The Times of Israel is liveblogging Tuesday’s developments as they unfold.
Israel breaks up Hezbollah terror cells in West Bank
Israel’s security services reveal they broke up a number of terror cells in the West Bank and within Israel created by the Hezbollah terrorist organization.
Hezbollah operatives from the group’s Unit 133 — its foreign operations unit — recruited the would-be terrorists through social media sites, including Facebook, the Shin Bet security service says.
These terror cells had planned to carry out suicide bombings and ambush IDF patrols in the West Bank. They received funding from Hezbollah, and some members had begun preparing explosive devices for use in attacks, the Shin Bet says.
“The Hezbollah organization has recently made it a priority to try to spark terror acts, doing so from far away while attempting to not clearly express its involvement,” the Shin Bet says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Turkey prosecutors seek some 2,000 years in jail for Gulen
Turkish prosecutors have demanded two life sentences and an additional 1,900 years in prison for US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for masterminding last month’s failed coup, state media reports on Tuesday.
In a 2,527-page indictment approved by prosecutors in the Usak region of western Turkey, Gulen is charged with “attempting to destroy the constitutional order by force” and “forming and running an armed terrorist group” among other charges, the Anadolu news agency reports.
19 civilians, including 3 kids, killed in Aleppo airstrikes
Air raids on two rebel-held districts of Syria’s battleground second city Aleppo killed 19 civilians, including three children, on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman says the strikes were carried out by either Russian or regime aircraft and also wounded dozens of people, some of them critically.
Russia used incendiary weapons in Syria 18 times — HRW
An international rights group says the joint Syrian government and Russian military operation has been using incendiary weapons in civilian areas in northern Syria in violation of international law.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch says in a statement on Tuesday that the munitions, which can cause excruciating and often fatal burns, have been used at least 18 times over the past six weeks.
Moscow has denied using such weapons in Syria.
Steve Goose, arms director at HRW, says the “Syrian government and Russia should immediately stop attacking civilian areas with incendiary weapons.”
HRW says a review of photographs and videos recorded at the time of attack and of the remnants afterward indicates there were at least 18 such attacks in Aleppo and Idlib between June 5 and August 10.
35 Palestinians hurt in West Bank clashes with IDF
Palestinian medical officials say some 35 people have been wounded in clashes with the Israeli military near the West Bank city of Hebron.
The Palestinian Red Crescent says live fire struck about 10 people Tuesday after rioters threw big rocks at Israeli troops. It says the 25 others were struck by rubber bullets.
The Israeli military says its forces were on an overnight operation in the Fawwar refugee camp to uncover militant weaponry and ammunition.
The military says it fired toward the riot’s main instigators to try to prevent escalation.
Iran arrests dual national over UK ‘spy links’
Iran has arrested a British-Iranian on suspicion of links to the UK intelligence service, the Tehran prosecutor tells Iranian media on Tuesday.
“The accused, who was arrested in Tehran last week, was active in the field of the Iranian economy, and was linked to the British espionage service,” the Mizan news agency quotes Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi as saying.
He does not give the name or gender of the accused.
Three other dual-nationals arrested over the past year — American, British and Canadian — are currently awaiting trial.
Clinton taps ex-Interior chief for transition
Hillary Clinton has tapped former interior secretary Ken Salazar to lead her White House transition team.
Salazar will chair a team that also includes former National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, and longtime Clinton allies Neera Tanden and Maggie Williams.
The team will oversee planning for a potential Clinton administration should the Democratic nominee win in November.
Republican Donald Trump has tapped New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to lead his transition efforts.
By law, both nominees have access to offices in Washington and other resources to begin planning for their potential administrations.
Search begins for possible Nazi gold train
Explorers in Poland begin digging Tuesday for a legendary Nazi train laden with treasure and armaments, not dissuaded by decades of fruitless searches and a scientific determination that no train is even there.
The search in southeastern Poland attests to the power of a local legend claiming a Nazi “gold” train disappeared in a mountain tunnel as the Germans escaped the advancing Soviet army at the end of World War II.
As the dig got underway, a yellow excavator moved earth along railroad tracks above the spot where two explorers believe the train is buried, according to images aired by Poland’s TVN24. The work is expected to last several days.
The two men claimed last year to have located the elusive train with radar equipment below ground in the city of Walbrzych, sparking a gold rush in that area.
A government official initially said he was “99 percent sure” the train was there, but geological experts using magnetic equipment found no train on the spot.
Historians say the existence of the train, which is said to have gone missing in May 1945, never has been conclusively proven. Polish authorities nonetheless have seemed eager to check every possibility of recovering treasures that have sparked the imaginations of local people for decades.
Turkey PM steps back from calls for death penalty
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says Tuesday a fair trial would represent a harsher punishment for suspected coup plotters than the death penalty — an apparent step back from threats to re-introduce capital punishment.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had suggested Turkey could bring back capital punishment — abolished in 2004 as part of the country’s reforms to join the European Union — in the wake of the July 15 failed coup aimed at ousting him from power.
The threat stunned the EU, which makes the abolition of capital punishment an unnegotiable condition for joining the bloc.
“A person dies only once when executed,” Yildirim tells ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) MPs in parliament.
“There are tougher ways to die than the death (penalty) for them. That is an impartial and fair trial,” Yildirim says.
The prime minister’s comments mark a change in tone after Erdogan said earlier this month that if the Turkish public wanted a return to capital punishment, then political parties would follow their will.
Tel Aviv claims to be city with most dogs per capita
The Tel Aviv municipality says the coastal city is the “friendliest city in the world for dogs, with 1 dog for every 17 residents, making it the city with the highest amount of dogs per capita in the world.”
“25,000 Tel Avivian dogs enjoy 70 public dog parks; 1.3 dog parks for every 1 square kilometer. Tel Aviv has also declared special beaches where dogs can roam freely,” it says.
IDF chief says Palestinians view terror as ‘political tool’
In a Knesset State Control Committee meeting, IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot tells Israeli lawmakers that the “Palestinians view terrorism as a political, social and religious tool to achieve goals,” according to Army Radio.
Terrorism is a “daily occurrence that we are grappling with in Judea and Samaria,” he says, using the biblical term for the West Bank.
Bulgaria okays extradition of relative of Charlie Hebdo terrorist
A French citizen with family ties to the attack on the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper in Paris will be extradited to France to face terror charges, a Bulgarian court rules Tuesday.
The Sofia City Court announces that Mourad Hamyd, 20, didn’t take advantage of a three-day deadline to withdraw the approval he had given to be sent back to France.
Hamyd was arrested on a French arrest warrant in Bulgaria on July 29. French authorities say they suspect he planned to join the Islamic State group in Syria or Iraq.
Hamyd, who has denied the allegations, is the brother-in-law of Cherif Kouachi, one of the men who attacked Charlie Hebdo in January 2015.
He initially was suspected of a role in the attack that killed 12 people at the paper. His high school classmates launched a successful social media campaign to clear his name, saying he was in class at the time.
The warrant for his arrest last month was based on his sister Khadija’s report to police that her brother had boarded a train via Hungary and Serbia to Bulgaria, even though he had told her he would travel to Morocco.
“This route corresponds with the route that is usually chosen by the jihadist volunteers that want to join the Islamic State group in Syria or Iraq,” the arrest warrant says.
If he is found guilty of the terror charges by a French court, he could face up to 10 years in prison.
Clip appears to show soldiers hurling smoke bomb at Palestinians
Footage emerges of Israeli soldiers who appear to hurl a smoke bomb or tear gas canister at Palestinians, unprovoked, in the West Bank.
In the clip, the group of Palestinians near Ramallah scatter after an object is thrown in their direction from an army jeep. An explosion is captured on camera.
— חדשות 10 (@news10) August 16, 2016
Ya’alon tells gov’t to stop ‘scaring’ Israelis on security
Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon says the Israeli government needs to stop “scaring” citizens on matters on security.
He doubles down on his statement that Israel does not currently face any “existential threats.”
“As I already said a few weeks ago… there is currently no existential threat to Israel, and the national leadership ought to stop scaring citizens,” he says. “Israel is the strongest country in the region, and its security establishment… is high-quality, advanced, and powerful. There are security threats and we must seriously prepare for them. There are challenges and security concerns, certainly.”
The veteran ex-Likud minister hints again that he will challenge Netanyahu in the next election for the premiership.
“With my resignation from the Knesset and coalition, I announced that I would run for the leadership in the next elections,” he says. “When I was drafted into the IDF, I didn’t plan on being an officer, and when I returned to [military] service after the Yom Kippur War, I didn’t think I would be IDF chief of staff. Along the way, I never imagined I would be defense minister.”
UK radical preacher Choudary convicted of IS support
One of Britain’s best-known radical Muslim preachers, Anjem Choudary, is convicted of encouraging support for the Islamic State group.
Choudary and co-defendant Mohammed Mizanur Rahman were convicted last month, but the verdict could not be reported until Tuesday because of court-imposed restrictions.
The 49-year-old firebrand has been one of the best-known faces of radical Islam in Britain for years, leading groups under names including al-Muhajiroun and Islam4UK — both banned by the British government.
He gained attention for headline-grabbing statements and media appearances that stayed on the right side of the law, but was arrested in 2014 after signing an oath recognizing the “proclaimed Islamic Caliphate State.”
Choudary is due to be sentenced next month and faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Palestinian teen killed in clashes with Israeli forces
A Palestinian teenager was shot dead on Tuesday during clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank, Palestinian officials says.
“Mohammed Abu Hashash, 17, died after he was shot in the chest during clashes with (Israeli forces) in the Fawwar camp,” a statement from the Palestinian health ministry says.
10 people killed in IS-held Syrian district
Syrian opposition monitoring groups say an airstrike on the eastern city of Deir el-Zour has killed 10 people.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees say Tuesday’s strike hit a bakery in a neighborhood held by the Islamic State group.
The LCC says the airstrike was carried out by Russian warplanes, while the Observatory did not say who was behind it.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said earlier that Russian warplanes took off on Tuesday from a base in Iran to target IS and other militants in Syria.
The ministry said that Su-34 and Tu-22M3 bombers targeted IS and the Nusra Front in Aleppo, Idlib and Deir el-Zour.
Egypt seeks to help Lebanese politicians reconcile
Egypt’s foreign minister says he is visiting Lebanon to help rival Lebanese political groups find common ground.
Lebanon has been without a president since May 2014 and parliament has been unable to elect a head of state because of deep disagreements.
After meeting with his Lebanese counterpart Tuesday, Sameh Shoukry tells reporters that Egypt doesn’t favor any side. He says that “our role is that of a facilitator.”
Asked about the prospects for reconciliation between Egypt and Turkey, Shoukry says that “it is not up to Egypt to approach this issue, but it is up to those who continue to advocate policies that are detrimental to Egypt.”
Egypt’s 2013 military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was harshly condemned by Turkey. The two countries have had tense relations since.
Beit Din of America being sued over mikvah-peeping rabbi
The Beth Din of America has been added to the list of defendants in a $100 million class action suit against Rabbi Barry Freundel, the prominent Washington, DC, spiritual leader who was convicted of secretly videotaping women in his synagogue’s ritual bath.
On Tuesday, the attorneys representing the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint in Superior Court in Washington, DC, that included the rabbinical court, according to a news release on behalf of the Sanford Heisler and Chaikin Sherman Cammarata Siegel law firms.
The suit, which was filed originally in December 2014, also names as defendants Freundel’s former synagogue, Kesher Israel; the Rabbinical Council of America, the main professional association for modern Orthodox rabbis in the United States; and the National Capital Mikvah, the ritual bath Freundel used to spy on his victims.
Freundel is believed to have violated the privacy of at least 150 women he filmed while they undressed and showered at the mikvah, or ritual bath, including members of Kesher Israel, candidates for conversion to Judaism and students at Towson University in Maryland, where Freundel taught classes on religion and ethics. The rabbi also secretly filmed a domestic violence abuse victim in a safe house he had set up for her.
He pleaded guilty last year to 52 counts of voyeurism and began serving a 6 1/2-year sentence in federal prison.
In the civil case, the plaintiffs claim that the mikvah, the synagogue, the religious court and the RCA ignored warning signs of Freundel’s behavior.
“The complaint accuses Orthodox religious institutions of sitting idly by as Rabbi Freundel committed his crimes,” says Ira Sherman, Chaikin Sherman Cammarata Siegel’s managing partner. “Rather than preventing or investigating Rabbi Freundel’s crimes early on, these religious institutions repeatedly endorsed Rabbi Freundel as a religious leader whom vulnerable women were required to defer to and obey.”
The Beth Din of America had no comment on the matter. The RCA and Kesher Israel could not be reached for immediate comment.
Christie signs bill requiring divestment from anti-Israel firms
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signs legislation that would bar the state’s public pension fund from investing with companies that boycott Israel or Israeli businesses.
The Republican governor signs the legislation Tuesday.
The legislation passed with overwhelming support in the Democrat-led Legislature in June.
The measure is part of a broader effort to oppose the so-called boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that targets Israel and Israeli businesses.
The legislation requires the State Investment Council, which manages more than $80 billion in pension assets, to identify any potential investments in companies with Israeli boycotts and to divest from them.
Germany sees Turkey as key Islamist ‘platform’ — report
A broadcaster reports that the German government said in a confidential document that Turkey has become “the central platform of action for Islamist groups” in the Middle East.
ARD public television reports Tuesday the statement was contained in a classified section of a reply to an opposition party. The document reportedly said that “numerous statements of solidarity and supportive actions” for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and “groups in the armed Islamist opposition in Syria” by Turkey’s governing party and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “underline their ideological affinity with the Muslim Brothers.”
The Interior Ministry issues a statement saying the document is “classified as confidential, therefore we cannot comment publicly on the content.”
The Turkish government says it has no immediate comment on the document.
7 hurt, 3 seriously, in car accident in Golan Heights
Seven people are injured, three of them seriously, in a car accident in the Golan Heights, according to Channel 2.
Details to come.
Car crash injures Israelis on Lebanese border
An as yet unidentified number of people are injured to varying degrees after two vehicles collide in the Har Dov area near the Lebanese border, according to initial reports.
The victims are being treated and will likely be taken to Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center for further care.
— Judah Ari Gross
Egypt denies judoka sent home over Israel handshake row
Egypt’s judo federation denies on Tuesday that its Olympic competitor Islam El Shehaby had been sent home for refusing to shake the hand of an Israeli opponent.
An International Olympic Committee spokesman said Monday that the Egyptian Olympic Committee “strongly condemned the actions of Mr Islam El Shehaby and has sent him home.”
The Egyptian judoka raised a storm at the judo by refusing to shake hands, and at first refusing to bow, after losing to Israel’s Or Sasson. He was reprimanded by an Olympic disciplinary commission.
Egyptian judo federation spokesman Sameh Moubasher tells AFP that El Shehaby “was not sent home.
“He returned with his colleagues. The whole judo team returned yesterday at dawn,” the spokesman says.
Warsaw seeks jail time for ‘Polish’ death camps term
Poland’s right-wing government on Tuesday says it will seek fines or jail terms of up to three years against anyone who refers to Nazi German death camps as Polish.
A legislative amendment to approve the proposal has to be approved by parliament and signed by the president, but a green light is expected from both.
“The new provisions penalize these insulting terms, which undermine Poland’s reputation,” a government statement says.
Polish officials routinely request corrections when global media or politicians describe as “Polish” former death camps like Auschwitz.
“Poles’ blood boils when they read, including in the German media, that there were ‘Polish death camps,’ Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro tells reporters on Tuesday.
— AFP, Times of Israel staff
US pro-Palestinian student group compiles lists of Jews on campuses — report
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a pro-Palestinian student advocacy group, has been compiling lists of Jewish students on college campuses in North America and detailing their dorm address information, raising fears for the students’ safety, Israel Radio reports (Hebrew).
The report came as the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee met earlier Tuesday to discuss Israel boycott efforts at US colleges.
The head of the committee, Likud MK Avi Dichter, says Israel “has a commitment [to protect] to every Jew when they are attacked for being a Jew,” and pledged Israel would help combat campus efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state.
US Jewish gymnast Aly Raisman wins silver in floor exercises
US Jewish gymnast Aly Raisman takes the silver medal in the floor exercises at the Rio Olympics, and is narrowly beaten by fellow US competitor Simone Biles.
Their scores are 15.5 and 15.9, respectively.