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Initial data said to indicate vaccinated teens experience no major side effects

Analysis of 200,000 Israelis aged 12-15 dispels fears of myocarditis link, report says, stressing more data still needed

A young Israeli receives a coronavirus vaccine shot at a Clalit vaccination center in Petah Tikva, July 19, 2021. (Flash90)
A young Israeli receives a coronavirus vaccine shot at a Clalit vaccination center in Petah Tikva, July 19, 2021. (Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.

Poll: Third of Americans back linking arms supplies for Israel to its treatment of Palestinians

Israeli and American F-35 fighter jets take part in a joint exercise over southern Israel, on March 29, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)
Israeli and American F-35 fighter jets take part in a joint exercise over southern Israel, on March 29, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

NEW YORK — A third of Americans support linking US arms sales to Israel to the latter’s actions toward the Palestinians, according to a new poll.

Notably, support for such a linkage was nearly the same among Democrats (36.3%) and Republicans (32.3%), the University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll found.

But the survey also found that 46.6% of respondents still oppose linking arms sales to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

The poll focuses largely on American perceptions of US President Joe Biden’s handling of the recent Gaza conflict.

A slight majority — 52.6% — disapproved of Biden’s effort, while 47.4% approved.

Among members of his own party, 72.3% approved and 27.7% disapproved of Biden’s handling of the conflict.

A Palestinian woman approaches a checkpoint as an ultra-Orthodox Jewish teen prays outside the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem, during the annual Tisha B’Av fast day on July 18, 2021. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Disapproval numbers were higher among Democrats between the ages of 18 and 34, with 49.7% unsatisfied with the US president’s performance.

Among Democrats, 34.8% blamed Israel for the recent conflict, 8.1% blamed the Palestinians and 52.5% blamed both sides equally. By contrast, 3.7% of Republicans blamed Israel, 59.1% blamed the Palestinians and 31.3% blamed both sides.

In an unrelated question, the poll finds that more Americans believe Iran acquires a nuclear weapon than Israel does.

Israel has never officially acknowledged having such capabilities, though it is widely believed to maintain them. Iran, however, is not known to have a nuclear weapon and world powers have been engaged in talks with Tehran in recent years to prevent the Islamic Republic from acquiring such capabilities.

According to the poll, 60.5% of respondents — including 70.6% of Republicans and 52.6% of Democrats — say Iran currently possesses nuclear weapons, compared to 51.7% who say Israel currently does.

The University of Maryland surveyed 3,379 American adults and the poll had a margin of error of 1.69%.

Report: No major side effects among vaccinated teens, initial data suggests

A young Israeli receives a COVID-19 vaccine in Petah Tikva, on July 19, 2021. (Flash90)
A young Israeli receives a COVID-19 vaccine in Petah Tikva, on July 19, 2021. (Flash90)

Initial data from 200,000 Israeli teenagers aged 12-15 who got vaccinated against the coronavirus indicates the shot have no major side effects, and almost no side effects in general, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The report says health official were most worried about cases of myocarditis — an inflammation of the heart muscle — but that just one to three such cases were observed among the 200,000 vaccinees, a normal rate.

However, the report stresses that more data is needed with a larger sample to make definite conclusions.

Israeli mayor orders vaccination centers in schools, defying education minister

illustrative: Israeli high school students. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
illustrative: Israeli high school students. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

The mayor of Bat Yam, Tzvika Brot, is openly defying Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, and saying he has ordered municipal education officials to prepare to give COVID-19 vaccine shots at high schools when the school year begins, Channel 13 news reports.

The move comes a day after Shasha-Biton said in an interview with Channel 12 news that vaccinating kids in school is “a crime.”

“Anyone who can, go out and get vaccinated,” she said, but added: “But doing so at school is a crime in my opinion.”

Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton at a handover ceremony at the Education Ministry in Jerusalem, on June 14, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Brot’s order is reportedly aimed at increasing vaccination rates among young people in the central Israel city, which currently stands at just 20 percent.

In institutions where parents object, the vaccination center will be next to the school.

NYC mayor to Jews: Get vaccinated by Monday to be protected on Rosh Hashanah

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio encourages Jewish New Yorkers to get a coronavirus vaccine by Monday in time to be fully vaccinated by Rosh Hashana, on July 29, 2021. (Screenshot from YouTube via JTA)
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio encourages Jewish New Yorkers to get a coronavirus vaccine by Monday in time to be fully vaccinated by Rosh Hashana, on July 29, 2021. (Screenshot from YouTube via JTA)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has a message for the US city’s Jewish community: If you want to be fully vaccinated by Rosh Hashanah, you need to get your first Pfizer shot by Monday.

“If you get the first one by Monday and then you follow up on time, you will be fully vaccinated by the start of the holiday,” de Blasio says. “So yet another incentive.”

Rosh Hashanah begins on the evening of September 6.

De Blasio’s comments come as the city begins rolling out carrots and sticks to encourage vaccines in response to a surge in COVID-19 cases in the city, driven by the Delta variant.

New York City will offer $100 to anyone who gets their first dose at a city-run vaccination site, and all city workers will have to be vaccinated or go through strict weekly testing protocols.

The mayor touts the city’s star-studded “homecoming” concert on August 21 in Central Park, saying tickets will be made available only to New Yorkers who show proof of having received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

Paul Simon and Bruce Springsteen are among the headliners of the concert, which is meant to celebrate the city’s rebound from the worst of COVID-19.

Despite a recent poll showing Jews as the most likely of religious groups to be vaccinated, Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods tend to have vaccine rates significantly below the national US average.

De Blasio stresses the importance of being vaccinated before gathering with family for the High Holidays. Last fall, COVID cases increased around the time of the Jewish New Year, likely arising from the large number of people gathering in homes and synagogues to observe the holidays.

“That’s a great thing to do looking forward to the holidays, make sure every family member who’s going to be in the room is fully vaccinated,” de Blasio says.

2 Israeli HMOs say they’ll start giving COVID booster shots tomorrow

Two of Israel’s four health providers, Clalit and Meuhedet, have announced they will start administering the third COVID-19 vaccine shot to eligible Israelis as early as tomorrow.

The government has said doses will be available starting on Sunday.

The Maccabi health provider says it will start giving the shots on Sunday.

Health minister: Any delay in COVID booster shots could have cost many lives

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz speaks during his visit to the Beilinson Medical Center, on July 27, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz speaks during his visit to the Beilinson Medical Center, on July 27, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz backs the decision to give COVID-19 booster shots to Israelis aged 60 and up despite no similar regulatory approval being issued worldwide

Horowitz says in a press statement that any further delay in making the move could have cost many lives.

“We made a clear strategic choice to keep the economy open,” Horowitz says. “Lockdowns, unemployment, damage to businesses and harm to mental health all carry their own health cost. The previous government was a record holder in the West in the number of days schools were closed. We view the normal opening of the school year as a strategic goal.”

Health expert Prof. Gabi Barbash says on Channel 12 news that it is unlikely that people who didn’t experience side effects from their first two shots will feel side effects from the third one.

Barbash adds that a third shot isn’t expected to dramatically reduce contagion rates, but will lower serious cases.

Poll: More Israelis favor Netanyahu’s COVID policies over Bennett’s

A survey published by Channel 12 news shows more Israelis are happy with former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the coronavirus crisis than with that of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

According to the poll, 43 percent of respondents say Netanyahu’s policies were better than Bennett’s, while 21% favor the current premier’s approach.

The network says the answers are heavily correlated with political leaning, with most right-wingers favoring Netanyahu and most left-wingers preferring Bennett.

Poll: 72% of Israelis aged 60+ intend to get 3rd vaccine dose

A poll by Channel 12 news show that 72 percent of Israelis aged 60 and up intend to get their third COVID-19 vaccine dose when it becomes available next week.

Meanwhile, 9% say they will not.

The rest say they don’t know.

Bennett urges eligible Israelis to get 3rd vaccine, rehabilitate COVID immunity

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announces that Israelis over 60 will be able to get a third COVID-19 vaccine dose next week, calling on Israelis to get the shot and encourage friends and families to do so.

In a prime-time press statement, Bennett says President Isaac Herzog will be the first to get the booster shot tomorrow morning.

“Data shows the body’s immunity decreases over time, and the purpose is to rehabilitate that immunity,” he says, likening the COVID-19 vaccine to flu vaccines that need to be renewed periodically.

Bennett says his policy is trying to save lives while minimizing disruptions to daily life.

He calls on unvaccinated young Israelis to get the shot.

Bennett says PCR tests to self-check for the coronavirus are now available to purchase in pharmacies.

Palestinian man dies after clash with Israeli troops — PA Health Ministry

A Palestinian man critically wounded in clashes with Israeli forces near Beit Ummar in the West Bank has died of his wounds, the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry reports.

The ministry identifies the deceased as Shawkat Khalid Owad, 20, a Beit Ummar resident. Although he was rushed to a local hospital after being shot, he died from wounds in his head and stomach induced by live bullets, it says.

The violent confrontations between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians erupted during the funeral of 12-year-old Mohammad al-Alaami, who was killed by apparent Israeli gunfire while sitting in his father’s car near the entrance to Beit Ummar.

The Israeli military said last night that troops spotted a car carrying suspects they believed had recently buried a baby. Soldiers sought to arrest the suspects and called for the car to halt; when it did not, one soldier fired at the car wheel, the army said.

The boy was apparently killed in the shooting. The army says it is looking into the matter.

3 new COVID deaths today, including unvaccinated 38-year-old without preexisting illness

The Health Ministry says that as of 6:30 p.m. today, there were 1,448 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed nationwide, bringing the number of active cases to 15,521.

It adds three new deaths to the morning’s tally.

According to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, one of the fatalities is a 38-year-old man with no background illnesses who didn’t get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

In a statement, the hospital says the case “highlights the importance of vaccination.”

The ministry data says serious cases are slightly down to 151, including 32 listed as critical.

25 hurt after inhaling chlorine vapors at northern Israel pool

Some 25 people, some of them children, have required medical treatment after inhaling chlorine vapors at a pool in the town of Kfar Vradim in northern Israel, according to emergency groups.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says 23 of them have been taken to hospitals in light condition, suffering from breathing difficulties.

Police say some have reported stinging eyes and vomiting. It adds that officers have detained a truck driver who had filled the chlorine tank.

Israel adds Britain, Turkey, Cyprus to no-fly list due to COVID risk

The Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approves the addition of Britain, Turkey, Georgia and Cyprus to the list of countries holding the highest risk to travelers of contracting COVID-19.

This means that, as of midnight, travel to those countries will be barred save for exceptional cases to be determined by a special committee.

Additionally, the Knesset committee significantly shortens the expiration date of the current “Green Pass” regulations, which restrict access to many public places only to people who are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or present a recent negative test result.

Rather than August 25, the rules are now set to end on August 7. That is because the government wants to change the current rules to enable rapid PCR tests.

82 Israeli lawmakers ask Polish parliament to oppose law blocking Holocaust restitution

Amid the spat between Israel and Poland over a law being advanced by Warsaw that would prevent restitution to Jewish heirs of property seized by the Nazis during the Holocaust, 82 out of Israel’s 120 lawmakers have signed a letter to the Polish parliament asking them to vote against the legislation.

“We, members of Israel’s Knesset, are contacting you with a request to vote against the law that denies Holocaust survivors and descendants of Holocaust victims [the right] to demand the return of the property stolen from them,” the Hebrew-language letter, published by the Ynet news website, says.

“There is no doubt that Poles took part in the persecution, theft and extermination,” they add. “That is the historic truth and it cannot be changed. The attempt by Poland to distance itself from the crimes committed in its territory by Poles is mistaken and dangerous, because how is it possible to educate young people not to repeat crimes that weren’t committed?

“We implore you — as Polish citizens, as public leaders, as humans — to acknowledge the crimes and act to fix them. Not just for the sake of the victims’ memory and respect for the survivors, and not for the sake of the relations between our countries, but for Poland.

“Acknowledging history, not rewriting it, is the act that would increase the respect for the Polish nation.”

The Knesset members who signed the letter come from all parties, except the Islamist Ra’am.

Australian Jewish paddler Jessica Fox wins gold in canoe slalom

Australia's Jessica Fox poses with her gold medal on the podium following the women's Canoe final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Kasai Canoe Slalom Centre in Tokyo on July 29, 2021. (Photo by Charly TRIBALLEAU / AFP)
Australia's Jessica Fox poses with her gold medal on the podium following the women's Canoe final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Kasai Canoe Slalom Centre in Tokyo on July 29, 2021. (Photo by Charly TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

Jessica Fox, the Jewish canoeist from Australia, has won gold in an Olympics event that is newly open to women because of her advocacy.

Fox takes home the top prize in canoe slalom, making her the first-ever woman to win a gold medal in the event in an Olympics. She had been among the athletes pushing for canoe slalom, long part of the men’s competition, to be part of women’s paddling in the Tokyo Olympics.

Fox has long been dominant in both kayak slalom and canoe slalom. On Tuesday, she came up short in kayak slalom, winning bronze for the second straight Games. One of just eight athletes to compete in both events, Fox’s canoe slalom time of 105.04 seconds — a stunning three seconds ahead of the silver medalist — made her the only woman to medal in both.

Fox’s Jewish mom and coach, Myriam Jerusalmi, won bronze for France at the 1996 Olympics; her dad, Richard Fox, paddled for Britain and just missed the podium at the 1992 Olympics.

“It’s really hard to put it into words,” Fox says after winning the gold medal. “My parents have been amazing role models, amazing inspirations, amazing support for me. Both being Olympians — mum winning bronze, Dad missing the gold because of a penalty, mum missing the gold because of a penalty — I think we’re all pretty emotional about these penalties. So to win today — it’s a win for them. It’s a win for our whole family.”

Jerusalmi, too, describes Fox’s win as a moving moment. “I was full of emotion as soon as she passed the tricky gate,” she tells Australian media. “I’m not like that, usually, but today I think it was really special.”

State to cancel some 39,000 lockdown fines unlawfully given last year — report

Police clash with anti-Netanyahu demonstrators during a protest against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and in memory of assasinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, in Jerusalem, on October 31, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Police clash with anti-Netanyahu demonstrators during a protest against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and in memory of assasinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, in Jerusalem, on October 31, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The state will cancel some 39,000 fines issued last year to protesters who demonstrated against then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule, after the High Court ruled that they were given unlawfully, Channel 12 news reports.

The fines were given in Jerusalem during the first two weeks of October 2020, when Israel was under its second coronavirus lockdown.

Police had issued the fines over alleged violation of the restrictions, but the court has ruled the protesters had the right to rally wherever they wanted, the report says.

More than 18,000 of the fines have already been paid, meaning the state will reimburse those who got them. A total of almost NIS 11 million ($3.4 million) will be paid back.

UK government okays plan for new Holocaust memorial outside Parliament

A virtual model of the proposed Holocaust memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens outside the UK Parliament. (Screen capture/YouTube)
A virtual model of the proposed Holocaust memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens outside the UK Parliament. (Screen capture/YouTube)

The British government has given planning permission to build the country’s first Holocaust memorial and learning center, which will be located in London near the Parliament, in Victoria Tower Gardens.

“The new Holocaust Memorial will be the national focal point to honour the 6 million Jewish men, women and children who were murdered in the Holocaust, and other victims of Nazi persecution, including the Roma, gay and disabled people,” the government says in a statement by the Ministry of Housing, UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation and MP Hon Robert Jenrick.

“The co-located Learning Centre will also focus on subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur,” it adds.

“The world-class facility will give visitors powerful and engaging experiences to learn about the Holocaust and subsequent genocides through a variety of mediums including historic photographs, film footage and audio recordings so that the stories of survivors can be heard by younger generations, present and future,” the statement says.

Work will start later this year, and completion is expected in 2025. The government will dedicate 75 million pounds ($104.7 million) with 25 million more pounds ($34.9 million) coming from charitable sources.

UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis says in response: “This is a significant moment on our journey towards a major national Holocaust memorial. Now the sacred work to enshrine our country’s commitment to teaching the essential lessons of the Holocaust in a monument and learning centre beside parliament, can truly begin.”

“The Holocaust is part of British history,” says Holocaust survivor Sir Ben Helfgott.

“I am proud that the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre is being built, in the heart of our country, so it can be visited by millions. I know that long after I, and the other survivors, are gone, the UK will continue to remember the Holocaust and learn what happened when hatred reigned,” he adds.

Jonathan Goldstein, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, says the announcement is “welcome” and adds the center “will help ensure the legacy and memory of the Holocaust is preserved. It will serve as a reminder of where unchecked hatred can lead.”

Israel loses dramatic baseball game 6-5 to South Korea in extra innings

Israel's Mitchell Glasser (22) collides with teammate Blake Gailen as he catches a fly out hit by South Korea's Jaeil Oh during a baseball game at the 2020 Summer Olympics, July 29, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Israel's Mitchell Glasser (22) collides with teammate Blake Gailen as he catches a fly out hit by South Korea's Jaeil Oh during a baseball game at the 2020 Summer Olympics, July 29, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

In a dramatic Olympic baseball opening game in Tokyo, Israel loses to South Korea 6-5 after the game went into extra innings with the game tied 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth at the Yokohama Baseball Stadium south of Tokyo.

In a twist end to the match, the South Korean team scores a point when its batter is hit by a pitch thrown by Israel’s Jeremy Bleich while the bases were loaded.

Israel will play against the US team tomorrow evening in Tokyo. If it loses that match, it will head into a knockout round game next week.

Bennett says Israel will keep responding to every Gaza arson balloon

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett vows his government will continue responding to each arson balloon launched by terrorists in the Gaza Strip towards Israeli territory.

Bennett makes the promise in a meeting with heads of local councils near Gaza, whose areas have been frequently hit by the incendiary devices.

Palestinian said critically injured in clashes with Israeli forces during funeral

A Palestinian man has been critically wounded in clashes with Israeli forces near Beit Ummar in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry reports.

The violent confrontations between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians erupt during the funeral of 12-year-old Mohammad al-Alaami, who was killed by apparent Israeli gunfire while sitting in his father’s car near the entrance to Beit Ummar.

The Israeli military said last night that troops spotted a car carrying suspects they believed had recently buried a baby. Soldiers sought to arrest the suspects and called for the car to halt; when it did not, one soldier fired at the car wheel, the army said.

The boy was apparently killed in the shooting. The army says it is looking into the matter.

Israelis aged 60+ to get 3rd vaccine dose starting Sunday — Health Ministry

A man receives a COVID-19 vaccine shot at a vaccination center in Jerusalem on January 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A man receives a COVID-19 vaccine shot at a vaccination center in Jerusalem on January 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israelis aged 60 and up will be eligible to receive a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine starting Sunday, Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash tells health provider managers during a meeting.

Ash says that the third shot will only be available to those who got their second dose at least five months prior.

It will not be available to those who have recovered from COVID-19 and haven’t been vaccinated.

Israel’s mixed swim team reaches historic Olympic final; Barzelay reaches semifinal

Israel's Anastasya Gorbenko (R), Itay Goldfaden (C) and Gal Cohen Groumi cheer after qualifying in a heat for the mixed 4x100m medley relay swimming event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo on July 29, 2021. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)
Israel's Anastasya Gorbenko (R), Itay Goldfaden (C) and Gal Cohen Groumi cheer after qualifying in a heat for the mixed 4x100m medley relay swimming event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo on July 29, 2021. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)

Israeli swimmer Aviv Barzelay qualifies for the semifinals in the women’s 200-meter backstroke event at the Olympics, as Israel’s mixed team in the 4X100 individual medley makes it to a historic final, in a good day for the Jewish state’s athletes in the pool in Tokyo.

Barzelay places 15th overall with a time of 2:11.13 (the top 16 qualify).

A short while later, the Israeli quartet — Anastasia Gorbenko (backstroke), Itay Goldfaden (breaststroke), Gal Cohen Groumi (butterfly) and Andi Murez (freestyle) — finishes fifth in the heat and eighth overall with a time of 3:43.94, a new Israeli record.

It is the fourth Olympic final for Israeli swimmers in history and the second in these Games, following Gorbenko’s final in the 100-meter backstroke.

‘A huge failure’: Israeli delegation officials criticize judo team

Peter Paltchik of Israel, left, and Aaron Wolf of Japan compete in the men's -100kg quarterfinal round judo match of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, July 29, 2021. (AP/Vincent Thian)
Peter Paltchik of Israel, left, and Aaron Wolf of Japan compete in the men's -100kg quarterfinal round judo match of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, July 29, 2021. (AP/Vincent Thian)

Officials in Israel’s delegation to the Tokyo Olympics are voicing strong criticism of the country’s judo team, which has seen its chances of snagging a medal near-evaporate after Peter Paltchik’s loss today in the men’s -100kg event.

With most judo events over, no Israeli has even reached the semifinals.

Only two days of judo events remain, but Rio 2016 bronze medalist Ori Sasson will likely face an ultra-tough challenge in his first bout tomorrow in the men’s +100kg event, expected to be against French superstar Teddy Riner, and Raz Hershko hasn’t been seen as a medal contender in the women’s +78kg.

Israel also hasn’t been considered a favorite in Saturday’s team event.

“This is a huge failure. Conclusions must be drawn as to how this collapse happened at the Olympics,” an unnamed delegation official is quoted as saying by Ynet. “There is something systematic here, it isn’t a one-time failure, and all the judokas lost to inferior rivals.”

There has also been criticism directed at the men’s coach Oren Smadja, who was filmed scolding Paltchik after his loss today, saying: “You gave him the match at the end. You let him do his move and because of that you are losing. You shouldn’t have enabled that, he had already given up.”

A delegation official rebuked the coach: “Oren subjected him to a field trial. When there are victories and achievements, he is the first to take photos alongside his athletes.”

Swimmer Frankel falls short of 100m butterfly semifinals

Israeli swimmer Tomer Frankel fails to qualify for the men’s 100-meter butterfly semifinals at the Tokyo Olympics.

Frankel clocks in at 51.99 seconds, fourth in his heat and 21st overall. Only 16 swimmers qualify.

Gal Cohen Groumi, who was also slated to compete in the same event, chose not to participate.

Blinken says nuclear talks with Iran ‘cannot go on indefinitely’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says nuclear talks with Iran “cannot go on indefinitely” but Washington is “fully prepared” to continue negotiations.

“We’re committed to diplomacy, but this process cannot go on indefinitely… we look to see what Iran is ready to do or not ready to do and remain fully prepared to return to Vienna to continue negotiations,” Blinken says during a visit to Kuwait.

“The ball remains in Iran’s court.”

Ship that blocked Suez Canal finally completes its journey to Rotterdam

Huge container ship Ever Given at the port of Rotterdam, Netherlands, July 29, 2021. (RTL via AP)
Huge container ship Ever Given at the port of Rotterdam, Netherlands, July 29, 2021. (RTL via AP)

The huge container ship that blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week earlier this year finally reaches the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands to begin unloading its cargo.

As dawn breaks over the sprawling port, the Ever Given eases into the Amazonehaven container terminal months later than originally planned.

The Panama-flagged vessel was heading for Rotterdam when it plowed into the sandy bank of a single-lane stretch of the canal about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) north of the southern entrance, near the city of Suez on March 23.

A massive salvage effort freed the skyscraper-sized vessel six days later, allowing a traffic jam of hundreds of waiting ships to pass through the canal.

Earlier this month, the Ever Given left the canal’s Great Bitter Lake, where it had been held for over three months amid a financial dispute. It was freed to continue its voyage after the ship’s Japanese owner, Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., reached a compensation settlement with canal authorities following weeks of negotiations and a court standoff.

The Dutch port says the vessel is expected to remain in Rotterdam until August 5, when it will head for the English port of Felixstowe.

Amid delays, US Embassy in Israel announces ‘Passport Sundays’ to boost service

Amid long waiting lines for services to US citizens in Israel, Washington’s Embassy in Jerusalem announces “Passport Sundays” to boost the service.

Following the coronavirus pandemic, the embassy has been struggling to keep up with the demand.

In a tweet, the embassy says that on all Sundays of August — when it normally doesn’t operate — service will be given as “part of our effort to give everyone faster & equal access to our passport services.”

The embassy says registration is open starting today and until Monday, August 2, while stressing that not everyone will be selected and the process will be random and fair. It says processing time will be 5-7 weeks and that the service isn’t for those with immediate travel plans.

Registration is open here.

Top health official urges end to COVID travel bans based on country

Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health services at the Health Ministry, speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem, on June 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health services at the Health Ministry, speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem, on June 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Health Ministry’s director of public health, Sharon Alroy-Preis, calls for an end to COVID-19 travel bans based on destination, arguing that “cherry-picking which country poses a danger is no longer the correct method.”

While acknowledging that the system, which saw the government build a list of “red countries” that Israelis were prohibited from visiting, did help reduce morbidity, Alroy-Preis says the current situation demands a change as infection rates are rising all over the world “at a worrying rate.”

She says 150-200 infected people enter the country every day and that despite mandatory virus testing at the airport, some only find out they have COVID-19 days later.

Alroy-Preis says the Health Ministry is considering alternative solutions to “find a model that will allow travel and daily life alongside the coronavirus but will also reduce morbidity.”

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