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Thousands of dunams up in smoke as rocket from Lebanon sparks massive blaze

Firefighters still working to extinguish fire caused by missile after it destroys large swathes of agricultural lands in north of country belonging to Kibbutz Misgav Am

Burnt fields near the northern town of Kiryat Shmona following rocket fire from Lebanon, on August 4, 2021. (JALAA MAREY / AFP)
Burnt fields near the northern town of Kiryat Shmona following rocket fire from Lebanon, on August 4, 2021. (JALAA MAREY / AFP)

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

Thousands of dunams up in smoke as rocket fire from Lebanon sparks massive blaze

Thousands of dunams of agricultural land were burned in a fire caused by a rocket launched from Lebanon that landed in Israel earlier today, according to Channel 12 news.

The blaze, adjacent to the northern kibbutz of Misgav Am, is still not under control, the network says.

Three rockets were fired into northern Israel from Lebanon shortly after noon, causing warning sirens to sound in the Kiryat Shmona area. Two rockets hit open areas, while the third fell short of the border.

WHO urges COVID vaccine makers to keep prices down

The World Health Organization urges COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers to keep their prices low and affordable, after reports that two producers will raise the cost they are charging the EU.

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are upping the prices for their messenger RNA vaccines because they have adapted them to the new virus variants, according to reports.

The Pfizer vaccine will jump from 15.5 euros to 19.5 euros ($18.35 to $23) and Moderna from 19 euros to 21.5 euros ($22.5 to $25.45), British newspaper the Financial Times revealed Sunday, citing the contract concluded with the European Union.

Mariangela Simao, the WHO assistant director-general for access to medicines, vaccines and pharmaceuticals, tells a press conference: “It’s very important that we have companies state policies of affordable prices.”

US rebuffs WHO call for moratorium on COVID booster shots

The United States rejects an appeal from the UN health agency for a moratorium on COVID-19 vaccine booster shots and for rich countries to focus instead on supplying poorer nations.

“We definitely feel that it’s a false choice and we can do both,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki tells reporters, adding that the United States has sufficient supply to continue distributing shots abroad while also ensuring that every American can be fully vaccinated.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had urged the countries and companies controlling the supply of doses to change course immediately and prioritize addressing the drastic inequity in dose distribution between rich and poor nations.

Israel began administering COVID vaccine booster doses to the immunosuppressed last month and rolled them out to all Israelis over age 60 on Sunday.

Health Ministry: Over 200,000 Israelis have received 3rd vaccine shot

New Health Ministry figures show that over 200,000 Israelis have received a third coronavirus vaccine shot since the start of the campaign this week.

Israel began administering COVID vaccine booster doses to the immunosuppressed last month, and rolled them out to all Israelis over age 60 on Sunday.

In total, 205,567 people have been given the booster shot, according to the Health Ministry, with 5,385,062 people having received two vaccine shots and 5,794,741 people having received just one.

According to Channel 12 news, over 72,000 people received a third shot today alone.

Herzog speaks with Greek president as country battles dozens of fires

President Isaac Herzog speaks with his Greek counterpart, President Katrina Sclaropolo, as Greece battles dozens of wildfires, telling her that “the State of Israel stands by you, especially at this time.”

During the conversation, the two talked about “the dire price of global warming and the obligation for international cooperation in the fight against it,” the president’s office says in a statement.

“I sincerely hope that it will be possible to get out of the current situation as soon as possible,” Herzog tells Sclaropolo.

Criminal probes into sexual harassments allegations launched against Cuomo

State prosecutors open criminal probes into sexual harassment allegations against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo after Tuesday’s bombshell report found he had harassed multiple women.

The report concluded that Cuomo engaged in “unwelcome and non-consensual touching and making numerous comments of a suggestive sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women.”

It detailed allegations by 11 women that painted “a picture of a pattern of abusive behavior by Cuomo and his senior staff,” said state Attorney General Letitia James said, announcing the findings.

“If you assault a woman, you do something against her will sexually, that’s criminal. I think he should be charged,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tells CBS.

Cuomo denies the allegations.

Health minister: Lockdown over High Holidays possible ‘if there is no choice left’

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz says that a lockdown over the coming Jewish holidays is “a last resort” but could be implemented if coronavirus cases continue to rise.

“The mask, as simple as it is, is the most effective thing we have. The vaccines, the quarantine, the masks, the restrictions at Ben Gurion Airport, these are the things that can prevent more difficult steps. A lockdown is the last resort,” he says while escorting his parents to receive their third vaccine shots.

However, he added, “If we seem to be getting to a point where there is no choice left, we will have to do it. But this is not a matter of fate. If we follow the guidelines, then we may be able to avoid lockdowns.”

He also says that the government currently plans “to properly open” schools as scheduled on September 1.

IDF: 463 active coronavirus cases among soldiers

The IDF says that there are currently 463 conscripted, permanent servicemen and military personnel diagnosed with coronavirus.

All of them are in mild condition.

As of Tuesday, 1,120 soldiers and military personnel were in quarantine due to contact with virus carriers, the army says.

NY Times reaches 8 million subscribers

The New York Times building in New York City, May 13, 2019. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)
The New York Times building in New York City, May 13, 2019. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

The New York Times says it now has more than eight million subscribers in a quarterly update showing improving revenues and profits.

Profits doubled to $54 million and revenues rose 23 percent to $498 million, the media group says in its second-quarter earnings report.

The Times has been among the rare legacy newspaper firms to maintain growth as readers turn to digital news, and has been focusing on online subscriptions for its news and related products.

“We now have more than eight million paid subscriptions across our digital and print products — a testament to the success of our strategy, the strength of the market for paid digital journalism, and our unique opportunity to meet that demand,” says Meredith Kopit Levien, president and chief executive officer.

Biden announces $100m in new aid for Lebanon, urges reforms

US President Joe Biden promises $100 million in additional aid for Lebanon as he presses the crisis-wracked nation to undergo reforms.

“Today I’m announcing nearly a $100 million in new humanitarian assistance,” Biden tells a UN-backed donor conference for Lebanon led by France.

“But no amount of outside assistance will ever be enough if Lebanon’s leaders do not commit to do the hard but necessary work of reforming the economy and combating corruption,” he says.

“It’s essential. It has to start now,” Biden said. “There’s no time to waste. You know it. We are there to help if you do it.”

The Biden administration did not immediately specify where the new funding would go but Biden said it was in addition to $560 million in humanitarian assistance devoted to Lebanon over the past two years.

The Lebanon conference comes one year after an explosion at the Beirut port killed at least 214 people, the latest trauma for a nation with an economy in free-fall and without a stable government.

Gantz offers to help put out Greece fires

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks with his Greek counterpart, Nicholas Pangiotopoulos, following the wave of wildfires that have hit Greece in recent days.

Gantz offers Pangiotopoulos Isreal’s help in dealing with the fires by supplying flame retardants and aerial assistance to Greece.

Pangiotopoulos thanks Gantz for the offer and the two agree that “should it be needed, the Ministry of Defense will be ready to assist its Greek friends and partners,” according to a statement from Gantz’s office.

UK sports broadcaster under fire for airing antisemitic slur

UK sports broadcaster TalkSport is facing criticism after an openly antisemitic remark was made by a caller and allowed to stand unchallenged.

In a discussion about Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane’s future at the north London club, a caller to the radio station said of Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy: “He’s a Jew, he’s not going to let him go for nothing, is he?”

Hosts Jordan Jarrett Bryan and former Arsenal player Perry Groves cut the conversation short but failed to challenge the caller or call him out on air.


Following outcry from various UK Jewish organizations, TalkSport apologized, saying the remark did not air on the radio but was mistakenly broadcast live on YouTube.

“We are all appalled by the comment that was made by a caller during a live YouTube broadcast of The Sports Bar. There is absolutely no room for discrimination of any kind in society,” TalkSport chief Lee Clayton said.

“We are deeply sorry to Tottenham and, especially, to chairman Daniel Levy, as well as their supporters and the Jewish community for the offense caused by this hateful comment, which should never have been broadcast,” he added.

IDF releases footage of its artillery fire into Lebanon in response to rocket attack

WHO calls for moratorium on COVID vaccine booster shots

The WHO calls for a moratorium on COVID-19 vaccine booster shots until at least the end of September to address the drastic inequity in dose distribution between rich and poor nations.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tells a press conference that the move would help towards the goal of enabling “at least 10 percent of the population of every country to be vaccinated.”

Israel began administering booster shots to citizens over 60 last week.

— with AFP

Labor, Religious Zionism MKs voted onto Judicial Selection Committee

In a secret ballot, Knesset members elect MKs Efrat Rayten of the Labor Party and Simcha Rotman of Religious Zionism to represent the coalition and the opposition, respectively, on the Judicial Selection Committee.

The panel, which decides on new judges to be appointed to the bench, is chaired by the justice minister and includes another cabinet minister, two MKs selected by the Knesset, two members of the Israel Bar Association, the chief justice, and two other Supreme Court judges.

Rayten received 67 votes and Rotman received 53, beating out Likud MK Orly Levy-Abekasis who ran after the opposition failed to come to an agreement on a consensus candidate.

Germany allocating over $40 million to fight antisemitism

The German government says it will strengthen its battle against the quickly growing antisemitism in the country by investing 35 million euros ($41.5 million) into research and educational projects focused on understanding its causes and effectively fighting hatred of Jews.

Police registered 2,351 cases of antisemitism in Germany last year, which was an increase of 15% compared to the year before, officials report.

“This is the highest number in the last couple of years,” German Education and Research Minister Anja Karliczek says. “There’s reason for worry that this is only the tip of the iceberg and that the unreported number of daily attacks on Jews is substantially higher.”

Karliczek says millions will be given to universities to examine the different facets of hatred against Jews and to develop strategies on what to best do against it. Various projects will focus on antisemitism in schools, in the German justice system or on the internet and social media.

Anja Karliczek, Federal Minister of Education and Research, at a press conference in her ministry in Berlin, Germany, September 22, 220. (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP)

Funds will also be given to hire junior scholars focusing on the topic and to support projects trying to educate the non-Jewish majority in the country about Jewish life, customs and religious rituals.

In a second step, scientists will be tasked to develop practical guidelines based on their findings to help teachers and others tackle the growing hatred.

German activist sentenced to 10 years in Iranian jail, says daughter

A German-Iranian woman held in Iran has been given a decade-long jail term by an Iran court for participating in an outlawed group, her daughter says.

Nahid Taghavi, 66, was given “10 years for membership in an illegal group” and “eight months for propaganda against the regime,” says her daughter, Mariam Claren.

Taghavi was arrested at her Tehran apartment on October 16 after years of fighting for human rights in Iran, in particular for women’s rights and freedom of expression, according to the rights group IGFM.

According to Claren, Taghavi has been held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, where she contracted Covid-19 last month.

Claren has repeatedly flagged up warnings about her mother’s health, saying that she suffers from pre-existing conditions including high blood pressure and diabetes.

Gantz says Iran ‘only around 10 weeks away’ from weapons-grade nuclear material

Iran is “only around 10 weeks away from acquiring weapons-grade materials necessary for a nuclear weapon,” says Defense Minister Benny Gantz in a briefing on Iran to ambassadors from countries on the UN Security Council.

“It is time for deeds — words are not enough. It is time for diplomatic, economic and even military deeds,” he says.

Indirect talks in Vienna between Iran and the US on rejoining the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal have been suspended until incoming president Ebrahim Raisi takes office tomorrow.

Iran has been openly progressing in its nuclear program since the Trump administration withdrew from the deal and imposed crippling sanctions.

Gantz names Iranian Guards commanders allegedly behind attack on ship

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (C) and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (R) addressing foreign ambassadors at the Foreign Ministry, August 4, 2021. (Israel Foreign Ministry
Defense Minister Benny Gantz (C) and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (R) addressing foreign ambassadors at the Foreign Ministry, August 4, 2021. (Israel Foreign Ministry

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid reveal to ambassadors of countries on the UN Security Council the names of the IRGC commanders he says are responsible for the recent UAV attacks on civilian shipping.

“Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the IRGC’s Air Force, is behind dozens of terror attacks in the region employing UAVs and missiles,” says Gantz.

“For the first time ever, I will also expose the man who is directly responsible for the launch of suicide UAVs – his name is Saeed Ara Jani and he is the head of the IRGC’s UAV Command. The UAV command conducted the attack on Mercer Street. Saeed Ara Jani plans and provides the training and equipment to conduct terror attacks in the region,” he says.

“This is an attack on the world’s trade routes. This is an attack on freedom of movement,” Lapid says. “This is an international crime.”

“What is the international community going to do about it?” he continues. “Is there still such a thing as international law? And does the world have the ability and willpower to enforce it the law? If the answer is yes, the world should act now.”

IDF fires artillery rounds into Lebanon for 3rd time since rocket attack

The IDF fires artillery rounds into Lebanese territory for the third time in two hours, in response to three rockets that were fired into northern Israel from Lebanon shortly after noon.

Israeli equestrian Ashlee Bond misses out on medal round in show jumping final

Israeli show jumping rider Ashlee Bond finishes the individual jumping final course at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 88 seconds with 5 penalty points.

The score means she will not advance to the medal round.

IDF renews artillery fire into Lebanon in response to rockets on north

The IDF renews artillery fire into Lebanese territory in response to three rockets that were fired into northern Israel from Lebanon shortly after noon, causing warning sirens to sound in the Kiryat Shmona area.

The army fired artillery shells at targets in Lebanon just after the attack, before a break for some two hours.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz is currently conducting a situation assessment with the participation of IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi.

With Lebanon plea, pope resumes public audiences a month after major surgery

Pope Francis speaks during his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, August 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
Pope Francis speaks during his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, August 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

Pope Francis resumes his routine of holding weekly audiences with the general public a month after he underwent bowel surgery, and during the much-awaited appearance, he recalls the anniversary of the devastating Beirut port explosion and expressed the desire to someday visit Lebanon.

Francis walked unaided to the center of the stage of a Vatican auditorium, smiling as he gestured toward the visitors, before taking his seat in an upholstered chair and then addressing an audience of several hundred pilgrims and tourists, who wore masks as a precaution against COVID-19.

Near the end of an almost hour-long audience, Francis spoke of the Beirut explosion, recalling the “victims, their families, the injured, and all those who lost homes and work” in the blast.

In this August 5, 2020 file photo, a drone picture shows the destruction after an explosion at the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon. (AP/Hussein Malla)

Lebanon’s people, he said, were still “tired and disappointed” in the aftermath, a reference to the economic and political crises convulsing the Middle Eastern nation on the Mediterranean Sea. Francis appealed to the international community to offer “concrete gestures” of help to the Lebanese people and not “just words.”

Francis, 84, was hospitalized on July 4 in Rome for an operation in which a section of his colon was removed. The Vatican said the surgery was necessitated by diverticular stenosis, or a narrowing of the bowel.

Israeli equestrian Ashlee Bond set to compete in Olympic show jump final

Israeli show jumping rider Ashlee Bond is poised to take the course in the individual jumping final at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, which just began.

Bond advanced to the final after coming in third place in her heat.

Israel’s Ashlee Bond riding Donatello 141 competes in the equestrian’s jumping individual qualifying during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Equestrian Park in Tokyo on August 3, 2021. (Behrouz MEHRI / AFP)

The other Israeli riders in the competition fell behind and failed to qualify in the individual jump, but will compete again in the group round later this week.

Britain says UN Security Council ‘must respond to Iran’s destabilizing actions’

United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says that Britain has written to the head of the UN Security Council, along with Romania and Liberia, to insist that action be taken against Iran over a deadly attack on an Israel-linked tanker last week.

“The UK has written to UN Security Council President T S Tirumurti alongside Romania and Liberia to raise Iran’s attack on MV Mercer Street,” Raab tweets.

“The Council must respond to Iran’s destabilizing actions and lack of respect for international law,” Raab says.

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