The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they happened.
Israel picks new chief scientist to head government innovation agency
Economy Minister Eli Cohen picks Ami Appelbaum, a former president of KLA-Tencor Israel, to serve as the next chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority and the ministry’s chief scientist.
Appelbaum will be tasked with managing the government’s support and incentives schemes to promote R&D and innovation in local industry, and with setting out the nation’s innovation policies.
The Innovation Authority, formerly known as the Office of the Chief Scientist, was rebranded in 2016 and aims to boost the local innovation ecosystem and the Israeli economy by ensuring it is globally competitive and by improving productivity in the industry through technological innovation.
The authority is an independent and impartial public entity that manages a yearly budget of some NIS 1.6 billion ($452 million).
Appelbaum is a former Defense Ministry official, engineering executive at the US conglomerate Rockwell International and, for the past six years, has served as the President of KLA-Tencor Israel, the local arm of the $12 billion (some NIS 42.5 billion) global semiconductor manufacturer.
— Shoshanna Solomon
Qatar said to be seeking meetings with US Jewish leaders
The Gulf state of Qatar is reportedly seeking to meet with the heads of leading American Jewish organizations as part of the emirate’s efforts to improve its standing among US Jewry.
The offer for American Jewish leaders to meet with the emir and crown prince of Qatar, which was reported Wednesday by the Haaretz daily, was made ahead of the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week.
Qatar’s invitation to sit down with the heads of US Jewish groups comes shortly after the country hired a Washington DC public relations shop headed by a Republican strategist with experience working with American Jewish organizations.
Nick Muzin, whose firm Stonington Strategies will receive $50,000 a month for its work on behalf of Qatar, said improved ties between US Jews and the emirate is in the Jewish community’s “best interest.”
“Engagement with Qatar can only be in the best interests of the United States and the Jewish community, as we cannot allow Qatar to be ostracized by its neighbors and pushed into Iran’s sphere of influence,” Muzin was quoted as saying by O’Dwyer’s, a PR news site.
Two more advanced F-35s to be delivered to Israel
Two additional F-35 stealth fighter jets lift off from the US on Wednesday morning on their way to Israel, the sixth and seventh planes delivered out of 50 Israel has purchased from the United States to upgrade the capabilities of its air force.
The planes, called “Adir” in Hebrew, are expected to land in Israel on Thursday.
Samsung cellphone bursts into flames in Israeli man’s pocket
A 20-year-old man was lightly injured when a Samsung cellphone in his pocket suddenly burst into flames.
The man told his doctors he felt a sudden surge of heat from his pocket and heard small explosive pops, when his pants were set on fire.
With the help of a friend, he managed to pull out the cellphone and pull off his pants, leaving second-degree burns in a small area on his leg where the pocket had rested.
He is being treated at the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya.
Egypt said to refuse to mediate Israel-Hamas prisoner talks
A senior Egyptian intelligence official reportedly tells Hamas’s top political leader Ismail Haniyeh that Egypt would not be the go-between toward a prisoner exchange deal with Israel.
Citing a report in the Gulf newspaper Al-Khaleej, Israel’s Channel 10 says Egypt would lend its support to a different mediator.
It is not clear why Egypt is purportedly refusing to mediate between the two enemies, a role it has filled in past negotiations.
Fire engulfs Holon gas station, none hurt
Firefighters are battling a blaze at a gas station in the central Israeli city of Holon, located near Tel Aviv.
No one is hurt in the fire, and there is not immediate indication as to its cause.
— חדשות 10 (@news10) September 13, 2017
Bomber kills 2 outside Afghan cricket stadium
KABUL, Afghanistan — Authorities say a suicide bomber has attacked a cricket stadium in the Afghan capital of Kabul, killing at least two people and wounding at least seven.
Basir Mujahid, spokesman for Kabul police, said the attack just outside the gates of the stadium happened Wednesday, as hundreds of people were inside enjoying a cricket match.
On August 29, a suicide bombing in a busy commercial area in Kabul, near a string of banks and not far from the US Embassy, killed at least five people. The Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack.
Hebron would-be stabber identified as 15-year-old Palestinian
The Palestinian who attempted to stab a soldier near Hebron a short time ago is identified by Palestinian media and some Hebrew media outlets as Issa Daradat, 15, from village of Sair northeast of Hebron.
Daradat reportedly ran with a knife toward soldiers standing at the junction at the entrance to the Kiryat Arba settlement, but was shot and moderately hurt before he could reach them.
Hamas said to supply Egypt with information on Sinai terrorists
The Egyptian newspaper A-Shorouk says Hamas has handed Egyptian authorities information about Islamic State-affiliated terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula.
The move appears to be part of the growing cooperation between the Gaza-based terror group and Cairo.
The transfer of information happened during talks between a delegation of Hamas leaders and Egyptian officials in recent weeks.
US Supreme Court allows Trump ban on most refugees
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is allowing the Trump administration to maintain its restrictive policy on refugees.
The justices on Tuesday agreed to an administration request to block a lower court ruling that would have eased the refugee ban and allowed up to 24,000 refugees to enter the country before the end of October.
The order was not the court’s last word on the travel policy that US President Donald Trump first rolled out in January. The justices are scheduled to hear arguments on Oct. 10 on the legality of the bans on travelers from six mostly Muslim countries and refugees anywhere in the world.
It’s unclear, though, what will be left for the court to decide. The 90-day travel ban lapses in late September and the 120-day refugee ban will expire a month later.
Two wartime mass graves discovered in Bosnia
SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina — The remains of about 20 victims from Bosnia’s 1990s civil war, most likely Bosnian Muslims, have been exhumed from two newly discovered mass graves, the Missing Persons Institute says Wednesday.
One of the graves was discovered in the mountainous area of Koricanske Stijene in central Bosnia, where more than 200 civilian men were executed by Serb forces in August 1992 following their eviction from a northwestern region.
It marked one of the most brutal episodes in the inter-ethnic conflict, which lasted from 1992 to 1995 and left around 100,000 people dead.
At the end of the war, 31,500 people were reported missing. Since then, the remains of 25,000 victims have been exhumed from hundreds of mass graves, according to the Bosnian institute, leaving 6,500 unaccounted for.
The second mass grave was uncovered in the eastern region of Vlasenica.
According to the country’s victims’ associations, 2,600 Bosnian Muslims from Vlasenica were killed during the conflict.
Israel’s envoy becomes vice president of UN General Assembly
Israel’s UN ambassador begins serving as vice president of the world body’s General Assembly.
Danny Danon will preside over a GA session for the first time on September 19, during the address by his boss, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the annual gathering of world leaders, a statement from the UN mission says.
“I am proud to represent Israel in this important role that reinforces our position as an equal partner at the UN,” Danon is quoted as saying in the statement. “We have proven once again that there is no role we cannot fulfill in the world’s most important international organization.”
Haredi MKs insist ‘we’ll be fine’ despite High Court military draft ruling
Ultra-Orthodox lawmakers are meeting Wednesday afternoon in the Knesset to discuss their response to yesterday’s High Court of Justice ruling that struck down a 2015 law postponing the mass-drafting of Haredi youth into the IDF.
“Power must be returned to the Knesset,” Shas head Interior Minister Aryeh Deri says, criticizing what he sees as the High Court’s judicial activism on the issue.
United Torah Judaism’s Health Minister Yaakov Litzman says both Haredi parties would act to ensure the previous version of the law, passed in 2014 and which requires every-growing military conscription rates from the Haredi community, would be canceled.
“Every coalition partner is committed [in the signed coalition agreements] to an arrangement” that would keep yeshiva students from being forced into military service, Deri says at the meeting. “We’ll be fine.”
“We are convinced that every coalition partner will vote for any amendment that the legal advisers propose” to prevent such mass-conscription, he says.
Netherlands revokes citizenship of 4 alleged jihadis
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Netherlands’ justice minister revokes the Dutch citizenship of four people the government alleges traveled to a foreign conflict zone to join a terrorist organization.
The action announced Wednesday marks the first time Justice Minister Stef Blok has used new powers to revoke the citizenship of alleged jihadis. The identities of the people affected by the decision are not released.
Speaking to reporters at the Dutch Parliament, Blok says the four were believed to have traveled to Syria. He says they all were dual Dutch-Moroccan nationals.
They also have been declared “undesirable aliens,” which means they cannot legally return to the Netherlands or to any other country in the European Union’s Schengen passport-free travel zone.
After gay wedding statement, Shas’s Yigal Guetta resigns — or does he?
Shas lawmaker Yigal Guetta stirred up a sleepy political system on Monday with his public bragging that he had attended his nephew’s gay wedding two years ago.
The ultra-Orthodox MK’s announcement drew the predictable reproaches from his community’s rabbis, and the lawmaker announced in a letter to his party’s chief, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, that he would resign his position in the Knesset.
Or did he?
According to Channel 2, Guetta sent a resignation letter to Deri, but not to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who must receive a formal resignation announcement from an MK before the resignation becomes official.
By law, Shas can kick Guetta — the party’s secretary-general, to be sure — out of the party, but it can’t kick him out of the Knesset. Once a Knesset member is elected, only a large majority of fellow lawmakers, backed by an Ethics Committee decision and a very serious breach of the law on his or her part can force them from parliament.
One report now says Guetta will announce his decision “at Rosh Hashana,” the Jewish new year that begins next Wednesday evening.
Guetta’s daughter Simcha said in a Channel 10 television interview earlier this evening that she was “proud of her father, a man who lives in light and not in darkness, and who follows his truth wherever it may lead.
“What did he do? Went to the wedding of his nephew. It doesn’t matter if you’re religious or secular, you should love and respect other people,” she added.
Oh, and by the way, she adds casually, “This nation needs unity, it needs people like him in politics. He’s a strong spokesman for this nation. [In an election,] he could bring four Knesset seats all by himself.”
Are we witnessing the founding of a gay-friendly spinoff of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party?
High Court rejects rescinding Palestinian lawmakers’ residency in Jerusalem
The High Court of Justice on Wednesday strikes down a 2006 decision to rescind the permanent residency status of four members of the Palestinian parliament living in East Jerusalem.
The decision restores permanent residency status to all four members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
Israeli officials have sought to distance the lawmakers, who they say are affiliated with the Hamas terror group, from the city.
But the 2006 decision by the Interior Ministry cited the four Palestinians’ “disloyalty” toward Israel as the cause for rescinding their citizenship.
“Even in a war against terrorism, the State of Israel limits itself to actions within the boundaries of the law,” the ruling says, and explains that “disloyalty” is not a sufficient cause for removing a permanent resident’s status.
Ryan sees White House operations ‘improving’
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan says White House operations are “improving,” but he’s not saying whether he thinks that’s because of recent West Wing personnel changes.
The Wisconsin Republican says in an AP Newsmakers interview that US President Donald Trump’s White House is “learning what works and I think they are improving.”
Trump new chief of staff, retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, has been credited with instilling more order in the West Wing.
The previous chief of staff, Reince Priebus, was a Ryan friend. And Ryan says Priebus was “doing a good job of getting some discipline.”
Ryan also notes that the pace of lawmaking can prove frustrating for the businessman-turned-president.
In Ryan’s words: “Congress doesn’t work like a business.”
Two men stabbed, moderately hurt in Kiryat Gat incident
Two men, one in his thirties and the other in his sixties, are moderately wounded with stab wounds in Kiryat Gat.
They are taken by Magen David Adom medics to Barzilai Hospital in nearby Ashkelon.
There is no immediate information on the nature of the incident that led to the stabbings, but authorities are not treating the case as a terror incident.
NYC candidate who called out ‘greedy Jewish landlords’ defeated in primary
New York City Council candidate Thomas Lopez-Pierre, who blamed “greedy Jewish landlords” for the “ethnic cleansing” of black and Latino residents from Harlem is soundly defeated in a Democratic primary vote.
The incumbent councilman, Mark Levine, wins nearly 75 percent of the vote to about 25% for Lopez-Pierre in the balloting Tuesday. Levine, who is a chair of the City Council’s Jewish Caucus, receives 8,839 votes to 3,001 for Lopez-Pierre in a Manhattan district that includes much of West Harlem, Morningside Heights, part of the Upper West Side and Washington Heights.
New Yorkers went to the polls for primary elections for mayor and other local offices.
Mayor Bill de Blasio defeated several challengers, receiving nearly 75% of the vote, in the Democratic primary. He will face Republican State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis of Staten Island and independent candidate Bo Dietl, a private detective, in the general election in November.
Saudis urged to report on fellow citizens via mobile app
Saudi authorities are calling on the public to supervise and report on the social media activities of fellow citizens, while issuing broad definitions of “terrorist” crimes.
“When you notice any account on social media spreading terrorist or extremist ideas, please report it immediately,” a Twitter account under the umbrella of the interior ministry said late Tuesday.
It directs citizens to report suspicious activity via a government-run “We are all security” mobile application.
The app was created in February 2017 but only this week took on a political dimension, having previously been geared toward reporting traffic violations and theft.
The Twitter call for citizen vigilantism was followed by two tweets from the public prosecutor’s office issuing broad definitions of what constitute “terrorist crimes” in the kingdom.
“Endangering national unity, obstructing the constitution or its articles, or harming the reputation of the state is a terrorist crime,” the first tweet read.
Thousands evacuated after bomb threats in Moscow
More than 15,000 people are evacuated Wednesday from several shopping centers, universities and train stations in Moscow after a series of bomb threats, Russian media report.
A source in the emergency services tells state-run TASS news agency that over 30 prominent locations including the famed GUM shopping center on Red Square are temporarily emptied after anonymous telephone threats.
Interfax news agency cites a source as saying that over 15,000 people around the sprawling city are evacuated.
A representative for GUM tells AFP that employees are now allowed back inside the building.
The spate of threats comes after two days of similar calls caused disruptions in cities across Russia, with the state-run RIA Novosti news service reporting some 45,000 people evacuated nationwide.
No bombs are found at any of the locations.
US emergency insurance chief: Harvey losses could top $11 billion
WASHINGTON — The head of the US National Flood Insurance Program says early estimates show Hurricane Harvey will result in about $11 billion in payouts to insured homeowners, mostly in southeast Texas.
That would likely put Harvey as the second costliest storm in the history of the federal insurance program, says Roy E. Wright, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s deputy associate administrator for insurance and mitigation. More than $16 billion was paid out after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
It is still too soon to estimate losses from Hurricane Irma, Wright says. But he predicts that the storm damage in Florida and other affected states could rival the nearly $9 billion paid out after Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Even before the recent back-to-back hurricanes, the federal flood insurance program was about $25 billion in debt to the US Treasury. Wright says the program currently has enough cash to absorb the initial wave of payments to help homeowners get back on their feet but will need billions more within about a month.
Liberman backs High Court’s ruling on Haredi military service
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announces his support for yesterday’s High Court of Justice decision to strike down a 2015 law that postponed efforts to increase military service among Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community.
“There are no first-class and second-class citizens,” Liberman says. “Every young person who reaches the age of 18 must show up for national service or military service.
“It can’t be any other way.”
Speaking in the Knesset, he adds: “I’m talking about Jews, and also about Muslims and Christians. I expects all citizens of the state of Israel to identify with the state.”
7 said wounded, 3 of them cops, in terror attack in Toulouse
Seven people are hurt in an apparent terrorist stabbing in the French city of Toulouse.
Three of the wounded are said to be police officers, according to initial reports.
Media reports say the attacker shouted “Allahu akbar,” “God is great” in Arabic, shortly before he was arrested.
Toulouse attacker did not have a knife — report
New reports from Toulouse say the attacker who left seven people wounded in the French city a short time ago was not armed with a knife.
According to eyewitnesses, he leaped at people in the street and physically assaulted them. He managed to hurt seven people, including three police officers and reportedly at least one child before he was wrestled to the ground by police.
Shooting reported at high school in Washington state
SPOKANE, Washington — Authorities are responding to reports of a shooting at a high school south of Spokane, Washington.
The Spokesman-Review reports that first responders were at Freeman High School in Rockford on Wednesday morning.
Spokane Public Schools say on Twitter that all schools in the district are “being placed into modified lockdown as a precautionary measure.”
No other information is immediately available.
Tax Authority investigating attorney close to PM
The Tax Authority is investigating a well-known Israeli attorney who is a close friend of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, Channel 2 reports.
The investigation concerns unreported bank accounts allegedly owned by the attorney in Romania.
The attorney’s name is not cleared for publication.
The Netanyahus are not connected in any way to the investigation, officials say.