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Chinese diplomat says Israel’s barring of travelers reminiscent of Holocaust

Embassy later apologizes for likening restrictions to prevent spread of coronavirus to World War II-era bans on Jewish immigration

A press conference held at the Chinese embassy in Tel Aviv with diplomat Dai Yuming on the deadly coronavirus, which originated in China, and has spread worldwide. February 2, 2020. (Flash90)
A press conference held at the Chinese embassy in Tel Aviv with diplomat Dai Yuming on the deadly coronavirus, which originated in China, and has spread worldwide. February 2, 2020. (Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s developments as they unfolded.

Kremlin criticizes Trump peace plan, doubts it’s viable

A Kremlin spokesperson is voicing criticism of the Trump administration’s proposal for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

“There is a whole number of respective resolutions of the UN Security Council,” Dmitry Peskov tells Russian media. “It’s obvious that certain points of this plan are not in full compliance with the UNSC resolutions.”

“We see the Palestinians’ reaction, we see the reaction of the whole number of Arab states, which show solidarity with the Palestinians in opposing this plan,” Peskov says. “This certainly raises doubts over its viability.”

Top EU diplomat to visit Tehran amid nuclear tensions

Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell on Monday is due to visit Iran, say officials in Tehran and Brussels, on his first trip there since taking office, aiming to reduce rising tensions over the Islamic republic’s nuclear program.

Borrel is set to meet President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani on the two-day trip, his office says in a statement.

The 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and a group of world powers has been crumbling since US President Donald Trump withdrew from it in 2018, and Washington has since stepped up sanctions and a campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran.

Tehran has gradually stepped back from its own commitments under the deal, while military tensions with the United States have brought the countries to the brink of full-blown confrontation in recent weeks.

Borrell’s mission aims “to de-escalate tensions and seek opportunities for political solutions to the current crisis,” says the office of the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy.

The visit will allow Borrell “to convey the EU’s strong commitment to preserve” the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and to discuss cooperation between the EU and Iran, his office says.


Hundreds protest in Lebanon against Trump peace plan

Hundreds of Lebanese and Palestinians hold a protest near the US Embassy in Lebanon against a White House plan for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Protesters waving Palestinian flags gather on a road leading to the embassy northeast of Beirut amid tight security by Lebanese troops and riot policemen.

“Death to America! Death to Israel! We will die and Palestine survive,” some of the demonstrators chant.

The US plan would grant the Palestinians limited self-rule in parts of the West Bank, while allowing Israel to annex all its settlements there and keep nearly all of east Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Around noon the protesters remove the barbed wire and reach a metal fence set up by security forces. Police use what appears to be pepper spray to hold back some of the demonstrators, with at least three protesters being carried away.


Rouhani: Iranians must have ‘right to choose’ their political leaders

Iranians must have the “right to choose” between different political movements, President Hassan Rouhani says Sunday, as controversy grows over the disqualification of thousands of candidates in upcoming polls.

Speaking at the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini during annual celebrations of the 1979 revolution, Rouhani praises the political heritage of the Islamic Republic’s founder.

“The imam (Khomeini) insisted on the fact that people must participate in all elections and have the right to choose,” Rouhani says during the address, broadcast on state television.

“Whoever prevents people from choosing, and does not allow them to choose between different (political) tendencies, and whoever discourages people from going to the polls, is certainly far from the approach of the imam,” he adds, surrounded by members of the government.

Controversy has been raging for the last fortnight, pitting the coalition that supports Rouhani’s government against the Guardian Council, which oversees Iran’s elections and is dominated by ultra-conservatives.

The council says it has barred some 9,500 potential candidates from running in the February 21 legislative polls — almost two thirds of the 14,500 hopefuls — including 92 sitting MPs from of all political stripes.

Those who are barred are allowed to appeal before the election.


More Europeans flee China virus as death toll climbs

A second French-chartered plane carrying 300 evacuees from China is flying to France on Sunday as more foreigners flee China’s rapidly developing virus.

The A380 is expected to land at the military base of Istres in the southern French region of Bouches-du-Rhone. A first plane landed Friday near Marseille.

Officials say none of the passengers on this plane from the central Chinese city of Wuhan had symptoms of coronavirus on leaving China. They include French, Belgians, Dutch, Danes, Czechs, Slovaks and some citizens of African countries.

Authorities say the plane would drop off most of its passengers at Istres before leaving for Belgium with several dozen people from northern Europe. Authorities haven’t said if the travelers arriving at Istres will be put into quarantine.

Europe so far has 23 people infected with the virus that emerged from Wuhan: Germany with eight, all tied to the same auto parts factory; France with six; Russia, Italy and the UK with two each and Finland, Sweden and Spain each with one.

The death toll from the virus in China climbed Sunday to 304 and the number of infections rose to 14,380. In addition, the Philippines on Sunday reported the first virus death outside of China.


13 lightly hurt in Holon bus crash

Thirteen people are lightly injured in a collision between two buses in the central city of Holon, medics say.

It is not immediately clear what caused the crash.

Kushner: Without peace plan, settlements will expand beyond point of return

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner said Saturday that if the Palestinians leadership does not agree to work with the peace proposal recently unveiled by the Trump administration, Israeli settlements will continue to expand, making it impossible to establish a Palestinian state.

“What’s been happening for many years is that Israel has been expanding as they’ve been negotiating and negotiating and there has not been a resolution to the conflict,” Kushner told Egyptian journalist Amr Adeeb during an interview on the El-Hakaya news show.

Kushner, who was one of the main architects behind the Trump plan, said that the US was working on reaching an agreement with Israel under which it would recognize Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank, thereby allowing for Jerusalem to move forward with annexation plans.

He told El-Hakaya that the agreement under which the US will recognize Israeli land in the West Bank “will take a couple of months” during which the sides will survey “every inch” of the territory.

“This is land that they [the Israelis] are never going to leave anyway because they have their people there,” Kushner said, clarifying that the US recognition would be “in exchange for them [Israelis] stopping growing.”

“Because I’ll tell you that… if we didn’t do this, Israel will continue to grow at this pace and there will never be an opportunity to create a Palestinian state,” he asserted.

Jacob Magid

Iraq bars foreign arrivals from China over coronavirus fears

Iraq’s interior ministry announces that it will not allow foreigners traveling from China to enter the country over fears of an outbreak of coronavirus.

In an online statement, the ministry says the step is “part of the protective measures taken by countries around the world to combat the new coronavirus, and out of a commitment to protect its citizens from its disastrous effects and negative consequences for public health and safety.”

Iraqi authorities said Friday they had not detected any coronavirus cases in Iraq or among Iraqi expatriates abroad.

Similar to the SARS pathogen, coronavirus emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan last year and has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization.

It has infected nearly 14,500 people across China and more than 100 in 20 other countries, including the United States.

More than 300 people have died in China and on Sunday, the first foreign fatality was reported in the Philippines.


Israeli woman hospitalized, feared to be carrying coronavirus

A 55-year-old woman from the Golan Heights has been hospitalized in northern Israel after displaying flu-like symptoms. Doctors are examining the possibility she could be carrying the coronavirus that has rapidly spread through China.

The woman returned from China 10 days ago, reports say.

She is hospitalized in the Poriya hospital in Tiberias, where doctors say they are examining the possibility she may have contracted the new virus.

Netanyahu says Israel to begin working on coronavirus vaccine

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will begin working on a vaccine for the coronavirus sweeping China and will build a facility for this purpose.

Speaking at an emergency meeting dedicated to Israel’s response to the epidemic, the prime minister says he instructed the health authorities to “work as fast as possible to create a vaccine for the disease and build a vaccine factory in Israel.”

Another Chinese city, 500 miles from Wuhan, locked down over virus

China imposes a lockdown Sunday on a major city far from the epicenter of a coronavirus epidemic, as its death toll from the disease soars to 304 and the first fatality outside the country is reported in the Philippines.

The events add to deepening concern about the potential for the virus to spread further and more rapidly, as governments around the world closed their borders to people from China.

Struggling to contain the virus, authorities virtually shut down the eastern city of Wenzhou on Sunday — some 800 kilometers (500 miles) from Wuhan, the metropolis at the heart of the health emergency — closing roads and confining people to their homes.

Ten days after locking down Wuhan, authorities impose similar draconian measures on Wenzhou, a coastal city of nine million people in Zhejiang province, part of the eastern industrial heartland that has powered China’s economic rise over recent decades.

Only one resident per household is allowed to go out every two days to buy necessities, and 46 highway toll stations have been closed, authorities announce.

The city had previously closed public places such as cinemas and museums, and suspended public transport.

Zhejiang has 661 confirmed infections, with 265 of those in Wenzhou, according to the government.

This is the highest tally for any province in China after ground-zero Hubei.


20 killed in Tanzanian church stampede, says official

Twenty people in Tanzania were trampled to death at an open-air evangelical Christian church service in the north of the country, officials say on Sunday.

Kippi Warioba, district commissioner in the northern town of Moshi, says he fears the number of dead could still rise from the accident which took place on Saturday.

“So far, 20 people have died, but the death toll could increase as there were also wounded,” Warioba tells AFP.

At least 16 others were injured in the crush, he says.

The tragedy happened when a crowd of worshipers was attending a prayer ceremony on Saturday led by the popular preacher, Boniface Mwamposa, who heads the Arise and Shine Ministry Tanzania.


Airstrikes in northwest Syria kill 9 civilians: monitor

Airstrikes by the Syrian regime and its Russian ally killed nine civilians in the last major opposition bastion of Idlib in northwestern Syria, a Britain-based war monitor says.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says seven of those killed were all members of one family in the town of Sarmeen, where an AFP correspondent saw a man weeping as rescue workers pulled bodies from a crumpled two-story building.


Man jailed for 6 months after girlfriend’s baby dies on his watch

A man whose girlfriend’s baby died while under his care is sentenced to six months in prison.

The 11-month-girl from the southern city of Ashkelon was hospitalized with a serious head injury in October. She later died of her injuries.

The court in Ashkelon accepts Ziad Abid’s plea bargain, under which he admits to reckless homicide. An earlier count of murder was removed from the charges.

Thai doctors claim success in treating coronavirus with drug cocktail

A Chinese woman infected with the new coronavirus showed a dramatic improvement after she was treated with a cocktail of anti-virals used to treat flu and HIV, Thailand’s health ministry says Sunday.

The 71-year-old patient tested negative for the virus 48 hours after Thai doctors administered the combination, doctor Kriengsak Attipornwanich says during the ministry’s daily press briefing.

“The lab result of positive on the coronavirus turned negative in 48 hours,” Kriengsak says.

“From being exhausted before, she could sit up in bed 12 hours later.”

The doctors combined the anti-flu drug oseltamivir with lopinavir and ritonavir, anti-virals used to treat HIV, Kriengsak says, adding the ministry was awaiting research results to prove the findings.


In Jordan, EU foreign policy chief criticizes Trump peace plan

The European Union’s foreign policy chief addresses US efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians during a meeting with Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, in Amman.

“In Jordan and the European Union, we are very much aware that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the longest, most painful and complex conflicts in our history. The experience over the past 50 years has shown that without agreement among all sides, no peace plan has the chance to succeed,” says Josep Borrell.

The Palestinians and Arab League have angrily rejected the Trump administration’s proposal, which was embraced by Israel.

“To find a sustainable way forward, both parties need to come back to the table. The US plan challenges many of the internationally agreed parameters: the 1967 border, as agreed by both parties, with a state of Israel and an independent, viable state of Palestine, living side-by-side in peace, security and mutual recognition.

“Jordan plays a very special role in the efforts to resolve the conflict, in particular as regards Jerusalem and as custodian of the Holy Sites. We share the commitment to a two-state solution and respect for international law,” adds Borrell.

Iraqi protesters reject PM-designate picked by ruling elites

Hundreds of anti-government demonstrators in Iraq reject the new prime minister-designate who was recently nominated by rival government factions. Demonstrators have long sworn they would not accept a candidate chosen by Iraq’s establishment.

Meanwhile, an influential Shiite cleric told his followers, who are camped out among protesters in the capital and the country’s south, to unblock roads and restore normalcy.

Saturday’s selection of former Communications Minister Mohammed Allawi, 66, to replace outgoing Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi was the product of many backroom talks over months between rival parties, ending a political stalemate.

Hundreds of students voiced their rejection of Allawi at rallies in Baghdad’s central plazas and in southern Iraq. In Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the four-month anti-government protest movement, portraits of Allawi marked with an “X” hung over tunnels and buildings.

“We don’t want Allawi because he is a party member chosen by the parties,” says Hadi Safir, a protester in Tahrir. “We want an independent nominee.”

Others are more diplomatic, said they would wait and see how Allawi would deliver on promises to hold early elections.


Several stabbed in terror attack in south London

Several people have been stabbed in Streatham, south London, in an incident that has been declared a terror attack.

One person has been shot, police say, without elaborating. It remains unclear whether it was the attacker who was shot.

Border Police clash with settlers in West Bank

Security forces clash with settlers at the Geulat Zion outpost in the West Bank.

Border Police say the troops were met with rock-throwing when they arrived to confiscate heavy machinery that was being used for illegal construction.

Several of the rioters have been arrested for attacking security forces, according to a statement from the Border Police.

London police urge public to avoid site of stabbing

Police warn people to stay out of the south London neighborhood where several people were stabbed in what was immediately declared a terrorist attack.

London’s Ambulance Service says it has “a number of resources” attending the incident on Streatham High Road in the largely residential neighborhood.

Unverified footage posted to social media purporting to capture some of the incident shows armed police officers surrounding a man lying on the ground on Streatham High Road.

They then abruptly move away, urging onlookers to move back, as other emergency vehicles arrive at the scene.

The BBC says that witnesses reported hearing two gunshots just after 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Social media shows multiple ambulances on the scene and helicopters in the air as helicopters responded to the incident.

Britain has seen a spate of terrorist attacks in recent years.

In the most recent incident on November 29, 2019, convicted terrorist Usman Khan killed two people before being shot dead by police on London Bridge.

Times of Israel staff and agencies

US Democrats make final push ahead of Iowa votes

Democratic candidates race across Iowa in a last-minute flurry of rallies and handshakes ahead of the state’s nominating vote that marks the official start of the US presidential election season.

Iowa has traditionally served as a vital launching point — or burial ground — for presidential hopefuls. But Monday’s caucuses have created an air of suspense, with no clear frontrunner.

Leftist senator Bernie Sanders holds only a narrow lead over former vice president Joe Biden, among the field of several candidates feverishly crisscrossing the rural Midwestern state of three million people.

Three of the leading candidates seized on a brief break from their duties as jurors in the Senate impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump in Washington to rush to Iowa before Monday’s caucuses.

The senators — the self-styled democratic socialist Sanders, progressive Elizabeth Warren and moderate Amy Klobuchar — each had meet and greets and other events planned for Sunday after a Saturday that was just as hectic.

The impeachment trial — only the third in history of a US president — created an unprecedented situation by limiting the senators’ ability to campaign in Iowa in the closing days before the state’s presidential caucuses.


London police say 2 believed hurt in stabbing attack

In a tweet, London police say it is believed that two people were injured in the stabbing attack in south London.

Eyewitness says London attacker carried machete, canisters

Gulled Bulhan, a 19-year-old student from Streatham, tells Britain’s Press Association that he witnessed the stabbing attack in south London.

“I was crossing the road when I saw a man with a machete and silver canisters on his chest being chased by what I assume was an undercover police officer – as they were in civilian clothing,” he says. “The man was then shot. I think I heard three gun shots but I can’t quite remember.

Bulhan says he ran into a local library to seek safety.

“From the library I saw a load of ambulances and armed police officers arrive on the scene,” he says.

London police confirm the suspect has been killed.

with agencies

UK’s premier says his thoughts are with victims of London attack

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson thanks emergency forces and sends well-wishes to the injured after the attack in south London that wounded two people.

Israel barring air staff who were in China in past 14 days

Tightening its restrictions further amid deepening concerns over the coronavirus, Israel says it will ban international air staff who have traveled to China in the past 14 days, according to Hebrew media reports.

The Kan public broadcaster says that Israel’s refusal to let the flight attendants and pilots into the country will likely disrupt flight schedules, beginning Monday.

Palestinian man arrested by IDF in West Bank; knife found in his possession

A Palestinian man is arrested in the West Bank after Israeli soldiers deem his behavior suspicious, the army says.

Upon his arrest, a knife is found in his possession, according to the military.

The incident takes place near Bethlehem.

Invoking Holocaust rescue, Chinese envoy says Israel must not close doors to China

The Chinese embassy to Israel invokes China’s rescue of Jewish refugees during the Holocaust in its protest of Israel’s travel ban on Chinese visitors, due to the spiraling coronavirus epidemic.

“I feel bad and sad. Because it actually recalled for me, the old days, the old stories, that happened in World War II, the Holocaust,” says diplomat Dai Yuming.

“Many Jewish were refused when they tried to seek assistance. Only very, very few countries opened their doors, one of them is China. I hope Israel will never close their door to the Chinese,” he says.

Israel has halted flights from China and toughened border restrictions over fears the new virus could spread to the Jewish state.

Al-Qaeda claims December shooting attack at US naval base

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claims responsibility for a December shooting at a US naval base in which a Saudi officer killed three sailors, the SITE monitor says Sunday.

“In an audio speech delivered by its leader, Qassim al-Rimi, (AQAP) claimed credit for the December 2019 Naval Air Station Pensacola attack,” SITE, which tracks jihadist media, says in a statement.


Justice minister taps interim state attorney, reportedly against AG’s wishes

Justice Minister Amir Ohana of Likud announces he has appointed Dan Eldad, director of the State Attorney’s Office’s Economic division, as the interim state attorney.

Eldad will fill the post vacated by Shai Nitzan.

Ohana and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had previously clashed over another nominee for the post, Orly Ginsberg Ben-Ari, before she ultimately turned down the post.

Mandelblit was also reportedly against the nomination of Eldad.

G7 countries to discuss joint response to coronavirus crisis

G7 countries will discuss a joint response to the coronavirus epidemic, Germany’s health minister says.

Jens Spahn says he has talked on the phone with his US counterpart and “we agreed that there should be a conference call, a discussion by G7 health ministers about this question with the aim of dealing with it together.”

Spahn adds: “There is no point in each country deciding on measures alone.”

The Group of Seven (G7) is made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.


Chinese embassy sorry for comparing Israel’s travel restrictions to Holocaust

The Chinese embassy to Israel clarifies that it never intended to compare Israel’s travel restrictions for Chinese travelers, amid the coronavirus scare to the Holocaust.

“Regarding the press conference held today by the Chinese embassy in Israel, we would like to clarify that there was no intention whatsoever to compare the dark days of the Holocaust with the current situation and the efforts taken by the Israeli government to protect its citizens,” it says, in a statement conveyed by Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

“We would like to apologize if someone understood our message the wrong way,” it says.

Chinese diplomat Dai Yuming had said of the Israeli ban: “I feel bad and sad. Because it actually recalled for me, the old days, the old stories, that happened in World War II, the Holocaust.”

Referring to Chinese rescue efforts of Jews, he added: “So I hope Israel will also never close the door to the Chinese.”

London police: 3 hurt in stabbing attack, one in life-threatening condition

London police confirm that three people have been injured in a stabbing attack.

One of the injured people in the attack on Streatham High Road is “at hospital in a life-threatening condition. We are in the process of informing their family,” police say in a statement.

The force adds: “A second victim was treated for minor injuries at the scene before being taken to hospital. A third victim has been taken to hospital –- their condition is not life-threatening.”

—  with Agencies

China virus death toll climbs to 259

China faces deepening isolation over its coronavirus epidemic on Sunday as the death toll soared to 259, with the United States and Australia leading a growing list of nations to impose extraordinary Chinese travel bans.

With Britain, Russia, and Sweden among the countries confirming their first infections, the virus has now spread to more than two dozen nations, sending governments scurrying to limit their exposure.

China toughened its own quarantine measures at the center of the outbreak in Hubei province, a day after the United States temporarily barred entry to foreigners who had been in China within the past two weeks.

Beijing insists it can contain the virus and called Washington’s advice against travel to China “unkind.”

“Certainly it is not a gesture of good will,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying says.

The US emergency declaration also requires Americans returning from Hubei province to be placed in mandatory 14-day quarantine, and health screening for American citizens coming from other parts of China.


Netanyahu turned down Omani offer in 2013 for direct Iran talks — report

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected an offer by Oman in 2013 to create a secret backchannel between Israel and Iran, Channel 13 and Axios reports.

Israel at the time had learned that Washington was engaging with the Islamic Republic in a covert diplomatic effort that would ultimately lead to the 2015 nuclear deal.

According to the report, the Mossad intelligence agency favored exploring the option of direct talks with Iran, while then-national security adviser Yaakov Amidror opposed it fiercely.

Netanyahu ultimately sided with Amidror and rejected Oman’s overtures, the report says.

“The Israeli response to the Omanis was warranted — as long as the Iranian leadership seeks to destroy us, we have got nothing to talk about with them,” says Amidror.

Kushner says there’ll be no Palestinian recognition if peace plan goals unmet

US presidential advisor Jared Kushner says that if Palestinians are unable to meet the conditions of the new Middle East peace plan he crafted, Israel should not take “the risk to recognize them as a state.”

The plan laid out by Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, and unveiled Tuesday was warmly embraced by Israel but curtly dismissed by the Palestinian Authority along with others in the region, including the Arab League.

Kushner is challenged by CNN host Fareed Zakaria in a program aired Sunday to explain why demands made of the Palestinians before they are given a state — a free press, free elections, religious freedom, an independent judiciary and a reliable financial system — did not amount to “a killer amendment.”

“There is no Arab country that would meet these criteria, certainly not Saudi Arabia, Egypt” or other countries Kushner has worked with closely, Zakaria says.

Kushner replied that the Palestinian territories amount to “a police state… not exactly a thriving democracy.”

“For the Palestinians, if they want their people to live better lives, we now have a framework to do it,” he says.

“If they don’t think they can uphold these standards, then I don’t think we can get Israel to take the risk to recognize them as a state.”

Kushner adds: “The only thing more dangerous than what we have now is a failed state.”


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