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Israeli doctor: 600 at-risk children got COVID shot without major side effects

Dr. Boaz Lev, a top adviser to the government, tells UK paper data is ‘encouraging’; Pfizer is entering clinical trials of its vaccine for ages 12-16

Vials of coronavirus vaccines at a Clalit vaccination center in the northern city of Safed on February 22, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Vials of coronavirus vaccines at a Clalit vaccination center in the northern city of Safed on February 22, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

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

Netanyahu expected to travel to UAE for first official visit Thursday

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel to the United Arab Emirates tomorrow for a first state visit to the Arab country since the establishment of official diplomatic relations, according to multiple media reports.

Netanyahu will meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan while in the country, reports say.

It is not clear whether the trip would truly be Netanyahu’s first, as he was rumored to have traveled to Abu Dhabi in secret prior to the establishment of relations, but it would certainly be the first official visit by an Israeli leader to the Gulf nation.

The trip had been planned for several months but postponed on numerous occasions, the last time being in February. The Prime Minister’s Office said at the time that the decision to postpone the trip was made due to the closing down of air travel to and from Israel, as part of a national lockdown aimed at preventing coronavirus infections arriving from abroad.

Netanyahu has been seen as eager to make the trip before the March 23 elections in order to tout his diplomatic achievements.

Singaporean Muslim detained for planning stabbing spree against Jews

A radicalized Singaporean Muslim has been arrested under tough laws that allow detention without trial for planning a deadly stabbing spree against Jews, officials say.

Such cases are rare in multi-ethnic Singapore, where different religious and ethnic groups generally live peacefully side by side, but they do occur occasionally.

In the latest case, 20-year-old Amirull Ali planned to ambush and kill at least three Jewish men as they left a synagogue after prayers, security officials say.

He became radicalized after researching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict online and planned to travel to Gaza in the Palestinian territories to join the terrorist group Hamas’s military wing, they say.

EU to get four million extra Pfizer doses for ‘hotspots’

The European Union will receive an extra four million BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine doses over the next two weeks to be deployed to COVID-19 “hotspots,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen says.

The delivery — over and above already agreed supplies from the vaccine-maker — will go to affected border regions within the bloc to “help ensure or restore free movement of goods and people,” she says in a statement.

The announcement comes as the commission attempts to persuade at least six member states — including her home country Germany — to lift virus-related border restrictions deemed by Brussels to be excessive.

European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen addresses European lawmakers during a plenary session at the European Parliament in Brussels, January 20, 2021. (Francisco Seco/AP)

It also follows a trip by the leaders of Austria and Denmark to Israel to form a vaccine-producing alliance that exemplified broad criticism of the lack of deliveries so far under the commission’s pre-purchasing program.

Construction worker seriously injured in work accident in Sderot

A 22-year-old construction worker has been seriously injured while working at the Sderot industrial zone in southern Israel.

Reports say the man was working with a machine at the time of his injury, though details are scarce.

Medics treated the man at the scene and rushed him to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center.

Smotrich: Mechanism to thwart PM’s trial from moving forward would be ‘great’

The head of the Religious Zionism Party, MK Bezalel Smotrich, says he would support legislation to thwart the prime minister’s criminal trial.

Smotrich tells Walla News he would support legislation that delays the proceedings until after Netanyahu leaves office.

“If there is a good and proper mechanism to strengthen democracy and integrity and that will also stop Netanyahu’s trial, I think that’s great,” he says.

“Compared to the need to run a country, the need to carry out justice can wait for after the term of office.”

MK Bezalel Smotrich in Jerusalem, on November 11, 2019. (Noam Rivkin Fenton/Flash90)Smotr

UK’s leader rejects EU claims of vaccine blocking

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejects claims from European Council chief Charles Michel that the country has imposed a ban on COVID vaccine exports.

“Let me be clear: We have not blocked the export of a single COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine components,” he tells parliament.

“This pandemic has put us all on the same side in the battle for global health. We oppose vaccine nationalism in all its forms.”

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends a virtual press conference inside 10 Downing Street in central London on March 8, 2021 (HANNAH MCKAY / POOL / AFP)

Johnson’s comments come after London summoned an EU diplomat for a dressing-down, and wrote to Michel to protest about his claim made in a newsletter.

Michel wrote that “the United Kingdom and the United States have imposed an outright ban on the export of vaccines or vaccine components produced on their territory.”

After outcry, Jerusalem museum calls off sale of Islamic art

Israel’s premier museum for Islamic art has scrapped the planned auction of scores of rare and precious items after public outcry over the attempted sale, which had been expected to fetch millions of dollars from wealthy private collectors.

In a settlement announced today by the museum, Sotheby’s and the Qatari Al Thani Collection Foundation, the Sotheby’s auction house would return items from the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem currently in London back to Israel immediately.

The facade of the LA Mayer Museum for the Islamic Arts in Jerusalem. (Courtesy, Sotheby’s)

The Al Thani Collection, an art foundation linked to the ruling family of the energy-rich Gulf Arab state of Qatar, “will generously provide an annual sponsorship to the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art” during a 10-year period, while one of the Islamic Art Museum’s pieces will be given on long-term loan to the Al Thani Collection’s gallery at the Hotel de la Marine in Paris.

Nearly 270 items from the museum’s collection, including several centerpiece objects and prized antique watches, were slated for auction at Sotheby’s in October. News of the sale drew wide public criticism in Israel.

IDF probe: Commando whose weapon was stolen did all he could to stop it

The IDF says an investigation has shown a commando soldier whose weapon was stolen from him during a training exercise behaved properly during the incident and did all that he could to prevent the theft.

The soldier was lightly injured when he was attacked by a number of suspects who stole his weapon during an overnight navigation exercise in northern Israel earlier this month, in an incident the IDF chief of staff condemned as “crossing a red line.”

The military says a probe showed the soldier fought strongly against several assailants who accosted him and there was no failure in his conduct, given the circumstances.

Labor and Blue and White exchange blows ahead of election

Labor and Blue and White continue to duke it out in the media.

Labor chief Merav Michaeli tells party members during a meeting that “Blue and White is finished, and is a party that — no matter what some say — has a good chance of failing to pass the electoral threshold.”

She said those who want to replace the prime minister “should not vote for [Blue and White chief Benny] Gantz.”

Blue and White retorts that Michaeli “has forgotten who her opponent is.”

The party says the Labor leader is choosing to “attack parties in her bloc and lie” instead of closing ranks ahead of the election.

Report: Netanyahu sent Mossad chief to convince hesitant UAE to allow visit

According to Barak Ravid on Axios, Netanyahu has worked for days to convince the Emiratis to allow the trip to go forward, with the latter strongly opposed as they did not wish to be seen as interfering in the Israeli election.

Citing sources with knowledge of the matter, Ravid says Netanyahu sent Mossad chief Yossi Cohen to use various channels to convince Abi Dhabi to agree.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and head of the Mossad Yossi Cohen during a toast ceremony for the Jewish New Year on October 2, 2017 (Haim Zach/GPO)

Ravid tells Channel 12 the Emiratis eventually acquiesced last night, and wonders out loud whether Netanyahu had promised them something in return for the gesture that will aid him politically.

Reportedly no journalists will join Netanyahu on the short trip that will last only a few hours, and he will travel only with a camera crew from the Government Press Office.

US envoy on Iran says presidential elections there won’t affect talks timetable

The US special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, says Iranian presidential elections will not affect the timetable of any nuclear talks between Washington and Tehran.

“We don’t intend to base the pace of our discussions on the Iranian elections — the pace will be determined by how far we can get consistent with defending US national security interests,” Malley tells Axios.

“In other words, we won’t rush or slow things because of the Iranian elections.”

The elections will be held on June 18. The vote will choose the successor to President Hassan Rouhani, who has served two four-year terms in office.

Robert Malley in 2018 (YouTube screenshot)

Palestinian PM appeals to international community for vaccines

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh is appealing to the international community to deliver promised vaccines against COVID-19.

His office says the prime minister yesterday urged friendly countries and companies, as well as the World Health Organization, to “fulfill their obligations to us.”

Shtayyeh says UN deliveries expected this month through COVAX, the WHO-backed program to assist poorer nations, are now delayed.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh speaks during a press conference at the Foreign Press Association in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on June 9, 2020. (Abbas Momani/Pool Photo via AP)

The virus has surged through the West Bank and Gaza Strip and Israel has come under significant international criticism for giving its own population vaccines without doing the same for Palestinians. This week, the government began vaccinating Palestinian laborers who work in Israel.

However, that effort will only vaccinate a small percentage of the roughly 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel says under past peace accords, it is not responsible for vaccinating the Palestinian populations in those areas. Human rights groups say Israel remains an occupying power with an obligation to assist the Palestinians.

Jewish Agency chief warns anti-Semitism ‘may erupt’ around world

Jewish Agency chief Isaac Herzog cites the revelation of a planned attack on Jews in Singapore to call on world leaders “to realize that anti-Semitism may erupt as movement limitations are removed around the world.”

In a tweet, he urges leaders to “instruct security forces in their countries to raise alertness.”

Health Ministry allows schools to open in all ‘orange’ locales

The Health Ministry broadens school openings around the country, saying educational institutions will be allowed to operate in all “orange” communities in the government’s color-coded “traffic-light” system for morbidity rates.

So far schools have been allowed to open in “green” and “yellow” areas as well as in some “orange” locations — depending on vaccination levels and other factors.

The ministry says its decision is the result of “improved morbidity indicators and a desire to allow more students to return to normal studies.”

Check your community’s current color here.

Fifth grade students at the Alomot Elementary School in Efrat on February 21, 2021 (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

NBA’s Meyers Leonard suspended by Miami Heat over anti-Semitic slur

Miami Heat center Meyers Leonard has been placed on indefinite leave by the club after using an anti-Semitic slur while streaming his video-game play.

The club says the 29-year-old will “be away from the team indefinitely” after footage of the incident on Monday emerged.

“The Miami Heat vehemently condemns the use of any form of hate speech,” the club says in a statement. “The words used by Meyers Leonard were wrong and we will not tolerate hateful language from anyone associated with our franchise.”

Leonard, who has played only three games for Miami this season and is expected to miss the remainder of the campaign after undergoing shoulder surgery, issued an apology for his remarks.

Miami Heat’s Meyers Leonard (0) cheers on the team from the sideline during the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Boston Celtics on September 19, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

“I am deeply sorry for using an anti-Semitic slur during a livestream yesterday,” Leonard said in a statement on Instagram. “While I didn’t know what the word meant at the time, my ignorance about its history and how offensive it is to the Jewish community is absolutely not an excuse and I was just wrong.”

Leonard was heard saying “kike” while playing a video game on the Twitch streaming platform, which allows gamers to talk to each other.

“Don’t f***ing snipe me, you f***ing kike bitch,” Leonard, 29, said while playing the game “Call of Duty,” as shown in a video clip.

5 Palestinian children said arrested near settlement for picking wild vegetables

Five Palestinian children ages 10 to 12 have been detained by the Israeli army near the Havat Maon settlement in the South Hebron Hills, the B’Tselem rights group reports.

The children were taken to the Kiryat Arba police station, the rights group says. According to B’Tselem, the children were gathering wild vegetables when settlers called the army to detain them.

The Israeli military does not respond to a request for comment.

Mohammad Dahlan: UAE to send another 40,000 Sputnik V vaccines to Gaza

Exiled Gaza security chief Mohammad Dahlan announces that the United Arab Emirates will send another 40,000 Russian Sputnik V vaccines to the Gaza Strip, to arrive tomorrow.

“In the next step of the Emirates’ generous donations, I’m glad to inform our patient and steadfast people about the arrival of a new shipment of coronavirus vaccines, with the aim of providing protection for our valiant medical staff and priority groups,” Dahlan says in a tweet.

Dahlan, a key rival of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, has lived in the Emirates since 2011. He is said to have become a close confidant of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed, the Emirates’ de facto ruler.

With Emirati backing, Dahlan previously organized 20,000 Sputnik V doses for the Gaza Strip in mid-February.

Mohammed Dahlan during an interview with The Associated Press in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on January 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed, File)

Israeli diplomats to cast ballots around the world Thursday

Israeli diplomats and representatives and their families will cast their ballots for the March 23 election tomorrow in missions around the world.

Some 4,000 people will vote in 99 missions, including new locations in Morocco, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the Foreign Ministry says.

Yahya Sinwar wins second term as Hamas’s Gaza leader

Hamas mouthpiece al-Resalah confirms that Yahya Sinwar has won a second term as the organization’s Gaza leader.

Three rounds of voting were reportedly conducted last night, with neither Sinwar nor his chief opponent Nizar Awadullah able to clinch victory. Sinwar received more than 50 percent of the vote in today’s voting, leading him to a second four-year term.

Sinwar, who first became notorious for his enthusiastic executions of Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel, rose to prominence in Hamas while serving a life sentence in Israeli prison.

He was released in 2011 during the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel.

Yahya Sinwar, the top Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, in Gaza City, May 1, 2017. (Adel Hana/AP)

Putin, Erdogan launch new phase of Turkish nuclear power plant

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan have vowed to improve cooperation as they launch construction of a new reactor at Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.

The two leaders each pressed a button on their office desks in Moscow and Ankara in a video link ceremony unveiling the third phase of Akkuyu station’s construction project.

Russia’s Rosatom state nuclear energy firm began building the first of four planned reactors on Turkey’s south coast in 2018. Erdogan hopes to put the plant online by the time Turkey celebrates its centenary as a post-Ottoman republic in 2023.

Putin said he expected the project to “improve the Russian-Turkish partnership in all its facets, helping strengthen friendship and mutual understanding between our countries’ peoples.” Erdogan echoed similar thoughts.

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks at a screen showing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he participates via video link in a ceremony to launch the construction of a third reactor of the Turkish nuclear power plant built by Russia’s energy giant Rosatom, in Moscow on March 10, 2021. (Alexey DRUZHININ / SPUTNIK / AFP)

Senior Israeli, US officials to hold first strategic consultation under Biden

Israel and the US will hold the first virtual meeting of their “Strategic Consultative Group” tomorrow, the White House announces.

It will be led by National Security Council chair Meir Ben-Shabbat and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

Collage: Israeli National Security Council chairman Meir Ben-Shabbat (right), and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. (Flash90, AP)

“The discussion will focus on regional issues, building on the close consultations between the two sides over the past several months,” a statement from the spokeswoman for the US National Security Council says.

“This meeting is part of the broader ongoing dialogue between the United States and Israel on the full range of issues of importance to the bilateral relationship, building on longstanding dialogues between our two nations under previous administrations,” the statement adds.

US envoy on Iran: Washington, Jerusalem don’t want repeat of Obama-era conflict

US envoy on Iran Robert Malley tells Axios neither Washington nor Jerusalem wish to see a return to the very public discord that existed between the countries’ leaderships during the runup to the signing of the 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran.

Ahead of the meeting of the nations’ national security advisors tomorrow, Malley says: “We don’t always agree, but the talks are extremely open and positive. While we may have different interpretations and views as to what happened in 2015–2016, neither of us wishes to repeat it,” Malley said.

Unnamed Israeli officials tell Axios their focus during tomorrow’s round of talks will be to provide American officials with their latest intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program.

Court says ex-Nazi camp guard, 96, unfit to stand trial

A German court halts proceedings against a 96-year-old former Nazi camp guard deemed unfit to stand trial, but rules that he must pay his own legal fees.

The man named as Harry S. is accused of aiding and abetting murder in several hundred cases while working as a guard at the Stutthof camp in then Nazi-occupied Poland between June 1944 and May 1945. He was charged in 2017 along with another former Stutthof guard whose trial was discontinued in March 2019, also for health reasons.

“Due to his physical condition, he was no longer able to reasonably represent his interests in and outside of the trial,” the district court in Wuppertal says in a statement. However, the court finds there is “a high degree of probability” Harry S. was guilty of the crimes and therefore rules that he should incur his own expenses.

The wooden main gate leading into the former Nazi concentration camp Stutthof, photographed in Sztutowo, Poland, July 18, 2017. (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

Harry S. was accused of overseeing the transport of 598 prisoners from Stutthof to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp on September 10, 1944, all but two of whom were later murdered in gas chambers. It could also be assumed that he oversaw other transports and kept watch regularly during his 10 months at the camp and had therefore “recognized the scope and dimension of the mass murder committed” there, the court says.

Hundreds protest in Jaljulia over murder of 15-year-old teen

Hundreds protest in Jaljulia over the murder of a 15-year-old teen in the town yesterday.

Muhammad Ades will be laid to rest later this evening. A second boy, 12, remains in serious condition.

Ades was killed in a shooting in the town in central Israel, becoming the 23rd Arab Israeli to die in violent circumstances this year. According to reports, the two boys were sitting outside their homes when they were fired upon.

According to Kan news the family is apparently involved in a criminal underground dispute, but it remained unclear if the two boys were the target.

Environment ministry says dozens more beaches safe after oil spill

The Environmental Protection Ministry says more beaches are now safe for the public to use, following intensive cleaning efforts in the wake of a disastrous oil spill last month.

Tar levels in beaches in Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Bat Yam, Ashdod, Ashkelon and many more towns are now non-hazardous, the ministry says.

People clean tar off the Bat Yam beach following an offshore oil spill that drenched most of the Israeli coastline, March 2, 2021 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Netanyahu said in talks to meet Saudi crown prince while in UAE Thursday

Israel and Saudi Arabia are in advanced talks to have Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman while in the United Arab Emirates tomorrow, Kan news reports.

The meeting would reportedly be held concurrently with Netanyahu’s meeting with UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.

Netanyahu and bin Salman are widely believed to have held a clandestine meeting in Saudi Arabia in November. Neither government officially acknowledged it, though an Israeli minister said the meeting took place.

A US intelligence report made public late last month said that bin Salman “approved” the gruesome murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The prince, who is de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia and due to take over from the ailing King Salman, “approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” the report said.

But while the US administration responded to the report by immediately banning 76 Saudis, it did not sanction or otherwise target the crown prince.

Hundreds take part in funeral of teen killed in Jaljulia shooting

Hundreds of people are now taking part in the funeral of Muhammad Ades, 15, killed in a shooting in Jaljulia yesterday.

Jordan’s crown prince said to cancel planned trip to Temple Mount at last minute

Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah canceled at the last minute a planned trip to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, according to Kan news.

The report says the Israel Police had made intensive preparations for the visit.

It is not clear why the prince canceled the visit.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Crown Prince Hussein pray at the Tzofar enclave after the return of the territory from Israel, November 16, 2019 (Courtesy)

Israeli doctor: 600 at-risk children got COVID shot without major side effects

Israel has so far vaccinated some 600 children between 12 and 16 in at-risk groups against the coronavirus with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and has seen no significant side effects from the shot, a top health official tells The Guardian.

“We have so far immunized somewhere around 600 children,” Dr. Boaz Lev, a top member of the Health Ministry’s advisory team to the cabinet, says. “We didn’t see any major side effects; even minor ones are quite rare. This is encouraging.”

Pfizer recently enrolled over 2,000 children over 12 for clinical trials and hopes to have results within a few months.

TV: Netanyahu may also meet Sudanese PM while in UAE

Channel 13 reports that another potential guest who may meet Netanyahu when he visits the UAE tomorrow is Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

The report says Israel is in talks to make the meeting happen, but does not give further details.

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok at a press conference in Khartoum, Sudan, August 21, 2019. (AP Photo, File)

Channel 12 poll: Camps split 60-60 if Yamina backs Netanyahu

A new poll released by Channel 12 news shows the political system projected to remain gridlocked following the election, with no party having a clear path to forming a government.

The poll has Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party winning 28 seats; Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid 19; Naftali Bennett’s Yamina 13; Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope 11; the Joint List 9; Shas 8; Yisrael Beytenu 7; United Torah Judaism 7; and Labor 6.

Blue and White, Meretz and Religious Zionism all hover just above the electoral threshold with 4 seats each.

Meanwhile, the breakaway Arab Ra’am party is just below the 3.25% threshold with 3.1%.

The anti-Netanyahu bloc has 60 seats, according to the survey. Netanyahu’s religious bloc has 47 with Yamina potentially bringing him to 60.

Naftali Bennett announces he is running for prime minister, December 23, 2020. (Uri Cohen)

Asked who they preferred as prime minister, 35% said Netanyahu, 20% said Lapid, 12% said Sa’ar and 10% said Bennett.

Ra’am has indicated it may back a Netanyahu-led coalition if it enters the Knesset. But asked for their opinion on the matter, right-wing voters opposed a Ra’am-backed government 55% to 28%.

In the center-left, 49% backed a coalition that includes the Joint List, while 43% opposed.

Also asked if they agree with the prime minister’s assessment earlier this week that the COVID-19 pandemic is behind Israel, 71% said no while 24% said yes.

The poll was carried out by the Midgam Institute.

Video details alleged contract between PM, wife, giving her power over top posts

A video making waves on social media in the past day claims a legal contract between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara stipulates that she must sign off on appointments of the heads of Mossad, Shin Bet and the Israeli military.

In the video, David Arzi, former vice president of commercial and civil aviation at Israel Aerospace Industries, says he saw the clauses of the contract. Arzi says he was allowed to read the contract in 1999 by Netanyahu’s longtime lawyer David Shimron.

Two lie detector tests taken by Arzi have found him to be telling the truth.

According to Arzi, the contract includes the prime minister promising that any trip with an overnight stay will include his wife, and that she is permitted to take part in top-secret meetings.

The contract further makes various stipulations that give Sara major control over the couple’s finances.

If the prime minister breaches the contract, his wife will be given ownership of the couple’s entire possessions, Arzi says.

Netanyahu’s office has strongly denied the claims, saying they are “a complete and recycled lie that will be handled legally.” Shimron has also said Arzi is lying. He says no such contract exists and never did, and states he will sue Arzi for defamation.

Arazi has suggested he and Shimron take a polygraph test together to see who is telling the truth.

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