must “prepare for any eventuality,” as Iran may retaliate against the Israeli strikes.
“We will [prepare] in the best way possible,” he says.
— Judah Ari Gross
MADRID — Authorities in Barcelona evacuate one of the Spanish city’s popular beaches after reports of a possible explosive device there.
City police say on their Twitter account that “a possible explosive device was found” by officers at the Sant Sebastià beach, around a kilometer (mile) from the city’s famous Gothic quarter.
Spanish media are speculating that it could be an unexploded device remaining from World War II, but there is no confirmation of that.
Spanish radio station COPE reports the device is in the sea, about 40 meters (yards) off the coast.
A police bomb squad is heading to the scene, COPE says, quoting Spanish news agency Efe.
The beach was reportedly full of people when it was evacuated in the early afternoon, with temperatures close to 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit).
PARIS — An official Iranian plane landed in Biarritz in southern France during a G-7 summit, flight-tracking websites say.
Flightradar24.com and planespotters.net both show a plane traveling from Tehran to Biarritz, although AFP is unable to confirm the landing or that an Iranian delegation had been invited.
A satellite image distributed by an Israeli private intelligence firm shows that a compound in the Syrian town of Aqrabah, which the IDF says was used by Iran-backed troops to launch explosives-laden attack drones, was completely destroyed in an Israeli strike late Saturday night.
The military says Iran-supported troops used the compound as a base of operations for a plot to launch kamikaze drones at military and civilian targets in northern Israel.
When the Shiite operatives appeared poised to carry out their attack, the IDF launched a series of airstrikes on the Aqrabah base.
“The Iranian compound was completely destroyed,” according to ImageSat International, the satellite imagery analysis firm.
— Judah Ari Gross
The #Iranian #Quds Force Compound (according to #IDF spokesperson's report) in #Aqrabeh, #Syria, was completely destroyed (24 August 2019) – #Attack’s Aftereffect.#IMINT #VISINT #Satellite #intelligence #BDA #Iran pic.twitter.com/Rjn6Ke3L88
— ImageSat Intl. (@ImageSatIntl) August 25, 2019
Palestinian Authority Police and the Attorney General’s Office have identified a man found on the side of a major thoroughfare in the West Bank as a 21-year-old resident of Bethlehem, PA Police spokesman Louay Arzeikat says in a post on Facebook.
Efforts were being undertaken to transfer the body to a location to carry out an autopsy, he adds.
— Adam Rasgon
WASHINGTON — Joe Walsh, a former Illinois congressman, says he’ll challenge US President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020. The tea party favorite argues that Trump is unfit for the White House.
Walsh announces his candidacy during an interview on ABC’s “This Week'” on Sunday. Also in the race is Bill Weld, a former Massachusetts governor.
Walsh won a House seat from suburban Chicago in the 2010 tea party wave, but lost reelection in 2012 and has since hosted a radio talk show.
He has a history of inflammatory statements regarding Muslims and others, and said just before the 2016 election that if Trump lost, “I’m grabbing my musket.” Walsh has since soured on Trump.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman says the Islamic Republic’s top diplomat has landed at the French city hosting the G-7 leaders’ summit, though he won’t be negotiating nor meeting with US officials while there.
Abbas Mousavi writes on Twitter that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had arrived in Biarritz.
Mousavi makes the announcement just after an Airbus A321 registered to the Iranian government landed there, fueling speculation Zarif could be on board.
This is a surprise trip by Zarif. He had only been known to be traveling in the coming days to Asia as part of his tour to get support for Iran amid the US campaign against it since US President Donald Trump withdrew America from Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Mousavi stressed in his tweet that “there will be no meetings or negotiations” with American officials during Zarif’s trip.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tours the Golan Heights with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi after Israel carried out airstrikes in Syria to foil an Iranian attack using kamikaze drones.
“We revealed that Iran’s Quds Force sent a special unit of Shiite operatives to Syria to kill Israelis in the Golan [Heights] using explosive drones,” the prime minister says.
Thanks to the IDF’s “perfect” operative and intelligence work, Netanyahu says, Israel was able to preempt the Iranian attack plans.
“We will expose every Iranian attempt to attack us and every attempt it makes to hide behind one excuse or another,” he says.
In a warning to Syria, Netanyahu says that Israel will hold responsible any country that allows its territory to be used to attack the Jewish state.
“We won’t tolerate attacks on Israel from any country in the area. Any country that allows its territory to be used for attacks against Israel will bear the consequences. I stress: The state will bear the consequences,” he says.
The Israeli military’s Arabic-language spokesman says that at 7 p.m. the army will release video footage of the Iran-backed teams attempting to launch attack drones at northern Israel from Syria on Thursday night.
“Tonight we will broadcast the video that [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander] Qassem Soleimani is trying to hide,” Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee writes on Twitter.
According to the IDF, Soleimani personally led the plot to attack northern Israeli targets with kamikaze drones.
“[IRGC] Quds Force operatives and Shiite militias tried to launch an armed drone at Israeli targets from the [Syrian] village of Erneh. We tracked them, saw them, confused them and thwarted their plans,” Adraee says.
— Judah Ari Gross
توثيق خاص: سنبث مساء اليوم الفيديو الذي يحاول #قاسم_سليماني إخفاءه. هكذا حاول نشطاء #فيلق_القدس والميليشيات الشيعية اطلاق طائرة مسيرة مسلحة باتجاه أهداف إسرائيلية من قرية #عرنة وبعد ان تم تشويش عمليتهم خططوا لإعادة التنفيذ أمس.تابعناهم،رأيناهم،قمنا بالتشويش عليهم وأحبطنا مخططتهم pic.twitter.com/0Z0OkvysiQ
— افيخاي ادرعي (@AvichayAdraee) August 25, 2019
Foreign Minister Israel Katz issues a warning to a top Iranian general accused by Israel of overseeing plans to launch explosive-laden drones from Syria at the Golan Heights.
“Israel is acting to strike the head of the Iranian snake and pull out its teeth,” Katz says in an interview the Ynet news site.
“Iran is the head of the snake and Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, is the snake’s teeth, ” he adds.
BIARRITZ, France — A senior French official says France invited Iran’s foreign minister to the venue of the G-7 summit to try to ease tensions over its nuclear program.
The official says the decision to invite Mohammed Javad Zarif on Sunday to the Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France, came after the G-7 leaders, including US President Donald Trump, gathered for dinner Saturday night.
Asked whether the White House was aware of the visit, the French official says “we operate on our own terms” but notes that Macron and Trump met for two hours yesterday and discussed Iran at length, as well as at the group dinner with other leaders.
The French official, who is not authorized to be named publicly, says that France considers it important to check in with Zarif to continue to bring positions closer together and de-escalate tensions.
The official says the Americans in Biarritz will not meet with Zarif, and that France “is working in full transparency with the US and in full transparency with European partners.”
A field commander in an Iran-backed Iraqi militia has been killed in a strike by an as yet unidentified drone along a highway near the Iraq-Syria border, the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen news site reports.
According to the outlet, the officer was a member of the Iran-funded Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella group of militias that operate alongside the Iraqi military.
A number of PMF bases have been targeted in recent weeks in strikes attributed to the Israeli military.
— Judah Ari Gross
BIARRITZ, France — A top French official says French President Emmanuel Macron made the decision to invite Iran’s top diplomat to Biarritz after the dinner among G-7 leaders of the world’s major democracies.
The Saturday night dinner involved tense exchanges over how to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions since US President Donald Trump withdrew from Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal. Macron had met just Friday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and decided to invite him to France again, this time to Biarritz.
The official doesn’t rule out another meeting between Macron and Zarif, who is speaking today with France’s foreign minister. Asked about a possible meeting between Trump and the Iranian, who faces US sanctions, the official says, “not at this stage.” The official speaks on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive decision.
Likewise, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin doesn’t rule out anything, saying Trump had not “set preconditions” to negotiations with Iran.
Al Jazeera reports six militiamen in the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces were killed in an airstrike by an unidentified aircraft in the town of al-Qaim on the Iraq-Syrian border, among them a field commander.
The Israeli military releases footage of what it says was an attempt by pro-Iranian operatives to launch an explosives-laden drone into northern Israel from Syria last Thurday.
In the footage, four men can be seen carrying the craft as they walk through fields.
The IDF says the footage was filmed by a field intelligence unit along the border on the night of August 22. According to the military, the men were walking around the Syrian town of Erneh, across from the Israeli Golan Heights.
The IDF says it foiled the attempt to launch the drone, but declines to say precisely how. The military’s Arabic-language spokesman says in a tweet that the army “confused” the pro-Iranian operatives, which appears to indicate that a form of electronic warfare was used.
— Judah Ari Gross
The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group addresses the crashing of two allegedly Israeli drones in Beirut early this morning.
“What happened last night was very dangerous,” Hassan Nasrallah says in a televised speech.
One of the UAVs exploded in the air outside Hezbollah offices, causing damage to the building. A second crashed nearby and was retrieved by the terror group.
Nasrallah denies that Hezbollah downed the drone, saying youth threw rocks at as it flew at building level, causing it fall.
The Hezbollah chief says the drones were “a violation of the rules of engagement” that ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War between his terror group and Israel.
“This is the first act of aggression since August 14, 2006…. This is clear aggression,” he says.
— with Adam Rasgon
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah comments on a series of recent strikes in Iraq on sites linked to Iranian-backed militias that have been attributed to Israel.
“There is a scenario in Iraq that started several weeks ago. PMF storage facilities in different provinces,” Nasrallah says in a televised speech, referring to the Popular Mobilization Forces paramilitary.
“Okay, there was the first explosion, the second explosion, third explosion, the fourth explosion with Israeli insinuations that it takes responsibility and is proud of it because [Prime Minister] Netanyahu needs to say that now,” he continues.
“This is the approach that Iraqis are dealing with….As for as us in Lebanon, we will not allow for this type of approach. It is not permissible… We will do everything to prevent such an approach. Everything that prevents such an approach, we will do.”
— Adam Rasgon
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah says his terror group will not allow Israeli UAVs to operate in Lebanese skies.
“The time — in which Israeli planes come and bombard a place in Lebanon and the usurping entity of Palestine remains secure — has ended,” he says.
“From now on, we will confront the Israeli drones in Lebanon’s skies. When the Israeli drones enter Lebanon’s skies, we will take action to bring them down,” Nasrallah adds.
— Adam Rasgon
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah accuses Prime Minister Netanyahu of lying when he said a compound in Syria targeted in an Israeli strike was being used by Iran’s Quds Force for drone attacks on Israel.
“Netanyahu and the enemy’s army announced that an al-Quds Force center was attacked and those attacked were Iranians. He did all that and presented himself as national and brave hero… He is lying to his people. He is selling them nonsense and is going against the facts on the ground,” Nasrallah says.
“Yesterday, the Israeli Air Force did not raid an al-Quds Force center, but rather a Hezbollah center. It wasn’t a military site. It was a house… The place that was bombarded only had Lebanese youth from Hezbollah. In that place, two martyrs fell,” he adds.
Nasrallah identifies the two Hezbollah members killed in Syria as Hassan Yousef Zabeeb and Nasser Ahmad Daher.
— Adam Rasgon
BIARRITZ, France — German Chancellor Angela Merkel says it is worth taking every opportunity to avoid a further escalation of the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program, and that G-7 leaders had a “good, constructive discussion” on the subject on Saturday evening.
Iran’s foreign minister made a previously unannounced visit Sunday to Biarritz, France, where the G-7 summit was taking place. He came at France’s invitation after a Saturday night discussion that Merkel said made clear all leaders agree that Iran must not get a nuclear weapon and that must be achieved by negotiations.
Merkel says Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif’s presence is “a parallel event in the same place, but not a G-7 movement, and now we must see whether the immediate communication of how the talks went yesterday produces further possibilities to speak and perhaps negotiate with Iran.”
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warns his terror group will retaliate, after two of Hezbollah operatives were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Syria.
“From tonight, I tell the Israeli army on the border, be prepared and wait for us,” he says in a speech.
“You know we have a clear obligation. I will remind the world of this obligation,” Nasrallah adds.
— Adam Rasgon
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammah Javad Zarif meets with French President Emmanuel Macron at the G-7 after receiving a surprise invitation from France.
Iran's active diplomacy in pursuit of constructive engagement continues.
Road ahead is difficult. But worth trying. pic.twitter.com/oXdACvt20T
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) August 25, 2019
Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz says Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has it twisted after saying the presence of two UAVs in Beirut allegedly belonging to Israel marked a dangerous development.
“Nasrallah is saying and threatening that we’re doing dangerous things,” Gantz says in a video filmed in the Golan Heights.
“You’re confused! You’re doing dangerous things. You’ll pay the price. Lebanon will pay the price,” Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff, adds.
Incoming rocket alert sirens sound in towns and communities throughout southern Israel.
The Israeli military says it is investigating what triggered the alarms.
— Judah Ari Gross
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Israel’s latest strikes in Syria, the US official’s office says.
“The secretary expressed support for Israel’s right to defend itself against threats posed by the Iranian [Islamic] Revolutionary Guard Corps and to take action to prevent imminent attacks against Israeli assets in the region,” Pompeo’s office says in a statement.
“The secretary and the prime minister discussed how Iran is leveraging its foothold in Syria to threaten Israel and its neighbors.”
— Judah Ari Gross
.@secpompeo spoke today with Israeli Prime Minister @Netanyahu regarding recent Israeli airstrikes in #Syria. They discussed how #Iran is leveraging its foothold in Syria to threaten #Israel and its neighbors. The PM noted that Israel would strike IRGC targets threatening Israel. pic.twitter.com/1j4DSOwm1y
— Morgan Ortagus (@statedeptspox) August 25, 2019
Labor Party leader Amir Peretz shaves his mustache to send a message to anyone having problems understanding him.
“I decided to remove my mustache so the entire Israeli nation will know exactly what I’m saying and can read my lips… I won’t sit with Netanyahu. Period,” he says in an interview with Channel 12 news.
Peretz says he sported a mustache for 47 years and, in 2002, decided to shorten it, after hearing complaints from organizations for the deaf that their members could not understand him.
Ahead of the Labor leadership primaries, Peretz’s supporters wore shirts bearing an image of his mustache.
— החדשות (@NewsChannelIL) August 25, 2019
Video on social media shows what appear to be interceptor missiles from the Iron Dome defense system flying over a concert in the southern city of Sderot.
The concert was underway, as rocket warning sirens were activated in communities near the Gaza border.
The Kan public broadcaster reports that the concert ended early because of the sirens.