The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they happened.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken describes last week’s deadly drone attack on an Israeli-managed ship as part of a recent “series of actions” by Iran.
“So I’m not sure that this particular action is anything new or augurs anything one way or another for the new government,” he says, referring to the upcoming swearing-in of President-elect Ebrahim Raisi.
Blinked adds: “But what it does say is that Iran continues to act with tremendous irresponsibility when it comes to in this instance — threats to navigation, to commerce, to innocent sailors who are simply engaged in commercial transit in international waters.”
He also says he remains in touch with Israel, Britain in Romania and vows “there will be collective response.”
The military has launched flares over the border with Lebanon near the town of Ma’ayan Baruch, following possible suspicious movement in the area, the IDF says.
A military spokesperson tells The Times of Israel troops are searching the area.
IDF firing flares over the Lebanese border near Ghajar pic.twitter.com/diYzSFlDZV
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) August 2, 2021
The Housing Ministry is seeking to advance a controversial housing project in East Jerusalem in the weeks ahead of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s expected visit to Washington.
The ministry placed a 9,000 housing unit plan to expand the Atarot neighborhood on the agenda for a December meeting of the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee, the Walla news site reported today.
An official in Bennett’s Yamina party confirms to The Times of Israel the plan was indeed placed on the docket, but says the Prime Minister’s Office wasn’t notified in advance of the move.
Last week, a coalition source close to Bennett told The Times of Israel that the PMO was considering working to delay an upcoming verdict in the controversial Sheikh Jarrah eviction cases that were heard by the Supreme Court today due to concerns that a ruling against the Palestinian families my strain relations with the US ahead of Bennett’s trip.
The Atarot project would only receive initial planning approval if it remains on the agenda for December and still will require several subsequent authorizations before ground can be broken, but any advancement of the East Jerusalem plan stalled for several years due to international pressure would be significant.
An Israeli citizen from Umm al-Fahm is seriously wounded after being shot by Israeli troops near the security fence in the northern West Bank.
The military says the Arab Israeli man and another suspect were spotted by soldiers trying to cut through the fence from the Palestinian side when they were fired on. The other suspect was arrested.
Israeli officials are uncertain if and how forcefully to respond to a deadly drone attack on an Israeli-linked ship that has been blamed on Iran, according to Channel 12 news.
The indecision is reportedly due to concerns such a response could refocus attention on Israel, though the network says another consideration is that Israel has already created a dynamic in which it will respond to any attack.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has warned that serious COVID-19 cases could reach 1,600 by September if they continue to increase at the current rate, according to Channel 12 news.
“We need to say honestly, hope is not a policy. At the moment we are persevering with the strategy we adopted and make decisions in accordance with the measure of the total serious cases, hospitalizations, people on ventilators, ECMO and others,” Bennett is quoted as saying.
He reportedly adds: “We have our finger on the pulse all the time but it could be that we’ll need painful steps.”
The network also says the Health Ministry is expected to recommend imposing the following restrictions when the coronavirus cabinet meets tomorrow: further expanding use of the Green Pass, requiring masks at large outdoor events, restricting gatherings, and reducing the number of workers present at government offices by five percent.
The Health Ministry is planning to recommend the government expand the list of “high risk” countries from which travelers to Israel are allowed entry but required to quarantine for seven days, the Ynet newsite reports.
The list currently includes the UAE, Uganda, Seychelles, Guatemala, Honduras, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Liberia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Namibia, Fiji, Panama, Paraguay, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cambodia and Kenya.
Additionally, there are 14 countries from which travel to Israel — even for fully vaccinated Israelis — is banned: UK, Spain, Turkey, Russia, India, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and Cyprus.
A meeting of the ministerial committee tasked with leading the government’s COVID-19 pandemic response will convene tomorrow amid the continued rise in morbidity rates.
Likud MK Orly Levy-Abkassis defeats fellow Likud MK Keren Barak in a secret ballot to be the party’s nominee for the Judicial Appointments Committee.
The vote is seen as a blow to Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu as he had backed Barak.
Germany will start offering COVID booster shots to the elderly and those at-risk from September, the health ministry says, citing concerns over “a reduced or rapidly declining immune response” among some groups.
The booster shot — either Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna — will also be offered to anyone who received the two-dose Astrazeneca or single-dose Johnson & Johnson jabs, the health ministry says, “in the interests of preventative healthcare.”
The announcement by Germany comes after Israel began administering booster shots to the elderly last week, making it the first country to do so. Israel started giving third shots of the Pfizer vaccine to the immunocompromised last month.
The military announces it is updating the rocket alert zones in some cities, following the recent round of fighting in Gaza.
The southern city of Ashkelon will be split into two separate areas in the Home Front Command’s Red Alert system, so the southern and northern parts of the city will be separately alerted in case of a rocket attack.
Haifa and Jerusalem, which are already split into multiple zones, will now each have five separate alert areas.
There are currently 11 locales in Israel that are divided into multiple areas in the Home Front Command’s Red Alert system, allowing citizens to more accurately know if they need to seek shelter.
The Israel Defense Forces says the move came as a result of lessons learned following May’s 11-day war with Palestinian terror groups in Gaza.
The Health Ministry reports 2,441 coronavirus cases have been confirmed since midnight, a record during the current COVID-19 wave and the highest daily rise since March 11.
The ministry’s figures also show the death toll rising by nine since the morning, though its website only lists one death today.
There are 20,437 active infections in Israel, 217 of which are serious cases. The latter figures include 48 people in critical condition, with 43 on ventilators.
The positive test rate for the day currently stands at 3.62 percent, up from recent days.
There have been 878,931 verified cases and 6,486 fatalities in Israel since the COVID pandemic began.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tussles with opposition lawmakers after they gather enough signatures to require him to attend a Knesset plenum session.
“We did in 36 hours what you didn’t do in 36 months, we passed a budget,” Bennett says.
The premier also addresses Iran’s nuclear program.
“The inheritance left to us was an Iran at the most advanced stage of its nuclear project, but we’ll deal with it because we know what to do,” Bennett says.
During his turn to speak, Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu again lashes out at the new government for promising a “no surprises policy” with the US, something senior Israeli officials also did when he was prime minister.
“The information that is sent to America could be leaked to major media outlets and in this way our operations will be thwarted,” he says.
Netanyahu goes onto claim the government “turned us into some sort of protectorate with a duty to report. If we have no independence on this matter, we have no independence at all.”
BEIRUT — Lebanon’s newly designated prime minister Najib Mikati says a cabinet lineup won’t be announced by mid-week to coincide with the anniversary of the deadly Beirut port blast.
“Frankly, with regard to the government, I was hoping the pace would be faster,” he says after meeting President Michel Aoun, whom he said he would now see again on Thursday.
The government of Hassan Diab, who is still caretaker prime minister, resigned en masse days after the August 4 explosion that killed more than 200 people last year.
Mikati, who has already been prime minister twice in the past and is also the country’s richest man, was designated on July 26 to form a government after Saad Hariri threw in the towel.
He says he had hoped to clinch a deal before the anniversary of the explosion, but media reports say Lebanon’s political parties are still bickering over portfolios in much the same way that has blocked a new government over the past year.
The institutional vacuum is holding up a potential financial rescue plan for Lebanon, which defaulted on its debt last year and has since sunk into what the World Bank has described as one of the world’s worst crises since the mid-19th century.
The designation last month of 65-year-old Mikati, seen by many as a symbol of Lebanon’s corrupt oligarchy, was met with skepticism both at home and abroad.
A man in his 50s is in serious condition after being stabbed in the central city of Petah Tikva.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service has taken the man to the city’s Beilinson Hospital for treatment.
The suspected motive behind the stabbing is being looked into.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz describes the deadly drone attack on an Israeli-managed ship as an escalation by Iran.
“Iran’s aggression in the region generally and the maritime front, in particular, is intensifying,” Gantz says during a Knesset plenum session. “This is the exact reason that we must act right now against Iran, which not only strives for a nuclear military [program] but also is leading to a dangerous arms race and the crumbling of stability in the Middle East.”
He adds: “Israel holds a variety of tools and options to protect its citizens and we’ll settle the score with whoever seeks to hurt us.”
He also says Iran poses a threat to the whole world and not just Israel.
Boris Johnson condemns Iran’s ‘outrageous’ deadly drone attack, says it ‘should face up to consequences’
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemns Iran over of a deadly drone attack on an Israeli-managed ship near Oman that has been blamed on the Islamic Republic.
“I think that Iran should face up to the consequences of what they’ve done,” he says. “This was clearly an unacceptable and outrageous attack on commercial shipping… it is absolutely vital that Iran and every other country respects the freedom of navigation around the world.”
A British national and a Romanian citizen were killed in last week’s attack on the “Mercer Street” tanker.
Boris Johnson calls attack on tanker off the coast of Oman which killed two people an “unacceptable and outrageous attack on commercial shipping”
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) August 2, 2021
BERLIN — A German court has set a trial date for a 100-year-old man who is charged with 3,518 counts of accessory to murder on allegations he served as a Nazi SS guard at a concentration camp on the outskirts of Berlin during World War II.
A spokeswoman for the Neuruppin state court says today the trial is set to begin in early October. The centenarian’s name isn’t released in line with German privacy laws.
The suspect is alleged to have worked at the Sachsenhausen camp between 1942 and 1945 as an enlisted member of the Nazi Party’s paramilitary wing.
Authorities say that despite his advanced age, the suspect is considered fit enough to stand trial, though the number of hours per day the court is in session may have to be limited.
The Neuruppin office was handed the case in 2019 by the special federal prosecutors’ office in Ludwigsburg tasked with investigating Nazi-era war crimes. The state court in Neuruppin is based northwest of the town of Oranienburg, where Sachsenhausen was located.
The defendant is said to live in the state of Brandenburg outside of Berlin, local media reported.
Sachsenhausen was established in 1936 just north of Berlin as the first new camp after Adolf Hitler gave the SS full control of the Nazi concentration camp system. It was intended to be a model facility and training camp for the labyrinthine network that the Nazis built across Germany, Austria and occupied territories.
More than 200,000 people were held there between 1936 and 1945. Tens of thousands of inmates there died of starvation, disease, forced labor and other causes, as well as through medical experiments and systematic SS extermination operations including shootings, hangings and gassing.
A meeting of the ministerial committee tasked with leading the government’s COVID-19 pandemic response will convene tomorrow amid a continued rise in morbidity rates.
Health Minister Director-General Nachman Ash expresses concern over the continued rise in coronavirus cases.
“The situation is worrying,” he says during a press briefing.
Ash adds that health officials are weighing additional measures aimed at reducing morbidity.
“The next steps will be tightening the Green Pass and additional options — as much as possible — without harming the economy,” he says.
Ash says he’s happy about the number of Israelis older than 60 getting third vaccine doses, with 45,000 having received booster shots so far, while urging anyone who has not yet been immunized to do so. He adds that he isn’t aware of any “special side effects” among the elderly who received third shots.
He also calls for Israelis to adhere to the virus rules currently in place.
“We can’t become complacent,” he says.
The military announces it will begin a drill this evening along the Lebanese border to improve its preparedness for a potential escalation with the Hezbollah terror group.
The exercise, dubbed Sunbeam, will last until tomorrow afternoon, according to the Israel Defense Forces, which adds that troop movements will be felt in the area.
The IDF says the exercise is aimed at testing the readiness of soldiers during “days of battle” while examining how to apply lessons learned from May’s military conflict in Gaza against Palestinian terrorists.
The drill was planned in advance.
Israeli runner Selamawit Teferi finishes in 10th place in the women’s 5000 meter finals with a time of 14:54.39, coming short of a medal.
The Supreme Court of Justice has floated a compromise that would push off the pending evictions of four Palestinian families from East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
According to the Haaretz daily, the compromise would allow the Palestinian families to continue living in the homes for another 20 years, during which they will have to pay some rent to the Jewish trusts that owned the land before Israel’s establishment in 1948 and petitioned for the houses’ return.
A representative for the trusts says he opposes the proposal and calls for the Palestinians to recognize Jewish ownership over the homes. The Palestinians agree to the proposal but refuse to recognize Jewish ownership over them.
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran reports more than 37,000 new coronavirus infections, the country’s single-day record so far in the pandemic, state media reports.
State TV says health workers registered 37,189 new COVID-19 cases since yesterday — surpassing the previous daily record of 34,951 infections reported on Tuesday. Also, there were 411 deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll in the pandemic to 91,407 — the highest in the Middle East.
The new surge has been fueled by the contagious Delta variant, and Iranian authorities say less than 40% of the population follows measures such as wearing face masks and social distancing. Iranian health officials have regularly warned that hospitals in the capital, Tehran, and other major cities are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
Yesterday, Health Minister Saeed Namaki in a letter to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei asked a two-week shutdown of the country, something the minister said the military would help enforce. However, Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, has not yet responded to the request.
Authorities have avoided imposing heavy-handed rules on a population badly equipped to bear them. Iran, which has suffered the worst virus outbreak in the region, is reeling from a series of crises: tough US sanctions, global isolation, a heat wave, the worst blackouts in recent memory and ongoing protests over water shortages in the southwest.
Less than 4% of Iranians have been fully vaccinated. Many front-line medical workers have been vaccinated with Iran’s locally produced shots or the Chinese state-backed Sinopharm vaccine that report say may be less effective than other inoculations.
The UK Foreign Office has summoned the Iranian ambassador over last week’s attack on an Israeli-operated ship near Oman, in which a Briton and a Romanian were killed.
A statement from the Foreign Office says Ambassador Mohsen Baharvand was summoned by James Cleverly, minister of state for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Minister Cleverly reiterated that Iran must immediately cease actions that risk international peace and security, and reinforced that vessels must be allowed to navigate freely in accordance with international law,” the statement says.
Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu assails the state budget after it was approved by the cabinet.
“I’ve never seen a budget so bad and full of economic cuts, tax and price increases,” Netanyahu says during a Likud faction meeting.
“Why do Israeli citizens need to pay the price so the government can pay NIS 53 billion to MK Mansour Abbas,” he adds, referring to the head of the coalition’s Ra’am party, an Islamist party.
An American Airlines flight from Miami lands safely at Ben Gurion Airport after an emergency situation was declared because the plane had a flat tire.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) August 2, 2021
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid cheers the cabinet’s approval of a state budget this morning and predicts it will win Knesset backing.
“For three years the State of Israel was without a budget, all because of politics,” he says at a faction meeting of his Yesh Atid party.
Lapid also says he’ll reach out to all factions to discuss the budget, suggesting the coalition — which holds a razor-thin parliamentary majority — will seek additional support from opposition parties.
The Israel Airports Authority says an American Airlines planes with a punctured wheel is set to make an emergency landing at Ben Gurion Airport.
A statement from the airport authority says there are some 190 passengers aboard the flight from Miami to Tel Aviv.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman dismisses the “provocative” accusations that the Islamic Republic was responsible for a drone attack on an Israeli-linked ship near Oman in which a British citizen and Romanian national were killed.
Saeed Khatibzadeh says the US and UK should provide documents proving Iran was behind the strike, which Israel and Romania have also accused Tehran of carrying out.
He also warns Iran will also respond to any “possible adventure immediately and strongly,” according to the official IRNA news agency.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland has granted a humanitarian visa to Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, a Belarusian Olympic athlete who claimed her team tried to force her to leave Japan, Poland’s deputy foreign minister says.
Tsimanouskaya “is already in direct contact with Polish diplomats in Tokyo. She has received a humanitarian visa. Poland will do whatever is necessary to help her to continue her sporting career,” Marcin Przydacz writes on Twitter.
TOKYO — Simone Biles is back.
The 2016 Olympic gymnastics champion will return to competition in the balance beam final tomorrow, a little over a week after stepping away from the meet to focus on her mental health.
“We are so excited to confirm that you will see two US athletes in the balance beam final tomorrow — Suni Lee AND Simone Biles!! Can’t wait to watch you both!” USA Gymnastics says in a statement.
The 24-year-old Biles won bronze on beam in Rio de Janeiro five years ago and qualified for the eight-woman final at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre on the first weekend of the Games.
She removed herself from the team final on July 27 after a shaky performance on vault during the first rotation. She watched from the sidelines as her three American teammates completed the meet without her; the US took silver behind the team known as the Russian Olympic Committee.
The six-time Olympic medalist later said she was dealing with issues surrounding air awareness, referred to as “the twisties” in her sport.
Biles qualified for all five individual event finals but took herself out of four of them: the all-around, vault, floor exercise and uneven bars. Lee earned the gold in the all-around, becoming the fifth straight American to claim the sport’s marquee title.
Considered to be the greatest gymnast of all-time and the unquestioned face of the US Olympic movement when she arrived in Japan, Biles continued to train and be evaluated daily by the USA Gymnastics staff after opting out of multiple finals. She has also been a fixture in the stands supporting Lee, MyKayla Skinner and Jade Carey while they competed in the event finals.
Romania pins responsibility on Iran for a drone attack on an Israeli-operated ship that killed one of its citizens and a UK national, following Israel, America and Britain in blaming the Islamic Republic for the strike.
“There is no justification whatsoever 4 deliberately attacking civilians. We continue 2 coordinate w/our partners 4 an appropriate response,” Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu tweets.
The Iranian ambassador was summoned to the foreign ministry in Bucharest, according to Romania’s national news agency.
Based on t/available info, Romania???????? strongly condemns t/Iranian drone attack against “Mercer Street”, during which a RO citizen was killed.There is no justification whatsoever 4 deliberately attacking civilians. We continue 2 coordinate w/our partners 4 an appropriate response
— Bogdan Aurescu (@BogdanAurescu) August 2, 2021
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