The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid inaugurates Israel’s Liaison Office in Rabat, Morocco, this morning, alongside Moroccan Deputy Foreign Minister Mohcine Jazouli.
Welfare Minister Meir Cohen and Yesh Atid MK Ram Ben Barak attend the ceremony. Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, who met with Lapid yesterday, is not present.
Until now, Israeli diplomats stationed in the city worked out of a hotel. The new office will be replaced when Israel finishes renovating the building that housed Israel’s diplomatic mission in Morocco until ties were suspended with the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000.
New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul says she is prepared to lead after Gov. Andrew Cuomo steps down.
Hochul, who is set to take the reins of power in 13 days, gives her first public remarks a day after Cuomo’s announcement that he would step down rather than face a likely impeachment trial over allegations that he sexually harassed several women, including one who accused him of groping her breast.
“While it was not expected, it is a day for which I am prepared,” says Hochul, a western New York Democrat who has held multiple offices but is unfamiliar to many New Yorkers.
Opposition leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is heading soon on a two-week vacation to the United States, according to Hebrew media reports.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has called on Israelis to stay in the country and avoid unnecessary travel due to rising COVID cases and the threat of variants.
Netanyahu and his family will be required to remain in home quarantine for seven days upon their return back to Israel, according to the latest Health Ministry regulations.
The vast majority of those who received a third booster dose in Israel have seen a surge in antibodies a week after getting the shot, reports the Kan public broadcaster.
According to the report, in a study of 100 people who received the booster shot at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, 98 of them had developed high levels of antibodies, similar to those present a week after they received their second dose.
More than 650,000 Israelis have already received a third dose of the vaccine after Israel launched a campaign on August 1 to administer a booster shot to those over age 60.
Coronavirus cases in the Israel Defense Forces have doubled over the past four days, reports Ynet.
According to Hebrew media reports, there are currently 965 members of the IDF who have COVID, while just one of them is hospitalized in serious condition.
On Friday, there were just 470 members of the military who tested positive for COVID.
A Palestinian hit by Israeli army gunfire last week during clashes in the West Bank has died of his wounds, Palestinian sources tell AFP.
The sources say Dia al-Sabarini, 25, was seriously wounded in the northern town of Jenin and transferred to hospital on August 3. Five other Palestinians were wounded in the same clashes after troops had entered Jenin, according to Palestinian medics.
Israeli police say security forces had opened fire after coming under attack with explosive devices and Molotov cocktails during an operation in Jenin.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging all pregnant women to get the COVID-19 vaccine as hospitals in hotspots around the US see disturbing numbers of unvaccinated mothers-to-be seriously ill with the virus.
Expectant women run a higher risk of severe illness and pregnancy complications from the coronavirus, including perhaps miscarriages and stillbirths. But their vaccination rates are low, with only about 23% having received at least one dose, according to CDC data.
“The vaccines are safe and effective, and it has never been more urgent to increase vaccinations as we face the highly transmissible delta variant and see severe outcomes from COVID-19 among unvaccinated pregnant people,” says CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky in a statement.
Commander of the Israel Defense Forces Northern Command Amir Baram and head of the IDF’s International Cooperation Unit Efi Defrin meet with UNIFIL Force Commander Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col.
The meeting was held to mark the 15th anniversary since UN Security Council Resolution 1701 was adopted, the military says.
The group also discussed recent security incidents that occurred on the Lebanese border, “which shows the need of fully implementing the resolution,” the IDF says.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita, sign three agreements in Rabat.
The agreements include a memorandum of understanding establishing a political consultation mechanism between the two ministries, an agreement on cooperation in culture, sport and youth, as well as an agreement on direct flights between the two countries.
Lapid’s trip marks the first official visit of an Israeli delegation to Morocco in 20 years.
“The agreements that we will sign will bring our countries innovation and opportunities for the benefit of our children – and their children – for years to come,” says Lapid at the ceremony. “Today, we are not being good politicians, we are being good parents.”
Ali Shamkhani, an Iranian general and the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, sends a tweet in Hebrew.
The message, which was also tweeted in English, notes that Shamkhani met earlier today with Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. The two “discussed developments in Afghanistan, Syria and the Persian Gulf,” Shamkhani writes in Hebrew.
“Fortunately, the political obstacles to Iran’s membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization have been removed, and Iran’s membership will be finalized,” Shamkhani tweets in broken Hebrew.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a political, economic and security alliance that currently comprises eight countries — China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
A blast killed eight members of Iraq’s security forces on Wednesday during an operation in the northern part of the country to detonate explosives planted by the Islamic State group, says a security source.
A military sapper was preparing a charge to detonate an unexploded ordnance laid by the jihadists in Salaheddin province “when a mistake was made and the explosion happened,” the source tells AFP.
The blast killed six soldiers and two policemen charged with oil field protection, the source says.
The government is slated to approve new building in Palestinian areas of the West Bank as well as Jewish settlements, according to Hebrew media reports.
Ynet reports that Defense Minister Benny Gantz has approved the construction of 1,000 Palestinian homes in the Israeli-controlled Area C for the first time in several years.
And according to the Kan public broadcaster, new home construction in West Bank settlements is slated to be approved for the first time since both Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and US President Joe Biden took office.
Army Radio reports that the Civil Administration’s High Planning Subcommittee is expected to meet on Wednesday and approve 2,200 new homes in total.
Two children were discovered by police in the trunk of a moving car last night, and their mother’s excuse was: they were required to quarantine.
The family, says Israel Police, had returned recently from Turkey and were stopped in the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood of Jerusalem, where a 5-year-old and a 10-year-old were discovered in the trunk.
In the video, circulated by police, Border Police officers are seen demanding the woman open the trunk, and when she does, the two children climb out. The family was handed a NIS 15,000 fine for violating quarantine, since all three of them were required to stay in quarantine for a week following their return from Turkey.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) August 10, 2021
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announces an investment of NIS 2.5 billion in health infrastructure in order to fight back against the ultra-contagious Delta coronavirus variant.
“Delta is conquering the world,” Bennett says in a press conference at Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv. The NIS 2.5 billion is aimed at giving “a booster to the health system in Israel and the medical workers who work for our health,” says the prime minister.
“Every family who loses someone to the coronavirus is painful,” Bennett added, “and so is every person who loses his livelihood and his business because of a lockdown, and every child who sat for 200 days at home and learned only on Zoom.”
In order to “prepare for a significant increase in hospitalized COVID patients,” says Bennett, the government will hire 2,000 more doctors, nurses, hospital staff and paramedics. Those positions, says Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, will be permanent and not temporary.
The measures, says Bennett, will help Israel “buy time until the vaccination system will begin to lower the outbreak.”
Serious COVID cases in Israel topped 400 today for the first time since March.
A stone memorial commemorating the life of Holocaust survivor and former minister Simone Veil has been defaced with swastikas, police say, sparking new concern over antisemitism in France.
The memorial to Veil at Peros Guirec in the western Brittany region was found to have been daubed with the Nazi insignia in the morning. An investigation has been opened.
Veil, born in 1917, survived the Holocaust to become a celebrated figure in French politics, fighting for abortion rights, battling antisemitism and also serving as speaker of the European parliament.
As a teenager she was deported to Auschwitz and lost her mother, father and brother in the camps.
Veil died in 2017 and in 2018 President Emmanuel Macron decreed she should have the honor of a final resting place in the Pantheon in Paris that holds the tombs of France’s greatest heroes.
The memorial, which was inaugurated in 2017, has now been cleaned. The Ouest-France newspaper says it was the third time the memorial had been targeted within the last week. It had previously been smeared with mustard and excrement.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz meets in Tel Aviv with visiting CIA chief William Burns, along with Mossad chief David Barnea.
According to the Defense Ministry, Gantz shared information about Iran’s malign activities in the region and its nuclear weapons progress with Burns, and the two discussed their joint intelligence cooperation.
They also discussed the need to strengthen the Palestinian Authority and other moderate elements in the region, says the ministry.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita, arrive at the Foreign Ministry in Rabat ahead of joint statements and the signing of three agreements.
Bourita and Lapid are expected to sign framework agreements in aviation, culture and diplomatic relations.
Lapid is later set to officially open up the Israeli Liaison Office in Rabat.
Hundreds of firefighters from across Europe and the Middle East are working alongside Greek colleagues in rugged terrain to contain flareups of the huge wildfires that ravaged Greece’s forests for a week, destroying homes and forcing evacuations.
The spread of the blazes has been largely halted, officials said, but fronts are still burning on the large island of Evia and in Greece’s southern Peloponnese region.
Greece says a total 900 firefighters, including teams from Poland, Romania, Cyprus, Ukraine, Serbia, Slovakia and Moldova, are in action on Evia. Another 600 firefighters from Greece, the Czech Republic, Britain, France and Germany are deployed near ancient Olympia and in Arcadia in the Peloponnese, assisted by 14 water-dropping aircraft and volunteers.
A massive fire that broke out last week north of Athens has been limited to a section of a national park on Mount Parnitha, with mostly ground forces trying to put it out with the help of a helicopter. Firefighters from France, Qatar, Kuwait and Israel are deployed there.
The Education Ministry reveals that close to 45% of students in the Haredi sector are exempt from quarantine if they come in contact with a COVID patient because they are either recovered, vaccinated or were revealed to have antibodies.
According to figures from the ministry, more than 20% of those who underwent a serological test this week were found to have antibodies. On top of that, 24% of students are either vaccinated against COVID or were confirmed to have recovered from the disease already.
So far 5,837 Haredi students have taken a serological test, which were rolled out this week in ultra-Orthodox schools, which started their school year this week. Around 20% of those tested were found to have antibodies, says the ministry. The serological testing is slated to be rolled out to all schools ahead of the planned national reopening on September 1.
Those found to have antibodies will be given a “Green Pass,” and will be exempt from quarantining if a classmate tests positive for COVID. Those who are not exempt will be able to remain in class if they test negative every day for a week.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett vows to end the ongoing crime wave in Arab communities at a ceremony inaugurating a unit dedicated to “restoring safety to Arab streets.”
“Arab society today constitutes 20% of the population in Israel and 60% of the crime. This situation, this neglect, is intolerable and we will put an end to it,” says Bennett, after examining a table of illegal weaponry seized in a recent police raid.
In recent years, Arab Israelis have seen rising rates of violence in their communities. The new government has vowed to end the bloodshed, which officials say is fueled by organized crime.
“Today, we are establishing a dedicated division, the Seif division, whose guiding purpose is to thwart crime in Arab Israeli communities and to restore security to the streets,” says Israel Police chief Kobi Shabtay.
According to Shabtay, the unit is already concluding its first operation to crack down on the spread of illegal weapons in the Arab community. Around 1,000 officers participated and some 41 suspects have been arrested, although Shabtay does not say how many guns were confiscated.
Israeli police have launched gun collection operations before, but none have managed to dent the deadly arms trade. According to a 2020 Knesset report, some 400,000 illegal weapons are circulating in Israel, and the vast majority are in Arab communities.
The Seif division appears to be an expansion of an earlier unit established to improve policing in the Arab sector. That unit, established in 2017, had little actual policing power; its primary purpose was to mediate between Arab communities and police, as well as conduct public awareness campaigns about “the importance of law and order.”
It is not immediately clear how the revamped Seif unit differs from its predecessor. But the Abraham Initiatives, an organization that works on improving Arab-police relations, expresses cautious optimism.
“The establishment of Seif in the presence of the prime minister, the public security minister, and senior police officers carries important symbolic value,” says the organization in a statement.
Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, presents a Cabinet dominated by hardliners, state TV reports, providing one of the first glimpses into the policies he might pursue over the next four years.
The conservative cleric and former judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, nominates hardline career diplomat Hossein Amirabollahian to the crucial post of foreign minister as Iran and the US seek to resuscitate Tehran’s landmark nuclear deal with world powers.
The Cabinet list, which offers few surprises, must still be confirmed by Iran’s parliament. The supreme leader also typically weighs in on picking officials for the most sensitive positions, such as foreign minister.
Amirabollahian, 56, has served in a range of administrations over the decades. He was deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs under former populist hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, known in the West for his Holocaust denial and disputed re-election in 2009.
Raisi also appoints Gen. Ahmad Vahidi as his interior minister — a former defense minister blacklisted by the US in 2010 and wanted by Interpol over his alleged role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people and wounded hundreds.
Far-right political figures Baruch Marzel and former MK Michael Ben-Ari have been banned from Facebook, reports Ynet.
According to the report, the two men have been kicked off the social media platform for their support of the banned Kach Party, which is an illegal organization in Israel. Facebook Israeli told Ynet that the two are “dangerous individuals” and their pages, groups and individual profiles will be removed from both Facebook and Instagram.
A new study from Tel Aviv University reveals that humans have caused the extinction of many hundreds of bird species over the last 50,000 years.
The study, carried out in conjunction with the Weizmann Institute, shows that humans are responsible for the disappearance of about 10%-20% of all avian species. Researchers claim that the vast majority of the extinct species shared several features: they were large, they lived on islands, and many of them were flightless.
The researchers involved in the study think that the extinction was caused primarily by humans, who hunted the birds for food, or by animals brought to islands by humans who fed on the birds and/or their eggs.
Sudan will hand longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court along with other officials wanted over the Darfur conflict, says Sudanese Foreign Minister Mariam al-Mahdi.
The “cabinet decided to hand over wanted officials to the ICC,” Mahdi is quoted as saying by state media.
Bashir, who ruled Sudan with an iron fist for three decades before being deposed in 2019, faces charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
The government is reportedly preparing itself to be able to handle 2,400 serious coronavirus cases within a month.
According to Ynet, ministers discussed a plan yesterday to hire more doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel in order to prepare for a sharp rise in serious hospitalized COVID cases. Currently, 694 people in Israel with COVID are hospitalized and 400 are in serious condition.
The report indicates that the government believes that by the end of August, there could be 2,400 people hospitalized and 1,200 in serious condition, and by the 10th of September, those figures could jump to 4,800 in hospital and 2,400 serious.
A British man suspected of spying for Russia in exchange for cash has been arrested in Germany, say federal prosecutors.
The suspect, identified only as David S., who worked as local staff at the British Embassy, “on at least one occasion passed on documents he acquired as part of his professional activities to a representative of Russian intelligence.”
The federal prosecutor’s office says in a statement that “the accused received a cash payment in an unspecified amount in return.”
The suspect is believed to have been spying since November 2020 “at the latest.”
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid lands in Rabat, Morocco, marking the first visit by an Israeli official since Israel and Morocco agreed to normalize ties.
Lapid is greeted by Morocco’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mohcine Jazouli, Foreign Ministry director-general Fouad Yazur and Foreign Ministry head of protocol Anas Khales.
During his visit, the foreign minister is slated to meet his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita, and open a diplomatic representation office in Rabat.
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