The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.
Former national security adviser: Forget Gaza, focus on Iran in Syria
Former national security adviser Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror seems to defend the Netanyahu government’s decision to pursue a ceasefire in Gaza, saying anything that distracts from the effort to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria must be “pushed off.”
“Israel has an immense defense challenge facing the Iranian war machine in Syria,” Amidror said in an interview with the 103FM radio station. “Israel must always ask itself if any defensive action it carries out hurts its freedom of operation in Syria. I think we must focus all our efforts in Syria and push off everything else until we succeed in dealing with the Iranian problem on the border.”
Amidror, who served as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser from 2011 to 2013, adds: “We may not succeed. I don’t know how long it will take, and it may bring a difficult war between us and Hezbollah, so we must delay everything else in order to focus on the main thing.”
He also says the ceasefire being pursued with Hamas marks very little change from the agreements in place since 2014.
“We’re not looking at a [long-term] settlement” with Hamas, but “a ceasefire like we had after Protective Edge [in 2014], with an expansion of the fishing zone. Beyond that there’s no change. If it works and grows, the sides may work toward a [more permanent] framework agreement. This isn’t a hudna [ceasefire in Arabic] but an agreement through Egypt and the UN on the opening of border crossings in exchange for quiet. We gave nothing and we received nothing beyond the 2014 agreement that ended Protective Edge.”
Israeli, Jordanian firefighters put out burning truck at Allenby crossing
A semitrailer is on fire at the Allenby crossing on the Israeli-Jordanian border, and is being doused by a combined force of Israeli and Jordanian firefighting teams who rushed to the scene.
There is no immediate information as to the causes of the fire.
Palestinians suffer wave of West Bank vandalism attacks after hit-and-run
A number of apparent hate crime attacks have targeted Palestinians and their property over the weekend in the northern West Bank, the B’Tselem rights group reports.
Hours after the death of Hava Roizen last Thursday night in what was originally suspected to have been a terror ramming, but is now believed to have been a hit-and-run accident, Israelis hurled stones at several Palestinian vehicles near the settlement of Yitzhar and torched a tractor in the nearby village of Urif, B’Tselem says.
On Friday — a day after Roizen’s death — Palestinians in the northern West Bank villages of Arraba and Luban a-Sharqiya woke up to find olive trees uprooted or cut down, with some 300 trees damaged in the first village and 70 in the second.
On Saturday, a similar crime was reported in Ras Karkar near Ramallah, where 74 olive trees were cut down, a water well was damaged and Hebrew hate slogans were found graffitied at the scene, B’Tselem says.
Police have yet to open an investigation into the incidents.
— Jacob Magid
German prosecutors probe Yazidi woman’s claim about IS man
BERLIN — German prosecutors say they are taking seriously a Yazidi refugee’s claim that she ran into her former Islamic State captor twice in Germany, but say they need more information to identify him.
The case of 19-year-old Ashwaq Haji Hami made headlines this week after she was quoted telling the Iraqi-Kurdish news portal basnews that she returned to her homeland of Iraq for fear that her alleged tormentor could harm her in Germany. Several reports in foreign media suggested that German authorities were unwilling to act on the woman’s claims.
“The young woman was interviewed but the information (she provided) wasn’t precise enough,” Frauke Koehler, a spokeswoman for federal prosecutors, told The Associated Press on Saturday. When authorities tried to follow up, the woman had already left Germany, Koehler said.
The AP, however, spoke to the woman at a camp for displaced people near Shekhan in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
Hami says she was captured by the Islamic State group in August 2014, and enslaved and abused by an IS member called Abu Humam, whose real name she said was Mohammed Rashid. After managing to escape from IS, she says she allegedly encountered her tormentor in Germany in 2016 and again in February this year in the southwestern German town of Schwaebisch Gmuend.
“I recognized his face very clearly and whenever I see him I can recognize him … because of the beatings he gave us,” Hami told the AP. “We saw him 24 hours a day. So anytime or anywhere I see him, I would be able to identify him.”
Hami said she reported the incidents to German police, but — citing fears for her safety — she moved back to Iraq in June.
Hezbollah leader meets with Yemeni rebels
BEIRUT — Hezbollah says its leader has met with a delegation from Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
The Lebanese group says Hassan Nasrallah met with a delegation headed by Houthi spokesman Mohamad Abdelsalam to discuss the latest developments in Yemen’s civil war.
Hezbollah is believed to train and support the Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels, who are at war with a Saudi-led coalition allied with Yemen’s internationally recognized government.
Hezbollah, which is also an Iran-allied Shiite group, says the Houthis are fighting a war against Saudi and American imperialism.
Iran supports the Houthis but denies arming them. Saudi Arabia and Iran are bitter regional rivals.
Women win US primaries in record numbers, look to November
ATLANTA — Women are not just running for US office in record numbers this year — they are winning.
More women than ever before have won major party primaries for governor, US Senate and House this year — setting a US record and paving the way for November battles that could significantly increase the number of women in elected office and change the public debate on issues such as health care, immigration, abortion rights, education and gun control. Some of these candidates could also play a pivotal role in whether Democrats are able to take control of the US House.
Most of these female hopefuls are Democrats, some of whom are first-time candidates who say their motivation to run sprang from US President Donald Trump’s election and Republican control of Congress. But other developments factor in, too. The #MeToo movement. Women’s marches. Trump’s nomination of conservative appeals court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
“Part of the reason I thought this race was possible, even despite great odds, was because of all the women who are so engaged in my community in a new way,” says Democrat Mikie Sherrill, a former Navy helicopter pilot and federal prosecutor who looks to capture a GOP congressional seat in New Jersey.
Sherrill is one of some 200 women who have won their primaries for US House, with 94 of these candidates surviving crowded fields with three or more candidates, according to an analysis of election results. Previously, the most women who had advanced were 167 in 2016, according to records kept by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
In the Senate, a record 19 women have won their primaries. And for the first time, 13 women have been nominated for gubernatorial races in a single election year.
Cyprus extradites Egyptian hijacker who dropped legal fight
NICOSIA, Cyprus — An Egyptian man who hijacked a domestic EgyptAir flight in 2016 and ordered it to land in Cyprus has been extradited to his homeland after giving up a drawn-out legal fight, authorities say.
Seif Eddin Mustafa was transferred to Egyptian custody and flown back to Egypt late Saturday, where prosecutors are investigating the incident. Cyprus Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou tells The Associated Press that Mustafa’s extradition went ahead after he dropped a three-year court battle to avoid extradition.
Mustafa had challenged extradition on the grounds that he could face torture or an unfair trial in Egypt.
Mustafa hijacked the EgyptAir flight in March 2016 using a fake suicide belt and diverted it to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. A six-hour standoff with Cypriot authorities on the tarmac of Cyprus’ Larnaca airport ended peacefully after all 72 passengers and crew were released and Mustafa was arrested.
Mustafa told a Cypriot court that he meant no harm to anyone. He said he was trying to expose what he called the “fascist regime” of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and to help secure the release of 63 female dissidents being held in Egyptian prisons.
But prosecutors said Mustafa admitted in a written statement to police that he only carried out the hijacking in order to reunite with his Cypriot family, from whom he had been estranged for 24 years. Mustafa dismissed the written statement as “purposeful misinformation” by the Cypriot and Egyptian governments put out to discredit him.
800,000 displaced in flooding in southern Indian state
CHENGANNUR, India — Some 800,000 people have been displaced and over 350 have died in the worst flooding in a century in southern India’s Kerala state, as authorities rush to bring drinking water to the most affected areas, officials say.
At least two trains carrying about 1.5 million liters (400,000 gallons) of water moved to the flooded areas from the neighboring states of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, Indian railway official Milind Deouskar says, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.
After one of the trains arrived, P.H. Kurian, a top disaster management official in Kerala, said authorities had largely restored the state’s water supply systems. “What we need right now is bottled water, which is easy to transport to remote and isolated places, where some people are still stranded,” Kurian said.
Officials are calling it the worst flooding in Kerala in a century, with rainfall in some areas well over double that of a typical monsoon season.
Thousands of rescuers were continuing efforts to reach out to stranded people and get relief supplies to isolated areas by hundreds of boats and nearly two dozen helicopters, Kurian said. He said weather conditions had improved considerably and expected the nearly 10,000 people still stranded to be rescued by Monday.
Activist posts private numbers of Israeli president, cabinet members
The phone numbers of Israeli politicians across the political spectrum began ringing off the hook this weekend after a list of their private numbers was published online.
President Reuven Rivlin, Ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked and opposition leader Tzipi Livni were among those whose numbers were on the list, which rapidly spread across the country via WhatsApp.
Barak Cohen, the attorney and political activist who compiled the list, explained in a Facebook post that he believed that his actions were a “public service” and urged his social media followers to distribute the numbers “so that every citizen can benefit from accessible communications with his [public] servants.”
Cohen’s post is an example of doxxing, the practice of publishing people’s personal details, such as addresses and phone numbers, on the internet, often for purposes of harassment. In his case, Cohen insisted that he was making Israel’s elected representatives more accessible to their constituents.
Not all of those on the list appreciated the public service, however.
Likud MK Sharren Haskel said that while she has always tried to be open and accomodating to the public, following the leak she would no longer answer phone calls from unidentified numbers.
Tzipi Livni noted that the number posted as hers actually belonged to someone else and requested that people not harass her.
20 held in E. Jerusalem Interior Ministry corruption case
Twenty people were arrested last week in a corruption sting in the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority’s office in East Jerusalem. Four employees are suspected of taking bribes in exchange for helping the alleged bribers with their cases before the authority, police say.
Top Trump adviser: US, Israel, Russia all want Iran out of Syria
US National Security Adviser John Bolton, on a visit to Israel, says the US, Israel and Russia share the objective of removing Iranian and Iranian-led forces from Syria, and ending Iran’s backing of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.
“The objective of the United States, of Israel — President Putin said it was Russia’s objective — is to get Iran, Iranian forces, Iranian militias, Iranian surrogates out of the offensive operations they’re in in both Syria and Iraq, and, frankly, to end Iran’s support for Hezbollah,” Bolton tells Martha Raddatz of ABC News in a Sunday morning interview.
“I think the president’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal has put a real crimp into the Iranian economy. I think they’re feeling it and their capability for the Quds Force or the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to conduct offensive operations in – in the region here and in Yemen as well” is reduced, Bolton insisted.
“But I think this is part of the problem with the Iranian regime generally and why it’s such a threat to peace and security not just because of its nuclear program, but because of its military operations and its support for terrorism.”
He added that Russian President Vladimir Putin did not view Russia’s interests as aligned with Iran’s in Syria, despite the two nations’ forces fighting alongside each other to maintain the regime of Bashar Assad.
“I think President Putin is very candid in his comments to President Trump, he was to me as well…. He said he didn’t have the same interest as Iran in Syria. And that he’d like to talk about ways to get out of them.”
The US policy in Syria was focused on “the final destruction of the ISIS territorial caliphate, dealing with the ISIS territorial threat and – and getting Iran back into – getting its forces back into its own territory.”
Police raid Palestinian town, recover vehicles stolen in Israel
A police raid over the weekend in the Palestinian town of Beitunia, near Ramallah, leads to the recovery of two high-end motorcycles and a car that had been reported stolen in Israel.
Two local residents, both in their 30s, were arrested in the raid.
Trump lashes out at Russia probe as ‘McCarthyism’
US President Donald Trump angrily denounces the federal probe of Russia’s 2016 election meddling as “McCarthyism at its WORST!” insisting he had authorized his White House counsel to testify to bring the matter to a close.
Trump’s Twitter storm is set off by a front-page report in the New York Times that says White House counsel Don McGahn had provided Special Counsel Robert Mueller with an unusually detailed account of Trump’s thinking during key episodes under investigation.
Trump — who had already addressed the issue late Saturday — steps up his attacks on the story and the probe in a series of angry morning tweets, slamming The New York Times for implying that McGahn had turned on him.
“I have nothing to hide … and have demanded transparency so that this Rigged and Disgusting Witch Hunt can come to a close.
“So many lives have been ruined over nothing – McCarthyism at its WORST!”
Mueller is investigating whether the president sought to obstruct justice as well as whether his campaign colluded with Russia’s covert effort to sway the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor.
Erdan says more aggressive airstrikes on Gaza would lead to ground war
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan defends the government’s efforts to avoid escalation in Gaza.
Responding to some ministers who have demanded more aggressive airstrikes in response to incendiary balloon attacks from Gaza, he tells Army Radio this morning that doing so could lead to a ground war in Gaza.
“We have to understand that Hamas will return fire with rockets and missiles on the Gaza periphery, and then we won’t have any choice but to launch a broad ground incursion into the Strip,” Erdan says.
Bennett: If we don’t act, tens of thousands of Hamas rockets will be aimed at us
Education Minister Naftali Bennett says the government’s willingness to reach an accommodation with Hamas will lead to a much stronger Hamas down the road, when Israel next faces war with the Gaza-based terror group.
“Today Hamas is a small and not particularly strong group, but if we shut our eyes, we will soon meet a Hamas with tens of thousands of missiles threatening the State of Israel. I’m not willing to let that happen,” he tells Hadashot television news in an interview today.
Bennett, who has been urging a much more aggressive policy against incendiary balloon attacks from the Strip, clarifies that he is “opposed to a ground incursion,” saying he did not share the belief of some fellow ministers that the only options available to Israel were accommodation or invasion. “There are other ways to contain Hamas’s terror,” he insists, but does not elaborate in the interview.
“We can’t tolerate 140 days of shooting rockets and launching balloons at us, then at their whistle we suddenly stand at attention. That’s their method of threatening Israel, and we must not surrender to these threats.”
Zarif: US trying to topple Iran regime, but will fail
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif says the US is planning to overthrow the Iranian regime, but vows it will fail.
In a tweet this morning, he lambasts the establishment last week in the US State Department of the Iran Action Group, meant to coordinate various US government activities that seek to pressure Iran to end its military activities in Syria, Iraq and around the region, and to curtail its nuclear and missile development programs.
The new body would seek to reprise the 1953 US- and British-led ouster of the government of Mohammad Mosaddegh, Zarif warns.
“65 years ago today, the US overthrew the popularly elected democratic government of Dr. Mossadegh,” Zarif writes, “restoring the dictatorship & subjugating Iranians for the next 25 years. Now an “Action Group” dreams of doing the same through pressure, misinformation & demagoguery. Never again.”
65 years ago today, the US overthrew the popularly elected democratic government of Dr. Mossadegh, restoring the dictatorship & subjugating Iranians for the next 25 years. Now an “Action Group” dreams of doing the same through pressure, misinformation & demagoguery. Never again. pic.twitter.com/ic3o652awn
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) August 19, 2018
New medical school, Israel’s fifth, established in West Bank university
Ariel University, located in the northern West Bank city of Ariel, formally announces the establishment of its medical school that will serve as Israel’s fifth medical faculty, in a ceremony on Sunday.
“When they mocked, you all built. While they yelled, you created a marvelous institution. While they boycotted, you proved that an excelling academic center was established here, an academy that accepted every student, male or female, without regard for their race, color, religion or gender,” President Reuven Rivlin says at the ceremony, noting he was at Ariel University’s cornerstone laying ceremony 36 years ago too.
The faculty for medicine joins those at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, and Bar Ilan University.
Six Egyptian policemen charged with torturing prisoner to death
Six Egyptian policemen are charged with torturing a prisoner to death, state media reported, a rare case against law enforcement over alleged abuses in custody.
Prosecutors allege the officers tortured a young man accused of robbery to death in June, at a police station in Cairo, after conducting an autopsy on the body, state-run newspaper Al-Ahram says.
Rights groups have regularly denounced the security forces under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi over the alleged widespread use of torture.
The authorities insist that there are no state-sanctioned abuses carried out by law enforcement, and that any cases are down to individual officers.
In May, an appeals court acquitted two police officers who had been jailed for allegedly beating to death a detained lawyer in 2015.
The two officers had been sentenced to five years prison for torturing and beating Karim Hamdi to death in a Cairo police station after a pro-Islamist protest.
Iran detains outspoken lawyer calling for free elections
TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian media is reporting that authorities have detained a human rights lawyer who planned a sit-in protest in front of parliament.
The Sunday report by the daily Arman says police detained Ghasem Sholeh-Saadi after he appeared outside parliament on Saturday in an “illegal gathering.”
A day earlier and on his Instagram account, Sholeh-Saadi posted that he will stage a sit-in protest in front of parliament to demand free elections.
Sholeh-Saadi, 64, a former Iranian lawmaker in the late 1980s, was taken to a police station.
Famous for his criticism of the establishment, Sholeh-Saadi was barred from running in the presidential elections in 2017.
Report: Trump warned that without peace, Israel will have a PM named Mohammad
US President Donald Trump has warned that if Israelis and Palestinian do not separate, “Israel will have a prime minister named Mohammad.”
According to Channel 10 television news, Trump’s comments were made in a phone call with Jordanian King Abdullah II in June, and may have been meant partly sarcastically.
Abdullah reportedly told French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian about the call last month.
In a paraphrase of the conversation broadcast by Channel 10, based on French diplomatic reports and confirmed by US and Israeli sources, Abdullah warned Trump in the June call that young Palestinians “don’t want the two-state solution anymore, but one state with equal rights. The result is that Israel will lose its Jewish character.”
Trump then answered: “Look, that makes sense. [If it happens,] in a few years the name of Israel’s prime minister will be Mohammad.”
Abdullah urged Trump not to present the administration’s peace plan. “There are too many difficulties right now. We don’t have to hurry with presenting the American peace plan,” he reportedly said.
Trump replied, according to the report: “I want to advance a Middle East peace agreement, because if my administration can’t reach a deal, no administration can.”
Channel 10 says Israeli and American officials confirmed the details. The Jordanian embassy and the White House, however, refused to comment.
Bennett: Hamas is like the Italian mafia selling us ‘protection’
Education Minister Naftali Bennett compares the developing ceasefire deal with Gaza to extortion by the mafia.
In a speech at the inaugural ceremony for the Ariel University medical school, Bennett says: “About a hundred years ago, the Italian mafia launched in the United States. It targeted a business, sabotaged the business, burned it down, threatened the workers and then offered the business owner protection for a fee. It’s called ‘protection.'”
He explains: “That is what Hamas is trying to do to Israel today. For 140 days, Hamas has burned our fields and towns. It fires hundreds of rockets at our towns, guns down our soldiers, and then tells us, ‘Here are our demands, if you abide by them we will stop.'”
And he warns: “Ladies and gentlemen, whoever gives in to them will bring us war. The State of Israel must not surrender to the threats of Hamas. Hamas must understand that it will pay a terrible price for any harm to Israeli citizens. Hamas must be afraid of hurting us, not profit from it.”
He adds, however, that “not every attack from Hamas requires a ground incursion into Gaza. I oppose such an incursion at this stage.”
— Jacob Magid
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio denies he’s been soft on yeshiva standards
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio pushes back against criticism that he has been soft on yeshivas that have illegally declined to offer their students secular studies.
Speaking at a press conference Thursday, de Blasio said that city officials had “engaged in a dialogue with a number of schools” that was “very productive.” Likely responding to recent harsh editorials in New York’s tabloid press, the mayor asserted that the media was looking for “instant gratification.”
The city launched a probe into its yeshiva system in 2015 following a complaint by the Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED) activist group. The group asserted that 39 Orthodox institutions were failing to meet standards set by state law, requiring private schools to offer a curriculum “substantially equivalent” to that of the public system.
Last week, after three years of work, New York City schools chancellor Richard A. Carranza issued a report stating that 15 out of the 30 yeshivas under investigation did not allow inspectors to enter, even though the Department of Education “has made repeated attempts to gain access to the schools.”
In response, YAFFED founder Naftuli Moster told the New York Times that it was “disappointing, but not surprising.”
“Reading between the lines, it’s hard not to conclude there is both a lack of secular instruction going on in these schools and that these schools believe they are above the law,” said Moster.
In a scathing editorial late last month, the New York Post accused de Blasio of running a “phony probe.”
“Students leave the schools deprived of the basic skills they’ll need in a secular world,” read an editorial. “If City Hall truly wanted to make sure these kids are getting a proper education, it would’ve finished the probe long ago. Alas, Hizzoner’s more interested in pleasing the politically powerful ultra-Orthodox community, which resists scrutiny of its yeshivas and asserts its religious-freedom rights.”
Netanyahu welcomes ‘true friend’ Bolton to Jerusalem for Iran talks
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomes US National Security Adviser John Bolton to his residence in Jerusalem for dinner, together with the two nations’ ambassadors to each other, David Friedman and Ron Dermer.
According to a Hebrew-language statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu says the main topic of discussions with Bolton will be “how to continue to push back against Iranian aggression in the region, and to promise that they will never have nuclear weapons.”
Netanyahu praises Bolton as a “true friend of Israel and an enthusiastic supporter of the alliance between America and Israel.”
He says Bolton’s visit is “of great importance in light of President Trump’s decisions to move the embassy to Jerusalem and to leave the bad deal with Iran.
Bolton, according to the statement, says it is “a great honor to be here.”
Jewish Labour group says leaders censored material on anti-Semitism
A Jewish group affiliated with Britain’s Labour movement accuses the heads of the left-wing faction of trying to “censor” material it had planned on presenting at a party conference in September.
Amid charges that the party condones anti-Semitism and harsh anti-Israel rhetoric, the group had planned on presenting a training session making reference to two Labour members accused of anti-Semitism.
Ivor Caplin, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, says the group has withdrawn from the planned training session because its “content was censored.”
He accuses party officials of acting “in a manner to deliberately undermine” their efforts and “add to further tension,” The Independent reports.
At issue is Labour’s decision last month to adopt parts of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism, but to exclude portions that specifically related to the ways anti-Israel activism can be seen as anti-Semitic. The Jewish Labour Movement had planned to discuss ways in which party members had crossed the line between anti-Israel rhetoric and anti-Semitism.
Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn has come under increasing scrutiny over allegations that he has both engaged in anti-Semitic behavior himself and failed to take action against anti-Semitic behavior by members of his party.
On Friday, it was reported that Corbyn had been filmed endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.
Last week, it emerged that he had met with the leader-in-exile of a Palestinian terror group in 2014 weeks before its members carried out an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue in which six people were killed. The meeting took place at an event in Tunis in 2014 at which the British politician was photographed laying a wreath near the graves of terrorists involved in the 1972 massacre of 11 Israelis at the Munich Olympics.
Iran appoints former F-14 Tomcat pilot as air force chief
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s official IRNA news agency is reporting that the country’s top leader has appointed a new chief for its air force.
The Sunday report says Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has appointed Gen. Aziz Nasirzadeh as the new air force chief.
Gen. Nasirzadeh, a former F-14 Tomcat pilot and veteran of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, has been the air force’s acting commander since 2017. He succeeds Gen. Hassan Shahsafi, who has held the post since 2008.
The appointment comes as part of a routine reshuffle of army commanders.
Iran began purchasing dozens of F-14 Tomcats from the US in 1976. The country’s air force has both American and Russian-made fighter jets in service.
Before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, many Iranian pilots received their training in the US.