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Hamas says it reaches deal with Qatar for it to subsidize Gaza public employees

Deal between Hamas, Egypt and Qatar will see Doha send fuel to Gaza from Egypt for Hamas to resell in order to help cover payrolls

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Palestinians receive their $100 financial aid as part of the aid allocated by Qatar to poor families, through a post office, in the town of Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip, on December 3, 2020. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Palestinians receive their $100 financial aid as part of the aid allocated by Qatar to poor families, through a post office, in the town of Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip, on December 3, 2020. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

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

ADL offering $10,000 reward for information in 3 Brooklyn antisemitic attacks

In this illustrative photo from December 11, 2019, Orthodox Jewish men pass by New York City police guarding a Brooklyn synagogue prior to a funeral for Mosche Deutsch, a rabbinical student from Brooklyn who was killed in a shooting at a Jersey City, New Jersey market. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
In this illustrative photo from December 11, 2019, Orthodox Jewish men pass by New York City police guarding a Brooklyn synagogue prior to a funeral for Mosche Deutsch, a rabbinical student from Brooklyn who was killed in a shooting at a Jersey City, New Jersey market. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

The Anti-Defamation League is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for three antisemitic attacks reported in Brooklyn in just the past week.

New York City police officers say they are searching for three women seen slapping three visibly Jewish children in incidents on Friday and Sunday.

“We are outraged by this string of attacks targeting Jewish children and youth,” says the ADL’s NY/NJ director, Scott Richman.

“Two of the three incidents occurred on the first night of Hanukkah, which should be a time of celebration, not fear and trauma for our young people. ADL is offering this award to send a clear message that hate-motivated violence is absolutely unacceptable.”

Drill at Ben Gurion Airport simulates mass-casualty plane crash

The 'Eagle' emergency drill held at Ben Gurion International Airport, on November 30, 2021. (Magen David Adom)
The 'Eagle' emergency drill held at Ben Gurion International Airport, on November 30, 2021. (Magen David Adom)

First responders hold a major drill at Ben Gurion International Airport simulating a mass casualty incident on the runway.

Officials from the Airports Authority, the IDF Home Front Command, Israel Police, Fire and Rescue Services and Magen David Adom hold the “Eagle” drill, which simulates the crash of a plane carrying 250 people.

The exercise included airlifting patients to hospitals via helicopters as well as providing triage on site and evacuating other victims. Twenty MDA ambulances and hundreds of paramedics took part in the drill.

“It is my hope that we will never be called to a live scenario and need to put our knowledge to use,” says MDA director-general Eli Bin.

“If, God forbid, we will need to do so, MDA is capable of responding within minutes, with more than 100 emergency vehicles, including ambulances, MICUs, Medi-Cycles, command and control vehicles, and at the same time to continue to provide the response to routine medical emergencies and maintain the preparedness for additional emergency incidents.”

TV: Israeli official says killing Fakhrizadeh did not slow down Iran’s nukes

A billboard carries a portrait of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an Iranian scientist linked to the country's nuclear program who was killed by unknown assailants, at the site of his killing in Absard east of the capital, Tehran, Iran, on December 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
A billboard carries a portrait of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an Iranian scientist linked to the country's nuclear program who was killed by unknown assailants, at the site of his killing in Absard east of the capital, Tehran, Iran, on December 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

An unnamed Israeli official cited on Channel 12 news says that the killing of Iranian nuclear chief Mohsen Fakhrizadeh last year did not have the desired effect.

“The killing of Fakhrizadeh a year ago did not brake Iran’s progress as was hoped,” the anonymous official is quoted as saying about the assassination attributed to the Mossad. “The current situation is the most advanced that Iran has ever reached.”

Therefore, the official adds, “there is a huge global Israeli effort — both publicly and behind the scenes — to push for an upgraded agreement as well as simultaneously building a large and significant attack plan.”

Talks between Iran and world powers about a return to the 2015 nuclear deal kicked off yesterday in Vienna after close to a six-month suspension in talks.

Earlier today, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with French President Emanuel Macron and urged him not to lift sanctions on Iran, but instead to ready a credible military threat against Tehran.

Ex-Trump aide cooperating with inquiry into Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows speaks on a phone on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, on October 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows speaks on a phone on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, on October 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Mark Meadows, Donald Trump’s former chief of staff, is cooperating with a House panel investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection and providing some documents, according to the committee’s chairman.

But the panel “will continue to assess his degree of compliance,” Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson says.

The agreement comes after two months of negotiations between Meadows and the committee, and after the Justice Department indicted longtime Trump ally Steve Bannon for defying a subpoena.

Thompson says Meadows has produced records and will soon appear for an initial deposition.

“The Select Committee expects all witnesses, including Mr. Meadows, to provide all information requested and that the Select Committee is lawfully entitled to receive,” the congressman says.

Meadows’ lawyer, George Terwilliger, says he is continuing to work with the committee and its staff on a “potential accommodation” that would not require Meadows to waive executive privilege nor “forfeit the long-standing position that senior White House aides cannot be compelled to testify before Congress,” as Trump has argued.

Israel comes 19th in COVID resilience ranking published by Bloomberg

Travelers seen arriving at the Ben Gurion Airport, on November 28, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Travelers seen arriving at the Ben Gurion Airport, on November 28, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Israel ranks 19th among countries in terms of how well it has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new data compiled by the Bloomberg news site.

The ranking of the world’s 53 largest economies is determined by 12 different data indicators, according to the site, including healthcare quality, vaccination coverage and the reopening of travel options.

Topping the list is the United Arab Emirates, followed by Chile and then Finland; the United States ranks in 13th place. Israel rose 10 spots from the last Bloomberg ranking, and it ranks third overall in vaccine doses per 100.

Hamas says deal reached with Qatar to resume payments to Gaza public employees

Security forces loyal to Hamas organize a line outside the central post office in Gaza City, on January 26, 2019, as Palestinians gather to receive financial aid from Qatar. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
Security forces loyal to Hamas organize a line outside the central post office in Gaza City, on January 26, 2019, as Palestinians gather to receive financial aid from Qatar. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

A Hamas official says it has reached an agreement by which Qatar will resume subsidizing the salaries of public employees by sending fuel to the Gaza Strip.

Qatar was contributing to the salaries of some 50,000 employees of the Hamas-run government up until the 11-day war in May by sending suitcases of cash into the territory through Israel. Israel’s new government, which was sworn in the following month, vowed to stop that arrangement.

Under the deal reached with Qatar and Egypt, the wealthy Gulf nation will send fuel to Gaza from Egypt that Hamas can resell in order to help cover payrolls, the official says, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivities around the agreement. There is no immediate comment from Qatar.

Hamas civil servants have received irregular payments in lieu of full salaries for years due to a prolonged financial crisis. Even with the Qatari aid, most public workers only receive 55 percent of their paycheck at best.

Lapid warns Macron: Iran is just buying time at Vienna nuclear talks

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (right) meets with French President Emanuel Macron in Paris, on November 30, 2021. (MFA / Quentin Crestinu)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (right) meets with French President Emanuel Macron in Paris, on November 30, 2021. (MFA / Quentin Crestinu)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid wraps up a three-day trip to London and Paris with a long meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron.

The two spoke at length about the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna, which kicked off yesterday after a nearly six-month hiatus, says the Foreign Ministry.

Lapid tells Macron that Israel believes Iran is merely buying time at the talks in order to continue making progress in its nuclear program, and to have crippling economic sanctions removed. Israel’s top diplomat also emphasizes the need to develop an effective Plan B if talks fail.

“After many years, Israel’s position is being heard and Israel’s position is firm,” Lapid says. “Sanctions on Iran must not be removed. Sanctions must be tightened, a credible military threat must be applied, because only that will stop its nuclear race.”

Lapid pledges that he, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, and Defense Minister Benny Gantz will continue to work to ensure that the world understands the Iranian nuclear threat.

Macron and Lapid also discuss expanding the economic and security bilateral relationship between the two countries.

Yesterday, Lapid met with Britain’s prime minister and foreign minister.

Russian diplomat says US ready to lift sanctions on Iran in nuclear deal talks

Russia's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mikhail Ulyanov, stands in front of the Grand Hotel Vienna where closed-door nuclear talks with Iran take place, in Vienna, Austria, on Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)
Russia's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mikhail Ulyanov, stands in front of the Grand Hotel Vienna where closed-door nuclear talks with Iran take place, in Vienna, Austria, on Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)

Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian envoy to the international bodies in Vienna, says that the US is ready to lift sanctions on Iran in order to pave the way for a return to the 2015 nuclear deal.

“The #US confirms its readiness to lift all #sanctions inconsistent with the #JCPOA in exchange for return of #Iran to full compliance with JCPOA,” tweets Ulyanov of the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “But in multilateral diplomacy, the devil is in the details. The concrete list of sanctions to be lifted is subject to negotiations.”

Talks between Iran and world powers restarted yesterday in Vienna months after they were suspended in June. The US — which pulled out of the deal under former president Donald Trump — is only participating indirectly in the negotiations.

The Biden administration has repeatedly said that it would only lift sanctions in return for concrete and evident changes in Iran’s behavior, and that not all sanctions would be lifted.

European diplomats: Iran nuclear talks are still in holding pattern

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addresses the parliament in Tehran, on November 16, 2021. (Atta Kenare/AFP)
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addresses the parliament in Tehran, on November 16, 2021. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

European diplomats indicate that talks on the Iranian nuclear deal, which kicked off yesterday, are still in very early stages, reports Reuters.

According to the report, diplomats tell reporters that negotiators are still waiting to see if the talks can pick back up where they left off in June, before they were suspended and before the election of hardline Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

Diplomats from France, the UK and Germany say that the issue of Iran’s centrifuges — which it is using to enrich uranium to levels way beyond that agreed to in the 2015 deal — remains an unresolved issue.

If Iran does not show it is serious about returning to negotiations, the talks could quickly stall, the diplomats reportedly say.

UN Mideast envoy says settler violence is ‘alarmingly high’

Masked men, allegedly Israeli settlers, wield clubs during what eyewitnesses and police called an attack on Palestinians seeking to harvest olives near Surif, on November 12, 2021. (Credit: Shai Kendler)
Masked men, allegedly Israeli settlers, wield clubs during what eyewitnesses and police called an attack on Palestinians seeking to harvest olives near Surif, on November 12, 2021. (Credit: Shai Kendler)

Tor Wennesland, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, says that settler violence against Palestinians is “alarmingly high.”

“Settler-related violence remains at alarmingly high levels, amid continued tensions over settlement expansion and the annual olive harvest season,” Wennesland tells a meeting of the UN Security Council.

“Since the harvest began on October 4, some 3,000 olive trees have been damaged or have had their harvest stolen,” he adds. “Physical attacks on Palestinian farmers, volunteers and humanitarian staff have also been recorded, some reportedly taking place in the presence of Israeli security forces.”

Wennesland also noted the “severe fiscal and economic crisis” facing the Palestinian Authority and threatening its stability. He also criticizes “Israeli settlement expansion and demolitions” as leading the sides further away from a return to peace talks.

He also condemns the recent fatal shooting of an Israeli civilian in the Old City of Jerusalem by a Hamas operative. “Violent attacks and acts of terrorism can never be justified and must be condemned by all.”

Wennesland criticizes Israeli settlement building, but praises the recent decision to also announce plans for thousands of new homes for Palestinians.

“While such steps are welcome, I urge Israel to advance more such plans and issue building permits for all previously approved plans for Palestinians in Area C and East Jerusalem,” he says.

Minister says he supports US plan to reopen Jerusalem consulate serving Palestinians

Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Frej at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on July 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Frej at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on July 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Frej says he supports US plans to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem serving Palestinians — which stands directly opposed to the position of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

“I have no problem with this, I’m in favor of it,” Frej, a member of the left-wing Meretz party, tells Army Radio. “This is an American decision and it needs to weigh its own interests with those of the Palestinian Authority — it doesn’t bother me.”

Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid have made it clear that they oppose such a move, which US President Joe Biden pledged to do so before and after he was sworn into office. Israeli government officials have privately expressed their opposition to the move to US officials, and the current timeline remains unclear.

Health minister: Early data shows the booster works against Omicron

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz speaks during a press conference at a vaccine center for children in Tel Aviv on November 23, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz speaks during a press conference at a vaccine center for children in Tel Aviv on November 23, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz says that early data shows that those who have three doses of the Pfizer COVID vaccine are well protected against the new Omicron variant.

In comments made while visiting the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, Horowitz urges Israelis not to panic about the new variant, which caused Israel to shut its borders to foreigners and reinstate quarantine measures for vaccinated travelers.

“The situation is under control, there is no need for panic,” says Horowitz. “We expected a new variant, and we’re ready… in the next few days we will have more precise information about the vaccine’s effectiveness, but early indications show that those who have a booster are most likely protected against this variant.”

Tens of thousands protest in anti-military marches in Sudan

Protesters call for a civilian government during demonstrations near the presidential palace in Khartoum, Sudan, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)
Protesters call for a civilian government during demonstrations near the presidential palace in Khartoum, Sudan, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)

Security forces fire tear gas at anti-coup protesters in the Sudanese capital, as tens of thousands march in the latest demonstrations against a military takeover that took place last month.

Protesters take to the streets in Khartoum and other cities around the country to demand that the armed forces stay out of government.

Deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was reinstated earlier this month under military oversight in a deal that many in the pro-democracy movement oppose. Since the generals seized power on Oct. 25 and rounded up more than 100 civilian government figures, protesters have repeatedly taken to the streets.

In a video streamed online from the Bahri neighborhood of Khartoum, a few protesters throw stones as security forces repeatedly fire tear gas and use sound bombs to try to disperse them.

Sudanese security forces have cracked down on the rallies and have killed some 43 protesters so far, according the Sudan Doctors’ Committee, which tracks protester deaths.

The group says that the latest death is that of a protester who died from hemorrhaging in the skull after being badly beaten by security forces during a march last week.

Iran defends its actions following 2020 downing of Ukrainian jet

Candles light up a photo of one of the victims of Ukrainian Airlines flight 752 which crashed in Iran earlier, during a vigil at Mel Lastman Square in Toronto, Ontario on January 9, 2020. (Geoff Robins / AFP)
Candles light up a photo of one of the victims of Ukrainian Airlines flight 752 which crashed in Iran earlier, during a vigil at Mel Lastman Square in Toronto, Ontario on January 9, 2020. (Geoff Robins / AFP)

Iran is defending its measures taken after its downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet in 2020 following fresh criticism by Kyiv.

On January 8, 2020, Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 crashed shortly after takeoff from Iran’s capital Tehran killing all 176 people on board, most of them Iranians and Canadians, including dual nationals.

The Islamic Republic admitted three days later that its forces mistakenly shot down the Kyiv-bound Boeing 737-800 plane, after firing two missiles.

“All aspects of the incident have been adequately addressed in three sessions of talks and in contacts between the two countries,” Iran’s foreign ministry says. “However, Iran is still ready to continue communications with Ukraine.”

Last week, Kyiv criticized Iran for what it said was its lack of cooperation, and called on Tehran “to comply with its obligations under international law and provide the information” it requested. Canada, Britain, Sweden and Ukraine all accused Iran last week of stalling redress for the families of victims.

But Tehran, which offered $150,000 to each of the families of the victims of the crash, says it has started payments.

“In order to appease the families, Iran has fixed an amount to be paid to them, without any discrimination such as their nationality,” the Iranian statement says. “So far, a large number of them have been paid and legal steps are underway to pay the rest.”

Head of UNRWA says funding crisis leaves refugee agency unable to pay salaries

Palestinian students affiliated with UNRWA wear face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic, in Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, on November 25, 2020. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Palestinian students affiliated with UNRWA wear face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic, in Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, on November 25, 2020. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees says it is unable to pay its 28,000 employees on time this month because of a major funding crisis, warning of potential cuts in vital services to millions of people amid a global pandemic.

UNRWA runs schools, clinics and food distribution programs for millions of registered Palestinian refugees across the Middle East. The agency is regularly harshly criticized by Israel, which accuses it of perpetuating the 73-year refugee crisis, supporting incitement against Israel and turning a blind eye to terrorist activities.

The agency also went through a management crisis in 2019, when its previous head resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct, nepotism and other abuses of authority at the agency.

UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini tells reporters in Jordan that the resumption of US support for the agency this year — which had been halted by the Trump administration — was offset by a reduction in funding by other donors.

Staff went on strike yesterday after being informed last week that salaries would be delayed, but halted the action following mediation, Lazzarini says.

“If UNRWA health services are compromised in the middle of a global pandemic, COVID-19 vaccination rollout will come to an end. Maternal and childcare will stop, half a million girls and boys not knowing if they can continue learning, and over two million of the poorest Palestinian refugees will not get cash and food assistance,” he says. “The humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugees keep increasing while funding to the agency has stagnated since 2013.”

New data shows Omicron variant spread wider earlier than thought

Travelers wearing protective face masks arrive at Ben Gurion Airport, Nov. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Travelers wearing protective face masks arrive at Ben Gurion Airport, Nov. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

New findings about the coronavirus’s Omicron variant make it clear that the emerging threat slipped into countries well before their defenses were up.

The Netherlands’ RIVM health institute says it has found Omicron in samples dating from November 19 and 23.

The World Health Organization says South Africa first reported the variant to the UN health agency on November 24.

Meanwhile, Japan and France report their first cases of the new variant, which has forced the world once again to pinball between hopes of returning to normal and fears that the worst is yet to come.

And German authorities say they have identified an Omicron infection in a man who had neither been abroad nor had contact with anyone who was.

Thousands of Arab Israelis attend West Bank universities — report

Jenin's Arab American University. (YouTube screenshot)
Jenin's Arab American University. (YouTube screenshot)

Close to 6,000 Israeli citizens attend the Arab American University in the West Bank city of Jenin, reports the Kan public broadcaster.

Israelis make up about 50% of the student body, according to the report, most of whom later return to work in Israel. The private university does not require the psychometric entrance exam that Israeli universities do, which is purportedly a major draw.

According to the report, thousands of Arab Israelis also attend other West Bank universities, opting for them in large numbers over schools located within Israel.

WHO urges ‘rational’ measures against Omicron COVID variant

People line up to get on the Air France flight to Paris at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, Friday Nov. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
People line up to get on the Air France flight to Paris at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, Friday Nov. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

The World Health Organization calls on countries to keep calm and take “rational” measures in response to the new, fast-spreading COVID variant Omicron, which has sparked global panic.

“We call on all member states to take rational, proportional risk-reduction measures,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says in a briefing to countries.

“We still have more questions than answers about the effect of Omicron on transmission, severity of disease, and the effectiveness of tests, therapeutics and vaccines,” he adds.

Military helicopter crash in Azerbaijan kills 14, wounds 2

A picture taken on April 2, 2016 obtained from the Nagorno Karabakh Republic Defence Ministry's official website reportedly showing the remains of a downed Azerbaijan helicopter in Nagorny Karabakh after clashes between Armenian and Azeri forces (AFP Photo/HO)
Illustrative: The remains of a downed Azerbaijan helicopter seen on April 2, 2016. (AFP Photo/HO)

A military helicopter crashes in Azerbaijan during a training flight, killing 14 people and wounding two, say Azerbaijani authorities.

The helicopter of Azerbaijan’s State Border Guard service crashes during a flight over the Garaeybat training ground in the east of Azerbaijan, according to a joint statement of the border guard service and Azerbaijan’s Prosecutor General’s office.

It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the crash, which the two state agencies are investigating.

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and his wife Mekhriban Aliyeva extend their condolences to the families of the victims.

2 doctors infected with Omicron COVID variant; confirmed cases in Israel hit 4

A healthcare worker conducts a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 test on a traveler at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on November 27, 2021, after several countries banned flights from South Africa following the discovery of a new COVID-19 variant Omicron. (Phill Magakoe / AFP)
A healthcare worker conducts a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 test on a traveler at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on November 27, 2021, after several countries banned flights from South Africa following the discovery of a new COVID-19 variant Omicron. (Phill Magakoe / AFP)

The number of confirmed cases of the Omicron COVID variant in Israel has risen to at least four.

In addition to two earlier cases diagnosed — one in a traveler from South Africa and another in someone visiting from Malawi — two doctors test positive for the new strain. One of the doctors, both of whom work at the Sheba Medical Center, recently returned from a conference in London, and the other came in close contact with him.

Both doctors had received three doses of the Pfizer COVID vaccine, says the hospital.

The Health Ministry says it is investigating more than 30 other positive COVID patients who it suspects may also be infected with the Omicron variant, which originated in South Africa and has caused global alarm, leading Israel and other countries to shut their borders to foreigners once again.

Bennett discusses Omicron variant with leaders of Austria, Czech Republic

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a video consultation with the leaders of Austria and the Czech Republic on November 30, 2021. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a video consultation with the leaders of Austria and the Czech Republic on November 30, 2021. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks with the leaders of Austria and the Czech Republic to discuss cooperation on COVID-19 and the threat of the new Omicron variant.

“I just finished a consultation with Chancellor of Austria @a_schallenberg & Czech PM @AndrejBabis on how each of our countries is combatting #COVID-19 & preparing for #Omicron,” tweets Bennett. “COVID affects people across the globe, so the global community must unite and take it on together.”

PA President Mahmoud Abbas meets Qatari ruler in Doha

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Doha on November 30, 2021. (WAFA)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Doha on November 30, 2021. (WAFA)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to discuss bilateral relations, according to Abbas’s office.

“The president discussed with the emir of Qatar how to strengthen bilateral relations and means to develop them in every field,” Abbas’s office says in a laconic statement.

The Palestinian Authority is currently watching its deficit balloon as it undergoes a sustained financial crisis. The European Union and wealthy Arab Gulf states have shelled out almost no aid to Ramallah over the past year. In 2019, Qatar sent $54 million to support the PA budget; it has sent none so far this year.

Qatar is a key patron of Abbas’s rivals in Hamas; Qatari envoys have occasionally brokered talks between Abbas’s Fatah movement and the terror group.

But Abbas also has close personal ties to the country: he spent time in political exile in Doha in the early 2000s, and his son, Mazen, a businessman, lived there for years before dying of a heart attack in 2002.

Abbas last visited Doha in late 2020 during the buildup to the planned Palestinian national elections. Abbas later canceled the vote, a move widely seen as an attempt to avoid an embarrassing defeat by his rivals in Hamas and within his own Fatah movement.

Abbas also met with Lebanese President Michel Aoun last night following the opening soccer match of the Arab Cup of Nations in Doha, his office says.

Judges reject Netanyahu trial witness’s request for closed-door cross-examination

Nir Hefetz seen as he arrives for a hearing at the Jerusalem District Court on November 30, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Nir Hefetz seen as he arrives for a hearing at the Jerusalem District Court on November 30, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Judges in the corruption trial against Benjamin Netanyahu reject the request of a key witness to give parts of his testimony behind closed doors.

Earlier today, attorneys for state witness Nir Hefetz, a former aide to the ex-prime minister, submitted a request for portions of the cross-examination — those linked to his interrogation by police following his arrest — to be held without media present. Hefetz has claimed that portions of the testimony could harm his privacy and the privacy of his family and violate a gag order on certain elements of the case that would embarrass him.

Hefetz says that police interrogators utilized “draconian” interrogation tactics against him during their questioning.

But judges reject the request, ruling that the cross-examination will be held publicly, although they will consider kicking out media for specific narrow instances. Judges say that the hearing should be public, “with an exception made if a public hearing will deter a witness.”

MI6 spy chief says China, Russia, Iran sit atop UK’s threat list

In this photo released on June 10, 2021, by the Iranian army, an Iranian warship moves in the Atlantic Ocean. (Iranian Army via AP)
In this photo released on June 10, 2021, by the Iranian army, an Iranian warship moves in the Atlantic Ocean. (Iranian Army via AP)

China, Russia and Iran pose three of the biggest threats to the UK in a fast-changing, unstable world, says the head of Britain’s foreign intelligence agency.

MI6 chief Richard Moore says the three countries and international terrorism make up the “big four” security issues confronting Britain’s spies.

In his first public speech since becoming head of the Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6, in October 2020, Moore says China is the intelligence agency’s “single greatest priority” as the country’s leadership increasingly backs “bold and decisive action” to further its interests.

Moore says Iran also poses a major threat, and uses the political and militant group Hezbollah — “a state within a state” — to fuel political turmoil in neighboring countries.

Chevron slapped with $150,000 fine for Leviathan gas malfunction

An Israeli Navy submarine is seen near Israel's offshore Leviathan gas field in the Mediterranean Sea, September 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
An Israeli Navy submarine is seen near Israel's offshore Leviathan gas field in the Mediterranean Sea, September 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The Environmental Protection Ministry fines the Chevron Mediterranean company NIS 457,000 ($144,000) for violating its emissions permit by failing to burn gas before it was released into the atmosphere.

Natural gas is mainly methane, a powerful global warming gas. When it is burned, it releases carbon dioxide, which is less powerful in terms of warming than methane, although it stays in the atmosphere for much longer.

On October 17, 2020, following a fire in the kitchen of the Leviathan gas rig, gas was pumped out into the atmosphere via the platform’s flare without being ignited as it should have been, according to the ministry.

This was due to a malfunction that disrupted the electrical supply to all five pilot lights on board.

Jewish far-right candidate launches French presidential bid

French far-right media pundit Eric Zemmour waves as he arrives to speak at the ILEC Conference Centre in west London on November 19, 2021, during an evening with members of London's French community. (Tolga Akmen / AFP)
French far-right media pundit Eric Zemmour waves as he arrives to speak at the ILEC Conference Centre in west London on November 19, 2021, during an evening with members of London's French community. (Tolga Akmen / AFP)

French far-right media pundit Eric Zemmour announces that he will run for president in next year’s election, adding his controversial and fiercely anti-immigration voice to the field of challengers seeking to unseat President Emmanuel Macron.

“I have decided to take our destiny in my hands. I have decided to run in the presidential election,” Zemmour says in a YouTube video heavy on anti-immigrant warnings and pledges to restore the country’s grandeur on the world stage.

“It is no longer the time to reform France, but to save it,” Zemmour says, claiming that many voters “no longer recognize your country.”

Denouncing the “decline and decadence” of France, he says that Macron has promised to be something new, but turned out just to be a “synthesis of his predecessors.”

The official announcement by Zemmour, the son of Algerian Jewish parents who migrated to France, suggests he believes he has the financing and backing to dislodge Macron and outshine veteran far-right leader Marine Le Pen in next April’s election.

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