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

Ex-IDF commander voices alarm at intel-sharing included in Iran-China megadeal

Amos Yadlin, the former chief of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate, expresses concern about a clause in the 25-year strategic cooperation mega-deal signed by Iran and China that includes a commitment to military cooperation, with joint training, research and intelligence sharing.

The current head of the Institute for National Security Studies tells the Ynet news site that “on this issue, China is putting itself in a place that until today it had not been in before.”

“On a fundamental level, China opposes an Iranian nuclear bomb, but on the other hand, it is not helping stop Iran. Iran needs China’s political support to stop the United States from pressuring it,” says Yadlin.

“The Chinese understand that the Biden administration is not the Trump administration, and they can be much more aggressive.”

China is Iran’s leading trade partner and was one of the biggest buyers of Iranian oil before then-US president Donald Trump reimposed sweeping unilateral sanctions in 2018 after abandoning a multilateral nuclear agreement with Tehran.

Yadlin’s comments come after China and Iran signed the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership on Saturday, a 25-year-long strategic agreement between the two countries to address economic issues in Iran amid crippling US sanctions.

The New York Times reported that China will invest some $400 billion in Iran in exchange for oil as part of the deal. The deal could undermine US leverage over Iran ahead of expected negotiations and lessen American influence in the Middle East.

‘Challenge still ahead’ to free Suez ship — salvage firm

The head of a Dutch salvage firm helping shift a container ship from the Suez Canal warns that “the challenge is still ahead” despite some success in moving it, as the bow remains stuck.

“The good news is that the stern is free, but in our view, that was the easier part. The challenge is still ahead, because you really have to slide the ship, with the weight it is carrying,” Boskalis chief executive Peter Berdowski tells Dutch public radio.

Police shoot dead mentally ill Arab man, say he charged at cops with knife

Police shot and killed a 33-year-old Arab man with mental illness in central Haifa early this afternoon, police say.

According to a police spokesperson, the man — whose name has not yet been released to the public — was running around with a knife. His mother called the police to the scene for help, according to the spokesperson.

“Some officers arrived on the scene, saw him next to his house on the ground floor. He drew a knife and ran after an officer with it, hurting him lightly on his face,” a Haifa police spokesperson says.

An officer fired on the man, critically wounding him. He was taken to Rambam Hospital in Haifa, where he died of his injuries.

“The officer felt that he was in immediate, life-threatening danger,” the Haifa spokesperson argues.

The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department has opened an investigation into the shooting.

According to the Abraham Initiatives nonprofit, 28 Arabs have been killed violently inside Israel since the beginning of 2021. Six were killed by police, while 22 were killed as a result of criminal activity.

Committee fails to renew Shin Bet COVID tracking, 24 hours before it expires

The Knesset Foreign Affair and Defense Committee rejects the government’s decision — passed Thursday — to enable the continued use of Shin Bet phone tracking as a tool to locate quarantine violations and potential COVID-19 patients, with 4 members voting against it and 3 supporting it.

If there is no decision on the matter over the next 24 hours, Israel will no longer be able to use the security agency in its pandemic response.

Sinai crossing to open tomorrow for 1st time in a year, until April 12

The Taba Crossing will open tomorrow for the first time in a year to Israelis seeking to visit the Sinai Peninsula, and will stay open until April 12.

Up to 300 people will be allowed to pass — by foot only — each weekday (Sunday to Thursday), provided that they are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 and received an approval for the trip.

Foreign diplomats and humanitarian will also be eligible to get an approval.

WHO chief says all COVID origins hypotheses ‘need further study’

The WHO’s chief says that all hypotheses on the COVID-19 pandemic’s origins remain open and need further study, having read the report from an international experts’ mission to Wuhan.

“All hypotheses are open, from what I read from the report… and warrant complete and further studies,” World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tells a virtual press conference from Geneva.

Slain Haifa man named, with family blaming police for death

The 33-year-old Arab man from Haifa with mental illness who was shot dead by cops who said he charged at them with a knife has been named as Munir Anabtawi.

His family is accusing police over the death, with his mother arguing that the cops “lost control.”

“He didn’t have a knife in his hand, he was running away from the cops,” says his sister Shirin, according to the Kan public broadcaster. “Mom asked for him to be taken to get treatment.”

She says the situation did not justify shooting five bullets, three of which hit him according to a forensic analysis.

Rivlin to hold talks with party heads next Monday, task PM candidate by Wednesday

President Reuven Rivlin’s official residence confirms that the round of talks with party leaders will start next Monday, April 5, and that the person best positioned to become prime minister will be tasked with forming a government by Wednesday, April 7.

The residence sent official letters on the matter to all parties elected to the Knesset in last week’s election.

“As happened for the first time in the 2019 elections, the president has instructed that his meetings with the various parties should be broadcast live on all media, in order to make the process transparent to all Israeli citizens,” a statement says.

Another noteworthy event that happens on April 5 is the renewal of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial.

Gantz calls for meeting with Lapid, Bennett, Sa’ar to ‘stop Netanyahu’s rule’

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz issues a public call for a four-way meeting with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, Yamina chief Naftali Bennett and New Hope chairman Gideon Sa’ar to discuss plans to form a government without Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I urged the leaders of the ‘change bloc’ to sit down as soon as possible so that we can form an honest government and stop Netanyahu’s rule,” Gantz says.

UTJ party chief said refusing to immediately say it’ll back Netanyahu as PM

Prime Minister Netanyahu has asked the United Torah Judaism party to publicly say it will recommend that he form the next government, but, as of now, UTJ leader Moshe Gafni is refusing and has asked for more time, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

The Degel Hatorah faction of the ultra-Orthodox party will convene tomorrow to think the matter through, the report says.

The second Haredi party, Shas, has already pledged its support for Netanyahu.

Canal service provider says container ship in Suez set free

A canal service provider says that workers have successfully set free a colossal container ship that for nearly a week has been stuck sideways across the Suez Canal, one of the world’s most crucial arteries for trade.

Leth Agencies says the vessel has been refloated. Helped by the peak of high tide, a flotilla of tugboats managed to wrench the bow of the skyscraper-sized Ever Given from the sandy back of the crucial waterway, where it had been firmly lodged since last Tuesday.

Tugboats are pulling the vessel toward the Great Bitter Lake, in the middle of the waterway, where it will undergo inspections.

Suez Canal Authority says traffic resuming as Ever Given ship afloat

The Suez Canal has reopened to traffic after the Ever Given was refloated, almost a week after the mega-ship got stuck, the Suez Canal Authority says, as local TV images show it moving slowly up the canal.

“Admiral Osama Rabie, head of the Suez Canal Authority, has announced the resumption of shipping traffic in the Suez Canal,” the SCA says in a statement, shortly after shipping sites showed it to have once more diagonally blocked the waterway.

Pregnant mother, unborn baby die after contracting COVID-19

A pregnant mother has died at Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center after contracting COVID-19, and her unborn baby has not survived either, Hebrew media reports.

The 45-year-old mother, who was in the ninth month of her pregnancy, was not vaccinated against the coronavirus and had no preexisting medical conditions. The cause of death has not been determined.

She is from Tel Sheva, a Bedouin town near Beersheba. She was taken to a clinic in Tel Sheva without vital signs by family members who refused to give information about her and what happened before that.

George Floyd family, supporters kneel in protest ahead of trial

Relatives and lawyers for the family of George Floyd kneel in protest outside the US courthouse where the trial will be held for the white police officer accused of killing the 46-year-old Black man.

They take a knee for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time police officer Derek Chauvin was seen on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck.

The protest comes shortly before the start of opening arguments in Chauvin’s murder and manslaughter trial.

Jury sworn in for George Floyd murder trial

A jury is sworn in for the high-profile trial of the white US police officer facing murder and manslaughter charges for the death of George Floyd.

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill swears in the 12 jurors and two alternates in a heavily guarded Minneapolis courtroom.

Former police officer Derek Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of second-degree murder for Floyd’s May 25, 2020 death, which sparked anti-racism protests around the world.

In Floyd trial opening statement, prosecutor says policeman ‘betrayed’ his badge

The Minneapolis police officer on trial for the death of George Floyd “betrayed” his badge and used “excessive and unreasonable” force, a US prosecutor says.

“You will learn that on May 25 of 2020 Mr. Derek Chauvin betrayed his badge when he used excessive and unreasonable force upon the body of Mr. George Floyd,” Jerry Blackwell says in his opening statement at Chauvin’s murder trial.

“That he put his knees upon his neck and his back, grinding and crushing him, until the very breath, no ladies and gentlemen, until the very life was squeezed out of him,” Blackwell says.

Palestinians receive 100,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine

The Palestinian Authority health ministry has received 100,000 Sinopharm vaccines from the Chinese government.

The doses arrived in Ramallah today, the health ministry says. So far, the PA has received some 53,000 doses from various sources. An additional 105,000 Palestinians who legally work in Israel have been given vaccines by Israel.

China has donated or sold millions of the Chinese-produced Sinopharm vaccine to countries around the globe. But with little public data available on virus trials, concerns have remained regarding its safety and efficacy.

According to the Chinese government, the Sinopharm vaccine is 79% effective against the novel coronavirus.

Family of slain mentally ill man slams cops, says released footage ‘incomplete’

The family of Munir Anabtawi, a mentally ill man shot dead today by cops in Haifa, place the blame on the “unprofessional” police officers after what they called “incomplete” footage emerged of the killing, showing only the first of several shots fired at him after he brandished a knife at the cops.

“We saw videos of the incident, and after family members saw the deceased’s body at Rambam hospital it is clear that the cops acted unprofessionally, using live fire several times, killing him,” the family says in a statement carried by the Musawa Center rights group.

“Trained police officers are supposed to neutralize a suspect, who is mentally ill, without killing him,” the statement adds. “In the incomplete video sent out by the police, which doesn’t represent the whole incident, the other officers aren’t seen and it is impossible to determine at what stage they began shooting at the deceased.”

The family calls for a “comprehensive and professional investigation,” saying such incidents typically repeat themselves when the suspects are Arab.

Set politics aside in Floyd killing, defense lawyer tells jury

The defense lawyer for Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, accused of murdering African-American George Floyd last year, asks the jury to ignore politics and social issues as arguments open in the highly charged case.

“There is no political or social cause in this courtroom,” defense attorney Eric Nelson says, rejecting charges that Chauvin murdered Floyd.

Top Ra’am official says cooperating with Ben Gvir would end party chief’s career

Mayor of Taybeh Sha’a Mansour Massarwa (Dov Lieber/Times of Israel)

Sha’a Mansour Massarwa, a senior member of the Islamist Ra’am party’s coalition negotiations team, reiterates that the party will not politically cooperate with Bezalel Smotrich’s far-right Religious Zionism party, which includes extremist Itamar Ben Gvir.

Mansour, the mayor of Taybeh, tells Channel 12 news that any move by Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas to support a government that includes Smotrich and Ben Gvir would mean he was ending his political career, “which is why such a scenario doesn’t exist.”

“Ben Gvir isn’t just a red line, it’s the blackest of black lines. Period. We have nothing to do with anyone who calls for sidelining Arabs.

Johnson & Johnson to deliver COVID vaccine to Europe from April 19

Johnson & Johnson says it will start delivering its single-shot COVID-19 vaccine to Europe on April 19, giving the continent a boost as it struggles to speed up its vaccination drive.

The pharmaceutical giant’s jab was approved by European regulators in mid-March, following approval of vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

Number of serious and active COVID cases lowest in months

According to Health Ministry figures from 5 p.m. today, there are 441 serious COVID-19 patients in Israel, the lowest number since December 17.

Of them, 230 are listed as critical and 203 are on ventilators.

The number of active cases is down to 8,371, the lowest tally since November 22, compounding the effectiveness of the mass vaccination campaign.

The total number of cases since the pandemic began is 832,068, and the death toll is 6,196.

US offers $10 million for Hezbollah fugitive over Hariri killing

The United States offers $10 million to find a fugitive Hezbollah suspect who has been convicted over the assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafik Hariri.

The State Department says it will offer the reward for “information leading to the location or identification” of Salim Ayyash or “information leading to preventing him from engaging in an act of international terrorism against a US person or US property.”

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, set up by the United Nations in the Netherlands, in December convicted Ayyash in absentia to life in prison over the killing of Hariri in 2005.

Ayyash, 57, is believed to be in hiding in Lebanon where Hezbollah’s chief Hassan Nasrallah has refused to hand him over.

The tribunal has since said it will also try Ayyash over three other attacks on Lebanese politicians in the mid-2000s.

The State Department says Ayyash has also plotted to harm US military personnel.

Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, was allegedly killed because he opposed Lebanon’s control by Syria, which is allied with Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim terror group backed by Iran.

The assassination sparked the Cedar Revolution which forced out Syrian troops.

The United States and many other countries consider Hezbollah a terrorist group. The movement wields political power in Lebanon, holding seats in parliament.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Israelis warned of potential Iranian attack on tourists in UAE, Bahrain, Turkey

The National Security Council publishes its assessment for potential dangers to Israeli tourists abroad, warning that Iran might try to take revenge for the killing of several senior officials.

The council details countries where such an attack is more likely to occur, including Georgia, Azerbaijan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkey, Jordan and Egypt.

Ra’am leader to make statement backing cooperation with Jewish parties — report

Mansour Abbas, the leader of the Islamist Ra’am party, intends to make a high-profile press statement in the coming days, once again pledging support for cooperation with Israel’s Jewish majority, seeking to further legitimize the option of the Arab party to be part of a ruling coalition, Channel 12 news.

However, it is unclear how such a statement would change things when Abbas has been advocating for such cooperation for months.

Many key politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett, New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar and Religious Zionism head Bezalel Smotrich, have in recent weeks ruled out any cooperation with Ra’am.

New York to expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to those over 30

New York state residents over 30 will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations starting tomorrow, and everyone over 16 will be eligible starting April 6, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces.

Vaccine eligibility has thus far been restricted to people over 50, people in certain job categories and those with health conditions that put them at risk for serious illness if they were to become infected with the coronavirus.

“Today we take a monumental step forward in the fight to beat COVID,” the Democratic governor says in a news release, adding that the new timetable is “well ahead of the May 1 deadline set by the White House.”

Cuomo says more than 9 million vaccine doses have been administered statewide since the vaccination effort began in December.

Biden ‘watching closely’ as Floyd murder trial begins

Joe Biden will closely monitor developments in the trial of the police officer charged with murdering George Floyd last year, the US president’s spokeswoman says.

“He certainly will be watching closely, as Americans across the country will be watching,” Jen Psaki says.

“At the time of George Floyd’s death, he talked about this as being an event that really opened up a wound in the American public.”

Police said to instruct cops not to enforce mask-wearing rules outdoors

Police officers have been instructed not to enforce mask-wearing rules outdoors, even though it still is illegal to be without them in public, Channel 13 news reports.

Officially, the rule is still in effect. But unofficially, top police brass has instructed cops “not to focus on the issue, almost not to deal with it, to reduce enforcement to zero,” the report says.

Rather, the focus should be on people who break quarantine.

Due to the frequent talk about the mask rules being eased, top cops reportedly know police will lose credibility with the public if they continue to try to enforce them outside, according to the network.

The latest change doesn’t mean people are supposed to now start going outside without their masks on. But if they do and run into a police officer, they likely won’t be fined.

Canadian panel recommends AstraZeneca vaccination pause for under 55

Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization is recommending a pause on AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccinations for people under 55 for safety reasons, a person familiar with the matter tells The Associated Press.

The person confirms the recommendation on condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to speak publicly before the announcement. It remains a recommendation and it is up to each of Canada’s provinces to decide to follow it or not.

It is not immediately clear why that is being recommended, but several European countries that have suspended using the vaccine over concerns it could cause blood clots have resumed administering it after the EU’s drug regulator said the vaccine was safe.

Canada is expected to receive 1.5 million does of AstraZeneca from the US this week.

The vaccine is used widely in Britain, across the European continent and in other countries, but its rollout was troubled by inconsistent study reports about its effectiveness, and then more recently a scare about clots that had some countries temporarily pausing inoculations.

Most Joint List members said set to recommend Lapid as PM

Five of the Joint List’s six lawmakers-to-be are set to recommend Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid as prime minister, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

Officially, the Arab party says it needs to decide on its strategy in light of the political deadlock. But the report says that behind the scenes, most of its members have already decided to support the opposition chief in an attempt to replace what they call the “Netanyahu regime.”

The report doesn’t name the MK who won’t back Lapid, but it appears to be the Balad representative, Sami Abu Shehadeh, whose Palestinian nationalist faction has refused to recommend Zionist candidates for prime minister.

Rivlin could task only 1 candidate with forming coalition, not 2 — report

President Reuven Rivlin is seeking to shorten the process of picking the next prime minister candidate, and is considering only tasking one politician with trying to cobble together a coalition, not two, before passing the mandate to the Knesset, Channel 13 news reports.

Normally, two party heads can get a shot at forming a government, but the current deadlock could render that unnecessary. After that, the Knesset is given three weeks for any 61 MKs to recommend a lawmaker as premier, or additional elections are automatically called.

Rivlin, when he meets party representatives, also plans to ask them if they have a second priority, and whether they are open to negotiating with others, seeking to get a fuller picture regarding who is best positioned to form a coalition, the report says.

The network also reports tensions between Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Yamina chief Naftali Bennett.

Bennett is demanding that he become prime minister for part of the term if he forms a coalition with the anti-Netanyahu bloc, but Yesh Atid is said to be ruling that out since Yamina won just seven Knesset seats.

Both leaders aren’t having any contact due to the disagreement, the report says.

90% of US adults will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by April 19: White House

US President Joe Biden’s administration announces a set of new actions to ensure that 90% of adults will be eligible for vaccination against COVID-19 by April 19.

The White House adds that the expansion of the national immunization campaign will mean “90% will have a vaccination site within five miles of where they live.”

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