The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
Hezbollah leader boasts group has ‘highly accurate’ missiles
The leader of Lebanon’s terror group Hezbollah boasts it now possesses “highly accurate” missiles despite Israeli attempts to prevent the group from acquiring such weapons.
Hassan Nasrallah didn’t offer specifics on the weapons in his traditional televised speech commemorating Ashura, a top religious holy day for Shiite Muslims. He tells supporters they need to be confident in Hezbollah’s capabilities and that the regional balance of power has changed.
He claims Israeli strikes in Syria to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring precise missiles were ineffective.
“I tell (Israel) no matter what it did to cut the route, it is over. It has already been achieved,” he says, adding that Hezbollah “now possesses precision missiles and non-precision and weapons capabilities.”
Hezbollah has thousands of fighters in Syria supporting President Bashar Assad’s forces in the civil war.
“If Israel imposes a war on Lebanon, Israel will face a destiny and reality it didn’t expect any day,” Nasrallah says.
Israel worries Hezbollah has been improving its capabilities and has acknowledged carrying out scores of strikes in Syria, most of them believed aimed at halting suspected arms shipments for Hezbollah.
After Nazi salute video spreads, Lyon soccer team says it will ban fan
Lyon bans a fan from its games for life over an incident in a video spreading online.
The statement from the French club came after a 2-1 victory at Manchester City in the Champions League yesterday when a video was posted on social media of a supporter in the Lyon end performing a Nazi salute.
Lyon didn’t specify the incident but said it was responding to “a video circulating on social networks.”
Once the fan has been identified, Lyon said he will be banned from home games and travel for matches.
Egypt court removes judge who got Mubarak’s sons detained
An Egyptian court accepts a defense motion to remove a judge who ordered the detention of former president Hosni Mubarak’s two sons in connection with their ongoing trial on insider trading charges.
The legal basis for today’s verdict isn’t immediately known. It comes less than a week after judge Ahmed Aboul-Fetouh ordered the two younger Mubaraks detained — wealthy businessman Alaa and Mubarak’s one-time heir apparent Gamal — before he adjourned their hearings until Oct. 20.
Also unknown is whether legal proceedings would now begin to secure their release.
Separately, the two and their father were detained in 2011 and later sentenced to three years each for embezzling funds meant for maintenance of presidential palaces.
The sons were released in 2015 for time served. Mubarak was freed last year.
Netanyahu: Israel wants to prevent war, but will act with ‘full force’ if pushed
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Israel must work to prevent war in the region, but warns that the IDF will act with “full force” if armed conflict is forced on the country.
Speaking at a memorial service for IDF soldiers killed the 1973 Yom Kippur War at the Mt Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem that Israel must “take every effort to prevent war, but if war is forced upon us, we will act will full force against those who are seeking to kill us.”
“In the Middle East, those who are trying to kill us are being led by Iran, which openly and aggressively calls for the destruction of Israel. It is our duty to protect ourselves from this danger, and we will continue to do so,” Netanyahu says according to a statement from his office.
In apparent dig at Netanyahu, Rivlin calls for upholding personal freedoms
At a memorial marking the 45th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War at the Mt. Herzl military cemetery, President Reuven Rivlin appears to level criticism at Netanyahu’s government and calls for personal freedoms to be protected.
Rivlin says the lesson of Israel’s failures in the lead-up to the Yom Kippur War was that Israelis must always challenge their government.
“The Yom Kippur war was one of Israel’s toughest wars; our enemies capitalized on our failed political and military leadership,” he says.
“We need an end of leadership that comes from a single place, that speaks in one voice and that rejects dissent, because as we have learned, the price is very, very high,” he says.
Rivlin calls for free speech and expression to be upheld in Israel, as well as the freedom for “investigations,” a likely reference to the corruption probes into Netanyahu.
US envoy slams ‘unconscionable’ PA for approving stipends for family of Ari Fuld’s killer
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman slams the Palestinian Authority for its “unconscionable” policy of paying stipends to the families of Palestinian assailants and terrorists who carry out attacks against Israel.
In a tweet, Friedman says a PA official confirmed that the family of Khalil Jabarin, the 17-year-old terrorist who killed Ari Fuld last week, is eligible for a monthly salary from the Ramallah government.
“This practice is unconscionable and must stop if there is to be any hope for peace,” he says.
The Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Commission has confirmed that the family of the terrorist who murdered Ari Fuld is “eligible to receive a monthly salary” as compensation for his incarceration. This practice is unconscionable and must stop if there is to be any hope for peace.
— David M. Friedman (@USAmbIsrael) September 20, 2018
PM hails partial opening of long-delayed Jerusalem-Tel Aviv fast train
Five months after it was due to be completed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Transport Minister Israel Katz finally take the inaugural ride on the new Jerusalem-Tel Aviv fast train.
However, the two could only travel as far as Ben Gurion International Airport, because the high-speed train line that was approved for construction some 17 years ago has yet to be completed.
Netanyahu says the commuter train will open “a new era for Jerusalem and for Israel,” while Katz hails the maiden voyage as a “historic moment” for the country.
Officials declined to say when the reminder of the route would be fully completed.
Jewish Home endorses Likud minister Elkin for Jerusalem mayor
Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett announces that his party is endorsing Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister Ze’ev Elkin for mayor of Jerusalem.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Bennett praises Elkin’s “high capabilities,” ans says the Likud minister has “a clear vision” for the capital city.
“Elkin knows how to take Jerusalem forward,” he says.
Elkin is running against ex-deputy Jerusalem mayor and current Knesset member for the Kulanu party Rachel Azaria; political activist and councilor Ofer Berkovitch; little-known Avi Salman; and Palestinian activist Aziz Abu Sarah, and others.
Elkin, Lion and Berkovitch are seen as the front-runners in the first round of voting set for late October.
Firefighters battling 5 blazes sparked by Gaza arson balloons
Since this morning, firefighters in southern Israel have worked to extinguish five blazes sparked by incendiary balloons flown over the border from the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Fire and Rescue Services says.
A spokesman says the fires broke out near several Israeli communities adjacent to the Gaza border, including Kibbutz Be’eri.
— Jacob Magid
With treasury’s support, Regev introduces bill to defund ‘subversive’ bodies
Culture Minister Miri Regev and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon submit legislation that would allow the government to withhold funding for “organizations that are working against the principles of the state,” according to a Channel 10 report.
Regev has been seeking Kahlon’s support to punish institutions that produce or feature what she terms “subversive” art, but has not had it until now.
The minister submitted the proposed legislation as a memorandum, and will be brought before the Ministerial Committee for Legislation in late October when the Knesset returns from its summer break.
Opposition lawmakers slammed the move, with Knesset opposition leader Tzipi Livni saying the “demand for loyalty in art is another step in silencing expression and forcing culture to be a mouthpiece for the government.
“Israel is strong enough for freedom in art and culture,” Livni adds.
10 Palestinians arrested for leading Temple Mount riots in July
Israeli security forces arrest 10 East Jerusalem men who authorities say led clashes that broke out on the Temple Mount this summer.
On July 27, Israeli police squared off against Muslim worshipers, who barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
During the clashes, four Israel Police officers were injured and the holy site was shut down for several hours.
According to the Shin Bet security service, this violence was led by a group of 10 East Jerusalem residents, at least two of which have criminal backgrounds.
“The cell purchased fireworks, which were smuggled onto the Temple Mount in order to use them to attack security forces stationed outside the mount at the end of Friday prayers,” the Shin Bet says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Russia demands ‘further explanations’ from Israel over downed plane
Russia’s Foreign Ministry is requesting that Israel open another investigation into Monday’s incident over Syria that led to the downing of a Russian reconnaissance plane, according to the official Interfax news agency.
The report says Moscow wants “further inquiries and explanations” from Israel regarding Syria’s downing of the Russian plane it mistook for an Israeli aircraft.
Initially, Russia’s Defense Ministry blamed the incident on Israel, but Putin later sought to defuse tensions, pointing at “a chain of tragic accidental circumstances.”
However, in an apparent about-turn on Thursday, Russia’s embassy in Tel Aviv excoriated Israel for its “irresponsible and unfriendly actions” that lead to the downing of the plane and the deaths of all 15 on board.
Netanyahu has offered to share data with Russia on what was happening in the sky over Syria that day and dispatched the Israeli air force chief to Moscow. The official is due to arrive in Moscow later today.
US pressuring German firms ‘daily’ over Iran sanctions
Washington’s ambassador in Berlin has been pressuring German firms “daily” to comply with American sanctions on Iran, a spokeswoman says, even as European governments look to shield their companies from US ire.
Diplomats acknowledging the squeeze on firms followed envoy Richard Grenell’s claim that he had struck a deal with car giant Volkswagen to implement the punitive measures, which VW declined to confirm when contacted by AFP.
“US Ambassador Grenell has been speaking to CEOs and industry leaders for quite some time urging them to comply with US sanctions,” embassy spokeswoman Christina Higgins tells AFP.
“The ambassador has worked daily with the embassy team to do follow-up with individual companies to ensure that CEOs’ commitment is implemented,” she adds.
US President Donald Trump has re-imposed a trade squeeze after withdrawing from a 2015 agreement that relaxed sanctions in exchange for Iran freezing its nuclear weapons program.
Polish police looking for man who threw stone at synagogue on Yom Kippur
Polish police are looking for a man who threw a stone into a synagogue in the city of Gdansk as members of the Jewish community were praying at the end of the Yom Kippur holiday.
Earlier today, police released security footage of the incident, which shows a man in a dark shirt and jeans walking up to the New Synagogue and throwing a stone into a window.
In a statement, police say yesterday’s incident occurred at 6 p.m. local time (1600 GMT) in the Baltic port city of Gdansk, and appeals to anybody who recognizes the man to contact police.
Police say they have spoken to witnesses and are working to determine if the act was a “hooligan prank” or one motivated by religious hatred.
UN says Russia, Turkey still working on ‘details’ of Idlib deal
The deal to avoid a Syrian government offensive on Idlib province is still being worked out by Russia and Turkey, the UN says, stressing that the threat to civilians remains high.
“This is not a peace deal. It is an aversion of (a) whole-scale-war deal,” the head of the United Nations Humanitarian Taskforce for Syria, Jan Egeland, tells reporters in Geneva.
Syrian government ally Russia and rebel supporter Turkey reached an agreement to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Idlib, Syria’s last opposition bastion, where half of its three million residents have been displaced from areas retaken by Syrian forces.
While briefing the taskforce about the pact today, Russian and Turkish envoys make clear they “are still working… on the details,” Egeland says.
He expresses hope the agreement is an indication that “the big war was averted” in Idlib, although Russia has stressed it would continue operating against fighters it identifies as terrorists.
“I see a great potential for a lot of fighting,” Egeland adds. “We are concerned for the civilians in these areas, so it is not over.”
The UN has repeatedly warned that a full-scale assault on Idlib could trigger the bloodiest episode of Syria’s seven-year war, which has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions.
World Anti-Doping Agency reinstates Russia
The World Anti-Doping Agency reinstates Russia, ending a nearly three-year suspension caused by state-sponsored doping.
WADA says its 12-member executive committee voted to reinstate the Russian Anti-Doping Agency “subject to strict conditions.”
WADA’s move comes despite a wave of fierce criticism from anti-doping figures — some within WADA itself — and from athletes around the world opposed to Russia being reinstated without taking full responsibility for what has been labeled systematic doping.
Russia still hasn’t admitted state involvement or given access to evidence at its discredited Moscow laboratory — two key conditions for reinstatement set by WADA but eased in recent months.
The Russian Anti-Doping Agency was suspended in November 2015 after it was revealed there was a government-backed scheme of doping and cover-ups that helped Russian athletes win Olympic medals.
Ramallah envoy says Romania assured PA it won’t move embassy to Jerusalem
The Palestinian Authority’s ambassador to Romania tells state media today that Bucharest has assured the Ramallah government that it will not move its embassy to Jerusalem.
Fuad Kokaly tells news outlet RFI in an interview the PA has agreed to support Romania’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council, and in return, Bucharest would not move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Kokaly says Ramallah will lobby for support for Romania’s Security Council bid at the Arab League and at the Organization for Islamic Cooperation.
Earlier this year, the president and head of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) announced plans to move the country’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But Romanian President Klaus Iohannis denied the claim, saying that Bucharest’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “had not changed.”
‘Multiple victims’ reported in Maryland shooting
Authorities say multiple people have been shot in northeast Maryland in what the FBI is describing as an “active shooter situation.”
The Harford County Sheriff’s Office tweets that there was a shooting Thursday morning in the Perryman area that involves “multiple victims.” They warn that the situation is still fluid and ask people to avoid the area.
We can confirm there was a shooting in the area of Spesutia Road and Perryman Road. Multiple victims. The situation is still fluid. Please avoid the area. Media staging area still TBD.
— Harford Sheriff (@Harford_Sheriff) September 20, 2018
The FBI’s Baltimore field office tweets that it is responding and assisting the sheriff’s office with an active shooter situation. The Baltimore field division of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives tweets that its special agents are responding too.
Jordan says new ambassador to Israel to arrivenext month
Ghassan Majali, Jordan’s newly appointed ambassador to Israel, will arrive at his post in the coming weeks, according to an official source in the Jordanian capital.
Former Jordanian Ambassador to Israel Walid Obeidat recently left Tel Aviv after serving as Jordan’s envoy for more than five years.
Majali, who previously served as the Jordanian ambassador to Spain, will arrive in Tel Aviv “by the beginning of October,” the source in Amman tells the Times of Israel.
Earlier this week, the Jordanian government officially announced Majali’s appointment as its new top diplomat in Israel.
Asked when Israel expects Majali to arrive in Tel Aviv, Emmanuel Nahshon, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, declined to comment.
— Adam Rasgon
France’s Le Pen ordered to undergo psychiatric tests over IS tweets
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen voices outrage after being ordered to undergo psychiatric tests for having posted pictures of atrocities committed by the Islamic State group on Twitter.
Le Pen shared the gruesome images in December 2015, a few weeks after IS jihadists killed 130 people in attacks in Paris, sparking widespread condemnation in France.
The 50-year-old leader of the National Rally (formerly National Front), who lost to Emmanuel Macron in last year’s presidential vote, was stripped of her parliamentary immunity over the pictures and charged with circulating messages that “incite terrorism or pornography or seriously harm human dignity.”
This morning, she tweeted copies of a court order ordering her to undergo psychiatric evaluation.
Dated September 11, it calls for the tests to be carried out “as soon as possible” to establish whether she “is capable of understanding remarks and answering questions.”
“It’s crazy,” fumes Le Pen, herself a trained lawyer. “This regime is really starting to be frightening,” she tweets, suggesting that the case was part of a government plot to discredit her.
Netanyahu warns Hezbollah of ‘crushing blow’ after Nasrallah touts advanced weapons
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah of a crushing blow” after head of the Lebanese terrorist group boasted of possessing highly accurate missiles in spite of Israeli efforts to thwart their weapons capabilities.
“If he confronts us, he will receive a crushing blow that he cannot imagine,” Netanyahu says at a bible study being held at the Prime Minister’s Residence.
Earlier Nasrallah told Israel that “no matter what it did to cut the [weapons transport] route, it is over. It has already been achieved,” he said, adding that Hezbollah “now possesses precision missiles and non-precision and weapons capabilities.”
Israel worries Hezbollah has been improving its capabilities and has acknowledged carrying out scores of strikes in Syria, most of them believed aimed at halting suspected arms shipments for Hezbollah.
Arab Israeli poet freed after 5-month jail sentence for incitement
An Arab Israeli woman jailed for five months for incitement to violence and support for a terrorist organization in online poems and other social media posts is released from prison today.
Dareen Tatour posted a video clip of herself reading her poem “Resist, my people, resist them,” in October 2015, accompanied by pictures of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces, according to authorities. Prosecutors said in 2015 she also quoted a statement by Islamic Jihad calling for “continuation of the intifada in every part of the West Bank,” alleging it showed her support for the terror group.
The posts on YouTube and Facebook came as a wave of Palestinian violence was erupting, including stabbing, shooting, and car-ramming terror attacks.
She is released due to time served before her conviction, Tatour and a prison spokesman say.
“Freedom is something so sweet that I can’t even describe it,” she tells AFP after her release.
Egypt court orders release of former president’s sons
An Egyptian court orders the release from detention of former president Hosni Mubarak’s two sons who are on trial for insider trading charges.
A court last week ordered the detention of the two — wealthy businessman Alaa and one-time heir-apparent Gamal — before he adjourned the hearings until Oct. 20.
The ruling to release them comes just hours after an appeals court accepted a motion moved by their defense lawyers to remove the judge who ordered their detention Sept. 15. The lawyers argued that the ruling was “unreasonable” given that the defendants regularly attended hearings.
The Mubarak brothers along with their father were detained two months after a popular uprising forced the senior Mubarak to step down after 29 years in power. The trio was later sentenced to three years each for embezzling funds meant for maintenance of presidential palaces.
The sons were released in 2015 for time served. Mubarak was freed last year.
Official: 3 people killed in Maryland shooting
Three people were killed this morning in a shooting in northeast Maryland, according to a law enforcement official.
The official, who speaks on condition of anonymity, stresses the number is based on preliminary information.
The FBI described it as an “active shooter situation” and says its Baltimore field office is assisting.
We are closely monitoring the horrific shooting in Aberdeen. Our prayers are with all those impacted, including our first responders. The State stands ready to offer any support. https://t.co/fzugpo8C1Z
— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) September 20, 2018
In a tweet, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan says his office is monitoring the situation in Aberdeen and that the state stands ready to offer any support.
Court fines ultra-Orthodox radio station NIS 1m for excluding women
In a precedent-setting ruling, the Jerusalem District Court fines the ultra-Orthodox Kol Berama radio station NIS 1 million for excluding women from the air.
The judge orders the money be held in a designated fund that will be distributed to various organizations helping ultra-Orthodox women at a later date.
The Israel Religious Action Center and group Kolech filed a class action lawsuit against the radio station six years ago for its refusal to broadcast women on any of its programming.
In the decision handed down today, the judge rules Kol Berama’s “total and deliberate exclusion damages dignity and self-worth, deepens perceptions of female inferiority and prevents their influence in public discourse,” according to reports in Hebrew-language media.
UN appoints new head of Gaza probe on border clashes
United Nations Human Rights Council appoints Santiago Canton as the new head of its commission investigating the deadly clashes on the Gaza border in recent months.
The statement says Canton will chair the three-member commission that also lawyers Sara Hossein from Bangladesh and Betty Murungi from Kenya in probing alleged human rights violations, including war crimes, committed during the weekly “March of Return” protests on the border that began in March 30.
Canton is a human rights lawyer from Argentina and the former executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Last month, American academic and law professor David Crane stepped down as chair of the commission citing “personal reasons.”
UN official says ‘great potential’ for Idlib fighting
A top UN humanitarian aid official for Syria says he sees “great potential for a lot of fighting” in rebel-held Idlib province despite an accord between Russia and Turkey that has delayed a military offensive.
Jan Egeland says “it’s not over” and that air raids and ground offensives are likely to continue against UN-listed terror groups whose fighters live near civilians.
Egeland says some militants were prepared to fight to the end, and it was “totally legal and recommended to speak to armed men, even listed terrorist organizations, to end the conflict without bloodshed for civilians.”
He adds: “No one’s asking for any impunity for terrorists here.”
Egeland also says the situation in southeastern Rukban, where some 50,000 civilians are in camps near the Jordanian border, has “rapidly deteriorated in recent days.”
IDF delegation briefs Moscow officials on Syria friendly fire incident
An Israeli military delegation has held a number of high level meetings with Russian officials in Moscow over the downing of a Russian plane off the coast of Syria during an Israeli airstrike earlier in the week, the army says.
The Israeli officials, led by air force chief Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, have shown their Russian counterparts the IDF’s initial investigation of the incident, as well as intelligence regarding Iranian efforts to establish a permanent military presence in Syria and to transfer advanced weaponry to terrorist groups in the region.
“The meetings were held in good spirit, and there was professional, open and transparent dialogue on various issues and an emphasis was put on the importance of the two nations’ interests and the continuation of the deconfliction mechanism,” the Israel Defense Forces says, referring to a hotline between the two countries.
Norkin’s delegation is expected to remain in Moscow until tomorrow morning.
On Monday night, the Israeli Air Force conducted an airstrike against a Syrian weapons facility near the city of Latakia, which Israel said was being used to store and transfer advanced munitions for Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies.
The Israeli raid triggered a response from the Syrian military’s air defenses, which failed to hit the IAF jets, but shot down a Russian spy plane that Israel says only entered the area after the attack.
The downing of the plane sparked a flurry of condemnation of Russia and a full diplomatic push by Israel to resolve the issue.
— Judah Ari Gross
Police said to close probe into pepper-spraying of Arab MK
The Police Investigations Department closes its investigation into an officer who pepper sprayed the chairman of the Joint (Arab) List, Ayman Odeh, during the heated evacuation of the Bedouin community of Umm al-Hiran last year, according to reports in Hebrew-language media.
IDF chief: Abbas’s declining health, influence will spark Palestinian violence — report
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot reportedly warned ministers this earlier week that an outbreak of violence among Palestinians in the West Bank is highly likely due to PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ waning influence and declining health.
During Sunday’s high-level security cabinet meeting, Eisenkot said a flare-up of attacks in the West Bank would require more troops than an escalation of hostilities in the Gaza Strip, highlighting the severity of the threat, according to a Hadashot news reports.
He estimated there was a “60-80 percent” chance of such a scenario unfolding, according to the report.
Russian accused of poisoning ex-spy previously traveled to Israel using alias — report
One of the two Russian men who have been accused of poisoning a Russian ex-spy and his daughter with a chemical nerve agent in the UK earlier this year, had previously visited Israel using an alias, according to a report on the website Bellingcat.
Bellingcat and Russian publication The Insider’s joint analysis of the leaked passport documents, belonging to the men identified as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, prove the two were employed by Russia’s security services, the report says.
Petrov’s passport shows a number of trips between Moscow and various European cities. In July 2016, the report says Petrov travels to Kazakhstan, where he told authorities he was en route to Beijing. His whereabouts for the next two weeks are unknown, but Petrov showed up again on a flight from Tel Aviv to Moscow 15 days later.
Their findings were not independently confirmed.
US sanctions Russian intelligence, military officials
The US State Department announces it is placing 33 Russian individuals and entities on its sanctions blacklist to punish the Russian government over its “malign activities.”
The 33 were blacklisted for being part of or acting for the Russian military or Russian intelligence, the State Department says.
Police close investigation into UN ambassador Danon over lack of evidence
Police have closed their investigation into alleged corruption by Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon due to lack of evidence, according to reports in Hebrew-language media.
Danon was being investigated on suspicion of widespread political corruption to further his personal career in the years prior to his appointment to the UN post.
The reports say the police file will be transferred to the State Attorney’s Office for review and final decision whether the investigation should be closed.
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