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

Biden increases US evacuation deployment to Afghanistan, warns Taliban

US President Joe Biden on Saturday increased the number of American troops being sent to Afghanistan to help evacuate embassy personnel and Afghan civilians, and warned the Taliban, who were headed for Kabul, not to hinder the mission.

After consultations with his national security team, Biden said a total of “approximately 5,000” US soldiers — up from 3,000 — will now be deployed to organize evacuations and the end of the US mission after 20 years on the ground.

Biden again defended his decision to withdraw the US military from Afghanistan, saying: “I was the fourth president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan — two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth.”

Israel said weighing axing 2018 deal with Poland on Holocaust complicity law

In response to Poland’s passage of a law that severely restricts World War II-era restitution claims, the Foreign Ministry is weighing canceling an agreement between Israel and Poland that ended a bitter dispute over another law passed by Warsaw that criminalized blaming the Polish nation for Holocaust crimes, Ynet news reports.

The dispute over the Polish Holocaust law was resolved in 2018, when Poland softened the law and then-Prime Minister Benjamina Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart agreed on a joint declaration stressing the involvement of the Polish resistance in helping Jews.

It was seen as a diplomatic coup for Poland but Netanyahu faced criticism from historians in Israel, including at Yad Vashem, for agreeing to a statement that they said distorted history.


Haiti earthquake death toll rises tenfold to 227, with hundreds missing

Haiti’s civil protection agency says at least 227 people have been killed, with hundreds injured and missing, in an earthquake that shook the Caribbean country earlier today.

“The death toll from the earthquake has risen to 227, including 158 in the south,” near the epicenter of the quake, the agency posted on Twitter, adding that hundreds more were injured and missing.

Initial estimates said just 29 people were killed in the 7.2 magnitude quake.

Sa’ar condemns Polish ‘moral disgrace’ with passage of restitution law

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar condemns Poland’s “disregard for Holocaust survivors and victims” — after the passage of a law that severely restricts World War II-era restitution claims — as “a moral disgrace worthy of every condemnation.”

“Israel, which arose from the ashes of the Holocaust, will fight injustice as part of its commitment to remember and never forget,” he says in a tweet.

Netanyahu: Gov’t trying to cover up true amount of hospitalized COVID patients

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims that the government is trying to cover up the true amount of coronavirus patients hospitalized in Israel.

Apparently referring to a report last week in Israel Hayom, which was denied by the heads of several major hospitals, Netanyahu says the new government told medical centers that they would only receive emergency coronavirus funding if they lied about the number of people with COVID-19 in their care.

“Bennett is trying to hide from the citizens of Israel the depth of his coronavirus failure,” Netanyahu says in a video posted to his social media accounts.

“We need to investigate this and, above all, we need to send this failed government home,” he claims.

Bennett, on Wednesday, unveiled a NIS 2.5 billion ($777 million) plan to bolster Israeli hospitals ahead of an expected influx of coronavirus patients, which health officials have reportedly predicted could reach 4,800 in a month — half of them seriously ill.

Amid extreme heat, Spain clocks record temperature of 117°F

Spain set a new provisional heat record of 47.2 degrees Celsius (116.96 degrees Fahrenheit) on Saturday, as Southern Europe swelters under a relentless summer sun.

Data from Spain’s State Meteorological Agency says the potential new record was recorded at Montoro, Cordoba, at 5:10 p.m.

If confirmed, that would exceed the country’s previous record of 46.9 degrees Celsius (116.42°F), set nearby in July 2017.

Amid the high temperatures, Italy puts 16 cities on red alert for health risks, and Portugal warns that 75 percent of its regions face a “significantly increased risk” of wildfires.

The high heat comes only days after Sicily reported a temperature of 48.8 degrees Celsius (119.84°F) on Wednesday, which is also awaiting verification, and would be the highest ever recorded in Europe.

Europe’s current heat record came in 1977, when Athens hit 48.0 degrees Celsius (118.4°F).

5,868 new coronavirus cases diagnosed yesterday

The Health Ministry releases new figures showing that there were 5,868 new cases of coronavirus diagnosed in Israel yesterday. Of the 122,000 tests were performed, 4.93 percent came back positive.

The number of patients hospitalized in critical condition increased by 21 to 494, of whom 83 were on respirators.

Additionally, 43,703 people were vaccinated with the third dose of the coronavirus vaccine yesterday, and another 40,667 were vaccinated so far today.

Bennett: ‘Everything possible is being done to avoid lockdowns’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett publishes a lengthy Facebook post criticizing calls for the implementation of a lockdown to stem the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

‘Everything possible is being done to avoid lockdowns, which are destructive tools for our livelihood, for the economy, and for the education of our children,” Bennett writes.

“Lockdowns are a last resort,” he says, saying that the previous three lockdowns implemented by the last government cost Israel over 200 billion shekels ($62 billion).

“Our goal is simple: to preserve the health of the citizens of Israel, and also to preserve the economic future of the State of Israel,” he says.

At least 29 killed as 7.2-magnitude earthquake hits Haiti

At least 29 people have been killed in a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti, with some towns destroyed and hospitals overwhelmed with wounded people.

The epicenter of the quake was about 125 kilometers (78 miles) west of the capital of Port-au-Prince, the United States Geological Survey says, and widespread damage is reported.

Jerry Chandler, Haiti’s director of civil protection, says that the death toll stands at 29, and that teams are being sent to the area for search-and-rescue missions.

Reports of overwhelmed hospitals come as Haiti struggles with the pandemic and a lack of resources to deal with it.

Just last month, the country of 11 million people received its first batch of  coronavirus vaccines, donated by the US via a United Nations program for low-income countries.

Taliban capture major northern city, approach Afghan capital

The Taliban catures a large, heavily defended city in northern Afghanistan in a major setback for the government, and the insurgents are approaching the capital.

The fall of Mazar-i-Sharif, the country’s fourth largest city, which Afghan forces and two powerful former warlords had pledged to defend, hands the insurgents control over all of northern Afghanistan, confining the Western-backed government to the center and east.

The Taliban have made major advances in recent days, including capturing Herat and Kandahar, the country’s second- and third-largest cities. They now control about 20 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, leaving the Western-backed government with a smattering of provinces in the center and east, as well as the capital, Kabul.

Gantz calls for international condemnation of Polish restitution law

Defense Minister Benny Gantz also comments on Poland’s passage of a law that severely restricts World War II-era restitution claims, calling for international condemnation of Poland.

“As the son of Holocaust survivors, I am deeply disturbed by the law passed in Poland that effectively prevents justice for the victims of the Holocaust and their families,” he says in a statement.

“Property restitution is a small yet significant part of the process to fulfill the rights of those who have survived and to acknowledge those who have perished in one of the world’s biggest genocides,” he says.

“I call on my international partners to condemn this move in one voice,” the statement concludes.

Bennett slams Polish restitution law: ‘Disgraceful contempt for the memory of the Holocaust’

Intensifying the diplomatic rift between Israel and Poland over a new Polish law that severely restricts World War II-era restitution claims, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says the passage of the legislation is “a shameful decision and disgraceful contempt for the memory of the Holocaust.”

Bennett, in his first comments on the disagreement, says in a statement that “Israel views the approval of the law that prevents Jews from receiving compensation for property stolen from them during the Holocaust gravely, and regrets the fact that Poland chooses to continue to harm those who have lost everything.”

“This is a shameful decision and disgraceful contempt for the memory of the Holocaust,” he says, calling it “a serious step that Israel will not be able to accept lightly.”

Ex-Likud minister Miri Regev: Israel is run by a Western elite

Former Likud minister Miri Regev, who has previously spoken of her hope to be prime minister one day, tells Channel 13 that Israel has “a social-status problem.”

“There is a Western elite here that essentially controls most of the centers of power,” she says.

She adds: “It is unacceptable that, after 73 years, there has been no Mizrahi male or female prime minister, and no Mizrahi male or female Supreme Court president.”

Regev, 56, was born in Israel to a Moroccan-born father and a Spanish-born mother.

Taliban capture Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan’s fourth largest city

KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan lawmaker says the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, has fallen to the Taliban after the insurgents launched a major assault there earlier in the day.

The lawmaker from Balkh, Abas Ebrahimzada, says the province’s national army corps surrendered first, which then prompted the pro-government militias and other forces to lose morale and give up in the face of yesterday’s onslaught.

Balkh is the second-largest province in Afghanistan, and its capital, Mazar-i-Sharif, is the fourth-largest city.

According to the lawmaker, all of the provincial installations and government offices, including the governor’s office, are now in Taliban hands.

Israel to recall envoy to Poland after approval of WWII restitution law

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid says he’s indefinitely recalling Israel’s envoy to Warsaw for consultations over Poland’s passage of a law that severely restricts World War II-era restitution claims.

The Foreign Ministry will also advise Poland’s ambassador to Israel to remain on vacation in his homeland, according to a statement from Lapid’s office.

The statement also says Israel is in touch with the US on how to respond.

“Poland, not for the first time, today passed an antisemitic and immoral law,” Lapid says in a Hebrew-language statement.

He adds: “This will not end here. We are holding discussions with the Americans on how to proceed. This evening Poland turned into an antidemocratic, illiberal country that doesn’t respect the greatest tragedy in human history. We must never remain silent. Israel and the Jewish people definitely will not be silent.”

Yesh Atid MK slams Poland’s ‘antisemitic’ WWII restitution law

Several Knesset members slam Poland’s approval of a law that will severely curb World War II-era restitution claims.

Yesh Atid MK Yorai Lahav-Hertzano denounces the legislation — which applies to both Jewish and non-Jewish claimants — as “antisemitic.”

“The insistence of the Poles on continuing to treat Jews — who they persecuted, murdered and robbed — as a nuisance that must be cleared away is shameful and shocking,” tweets Lahav-Hertzano.

He adds: “This is a blatant assault on truth, morality and justice, and we cannot ignore it, not only as Jews or Israelis, but as people.”

Haiti authorities report numerous deaths after 7.2 earthquake

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The powerful 7.2-magnitude quake that struck Haiti on Saturday caused multiple deaths, local authorities say.

“I can confirm that there are deaths, but I don’t yet have an exact toll,” Jerry Chandler, Haiti’s director of civil protection, tells AFP. “We’re still collecting information.”

He says the country’s emergency operations center had been activated and Prime Minister Ariel Henry was headed there.

Restitution organization slams new Polish law: ‘This issue will not go away’

The World Jewish Restitution Organization slams Poland’s approval of a law that will effectively prevent heirs from filing claims for Jewish property seized during the Holocaust.

“Today is a sad day for justice and the rule of law, as President Duda signs a law trying to make it virtually impossible for all former Polish property owners to secure redress for property illegally stolen during the Communist era — and which remains in Poland to this day,” the group said in a statement.

“With this law, Poland is attempting to say to the world — if you delay justice long enough, you can shut the door to history without taking responsibility, and benefit in the present from the communist actions of the past.”

The statement adds: “They are wrong. This issue will not go away… Without justice for what happened in the past, there will not be legal certainty for those who trade in this stolen property in the future.”

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