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Far-right Otzma Yehudit files Knesset slate, won’t join United Right

Itamar Ben Gvir rejects last-ditch efforts by Netanyahu, Motti Yogev to sign merger deal, registers with Central Elections Committee

Itamar Ben Gvir holds a press conference with family members of Yehuda and Tamar Kaduri, who were found dead in their home in Jerusalem's Armon Hanatziv neighborhood, on January 30, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Itamar Ben Gvir holds a press conference with family members of Yehuda and Tamar Kaduri, who were found dead in their home in Jerusalem's Armon Hanatziv neighborhood, on January 30, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

PA ordered to pay $12.5 million to orphans of terror victim

The Jerusalem District Court orders the Palestinian Authority to pay NIS 44 million ($12.5 million) as compensation to the orphans of a terror victim killed in the Gaza Strip 19 years ago.

Miri Amitai, a teacher, was one of two people killed when a bomb exploded next to a school bus near Kfar Darom in the Gush Katif area, which was evacuated and cleared of Jewish presence in the 2005 disengagement.

The court ruled that the terror attack was committed by PA operatives, after Yair Naveh, the deputy IDF chief of staff at the time, testified in court.

Judge Moshe Drori, in his last ruling before retiring, accepted the requested compensation amount, saying that he would have likely even accepted a higher sum had it been requested.

EU to work with top Iran diplomat despite US sanctions

The European Union says it regrets the US decision to impose sanctions against Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and vows to continue working with him.

“We regret this decision,” says Carlos Martin Ruiz De Gordejuela, a spokesman for EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini.

“From our side, we will continue to work with Mr. Zarif as Iran’s most senior diplomat and in view of the importance of maintaining diplomatic channels,” Martin says.

— AFP

United Right complains about anonymous ads it says are Likud’s

United Right petitions to the Central Elections Committee against anonymous ads published on right-wing news sites that criticize the party.

Reports say the ruling Likud party is behind the banners, which are illegal since the law bans anonymous election propaganda.

The banners criticized United Right, a union between Jewish Home, National Union and New Right, for failing to include the far-right Otzma Yehudit, claiming that “without ‘Otzma’ there is no right-wing government.”

It slammed New Right leaders Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett, saying they are “sabotaging the right” and that Bennett is “again dismantling the right” — a reference to when he left the Jewish Home to form New Right.

Syrian media claims Israel strikes in Quneitra, causing damage

Syrian media reports an Israeli strike in the Quneitra area in the country’s south.

According to the SANA state TV channel, an IDF missile landed and caused damage, but not casualties.

Hebrew-language reports say residents of the Golan Heights have heard explosions.

Shots fired at IDF troops northeast of Ramallah, causing no injuries

The military says troops came under fire near Ramallah in the West Bank.

“A short while ago, shots were fired at a security forces vehicle adjacent to the Burqa Junction, northeast of Ramallah,” the IDF says in a statement.

“No injuries were reported,” it adds. “IDF troops are searching the area.”

Syria strike said to come after Hezbollah movements in area

The Al Arabiya network says the alleged Israeli missile strike in Syria came following movement by members of the Hezbollah terror group in the area.

Israel does not comment on the reports.

Dozens killed in Nigeria fighting between army, jihadists

Fierce clashes between a regional force and IS-affiliated fighters in northeast Nigeria have left 25 soldiers and at least 40 jihadists dead, two military sources and a militia leader say.

Fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) group launched a dawn attack on Monday against a base near the town of Baga on Lake Chad, setting off fierce gun battles that killed 20 Nigerian and five Chadian troops, the sources say.

— AFP

Two Gazans arrested after crossing into Israel with knife

The Israel Defense Forces says troops have arrested two Palestinian boys who crossed the border fence separating Gaza and Israel.

The two, aged 15 and 11, are found carrying a knife and taken for questioning, the military says in a statement.

Central Elections Committee opens its doors for final day of party registration

The Central Elections Committee opens its doors at the Knesset for the second and final day of party registration ahead of September’s national election.

Parties have until 10 p.m. to file, with 48 having taken application forms but only nine having registered by the end of Wednesday. Of the parties with any chance of entering the Knesset, only Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut and Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu filed yesterday.

The first of the major parties expected to register today is the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism, which will present the exact same slate as the one it ran in April’s election at 4:30 p.m.

Representatives of both the Democratic Camp and Blue and White are scheduled to arrive at 6:30 p.m., while leaders of the Labor-Gesher merger will file at 7:15 p.m.

— Raoul Wootliff

Shas first party to file its election slate on 2nd day of registration

Shas register its party slate for September’s election ahead of tonight’s deadline.

The ultra-Orthodox party, which won eight seats in April’s vote, presented the exact same top-10 list as last time but added two new representatives in spots 11 and 12 — Baruch Gezhai and Yossi Tayeb, representing the Israeli Ethiopian and French immigrant communities, respectively.

After presenting the slate, number five on the list MK Yoav Ben-Tzur tells reporters that Shas’s “varied and widely representative list” will do just as well as it did in April, if not better.

Shas MK Yoav Ben-Tzur speaking to reporters at the Knesset on August 1, 2019, after filing his party forms ahead of the elections. (Raoul Wootliff/Times of Israel)

“We are not trying to match what we got, we are trying to better it. And we think we can and we will,” Ben Tzur says.

Asked if the party would agree to sit in a government headed by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, Ben Tzur says “i’ts not even a relevant question as it’s not going to happen.”

— Raoul Wootliff

Somalia says Mogadishu mayor dies after attack in office

Somalia’s government says the mayor of Mogadishu has died after being badly wounded in an al-Shabab extremist attack in his office last week.

The spokesman for Somalia’s president says Abdirahman Omar Osman died Thursday in Qatar, where he had been airlifted for treatment after the July 24 attack.

The Somalia-based al-Shabab and officials have said a rare female suicide bomber used in the attack had been aiming for an American who is the new United Nations envoy to Somalia. James Swan had left the office just minutes earlier.

It was not clear how the bomber managed to enter the mayor’s office, as visitors are required to pass through at least four metal detectors.

Osman had been a councilor in London before returning to Somalia to enter local politics.

— AP

Fire in Jerusalem area prompts evacuation of some buildings in Beit Meir

A fire breaks out in a forest near Beit Meir, a community outside Jerusalem.

Residents of buildings near its periphery are evacuated as a precaution.

Wives of jailed polygamous cult leader form new political party

Four wives of a polygamous cult leader who was convicted of sadistic abuse of his family members six years ago officially register a political party to run in September’s election.

In 2013 Daniel Ambash was sentenced to 26 years in jail in what has been described as one of the most shocking abuse cases in the country’s history. His six wives and many children were kept by Ambash and his assistants in slavery conditions, forcibly confined and routinely punished with rape, electric shocks and beatings.

But most of the wives have never renounced Ambash, a Bratslav ultra-Orthodox Jew. They still live together, view themselves as his wives and revere him. The four have claimed the entire case was fabricated.

Four wives of polygamous cult leader Daniel Ambash filing the forms of their new party, Kama, to the Central Elections Committee at the Knesset on August 1, 2019. (Raoul Wootliff/Times of Israel)

Filing forms for the Kama (Advancing Individual Rights) party, Aderet Ambash, chair of the new party and one of the four wives, says that they aim to fight to prevent the government from intervening in Israelis’ private lives.

“We have seen all the ills in the police, in the justice system, in the government, and we realized that it’s not just our problem. It’s a social problem that needs a deep solution,” Aderet Ambash says.

“We believe that if the Torah gives people the ability to choose their own life, the state has no place to intervene and prevent that. And we will fight for that right,” she says, referring to polygamous marriage.

— Raoul Wootliff

Gazan who injured 3 soldiers this morning was in Israel for 2 hours — officer

A senior commander in the IDF’s Gaza Division says that an initial probe into the circumstances of the Gazan who shot and injured three soldiers before being killed in the early morning had been in Israeli territory for two hours, Hebrew-language media reports.

The unnamed officer adds that the gunman had been identified along with his weapon when he crossed the border fence.

49 killed in two attacks in Yemen’s Aden: official

At least 49 people have been killed in two separate attacks on police by Yemen rebels and a jihadist suicide bomber in the second city of Aden, a health ministry official says.

“Forty-nine people were killed and 48 were wounded,” Mohammed Rabid tells reporters in Aden, the internationally recognized government’s de facto capital.

He does not specify how many of those killed and wounded were civilians. The death toll has increased from 27.

— AFP

Anti-LGBT Noam party says won’t run on joint slate with far-right Otzma Yehudit

The far-right Noam and Otzma Yehudit parties have decided that they will not run together in the upcoming elections.

The decision was made jointly in light of disagreement over the inclusion of a non-religious candidate on their unified list, a statement from the Noam party says, claiming that Otzma Yehudit was pushing for a non-yarmulke wearing candidate to be added.

Likud MK Oren Hazan in Jerusalem on September 19, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Earlier, reports said former Likud MK Oren Hazan — a scandal-ridden lawmaker who went on to form his own party and got just 0.06 percent of the vote in the April elections — was in negotiations for a joint run with Otzma Yehudit. Hazan is non-religious, but it isn’t immediately clear if the Noam statement is referring to him.

A spokesman for Otzma Yehudit claims that the disagreement is a principle one and not regarding anyone in particular.

Other reports said Noam representatives last night visited the offices of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party and met one of the party leaders, MK Moshe Gafni.

— with Jacob Magid

During Kushner visit, Egypt calls for Palestinian state

Meeting US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner in Cairo, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi expresses support for the establishment of a Palestinian state, according to the state-run Middle East News Agency.

Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, right, with White House adviser Jared Kushner, in Cairo, Egypt, August 23, 2017. (MENA via AP)

Sissi tells Kushner that Cairo supports all efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on “international references, the two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” the outlet reports.

Kushner is visiting the region to rally support for the administration’s efforts to resolve the conflict. Trump’s administration has not endorsed a two-state solution, which has long been seen internationally as the only viable path to peace.

— Adam Rasgon with AP

Arab party chief says he would ‘seriously consider’ joining Gantz-led government

Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint (Arab) List, does not rule out joining a government headed by Blue and White chief Benny Gantz, but says that scenario is unlikely.

“I don’t think that Gantz is ready,” Odeh tells The Times of Israel as he and other leaders of the alliance register in the Knesset for the September elections, when asked whether he would consider joining a government led by Gantz. “He would rather form a national unity government than what we want. But, if he turns to us and he is going in the right direction of peace and equality, we will listen.

“I don’t see it happening because of a lot of bad water under the bridge. We are not in his pocket, he will have to come to us and if we see that there is some common direction, we will seriously consider joining him.”

A spokesperson for the Joint List later claimed Odeh was expressing openness for general cooperation with Blue and White leader.

(L-R) Mtanes Shihadeh, Ayman Odeh, Ahmad Tibi and Mansour Abbas, heads of the four Arab-majority parties that form the Joint List, registering their alliance at the Central Elections Committee at the Knesset on August 1, 2019. (Raoul Wootliff/Times of Israel)

Asked whether the unity deal between his Jewish-Arab Hadash party and Arab parties Balad, Ra’am and Ta’al is a sign of strength or weakness, Odeh says: “We are coming here stronger than before because we are united. We have learned the mistake of the last four months and we only have to look at the facts — when we ran together, we received 13 seats. When we ran separately, we had the lowest turnout ever. So what do we need to learn? That we need to unite. Now that we have united, the turnout will rise again.”

Asked what his goal is in these elections, Odeh says: “We want to raise the turnout by at least 10 percent, but we need work hard to raise it to at least 65% so that Benjamin Netanyahu and his cronies are sent home. The more we get, the more influence we will have.”

— with Raoul Wootliff

After Syria strike blamed on Israel, PM says ‘taking action against Hezbollah’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel is “taking action against Iran and Hezbollah and you are hearing about that also over the last days.”

The comments at a state memorial for pre-state revisionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky come hours after an airstrike on Hezbollah-linked targets claimed by Syrian state media to have been conducted by Israel.

Israel has not confirmed it is behind the strike in Quneitra, and the military has refused to comment on the foreign reports.

Gantz says he will call for unity government with Likud after elections

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz says he will aim to form a unity government with the ruling Likud following the September 17 elections, a scenario dismissed so far by Likud but pushed by Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman.

“We will call for a unity government and an agreement immediately after the elections,” Gantz tells reporters in the Knesset, as party officials register its slate with the Central Elections Committee.

Gantz retracts support for unity government with PM, claims he misheard question

Benny Gantz returns to the media stand, minutes after saying he doesn’t rule out a unity government with Netanyahu, to claim he had not heard the journalist’s question correctly.

“I don’t hear well in my right ear” because of his time in the military, Gantz says. “Maybe I didn’t hear the question — but I came to replace Netanyahu, not to sit with him.”

Amid ethics probe, UN appoints acting UNRWA deputy chief

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appoints a new acting deputy head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees and their descendants, whose top management is under investigation by the UN’s internal watchdog over allegations of abusing their authority.

Deputy Commissioner General Sandra Mitchell of the United States resigned in July and denied all allegations in a confidential report by the ethics office of the UN Relief and Works Agency, known as UNRWA.

The report, made public this week by AFP, claims the agency’s top management, including Commissioner General Pierre Krahenbuhl, “have engaged in sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority.”

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric says Guterres decided in coordination with Krahenbuhl to appoint Assistant Secretary-General Christian Saunders of the United Kingdom as the agency’s acting deputy commissioner general “to support UNRWA and ensure operational continuity.”

The UN Office of Internal Oversight Services is currently investigating allegations of misconduct in UNRWA, Dujarric says, and “the secretary-general is committed to acting, as appropriate, once he receives the findings and recommendations.”

— with AP

Blue and White registers almost identical election slate as April vote

The Blue and White party officially files its party slate for September’s election with the Central Elections Committee at the Knesset, registering almost exactly the same list as it did for April’s election.

The only changes were made to the order of the candidates beyond number 30 on the list.

The list was presented by MK Yoaz Hendel from the Telem faction within Blue and White, MK Orna Barbivai from Yesh Atid, and MK Orit Farkash Hacohen from Israel Resilience.

After filing the slate, Hendel says: “We are happy to be here on the one hand, but on the other hand, sad that it comes at the expense of billions of shekels out of the pockets of Israeli citizens for unnecessary elections.”

Farkash Hacohen describes the slate as “varied, wide-ranging and incredibly representative,” and adds that “it has not changed since last time and neither has the leadership because are committed together to bringing about a real change.”

— Raoul Wootliff

Election poll shows decline for Netanyahu-supporting bloc of parties

A poll conducted by Channel 13 has a worse result for Benjamin Netanyahu, in his efforts to remain prime minister, than other recent surveys. The poll predicts 54 Knesset seats for the bloc of parties committed to supporting him for the premiership — right-wing parties minus Yisrael Beytenu — far from the required 61 Netanyahu is hoping for.

Otzma Yehudit says it won’t join United Right, blames Bennett for failed talks

Otzma Yehudit party chief Itamar Ben Gvir announces that attempts to reach a merger deal with the United Right have failed, and his far-right faction will run on its own in the upcoming elections.

“There were officials who, for reasons of ego, blew this matter up and I aim the blame at [United Right candidate] Naftali Bennett. He apparently has an agreement with [Blue and White No. 2] Yair Lapid and I really hope that he doesn’t establish a unity government with him,” Ben Gvir tells reporters.

Lapid and other Blue and White leaders have called on Bennett and United Right chair Ayelet Shaked to avoid merging with Otzma Yehudit, and have said that they would be willing to sit in a government with the two of them.

— Jacob Magid

Otzma Yehudit says leaving door open for last-ditch solution with United Right

Despite declaring that it will run independently from the United Right alliance, the far-right Otzma Yehudit party will wait until “the final opportunity” to file its Knesset list with the Central Elections Committee, a senior party member tells The Times of Israel, still leaving the option open.

“If we get a call, we will take it,” they say. “We don’t think it’s going to happen. They are genuinely disrespecting us. But we will still wait.”

— Raoul Wootliff

Trump says US to slap 10% tariff on $300 bn more in Chinese goods

US President Donald Trump announces that 10 percent tariffs on another $300 billion in Chinese imports will take effect next month, escalating the trade war between the world’s two biggest economies as recent negotiations falter.

Trump tweets that “the US will start, on September 1st, putting a small additional Tariff of 10% on the remaining 300 Billion Dollars of goods and products coming from China into our Country.”

Trump also complains that China has failed to follow through on what has been touted as two sweeteners in the tense negotiations — a surge in purchases of farm produce and a halt in sales of the opioid fentanyl.

Trump says, however, that “trade talks are continuing.”

— AFP

Fire near Jerusalem still not under control, additional forces called in

30 firefighter teams are called in to boost the forces battling the blaze in the Jerusalem Hills, which is not yet under control.

The forest fire has been raging for hours and prompted some residents of the community of Beit Meir to be evacuated from their homes.

Third suspect arrested in stabbing of teen at gay youth center

Police say they have arrested a third suspect in the stabbing of a 16-year-old boy last week at the entrance to an LGBT youth hostel in Tel Aviv.

The 24-year-old resident of northern Israel has been arrested in the south of the country and taken for questioning.

The other two suspects are the victim’s brothers, residents of the Arab city of Tamra.

The victim was seriously wounded.

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Shots fired at IDF troops northeast of Ramallah, causing no injuries

The military says troops came under fire near Ramallah in the West Bank.

“A short while ago, shots were fired at a security forces vehicle adjacent to the Burqa Junction, northeast of Ramallah,” the IDF says in a statement.

“No injuries were reported,” it adds. “IDF troops are searching the area.”