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Israel leads world in rolling average of new daily infections per capita — data

Revised Health Ministry figures show coronavirus cases passed 11,000 for first time Monday; 719 people hospitalized in serious condition with COVID complications

A health worker takes a swab sample on from a man at a temporary COVID-19 testing facility in the northern city of  Safed, on August 31, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)
A health worker takes a swab sample on from a man at a temporary COVID-19 testing facility in the northern city of Safed, on August 31, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The Times of Israel is liveblogging Tuesday’s events as they happen.

UN chief warns ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ looming in Afghanistan

UNITED NATIONS — United Nations chief Antonio Guterres warns of a looming “humanitarian catastrophe” in Afghanistan as he urges countries to provide emergency funding following the departure of US forces.

“I urge all member states to dig deep for the people of Afghanistan in their darkest hour of need. I urge them to provide timely, flexible and comprehensive funding,” the secretary-general says in a statement.

Palestinians riot along Gaza border for 4th night in a row

Palestinians have begun burning tires and hurling explosive devices along the Gaza border, during the fourth straight night of rioting.

According to Hamas media outlet al-Resalah, a Palestinian was hit in the foot by Israeli fire.

Charity warns of shortage of oxygen devices to treat COVID patients at home

Yad Sarah, one of Israel’s largest charitable groups, has warned there may soon be a shortage of oxygen concentrators to lend to Israelis being treated at home for COVID-19 complications, according to Channel 12 news.

The network cites Yad Sarah saying 3,361 devices are currently being borrowed, with the number growing by 50 each day.

The group warns that at the current pace, there will be no more of the devices left to loan by Rosh Hashanah — which starts the evening of September 6 — requiring those who need oxygen to be hospitalized.

Mike Richards out as producer of ‘Jeopardy!’ over comments on Jews, others

LOS ANGELES — Mike Richards is out as executive producer of “Jeopardy!,” days after he exited as the quiz show’s newly appointed host because of past misogynistic and other comments, including about Jews.

Richards is also no longer executive producer of “Wheel of Fortune,” according to a memo to staff that was confirmed by Sony, which produces both of the shows.

“We had hoped that when Mike stepped down from the host position at Jeopardy! it would have minimized the disruption and internal difficulties we have all experienced these last few weeks. That clearly has not happened,” Suzanne Prete, an executive with the game shows, says in the memo.

IDF begins offering COVID booster shots to all troops

The Israel Defense Forces announces that it has began offering a third COVID-19 vaccine shot to all soldiers in its ranks, after Israel began allowing all those eligible to be vaccinated to get booster shots.

Israel leads world in rolling average of new daily infections per capita – data

Israel currently has the highest seven-day rolling average of new daily coronavirus cases per million people, according to the Oxford University-based Our World in Data.

Figures cited by Our World in Data show that Israel has overtaken Montenegro and Georgia for an average of 1,013 new daily cases per million people over a week.

US State Department reiterates commitment to two-state solution

Asked for comment on Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s recent remarks against the establishment of a Palestinian state, a US State Department official tells The Times of Israel, “We believe that a negotiated two-state solution is the only viable path to achieving a lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The official adds: “We have a frank and ongoing discussion with the Israeli government on the importance of a pragmatic approach on Palestinian issues in working toward that goal in tangible ways.”

After fleeing, Afghan ex-minister slams US for ‘irresponsible’ timing of pullout

OSLO, Norway — Nargis Nehan, a former member of Afghan president Ashraf Ghani’s cabinet who days ago fled Afghanistan for Norway, condemns the US handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“The US have been in Afghanistan for 20 years, staying one more year longer wouldn’t have made any difference for them, at least financially as well as politically,” Nehan tells AFP from Oslo, where she is staying in quarantine after arriving last week.

Nehan, who previously served as acting Minister of Mines and Petroleum, says that the withdrawal was “mismanaged” and “irresponsible,” and, with a delayed exit, evacuations could have been handled in an organized manner and enabled a real agreement between the government and the Taliban.

“President Joe Biden could have said that by end of September 2022 I want zero troops in Afghanistan. But until that time I want to make sure that we have a political settlement between the government and the Taliban and that we have also evacuated all our employees and local partners,” Nehan says.

The former minister, who explained that she resigned in October of 2019 over frustration that she lacked the political support to enact reforms in the sector, says that she fled to Norway after her driver was shot by unknown assailants the day the Taliban took over.

As her driver, who survived the attack, was not a high profile individual, Nehan and her family believed she had been the intended target.

Revised figures show daily COVID cases passed 11,000 for first time Monday

Revised Health Ministry figures show that 11,077 new coronavirus cases were recorded yesterday, the first time that the number of daily infections in Israel has passed 11,000 since the pandemic began.

Another 5,393 cases have been confirmed so far today, bringing the number of active infections to 83,470.

There are 716 people hospitalized in serious condition with COVID complications, including 159 on ventilators.

The death toll stands at 7,030.

Of the over 88,000 tests performed since midnight, 6.35 percent have come back positive, which is down from recent days.

According to the Health Ministry, 5,978,120 people have received one COVID vaccine dose, 5,484,158 have gotten two shots, and 2,192,334 have been administered a third dose.

Foreign Ministry hails arrival of Bahraini ambassador

The Foreign Ministry hails the arrival in Israel of Khaled Yousif al-Jalahmah, Bahrain’s first ambassador to the Jewish state.

“The Ambassador’s arrival, and the upcoming official opening of the Bahraini Embassy in Israel, mark an important step in developing the bilateral relations between the two countries and their peoples,” ministry spokesman Lior Haiat says.

He adds: “The Bahraini Embassy in Israel, as well as the Israeli Embassy in Bahrain, have a central role in the strengthening of the bilateral relations and serve as yet another milestone of the vision of the peace accords signed in 2020.”

France says ‘a few dozen’ French citizens still in Afghanistan

PARIS — France says that “a few dozen” French nationals remain in Afghanistan, including some who wanted to be evacuated but could not as the last flight left Kabul.

French Defense Ministry spokesman Herve Grandjean says in a news conference today that “all efforts are being done” to allow those left behind to get “a safe and orderly evacuation.”

He said “that is the goal of the talks under way within the United Nations framework with the Taliban power.”

In addition, France was not able to evacuate a “few dozen” former Afghan employees of the French army who asked for the protection of the country, Grandjean says.

France will do “the maximum” in the coming days and weeks to help them getting out of Afghanistan, he says.

France’s evacuation flights from August 17 to August 27 have evacuated about 2,600 Afghans at risk, including 110 former employees of the French army and their families.

France withdrew its troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2014.

Iran’s new FM says Macron invited him to Paris

TEHRAN, Iran — New Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that French President Emmanuel Macron has invited him to Paris, state TV reports.

There is no immediate comment from the Elysee Palace.

Amirabdollahian attended a summit in Baghdad on Saturday alongside regional leaders and Macron, the only leader from outside the region.

“The French were very interested to use the opportunity [of the Iraq summit] to get close to Iran,” the minister is quoted as saying by state TV’s website in a late night report.

“Mr Macron… came to me twice and stressed that ‘we are very interested for you to travel to Paris’,” he said.

“He called his foreign minister over and said: ‘I have invited [Amirabdollahian] … and we should review bilateral ties and find solutions to maintain talks.'”

Iran and France, alongside Britain, China and Germany, are the remaining parties to the troubled 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.

The accord promised Tehran international sanctions relief in exchange for limits on its nuclear program, but it was torpedoed in 2018 when former US president Donald Trump withdrew and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

Six rounds of nuclear talks between Iran and the major powers — with the US indirectly taking part — were held in Vienna between April and June in an attempt to revive the accord.

The last round concluded on June 20, with no date set for another.

Boy found lifeless in car identified as nephew of Likud MK

The 6-year-old boy who died after apparently being forgotten in a hot car is identified as Meir Yisrael Ashush from the southern moshav of Zimrat, a nephew of Likud MK Shlomo Karhi.

Bahraini ambassador arrives in Israel to take up post

Khaled Yousif al-Jalahmah, Bahrain’s first ambassador to Israel, has arrived in Israel to take up his post.

A statement carried by the Bahrain News Agency touts his arrival as “an important step in developing relations between the two countries and their people.”

Before touching down in Israel, al-Jalahmah put out a tweet in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

“The opportunity to fulfill His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s vision of peaceful coexistence with all nations is a privilege that I will hold in high regard,” he says.

Israel and Bahrain agreed to establish diplomatic relations as part of the Abraham Accords, a US-led initiative that has also seen the Jewish state normalize ties with the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Morocco.

Police issue over 4,500 fines for violations of COVID rules in past 2 days

Police say officers have issued 4,545 tickets for violations of coronavirus rules over the past two days, the vast majority of which are for failing to wear a mask in an enclosed space.

NATO chief vows not to ‘forget’ Afghans left behind

BRUSSELS — NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg says that Kabul airport must be kept open and vows not to forget Afghans left behind when US and allied forces leave.

“It’s essential to keep the airport open, both to enable humanitarian aid to the Afghan people and also to make sure that we can continue to get people out — those who wished to, but were not able to be part of the military evacuation,” he tells AFP in an interview.

“We will not forget them.”

The last US military flight departed from Kabul’s airport last night after a rushed airlift to rescue more than 123,000 allied personnel and Afghans who worked alongside them during the conflict.

But as the Taliban celebrated their victory, the NATO alliance is left to analyze what went wrong in its most important military mission since the Cold War.

And Stoltenberg swears the allies will maintain diplomatic pressure on the Taliban to allow the remaining Afghans, and their families, who worked to help the Western effort and now feel at risk, to leave the country.

Looking forward, Stoltenberg says the 30-member Western alliance will have to look carefully at what went wrong in their mission to build an Afghan government and military capable of holding off the Taliban advance.

“These are among the hard questions we have to ask, when we now will have a process where we’re going to assess, analyze, and have our lessons learned process in NATO,” he tells AFP.

“Because we need to understand better, both what went wrong, but also to analyze achievements we made in Afghanistan, not least when it comes to fighting terrorism.”

US won’t seek death penalty for California synagogue shooter

SAN DIEGO — Federal prosecutors say they will not seek the death penalty for a 22-year-old former nursing student charged in a deadly shooting at a Southern California synagogue on the last day of Passover.

The decision was disclosed yesterday in a one-sentence court filing in federal court in San Diego. It comes less than two months after US Attorney General Merrick Garland halted federal executions while the Justice Department conducts a review of its policies and procedures.

In July, John T. Earnest pleaded guilty to murder and other charges in state court. The San Diego County district attorney’s office said at the time that he agreed to serve the rest of his life in state prison without the possibility of parole. Sentencing is scheduled for September 30.

In the federal case, Earnest submitted a conditional plea agreement for consideration by federal prosecutors in June 4, the terms of which have not been disclosed. A hearing in that case is scheduled September 8.

Earnest opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle during the last day of Passover services in April 2019 at Chabad of Poway. The attack killed 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye and wounded three others, including an 8-year-old girl and the rabbi, who lost a finger.

Earnest then called 911 to say he had shot up a synagogue because Jews were trying to “destroy all white people,” authorities said.

Israeli boy who died from jellyfish sting in Thailand to be cremated

A 9-year-old Israeli boy living in Thailand who died of a jellyfish sting has been named as Li-Yam Levi.

The boy’s father has decided to cremate his son rather than bring the body to Israel for burial, according to Hebrew media reports.

Leaders of UAE, Turkey talk by phone amid rapprochement in ties

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held talks, UAE state media reports, as relations improve between their two countries.

The phone call between the two leaders marks the highest-level interaction in years, after a rare visit earlier this month to Ankara by a United Arab Emirates delegation.

The two sides have backed opposing sides in the Libyan conflict and sparred on other regional issues.

Sheikh Mohammed, UAE’s de facto ruler, and Erdogan “reviewed the prospects of reinforcing relations between the two nations in a way that serves their common interests and their two peoples,” the official WAM news agency says.

“They exchanged views on a number of international and regional issues of interest.”

Erdogan has made efforts to reach out to a range of regional rivals, including Egypt, as he tries to break out of a growing diplomatic isolation that has cooled foreign investors in Turkey’s fragile economy.

Emirati officials have also made a series of visits to rival countries, including Qatar, after ties between the two Gulf nations were severed for more than three years.

Iran probes 6 prison guards after leaked video of abuse at notorious jail

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iranian prosecutors have opened criminal cases against six guards at the country’s notorious Evin prison, the judiciary reports, after footage showing the widespread abuse of detainees at the facility leaked out last week.

The judiciary’s three-day investigation into mistreatment and grim conditions at Tehran’s Evin prison had landed “some” prison guards in detention, says judiciary spokesman Zabihollah Khodaeian. Authorities also summoned two guards and punished others, Khodaeian says, without elaborating on the penalties or identifying the suspects.

The revelation comes days after The Associated Press published parts of the videos and a report about the abuse at the facility in northern Tehran, long known for holding political prisoners and those with ties to the West whom Iran uses as bargaining chips in international negotiations. An online account, purportedly by a self-described hacker group, shared footage of the incident, as well as parts of other surveillance video it seized.

“The scenes shown in the published films were against the law and it is not justifiable under any circumstances,” says Khodaeian, noting that the leaked clips had been selected and edited from different scenes over the course of years.

In one part of the footage, a man smashes a bathroom mirror to try to cut open his arm. Prisoners — and even guards — beat each other in scenes captured by surveillance cameras. Inmates sleeping in single rooms with bunk beds stacked three high against the walls, wrapping themselves in blankets to stay warm.

Iran’s judiciary ordered an investigation into the abuse last week after the head of the country’s prison system acknowledged the videos were real, expressing contrition and saying he took responsibility for the “unacceptable behaviors.”

Since its construction in 1971 under Iran’s shah, the prison has seen a series of abuses that continued into the Islamic Republic.

Ra’am’s Iman Khatib-Yasin returns to Knesset, filling late MK’s seat

Iman Khatib-Yasin of the coalition’s Ra’am party is sworn in as a member of Knesset, filling MK Said al-Harumi’s seat following his death from a heart attack last week.

Khatib-Yasin first entered the Knesset after elections in March 2020, becoming the first-hijab wearing MK. She was placed on fifth on Ra’am’s electoral slate ahead of the March 2021 elections, but with the Islamist party picking up only four seats, she did not return to parliament then.

Israel to spend NIS 24 million on more charging stations for electric cars

The Energy Ministry will invest NIS 24 million ($7.5 million) to deploy more charging stations for electric vehicles throughout the country.

The chargers will be installed in parking lots, public areas, malls and highways.

The announcement follows an earlier allocation of NIS 30 million ($9.4 million) to set up some 2,500 charging points by the end of this year. The figure includes 100 points for fast and superfast charging.

The Energy Ministry expects the latest tender will bring the number of fast or superfast charging points — which are mainly along highways — to 80, with a further 3,000 points in other public areas.

The Energy Ministry wants to ban the purchase of all non-electric cars starting in 2030.

Israeli driver moderately hurt in West Bank stone-throwing attack

A 36-year-old Israeli woman driving along Route 60 in the West Bank has been moderately wounded after stones were hurled at her car.

The Rescuers Without Borders emergency organization says four Palestinians stood by the side of the road and pelted the car with rocks, near the site where Asher and Yonatan Palmer were killed in a stone-throwing attack in 2011.

MDA says medics treated the woman and took her to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital.

Ombudsman faults decision-making on COVID under Netanyahu

The State Comptroller’s Office releases a report faulting the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The report covers past outbreaks under then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and does not address the response of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government to the current outbreak.

“Defects were found in the process of making decisions on implementing them,” State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman writes.

According to Englman, there was no “arranged procedure” to supervise and monitor the decisions made by Netanyahu and the government, and no process was put in place by the National Security Council or Health Ministry to “learn lessons” at a national level.

He says numerous decisions — such as on presenting alternative morbidity forecasts and purchasing ventilators — were not deliberated by the government but made in “different forums led by the prime minister.”

The report describes home quarantine for arriving travelers as “inefficient” in both compliance and enforcement.

Additionally, Englman decries how restrictions were enforced, arguing “there was no congruence between the places in which there was an outbreak of the coronavirus and enforcement in these places.”

He notes that the number of fines issued in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak — both of which have large ultra-Orthodox populations — “did not correlate to the high levels of morbidity.”

Netanyahu, who is closely allied with the Haredi Shas and United Torah Judaism parties, faced criticism during the pandemic for allegedly not ordering more stringent enforcement of COVID rules in ultra-Orthodox areas with high infection rates.

EU hits goal of vaccinating 70% of adults against COVID

BRUSSELS — The president of the European Union’s executive arm says the 27-nation bloc has reached its goal of getting 70% of the adults in the EU fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by the end of the summer.

In a message posted today on Twitter, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen thanks “the many people making this great achievement possible.”

The EU’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign got off to a slow start due to supply shortages and delays but now is among the most successful worldwide.

“But we must go further! We need more Europeans to vaccinate,” von der Leyen says. “And we need to help the rest of the world vaccinate, too. We’ll continue supporting our partners.”

She says the EU is the biggest contributor to the COVAX initiative, which aims to deliver vaccines to low-income nations.

Israelis flock to national parks, making up for drop in foreign visitors

Coronavirus restrictions on entry to Israel have failed to dent the number of visitors to national parks and nature reserves this summer, with Israelis compensating for the dramatic drop in foreign travelers.

During July and August, some 1.9 million people paid to enter Israel Nature and Parks Authority facilities, of whom just 24,000 were tourists from overseas. The total number was the same as the figure recorded in 2019, before COVID-19 struck, when 405,000 visitors were from abroad.

The most popular sites have been Gan Hashlosha, also known as Sakhne, with 131,000 visitors, 2,000 more than in 2019; Horshat Tal in northern Israel’s Upper Galilee (100,000, up from 76,000 in 2019); Tel Ashkelon in southern Israel, (95,000 compared with 82,000); Snir in northern Israel (87,000, down from 99,000 in 2019); the Yarkon-Tel Afeq National Park in central Israel (82,000, up from 58,000); and Tel Dan in the north (81,000, up from 61,000 in 2019).

The most popular campsites are in the north at Horshat Tal, Achziv, Ma’ayan Harod and the Mishmar Hacarmel Farm.

6-year-old boy found lifeless in hot car, apparently forgotten

A 6-year-old boy who was apparently forgotten in a hot car in southern Israel has been pronounced dead.

The Magen David Adom ambulance services says its paramedics found the boy without any signs of life after receiving a report of “a child who spent extended time in a closed vehicle” in the Sdot Negev Regional Council.

The incident is the second in a week, after a 2-year-old was found lifeless in a car in Eilat last Tuesday.

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