The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they unfolded.
Israeli, US air forces complete first-of-a-kind joint drill in southern Israel
The Israeli military announces it has completed a first-of-a-kind aerial exercise with the US Air Force Central Command, simulating various operational scenarios in Israel’s skies.
Friends in High Places ????????????????
“Desert Eagle”, the first-of-its-kind exercise between the IAF and @USAFCENT has ended. Israeli and American F-15 fighter jets simulated various operational scenarios in Israeli skies – another manifestation of the long-standing Israel-US alliance. pic.twitter.com/E6T521lhkm
— Israeli Air Force (@IAFsite) August 10, 2021
During the drill, dubbed “Desert Eagle,” the Israeli Air Force’s 133rd Squadron trained alongside the US Air Force’s 494th Squadron at the Ovda airbase in southern Israel, the IDF says.
IAF 115th Squadron fighter jets simulated enemy forces in the drill, the military adds.
“The aircrews practiced various operational scenarios in the air, including joint exercises against ground, aerial and combined threats while striking designated targets,” the IDF says in a statement.
“This historic cooperation between the IAF and AFCENT is another example of the long-standing alliance and strategic cooperation between Israel and the United States,” the IDF adds.
Herzog pans Iranian aggression, says those who harm Israel ‘will feel our might’
At a ceremony in Haifa for the arrival of a new Sa’ar 6 corvette to the Israeli Navy, President Isaac Herzog threatens those who attempt to harm Israeli citizens, singling out Iran.
“In recent weeks, we have witnessed Iran’s attempt to harm Israeli targets also on the naval front. This is not just an Israeli matter. The whole world has seen the results of Iran’s aggression against innocent civilians,” Herzog says.
“Only last weekend, we again saw the activity of Iran and its affiliates on the northern border,” he says of rocket attacks by the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah terror group. “If anyone in Lebanon thinks they can threaten us — they are making a bitter mistake.”
Herzog says Israel will not agree to have its citizens under fire, and threatens that “whoever tries to harm us, anywhere, in near and far arenas, directly or indirectly, will feel our power and might.”
Poland’s ruling coalition crumbles after PM sacks junior partner
One of Poland’s three ruling parties announces that it is leaving the conservative-nationalist United Right coalition, after the prime minister sacked its leader from his government post.
“This means the end of the United Right and the break-up of the coalition,” Jaroslaw Gowin, leader of Entente, one of the three parties in the Law and Justice-led coalition, tells reporters after Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki removed him as his deputy.
Gantz issues threat to Lebanon: ‘What was is not necessarily what will be’
Touring the Israel Defense Forces Northern Command, Defense Minister Benny Gantz says Israel is open to helping Lebanon deal with its deep economic and political crisis, but at the same time will not accept continued attacks along the border, or from Iran.
“The crisis in Lebanon is devastating. The State of Israel calls on the international community to aid Lebanon. We are also willing to provide assistance. However, we will not let the tragedy in Lebanon cross the border into Israel,” Gantz says.
“We are well aware of Hezbollah’s attempts to exploit the situation at the expense of the safety and livelihoods of Lebanese citizens – under the direct influence of Iran,” he adds.
Referring to the recent attack on the Israel-linked Mercer Street ship in the Gulf of Oman, widely blamed on Iran, Gantz says that “just as we saw in the maritime attack, which claimed the lives of two foreign nationals, Iran is the greatest threat to global and regional peace. Israel will not stand by while Iran advances its nuclear program. We call on the international community to take action and stop Iranian aggression. This is the time for joint action.”
He adds Israel will respond to aggression at the time of its choosing, issuing a threat: “Those who have become accustomed to equations should understand that what was is not necessarily what will be, and they should do the math.”
Government said seeking to include anyone aged 3+ in upcoming Green Pass rules
The government is reportedly recommending that when Green Pass rules renew — conditioning access to public spaces on proof of vaccination or recovery, or a negative test — they will be in effect for anyone aged 3 and up, a major policy change.
The state will fund any tests for children aged 3-11, while tests for those aged 12 and up will have to be privately paid for. That is an attempt to persuade more people aged 12 and up to get vaccinated.
According to the recommendations reported by various Hebrew media outlets, the Green Pass rules will be in effect for the vast majority of businesses, and public and private institutions, including swimming pools, gyms, academic campuses, all culture and sports events, conferences, exhibitions, museums, libraries, restaurants, hotels and more.
The upcoming restrictions could also see the return of caps on gatherings, according to the report: Up to 50 people in indoor areas, and up to 100 people outside.
Report: Israelis aged 45+ could start getting COVID booster shots in coming days
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has ordered that COVID-19 booster shots start being given to Israelis aged 45 and up in the coming days, Channel 13 news reports.
Currently, the third vaccine doses are being given to those aged 60 and up.
The network says Bennett is in talks with health officials aimed at implementing the move as early as this coming Sunday. Some professionals are said to have thus far objected to the move.
The report adds that data so far has proven that the booster shots are safe, although it is too early to determine their effectiveness.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo resigns over sexual harassment
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo resigns over a barrage of sexual harassment allegations, in a fall from grace a year after he was widely hailed across the United States for his detailed daily briefings and leadership during the darkest days of COVID-19.
The three-term governor’s decision, which will take effect in two weeks, is announced as momentum builds in the Legislature to remove him by impeachment. It comes after New York’s attorney general released the results of an investigation that found Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women.
Investigators say he subjected women to unwanted kisses; groped their breasts or buttocks, or otherwise touched them inappropriately; made insinuating remarks about their looks and their sex lives; and created a work environment “rife with fear and intimidation.”
Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, a 62-year-old Democrat and former member of Congress from the Buffalo area, will become the US state’s 57th governor and the first woman to hold the post.
Lapid to visit Morocco tomorrow, first trip to country by Israeli FM since 2003
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will take off for Morocco tomorrow for a two-day official visit, the first by Israel’s top diplomat since 2003.
Lapid will officially open up the Israeli Liaison Office in Rabat and will meet his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita.
He will also spend time in Casablanca with the local Jewish community.
Joining Lapid will be Welfare Minister Meir Cohen — born in Essaouira, Morocco — Foreign Ministry Director General Alon Ushpiz, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Ram Ben Barak and senior Health Ministry official Inbar Zucker.
“This historic visit is a continuation of the long-standing friendship and deep roots and traditions that the Jewish community in Morocco, and the large community of Israelis with origins in Morocco, have,” says Lapid in a statement.
“It will be a moment for political and economic activity, and we will continue to work towards agreements that will bring innovation and opportunity to our countries.”
Twitter suspends pro-Trump US lawmaker for a week over COVID misinformation
Twitter says it has suspended the account of controversial US lawmaker Marjorie Taylor Greene, a staunch supporter of former Republican president Donald Trump, for a week over a “misleading” tweet on coronavirus vaccines.
The tweet in question, sent yesterday, said the US Food and Drug Administration should not give final approval to anti-coronavirus vaccines, with Greene saying they are “failing” and have not curbed the spread of the virus.
Twitter labels the message “misleading” and suggests that users consult information provided by US health authorities about vaccines and mask-wearing.
“The tweet you referenced was labeled in line with our COVID-19 misleading information policy,” a Twitter spokesperson says in a statement to AFP. “The account will be in read-only mode for a week due to repeated violations of the Twitter rules.”
If the first-term Georgia congresswoman were to break the rules again, she could face a permanent ban.
Greene accuses Twitter of suspending her for “speaking the truth, and tweeting what so many people are saying.”
The lawmaker has been a staunch defender of Trump and his unsubstantiated claims that Democrats stole the 2020 presidential election.
In February, she apologized for her past support for QAnon conspiracy theories but was stripped of her two committee assignments.
Then in May, she courted controversy by repeatedly equating mask mandates with Nazis forcing Jews to wear yellow stars in wartime Germany.
Almost 3,000 COVID cases diagnosed so far today; 12 new deaths
Updated figures by the Health Ministry show that after 6,343 new COVID-19 cases were diagnosed yesterday with a positivity rate of 4.89 percent, 2,942 more have been identified so far today.
That brings the total number of confirmed infections in Israel to 910,569 since the pandemic began, including 36,251 active cases.
The number of serious cases is slightly down compared with this morning — from 394, down to 388 — but that could be due to the fact that there have also been 12 deaths since this morning for a total of 6,571.
The data shows that 5,819,152 people, out of Israel’s population of 9.3 million, have received at least one vaccine dose, while 5,401,750 have received at least two, and 619,538 have received a third, or booster, shot.
US Senate passes Biden’s massive infrastructure bill
The US Senate approves the colossal $1.2 trillion infrastructure investment plan backed by US President Joe Biden, a huge win for the Democratic president.
The package described by the White House as “historic” only needed a simple majority to pass, and receives the rare backing of several Republicans.
The measure now goes to the House of Representatives for final approval, where its future is more uncertain as tensions have emerged within the Democratic party, which holds a narrow majority.
French woman faces trial over antisemitic sign calling prominent Jews ‘traitors’
A teacher in eastern France will go on trial next month, accused of seeking to incite racial hatred, after brandishing a sign at a protest against new COVID-19 restrictions that police have said was clearly antisemitic, prosecutors say.
Cassandre Fristot, 34, was seen at the protest on Saturday in the eastern city of Metz holding a sign denouncing President Emmanuel Macron’s enforcement of a health pass in France to encourage people to get vaccinated.
The sign contained the names of several prominent politicians, businessmen and intellectuals in France, most of them Jewish, and police said it “had a message that was manifestly antisemitic.”
Fristot, a former local councilor for the far-right National Rally (RN), was detained yesterday and her home was searched. Metz prosecutor Christian Mercuri says her trial will start on September 8. If convicted, she risks up to one year in prison and a 45,000 euro ($53,000) fine.
Cette pancarte est abjecte. L’antisémitisme est un délit, en aucun cas une opinion. De tels propos ne resteront pas impunis. J’ai demandé @prefet57 de faire un signalement au Parquet sur la base de l’article 40.
Les services de police sont mobilisés pour identifier leur auteur. pic.twitter.com/VDEoMp3W8c
— Gérald DARMANIN (@GDarmanin) August 8, 2021
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin yesterday shared the image of Fristot brandishing the sign on his Twitter account, describing it as “despicable,” and then announcing she was arrested.
“Antisemitism is a crime, not an opinion. Such words will not go unpunished,” he said.
About 237,000 people protested across France on Saturday against the COVID health pass that critics say encroaches on civil liberties. Macron has retorted that people are neglecting their duty as citizens if they fail to get vaccinated.
Man, 38, murdered in café in Taybeh
In yet another murder this year in the Arab community, a 38-year-old man has been shot dead while visiting a café in Taybeh.
Fadi Abdelkader was shot in his upper body and is declared dead by medics on the way to Meir hospital in Kfar Saba.
Police officers have initiated an investigation, suspecting the murder is related to criminal gang violence.
Abdelkader is the 73rd person murdered this year in the Arab community.
Germany to end free COVID tests to boost vaccination rates
Germany will end free coronavirus tests in October in a push to incentivize more people to get vaccinated, an arrangement agreed upon by regional leaders and the federal government.
With COVID-19 tests or proof of vaccination or recovery required to access facilities including restaurants, cinemas or gyms, people who refuse to get the shot will have to pay to prove they are infection-free come autumn or risk being shut out.
Bennett holds discussion on further steps to curb COVID infections
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has started a situation assessment on dealing with the surging outbreak of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, the Prime Minister’s Office says in a statement.
The meeting is attended by Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, the directors of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Health Ministry, public health chief Sharon Alroy-Preis and other professional officials from the health and finance ministries.
They will discuss further steps to reduce infections. Later in the evening, Bennett will host a separate discussion on increasing the number of patients the health system can deal with at once.
If needed, the so-called coronavirus cabinet panel of ministers could be then convened.
Tel Aviv labor court rules unvaccinated worker must take 2 weekly COVID tests
In a precedent, the Tel Aviv Regional Labor Court has obligated an unvaccinated employee to take COVID-19 tests twice a week in order to retain his job, Hebrew media reports.
Judge Carmit Peled dismisses the argument made by the man, who works for the Mekorot national water company, that the mandatory vaccines imposed by the firm are reminiscent of Nazi Germany.
The employee “will act in accordance with [Mekorot’s] rules, which change from time to time, and for now will take — against his will — two weekly coronavirus tests,” Peled says. She adds that the lawsuit had no legal basis.
Education Ministry: 5,000 students will get COVID each day when school year starts
An Education Ministry source quoted by various Hebrew media outlets estimates that the school year will open on September 1 with some 5,000 students diagnosed with the coronavirus each day, assuming the basic reproduction rate continues its current rise.
The source says that at the current rate, September 1 will see 10,000 Israelis diagnosed every day, with school students representing half of them.
The source says that if infections continue to surge, school principals will be able to divide classes into several different learning spaces or even have some groups of students study remotely.
Syria’s Assad names new cabinet; few changes in ministries
Syrian President Bashar Assad has appointed a new government, leaving most key posts unchanged in the war-torn country, state media reports. The development comes nearly three months after Assad’s reelection for another seven-year term.
The vote was described as illegitimate and a sham by the West and Syria’s opposition.
According to the state SANA news agency, the new appointments include the ministers of information, internal trade and consumer protection. The ministries of defense, interior and foreign affairs remain unchanged, with the incumbents keeping the posts.
The new cabinet takes office as Syria struggles with a severe economic crisis, made worse by a meltdown in neighboring Lebanon. More than 80% of Syrians now live below the poverty line. The 29-member government, which includes three women, is the sixth to be formed since the outbreak of the war in Syria in 2011.
The fighting, which has killed half a million people, has subsided at this point, leaving Assad’s forces in control of large parts of Syria, mainly thanks to his main backers, Russia and Iran.
At the start of the month, Assad reappointed Prime Minister Hussein Arnous to the post.
Police to use drones with loudspeakers to encourage mask-wearing
The Israel Police will start using drones during its enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions, Channel 12 news reports.
The drones will have a loudspeaker through which cops will encourage people to wear face masks, the report says.
The report adds that the police will focus their efforts on cities with high infection rates, including Hadera, Rehovot, Ashkelon, Kiryat Gat, Ashdod and Yavne.
Israeli study: COVID booster shot highly effective among the immunocompromised
Research done at Beilinson hospital in Petah Tikva shows the COVID-19 vaccine booster shot is effective for immunocompromised people, doubling the rate of people who developed antibodies among patients who have received heart, lung or kidney transplants, the Kan public broadcaster reports.
The report says the study’s findings have been released today and will soon be published in an academic paper.
According to the report, 73% of those who previously received a kidney transplant developed antibodies and an immune reaction to the third vaccine dose, while only 35% had developed antibodies after the second shot.
Among those who received a lung transplant, 33% developed antibodies after a booster while just 18% did so after the second shot. For those who got a heart transplant, 58% had an immune reaction compared with 31% after the first two doses.
No major side effects were observed apart from pain at the place of the injection.
“We recommend that all those who have received organ transplants come and get vaccinated with the third vaccine shot, which saves lives,” says Dr. Tuvia Ben Gal, director of the hospital’s heart failure unit.
Syria ship blast comes as Israeli, Russian national security advisers meet
The explosion on a ship in Latakia’s harbor comes as the incoming National Security Advisor Eyal Hulata and his predecessor Meir Ben-Shabbat are in Moscow to meet with their Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev.
If Israel was behind the attack in Syria in response to the deadly UAV strike on the Mercer Street in late July that has been blamed on Iran, Russian President Vladimir Putin will likely be furious.
Russia is working to rehabilitate Syria and create some semblance of stability, and an Israeli operation in one of Syria’s two major ports runs directly counter to Russian interests.
הפגישה התקיימה כחלק מהחפיפה לתפקיד של חולתא ופרידה מבן-שבת. פטרושב הודה לבן-שבת והדגיש בפני חולתא כי הוא מקווה שהקשרים הביטחוניים הטובים בין הצדדים יימשכו, כך לפי הודעת הקרמלין pic.twitter.com/XwYRrctCBU
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) August 10, 2021
Reports: Casualties in explosion on ship docked at Syria’s Latakia harbor
There was a major explosion in a commercial ship docked in Syria’s Latakia harbor Tuesday afternoon, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and other Arabic-language media.
The SOHR report says that the explosion “left casualties and caused considerable material damage.” Later reports say two people have been lightly injured.
The cause of the blast is still unknown.
Some reports say the targeted ship is Iranian.
Updated: Two people(Ship workers) injured in a merchant ship fire in Lattakia port; fire brigade commander said #Syria???????? pic.twitter.com/sDePlyqCzi
— Wᵒˡᵛᵉʳᶤᶰᵉ Uᵖᵈᵃᵗᵉˢ???? (@W0lverineupdate) August 10, 2021
فيديو متداول للحريق الذي اندلع في عنبر إحدى السفن في ميناء #اللاذقية#تلفزيون_سوريا pic.twitter.com/nWOPNU8Wsg
— تلفزيون سوريا (@syr_television) August 10, 2021
The incident comes after a sharp escalation in the Gulf of Oman. On July 29, armed UAVs struck the Mercer Street, a ship operated by an Israeli-owned company in the UK. Two sailors died in the attack.
On August 3, the Asphalt Princess was stopped and boarded in the Gulf of Oman.
Iran is believed to be behind both incidents, but denies responsibility.
Fire breaks out near Yitzhar settlement; some residents evacuated
A fire breaks out near the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, forcing the evacuation of some residents.
Firefighting teams are battling the blaze.
Some Hebrew reports claim the fire was deliberately started by Palestinians from the neighboring village of Urif.
IDF nabs woman who attempted to enter Israel from Syria
The military says soldiers arrested a suspect who tried to cross the Syrian border into Israeli territory.
The woman was not carrying a weapon and is being questioned at the scene, the IDF says.
Labor MK Gilad Kariv diagnosed with COVID-19
Labor MK Gilad Kariv, the chairman of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, has been confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus after undergoing a rapid test at a facility run by the Magen David Adom ambulance service.
Kariv, a Reform rabbi, is feeling well and quarantining at the orders of the Health Ministry and the Knesset Guard, according to Hebrew media.
Iraq FM in Tehran for talks ahead of planned Baghdad regional summit
Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein has met his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran, Iranian media reports, as Baghdad prepares to host a regional summit later this month.
The two men discussed “bilateral ties and latest regional and international developments,” the ISNA news agency says.
“It is expected, based on some speculation, that Iraq’s foreign minister will present an invitation to Tehran authorities for Iran to join an international summit in Baghdad,” it adds.
Iran’s official news agency IRNA gives no details of the agenda for Zarif’s talks with Hussein.
Baghdad has said that French President Emmanuel Macron will attend the planned summit, and that Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman have also been invited.
No date for the meeting has yet been announced.
Iraq is seeking to establish itself as a mediator between Arab countries and Iran. Baghdad has been brokering talks between regional heavyweights Riyadh and Tehran since April on mending ties severed in 2016.
Iran’s new President Ebrahim Raisi, who took office last week, has said he sees “no obstacles” to restoring ties with the Gulf kingdom, and has made improving relations with regional countries one of his administration’s priorities.
Girl finds 1,500-year-old coin at Talmud-era Jewish village in northern Israel
An Israeli girl has found a 1,500-year-old bronze coin at the site of an ancient Jewish village near the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel, the Nature and Parks Authority says in a statement.
The Yitzchaki family from the West Bank settlement of Har Bracha visited the Korazim archaeological park today and played a puzzle game involving the unique building style of the Talmud-era village, the statement says.
During the game, one of the family members found the ancient coin on the ground. She handed it to Nature and Parks Authority staff who estimated it is from the 4th or 5th century CE.
“This was the peak time of the Jewish village in Korazim,” says the archaeological park manager, Dekel Segev. “The girl and her family showed good citizenship and handed us the coin since it is a national treasure. The coin will be passed on to the Israel Antiquities Authority for further research and preservation.”
The Korazim site, which overlooks the Sea of Galilee, includes the remains of a synagogue. It also attracts Christian pilgrims since the name of the place is mentioned in the New Testament.
Moldovan man found dead in COVID quarantine facility in Tel Aviv
A Moldovan national in his 30s has been found dead at a COVID-19 quarantine facility in south Tel Aviv.
The man’s body is found with signs of violence near the city’s central bus station, with police suspecting murder.
Bennett tells Israelis over age 50 to ‘keep safe over the coming weeks’
As the coronavirus outbreak keeps worsening, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett asks all Israelis over the age of 50 to “strictly keep safe over the coming weeks.”
During a visit alongside Defense Minister Benny Gantz to an IDF Home Command center aiding the fight against the pandemic, Bennett says that “90% of serious COVID-19 cases today are people over the age of 50.”
Police to task 1,500 officers with enforcing COVID restrictions
Police say they will task 1,500 officers and hundreds of inspectors nationwide with enforcing coronavirus restrictions, as daily cases reach their highest rate since February.
Stepping up the enforcement, the cops will focus on face masks where they’re required, mandatory quarantine and Green Pass rules conditioning access to some public spaces on vaccination, recovery, or negative test.
The Israel Police also says in its statement that each district will open a special command room on the matter.
Ministers says he’ll push legislation to curb anti-vaccine fake news
With over 1.1 million eligible Israelis still choosing not to get the COVID-19 vaccine, Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel says his office will advance legislation regulating the battle against online fake news on the matter.
Speaking with the Ynet news site, Hendel highlights the dilemma in which authorities around the world want to fight rampant online fake news about vaccines but are wary of curbing free speech.
Hendel says he can’t pass laws against those who propagate the false information — only regulations that will force media companies to stop spreading them.
He says he has told firms to block anonymous text messages with anti-vaccine content, saying that is “one of the biggest sources of fake news” on the matter. He says the legislation will impose fines on offending companies.
“But let’s make things clear: You don’t tell a media company to check what is fake news and what isn’t, that isn’t their job. Their job is to verify that messages aren’t coming from a false source. If tomorrow someone sends out a message and calls themselves ‘Atila,’ and you get a message saying ‘Atila’ is saying don’t get the vaccine, that isn’t acceptable,” Hendel says.
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