The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
Netanyahu: Palestinians won’t accept our existence
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, briefing reporters during a state visit to the Netherlands, claims that the Palestinian Authority celebrates terror and refuses to countenance Israel’s existence.
“The Palestinians want Acre, Jaffa and Tel Aviv,” he says, according to quotes reported by Israel National news and confirmed by Netanyahu’s spokesman. “The Palestinians and [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas won’t agree to the existence of Israel. The Palestinians celebrate murderous terror around the world and in Israel, they name their streets after murderers,” he says.
While Abbas has refused Netanyahu’s demand that he recognize Israel as a Jewish state, the PA has recognized Israel and regularly called for a peace deal based on a two-state solution.
Netanyahu also claims that settlements are not at the heart of the conflict.
“Their problem is not the West Bank, it’s our very existence,” he says.
In a meeting with Dutch lawmakers, Netanyahu says that they have Israel to thank for their safety.
“Israel doesn’t only protect itself, but also protects Europe,” he says. “Israel is the most stable actor in the Middle East and the most stabilizing force in the Middle East.”
Editors note: An earlier version of this post paraphrased Netanyahu’s quote as claiming Palestinians won’t recognize Israel. According to his spokesman, he only said Palestinians won’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Tunisia moves to ban radical Islamist party
Tunisia’s government is asking a military court to outlaw the radical Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir movement, which has been regularly accused of “undermining public order” since its legalization in 2012, an official said Wednesday.
“A request to ban was submitted recently. We are awaiting the decision of the military investigative judge,” the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity, tells AFP.
He says a total ban on the party is imminent.
Hizb ut-Tahrir is known for focusing on unifying Muslims into a caliphate and is already banned in several countries.
The party last month successfully overturned a decision by a civil judge to ban it, and has denounced what it says is “police harassment” in Tunisia.
It released an apparently inflammatory statement saying that “the government… knows that its time has come and that heads and hands will be cut.”
One dead from reported chlorine attack in Aleppo
An official in Syria’s rebel-held Aleppo says at least one person has died from a suspected chlorine attack reported a day earlier.
Mohammed Abu Jaafar, head of the local forensic department in rebel-held Aleppo, said Wednesday 29-year old Mohammed Afifa died overnight of heart failure and acute respiratory distress caused by inhalation of toxic gas.
Hamza al-Khatib, who heads an Aleppo medical center, said Afifa had been in intensive care following the suspected chlorine attack.
Activists and rescuers said at least 70 people were treated for breathing difficulties after government helicopters dropped the suspected chlorine cylinders on al-Sukkari neighborhood.
Accusations involving the use of chlorine and other poisonous gases are not uncommon in Syria’s civil war. The report could not be independently verified and it was not clear how it was determined that chlorine gas was released.
US defense head accuses Russia of bid to ‘erode’ world stability
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is strongly criticizing Russia for what he says is Moscow’s “clear ambition to erode the principled international order” through coercion and aggression.
In a speech to students at Oxford University, Carter blasts what he calls Russia’s “unprofessional behavior” in Ukraine, Syria and cyberspace.
He accuses Moscow of nuclear “saber rattling.”
Carter says Russia seeks to sow instability beyond its borders, including in the Middle East. He also urges Russia to take a more constructive role in Syria to arrange a lasting ceasefire.
He cites progress the countries made together in the aftermath of the Cold War, but says Russia now “appears driven by misguided ambition and misplaced fear.”
Carter is due to meet Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman during his trip to the UK.
After 4 years, Turkish pianist cleared of insulting Islam
A Turkish court has acquitted world-renowned pianist Fazil Say of blasphemy on Wednesday, four years after he first went on trial on charges of insulting Islam in a case that raised alarm about freedom of expression in Turkey.
The Istanbul court ruling ends a long-running legal saga which began in October 2012 when Say went on trial on charges “insulting religious beliefs” in a series of Twitter posts.
In a hugely convoluted process, the Turkish classical star was initially handed a 10-month jail sentence in 2013 before a retrial was ordered the same year in which he received an identical sentence.
But the the Supreme Court of Appeal in October 2015 overturned the sentence, sending it back to a lower court for a final ruling.
And the Istanbul court on Wednesday supported the appeal court decision to overturn the sentence against Say and ruled he should be acquitted, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Say, 45, has played with orchestras across the world including in Berlin, New York, Tokyo and Israel and regularly gives sold-out solo recitals that often mix Mozart with Turkish traditional sounds.
The charismatic pianist — who is also a renowned composer — was prosecuted for Twitter posts in 2012 that allegedly attacked Muslims.
One of which was a retweet which said: “I am not sure if you have also realized it, but all the pricks, low-lives, buffoons, thieves, jesters, they are all Allahists. Is this a paradox?”
Dutch lawmaker refuses to shake Netanyahu’s hand
Video shows Dutch parliamentarian Tunahan Kuzu refusing to shake Netanyahu’s hand as the prime minister works his way down a row of lawmakers in The Hague.
And here is video of the incident. Dutch MP Kuzu from the DENK-party wears a Palestinian flag on his jacket. pic.twitter.com/DjSITq83Qc
— Jan Franke (@Franke_schrijft) September 7, 2016
Kuzu, from the pro-immigrant DENK, or Think, party, points to his Palestinian flag lapel as Netanyahu goes past, and Netanyahu defers as both nod in understanding.
Kuzu, 35, was born in Istanbul. He was one of the founders of Kuzu, which is made up of migrants to Holland.
In 2014, he led a failed parliamentary effort for Holland to recognize Palestine.
Barkat jubilant after Czechs keep Jerusalem as capital in atlas, for now
A Czech statement that textbooks will not be altered immediately to show Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel is being celebrated by Jerusalem’s mayor as a victory.
“Truth has indeed overcome lies: The Czech government has reversed its decision and Czech textbooks will correctly teach that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” Barkat crows in a statement to the press.
Barkat’s reaction comes after Czech Education Minister Katerina Valachova said the ministry would not interfere with school atlases certified through 2017 that show Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, following reports that the ministry was seeking the books be changed, according to the Prague Daily Monitor.
“Jerusalem is Israel’s capital from the viewpoint of the declaration of the country to which this relates, which means Israel,” Valachova told Czech radio, according to the report.
It’s not clear if the books will keep Jerusalem as the capital beyond 2017. According to the report, the publisher is considering printing both as the capital with an explanation on the dispute.
Barkat credits a letter he sent Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and other diplomatic efforts for the apparent reversal.
“I’m thankful to the Czech government for making the right choice and for refusing to surrender to Palestinian incitement and lies,” he says. “Future generations of Czech students will continue to learn the truth: Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and the heart and soul of the Jewish people.”
Pence panders to Hebrew speakers
If Donald Trump supporters start wondering why their favorite vice presidential candidate is speaking in tongues, it may be because Mike Pence has embraced the language of Moses, novelist S.Y. and rapper The Shadow.
According to a spokesperson for the Trump campaign in Israel, which has recently begun stumping for expat votes, Pence took the time to hold up some Hebrew-language campaign signs during a flight Tuesday while on the campaign trail.
He also gave a shout out to the Israeli campaign team, likely in English.
The governor of Indiana, Pence visited Israel in 2014, and is seen as strong supporter of the Jewish state.
The statement does not say if Pence learned any Hebrew, but considering Donald Trump’s Tuesday prediction that Israel will be destroyed unless he’s elected he perhaps shouldn’t bother.
Pence isn’t the first to pander to Jews by campaigning in their language.
At the Democratic National Convention last month, Bill Clinton was spotted wearing a Hebrew Hillary button.
Multitudes arrive for hajj amid Iranian anger at Saudi Arabia
Hundreds of thousands of Muslims are arriving in Saudi Arabia to participate in the annual hajj pilgrimage, which starts later this week.
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, meanwhile, is calling on the Muslim world to “punish” Saudi Arabia following last year’s hajj crush and stampede that killed over 2,400 people.
Iranian pilgrims are not taking part in this year’s hajj, a ritual required of all able-bodied Muslims at least once in their life.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency quotes Rouhani lambasting Saudi Arabia’s response to the 2015 stampede in Mina by saying pilgrims lost their lives because Saudi authorities acted just as “bystanders rather than rescuing” those caught in the disaster.
He says countries should “punish the government of Saudi Arabia in order to have a real hajj.”
“The government of Saudi Arabia must be held accountable for this incident,” Rouhani says. “Unfortunately, this government has even refrained from a verbal apology to Muslims and Muslim countries.”
Army says death toll in garage collapse remains at 3
The IDF’s spokesman’s unit denies a report by the Associated Press that the death toll in the collapsed Tel Aviv garage has risen to four.
The AP reported earlier today that the army said the death toll had risen to four, though the report also said three remained trapped in the rubble.
According to the army, three people were confirmed killed in the Monday collapse and three more workers remain buried under the garage, amid dwindling hope that hundreds of rescuers digging through the site will pull them out alive.
— with Judah Ari Gross
Widow of man killed in garage collapse says no money for funeral
The family of Oleg Yakubov, one of three construction workers killed in Monday’s Tel Aviv garage collapse, say his body is being held in the hospital as they do not have money for a funeral.
Yakubov, 60, immigrated from Uzbekistan to Israel 18 years ago, and lived in the working class Hatikvah neighborhood of Tel Aviv.
His widow Glina tells the Walla news site the family was told it needs to come with NIS 40,000 to pay for a burial plot.
“Where is the money? We don’t have it,” she says.
She tells the site that Oleg would always work so they had money, but they were always poor. While the two did not have kids together, they had children from a previous marriage, including a son who has been in a coma in a Tel Aviv hospital for 12 years.
“In any job he always worked hard with all his heart, for a tiny salary,” she says.
Police say also killed in the collapse were Denis Diatzniko, 28, from Ukraine and Ihad Ajhaj, 34, from the Palestinian town of Bet Rima.
Jordan nabs massive haul of drug fueling Syria fighters
Jordan says it has seized a “record” haul of more than 13 million Captagon pills, one of the most commonly used drugs among fighters in neighboring Syria.
The interior ministry says three alleged traffickers, including a foreigner, were arrested in what it called “the most important seizure of drug tablets in the kingdom’s history.”
A ministry statement says the pills were discovered hidden inside tumble dryers in the house of one of those arrested, near Amman.
Captagon is classified by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime as an “amphetamine-type stimulant” and usually blends amphetamines, caffeine and other substances.
There have been numerous reports of Captagon use among groups waging Syria’s war.
Jordan’s interior ministry says the haul of tablets was bound for “another country” without providing details.
Two police officers stabbed in Brussels
Two police officers have been stabbed by a knife-wielding assailant in Brussels, Belgian media says.
The attack occurred in the heavily Muslim neighborhood of Molenbeek.
The two officers, both of whom were wearing bulletproof vests, were unharmed, according to Flandersnews.be.
The officers had approached the assailant to speak to him when they were attacked. One was stabbed in the stomach seven times, and another one stabbed once.
The attacker was apprehended after a short chase.
Molenbeek has been described by some as a hotbed of Islamism. Several terrorists from the March bombings in Brussels and the November attacks in Paris had been linked to the neighborhood.
Projectile lands in northern Golan, no injuries
The IDF says a projectile landed in open countryside in the northern Golan Heights a short time ago.
There was no damage or injuries reported.
The army says it is looking into the source of the fire.
Spillover fire from fighting in Syria occasionally lands in the Golan.
Israel says it holds the Syrian regime responsible for all spillover fire regardless of the source. It usually responds by firing at a Syrian army position.
Teen girl second fatality in alleged Aleppo chlorine attack
An official in Syria’s contested city of Aleppo says a 13-year old girl has died after a suspected chlorine attack the previous day.
Mohammed Abu Jaafar, head of the local forensic department in the rebel-held part of Aleppo, says the girl died overnight of suffocation and respiratory burns.
A 29-year old man also died from respiratory failure after the attack.
Mohammed Abu Rajab, a technician in an Aleppo medical center, says the teen was admitted to the intensive care unit following a suspected chlorine attack in the city’s al-Sukkari neighborhood on Tuesday.
He says she was suffering from the impact of the explosion, gas inhalation and burns. Her facial bones were broken.
Netanyahu on MP’s snub: Let his nose stay wrinkled
After appearing to shrug off a snub by Dutch lawmaker Tunahan Kuzu, Benjamin Netanyahu appears to respond to the incident from the safety of his airplane.
“Those who wrinkle their noses, let their noses stay wrinkled,” he says, quoting former prime minister Menachem Begin.
Earlier in the day, Kuzu, the immigrant DENK party, refused to shake the hand of Netanyahu as the prime minister worked a line of Dutch parliamentarians in The Hague. As Netanyahu approached, Kuzu pointed to the Palestinian flag pinned to his lapel and Netanyahu threw up his hands as they both nodded in understanding.
PM Netanyahu: Today, we saw another clear example – of those who want peace and those who don’t. pic.twitter.com/E6FClNdF7E
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) September 7, 2016
“Today, we saw another prime example of those who want peace and those who don’t want peace,” Netanyahu says, in a video distributed on Twitter.
Netanyahu is wrapping up a two-day visit to the Netherlands.
Israelis briefly detained by local criminals in Ukraine
A busload of Israeli pilgrims in Ukraine was briefly held by a group of local toughs, Hebrew-language media reports.
The group of Israeli woman was held by members of a local mafia, who demanded they pony up money owed them by their tour operator, according to Channel 2.
The group was released shorty after and is making its way back to Israel, according to the report.
Tens of thousands of Israelis visit Uman and other Ukrainian cities to pray at the graves of Hasidic masters in the lead up to and over the Jewish New Year, which falls later this month.
The large influx of foreigners often leads to clashes with locals.
Ukraine ‘kidnapping’ a misunderstanding, foreign ministry says
An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson says no Israelis were kidnapped in Ukraine and the incident was a local dispute.
Emmanuel Nahshon says the supposed “kidnapping” was actually just a money dispute between the bus driver and locals.
“Because of the language barrier and stress on the women, tension was created and there was an inaccurate report,” he says.
He says the issue was dealt with by local police, and the money dispute was solved.
“The bus has been freed and is on its way to the airport,” he adds. “Nobody was kidnapped.”
Anti-terror probe opened into car found packed with gas cylinders in Paris
Anti-terror investigators in France have launched a probe into an incident in which a car was left parked outside the famed Notre Dame cathedral with gas cylinders inside.
The car’s owner and another person, who are both known to security services, were arrested on Tuesday.
France remains on high alert for terror attacks. In November last year, suicide bombers and gunmen killed 130 people in Paris in coordinated attacks claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group.
A bar employee working near the cathedral raised the alert on Sunday after noticing a gas cylinder on the back seat of the car, which had no number plates, a police source said.
That cylinder was found to be empty, but five full cylinders were found in the boot of the car.
No detonators were found, police say.
Photographs of the metallic silver-colored car after it was discovered showed its boot open and the gas canisters placed on the ground in a quiet side street opposite the cathedral.
A notebook containing writing in Arabic was also found in the car, according to the mayor of the district of Paris where the vehicle was found.
Abbas was KGB agent in Syria in 1980s, document said to reveal
Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas was a Soviet spy in Damascus in the 1980s, Israel’s Channel 1 reports, blowing the lid off information uncovered in an archive smuggled out of the USSR.
According to reporter Oren Nahari, the famed Mitrokhin archive, kept by KGB defector Vasily Mitrokhin, reveals that Abbas was a KGB spy in Damascus in 1983.
The documents, obtained by Israeli researchers and scholars Isabela Ginor and Gideon Remez, are said to show that Abbas, who was code-named Krotov (mole), worked under Mikhail Bodganov, who was then station posted in Damascus and is now a top Russian diplomat in the Middle East.
Bogdanov was caught in a diplomatic tussle earlier this week after trying to broker a summit between Abbas and Netanyahu in Moscow, with each side saying it was willing to meet and the other side wasn’t.
It’s not clear if Abbas, who studied in university in Moscow in the 1980s, was an agent before or after his time in Damascus.
Mitrokhin’s notes are considered among the most complete information available to researchers about the KGB. He brought them to the UK in 1992 and his edited notes were released in 2014. His handwritten notes remain classified by MI5.
Liberman and Carter have ‘friendly’ meeting
Avigdor Liberman has held his first meeting as Defense Minister with US counterpart Ashton Carter.
The Defense Ministry says the London meeting between the two “took place in a good, friendly atmosphere,” and Carter agreed to visit Israel later in the year.
The ministry is not offering details on what the two discussed, saying only that they spoke about “bilateral security and strategic matters.”
Reports claim A-G shut down bid to widen probe against Netanyahu
Channel 2 and Haaretz both report that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit is opposed to widening a probe into suspicions of spending irregularities by Netanyahu and his wife Sara.
According to the reports, Mendelblit turned down a police request to look into suspicions that former Netanyahu fundraiser Ari Harow used money to pay for flights for Sara Netanyahu, as well as for an adviser.
Mendelblit reportedly told the police that the direction was a dead end. The main probe into the Netanyahus’ spending is continuing.
In response, a statement on behalf of the Netanyahus denies any wrongdoing and accuses the press of trying to influence the investigation.
“All the activities of the prime minister and his wife in the period discussed, and any time, were done by the law and accepted standards,” the statement reads. “The attempts by those in the media to put undue pressure on law enforcement authorities, so they will act against Netanyahu, also won’t work this time, for the simple reason that there is nothing to [the claims].”
Palestinian official denies Abbas was KGB agent
Responding to the report that Mahmoud Abbas was a KGB agent in Syria in 1983, a top Palestinian official says its all malarkey tied to the failed bid for a Netanyahu-Abbas meeting in Moscow.
Fatah apparatchik Nabil Shaath calls the report a hollow attempt to evade the Russian invite for a summit in Moscow, according to Israel radio reporter Gal Berger.
“He was not an agent of the KGB or any other intelligence agency,” Shaath says.
The report of Abbas’s Moscow ties came on the heels of swirling reports of a possible Netanyahu-Abbas meeting in Moscow, though each side accused the other of being unwilling to meet.
The man in the center of the bid to broker the meeting, Putin Mideast envoy Mikhail Bogdanov, was a Russian diplomat in Damascus at the same time Abbas was reportedly a Soviet agent there