The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s developments as they unfolded.
Iranian officials launched an effort Monday to provide emergency power to the Natanz nuclear facility, says Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s nuclear program, following a devastating attack on the site blamed on Israel.
He said the sabotage had not stopped enrichment there, without elaborating.
Iran foreign minister earlier on Monday blamed Israel for a power failure that reportedly caused massive damage to the Natanz nuclear facility, vowing to “take revenge on the Zionists” and to replace damaged centrifuges at the site with even better ones.
Meanwhile, according to Reuters, Tehran claimed it had identified the individual behind the attack and would arrest him. The report was based on the comments of an unnamed intelligence official who spoke to the Nournews website.
AP contributed to this report.
On the eve of Israel’s 73rd anniversary, the population of the Jewish state stands at 9,327,000, the Central Bureau of Statistics announces.
That includes nearly 6.9 million Jews, accounting for 73.9 percent of the population; 1.96 million Arabs, just over one-fifth of the population; and 467,000 of other faiths.
Since last year’s Independence Day, 167,000 babies were born, 50,000 people died, and 16,300 immigrated to the country, according to the CBS. Overall, the population increased by some 137,000 people.
When plotted on a graph, the curve of Bhutan’s COVID-19 vaccination drive shoots upwards from the very first day, passing Israel, the United States, Bahrain, and other countries known for vaccinating people rapidly.
Those countries took months to reach where they are, painstakingly strengthening their vaccination campaigns in the face of rising coronavirus cases. But the story of Bhutan’s vaccination campaign is nearly finished — just 16 days after it began.
The tiny Himalayan kingdom wedged between India and China has vaccinated nearly 93 percent of its adult population since March 27. Overall, the country has vaccinated 62% of its 800,000 people.
The rapid rollout of the vaccine puts the tiny nation just behind Seychelles, which has given jabs to 66% of its population of nearly 100,000 people.
Its small population helped Bhutan move fast, but its success has also been attributed to its dedicated citizen volunteers, known as “desuups,” and established cold chain storage used during earlier vaccination drives.
Bhutan received its first 150,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from neighboring India in January, but the shots were distributed beginning in late March to coincide with auspicious dates in Buddhist astrology.
Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz accuses Lebanon of “blowing up” negotiations on the maritime border between the two countries.
“It seems that Lebanon prefers to blow up the talks instead of trying to reach agreed-upon solutions. Unfortunately, this won’t be the first time in the past 20 years that the Lebanese changed their naval maps for propaganda purposes. Obviously, unilateral Lebanese steps will be met in kind by Israel,” says Steinitz in a statement.
His comments come after Lebanon’s public works and transportation minister expanded Beirut’s claim over the maritime territory by 1,400 square kilometers, as compared to its previous border claim submitted to the UN, Reuters reports.
The European Union warns against attempts to derail talks to return the US to the Iran nuclear deal, after Tehran accused Israel of an attack on its main Natanz site.
“We reject any attempts to undermine or weaken diplomatic efforts on the nuclear agreement,” EU spokesman Peter Stano says, insisting that “we still need to clarify the facts” over events at the Iranian nuclear site.
A man has been charged in Norway for his alleged role in plans to carry out three terror attacks in Denmark and in London, and for purportedly spreading Islamic State group propaganda on the internet.
Authorities believe the 24-year-old man, who was not identified, was part of a group that sought to strike a church in England, possibly St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, but British police thwarted the plot, Norwegian broadcaster NRK reports.
The man was also allegedly involved in plans for one or more attacks in Denmark in March and April 2019, with help from at least one Danish citizen, prosecutor Geir Evanger tells NRK. Those attacks are believed to have been prevented as well.
The man has maintained his innocence. If found guilty, the man faces up to 21 years in jail, NRK said. The trial starts in Oslo on May 18.
Evanger is quoted by NRK as saying that as to his involvement in IS, the man spread “extremist material, violent material, and material with religious content” online. He was an administrator for several groups on social media, including some he had created, the prosecutor says, adding they consider him to be “a relatively central participant in many of these groups.”
NRK says the man had been held in custody for a while.
Yamina leader Naftali Bennett says his party supports the formation of a right-wing government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud.
“I told Netanyahu and I will say it here, too — Likud can count on the votes of the Yamina party in favor of forming a right-wing government,” says Bennett in a public statement.
Yamina has been negotiating with Likud over the creation of a government following last month’s election. Even with its support, a coalition remains quite unlikely, as such a government would still need the support of the Islamist Ra’am party, a prospect utterly rejected by Netanyahu’s allies in the far-right Religious Zionism party.
The Syrian air force used the chemical weapon chlorine in an attack on the town of Saraqib in 2018, the global toxic arms watchdog says Monday, after an investigation.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) says in a statement that a team of investigators “concludes that units of the Syrian Arab Air Force used chemical weapons in Saraqib on 4 February 2018.”
Yamina chief Naftali Bennett and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet again for coalition negotiations this afternoon, according to Hebrew media reports.
The reported meeting comes after Bennett declares his party’s support for a right-wing government with Likud.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosts US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Jerusalem.
“As you know, the US-Israel defense partnership has continually expanded over successive administrations and our cooperation is crucial in dealing with the many threats confronting both the United States and Israel,” says Netanyahu, at a press conference.
“In the Middle East, there is no threat more dangerous, serious and pressing than that posed by the fanatical regime in Iran,” says Netanyahu, citing Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, arming of terror groups, and calls for Israel’s annihilation.
Adds Netanyahu: “Mr. Secretary, we both know the horrors of war. We both understand the importance of preventing war. And we both agree that Iran must never possess nuclear weapons. My policy as prime minister of Israel is clear — I will never allow Iran to obtain the nuclear capability to carry out its genocidal goal of eliminating Israel. And Israel will continue to defend itself against Iran’s aggression and terrorism.”
His comments come after an attack on the Iranian Natanz nuclear facility, which Tehran has blamed on Israel.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, speaking at a press conference with Netanyahu, says he decided to travel to Israel to “express our desire for earnest consultations with Israel, as we address shared challenges in the region.”
He affirms the Biden administration’s support for Israel’s security and qualitative military edge in the region.
“And so we discussed ways to deepen our longstanding defense relationship in the face of regional threats and other security challenges and I affirm the department’s support for our ongoing diplomatic efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Arab and Muslim-majority nations,” he says.
“I am confident that together we can chart a path toward enduring peace in this region and advance open and stable order — now, and in the years ahead,” says Austin.
He does not explicitly mention Iran in his remarks.
Russia’s foreign ministry says it hopes a power outage at Iran’s Natanz uranium plant, which Tehran denounced as an attack by Israel, would not “undermine” progress on nuclear deal talks.
The ministry said in a statement that it was closely following the situation surrounding the “serious incident”, which it hopes “will not undermine the consultations which are gaining momentum.”
An unnamed US official tells the Walla news site that Washington played no role in the alleged strike on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility.
Former Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal, who has not held an official leadership position in the organization for years, will return to serve as the director of Hamas’s diaspora under his successor Ismail Haniyeh, official Hamas media announce.
Hamas’s internal organization is divided into four areas: Gaza, the West Bank, Israeli prisons, and abroad. Mashaal, who currently lives in Qatar, is well-connected with Hamas’s key patrons in Doha and Ankara.
Mashaal had reportedly launched a leadership struggle against Haniyeh for the top spot in the terror group during its elections, which were held secretly over the past two months.
The announcement that Mashaal is to serve as Hamas’ second-in-command as head of its diaspora division makes it more likely that Haniyeh — with no obvious challenger in sight — will serve another four-year term as chief of the organization’s political bureau.
Iranian intelligence agents attempted to lure Israelis abroad to meet, in an attempt to harm or kidnap them, the Shin Bet security service and Mossad intelligence agency says in a joint statement.
Iranian agents set up fake Instagram profiles, usually of women in the tourism business, and contacted Israelis. They attempted to draw Israelis to meetings abroad with business propositions or offers for a romantic rendezvous, the intelligence services say.
They warn Israelis who conduct business abroad to be wary of queries from social media accounts.
“Security officials call on Israeli citizens who maintain business ties abroad to be aware and vigilant about inquiries on social networks from profiles they do not recognize, and to avoid contact with them,” the agencies say.
The countries named by the agencies include Arab countries, Turkey, the Gulf states, and countries in the Caucasus, Africa and Europe.
Israel Defense Forces soldiers opened fire at a vehicle carrying smugglers on the Israel-Egypt border, after the car began to accelerate in their direction, the military says.
One of the suspects was injured and is receiving medical care at the site, according to the military.
A vote to create a key parliamentary panel has been postponed until next week, following disagreements.
The Arrangements Committee, the first in the Knesset to be formed after an election, determines which parliamentary committees will be formed and who will sit on them. Crucially, it also controls the legislative schedule in the new parliament until a new government is formed.
Likud takes control of the committee since it must be chaired by the party of the current PM-designate. Likud’s former coalition whip Miki Zohar is expected to head up the committee.
Lawmakers from the predominantly Arab Joint List are sworn into the Knesset, days after their previous oaths were disqualified after they changed the wording of the pledge.
Joint List members sparked an outcry on Tuesday when they substituted the traditional commitment to serve Israel and the Knesset with commitments to fight “apartheid,” “the occupation” and “racism.”
The EU adds eight Iranian security officials, including the chief of the powerful Revolutionary Guard, and three entities to a sanctions blacklist over a 2019 protest crackdown.
The move to impose asset freezes and visa bans, effective immediately with publication in the bloc’s official journal, comes at a sensitive time as Brussels mediates efforts to revive the nuclear deal between world powers and Tehran.
Israel has approved a request from Jordan for increased water supply, according to Hebrew media reports.
The request was submitted several weeks ago through the joint Israeli-Jordanian water committee, established after the 1994 peace deal between the countries.
The Walla news site says the Biden administration encouraged Israel to provide the water to the Hashemite kingdom.
Relations between Jerusalem and Amman became frosty after Netanyahu’s planned visit to the United Arab Emirates for the first official trip by an Israeli leader, half a year after the countries established formal relations, was scrapped last month over difficulties coordinating the flight to the UAE over Jordanian airspace.
Shortly before that incident, Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein canceled a visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a sensitive holy site under Jordanian custodianship, due to disagreements with Israel over security arrangements.
The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran says its Natanz plant was hit by a “small explosion” on Sunday, after the government labeled it an Israeli act of “sabotage.”
“The incident occurred at the electricity distribution center. There was a small explosion,” AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi tells the Tasnim news agency, adding that the “damaged sectors can be quickly repaired.”
A meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yamina leader Naftali Bennett on forming a coalition ends after some two hours.
Likud and Yamina negotiators are set to meet to hammer out additional details.
The Covid-19 pandemic is in a critical phase, the World Health Organization says, warning cases are surging despite proven measures to rein in the spread.
“We are in a critical point of the pandemic right now,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, tells reporters.
“The trajectory of this pandemic is growing. It is growing exponentially. This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic, when we have proven control measures,” she says.
Jordanian King Abdullah II’s half-brother Prince Hamzah, allegedly involved in a plot to destabilize the country, will not face trial, the prime minister tells a closed session of parliament.
Lawmakers who attended the meeting also quoted Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh as denying there had been an “attempted coup.”
Earlier this month, the government accused Hamzah — a former crown prince who was sidelined as heir to the throne in 2004 — of involvement in a conspiracy to “destabilize the kingdom’s security” and arrested at least 16 people.
The king broke his silence last Wednesday to tell the nation the worst political crisis in decades was over and on Sunday Abdullah appeared in public alongside Hamzah.
Khasawneh on Monday “denied there had been an attempted coup,” Islamist MP Saleh al-Armouti tells AFP. “So if there hadn’t been a coup, what happened?” he asked.
According to Armouti, the prime minister said Hamzah will not face trial, unlike others held on allegations of trying to destabilize Jordan.
“Prince Hamzah’s case has been resolved within the royal family,” Khasawneh told deputies, he says.
Khasawneh said a file concerning the case was handed over to the prosecution on Monday, Armouti adds.
“But the premier did not say if the case was submitted to the prosecutor of the state security court or to a normal tribunal.”
After claiming he was put under house arrest on April 3, Hamzah had made extensive use of traditional and social media to lash out against his situation.
He accused Jordan’s rulers of corruption and ineptitude in a video message published by the BBC that same day.
But after a statement voicing his loyalty to the king last week, Abdullah said Hamzah had offered his support for the monarchy and that he was now under his “protection”.
Independent MP Khalil Attiyeh also tells AFP that the prime minister, during his briefing to parliament, “did not use the terms conspiracy or coup d’etat.”
“He denied that there had been a coup but spoke of a bid to destabilize security and stability” in Jordan, Attiyeh says.
A 38-year-old woman has been shot dead in the Arab Israeli city of Tira, medics say.
Police are investigating.
Princes William and Harry issue emotional tributes to their grandfather Prince Philip, whose death aged 99 has thrown the younger men together for the first time since an explosive row engulfed the family.
Harry, back in Britain for the first time since he and his wife Meghan quit royal duties and moved to North America, calls Philip a “man of service, honor and great humor.”
“Grandpa, thank you for your service, your dedication to Granny, and for always being yourself,” the Duke of Sussex says, also calling his often outspoken grandfather a “master of the barbecue, legend of banter, and cheeky right ’til the end.”
Harry’s elder brother William, who stands next in line to Queen Elizabeth II’s throne after their father Prince Charles, says Philip’s life was “defined by service –- to his country and Commonwealth, to his wife and queen, and to our family.”
“I will miss my Grandpa, but I know he would want us to get on with the job,” he adds.
Archaeologists in the United Kingdom discovered findings from a medieval Jewish community of Oxford that they said were the earliest evidence of a religious diet.
The findings, locked inside pottery fragments excavated in Oxford, go back to the 12th and 13th centuries following William the Conqueror’s invitation to Jews in Northern France to settle in England.
The fragments came from two former homes in Oxford’s center that belonged to Jews: Jacob f. mag. Moses and Elekin f. Bassina, according to a report in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences on the findings by the researchers from the University of Bristol.
“A remarkable animal bone assemblage was unearthed in this latrine, dominated by domestic fowl (mainly goose), and with a complete absence of pig bones, hinting at a kosher diet,” the researchers wrote.
Fish bones comprised only species such as herring, which are kosher, they added.
The lead author of the research, Julie Dunne from the University of Bristol’s School of Chemistry, said in a statement about the study: “This is a remarkable example of how biomolecular information extracted from medieval pottery and combined with ancient documents and animal bones, has provided a unique insight into 800-year-old Jewish dietary practices.”
The Likud and Blue and White parties continue to duke it out over Israel’s purchase of additional coronavirus vaccine stocks.
Earlier today, negotiators from the two parties met at the treasury in an attempt to hammer out an agreement.
The meeting ended without any breakthroughs, with Blue and White accusing Likud’s Finance Minister Israel Katz of conditioning the purchase of the shots on the advancement of other financial policies.
In a statement after the meeting, Likud accuses Gantz of endangering Israelis.
“We urge him to come to his senses and not continue to endanger the lives and health of Israeli citizens,” Likud says, accusing Gantz of seeking to “bring back the lockdowns.”
The transitional cabinet must sign off on the vaccine purchase, which has been delayed over disagreements between Gantz and Netanyahu.
Following Monday’s meeting, Gantz says he’s been persuaded to approve the budget for the vaccines, but conditions his support on the appointment of a permanent justice minister. Israel currently has no justice minister.
“Every Israeli must ask themselves why a prime minister who is charged with crimes is refusing to appoint a justice minister, even at the expense of ‘bringing back the lockdowns,’ as they claim. The only answer is that he places his trial above the needs of the state; and it’s time he goes home,” Gantz’s office says.
Israel has enough vaccines to fully inoculate the remaining unvaccinated population and to give a single shot to recovered COVID-19 patients, Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy has said. However, he said Israel needed a continuing supply of shots and wanted to “get ahead of the rest of the world.”
Levy explained that it is not known how many vaccine boosters individuals may need to stay protected from the virus in the long run.
Israel is seeking 36 million more doses, Reuters reported.
Those shots will also be used to inoculate children.
An Israel Defense Forces veteran who was disabled in the line of duty has set himself on fire outside a Defense Ministry rehabilitation center in Petah Tikva.
The man, in his 20s, has been hospitalized, the Defense Ministry says. His condition is not immediately clear.
The incident comes a day before before Israel begins marking Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terror victims.
The disabled former IDF soldier who self-immolated in Petah Tikva is in serious condition following the incident, Hebrew media reports say.
The White House denies US involvement in the incident at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility.
Iran has blamed Israel for the attack on the uranium enrichment plant.
The disabled IDF veteran who set himself on fire suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder following his service in the military during the 2014 Gaza war, the Defense Ministry says.
The ministry says it knows the identity of the 26-year-old man, who is a recognized disabled veteran, but is not releasing the information, in order to preserve his privacy.
The ministry adds that it does not yet know why the man lit himself on fire.
According to the ministry, the man arrived to the Rehabilitation Department’s offices in Petah Tikva with a bottle full of a flammable liquid, doused himself with it, and then set himself on fire in the entryway.
“Defense Ministry security guards acted immediately, using fire extinguishers, in order to give him first aid, and, at the same time, called rescue services,” the ministry says.
The man is in serious condition.
The Health Ministry will present a plan to ministers tonight to fully reopen the school system, without pods.
The proposal recommends that students and teachers undergo COVID-19 testing only if a student or teacher in the class tests positive for the virus.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Defense Ministry Director-General Amir Eshel were informed of the self-immolation of a disabled IDF veteran, 26, outside a Defense Ministry rehabilitation center.
The two ordered an investigation of the incident in order to determine what prompted the man’s actions and what steps the ministry can take immediately, the ministry says.
Iran’s foreign ministry says it is suspending cooperation with the European Union in various fields following the bloc’s decision to blacklist several Iranian security officials over a 2019 protest crackdown.
Foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh “strongly condemned” the sanctions and says Iran is “suspending all human rights talks and cooperation resulting from these talks with the EU, especially in [the fields of] terrorism, drugs and refugees.”
Sandra Feuerstein, a federal judge from Long Island, New York, was killed Friday by a hit-and-run driver while vacationing in Boca Raton, Florida.
Feuerstein, 75, was struck while walking on a sidewalk near the beach. The driver, a 23-year-old woman, remained jailed Sunday on a $60,000 bond, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
Feuerstein was appointed to the Eastern District of New York by President George W. Bush in 2003 after serving as a New York state judge for 16 years.
The New York native worked as a schoolteacher before earning a law degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in 1979.
Feuerstein and her late mother, Judge Annette Elstein of the Immigration Court in New York, made history as the first mother and daughter in the United States to serve as judges at the same time.
President Reuven Rivlin and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid issue well-wishes to Muslims ahead of Ramadan, which begins Tuesday.
רמדאן כרים לכל אזרחי ישראל המוסלמים.
כול עאם ואנתום בח'יר!
رمضان كريم لعموم المُسملين مواطني دولة إسرائيل.
كل عام وأنتم بخير! pic.twitter.com/XuMnY39OuQ
— ראובן (רובי) ריבלין (@ruvirivlin) April 12, 2021
بمناسبة حلول هذا الشهر الفضيل، نتمنى لكم رمضان كريم وكل عام وانتم بألف خير اعاده الله علينا وعليكم بالخير واليمن والبركات.
לחברינו המוסלמים, בישראל ובעולם, מאחל חודש מבורך, בריאות ואחדות. רמדאן כרים.#ramadankareem
— יאיר לפיד – Yair Lapid???? (@yairlapid) April 12, 2021
The Kan public broadcaster, citing intelligence sources, says advanced centrifuges were damaged in the blast at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility.
The report comes after the Iranians downplayed the extent of the damage, maintaining it could swiftly be repaired.
People who were exposed to the coronavirus and received under-the-skin injections of Regeneron’s synthetic antibody treatment were 81 percent less likely to develop COVID-19 compared to those on a placebo, the company says.
The trial, which was jointly run with the US National Institutes of Health, enrolled 1,505 people with household contacts who had tested positive for the coronavirus.
The volunteers themselves tested negative at the start of the trial, and were then randomly assigned to receive either one dose of REGEN-COV — which is a 1,200 milligram combination of asirivimab and imdevimab — or a placebo.
After 29 days, 1.5 percent of people who received the treatment developed symptomatic COVID, compared to 7.8 percent for those on placebo.
This equates to a risk reduction of 81 percent, which compares favorably with authorized COVID vaccines.
The participants were ethnically diverse, 31 percent had at least one risk factor, the median age was 44 years old and the age range was 12 to 92 years.
No one who received the treatment was hospitalized or had to go to an emergency room for COVID-19, while four who received the placebo did.
Side effects occurred in 20 percent of people on the drug and 29 percent on placebo, while serious side effects occurred in one percent of participants of both groups.
“These data suggest that REGEN-COV can complement widespread vaccination strategies, particularly for those at high risk of infection,” says Myron Cohen, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scientist who is leading NIH research on COVID monoclonal antibody treatments.
He adds that the treatment retained its potency against emerging coronavirus variants of concern during lab tests.
Despite promising results, widespread use of monoclonal antibodies against COVID-19 has been hampered by a lack of public awareness about what they are, and the fact that the main way of administering them has been through an intravenous drip that takes at least 20 minutes.
By switching to four subcutaneous injections, Regeneron hopes to remove this impediment.
Antibodies are infection-fighting proteins made by immune systems in response to pathogens.
Vaccines train the body to produce antibodies without being exposed to the live infection, while synthetic versions can also be cultivated in bioreactors to produce mass treatments.
An Israeli television report claims the Natanz blast was sparked by a bomb, which went off at the Iranian nuclear facility at 4 a.m. and had been placed there ahead of time.
Channel 13’s defense analyst Alon Ben-David, who did not cite sources, says 1,000 workers were in Natanz at the time of the explosion, which has been blamed on Israel. They were evacuated over fears of additional bombs.
The bomb was placed near the main electricity line, the network says. It says Natanz has been fully shut down, with the program set back by months.
Israel expects Iran to retaliate for the attack, but not necessarily right away, according to Channel 13. Such a retaliation could come in the form of a cyberattack on civilian infrastructure, attack on Israeli-owned ships, missile fire from Syria or Yemen, or cruise missile or drone attacks on strategic Israeli targets.
Channel 13 also says Iran could try to expand its centrifuge operation at the Fordo plant, where it has 1,000 centrifuges. There were almost 6,000 centrifuges at Natanz.
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