Six Syrian regulars killed in first major clash with Turkey
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In leaked transcript, PM’s son calls police Gestapo, accuses ex-aide of murder

Foul-mouthed and combative Yair Netanyahu makes unfounded claims about Gideon Saar and Nir Hefetz, says cops worse than mafia in transcript of police questioning

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's eldest son Yair Netanyahu is seen at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on June 5, 2018. (Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's eldest son Yair Netanyahu is seen at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on June 5, 2018. (Flash90)

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

Jerusalem reaching out to Moscow after mom of jailed Israeli unable to visit

The Foreign Ministry says it is in contact with Moscow using diplomatic channels in Russia and Israel after the mother of an woman jailed on drug charges was prevented from visiting her daughter in prison.

Yaffa Issachar was unable to see her daughter Naama after Russian authorities said a consular visit last week replaced the family visit, according to Hebrew media reports.

Naama Issachar, sentenced to 7.5 years in Russia over alleged drug smuggling, in an undated photo (Courtesy)

However, Yaffa says she received a dispensation from a Russian judge on Monday to see her daughter.

According to Walla news, the mother has returned to the Moscow apartment where she has been staying, after being turned away at the jail, along with the consul, who was to accompany her for the visit.

Issachar, 26, was arrested in April after some 10 grams of marijuana were found in her bag during a stopover in Moscow. She was flying from India to Israel, and at no point was to exit the airport in Russia.

Netanyahu earlier this month sent a formal request to Putin asking that Issachar be pardoned. Moscow has said the Russian leader would consider the request.

According to a report on the Kremlin-aligned Russia Today network, Issachar met with human right activists last week, who said she was being treated well.

Argentina’s Grossi selected to head nuclear watchdog

Rafael Mariano Grossi of Argentina has been chosen as the new head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, succeeding the late Yukiya Amano.

Russia’s ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, tweets that the International Atomic Energy Agency’s board of governors selected Grossi as its new director general.

Grossi is Argentina’s ambassador to the Vienna-based IAEA.

In this photo taken on October 2, 2019, one of the four candidates for the general director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Argentina’s Rafael Grossi, speaks to the press after an agency hearing. (JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

He previously represented the IAEA in nuclear talks with Iran.

The IAEA is tasked with monitoring Iran’s nuclear activities to ensure they abide by the terms of the 2015 deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Three other candidates were nominated for the job: Cornel Feruta of Romania, its chief coordinator under Amano and the acting director general since his death in July; Marta Ziakova of Slovakia; and Lassina Zerbo of Burkina Faso.

— AP


Lebanon’s Hariri expected to resign Tuesday — report

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is expected to resign Tuesday, an official source tells the Reuters news agency.

Cars, left, are stuck in a traffic jam as anti-government protesters block a highway that links the capital Beirut to northern Lebanon by cars, tents, stones, and bricks during a protest against the Lebanese government in the town of Jal el-Dib north of Beirut, Lebanon, October 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

The resignation would come as Lebanon has been rocked over the last 11 days by massive protests against Hariri’s government, which includes a coalition with the Hezbollah terror group.

Tension has mounted in recent days between security forces and protesters, who have blocked roads and brought the country to a standstill to press their demands for a complete overhaul of the political system.

Lebanon’s reviled political elite has defended a belated package of economic reforms and appeared willing to reshuffle the government, but protesters who have stayed on the streets since October 17 want more.

A Lebanese protester lifts a picture of Prime Minister Saad Hariri in a wig during a rally in downtown Beirut on the third day of demonstrations against tax increases and official corruption, on October 19, 2019. The writing “sashay away” refers to a catchphrase from a drag queen TV show meaning “leave”. (IBRAHIM AMRO / AFP)

In 2017, Hariri announced his resignation in a bizarre television appearance from Saudi Arabia, blaming Iranian influence in his country. He later returned home and rescinded the move.

— with AFP

Joint List unimpressed by PM’s plan to halt violence in Arab communities

The Joint List says it is not getting excited over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise to set up a panel aimed at combating violence in Arab communities.

Thousands of people, including Joint List lawmakers, have held large protests in recent weeks against what they say is a lack of policing in their communities and government inaction, urging a wide-ranging national plan .

Netanyahu said Tuesday he was tasking the head of the Prime Minister’s Office with creating the body to push forward a national plan to halt the violence.

“We’re not starry-eyed over Netanyahu’s promises. The test will be in the implementation,” the party says in a statement.

The party criticizes the mechanism proposed by the prime minister, saying the process should involve political and municipal leaders of the Arab community and experts. “We won’t take diktats from on high,” it says.

It also says it should not take the appointment of a panel in order to deploy police to confiscate weapons and go after bad guys.

Earlier, Mansour Abbas, the head of the Joint List’s effort to combat violence, called the creation of the task force “one positive step among many that need to be taken.”

No injuries as crane collapses in Tel Aviv

A construction crane has collapsed in Tel Aviv’s Bitzaron neighborhood.

According to initial reports, there are no injuries in the incident, though two cars are damaged.

The collapse occurs on the corner of Tuval Street and Hasolelim Streets, east of the Ayalon freeway.

A collapsed crane in Tel Aviv on October 29, 2019. (Israel Police)

It’s not immediately clear what caused the accident.

Hariri to address press amid resignation scuttlebutt

Lebanon’s under-fire prime minister Saad Hariri is slated to speak in approximately one hour, amid rumors of his imminent resignation following nearly two weeks of unprecedented protests demanding political change.

Lebanese security forces intervene to seperate between demonstrators and and counter-protesters in the center of the capital Beirut during the 13th day of anti-government protests on October 29, 2019. (ANWAR AMRO / AFP)

Hariri’s office summoned the press for 4 p.m., even as counterdemonstrators wielding sticks and throwing stones attacked the main protest site in Beirut.


Gantz tells Diaspora leaders he’ll ‘nurture pluralism’ among Jews

Blue and White head Benny Gantz tells Diaspora leaders that he will embrace “all streams of Judaism” when he becomes prime minister.

Addressing the Jewish Agency Board of Governors, which convened in Jerusalem this week, he also vows to implement a plan to upgrade a pluralistic prayer platform at the Western Wall, which the current government has indefinitely frozen under pressure from the ultra-Orthodox.

Blue and White head Benny Gantz visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem the night before elections, September 16, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“When I will be the prime minister of Israel, I will visit your communities,” he tells the Jewish leaders, promising to “nurture pluralism” and back Diaspora Jewry’s requirements from increased security in the face of rising anti-Semitism.

In his 15-minute speech, read in English from a teleprompter, Gantz also reiterates his call for a “broad and liberal unity government.”

“If we want hope, we must have unity. If we want security, we must have unity. The divisive dialogue is steering our nation apart,” he says, without mentioning Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu by name.

Turning to regional security challenges, the former IDF chief of staff that “all options are on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran,” though diplomacy should be exhausted first before resorting to military action.

“This is not a slogan,” he says.

He also promises to “find regional partners” and not to “shy away from the prospect of peace,” which garners applause from the audience.

— Raphael Ahren

Six Syrian regulars killed in first major clash with Turkey

At least six Syrian regime fighters were killed as heavy clashes broke out Tuesday between the army and Turkish forces for the first time since Ankara attacked northeastern Syria three weeks ago, a war monitor says.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says artillery and machine-gun fire was exchanged near Assadiya, south of the border town of Ras al-Ain.

Turkish soldiers at a position east of the northeastern Syrian town of Ras al-AIn watch as a tank fires on positions held by fighters from the Syrian Democratic Army (SDF) on October 28, 2019. (Nazeer Al-khatib / AFP)

“Turkish artillery fire killed five regime forces in battles on the edge of the village of Assadiya,” Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Observatory, tells AFP.

He adds that the pro-Ankara fighters being used by Turkey as the main ground force for the invasion executed a government soldier they had captured.


Hezbollah supporters attack Lebanon protesters, burn tents

Hundreds of Lebanese supporters of the Hezbollah terror group, some wielding sticks, have attacked a protest camp set up by anti-government demonstrators in central Beirut, burning some of its tents and dismantling others.

The violence came shortly after dozens of other Hezbollah supporters, also wielding sticks, attacked a roadblock set up by the protesters on a main thoroughfare in the capital.

The riot police and military first moved in trying to separate the rival groups, but the security forces failed to stop the storming of Martyrs square, where anti-government protesters have held their ground since October 17.

Lebanese security forces intervene to separate between demonstrators counter-protesters in the capital Beirut’s downtown district as the latter set fire to a tent during the 13th day of anti-government protests on October 29, 2019. (ANWAR AMRO / AFP)

The protesters are calling on the government to step down, holding rallies in public squares and promoting a civil disobedience campaign that include blocking main roads. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has grown critical of the protests, claiming they have been backed and financed by foreign powers and rival political groups.

At the Beirut roadblock, the angry crowd swelled by early afternoon, some using sticks to chase protesters away. Some of the men also attacked journalists, kicking them and attempting to smash their cameras.

Lebanese demonstrators flee as others clash with counter-protesters along a major bridge in the center of the capital Beirut during the 13th day of anti-government protests on October 29, 2019. (ANWAR AMRO / AFP)

Many among the angry mob chanted: “God, Nasrallah, and the whole Dahiyeh,” in reference to the southern suburb that is a stronghold of the Iranian-backed militant group. Others told TV crews that they were upset at the roadblocks and insults to their leader.

Then they marched to the central square, tearing down tents, smashing plastic chairs and using metal poles to poke holes in the tents, which they later burned. They also beat some anti-government protesters. One TV presenter described it as “a war scene.”

— AP

Trump says Baghdadi successor killed by US troops

US President Donald Trump says US forces have killed the person slated to take over the Islamic State terror group from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, killed in a raid over the weekend.

“Just confirmed that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s number one replacement has been terminated by American troops. Most likely would have taken the top spot – Now he is also Dead!”

Trump does not name the figure. A number of names have been reported as the possible next in line to head the terror organization,

One possible heir is Abdullah Qardash, an Iraqi Turkman from Talafar and a former officer in Saddam Hussein’s army.

Another of Baghdadi’s close aides, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, was killed in a joint US operation with Kurdish forces in Jarablus on Sunday, hours after al-Baghdadi blew himself up. Little is known about al-Muhajir, who was appointed spokesman in 2016 and is believed to be a foreigner given his nom de guerre, the migrant.

The IS Shura council, the shadowy group’s leadership of 10 or so people, is supposed to choose the next leader if Baghdadi had not designated a successor. But it’s not clear how many of them are still alive.

— with AP


Lebanon’s Hariri says he is resigning

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has announces he is resigning his government after nearly two weeks of protests.

He tells the media he will turn in his resignation to President Michel Aoun later Tuesday.

“I’ve come to a dead end,” he says of efforts to find a solution to the crisis.

Protesters celebrate Hariri resignation

Protesters who have returned to Martyr’s Square in central Beirut after being attacked by Hezbollah backers celebrate the news that Saad Hariri is resigning as prime minister, Naharnet reports.

Hariri says that “nobody is the bigger than the country,” and “what’s important is the nation’s safety and dignity,” not posts.


Natsec official who worried over Trump call arrives to testify to Congress

White House national security official Alexander Vindman has arrived for a closed-door deposition on Capitol Hill to testify that he was concerned about a call between US President Donald Trump and the Ukrainian president.

Vindman, an Army lieutenant colonel, arrived in full military uniform for his interview with House impeachment investigators.

Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a military officer at the National Security Council, center, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019. (AP /Manuel Balce Ceneta)

According to prepared testimony obtained by The Associated Press, Vindman, a Jewish refugee born in Ukraine, raised concerns over the Trump administration’s push to have Ukraine investigate Democrats and Joe Biden.

Trump questions why people he’s “never even heard of” are testifying in the House Democrats’ impeachment probe. Trump has denied doing anything wrong.

Hariri hands in resignation, Lebanese celebrate

Hariri has submitted his resignation to Lebanese president Michel Aoun, according to local reports.

He does not make a statement.

It is not clear if Aoun will accept his resignation.

Videos compiled by LBC TV show protesters around the country celebrating Hariri’s decision.

Meanwhile, Israelis are closely watching the Hariri resignation and how it may affect the Hezbollah terror group, a powerful figure in Lebanese politics and a potential big loser in the affair.

“The phone line between Beirut and Iran is doing overtime: How will they move ahead from here? What are the alternatives? Will Hezbollah find a new way to keep the status quo or will there be an explosion,” Walla news’s Amir Buhbut wonders on Twitter.

Blue and White to meet Likud for talks Thursday

The Blue and White Party announces its negotiators will meet with Likud counterparts for coalition negotiations on Thursday.

Blue and White head Benny Gantz said Monday that a Sunday meeting with Likud head Benjamin Netanyahu did not yield any results.

IDF shoots down drone flying over Gaza Strip

The Israel Defense Forces says it shot down a drone that was flying at an “irregular altitude” over the Gaza Strip.

The military says fighter jets were scrambled once the aircraft was detected and they shot it down.

Illustrative photo of an Israeli F-15 fighter jet. (Tsahi Ben-Ami/Flash90)

— Judah Ari Gross

Paris sounds alarm over Lebanon upheaval

The resignation of Lebanon’s government has made the crisis there “even more serious,” France’s foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian tells the parliament in Paris.

“Prime Minister (Saad) Hariri has just resigned, which makes the crisis even more serious,” he says, urging authorities in Lebanon “to do everything they can to guarantee the stability of the institutions and the unity of Lebanon.”

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (L) shakes hands with French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian as they attend a conference in Paris on April 6, 2018. (AFP/Pool/Ludovic Marin)

Le Drian says a condition for stability in any country “is a willingness to listen to the voice and demands of the population.”

“Lebanon needs a commitment from all political leaders to look within themselves and make sure there is a strong response to the population,” says the minister, offering France’s help.


Justice minister attacks so-called prosecution within prosecution

Justice Minister Amir Ohana is giving a press conference about an investigation into possible tampering by aides to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against a state’s witness.

Ohana attacks the state prosecution, saying it is destroying the careers of public servants, and claims that there is a “prosecution within the prosecution” which is acting according to political considerations.

He accuses this deep prosecution of also being engaged in quid pro quo deals with the press.

Lebanese president still mulling next move after Hariri hands in resignation

Lebanese media is reporting that sources close to President Michel Aoun say he has not yet responded to Saad Hariri’s resignation letter, which he is studying.

The sources say Aoun as of today will not ask Hariri to stay on as a caretaker prime minister.

Blue and White MK: Justice Minister is a disgrace

Responding to Justice Minister Amir Ohana’s statement, Blue and White MK Ofer Shelah calls the minister a patsy for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “who has mostly busied himself with attacking the institutions he oversees. … His term is a disgrace.”

Shelah says the statement is a symbol of Netanyahu being in his final throes.

Kushner speaks to Israeli TV on coalition talks, kiddush and cleaning up messes

Bits of a Jared Kushner interview with Israel’s Channel 13 news are being teased ahead of it being aired later Tuesday.

In a clip tweeted by the channel, Kushner says he thinks both Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz want to “move forward.”

He indicates he urged them in separate meetings over the importance of forming a government.

“The message that I was bringing was one that right now in the region there really are tremendous opportunities that we’ve accomplished over the past couple years, but even more that we can be seizing together so it would be great for Israel to figure out how to form a government so we can start working on all the big priorities and opportunities that exist.”

Kushner, who met with Gantz for the first time in an official capacity on Monday, calls the Blue and White chief a “great general,” but seems to discount the possibility of any government that does not include Netanyahu.

“Hopefully he’ll be able to work with Prime Minister Netanyahu and find a way to move forward.”

Other clips focus on more lighthearted matters, like Trump joining his daughter and son-in-law for kiddush, and Kushner being shunted to the basement as a kid when Netanyahu came to visit.

In an excerpt posted by Axios (interviewer Barak Ravid does double duty at both outlets) Kushner goes after former vice president Joe Biden, saying much of his job is to “clean up the messes” the ex-senator left behind.

“We inherited an ISIS caliphate, Iran was strong, Libya was a mess and a lot of our allies felt abandoned. We worked very hard over the last three years to try and rebuild the Middle East and to put it in a much more stable framing,” he says.

Prosecutor, attorney general hit back at Ohana after attack

Top law enforcement officials are hitting back at Justice Minister Amir Ohana, who earlier accused the state prosecution of harboring a cabal of prosecutors making improper legal decisions based on political considering.

“The law enforcement system will not be dragged into politics,” a joint statement from Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan charges. “Nobody will keep us from doing out work faithfully. Nobody will make us veer from the straight and narrow.”

Mandelblit, Nitzan and their offices have come under near constant attack from backers of Netanyahu, who is facing criminal indictments in three separate cases. Netanyahu claims he is innocent and blames the probe on a witch hunt by police, justice officials, journalists and others.

Ohana, from the Likud party, is seen as a staunch Netanyahu ally.

Russia says all Kurdish fighters have left Syria border zone — Turkey

Russia has informed Turkey that Kurdish fighters in Syria have completed their withdrawal from areas near the border, in accordance with a deal agreed between Ankara and Moscow, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday.

“Russia informed our competent authorities of the terror groups’ complete withdrawal from there,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in Ankara marking Turkey’s Republic Day.


Kushner says terror fears, not Israel, hurting Palestinian economy

US presidential adviser Jared Kushner says Israel is not responsible for all Palestinian hardships, as Ramallah faces a crippling financial crisis.

“Israel is not the cause of all the suffering of the Palestinian people,” Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, tells the Future Investment Initiative conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, left, boards Air Force One for a trip to Columbia, S.C., with President Donald Trump to attend the “2019 Second Step Presidential Justice Forum” at Benedict College, Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, in Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP/Evan Vucci)

“If you want to go and invest in the West Bank or Gaza, the issue that’s holding you back is the fear of terrorism and that your investment could be destroyed.”


Dozens of Netanyahu-backers protest outside Mandelblit’s home

Several dozen supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have returned to a street corner near Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s Petah Tikva home to protest legal probes against the premier.

The corner, once a bastion of anti-Netanyahu protesters pushing for the prime minister to be charged, has in recent weeks become the scene of rallies by Netanyahu backers as a decision on an indictment nears.

Mandelblit is expected to decide in the coming weeks whether to indict Netanyahu in three criminal cases.

Protesters chant slogans accusing state prosecutor Shai Nitzan of “destroying democracy.”

The protest comes hours after Justice Minister Amir Ohana called a press conference to launch a biting attack on the prosecution, accusing it of undermining the state.

Leak reveals Yair Netanyahu’s combative, conspiratorial police interrogation

Channel 12 news has published parts of transcripts of police interrogations of Yair Netanyahu, in which the combative son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu angrily accuses politicians, officials and others of rape and murder and compares the police to Nazis while denying any wrongdoing on his own part.

In the published transcripts, a foul-mouthed Netanyahu repeatedly calls the police the Gestapo or Stasi. “[You are] a police state, the mafia,” he says at one point. “Sorry, you aren’t like the mafia, because even the mafia doesn’t involve women and children. Shame on you.”

Netanyahu also spins a yarn about Nir Hefetz, the premier’s former media adviser turned state’s witness, killing a soldier and placing his body on train tracks so it would be run over and made unrecognizable to cover it up. And he makes unfounded claims about former minister Gideon Sa’ar raping an acquaintance and getting her a job to cover it up.

When he bothers answering the investigator’s questions, he denies playing any criminal role in attempting to steer media coverage, as his father is accused of doing, and which he was suspected of playing a role in.

Asked about Hefetz being trusted by the family, he denies that they place their faith in any outsiders.

“We don’t trust anyone outside out family and our dog that died. Those are the only people we trust,” he says.

WhatsApp files complaint against NSO over alleged cyber attack using service

The WhatsApp messaging app says it thwarted “a highly sophisticated cyber attack” by Israel-based NSO Group which exploited its video calling feature in May.

The Facebook-owned company says it has filed a complaint in a US court against NSO Group over the incident, and is seeking to have it banned from using the popular application.

In a Washington Post op-ed, WhatsApp head Will Cathcart says the NSO attack “targeted at least 100 human-rights defenders, journalists and other members of civil society across the world.”

“At WhatsApp, we believe people have a fundamental right to privacy and that no one else should have access to your private conversations, not even us. Mobile phones provide us with great utility, but turned against us they can reveal our locations and our private messages, and record sensitive conversations we have with others,” he writes.

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Six Syrian regulars killed in first major clash with Turkey

At least six Syrian regime fighters were killed as heavy clashes broke out Tuesday between the army and Turkish forces for the first time since Ankara attacked northeastern Syria three weeks ago, a war monitor says.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says artillery and machine-gun fire was exchanged near Assadiya, south of the border town of Ras al-Ain.

Turkish soldiers at a position east of the northeastern Syrian town of Ras al-AIn watch as a tank fires on positions held by fighters from the Syrian Democratic Army (SDF) on October 28, 2019. (Nazeer Al-khatib / AFP)

“Turkish artillery fire killed five regime forces in battles on the edge of the village of Assadiya,” Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Observatory, tells AFP.

He adds that the pro-Ankara fighters being used by Turkey as the main ground force for the invasion executed a government soldier they had captured.