The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s developments as they unfolded.
IDF on standby as threats from Gaza increase over Allaan affair
The army deploys an Iron Dome anti-missile battery near Ashdod, as militant groups in the Gaza strip vow to strike Israeli targets with rocket fire if Palestinian hunger-striking prisoner Muhaצmed Allan were to perish.
The Islamic Jihad terror group in Gaza threatens to “respond with great force” if Allaan dies in Israeli custody and says his death would release the group from commitment to any ceasefire with Israel.
Allaan, who recently return to consciousness, is hospitalized in Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center. He is breathing without assistance, media reports say, although doctors are feeding him small amounts of liquids and nutrients intravenously.
Ultra-Orthodox councilmen reject Jerusalem ‘Shabbat-free’ zones
A number of ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem City Council members have slammed Mayor Nir Barkat for authorizing a plan to split the city into differing zones of Shabbat enforcement, Army Radio reports.
The council announced Tuesday that businesses in secular neighborhoods in the city’s south and west will be largely spared any legal oversight during Shabbat, meaning that establishments in those areas could remain open for business on the day of rest without facing penalties or fines. Other stores, for example in the city center, would be compelled to close on Shabbat.
Signed by three prominent Haredi councilmen including deputy mayor Yosef Deutsch, the letter to Barkat accused the municipality of circumventing the city’s legislative body, the Member City Council.
“The place to determine policy is the plenary of the City Council and any other body that does this is using powers that don’t belong to it,” the letter chided.
WATCH: ‘Hamas productions’ releases feature film on Gaza war
The armed wing Hamas, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has released a slick new documentary production titled “Ambushes of Death,” which the group says is based on actual battles and events from last summer’s conflict with Israel.
Heavily influenced, it seems, by the Islamic State’s well known audiovisual propaganda arm, the film showcases the military aptitude and battle prowess of elite Hamas fighters against IDF soldiers — and even features reasonably high levels of spoken Hebrew.
One scene illustrates a number of Hamas fighters in a tunnel underneath the Israel-Gaza border breaking the Ramadan fast mid-way through to replenish their strength before battle.
Another scene shows a Hebrew-speaking IDF general calling for backup and threatening to retreat as Hamas rocket fire lashes him from all sides.
Palestinians: French initiative to restart peace process killed by Israel, US
The Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister says that a French-sponsored UN Security Council bid to restart peace talks in the region was sunk by Israeli and American opposition, Israel Radio reports.
Riyad al-Maliki says that the US has refused to deal with the issue until after Congress votes on the Iran nuclear deal. He also adds that the Palestinians are working to harness French support to condemn Israel at the Security Council as a basis to jumpstart the talks.
Israel denies Hamas chief’s request for Israeli sisters to attend son’s wedding in Gaza
Israel rebuffed a request by Gaza-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to allow his three sisters — who are living in Israel — passageway into Gaza to attend his son’s wedding.
The IDF bureau that handles logistics in the Palestinian territories says that the request was denied because the militant group is holding a number of Israelis captive in the coastal strip.
Haniyeh’s three sisters live in a Bedouin encampment in the Jewish state.
The IDF added that yesterday it rejected an appeal to facilitate the transfer of the head of Hamas’s spokesperson office, Ihav Ghassein, though Israeli territory to Jordan for medical reasons.
Organizations from US, Israel, UK, Uruguay win disability inclusion prize
Five organizations were announced as winners of a prize given to Jewish groups that integrate people with disabilities into their services and programs.
The Ruderman Prize in Inclusion, awarded by the Ruderman Family Foundation, recognizes programs that allow people with disabilities to be fully included in the Jewish community. It aims for communities around the world to replicate the models created by the award recipients.
The prize was first given in 2012, and awards $50,000 to each recipient. This year’s recipients include:
- The Yavne Institute in Montivideo, Uruguay, a Jewish school with broad services for students with disabilities
- The YouthAbility program at Cleveland’s Jewish Family Service Association, a volunteer program for youth with disabilities
- The Kisharon Adult Employment Program in London, which finds and supports jobs for people with learning disabilities
- The Luria Academy of Brooklyn’s Room on the Bench program, which integrates students with disabilities into the New York City Jewish day school
- Beit Hillel in Raanana, Israel, a religious Zionist group that has worked to enhance the status of Jewish community members with disabilities.
“As our worldwide Jewish community begins to accept and practice the value that all Jewish people have a right to belong and participate in Jewish life, this year’s Ruderman Prize in Inclusion awardees set the standard for the rest of our community organizations to aspire to attain,” Jay Ruderman, the Ruderman Family Foundation’s president, said in a press release Monday.
Men claim to find Nazi train loaded with treasure in Poland
Two men in Poland claim they have found a legendary Nazi train that according to local lore was loaded with gold, gems and valuable art and vanished into a system of secret tunnels as the Germans fled advancing Soviet forces at the end of World War II.
Historians say the existence of the train has never been conclusively proven, but authorities are not passing up this chance at possibly recovering treasures that have sparked the imaginations of local people for decades.
“We believe that a train has been found. We are taking this seriously,” Marika Tokarska, an official in the southwestern Polish district of Walbrzych, told The Associated Press on Thursday.
She said her office has received two letters this month from a law firm representing the men, a Pole and a German who are remaining anonymous, saying they are seeking 10 percent of the value of the train’s contents for revealing its location.
She says that hiring a law firm gives credibility to the two men’s claims, as do indications that they are familiar with the train’s contents.
Already, the district governor has convened a meeting of firefighters, police and others to explore how they can safely handle the train if it is located. Not only could it be armed with explosives, but methane gas underground could add to the risk of an explosion.
“It could be dangerous,” Tokarska said.
The train is said to have gone missing in May 1945. Legend says it was armed and loaded with treasure and disappeared after entering a complex of tunnels under the Owl Mountains, a secret project known as “Riese” — or Giant — which the Nazis never finished. At the time the area belonged to Germany but now lies in Poland.
Libya wants airstrikes on local IS affiliate
Libya’s internationally recognized prime minister wants allied countries to carry out airstrikes against local Islamic State affiliates but does not want foreign ground troops, Arab or otherwise.
Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said in an interview Wednesday his government urgently needs weapons and other support to battle IS in Libya, and has been let down by the international community.
Al-Thinni wants his own ground forces to direct strikes “from an Arab coalition — either nations on their own or in clusters — to eliminate these groups.”
Al-Thinni’s government has been campaigning for the UN to lift an arms embargo in place since the 2011 revolt that overthrew and killed Muammar Gaddafi.
Libya is now split between al-Thinni’s government in the far east and a rival Islamist militia-backed government in the capital, Tripoli.
German police, refugees clash in camp after Quran pages thrown down toilet
At least 10 people were injured in a riot at a refugee shelter in central Germany over a torn Quran, police said Thursday, in fresh tensions as the country braces to host 800,000 asylum seekers this year.
Violence erupted after about 20 refugees in the overcrowded shelter went in pursuit of another resident late Wednesday, accusing him of ripping pages out of a Quran, local police said.
The man was eventually saved by the shelter’s guards as well as police, prompting the mob to turn their anger on the security forces.
About 50 people armed with steel rods began throwing stones at the officers, leaving at least 10 people injured, including three police.
Windows were smashed, furniture flung out of windows and even dividing walls in the shelter hacked down in the rampage that lasted several hours in the town of Suhl in Thuringia.
Germany is struggling to accommodate a wave of asylum-seekers from war zones such as Syria but also migrants from countries that are not at war like Albania and Kosovo.
It was not immediately clear where the victim and his assailants were from.
The sudden surge in asylum demands this year has left authorities scrambling to house the migrants, with schools and tents used as temporary shelter.
Local officials have repeatedly raised concerns of overcrowding, saying that they were unable to cope with the accelerating demand.
The refugee home in Suhl has a capacity for 1,200 people but is currently hosting 1,700.
The state premier for Thuringia, Bodo Ramelow, told public broadcaster MDR that different ethnic groups should be separated in refugee homes in order to prevent such violence from erupting.
But the authorities were hamstrung by a lack of available shelter, he added.
“We need to expand our capacity urgently,” Ramelow stressed.
Europe’s biggest economy has become the top destination for those fleeing war and persecution.
Berlin now expects to receive up 800,000 asylum-seekers this year — four times more than in 2014 — as the latest figures show numbers accelerating dramatically.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere is due to meet his French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve later Thursday in Berlin to discuss Europe’s biggest migrant crisis since World War II.
El Al to get its first female Haredi pilot
An ultra-Orthodox mother of three from Beit Shemesh has been accepted into the pilot’s course of El Al, Israel’s national flag carrier.
“Nehama,” 30, received her pilot’s license a decade ago in the US, but was initially rejected by El Al because she did not have enough flight hours, according to a report in Shemesh Net.
She spent her summers in the United States accumulating enough flight time to be accepted into the course.
2nd Iron Dome battery deployed in Beersheba
An Iron Dome anti-missile battery has been deployed beside the southern city of Beersheba as the IDF ups its level of preparedness in the face of threats from militant groups in the Gaza strip.
Another battery was positioned outside of Ashdod earlier in the day.
Militant organizations in the coastal strip, principal among them the Islamic Jihad group, have vowed to launch rocket attacks on Israel if any harm were to come to hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner Mohammed Allaan.
NY man in court for attempting to build X-ray gun to kill Muslims, defend Israel
A 51-year-old man from New York State was in court today for conspiracy to assemble an X-ray weapon that would “that would kill Israel’s enemies as they slept,” the Times Union reports.
Glendon Crawford of Providence, New York, allegedly approached two Jewish congregations in 2012 and offered to provide them with “off-the-shelf technology” that could be used to zap Muslims and “help Jews get rid of their enemies.”
Crawford, a former navy veteran and General Electric industrial mechanic was detained by the FBI and has been behind bars since. He faces a number of charges including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, and could face a 25-year jail sentence.
According to prosecutors, Crawford planned to acquire and use the X-ray to “silently eradicate Muslims.”
An administrative assistant at the Congregation Gates of Heaven in Schenectady, where Crawford paid a visit in mid-April 2012, testified that Crawford “had a plan to help Jews get rid of their enemies. I told him we don’t really have any direct contact with Israel.”
Another congregation official told the court: “I explained to him that we’re a social services organization. We don’t really have those connections.”
US envoy to Israel: Uncomfortable for such good friends to disagree this way
The US ambassador to Israel says that disagreements between the two nations are legitimate, but their acerbity has left him feeling “uncomfortable,” Ynet news reports.
“There is disagreement among us, a deep but fair disagreement on serious issues relating to both our security interests — but it would be better if there wasn’t one,” ambassador Dan Shapiro says.
“It’s not a comfortable situation for good friends to be in such a disagreement,” he added.
When asked about reports that Iran would be able to self-monitor its nuclear sites as part of the nuclear deal, Shapiro responded, “The IAEA is a very professional organization and they say they are satisfied with all the conditions [of the deal].”
Britain to reopen Iran embassy
Britain is set to open its embassy in Tehran this weekend, nearly four years after it was stormed by an violent mob angry at imposition of economic sanctions over the country’s nuclear program, the Guardian reports.
Now with the embargo set be repealed in the wake of the nuclear deal, Britain’s foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, will travel to the Islamic Republic to reopen England’s bureau in the Iranian capital.
The British embassy will be staffed initially by a cadre of diplomats — no ambassador has yet been appointed. Iran also downgraded its relations with London after the 2011 incident, and a parliament vote will be needed to fully restore bilateral ties. At the time Iranian MPs chanted “Death to Britain” as they passed that bill, the report added.
The last British foreign secretary to travel to Iran was Jack Straw in September 2001, after a brief reconciliation in ties between the Islamic Republic and the West after the 9/11 attacks left them both facing a common enemy, the Taliban.
Palestinian hunger striker showing ‘great improvement’
Dr. Hezy Levy of Israel’s Barzilai Hospital says Mohammed Allaan is showing “great improvement.”
He says Allan has been taken off a respirator and has started to communicate. Allan is “on the right path,” he adds, according to AP.
Iran says bids to sabotage Fordo plant foiled
An Iranian atomic energy official says that multiple attempts to disrupt operations at the Fordo nuclear enrichment plant have been uncovered and thwarted, Fars news reports.
“The enemy has several times sought to conduct acts of sabotage to disrupt the operation of Fordo, but these actions have all been foiled due to the vigilance of the Iranian security and intelligence forces,” Asqar Zarean, Deputy Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran says.
“Similar to the past, the enemy is seeking to prevent Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities using new instruments, and we should identify and defuse these moves with wisdom and prudence,” he says, adding that “we aim to raise awareness about the enemy, who is more hostile to us every day.”
Zarean did not disclose the identity of said “enemy,” according to the report.
IAEA chief ‘disturbed’ by reports that group is ceding inspections to Iran
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, defended his organization’s role in inspecting Iranian nuclear sites and said that he was “disturbed” by allegations that the agency has handed over its responsibilities Tehran under the nuclear accord.
“I am disturbed by statements suggesting that the IAEA has given responsibility for nuclear inspections to Iran. Such statements misrepresent the way in which we will undertake this important verification work,” Amano said in a statement.
“The separate arrangements under the Road-map agreed between the IAEA and Iran in July are confidential and I have a legal obligation not to make them public – the same obligation I have for hundreds of such arrangements made with other IAEA Member States,” he said.
“However, I can state that the arrangements are technically sound and consistent with our long-established practices. They do not compromise our safeguards standards in any way,” he added.
Sirens heard in northern Israel
An air raid siren was just heard in a number of border towns in northern Israel.
Rockets fall on northern Israel
At least two missiles have fallen on northern Israel, Israel Radio reports, adding that the IDF is conducting checks to determine the circumstances behind the attack.
No injuries or damage have yet been reported, after air raid sirens were heard in the Hula Valley in the Upper Galilee, near Lebanon.
IDF confirms that rockets were launched at Israel
The IDF has substantiated reports that missiles were fired at Israel’s north.
In a brief statement, the IDF said that “moments ago rockets were launched at Israeli territory. Sirens sounded in the Upper Galilee.”
Rockets fall near Kibbutz Shamir, Kfar Szold
According to media reports, the two rockets fired on the country’s north landed between two towns in the Hula Valley, Kibbutz Shamir and Kfar Szold.
Rockets spark wildfire
A blaze erupted in open agricultural areas in the Hula Valley, apparently sparked by two rockets that landed there.
The rockets may have been fired from Syria in the east, according to unconfirmed media reports.
Residents of northern Israel urged to stay near shelter
Residents of a number of kibbutzim and agricultural towns in northern Israel have been urged to remain near bomb shelters, after at least two rockets were fired at the area from across the border.
Residents in Shamir, Kfar Blum, Gonen, Lehavot HaBashan and Kfar Szold received the warning.
Origin of rocket fire being investigated
Israeli officials are checking to determine the location from which missiles were fired upon northern Israel.
Meanwhile, the number of rockets that landed in Israel territory has been revised to at least four.
Firefighters have been called to the scene to contain a brush fire that sparked after the missiles landed in open areas.
Rockets launched from Syrian Golan — IDF
The IDF says that four rockets were launched from the Syrian Golan Heights, with two landing in the Upper Galilee and another two in the Israeli Golan Heights. No injuries have been reported.
Israel demands full publication of Iran nuke deal — officials
Israel demands the full publication of all parts of the agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency on Tehran’s past nuclear activity, diplomatic officials say.
Responding to an Associated Press report claiming that Iran will be allowed to investigate the suspected nuclear site of Parchin itself, and the IAEA’s denial of the report, officials say that “there is just one safe way to verify this report: for the world powers to publicize all appendixes to the nuclear deal with Iran.
The more details we learn about the Iran deal the more we realize that our worries were justified and correct, the officials say.
— Raphael Ahren
Allaan ends 2-month hunger strike – lawyer
Palestinian detainee Mohammed Allaan has ended a two-month hunger strike that put his life at risk and sparked intense debate over his detention without trial by Israeli authorities, his lawyer said.
“Mohammad Allaan regained consciousness and is not on hunger strike,” Jamil al-Khatib told journalists of his 31-year-old client after Israel’s top court late Wednesday temporarily lifted his detention without trial.
Khatib spoke after visiting Allan in hospital in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon and said his health was improving, though he remained bedridden. He was receiving vitamins and minerals intravenously.
“He is in a good health condition and can communicate with others,” Khatib said. “He can’t eat food in his mouth because it needs a while. Now he is drinking water and it will be gradual, and I imagine this will be next week.”
Islamic Jihad says that Allaan, a lawyer from the West Bank, is a member of the Palestinian militant movement, as does Israel.
He has been held since November in a form of internment without trial known as administrative detention, which was temporarily lifted by Wednesday’s High Court ruling.
However, the court said he must remain in the hospital pending a final decision on his case. The ruling left open the question of what would happen if or when his health improves.
Jimmy Carter to undergo radiation therapy
Former US president and Nobel peace laureate Jimmy Carter says he has cancerous tumors on his brain and will begin radiation treatment right away.
The 90-year-old Carter told a press conference that the finding of the four melanoma spots stemmed from a procedure in which a tumor was removed from his liver.
“They did an MRI and found that there were four spots of melanoma on my brain,” Carter told reporters in Atlanta. “I get my first radiation treatment for the melanoma in my brain this afternoon.”
Carter said that as his treatment continues, it is likely doctors will find cancer elsewhere in his body.
The 39th president sounded quite serene and in high spirits as he discussed his illness. He joked with reporters and smiled often, his Georgia drawl still pronounced as he spoke.
Carter, a former peanut farmer who only served one term in office from 1977 to 1981, is arguably better known for his decades of globe-trotting humanitarian work since leaving the White House.
“I feel good. I haven’t felt any weakness or debility,” Carter said.
In fact, he said he plans to carry on teaching Sunday school.
Carter said he has received well-wishing phone calls from a host of powerful people, including President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, former president Bill Clinton and his wife and presidential hopeful Hillary, and both former presidents Bush.
“First time they’ve called me in a long time,” Carter joked, drawing guffaws at a news conference that seemed almost light hearted.
Slovakia criticized for taking in only Christian refugees
Slovakia is under fire for its preference to grant asylum to migrants who are Christian.
Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland says in a Thursday statement on Twitter: “Refusing refugees on the grounds of their religion is blatant discrimination,” adding “Slovakia should reverse its position.”
Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland in June blocked a European Union plan for member countries to take set numbers of refugees arriving in Italy and Greece. The four said they were ready to help but only on a voluntary basis.
Slovakia later announced it was ready to accept a hundred Christians from Syria and temporarily provide shelter for 500 migrants, also non-Christians, who have applied for asylum in Austria. Officials did not say whether the 500 could include non-Christians.
Israel no longer classifies Heinz as ‘ketchup’
In the United States, Heinz is nearly synonymous with ketchup, but Israel has kicked the brand out of that category of condiments all together.
Israel’s Health Ministry recently ruled that the Heinz brand product does not contain enough “tomato solids” to be labeled as ketchup in Israeli stores. It will now be relegated to the title “tomato seasoning,” Ynet reported.
The ruling was the result of a lobbying campaign by Israeli food manufacturer Osem, which produces a large portion of the ketchup consumed in Israel. Israelis have long complained that local monopolies distort the economy, and especially the food market, leading to high prices on products like cottage cheese and Milky brand pudding.
In a letter the company sent to retailers back in January, Osem claimed that it had tested Heinz ketchup in a “leading European external laboratory” and found that it only contained 21 percent tomato concentrate instead of the 61 percent it advertised to consumers. Israeli trade standards require ketchup to have at least 41 percent tomato concentrate.
Four Hamas commandos en route to Iran arrested by Egyptian secuirty
Four Hamas militants on their way to board a vessel at a Cairo port were abducted from the bus they were travelling in, by Egyptian Intelligence police.
The four were on their way from Rafiah at the southern edge of the Gaza strip to the Egyptian capital, and their final destination was Iran. The four were high ranking members of Hamas’s naval commando unit.
The report was confirmed by a high ranking Hamas official to Al Jazeera. He also added that the militant group possess sophisticated underwater scooters capable of ferrying militants underwater and deep into Israeli territory.
Cairo views the group with increasing hostility for its role in supporting a local Islamic State affiliate in Sinai that has launched multiple fatal attacks on Egyptian targets.
IDF: Islamic Jihad behind rocket fire on northern Israel
The IDF claims that the organization responsible for rocket fire on northern Israel earlier today is the Islamic Jihad group.
“The fire directed at Israeli terriorty a while ago was carried out by the Islamic Jihad organization, backed by Iranian funding and guidance. We hold Syria responsible for the shooting and it will also bear the consequences,” a statement posted on Twitter read.
הירי לעבר שטח ישראל לפני שעה קלה בוצע ע"י ארגון הג'יהאד האסלאמי במימון והכוונה איראנית. אנו רואים את סוריה האחראית לירי והיא גם תישא בתוצאות
— צבא ההגנה לישראל (@idfonline) August 20, 2015
IDF bombarding Syrian targets in retaliation to rocket fire
Israel is carrying out a number of strikes on targets in Syrian territory at this moment, according to unconfirmed reports.
The IDF said earlier that it holds the Syrian government responsible for any rocket fire on Israel — even though, according to the army, the attack was carried out by the Islamic Jihad militant group.
Rocket fire originated in area under control of Assad — report
The missile fire on northern Israel this afternoon came from the Quneitra governate — a pocket under the control of the Assad regime, Channel 10 reports.
The IDF is carrying out retaliatory fire on Syrian army positions on the Syrian side of the Golan heights.
Sen. Corker: US diplomats went to ‘great lengths’ to accommodate Iran
US Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says that the US had gone too far in accommodating the Iranian position during nuclear accord negotiations.
“This type of unorthodox agreement has never been done before by the IAEA and speaks to the great lengths our negotiators took to accommodate the Ayatollah despite repeated assurances from the administration that this deal is not based on trust,” Corker says in a statement.
IDF confirms it hit targets in Syria
The IDF has confirmed reports that it carried out retaliatory strikes in Syria this evening, after four rockets were fired on Israeli territory from Syria this afternoon.
“We attacked targets in Syria this evening,” the IDF said.
Greece’s Tsipras announces resignation, calls for snap election
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced his resignation on Thursday and called for early elections in the crisis-hit country.
“I will shortly meet with the president of the republic and present my resignation and that of my government,” Tsipras said in a televised address to the nation.
Government sources cited by the official news agency ANA said earlier he had proposed elections on September 20.
Multiple casualties in Israeli strike on Syria — reports
Arab media are reporting that there have been a number of casualties, including fatalities, following IDF retaliatory attacks on Syrian territory this evening, Walla reports.
Islamic Jihad denies reports it fired rockets on Israel
The Islamic Jihad group has posted a statement denying reports that it was responsible for rocket fire on northern Israel earlier this evening, saying that the allegations are an attempt to “avert the attention away from Mohammed Allaan.”
The group has vowed to respond with great force if any harm were to come to the hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner in Israeli administrative detention.