The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has contracted the coronavirus, a spokesperson says.
This makes Lapid the highest-level government figure to fall ill.
The spokesperson says Lapid, the head of Yesh Atid and slated to become prime minister next year, is feeling well and isolating at home.
According to Ynet, Lapid is thought to have gotten infected by one of his security guards. Over the past day, he was in close proximity with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other top coalition politicians.
Lapid had been slated to hold a Yesh Atid faction meeting Monday afternoon, but canceled it after having been exposed.
Pro-government forces in Yemen backed by a Saudi-led military coalition say they have seized control of the northern oil province of Shabwa from Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
Government forces and Houthi rebels have been locked for months in a fierce battle in northern Yemen with heavy fighting in the oil- and gas-rich Marib and Shabwa provinces.
The pro-government Giants Brigade, who are backed by the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates, announce in a statement the “liberation of the district of Ain” after a 10-day assault, which it says had been the last area of the province left in Houthi control.
The rebels began a major push to seize the government’s last northern stronghold in Marib and Shabwa last February and, after a lull, they renewed their offensive in September, when they seized districts in Shabwa.
But the Giants Brigade, a force of an estimated 15,000 fighters, launched a pushback, announcing last month that troop reinforcements had been sent to bolster positions in Shabwa.
“All the districts of the province of Shabwa have been totally liberated,” the statement adds. “We thank the heroes of the Giants Brigade… and we thank the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the support of the United Arab Emirates.”
All the COVID-19 fatalities and serious patients over the past three weeks are unvaccinated or haven’t been inoculated in the past six months, according to reported data presented yesterday to a Health Ministry advisory panel.
According to the Kan public broadcaster, the figures also show that 90 percent of those hospitalized with COVID-19 over the past week are infected with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Robert Durst, the wealthy New York real estate heir and failed fugitive who was dogged for decades with suspicion in the disappearance and deaths of those around him before he was convicted of killing his best friend and sentenced to life in prison, has died. He was 78.
Durst died in a state prison hospital facility in Stockton, his attorney Chip Lewis says. He says it was from natural causes due to a number of health issues.
Durst, who was Jewish, was convicted in September of shooting Susan Berman at point-blank range in 2000 at her Los Angeles home. He was sentenced to life on October 14. Two days later, he was hospitalized with COVID-19, his trial attorney Dick DeGuerin said.
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert rejects out of hand the option that he’ll apologize to opposition chief Benjamin Netanyahu for calling him and his wife and son “mentally ill.”
“Of course not, this hasn’t even been considered. There’s no chance that this will happen — not an apology and not anything that resembles it,” Olmert says in an interview with Channel 12 news.
Olmert adds that his remark against Netanyahu was mild in comparison to other remarks made against the fellow former premier, saying he is “amused” that of all the comments, the Netanyahus decided to press charges over this one.
“Does someone seriously think I’m a psychiatrist? Of course I expressed an opinion, which is very popular in the public regarding the family’s conduct, and there have been countless revelations on that,” he argues.
He also claims that Israel has no option of destroying Iran’s nuclear capabilities with a military strike, calling the notion “nonsense.”
“It is unnecessary arrogance that indicates weakness, not strength,” he says.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks on the phone with his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban, thanking the right-wing leader for “Hungary’s strong support for Israel in international bodies.”
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Bennett and Orban have “agreed to continue the cooperation between the countries on a series of issues, and to maintain continuous contact.”
Israel’s consul general in New York, Asaf Zamir, sends condolences to the families of the victims of the massive fire that raged yesterday through a Bronx residential building, killing 17 and badly wounding dozens.
“We are deeply saddened by Sunday’s deadly fire in the Bronx,” Zamir tweets.
“We extend our best wishes to the injured and the entire community now trying to cope with the aftermath of this tragedy.”
The current COVID outbreak will cost Israel some NIS 2 billion ($800 million) every 20 days, Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron tells the Knesset Finance Committee.
Yaron says the damage will come from decreased consumption and from employees quarantining or sick with the virus.
“Most estimates are of a relatively short wave — a number of weeks — that is why the cost to the economy per confirmed coronavirus case is not of macro-economic proportions. In such a scenario, pinpoint compensations focused on sectors that have been hurt should be continued,” Yaron adds, according to a translation by the Reuters news agency.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett reportedly told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee this morning that Israel could have to face a military confrontation soon with Lebanon or Gaza, alongside plans to thwart Iran’s nuclear program.
According to the Ynet news site, during the part of today’s discussion that was closed to the media, Bennett also referred to Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s recent meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The report says Bennett clarified that he isn’t planning to advance peace talks with the Palestinians at this time, adding that Israel’s interest is to keep the stability in the West Bank and the Gaza strip.
He also reportedly said his government wants to prevent the Hamas terror group from arming and to return two civilians and two bodies of IDF soldiers believed to be held in Gaza.
A Health Ministry team in charge of COVID-19 policy is recommending shortening the quarantine period for confirmed patients from 10 days to seven days, Hebrew media reports.
Most of the team members objected to expanding fourth vaccine shots — currently given to those aged 60+ and other risk groups — to larger parts of the population.
According to Health Ministry data, over 250,000 people have received the fourth dose.
Teacher’s Union chief Ran Erez pens a letter to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, demanding that middle and high school studies be moved online, charging that the government has lost control of the education system.
While acknowledging the disadvantages of studies via Zoom, Erez warns against what he terms the current “anarchy and pandemonium” and says remote studies would be the “lesser evil.”
“You tasked school managers with making decisions and acting as they please,” he says. “This will cause the entire system to collapse, or worse, explode.”
“Mr. prime minister, you are responsible. We can’t keep operating the secondary school system without test kits and while forcing teachers to work like in a Russian roulette [game].”
Public transportation from Ben Gurion Airport will resume full service tomorrow, after it was halted during Israel’s attempts to slow the arrival of the Omicron strain of the coronavirus.
Trains and buses will operate normally from the airport and from the Taba border crossing with Egypt.
Vaccinated and recovered travelers returning from countries that aren’t regarded as “red” — no countries currently have that designation — are allowed to take public transportation on their way to mandatory home quarantine.
The Education Ministry says 38,246 schoolchildren and 6,148 education staff members are currently confirmed to have COVID-19.
The ministry adds that 81,851 students are in quarantine alongside 3,344 staff members.
Experts say an alleged hybrid coronavirus mutation dubbed “Deltacron” reportedly discovered in a Cyprus lab is most likely the result of lab contamination, not a new worrying variant.
Cypriot media reported the discovery Saturday, describing it as having “the genetic background of the Delta variant along with some of the mutations of Omicron.”
While it is possible for coronaviruses to genetically combine, it is rare, and scientists analyzing the discovery of so-called “Deltacron” say it is unlikely.
“The Cypriot ‘Deltacron’ sequences reported by several large media outlets look to be quite clearly contamination,” Tom Peacock, a virologist with the infectious diseases department at Imperial College London, tweets over the weekend.
Jeffrey Barrett, the head of the COVID-19 Genomics Initiative at Britain’s Wellcome Sanger Institute, says the alleged mutations are located on a part of the genome that is vulnerable to error in certain sequencing procedures.
“This is almost certainly not a biological recombinant of the Delta and Omicron lineages,” he says.
Scientists are eager to battle a deluge of disinformation about COVID-19, much of it circulating online.
A Greek court orders a prison to free a former MP from the Golden Dawn neo-Nazi party to allow him better access to cancer care, but says he must report regularly to the police.
Nikos Michos, a former senior cadre, was among dozens of Golden Dawn top members and followers sentenced to prison in October 2020 at a high-publicity trial following a five-year investigation sparked by the murder of an anti-fascist rapper.
An appeals court rules that Michos, serving a six-year sentence for belonging to a “criminal organization,” should be given leave from Domokos prison on health grounds.
The court says Michos’s release is contingent on him remaining on Greek territory and checking in at a police station twice a month.
Michos’s lawyer says the former neo-Nazi deputy could not access the necessary medical check-ups or treatment in jail.
Golden Dawn, a xenophobic and anti-Semitic organization, existed on the fringes of Greek politics until the country’s 2010 debt crisis.
Avian flu has been detected in over 18,700 birds in chicken coops in the northern town of Binyamina, the Agriculture Ministry says.
The ministry says veterinary services have isolated the farm.
It adds that the last cases of avian flu in the country were detected five days ago.
Hundreds of thousands of birds have so far been culled in the recent major outbreak.
The Palestinian Authority summons the Dutch representative in order to object to the Netherlands’ decision to halt funding to a Palestinian civil society group that Israel controversially outlawed as a terrorist organization.
In a statement, the PA decries the “unjust and biased” decision to cut off funding to the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), one of six groups that Israel outlawed in October over alleged organizational ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group.
The Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank and coordinates security with Israel, claims that the UAWC provides vital aid to Palestinian farmers struggling to remain on their land in the face of Israeli settlement expansion.
The Dutch government based its decision on an independent audit of the UAWC that found no evidence the organization was involved in terrorism. It said the audit did, however, find a “worrisome” number of UAWC board members were linked to the PFLP. Two former UAWC employees were arrested in connection with a bombing that killed an Israeli teenager in the West Bank in 2019.
The UAWC has rejected the findings, saying it does not concern itself with the private political activities of its board members or employees. The PFLP has a political party as well as charities and an armed wing. Israel and Western countries consider the PFLP a terrorist organization because of attacks going back decades that have killed civilians.
Israel says the six groups are fronts for the PFLP but is said to have provided little evidence to substantiate the allegations. The terror designation paves the way for the Israeli military to shut down the groups and arrest their members, but it has yet to do so.
The groups deny the Israeli allegations, which they say are aimed at stifling civil society and pressuring Western donors to cut off funding.
Police have arrested five people on suspicion of assaulting officers during clashes earlier today at a wildcat outpost in the West Bank.
The alleged attacks, which left two border guards lightly hurt, occurred as Israeli forces demolished a number of illegal structures at Oz Zion, north of Jerusalem. The two received medical care at the scene, according to a police statement.
Police say two settlers barricaded themselves inside one of the buildings, using iron and concrete to attach themselves to the structure. Border Police officers and rescuers from the military’s Home Front Command extracted the pair after several hours.
The statement also says a number of olive trees were set alight around the outpost of Oz Zion during the demolition, sparking a blaze that was extinguished by firefighters called to the scene.
One of Egypt’s last independent human rights organizations has closed down, a statement by the group says, citing government persecution.
Egypt’s government has engaged in a widespread crackdown on dissent for years that has stifled many of the country’s civil society groups and jailed thousands.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), an Egyptian organization, was founded in 2004 by a team of lawyers and activists. It documented violations against citizens, journalists and political prisoners in Egypt and the region. It also followed the increasing government intimidation and targeting of human rights workers and others.
But laws that made many of ANHRI’s operations illegal have forced the organization to shut down, Executive Director Gamal Eid says in the statement. He says the group’s workers have been arrested, intimidated and physically assaulted by security forces.
“We continue to be lawyers who have a conscience, and as individual, independent human rights defenders will work side by side with the few remaining independent human rights organizations, independent human rights defenders and the entire movement calling for democracy,” he writes.
A government media officer does not respond to a request for comment on the organization’s statement.
Many of those who have been imprisoned in recent years are Islamists but they also include secular activists who were involved in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that toppled the country’s longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alian, has tested positive for the coronavirus, the Israel Defense Forces says.
“The officer feels good and will continue to maintain his normal schedule as much as possible under the directives of the Health Ministry and IDF,” the military says.
He is the second member of the IDF General Staff to be diagnosed today.
Prof. Salman Zarka, the official tasked with coordinating the government’s pandemic response, says in a press briefing that if the current outbreak threatens to overrun Israel’s health system, he will advise the government to impose a lockdown.
“Mild restrictions won’t help. What will help is a significant lockdown with a cap of [traveling no more than] 150 meters from home,” Zarka says. “I hope it won’t come to that, but if there will be no choice we will have to put it on the table.”
Zarka adds that the peak of the current COVID-19 outbreak is still ahead, expressing hope that it’ll be over in 3-5 weeks. He urges mask wearing and social-distancing, adding that risk groups should avoid mass events even if vaccinated.
State prosecutors have filed an indictment against a woman who broke quarantine and visited a hospital while positive for COVID-19, in the first such case since enforcement was renewed in September.
According to the charge sheet filed at the Beersheba Magistrate’s Court, the 26-year-old resident of Netivot broke quarantine after testing positive and came to Soroka hospital in Beersheba to visit her father.
She is accused of spreading a disease.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tells CNBC that the company will soon be ready to widely distribute a vaccine adapted to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
“This vaccine will be ready in March. We (are) already starting manufacturing some of these quantities at risk,” he says, meaning it is pending approval.
“The hope is that we will achieve something that will have way, way better protection particularly against infections, because the protection against the hospitalizations and the severe disease — it is reasonable right now, with the current vaccines, as long as you are having let’s say the third dose,” he adds.
Bourla also says he isn’t convinced a fourth vaccine dose — currently given by Israel to risk groups — is needed, saying more evidence is required on that.
“I don’t know if there’s a need for a fourth booster, that’s something that needs to be tested, and I know Israel has already started some of these experiments. I don’t think we should do anything that is not needed,” he says.
State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman says he will probe the government’s management of the current COVID-19 crisis and its decision-making during the current and previous waves of infections.
During a tour of Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, Englman says he intends to check whether lessons have been learned from mistakes he found in the management of earlier COVID-19 outbreaks, under the previous government.
He says his office will inspect the decision-making process, the testing apparatus, the vaccination drive and purchases, and other issues.
Israeli soldiers shoot a Palestinian in the leg as they conduct arrests at Bir Zeit University near Ramallah in the West Bank, the military says.
According to the Israeli military, soldiers were conducting routine arrest operations in the area. A suspect sought to flee the scene, and the Israeli troops opened fire toward him. The army says the detained Palestinian was hit in the leg with live fire.
“During the arrest, the wanted individual tried to escape and in response, the force initiated an arrest procedure that included firing at the wanted person,” the army says.
Palestinian media reports that five students were arrested during the operation. An Israeli military spokesperson says they have only received reports of one arrest.
According to Palestinian media, the wounded Palestinian is Isma’il al-Barghouti, a student who leads the Hamas-affiliated Islamic Faction at Bir Zeit.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid admits that mistakes have been made in the government’s response to the current COVID-19 wave, adding that the government wants to compensate businesses harmed by the pandemic’s fallout but “doesn’t have unlimited money.”
Lapid’s office releases a statement with the remarks, which were originally planned to be made at the outset of the Yesh Atid faction meeting. But Lapid has entered quarantine after coming in contact with a COVID-19 patient, causing the faction meeting to be canceled.
“In the face of COVID-19, not all of the government’s decisions will be correct. There won’t be a situation of zero mistakes. There’s no such thing. Not in Israel, not anywhere else. The question is whether we want to be angry, or deal with it together,” he says in the statement.
Lapid defends the frequently changing rules: “This is a pandemic that changes all the time. So we need to react quickly and frequently change the instructions. When you work quickly, there are mistakes. The test is the ability to work together and fix the mistakes in real time.”
He says he’s aware of the long lines at testing sites, the chaos at schools and the ailing businesses. “We’re dealing with all this, better and faster than most governments worldwide, but not perfectly and it also won’t [ever] be perfect.”
Lapid says Israel must balance between an open economy and lowering the death toll.
Regarding businesses, he says: “We won’t abandon businesses that were harmed, we will ensure compensation, but the government doesn’t have unlimited money.”
The last seven years have been the hottest on record globally, the European Union’s climate monitoring service says, confirming that 2021 has joined the unbroken warm streak since 2015.
In its latest annual assessment, the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) finds that 2021 was the fifth warmest, while the last seven years “have been the warmest years on record by a clear margin.”
Iran’s prosecutor general threatens to launch criminal proceedings against judiciary personnel who have protested against the denial of a planned pay rise.
“The colleagues must put an end to some actions that can open the way to abuse by enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” says Mohammad Jafar Montazeri in a statement by the judiciary’s media arm Mizan Online.
Such “illegal actions… contradict sharia principles and are liable to legal action,” he adds.
Ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi, who assumed his post in August, had proposed a salary hike in the last weeks of his previous job as judicial chief. But the new government he leads changed its mind and judicial personnel protested on Saturday and Sunday in many Iranian cities against the decision.
“The question of personnel livelihoods is being considered carefully by the head of the (judicial) authority and the government has likewise promised to pursue it favorably,” the prosecutor adds.
Shargh, a newspaper representing the reformist viewpoint, yesterday published a video of a protest by hundreds of men and women in front of parliament in Tehran.
“If our problem is not resolved, we will shut down the justice system!” they chanted.
Another reformist paper, Arman Melli, reported that judicial personnel organized rallies “in most” cities to protest against the reversal of the plan to raise salaries.
The demonstrators held up signs with slogans declaring that “justice workers are unable to support themselves” and decrying the “hypocrisy of the government and parliament.”
Hit by severe sanctions imposed by the US, Iran suffers high inflation that has curtailed the value of civil servants’ pay.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid enters quarantine after coming in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient.
This caused the cancelation of a faction meeting of Lapid’s Yesh Atid party.
Lapid’s office says he’ll head home and take the necessary COVID-19 tests.
The Polish government fires an envoy tapped six months ago to improve relations with the Jewish community, after he called a deeply controversial 2018 Holocaust law passed by Warsaw “stupid.”
During an interview last week with the UK Jewish News, Jaroslaw Marek Nowak made the remark referring to the law, which allowed government officials to prosecute historians if their research suggested Poles were complicit in the Holocaust. After outrage from Israel, Jewish leaders and others, the legislation was watered down but not nixed.
Nowak said the law was “one of the stupidest amendments that were ever done by any law.” He said the right way to challenge academic research was to present counterarguments in a rebuttal article.
Jaroslaw Marek Nowak, a Polish ???????? diplomat appointed to improve relations with the Jewish community has been FIRED after describing one of his country’s laws on the Holocaust as “stupid”.#Poland https://t.co/eq6mMcld9v
— Jewish News (@JewishNewsUK) January 10, 2022
Continuing Warsaw’s hardline approach, a spokesperson for Poland’s Foreign Ministry tweets that “the Minister of Foreign Affairs Zbigniew Rau decided to dismiss Mr. Jaroslaw Nowak from his position.”
The ministry has not responded to a Jewish News request for comment.
The head of the Israel Defense Forces’ Manpower Directorate, Maj. Gen. Yaniv Assur, has tested positive for the coronavirus, the military says.
“The officer feels good and will continue to maintain his normal schedule as much as possible under the directives of the Health Ministry and IDF,” the military says.
The number of Israel Defense Forces service members diagnosed with the coronavirus has continued to climb rapidly, more than quintupling over the course of a week, to over 5,000 confirmed cases as of today, the military says.
All of the soldiers, officers and civilian employees of the IDF who tested positive have light symptoms, the military says.
After averaging a few hundred confirmed cases over the course of several weeks, recent days have seen the numbers skyrocket, from 990 last Monday to 1,778 last Thursday, 3,160 on Sunday and 5,187 on Monday, the IDF says.
In addition, 6,231 service members were in home quarantine after coming into contact with an infected person, as of yesterday, according to the military.
An explosion in eastern Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan has killed nine children and wounded four, according to the office of a Taliban-appointed governor.
A statement from the governor’s office says the blast took place when a cart selling food items struck an old, unexploded mortar shell in the district of Lalopar, in the eastern Nagarhar province.
No other details are immediately available.
The province is the headquarters of Taliban rivals, the Islamic State group, which has staged several attacks targeting Afghanistan’s new rulers since the Taliban took over the country in mid-August. However, the IS has operated in Afghanistan since 2014, carrying out dozens of horrific attacks and most often targeting the country’s minority Shiite Muslims.
Afghanistan is among the countries with the most unexploded land mines and other ordnance from the country’s decades of war and conflict. When the ordnance detonates, the victims are often children.
A 22-year-old man from Jerusalem is accused of sexually abusing many children aged 5-12.
An indictment has been filed at the Jerusalem District Court against Mordechai Cohen Hadad, with prosecutors asking for his remand to be extended until the conclusion of court proceedings against him.
According to the charge sheet, Cohen Hadad abused a large number of children, some of whom he knew personally.
Israel is considering whether to extend the detention of a 17-year-old Palestinian with a rare neuromuscular disorder who has been held without charge for nearly a year in what authorities refer to as administrative detention, his father says.
Israel says administrative detention, which is rarely used for minors, is needed to prevent imminent attacks or to detain dangerous terror suspects without disclosing sensitive intelligence. Rights groups say it further denies due process to Palestinians already living under military rule.
Amal Nakhleh, who was detained in January 2021, is one of just a handful of minors being held in administrative detention. He had a tumor removed from his lung in 2020 and suffers from myasthenia gravis, a nerve disorder that causes severe muscle fatigue.
His father, Muamar, says Israel has renewed Amal’s detention three times over the past year without saying why he is being held or accusing him of any crime. “There’s no legal justification to hold him, there’s been no charge,” he said. “They just say they have secret files.”
He says his son requires regular hospital visits for testing and needs a calm environment. At a court appearance, he has been told that authorities need a few more days to decide whether to renew his son’s detention.
“I saw him today,” he says. “He couldn’t move his lips, he couldn’t move his eyes, he couldn’t smile. These are symptoms of the disease… We are very worried about his health situation.”
The Israeli military and the Shin Bet internal security service do not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tells the Knesset that the country’s security services, chiefly the Israel Defense Forces, are rearming as they haven’t for years.
Bennett’s comments come as the IDF is working intensively to prepare for a potential military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, amid growing concerns that ongoing talks between the world powers and Tehran in Vienna on curbing the latter’s nuclear program may result in an agreement that Israel deems unacceptable.
“We are investing in security rearmament of the IDF and the entire defense establishment. I would say this was rearmament that we haven’t seen for years. This rearmament is important to our survival, and I am very glad about it and am determined to see it through quickly,” Bennett says, speaking to the parliament’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Bennett reiterates that Israel will not be a party to a nuclear deal reached with Iran and will do whatever it deems necessary to ensure the country’s security.
“In terms of the Vienna talks, the nuclear talks — we are indeed concerned. It is important for me to say and to clarify here in a way that can’t be misunderstood: Israel is not part of the agreements, Israel is not bound by what is written in the agreements if they are signed, and Israel will continue to ensure its full freedom of operation in any place and at any time, with no limitations,” Bennett says.
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