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Rouhani at UN: Washington can’t impose negotiations or war on us

Iranian president rails against US in General Assembly speech, says it won’t be a ‘bargaining chip’ in upcoming American election

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a ceremony celebrating the 41st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, at the Azadi, Freedom, Square in Tehran, Iran on February 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a ceremony celebrating the 41st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, at the Azadi, Freedom, Square in Tehran, Iran on February 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

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

US and UAE said aiming for December deal on F-35s

The United States and United Arab Emirates hope to reach an initial agreement on the sale of advanced stealth jets to Abu Dhabi by December 2, according to the Reuters news agency.

The report comes as Defense Minister Benny Gantz is in Washington for talks on the emerging F-35s deal. Israel has expressed concerns over the sale, arguing it could undermine its military edge in the region.

But US officials have said they are committed to Israel’s security and are looking for a workaround to ensure Israel’s edge remains intact.

Reports Reuters: “Sources familiar with the negotiations said a working idea was for Israeli air defenses to be able to detect the UAE F-35s with technology that effectively defeats the stealth capabilities of the jets.”

28,000 more Israelis register for unemployment in past 24 hours

The Employment Service says over 28,000 Israelis have registered for unemployment benefits in the past 24 hours.

The total number of unemployed is now at 802,314, of whom 472,734 were placed on unpaid leave by employers.

Over 70,000 have been laid off since Thursday, a day before the national lockdown began.

Trump calls Scandinavian MPs who nominated him for Nobel

US President Donald Trump telephones two Scandinavian MPs to thank them for nominating him for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, the two lawmakers say.

“I was on my way to the stable with my daughter, when President @realDonaldTrump called and thanked me for the nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize,” Magnus Jacobsson, a Swedish member of parliament for the Christian Democrats, writes on Twitter.

“We had a good conversation about peace in the Middle East and the Balkans. I wish the President good luck with the peace processes,” he adds, posting a photo of a smiling Trump sitting at his desk on the phone.

Norwegian MP Christian Tybring-Gjedde, of the right-wing populist anti-immigration Progress Party, meanwhile tells AFP he had also received a call from Trump on Monday.

“It was just to thank me for the nomination,” he says, refusing to disclose details of their conversation.

“I was surprised. It was really good of him to do that, I don’t think everyone does that. He’s very nice,” he adds.

Tybring-Gjedde and Jacobsson announced in early September that they had each put forward Trump’s name for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize.

Tybring-Gjedde cited the president’s role in the deal normalizing relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Jacobsson hailed his mediation efforts between Serbia and Kosovo, whose ties have remained strained more than 20 years after the war in the Balkans.

AFP

Trump’s UN speech to address China, Iran sanctions, normalization deals

US President Donald Trump, who prefers speaking to boisterous crowds, is set to give a prerecorded address to the UN General Assembly as he grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, chilly relations between the US and China and ongoing threats from North Korea and Iran — all during a heated campaign for reelection.

Trump told reporters Monday that he’d have a “strong message” for China, where the first cases of COVID-19 were reported, but he didn’t elaborate ahead of the Tuesday address. Earlier in his administration, Trump hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Florida club, but now the two leaders are exchanging angry words over trade.

The administration has been slamming the Chinese Communist Party for its handling of COVID-19, election meddling, espionage in the United States and influence peddling across the world.

Trump is not popular at the United Nations and his speech this year comes at a time when UN members are pushing back against Washington. On Monday, Trump declared that all UN sanctions against Iran have been reimposed, a move that most of the rest of the world rejects as illegal.

US President Donald Trump speaks during the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York, September 24, 2019. (Don Emmert / AFP)

Trump’s statement came shortly after he signed an executive order spelling out how the US will enforce the “snapback” of sanctions. “My actions today send a clear message to the Iranian regime and those in the international community who refuse to stand up to Iran,” he said.

The US said it was reimposing sanctions on Iran for being in noncompliance with the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and global powers. But Trump in 2018 pulled out of the deal in which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

Few UN member states believe the US has the legal standing to restore the sanctions because Trump withdrew from the agreement. The US argues it retains the right to do so as an original participant in the deal and a member of the council.

The White House has not previewed his UN speech, but Trump was expected to highlight agreements the US brokered between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The historic agreements come as relations between the Jewish state and Arab nations are thawing as a pushback against Iran.

AP

As ministers meet on virus rules, Netanyahu says decisions must be made quickly

As the coronavirus cabinet meets to discuss additional virus restrictions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says, “We must make decisions as quickly as possible,” according to Hebrew-language media reports.

At its meeting, the cabinet is expected to review new restrictions just five days after declaring a three-week lockdown that shuttered schools and many businesses. Amid fears that the health care system will be overwhelmed by new serious cases in the coming days, Hebrew media reported that the new restrictions to be considered include further limiting attendance at workplaces, closing synagogues and placing new limitations on public prayers, and shutting all markets, including those selling “four species” plants for the Sukkot holiday.

Ministers will also consider restrictions on public transportation and flights.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein is opposed to introducing new rules before next week’s Yom Kippur holiday, while coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu is urging an immediate tightening of the rules.

Chief rabbi lays out Yom Kippur fasting rules for virus patients

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau lays out religious rulings for observant coronavirus patients, ahead of the Yom Kippur fast next week.

He says patients with the illness who are in moderate or serious condition should not fast, while those with mild symptoms should not fast if they’re within five days of the diagnosis.

Those who have experienced mild symptoms but are not currently symptomatic, and are 5-10 days from the diagnosis, should eat in small portions (27 grams of food, 37 milliliters of drink) in nine-minute intervals. The same is true for recovered moderate or serious cases who were infected within the past three months.

Those who are asymptomatic, and those who are in quarantine and do not have the virus, must fast, says Lau.

Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, begins on Sunday night and ends Monday night.

Palestinians relinquish Arab League role, angry over normalization

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki says that the PA will relinquish its role as temporary chairman of the current round of Arab League meetings in protest of the League’s refusal to condemn normalization with Israel.

Ramallah previously threatened to leave the pan-Arab body after it rejected a Palestinian resolution to condemn the United Arab Emirates for establishing open ties with Israel. PA President Mahmoud Abbas ordered a review of Palestinian membership in the organization.

A few days later, however, veteran diplomat Saeb Erekat said that Palestine would not withdraw from the Arab League after all. Al-Maliki explained the Palestinian response as a desire to avoid creating a “vacuum” that would create “different scenarios which we do not need right now in this stage.”

Aaron Boxerman

Britain to impose new virus curbs as WHO issues grim warning

The British government will announce fresh steps to try and stop a coronavirus surge in England, as the World Health Organization warns that new cases worldwide soared to almost two million last week in a grim new record.

The pandemic is showing no signs of abating — more than 31.2 million infections have been detected globally, with 964,000 deaths — and nations are scrambling to contain new outbreaks.

The World Health Organization says 1,998,897 new Covid-19 cases were registered around the world last week — a six percent increase over a week earlier.

It was “the highest number of reported cases in a single week since the beginning of the epidemic,” the UN health agency says.

However the number of deaths declined by 10 percent over the previous week to 37,700.

The ramped-up response in Britain follows warnings that the country could see up to 50,000 cases a day by mid-October, and a month later exceed 200 deaths every day.

Britain also put on hold plans to allow the phased return of fans to sporting venues in England from October 1.

France and Spain are battling similar surges. Spain’s health minister on Tuesday called on Madrid residents to limit their movements and social contacts to the “essential.”

Under new rules to come into force on Thursday, English pubs, bars and other hospitality venues will be required to close at 10 pm. Food and drink outlets will also be restricted to table service only.

Many nations in Europe were easing restrictions after largely overcoming initial outbreaks, but the resurgence of the virus has forced them to tighten curbs again.

AFP

Russia vows military cooperation with Iran after UN arms embargo ends

Russia says it will develop military cooperation with Tehran after a United Nations arms embargo on Iran expires next month.

“New opportunities will emerge in our cooperation with Iran after the special regime imposed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231 expires on October 18,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, tells the Interfax news agency.

AFP

Blocked from entering Ukraine, frustrated pilgrims return to Israel

Ultra-Orthodox Jews who were blocked for days trying to reach Ukraine for an annual pilgrimage flew home to Israel this week, many accusing their government of abandoning them.

The would-be pilgrims complain they had received no assistance from the Israeli government while enduring “inhumane” conditions in no-man’s land on the Belarus-Ukraine border, forcing them to rely on the Belarusian authorities and the Red Cross.

Tens of thousands of pilgrims usually travel to the tomb of Rabbi Nahman, founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement, in Uman in central Ukraine to mark the Jewish new year, which this year fell on September 18-20.

Hundreds of Hasidic Jews ignored warnings from the Ukrainian government that pilgrims would be denied entry because of coronavirus concerns and attempted to cross by land from neighboring Belarus.

“Five days without eating or drinking, without toilets… That’s inhumane,” one of the frustrated pilgrims, Israel Maizlik, tells AFP.

Along with other pilgrims, he touched down Monday on a flight from the Belarusian capital Minsk.

Jewish pilgrims stuck between the Belarusian and Ukrainian border crossings, September 16, 2020. (TUT.BY/AFP)

While stuck at the border, pilgrim Haim Weitshandler called on Israeli officials to come to the rescue of “sick and hungry people” left out “in the rain and in the cold.”

After landing at Tel Aviv airport, the 40-year-old says he had “spent two weeks in conditions amounting to a serious humanitarian crisis.”

“We received nothing from Israel,” he says, praising Belarus for “coming to help us.”

While many of the blocked pilgrims expressed frustration, Dor David says he felt positive about the experience.

“If God and our rabbi (Nahman) did not want us to reach Uman, why should I be angry?”

Netanyahu is merely “a puppet in the hands of God,” he adds, pledging to make it to Uman once the border opens.

“The positive energies on the ground made us forget the hunger and the cold, it was a spiritual experience.”

AFP

Palestinians record 557 new virus cases

Palestinian health authorities say they have confirmed 557 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, as the number of active cases reaches 12,698 across the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian Authority Health Minister Mai al-Kaila says that the PA is running out of coronavirus tests. Current stockpiles will last for only around the next three days, al-Kaila says.

For most of the second wave of coronavirus among Palestinians, Hebron led the West Bank in active infections. Now, however, the cases are far more evenly distributed: Ramallah-Al Bireh governorate has 1,909 infections, Hebron has 1,780, and Bethlehem has 1,767, with the remaining cases scattered more or less evenly around the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In Gaza, the number of active cases has begun to fall. Health authorities in the Hamas-run coastal enclave confirm 45 new cases in the past 24 hours.

Aaron Boxerman

At Peres memorial, Netanyahu says former president would’ve been pleased by Gulf deals

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pays tribute to former president Shimon Peres at a virtual memorial marking four years since his death.

Peres was “unforgettable,” says Netanyahu, praising his decades-long efforts to bolster Israel’s security.

He also says Peres would be pleased with the normalization deals with the UAE and Bahrain.

“This is peace that the spirit of Shimon Peres is certainly taking pride in,” says Netanyahu.

Netanyahu again lashes out at MK who scaled back virus restrictions

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again appears to blame former Coronavirus Committee chair MK Yifat Shasha-Biton, a member of his Likud party, for the rise in infections.

“All those who derided the restrictions we imposed and watered them down or canceled them, should not come to us now with claims over the rising infections,” says Netanyahu in a Facebook post, which is linked to a video of Shasha-Biton.

The Likud lawmaker scaled back or canceled numerous restrictions approved by the cabinet, before a new parliamentary panel was tasked with reviewing the regulations.

Netanyahu and Shasha-Biton clashed on Monday over the coronavirus rules.

PM said mulling law to coerce private doctors to work in public hospitals

Hebrew media reports say Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering passing a law forcing doctors in private hospitals to work in public hospitals, during the pandemic.

The doctors could be reassigned by the state, against their will, under the new proposal, the reports say.

Global coronavirus death toll rises to 965,760

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 965,760 people since the outbreak emerged in China late last year, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Tuesday.

At least 31,374,240 cases of coronavirus have been registered. Of these, at least 21,338,900 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization, probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections.

Many countries are testing only symptomatic or the most serious cases.

On Monday, 4,188 new deaths and 265,437 new cases were recorded worldwide.

The countries with the most new deaths were India with 1,053, followed by Argentina with 429 and Brazil with 377.

The United States is the worst-hit country with 199,890 deaths from 6,858,130 cases. At least 2,615,949 people have been declared recovered.

After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 137,272 deaths from 4,558,068 cases, India with 88,935 deaths from 5,562,663 cases, Mexico with 73,697 deaths from 700,580 cases, and the United Kingdom with 41,788 deaths from 398,625 cases.

The country with the highest number of deaths compared to its population is Peru with 95 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Belgium with 86, Spain and Bolivia with 66, and Brazil with 65.

China — excluding Hong Kong and Macau — has to date declared 85,297 cases (six new since Monday), including 4,634 deaths and 80,497 recoveries.

Latin America and the Caribbean overall has 325,373 deaths from 8,801,752 cases, Europe 226,237 deaths from 4,934,210 infections, the United States and Canada 209,148 deaths from 7,002,792 cases, Asia 127,220 deaths from 7,366,056 cases, Middle East 42,781 deaths from 1,822,812 cases, Africa 34,076 deaths from 1,415,448 cases, and Oceania 925 deaths from 31,179 cases.

As a result of corrections by national authorities or late publication of data, the figures updated over the past 24 hours may not correspond exactly to the previous day’s tallies.

AFP

Graham says GOP now has votes to confirm justice before election

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham says Republicans have the votes to confirm US President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick before the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Graham, a Republican of South Carolina, says on Fox News that he wouldn’t be intimidated by Democrats, who vehemently oppose any confirmation vote until a new president is inaugurated. In 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to allow a vote on President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland during an election year.

Two years later, Democrats fought unsuccessfully to halt the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh over allegations that he’d committed sexual assault while in high school — allegations Kavanaugh denied.

“They tried to destroy Brett Kavanagh so they could fill the seat,” Graham tells Fox News, adding: “It didn’t work with Kavanaugh. We’ve got the votes to confirm Justice Ginsburg’s replacement before the election. We’re going to move forward in the committee. We’re going to report the nomination out of the committee to the floor of the United States Senate so we can vote before the election.”

Graham, who subsequently took over the Judiciary chairmanship from Sen. Charles Grassley, says, “After Kavanaugh everything changed with me. They’re not going to intimidate me, Mitch McConnell or anybody else.”

“We’re going to have a process that you’ll be proud of,” Graham says. “The nominee is going to be supported by every Republican in the Judiciary Committee. We’ve got the votes to confirm the justice on the floor of the Senate before the election and that’s what’s coming.”

Republicans outnumber Democrats in the Senate, 53-47, and can confirm a justice by a simple majority.

AP

Reports of explosion in south Lebanon

Preliminary reports indicate there’s been a large explosion in south Lebanon.

The area, Ein Qana, is in Iqleem al-Tufah, is a Hezbollah stronghold.

It’s not immediately clear what the source of the blast is, with some attributing it to an explosion at a weapons depot and other reports saying it occurred at a gas station.

 

Full schedule of 1st day of (virtual) UN General Assembly

The first session of the first virtual UN General Assembly will begin soon, with speeches by US President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, among others.

The full lineup, as laid out by the UN, is as follows:

Jair Messias Bolsonaro, President, Federative Republic of Brazil

Donald Trump, President, United States of America

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President, Republic of Turkey

Xi Jinping, President, People’s Republic of China

Sebastián Piñera Echenique, President, Republic of Chile

Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, President, Republic of South Africa

Miguel Díaz Canel Bermúdez, President, Republic of Cuba

Vladimir Putin, President, Russian Federation

King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

Moon Jae-in, President, Republic of Korea

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Emir, State of Qatar

Rodrigo Roa Duterte, President, Republic of the Philippines

Hassan Rouhani, President, Islamic Republic of Iran

Emmanuel Macron, President, French Republic

Iván Duque Márquez, President, Republic of Colombia

Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, President, Turkmenistan

Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, President, Arab Republic of Egypt

Emomali Rahmon, President, Republic of Tajikistan

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, President, United Mexican States

Luis Lacalle Pou, President, Eastern Republic of Uruguay

Danny Faure, President, Republic of Seychelles

Paul Kagame, President, Republic of Rwanda

João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, President, Republic of Angola

Alberto Fernández, President, Argentine Republic

Egils Levits, President, Republic of Latvia

Gitanas Nausėda, President, Republic of Lithuania

Muhammadu Buhari, President, Federal Republic of Nigeria

Carlos Alvarado Quesada, President, Republic of Costa Rica

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, President, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

Joko Widodo, President, Republic of Indonesia

Martín Vizcarra Cornejo, President, Republic of Peru

Félix Antoine Tshilombo Tshisekedi, President, Democratic Republic of the Congo

 

Hezbollah confirms explosion in south Lebanon, cordons off area

An official with the Shiite terror group Hezbollah confirms there was an explosion in the southern Lebanon village of Ein Qana, above the port city of Sidon, but declines to give further details.

Members of the terror group impose a security cordon around the area.

The cause remains unclear.

The explosion sends gray smoke billowing over the village.

Unconfirmed reports say several people have been injured.

with agencies

Opening General Assembly, UN chief urges two-state solution

Opening the UN General Assembly, UN Secretary-General António Guterres calls for a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians.

“I urge for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to reengage in meaningful negotiations to realize a two-state solution in line with relevant UN resolutions, international law, and bilateral agreements,” he says.

He also calls for a global ceasefire by the end of the year “to end all hot conflicts.”

UN chief urges world to prevent new Cold War between US, China

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urges the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We must do everything to avoid a new Cold War,” Guterres says in an address as he opened an almost entirely virtual UN General Assembly.

“We are moving in a very dangerous direction. Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a Great Fracture — each with its own trade and financial rules and internet and artificial intelligence capacities,” he says, without saying the United States and China by name.

AFP

Iran records highest COVID-19 cases in a single day

Iran announces the highest number of cases of the novel coronavirus in a single day, with 3,712 people infected in 24 hours.

“We are seeing an increase in confirmed cases, and daily hospitalizations in most of our provinces,” health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari says in televised remarks.

“The rate of compliance with health protocols and wearing masks is declining,” she warns.

The highest case number recorded before was on June 4, when 3,574 cases were detected, according to official figures.

Iran has been battling the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak of COVID-19, with the death toll standing at 24,656 people out of a total of 429,193 people infected.

AFP

Israel envoy: ‘Embarrassing’ that UN chief omitted Israel’s normalization deals

Israel’s new ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, is criticizing the UN’s secretary general for failing to mention the Israel-UAE and Israel-Bahrain normalization deals in his opening remarks at the General Assembly.

Antonio Gutteres called for a global ceasefire, “but he didn’t mention one word about the peace deals that Israel signed,” tweets Erdan. “It’s embarrassing and says everything about the United Nations.”

He tweets the comments with a photo of himself in the GA hall, wearing a Covid facemask with the Israeli, Emirati and Bahraini flags.

with Raphael Ahren

Rivlin to treasury: Apply salary cut of public officials to my wages

President Reuven Rivlin asks the treasury to include his wages in the salary reduction of public officials, in solidarity with Israelis hurt financially by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am writing to you following yesterday’s government’s decision, in light of the economic situation because of the coronavirus pandemic, to freeze the raise in salaries of members of Knesset, ministers and the prime minister, and to reduce their current wages by 10%,” he writes to Finance Minister Israel Katz.

“On behalf of the President of the State of Israel, I request that you extend the arrangement in the memorandum of law relating to the aforementioned government decision, and apply the freeze in raise and the reduction to the salary of the President of the State.”

Brazil expresses approval of Israel normalization with Gulf states

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro praises Israel’s normalization deal with Bahrain and the UAE in his remarks to the UN General Assembly, calling them “excellent news.”

He also hails the “promising vision” of the Trump administration’s Israel-Palestinian peace plan.

At UN, Trump says China must be held accountable for pandemic

US President Donald Trump addresses the UN General Assembly in a pre-recorded video.

He says that 75 years after its founding, “we are once again engaged in a great global struggle,” against the “China virus,” a reference to COVID-19.

Trump praises the US response to the pandemic. “We will distribute a vaccine, we will defeat the virus, we will end the pandemic and we will enter an unprecedented era of prosperity, cooperation and peace,” he says.

“As we pursue this bright future, we must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world: China,” says Trump.

WHO “falsely declared there was no evidence of human to human transmission.  Later they falsely said people without symptoms would not spread the disease. The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions.”

Trump: Other states are ‘coming fast’ to sign peace deals with Israel

Trump, in his remarks to the UN General Assembly, continues to rail against China, accusing it of destroying the environment.

He criticizes world powers for lambasting the US’s environmental record.

“They only want to punish America and I will not stand for it,” he says. “If the United Nations wants to be an effective organization, it must focus on the real problems of the world. This includes terrorism, oppression of women… human and sex trafficking,” and other issues.

He then pivots to Iran and the Islamic State.

“We withdrew from the terrible Iran nuclear deal and imposed crippling sanctions on the world’s leading state sponsor of terror,” he says, underlining the US killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

And he praises a “landmark breakthrough with two peace deals in the Middle East after decades of no progress,” referring to the Israel-UAE and Israel-Bahrain deals.

He says other nations are going to sign peace deals with Israel.

“They are coming fast and they know it’s great for them and great for the world.”

“These groundbreaking peace deals are the dawn of a new Middle East. By taking a different approach, we have achieved different outcomes — far superior outcomes.”

“We intend to deliver more peace agreements shortly, and I have never been more optimistic for the future of the region. There is no blood in the sand. Those days are hopefully over,” says Trump.

The United States-brokered deals represent “peace through strength,” he adds.

Trump says US more powerful militarily than ever before

Trump says the US military prowess is more powerful than ever before.

And he says he hopes Washington won’t have to use it, in an apparent threat.

 

Lebanese reports hint at Israel involvement in blast

Lebanese state media implies that Israel may have had something to do with the explosion in south Lebanon, but emphasizes that the causes “are not known.”

“The explosion that occurred in a house in the town of Ain Qana… coincided with the intensive flight of hostile Israeli military and espionage aircraft, which had not left the airspace of Nabatiyeh and Iqlim al-Tuffah since the morning,” the Lebanese National News Agency reports.

While the explosion “created turmoil and panic among citizens… its damage was limited to splitting open some houses and shattering glass,” the report concludes.

Aaron Boxerman

Israeli envoy applauds Trump’s ‘peace through strength’ formula

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan applauds US President Donald Trump following his speech.

“The United States and Israel are forging a new path for peace in the Middle East. Thank you to President Trump for helping lead this new effort, proving that ‘peace through strength’ is the right formula, and that partnership with a strong Israel is good for the region,” he tweets.

19-year-old badly hurt after tree collapses in Bnei Brak

A 19-year-old woman is seriously injured after a tree collapses in the central city of Bnei Brak.

Medics rush her to the Sheba Medical Center in nearby Ramat Gan with serious injuries to her lower limbs.

Minister says ‘significant steps’ being raised at coronavirus cabinet meeting

Science Minister Izhar Shay ducks out of the coronavirus cabinet meeting on new restrictions to speak to Army Radio.

“It’s going in the direction of further broad restrictions,” he says. “I don’t know if it’ll be a total lockdown, but we are considering significant steps that will allow us to regain control over the infection rates.”

Yesh Atid MK: We must stop anti-Netanyahu protests until end of lockdown

Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah says the anti-Netanyahu protests must be paused amid the soaring virus rates, in the first comment by an opposition lawmaker in support of suspending the demonstrations.

“There is nothing more justified than the protests against the corrupt and failed prime minister. And there is nothing more justified than stopping the mass protests against him at this critical moment,” tweets Shelah. “Those to whom the cause is dear to their hearts must say right now: We’re stopping until the end of the lockdown, we’ll continue in other ways.”

Erdogan urges dialogue on east Mediterranean, not ‘harassment’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calls for “sincere” dialogue to settle the growing row with Greece over Ankara’s energy search in the eastern Mediterranean, rejecting “harassment.”

“Our priority is to settle disputes with sincere dialogue, based on international law and on an equitable basis,” Erdogan says in an address to the United Nations General Assembly via video-conference. “However, I would like to clearly state that we will never tolerate any imposition, harassment, or attack in the opposite direction.”

AFP

Chinese president says he has no intention of entering Cold War

Chinese President Xi Jinping warns against the perils of a “clash of civilizations” in a speech defending his country’s diplomatic direction delivered to the UN.

“China has no intention of entering a Cold War,” he says in a speech framed by the coronavirus and tensions with the US, urging the world to avoid “falling into the trap of a clash of civilizations.”

AFP  

Israel’s UN envoy walks out in protest of Erdogan’s ‘anti-Semitic’ remarks

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations walked out of the General Assembly in protest of comments by Turkey’s president against the Jewish state.

“Erdogan continues to spout anti-Semitic and false statements against Israel. It is important that the world recognizes the double moral standard he has lived by for many years,” says Erdan.

Erdogan has lambasted the “dirty hands that reaches the privacy of Jerusalem’s” holy places and said he would not support any peace proposal opposed by the Palestinians.

with Jacob Magid

Netanyahu speaks to Bahrain’s crown prince — reports

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken to Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa on the phone, in the first publicly acknowledged conversation since the Israel-Bahrain normalization agreement was announced, according to official Bahraini news channels.

The crown prince says the establishment of diplomatic ties with Israel strengthens the region’s stability, according to the reports.

Economy minister warns of ‘confusion’ if new health regulations imposed

As the meeting of the coronavirus cabinet continues, ministers are divided on whether to impose additional restrictions.

Economy Minister Amir Peretz opposes it.

“We cannot change decisions that were made a few days ago,” he says, according to the Kan public broadcaster. “If we release new decisions, we’ll create confusion. The public is internalizing the rules and starting to implement them. There is no reason that after five days we should have new instructions.”

Social Equality Minister Merav Cohen, however, says there is no choice but to introduce “drastic” measures to drive down infections, Army Radio reports.

US hits 200,000 virus deaths — equivalent to a 9/11 attack a day for 67 days

The US death toll from the coronavirus tops 200,000, a figure unimaginable eight months ago when the scourge first reached the world’s richest nation, with its sparkling laboratories, top-flight scientists and stockpiles of medicines and emergency supplies.

“It is completely unfathomable that we’ve reached this point,” says Jennifer Nuzzo, a Johns Hopkins University public health researcher.

The bleak milestone, by far the highest confirmed death toll from the virus in the world, was reported by Johns Hopkins, based on figures supplied by state health authorities. But the real toll is thought to be much higher, in part because many COVID-19 deaths were probably ascribed to other causes, especially early on, before widespread testing.

The number of dead in the US is equivalent to a 9/11 attack every day for 67 days. It is roughly equal to the population of Salt Lake City or Huntsville, Alabama.

And it is still climbing. Deaths are running at close to 770 a day on average, and a widely cited model from the University of Washington predicts the overall US toll will double to 400,000 by the end of the year as schools and colleges reopen and cold weather sets in. A vaccine is unlikely to become widely unavailable until 2021.

“The idea of 200,000 deaths is really very sobering, in some respects stunning,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, says on CNN.

AP

Netanyahu: Call with Bahrain’s crown prince was ‘exceptional, very friendly’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office confirms his phone call with Bahrain’s crown prince.

The call pulled Netanyahu out of the coronavirus cabinet meeting, where ministers are discussing tightening the lockdown rules.

“For several hours, we’ve been holding very important discussions in the coronavirus cabinet on how to stop the outbreak, how to dial it back,” he says. “We will make very important decisions today, tomorrow at latest, and will certainly present them to you, citizens of Israel.”

“In the meantime, I was summoned for an important national need, I spoke to the Bahraini crown prince, Salman bin Hamad [Al Khalifa]. It was an exceptional call, very friendly. We reiterated the principles of the Abraham Accords and we discussed how to… turn this peace — an economic peace, a technological peace, a tourism peace, a peace in all of these areas — [into action], and you will hear about the practical steps very soon.”

Netanyahu aides fined for violating quarantine

Two of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s aides have been fined over violating quarantine, according to Channel 12.

Topaz Luk and Reuven Ezer are ordered to pay NIS 5,000 ($1,455) after they were filmed outdoors when they were meant to be self-isolating after accompanying the prime minister to Washington last week.

J Street accuses Trump of inflating importance of Mideast normalization deals

The liberal J Street lobby accuses US President Donald Trump of inflating the importance of the normalization of ties between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain, which he touted during his speech to the UN General Assembly.

“Israel’s diplomatic normalization agreements with the UAE and Bahrain are a good thing — but it’s no surprise that the president continues to drastically misrepresent their importance in order to falsely claim for himself the mantle of ‘Middle East peacemaker,'” says J Street’s Vice President for Government Affairs Dylan Williams in a statement.

He says the normalization deals are no replacement for Israel-Palestinian peace.

“Far from promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace, the Trump administration has instead consistently sought to isolate and ignore the Palestinians while empowering the Netanyahu government to expand settlements, entrench occupation and reject serious compromise. Diplomatic understandings with other Arab states are welcome — but contrary to the claims of the president, they are no substitute for real Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to resolve the final status issues at the heart of their conflict.

“True Israeli-Palestinian peace remains both necessary and possible, but it will require American and Israeli leaders who are willing to seriously engage with the Palestinians and their aspirations, rather than scapegoating and excluding them.”

At UN, Jordan’s king calls for two-state solution

Addressing the UN General Assembly, Jordan’s King Abdullah II calls for a two-state solution to resolve “the central conflict in my region” between Israel and the Palestinians.

“The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the one conflict that started with the UN’s formation and that continues to fester to this very day, he says. “The only way toward an end to this conflict, the central conflict in my region, is through the two -state solution in accordance with international law and UN resolutions.

“The only way toward a just and lasting peace must lead to an independent, sovereign, and viable Palestinian state on the June 4, 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side-by side with Israel in peace and security.

Adds the king: “We cannot resolve this conflict without working to preserve Jerusalem for all humanity as a unifying city of peace. With the Hashemite Kingdom as custodian, I am bound by a special duty to safeguard Jerusalem’s Islamic and Christian holy sites. But the responsibility for this holy city falls on us all.”

with Jacob Magid

Netanyahu tells ministers ‘farce’ of mass demonstrations must end — TV

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the demonstrations against him in the coronavirus cabinet meeting, according to Channel 12.

“For a long time, I refrained from commenting on the issue but after I heard the experts say that gatherings are a huge danger to public health, it’s my obligation to address it,” he says. “The entire public is required to comply with the rules and only a group of protesters is exempt from the [law].”

The protests, held several times weekly outside his Jerusalem residence, have not been curtailed despite the lockdown. The attorney general has laid out rules to spread out protesters during the rallies into “capsules,” but that did not appear to be implemented during last Saturday’s protest, which drew thousands even as the country was under lockdown.

“You can go to the Western Wall only if you live within 1,000 meters, but to Balfour [street], you can come from around the country. This farce must end. This is an emergency and we must have one rule for both prayer and protests and all other gatherings. Otherwise, the public won’t listen to the rules and we will see the infection rate reach terrible levels,” Netanyahu is quoted saying.

Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his official residence in Jerusalem, September 20, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Meretz MKs defend demonstrations against Netanyahu amid pandemic

Lawmakers from the left-wing Meretz party defend the mass demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu which have been held despite soaring coronavirus rates and a nationwide lockdown.

“Twenty-eight thousand newly unemployed in the past day alone. But the protests [are the problem],” tweets Tamar Zandberg sardonically.

MK Nitzan Horowitz tweets: “My position is clear: Precisely in times of crisis, we have an obligation to uphold the right to protest and demonstrate.”

 

Netanyahu aides sue ex-PM Barak, journalist over claims of staged rally footage

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s aides are suing former prime minister Ehud Barak, journalist Uri Misgav, and Ravit Naor for libel over claims they staged fake footage and planted demonstrators in the rallies against the premier to create a provocation.

Ofer Golan and Topaz Luk are seeking NIS 420,000 in damages.

The two were filmed at Saturday night’s demonstration, manned with cameras. Luk was in violation of quarantine and earlier today was fined.

 

PM, Deri seek to create same rule for prayer gatherings, demonstrations

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri are seeking to limit demonstrations under new health regulations, over the objections of some Blue and White ministers, according to television reports.

They are demanding a singular rule for all gatherings, including synagogues over the Yom Kippur holiday. Demonstrations have previously been exempted by the health rules, while synagogues were restricted.

Otherwise, Netanyahu and Deri warn, religious Israelis will not heed the rules.

The issue is raised in the coronavirus cabinet meeting, which is ongoing since this afternoon.

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn objects, saying each gathering should be dealt with separately, Channel 12 reports.

The meeting is very heated, the network says.

5 virus carriers boarded planes from Israel to Turkey, Serbia — TV

Five people who were confirmed to have the coronavirus have boarded flights from Tel Aviv to Serbia and Turkey, despite knowing they were carrying the virus, Channel 12 reports.

Medical professionals called to follow up with the Israelis following their diagnosis and were astounded to find the patients had left the country, the report says.

The Israelis plan to fly back to the country on commercial flights.

Attempts by Israeli authorities to locate them abroad have been unsuccessful, the report says.

Passengers on the planes who were exposed to the carriers have yet to be informed.

At UN, Rouhani says US ‘humiliated’ by bid to reimpose sanctions

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani takes a jab at Bahrain and the UAE for their normalization with Israel, though he does not mention them by name during his prerecorded address to the UN General Assembly.

“We never ignored occupation, genocide, forced displacement and racism in Palestine and we never made a deal over the holy Quds [Jerusalem] and the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people,” he says.

Rouhani touts the 2015 nuclear deal as one of the greatest achievements “in the history of diplomacy” and says Iran “remains faithful to it despite persistent violations by the United States.” Iran has also breached the enrichment limits in the deal, which Washington pulled out of in 2018.

“Such a nation [Iran] does not deserve sanctions. The response to peace is not war. The reward for combatting extremism is not assassination,” he says.

Rouhani launches a tirade against the US, and accuses it of creating the Islamic State terror group.

“They accuse us, without any foundation, of trying to build nuclear weapons. And they impose sanctions on us under the pretext of [stopping] nuclear proliferation. This is why they have the infamy of being the sole user of atomic bombs in the history of humanity,” he says.

“They speak of human rights, while they have targeted through the maximum pressure, health, welfare, sustenance and even the right to life of all Iranians. They are directly involved, along with regional accomplices, in every single case of occupation, war and aggression… Yet they blame Iran for their own inevitable defeat in confronting the will of the people of the region.”

Rouhani claims the United States “turned our region into a powder keg” by supplying weapons.

Rouhani also addresses the new US sanctions against Iran, which were imposed as UN sanctions, even as the world came out against it and said the move was illegal.

Washington is “humiliated in its self-created isolation,” he says.

“The United States can impose neither negotiations nor war on us. Life is hard under sanctions, however, harder is life without independence,” he says.

Rouhani also calls Iran “the oldest democracy in the Middle East.”

He also condemns foreign interference in its political process, “let alone by a terrorist and interventionist outsider.”

“We are not a bargaining chip in US elections and domestic policy,” he adds. “Any US administration after the upcoming election will have no choice but to surrender to the resilience of the Iranian nation.”

He says the world must say “no to bullying and arrogance.”

Pushing back against Trump, granddaughter says Ginsburg dictated her final wish

Clara Spera says her grandmother, former US justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dictated to her the final wish that she not be replaced before the November 3 election, after US President Donald Trump questioned the veracity of the statement.

“In the final days of her life, I asked my grandmother if there was anything she wanted to say to the public, to anyone, that wasn’t already out there,” Spera tells BBC’s Newshour. “I pulled out my computer and she dictated the following sentence to me. She said: ‘My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.'”

“I read it back to it and she was very happy with it. When I asked ‘is that it, is there anything else you’d like to say?’ She said, ‘The rest of my work is a matter of public record.’ So that’s all she wanted to add.”

Flowers and notes are left outside of the US Supreme Court to mourn the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, September 21, 2020. (Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images/ via JTA)

On “Fox & Friends” on Monday, Trump claimed without evidence: “I don’t know that she said that, or was that written out by Adam Schiff and Schumer and Pelosi,” referring also to Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Schiff later tweeted: “No, I didn’t write Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dying wish to a nation she served so well, and spent her whole life making a more perfect union. But I am going to fight like hell to make it come true. No confirmation before inauguration.”

Ginsburg, 87, died Friday from metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Trump is expected to announce Ginsburg’s replacement by week’s end and seeks to push the nomination through the Senate before the election.

with AP

Coronavirus cabinet meeting ends without decisions; will reconvene tomorrow

After an hours-long session, the coronavirus cabinet meeting ends without decisions on whether to tighten the lockdown.

It will reconvene tomorrow.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi suggested creating an inter-ministerial task force composed of legal and health officials to propose limits on demonstrations, Hebrew reports say. They will present their conclusions tomorrow morning.

Israeli kibbutz tweaks its name to honor Ginsburg

An Israeli kibbutz has changed its name to honor the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in a weeklong tribute to the Jewish American judge.

Kibbutz Ramat Hashofet, or The Judge’s Heights, is named after the Jewish American judge Julian Mack. The kibbutz in northern Israel says this week it is temporarily tweaking its name to Ramat Hashofetet. Hebrew is a gendered language and the change turns the word “judge” female.

Ginsburg died Friday at age 87.

AP

Deri says he’ll quit government if synagogues closed while protests permitted

Shas party leader Aryeh Deri threatens to quit the government if a decision is made to shutter synagogues on the upcoming Yom Kippur holiday, while allowing demonstrations to continue.

“We are a Jewish and democratic government, but for me the Jewish part comes first,” says Deri, who is interior minister and a member of the high-level coronavirus cabinet. “A government that will say yes to demonstrations and no to prayer on Yom Kippur is, from my perspective, not a Jewish government and I won’t be able to stay in such a government.”

 

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