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Gunman opens fire at West Bank checkpoint, security guard hurt from shrapnel

Attacker opens fire from vehicle at Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah before fleeing scene, reports indicate

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Cars pass the Qalandiya crossing between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem, July 11, 2019. (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)
Cars pass the Qalandiya crossing between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem, July 11, 2019. (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

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

Reports: Gunman opens fire at West Bank checkpoint, security guard hurt from shrapnel

There has been a shooting attack at the Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah, according to preliminary reports.

Gunfire emanated from a vehicle at Israeli security guards. The attacker fled the scene.

A security guard was hurt in the arm by shrapnel.

Final Miami collapse death toll expected to be less than 100

Exhausted crews are nearing the end of their search for victims of a Miami-area condominium tower collapse as the death toll reaches 95, with just a handful of people still unaccounted for.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava says at a news conference that the number of people considered missing has dwindled as authorities work to identify everyone connected to the building.

The mayor says 14 people remain unaccounted for, which includes 10 victims whose bodies have been recovered but not yet identified — leaving potentially four more victims to be found.

“It’s a scientific, methodical process to identify human remains. As we’ve said, this work is becoming more difficult with the passage of time,” Levine Cava says, adding that it is “truly a fluid situation.”

Of the 14 people considered not accounted for, the mayor says 12 are the subject of missing persons reports and that detectives are trying to verify information about the other two.

At one point after the building collapsed almost three weeks ago, more than 150 people were thought to be missing.

Coronavirus cabinet approves cutting COVID quarantine by a week

The coronavirus cabinet, which is meeting this evening, approves the Health Ministry proposal to shorten quarantine from 14 to seven days.

According to the new plan, those who require quarantine — following either exposure to a COVID patient or return from abroad — will be able to exit after seven days following a negative PCR test.

PA chief Abbas helped facilitate Herzog-Erdogan call — report

It was Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who told new President Isaac Herzog that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was interested in reaching out, reports Channel 13 News.

Herzog and Erdogan spoke last night for 40 minutes, in the first direct contact between Turkish and Israeli leaders in many years.

Abbas and Herzog, who just took office last week, held their own conversation one day earlier. Abbas has just returned from a trip to Istanbul over the weekend to meet Erdogan.

According to the report, Abbas is interested in somewhat rebuilding cooperation efforts between the PA and Israel that has broken down in recent years.

Palestinian PM says he pushed US envoy to reopen consulate in Jerusalem

The United States diplomatic envoy for Israel and Palestinian affairs, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hady Amr, meets with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in Ramallah, Shtayyeh’s office says in a statement.

During their conversation, Shtayyeh again calls for the US to speedily reopen its Jerusalem consulate, which served the US representative to the Palestinians before it was shuttered in 2019. Washington has committed itself to reopening the office, a move that requires Israeli approval.

According to his office, the Palestinian premier asks the US to revisit “legislation relating to the Palestinian issue,” likely referring to a series of laws that tightly limit American aid to the Palestinians and classify the Palestine Liberation Organization as a terror group.

Shtayyeh also tells Amr that the PA still intends to hold elections as soon as Israel allows Palestinians to vote in East Jerusalem. PA President Mahmoud Abbas indefinitely delayed the long-anticipated vote in April despite years of promises to hold elections. Most observers charged that he feared an embarrassing loss to his rivals in Hamas and within his own Fatah party.

Amr has been on a visit to Israel and the West Bank since Sunday, meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials and civil society activists, according to the US State Department.

Official suggests daily rapid COVID tests for all students once school starts

Modiin Mayor Haim Bibas, who heads the federation of local government leaders, has suggested to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz that the government institute rapid COVID tests for each student every day before they enter schools, reports Channel 13 News.

The suggestion is expected to be discussed by the Health and Education Ministries, who are weighing how to best approach the reopening of the school year on September 1, as most students are unvaccinated.

Death toll rises to 92 in blaze at Iraq coronavirus ward

The death toll from a fire that swept through a coronavirus ward in a hospital in Iraq climbs to 92 as anguished relatives bury their loved ones and lash out at the government over the country’s second such disaster in less than three months.

Health officials say scores of others were injured in the blaze that erupted today at al-Hussein Teaching Hospital in Nasiriyah. The tragedy cast a spotlight on what many have decried as widespread negligence and mismanagement in Iraq’s hospitals after decades of war and sanctions.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has convened an emergency meeting to order the suspension and arrest of the health director in Dhi Qar provice, the hospital director and the city’s civil defense chief. The government has also launched an investigation.

Bolsonaro invites PM Bennett to visit Brazil

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for the first time since taking office. Bolsonaro extends an invitation to the new prime minister to visit Brazil, and Bennett reciprocates the offer.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Bennett tells Bolsonaro he would love to host him at the Brazilian diplomatic mission in Jerusalem, “whose opening was a historic first step.”

Bolsonaro has pledged to move the Brazilian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but so far it has only officially opened a trade office in the capital.

Bennett says he welcomes Brazil’s recent election to the United Nations Security Council due to its “steadfast and enduring support of Israel in the international arena,” according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

The two leaders agreed to expand their ties in a range of areas, in particular the economic and high-tech fields.

Tourism minister: Travelers that took ‘known vaccines’ won’t need blood test

Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov says that Israel’s future reopening to tourists will draw a distinction between certain COVID vaccines.

Razvozov tells Kan radio that tourists will be divided into those with “vaccines known to Israel,” including Pfizer and Moderna, and those from countries who offer other coronavirus vaccines, such as China and Russia.

Tourists vaccinated with a “known” vaccine will be allowed to enter with just a negative PCR test, while others will require a blood test to determine antibodies, suggests the minister.

Last month, Israel delayed a plan to reopen to vaccinated tourists from July 1 to August 1. The new target date could be further delayed by the coronavirus cabinet. Razvozov’s proposal has yet to be approved by the cabinet.

Israel signs first agricultural agreements with UAE

Israel signs its first cooperation agreements with the United Arab Emirates in the field of agriculture.

Agriculture Minister Oded Forer and UAE Minister of Food and Water Security Mariam Al-Muhairi sign the deal in Tel Aviv to cooperate on research and innovation, including the development of strains of produce suitable for growing in desert conditions, as well as other advancements in the fields of water management and irrigation.

“The United Arab Emirates and Israel share many challenges when it comes to food security, and we are cooperating to find innovative and feasible solutions to these challenges,” says Al-Muhairi.

The UAE is slated to officially open its embassy in Tel Aviv tomorrow morning in the presence of its Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Al Khaja and President Isaac Herzog.

UN rights council orders global racism probe

The United Nations Human Rights Council orders an independent investigation into racially fueled police violence around the world.

In a resolution brought by a group of African countries, the council harshly condemns “continuing racially discriminatory and violent practices perpetrated by many law enforcement officials against Africans and people of African descent.”

The text, which was adopted without a vote, decries “systemic racism in the law enforcement and criminal justice systems” and the need to bring offenders to justice. It orders the creation of an “international independent expert mechanism” to “advance racial justice and equality in the context of law enforcement in all parts of the world.”

British MPs vote to cut $5.5 billion in foreign aid

British lawmakers have voted to support a contentious cut to the United Kingdom’s foreign aid budget, a move that has slashed billions from programs helping some of the world’s poorest people.

The decision came in a 333-298 House of Commons vote that saw some members of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party join with the opposition against the government.

Johnson’s government announced in November that it would cut the share of national income set aside for foreign aid from 0.7% to 0.5%, citing the blow to Britain’s economy from the coronavirus pandemic.

He said the reduction, which amounts to about 4 billion pounds ($5.5 billion) this year, is temporary and aid would be restored to 0.7% of national income “as soon as circumstances allow.”

High-profile Conservatives, including former prime minister Theresa May, joined opposition politicians, United Nations agencies and aid groups in criticizing the budget cut.

They say it will lead to hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths in developing nations and that it damages Britain’s reputation, just as it is trying to bolster its international influence in the wake of Brexit.

Lapid speaks with Canadian PM Trudeau

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the first time since taking office.

Lapid tweets following the call that: “Our goal is to strengthen moderates around the world, no more right and left, but global cooperation against extremism and polarization.”

Lapid met in Jerusalem earlier this month with Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau. At the time, Lapid thanked Garneau for Canada’s support of Israel during its conflict with Gaza in May.

Zandberg: Unclear how Meretz will vote if reunification bill returns

Environment Minister Tamar Zandberg of Meretz says her faction is undecided on how it will vote if the controversial Palestinian family reunification bill returns to the Knesset plenum after it failed earlier this month.

“Our position is known to everyone,” Zandberg tells Army Radio. Meretz had stated before the vote that it would not support the legislation, which blocks giving automatic citizenship to Palestinians married to Israelis.

“The reason we agreed to vote in favor of it was because it was improved,” she says, referencing a compromise deal reached with Meretz and Ra’am shortly before the vote that Zandberg says would have “provided immediate improvements” to some Palestinians.

“It didn’t pass, and I don’t know if it will come up again,” the minister says.

PA rejects UN proposal for facilitating Qatari aid – report

The Palestinian Authority is refusing to agree to a United Nations mechanism that would see Qatari subsidies for impoverished Gazans enter the coastal enclave, according to a report in the Qatar-linked news site Arabi 21.

Israel and Hamas are currently negotiating how Gaza will be rebuilt following the 11-day May battle between the two sides. The hundreds of millions in cash that Qatar pumps into Gaza on a yearly basis have emerged as a key point of contention.

According to the report, Israel, the United States and Hamas had all agreed to an unspecified mechanism for allowing Qatari funding to the Strip through the United Nations, but the PA torpedoed it. Qatar is one of Hamas’s main regional patrons.

“The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah rejected this mechanism, and that has hindered the entry of these funds so far,” a source told Arabi 21. “All attempts to persuade the PA leadership to accommodate the new mechanism have failed.”

Bennett tells military college students that Israel must be ‘exemplary’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tells students in Israel’s national military college, many of whom are senior officials from the IDF or other government bodies, that Israel’s most basic goal is survival, but that it should aim for much more.

“The Jewish people and the Jewish state have one basic goal, which is survival of Israel, the existence of the State of Israel,” Bennett says at his office. “But that’s not enough, our constant aspiration is to be an exemplary nation.”

The greatest challenge to that, the prime minister says, is managing to be such a country “in this atmosphere, where our neighbors are Hezbollah, Iranian militias in Syria, IS in the Sinai and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, and they all want to destroy us.”

Herzog meets with IDF chief of staff

President Isaac Herzog meets with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi in Jerusalem.

Herzog — who took office last week — and Kohavi discussed the current security situation and the challenges facing Israel, according to the President’s Residence.

New national security adviser saw Iran deal as ‘lesser evil’

Eyal Hulata, the new national security adviser to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, has in the past expressed that the 2015 Iran deal was the lesser evil compared to no deal at all.

Hulata privately expressed that Israel should not fervently push back against the US working to broker the 2015 deal, unlike the position adopted at the time by then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Hulata, who served in the Mossad for more than 20 years and was tapped for his new job on Sunday, said then that Israel should learn to live with the nuclear deal.

Bennett has publicly stated his opposition to the deal both before and since taking office as prime minister, though he has vowed to adopt a more conciliatory approach with the United States.

Public security minister says Gaza aid will be food vouchers, not cash

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev suggests that Qatari money destined for the Gaza Strip will arrive as food vouchers, not cash.

“The Qatari money to Gaza won’t enter as dollars in suitcases that go straight to Hamas,” Barlev tells Army Radio. “The mechanism will largely operate through the United Nations, and will enter as food vouchers or humanitarian assistance, not cash.”

The UN and other international bodies and countries have vowed to send assistance to Gaza following the bruising 11-day conflict between Hamas and Israel in May. Since Israel largely controls the entry of goods into Gaza, it is expected to facilitate such deliveries.

Church of England to apologize for 13th century antisemitism

The Church of England says it plans to apologize for instituting antisemitic laws in the 13th century.

Next year marks 800 years since the Church of England enacted a law that forced Jewish people to wear “a badge of shame” and led to the expulsion of them from medieval England.

At a meeting of the General Synod, the church’s legislative body, officials voted to offer an “act of repentance” for the activities by holding a “symbolic service” on the anniversary next year.

Liberman promises new budget won’t include tax hikes

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman says that his budget proposal does not include raising taxes.

The budget plan does include a raise in the municipal property tax of 1.5% every year for the next 10 years. But Liberman says that does not constitute a tax rise since the money does not go into national government coffers.

In a press conference, Liberman says the goal of the new budget, which must be passed by the government by November, is to “bring the deficit back under control.”

He also pledges to work to lower the prices of fruits and vegetables in supermarkets, which have risen sharply in recent months.

Qatar taking first step toward controlling its own airspace

Qatar says it has been given a preliminary green light by a UN body on a proposal to control its own airspace, months after resolving a rift with its neighbors.

The UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has given Qatar permission “in principle” to establish its own Flight Information Region (FIR) in its airspace, the wealthy Gulf emirate announced.

This decision was in response to a request from Doha to withdraw from an agreement signed with Bahrain, another Gulf monarchy, under which it had delegated its air navigation services. A three-year row with its Gulf neighbors, led by Saudi Arabia, had highlighted the shortcomings of the deal, which left Qatar completely reliant on access to airspace controlled by other countries.

The regional bloc led by Saudi Arabia broke ties with Doha in 2017, accusing it of supporting extremist Islamist movements — charges that it denied.

Iran confirms prisoner exchange ‘negotiations’ with US

Iran confirms ongoing “negotiations” with the United States over a potential prisoner swap, after a US official said Washington is working to release its detained citizens.

The US envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, said on Saturday that President Joe Biden insists on the release of all Americans and will not accept a “partial deal.”

Iran’s government spokesman Ali Rabiei confirms the talks and says Tehran calls for the release of all Iranian prisoners, not just those held in the US.

Iran “is ready to swap all political prisoners in exchange for freeing all Iranian prisoners across the world,” he says at a televised press conference, including those “who have been detained upon US orders.”

Hospitalized pope expected to return to Vatican soon

Pope Francis is expected to return to the Vatican “as soon as possible” following his stay in hospital for rehabilitation from intestinal surgery that he underwent earlier this month, the Vatican says.

The Vatican didn’t provide a target date in its daily medical update, repeating that the 84-year-old pope was continuing his planned course of treatment and rehabilitation. Francis had half of his colon removed for a severe narrowing of his large intestine on July 4, his first major surgery since he became pope in 2013.

Equatorial Guinea vice president meets Herzog in Jerusalem

Vice President of Equatorial Guinea Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue meets with new President Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem.

Nguema — the son of Equatorial Guinea’s president — arrived on Sunday for a four-day visit that includes meetings with Herzog, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and other Israeli officials to sign mutual agreements. He is slated to visit Yad Vashem tomorrow.

Nguema’s visit is also slated to include a visit to citizens of Equatorial Guinea who are hospitalized in Sheba Medical Center. They were brought to Israel in March after the IDF sent a humanitarian delegation to the country following deadly blasts at a military camp that killed more than 100 people.

In February, the country’s President Teodoro Mbasogo announced that plans to move the country’s embassy to Jerusalem in the future.

Death toll in South Africa unrest rises to 32

Soldiers in South Africa have stepped up deployment on a mission to quell looting sparked by the jailing of ex-president Jacob Zuma, as the death toll from the violence rises to 32.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced last night that he was dispatching troops to help overwhelmed police halt the unrest and “restore order.” But stores in Johannesburg and Pietermaritzburg, the capital of southeastern KwaZulu-Natal province, were hit by looters for a fifth day running.

Sa’ar pushing Basic Law to overhaul legal system

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar says he intends to push for the passage of new, sweeping legislation on the rights of Israeli citizens in the legal system. The legislation is intended to have the status of a Basic Law, the closest thing Israel has to a constitution.

Sa’ar says he has instructed Deputy Attorney General Amit Marari to begin drafting the law in consultation with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

Health Ministry said to suggest halving quarantine period

The Health Ministry will reportedly suggest during the coronavirus cabinet meeting this evening that the period of quarantine for those exposed to COVID or returning from abroad be shortened from 14 to 7 days.

According to Channel 12 News, the move has been agreed to by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz. If the suggestion is approved, quarantine would be shortened to one week if a negative test result is first obtained.

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