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In 1st for new government, building projects in West Bank settlements approved

Defense Ministry panel okays 31 plans, including for mall, schools, synagogues

Construction work for new housing in the West Bank settlement of Modi'in Illit, January 11, 2021. (Flash90)
Construction work for new housing in the West Bank settlement of Modi'in Illit, January 11, 2021. (Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s developments as they unfolded.

Germany sees ‘good chance’ of wrapping up nuclear talks soon

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says that he sees a “good chance” of concluding talks on a revival of the Iran nuclear deal soon, after talks with his US counterpart.

“Regarding the negotiations in Vienna, they aren’t easy — that’s been clear in recent weeks,” Maas tells a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“Nevertheless we are moving forward step by step in every round of negotiations and we assume that in the context of the (Iranian) presidential election, there’s a good chance to conclude them in the foreseeable future.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (R) and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken prepare to address a joint press conference following talks at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin on June 23, 2021.(John MACDOUGALL / POOL / AFP)

Maas says there are still “several technical questions to resolve” on the landmark accord.

“In any case we are convinced that it’s worth it to maintain talks over such a long period of time in order to revive the JCPOA in this way.”

Gantz to bring formation of submarines probe to cabinet vote Sunday

Defense Minister Benny Gantz intends to call for a vote on the formation of a state inquiry into the so-called submarine affair at the cabinet meeting on Sunday, his office says.

Gantz announced his plan to propose such an investigation on Saturday night, sparking a minor political controversy.

The defense minister’s office says he has submitted initial drafts of his proposal to the Justice and Finance ministries for review and upon receiving their comments, he plans to bring the matter to a vote by the government.

“Gantz intends to submit his proposal to the government ahead of the cabinet meeting on Sunday, after submitting and receiving feedback from the relevant offices,” his spokesperson says.

The submarine affair, known as Case 3000, revolves around allegations of a massive bribery scheme in Israel’s multi-billion-shekel purchase of naval vessels — submarines and large missile ships — from German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp. The scandal also involved the sale of two Dolphin-class submarines and two anti-submarine warships by Germany to Egypt, allegedly approved by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu without consulting or notifying then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and then-IDF chief of staff Gantz. Israel had long been granted an unofficial veto over such sales by Germany.


2 Acre residents to be charged for shooting at cops during riots

Two residents of the northern city of Acre will be indicted later today for allegedly shooting at police officers and throwing rocks during last month’s ethnic riots during Operation Guardian of the Walls, according to Hebrew media reports.

The two men, who are not identified, are also suspected of torching property, the reports say.

A car is set on fire during clashes between Arabs and Jews in Acre, northern Israel, on May 12, 2021. (Roni Ofer/Flash90)

Health minister says local lockdowns not on the table

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz says the government is not considering imposing local lockdowns as the number of coronavirus cases rises.

“We aren’t in that sort of situation and I hope we don’t get there,” he tells the Kan public broadcaster.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz at the Abarbanel Mental Health Medical Center, Bat Yam, on June 22, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/FLASH90)

Airstrike on busy market in Ethiopia’s Tigray kills dozens

An airstrike hit a busy market in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray village of Togoga on Tuesday, according to health workers who say soldiers blocked medical teams from traveling to the scene. Dozens of people were killed, they and a former resident say, citing witnesses.

Two doctors and a nurse in Tigray’s regional capital, Mekele, tell The Associated Press they are unable to confirm how many people were killed, but one doctor says health workers at the scene reported “more than 80 civilian deaths.” The health workers spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

The alleged airstrike comes amid some of the fiercest fighting in the Tigray region since the conflict began in November as Ethiopian forces supported by those from neighboring Eritrea pursue Tigray’s former leaders. A military spokesman and the spokeswoman for Ethiopia’s prime minister do not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wounded patients being treated at Mekele’s Ayder hospital tell health workers that a plane dropped a bomb on Togoga’s marketplace. The six patients included a 2-year-old child with “abdominal trauma” and a 6-year-old, the nurse says. An ambulance carrying a wounded baby to Mekele, almost 60 kilometers (37 miles) away by road, was blocked for two hours and the baby died on the way, the nurse adds.

Government to weigh whether to allow vaccinated tourists into Israel from July 1

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked will hold a meeting with top officials to discuss whether to allow vaccinated foreign nationals to enter Israel from July 1, as planned, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The reopening of Israel’s borders to vaccinated tourists could be postponed due to the rise in COVID morbidity in the country, which has been blamed on travelers from abroad, according to the report.

A technician collects nasal swab samples for COVID-19 at the coronavirus lab, at the Ben-Gurion International Airport on February 28, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett urged Israelis to avoid nonessential international travel.

Russian ship fires warning shots at UK warship in Black Sea

A Russian warship fires warning shots to force a British destroyer from Russia’s waters near Crimea in the Black Sea, the Russian Defense Ministry says.

The ministry says the Russian warship fired warning shots after the British missile destroyer Defender had ignored a notice against intrusion in Russia’s territorial waters. It says that a Russian Su-24 bomber also dropped bombs ahead of the British ship to persuade it to change course.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, a move that wasn’t recognized by most countries in the world. Russia has frequently chafed at NATO warships visits to the Black Sea, casting them as destabilizing, even though NATO members Turkey, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria all are on the Black Sea.

Government forms coronavirus cabinet as COVID cases climb

The new government has formed a coronavirus cabinet to debate its health policy.

It is composed of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett; Foreign Minister Yair Lapid; Defense Minister Benny Gantz; Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman; Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar; Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked; Public Security Minister Omer Barlev; Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz; Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton; Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin; Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahane; Economy Minister Orna Barbivai. Two other ministers — Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov and Science Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen — are observers.

The government intends to advance legislation to reduce the number of ministers in the coronavirus cabinet in the coming weeks to make the panel less unwieldly and more efficient, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office says.

‘Way to go!’ President meets with Olympic delegations ahead of Tokyo games

Outgoing President Reuven Rivlin meets with Israel’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes ahead of their departure to Tokyo for the 2021 Olympics, which begin next month.

“You prepared magnificently. Now, it’s your turn to reap the fruits and the glory. To go faster, higher, stronger, more beautifully. I see you here, ready but relaxed, prepared to face any challenge. We believe in you. We know you can do it,” says Rivlin.

President Reuven Rivlin meets with Israel’s Olympics and Paralympics teams on June 23, 2021 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

“You sportsmen and sportswomen, who represent the diversity of Israeli society, are testament to the fact that the determination that courses through you crosses all sectors and groups. Your commitment, your energy and your constant aspiration to excel proves that you are the best people to represent the State of Israel in international sport and for that I say kol hakavod, way to go!”

He adds: “I would like to send special blessings to the Paralympic delegation. We all understand that sporting competition along with serious disability is far more demanding and challenging. You prove that with determination and hard work it is possible to reach amazing, incredible sporting success, to beat barriers. For us, you are role models.”

Coalition to bring ‘family reunification’ law to Knesset vote next week — TV

The Knesset vote to extend the 2003 Palestinian “family reunification” law will likely be held in the middle of next week, Channel 12 reports.

The proposed legislation is testing the new coalition. It was pulled from the Knesset agenda on Sunday when it became apparent the coalition couldn’t muster a majority.

Ra’am and several MKs from the left-wing Meretz and Labor parties have announced they’ll oppose it. Most lawmakers in the opposition back the legislation in principle, but many have indicated that they will nevertheless vote against it to undermine and embarrass the new coalition.

Family reunification in Israel typically involves an Israeli citizen requesting citizenship for his or her non-Israeli spouse. Most unification applications are submitted by Arab Israelis on behalf of a Palestinian spouse living in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip.

But the 2003 measure, passed due to concerns that it was being abused by members of terror groups to gain access to Israel, put limits on the process, making it harder for Palestinians to gain Israeli citizenship or residency through marriage. The controversial law has been extended every year since, usually with strong backing from Likud and other right-wing parties.

The current legislation expires July 6.

In Umm al-Fahm and Nazareth, nearly one-quarter of residents are unemployed

Unemployment rates in Arab cities and towns are the highest in Israel, reaching 22.4% in Umm al-Fahm, 22% in Nazareth, and 19% in Rahat, according to the Employment Service.

Eight out of 10 of the cities with the highest jobless rates are either majority Arab or ultra-Orthodox or, like Acre and Jerusalem, have sizable Arab and Haredi populations, the service notes. The other two cities — Tiberias and Eilat — are tourist destinations that were hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the service, in May, for the first time since the start of the pandemic, the number of officially unemployed surpassed the workers on furlough. At the end of May, 522,600 Israelis were collecting unemployment benefits — 45 percent furloughed and 55% unemployed. Many of those benefits are set to end at the end of the month.

Israelis sit a cafe in Jerusalem’s city center on April 21, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Yamina to oppose state inquiry into submarine affair — report

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked has informed Defense Minister Benny Gantz that the Yamina party will oppose the establishment of a state commission of inquiry into the so-called submarine affair, Channel 12 reports.

Shaked and other Yamina sources tell Gantz the issue is not in the coalition agreements, according to the network.

Gantz intends to bring the proposal to the cabinet on Sunday. He will “go all the way” to advance the state inquiry, sources tell Channel 12.

The submarine affair, known as Case 3000, revolves around allegations of a massive bribery scheme in Israel’s multi-billion-shekel purchase of naval vessels — submarines and large missile ships — from German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp. The scandal also involved the sale of two Dolphin-class submarines and two anti-submarine warships by Germany to Egypt, allegedly approved by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu without consulting or notifying then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and then-IDF chief of staff Gantz. Israel had long been granted an unofficial veto over such sales by Germany. Netanyahu’s confidants were suspects in the criminal case, but the former premier was not implicated.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touring the INS Tanin submarine, built by the German firm Thyssenkrupp, as it arrived in Israel on September 23, 2014. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)


Poll: 51% of Democrats want more US support for Palestinians

A new poll on American attitudes toward a core conflict in the Middle East finds about half of Democrats want the US to do more to support the Palestinians, showing that a growing rift among Democratic lawmakers is also reflected in the party’s base.

The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds differences within both the Democratic and the Republican parties on the US approach toward Israel and the Palestinians, with liberal Democrats wanting more support for the Palestinians and conservative Republicans seeking even greater support for the Israelis.

The survey also examines Americans’ opinions on the Biden administration’s handling of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The poll shows Americans overall are divided over US policy toward Israel and the Palestinians. It also shows more Americans disapprove of President Joe Biden’s approach to the conflict than approve of it.

President Joe Biden speaks at a CNN town hall in Milwaukee, Wisc., Feb. 16, 2021. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Among Democrats, 51% say the US is not supportive enough of the Palestinians. The sentiment jumps to 62% among Democrats who describe themselves as liberal. On the other hand, 49% of Republicans say the US is not supportive enough of the Israelis, a number that rises to 61% among those who say they’re conservative.

Overall, the poll shows that 29% of Americans say the US is too supportive of the Israelis, 30% say it’s not supportive enough and 36% say it’s about right. In its approach toward the Palestinians, 25% say the US is too supportive, 32% say it’s not supportive enough and 37% say it’s about right.

The poll found 56% of Americans disapprove of the way Biden is handling the conflict, compared with 40% who approve. While 75% of Republicans disapprove of how Biden is handling the conflict, so do 35% of Democrats.

Forty-two percent of liberal Democrats say they disapprove of how Biden is handling the conflict, compared with 31% of moderate and conservative ones.

That’s compared with just 9% of Democrats who disapprove of how Biden is handling his job in general. Overall, Biden’s job approval rating stands at 55%.

The poll also shows just 19% of Americans think the US should play a major role in finding a solution to the conflict, while 50% say it should play a minor role and 28% say it should play no role. Democrats and Republicans are largely in agreement on the size of the US role in the conflict.

A majority of Americans, 57%, say they think there is a way for Israel and an independent Palestinian state to coexist peacefully, compared with 39% who say there is not a way. About 2 out of 3 Democrats think there is a way. Republicans are closely divided, with 50% saying there is and 45% saying there is not.

UK denies Russian claim of shots fired against navy ship

The Ministry of Defense in London denies a Russian government claim that warning shots were fired against a British Royal Navy ship in the Black Sea.

“No warning shots have been fired at HMS Defender. The Royal Navy ship is conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law,” the ministry says.

The Russian defense ministry had earlier said a border patrol ship fired warning shots and that an Su-24 aircraft dropped four bombs along the T45 destroyer’s path.

But the MoD says: “We believe the Russians were undertaking a gunnery exercise in the Black Sea and provided the maritime community with prior-warning of their activity.

“No shots were directed at HMS Defender and we do not recognize the claim that bombs were dropped in her path.”

Justice minister chides Gantz for ‘hastily’ pushing submarine probe

The Justice Ministry is denying it received Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s proposal to form a state commission of inquiry into the submarine affair.

The defense minister responds, saying the draft proposal was sent at 4:46 p.m. on Tuesday.

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar also criticizes Gantz for hastily advancing the issue.

“The haste and lack of orderly discussion are not acceptable,” he says, according to Channel 13.

North Korea’s foreign minister says no interest in US talks

North Korea’s foreign minister says his country is not even considering a resumption of stalled nuclear talks with the United States, dismissing hopes expressed by US and South Korean officials for a quick resumption of negotiations.

The statement by Ri Son Gwon comes a day after the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued a message saying that US expectations of talks would “plunge them into a greater disappointment.”

Hope for a restart of the nuclear talks flared briefly after Kim Jong Un instructed officials at a political conference last week to prepare for both dialogue and confrontation — though more for confrontation — with the Biden administration. US National Security adviser Jake Sullivan called Kim’s comments an “interesting signal.”

Ri praises the statement issued by Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, which he says brushed off the “hasty judgment, conjecture and expectation of the US.”

“We are not considering even the possibility of any contact with the US, let alone having it, which would get us nowhere, only taking up precious time,” Ri says in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

Nuclear negotiations between Washington and Seoul have been stalled since the collapse of a meeting between Kim Jong Un and former president Donald Trump in 2019 because of a disagreement over an easing of US-led economic sanctions in exchange for partial denuclearization by North Korea.

Israel to delay reopening borders to vaccinated tourists until August — reports

The government has decided to postpone the reopening of its borders to vaccinated foreign nationals until August, according to Hebrew media reports.

Israel had planned to allow vaccinated tourists into the country from July 1.

Indoor mask mandate to be reinstated if COVID infections continue upward trend

During consultations in the Prime Minister’s Office, ministers agreed that the indoor mask mandate — which was lifted last week — will be restored if Israel sees an average of 100 COVID-19 cases per day for a week, Hebrew media reports.

The past two days have seen over 100 new infections recorded, mostly linked to schools and foreign travel.

Early agreement reached in dispute over ship that blocked Suez Canal

The owners and insurers of the giant container ship that blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week earlier this year have reached an agreement in principle over their dispute with canal authorities, according to representatives from both sides.

Stann Marine, the lawyers representing the vessel’s owners and insurers, and a spokeswoman for the Suez Canal Authority both confirm the development.

Neither elaborate on what the agreement would entail.

The dispute centers on the compensation amount the Suez Canal Authority is claiming for the salvage of the vessel Ever Given, which ran aground in March, blocking the crucial waterway for six days.

The money would cover the salvage operation, costs of stalled canal traffic, and lost transit fees for the week the Ever Given blocked the canal.

At first, the Suez Canal Authority demanded $916 million in compensation, which was later lowered to $550 million.

Since it was freed, the Panama-flagged vessel, which carries cargo between Asia and Europe, has been ordered by authorities to remain in a holding lake mid-canal as its owner and the canal authority try to settle the compensation dispute.

FILE: The cargo ship MV Ever Given sits stuck in the Suez Canal near Suez, Egypt. The sleepy farming village of Amer overlooks the Suez Canal, one of the world’s most important waterways, March 28, 2021.(Planet Labs Inc. via AP, File)

Delta variant could account for 90% of new COVID cases in Europe by late August

The Delta variant, identified for the first time in India, could account for 90 percent of new Covid cases in the EU in the coming months, the bloc’s disease control agency says.

“The Delta variant is more transmissible than other circulating variants and we estimate that by the end of August it will represent 90 percent” of new cases in the EU, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) says.

Bennett taps Itay Hershkovitz to head PM bureau

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett taps Itay Hershkovitz to head his bureau.

“Hershkovitz, 40, holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and business administration from Ariel University and served as head of the defense minister’s staff during Naftali Bennett’s tenure as defense minister,” according to Bennett’s office.

For 1st time under Bennett-Lapid government, new settlement construction approved

For the first time since the new government was established, a Defense Ministry panel approves new construction in West Bank settlements.

The Civil Administration’s High Planning Subcommittee convenes to discuss 33 new building projects, according to the agenda. Hebrew media reports say 31 projects were ultimately approved, including the building of a mall in Mishor Adumim, a special needs school in the settlement of Elkana, and synagogues and Jewish seminaries in Karnei Shomron and Kfar Adumim.

Buildings under construction in Mishor Adumim, an Israeli industrial zone adjacent to the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, in the West Bank, east of Jerusalem, on June 16, 2020. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)


Rivlin meets with Lapid ahead of Washington trip

President Reuven Rivlin meets with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid ahead of his visit to Washington next week.

Earlier, Rivlin met with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to coordinate their messages to Washington.

After some West Bank building approved, settlement council demands homes get OK

The Yesha Council settlements umbrella group is demanding the Defense Ministry convene its higher committee to approve the building of West Bank settlement homes, after a panel approves some 31 building projects.

“We’ve been waiting for half a year for the approval of homes and it still hasn’t happened,” it says. “The building committee must immediately convene to approve the building of housing units throughout the region. We’ve waited long enough.”

Pope Francis meets Spider-Man

Pope Francis has an unusual encounter at his Wednesday audience meeting a Spider-Man impersonator who usually dons the outfit to entertain sick children.

Italian Mattia Villardita, 28, has been performing in pediatric hospitals dressed as the comic book superhero for the past four years.

He shakes hands with the pope — who a few years ago was famously depicted as Superman by an Italian street artist — and gives him a Spider-Man mask as a present.

A man wearing a costume of the Spider-Man fantasy character, who performs in hospitals for sick children, hands a Spider-Man mask to Pope Francis as they meet at the end of the weekly general audience on June 23, 2021 at San Damaso courtyard in The Vatican. (Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

“But the real superheroes are the children who are suffering and their families who are fighting with so much hope,” Villardita tells the Vatican’s media outlet, Vatican News.

Villardita, who has a day job in a terminal shipping company in Italy’s northwestern Liguria region, leads an association for other hospital volunteers who dress up as superheroes.

Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, they continued their work.

“I did more than 1,400 video calls, as I could not go in person,” Villardita tells Vatican News.

A former pediatric patient who underwent several surgeries to treat a congenital disease, Villardita was awarded an honorary knighthood in December by Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

Health officials: If you feel unwell, even if vaccinated, get tested for COVID

Top health officials urge Israelis who feel unwell to get tested for COVID-19, amid an uptick in cases in the country.

“It’s up to us. If someone doesn’t feel well, even if they’re vaccinated, they should go get tested [for COVID],” says the head of public health services in the Health Ministry, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, in a briefing to reporters.

Her call is echoed by coronavirus czar Nahman Ash. He also warns the latest outbreak, centered in Modiin and Binyamina, has yet to be reined in.

“We cannot yet say that the coronavirus outbreak is under control,” says Ash.

Alroy-Preis says the ministry is laying out targets for new restrictions.

Official confirms over 200 vaccinated people contracted COVID in past month

A senior health official confirms that hundreds of COVID-19 cases were discovered among the fully vaccinated in the past month.

Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, the head of public health services at the Health Ministry, says 891 new infections were diagnosed in the past month. Of the new cases, 55 percent were discovered among those older than 16, half of whom were fully vaccinated and half of whom were either unvaccinated or partially immunized, she says. That means around 245 vaccinated individuals were among those infected in the past month.

She says the vaccine effectiveness against the Delta variant is about 88 percent, slightly lower than other strains but still highly protective.

Top Arab lawmaker chides government over settlement approvals

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh condemns the new government for approving building in the settlements.

“The government has existed for less than two weeks and has already approved 31 building plans in the settlements,” he tweets.

“The left caves to the right and sidelines the diplomatic issue, but the right continues to sabotage the prospects for peace and deepen the occupation, the oppression and dispossession of millions of Palestinians,” adds Odeh.

The new government includes two dovish parties — Labor and Meretz — and the Arab Ra’am, which oppose settlement building.

Over 100 new COVID cases diagnosed since midnight

The Health Ministry says 101 new coronavirus cases have been diagnosed since midnight, bringing the number of active infections in the country to 606.

The daily caseload has topped 100 for the past three days, marking a significant rise.

The ministry says there are 26 people in serious condition.

Gilad Shalit, ex-IDF soldier held by Hamas for 5 years, is getting married

Gilad Shalit, the former IDF soldier who was held prisoner by the terrorist group Hamas in Gaza for five years, is set to marry his fiancé, Nitzan Shabbat, in a private ceremony tonight.

Only close friends and family will attend.

Gilad Shalit and his fiancee Nitzan Shabbat (Instagram)

Shalit, 34, was captured in June 2006 in a cross-border raid through a Hamas tunnel. He was released in October 2011 in a controversial exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.

JTA contributed to this report.

Lapid to meet Blinken in Rome next week

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will meet US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Rome on Sunday, his office says.

The visit will mark the first high-level meeting between Israeli and US officials since the establishment of the new government last week.

Israeli TV: UAVs targeted Iran nuclear facility where centrifuge parts produced

Drones were used in the attempted attack on an Iranian nuclear facility, according to Channel 13.

The targeted facility, a sprawling nuclear center located in Karaj city, just some 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Tehran, was manufacturing parts used in centrifuges, according to the network, which cites Iranian sources.

The television report doesn’t say who is responsible for the strike or specify on the extent of the damage.

Iran state television earlier said a “sabotage operation against one of the buildings (of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran) was foiled” without causing any casualties or damage. “The saboteurs failed to carry out their plan,” the broadcaster added, without identifying the building or the nature of the attack that had been averted.

Israel, which has vowed to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons, had no official comment on the Iranian reports Wednesday.

Agencies contributed to this report.

11 Israelis have been fined for violating quarantine — report

Eleven Israelis have been fined NIS 5,000 for violating quarantine as police step up enforcement, according to Channel 13.

The 11 include a man who was meant to self-isolate who arrived at the airport to leave the country, the network says.


Elkin offers to appoint a deputy minister from Ra’am in his office — TV

Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin (New Hope) has offered the Islamist Ra’am party a position of deputy minister in his office, Channel 12 reports. Mansour Abbas’s party is considering the offer, according to the report.

Both Elkin and Ra’am confirm the offer to the network, but deny it’s related to the coalition’s efforts to win the Arab party’s support for the so-called Palestinian “family reunification” law.

Ze’ev Elkin, at the time leaving his position as environmental protection minister, speaks at a ceremony at the Ministry of Environmental Protection in Jerusalem on May 18, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

US experts review heart problems among teens after COVID shots

A panel of experts convened by the top US health agency is meeting to review data surrounding more than 300 confirmed cases of heart inflammation among adolescents and young adults after receiving mRNA Covid vaccines.

The committee, hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will hear a risk-benefit analysis as researchers probe the shots’ probable links to myocarditis.

The independent experts will hear from CDC scientists that “the benefits still clearly outweigh the risks for Covid-19 vaccination in adolescents and young adults,” according to slides posted on the agency’s website.

As of June 11, 323 people under the age of 29 who received mRNA Covid vaccines have had confirmed cases of heart inflammation, myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart lining, pericarditis, the experts were told.

Of these cases, 309 were hospitalized, of whom 295 were discharged, nine remain hospitalized with two in intensive care, and there is no outcome data for five cases.

The cases are predominantly among males, most occur after the second dose, and there are no confirmed deaths at this time.

More than 50 million doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines had been administered to young people aged 12-19 as of June 11.

An Israeli youth receives a Covid-19 vaccine, at the Clalit Covid-19 vaccination center in Petah Tikva, on June 6, 2021. (Flash90)

IDF chief meets with US national security adviser, warns against rejoining Iran deal

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi again rails against the United States’ plan to rejoin 2015 Iran nuclear deal during a meeting with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and other top American defense officials, the military says.

During his meeting in Washington with Sullivan, Kohavi reiterates the “failures of the current nuclear deal” and attempts to convince American officials of alternative methods of preventing Iran from obtaining an atomic weapon.

The IDF chief also reportedly tells Sullivan that another round of conflict in the Gaza Strip is only a matter of time, following last month’s bloody 11-day battle with terror groups in the Palestinian enclave. According to the Kan news broadcaster, Kohavi referred specifically to the difficulties in the ongoing negotiations with Hamas and its leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, center-right, and US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, center-left, salute outside the US Department of Defense in Washington, DC, on June 21, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

Kohavi landed in Washington on Sunday and has met with a number of top American defense officials, including US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, US Central Command chief Kenneth McKenzie and others. He is due to return to Israel on Friday.

During his meetings, the Israeli military chief has repeatedly criticized the White House’s plan to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal.

“Throughout the day, the chief of staff has presented possible ways to prevent Iran from obtaining military nuclear capabilities during his meetings,” the IDF says in a statement.

Kohavi is still scheduled to meet with the head of the CIA, William Burns, and the US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.

Gantz holds ‘constructive’ meeting with UN envoy on Gaza

Defense Minister Benny Gantz meets with United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland.

The meeting centering on the Gaza Strip was “constructive,” says the defense minister in a tweet.

“We discussed security in the Gaza Strip and I stressed the need to create conditions for long-term calm, while actively taking steps to get our captives and MIAs back. I further thanked him for his committed efforts and for the UN’s role in fostering stability in our region.”

UN condemns US embargo on Cuba, for 29th time; Israel opposes resolution

The UN General Assembly condemns the nearly 60-year-old US embargo on Cuba for the 29th year in a row, calling for it to end by a vote of 184 to two.

Only Israel votes with the US against the resolution. Three other US allies: Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and Colombia abstain.

Brazil, which voted with the United States in 2019, does not vote. The vote was canceled last year due to coronavirus for the first time since 1992.

Breaking silence, Abbas says he’s willing to work with new Israeli government

In his first public remarks about the new government in Israel, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says he is willing to work with “whoever the Israeli people choose.”

“There was — and still is — a crisis of government in Israel. The new government, the change government, won by one vote. We will deal with whoever the Israeli people choose. So we will deal with them,” Abbas says.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wears a mask upon his arrival to head the Palestinian leadership meeting at his headquarters, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, Pool)

But Abbas says Ramallah’s cooperation relies on Israel “stopping its aggression and so on” before progress can be made on final status peace negotiations.

Abbas delivers the remarks at a multi-day conference of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, a senior deliberative body in the Palestinian movement.

The PA president opens his speech by mentioning a multilateral meeting between him and Benjamin Netanyahu in 2010, which would turn out to be the last between the two long-serving heads of state. Abbas says he left the meeting after Netanyahu suggested that Israeli troops control the borders of a future Palestinian state for 40 years to ensure Israeli security.

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