The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
The armed man who caused a lockdown of United Nations headquarters in New York City earlier is in custody.
The man was arrested without incident at around 1:30 p.m., about three hours after police said he was first spotted outside a security checkpoint on Manhattan’s First Avenue.
During the standoff, the man held an object pointed at his own throat, possibly a firearm. The gates on the fence that rings the UN complex were closed, and the man didn’t appear to be trying to breach the security perimeter. Police said there was no danger to the public.
People inside UN headquarters were initially told to shelter in place, but were later allowed to move about the complex and come and go from other entrances.
The new US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Museum earlier today, along with his son.
Nides toured the museum and took part in a ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance.
“There is a reason I came here on my first official visit as the US ambassador,” he said. “It is for the grandmothers and the grandfathers; the mothers and fathers; the little boys and little girls; the teachers; for all of us we say one thing, please God, may it never happen again.”
Days after the Shin Bet boosted Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana’s security, Haaretz reports that the decision came after an extremist religious group pronounced a din rodef, or “law of the pursuer” edict, against the minister.
The Talmudic edict allows extrajudicial killings of persons who represent a grave threat.
An unnamed security source tells the paper it is the most serious threat against a politician since a din rodef was issued against former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, prior to his assassination.
The minister has faced death threats as he pushes ahead with profound reforms of Israel’s religious services that are deeply unpopular with the country’s ultra-Orthodox community.
Chaos in the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm after the murder of a 33-year-old man there this morning.
Reports indicate massive gunfire in the town’s Aghbariya neighborhood, and multiple buildings set aflame in apparent revenge for the killing.
Large police forces have been scrambled to the scene, as have firefighting teams.
גורים במשטרה :כוחות משני המחוזות הוקפצו (ממחוז חוף ומחוז צפון)לעיר אום אל פחם ,בית הועלה באש וירי באוויר שהופסק עם התערבות המשטרה. pic.twitter.com/AaX52YKESL
— |فرات نصار|פוראת נסאר|FURAT NASSAR (@nassar_furat) December 2, 2021
The explosion at the Natanz nuclear facility earlier this year was a Mossad-led operation that used multiple Iranian nuclear scientists who agreed to help destroy the centrifuge facility, the Jewish Chronicle reports, citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the matter.
The Chronicle says the scientists, up to 10 of them, were not aware they were working for Israel, but rather believed they were assisting international dissident groups.
It says the explosives used in the attack were smuggled in through various means, including in a catering truck and in packages dropped by a drone and collected by the accomplices inside the facility.
“The scientists’ motivations were all different,” an unnamed source told the paper. “Mossad found out what they deeply wanted in their lives and offered it to them. There was an inner circle of scientists who knew more about the operation, and an outer circle who helped out but had less information.”
He added that the scientists were all taken to safety after the attack and are safe.
Unnamed sources tell Channel 12 news that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s call today with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was “long and tough,” with the Israeli leader making clear that Israel opposes the notion of a “less for less” nuclear deal with Iran.
Blinken today said he’d had “a very good” talk with Bennett, adding that “we have exactly the same strategic objectives.”
Channel 12’s reporters assert that relations with Washington are encountering something of a crisis over the Iranian issue, as evidenced by Mossad chief David Barnea’s tough remarks today on a potential “bad deal” with Tehran (see below).
Mossad chief David Barnea says a bad nuclear deal between world powers and Iran is “intolerable” for Israel, and vows that Iran will never have nuclear weapons.
“It’s clear that there’s no need for uranium enriched to 60% for civilian purposes,” says Barnea at a ceremony at the president’s residence honoring exceptional Mossad agents. “There’s no need for three enrichment sites. There’s no need for thousands of active centrifuges — unless, that is, there is an intention to develop nuclear weapons….
“A bad deal, which I hope will not be made, is intolerable to us,” Barnea says. “Iran is striving for regional hegemony, wages terrorism that we are blocking every day around the world, and is continuously threatening stability in the Middle East.
“Our eyes are open, we are prepared, and we will do with our partners in the security establishment everything that is necessary to alleviate the threat against Israel and thwart it by any means,” he adds.
“Iran will not have nuclear weapons — not in the coming years, not ever. That is my promise, that is Mossad’s promise.”
Nearly 800 political leaders, Jewish community activists and other prominent New Yorkers send a letter to US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer urging him to ensure that paid leave remains in the final Build Back Better legislative package that passed the US House earlier this month as negotiations over the legislation continue in the Senate.
“Simply put, on your watch, paid leave must not be left on the cutting room floor. We believe that every working person in New York and beyond deserves time to care for themselves and their loved ones regardless of where they live or work,” the letter reads.
Given Leader Schumer’s historic role as the first Jewish American to lead either chamber of Congress, a number of prominent leaders of New York’s Jewish community including Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, the National Council of Jewish Women – NY, Ruth Malso added their name to the letter.
The leaders urge Schumer to “put the full weight of your leadership and office behind paid leave in Build Back Better.”
Unvaccinated people across Germany will soon be excluded from nonessential stores, restaurants and sports and cultural venues, Chancellor Angela Merkel announces, and parliament will consider a general vaccine mandate as part of efforts to curb coronavirus infections.
Merkel announces the measures after a meeting with federal and state leaders, as the nation again tops 70,000 newly confirmed cases in a 24-hour period. She says the steps are necessary to address concerns that hospitals could become overloaded with patients suffering from COVID-19 infections, which are much more likely to be serious in people who have not been vaccinated.
“The situation in our country is serious,” Merkel tells reporters in Berlin, calling the measures an “act of national solidarity.”
She says officials also agreed on a nationwide requirement to wear masks, new limits on private meetings and a goal of 30 million vaccinations by the end of the year — an effort that will be boosted by allowing dentists and pharmacists to administer the shots.
The United Nations headquarters in New York have been cordoned off during a police stand-off with a lone man apparently holding a gun outside the venue, officials say.
“The UN headquarters is closed, there is police activity,” a UN spokesman tells AFP.
Images show armed police surrounding the man standing on a sidewalk while holding what appears to be a gun.
According to an official speaking on condition of anonymity, the man threatened to kill himself in front of one of the building’s entrances.
#BREAKING Man with shotgun is pacing in front of the UN Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan. Gun pointed at himself. Police have him surrounded with bomb squad and bearcat. UNITED NATIONS #HappeningNow #nyc
— Scootercaster (@ScooterCasterNY) December 2, 2021
Israel has confirmed a third case of the Omicron variant, the Health Ministry says.
The patient, a doctor at Sheba Medical Center, had recently returned from the UK, and was vaccinated with three shots. He is currently isolating at his home.
There are 30 other cases deemed highly suspect, which the ministry is looking into.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz announce Shin Bet tracking of patients suspected to have the Omicron variant of coronavirus will stop today at midnight.
The tracking had been approved for five days with the possibility of renewal, but will not be extended.
The move, after only several days of using the invasive tools of the country’s security agency, appears to be in response to intense public criticism and as the strain does not appear to be widely spread at present.
“In accordance with the policy decided in advance by the coronavirus cabinet, according to which tracking will be used sparingly and examined on a daily basis, it has been decided not to continue using them at this time,” according to a statement from the two.
Horowitz says he always stressed the use of the controversial method, employing cellphone and credit card data, would be limited. “Now we’re ending it, because alongside protecting [public] health, we must protect privacy and human rights, even in times of emergency.”
Norway introduces new anti-COVID measures in greater Oslo after a suspected cluster of Omicron cases emerges among dozens of vaccinated people.
Face masks will be mandatory in public transport, shopping centers, shops and taxis when social distancing is not possible. People will have to work from home if possible and the number allowed to gather at indoor private events will be limited to 100, the government says.
The announcement comes after the Omicron variant was detected in one of dozens of people who tested positive after a Christmas dinner in Oslo of 120 vaccinated people last week.
Mordy Oknin, the Israeli bus driver who was briefly jailed in Turkey with his wife and accused of espionage for photographing a presidential palace, has returned to work.
“I’m very excited to get back to the bus. I missed it,” Oknin tells Walla news.
“Passengers welcomed me with love and embraces, it touches me,” he said, adding that he was happy to get back to normal life.
His wife Natali has not yet returned to work. “It will happen in her own time,” he says.
The Kremlin voices concern about a possible escalation of fighting in a separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine as the US issues a strong warning to Russia to stay away from Ukraine.
Ukrainian and Western officials have worried about a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine, fearing it could herald an invasion. But Moscow has insisted it has no such intention and accuses Ukraine and its Western backers of making up the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at their meeting in Stockholm today that “if Russia decides to pursue confrontation, there will be serious consequences,” adding that “the best way to avert a crisis is through diplomacy.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says in Moscow that “the Ukrainian authorities’ aggressive and increasingly intensive provocative action on the line of contact” fueled fears about a possible flare-up of hostilities. He says that recent statements from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials indicate that “the Ukrainian leadership doesn’t exclude a forceful scenario.”
“The probability of hostilities in Ukraine still remains high,” Peskov says in a conference call with reporters.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says it’s not too late for Iran to revive its nuclear deal with world powers, but cautions that optimism is low.
“I have to tell you, recent moves, recent rhetoric, don’t give us a lot of cause for optimism,” he says. “But even though the hour is getting very late, it is not too late for Iran to reverse course.”
The Anti-Defamation League says that, a year after Facebook banned Holocaust denial from the platform, there remain “cracks in enforcement” that allow deniers to disseminate hate speech.
While Facebook has banned certain search terms related to Holocaust denial, others remain available, bringing up video and pages.
“There’s still a lot of Holocaust denial on Facebook,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt says. “We urge the platform to take additional steps to address these cracks in enforcement as well as to ensure that the ban is more consistently applied across the platform.”
Walla news reports that Israel does not currently have operative plans to strike Iran’s nuclear program.
The report, which does not cite sources, says the military is working on plans of action should a strike become necessary, but that training for such a mission has not yet begun, and will take several months to complete.
Once those are complete, the army will be able to provide Israel’s leaders with a detailed military option, the report says.
Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator in Vienna, Ali Bagheri, tells reporters that Iran has submitted draft proposals on the lifting of sanctions and Tehran’s nuclear commitments to other signatories of the 2015 nuclear accord.
“We have given them two proposed drafts… Of course they must consult the texts we gave them,” he says.
“The first document includes the Islamic Republic of Iran’s views on lifting of sanctions and the second draft is about the nuclear issues. It is now up to the other side to study these documents and enter into serious negotiations on these texts,” Bagheri says, according to Fars News.
“The delegation of the Islamic Republic of Iran is present in Vienna and we have declared to the other side that we are ready to continue the talks and if they are ready, we have no problem for continuing the talks,” he says.
Iran’s Fars news agency says Bagheri will meet today with Rafael Grossi, head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
In an interview with the Middle East Eye website, Bagheri says Tehran does not feel under pressure.
“The issue of the negotiations now is not related to Iran. It is related to the United States,” he says. “Therefore, now the ball is in the court of the Americans. The Americans must remove the sanctions.”
The New York Times reports that the new American and Israeli ambassadors to each other’s respective countries are both currently living in temporary rented locations, as both currently lack official residences.
In Israel, Thomas Nides, who arrived this week, is living in a rented home near the Jerusalem embassy, as State Department officials have not yet found a suitable house. The ambassador’s one-time residence in Herzliya was sold by the Trump administration last year.
And in Washington, Michael Herzog, who started his work last month, is living in a hotel as the official residence was torn down and must be rebuilt.
Iran’s top diplomat says that an agreement to revive his country’s nuclear deal with world powers is “within reach” but it depends on the goodwill of the West.
The ball is now in Washington’s court, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian says.
Amir-Abdollahian says on Twitter that negotiations in Vienna are “proceeding with seriousness” and the removal of sanctions is a “fundamental priority.”
The talks resumed on Monday after Iran paused them in June following the election of ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi.
European diplomats warned on Tuesday that “we don’t have the luxury to spend time on niceties” and they will assess the “seriousness” of Iran’s position in the next 48 hours.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh Israel is showing its “true color” by opposing the negotiations in Vienna to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
“Not surprising. Dialogue is always despised by the regime whose genesis is based on war, tension & terror,” Khatibzadeh tweets.
“Delegates in Vienna won’t take instruction from Beit Aghion,” he adds, referring to the Israeli prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem.
As #ViennaTalks advances, Israeli regime shows its true color again, calling for immediate halt of negotiations.
Not surprising. Dialogue is always despised by the regime whose genesis is based on war, tension & terror.
Delegates in Vienna won't take instruction from Beit Aghion.
— Saeed Khatibzadeh | سعید خطیبزاده (@SKhatibzadeh) December 2, 2021
GlaxoSmithKline says its COVID-19 antibody drug appears to be effective against the Omicron variant based on initial laboratory testing.
The British drugmaker says it hopes to complete testing by year’s end to confirm whether the drug is effective against all the various mutations seen with the variant.
The announcement is one of the first indications that at least some of the current COVID-19 treatments will retain their potency against the emerging strain.
On Tuesday, drugmaker Regeneron cautioned that its antibody cocktail appeared to lose effectiveness against Omicron.
Antibody treatments remain one of a handful of therapies that can blunt the worst effects of COVID-19, and they are the only option available to people with mild-to-moderate cases who aren’t yet in the hospital.
The drugs are laboratory-made versions of virus-fighting antibodies that the immune system uses to defend against infections.
An Arab Israeli woman convicted of spying for the Hezbollah terror group has been sentenced to 2.5 years in jail after photographing various strategic sites for the group, including Iron Dome batteries and military bases.
Mai-Bat Masarwa was found to have sent photos to a Hezbollah agent who contacted her online, including bases, guard posts, military vehicles, and more.
Masarwa has confessed to the actions, but claimed she believed she was in touch with a Lebanese reporter, not a Hezbollah man.
South Korea breaks its daily record for coronavirus infections for a second straight day with more than 5,200 new cases, as pressure mounts on a health care system grappling with rising hospitalizations and deaths.
The rapid Delta-driven spread comes amid the emergence of the new Omicron variant, which is seen as potentially more contagious than previous strains of the virus, and has fueled concerns about prolonged pandemic suffering.
Since detecting its first Omicron infections on Wednesday, South Korea has confirmed six cases, all linked to arrivals from Nigeria, prompting the government to tighten its border controls.
The country will require all passengers arriving from abroad over the next two weeks to quarantine for at least 10 days, regardless of their nationality or vaccination status. South Korea since Sunday had already banned short-term foreign travelers arriving from eight southern African nations, including South Africa, and has now extended the same rules to foreigners coming from Nigeria.
Leaders in Germany are poised to approve a de facto lockdown for the unvaccinated.
In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, her designated successor Olaf Scholz and state leaders are huddled in emergency talks to impose tougher measures designed to stem rocketing COVID cases, fueled by the Delta variant, in Europe’s largest economy.
According to a draft agreement seen by AFP, the plans include a blanket ban on entering bars, restaurants, theatres and cinemas for anyone who has not been vaccinated or recovered from COVID.
The unvaccinated would also be banned from Christmas markets and nonessential shops and only be able to socialize with a limited number of people.
A 31-year-old resident of Dimona has been arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting women while intentionally spreading the HIV virus.
Dekel Shashonkar is accused of contacting women from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds online, setting up meetings and then assaulting them, raping them in some cases, and infecting them with the virus.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urges Russia to “de-escalate” on Ukraine and use “diplomacy,” reiterating his threat of “serious consequences” if Russia resorts to “aggression.”
“We have deep concerns about Russia’s plans for renewed aggression against Ukraine,” Blinken tells his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov during bilateral talks in Sweden.
Austria’s ex-chancellor Sebastian Kurz announces that he is quitting politics, nearly two months after resigning as national leader after being implicated in a corruption scandal.
“For me, a new chapter begins in my life that I can open today,” the 35-year-old conservative says, adding he wants to spend time with his family, especially his newborn son.
He says he will hand over the leadership of his conservative People’s Party (OeVP) on Friday.
“Today’s decision was not easy for me,” he tells reporters, adding that having to fight the recent corruption allegations has taken a heavy toll and diminished his “passion” for politics.
People infected with earlier variants of COVID-19 do not appear to be protected against Omicron, but vaccination will prevent serious illness, a top South African scientist says.
“We believe that previous infection does not provide protection from Omicron,” says Anne von Gottberg, an expert at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
Outlining early research into the newly emerged variant, she says doctors are seeing “an increase for Omicron reinfections.”
“We believe the number of cases will increase exponentially in all provinces of the country,” she says. “We believe that vaccines will still, however, protect against severe disease.”
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