Fewer than 100 new daily infections reported for first time in over week
Live updates (closed)

Fewer than 100 new daily infections reported for first time in over week

Health ministry says 83 new infections in past day, marking lowest tally since June 6; death toll steady at 300

Israelis swim in the Sea of Galilee on June 12, 2020. (David Cohen/FLASH90 *** Local Caption)
Israelis swim in the Sea of Galilee on June 12, 2020. (David Cohen/FLASH90 *** Local Caption)

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

New lockdown not inevitable if Israel buckles down, outgoing health czar counsels

Outgoing Health Ministry director Moshe Bar Siman-Tov tells Kan radio that he was surprised by the speed at which Israel seems to have been hit by a second wave of the coronavirus. But he adds that a new lockdown is not a given.

“We can still be relatively optimistic and flatten the curve without a lockdown. We need to keep the guidelines, especially regarding masks. There was an issue in keeping people aware that the corona was not a one-off that came and went. We need to convince the public of how important it is. I think the public, and everybody, was quite tired.”

Sunday is set to mark his last day on the job, after Prof. Chezy Levy was confirmed as his replacement earlier in the day.

Bar Siman-Tov defends his decision not to fire deputy Itamar Grotto, who was exposed as giving a billionaire a pass to ignore virus rules, saying that Levy will deal with it and “there are facts which are still not clear.”

Netanyahu condemns threats against judge, links them to own woes

Supreme Court Justice Anat Baron (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has condemned threats against Justice Anat Baron, and linked them to cases in which social media users said the premier should be killed.

“There should be zero tolerance toward anyone who threatens to murder judges and elected officials alike,” Netanyahu says at the opening of Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

“This month alone I have filed three police complaints over murder threats against me and my family,” he said. “I call on police to act quickly and forcefully to eradicate the phenomenon of incitement — it has no place among us.”

Italian protesters deface statue of journalist who had Eritrean child bride

Protesters have scrawled “rapist’’ and “racist’’ on the statue of a late Italian journalist who had acknowledged having had a 12-year-old Eritrean bride while stationed in the Italian colony in the 1930s.

The statue of Indro Montanelli, inside a Milan park that bears his name, has been a flashpoint in Italy’s Black Lives Matters protests, which have put renewed focus on Italy’s colonial past. Activists are also pushing for Italy to grant automatic citizenship to those born in Italy to parents who are permanent residents.

A municipal employee cleans a statue of a famous Italian journalist Indro Montanelli on June 14, 2020, in a Milan public square, a day after it was defaced, stained with red paint and tagged with the inscription “racist, rapist.” (MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP)

Montanelli, who died in 2001 at 92, was one of Italy’s most revered journalists, honored by the Vienna-based International Press Institute in 2000 as among the 50 World Press Freedom Heroes. A noted war correspondent, he chronicled contemporary Italy from its colonial era through fascism, Italy’s postwar reconstruction and the anti-corruption scandals that overturned Italy’s political class in the 1990s.

In 1977, he was shot four times in the legs by the Red Brigade domestic terror group. He also mentored many of today’s top Italian journalists.

— AP

Ministry: 8 at Jerusalem Lazuz gym positive for virus

The Health Ministry says eight people have contracted the coronavirus after visiting the Lazuz gym in central Jerusalem.

It says all eight were in the facility from June 1 to June 8 as well as June 10, and anyone who was there must enter quarantine.

Channel 12 news reports that officials are concerned about the spread of the virus in areas outside of known “outbreak zones.” According to Health Ministry data over June 12 and 13, there were 230 infections outside of the zones and 87 inside them.

Dumped Transportation Ministry director lands new job leading Treasury

The cabinet has approved Keren Terner Eyal as new Finance Ministry director.

Terner Eyal made headlines in May when she was unceremoniously fired from her role as Transportation Ministry director by phone while she was on maternity leave.

Keren Terner Eyal, then-director general of the Transportation Ministry, attends a hearing at the Knesset, March 20, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The career bureaucrat had been widely expected to follow new Minister Israel Katz to the Finance Ministry in any case.

In a statement Katz expresses confidence in her ability to help steer the country “at the height of one of the most challenging periods for the Israeli economy.”

Netanyahu, Gantz and co. meet envoy Friedman on annexation

A meeting has begun between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin and US Ambassador David Friedman, to discuss annexation plans.

Friedman has met with all the players several times, though this may be the first summit when they are all present together to hash out the subject.

Russians scotch Turkey trip to talk Syria, Libya

Russia’s foreign and defense ministers have postponed a planned visit to Turkey on Sunday to discuss the Libya and Syria conflicts where Moscow and Ankara back rival forces.

Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu had intended to visit Istanbul on Sunday following an agreement between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, foreign ministries in both countries said on Saturday.

But, without giving a reason, both now say the visit is postponed and work is continuing to reschedule a ministerial meeting.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Lavrov agree in a phone call that contacts will continue in the meantime, Ankara says.


China sees largest jump in new infections in months

China has reported its biggest one-day jump in coronavirus cases in two months, a day after closing the biggest wholesale food market in Beijing and locking down nearby residential communities.

The 57 new confirmed infections include 36 in Beijing.

The Xinfadi market on Beijing’s southeastern side was closed Saturday and neighboring residential compounds locked down after more than 50 people in the capital tested positive for the coronavirus. They were the first confirmed cases in 50 days in the city of 20 million people.

China, where the pandemic began in December, had relaxed most of its antivirus controls after the ruling Communist Party declared victory over the disease in March.

Authorities locked down 11 residential communities near the Xinfadi market. Police installed white fencing to seal off a road leading to a cluster of apartment buildings.

— AP

Suspect arrested in cold case of Likud activist’s slaying

A suspect has been arrested in the four-year-old murder of Likud activist and businessman Doron Shuster, Channel 12 news reports.

Shuster was shot to death in March 2016 at the entrance to his Rishon Lezion home in an apparent drive-by attack.

According to the channel, Yavneh resident Yair Zohar was arrested in connection to the case after being identified by an undercover agent. Zohar, who is already in prison on unrelated charges, has denied any involvement, Channel 12 reports.

Shuster, 50, was closely connected to several powerful Likud figures, including former president Moshe Katsav, former minister Gideon Sa’ar and Netanyahu adviser-turned-state’s witness Nir Hefetz.

Berlin demonstrators create 9-kilometer socially distanced chain

BERLIN — Demonstrators are forming a planned 9-kilometer (5 ½-mile) chain in Berlin in a message against racism, among a range of other causes.

Organizers of Sunday’s “Indivisible” demonstration were told to require participants to wear masks, and protesters were also asked to keep well apart.

They were linked by colored ribbons, forming what organizers called a “ribbon of solidarity” that stretched southeast from the Brandenburg Gate to the Neukoelln neighborhood. Police said people appeared to be keeping up with safety protocols.

Berlin recently lifted coronavirus-related limits on the number of people who can attend demonstrations, though people are still required to keep at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart in public.

— AP

Top health official says second coronavirus wave already here

Prof. Sigal Sadetzky, the head of health services at the Health Ministry, tells lawmakers at a Knesset panel discussion that Israel is seeing the start of a second wave of the coronavirus, Hebrew media reports.

Prof. Sigal Sadetzky speaks during a press conference about the coronavirus at the Health Ministry in Jerusalem on May 31, 2020. (Flash90)

“We had a long period of more than two weeks with a calm of less than 20 infections a day, and it started to climb and climb, and now we are seeing close to 200 new sick people a day,” she says.

“What characterizes the wave we are seeing now is that it’s across the country, we don’t really know how to identify at-risk groups. We see it running all around and spreading over a very wide geographical area,” she adds.


Knesset to discuss letting fans back in stadiums

Despite the apparent revival of the coronavirus pandemic in Israel, the Knesset committee charged with overseeing the national response will convene next week to discuss allowing fans back in the stands at professional sporting events.

Basketball and soccer have restarted play in recent weeks, but fans are generally banned from the games under guidelines banning large gatherings.

An Israeli Premier League soccer match between Beitar Jerusalem and Hapoel Tel Aviv at the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, February 17, 2020. (Flash90)

In a letter to the panel’s head asking for a meeting, MK Yoel Razvozov (Yesh Atid), complained that sports was at the bottom of the food chain when it came to re-opening parts of the economy.

“Almost the whole economy has had a gradual return. Beaches are totally open, malls, restaurants and bars are open under restrictions,” he writes, according to Sport5.

He calls the decision to ban fans as “sweeping and disconnected from the pace of events.”




Spain to reopen borders to Europe, drop quarantine requirement

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says Spain will open its borders to travelers from Europe’s Schengen travel areas except Portugal on June 21, moving up the original date by 10 days.

Spain will drop its requirement for people arriving from abroad to stay in quarantine, either at home or in a hotel, for 14 days on arrival, when it reopens on that day.

Sánchez said Sunday that Spain and Portugal will keep their border closed to non-essential crossings until July 1.

People enjoy the warm weather on the beach in Barcelona, Spain, June 13, 2020. (AP/Emilio Morenatti)

Spain’s government had already announced that on June 21 it will end the nation’s state of emergency to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. From then on, Spaniards will be able to move freely around the country without restrictions, but face masks will remain obligatory on public transportation and crowded spaces.

On Monday, Spain’s Balearic Islands test their reopening strategy by accepting the first flights from Germany of tourists who will be exempt from a quarantine. The islands plan to welcome up to 10,900 Germans during the trial.

Over 27,000 Spaniards have died in the country’s pandemic.

— AP

IDF chief praises soldier for protecting Palestinian from Hebron settlers

Army chief Aviv Kohavi is giving unqualified backing to a Golani Brigades soldier who was photographed defending a Palestinian man being attacked by settlers in Hebron over the weekend.

“The chief of staff praised the behavior of the soldier, who acted as expected of an IDF soldier and stopped harm from coming to a Palestinian civilian,” a joint statement from the army and police says.

Police chief Moti Cohen says in the statement that troops and border police officers are working to locate and prosecute anyone involved in violent activity.

In video footage of the incident, a group of Israelis can be seen attacking the Palestinian, later identified as Ibrahim Bader, with one of them putting him in a headlock as others hit and kick him.

The soldier then runs toward the group, pushing one of the Israelis aside and trying to help Bader out of the headlock. The soldier then appears to be hit by the man he pushed.

As the soldier escorts Bader to safety, some of the Israelis run after them. A number of them try to strike Bader, while the soldier continues to try to distance him from the group.

According to Channel 12 news, the identities of perpetrators of the attack in the West Bank city of Hebron are known to the police, and law enforcement officers went to their homes on Saturday evening. However, none of the suspects were home, the report said.

Thousands in UK brush off virus rules to party at raves

Thousands of people defied coronavirus restrictions to attend two illegal raves in Manchester in northern England, where one man died from a suspected drug overdose, police say.

Around 4,000 people gathered for one of the Saturday night events where a 20-year-old man died of the suspected overdose, according to Greater Manchester Police.

Another 2,000 turned out for a second party that saw three stabbings, including one which left an 18-year-old man with life-threatening injuries, the force said.

Officers responding to that rave were met with violence from revelers, with items thrown at them and a police car vandalized, it adds.

“These raves were illegal and I condemn them taking place — they were clearly a breach of coronavirus legislation and guidelines, and have had tragic consequences,” says assistant chief constable Chris Sykes.


Florida Trumpies fete president with birthday flotillas

Trump supporters in Florida are celebrating the president’s birthday with caravans, flotillas and parades throughout his adopted homestate.

Trump turns 74 today.

In Palm Beach County — home of US President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort — caravans of trucks, motorcycles and boats were riding along highways and the intercoastal waterway at various times in the morning. The organizers were part of the president’s Florida reelection effort.

“Keep America Great Again,” one sign reads.

The Palm Beach Post reports that an anti-Trump caravan also was riding through the county Sunday to protest racism and call for police reforms.

Pro-Trump flotillas also were planned for Fort Lauderdale, Miami, the Florida Keys, Tampa, Pensacola and Jacksonville — where Trump is slated to be renominated for a second term at the end of August.

In The Villages, a massive Republican-friendly retirement community northwest of Orlando where golf carts are the vehicles of choice for many residents, Trump supporters were holding a golf-cart parade in honor of the president.

— AP

Israel boots son of US media mogul for breaking quarantine

Brandon Korff, the grandson of American media tycoon Sumner Redstone, is being kicked out of Israel after failing to adhere to quarantine rules, the Interior Ministry announces.

According to the ministry, Korff got special permission to enter Israel claiming he wanted to visit his brother, who is serving as a lone soldier in the IDF, and arrived Friday.

Instead of hanging out alone for 14 days, though, he went out almost immediately to surprise his girlfriend, named in press reports as actress, model and soldier Yael Shelbia.

According to media reports, Shelbia planned on spending quarantine with her squeeze.

“Korff signed a statement committing to adhere to isolation according to guidelines and said he would not come into contact with anyone else. Despite that, he met his partner and stayed with her in the same apartment,” the ministry says.

“Because of this, authorities have ordered that he leave immediately,” it adds.

The incident appears to be the first case of a tourist being deported for breaking quarantine rules.

There has been rising unhappiness about the rich and well-connected seemingly being able to skirt virus rules.

Korff’s mother is Shari Redstone, who controls CBSViacom and movie theater proprietor National Amusements.

Attorney demands prison explain why they’re prescribing Leifer anti-psychotic meds if panel says she’s faking

The family of Malka Leifer is demanding that the Israel Prisons Service respond to allegations of medical malpractice made by a court-ordered psychiatric panel, which deemed that the alleged serial pedophile was feigning mental illness.

In a letter to IPS, the Leifers’ attorney, Avraham Ambar, cites testimony given by one of the panel members, Dr. Amir Ben Efraim, who told the court during a cross examination hearing earlier this year that the IPS’s medical personnel had been wrong to prescribe Leifer anti-psychotic medications, which she has been taking for several years. Leifer’s attorneys have used the prison service diagnosis to assert that their client is indeed mentally ill.

“The patients in the [prison system] should be very worried,” Ben Efraim said then.

Ambar also cited the report compiled by the which stated that “the diagnoses of the IPS doctors are conducted in a negligent matter, without a thorough examination.”
The attorney demands a response from the IPS by Thursday, “in order to understand whether there indeed has been widespread negligence in the IPS as claimed by the panel chairman, or whether you stand behind the IPS doctors and behind the diagnoses and medical treatment that are still being given to Ms. Leifer,” Ambar writes.

The attorney tells The Times of Israel that if the IPS response is not satisfactory, he will pursue the matter in civil court.

Last month, the Jerusalem District Court determined that Leifer is mentally fit for extradition to Australia to stand trial on charges of 74 counts of child sex abuse.

An extradition hearing has been scheduled for July 20.

— Jacob Magid

Police arrest 2 suspects in beating of Palestinian stopped by soldier

The Israel Police arrest two Israeli teenagers suspected of attacking a Palestinian man and the IDF soldier who rescued him in the West Bank city of Hebron, police say.

The two suspects are part of a larger group of settler youths who were seen assaulting the Palestinian man before the serviceman rushed in to rescue him.

“Two minors were interrogated on suspicion [that they had carried out] the attack. At the end of their interrogation, the two were arrested,” police say.

No other arrests have been made, according to police.

–Judah Ari Gross

Ex-US negotiator Greenblatt rejects UAE warning on annexation

Former US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt is coming out strongly against an op-ed published by the UAE’s influential ambassador to Washington, in which he warned that normalization efforts would end if Israel insists on annexing West Bank land.

In an op-ed for The Jerusalem Post, Greenblatt says he disagrees with Yousef al-Otaiba’s idea that Israel’s annexation of settlements and the Jordan Valley is an illegal seizure of Palestinian land.

“It is not Palestinian land. It is land that is disputed, and the only way to resolve this is if the two sides can negotiate a settlement of the dispute directly together. But that has proven to be elusive. This is one of the main reasons we drafted the vision for peace in the manner that we did,” he writes.

However, he expresses hope that normalization continues despite the planned annexation: “If Israel chooses to move forward with the application of Israeli law to those areas, I nevertheless hope that there will be continued, significant progress in the relationship between the UAE and Israel. This progress is important for the region for so many reasons, including its security.”

The US administration has yet to publicly comment on al-Otaiba’s op-ed, which was published in Yeditoh Ahronoth on Friday. Greenblatt left his post last year.

Second death threat letter leveled at justice

Supreme Court Judge Anat Baron has received a second death threat letter, Channel 13 news reports.

The letter contains “clear threats on her life,” the channel reports.

Police are investigating and believe the threats to be involved with a case related to state matters and not a criminal case, the channel reports.

On Sunday morning, the court said Baron had received a threatning letter, linking it to “continuous unbridled incitement” against the courts.

Baron is a liberal-leaning judge who supported many rulings that have angered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing base.

Among recent cases she ruled on was one blocking the demolition of the home of an alleged terrorist.

Fewer than 100 new virus cases in single day

The Health Ministry says the number of coronavirus infections has reached 19,055, recording 83 cases since Saturday evening.

The figures mark the  first time since June 6 that the number of new daily infections has dropped below 100, sparking hopes that a second wave of infections may be slowing.

No new deaths are recorded. There are 33 patients in serious condition, with 24 of them on ventilators, the ministry says.

Annexation summit ends without progress

Channel 13 reports that a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Ministry Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin and US Ambassador David Friedman ended without an agreement on how to move ahead with annexation of parts of the West Bank.

According to the report, Netanyahu and Levin, from the hawkish Likud Party, presented several ideas to centrists Gantz and Ashkenazi covering the gamut of different scopes of annexation, including with or without the Jordan Valley, settlement blocs only, and other configurations.

However, the prime minister was unspecific about his goals and presented no maps.

The report cited an unnamed senior official.

The channel said while Netanyahu is pushing for annexing the most land possible, but Gantz and Ashkenazi have “no appetite for dramatic moves,” especially if the US starts to cool on the prospect.

The sides are set to meet again on Monday.

Paris police probing anti-Semitic slurs at ‘Justice for Adama’ rally

Paris police are investigating after multiple participants were heard shouting, “Dirty Jews” at a demonstration in Paris focused on Adama Traore, a black man who died in police custody there in 2016.

The chants erupted at Republique Square on Saturday during “Justice for Adama” rally, part of an international protest movement against police violence that has unfolded in recent weeks.

After counter-protesters unfurled a banner that said “Justice for victims of anti-white crimes,” several members of the crowd began shouting about Jews, in an episode caught on video. The Paris police department says in a tweet that it has reported the anti-Semitic comments to the French judiciary.

The chants about Jews in Paris “are an insult to the Republic, but also to the cause that the demonstrators claim to promote,” writes Francis Kalifat, president of CRIF, a group representing French Jewish communities and organizations.


Israel in talks with Moderna to move up vaccine list — report

The Health Ministry confirms reports that Israel is in advanced talks with US drugmaker Moderna to be among the first countries to receive a coronavirus vaccine under development, according to the Ynet news site.

Moderna Inc. said Thursday that the vaccine it is developing with the National Institutes of Health will be tested in 30,000 people in the US as part of a phase III trial, the last step before approval.

Moderna’s chief medical officer is Dr. Tal Zaks, an Israeli.

Israel has previously taken steps to hoard Hydroxychloroquine, though the drug has no proven benefit for COVID-19 patients.



Senior al-Qaeda commanders killed in Syria strike — monitor

A drone strike in northwestern Syria has killed two senior commanders with an al-Qaeda-linked group, opposition activists say.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, says the strike was believed to have been carried out by the US-led coalition, which has been targeting extremists in Syria for years.

The drone strike hit a vehicle carrying the two commanders — a Jordanian and a Yemeni — in the northwestern province of Idlib, the last remaining rebel stronghold in war-torn Syria. Idlib is dominated by al-Qaeda-linked militants, and is also home to 3 million civilians.

The Observatory says the men killed were with the al-Qaeda-linked Horas al-Din group, Arabic for “Guardians of Religion.” Horas al-Din are hardcore al-Qaeda elements who broke away from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the strongest insurgent group in the Idlib enclave.

Al-Mohrar Media, an activist collective in northern Syria, says the dead were Horas al-Din’s general military commander, known as Qassam al-Urduni, or “Qassam the Jordanian.” It said the second man was a Yemeni citizen known as Bilal al-Sanaani, the commander of the group’s so-called “desert army.”

— AP

Minister says work starting to bring 300 families to Ramat Trump

Settlements Minister Tzipi Hotovely writes on Facebook that her ministry will start preparations for Ramat Trump — Hebrew for “Trump Heights” — to house 300 families in the Golan Heights, after the government voted to push ahead with establishing the community.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (L) look on during the unveiling of the sign for the new community of ‘Ramat Trump,’ or ‘Trump Heights’ in English, named after the US president, during an official ceremony on the Golan Heights, Israel, June 16, 2019. (Jalaa MAREY/AFP)

“The decision is great news,” she writes.

At a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would “begin practical steps in establishing the community of Ramat Trump on the Golan Heights, Israel’s sovereignty over which was recognized by President Trump.”

The town is a rebranding of an existing neighborhood of the town of Kela Alon, currently home to about a dozen people in a handful of mobile homes.

Aerial view of the small village of Kela Alon in the Golan Heights, near the site of a new community to be renamed to honor US President Donald Trump. (Golan Regional Council)

— with AP

Parts of Beijing locked down as virus outbreak gathers fresh pace

All indoor sports and entertainment venues are shut down in China’s capital as authorities race to contain a coronavirus outbreak linked to a wholesale food market, with some neighborhoods placed under completed lockdown.

Tens of thousands of people are also targeted in a massive test and trace program, as the number of cases from the new Beijing cluster increased to 79.

The outbreak comes after China had largely brought the virus under control following its emergence in a central Chinese city late last year, highlighting the enduring dangers for the rest of the world about a second wave of the pandemic.

Indoor sports and entertainment venues across Beijing have been ordered to close, the municipal party committee says at a press conference Monday.

City official Xu Ying tells reporters that all areas must “strengthen public space disinfection and temporarily close sports and recreation indoor facilities,” as well as increasing temperature checks and forbidding non-residents from entering communities.

Earlier today health officials reported 49 new coronavirus cases nationwide, including 36 more in Beijing where a cluster linked to the Xinfadi market in the south of the city has fueled fears of a second wave of infections.


read more: