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Sparks fly as nationalists march in Arab neighborhood where Jewish woman was stabbed

Palestinians scuffle with police in Sheikh Jarrah as several dozen far-right protestors demonstrate after Moriah Cohen, 26, was attacked there this morning alongside her children

Several dozen far-right Jewish nationalists march through the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, in response to a suspected Palestinian terror attack against an Israeli Jewish resident there earlier in the day, December 8, 2021. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Several dozen far-right Jewish nationalists march through the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, in response to a suspected Palestinian terror attack against an Israeli Jewish resident there earlier in the day, December 8, 2021. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they happened.

Gantz to form committee to consider IDF conscription reform

Young Israeli men line up as they arrive at the IDF recruitment center at Tel Hashomer on July 26, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Young Israeli men line up as they arrive at the IDF recruitment center at Tel Hashomer on July 26, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz announces plans to form a committee later this month to consider how to reform the country’s conscription to the army.

Gantz and the director-general of his ministry, Amir Eshel, have both come out in favor of a universal national service model to replace the current system, which exempts Arab Israelis and nearly all ultra-Orthodox Israelis from having to perform either military or civil service.

Gantz says this reform is necessary in order to both preserve the IDF as a “people’s army,” in which every citizen, regardless of background, is expected to serve, and to strengthen the country in general.

In recent years, growing voices in Israel have called for the IDF to convert to a volunteer professional army, maintaining that this is both more efficient and more in line with the country’s current more pro-market, capitalist nature.

The defense minister says he wants to broadly maintain the conscription model to “keep the IDF as a people’s army, a strong and diverse army,” but recognizes that a significant percentage of Israelis would not want to fight in it and that other service options were necessary, in part in order to develop job skills.

Report: Israel to launch major exercise simulating strike on Iran this spring

Israeli and foreign fighter jets fly in formation during the Israeli Air Force's Blue Flag exercise in October 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
Israeli and foreign fighter jets fly in formation during the Israeli Air Force's Blue Flag exercise in October 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israeli Air Force will hold a large-scale exercise over the Mediterranean this coming spring with dozens of aircraft simulating a strike against Iran’s nuclear program, the Kan broadcaster reports.

The unsourced report comes as Israeli officials have stepped up their rhetoric against the Islamic Republic as Tehran and the world powers have resumed long-stalled negotiations about curbing the country’s nuclear program. Though Israeli politicians have said they support this diplomatic effort, they have also stressed the need for a credible military threat against Iran as a “Plan B.”

According to the Kan report, the drill will be one of the largest ever held by the IAF and will include dozens of aircraft, including the F-15, F-35, and F-16, as well as Gulfstream G550 spy planes and refueling jets.

The planes will conduct the exercise far out over the Mediterranean Sea to simulate the distance — over 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) — that the aircraft would need to travel in a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The exercise is scheduled to be held in roughly six months, according to Kan.

The Israel Defense Forces did not immediately comment on the report.

US journalist freed in Lebanon after call by rights groups

Lebanese authorities release a freelance American journalist who was detained in Beirut last month, just hours after two international human rights groups called her detention arbitrary and demanded that she be set free.

Nada Homsi says after her release that her arrest was part of an intimidation campaign used by Lebanon’s security agencies against foreign journalists.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said Homsi was arrested without a judicial order on November 16 by members of Lebanon’s General Security Directorate. The reasons for the raid remain unknown and her detention now is arbitrary, the groups had said.

Since Lebanon’s economic meltdown began two years ago, many foreign and local journalists have reported on widespread corruption among the country’s political class, which has been running the small nation since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.

17 BDS resolutions considered and 11 passed at US colleges last year, per ADL report

A student bikes across campus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (Jeffrey Greenberg/ Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
A student bikes across campus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (Jeffrey Greenberg/ Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Student governments considered resolutions to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel at 17 college campuses in the United States during the 2020-2021 school year, according to a new report from the Anti-Defamation League.

The watchdog group, which released the data as part of its annual reporting, called the BDS resolutions a “cornerstone of anti-Israel campus activity during the last year.”

During a school year in which a May conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza was accompanied by widespread criticism of Israel on and beyond college campuses, the number of student governments entertaining BDS resolutions was not dramatically higher than in the recent past.

Of the bills supporting the Israel boycott, 11 passed, according to the report.

That was fewer than in the 2015-2016 school year, according to the ADL’s report about that year, when it documented 23 BDS resolutions, of which 14 passed. The following year, student governments considered 14 BDS resolutions, passing six; the year after that, five of 12 resolutions passed.

Tighter quarantine rules introduced to stem Omicron to be extended by a week — TV

Arriving travelers walk to the COVID-19 testing area at Ben Gurion International Airport on November 28, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Arriving travelers walk to the COVID-19 testing area at Ben Gurion International Airport on November 28, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Tighter quarantine rules introduced to stem the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant will be extended seven days beyond their current expiry date at the start of next week, Channel 12 news reports.

Under the new rules, all Israelis entering the country, including those who are vaccinated against COVID-19, must take a PCR test at Ben Gurion Airport when they arrive and then immediately go into home quarantine.

In addition to tightening the quarantine rules, Israel also closed its borders to non-citizens at the start of the month. The Channel 12 report did not indicate whether the entry ban would be lifted or extended.

Sparks fly as nationalists march in Arab neighborhood where Jewish woman was stabbed

Several dozen far-right Jewish nationalists march through the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, in response to a suspected Palestinian terror attack against an Israeli Jewish resident there earlier in the day, December 8, 2021. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Several dozen far-right Jewish nationalists march through the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, in response to a suspected Palestinian terror attack against an Israeli Jewish resident there earlier in the day, December 8, 2021. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Several dozen far-right Jewish nationalists march through the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, chanting “death to terrorists.”

The march was held in response to a suspected Palestinian terror attack against an Israeli Jewish resident of Sheikh Jarrah this morning, in which Moriah Cohen, 26, was stabbed, as she accompanied her five children to school.

A 14-year-old Palestinian girl, also a resident of Sheikh Jarrah, was arrested under suspicion of being the assailant. The teenager denies any connection to the attack, her lawyer tells The Times of Israel.

“Let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes,” the far-right demonstrators sing. The song — based on a biblical quotation — is a favorite of the Israeli radical right, who often swap the word “Philistines” for “Palestine.”

In response to the march, Palestinians scuffled with police along Sheikh Jarrah’s main drag. Officers were filmed seeking to disperse Palestinians, in some cases violently. In one video, a police officer bashes a Palestinian demonstrator’s head back into a metal pole.

Coalition blocks committee to investigate claims guards were ‘pimped’ to prisoners

A prison guard is seen in a watchtower at Gilboa prison, in northern Israel, September 6, 2021. (Flash90)
A prison guard is seen in a watchtower at Gilboa prison, in northern Israel, September 6, 2021. (Flash90)

Coalition lawmakers shut down an attempt by the opposition to establish a parliamentary inquiry committee to look into claims that female prison guards were “pimped” to Palestinian terror inmates, in order to keep the prisoners happy.

Most of the coalition lawmakers are said to have wanted to support the bill, but were unable to so, due to coalition discipline.

The proposal fails to pass, with only 41 MKs voting in favor, and 46 against.

The bill, brought by MK Ofir Sofer of the right-wing Religious Zionism Party, comes in the wake of bombshell remarks about the issue made by Gilboa Prison warden Freddy Ben Shitrit, during testimony before a commission of inquiry probing a recent prison break by Palestinian terror convicts.

Female soldiers first alleged in 2018 that they were forced into close contact with prisoners as sexual bargaining chips, leading to them being harassed and assaulted, but the case was closed due to a lack of evidence.

Technician crushed to death in Jerusalem elevator shaft

A technician has died from injuries sustained when an elevator fell on him in Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood, rescue services say.

The man, aged 40, was crushed by the elevator, while he was working in the shaft.

Fire and Rescue services rushed to the scene when the man was reported trapped, but paramedics were unable to revive him after he was removed from the elevator shaft.

Biden: I warned Putin of sanctions ‘like none he’s ever seen’ if he attacks Ukraine

President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, arrive to meet at the 'Villa la Grange' on June 16, 2021, in Geneva, Switzerland. (Saul Loeb/Pool via AP)
President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, arrive to meet at the 'Villa la Grange' on June 16, 2021, in Geneva, Switzerland. (Saul Loeb/Pool via AP)

US President Joe Biden says he warned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin of unprecedented US sanctions if Russia attacks Ukraine.

A day after talking for two hours by video link, Biden says he told Putin that the United States would retaliate with sanctions “like none he’s ever seen,” in the event of a Russian assault on Ukraine.

“I made it very clear, if, in fact, he invades Ukraine, there will be severe consequences, severe consequences — economic consequences, like none he’s ever seen or ever have been seen,” Biden tells reporters at the White House.

Biden says that in addition to economic measures, a new Russian attack on Ukraine would also trigger a bolstered US military presence on the territory of NATO allies in eastern Europe.

“We would probably be required to reinforce our presence in NATO countries to reassure particularly those in the eastern flank. In addition to that, I made it clear that we would provide a defensive capability to the Ukrainians as well,” he says.

However, he adds that sending US troops to defend Ukraine from Russia is “not on the cards,” because the country is not part of NATO.

Half of Iran’s civil jets grounded for lack of spare parts

A plane belonging to Iran's national air carrier, Iran Air, is parked at Mehrabad airport in Tehran, Iran, on February 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
A plane belonging to Iran's national air carrier, Iran Air, is parked at Mehrabad airport in Tehran, Iran, on February 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The deputy head of Iran’s airlines association says that more than half of the country’s fleet of civilian aircraft is currently grounded due to a lack of spare parts.

“The number of inactive planes in Iran has risen to more than 170… as a result of missing spare parts, particularly motors,” Alireza Barkhor says in an interview with state news agency IRNA.

“If this trend continues, we will see even more planes grounded in the near future,” he adds.

Iran’s economy has struggled under sanctions that were lifted after a landmark nuclear deal in 2015, but reimposed again after the US withdrew from the pact in 2018.

In 2016, following the lifting of sanctions, Iran concluded deals to purchase 100 Airbus jets, 80 Boeing planes and 40 ATR aircraft. But the Islamic republic received only 11 planes, as deliveries were interrupted following the reimposition of sanctions.

Jewish groups push US Supreme Court to include religious schools in state aid programs

The US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on December 4, 2021. (Daniel SLIM / AFP)
The US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on December 4, 2021. (Daniel SLIM / AFP)

The Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments in a challenge from parents in Maine who want to use a state tuition program to send their children to religious schools.

The parents argue that their exclusion from the state program violates their religious rights under the Constitution. Teacher unions and school boards say a ruling for the parents would be a blow to public education.

Prior to the case being heard, several Jewish groups — such as the Orthodox Union, National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs, and the Jewish Coalition of Religious Liberty — submitted amicus briefs to the Supreme Court arguing for the lower court ruling, which rejected the parents’ challenge, to be overturned.

“By participating in this case, the Orthodox Union hopes to protect all families against institutional, anti-faith discrimination,” Orthodox Union President Mark Bane says in a statement.

Bahrain receives credentials of Israel’s first ambassador to kingdom

The Gulf kingdom of Bahrain receives the credentials of Eitan Na’eh, Israel’s first-ever ambassador there, according to a tweet from its Foreign Ministry.

Na’eh arrived in Manama last month to begin heading the diplomatic mission established following last year’s normalization deal.

He most recently served as Israel’s envoy to the United Arab Emirates, until he was replaced by Israel’s first ambassador to the nation.

IDF, chief of staff send condolences after Indian defense chief killed in crash

The Israel Defense Forces and its Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi extend condolences to the people of India and the country’s defense establishment over the death of Indian defense chief General Bipin Rawat and 12 other people in a helicopter crash earlier today.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the people of India following today’s tragic helicopter crash, which resulted in the death of the Chief of Defence Staff of the Indian Armed Forces, General Bipin Rawat,” the IDF says in a statement.

“I cherish General Rawat’s service and send my heartfelt condolences to his and all the victims’ families. The IDF has found an important partnership with the Indian Armed Forces under General Rawat; this partnership will only continue to strengthen and deepen,” Kohavi says.

Israeli officials said expected to attend Beijing Olympics, despite US plan to boycott

Israeli officials are expected to attend the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing next year, Haaretz reports, unlike their American counterparts who will boycott the game to protest China’s human rights abuses against the Uighur Muslim minority.

The paper cites an unnamed senior Israeli official who called the Americans’ decision to boycott “bizarre.”

Earlier this week, the United States announced that no American officials would attend the games. The boycott only applies to diplomatic officials and does not impact the American athletes who will compete in the games. Australia has also said it would boycott the games due to China’s human rights abuses.

Government study strengthens case for giving 4th shot to immunocompromised — report

Children aged 5-11 receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, at a vaccination center in Safed, northern Israel, December 3, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Children aged 5-11 receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, at a vaccination center in Safed, northern Israel, December 3, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

A government-commissioned study shows that immunocompromised people have responded well to the third coronavirus vaccine, strengthening the case for giving them a fourth shot, Ynet news reports.

The research by Prof. Galia Rahav, which examined the effectiveness of the booster in immunocompromised people three months after receiving it, shows that both bone marrow and heart transplant recipients respond well to the third dose, the report says.

The study reportedly examined the amount of neutralizing antibodies among 78 kidney transplant recipients, about 120 bone marrow transplant recipients and about 100 heart transplant recipients.

The decision regarding administering the fourth vaccine, which will be based on the research, is set to be made after data has been collected six months following receiving the third shot.

Egyptian activist Patrick George Zaki walks free after nearly 2 years in jail

Patrick George Zaki hugging his sister after his release, outside the police station in Nile Delta city of Mansoura, Egypt, December 8, 2021. (EIPR via AP)
Patrick George Zaki hugging his sister after his release, outside the police station in Nile Delta city of Mansoura, Egypt, December 8, 2021. (EIPR via AP)

Egyptian authorities release rights activist Patrick George Zaki after he spent nearly two years in jail in a case that has drawn significant international attention.

“Patrick has been just released,” the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, which Zaki worked for as a gender rights researcher, says in a Facebook post, attaching a photo of Zaki out in the street.

The 29-year-old rights advocate and student at the University of Bologna in Italy was charged with spreading false news about Egypt, both domestically and abroad — charges that stem from a 2019 opinion piece he wrote on discrimination against Coptic Christians in Egypt.

He was arrested in February 2020 shortly after landing in Cairo on what was supposed to be a short visit home from Italy.

Zaki’s arrest and trial became front-page news in Italy and sparked a wave of student protests there. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has vowed to continue following Zaki’s case.

3 indicted for shooting at Hadash party building in Sakhnin

Three Arab Israeli men are indicted for a recent incident in which shots were fired at the Hadash party building in the northern town of Sakhnin.

According to the indictment, Mu’alman Ba’alla Asala, 20, Gohad Abu Reya, 19, and Omri Shlata, 21, planned and carried out the shooting with the intent of harming a Sakhnin resident who worked at the offices of the communist party currently part of the Joint List.

Prosecutors said the incident was part of an ongoing family conflict and not politically motivated.

New York Times updates style guide to ‘antisemitism,’ losing the hyphen

This October 10, 2012, file photo shows the New York Times building in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
This October 10, 2012, file photo shows the New York Times building in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

The New York Times has updated its style guide and now favors the use of the spelling “antisemitism” over “anti-Semitism.”

The change was made in August but was not announced publicly at the time, Jewish Insider reports.

“We are dropping the hyphen and lowercasing the S, which is now the style of The Associated Press and is preferred by many academics and other experts. Those who favor antisemitism argue that the hyphenated form, with the uppercase S, may inadvertently lend credence to the discredited notion of Jews as a separate race,” the paper announced in a memo to editors at the time.

Earlier this year, the Associated Press updated its style guide, which is used by media around the world, to adopt the hyphen-less version of the word. The Times of Israel also followed suit.

Gantz, Netanyahu mourn Indian defense chief killed in chopper crash

Defense Minister Benny Gantz extends his condolences to the people of India and the country’s defense establishment over the “tragic accident” in which Indian defense chief General Bipin Rawat and 12 other people were killed in a helicopter crash.

“Rawat was a true partner of the IDF and Israel’s defense establishment, and contributed greatly to the strengthening of security relations between the two countries,” Gantz tweets.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who fostered close ties between Israel  and India while he was prime minister, says he was “deeply saddened” by Rawat’s death.

Knesset gives initial OK to bill allowing Israel to take down criminal social media content

This file photo from January 17, 2017, shows a Facebook logo in Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)
This file photo from January 17, 2017, shows a Facebook logo in Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

The Knesset plenum approves the preliminary reading of a bill that would allow Israeli authorities to remove certain illegal posts from social media sites including Facebook.

Under the proposal, a judge would be able to issue an order requested by law enforcement bodies requiring a content publisher to remove posts from its website if they are convinced that a criminal offense has been committed through the publication of such content.

The bill, which must pass three further plenary votes, comes as Israeli is weighing measures to rein in global social media companies, including Facebook, and possibly hold them accountable for posts on their platform.

14-year old suspect ‘denies any connection’ to Jerusalem stabbing — lawyer

A still image of surveillance footage showing a suspect in the stabbing of an Israeli woman in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on December 8, 2021. (Israel Police)
A still image of surveillance footage showing a suspect in the stabbing of an Israeli woman in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on December 8, 2021. (Israel Police)

An attorney for the main Palestinian suspect in this morning’s stabbing attack in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah tells The Times of Israel that she “denies any connection” to the stabbing.

The suspect is a 14-year-old Palestinian girl from the neighborhood.

She allegedly stabbed Moriah Cohen, 26, a Jewish resident, while the latter was walking with her five children.

A hearing is set to be held tomorrow morning in Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.

Indian defense chief among 13 dead in helicopter crash

Smoke rises from fire after an army helicopter carrying India's Chief of Defense Staff Bipin Rawat crashed near Coonoor, Tamil Nadu state, India, December 8, 2021. (Bangalore New Photos via AP)
Smoke rises from fire after an army helicopter carrying India's Chief of Defense Staff Bipin Rawat crashed near Coonoor, Tamil Nadu state, India, December 8, 2021. (Bangalore New Photos via AP)

Indian defense chief General Bipin Rawat and 12 other people were killed in a helicopter crash, with one survivor being treated for his injuries.

Rawat was India’s first chief of defense staff, a position that the government established in 2019, and was seen as close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The 63-year-old was traveling with his wife and other senior officers in the Russian-made Mi-17 chopper, which crashed near its destination in southern Tamil Nadu state.

“His untimely death is an irreparable loss to our Armed Forces and the country,” defense minister Rajnath Singh says on Twitter.

Footage from the scene showed a crowd of people trying to extinguish the fiery wreck with water buckets while a group of soldiers carried one of the passengers away on an improvised stretcher.

Poll: 56% of Israelis back COVID vaccines for kids, 33% oppose

Fifty-six percent of Israeli Israelis think children ages 5-11 should be vaccinated against COVID while 33% disagree and 11% don’t know, a new poll from the Israeli Democracy Institute finds.

According to the survey, support among men for vaccinating children is higher than among women, with 61% of men in favor compared to 51% of women.

A segmentation of the sample by political camps reveals that the left’s support for vaccinating children is the highest at 67%, followed by the center at 62%, while the right’s support is 52%.

Poll: 51% of Israelis would support strike on Iran, even without US approval

A majority of Israelis would support an attack on Iran even if it did not have a green light from the United States, a new Israel Democracy Institute poll finds.

According to the survey, 54% of respondents said that Iran poses an existential threat to Israel’s existence. About a quarter of respondents view Iran as a “medium danger” while 13% see it as posing only a “small danger.”

Overall, 51% of Israelis agreed that Israel could attack Iran even without receiving a “green light” from Washington and only less than a third (31%) would not support such action without American approval, the poll finds.

On both questions, there was a large gap between the opinions of Jewish and Arab interviewees.

Whereas a large majority (62%) of Jewish Israelis think that Iran constitutes an existential danger, only a minority (19%) of Arab Israelis concurred. And while a clear majority of Jewish Israelis (58%) agreed that American consent to attack is not necessary, only 18% of Arab Israelis said the same.

National Insurance website downed in cyber attack; no data accessed

Israel’s National Insurance Institute says that its website was hacked earlier today, causing it to go offline for several hours.

The social security agency says that the attack was focused on loading information onto the site and not on accessing databases or information.

It is being handled by the organization’s cyber and computer personnel, a statement says.

Pfizer says 3 doses of its vaccine ‘effective’ against Omicron

A doctor transfers Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe, December 2, 2021, at a mobile vaccination clinic in Worcester, Massachusetts. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
A doctor transfers Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe, December 2, 2021, at a mobile vaccination clinic in Worcester, Massachusetts. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

The coronavirus vaccine developed jointly by BioNTech and Pfizer is “still effective” against the Omicron variant of the virus after three doses, the German company says in a statement.

An Omicron-specific version of the shot, currently in development by BioNTech, will be available “by March,” it adds.

The statement comes hours after research was released by the South Africa-based Africa Health Research Institute showing that the Omicron variant “escapes antibody immunity induced by the Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) vaccine.”

Environment Ministry allocates NIS 15 million to teach kids about climate crisis

The Environmental Protection Ministry announces a NIS 15 million ($4.8 million) budget to encourage youth movements to integrate the climate crisis and the need to fight against it into their goals and activities.

The program, formulated by the ministry in partnership with the council of youth movements and the Education Ministry, envisions training courses, appointing a sustainability coordinator, building climate coalitions, encouraging personal lifestyle changes, and organizing special activities during the annual Environment Day.

The program will begin during the current school year.

Blaze breaks out in Justice Ministry; 400 employees evacuated

A fire broke out this afternoon in one of the offices of the Justice Ministry on Jerusalem’s Saladin Street, the Israel Fire and Rescue Service says.

Firefighters arrived at the scene and doused the blaze, while simultaneously evacuating 400 ministry staff, the service says in a statement.

There were no casualties but the fire caused damage to ministry property.

New German Chancellor Scholz to travel to Paris, Brussels on Friday

Olaf Scholz, SPD candidate for Chancellor and Federal Minister of Finance, arrives for the presentation of the coalition agreement, in Berlin, Wednesday, November 24, 2021. (Michael Kappeler/dpa via AP)
Olaf Scholz, SPD candidate for Chancellor and Federal Minister of Finance, arrives for the presentation of the coalition agreement, in Berlin, Wednesday, November 24, 2021. (Michael Kappeler/dpa via AP)

Germany’s new chancellor Olaf Scholz will make his first official visit on Friday to Paris, where he will hold talks with France’s President Emmanuel Macron before heading to Brussels, the chancellery says in a statement.

The French leader is due to welcome Scholz with military honors, says the chancellery, adding that “the first foreign visit from Chancellor Scholz is the expression of the close ties and friendship between Germany and France.”

In Brussels, Scholz is due to meet European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and EU President Charles Michel, with preparations for next week’s EU summit on the agenda.

The former finance minister will also hold talks with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, “to underline the significance of the alliance for German, European and transatlantic security.”

UN rights chief warns vaccine mandates must respect human rights

Countries considering introducing vaccine mandates in the fight against COVID-19 must ensure they respect human rights, the UN rights chief says stressing that forced vaccination is never acceptable.

Speaking to a Human Rights Council seminar via video message, Michelle Bachelet warns there are significant rights considerations that need to be taken into account before making vaccination compulsory.

Any “vaccine mandates must comply with the principles of legality, necessity, proportionality and non-discrimination,” she says. “In no circumstances should people be forcibly administered a vaccine.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says the aims sought by countries mulling mandates to protect lives as Europe and other regions battle fierce surges in the pandemic, were “of course of the highest order of legitimacy and importance.”

But she insists that “vaccine mandates should be employed only when necessary for achieving compelling public health ends. And they should only be considered when less intrusive measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing have demonstrably failed to meet such health needs.”

Erdogan says Israel must be ‘more sensitive’ toward Palestinians before ties can improve

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he is open to improved relations with Israel, but the country must first display “more sensitive” policies toward Palestinians.

Speaking to a group of journalists in Qatar, Erdogan says that better ties with Israel would be “beneficial” for peace in the wider region, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency and other Turkish media.

“But at this point, Israel needs to be more sensitive concerning its Palestinian policy. It needs to be sensitive about Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque,” he says in reference to the Temple Mount.

“As soon as we detect the sensitivities, we will do our best and take steps [for better ties],” Erdogan says.

The Turkish leader’s comments were reported by the state-run Anadolu Agency and other Turkish media on Wednesday.

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