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Rains from monster Hurricane Irma begin hitting Puerto Rico

300-kph winds from category 5 storm lashes the Caribbean islands on its way to a possible hit on South Florida

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

  • A picture taken on September 5, 2017 shows a view of the Baie Nettle beach in Marigot, with the wind blowing ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Irma. (AFP Photo/ Lionel Chamoiseau)
    A picture taken on September 5, 2017 shows a view of the Baie Nettle beach in Marigot, with the wind blowing ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Irma. (AFP Photo/ Lionel Chamoiseau)
  • Arnon Milchan, left, and Benjamin Netanyahu on March 28, 2005. (Flash90)
    Arnon Milchan, left, and Benjamin Netanyahu on March 28, 2005. (Flash90)
  • Jenna Fountain carries a bucket down Regency Drive to try to recover items from their flooded home in Port Arthur, Texas, September 1, 2017. (AFP PHOTO/ Emily Kask)
    Jenna Fountain carries a bucket down Regency Drive to try to recover items from their flooded home in Port Arthur, Texas, September 1, 2017. (AFP PHOTO/ Emily Kask)
  • Outgoing vice chair of the US Federal Reserve, Stanley Fischer. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    Outgoing vice chair of the US Federal Reserve, Stanley Fischer. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with  International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) President Peter Maurer at the the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on September 6, 2017.  (Kobi Gideon / GPO)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) President Peter Maurer at the the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on September 6, 2017. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)
  • President Reuven Rivlin delivers a speech in Munich, on September 6, 2017 as he inaugurates a memorial to the Israeli athletes killed in a Palestinian terror attack at the 1972 Olympic Games.  (AFP PHOTO / Christof STACHE)
    President Reuven Rivlin delivers a speech in Munich, on September 6, 2017 as he inaugurates a memorial to the Israeli athletes killed in a Palestinian terror attack at the 1972 Olympic Games. (AFP PHOTO / Christof STACHE)
  • A visitor looks at the portraits of the Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics at the Olympic Village displayed inside the Memorial Center on September 6, 2017 in Munich, Germany. (AFP PHOTO / Christof STACHE)
    A visitor looks at the portraits of the Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics at the Olympic Village displayed inside the Memorial Center on September 6, 2017 in Munich, Germany. (AFP PHOTO / Christof STACHE)

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

Germany inaugurates memorial to Israelis killed at 1972 Olympics

The presidents of Germany and Israel are inaugurating a memorial to the 11 Israeli athletes and a German police officer killed 45 years ago during an attack by a Palestinian militant group at the Munich Olympics.

Presidents Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Reuven Rivlin are joined at Munich’s Olympic Park by relatives of the victims.

On September 5, 1972, eight members of Palestinian group Black September climbed over the unguarded fence of the Olympic village, burst into the building where the Israeli team was staying, and took the athletes hostage.

Five athletes, six coaches and a German policeman were killed at the village or during a botched rescue attempt. The Palestinian attackers demanded the release of prisoners held by Israel and two German left-wing extremists in German jails.

AP

Rivlin slams Abbas’s Fatah for praising 1972 Munich Olympics attack

President Reuven Rivlin condemns Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s party for persistently praising the 1972 terror attack at the Munich Olympics that left 11 Israeli athletes and one German police officer dead.

“There are still those who see in the murder of sportsmen, a heroic deed,” Rivlin says in his speech unveiling a memorial to the slain athletes in Munich. “Just last year, Fatah marked the massacre of the sportsmen as an ‘act of heroism,'” he says.

“The center we are inaugurating today must be a message to the whole world: There can be no apologizing for terrorism. Terror must be unequivocally condemned, everywhere. In Barcelona, in London, in Paris, in Berlin, in Jerusalem, and everywhere else.”

Rivlin says Israel has been waiting nearly a half century for the Olympic Games to hold a moment of silence in honor of the slain Israelis.

“Our brothers who were murdered were not just the State of Israel’s sons,” he says. “They were the Olympic family’s sons. A family which for many years abandoned its commitment to them.”

— Sue Surkes

UN says Syrian regime behind deadly sarin gas attack in April

UN-mandated investigators say they have solid evidence a Russian-built plane used by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s air force conducted a sarin-gas attack in the spring that killed at least 83 civilians and sparked a retaliatory US strike.

The latest report by the Commission of Inquiry on Syria also says US forces failed to take “all feasible precautions” to protect civilians in attacking alleged terrorists in Aleppo in March, destroying part of a mosque complex.

The report offers some of the strongest evidence yet of allegations that Assad’s forces conducted the April 4 attack on Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib province.

The US quickly launched a punitive strike on Shayrat air base, where the report says the Sukhoi-22 plane took off.

The report issued today covers a span from March to early July.

— AP

Human Rights group finds ‘assembly line’ of torture in Egypt

An international rights group says Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has given a “green light” to systematic torture inside detention facilities, allowing officers to act with “almost total impunity.”

In a 63-page report released today, Human Rights Watch says Sissi, a US ally who was warmly received at the White House earlier this year, is pursuing stability “at any cost,” and has allowed the widespread torture of detainees, despite it being outlawed by the Egyptian constitution.

Sissi “has effectively given police and National Security officers a green light to use torture whenever they please,” says Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at the New York-based group. “Impunity for the systematic use of torture has left citizens with no hope for justice.”

The allegations, the group says, amount to crimes against humanity.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the report.

— AP

State moves to defund Jaffa theater over alleged incitement

The Finance Ministry is reportedly seeking to pull state funding to a theater in Jaffa over its alleged incitement to violence and support of terrorism.

Directors and managers of the Jaffa Theater have been summoned to discuss the budget cuts with representatives from the finance, justice and culture ministries.

The move comes following a recent performance in support of an Israeli Arab poet Dareen Tatour called “Prison Notebooks.”

Tatour has been imprisoned since 2015, on charges of incitement and support of a terrorist organization. She was indicted later that year and faces up to eight years in prison for posts made on social media sites.

US Jews to snub Netanyahu during upcoming visit over Western Wall U-turn

American Jewish leaders say they won’t host Netanyahu during his upcoming visit to New York to protest his government’s decision to nix a cabinet-approved plan to create an area for pluralistic worship at the Western Wall.

According to the Walla news website, a number of Jewish leaders have said they may meet with the prime minister privately, but there will be no official or public events during the his visit to the US later this month.

Earlier this year, Netanyahu’s government backtracked on a landmark deal that was to guarantee non-Orthodox Jews’ free access to the Jerusalem holy site, drawing sharp rebuke from Diaspora Jewry.

Hurricane Irma has ’caused major damage’ on Caribbean islands

Hurricane Irma has already caused “major damage” on several Caribbean islands, French Overseas Territories Minister Annick Girardin says in Paris.

The Category 5 hurricane slammed into the islands of Saint Barthelemy and Saint Martin, after first making landfall on the island of Barbuda to the southeast, with the French weather office saying: “These islands are suffering major impacts.”

— AFP

Four officials held over submarine affair released to house arrest

The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court releases to house arrest some of the suspects recently detained in a spiraling corruption investigation regarding a multi-billion-dollar purchase of naval vessels from Germany.

Former minister Eliezer (Moodi) Sandberg, former commander of the navy’s elite Shayetet commando unit, Brigadier General (res.) Shay Brosh, and Rami Taib, a senior aide to Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, were all released to house arrest.

However, Judge Einat Ron extended the arrest of strategic adviser Nati Mor, as requested by police, who argue that he tried in the past to obstruct the investigation.

The suspects were arrested earlier in the week.

UN chief urges Myanmar to give Muslims status

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says it’s crucial that Myanmar’s government immediately give Muslims either nationality or legal status so they can lead normal lives and freely move, find jobs, and get an education.

Guterres cites the longstanding history of “discrimination, hopelessness and extreme poverty” against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State and warned about possible ethnic cleansing.

The UN chief reiterated his condemnation of recent attacks by Rohingya insurgents.

But he says now the UN is receiving “constant reports of violence by Myanmar’s security forces, including indiscriminate attacks.” And he warned that it will further increase radicalization.

Guterres says nearly 125,000 victims of unbearable suffering and desperation have sought refuge in Bangladesh and many people have lost their lives trying to flee the violence.
He appealed to civilian and military authorities in Myanmar to end the violence.

— AP

Erdogan compares anti-Turkey statements by Germany to ‘Nazism’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is comparing anti-Turkey statements by German politicians to “Nazism” after Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would seek to end talks on Ankara’s accession to the EU.

“I’m not saying you’re a Nazi, a fascist. I am explaining the incident… This incident is Nazism. This is fascism,” Erdogan says, reacting to comments made by Merkel and Martin Schulz, her Social Democratic rival, during a televised debate ahead of elections on September 24.

— AFP

Iraq investigating 4 Germans over links to Islamic State

Germany’s Foreign Ministry says Iraqi prosecutors have opened an investigation into four Germans, including a teenage girl, who were detained in Iraq on suspicion of sympathizing with the Islamic State jihadist group.

German officials said in July that the four — all female, including 16-year-old Linda Wenzel — were found in Iraq as Mosul was liberated from the Islamic State group. They have been trying to determine whether the four can return to Germany, where all face an investigation.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said Wednesday that Iraqi authorities have opened investigations against the Germans. He said he doesn’t have details of what they’re accused of and German authorities haven’t yet seen an indictment.
Schaefer noted that Iraq is entitled under international law to insist that the four stand trial there.

— AP

US offers South Korea ‘ironclad’ defense commitment

The Pentagon says US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has reassured his South Korean counterpart of the “ironclad” US commitment to defend the American ally.

Mattis and South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo spoke yesterday, and the US Defense Department says in a statement that Mattis made clear that any threat to the US and its allies would be met “with a massive, effective and overwhelming military response.”

US Defense Secretary James Mattis, left, and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrive to speak to the press about the situation in North Korea at the White House in Washington, DC, September 3, 2017. (AFP/NICHOLAS KAMM)

Their conversation came days after North Korea’s latest — and most powerful — nuclear test.

US President Donald Trump — in tweets after the North’s test on Sunday — faulted South Korea for what he called its “talk of appeasement” toward the North, and didn’t specifically mention that the US is obligated by treaty to defend its ally in the event of war.

— AP

Palestinian teen arrested at Hebron checkpoint with knife

Border Police officers arrest a Palestinian teenager at a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Hebron after they find a knife in his possession, a police spokesperson says.

The suspect is a Palestinian minor from the Hebron area. He was passing through a checkpoint near the city’s Tomb of the Patriarch’s holy site, when he was stopped for a more thorough examination, the spokesperson says.

The incident is still being investigated, she adds.

— Judah Ari Gross

New York man admits to painting swastikas on his own home

A man in upstate New York admitted to spray-painting swastikas and hate messages on his own home, officials say.

Andrew King pleaded guilty last week in Schenectady City Court to week to falsely reporting an incident, which is a misdemeanor crime, the Albany Times Union reported Tuesday.

He will be sentenced to three years of probation at his sentencing hearing in October, according to the newspaper.

King reported the vandalism on his home to police on February 10. He was arrested after a five-week investigation by police and pleaded not guilty at his arraignment.

The report of the vandalism came after a number of anti-Semitic incidents around the state.

— with JTA

PM tells visiting Red Cross chief Hamas ‘cruelly’ holding Israelis

Netanyahu tells the visiting director of the International Committee of the Red Cross that the Hamas terrorist organization continues to “cruelly” hold Israeli civilians and the bodies of slain IDF soldiers in the Gaza Strip.

“You have come at a time when we are concerned with this unbelievable cruelty,” the prime minister tells Peter Maurer in Jerusalem.

“We have the bodies of our slain solider that are being kept — even information about them is being kept — and no less important, we have innocent, defenseless Israeli civilians held in Gaza, that are being kept in a very closed and cruel way.”

Netanyahu thanks Maurer for all of his efforts in trying to resolve the situation and says Israel’s relationship with the Red Cross is very “decent” and “open” under his tenure.

Maurer visited Gaza yesterday in order “to see for myself the impact of this long conflict is having on the lives of ordinary people.”

Polish man who burned Jew effigy suing local Jews for calling him an anti-Semite

A Polish man sentenced to prison for burning an effigy of an ultra-Orthodox Jew says he will sue the leaders of the Wroclaw Jewish community for publicly naming him an anti-Semite.

Piotr Rybak burned an effigy of a ultra-Orthodox Jew during a demonstration in 2015 in Wroclaw against accepting refugees in Poland.

The original Wroclaw court sentenced him to 10 months in prison. An appeals court reduced the sentence to three months.

— JTA

Hezbollah welcomes Syrian breach of Islamic State siege

The Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah, whose fighters are among the Iranian-backed forces pushing toward Deir el-Zour, is congratulating the Syrian leadership for breaching a siege by the Islamic State group on parts of the eastern city.

In a statement, it says this latest achievement is a “prelude for the liberation of all remaining Syrian territory.”

Backed by Russian airpower, Syrian forces and allied militiamen yesterday reached besieged troops in Deir el-Zour, breaking a nearly three-year siege by IS militants in a significant triumph against the extremists.

Hezbollah, in its statement, describes it as a victory also for Syria’s allies who stood by it, and said this would not have happened were it not for the “determination” of the Assad regime.

— AP

NATO wants pressure ramped up on North Korea

The NATO military alliance is calling for international pressure to be ratcheted up against North Korea following its latest nuclear test.

NATO ambassadors say after talks in Brussels today that “it is now imperative that all nations implement more thoroughly and transparently existing UN sanctions” against the North.

They urge more efforts to pressure North Korea to abandon what they called its “current threatening and destabilizing path.”

The 29-nation, US-led alliance expresses full solidarity with Japan and South Korea, North Korea’s neighbors. No mention was made of other retaliatory measures, such as the possible use of force.

US President Donald Trump has said that “now is not the time to talk to North Korea” and that “all options remain open to defend the United States and its allies.”

— AP

US Fed vice chair Stanley Fischer to step down

Stanley Fischer, the vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, announces he will retire next month, creating a third vacancy for US President Donald Trump to fill at the US central bank.

The 73-year-old will step down on October 13, two and a half years before his mandate expires, the Fed said in a statement.

— AFP

Two detained over possible explosive lab outside Paris

The Paris prosecutor’s office says two people have been detained after a possible explosives laboratory was discovered in a suburb south of Paris.

The prosecutor’s office says that “elements that may be part of the composition of explosives” were discovered in an apartment in Villejuif.

The office says its counter-terrorism section has opened an investigation under potential charges of “criminal terrorist association” and “possession, transportation and production of explosive substances in relation with a terrorist action by an organized gang.”

Three police officials with knowledge of the investigation say a bomb-disposal operation is underway in the apartment. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

— AP

Rabbis arrested for fraud released to house arrest

Police say the four rabbis who were arrested earlier today on suspicion they fraudulently obtained certification qualifying them to become city rabbis, have been released to house arrest.

The police Lahav 433 serious crime unit says in a statement the four have been interrogated and their the investigation remains open.

US Congress passes $7.9b Harvey disaster aid package

The House passes a $7.9 billion aid package following the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. Republicans and Democrats are united behind help for victims of that storm even as an even more powerful new hurricane bears down on Florida.

The 419 to 3 vote sends the aid package — likely the first of several — to the Senate in hopes of sending the bill to US President Donald Trump before dwindling disaster reserves run out at the end of this week.

Texas Rep. John Culberson, whose Houston district was slammed by Harvey, promised that “help is on the way.”

Senate Republicans hope to add an increase to the government’s borrowing limit, but Democrats announced Wednesday that they only support a short-term increase.

Some New York Democrats reminded Texas Republicans of their votes opposing Superstorm Sandy aid five years ago.

— AP

Hollywood mogul tells police champagne, cigars for Netanyahu not bribes

Israeli-born Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan has denied bribing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his recent questioning in London by Israeli police investigators.

Milchan, who was questioned as a suspect in the criminal investigation known as Case 1000, told police the hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne he gave to the Netanyahus was in the context of their longtime friendship, and that he did not seek anything in return from the prime minister, according to Channel 2.

Police had suspected suspicions that he bribed Netanyahu in an effort to advance his business interests in Israel and abroad. Particularly, Milchan allegedly helped to orchestrate the sale of a controlling bloc of shares at Channel 10 to RGE Group, a media company owned in part by British-American billionaire Leonard Blavatnik.

According to Channel 2, Milchan dismissed those allegations, saying the sale to RGE group amounted to “pennies.”

Trump says military action against North Korea not ‘first choice’

US President Donald Trump says military action against North Korea is not the “first choice” of his administration, edging away from his harshest threats against the regime in Pyongyang.

After a phone call with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on how to deal with North Korea’s threatening nuclear and ballistic missile programs, Trump did not rule out military strikes, saying “we will see what happens.”

But, he indicated, other avenues for pressure would come first.

— AFP

Yair Netanyahu suing over claims of fake passport, foreign bank accounts

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son, Yair, is reportedly suing a Facebook user for a post he claims amounts to libel.

According to Channel 2, Yair Netanyahu is suing Abie Benyamin for NIS 140,000 ($39,000) over his 2016 post in which he claimed the prime minister requested the Mossad issue his son a fake passport so that he could freely travel abroad and open foreign bank accounts.

The younger Netanyahu is facing a defamation lawsuit of his own after publicly accusing a left-wing organization of serving a radical left-wing and anti-Israel agenda on social media.

Rains from monster Hurricane Irma begin hitting Puerto Rico

Heavy rain and 300 kph (185 mph) winds lash the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico’s northeast coast as Hurricane Irma roars through Caribbean islands on its way to a possible hit on South Florida.

The strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever measured destroyed homes and flooded streets across a chain of small islands in the northern Caribbean, passing directly over Barbuda and leaving the island of some 1,700 people incommunicado.

France sent emergency food and water rations to the French islands of Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy, where Irma ripped off roofs and knocked out all electricity. Dutch marines who flew to three Dutch islands hammered by Irma reported extensive damage but no deaths or injuries.

As of Wednesday evening, the center of the storm was 35 kilometers (20 miles) east-southeast of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands and 150 kilometers (90 miles) east of San Juan, Puerto Rico and heading west-northwest at 26 kph (16 mph).

The US National Weather Service says Puerto Rico has not seen a hurricane of Irma’s magnitude since Hurricane San Felipe in 1928, which killed a total of 2,748 people in Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico and Florida.

— AP

Irma most enduring super-storm on record

PARIS, France — Hurricane Irma, rampaging across the Caribbean, has produced sustained winds at 295 kilometers per hour (183 miles per hour) for more than 33 hours, making it the longest-lasting, top-intensity cyclone ever recorded, France’s national weather service says.

“Such an intensity, for such a long period, has never been observed in the satellite era,” which began in the early 1970s, says Etienne Kapikian, a forecaster at Meteo France.

“And it is continuing,” he tells AFP, adding that Irma would probably remain a Category 5 storm at least until it hits the Bahamas.

— AFP

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