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Israeli envoy asks 35 US states to use anti-BDS laws against Ben & Jerry’s

Jerusalem vows to push legal action against ice cream company over its announcement it’ll end sales in ‘Occupied Palestinian Territory’

Ben & Jerry's ice cream on sale at a shop in Jerusalem, on July 19, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ben & Jerry's ice cream on sale at a shop in Jerusalem, on July 19, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

Coronavirus cabinet to meet Thursday amid rising infections

Israelis, some wear face masks, as they walk through the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv on July 20, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israelis, some wear face masks, as they walk through the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv on July 20, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The high-level coronavirus cabinet will convene tomorrow afternoon to discuss additional measures to stem a continued rise in coronavirus cases, after some renewed restrictions took effect at midnight.

According to the Ynet news site, ministers are expected to discuss expanding the list of banned travel destinations and applying the “Green Pass” that allows entry only to the vaccinated, COVID recovered and those with a recent negative test result to additional venues, among other measures.

Russia: Syria shot down 7 of 8 Israeli missiles in Monday strike

Syria’s air defense forces shot down seven out of eight missiles launched by Israeli warplanes during a raid that targeted the Syrian province of Aleppo, the Russian military says.

Rear Adm. Vadim Kulit, the head of the Russian military’s Reconciliation Center in Syria, says that four Israeli F-16 fighter jets targeted facilities southeast of Aleppo in Monday’s strike.

Kulit says seven of eight missiles launched by the Israeli fighter jets were downed by Syrian air defense units that used Russia-supplied air defense systems Pantsyr-S and Buk-M2. One missile damaged the building of a scientific research center in Safira, he says.

A Syrian military official previously said in remarks carried by the state news agency SANA that Israel carried out an aerial attack in the Aleppo province late Monday. He said that Syrian air defenses shot down most of the missiles in the attack that occurred just before midnight.

Israel’s envoy to US asks 35 states to use anti-BDS laws against Ben & Jerry’s

Israel’s Ambassador to the US and UN Gilad Erdan sends letters to the governors of 35 American states that have anti-BDS laws, asking them to throw the book at Ben & Jerry’s for ending sales in West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem.

“I urged them to act against Ben & Jerry’s decision to not sell its products in the eastern part of Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria. We will make clear to Ben & Jerry’s that its antisemitic decision will have consequences,” he tweets.

On Monday, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid vowed to ask the American states to take legal action against the ice cream company.

Vaccinated White House official tests positive for COVID

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House, on June 3, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House, on June 3, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

A vaccinated White House official has tested positive for COVID-19, a US spokeswoman says, adding that the person had not had contact with US President Joe Biden or other top-level staff.

“I want to confirm that yesterday a fully vaccinated White House official tested positive for COVID-19 off campus,” Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki says at a briefing, adding that the official, who has not been identified, had mild symptoms.

She says that in accordance with “rigorous” protocols, the official is staying away from the White House as they await more testing, and that contact tracing had been carried out.

“We know that there will be breakthrough cases,” Psaki tells reporters at the White House briefing.

“But as this incident shows, cases in vaccinated individuals are typically mild. The White House is prepared for breakthrough cases with regular testing.”

Psaki also says there had been other breakthrough cases at the White House, but did not confirm how many or when.

She says the incident was “another reminder of the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines against severe illness or hospitalization.”

Tom Brady, at White House, knocks Trump with election joke

US President Joe Biden speaks as he welcomes the 2021 NFL Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, on July 20, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)
US President Joe Biden speaks as he welcomes the 2021 NFL Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, on July 20, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady steals the show at the White House celebration of his team’s Super Bowl championship with a jab at Donald Trump and his false claims of a stolen election.

With US President Joe Biden at Brady’s side, and with dozens of teammates standing behind him, the winner of seven American football titles dishes up a series of clearly rehearsed but cutting remarks sure to infuriate the Republican former president, whom Brady has described as a friend.

“Not a lot of people think that we could have won,” Brady says of his team, which overcame setbacks early in their season to win Super Bowl LV in February following a year plagued by the coronavirus pandemic.

“In fact I think about 40% of the people still don’t think we won,” Brady deadpans.

“I understand that,” Biden says, tossing up his hands.

“You understand that Mr. President?” Brady grins.

“I understand that,” Biden repeats, as several of the Buccaneers players and coaches break into laughter.

Brady is clearly referring to the large numbers of Republican voters who have embraced Trump’s baseless claims that he lost November’s presidential election to Biden because of voter fraud.

Judges and courts in multiple states have tossed out dozens of cases claiming there is evidence of a rigged election, but Trump continues to insist the vote was “stolen” from him.

Brady, who at 43 is the oldest quarterback to play in a Super Bowl, also makes light of the “Sleepy Joe” nickname that Trump derisively used for Biden on the campaign trail.

The iconic player recalls how after a game last year in which he famously forgot it was fourth down, “They started calling me ‘Sleepy Tom.’ Why would they do that to me!”

Tuesday’s Super Bowl White House ceremony, in which the team owner presented the 46th president with a Bucs jersey bearing the number 46, was the first since 2017.

White House visits became political minefields for high profile sports teams in the era of Trump, who has been friendly with Brady for years.

Moroccan king also targeted by NSO Group’s malware

Moroccan King Mohammed VI waves to a crowd as he arrives for the opening session of the Moroccan Parliament in Rabat, Morocco, on October 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)
Moroccan King Mohammed VI waves to a crowd as he arrives for the opening session of the Moroccan Parliament in Rabat, Morocco, on October 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)

Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s phone is on a list of numbers of people identified as potential Pegasus spyware targets by Morocco’s intelligence services, French radio reports.

Radio France makes the claim two days after it and several other news outlets, including The Washington Post and The Guardian, reported that the Israeli software had been used by governments to spy on activists, journalists, lawyers and politicians around the world.

The bombshell claims were based on a leaked document containing 50,000 numbers of people identified as potential targets for Pegasus between 2016 and June 2021.

The list was dominated by numbers from 10 countries — Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Hungary, India, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

On Monday, Morocco denied the allegations, saying it had “never acquired computer software to infiltrate communication devices.”

On Tuesday, Radio France claims the country’s monarch was on the list, as well as “a large number” of Moroccan royals.

The list is said to include the king’s wife Lalla Salma Bennani; his cousin Prince Moulay Hicham Alaoui, nicknamed the “red prince” for his progressive views; a former son-in-law of the late King Hassan II; entrepreneur Fouad Filali; and Hassan II’s former bodyguard, Mohamed Mediouri, who is the current king’s stepfather.

“But what is most surprising, when you look closely at this list, is that the sovereign himself is among those whose numbers were selected as potential Pegasus targets,” the report says.

Radio France says it and its partners in the Forbidden Stories media consortium had established “that one of the telephone numbers that figures on the listing of the Moroccan intelligence services is indeed that of Mohammed VI.”

Radio France adds that “his entire entourage suffered the same fate,” including the king’s chamberlain, Sidi Mohammed Alaoui, three members of the his family, and his personal secretary.

The list is said to also include the number of the head of Morocco’s royal gendarmerie, as well as the king’s former top bodyguard, Hassan Charrat.

It was not possible to immediately verify the claims.

Pegasus is a highly invasive tool that can switch on a target’s phone camera and microphone, as well as access data on the device, effectively turning a phone into a pocket spy. In some cases, it can be installed without the need to trick a user into initiating a download.

NSO Group has denied selling the software to authoritarian governments for the purposes of spying on dissenters, labelling the allegations “false.”

Health officials warn of 7,000 daily COVID cases by end of August – report

A technician collects swab samples for COVID-19 at a testing center run by the Tel Aviv municipality, on July 20, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
A technician collects swab samples for COVID-19 at a testing center run by the Tel Aviv municipality, on July 20, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Health officials predict the daily COVID caseload could rise to 7,000 per day by the end of August, including dozens of serious cases added each day, according to Channel 13 news.

The forecast cited by the network is the worst-case scenario, if no new restrictions are imposed in Israel.

On Monday, over 1,300 cases were recorded, a four-month high.

Poway gunman pleads guilty to murder, other charges in synagogue shooting

Poway Chabad synagogue shooting Defendant John Earnest listens during testimony during his preliminary hearing in Superior Court in San Diego, on September 19, 2019. (John Gibbins/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP, Pool)
Poway Chabad synagogue shooting Defendant John Earnest listens during testimony during his preliminary hearing in Superior Court in San Diego, on September 19, 2019. (John Gibbins/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP, Pool)

A 22-year-old former nursing student pleads guilty on Tuesday to murder and other charges, in connection with a deadly shooting at a Southern California synagogue on the last day of Passover.

John T. Earnest avoids the death penalty with his plea in San Diego Superior Court. The San Diego County district attorney’s office says he agreed to serve the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. Sentencing is scheduled September 30.

Earnest opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle during the last day of Passover services in April 2019. The attack killed 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye and wounded three others, including an 8-year-old girl and the rabbi, who lost a finger.

Lori Gilbert-Kaye, who was killed in a shooting at a San Diego County synagogue on April 27, 2019 (Facebook)

Earnest then called 911 to say he had shot up a synagogue because Jews were trying to “destroy all white people,” authorities said.

IDF accidentally disposed of 4,000 COVID test samples – report

The IDF’s Home Front Command accidentally disposed of 4,000 COVID test samples without checking them for the virus, as a result of “human error,” Channel 12 news reports.

The tests were from people exposed to the virus, the network says. All were informed of the mistake and told to take another test, but many refused, Channel 12 reports.

French President Macron among potential Pegasus spyware targets

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a press conference at The Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris, on March 25, 2021. (Benoit Tessier/Pool/ AFP)
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a press conference at The Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris, on March 25, 2021. (Benoit Tessier/Pool/ AFP)

Phone numbers used by French President Emmanuel Macron and top members of his government are among the potential targets for the Pegasus spyware supplied to several governments worldwide, the NGO that leaked the list of numbers says.

“We found these numbers, but we obviously couldn’t do a technical analysis of Emmanuel Macron’s phone” to determine if it had been infected with the malware, the head of Forbidden Stories, Laurent Richard, tells LCI television.

UK hit by most daily COVID deaths in 4 months

The United Kingdom records its highest daily number of coronavirus-related deaths in four months, following a spike in infections amid the spread of the Delta variant and lifting of lockdown restrictions.

Government figures show 96 new COVID-related deaths, the highest daily total since March 24. The UK also records 46,558 confirmed cases. The numbers on Tuesday have traditionally been higher because of a weekend reporting lag.

The increase in deaths comes a day after the British government ended lockdown restrictions in England, including on social distancing and mask-wearing. Critics warn it will lead to further spread of the coronavirus and potential deaths in the coming weeks.

Britain’s confirmed COVID-related death toll stands at 128,823, the seventh highest in the world.

IDF chief warns Lebanon: We’ll retaliate to any attack

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi warns Lebanon that Israel will respond to any rocket fire emanating from the neighboring country.

“We will respond and attack, openly or covertly, to any violation of our sovereignty,” says Kohavi.

Early Tuesday morning, two rockets were fired at northern Israel from Lebanon, setting off warning sirens in the Western Galilee region, the Israel Defense Forces said. The army fired artillery shells at the source of the launches in response.

One of the rockets was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, while the second projectile fell in an open area near the coast, the IDF said. There were no reports of injuries or damage, and the army said it had no special instructions for residents of the region.

Israeli paratroopers recreate partisans’ WWII jump in honor of famous poet

Israeli paratroopers recreate the partisans historic jump during World War II in honor of Hannah Senesh, in Slovenia, on July 20, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
Israeli paratroopers recreate the partisans historic jump during World War II in honor of Hannah Senesh, in Slovenia, on July 20, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

Some 100 Israeli soldiers participated in a parachuting jump in Central Europe as part of a weeklong educational trip in honor of the 100th birthday of the Hungarian-born soldier and poet Hannah Senesh, who was captured and killed by the Nazis after she parachuted into Hungary during World War II.

The jump in Slovenia was staged a short distance from the original site.

The Hungarian-born Senesh immigrated to Palestine in 1939 and quickly joined the Haganah, the forebear of the IDF. During World War II, she joined a Jewish contingent of the British military and parachuted into then-Yugoslavia, continuing on foot to Hungary to meet up with partisans there.

She was captured at the border, interrogated and sentenced to death. Her remains were later moved to Israel and reinterred in the Mount Herzl National Cemetery. Her diary and poetry are still read in Israel today, most famously the poem from which the program derives its name, “Eli, Eli,” or “My God, my God.”

Hannah Senesh with chickens on Mosha Nahalal, part of the Hannah Senesh Collection that is now part of Israel’s National Library (Courtesy: National Library of Israel)

The Israeli participants include current and former Paratroopers Brigade soldiers and officers, including a number of children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors.

3-year-old dies after being left in hot car in north

A three-year-old girl has died after she was apparently left in a car in northern Israel.

She is identified as Talin Hatib, of the Galilee village of Uzeir.

Earlier, a five-year-old girl was killed after being struck by a bus in the northern city of Safed.

Government expert: Booster shots for general population unlikely before 2022

An Israeli girl receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Tel Aviv, on July 4, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
An Israeli girl receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Tel Aviv, on July 4, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A government adviser on the country’s virus policy predicts booster shots for all Israelis won’t be rolled out before 2022.

“I estimate that the third coronavirus vaccine shot will be given to the entire population only in 2022,” Nadav Davidovitch tells Army Radio.

Israel is currently administering booster shots for the immunocompromised, but has yet to approve it for the general population.

According to Channel 12 news, some 1,000 people have received the third shot thus far.

Over 950 new COVID cases diagnosed since midnight

The Health Ministry records another 952 COVID-19 cases since midnight, bringing the number of active cases to 8,374.

The number of serious cases drops slightly to 59. Another fatality is confirmed since this morning, bringing the death toll since the start of the pandemic to 6,452.

Ben & Jerry’s Israel reports increased sales of ice cream

Ben & Jerry’s Israel, an independent local manufacturer run by an Israeli company, reports a 21% boost in ice cream sales on Tuesday.

The increase comes after the local distributor appealed to Israelis not to stop buying from them, after the ice cream company announced it would not extend their agreement in 2022 and would stop selling ice cream in “Occupied Palestinian Territory” altogether.

Monitor claims Israeli missiles in northern Syria killed 5 regime fighters

Israeli strikes in northern Syria have killed five pro-Iran fighters allied to the Damascus regime, a Britain-based war monitor says.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights — a pro-Syrian opposition organization of uncertain funding based in the UK — says the missiles landed near the Scientific Studies Research Centre in Al-Safira, killing two Syrian fighters and three other non-Syrians, as well as destroying a base used by pro-Iran groups and a nearby weapons depot.

Syrian state news agency SANA said earlier that Syrian air defenses shot down an Israeli missile over the northern province of Aleppo late on Monday.

Syrian state media cited a military source as saying: “At around 23:37 on Monday… the Israeli enemy carried out an aerial attack towards southeast Aleppo, targeting positions in the Al-Safira area.”

“Our air defenses intercepted the missiles… shooting down most of them,” it adds, saying the extent of damage was still being assessed.

 

CDC: Delta variant accounts for 83% of US coronavirus cases

Health officials say the Delta variant of the coronavirus continues to surge and accounts for an estimated 83% of US COVID-19 cases.

That’s a dramatic increase from the week of July 3, when the variant accounted for about 50% of genetically sequenced coronavirus cases.

“The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 variants is to prevent the spread of disease, and vaccination is the most powerful tool we have,” says Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a US  Senate hearing.

The Delta variant is a mutated coronavirus that spreads more easily than other versions. It was first detected in India but now has been identified around the world.

Protests erupt in India’s Parliament over Israeli spyware scandal

India’s Parliament erupts in protests as opposition lawmakers accuse Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government of using military-grade spyware to monitor political opponents, journalists and activists.

The session was disrupted repeatedly as opposition lawmakers shout slogans against Modi’s government and demand an investigation into how the spyware, known as Pegasus, was used in India.

“This is a national security threat,” an opposition Congress party official, Kapil Sibal, says at a news conference.

The protests come after an investigation by a global media consortium was published on Sunday. Based on leaked targeting data, the findings provided evidence that the spyware from Israel-based NSO Group, the world’s most infamous hacker-for-hire company, was used to allegedly infiltrate devices belonging to a range of targets, including journalists, activists and political opponents in 50 countries.

In India, the list of potential surveillance targets included senior Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi, at least 40 journalists, a veteran election strategist critical of Modi and a top virologist, according to the investigation.

Newly appointed information technology minister Ashwani Vaishnaw dismissed the allegations on Monday, calling them “highly sensational,” “over the top,” and “an attempt to malign the Indian democracy.”

French COVID cases rising at unprecedented rate

French Health Minister Olivier Veran says that new Covid-19 infections were increasing at an unprecedented rate due to the Delta variant after cases hit 18,000 in the last 24 hours.

Referring to the latest figures while speaking in parliament, he says: “That means we have an increase in the spread of the virus of around 150 percent in the last week: we’ve never seen that, neither with Covid (the original form), nor the British variant, nor the South African or the Brazilian one.”

Death toll in Germany flooding hits 169

This picture taken in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, western Germany, on July 16, 2021, shows piled up debris after heavy rain hit parts of the country, causing widespread flooding and major damage (CHRISTOF STACHE / AFP)
This picture taken in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, western Germany, on July 16, 2021, shows piled up debris after heavy rain hit parts of the country, causing widespread flooding and major damage (CHRISTOF STACHE / AFP)

The death toll from devastating floods in Germany reached 169 on Tuesday, local officials say, bringing the total number of deaths in Europe to at least 200.

A total of 121 people are now confirmed to have died in Rhineland-Palatinate, emergency services spokesman Aaron Klein told AFP, up from the previous total of 117 in the western German state.

Yair Netanyahu apologizes to Wexner fellowship alumni for ‘pedophile cult’ claim

Yair Netanyahu, son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, arrives for a court hearing at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court in Tel Aviv on March 10, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Yair Netanyahu, son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, arrives for a court hearing at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court in Tel Aviv on March 10, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Yair Netanyahu, the son of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has apologized to alumni of the Wexner Israel fellowships who sued him for tweets calling them members of a “secret cult,” Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s sister site in Hebrew, reports.

Dozens of prominent alumni filed the libel suit last year, demanding NIS 1 million ($303,000) in compensation for damage to their reputations, due to the younger Netanyahu’s smears against the prestigious leadership program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School.

The program is endowed by the Wexner Foundation, founded by fashion tycoon Leslie Wexner, who has faced scrutiny in recent years due to his close relationship with the late convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

Yair Netanyahu requested to have the suit dismissed but his claim that a group could not file a libel suit was rejected by the court, and the sides then entered into arbitration.

The lawsuit specifically flagged tweets in which the alumni were called “crazy” cult members seeking to control Israel. In one post, Netanyahu referred to them as a “cult of pedophiles taking control of our country and carrying out a coup over the past four years.” Pressed to remove that post, he later insisted it referred only to Epstein.

As part of the arbitration agreement, Netanyahu issued an apology and promised not to repeat the claims on any platform. He also agreed to take down the social media posts in question and called on others to do likewise.

“Between the months of March and June 2020, I published harmful social media posts about alumni of the Wexner Foundation. After having examined myself and been convinced by the alumni, I believe that my remarks in these posts were incorrect, improper and I find it right to apologize for them,” Netanyahu says in the apology.

Israeli-led mission sails to Sudan for major Red Sea coral study

Scuba divers approach a coral reef while on a dive in the Red Sea waters off the coast of Israel's southern port city of Eilat on February 9, 2021. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)
Scuba divers approach a coral reef while on a dive in the Red Sea waters off the coast of Israel's southern port city of Eilat on February 9, 2021. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

An Israeli-led scientific expedition sails from the southern city of Eilat toward Port Sudan, launching a joint project with Sudanese researchers that could help preserve the Red Sea’s unique coral reefs.

The collaboration, aided by Sudan’s normalization of ties with Israel last year, aims to create a first-ever comprehensive study of the entire Red Sea, possibly yielding precious information on the long-term viability of reefs.

While coral populations around the world are undergoing bleaching caused by climate change, reefs in the northern Red Sea, where the Gulf of Eilat lies, have stayed stable because of their unique heat resistance.

The mission is being headed by Maoz Fine of the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat, whose groundbreaking research offered insight into the durability of the northern Red Sea reefs.

He found that the northern Red Sea corals underwent a form of “thermal selection” in their journey from the Indian Ocean through warmer water thousands of years ago.

For years Fine had said that a comprehensive study at the Red Sea reefs was necessary to fully understand the variation from north to south.

But such a study faced diplomatic hurdles, with Arab states to the Red Sea’s south reluctant to work with Israel.

Fine’s collaboration with expedition co-leader Anders Meibom of Ecole Polytechnique Federale in Lausanne (EPFL) facilitated involvement from the Swiss government, which offered financial support and diplomatic efforts to connect Israel and regional Arab states.

Israelis at a Red Sea beach near the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company’s (EAPC) oil terminal at Israel’s southern port city of Eilat on February 10, 2021. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

While planning for the mission pre-dated last year’s normalization deal, the establishment of Israeli-Sudanese diplomatic relations was “very fortunate,” Bern’s ambassador to Israel, Jean-Daniel Ruch, told AFP.

The six scientists and four crew members — all European except Fine — is set to reach Port Sudan on the Swiss-flagged Fleur de Passion in four days, where a Sudanese team of researchers will join with a ship of their own.

The two vessels will spend five to six weeks collecting coral samples and testing their heat durability as the ship heads south.

Fine tells AFP that moving from the healthier northern reefs to the struggling south was like “traveling back in time,” possibly offering new insights into the disparity between the two areas.

Meibom says the mission aimed to create “a real, holistic view of what the corals are, what state are they in, and where we can expect them to survive and for how long.”

Such a “baseline” would help scientists “understand where are the corals that have the biggest potential for survival in the future”, he told AFP.

For Meibom, the Red Sea expedition was a “neutral vehicle” between Israeli and Arab scientists, ideally fostering information sharing and better regional sea management policy.

The project, which formally began last month with a short excursion in Jordan’s Gulf of Aqaba, will continue over three years, aiming to involve further Red Sea countries.

Bezos’ ‘Blue Origin’ capsule lands safely

The New Shepard Blue Origin rocket lifts-off from the launch pad carrying Jeff Bezos along with his brother Mark Bezos, 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, and 82-year-old Wally Funk prepare to launch on July 20, 2021 in Van Horn, Texas. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)
The New Shepard Blue Origin rocket lifts-off from the launch pad carrying Jeff Bezos along with his brother Mark Bezos, 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, and 82-year-old Wally Funk prepare to launch on July 20, 2021 in Van Horn, Texas. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)

A Blue Origin capsule carrying Jeff Bezos and three crewmates touches down in the west Texas desert after breaching the boundary of space, the company’s live broadcast shows.

The spaceship floated down on three giant parachutes before firing a retro thruster, sending up a cloud of sand as it gently landed at one or two miles (kilometers) an hour.

“A very happy group of people in this capsule,” says Bezos.

Chief Rabbinate seethes over proposed kashrut privatization

The state-run Chief Rabbinate condemns the proposed government reforms to privatize the country’s kashrut system,

“This is part of a general trend of a war against religious services, whose ultimate goal is canceling the Jewish identify of the State of Israel,” it says.

PA applauds Ben & Jerry’s for ending sales in ‘Occupied Palestinian Territory’

Ben & Jerry's ice creams on sale at a shop in Jerusalem on July 19, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ben & Jerry's ice creams on sale at a shop in Jerusalem on July 19, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry praises a decision by the American ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s to end sales in “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

“The company is respecting human rights and principles and morality, which reject working with the illegal, immoral imperial system that Israel is perpetuating in occupied Palestinian land,” the Foreign Ministry says in a statement.

Ben & Jerry’s decision to cease selling ice cream in “occupied Palestinian territory” — a designation Israel disputes as inaccurate — has sparked a media firestorm in Israel, with prominent politicians issuing outraged responses.

The PA Foreign Ministry says it “calls on companies working, directly or indirectly, with the settlement system, to take similar positions and immediately stop their dealings and business.”

WATCH: Bezos blasts off for space on 1st manned space flight

Jeff Bezos blasts off on the first flight of his space travel company with people on board, becoming the second billionaire in just over a week to ride his own rocket.

The Amazon founder zoomed toward space with a hand-picked group: his younger brother, an 18-year-old from the Netherlands and an 82-year-old aviation pioneer from Texas — the youngest and oldest to ever hurtle off the planet.

Religious Affairs Ministry readies overhaul of Israel’s kashrut system

Illustrative: A typical Jerusalem Rabbinate kosher certificate (Courtesy Jerusalem Kosher News)
Illustrative: A typical Jerusalem Rabbinate kosher certificate (Courtesy Jerusalem Kosher News)

The Religious Affairs Ministry is preparing to overhaul the country’s kashrut system. Under its proposal, the Chief Rabbinate — which currently has a monopoly over kosher certifications — will become a state regulator of kashrut standards, while kosher supervision will be relegated to private companies.

The coalition plans to present the reforms to the Knesset as part of its state budget, given the economic ramifications of the proposal, the Ynet news site reports.

Under the existing law, only the Chief Rabbinate can declare establishments to be kosher.

In first for Israel, Miss Universe pageant to be held in Eilat in December

Contestants congratulate new Miss Universe Catriona Gray, center, from the Philippines during the final round of the 67th Miss Universe competition in Bangkok, Thailand on December 17, 2018.(AP/Gemunu Amarasinghe)
Contestants congratulate new Miss Universe Catriona Gray, center, from the Philippines during the final round of the 67th Miss Universe competition in Bangkok, Thailand on December 17, 2018.(AP/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Israel will host the 2021 Miss Universe pageant for the first time in December, the Tourism Ministry announces.

The pageant will be held in Eilat, the ministry says.

“We in Israel are delighted to host the 70th anniversary celebrations of the iconic Miss Universe pageant,” says Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov.

He adds: “I fully hope that in December we will be celebrating not only the new Miss Universe here in Israel, but most importantly, the end of the world pandemic. I wish all participants good health and good luck and I look forward to seeing you all soon.”

Former soccer stars from Barcelona, Real Madrid to play in Tel Aviv

Retired soccer superstars who played for Spanish soccer league rivals Real Madrid and FC Barcelona will square off in Israel tonight for an exhibition match of veterans from the two powerhouse clubs.

Games between the opposing clubs are referred to as “El Clásico” and the match at Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield Stadium will be called “El Clásico of Peace.”

Among the former stars set to play in the match are Brazilians Ronaldinho and Rivaldo for FC Barcelona, while fellow Brazilian Roberto Carlos and Italian Luis Figo will suit up for Real Madrid.

The players are touring Israel ahead of the match, Hebrew reports say.

Tokyo Games CEO doesn’t rule last-minute cancellation of Olympics over COVID

Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto doesn’t rule out a last-minute cancellation of the Olympics, as several athletes test positive for COVID-19.

“We can’t predict what will happen with the number of coronavirus cases. So we will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases,” says Muto.

“We have agreed that based on the coronavirus situation, we will convene five-party talks again. At this point, the coronavirus cases may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises.”

Defense minister says Israel studying allegations against NSO Group

Defense Minister Benny Gantz attends a conference in the Eshkol region, southern Israel. on July 13, 2021. (Flash90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz attends a conference in the Eshkol region, southern Israel. on July 13, 2021. (Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz says Israel is “studying” the reports that numerous governments used the Israeli NSO Group’s phone spyware to monitor journalists, lawyers and politicians in a number of countries.

“We are aware of the recent reports on the use of technologies that were developed by certain Israeli cyber companies,” he says.

“As a policy, Israel permits the export of approved cyber technologies solely to government, solely for legal use, and specifically for the aim of preventing and investigating crimes and terrorism,” says Gantz. “The countries  buying these products must uphold their compliance with these demands.”

“We are studying the information that was publicized on this matter,” he says.

On Monday, the Defense Ministry said “appropriate action” would be taken if it confirms NSO Group violated the terms of its export license.

Twitter gives Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene a timeout over COVID tweets

Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia wears a "Stop the Steal" mask while speaking with fellow first-term Republican members of Congress, on the steps of the US Capitol in Washington, January 4, 2021. (Saul Loeb/AFP)
Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia wears a "Stop the Steal" mask while speaking with fellow first-term Republican members of Congress, on the steps of the US Capitol in Washington, January 4, 2021. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

Twitter is giving US Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene a 12-hour timeout, saying some of her tweets violated the social media site’s policy against misinformation regarding the coronavirus pandemic.

Twitter suspends the Republican from Georgia after US President Joe Biden urged tech companies to take stronger action against bogus claims about vaccines that are “killing people.” Twitter has defended its efforts to keep dangerous misinformation about COVID-19 off its site, saying it has removed thousands of tweets and challenged millions of accounts worldwide.

Greene appears to have been disciplined under the “strike” system Twitter launched in March, using a combination of artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify content about the coronavirus that is misleading enough to cause harm to people. Two or three strikes earn a 12-hour account lock; four strikes prompt a weeklong suspension, and five or more strikes can get someone permanently removed from Twitter.

“We took enforcement action on the account @mtgreenee for violations of the Twitter Rules, specifically the Covid-19 misleading information policy,” the company says in an email.

One of Greene’s latest tweets that Twitter labeled misleading claimed that the virus “is not dangerous for non-obese people and those under 65.” According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people under 65 account for nearly 250,000 of the US deaths involving COVID-19.

Greene has in the past likened vaccination outreach to Nazi-era thugs. She has apologized for comparing coronavirus protections to Holocaust-era restrictions on Jews.

India’s COVID death toll could be in the millions — study

Family members and relatives wearing protective gear stand next to the funeral pyre of a COVID-19 coronavirus victim at a crematorium in New Delhi on May 24, 2021 (Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP)
Family members and relatives wearing protective gear stand next to the funeral pyre of a COVID-19 coronavirus victim at a crematorium in New Delhi on May 24, 2021 (Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP)

India’s excess deaths during the pandemic could be a staggering 10 times the official COVID-19 toll, likely making it modern India’s worst human tragedy, according to the most comprehensive research yet on the ravages of the virus in the South Asian country.

Most experts believe India’s official toll of more than 414,000 dead is a vast undercount, but the government has dismissed those concerns as exaggerated and misleading.

The report released Tuesday estimates excess deaths — the gap between those recorded and those that would have been expected — to be 3 million to 4.7 million between January 2020 and June 2021. It says an accurate figure may “prove elusive” but the true death toll “is likely to be an order of magnitude greater than the official count.”

The report, published by Arvind Subramanian, the Indian government’s former chief economic adviser, and two other researchers at the Center for Global Development, a nonprofit think tank based in Washington, and Harvard University, says the count could have missed deaths occurring in overwhelmed hospitals or while health care was delayed or disrupted, especially during the devastating peak surge earlier this year.

“True deaths are likely to be in the several millions not hundreds of thousands, making this arguably India’s worst human tragedy since Partition and independence,” the report says.

The Partition of the British-ruled Indian subcontinent into independent India and Pakistan in 1947 led to the killing of up to 1 million people as gangs of Hindus and Muslims slaughtered each other.

US kosher supermarkets to stop stocking Ben & Jerry’s in protest

Some kosher supermarkets in the US won’t stock Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, after the company announces it will end sales in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

Glatt Express Supermarket, a kosher grocery store in Teaneck, New Jersey, announced via Facebook that it would no longer carry Ben & Jerry’s products following the company’s announcement.

“Due to the recent actions by Ben & Jerry’s, Glatt Express will no longer be carrying Ben and Jerry’s products. Am Yisroel Chai,” the store wrote in a post.

Aron’s Kissena Farms, a kosher market in Queens, made the same decision. The market “has removed all of the Ben & Jerry’s products in the Freezers, and will no longer sell any and all Ben & Jerry products effective immediately,” the store writes on Facebook. “Aron’s Kissena Farms stands with the state of Israel”

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos set for his 1st manned private space flight

In this Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019 file photo, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos walks off stage after holding a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
In this Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019 file photo, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos walks off stage after holding a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Jeff Bezos is about to soar on his space travel company’s first flight with people on board.

The founder of Blue Origin as well as Amazon on Tuesday will become the second billionaire to ride his own rocket. He’ll launch from West Texas with his brother, an 18-year-old from the Netherlands, and an 82-year-old female aviation pioneer from Texas — the youngest and oldest to ever hurtle off the planet.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket is set to blast off with its eclectic group of passengers on the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Bezos is aiming for an altitude of roughly 66 miles (106 kilometers), more than 10 miles (16 kilometers) higher than Richard Branson’s ride on July 11.

The capsule is fully automated, so there’s no need for trained staff on the quick up-and-down flight, expected to last just 10 minutes. Branson’s Virgin Galactic rocket plane needs two pilots to operate.

Bezos’ dream-come-true trip follows 15 successful test flights to space by New Shepard rockets since 2015, all of them unoccupied. If successful, Blue Origin plans two more passenger flights by year’s end.

The company has yet to open ticket sales to the public and is filling upcoming flights with those who took part in last month’s $28 million charity auction for the fourth capsule seat. The mystery winner bowed out of Tuesday’s launch because of a scheduling conflict. That opened up the slot for Oliver Daemen, a college-bound student from the Netherlands whose father was among the unsuccessful bidders.

Also flying: Bezos’ younger brother, Mark, and Wally Funk, one of 13 female pilots who went through the same testing back in the early 1960s as NASA’s Mercury astronauts, but failed to make the cut because they were women.

Czech coach tests positive for COVID in Olympic Village

Czech beach volleyball coach Simon Nausch has tested positive for Covid-19 in the Tokyo Olympic Village, officials say, a day after one of the players also tested positive.

“At least we know that regular testing works and catches positive cases right from the start. It’s unpleasant for us but we’ll deal with it,” Czech Olympic team head Martin Doktor says in a statement.

The team says Nausch had left the Olympic Village for isolation and that any close contacts would self-isolate.

It is the fifth Covid case in the Village. Two South African footballers and a video analyst had previously tested positive.

“Due to previous cases in our team, we tried to be extremely careful. Unfortunately it did not work but I am really glad I am in isolation before I can jeopardize someone else’s participation in the games,” Nausch says in the statement.

The announcement came a day after Czech beach volleyball player Ondrej Perusic tested positive at the Olympic Village.

PM, top ministers meet with culture representatives on restrictions

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, and Culture Minister Chili Tropper are meeting with representatives from the arts and culture world, ahead of the expected reinstatement of the so-called “Green Pass” system.

The pass will limit attendance at cultural events to the vaccinated and recovered, or those who show a recent negative test result.

“We didn’t come here to shut you down. We want to be attentive to the cultural world. We aren’t set [in our position], we came here to hear you out,” says Bennett. “We favor the Green Pass. We will soon understand if it’s feasible.”

Iran registers record daily COVID caseload of 27,444

Iran registers a new daily COVID caseload record, the health ministry announces, as strict limitations to curb its spread go into effect in the capital Tehran.

In the past 24 hours, the country registered a record 27,444 new infections to bring its total number of positive cases to 3,576,148.

‘Hotel Rwanda’ activist’s daughter targeted by Israeli spyware

The daughter of detained “Hotel Rwanda” hero and outspoken government critic Paul Rusesabagina lashes out after a media probe found indications she had been spied on using the Israeli malware Pegasus.

Governments used the NSO Group’s phone spyware to monitor journalists, lawyers and politicians in a number of countries, according to an investigation by The Washington Post, The Guardian, Le Monde and other outlets, based on a leaked list of 50,000 phone numbers.

Numbers of more than 3,500 Rwandans appeared on the leaked records, “indicating that they were potential targets of the software,” the inquiry said.

Among them was a cellphone belonging to Rusesabagina’s daughter, Carine Kanimba, “which was forensically confirmed to have been compromised multiple times,” it said.

Kanimba, a US-Belgian dual national, has been campaigning to free her father, who faces life in prison on a string of charges including terrorism.

The Guardian said forensic analysis by Amnesty International found that 28-year-old Kanimba’s phone had been infiltrated since at least January.

“It was bad enough that they kidnapped my father, tortured him and robbed him of his legal rights,” Kanimba says in a statement from the Paul Rusesabagina Foundation.

“Now we find out that they have listened to my conversations with the US State Department, Belgium Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes, and our attorneys. This adds insult to injury.”

The Rwandan government denied the allegations.

Bennett cheers as northern town gets fiber optic cable

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attends the installation of a fiber optic cable in the northern town of Ma’alot-Tarshiha, alongside  Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel.

The move, which will bring fast internet to the north, is hailed by Bennett as “historic” as it will match the connection speeds in the north to those in economic center of the country.

“The periphery interests us very much. This is a national goal for us. The significance of joining the periphery and the entire State of Israel to fiber optic cables, for the economy is immense. It dramatically increases GDP because everything is going to be quicker and easier. More business and better education reduce crowding on the highways and air pollution, and encourages startups in every place that is connected.”

He adds: “This says that a child in Ma’alot will be able to receive the same level of service and education online as a child in the center. This says that it is really possible to establish startup incubators and startups here that can work in real-time. This says that a doctor can sit in Ma’alot and remote operate equipment at a hospital in Detroit.”

France investigates alleged Israeli spyware use against dissidents

Illustrative. An Israeli woman uses her phone in front of a building in Herzliya that housed the NSO Group intelligence firm, August 28, 2016. (Jack Guez/AFP/File)
Illustrative. An Israeli woman uses her phone in front of a building in Herzliya that housed the NSO Group intelligence firm, August 28, 2016. (Jack Guez/AFP/File)

The Paris prosecutor’s office is investigating the suspected widespread use of spyware made by Israel-based NSO Group to target journalists, human rights activists and political dissidents.

The prosecutor’s office says in a statement that it opened an investigation into a raft of potential charges, including violation of privacy, illegal use of data and illegally selling spyware.

As is common under French law, the investigation doesn’t name a suspected perpetrator but is aimed at determining who might eventually be sent to trial. It was prompted by a legal complaint by two journalists and French investigative website Mediapart.

An investigation by a global media consortium published this week found more than 1,000 individuals in 50 countries who were allegedly selected by NSO clients for potential surveillance by its flagship Pegasus spyware. Among them were journalists and politicians in France.

Based on leaked data, the consortium identified the targets from a list of more than 50,000 cellphone numbers obtained by the Paris-based journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories and the human rights group Amnesty International and shared with 16 news organizations.

NSO Group denied that it ever maintained “a list of potential, past or existing targets.” It called the Forbidden Stories report “full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories.”

Ministers to mull fresh COVID restrictions as cases soar

The so-called coronavirus cabinet will convene to discuss the reinstatement of COVID restrictions, as infections in Israel hit a four-month high.

The forum of ministers is expected to approve mandatory quarantine for all travelers returning from abroad, including the vaccinated and those who recovered from the virus.

The ministers will also discuss reinstating the Green Pass system, which limits access to many public spaces just to those who are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have a recent negative test.

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