The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they happened.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has complained directly to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that, among a group of the Ethiopians brought to Israel in recently, during an intensifying war in the African country, were officers involved in war crimes, Channel 13 news reports.
Citing a security source involved in the matter, the network says that there were likely at least four such officers. The source says he heard from others that at least one of them was involved in what the report described as “problematic acts,” allegedly including a massacre in the Tigray region.
Yesterday, Hebrew media reports said dozens of Ethiopians brought in a secret operation may have misrepresented their Jewish ancestry and exaggerated the danger posed to them. The officers were said to be among that group.
The shekel to dollar exchange rate hit a new 25-year-high, with $1 briefly fetching NIS 3.08 before closing for the day around NIS 3.11.
The shekel has been gaining in strength against major currencies like the dollar and euro, thanks in large part to high levels of foreign direct investment and the strength of the tech sector.
While a stronger currency allows for cheaper imports, it can also hurt exporters by making their goods more expensive for foreign customers.
At least two Likud lawmakers oppose the establishment of the Knesset Ethics Committee, according to a recording aired by the Kan public broadcaster.
“Ultimately, they’ll only bring us to the Ethics [committee]. You understand? Why are we the only ones who are criminals in the Knesset?” MK Orly Levy-Abekasis can be heard saying today’s faction meeting.
MK Kati Shitrit responded that she “unequivocally” agreed with Levy-Abekasis.
“I sat on the Ethics Committee. I want to tell you, they only bring our complaints,” Shitrit said.
Levy-Abekasis continued to insist that only Likud lawmakers would be scrutinized by the panel.
“They’ll only judge us. Let there be no Ethics Committee,” she said.
The comments come after Levy-Abekasis faced scrutiny last week for berating a female usher, after being ejected from a Knesset Finance Committee hearing.
UNITED NATIONS — The UN Security Council strongly condemns an assassination bid on Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, and calls on the perpetrators to be held accountable.
In a press statement, the council’s 15 members “condemned in the strongest terms” the weekend attack.
“The members of the Security Council underlined the need to hold perpetrators, organizers, financiers, and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice,” it says.
It calls on all nations to “cooperate actively with the government of Iraq and all other relevant authorities.”
“The members of the Security Council reiterated that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever, and by whomsoever committed,” it says.
Al-Kadhimi was unhurt in the attack by three drones, two of which were intercepted, although two bodyguards were wounded, officials say.
The attack came two days after security forces clashed with supporters of Iran-backed parties that lost support in recent elections, although the head of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, one of the main pro-Iran groups, called for perpetrators to be brought to justice.
Syria officially accuses Israel of carrying out strikes in central Syria and along the Mediterranean coast.
A military source quoted by state-run SANA broadcaster says Israeli aircraft fired missiles from the direction of Lebanon and claims most were downed by Syrian air-defense systems.
The report also says two soldiers were wounded and material damage was caused, without specifying where.
A missile intercepted over Akkar north Lebanon after possibly being launched towards targets in Syria pic.twitter.com/3XrAmGMrdQ
— Ali Hashem علي هاشم (@alihashem_tv) November 8, 2021
WASHINGTON — Seven suspected hackers linked to ransomware attacks that have targeted thousands of victims have been arrested since last February as part of a global cybercrime crackdown, European law enforcement authorities announce.
The FBI and the Justice Department were expected to announce criminal charges tied to ransomware later today as well as the seizure of $6 million, according to a US official, who is not authorized to discuss the matter by name ahead of a news conference and speaks on the condition of anonymity.
None of the arrested hackers was identified by name, but Europol says two suspected hackers believed to be linked to the ransomware gang known as REvil were arrested last week for involvement in attacks that yielded about $580,000 in ransom payments. Authorities in Kuwait arrested another accused hacker last week, and South Korean authorities have arrested three since last February. A seventh was arrested last month in Europe.
The arrests were part of a law enforcement investigation called GoldDust that involved the United States and 16 other countries. REvil, also known as Sodinokibi, has been linked in recent months to ransomware targeting the world’s largest meat processor, JBS SA, as well as a Fourth of July weekend attack that snarled businesses around the world through a breach of a Florida-based software company called Kaseya.
Syrian state media announces that its air defense systems have fired on “hostile targets” near Homs, in eastern Syria.
The initial announcement does not mention alleged Israeli involvement.
Israel does not publicly confirm or deny its involvement in Syrian airstrikes.
الدفاعات الجوية السورية خلال تصديها لصواريخ إسرائيلية، كما بدت من #وادي_خالد – #عكار، قرب الحدود اللبنانية السورية#لبنان #سوريا pic.twitter.com/1BKIe3NwkX
— جريدة الأخبار – Al-Akhbar (@AlakhbarNews) November 8, 2021
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addresses a special Knesset session on “the Bennett-Abbas government renewing the diplomatic process for dividing the land and establishing a terror state in the heart of the Land of Israel” after opposition lawmakers gathered the 40 necessary signatures to force his attendance.
The name of the session refers to Bennett’s coalition partner, Ra’am party chief Mansour Abbas, and the establishment of a Palestinian state as part of a peace agreement.
“I was asked to respond… here is my answer: There are no negotiations on establishing a terror state in the heart of the land,” Bennett says in brief remarks from the podium.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu uses his time to go after Bennett.
“It turns out that Bennett is not only one of the greatest deceivers, he also has a special sub-expertise in the field of fraud,” the former prime minister says. “Bennett is also one of the greatest at stealing credit in the current era, some say the greatest of them all.”
The back-and-forth followed an earlier Knesset session marking the passing of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion.
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran says any new talks with Saudi Arabia will depend on Riyadh’s willingness to move ahead and be more “serious” about easing tensions after a five-year rift.
Shiite-majority Tehran and Sunni-kingpin Riyadh cut ties in 2016 after protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran, following Saudi’s execution of a revered Shiite cleric.
The regional powers have been engaged in talks since April with the aim of improving ties, with four rounds of discussions taking place so far.
The talks were launched under Iran’s former moderate president Hassan Rouhani, and have continued under his ultraconservative successor, Ebrahim Raisi.
“The discussions have not been cut off, but after the fourth round, no face-to-face talks have been held,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Said Khatibzadeh says today.
“Progress hinges on Riyadh showing a serious willingness to move forward, and avoid media rhetoric,” he tells a news conference.
“If we see that the other side is serious, then a new round of talks will take place,” he adds.
The last round of talks took place in September, Saudi Prince Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan has said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said in October that the talks were “on the right track.”
The two countries are at odds over several regional issues, including the Yemen war and the conflict in Syria and Lebanon, where they back opposing sides.
The Health Ministry announces that a meeting Wednesday of an advisory panel that will decide on approving coronavirus vaccines for children aged 5-11 will be held behind closed doors.
According to the Kan public broadcaster, most health experts on the panel decided against letting the public view the proceedings.
“All the considerations for and against the decision were deliberated, including the ability to have a free and open dialogue on such a sensitive and crucial matter amid the backdrop of widespread violent discourse, which could impact the course of the meeting,” the ministry says.
The ministry broadcast deliberations about okaying the vaccine for kids last week, aiming to push back at accusations of opaque decision-making.
TBILISI, Georgia — Georgia’s jailed ex-president and opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili, who has been on hunger strike for weeks, was moved today to a prison hospital, officials say.
“In order to prevent the worsening of the health condition of Mikheil Saakashvili and because of an increased risk to (his) safety, he was transferred from prison number 12 to medical facility number 18 for inmates,” Georgia’s penitentiary department says in a statement.
In an unusual incident, several Border Police jeeps head down main roads in southern Ramallah as Palestinians hurl stones at them.
Israeli forces regularly enter Palestinian Authority territory to conduct operations, but they rarely enter the PA’s de facto seat in broad daylight. Most army operations are confined to the refugee camps and villages on the outskirts of the small Palestinian city.
An army spokesperson says that the troops were conducting an operation in neighboring Beitunia before heading back to their base.
“As for why they took that route, that is for operational reasons that cannot be elaborated on,” the spokesperson says.
Border Police officers also briefly stopped by a Palestinian film festival taking place in the city, according to photographs from the scene circulated on Palestinian social media. The army spokesperson denies the festival was a target, adding that the soldiers were merely passing through.
Israeli troops withdrew from the city of Ramallah, local sources are saying that the Israeli army is conducting a military drill in the West Bank for two days. https://t.co/ou6xxWSpxr pic.twitter.com/xhWaKdR9LE
— Alaa Daraghme (@AlaaDaraghme) November 8, 2021
KHARTOUM, Sudan — Sudan’s top general has promised that he won’t hold a government position after planned elections in 2023, two weeks after he toppled a transitional government in a widely condemned coup.
The military leader behind the takeover, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, has repeatedly promised to hand over power to an elected civilian government and says he will not be a part of it. His announcement that he will not run for office does not preclude other top generals from shedding their military titles and becoming candidates.
Late last month, the military dissolved the country’s transitional government and detained more than 100 government officials and political leaders and a large number of protesters and activists. Since then, at least 13 anti-coup protesters have been killed due to the excessive force used by the country’s security forces, according to Sudanese doctors and the UN. Yesterday, security forces tear-gassed demonstrators and rounded up more than 100 people, mostly anti-coup teachers in Khartoum.
In comments aired by the Al-Jazeera satellite television news network, Burhan also says that security forces are not responsible for the protesters’ deaths.
Burhan has maintained the military was compelled to take over because of quarrels between political parties that he claimed could lead to civil war. But the takeover also took place weeks before he was supposed to surrender power of the country’s top governing body to a civilian.
MK Amichai Chikli, a mutinous member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party, took part in a meeting today of opposition leaders led by former premier Benjamin Netanyahu, according to the Kan public broadcaster.
Yamina is reportedly considering declaring Chikli a defector, which he has vowed to fight despite having opposed the party on nearly everything since Bennett’s power-sharing government took office in June.
A member of Palestinian rights group Al-Haq alleges that the phones of senior officials at the Palestinian Authority’s foreign ministry were hacked, apparently with Israeli cyber-surveillance firm NSO Group’s Pegasus software.
A senior Palestinian Authority diplomat reached by The Times of Israel cannot confirm Al-Haq’s claim, which was made during a press conference on a report alleging Pegasus was used to hack the phones of at least six Palestinian rights activists.
Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu suggests Yamina MK Idit Silman made up a story that she was recently assaulted at a gas station in order to tar opponents of the ruling coalition.
Speaking at a Likud faction meeting, Netanyahu calls on Silman to provide proof of the incident “or apologize to the 2 million Israeli citizens from the national camp she slandered.”
He also rails against “the hypocritical moral preaching about ‘respectful discourse’ that comes from the left,” noting Yamina MK Shirly Pinto’s comments calling rebel Yamina MK Amichai Chikli a “virus.”
“It’s an unbelievable low point they have reached. But if we’re already talking about MK Chikli in the context of the virus, it’s too bad he’s not also infectious,” Netanyahu quips.
BAGHDAD — A top Iranian general visited Baghdad after the assassination attempt against Iraq’s prime minister, and said Tehran and its allies had nothing to do with the drone attack that lightly injured the Iraqi leader, two Iraqi politicians say today.
The two Shiite Muslim politicians request anonymity because Esmail Ghaani’s visit was not announced publicly. They quote the Iranian general as saying that Tehran is not opposed to any politician named by the Shiite blocs in the newly elected parliament to become the next prime minister.
Ghaani is the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, which is mainly responsible for military and clandestine operations outside the country.
Iran enjoys wide influence in Iraq through powerful militias it has been backing for years. Iran and Iraq both have majority Shiite populations.
The failed assassination attempt against Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi at his residence has ratcheted up tensions following last month’s parliamentary elections, in which the Iran-backed militias were the biggest losers.
Al-Kadhimi suffered a light cut and appeared in a televised speech soon after the attack on his residence wearing a white shirt and what appeared to be a bandage around his left wrist. Seven of his security guards were wounded in the attack by at least two armed drones.
There was no claim of responsibility but suspicion immediately fell on Iran-backed militias. They had been blamed for previous attacks on the Green Zone, which also houses foreign embassies.
The militia leaders condemned the attack, but most sought to downplay it.
The two Iraqi politicians quote Ghaani as saying: “Iran has nothing to do with this attack.”
One of the two officials say Ghaani met with al-Kadhimi yesterday afternoon in Baghdad.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will conduct a state visit to Russia on November 23, PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki tells official broadcaster Palestine TV.
Maliki adds that other Palestinian officials are expected to embark upon a blitz of international trips in the coming days.
Abbas recently concluded a visit to Italy, during which he met both his Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella and Pope Francis.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid says he and his wife have recently received threatening messages.
Speaking at a Yesh Atid faction meeting, says one such message expressed a wish he would die from cancer.
“You’re exactly like Hitler. You’ll get a bullet in the head from me or someone else,” Lapid quotes the message as saying.
He says messages his wife received called for them and their daughter to face divine punishment.
“May God take revenge on you,” one such message allegedly said.
Lapid says, “The danger is not only that more politicians will be murdered here… The great danger is that this is what we’re becoming. This violence seeps into all aspects our lives. On the roads, in schools.”
Lapid’s comments come a day after Yamina MK Idit Silman said she was attacked at a gas station last month, and a report was published about a boy in Rishon Lezion who was beaten up at school.
The Israel Defense Forces is utilizing advanced facial recognition technology to screen Palestinians in Hebron, building a digital surveillance database of residents of the West Bank city by having soldiers snap photos of them on cellphones, the Washington Post reports.
According to the report, the surveillance initiative has been rolled out over the past two years and is based in part on a smartphone technology called Blue Wolf.
The Washington Post estimates several thousand Palestinians have been photographed for the database, with former soldiers describing to the paper how they were incentivized to take as many photos as possible, including of children, based on a reward system.
The report is based on interviews with soldiers who had previously shared their stories with Breaking the Silence, an Israeli organization that gathers and publishes largely anonymous testimonies by former Israeli combat soldiers about alleged human rights violations against Palestinians in the West Bank.
The newspaper says that while the IDF has acknowledged the existence of the initiative in an online brochure, the interviews with former soldiers offer the first public description of the program’s scope and operations.
Finance Minister Avidgor Liberman says his Yisrael Beytenu party next month will begin seeking to advance reform of conversion to Judaism and the so-called Western Wall compromise deal.
The proposed reform would allow municipal rabbis to perform conversions, while the compromise agreement would establish a permanent pluralistic prayer pavilion at the Western Wall.
Addressing lawmakers from his right-wing secularist party, Liberman also touts the passage of the 2021 and 2022 budgets last week.
“An important asset has been created and must be safeguarded, and this asset is political stability,” he says at a Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting. “I appeal to all party leaders — don’t surprise each other, don’t embarrass each other.”
Cellphones belonging to at least six Palestinian rights activists were hacked using the contentious Israeli cyber-surveillance firm NSO Group’s Pegasus software, according to independent investigations by the University of Toronto and Amnesty International.
The report published today doesn’t specify who was behind the alleged hacking, but NSO Group’s export license forbids the firm from allowing foreign customers to hack Israeli phones, indicating that either NSO Group violated its license or that the hacking was done by Israel in what would be the first documented case of the technology being used against Israeli phones.
According to the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab and Amnesty’s Security Lab, pieces of code linked to NSO Group’s powerful Pegasus surveillance tool were found on the six Palestinians’ phones by the human rights organization Front Line Defenders. The investigators then matched processes undertaken by the phones with that code to activity on NSO Group’s servers at similar times.
In response to the allegations, an NSO Group spokesperson says that “contractual and national security considerations” prevented them from revealing the identity of their clients.
“As we stated in the past, NSO does not operate the products itself; the company license approved government agencies to do so. We are not privy to the details of individuals monitored,” the spokesperson says.
BERLIN — Germany’s coronavirus infection rate climbs to its highest recorded level yet as what officials have called a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” gathers pace.
The national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, says the country has seen 201.1 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days. That is above the previous record of 197.6 from December 22 last year. While it’s still a lower rate than in several other European countries, it has set alarm bells ringing.
The seven-day infection rate has long ceased to be the only policy yardstick in Germany, with new hospital admissions now an important factor. Those are currently at just under 4 per 100,000 residents over a week — compared with a peak of about 15.5 last Christmas — but officials say hospitals are filling up in badly affected areas.
The disease control center says today that 15,513 new COVID-19 cases were reported over the past 24 hours — down from a record 37,120 on Friday, but figures are typically lower after the weekend. Another 33 deaths are recorded, bringing Germany’s total to 96,558.
Germany has struggled to find ways to pep up its much-slowed vaccination campaign. At least 67% of the population of 83 million is fully vaccinated, according to official figures, which authorities say isn’t enough. Unlike some other European countries, it has balked at making vaccinations mandatory for any professional group.
A drone attack yesterday that targeted Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi was launched by at least one Iran-backed militia, according to a Reuters report.
Citing Iraqi security officials and sources close to the militias, the news agency reports the drones and weapons used to target al-Kadhimi were Iranian produced.
The Iraqi premier was unhurt in the attack, which came amid deepening tensions in the countries as Iran-backed factions refuse to accept the results of recent parliamentary elections.
Immigration Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata is threatening to trigger a coalition crisis if further Ethiopian immigrants are not brought to Israel amid an intensifying war in the African country, according to Hebrew media reports.
Quoting sources in the political system, the Haaretz daily reports that Tamano-Shata, a member of the centrist Blue and White party, is “warning that she cannot continue to sit in the government while Jews in Ethiopia are butchered.”
The newspaper says Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked is opposed, however, claiming most recent immigrants from Ethiopia aren’t Jewish and that there is no immediate danger to their lives.
It was not clear from the reports if Tamano-Shata was suggesting only that she could step down as a minister, or also that she would oppose the coalition, which holds a razor-thin majority in the Knesset and could be in danger of falling if any of its members opposed it.
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The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they happened.