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Abbas: PA no longer bound by agreements with Israel, including on security

In meeting on annexation, Palestinian leader says Israel must now ‘shoulder all responsibilities and obligations in front of the international community as an occupying power’

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 7, 2020. (Nasser Nasser/Pool/AFP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 7, 2020. (Nasser Nasser/Pool/AFP)

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

China reports 7 new virus cases day after Xi announces $2 billion aid package

China has reported seven new coronavirus cases today, a day after President Xi Jinping announced his country would provide $2 billion to help respond to the outbreak and its economic fallout.

Three of the new cases have been listed as imported, and once again no new deaths were reported. Just 85 people remain in treatment while another 392 are under observation and isolation for being suspected cases or after testing positive without showing symptoms.

China has reported 4,634 deaths among 82,690 cases of COVID-19.

Xi’s appearance via video link at the World Health Assembly came amid finger-pointing between the United States and China over the pandemic, and the World Health Organization bowing to calls from most of its member states to launch an independent probe into how it managed the international response to the coronavirus — which could be seen as a setback for Beijing.

China has repeatedly said now is not the time for such an investigation, which could look into allegations that the country suppressed information and bungled its response to the initial outbreak.

— AP

Trump threatens permanent freeze on WHO funding in 30 days

US President Donald Trump threatens to permanently freeze US funding to the World Health Organization unless “substantive improvements” are made within the next 30 days.

Washington suspended payments to the WHO in mid-April, accusing it of being too close to Beijing and covering up and mismanaging the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump tweets images of a letter he sent to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, saying the letter is “self-explanatory.”

In the letter, Trump lists what he says are examples of the WHO’s shortcomings in managing the pandemic, including ignoring early reports of the emergence of the virus, and being too close to China.

“It is clear the repeated missteps by you and your organization in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world. The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China,” Trump says in the letter.

“If the World Health Organization does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding to the World Health Organization permanent and reconsider our membership in the organization,” he says.

Yesterday, the WHO said it would launch an independent review of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

During a virtual assembly, Tedros acknowledged there had been shortcomings and told the assembly he welcomed calls for a review.

UN: Civilian deaths by Taliban and Afghan forces on the rise

The United Nations calls for an immediate reduction of violence in Afghanistan, saying civilian deaths by both Taliban and Afghanistan’s own security forces is on the increase.

In a statement, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, or UNAMA, also expresses concern about the stepped-up attacks and brutality of assaults claimed by the Islamic State group.

A horrific attack last week at a maternity hospital in the capital has not been claimed by any group, but the United States said it bears all the hallmarks of Afghanistan’s IS affiliate — targeting the country’s minority Shiites in a neighborhood of Kabul they have repeatedly attacked in the past.

The has Taliban denied involvement in the maternity hospital attack, which killed 24 people, including two infants and several new mothers, calling it “vile.”

The UN report blames the Taliban for killing 208 civilians in April, while 172 civilians were killed in the month by the Afghan National Security and Defense Force.

“Parties have committed to finding a peaceful solution and should protect the lives of all Afghans and not jeopardize people’s hope for an end to the war,” says Deborah Lyons, the UNAMA head and the UN Secretary- General’s Special Representative to Afghanistan.

“Intra-Afghan peace negotiations need to start as soon as possible,” she says.

— AP

Chiding Trump for taking hydroxychloroquine, Pelosi appears to fat shame president

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi expresses her disapproval of US President Donald Trump’s declaration that he’s taking the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to protect against the new coronavirus, despite warnings from his own government that it should only be administered for COVID-19 in a hospital or research setting due to potentially fatal side effects.

“He’s our president and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight group — morbidly obese, they say,” Pelosi tells CNN.

Jerusalem and Tel Aviv announce shuttering of small streets to boost commerce

The Jerusalem and Tel Aviv municipalities have both announced separate projects that will see streets closed off to cars, as the country gradually reopens after months of closure forced by the coronavirus outbreak.

While in Jerusalem several central streets will be open only to pedestrians for hours at a time in the evenings over the next few months, Tel Aviv is trying out a more far-reaching initiative that would see many segments of side streets closed to vehicles permanently.

The Tel Aviv project is meant to examine the environmental effect, although it involves the closure of a total of some two kilometers of street that usually do not see much traffic. Public benches and other seating areas will be placed in those street segments.

In Jerusalem, the closures will have a much more dramatic effect on traffic, since they include central streets such as Hillel, Agripas, Azza, Emek Refaim and Derech Beit Lechem. However, each road will be closed only twice a week in the evening hours, and only until the end of August.

Street shows will be held, with the project aimed at supporting restaurants and stores battered by the virus closures.

— Michael Bachner

Litzman: Some of my critics didn’t like seeing me wearing a shtreimel on national TV

Yaakov Litzman dismisses much of the criticism of his conduct as health minister during the pandemic in an interview with the Kan public broadcaster.

“Not a very small part of the public didn’t like that I wore a shtreimel in the press conferences,” Lizman says, referring to the massive fur hat he wore during one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s evening virus-related addresses to the nation.

Litzman blasted as anti-Semitic the Haaretz reporter who published a story claiming that he had ordered the premature opening of IKEA because the chain’s owner is close to the minister’s Gur Hasidic sect.

Litzman insists that he is happy to receive criticism, but that much of what he’s been called out for in the media has been out of line.

The health minister-turned housing minister stands by his assertion that Netanyahu and former Health Ministry director Moshe Bar Siman-Tov had overreacted in their response to the coronavirus, which Litzman himself contracted, possibly after participating in an illegal prayer service which he is accused of having attended.

Blue and White MK: We’re for annexing settlement blocs and Jordan Valley

Blue and White MK Eitan Ginzburg tells Radio 103 FM that his party “is in favor of applying [Israeli] sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the settlement blocs, in coordination with Jordan and the Palestinians.”

He does not explain how he plans to coordinate the move with Jordan and the Palestinians, who have vehemently come out against the move.

“Things have to be done in agreement [with them]… That’s why Benny Gantz is defense minister and Gabi Ashkenazi is foreign minister. The maps [outlining the parameters of annexation] will be drawn in the Defense Ministry,” Ginzburg continues.

With one death overnight, COVID-19 toll climbs to 277

The National Security Council updates Israel’s coronavirus death toll to 277, with one fatality recorded overnight.

The number of COVID-19 cases was 16,650, an increase of 29 in the previous 24 hours. The number of active cases, however, is 3,077.

Of them, 52 were in serious condition, including 42 on ventilators.

The update says 6,607 virus tests were conducted on Monday.

Former health minister hints he wasn’t very involved in pandemic response

Former health minister Yaakov Litzman admits to the Kan public broadcaster that he wasn’t very involved in the government’s response to the pandemic.

Asked if the staff in his office made recommendations that were then brought to the National Security Council, Litzman responds, “Here and there they updated me as well.”

Human Rights Watch urges Qatar to release prisoners amid virus outbreak

Human Rights Watch is urging the Arab Gulf state of Qatar to release older prisoners and those held for nonviolent offenses in light of a coronavirus outbreak in the country’s central prison.

The rights group interviewed six non-Qatari detainees who said several prisoners were suspected of contracting COVID-19.

Qatar’s communication office responded to the Human Rights Watch report on Tuesday, confirming 12 prisoners had the virus in the Central Prison.

The prisoners told the rights group that authorities isolated the block where the outbreak occurred, but not before transferring some detainees to other overcrowded and unsanitary sections of the prison. They said their block has eight bathrooms for 150 prisoners, and people are sleeping on the floor with no ability to socially distance.

The government said the 12 people who tested positive for COVID-19 were treated at a medical facility on site, with two transferred out for additional care before being sent back to prison once fully recovered.

Qatar said inmates have received gloves and masks and undergo regular health checkups. In April, Qatar’s ruler pardoned more than 500 inmates to reduce the number of people imprisoned amid the pandemic.

Qatar has nearly 34,000 confirmed cases of the virus, including 15 deaths.

— AP

Western official: Attack on Iranian port response to failed assault on Israel

An unnamed Western official tells Israeli TV that a sophisticated cyberattack on an Iranian port last week was retaliation for Tehran’s failed attempted assault on Israel’s water infrastructure last month.

This appears to indicate that Israel has adopted a “tit-for-tat” strategy in responding to Iranian cyber warfare, a tactic already used by the Israeli military with physical, or kinetic, attacks.

“The cyberattack on the [Shahid Rajaee port] in Iran was an Israeli response to the cyber attack that [the Iranians] carried out against Israel two weeks before against Mekorot [national water company] components — an attack that failed,” the official from a Western country tells Channel 12 news, on condition of anonymity.

“Israel hopes that [the Iranians] stop there. They attacked water infrastructure components. They didn’t really cause damage — but they crossed a line and [Israel] needed to retaliate,” the official says.

On Monday night, the Washington Post reported that Israel carried out a cyber attack on an Iranian port facility on May 9, shutting it down completely and causing widespread chaos.

— Judah Ari Gross

Ex military intel chief: Cyberattack shows vulnerability of Iranian economy

Former head of Israel’s military intelligence Amos Yadlin echoes the comments made by a Western official to Channel 12, saying the cyberattack targeting an Iranian port “appears to be an Israeli response to the earlier Iranian cyberattack on Israeli water and sewage infrastructure.

“Cyber is now being integrated to the ground, sea, and aerial dimensions of combat as a major domain of war-fighting,” he tweets.

“If this cyberattack was indeed Israel’s response to the Iranian attack on civilian infrastructure (water and sewage systems), Israel is sending an important message to Iran regarding the vulnerability of key elements of Iran’s economy to Israeli cyber capabilities.”

“An interesting question is: Does the Iranian leadership have control of the Iranian hackers? Other interesting subjects that these cyberattacks bring to the fore:

A) The attack on the Iranian port – appears to demonstrate superpower capabilities.
B) The significance of violation of sovereignty in the cyber domain.
C) Attribution of cyberattacks, plausible deniability of both the attacker and the target.
D) The meaning of deterrence in cyber.
E) The interaction between cyber and kinetic activities,” he concludes.

Hauser tapped as chairman of Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee

Derech Eretz MK Zvi Hauser has been unanimously nominated the chairman of the Knesset’s interim Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

He began his first session as chairman by thanking his colleagues for demonstrating their trust in him. A permanent committee will be formed in the coming days and Hauser says he hopes to be able to chair that as well.

Knesset readies Norwegian law, shelves legislation granting benefits to small businesses

The Knesset’s Arrangements Committee has begun a hearing to ready the Norwegian Law to be brought to a vote tomorrow. The legislation allows any MK who is appointed to a cabinet post to resign temporarily from the Knesset, thereby permitting the next candidate on the party’s list to enter parliament in his or her stead.

The Ynet news site reports that in order to speed along the process, the coalition reached an agreement with the opposition yesterday to allow the latter to also advance its own piece of legislation in a sped-up manner. The opposition chose to advance a law that would increase unemployment benefits for small-business workers.

But when the opposition members arrived at the Arrangements Committee meeting this morning, they noticed that their piece of legislation had been left off the docket, Ynet reports.

Officials meet to discuss restart of flights to countries in region with low infection rate

Officials met this morning to discuss a possible restart of flights to and from Greece, Cyprus, Montenegro, Seychelles, Austria, and Georgia, Channel 12 reports.

No final decisions were made and no specific dates for the flight renewal was released.

Iranian parliament approves bill requiring government to establish ‘virtual embassy in Palestine’

The Iranian parliament has approved a bill that requires the government to establish a virtual embassy in Palestine, the state-run Fars news agency reports.

“The foreign ministry is required to make necessary arrangements to form the Islamic Republic of Iran’s virtual embassy or consulate (in Palestine) and submit the results for approval to the cabinet,” the legislation reads.

Israel’s 136 beaches set to open tomorrow with bathers ordered to adhere to social distancing

Israel’s 136 beaches will open to the public tomorrow for the first time this season and amid the slowly dissipating pandemic.

Bathers will be required to keep two meters away from one another and indoor showers and dressing-rooms will be closed for the time being, the Interior Ministry specifies in its announcement.

Beaches will have to adhere to the government’s purple badge standards in order to remain open.

Despite the announcement, quite a few beaches in the Tel Aviv and central Israel area have seen bathers for weeks.


Israel slams EU for ‘megaphone diplomacy’ regarding West Bank annexation

Israel’s Foreign Ministry hits back against the European Union’s “megaphone diplomacy” after the bloc’s foreign affairs chief warned Jerusalem against a unilateral annexation of West Bank territory in his message of congratulation to the Jewish state on its new government.

“The Israeli Foreign Ministry would like to thank the EU for their message congratulating Israel on the swearing in of a new government,” spokesperson Lior Haiat says in a statement. He goes on to express regret that “once again” the statement ignores the security threats Israel faces but instead focuses on the matter of international law in the context of Israel’s supposed plan to apply sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and all settlements across the West Bank.

“This ‘megaphone diplomacy’ is not a substitute for intimate diplomatic dialogue and will not advance the role the EU is seeking to fulfill,” Haiat says.

Three of four paragraphs in Josep Borrell’s statement Monday focused on international law, the need for a two-state solution and Brussels’ “grave concerns” over Jerusalem’s annexation plans.

— Raphael Ahren

Restaurants, bars and clubs to reopen next Wednesday

Restaurants, clubs and bars will fully reopen to the public next Wednesday after months in which only delivery and takeaway were allowed, Israel’s Restaurant Association announces.

According to an agreement reached between industry representatives and the Health Ministry, all customers will be required to have their temperatures checked and sit outside one meter apart from one another.

Public buses to run without passenger limits during rush hour starting tomorrow

Public transportation buses will be allowed to operate tomorrow without any caps on the number of passengers during rush hour in order to serve students getting to and from school, Transportation Minister Miri Regev announces in a statement.

Delta airlines to relaunch flights to Israel starting on June 3

Delta Airlines announces that it will be restarting its flights to Israel on June 3, when a flight will take off from New York to Tel Aviv.

A return flight to New York will take off on June 6 and four weekly flights will subsequently begin operating to and from the US on Saturday nights, Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays.

Waqf announces re-opening of Al-Aqsa compound next week

The Jerusalem Islamic Waqf announces that the Al-Aqsa Mosque/Temple Mount compound will reopen to visitors next week, after the conclusion of the holy month of Ramadan.

Iraq military: Rocket hit Baghdad Green Zone, minor damage

A rocket struck Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government, early this morning, according to an Iraqi military statement, the first attack on the area since a new prime minister was sworn in earlier this month.

The Katyusha rocket hit an empty house, causing minor damage. The Green Zone is where government buildings and foreign embassies are located. A preliminary investigation indicated the rocket was launched from the nearby Al-Idrisi neighborhood on Palestine Street, the statement says.

An Iraqi official says the rocket had struck near the U.S. Embassy, without elaborating. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Previous attacks have frequently targeted the US presence in Iraq, including the embassy and Iraqi bases hosting American troops. The US has blamed Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi militia group backed by Iran, for perpetrating the attacks.

The new administration of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who came to power earlier this month, is preparing for a strategic dialogue with Washington, expected to take place next month. The talks will touch on security and economic cooperation between both countries.

The issue of militias acting outside of state control is also expected to be on the agenda.

Al-Kadhimi’s government, meanwhile, is scrambling to address a severe financial crisis brought on by falling oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic.

— AP

Health minister orders office to present plan for reopening event halls by June 14

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein has instructed his office to put together a plan that will allow for the reopening of event halls and gardens by June 14, Hebrew media reports.

Biden hires former Harris aide to help with Latinx outreach

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign is bringing on the granddaughter of civil rights leader César Chávez as a senior adviser to help with Latinx outreach and building out its operation in the states.

Some Latinx leaders have criticized the Biden campaign, saying it’s not doing enough to reach out to the key demographic group.

Julie Chavez Rodriguez previously worked as co-national political director on California Sen. Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign and was her California state director before that. She also served in the Obama administration, overseeing the White House’s engagement with LGBT, Latinx, veteran, youth, education, labor and progressive leaders.

She’s joining Cristóbal Alex, a former president of the Latinx Victory Fund, who serves as Biden’s senior adviser for issues involving Hispanic voters.

— AP

Israel to receive 160 new immigrants by end of week

Forty-one new immigrants landed in Israel from Russia earlier today, Maariv reports.

They will be joined by another 119 other new immigrants by the end of the week.

Khamenei calls for arming of Palestinians in West Bank

Iran supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini tweets that “the West Bank must be armed, just as Gaza.”

“The only thing that can reduce the Palestinians’ hardships is the hand of power… Compromise won’t reduce a bit of the cruelty of this usurping, evil, wolf-like entity,” he adds.

Prosecution says it opposes PM’s request to skip opening of trial

The State Prosecutor’s Office says it opposes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request to not be required to attend the opening hearing of his corruption trial that begins next Sunday.

Chief rabbi urges PM to order immediate reopening of synagogues

Chief Rabbi David Lau is urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to order the immediate reopening of synagogues, arguing against the continued closure as other areas of public life gradually return to normal.

Researchers has shown that during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak in Israel, some 25 percent of the infections occurred in synagogues. Synagogues were shuttered in late March.

But as the number of new daily cases has gone down to fewer than 30 nationwide, and as beaches, restaurants and pubs were set to reopen by next week and even event halls got a mid-June scheduled opening date, there has been no word from the government about resuming synagogue services.

“The return to normal of shopping centers, restaurants etc. and the lack of answers on synagogues, is baffling to many,” Lau says in a letter sent to Netanyahu.

“Praying with the community takes an important part of Jewish life,” he writes. “During the closure I issued lenient halachic instructions for ways to hold public prayers under the circumstances. The public acted responsibly and acted according to the guidelines.

“From reactions I am receiving, I feel them and understand how much this hurts for them,” he continues, adding that worshipers aren’t heard because they don’t have a labor union representing their interests.

— Michael Bachner

Poll says Israelis more optimistic about future than Palestinians, Americans, Germans, Poles, Italians and Brits

Israelis are more optimistic about the future than Palestinians, Americans, Germans, Poles, Italians, and Brits, a new pandemic-timed poll carried out by the Kevoon Global Research Center says.

The poll was carried out in late April and early May in conjunction with the Israel office of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, with a representative sample of some 500 respondents in each country surveyed, and, in Israel, 502 Hebrew-speakers and 85 Arabic speakers, for a total of 3,592 respondents. The margin of error was 4.38% (and 4.05% in Israel).

A possible factor in the results: Polling continued a few days later in Israel and the Palestinian Authority than elsewhere, the survey’s methodology stated.

Asked, “In general, are you more optimistic or pessimistic toward the future?”

71% of Israelis said they’re optimistic, 22% said they’re pessimistic

58% of Palestinians said said they’re optimistic, 24% said they’re pessimistic

57% of Germans said they’re optimistic, 30% said they’re pessimistic

65% of Poles said they’re optimistic, 22% said they’re pessimistic

55% of Italians said they’re optimistic, 35% said they’re pessimistic

57% of Brits said they’re optimistic, 22% said they’re pessimistic

59% of Americans said they’re optimistic, 21% said they’re pessimistic

More women in high-tech, more Arab students: Jerusalem by the numbers

Thirty-eight percent of Jerusalem residents are Arab, 37% are non-ultra-Orthodox Jews and “others,” and 25% are ultra-Orthodox Jews, according to new statistics on the capital released by the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research.

Jerusalem is the largest Jewish city in Israel (569,900 Jewish and other residents) and the biggest Arab city in Israel (349,600 Arab residents).

For the second year in a row, the immigration balance stands at -6,000 — the smallest in the past decade. Of the emigrating population, 46% moved to localities in the Jerusalem metropolis, the JIPR stats show.

A record high number of people immigrated to Jerusalem: 12,800 people.

Of residents, 84,400 are over the age of 65. This is the largest population of elderly people in Israel, but it makes up only 9% of Jerusalem’s population, as opposed to 15% in Tel Aviv and 20% in Haifa.

The past year saw an increase in the number of Arab students: 25% increase in Arab students at the Hebrew University; 52% increase in the academic colleges; an overall 33% increase in Arab students in academic institutions in the city.

A significant growth was noted in participation of ultra-Orthodox women in high-tech — 10% of high-tech employees are ultra-Orthodox, 80% of whom are women.

As far as visitors go, 1.26 million tourists stayed in Jerusalem hotels for a total of 4.17 million nights.

Jerusalem is the city with the second most expensive apartment prices in cities with over 100,000 residents (after Tel Aviv).

Russia’s prime minister recovers from virus, resumes duties

Russia’s prime minister has fully resumed his duties after recovering from the coronavirus.

Mikhail Mishustin, 54, announced he was infected on April 30.

On Tuesday, Mishustin’s office says he’s checked out of the hospital and returned to his duties in the Cabinet headquarters. He’s set to take part in a video conference with President Vladimir Putin later in the day.

Several Cabinet ministers and Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov also have been infected. Peskov says he had double pneumonia caused by the virus. He noted he hadn’t met with Putin in person for more than a month.

Putin has limited public appearances and held most of his meetings online during the virus pandemic.


Health Ministry backs reopening hotels, swimming pools May 27

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein signed off on an order allowing bars, restaurants, nightclubs, swimming pools, hotels, youth groups, and informal classes, the ministry confirms.

Effective May 27, the rules will retain caps on the number of patrons.

For restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, venues that can fit up to 100 patrons may operate at full capacity, while those larger may only keep it 85% full. Tables must be spaced 1.5 meters apart, all customers must have their temperatures taken, and other hygiene measures are required.

For swimming pools, each swimmer must be given 10 square meters alongside the pool and 6 square meters within the water.

The order still requires government approval, the ministry says.

Netanyahu meets with new FM Ashkenazi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits down with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi for their first working meeting.

The two discussed “current diplomatic challenges and opportunities,” according to Netanyahu’s office.

Israel sends condolences to family of Chinese ambassador

The Foreign Ministry offers condolences to the family of China’s ambassador to Israel, who was found dead earlier this week at his Herzliya home, apparently of natural causes.

On behalf of Israel, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi “would like to expresses his sincere condolences on the sudden and tragic passing of H.E. Du Wei, the People’s Republic of China’s Ambassador, and offer his deepest sympathies to his family,” the statement says.

Homes evacuated in West Bank settlement of Adam as wildfire rages

Firefighters are working to extinguish a wildfire threatening the West Bank settlement of Adam, northeast of Jerusalem, authorities say.

Houses on the edge of the settlement have been evacuated.

Iran’s judiciary says annihilation of Israel nearer each year

Ahead of Quds Day on Friday, a spokesperson for Iran’s judiciary says Israel’s destruction comes closer every year.

The annual rallies against Israel have been called off this year due to the pandemic.

Gholam Hossein Esmayeeli says that every year, “on Quds day, we come closer to annihilation of Israel,” according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

“This year, the Quds day will further strengthen the Muslim people’s bonds with the oppressed Palestinians and will defeat the Great Satan, the criminal US, and its illegitimate creature,” he says.

Fire near West Bank settlement brought under control

A dozen firefighter teams bring a brush fire threatening the West Bank settlement of Adam under control, according to the Fire and Rescue Services.

UK virus toll tops 40,000, with 10,000 care home deaths

Britain’s official coronavirus death toll is now over 40,000 with almost 10,000 dead in care homes in England and Wales alone, according to a statistical update.

Some 40,902 deaths from coronavirus were registered by May 8, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), meaning the true toll will be even higher when deaths registered over the last 10 days are taken into account.

The ONS figures include deaths where COVID-19 is suspected or mentioned on the death certificate.

The government’s official rolling tally, which was 34,796 as of Monday, only records deaths after positive tests.

Either way, Britain is the worst-hit country in Europe, and the government has been criticized heavily for its response to the outbreak.


Justice minister says he won’t appoint acting state attorney right now

New Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn tells the Civil Service Commissioner he won’t appoint an acting state attorney right now.

The position is currently being filled by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, in addition to his other duties.

It has been the center of controversy after former justice minister Amir Ohana appointed Dan Eldad to the post in February. Eldad and Mandelblit clashed, with the attorney general reportedly convinced he and Ohana — a Likud minister close to the prime minister — were bent on ousting him from his post, possibly at the behest of Netanyahu, who goes on trial next week on corruption charges.

US court okays June 23 NY Democratic presidential primary

A US federal appeals court gives the green light to New York state’s June 23 Democratic presidential primary.

Three appeals judges heard arguments Friday in Manhattan.

They issue an order Tuesday morning to say they are upholding a lower court’s ruling and say a written opinion will follow.


WHO members unanimously green-light evaluation of virus response

Member states of the World Health Organization unanimously pass a resolution brought by European Union members, African nations and others calling for an independent “comprehensive evaluation” of the international response to the COVID-19 outbreak coordinated by the UN health agency.

The United States has sharply criticized the agency and its relationship with China, where the outbreak erupted.

Overnight, US President Donald Trump listed concerns and criticism about the WHO to its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Nations rally around the resolution that calls on the director-general to initiate “at the earliest appropriate moment” an evaluation that would “review experience gained and lessons learned from the WHO-coordinated international health response to COVID-19.”

It is not immediately clear how, when or by whom that evaluation will be conducted.

The resolution points to the “role of extensive immunization against COVID-19 as a global public good,” and calls on international organizations to “work collaboratively” to produce safe, effective and affordable medicines and vaccines.


Annie Glenn, widow of US astronaut John Glenn, dies at 100 of COVID-19

Annie Glenn, the widow of astronaut and US Sen. John Glenn and a communication disorders advocate, dies of complications from COVID-19. She was 100.

Glenn died at a nursing home near St. Paul, Minnesota, says Hank Wilson, a spokesman for the Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University.

At the time of John Glenn’s death in 2016, the two had been married 73 years. She had moved out of the apartment they shared in Columbus in recent years and gone to live with her daughter, Lyn, according to Wilson.

Annie Glenn was thrust into the spotlight in 1962, when her husband became the first American to orbit Earth. She shied away from the media attention because of a severe stutter.

Later, she underwent an intensive program at the Communications Research Institute at Hollins College, now Hollins University, in Roanoke, Virginia, that gave her the skills to control her stutter and to speak in public.

By the time 77-year-old John Glenn returned to space in 1998 aboard space shuttle Discovery, Annie showed she had become comfortable in her public role when she acknowledged that she had reservations about the retired senator’s second flight.

“John had announced one year before that he was going to retire as a senator, so I was looking forward to having him as my own because I had given him to our government for 55 years,” she told a NASA interviewer.

Her career in advocacy for those with communication disorders included service on the advisory boards of numerous child abuse and speech and hearing organizations. The Annie Glenn Award was created to honor individuals who overcome a communication disorder.


Netanyahu’s lawyers blast prosecution for demanding PM attend his trial opening

Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyers denounce the prosecution for demanding the prime minister be present at the start of his criminal trial next week.

In a statement, the attorneys say the demand is “unfounded.”

“This is a technical hearing and there is no need for the prime minister to be present in the courtroom,” the statement says. “The response of the prosecution serves the media hunt to display a photo of Prime Minister Netanyahu on the defendant’s bench, as part of the continued campaign of ‘just not Bibi,'” it says, referring to the prime minister’s nickname.

Netanyahu huddles with finance minister for talks on reviving economy

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Finance Minister Israel Katz to discuss how to revive the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, the premier’s office says.

“The two agreed to continue the discussions this week, during which the finance minister will present a final plan,” it says.

Auschwitz renovation uncovers objects hidden by prisoners

Renovation works at Auschwitz have turned up spoons, forks, cobbler’s tools and other objects hidden beneath a chimney flue — some that might have been used to plan escapes, a national fund says.

The objects, which also include knives, hooks, scissors, pieces of leather and parts of shoes, were found last month in block 17 of the main camp, Austria’s National Fund for Victims of National Socialism says Tuesday.

The fund commissioned the renovation and restoration works in the block at the former concentration camp in Poland in preparation for an exhibition.

“These utensils, kept out of sight of the SS guards, were perhaps used by shoemakers, or to prepare an escape or simply to be able to eat,” fund secretary general Hannah Lessing tells AFP on Tuesday.

The items were likely hidden in the chimney because block 17 was used to house manual workers.

“It is no coincidence that a chimney was used as a hiding place in the very building where chimney sweeps were accommodated,” the fund’s structural consultant Johannes Hofmeister says, according to a press release from the fund.

The objects are not expected to be on display at the exhibition, due to open in 2021, but instead have been handed over to the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum for conservation.


Suspect named in Ramat Gan murder of woman

A man suspected of murdering his girlfriend in Ramat Gan on Saturday and then stabbing her mother has been identified.

He is named as Amit Almog, 21, of Ramat Gan, according to Hebrew reports.

In first, UAE plane to fly directly to Israel, will deliver aid to Palestinians

For the first time, a UAE airline will fly directly from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv to deliver coronavirus aid to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Etihad Airways cargo plane will land tonight at 9:25 p.m., in coordination with the World Food Program and the Israeli government.

The humanitarian supplies for the Palestinians are from the UAE government.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry confirms the details.

with Raphael Ahren

UK foreign secretary congratulates Netanyahu, Gantz on new government

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab congratulates Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz on the new unity government.


Spain mandates face masks in public spaces

Spain is mandating face masks in all public spaces, including outdoors when a safe distance of 2-meters (6.5-feet) between people can’t be kept.

Health Minister Salvador Illa says the decision expands recommendations in March for masks worn only in hospitals and nursing homes.

Previously, masks were in short supply in a country ravaged by the pandemic. Last month, masks became mandatory on public transportation.

Spain has recorded more than 27,000 deaths from the coronavirus and more than 230,000 confirmed infections.


US and Canada extend border closure for another 30 days

Canada and the United States have extended their agreement to keep the border closed to nonessential travel to June 21 during the coronavirus pandemic.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the border is a source of vulnerability so the agreement will be extended by another 30 days. The restrictions were announced on March 18 and were extended in April.

Trudeau says Canada’s provincial leaders clearly wanted to continue the measures. Many Canadians fear a reopening. The US has more confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 than any country in the world, though its per-capita numbers are well below many other nations.


US risks ‘permanent damage’ from long shutdown, says Mnuchin

The US economy risks suffering “permanent damage” the longer the lockdown to contain the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says.

American families and businesses are suffering amid the nationwide shutdowns, Mnuchin tells a Senate committee, but reopening the economy will need to be done with caution.

“We’re conscious of the health issues and we want to do this in a safe way,” he says of efforts to restart the economy.

Mnuchin says the government is willing to take risks with the funds it has put up to help the economy withstand the unprecedented hit from the coronavirus pandemic.

He appears remotely before the Senate Banking Committee in an unusual joint appearance with Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell to review how officials are using the over $2 trillion in support Congress approved in late March in the so-called CARES act.

Government data show more than 30 million jobs have been destroyed, at least temporarily, by the lockdowns, and some legislators have complained that aid programs have been drained mostly by large corporations rather than the small businesses they were intended to help.


New diaspora minister: Virus an opportunity to bring Israel, world Jewry closer

Blue and White MK Omer Yankelevich takes over from Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely as minister of diaspora affairs.

At a ceremony, says Yankelevich: “We are in a global crisis. The coronavirus has created a new and complicated reality. Jewish communities around the world have sustained hard losses. The Jewish institutions around the world are in danger of closing and the economic situation and morale is at rock bottom.”

“But with all of the difficulty, this is also a great opportunity. It’s an opportunity for the State of Israel to strengthen this invisible tie linking us together, to extend a ‘shoulder,’ to express our commitment to Jews in the diaspora. This challenge must be an opportunity for change, for momentum, to create global Jewish connection and solidarity, and with the help of God we will do this.”

Yankelevich is the government’s first ever female ultra-Orthodox minister.

Prosecution, Netanyahu’s lawyers trade barbs over whether PM to appear at trial

The prosecution hits back at Netanyahu’s lawyers as the fight over whether the prime minister will appear at the start of his criminal trial escalates.

“The attorney’s statement is unacceptable, misleading and inflammatory,” says the prosecution, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

Prosecutors say the prime minister’s attorneys, in their request, had mentioned the cost of security — but did not mention the photograph of the prime minister on the defendants’ bench, as underlined in their statement to the media.

Netanyahu’s lawyers had said: “This is a technical hearing and there is no need for the prime minister to be present in the courtroom. The response of the prosecution serves the media hunt to display a photo of Prime Minister Netanyahu on the defendant’s bench, as part of the continued campaign of ‘just not Bibi,’” referring to a slogan against the premier.

German FM, PA’s premier say Israeli annexation would breach international law

A statement co-signed by Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh condemns Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank.

It says: “They noted with grave concern the agreement between coalition parties in Israel to advance plans for annexation of occupied Palestinian territories as stipulated in the Israeli coalition agreement signed on 20 April. Annexation of any part of occupied Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem constitutes a clear violation of international law and seriously undermines the chances for the two-state solution within a final status agreement.

“Germany took note of the Palestinian view that such a step would put an end to all signed agreements. Both sides emphasized that international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, constitutes a cornerstone of peace and security in the region and of a rules-based multilateral order globally.”

UN chief recommends dramatically scaled-back General Assembly

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is recommending that the annual gathering of world leaders in late September, which was supposed to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, be dramatically scaled back because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Guterres suggests in a letter to the president of the General Assembly that heads of state and government deliver prerecorded messages instead, with only one New York-based diplomat from each of the 193 UN member nations present in the General Assembly Hall.

Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande has said a decision on the annual gathering will be made after consultations with UN member states.

The meeting of world leaders usually brings thousands of government officials, diplomats and civil society representatives to New York for over a week of speeches, dinners, receptions, one-on-one meetings and hundreds of side events.

This year was expected to bring an especially large number of leaders to UN headquarters to celebrate the founding of the United Nations in 1945 on the ashes of World War II.

But New York has been an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic with over 190,000 cases and nearly 16,000 confirmed deaths.


IDF chief hints at Israeli role in cyberattack on Iran port

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi hinted at Israel’s role in a cyberattack on an Iranian port facility earlier this month, saying the military would continue to use “various military tools and specialized fighting techniques to harm the enemy.”

In his speech, at a ceremony marking a changing of commander of the IDF Home Front Command, Kohavi does not directly address a Washington Post report that Israel brought down the port’s systems, causing a total shutdown of the facility, on May 9, but seems to defend targeting a civilian port.

“An urban environment where the enemy has set up will not be a barricade for attack for us. The enemy chose to distribute missiles and rockets within villages, and turned them into military targets. And so, on the day the order [to go to war is given], the enemy will find that he has turned the home front into a fighting front, and we will attack him forcefully,” Kohavi says.

The army chief also appears to confirm that Israel was behind a series of recent airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria.

“Dozens of attacks that were carried out, including recently, have already proven the superiority of the IDF’s intelligence and firepower,” Kohavi says.

Judah Ari Gross

After Trump’s dubious endorsement, firms say hydroxychloroquine in short supply

Six drugmakers that manufacture generic hydroxychloroquine report the drug is in short supply, while three others reported in the last week that their product is available, according to the Food and Drug Administration’s drug shortages website.

The companies cite increased demand as the cause, with some stating they expect to next ship the drug at the end of May.

US President Donald Trump said Monday he has been taking hydroxychloroquine and a zinc supplement daily “for about a week and a half now,” after two White House staffers tested positive for the coronavirus. Trump has spent months pushing hydroxychloroquine as a potential cure or preventive drug for COVID-19 against the cautionary advice of many of his administration’s top medical professionals.

One of the companies, Concordia Pharmaceuticals, also makes the brand-name version, called Paquenil. It says that drug is completely unavailable but is expected to be available again at the end of this month.


Virus cases drop below 3,000; just 16 new infections in past 24 hours

Just 16 new coronavirus cases have been diagnosed in the past 24 hours and the number of active cases has dropped below 3,000, according to Health Ministry data.

The ministry says another person has died of the virus, bringing the toll to 278.

It says 2,946 are still sick with the virus. Fifty of them are in serious condition, 38 of whom are on ventilators. Another 42 are in moderate condition and the rest are showing mild symptoms.

It says 7,602 coronavirus tests were administered Monday.

US sanctions Chinese company for dealings with Iran’s Mahan Air

The US State Department blacklists a Chinese company over its business ties to Iran’s Mahan Air.

It says: “Today, the United States designated Shanghai Saint Logistics Limited, a PRC-based company that provides general sales agent services for the Specially Designated Global Terrorist Iranian airline. The United States designated Mahan Air in 2011 under a counterterrorism authority for providing material support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and again in 2019, under a weapons of mass destruction authority for shipping United Nations-restricted missile and nuclear items to Iran.

“More recently, the Iranian regime turned to Mahan Air to facilitate shipments to Venezuela to support the illegitimate former Maduro regime and its desperate attempts to boost energy production, which had fallen due to its own gross mismanagement. It is equally troubling that Mahan Air appears to be carrying gold from Venezuela’s vaults back to Iran, depriving the Venezuelan people of resources needed to rebuild their economy. As always, authoritarian regimes are more interested in their own survival than the needs of their people.

“The United States is pleased that over the last two years, governments and companies across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia have wisely severed ties with Mahan Air. This designation serves as another reminder that companies still providing services for Mahan Air – in the PRC or anywhere else – risk potential US sanctions.”

2 students at Rehovot school contract COVID-19

Two students placed in quarantine after a teacher at their Rehovot school contracted the coronavirus are confirmed to have the disease, according to Hebrew media reports.

They are among the 52 people sent into isolation after coming in contact with the staff member. The school is closed until May 27.

Study: World carbon pollution fell 17% during pandemic peak

The world cut its daily carbon dioxide emissions by 17% at the peak of the pandemic shutdown last month, a new study finds.

But with life and heat-trapping gas levels inching back toward normal, the brief pollution break will likely be “a drop in the ocean” when it comes to climate change, scientists say.

In their study of carbon dioxide emissions during the coronavirus pandemic, an international team of scientists calculate that pollution levels are heading back up — and for the year will end up between 4% and 7% lower than 2019 levels. That’s still the biggest annual drop in carbon emissions since World War II.

It’ll be 7% if the strictest lockdown rules remain all year long across much of the globe, 4% if they are lifted soon.

For a week in April, the United States cut its carbon dioxide levels by about one-third. China, the world’s biggest emitter of heat-trapping gases, sliced its carbon pollution by nearly a quarter in February, according to a study Tuesday in the journal Nature Climate Change. India and Europe cut emissions by 26% and 27% respectively.

The biggest global drop was from April 4 through 9 when the world was spewing 18.7 million tons (17 million metric tons) of carbon pollution a day less than it was doing on New Year’s Day.

Such low global emission levels haven’t been recorded since 2006. But if the world returns to its slowly increasing pollution levels next year, the temporary reduction amounts to ‘’a drop in the ocean,” says study lead author Corinne LeQuere, a climate scientist at the University of East Anglia.


Schools, kindergartens told to open doors at 7:30 a.m. to avoid crowding

The Education Ministry orders all schools and kindergartens to open their doors at 7:30 a.m., effective on Wednesday, to avoid crowding at the entrances at the start of the school day.

According to the Walla news site, the decision comes after the new Education Minister Yoav Gallant toured a school on Tuesday and saw a bottleneck around 7:55 a.m. at the entrance.

UN thanks UAE for coronavirus equipment for Palestinians

The Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process thanks the UAE for sending medical equipment to the Palestinians to help combat the virus.

It details the supplies on board the Etihad flight, which is set to land in Israel shortly, marking the first time a commercial flight has flown from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv.

“The aid includes personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical equipment. Most notably, it includes 10 ventilators that are acutely needed,” it says in a statement.

30-year-old man dies after his car crashes into camel — report

A 30-year-old man has died after his car collides with a stray camel on a southern Israel highway, according to Hebrew reports.

The crash takes place on Highway 222 in the Negev.

First commercial flight from Abu Dhabi to Israel lands in Tel Aviv

The Etihad flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv has landed, marking the first time a commercial airliner has completed the route.

The plane is carrying coronavirus medical aid for the Palestinians from the UAE.

Israeli inventors create face mask with slot for eating in public

Israeli restaurants will reopen next week and require about 5 feet between patrons, but what about people who aren’t ready to take off their masks when they eat in public?

Some Israeli inventors have created a face mask for the coronavirus age that will allow wearers to eat food without removing it.

The mask has a slot that opens with a hand remote lever to allow food to go through, Reuters first reports. Drippy dishes might not fare very well, the story says, but solid foods “can be gobbled up in a flash a la Pac-Man.”

The developer, Tel Aviv-area based Avtipus Patents and Inventions, tells Reuters that it has already submitted a patent for the mask and plans to start manufacturing in the next few months.


Egypt announces further measures to contain virus

CAIRO — Egypt has announced further anti-virus measures to follow Eid al-Fitr, the three-day festival that marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly says that starting May 30, the government will require people to wear face masks in public places, with violators fined 4,000 pounds (around $250) by police.

As Egypt’s curve accelerates, calls for tighter movement restrictions in the Arab world’s most populous country are growing. The number of detected cases in the state jumps by 720 today to 13,484 infections and 659 deaths, the highest single-day increase.

— AP

IDF troops detain 2 suspected asylum seekers who crossed border from Lebanon

Israeli troops detain two suspects who crossed into Israel from Lebanon.

The military says the suspects appeared to be asylum seekers and were tracked down soon after they crossed the border.

The incident comes two days after soldiers shot a man who crossed into Israel from Lebanon for unknown reasons and weeks after five African migrants were detained while crossing the border.

Doctor touting malaria drug for virus treatment claims Trump ‘smart’ to take it

Dr. Vladimir “Zev” Zelenko, believed to be the unnamed doctor mentioned by Donald Trump who touted hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19, says he thinks the US president is “smart” to self-administer the malaria drug.

Asked what he thought of the president’s tactic, Zelenko tells Channel 12: “I said good for him, and I think good for us. I think the president’s smart. He’s in his 70s and he’s exposed to many people, and he’s at high risk. He’s doing exactly what I’m doing.”

Trump decided to take hydroxychloroquine after two White House staffers tested positive for the disease, but he already had spent months promoting the drug as a potential cure or preventive despite the cautionary advice of many of his administration’s top medical professionals. The drug has the potential to cause significant side effects in some patients and has not been shown to combat the virus.

“I got a letter from a doctor the other day, from Westchester, New York, around the area, he did not want anything. He just said: ‘Sir I have hundreds of patients and I give them hydroxychloroquine, I give them the z-pack, which is azithromycin, and I give them zinc, and out of the hundreds of patients, many patients, more than 300, I haven’t lost one,’” Trump said. “He said: ‘Please keep pressing that sir.’”

Trump did not name the doctor, but it matches the description of Jewish physician  Zelenko who has put out several videos addressed to the public, Trump, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touting the use of those three drugs in his treatment of hundreds of cases.

Trump emphatically defends himself Tuesday against criticism from medical experts and others that his announced use of a malaria drug against the coronavirus could spark wide misuse by Americans of the unproven treatment with potentially fatal side effects.

Trump’s bland statement a day earlier that he was taking hydroxychloroquine caught many in his administration by surprise and set off an urgent effort by officials to justify his action. The government has warned that the drug should be administered for COVID-19 only in a hospital or research setting.

with AP

With masks and distancing, synagogues, mosques to reopen Wednesday

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to allow synagogues and other houses of worship to reopen from Wednesday, with some health restrictions, following meetings with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat, his office says.

No more than 50 people will be permitted in a single closed area, under the new government guidelines. Worshipers must wear masks and keep 2 meters’ distance from one another. The houses of worship must also appoint an official to ensure the coronavirus rules are not flouted.

As pandemic set in, Orthodox Union furloughed a quarter of its staff

The Orthodox Union, an umbrella organization for Orthodox synagogues and a major certifier of kosher food, laid off or furloughed 125 employees in early April — approximately a quarter of its workforce.

Most of those affected were furloughed, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the organization, which also runs programs for teens, college students and young adults with disabilities as well as synagogue-related services.

The move came early in the pandemic, before many other Jewish organizations were forced to impose layoffs or furloughs as the economy dipped. But by Passover, which began April 6, it became clear that much of the Orthodox Union’s work — particularly the in-person programming run by its youth department — would not be possible due to social distancing.

“Like many in the not-for-profit community, we have had to realign our staffing models and furlough staff to reflect the new economic and programming realities, particularly the reduction in programming and donation revenue and the change to virtual programming,” Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the OU, said in a statement.

The organization declined to comment on the number of furloughs and layoffs imposed.


Iran’s supreme leader says UAE flight to Israel ‘the biggest treachery’

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is condemning Gulf states for working with Israel and betraying the Palestinians, in an apparent reference to the UAE flight that landed in Tel Aviv earlier today.

He calls the move the “biggest treachery.”

The Etihad cargo plane carrying aid for the Palestinians is the first known direct commercial flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv.

Abbas says PA no longer bound by Oslo agreements, security coordination with Israel

With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying he intends to annex parts of the West Bank, PA President Mahmoud Abbas says the Palestinian leadership is no longer bound by the Oslo agreements with Jerusalem, including security coordination, and says Israel is now responsible for the civilian Palestinian population.

He makes the announcement in a speech in Ramallah, saying “the Palestine Liberation Organization and the State of Palestine are absolved, as of today, of all the agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments and of all the commitments based on these understandings and agreements, including the security ones,” according to the official Wafa news agency.

“Second, the Israeli occupation authority, as of today, has to shoulder all responsibilities and obligations in front of the international community as an occupying power over the territory of the occupied state of Palestine, with all its consequences and repercussions based on international law and international humanitarian law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which holds the occupying power responsible for the protection of the civilian population under occupation and their property, criminalizes collective punishment, bans theft of resources, appropriation and annexation of land, bans forced transfer of the population of the occupied territory and bans transfer of the population of the occupying state (the colonialists) to the land it occupies, which all are grave violations and war crimes.”

Abbas has threatened to tear up all agreements with Israel on dozens of occasions. It remains unclear whether the declaration in his latest speech will be implemented.

Synagogues, beaches officially reopen

Synagogues and beaches are reopening Wednesday morning after being shuttered for some two months as part of regulations meant to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Pictures on social media and in the Hebrew-language press show worshippers attending morning prayers.

“We missed this! Back to Synagogue, Halleluyah!” tweets former Likud MK Yehudah Glick from a prayer service.

Under the rules, synagogues may host up to 50 people, so long as they maintain a distance of two meters between each other and wear masks. They must also appoint a coronavirus coordinator, kind of like a sexton, but for a pathogen.

Beaches are also officially opening, though Israelis have not exactly been staying away amid a sweltering heatwave. Under new regulations, the beaches will need to keep “Purple Badge” hygienic standards, including regular disinfecting of public facilities, like bathrooms.

Israelis on the beach in Tel Aviv on May 16, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
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