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Israel to renew Qatar-funded fuel shipments to Gaza

Gasoline deliveries to resume on Monday after being halted by Jewish state following recent fighting between Israeli military, Hamas

Israeli trucks carrying diesel fuel enter the Kerem Shalom crossing on the Israel-Gaza border, October 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
Israeli trucks carrying diesel fuel enter the Kerem Shalom crossing on the Israel-Gaza border, October 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

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

Hospital chiefs don’t see rising COVID cases as sign Israel facing fresh wave

Hospital chiefs say Israel does not appear to be on the cusp of a major COVID-19 outbreak amid a resurgence in cases, noting the low number of infected people requiring hospitalization and the country’s high vaccination rate.

“I think the likelihood of a significant wave of morbidity is low thanks to the level of vaccination among the population,” Dr. Michael Halbertal, head of Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, tells Channel 12 news.

Halbertal voices support for the renewed indoor mask mandate and increased quarantine enforcement, but sounds a note of caution about the prospect of reimposing restrictions on businesses.

“If we increase the rigorousness in a disproportionate way, we may harm public trust and reach a situation of a lack of cooperation. The decisions need to be made in accordance with the data and not produce hysteria. Right now the level of serious patients who need hospitalization is still not large,” he says.

The director of Holon’s Wolfson Hospital, Dr. Anat Engel, tells the network she believes the rising cases are reflective of local outbreaks. She says the hospital currently has one coronavirus patient in serious condition, who was not vaccinated.

“At this stage it appears that it is still local outbreaks and in the community, with asymptomatic morbidity or light symptoms also among adults,” she says.

Nearly 20 injured in clashes between protesters, troops in Lebanon

BEIRUT — Nearly twenty people were wounded in overnight scuffles in northern Lebanon between security forces and protesters angered by a spiraling economic crisis, a medical association says.

The protests in the city of Tripoli came as the Lebanese pound plumbs fresh lows on the black market due to a financial crisis that the World Bank says is likely to rank among the world’s worst since the mid-19th century.

Calm returns to the city today after protesters tried to storm official buildings, including a branch of the central bank, overnight, forcing the army to deploy.

“18 people, both civilians and soldiers, were injured, including four who were hospitalized,” says the Emergency and Relief Corps, a local medical charity that dispatched ambulances to treat the wounded.

Rubber bullets and shrapnel from stun grenades accounted for some of the injuries, a spokesperson for the charity tells AFP.

The army says 10 soldiers were wounded in the Tripoli clashes, the majority in a single incident that it says involved a group of protesters on motorcycles throwing stun grenades at personnel.

The southern city of Sidon and the capital Beirut saw smaller demonstrations against the ongoing dramatic fall in living standards.

The Lebanese pound, officially pegged to the dollar at 1,507 since 1997, traded at 17,300-17,500 to the dollar on the black market yesterday — a record low.

Some social media users said it had fallen as low as 18,000, down from 15,000 earlier in the week.

The country is also grappling with a fuel crisis that has led to seemingly endless queues at gas pumps in recent weeks.

Rivlin lands in US ahead of meetings with Biden, congressional leaders

President Reuven Rivlin lands in New York ahead of his meetings in Washington tomorrow with US President Joe Biden and congressional leaders.

Rivlin is greeted at the airport by Ambassador Gilad Erdan, who is Israel’s envoy to both the US and UN.

Bennett: Fighting violent crime in Arab communities ‘is a national mission’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett comments on the recent wave of deadly shootings in Arab Israeli communities, after five people were killed in the past four days.

“On behalf of the Government of Israel, I would like to convey condolences to the families. Since the beginning of the year, dozens of people have been murdered in the Arab sector. The violence in the Arab sector is a blight on the country that has been neglected for many years,” Bennett says at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.

He adds: “Responsibility for fighting this is on our shoulders. This is a national mission.”

Bennett says he spoke in the morning with Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, with the two agreeing to draft a plan “as soon as possible” to address crime in Arab communities.

“We will do this in all dimensions: civil, economic and – of course – criminal. This is, first of all, the desire of the sector itself and it is – of course – an overall national interest,” he says.

Health Ministry issues advisory ahead of ‘extreme’ heat wave

The Health Ministry is urging Israelis to stay cool and hydrated during an “extreme” heat wave expected to blanket the country in the coming days.

With the mercury set to climb above seasonal averages in most parts of the country, the ministry says Israelis should avoid sun exposure and unnecessary physical activity, while drinking lots of water and spending time in air conditioned locations.

The ministry also stresses that the indoor mask mandate remains in effect, for those heeding its advice to stay inside with the AC on.

Senior police official: Coalition provides a ‘historic’ chance to address crime in Arab locales

Deputy Police Commissioner Jamal Hakroush says there is a “historic” opportunity to address high crime rates in Arab Israeli communities, noting the inclusion of Arab lawmakers in the ruling coalition.

“We have representatives in the government that can bring what was lacking like budgets and policing to the Arab street,” Hakroush tells the Kan public broadcaster.

Hakroush, the first Arab Israeli to be a deputy police commissioner, also urges introspection.

“Everyone needs to examine itself and it’s impossible to come to terms with existing situation. We need to say honestly that not everything begins and ends with the police,” he says.

Deputy Commissioner Jamal Hakroush (Dov Lieber / Times of Israel)

Far-right MK says Bennett is an illegitimate PM, new government is ‘anti-Zionist’

A lawmaker in the far-right Religious Zionism party denounces the new government as “anti-Zionist” and claims Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is a “illegitimate” premier.

“This is the first anti-Zionist government in the history of Israel. There are elements in the government who are clearly anti-Zionist,” MK Simcha Rothman tells the Ynet news site.

He refuses to say “Prime Minister Bennett” when asked to do so.

“From a legal perspective he is prime minister. I don’t think he’s a legitimate prime minister,” Rothman says, accusing Bennett of “stealing votes” by breaking his campaign pledges on the new government.

Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman at a Knesset Arrangements Committee meeting on June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Poland summons Israeli envoy after criticism of restitution law

WARSAW, Poland — Poland says it has summoned Israel’s envoy after the Jewish state slammed as “immoral” a new Polish law that experts say could block World War II restitution claims.

Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski says Warsaw would like to set the record straight about the legislation passed in parliament on Thursday.

Tal Ben-Ari Yaalon, the charge d’affaires, “has been summoned… and we will explain to her in a decisive and factual way what it’s about,” Jablonski tells state television TVP about the meeting scheduled for tomorrow.

“We believe that unfortunately what we’re dealing with here is a situation that certain Israeli politicians are exploiting for internal political purposes,” he adds.

The Israeli embassy in Warsaw tweeted on Thursday that “this immoral law will seriously impact relations between our countries.”

It “will in effect prevent the restitution of Jewish property or compensation requests from Holocaust survivors and their descendants as well as the Jewish community that called Poland home for centuries. It’s mind-boggling,” the embassy said.

Government okays issuing of tender for new COVID test site at airport

Ministers approve the issuing of a tender to set up a new coronavirus testing facility at Ben Gurion Airport, amid concerns that contagion from abroad is helping fuel a renewed rise in infections.

A government statement says the facility will operate “for the entire period of time that tests are required” and that travelers will have to pay for their tests.

Coronavirus cabinet to discuss ‘comprehensive strategy,’ encouraging vaccination, at 1st meeting

A copy of the agenda for the first meeting of the new coronavirus cabinet later today says ministers will discuss a “comprehensive strategy” for dealing with the rise in COVID-19 cases and encouraging vaccination.

Palestinian Authority reports two cases of Delta variant in West Bank

The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry says it has detected two cases of the Delta variant of the coronavirus in the West Bank.

The cases are young women from Qalqilya and Salfit, respectively, who returned from the UAE, the ministry says.

The Delta variant is highly contagious, although most vaccines are still effective at providing protection against the mutation.

According to the PA Health Ministry, 417,501 West Bank Palestinians have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, less than one-fifth of the West Bank’s total population. Around 105,000 were Palestinians employed inside the Green Line vaccinated by Israeli medics.

The PA has struggled to provide enough coronavirus vaccines for its population. While officials have announced numerous dates for the arrival of hundreds of thousands of additional doses, the operation has been plagued by delays and missed deadlines.

A recent deal between Pfizer, Israel and the PA to provide more than 1.4 million Israeli Pfizer shots to Ramallah blew up after the PA claimed some of the vaccines were set to expire too soon for safe use. Israel has said the vaccines were sound.

Before collapse, Florida building needed $9 million in repairs

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — Nearly three years before an oceanfront building collapsed near Miami, an engineering firm estimated that major repairs the building needed would cost more than $9 million, according to newly released emails.

The email from the firm of Morabito Consultants is among a series of documents released by the city of Surfside as rescue efforts continue at the site of the collapsed building, where more than 150 people remain unaccounted for. At least five people were killed in the collapse.

The release of the 2018 cost estimate followed the earlier publication of another document from the firm showing the ground-floor pool deck of the building was resting on a concrete slab that had “major structural damage” and needed to be extensively repaired. That report also uncovered “abundant cracking and spalling” of concrete columns, beams and walls in the parking garage.

The report did not warn of imminent danger from the damage, and it is unclear if any of the damage observed was responsible for the collapse of Champlain Towers South.

The cost estimate shows that repairs across the entire building would cost more than $9.1 million dollars, with the cost of work at the garage, entrance and pool deck alone accounting for more than $3.8 million. The work had not been done by the time the building collapsed.

The earlier report says the waterproofing under the pool deck had failed and had been improperly laid flat instead of sloped, preventing water from draining off.

“The failed waterproofing is causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas. Failure to replaced the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially,” the report says.

The firm recommended that the damaged slabs be replaced in what would be a major repair.

Workers search in the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo, June 26, 2021, in Surfside, Florida. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Foreign Ministry summons Polish envoy to protest property restitution law

The Foreign Ministry announces it summoned Polish Ambassador Marek Magierowski over Poland’s advancement of legislation that would prevent Holocaust restitution claims.

Magierowski was summoned for a conversation with Alon Bar, the ministry’s political director.

Bar told Magierowski that “there will be an impact on the relations between the countries and stressed it was not too late for Poland to halt processes that mean a shirking of its obligations, and to return to dialogue on the matter of restoration of property,” according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

He adds: “This is not a historic argument over responsibility for the Holocaust but rather the moral obligation of Poland.”

The ministry’s announcement came shortly after Poland said it summoned the Israeli envoy in Warsaw over the Jewish state’s criticism of the law.

Bennett asks chief negotiator for Gaza captives to remain in post

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has asked Yaron Blum — the chief negotiator for the release of Israeli captives held in the Gaza Strip — to remain in the position, reports Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s sister site.

The Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group is believed to be holding Israeli citizens Avraham Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, as well as the bodies of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed during the 2014 war in the Strip.

Some families of the missing have been highly critical of Blum. Goldin’s mother, Lea Goldin, has accused him to lying to the families and receiving a salary from the state without really working.

People familiar with recent contacts between Israel, Egypt and Hamas on the captives tell Zman Yisrael that just as in the previous government, Israel is looking for the appearance of progress on the matter so it can return to speaking about rebuilding Gaza and an arrangement to lower tensions.

Israel has conditioned reconstruction efforts in Gaza following last month’s 11-day military conflict on the return of the captives and the soldiers’ bodies.

Yaron Blum on April 3, 2019 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

606 Israeli schoolkids, 45 educational workers currently infected with coronavirus

The Education Ministry says there are currently 606 students and 45 teachers and staff infected with coronavirus.

Over two-thirds of the infected students are in junior high or high school.

The ministry also says over 9,891 and 97 educational workers are in quarantine.

Ministerial committee okays bill making it easier for MKs to split from parties

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approves a bill that would make it easier for lawmakers to break off from a party and start a new Knesset faction, a proposal seemingly aimed at ex-premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud.

Under the existing law, at least a third of a faction’s members must want to split from the main faction for such a move to be permitted. Likud has 30 lawmakers in the current Knesset, requiring 11 MKs to break ranks.

The committee also okays a bill to allow a greater number of ministers to give up their Knesset seats to their fellow party members under the “Norwegian Law.”

Both proposals must pass three readings in the Knesset before becoming law.

Iraq, Egypt and Jordan hold tripartite summit in Baghdad

BAGHDAD — Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II hold a tripartite summit with Iraq’s president Sunday, in the first visit by an Egyptian head of state to Baghdad in three decades.

Iraqi President Barham Saleh and Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi receive the Egyptian and Jordanian leaders, with Saleh saying the meeting was “an eloquent message amid enormous regional challenges.”

“Iraq’s recovery paves the way to an integrated system for our region built on the fight against extremism, respect for sovereignty and economic partnership,” Saleh says on Twitter.

Kadhemi’s office says the summit will address topics including political and economic cooperation, in particular strengthening investment, and “joint efforts in the fight against terrorism”.

Iraq is seeking to move closer to Arab allies of the United States in the Middle East including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.

Squeezed between Iran to the east and Saudi Arabia to the south, it has been trying to establish itself as a mediator since the defeat of the Islamic State jihadist group in late 2017.

Iraqi President Barham Salih (R) receives his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah el-Sissi at Baghdad Airport in the capital on June 27, 2021. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP)

Sissi tells Saleh that Egypt “looked forward to developing cooperation with Iraq into a sustainable framework of economic integration and strategic cooperation,” according to a statement from Sissi’s office.

It says Saleh expressed Iraq’s “keenness to raise cooperation with Egypt to the level of strategic partnership… as a cornerstone for maintaining regional security and stability”.

Sissi is the first Egyptian president to visit Baghdad since Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s troops invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Relations between Baghdad and Cairo have improved in recent years, and officials from the two countries have conducted visits.

The Jordanian king visited in early 2019 for the first time in 10 years.

Israeli rescue team arrives at collapsed Florida building; 156 still missing

SURFSIDE, Florida — A team of Israeli engineers and rescue specialists reach the site of a Florida apartment building that partially collapsed three days ago, killing at least five people with 156 still missing.

Many members of the local Jewish community were among those affected by the tragedy in Surfside, near Miami Beach, and Israel had vowed to help with the agonizing search through the smoking mountain of debris.

The 12-story oceanfront Champlain Towers South pancaked in the middle of the night Thursday as residents slept. Surveillance video of the collapse showed it coming down in just a few seconds.

The rescue operation has been agonizingly slow and painstaking, and fears of a much higher death toll are climbing with each passing hour — though rescuers have stressed that there may yet be survivors trapped inside the rubble.

“This is one of the best, if not the best, and the most experienced rescue teams, Israeli rescue teams,” Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai says as the team arrives in Surfside.

“They’ve been all over the world in many similar situations.”

The Israeli specialists will join rescuers armed with heavy machinery and sniffer dogs who have been working around the clock since the building came down.

Senior Palestinian official urges avoiding ‘internal conflict’ as anti-PA protests continue

Senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein al-Sheikh calls on Palestinians to refrain from “internal conflict” as protests against the PA enter their fourth day.

“We will not allow anyone to drag us and the Palestinian arena into internal conflict. We call on everyone to adhere to law and order and protect our national unity,” tweets al-Sheikh, who is responsible for the PA’s ties with Israel.

Protests are planned to take place in Ramallah, Hebron and in Bethlehem’s Deheishe Refugee Camp this evening.

The demonstrations were sparked by the death of prominent PA critic Nizar Banat. A well-known social media commentator, Banat died in PA custody after security forces raided a Hebron hideout early on Thursday morning. His family says he was “viciously beaten” by officers as they arrested him.

Palestinians take part in a protest following the death of Palestinian human rights activist Nizar Banat, who died a short time after being arrested by Palestinian Authority officials, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on June 24, 2021. (Flash90)

Coalition delays vote on Palestinian family reunification law, apparently lacking majority

The coalition delays a vote on extending a law that prevents Palestinians who marry Israelis from getting citizenship, after apparently failing to secure a majority to approve the extension.

“Cowards! Cowards! Cowards!” right-wing opposition MKs chant mockingly after Blue and White MK Eitan Ginzburg announces the postponement during a Knesset Arrangements Committee meeting.

Health Ministry issues ‘severe’ COVID travel warning for Belarus, Kyrgyzstan

The Health Ministry issues a “severe” travel warning for Belarus and Kyrgyzstan, adding them to a list of countries it advises against traveling to due to COVID-19 concerns.

It also rescinds travel warnings for Nepal and the Maldives.

The travel advisory list now includes Uganda, Uruguay, United Arab Emirates, Seychelles, Ethiopia, Bolivia, Belarus, Namibia, Paraguay, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Kyrgyzstan and Tunisia.

Israelis are currently banned from traveling to Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, India, Mexico and Russia.

Family with missing father, sister and brother-in-law urges Florida authorities to ‘let us go in’

Members of the Rosenberg family urge authorities in Florida to speed up search efforts for those missing after the deadly collapse of a residential building in the town of Surfside near Miami.

Harold Rosenberg, whose daughter and son-in-law were missing at the time of the collapse, owned a condo in the building. Rosenberg, his daughter Malka Weiss and son-in-law Benny all remain missing.

“If it was your father, your sister and your brother-in-law, would you send four firemen under a tunnel,” Shuly Rosenberg, one of Harold Rosenberg’s sons, says in an interview with CBS.

Yehuda Rosenberg, another son, says that the family has rescue teams willing to enter the site if local authorities will not.

“We have begged the authorities, if you’re not willing to go in, let us go in. Please send someone in,” he says.

German city holds memorial for victims of deadly knife attack

BERLIN — The German city of Wuerzburg holds a memorial service for the victims of a brutal knife attack that left three women dead, while questions about the possible motive of the assailant remain unanswered.

Friday’s assault in and outside a store in the center of the Bavarian city left another five people seriously injured. The suspect, a 24-year-old Somali man, was shot in the leg by police and arrested after people surrounded him and tried to hold him at bay with chairs and sticks.

Investigators are still working to figure out what was behind the attack by what they believe was a lone assailant. They are assessing his mental health and trying to determine whether he was radicalized as an Islamic extremist. It’s unclear whether he deliberately targeted women.

“We are all affected, because it could have happened to anyone,” Wuerzburg’s Catholic bishop, Franz Jung, says at the service in the city’s cathedral. It is attended by relatives of victims, the regional Protestant bishop, a representative of the city’s Muslim communities, Germany’s main Jewish leader, Bavaria’s political leaders, and police and rescue officers.

Bavaria’s governor Markus Soeder, left, and the mayor of Wuerzburg, Christian Schuchardt, attend a memorial service in Wuerzburg, Germany, June 27, 2021. (Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/dpa via AP)

Mayor Christian Schuchardt warns that “the crimes of individuals should never be ascribed or extended to ethnic groups, religions or nationalities,” adding that Somalis and refugees in general must not be blamed.

Flowers are piled up outside the nearby store where the attack started. Bavaria’s governor, Markus Soeder, lays a wreath and describes the attack as “simply incomprehensible, appalling, senseless.”

“We must never answer such a hate-filled deed with hatred or revenge,” Soeder says. “I’m reading on the internet that some are saying, ‘it was someone with an immigrant background.’ Yes, but didn’t people with an immigrant background also help in exactly the same situation?”

The suspect was sent to jail yesterday pending a possible indictment. The regional criminal police office said today prison officials have been informed that he could be a danger to himself, news agency dpa reports.

Death toll rises to 9 in Florida building collapse; over 150 still missing

SURFSIDE, Florida — Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava says the death toll from the building collapse has risen to nine as search and rescue efforts continue.

She says one victim had died in the hospital, while workers had pulled more bodies from the wreckage since yesterday.

Scores of rescue workers remain on the massive pile of rubble, working to find survivors among the more than 150 people who remain unaccounted for.

Yamina MK says she’s receiving threats against herself and family

Coalition whip Idit Silman says she has received phone calls and text messages with explicit threats to the lives of her and her family in the past several hours.

Silman, a member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party, says she reached out to the Knesset Guard and police.

“The threats against me and my family are the result of the planned and unprecedented attacks by opposition members. Put an end to this dangerous and unceasing incitement,” she says in a statement.

Erdan tells Bennett he’ll resign as ambassador to US, still serve as UN envoy

Ambassador Gilad Erdan, Israel’s envoy to the US and UN, tells Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that he will step down from the former post.

A statement from Erdan, a member of former premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, says he will resign once a new ambassador to the US is appointed or by November at the latest. He will continue to serve as ambassador to the UN.

“I am proud of the right to represent the State of Israel before its most important ally. Since my appointment I have worked to build and establish the relations with the Biden administration, strengthen the alliance between us and preserve bipartisan support for Israel,” Erdan says in a statement.

He adds: “In my eyes it is right that the person who will represent the government to the American administration will be appointed by the serving government.”

Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan speaks at the UN in New York. (Shahar Azran/Israeli Mission to the UN)

Iranian lawmakers drafting bill to further restrict internet access

TEHRAN, Iran — A group of Iranian lawmakers are working on a draft bill that could further restrict access to the internet, a reformist newspaper says.

The bill calls for “organizing social media” and the banning of virtual private network (VPN) software, used widely by Iranians to bypass internet restrictions and blocks imposed on several social media websites, according to Etemad.

Over the past few days, internet users in Iran have expressed concern over the draft bill proposed by some conservative lawmakers, who hold the majority in parliament since 2020.

The text also calls for jail terms of between 91 days and six months for anyone found guilty of violating the terms of the bill if it becomes law, according to Etemad.

Repeat offenders could also be fined, receive up to 30 lashes, and be “deprived of their civic rights,” the newspaper says.

It accuses the lawmakers behind the draft of acting against “the most basic rights of citizens” and against “freedom of expression and media freedoms.”

Etemad says the bill also aims at banning altogether the use of foreign social media, with Iranians left with locally-developed networks that would help authorities control their content.

Instagram and WhatsApp are the only social media services accessible in Iran, unlike Facebook and Twitter and the Telegram messenger service, which are officially banned.

And yet several Iranian figures use Twitter for official communications, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Parliament’s news agency, ICANA, quotes deputy Ali Yazdikhah, a member of the commission of cultural affairs, as confirming the existence of a draft bill on internet use.

But he tells the agency the bill is aimed at firms that develop VPN, “not users,” and also bemoans “the lack of controls in cyberspace.”

2 Saudi women’s rights activists freed from prison

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Two Saudi women’s rights campaigners have been released from prison, three years after a sweeping crackdown by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that targeted female activists who had peacefully advocated for greater freedoms, rights groups say today.

It now appears that all the women’s rights activists detained in the 2018 sweep have now been released from prison, although the status of one woman remains unclear.

The London-based ALQST rights group, which primarily focuses on Saudi Arabia, says the two women — Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sada — were released sometime late yesterday or early today. Human Rights Watch also confirms their release.

The women had been sentenced to five years imprisonment, two of which were suspended.

They were vocal critics of Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship laws, which gave husbands, fathers, and, in some cases, a woman’s own son control over her ability to obtain a passport and travel. They had also advocated for the right of women to drive. Both restrictions have since been lifted.

The two women remain barred from travel abroad for five years, as part of their conditional release, rights groups contacted by The Associated Press say. Like other Saudi women’s rights activists released from prison, rights groups say the two women likely face bans on speaking to the media and posting online about their case.

Lapid fires back at Polish PM: We won’t allow laws ‘whose purpose is to deny the Holocaust’

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid hits back at Polish Prime Minister Mateusz for vowing that Poland will never pay for Holocaust restitution claims.

Mateusz made the comments when asked about Lapid’s denunciation of Polish legislation that would effectively bar compensation payments as “immoral.”

“The Polish prime minister should again check the facts. Millions of Jews were murdered on Polish ground and no law will erase their memories. We are not interested in Polish money and the very hint is antisemitic,” Lapid says in a statement.

He adds: “We are fighting for the memory of Holocaust victims, for the pride of our nation, and will not allow any parliament to pass laws whose purpose is to deny the Holocaust.”

Ministers okay fines for Israelis who visit global COVID hotspots

The government approves the introduction of fines for Israelis who travel to several COVID-19 hotspots across the globe, where the Health Ministry has banned travel.

Israelis are currently barred from visiting Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, India, Mexico, and Russia. There are also “severe” travel warnings in place for numerous other nations due to coronavirus concerns, but travel to those countries is not banned.

Lapid meets Blinken, laments ‘mistakes’ made in Israel-US ties in recent years

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Rome, hailing the ties between Israel and America.

But in an apparent criticism of former premier Benjamin Netanyahu, who had frosty ties with Democratic president Barack Obama and a close relation with Republican president Donald Trump, Lapid laments what he calls recent “mistakes” in Israel’s ties with the US.

“In recent years, mistakes were made. Israel’s bipartisan status was hurt. We will fix this together,” Lapid is quoted saying in a statement from his office.

Lapid says he spoke with both Democratic and Republican leaders in the past few days to underscore the shared values between the countries.

He also acknowledges “disagreements” between the countries, such as on a possible US return to the nuclear accord limiting Iran’s nuclear program, saying that Israel has “serious reservations” about a restored deal.

“We think that the place to deliberate these disagreements is in direct professional dialogue, not press conferences,” he says.

The meeting is the first between the two since Lapid became foreign minister, earlier this month, with the swearing-in of his power-sharing government with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

63 COVID cases recorded in Israel since midnight; number of serious patients falls

Health Ministry figures show 63 more coronavirus cases have been confirmed seen midnight, below the pace of recent days.

The number of Israelis hospitalized in serious condition due to COVID-19 drops to 23, with the death toll remaining at 6,429. There have been 840,888 infections recorded in Israel since the pandemic began.

So far today, 21,548 coronavirus tests have been performed, with 0.3 percent coming back positive.

Health ministry director submits resignation

Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy has submitted his resignation to new Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, according to Hebrew media reports.

He vows to assist Horowitz however he can, Channel 12 news says.

Levy was appointed by Horowitz’s predecessor, MK Yuli Edelstein of Likud. Before serving at the Health Ministry, Levy was director of Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center.

Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy speaks at a press conference in Jerusalem on June 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Blinken to Lapid: US, Israel have same objectives on Iran, ‘but sometimes we differ on the tactics’

The US secretary of state emphasizes that the US-Israel relationship is based on “shared values and shared interests,” as he meets with Foreign Minister Yaid Lapid in Rome.

Turning to Iran, Blinken says, “We have the same objectives, but sometimes we differ on the tactics, and I think we are very clear and direct with each other when that is the case, and that is exactly the way it’s supposed to be.”

The secretary of state also says that he will work with Lapid to “offer a more hopeful future for everyone, Palestinians and Israelis alike, with equal measures of opportunity and dignity.”

Blinken underscores American support for expanding the Abraham Accords, which normalized Israel’s diplomatic ties with several Arab states, but adds the caveat that they are not a substitute for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel to begin allowing Qatar-funded fuel into Gaza

Israel will begin to allow Qatar-funded gasoline to enter the Gaza Strip to fuel the enclave’s only power station starting tomorrow, Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians says.

The liaison, known widely by its acronym COGAT, says the continued entrance of Qatar-funded fuel will be “conditional on the preservation of security stability.”

Since 2018, Qatar has pumped cash into Gaza to fund fuel subsidies, salaries for Hamas government employees, and stipends for poor families. But the 11-day military conflict last month between Israel and Hamas changed matters, and Israel has not agreed to allow Qatari subsidies into the enclave since then.

The return of the Qatari-funded fuel will be the first Qatari subsidies to enter Gaza since the May escalation.

Israel has conditioned a full resumption to the status quo ante — including allowing Qatari money into the Strip — on progress in a prisoner exchange deal between Jerusalem and Hamas.

Hamas is holding two Israeli citizens and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers. The terror group’s leadership hopes to secure the freedom of at least hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails in a future exchange.

A tanker delivers fuel to the Nuseirat power plant in the Gaza Strip on October 24, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Health minister praises outgoing ministry director: He served in one of the most challenging times

The Health Ministry confirms that Director-General Chezy Levy is stepping down from the post.

According to the ministry, Health Ministry Nitzan Horowitz and Levy agreed that the latter will leave the Health Ministry to return to Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center, which he previously headed.

In a statement, Horowitz praises Levy for having “volunteered to serve as the ministry’s director-general during one of the most challenging periods that the Israeli health system has known.”

“Chezy served the State of Israel with devotion and tremendous professionalism, and I am sure he will continue to contribute his skills to the public health system,” Horowitz adds.

The ministry says that Levy’s replacement will be announced soon.

Compromise said being pushed to prevent demolition of West Bank outpost

Senior government figures are promoting a compromise to prevent the razing of an illegal West Bank outpost that would see at least some parts of the outpost remain in place, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The report comes as Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who is responsible for handling the planned removal of the outpost, vows that it will go ahead.

Political sources tell Kan that a compromise being hammered out would see the state reconsider the status of the land the outpost was built on, with a view to making the community legal.

In the meantime, the site would reportedly become a military post or an educational institute. If the latter happens, then a number of families of staff are expected to continue living in the outpost.

The majority of the Evyatar residents would leave, and their empty homes remain, and if the land is eventually approved for use by the settlers, then they would be able to move back the community, according to the report.

The plan has not yet been approved and may still undergo changes, the sources say. The report does not identify who in the government is pushing the proposal.

Sources familiar with the developments also say that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is keen to avoid the spectacle of the outpost being removed, given the current political situation in which the coalition holds a razor-thin majority in the Knesset.

Lawmakers from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party and Shomron Regional Council chief tour the illegal West Bank outpost of Evyatar on June 27, 2021. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

Exit polls indicate French far right defeated in regional elections

PARIS — Polling agency estimations indicate that mainstream candidates have delivered a stinging setback to France’s far right in regional elections today, thwarting its hopes of winning control of a region for the first time.

The Ifop polling agency estimates that the far right National Rally barely surpassed 20 percent of the vote nationally, trailing both the mainstream right and the combined weight of green and leftist candidates.

Polling agency estimates also suggest that the National Rally was roundly beaten in the southeast, in the region that had been seen as its best chance of securing a breakthrough victory in the regional balloting.

If confirmed by official results, the National Rally’s failure to win any of mainland France’s 12 regions threatens to slow the momentum of its candidate, Marine Le Pen, in her campaign for the presidential elections next year.

Jewish man describes escaping Florida tower: Building collapse took a few minutes

Gavriel Nir, whose family escaped the Florida apartment bloc collapse, June 27, 2021. (Channel 13 screenshot)
Gavriel Nir, whose family escaped the Florida apartment bloc collapse, June 27, 2021. (Channel 13 screenshot)

A young Jewish man describes to Israel’s Channel 13 news how he and his family escaped likely death in the collapse of the high-rise residential building where they lived in Surfside, Florida.

Gavriel Nir tells the network that the collapse occurred in three stages and took a few minutes. First, he and his family heard noise from above and saw dust falling. They then heard a boom that they thought was an earthquake and rushed out of the building. Finally, from outside, they saw the collapse, with white clouds of dust following them as they ran.

“If it wasn’t for my mom, it would have been very bad… she figured out something was not right,” Nir says.

Shaked said to propose temporarily barring quarantine violators from leaving Israel

In the first meeting of the new coronavirus cabinet, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked suggests anyone caught violating quarantine after returning from overseas should be barred from leaving the country for a given period, according to Hebrew media reports.

But Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar and Science Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen say the move is disproportional, with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit backing their position, the reports say.

Joint List MK pans Evyatar deal as ‘legitimizing settlement and crime’

Arab Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman in the Knesset, June 3, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Arab Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman in the Knesset, June 3, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman slams the deal reached to prevent the razing of the illegal Evyatar outpost in the West Bank as “legitimizing settlement and crime.”

“Instead of homes, this hill will in several weeks house a yeshiva, meaning dozens of young settlers who will only cause more violence, abuse and theft,” the Arab opposition lawmaker charges in a statement.

“Responsibility for this settlement crime lies with all the partners in the coalition,” she says. The coalition includes the Islamist Ra’am party.

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