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Israeli diplomat confirms Turkey giving citizenship to Hamas members

Roey Gilad says a dozen members of terror group have received, or are in process of receiving, Turkish passports

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Hamas terrorist movement chief Ismail Haniyeh, prior to their meeting in Istanbul, February 1, 2020. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Hamas terrorist movement chief Ismail Haniyeh, prior to their meeting in Istanbul, February 1, 2020. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)

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

Man critically injured in stabbing outside Petah Tikva

A man is found in critical condition after being stabbed at the Segula Junction outside Petah Tikva, medics say.

Police say a suspect has been arrested and they are investigating the circumstances of the attack to determine if it was a terror attack.

According to the Magen David Adom ambulance service, the victim is approximately 35 years old.

Medics are performing CPR on the man as they take him to Petah Tikva’s Beilinson Medical Center, MDA says.

Judah Ari Gross

Britain backs probe into suspected poisoning of Russian opposition figure

Britain will back an independent investigation into the suspected poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Prime Minister Boris Johnson says.

“We need a full, transparent investigation into what happened. The perpetrators must be held accountable and the UK will join international efforts to ensure justice is done,” he says.

AFP

Laura now forecast to be a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane

Hurricane Laura is forecast to rapidly power up into a “catastrophic” Category 4 hurricane, even stronger than previously expected, as it churns toward Texas and Louisiana gathering wind and water that swirls over much of the Gulf of Mexico.

Satellite images show that Laura has become “a formidable hurricane” in recent hours, threatening to smash homes and sink entire communities. It has undergone a remarkable intensification, “and there are no signs it will stop soon,” the National Hurricane Center says in a briefing.

Laura’s maximum sustained winds have increased to near 110 mph (175 kph) with higher gusts, forecasters say.

“We are expecting widespread power outages, trees down. Homes and businesses will be damaged,” says Donald Jones, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Lake Charles, Louisiana, which is near the bullseye of Laura’s forecast track.

“I’m telling you, this is going to be a very serious situation,” Jones says.

A Category 4 hurricane will do catastrophic damage: “Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months,” the weather service says.

AP

Suspect in central Israel stabbing a Palestinian man in Israel illegally

The Israel Police say the suspected stabber in the attack outside Petah Tikva is a Palestinian man who entered Israel illegally.

“The suspect has been brought in for interrogation, and the motives [for the attack] are being investigated,” police say.

The victim, a 35-year-old Israeli man, was critically wounded in the stabbing. He was taken to Petah Tikva’s Beilinson Medical Center.

The hospital says he is being treated in its trauma ward.

Judah Ari Gross

Gaza reports first coronavirus death from community spread

Gaza health officials report the first death from COVID-19 since authorities detected community transmission of the coronavirus earlier this week.

The Gaza Health Ministry says the deceased was a 61-year-old man who had been put on life support and died during his transfer to a special isolation center.

Hebrew media reports identify him as a member of the Hamas terror group’s military wing.

The ministry says nine new local cases were detected Wednesday, raising the total to 15. Authorities have reported more than 100 cases and a fatality since March, but until this week they were all linked to quarantine centers for returning travelers.

with agencies

Pompeo heads to UAE after talks with Bahrain leaders

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held closed-door meetings Wednesday with Bahrain’s royal family and plans others with top officials in the United Arab Emirates amid the Trump administration’s push for Arab nations to recognize Israel.

Pompeo already traveled to Israel and Sudan on this trip through the Mideast, one that included him offering a recorded message in Jerusalem supporting President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign for the Republican National Convention. That speech cast aside his own advice to American diplomats to be apolitical and bulldozed a long tradition of non-partisanship by previous secretaries of state.

In Manama, Pompeo tweets that he met with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and his son, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, on Wednesday morning.

“We discussed the importance of building regional peace and stability, including the importance of Gulf unity and countering Iran’s malign influence in the region,” Pompeo writes.

Pompeo also says he discussed efforts to “advance greater unity among Gulf countries.” That’s as his plane flew over Qatar on its way to the United Arab Emirates, one of four Arab nations along with Bahrain now boycotting Doha over a yearslong political dispute. Typically, Bahraini and Emirati aircraft avoid Qatari airspace as they’ve closed their own airspace to Qatar Airways.

AP

Hamas military wing confirms member died of COVID-19

Hamas’s Izz al-Din al-Qassam military wing mourns the death of a member from coronavirus, calling him “a righteous knight” of the organization.

“Rabah Hassan Shaaban Lebed, 61 years, old from the Ribat mosque in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip… died today… after being infected with the coronavirus, in order to go to his Lord after a blessed life full of giving, jihad, sacrifice and defense of al-Aqsa, all for the sake of God,” the Izz al-Din al-Qassam brigades says in a statement.

Aaron Boxerman

Contradicting police, Shin Bet says suspected stabber had work permit for Israel

The Shin Bet security service denies a police claim that the suspect in the Petah Tikva stabbing was in Israel illegally.

“He had a work permit,” the security service tells The Times of Israel.

It is highly unusual for Palestinians with legal work permits to carry out attacks in Israel, having undergone significant background checks and regular screenings by Israeli security services.

Judah Ari Gross

Ukraine bans foreign nationals, thwarting Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage — reports

Hebrew media reports say Ukraine has issued a temporary ban against the entry of foreigners.

The ban will prevent the yearly mass gathering of Israeli and Jewish worshipers over Rosh Hashanah at the Uman pilgrimage site, which Israel fears could drive up coronavirus infection rates.

The reported move comes after Israel’s coronavirus czar asked Ukraine to prevent the pilgrimage.

Greece agrees to double number of Israeli tourists to 1,200 per week

Greece will allow up to 1,200 Israelis to visit per week and lift limitations on where tourists from the Jewish state can travel in the country, the Foreign Ministry announces.

The changes, which will double the figure of 600 Israelis now allowed to enter Greece each week, are set to take effect on September 1 and will be in force until September 15, according to a ministry statement.

Travel restrictions on Israelis will also be ended, allowing tourists to visit sites across Greece. Israelis are currently confined to Athens, Crete, Thessaloniki, and Corfu.

Ukraine PM says ban on foreigners to extend through September

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal announces the borders will be closed to foreigners through the end of September.

He makes the announcement at a cabinet meeting.

“Today, the government will consider closing the borders to foreign citizens almost until the end of September, of course, except for foreigners who have residence permits in Ukraine,” Shmyhal says, according to local reports.

“Unfortunately, we will have to make a decision to ban such mass events in the city of Uman. This is our responsibility, and we should not create additional huge risks for Ukrainians, and not only for them, but also for citizens of other countries,” Shmyhal says.

Stabbing victim in central Israel dies of injuries — reports

Hebrew media reports say the stabbing victim near Petah Tikva has died of his injuries.

This is not immediately confirmed by the hospital.

Army Radio says the Palestinian assailant and the Israeli victim were not acquainted. According to Channel 12, the stabbing is being investigated as a terror attack.

Interior minister makes green building codes compulsory

Interior Minister Arye Deri signs the regulations necessary to make green building codes, introduced on a voluntary basis 15 years ago, compulsory for all building and renovations.

The regulations, whose gradual implementation will start in March, follow the recommendations of an inter-ministerial steering committee headed by the Environmental Protection Ministry, which concluded that reduced energy use could save 5.9 million tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere annually by 2030.

Israel’s homes, hotels, offices and other buildings are currently responsible for 40 percent of the country’s energy consumption.

The regulations address everything from energy, water and waste to materials and innovation.

Sue Surkes

Lebanese army says Israel targeted Hezbollah-linked ‘environmental group’

In the Lebanese government’s first official statement on border tensions last night, the Lebanese military claims that Israel targeted a Hezbollah-affiliated “environmental group” with rockets.

“Helicopters belonging to the Israeli enemy targeted centers of the [Hezbollah-affiliated] Green Without Borders environmental group inside Lebanese territories, by launching 3 rockets which targeted the outlying area of Ramya, and 8 missiles which landed outside the town of Aita al-Sha’ab,” the Lebanese army says.

The Lebanese army further says that Israel launched 117 flare shells and about 100 shells, some of them explosive and the rest phosphorous in the outlying areas of the towns: Mays al-Jabal, Hula, Maroun al-Ras and Aitaroun inside Lebanese territory.

Some of the shells ignited fires in forests in the area, as well as causing material damage to a house and a goat shed.

Israel has long accused Green Without Borders of serving as a front for Hezbollah’s military wing. The United Nations and its peacekeeping troops in Lebanon UNIFIL have also acknowledged a connection between the two, including the fact that an attack against Israel by the terror group last September was apparently launched from a GWB site in southern Lebanon.

Aaron Boxerman, Judah Ari Gross

Alleged stabber named as Khalil Abd al-Khaliq Dweikat, 46

Hebrew media reports are identifying the man who allegedly carried out the stabbing attack at the Segula Junction near Petah Tikva as Khalil Abd al-Khaliq Dweikat.

Dweikat, 46, is a resident of Rujeeb, a West Bank village south of Nablus.

Police have yet to confirm the identity of the alleged stabber.

“He is an older man, with children. He’s worked in Israel for many years. There’s absolutely no way he could do something like this — what they’re saying. He just wanted to work and live, just like the rest of us here. He has a good reputation in the village,” says Nidal al-Asmar, 25, a young Palestinian man from Rujeeb who says he knew Dweikat personally.

“It’s impossible. I don’t believe it,” al-Asmar says.

Aaron Boxerman

Hospital confirms death of stabbing victim

The Beilinson hospital in Petah Tikva confirms the death of a man stabbed earlier today at the Segula Junction in a suspected terror attack.

He is not immediately named.

Ultra-Orthodox news outlets say the man, 39, was a member of the community and resident of Petah Tikva.

Egypt warns of rise in coronavirus cases

Egypt’s prime minister is warning about an increase in confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Arab world’s most populous country.

Mustafa Madbouly says his government will keep tightening its preventive measures “to avoid a new wave of the pandemic,” according to the state-run MENA news agency.

Health Minister Hala Zayed is concerned people aren’t wearing face masks or observing social distancing. She calls for police to activate penalties for those not wearing masks on public transportation.

In May, the government made wearing face masks mandatory, with violators fined 4,000 pounds (around $250) by police.

The government in July allowed the reopening of mosques, cafes and restraints, and lifted the nighttime curfew. It also reopened selected tourist destinations to international charter flights.

Egypt reported more than 97,600 infections and nearly 5,300 confirmed deaths. However, the actual numbers of infections and deaths from the coronavirus, like elsewhere in the world, are likely far higher due to limited testing and reporting.

AP

Backing Arab Peace Initiative, Bahrain appears to reject push for Israel ties

Bahrain says it is committed to the creation of a Palestinian state in talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, implicitly rejecting his push for Arab countries to swiftly normalize ties with Israel.

Pompeo was in Manama as part of a Middle East trip aimed at building more ties between the Jewish state and the Arab world after a landmark US-brokered deal with the United Arab Emirates.

However, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa says he told Pompeo that his country remains committed to the Arab Peace Initiative — which calls for Israel’s complete withdrawal from the territories captured in 1967, in exchange for peace and the full normalization of relations.

“The king stressed the importance of intensifying efforts to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict according to the two-state solution… to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” the official Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reports.

The US chief diplomat has said he is hopeful other nations will follow the UAE, which earlier this month became only the third Arab country to agree to normalize relations with the Jewish state.

Manama, whose contacts with Israel date back to the 1990s, was the first Gulf country to welcome the UAE move and was considered a front-runner to follow in its footsteps.

AFP

Though elections averted, Blue and White and Likud still at each other’s throats

The two main coalition parties, Blue and White and Likud, continue to snipe at each other, despite an agreement earlier this week that thwarted the dissolution of the so-called unity government and averted elections — at least until December.

Blue and White’s Benny Gantz, in a briefing with ultra-Orthodox reporters, was asked whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is dividing Israel. Gantz said yes, and expressed hope that “he will stop.”

In a statement, a Likud official hits back, saying: “The State of Israel needs a functioning unity government that works on its behalf. The daily recriminations of Blue and White against Prime Minister Netanyahu and Likud are not helping. We urge them to stop trying to build a ‘government within a government’ and to unify and work together on behalf of the people of Israel.”

Palestinian man said shot in leg at West Bank checkpoint

A Palestinian man suffers moderate wounds after being shot in the leg by Israeli soldiers close to Barta’a checkpoint, southwest of Jenin in the West Bank, according to the official Palestinian Authority news agency WAFA.

Ma’amun Mohammad Saleem Qalalwa, 27, was allegedly shot by the checkpoint close to the security barrier. The report does not specify the circumstances that led to the shooting.

The Israel Defense Forces does not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Aaron Boxerman

UNIFIL investigating Israel-Hezbollah border clash

The United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon UNIFIL says it is launching an investigation into an apparent exchange of fire between the Israel Defense Forces and Hezbollah terror group along the Israeli-Lebanese border last night.

“I have launched an urgent investigation and I call on both parties to fully cooperate with UNIFIL to help determine the facts,” UNIFIL commander Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col says in a statement.

According to the IDF, shots were fired at troops operating inside Israel near the Lebanese border last night. In response, Israeli artillery fired a number of flares and smoke shells into the air as troops searched the area for potential border breaches. A short while later, Israeli aircraft also bombed a number of Hezbollah observation posts near the frontier, the Israeli military said.

“The situation along the Blue Line has since returned to calm and UNIFIL is maintaining continuous presence in the area in coordination with the parties,” according to UNIFIL.

The peacekeeping force says the IDF informed it that “there had been small arms fire from Lebanon directed against an IDF patrol in the general area of Manara.”

Judah Ari Gross

Report: Palestinian stabber was mentally ill, recently sought help

The suspected stabber in central Israel suffers from mental illness, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The Palestinian man, 46, recently sought help from the PA’s welfare services, it says.

Footage shows Petah Tikva stabber walking away from attack scene

Roadside camera footage shows the moments after the stabbing attack in Petah Tikva in which the suspected assailant, wearing a white shirt, can be seen walking away from the scene.

In the video, he can be seen crossing a road, followed by a man in a bright blue shirt. Another civilian man can then be seen chasing after him, and a short time later a police car arrives at the scene.

In additional footage from the scene, filmed by a passerby, police officers with guns drawn can be seen arresting the suspect.

Judah Ari Gross

Netanyahu stands by virus czar after criticism by Likud MK

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu throws his support behind coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu, following criticism of the top health official by a Likud lawmaker.

Netanyahu says he “appreciates his dedicated work and calls for everyone to cooperate with him,” referring to Gamzu.

Likud MK Miki Zohar had slammed Gamzu for trying to keep Israelis from traveling to Ukraine for a Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage but not seeking to halt mass protests against the premier because of alleged fear of the media.

Ukraine has since sealed the border to foreigners through September.

Airborne devices from Gaza spark 15 fires in south

Fifteen fires have been sparked today in southern Israel by airborne incendiary devices from Gaza, the Fire and Rescue Services says.

Most of the brush fires are “small and not dangerous,” it adds.

Stabbing victim said to be a father of four from Petah Tikva

The man stabbed to death in central Israel is reportedly a father of four from Petah Tikva from the ultra-Orthodox community, according to a report by the Kikar HaShabat website.

He has not yet been identified, as authorities are still notifying his family members of his murder in the suspected terror attack, it says.

UN watchdog: Iran to allow access to 2 suspected nuke sites

The UN nuclear watchdog agency says Tehran has agreed to allow inspectors in to two sites where Iran is suspected of having stored or used undeclared nuclear material.

The International Atomic Energy Agency says that Iran was “voluntarily providing the IAEA with access to the two locations specified by the IAEA and facilitating the IAEA verification activities to resolve the issues.”

It says dates for the inspections had been agreed, but does not say when they would take place.

Iran had been resisting providing access to the sites, which are thought to be from the early 2000s, before it signed the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, maintaining the IAEA had no legal basis to visit them.

The announcement came after IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi visited Iran to push for access and the head of Iran’s nuclear agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, confirmed that Iran had agreed to the inspections.

It’s unclear whether one of those sites is the warehouse flagged by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a former nuclear facility, following a Mossad operation.

AP, with TOI staff

Netanyahu tells High Court he won’t meddle in judicial, police appointments

Responding to a High Court petition to bar him from dealing with judicial appointments due to the corruption cases he is currently facing in court, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces that he will take no role in appointing senior Justice Ministry officials or the Israel Police commissioner.

“The prime minister has announced that for the sake of public clarity and without detracting from his claims [that he is legally allowed to], he will not deal with the appointment of the attorney general, state attorney and police commissioner,” says the response to the Movement for Quality Government petition presented in Netanyahu’s name.

The anti-corruption group is seeking to prevent the prime minister from being involved in the appointments of officials who could impact the corruption cases in which he is being prosecuted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Coronavirus czar cheers as Ukraine seals borders to pilgrims

Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu commends the Ukrainian government for closing its borders to foreigners during September.

The move will prevent thousands of Israeli pilgrims from visiting the pilgrimage site of Uman over Rosh Hashanah, which Israel fears will cause mass COVID-19 infection.

“This is a responsible and correct decision that will protect the health of thousands of people in Israel and Ukraine,” he says, according to Army Radio.

Ukraine’s president had announced Tuesday that Ukraine would “significantly limit” the entry of Jewish visitors for Rosh Hashanah next month at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request, but didn’t specify the degree to which the pilgrimage would be limited. The city usually sees tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews visit the grave site of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav for the Rosh Hashanah holiday, which this year begins the evening of September 18.

IDF chief visits north after border clash, ‘impressed’ by army’s response

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi visits the Northern Command to discuss last night’s exchange of fire with the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon, the military says.

“The IDF will continue to maintain a high level of readiness to defend the sovereignty of Israel and the security of its citizens as much as necessary,” the military says in a statement.

During the visit, Kohavi meets with the head of the IDF Northern Command Maj. Gen. Amir Baram and the commander of the Galilee Division Brig. Gen. Shlomi Binder, as well as other officers from the area. They discuss what occurred during the clash in which a Hezbollah cell opened fire at Israeli troops near the border and the IDF responded with airstrikes on Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon, as well as “other developments in the northern region and preparedness for possible scenarios,” the IDF says.

“The chief of staff was impressed by the operational and intelligence capabilities of the troops in the field and commended the troops level of readiness,” the military said.

Judah Ari Gross

Stabbing victim named: Shai Ohayon, 39, a father of four

The stabbing victim is identified by Hebrew media as Shai Ohayon, 39.

The Petah Tikva resident was the father of four, reports say.

 

Politicians send condolences to family of stabbing victim

Politicians condemn the stabbing attack in central Israel and send condolences to the family of the victim, Rabbi Shai Ohayon, 39.

“My heart is with the family and loved ones of Rabbi Shai Ohayon, who was murdered in cold blood,” tweets opposition leader Yair Lapid. “The fight against terrorism continues.”

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri says he’s “shocked and pained over the heinous murder of the dear yeshiva student, a beloved Bratslav Hasid, a Torah scholar and a father of four, Rabbi Shai Ohayon, who fell victim to this lowlife murderer in an attack today in Petah Tikva.”

“I send my honest condolences to his widow, children and whole family,” adds Deri.

Netanyahu vows to raze stabber’s home after fatal attack

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also sends condolences to the family of Rabbi Shai Ohayon, who was killed in a stabbing attack earlier today in central Israel.

In a tweet, the prime minister vows to bring the killer to justice.

“My wife Sara and I embrace the family, the wife and four children who were left today without a father. We will work to demolish the home of the terrorist and seek the most severe punishment,” he tweets.

A Palestinian man has been arrested over the stabbing.

Stabbing victim remembered as ‘perfect father, perfect husband’

Rabbi Shai Ohayon is mourned by relatives and friends.

“He was the perfect husband, the perfect father, the perfect son-in-law,” an unnamed relative tells the Ynet news site. “His wife is not processing [the news], she’s in shock. It’s unfathomable.”

His friend, Yosef David, tells the outlet: “God has taken a holy man… I can’t process it. This is a huge loss.”

Croatia sees record virus cases as tourism takes toll

Croatia records its highest number of daily coronavirus infections as a tricky summer tourism season brings a resurgence of COVID-19 to the Adriatic country.

The nation of 4.2 million braved the first few months of the pandemic without strict lockdown measures, recording less than 100 cases daily for several months and then almost no new infections by mid-May.

But new cases have spiked since Croatia opened its borders to tourists for the summer season, hitting more than 200 daily in late August and a record 358 on Wednesday.

AFP

Belarus Nobel Laureate interrogated by authorities, keeps quiet

Belarusian Nobel Prize-winning author Svetlana Alexievich says she refused to answer investigators’ questions after she was summoned as a witness in a criminal probe into the opposition.

Opponents of President Alexander Lukashenko formed a Coordination Council to oversee a peaceful transition of power after they rejected his claim to have won a sixth term in an August 9 presidential vote.

Lukashenko dispatched the security services to violently crack down on mass protests against his re-election and opened a criminal probe into the council, accusing its members of attempting to topple his government.

Alexievich was named a member of the council’s presidium but has not attended its sessions.

“I am completely calm. I do not feel guilty. Everything we are doing is legal and necessary,” Alexievich tells AFP as she arrived at the Investigative Committee’s headquarters in Minsk with other members of the presidium.

She left shortly afterwards, saying she had invoked her right not to testify against herself and that the council’s only goal was “to unite society.”

Alexievich, who won the Nobel Literature Prize in 2015, is an outspoken critic of Lukashenko and has supported leading opposition figure Svetlana Tikhanovskaya who fled to neighbouring Lithuania after claiming victory in the vote.

AFP

Insect spray chemical can kill coronavirus — UK study

A chemical used in insect repellent can kill the strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19, according to a preliminary study by Britain’s defense laboratory published on Wednesday.

Scientists at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) found that Citriodiol, the active ingredient in repellents such as Mosi-guard, had anti-viral properties if mixed with the virus in the liquid phase and on a test surface.

“Mixing a virus suspension with Mosi-guard spray or selected constituent components resulted in a reduction in SARS-CoV-2,” says the study.

At a high concentration, “Mosi-guard gave a significant decrease… resulting in no recoverable virus,” it adds.

Citriodiol is made from oil in the leaves and twigs of the eucalyptus citriodora tree, which is found in Asia, South America and Africa, and is already known to kill other types of coronavirus.

The work has not been externally peer-reviewed, with the Ministry of Defense saying it was intended to act “as the foundation for other scientific bodies who are researching the virus and possible solutions.”

AFP

33 fires ignited today in south by Gaza arson balloons

The fire service says the number of blazes ignited Wednesday by airborne incendiary devices from Gaza has climbed to 33.

Most of the fires in southern Israel were “small and not dangerous,” it says.

But Channel 12 says one of the fires inched dangerously close to train tracks in the Gaza periphery, nearly setting a train on fire as it passed. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

Likud: State prosecution encouraging ‘violent anarchy’

The Likud party is seething after the state prosecution says police can’t prevent protesters outside of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s home from blocking roads.

“The right to demonstrate does not include the right to block roads and violate police instructions,” the party says, according to the Ynet news site. “This is not what the rule of law and democracy looks like, but rather violent anarchy. It seems everything is kosher when it comes to an attempt to bring down Prime Minister Netanyahu.”

The anti-Netanyahu demonstrations, held twice weekly in Jerusalem, draw thousands.

Moscow announces advanced trials for new COVID-19 vaccine

The mayor of Moscow invites residents to join trials of a coronavirus vaccine that Russia approved for use earlier this month in what officials described as a breakthrough on par with the Soviet Union’s launch of the world’s first satellite in 1957.

The world’s first vaccine against the coronavirus to receive a government go-ahead has caused unease among international medical experts, who called Russia’s fast-tracked approval and failure to share any data supporting claims of the vaccine’s efficacy a major breach of scientific protocol.

Scientists around the world say any widely-used vaccine should first be tested in advanced trials involving tens of thousands of people to prove it is safe and effective before being licensed.

In his invitation to the Russian capital’s residents, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin appears to announce those kind of broad studies would be launched soon. He said the “post-registration research” will last six months and involve 40,000 people.

Sobyanin encourages Moscow residents to sign up, arguing that the vaccine was based on longtime previous research and proven to be safe.

“We all were eager to see the creation of a vaccine, and now we have it,” Sobyanin says. “Now, Moscow residents have a unique chance to become the main participants in clinical research that will help defeat the coronavirus.”

Scientists at the World Health Organization said last week that although they had begun discussions with Russia about its vaccine, they had not yet received any detailed data about it.

AP

8 more coronavirus deaths recorded since morning

The Health Ministry logs eight more coronavirus deaths since the morning, bringing the death toll to 875.

It says 1,809 new cases have been diagnosed in the past 24 hours.

Of the 20,729 active cases, 404 are in serious condition, 119 of them on ventilators. Another 165 are in moderate condition, with the rest displaying mild or no symptoms.

The ministry says 34,042 tests were conducted yesterday.

Israeli diplomat: Turkey giving citizenship to a dozen Hamas members

An Israeli diplomat confirms reports that Turkey is granting citizenship to a dozen members of the Hamas terrorist group.

“Some are in the process, some already got (the documents), but we are talking about around a dozen,” says Roey Gilad, chargé d’affaires at Israel’s Embassy in Turkey, according to Reuters.

He says Israel has evidence of the phenomenon.

“We have already one document that we will present to the government in copy,” he says. “Judging by the last experience we had by presenting a well-based portfolio to the government… and getting no reply, I must say I don’t have high hopes that something will be done this time.”

He also stresses that the Hamas members receiving Turkish passports were financing and organizing terror operations.

Pompeo adds Oman stop to Mideast tour

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will add another stop to his Middle East tour — Oman, the State Department announces.

Says the State Department: “He will conclude his trip in Oman, where he will meet with Sultan Haitham bin Tarik Al Said to promote unity among the Gulf Cooperation Council and build on the historic momentum to advance regional peace and prosperity.”

Pompeo has visited Israel, Sudan, Bahrain and the UAE following the historic normalization deal between Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi.

Likud members instructed to attack state prosecution — report

Likud lawmakers have been instructed to attack the state prosecution in response to its legal opinion on protests outside of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s home, the Haaretz daily reports.

The report comes after the party accuses the state prosecution of stoking “violent anarchy” and seeking to topple Netanyahu.

In the opinion publicized earlier, legal officials said protesters should not be placed on trial for illegal gatherings or disturbances. It also said charges should not be filed for blocking traffic unless it’s a main thoroughfare and the protest action lasts a long time.

Qatari cash won’t be distributed yet amid disagreements with Hamas — report

A Qatari grant won’t be distributed to Gaza’s residents amid disagreements between Qatar’s envoy and the Hamas leadership in the Strip, reports the Ynet news site.

Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi is in the Gaza Strip, where he arrived late Tuesday night bringing $30 million in cash, seeking to ease the Israel-Hamas tensions that have led to daily arson balloon and rocket attacks on Israel and IDF reprisal strikes. The money is earmarked to help the territory of two million people, half of whom live under the poverty line.

Al-Emadi met with Hamas officials later Tuesday night, but the negotiations have not yielded an agreement, reports Ynet, and will continue in the coming days. The funds won’t be dispersed until a deal is made.

According to the report, Hamas has laid out new demands from Israel to end the violence, which will be conveyed by Al-Emadi to the Jewish state. The demands include the entry of ventilators and coronavirus tests into the Strip, amid the first signs of community spread of the virus in the densely populated enclave.

In coalition flub, funding for school year not brought to Knesset

The legislation granting funding for schools to deal with the pandemic won’t be brought for a Knesset vote tonight, after the coalition apparently fails to gather enough lawmakers in parliament to support the bill.

“There was no majority and therefore it won’t come up [for a vote],” an official tells the Knesset channel.

The vote will now be delayed until after the school year begins on September 1, since the parliament begins a weeklong summer recess tonight.

Nasrallah says border clash with Israel ‘important and sensitive’

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah calls Tuesday night’s exchange of fire with Israel an “important and sensitive” event.

“What happened yesterday in South Lebanon is an important and sensitive measure for us. But I will not comment on it, I will instead leave it until a later point in time,” he says.

with Aaron Boxerman

Hurricane Laura now ‘extremely dangerous’ Category 4 storm

Hurricane Laura strengthened into an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm on Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center says, threatening parts of the coast of Texas and Louisiana with powerful winds and storm surge.

The Miami-based NHC says Laura is packing winds of 140 miles per hour (220 kilometers per hour) and could bring “unsurvivable” storm surge to coastal areas.

It said Laura was expected to remain a Category 4 hurricane — the second-highest on the wind scale — when it makes landfall overnight.

AFP

Egypt seeking 9 suspects in hotel gang rape

Egypt’s public prosecution says it is seeking to arrest nine suspects accused of gang-raping a woman, including seven who are on the run abroad.

The rape allegedly took place six years ago at a luxury Cairo hotel but the allegations only emerged online in July.

“The public prosecution is taking legal steps to arrest the fugitives who are accused of assaulting a young woman at the Fairmont Nile City Hotel in 2014,” a statement says.

The police informed the prosecution that “seven of the accused who face an arrest warrant have flown out of the country,” the statement says.

The prosecution said it was also trying to track down two other suspects in the case, one of whom had allegedly been “accused in a similar (rape) case.”

It does not identify the suspects.

AFP

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Lebanese army says Israel targeted Hezbollah-linked ‘environmental group’

In the Lebanese government’s first official statement on border tensions last night, the Lebanese military claims that Israel targeted a Hezbollah-affiliated “environmental group” with rockets.

“Helicopters belonging to the Israeli enemy targeted centers of the [Hezbollah-affiliated] Green Without Borders environmental group inside Lebanese territories, by launching 3 rockets which targeted the outlying area of Ramya, and 8 missiles which landed outside the town of Aita al-Sha’ab,” the Lebanese army says.

The Lebanese army further says that Israel launched 117 flare shells and about 100 shells, some of them explosive and the rest phosphorous in the outlying areas of the towns: Mays al-Jabal, Hula, Maroun al-Ras and Aitaroun inside Lebanese territory.

Some of the shells ignited fires in forests in the area, as well as causing material damage to a house and a goat shed.

Israel has long accused Green Without Borders of serving as a front for Hezbollah’s military wing. The United Nations and its peacekeeping troops in Lebanon UNIFIL have also acknowledged a connection between the two, including the fact that an attack against Israel by the terror group last September was apparently launched from a GWB site in southern Lebanon.

Aaron Boxerman, Judah Ari Gross