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Experts believe COVID cases will plummet when 5 million boosters given — TV

Health Ministry data indicates third dose of the vaccine could be 10 times more effective than first two shots alone, report says

A healthcare worker fills a syringe with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, July 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
A healthcare worker fills a syringe with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, July 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s developments as they unfolded.

Bennett to meet with Blinken, Austin, Sullivan on Wednesday

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will carry out a series of meetings on Wednesday in Washington DC, the first full day of his two-day trip to America’s capital.

At 10:00 a.m. local time, he will meet with AIPAC CEO Howard Kohr and President Betsy Berns Korn.

At 1 p.m., Bennett will meet with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at his hotel.

He will then set out across the Potomac River to meet with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at 2:30 p.m. at the Pentagon.

Bennett’s day will end with a 6 p.m. meeting with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

The Times of Israel will be in Washington to cover the meetings.

G7 demands Taliban ‘guarantee’ safe passage from Kabul after Aug. 31

The Taliban must “guarantee” safe passage for those fleeing Afghanistan beyond the current August 31 evacuation deadline, the G7 agrees, according to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Johnson, who convened the emergency meeting, says that he and his colleagues had agreed to “a roadmap for the way in which we’re going to engage with the Taliban” in the future.

But he adds that the “number one condition” was “to guarantee… through August 31 and beyond, a safe passage for those who want to come out.”

The UK chairs the emergency talks among the group of wealthy countries on Tuesday, saying it would urge Biden to extend his August 31 deadline to pull American forces out of Afghanistan.

France also calls on Washington to push back the timeline.

However, Biden decided after the G7 talks that he would stick to the deadline, US media reported.

TV: Booster shot increases protection from COVID tenfold, data shows

Health Ministry data indicates that Israelis who received the third vaccine dose are 10 times more protected from COVID than those who were only given the first two shots, from 12 days after the booster is administered, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

Officials believe that Israel could drive down coronavirus cases to the low levels seen before the Delta variant emerged, if 5 million Israelis get the booster, the television report says.

Thus far, 1.5 million have received the third dose.

 

Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts dies at age 80

In this file photo taken on June 29, 2013, British musician Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones performs on the Pyramid Stage on the fourth day of the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts, near Glastonbury, southwest England. (Andrew Cowie/AFP)
In this file photo taken on June 29, 2013, British musician Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones performs on the Pyramid Stage on the fourth day of the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts, near Glastonbury, southwest England. (Andrew Cowie/AFP)

Charlie Watts, the self-effacing and unshakeable Rolling Stones drummer who helped anchor one of rock’s greatest rhythms sections and used his “day job” to support his enduring love of jazz, has died, according to his publicist. He was 80.

Bernard Doherty says that Watts “passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his family.”

“Charlie was a cherished husband, father and grandfather and also as a member of The Rolling Stones one of the greatest drummers of his generation,” Doherty says.

Watts had announced he would not tour with the Stones in 2021 because of an undefined health issue.

The quiet, elegantly dressed Watts was often ranked with Keith Moon, Ginger Baker and a handful of others as a premier rock drummer, respected worldwide for his muscular, swinging style, as the band rose from its scruffy beginnings to international superstardom.

Watts joined the Stones early in 1963 and remained over the next 60 years, ranked just behind Mick Jagger and Keith Richards as the group’s longest lasting and most essential member.

The Stones began, Watts said, “as white blokes from England playing Black American music” but quickly evolved their own distinctive sound. Watts was a jazz drummer in his early years and never lost his affinity for the music he first loved, heading his own jazz band and taking on numerous other side projects.

A classic Stones song like “Brown Sugar” and “Start Me Up” often began with a hard guitar riff from Richards, with Watts following closely behind, and Wyman, as the bassist liked to say, “fattening the sound.”

Watts’ speed, power and time keeping were never better showcased than during the concert documentary, “Shine a Light,” when director Martin Scorsese filmed “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” from where he drummed toward the back of the stage.

Biden decides to stick with Aug. 31 final pullout from Kabul, official says

US President Joe Biden speaks about the evacuation of American citizens, their families, SIV applicants and vulnerable Afghans in the East Room of the White House, on August 20, 2021, in Washington, DC. Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken listen. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
US President Joe Biden speaks about the evacuation of American citizens, their families, SIV applicants and vulnerable Afghans in the East Room of the White House, on August 20, 2021, in Washington, DC. Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken listen. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

US President Joe Biden has decided to stick with his August 31 deadline for completing the US-led evacuation from Afghanistan, an administration official says. The decision reflects in part the US military’s concern about heightened security threats to the massive airlift that began ten days ago.

A Taliban spokesman, speaking prior to word of Biden’s decision, reiterated that the militant group would oppose any extension of the deadline. It has allowed the airlift to continue without major interference.

Pressure had grown for Biden to extend his deadline, which he set well before the Taliban completed its takeover of Afghanistan on August 15. It remains unclear whether the airlift from Kabul’s international airport can get all American citizens, and at-risk Afghans who fear for their lives, out by then.

Biden made his decision after consultation with his national security team, the administration official says, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a decision not yet publicly announced.

Weighing the risks of keeping forces on the ground beyond the deadline, Biden opted to complete the mission by next Tuesday.

Biden asked his national security team to create contingency plans in case a situation arose for which the deadline needed to be extended slightly, the official says.

In this image provided by the US Marine Corps, families begin to board a US Air Force Boeing C-17 Globemaster III during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 23, 2021. (Sgt. Samuel Ruiz/US Marine Corps via AP)

US officials have repeatedly stressed the risk of continuing the airlift, due to threats of violence by the Islamic State’s Afghanistan affiliate.

Germany’s top military commander, Gen. Eberhard Zorn, said on Tuesday that the US and Germany were particularly concerned about ISIS suicide bombers potentially slipping into crowds.

2-year-old dies in Eilat; was apparently forgotten in hot car

A two-year-old boy is pronounced dead in the southern resort town of Eilat, after he was apparently forgotten in the car in the scorching heat.

Police are investigating.

Temperatures in Eilat hit 39°C (102°F) on Tuesday.

Minister contracts COVID-19; attended cabinet meeting 2 days ago

MK Hamad Amar. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
MK Hamad Amar. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Yisrael Beytenu’s Hamad Amar, a minister in the Finance Ministry, has contracted COVID-19, according to Hebrew media reports.

Amar attended the cabinet meeting on Sunday, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

Israel ranks 3rd in COVID vaccination per capita, trailing UAE and Uruguay

Israelis over 60 receive their third-dose booster of the COVID-19 vaccine at a Clalit HMO clinic in Jerusalem, on August 8, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Israelis over 60 receive their third-dose booster of the COVID-19 vaccine at a Clalit HMO clinic in Jerusalem, on August 8, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

More than five billion COVID vaccines have been given globally, an AFP tally of official sources shows, with the worldwide inoculation drive reaching cruising speed.

While it took around 140 days to get the first billion shots into people’s arms, the third, fourth and fifth billion each took between 26 and 30 days, the data shows.

Nearly 40 percent (1.96 billion) of the five billion shots have been administered in China. India (589 million) and the United States (363 million) make up the trio of countries that have given the most jabs.

In terms of population protected per capita, among countries with more than one million people, the United Arab Emirates is the leader. It has administered 179 doses per 100 inhabitants, meaning it has fully vaccinated nearly 75 percent of its population.

People receive their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Modiin on August 15, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Uruguay follows with 154 per 100 inhabitants, followed by Israel (149), Qatar (148), Singapore (147), Bahrain (144), Denmark (143), Chile (140), Canada (139), Portugal and Belgium (138 each), China (136), Spain (134), Ireland (133) and the United Kingdom (132).

Most of these countries have fully vaccinated between 65% and 70% of their populations.

Some, like the Emirates, Bahrain, Israel, Uruguay and Chile have even started giving out booster shots to prolong the immunity of the fully vaccinated.

France, which will start giving booster shots from mid-September, is not far behind, with 126 doses injected per 100 people and 62% of the population completely vaccinated.

It has bypassed the United States, which has given 110 doses per 100 inhabitants, with 52% completely vaccinated.

49-year-old man shot and seriously injured in Haifa

A 49-year-old man is shot in the northern city of Haifa.

He is hospitalized with serious injuries. Police are investigating.

IDF beefs up troops along Gaza border in anticipation of violent riots

Palestinian protesters at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Gaza City, on August 21, 2021. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Palestinian protesters at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Gaza City, on August 21, 2021. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces sent additional troops to the Gaza border ahead of protests organized by Hamas for tomorrow, with plans to deploy them differently, following violent clashes along the frontier over the weekend, in which an Israeli soldier was shot in the head at point-blank range and dozens of Palestinians were injured, the military says.

The initial findings of the IDF’s investigation into Saturday’s border violence identified a number of failures in the way the military responded to the riots, which allowed dozens of people to rush the border, including a man with a pistol who fired into an Israeli sniper post, hitting the soldier in the head.

Though the full probe is still underway, the military plans to alter its strategies on the border, sending additional soldiers to the area and updating its rules of engagement to ensure that protesters would not be able to approach the security fence again. These changes were approved today by the head of the IDF Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Eliezer Toledano, following a situational assessment.

“In recent days, troops have been preparing massively, as specific plans were being approved, drills were performed at different points and reviews were held in the field. IDF troops will act aggressively against attempts at terror along the border,” the military says in a statement.

Two special forces units, a tank company and a number of snipers were deployed to the Gaza border area, ahead of the protests that Palestinian terror groups said they plan to hold tomorrow.

Father of injured soldier reprimands Netanyahu during phone call – TV

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) speaks at  a conference in Jerusalem, on August 1, 2021; Border Police officer Barel Shmueli (center) who was critically wounded in a shooting on the Gaza border on August 21, 2021; Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) receives a third COVID-19-vaccine at the Meir hospital in Kfar Saba, on August 20, 2021. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90; Border Police; Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) speaks at a conference in Jerusalem, on August 1, 2021; Border Police officer Barel Shmueli (center) who was critically wounded in a shooting on the Gaza border on August 21, 2021; Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) receives a third COVID-19-vaccine at the Meir hospital in Kfar Saba, on August 20, 2021. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90; Border Police; Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The father of an injured IDF soldier chided opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu during their phone conversation, Channel 12 reports, after he reprimanded Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for forgetting his son’s name.

The parents of 21-year-old Border Police officer Barel Hadaria Shmueli — who remains hospitalized in serious condition after he was shot in the head during violence along the Gaza border on Saturday — have heavily criticized the government’s behavior.

“When will you reach the conclusion in this country that our soldiers are not [sitting] ducks?” Yossi Shmueli tells Netanyahu, according to a recording aired by the network. “It doesn’t matter if it’s Likud… or Bennett who called me.”

Shmueli urged the government to take responsibility and formulate a clear policy on the use of live fire on the Gaza border.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) and Yossi Shmueli, the father of wounded soldier Barel Shmueli. (Flash90/Screenshot)

“This is my only son and he’s critically injured. He underwent two surgeries today,” he says in the recording.

Shmueli urges politicians to “stop putting people by the security fence and make a decision on whether to shoot or not. Why isn’t there a clear decision?”

On Monday afternoon, Israeli rapper The Shadow published an audio clip of the conversation between Bennett and Yossi Shmueli. In the conversation, an emotional Yossi questions Bennett over the decision of IDF authorities to station soldiers close to the Gaza border and berates the prime minister as a “coward.”

During the call, Bennett referred to the soldier as Yossi, rather than Barel, angering the injured serviceman’s father. The prime minister later apologized. Netanyahu took the opportunity on Monday to attack the premier over the mixup, but later backed away from the criticism.

West Bank fire now under control

The fires near the West Bank settlement of Gvaot are now under control, firefighters say.

 

 

Education Ministry won’t demand negative COVID test for kids to enter school

Illustrative: Preparations for the new school year at the Gamla elementary school in Katzrin, northern Israel, on August 22, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)
Illustrative: Preparations for the new school year at the Gamla elementary school in Katzrin, northern Israel, on August 22, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

The Education Ministry won’t condition the entry of students into schools on the presentation of a negative COVID test, as stipulated by a government order, Army Radio reports.

Officials have ascertained that the demand is illegal, as education is required under law, the radio report says. The requirement was laid out for children under the age of 12, who cannot be vaccinated.

Liberman: If vaccine rates continue to climb, we may be able to scrap restrictions

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman at the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem, on July 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman at the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem, on July 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman tells Radio North 104.5 that if Israel’s vaccine rates continue to climb, “there may not be a need” for Green and Purple passes that limit crowding and bar non-vaccinated or tested individuals from attending events and entering businesses.

Liberman says that there will not be a lockdown during the upcoming High Holiday period either.

Russia accuses US of forcing Afghans on Central Asia

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks to the media during his and Serbia's Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic joint news conference following their talks in Moscow, Russia, April 16, 2021. (Yuri Kochetkov/Pool Photo via AP)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks to the media during his and Serbia's Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic joint news conference following their talks in Moscow, Russia, April 16, 2021. (Yuri Kochetkov/Pool Photo via AP)

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says that US forces are “pawning off” Afghans fleeing the Taliban to neighboring Moscow-allied Central Asia.

During a visit to Hungary, Lavrov said the United States is trying to convince “several Central Asian countries” to take in Afghans who previously worked with US forces in the now Taliban-controlled country.

He alleged that Washington tells the countries the Afghans will only be there temporarily.

“They say it’s for a few months because they need time to make them visas,” Lavrov said at a press conference with his Hungarian counterpart in Budapest.

“Afghans who worked with US forces were probably security checked inside out. Why do you need two more months to give these people a visa?” he asked, accusing the United States of a lack of respect for Central Asian nations.

Around 1,500 Afghans have crossed into neighboring Uzbekistan after the Taliban takeover and are living in tents near the border, according to the Afghan embassy in Tashkent.

Lavrov’s comments come after Russian leader Vladimir Putin complained last week about Western countries trying to place Afghan refugees in Central Asian countries “before obtaining visas to the United States or other countries.”

Arson suspected in latest West Bank fires — TV

The fires raging in the West Bank are believed to have been deliberately set by arsonists, Channel 12 reports.

The blazes near the settlement Gvaot of started at two points, according to the network, which says the fires are bring brought under control and there is no threats to homes.

Bennett says he’s bringing ‘new spirit of cooperation’ to US

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks to reporters at Ben Gurion Airport before flying to Washington, on August 24, 2021 (Channel 12 screenshot)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks to reporters at Ben Gurion Airport before flying to Washington, on August 24, 2021 (Channel 12 screenshot)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrives at the airport, ahead of his first official trip to the United States.

“We are bringing a new spirit of cooperation with us,” says Bennett before making his way into the plane, referring to the new governments in Israel and the US. “I have no doubt that this new spirit of cooperation has contributed, and will continue to contribute, to the security of Israel.”

Bennett says that he and US President Joe Biden will discuss the Iranian nuclear program, especially the advances that have been made in the last years.

“We will plan how to block the Iranian nuclear program,” he says.

He adds that he and Biden will also discuss several initiatives that will help Israel maintain its qualitative military edge, along with trade, technological innovation, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

PA receives US donation of 500,000 Moderna vaccine doses

A medical worker readies to administer the Moderna coronavirus vaccine to a Palestinian laborer at a temporary medical facility set up at a checkpoint on March 9, 2021, in Jerusalem. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
A medical worker readies to administer the Moderna coronavirus vaccine to a Palestinian laborer at a temporary medical facility set up at a checkpoint on March 9, 2021, in Jerusalem. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Palestinian Authority receives 500,000 Moderna vaccine doses donated by the United States, the PA’s official Wafa news agency reports.

Palestinian officials thank Washington for the shipment, which was distributed through the COVAX program.

According to Wafa, 2.2 million vaccines have thus far been sent to the West Bank and Gaza, including 1.7 million purchased by the PA. The report says 35% of Palestinians in the West Bank and 11% in Gaza have received at last one vaccine dose.

Aviation workers rally on tarmac where Bennett’s plane set to depart

Aviation workers are protesting on the Ben Gurion Airport tarmac where Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s plane is set to depart to Washington, according to television reports.

Last week, flights out of Ben Gurion Airport were halted for two hours as more than a thousand aviation workers physically blocked the runways, accusing the government of applying COVID-19 travel restrictions without properly addressing the impact on their industry and livelihoods.

Outgoing Iran FM Zarif says he’ll pursue teaching, research career

Outgoing Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says he’ll be leaving diplomacy to pursue a new career in teaching and research.

Zarif’s successor is the Revolutionary Guards-aligned Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

US airlift from Afghanistan records busiest day yet: 20,000-plus flown out

In this picture taken in the late hours on August 22, 2021 Afghans wait outside the foreign military-controlled part of the airport in Kabul, hoping to flee the country following the Taliban's military takeover of Afghanistan. (WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP)
In this picture taken in the late hours on August 22, 2021 Afghans wait outside the foreign military-controlled part of the airport in Kabul, hoping to flee the country following the Taliban's military takeover of Afghanistan. (WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP)

The US military pulls off its biggest day of evacuation flights from Afghanistan since the operation began. But deadly violence that has blocked many desperate evacuees from entering Kabul’s airport persists, and the Taliban signals they might soon seek to shut down the airlifts.

About 21,600 people were flown safely out of Taliban-held Afghanistan in the 24-hour period that ended early Tuesday, the White House says. That compares with about 16,000 the previous day.

Thirty-seven US military flights — 32 C-17s and 5 C-130s — carried about 12,700 evacuees. An additional 8,900 people flew out aboard 57 flights by US allies.

Pentagon chief spokesman John Kirby said Monday the faster pace of evacuation was partly due to coordination with Taliban commanders on getting evacuees into the airport.

“Thus far, and going forward, it does require constant coordination and deconfliction with the Taliban,” Kirby said. “What we’ve seen is, this deconfliction has worked well in terms of allowing access and flow as well as reducing the overall size of the crowds just outside the airport.”

Bennett set to depart for Washington, will meet Biden Thursday

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) and US President Joe Biden. (composite image: AP, Flash90)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) and US President Joe Biden. (composite image: AP, Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is set to depart for Washington, where he will meet US President Joe Biden on Thursday.

Bennett’s convoy is expected to arrive at his El Al charter flight in the coming minutes. It will be Bennett’s first official overseas trip as premier, and the first time Biden meets with an Israeli prime minister since he took office earlier this year.

On Wednesday, Bennett will meet with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

He is slated to meet with Biden midday on Thursday in the Oval Office.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s plane prepares to depart for Washington, for the new premier’s first official overseas visit. August 24, 2021 (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)

 

 

Firefighters combat blaze in West Bank; farm evacuated

Firefighters are working to extinguish a blaze in the Etzion Bloc of the West Bank, which is threatening a nearby farm, according to the fire service.

The Kashuela farm has been evacuated as a precaution.

Mass Selichot prayer service, dedicated to injured soldier, held at hospital

Hundreds of people attended a Selichot prayer service on Monday night outside the hospital where a critically injured soldier is being treated for gunshot wounds.

The service outside the Soroka Medical Center is dedicated to 21-year-old Border Police sniper Barel Hadaria Shmueli, who was shot on Saturday on the Gaza border.

Back-to-school serology testing of children limited to high-infection zones

A Magen David Adom paramedic takes blood for serological tests on ultra-Orthodox school kids in Kiryat Yearim on August 9, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A Magen David Adom paramedic takes blood for serological tests on ultra-Orthodox school kids in Kiryat Yearim on August 9, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Education Ministry has decided to limit its serology testing for antibodies in children ahead of the school year to areas where confirmed COVID cases surpassed 10 percent, according to Hebrew media reports.

Sunday marked the first day of nationwide serological tests for those ages 3-12, which are being operated by the IDF Home Front Command at more than 400 locations across the country.

Under the government’s original back-to-school plan, more than a million students were planned to undergo serological testing to determine if they had been infected and recovered from COVID in the past without detection. If the students are found to have antibodies, they will be granted a Green Pass and will be exempt from quarantine if someone in their class tests positive.

The testing campaign has been marred by technical difficulties since its rollout.

WHO says only 1 week of medical supplies left in Afghanistan

Afghans walk along fences as they arrive in Pakistan through the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman on August 24, 2021 following Taliban's military takeover of Afghanistan. (AFP)
Afghans walk along fences as they arrive in Pakistan through the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman on August 24, 2021 following Taliban's military takeover of Afghanistan. (AFP)

The World Health Organization warns that it has enough medical supplies to last it “one week,” following the blistering Taliban takeover of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul 10 days ago.

“WHO now only has enough supplies in-country to last for one week,” says Ahmed al-Mandhari, the head of WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean region — stretching from Morocco to Afghanistan.

“Yesterday, 70 percent of these supplies were released to health facilities,” he adds.

Mandhari says that 500 metric tons of medicines and supplies stored in Dubai were unable to be delivered due to the chaotic evacuation efforts at Kabul airport, which does not have the capacity to receive commercial flights.

“Countries sending in empty planes to pick up evacuees do not feel they are able to help,” Mandhari says.

UN: Month of fighting in Syria’s Daraa displaces 38,000

Fighting between government forces and former rebels in the Syrian province of Daraa al-Balad has displaced more than 38,000 people over the past month, the United Nations says, as truce talks falter.

Daraa, retaken by government forces in 2018, has emerged as a new flashpoint in recent weeks as government forces tightened control over Daraa al-Balad, a southern district of the provincial capital that is considered a hub for former rebel fighters.

Clashes, including artillery exchanges, between the two sides since late July have marked the biggest challenge yet to the Russian-brokered deal that returned the southern province to government control but allowed rebels to stay on in some areas.

Russian-sponsored truce talks launched in the wake of the latest fighting have made little headway as the government has stepped up its campaign to root out remaining rebel fighters from Daraa al-Balad.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that 38,600 internally displaced persons are registered in and around Daraa, with most having fled from Daraa al-Balad.

“This includes almost 15,000 women, over 3,200 men and elderly and over 20,400 children,” OCHA says.

7 hospitals announce partial strike from Wednesday over budget fight

Shaare Zedek hospital team members wearing safety gear as they work in the coronavirus ward in Jerusalem on January 19, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Shaare Zedek hospital team members wearing safety gear as they work in the coronavirus ward in Jerusalem on January 19, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Seven public hospitals announce a partial strike from Wednesday, in protest of the government’s failure to increase funding amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Channel 12 reports.

The hospitals — Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek and Hadassah, Bnei Brak’s Mayanei Yeshua, Netanya’s Laniado, and three hospitals in Nazareth — say they’ll only be performing live-saving procedures from Wednesday and won’t admit new patients from the Magen David Adom emergency service.

They accuse the health authorities of failing to live up to their budgetary commitments and say they do not have the funding to provide adequate care.

US official confirms meeting between CIA chief, Taliban leader

In this Tuesday, May 28, 2019 file photo, Russian presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, left, speaks to Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban group's top political leader, third left, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the Taliban's chief negotiator, third right, and other members of the Taliban delegation prior to their talks in Moscow, Russia.  (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
In this Tuesday, May 28, 2019 file photo, Russian presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, left, speaks to Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban group's top political leader, third left, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the Taliban's chief negotiator, third right, and other members of the Taliban delegation prior to their talks in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

A US official confirms that CIA Director William Burns visited Kabul on Monday to meet with the Taliban’s top political leader.

The official tells The Associated Press the meeting between Burns and Abdul Ghani Baradar came amid the ongoing evacuations at the Kabul airport.

The Washington Post first reported Burns’ meeting with Baradar. The US official confirms the report on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly.

Sister of soldier shot near Gaza criticizes the politicization of his injury

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) speaks at  a conference in Jerusalem, on August 1, 2021; Border Police officer Barel Shmueli (center) who was critically wounded in a shooting on the Gaza border on August 21, 2021; Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) receives a third COVID-19-vaccine at the Meir hospital in Kfar Saba, on August 20, 2021. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90; Border Police; Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) speaks at a conference in Jerusalem, on August 1, 2021; Border Police officer Barel Shmueli (center) who was critically wounded in a shooting on the Gaza border on August 21, 2021; Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) receives a third COVID-19-vaccine at the Meir hospital in Kfar Saba, on August 20, 2021. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90; Border Police; Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The sister of an IDF soldier critically wounded by gunfire on the Gaza border over the weekend says her brother’s injury should not be politicized.

“Put the politics aside, this is not the fixation we wanted, it’s inappropriate,” Hila Rahimi says, adding that her brother, Barel Hadaria Shmueli, “is a hero, a soldier who fought with his body for the country and is hovering between life and death.”

After Prime Minister Naftali Bennett mixed up Shmueli’s name when he called to check up on his family, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu took the opportunity on Monday to attack the premier, but later backed away from the criticism.

The parents of the 21-year-old Border Police officer, who remains hospitalized in serious condition after he was shot in the head during violence along the Gaza border on Saturday, have heavily criticized the government’s conduct.

Airbnb offers free housing to 20,000 Afghan refugees

Families evacuated from Kabul, Afghanistan, walk through the terminal before boarding a bus after they arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport, in Chantilly, Va., on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Families evacuated from Kabul, Afghanistan, walk through the terminal before boarding a bus after they arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport, in Chantilly, Va., on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Online accommodation platform Airbnb offers to house 20,000 Afghan refugees for free around the world, as people flee Kabul following the Taliban takeover.

“The displacement and resettlement of Afghan refugees in the US and elsewhere is one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time,” Airbnb chief executive Brian Chesky writes on Twitter.

“We feel a responsibility to step up,” he says.

Airbnb has made it possible for hosts to offer temporary housing to people fleeing conflict and natural disasters through its Open Homes platform since 2012.

The cost of the stays for Afghan evacuees will be funded through contributions from Airbnb and Chesky as well as donors to the Airbnb.org Refugee Fund, the company says in a statement.

“I hope this inspires other business leaders to do the same. There’s no time to waste,” Chesky says.

About 50,000 foreigners and Afghans have fled the country from Kabul’s airport since the Taliban swept to power on August 15, according to the US government.

Merkel to join cabinet meeting Sunday in Jerusalem

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wears a face mask as she arrives at the house of the Federal Press Conference on July 22, 2021 in Berlin (STEFANIE LOOS / AFP)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel wears a face mask as she arrives at the house of the Federal Press Conference on July 22, 2021 in Berlin (STEFANIE LOOS / AFP)

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel will join an Israeli government cabinet meeting on Sunday, according to Hebrew media reports.

Merkel will meet Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Isaac Herzog during the visit, scheduled for August 28-30.

 

Israel now offering COVID boosters to over 30s

A pregnant woman recieves a Covid-19 vaccine, at a Maccabi Health vaccination center at the Givatayim mall, outside of Tel Aviv, August 23, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
A pregnant woman recieves a Covid-19 vaccine, at a Maccabi Health vaccination center at the Givatayim mall, outside of Tel Aviv, August 23, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Health Ministry announces that Israelis over the age of 30 are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster, lowering the minimum age from 40.

The new policy is effective immediately and those in the age group should turn to their health providers to set up appointments, the ministry says.

Israel’s earliest COVID case says she’s still not fully recovered

As Israel marks a million COVID cases, the country’s first person to be infected, Shalva Dahan, says she still suffers from coronavirus symptoms, 18 months on.

Dahan was among six Israeli passengers from Japan’s Diamond Princess cruise-ship to contract COVID in February 2020.

In an interview with the Ynet news site, Dahan says: “I have symptoms, but I’m dealing with it. It includes hair loss, mood swings, sometimes I cry.”

“You don’t fully recover,” she says. “I was a happy woman, laughing, always singing and dancing — and there are moments I can no longer do that. My body doesn’t let me. I’m still anxious about this whole story, particularly as we’re still in this pandemic,” she says.

UN, EU condemn Palestinian Authority over arrests of Palestinian activists

Maryam Banat, 67, mother of Palestinian Authority critic Nizar Banat, holds a poster with his picture at a rally protesting his death, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, July 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Maryam Banat, 67, mother of Palestinian Authority critic Nizar Banat, holds a poster with his picture at a rally protesting his death, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, July 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

The UN and the EU express concern over a spate of arrests of activists by Palestinian security forces, as the death of a leading activist in custody sparks persistent protests.

Demonstrators in the West Bank have demanded justice since the June death of Nizar Banat — a leading critic of the Palestinian Authority and its 86-year old president Mahmud Abbas — who died in custody after security forces stormed his home in the flashpoint city of Hebron and dragged him away.

The United Nations human rights office says it is “deeply concerned at continuing pressure on those seeking to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly in Palestine.”

It says the security forces had arrested 23 people in Ramallah on Saturday on the grounds that “they were holding a public protest,” but notes that 21 of them “were detained before any protest had even started.”

Nizar Banat, an outspoken of the Palestinian Authority, speaks to journalists at the family house, in the West Bank city of Hebron, May 4, 2021. (AP/Nasser Nasser)

It says “more arrests appear to be taking place” targeting “well-known human rights defenders and political activists,” and calls for “the immediate release without charge of these individuals.”

The Palestinian Authority is not immediately available to respond to the criticism.

A statement from the European Union representative in Jerusalem also condemns the weekend arrests, which it says had come “against the backdrop of reports of an increase in apparently politically motivated arrests by the Palestinian Authority over the past few months.”

“Violence against peaceful human rights defenders, activists and protesters is unacceptable,” the EU says.

CIA leader meets Taliban leader in Kabul — report

CIA Director William Burns speaks during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 15, 2021. (Al Drago/Pool via AP)
CIA Director William Burns speaks during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 15, 2021. (Al Drago/Pool via AP)

CIA Director William Burns secretly met Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar in Kabul on Monday, the Washington Post reports.

The reported high-level meeting between the Biden administration and Islamist insurgents, the first since the shock Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, comes as the US continues its efforts to evacuate Americans from the country before an August 31 deadline.

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