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First commercial Israel-UAE flight to take off next week, US says

Israeli and American delegation, including Jared Kushner and other top US officials, to travel to Abu Dhabi with El Al in symbolic trip; may overfly Saudi Arabia

A plane approaches to land at Al Bateen Executive Airport in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, July 26, 2016. (AP/Adam Schreck)
A plane approaches to land at Al Bateen Executive Airport in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, July 26, 2016. (AP/Adam Schreck)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.

Pompeo lands in Sudan to talk peace with Israel

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has arrived in Khartoum after flying on the first ever official direct flight from Tel Aviv.

Pompeo emerged from the plane after landing at the Khartoum International Airport wearing a face mask, as a protective measure against the coronavirus.

His motorcade then left the airport, heading to meetings with Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the ruling sovereign council, and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

The State Department said ahead of the tour that Pompeo would discuss “continued US support for the civilian-led transitional government and express support for deepening the Sudan-Israel relationship.”

In a tweet, Pompeo calls Israel “America’s most reliable partner in the Middle East,” and thanks Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, though not Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi.

— With AP

Sudanese PM says great talks with Pompeo, mum on Israel peace

Sudanese leader Abdollah Hamdok says on Twitter that he had a “direct & transparent conversation regarding delisting Sudan of #SSTL, bilateral relations & US government support,” referring to a state sponsors of terror blacklist.

Hamdok, who leads the civilian side of the transition government, does not mention normalization talks with Israel, which are generally being pushed by  Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the military-led ruling sovereign council.

Pompeo is set to meet with Burhan as well on Tuesday. His office does not immediately release a statement on the talks.

Ministers okay NIS 300 million for after-school programs

Ministers have agreed to budget NIS 300 million to subsidize after-school care for the upcoming year, according to Hebrew media reports.

The vote is held by telephone, Walla reports.

The programs, which keep kindergarten and elementary school students in school until 4 p.m., are seen as a necessity for many working parents.

Shin Bet says stabbing last week may have been terror, not fight

A stabbing last week in the central town of Rosh Ha’ayin, in which an Israeli man was seriously injured, is suspected of being a terror attack, not the result of a scuffle, as it was initially described, the Shin Bet security service says, after a gag order on the case is lifted.

The Israeli man visited a construction site where he reportedly owned an apartment that was being built last Saturday afternoon. Inside, he was stabbed multiple times, but managed to get outside the street where he collapsed. A short while later he was found by a passerby who called an ambulance. He was taken to Petah Tikva’s Beilinson Medical Center in serious condition, police said at the time.

The suspect, who initially fled the scene, was arrested last Thursday in his hometown of Jenin, the security service says.

Initial reports about the stabbing indicated that it occurred during a fight of some kind. Later that day, police requested and received a court-issued gag order on the case.

— Judah Ari Gross

Gazans mass to mourn Islamic Jihad members, breaking virus lockdown

In violation of a coronavirus lockdown, thousands of mourners are packing the streets of the al-Shuja’iyyeh neighborhood in Gaza City for the funeral of four members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad killed yesterday in an explosion, according to reports in Palestinian media.

Hamas health authorities ordered a 48-hour total lockdown yesterday after several coronavirus cases were discovered in al-Magahazi camp. To comply with lockdown regulations, a senior official in Islamic Jihad announced the funeral would be for “the families of the martyrs only.”

The four Islamic Jihad members were killed yesterday in an apparent accident, while preparing explosives, although Islamic Jihad says that it “holds Israel responsible for every drop of blood spilled” in the coastal enclave.

— Aaron Boxerman

IAEA chief hints at disagreements with Iran

IAEA head Rafael Grossi says the UN nuclear agency’s relationship is “intense” and some issues remain open, as he makes his first trip to Tehran.

“We have encountered a couple of points [where] we need still to find agreement,” he said.

“We have, with Iran, a large number of questions which we are working [on] together,” Grossi said. “This is going to continue.”

— AP

Netanyahu censures UK’s foreign minister over Iran stance

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed disappointment over the UK’s opposition to snapping back sanctions on Iran, in a meeting with British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu tells Raab that Israel expects the UK to change its stance toward Iran and join the US push for restoring sanctions, according to a statement from his office.

“Look at Iran’s aggression today, without a nuclear weapon.  What a huge danger Iran would be to the entire world if it did get a nuclear weapon,” he says.

The UK on Thursday joined other members of the Security Council in rebuffing a bid by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to reinstate the sanctions, despite the US having abandoned the deal, at Israel’s urging, in 2018.

There is no immediate statement from Raab or his office.

Abbas criticizes Israel-UAE deal in talks with Raab

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas criticizes what he calls “the illusion of peace for peace,” during a meeting with United Kingdom Foreign Minister Dominic Raab, according to the PA official WAFA news agency.

“Peace will not be achieved by jumping over the Palestinians to normalize relations with Arab states. It will not be achieved in the form of the illusion of peace for peace. Rather, it will be done on the basis of international law and the Arab Peace Initiative, which say that a peace agreement is to be concluded with the Palestinians first,” Abbas says.

Abbas was referring to statements by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the recent agreement to normalize relations with the United Arab Emirates signaled “peace for peace.” Previous treaties with Arab states, Netanyahu has said, were based on exchanging “land for peace.”

A joint statement released by the United States, Israel and the UAE earlier this month said that Israel agreed to suspend its plan to annex parts of the West Bank in exchange for a full normalization of relations. The PA has accused the UAE of stabbing the Palestinian cause in the back by agreeing to peace with Israel before an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

Raab is in the region pushing for a restart of Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and to urge Israel to fully abandon annexation plans.

— Aaron Boxerman

Arab towns a ‘catastrophe,’ virus czar warns

Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu says at a press conference that Arab-majority areas are seeing a large spike in coronavirus infections.

“Local authorities in Arab areas see it, feel very very unsettled, because this is creating infection cycles,” he says. “I call on Arab society and leaders to act. This is a catastrophe.”

He notes that his continuing opposition to lockdown measures, but says that Israel’s infection rate is among the highest in the world, creating a “complicated situation, perhaps among the most complicated in the world.”

Gamzu says Israel has reached a point where it is seeing 400 deaths a month.

He also aims fire at Haredi politicians pushing flights to Ukraine for Rosh Hashanah, which he vociferously opposed.

“I’m not considering leaving the position, but if I’m not given the tools to bring down morbidity, I have nothing to do in the post,” he says.

Israel releases pictures of Palmyra from new spy satellite

The Defense Ministry has released some of the first photographs taken by Israel’s newest spy satellite, showing ancient ruins in the central Syrian city of Palmyra.

On July 6, the Defense Ministry launched the Ofek 16 into orbit and a week later activated its powerful camera arrays, but did not release the images taken by the satellite until now.

The three detailed black-and-white photographs focused on two main sites in Palmyra: a Roman amphitheater and the Temple of Bel, or Ba’al.

A Defense Ministry spokesperson says there is no hidden significance to the specific locations in Syria.

In 2018, shortly after Israel launched the satellite’s predecessor, the Ofek 11, the Defense Ministry released its first images, showing Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s palace, in what was seen as a tacit threat against the strongman, who is closely allied with Iran and the Hezbollah terror group.

— Judah Ari Gross

Moroccan prime minister indicates ties with Israel still possible

Moroccan Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani has reportedly walked back comments in which he said Rabat would not normalize relations with Israel.

El Othmani tells French-language news site Le360 that his comments were made in his capacity as leader of the Islamist PJD party, and not as prime minister.

“We refuse any normalization with the Zionist entity because this emboldens it to go further in breaching the rights of the Palestinian people,” El Othmani told the party on Saturday.

 

Sudanese PM says transition government cannot make peace with Israel

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdouk says that the Sudanese government cannot normalize with Israel until after the political transition.

“The transitional phase in Sudan is led by a broad coalition with a specific agenda: to complete the transition process and achieve peace and stability in the country, leading to free elections. The transitional government does not have a mandate beyond these tasks to decide on normalization with Israel. This matter will be decided upon after the duties of the transitional government are completed,” Hamdouk says in a statement.

Since the 2018-9 Sudanese revolution, the country has been led by a transitional government composed of a military leader — Abdel Fattah Burhan — and a civilian head of state — Prime Minister Abuallah Hamdouk. The transitional period is slated to end in 2022.

— Aaron Boxerman

Turkey virus app raises snitching concerns

Turkey’s coronavirus tracking app is facing fire from privacy advocates for adding a feature allowing users to report social distancing rule violations, with the option to send photos.

Critics say the function breaches civil liberties and promotes a “culture of denunciation.”

Turkish officials counter that the measure is needed to save lives and does not violate laws protecting individual rights.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, says the health ministry’s entire pandemic tracking system — which includes the app — makes “us even stronger against the virus.”

— AFP

Ukraine says it will limit Uman pilgrimage

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky says his country will limit the entry of Jewish pilgrims for the holiday of Rosh Hashanah next month.

Zelensky tells ministers the move comes at the request of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a statement from his official press service.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish pilgrims load buses in Uman, Ukraine, on September 8, 2013. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

The announcement does not say how many Hasidic pilgrims will be allowed to visit Uman, which normally sees some 30,000 visitors, most of them from Israel, visit the gravesite of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav.

Netanyahu and coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu have been pushing for a ban on Israelis visiting the pilgrimage site, fearing it will become a vector for a large outbreak.

Ukraine is one of the few countries that allow in Israeli nationals.

US FDA chief sorry for overstating plasma benefits

Responding to an outcry from medical experts, US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn on Tuesday apologized for overstating the life-saving benefits of treating COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma.

Scientists and medical experts have been pushing back against the claims about the treatment since President Donald Trump’s announcement on Sunday that the FDA had decided to issue emergency authorization for convalescent plasma, taken from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus and rich in antibodies.

Trump hailed the decision as a historic breakthrough even though the treatment’s value has not been established. The announcement on the eve of Trump’s Republican National Convention raised suspicions that it was politically motivated to offset critics of the president’s handling of the pandemic.

Hahn had echoed Trump in saying that 35 more people out of 100 would survive the coronavirus if they were treated with the plasma. That claim vastly overstated preliminary findings of the Mayo Clinic observation.

US President Donald Trump looks on as a patient donates plasma at the American Red Cross national headquarters in Washington, July 30, 2020. (Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

Young ultra-Orthodox men were among the first participants in the study and have made up a large percentage of plasma donors.

The 35% figure drew condemnation from other scientists and some former FDA officials, who called on Hahn to correct the record.

“I have been criticized for remarks I made Sunday night about the benefits of convalescent plasma. The criticism is entirely justified. What I should have said better is that the data show a relative risk reduction, not an absolute risk reduction,” Hahn tweeted.

— AP and JTA

Gantz speaks to UAE counterpart on defense cooperation

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks on the phone with his UAE counterpart Mohammed Ahmad al-Bowardi for the first time, their offices say.

“We share important security interests. Cooperation will strengthen the stability of the region,” Gantz’s office says.

According to a statement by the Emirates’ official news agency WAM, al-Bowardi, UAE minister of state for defense affairs, and Gantz expressed their hope that a proposed normalization treaty between the two countries would “strengthen the opportunities for peace and stability in the region,” as well as channels for communication and strong bilateral relations between the countries.

— Judah Ari Gross and Aaron Boxerman

Netanyahu denies asking Ukraine to limit pilgrimage

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seemingly pushing back against claims by Ukraine’s president that he asked Kyiv to limit the number of Jewish pilgrims allowed to visit Uman for the Jewish New Year.

“As made clear in a joint statement of Israel and Ukraine published last week, the prime minister and president advised not going to Uman because of the virus situation, but noted and emphasized that it is [the responsibility of] those who decide to go to Uman to keep to health guidelines,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office says, according to Ynet.

Last week, coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu sent a letter to Ukraine’s president asking him to limit or ban Israeli pilgrims from visiting the town, which normally sees some 30,000 Jewish pilgrims for Rosh Hashanah.

The move drew anger from ultra-Orthodox politicians in Netanyahu’s coalition.

Helmet cam footage shows arrest of terror suspect

The police have released footage from the helmet-camera of a counterterrorism police officer who was part of a late-night raid to arrest a suspected Palestinian terrorist believed to have carried out a stabbing attack last week.

In the video, the officers can be seen locating the suspect in a storage room in a building on the outskirts of Jenin, after first sending an attack dog into the structure.

“Out of concern that the suspect may be armed, the members of the [counterterrorism] unit sent an attack dog into the building, who located the suspect and assisted in the arrest,” the police says.

The police add that a knife was found in the suspect’s possession when he was arrested.

— Judah Ari Gross

Biden-backers bash ‘errand boy’ Pompeo ahead of Jerusalem address

Democrats are unloading on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ahead of his planned address to the Republican National Convention from Jerusalem.

An aide to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden who has worked for the State Department calls Pompeo’s Tuesday speech “flat out disgraceful.” Aide Bill Russo says it’s “an abuse of taxpayer money.”

Another top Biden deputy, Kate Bedingfield, blasts Pompeo as President Donald Trump’s “errand boy” and says he has a record of “repeated and blatant use of his office for overtly political purposes.”

Secretaries of state regularly travel abroad on behalf of a US administration’s agenda, but Pompeo’s speech to a party convention from foreign soil is an outlier.

Pompeo is in Khartoum, Sudan, but pre-recorded the speech Monday night from Jerusalem’s King David hotel, using the city as a backdrop. The Trump administration has consistently used its pro-Israel policies related to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as a campaign talking point.

Russo mocks Pompeo’s explanation that he will address the GOP convention on personal time. Russo notes that the speech is still part of “official travel” and that taxpayer money “got him there” and is “paying for his protection” and for “the staff on the ground” with him.

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says Pompeo’s move “violates his own policy.” Booker referred to Pompeo’s “memos and instructions” sent recently to his department’s employees forbidding political work while on official travel, even on one’s own time.

— AP

Burhan asks Pompeo what Sudan will get for normalization — official

Sudan has not released any details about a meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sovereign Council leader Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan.

However, a Sudanese military official says their talks focused on “the next step toward normalization and incentives that Sudan will gain.”

He speaks on condition of anonymity because of he is not authorized to brief reporters.

Burhan has reportedly pushed for normalization with Israel and met secretly with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Uganda earlier this year.

— with AP

Washington chews out Turkey for hosting Hamas heads

The US State Department is condemning Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for hosting two leaders of the Hamas terror group in Istanbul over the weekend.

Erdogan met with Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh and top Hamas commander Saleh al-Arouri on Saturday for closed door talks.

“President Erdogan’s continued outreach to this terrorist organization only serves to isolate Turkey from the international community, harms the interests of the Palestinian people, and undercuts global efforts to prevent terrorist attacks launched from Gaza,” Foggy Bottom says in a statement.

“We continue to raise our concerns about the Turkish government’s relationship with Hamas at the highest levels. This is the second time President Erdogan has welcomed Hamas leadership to Turkey this year, with the first meeting occurring February 1,” it adds.

Erdogan also spoke to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas by phone on Friday.

Turkey’s government is a key backer of Hamas, which the US has designated a terror group, but is also closely allied with the US. Erdogan and US President Donald Trump are thought to have a close working relationship.

Pompeo says he discussed Israel ties with Sudanese leaders

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo writes on Twitter that he discussed “deepening the Sudan-Israel relationship,” with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the ruling sovereign council.

“Met with Sudanese Sovereign Council Chair General Burhan to reaffirm US support for the civilian-led transitional government and support for the deepening Israel-Sudan bilateral relationship,” reads a tweet on Pompeo’s official account.

He also tweets that he met with Hamdok “to underscore U.S. support for Sudan’s democratic transition and discuss Sudan’s commitment to deepening the Sudan-Israel relationship,” reads a tweet on his official account.

Hamdok earlier described his meeting with Pompeo as “great” and tweeted in English that they had a “direct & transparent conversation” about removing Sudan from the US terror list, bilateral relations and the US government’s support for the civilian-led transitional government in Sudan.

However, he appeared to push back against the idea of making peace with Israel.

The prime minister urged the Trump administration not to link the removal of Sudan’s name from its list of state sponsors of terrorism to the normalization of ties with Israel, said Information Minister Fasial Saleh.

“The transitional government does not have the mandate … to decide on normalization with Israel. This matter will be decided after the completion of the transitional authority,” said Saleh. He was referring to the legislative body which has yet to be formed.

State Department says Sudan terror delisting a ‘critical priority’

In an official statement, State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok today in Khartoum discussed “continued US support for the civilian-led transitional government and noted that rescission of Sudan’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation remains a critical bilateral priority for both countries.”

The statement adds that “the Secretary and Prime Minister also discussed positive developments in the Sudan-Israel relationship.”

He also urged the Sudanese leader to protect Darfuris and other marginalized groups, and urged justice for those responsible for abuses against the groups.

Nearly 2,100 new coronavirus infections over last 24 hours

Figures released by the Health Ministry show that there have been 2,091 new cases of the coronavirus confirmed in the last 24 hours, as daily infection numbers continue to tick up after sliding slightly downward in recent weeks.

The number of deaths rises to 858, two more than an update this morning, but 14 more than 24 hours ago.

There are 427 patients in serious condition, including 121 being treated on ventilators.

Authorities: 29 fires sparked by suspected Gaza balloons

Israel’s fire service says there have been 29 fires started in southern Israel Tuesday sparked by suspected balloon-borne incendiary devices lofted from Gaza.

It says most of the fires were small and posed no danger to people or property.

Most of them have been centered in the Sha’ar Hanegev, Eshkol, and Merhavim regional councils.

Analyst: Pompeo flubbed attempt to bully Sudan into ties with Israel

Sudan expert Marc Lavergne of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) says signals out of Khartoum show that the US bungled its bid to get Sudan to normalize relations with Israel.

He calls Tuesday’s developments “a failure for the Americans, who thought they could force a poor and fragile country like Sudan to normalize its relations with Israel.”

“But the Sudanese government reacted wisely,” he says. Sudan “is already divided enough, there’s no need to add more with (the question of) normalization with Israel, on which there’s no consensus. Sudan has other fish to fry with all the problems it has.”

— AFP

Second cabinet member tests positive for virus in days

Deputy Public Security Minister Gadi Yevarkan (Likud) has tested positive for the coronavirus, the Knesset spokesperson says.

Yevarkan is the second member of the government to test positive for the virus in three days, after Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata (Blue and White) tested positive on Sunday, sending several lawmakers into quarantine, including Yevarkan.

Minister of Public Security Amir Ohana (right) is seen with Deputy Minister of Public Security Gadi Yevarkan (left), at a ceremony in Jerusalem on May 18, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yevarkan was present at the Knesset on Monday and lawmakers who were in contact with him are being asked to stay away from the plenum until further instructions are given, the spokesperson says.

On Monday, Yevarkan wrote on Facebook that he had met with Tamano-Shata last week, and was pulled out of a committee meeting on police violence after being told he needed to enter quarantine.

“Despite the fact that I keep Health Ministry rules and always wear a mask, it was decided that I should quarantine out of an abundance of caution,” he wrote on Facebook.

He added that he felt fine.

Lawmakers from across the spectrum have been criticized for disregarding their own rules regarding social distancing and mask-wearing, often appearing close together, and failing to cover their mouth and nose.

Security Council says no backing for US bid to snap back Iran sanctions

The president of the UN Security Council has rejected the Trump administration’s demand to restore all UN sanctions on Iran, drawing an angry rebuke from the US ambassador, who accuses opponents of supporting “terrorists.”

Indonesia’s ambassador to the UN, Dian Triansyah Djani, whose country currently holds the rotating council presidency, makes the announcement in response to requests from Russia and China to disclose the results of his polling of the views of all countries on the 15-member council.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted last Thursday that the United States has the legal right to “snap back” UN sanctions, even though President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers that was endorsed by the UN Security Council.

All the council members, except the Dominican Republic, had informed the council president that the US administration’s action was illegal because Trump withdrew in 2018 from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

“Having contacted the members and received letters from many member countries it is clear to me that there is one member which has a particular position on the issues, while there are significant numbers of members who have contesting views,” Djani says at the end of a virtual meeting.

“In my view there is no consensus in the council,” Djani said. “Thus, the president is not in the position to take further action.“

The US mission to the UN later issues a statement saying that “the fact that some council members expressed disagreement with our legal position in an informal VTC (virtual meeting) does not have any legal effect.”

“The Trump administration has no fear in standing in limited company in this matter in light of the unmistakable truth in guiding our actions,” US Ambassador Kelly Craft says. “I only regret that the other members of this council have lost their way and now find themselves standing in the company of terrorists.”

— AP

First commercial Israel-UAE flight to take off next week — US

US officials say the first commercial Israel-UAE flight is scheduled for next week.

It says American and Israeli delegations will be on board. That includes US advisor Jared Kushner, Channel 12 news reports.

— with AP

El Al likely to shuttle delegations from Israel to Abu Dhabi

The first Israel-UAE commercial flight will travel from Israel to Abu Dhabi, likely on an El Al airliner, US officials say. It will carry a US delegation headed by President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and national security adviser Robert O’Brien, the officials say.

They say the Israeli delegation would be made up of experts in the fields of aviation, space, health and banking.

The flight would indicate Saudi support for the deal, assuming it overflies the country’s territory, a first for an Israeli plane. The Saudis have voiced lukewarm support and until now have not said whether they would allow the two countries to use the kingdom’s airspace for direct flights.

Without Saudi acquiescence, flights will likely have to take a roundabout and potentially risky route around Yemen and through the Persian Gulf, adding hours to the travel time.

— AP

Pompeo arrives in Manama, phones MBZ to chat about Israel ties

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has arrived in Bahrain from Sudan, Reuters reports, the latest stop on his whirlwind tour of the region meant to drum up support for Arab normalization with Israel.

Pompeo has also spoken to UAE de-facto ruler Mohammed Bin Zayed al Nahyan, the Emirates’ WAM state news agency reports.

“During the call, they tackled several regional and international issues of mutual interest, foremost of which is the ‘Peace Accord’ between the UAE and Israel and the prospects for strengthening it in a way that serves the foundations of peace and stability in the region,” WAM says.

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Israel releases pictures of Palmyra from new spy satellite

The Defense Ministry has released some of the first photographs taken by Israel’s newest spy satellite, showing ancient ruins in the central Syrian city of Palmyra.

On July 6, the Defense Ministry launched the Ofek 16 into orbit and a week later activated its powerful camera arrays, but did not release the images taken by the satellite until now.

The three detailed black-and-white photographs focused on two main sites in Palmyra: a Roman amphitheater and the Temple of Bel, or Ba’al.

A Defense Ministry spokesperson says there is no hidden significance to the specific locations in Syria.

In 2018, shortly after Israel launched the satellite’s predecessor, the Ofek 11, the Defense Ministry released its first images, showing Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s palace, in what was seen as a tacit threat against the strongman, who is closely allied with Iran and the Hezbollah terror group.

— Judah Ari Gross