The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
An explosion has been heard at an event hall in the central Israel city of Rehovot during the wedding ceremony of the head of an organized crime organization, according to police and Hebrew media.
Police say five people were lightly injured and officers are examining the device that exploded.
Hebrew media says officers suspect the item is a stun grenade. Two of the injured have reportedly been taken to hospital, while the other three suffered acute anxiety attacks.
The Kan public broadcaster reports that only 10-20 percent of current serious COVID-19 patients have the Omicron strain of the coronavirus, with the vast majority having the less infectious but more severe Delta variant.
The report cites experts estimating that even if Omicron will prove 80% less severe than Delta, hospitals are expected to face immense strain.
If it is 90% milder, there is a good chance of ending the current outbreak without strain on hospitals that will necessitate additional restrictions on the population.
The outlet also cites associates of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett saying quarantine could be shortened next week from the current 10 days to seven days. Quarantine rules for those deemed essential workers are also expected to change.
Police say two more suspects have been arrested over the suspected murder of a four-year-old boy today in the northern village of Bir al-Maksur.
The two suspects, both residents of the village, are in addition to two other suspects arrested earlier in the day.
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev joins the chorus of condemnation of Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan over his remark calling Jewish settlers residing in the illegal Homesh outpost in the northern West Bank “subhuman.”
Barlev, of the center-left Labor party, tells Channel 13 news that Golan’s comments were “unfortunate and harsh” and that they should not have been made.
“We have an obligation to evacuate an illegal outpost, that’s the law, but between that and the deputy minister’s comments, there’s a huge gap,” he says.
Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan of the left-wing Meretz party backtracks on his remark today calling Jewish settlers residing in an illegal outpost in the northern West Bank “subhuman,” following major backlash against him.
However, Golan adds that he stands behind the essence of his argument against the actions of the settlers of Homesh, calling them “despicable thugs.”
“I regret the remark which may have used a problematic phrase, it was out of anger and that can happen during an interview,” Golan says in an interview with Channel 12 news.
But Golan goes on to say that “the problem isn’t my remarks, it is a gang that systematically and consistently harms innocents, property, IDF soldiers and policemen and desecrates graves.”
“I have fought Palestinian terror my whole life. I don’t need to be taught what it is, but I think the danger from within is greater than the dangers from outside. We Jews in Israel must uproot this evil,” Golan says.
He adds that he “regrets” the criticism toward him by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, saying he supports the current diverse government and has good relations with all its parties, including the right-wing ones.
But he declines to take back past comments he has made calling Bennett and Shaked “fascist,” saying: “I am not ignoring anyone’s past, but I’m looking toward the future and I know what the alternatives are. This government is the best alternative for Israel. The other option is a corrupt leadership that cooperates with the far-right and ultra-Orthodox.”
A senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official yelled two weeks ago at diplomats and ambassadors from 16 European countries, rebuking them with undiplomatic language for filing a protest against Jerusalem’s treatment of Palestinians, according to the Walla news site, which cites three European and Israeli diplomats familiar with the matter.
The envoys reportedly filed the letter of protest over settler violence against Palestinians, settlement construction near Ma’ale Adumim and in East Jerusalem’s Givat Hamatos, and the situation in Area C of the West Bank which is administered by Israel.
But the routine meeting with Aliza Bin Noun, the director of the European Affairs Department at the Foreign Ministry, didn’t go as planned.
Bin Noun, the former ambassador to France, reportedly snapped at the foreign diplomats, saying their arguments were insulting: “After everything the new Israeli government has been doing for the Palestinians, you come to complain?”
Refusing to address the points raised, Bin Noun reportedly shouted: “You are pissing me off.” The European diplomats said the atmosphere was bad and got out of control quickly, with the meeting breaking down and ending in a “big crisis.”
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liot Haiat appears to confirm the report, commenting to Walla that “sometimes, European positions are presented in a manner that is unacceptable to us and that deserves a sharp and clear response, even if our reaction isn’t nice toward the Europeans.”
COVID-19 home test kits may soon be available for purchase in Israel’s chain stores, not only pharmacies, according to an unsourced report by Channel 12 news.
The government is reportedly weighing the move, with each kit costing NIS 15-20 ($4.80-$6.40).
The report says about 20 million of the rapid antigen tests are expected to arrive in the country over the next two weeks, as demand for them has risen sharply in the current outbreak.
State Prosecutor Amit Aisman will serve also as the acting attorney general for a month after Avichai Mandelblit’s six-year term ends on February 1, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar says.
Sa’ar breaks the development to the committee tasked with picking the next full-time attorney general, which will not be able to complete the process before Mandelblit’s term ends.
Aisman has reportedly agreed to serve temporarily in the double role.
A second Sudanese protester has been killed during demonstrations against the military which led a coup more than two months ago, medics say.
“A second martyr, yet to be identified, died after he was hit by a live bullet to the pelvis by the putschist forces” as he took part in a demonstration in the capital’s twin city of Omdurman, says the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors.
The latest killing brings the death toll from the crackdown on anti-coup protesters to 59, the medics add.
A 43-year-old man has been shot dead in Lod, becoming the second homicide victim in the Arab community today after a four-year-old boy was killed by a bullet in the northern village of Bir al-Maksur.
Hebrew media says the Lod incident appears to be part of a dispute between criminal gangs.
The victim was taken in critical condition to the Shamir Medical Center, where medics pronounced him dead.
Police are searching for suspects and collecting evidence at the scene, the reports say.
Updated Health Ministry figures show 8,917 new COVID-19 cases have been confirmed between midnight and 5:30 pm today.
The figures show the number of active cases has surged to 76,228.
The number of serious cases continues to see a far more moderate increase, rising to 133.
The death toll rises to 8,259, six more than in the morning.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has told government offices to immediately reduce the number of employees attending work in person, anticipating record numbers of serious COVID-19 patients in the coming weeks, Army Radio reports.
The outlet says Bennett said in a closed meeting: “The storm is only starting, the numbers are high and challenging and we are preparing for 1,000-2,500 simultaneous serious cases.”
The report adds that Bennett has also ordered officials to prepare for an extreme scenario of 4,000 serious patients.
Police say they have arrested and filed a lawsuit against a man in his 50s from Ashkelon who allegedly made death threats against Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana.
The swift investigation and charges come just a day after the man allegedly called Kahana’s office and voiced the threats to an employee.
The threats refer to a series of reforms pushed by Kahana to overhaul religious conversions and the kosher certificate system, aimed at weakening the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over those issues.
“Tell him to stop harming the Rabbinate or rabbis, I’m telling you, he will end up like Rabin,” he allegedly said, referring to former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin who was assassinated in 1995 by a right-wing extremist.
“Someone will take him out because he’s harming rabbis and the Rabbinate,” the man said of the Orthodox Kahana. “He just has a kippa on his head, he isn’t even religious.”
The defendant’s remand has been extended indefinitely by the Ashkelon Magistrate’s Court, police say.
Health officials in Britain say they have identified a rare case of avian flu in a person, as the country battles its largest-ever outbreak of the virus among birds. Israel is also experiencing a major outbreak of the disease.
Transmission of avian flu from bird to human is very rare and has previously only occurred a small number of times in Britain, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) says.
The infected individual, in southwest England, is said to be “well” and is self-isolating, it adds.
“The person acquired the infection from very close, regular contact with a large number of infected birds, which they kept in and around their home over a prolonged period of time,” the UKHSA says in a statement.
“All contacts of the individual, including those who visited the premises, have been traced and there is no evidence of onward spread of the infection to anyone else.”
The agency notes the risk to the wider public from avian flu remains “very low,” but cautions people not to touch sick or dead birds.
UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet urges all sides in Kazakhstan to refrain from violence and to seek a peaceful resolution to their grievances following mass unrest after days of demonstrations.
“People have the right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression. At the same time, protesters, no matter how angry or aggrieved they may be, should not resort to violence against others,” Bachelet says in a statement, as she calls for the release of all those detained solely for exercising their right to peaceful protest.
A Sudanese protester was killed today during protests against the military which launched a coup more than two months ago, medics say.
The unidentified protester was killed after suffering “a shot to head by the putschist forces as he took part in the demonstrations” in the capital’s twin city of Omdurman, the independent Central Committee of Doctors in Sudan says.
The latest killing brings the death toll in a crackdown since the coup to 58, the medics say.
Casualties among Kazakh security officers have risen to 18 dead and 748 wounded as authorities seek to quell unrest in the ex-Soviet country, Russian news agencies report, citing the interior ministry.
Russia’s Interfax and RIA Novosti news agencies also cite the ministry as saying that 2,298 people have so far been detained after protests over fuel price hikes escalated into direct clashes with officers yesterday.
The Foreign Ministry issues a travel warning to Kazakhstan, warning Israelis to exercise caution and avoid unnecessary visits to the country.
Kazakhstan is seeing major violent unrest, with dozens of protesters and dozens of police officers killed as demonstrators attempt to storm government buildings.
Hebrew media reports says the driver of the van hit by a truck in the fatal West Bank traffic accident was to blame for the crash and for the high number of victims.
The reports say the van, which can hold five people, was packed with 10 Palestinian workers returning to their homes.
The driver ignored a stop sign when turning left from Route 90 toward the settlement of Petza’el, entering the junction just as the truck was arriving at full speed, the reports say, following footage of the accident published on social media.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party publishes a letter signed by all of its 30 lawmakers, demanding that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett immediately fire Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan for saying Jewish settlers residing in an illegal outpost in the northern West Bank are “subhuman.”
The letter says Golan’s “incitement” should be countered with more than “tweets and weak, empty condemnations.”
“Otherwise, the government admits it effect accepts such a remark, which slanders all settlers in Judea and Samaria,” it says, using the West Bank’s biblical name.
Donald Trump says US President Joe Biden’s dramatic speech to mark the first anniversary of the violent attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters was just “political theater.”
Biden “used my name today to try to further divide America,” Trump says in a statement.
“This political theater is all just a distraction for the fact Biden has completely and totally failed,” Trump says.
"This political theater is all just a distraction for the fact Biden has completely and totally failed," said Trump. "The Big Lie was the Election itself."#Jan6 #Jan6thInsurrection pic.twitter.com/trAYY9egGt
— Rohit Sharma (@DcWalaDesi) January 6, 2022
The Kan public broadcaster publishes video footage of today’s major traffic accident near the West Bank settlement of Petza’el, in which at least seven people have been killed and several others badly injured.
A van can be seen entering an interchange, with a large truck slamming into it at high speed.
The Israel Police says forces have detained six suspects in the fatal shooting of a four-year-old boy in the northern village of Bir al-Maksur.
Two of them, aged 34 and 35, have subsequently been arrested and taken into custody. Police have not said what happened with the remaining four detainees.
“This is a shocking incident of a toddler hit by gunfire from criminals using firearms with such ease, without any respect for human life, causing such a terrible tragedy,” police say in a statement.
“We will do everything to reach the gunmen.”
One of the injured Palestinians in the major West Bank traffic accident has died of his wounds, a police official confirms, speaking to Channel 12 news.
This raises the death toll to eight. Two others were wounded and have been taken by helicopter to Hadassah Mount Scopus hospital in Jerusalem.
US President Joe Biden says the United States and the rest of the world are locked in a battle between democracy and authoritarianism, in a speech marking one year since the assault on the US Capitol.
“We’re living at an inflection point in history, both at home and abroad. We’re engaged anew in a struggle between democracy and autocracy,” he says.
“I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy,” Biden says at the Capitol. “I will stand in this breach. I will defend this nation.”
US Vice President Kamala Harris calls on Americans to “unite in defense” of democracy on the first anniversary of the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
“The American spirit is being tested,” Harris says at a solemn ceremony at the Capitol marking the anniversary. “We must unite in defense of our democracy.”
A statue erected to honor slain top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani has been torched by unknown assailants hours after it was unveiled, Iranian media reports.
Soleimani, who headed the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, was killed on January 3, 2020, in Iraq in a US drone strike at Baghdad airport along with his Iraqi lieutenant and others.
Yesterday morning, a statue to honor him was unveiled in the southwestern Iranian city of Shahrekord.
A humongous statue of Kotlet #QassemSoleimani was set on fire and burned completely just a few hours after its installation in the Bakhtiari province, Iran.
The Friday Shia Imam of the city said that hearing the news about the statue felt like the day when Soleimani was killed. pic.twitter.com/UojzzmWWBE
— EBN HUSSEIN 🏳️🏴 (@EbnHussein1424) January 6, 2022
But in the evening it was set on fire, ISNA news agency says, calling it a “shameful act by unknown individuals.”
“This treacherous crime was carried out in darkness, just like the other crime committed at night at Baghdad airport” when Soleimani was killed, senior Muslim cleric Mohammad Ali Nekounam says in a statement carried by ISNA.
— SAMRI (@SAMRIReports) January 6, 2022
Iranian authorities have unveiled several sculptures dedicated to Soleimani since his assassination two years ago, and portraits of the revered commander dot the landscape across Iran.
State broadcaster IRIB condemns the latest attack as an “insulting” act that comes as Iran marks the second anniversary of Soleimani’s killing, with several events in recent days.
Former US president Donald Trump created a “web of lies” to pursue “power over principle,” President Joe Biden says in a speech marking the first anniversary of the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
“The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election,” Biden said.
“He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interest as more important than his country’s interest.”
The comments come a day after Trump urged his supporters to “rise up” against potential vaccine mandates in schools.
“Now, there’s talk by the Biden Administration again about closing schools and even vaccine mandates for school children. This is an outrage, and MAGA nation should rise up and oppose this egregious federal government overreach,” Trump said in a statement released via his Save America PAC.
US President Joe Biden accuses his predecessor Donald Trump of attempting to block the democratic transfer of power on January 6, 2021, after losing the presidential election.
“For the first time in our history, a president not just lost an election; he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol,” Biden says in a speech marking the first anniversary of the attack on the US Congress.
“This wasn’t a group of tourists. This was an armed insurrection,” he says.
Ron Birman, the IDF officer who was the sole survivor of this week’s fatal helicopter crash off the Haifa coast, is released from Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.
Birman tells reporters he’s feeling well after a swift recovery, thanking the hospital and the general public “for the endless hug I am receiving from you.”
סרן רון בירמן משתחרר מרמב"ם ומתמקד בלהודות לכולם על התמיכה בו.
איך ברגע אחד הפך קצין סיור ימי ואלמוני, לגיבור טרגי באסון גדול. צפויה לו עוד החלמה פיזית ונפשית עד שישוב לשייטת הסטי"לים pic.twitter.com/ZeSv6oG486
— יואב זיתון (@yoavzitun) January 6, 2022
The Israel Fire and Rescue Services says two people are trapped inside a minivan following a bad crash with a truck in the West Bank that killed seven people and critically wounded another.
Both vehicles involved in the accident are said to be Palestinian, and all the casualties are Palestinian.
Health Ministry Director General Nachman Ash announces that tonight, the list of no-fly “red” countries will be canceled.
This will end Israel’s travel ban on the United States, Britain, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Switzerland, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Mexico.
Ash predicts daily cases will continue to shatter previous records in the coming days, reaching 30,000 in three days and 50,000 in a week.
He says that alongside the Omicron strain of the coronavirus, the Delta strain is also seeing a resurgence. He estimates that most current serious patients have Delta.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service says seven Palestinians have died, another person is critically injured and two seriously injured in a major crash between a truck and a transportation minibus near the West Bank settlement of Petza’el.
Some passengers are trapped inside the vehicle, and the Israel Fire and Rescue Service estimates rescue efforts will take a long time.
Military choppers are on the way to transport the wounded to hospital, Magen David Adom says.
Around 10 people are said to be critically injured following a major crash between a truck and a transportation van near the West Bank settlement of Petza’el.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service doesn’t immediate confirm the reported tally.
New bursts of gunfire can be heard in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, as security forces fight to put down unprecedented unrest, an AFP correspondent says.
Sounds of gunfire come from the direction of the mayor’s office, which was stormed by protesters yesterday at around 5:30 p.m. local time and again about an hour later.
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev reacts to the death of a 3-year-old boy shot in a playground in the northern village of Bir al-Maksur.
“The heart breaks hearing the news of the murder of a 3-year-old from Bir al-Maksur,” Barlev says. “We will fight the crime and violence that are mercilessly harming the Arab public, and we won’t rest until the gunmen are brought to justice.”
Israel will later today cancel the list of high-infection “red” countries to which Israelis are barred from flying and from which foreigners cannot travel to the country, according to an unsourced report by Channel 13 news.
The list was compiled to slow the arrival of the Omicron strain in Israel, but due to the country’s major Omicron outbreak, officials view the travel bans as obsolete.
The list has already been dramatically shortened, but it currently still includes key destinations such as the United States, Britain, United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Switzerland.
An El Al flight attendant lands in Israel after two weeks in a quarantine facility in China following a positive test result for the Omicron coronavirus variant after landing in China, Hebrew media reports.
The woman has returned after reportedly being cleared by the embassy in Beijing and the consulate in Guangzhou, following diplomatic efforts by the Foreign Ministry and El Al.
The woman had reportedly tested negative twice for COVID-19 before departing on a cargo flight to Guangzhou, but tested positive for the Omicron strain after landing.
In accordance with China’s policy of aiming for zero cases, the flight attendant was promptly taken to a hospital quarantine facility.
Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar announces six new candidates to become Supreme Court justices, nine days after reopening the list of candidates due to a gridlock between conservative and liberal members of the Judicial Selection Committee.
The new candidates are Nazareth District Court judge Yifat Shitrit-Hadad and lawyers Ofer Bartal, Eli Wilchek, Yechiel Kasher, Yair Assael and Ofer Tzur.
Today is the last day to present the additional candidates.
A month ago, Sa’ar froze the committee’s activities after no consensus could be reached on nominations. The panel is tasked with naming four new justices to the Supreme Court: two to replace retired judges Menachem Mazuz and Hanan Melcer, and two to replace Neal Hendel and George Kara, who will be stepping down next year.
The official Palestinian Authority news agency WAFA restarts its Hebrew-language service after a six-year break, saying it hopes to influence Israeli public opinion.
“The aim of relaunching the Hebrew coverage is to convey the Palestinian point of view to Israeli society, in an objective manner that sidesteps the military censorship that is imposed on Israeli media,” WAFA editor-in-chief Khuloud Assaf told AFP.
WAFA is directly affiliated with the Palestinian Authority and is headquartered in the city of Ramallah, in the West Bank.
It publishes in Arabic, English and French, but had stopped its Hebrew service in 2016.
Most mainstream Israeli media employ Arabic-speaking journalists who specialize in Palestinian affairs. But WAFA says it hopes its resumed Hebrew service will offer a different perspective.
“Israeli media today is greatly influenced by extremist, right-wing thought, even in its coverage of Palestinian affairs,” Assaf claims.
Last year, Palestinian radio station Jerusalem 24 launched in Ramallah broadcasting in English and Hebrew, aiming to offer the viewpoint of Palestinians to Hebrew and English audiences. It is the only Palestinian radio station broadcasting today in Hebrew.
Thousands of Sudanese are protesting in the capital Khartoum against the military, which led a coup more than two months ago, witnesses say.
Sudan’s armed forces led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan staged the power grab on October 25, sparking international condemnation and setting off a wave of demonstrations.
A three-year-old child dies of his wounds after he was shot in the northern village of Bir al-Maksur.
The boy was in a playground near a school when he was critically injured in the upper body. He was taken to the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, where doctors have pronounced him dead.
He has been named as Ammar Muhammad Hujayrat.
Police are investigating whether he was hit by a stray bullet.
ההרוג מירי תועה בביר אל מכסור: עמראן מוחמד חוג'יראת pic.twitter.com/P4xQx711xm
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) January 6, 2022
A top expert advising the government says that judging from the lightning pace of the current COVID-19 outbreak, he expects up to half a million Israelis to become infected by the end of next week, although we won’t know the full extent due to new rules limiting testing that will enter effect tomorrow.
Prof. Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute tells Radio 103FM that the figures seen thus far — daily cases doubling every 2.7 days — match the experts’ earlier predictions based on data from other countries, adding that the pace is similar no matter what measures governments are taking.
“Starting tomorrow, we will no longer get a reliable picture,” he says, citing the shortage of tests and new rules limiting PCR tests only to those in risk groups. “We might not see these numbers [in official figures], but they will definitely happen in reality.
“If over the past week there were about 60,000 confirmed cases — and we definitely didn’t find everyone, so in practice we definitely crossed the 100,000-case barrier, and we are seeing numbers double at least twice a week — then I predict that between now and next week half a million more Israelis could get infected,” Segal says.
He adds that in two or three weeks, the outbreak will peak, and then that widespread immunity among the population as a result of the mass infections will slow the pace and hopefully end the outbreak.
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