Palestinian soccer chief: Ban for Messi comments ‘political,’ pushed by Israel
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Netanyahu: Closer ties to Arab world the silver lining of ‘bad’ Iran deal

PM says 2015 nuclear agreement is leading to ‘gradual normalization’ with countries in the region ‘like never before’

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a holiday toast event for Local Council chairmen at Airport City, ahead of the Jewish New Year, on August 30, 2018. (Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a holiday toast event for Local Council chairmen at Airport City, ahead of the Jewish New Year, on August 30, 2018. (Flash90)

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

Duterte: Israel and the Philippines ‘share the same passion for peace’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu extends a warm welcome to controversial Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

The two leaders oversee the signing of three agreements in trade, science and caregiving. Netanyahu highlighted the countries’ long friendship: how the Philippines took in Jewish refugees after World War II and was the only Asian nation to vote for Israel’s establishment.

Netanyahu tells Duterte: “We remember our friends and that friendship has blossomed over the years and especially over the last few years.”

Duterte has been accused of condoning human rights abuses in his deadly drug crackdown and has made controversial comments about the Holocaust.

The 73-year-old Duterte says Israel and the Philippines “share the same passion for peace. We share the same passion for human beings.”

“But we also share the same passion of not allowing a country to be destroyed by those who [have] corrupt ideologies,” he adds in an apparent reference to his highly criticized drug crackdown.

“In this sense, Israel can expect any help that the Philippines can extend,” he adds.

— Agencies and Raphael Ahren

Iran FM meets Assad as Syria showdown looms

Iran’s foreign minister holds talks with officials in Syria as Syrian forces and their allies prepare for an assault on the last opposition stronghold in the country.

Syria’s foreign ministry and Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency say Mohammad Javad Zarif is received by Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad upon his arrival in Damascus, and was to meet later with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Iran has lent crucial military and economic support to Assad throughout the seven-year civil war and the discussions are expected to focus on the looming battle for Idlib.

Assad has vowed to defeat the opposition in its last refuge in the northwestern province if the rebels do not surrender to government rule.

Idlib and the surrounding area is home to some 3 million people — nearly half of them already displaced more than once by the civil war — choosing to live in opposition areas. UN officials believe an offensive on Idlib would trigger a wave of displacement that could uproot an estimated 800,000 people and discourage refugees from returning home.

Thousands of government troops and allied fighters have been massing in areas surrounding the province.

— AP

Gaza-area farmers farmers to file war crimes complaint against Hamas

A group of Israeli farmers is filing a war crimes complaint at the International Criminal Court in The Hague today against Hamas over the torching of thousands of acres of farmland in recent months.

The farmers want prosecutors to investigate leaders of Hamas, the terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip, for allegedly issuing “orders” to Palestinians to breach the territory’s border with Israel and fly kites and balloons carrying flammable material inside Israeli territory.

“What they are trying to do is to burn us, not just our fields. It’s a war crime and a crime against humanity,” farmer Ofer Lieberman tells Israeli Army Radio ahead of his arrival at The Hague.

The flying of kites carrying burning material has become a widely adopted tactic during the weekly “March of Return” clashes on the Gaza border, which Israel accuses Hamas of orchestrating and using as a cover to carry out attacks.

— with AP

Libyan police say 400 prisoners escaped amid Tripoli clashes

Some 400 prisoners escaped from a jail in the Libyan capital, authorities say, as fighting between rival militias that has killed dozens of people forced the UN-backed government to declare a state of emergency in and around Tripoli.

The inmates overwhelmed guards and forced open the doors of the Ain Zara prison after riots broke out there, police say in a statement posted on Facebook. The prisoners included many supporters of the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi who had been found guilty of killings during the 2011 uprising that ended his rule and plunged the country into chaos.

The fighting in Tripoli erupted last week when the Seventh Brigade, militias which hail from Tarhouna, a town about 40 miles (60 kilometers) south of Tripoli, attacked southern neighborhoods of the capital. The Tripoli Revolutionaries’ Brigades and the Nawasi Brigade, militias which support the UN-backed government, have come to the city’s defense.

At least 47 people, including civilians, have been killed, and another 130 have been wounded, the Health Ministry says.

— AP

Study finds around half Israeli adults overweight

Around half of Israeli adults over 20 are overweight, according to a study released by the Central Bureau of Statistics.

The study finds that 55 percent of men and 41% of women are overweight, and that 24% of women dieted regularly as compared to 18% of men.

Over half of women, 58%, said they wanted to lose weight, while 46% of men said they wanted to lose weight.

Last year, an OECD study similarly found that over half of Israeli adults were overweight or obese.

Iran’s Zarif says ‘terrorists must be purged’ from Syria’s Idlib

Iran’s foreign minister says at the start of a visit to Damascus that “terrorists must be purged” from Syria’s Idlib and the entire northwestern province returned to government control.

Mohammad Javad Zarif’s comments in Damascus are reported by the semi-official Fars news agency and come as Syrian forces and their allies are preparing for an assault on Idlib, the last opposition stronghold in the country.

“Syria’s territorial integrity should be safeguarded and all tribes and groups, as one society, should start the reconstruction process, and the refugees should return to their homes,” Zarif says.

He is meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, who is just back from a visit to Moscow, and was to meet later with Syrian President Bashar Assad. The visit comes days before the leaders of Iran, Turkey, and Russia are expected to meet in Iran to discuss the situation in Idlib.

Zarif says it was necessary to consult “with our Syrian friends” ahead of the September 7 summit, according to Fars.

— AP

Monitor: 3 pro-regime fighters killed in alleged Israeli strike in Syria

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor raises the number of pro-regime fighters killed in Saturday’s airstrike on a military airport outside Damascus to three.

The Observatory says the strike on Mazzeh airbase is “believed to be caused by an Israeli missile…which caused successive explosions in ammunition depots.”

It says another 10 military personnel were injured in the strike, and the number of casualties is expected to rise because a number of them are in critical condition.

Philippine leader Duterte visits Yad Vashem

Visiting Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is paying respects at the Yad Vasham Holocaust memorial after meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The visit has already been criticized, mainly due to Duterte’s comments in 2016 when he likened himself to Adolf Hitler. He later apologized and said he had been misunderstood.

Germany says Amsterdam stabbing suspect is asylum-seeker

German authorities say that an Afghan man suspected in the stabbing of two American tourists at Amsterdam’s main railway had applied for asylum in Germany and had not been considered a security threat.

German Interior Ministry spokesman Harald Neymanns confirms that the suspect, a 19-year-old man identified under Dutch privacy rules only as Jawed S, is registered as an asylum seeker in Germany.

Neymanns says German federal police have no information that the suspect was considered a threat to security or even as a person of interest.

Authorities have said that based on his initial comments the man had a “terrorist motive.”

The suspect is due to appear before an investigating judge later today at a hearing in the hospital where he is recovering after being shot by police.

— AP

Israelis welcome at judo tournament in Abu Dhabi

The International Judo Federation says Israelis will be able to compete equally at the upcoming Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, after the UAE apparently reversed its policy of restricting the participation of athletes from the Jewish state.

Last month, the federation stripped the United Arab Emirates and Tunisia from hosting two international tournaments due to their failure to guarantee equal treatment of Israeli athletes.

The statement released today praised the UAE for taking a “huge step forward in establishing and promoting peaceful relationships between all nations of the world.”

“The historic decision will thus allow all nations to display their national insignia and national anthem, including Israel,” the statement says.

Palestinian soccer chief: Ban for Messi comments ‘political,’ pushed by Israel

The head of the Palestinian football association is pledging to appeal against FIFA’s 12-month ban for comments he made about Lionel Messi, calling it an “unjust and political decision.”

FIFA last month banned Jibril Rajoub from attending matches for a year and fined him 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,600, 17,700 euros) for “inciting hatred and violence” after calling on fans to burn pictures and jerseys of Barcelona star Messi in the build-up to a friendly game with Israel. The game was later canceled after Argentina withdrew.

In his first press conference since the ban was announced, Rajoub denies wrongdoing.

“This is an unjust and political decision, an Israeli decision,” he says, pointing out the complaint came from the Israeli FA, not the Argentinians.

“Of course we respect the FIFA committees and will continue to respect them and abide by their decisions. On this basis we have decided to appeal and we will continue our efforts to fight the injustice occurring against the Palestinian union and the Palestinian players.”

“We had hoped that FIFA would work to end the suffering of Palestinian athletes,” he adds.

— AFP

Police: No evidence of arson in Jaffa fire that killed 2

Police say there is no evidence the fire thay killed a Jaffa couple early yesterday morning was started deliberately.

A 14-year-old boy was detained overnight for his suspected involvement in the blaze, but the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court ordered him released this morning.

The fire broke out just after 3:30 a.m. on the ground floor of a secondhand store in the Jaffa flea market. The victims, who had ten children between them, owned the store and lived above it.

German government urges Chemnitz protesters to shun neo-Nazis

Germany’s government is urging those aggrieved by the suspected killing of a man by migrants in Chemnitz to distance themselves from far-right extremists who have participated in violent, xenophobic protest marches in the eastern city over the past week.

The fatal stabbing of 35-year-old carpenter Daniel Hillig in the eastern city on Aug. 26 sparked a series of rallies, some of which erupted into violence. Protesters looked on as neo-Nazis performed the stiff-armed ‘Hitler salute,’ chanted “foreigners out” and harassed journalists covering the demonstrations.

“If one doesn’t think this way it would be good to draw a clear line and distance oneself from those who are doing that,” says government spokesman Steffen Seibert.

He echoes comments by Chemnitz mayor Barbara Ludwig, who told a rally in the city Saturday that people who repeatedly join protests by far-right extremists “strengthen the right-wing, violent scene.”

The tension that has built up over the past week in Chemnitz reflects the growing polarization over Germany’s ongoing efforts to come to terms with an influx of more than 1 million refugees and migrants to the country since 2015.

Authorities say a 22-year-old Iraqi and a 23-year-old Syrian have been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter in the Chemnitz killing.

— AP

At Yad Vashem, Duterte says Philippines will fight ‘insane rulers’ like Hitler

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte calls Adolf Hitler “insane” during a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, and says his country would fight against other such leaders.

“I cannot imagine a country that obeys an insane ruler, and I hope it never happens again,” he says according to the Kan public broadcaster. “We Filipinos will make sure it does not happen again as much as we can.”

Duterte’s visit to Israel’s national Holocaust memorial has been criticized, mainly due to his comments in 2016 when he likened himself to Adolf Hitler in pledging to kill millions in the drug trade.

Duterte later apologized for the Hitler comment and Holocaust reference, but not for the pledge to continue his ruthless war on drugs.

Putin to visit Iran on Friday for tripartite talks on Syria

The Kremlin says the leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey would on Friday hold a tripartite summit in Iran seeking an end to the Syrian conflict.

In a statement confirming the date of September 7 that was reported earlier by Turkish media, the Kremlin says Putin will “make a working visit to Iran” for the talks.

He and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will consider “further joint efforts to ensure long-term normalization of the situation in Syria,” the Kremlin says.

Putin also plans bilateral talks with each of the leaders, the statement adds.

— AFP

At Yad Vashem, Duterte says ‘never again’

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte concludes his visit to Yad Vashem by saying he hopes the world has learned from the Holocaust.

“Never again. May the world learn the lesson from this horrific and benighted period of human history,” he writes in the guestbook. “May the hearts of peoples around the world remain forever open, and may the minds of all men and women learn to work together towards providing a safe haven for all those who are being persecuted.”

Duterte drew outrage two years ago when he compared his brutal anti-drug campaign to the Holocaust, and himself to Hitler, saying he would be “happy to slaughter” 3 million addicts. He later apologized for the Hitler comment and Holocaust reference, but not for the pledge to continue his ruthless war on drugs.

Prisons official: Plot thwarted to kidnap Israeli soldier by Palestinian terrorist

The Prison Service’s chief intelligence officer says a plot by a Palestinian security prisoner to kidnap an Israeli soldier from inside jail has been thwarted.

Yuval Biton tells a conference in Herzliya the kidnapping was planned by Muhammad Naifeh, a commander in Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, who was the mastermind behind deadly terror attack in Kibbutz Metzer in 2002 in which five Israelis were killed.

Naifeh is serving 13 life sentences at the Gilboa prison for planning the massacre.

Biton does not offer any further details of Naifeh’s alleged plot, but says the incident highlights how some Palestinian security prisoners continue to plan abductions from their cells, hoping they will be swapped in a future prisoner exchange, because “they know that no other alternative exists.”

Palestinian shot in alleged Hebron-area stabbing attempt

A Palestinian man is shot after attempting to stab an IDF soldier in the Kiryat Arba settlement near the West Bank city of Hebron, according to initial reports from first responders.

It is not immediately clear if the Palestinian man was killed or wounded.

The Israeli military confirms that an attempted stabbing took place, but a spokesperson says the details of the event are still being investigated.

No Israelis are reported injured in the incident.

— Judah Ari Gross

Alleged Hebron attacker killed during stabbing attempt

The Palestinian man who attempted to stab Israeli soldiers in the Kiryat Arba settlement near the West Bank city of Hebron was killed by troops during the attack.

Photos and videos uploaded to social media show the man in a body bag being taken from the scene by first responders.

UNRWA schools in Lebanon defy funding cuts, open on time

United Nations schools for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are starting the new school year on time, despite the US decision to cancel funding to the international body’s Palestinian relief agency.

Students looked giddy as they arrived at the Haifa Intermediate School in Beirut’s Bir Hassan neighborhood and sat attentively through their first language, history, and math lessons of the year.

Claudio Cordone, director of UNRWA affairs in Lebanon, calls it a “joyful day,” and called on donor nations to fill the deficit left behind by the US decision announced Friday.

— AP

UNRWA chief: 5.4 million Palestinian refugees ‘cannot be wished away’

The head of UNRWA says that the 5.4 million Palestinians considered refugees by the UN “cannot simply be wished away,” hitting back at criticism that his agency was responsible for perpetuates the Palestinian refugee issue.

In an open letter to refugees and UNRWA staff, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl expresses “deep regret and disappointment at the nature of the US decision” to defund the agency.

Israel, and more recently the US, have accused UNRWA of granting refugee status to the descendants of Palestinians displaced in the 1948 War of Independence.

But Krahenbuhl says “the protracted nature of the Palestine refugee crisis” is not unique, and notes that the children and grandchildren of refugees from Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, and Congo have been recognized by the UN as refugees.

“No matter how often attempts are made to minimize or delegitimize the individual and collective experiences of Palestine refugees, the undeniable fact remains that they have rights under international law and represent a community of 5.4 million men, women, and children, who cannot simply be wished away,” he says.

Romanian official compares president to Hitler

A Romanian government adviser sparks outrage after posting a video clip comparing the country’s president to Hitler as political tensions simmer after mass anti-corruption protests last month.

The clip shows an altered photo of centre-right President Klaus Iohannis, a strong government critic and ethnic German, sporting a hairstyle and moustache like Adolf Hitler.

Under the photo, it reads “Heil Iohannis,” with a Nazi salute.

The video, posted by the left-wing government’s advisor, Darius Valcov, on Facebook, also describes the group Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania (FDGR), which Iohannis led until 2013, as a “Nazi organization.”

Valcov, a former finance minister of the ruling Social Democrats who is appealing an eight-year-prison sentence for corruption meted out by a court in February, removed the video after a flood of outraged comment.

— AFP

Incoming Colombian president won’t reverse recognition of Palestinian state

Colombia’s new president, Ivan Duque, says he will not reverse the lame-duck decision last month of his predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, to recognize a Palestinian state. “I would have like more debate, but a government governs until the last day,” he tells a local radio station. “The recognition is irreversible.”

Santos, a close ally of Israel, recognized the state of Palestinian state several days before the inauguration of his successor in a surprise move.

— Raphael Ahren

Netanyahu: Closer ties to Arab world the silver lining of ‘bad’ Iran deal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says closer ties between Israel and the Arab world is a silver lining of the otherwise “bad” Iran nuclear deal.

Speaking at the Foreign Ministry, Netanyahu says that the 2015 nuclear agreement with Isran was a “bad agreement in every respect, except for one thing: it brought us closer to the Arab world in ways like never before.”

In addition, Netanyahu says that there is “gradual normalization” between Israel and Arab countries.

US reportedly warned Israel not to strike Iraq

US officials recently warned Israel not to strike Iraq, the Kan public broadcaster reported, as Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman signaled the IDF could target Iranian military targets in Iraq if they threatened the Jewish state.

Arab sources tell the broadcaster that the US asked Israel not to carry out any airstrikes in Iraqi territory, reportedly saying “please leave Iraq to us.”

The report says the American warning came several weeks ago, before Tehran deployed ballistic missiles on Saturday, inside Iraq, that are capable of hitting Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Eurovision demands Israel host event without political, Shabbat restrictions

Hadashot news publishes the list of requirements that European Broadcasting Union sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for Israel to host next year’s Eurovision song contest.

  1. Granting entry visas to participants and fans regardless of political views.
  2. Unrestricted travel around Israel regardless political views, religion, or sexual orientation.
  3. Free press access and commitment to free expression for all participants and udelegations.
  4. Removal of all religious restrictions, including holding rehearsals on Shabbat.
  5. Complete independence from the Kan public broadcaster in editing the broadcast.

EU’s Mogherini to meet Arab party chief in Brussels tomorrow

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is set to meet Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint (Arab) List in Brussels tomorrow.

Odeh requested the meeting months ago.

Mogherini “regularly meets government representatives and parliamentarians of partner countries, both from the government and opposition,” a spokersperson for the EU embassy in Ramat Gan says.

“Israel is no exception, being a close partner to the EU for many years, with whom the EU has a strong relationship based on dialogues at multiple levels with all facets of society and with political leaders from across the spectrum.”

Mogherini is currently hosting a conference for EU ambassadors from across the globe. “In Israel and Palestine, tensions rise and the two-state solution is getting dramatically out of reach,” she said in her opening speech.

— Raphael Ahren

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Palestinian soccer chief: Ban for Messi comments ‘political,’ pushed by Israel

The head of the Palestinian football association is pledging to appeal against FIFA’s 12-month ban for comments he made about Lionel Messi, calling it an “unjust and political decision.”

FIFA last month banned Jibril Rajoub from attending matches for a year and fined him 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,600, 17,700 euros) for “inciting hatred and violence” after calling on fans to burn pictures and jerseys of Barcelona star Messi in the build-up to a friendly game with Israel. The game was later canceled after Argentina withdrew.

In his first press conference since the ban was announced, Rajoub denies wrongdoing.

“This is an unjust and political decision, an Israeli decision,” he says, pointing out the complaint came from the Israeli FA, not the Argentinians.

“Of course we respect the FIFA committees and will continue to respect them and abide by their decisions. On this basis we have decided to appeal and we will continue our efforts to fight the injustice occurring against the Palestinian union and the Palestinian players.”

“We had hoped that FIFA would work to end the suffering of Palestinian athletes,” he adds.

— AFP