Gaza rocket lightly damages southern Israel home
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Hezbollah blames Gulf for Netanyahu pledge to annex Jordan Valley

Lebanese terror group says recent contacts between Israel and oil-rich Arab states emboldening PM against Palestinians

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu points at a map of the Jordan Valley as he gives a statement, promising to extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea area, in Ramat Gan on September 10, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu points at a map of the Jordan Valley as he gives a statement, promising to extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea area, in Ramat Gan on September 10, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

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

Saudis condemn Netanyahu pledge to annex West Bank

Saudi Arabia has denounced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vow to annex parts of the West Bank as a “very dangerous escalation.”

Thse strongly worded statement is a significant rebuke from a regional power that has recently grown closer to Israel over their shared concerns about Iran.

Netanyahu said yesterday he’d extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley if he is reelected next week and would move to annex Jewish settlements.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu points at a map of the Jordan Valley as he gives a statement, promising to extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea area, in Ramat Gan on September 10, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

It was widely viewed in Israel as a campaign stunt and initially received a relatively muted response in the Arab world, where championing the Palestinians has waned.

But Saudi Arabia’s royal court, which runs the affairs of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, says other regional concerns “will not affect the status of the Palestinian cause.”

— AP

Damascus accuses Israel of expansionism after Netanyahu annexation pledge

Damascus is condemning a vow by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to annex part of the West Bank if reelected, accusing him expansionism.

“Syria strongly condemns the prime minister’s announcement,” a Syrian foreign ministry source tells state news agency SANA, warning Israel against a “flagrant violation” of international treaties.

The source says that the planned move is consistent with Israel’s “expansionist nature” and its history of “attacking the rights of Palestinians.”

He also criticizes unnamed Arab states for seeking to normalize ties with Israel, saying they “bear a historical responsibility for its rogue behavior,” SANA says.

— Agencies

Iran urges US to ‘put warmongers aside’ after Bolton firing

Iran’s president is urging the US to “put warmongers aside” as tensions roil the Persian Gulf amid an escalating crisis between Washington and Tehran in the wake of the collapsing nuclear deal with world powers.

Hassan Rouhani’s remarks signals approval of US President Donald Trump’s abrupt dismissal of John Bolton as national security adviser. Bolton had been hawkish on Iran and other global challenges.

Rouhani’s website quoted him as further urging the US to “abandon warmongering and its maximum pressure policy” on Iran. He spoke at a Cabinet meeting in Tehran.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani speaks at parliament in the capital Tehran on September 3, 2019. (ATTA KENARE/AFP)

Ali Rabiei, a government spokesman, said after the meeting that Bolton’s dismissal may help the U.S. have a “less biased” attitude toward Iran.

Though he stressed the dismissal was an internal US issue, Rabiei called Bolton “the symbol of America’s hawkish policies and its animosity toward Iran.”

Bolton was critical of any potential talks between Trump and leaders of Iran and persuaded Trump to keep US forces in Syria to counter the Iranian influence in the region.

— AP

Israel shells Hamas positions in Gaza after rockets fired at south

The Israeli military strikes two Hamas positions in the northern Gaza Strip with artillery shells in response to the rocket attack from the enclave.

— Judah Ari Gross

France making progress in Epstein probe, launches appeal

French police are appealing for victims and witnesses to come forward to aid their probe into Jeffrey Epstein and anyone else involved in the disgraced financier’s alleged sexual exploitation of women and girls, and say they have already interviewed three people who identified themselves as victims.

This March 28, 2017 photo provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry shows Jeffrey Epstein. (New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP, File)

The police appeal published on Twitter this morning provides both a phone number and an Interior Ministry email address for victims and witnesses to use. It says police specialists have been mobilized for the investigation.

The Paris prosecutor’s office says three victims who have already come forward were interviewed by investigators in August and earlier this month, the last as recently as Monday.

The French probe opened August 23 is investigating the alleged rape of minors and other possible charges linked to the Epstein case. Epstein killed himself in jail last month.

— AP

EU says Netanyahu annexation pledge undermines peace prospects

The EU warns that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank if he wins next week’s election undermines chances for peace in the region.

Netanyahu’s vow was roundly condemned by the Palestinians as well as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey, and the EU says it will not recognize any change to Israel’s borders that was not agreed by both sides.

“The policy of settlement construction and expansion… is illegal under international law and its continuation, and actions taken in this context, undermine the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace,” an EU spokesperson says in a statement.

Yesterday, Netanyahu said he would extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley — an area seen as the breadbasket of any Palestinian state — shortly after forming a new government and would move later to annex other Jewish settlements.

Such action would swallow up most of the West Bank territory sought by the Palestinians, leaving them with little more than isolated enclaves.

Arab leaders angrily condemned Netanyahu’s remarks on , and a UN spokesman warned the step would be “devastating” to the prospects for a two-state solution.

— Agencies

UK court rules Johnson’s suspension of Parliament unlawful

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffers a fresh blow after a Scottish court rules that his controversial decision to suspend parliament in the run-up to Brexit was unlawful.

The government immediately appealed, with the case set to be heard in the Supreme Court next Tuesday, and parliament set to remain shut in the meantime.

Johnson says the decision to suspend — or prorogue — parliament until October 14 is a routine move allowing his government to launch a new legislative agenda.

In this image taken from video, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, London, Wednesday Sept. 4, 2019. (House of Commons via PA via AP)

But critics accuse him of trying to silence parliamentary opposition to his threat to leave the European Union on October 31 even if he has failed to agree divorce terms with Brussels.

If Johnson fails to secure a deal he insists the country will leave anyway, to the outrage of many MPs who believe a “no deal” exit would bring huge disruption.


Gaza rocket lightly damages southern Israel home

One of the rockets that were fired from the Gaza Strip is found to have struck inside a residential community in southern Israel, causing light damage to a home.

Fragments of the projectile struck the house in the Hof Ashkelon region, breaking one of its windows, according to a Hof Ashkelon spokesperson.

— Judah Ari Gross

Bennett ‘very worried’ by Bolton departure, possible US rapprochement with Iran

Yamina No. 4 candidate Naftali Bennett says he is concerned about the departure of US National Security Adviser John Bolton, as US President Donald Trump has expressed willingness to meet his Iranian counterpart later this month.

“We should be very worried. Trump is obviously a big friend of Israel, but at the end of the day are interests are not identical, he has his interests we have our interests,” Bennett says at a Jerusalem Post-Maariv conference.

Yamina’s Naftali Bennett speaking at the Srugim conference in Jerusalem on September 2, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“The whole idea was to create pressure [on Iran] which worked. We applied kinetic pressure by pushing away the entrenchment of Iran in Syria and other places, and they [the US] brought about pressure through sanctions. If we relax [the pressure] it will be very bad,” Bennett tells attendees according to the Jerusalem Post.

“Our situation is much better than it should be, in Syria and Iraq,” he adds. “In Lebanon it is so-so. And with Iran, the situation is not far from lost but I am very, very troubled.”

Remains of second Israeli victim of Ethiopian Airlines crash identified

The remains of the second Israeli man who died in an Ethiopian Airlines plane crash in March have been found and identified, an Israeli rescue group says.

ZAKA, an Israeli emergency response organization that collects human remains for burial, said it had succeeded in identifying the remains of 49-year-old Avraham Matsliah from Ma’ale Adumim.

In June, Zaka volunteers discovered the remains of 55-year-old Shimon Reem from the city of Zichron Yaakov.

Ethiopian authorities have drawn criticism for the manner in which recovery efforts have been handled. More than six months after the disaster the remains of some victims have yet to be identified.

Lawmakers vote on contentious Netanyahu camera bill

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Knesset lawmakers are casting their ballots for a Likud-led bill that would allow party representatives to bring cameras into polling stations in next’s week election.

The so-called camera bill failed to gain majority support in the Knesset Regulatory Committee Monday when MKs voted 12-12 on a motion to fast-track the measure so that the bill would not have to wait the usual 48 hours before a Knesset vote.

The tie came about after Yisrael Beytenu pulled support for the bill, foretelling its almost certain doom in today’s plenum vote.

Contentious Netanyahu camera bill fails to pass first Knesset vote

Netanyahu-led bill that would allow political parties to place cameras at polling stations fails its first Knesset reading, after the coalition was unable to garner the necessary 61 votes to pass it into law.

Lawmakers from Blue & White, Labor, Meretz, the Joint List and Yisrael Beytenu, along with Kulanu MK Roy Folkman, skipped today’s plenum vote

Egypt sentences 11 Muslim Brotherhood leaders to life for spying

An Egyptian court sentences 11 Muslim Brotherhood leaders to life in prison on charges of espionage with the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Among those sentenced by the Cairo criminal court was the Brotherhood’s head, Mohammed Badie. This is the latest of several sentences against Badie, who received a life sentence last week on charges related to mass prison breaks during the 2011 uprising.

Illustrative: Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists gesture from the defendants cage as they receive sentences in a mass trial in Alexandria, Egypt, May 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Heba Khamis)

Charges were also dropped against the late former president, Mohammed Morsi, who collapsed and died in June during a court session on the case.

Morsi, a senior Brotherhood figure, became Egypt’s first freely-elected president in 2012. The military overthrew Morsi in 2013 amid massive protests against his brief rule.

Authorities have since branded the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and arrested thousands of its members.

— AP

Iran says ‘undue pressure’ by US, Israel harming cooperation with UN nuclear watchdog

Iran is rejecting “undue pressure” from the US and Israel over its nuclear program and warns it could be “counterproductive” to cooperation with the UN’s nuclear watchdog.

Tehran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Agency (IAEA), Kazem Gharib Abadi, tells a meeting of the agency’s board of governors that recent statements by US officials and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amounted to “a US-Israeli plot” to put pressure on the agency and its inspection activities in Iran.

Gharib Abadi tells reporters that “we interpret all these acts and activities as undue pressure on the agency.”

Iran’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Kazem Gharib Abadi gives a press conference after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors meeting in Vienna on July 10, 2019. (Alex Halada / AFP)

He says that any attempt to “put the agency under pressure would be counterproductive, both for the integrity and the credibility of the agency and also for… constructive, timely and proactive cooperation by Iran with the agency.”

“Absolutely Iran will make its own reactions to these pressures,” he adds, without specifying what these would be.

The row centers on the IAEA’s call on Iran earlier this week to “respond promptly” to the agency’s questions.

While the agency itself has not called Iran’s cooperation inadequate, Israel has accused Tehran of operating secret nuclear facilities in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal, while he US has said there are “questions about possible undeclared nuclear activities.”


France eliminate USA from Basketball World Cup in major upset

Rudy Gobert scored 21 points and grabbed 16 rebounds as France handed the United States its first loss in the FIBA World Cup in 13 years to advance to the semifinals in China with an 89-79 win.

France will play next on Friday against Argentina, which advanced by defeating Serbia on Tuesday night.


AG told Netanyahu last week he can’t annex Jordan Valley with transition government

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he was prepared to announce his intentions to annex large parts of the Jordan Valley last week but was told by the attorney general that he could not pursue the move currently because there is a caretaker government.

In a Facebook live video, Netanyahu says he was told by Avichai Mandelblit that he could not take such far-reaching steps to apply Israeli sovereignty to the West Bank territory since he dissolved his parliament in May after failing to form a coalition.

Yesterday, Netanyahu made a last-minute election vow to annex the Jordan Valley, about a quarter of the West Bank, if he is reelected.

Netanyahu has made similar promises before, only to procrastinate once re-elected. His current pledge was widely regarded in Israel as a campaign stunt to draw in right-wing voters, many of whom live in West Bank settlements.

Third rocket fired from Gaza found near highway in southern Israel

The third rocket fired from the Gaza Strip is found in an open area in the Hof Ashkelon region.

The rocket struck open ground next to a highway in the southern Israeli region, causing neither damage nor injury.

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip that struck an open area in the Hof Ashkelon region of southern Israel on September 11, 2019. (Yediot Mehashetach)

IDF: Group of Palestinians briefly crosses Gaza border, steals empty ammo box

A group of Palestinians entered Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip and stole an empty ammunition crate from an unmanned army post, the IDF says.

Shortly after entering Israel, the group ran back into the enclave.

Photographs shared on Palestinian social media show the empty ammunition crate, along with some wires that were also apparently stolen from the empty IDF post.

— Judah Ari Gross

Muslim leaders to convene urgent meeting to discuss Netanyahu annexation pledge

The Organization for Islamic Cooperation is convening an emergency meeting next week to “take urgent political and legal measures” to address Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge to annex large parts of the West Bank if he is reelected next week.

The OIC says the high-level meeting that will take place on Sunday was called by Saudi Arabia last night.

The 57-nation group says it considers Netanyahu’s announcement “a new aggression on the rights of the Palestinian people and a blatant violation of the UN charter, the principles of international law and the relevant UN resolutions.”

The Saudi Royal Court condemned the prime minister’s remarks as “very dangerous escalation” in a strongly worded statement.

The strongly worded statement from the Saudi royal court, which runs the affairs of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, marked a significant rebuke from a regional power that had grown closer to Israel in recent years over its shared concerns about Iran’s growing belligerency.

Commemorating 9/11, Trump vows to hit Taliban ‘harder’ than ever

US President Donald Trump warns that what he describes as an unprecedented US military assault against the Taliban in Afghanistan is to continue, just five days after he scrapped peace talks.

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump observe a moment of silence on the South Lawn of the White House to mark the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, on September 11, 2019, in Washington, DC. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP)

Speaking at a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Trump says that over “the last four days” US forces have “hit our enemy harder than they have ever been hit before and that will continue.”

Trump says the assault was ordered after he canceled secret peace talks with the Taliban over the weekend in retaliation for a bomb attack that killed a US soldier last week.


UN report says Palestinian economic crisis at ‘breaking point’

A new United Nations report says the Palestinian economic crisis is now at a “breaking point,” citing rising poverty levels and increasing environmental degradation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“In 2018 and early 2019, the performance of the Palestinian economy and humanitarian conditions reached an all-time low. Per capita income fell, mass unemployment increased, poverty deepened and the environmental toll of occupation has been rising in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank,” said the report by United Nations development agency (UNCTAD).

A picture taken on June 1, 2018, shows a girl running past hovels near a sewage water pool at a poor neighborhood in Gaza City. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

According to UNCTAD, one in three West Bank Palestinians are unemployed, and in Gaza, the unemployment rate has hit 53%.

The report says the Palestinian economy is being hit hard by a sharp drop in international support to the Palestinians, a tax revenue dispute with Israel and the refusal of neighboring countries to share oil and natural gas reserves with Palestinians.

Jordan says Netanyahu annexation pledge could jeopardize peace deal

Jordan’s house speaker says Netanyahu’s pledge to annex a key part of the West Bank if he’s reelected could put the peace treaty with Israel “at stake.”

“The house of representatives, rejecting all the racist statements coming from the leadership of the occupier, confirms that dealing with this occupier requires a new path that would place the peace treaty at stake,” Atef al-Tawarneh says in remarks carried by official news agency Petra.

He accuses Israel of having “studiously broken all international treaties and (UN) resolutions”

Netanyahu’s announcement sparked an outcry in Arab countries, with Palestinian officials saying the move would “destroy” the entire peace process.

Yesterday, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi warned the move would “push the whole region towards violence.”

On 9/11, Netanyahu pledges to stand by US in fight against terrorism

On the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vows that Israel will stand alongside the United States in the joint fight against terrorism.

“We stand together with the US in the joint fight against barbarism and terrorism,” Netanyahu tweets.

60-year-old woman drowns at Acre beach

A 60-year-old woman has drowned at a beach south of the coastal city of Acre, according to paramedics.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says medics attempted to resuscitate the woman who was pulled out of the water at an unsupervised beach, but were unsuccessful.

Incoming rocket sirens sound in Ashkelon

Incoming rocket sirens are triggered in an industrial zone south of the city of Ashkelon and in the nearby community of Mavki’im.

There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The IDF says it is looking into the matter.

— Judah Ari Gross

Bolton resigned after ‘forceful’ disagreements over Iran — report

Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton tendered his resignation yesterday after disagreements with the president and his top advisers over the easing of Iran sanctions, according to a report in Bloomberg.

The report says that during a Monday meeting at the Oval Office, Trump and his advisers were discussing easing the sanctions against Iran in a bid to secure a meeting with President Rouhani at the UN General Assembly in New York later this month.

In this file photo taken on April 9, 2018 former National Security Adviser John Bolton (R), listens to US President Donald Trump. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images North America/AFP)

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin voiced support for rolling back the sanctions, but Bolton argued “forcefully” against the move, Bloomberg reports.

Trump announced Bolton’s departure the following day.

IDF says latest sirens in Ashkelon false alarm

The IDF says the sirens that sounded south of Ashkelon were a false alarm.

Residents of the area say they heard intense gunfire before the sirens, potentially indicating that this is what set off the system.

— Judah Ari Gross

Rouhani signals willingness to meet Trump if US sanctions rolled back

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tells French President Emmanuel Macron that he would be willing to meet US President Donald Trump later this month if all sanctions re-imposed on the Islamic Republic are removed.

According to Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency, Rouhani told Macron that Tehran is prepared to return to the commitments outlined in the 2015 deal if the agreements with Europe are finalized.

Report of the call comes on the heels of a Bloomberg report that said Trump floated the idea of rolling back some of the US sanctions in a bid to secure a meeting with Rouhani later this month. The prospect of rapprochement with Iran faced vociferous opposition from National Security Adviser John Bolton, leading to his departure from the White House yesterday.

Trump on easing Iran sanctions: ‘We’ll see what happens’

President Donald Trump says he believes Iran is ready to negotiate with the United States, and does not rule out easing sanctions against the Islamic Republic to secure a meeting with his Iranian counterpart next month.

When asked by reporters if he was considering rolling back the sanctions, Trump says: “We’ll see what happens.”

Al-Qaeda chief in 9/11 speech calls for attacks on US, Israel

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri has called on Muslims to attack US, European, Israeli and Russian targets in a speech on the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

SITE Intelligence Group reports that in a video released by the militant group, Zawahri also criticizes “backtrackers” from jihad, referring to former jihadis who changed their views in prison and called the 9/11 attacks unacceptable because innocent civilians were harmed.

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a still image from a web posting by the terrorist organization’s media arm, as-Sahab, July 27, 2011 (photo credit: AP)

The coordinated al-Qaeda hijackings on Sept. 11, 2001 killed nearly 3,000 people, when airliners slammed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and another crashed in rural Pennsylvania.

Zawahri, an Egyptian, became leader of al-Qaeda following the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan by US Navy SEALS. He is believed to be hiding somewhere in the region.

— AP

Trump says Bolton didn’t get along with White House team

US President Donald Trump says former national security adviser John Bolton was not aligned with his administration’s priorities.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday in the Oval Office, Trump says Bolton wasn’t getting along with other members of his administration. Trump is also critical of Bolton comparing the effort to denuclearize North Korea to the “Libya model,” words which angered Kim Jong Un ahead of their sit-down last year.

In this photo from February 28, 2019, US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on February Feb. 28, 2019, in Hanoi. At left is national security adviser John Bolton. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci, File)

Bolton left the administration yesterday after clashing with Trump on his efforts to hold negotiations with the Taliban and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Trump says he asked Bolton to resign, but Bolton claims he did so on his own accord.

Trump also tells reporters he disagreed with his former aide on Venezuela policy.

— AP

Hezbollah blames Gulf for Netanyahu annexation pledge

Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah is blaming Gulf countries for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge to annex the West Bank’s Jordan Valley if reelected.

The Shiite paramilitary group, which earlier this month exchanged cross-border fire with the Israel army, says that steps towards closer Gulf-Israeli ties are emboldening Netanyahu against the Palestinians.

“Measures toward normalization and Gulf attempts to foster alliances with the enemy have created an opportunity to chip away at more Arab lands,” Hezbollah says in a statement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu points at a map of the Jordan Valley as he gives a statement, promising to extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea area, in Ramat Gan on September 10, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Gulf countries condemned Netanyahu’s pledge, but Hezbollah says that recent contacts between Israel and some of the US-allied, oil-rich monarchies had encouraged Netanyahu to take a more aggressive stance.

Hezbollah accused Gulf countries — most of them rivals of its own sponsor Iran — of “giving (Israel) a right of aggression against the Arab people of Lebanon and Palestine.”


Ahead of Netanyahu visit, Russia warns annexation pledge could lead to ‘sharp escalation’

Russia warning that Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge to annex the West Bank’s Jordan Valley could escalate tensions as the Israeli prime minister gears up to hold talks with President Vladimir Putin.

The Russian foreign ministry says it’s concerned by the Israeli leader’s plan, saying its implementation could lead to a “sharp escalation of tensions in the region (and) undermine hopes for the establishment of long-awaited peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.”

Netanyahu is set to travel to Sochi tomorrow for talks with Putin, just five days before national elections in Israel.

— with AFP

Kahlon: US said no rollback of Iran sanctions

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon says a visiting senior US treasury official told him that sanctions against Iran would remain in full force.

“I just finished an excellent working meeting with Sigal Mandelker, the under secretary of the treasury,” he writes on his Twitter account.

“I was happy to hear from her that contrary to media reports there is no change in US sanctions policy toward Iran and they will continue at full strength.”

A Bloomberg report on Wednesday suggested US President Donald Trump was considering easing sanctions to woo Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to a meeting.


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Gaza rocket lightly damages southern Israel home

One of the rockets that were fired from the Gaza Strip is found to have struck inside a residential community in southern Israel, causing light damage to a home.

Fragments of the projectile struck the house in the Hof Ashkelon region, breaking one of its windows, according to a Hof Ashkelon spokesperson.

— Judah Ari Gross