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Education Ministry, teachers union reach deal to avoid strike

After court injunction blocks planned teacher’s strike over new COVID quarantine rules, agreement includes distributing tests to all educational staff

Children going into 1st grade attend school on their first day of the new academic year at the Pola school in Jerusalem, on September 1, 2021. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Children going into 1st grade attend school on their first day of the new academic year at the Pola school in Jerusalem, on September 1, 2021. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

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

Herzog touts ‘vision of inclusiveness’ in meeting with UAE Jewish leaders

President Isaac Herzog and his wife, Michal (seated, center), meet with Jewish communal officials as well as Israel Ambassador to the UAE Amir Hayek and UAE Ambassador in Israel Mohamed Al Khaja in Abu Dhabi on January 30, 2022. (Amos Ben-Gershom/ GPO)
President Isaac Herzog and his wife, Michal (seated, center), meet with Jewish communal officials as well as Israel Ambassador to the UAE Amir Hayek and UAE Ambassador in Israel Mohamed Al Khaja in Abu Dhabi on January 30, 2022. (Amos Ben-Gershom/ GPO)

President Isaac Herzog meets with Jewish communal leaders during his visit to the United Arab Emirates.

“We are broadcasting a message of hope, of peace, of cooperation, of prosperity, together,” says Herzog at the gathering in Abu Dhabi. “Clearly, this message should resonate with families and individuals from the Middle East to show them that there is another way.”

The gathering includes Chabad emissary Rabbi Levi Duchman and local Rabbi Eli Abadie, along with other Jewish leaders. Israel Ambassador to the UAE Amir Hayek and UAE Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Al Khaja are also present.

“We are all working together with so many others to make this reality something sustainable for the future, which will hopefully bring more and more nations to join in peace with Israel,” Herzog tells the crowd.

“We have relations with quite a few Islamic countries, and there are plans for other countries, and I hope this will bring about a new era in relations between Jews and Muslims in our region,” he adds. “And it all starts with the vision laid out here, which is a vision of inclusiveness.”

Attorney general selection committee narrows pick to three finalists

Gali Baharav-Miara. (Courtesy)
Gali Baharav-Miara. (Courtesy)

The committee to select the next attorney general narrows the selection down to three names it presents to the government: Gali Baharav-Miara, Roi Scheindorf, and Itai Ofir.

Baharav-Miara previously served eight years as the Tel Aviv district attorney for civil affairs; Scheindorf is the current deputy attorney general for international law; and Ofir is the Defense Ministry legal adviser.

Now, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, with the approval of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, will select from the three finalists. Sa’ar has said that he backs Baharav-Miara, who, if appointed, would become the first woman in the role.

Attorney General Avichai Mandeblit’s six-year term in the role is slated to end on Tuesday.

Education Ministry, teachers union reach deal to avoid strike

Illustrative: Students at the Ramon School in Modi'in, on October 12, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
Illustrative: Students at the Ramon School in Modi'in, on October 12, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

The Education Ministry and the teachers’ union reach a deal to resolve their disagreements over COVID testing and quarantine for children, in order to avert a strike.

According to the deal, testing kits will be distributed to all school staff, all students in special education will be tested, with a handful of exceptions, and parental reports on children’s tests will be able to be accessed via a portal monitored by the Education Ministry and reported to the teachers union.

Last week, a court injunction blocked a planned teacher’s strike in protest of new rules that ended quarantine for students exposed to a positive case in school.

Netanyahu slams Bennett over his Omicron COVID policy

Opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu attends a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Knesset, in Jerusalem on January 19, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu attends a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Knesset, in Jerusalem on January 19, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu slammed Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for his handling of the COVID crisis.

“Bennett has put us in first place in the world in the number of patients per capita,” Netanyahu says in a live statement streamed on Facebook. He claims that the cost of Israel exiting Omicron “will be much higher than in other countries.”

Netanyahu says that if Bennett had “limited gatherings and ramped up vaccines for adults and children, we could have saved thousands of patients.” He says that while Bennett never instituted a lockdown, “in practice, Israeli citizens have been in lockdown for three months now — an unofficial lockdown of mass isolation.”

Report: Israel mulling ending negative COVID test requirement for incoming travelers

Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, on January 4, 2022. (Arie Leib Abrams/ Flash90)
Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, on January 4, 2022. (Arie Leib Abrams/ Flash90)

Government officials are weighing ending the requirement for incoming travelers to Israel to show a negative COVID test before boarding a flight to the country, according to a Channel 12 news report.

Currently, anyone traveling to Israel must show a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours or a negative antigen taken 24 hours before boarding the flight.

According to the report, the test that is required of all travelers upon landing at Ben Gurion International Airport would remain in place.

El Al reportedly told health officials that many countries around the world do not require their own citizens to show a pre-travel negative test. It was not immediately clear from the report if such a move would apply to citizens and non-citizens alike.

Ukraine calls on Russia to pull back its troops from the border

Military instructors and civilians stand prior to a training session at an abandoned factory in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, on January 30, 2022. (Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)
Military instructors and civilians stand prior to a training session at an abandoned factory in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, on January 30, 2022. (Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)

Kyiv urges Moscow to pull back its troops from Ukraine’s border and continue dialogue with the West if it is “serious” about de-escalating tensions that have soared, amid fears of a Russian invasion.

“Russia must continue diplomatic engagement and pull back military forces it amassed along Ukraine’s borders and in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine,” Kyiv’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweets.

Western governments have accused Russia of amassing tens of thousands of troops on its border with ex-Soviet Ukraine.

The military build-up has sparked fears that Russia is planning an invasion, spooking NATO and its members in the region and prompting the Western alliance to explore bolstering its own deployments there.

Finance, economy ministers ask producers, importers not to hike prices

Illustrative: People shopping outside the Hatzi Hinam supermarket branch in Rishon Lezion, December 29, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
Illustrative: People shopping outside the Hatzi Hinam supermarket branch in Rishon Lezion, December 29, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Economy Minister Orna Barbivay issue a public appeal to producers and importers of food and other basic products not to raise prices.

In recent weeks a range of companies have announced price hikes on their products, including Osem, and the importer Diplomat, which sells products including Starkist tuna, Pringles, and Heinz ketchup.

“We will not hesitate to take the necessary steps to ensure a competitive and fair economy,” says Liberman. “I expect companies at this time to reconsider and avoid cynical price increases that will harm the citizens of the country.”

Herzog, Crown Prince bin Zayed have another meeting, unscheduled, in Abu Dhabi palace

President Isaac Herzog meets with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, January 30, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog meets with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, January 30, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Following their meeting earlier this morning, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan invites President Isaac Herzog for a second personal meeting at his private palace in Abu Dhabi, says the president’s office.

The meeting was “previously unscheduled,” the president’s office says, and “proposed by the crown prince at the end of his long and warm meeting with the president this morning.”

During their meeting, Herzog tells bin Zayed that the Schneider Medical Center will name a pediatric medical conference after the Abraham Accords.

15 East Jerusalem Palestinians remanded into custody over recent rioting

An Israeli policeman confronts rioters in East Jerusalem during a rare snow storm on January 26, 2022. (Israel Police)
An Israeli policeman confronts rioters in East Jerusalem during a rare snow storm on January 26, 2022. (Israel Police)

A court orders that 15 Palestinians who were arrested over recent rioting in East Jerusalem remain in custody.

Police say 10 of the suspects, all from the Issawiya and A-Tur neighborhoods, were arrested overnight on suspicion of throwing rocks and other objects at patrol cars last week. The other five suspects have been in custody since their arrests over the weekend.

The clashes between police and Palestinians in East Jerusalem initially flared in A-Tur during a winter storm Wednesday, a day after a home demolition in the neighborhood.

Family of settler teen says closing case into his death ‘a stab in the heart’

Ahuvia Sandak, who was killed when his car flipped over while being chased by police in the West Bank on December 21, 2020. (Courtesy)
Ahuvia Sandak, who was killed when his car flipped over while being chased by police in the West Bank on December 21, 2020. (Courtesy)

The family of Ahuvia Sandak slams the decision made last week to close the investigation into the police car chase that left the settler teen dead more than a year ago.

Sandak, 16, was killed in a crash while fleeing from police in December 2020, allegedly after throwing rocks at Palestinians.

“Why do we not have the elementary right of having the case go to court?” asks Avraham Sandak, Ahuvia’s father.

“If Ahuvia was killed by a blow, then our hearts are stabbed with a sword of untruth,” he adds. “The blood of our beloved son Ahuvia cries out from the ground. We, the parents of Ahuvia, are fighting not only for his blood, but for the blood of all Israel. We will do everything we can so that our son will be the last killed by police violence and unjust hate.”

PA says ‘prisoner issue’ always discussed in meetings with Israeli officials

Protesters carry posters showing Kayed Fasfous, a Palestinian prisoner who has been on hunger strike for 120 days to protest being detained without charge by Israel, in the village of ad-Dhahiriya, near Hebron, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
Protesters carry posters showing Kayed Fasfous, a Palestinian prisoner who has been on hunger strike for 120 days to protest being detained without charge by Israel, in the village of ad-Dhahiriya, near Hebron, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Palestinian Authority officials say they consistently ask Israel to free prisoners, responding to Hebrew media reports that PA President Mahmoud Abbas asked Israel to release 25 Palestinians in Israeli jail.

“The issue of prisoners is a constant demand in all dialogues and at all levels,” says Abbas adviser Hussein al-Sheikh.

The Ynet news site reported earlier today that Abbas asked Defense Minister Benny Gantz to free some 25 Palestinian prisoners serving long-term sentences in Israeli jail.

Abbas reportedly told Gantz during last month’s meeting that such a move would strengthen him against his Hamas rivals.

Abbas spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeinah says that PA officials always discuss “the prisoner issue” with their Israeli counterparts, without commenting on the specifics of the report.

Deri slammed for lamenting high cost of living while at Swiss resort

Shas party leader Aryeh Deri leaves the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court after pleading guilty on charges of tax offenses as part of a negotiated plea bargain, on January 25, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Shas party leader Aryeh Deri leaves the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court after pleading guilty on charges of tax offenses as part of a negotiated plea bargain, on January 25, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Former Shas MK Aryeh Deri — who is still leading the party following his resignation from the Knesset last week as part of a plea deal — releases a video slamming the government for rising prices harming the weakest members of society.

In the video, a mother and son are seen shopping as the child asks to buy sugary drinks and plastic plates, two items which have recently received a tax hike.

The mother laments being unable to buy them due to “[Finance Minister Avigdor] Liberman prices,” while a Russian-accented man in the store cheers the price of cat food, an apparent reference to a much-derided provision in the state budget designating NIS 12 million ($3.8 million) to neuter stray cats.

Deri receives criticism for posting the video while on an expensive vacation in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

Yisrael Beytenu MK Alex Kushnir tweets that many of Deri’s constituents can’t cover their expenses “because you have decided that they do not deserve to study and make a living.”

“You made them dependent on pensions you handed out as election bribes, while laughing at them from your home in Safsufa and shedding a tear from a luxury resort in Switzerland,” Kushnir adds. “Your cynicism is so transparent that it is also seen through the plea deal you signed.”

Deri’s son, Yanki Deri, tweets in response that he and his eight siblings funded the Swiss vacation as a surprise for their parents’ wedding anniversary.

Egypt sentences 10 Muslim Brotherhood members to death

Illustrative: Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists gesture from the defendants cage as they receive sentences in a mass trial in Alexandria, Egypt, on May 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Heba Khamis)
Illustrative: Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists gesture from the defendants cage as they receive sentences in a mass trial in Alexandria, Egypt, on May 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Heba Khamis)

An Egyptian court sentences to death 10 members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group found guilty of terror-related charges, a judicial source says.

The verdict will now be referred to the Grand Mufti, Egypt’s top theological authority — a formality in death penalty cases — before the court meets on June 19 to confirm the sentences.

60,000 doses of Merck’s anti-COVID pill arrive in Israel

This undated image provided by Merck & Co. shows its new antiviral medication (Merck & Co. via AP)
This undated image provided by Merck & Co. shows its new antiviral medication (Merck & Co. via AP)

A shipment of approximately 60,000 doses of Merck’s anti-COVID pill lands at Ben Gurion International Airport, according to Hebrew media reports.

The Health Ministry granted approval to the pill, known as molnupiravir and sold under the name Lagevrio, earlier this month.

The pill has been reported to cut the hospitalization rate in half among patients with early signs of COVID-19. Britain, the European Union and the US authorized its use in recent months.

Israel’s first shipment of Paxlovid, Pfizer’s COVID-fighting pill, arrived in Israel a month ago.

AP contributed to this report.

Gantz wishes Jordan’s King Abdullah a happy 60th birthday

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (right) meets in Amman with Jordan's King Abdullah on January 5, 2022. (Royal Hashemite Court)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz (right) meets in Amman with Jordan's King Abdullah on January 5, 2022. (Royal Hashemite Court)

In tweets in Hebrew, English and Arabic, Defense Minister Benny Gantz sends birthday greetings to Jordanian King Abdullah.

“Congratulations to His Majesty @KingAbdullahII on the occasion of his 60th birthday,” writes Gantz. “May this year be one of health, joy, and prosperity for you and the great Kingdom. May our ties flourish and deepen for the benefit of both our nations and for peace and stability in the region.”

Gantz and Abdullah met in Amman earlier this month in a rare public sit-down with the monarch. They previously met secretly last year.

Rafael Nadal wins Australian Open, taking record 21st Grand Slam title

Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates his win over Daniil Medvedev of Russia in the men's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Jan. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates his win over Daniil Medvedev of Russia in the men's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Jan. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

Spanish superstar Rafael Nadal wins a historic 21st Grand Slam title Sunday after coming from two sets down to stun Russian second seed Daniil Medvedev and win the Australian Open.

The 35-year-old surpasses Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic with his 2-6, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 victory over a titanic 5hr 24min to become the all-time greatest men’s major winner.

Djokovic missed his chance to improve on his nine Australian Open wins when he was deported over vaccination issues on the eve of the tournament, while Federer is injured.

Mandelblit takes veiled swipe at Netanyahu in parting words

Outgoing-Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit at a conference in Tel Aviv, on June 29, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Outgoing-Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit at a conference in Tel Aviv, on June 29, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who will be ending his term this week, aims veiled criticism at former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his parting words.

“A government that works to weaken the rule of law, or, God forbid, acts against the rule of law, harms the public,” Mandelblit tells cabinet ministers ahead of his departure from the role on Tuesday.

“There were those who tried to present the violation of the rule of law as an ideological move, under the heading of ‘governance,’ but time and time again we saw that what really stood behind these moves was a desire to advance personal interests, severely violating the principle of public loyalty,” Mandeblit adds.

Mandelbit was the attorney general who indicted Netanyahu on multiple corruption charges, in a trial that is still ongoing. Netanyahu has repeatedly dismissed the charges as a witch hunt against him and strove to delegitimize the state prosecution over its decision.

Tear gas fired at Sudan anti-coup protesters as thousands take to streets

A Sudanese demonstrator flashes the victory sign as he takes part in a rally to protest against last year's military coup, in the capital Khartoum, on January 30, 2022. (AFP)
A Sudanese demonstrator flashes the victory sign as he takes part in a rally to protest against last year's military coup, in the capital Khartoum, on January 30, 2022. (AFP)

Sudanese security forces fire tear gas in Khartoum at thousands protesting for civilian rule and against a military coup that took place last year, an AFP correspondent says.

Pro-democracy activists have upped calls for protests to restore a transition to civilian rule since the October 25 military takeover led by general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

The coup, one of several in Sudan’s post-independence history, derailed a power-sharing arrangement between the army and civilians that had been painstakingly negotiated after the 2019 ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

Today’s demonstrations are taking place in the capital Khartoum, the neighboring city of Omdurman, Gedaref state in the east, and the northern cities of Atbara and Dongola, according to witnesses.

Sudanese authorities warned protesters against heading toward Khartoum city center as security forces seal off streets leading to the presidential palace. But protesters in the capital converge in large numbers as they head towards the palace and police fire volleys of tear gas when they approach, the correspondent says.

In Omdurman, demonstrators are seen carrying the Sudanese flag and chanting “blood is the path to freedom,” while in Gedaref, protesters demand the military “go back to the barracks,” according to witnesses.

At least 78 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in the crackdown on anti-coup protests, according to an independent group of medics, while authorities have also rounded up hundreds of pro-democracy activists.

Retaliatory Iraqi airstrikes kill 9 Islamic State operatives, including 4 Lebanese

Mourners carry the flag-draped coffins of Iraqi soldiers killed in an attack by gunmen of the Islamic State extremist group in Baqouba in Diyala province during a mass funeral procession inside the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf, Iraq, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Anmar Khalil)
Mourners carry the flag-draped coffins of Iraqi soldiers killed in an attack by gunmen of the Islamic State extremist group in Baqouba in Diyala province during a mass funeral procession inside the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf, Iraq, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Anmar Khalil)

Airstrikes north of Baghdad — in retaliation for an attack by the Islamic State group on an Iraqi army barracks earlier this month — kill nine suspected IS fighters, including four Lebanese, officials say.

IS gunmen in Iraq broke into a barracks in the mountainous al-Azim district outside the town of Baqouba on Jan. 21, killed a guard and shot dead 11 soldiers as they slept. It was one of the boldest attacks by Islamic State in recent weeks and came amid an uptick in violence that stoked fears the group has been re-energized.

Yehia Rasool, the spokesman for Iraq’s commander in chief, says the joint military operations room and the air force identified the cell behind the attack as its members hid in al-Azim.

Three airstrikes were launched that killed the nine operatives, he says.

A security official tells The Associated Press that four among the killed were Lebanese, natives of the northern town of Tripoli. He speaks on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to reporters.

Close to 200 COVID deaths recorded in past week

The son of a patient diagnosed with COVID-19 prays next to his father's hospital bed, in the coronavirus ward at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, on January 20, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
The son of a patient diagnosed with COVID-19 prays next to his father's hospital bed, in the coronavirus ward at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, on January 20, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Over the past week, 198 people with COVID have died in Israel, according to the latest statistics released by the Health Ministry.

As of yesterday, 30 people on average were dying per day with the coronavirus, the Health Ministry says. A week ago the daily death toll average was 18, and a month ago the average was just one death per day.

Yesterday, 49,371 new COVID cases were recorded, with a positivity rate of 27.83%. Generally fewer tests are carried out in Israel on Saturdays. As of this afternoon, there were 429,006 active COVID cases in Israel, with 2,665 of them hospitalized, 1,086 of those in serious condition and 243 of them on ventilators.

A week ago, 792 Israelis with COVID were in serious condition, and two weeks ago the figure was 432.

New daily COVID cases have been declining since a peak of more than 85,000 last Sunday, and the R number fell below 1, hitting 0.95, for the first time since November.

Nineteen patients with COVID died yesterday, bringing the total pandemic death toll to 8,669; 425 of those have died since January 1.

Earlier today, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told cabinet ministers that “we are seeing the beginning of a stabilization trend in the Omicron wave.” Still, he said, “we are dealing with severe pressure at the hospitals where there is still a large number of people who are infected.”

According to the Health Ministry, 80.1% of all nationwide hospital beds are occupied.

Herzog meets Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi

President Isaac Herzog meets with then-Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi on January 30, 2022. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog meets with then-Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi on January 30, 2022. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

President Isaac Herzog meets Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed during a visit to the royal palace in Abu Dhabi.

“We are sending a message to the entire region that there is an alternative of peace and living together, and that the sons and daughters of Abraham can reside and dwell together in peaceful coexistence for the benefit of humanity,” says Herzog, according to the President’s Office.

Bin Zayed thanks the Israeli president “for your stance regarding the recent terrorist attacks on civilian facilities in the UAE. It is a stance that demonstrates our common view of the threats to regional stability and peace, particularly those posed by militias and terrorist forces, as well as our shared understanding of the importance of taking a firm stance against them.”

The crown prince notes that ties between the countries “are moving full steam ahead, and there is a common and strong will to strengthen them for the benefit of our countries and peoples.”

Herzog says his visit to the UAE, the first ever by an Israeli president, is an expression “of the vision and dream of peace and the spirit of peace, which we bring to the entire region.”

The ties between the two nations, he says, “sends a message to the entire region that there is an alternative of peace and living together, and that the sons and daughters of Abraham can reside and dwell together in peaceful coexistence for the benefit of humanity…. and more nations should join us in this endeavor.”

Kuwait suspends Iraq flights for a week after Baghdad airport attack

A damaged aircraft sits on the tarmac of Baghdad airport, after a rocket attack in Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Ali Abdul Hassan)
A damaged aircraft sits on the tarmac of Baghdad airport, after a rocket attack in Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Ali Abdul Hassan)

Kuwait suspends flights to Iraq for a week starting today, citing security fears after a rocket attack targeted Baghdad international airport.

Iraqi authorities, meanwhile, announce that an attacker has been apprehended.

Kuwait Airways, the country’s main carrier, says in a statement yesterday that flights to Iraq were temporarily suspended based on instructions from the Kuwaiti Civil Aviation Authority due to “current conditions.”

Six rockets struck the Baghdad airport last week damaging two commercial planes belonging to Iraqi Airways, the main national airline. The incident marked an escalation in rocket and drone attacks often targeting the US and its allies, as well as Iraqi government institutions. The attacks have been blamed on Iran-backed militia groups.

Iraqi authorities said late last night that they have apprehended a person allegedly behind the airport attack. The individual was arrested at a checkpoint near the northern province of Kirkuk en route to Irbil in the Kurdish-run semi-autonomous region. The statement provided no further details.

Ministers bid farewell to AG Mandelblit at end of his six-year term

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a conference of the Association of Corporate Counsel, in Tel Aviv, June 29, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a conference of the Association of Corporate Counsel, in Tel Aviv, June 29, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Ministers pay tribute to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who is set to leave the job this week after six years.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says that Mandelblit has filled a “great and significant” role. “We all owe you a debt of gratitude. On behalf of the government of Israel, I would like to thank you, Avichai, for many dedicated years of service to the State of Israel.”

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, attending the meeting virtually after contracting COVID, says Mandelblit had a “crucial role in maintaining the rule of law and the democratic regime in Israel.” Sa’ar praises Mandelblit saying he had remained professional while under “an open, long, continuous and unstoppable attack — and stood up for the truth.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz says Mandelblit has greatly “contributed to the security of the State of Israel, and to the preservation of democracy.” He says that the outgoing attorney general withstood attacks on the justice system and always acted with “integrity, stateliness and loyalty to the State of Israel and its citizens.”

Mandelblit is set to retire on Tuesday, with no replacement yet selected for the position.

Cabinet votes to extend vaccine ‘Green Pass’ for a week to study effects

An Illustration of the 'Green Pass' vaccine certification on October 4, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
An Illustration of the 'Green Pass' vaccine certification on October 4, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Cabinet ministers approve extending the vaccine “Green Pass” certificate by a week as the Health Ministry requests extra time to study the data before deciding whether to cancel the certificate altogether.

The Green Pass program, which limits entry to certain venues and activities to those with proof of immunization or negative tests, had been set to expire on Tuesday. The Health Ministry had asked for more time to evaluate data on how resilient people are to infection with Omicron after vaccination or having recovered from the virus.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, who has been vocally opposed to extending the Green Pass, votes in favor of the extension, but vows that he will refuse to extend it “for even one more second” past February 6.

The requirement for educational staff to show a Green Pass is extended until February 27, and the same rules for health and welfare sites are extended until March 1.

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar votes against extending the pass even for a week, saying there is no longer a cause for it.

“The health minister says the Green Pass is likely to be eliminated, meaning there is clear recognition of its inefficiency,” says Sa’ar.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz says that the Green Pass should be eventually ended, but notes that there is still a difference in infection rates between the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

At the beginning of the meeting, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says there are signs that the Omicron COVID wave is abating, but it is too early to declare victory.

“We are seeing the beginning of a stabilization trend in the Omicron wave,” he says. “I am choosing my words in order to avoid giving an impression to the effect that it is over, and end-of-Omicron celebrations are out of place. At the moment, at these very hours, we are dealing with severe pressure at the hospitals where there is still a large number of people who are infected.”

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