Third day of Netanyahu pre-indictment hearings ends
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Netanyahu said pushing major missile defense program to counter Iran

Public broadcaster reports that project aimed at improving Israel’s ability to cope with cruise missiles would likely require budget cuts, raising of taxes

Illustrative: A missile launched from Palmachim air base in central Israel on July 4, 2018. (Defense Ministry)
Illustrative: A missile launched from Palmachim air base in central Israel on July 4, 2018. (Defense Ministry)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.

Bedouin man arrested on suspicion of wanting to join Islamic State in Syria

Police announce the arrest of a resident of the southern Bedouin town of Tel Sheva on suspicion of supporting the Islamic State jihadist group and wanting to fight for it in Syria.

The 20-year-old suspect, who was not named, was arrested on September 9 in a joint operation of the Israel Police and Shin Bet security service.

A police statement says that during a raid of his home, officers found binoculars, BB guns, a vest, kneepads and a drone that he is suspected of training with to drop “explosive material” on dummy targets.

Police say they also found a large quantity of clothes associated with the Islamic State. Pictures released by police show camo fatigues.

The suspect’s remand has been extended repeatedly and prosecutors from the Southern District are expected to file an indictment against him today.

This undated photo released by police on October 6, 2019, shows camo fatigues found during a raid on the home of a man from the southern Bedouin town of Tel Sheva suspected of wanting to fight for the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria. (Israel Police)

Yamina said split on pledging to only back Netanyahu for PM

The national-religious Yamina electoral alliance is split on signing a document pledging to only back Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu as its candidate for prime minister, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

Jewish Home and National Union, two of the three factions that make up Yamina, are prepared to sign, but New Right is reportedly opposed.

“Enough already with this nonsense of signing documents,” New Right is quoted saying by the broadcaster.

After coming short of a majority in the September 17 elections, Netanyahu and his right-wing religious allies inked an agreement to only enter a government together that he heads.

Netanyahu is now pushing for Yamina and the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties to sign another document stating they will only recommend him as their candidate for prime minister, including during the so-called 21 days when a majority of Knesset members can choose one of their number to form a government if the two lawmakers first tasked by the president with doing so fail.

Reports last week said Shas and UTJ were open to signing but Yamina was wavering.

Rafi Peretz, left, Bezalel Smotrich, center, and Ayelet Shaked, right, at the Yamina party headquarters on election night in Ramat Gan, September 17, 2019. (Flash90)

Iraqi PM pledges reforms in bid to calm angry protests

BAGHDAD — Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi’s cabinet issues a series of refrorms after an “extraordinary” session overnight in response to sweeping anti-government rallies that have left nearly 100 dead.

Iraqis have gathered in Baghdad and across the south since Tuesday to demand widespread government reforms, which Abdel Mahdi had promised to tackle when he came into power just under a year ago.

Iraqi demonstrators gesture during a demonstration against state corruption, failing public services, and unemployment, in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, on October 5, 2019. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP)

Early today, his cabinet issues a decree including more than a dozen planned reforms, including land distributions, military enlistment and increased welfare stipends for needy families.

In response to staggering youth unemployment, which has reached around 25 percent according to the World Bank, the government says it will create large market complexes and boost benefits for those without work.

Starting Tuesday, protesters gathered in Baghdad and spread to the country’s Shiite-majority south, defying an internet blackout, tear gas and even live rounds.

The mainly male, young crowds say they are not backed by any political or religious establishment and have attacked a broad range of political party offices.

The Iraqi Human Rights Commission said yesterday that 99 people have died and nearly 4,000 have been wounded since protests kicked off.


Iran says Chinese state-owned oil firm pulls out of gas project

TEHRAN, Iran — The Iranian oil minister says today that China’s CNPC has withdrawn from the development of an offshore gas field and that state-owned Petropars will take over the entire project.

The South Pars gas field was to be developed jointly by France’s Total, China National Petroleum Corporation and Petropars under a $4.8 billion (4.1 billion euro) deal signed in July 2017.

In this photo from March 16, 2019, an Iranian worker carries Iranian flags prior to an inauguration ceremony of a natural gas refinery at the South Pars gas field on the northern coast of the Persian Gulf, in Asaluyeh, Iran. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

The deal came after Iran reached a 2015 agreement with world powers that gave it relief from sanctions in exchange for limits on its nuclear program, ending years of economic isolation.

Total left the project three months after US President Donald Trump’s administration withdrew from the nuclear accord in May last year and reimposed sanctions on Iran’s oil industry and other key sectors of the economy.

“Phase 11 (of South Pars) will be entirely developed by Petropars company,” Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh is quoted as saying by the ministry’s official website.

Asked whether CNPC International had abandoned the project, Zanganeh says: “Yes, they have.”


Cop said likely to face negligent homicide charge for killing Ethiopian teen

The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department is expected to indict an officer who shot dead an Ethiopian-Israeli teenager earlier this year while off duty, the Haaretz daily reports.

According to the report, the officer will likely be indicted for negligent homicide, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison.

PIID investigators determined the policeman had no reason to draw his gun, the report says, even though 19-year-old Solomon Tekah was throwing stones at him.

The officer, who has not publicly been named, has maintained he was trying to break up a street fight in the Haifa neighborhood of Kiryat Haim and was set upon by three youths who hurled stones at him, endangering his life. The officer says he fired a shot at the ground and the bullet apparently ricocheted up hitting Tekah.

The killing of Tekah sparked nationwide protests, which at times turned violent and saw damage to property. The incident immediately sparked renewed accusations of police brutality and racism toward the Ethiopian community. Days after the shooting, protesters across Israel blocked roads, burned tires and denounced what they said is systemic discrimination against Israelis of Ethiopian descent.

Ethiopian Israelis, family members and activists protest following the death of 19-year-old Solomon Tekah who was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer in Haifa’s Kiryat Haim neighborhood, July 1, 2019. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)

Sa’ar-led Likud would lose seats in new elections — poll

The right-wing Likud party would lose seats in a fresh round of elections if it were headed by MK Gideon Sa’ar rather than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a new poll says.

Sa’ar confirmed yesterday he was prepared to run against Netanyahu for the leadership of Likud after the premier floated calling primaries days earlier before backtracking some 24 hours later.

According to Walla news, Likud would get 26 seats with Sa’ar at the helm if elections were held today, six less than it received in elections last month, while the rival Blue and White party would maintain its strength at 33 seats.

The lost seats would instead go to parties representing the religious right, with the poll having the Yamina alliance jumping to 12 seats from seven. Shas and United Torah Judaism, a pair of ultra-Orthodox parties, would each gain a seat, moving up to 10 and eight respectively.

Besides Yisrael Beytenu, which would fall from eight to seven seats, all the other parties would match their current seat tally.

Though the survey has Likud falling well behind Blue and White if Sa’ar takes over for Netanyahu, new leadership for the right-wing party would only have a negligible impact on the size of the parliamentary blocs if fresh elections are held.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and then-interior minister Gideon Sa’ar, left, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on December 25, 2012. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

9 shot, 4 killed in overnight shooting at Kansas bar

KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Authorities say a gunman entered a Kansas City, Kansas, bar and shot nine people, fatally wounding four.

KSHB-TV reports that officers were called Sunday at 1:30 a.m. local time to the Tequila KC Bar for a shooting.

Police say someone entered the bar and opened fire. Four people were shot dead inside the bar. Five others were taken to a hospital in stable condition for treatment.

No one has been arrested in the shooting. Authorities do not know if there is more than one shooter. The motive for the shooting is also unknown.

Kansas City, Kansas, police are investigating the shooting and gave brief details on their Twitter account.

— AP

Israeli woman dies in scuba accident in Thailand

An Israeli woman has died during a scuba diving accident in Thailand, the Foreign Ministry says.

According to the ministry, the 22-year-old woman was vacationing with her family at the Phi Phi Islands when she died.

The ministry says it is working with the Israeli consul in Bangkok to assist the family and bring the woman’s body to Israel for burial.

Lawyer says second whistleblower has info against Trump

WASHINGTON — A second whistleblower has spoken to the intelligence community’s internal watchdog and has information that supports an original whistleblower’s complaint about US President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

That’s according to a lawyer for the original whistleblower, who filed a formal complaint with the inspector general last month that’s triggered the impeachment inquiry.

Lawyer Mark Zaid tells The Associated Press in a text message that the second whistleblower, who also works in intelligence, hasn’t filed a complaint with the inspector general but has “firsthand knowledge that supported” the original whistleblower.

The original whistleblower complained that Trump was “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country” in the 2020 US election.

Trump and his supporters have rejected the accusations that he did anything improper.

— AP

Turkey summons US diplomat after embassy ‘liked’ tweet about ailing nationalist

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey summoned the US charge d’affaires after the embassy’s Twitter account “liked” a tweet about a nationalist politician who was recently in the hospital, the Turkish foreign ministry says.

“Today the US charge d’affaires was summoned to the ministry to give an open and clear explanation of the social media posting,” the ministry says.

It adds that the United States’ ambassador was not in Ankara on Sunday.

The embassy’s official Twitter account had liked a tweet on Saturday in which an individual said Turkey should be ready for a political period without Devlet Bahceli.

Devlet Bahceli, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, gestures during an election rally in Ankara, Turkey, June 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Bahceli leads the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the junior partner of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) since their formal alliance in 2018.

The MHP also backed the AKP in a 2017 referendum on changing the Turkish constitution to transform the country’s system into an executive presidency.

Last month Bahceli, 71, was taken to the hospital after suffering nausea but was released shortly after. Despite assurances, there have been concerns recently over his health.

The US embassy apologized yesterday in a tweet, saying the posting had been “liked by accident.”

Relations between Turkey and the United States have been strained in recent years over multiple issues including US support for a Syrian Kurdish militia viewed by Ankara as terrorists.


West Bank blood drive sets Israeli record for number of donations

A blood drive in the northern West Bank’s Samaria Regional Council has broken an Israeli record with 783 donations.

The previous record of 780 was set at a blood drive in Tel Aviv during the 2014 Gaza War.

The organizers say they are hoping to reach 1,000 donations by the end of the day.

The drive was arranged by Samaria Regional Brigade Commander Sagiv Dahan, in cooperation with Magen David Adom and the Samaria Regional Council, after his wife was saved earlier this year by blood donated during birthing complications.

— Jacob Magid

Israelis donate blood at the Samaria Regional Council in the northern West Bank on October 6, 2019. (Magen David Adom)

France admits ‘failings’ over Paris police attacker’s radicalization

PARIS — France’s interior minister acknowledges that officials should have kept a closer eye on the Paris police employee who stabbed four colleagues to death last week, after investigators found evidence he had supported an extreme version of Islam.

“Obviously, there were failings,” Christophe Castaner tells TF1 television, but he says he would not resign over the matter as some right-wing opponents have said he should.

Castaner has come under fire after initially claiming that Mickael Harpon, a 45-year-old computer expert at the Paris police headquarters, had never given the “slightest reason for alarm” ahead of Thursday’s attack.

Investigators later revealed that Harpon had in fact been in contact with adherents of Salafism, the ultra-conservative branch of Sunni Islam.

Mickael Harpon (Courtesy)

He had defended “atrocities committed in the name of that religion,” anti-terror prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said yesterday.

Castaner says today that Harpon had caused alarm among his colleagues as far back as 2015, when he defended the massacre of 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper by two brothers vowing allegiance to al-Qaeda.

But even though a police official charged with investigating suspected radicalization among the force questioned the colleagues, none of them wanted to file an official complaint.

“Apparently they decided not to make a report,” Castaner says. “The failure occurred at this moment.

Castaner will face questioning by parliament’s intelligence commission Tuesday over the attack, its president Christian Cambon says.


Supreme Court rejects Rabin assassin’s appeal to lift strictures

The Supreme Court rejects a petition from prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir, against strictures placed on him after he used his phone for political purposes.

“The Supreme Court failed in its decision not to provide protection for personal rights. Unfortunately, no substantive hearing took place over Yigal Amir’s complaints. Indeed, [these are] terrible days,” his lawyer says in a play on the Hebrew name for a new film about the Jewish extremist.

Amir recently lost his phone privileges for two months after he used them in violation of prison rules in an effort to form a political party to lobby for his release.

Yigal Amir, the assassin of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, during a court hearing in 2004. (photo credit: Flash90)
Yigal Amir, the assassin of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, during a court hearing in 2004. (Flash90)

He was also denied family visits, conjugal visits, newspapers and access to electrical appliances.

Amir went on hunger strike in protest but called it off a week later.

The offending phone call was made to Yoav Eliasi, a rapper and far-right activist known as “The Shadow.”

Amir asked Eliasi to help fight for his release. The rapper rejected his request.

Foreign Ministry issues travel advisory for Hong Kong

The Foreign Ministry issues a traveling advisory for Israelis traveling to Hong Kong amid growing political unrest in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

The ministry advises Israeli travelers to be alert; listen to the instructions of local law enforcement; pay attention to the news; stay updated on possible flight changes; and to avoid crowds and conflict areas.

It also reminds Israelis of the new ban on facial coverings.

Hong Kong has been battered by 18 consecutive weekends of unrest, fanned by widespread public anger over Chinese rule and the police response to protests.

The rallies were ignited by a now-scrapped plan to allow extraditions to the mainland, which fueled fears of an erosion of liberties promised under the 50-year “one country, two systems” model China agreed to ahead of the 1997 handover by Britain.

After Beijing and local leaders took a hard stance, the demonstrations snowballed into a wider movement calling for more democratic freedoms and police accountability.

The worst clashes to date erupted last week as China celebrated 70 years of Communist Party rule, with a teenager shot and wounded by police as he attacked an officer.

— with AFP

David Blatt, Greek basketball team agree to part ways

Israeli-American coach David Blatt and Greek basketball squad Olympiacos are parting ways.

A statement on the team’s website describes the development as a “consensual termination of cooperation” with Blatt.

“It is a difficult moment for everyone since we part ways with a great coach, but most of all a wonderful person. We have had the honor to work with one of the biggest figures of world basketball and we have gained a lot from his presence in our team,” the club says.

Blatt, who in August revealed he has multiple sclerosis, says he and Olympiacos agreed it is in each side’s best interest to go their own way.

“My time in Greece with Olympiacos has been meaningful and significant in many ways. I am very appreciative of the people and family I have found here. I have nothing but respect for the management, players, and staff that I have had the pleasure to work with and wish only the best for them,” he’s quoted saying in the statement.

Olympiacos was the tenth team Blatt coached in his career.

In 2015, he took the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA finals, but was dumped by the team the next year.

Before making the leap to the NBA, Blatt coached Israeli powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv, and led it to the 2014 EuroLeague Championship.

Olympiakos coach David Blatt celebrates a point during a Euroleague basketball match between Panathinaikos and Olympiakos in Piraeus near Athens, on January 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Netanyahu urges Arab Israelis to work with authorities to curb violence

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls on Arab Israeli leaders to work with Israeli authorities to reduce deadly violence among the minority group, amid protests over alleged police inaction.

A statement from his office says Netanyahu spoke with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and acting Police Commissioner Motti, and they agreed to allocate additional police forces to counter violence in Arab communities.

Netanyahu urges Arab Israeli leaders to work with law enforcement and calls for them to refrain from violence during the protests.

“All of us need to act responsibility and cooperate in order to fight violence,” he says.

Joint List MK: Netanyahu as PM is responsible for ‘bloodshed’ in Arab communities

Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi dismisses Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement condemning recent violence in Arab localities and calling on Arab Israeli leaders to work with authorities to combat it.

“Following days of silence in the face of acts of murder and protests across the country, Netanyahu remembered to put out a statement to fulfill his obligation,” Tibi says in a statement.

“Netanyahu as prime minister is responsible for the bloodshed,” he adds.

The Joint List lawmaker says, however, that the fact that Netanyahu issued a statement indicates that Arab protests against violence are having an effect.

Joint List leader: Netanyahu’s ‘test’ is following statement with action

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh also weighs in on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s condemnation of deadly violence in Arab communities, saying the true “test” for the premier is following up on his statement with a plan of action.

“It cannot be that 20 percent of the population needs to make a ruckus and block roads for the government to start to deal with the problem that has taken the lives of innocents for so many years already,” Odeh says in a statement.

“I call on the police to act toward demonstrators as citizens, not as enemies,” he continues. “We’ll do everything necessary in order to live in a society without weapons.”

Netanyahu said pushing major missile defense program to counter Iran

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly pushing a major missile defense project to counter a potential attack from Iran, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The report, which came as the Security Cabinet convenes for the first time in months, says the project would be aimed in large part at improving Israel’s ability to defend against cruise missiles, which were used in an attack on Saudi oil facilities last month that has been blamed on Iran.

The broadcaster reports funding for the project, whose estimated cost is in the billions, would require cuts to civilian programs and the raising of taxes in light of the growing budget deficit.

According to Channel 12, ministers discussed a potential attack on Israel similar to that on Saudi Arabia during the cabinet meeting.

Third day of Netanyahu pre-indictment hearings ends

The third day of pre-indictment hearings for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has finished.

Netanyahu’s lawyers and prosecutors are set to meet again tomorrow for the fourth, and potentially final, day of hearings.

Abbas says he’ll discuss elections with Hamas, other factions

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas says today that he will discuss plans for new parliamentary elections with all factions, including longtime rivals Hamas.

Meeting with senior Palestinian leaders in Ramallah in the West Bank, Abbas renews a pledge to hold the polls — the first since 2006 — but without giving a timeframe.

He announces they had formed committees to “communicate with the election commission and factions such as Hamas and all factions, as well as with the Israeli authorities.”

He says any elections should take place in “the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.”

Hamas and Fatah have been at loggerheads since 2007, when the Islamist terror group seized Gaza and threw out Abbas’s forces, which did retain control of the internationally recognized Palestinian government based in the West Bank.

No parliamentary elections have been held since 2006, with the two sides trading blame.

Multiple attempts at reconciliation have failed and analysts say new elections are impossible without improved relations.

Abbas has previously pledged on multiple occasions to hold elections, but without results.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a meeting at the presidential compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah on October 6, 2019. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Meanwhile, Abbas also confirmed the PA had received today NIS 1.5 billion ($430 million) from Israel — representing taxes that had been withheld from the Jewish state.

Israel in February decided to withhold around $10 million per month from revenues of some $190 million per month it collects on the behalf of the PA, triggering Abbas’s fury.

The money comes from customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports and constitutes more than 50 percent of the PA’s revenues.

Israel said that the money it was withholding corresponds to what the PA pays Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons, or their families.


Iran reportedly arrests Instagram celebrity for ‘blasphemy’

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has arrested an Instagram celebrity famous for drastically altering her appearance through cosmetic surgery, Tasnim news agency has reported.

The social media star known as Sahar Tabar was detained on the orders of Tehran’s guidance court, which deals with “cultural crimes and social and moral corruption,” Tasnim says.

She faces charges including blasphemy, inciting violence, gaining income through inappropriate means and encouraging youths to corruption, the news agency adds.

Tabar shot to prominence on Instagram last year, after posting a series of images of her face altered through plastic surgery.

Most of the photos and videos shared with her 26,800 followers have also been heavily edited so that she seemingly resembles Hollywood star Angelina Jolie.

The account features images of her with a gaunt face, pouting lips and sharply turned-up nose.

In some, she can be seen wearing a loosely fitting hijab over her hair and a white bandage on her nose commonly seen on Tehran’s streets.

Cosmetic surgery is hugely popular in the Islamic Republic, with tens of thousands of operations taking place each year.

Instagram is the only major social media service accessible in Iran, unlike Facebook, Twitter, and the Telegram messenger service, which are officially banned.


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Live updates (closed)

Third day of Netanyahu pre-indictment hearings ends

The third day of pre-indictment hearings for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has finished.

Netanyahu’s lawyers and prosecutors are set to meet again tomorrow for the fourth, and potentially final, day of hearings.