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Israel restricts Gaza fishing zone after fire balloon launches

Military liaison to Palestinians says move due to ‘terrorist activities’ emanating from the Strip; airborne incendiary devices spark 24 blazes in the south since Wednesday morning

Palestinian fishermen take to the Mediterranean Sea in Gaza City on June 18, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
Palestinian fishermen take to the Mediterranean Sea in Gaza City on June 18, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

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

Knesset rejects bill that would bar Netanyahu from forming government

The Knesset votes down a proposal to prevent lawmakers under indictment from forming a government, which would have prevented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from again assembling a coalition if new elections are held.

Fifty three lawmakers oppose the bill, with 37 voting in favor.

During the plenum vote, Netanyahu calls Opposition Leader Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party, who sponsored the bill, a “dictator.”

“The only place in the world where they pass laws like these are the darkest dictatorships like Iran and North Korea,” the premier says.

Netanyahu also mocks Lapid for lacking a high school diploma or college degree, suggesting that makes the opposition chief unfit to be prime minister, and says the Yesh Atid leader’s late father Tommy Lapid had opposed a similar bill when he was justice minister.

Lapid fires back by saying his father was speaking about different legislation.

“We can see the sweat from here, you know and are scared you’ll end up in jail,” Lapid says to Netanyahu. “You’re dad told you not to touch money. If you had listened to him you wouldn’t have three criminal cases.”

He also quotes Netanyahu saying former prime minister Ehud Olmert was unfit to serve as premier when he was under investigation for graft.

Facebook to bar ‘stereotypes about Jewish people controlling the world’

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook reports progress in catching abusive content on the platform as it relies more on automated systems during the pandemic.

The leading social network releases its latest enforcement report as it announces updated policies to bar specific kinds of “implicit hate speech” such as blackface and “stereotypes about Jewish people controlling the world.”

The “proactive detection rate” rose six percent to 95 percent, with the leading social network taking action on 22.5 million pieces of content deemed hateful at Facebook and Instagram in the second quarter of this year, according to the internet giant’s latest enforcement report.

“Despite the impact of COVID-19, improvements to our technology enabled us to take action on more content in some areas,” the report states.

— AFP

Iranian hard-liners reject Rouhani’s nominee for trade minister

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian hard-liners in parliament vote against President Hassan Rouhani’s nominee for trade minister in the first showdown between the rival camps since the house resumed work in May despite the struggles to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

According to the parliament’s website, lawmakers reject Hossein Modares Khiabani’s nomination for minister of trade and industries.

Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf says the vote was 140-104 against the nominee. There were 254 lawmakers at the session and 10 abstained. The parliament has 290 seats.

The vote marks the first serious confrontation between the newly elected house, dominated by conservatives and the bloc of supporters of the relatively moderate Rouhani. Under the law, Rouhani must introduce new nominees to his cabinet in the next three months.

Rouhani in May dismissed the trade and industry minister at the time, Reza Rahmani, as Iran faced an unprecedented economic downturn amid intense pressure from the United States after President Donald Trump pulled America out of Iran’s nuclear with world powers and reimposed sanctions on the country. Khiabani, 52, had since been the acting trade minister.

Iran is also grappling with the largest and deadliest outbreak of the coronavirus in the Middle East, with more than 333,000 confirmed cases and at least 18,988 deaths.

— AP

Israel’s Start-Up Nation cycling team signs ‘world-class’ Canadian Michael Woods

Israel Start-Up Nation announces Canadian Michael Woods will join the outfit next season to support four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome.

Woods, 33, who won a bronze medal at the world championships in 2018, has signed a three-year deal, the team says.

“World-class climber, Michael Woods, will join Team Israel Start-Up Nation next season to be Chris Froome’s super-domestique,” Start-Up Nation says.

“The Canadian will also lead the team in some of the biggest classics and monument races,” it adds.

Tour stage winners Daryl Impey and Patrick Bevan as well as Norwegian rider Carl Fredrik Hagen have also been signed by the side who have been promoted to the top-tier World Tour.

Froome will continue to compete for Ineos this season and is taking part in the Criterium du Dauphine, a key Tour de France warmup race, that starts today.

— AFP

Coronavirus czar says anti-Netanyahu protests in Jerusalem ‘add to spreading of the virus’

Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu visits Jerusalem, which has the most active COVID-19 infections of any city in Israel.

“You’re succeeding in moderating it, but the morbidity is still high,” Gamzu says during a meeting with Mayor Moshe Lion and other municipal officials, according to Channel 12 news. “Any other city in the world with morbidty rates like these would already be locked [down].”

Gamzu says the density of some neighborhoods, “particularly in the Arab and ultra-Orthodox communities,” makes it harder to manage the outbreak in the capital.

He also comments on the recent protests against Prime Minister Netanyahu outside his official residence in Jerusalem, in which thousands have demonstrated.

“There is no shortage of challenges in the city including the burden of the protests that also add to spreading of the virus,” Gamzu says.

Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu attends a meeting at the Jerusalem Municipality on August 12, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Iran’s president, FM lash out at US push to extend arms embargo

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s president and foreign minister lash out at a revised proposal by the US that would extend a UN arms embargo on Iran indefinitely, the latest in the Trump administration’s maximum pressure policy against Iran.

The US on Tuesday circulated the revised draft at the UN, seeking to gain more support in the 15-member Security Council where veto-wielding Russia and China have voiced strong opposition. The revised draft, which eliminated some provisions from the earlier version that diplomats said went beyond the extension of the arms embargo, may be put to a vote as early as Friday.

Still, with Russia and China sharply critical of the US effort to indefinitely extend the arms embargo, the two will likely use their veto powers even if the draft got the minimum nine “yes” votes in the council, which appears unlikely.

The US push to make the arms embargo permanent follows President Donald Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between major world powers and Tehran, aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Tehran has repeatedly insisted it does not seek to produce a nuclear bomb.

The nuclear deal, endorsed by the Security Council, includes a provision lifting the arms embargo on Iran on October 18.

Rouhani lambasts the revised draft, saying its “initiators will be responsible for the consequences” if the Security Council adopts the new resolution. He doesn’t elaborate on what steps Iran could take.

Zarif saya the US draft is a “very illegal resolution, and in fact it uses the Security Council mechanisms to destroy the Security Council. “

“I’m confident that this resolution will be rejected too,” Zarif stated.

— AP

UTJ’s Litzman said to hint Netanyahu to blame for budget impasse

Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman fumed at Prime Minister Netanyahu during a meeting of his ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party before today’s vote on a bill to push back the deadline for passing a state budget, the Walla news site reports.

Though lawmakers from the coalition’s Likud, Blue and White and Shas parties voted for the proposal, which could push off the possibility of new elections, some UTJ MKs opposed it.

According to the report, Litzman is angered that the feud between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz over the budget is holding up the approval of funding for yeshivas, and hinted that the premier is to blame for the impasse.

“There can’t be a situation in which we don’t say that’s it. If there’s a chance that [the yeshiva budget] works out, it’s only because of a vote against the law. Bibi [Netanyahu] will be frightened,” Litzman is quoted as saying.

UTJ No. 2 Moshe Gafni reportedly agreed, saying there was a need “to have a protest,” but others called to abstain during the vote on the bill, with MK Uri Maklev warning that it couldn’t appear as though the party supports elections.

Dead Sea Scrolls put back on display as Israel Museum set to reopen

President Reuven Rivlin visits the Israel Museum in Jerusalem as the Dead Sea Scrolls are put back on display, after they were put in a safe-room due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The museum is set to reopen on Thursday.

“The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the caves at Qumran caused us great excitement in the first decade of the State of Israel. It was a greeting from our predecessors, Jews living in this land over two thousand years ago,” Rivlin says, according to a statement from his office.

He adds: “At times like this we thirst for the works of art and archeology at this special museum, and we have a responsibility to our cultural institutions which are the spiritual foundations of the Jewish and democratic State of Israel.”

Settlers set fields alight after demolitions at West Bank outpost, rights group says

A number of settlers gathered and blocked a junction this morning outside of Jiit, a Palestinian village next to Nablus in the West Bank, before setting fields on fire, causing “widespread damage,” says rights group Yesh Din.

Jiit resident Shalabi Abu Hmeid, who coordinates a local news site, te;;s The Times of Israel that it’s not clear yet whether settlers were responsible for the fields going up in flames.

The junction, as well as Jiit itself, is a 10 minute drive from Yitzhar, outside of which there were clashes between Border Police and settlers this morning during the demolition of illegal structures. A Border Police officer was lightly injured in the clashes.

Settlers also allegedly threw rocks at Palestinians in the area, with one taken to a hospital for treatment, according to B’Tselem, another rights group. It is unclear whether settlers from Yitzhar were involved in setting the fields alight.

— Aaron Boxerman

French authorities investigate apparent anti-Semitic attack in Paris

PARIS — French police are investigating an apparent anti-Semitic attack on a 29-year-old man in an apartment building in northeast Paris.

A group that tracks anti-Semitic violence and hate speech in France, BNVCA, sought an investigation, denouncing it as the latest in a string of scattered acts targeting Jews.

The man, identified only as David, says he was attacked by two people who hurled anti-Semitic insults, stole his watch and beat him unconscious in the hallway of his parents’ apartment building, according to BNVCA.

The Paris prosecutor’s office says it opened an investigation into potential charges of violent theft motivated by reasons of religion.

The man was treated for multiple injuries on his face, throat and legs, BNVCA says.

French police registered 687 anti-Semitic acts last year, from vandalism to threats to physical attacks – a 27% rise from the year before. Reports of anti-Muslim and other racist acts also rose.

— AP

Sara Netanyahu: My children and I are ‘battered’

Sara Netanyahu claims she experienced “sexual violence” from critics of the premier and demonstrators, while branding herself and her children as “battered.”

In a rare interview with Channel 12, the prime minister’s wife claims, “I am a battered woman and my children are battered,” referring to the growing protest movement calling for the resignation of Israel’s longest-serving leader, who is currently on trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

“I certainly feel that I have experienced sexual violence,” she says. “Apart from the terrible march of the balloons [shaped like male sex organs] and the [social media] post to rape me, which used explicit and crass language.”

She is asked during the interview about some of her eldest son Yair’s comments about women, including suggesting that Channel 12 news anchor Dana Weiss obtained her position through sexual favors. Yair Netanyahu later apologized after Weiss threatened to sue him for defamation.

“I was against this, I was in favor of him apologizing,” Sara Netanyahu says. “Dana Weiss doesn’t behave like a journalist but rather a one-sided political figure… Dana Weiss harms me every day. Her strikes on me are a million times worse than what my child did.”

Media mogul Sumner Redstone dies at 97

Sumner Redstone, who built a media empire from his family’s drive-in movie chain, has died. He was 97.

ViacomCBS Inc., which he lead for decades, remembers Redstone for his “unparalleled passion to win, his endless intellectual curiosity, and his complete dedication to the company.”

Redstone, who was Jewish, built the company through aggressive acquisitions, but many headlines with his name focused on severed ties with wives, actors and executives. In multiple interviews, he said he’d never die.

His tight-fisted grip on the National Amusements theater chain, which controlled CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc. through voting stock, was passed to his daughter Shari Redstone, who battled top executives to re-merge the two entities that split in 2006.

Sumner Redstone’s battles with his own family were as dramatic as his corporate maneuvers. Son Brent Redstone once sued his father to break up his media empire — then settled for a princely sum to give up his voting shares.

Redstone, a lanky man with a thick Boston accent, was married and divorced twice — first to Phyllis Gloria Raphael, mother of his children Shari and Brent — then to schoolteachers Paula Fortunato, a woman 39 years his junior.

Sumner Redstone attends the premiere of “Seven Psychopaths” in Los Angeles, October 1, 2012. (Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)

Under his watch, Viacom became one of the nation’s media titans, home to pay TV channels MTV and Comedy Central and movie studio Paramount Pictures. Redstone often told interviewers, “content is king.”

And he was right. Despite sagging TV ratings at Viacom, his vast shareholdings in Viacom and CBS led Forbes magazine to estimate his net worth at $4.6 billion.

Besides being ruthless, Redstone was known for being doggedly determined. In 1979, he survived a fire at Boston’s Copley Plaza Hotel by gripping a third-floor window ledge with his right arm still inside. He suffered third-degree burns over half his body, his right wrist was nearly severed, and he was told he would never walk again. But he eventually recovered, and even was able to play tennis by strapping the racket to his wrist.

“I intend to live forever!” he told Upstart Business Journal in 2009.

Born in 1923 in Boston, Redstone was the oldest son of Michael and Belle Rothstein, who changed the family name to Redstone.

— AP

Defense Ministry announces thwarting of cyberattack on security contractors

The Defense Ministry announces the thwarting of a cyberattack on Israeli security and military contractors.

A ministry statement says a group called Lazarus, “an organization that is backed by a foreign country,” was behind the attack. It doesn’t specify to which country it was linked, but reports have said the group has ties to North Korea.

“Members of the group used various hacking techniques, including ‘social engineering’ and impersonation. They built fake profiles on Linkedin, a social network that is used primarily for job searches in the high-tech sector,” the statement says.

The Defense Ministry doesn’t say which firms were targeted.

“The cyberattacks were identified in real time, and thwarted by the Tech Unit under the Director of Security for Defense Establishment, in the Defense Ministry as well as the cyber defense systems employed by the defense industries. No harm or disruption was made to their networks,” it says.

Head of women’s group criticizes Sara Netanyahu for calling herself a ‘battered woman’

Hagit Peer, the head of the Naamat women’s group, criticizes Sara Netanyahu for describing herself as a “battered woman” because of sexually charged remarks about her during protests against her husband the prime minister.

“Mrs. Netanyahu is not a battered woman,” Peer tells Channel 12. “This is a cheapening of the concept and Mrs. Netanyahu, who has visited women’s shelters in the past, knows this.”

Gantz resumes powers as defense minister after back surgery

Benny Gantz has resumed his powers as defense minister after undergoing back surgery earlier today, his office says.

Blue and White Minister Michael Biton had filled in for Gantz while he underwent the operation.

Gaza fire balloons spark 12 blazes in south since the morning

Balloon-borne incendiary devices launched from the Gaza Strip have sparked 12 fires in southern Israel since the morning, according to Hebrew media reports.

Trump congratulates Georgia candidate who pushed anti-Semitic conspiracy on primary win

ATLANTA — US President Donald Trump tweets support for congressional candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene, a supporter of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory who’s been criticized for racist comments, following her Republican primary victory in Georgia.

Greene, a businesswoman and political newcomer, beat neurosurgeon John Cowan in a primary runoff Tuesday in Georgia’s deep-red 14th Congressional District, which stretches from the outskirts of metro Atlanta to the rural northwest corner of the state.

“Congratulations to future Republican Star Marjorie Taylor Greene on a big Congressional primary win in Georgia against a very tough and smart opponent,” Trump says on Twitter. “Marjorie is strong on everything and never gives up – a real WINNER!”

“You inspired me to run and fight to Save America and Stop Socialism!!” Greene responds to Trump’s tweet. “No one will fight harder than me!!”

Greene has amassed tens of thousands of followers on social media, where she often posts videos of herself speaking directly to the camera. Those videos have helped propel her popularity with her base, but also drawn condemnation after videos surfaced in which she complains of an “Islamic invasion” into government offices, claims Black and Hispanic men are held back by “gangs and dealing drugs,” and pushes an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who is Jewish, collaborated with the Nazis.

Greene also is part of a growing list of candidates who have expressed support for QAnon, a conspiracy theory centered on the baseless belief that Trump is waging a secret campaign against enemies in the “deep state” and a child sex trafficking ring run by satanic pedophiles and cannibals.

Greene will face Democrat Kevin Van Ausdal in November. Republican Rep. Tom Graves, who did not seek reelection, last won the seat with over 76% of the vote in 2018.

— AP

Netanyahu: Government ‘doing everything’ so schools will open on September 1

Prime Minister Netanyahu says the government is “doing everything” to ensure that the new school year will begin on September 1 as planned, amid concerns over reopening due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“That is the target date and it hasn’t changed,” he says while meeting with the education, health and finance ministers.

Syria’s Assad halts speech due to drop in blood pressure

DAMASCUS, Syria — Syrian President Bashar Assad interrupted a speech he was giving to parliament after he suffered a brief drop in blood pressure, the Syrian presidency says.

The office says the speech was halted for “several minutes” because of a “mild” case of low blood pressure he suffered, after which he continued the speech as normal.

The presidency’s Facebook page posts that the speech would be aired later today. It doesn’t provide further details. Assad, 54, is not known to have any specific health condition.

Assad gave the speech on the occasion of the first parliament session after elections were held last month. The vote was the third to take place in Syria since the country’s conflict began in 2011.

The elections also coincided with Syria’s worst economic crisis and a currency crash, which has dragged more of the country’s population into poverty.

— AP

French anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonne banned from TikTok

PARIS — The controversial French comedian Dieudonne has been banned from TikTok, the video sharing app says.

The convicted anti-Semite — who has also been found guilty of condoning terrorism — had already been removed from YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.

“Dieudonne’s account has been removed from the platform,” a spokesman for TikTok tells AFP without giving a reason for the decision.

Facebook — which also owns Instagram — pulled his account last week because he “had mocked victims of the Holocaust” and used “dehumanizing terms about Jews.”

Dieudonne, 54, has a loyal following among some in France’s poor immigrant suburbs.

The stand-up, whose full name is Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala, was sentenced to two years in jail for tax fraud and money laundering last year.

He often rails against the “Zionist lobby” which he claims controls the world, and says his right to free speech has been infringed.

He has been repeatedly convicted of hate speech, most recently in November when he was fined 9,000 euros ($10,600) for anti-Semitic insults.

The French government has attempted at various times to shut his shows, particularly after he popularized a hand gesture known as the “quenelle,” which was criticized for resembling a Nazi salute.

France’s anti-discrimination czar Frederic Potier welcomes TikTok’s decision, and takes to Twitter to urge that social network to follow suit, asking, “What are you waiting for?”

— AFP

Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, left, and Alain Soral, arrive at the Paris courthouse for Soral’s trial for inciting hatred against Jews, March 12, 2015. (Loic Venance/AFP via Getty Images/ JTA)

List of countries Israelis can travel to without quarantining upon return to be released Thursday

The Health Ministry says that a list of countries that Israelis can fly to without having to quarantine upon returning to Israel will be released Thursday.

Greek FM to visit Israel amid talks to resume travel between countries

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi will host his foreign counterpart Nikos Dendias when he visits Israel, the Foreign Ministry says.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman says renewing tourism between the countries will be among the topics Ashkenazi and Dendias will discuss.

They will also discuss tensions between Greece and Turkey over maritime energy rights, according to Hebrew media reports.

The Foreign Ministry put out a statement earlier today backing Greece amid tensions between Athens and Ankara over maritime oil and gas rights, while Dendias tweeted he spoke with Ashkenazi about “Turkish illegal actions” in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Macron warns Iran against ‘interference’ in Lebanon

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron warns Iran against any interference in Lebanon after the gigantic blast last week that has prompted a political crisis in the country.

In telephone talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Macron emphasized the “necessity for all the powers concerned… to avoid any outside interference and to support the putting in place of a government which can manage the emergency,” the Elysee says.

Lebanon’s government under Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned this week following days of demonstrations demanding accountability over the explosion at the Beirut port last week that devastated entire neighborhoods of the city.

Iran wields huge influence in Lebanon through the Shiite terror group Hezbollah which was strongly represented in the outgoing government and has an alliance with the faction of President Michel Aoun.

The explosion, which left 171 people dead, has been blamed on a vast stock of ammonium nitrate allowed to rot for years at the port despite repeated warnings.

Macron, who was the first world leader to visit Beirut after the explosion, has taken the lead role in coordinating the international response and at the weekend chaired a virtual aid conference that drummed up more than 250 million euros ($295 million) in pledges.

— AFP

Lebanon prosecutor to question ministers over Beirut blast

BEIRUT — A Lebanese prosecutor will question several ministers and former ministers in the coming days over last week’s deadly chemical blast at Beirut port, a judicial official says.

“The interrogations will begin with former public works minister Ghazi al-Aridi,” the official says, speaking on condition of anonymity.

— AFP

Netanyahu said to meet with AG after claiming he didn’t take threats seriously

Prime Minister Netanyahu meets with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, according to Hebrew media reports, a day after accusing Mandelblit of not taking threats against him and his family seriously.

Mandelblit rejected Netanyahu’s claims yesterday, calling them “baseless.”

1,731 new coronavirus cases reported over past 24 hours

New Health Ministry statistics show 1,731 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, bringing the number of infections since the pandemic began to 87,878.

The ministry reports six more deaths since the morning, raising the national toll to 639.

Of the 25,614 active cases, 369 people are in serious condition, with 110 on ventilators. Another 156 people are in moderate condition and the rest have mild or no symptoms.

The ministry says 27,555 tests were performed yesterday.

Israel restricts Gaza fishing zone due to fire balloon attacks

Israel restricts the Gaza Strip’s permitted fishing zone to eight nautical miles from 15 until further notice as terrorists in the enclave continue to launch balloon-borne explosive and incendiary devices into Israel, sparking dozens of fires in the area closest to the border in recent days, Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians says.

The decision was made by Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the recommendation of IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, according to the liaison, known formally as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

“The decision was made in light of ongoing and returning terrorist activities from the Gaza Strip against Israeli citizens in recent days, which represent a violation of Israeli sovereignty,” COGAT says in a statement.

The liaison says Israel holds the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group responsible for these attacks and says the organization will “bare the consequences of the violence being directed toward Israeli citizens.”

— Judah Ari Gross

US said threatening to block extension of UNIFIL’s mandate

The US is threatening to use its UN Security Council veto to block the extension of UNIFIL’s mandate if its demands for reforming the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon aren’t granted, the Walla news site reports.

Citing US and Israeli officials, the news site says the Trump administration is pushing to reduce limitations on UNIFIL’s movements in southern Lebanon, where the Hezbollah terror group has an extensive presence, among other changes.

The US also reportedly wants to cut the number of UNIFIL troops from 15,000 to 11,000.

The report says Israel and the US have reached out to countries that supply soldiers to the force and Security Council member states to clarify they’ll oppose the extension if the changes aren’t made.

“Both we and the Americans stress that in the current reality, Hezbollah is too comfortable with UNIFIL and the situation can’t continue,” an Israeli official is quoted saying.

24 fires sparked Wednesday by Gaza fire balloons

Balloon-borne incendiary devices launched from the Gaza Strip have sparked 24 fires hours in southern Israel since the morning, the Fire and Rescue services says.

Nasrallah to give speech Friday to mark anniversary of Second Lebanon War

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah will give a speech at 8:30 p.m. Friday to mark the anniversary of the “historic victory” over Israel in the Second Lebanon War, according to Hezbollah-linked Al-Ahed News.

Nasrallah will also discuss “the latest developments,” according to a statement.

The speech comes in the aftermath of last week’s destructive explosion of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate at Beirut Port, which killed over 170 people and wounded more than 6,000.

Lebanon has erupted in widespread protests and popular outrage against the alleged government negligence which led to the highly explosive material remaining in the port for years without supervision. Hundreds were injured in violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces, in which Lebanese forces allegedly used live fire. A member of the Lebanese security forces was killed during the clashes.

In his first speech since the disaster, Nasrallah last week denied any involvement in the scandal, claiming that as Hezbollah’s main objective is resistance against Israel, “we know more about Port of Haifa than Beirut Port.”

— Aaron Boxerman

Likud MK said to call for removal of judge overseeing Netanyahu’s graft case

A lawmaker from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party has sent a letter to Supreme Court Chief Justice Ester Hayut demanding the top judge in the premier’s trial on corruption charges be replaced, Channel 12 news reports.

According to the network, Likud MK Shlomo Karhi says Jerusalem District Court Judge Rebecca Friedman-Feldman should be recused because her son worked at a law firm that provided legal advice to a witness in one of the graft cases involving the premier.

The network says the move appears to be aimed at delaying the start of the testimony stage in the trail, which is set to begin in January, and could be the start of attempts to delegitimize the judges overseeing the trial, following efforts to tar the media, police and prosecutors.

PA to relax virus restrictions on gatherings, allow shops to reopen

The Palestinian Authority announces it will relax some restrictions on gatherings and allow shops to reopen, even as daily cases of the novel coronavirus increase in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

PA government spokesperson Ibrahim Milhim says the West Bank will see “a careful return to the practices of daily life in a way that will seem almost normal.”

There is reported to be little adherence to social distancing in the West Bank, despite the PA’s attempt to levy restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus.

Many businesses and restaurants have reopened on their own during the lockdown, sometimes with the tacit approval of local PA governors.

The PA’s health ministry says one death and 499 new cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed among Palestinians today.

— Aaron Boxerman

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Trump congratulates Georgia candidate who pushed anti-Semitic conspiracy on primary win

ATLANTA — US President Donald Trump tweets support for congressional candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene, a supporter of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory who’s been criticized for racist comments, following her Republican primary victory in Georgia.

Greene, a businesswoman and political newcomer, beat neurosurgeon John Cowan in a primary runoff Tuesday in Georgia’s deep-red 14th Congressional District, which stretches from the outskirts of metro Atlanta to the rural northwest corner of the state.

“Congratulations to future Republican Star Marjorie Taylor Greene on a big Congressional primary win in Georgia against a very tough and smart opponent,” Trump says on Twitter. “Marjorie is strong on everything and never gives up – a real WINNER!”

“You inspired me to run and fight to Save America and Stop Socialism!!” Greene responds to Trump’s tweet. “No one will fight harder than me!!”

Greene has amassed tens of thousands of followers on social media, where she often posts videos of herself speaking directly to the camera. Those videos have helped propel her popularity with her base, but also drawn condemnation after videos surfaced in which she complains of an “Islamic invasion” into government offices, claims Black and Hispanic men are held back by “gangs and dealing drugs,” and pushes an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who is Jewish, collaborated with the Nazis.

Greene also is part of a growing list of candidates who have expressed support for QAnon, a conspiracy theory centered on the baseless belief that Trump is waging a secret campaign against enemies in the “deep state” and a child sex trafficking ring run by satanic pedophiles and cannibals.

Greene will face Democrat Kevin Van Ausdal in November. Republican Rep. Tom Graves, who did not seek reelection, last won the seat with over 76% of the vote in 2018.

— AP