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Lab test results confirm salmonella traces in Strauss products

Health Ministry says all consumer-ready goods that tested positive for bacteria are among those recalled by food manufacturer, whose CEO pledges double compensation

The Strauss Group's offices in Karmiel, northern Israel. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)
The Strauss Group's offices in Karmiel, northern Israel. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.

Health Ministry says lab tests found Strauss products have salmonella traces

The Strauss Group's offices in Karmiel, northern Israel. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)
The Strauss Group's offices in Karmiel, northern Israel. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

The Health Ministry says it was informed by Strauss Group that lab tests on some of the food manufacturers’ consumer-ready products have tested positive for salmonella.

A Health Ministry says all the products were among those that have been recalled by Strauss.

CDC estimates 3/4 of US children have been infected with coronavirus

NEW YORK — Three out of every four US children have been infected with the coronavirus, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers estimate in a report.

The researchers examined blood samples from more than 200,000 Americans and looked for virus-fighting antibodies made from infections, not vaccines. They found that signs of past infection rose dramatically between December and February, when the more contagious Omicron variant surged through the US.

The most striking increase was in children. The percentage of those 17 and under with antibodies rose from about 45% in December to about 75% in February.

For Americans of all ages, about 34% had signs of prior infection in December. Just two months later, 58% did.

“I did expect it to increase. I did not expect it to increase quite this much,” says Dr. Kristie Clarke, co-leader of a CDC team that tracks the extent of coronavirus infections.

The older people were, the less likely they had evidence of past infections, the study found. For those 65 and older, 19% had signs of prior infection in December and 33% did in February. That may be because older adults have higher vaccination rates and they may be more likely to take other COVID-19 precautions, such as wearing masks and avoiding crowds, Clarke says.

Clarke says the tests can detect antibodies for one to two years after infection, and possibly longer.

Studies have shown previous infection can protect some people against severe disease and hospitalization, but CDC officials stressed that the previously infected should still get COVID-19 vaccines.

Meeting visiting UN chief, Putin says still has ‘hope’ in talks with Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech as he hosts Russia's medal-winning athletes from the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games and members of the country's Paralympic team at the Kremlin in Moscow, on April 26, 2022. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech as he hosts Russia's medal-winning athletes from the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games and members of the country's Paralympic team at the Kremlin in Moscow, on April 26, 2022. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP)

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin tells the visiting UN chief that he still has hope for negotiations to end the conflict in Ukraine.

“Despite the fact that the military operation is ongoing, we still hope that we will be able to reach agreements on the diplomatic track. We are negotiating, we do not reject [talks],” Putin tells UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who is visiting Moscow.

TV report cites concerns suspect behind letter may know more details about Bennett’s family

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has read the threatening letter that was sent to his family along with his bullet, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

The network says much of the additional security will go to protecting Bennett’s children.

Separately, Channel 12 news reports that security officials are concerned that whoever is behind the letter knows other personal details about the family.

Strauss CEO pledges double compensation amid massive recall of chocolate products

Strauss Group in Israel CEO Eyal Dror delivers a statement, on April 26, 2022. (Screenshot: Channel 12 news)
Strauss Group in Israel CEO Eyal Dror delivers a statement, on April 26, 2022. (Screenshot: Channel 12 news)

Amid a massive recall of Strauss products ranging from chocolate to ice cream, pudding, cookies and other snacks over salmonella contamination fears, the company’s CEO announces that all customers will receive double compensation for the products they purchased.

“In the past day, we have been in dialogue with the consumers and are trying to address all your concerns,” Strauss Group in Israel CEO Eyal Dror says in a video statement.

“Along with all the activities we are doing to deal with the event, each or every customer who contacts [us], will receive double compensation for the chocolate purchased,” Dror adds.

He says the company was aware of its hotline’s long waiting times, but promises to get back to every customer.

Strauss Group, one of Israel’s largest food product manufacturers, said yesterday that numerous popular chocolate products produced by its subsidiary company Elite would be recalled due to concerns of salmonella contamination. The move is believed to be the largest food recall to ever take place in Israel and has expanded to include several dozen products.

Meanwhile, Assuta Ashdod University Hospital says one of two children with suspected salmonella symptoms tested negative for the bacteria, according to Hebrew media reports.

IDF says drone fell while operating over Syria: ‘No concern that info was leaked’

Illustrative: An IDF soldier from the Artillery Corps launches an Elbit Skylark drone, known in the IDF as a Sky Rider, on January 21, 2013. (Cpl. Zev Marmorstein/Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative: An IDF soldier from the Artillery Corps launches an Elbit Skylark drone, known in the IDF as a Sky Rider, on January 21, 2013. (Cpl. Zev Marmorstein/Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces say a drone has fallen in Syria during operational activity earlier today.

“There is no concern that information [from the UAV] was leaked,” it says.

The IDF, which doesn’t specify how the drone fell, adds that the incident is being investigated.

Kamala Harris tests positive for COVID; White House says Biden not a ‘close contact’

US Vice President Kamala Harris meets with Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan in Harris' ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus, on April 15, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
US Vice President Kamala Harris meets with Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan in Harris' ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus, on April 15, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

WASHINGTON — US Vice President Kamala Harris tested positive for COVID-19 today the White House announces, underscoring the persistence of the highly contagious virus even as the US eases restrictions in a bid to revert to pre-pandemic normalcy.

The White House says that Harris tested positive on both rapid and a PCR tests, and says she “has exhibited no symptoms.” Harris will isolate at her residence but continue to work remotely, and will only return to the White House once she tests negative for the virus.

Harris, 57, received her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine weeks before taking office and a second dose just days after Inauguration Day in 2021. She received a booster shot in late October and an additional booster on April 1. Fully vaccinated and boosted people have a high degree of protection against serious illness and death from COVID-19, particularly from the most common and highly transmissible omicron variant.

The White House says neither US President Joe Biden nor first lady Jill Biden were considered a “close contact” of Harris in recent days.

Pentagon chief: US, allies will meet monthly to discuss arming Ukraine

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin addresses a press conference after a meeting with members of a Ukraine Security Consultative Group at the US Air Base in Ramstein, western Germany, on April 26, 2022. (Andre Pain/AFP)
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin addresses a press conference after a meeting with members of a Ukraine Security Consultative Group at the US Air Base in Ramstein, western Germany, on April 26, 2022. (Andre Pain/AFP)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — The United States and its allies will meet once a month to discuss Ukraine’s defense needs to battle invading Russian troops, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says today.

“Today’s gathering will become a monthly Contact Group on Ukraine’s self-defense,” Austin says following the first session of a weapons summit.

“The Contact Group will be a vehicle for nations of goodwill to intensify our efforts, coordinate our assistance, and focus on winning today’s fight and the struggles to come,” he adds.

Forty nations joined today’s meeting at the Ramstein US airbase in southwestern Germany, including NATO members but also countries such as Israel, Japan and Australia.

At the start of the talks, Austin had said Washington would “move heaven and earth” to help Ukraine win its battle against Russia’s unprovoked invasion.

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht meanwhile announces that Berlin has agreed to give the go-ahead to the delivery of used Gepard (Cheetah) anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine.

Austin praises the “major decision” by Berlin to supply the 50 anti-aircraft systems, and adds that Canada would also send eight armored vehicles.

He also reiterates that Washington wants Russia weakened militarily to prevent Moscow from threatening its neighbors.

Blinken says Putin not ‘serious’ about negotiations with Ukraine

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing at the US Capitol on April 26, 2022, in Washington.   (Bonnie Cash-Pool/Getty Images/AFP)
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing at the US Capitol on April 26, 2022, in Washington. (Bonnie Cash-Pool/Getty Images/AFP)

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says that Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown no seriousness about diplomacy to end the Ukraine war, despite a series of international efforts.

“We’ve seen no sign to date that President Putin is serious about meaningful negotiations,” Blinken tells the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Lapid, Gantz denounce threats to Bennett’s family: A warning of ‘where hatred can lead’

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left), Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (center), and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attend a plenum session in the Knesset, on January 31, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left), Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (center), and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attend a plenum session in the Knesset, on January 31, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition partners denounce a threatening letter and bullet that was sent to the premier’s family.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid says the letter shows “where hatred can lead.”

“We’ll continue to fight the discourse of hate in the street, on social media, everywhere. They won’t intimate us. The extremists won’t defeat the sane majority,” he writes on Twitter.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz denounces the threats against Bennett’s family as “the crossing of a red line.”

“A bullet in an envelope can turn into three bullets fired from a pistol,” he says.

Health Ministry says another Omicron subvariant detected among arriving travelers

Medical technicians test passengers for COVID-19 at Ben Gurion Airport, on March 8, 2021. (Flash90)
Medical technicians test passengers for COVID-19 at Ben Gurion Airport, on March 8, 2021. (Flash90)

The Health Ministry says the first two cases of another Omicron subvariant have been detected among arriving travelers at Ben Gurion Airport.

According to a ministry statement, a pair of travelers tested positive for BA.5. It doesn’t specify where they were coming from, or if they were traveling together.

The statement also says another case has been detected of BA.4, a subvariant whose emergence earlier the ministry earlier said it was not overly concerned by.

Russian military threatens strikes on ‘decision-making centers’ in Kyiv

The Russian military has warned it could strike Ukrainian “decision-making centers” in the Ukrainian capital and said it wouldn’t be stopped by the possible presence of Western advisers there.

The Russian Defense Ministry accuses the UK of making statements encouraging Ukraine to use Western weapons to carry out strikes on the Russian territory, warning that if it happens the Russian military could retaliate by hitting government structures in Kyiv.

It directly points at UK Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey, who told Times Radio that it was “not necessarily a problem” if British-donated weapons were used to hit sites on Russian soil.

The ministry says in a statement that “the Russian armed forces are ready to deal retaliatory strikes with long-range precision-guided weapons on Kyiv centers that would make such decisions.” It notes that “the presence of citizens of one of Western countries in the Ukrainian decision-making centers won’t necessarily pose a problem for Russia in making a decision to launch retaliatory action.”

The Russian military so far has avoided striking presidential, government and military headquarters in Kyiv during its campaign in Ukraine that has entered a third month.

Bennett on letter sent to family: Political disputes shouldn’t lead to violence, threats

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leads a cabinet meeting at this office in Jerusalem, on April 10, 2022. (Ohad Zwigenberg/Pool/Flash90)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leads a cabinet meeting at this office in Jerusalem, on April 10, 2022. (Ohad Zwigenberg/Pool/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett issues his own response to an allegedly threatening letter sent to his family, saying any political disputes shouldn’t rise to the level of “violence, bullying or death threats.”

“I’m the prime minister and a political figure, but I’m also a husband and father and it’s my duty to protect my wife and children,” Bennett says in a statement. “We must lower the temperature on the political discourse.”

Police have not specified any suspected motive behind the letter and details of the case have been placed under a strict gag order.

“On the eve of the remembrance days and Independence Day, I call on everyone — from all sides of the political spectrum, in particular those active on social media — this is the time for calm and reconciliation,” the premier adds.

Security to be boosted around Bennett’s family after threatening letter sent

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office says security has been boosted around the premier’s family after a letter allegedly containing death threats and a bullet were sent to them.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office says the decision was made by security officials in the ministry.

Erdogan to visit Riyadh for first trip since Khashoggi killed in Istanbul consulate

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, prior to their meeting in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, on July, 23, 2017. (Presidency Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, prior to their meeting in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, on July, 23, 2017. (Presidency Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)

ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will fly to Saudi Arabia on Thursday, an official tells AFP, in his first visit since Riyadh critic Jamal Khashoggi’s killing in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate in 2018.

The two-day trip comes after an Istanbul court this month ruled to halt the trial in absentia of 26 Saudi suspects linked to the gruesome killing, transferring the case to Saudi Arabia.

The 59-year-old journalist was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, in a grisly murder that shocked the world.

Turkey infuriated Riyadh by pressing ahead with an investigation into the murder, which Erdogan said was ordered at the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.

Ties between the two Sunni regional powers sharply deteriorated and Saudi Arabia unofficially tried to put pressure on Turkey’s economy and boycott key Turkish imports.

The Istanbul trial was suspended during a new spell of economic turmoil in Turkey, which has suffered from soaring inflation and a spell of winter street protests that hurt Erdogan’s popularity ahead of a general election next year.

Turkey is now drumming up financial support from energy-rich Gulf countries with which it has been at odds in the decade following the Arab Spring revolts.

Erdogan has already tried to improve ties with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which has agreed a new investment package for Turkey.

A Turkish official tells AFP that Erdogan isn’t expected to make any formal announcement during his trip to Riyadh.

Erdogan is due to meet Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, says the official, adding that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is likely to be in the delegation attending the talks.

Moldova urges calm, steps up security after blasts in Russia-backed breakaway region

Moldova's President Maia Sandu speaks during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at the Presidential Palace, in Chisinau, Moldova, on March 6, 2022. (Olivier Douliery/Pool Photo via AP)
Moldova's President Maia Sandu speaks during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at the Presidential Palace, in Chisinau, Moldova, on March 6, 2022. (Olivier Douliery/Pool Photo via AP)

CHISINAU, Moldova — Moldovan President Maia Sandu urges citizens to remain calm while she steps up security measures after a series of explosions in the breakaway Russia-backed region of Transnistria.

Sandu convenes the country’s Supreme Security Council today after blasts the past two days in the separatist region bordering Ukraine raised fears of a spillover from the conflict there.

Sandu says after a meeting of the Supreme Security Council: “We urge citizens to keep calm and feel safe.”

She condemns the explosions that hit Transnistria’s security ministry, a radio tower and a military unit, causing damage but no reported injuries.

“This is an attempt to escalate tensions. We decisively condemn such acts,” she says, attributing the explosions to “internal differences between various groups in Transnistria that have an interest in destabilizing the situation.”

Sandu says she hasn’t had direct contact with Transnistria’s leadership.

The Kremlin deploys troops in Transnistria and has expressed “concern” at the explosions, while Ukraine has accused Russia of trying to create unrest.

Sandu says the Supreme Security Council has recommended that state agencies step up patrols and vehicle checks near the buffer zone with Transnistria, as well as tightening public safety measures and security checks on critical infrastructure.

Police say letter with death threats, bullet sent to Bennett’s family

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett with his family, in the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 13, 2021. (Ariel Zandberg/Yamina)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett with his family, in the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 13, 2021. (Ariel Zandberg/Yamina)

Police say they are in possession of a letter addressed to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s family that included death threats and was sent with a bullet.

According to a police statement, the Lahav 433 unit and the Shin Bet security service have launched a joint investigation.

A gag order has been placed on publishing further details of the case.

In another suspected salmonella case, Jerusalem woman gets sick after eating chocolate

An illustrative photo showing chocolate bars made by Strauss Group. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
An illustrative photo showing chocolate bars made by Strauss Group. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

A woman in Jerusalem has been treated for salmonella symptoms after consuming chocolate, in another suspected salmonella case after food manufacturer Strauss announced a massive recall over contamination fears.

The woman, a 37-year-old Jerusalem resident who went to a health clinic in the city, said she ate large quantities of chocolate yesterday morning and began feeling sick overnight, according to Hebrew media reports.

She has since been released home after receiving antibiotics and fluids.

UN chief urges humanitarian corridors in Ukraine, probe into ‘possible war crimes’

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attends a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, on April 26, 2022. (Maxim Shipenkov/Pool/AFP)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attends a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, on April 26, 2022. (Maxim Shipenkov/Pool/AFP)

MOSCOW — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calls during a visit to Russia for Moscow and Kyiv to work together to set up aid and evacuation corridors in war-torn Ukraine.

“We urgently need humanitarian corridors that are truly safe and effective,” he says after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, also calling for an independent investigation into “possible war crimes” in Ukraine.

ADL reports record number of antisemitic incidents in US during 2021, surge amid Gaza fighting

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators assault Jews at a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles, on May 19, 2021. (Screen capture: Twitter)
Illustrative: Pro-Palestinian demonstrators assault Jews at a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles on May 19, 2021. (Screen capture: Twitter)

The number of antisemitic incidents recorded by the Anti-Defamation League in the United States in 2021 reached an all-time high, according to a new report by the group.

The 2,717 incidents identified in news articles by the ADL or reported to the ADL directly in 2021 represent a 34% increase from the 2,024 incidents of antisemitism tallied by the group in 2020. Previously, the 2,107 incidents in 2019 were the highest total since the ADL began publishing annual counts in 1979.

Anything from a slur to a terror attack can be included in the tally. For the second straight year, 2021 saw no fatal incidents tied to antisemitism in the United States, but the ADL counted 88 antisemitic assaults, a 167% increase from the 33 assaults in the 2020 count.

The group cited several reasons for the high numbers — including what the ADL says was “improved reporting” because of partnerships with multiple Jewish organizations.

The partnerships — with several Jewish organizations including the Community Security Initiative, Community Security Service, Hillel International, Secure Community Network, Union of Reform Judaism and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism — were responsible for identifying 494 incidents, or 18% of the total.

The ADL also documented a surge in incidents linked to the May 2021 round of deadly clashes between Israel and Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group, many of which made national headlines at the time.

“Jews were being attacked in the streets for no other reason than the fact that they were Jewish, and it seemed as if the working assumption was that if you were Jewish, you were blameworthy for what was happening half a world away,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt says in a statement.

The 297 incidents that took place during the fighting in May represent an increase, but the ADL recorded other spikes later in the year, without a similar trigger.

More than any single factor, Greenblatt says the overall increase in antisemitic incidents can be linked to political instability and polarization.

IAEA chief warns of ‘abnormal’ radiation levels during visit to Chernobyl

Russian trenches and firing positions in the highly radioactive Red Forest stuffed with radioactive remnants near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, on April 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Russian trenches and firing positions in the highly radioactive Red Forest stuffed with radioactive remnants near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, on April 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

CHERNOBYL, Ukraine — The level of radiation at the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site is “abnormal,” rising after Russian forces took over the area, the UN atomic watchdog’s chief says while visiting today.

“The radiation level, I would say, is abnormal. There have been some moments when the levels have gone up because of the movement of the heavy equipment that Russian forces were bringing here and when they left. We are following that day by day,” International Atomic Energy Agency director Rafael Grossi says.

Qalansawe woman critically hurt in shooting outside her home dies of wounds

Police at the scene of a deadly shooting in Qalansawe, on April 23, 2022. (Courtesy)
Police at the scene of a deadly shooting in Qalansawe, on April 23, 2022. (Courtesy)

A 33-year-old woman critically injured in a shooting outside her home in the central Arab town of Qalansawe over the weekend has died of her wounds, the hospital where she is being treated says.

“We share in the family’s sorrow,” a statement from Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba says.

According to the Abraham Initiatives, 27 Arabs have been killed in homicides in Israel since the start of the year, after a record number were killed in violence and crime in 2021.

Turkey’s Erdogan speaks with Putin, urges direct talks with Zelensky

Russia's President Vladimir Putin, right, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands after a joint news conference following six-hour talks in the Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia, on March 5, 2020. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin, right, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands after a joint news conference following six-hour talks in the Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia, on March 5, 2020. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)

ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to agree to direct talks with his Ukrainian counterpart.

The call comes in the wake of Turkish diplomatic efforts to defuse the crisis over Russia’s war in Ukraine, including by hosting Ukrainian and Russian negotiators for talks in Istanbul late last month.

The Turkish presidency says in a statement today that Erdogan proposed taking the “Istanbul process to the level of leaders, a crucial threshold in the Russia-Ukraine negotiations.” It sought to continue the “positive progress of the Istanbul talks” toward peace.

Talks stalled after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russian troops of committing war crimes. Putin later said peace efforts were at a dead end.

Ankara, which maintains close ties to both Kyiv and Moscow, has presented itself as a neutral broker in a bid to end the fighting.

Senior Defense Ministry official attending US-led talks on supplying arms to Ukraine

In this image provided by the US Air Force, Airmen and civilians from the 436th Aerial Port Squadron palletize ammunition, weapons and other equipment bound for Ukraine during a foreign military sales mission at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, on January 21, 2022. (Mauricio Campino/US Air Force via AP)
In this image provided by the US Air Force, Airmen and civilians from the 436th Aerial Port Squadron palletize ammunition, weapons and other equipment bound for Ukraine during a foreign military sales mission at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, on January 21, 2022. (Mauricio Campino/US Air Force via AP)

Israel is among the 40 countries attending a meeting of US allies at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on supplying further weapons to Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion of the country.

The Jewish state is being represented at the emergency talks by Brig. Gen. (Res.) Dror Shalom, head of the Defense Ministry’s Political-Military Bureau.

Report: Spanish intel had court approval to use Israeli spyware on Catalan separatists

This studio photographic illustration shows a smartphone with the website of Israel's NSO Group which features 'Pegasus' spyware, on display in Paris, on July 21, 2021. (Joel Saget/AFP)
This studio photographic illustration shows a smartphone with the website of Israel's NSO Group which features 'Pegasus' spyware, on display in Paris, on July 21, 2021. (Joel Saget/AFP)

MARID — Spain’s intelligence service CNI had court approval to spy on Catalan separatist figures, the El Pais newspaper reports citing sources close to the agency.

The spying targeted selected individuals and was not “massive” as alleged, according to the unnamed sources cited by the paper.

Canada’s Citizen Lab group said yesterday at least 65 people linked to the Catalan separatist movement had been targets of Pegasus spyware after a failed independence bid in 2017.

Elected officials, including current and former Catalan regional leaders, were among those targeted by the controversial spyware made by Israel’s NSO group.

Pegasus infiltrates mobile phones to extract data or activates a camera or microphone to spy on their owners.

Citizen Lab, which focuses on high-tech human rights abuses, said it could not directly attribute the spying operations, but that circumstantial evidence pointed to Spanish authorities.

But the intelligence service sources cited by El Pais say the number of Catalan separatists who were spied on was “much lower” than Citizen Lab’s figure, and the CNI “always acted under the control of the courts.”

Contacted by AFP, the CNI wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Spain’s central government on Sunday said it would launch inquiries. The government has not denied nor confirmed whether it uses Pegasus or similar spyware, saying only that any surveillance is carried out under the supervision of judges.

Probe said opened into officer filmed hitting woman with baton on Temple Mount

The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department has opened a probe into an officer filmed striking a woman with a baton during recent clashes on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

The launch of the probe comes after the woman, who Kan identifies as photographer Alaa As-Sus, filed a complaint to the Police Internal Investigations Department.

The incident occurred during rioting at the Temple Mount on April 15, which was followed by days of smaller-scale clashes between Palestinians and police at the Jerusalem holy site.

US meets with allies on upping arms shipments to Ukraine

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Top US officials are hosting emergency talks with allies in Germany on supplying Kyiv with more weapons to fend off Russia’s assault, as the UN’s chief headed to Moscow in a bid to avert further escalation of the conflict.

Today’s meeting of 40 countries at the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany comes after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Ukraine of only “pretending” to negotiate a ceasefire and warned of a “real” risk of a new world war.

Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor, now in its eighth week, has triggered widespread outrage among Western nations who have provided weapons and other assistance to Ukraine’s embattled president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

But the Western powers have been reluctant to deepen their direct involvement, wary of drawing Moscow’s ire and sparking military confrontations beyond Ukraine’s borders.

“We believe that they can win if they have the right equipment, the right support,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said following his visit to Kyiv on Sunday with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The two officials promised $700 million in new aid to Ukraine, after months of pleas by Zelensky for heavier firepower.

And Germany said it would begin supplying anti-aircraft tanks, a clear shift after refusing for weeks to provide more advanced equipment, and a sign that Berlin was abandoning its cautious approach towards Moscow.

In Moscow, UN chief calls for immediate ceasefire in Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, welcomes UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the talks in Moscow, Russia, on April 26, 2022. (Maxim Shipenkov/Pool Photo via AP)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, welcomes UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the talks in Moscow, Russia, on April 26, 2022. (Maxim Shipenkov/Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW — UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called for a ceasefire in Ukraine at his meeting today with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Guterres is visiting Moscow and is then scheduled to visit the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, this week.

“We are extremely interested in finding ways in order to create the conditions for effective dialog, create the conditions for a cease-fire as soon as possible, create the conditions for a peaceful solution,” Guterres says, speaking in televised comments at the start of the meeting.

Guterres also says he wants to reduce the impact of fighting in Ukraine on food security in other parts of the world. Lavrov says they will discuss “the situation around Ukraine that acts as a catalyst for a great number of problems which had piled up over recent decades in the Euro-Atlantic region.”

State-owned pipeline fined NIS 1.6 million over 2011 leaks in Zin stream

The Zin stream in southern Israel at sunset, on June 23, 2017. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
The Zin stream in southern Israel at sunset, on June 23, 2017. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

The Beersheba Magistrate’s Court fines the Europe Asia Pipeline Company NIS 1.6 million (around $486,000) for polluting the Zin stream in southern Israel on a pair of separate occasions in 2011.

The court also fines a number of former senior officials at the state-owned firm, formerly known as the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline company, including former EAPC director-general Yair Vida, who is ordered to pay NIS 75,000 (over $22,00).

In February, the court convicted EAPC and the former officials over the pollution to the Zin stream, which was badly damaged by the leaks. The stream is a seasonal river that runs 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the Ramon Crater to the Sodom plain, then into the southern end of the Dead Sea.

The company has also been indicted over a 2014 oil spill — called the worst spill in Israel’s history — that caused massive damage to a nature reserve in the south.

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