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Israeli data shows 4th vaccine dose improves COVID protection for older people

Additional vaccination shot helps protect against severe disease for individuals over 60, gives limited defense against infection, new research says

An Israeli man receives a second booster of the COVID-19 vaccine in Modi'in, on January 6, 2022. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
An Israeli man receives a second booster of the COVID-19 vaccine in Modi'in, on January 6, 2022. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

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

4th vaccine dose protects against severe COVID in people over 60, Israeli data shows

A health worker prepares to give a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a Clalit Health Services center in Katzrin, Golan Heights, January 9, 2022. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)
A health worker prepares to give a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a Clalit Health Services center in Katzrin, Golan Heights, January 9, 2022. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

A study based on Israeli data shows that a fourth COVID vaccine dose improves protection against severe disease for people over 60 by a factor of three.

The study is based on data from earlier this year from over 1 million Israelis who were eligible for the vaccine dose, the Government Press Office says.

The fourth shot gave some protection against infection, but that effect waned over time.

The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Police detain 6 during 4th night in a row of clashes at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate

Police say six Palestinians have been detained during clashes at the Damascus Gate entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City, as Palestinians gather to celebrate Ramadan.

Police say the suspects hurled stones and other items and launched fireworks at officers. It is the fourth night in a row of clashes at Damascus Gate.

Separately, police say officers dispersed a mass brawl that broke out in the area. No injuries were reported.

“Whoever chooses to disturb the order, riot, and engage in violence of any kind, harms first and foremost the large public of worshipers, merchants, and visitors, the vast majority of whom wished to celebrate Ramadan in peace and security, while maintaining freedom of worship,” police say in a statement.

“We will not allow those inciting and violent margins [of society] to disrupt order. We call on the public to mark the month of Ramadan legally, obey police instructions, and avoid violence and disturbances of any kind,” the statement adds.

Russia’s Lavrov says claims of Bucha killings aim to ‘torpedo’ Ukraine talks

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the discovery of bodies in the Ukrainian town of Bucha is a “provocation” aimed at scuppering talks between Moscow and Kyiv.

“A question arises: What purpose does this blatantly untruthful provocation serve? We are led to believe it is to find a pretext to torpedo the ongoing negotiations,” Lavrov says in a video message broadcast on Russian television.

Ukraine has proposed an international agreement with other countries guaranteeing its security in return for accepting a neutral and non-nuclear status, not joining NATO, and refusing to host foreign military bases.

According to the Ukrainian proposal, Russia would not oppose Kyiv’s admission to the European Union.

Lavrov says the situation in Bucha aims to “distract attention from the negotiation process, distract attention from the fact that the Ukrainian party… has started to row back, tried to put forward new conditions.”

But he adds that Russia is “ready” to continue the talks.

Journalists stand by a mass grave in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 4, 2022. Russia is facing a fresh wave of condemnation after evidence emerged of what appeared to be deliberate killings of civilians in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Gantz speaks with Mahmoud Abbas, thanks him for condemning Bnei Brak terror attack

Left: Defense Minister Benny Gantz. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File); Right: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool, File)
Left: Defense Minister Benny Gantz. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File); Right: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool, File)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

According to Gantz’s office, the defense minister sent his best wishes for Ramadan to Abbas and the Palestinian public, and expressed his desire for the holidays — both Ramadan and Passover, to be a time of peace and tranquility, and not terror.

A string of deadly terrorist attacks in recent weeks has shaken Israelis, and officials fear tensions could rise further during both Ramadan and Passover.

Gantz thanks Abbas for condemning the recent terrorist attack in Bnei Brak which killed five people, and tells him of Israeli plans to ease certain restrictions on Palestinians during Ramadan “as much as the stability of the security situation will allow.”

In December, Gantz hosted Abbas at his home in Rosh Ha’ayin, the first time the Palestinian leader sat down with a senior Israeli official in more than a decade.

Jordan accused of using NSO’s Pegasus to spy on activists

Digital-rights researchers have concluded that the mobile phones of four Jordanian human rights activists were hacked over a two-year period with software made by the Israeli spyware company NSO Group.

The findings by Front Line Defenders and Citizen Lab say at least some of the hackings appear to have been carried out by the Jordanian government. It was the latest in a series of reports linking NSO’s Pegasus spyware software to abuses by authoritarian governments.

Jordan denies the allegations. NSO has no comment on the findings, but says the monitoring of political activists by any client would amount to a “severe misuse” of its product. Both the company and the Israeli government have faced repeated criticism over their oversight practices.

The report identifies the activists as Ahmed al-Neimat, an anti-corruption activist who it said has been banned by Jordan from working or leaving the country; human rights lawyer Malik Abu Orabi; and Suhair Jaradat, a female journalist and human rights activist. It said another female human rights activist and journalist was targeted, but asked to remain anonymous due to security concerns.

A person holding a phone with the NSO logo in the background, in Jerusalem, on February 7, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

It says at least two of the targets appeared to have been hacked by operators “primarily focused on Jordan.” It says it identified two operators that were “likely agencies of the Jordanian government.”

Earlier this year, Frontline Defenders said another female Jordan activist, Hala Ahed Deeb, had also been hacked by NSO software.

UK’s Johnson tells Russians — in Russian — they are being lied to

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has released a video address Tuesday in which he speaks directly to the Russian people, telling them they “deserve the truth” about the invasion of Ukraine.

“The Russian people deserve the truth, you deserve the facts,” Johnson says, speaking in Russian, at the outset of the nearly two-minute address before reverting to English.

The British leader says reports emerging from Ukraine of atrocities allegedly perpetrated by Russian forces were “so shocking, so sickening, it’s no wonder your government is seeking to hide them from you.”

“Your president knows that if you could see what was happening, you would not support his war,” Johnson adds, referring to Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin.

He ends the video — posted on Twitter and other UK government social media channels — by again speaking in Russian, saying Putin “stands accused of committing war crimes.”

Defense Ministry eases up on Palestinians for Ramadan

The Defense Ministry announces that some restrictions on Palestinian movement will be loosened for the Ramadan holy month, after a recent wave of terror attacks briefly raised the prospect the gesture could be canceled.

Under the newly issued Ramadan rules, Palestinian women from the West Bank will be allowed to enter Israel without a permit for Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa holy site, says the Defense Ministry’s liaison to the Palestinians, widely known by its acronym COGAT.

Palestinian men over 50 and under 12 will be allowed to enter freely for prayers as well, while those between the ages of 40 and 49 will be able to head to al-Aqsa if they already have a permit.

Around 5,000 Palestinians with first-degree relatives in Israel will also be given permits to visit them between Sunday and Thursday, according to COGAT.

The rules will apply for the next week, after which security officials will meet again to discuss potentially expanding the permit quotas, COGAT says.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz had previously said that the recent terror wave, which left 11 dead, placed the decision to ease restrictions at risk.

US says it tested hypersonic missile, kept it mum to not antagonize Russia

The US military says it conducted a new test of a hypersonic missile, as Pentagon officials seek to match or get ahead of China’s and Russia’s advances in the cutting-edge strategic weapons technology.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency says it recently completed a free-flight test of an aircraft-launched hypersonic missile that maintained a speed of more than Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound (at least 3,800 miles per hour, or 6,100 kilometers per hour).

The missile flew to greater than 65,000 feet (189,812 meters) and soared over 300 nautical miles, says DARPA.

Artist’s concept of Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapons Concept (HAWC) vehicle. (DARPA)

It was the second test under the agency’s HAWC Program — named for hypersonic air-breathing weapon concept — and the missile had a different configuration from the first, which was tested last September.

According to CNN, the newest test took place in mid-March but was kept quiet to avoid appearing to escalate the geopolitical tensions surrounding the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Bennett speaks to Bahrain crown prince

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has spoken by phone to Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa to extend Ramadan greetings to him and his island nation, Bahrain’s state mouthpiece says.

The two also discuss ways to expand bilateral ties, according to the state-run Bahrain News Agency. The call was initiated by Bennett, it says.

There is no readout of the call from the Israeli side.

 

Former air force chief says Lebanon air superiority damaged

Outgoing air force chief Amiram Norkin tells the Kan broadcaster that Israel no longer has unfettered air superiority in Lebanon’s skies.

The channel reports that after a drone was nearly shot down by an anti-aircraft missile over Lebanon about a year ago, officials decided to reduce the number of surveillance flights over its northern neighbor, harming its intelligence gathering capabilities.

The report would seem to confirm a boast by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in February that Israeli drone flights over Lebanon have been “greatly reduced” due to Hezbollah’s improved air defenses.

Nasrallah threatened to begin shooting down drones in 2019, after two drones exploded in southern Beirut, in an attack blamed on Israel.

Asked if the air force is ready to attack Iran, amid criticism that the army is unprepared, he says Tehran only returned to the top of the military’s agenda after the US pulled out of the nuclear deal in 2018.

“We need to coordinate our plans to the enemies preparations,” he says. “We need to present what we can do, not only in Iran, in 2022, 2023 and on. But we also need to stand by what we cannot do, because the air force head has a huge responsibility, and based on what answers they give, decisions are made by the leadership. So I only give accurate, reliable answers about what we can do.”

The channel says a longer version of the interview will be aired Thursday.

Immigration minister to visit Ukraine-Poland border

Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata will travel to the Ukrainian-Polish border tonight to meet with the Israeli officials processing Ukrainian refugees’ immigration requests, her office says.

Tamano-Shata will be the second Israeli minister to visit Ukraine since Russia invaded the country in late February, after Health Minister Nitzan Horovitz traveled to the country last week to visit an Israeli field hospital that was set up in western Ukraine.

A Ukrainian flag hangs at a schoolhouse that has been converted into a field hospital, in Mostyska, western Ukraine, on March 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

The minister will spend most of her time in towns on Ukraine’s border with Poland, where masses of refugees are being sheltered. During the visit, she will meet with a number of officials from Israeli and Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Agency, which processes immigration requests, the United Israel Appeal, which has funded many of the flights taking immigrants to Israel, and Nativ, a governmental organization that reviews the eligibility of potential immigrants.

Tamano-Shata will also meet with a number of Ukrainian refugees waiting to immigrate to Israel. In addition, she is slated to visit the Israeli field hospital in Ukraine.

Thousands of Ukrainians have immigrated to Israel since Russia launched its offensive on February 24, with dozens or hundreds arriving each day. Tens of thousands more are expected to arrive in the coming weeks and months.

“This is a complicated emergency situation that requires us to ensure that at every stop on their way home, the new immigrants receive fast, sensitive and embracing treatment from our troops in the field who are working under difficult conditions in a time of war,” Tamano-Shata says before boarding her flight.

US developing hypersonic missile with UK, Australia

The United States, United Kingdom, and Australia plan to work together via the recently created security alliance known as AUKUS to develop hypersonic missiles, according to a Biden administration official. An announcement could come as soon as Tuesday.

The US, Russia, and China have all looked to further develop hypersonic missiles — a system so fast that it cannot be intercepted by any current missile defense system.

In October, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed that China had conducted a test of a hypersonic weapon system as part of its aggressive effort to advance in space and military technologies.

Milley described the Chinese test as a “very significant event of a test of a hypersonic weapon system, and it is very concerning,” in a Bloomberg Television interview.

Russia has used hypersonic missiles “multiple” times in Ukraine, according to the top US commander in Europe.

Lapid’s turn against Russia planned with Bennett — report

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s decision to explicitly accuse Russia of war crimes was coordinated with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the Walla news site reports, citing a senior Israeli diplomat.

The official says the decision came in response to growing horror as images emerge of dead civilians in Kyiv suburb Bucha and other locations, and to bring Israel in line with other Western nations, which have also accused Russia of war crimes.

“It was the right thing to do ethically and diplomatically,” the source is quoted saying.

Israeli officials had defended the decision to avoid blaming Russia in the past as diplomatically expedient, given Israel’s dependence on Russia not intervening in its air campaign against Syria.

It’s unclear if the statement marks a policy shift that could see Israel fully back Ukraine, or a one-off reaction.

UN sees video of corpses on streets; Russia claims atrocities staged

At the UN Security Council, members are shown a video showing corpses in the streets of several cities around the country, as well as mass graves.

Russia’s ambassador Vasily Nebenzya tells the council that atrocities in Ukraine were “not confirmed” by witnesses, and claims that Ukrainians who left for Russia did so of their own free will and were not kidnapped.

Photos from the war in Ukraine are shown on a screen as President Volodymyr Zelensky, of Ukraine, addresses a meeting of the United Nations Security Council in New York City, on April 5, 2022. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP)

He says images of corpses are “staged events with Ukrainian civilians killed by their own radicals in the best tradition of Goebbels.”

Pope to visit Lebanon in June

Pope Francis will visit Lebanon in June, the president’s office says, in an apparent show of support for the country experiencing an unprecedented economic meltdown.

Pope Francis has held special prayers for Lebanon and has repeatedly said he plans to visit the small country since the economic meltdown began in October 2019.

It will be the first visit by a Pope to the Mediterranean nation since 2012, when Pope Benedict XVI paid a three-day visit to Lebanon.

Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Lebanon on Friday, Sept. 14 (photo credit: AP/Riccardo De Luca)
Pope Benedict XVI arriving in Lebanon, on Friday, September 14, 2012. (AP/Riccardo De Luca)

Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s office says he received the Vatican’s ambassador to Lebanon who informed him that Pope Francis will visit in June and the exact date and schedule would be decided later.

“The Lebanese have been waiting for this visit for a long time to express their gratitude to the Pope for his stance toward Lebanon and its people,” Aoun is quoted as saying.

Pope Francis kisses a figurine of baby Jesus during a mass on Christmas eve at St Peter’s basilica in the Vatican, on December 24, 2019. (Alberto PIZZOLI AFP)

Pope Francis insisted last year that Lebanon must remain a “land of tolerance and pluralism” as he welcomed the country’s Christian patriarchs to the Vatican to pray for an end to the economic and political crisis that has thrown the country into chaos and threatened its Christian community.

Lebanon has the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East and is the only Arab country with a Christian head of state. Christians make up a third of the population. The Vatican fears the country’s collapse is particularly dangerous for the continued presence of its Christian community, a bulwark for the church in the Mideast.

Slovak far-right leader guilty of neo-Nazi sympathy, but jailing overturned

An appeals court in Slovakia has dismissed a lower court ruling that convicted the leader of a far-right party for the illegal use of neo-Nazi symbols.

But the country’s Supreme Court still finds Marian Kotleba guilty of sympathizing with neo-Nazism and gives him a six-month suspended sentence.

Kotleba will lose his parliament seat with the ruling.

In this file photo taken on March 11, 2016, the leader of the right nationalist LS-Nase Slovensko (Our Slovakia) party Marian Kotleba speaks with journalists before party delegates were intoduced to the parliament in Bratislava. (AFP/Vladimir Simicek)

Kotleba, head of the far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia, stood trial after he presented three families with checks for 1,488 euros ($1,633) on March 14, 2017, on the anniversary of the Slovak wartime state’s establishment in 1939.

The number 1,488 has a symbolic meaning for neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

Kotleba appealed an October 2020 ruling by the Specialized Criminal Court in Pezinok, which sentenced him to four years and four months in prison.

The ruling by the country’s Supreme Court is final.

The People’s Party Our Slovakia, whose members use Nazi salutes and want Slovakia out of the European Union and NATO, was the fourth-most popular party in the country in the 2020 parliamentary election with 8% support.

Lapid accuses Russia of war crimes in Ukraine

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Cyprus, on April 5, 2022. (Asi Efrati/GPO)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Cyprus, on April 5, 2022. (Asi Efrati/GPO)

In Cyprus, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid accuses Russia of war crimes for the first time, breaking with a policy that had sought to avoid explicitly blaming Russia.

“A large and powerful country has invaded a smaller neighbor without any justification. Once again, the ground is soaked with the blood of innocent civilians,” Lapid charges alongside his Cypriot and Greek counterparts, according to a statement from his spokesman.

The spokesman calls Lapid’s comments a joint statement with Cyprus and Greece, though it’s unclear if Athens and Nicosia jointly authored or backed the comments.

“The images and testimony from Ukraine are horrific. Russian forces committed war crimes against a defenseless civilian population. I strongly condemn these war crimes,” Lapid says.

He touts the international coalition backing Ukraine, which Israel has kept some distance from.

Lapid says the war in Ukraine offers opportunities for new energy partnerships. Israel, Greece, and Cyprus had worked on a joint project to bring gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe, but the pipeline scheme had fallen by the wayside in recent months as Jerusalem tightened ties with Ankara.

“The war in Ukraine stands to change the structure of the European and Middle Eastern energy market,” he says. “There are risks here, but there are also opportunities which we must examine together.”

 

Ukraine president says new type of UN Security Council needed

Zelensky tells the Security Council that a new paradigm is needed, and proposes a conference in Kyiv to create a new kind of UN that can respond “preemptively to security challenges.”

“It is now clear that the goals set in San Francisco in 1945 have not been achieved and it is impossible to achieve them without reforms,” he says, referring to the UN’s founding after World War II.

The new system would treat all countries fairly, regardless of economic strength, he says, seemingly knocking the Security Council’s veto system, which gives five countries power over everyone else.

He also proposes removing Russia from the Security Council.

 

Zelensky chides UN for failing to act to stop atrocities

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Russian troops are guilty of the worst crimes since World War II.

“The massacre in our city of Bucha is unfortunately only an example of what the occupiers have been doing in our land for 41 days,” he tells the UN Security Council, predicting that atrocities will be uncovered in other places as well.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the UN Security Council on April 5, 2022. (screen capture: UNTV)

He says Russia feels like it can get away with anything, and urges the international community to make an example of Russia by acting against it.

Russia is a colonizer, invading Ukraine for its wealth and to turn its people into slaves, he charges.

He returns to chiding the UN for its inability to act against atrocities, not only in Ukraine, and uphold its charter.

“The UN can just be closed. Is international law gone? If the answer is no, then you must act immediately.”

Zelensky describes atrocities to UN Security Council

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the UN Security Council, recounting in graphic detail how civilians have been killed by Russian forces.

“Civilians were crushed by Russian tanks in the middle of the road, just for their pleasure. Their limbs were cut, women were raped, their tongues were cut out if their captors didn’t hear what they wanted.”

He compares the actions to Islamic State, and says Russia “enflames wars and deliberately leads them in such a way to kill as many regular civilians and cities, to leave the country where they deploy their troops in ruins and filled with mass graves. You all see that.

“Where is the security the Security Council is supposed to secure? It’s not there,” he adds, noting the body’s inability to act.

 

Security cabinet to meet on Ramadan unrest

Israel’s security cabinet will meet on Sunday to discuss rising tensions and fears of violence during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Kan news reports.

The meeting will be the second in under two weeks, after the cabinet had not met for months.

Earlier, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told reporters that security forces had foiled 15 attacks in recent weeks.

There have been near nightly riots in Jerusalem since the holiday began, which came after a week that saw a string of terror attacks that killed 11 people.

Yesterday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz accused Foreign Minister Yair Lapid of provoking unrest after he visited Damascus Gate, where riots took place.

UN Security Council meeting on Bucha opens ahead of Zelensky address

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is set to address the UN Security Council about atrocities in Bucha.

The Security Council session opens with Undersecretary General Rosemary DiCarlo recounting testimony of mass killings and other atrocities near Kyiv.

She says 1,480 civilians have been killed in the war and says evidence points to Russia not adhering to rules of war.

Zelensky is expected to push for more powerful weaponry, some of which the West has been reluctant to give, in his speech to the Security Council.

Russia’s veto guarantees the body will take no action, and it was unclear whether its representatives would even remain in the chamber for the video address.

Russia has rejected allegations of atrocities, with officials repeatedly saying without evidence that the scenes were faked. Moscow says it will speak about Bucha at the UN on Tuesday, indicating its representatives will attend at least part of the meeting.

Kharkiv zoo to put down lions, bears after cages destroyed by shelling

The owner of a zoo in Kharkiv, Ukraine, says he will be forced to euthanize lions, tigers and bears there tonight after the facility was devastated by Russian shelling, the Kharkiv Times reports.

“The enclosures have been destroyed, the entire infrastructure has been destroyed,” Feldman Ecopark owner Alexander Feldman says.

He says the animals who survived can escape at any time, and so must be put down, though he holds out hope some adolescent big cats may be saved and transported elsewhere.

According to the outlet, two workers who came to feed animals at the Ecopark last month were killed in Russian attacks.

Blinken: Bucha atrocities a ‘deliberate campaign’ of death by Russia

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accuses Russia of a “deliberate campaign to kill, to torture, to rape” in Bucha, Ukraine. The comments are among the strongest yet from the West after pictures of mass graves and streets strewn with dead civilians emerged from suburbs around Kyiv after Russian forces retreated.

He says atrocities there were “not the random acts of a rogue unit.”

He adds that allies are determined to make sure those responsible are brought to justice and to increase pressure on Russia while backing Ukraine.

He makes the comments in Maryland before boarding a plane to Brussels for a NATO meeting.

Macron calls for ‘clarity’ in Jewish man’s death after antisemitism allegations

French president Emmanuel Macron is expressing solidarity with the family of a Jewish man killed in February, but does not back claims that the death was motivated by antisemitism.

Jeremy Cohen was run over by a tram after fleeing attackers.

“We have all been devastated by the scenes that have been made public and I want to express my solidarity and my support for the family of Jeremy Cohen,” Macron tells reporters on a pre-election visit to Brittany.

He calls for “complete clarity” over what happened while urging that Cohen’s death does not become the subject of “political manipulations.”

Cohen’s death has seeped into France’s presidential election this week after Jewish candidate Eric Zemmour tweeted about it.

A member of Macron’s office has also spoken to the victim’s father, Gerald Cohen, who has alleged that prosecutors were slow to take up the case and properly investigate the death.

Cohen’s father, Gerald, told the TMPM show on Canal+ on Monday night that his children had had to put up posters themselves appealing for witnesses.

They tracked down a video showing Cohen being punched and then pursued by a gang of around 10 people, which has since gone viral on social media.

“We didn’t understand what was happening because we had confidence in the justice system,” Gerald Cohen said. “We didn’t understand why we had to collect the evidence, why we had to do all this.”

Sole Israeli reporter in Bucha dismisses caterwauling over pink coat

Hadas Grinberg, the only Israeli reporter to report from Bucha, Ukraine, this week, has become the center of a mini media tempest around her reporting.

Grinberg wins plaudits for her brave reporting from the war zone, even after almost all other Israeli reporters have returned home from Ukraine. On Sunday, the Kan reporter stood in front of a mass grave uncovered near the Kyiv suburb, telling Israelis in Hebrew of the atrocities she saw with her own eyes.

But she is also being criticized for her reporting style, which focused on what she had seen and seemed to place herself at the center of the story, as well as for her fashion choices, including a bright pink fur-lined coat she wore while reporting.

In ToI sister site Zman Yisrael, Amir Ben David compares her reporting to an Instagram Story. “Like in every Story, Grinberg chose to place herself at the center. She even managed to change outfits between shooting sites — a windbreaker on the ‘highway of death,’ a jacket the color of Bazooka gum with fur lining next to a mass grave in Bucha, a white jacket while speaking to the studio,” he writes.

Responding to the criticism, Grinberg defends her jacket choice.

“When it’s cold out and your warmest jacket is pink with a fur hood, you wear the pink jacket with the fur hood,” she tells Kan radio. “I’m walking between bodies and see the most shocking scenes I’ve ever seen, so someone writes about my coat.”

EU leadership backs ban on Russian coal imports, silent on gas

The European Union’s executive branch has proposed a ban on coal imports from Russia in what would be the first sanctions targeting the country’s lucrative energy industry over its war in Ukraine.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says the EU needs to increase the pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin after what she described as the “heinous crimes” carried out around Kyiv.

Von der Leyen says the ban on coal imports is worth 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) per year. She adds that the EU has already started working on additional sanctions, including on oil imports.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, left, and European Commissioner for Promoting the European Way of Life Margaritis Schinas speak ahead of a meeting of the commission at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, on April 5, 2022. (Ronald WITTEK / POOL / AFP)

Von der Leyen doesn’t mention natural gas. A consensus among the 27 EU member countries on targeting gas that’s used to generate electricity and heat homes would be more difficult to secure.

The EU gets about 40% of its natural gas from Russia and many EU countries, including Germany — the bloc’s largest economy — are opposed to cutting off gas imports.

Teresa Ribera, Spain’s Minister for Ecological Transition, says it is “very hard” for the EU to sanction Russian natural gas because some of the bloc’s countries are dependent on it for their energy supply and that the EU’s strength lies in its unity.

“It is very difficult to explain to European public opinion and Ukrainian society that we are still importing Russian energy that finances this war,” she says, adding that energy imports create “obvious moral tension.”

Russia planning to take all of Donbas, pave corridor to Crimea — NATO head

Russia plans to militarily take the “entire” Donbas region in eastern Ukraine with the aim of creating a corridor from Russia to annexed Crimea, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg says.

Russian forces are moving away from Kyiv to “regroup, re-arm and resupply and they shift their focus to the east,” he tells a media conference ahead of a Wednesday meeting of NATO foreign ministers.

“In the coming weeks, we expect a further Russian push in the eastern and southern Ukraine to try to take the entire Donbas and to create a land bridge to occupied Crimea,” he says.

Bennett condemns Bucha massacre, does not mention Russia

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett condemns the killing of civilians in Bucha, Ukraine, but pointedly, does not blame Russia or anyone else for the atrocities.

“We are shocked by the tough pictures out of Bucha, terrible scenes,” he says at an appearance at an army post in the West Bank, after being asked about what Ukraine and others have called a war crime.

“We condemn them with all force,” he says.

He adds there is “huge suffering” in Ukraine and notes that Israel set up a field hospital in western Ukraine, which “all Israelis should be proud of.”

Filber tells Netanyahu prosecutors he erased messages to free up phone

Prosecutors are continuing to grill former Communications Ministry head Shlomo Filber, a state witness now accused of changing his testimony in the trial of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Filber continues to insist that he is not contradicting his past statements, though he says part of what he told investigators was “analysis” of the situation.

He admits that messages on his phone were erased, but notes that “the phone was 96 percent full,” and says they included family and neighborhood groups and “all the people I spoke to endlessly.”

“But I didn’t erase any emails and didn’t hide any evidence,” he says.

He says he become a state witness after a “risk assessment.”

 

Gas prices to drop slightly after tax slashed

Some good news for once. Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman says the state will forgo half a shekel of taxes per liter of gasoline in order to bring down gas prices.

As of this month, Israelis are paying NIS 7.44 per liter ($8.76 per gallon) of unleaded gasoline, over half of which is taxes. The price is NIS 0.39 ($0.12) more than in March. With the price drop, Israelis will only pay a low low price of NIS 6.94 per liter ($8.20 per gallon).

Liberman says the change will be “immediate,” though Israeli fuel prices are only updated at the start of each month.

“We’re not hoarders in the Finance Ministry, we’re not squirreling money away; if there is the possibility of making things better and returning the money to the public, so we need to do that, and now we can return half a shekel of the tax on a liter of unleaded and a liter of diesel.”

Over 11 million displaced by Ukraine war, UN agency says

The UN migration agency now estimates that more than 11 million people have fled their homes in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion.

The International Organization for Migration, in its first such full assessment in three weeks, reports Tuesday that more than 7.1 million had been displaced within Ukraine as of April 1. That comes on top of the figure of more than 4 million who have fled abroad, reported by the UN refugee agency.

IOM says more than 2.9 million others are actively considering “leaving their place of habitual residence due to war.”

Ukraine had a pre-war population of 44 million.

The tally marks an increase from IOM’s tally in mid-March of more than 9.7 million displaced internally in Ukraine or driven abroad.

Moldova says it needs help dealing with refugee influx

The prime minister of Moldova says the poor Eastern European nation needs major international support to cope with the influx of people fleeing neighboring Ukraine.

Natalia Gavrilita tells a donor conference in Berlin that Moldova is hosting about 100,000 refugees from Ukraine, about a quarter of those who have entered since late February.

Refugees are waiting for buses to leave for Chisinau or other places, in the temporary train station near Palanca customs, Palanca, Moldova, March 8th, 2022. (Dan Gutu/European Union/AFP)

Gavrilita says Moldova, with a population of 2.5 million, has tried to provide refugees with decent conditions thanks to an “unprecedented mobilization” by the public and private sectors.

But she says “coping with this influx is one of the biggest challenges any Moldovan government has faced over the last three decades.”

She says that in addition to financial aid, Moldova also needs help building electricity interconnectors to Romania. She asked the European Union to open its market to agricultural imports from her country as it pivots away from Russia.

Red Cross says team freed, but hopes of entering Mariupol off table

An international Red Cross team has shelved for today hopes of entering the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol after being held overnight by police in a town about 20 kilometers (12 miles) to the west.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has been trying to get a small team into Mariupol since Friday as part of efforts to escort beleaguered civilians out and aid in, said the team held by police in Manhush was released overnight. It did not identify the nationality of the police involved, but Manhush is under Russian control.

The ICRC said in a statement that the team’s focus now is on the evacuation operation, and the “incident yesterday shows how volatile and complex the operation to facilitate safe passage around Mariupol has been for our team.”

Jason Straziuso, an ICRC spokesman, said the team was “not planning on trying to enter Mariupol today. Our team’s humanitarian efforts today are focused on helping the evacuation efforts in nearby areas.”

Israeli government asked to pressure Dubai over death sentence for Israeli woman

The lawyer of an Israeli woman sentenced to death in the United Arab Emirates for possessing half a kilogram of cocaine says she is pressing Israel’s government to put diplomatic pressure on the Gulf state over the case, noting other instances when the government has done so.

“The family contacted me yesterday and I am turning to Israeli authorities to use their abilities vis-a-vis the authorities in Dubai. The last prime minister brought on an Israeli plane [a woman] convicted in Russia and so the state has the ability to intervene,” attorney Tammy Ulman says to Kan, referring to Naama Issachar, an Israeli woman sentenced to jail for carrying a small amount of marijuana during a layover in Moscow. Former PM Benjamin Netanyahu used Issachar’s plight to showcase his diplomatic abilities to voters, even making an unscheduled stop in Moscow to bring her home on his plane, after the Israeli media turned her into a cause celebre.

Naama Issachar is greeted by Sara Netanyahu, while her mother Yaffa and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu look on, Moscow Airport, January 30, 2020. (Koby Gideon/GPO)

Fidaa Kiwan, a 43-year-old Haifa resident who owns a photography studio, reportedly came to Dubai for work at the invitation of a Palestinian acquaintance a year ago. She was arrested a short while later, on March 17, 2021, after a search of her apartment turned up the drugs, the Ynet news site reported. She has claimed that the drugs were not hers, and her local lawyer is expected to appeal the decision.

Fidaa Kiwan (Courtesy)

An unnamed friend speaking to Ynet also compares her case to Issachar’s.

“For Fidaa we haven’t heard any condemnation, there hasn’t been any help. They abandoned her until she got a death sentence,” the friend says.

Issachar’s family had also complained of little help from the government until it turned to the media.

The Foreign Ministry says that “the case is known and we are handling it through the consular service and our representatives in the Emirates.”

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