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Protesters gather in Jerusalem following deadly West Bank shooting attack

Police use water cannon to disperse demonstrators blocking highway; 7 arrested

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is a breaking news editor at the Times of Israel.

Police use a water cannon to disperse protesters in Jerusalem on Saturday, December 18, 2021. The protesters were there to urge more government action against recent deadly terror attacks. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Police use a water cannon to disperse protesters in Jerusalem on Saturday, December 18, 2021. The protesters were there to urge more government action against recent deadly terror attacks. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

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

Sheba Medical Center to start trial for 4th dose of COVID vaccine next week

Sheba Hospital says its study to examine how effective a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine will be in the battle against the disease has not yet started and will begin next week.

Israel’s Channel 13 news reported earlier that the trial has already started.

The hospital will begin the study with about 100 medical personnel, and not 300 volunteers, as the network said.

Prof. Galia Rahav, head of Sheba Medical Center’s Infectious Disease Unit, told The Times of Israel on Tuesday that while fourth shots for the general population have been ruled out for now, her ongoing research underscores their importance for some.

Police arrest seven at Jerusalem demonstration

Police say officers detained seven demonstrators for disorderly conduct, amid a protest taking place at the entrance of Jerusalem.

The protesters are calling on the government to act after a series of recent Palestinian terror attacks.

A law enforcement official says one of the suspects was found with a weapon on his person, without detailing what the item was.

Video footage shows police dispersing the protest with a water cannon, directly targeting some.

One person was lightly hurt from the water cannon and taken to hospital, medics say.

Protesters gather at Jerusalem’s entrance following deadly West Bank shooting

Police use a water cannon to disperse protesters in Jerusalem on Saturday, December 18, 2021. The protesters were there to urge more government action against recent deadly terror attacks. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Police use a water cannon to disperse protesters in Jerusalem on Saturday, December 18, 2021. The protesters were there to urge more government action against recent deadly terror attacks. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Dozens of protesters are gathering at the entrance of Jerusalem, calling on the government to act after a series of recent Palestinian terror attacks.

According to footage, at least two demonstrators have been detained by police.

Officers are clearing the protestors from blocking the main highway with a water cannon.

There is no immediate comment from law enforcement officials on the demonstration.

The past few weeks have seen a rise in Palestinian terror attacks, with four taking place in Jerusalem alone. On Thursday, Yehuda Dimentman was killed and two others were lightly hurt in a shooting attack in Homesh in the West Bank.

Dutch to go into Christmas ‘lockdown’ to stop Omicron

Shoppers walk in the center of Rotterdam, Netherlands, on December 18, 2021. (Marco de Swart/ANP/AFP)
Shoppers walk in the center of Rotterdam, Netherlands, on December 18, 2021. (Marco de Swart/ANP/AFP)

The Netherlands will go into a “lockdown” over the Christmas period to try to stop a surge of the Omicron coronavirus variant, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says.

All non-essential shops, restaurants, bars, cinemas, museums, and theaters must shut from Sunday until January 14, while schools must close until at least January 9, Rutte says.

The number of guests that people are allowed in their house is also being cut from four to two, except for Christmas Day on December 25.

“I stand here tonight in a somber mood,” Rutte tells a televised press conference.

“To sum it up in one sentence, the Netherlands will go back into lockdown from tomorrow.

“It is inevitable with the fifth wave and with Omicron spreading even faster than we had feared. We must now intervene as a precaution.”

The head of the Dutch outbreak management team, Jaap van Dissel, says the Omicron strain would soon overtake the Delta variant.

“Between Christmas and the turn of the year the Omicron variant will become dominant,” van Dissel tells the news conference.

“We know that the variant can outflank built-up defenses from previous infections or previous vaccinations, especially if that was some time ago.”

Dutch Jaap van Dissel, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Control of the RIVM (Dutch acronym for National Institute for Public Health and the Environment) delivers a speech next to Dutch outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte (center) and Dutch outgoing minister of Healthcare Hugo De Jonge (left) during a press conference about new coronavirus measures to stop the spread of the Omicron variant, in The Hague, on December 18, 2021. (Robin Utrecht/ANP/AFP)

Top health expert says Israel to likely face significant Omicron wave soon

Eran Segal, a computational biologist from the Weizmann Institute of Science and a top adviser to the government’s coronavirus cabinet, tells Channel 12 news that while there are many unknowns about Omicron, Israel may see a wave of infections soon.

“If what’s happening in Europe happens here, we’ll see a doubling of cases every 2-3 days, and a significant outbreak,” he tells the network.

Segal says that South African data suggests Omicron is less aggressive than the Delta variant of the coronavirus, but UK data seems to contradict this.

“The vaccination campaign is virtually treading water,” he says, as more than a million Israelis have yet to get their boosters dose, according to Health Ministry data.

Health Minister says school COVID vaccine drive to expand tenfold

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz gives a press conference at Soroka Medical Center in the southern city of Beersheba, on November 30, 2021. (Flash90)
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz gives a press conference at Soroka Medical Center in the southern city of Beersheba, on November 30, 2021. (Flash90)

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz tells Channel 12 news that next week the number of stations near schools where children can get their COVID-19 vaccination will increase tenfold.

“If until now there were 50 locations [outside schools], then it will be 500 next week every day,” Horowitz says.

Separately he says that the ministry is considering vaccinating the elderly population with a fourth dose, pending further research on such a move.

Horowitz adds the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is “multiplying a worrying rate,” in Israel.

Anti-vax protesters gather near Bennett’s home

Police officers secure an anti-vaccination protest in Ra'anana, on December 18, 2021. (Israel Police)
Police officers secure an anti-vaccination protest in Ra'anana, on December 18, 2021. (Israel Police)

Dozens of anti-vaccination protesters are gathering near the home of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Ra’anana, calling for an end to COVID-19 restrictions and the vaccine drive, especially among children.

Police say officers are at the scene ensuring the safety of the participants and passersby.

The demonstrators can be heard chanting slogans against the so-called Green Pass document, which allows people who are vaccinated or recovered from the virus to enter certain venues.

Dozens get 4th COVID shot in Sheba Hospital test

Sheba Hospital has begun giving fourth COVID shots to an initial group of volunteers, Channel 13 reports, in a study that aims to ascertain how effective a fourth vaccination will be in the battle against COVID.

The study, for which some 300 volunteers have been recruited, got underway on Thursday, with the first few dozen volunteers vaccinated.

Prof. Galia Rahav, head of Sheba Medical Center’s Infectious Disease Unit, told The Times of Israel on Tuesday that while fourth shots for the general population have been ruled out for now, her ongoing research underscores their importance for some.

Portrait of Israeli Prof. Galia Rahav in Tel Aviv, on June 22, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Israel may add US, Canada, Germany, and other countries to ‘red’ no-fly list — TV

Travelers at the Ben Gurion Airport, on November 29, 2021. (Flash90)
Travelers at the Ben Gurion Airport, on November 29, 2021. (Flash90)

The Israeli government is considering adding a number of countries to its no-fly list, including the US, Canada, Belgium, and Turkey, amid increasing fears over the spread of the Omicron variant.

The decision will be brought before the cabinet on Sunday and will take effect later in the week. The full list includes Germany, Portugal, and Morocco as well.

Israelis are currently barred from traveling to countries on the “red list,” and foreigners from those nations may not enter Israel. Israelis who do return from those nations are forced to enter hotel quarantine until their first COVID test comes back negative, but they must remain in home quarantine for seven days, even if they are fully vaccinated with a booster.

The “red” list already includes most of Africa as well as the United Kingdom and Denmark.

Shasha-Biton says she fired Education Ministry director due to ‘loss of confidence’ in him

Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton and the ministry's director, Yigal Slovik, speak at a press conference in Tel Aviv, August 31, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton and the ministry's director, Yigal Slovik, speak at a press conference in Tel Aviv, August 31, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton tells Channel 12 she fired the office’s director-general, Yigal Slovik, this week after about six months on the job because of a “loss of confidence” in him.

“He didn’t hurt me, but he hurt the office and staff,” Shasha-Biton tells the network.

“I took a professional, and he got a little confused along the way because education is not the army. It should be managed differently, not through orders,” she says.

Slovik was only appointed in June, when a new government was sworn in. He previously headed the military’s ground forces’ manpower division.

Rumors had swirled that Slovik’s dismissal was partly due to him not accepting Shasha-Biton’s positions on a number of issues and policies.

Shasha-Biton, a member of the right-wing New Hope party, has been particularly outspoken in her criticism of much of the government’s approach to the coronavirus.

She denies that her views on the handling of COVID-19 in the education system are related to Slovik being fired.

Report: CDC overcounts millions of first-dose COVID vaccinations in US

The US has overcounted the number of Americans who are at least partly vaccinated against the coronavirus, Bloomberg reports.

This means millions who were thought to be protected are not, as the pandemic surges in the country.

The agency reduced the share of people 65 and older with at least one shot from 99.9 percent, to 95%, without changing its raw shot totals, the report says.

Bloomberg reports that state and local officials believe the government has regularly and incorrectly counted booster shots and second doses as first doses.

Health Ministry reports more than 1,000 COVID cases over the weekend

The Health Ministry says 873 new COVID-19 infections were diagnosed on Friday, and another 264 cases were identified today by 6:30 p.m.

There are currently 81 patients in serious condition and 41 on ventilators.

Most patients in serious condition are over 60 and unvaccinated.

Since the start of the pandemic, 5.8 million Israelis have received two vaccine doses, and over 4 million have gotten a third booster shot.

The death toll since the start of the pandemic stands at 8,232.

IDF: Troops continue manhunt in West Bank for attackers in deadly terror shooting

Israeli troops carry out intensive searches over the weekend in the northern West Bank, as the manhunt continues to find the gunmen behind a deadly terror shooting, the Israel Defense Forces says.

Yehuda Dimentman was killed and two others were lightly hurt after they were fired on while driving a car as they left Homesh on Thursday night. A military official says the car was ambushed from the side of the road.

The IDF publishes a video of troops’ operations from over the weekend.

IDF Cyber Defense unit holds drill with US Cyber Command

The Israeli military says its Cyber Defense Division and the US Cyber Command held a joint exercise over the past week.

The drill included training for “a variety of cyber defense challenges,” the Israel Defense Forces says.

“This event demonstrates the strategic partnership between the two militaries, which allows both to achieve cyber network superiority,” the IDF adds.

Paris cancels New Year fireworks as Omicron fears deepen

Paris says it is calling off its New Year fireworks as Europe braces for tighter curbs to rein in a highly mutated strain of the coronavirus that is fueling a resurgence in COVID-19 cases across the world.

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen warns that the Omicron variant could be dominant in Europe by mid-January.

Many countries have decided to reintroduce travel restrictions and other containment measures since it was first detected in South Africa last month.

A scientific panel that advises the French government urges “significant restrictions” on New Year festivities, and the capital announces “with regret” that it is canceling all events on the Champs Elysees.

“The fireworks will not take place, nor unfortunately will there be any DJ sets,” the Paris mayor’s office tells AFP.

Elderly man in Arad hospitalized for hypothermia

An 89-year-old man is taken to hospital from his home in Arad in southern Israel with signs of hypothermia, the Magen David Adom ambulance service says.

Medics have taken the man to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center, where he is listed in moderate-to-serious condition.

Earlier today, a homeless man in Tel Aviv was found in critical condition with signs of hypothermia, and later died at a hospital.

Israel is bracing for a major storm this coming week.

London declares ‘major incident’ over Omicron spread

Shoppers, some wearing face coverings to combat the spread of COVID-19, walks past stores on the final Saturday before Christmas, on Oxford Street in London, on December 18, 2021. (Tolga Akmen/AFP)
Shoppers, some wearing face coverings to combat the spread of COVID-19, walks past stores on the final Saturday before Christmas, on Oxford Street in London, on December 18, 2021. (Tolga Akmen/AFP)

London mayor Sadiq Khan declares a “major incident” in the British capital due to the spread of the Omicron variant.

More than 65,000 new cases have been confirmed in London over the past seven days. The UK Health Security Agency says confirmed Omicron-variant COVID-19 cases hit 24,968 as of Friday afternoon, up by just over 10,000 cases from 24 hours earlier. This is the highest number in Britain since the start of the pandemic.

A major incident is defined as an event with a range of serious consequences which require special arrangements to be implemented, and is aimed at helping authorities support each other to reduce service disruption in the city.

Khan previously declared a major incident on January 8 during a previous wave of the virus, but stood down the order a month later as case numbers fell.

“The surge in cases of the Omicron variant across our capital is hugely concerning, so we are once again declaring a major incident because of the threat of COVID-19 to our city,” says Khan.

“It’s right that London’s key agencies work closely together to minimize the impact on our city, including helping to protect the vital vaccination program,” he adds.

Britain has recorded record case numbers for three days in a row, prompting the introduction of new regulations and reports of another lockdown on the way.

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