The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they unfolded.
Several cases of Omicron reinfection have been detected in Israel with the new BA2 strain, according to reports on Channel 12 news and Kan.
The reports say a few individuals who were infected with the original BA1 Omicron strain have come down with BA2 as well.
The cases are in the single digits, and it is not clear whether those people had underlying conditions, but Channel 12 notes it raises concerns, should numbers grow.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warns on a trip to Kyiv that Russian forces massed on the border represent a “clear and present danger” to Ukraine.
“We see large numbers of troops massing, we see preparations for all kinds of operations that are consistent with an imminent military campaign,” Johnson says at a press conference with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. “Our view is that time is urgent and this is something that needs to be addressed now.”
Johnson urges Russia to pull back troops and choose diplomacy, warning that any invasion would be a “disaster.”
“It is vital that Russia steps back and chooses a path of diplomacy, and I believe that is still possible,” he said.
US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides calls Amnesty UK’s report accusing Israel of apartheid “absurd.”
In a tweet, Nides says: “That is not language that we have used and will not use.”
Come on, this is absurd. That is not language that we have used and will not use. https://t.co/DUnplInqCH
— Ambassador Tom Nides (@USAmbIsrael) February 1, 2022
Unnamed security sources take issue with Naftali Bennett’s stated timeline for a missile defense laser system, saying the system will take several more years to become operational.
“It will take time, it won’t be a year,” they say. “It could take three years too.”
Speaking at the annual INSS conference, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid says the greatest threat facing Israel is “the loss of social unity.”
“Without inner fortitude, we cannot handle Iran, Hezbollah or the attempt to paint us as an apartheid state.”
He says Israel had been “on a course of self-destruction” prior to the formation of the current government. “The moment the political sphere fans the flames of conflict instead of solving it, the country enters a tailspin it can’t recover from.”
The current government “was established out of the understanding that this was a moment of truth. It was our moment to decide what was better for the country — tearing Israeli society apart or bringing it together,” Lapid says.
“We will not let the extremists lead us to the abyss.”
The Israel Defense Forces will test a new early alarm system for earthquakes tomorrow in the city of Modiin in central Israel, the military says.
At 10:05 a.m. sirens will sound in the city, along with the warning “earthquake, earthquake,” the IDF says.
In the case of an actual earthquake, the system will sound twice.
The test comes after several small tremors in Israel and amid general concern of a larger event.
An Israeli military court convicts a Palestinian of killing an Israeli teenager in 2019.
Ahmad Asafra has been convicted of intentionally causing the death of Dvir Sorek. The charge is equivalent to murder in the West Bank military court.
Asafra was also convicted of two other charges of attempting to cause intentional death and a series of security offenses, the Israel Defense Forces says in a statement. He has not been sentenced yet.
The court determined that Asafra was the commander of a Hamas terror cell that carried out the stabbing attack. The court accepted the prosecution’s position that Asafra was guilty of the attack, although he was not present during the stabbing.
Another member of the cell, Yusef Zohar, was not present during the attack, but was convicted of a number of security offenses and was sentenced to life imprisonment plus 15 years.
The Israel Air Force conducted a drill simulating a massive attack on Iran’s nuclear program, which employed dozens of fighter jets, Kan news reports.
The exercise, held some two weeks ago, was attended by a US Air Force officer who participated as an observer, the unsourced report says.
The report says the drill included various scenarios, including mid-air refueling, long-range strikes and responses to anti-aircraft missiles.
London police sent each other “shocking” racist, sexist and homophobic messages, a watchdog says.
This included jokes making light of the Holocaust and the Auschwitz death camp.
The messages were exchanged on WhatsApp and Facebook by a now-disbanded Westminster police unit between 2016 and 2018, says a report by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
They made multiple references to sexual violence, including “I would happily rape you,” while in another discussion an officer said he hit his girlfriend as “it makes them love you more.”
One police officer repeatedly boasted about having sex with a prostitute he met through work, while another was referred to as “mcrapey raperson” after he was rumored to have brought a woman to a police station for sex.
In one comment, an officer said: “Opened my balcony door and loads of flies flew into the front room. So I got the fly spray and turned my gaff into Auschwitz.”
The messages include the use of homophobic and racist language. There were also references to so-called Muslim “fanatics” and the use of offensive terms for disabled people.
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan says he is “utterly disgusted” by the police behavior detailed in the report.
“It is right that the team concerned has been disbanded and the police officers found to be involved have been dismissed, disciplined or have left the police,” he says.
“Anyone found to be responsible for sexism, racism, misogyny, Islamophobia, antisemitism, bullying or harassment does not deserve to wear the Met uniform and must be rooted out,” Khan says, referring to the Metropolitan Police working in the London area.
Amid growing public anger and calls to boycott its products, food giant Osem announces it will delay a planned increase in product prices by three months, until after the Passover holiday.
Company heads say they will examine ways to moderate the price hikes during this time.
The company has said it must raise prices due to an increase in the price of ingredients.
The prime minister says that “in about a year,” the IDF will introduce a laser-based interception system to create an anti-missile and anti-UAV protection array, “first as a trial and later in an operational capacity… Initially in the south, and afterward in other places.”
He stresses that the system’s most important contribution will be to change the current reality in which Hamas can fire inexpensive rockets that Israel then intercepts with missiles costing tens of thousands of dollars.
“They will waste a lot of money, and we, very little,” he says.
“This will allow us, in the middle-to-long term, to surround Israel with a wall of lasers that will defend us from missiles, rockets, UAVs and other threats, and in effect deprive the enemy of its strongest card.”
“This new generation of Israeli air defense will also be able to serve our friends in the region,” he promises, days after Iran-backed Houthis fired a missile at the United Arab Emirates while President Isaac Herzog was visiting.
Bennett stresses the importance of economic growth, even during a pandemic, saying Israel’s gross national income must reach $1 trillion.
He says that Israeli technology and innovation can help the world deal with various challenges, which helps the country build new partnerships.
Because of these relationships, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “is still there, but it defines us far less,” he says.
Bennett says his government has removed regulations and increased competition, which will allow the economy to leap forward.
Speaking at the annual Annual International Conference of the Institute for National Security Studies, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says that “the campaign to weaken Iran” will be waged on a number of fronts.
He says that he hopes the nuclear talks in Vienna will not end in a bad deal, but even if it does lead to a deal, “Iran will remain Iran.” If Iran is given sanctions relief, Iran will only increase its harmful activities across the Middle East, he says.
Bennett says that Israel has to prepare for a world that doesn’t have only one policeman, and recognizes that America is focused on Russia and China. “That’s the reality,” says Bennett.
The Reform Movement strongly condemns Amnesty’s report accusing Israel of apartheid, saying that as a critic of “the occupation” and advocate for Palestinian rights, it expresses “profound disappointment” with the organization.
It says the document is “replete with discredited and inaccurate allegations, including a deeply wrong accusation of apartheid.” It “reflects Amnesty’s inability to comprehend the history, context, and nuance of the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, or the very real threats to Israel’s survival and security that it has faced from its very founding.”
The allegation of apartheid “comes with a false equivalency to the institutions of formal and rigid segregation, denial of political and social rights, and basic dehumanization practiced by the South African regime over decades. Whatever Amnesty’s intent to differentiate the usage of apartheid from its most common association with South Africa, they have failed.”
The statement further says that “Amnesty’s failures to address Israel’s legitimate security concerns and the very real genocidal threats it faces endanger the existence of a Jewish democratic State of Israel. Its call for a full return of refugees and for reparations; its support for BDS and the economic and diplomatic isolation of Israel; its implication that Israel’s very founding and continuation as a Jewish State was a violation of the Apartheid Convention; its failure to place any responsibility on the PA for the change of conditions that could allow for greater rights and safety for all; and the failure to recognize that only a two-state solution can best resolve the concerns addressed in this report are all deeply concerning and add to its misguided nature.”
Thousands of Iranian school teachers have protested and staged a one-day strike over the slow implementation of salary and pension reforms, local media reports.
The teachers’ stoppage is the latest in a string of protests by public sector employees in recent weeks over the impact of soaring inflation on incomes.
Reformist newspaper Arman Melli says the teachers demonstrated outside parliament in Tehran and education ministry offices in provincial cities including Isfahan and Shiraz.
The paper says it was the third day of protests by teachers in recent weeks.
Iran’s ILNA news agency reports that striking teachers in Alborz province, west of the capital, carried placards demanding “Free the imprisoned teachers.” It was an apparent reference to colleagues detained at previous rallies.
Ministers rule that starting next Sunday, the Green Pass will only be used in high-risk events such as celebrations and parties.
People who’ve received two vaccine shots will be eligible for the pass for four months. People who’ve received a third shot or more will have it indefinitely.
The ministers also decide that PCR tests to depart Israel will no longer be mandatory for unvaccinated people (though they may still be necessary in the destination country). Tests are already not mandated for people with Green Passes.
A Norway court rejects Anders Behring Breivik’s request for parole just 10 years after the neo-Nazi committed the country’s deadliest peacetime attack.
“There is a clear risk that [Breivik] will resume the behavior that led to the July 22nd terrorist attacks,” the Telemark district court says as it dismisses his request for conditional early release.
Breivik, who killed 77 people in twin attacks in 2011, claims he has distanced himself from violence and wants to be paroled after serving the minimum court-ordered 10 years of his 21-year sentence. His jail term can be extended for as long as he is considered a threat to society.
As ministers of the coronavirus cabinet meet to discuss the state of the Omicron wave, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says Israel is “at the height of the battle” against the variant.
“We still have a difficult 10-14 days ahead of us,” he adds.
“Our approach is a rational and balanced one, based on facts and figures,” he says. “We are fighting constantly to keep the economy open and everything functioning.”
He says vaccines have been found to give children strong protection against pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS), a rare condition that shows up after recovery and can cause hospitalization and death. Some countries have seen a rise in PIMS cases during the Omicron wave.
He adds that the government “will help businesses that were hurt badly in this wave. The details are still being discussed and will be decided on. We will not leave anyone behind.”
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman appeals to a joint committee of his ministry and the Economy Ministry to examine the centralization of market power by large companies.
The minister does so in response to multiple companies raising prices of basic products, and the public outrage that has ensued.
Liberman says the moves “raise concerns of the use of excess market power to rake in excess profits.”
The Health Ministry is recommending to cabinet ministers to change Green Pass regulations, so the certificates of vaccination, recovery or a recent negative test will be required only for celebratory events (weddings etc.) and dance clubs.
It also recommends that the pass be in effect for four months after vaccination or recovery from COVID, and indefinitely for anyone who has received three shots or more.
Officials have indicated they believe the current pass system is no longer relevant due to the widespread reach of the Omicron variant, as well as the fact that it infects vaccinated individuals at a high rate.
The African Union appears set for an internal clash over its relationship with Israel at a summit this weekend, a rare point of contention for a bloc that values consensus.
The dispute was set in motion last July when Moussa Faki Mahamat, chair of the African Union Commission, accepted Israel’s accreditation to the 55-member body headquartered in Addis Ababa — handing Israeli diplomats a victory they had been chasing for nearly two decades.
Powerful AU member states, notably South Africa, quickly spoke out in protest, saying they had not been properly consulted and that the move contradicted numerous AU statements, including from Faki himself, supporting the Palestinians.
Foreign ministers failed to resolve the issue at a meeting last October, and South Africa and Algeria have placed it on the agenda of a summit for heads of state that kicks off Saturday, according to AU documents seen by AFP.
Despite a long list of pressing issues including the coronavirus pandemic and a spate of recent coups, analysts expect the Israel question to get a lengthy hearing at the summit, which is marking the 20th anniversary of the AU’s founding.
There could also be a vote on whether to back or reject Faki’s decision.
Police arrest four workers at an institution for special needs individuals in central Israel, on suspicion of physical and mental abuse of people under care there.
The alleged offenses took place over an extended period of time, and were caught on security cameras.
The four men will be brought before a court tomorrow for an extension of their remand.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz expresses sorrow at the death of a 78-year-old Palestinian man who suffered heart failure after being bound, gagged and abandoned at a construction site in the middle of winter by Israeli soldiers, saying Israel would take action against any “deviations” from IDF values.
Gantz makes his remarks after a visit to the West Bank, in which he met with top IDF officers, as well as the head of the Shin Bet and the commander of the Israel Police’s West Bank division.
“Along with the full support that we give to the IDF to carry out its mission — we will act against any deviations from the norms of IDF values, as we saw in the death of Omar As’ad. I was updated about the investigation, which was approved by the chief of staff, and I want to express sorrow at his death. The Military Police probe into this incident will continue,” Gantz says in a video statement following the tour.
The defense minister also calls for the IDF, Shin Bet and police to crack down on “nationalistic crime and Jewish terror” in the West Bank. The past year saw a major rise in violent attacks by Israeli extremists against Palestinians and, to a lesser extent, Israeli left-wing activists and security forces. Gantz has called for the military and law enforcement to take a harsher stance against this violence.
“The IDF, police and Shin Bet are expanding their efforts, and we will ensure that all of the necessary forces are prepared for the mission. This is a fight that is important for our security and no less important for our ethical character,” Gantz says.
The city of Kiryat Malachi has said it will stop buying products from food giant Osem “until it reneges on its intention to raise the prices of its products.”
Mayor Eliyahu Zohar makes the announcement amid widespread public outrage over price hikes across industries, including food, fuel and electricity.
Zohar admits that the municipality was not a major buyer of Osem products, “but this is a moral and symbolic act.”
Meretz MK Issawi Frej, a left-wing Arab member of the ruling coalition, rejects Amnesty UK’s new report accusing Israel of being an apartheid state.
“Israel has many problems that must be solved, inside the Green Line and certainly in the occupied territories, but Israel is not an apartheid state,” he says.
A new study by Tel Aviv University has found that early cave-dwelling humans placed the hearth in the optimal location to allow inhabitants to make the most of the warmth while exposing them to minimal smoke.
The researchers from TAU’s Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures used advanced technology to study the Lazaret Cave in southeast France, where early humans lives 170-150 thousand years ago.
Using thousands of sensors and computer simulation models, the researchers looked at various potential places for the fireplace in the cave. Previous studies had indicated that the back of the cave would be the best place to place the fire, letting the smoke rise to the ceiling and circulate out. But the scientists were surprised to discover that through several archaeological layers, the hearth was actually placed in another area of the space.
“We tried to understand why the occupants had chosen this spot, and whether smoke dispersal had been a significant consideration in the cave’s spatial division into activity areas,” said PhD student Yafit Kedat, who co-authored the study.
“We found that the average smoke density, based on measuring the number of
particles per spatial unit, is in fact minimal when the hearth is located at the back of the cave – just as our model had predicted. But we also discovered that in this situation, the area with low smoke density, most suitable for prolonged activity, is relatively distant from the hearth itself.”
In fact, the hearth was found to be located in a 25-square-meter area that struck the optimal balance between allowing the most use of the fire for warmth, cooking and social activities while limiting smoke exposure to a minimum.
The findings reflect “ingenuity, experience, and planned action, as well as awareness of the health damage caused by smoke exposure,” says co-author Prof. Ran Barkai.
After repeated blanket denials that they had misused NSO Group’s Pegasus hacking software to infiltrate civilians’ phones without justification, the Israel Police now say they have “additional findings” on the matter that “change things, in certain aspects.”
Police say the discoveries were made as part of the internal probe in response to media publications.
In response, outgoing Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ordered police to take immediate action to prevent any further deviations from police authority, as the investigation continues.
The police said in a statement: “The head of the Investigations and Intelligence Department, with the knowledge of the police chief, will instruct all members of the Israel Police to cooperate fully with the inquiry team, as is expected and required; to respond to its questions, hand in any document or information demanded, allow access to information systems and provide technical knowledge on the measures at the disposal of police.”
Mandelblit had ordered a probe opened last month into the claims that police have for years been making widespread use of NSO’s Pegasus spyware against Israeli civilians, including people not suspected of any crimes, exploiting a legal loophole and keeping the surveillance under tight secrecy, without oversight by a court or a judge.
Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai has fiercely defended the force’s conduct, denied any widespread spying and vowed to respond severely to any “isolated incidents” of wrongdoing — if those are discovered.
A study by Hebrew University finds that working in hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on workers’ mental health, even for ancillary or technical staff.
The research examined staff at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center between Israel’s first and second waves of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, and found that 59% reported an increase in stress levels — during a period of a relative lull in the spread of the disease.
The research team say the findings show the need for mental health support for all hospital workers as part of the pandemic response.
Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum invites US media personality Whoopi Goldberg to a visit in order to learn more about the causes of the Jewish Shoah.
The museum’s director Dani Dayan says Goldberg’s controversial statement Monday that “the Holocaust isn’t about race,” for which she has since apologized, was “an unfortunate indication of a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the Holocaust & antisemitism.”
Dayan adds: “We must not mince words; people need to know what led to the Holocaust, the unprecedented murderous drive to annihilate the entire Jewish people, their religion, culture and values by the Nazis and their collaborators, primarily because of the unfounded belief that Jews were their foremost and extremely dangerous racial enemy.”
He says Goldberg’s apology was important, but he extends “a personal invitation to her to learn more about the causes, events and aftermath of the Holocaust here at Yad Vashem.”
The World Health Organization says overuse of gloves and “moon suits” and the use of billions of masks and vaccination syringes to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus have spurred a huge glut of health care waste worldwide.
The UN health agency reports that tens of thousands of tons of extra medical waste has strained waste management systems and is threatening both health and the environment, pointing to a “dire need” to improve those systems and get a response from both governments and people.
“Part of the message for the public is to become more of a conscious consumer,” says Dr. Margaret Montgomery, technical officer of WHO’s water, sanitation, hygiene and health unit. “In terms of the volume, it’s enormous.”
“We find that people are wearing excessive PPE,” Montgomery says, referring to personal protection equipment.
The agency says most of the roughly 87,000 tons of such equipment obtained from March 2020 to November 2021 to battle COVID-19 has ended up as waste. More than 8 billion doses of vaccine administered globally have produced 143 tons of extra waste in terms of syringes, needles and safety boxes.
Hamas this morning test-fired several rockets in the Gaza Strip, launching the projectiles into the sea, Palestinian media reports.
There is no official confirmation of the claim. The terror group conducts such tests from time to time.
A group of eight centrist Democrats in the US House of Representatives have issued a statement condemning the United Nations General Assembly vote to probe last May’s conflict between Israel and Gaza terror groups, as well as an ongoing investigation into the conflict.
“Set up in May 2021 just days after the conflict with Hamas, the Commission of Inquiry ignores Hamas’s terror activities preceding and during the May conflict, and instead attempts to discredit Israel by focusing on ‘root causes’ of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” say Reps. Brad Schneider, Ted Deutch, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Kathy Manning, Elaine Luria, Josh Gottheimer, Dean Phillips, and Lois Frankel.
“This is unquestionably just another attempt by the United Nations Human Rights Council to unjustifiably target Israel,” they argue.
“The Biden Administration has rightly stood with our ally Israel, opposed this COI, and worked to minimize its impact. However, we must not stop there. We look forward to working with the administration to end this one-sided COI and reform the Human Rights Council, including through the institution of membership standards and the removal of the standing agenda item on Israel, the only country-specific agenda item,” the representatives say.
The statement led by Schneider follows a letter that 42 US lawmakers from both parties sent to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling on him to work to block the UN commission’s establishment.
But the statement strikes a different tone than the letter did, carefully praising the Biden administration’s positions on Israel thus far.
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