The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they happened.

Ministers agree to keep synagogues open with up to 19 attendees

The government has decided to leave synagogues open but limit attendance to 19 people, during a meeting on new coronavirus restrictions, several news outlets report.

According to reports, ministers had sought to limit attendance to 20 last week, but were stopped by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who said he insisted that 50 people still be allowed in.

Kan reports that the decision is a compromise between Deri and the rest of the cabinet, which sought to shut synagogues as they are seen as major infection incubator and add nothing to the economy. The decision must still be approved by the Knesset’s coronavirus committee.

The outlet reports that the Health Ministry and National Security Council are warning that if ministers do not place more restrictions on gatherings, a return to full lockdown will be inevitable.

Ministerial panel to look into Shin Bet tracking — report

Ministers have voted to create a panel that will look into the need for Shin Bet phone tracking as an epidemiological tool, the Walla news site reports.

The panel will be headed by Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen and include Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, according to the report.

Japanese rival politicians agree to join forces to make 2021 Olympics happen

Tokyo’s newly reelected governor Yuriko Koike and her political rival, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, have agreed to cooperate on handling the coronavirus outbreak to safely hold the Olympics next year.

Koike won her second term Sunday in an overwhelming victory buoyed by public support for her handling of the pandemic despite a recent rise in infections in the capital region.

Abe congratulates Koike for her victory and said, “Gov. Koike and I will have to cooperate more closely than ever.”

Koike says her most pressing task is to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus and asks for Abe’s support.

“I will firmly overcome the pandemic with the help of the power of the government, and lead to the Olympics and Paralympics as a proof of our victory,” Koike says.

— AP

Peretz asks to merge with Likud to fix flub that could keep him from cabinet

Minister Rafi Peretz has reportedly asked to be merged into the Likud party, a day after Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s sister publication, published information showing that Peretz had botched his split from the Yamina party and might be serving as a minister illegally.

Education Minister Rafi Peretz attends a meeting of the Jewish Home party in Tel Aviv, January 13, 2020. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

According to reports, Peretz has asked the Knesset to approve his Jewish Home faction, renamed as Jewish Home Founded by Mafdal to avoid campaign finance issues, splitting off from Yamina and becoming part of Likud, in a technical procedure intended to allow him to keep his post as Jerusalem Affairs minister.

Peretz split from Yamina to join the government earlier this year, but did so as a lone MK and not as a faction, which legal experts said made him ineligible to join the government or run as part of an existing party in upcoming elections.

— Noam Eynav

Netanyahu: We are closing in on full lockdown

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ministers discussing new coronavirus restrictions that “we are standing a step away from a full lockdown,” the Kan public broadcaster reports.

“If we don’t act now, we will have hundreds, maybe more than a thousand serious cases in the next weeks, which will paralyze our [health] system. I am asking for immediate steps that will prevent us from needing to take much more extreme action ahead,” he’s quoted saying at the start of the meeting.

Lapid: Israel failing at dealing with virus, there will be blood

Opposition leader Yair Lapid says the increase of coronavirus cases in Israel is a “humiliating failure.”

“We are the only country in the world that is less prepared for the second wave than it was for the first. Netanyahu failed. The detached government isn’t functioning. Infection rates are increasing at dizzying speed. The economy is collapsing,” he says at the start of a Yesh Atid-Telem faction meeting in the Knesset, according to a statement from his spokesman.

He adds that unclear rules from the bloated government are only adding to the problems.

He also predicts/threatens bloody street battles if the government fails to get the economy back up and running.

“If the situation continues as it is, things will end badly. There will be violence in the streets. I hope I’m wrong. I hope I’ll be proved wrong but I’m worried about violence. If they don’t provide unemployment benefits for the self-employed. If they don’t let people offset their losses from 2020 against their profits from 2019. If they don’t open the events sector. If there isn’t a target date for opening the skies. If there isn’t a national plan to get the unemployed back to work. There’ll be violence,” he says.

Government seeking law letting it enact virus restrictions before Knesset okay

The Prime Minister’s Office says it is seeking legislation that will allow the government to enact emergency measures that will be effective immediately, without needing to wait for an okay from the Knesset.

Under the law, the government could put a rule into effect and it would only be rescinded if the Knesset fails to approve the measure or does not vote on it within seven days.

Under current rules, government decisions must be approved by the coronavirus committee or another relevant panel, which can delay implementation by a day or more. Under the new measure, the if a committee refuses to deal with the measure in a timely manner, it will move to the full Knesset plenum for a vote.

Police officers patrol in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Meah Shearim in Jerusalem on July 5, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The government has been criticized for making hasty decisions on lockdowns and other restrictions, sometimes based on faulty data, and failing to adequately prepare agencies carrying out the measures or failing to warn residents in time, leading to confusion and complaints of unclear instructions.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also reportedly warned ministers that Israel needs to be able to quickly enact guidelines if they are to have maximum effect in stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

On Thursday, he said the government was looking into legislation that would cut bureaucracy and oversight surrounding government decisions on lockdown measures.

Ministers said to decide on shutting bars, event halls, gyms and pools

The cabinet has approved measures seeking the immediate closure of event halls, bars, clubs, gyms, public pools and cultural halls, according to reports.

The decision does not affect restaurants, yeshivas or beaches, which had also been discussed for possible closures or limitations.

According to reports, buses will be limited to 20 passengers at a time, with open windows and no air conditioning.

People with face masks wait for a bus at a bus stop in downtown Jerusalem on June 18, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

According to previous reports, synagogues attendance will be capped at 19 people.

The decision must still be approved by the Knesset’s coronavirus committee.

There is no official confirmation of the decision from the government.



Fearing sanctions, Palestinian banks refusing to pay out terror stipends

Four banks are again refusing to dispense stipends that the Palestine Liberation Organization pays to convicted terrorists, allegedly for fear of Israeli sanctions that go into effect on July 19.

Palestinian Prisoners’ Affairs Commission director Qadri Abu Bakr says that he is demanding that the banks pay the stipends, adding that the banks are violating the instructions of the Palestinian government. The refusal to dispense the money comes after two months in which the Palestinian Authority has been unable to pay any of its employees due to a massive fiscal crisis.

The Israeli government has long opposed the tens of millions of dollars the PLO pays to Palestinians convicted of terrorism and their families every year, which Israel says encourages terror.

After an Israeli military edict that criminalized Palestinian government funding for convicted terrorists, several banks closed or froze prisoners’ accounts in the West Bank and Jordan in early May. Abu Bakr later announced that the salaries had been dispensed, and Israel’s Kan public broadcaster reported that Defense Minister Benny Gantz had suspended the edict until mid-July.

— Aaron Boxerman

Maccabi Tel Aviv players in statutory rape case named

A gag order sealing the name of two Maccabi tel Aviv soccer players accused of having sex with underage girls is lifted. The two are midfielder Dor Micha and striker Omer Atzili.

The players were suspended by the team shortly after the allegations emerged last month, meaning that most fans could easily figure out who they were anyway.

The players claim they were told the girls were of age.

Palestinians protest day after scuffle with settlers

Dozens of Palestinians participated in a Fatah-organized protest near the town of Biddya against what residents called a “takeover” of their land, Palestinian Authority official news agency WAFA reports.

The site of the protest, Khillet Hassan, saw a violent confrontation between Palestinians and Israelis yesterday; both parties claim that they were attacked first.

Israeli security forces at the scene of clashes between settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank on July 5, 2020. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

Four Israelis were lightly wounded, while two Palestinians were shot and taken to a public hospital in Salfit for treatment. Ma’an News Agency reported one of the shooting victims had moderate wounds.

— Aaron Boxerman

Palestinians demand Israel seal off West Bank to stop virus

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh is demanding that Israel close its crossings into the West Bank, blaming it for nearly a fifth of infections among Palestinians.

Shtayyeh says Israel’s control over the crossings is preventing the PA from being able to effectively deal with the outbreak. He says the issue will be brought up with the UN.

According to Shtayyeh, 18 percent of cases stemmed from Palestinians working inside Israel, while the rest of the infections were spread at weddings and funerals, on which he also called for a ban, according to the official Wafa outlet.

Government confirms new restrictions, Knesset okay still needed

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office and Health Ministry confirm reported restrictions on event halls, bars, clubs and other venues.

According to the announcement, restaurants will be limited to 20 patrons inside and 30 outside.

Hotels will stay open, but hotel bars will need to close and restaurants will be limited to 20 patrons inside.

It also says that summer school will only operate for fourth grade and below.

The measures require approval from the Knesset, or in some cases, the head of the Health Ministry.


Health minister says new measures are attempt to ‘put genie back in bottle’

Speaking in the Knesset, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein claims that measures approved by the cabinet shutting event halls, bars and other places will take effect immediately, though a government announcement clearly delineates that they need an okay from Knesset lawmakers first.

“I don’t discount the hardships of business owners, but we need to remember one thing — we are doing everything we can to put the genie back in the bottle in the hopes that we can continue to live life in the shadow of the coronavirus in a different way,” he says, according to Ynet.

He also says that the number of seriously ill will double, even if Israel imposes a full lockdown now.

There are currently 90 seriously ill patients, out of nearly 12,000 active cases.

Given the fact that the effects of a full lockdown would only be seen after some two weeks and that serious cases, which usually take more time to develop, are a lagging indicator, Edelstein’s prediction appears to be unusually rosy, though he likely means it as a warning.

Israel reportedly worried as US allows higher resolution satellite imagery

Israel is concerned over a US decision to rescind a rule that kept US companies from providing satellite imagery of Israel and the Palestinian territories at a sharper resolution, Reuters reports.

On June 25, the US Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs Office said it would allow imagery of objects as small as 40 centimeters, providing vastly clearer pictures than the two meters currently allowed.

According to the report, Israel fears the higher resolution images will give the country’s enemies intelligence about sensitive sites that could then come under attack.

The agency tells Reuters that images with a resolution lower than two meters are already available from non-American sources.

California-based Planet Labs, which offers on-demand satellite imagery, recently rolled out 50 centimeter resolution pictures. It tells Reuters it will “follow the new provisions for providing high resolution imagery of the region.”

White House rejects national rule mandating masks

The White House is again rejecting calls for a national mask-wearing mandate.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows says in an appearance on “Fox and Friends” Monday morning that the president sees the issue as a “state-to-state” matter.

He says that “certainly a national mandate is not in order” and that “we’re allowing our local governors and our local mayors to weigh in on that.”

Vice President Mike Pence, right, removes his face mask as he gets set to speak at a news conference with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, left, after meeting to discuss the surge in coronavirus cases in Phoenix, Arizona, July 1, 2020. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

New Jersey’s Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has said he’d like to see a national strategy on the coronavirus, including a mask requirement. He says his state is seeing “small spikes in reinfection” from residents coming back from Florida, South Carolina and other virus hotspots, and the US is “as strong as our weakest link right now.”

US Vice President Mike Pence has also rejected the idea of a national mandate, saying that’s up to governors and local health officials.

— AP

El Al said to accept $400 million government bailout

Struggling carrier El Al could be flying back into state hands, as the company’s chairman reportedly accepts a government bailout that will give Israel some 61 percent of the firm.

Under the reported deal, the airline will get a $250 million government-backed loan, with guarantees for 75 percent of the loan, in case the firm defaults.

It also includes a share offering on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange to raise $150 million to help prop up the equity of the firm, which has more than $2 billion of net debt.

Parking airplanes and other equipment at Ben Gurion airport on April 6, 2020. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

The deal also includes efficiency steps that may lead to the firing of 2,000 workers.

The stock offering will come with a caveat that the state must buy any unsold shares, meaning that the state could once again end up as the majority stakeholder in the airline.

The company has been severely hobbled by the coronavirus crisis, and last month shut down all air operations amid an ongoing labor dispute.

The airline was privatized in 2004 and is currently controlled by Knafaim Holdings Ltd, which will see its shares diluted.

A spokesperson for the airline says an official statement will be released shortly.

Antibody tests in Spain show virus less prevalent than hoped

Health experts say that only one in 20 residents in Spain has been exposed to the new coronavirus, according to the final results of a nationwide survey on the prevalence of antibodies released Monday.

The final round of the random blood tests has confirmed that antibodies were present in 5.2% of the more than 68,000 participants surveyed three times over the past three months. The sample is meant to be representative of the country’s 47 million residents, pointing to some 2.4 million cases nationwide, far higher than the 250,000 infections confirmed thus far.

Only residents in hard-hit nursing homes and patients at hospitals have been excluded from the survey because, according to the experts, separate specific research would be needed to map the impact there.

An elderly patient is taken to a waiting ambulance from his home after he showed signs of possible coronavirus symptoms with serious breathing problems in Madrid, Spain, April 12, 2020. (Olmo Calvo/AP)

Marina Pollán, director of the National Epidemiological Center, said the results confirm that Spain is far from having developed the “herd immunity” that scientists had hoped for as a shield for future spread of the virus.

She also said that the fact that there has been no significant change from previous versions of the survey was a result of the strict lockdown that kept most Spaniards at home for over two months.

As in the previous two rounds, important differences have been detected between regions depending on whether they were more or less hit by the pandemic, with the area around the Spanish capital and the provinces of Soria and Segovia showing more than 11.7% of infections. The Balearic and Canary islands had under 2% of prevalence, according to the survey, which found no significant differences based on gender, age, nationality or income.

Partial lockdowns were brought back over the weekend to two northern counties after significant spikes in infections. Spain has recorded at least 28,300 deaths from the new coronavirus.

— AP

Saudi Arabia opens registration for scaled-down hajj

Saudi Arabia has opened hajj registration for foreign residents in the kingdom, saying they will make up 70 percent of the pilgrims after it scaled back the annual ritual due to the coronavirus.

Saudi Arabia has said it will allow only around 1,000 pilgrims already present in the kingdom to participate in this year’s hajj, scheduled for the end of July, a far cry from the 2.5 million who attended the five-day pilgrimage last year.

Foreign residents aged between 20 and 65 who have no previous health ailments such as diabetes and heart conditions are allowed to register online, the hajj ministry says.

Saudi citizens will make up the remaining 30 percent of the pilgrims, with the ritual restricted to medical professionals and security personnel who have recovered from the virus, the ministry said.

The pilgrims will be tested for the coronavirus before arriving in the holy city of Mecca and are required to quarantine at home after the ritual, according to health officials.


Canada’s Trudeau turns down White House invite

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has turned down a White House invitation to celebrate the new regional free trade agreement in Washington with US President Donald Trump and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Trump and López Obrador are due to meet Wednesday in Washington, but a Trudeau spokesperson says he won’t be there.

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a meeting at the G-7 summit, Friday, June 8, 2018, in Charlevoix, Canada. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“While there were recent discussions about the possible participation of Canada, the prime minister will be in Ottawa this week for scheduled Cabinet meetings and the long-planned sitting of Parliament,” the spokesperson says.

Trudeau is conducting online Cabinet meetings instead of in person meetings because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A senior US administration official says Trudeau had multiple conflicts related to the start of Parliament and coronavirus regulations which require Canadians who travel abroad to quarantine for 14 days on return. The official said Trudeau has asked to speak with Trump by phone.

— AP

Iran leader appears to praise Palestinian unity bid

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has sent a letter to Hamas head Ismail Haniyeh appearing to praise Palestinian unity efforts between the terror group and its rival Fatah, headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“Certainly maintaining vigilance, unity and harmony among the Palestinian people and movements will play an effective role in the nullification of the enemy’s plots and will bring about divine assistance,” Khamenei writes.

He congratulates the “the Resistance Movement’s successful efforts in defeating the US & the Zionist regime,” though it is not clear what he is referring to.

Hamas and Fatah announced last week that they would join forces to work against Israeli plans to annex the West Bank. Israel has yet to take any concrete steps as it reportedly awaits an American green light.

Several rockets have been shot out of Gaza at Israel in recent days, in what some see as a response to the annexation plans. None have caused any damage.

Iran enjoys warm ties with Hamas, but is not seen as particularly close to the PA or Abbas.

“Iran, just like before, and based on its religious and human duty, will not spare any effort to support the oppressed people of Palestine and to revive their rights as well as to repel the evil of the fake, usurping Zionist regime,” the letter reads.

IDF freezes promotion of commander accused of going rogue

The head of the Israel Defense Forces Northern Command has blocked the promotion of a Golani Brigade lieutenant who was the subject of an exposé in the Haaretz newspaper last month, which charged that he had a history of violating orders while his superiors looked the other way.

In a statement, the military denied several key aspects of the Haaretz reports — principally those related to an alleged unauthorized cross-border raid into Syria last January, as well as claims that senior officers attempted to cover up Lt. Guy Eliyahu’s misdeeds. It also found that the lieutenant was indeed guilty of “making a number of mistakes along the way,” and that the commander of the Reconnaissance Battalion, Lt. Col. Shimon Siso, should not have allowed Eliyahu to prepare for promotion at the military’s Tactical Command College.

According to the military, these mistakes included: having his soldiers stop their vehicles in an unsafe way along the highway — shortly before a number of soldiers in the unit were killed in a car accident, in a similar but different case; failing to prevent his soldiers from slashing the tires of Palestinians’ cars in Nablus shortly after that deadly car crash as an indiscriminate form of revenge; and falsifying a document that he presented to a military court.

Siso manages to escape with only a censure.

— Judah Ari Gross

Video of police detaining young girl over mask offense sparks outrage

Police are under fire after a video emerged showing cops in Jerusalem detaining a young girl for failing to wear a mask properly.

In the video, the girl, aged 13 according to reports, begins to cry as police question her.

According to witnesses and the girl’s mother, she had been wearing a mask, but moved it off of her face to drink a slushy. In the video, she is not wearing a mask, but a man walks up and appears to hand one to her.

“The girl said she was drinking while on her way and between sips a cop came and claimed she didn’t have a mask. He started to write her a ticket, she gave him her parents’ phone number and burst out crying,” a passerby, who offered to pay the NIS 500 fine himself, tells Walla news.

The girl’s mother complains to Channel 12 news that the police immediately told the girl they were giving her a fine, instead of simply instructing her to put her mask on properly.

In the video, a crowd can be seen forming around the girl and the police in the capital’s ultra-Orthodox Romema neighborhood, and the cops eventually leave without giving her a citation.

The video sparks an outcry among ultra-Orthodox politicians, including deputy minister Meir Porush, who claims the Haredi community is being targeted by police.

“This is evil or idiocy. There’s no explanation for hot-headed, inhuman behavior like this,” one passerby tells the Kikar Hashabbat website.

Police say that the claims made around the video are false and that the cops simply told her to fix her mask and sent her on her way.

Videos have proliferated in recent days showing what many describe as heavy-handed enforcement tactics by police, including wrestling teenagers to the ground and tasering people when they resist mask-wearing rules.

In one video, a man on a train gets into a shouting match with police when they try to fine him for not covering his nose with a mask. He tells Channel 12 that because of health issues, he cannot constrict the airflow to his nose with a mask.

Nearly 1,000 new coronavirus cases in last day

The Health Ministry releases new figures showing 962 coronavirus cases in the last day.

The tally brings the number of cases to 30,749.

It also announces two new deaths, bringing the toll to 334.

The number of serious cases is down to 88, but the number of people on ventilators rises to 35, three more than this morning.

Minister demands police be held to account for making maskless girl cry

Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman says Public Security Minister Amir Ohana has agreed to summon the head of police in Jerusalem for clarifications after an incident earlier in the day in which a girl was briefly detained by police for failing to wear a mask and began to cry.

Litzman, who leads the ultra-Orthodox UTJ party, claims in a statement that members of the Haredi community are being targeted, and that the public is justified in being angry, describing the behavior of the police as “harassment.”

“You need to bring the police to account and to promise that we won’t experience behavior like this again in our neighborhoods,” Litzman says he told Ohana.

There is no immediate statement from Ohana, who is in self-imposed quarantine.

The comments come two days after ultra-Orthodox residents of the capital’s Mea Shearim neighborhood rioted and attacked police who asked a woman without a mask to produce identification.

Diaspora minister Omer Yankelevitch says on Twitter that police need to be more sensitive toward young children.

MK Ahmed Tibi [Joint List] joins those accusing the police of having a light fining finger when it comes to minority populations. “Would they do this with a girl from north Tel Aviv. The same age, would the cops do this? No,” he says in the Knesset.

Edelstein: Economy will suffer if virus not brought under control

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein appears for a televised statement, telling people that new restrictions are meant to save Israel from having to enter a full lockdown, but Israel will not know for 2-3 weeks.

He says all decisions were made with people’s health and economic well-being in mind.

“If infections go down, the economy will go up. If they go up, it will be a serious blow to the economy,” he says.

“If we want to save the economy, we need to flatten the curve.”

Minister apologizes for phone tracking issues, announces virus czar

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein says he will soon appoint a coronavirus czar to oversee his ministry’s dealing with the pandemic.

He also apologizes for those who got quarantine orders over the phone, and were unable to appeal the order, despite many complaints about mistakes.

He says the appeals hotline will be significantly bolstered over the weekend.

He also unveils a new system meant to track infection chains, that he says will help identify where cases are originating.

‘I’m sure that together, in a few weeks, we can roll back the restrictions .. and allow a reasonable life for Israelis under the virus,” he says.

Responding to mask kerfuffle, police minister tells cops to show sensitivity

Police minister Amir Ohana publishes an open letter to police in which he tries to walk a tightrope between backing his officers and answering public clamoring for heads to roll over heavy-handed mask enforcement, including an incident in which cops tried to ticket a girl and made her cry.

“There’s no choice but to enforce the guidelines, or the country could be hit with a massive crisis the likes of which it has not known that will have destructive effects for the coming generations. … I expect you to do your jobs faithfully, with determination where needed, but also to use common sense and to act with sensitivity when it is called for,” he writes in the letter, which he posts on Facebook.

Amir Ohana at a Public Security Ministry changeover ceremony in Jerusalem on May 18, 2020. Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

He claims that from what he has heard, the ultra-Orthodox have been better than most at keeping the rules and guesses that few citations have actually been handed out to community members.

He also expresses dolor over the fact that police have been tasked with a job that nobody wants, attempting to show solidarity with his charges.

“The police don’t love this work. It would be a lot more alluring to fight crime and terror. But we are in an emergency.”

Survey purports to show backing for PM fading amid health crisis

Results of a survey published by Channel 12 news claim to show waning support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as the nation struggles to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

When asked to rate Netanyahu’s handling of the crisis from a health point of view, 46 percent said it was bad, while 43% said good. In May, according to the channel, 74% said he was handling it well and 23% said poorly.

Asked the same, but from an economic point of view, 33% say he is doing well and 62% say poorly. In May, 43% said poorly and 53% said he was doing well.

Asked if they trust the government’s handling of the second wave of the virus, 59% say no, compared to 37% who say yes.

The channel says that if elections were held today, Likud would get 37 seats, down from 40 in earlier surveys, but could still easily form a right-wing / ultra-Orthodox coalition, with 64 seats. The Joint List and Yesh Atid would get 15 seats apiece, according to the survey. Blue and White would get 11 seats, it says. Yamina would get 11, up from 8 in recent surveys.

The channel says the survey was conducted by Midgam; it does not specify when it was conducted, how many people were surveyed, who was surveyed, how they were surveyed or even a margin of error. It has not initially released any methodological data at all and it is unclear if the numbers presented represent actual answers to the survey or the channel’s analysis of those answers, raising questions as to the reliability of the survey.

Mossad said to foil Iranian attacks on Israeli embassies

Israel’s Channel 12 news reports that the Mossad spy agency recently managed to foil planned or attempted Iranian attacks on Israeli diplomatic missions in Europe and elsewhere.

It says the names of the other countries remain under censorship, but cooperation with them helped to thwart the attacks.

No other details are available, and no sources are named.

In 2012, Iran and its Hezbollah proxy seemingly attempted to carry out a number of attacks against Israeli diplomatic missions in India, Georgia, Thailand, and elsewhere.

The channel also estimates that an attack on the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran credited to Israel managed to set back Tehran’s enrichment program two years, citing intelligence estimates.

A report by Israel’s Channel 13 on Sunday claimed the attack only set back the work by a single year.

Hamas and Hezbollah joins hands in anti-annexation drive

The Hezbollah and Hamas terror groups say Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank is an “aggression against the Palestinian people” and are calling for unity to confront it.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh sends a letter to Hezbollah’s chief Hassan Nasrallah, in which he says that the Palestinian cause is facing “grave dangers,” according to a statement released by the Lebanese group.

“The Palestinian people are capable of confronting this plan,” the Hezbollah statement says. It called on Arab and Muslim nations and “free people of the world to quickly move to stop the occupation’s continuous aggression against the Palestinian people.”

— AP

Knesset gives initial okay to virus bill allowing cabinet to bypass Knesset

A bill that would let the government impose restrictions immediately and only later seek Knesset approval has passed first reading in the parliament.

It must still go through committee and pass two more readings.

The government is looking to fast-track the bill, unveiled this afternoon, in order to immediately impose blanket restrictions on gatherings and other rules intended to halt the spread of the coronavirus. Under the bill, a Knesset committee or the full Knesset would have a week to approve a measure retroactively.

Critics say the law would remove a key check on the government’s power, despite the health emergency.

“This law would provide the government with far too much leeway and would exempt it from the necessary parliamentary oversight,” says researcher Amir Fuchs with the non-partisan Israel Democracy Institute.

“Overcoming COVID-19 is indeed a significant challenge that demands flexibility from the government, yet democratic process and genuine debate in the Knesset are not ‘burdens’ on the cabinet. Knesset debates are not only an important tool in safeguarding civil rights, but also in obtaining the public’s trust. Passing this law in such a hasty manner will have the opposite effect and such dramatic decisions must be approved by the Knesset made with full parliamentary oversight,” he adds in a statement.

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