The Times of Israel liveblogged Saturday’s events as they happened.
LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, have received their COVID-19 vaccinations, royal officials said Saturday.
Buckingham Palace officials said in a statement that the 94-year-old monarch and Philip, 99, received their jabs Saturday, joining some 1.5 million people in Britain who have been given the first dose of a COVID vaccine.
The injections were administered at Windsor Castle, where the queen and her husband have been spending their time during the lockdown in England.
Royal officials said they took the rare step of commenting on the monarch’s health in order to prevent inaccuracies and further speculation. The queen “decided that she would let it be known she has had the vaccination,” the palace statement said.
On Dec. 8, Britain became the world’s first country to begin a mass vaccination drive against the coronavirus. The government says it is aiming to deliver the first vaccine doses to some 15 million people in the top priority groups by the middle of February.
That includes everyone over age 70, as well as frontline healthcare workers, care home residents and anyone whose health makes them especially vulnerable to the virus.
The number of Israelis hospitalized in serious condition for COVID-19 rises to 964, a record since the start of the pandemic, as infections continue to surge after tightened lockdown measures took effect.
According to the Health Ministry, 7,808 new coronavirus cases were recorded yesterday, which along with another 2,998 since midnight brings the total number of infections confirmed in Israel since the pandemic began to 484,083.
There were 68,766 active cases, with 236 of those in serious condition on ventilators. Another 270 were in moderate condition and the rest have mild or no symptoms.
The death toll stood at 3,633, with 46 fatalities recorded yesterday.
The ministry said 119,309 tests were conducted yesterday, with 6.5 percent coming back positive. So far today, 51,393 tests were performed, 5.8% of which were positive.
Police arrest a 23-year-old man in Holon on suspicion of spraying pepper spray at anti-Netanyahu protesters in the Tel Aviv suburb.
LONDON — Britain says it had recorded over three million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began last year, after the government announces another 59,937 new cases.
The country also records another 1,035 fatalities from the virus, taking the total death toll to 80,868, one of the highest in Europe alongside Italy.
RABAT, Morocco — A top US envoy visits the contested Western Sahara, after Washington recognized Morocco’s sovereignty there in exchange for Rabat normalizing ties with Israel.
Western Sahara is a disputed and divided former Spanish colony, mostly under Morocco’s control, where tensions with the pro-independence Polisario Front have simmered since the 1970s.
Last year, Morocco joined the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan in agreeing to normalize ties with Israel under US-brokered deals.
In return, US President Donald Trump fulfilled a decades-old Moroccan goal by backing its contested sovereignty over the barren but phosphate-rich region, which lies next to rich Atlantic fishing zones.
The US Embassy in Rabat calls the trip by David Schenker, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, and the highest-ranking US diplomat for North Africa and the Middle East, “a historic visit.”
Morocco’s official news agency MAP reports that Schenker visited Laayoune, the capital of Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara.
Schenker, who is on a regional tour including Algeria and Jordan, also visited a United Nations base in the region, MAP says.
UN peacekeepers in Western Sahara are mandated to organize a referendum on self-determination for the region, and despite Washington’s move, the UN insists its position is “unchanged.”
Schenker’s visit comes ahead of the expected opening of a provisional US consulate in the desert region tomorrow, according to diplomatic sources in Rabat.
Last month the US State Department announced it would open a “virtual” diplomatic post in Western Sahara before building a consulate, slated for the southern fishing port of Dakhla.
TEHRAN, Iran — Twitter has removed a tweet by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggesting coronavirus vaccines made in the United States and Britain are “untrustworthy,” saying the post violated its rules.
“Importing vaccines made in the US or the UK is prohibited. They’re completely untrustworthy. It’s not unlikely they would want to contaminate other nations,” said a tweet posted yesterday on Khamenei’s English-language Twitter account.
“Given our experience with France’s HIV-tainted blood supplies, French vaccines aren’t trustworthy either,” the Iranian leader added in the tweet with the hashtag #CoronaVaccine.
Twitter later removed the tweet and replaced it with a message that said it was “no longer available because it violated the Twitter Rules.”
A spokesperson for Twitter says the tweet “violates… specifically our Covid-19 misleading information policy.”
“The account owner will be required to delete the violative Tweet before regaining access to their account,” the spokesperson for the US-based social network giant says.
The US social media company announced a policy in December to crack down on what it described as potentially “false or misleading information” about COVID-19 vaccinations.
Such false claims, it said, include statements about vaccines that invoke deliberate conspiracy and those suggesting that vaccines are used to harm or control populations.
Police say they have handed out 9,178 fines for alleged violations of coronavirus rules since tightened lockdown measures took effect Thursday night.
The vast majority of the fines are given to Israelis who traveled more than a kilometer from their homes for a non-essential reason.
As Israel readies to begin doling out second doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein are vaccinated for a second time.
As he receives the second dose, Netanyahu touts the coming vaccine shipments and asserts all Israelis can be immunized in two months. Netanyahu said that even if we assume it would take the “maximum” amount of time, the vaccination campaign would meet its goals by the end of March.
AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan announces it is expecting the first doses of a coronavirus vaccine to arrive in the kingdom tonight.
Wael Hayajneh, the Health Ministry’s official in charge of COVID-19, says the vaccines are coming from state-owned Chinese drugmaker Sinopharm.
Another shipment, of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, is expected to get to the Middle Eastern kingdom on Monday, Hayajneh says.
Jordan plans to start its vaccination drive on Wednesday. It has arranged to secure 200,000 doses in the first quarter of 2021 from Pfizer and Sinopharm and possibly other vaccine suppliers.
Jordan’s health minister has said the inoculations will first target 20% to 25% of the frontline workers and vulnerable groups.
Jordan, with a population of 10 million, has recorded over 4,000 COVID-19 deaths and 305,000 confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic.
Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman says the storming of the US Capitol by Trump supporters is “nothing” compared to what he claims Prime Minister Netanyahu is planning if the premier feels he’s lost the elections.
“It’s clear he is preparing for a scenario that he loses. He’ll advance a plan exactly like what was in the US and even stronger,” Liberman tells Channel 12 news, without offering evidence for the claim.
The Shin Bet hacked the phones of anti-Netanyahu protesters on suspicion they sought to break into the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, Channel 13 news reports.
The report said the security agency was granted authorization to read messages on the demonstrators’ phones and search their homes after a number of protesters breached a police barricade outside the compound last week, with Netanyahu and his wife Sara reportedly moved to a safe room.
The protesters had no intention to break into the residence but wanted to tie themselves to fence outside, according to the network.
“The Shin Bet acts in accordance with the law to safeguard the country’s security, democratic governmental order and institutions. If any threat of this type is identified, the Shin Bet will act in accordance with the tools at its disposal in accordance [with] the law,” the security service said in response.
The Black Flags and Crime Minister protest groups slammed the Shin Bet over the report.
“It seems the complete chaos at Balfour and the fear of the democratic protest that will topple the corrupt also penetrated the Shin Bet,” the Crime Minister said, referring to Netanyahu’s trial on graft charges.
In a separate report, Channel 12 news quoted a police source criticizing the decision to move the Netanyahus to a safe room.
“There was no justification because there was no danger of a break-in by protesters,” the source said. “The demonstrators didn’t break through any barricade, but didn’t listen to the instructions of the officers to move away.”
The reports came as weekly anti-Netanyahu protests were held outside the Prime Minister’s Residence on Jerusalem’s Balfour Street and elsewhere across Israel.
The Israelis party leader Ron Huldai says he’ll step down as Tel Aviv mayor once he’s sworn in as a Knesset member.
“I’ve already come to terms with the fact that [I’m] finished with [that] chapter in my life,” he says in an interview with Channel 12 news.
Huldai says he won’t resign as mayor before then because “problems are already starting in the management of the city, it’s impossible to hold elections within elections,” referring to the race that would be held to replace him.
A Florida man allegedly photographed grinning as he carried away House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern after a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the nation’s Capitol is among the latest people charged in Wednesday’s mayhem that left five people dead.
Adam Johnson, 36, of Parrish, Florida, was arrested last night on a federal warrant and is being held without bail in Pinellas County, Florida, according to jail records that don’t show if he has an attorney.
Johnson is a married father of five who was quickly identified on social media by local residents as the man in a photo smiling as he walked through the Capitol rotunda carrying Pelosi’s lectern, The Bradenton Herald reported.
He is charged today with one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, one count of theft of government property and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
Before being deleted or taken down, Johnson posted on social media that he was in Washington, DC, during Wednesday’s riot and included disparaging comments about the Black Lives Matter movement, according to The Bradenton Herald.
An Arizona man seen in photos and video of the mob wearing a costume with a painted face and a fur hat topped by horns was also taken into custody Saturday. Jacob Anthony Chansley, more commonly known as Jake Angeli, had become a staple in his costume at pro-Trump protests across the country.
He is charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
ATLANTA — While election officials in Georgia were verifying signatures on absentee ballot envelopes in one metro-Atlanta county, President Donald Trump pressed a lead investigator to “find the fraud” and said it would make the investigator a national hero.
The December call, described by a person familiar with it who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to describe the sensitive nature of the discussion, is yet another link in the chain of the extraordinary pressure campaign waged by Trump on state officials as he sought to overturn the results of the November election, which he lost to Democrat Joe Biden.
It is one of at least three phone calls, held over the course of a month between early December and early January, where Trump sought help from high-level Georgia officials in subverting the election — only to be rebuffed each time. Trump lost to Biden in Georgia by 11,779 votes.
The call to the investigator preceded Trump’s January 2 call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger where he asked election officials to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s win in the state. It occurred as election officials were conducting an audit of signatures on absentee ballot envelopes in Cobb County.
The audit, which reviewed more than 15,000 signatures, found no cases of fraud. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation helped conduct the signature audit.
Trump and his allies have for months made false claims about Georgia’s signature verification process for absentee ballots and about the results of the November election. Among other things, they demanded an audit of the signature matches.
The White House has no immediate comment. The call was first reported today by The Washington Post, which says it is withholding the name of the investigator, who doesn’t respond to requests for comment, because of the risk of threats and harassment directed at election officials.
Telem party chief Moshe Ya’alon has decided to part ways with Opposition Leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid and is expected to announce he’ll run alone in the upcoming elections, according to Hebrew media reports.
There is no immediate confirmation from Ya’alon, a former defense minister and IDF chief of staff, but Lapid confirms the split.
“I really admire and respect Ya’alon and wish him luck down the road,” the Yesh Atid chief tweets.
Ya’alon teamed up with Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience party in 2019, with the two latter linking up with Lapid to form the centrist Blue and White alliance. The party ran in three straight elections, challenging Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud, but split over Gantz’s decision to join a government led by Netanyahu after the March 2020 vote.
The move comes amid a flurry of political activity before the March 23 vote, with new parties being formed, others splitting and some lawmakers switching between factions.
Right-wing protesters demonstrate in Israel and the West Bank over the death of Ahuvia Sandak, a 16-year-old killed in a car crash while fleeing from police after allegedly throwing rocks at Palestinians.
Numerous instances of violence are reported, with the Yesh Din rights group saying settlers blocked a number of roads in the West Bank and threw rocks at Palestinian cars.
In Jerusalem, demonstrators at the Chords Bridge break the windows of a bus that passes by, according to the Walla news site.
Police say they have reopened roads around the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, with most protesters having left the area.
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