The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit flood-ravaged western Germany tomorrow, where the worst rainfall in living memory has caused huge destruction and left more than 130 people dead, regional officials says.
Merkel will travel to the hard-hit town of Schuld in the Rhineland-Palatinate state, a spokeswoman for the regional interior ministry tells AFP, confirming earlier media reports.
The visit is set to take place in the afternoon, the spokeswoman says.
Merkel has called the flooding a national “tragedy,” and promised support from the federal government to help the affected areas rebuild and recover.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier toured the town of Erftstadt in the western state of North-Rhine Westphalia today, to survey the damage from a massive landslide caused by the extreme weather.
The main candidates in the race to succeed Merkel at September’s general election have all travelled to the stricken areas in recent days.
Merkel’s visit has been delayed because she only returned yesterday from a high-profile trip to Washington, her last official visit as chancellor.
Speaking alongside US President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday, Merkel said her “heart goes out to all of those who in this catastrophe lost their loved ones.”
Officials in the Joint List have told Foreign Minister Yair Lapid recently that they don’t want to see the government brought down, and would consider voting in favor of its new budget proposal, reports the Kan public broadcaster.
According to the report, Lapid has met in recent days with MKs from the Joint List, who told him that they don’t want to see his government fall and be replaced with one headed by opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
Members of the Joint List intend to meet next week to formulate their demands for the next budget.
The government has until November to pass a new budget. If it fails, a new election will automatically be triggered.
Microsoft and the tech human rights group Citizen Lab say that an Israeli vendor sold a tool to hack into Microsoft Windows, reports Reuters.
According to the report, an Israeli cyber firm, Candiru, created and sold software that was able to hack into Windows.
Microsoft says the hacking tool was utilized in multiple countries, including Iran, Lebanon, Spain and the United Kingdom, according to the Citizen Lab report.
Qatar is pressing Hamas officials in Gaza to agree to the Israeli framework to receive aid from the Gulf nation, reports the Kan public broadcaster.
Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi is reportedly pressuring Hamas to agree to the demands as soon as possible, which would see approximately $30 million transferred to the Gaza Strip in the form of a debit card-like system for needy families.
Israeli officials reportedly want the transfer to be complete before the Eid al-Adha holiday, which begins next week.
David Harris, the CEO of the American Jewish Committee, will be stepping down from his role next year after 31 years in the job, the organization says.
“I was given the honor of a lifetime when AJC invited me to become the CEO in 1990, having first joined the staff in 1979,” says Harris. “Since then, I have been blessed with the best job imaginable, including the invaluable support of so many dedicated lay leaders and talented staff colleagues.
“Every single day, I have been grateful beyond words for the opportunity to pursue my lifelong mission — to assist Jews in danger worldwide, support Israel’s quest for peace and security, combat antisemitism, and defend democratic values.”
The hunt for a successor will kick off soon, and the person selected is slated to take over the position in May 2022.
Facebook says it disrupted an Iran-based espionage operation targeting defense and aerospace workers in Europe and the United States.
Fake accounts posing as company job recruiters or employees were used to dupe targets, according to head of cyber espionage investigations Mike Dvilyanski.
“This effort was highly targeted,” Dvilyanski says in a telephone briefing. “It is hard for us to know how successful this campaign was, but it had all the hallmarks of a well-resourced operation.”
Some of the malicious code used in the cyber spying campaign was developed by the Mahak Rayan Afraz tech company in Tehran, who have ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to Dvilyanski.
Facebook took down 200 accounts it said were used to dupe defense or aerospace industry workers into connecting outside the social network, through techniques such as compromised emails or bogus job websites.
Nachman Ash, the new director general of the Health Ministry, says that a lockdown remains a possibility for the High Holiday period that begins with Rosh Hashana and stretches for much of September.
“I think that it could be that we’ll get to the point where we’ll say ‘we need a lockdown,'” Ash tells Channel 13 News. “I’m worried we might get there… in a few weeks, it’s possible we’ll get there.”
Ash says he is hopeful with proper behavior and enforcement, a lockdown — which would be Israel’s fourth since the COVID pandemic began — will not be necessary.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi and US envoy Brett McGurk discussed the withdrawal of troops, his office says, one day after top Iraqi and Iranian security officials met.
“Discussions took place about mechanisms for combat troops’ withdrawal from Iraq, and moving forward to a new stage in strategic cooperation,” the Iraqi prime minister’s office says in statement.
McGurk is the Middle East and Africa coordinator in the White House.
Kadhemi is scheduled to visit Washington later this month to push for a concrete timetable of troop withdrawal. The implementation of the withdrawal could take years.
The meeting came after Iraq’s National Security Agency chief, Abdel Ghani al-Asadi, met Wednesday in Baghdad with Iran’s Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi.
The Health Ministry has asked health maintenance organizations to get ready to vaccinate children under 12 with serious pre-existing conditions, reports Channel 12 News.
A very limited number of youths under 12 years old have received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination. This directive, which has yet to be finalized by the Health Ministry, would expand that figure and set a precedent for the rest of the world.
After a request from the prosecution for a further delay in the ongoing corruption trial of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the next hearing will be pushed off until September.
Earlier today, the state prosecutor requested that the hearing of former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua, a central witness in the case, be delayed due to “personal reasons.” The case was originally slated for next week.
Since the courts system will be in recess for August, the next hearing is expected to take place September 13.
El Al announces new direct flights from Tel Aviv to the Greek island of Mykonos starting next month.
The first flight is slated to depart on August 5 and the flights are slated to continue through August 29. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has asked Israelis who do not need to travel to stay home as COVID cases continue to rise.
An 84-year-old man who was fully vaccinated against COVID, yet tested positive for the disease while hospitalized, has died at the Assuta Medical Center in Ashdod.
His death marks the 12th Israeli with COVID-19 to die in July so far. Just 9 people died in Israel of the disease in the entire month of June.
Heavy rains and floods lashing western Europe have killed at least 42 people in Germany and left many more missing, as rising waters led several houses to collapse on Thursday.
Unusually heavy rains have also inundated neighboring Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium, where at least four people were reported dead.
Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg and United Arab Emirates Minister of Food and Water Security Mariam Al-Muhairi sign a series of agreements for cooperation in the field of environmental protection.
The agreements include joint research and development in areas relating to combating the climate crisis; protecting endangered species; protection, conservation and restoration of the marine and coastal environment; innovative approaches to waste prevention, reuse and recycling; and many others.
“The United Arab Emirates and Israel share strategic views in the field of the environment, both nationally and internationally, as part of the commitment to the Paris Agreements and the adoption of international environmental protection practices,” says Al-Muhairi.
“We anticipate that the partnership between us will be a huge step forward in efforts to strengthen environmental management,” she adds.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Economy Minister Orna Barbivai and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz agree to a plan to institute a “happy pass” that will serve as a limited “Green Pass” for weddings and other large indoor events.
The plan, which is slated to come into effect on July 21, will limit large gatherings to only those who are vaccinated, recovered or present a negative COVID test. While the gatherings won’t be limited in size, masks will be mandatory while not eating or drinking.
“Our goal is to allow weddings and celebrations to take place in halls with minimum harm to the events industry and maximum protection of Israeli citizens,” says Bennett.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi invites Israeli and Palestinian representatives to hold peace talks in China in order to work toward a two-state solution.
“The past and the present have proved time and again that the two-state solution is the only viable way to resolve the Palestinian question as it represents international consensus, fairness and justice,” says Wang at a Palestinian-Israeli Peace Symposium convened by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Wang calls for the UN Security Council to host an international peace conference in order “to put the two-state solution into practice and restart peace talks between the two sides.”
Palestinian Authority Social Affairs Minister Ahmed Majdalani tells the conference that he hopes to “implement a set of measures to build confidence between peoples, improve the humanitarian situation and open a real window for negotiations to end the conflict.”
Brig. Gen. Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi has been tapped as the Israel Defense Forces’ next military advocate general, making her the second female major general in the country’s history.
Tomer-Yerushalmi will take over for Maj. Gen. Sharon Afek, the first openly gay major general in the IDF. Her nomination has been approved by Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit was also consulted about the appointment.
“Tomer-Yerushalmi is foremost a wonderful lawyer, with experience and a rich background in all fields needed for the military advocate general,” says Gantz. “I am sure that she will carry out her position excellently, dealing with the complicated missions that are on the docket, including defending IDF soldiers and international law and assisting the operational echelon in carrying out their position in accordance with the law.”
The military in recent years has faced criticism for failing to promote women to senior positions, as noted by Kohavi earlier this year as he pledged to address the matter.
Gantz, who as IDF chief of staff promoted the first female major general, the current Economy Minister Orna Barbivai, hails Tomer-Yerushalmi as a “trailblazer” who overhauled the legal status of and legal protections for women and fought sexual harassment.
“As defense minister, I am proud to name her the second woman at the rank of major general, and I am sure she won’t be the last,” Gantz says.
The World Health Organization’s emergency committee warns that new concerning variants of COVID-19 were expected to spread around the world, making it even harder to halt the pandemic.
“The pandemic is nowhere near finished,” the committee says in a statement, highlighting “the strong likelihood for the emergence and global spread of new and possibly more dangerous variants of concern that may be even more challenging to control.”
Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri says he is stepping down, nine months after he was named to the post by the parliament, citing “key differences” with the country’s president amid ongoing political deadlock.
The development is likely to plunge the country further into chaos and uncertainty. Lebanon is going through an unprecedented economic crisis, described by the World Bank as one of the worst in the world in 150 years.
“It is clear that we will not be able to agree with the president,” Hariri says, after a 20-minute meeting with President Michel Aoun, who is backed by the terror group Hezbollah.
A delegation of 10 ambassadors to the United States and the United Nations arrive at Ben Gurion Airport for a weeklong tour of Israel and meetings with Israeli officials.
The group consists of ambassadors from Australia, Argentina, Bhutan, Ukraine, Kenya, Guatemala, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Dominican Republic and Tonga, who will be led by Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan.
“A visit to Israel reveals the truth and leaves a mark on everyone who comes here,” says Erdan. “I set a goal for myself to bring to Israel as many ambassadors to the US and UN as possible to strengthen our position in the world and prove Israel’s right to defend itself.”
The trip includes a visit to Yad Vashem, security briefings with IDF officials and meetings with residents of communities near the Gaza Strip and in the north.
“We will present the truth about Israel to the ambassadors and I am convinced that they will return to their countries and to the UN and Washington with a clearer understanding of Israel’s confrontation with terrorist organizations,” Erdan says.
The former director of Mexico’s Criminal Investigation Agency, Tomas Zeron, has applied for asylum in Israel, reports The New York Times.
According to the report, Zeron, who is wanted on charges of embezzlement and compromising an investigation into a 2014 mass abduction, has been living in Israel for two years.
Israel has not answered Mexican requests to extradite him nor has it granted him asylum, says the newspaper.
The state prosecutor files yet another request to delay the next hearing in the corruption trial of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The prosecution is requesting another delay due to “personal reasons” related to Ilan Yeshua, the former CEO of Walla and a key witness in the trial. Hearings in the trial were slated to restart next week.
Daily coronavirus cases in Tokyo have surged above 1,300 for a six-month high, just one week before the Olympics.
There are concerns a dramatic increase could flood hospitals during the Olympics, which start on July 23.
Tokyo is under a fourth state of emergency. It began Monday and requires restaurants and bars to close early and not serve alcohol through the Olympics, which end in early August.
The tally today is the highest since 1,485 were recorded on January 21, when Japan was under an earlier state of emergency. It’s an increase from 1,149 cases on Wednesday.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) says that it will ease some restrictions of movement on Palestinians living in the West Bank for the Eid al-Adha holiday, which will be marked next week.
Palestinian families living in the West Bank will be freely able to visit relatives in Israel, and married men over 50 and women over 40 will be allowed to pray on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during the holiday. The hours of operation for several West Bank crossings will be extended during the holiday.
Entry into Israel during the holiday will be open to those who have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meets with Simcha and Leah Goldin, the parents of Hadar Goldin, the late IDF soldier whose body is being held by Hamas in Gaza.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Bennett told the Goldins that he will maintain regular contact with them and that his door is always open to them.
The Goldin family have been battling for the return of their son’s body since he was killed during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict. Leah accompanied then-president Reuven Rivlin on his farewell tour to the US last month to lobby the UN for his return.
Likud MK Nir Barkat is heading to the United States to hold meetings in Washington and New York.
Barkat, the former mayor of Jerusalem who has long been floated as a potential successor to former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is expected to use the trip to push back against the US plan to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem that serves Palestinians.
It is unclear if Barkat will return in time to cast his vote in the Knesset before the next plenum session on Monday. With an extremely narrow 61-seat majority government, every vote counts in the current Knesset, a situation that is even hindering Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s travels.
President Isaac Herzog and his wife, Michal, pay a visit to Lod to urge its residents to coexist following unprecedented violence in the city during the Israel-Hamas conflict in May.
“Lod is the State of Israel and the State of Israel is Lod,” Herzog says during his visit to the mixed Arab-Jewish city. “If we can’t learn to live together in Lod, we won’t be able to live together in the rest of the country.”
Herzog says that during his visit he encountered “immense love and sad pain. We must do everything in order to neutralize this pain and return to a path of love, unity, neighborliness and affection.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin plotted to ensure Donald Trump’s election as US president in 2016, according to an exclusive Guardian report.
The newspaper, citing what it believes to be leaked Kremlin documents, suggests that Putin told a January 2016 meeting of Russia’s national security council that Trump’s election would weaken the United States and strengthen Russia. Therefore, a report urged, Moscow should use “all possible force” to ensure he is elected.
A purported security assessment at the time labeled Trump as a “mentally unstable and unbalanced individual who suffers from an inferiority complex.”
The Health Ministry warns that a heatwave is expected to descend upon the country in the coming days, bringing higher than average temperatures to the already piping hot region.
The ministry warns citizens, in particular the elderly and those with preexisting conditions, to stay out of the sun and keep hydrated.
Tisha B’Av, during which observant Jews fast for 25 hours, is slated to be marked on Sunday.
Eight Israeli-Arab residents of Lod have been arrested for throwing Molotov cocktails at two homes in the city that were occupied by Jews in late May, security officials reveal.
The eight suspects allegedly hurled five Molotov cocktails at an apartment building in Lod on May 28 that was occupied by Jewish residents. Two apartments were damaged from the resulting flames, though no occupants were wounded in the attack.
A Shin Bet official says the attack was “different in character from other attacks during the clashes in May — it wasn’t carried out spontaneously in the heat of the moment but was planned over a period of several days.” The suspects are slated to be indicted in the coming days.
The attack occurred about a week after a ceasefire took effect following 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. During the conflict, heavy clashes between Jews and Arabs broke out across the country, particularly in Lod, and several people were killed.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meets in Tel Aviv with the owners of event halls and vows to work with them to allow large gatherings to continue even as COVID cases rise.
“We want to win but without closing everything,” he says. “However, if we do not act now, we will need to close everything.”
“Our goal is not to prevent weddings and celebrations in the halls,” he says. “That would be the easiest and the most damaging because there will then be pirate weddings without oversight. Our goal is to define how to hold them in a time of pandemics, with minimal harm to the events industry and maximum protection for the citizens of Israel.”
At least five people have been killed and three are missing after heavy rains hit Turkey’s northeastern Black Sea coast, triggering floods and landslides, officials and reports say.
A 75-year-old woman was found dead amid the debris of her three-story house in Rize’s Muradiye district, state-run Anadolu Agency reports. Rescuers recover the bodies of three people who died after mudslides partly destroyed a wooden house. The victims also include the head administrator of the nearby village of Asmaliirmak, who died after being swept away by the raging waters.
The heavy rains have also shut down access to dozens of villages and cut off power supplies and more than a hundred people have been evacuated from their homes.
Shelling by Syrian regime forces has killed nine civilians, including three children, in the Idlib region in the country’s northwest, a war monitor reports.
Since June, government forces have stepped up shelling of rebel groups dominating the Idlib region who in turn have responded by targeting regime positions in surrounding areas.
Regime shelling on the outskirts of the north Idlib town of Fuaa killed six civilians, including a child, says the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. In a separate attack on the Idlib village of Iblin, more than 35 kilometers (22 miles) south of Fuaa, regime shelling killed three other people, including two children, the monitor says.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is reportedly angry that news of her upcoming visit to Israel was leaked to Israeli media.
According to the Kan public broadcaster, Merkel, who is slated to leave office at the end of this year, agreed to visit Israel and meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in August. But her office reportedly requested that the visit be kept under wraps due to the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the trip, and was unhappy to see it aired in Israeli news reports.
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