The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they unfolded.
Top health official — wider outbreak may require new restrictions
Health Minister deputy head Itamar Grotto tells a Knesset Committee that Israel could be headed back toward lockdown restrictions, after an uptick in the number of new daily virus cases.
“If we get 100 sick people in a day that are not connected to the same outbreak epicenter, we’ll need to step back, restrictions-wise. For now there is one outbreak center, we have a plan to contain it that does not involve the whole population.”
A large number of the recent cases have been traced to a single Jerusalem high school, though other schools across the country have also seen isolated cases.
While noting that Israel has the capacity to test 40,000 people a day, he says what worries him is not the number of cases, but the rise in the number of test samples coming back positive for the novel coronavirus.
“We’ve gone from half a percent to 1.5%,” he says.
He adds that Israel is still on track to rescind any remaining restrictions on businesses and other institutions on June 14, though the date may change slightly.
Syria stock market suspends trading for Assad’s cousin’s firm
Syria’s stock market has suspended trading for the largest cellular company in the country, owned by a cousin of the president and one of Syria’s richest businessmen.
The decision by the Syrian Commission of Financial Markets and Securities marked another development in a deepening financial dispute within the Assad family, which has ruled Syria for five decades. The company, Syriatel, is one of the country’s largest employers, with thousands of staff and 11 million subscribers.
The commission said its measure aims to protect shareholders and that the suspension would last until further notice. It did not elaborate.
The businessman, Rami Makhlouf, a maternal cousin of President Bashar Assad, said in an online posting after the decision late on Monday that the situation was a “farce.” He said that over the past 10 years, 70% of the company’s profits were spent on charity.
“No one will be able to prevent this money from reaching” those in need, he vowed.
Last month, a Syrian court imposed a travel ban on Makhlouf until a dispute over outstanding financial dues is settled. The ban was one in a recent quick succession of government measures against Makhlouf, including confiscating his assets and those of his wife and children, and warning that more financial claims would be made against the man once believed to be at the heart of the economy of Syria.
EU denounces death of Floyd as ‘abuse of power’
BRUSSELS — The European Union’s top diplomat says the death of George Floyd was the result of an abuse of power and that the 27-nation bloc is “shocked and appalled” by it.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tells reporters that “like the people of the United States, we are shocked and appalled by the death of George Floyd.”
Floyd died last week after he was pinned to the pavement by a white police officer in Minneapolis who put his knee on the handcuffed black man’s neck until he stopped breathing. His death set off protests that spread across America.
Borrell says law enforcement officials must not be “using their capacities in the way that has been used in this very, very unhappy death of George Floyd. This is an abuse of power and this has to be denounced.”
He underlined that Europeans “support the right to peaceful protest, and also we condemn violence and racism of any kind, and for sure, we call for a de-escalation of tensions.”
Borrell says “we trust in the ability of the Americans to come together, to heal as a nation and to address these important issues during these difficult times.”
Israel girding for international backlash over annexation
Israeli officials are working to put together a plan to deal with the expected diplomatic fallout from moves to annex parts of the West Bank, which is expected to include stepped up boycotts in academia and other areas, Army Radio reports.
Part of the plan includes gauging pockets of “support” within the EU, and turning to those states to help, according to the report.
EU foreign ministers have warned Israel of “consequences” if it pushes ahead with annexing West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted is in the cards starting July 1. However, some countries within the bloc have also moved to shield Israel.
In 2013, the EU threatened to pull Israel out of its flagship Horizon 2020 research funding program until Israel agreed that the money would not go to projects beyond the Green Line.
German FM backs peaceful protests in US after ‘shocking’ Floyd death
Peaceful demonstrations in the United States against the “shocking” death of George Floyd during an arrest by police are “more than legitimate,” Germany’s foreign minister says.
“The peaceful protests that we see in the US… are understandable and more than legitimate. I hope that these peaceful protests won’t slide further into violence, but even more than that I hope that they will make a difference in the United States,” Heiko Maas tells reporters.
Netanyahu tells settler leaders not to stymie ‘historic’ annexation chance
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told settler leaders who oppose the Trump peace plan that he is committed to negotiating with the Palestinians on the basis of the US proposal.
A majority of local settlement leaders have come out against the Trump plan, even if it includes annexation, because it envisions a Palestinian state on most of the West Bank. The protests have reportedly angered the White House.
Netanyahu told the settler leaders during the meeting at his office that they were standing before an “historic opportunity to apply sovereignty over Judea and Samaria,” according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
— Jacob Magid
Source: Meeting with Netanyahu not positive
A source familiar with the meeting between settler leaders and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells The Times of Israel that he “would not have characterized it as positive.”
“It was a conversation between two sides that understand one another, even if we do not agree on all issues,” he said. “We passed along our concerns and [the Prime Minister’s Office] explained the complications on its end.”
Responding to an Army Radio report that claimed the meeting was meant to serve as a reprimand after the settler leaders’ campaign against the plan angered the Trump administration, the official says that no such rebuke was made.
The settler leaders who participated in the meeting were Yesha Council chairman and Jordan Valley Regional Council chairman David Elhayani, Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan, Binyamin Regional Council chairman Yisrael Gantz, Gush Etzion Regional Council chairman Yisrael Gantz and Har Hebron Regional Council chairman Yochai Damri.
The five of them declined to speak on the record, saying they had accepted a request from the PMO not to leak information on the meeting to reporters.
The PMO says “the sides agreed to continue their dialogue.”
A statement from the Yesha umbrella council of settler mayors is far more terse. “The meeting lasted about two hours, and we expect the dialogue to continue.”
Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi, who has led a minority of West Bank mayors supporting the Trump plan and accordingly did not receive an invite to the PMO, tweets that the goal of the meeting was “an attempt to silence the screamers. Good luck.”
— Jacob Magid
PMO: Mapping talks with US ongoing
The Prime Minister’s Office says “discussions with the Americans are still ongoing,” in an apparent reference to the joint Israeli-US mapping committee that is finalizing the borders of annexation Washington will be prepared to accept in the context of the Trump administration plan.
Settler leaders have lamented being left out of the loop of the committee’s meetings, asserting that the conceptual map presented by the Trump administration at the plan’s January unveiling inexplicably results in 15 Israeli settlements becoming isolated enclaves encircled by the future Palestinian state — an entity whose establishment they oppose.
— Jacob Magid
Joint List MK in quarantine after driver gets sick
MK Samy Abu Shahadeh (Joint List) is going into quarantine after his driver was found to have the coronavirus.
His staff is also entering quarantine. The driver was last at the Knesset on May 26.
IDF troops in standoff with armed fighters on Lebanon border
The IDF has had a run-in with apparent Hezbollah fighters during operations along the Lebanon border.
Israeli troops and a tank working on the Israeli side of the Blue Line, but outside a security fence, faced off with two men armed with rifles and a rocket propelled grenade, according to Channel 12 news.
Pictures from the scene show troops and UN peacekeepers in the area.
No shots are fired and no injuries are reported.
Earlier in the day, Israel transferred a Syrian national who had crossed the border and been shot last month back into Lebanon.
Two new coronavirus deaths announced
An update from the Prime Minister’s Office shows that the coronavirus death toll is up to 289, up from 285 last night and 287 this morning.
It says there are currently 17,253 infections, up from 17,169 the night before, putting Israel on pace today to near or reach triple digits in the new daily infection category.
The number of people on ventilators remains at 30.
Health Ministry to recommend shutting all high schools, middle schools — report
The Health Ministry is expected to call for all high schools and middle schools to be shut for the rest of the year, Channel 12 news reports.
The country has faced a number of virus outbreaks centered around schools. At least 31 schools and preschools have been shut thus far and over 9,900 students and staff have gone into quarantine, according to official figures released Tuesday.
The Tali school in Jerusalem’s Baka neighborhood has joined the ranks of high schools in the city where cases have been discovered.
Jewish group offers free loans to LA stores hit by looting
The Jewish Free Loan Association, an LA-based organization founded in 1904, has announced that it is offering interest-free loans of up to $18,000 to all residents of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties affected by looting and rioting that has taken place alongside protests responding to the police killing of George Floyd.
“Looting loss loans available immediately,” reads the subject line of an email sent to subscribers, which explains that the funds could pay for “debris cleanup, graffiti removal, construction needs, inventory replacement and more.”
Much of the looting around LA happened in the city’s Fairfax district, historically home to a large Jewish community and many Jewish businesses — including the famed Canter’s deli.
“The attack on our community last night was vicious and criminal. Fairfax is the center of the oldest Jewish community in Los Angeles. As we watched the fires and looting, what didn’t get covered were the anti-Semitic hate crimes and incidents." https://t.co/FLwKtJYzL2
— Jewish Journal (@JewishJournal) June 1, 2020
Area near White House fenced off after protests
The streets around the White House complex have been shut and are being guarded by a mix of Secret Service officers and FBI agents.
Overnight, a fence was constructed around Lafayette Park and along 17th Street at Pennsylvania Avenue, two areas that have been focal points for protests.
Work crews were still at work boarding up businesses in the area and attempting to remove graffiti from federal buildings.
Lebanon says troops mobilized to face off against Israeli tanks
Lebanon’s official National News Agency reports that Lebanese Army soldiers were mobilized after “Israeli enemy infantry troops, backed by two Merkava tanks, … crossed the technical fence.”
Video of the standoff shows two troops, armed with RPGs, several meters away from tanks, with UN Blue Helmets waving UNIFIL flags in between
טנק צהל פועל במובלעת בגבול לבנון (מעבר לגדר הגבול אך בתוך שטח ישראל) כשמולו חיילי אום וצבא לבנון pic.twitter.com/OhxY8wLrHj
— Or Heller אור הלר (@OrHeller) June 2, 2020
Channel 12 news reports that the tanks were sent across the fence as a show of control over the Israeli enclave on the other side of the barrier, but have since crossed back.
Pandemic cost will likely far exceed $5 trillion, World Bank head says
The global economy is facing “staggeringly large” losses and the recovery effort is hampered by a shortage of resources to make up for the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic, World Bank president David Malpass says.
While the Washington-based development lender has rushed out new programs to deploy $160 billion in funding to 100 countries in an effort to addresses the immediate emergency, the crisis will force developing nations to rethink the structure of their economies, Malpass tells AFP in an interview.
Initial estimates of $5 trillion in economic value destroyed by the COVID-19 measures likely falls far short of the actual damage that will be done by the efforts to contain the virus, he says.
The bank warned that the worldwide recession will drive 60 million people into extreme poverty but Malpass says that grim projection likely will become much worse as the crisis progresses.
Israeli missile hits test target 400 kilometers away
The Israel Aerospace Industries defense contractor has performed two tests with its short-range ballistic missile at sea, successfully hitting two floating targets, the firm says.
The Long-Range Artillery Weapon System, known by the acronym LORA, was fired first at a target 90 kilometers away and then at a target 400 kilometers away, IAI says.
“Under both scenarios, the missile was launched to its trajectory, navigated its course to the target, and hit it with utmost precision,” the company says in a statement.
The firm says the trials were conducted at sea for safety reasons and was launched remotely due to coronvirus restrictions. It was fired from onboard a ship, but using its ground launcher and a command and control trailer.
“Both the weapon system and the missile successfully met all of the trial’s objectives,” the firm says.
— Judah Ari Gross
Hide in plain sight: Groundbreaking study delves into Dead Sea Scrolls’ origins
A seven-year interdisciplinary study of ancient animal DNA taken from 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scroll fragments gives researchers new and surprising insight into the Jews and their theology on the cusp of the fall of the Second Temple.
The unprecedented “paleogenomic” study of ancient DNA from the Dead Sea Scrolls — the oldest biblical manuscripts yet discovered — provides each parchment’s animal source with a unique DNA fingerprint.
Tracing the origins of these animal hides provides a new window into the geographical and chronological development of the biblical canon and gives insight into whether the scrolls reflect the narrow, extremist view lived by the Jewish sects at Qumran, or whether they were a library of texts collected from the broader Jewish community.
“Two samples were discovered to be made of cow hide, and these happen to belong to two different fragments taken from the Book of Jeremiah. In the past, one of the cow skin-made fragments was thought to belong to the same scroll as another fragment that we found to be made of sheep skin. The mismatch now officially disproves this theory,” says Tel Aviv University’s Prof. Oded Rechavi.
“What’s more: Cow husbandry requires grass and water, so it is very likely that cow hide was not processed in the desert but was brought to the Qumran caves from another place. This finding bears crucial significance, because the cow hide fragments came from two different copies of the Book of Jeremiah, reflecting different versions of the book, which stray from the biblical text as we know it today,” Rechavi adds.
— Amanda Borschel Dan
Netanyahu embraces settlers backing Trump plan after meeting opposers
After meeting with settler leaders who have come out against the Trump plan earlier today, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sat down with a prominent settler supporter of the plan as well.
Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi tells The Times of Israel that the importance of his meeting at the PMO lay in the optics and “the message it sends” to the White House and the majority of settler leaders who oppose the Trump plan.
Revivi says exact details of the plan were not discussed. “I’ve had enough conversations with the prime minister and with Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin to know that the claims made by the other mayors regarding the maps are not true,” he adds, referring to qualms expressed by the Yesha umbrella council of settler mayors regarding claims of dangers the US plan poses to the settlement movement.
“This was about sending a message that we’re on the same page,” he says.
— Jacob Magid
Virus deniers mass against masks in Rome
Hundreds of demonstrators have gathered in Rome shunning masks to protest against the Italian government’s measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Members of a marginal political movement created last year by a retired Carabinieri general have emerged as a virus-denial camp in Italy, the first Western country to be hit by the global pandemic.
The leader of the so-called Orange Vests told the protest crowd assembled in the Piazza del Popolo on Tuesday that children shouldn’t be made to wear masks and he threatened to “slap” anyone who did.
Antonio Pappalardo added that he refuses to wear a mask himself and said: “These lungs mine. I will take care of my lungs. Breathing is sacred.”
The people packing the square didn’t adhere to social-distancing guidelines set by the government.
Pappalardo portrayed such containment measures as an infringement of freedom. Other speakers at the protest asserted that the pandemic ‘’never existed’’ and alleged that politicians had played it up to enhance their own powers.
Italy went into a nationwide lockdown in early March. The country enters a new phase in emerging from the virus emergency with the opening of regional and external borders on Wednesday.
UN rights office slams Israel over killing of autistic East Jerusalem man
The UN Human Rights office is condemning Israel’s quick use of lethal force following the killing of unarmed autistic East Jerusalem man Iyad Halak.
The agency calls the killing of Halak another case of “the routine use of lethal force by Israeli Security Forces against Palestinians, in Gaza and in the West Bank including East Jerusalem.”
It chides Israel for refusing to be transparent regarding its rules of engagement.
“Where lethal force appears to be routinely the first rather than the last resort, the killing of people like Iyad is likely to occur, mistaken or otherwise,” the office says in a statement.
The agency accuses Israel of failing to hold many to account for their actions and calls for “a full, independent, impartial, competent and transparent investigation into why Halak lost his life.
“Those responsible must be held to account,” it adds.
Gantz hits northern border to talk Iran, shelters
Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited the Israel Defense Force’s Northern Command, speaking to senior officers about the threats facing Israel from Syria and Lebanon, his office says.
This is Gantz’s first visit to the Northern Command since entering his position last month. During the trip, he met with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, Northern Command chief Amir Baram and commander of the 210th Bashan Division Amit Fisher.
“[The trip] focused on the security challenges in the northern arena, chiefly the Iranian presence in Syria and the developments on the Lebanese front,” Gantz’s office says.
During his visit to the area, the defense minister also met with mayors of communities on the northern border including the head of the Mateh Asher region, Moshe Davidovitch, who serves as the head of the so-called “Forum of Front-Line Communities,” representing the towns closest to the Lebanese and Syrian borders and most likely to be attacked in a war.
“During the meeting, civil and security matters were raised regarding the northern communities, including the issue of shelters,” his office says, referring to shortages of proper bomb shelters in the area.
— Judah Ari Gross
Virginia refuses to send national guard troops to DC after Trump threats
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has rejected a request from US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to send 3,000 to 5,000 of the state’s national guard to Washington, DC, as part of a massive show of force organized by the Trump administration in response to violent protests, according to Northam’s chief of staff, Clark Mercer.
Mercer says Trump’s comments to governors in a phone call Monday, in which the president said most governors were “weak” and needed to “dominate” the streets, played a role in the decision.
“The president’s remarks to the governors heightened our concerns about how the guard would be used,” he says.
Netanyahu to discuss school situation amid outbreak worries
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold discussions on the situation in the school system this evening, the PMO announces, without saying who will take part or what specifically will be discussed.
A report earlier in the day said the Health Ministry was considering recommending that all high schools and middle schools be shut to stem virus outbreaks.
Nearly 10,000 students and staff are in quarantine due to confirmed cases in schools.
Biden attacks Trump’s ‘blinding ego’ amid protests
Joe Biden has torn into US President Donald Trump a day after police drove back peaceful protesters near the White House so Trump could pose with a Bible before a damaged church.
Biden says Trump’s “narcissism has become more important than the nation that he leads.”
Delivering a speech at Philadelphia’s City Hall and addressing the civil unrest across America following the death of George Floyd, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee says “the moment has come” to deal with systemic racism and deeply ingrained economic inequality.
“I call on the Congress to act this month,” Biden said, urging lawmakers to start “with real police reform” and citing proposed legislation outlawing choke holds.
Biden also steps up his criticism of Trump as he works to elevate his voice in the national debate — after more than two months of the campaign for the White House being frozen amid the outbreak of the coronavirus.
“This president today is part of the problem and accelerates it,” Biden says, adding that Trump is “consumed with his blinding ego.”
Train opening may be derailed, but minister driving full steam ahead
Transportation Minister Miri Regev has told train officials to continue chugging along and getting commuter rails ready to reopen on Monday, despite a senior Health Ministry official expressing doubts about its opening earlier today, Calcalist reports.
“Maybe I should curb your enthusiasm a bit, we’re going to have a discussion with the National Security Council on Thursday, if it will actually open,” Ruti Gross told a Knesset committee earlier.
While buses have been running for weeks, trains have been kept in storage, leading to questions about when they will resume service.
“Someone has totally lost it at the Health Ministry, the buses are completely packed and most people don’t have masks, and there’s no oversight, no enforcement. Insanity,” one annoyed commuter tells Ynet.
116 coronavirus cases confirmed, in largest spike in month
The Health Ministry says there have been 116 new coronavirus cases since an update Monday night, bringing the total to 17,285.
The total is the largest single day tally since May 2.
In addition, another death is reported, putting the toll at 290.
The ministry, which has had issues with simple math, also says there are 29 people in ventilators, but only 28 cases listed in serious condition.
Education minister says closing schools ‘irresponsible’
Education Minister Yoav Gallant is pushing back against a nationwide closure of schools, saying the current infection rate does not justify doing so.
“This will be an irresponsible blow to students, parents and teachers,” Gallant writes on Twitter. “At the same time, we must keep our finger on the pulse… wherever a confirmed [COVID-19] patient is identified, the educational institution will be closed.”
Gallant is also quoted by Hebrew media reports lashing out at the Health Ministry, accusing it of “sowing panic” and saying there is no current need for widespread school closures.
Jordan warns of ‘grave consequences’ if Israel annexes West Bank
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi tells a meeting of donors to Palestinians that West Bank annexation will end chances for peace and “will not go unanswered.”
If it does “there will only be fiercer conflict. Annexation will make the two-state solution an impossibility; it will make institutionalization apartheid inevitable; it will diminish all chances for lasting a comprehensive regional peace,” Safadi warns.
Safadi says all efforts toward peace “could be lost” if annexation plans move ahead, and calls thwarting it the top priority for the international community.
“We warn of the grave consequences of the implementation of the annexation decision on the endeavor to achieve regional peace and on Jordanian-Israeli relations,” he says.
School will not be closing — report
Schools will not be closing despite a Health Ministry push to shutter high schools and middle schools, Channel 13 news reports.
Schools will only be shut if any student or staff there is found to have the virus, according to the report.
Only eight of the cases confirmed in the last day came from schools, according to Ynet news, citing the Health Ministry.
The ministry says 4,925 students and staff are in quarantine, after reports earlier in the day had put the figure at twice that.
PMO confirms no decision to close schools yet
The Prime Minister’s Office confirms that schools will not close … yet.
In a statement, it indicates that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pushed the decision off until Wednesday, at least.
“The prime minister requested more stats, and asked to look into how to up hygiene and prevention for students against infection. The discussion will continue tomorrow and a decision will be made regarding the school system according to the numbers presented,” it says.
US court says Iran, Syria should pay damages for terror attacks in Israel
A US court has ruled that Iran and Syria are liable for compensation for American citizens wounded and killed in a series of attacks by Palestinians in Israel, including the killing of a US Army veteran.
Judge Randolph D. Moss in US District Court for the District of Columbia rules that Americans wounded and killed in seven attacks carried out by Palestinians were eligible for damages from Iran and Syria because they provided “material support” to terror groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
The court has not yet determined the amount of the damages. The order was posted online Sunday by the federal courts.
Syria, Iran and the Iranian Ministry of Information of Security, all named as defendants in the civil case, did not take part in the proceedings.
Collecting the damages will be a challenge. American courts have ordered the government of Iran to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to families of Americans killed by Palestinians before. But since Iran and the US have no formal diplomatic relations, collecting the damages has remained elusive.
Taylor Force, a US Army veteran, was studying in Israel in 2016 when he was stabbed to death by a Palestinian assailant in Tel Aviv. Congress later approved the Taylor Force Act, which withholds funding to the Palestinians that it said was used to reward the families of attackers.
Israelis demonstrate for George Floyd outside Tel Aviv mission
Over 200 demonstrators have protested outside the US diplomatic mission in Tel Aviv on Tuesday to decry the killing of George Floyd.
The protesters hold signs reading “Black Lives Matter,” “All Lives Matter” and “If you aren’t livid, you’re not listening.” Some carry placards with Floyd’s name written.
Floyd, who was black, died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe and became motionless.
Some have drawn parallels between the killing and the shooting death of unarmed autistic man Iyad Halak in East Jerusalem at the hands of Israeli police over the weekend.
— with AP
Jerusalem chief rabbi pays condolences to family of autistic man slain by cops
Jerusalem’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Aryeh Stern has paid a condolence call to the family of Iyad Halak, a 22-year-old East Jerusalem man with special needs who was shot to death by police on Saturday.
Stern is accompanied on the visit by officials from Jerusalem City Hall, according to Hebrew media. He meets with Muslim religious leaders and expresses his sorrow to the family over the tragedy.
Police claim they suspected Halak, who was unarmed, had a gun.
Minister said to nix condolence call after father of slain man protests
Channel 12 news reports that Public Security Minister Amir Ohana has canceled his scheduled visit to the family of Iyad Halak.
The decision comes after Halak’s father posted a video to Facebook in which he said he did not want to be visited by any Israeli government official.
Ohana’s ministry gives him control of the police, including the Border Police officers who shot Halak, who had special needs and was unarmed, to death.
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