The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.
Most schools should stay shut after the summer vacation unless coronavirus infections are radically reduced, a former government adviser says, also warning that the virus fight will “continue to fail” if it isn’t taken out of Health Ministry hands.
“If we don’t get the numbers down to tens we should not open the schools because the risk would be too high,” says Eli Waxman, former chairman of the National Security Council’s Expert Advisers’ Committee on Combating the Pandemic.
He adds: “If the prevalence remains as high as it is today — over 1,000 new infected daily — opening schools fully may have the effect of a renewed growth that will get us to 2,000, which will endanger the health care system.
“Under such conditions, we would recommend opening up only lower grades, up to third, and special needs classes.”
He says that Israel is currently on a bleak trajectory, and it is already “unavoidable” that there will be 500 patients in intensive care.
Waxman has no faith in the Health Ministry to lead the virus fight. “Leaving the management as it is to the Health Ministry will just ensure that we will continue to fail,” says Waxman, a top physicist at the Weizmann Institute of Science.
He expresses concern that if the Health Ministry remains the country’s lead player on coronavirus, even if case numbers are driven down, it will fail to take an essential step for preventing a resurgence.
Before leaving his advisory post in May, Waxman argued to authorities that success hinged on establishing an emergency control center that brings together various state players under the leadership of former military brass, and dilutes the role of the Health Ministry. He believes that this has now become urgent.
“The structure of the Health Ministry is not suited for this,” he says. “And the people that manage the Health Ministry don’t have the capabilities and they don’t have any relevant experience for managing this crisis.”
— Nathan Jeffay
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has executed a man convicted of spying for the United States by selling the CIA information on the Islamic Republic’s missile program, the judiciary spokesman says.
Reza Asgari, an Iranian citizen, was executed last week, Gholamhossein Esmaili is quoted as saying by the judiciary’s official website Mizan Online.
He had worked at the defense ministry’s aerospace division for years but retired around four years ago, the spokesman adds.
Asgari had received large sums of money from the US Central Intelligence Agency “after retirement by selling them the information he had regarding our missiles.”
“He was identified, tried, and sentenced to death,” Esmaili says.
He adds that the death sentence passed for Mahmoud Mousavi Majd, another Iranian who was found guilty of espionage last month, was also set to go ahead.
Majd was accused of spying on Iran’s armed forces and helping the US to locate Qassem Soleimani, the top Iranian general killed later in an American drone strike in Baghdad.
Iran retaliated by firing a volley of ballistic missiles at US troops stationed in Iraq, but US President Donald Trump opted against responding militarily.
While the attack on the western Iraqi base of Ain Al-Asad left no US soldiers dead, dozens suffered brain trauma.
MOSCOW — Three Russian and several Turkish soldiers were injured in Syria’s volatile Idlib province when a joint military patrol hit an improvised explosive device, the Russian defense ministry says.
The device blew up at 8:50 local time as their convoy patrolled the M4 highway in the southern part of a de-escalation zone, a statement says.
A Russian and a Turkish armored vehicle were damaged, with three Russians “lightly injured,” it says. Several Turkish soldiers were also wounded.
Russia and Turkey launched the patrols along the M4 in March following a ceasefire agreement aimed at stopping heavy fighting in and around Idlib, the last major bastion of anti-government forces in Syria’s civil war.
Russia backs Syrian President Bashar Assad in the conflict and Turkey backs the opposition, but the two countries have agreed several deals to reduce hostilities.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz tells the IDF Home Front Command to ready to operate hotels for coronavirus patients and those unable to quarantine at home through 2021, saying it appears unlikely the COVID-19 pandemic will be over by then.
“The working premise needs to be active until the end of 2021,” Gantz says in a Zoom video call with commanders in charge of the hotels. “The entire work year next year will also revolve around the crisis. Unfortunately it’s hard for me to see this ending before then.”
Maj. Gen. Uri Gordon, the head of Home Front Command, says the greatest challenge facing his unit is getting people to come to the hotels.
“At the end of the day, you’re uprooting a person from his home for a relatively long period, about a month, and this leads to many concerns and objections from the sick and the quarantined,” he says. “However, very large efforts are being made and the machine is already well oiled.”
He adds that over 400 people check into the hotels each day.
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s judiciary says that a court has upheld death sentences for three people linked to deadly protests last November sparked by a hike in gasoline prices.
The sentences were “confirmed by the supreme court after the defendants and their attorneys appealed,” spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili says, quoted by the judiciary’s Mizan Online website.
Esmaili doesn’t name the defendants, but says two were arrested during an “armed robbery.”
Evidence had been found on their phones of them setting alight banks, buses and public buildings in November, he says.
The demonstrations erupted on November 15 after authorities more than doubled fuel prices overnight, exacerbating economic hardships in the sanctions-hit country.
They rocked a handful of cities before spreading to at least 100 urban centers across the Islamic Republic.
Gas were torched, police stations attacked and shops looted, before security forces stepped in amid a near-total internet blackout.
“They had filmed it all audaciously, and sent (the footage) to some foreign news agencies,” Esmaili says in a video released by state television.
“They themselves had provided the best evidence.”
Iran has blamed last year’s violence on “thugs” backed by its foes the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
It has pointed the finger at exiled royalists and the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK), an exiled former rebel group which it considers a “terrorist cult.”
Blue and White Minister Michael Biton is entering quarantine after exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 carrier.
Biton, a minister in the Defense Ministry, will remain in quarantine until next Thursday, according to Hebrew media reports.
A lawmaker from the opposition Yesh Atid party says the government “doesn’t have the legitimacy” to impose a renewed lockdown and that if it does order one, Israelis don’t need to obey.
“This government violated the most basic contract with the public, the one that obliges it to protect us in a time of crisis,” MK Idan Roll writes on Twitter.
He charges government decisions to combat the virus “aren’t based on data” and are driven by political considerations.
“Therefore [the government] doesn’t have the legitimacy to order a full lockdown and the public doesn’t need to be obey,” Roll says.
Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, a Likud party ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has told associates the Trump administration isn’t interested in Israel moving forward with annexation of West Bank lands right now, according to Army Radio.
The reports says Netanyahu will not move forward without US backing and quotes Levin’s “circle” saying the premier and his allies have stressed from the get-go that the move must be supported by the White House. These sources add that Israel is now waiting for an answer.
A senior military official warns the Israel Defense Forces may need to impose lockdown measures on bases if the growing number of infections among its ranks hurts the IDF’s operational abilities.
“Fitness before everything,” the unidentified official tells Channel 12 news.
The warning comes as the IDF has seen a marked rise over the past week in the number of service members infected with COVID-19.
The official, who the network describes as “very senior,” also says the IDF is readying another virus information hotline for troops amid complaints the system was overloaded.
“At the moment we’re dealing with an average of 1,500 inquiries a day,” the official says.
Conference of Presidents slams Erdogan for linking Hagia Sofia’s conversion to ‘liberation’ of Al-Aqsa
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations condemns Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comment that his decision to turn Istanbul’s Hagia Sofia back into a mosque was a precursor to the “liberation” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
“We are appalled by the incendiary and offensive statement made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan… implying that he seeks to take control of the holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City, which is home to the al-Aqsa Mosque,” the conference’s leaders say in a statement.
They add: “Furthermore, this outrageous rhetoric regarding the al-Aqsa Mosque can and has incited violence against Israel and its citizens — and will add to tensions in the region. We condemn it strongly and urge President Erdogan to recant his inflammatory words and actions.”
Jerusalem was under the authority of the Ottoman Empire, the forerunner of the Republic of Turkey, until 1917 when it was captured by the British during World War II. Erdogan, an Islamist, has frequently railed at Israel in regard to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The president of Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center criticizes Israeli firm Nasus Pharma for claiming its TaffiX nasal spray can block up to 97 percent of viruses, including the novel coronavirus.
“It’s unfortunate that it being marketed in this way — deluding the public,” Prof. Jonathan Halevy, a member of a Health Ministry public information team, tells Channel 12 news.
He says the efficacy of TaffiX can only be evaluated once there has been proper testing on it.
While touting Taffix, Nasus Pharma has stressed the nasal spray is meant to complement masks and is not an alternative to following the Health Ministry’s social distancing rules.
Twenty-eight high school graduates from the central town of Gan Yavne have contracted the coronavirus after attending a private prom party.
Another 140 students who attended the prom have entered quarantine, according to the Kan public broadcaster.
Despite a ban on official prom events as part of restrictions on gatherings, students from numerous schools have held illicit parties, including ones in Ra’anana that were at the center of a recent outbreak there.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) July 14, 2020
Israel’s newest spy satellite began beaming back its first pictures last night, a week after it was launched into orbit, the Defense Ministry says.
“A week after its successful launch into space, engineering teams… activated the Ofek-16 reconnaissance satellite’s cameras for the first time last night and downloaded initial photographs of incredible quality from the satellite to an Israeli Aerospace Industries control center in Yehud,” the ministry says in a statement.
The ministry does not release copies of these initial photographs to the public.
The satellite was launched in a joint operation by the Defense Ministry’s Space Department and the Israel Aerospace Industries. According to the Defense Ministry, since the launch teams from both organizations have been performing checks on the satellite to ensure it was operating correctly.
“As part of this, they activated — in a gradual and controlled way — all of the systems and subsystems that make up the satellite. Upon completing the process, the satellite’s camera was successfully activated. In the coming weeks, the engineering teams will continue with the process of thorough testing and will prepare the satellite for operational use, in accordance with a pre-set protocol,” the ministry says.
The Ofek-16 satellite was launched into orbit in the predawn hours of last Monday morning.
“This is a landmark achievement – the result of a complex technological and operational process that reflects IAI’s capabilities in the field of space, and also highlights our partnership with other defense industries,” says Boaz Levy, the head of IAI’s Systems, Missiles and Space Group.
— Judah Ari Gross
Right-wing lawmakers criticize Yesh Atid MK Idan Roll for saying that if the government reimposes a nationwide lockdown to contain the rising number of coronavirus infections, citizens don’t need to obey.
In a tweet earlier, Roll slammed the government’s handling of the pandemic and said it lacks the “legitimacy” to impose another lockdown.
Coalition whip Miki Zohar, a member of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party, accuses Roll of calling for a “rebellion.”
“The cat is out of the bag. ‘Yesh Atid’ people and Yair Lapid will do everything, including calling for a rebellion that will turn Israel into an anarchy, only to harm the continued rule of the right, Likud and Prime Minister Netanyahu,” Zohar tweets.
MK Naftali Bennett, head of the national-religious Yamina party, calls on Lapid to renounce Roll’s comments.
“This is a call for anarchy and this how a state and its institutions are dismantled,” Bennett writes on Twitter. “I have very harsh criticism of the government’s failures… but this is an elected government.”
The head of Iran’s Quds Force warns that the United States and Israel are facing “tough days” to come.
“You are still experiencing your halcyon days. You have very tough days and occurrences ahead of you,” Gen. Esmail Ghaani says during a meeting, according to Press TV.
Ghaani, who took over as Quds Force chief after his predecessor Qassem Soleimani was killed earlier this year in a US drone strike, also comments on a major fire that broke out on the USS Bonhomme Richard amphibious assault ship.
“This incident is an answer to your crimes, which has come about at the hands of your own elements,” Ghaani claims. “God uses your own hands to punish you.”
The owner of a Jerusalem bakery says he and his workers have received seven fines for NIS 500 a pop for not properly wearings masks in the bakery, where temperatures can reach 50 degrees Celsius due to the ovens.
Speaking with Channel 12 news, Tal Calderon of Calderon Bakery says he also received a police order to close the bakery for 48 hours due to the violations and that he was taken to a police station for questioning.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is huddling with medical experts, ministers and Health Ministry officials to discuss further limiting gatherings from 20 to 10 people, the Ynet news site reports.
According to Hebrew media reports, among those taking part in the video conference is Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, who served as director-general of the Health Ministry until mid-June.
Bar Siman-Tov played a leading role in Israel’s initial response to the pandemic and oversaw many of the strict restrictions put in place to contain the virus.
BERLIN — A German state’s police chief steps down over a scandal involving a left-wing lawmaker who received threatening emails after someone accessed her personal details on a police computer.
The interior minister of Hesse state, a central region that includes Frankfurt, says police chief Udo Muench asked to be sent into early retirement. Muench was taking responsibility for failings “that he does not have to answer for alone,” minister Peter Beuth says, news agency dpa reports.
A prominent politician with the opposition Left Party, Janine Wissler, recently received threatening emails signed “NSU 2.0.” That was an apparent reference to the National Socialist Underground, a far-right group that killed 10 people, mostly with immigrant roots, between 2000 and 2007.
It emerged that someone had requested her personal details on a Hesse police computer before the emails were sent, but it isn’t yet clear who that was. The state government has appointed a special investigator to look into the case.
In 2018, several threatening messages signed “NSU 2.0” were also sent to a Frankfurt lawyer representing victims’ families in the trial of the original NSU’s only surviving member. Beuth has said he can’t rule out the possibility of a right-wing extremist network in the regional police.
NEW YORK — A $19 million settlement between Harvey Weinstein and some of his accusers is rejected by a judge.
US District Judge Alvin K. Heellerstein in Manhattan says Weinstein’s accusers in the proposed class-action settlement were too varied to be grouped together.
Lawyers for several women who had opposed the deal praise what they describe as Hellerstein’s swift rejection of a one-sided proposal.
A spokesman for Weinstein doesn’t immediately comment. A lawyer for his companies declines comment.
A spokesperson for New York Attorney General Letitia James, who announced the tentative agreement on June 30, says her office is reviewing the decision and determining its next steps. “Our office has been fighting tirelessly to provide these brave women with the justice they are owed and will continue to do so,” Morgan Rubin says in a written statement.
The deal to settle lawsuits brought by James and a Chicago lawyer on behalf of multiple women would have provided between $7,500 and $750,000 to some women who accused Weinstein of sexually abusing them.
The 68-year-old former Hollywood producer was convicted earlier this year of rape and sexual assault against two women. Accusations by dozens of women in 2017 led to the downfall of his career and gave rise to #MeToo, the global movement to hold powerful men accountable for their sexual misconduct.
Weinstein was diagnosed in March with the coronavirus just days after he was moved to the state’s maximum security Wende Correctional Facility near Buffalo to begin serving his 23-year prison sentence.
IDF chief Aviv Kohavi says preparations for possible Israeli annexation of portions of the West Bank is the military’s top priority, warning that an outbreak of violence there could potentially spread out beyond its borders.
“We are in a period that may challenge the region’s stability. Preparation is at the top of our list of priorities. Rising tensions in the central region can lead to rising tensions on other fronts. Therefore we are preparing for the possibility of a campaign that will extend beyond the borders of Judea and Samaria,” he says, using the biblical term for the West Bank.
Kohavi makes his remarks at a ceremony marking Maj. Gen. Nadav Padan’s exit from the IDF Central Command and Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai’s entrance into the position of commander of the unit.
— Judah Ari Gross
An hours-long meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu, ministers and health officials on the continued rise in new coronavirus infections has ended.
No decision was made on further restrictions, Hebrew media reports say.
According to reports, the National Security Council called during the meeting for the closure of synagogues and yeshivas, while arguing that restaurants should only be allowed to offer delivery.
It also reportedly called for beaches to be closed and gatherings to be limited to 10 people.
The Ynet news site says some of those who took part in the meeting urged a full or partial lockdown to be reimposed, but Defense Minister Benny Gantz noted it has still not been two weeks since tighter restrictions came into place and more time was needed to weigh their effect.
Netanyahu said a lockdown may be reimposed but not now, the website reports.
A coalition of Jewish American groups has called on the US government to press Jordan to extradite a Palestinian woman who helped carry out a 2001 suicide bombing that killed 15 people, including two Americans, in Jerusalem.
A joint statement signed by 18 groups aims to step up the pressure on Jordan, a key American ally, to send Ahlam al-Tamimi to the US for trial.
The statement urges the US to “bring all pressure to bear,” including possible cuts in American financial aid, to press Jordan into honoring an extradition agreement.
Yesterday’s statement was signed by a mix of right-wing and centrist groups. Among them several major mainstream Jewish groups, including the Jewish Federations of North America, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and B’nai B’rith, as well as the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC.
Al-Tamimi is wanted by the US on a charge of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against American nationals.
Jordan has rebuffed previous efforts to extradite her, citing double jeopardy considerations, but the Trump administration said recently it would consider withholding assistance as leverage. Jordanian officials have not commented publicly about the matter.
Al-Tamimi was arrested in the West Bank by Israel weeks after the bombing and sentenced to 16 life terms in prison, but released in a 2011 Israel-Hamas prisoner swap and moved to Jordan. She has made frequent media appearances, expressing no remorse for the attack and saying she was pleased with the high death toll.
Among the victims of the attack was Malka Roth, a 15-year-old Israeli American girl whose father, Arnold Roth, has led a campaign seeking al-Tamimi’s extradition.
“It’s time that Jordan’s disregard for its legal, diplomatic and moral obligations to hand Tamimi over to US justice was brought to an end,” Roth says.
Hundreds of Israelis demonstrate outside Prime Minister Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem, calling for him to resign due to his indictment on corruption charges.
A few dozen supporters of Netanyahu hold a counter-protest nearby.
Police close parts of two nearby roads due to the protest.
A financial aid package unveiled last week by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz for Israelis hurt by government-mandated restrictions against the coronavirus passes its first reading in the Kneset.
The bills will now go to the Knesset Finance Committee before coming up for the second and third readings it must clear to become law.
The government will decide over the weekend whether to reintroduce a lockdown in order to curb the rising number of coronavirus cases, Channel 13 reports.
According to the network, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said during a meeting today convened by Prime Minister Netanyahu that he opposes local lockdowns but is open to nationwide one.
Despite Likud’s official backing for Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked as the opposition representative on the Judicial Appointments Committee, Channel 12 news reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s party is working to thwart her appointment.
According to the network, Netanyahu’s associates have told the premier’s coalition partners that selecting Shaked for the panel could have severe consequences, including the calling of new elections.
Shaked, a former justice minister who has been an outspoken critic of the Supreme Court, is seen as a bête noire of Netanyahu’s.
NEW YORK — Jeffrey Epstein’s former girlfriend pleads not guilty to charges she recruited girls and women for the financier to sexually abuse more than two decades ago.
British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell appears in a video court hearing in Manhattan.
Maxwell, 58, has been held without bail since her July 2 arrest at her million-dollar New Hampshire estate, where prosecutors say she refused to open the door for FBI agents, who busted through to find that she had retreated to an interior room.
She was charged with recruiting at least three girls, one as young as 14, for Epstein to abuse between 1994 and 1997.
An indictment alleges that she helped groom the victims to endure sexual abuse and was sometimes there when Epstein abused them. It also alleges that she lied during a 2016 deposition in a civil case stemming from Epstein’s abuse of girls and women.
Epstein killed himself in August 2019, several weeks after he was confronted by two accusers at a bail hearing who insisted that he should remain in jail while awaiting sex trafficking charges that alleged he abused girls at his Manhattan and Florida mansions in the early 2000s.
In court papers, Maxwell’s lawyers argue that Epstein’s death left the media “wrongly trying to substitute her for Epstein — even though she’d had no contact with Epstein for more than a decade, had never been charged with a crime or been found liable in any civil litigation, and has always denied any allegations of claimed misconduct.”
Scuffles break out between anti-Netanyahu protesters and police officers during a demonstration against the premier outside his official residence in Jerusalem.
Video shows some of the demonstrators trying to break through barricades set up on Azza Street outside the Prime Minister’s Residence, while others hold lit torches.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) July 14, 2020
The Environmental Protection Ministry announces it will give NIS 10.6 million ($3 million) to authorities bordering the Mediterranean and Red seas that are willing to change their bylaws to prohibit the use of single use plastic on beaches and to clean up stretches of coastline where bathing is not officially allowed.
Sums for each local authority will be determined by the length of unofficial coastline.
Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel says that more than 71 percent of beaches checked by the ministry during the second half of last month within the framework of the Clean Beach Index were declared to be clean, or very clean. The cleanest were in Ashdod, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Bat Yam, Acre and the area of Hof Hasharon to the north of Tel Aviv.
— Sue Surkes