The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.
The Tel Aviv Municipality lights up the city hall building in the colors of the German flag in solidarity with the Germans killed in the deadly flooding that has rocked swathes of Western Europe.
On behalf of the residents of @TelAviv-Yafo, I’m sending my condolences to the German people and our many friends in the country. Our thoughts are with all those affected by the devastating floods.🇩🇪 pic.twitter.com/jLllvAtg0E
— Mayor of Tel Aviv (@MayorOfTelAviv) July 18, 2021
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Families of the victims of the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires that left 85 dead and hundreds wounded renew their demands for justice as they mark the anniversary of the horror attack.
Argentina’s 300,000-strong Jewish community — the largest in South America — is angry that no one has ever been convicted over the bombing.
Today’s virtual event was organized by the Memoria Activa (active memory) association under the motto: “27 years without justice, full of memories.”
Argentina President Alberto Fernandez pays tribute to the family members who “remain strong in their demand for truth and justice.”
“In memory of every one of (the victims) and in honor of those that lost their loved ones, we must unite against impunity,” he writes on Twitter.
The bombing at the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA), a community center in Buenos Aires, remains the deadliest terror strike in the country’s history.
The initial investigation was botched and tainted by allegations of corruption.
In 2006, prosecutor Alberto Nisman took over the investigation and soon accused then-president Cristina Kirchner — now Fernandez’s vice-president — of a cover-up.
He accused Iran of ordering the attack via the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, but his efforts to prosecute five Iranian officials, including former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, were cut short when Kirchner’s administration signed a deal with Iran to set up a Tehran-based joint commission to investigate the attacks.
But just before he was due to present his findings to Congress in January 2015, Nisman died at his home in mysterious circumstances.
Omri Casspi formally announces he is retiring from professional basketball after a career that saw him become the first Israeli to break through in the NBA.
“I reached basketball heights that I never dreamed,” Casspi, 33, says at a press conference.
The forward has spent the past two seasons at local powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv since returning to Israel, but has been plagued by injuries.
Casspi played for numerous teams during his 10-year stint in the NBA and received a championship ring for his tenure with the Golden State Warriors during the 2017-2018 season.
A major investigation by 17 major international news organizations revealed that the embattled Israeli cyber firm NSO Group has sold hacking software used to target journalists and activists in dozens of countries.
The investigation was led by the Pegasus Project, which was formed by Forbidden Stories, a French journalism nonprofit and Amnesty International, who had access to more than 50,000 cellphone numbers believed to be among those targeted by clients using NSO Group software. Reporting was carried out by The Washington Post, Le Monde, Die Zeit, the Guardian, Haaretz, PBS Frontline, and many other news outlets.
The reporting focused on Pegasus, a spyware tool sold by NSO that it says is being used by dozens of governmental clients, many of them in authoritarian states. The analysis carried out on the leaked data found 10 countries believed to be NSO customers — Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, India, and the United Arab Emirates.
In a statement from its lawyers quoted by the Guardian, NSO dismisses “false claims” about its clients’ activities but says it will “continue to investigate all credible claims of misuse and take appropriate action.”
The firm also calls the 50,000 figure “exaggerated,” and says that just because a phone number was on the list does not mean it was targeted with Pegasus.
The new government is seeking to again delay the demolition of the West Bank village of Khan al-Ahmar, Channel 12 news reports, citing a letter Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has sent to Cabinet Secretary Shalom Shlomo.
Since the High Court of Justice okayed the state’s plans to raze the Bedouin Hamlet in 2018, the demolition has been delayed, despite then-premier minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vow to carry it out. Netanyahu was replaced last month when the power-sharing government between Lapid and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was sworn in.
Bennett, who heads the right-wing Yamina party, had criticized Netanyahu for not going through with the planned demolition before becoming prime minister.
Israel currently has only one fully vaccinated person younger than 60 who is hospitalized in serious condition with COVID-19, according to Health Ministry figures cited by Channel 12 news.
Of the 61 serious patients as of this evening, 24 are unvaccinated. Among the 37 who have received both vaccine shots, all but one are 60-years-old or over.
The government is considering imposing sweeping restrictions on international travel, given concerns over contagion from abroad, Channel 12 news reports.
According to the report, the restrictions could include the near-shuttering of Ben Gurion Airport and banning non-essential flights overseas.
The network says it is unclear if and when these far-reaching measures would be imposed, but that political leaders have ordered that plans be readied to implement them.
The report also says that the government is considering requiring all arriving travelers to fully quarantine, even those coming from destinations without high morbidity levels.
MADRID — The head of the Catalan regional health service says a new peak of COVID-19 infections at the end of this month could place hospitals under severe pressure, just as some staff go on their summer vacations.
Gemma Craywinckel tells RAC1 radio in an interview today that the northeastern Spanish region could see as many as 500 people in intensive care within two weeks, up from the current almost 300.
She says the Catalan public health system is already “under a lot of strain,” due to a surge in infections blamed on the Delta variant.
Craywinckel says authorities had failed to convey to local people the danger that the Delta variant represented. She also criticizes people who have confronted police officers enforcing a night-time curfew.
New President Isaac Herzog holds his first official work meeting with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.
A statement from Herzog’s spokesman says the two talked about “diplomatic challenges and advancing and strengthening the State of Israel’s diplomatic ties.”
Herzog, a former head of the Jewish Agency and ex-Labor party chief, told Lapid he is ready to help as needed in advancing Israel’s foreign relations, according to the statement.
Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Frej weighs in on events at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s comments about “freedom of worship” for Jews at the flashpoint holy site, despite a ban on non-Muslim prayer there.
“The slow-moving fracturing of the status quo at the Al-Aqsa compound doesn’t contribute anything besides instability in the regional and coalition,” tweets Frej, a member of the left-wing Meretz party.
The Health Ministry publishes updated coronavirus figures showing 515 new infections have been confirmed since midnight.
Of the 851,508 cases recorded in Israel since the pandemic began, 6,598 are active.
The number of serious cases stands at 61, and the death toll at 6,448.
So far today, 1.98% of coronavirus tests have come back positive, up from recent days.
According to the ministry, 5,743,266 people in Israel have gotten at least one coronavirus dose, and 5,230,540 people have received both shots.
Iranian state media is reporting an earthquake that measured 5.7 on the richter scale was felt in southwestern Iran.
There are no immediate reports on injuries or damage.
BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro leaves a hospital after being treated there since last week for an intestinal obstruction.
Bolsonaro was admitted to the Vila Nova Star Hospital in Sao Paulo on Wednesday because of abdominal pain and persistent hiccups, but appears to be in good spirits as he leaves, telling journalists that he hopes to be eating barbecue ribs in 10 days.
Doctors had originally considered operating on the 66-year-old Bolsonaro, but decided not to do so. For some days, Bolsonaro was fed through a tube, but he was deemed fit to leave the hospital today after returning to normal food intake.
Social media posts had shown Bolsonaro walking around the hospital and continuing to work, meeting with cabinet ministers via video conference.
In 2018, Bolsonaro was stabbed in the abdomen while on the campaign trail. Since then, he has undergone several operations, some unrelated to the attack.
DAMASCUS, Syria — A breakaway Palestinian terror organization that carried out headline-grabbing attacks against Israel in the 1970s and 1980s has named a veteran new leader after its longtime founder died, the group says.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) says Talal Naji was elected during a meeting in Damascus. He will replace Ahmed Jibril, who died on July 7 after being sick for months.
Naji was born in Nazareth in British-ruled Palestine in 1946. He studied in Syrian schools and joined the ranks of the Palestinian Liberation Front faction in 1962 before later joining the PFLP-GC.
Naji, who had lost an arm and an eye in a grenade explosion, reportedly while training, had been the deputy chief of the PFLP-GC since 1973. He obtained a doctorate in political science from Moscow in 1984.
Khaled Jibril, the son of the late leader, is named as his deputy.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is planning on visiting Morocco early next month to attend the inauguration of the Israeli diplomatic mission in Rabat, according to the Walla news site.
Citing Israeli sources, the news site says Lapid agreed on the visit with his Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita during a phone call next week, but morbidity levels in Israel and Morocco could cause the date to be changed.
The visit will be the first by an Israeli minister since the two countries agreed to renew diplomatic ties last year.
LONDON — UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson urges the public to remain prudent against COVID on the eve of lifting pandemic curbs in England, as he confirms he is self-isolating until July 26.
“Please, please, please be cautious, and go forward tomorrow into the next step with all the right prudence and respect for other people, and the risks that the disease continues to present,” he says.
Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash issues a fresh plea for Israelis to avoid traveling overseas for their summer vacations, noting coronavirus cases are rising in numerous countries.
“It’s not the time to fly abroad,” Ash says in a media briefing.
He also says he expects the number of new infections to continue rising, and that he’ll push the government to further extend the “Green Pass” to additional venues and events beyond those covered under the new “Revelry Pass.”
ADENAU, Germany — German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the world “must hurry” in the battle against global warming, as she visits a flood-stricken German area ravaged by a heavy rain many experts have attributed to climate change.
“We must hurry,” she tells reporters after touring Schuld, a western village devastated by last week’s deluge. “We have to be faster in the fight against climate change.”
A spokesman for Public Security Minister Omer Barlev insists there has been no change in policy regarding the ban on Jewish prayer at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The comment comes after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called to maintain freedom of worship at the holy site for Jews, even though they are currently barred from praying there. Bennett also said Muslims would continue to enjoy full freedom of worship at the Temple Mount.
The spokesman has not responded to an inquiry from a reporter for The Times of Israel regarding the police not taking action against Jews who appeared to pray at the site.
Egypt condemns an Israeli police raid on the Temple Mount that was followed by the ascent of hundreds of Jewish Israelis to the holy site to mark the Tisha B’Av fast.
The Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site, but it is also revered as the third holiest site in Islam by Muslims worldwide.
Cairo denounced “the renewed violations of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli extremists under the protection of the Israeli forces,” according to a spokesperson for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.
Ofir Gendelman, the Arabic-language spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office, issues a tweet saying full freedom of worship at the Temple Mount will fully be preserved for Muslims during the upcoming Eid al-Adha holiday this week.
The tweet comes after statements in Hebrew and English from the PMO in which Prime Minister Naftali Bennett made such a guarantee to Muslims, while also referring to “maintaining freedom of worship for Jews on the [Temple] Mount,” even though Jews are barred from praying at the Jerusalem holy site.
Turkey is now joining the condemnations of Israel after Jews visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City to mark the Tisha B’Av fast, following overnight clashes between Palestinians and cops at the holy site.
“Israeli security forces have once again violated the sanctity of al-Haram al-Sharif by allowing racist Jewish groups to raid al-Aqsa Mosque, attacking Palestinian civilians praying in the area and detaining Palestinian civilians, including children and women, leading to images that offended human dignity,” a statement from the Turkish foreign ministry says.
It adds: “The continuation of such provocations… is extremely dangerous.”
The Health Ministry says it is currently not recommending cancer patients receive a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine, after approving the administration of booster shots to the immunocompromised.
Citing figures from several hospitals, a ministry statement says around 90% of those undergoing chemotherapy were found to still have a high level of antibodies several months after being vaccinated.
It also warns of potential side effects from the vaccine among those with cancer.
Jewish comedian Sacha Baron Cohen suggests Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg should be imprisoned, after US President Joe Biden claimed social media firms were “killing people” due to the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines on their platforms.
“The President is right — Facebook is killing people,” Baron Cohen tweets. “CEOs have been jailed for less. But under US law, social media CEOs have near total immunity, which is insane.”
He calls for the law to be changed to “hold Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook accountable for the death they cause.”
Baron Cohen, who in recent years has frequently railed at Facebook, shares an edited image showing Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a jail cell, though he makes no mention of the latter in the tweet.
The President is right—Facebook is killing people.
CEOs have been jailed for less.
But under US law, social media CEOs have near total immunity, which is insane.
Change the law.
— Sacha Baron Cohen (@SachaBaronCohen) July 18, 2021
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has highlighted “freedom of worship for Jews on the [Temple] Mount,” in a statement that appears to be at odds with the status quo on the Mount, under which Jews are allowed to visit but not to pray there.
Bennett has just spoken with Public Security Minister Omer Barlev and Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, after over 1,600 Jews visited the Temple Mount today to mark the Tisha B’Av fast following overnights clashes, according to a statement issued by the premier’s office.
“The Prime Minister thanked the Public Security Minister and the Israel Police Inspector General for managing the events on the Temple Mount with responsibility and consideration, while maintaining freedom of worship for Jews on the Mount,” continues the statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, issued in English and Hebrew.
It adds that Bennett stressed “freedom of worship will also fully be preserved for Muslims,” noting the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha this week.
The Times of Israel has asked the Prime Minister’s Office to clarify whether the statement marks a change in policy, and is awaiting a response.
Jews are allowed to visit the Temple Mount under numerous restrictions but are barred from praying there.
However, a television report yesterday said police have been quietly permitting some Jewish worship at the site in Jerusalem’s Old City, which is the holiest place in Judaism and site of the third holiest shrine in Islam.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid denounces a group of far-right Orthodox activists who overran the pluralistic prayer pavilion at the Western Wall, where the Conservative Movement was holding prayers for the Tisha B’Av fast.
“On the day we commemorate the destruction of the Temple, a group of extremists decided to desecrate the holiness of the day and the holiness of the place and start a violent struggle at the Kotel,” Lapid tweets, using the Hebrew name for the Western Wall. “That’s the baseless hatred that led to the destruction of the Temple and our exile.”
He adds: “We won’t let them destroy the Kotel, destroy Israeli society or destroy our relations with the Jewish world. The Kotel belongs to every stream of Judaism and it will be a place where every Jew feels at home.”
New President Isaac Herzog also weighs in.
“I was very saddened by what happened yesterday at the Western Wall,” Herzog says during an event at his official residence.
The government has signed off on a new ordinance requiring anyone entering a summer camp to present a negative coronavirus test if they haven’t been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19.
Under the decree, which will take effect on Tuesday, the negative test results must be from the past 72 hours.
Those who are vaccinated or recovered will have to show a “Green Pass’ verifying their status.
The Ra’am party condemns the ascent of hundreds of Jewish “settlers” to the Temple Mount this morning in observance of the Tisha B’Av fsat.
“The Al-Aqsa Mosque, in its 144 dunams, is solely the property of Muslims, and no one else has any right to it,” the Islamist party says in a joint statement with its parent organization, the Islamic Movement.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third-holiest site in Islam. But the Temple Mount is also Judaism’s holiest site, as the two biblical temples were said to be built on the hilltop. A fragile status quo prevails at the flashpoint sanctuary, with Jewish prayer officially forbidden.
Authorities “allowed officials and Knesset members to storm Al-Aqsa, perform prayers, perform religious rituals, and declaim the Israeli national anthem Hatikva in the courtyards of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Ra’am says, listing a number of actions its members consider to be provocations.
Israeli police were said to clear out Muslim worshippers in advance of the Jewish pilgrimage, which happens yearly on Tisha B’Av. Palestinians threw stones at officers, police said this morning.
There were no reports of serious injuries following the clashes. A few Palestinians were said to be detained, although Israel Police have not confirmed the reports.
Ra’am says that such actions could lead to renewed escalation between Israelis and Palestinians.
“The events that may result from it could inflame the situation in Jerusalem and the entire region, leading to a catastrophic religious war,” Ra’am says.
Over 1,600 Jews visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City today during the Tisha B’Av fast, according to figures cited by Israeli media.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The energy minister of the United Arab Emirates says OPEC and allied countries have reached a “full agreement” after an earlier dispute that roiled oil prices.
The comments by Suhail al-Mazrouei come after an online meeting today to reach a deal. Al-Mazrouei offers no immediate details.
Earlier this month, talks over oil production fell apart, in part over the United Arab Emirates wanting to increase its own production levels.
That sparked tension between the country and Saudi Arabia, long the heavyweight of the Vienna-based cartel, amid other disagreements between the two neighboring Gulf Arab nations.
Oil prices collapsed amid the coronavirus pandemic, as demand for jet fuel and gasoline dropped in lockdowns across the globe, briefly seeing oil futures trade in the negatives.
Demand since has rebounded, as vaccines, while still distributed unequally across the globe, reach arms in major world economies.
Benchmark Brent crude oil traded around $73 a barrel on Friday.
Jordan denounces Israel after around 1,000 Jews visit the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City to mark the fast of Tisha B’Av — which mourns the destruction of the Jewish holy temples — following overnight clashes at the holy site between Palestinians and police.
“The Israeli actions against the mosque are rejected and condemned, and represent a violation of the historical and legal status quo, international law, and Israel’s obligations as an occupying power in East Jerusalem,” a Jordanian foreign ministry spokesman is quoted saying in a statement carried by the official Petra news agency.
The spokesman says a letter of protest was sent to Israel.
Under their 1994 peace treaty, Israel recognized Jordan as the custodian of the Temple Mount and other Muslim holy sites in the Old City, which was among the Jordanian-annexed areas that Israeli forces captured in the 1967 Six Day War.
BAGHDAD — A US drone attack targeted a truck of an Iran-backed militia in eastern Syria today, destroying the vehicle without causing any casualties, two Iraqi militia officials say.
The attack comes amid increasing tensions in the region between the US military and Iran-backed Iraqi militias in recent weeks. The Americans have targeted militants who used drones and rockets to hit bases housing US troops.
The Iraqi militia officials refuse to say what the truck was carrying. They say the US drone first fired a warning shot, after which the driver jumped out, and a missile hit the vehicle shortly afterward. They say the truck belonged to Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, which is active along the Iraq-Syria border.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
There is no immediate comment from the US military.
Syrian state TV also reports the attack, saying it was carried out by American drones. It says the truck was carrying food and there were no human losses.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, says the truck was carrying weapons and ammunition for an Iraqi militia, and was hit shortly after crossing the border from Iraq. It claims that the driver was killed.
Restaurant owners are expressing opposition to reported Health Ministry plans to seek the reimposition of the “Green Pass,” which limits attendance at various venues to people who are vaccinated against COVID-19, recovered from it or who undergo a coronavirus test.
“Businesses with small capacity cannot implement the restrictions of the Green Pass,” Shai Berman, head of the Israel Restaurants and Bars Association, tells Channel 12 news.
He notes that despite rising infection numbers, serious cases remain well below levels in past outbreaks.
“In the present morbidity situation and in light of the fact that many Israelis are remaining here this summer, it will be very difficult to secure cooperation from the public for applying the Green Pass that will keep away children from entertainment venues,” Berman argues.
He also asserts that rapid tests are unworkable at eateries.
The network also quotes unnamed sources in the restaurant industry saying they will oppose reintroducing the Green Pass at small businesses and that they will only agree to rapid testing for indoor dining at establishments with over 100 people.
ROME — Daily new caseloads of confirmed COVID-19 infections are surging in Italy.
Health experts say it’s clear that nationwide celebrations by Italian fans after European Championship soccer matches are a significant factor.
Thousands of fans jammed Rome’s streets on July 12 to cheer an open-topped bus tour by Italy’s national team, which won Euro 2020 by beating England the night before.
A pediatric specialist who advises Italy’s government on anti-pandemic health measures tells La Repubblica daily in an interview today that “the gatherings and the crowding favored the viral circulation.”
Dr. Franco Locatelli says the average age of infected people in Italy is now 28.
CAIRO — Egyptian activist and journalist Esraa Abdel-Fattah, one of the symbols of the 2011 revolution, has been freed after nearly 22 months in pre-trial detention, lawyer Khaled Ali says today.
Ali, as well as friends of Abdel-Fattah, has posted photographs online of her being released from prison.
In 2008, Abdel-Fattah created an “April 6” Facebook page in support of striking workers and to call for political reforms, at the start of the mobilization of mass protests that would lead to the toppling of president Hosni Mubarak three years later.
Abdel-Fattah, 43, was arrested in October 2019 on charges of “spreading false news” and “collaborating with a terrorist group.”
Her detention sparked international condemnation, with the US calling it “scandalous.”
Abdel-Fattah, who was also previously jailed under Mubarak, walked free just hours after a surprise decision by the prosecution to release her.
She had opposed the Muslim Brotherhood when they took power in Egypt in 2012 and backed the 2013 protests that led to the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
Under Egyptian law, pre-trial detention can be extended for up to two years.
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