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Bennett warns of tighter COVID restrictions if vaccination pace doesn’t rise

Ministers convene to discuss potentially imposing further measures to stem outbreak; 2,052 new cases, 1 death confirmed since midnight

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett accompanies his mother, Myrna, as she gets a COVID-19 booster shot on August 3, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett accompanies his mother, Myrna, as she gets a COVID-19 booster shot on August 3, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

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

Officer stabbed to death in burst of violence outside Pentagon

WASHINGTON — An officer dies after being stabbed today during a burst of violence at a transit station outside the Pentagon, law enforcement officials say.

A shooting resulted in the Pentagon being locked down for more than an hour. A Pentagon officer who was stabbed later died, according to officials who aren’t authorized to discuss the matter and speak to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

More details about the violence are expected at a Pentagon news conference.

Cuomo denies sexual harassment accusations in NY AG’s report: ‘Not who I am’

NEW YORK — New York governor Andrew Cuomo denies multiple allegations of sexual harassment, saying he “never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.”

“That is just not who I am. And that’s not who I have ever been,” he says in a television address, adding that he has published a response to the accusations on his website.

Cuomo speaks after the release of an explosive report by the New York attorney general’s office that prompted immediate calls for his resignation.

He says he had a life-long habit of kissing and touching people as a gesture of warmth and friendship, often in public.

“You’ve seen me do it on TV through all my briefings and for 40 years before that,” he says.

“I try to put people at ease. I try to make them smile. I try to connect with them and I try to show my appreciation and my friendship.

“I now understand that there are generational, or cultural perspectives, that frankly, I hadn’t fully appreciated. And I have learned from this.”

New York state’s attorney general Letitia James said today that Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women as she announced the findings of an independent investigation into allegations against him.

Health Ministry said seeking to delay start of school year

The Health Ministry is advancing an effort to push off the start of the school year from September 1 amid concerns over rising coronavirus cases, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The report says the aim of the move is to delay a potential flareup in cases when students return to classrooms and notes that there is a limited number of school days next month due to the High Holidays.

Health Ministry said seeking to restrict outdoor events, require masks if over 100 people

During today’s coronavirus meeting, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked claims “the only way” Israel can avoid a fourth national lockdown is to vaccinate a million people in a week, according to Channel 12 news.

The network quotes Shaked expressing agreement with former IDF general Roni Numa, who is in charge of COVID policy at Ben Gurion Airport, calling for a lockdown so Israel can vaccinate more people and build up a rapid testing apparatus.

Shaked is a member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party.

The report also says the Health Ministry is seeking to expand use of the Green Pass to all venues and ages, restrict large open-air gatherings and require masks at outdoor events with over 100 people, and further expand the list of destinations from where arriving travelers must quarantine, among other measures.

Egypt throws ‘full support’ behind Tunisian president

TUNIS, Tunisia — Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry throws his country’s “full support” behind Tunisian President Kais Saied, who has suspended parliament, sacked the prime minister and seized executive power.

“We affirm the full support of the Arab Republic of Egypt for the stability and the fulfillment of the will of the Tunisian people,” Shoukry says after meeting Saied in Tunis.

On July 25, Saied invoked the constitution to seize executive power in what his main opponents, the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party, denounced as a “coup.”

Nine days later, Tunisia is still awaiting the appointment of a new prime minister.

Tunisia is undergoing “a historic moment, undertaken by a person who attaches the highest importance to the values of democracy, the constitution and institutions,” Shoukry says.

Saied visited Cairo in late 2020 to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who overthrew an elected Islamist government in 2013, and has since led a crackdown on the opposition, especially the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

On Saturday, the United States urged Tunisia to quickly return to the “democratic path.”

The young democracy, with a population of around 12 million people, had often been cited as the sole success story of the 2011 Arab Spring.

Iran on maritime incidents in Gulf of Oman: ‘Suspicious’

Iran’s foreign ministry calls a number of still unexplained incidents involving ships in the Gulf of Oman “suspicious.”

Iraq gets back over 17,000 looted ancient artifacts from US, others

BAGHDAD — Over 17,000 looted ancient artifacts recovered from the United States and other countries were handed over to Iraq’s Culture Ministry today, a restitution described by the government as the largest in the country’s history.

The majority of the artifacts date back 4,000 years to ancient Mesopotamia and were recovered from the US in a recent trip by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. Other pieces were also returned from Japan, Netherlands and Italy, Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein says in a joint press conference with Culture Minister Hasan Nadhim.

Nadhim says the recovery was “the largest in the history of Iraq” and the product of months of effort between the government and Iraq’s Embassy in Washington.

“There’s still a lot of work ahead in this matter. There are still thousands of Iraqi artifacts smuggled outside the country,” he says. “The United Nations resolutions are supporting us in the international community and the laws of other countries in which these artifacts are smuggled to are on our side.”

“The smugglers are being trapped day after day by these laws and forced to hand over these artifacts,” he adds.

The artifacts were handed over to the culture ministry in large wooden crates. A few are displayed but the ministry says the most significant pieces will be examined and later displayed to the public in Iraq’s National Museum.

Iraq’s antiquities have been looted throughout decades of war and instability since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Iraq’s government has been slowly recovering the plundered antiquities since. However, archaeological sites across the country continue to be neglected owing to lack of funds.

At least five shipments of antiquities and documents have been returned to Iraq’s museum since 2016, according to the foreign ministry.

UK media says armed suspects believed to have seized ship in Gulf of Oman

British media reports say that the Panama-flagged Asphalt Princess appears to be ship that was seized in the Gulf of Oman.

Sky News quotes an unidentified security source saying eight or nine armed suspects have apparently boarded the ship.

“It was an unauthorized boarding in the Gulf of Oman,” the source says.

A reporter at The Times cites British sources saying the current assumption is that Iranian forces or one of its proxies are aboard the vessel.

Reuters also quotes maritime sources saying Iranian-backed forces are believed to have seized the tanker.

UK says incident on ship in Gulf of Oman a potential hijacking

The UK Maritime Trade Operations says it has upgraded an incident in the Gulf of Oman 60 miles off the coast of the UAE’s Fujairah to a potential hijacking.

Florida warns it may drop Ben & Jerry’s parent company over West Bank ban

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — Florida won’t put any state money into the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s unless it reverses a decision to stop selling ice cream in contested parts of Israel, Governor Ron DeSantis says.

The Republican governor says the State Board of Administration added London-based Unilever to its list of “scrutinized companies” that boycott Israel. This means that if Ben & Jerry’s position on Israel is not reversed in 90 days, Florida will not invest in or contract with Unilever or its subsidiaries.

“As a matter of law and principle, the state of Florida will not tolerate discrimination against the state of Israel or the Israeli people,” the Republican governor says today in a news release. “I will not stand idly by as woke corporate ideologues seek to boycott and divest from our ally, Israel.”

The decision, similar to those in other states, comes after Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s announced last month that it will stop selling its products in Israeli controlled-territory sought by the Palestinians such as the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The company’s founders, Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, said in a recent New York Times opinion piece that they no longer control the company but approve of the action in Israel as reflecting their progressive values. The company has a long history of advocating for social justice.

Gantz: Israel seeking long-term calm on Gaza border but ‘ready for any scenario’

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and his deputy Alon Schuster tour the military’s Gaza Division and meet with IDF generals to discuss the consequences of and conclusions from the recent 11 days of fighting with the Hamas terror group.

“Israel is ready for any scenario — an agreement or an escalation,” Gantz warns after the meeting.

Gantz says Israel will continue to work with Egypt and other international bodies to ensure “the quiet remains long-term, that the citizens of Gaza can enjoy economic wellbeing, and that all the boys can return home,” referring to the missing Israelis and bodies of IDF soldiers held by Hamas.

“At the same time, we are also operationally preparing by compiling hundreds of new targets in order to protect the residents of the south and remove any threat,” the defense minister adds.

Regarding Qatari aid to Gaza, Gantz says “Israel greatly appreciates Qatar’s contribution to stability.” He adds that his office is working to find a new way to transfer the funds so they strengthen the Palestinian Authority and ensure the “wellbeing of Gaza residents who suffer from Hamas’ terrorism.”

Health Ministry confirms 2,052 COVID cases, 1 death since midnight

Updated Health Ministry figures show 2,052 new coronavirus cases and another COVID-19 death have been reported since midnight.

There are 22,727 active infections, including 221 serious cases, of which 47 are on ventilators.

The positive test rate for the day stands at 3.08 percent.

Israel has confirmed 882,391 infections and 6,495 deaths from the coronavirus since the pandemic began.

According to the ministry, 5,792,114 people have gotten at least one vaccine dose, 5,382,603 have received two shots and another 142,334 have been administered an additional booster.

Netanyahu lauds rebel Yamina MK for bucking Bennett: ‘You deserve deep gratitude’

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu lauded renegade Yamina MK Amichai Chikli in an address welcoming the rookie lawmaker to the Knesset after his official maiden speech in parliament.

“You deserve deep gratitude for your principled position, unlike your friends who have broken every single promise,” Netanyahu says of Chikli’s decision to vote against the new government headed by his party chair Naftali Bennett.

“You are deeply appreciated beyond this hall as well,” the ex-premier adds in the traditional response to a maiden speech given by a veteran MK chosen by the newcomer.

Chikli voted against the establishment of the new coalition, which spans right-wing, centrist, left-wing and Islamist parties and has a razor-thin Knesset majority, even though it made his own party leader Bennett prime minister. But he subsequently said he would vote with the coalition on most matters, seemingly giving it a cushion.

In a major blow to the fledgling coalition, however, the Knesset last month failed to approve an extension of the contentious Palestinian family reunification law after Chikli cast the deciding vote against it.

In his own speech, Chikli said, “I did not come here to rebel against anyone or the party, but to rebel against those forces that seek to blur the difference between truth and falsehood, and bring with them a culture of lies and deception.”

He added: “Judaism demands from us a balance between words and deeds and a willingness to pay prices.”

Chikli has said that the move to form a government with left-wing and Arab parties was a fundamental violation of Yamina’s promises to voters. His decision effectively took the party’s parliamentary seats from 7 to 6, and the coalition’s total seats from 62 to 61.

Another 2 ships in Gulf of Oman warn they’ve lost control

Two more ships in the Gulf of Oman have broadcast warnings that they’ve lost control of their steering under unclear circumstances, according to MarineTraffic.com.

The vessels were among four ships that announced around the same time via their Automatic Identification trackers that they were “not under command.” That typically means a vessel has lost power and can no longer steer.

Coronavirus cabinet meets amid rising COVID cases

The high-level coronavirus cabinet is now meeting to discuss further possible measures to stem rising coronavirus cases.

“If the pace of vaccination isn’t fast we’ll arrive at more severe restrictions,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is quoted as saying by the Ynet news site.

NY AG says probe found Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women

NEW YORK — An investigation into New York Governor Andrew Cuomo found that he sexually harassed multiple current and former state government employees, state Attorney General Letitia James announces.

The nearly five-month investigation, conducted by two outside lawyers who spoke to 179 people, found that the Cuomo administration was a “hostile work environment” and that it was “rife with fear and intimidation.”

People interviewed included complainants, current and former members of the executive chamber, State troopers, additional state employees and others who interacted regularly with the governor.

“These interviews and pieces of evidence revealed a deeply disturbing yet clear picture: Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees, federal and state laws,” James says at a press conference today.

On at least one occasion, the investigation found, Cuomo and his senior staff worked to retaliate against a former employee who accused him of wrongdoing. Cuomo was also found to have harassed women outside of government, the investigation found.

James says the investigation wouldn’t have been possible without the “heroic women who came forward.”

2nd ship in Gulf of Oman reported as ‘not under command’

A second ship in the Gulf of Oman is now also reported by MarineTraffic as being “not under command.”

The vessel is identified on the ship tracking firm’s website as the Cook Islands-flagged Kamdhenu.

It is not clear why the Kamdhenu or the Singapore-flagged Golden Brilliant are unable to maneuver.

Pentagon on lockdown after gunshots fired near Metro station

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is on lockdown after multiple gunshots are fired near a platform by the facility’s Metro station.

A Pentagon announcement says the facility is on lockdown due to “police activity.”

An Associated Press reporter near the building heard multiple gunshots

New York City to require vaccination proof for indoor dining, gyms

NEW YORK — New York City will soon require proof of COVID-19 vaccinations for anyone who wants to dine indoors at a restaurant, see a performance or go to the gym, Mayor Bill de Blasio announces today, making it the first big city in the US to impose such restrictions.

The new requirement, which will be phased in over several weeks in August and September, is the most aggressive step the city has taken yet to curb a surge in cases caused by the Delta variant. People will have to show proof that they have had at least one dose of a vaccine.

“The only way to patronize these establishments indoors will be if you’re vaccinated,” de Blasio says. “The goal here is to convince everyone that this is the time. If we’re going to stop the Delta variant, the time is now. And that means getting vaccinated right now.”

The Democrat says some details of how the program will work still need to be worked out. The policy will go into effect on August 16 but inspections and enforcement won’t begin until September 13, the week that the city’s public schools reopen for the fall.

De Blasio has focused on getting as many New Yorkers vaccinated as possible while resisting calls to mandate masks indoors, as several cities and counties in California have done.

Ship in reported Gulf of Oman incident identified as Singapore-flagged tanker

The ship linked to a reported incident in the Gulf of Oman is identified as the Golden Brilliant, a Singapore-flagged tanker.

The ship was last reported by MarineTraffic as being “not under command,” meaning the vessel is unable to maneuver because of some exceptional reason.

Tanks but no tanks! Germany fines man over WWII weapons arsenal

BERLIN — A German court convicts an 84-year-old man of illegal weapons possession for having a personal arsenal that included a Panther tank, a flak cannon and multiple other items of World War II-era military equipment.

The state district in the northern city of Kiel handed the man a suspended prison sentence of 14 months and ordered him to pay a fine of 250,000 euros ($300,000), the German news agency dpa reports.

It also ordered the defendant, whose name isn’t given in line with German privacy laws, to sell or donate the 45-ton tank and the anti-aircraft cannon to a museum or a collector within the next two years.

Authorities discovered the illegal military arsenal during a 2015 raid of the collector’s storage facility in northern Germany in an investigation into black market Nazi-era art that turned up two bronze horse statues which once stood in front of Adolf Hitler’s chancellery. Those items were in another man’s possession.

During the raid of the defendant’s property, authorities also seized machine guns, automatic pistols and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

Local media reported at the time that the man made no secret of his weapons collection and even brought the tank out during a bad winter to use as a snow plow.

UK reports incident ‘currently underway’ in waters off UAE

The UK Marine Trade Operations reports that a non-piracy incident is “currently underway” some 60 miles east of the UAE emirate of Fujairah, where an Israeli-linked ship struck last week in an attack blamed on Iran is anchored.

“Vessels are advised to exercise extreme caution when transiting this area,” an alert from the UKMTO says.

Palestinian-American convicted for deadly West Bank shooting attack

A military court has convicted a Palestinian man with US citizenship of murder for shooting dead a Jewish student in the West Bank, the Israel Defense Forces says.

The court “convicted the terrorist Muntasir Shalabi, based on his confession, of the crime of intentional manslaughter — equivalent to the offense of murder,” the IDF says.

In addition, Shalabi was convicted of “several counts of attempted intentional manslaughter, and possession of a weapon and obstruction of justice,” according to a military statement.

Shalabi, 44, was arrested by Israeli forces in May after he opened fire on passengers waiting at a bus stop at Tapuah junction, south of Nablus in the northern West Bank.

The attack killed Yehuda Guetta, 19, a student at a yeshiva in the Itamar settlement, and wounded two of his friends.

Yehuda Guetta, 19, was killed in a drive-by shooting in the West Bank (courtesy)

Last month, the IDF demolished Shalabi’s house in Turmus Ayya, a village northeast of the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The move was denounced by the United States, which said such demolitions “exacerbate tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution.”

Israel believes that demolishing the homes of assailants deters such attacks in the future, but critics denounce the practice as unjustified collective punishment.

Shalabi will be sentenced at a later date.

Gantz okays calling up 1,000 more reservists to assist in COVID fight

Defense Minister Benny Gantz signs an order allowing 1,000 more reservists to be called up, citing the rise in coronavirus cases.

The soldiers will be enlisted to Israel Defense Forces units taking part in the COVID-19 fight.

“We will continue to assist in the national effort and, in light of the morbidity figures and a situational assessment we held on the matter, the IDF will augment its operations with all means and in all areas as needed,” Gantz says in a statement.

Bennett’s mom gets COVID booster shot: ‘I don’t want another lockdown’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett accompanies his mother as she receives a coronavirus booster shot.

“I want to be with him for Rosh Hashanah and at the wedding of my grandson in October. I don’t want another lockdown,” Myrna Bennett says.

The premier, who at 49 is too young to get a third vaccine dose, reiterates his call for Israelis to get immunized.

“All that’s needed and all I ask of everyone — from kids, grandkids, dads and moms — go get vaccinated,” he says.

Lapid taps Yesh Atid ex-MKs as new ambassadors to France, Angola

Yael German, a former lawmaker in Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, will be Israel’s next ambassador to France.

Former Yesh Atid MK Shimon Solomon is named as the next ambassador to Angola.

The two are Lapid’s political appointees.

The position has been filled by temporary envoys since Aliza Bin-Noun stepped down at the end of 2019.

Israel’s baseball dreams at Olympics end as team falls to Dominican Republican

The Israeli national baseball squad’s Olympic dreams end as the team falls to the Dominican Republic.

Israel held a 6-5 lead but the Dominican Republic made a comeback in the bottom of the 9th inning, winning the game after a solo home run and walk-off RBI single.

Iran reports another daily high in new COVID cases

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran announces more than 39,000 new COVID cases, the highest in a single day in the Middle East country worst hit by the pandemic.

The health authorities in Iran say another 378 people died of coronavirus and 39,019 tested positive in the past 24 hours.

According to official figures widely believed to underestimate the real toll, the virus has killed 91,785 people in the Islamic Republic out of 3,979,727 cases of infection.

Choked by US sanctions that have made it difficult to transfer money abroad, Iran says it is struggling to import vaccines for its 83 million population.

More than 10.7 million people have been given a first vaccine dose, while 2.8 million have received the necessary two jabs, the health ministry says today.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei yesterday ordered that “necessary measures” be taken to contain what the government warns is a “fifth wave” of the country’s outbreak.

The country has avoided imposing a full lockdown on the population, and instead resorted to piecemeal measures such as temporary travel bans and business closures.

Bennett slams EU envoy’s planned attendance at swearing-in of Iran’s Raisi

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett criticizes the EU over the planned attendance of a top diplomat at the swearing-in of President-elect Ebrahim Raisi.

“Raisi is the most extreme Iranian present up to now, and the competition is tough. I call from here to the EU: You can’t talk about human rights and at the same time pay homage to a murderer, a hangman, who assassinated hundreds of regime opponents,” the prime minister says.

Bennett warns Iran after deadly attack on Israeli-linked ship

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warns Iran as he tours the northern border with top military officials.

“To sit serenely in Tehran while you ignite the entire Middle East — that’s over,” Bennett says.

The warning comes after a deadly attack on an Israeli-linked ship last week that has been blamed on Iran.

“We are working to enlist the whole world, but at the time we know how to act alone,” the premier says. “Iran knows the price that we’ll exact when someone threatens our security.”

Israeli-linked ship hit in drone attack arrives at UAE anchorage

FUJAIRAH, United Arab Emirates — An Israeli-linked vessel that was attacked off Oman last week anchors off the UAE emirate of Fujairah today amid accusations Iran was behind the attack in which two crew members were killed.

Low visibility due to high humidity makes it difficult to see the damage to the vessel in its mooring in the Gulf of Oman off the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates, an AFP correspondent reports.

Tracking service MarineTraffic says the Liberian-flagged vessel reached its mooring at 2:47 a.m. local time.

The UAE, which normalized ties with Israel last year, has not officially commented on the tanker incident.

Both the United States and Israel have said their intelligence assessments of Thursday’s incident concluded that an Iranian drone attacked the ship, managed by prominent Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, as it sailed off Oman.

Tehran denied the accusation and warned against “adventurism.”

A British security guard and a Romanian crew member were killed in what analysts say bore all the hallmarks of the “shadow war” between Iran and Israel, which has included attacks on shipping in waters around the Gulf.

British FM: Iran ‘must end its destabilizing actions immediately’

UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab says Iran “must end its destabilizing actions immediately” after NATO condemns a deadly drone attack on an Israeli-managed ship near Oman.

Two people were killed in the attack — a British security guard and a Romanian crew member. Israel has blamed Iran for the attack, as have NATO members America, Britain and Romania.

Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway reopened after forest fire near capital

Route 1, the main highway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, has been reopened in both directions as firefighters work to beat back a large forest fire near the capital.

A representative for the fire services is quoted by Channel 12 news saying that the firefighting teams are close to bringing the blaze under control.

NATO condemns ship attack, says ‘concerned by Iran’s destabilizing actions’

BRUSSELS — The NATO alliance condemns a deadly attack on an Israeli-operated tanker last week, and urges Iran to respect international shipping rules.

Separately, the European Union also condemns the “unacceptable” attack and “any action that would be detrimental to peace and stability in this area.”

The United States, Britain and Israel say Iran launched the attack on the vessel, MV Mercer Street, off the coast of Oman last week, killing a British security guard and a Romanian crew member.

Iran, which inaugurated ultraconservative Ebrahim Raisi as its new president today, denies involvement. It has warned it will respond to any “adventurism” from its western foes.

Britain and Romania are allies in NATO, alongside the United States which has promised to lead a “collective response” to the incident.

Today, a NATO spokesman “strongly condemned” the attack.

“Freedom of navigation is vital for all NATO Allies, and must be upheld in accordance with international law,” NATO spokesman Dylan White says.

“The United Kingdom, the United States, and Romania have concluded that Iran is highly likely responsible for this incident.

“Allies remain concerned by Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region, and call on Tehran to respect its international obligations.”

EU foreign affairs spokeswoman Nabila Massrali tells reporters: “The exact circumstances of this attack have to be clarified. And we take note of investigations carried out by the United States, the UK and Israel.

“This is an action that was against a freedom of navigation in this area and of course, unacceptable.”

Israel to reportedly show foreign envoys intel that Iran behind ship attack

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will meet with ambassadors from UN Security Council member states tomorrow to brief them on last week’s deadly attack on an Israeli-managed vessel near Oman.

The two will present intelligence showing Iran was behind the attack, according to Army Radio.

IDF to test rocket warning sirens in central town of Azor

The military announces it will hold a test of the warning siren systems in Azor tomorrow.

The Israel Defense Forces says the test is meant to ensure that the alarm system is working properly.

The alarm will sound in the central town of Azor for 90 seconds at 10:05 a.m.

In the case of an actual attack, the sirens will sound twice, according to the IDF.

Turkey tells Israel it doesn’t currently need help fighting wildfires

Israel has been in touch with Turkey over the wildfires ravaging the southern coast.

Turkish officials have told Israel that they have the situation under control and do not need help at this time, according to the Foreign Ministry.

“Israel can offer its help on extinguishing the flames if it becomes relevant,” the ministry tells The Times of Israel.

Bennett urges further restrictions before coronavirus cabinet meets

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is calling for further coronavirus restrictions ahead of today’s meeting of the ministerial committee tasked with steering the government’s pandemic response, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

“The [increase in] the rate of sick people is doubling and therefore we need more tightening to avoid harsh steps later on,” he is quoted as saying by the broadcaster.

Among the new restrictions the Health Ministry will push for during the meeting are to add 18 more countries, including the United States, to a list of nations from where arriving travelers — regardless if they’re vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 — must quarantine for at least seven days after landing in Israel.

Hebrew media reports said the other countries are Ukraine, Italy, Iceland, Eswatini (Swaziland), Botswana, Bulgaria, Germany, the Netherlands, Tanzania, Greece, Malawi, Egypt, the Czech Republic, France, Cuba, Rwanda and Tunisia.

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