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Israel expected to require all travelers entering the country to self-isolate

Coronavirus cabinet will likely adopt recommendation Tuesday to reinstate quarantine, including for vaccinated and recovered COVID patients, TV reports say

Travellers seen in the departure hall at the Ben Gurion International Airport, on July 19, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Travellers seen in the departure hall at the Ben Gurion International Airport, on July 19, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s developments as they unfolded.

Herzog wishes Abbas a happy Eid al-Adha, in 2nd call in just over a week

President Isaac Herzog speaks with PA President Mahmoud Abbas for the second time in eight days, according to Hebrew media reports.

Herzog wishes Abbas a happy Eid al-Adha. The call comes hours after Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks with the Palestinian leader.

21 killed, 33 wounded in bombing at Baghdad market

At least 21 people were killed and 33 wounded in a bomb blast in a busy market in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, a medical source tells AFP.

The blast in the densely populated majority-Shiite suburb of Sadr City came as shoppers crowded the market buying food ahead of the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha.

Video footage shared on social media after the blast shows bloodied victims and people screaming in terror.

An interior ministry source says four women and four children were among those killed.

“A terror attack using a locally-made IED (improvised explosive device) in Woheilat Market in Sadr City, in east Baghdad, left several victims dead and others injured,” Iraq’s interior ministry says in a statement.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Ben & Jerry’s Israel: Don’t boycott us!

Ben & Jerry’s Israel —  the local subsidiary whose licensing agreement will not be renewed at the end of 2022 as the global ice cream company ends sales in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — urges Israelis not to boycott the company and stop buying its ice cream products in protest of the decision.

“The Israeli consumer must not punish the Israeli factory, which is independent and employs hundreds of people in southern Israel,” it says in a statement.

 

BDS movement cheers Ben & Jerry’s for taking stand against ‘apartheid Israel’

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement applauds Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop sales in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as “a decisive step towards ending the company’s complicity in Israel’s occupation and violations of Palestinian rights,” but calls upon the company to do more.

“We hope that Ben & Jerry’s has understood that, in harmony with its social justice commitments, there can be no business as usual with apartheid Israel,” a statement reads.

AIPAC condemns ‘discriminatory’ Ben & Jerry’s boycott

The AIPAC lobbying group says Ben & Jerry’s decision to end sales in so-called “Occupied Palestinian Territory” is “discriminatory” and “against the interests of peace.”

TV: If Israel offers 3rd vaccine shot, Pfizer to immediately provide supply

Israel has reached a secret agreement with Pfizer-BioNTech, under which the pharmaceutical company will immediately provide shipments of immunizations to the Jewish state if Israel declares that it is administering booster COVID shots, Channel 13 reports.

The agreement would supplant the existing deals on deliveries, the network says.

Bennett: We will fight Ben & Jerry boycott ‘with all our might’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop selling ice cream in the so-called “Occupied Palestinian Territory” is a mistake.

“Ben & Jerry’s decided to brand itself as anti-Israel ice cream,” says Bennett. “This is a moral mistake and I believe it will turn out to be a business mistake as well.”

“The boycott against Israel… reflects that they have totally lost their way. The boycott doesn’t work and won’t work and we will fight it with all our might,” adds Bennett.

Gantz calls PA’s Abbas, wishes him a happy Eid al-Adha

Defense Minister Benny Gantz calls Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to wish him a happy Eid al-Adha, his office says.

“The two spoke with a positive air and discussed the needed to advance confidence-building measures between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which will assist the security and economy of the entire region,” Gantz’s office says.

Israel to require all travelers entering country to self-isolate — TV

Israel will likely require all travelers — including the vaccinated and those who have recovered from COVID-19 — entering the country to self-isolate to stem the resurgence of the coronavirus, according to television reports.

The coronavirus cabinet is expected to adopt the recommendation during a Tuesday meeting, Channels 12 and 13 say. Currently, the vaccinated and recovered only need to enter quarantine if they returned from a location designated high-risk by the Health Ministry.

Health officials are divided on whether the mandatory quarantine should be seven days or four days, Channel 13 says.

TV: Ex-Mossad chief accused of sharing classified intel with flight attendant

Former Mossad intelligence agency director Yossi Cohen is suspected of sharing classified information with a flight attendant with whom he was in close contact for the past two years, Channel 13 reports.

A complaint has been filed with the Justice Ministry, which is being reviewed by the attorney general, the television report says.

Cohen flatly denies the allegations, telling the network: “There is no flight attendant, there is no close relationship, the attorney general has not contacted me” about the complaint.

Defense Ministry vows to take ‘appropriate action’ if NSO violated license rules

Israel’s Defense Ministry says that if it finds that the NSO Group violated the terms of its export licenses it will “take appropriate action,” following an international investigation that found the company’s cyber surveillance products were used by governments around the world to track political dissidents and journalists, some of whom were killed.

In a statement, the ministry says that Israel only permits companies to export cyber security products to “government figures only for legal purposes and to prevent and investigate crimes and to combat terrorism. And this is dependent upon commitments regarding the end use/user from the purchasing country, which must abide by these conditions.”

“If it is found that there was use [of NSO Group’s products] in violation of the conditions of the license or in violation of the statements from the purchasing countries, we will take appropriate action,” the ministry says.

The ministry refuses to say if it will investigate the claims in the reports, which were published by the Washington Post, Le Monde, Die Zeit, the Guardian, Haaretz, PBS Frontline, and other news outlets that collaborated on an investigation into a data leak of more than 50,000 cellphone numbers obtained by the Paris-based journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International and shared with 17 news organizations.

Amazon shuts down accounts linked to NSO Group — report

Amazon has shut down accounts and infrastructure linked to Israeli spyware firm NSO Group, amid the international scandal over its Pegasus software, Vice reports.

“When we learned of this activity, we acted quickly to shut down the relevant infrastructure and accounts,” Amazon says.

The NSO Group and its Pegasus malware — capable of switching on a phone’s camera or microphone and harvesting its data — have been in the headlines since 2016, when researchers accused it of helping spy on a dissident in the United Arab Emirates.

A collaborative investigation by The Washington Post, The Guardian, Le Monde and other media outlets, based on a leaked list of 50,000 phone numbers, revealed the spying may have been far more extensive than previously thought.

The leaked numbers are believed to be connected to people identified by NSO clients as potential surveillance targets.

They include one linked to a murdered Mexican journalist and family members of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Amid outcry over NSO Group, UN urges better regulation of surveillance tech

The UN voices alarm at reports that several governments used Israeli phone malware to spy on activists, journalists, and others, stressing the urgent need for better regulation of surveillance technology.

The reports about the Pegasus spyware made by Israeli firm NSO Group “confirm the urgent need to better regulate the sale, transfer and use of surveillance technology and ensure strict oversight and authorization,” UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet says in a statement.

Lapid: Ben & Jerry’s move a ‘disgraceful capitulation to antisemitism’

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid condemns Ben & Jerry’s over their decision to end ice cream sales in so-called “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

“Ben & Jerry’s decision is a disgraceful capitulation to antisemitism, to BDS [the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel], to all that is evil in the anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish discourse,” says Lapid. “We won’t be silent.”

The foreign minister says he will ask the over 30 US states to implement their anti-BDS laws against Ben & Jerry’s in retaliation. The laws requires states to divest from companies that boycott Israel.

Meretz MK: Ben & Jerry’s decision a result of settlement expansion, land grabs

A left-wing Meretz lawmaker blames Israel’s settlement expansion for Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop selling ice cream in areas claimed by the Palestinians for their future state.

“Ben & Jerry’s is not boycotting Israel, but rather the settlements. You may not like it, but this is the price of settlement expansion, land grabs, and the blurring of the Green Line,” tweets MK Michal Rozin.

The ice cream company said it would stop sales in “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” without specifying which areas it views as such.

Another 915 COVID cases recorded since midnight

The Health Ministry records another 915 new COVID-19 cases since midnight, bringing the number of active infections in the country to 7,369.

The number of serious patients has declined slightly, dropping from 66 to 60. Among them, 17 are critical and 12 are on ventilators. The death toll remains steady at 6,450.

According to the ministry, the city with the most infections is Tel Aviv-Jaffa (647), followed by Netanya (361), Petah Tikva (347) and Rishon Lezion (236).

 

Netanyahu, Shaked shun Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop West Bank sales

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked condemns Ben & Jerry’s for their decision to end their ice cream sales in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory” from late 2022.

“Your ice cream brand doesn’t match our tastes. We’ll be fine without you,” she says.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu also weighs in. “Now we Israelis know which ice cream NOT to buy,” he tweets.

Settler leader accuses Jewish-owned Ben & Jerry’s of ‘antisemitism’

The head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, blasts Ben & Jerry’s for ending its sales in areas claimed by the Palestinians for their future state.

“The residents of Samaria [West Bank] and this land will stand strong long after Ben & Jerry’s ice cream melts and disappears from the world,” says Dagan in a statement. “We won’t give in to this antisemitism, which has permeated American Jewry.”

The settler leader urges Israelis to buy locally produced ice cream.

The founders of the iconic ice cream brand are Jewish.

Morocco court jails journalist reported to have Israel spyware in phone

A Moroccan court sentences to six years in jail the journalist and human rights activist Omar Radi on charges of espionage and rape, which he has denied.

Radi’s trial opened in June last year, days after rights group Amnesty International charged that Moroccan authorities had inserted Israel-made Pegasus spyware on his cellphone.

Israeli distributor slams Ben & Jerry’s for dropping licensing deal

Ben & Jerry’s current Israel distributor condemns the ice cream company’s decision to end sales in “Occupied Palestinian Territory” and drop its licensing agreement with them.

“The decision is entirely unacceptable. Ben & Jerry’s international decided not to renew their agreement with us in a year and a half after we refused their demand to stop distribution throughout Israel,” it says. “We urge the Israeli government and consumers — don’t let them boycott Israel.”

“Keep ice cream out of politics,” it adds.

The distributor also urges Israelis to buy locally produced ice cream.

Ben & Jerry’s to end ice cream sales in ‘Occupied Palestinian Territory’

The Ben & Jerry’s ice cream giant announces it will no longer distribute its products in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” though the flavors will remain available in Israel.

“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.

“We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region. We have been working to change this, and so we have informed our licensee that we will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year.

“Although Ben & Jerry’s will no longer be sold in the OPT, we will stay in Israel through a different arrangement. We will share an update on this as soon as we’re ready,” it says.

Ben & Jerry’s didn’t specify what the Occupied Palestinian Territory was.

Morocco denies using Israeli spyware, including on journalists

Morocco says it “categorically rejects” claims its intelligence services had used Israeli spyware Pegasus to monitor critics at home and abroad, a government statement reads.

Rabat says it has “never acquired computer software to infiltrate communication devices” and denies it had “infiltrated the phones of several national and international public figures and heads of international organizations through computer software.”

A joint investigation by several Western media outlets said Sunday that numerous activists, journalists, executives and politicians around the world had been spied on using the software developed by Israeli firm NSO.

Ash warns against international travel, but says no plans to shutter airport

Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash urges Israelis to avoid international travel, saying those who choose to fly abroad “are endangering themselves and their families.”

He warns that additional countries will soon be added to the list of states that will require quarantine for returning Israelis, including the vaccinated and recovered.

Ash says the closure of the airport is not currently being discussed.

His comments come as reports say 37,000 travelers passed through Ben Gurion Airport on Monday.

“Quarantine is the best measure to prevent the entry of infections from abroad,” he adds, urging returning travelers to heed the rules.

Ash acknowledges the vaccines’ effectiveness in preventing contagion appears to be reduced for the Delta strain, but he emphasizes the shots remain highly effective in preventing serious illness and urges those who are not immunized to get vaccinated.

He predicts that Israel could see 2,000 new COVID cases a day in two weeks’ time, and 30 new serious cases per day.

Ash says the elderly must take greater precautions to avoid contracting the virus.

Likud MK seeks to convince Gantz to leave government, become PM

Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud is attempting to persuade Blue and White’s Benny Gantz to leave the government and form an alternate coalition with right-wing parties.

“If Benny Gantz wants to be prime minister, he will be prime minister — right now,” Likud MK Miki Zohar tells the Knesset channel.

Zohar later tweets at Gantz: “Join us to form a national government without the left and without representatives of the Islamic Movement and save the people of Israel from this bad government.”

Gantz, the defense minister who previously joined a power-sharing government with Likud, does not immediately respond.

Police minister says cops won’t crash weddings to ensure new rules observed

As the government approves the so-called “Revelry Pass,” Public Security Minister Omer Barlev says police will check that the health rules are observed at weddings, but likely won’t enter the event halls.

“There is no intention for police and inspectors to break into halls and forcibly remove revelers,” he says.

The new pass will require mass events with over 100 participants to ensure all are vaccinated, recovered or tested negative for the coronavirus.

Tightening rules, Saudi Arabia says only the fully vaccinated can travel abroad

Any Saudi citizen wishing to travel abroad will be required to have had two doses of coronavirus vaccine from next month, tightening existing measures, the interior ministry says.

“The second dose of the vaccine against COVID-19 will be a condition of all overseas travel for all citizens from August 9, 2021,” the ministry writes in a statement published by the official SPA news agency.

Children under 12, those with approved health insurance, patients recovered from coronavirus within the last six months and former COVID patients who received one dose of vaccine will be exempt.

Officials said in May that vaccines would be mandatory from August to access public and private spaces, including public transportation. At that time only a single dose was required for travel abroad.

In addition, only vaccinated employees will be able to return to their places of work, whether in the public or private sector.

Saudi Arabia is hosting the annual hajj pilgrimage, with just 60,000 residents or citizens of the kingdom allowed to participate. Authorities said Sunday that not a single COVID case had been reported so far among pilgrims.

The health ministry, however, reported an additional 1,055 COVID cases and 12 fatalities Sunday in the kingdom, bringing the total number of infections to 509,576 and the total death toll to 8,075.

Rabid jackal attacks several Israelis in north

A rabid jackal attacked several people near the Western Galilee town of Shomera on Friday, the Health Ministry says.

The ministry urges Israelis who have come in contact with animals suspected to be rabid in the area to immediately contact the health authorities.

It was not immediately clear from the Health Ministry statement if the infected animal had been captured.

Palestinian man seriously injured in West Bank car crash

A Palestinian man in his 60s is seriously injured in a car accident in the southern West Bank, outside the settlement of Otniel.

The man apparently lost control of his vehicle, ramming into a boulder, according to Hebrew reports.

He has been hospitalized with serious injuries.

Lapid meets with delegation of international ambassadors to US and UN

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets in Jerusalem with ambassadors to the US and UN from around the world.

Lapid discusses regional developments, Iran’s nuclear program, and the UN’s treatment of Israel with the envoys.

The group, organized by Israel’s ambassador to the United States and the United Nations Gilad Erdan, will visit the northern border and the Gaza border region in the coming days.

The 26-person delegation arrived in Israel Thursday night for the week-long tour, sponsored by the American Zionist Movement. Envoys from Kenya, Hungary, Argentina, the Czech Republic, Bhutan, the Dominican Republic, Ukraine, Tonga, Guatemala and Australia — as well as their spouses — were on the tour, in addition to representatives from Jewish organizations like March of the Living, AZM and B’nai B’rith.

“It will help us to block negative initiatives against Israel,” Erdan told The Times of Israel on Friday. “Every country has its own vote at the UN, so every ambassador counts.”

Hungary MPs demand investigation into government’s alleged use of NSO malware

Opposition lawmakers in Hungary’s parliament have demanded an inquiry into findings by an international investigation that the country’s right-wing government used powerful malware to spy on critical journalists, politicians and business figures.

The investigation by a global media consortium suggested that military-grade spyware from Israel-based NSO Group, was used in Hungary to infiltrate the digital devices of a range of targets — including at least 10 lawyers, one opposition politician and at least five journalists.

The results of the investigation, headed by the French nonprofit journalism organization Forbidden Stories, were published Sunday, prompting three members of Hungary’s parliamentary national security committee to call for an emergency session to question government agencies on their potential involvement in the spying.

View of the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest. (Flickr/Dennis Jarvis)

Janos Stummer, the committee’s chairman and a lawmaker from the right-wing opposition party Jobbik, tells The Associated Press that the surveillance described by the investigation is “not permissible in a state governed by the rule of law.”

The committee will question Hungary’s national security and intelligence agencies on the allegations, he says, adding that a majority of seats on the committee are held by governing party lawmakers who could potentially block the inquiry by boycotting the session.

“Our perspective is that staying silent would essentially be an acknowledgement that the government is indeed involved in this,” Stummer says.

The investigation, drawing from a list of more than 50,000 cellphone numbers obtained by Forbidden Stories and the human rights group Amnesty International, identified more than 1,000 individuals in 50 countries who were allegedly selected by NSO clients for potential surveillance.

The malware, Pegasus, infiltrates phones to vacuum up personal and location data and surreptitiously control the smartphone’s microphones and cameras. In the case of journalists, that lets hackers spy on reporters’ communications with sources.

Iran imposes week-long lockdown on Tehran as virus surges

Iran imposes a week-long lockdown on the capital, Tehran, and the surrounding region as the country struggles with another surge in the coronavirus pandemic, state media reports.

The lockdown — the nation’s fifth so far — will begin on Tuesday and last until next Monday. All bazaars, market places and public offices will close, as well as movie theaters, gyms and restaurants in both Tehran province and the neighboring province of Alborz.

Iran reported 25,441 new cases on Monday and 213 deaths over the past day, bringing the overall death toll to 87,374 from among more than 3.5 million confirmed cases in the pandemic.

During an earlier surge in cases, in April, Iran reported the highest daily number of cases, 25,582. At the time, its daily death tolls surged to around 400, below the grim record of 486 reached last November.

Iranian authorities have lately been warning about a new surge, fueled by the fast-spreading delta variant. In sanctions-hit Iran, which has the highest COVID-19 death toll in the Middle East, less than 2% of the population of 84 million has received both doses, mainly of the imported Russian and Chinese vaccines.

Cabinet okays limits on large gatherings, including weddings

The cabinet approves the “Revelry Pass,” which will create limitations for weddings, parties and other large indoor celebratory events, the Prime Minister’s Office says.

The new rules go into effect on Wednesday. The regulations will limit gatherings of over 100 people to those who are vaccinated, recovered or who present a negative COVID test. While the gatherings won’t be limited in size, masks will be mandatory, except when eating or drinking.

The pass will not apply to sit-down culture events such as theater, movies and concerts. It will only apply to events “held standing and with movement — including mingling between participants,” a PMO statement has said, highlighting “weddings and celebrations, standing performances, parties and conferences” as examples.

Disposable plasticware prices to double in 2022 under new tax proposal

In a bid to drive down waste, the Finance Ministry and Environmental Protection Ministry plan to impose a tax on disposable plasticware.

The 100 percent tax — which will go into effect in early 2022, pending Knesset approval — could see the price of plastic plates, cups, straws and containers double.

Israelis spend NIS 2 billion annually on plasticware, with the amount per person nearly five times that of those in the EU, the ministries say in a joint statement. The new tax is expected to reduce purchases of the environmentally harmful items by 40 percent, the statement says.

Lapid: We’ve reassured Jordan there’s no change to Temple Mount status quo

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid says there is no change to the longstanding religious arrangements on the Temple Mount, under which only Muslims may pray at the site.

“There is no change to the status quo on the Temple Mount. We’ve clarified this to the Jordanians,” says Lapid. The Jordanian Waqf are the official custodians of the site.

His comments come after sources in the Prime Minister’s Office told Army Radio that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had misspoken on Sunday when he said both Jews and Muslims have “freedom of worship” on the Temple Mount, which would be a potentially explosive change after decades of Jews being permitted only to visit, but not pray, there.

The Temple Mount is the holiest place in Judaism, as the site of the two ancient Jewish Temples. It is also the site of the third-holiest shrine in Islam, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and has long been a flashpoint between Israelis and Palestinians.

While Jews can visit the site in Jerusalem’s Old City, the long-maintained status quo there has been that any non-Muslims are forbidden from praying there. Hints or rumors of changes to that status have been stridently opposed by the Muslim world, and have sparked deadly protests and angry denunciations from Arab governments.

Bennett’s original statement came a day after Channel 12 news reported that groups of observant Jews have been ascending to the Temple Mount in recent months and quietly praying without interruption by police. The TV report called the development “a revolution unfolding gradually under the radar.”

Lapid confirms he’ll travel to Morocco for ‘historic’ visit

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid confirms he’ll travel to Morocco for an official visit, the first for an Israeli top diplomat.

Speaking at a Yesh Atid faction meeting in the Knesset, Lapid says the “historic” trip will take place following the renewal of direct flights between Rabat and Tel Aviv later this month.

“After my trip to Morocco, [Moroccan Foreign] Minister [Nasser] Bourita will come visit Israel to open missions here,” adds Lapid.

After a 20-year lull in diplomatic relations, Israel and Morocco renewed their ties late last year, amid a wave of normalization agreements between Jerusalem and Arab countries.

Health minister, interior minister at odds over health coverage for migrants

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz a plan to extend health insurance to tens of thousands of African asylum seekers in Israel.

His proposal, first reported by the Haaretz daily and confirmed by the left-wing minister in a tweet, is swiftly opposed by Israel’s right-wing interior minister.

Yamina’s Ayelet Shaked “opposes any step that will lead to the entrenchment of illegal infiltrators in Israel and will use all means at her disposal to take them out of the country,” her office says, according to Hebrew reports.

 

11 rock-throwing attacks on Jerusalem buses reported Sunday; 1 injured

The Egged bus company has reported 11 rock-throwing attacks on its buses in Jerusalem on Sunday, mostly around the Old City’s Damascus Gate, the Ynet news site reports.

The assaults injured one person, who was hospitalized with a head injury, the report says. A number of buses suffered shattered windows and other damage.

Egged chairman Avi Friedman brands the uptick in stone-throwing “a real terror attack that was premeditated with the aim of harming visitors to the Western Wall and deterring [them from visiting the holy site].”

The attacks came during the Tisha B’Av fast, which marks the destruction of the Jewish Temples in Jerusalem, and amid renewed tensions between Palestinians and Jews around the Temple Mount.

US: Microsoft Exchange email hack was caused by China

The Biden administration blames China for a hack of Microsoft Exchange email server software that compromised tens of thousands of computers around the world earlier this year.

The administration and allied nations also disclose a broad range of other cyberthreats from Beijing, including ransomware attacks from government-affiliated hackers that have targeted companies with demands for millions of dollars. China’s Ministry of State Security has been using criminal contract hackers, who have engaged in cyber extortion schemes and theft for their own profit, according to a senior administration official. That official briefed reporters about the investigation on the condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department announces charges against four Chinese nationals who prosecutors say were working with the Ministry of State Security in a hacking campaign that targeted dozens of computer systems, including companies, universities and government entities.

The announcements highlight the ongoing cyberthreat posed by Chinese government hackers even as the administration has been consumed with trying to curb ransomware attacks from Russia-based syndicates that have targeted critical infrastructure, including a massive fuel pipeline. Even though the finger-pointing was not accompanied by any sanctions of Beijing, a senior administration official who disclosed the actions to reporters says that the US has confronted senior Chinese officials and that the White House regards the multination public shaming as sending an importance message.

That hackers affiliated with the Ministry of State Security carried out a ransomware attack was surprising and concerning to the US government, the senior administration official says. But the attack, in which an unidentified American company received a high-dollar ransom demand, also gave US officials new insight into what the official said was “the kind of aggressive behavior that we’re seeing coming out of China.”

AP predicts: Israel to win gold in men’s floor exercise at Tokyo Games

The Associated Press is predicting Israel will win gold at the Tokyo Olympics in the floor exercise of men’s artistic gymnastics. It’s also betting on a bronze medal for Israel’s national baseball team and in a judo category, and for its group rhythmic gymnastics, and more. Below are its predictions for Israeli athletes at the Games later this month.

FLOOR EXERCISE: Men

Gold: Artem Dolgopyat, Israel

Silver: Nikita Nagornyy, ROC

Bronze: Xiao Ruoteng, China

BASEBALL

Gold: Japan

Silver: United States

Bronze: Israel

MARATHON: Women

Gold: Brigid Kosgei, Kenya

Silver: Lonah Chemtai Salpeter, Israel

Bronze: Mizuki Matsuda, Japan

JUDO: Men’s 81 kg

Gold: Matthias Casse, Belgium

Silver: Sagi Muki, Israel

Bronze: Takanori Nagase, Japan; Tato Grigalashvili, Georgia

RHYTHMIC GYMNASTICS: Group

Gold: ROC

Silver: Bulgaria

Bronze: Israel

All-Around

Gold: Dina Averina, ROC

Silver: Arina Averina, ROC

Bronze: Linoy Ashram, Israel

WINDSURFING, Women

Gold: Lilian De Geus, Netherlands

Silver: Charline Picon, France

Bronze: Katy Spychakov, Israel

Russia reports successful test launch of hypersonic missile

The Russian military reports another successful test launch of a new Zircon hypersonic cruise missile.

Russia’s Defense Ministry says the missile was launched from an Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate located in the White Sea, in the north of Russia.

The ministry says the missile successfully hit a target more than 350 kilometers (217 miles) away on the coast of the Barents Sea.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the Zircon missile would be capable of flying at nine times the speed of sound and have a range of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles).

An earlier test launch took place in October, on Putin’s birthday. Russia’s leader hailed it as a “big event” for the country.

“Equipping our armed forces — the army and the navy — with the latest, truly unparalleled weapon systems will certainly ensure the defense capability of our country in the long term,” Putin said at the time.

Holocaust survivor denounces French rally linking vaccines to Nazi horrors

A French Holocaust survivor denounces anti-vaccination protesters comparing themselves to Jews who were persecuted by Nazi Germany during World War II. French officials and anti-racism groups join the 94-year-old in expressing indignation.

As more than 100,000 people marched around France against government vaccine rules on Saturday, some demonstrators wore yellow stars recalling the ones the Nazis forced Jews to wear. Other demonstrators carried signs evoking the Auschwitz death camp or South Africa’s apartheid regime, claiming the French government was unfairly mistreating them with its anti-pandemic measures.

“You can’t imagine how much that upset me. This comparison is hateful. We must all rise up against this ignominy,” Holocaust survivor Joseph Szwarc says during a ceremony commemorating victims of antisemitic and racist acts by the French state, which collaborated with Adolf Hitler’s regime.

“I wore the star, I know what that is, I still have it in my flesh,” Szwarc, who was deported from France by the Nazis, says with tears in his eyes. “It is everyone’s duty to not allow this outrageous, antisemitic, racist wave to pass over us.”

France’s secretary of state for military affairs, who also attended the ceremony, calls the protesters’ actions “intolerable and a disgrace for our republic.”

The International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism says the protesters were “mocking victims of the Holocaust” and minimizing crimes against humanity committed during World War II.

Saturday’s protests involved a mix of people angry at the government for various reasons, and notably supporters of the far right. Prominent French far-right figures have been convicted in the past of antisemitism, racism and denying the Holocaust.

Death toll in Germany floods rises to 165

The death toll from Germany’s worst floods in living memory rises to 165 as emergency services continue to comb through decimated towns in search of dozens of people still missing.

A deluge of rain fell over western Germany over two days last week, sending torrents of water rushing down streets, sweeping away trees, cars and sheds, and destroying swathes of housing.

Many victims have been found dead in sodden cellars after attempting to retrieve valuables, while others were swept away by the sheer force of the water.

Emergency workers have been out in force to assess damaged buildings, clear debris and restore gas, electricity and telephone services.

In some areas, police have deployed speedboats and divers to retrieve bodies.

1/3 of active COVID cases in Israel are students

The Education Ministry says 2,431 students are among the 6,952 people who have COVID-19, accounting for roughly one-third of the active cases in the country.

Another 243 educational staff are infected with the coronavirus, the ministry says.

The breakdown comes over two weeks after the school year officially ended.

Lapid taps former Yesh Atid MK as ambassador to Canada

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid appoints Ronen Hoffman, a former MK in Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, as the next ambassador to Canada.

The position has been vacant since January 2020, when Nimrod Barkan stepped down.

“I would like to thank Foreign Minister Yair Lapid for the trust and high regard in his decision to appoint me Israel’s ambassador in Canada,” says Hoffman. “Canada is a large and important country, and our close and positive ties with it represent a strategic asset for Israel’s national security.”

EU chief: Israeli spyware affair ‘completely unacceptable’ if true

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen says the spyware scandal involving an Israeli software producer and up to 50,000 leaked smartphone numbers was “completely unacceptable” if true.

“This has to be verified, but if it is the case, it is completely unacceptable,” she tells reporters in Prague.

The NSO Group and its Pegasus malware — capable of switching on a phone’s camera or microphone, and harvesting its data — have been in the headlines since 2016, when researchers accused it of helping spy on a dissident in the United Arab Emirates.

Sunday’s revelations — part of a collaborative investigation by The Washington Post, The Guardian, Le Monde and other media outlets — raise privacy concerns and reveal the far-reaching extent to which the private firm’s software could be misused.

The leak consists of more than 50,000 smartphone numbers believed to have been identified as connected to people of interest by NSO clients since 2016, the news organizations said, although it was unclear how many devices were actually targeted or surveilled.

NSO has denied any wrongdoing, saying the allegations were false.

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