The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s developments as they unfolded.
President Reuven Rivlin has invited the Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to visit Israel.
The invitation comes days after a landmark deal between Israel and the Gulf country on forging diplomatic ties is announced.
Rivlin extends the invitation in an Arabic letter, in which he expresses hope the peace deal will “help build and strengthen trust between us and the regional nations, a trust that will advance understanding, march the region forward, bring economic prosperity and flourishing, and supply stability for those living in the Middle East.”
Israel's @PresidentRuvi to UAE's Mohammed Bin Zayed: "I have no doubt that future generations will appreciate the way you, the brave and wise leaders have restarted the discourse on peace, trust, dialogue between peoples and religions, cooperation and a promising future."
— Raphael Ahren (@RaphaelAhren) August 17, 2020
“I take this opportunity to extend an invitation to Your Highness to visit Israel and Jerusalem and be our honored guest,” writes Rivlin.
Ari Harow, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former bureau chief who turned state’s witness and testified against the premier, has been charged with fraud and breach of trust, under a state deal that will see him avoid jail time.
Harow, who provided testimony in the so-called cases 1000 and 2000 on Netanyahu, is expected to be fined NIS 700,000 and given six months of community service over allegedly fictitiously selling his international consulting company.
Shortly after his resignation as Netanyahu’s bureau chief in 2010, the American-born Harow founded the consulting firm 3H Global. When he returned to serve as Netanyahu’s bureau chief in 2014, he claimed to have cut all ties with the company, but covered up an ongoing connection, according to the charge sheet. According to the company’s website, the firm was set up “to help governments, NGOs and businesses.”
China has reported no new locally spread cases of the coronavirus for the first time in a month, as twin outbreaks on opposite sides of the country have faded.
The National Health Commission does report 22 imported cases in the latest 24-hour period. China has seen a small uptick in the number of infected people arriving from abroad in the past eight days.
Health authorities have reported 84,849 cases overall and 4,634 deaths since the start of the pandemic. China does not include people who test positive but do not show symptoms in its official case count.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel is working to establish direct flights between Israel and the UAE, following the normalization deal.
“We are now working on enabling direct flights over Saudi Arabia between Tel Aviv and Dubai. It will change Israel air travel and the Israeli economy,” says Netanyahu.
He predicted a large influx of mutual tourism.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin will meet today to discuss “diplomatic and regional developments,” according to a statement.
The meeting comes on the heels of the announcement of the UAE deal, as well as amid a political crisis over the state budget that is threatening to send Israel to its fourth national election in under two years.
Police recommend Kiryat Motzkin mayor Haim Tzuri be put on trial on a series of corruption charges.
Investigators say they’ve gathered evidence indicating Tzuri and some of his associates took bribes, committed fraud and breach of trust, and obstructed justice, as well as committed various privacy violations.
Among the various allegations, police say the mayor allegedly gathered information on the locals’ political preferences to secure his reelection.
“The joint investigation revealed that for years, [the suspects] used the database on Kiryat Motzkin residents, which is managed by the city and includes information on all residents of the city, to advance the mayor’s election campaign,” police say.
“In addition, according to the suspicions, public funds were used to upgrade the city’s database for the political needs of Tzuri. In addition, information was gathered on the political views of the city’s residents in the city hall database, and therefore, according to the suspicions, the right to privacy of the residents was violated.”
The novel coronavirus has killed at least 770,429 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Monday.
At least 21,719,870 cases of coronavirus have been registered in 196 countries and territories. Of these, at least 13,399,500 are now considered recovered.
The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections.
Many countries are testing only symptomatic or the most serious cases.
On Sunday, 4,222 new deaths and 225,457 new cases were recorded worldwide. Based on latest reports, the countries with the most new deaths were India with 941 new deaths, followed by Brazil with 620, and United States with 596.
The United States is the worst-hit country with 170,052 deaths from 5,404,115 cases. At least 1,833,067 people have been declared recovered.
After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 107,852 deaths from 3,340,197 cases, Mexico with 56,757 deaths from 522,162 cases, India with 50,921 deaths from 2,647,663 cases, and United Kingdom with 41,366 deaths from 318,484 cases.
The country with the highest number of deaths compared to its population is Belgium with 86 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Peru (80), Spain 61, United Kingdom 61, and Italy 59.
China — excluding Hong Kong and Macau — has to date declared 84,849 cases (22 new since Sunday), including 4,634 deaths and 79,603 recoveries.
Latin America and the Caribbean overall has 241,679 deaths from 6,176,016 cases, Europe 210,592 deaths from 3,526,872 infections, the United States and Canada 179,115 deaths from 5,526,154 cases, Asia 80,568 deaths from 4,013,085 cases, Middle East 32,393 deaths from 1,331,036 cases, Africa 25,628 deaths from 1,120,910 cases, and Oceania 454 deaths from 25,798 cases.
As a result of corrections by national authorities or late publication of data, the figures updated over the past 24 hours may not correspond exactly to the previous day’s tallies.
Lebanon is facing a surge in coronavirus cases after a devastating blast at the Beirut port earlier this month killed scores and wounded thousands, prompting medical officials to urge for a two-week lockdown to try to contain the pandemic.
Virus numbers were expected to rise following the August 4 explosion of nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at the port. Around 180 people were killed, more than 6,000 wounded and a quarter of a million left with homes unfit to live in. The blast overwhelmed the city’s hospitals and also badly damaged two that had a key role in handling virus cases.
Ahead of the surge, medical officials had warned of the dangers of crowding at hospitals in the aftermath of the explosion, at funerals or as people searched through the rubble. Protests and demonstrations also broke out after the blast as Lebanese vented their anger at the ruling class and decades-long mismanagement.
On Sunday, Lebanon registered 439 new virus cases and six fatalities. The new infections bring to 8,881 the total number of cases in the small country of just over 5 million, where COVID-19 has killed some 103 people.
Health Minister Hamad Hassan warns the true number could be far higher. Following a meeting Monday with medical officials who demanded another two-week lockdown, he urges everyone wear a mask, saying the virus has now spread in every city and almost every village in Lebanon.
“It is a matter of life and death,” Hassan says, adding that soon private and public hospitals might not be able to take more patients.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid blasts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his comments, after the economy’s second quarter reflects the steepest contraction in over four decades, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Netanyahu responded to the terrible new economic figures by saying, ‘This is very good economic news.’ That’s not just detached, it’s dangerous. A prime minister during a crisis denies that the crisis exists. He denies reality. Nero fiddles while Rome burns,” says Lapid, at his weekly Yesh Atid-Telem faction meeting.
“I don’t know if there will be elections in November, but I do know that there will be an economic crisis in November. Businesses will go bankrupt, people won’t be able to pay their mortgages, they’ll lose their homes. Young people will up and leave. The numbers are scary. 30,000 businesses have already collapsed. By the end of the year, that number will rise to 70,000. Unemployment is at a record high. The coronavirus crisis has hit everywhere, but figures like this don’t exist anywhere else.”
An analysis of the Israeli economy by Channel 12 on Sunday night indicated Israel’s position was better than the US and some European countries, but worse than numerous others.
Continues Lapid: “Compare these figures to Finland, New Zealand, Greece, Germany. They all have better numbers because there is one difference — in all those countries there is a functioning government which makes the right decisions. Here the government has failed, Netanyahu has failed… The government hasn’t only ceased to function, it has ceased to recognize reality.”
Lapid again called for Netanyahu to resign, saying that the premier cannot run the country while on trial for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.
“Netanyahu has lost control of the economy and we will pay the price. During a crisis, a prime minister needs to make tough decisions, that’s the job. Netanyahu can’t make tough decisions because of his legal situation, not in a government of 36 ministers and not when he’s constantly on the way to new elections. His solution is denial, but that’s not a solution. The person who caused the collapse can’t fix it. Netanyahu needs to resign. It’s not too late to fix this mess but time is running out,” he says.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh expresses solidarity with the Emirati people, following withering Palestinian criticism of the UAE’s normalization deal with Israel.
He tweets: “The Emirati people are our people. The UAE flag is an Arab flag. Our rejection of normalization does not affect our respect towards our people in the UAE.”
— Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh د. محمد اشتية (@DrShtayyeh) August 17, 2020
His comment comes after Palestinians trample UAE flags and light a poster of its de facto ruler on fire in protest of the agreement.
Since this morning, firefighters have battled four fires in the Eshkol region of southern Israel.
Most of the brush fires were “small and not dangerous,” the fire service says.
They are investigating whether the fires were sparked by airborne incendiary devices sent from the Gaza Strip, in light of the uptick in such incidents.
A security guard at the Qalandiya checkpoint who shot a deaf Palestinian man in the leg on Monday morning has been detained for questioning, reports say.
The Palestinian man, who is in his 60s, walked on foot into an area that is designated only for cars, at the Jerusalem-area crossing, one of the West Bank’s busiest checkpoints and did not hear them calling for him to leave, police said.
After the fact, Border Police determined that the man did not heed the guards’ commands because he has hearing and speech problems, a police spokesperson said.
The Palestinian man was taken to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center for treatment, a hospital spokesperson said.
Israel’s deputy health chief tells lawmakers that a framework for allowing tourists into the country from countries with low rates of infection would be presented by the end of the month.
The news could mean the beginning of a recovery from pandemic-induced collapse that has gripped the tourism industry since March.
“By the end of the month there will be a framework for tourists to enter in controlled ‘capsules’ [small groups] from ‘green’ countries,” or countries with low infection rates, Health Ministry Deputy Director General Itamar Grotto tells the Knesset State Control Committee on Monday.
The Health Ministry will offer more details to the public at a planned Monday evening press conference, the ministry says.
The so-called coronavirus cabinet of top ministers will convene Thursday to discuss rules on gatherings, after a parliamentary panel refuses to extend the government regulations by 28 days.
Shas MK Yaakov Asher, who heads the Justice, Law and Constitution Committee, limits the new cabinet health regulations to a week, rather than the four weeks requested by the government.
He says the government owes the public clarity on the rules and overall strategy.
“The public can’t wait any longer for the plan of virus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu, and therefore the rules are approved for a week only,” says Asher.
Yesterday, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein was seeking to change coronavirus regulations that limit attendance at restaurants and houses of worship. Edelstein wants to cap attendance at 20 people indoors, and 30 outdoors, as long as all maintain social distance. Smaller eateries will also be allowed to serve 20 people indoors, Channel 12 reports.
Edelstein plans to submit the proposal to the government for approval today.
On Friday, the so-called coronavirus cabinet approved new restrictions on crowding in indoor spaces, while easing other limits against crowding in open-air spaces.
The new regulations, which went into effect Sunday afternoon, limit attendance at 10 people for closed places that are smaller than 80 square meters.
Egyptian mediators are in the Gaza Strip in an effort to reduce tensions and prevent a new cross-border conflict between Israel and Palestinian terror group Hamas.
The terror group, which seized control of Gaza from rival Palestinian forces in 2007, says the three Egyptian general intelligence envoys headed straight for meetings with Hamas officials after entering the territory.
The urgent visit came as hostilities broke out along the Gaza-Israel frontier after months of calm due in part to leaders from both sides being occupied by the coronavirus crisis.
For the past week, Palestinian youth groups affiliated with Hamas have fired incendiary balloons toward Israel, setting swaths of farmland on fire. Israel, which holds Hamas responsible for violence emanating from the territory, responded with airstrikes on Hamas military sites, banned Gaza’s fishermen from taking to the sea and shut the main commercial crossing into the territory.
A balloon-borne incendiary device launched from the Gaza Strip is suspected of having started a small fire outside a kindergarten in the southern town of Sderot.
Firefighters were called to the scene and quickly put out the blaze in a plastic closet outside the school.
“No damage was caused to the kindergarten. The fire was outside the building. This was a small fire that was extinguished by one team,” a fire department spokesperson says.
Fire and Rescue Services investigators are working to confirm the cause of the fire, the spokesperson says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan files a formal complaint with the United Nations Security Council over what Israel says was a failed attack by the Hezbollah terror group on Israeli troops along the Lebanese border.
In his complaint, Erdan says the Hezbollah cell was armed with a .50-caliber sniper rifle, which was recovered at the scene, along with military fatigues.
According to the IDF, on July 27, a cell of three Hezbollah operatives entered the area of Mount Dov, also known as Shebaa Farms, a contested area along the border under Israeli control. The Israel Defense Forces monitored the cell as it crossed the border into Israeli territory, at which point troops on the ground, as well as aircraft, opened fire at the suspected operatives, driving them back into Lebanese territory, apparently unharmed.
Erdan includes a map that he says shows the route of the cell, up a rocky, tree-covered hill, eventually reaching a few dozen meters inside Israeli territory, roughly 300 meters from the IDF’s Gladiola outpost.
— Judah Ari Gross
Hamas will take part in a joint meeting of the Palestinian leadership on Wednesday to discuss the Israeli-Emirati normalization agreement, senior Hamas official Hasan Yousef tells the Anadolu News Agency.
“Hamas received an invitation from PLO Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad, as well as from the Fatah Central Committee. The invitation was accepted,” Yousef says.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said earlier today that the meeting would also discuss “a number of issues related to our causes.”
Yousef says the names of the officials in the Hamas delegation will be released later tonight.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad also says it has received an invitation to participate in the joint meeting, although it has not yet announced whether it will attend.
The last time the two Gaza-based terror groups were invited to attend a major joint conference of the Palestinian leadership was in May, when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced the end of security coordination with Israel due to Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank. Neither group showed up.
Previous announcements of Hamas-Fatah reconciliation to cooperate against the planned annexation — the two factions have been divided since a bloody 2007 civil war — did not seem to bear fruit and a joint rally in Gaza at which Abbas was supposed to speak never materialized.
— Aaron Boxerman
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi has spoken to his Omani counterpart Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, amid growing speculation the sultanate could join the United Arab Emirates in forging ties with Israel, according to Hebrew reports.
The two discussed the UAE-Israel normalization deal, announced on Thursday, while the Omani minister expressed support for the renewal of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and a broader Arab-Israeli peace.
Omani Foreign Minister Yousef bin Alawi spoke on the phone with his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi today, the Oman Foreign Affairs Ministry says in a statement.
“The Sultanate’s firm and supportive position was clearly expressed on the need to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, as well as the need to resume the peace process negotiations and fulfill the legitimate demands of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital. This is consistent with the Arab position,” the statement says.
The Omani Foreign Ministry says that bin Alawi later spoke to Fatah Secretary General Jibril Rajoub “in which the Palestinian official expressed his appreciation and assurance of Sultanate’s role, as well as its balanced and wise policy toward Arab issues, foremost of which is the Palestinian cause.”
A member of the Sunni-dominated Gulf Cooperation Council, but enjoying a special relationship with Iran, Oman has often served as a mediator and peacemaker between conflicting forces in the region.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry also confirms the call.
— Aaron Boxerman
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin are meeting at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, in talks apparently focused on the UAE deal.
“I would like to congratulate you, President Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed on a great achievement that could bring extremely important change in the history of the Middle East and in the history of the Israeli people and the Jewish people,” says Rivlin at the start of the meeting.
Netanyahu thanks him, saying: “I greatly appreciate your support. This is an historic agreement that will benefit not only Israelis and the UAE. I think it brings closer Arab-Israeli peace that will, in the end, advance peace in general. But this is certainly a significant and important turning point.
“Here are two countries, among the most advanced in the world, and the cooperation between us will produce technological and economic possibilities in all fields, including in health and the search for a virus vaccine, and many other things. It is great news and I thank you very much for your support. It is important and I think it reflects what every Israeli feels, and so it should,” adds Netanyahu.
The Palestinian-led boycott movement against Israel says a campaign organizer has been released without charge by Israel after more than two weeks in detention.
The BDS campaign says Mahmoud Nawajaa is on his way back to the West Bank.
“They cannot break us because they cannot crush an idea or counter our strategy, despite all the financial, intelligence, political, diplomatic and propaganda resources they’ve invested,” Nawajaa says in a statement.
Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said Nawajaa was arrested on July 30 on suspicion of unspecified “security offenses.” It said the suspicions were not connected to his boycott activities. The Shin Bet does not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Last week, dozens of Palestinians protested in the West Bank city of Ramallah calling for Nawajaa’s release. The global human rights group Amnesty International also had called on Israel to “immediately and unconditionally” free him.
The AACI organization says it’s raising money for a virus fund for English-speaking immigrants in Israel who are struggling financially as a result of the pandemic.
“The money will be a grant; however, we will suggest that the recipients voluntarily return the money to us once they are able to do so, in order for us to be able to continue assisting others,” it says in a statement on the project.
The cargo of four tankers seized by the United States last week en route to Venezuela was no longer Iranian property, Iran’s oil minister says, insisting that the US had no right to confiscate the shipment in international waters.
The Trump administration said it seized the cargo of four tankers it was targeting for transporting Iranian fuel to Venezuela. The move was part of stepped-up US campaign of maximum pressure on Iran and Venezuela, both heavily sanctioned allies.
According to the semi-official ISNA news agency, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh says the oil had been “sold to customers and the payment was received” for it.
“The US claimed it seized Iranian petrol, but even though the cargo was sent from Iran, neither the ships nor the petrol were Iranian,” Zanganeh is quoted as saying.
He does not elaborate or say who the owners of the petrol was at the time of the seizure. But Zanganeh’s remarks echoes those of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif who on Sunday called the US “pirates of Caribbean” in a tweet and said the ships carried sold cargo. Iran’s ambassador to Venezuela, Hojad Soltani, also said that neither the ships not the oil were Iranian.
“Sadly for them, stolen booty wasn’t Iran’s. Fuel was sold F.O.B. Persian Gulf. Ship and flag weren’t ours either,” Zarif tweeted.
Iranian officials have called pushed for stronger ties between Iran and Venezuela, and Tehran has sent several fuel shipments to energy-hungry Venezuela amid US sanctions.
The head of Lebanon’s customs authority is formally arrested after being questioned over the massive explosion in Beirut earlier this month, the state-run National News Agency reports.
The investigation is focused on why nearly 3,000 tons of explosive ammonium nitrate was being stored at the city’s port. The ignition of the stockpile caused an explosion that tore through the capital, killing at least 180 people and wounding 6,000.
Thirty people are still missing after the August 4 blast, which caused an estimated $10 billion to $15 billion in damage.
Documents that surfaced after the blast, the single most destructive in Lebanon’s history, showed that officials have known for years that 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate were stored in a warehouse at the port and knew about the dangers.
Judge Fadi Sawwan questioned customs chief Badri Daher, who was detained days after the blast, for 4 1/2 hours in the presence of his two lawyers before issuing the arrest warrant, the agency says. Daher will remain in custody as the investigation continues.
NNA says that after questioning Daher, Sawwan headed to the scene of the blast to survey the damage and will later return to question Hassan Koraytem, who was the top port official until the day of the blast.
White House adviser Jared Kushner says Israel has agreed not to move forward with West Bank annexation without US consent, which Washington plans to withhold for “some time.”
He speaks to reporters days after a US-brokered deal between Israel and the UAE — which will see ties established between the two Middle Eastern countries in exchange for Israel’s suspension of its annexation bid — was announced.
“We built a very trusting relationship with Israel. President Trump is committed to holding them accountable to it, and Israel has agreed with us that they will not move forward without our consent. We do not plan to give our consent for some time, as right now the focus has to be on getting this new peace agreement implemented. We really want to get as much interchange between Israel and the United Arab Emirates as possible, and we really want Israel to focus on creating new relationships and new alliances,” says Kushner.
“That land is land that right now that Israel, quite frankly, controls. It’s Israelis who are living there. It’s not going anywhere. There shouldn’t be any urgency to apply Israeli law. So we believe that they will stick to their agreement,” he adds.
— with Eric Cortellessa
US President Donald Trump says the United States is following events “very closely” in Belarus, the former Soviet nation where pressure has been building on strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko to step down over a disputed election.
Large protests against Lukashenko have been met with a brutal police crackdown, and Washington has already called for him to open talks with civil society.
Trump says it is a “terrible situation,” adding: “We will be following it very closely.”
The mother of an Israeli reporter who fainted on air while reporting from the UAE, apparently due to heatstroke, says she panicked and thought he had been attacked.
“I thought he had been stabbed,” says the mother of Channel 13’s Doron Herman, who passed out during a live broadcast on Sunday.
When she received the video on WhatsApp, “I went to throw up,” she tells Channel 12.
In a follow-up message on his Facebook page, Herman says he’s fine and gives a shout-out to his mother.
חברים בערוץ 13, להרמן לא חם ולא בעיה בקשר, הוא התעלף לכם בלייב!!!
— יהודה שלזינגר (@judash0) August 16, 2020
Later, on the nightly news, Herman explains that “the heat is insufferable… I’ve learned my lesson. Today, I’ve been drinking all day.”
Police say a “suspicious item” affixed to a balloon is being neutralized in the southern town of Netivot, after apparently being flown across the border from Gaza.
Sappers are at the scene, say police.
Israel has seen an uptick in cross-border attacks by airborne incendiary devices, including balloons, which have sparked dozens of wildfires.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is giving an interview to the Abu Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia.
Days after the normalization deal between Israel and the Emirates is announced, Netanyahu tells the network that other countries will follow.
The accord will eventually lead to peace with the Palestinians, he predicts.
Health Ministry Director General Chezy Levy confirms the government is formulating a plan to permit entry to tourists into the country, after a months-long ban.
“We are currently in discussions on how to open the skies to tourists, under conditions that are suited to life in the shadow of the coronavirus. This hasn’t been completed,” he says.
Asked when non-Israelis will be allowed back into the country, the Health Ministry’s Asher Salmon, of its international department, says the process of allowing tourists into the country will be gradual, to avoid an outbreak.
“The goal is to learn lessons [from the past] and carefully reopen the tourism industry,” he tells reporters.
As of this week, Israelis from “green” countries, with low infection rates, and who haven’t been elsewhere in 14 days, can now enter the country without quarantine or tests. The lists of “green countries” will be updated every two weeks, says Levy.
Deputy Director General Itamar Grotto adds that Israelis should consult with the Health Ministry website on their destination countries’ health policies.
Before the flight, travelers will need to fill out a health form. If the destination state requires a check-up, that can be conducted some 48 hours in advance, he says. And only ticket-holders will be permitted into Ben Gurion Airport, says Grotto.
Grotto says the policy on quarantine applies to the day of departure, such that Israelis who visit countries classified as “green” whose infection rates soar during their visit still won’t need to self-isolate upon their return.
The Knesset begins its debate on a bill to postpone the budget deadline.
The proposal will grant the coalition government more time to pass the national budget, averting elections by enabling it to bypass an approaching deadline that is just days away.
The bill, proposed by Derech Eretz MK Zvi Hauser, must pass three readings before it becomes law, but its future is uncertain as Likud has not yet committed to supporting it in its second and third readings.
It’s up for its first reading in the plenum this evening.
The Health Ministry, clarifying some its quarantine policies, says travelers who have a connecting flight in a country flagged as “red” over its high infection rates won’t require 14-day quarantine upon their return to Israel if they haven’t left the airport.
That’s assuming their origin was one of the “green” countries that Israel this week waived from mandatory quarantine.
Iran offered the Taliban bounties to attack US and coalition soldiers in Afghanistan, just as Russia allegedly did, CNN reports citing US military intelligence.
CNN says the US identified payments tied to six attacks last year, including an attack in December on a building outside Bagram Air Base near Kabul.
The attack, which CNN says killed two Afghan civilians and left four Americans injured, brought US-Taliban peace negotiations to a temporary halt.
In a statement the US Department of Defense would not confirm or deny the CNN report.
Major Rob Lodewick, a Pentagon spokesman, says they do not disclose details of internal discussions on intelligence.
However, he adds, the department “has repeatedly demanded, both publicly and privately, that Iran cease its scourge of malign and destabilizing behavior throughout the Middle East and the world.”
“Iran’s inimical influence seeks to undermine the Afghan peace process and foster a continuation of violence and instability,” he adds.
In June US media reported that intelligence had determined that Russia had offered the Taliban bounties to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan.
The report was not denied by top officials, and was characterized by some as based on inconclusive information.
But it became a political issue after the White House was questioned and US President Donald Trump denied he had ever been briefed about the allegations.
Mossad chief Yossi Cohen has landed in Abu Dhabi for additional talks on the normalization deal, Channel 13 reports.
Cohen has been credited with a prominent role in the negotiations on the agreement, announced last week, which will see Israel and the UAE forge diplomatic ties.
A larger Israeli delegation is also expected in Abu Dhabi this week.
The Health Ministry records another 1,597 COVID-19 cases in 24 hours.
Another two deaths are confirmed since the morning, bringing the toll since the start of the pandemic to 692.
Of the 23,324 active cases, 399 are in serious condition, 111 of them on ventilators. Another 176 are in moderate condition, with the rest displaying mild or no symptoms.
According to the ministry, 12,383 tests were conducted yesterday.
The melting of Greenland’s ice cap has gone so far that it is now irreversible, with snowfall no longer able to compensate for the loss of ice, even if global warming were to end today, according to researchers.
“Greenland’s glaciers have passed a tipping point of sorts, where the snowfall that replenishes the ice sheet each year cannot keep up with the ice that is flowing into the ocean from glaciers,” says a statement from Ohio State University, where several authors of a study published August 13 in Communications Earth and Environment are based.
Climate change is having a devastating effect on the world’s glaciers, with the ice melt posing a threat to millions of people around the world.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the ice cap lost around 450 billion tonnes of ice per year, which was compensated by snowfall, the scientists said after analyzing 40 years of data.
But the ice melt has accelerated during this century, climbing to 500 billion tonnes and no longer sufficiently replenished with snow.
“The Greenland ice sheet is losing mass at accelerated rates in the 21st century, making it the largest single contributor to rising sea levels,” the study says.
While researchers are in agreement that the Greenland ice melt is worrying, not all agree that it has reached a “tipping point.”
“We don’t know how much greenhouse gas concentrations will rise,” Ruth Mottram, a climatologist at Denmark’s Meteorological Institute tells AFP.
The published results show that “even if we stabilized temperatures (and greenhouse gas emissions) at the present level, the ice sheet would still continue to melt, but only until the size of the ice sheet is once more in balance with the climate,” Mottram says.
Another recent study from Britain’s University of Lincoln concluded that Greenland’s ice melt alone is expected to contribute 10-12 centimetres to the world’s rising sea levels by 2100.
The UN’s IPCC climate science advisory panel said in 2013 that it expected sea levels to rise by 60 centimeters by the end of the century.
Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu will recommend far-reaching restrictions to stem the spread of the virus, at Thursday’s coronavirus cabinet meeting, reports Channel 12.
Ministers will attempt to delay the regulations until the onset of the Jewish holidays — Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot — from mid-September until early October, to avoid an additional blow to the economy, it reports.
The restrictions include restricting gatherings in houses of worship during the upcoming Jewish holidays; closing hotels and other tourist attractions over the holidays; limiting movement during the holidays; recommending Israelis observe the holidays only with their nuclear families.
“It’s not if, it’s when,” the report says.
Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin lands in Germany as part of a two-week aerial exercise in the country.
This will be the first time the IAF takes part in an exercise in Germany.
Norkin, who piloted one of the Gulstream planes taking part in the exercise, was escorted into Germany by the commander of the Luftwaffe Ingo Gerhartz.
“On behalf of the German Air Force, it is an honor for me to welcome the Israeli Air Force into German airspace for the first time in history,” Gerhartz says over the radio to Norkin.
Norkin responds that the exercise — the IAF’s only exercise outside Israel this year — is a “testament to [their] strong ties and mutual commitment” to one another.
— Judah Ari Gross
נפגשים באוויר: מפקד חיל-האוויר הגרמני, לוטננט גנרל אינגו גרהארץ, מלווה את מטוס ה"נחשון" של חיל-האוויר הישראלי שמוטס על ידי מפקד חיל-האוויר, אלוף עמיקם נורקין, ומפקדת טייסת הטיסה הראשונה בחיל-האוויר, סא"ל ג', בדרכו לתרגיל הבין-לאומי בגרמניה pic.twitter.com/n7laNBOrdy
— צבא ההגנה לישראל (@idfonline) August 17, 2020
A ministerial panel on the Shin Bet security agency’s operations has accepted opposition leader Yair Lapid’s request to relieve him of security guards when he is outside his home, reports Channel 12.
Security detail will no longer accompany Lapid, with some exceptions, though the security agency will still secure his home.
The decision can be reversed at his request, the report says.
Channel 12 also reports that the three most threatened figures in Israel, based on Shin Bet data and online incitement to violence, are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
Hundreds of Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox demonstrators gather outside the Kan public broadcaster’s offices in Jerusalem to rally against its satirical TV show, “HaYehudim Baim” (“The Jews are Coming”), over its depiction of biblical and religious figures.
The irreverent and acclaimed show employs sketches of biblical figures to comment on contemporary Israeli and Jewish social, political and religious issues.
The protesters are decrying the show for mocking religion and “blasphemy.”
The Knesset approves in its first reading a bill that will grant the coalition government more time to pass the national budget, averting elections by enabling it to bypass an approaching deadline that is just days away.
The bill, proposed by Derech Eretz MK Zvi Hauser, must pass two more readings before it becomes law, but its future is uncertain, as Likud has not yet committed to supporting it in its second and third readings.
The deadline for the budget is August 25. Under the terms of the bill, that limit would be put off by 100 days until December 3. If the bill or the budget is not passed by August 25 the country automatically goes to elections in what would be the fourth vote in less than two years.
Jerusalem police are investigating a possible stabbing attack close to the Lions’ Gate in the Old City.
The suspect has been “neutralized,” and the incident is being investigated, police say.
— Aaron Boxerman
Hebrew media reports say a Border Police officer has been injured during the suspected stabbing in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Some reports say he is lightly injured, while others classify the wound as moderate.
A Border Police officer is moderately wounded in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City, officials say.
The assailant is shot by officers at the scene. His condition is not immediately known.
Medics say the border guard, 19, sustained a number of stab wounds and was taken in moderate, stable condition to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center for treatment.
“We gave him life-saving medical treatment, including stopping the bleeding, bandaging him, and giving him medication, and we took him quickly to the hospital in moderate, stable condition,” a Magen David Adom medic says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Israeli officials believe Bahrain and Saudi Arabia will be the next Middle Eastern countries to establish diplomatic ties with Israel after the United Arab Emirates, Channel 13 reports.
The television report does not cite a source.
The Jewish state has also received positive signals from Sudan, and officials believe Oman will also make peace with the Jewish state in the future, the report says.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz warns that the proliferation of the F-35 fighter jet was “not good for Israel,” following reports that the United States would sell the advanced aircraft to the United Arab Emirates.
“It’s not good for Israel that the plane is going around in other places. We need to talk to the Emiratis, to the Americans, and make sure that our security interests are being upheld,” Gantz tells reporters in a press conference.
Gantz criticizes the fact that he’d been kept in the dark about the normalization agreement until it was announced last Thursday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israel Hayom newspaper that Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi were not informed of the deal in order to prevent them from leaking the information.
“The prime minister informed me of this after the decision was made, so that from the start I couldn’t have known about things that are happening,” Gantz says.
“I believe that it was improper that we weren’t updated. I know that I’ve never in my life leaked anything. When I want to give a briefing, I call you [journalists]. Leaks are other people’s games,” he says.
— Judah Ari Gross
BERLIN — German authorities arrest a Syrian national on suspicion he was a member of two militant groups that fought against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad during the early stages of the conflict in Syria.
The suspect, named only as Khaled A. for privacy reasons, was arrested in the city of Potsdam, just southwest of Berlin, on allegations of membership in a terrorist organization, war crimes and weapons violations, prosecutors say in a statement.
A. is suspected of having been a member of Ahrar al-Tabqa from January to August 2013, documenting the eviction of civilians to house fellow militants. The group — one of many rebel groups that emerged during the Syria conflict — was based in the northern town of Tabqa.
He is accused of later joining the larger Ahrar al-Sham and acting as one of their spokespeople until at least October 2013.
Both groups sought to overthrow the Syrian government and replace it with an Islamist system. They are deemed foreign terrorist organizations by Germany.
Prosecutors don’t state whether the suspect was among hundreds of thousands of Syrians who sought asylum in Germany from 2015 onward.
As The Times of Israel’s political correspondent, I spend my days in the Knesset trenches, speaking with politicians and advisers to understand their plans, goals and motivations.
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