The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.
Hamas chief says lifting of Gaza siege ‘around the corner’
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh says Tuesday that an end to Israel’s more than decade-long blockade of Gaza was “around the corner,” as talk of a possible truce deal intensifies.
Indirect negotiations between Gaza’s Hamas rulers and Israel brokered by Egyptian and UN officials have reportedly included discussion on easing the blockade, but by no means a complete lifting of it.
Speaking to thousands of Palestinians during prayers for the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, Haniyeh doesn’t directly address the possibility of a truce, mooted in Israeli and Palestinian media for weeks.
“Thanks to these marches and resistance, we are just around the corner from closing the page on this unjust blockade,” he says, referring to months of deadly clashes along the Gaza-Israel border.
He seems to be referring to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s concerns over a truce that does not include his internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank.
Abbas’s Fatah and Hamas have been deeply divided for more than a decade.
Haniyeh says any agreement would come “with a national consensus and an Arab safety net in order to establish the necessary safeguards to implement what is agreed upon.”
“We are on our way to ending this unjust blockade of Gaza,” he says.
Bolton visits Yad Vashem, takes part in Holocaust memorial ceremony
US President Donald Trump’s top security aide visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, where he takes part in a memorial ceremony remembering the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust.
“In memory of the greatest tragedy which the spirit and resilience of the Jewish people has overcome, to help us prevent its like from ever happening again… to anyone,” National Security Adviser John Bolton writes in the guestbook, according to a statement from Yad Vashem.
Bolton arrived in Israel on Sunday for a multi-day trip that has included talks on regional security issues with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.
UN watchdog says no sign North Korea has halted its nuclear program
VIENNA — The UN’s nuclear watchdog says it hasn’t see any indication that nuclear activities in North Korea have stopped despite its pledge to denuclearize.
“The continuation and further development of the DPRK’s nuclear program and related statements by the DPRK are a cause for grave concern,” says a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) seen today.
Meeting Rivlin, Bolton says ‘it’s a very challenging time’ for Israel, US
US National Security Adviser John Bolton meets with President Reuven Rivlin at his official residence in Jerusalem, where they discuss a number of regional security issues.
Speaking to reporters, Rivlin hails Bolton has “a real great friend of the Israeli state and the Israeli people.”
“We have discussed all the matters that we are very much concerned about, whether we are talking about the Hamas in Gaza or the situation in Syria, the situation with the Hezbollah and the Iranians of course and the nuclear ability of Iran,” Rivlin says of their meeting.
Bolton for his part says “it’s a very challenging time for both Israel and the United States.”
“I think just underlining the close friendship and alliance between the two governments and peoples of Israel and the United States is also important to do,” he says.
— USEmbassyJerusalem (@usembassyjlm) August 21, 2018
After ex-Nazi guard deported, White House spox says Trump ‘got the job done’
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders hails the deportation of a 95-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard living in New York to Germany, tweeting that US President Donald Trump “got the job done.”
For many years a Nazi forced labor camp guard had been living in NY – a terrible injustice. Past Administrations failed to deport him. Today, @realDonaldTrump got the job done! ICE has removed this despicable Nazi from our great country. https://t.co/yBaboYK5N5
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) August 21, 2018
Indonesian woman imprisoned for complaining Muslim call to prayer was too loud
MEDAN, Indonesia — A woman in Muslim-majority Indonesia is sentenced to 18 months in prison on Tuesday for complaining about the volume of a mosque’s call to prayer — the latest conviction under a controversial blasphemy law.
Meiliana, 44, an ethnic Chinese Buddhist, is found guilty of insulting Islam for asking her neighborhood mosque to lower its sound system because it was too loud and “hurt” her ears.
There are some 800,000 mosques across the archipelago, with the five-times-a-day call to prayer heard everywhere in the biggest cities and smallest towns.
Tuesday’s verdict will likely fuel fears that Indonesia’s moderate brand of Islam is coming under threat from increasingly influential radicals.
The court in the city of Medan on Sumatra island says the woman’s comments two years ago triggered riots that saw angry Muslim mobs ransack Buddhist temples.
Some ethnic Chinese in the area fled in fear.
The defendant’s lawyer says his client will appeal the decision.
Kremlin dismisses reports of fresh Russian cyberattacks
The Kremlin dismisses new reports that Russia is targeting US political groups through cyberattacks ahead of midterm elections.
Microsoft said earlier Tuesday that it’s uncovered new intrusions by Russian government-linked hackers on US political groups. It said one group created fake internet domains that appeared to spoof two American conservative organizations.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denies the allegations and says that Microsoft’s statement lacks detail and it wasn’t clear “who the hackers in question are” and how they could distort the US electoral system.
Microsoft says there is no evidence that the hackers were successful.
PM’s Arabic spokesman mocks new Iran plane, notes similarity to US jet from 50s
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Arabic-language spokesman mocks Iran after it unveils a new fighter jet, noting the similarity between it and a US-manufactured plane first developed in the 1950s.
“The Iranian regime unveils the Kowsar plane and claims that it is ‘the first 100% locally-manufactured Iranian fighter jet.’ It is boasting about its offensive capabilities, but I immediately noticed that this is a very old American war plane (it was manufactured in the 50s). It is from the F-5 class of jets which has not been in use for decades,” Ofer Gendelman tweets in Arabic.
النظام الإيراني يكشف النقاب عن طائرة #كوثر ويدعي أنها "أول مقاتلة إيرانية محلية الصنع %100" ويتفاخر بقدراتها الهجومية النوعية ولكنني رأيت على الفور أن هذه هي طائرة حربية أمريكية قديمة جدا (صنعت في أواخر الخمسينات) من طراز F-5 خرجت منذ عقود من الخدمة… الكذب حبله قصير… pic.twitter.com/Mb8plEjlxr
— Ofir Gendelman (@ofirgendelman) August 21, 2018
— Adam Rasgon
Poll: Likud voters oppose Hamas ceasefire, but Netanyahu would win vote handily
A new poll released by the Walla news site says though most of his Likud party voters oppose the ceasefire with Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would handily cruise to an election victory if a fresh vote were held today.
According to the survey, 41 percent of self-identified Likud voters would oppose the Egyptian and UN-brokered agreement with Hamas, which came into force earlier this month days after the biggest flareup between Israel and the Gaza-based terror group since the 2014 war, while only 28% percent say they support it.
Among the general public, feelings on the ceasefire were nearly identical, with 40% of respondents opposing it and 27% in favor.
Though Israel has not officially acknowledged the ceasefire, a senior official said shortly after it took effect that it is based on the understandings between the sides in place since the 2014 Gaza war.
Based on respondents voting preferences if new elections were held, the poll says Likud would win 33 Knesset seats, well ahead of the 20 seats that second-place Yesh Atid would receive.
Knife attacker in Spain was suicidal — source
BARCELONA, Spain — A man shot dead as he attacked a Spanish police station had come out as gay and wanted to commit suicide, a source close to the probe says Tuesday based on testimony of the assailant’s ex-wife.
Abdel Wahab Taib, a 29-year-old Algerian man, invoked the name of Allah during the assault early Monday in the town of Cornella de Llobregat near Barcelona.
Authorities are treating the incident as a “terrorist attack” although the source, who refuses to be named, says “there don’t appear to be any signs of jihadism.”
According to the source, Taib’s ex-wife, a Spaniard who reportedly converted to Islam after meeting him, told police he had recently told her he was homosexual.
“She said they had separated, that he had revealed his homosexuality and that he was disturbed about how that fit in with the Muslim religion,” the source says.
“We’re putting this down to confusion, a suicide attempt. There are some who do it throwing themselves off a bridge, he opted for this method.
“We’re basing ourselves on his wife’s testimony, who says he had not veered towards extremism.”
David Martinez, the ex-wife’s lawyer, tells reporters the couple had signed divorce papers last Tuesday and ruled out a terror-related motivation for the attack.
Israel will end software licensing deal with Microsoft due to cost
Israel will not renew its contract with Microsoft to provide software for government ministries due to a new licensing framework pushed by the US-based tech giant that would significantly raise costs.
Under the existing agreement, Israel pays NIS 100 million per year for Microsoft software, which it then has ownership of. However, Microsoft is seeking to have Israel instead rent the software, a move the Finance Ministry says would double the cost, according to Reuters.
The announcement comes after a year of negotiations between Israel and Microsoft on a new licensing deal.
Court backs German broadcaster in spat over use of term ‘Polish death camps’
BERLIN — A German court rules that a Polish court’s ruling that a German broadcaster must post a specifically worded apology on its website for calling two World War II Nazi camps “Polish death camps” can’t be enforced in Germany.
Broadcaster ZDF used the formulation in advertising a 2013 documentary, and later apologized. In 2016, a plaintiff secured a ruling from a court in Krakow, Poland, ordering ZDF to publish on its website for one month an apology stating that the original wording was “an incorrect formulation that distorts the history of the Polish people.”
Lower German courts ruled that that verdict can be enforced in Germany. But the Federal Court of Justice says Tuesday it disagrees because the required formulation would violate the broadcaster’s right to freedom of opinion.
Israel sends aid to India after deadly floods
The Foreign Ministry announces Israel is providing humanitarian aid to India after floods there killed more than 400 people.
The ministry says the provision of aid to flood-hit areas of Kerala state in southwest India is being handled by the consulate in Bangalore.
— Israel Foreign Min. (@IsraelMFA) August 21, 2018
RJC praises Trump for deporting ex-Nazi camp guard
The Republican Jewish Coalition thanks US President Donald Trump for deporting to Germany Jakiw Palij, a 95-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard living in New York.
“Where other administrations had tried, President Trump, through diplomacy with our European allies, was able to arrange for the deportation of Palij to Germany,” the RJC says in a statement. “Palij should have faced the consequences of his war crimes decades ago.”
The group also thanks US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for their role in Palij’s deportation.
Police minister calls for probe on why attacker’s body returned to family
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan is calling on police to probe why the body of an Arab Israeli killed in an attempted stabbing attack was returned to his family, after hundreds took part in his funeral and hailed him as “martyr.”
“I expect the police to investigate the decision-making processes. In my opinion the police didn’t need to hand over the body until it saw that the conditions it established were met,” Erdan tells Hadashot TV news.
“If [the body] was handed over and this is what happened, the result is that the police failed there.”
He says though that residents off Umm al-Fahm are first and foremost responsible for the “disgrace” of the funeral.
“Time after time there are mass funerals there that praise cursed terrorists,” he says.
Hundreds of people attended Ahmed Muhammad Mahameed’s funeral in Umm al-Fahm early this morning, with participants chanting “in spirit and blood we will redeem you martyr.”
Mahameed, a resident of Umm al-Fahm, was shot to death last week after trying to stab a policeman in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Netanyahu wins high marks from Republicans, though Democrats less enthusiastic
A new Gallup poll released today finds little change in Americans’ feelings toward Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who scores high marks from Republicans but is much less liked by Democrats.
According to the poll, 37 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Netanyahu, as opposed to 29% who view him unfavorably. Another 22% of respondents haven’t heard of Netanyahu and 13% have no opinion.
This was little changed from a 2015 Gallup survey, when 38% of Americans said they had a favorable view of Netanyahu, and 29% said they viewed him unfavorably.
Among Republicans, 64% told Gallup they view Netanyahu favorably, far higher than the 17% of Democrats who feel likewise.
US envoy to Berlin says Trump told him to prioritize ex-Nazi guard’s deportation
BERLIN — The US ambassador to Germany says US President Donald Trump instructed him to make it a priority to secure the deportation of a Nazi war crimes suspect from the US to Germany.
Richard Grenell, who arrived in Germany earlier this year, says the new German government, which took office in March, brought “new energy” to the matter of 95-year-old former concentration camp guard, Jakiw Palij.
The deportation Tuesday came after weeks of diplomatic negotiations.
Grenell tells reporters that there were “difficult conversations” because Palij is not a German citizen and was stateless after losing his US citizenship, but “the moral obligation” of taking in “someone who served in the name of the German government was accepted.”
Health ministry ban importing, marketing ‘JUUL’ brand e-cigarettes
The Health Ministry bans the import and marketing of “JUUL” brand electronic cigarettes, calling them a “grave danger to public health.”
The ban is signed into law by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also health minister, at the request of Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman. It will take effect 15 days from now.
IDF to further cut male conscripts’ service by 2 months — report
The IDF will further shorten military service for male conscripts by two months in 2020, Hadashot TV news reports, as part of the army’s Gideon plan to improve efficiency and cut costs.
According to the network, the Finance Ministry is pushing to shorten mandatory military service by four months in light of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent vow to increase spending, but this is opposed by the army.
The plan to slice off an additional two months from male soldiers’ military service comes after the army shortened the required service time in 2015 from 36 to 32 months.
In June, the army’s ombudsman cited the decrease in mandatory military service from 36 to 32 months as a reason for what he called a decline in the IDF’s readiness for battle.
Michael Cohen in talks on plea deal in fraud case — sources
NEW YORK — Two people familiar with the financial fraud investigation of Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, say his lawyers are in negotiations with prosecutors that could result in a plea deal, possibly within hours.
The people say the lawyer could plead guilty in Manhattan federal court as early as Tuesday afternoon, if a deal is struck requiring cooperation with the government. The people speak to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to publicly discuss the case.
Cohen was Trump’s longtime personal lawyer until weeks ago. He was seen going into his lawyers’ offices early Tuesday.
Prosecutors had been investigating Cohen for possible fraud related to his businesses for months. The FBI raided his hotel room, home, and office on April 9, seizing more than 4 million items.
UN Middle East peace envoy may depart soon for post in Syria — report
The UN envoy for Middle East peace, who has played a central role in mediating between Israel and Hamas amid recent violence on the Gaza border, may leave his post to become the organization’s envoy to Syria, Hadashot TV news reports.
According to the report, Nickolay Mladenov is aware he is considered to be the top candidate to replace Staffan de Mistura and has expressed a desire to soon take up the position.
Quoting unnamed UN officials, the reports says Mladenov has asked to retain his current job in addition to the new post, but UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is opposed to this.
An Israeli official tells the network it would be a “pity” if Mladenov leaves for Syria.
“He has forged wonderful connections with the Israeli leadership and is attentive to our needs,” the unnamed source is quoted saying.
Mladenov has emerged as a key figure in efforts to achieve a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and has shuttled between Israel, Gaza, and Egypt to broker an agreement.
Earlier this month, a ceasefire brokered by the Egyptians and UN took effect, days after the largest flare-up between the sides since the 2014 Gaza war.