The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.
3rd Steinitz ex-adviser named as suspect in submarine graft probe
A third former senior aide to Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz is being questioned as a suspect in the Case 3000 investigation into Israeli naval acquisitions from Germany.
The former adviser, who worked with Steinitz during Steinitz’s 2009-2013 stint as finance minister, is being questioned under caution at the police’s anti-corruption unit Lahav 433 in Lod. His identity is currently under gag order.
Last week, Rami Taib, a veteran Israeli political operative who currently serves as Steinitz’s political adviser, was arrested as part of the investigation, on suspicion of bribery, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit a crime.
Taib is a close associate of David Sharan, a former chief of staff for both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Steinitz, who was also arrested last week on suspicion of taking bribes, fraud, breach of trust and conspiring to commit a crime.
Steinitz is not a suspect in the probe but is expected to give testimony to investigators in the coming weeks.
Sara Netanyahu to join PM on visit to Latin America — despite looming charges
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, will join her husband this evening as he departs for a 10-day trip to Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and the US, even as she faces an impending fraud indictment for misuse of state funds, the Prime Minister’s Office says.
Until hours before their departure it was unclear whether Sara Netanyahu would be joining the prime minister on his four-day trip to Latin America. In an unusual step, the PMO, in a statement about the upcoming visit issued Friday, mentioned only his name, leaving unanswered the question of whether she would be coming along.
Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced on Friday that he intends to indict Sara Netanyahu for fraud for allegedly diverting some NIS 360,000 ($102,000) in public funds for her own use.
Hurricane Irma’s eyewall reaches Florida Keys
Hurricane Irma’s eyewall has reached the Florida Keys.
The US National Hurricane Center in Miami says the storm’s northern eyewall reached the lower Florida Keys Sunday morning. The eyewall is a band of clouds surrounding the center of the storm that has intense winds and strong rain.
The hurricane center says Key West International Airport has measured sustained winds of 50 mph (80 kph).
Hundreds of thousands of people are currently without power in Florida as Irma’s winds and rain lash the state.
Woman shot dead in Arab Israeli Galilee town
A woman in her thirties is shot dead at the entrance to the Arab Israeli town of Majd al-Krum in the Upper Galilee, according to police.
The woman, whose identity has not yet been released, is found by emergency services in critical condition after suffering a gunshot wound, and is then declared dead.
Magen David Adom paramedics who arrive at the scene say her body has additional signs of physical violence other than the bullet wound.
Police are investigation the killing.
Family of Chabad emissary on St. Martin evacuated on Shabbat
After remaining in Saint Martin and riding out the onset of Hurricane Irma in the Chabad House mikveh, the wife and children of a Chabad emissary were evacuated from the Caribbean Island on Shabbat.
Rabbi Moishe Chanowits, his wife Sara and five children aged under 8, remained on the island to offer assistance to others when Hurricane Irma first hit early on Wednesday. However, as the winds picked up speed again over Shabbat, the family had difficulty finding a safe haven.
Even though Shabbat had already started, the family contacted World Chabad in New York and the ZAKA search and rescue organization to request assistance in being evacuated, despite the fact that all sea and air routes to the island were closed. A private plane was located to rescue the family, but the Dutch authorities on the island would not give the plane permission to land, despite Chabad and Israeli officials turning to government officials in The Netherlands.
Eventually a pilot bringing humanitarian aid into the area agreed to pick up the family, and flew them to Puerto Rico. Rabbi Moishe Chanowits remains on the island to assist others.
Floridians who didn’t evacuate told to take shelter
Authorities are urging people who chose to ride out Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys to remain indoors until the storm passes.
The storm’s eyewall reached the chain of islands earlier today. The National Weather Service reported wind gusts of 90 mph (145 kph) near its Key West office.
In a Facebook post early Sunday, Key West Police urged people who stayed for the hurricane to remain where they took shelter until the storm has passed completely. Police also urged people not to go outside when the eye of the storm is over their area, a period when conditions can seem deceptively calm.
John Huston, who is riding out the storm from his home in Key Largo in the upper Keys, says the wind gusts are strong in his area.
“Water level is higher today,” he says via text message. “Incredible wind that won’t stop.”
Irma’s approach brings tornado warnings
The National Weather Service in Miami is issuing tornado warnings for a wide swath of Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward counties in South Florida.
Officials say the band of rain- and tornado-producing cells is moving quickly.
There have been no reports of tornadoes touching down yet.
French Jews kidnapped, beaten in suspected hate attack
Prosecutors say the robbery investigation will expand into an investigation of an alleged racist motive, as well as kidnapping and extortion.
In a statement, CRIF, the umbrella French Jewish community organization, says it “powerfully condemns this extremely violent anti-Semitic aggression.”
The aggressors reportedly told their victims: “You are Jewish, you have money, I am here to take money from the Jews to give it to the poor,” according to the BNCVA news agency.
Hanegbi, Elkin, Liberman to share acting PM role while Netanyahu abroad
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appointed three ministers to share the responsibilities of temporary acting prime minister while he is abroad in Latin America and the US, a spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office says.
When Netanyahu leaves Israel this afternoon, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi will assume the role. But he will be switched on Wednesday by Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin when Netanyahu embarks for the United States.
Since coming to power in 2009, Netanyahu has never named a permanent designated replacement to automatically take over leadership of the country if he were unexpectedly indisposed or removed from office by impeachment. Instead, each time he travels abroad Netanyahu names a different senior Likud minister as his temporary stand-in.
Hanegbi and Elkin will respectively be tasked with calling a cabinet meeting if necessary, but with Hanegbi not currently serving in the more exclusive security cabinet, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has been appointed to call a meeting of that forum during the second leg of the trip, should the need arise.
Miami woman delivers baby at home as Irma rages
Doctors are forced to talk a Florida woman through delivering her baby at home while Hurricane Irma’s outer bands lash Miami.
The City of Miami says on Twitter that firefighters couldn’t respond in time to the woman in the Little Haiti neighborhood. So doctors from Jackson Health System talked her through the birth of the baby girl at home.
This morning @CityofMiamiFire crew was able to transport baby and mom to Jackson Hospital.
— City of Miami (@CityofMiami) September 10, 2017
Authorities say firefighters were able to make it to the woman later Sunday morning and take her to the hospital after the girl was born.
Miami-Dade fire spokeswoman Erika Benitez says the fire department is responding to calls on a case-by-case basis as strong winds and rain lash the area. They are encouraging residents to stay inside because of downed power lines and debris.
1 in 6 female IDF soldiers sexually harassed during army service — study
One in six female Israel Defense Forces soldiers are sexually harassed during their military service, a new IDF study finds.
The results of the internal survey reveal that 16 percent of women currently serving in the IDF say they have been harassed at least once during their mandatory two-year service.
They mark the highest reported numbers of sexual harassment in the IDF since 2004.
Shin Bet chief says Temple Mount tensions caused uptick in terror attempts
The director of the Shin Bet domestic security agency blames an uptick in attempted terror attacks during the months of July and August on the tension surrounding the Temple Mount, which in mid July was the site of a shooting attack that left two police officers dead.
Nadav Argaman tells cabinet ministers that the Shin Bet prevented approximately 70 terror attacks during those months.
Following the July 14 terror attack, Israel set up metal detectors at the entrances to the holy site, which Muslim leaders condemned as a violation of the status quo, sparking a series of violent protests in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
According to Argaman, following the shooting attack, the Shin Bet saw a threefold increase in the number of times it received advanced warnings of an attack as compared to June.
“This increase is proof in action of the motivation to carry out serious terror attacks, along with a significant increase in the furious and inciting conversation happening on social media, which call for individuals to carry out attacks,” Argaman tells the politicians.
— Judah Ari Gross
2 Floridians killed in car crash as hurricane winds rage
The Florida Highway Patrol says two people have died in a head-on crash in a county where Hurricane Irma’s wind and rain have started to blow in.
Agency spokesman Greg Bueno says the crash happened in Hardee County, southeast of Tampa.
Bueno says in an email that the area is starting to feel the effects of Hurricane Irma. He says troopers are investigating the crash and no further details are immediately available.
The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for the county, saying a severe thunderstorm is in the area.
Egypt police said to kill 10 suspected Islamist militants in Cairo
Egyptian police raid two adjacent apartments used as hideouts by members of a splinter faction of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, killing 10 of them in a shootout, according to security officials.
The exchange of gunfire takes place in the densely populated Cairo district of Ard el-Liwa and wounds five policemen, including two officers, according to officials. One of the militants is said to die when an explosive device he intended to use against the policemen goes off prematurely.
The officials say the militants were members of Hasm, a breakaway Muslim Brotherhood faction that has targeted police and army officers in Cairo over the past year in a series of brazen attacks.
IDF to test Gaza-area rocket sirens
The IDF says it will test the incoming rocket alert sirens in Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip on Monday morning.
At 9:05 a.m., sirens will sound in the Yad Mordechai, Netiv Ha’asara and Mavki’im communities, as well as near Zikim beach and the southern industrial area of Ashkelon, which are just north of the Strip.
In the event of a real rocket launch, the sirens will sound twice, the army says.
The IDF says the test is part of the military’s regular training schedule and is meant to maintain the “fitness and readiness of the troops.”
— Judah Ari Gross
US mayors visiting Israel, exploring cooperation opportunities
A bipartisan delegation of US mayors is currently visiting Israel with the American Jewish Committee (AJC).
The week-long educational seminar, sponsored by AJC’s “Project Interchange,” is designed to further enhance US-Israel relations at the municipal level.
Members of the delegation, chaired by Mayor John Giles of Mesa, Arizona, will meet with their Israeli counterparts to discuss best practices for their home communities — from economic development and technology startups, to crime, at-risk youth, education, urban revitalization, and city administration, according to the AJC.
“We are honored to host this extraordinary group of leaders at a vital time to visit the state of Israel,” says AJC Assistant Executive Director Dan Elbaum, who is accompanying the delegation.
Irma becomes 7th-strongest storm to make US landfall
Hurricane Irma becomes tied for the seventh-strongest storm to make landfall in US history by a key measurement of atmospheric pressure.
Hurricane Irma made landfall at Cudjoe Key at 9:10 a.m. with a minimum central pressure of 929 millibars. Atmospheric pressure is one of the major measurements meteorologists use to describe storms. The lower the pressure, the stronger the storm.
Only six storms on record had lower pressures when striking the United States, including Katrina. When Katrina hit in 2005, it had lower pressure but its wind speed kept it at Category 3.
The 929 pressure mark ties Irma with the deadly 1928 Lake Okeechobee hurricane.
Irma’s arrival also marks another first. Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach says this is the first year on record that the United States has been hit by two storms that were Category 4 upon landfall: Harvey and Irma.
PA releases Palestinian activist jailed for Facebook post
The Palestinian Authority cuts loose a prominent activist a week after he was arrested for writing a Facebook post criticizing PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
Issa Amro’s lawyer says that his client was released on $1,400 bail after being held under a recent edict that allows the government to crack down on social media critics.
In a Facebook post earlier this month, Amro criticized the detention of a local journalist who had called for Abbas’s resignation.
Amro’s attorney, Farid Atrash, says it is “shameful” that his client was arrested for exercising his right of free expression.
Amro, a 35-year-old activist who advocates non-violence and protests against Israeli settlements in his hometown of Hebron, also faces charges in an Israeli military court. His trial is to resume in October.
Teen charged with racist aggravated assault in Jerusalem market
A Jewish Israeli teenager is being charged with committing a racist aggravated assault against an Arab man in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market.
According to today’s indictment, Yehiel Weissenstern, 18, along with two other men, saw an Arab man walking with a Jewish female coworker along Jerusalem’s Agrippas street, which borders the market, on the evening of September 4.
After questioning the couple and ascertaining that the man was Arab and the woman was Jewish, the defendant, who resides in the predominantly ultra-Orthodox city of Modiin Illit, and the two others allegedly hurled abuse at the man, drew a knife, and threatened to “fuck him up.”
They allegedly chased him, surrounded him and told him that he could no longer work in the market. Then they began punching him, and after he fell to the ground the defendant began kicking him, the indictment says.
Rivlin praises Israeli film industry amid attacks from culture minister
Hosting a delegation of leading Hollywood producers and executives at his Jerusalem residence, President Reuven Rivlin praises the Israeli film and television industry and its growing global influence in recent years.
“For many years, we have been watching your shows, and now you are also watching Israeli shows. We even have Israeli superheroes,” Rivlin told the group.
Asked about yesterday’s award for the Israeli film “Foxtrot” at the Venice Film Festival and the criticism leveled against the decision by Culture Minister Miri Regev, Rivlin said, “I did not watch the film, but I’m going to watch it, I do not know if I will like it, but I will watch it, as I try to watch every Israeli film.”
“In general,” said the president, “I am a great fan of Israeli cinema, which is a symbol of freedom of expression and the strength of Israeli democracy. Israeli cinema is one of the most important ambassadors of Israel in the world because of its quality, and because of the way it reflects different aspects of life in Israel, with all the challenges and magic within it.”
Regev had slammed the film over what she saw as a negative portrayal of the Israeli army. “It’s outrageous that Israeli artists contribute to the incitement of the young generation against the most moral army in the world by spreading lies in the guise of art,” she said in a statement yesterday.
Pope gets bruised, bloody cheek in popemobile bump
Pope Francis suffers a bruise to his left cheek that resulted in some blood dripping onto his white cassock.
Francis apparently knocked his head as he was travelling in the popemobile upon arriving in the city of Cartagena for the last day of his Colombia trip.
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke says: “The pope is fine,” but has “a bruise on his cheekbone and eyebrow.”
Burke says the pope hit himself on the popemobile and is receiving ice treatment.
The pope continued greeting thousands of people along the streets of Cartagena’s San Francisco neighborhood, without any problems.
Pope Francis is wrapping up his Colombia trip with a deeply personal final day honoring St. Peter Claver, a fellow Jesuit who ministered to thousands of African slaves who passed through the port of Cartagena during Spanish colonial times.
Heavy rains, floods hit Italy; at least 6 dead in Tuscany
Torrential rain in Italy triggers flooding that has killed at least six people in the Tuscan port of Leghorn, including a family of four who were trapped by rising water in a basement. Two other people are reported missing.
Strong winds toppled trees and parked cars were nearly submerged by floodwaters that left the streets clogged with mud.
“The city is literally devastated,” says Leghorn Mayor Filippo Nogarin, adding that “a crazy amount of rain” pummeled the area in just a few hours.
The Italian news agency ANSA said the bodies of a 4-year-old boy, his parents and his grandfather were found in the flooded basement of their two-family home. Before dying, the grandfather managed to save the boy’s sister, state TV RaiNews24 reported.
In Rome, which until recently had suffered through 3½ months of drought, the downpour quickly produced fast-moving streams in the streets. Several subway stations had to be closed.
Rome City Hall urged residents and visitors to go outside only for urgent reasons and to avoid parks, after thunderstorms lashed the city Sunday morning. Possible hailstorms and strong winds were predicted throughout the rest of Sunday and Monday.
2 suspects in France face terror charges over explosives lab
The counterterrorism prosecutor in Paris says two men with links to an explosives lab discovered last week in an apartment near Paris have been handed preliminary charges for terrorist association and explosives manufacture.
Prosecutor Francois Molins said Sunday the two men detained, a 36-year-old apartment owner and another previously known to intelligence authorities, were aiming “to manufacture a bomb.” But he said they had not yet formed a plan to carry out a specific attack.
Molins said the 36-year-old confessed to following Islamic State bomb-making videos using the explosive materials that could have produced between 3 to 4 kilograms (6 ½ to 8 ¾ pounds) of the explosive TATP. Molins said the two admitted they wanted to join Islamic State.
A third man was released Sunday without being charged.
PM’s son removes ‘anti-Semitic’ meme from Facebook
Amid widespread criticism, Yair Netanyahu, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son, removes a controversial meme he posted on his Facebook page yesterday that included anti-Semitic themes.
The meme showed American Jewish billionaire George Soros, and a figure that resembles Nazi depictions of world Jewry as a reptilian, manipulating former prime minister Ehud Barak and two leaders of weekly protests calling on Netanyahu to step down over corruption allegations.
Earlier today, the Anti-Defamation League slammed the post, saying it contained “blatantly anti-Semitic elements.” Political leaders in Israel also lashed out at Yair Netanyahu for the cartoon.
The post came in response to a slew of corruption allegations facing the Netanyahu family.
The prime minister has been questioned about his ties to executives in media, international business and Hollywood. His associates have been engulfed in a probe relating to a possible conflict of interest involving the $2 billion purchase of German submarines. And Israel’s attorney general has said he intends to indict the prime minister’s wife, Sara, for fraud over her bloated household expenses.
Jewish camps urge Trump to preserve visa program for Israeli counselors
A number of Jewish camping organizations write to President Donald Trump, urging him to keep in place a program that grants visas to foreigners who work in summer camps.
“Participation of Jewish counselors and staff from Israel and other countries through the J-1 Camp Counselor and SWT programs is critical to the mission of the Jewish camp field — and the American camp experience as a whole,” says the letter spearheaded by the Foundation for Jewish Camp, referring to the summer work-travel program, which facilitates temporary work visas for camp counselors and other jobs.
“Our camps utilize these programs to bring cultural exchange staff from Israel to summer programs, where they participate in daily camp life, sharing Jewish traditions, teaching about Jewish and Israeli culture, and serving as role models for Jewish campers,” it says.
The letter was co-signed by the JCC Association of North America, the Union for Reform Judaism, National Ramah Commission, Habonim Dror North America, Association of Independent Jewish Camps, and Young Judaea Global.
10 trillion gallons of rain set to fall on Florida
A meteorologist calculates that Hurricane Irma will dump about 10 trillion gallons (38 trillion liters) of rain on Florida over a day-and-a-half time period. That’s about 500,000 gallons (1.9 trillion liters) for every Florida resident.
Private meteorologist Ryan Maue of WeatherBell Analytics based his calculations on weather service forecasts. He also calculates it will dump 6 trillion gallons (23 trillion liters) on Georgia.
By comparison, Hurricane Harvey, which stalled over the Texas coast, dumped about 20 trillion gallons (76 trillion liters) on Texas and 7 trillion gallons (26 trillion liters) of rain on Louisiana in about five days. One place around Houston got more than 50 inches (130 centimeters) of rain. Irma is expected to crawl steadily through the Sunshine State.
The National Hurricane Center projects 15 to 20 inches (38 to 50 centimeters) of rain with spots up to 25 inches (64 centimeters) for the Florida Keys. Western Florida is forecast to get 10 to 15 inches of rain (25 to 38 centimeters), with as much as 20 inches (50 centimeters) in spots. The rest of Florida and southeastern Georgia is projected to get 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 centimeters) of rain, with isolated outbursts up to 16 inches (40 centimeters).
Militants attack convoy in Egypt’s Sinai, kill 5 police
Suspected jihadist militants ambush a police convoy in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing five policemen and wounding three others, including a police brigadier-general, according to security and military officials.
The police and military officials say the attack began with the detonation of roadside bombs that destroyed and set ablaze three armored vehicles and a fourth one carrying signal jamming equipment. The gunmen later opened fire with machine guns and commandeered a police pickup truck.
The attack took place about 30 kilometers (20 miles) west of el-Arish in northern Sinai, the epicenter of a long-running insurgency by militants now led by the extremist Islamic State group.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized to speak to the media.