The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
Turkey offers to mediate between Ethiopia and Sudan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he backs a peaceful resolution for the Tigray conflict in Ethiopia that has displaced tens of thousands and left millions hungry. He also says Turkey is willing to mediate between Ethiopia and Sudan to resolve a separate border dispute.
Erdogan speaks during a joint news conference with visiting Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The visit comes amid a broadening of the conflict in Tigray, which began in November after a political fallout between Abiy and the leaders of the Tigray region who had dominated Ethiopia’s government for nearly three decades.
Thousands have been killed in the nine-month war in Tigray that has been marked by widespread allegations by ethnic Tigrayans of gang rapes, manmade local famines and mass expulsions of Tigrayans by Ethiopian and allied forces.
“The peace, tranquility and integrity of Ethiopia, which has a strategic location and importance in Africa, is important to us,” Erdogan says. “All the countries in the region will be affected by the worsening of the situation.”
Erdogan, who hosted General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman al-Burhan, chairman of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan, in Ankara last week, says Turkey is also prepared to contribute toward a peaceful resolution of a dispute between Ethiopia and Sudan over the Al-Fashaga region.
TAU researchers successfully complete first 3D-bioprinting of active tumor
Researchers at Tel Aviv University have marked a scientific breakthrough in the battle against cancer by successfully completing the first 3D-bioprinting of an entire active tumor.
According to the university, the researchers created a 3D print of glioblastoma — the deadliest type of brain cancer — from human glioblastoma tissues which contain all components of the malignant tumor.
“The breakthrough will enable much faster prediction of best treatments for patients, accelerate the development of new drugs and discovery of new druggable targets,” says the university in a statement.
The 3D model of the tumor includes “a complex system of blood vessel-like tubes through which blood cells and drugs can flow, simulating a real tumor,” according to the university.
Labor MK hospitalized with COVID: ‘It’s scary, it’s stressful’
Labor MK Gilad Kariv, who is hospitalized in serious condition with the coronavirus, says he struggles to breathe without oxygen.
“It’s scary, it’s stressful,” Kariv tells Channel 13 news in an interview from his hospital room at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel HaShomer. “It’s hard for me to breath without oxygen.”
Kariv, a Reform rabbi, is 47 years old and fully vaccinated. He says his wife, children and many other relatives — all vaccinated — also tested positive, but his symptoms have been the most severe.
Asked when he expects to return fully to work at the Knesset, where he serves as chair of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, Kariv says he is not sure. “I don’t know yet. It feels like there is damage done,” he says, pointing to his lungs.
White House says Biden will host Bennett to ‘discuss critical issues’
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki issues an official invitation to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
Psaki says Biden will arrive at the White House next Thursday to “strengthen the enduring partnership between the United States and Israel.”
The two leaders will “discuss critical issues related to regional and global security, including Iran,” Psaki says. “The visit will also be an opportunity for the two leaders to discuss efforts to advance peace, security, and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians and the importance of working towards a more peaceful and secure future for the region.”
Memorial for Miami condo collapse unlikely at original building site
An oceanfront park is emerging as the leading site for a memorial to the victims of the deadly condominium building collapse in Florida, a judge says.
The city of Miami Beach recently offered a portion of the 28-acre North Beach Oceanside Park as the potential location to remember the June 24 collapse of the Champlain Towers South building, which killed 98 people.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman says at a remote hearing that it is unrealistic to pursue any plan for a memorial where the 12-story condo once stood as some family members wish.
That nearly 2-acre location in Surfside, he says, must be sold to compensate victims of the tragedy. At least one bidder has offered up to $120 million for the property.
“It has to be used for the benefit of all the victims collectively,” Hanzman says. The park, he adds, is “a remarkable and extremely valuable piece of real estate. I understand this is a beautiful site that is within walking distance.”
Still, some family members of collapse victims say they would prefer a fitting memorial at the exact location.
“I believe the memorial should be at Surfside, and not Miami Beach, at the site of the tragedy,” says Pablo Langenfeld, whose daughter and son-in-law died in the collapse.
“For us, it’s not a matter of money,” adds David Rodan, whose brother and a cousin were among the victims.
But Hanzman says options other than the park for a memorial are extremely limited. The park is about 100 feet (30 meters) from the collapse site and was used as a command site for search and rescue teams.
“I’m not going to give people false hope,” the judge says.
PM Bennett says he plans to head to the US soon ‘pending COVID’
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will fly to Washington next week where he is scheduled to meet with US President Joe Biden for the first time, sources in the Prime Minister’s Office confirm to The Times of Israel.
The White House visit is planned for next Thursday and Bennett’s visit is not expected to last more than 48 hours due to COVID precautions, sources say. Just weeks ago, the prime minister urged Israelis to refrain from travel abroad in order to prevent the import of new COVID-19 variants.
To limit such chances, members of Bennett’s delegation will remain together for the entire trip and will not leave their hotel except for official meetings, according to the Walla news site.
Asked about the trip at a press conference, Bennett says he still plans to meet Biden later this month, “pending the coronavirus situation.” He adds that his meeting with Biden would be an important one, focusing primarily on the issue of Iran.
“We completed a process of formulating a policy… about the Iranian issue in all dimensions,” Bennett says. He also touts “an approach of cooperation, an approach that will know how to block Iran’s negative regional activities of instability, harming of human rights, terror and preventing Iran from advancing toward a nuclear weapon breakout.”
“Iran is at the most advanced point ever in the field of [uranium] enrichment,” Bennett adds, “but we know and we have a plan to deal with this and maintain the security of Israeli citizens.”
Bennett: Lockdown is the last possible resort
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says lockdown is a last resort to counter rising COVID cases.
“If the citizens of Israel will continue to get vaccinated, we can overcome Delta,” Bennett says in a live primetime address. “Lockdown is the easy option… but it destroys the future of the country. We’ve chosen the hard way.”
The prime minister says lockdown is “a last possible resort, only once all the other options have been tried.”
Bennett lauds the US decision to recommend booster doses for its own population, weeks after Israel began doing so. “The third dose gives us better protection than after the first and second,” he says. “More than a million Israelis have received the third vaccine, but many have still not.”
US State Department lauds Israeli-Palestinian cooperation in fighting wildfire
The US State Department lauds the cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian firefighters in battling an enormous blaze that raged for three days in the areas surrounding Jerusalem.
“The US is pleased to see successful cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian firefighters to contain the wildfires outside of Jerusalem,” the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs tweets. “We look forward to more examples of Israelis and Palestinians working together to address their common challenges in a land dear to both.”
Four fire trucks and 20 firefighters from the Palestinian Authority joined Israeli firefighters yesterday in battling the flames, which were finally extinguished after 52 hours.
The U.S. is pleased to see successful cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian firefighters to contain the wildfires outside of Jerusalem. We look forward to more examples of Israelis and Palestinians working together to address their common challenges in a land dear to both. https://t.co/focMgOb5bk
— U.S. State Dept – Near Eastern Affairs (@StateDept_NEA) August 18, 2021
Serious COVID cases hit 600 for the first time since March
There are 600 Israelis with COVID hospitalized in serious condition, the Health Ministry reports.
Serious cases have not surpassed 600 since mid-March. According to the latest figures, there are currently 59,218 active COVID cases, with 991 hospitalized, 600 in serious condition and 103 on ventilators.
Yesterday, 7,870 people tested positive for COVID-19.
WHO slams wealthy nations’ rush towards COVID vaccine boosters
The World Health Organization condemns the rush by wealthy countries to provide COVID vaccine booster shots, while millions around the world have yet to receive a single dose.
Speaking before US authorities announced that all vaccinated Americans would soon be eligible to receive additional doses, WHO experts insist there is not enough scientific evidence that boosters are needed and say providing them while so many were still waiting to be immunized is immoral.
“We’re planning to hand out extra life jackets to people who already have life jackets, while we’re leaving other people to drown without a single life jacket,” WHO’s emergency director Mike Ryan tells reporters from the UN agency’s Geneva headquarters. “The fundamental, ethical reality is we’re handing out second life jackets while leaving millions and millions of people without anything to protect them.”
Israel has begun administering third doses to Israelis aged 50 and over.
But WHO experts insist that the science is still out on boosters and stress that ensuring that people in low-income countries where vaccination is lagging received jabs was far more important.
COVID serological tests for all students to begin next week
The IDF Home Front Command will begin administering serological tests to all children from ages 3-12 next week to prepare for the expected return to school on September 1, reports the Kan public broadcaster.
The government is administering serological tests in order to discover which children were infected and recovered from the coronavirus without knowing. Those who are found to have COVID antibodies will be granted a “Green Pass” — just like those who are recovered or vaccinated — and will be exempt from quarantine if someone in their class tests positive.
Yesterday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz approved calling up 6,000 reservists to assist in the Home Front Command operation.
Serological tests in the Haredi sector began earlier this month, although only about 25% of eligible students have been tested. Initial results indicate that about 20% of Haredi students who had not previously been confirmed to test positive were found to have antibodies.
Justice Neal Hendel sworn in as deputy president of Supreme Court
Justice Neal Hendel is sworn in by President Isaac Herzog as the deputy president of the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court President Esther Hayut praises Hendel and lauds his immigrant journey.
“Justice Neal Hendel’s story is a beautiful story of the absorption of immigrants in Israel, of someone who came to Israel at the age of 31 as a lawyer from the United States,” says Hayut, who notes that due to Hendel’s “brilliant professional skills,” he was appointed to his first judicial position just five years after he immigrated to Israel.
Herzog notes that Hendel was sworn into his first position, as a judge in the Beersheba Magistrate’s Court, by his father, the former president Chaim Herzog.
US health officials recommend COVID booster shots for all Americans
US health officials recommend COVID-19 booster shots for all Americans to boost their defenses amid the Delta variant.
The third doses are expected to become available starting September 20.
Israel began offering third doses to those 60 and up on August 1, then expanded availability to those 50 and up. The Health Ministry is slated to discuss expanding it to those 40 and up during a meeting tomorrow.
Nasrallah: Israel should learn from Afghanistan that the US is unreliable
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah says the behavior of the United States during the Taliban’s conquest of Afghanistan is “the moral downfall of America.”
In a speech last night, Nasrallah says the American pullout should have people mulling the potential future of US support for Israel. “Those watching most closely and drawing conclusions from this are the Israelis,” he says.
“In order not to have Americans fighting for other [nations], [President Joe] Biden was able to accept a historic failure. When it comes to Lebanon and those around it, what will be the case there?” Nasrallah asks rhetorically in a televised speech carried by official Hezbollah media.
The Taliban toppled the US-backed government in Kabul on Sunday after a lightning conquest of the country over the past few weeks.
“Everybody must consider it and meditate upon it,” Nasrallah says, referring to the Taliban’s victory. “Those who most need to draw conclusions and wisdom from this are the peoples of this region.”
Nasrallah scathingly remarks that the United States did not extract many Afghans who had collaborated with them from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
“They evacuated the dogs who worked in the security forces, but not those who aided them. They took out their equipment, but left the human beings behind… these are the Americans,” Nasrallah says.
UAE says it is hosting Afghan president ‘on humanitarian grounds’
The United Arab Emirates says it is hosting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani “on humanitarian grounds,” after he fled his country amid a Taliban takeover.
“The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation can confirm that the UAE has welcomed President Ashraf Ghani and his family into the country on humanitarian grounds,” it said in a brief statement.
Officials suspect arson in vast Jerusalem blaze — report
Initial investigations by police and fire officials into the massive blaze that burned in the areas surrounding Jerusalem earlier this week indicate that the flames could have been set intentionally, reports Channel 12 news.
According to the report, investigators believe there were two or three initial sites where the fires began in the suburban Beit Meir community, where the fire originated. Since those specific locations are not generally accessed by hikers or locals, police reportedly believe that arson is a more likely situation.
Police are still continuing their investigation into the fire — which blazed for 52 hours beginning on Sunday until it was finally brought under control yesterday — and have not made any final determination.
Man shot dead outside mall in Rishon Lezion
A young man was shot dead outside a mall in Rishon Lezion, reports indicate.
According to reports, two individuals on motorcycles approached the victim and shot him multiple times before driving off. Initial reports indicate that the killing was linked to organized crime activity in the city.
In video of the incident posted to social media, multiple gunshots can be heard.
חשד לחיסול בראשון לציון: נקבע מותו של הצעיר שנורה ליד קניון הזהב, החשודים נמלטו באופנוע. בסרטון: תיעוד האירוע@hadasgrinberg https://t.co/CwoHqvP8Su https://t.co/0E6k0CJFne pic.twitter.com/Vtw9cJIZzt
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) August 18, 2021
Egyptian intelligence chief meets Abbas in Ramallah
Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, according to official Palestinian media.
Kamel arrived in Israel from Egypt earlier today for meetings with senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
According to a statement carried by the official PA WAFA news agency, Abbas and the intelligence chief discuss “the developments in the Palestinian territories and ways to strengthen bilateral relations and achieve stability and peace in the region.”
IDF soldier wounded in blaze aboard Navy ship
An Israeli soldier is seriously injured after a fire breaks out on the ship he was working on at the Israeli Navy’s base in Atlit, the military says.
The soldier was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. The fire was extinguished by other soldiers on the base, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
Atlit Base is home to the navy’s elite Shayetet 13 seal unit.
“The incident is being investigated. It is not immediately clear what caused the fire to break out,” the IDF says.
Egyptian official extends invitation for PM Bennett to visit Egypt
Abbas Kamel, the director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate, extends an invitation of behalf of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to visit Israel within the next few weeks.
Kamel and Bennett met today in Jerusalem. The Egyptian official is slated to meet with Defense Minister Benny Gantz later this evening.
The Prime Minister’s Office says the pair discussed diplomatic, security and financial issues pertaining to the Israeli-Egyptian relationship, as well as Egyptian efforts to maintain calm in the Gaza Strip.
It was not immediately clear if Bennett will accept the invitation; he is also slated to travel to the United States later this month — as COVID cases continue to skyrocket.
Japanese foreign minister meets President Herzog in Jerusalem
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi meets with President Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem.
According to the president’s office, Herzog thanks Motegi for the recent Olympics hosted in Tokyo, in particular for “the first recognition [in the opening ceremony] of the 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes in Munich in 1972.”
Motegi tells Herzog that Israel is “an important partner who shares basic values with us, including freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” says the president’s office.
The foreign minister gifts the president with a framed photo of the president’s father, former president Chaim Herzog, meeting with the late Japanese emperor Hirohito.
Palestinian teen arrested for attempted West Bank stabbing
Israeli security guards arrest a Palestinian teenager who the Defense Ministry says ran toward them with a knife at a checkpoint between the West Bank and Israel.
According to the ministry, the 15-year-old ran toward the guards from the West Bank side of the Gilboa Crossing. They called for him to halt and aimed their guns at him.
“The suspect stopped, lifted up his shirt [to show he was not wearing an explosive belt] and threw a knife away,” the ministry says.
The guards arrested the teenager, a resident of the Jenin refugee camp, and handed him over to the Shin Bet security service for questioning.
The teenager appeared to be the relative of one of four suspected terrorists killed in a gun battle with Israeli security forces earlier this week.
The Defense Ministry later released a photograph of the kitchen knife that was in the suspect’s possession.
Government to expand number of rapid COVID testing stations
Due to high demand across the country, the number of rapid COVID testing stations will be expanded further.
Today marked the first day children ages 3-12 became required to show a “Green Pass” in order to enter most public attractions. Since those under 12 cannot be vaccinated, they can only receive a Green Pass with a negative test.
The government announced that last week that all tests for those under 12 will be free, but reports from across the country indicated long lines and problems at the testing stations.
The Health Ministry says it will work to “expand the number of stations and widen their distribution in areas with particularly high demand.”
Iranian national security official in Hebrew tweet: Israel’s occupation will end
Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, tweets a message to Israel in Hebrew.
“The end of every occupation is a humiliating dismissal,” he writes. “The fate that befell the United States in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq is also the unavoidable fate of Israel.”
סופו של כל כיבוש הוא פיטורים משפילים. הגורל שפקד את ארצות הברית בווייטנאם, #אפגניסטן ועיראק הוא גם גורלה הבלתי נמנע של ישראל.
— علی شمخانی (@alishamkhani_ir) August 18, 2021
Last week, Shamkhani tweeted in Hebrew about Iran’s talks with Russia to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Syria’s top jihadist group hails Taliban takeover
The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) alliance, led by al-Qaeda’s former Syria affiliate, welcomes the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, saying it hopes Syria’s jihadists will also be victorious.
The armed group that formally broke ties with al-Qaeda years ago is considered to be the most prominent jihadist group in Syria after a decade of war.
HTS controls nearly half of the Idlib region — the last remaining opposition bastion in Syria — alongside other less influential groups.
It says the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan following two decades of US occupation was an example to follow.
“We congratulate our Taliban brothers and our people in Afghanistan for this clear conquest, and ask God to also grant the Syrian revolution victory,” the group says in a statement released on its social media channels.
Roman Zadorov ordered released to house arrest ahead of murder retrial
Convicted murderer Roman Zadorov has been ordered released to house arrest ahead of a retrial in the killing of Tair Rada.
Zadorov, who has been jailed since he was convicted for the 2006 murder of the 13-year-old schoolgirl, has always maintained he is not guilty.
If the prosecutors do not appeal the decision to release Zadorov within 48 hours, he will exit jail with an electronic ankle bracelet that tracks his location.
Last month, the State Prosecutor’s Office announced a retrial for Zadorov. Rada’s murder case has long gripped the country, due both to the brutal way in which she was killed and continuing claims by some that it was not Zadorov who committed the murder.
Gantz: Government is weighing a month delay in starting the school year
Defense Minister Benny Gantz says the option of pushing off the start of the school year by a month is being considered by government officials.
“We’re in a dilemma: in September there are 6-7 days of school” due to the series of Jewish holidays that month, Gantz tells Walla News. “If there are just 7 days then perhaps it is worth waiting a month… in order to get a bit further away from this COVID wave.” Various accountings indicate that there could be 10-12 school days in the month of September.
Gantz says he is “not ruling out the possibility of delaying the school year by a month.”
Currently, schools nationwide are slated to reopen on September 1. The prime minister’s office says that it will hold a meeting early next week with Education Ministry officials, where “a decision will be made on all issues and aspects” of the education system.
Health Ministry to weigh expanding booster doses to those 40 and up
The Health Ministry’s vaccination committee is slated to meet tomorrow and issue a ruling on whether to expand the COVID vaccine booster dose campaign to those age 40 and over.
Israel began offering third doses of the vaccine to those 60 and up on August 1, and expanded it to those 50 and up over the weekend.
So far, close to 1.2 million Israelis have received a third dose of the vaccine, including 70% of those between the ages of 70 and 79, 53% of those from 60 to 69 and 22% of those from 50 to 59.
Government again revises plan for allowing in-person schooling
The government has once again revised its plan to enable in-person learning in schools once they are scheduled to reopen on September 1.
Earlier this week, the Education and Health ministries agreed that in cities that are classified as “red” to their high COVID rates, students in grades 8-12 will only be allowed to attend class in person if at least 70% of the class is either vaccinated, recovered or tested positive for COVID antibodies.
Today, the government revised the plan to allow in-person learning as long as 70% of the entire grade is vaccinated, recovered or has antibodies. If not, classes in those cities will switch to learning via Zoom.
Fearing Afghan refugee influx, Turkey reinforces border
TATVAN, Turkey (AP) — Fearing a new refugee crisis, Turkey is sending soldiers to reinforce its border with Iran in order to stop a potential influx of Afghans fleeing the Taliban insurgency.
Irregular arrivals are already up as Afghans who fled weeks and months ago show up at Turkey’s rugged border area after a long trek across Iran. A group of Afghans encountered by The Associated Press near the border say they deserted the Afghan military and fled the country as the Taliban offensive accelerated.
“We came out of necessity. The Taliban have attacked our country and now they control it, we hope that the Turkish government [accept us],” one of them, Feroz Seddiqi, tells the AP. He explained that they had scaled a mountain to reach Turkey, enduring thirst and hunger.
Turkey is already home to some 4 million migrants — most of them Syrians refugees who fled the civil war in the neighboring country. Anti-migration sentiment is already running high in the country as it grapples with economic woes — including high unemployment — that have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Video images circulating on social media over the past months have shown groups of young men allegedly arriving in Turkey from Iran. Some media reported that up to 1,000 migrants have been crossing the border with Iran every day.
Opposition parties have been calling on the government to “take control of the borders” and prevent a new migration surge.
Egyptian intelligence official to meet Bennett, Gantz in Israel
Major General Abbas Kamel, the director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate, is on his way to Israel to meet with both Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
Senior defense officials tell Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew sister publication, that the meeting with Kamel is not connected to ongoing talks over allowing Qatari funds to enter the Gaza Strip. Egypt helped broker the truce that ended the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in May.
The meeting comes days after a rocket was fired from Gaza toward Israel. Despite Bennett’s vow to meet fire with fire, the IDF did not respond militarily to the rocket strike.
According to a Channel 12 news report, Bennett and Gantz agreed to not respond to the rocket fire in order to allow a path for potential negotiations with Hamas on the Qatari cash as well as on Israelis being held in Gaza.
Bennett is also expected to head to Washington later this month to meet with US President Joe Biden, and sources suggest that Egypt is hoping to make a good impression on the Biden administration before that trip.
Kamel was in Israel in May and met with both Gantz and then prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
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