The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
Majority of Israeli Jews back talks with Hamas — poll
A majority of Israeli Jews support ceasefire talks with Hamas, according to a poll released today, but not unless the agreement includes the release of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers the Gaza terror group is believed to be holding.
Among Israeli Jews, 57 percent said they support holding talks with Hamas, with these numbers jumping to 70% and 81% respectively among voters on the center and left of the political spectrum.
But despite majority support for talks, 78% of Israeli Jews said Israel should reject any potential agreement with Hamas if it did not include the return of soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, whose remains have been held in Gaza since they were killed in the 2014 war.
The survey, conducted as part of the Israel Democracy Institute’s monthly peace index, is released amid reports of indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas to reach an agreement ending months of violence along the Gaza border and improve humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian enclave.
Iran’s rial at worst rate yet amid collapse of nuclear deal
The Iranian rial has fallen to its lowest rate on record, with the currency now trading at over 150,000 to the US dollar.
Since Saturday, the start of the Iranian working week, the rial has dropped over a quarter of its value.
Today, the end of the working week, currency exchange shops in Tehran posted rates of over 150,000 rials to $1.
There was no immediate acknowledgement of the drop on state media.
The collapse of Iran’s currency has been fanned by US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull America out of the nuclear deal with world powers in May. That’s despite the United Nations acknowledging Tehran still abides by the deal’s terms, which saw it limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
Britain charges 2 Russians over Novichok poisoning
British prosecutors say they have charged two Russian men with the nerve agent poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury.
The Crown Prosecution Service says the men, known to British investigators as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, are charged in absentia with conspiracy to murder, attempted murder and use of the nerve agent Novichok.
Prosecutor Sue Hemming says the UK is not asking Moscow to extradite the men because Russian law forbids extradition of the country’s citizens. Britain has issued a European Arrest Warrant for the suspects, meaning they can be detained if they leave Russia for another European country, but Assistant police commissioner Neil Basu concedes it is “very very unlikely” police would be in a position to arrest them any time soon.
Police say the men, both about 40, flew from Moscow to London on Russian passports two days before the Skripals were poisoned on March 4. Basu said the men were probably using aliases. He appealed the public “to come forward and tell us who they are.”
Police released a series of images of the men as they traveled through London and Salisbury between March 2 and March 4. Police say the two men flew back to Moscow from Heathrow Airport on the evening of March 4, hours after the Skripals were found collapsed on a park bench in Salisbury.
British officials have blamed the Russian government for the poisoning, a charge Moscow has denied.
Russia denies knowledge of poisoning suspects, says UK ‘manipulating information’
Moscow is accusing British authorities of manipulating information after London blamed two Russians for a nerve agent attack on a former spy in the city of Salisbury in March.
“We once again call on the British side to switch from public accusations and manipulating information to practical cooperation through law enforcement agencies,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, Russian news agencies reported.
Zakharova says the names of the men and their photos “say nothing to us.” She calls on Britain to cooperate with Russian law enforcement agencies on the investigation.
Earlier today, British prosecutors charged two Russian men with the nerve agent poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia earlier this year. UK police say the men flew from Moscow to London two days before the Skripals were poisoned on Russian passports but that it believes that the names were aliases.
Mothers from ‘Taliban’ cult remanded until next week
The two mothers from the Jewish “Taliban” cult who were arrested this week on suspicion of child abduction and neglect are remanded into custody for another five days by the Jerusalem District Court, the Ynet news site reports.
Judge Mika Banki says there is “reasonable suspicion” the women committed the offenses, according to the report.
Ten of the twelve children the women had between them are in custody of welfare authorities. The whereabouts of two 13-year-old girls — one from each mother — remains unknown and the women have refused to say where they are.
Police retirees block PM’s office in pension protest
Several dozen retirees from the Israel Police and Prisons Service are blocking the entrance to the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem in a protest against the government’s failure to match their pensions to career military personnel.
Security guards closed off the area to all traffic, and some scuffles broke out between protesters and and security guards according to reports.
עשרות גמלאי כוחות הביטחון מפגינים בשעה זו מול הכניסה למשרד ראש הממשלה במחאה על ההחלטה לא להשוות את תנאי שכרם לאלה של אנשי קבע. המפגינים אף חסמו את דרכה של שיירת ראש הממשלה @yaara_shapira (צילום: לביא נאור) pic.twitter.com/qirnZAYPCP
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) September 5, 2018
Russia confirms airstrikes on Syria’s Idlib
The Russian military confirms airstrikes were carried out on Syria’s last major rebel stronghold Idlib with warplanes targeting the “terrorist” Al-Nusra Front yesterday.
“Four planes of the Russian group at the Hmeimim airbase inflicted strikes by high-precision weapons on objects of the Al-Nusra Front terrorist group in the Idlib province,” the Russian military’s spokesman Igor Konashenkov says in a statement.
He says the strikes were conducted on September 4 “during the dark time of day,” without specifying if it was early morning or night time.
“The strike was conducted on terrorist stockpiles located outside residential areas, where unmanned aerial vehicles were stored, Konashenkov says.
A warehouse which stored portable air-defense systems and drone launch zones for attacks on Russia’s Hmeimim airbase and towns in provinces Aleppo and Hama were also targeted, he added.
Yesterday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that at least nine civilians, including five children from the same family, were killed in the Russian raids, while 10 more people were wounded.
Cabinet meeting postponed after police retirees block PM’s office in prostest
A scheduled cabinet meeting is postponed after dozens of retirees from the police force and prisons service demonstrated outside the Prime Minister’s Office and blocked the entrance.
Reports in Hebrew-language media said roads were blocked in the surrounding area, and scuffles broke out between a number of the protesters and security guards.
Channel 10 reports that cabinet ministers were told the weekly meeting would be held at a later date due to the blocked roads.
Yesterday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said it is a “serious error” that the pensions of police officers and prisons service employees do not match those of career military personnel.
18-year-old Israeli falls to his death at Yosemite National Park
An 18-year-old old man from Jerusalem fell to his death at Yosemite National Park in California early this morning, the Foreign Ministry says in a statement.
The ministry says the man’s family has been informed, and that Israeli consular officials in California are assisting in returning the man’s body home for burial.
Netanyahu meets with visiting president of German state
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met earlier today with the the Minister-President of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet, who is visiting Israel to open a special representative office.
A statement from Netanyahu’s office says the two discussed efforts to deepen bilateral cooperation as well as “regional threats and Iranian aggression.”
The statement says there are “good relations” between Israel and North Rhine-Westphalia, and that trade with the German state amounts to approximately 1 billion euros per year.
May says Russian military intelligence behind Novichok attack
The two people wanted for the Novichok poisoning were members of Russia’s “military intelligence service” acting on orders from the Russian state, British Prime Minister Theresa May says.
“Based on a body of intelligence the government has concluded that the two individuals named by the police… are officers of the Russian military intelligence service, also known as the GRU,” she says.
“So this was not a rogue operation. It was almost certainly also approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state.”
EU wants to force internet firms to remove terror content
EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova says the European Commission is set to unveil new rules that could force internet companies to take down suspected terror content.
Jourova tells reporters that “we should have absolute certainty that all the platforms and all the IT providers will delete terrorist content.”
She says that a nonbinding European code of conduct on deleting hate speech online has been working well but that terror content poses a “too serious threat and risk” for removal to be voluntary.
Jourova says: “We simply cannot rely anymore on the voluntary action of IT providers.” She provided no details about possible penalties.
She says the Commission would unveil the plans later this month.
Tourism in Israel up 16.5% this year, 10% in August
Some 2.6 million tourists visited Israel so far this year, a 16.5 percent increase from the first eight months of 2017, according to new data from the Central Bureau of Statistics.
The numbers show 278,800 tourists visited Israel last month, a 10% increase from August 2017, and a 28.9% increase from 2016.
The Bureau says overall revenue from the tourism industry last month was $414 million, and $3.9 billion so far this year.
Police detain ‘ranting’ man who crashed truck into Dallas TV station
Police have detained a “ranting” man accused of crashing a pickup truck into a Fox affiliate television station building in downtown Dallas during a live newscast.
KDFW posts details on Facebook showing photos and videos of the front of the vehicle rammed into windows near an entrance. The man paced and scattered papers outside. He was soon arrested.
LIVE look over FOX4 building in downtown Dallas after a man rams a truck into the building. The building has been evacuated after the man left behind a bag. https://bit.ly/2wO8zVO
Posted by FOX 4 News on Wednesday, 5 September 2018
Anchors who continued on the air through the 7 a.m. newscast, despite the crash, say nobody was hurt.
A KDFW statement says “a man crashed a truck into the side of our building this morning” and “jumped out and started ranting.”
Police haven’t returned messages about the suspect or a possible motive.
PM: Israel ‘acting firmly’ to thwart production of precision missiles in region
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting reiterates that Israel is determined to stop Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, and says it is working to thwart the production of precision missiles in the region “both near and far.”
“Israel is determined to prevent Iran and its satellites from establishing military bases in Syria,” Netanyahu tells ministers at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.
“We are acting firmly against these efforts, as well as efforts to to produce precision weapons in all arenas, both near and far. This is how we will continue to act in the interest of Israel’s security,” he says.
Reports in Hebrew language media earlier this afternoon said the weekly cabinet meeting was canceled due to a protest by retired police and prisons service workers outside his office. Netanyahu did not refer to the protest, which saw nearby roads blocked, and security guards scuffle with some of the demonstrators.
German governor wants zero tolerance toward far right
The governor of Germany’s eastern state of Saxony says far-right extremism is the biggest threat to democracy and there should be zero tolerance toward far-right crime.
Michael Kretschmer tells the regional parliament that authorities will appoint an official point-person for victims and look into shortening legal proceedings against extremists.
He is speaking 10 days after the suspected killing of a German man by two refugees sparked anti-migrant protests in the eastern city of Chemnitz. Several people were injured in clashes between far-right protesters, police and counter-demonstrators last week.
Kretschmer dismisses reports of groups of men attacking migrants in the city following the killing, saying: “There was no mob, no hunting of people and no pogroms.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her spokesman had condemned videos appearing to show such attacks.
PMO files complaint after retired cops scuffle with security during protest
The Prime Minister’s Office says it has filed an official complaint with the Israel Police after dozens of retired officers swarmed Netanyahu’s office earlier this afternoon during a protest over pensions.
The PMO is demanding the police investigate the incident internally, and “bring the offenders to justice,” according to reports in Hebrew-language media.
Justice ministry nixed police cooperation deal with Philippines — report
Netanyahu and visiting Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte did not sign a bilateral agreement to deepen cooperation between the countries’ police forces, after objections from the Justice Ministry, Hadashot news reports.
The Justice Ministry was reportedly wary of entering into an agreement with Manila due to Duterte’s violent crackdown on drugs, which has been forcefully denounced by human rights groups. The ministry kept deleting clauses from the proposed cooperation agreement “until it became clear” that there was “nothing really left to sign,” the report says.
Though it is not officially listed on his schedule, Duterte’s trip to Israel was expected to focus on exploring possible arms deals. He has said in the past that he sees Israel as an alternative supplier of weapons after the US and other countries refused to sell him arms over human rights violations.
Yesterday, Duterte told President Reuven Rivlin that he intends to exclusively buy military equipment from Israel due to the country’s lack of restrictions.
Zarif: Trump has ‘chutzpah’ for scheduling Security Council meeting on Iran
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says US President Donald Trump has “chutzpah” for calling a Security Council meeting to discuss Iran during the annual gathering of world leaders atthe United Nations in New York later this month.
In a tweet, Zarif says Trump is abusing the presidency of the Security Council — that he says has been “devoted to Palestine for 70 years” — to “blame Iran for horrors US & clients have unleashed across the [Middle East].”
There's only one UNSC resolution on Iran. .@realDonaldTrump is violating it & bullying others to do same. Now he plans to abuse presidency of SC to divert a session—item devoted to Palestine for 70 yrs— to blame Iran for horrors US & clients have unleashed across M.E. #chutzpah
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) September 5, 2018
Yesterday, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the meeting will address “violations of international law and general instability Iran sows throughout the entire Middle East region.” She accused Iran of supporting terrorism and destabilizing activities in Lebanon, Yemen and Syria. Haley said Iran’s leader could speak at the council meeting if he chose to.
UN envoy: Decision to raze Bedouin village a violation of international law
UN Mideast envoy Nickolay Mladenov says the decision to raze a Bedouin village in the West Bank is a violation of international law.
Mladenov in a tweet says the planned demolition of Khan al-Ahmar “undermine[s] prospect for two-state solution and is against international law.”
He notes the UN has previously called on Israel “to cease demolition of Palestinian property and efforts to relocate Bedouin communities in the West Bank.”
#UN has called on #Israel to cease demolition of #Palestinian property and efforts to relocate #Bedouin communities in the #WestBank. Demolitions undermine prospect for two state solution and are against international law https://t.co/kT4ext2Dma #KhanAlAhmar
— Nickolay E. MLADENOV (@nmladenov) September 5, 2018
Earlier today, the High Court of Justice cleared the way for the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, rejecting a final appeal in a case that has drawn international criticism.
Pompeo ‘hopeful’ after meeting with Pakistan’s Imran Khan
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he is “hopeful” of resetting the troubled relationship with Pakistan, a key player in the Afghan conflict, after cordial meetings in Islamabad including with new premier Imran Khan.
The former CIA director, making his first visit as top US diplomat to Pakistan, tells pool reporters shortly before leaving Islamabad that the “broad spectrum” of topics discussed included efforts “to develop a peaceful resolution in Afghanistan.”
“I’m hopeful that the foundation that we laid today will set the conditions for continued success,” he says– though he adds that there is a “long way to go” before Washington would resume military assistance.
The shift in tone comes days after Washington confirmed plans to cancel $300 million in military aid, and was echoed by Khan, who voiced his optimism at a fresh start in the long-rocky ties between the wayward allies.
US officials accuse Islamabad of ignoring or even collaborating with groups such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, which attack Afghanistan from safe havens along the border between the two countries.
Emirates plane quarantined at JFK after dozens of passengers fall sick
A plane has been quarantined at New York’s Kennedy Airport after dozens of passengers became ill aboard a flight from Dubai.
The Emirates flight landed around 9:10 a.m. this morning. The airline says the passengers were getting medical attention “as a precaution.”
Video from news helicopters shows the jet sitting on the tarmac surrounded by ambulances, vehicles and airport personnel.
Passengers were exiting the plane with their luggage and getting on to buses.
The New York City mayor's office says Emirates Flight 203 has been quarantined amid reports that at least 100 people are reported ill on a flight from Dubai that arrived at #JFK Airport.
Port Authority police & the CDC were waiting in a staging area to check passengers. pic.twitter.com/VAuEwLQJVa
— The Voice of America (@VOANews) September 5, 2018
Representatives of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were on the scene.
A New York police counterterrorism division tweeted it appeared to be a “medical situation.”
US Navy says over 2,500 assault rifles found in Gulf seizure
The US Navy says a recent arms seizure from small ships near war-torn Yemen netted over 2,500 Kalashnikov assault rifles.
The Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet gives the updated total in a statement. It boarded the skiff and the dhow, a traditional ship in the Persian Gulf, during a routine check in the Gulf of Aden on Aug. 28.
The Navy adds: “The origin and intended destination of the skiff have not yet been determined.”
In early 2016, US-allied warships in the region stopped three dhows carrying thousands of Kalashnikov assault rifles as well as sniper rifles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, anti-tank missiles and other weapons believed bound for Yemen from Iran.
Germany still investigating Iranian cash request
Even though Iran has rescinded a request to repatriate 300 million euros ($347 million) it has in a Hamburg-based bank, German authorities say financial regulators are still examining the proposed transaction.
Finance Ministry spokesman Steffen Hebestreit says financial regulator Bafin is still examining whether regulations on money laundering and terrorism financing were being followed.
Bafin confirmed the investigation but wouldn’t comment further.
The US had been pressuring German authorities to reject Iran’s request to transfer the cash from the European-Iranian Trade Bank, over concerns of how it would be used.
Though the request has been dropped, a new one could be made.
Germany’s Bundesbank last month changed its conditions allowing it to block transfers unless it receives assurances a transaction doesn’t violate financial sanctions or money-laundering rules.
Jordan court sentences IS attacker to 20 years
A Jordanian court sentences an alleged Islamic State group member to 20 years of hard labor for a 2016 attack on security forces, an AFP correspondent at the trial said.
The 25-year-old was charged with acquiring automatic weapons along with his two brothers and turning their house in Ma’an, 210 kilometers (130 miles) south of Amman, into a bomb factory.
The brothers booby-trapped the house then raised black IS flags on a roundabout and on the minaret of a mosque in the town to attract the attention of security forces, the charge sheet says.
Security forces arrived, triggering a shootout which wounded several security personnel and killed two of the brothers. The third was able to blow up the house before being arrested.
Poll finds Netanyahu’s Likud party gaining in popularity
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party would win 36 seats in the Knesset if elections were held today, six more than the ruling party currently holds, according to a poll published by Keshet TV.
Following Likud in the poll is the Yesh Atid party, which would win 18 seats, up from its current 11. The opposition Zionist Union, the Joint (Arab) List and the Jewish Home party would each receive 11 seats.
At the bottom of the list is the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, with only four seats, down from its current 7.
The poll also finds that 16% think former Likud Minister Gideon Sa’ar was best suited to replace Netanyahu as head of the party. However, 33% said they did not know who should replace Netanyahu.
The poll, conducted by Panels Politics and Panel4All, surveyed 538 Israeli adults.
Twin attacks in Afghan capital kill 20, wound 70
Twin bombings at a wrestling training center in a Shiite neighborhood of Afghanistan’s capital kill at least 20 people and wounded 70, Afghan officials say.
Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish says a suicide bomber struck at the center and then a car bomb went off nearby. He says two Afghan reporters were among those wounded.
No one immediately claimed the attacks, but they bore the hallmarks of the country’s Islamic State affiliate, which has carried out a wave of deadly bombings against minority Shiites. The Sunni extremists of IS view Shiites as apostates deserving of death.
Gen. Daud Amin, the Kabul police chief, says at least seven police were among those wounded in the car bomb explosion.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a roadside bomb killed a district police chief and another policeman in the northern Badghis province, according to Jamshid Shahabi, spokesman for the provincial governor.
No one claimed the attack, but Shahabi said it was likely carried out by the Taliban, who are active in the province and frequently target security forces and government officials.
Afghan forces have struggled to combat both the Taliban and IS since the U.S. and NATO formally ended their combat mission in 2014.
Paraguay moving embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv
The Paraguayan embassy in Israel will move from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv, its foreign ministry announces.
The notice says the change was made after the issue was re-examined, according to reports in the Hebrew-language media.
In response to the move, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the Foreign Ministry to recall Israel’s ambassador in Asuncion for consultations.
“Israel views with great severity the unusual decision of Paraguay, which will cloud bilateral relations,” the Foreign Ministry says in a statement.
In May, Paraguay opened its new embassy in Jerusalem following the United States and Guatemala, which opened embassies in the city that month. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Paraguay’s President Horacio Cartes at the ceremony that it was “a great day for our friendship.”
— Raphael Ahren
Israel shutters its Paraguay embassy in response to Jerusalem move
Israel has shuttered its embassy in Paraguay entirely in response to the country’s decision to move its embassy back to Tel Aviv four months after it moved it to Jerusalem.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it viewed the move “with great severity” and that it would “cloud bilateral relations.”
Paraguay says reversing embassy move will ‘help Mideast peace’
Paraguay’s Foreign Minister Luis Alberto Castiglioni says his country is moving its embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv after four months to help efforts to broker regional peace.
“Paraguay wants to contribute to an intensification of regional diplomatic efforts to achieve a broad, fair and lasting peace in the Middle East,” Castiglioni tells reporters.
Palestinians: FM pushed Paraguay to reverse Jerusalem embassy move
The Palestinian Authority foreign ministry says they persuaded newly elected Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez to reverse the decision made by his predecessor to move the country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
A statement carried by the PA’s official outlet Wafa, says Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki met Benitez during his inauguration last month and asked him to return its diplomatic mission to Tel Aviv.
The statement says Benitez agreed, and they decided to keep the decision under wraps until Paraguay was ready to announce the move.
Rivlin says Jewish nation-state law ‘bad for Israel and the Jewish people’
President Reuven Rivlin strongly denounces the nation-state law as “bad for Israel and bad for the Jewish people.”
Speaking at a book launch for Dr. Yoaz Hendel in Jerusalem, Rivlin says “let’s think about the day that using this law, we will define and classify our citizens. Lets think about tomorrow, whereby using this law, we will start to classify different types of Jews: Jews who are lesser and Jews who are greater.”
Rivlin also appears to level criticism against Netanyahu’s government, saying the controversial law is part of “a global phenomenon that is aimed at silencing the debate, that strives for a reality in which there are two possibilities: either you are with me or you are a traitor, an enemy.”
Michael Oren: Paraguay embassy move likely to damage its ties to US
Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the US, says Paraguay’s decision to move its embassy in Israel from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv would also affect its diplomatic ties to the US.
“The decision to bring back the Paraguayan embassy to Tel Aviv will certainly harm our bilateral relations, but not only — I assume that the Paraguayan-US relations will be harmed as well,” Oren says.
“The world appreciates countries that stand firm behind bold decisions and not countries that change their mind after a few months,” he adds.
Hamas operative said killed in Gaza explosion
A member of the Hamas security forces is reportedly killed in an accidental explosion in Gaza, according to sources in the ruling terror group.
The sources said the man was trying to neutralize an Israeli explosive device.
The military wing of Hamas identified the man as Abdel Rahim Abbas, 42, a local commander of its security forces.
Rockers Of Montreal bolt Israel festival, denounce ‘apartheid’
Rock group Of Montreal are the latest musicians to pull out of a festival in Israel, accusing the Jewish state of “apartheid” and urging more activism.
The indie rock band — which, despite its name, is from Athens, Georgia and not Quebec — follows the pop singer Lana Del Rey in leaving the three-day Meteor festival, which opens in northern Israel tomorrow.
Trump denies he discussed assassinating Assad
President Donald Trump is labeling a tell-all book from journalist Bob Woodward a “work of fiction.”
Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, Trump says the assassination of Syrian President Bashar Assad “was never discussed,” and suggests that excerpts from the explosive book were timed to interfere with confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
The White House has pushed back vigorously against “Fear: Trump in the White House,” which features current and former aides calling the president an “idiot” and a “liar.”
The book from the Washington Post author is out Sept. 11. Excerpts were published in a number of outlets, starting with the Post, on Tuesday.