Hundreds of Palestinians said to riot at Gaza border
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10 arrested as police clear Jerusalem protest against Netanyahu

Cops forcibly remove demonstrators from capital’s Paris Square; 2 held for suspected assaults against officers

Police remove protesters from a rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, August 15, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Police remove protesters from a rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, August 15, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

Arson wave continues as Gaza balloons spark 19 fires in south

Fire and rescue services say arson balloons launched by terrorist organizations over the Gaza border ignite at least 19 fires in southern Israel.

It is the 10th consecutive day of fires, which mostly cause damage to brush and agricultural areas.

The balloons, which sometimes carry explosive devices, have sparked well over 100 fires in Israel in the past week.

The IDF bombed Hamas targets in Gaza over the past four nights in response to the attacks.

Israel also closed its cargo crossing into the Gaza Strip for all goods except food and humanitarian supplies, and reduced Gaza’s allowed fishing zone to pressure Hamas to rein in the balloons.

Israel’s Thursday normalization agreement with the UAE ratcheted up tensions in the Palestinian territories, sparking protests in Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank, and an outcry from the Palestinian leadership.

Hundreds of anti-government protesters gather at bridges, traffic junctions

Crowds of anti-government protesters are expected to gather tonight outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem and outside his private home in Caesarea.

Hundreds are already demonstrating at bridges and traffic junctions around the country, Ynet reported.

The “Black Flag” anti-corruption group says this is the eighth consecutive organized demonstration in the recent wave of protests, and that it expected gatherings at some 300 locations.

The organizers address Netanyahu’s historic normalization deal with the UAE, writing, “while the prime minister is busy arranging flights to pools in Abu Dhabi for himself, the people of Israel are collapsing from the failure to manage the economic and health crises. No flights to the Gulf, jobs in Israel!”

Hundreds gathered Friday at protests against Netanyahu, saying the deal would not deter them.

Last Saturday tens of thousands took part in protests across the country.

The demonstrators are demanding Netanyahu resign due to his indictment on corruption charges, and are calling for better management of the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout.

Bahrain prime minister leaves country for ‘private visit’

The prime minister of the Gulf state of Bahrain, Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, boards a plane for a private visit outside the kingdom.

The king of Bahrain’s media adviser announced the trip on Twitter.

Khalifa, who has served as Bahrain’s prime minister since its independence in 1971 and is in his 80s, received medical care in Germany in March for an unspecified ailment.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates, also in the Gulf, announced a historic normalization agreement on Thursday.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, US President Trump and his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, who helped broker the deal, all predicted the accord would pave the way for more agreements between Israel and Arab states.

Israeli officials told Hebrew media that they were in advanced talks with Bahrain on a normalization agreement, saying it was likely next in line for ties with the Jewish state.

Oman and Morocco are also considered countries that could follow the UAE’s lead.

Settler leader says he’ll no longer vote for Netanyahu

The chairman of the Yesha umbrella council of settlement mayors says he will no longer vote for Netanyahu due to the premier’s pledge to suspend annexation of parts of the West Bank.

Netanyahu made the vow as part of a deal to normalize ties with the United Arab Emirates, which was announced on Thursday, but also said he would proceed with annexation in the future.

David Elhayani tells Channel 12, “Netanyahu deceived us over the past year, the residents of the Jordan Valley, who he promised annexation to.”

“If he wanted to do something good for the State of Israel, he would apply sovereignty,” Elhayani says. “He lost it. He is not the same person he once was. I don’t know what happened to him but this is not the man I know.”

David Elhayani, head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council and the Yesha Council of West Bank mayors, at a Yesha protest tent near the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, February 4, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Elhayani and MK Bezalel Smotrich of the national religious Yamina party said Friday that Netanyahu should be replaced over the move, and some Likud lawmakers said that annexation would go forward in a bid to appease supporters angered by the announcement.

After the Israel-UAE accord was revealed, US President Donald Trump and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said annexation was suspended, but not canceled permanently.

Netanyahu had expressed interest in starting the process on July 1, but the date came and went without action being taken.

Finance Minister: ‘Threat of elections has passed’

Finance Minister Israel Katz of the Likud party says the threat of another round of elections has passed.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White parties, the two key coalition partners, have been at an impasse over the state budget.

The stalemate left the government teetering toward a dreaded fourth national vote in under two years.

“The danger of elections has passed, and at the moment it’s only a matter of [finalizing] agreements. The two sides understand that there aren’t [going to be] elections,” Katz tells Channel 12.

Then-Foreign Minister Israel Katz speaks during an emergency meeting the at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on February 13, 2020. (Flash90)

Earlier, Channel 12 reported that Sunday’s cabinet meeting will be canceled due to disagreements between the parties for the second week in a row, in a sign of major coalition strife.

The network also reported that the two factions were inching closer to an agreement, however.

TV: Mossad chief speaks to Bahrain’s PM, amid signs it will be next to sign deal

Mossad chief Yossi Cohen spoke by telephone in the past few days with the Prime Minister of Bahrain, Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Channel 12 reports.

The aim of the conversation was to move ahead toward Bahrain following the United Arab Emirates in establishing normalized ties with Israel.

“Signs are that Bahrain is seeking to be the next country to sign a peace treaty with Israel… They are pressing ahead full force.”

The TV report says a declaration to this effect may be expected soon.

It also notes that the Bahraini prime minister has boarded a plane for a private visit outside the kingdom, and says this may be connected.

It further notes that the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, today spoke with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, and told him of Bahrain’s support for the UAE’s normalizing of ties with Israel.

Intelligence minister predicts peace deal with Sudan

Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen says he expects a diplomatic breakthrough with an African state in the coming months.

“There will be, this year, an additional [agreement] with an African country, in my estimation Sudan, that will also sign a peace agreement with the State of Israel,” Cohen says in an interview with Channel 13.

Cohen says he expects new agreements with other Gulf States in the future, including possibly Bahrain and Oman.

Sudan, an African Arab country, had long been hostile to Israel, but the two states have seen quietly warming ties in recent years.

An Israeli commercial jetliner received permission to fly over the country in June, and PM Netanyahu met with the head of the country’s transitional government earlier this year in Uganda.

Israel and Sudan are “discussing rapid normalization,” Netanyahu said in February.

Following Israel’s historic peace deal on Thursday with the United Arab Emirates, speculation over more agreements has been rampant, with Bahrain, Oman and Morocco also touted as possibilities.

Health Ministry reports 9 new virus deaths, 1,118 fresh infections

The Health Ministry reports 1,118 new coronavirus cases over Shabbat, bringing the number of confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic to 92,198.

It also reports nine new deaths, raising the national toll to 674.

Of the 23,574 active cases, there were 387 people in serious condition, with 116 on ventilators. Another 171 were in moderate condition and the rest had mild or no symptoms.

The ministry says 20,739 tests were performed yesterday and 6,950 so far today. Testing levels have typically dropped over the weekend.

Anti-government Jerusalem protest swells to thousands

The protest in front of the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem swells to thousands of participants.

Hundreds also gather outside Prime Minister Netanyahu’s private home in Caesarea.

The Jerusalem demonstration is attended by representatives of event hall owners, event producers, and suppliers for entertainment events, who are out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The unemployed protesters are demanding the government allow them to return to work.

Protesters bear signs reading, “We are the hope — voting with our feet,” and “When will we make peace between ourselves?”

Streets around Jerusalem’s Paris Square are closed to traffic.

The police arrest a man on suspicion of hurling objects at protesters in the city of Hadera.

The protests mark the eighth consecutive week of organized demonstrations on Saturday nights against Netanyahu.

PM, Gantz condemn UN Security Council for letting Iran arms embargo expire

Israeli leaders castigate the UN Security Council for its vote to let an arms embargo against Iran expire in October.

The US pushed a resolution to extend the embargo, but the extension was resoundingly voted down on Friday.

After the end of Shabbat, leading officials make statements condemning the move.

Prime Minister Netanyahu says, “The UN Security Council decision to not allow the renewal of the weapons embargo on Iran is outrageous. Iranian aggression and terrorism threaten regional peace and the entire world.

“Instead of opposing the sale of weapons, the Security council encourages this. We will continue to act in close cooperation with the US and countries in the region to curb Iranian aggression.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz says, “In its unceasing attempts to achieve nuclear weapons, and its efforts to fuel terror and violence, Iran is undermining the peace of the region and the world.

“Thus, the UN Security Council’s rejection of the US proposal to extend the arms embargo is a mistaken decision, which is detrimental to regional stability and global security. Israel will continue to work with its partners across the world and the Middle East to stop Iranian aggression.”

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi says, “I condemn the decision by some members of the UNSC to not extend the arms embargo on Iran. Iran doesn’t just finance terror, it also carries it out & represents a danger to regional & international stability. The international community must stop Iran spreading terror worldwide.

“Over the weekend I spoke with a number of foreign Ministers on this issue and asked them to continue to act to restrain Iran’s aggression. I also ordered the Israeli foreign ministry to put the issue at the top of the agenda for our embassies in UNSC member states.”

Sunday cabinet meeting to go forward, further allaying fears of gov’t collapse

The Knesset releases an agenda for a Sunday cabinet meeting, indicating the weekly discussion will go forward, after reports earlier said it would be canceled due to infighting between the Likud and Blue and White parties.

Last week’s cabinet meeting was canceled when the two parties failed to agree on an agenda, in a sign of major strife within the governing coalition.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud and Defense Minister Gantz’s Blue and White have been at an impasse over that state budget that has threatened to topple the coalition and send Israel to a fourth national vote in under two years.

According to the agenda, the cabinet will discuss via video conference economic legislation and aid to hotels that have been battered by the pandemic.

The Kan public broadcaster reports that Blue and White and Likud agreed to hold the weekly meeting, but only to discuss coronavirus policy, and to continue hashing out their disagreements in the coming week.

Finance Minister Israel Katz of Likud said earlier that “the threat of elections has passed,” and that the parties were close to reaching a compromise.

A Friday Channel 12 report said the two factions were inching toward a compromise on the budget and other issues.

Group of protesters attempts to leave Jerusalem rally, is stopped by police

Army Radio says 10,000 protesters are massed outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.

A group of protesters attempts to leave the main area in a procession, but are stopped by police, who say they do not have a permit.

In recent weeks, after attacks on demonstrators by right-wing counter-protesters, police sought to prevent the movement of protesters in order to better control the events.

One protester is detained on suspicion of disturbing public order.

Some of the demonstrators brush aside Israel’s normalization agreement with the UAE, dismissing it as “spin.”

The Kan public broadcaster posts video of a tense exchange between anti-Netanyahu protesters, and a counter-demonstrator holding a sign reading, “Leftists are traitors.”

Hundreds of Palestinians said to riot at Gaza border

Hundreds of Palestinians mass at the Israel-Gaza border, setting off explosives and burning tires near the security fence.

The IDF uses riot dispersal methods to break up the protesters, Army Radio reports.

Channel 12 says rioters hurl explosive charges at Israeli troops, and one Palestinian is injured.

Recent weeks have seen an uptick in violence in Gaza, with waves of arson balloons igniting dozens of fires in southern Israel, including at least 19 on Saturday.

Israel has bombed Hamas terror targets for the last four nights, limited imports into the Strip, and reduced its fishing zone in retaliation to the attacks.

Health Minister seeks to loosen coronavirus restrictions on small restaurants

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein seeks to change coronavirus regulations that limit attendance at restaurants and houses of worship.

Edelstein wants to cap attendance at 20 people indoors, and 30 outdoors, as long as all maintain social distance.

Smaller eateries will also be allowed to serve 20 people indoors, Channel 12 reports.

Edelstein plans to submit the proposal to the government for approval tomorrow.

On Friday, the so-called coronavirus cabinet approved new restrictions on crowding in indoor spaces, while easing other limits against crowding in open-air spaces.

The new regulations, which go into effect Sunday afternoon, limit attendance at 10 people for closed places that are smaller than 80 square meters.

Police detain 7 at Jerusalem rally; far-right groups protest in Tel Aviv

Police detain seven protesters at the anti-government rally outside the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem.

The demonstrators attempted to leave the main protest in a procession, which is not allowed under police guidelines. The march was headed in the direction of the President’s Residence.

Estimates put the number of demonstrators at the Jerusalem rally at around 10,000, likely making it slightly smaller than the anti-corruption protests near the Prime Minister’s Residence held on the two past Saturdays.

Meanwhile in Tel Aviv, around 100 far-right demonstrators rally outside the home of Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut.

The protesters, from an anti-migrant group, the Liberation Front for South Tel Aviv, and the right-wing group Im Tirzu, are protesting the court’s decision to block the demolition of the family home of a terrorist who killed an IDF soldier in the West Bank earlier this year.

Israel strikes Gaza in response to arson attacks as hundreds riot on border

Israel attacks targets in the Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian media reports.

The airstrikes follow another day of arson balloons launched by terrorists over the border into southern Israel.

The balloons ignited at least 19 fires in southern Israel today, and over 100 in the past week.

The IDF bombed Hamas terror targets in Gaza for the past four nights, limited imports into the Strip, and reduced its fishing zone in retaliation to the attacks.

The fires are mostly small and cause damage to agricultural areas and brush, and the airstrikes in the recent round of violence are not known to have caused any casualties.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Palestinians riot near the border fence, setting off explosives and burning tires.

Hamas-linked al-Resalah says that there have been “several wounded” by Israel live fire during a protest of about 800 young people. The protest is taking place east of Gaza City, close to the border fence.

Two people injured by live fire, one in the stomach and one in the lower back, arrive at the al-Shifa medical clinic, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza health ministry.

Channel 12 says rioters hurl explosive charges at Israeli troops, who respond with riot dispersal measures.

Army Radio says an Egyptian delegation will visit the Strip tomorrow in a bid to ease tensions.

Israeli and Emirati companies ink deal to jointly research COVID-19 technology

An Emirati company and an Israeli firm sign a strategic commercial agreement to jointly research and develop technology in the fight against the coronavirus.

APEX National Investment, of the UAE, and Israel’s TeraGroup sign the deal at a press conference in Abu Dhabi, according to the Emirati news agency WAM.

The two companies will work on developing a COVID-19 testing device to more quickly and accurately diagnose the disease.

TeraGroup is developing a COVID-19 testing device that aims to detect the disease in a patient’s breath and deliver results in one minute.

It wasn’t immediately clear if this project was part of the joint agreement with APEX.

Israel and the UAE signed a historic normalization agreement on Thursday, which included developing commercial ties between the two countries.

The two states have been quietly cooperating on their response to the coronavirus for months, which played a part in moving the normalization agreement forward, according to Friday reports.

Scuffles break out between police, anti-government protesters in Jerusalem

Scuffles break out between anti-government protesters and police near the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.

Police disperse demonstrators and hand out tickets, and have detained at least at least seven people.

Video from the scene shows officers forcibly carrying at least one person from the rally as bystanders call out, “Shame!”

Army Radio says that around 1,500 demonstrators remain in the capital’s Paris Square. Estimates put the total number of attendees earlier at around 10,000.

Emirati official says UAE realized lack of ties was ‘not healthy’

The Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, tells Israeli media that the UAE over time realized the lack of ties with Israel was detrimental.

“This is a relationship that has developed slowly,” Gargash told Walla’s Barak Ravid, in what was billed as the first open interview by an Emirati official with Israeli media.

“We have come to a realization that no communication is not really a healthy choice,” Gargash says.

“I think on the other hand also we’ve seen that many countries that have issues with Israel have also contacts with Israel and have cooperation with Israel,” Gargash says.

“I think for us to move from point A to point B has been a learning experience,” he says, adding that the UAE still has “an issue with regards to the political aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Gargash says he hopes for “reciprocity,” embassies, and cooperation in the fields of agriculture, security, technology and tourism.

Police arrest 2 protesters for suspected assault against officers

Police arrest two anti-government protesters at a rally outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem on suspicion of assaulting officers. Three other people are detained.

Police at the capital’s Paris Square on loudspeakers demand protesters end the protest, vacate the street and stop making noise.

Hundreds of demonstrators gather in a separate location on the capital’s King George Street to protest in front of a police building.

Police add that officers handed out several tickets to demonstrators who were not wearing face masks.

Police remove protesters from an anti-government demonstration in Jerusalem, August 16, 2020. (Anat Peled/Times of Israel)

IDF confirms airstrikes against Hamas targets

The IDF confirms it carried out airstrikes against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip. The attacks were previously reported by Palestinian media outlets.

The airstrikes mark the fifth night in a row of IDF attacks on Hamas targets as terrorists in the Strip launch a stream of incendiary balloons across the border, sparking dozens of fires in southern Israel. Sometimes the balloons carry explosive devices.

Hundreds of Gazans are also rioting at the security fence with Israel. Several are injured by live IDF fire, according to Palestinian reports.

“Palestinian rioters in Gaza hurled explosives and attempted to approach the security fence into Israel tonight. This is after explosive balloons were launched from Gaza into Israel today,” the IDF says in a statement.

“In response, we just struck Hamas military targets in Gaza. We hold Hamas accountable.”

10 arrested as Jerusalem anti-government protest draws to a close

Police arrest 10 people at the anti-government protest in Jerusalem, says police commander Ofer Shomer, as the demonstration draws to a close.

Most of the arrests came as a group of protesters attempted to march toward Agron and King George Streets, which police said was an illegal act.

Others are arrested while refusing to leave the scene of the protest in Paris Square. Shomer says they refused to leave after the police declared the gathering illegal.

Two people were arrested on suspicion of assaulting officers.

The streets around the square are reopened for traffic.

Police remove protesters from a rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, on August 15, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Rocket sirens sound in Gaza border area, Sderot

Rocket siren alerts are triggered in the southern city of Sderot and in communities near the Gaza Strip.

2 rockets from Gaza intercepted by Iron Dome; no injuries

Two rockets are fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip, the army says.

The projectiles are intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

There are no reports of injuries or damage.

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Hundreds of Palestinians said to riot at Gaza border

Hundreds of Palestinians mass at the Israel-Gaza border, setting off explosives and burning tires near the security fence.

The IDF uses riot dispersal methods to break up the protesters, Army Radio reports.

Channel 12 says rioters hurl explosive charges at Israeli troops, and one Palestinian is injured.

Recent weeks have seen an uptick in violence in Gaza, with waves of arson balloons igniting dozens of fires in southern Israel, including at least 19 on Saturday.

Israel has bombed Hamas terror targets for the last four nights, limited imports into the Strip, and reduced its fishing zone in retaliation to the attacks.