The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they happened.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanks Prime Minister Netanyahu for supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity after Russia’s annexation of the Crimea in 2014.
“We as a country have something to learn from Israel, especially from security and defense, and we will of course be doing that,” Zelensky says as the two meet in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.
— Raphael Ahren
“I am pleased to meet personally and to welcome @IsraeliPM in #Ukraine. Grateful to our partners for the continued support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine and fir the strong position towards the conflict in the Donbas of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea,” @ZelenskyyUa
— Iuliia Mendel (@IuliiaMendel) August 19, 2019
KHARTOUM, Sudan — Deposed Sudanese military leader Omar al-Bashir, who ruled the country for 30 years, arrives in court today in Khartoum for the start of his trial on corruption charges.
The trial comes as a sovereign council is being formed, following Saturday’s signing of a transitional constitution by protest leaders and the generals who took over after Bashir’s ouster was hailed at home and abroad as a major landmark.
The 75-year-old, whose Islamist military regime ruled Sudan for 30 years, was forced from power on April 11, after months of nationwide protests.
The jailed Bashir first appeared before a prosecutor on June 16 and was informed he faced charges of “possessing foreign currency, corruption and receiving gifts illegally.”
An AFP reporter outside the Judicial and Legal Science Institute where the trial is taking place says Bashir arrived in a huge military convoy.
In April, Sudan’s transitional army ruler General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said more than $113 million worth of cash in three currencies had been seized from Bashir’s residence.
In May, the prosecutor general also said Bashir had been charged over killings during the anti-regime protests which eventually led to his ouster.
London-based rights watchdog Amnesty International has warned however that the corruption trial should not distract from the heavier indictments that have been filed against him by The Hague-based International Criminal Court. which include charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide his role in the war in Darfur, where a rebellion erupted in 2003.
A fire in the Sdot Negev Regional Council was started by an incendiary balloon flown from the Gaza Strip, the Fire and Rescue Services say.
A spokesman for the fire services says firefighters extinguished the blaze, which he describes as a small brush fire.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) August 19, 2019
Police announce the arrest of a Jordanian citizen who they say planned to carry out a stabbing attack on an Israeli soldier.
The suspect, a 21-year-old resident of the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem, will be indicted today at the Haifa District Court.
Police say on the night of July 22 at a bus stop in Hadera, the suspect pulled out a knife and tried to stab officers when they asked him to show ID.
The suspect, who fled the scene on foot, was shot by police in the leg following a brief chase and after threatening to stab an officer when ordered to throw aside the knife, a police statement says.
He sustained light to moderate injuries from the gunshot wound and was hospitalized.
During questioning, police say the suspect confessed to planning to stab any soldier who showed up at the bus stop.
כתב אישום הוגש נגד אזרח ירדן בן 21 השוהה בארץ באופן לא חוקי בגין הכנה למעשה טרור שהוא רצח בנסיבות מחמירות, חבלה בכוונה מחמירה, ועבירות נוספות. החשוד נעצר כשניסה לדקור שוטר בחדרה ביולי, ובחקירה הודה שהתכוון לדקור חייל @10elilevi • לפרטים נוספים על המקרה >> https://t.co/Lg5qzRJcg9 pic.twitter.com/DYnBRUhomS
— חדשות 13 (@newsisrael13) August 19, 2019
The Jordanian house of representatives recommends to the government to expel the Israeli ambassador to Jordan and review the peace treaty between the countries, Sky News Arabic reports.
The report comes a day after the Jordanian foreign ministry summoned Israeli Ambassador Amir Weissbrod for a dressing down over alleged Israeli violations at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Four soldiers have been suspended from their positions after an investigation found that they did not attempt to stop an armed Palestinian terrorist who entered Israel from the Gaza Strip and shot three servicemen, injuring them, earlier this month.
During the August 1 cross-border attack, three soldiers from the IDF’s Golani Brigade who were called to the scene “did not enter the combat zone,” the army says.
“Following an investigation, Golani Brigade commander Col. Shai Klapper decided to suspend the squad leader and two soldiers from combat and from command for not acting as expected during an operational event,” the IDF says.
In addition, a driver from the Southern Gaza Brigade was suspended from his position, the military says.
The Palestinian gunman shot and injured an officer and two soldiers before he was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers.
— Judah Ari Gross
ST. PAUL, Minnesota — Democratic US representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan plan to host a news conference this afternoon on travel restrictions to Israel and the West Bank, after they were denied entry into Israel last week.
After US President Donald Trump warned such a visit would be a sign of “great weakness” on Israel’s part, the country denied entry to the two Muslim representatives over their support for the Palestinian-led boycott movement. Tlaib and Omar, who had planned to visit Jerusalem and the Israeli-controlled West Bank on a tour organized by a Palestinian group, are outspoken critics of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and support the Palestinian-led international movement boycotting Israel.
Before Israel’s decision, Trump tweeted it would be a “show of weakness” to allow the two representatives in. Israel controls entry and exit to the West Bank, which it captured in the 1967 Six Day War along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip — territories the Palestinians want for a future state.
Israeli basketball coach David Blatt announces he has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Blatt, who currently coaches Greek squad Olympiacos, says he learned he had the disease a few months ago.
“When I got over the initial shock and pain of understanding how this would and could change my life from today going forward, I decided I wasn’t giving in to anything. I was only going to adapt and adjust and find ways to continue my life as normally as possible,” he says in a statement on the Olympiacos website.
Blatt vows to continue coaching and says the disease will not affect his ability to do so.
“I am fortunate. I have great doctors trainers physical therapists and management that accept my disabilities and help me overcome. How could I possibly complain? I absolutely cannot and will not. It’s wasted effort and while I ask my players and staff to be the best version of themselves, I must ask and even demand from myself to do the same,” he says.
Blatt, an American citizen, left the United States after playing college basketball at Princeton to play professionally in Israel.
After retiring, he went on to coaching, leading local powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv to a EuroLeague championship victory in 2014.
Following the EuroLeague title, he was hired to be the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, whom he led to the NBA finals in 2015 before losing to the Golden State Warriors.
He was fired the next season and coached in Turkey for two years before joining Olympiacos, one of the top squads in Greece.
PARALIMNI, Cyprus — Court proceedings against a 19-year-old British woman who faces a public nuisance charge for falsely accusing 12 Israelis of rape have been adjourned until August 27 in order to give her new legal team time to prepare their defense.
A defense lawyer tells Paralimni court judge today that the defense team is waiting for a reply from Cyprus’ attorney general to a written request seeking authorization for UK lawyer Lewis Power Q.C. to also represent the British woman along with Cypriot lawyer Nicoletta Charalambidou.
The British woman’s former lawyer resigned because of a “serious disagreement” with his client. His resignation followed UK media reports that the woman claimed she was forced by Cypriot investigators to retract her original rape report. Cypriot police denied the allegation.
Prime Minister Netanyahu and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky lay memorial wreaths at Babi Yar, where more than 30,000 Jews were killed in two days in 1941 during the Holocaust.
“My heart aches from all the events that occurred here,” Zelensky says at the site in Kiev. “It’s impossible to forget, and impossible to forgive, too.”
He also mentions that Ukraine has the fourth-highest number of Righteous Among the Nations and vows to fight anti-Semitism.
At the ceremony, which is attended by many local Jewish leaders and Natan Sharansky, a former Jewish Agency head and former lawmaker, Netanyahu says the world saw the Holocaust but remained silent.
“I say in a clear voice, especially here, it’s our obligation to stand up to murderous ideologies so there won’t be another Babi Yar… we’ll always defend ourselves against any tormentors,” Netanyahu says.
“We will never forget the suffering of our people, but at the same we will honor those righteous who risked their lives to rescue our people,” he adds.
The prime minister thanks Zelensky for the Ukrainian government’s efforts to commemorate the Holocaust and fight anti-Semitism. He says he discussed with Sharansky the possibility of erecting a new monument at Babi Yar, “to serve as symbol for all humankind.”
— Raphael Ahren
Bahrain announces it is joining a US-led naval mission in the Persian Gulf to guarantee maritime security following a string of attacks on ships attributed to Iran.
According to the official Bahrain News Agency, King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa confirmed the kingdom’s participation in the mission during a meeting with US CENTCOM commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie.
The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain.
With its announcement, Bahrain becomes the first Arab country to join the US mission and second overall after the United Kingdom.
Bahrain, the smallest of the Gulf Arab states, is a close US ally and hostile toward Iran, which it has accused of trying to stir unrest among its majority Shiite population.
DAMASCUS, Syria — Airstrikes targeted a Turkish army convoy inside Syria, killing three civilians and wounding 12, the Turkish Defense Ministry says, but there is no word on Turkish casualties.
The ministry says the convoy was attacked while heading to a Turkish observation post in the rebel-held stronghold of Idlib, where Syrian troops have been on the offensive since late April.
However, Syria’s Foreign Ministry says the convoy of armored vehicles was delivering ammunition to a major rebel-held town, Khan Sheikhoun, which lies on the front line of fighting along the southern edge of the enclave. The town is a stronghold of the al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the most powerful group in the rebel-held areas.
It isn’t immediately clear whether Syrian government or Russian warplanes had struck near the convoy, but the development marks a sharp escalation in tensions in Idlib.
The Turkish Defense Ministry’s brief statement doesn’t provide further details but “strongly condemned” the airstrikes, adding that they were “against existing agreements as well as our cooperation and dialogue with Russian.”
Israel’s envoy to Ukraine downplays Sara Netanyahu’s discarding of a piece of special bread — similar to a challah — during a welcoming ceremony to Kyiv yesterday, after the incident involving the prime minister’s wife draws condemnations in Ukrainian media.
“President Zelensky’s chief of staff said this is not an important incident and is not worthy of media coverage,” Ambassador Joel Lion is quoted saying by the Kan public broadcaster.
The incident at the airport — in which Mrs. Netanyahu dropped a morsel of the bread handed to her by her husband, after he had tasted a piece and politely pronounced it “not bad” — came after reports said Sara Netanyahu tried to enter the cockpit on the plane to Ukraine after the captain’s welcome message excluded her. The captain later corrected the omission, and the Prime Minister’s office brushed off the incident.
Ukrainian TV is playing up the episodes, however.
“The Netanyahu visit is not passing without scandal. His wife Sara has managed to cause scandal at two separate opportunities. First, she was unsatisfied with the way the pilot welcomed the passengers [en route to Ukraine], and hurried to the cockpit to get this corrected. But she was not allowed in. When they landed at Kyiv airport, Sara Netanyahu ruined the Ukrainian [welcome] ceremony when she threw a slice of bread with salt to the floor,” a News One Ukrainian TV anchor reported, according to a translation by Israel’s Channel 12.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) August 18, 2019
Noted Israel’s Channel 12: “This seems to be rather an exaggeration of what happened.”
AMMAN, Jordan — Germany’s defense minister has reaffirmed her country’s support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during a visit to neighboring Jordan.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer says today that such an agreement would be a “good basis for living together.”
She also speaks of the contribution of German troops stationed in Jordan to the battle against the Islamic State jihadist group, which no longer controls territory but maintains a presence in the region.
Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi says they discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the “challenges we’re facing in relation to Jerusalem,” where tensions have risen over a holy site sacred to Jews and Muslims. Jordan strongly supports the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
US President Donald Trump’s administration has refrained from endorsing a two-state solution, considered the cornerstone of international peace efforts.
BERLIN — Berlin police say a central memorial to the gay victims of the Nazis has been vandalized.
The concrete memorial in Berlin’s Tiergarten park, near the memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, features a window into which visitors can look and view a video of a same-sex couple kissing.
Police say today that security guards reported that overnight the window had been painted over.
Police currently have no suspects and wouldn’t say whether there was surveillance video of the crime.
Nazi Germany declared homosexuality an aberration that threatened the German race and sent thousands of gays to concentration camps.
RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has fired all of his advisers, his office says today, amid a financial crisis in the West Bank that has prompted deep salary cuts.
Abbas’s office doesn’t provide further details on the number of advisers or the costs involved, pointing only to a brief statement issued through official Palestinian news agency WAFA.
The move comes amid a spending crunch following Israel’s decision in February to withhold around $10 million a month in tax transfers.
Israel collects some $190 million a month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through its ports. It then transfers the money to the Palestinian government.
The amount it deducted — $138 million for the year — corresponds to what Israel says the Palestinian Authority paid terrorists in Israeli prisons, or their families, in 2018.
Abbas has accused Israel of blackmail and refused to take any of the tax transfers, which account for some 65 percent of PA revenues.
The PA has cut salaries for most its tens of thousands of employees by half to keep the government afloat.
Taglit-Birthright, which offers Diaspora Jews free trips to Israel, has halted activities in the Gaza area following recent violence in the Palestinian territory.
In an email to trip organizers published by Hebrew media, Birthright’s security director wrote the decision to stop bringing groups to the area came in light of a series of incidents over the weekend.
Daniel Greenberg said groups would not hold activities or stay in activities south of Route 35 and west of Route 40.
“Any site or guest house/hotel in this geographic range is off limits to activities and lodging,” he wrote in the email.
On Friday, terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket toward Israel that was intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system. A day later, three rockets were fired from the coastal enclave, two of which were intercepted.
Also Saturday, Israeli forces shot dead a number of armed Palestinians on the border in a suspected infiltration attempt.
The Kibbutz Movement is calling on Taglit-Birthright to reverse its decision to halt activities in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip, amid recent tensions between Israel and terror groups in the Palestinian enclave.
Nir Meir, the Kibbutz Movement’s chairman, says in a statement that the move goes against Zionist values.
“Don’t abandon the Gaza periphery but rather strengthen it. Don’t stop the project’s activities in the periphery; rather, increase them,” he says.
“This is a problematic message that broadcasts fear and weakness to thousands of young Jews in the Diaspora. This is not the face of Zionism or its values,” Meir adds.
“The face of Zionism is the kibbutzim in the Gaza periphery, which demarcate the border.”
RAMALLAH, West Bank — The US embassy in Jerusalem is forced to postpone a conference it organized in the West Bank city of Ramallah after Palestinian officials and factions called for a boycott and threatened to organize protests.
The Palestinians cut all ties with the US after it recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017, and view the Trump administration as unfairly biased following a series of actions seen as hostile to their aspirations for an independent state.
The embassy had organized a conference this week to bring together alumni of US educational and cultural programs, including dozens of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who received permission from Israel to attend. The territory has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since the Hamas terror group seized power there in 2007.
The Palestinian leadership viewed the conference as an attempt to circumvent its boycott of the US administration.
“We are aware of recent statements regarding a planned event for alumni of US educational and cultural programs,” the US embassy says. “In order to avoid the Palestinian participants being put in a difficult situation, we have decided to postpone the event for now.”
It says this and other events “are designed to create opportunities for exchange and dialogue between Americans and Palestinians at the grassroots level.”
Representatives of several Palestinian factions held a press conference today at the hotel where the meeting was to have taken place.
Spokesman Isam Baker tells The Associated Press that the Palestine Liberation Organization, an umbrella group, had reached out to the hotel management and the invitees asking them to boycott the meeting.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz praises Paraguay’s designation of the armed wings of Hezbollah and Hamas as terror groups.
This decision contributes to the global battle against these Iranian proxies.
We will continue working to get more countries to designate these orgs as terrorist orgs.
— ישראל כ”ץ Israel Katz (@Israel_katz) August 19, 2019
Israel is actively promoting the emigration of Palestinians from Gaza, and is even checking if other countries, including in the Middle East, are willing to absorb them, a senior Israeli official says.
Last year, more than 35,000 Gazans already left the Hamas-run coastal clip, the senior officials says.
“That’s a pretty high number,” the senior official says.
Israel is even willing to consider allowing Gazans to use an Israeli airport close to Gaza to allow those Palestinians leave for their new host countries, the official says, likely referring to the Nevatim airport.
The National Security Council has been dealing with the effort for the last year, according to the senior official.
Israel has recently spoken to European leaders and even countries in the region, asking if they were ready to accept Palestinians who want to leave the Strip, he says. So far, no country has agreed to absorb them, though.
— Raphael Ahren
KYIV, Ukraine — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to condemn Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea or to explicitly back Ukraine’s claim to the peninsula.
Earlier in the day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Israel for its “continued support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and for an unwavering stand on the war in the east of our country and the annexation of Crimea.
But, in fact, official Israel never formally expressed support for Kyiv’s position on its ongoing conflict with Russia, but stayed neutral. In 2014, the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem issued a toothless statement expressing the hope that the matter “will be handled through diplomatic means and will be resolved peacefully.”
Israel in March 2014 also abstained on a United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning Ukraine’s “partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including any attempts to modify Ukraine’s borders through the threat or use of force or other unlawful means.”
The US-sponsored resolution passed with 100-11, with 58 abstentions.
“I have nothing to add to what was done at the time,” Netanyahu says at a briefing for reporters in his Kyiv hotel, responding to a question posed by The Times of Israel.
Netanyahu also refuses to say whether Zelensky asked him to mediate between him and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“For anyone to become a mediator, you need three parties — Russia, Ukraine and the mediator,” the prime minister says. “It takes three to tango. And I don’t think we have the three at this point.”
He declines to answer a follow-up question, whether Zelensky asked him to play a mediator role in the future.
— Raphael Ahren
WASHINGTON — The acting director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons has been removed from his position, more than a week after millionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein took his own life while in federal custody.
Attorney General William Barr announces Hugh Hurwitz’s reassignment today. Hurwitz had served as the agency’s acting director since May 2018.
No reason is given for the reassignment, but the move comes as the bureau faces increased scrutiny after Epstein’s suicide August 10 at a New York jail.
The FBI and Justice Department’s inspector general are investigating.
Barr has named Kathleen Hawk Sawyer to succeed Hurwitz. She was the agency’s director from 1992 until 2003.
Hurwitz also led the agency when Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger was killed in a federal prison in West Virginia in October.
KYIV, Ukraine — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hints that Israel was behind recent airstrikes on Iranian targets in Iraq, stressing that the air force will continue to act whenever and wherever it sees the need to do so.
“Iran has no immunity, anywhere,” he tells reporters during a briefing in his Kyiv hotel, responding to a questions about strikes on Iranian military installations in Iraq.
The Iranians continue to threaten Israel with annihilation and are building military bases intended to carry out that goal, he adds.
“We will act, and currently do act, against them, wherever it is necessary,” Netanyahu says.
— Raphael Ahren
Birthright-Taglit issues a clarification saying its decision to halt trips to the Gaza area amid recent tensions in the Palestinian enclave was only for Sunday.
“Today, we have returned entirely to normal routine after the activities of our groups were disrupted yesterday only following security incidents in the Gaza area,” the group says in a statement.
According to Birthright, over 30,000 Birthright participants have visited the Gaza periphery so far this summer.
“We will continue to bring our participants to the areas surrounding Gaza, as we have with hundreds of thousands to date,” the statement adds.
Emissaries for former justice minister Ayelet Shaked offered for her to help Prime Minister Netanyahu secure immunity from corruption charges as part of efforts to secure her a spot in the ruling Likud party, the Haaretz daily reports.
According to the newspaper, one of the envoys said Shaked, who now heads the Yamina electoral alliance, has Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in her pocket.
“She controls him, she knows how to influence him. She’s close to him. If she isn’t in charge of the Justice Ministry, it is obvious that Bibi will go to prison,” the envoy was quoted saying.
Shaked’s planned return was reportedly blocked in part by Sara Netanyahu, who is said to have frosty relations with Shaked and her political ally Naftali Bennett, whom she worked with under Netanyahu, when he was opposition leader.
Shaked ultimately announced she would run in the upcoming elections as the head of New Right, one of three parties that makes up Yamina.
In a response to Haaretz, Shaked says that if the quotes in the article were in fact said, she was not aware of them or connected to them in any way.
Prime Minister Netanyahu issues a statement praising Paraguay’s recognition of the armed wings of Hezbollah and Hamas as terror groups.
“I welcome the decision of Paraguayan President Mario Abdo to define Hezbollah and Hamas as terrorist organizations. We are working so that more countries will also take this important step,” Netanyahu says.