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Police: 85 suspects arrested in daylong crackdown on violent crime in Arab community

18 pistols, three M16 rifles, two airsoft guns, an improvised explosive device and around NIS 1.5 million in cash seized during widespread operation

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel

Police chief Kobi Shabtai (left) during a police operation in Lod on August 17, 2023. (Israel Police)
Police chief Kobi Shabtai (left) during a police operation in Lod on August 17, 2023. (Israel Police)

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

Settlers filmed setting fire to field belonging to Palestinians in northern West Bank

Footage released by the Yesh Din rights group appears to show masked settlers who descended from the flashpoint settlement of Yitzhar setting fire to a field belonging to Palestinian farmers from the nearby village of Burqa for the second time in days.

The incident takes place near the Palestinian land encroached by settlers earlier this month in what sparked a clash during which an Israeli shot dead a 19-year-old Palestinian.

Hamas said to test fire 250 km-range rockets toward sea

This picture taken in Gaza City on August 10, 2020 shows smoke trails from test rockets fired by the Palestinian terror group Hamas, which currently controls the Gaza Strip, as part of military drills. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
File: This picture taken in Gaza City on August 10, 2020 shows smoke trails from test rockets fired by the Palestinian terror group Hamas, which currently controls the Gaza Strip, as part of military drills. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Hamas test fires rockets toward the sea, including those with a notably long range, according to a variety of reports.

The Al Mayadeen Lebanese news site says that Hamas test fired at least 50 long-range rockets toward the sea, including Ayyash 250 rockets, which it claims have a range of 250 kilometers (155 miles), which could theoretically reach all of Israel.

It claimed to fire such a rocket toward Eilat in May 2021.

The rocket was named for Yahya Ayyash, a top Hamas bombmaker who was responsible for dozens of Israeli deaths before he was assassinated in 1996.

Blinken, Dermer meet in Washington, says State Department

From left to right: Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Council chairman Tzachi Hanegbi at the State Department in Washington on March 7, 2023. (Antony Blinken/Twitter)
From left to right: Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Council chairman Tzachi Hanegbi at the State Department in Washington on March 7, 2023. (Antony Blinken/Twitter)

Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer met earlier today with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington, State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel confirms during a press briefing.

Patel calls the meeting a “routine engagement,” and says they discussed US-Israel ties, Israeli-Palestinian tensions, Iran and the Abraham Accords but does not elaborate further. He says a formal readout will be issued soon but admits that it will likely contain no further actual details.

US sanctions two Turkey-backed Syrian militias and their leaders

Illustrative: Displaced Syrians ride in the back of a truck towards the Deir al-Ballut checkpoint to return to their villages in Afrin's countryside in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo, along the border with Turkey, on April 22, 2020. (Rami al Sayed/AFP)
Illustrative: Displaced Syrians ride in the back of a truck towards the Deir al-Ballut checkpoint to return to their villages in Afrin's countryside in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo, along the border with Turkey, on April 22, 2020. (Rami al Sayed/AFP)

The United States announces sanctions on two Turkey-backed Syrian militias and the groups’ leaders accused of human rights abuses in Syria’s northwestern, opposition-held enclave.

The groups are operating in the town of Afrin, which has been under Turkish-backed opposition forces since 2018, following an Ankara-backed military operation. That offensive pushed Syrian Kurdish fighters and thousands of Kurdish residents from the area.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctions The Suleiman Shah Brigade and The Hamza Division, as well as their leaders, Mohammad Hussein al-Jasim, Walid Hussein al-Jasim, and Sayf Boulad Abu Bakr.

The Suleiman Shah Brigade is accused of abductions and extortion of residents, especially Afrin’s Kurdish residents, to force them to abandon their homes and flee or to “pay large ransoms for return of their property or family members.” The Treasury says The Hamza Division is also involved in running detention centers where it held abducted victims for ransom who were tortured and sexually abused.

NYC Mayor Eric Adams to visit Israel next week

New York City Mayor Eric Adams attends a a news conference, October 11, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
New York City Mayor Eric Adams attends a a news conference, October 11, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

New York City Mayor Eric Adams is slated to visit Israel next week, his office announces.

Adams is slated to arrive in Israel on Monday and return to New York on Thursday.

His office says the mayor will meet with local leaders as well as “discuss combined efforts to combat antisemitism.” He is expected to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

New York City is home to the largest Jewish population outside Israel.

The mayor’s office says that the trip is being sponsored by the UJA-Federation of New York.

Netanyahu lauds German defense deal as ‘historic turning point’ between nations

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak during a joint press conference following talks at the Chancellery in Berlin on March 16, 2023. (Haim Zach/GPO)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak during a joint press conference following talks at the Chancellery in Berlin on March 16, 2023. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauds the huge defense deal with Germany announced this morning, calling the agreement a “historic turning point” between the two nations.

“Seventy-five years ago, the Jewish people were crushed to ashes in Nazi Germany,” Netanyahu says in a statement. “Seventy-five years later, the Jewish state gives Germany, another Germany, tools to defend itself… what Israeli pride. What a historic turning point.”

Police say 85 suspects arrested in daylong crackdown on violent crime in Arab community

Police chief Kobi Shabtai (left) during a police operation in Lod on August 17, 2023. (Israel Police)
Police chief Kobi Shabtai (left) during a police operation in Lod on August 17, 2023. (Israel Police)

The Israel Police says it has arrested 85 suspects and detained a further 48 people for questioning in a crackdown on violent crime in the Arab community.

The police says the busts took place over the past 24 hours, and included the seizure of 18 pistols, three M16 rifles, two airsoft guns, an improvised explosive device and a range of ammunition, as well as around NIS 1.5 million ($400,000) in cash.

“The Israel Police will continue its stubborn, uncompromising and determined fight against the main perpetrators of crime in order to strengthen control and the public’s sense of security,” says Commander Shmuel Sharvit of the intelligence department, noting that the operation included thousands of officers and Border Police officers.

In Riyadh, Iranian FM says Israeli-Palestinian conflict is ‘most important issue in Islamic world’

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (L) and his Saudi counterpart Faisal bin Farhan hold a joint press conference in Riyadh on August 17, 2023. (Fayez Nureldine/AFP)
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (L) and his Saudi counterpart Faisal bin Farhan hold a joint press conference in Riyadh on August 17, 2023. (Fayez Nureldine/AFP)

Iran’s top diplomat visits Saudi Arabia, using his first trip there since the two Middle East rivals announced a surprise rapprochement in March to slam Israel.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian takes the opportunity to reiterate the Islamic Republic’s support for the Palestinian cause at a time when Riyadh is in discussions with the United States about potentially normalizing ties with Israel.

Standing next to Saudi Arabia’s Prince Faisal, Amir-Abdollahian describes the conflict as “the most important issue in the Islamic world,” adding: “We continue to support Palestine.”

“There is no doubt that the Zionist regime will continue its efforts to create division in the Muslim world and the region. We follow the movements of the Zionist regime with insight and vigilance,” he adds.

Netanyahu meets Georgian counterpart, vows to deepen ties with Tbilisi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) meets Georgian Prime Minister  Irakli Garibashvili in Tel Aviv on August 17, 2023. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) meets Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili in Tel Aviv on August 17, 2023. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili in Tel Aviv, as both leaders vow to deepen ties between Jerusalem and Tbilisi.

“It’s a delight to welcome you, Georgia and Israel have had very warm relations,” Netanyahu tells his Georgian counterpart. “We have many, many Jews who came from Georgia, it’s a living bridge… I know that we can bring our relations to even greater heights.”

Garibashvili says that he is “always happy to be in Israel,” and that his country has “a very special relationship and friendship with Israel, with the Jewish people.”

UK premier Sunak says he’ll meet soon with Saudi Arabia’s MBS

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers the opening speech on the first day of the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London on June 21, 2023. (Henry Nicholls/Pool/AFP)
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers the opening speech on the first day of the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London on June 21, 2023. (Henry Nicholls/Pool/AFP)

Rishi Sunak and Mohammed bin Salman speak and pledge to meet soon, Downing Street says, after reports that the Saudi leader had been invited to visit Britain.

The Times said the controversial crown prince was set to make his first trip to the UK since the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. The Gulf state’s leader was accused of ordering the assassination of the Washington Post columnist at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He denies involvement.

Downing Street says in the pair’s call, Sunak “looked forward to personally deepening the long-standing ties between the UK and Saudi Arabia.”

“The prime minister and crown prince… looked forward to meeting in person at the earliest opportunity,” a statement reads.

Saudi Arabia is frequently criticized for its human rights record, particularly on capital punishment, but is trying to soften its image under a sweeping agenda of social and economic reform, dubbed “Vision 2030.”

At least 10 killed as small plane crashes onto highway in Malaysia

Members of the fire and rescue department inspect the crash site of a small plane in Shah Alam district, Malaysia, Aug. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Members of the fire and rescue department inspect the crash site of a small plane in Shah Alam district, Malaysia, Aug. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

A small aircraft loses control and crashes on a highway in Malaysia’s central Selangor state, killing all eight people on board and two on the ground, authorities say.

Selangor police chief Hussein Omar Khan says the six passengers and two crew members on the private chartered plane perished in the crash. The drivers of a motorcycle and a car that were hit when the plane smashed into the highway also died, he says.

The national Bernama news agency quotes witnesses as saying the airplane exploded upon impact. Nur Alia Nordin says she was in her house and was jolted by a deafening noise and saw thick black smoke.

“I heard a loud explosion and as soon as I reached the site, I saw a person in flames on the ground,” she tells Bernama. “I saw a motorcycle and a plane on fire.”

UN: Militants are still occupying school in Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon

A man walks past closed shops in the aftermath of clashes between the Fatah movement and Islamists inside the Ein el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in the southern coastal city of Sidon on August 1, 2023. (Mahmoud ZAYYAT / AFP)
A man walks past closed shops in the aftermath of clashes between the Fatah movement and Islamists inside the Ein el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in the southern coastal city of Sidon on August 1, 2023. (Mahmoud ZAYYAT / AFP)

BEIRUT — Two weeks after clashes between armed factions in Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp ended, militants are still occupying a United Nations-run school complex, UN officials say.

Dorothee Klaus, director of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, or UNRWA, in Lebanon, says in a statement that the agency has “received alarming reports that armed actors continue to occupy its installations including a school compound” in the Ein el-Hilweh camp.

Klaus says the continued presence of militants is a “grave violation of the inviolability of UN premises under international law, which compromises the neutrality of UNRWA installations and undermines the safety and security of our staff” and of the refugees living in the camp.

A local Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, says militants from both of the opposing sides have taken over different schools, using them as a “safe haven,” and have looted computers and equipment.

The fighting killed at least 13 people, injured dozens more and caused millions of dollars of damage in the camp, according to UNRWA officials.

2 young men shot, seriously wounded in Beersheba

File: The Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
File: The Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Two people are shot and wounded in Beersheba in what appears not to be a terror-related incident.

Police say that two people were brought to Soroka Hospital in the city with gunshot wounds in serious and moderate condition. Hebrew media reports indicate that the victims are in their 20s.

The shooting took place in the industrial area of the city, and police say they have opened an investigation and are gathering evidence at the scene while searching for the perpetrators.

A spokesperson for Soroka says the seriously wounded victim is currently undergoing surgery, and the other victim is being treated for gunshot wounds to his arms.

As protesters boo outside, Netanyahu snips ribbon at Tel Aviv light rail opening ceremony

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cuts a ribbon at the new Tel Aviv light rail line on August 17, 2023. (Courtesy)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cuts a ribbon at the new Tel Aviv light rail line on August 17, 2023. (Courtesy)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cuts a ribbon at the opening ceremony for the first leg of the long-awaited Tel Aviv light rail, as anti-overhaul protesters gather and boo outside.

“This line will serve everyone — those who support us and those who oppose us,” he says in comments at one terminus of the line in Petah Tikva. “This is a celebratory day for Israel.”

“There are always obstacles,” Netanyahu says. “They have to be overcome. When people, some of them behind us here (a reference to the protesters), told us not to open up the economy, we opened it and succeeded. They told us not extract gas from the sea. We extracted it and succeeded. They told us not to build the Egyptian border fence. We built it and saved the country [from an influx of economic migrants]. They told us it is impossible to achieve peace with Arab states without solving the Palestinians [issue]. We did it and we’ll solve the Palestinians. That too.

“We did all those things, and today we’re connecting the country — between cities, inside cities, and between states,” he says, alluding to a planned project he spoke of last month to extend a fast-rail route to Saudi Arabia.

The anti-overhaul protesters are being kept outside the event, and are shouting and booing as he speaks. The prime minister raises his voice to ensure he is heard.

Organs of drowning victim transplanted into four young children

Shoham David Turgeman (Courtesy)
Shoham David Turgeman (Courtesy)

The organs of 4-year-old drowning victim Shoham David Turgeman are transplanted into four children at Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Petah Tikvah.

In a marathon series of operations that began the night of August 14 and continued into the next day, the boy’s heart was transplanted into a 3-year-old boy and his liver into a 6-year-old girl. Two boys ages four and 13 each received a kidney. The surgeries were carefully coordinated and required many medical staff of varying specialties.

Some 700 organ transplants have taken place in children and teens at Schneider since its founding in 1992.

Dr. Ofer Schiller, a senior physician in the hospital’s cardiac intensive care unit, says that the heart recipient, 3-year-old Ofek Cohen, arrived at Schneider in end-stage heart failure. Before the transplant, he had been connected for months to a Berlin Heart ventricular assist device, which takes over the pumping function of the heart until a donor heart can be found.

“The notification that a heart was available for Ofek came as a surprise, and as with every transplant under these circumstances, the staff and family were joyful and excited, as well as full of sorrow for the family of the donor. The noble parents of the boy who died in such a tragic way provided a miracle and chance for life for Ofek and his family,” Schiller says.

Ronit, Ofek’s mother, says she is “eternally grateful to this wonderful family, who in the worst moment in their life chose to give my child life.”

After wave of Quran burnings, Sweden raises its terror alert

Supporters of a radical Islamist party 'Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan' burn the representation of Swedish flag during a rally to denounce burning of Islam's holy book the 'Quran', in Karachi, Pakistan, July 7, 2023. (AP/Fareed Khan)
Supporters of a radical Islamist party 'Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan' burn the representation of Swedish flag during a rally to denounce burning of Islam's holy book the 'Quran', in Karachi, Pakistan, July 7, 2023. (AP/Fareed Khan)

Sweden’s intelligence agency heightens its terror alert level to four on a scale of five after angry reactions in the Muslim world to Quran burnings in Sweden made the country a “prioritized target.”

The level is increased from “elevated threat,” where it had been since 2016, to “high threat,” the head of the Swedish Security Police Charlotte von Essen tells reporters.

Opposition MK floats unity government in which Netanyahu resigns after 2 years

MK Matan Kahana poses for a picture in Moshav Beit Gamliel, on July 9, 2023.(Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
MK Matan Kahana poses for a picture in Moshav Beit Gamliel, on July 9, 2023.(Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

National Unity party MK Matan Kahana joins calls for a unity government, suggesting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu serve for two years and then resign ahead of a new election.

Modestly referring to his proposal as the “Kahana plan to save the State of Israel from crisis,” the MK says that National Unity and Yesh Atid would join the Likud-led government with “anyone else who accept values in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence.” Two years from now, he says, Netanyahu would “retire to his home in dignity” and a new election would be held.

Kahana makes no reference to the ongoing corruption trial Netanyahu is facing.

National Unity chief Benny Gantz and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid have repeatedly rejected any possibilty of sitting in a Netanyahu-led government. This week, however, Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern said he would welcome a unity government proposal.

“Do you really think there is a better solution to the deep crisis the country is currently in?” Kahana writes. “This government could heal the deep internal divide among us and make room for all parts of society in Israel.”

Despite his party leader’s repeated denials, Kahana says that he believes that “if such a scenario were even remotely possible, [Gantz] would seriously consider it.”

Protesters gather ahead of Netanyahu speech at Tel Aviv light rail opening

Anti-overhaul activists protest ahead of the opening ceremony of the light rail in Petah Tikva, August 17, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Anti-overhaul activists protest ahead of the opening ceremony of the light rail in Petah Tikva, August 17, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

A number of streets are shut down in Tel Aviv and Petah Tikvah ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s arrival to ceremoniously launch the new metro light rail, as protesters gather nearby.

The prime minister is slated to tour the new train and take a trip on board before giving a speech at the terminal in Petah Tikva.

The light rail, which is years behind schedule, is slated to finally open to the public tomorrow morning.

Iranian FM visits Riyadh in first Saudi visit since ties restored

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian meets with his Qatari counterpart in the capital Tehran, on January 29, 2023. (Atta Kenare/AFP)
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian meets with his Qatari counterpart in the capital Tehran, on January 29, 2023. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian arrives in Riyadh, his first official Saudi trip since a landmark rapprochement in March, state media reports.

A Chinese-brokered deal saw the long-time rivals agreeing to restore diplomatic relations and reopen their respective embassies. Shiite-dominated Iran and Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia had severed ties in 2016 after Saudi diplomatic missions in the Islamic Republic were attacked during protests over Riyadh’s execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

Amir-Abdollahian “arrived at Riyadh Airport a few minutes ago for a one-day trip, and was welcomed by the deputy foreign minister of Saudi Arabia,” official news agency IRNA says.

The visit “is focusing on bilateral ties, regional and international issues,” according to IRIB state broadcaster.

IRNA says Amir-Abdollahian is due to meet with his Saudi counterpart and other officials in the kingdom. The minister is accompanied by the new Iranian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the report adds.

Palestinian gunmen fire at West Bank settlement of Shaked

Illustrative: Israeli soldiers stand guard at the West Bank outpost of Homesh on May 29, 2023. (Flash90)
Illustrative: Israeli soldiers stand guard at the West Bank outpost of Homesh on May 29, 2023. (Flash90)

Palestinian gunmen opened fire at the Shahak industrial zone near the northern West Bank settlement of Shaked, the military says.

The gunfire caused slight damage to a building, but no injuries, the Israel Defense Forces says.

The IDF says troops launched a manhunt for the gunmen who fled, and located an abandoned car with shell casings and ammunition in it.

Palestinian gunmen in the northern West Bank have repeatedly targeted the Shaked area in recent months.

Coalition whip: We will pass IDF draft law in next Knesset before continuing with overhaul

Likud MK Ofir Katz chairs a meeting of the Knesset House Committee in Jerusalem on July 19, 2023. (Noam Moskowitz/Knesset)
Likud MK Ofir Katz chairs a meeting of the Knesset House Committee in Jerusalem on July 19, 2023. (Noam Moskowitz/Knesset)

Coalition whip Ofir Katz says that the government plans to pass an IDF draft law in the next Knesset session before it resumes legislating the rest of the judicial overhaul.

“The IDF draft law will pass in the next Knesset session” before the overhaul continues, the Likud MK is quoted as saying by Channel 12 news.

Katz adds that it’s clear the issue of Haredi enlistment in the IDF, which has been debated for decades, needs to be sorted out once and for all. “It’s not like until now the IDF has been drafting all Haredim, and now Likud is coming to overturn that. The situation now is that this issue needs to be settled.”

Haredi parties have demanded the coalition move ahead with an override clause — despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly saying it is off the table — in an attempt to preempt the High Court overturning any such draft law, as it has done repeatedly in the past.

In recent days, however, reports have emerged that Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yariv Levin are seeking to pause the overhaul due to Haredi discomfort with the fierce public backlash.

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