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New Hope: Likud activists attacked our supporters at campaign event

Police reportedly called in to protect Gideon Sa’ar as backer of his party is evacuated in an ambulance after fainting

Likud activists protest outside a New Hope campaign event in the Gezer Regional Council on March 13, 2021. (Screen capture: Twitter)
Likud activists protest outside a New Hope campaign event in the Gezer Regional Council on March 13, 2021. (Screen capture: Twitter)

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

Anti-Netanyahu protests held for 38th straight week

Protesters gather at sites across Israel for the weekly demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his indictment on graft charges and handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The protests, the epicenter of which is outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, are now in their 38th week.

Ancient Christian ruins discovered in Egyptian desert

CAIRO — A French-Norwegian archaeological team has discovered new Christian ruins in Egypt’s Western Desert, revealing monastic life in the region in the fifth century AD, the Egyptian antiquities ministry says.

“The French-Norwegian mission discovered during its third excavation campaign at the site of Tal Ganoub Qasr al-Agouz in the Bahariya Oasis several buildings made of basalt, others carved into the bedrock and some made of mud bricks,” it says in a statement.

The complex is comprised of “six sectors containing the ruins of three churches and monks’ cells”, whose “walls bear graffiti and symbols with Coptic connotations,” says Osama Talaat, head of Islamic, Coptic and Jewish Antiquities at the ministry.

Mission head Victor Ghica says “19 structures and a church carved into the bedrock” were discovered in 2020, according to the statement.

The church walls were decorated with “religious inscriptions” and biblical passages in Greek, revealing “the nature of monastic life in the region,” Ghica says.

It clearly showed that monks were present there since the fifth century AD, he adds.

The remote site, located in the desert southwest of the capital Cairo, was occupied from the fourth to eighth centuries, with a likely peak of activity around the fifth and sixth centuries, according to the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology, in charge of the mission.

Cairo has announced several major new archaeological discoveries in recent months with the hopes of spurring tourism, a sector that has suffered multiple blows — from a 2011 uprising to the coronavirus pandemic.

Palestinian Authority slams Czechs for opening Jerusalem embassy office

The Palestinian Authority is condemning the Czech Republic for opening an embassy office in Jerusalem.

The PA’s foreign ministry calls the move “a blatant attack on the Palestinian people and their rights, a flagrant violation of international law” and claims it will hurt the peace process, according to Reuters.

Rocks thrown at Israeli car that accidentally entered East Jerusalem neighborhood

An Israeli man’s car is pelted with rocks after he accidentally drives into the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiyah.

The man was lightly injured and treated at the scene, according to Hebrew media reports. Photos show his rear windshield was shattered.

Police are searching for the rock-throwers.

Russian police arrest 200 opposition figures at Moscow conference

MOSCOW — Russian police arrest around 200 opposition politicians and municipal deputies at a Moscow conference as authorities tighten the screws on Kremlin critics ahead of parliamentary elections.

A police raid on an opposition conference dedicated to running for municipal office comes after President Vladimir Putin’s top critic Alexei Navalny was jailed for two and a half years last month and more than 10,000 protesters detained across the country.

While Russian police routinely break up opposition protests, the mass arrests of municipal deputies at a conference in Moscow are unprecedented.

Participants from more than 50 of Russia’s regions had gathered to discuss parliamentary and local elections in September at a forum organized by a project backed by prominent Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Forty minutes into the conference police break up the event and detain the participants.

“The ENTIRE forum of Russian municipal deputies has been detained in Moscow!” Khodorkovsky says on Twitter, calling the detentions “unconstitutional.”

A number of well-known opposition figures including Yashin, Vladimir Kara-Murza, Yulia Galyamina, Yevgeny Roizman and Andrei Pivovarov as well as journalists have been detained.

“A very symbolic end to a short forum: deputies in police vans, and masked police are twisting people’s arms,” Yashin says on Facebook.

Moscow police say in a statement that around 200 people had been detained.

Many of the conference participants did not wear masks, while some were members of an organization whose work had been declared “undesirable,” police say.

Gantz says he’ll back Lapid if the Yesh Atid chief can form a government

Defense Minister Benny Gantz says he’d support his former partner Yair Lapid if the Yesh Atid party chief is able to form a government after the March 23 elections.

The two ran as part of the Blue and White alliance in the three elections between April 2019 and March 2020, but Lapid broke with Gantz over his decision to join a government led by Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Speaking with Channel 13 news, Gantz also resists calls from center-left factions to quit the race over fears his Blue and White party will fail to clear the electoral threshold, which he predicts he’ll easily pass.

Netanyahu denies secret contract giving his wife veto over top security posts

Prime Minister Netanyahu denies ever signing a secret contract with his wife Sara giving her say over top security appointments.

“These are lies and they have no basis,” he says in an interview with Channel 13 news.

Netanyahu says doesn’t plan to fire AG after elections

Netanyahu says he doesn’t intend to fire Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit after the upcoming elections.

“I don’t deal with him at all,” he tells Channel 13 news.

He says his trial on graft charges won’t affect his ability to function as prime minister and asserts that he’s prevented from trying to halt the trial.

Netanyahu also says he won’t agree to a rotation deal with Yamina chief Naftali Bennett that will see the two switch off as prime minister.

Health Ministry says 2,386 COVID cases, 12 deaths recorded Friday

The Health Ministry reports 2,386 new coronavirus cases were confirmed yesterday.

Along with 409 more cases since midnight, the number of infections since the pandemic began rises to 817,680.

The death toll climbs to 5,988, with 12 fatalities recorded yesterday.

The number of active cases stands at 35,593, with 626 people in serious condition, including 214 on ventilators.

Of the 84,286 tests performed yesterday, 2.9 percent came back positive.

National crime unit to lead sexual abuse probe of Yehuda Meshi-Zahav

The Lahav 433 national crime unit is being tasked with leading the probe into allegations of rape and other sexual offenses against Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, the co-founder and chairman of the ZAKA volunteer emergency response group.

Meshi-Zahav announced he was stepping down from his role in the organization and giving up the prestigious Israel Prize he was set to receive after the allegations came to light in a report by the Haaretz daily.

Meanwhile, the deputy head of Magen for Jewish Communities, a non-profit that helped expose the alleged abuse, tells the Kan public broadcaster that six new claims against Meshi-Zahav are being examined.

Plan to introduce rapid COVID testing to be presented in 2 weeks — TV

Unnamed senior Health Ministry officials tell Channel 13 news that Israel’s national vaccination campaign has exceeded expectations, pointing to the decline in new infections and serious cases.

The network also reports that a proposal for the rollout of rapid testing will be unveiled in two weeks.

100,000 Israelis who got first COVID shot reportedly haven’t returned for second

One hundred thousand Israelis who received a first coronavirus shot have not returned for the second dose, Channel 12 news reports, citing Health Ministry data.

Ministry officials quoted by the network attribute this to two factors — wariness over side effects after the first shot and misinformation about the vaccines.

Protests held in Lebanon as currency plummets to new low

BEIRUT — Lebanon’s currency plummets to a new record low, continuing its crash amid a worsening economic crisis that has triggered near-daily protests throughout the tiny Mediterranean country.

Among the protests is a small one near parliament, where riot police fire tear gas to disperse scores of young men throwing stones at security forces. The protesters also try to break through a metal gate leading to the legislature.

Lebanon’s worst economic crisis in decades began in October 2019 and worsened with the spread of coronavirus and a massive explosion in Beirut in August. The blast of nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive material used in fertilizers, killed 211 and wounded more than 6,000.

In addition to Beirut, there are also protests in the country’s largest cities of Tripoli, Sidon and Tyre, as well as road closures in different parts of Lebanon.

Fewer than 10% of patients hospitalized in COVID wards are fully vaccinated

Among the roughly 1,000 Israelis now hospitalized in coronavirus wards, fewer than 10 percent have been fully vaccinated, according to Hebrew media reports.

None of the patients currently hooked up to an ECMO machine have been fully vaccinated, the reports say.

Health Ministry allows more visitors at healthcare, welfare facilities

The Health Ministry announces it will allow more visitors at healthcare and welfare facilities, citing the country’s vaccination rate and continued decline in morbidity.

A ministry statement says residents of these facilities will now be permitted to host two additional visitors. The visitors must be vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19 or are younger than 16.

Egypt rejects criticism of human rights record after rebuke at UN council

CAIRO — Egypt’s senate and parliament reject accusations of human rights violations leveled this week by dozens of countries at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

In a rare oral rebuke of Egypt at the council, 31 countries issued a joint statement yesterday voicing alarm at restrictions on free expression and assembly suffered by political opponents, rights defenders and journalists in the North African country.

Egypt’s senate says today that “no lawyer, journalist or human rights lawyer or human rights activist is in custody unless he has committed a crime justifying the actions taken against him — whether through a fair trial or fair investigations conducted by a judiciary fully independent from the executive branch.”

“The Egyptian state has only used anti-terrorism laws against those who have already committed terrorist crimes,” it says in a statement, criticizing the joint declaration for treating the issues raised “superficially.”

Egypt’s parliament, meanwhile, urged the 31 countries “not to install themselves as guardians of Egypt” and to refrain from “politicizing human rights issues for political or electoral purposes.”

Using arguments often made by President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, lawmakers say the council “should have taken an objective view of Egypt’s efforts to maintain security and stability not only internally but also regionally.”

New Hope: Likud activists attacked our supporters at campaign event

New Hope party says its supporters were attacked by Likud activists outside a campaign event in central Israel

Hebrew media reports say a New Hope activist was taken away in an ambulance after fainting and that police were called to the scene to protect New Hope chief Gideon Sa’ar, a former Likud minister.

Sa’ar calls the incident “a peek of what awaits us as a country if Netanyahu remains prime minister,” according to the Ynet news site.

Man shot to death in central Arab city of Tira

In the latest violent homicide in Arab communities this year, a 30-year-old man is shot and killed in the central Arab city of Tira.

The victim was taken to Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba, where medical personnel confirmed his death, according to police, who say they are investigating the incident.

As of this evening, 24 Arabs have died violently this year in Israel: 18 Arab Israeli citizens, four Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem and two Palestinians from the West Bank. Three were shot by police, while the remaining 21 were killed in intra-communal violence.

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