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Education minister: ‘Schools will open on September 1. Period’

Yoav Gallant says some students will learn remotely, doesn’t elaborate on framework

Cleaning workers disinfect a classroom at the Gymnasia Rehavia high school in Jerusalem on June 3, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
Cleaning workers disinfect a classroom at the Gymnasia Rehavia high school in Jerusalem on June 3, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

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

Ministers decide to keep summer schools running

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says summer schools will continue to operate, at least through the end of the week.

The announcement follows a meeting of the prime minister with the defense minister, education minister, science minister, and other top officials.

He says another meeting on the issue will be held Thursday.

Hebrew media reports say the decision also applies to summer camps.

Fatah and Hamas to hold joint rally in Gaza against annexation

Fatah General Secretary Jibril Rajoub announces that Fatah and Hamas will hold a joint rally against annexation in Gaza in the coming days.

“The rally will be a historic point in consolidating the united Palestinian position in the face of the annexation project,” Rajoub says, referring to Israel’s declared intent to annex parts of the West Bank.

According to Rajoub, both Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other “national leaders” will address the event.

Fatah representative in Gaza Ahmad Hiles will take charge of coordinating the event with Hamas, Rajoub says.

Fatah and Hamas have been bitterly divided since 2007, when a bloody civil war between the two rival Palestinian movements ended with Hamas expelling Fatah from the Gaza Strip. Several attempts have been made since to reconcile the West Bank-based Fatah with the Gaza-based terror group Hamas, but so far none have been successful.

In what they called a step towards “national unity,” Rajoub and Hamas deputy Salih al-Arouri held a press conference on July 2, in which they announced that the two movements would coordinate on anti-annexation activities.

Aaron Boxerman

Rich Israelis won’t get government stimulus check

Government ministers have tweaked the stimulus proposal to exclude rich Israelis and offer more aid to those eligible for welfare benefits.

The NIS 6 billion ($1.7 billion) plan was announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week and was widely criticized for its failure to distinguish between income levels of recipients.

After meeting with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Finance Minister Yisrael Katz, and Economy Minister Amir Peretz to hammer out a compromise, Netanyahu’s office announces changes to the plan.

Under the new proposal, those who earn more than NIS 640,000 ($186,000) per year will not receive a government check, nor will civil servants whose monthly salaries exceed NIS 30,000 ($8,700).

The PMO also announces that people “receiving support payments for convalescent care, handicapped status, income assurance, needy new immigrants (who have been in the country for at least two years), the unemployed over 67 and the elderly who receive income supplements” will all receive larger (though currently unspecified) grants.

The original plan, as outlined by Netanyahu last week, would have seen couples with one child receive a one-time payment of NIS 2,000 ($583), rising to NIS 2,500 ($729) for those with two children, and NIS 3,000 ($875) for those with three or more. Single Israelis aged 18 and over would each receive NIS 750 ($218).

Bar Refaeli and her mother convicted of tax offenses

Supermodel Bar Refaeli and her mother, Tzipi Refaeli, appear in a Tel Aviv court for their convictions on tax crimes as part of a plea bargain.

Under the deal, the model avoids prison time, but will perform nine months of community service, while Tzipi Refaeli will serve 16 months behind bars. Both plead guilty at the start of the hearing.

The two will each have to pay a fine of NIS 2.5 million (approximately $720,000) as well as a total NIS 8 million ($2.3 million) in back taxes.

Prosecutors say that Refaeli, 34, and her mother hid tens of millions of shekels in earnings from tax authorities.

Refaeli’s case revolved around where she was required to pay tax during the years 2009-2012, in Israel or abroad.

Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli arrives for a court hearing at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, July 20, 2020. (Yariv Katz/POOL)

Chevron to buy Noble Energy for $5 billion — report

Chevron will buy Noble Energy Inc for $5 billion, Reuters reports.

Noble Energy operates Israel’s Tamar and Leviathan offshore gas rigs.

Decision on Malka Leifer extradition to be handed down on September 21

The extradition hearing for alleged child sex abuser Malka Leifer has concluded.

Jerusalem District Court Judge Chana Miriam Lomp says she will hand down her decision on September 21, 2020.

Leifer is wanted in Australia on 74 counts of child sex abuse.

During the three-and-a-half hour session, the defense argued that the former principal of the Adass Israel ultra-Orthodox girls school in Australia had not exploited the accusing sisters because they were around consenting age at the time of the alleged abuse.

The prosecution dismissed the argument, pointing out that Leifer was a figure of authority over the alleged victims and their testimony shows that she threatened to badmouth them in the community if they did not comply.

Jacob Magid

Government pilot program to aid 200 Jerusalem families hit by virus

The government announces a new pilot program in a predominantly ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of the capital bringing together various welfare and medical services for residents of the area affected by the coronavirus.

The program — dubbed “Security and Welfare” — was created by the Defense Ministry, Welfare Ministry and Jerusalem Municipality and will be tried out in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem with 180 to 200 families that have at least one member who is sick with the disease.

“An emphasis will be put on those known to welfare services and elderly residents who do not have family,” the Defense Ministry says in a statement.

“The goal of the project is to give these families assistance and a framework of food, medical counseling, as well as ensuring quarantine directives are kept, transfers to [coronavirus] hotels, and giving specialized assistance,” the ministry says.

This pilot program will be run by a number of “project managers” who will be trained by the IDF Home Front Command and the Jerusalem Municipality.

The program, which has a budget of NIS 220,000 ($64,000), will run for two weeks and then be assessed. If it passes its initial assessment, it will then run for another two weeks, at which point the Defense Ministry will determine if it serves as a model for additional programs in other areas, the ministry says.

Judah Ari Gross

‘Breakthrough’ treatment slashes virus death risk — study

An aerosol-based treatment could drastically reduce the number of new coronavirus patients dying from the disease or requiring intensive care, according to preliminary results released Monday by a British biotech firm.

In a randomized trial of 100 patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19, those who received an inhaled formula of the protein interferon beta were at 79 percent lower risk of developing severe disease compared to those who received a placebo.

They were also more than twice as likely to make a full recovery compared with the control group.

The firm behind the treatment, known as SNG001, says the preliminary results suggested “a major breakthrough” in the pandemic.

“We are all delighted with the trial results announced today, which showed that SNG001 greatly reduced the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients who progressed from requiring oxygen to requiring ventilation,” says Richard Marsden, CEO of Synairgen.

The results published Monday have not yet been peer-reviewed and the sample size is relatively small.

But if confirmed the treatment could revolutionize the way COVID-19 is dealt with in hospitals.

Interferon beta is a naturally occurring protein, commonly used to treat multiple sclerosis.

It forms part of the body’s natural fight against infection, and the novel coronavirus suppresses its production in an attempt to evade an immune response.

Delivering the protein directly into the lungs of patients is designed to trigger a robust immune response to the virus, even in patients whose immune system is already weakened by infection.

“The results confirm our belief that interferon beta… has huge potential as an inhaled drug to be able to restore the lung’s immune response,” says Tom Wilkinson, professor or respiratory medicine at the University of Southampton.

He says the trial showed SNG001 was effective in “enhancing protection, accelerating recover and countering the impact of SARS-CoV-2 virus.”

Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow says the new treatment “could be a game changer.”

“With small (trial) numbers comes less certainty on the true level of benefit, or whether benefits vary between people with differing risk characteristics,” says Sattar, who was not involved in the research.

“Such work would require a larger trial but, even so, these results are very exciting.”


Prosecution in Leifer case anticipates ‘swift conclusion’

Speaking to reporters after Malka Leifer’s extradition hearing,  Avital Ribner-Oron from the prosecution calls the session a significant milestone.

She condemns “numerous attempts made by defense counsel to have hearings postponed” and expresses satisfaction that the court set a date in which a decision will be handed down.

“We’re confident that the extradition was filed based on law, based on Israel’s treaty with Australia and based on facts. We’re look forward to a swift conclusion,” Ribner-Oron says.

She dismisses arguments made by the defense that the sexual acts committed by Leifer did not make her liable for extradition.

Jacob Magid

Leifer’s attorney: Media has turned her ‘into a monster’

Malka Leifer’s attorney Nick Kaufman asserts after today’s extradition hearing that he does not intend to cause suffering to the alleged victims by attempting to poke holes in their story.

However, he says, his client is “entitled to the presumption of innocence.”

“The media has turned her into a monster,” Kaufman says, claiming the requirements for extradition were not met by Israel.

“I’m not saying that [the alleged victims] agreed to the [sexual] acts [performed on them]. However, the onus is on the prosecution to prove that there was lack of consent and that there was awareness by the defendant that there was a lack of consent.”

Listening to the comment outside the courthouse, sex abuse victims advocate Manny Waks says he is “disgusted” by Kaufman’s remarks.

“Here we have someone claiming to be experienced in prosecuting sexual offenses trying to poke holes in what the victims claim, that the fact that they continued seeing Leifer proves that they had consented to the abuse. You can’t claim to be a prosecutor experienced with these cases and then ignore the reality that victims frequently return to their abusers,” he says.

Jacob Magid

Leifer’s accusers horrified as defense suggests they consented to alleged abuse

Speaking to reporters over Skype following Malka Leifer’s extradition hearing, sisters Dassi Erlich and Nicole Meyer express their dismay over the defense’s calling into question whether they had consented to the alleged abuse by Malka Leifer.

“This was an incredibly traumatizing day for us. We did not expect the issue of consent in sexual abuse to still be an issue in the year 2020,” Erlich says.

Meyer says it was particularly difficult not being in the courtroom as the defense questioned their story. However, she says that the fact that the hearing finally took place, nine years after they she and her two sisters filed police complaints, “it gives us hope that she’ll be sent back.”

Jacob Magid

Lapid calls for Netanyahu to resign over ‘failed’ virus response

Opposition leader Yair Lapid calls for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s resignation over the government’s virus response.

“Benjamin Netanyahu must resign. He failed. He lost control. The coronavirus crisis is not being managed. Not on the economic side, not on the health side… This is a total failure. It’s all in his name.

“In January, at the peak of the winter wave of the coronavirus, he’ll sit on the defendant’s bench three times a week,” adds Lapid, referring to Netanyahu’s trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

“Netanyahu has done some good things in the past, but that’s over. We can’t go on like this. He has to go,” adds Lapid.


Saudi king, 84, admitted to the hospital

Saudi Arabia’s 84-year-old ruler King Salman was admitted to hospital in Riyadh Monday for gall bladder inflammation, the royal court says, prompting the postponement of the Iraqi prime minister’s high-profile visit.

It is rare for Saudi Arabia to report on the health of the ageing monarch, who has ruled the top oil exporter and the Arab world’s biggest economy since 2015.

King Salman is the second reigning monarch in the Gulf to be hospitalized, after Kuwait’s 91-year-old emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah was admitted to hospital last week, at a time when the region is gripped by the twin crises of the coronavirus pandemic and a plunge in crude prices.

A Saudi royal court statement says King Salman was “admitted today to King Faisal specialist hospital in Riyadh for some medical tests due to cholecystitis,” inflammation of the gall bladder.

The statement released by the official Saudi Press Agency around 4:30 a.m. (0130 GMT) does not disclose any further details.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi’s scheduled visit to Saudi Arabia, which was due to start on Monday, has been postponed after the king’s hospitalization, according to the Saudi foreign minister.


Global coronavirus death toll hits 606,605

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 606,605 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Monday.

At least 14,528,490 cases of coronavirus have been registered in 196 countries and territories. Of these, at least 7,935,600 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections.

Many countries are testing only symptomatic or the most serious cases.

On Sunday, 4,584 new deaths and 224,583 new cases were recorded worldwide. Based on latest reports, the countries with the most new deaths were Brazil with 716 new deaths, followed by India with 681, and United States with 514.

The United States is the worst-hit country with 140,534 deaths from 3,773,260 cases. At least 1,131,121 people have been declared recovered.

After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 79,488 deaths from 2,098,389 cases, United Kingdom with 45,300 deaths from 294,792 cases, Mexico with 39,184 deaths from 344,224 cases, and Italy with 35,045 deaths from 244,434 cases.

The country with the highest number of deaths compared to its population is Belgium with 85 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by United Kingdom with 67, Spain 61, Italy 58, and Sweden 56.

China — excluding Hong Kong and Macau — has to date declared 83,682 cases (22 new since Sunday), including 4,634 deaths (0 new), and 78,799 recoveries.

Europe overall has 205,420 deaths from 2,951,326 cases, Latin America and the Caribbean 16,2462 deaths from 3,830,779 infections, the United States and Canada 149,416 deaths from 3,883,598 cases, Asia 50,972 deaths from 2,114,908 cases, Middle East 23,017 deaths from 1,010,923 cases, Africa 15,166 deaths from 723,293 cases, and Oceania 152 deaths from 13,672 cases.

As a result of corrections by national authorities or late publication of data, the figures updated over the past 24 hours may not correspond exactly to the previous day’s tallies.


Hungarian FM arrives in Israel

Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó arrives in Israel for a half-day visit.

He is set to discuss joint efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic and discuss other issues on the international agenda.

After his meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi, the Hungarian top diplomat will meet with PM Netanyahu and sign a space research cooperation agreement with Science and Technology Minister Izhar Shay.

Hungary is one of Israel’s staunchest supporters in the international community, and one of the few countries that did not openly speak out against Jerusalem’s intention to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank.

with Raphael Ahren

Bennett to Lapid: Stop ‘encouraging anarchy’

Naftali Bennett, the right-wing leader of the opposition party Yamina, pours cold water over opposition leader Yair Lapid’s call for Netanyahu to resign and be replaced within 48 hours by an emergency government made up largely of opposition parties.

“Yair, you can’t have Bennett and also the Joint List,” writes Bennett on Twitter, referring to the predominantly Arab party. “It won’t happen. We are in an emergency situation. I encourage my colleagues in Yesh Atid to focus on assisting the defeat of the coronavirus instead of encouraging anarchy.”

Lapid, earlier, said in a statement: “If Netanyahu resigns, then in 48 hours we will create a real emergency government. A real unity government. Not the huge disconnected government that we’re stuck with but the real thing. Eighteen ministers, an efficient, effective and goal-driven government. The moment Netanyahu resigns, everyone will join forces — us, Bennett, Liberman, everyone. We will bring to the table a proper work plan and crisis management abilities. Everything that’s missing at the moment.”

Foreign nationals to be barred from Israel through September 1

The Israel Airports Authority says current rules barring non-Israelis from entering the country will remain in effect through September 1.

Mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arrivals will also remain in force through that date, it says.

Egypt foreign minister in Ramallah for talks with Abbas

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry today in Ramallah to discuss “the latest developments in the Palestinian scene,” the Palestinian Authority official WAFA news agency says.

Shoukry expressed “Egypt’s support for the Palestinian cause and the rights of the Palestinian people, first and foremost of which is their right to self-determination and the establishment of an independent, sovereign state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital,” according to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.

“Egypt rejects any unilateral decisions or movements, including Israel’s annexation of Palestinian lands in the West Bank,” the Foreign Ministry says in a statement.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi also spoke with Abbas yesterday, both sides reported. A spokesperson for El-Sissi’s office said the Egyptian leader stressed “the firm principles of Egypt’s position on the Palestinian question, as well as the continuity of close coordination with our Palestinian brothers, with the aim of developing a strategic vision for realizing peace,” according to the Egyptian daily al-Youm al-Sabea.

Shoukry has been doing the rounds in the region. He met Sunday with King Abdullah II of Jordan, as well as Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi. The two sides discussed the coronavirus, regional security cooperation and “the Palestinian cause,” the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Aaron Boxerman

Knesset panel votes to keep pools, beaches open on weekends

The Knesset’s Coronavirus Committee votes to keep pools and beaches opens on weekends, contrary to the cabinet decision last week.

The vote comes after a coalition representative, Likud MK Miki Zohar, says the coalition is not opposed to the step.

A decision on restaurants — ordered shut on Tuesday by the government — and gyms, which have been shuttered, will be taken at a later date.

As virus soars, Putin seeks to postpone event marking 75th anniversary of WWII

Russian President Vladimir Putin has supported the idea to postpone until next year a mass event marking the 75th anniversary of the World War II defeat of Nazi Germany, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Immortal Regiment, a large-scale procession pf people carrying photographs of their relatives who died during the war, traditionally takes place in many Russian cities on May 9, Victory Day — the country’s most important national holiday.

This year, Putin postponed it till July 26 in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Last week organizers suggested postponing it again, saying social distancing contradicts the spirit of the procession during which people stand “shoulder to shoulder” next to each other. The president on Monday supported the idea, saying that “events like this can’t be carried out at any cost.”

Russia reported over 777,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 12,000 deaths as of Monday.


PA official says ICC will imminently announce whether it will open Israel probe

The International Criminal Court is expected to announce “at any moment” whether it will open an investigation into possible war crimes committed in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, a senior Palestinian Authority official tells Channel 12.

“Many Israelis better be careful,” the unnamed official adds ominously, hinting at the fact that an ICC investigation could lead to arrest warrants against senior Israeli military and political leaders.

However, a senior Israeli official tells The Times of Israel that Palestinian warnings should be taken with a grain of salt.

“To me this looks more like psychological warfare,” the senior official says. “They are taking advantage of the panic spread by some in the Israeli media.”

A pre-trial chamber of three judges is currently weighing whether the court has jurisdiction over the “situation in Palestine.” Chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda argues that the “State of Palestine” is a full member of the court and therefore able to transfer criminal jurisdiction over its territory, a position Israel and other states reject.

The ICC went on judicial recess last Friday and many experts believe the pre-trial chamber will not announce its decision before the court resumes activities on August 10, though it is technically possible.

Raphael Ahren

UK coronavirus vaccine prompts immune response in early test

Scientists at Oxford University say their experimental coronavirus vaccine has been shown in an early trial to prompt a protective immune response in hundreds of people who got the shot.

British researchers first began testing the vaccine in April in about 1,000 people, half of whom got the experimental vaccine. Such early trials are usually designed only to evaluate safety, but in this case experts were also looking to see what kind of immune response was provoked.

In research published Monday in the journal Lancet, scientists say that they found their experimental COVID-19 vaccine produced a dual immune response in people aged 18 to 55.

“We are seeing good immune response in almost everybody,” says Dr. Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute at Oxford University. “What this vaccine does particularly well is trigger both arms of the immune system,” he says.

Hill says that neutralizing antibodies are produced — molecules which are key to blocking infection. In addition, the vaccine also causes a reaction in the body’s T-cells which help to fight off the coronavirus.

He says that larger trials evaluating the vaccine’s effectiveness, involving about 10,000 people in the UK as well as participants in South Africa and Brazil are still underway. Another big trial is slated to start in the US soon, aiming to enroll about 30,000 people.

How quickly scientists are able to determine the vaccine’s effectiveness will depend largely on how much more transmission there is, but Hill estimates they might have sufficient data by the end of the year to decide if the vaccine should be adopted for mass vaccination campaigns.

He says the vaccine seemed to produce a comparable level of antibodies to those produced by people who recovered from a COVID-19 infection and hopes that the T-cell response would provide extra protection.

“There’s increasing evidence that having a T-cell response as well as antibodies could be very important in controlling COVID-19,” Hill says. He suggests the immune response might be boosted after a second dose; their trial tested two doses administered about four weeks apart.


Zionist Federation of Australia ‘disappointed’ by 2-month delay in Leifer ruling

Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler welcomes the commencement of Malka Leifer’s extradition proceedings but expresses concerns that a decision will not be made until September 21.

“For too long Leifer’s alleged victims have had to wait to see her face justice,” says Leibler. “This extradition hearing took far too long to come about. We are extremely disappointed that the judge will not make a decision for two months.”

Leibler in a statement went on to lambaste Leifer’s attorneys for arguing that the alleged abuse had been effectively consensual, “something rejected out of hand by the alleged victims (and irrelevant in Australian law).”

“We stand with [alleged victims] Dassi, Elly and Nicole. Throughout this process they have exemplified dignity and courage. The appalling treatment meted out to them today by Leifer’s legal team was shameful,” he adds.

Jacob Magid

Ex-SS guard apologizes to Holocaust victims ahead of verdict

A 93-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard apologizes to Holocaust victims at a Hamburg court Monday, ahead of the verdict in a high-profile trial over his complicity in World War II atrocities.

“Today I would like to apologize to those who went through the hell of this madness, as well as to their relatives. Something like this must never happen again,” says Bruno Dey from the dock.

In what could be one of the last such cases of surviving Nazi guards, Dey stands accused of complicity in the murder of 5,230 people when he worked as an SS tower guard at the Stutthof camp near what was then Danzig, now Gdansk in Poland.

The court is expected to issue its verdict on Thursday.

Prosecutors have sought a prison sentence of three years.

But in his summary on Monday, Dey’s defense lawyer Stefan Waterkamp asks the court for an acquittal or a suspended sentence, saying his client “would not survive” jail.

Dey himself has denied any guilt for what happened at the camp, and said that the trial had “cost a lot of strength.”

“I would like to stress again that I would never have voluntarily signed up to the SS or any other unit — especially not in a concentration camp,” he says in his final statements before the court delivers its verdict.

“If I had seen an opportunity to remove myself from service, I would have done so.”


Egypt’s lawmakers to vote on deploying troops to Libya

Egypt’s parliament is expected to vote Monday to authorize the president to deploy troops to neighboring Libya if Turkey-backed forces there, allied with the UN-supported government in Tripoli, move to retake the coastal city of Sirte.

An Egyptian intervention would further destabilize oil-rich Libya, and put two US allies — Turkey and Egypt — in possible direct confrontation.

The vote was initially scheduled for Sunday but was moved to Monday in a closed session, according to lawmaker Mustafa Bakry. The House of Representatives, packed with supporters of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, is highly likely to vote in favor of the deployment.

Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed. The country is now split between a government in the east, allied with military commander Khalifa Hifter, and one in Tripoli, in the west, supported by the United Nations.

The conflict has escalated into a regional proxy war fueled by foreign powers pouring weapons and mercenaries into the country.

Egypt has been backing the eastern-based Libyan forces in the conflict while Turkey backs the forces in the capital, Tripoli. Egypt’s president warned in June that any attack on Sirte or the inland Jufra air base would prompt Cairo to intervene militarily, purportedly to protect its western border with Libya.

Along with Egypt, Hifter is also backed by the United Arab Emirates and Russia, while in addition to Turkey, the Tripoli forces are aided by Qatar and Italy. The US has grown increasingly concerned about Moscow’s growing influence in Libya, where hundreds of Russian mercenaries backed a failed attempt by Hifter’s forces to capture Tripoli.


Ashkenazi: Hungary understands Trump peace plan a ‘significant opportunity’

After meeting his Hungarian counterpart in Jerusalem, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi says talks focused on cooperation between the two countries, as well as the Iranian nuclear threat and the US peace plan.

“Hungary understands Israel’s positions and that there are currently significant regional opportunities, most notably President Trump’s Peace Initiative. It is an important milestone for the region, and it represents a significant opportunity,” says Ashkenazi at a press conference with Péter Szijjártó.

Budapest has in recent years been Jerusalem’s staunchest supporter in the European Union, blocking several efforts to issue statements critical of Israeli policies.

For instance, Hungary is one of the only countries that has not publicly spoken out against Israel’s plan to unilaterally annex large parts of the West Bank as part of the Trump peace plan. Szijjártó has reiterated on several occasions that the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban will continue to stand up against one-sided condemnations of the Jewish state.

Israel and Hungary on Monday sign two deals, increasing space research cooperation and awarding scholarships to Israeli students studying in Hungary.

Chinese COVID-19 vaccine trial also touts immune response

Chinese researchers publish a study on their experimental COVID-19 vaccine in the Lancet on Monday, using a similar technique as the Oxford scientists. They report that in their study of about 500 people, an immune response was detected in those who were immunized. But they note that because the participants weren’t exposed to the coronavirus afterwards, it wasn’t possible to tell if they were protected from the disease.

CanSino Biologics’ vaccine is made similarly to Oxford’s except the Chinese shot is made with a human cold virus, and the study showed people whose bodies recognized it didn’t get as much of the presumed COVID-19 benefit. Still, China’s government already gave special approval for the military to use CanSino’s vaccine while it explores final-stage studies.

In an accompanying editorial, Naor Bar-Zeev and William Moss of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health call both the Oxford and Chinese results “encouraging” but said further judgment should wait until the vaccine is tested on much bigger populations.

Bar-Zeev and Moss also call for any effective COVID-19 vaccine to be distributed equitably around the world.

“Global planning is underway, but should be underpinned and informed by specific local realities,” they write. “Only this way can these very encouraging first early-phase randomized trial results yield the global remedy for which we all yearn.”


PA’s Jerusalem governor being investigated by Israel for terrorism, lawyer says

Israel is investigating the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem over suspected terrorism, in the first such allegation against the often-arrested leader, his lawyer says Monday.

Adnan Ghaith has been arrested by Israeli security forces more than 10 times over the past two years, but typically over the minor offense of engaging in “illegal” political activities in the city.

He has generally been released within a day or two.

But Ghaith’s lawyer Mohammed Mahmoud tells AFP that in addition to political offenses the governor was being probed over “planning an act of terrorism,” and not expected to be released soon.

It was the first time Ghaith was the subject of a terrorism investigation and Israel’s powerful domestic security agency, the Shin Bet, was involved in the case, Mahmoud says.

The Shin Bet does not immediately respond to a query about the investigation.

Israel bans all Palestinian Authority activities in the city.

As a result, the PA has a minister for Jerusalem affairs and a Jerusalem governor located in Al-Ram, just on the other side of an Israeli wall that separates the city and the West Bank.

Ghaith has repeatedly been arrested for allegedly carrying out PA activities in East Jerusalem, including for working to ensure Palestinians in the city had access to essential services in the battle against coronavirus.


Attorney general dismisses claim he isn’t taking threats against PM seriously

Attorney General Avichai Mandleblit dismisses claims by Public Security Minister Amir Ohana that he isn’t taking death threats against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seriously.

Mandelblit says the Likud minister’s letter to him on the issue was “riddled with unfounded and false claims against law enforcement.”

Responding to Ohana, the attorney general notes that in three cases of threats against Netanyahu, criminal investigations were opened, and charges were filed in one of them.

Ohana earlier in the week called participants in a Tuesday mass demonstration against Netanyahu anarchists, while claiming the level of incitement currently being directed at the premier and his family dwarfs what was seen in the lead-up to former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination.

“You’re not giving serious attention to my appeal over the growing threats to the lives of the prime minister and his family,” Ohana wrote in a letter to the attorney general.

Ministers to debate whether to keep restaurants open

Ministers will discuss this evening whether to allow restaurants to remain open, possibly reversing a cabinet decision made last week that ordered them shut by Tuesday amid rising infection rates.

According to Channel 12, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein will present a plan allowing restaurants to host up to 50 diners outdoors, with indoor seating banned.

Military intel says apparent downturn in virus cases is misleading

A Military Intelligence report cited by Hebrew media warns that the lower number of daily cases in recent days does not indicate the virus is waning.

It attributes the dip to a broad sampling of residents and workers at nursing homes around the country over the weekend, in addition to reduced testing overall, reports say.

“This is not a real decline. The number of positive cases is expected to continue rising,” the report says.

Tel Aviv-Jaffa to allow restaurants to seat customers in public outdoor spaces

In anticipation of a government decision to allow restaurants to continue serving customers outdoors, the municipality of Tel Aviv-Jaffa says it will allow eateries to put tables on sidewalks and in public spaces.

Under Health Minister Yuli Edelstein’s reported proposal, which is being discussed by government ministers, the restaurants will be allowed to serve up to 50 customers, but only outdoors.

Trump to resume his televised coronavirus briefings

US President Donald Trump says he will resume his televised coronavirus briefings, saying he wants to tout positive news, even as the pandemic spreads across the country.

“I think it’s a great way to get information out to the public,” he tells reporters at the White House. “We’re doing very well in so many different ways.”

Trump says he will likely start on Tuesday.


WHO hails ‘good news’ from vaccine trials, warns long road ahead

The head of emergencies at the World Health Organization is hailing “good news” in results shown by two COVID-19 vaccine candidates in early trials, but warns “there’s a long way to go.”

“We now need to move into larger-scale real-world trials,” Dr. Michael Ryan tells reporters at a news conference in Geneva. “But it is good to see more data and more products moving into this very important phase of vaccine discovery.”

Ryan’s comments come as scientists at Oxford University, in a paper published in The Lancet, say that their experimental vaccine has been shown to trigger a protective immune response in hundreds of people who got the shot.

Also in the medical journal, Chinese researchers published a study on their experimental vaccine, using a similar technique as the Oxford team, that reported an immune response.

Ryan notes there are 23 COVID-19 candidate vaccines in clinical development, but until Monday, only one had produced Phase 1 clinical data.


US court upholds Turkish banker’s conviction in Iran sanctions case

A Turkish banker was properly convicted of helping Iran evade US sanctions in a case that strained relations with Turkey, a federal appeals panel says Monday.

The ruling by the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan concludes that Mehmet Hakan Atilla received a fair trial after he was arrested in 2017 during a business trip to the United States.

A three-judge panel says there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s guilty verdict, including wiretapped conversations and hundreds of documents establishing that “Atilla was a knowing participant in the sanctions evasion scheme that involved routing hundreds of millions of dollars through the US financial system.”

Atilla’s arrest and prosecution drew an outcry from high-level Turkish officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who called Atilla’s conviction on five charges a “scandalous verdict.”

The prosecution attracted new attention recently with the publication of a book by John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser.

In the book, Bolton claims that Trump assured Erdogan in 2018 that he would “take care of things” regarding a probe of a Turkish firm believed to be Turkey’s state-run Halkbank. The bank has since been criminally charged and pleaded not guilty to evading US sanctions. A March 2021 trial date has been set.

Atilla was an executive at Halkbank when he was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. The sentence was far below the life term recommended by US probation authorities and the 20 years urged by prosecutors.

He has since returned to Turkey. A message was left Monday seeking comment from his Washington-based attorney.


In bid to end strike, ministers agree to hire 2,000 more nurses, 400 doctors

The Health Ministry and Finance Ministry have agreed to increase medical jobs in the state-run healthcare system, in a bid to end a strike by nurses over manpower shortages.

The agreement will see 2,000 more nurses and 400 doctors hired to help the virus-plagued health system, according to Hebrew reports.

The open-ended strike by nurses was launched on Monday morning.

Representatives of the nurses union will meet with Finance Ministry officials later tonight on the labor action.

Health Ministry records 1,641 new COVID-19 cases in past 24 hours

The Health Ministry says 1,641 new coronavirus infections have been diagnosed in the past 24 hours.

There are 264 people in serious condition from the virus, 80 of them on ventilators, the ministry says. Another 122 are in moderate condition, with the rest showing mild or no symptoms.

The number of active cases stands at 29,201, and the death toll remains at 415.

The ministry says 19,687 tests were conducted on Sunday.

In the past week, over 1,650 new cases were confirmed in Jerusalem, 855 in Bnei Brak and 449 in Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

Vote on restaurant openings said delayed

Ministers have pushed off the vote on whether to allow restaurants to remain open to seated customers until tomorrow, the Ynet news site reports.

4-year-old Dimona boy in critical condition after apparently left in car

Medics are attempting to revive a four-year-old boy in Dimona, who was apparently forgotten in his parents’ car for hours.

The boy is in critical condition.

Education minister: ‘Schools will open on September 1, period’

Education Minister Yoav Gallant says schools will reopen in September.

“Schools will open on September 1. Period,” Gallant tells Channel 12.

He doesn’t elaborate on how the schoolyear will look, saying he’s waiting for cabinet approval, but says some students will learn remotely.

Jerusalem to allow couples to get married at its parks, promenades

The Jerusalem municipality will allow couples to get married in some of the city’s public parks and sites, with the number of attendees capped at 20, the city says.

The program begins in August and ends in late September. A website for sign-ups will be launched soon. It will see the city provide permits for the couples to wed at the locations and offer some wedding services, including access to electricity lines.

The locations include the Jerusalem forest, Armon Hanatziv promenade, Mount Scopus promenade, Yemin Moshe, Liberty Bell Park, Rose Garden and more.

NY lawyer found dead, may be connected to killing of New Jersey judge’s son

Investigators are examining a possible connection between the shooting of a federal judge’s son and the body of a man found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in Sullivan County, New York, a law enforcement official says.

The man, an attorney from New York City, is being investigated in connection with the shooting, a law enforcement official and a judiciary official tell The Associated Press. The man had appeared before the judge in the past, the officials said.

The officials could not discuss an ongoing investigation publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

The shooting occurred Sunday evening at the North Brunswick home of US District Judge Esther Salas, and killed her son, Daniel, Chief District Judge Freda Wolfson told The Associated Press. Her husband, defense lawyer Mark Anderl, was injured in the attack, Wolfson said.

Salas was in the basement at the time and wasn’t injured, according to a judiciary official who wasn’t authorized to comment and spoke anonymously to the AP.


Egypt parliament green-lights possible intervention in Libya

Egypt’s parliament on Monday green-lights a possible deployment of troops outside its borders, after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi spoke of potential military operations in neighboring Libya.

The parliament unanimously approved “the deployment of members of the Egyptian armed forces on combat missions outside Egypt’s borders to defend Egyptian national security … against criminal armed militias and foreign terrorist elements,” it says in a statement.


Netanyahu meets Hungarian FM, thanks him for support in EU

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with the Hungarian foreign minister in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu “met with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto and, at the start of the meeting, expressed his appreciation for Hungary’s steadfast stand alongside Israel in international forums and in the EU. The Prime Minister expressed the hope that relations between Budapest and Jerusalem would strengthen further in the coming years,” his office says.

“The two discussed their countries’ dealing with the coronavirus as well as economic policy in wake of the crisis. They also discussed regional issues including the threat Iran poses to the Middle East and the entire world.”

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