The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
Some 20 suspects have been investigated in recent months for allegedly illegally developing, manufacturing, testing and selling armed cruise missiles to an unnamed Asian country, the Shin Bet announces.
The identity of all of the suspects remained under gag order.
In a statement, the security agency says they include former defense industry employees, and the alleged crimes include offenses against the security of the state, violations of the law on the supervision of security exports, money-laundering, and additional economic offenses.
The Shin Bet additionally says the suspects received “considerable funds” in return for carrying out instructions from people connected to the Asian nation, and tried to conceal the financial transactions.
The investigation also reveals that the activities were carried out in secret in an attempt to hide the final destination of the missiles.
“This affair underscores the potential damage to the security of the state inherent in illegal transactions carried out by Israeli citizens with foreign elements, including the concern that such technology could reach countries hostile to Israel,” the Shin Bet says in a statement.
Israel’s defense exports are regulated according to a 2007 law that requires defense contractors to consider what and where Israeli weapons will be used for. The law is designed to prevent companies from knowingly selling weapons to countries that intend to use them to commit atrocities.
Three major shopping malls have opened their doors for customers as they make good on a threat to break a national coronavirus lockdown that has left them shuttered for over a month and for most of the past year.
The malls, located in Bat Yam, Karmiel and Petah Tikva, have applied their own health standards for reopening while aiming to prevent the sites from becoming virus infection hubs.
They have allowed in people 60 and over only if they’ve received both doses of the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine; people under 60 who have received the first shot; those who have recovered from COVID-19; those who have tested negative in the past 72 hours; and those under age 16.
Though police have arrived at all three locations to enforce the lockdown, they have mostly ordered store owners to close up rather than issuing fines, Hebrew media reports.
The revolt was called by a forum that represents over 400 mall owners, chain stores, small businesses, and executives from the restaurant, tourism, hotel, and entertainment industries. Though the forum had urged for many more stores and other malls to open, only three eventually complied.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz calls on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to call a coronavirus cabinet meeting today to approve the use of the “green badge” system by next week.
The document, issued to those who have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19, will enable holders to access public activities and venues that are currently closed under lockdown orders.
“The economy is collapsing,” Gantz says as some malls and businesses reopen in defiance of the regulations and complain they are being discriminated against.
He claims Netanyahu promised such a move in last week’s coronavirus cabinet meeting, but “thus far, for an unclear reason, Netanyahu has refrained from convening the meeting as agreed.”
A common asthma drug can dramatically reduce hospitalizations, symptoms and recovery time among COVID-19 if taken up to a week after the appearance of symptoms, Oxford University researchers have said according to various reports.
Inhaling the steroid budesonide “reduced the risk of urgent care or hospitalization by 90% when compared with usual care,” the Reuters news agency reports, citing the Oxford experts.
The results were reached after a 28-day study of 146 patients.
“I am heartened that a relatively safe, widely available and well-studied medicine… could have an impact on the pressures we are experiencing during the pandemic,” says researcher Mona Bafadhel, according to Reuters.
A top religious Zionist rabbi announces that he will soon not let students enter his yeshiva unless they have been vaccinated.
Rabbi Yitzhak Neria, head of the hesder pre-military yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Efrat, says he sent a letter to all students saying the requirement will be imposed from the start of the summer term, which begins in mid-April.
He writes that all top rabbis have urged the public to vaccinate against COVID-19, and that failing to do so would cause the cancellation of Torah learning and continue the year-long disruptions of the yeshiva’s routine.
“Whoever doesn’t vaccinate won’t be able to come to the yeshiva for the summer term,” he writes. “We are not willing to compromise.”
The number of Israel’s hospitalized COVID-19 patients under the age of 60 has overtaken the the number of patients of that age and over, data from the Our World in Data website shows, in a further indication of the widespread vaccination campaign starting to show its effect.
The figures are similar for the number of serious patients.
Some 80% of Israelis over 60 have been immunized, and hospitalizations among that population have been going sharply down since mid-January.
Younger Israelis have been proving more hesitant to get the shot.
Tel Aviv’s Ichilov hospital has tweeted these stats and calls on all Israelis to vaccinate.
הצעירים מתחת ל-60 עקפו את ה- 60+ בקבלות בבתי חולים. לכו להתחסן! pic.twitter.com/6mDWYEEzbZ
— בית חולים איכילוב (@tasmc1) February 11, 2021
Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum says it is “profoundly concerned” by a Polish court ruling that Holocaust scholars Barbara Engelking and Jan Grabowski must apologize for disseminating false information about a man they said helped kill Jews during World War II.
“Yad Vashem acknowledges the court’s verdict, but remains deeply disturbed by its implications,” it says in a statement. “Any attempt to limit academic and public discourse through political or legal pressure is unacceptable and constitutes a substantive blow to academic freedom.”
“Historical research must reflect the complex reality that existed in a given period, grounded in the scrupulous analysis of a body of existing documentation, as was done in this thorough book by the researchers,” it continues. “Yad Vashem knows and respects the professional work of the scholars and moreover will publish the English edition of their book. As with all research, this volume about the fate of Jews during the Holocaust is part of an ongoing discussion and as such is subject to critique in academia, but not in courts.
“The existing diverse documentation, along with many decades of historical research, shows that under the draconian Nazi German occupation of Poland and despite the widespread suffering of the Polish people under that occupation, there were Poles who were actively involved in the persecution of the Jews and in their murder.
“The prosecution of researchers and journalists who deal with these issues, instead of pursuing academic discussion as is the norm throughout the world, constitutes a real threat to academic and press freedom,” Yad Vashem writes.
Unidentified drones have targeted a weapons shipment making its way from Iraq to Syria near an illegal military crossing used by pro-Iranian militias, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says, citing unnamed sources.
The UK-based organization, which has had its credibility questioned in the past, says the rare daylight incident happened near Albu Kamal in the eastern Deir Ezzer province.
The report says the vehicle was loaded with weapons and ammunition, adding that there is no information on casualties and the extent of the damage.
An Israeli city-settlement has reached 100% vaccination among all of its residents aged 60 and up, the Health Ministry announces.
The population of the ultra-Orthodox town of Modiin Illit, like many in the Haredi community, tends to be heavily younger due to the high birth rate.
The Health Ministry has recommended vaccinating some teenagers aged 12-15 against COVID-19 if they suffer from specific risk factor, despite the global recommendation against inoculating anyone under the age of 16 due to the lack of clinical trial on that population, Channel 13 news reports.
The report says the list of medical conditions enabling vaccination includes morbid obesity, kidney failure, sickle cell disease, chronic lung diseases and heart failure.
It adds that the recommendation isn’t sweeping and that each individual must get a doctor’s approval in accordance with their condition.
Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri has warned local authorities that they aren’t allowed to bar unvaccinated teachers, staff and students from entering education institutions, regardless of whether it is a private or state-affiliated institution.
In a letter to lawyers who contacted him reported by Hebrew media, Nizri says he has made that legal opinion known to municipalities’ legal advisers.
“According to the current legal situation, local councils aren’t allowed to take the law into their hands and independently establish rules to limit the entry of education workers into education institutions,” he writes.
The only currently declared candidate in Iran’s presidential election planned for June — where only those approved by the country’s autocratic regime can run — has accused US President Joe Biden of continuing the aggressive foreign policy of his predecessor Donald Trump.
“The Biden administration talked about diplomacy, multilateralism and interaction in the international arena as well as returning to its international commitments,” Hossein Dehghan, a military adviser to the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, tells The Guardian.
“However, we still see the same policies from the newly elected administration as we did from the Trump team: not lifting the oppressive sanctions against Iranian people, continuing to block Iran oil revenue in foreign banks while we need the money to fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
“Altogether this means the continuation of Trumpism in international relations.”
A major deal to sell 50% of one of Israel’s most famous soccer clubs to an Emirati businessman has been canceled, Hebrew media reports, citing an announcement by an Israeli committee that says Beitar Jerusalem has officially asked to withdraw its request to approve the sale.
Beitar’s owner Moshe Hogeg has faced backlash from extreme factions of the club’s notoriously anti-Arab fanbase after he sold a 50 percent stake in the club to Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family. Al Nahyan pledged to pump $90 million into the team in the coming decade.
But Israel’s soccer association conducted an investigation that found a potential “significant gap” between his declared capital and what he owns in reality, business news website The Marker reported last month.
The investigation, commissioned by the Israel Football Association and conducted by the Megiddo financial investigations company, was said to conclude that Al Nahyan owns dozens of inactive firms and is allegedly connected with businessmen involved in fraud and money laundering.
The main reported finding was that out of Al Nahyan’s stated wealth of $1.6 billion, $1.5 billion is non-tradable bonds belonging to the Venezuelan government, which economists estimate to be useless due to the South American country’s grave economic crisis.
France urges Iran to not “further aggravate” its nuclear row with the West after Tehran breached another of the limits laid out in an international deal curbing its nuclear ambitions.
Reacting to news that Iran started producing uranium metal in defiance of a 2015 deal with world powers, the French foreign ministry urges Iran “to not take any new measure that would further aggravate the situation on the nuclear front.”
Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett invites Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a live, one-on-one debate ahead of next month’s Knesset elections.
Bennett, a right-wing critic of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, says he’s inviting the premier to an “open debate” where they will each present their plan to overcome the COVID-19 crisis.
Netanyahu quickly dismisses the offer, mocking Bennett for only polling around 10 Knesset seats in surveys and saying: “He should debate Gideon,” a reference to New Hope party leader Gideon Sa’ar.
German and Danish authorities have arrested three Syrian men on suspicion of planning an attack, prosecutors say.
Klaus Tewes, spokesman for federal prosecutors in the eastern German town of Naumburg, says a warrant was issued for the three men, aged 33, 36 and 40, last weekend on charges of preparing a serious act of violence.
They’re alleged to have purchased several kilograms of chemicals in January that could be used to manufacture explosives.
A search of a residence linked to the suspects in the city of Dessau-Rosslau, between Naumburg and Berlin, turned up 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of black powder, and fuses.
Two of the suspects were arrested in Denmark, where more chemicals were seized. The third was arrested in Germany near Frankfurt.
None of their names have been given in line with German privacy laws.
Tewes does not give further details, and federal police, whose agents made the arrest in Germany, decline to comment.
Der Spiegel magazine reports that the three men are brothers and that one of the two arrested in Denmark was registered in Dessau. In addition to the chemicals, Spiegel reports that authorities found a homemade flag of the Islamic State terror group in their search of the residence there.
US President Joe Biden says devastating presentations by Democratic impeachment managers in the trial of Donald Trump may change the minds of some Republicans who until now have opposed convicting the former president.
“My guess is some minds may be changed,” Biden tells reporters in the White House.
The president says he didn’t watched yesterday’s trial live, but saw news reports on the hours of video evidence showing how a mob left a Trump rally in Washington and invaded the Capitol in an unprecedented security crisis.
US President Joe Biden says his first phone call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping since he took office lasted two hours.
“Last night, I was in the phone for two straight hours with Xi Jinping,” Biden tells reporters.
Biden warns that if the United States doesn’t “get moving” on China policy, “they’re going to eat our lunch.”
The Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), a 120-year-old nonprofit that owns some 15% of the land in Israel, will reportedly officially authorize the purchase of land in the West Bank later today, the Walla news site reports, citing a draft of the resolution.
The move, said set to be approved by the organization’s board, aims to aid the potential expansion of settlements and could see hundreds of millions of dollars allocated for that purpose.
The movement could further complicate Israel’s ties with US President Joe Biden’s administration, which is expected to resume the traditional US stance against settlements, as well as with the rest of the international community, which views them as illegal.
The report says JNF (a separate organization from JNF-USA) will only buy private land owned by Palestinians that is in or adjacent to the jurisdiction of an existing settlement and use it to expand that settlement. That will only occur in Area C, the 60% of the West Bank under full Israeli control.
Foreign donations will only be used to fund such activity if the transactions are legal in the donating country, the report says.
Meghan Markle wins a high-profile claim for breach of privacy after a British newspaper published extracts of a 2018 letter she wrote to her estranged father.
A judge at the High Court in London says the Duchess of Sussex, who is married to Queen Elizabeth II’s grandson Prince Harry, “had a reasonable expectation that the contents of the letter would remain private.”
The articles in the Mail on Sunday weekly paper “interfered with that reasonable expectation” and were unlawful, judge Mark Warby says in a ruling.
The Israel Police has informed an officer charged with causing the shooting death of a teenager of Ethiopian descent in 2019 that he will return to his former position on Sunday.
The decision is likely to cause outrage in Israel’s Ethiopian community, which at the time held furious mass protests for several weeks over the death of 19-year-old Solomon Tekah, which many saw as reflecting racism and discrimination within the police ranks.
The officer, whose name is barred from publication by a court order, was happy and excited to receive the news, his lawyer Yair Nadashi tells the Walla news website, welcoming the “correct decision.” He has been accused of recklessly causing Tekah’s death by firing a bullet at the ground — from where it bounced and hit the teen — rather than firing warning shots in the air.
Zion Amir, the lawyer for the Tekah family, says the family has “voiced shock and astonishment over this outrageous decision to reinstate an officer standing a criminal trial that hasn’t ended, and which we learned about from the media.”
He says district commander Yoram Sofer “ought to have taken these facts into consideration and let the court have its say.”
Amir adds the decision was insensitive.
Yami, Tekah’s sister, says: “I’m shocked. I’m shaking. I don’t believe it. I feel like they stabbed me in the heart. I expect the police commissioner to cancel this illogical decision today.”
The Justice Ministry says the decision was made “after deeply examining the evidence and weighing the entire circumstances and arguments heard during the disciplinary hearing.”
Attorney David Schoen was wary of wearing his kippah on the Senate floor on the first day of the impeachment trial of his client, former US president Donald Trump.
On Tuesday, Schoen told CNN following the hearings that he was worried it was not “appropriate,” that it was “awkward” and that it might offend someone. He had been seen entering the Capitol wearing the kippa.
But the yarmulke’s absence while the attorney spoke drew more attention than its presence might have. While addressing the chamber, Schoen repeatedly covered his head with his hand when he drank water, leading to an explosion of social media questions.
Yesterday, Schoen opted to wear the kippah on the floor.
He did not speak, however — the entire proceeding was given over to Democrats making their case that Trump should be convicted for his role in spurring the deadly January 6 raid on the US Capitol by his supporters, who sought to stop the affirmation of Joe Biden’s election as president.
Trump’s defense team may retake the stage as early as this afternoon, when the kippa question could head for a resolution.
California has edged past New York with the most deaths from the coronavirus among US states. California’s death toll reaches 45,496, surpassing New York’s toll of 45,312, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
The development comes as other coronavirus numbers show improvement in California. The most recent seven-day test positivity rate has fallen to 4.8%, according to the state Department of Public Health.
The most recent daily number of confirmed positive cases is 8,390, down from 53,000 in December.
However, California is grappling with vaccine shortages to inoculate substantial numbers of its nearly 40 million residents.
Los Angeles is temporarily closing five mass vaccination sites, including Dodger Stadium, for lack of supply. Smaller mobile vaccination clinics will continue their work in LA, according to Mayor Eric Garcetti. The city expects more supplies next week.
China’s broadcasting regulator announces it has pulled BBC World News from the air, saying the channel’s content “seriously” violated guidelines for reporting in the country.
In a statement, China’s State Film, TV and Radio Administration says BBC World News reports about China were found to “seriously violate” broadcast guidelines, including “the requirement that news should be truthful and fair” and not “harm China’s national interests.”
“The State Film, TV and Radio Administration does not permit the BBC to continue broadcasting in China, and does not accept its new annual application for broadcast,” it says.
Anti-Semitic flyers have been found on a tram in Cologne, Germany, blaming Jews for the ongoing pandemic.
The black-and-white flyer reads: “Do we really have a Corona problem? Or do we have a Jewish problem?” with a Star of David in the background next to the names of three prominent German politicians — Chancellor Angela Merkel, Health Minister Jens Spahn, Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas — and virologist Christian Drosten.
None of them are Jewish, but the flyer claims they are.
“The more Jews in politics and media, the worse things are!” it reads.
Several German protests against coronavirus restrictions have featured anti-Semitic rhetoric and comparisons of the restrictions to what Jews went through in the Holocaust.
The flyers have been found by Omas Gegen Rechts (Grandmothers Against The Right), a citizen-led democratic initiative that’s been recognized by the Central Council of Jews in Germany for its activism.
The Omas group says in an Instagram post that it has filed a police complaint.
Mayor Bill de Blasio says New York City will initiate an effort to make sure that Holocaust survivors get vaccinated.
De Blasio gives few details at a news conference, but says the city will partner with a “number of organizations in the Jewish community,” including the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.
The Democratic mayor says he has hosted a group of Orthodox Jewish leaders at his official residence to talk about issues in the community.
“The presence of Holocaust survivors in our city is a reminder of just how recently that history took place, and we’ve got to be there for these people,” de Blasio says.
Selfhelp, a nonprofit that serves survivors and other elderly in New York, has estimated that there are over 38,000 Holocaust survivors in the New York City metropolitan area.
Currently, New Yorkers 65 and over are eligible for the vaccine, which includes all of the Holocaust survivors.
The BBC says it is “disappointed” after China’s broadcasting regulator announced that the BBC World News channel will be banned from airing inside the country over alleged reporting violations.
“We are disappointed that the Chinese authorities have decided to take this course of action,” a spokeswoman for the British broadcaster says.
“The BBC is the world’s most trusted international news broadcaster and reports on stories from around the world fairly, impartially and without fear or favor.”
Data by the Health Ministry shows the number of serious COVID-19 patients in Israel has gone below 1,000 for the first time since January 10, underscoring the effect the vaccines are starting to have on serious illness.
The ministry says 5,635 cases were identified yesterday — with 7.5% of tests returning a positive result — and another 3,258 so far today.
The total cases since the pandemic started have reached 714,056, including 65,730 active cases. They include 992 serious cases, including 384 in critical condition and 313 on ventilators.
The death toll has reached 5,272.
The data also shows 3,734,894 Israelis have received at least one vaccine dose, with 2,376,138 also getting their second shot.
The Health Ministry is planning to clamp down on Israelis who refuse to vaccinate against the coronavirus and impose severe sanctions on businesses that accept unvaccinated customers and on individuals who forge a document that says they have been vaccinated, Channel 12 news reports.
The network says Health Minister Yuli Edelstein wants to encourage widespread vaccination by offering advantages to those who take the shot, but also by limiting the options of those who don’t.
“Whoever doesn’t vaccinate will only go out to supermarkets or pharmacies, while the vaccinated will go to stadiums and gyms,” Edelstein is quoted as saying.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is quoted as saying during a cabinet meeting: “Whoever doesn’t vaccinate endangers us all, because they can cause the health system to collapse.”
Associates of Marwan Barghouti say that the Palestinian security prisoner — currently serving five life sentences for planning terror attacks that murdered Israelis — is considering a run in the scheduled Palestinian presidential elections.
“Our comrade, Marwan, is considering the possibility, but he has not yet made a decision either way,” former Palestinian Authority legislator Qaddura Fares tells The Times of Israel in a phone call.
Palestinians are scheduled to head to legislative elections on May 22 followed by presidential elections on July 31. Many observers have expressed skepticism that the vote will be held, however, as the Palestinians have not headed to national elections since 2006, despite numerous promises by their leadership.
Barghouti is hugely popular among Palestinians and is widely seen as a possible successor to current PA President Mahmoud Abbas. He was convicted and sentenced by an Israeli court in 2004 for directing two shootings and a bombing that killed five Israelis.
According to the Kan public broadcaster, senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein al-Sheikh visited Barghouti earlier today in Hadarim prison in an attempt to convince him not to run in the election.
Al-Sheikh’s office has issued a statement confirming the visit, although a spokesperson could not be reached for further comment.
“There is a need to rise above wounds, factional interests and selfishness, and to create a single unified list for the Fatah movement, without exclusion or marginalization,” Barghouti says, according to the statement from al-Sheikh’s office.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki says US President Joe Biden intends to speak soon with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, more than three weeks since he took office and after already speaking to almost all other major world leaders.
“The president looks forward to speaking with Prime Minister Netanyahu,” Psaki says during a briefing. “He’s obviously someone he has a longstanding relationship with and obviously there’s an important relationship that the US has with Israel and the security front as a key partner in the region.
“He’ll be talking with him soon, I don’t have a specific date or time for you on that.”
Psaki was asked about a tweet by Israel’s former UN ambassador Danny Danon in which he urged Biden to call Netanyahu and included what he described as the phone number at Netanyahu’s office.
While Israel’s skies are closed and only a handful of carefully picked and approved flights take off and arrive every day, a secret flight by national carrier El Al brought almost 100 people from Israel to London this morning, with the opaque approval process treating it as a “private flight” and without the general public having the option to apply to board it, the Kan public broadcaster reports.
The report says someone appeared to have “bought” the flight, which had officially been transporting cargo from the UK to Ben Gurion Airport and back.
Some 80-90 people boarded the plane in Israel and were taken abroad, the report says, while the normal process requires people to go through a lengthy bureaucratic process to prove that their international travel is necessary.
The broadcaster adds that it is unclear how the approval of the flight as “private” was obtained, since the Knesset only provided for the approval of very limited private flights, with severe checks on the purposes and the number of passengers, which was limited to nine people.
The report says El Al has confirmed the details, saying it received all the necessary approvals.
Lawyers for former US president Donald Trump are planning to begin and wrap up their defense in his impeachment trial in less than a day, using far fewer than their allotted argument hours.
That’s according to his senior adviser Jason Miller, who says there could even be enough time left over for planned questioning to begin.
The rules for the trial gave both sides two days for arguments, lasting up to eight hours each day. Democratic House impeachment prosecutors have used their time to air searing video footage of the January 6 attack on the Capitol building and to build their case that Trump was responsible for the rioters’ conduct that day.
Tomorrow is the day Trump’s lawyers are set to begin. It remains unclear when the final vote will take place, but Republicans have expressed a desire to wrap the trial quickly, even by Saturday.
South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds says he thinks most senators “would like to have this completed by Saturday.”
The Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) responds to the news that it will approve purchasing West Bank land to expand settlements, saying the proposal is supported by a legal opinion but that there is currently “no intention” to “open a new area in Judea and Samaria,” referring to the West Bank.
“Throughout the years and [up to] this very day, KKL-JNF has been operating in all parts of the land of Israel, including Judea and Samaria,” it says in a statement to The Times of Israel, using the biblical name for the West Bank. “The preliminary discussion, scheduled for Sunday, will revolve around general principles of action and will be based on a legal opinion that was requested and received during the previous management term.”
“At this stage, there is no intention of opening up a new area in Judea and Samaria,” it adds. “Regardless, KKL-JNF’s policy remains that every contribution for every project in Israel is confirmed by and coordinated in advance with its donor, in accordance with the laws of the donor’s country.”
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