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

Global coronavirus cases surge past 12 million

More than 12 million coronavirus infections have now been recorded across the world, over half in the United States and Latin America, according to a tally based on official sources.

At least 12,063,425 cases and 549,451 deaths have been recorded, with the number of infections doubling since May 31. About half of those who caught the virus have recovered.

With 3,055,101 cases and 132,309 deaths, the United States is the worst-hit country, with Brazil second, having registered 1,713,160 cases and 67,964 deaths.

The tallies probably reflect only a fraction of the number of infections as many countries test only the most serious cases.


Iran reports record one-day coronavirus death toll of 221

Iran reports a new single-day record death toll of 221 from the novel coronavirus, amid a rise in cases in recent weeks.

“Unfortunately in the past 24 hours we have lost 221 of our compatriots to the COVID-19 disease,” says health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari in a televised press conference. “The death toll has now reached 12,305.”



Police probe apparent ‘price tag’ hate crime in Palestinian village

Palestinians in the northern West Bank village of Luban a-Sharqiya woke up this morning to discover their town had been targeted in an apparent hate crime, with 17 vehicles vandalized and Hebrew graffiti spray-painted on one of them.

Police say they are preparing in coordination with the IDF to enter the village in order to gather evidence.

A bus in Luban a-Sharqiya spray-painted with the Hebrew phrase ‘we must take our fate into our own hands,’ in an apparent price tag hate crime attack on July 9, 2020. (Luban a-Sharqiya municipality)

Palestinian rescues Israeli youths who came under attack upon entering village

A Palestinian from Halhul rescued a group of young Israeli men who came under attack after they entered the southern West Bank village early this morning, Hebrew media reports.

Halhul is in Area A which is under PA security control, but the Israelis appeared to have been trying to visit the grave of Samuel the Prophet.

Shortly upon their entrance into the village, their car was pelted with stones by locals. The driver lost control and the vehicle flipped over, lightly injuring two of the five men inside.

A Palestinian who watched the incident unfold came to the aid of the Israelis and helped them get to a junction outside the village where an IDF patrol waited for them, according to Hebrew media reports.

In the backdrop of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s severing of security ties with Jerusalem, the Israeli security establishment has expressed concern of such incidents ending with more gruesome results.

Israel arrests two well-known Hamas commanders in Ramallah

Israeli security forces have arrested two well-known Hamas commanders in Ramallah this morning.

Jamal al-Tawil, a resident of al-Bireh, and Hussein Abu Kweik are high-ranking officials in the Gaza-based terror group.

The Shin Bet security service, which has confirmed the arrests of the two Hamas officials to The Times of Israel, characterizes them as “routine” without elaborating. Al-Tawil and Abu Kweik are still being held, the spokesperson says.

“The arrest of two Hamas senior officials, Jamal al-Tawil and Hussein Abu Kweik, is a failed attempt by the occupation to thwart the path of joint action,” Hamas says in a statement, referring to recent statements that Hamas and its rival Fatah will coordinate against Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank.

Fifteen other Palestinians were arrested last night in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to Palestinian Authority official news agency WAFA.

— Aaron Boxerman

Bangladesh says Rohingya refugees can’t leave island

Hundreds of Rohingya refugees on a flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal will not be allowed to leave unless they agree to return home, Bangladesh authorities say

The 306 Muslim Rohingya from Myanmar were put on Bhashan Char island in April after being taken off two boats trying to traffic them to Malaysia.

Their plight has been taken up by the United Nations, an international rights group and community leaders, who want them moved to more established refugee camps on the mainland.

“They will stay at Bhasan Char until they are repatriated to Myanmar,” Mohammed Khorshed Alam Khan, administrator for the district covering the island, tells AFP.

He says the refugees are well taken care of and have better facilities than in the overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar where 700,000 Rohingya fled in 2017 to escape a Myanmar military clampdown.

In April, Bangladesh authorities said the Rohingya would be kept on the island in order to stop the spread of coronavirus in the sprawling refugee camps.

But Human Rights Watch (HRW) questioned that motivation, and said the refugees were not being treated well.


WHO launches pandemic response panel

The World Health Organization, which faced criticism for its handling of the coronavirus crisis, says it had launched an independent pandemic response panel headed by former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

“Through you the world will understand the truth of what happened and also the solutions to build our future better as one humanity,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says at the UN agency’s headquarters in Geneva.


IDF chief heads into quarantine after exposure to virus carrier

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi has entered quarantine after it was confirmed that he was in the vicinity of a coronavirus carrier, Hebrew media reports.

Kohavi is said to be feeling well and not showing any symptoms of the virus. This is the second time the IDF chief has found himself in quarantine since the start of the pandemic. In April he went into isolation after similar exposure, but tested negative and was let out.

Several other senior officers have also entered quarantine after they too were in contact with the coronavirus carrier.

Virtual vigil honors European Jewry’s coronavirus victims

The heads of Jewish communities across Europe gathered for a virtual vigil to memorialize members who have lost their lives during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Zoom event was organized by Association of European Jewish Organizations chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin and attended by Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich along with both of Israel’s chief rabbis.

“Many in tears recounted being unable to attend or provide a proper Jewish funeral for the victims of the virus as well as having to give up mourning practices such as sitting shiva and holding memorial events for the perished,” according to a press release from the Association of European Jewish Organizations.

Addressing the event, Margolin emphasized that he initiated the gathering to allow Jewish communities to honor the victims, “but no less important – to convey a vital message of unity and mutual support and solidarity.”

A virtual vigil memorializing members of European Jewry who lost their lives during the coronavirus pandemic. (Association of European Jewish Organizations)

Gantz approves call-up of 2,000 reservists to assist in virus response

Defense Minister Benny Gantz approved the call-up of an additional 2,000 reservists for the rest of the month to assist in the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, his office says.

This is in addition to the 750 reservists that Gantz has already cleared to be called up.

The decision is made in light of a growing number of fresh coronavirus cases in the country, following a meeting with the IDF top brass, including the head of the IDF Home Front Command Maj. Gen. Uri Gordin and IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Eyal Zamir, who is leading the military’s coronavirus response effort.

Gantz’s office says the additional reservists will be deployed to areas most affected by the pandemic, assist in the Military Intelligence coronavirus information center, staff quarantine coronavirus recovery hotels, work with local governments and serve in the IDF Home Front Command’s headquarters.

In some cases, these reservists will be called up for only a few days, depending on how many new coronavirus cases there are.

Another 1.3 million workers file for US jobless benefits

Another 1.3 million US workers filed for unemployment benefits last week, continuing the slowdown in the pace of layoffs, the US government reports.

The four-week moving average slowed to 1.44 million in the week ended July 4, the Labor Department reports, showing a steady decline as the economy reopens from the coronavirus-imposed shutdowns, but still far higher than any pre-pandemic week.

However, nearly 19 million remain on the jobless rolls, according to the data through June 27.


Opposition chief warns protests over virus economic fallout could turn violent

Opposition chairman Yair Lapid warns that the ongoing protests against the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic could turn violent as Israelis lose hope amid the spiraling economic situation.

“We are talking to people who are becoming more and more desperate and angry, who feel, and rightly so, that the country has deserted them in their hardest hour,” Lapid tells the Reuters news agency.

“We are trying to be responsible…to calm things down, telling people, ‘You know violence is not the answer,’” he adds.

“But it’s getting harder by the day…I sympathize with the anger and I also worry about the possibility of violence as a result of this anger. What I am trying to do is not to encourage it but to raise a red flag as to what might happen.”

Palestinian-Americans unable to budge Biden to raise tone against Israel — report

Palestinian-Americans have been pressuring presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to change his campaign’s position to be more pro-Palestinian, but without success so far, the Reuters news agency reports.

More than 120 leaders of the Palestinian diaspora in the United States have signed a “Statement of Principles” detailing their demands of candidates, the report says, citing three unnamed people “familiar with the campaign’s thinking.”

The list includes conditioning aid to Israel on it ending “practices that violate Palestinian rights and contravene international law” and clarifying that there will be no recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank.

“We want to see Biden embrace the party’s progressives, who have recognized the shared struggle between Palestinians living under military occupation, and Black and brown Americans who face police brutality, systemic racism and injustice,” the report quoted Zeina Ashrawi Hutchison, a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in August, as saying.

However, the campaign isn’t gaining traction with Biden’s campaign, the sources were quoted as saying.

“The progressives want a full-throttle platform change — a pro-Palestinian flank, an anti-annexation flank — but there just isn’t appetite in the campaign so far,” one of them says.

Jordanian citizen convicted of 2018 attempted murder of Israeli divers in Eilat

The Beersheba District Court has convicted a Jordanian citizen of trying to kill two Israeli divers in Eilat in November 2018.

The Taher Khalef is convicted of two counts of attempted murder and of terror charges.

The conviction has been handed down as part of a plea deal in which Khalef admitted to the crime and will be sentenced to 19 years in prison.

According to the plea arrangement, Khalef acknowledged that he used his entry permit into Israel in order to carry out a terror attack and die as a “martyr.”

For 2nd day in a row, more Israelis file for unemployment than returned to work

Israel’s Employment Service reports that for the second day in a row more citizens filed for unemployed benefits than reported having returned to work.

From yesterday at 7 a.m. to this morning at 7 a.m. 1,815 people returned to work while 2,527 Israelis registered for unemployment.

Since the government began easing coronavirus-related restrictions on April 19, the Employment Service has received 394,621 reports from Israelis who have returned to work, while 143,153 new job seekers were registered.

Currently, there are 849,052 Israelis registered as unemployed — 578,309 of whom have been furloughed. For the first time since the April easing of restrictions, the unemployment rate rose slightly – from 20.9% to 21%.

Police respond to report of carjacking by Palestinians in West Bank

Police say they are responding to a report of an armed carjacking by Palestinians in the northern West Bank.

According to the report they received, an Israeli mother and daughter were driving from the Mevo Dotan settlement when a Palestinian vehicle rear-ended them. When the woman got out of her car to inspect the damage, two masked Palestinians approached and threatened her. One of them even fired in the air before getting in her car and driving away.

Police and IDF troops are currently scanning the area for suspects.

Rights group determines Israel already upholding apartheid system in West Bank

The Yesh Din rights group has issued a legal opinion determining that regardless of whether the government moves forward with plans to annex large parts of the West Bank, it is already upholding a system of apartheid beyond the Green Line.

“The Israeli military regime in the West Bank as it stands today is intended to preserve the supremacy of one population group over another, and that this constitutes the crime of apartheid which, under international criminal law, is classified as a crime against humanity,” Yesh Din legal adviser Michael Sfard determines in the legal opinion.

‘Strong evidence’ mothers can transmit virus to newborns

There is “strong evidence” that COVID-19- positive mothers can pass the virus on to their unborn infants, scientists say, in findings that could affect how pregnant women are shielded during the pandemic.

While there have been isolated cases of babies infected with the virus, the findings show the strongest link yet between mother and infant transmission.

Researchers in Italy studied 31 pregnant women hospitalized with COVID-19, and found the virus in an at-term placenta, umbilical cord, the vagina of one woman and in breast milk.

They also identify specific COVID-19 antibodies in the umbilical cords of several pregnant women as well as in milk specimens.

Claudio Fenizia, from the University of Milan and lead study author, says the findings “strongly suggest” that in utero transmission is possible.

Fenizia stresses that none of the infants born during the study period tested positive for COVID-19.

The World Health Organization said last month that new mothers infected with COVID-19 should continue breastfeeding.


Supreme Court orders Trump financial records released to NY prosecutors

The US Supreme Court has ruled that US President Donald Trump must hand over financial records to prosecutors in New York.

In a 7-2 ruling, the court says the president does not have absolute immunity from criminal investigation.

“Two hundred years ago, a great jurist of our Court established that no citizen, not even the President, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding,” the court says. “We reaffirm that principle today.”


Education minister taps retired colonel to direct office

Education Minister Yoav Gallant announces that he has nominated Amit Edri to serve as the director of his office, pending the government’s approval.

Edri, 51, holds a bachelor’s degree in social sciences from Bar Ilan University and a master’s degree in public policy from Tel Aviv University.

He retired from the IDF in 2013 with the rank of colonel after 26 years of service. He commanded the Logistics Officers course, trained hundreds of officers, worked to promote and integrate female officers and headed the Southern Command logistics unit during the 2014 Gaza war.

Over the past several years, Edri has served in senior positions in the housing, immigration and education ministries under Gallant. Most recently, he has helped craft the government’s plan to re-open schools in September.

Trump decries ‘political prosecution’ after Supreme Court rulings

US President Donald Trump says he was the victim of “political prosecution” after the Supreme Court issued mixed rulings on whether he must turn over his financial records.

While the high court blocked a congressional request for his records, it said he was not immune from a subpoena issued by a New York prosecutor. Both cases were sent back to lower courts for further review.

“This is all a political prosecution,” Trump tweets.

He adds: “I won the Mueller Witch Hunt, and others, and now I have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York. Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!”


Gantz taps deputy military prosecutor to serve as next military censor

Defense Minister Benny Gantz nominates Col. Doron Ben-Barak to serve as the country’s next military censor.

Ben-Barak, who currently serves as the deputy military advocate general, will replace Col. (res.) Eyal Samuelov, who has served in the position in an interim capacity since the previous military censor, Brig. Gen. Ariela Ben-Avraham, left the post last February.

Israel is something of a rarity among democratic countries in its use of a military censor to prevent publication of classified material. Under Israeli law, all news articles — in both traditional media and social media — dealing with national security and related issues must be approved by the censor before publication.

Ben-Barak, 47, has served in a variety of military positions over the past 25 years, most of them related to military law.

Ben-Barak served as the chief legal adviser to the IDF Home Front Command, legal adviser to the West Bank division, and chief prosecutor in the IDF Central Command and Israeli Air Force.

Ben-Barak will be promoted to the rank of brigadier general before entering the position of military censor.

— Judah Ari Gross

Health Ministry said set to recommend shuttering neighborhoods across country

The Health Ministry will recommend the government approve the shuttering of neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Lod and Kiryat Malachi, Army Radio reports.

The neighborhoods recommended for lockdown in Jerusalem will be Romema, Kiryat Sanz and Matersdorf — all Haredi areas.

Wexner Foundation admits to paying former PM Barak $2.3 million for 2 reports, 1 of which he didn’t finish

After years of speculation, the Wexner Foundation reveals that it paid former prime minister Ehud Barak $2.3 million for a pair of reports he was commissioned to compile in 2004 and 2006.

The first study on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was 267 pages long. The second study was never completed.

The Wexner Foundation focuses on the development of Jewish professional and volunteer leaders in North America and public leaders in Israel.

Syria warned by chemical warfare watchdog over sarin attacks

Member countries of the global toxic arms watchdog warn Syria they could take action after a probe explicitly blamed Damascus for nerve gas attacks for the first time.

The executive council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) votes overwhelmingly to tell Syria it must declare all details about the facilities used to produce the sarin and chlorine used in the 2017 attacks.

The move comes after the OPCW’s new investigations team said in its first report in April that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s air force had used the two chemicals on the village of Lataminah in March 2017.

Only Russia, China and Iran voted against Thursday’s decision at the OPCW’s executive council, which includes 41 of the UN-affiliated body’s 193 member states.

“It’s a good result for international security and the fight against impunity,” French ambassador Luis Vassy, whose country introduced the motion, tells AFP after the vote.

“It’s a success for this organization, which is fulfilling its mandate.”

Syria could have its own voting rights suspended under the maximum punishment allowed by the Hague-based organisation if it fails to take action within 90 days, diplomats told AFP.

In extreme cases the OPCW can also refer countries to the UN Security Council for breaching the chemical weapons convention.

British ambassador Peter Wilson tweets that it was a “resounding majority” — 29 votes for, nine abstentions and three against — and that countries had voted to “take action on the IIT (Investigation and Identification Team) report.”


Health Ministry: 1,724 teachers and students have tested positive for coronavirus

The Health Ministry says that 1,724 teachers and students have tested positive for the coronavirus as of this afternoon,

It says that 29,715 teachers and students are currently in isolation.

Since the beginning of July, 211 daycares and 117 schools have been shuttered.

Netanyahu, Katz to present virus economic rescue plan at 8 p.m. presser

At an 8 p.m. press conference, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz will introduce the government’s economic plan to assist businesses ailing due to the restrictions imposed by the government to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the PMO says.

UK police arrest four men suspected of planning terror attacks

Four men were arrested on Thursday in London and central England on suspicion of preparing terrorist acts, British police says.

Armed officers arrested three men aged 17, 27 and 31 at two addresses in east London, while unarmed colleagues detained a fourth 32-year-old man in the county of Leicestershire.

The Metropolitan Police says no shots were fired but the 27-year-old was bitten on the foot by a police dog during the arrests and had been taken to hospital.

His injuries were not believed to be serious, it adds.

“All four men were arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism,” the force says in a statement.

“Officers are currently searching the three addresses, and a search is also underway at a fourth address in east London as part of the investigation.”

The Met says it had been assisted by officers from East Midlands Counter Terrorism Policing and Leicestershire police force in what it called a “proactive investigation.”


Health Ministry reports 1,650 virus case catapult since last night

The Health Ministry reports 1,650 new coronavirus cases since last night, with the number of infections in Israel since the start of the pandemic rising to 34,825.

The ministry also announces two new fatalities since this morning, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 348.

According to ministry figures, there are currently 16,025 active virus cases — 1,509 more than last night. This includes 122 people in serious condition, of whom 39 are on ventilators. Another 87 people are in moderate condition and the rest have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.

There were 29,271 tests performed yesterday, with 17,397 conducted so far today.

Russia appoints new special envoy to Middle East peace process

Russia appoints a new special representative to the Middle East peace process. Vladimir Safronkov, who currently serves as Moscow’s deputy ambassador to the UN in New York, will replace Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry welcomes the appointment. “We have come to know Ambassador Safronkov as a thorough and serious colleague. We will continue to collaborate with him in his new capacity, as we have done with his predecessors,” it says in a statement.

— Raphael Ahren

Pompeo speaks to Jordan’s King Abdullah, but annexation not mentioned in read-out

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks with Jordanian King Abdullah II, but apparently the thorny issue of Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank does not come up.

“Secretary Pompeo reaffirmed the strength of the US-Jordan bilateral relationship, underscored the importance of steadfast partnership during the COVID-19 pandemic, and thanked King Abdullah for Jordan’s generosity in sending medical supplies to the United States. The two also discussed several matters of mutual interest, including developments in Syria,” says State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus.

— Raphael Ahren

Joint List MK lauds Tahini maker facing boycott calls after donating to LGBT group

Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman says she called the owner of the Al Arz Tahini company and lauded her for the “brave” decision to donate to an LGBT rights organization.

Al Arz Tahini faced both calls for boycott and expressions of support from Arab Israelis after donating to The Aguda – The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel.

“LGBT rights are human rights,” Touma-Sliman says.

Report: Blue and White likely to cave on demand for two-year budget

Channel 13 reports that the Blue and White party is slated to cave on its demand for a two-year budget amid demands by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Finance Ministry to pass a one-year budget amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the coalition deal between Netanyahu’s Likud and Gantz’s Blue and White, the parties agreed to pass a two-year budget. Netanyahu, however, is now seeking a one-year budget amid the coronavirus pandemic, potentially allowing him to trigger new elections around next year’s budget negotiations and bypassing a power-sharing deal with Gantz. The Blue and White leader has insisted his refusal to go with a one-year budget has nothing to do with that scenario.

Lod mayor and longtime PM supporter lashes out at government over virus response

Lod mayor and longtime supporter of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashes out at the government over its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This government is one that was forced onto the public against its will. There are too many ministers, too many opinions. They’re busy engaging in internal wars,” says Mayor Lod Yair Revivo.

The comments come against the backdrop of reports that the government is planning on enforcing a lockdown of the city to prevent a further outbreak of the coronavirus. However, there have been more recent reports that the government has passed along messages to the Lod mayor, clarifying that it won’t be locking down his city.

Netanyahu: Looking back, we re-opened the economy too quickly

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledges that his government re-opened parts of the economy too quickly.

“Looking back, as part of the trial and error, we can say that the last step was too early,” he says at press conference, referencing the reopening of bars and event halls in a press conference in which he is introducing the government’s economic rescue plan.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference about the coronavirus at his office in Jerusalem, July 9, 2020. (Screen capture: YouTube)

“We are in the midst of a global storm, which [is] growing… The second virus wave won’t skip almost any country.”

“It requires fateful decisions every day, balancing between trial and error. You try, err and fix. That’s how all leaders are operating.”

“In the first wave we had amazing success. The death toll was and remains very low. But the lockdown exacted a heavy toll on the economy.”

Netanyahu says that some of the criticism of the government’s response has been unfair, as the public had pressured it to re-open the economy after shutting much of it down in March.

“We did it because we listened to your struggles. I take responsibility for this step, and I take responsibility for fixing it,” he says.

Jacob Magid

PM says government economic plan assures immediate transfer of grants to business owners

Netanyahu says his government’s economic rescue plan will be based on three principles:

1. Certainty for the coming year

2. Quick transfer of government grants

3. Immediate government grants to independent businesses owners

“As for the self-employed and business owners hit by the coronavirus, [the government will issue] an immediate grant that will go straight into their bank accounts next week. There won’t be any conditions [for the grants] and no bureaucracy. It will be immediate. We will transfer more money and do more,” he says.

Gov’t economic plan ensures unemployment benefits through June 2021

The economic plan introduced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will include grants to 400,000 self-employed and business owners that will be transferred to their respective bank accounts next week.

Wage workers will receive unemployment benefits in their bank accounts through June 2021.

Netanyahu: Those who hold pirate weddings could find themselves holding funerals

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a warning to those who instead of holding weddings in event halls (which have been shuttered) host large crowds in private homes: “they might find themselves subsequently holding funerals.”

However, he defends Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, who attended a birthday party for his wife in a private home with nearly 50 other people hours after he announced that such gatherings would be illegal. Netanyahu says that the new restrictions had not gone into effect yet, and that therefore Edelstein did not do anything wrong.


Netanyahu says passing one-year budget next week critical for aiding economy

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserts that the government must pass a one-year budget by the end of next week in order to assist the ailing economy.

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz has pushed for a two-year budget as agreed upon in their coalition agreement, but Channel 13 reports that Gantz is prepared to cave on the demand.

Report: Running out of Remdesivir, Israel reaches out to US for additional shipments

Channel 13 reports that Israel has reached out to the US, requesting additional shipments of Remdesivir, as it has just about run out of the drug for treating the coronavirus.

There are still disagreements in the scientific community about whether the drug actually works.


Police enforcing quarantine over 67,000 Israelis — report

According to the Kan pubic broadcaster, Israel Police are currently responsible for enforcing the quarantine of 51,000 Israelis who received text messages from the Shin Bet ordering them to isolate after coming in contact with a coronavirus carrier.

In addition, 16,000 other Israelis are confirmed carriers themselves, and police are therefore also enforcing their home-quarantine.

Meretz head: PM was focused on annexation, personal tax benefits instead of economy

Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz tears into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“If Netanyahu had prepared for the second wave instead of dealing with annexation and tax benefits [for] himself, the Israeli economy would have been elsewhere today,” Horowitz says in a statement.

WATCH: Ex-football player catches child from 3rd floor apartment fire in Phoenix


More coronavirus cases reported in Syria’s overcrowded rebel enclave

BEIRU — At least two doctors in Syria’s opposition-held northwest have been infected with the coronavirus, a monitoring group reports, the latest confirmed cases in the overcrowded rebel enclave.

The new infections raise the number of confirmed cases to three in the area, where health care facilities have been devastated by years of civil war, and where testing has been limited due to scarce resources.

Observers fear the virus could spread easily in Idlib province, a concern compounded as Russia, an ally of the Syrian government, moved at the UN Security Council to reduce cross-border aid from Turkey.

Aid groups and UN agencies say such a reduction would hamper the delivery of live-saving assistance amid a global pandemic.

Doctors following up on the cases say testing and contact tracing is underway to attempt to isolate and prevent the spread of the virus. The two new carriers have been in contact with the area’s first confirmed infected person — a doctor who had moved between different hospitals and towns.

“The anticipation is a catastrophic outcome if there is no proper containment of the initial cases or proper isolation,” says Naser alMuhawish, of the Early Warning and Alert Response Network that carries out testing and monitoring of the virus. “Don’t forget we are in a conflict zone. So doctors are already scarce and need to move between more than one place.”

The first case was reported Thursday and the hospital where the doctor works has since suspended its operations and quarantined patients and support staff to carry out testing. Meanwhile, hospitals in northwest Syria announced yesterday they would be suspending non-emergency procedures and outpatient services for at least one week. Schools were to shut down until further notice. Before the confirmed cases, there had been only about 2,000 people tested for the virus.

— AP

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