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Iran preparing to enrich uranium to weapons-grade soon, Israel said to warn US

Israeli intelligence presented to Washington reportedly indicates that once preparations completed, Tehran will be able within weeks to reach 90% purity, which has no civilian use

In this image made from April 17, 2021, video released by the Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting, IRIB, state-run TV, various centrifuge machines line the hall damaged on April 11, 2021, at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility, some 200 miles (322 km) south of the capital Tehran. (IRIB via AP, File)
In this image made from April 17, 2021, video released by the Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting, IRIB, state-run TV, various centrifuge machines line the hall damaged on April 11, 2021, at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility, some 200 miles (322 km) south of the capital Tehran. (IRIB via AP, File)

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

Iran preparing to enrich uranium to weapons-grade soon, Israel said to warn US

Various centrifuge machines line a hall at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility, on April 17, 2021. (screenshot, Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting - IRIB, via AP)
Various centrifuge machines line a hall at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility, on April 17, 2021. (screenshot, Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting - IRIB, via AP)

Israel has been sharing intelligence with the United States showing that Iran is preparing to enrich uranium to weapons-grade 90 percent purity, the Walla news site reports, citing two US sources briefed on the matter.

Iran is currently enriching uranium to 60% purity, already far exceeding the cap set in the 2015 nuclear deal. There is no civilian use for 90%-enriched uranium.

The preparations could enable Tehran to reach the weapons-grade level within weeks, the report says, adding that Israeli analysts claim Iran could make such a decision soon to influence the Vienna talks with world powers that renewed today.

The intelligence is also said to indicate that the Islamic Republic could intensify its attacks on US forces in the Middle East via proxies in various countries.

Israel said eyeing $1,100 fine for arrivals not taking COVID test on 3rd day of stay

Israel intends to impose a NIS 3,500 ($1,100) fine on any international arrival who fails to take a COVID-19 test on the third day of their stay in the country, Channel 12 news reports.

The report comes after new rules aimed at blocking the Omicron COVID-19 variant from spreading widely in Israel took effect yesterday.

Israel failing to adequately test returnees from African states for Omicron: report

Figures published by Channel 13 news indicate that despite swift action aimed at preventing the Omicron COVID-19 variant from entering Israel, the treatment of the new threat has been lacking.

Only 500 of the 1,800 Israelis who have returned from over 50 African countries since they were declared “red” have taken a genetic sequencing test designed to determine the virus’s strain, the network says.

Furthermore, out of around 14 tests that pointed to suspected Omicron cases, seven or eight of them have been found to be defective. They have been told to take repeat tests days later, at a time when it may be too late to identify the strain, the report says.

Biden: Omicron variant ‘not a cause for panic,’ says no further restrictions planned

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Omicron COVID-19 variant following a meeting with his COVID-19 response team at the White House on November 29, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Anna Moneymaker/ Getty Images/ AFP)
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Omicron COVID-19 variant following a meeting with his COVID-19 response team at the White House on November 29, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Anna Moneymaker/ Getty Images/ AFP)

US President Joe Biden tells Americans not to “panic” over the newly identified COVID-19 variant Omicron and says he does not foresee new lockdowns or extending travel restrictions for now.

The virus variant, first detected in South Africa, but already appearing in many countries, “is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” Biden says.

He stresses that the United States is in a good position to control Omicron’s spread without having to resort to lockdowns or more travel bans beyond restrictions already imposed on eight southern African countries.

“We have more tools today to fight the variant than we’ve ever had before,” he says, adding that his chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, expects current vaccines to work against the new variant, with boosters enhancing protection.

“We’ll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed, not chaos and confusion,” Biden says in nationally televised remarks from the White House, flanked by Fauci and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Biden promises a “detailed strategy” for the fight against COVID-19 this winter, and signals that Americans will not be subjected to burdensome measures.

“Not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing, and more,” he says, specifying that he does not see a need now for ordering vaccine or testing mandates on domestic air travel.

Squash world championship canceled over Malaysia’s refusal to grant Israelis visas

Illustrative: Israeli squash player Daniel Poleshchuk, on December 26, 2012. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Illustrative: Israeli squash player Daniel Poleshchuk, on December 26, 2012. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

The Men’s World Team Squash Championship has been canceled, due to host Malaysia’s refusal to grant visas to Israel’s team, the World Squash Federation (WSF) announces.

Israel had asked the body to intervene after Malaysian authorities did not grant them visas. Israelis are barred from visiting the South Asian country.

In a joint statement with Malaysia’s squash federation, SRAM, the WSF says the cancelation is due to “the possibility that some nations would be unable to compete, due to the lack of confirmation over the issuing of visas and travel authorizations by the National Authorities.”

WSF President Zena Wooldridge says her organization is “extremely disappointed” to make the announcement.

“I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Council of Malaysia for their unwavering efforts to influence the highest authorities of Malaysia to ensure the ability of all participating teams, including Israel, to enter Malaysia and compete, without any political discrimination, in accordance with the principles and rules of the Olympic Charter,” she says.

“It is important to WSF that no nation who wishes to compete misses out on the event.

The statement says another factor that contributed to the decision is the global scare and travel restrictions over the new Omicron strain of the coronavirus.

UK’s Johnson backs Israel’s right to defend itself ‘without equivocation’ from Iran

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to Conservative Friends of Israel in London, Britain, alongside Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, November 29, 2021. (Stuart Mitchell)
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to Conservative Friends of Israel in London, Britain, alongside Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, November 29, 2021. (Stuart Mitchell)

In his speech to the Conservative Friends of Israel, alongside Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson opens with an anecdote about being hoisted up in a cherry-picker to light the menorah in Trafalgar Square with a blowtorch.

In his typical “BoJo” style, Johnson jokes about the Mossad possessing footage of him dancing on tables during an event in Tel Aviv, in case they need it “for strategic purposes.” He also jokes that the Maccabees were “a great Scottish tribe.”

Turning to COVID-19, Johnson says: “Is it not extraordinary that it should be the two populations of Britain and Israel — both fiercely independent-minded, both lovers of liberty as Yair has just said, free nations reluctant to be told what to do — and yet it is we, our two populations, that have been the most dynamic and enthusiastic about getting our [vaccine] jabs.”

He announces that a UK-Israel innovation summit will take place in London in March.

Johnson emphasizes Britain’s support for Israel “to defend itself without equivocation from hostile states like Iran.”

“We hope that diplomacy can work,” he says. “But while the nuclear issue is the most urgent, Iran’s overall behavior has to change. Attacks at sea, the support for terrorism, the destabilization of the region, all form part of the same pattern.”

Johnson also underscores his government’s commitment to the struggle against antisemitism, and says he “deplores” the treatment of Israel’s envoy to the UK Tzipi Hotovely when she came to speak at the London School of Economics and had to be evacuated by guards as pro-Palestinians demonstrators jeered her.

“We have protected this country against the weevil infestation of antisemitism in the Labor Party,” he says to cheers.

Lapid meets UK’s Johnson, says Israel will defend itself from Iran, terror groups

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks to Conservative Friends of Israel in London, Britain, alongside UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, November 29, 2021. (Stuart Mitchell)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks to Conservative Friends of Israel in London, Britain, alongside UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, November 29, 2021. (Stuart Mitchell)

In a speech to the Conservative Friends of Israel alongside UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid paints the UK and Israel as forces for good with an inherent right to defend themselves against evil in the form of Nazi Germany, Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah.

“Britain taught the world an unforgettable lesson,” says Lapid, speaking about his father’s experience in the Budapest Ghetto. “Whoever is unwilling to fight for freedom won’t get it.”

“It is still true today,” he continues, “when terrorism threatens us all. When religious fanatics push to get their hands on nuclear weapons.”

Lapid decries voices in the West that treat any use of force as unjustified.

“This is not only a defeatist approach, it also represents ideological laziness,” he emphasizes. “There is such a thing as good and evil.”

“Not everything is someone’s narrative, inherently worthy of our respect,” Lapid continues. “The struggle between law-abiding democracies and murderous terrorist organizations is not a struggle between narratives. It is a struggle between good and evil.”

Israel’s top diplomat also assails “the industry of lies” that uses international law and democracy against those countries that uphold liberal democratic principles.

Lapid stresses that Israel — having learned the lesson of the ghetto — will defend itself against Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups.

“My children have an army, my children have the Mossad, my children are the sons and daughters of a free nation,” he says. “And when I look around this room, I see another thing: My children have friends. Friends who will stand with them.”

US journalist freed by Myanmar helps light Hanukkah menorah in Detroit

American journalist Danny Fenster speaks at a news conference at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York November 16, 2021, after arriving in the United States following a six month detention in Myanmar. (AP Photo/ Craig Ruttle)
American journalist Danny Fenster speaks at a news conference at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York November 16, 2021, after arriving in the United States following a six month detention in Myanmar. (AP Photo/ Craig Ruttle)

An American journalist who was recently freed after spending nearly six months in jail in military-ruled Myanmar has helped light one of eight Hanukkah candles, during a holiday celebration in downtown Detroit.

Danny Fenster, 37, joins elected and community leaders for the “Menorah in the D” event marking the start of Hanukkah.

“It wasn’t a theme I thought about before the timing of my release and the timing of this event, but I think there’s that obvious connection with bringing light to darkness in journalism,” Fenster, who is Jewish, tells the Detroit Free Press. “The things that I was arrested for, being part of the news organization that’s trying to shed light on a very dark regime, seems obviously resonant to me.”

“I can’t imagine a better community to come home to,” Fenster says during a reception prior to the menorah lighting. “And it’s just made an already great, joyful situation even more joyful. Just had a lot of love and appreciation back home here in Detroit and metro Detroit, in the Jewish community and the wider community. It’s just been incredible.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan attends the ceremony, saying none of the previous events have been as special as this year with the safe return of Fenster.

“This truly is a Happy Hanukkah in Detroit. God bless you,” Duggan says before the lighting.

Fenster, who is from the Detroit suburb of Huntington Woods, was handed over on November 15 by Myanmar to former US diplomat Bill Richardson, who helped negotiate his release. He returned to the US the following day.

Man seriously injured in Jerusalem terror attack released from intensive care

A 26-year-old man who was seriously injured in last week’s fatal terror attack in the Jerusalem Old City has been released from intensive care.

The capital’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center says Aharon Yehuda Imergreen’s condition is improving and he will remain in the hospital to undergo several more operations.

The shooting attack perpetrated by terrorist Fadi Abu Skhaydam killed Eli Kay, an employee at the Western Wall Heritage Foundation who had made aliyah from South Africa.

Israel’s first ambassador to Bahrain arrives in Manama

Eitan Na’eh, Israel’s first-ever ambassador to Bahrain, arrives in Manama to begin heading the diplomatic mission established following last year’s normalization deal.

UN chief ‘deeply concerned’ by southern Africa’s isolation over Omicron

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, addresses his statement, during the High-Level Ministerial Event on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan, at the European headquarters of the United Nation, in Geneva, Switzerland, September 13, 2021. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, addresses his statement, during the High-Level Ministerial Event on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan, at the European headquarters of the United Nation, in Geneva, Switzerland, September 13, 2021. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says he is “deeply concerned” as countries around the world have imposed travel restrictions on southern Africa in an attempt to stop the spread of the worrying new COVID-19 variant Omicron discovered there.

“The people of Africa cannot be blamed for the immorally low level of vaccinations available in Africa — and they should not be penalized for identifying and sharing crucial science and health information with the world,” Guterres says in a statement.

Twitter founder Jack Dorsey steps down as network’s CEO

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey appears on a screen as he speaks remotely during a hearing before the US Senate Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill, October 28, 2020, in Washington. (Michael Reynolds/ Pool via AP)
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey appears on a screen as he speaks remotely during a hearing before the US Senate Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill, October 28, 2020, in Washington. (Michael Reynolds/ Pool via AP)

Twitter announces that co-founder Jack Dorsey is stepping down immediately as CEO, with the company’s chief technical officer Parag Agrawal replacing him.

“Twitter, Inc. today announced that Jack Dorsey has decided to step down as chief executive officer and that the Board of Directors has unanimously appointed Parag Agrawal as CEO and a member of the board, effective immediately,” the company says in a statement.

Pfizer chief says firm working on COVID vaccine targeting Omicron

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla speaks at a Pfizer manufacturing site, in Portage, Michigan, February 19, 2021. (Evan Vucci/AP)
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla speaks at a Pfizer manufacturing site, in Portage, Michigan, February 19, 2021. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Pfizer has already started working on a version of its COVID-19 vaccine specifically targeting the Omicron variant in case the current inoculation is not effective against the new strain, the US drugmaker’s CEO Albert Bourla says.

Bourla tells CNBC that his company on Friday began testing the current vaccine against the Omicron variant, which was first reported in South Africa and reignited fears of a global wave of COVID-19 infections.

“I don’t think the result will be the vaccines don’t protect,” Bourla says, but the testing could show that existing shots “protect less,” which means “that we need to create a new vaccine.”

“Friday we made our first DNA template, which is the first possible inflection of the development process of a new vaccine,” he says.

Bourla likens the situation to the scenario earlier this year when Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech developed a vaccine in 95 days when there were concerns the previous formula would not work against Delta, though that version ultimately was not used.

The current vaccine is “very effective” against Delta, the executive says, adding that the companies expect to be able to produce four billion vaccine doses in 2022.

The World Health Organization warned today that the new COVID-19 Omicron variant poses a “very high” risk globally.

Bourla says he is also “very confident” that Pfizer’s recently unveiled antiviral pill will work as a treatment for infections caused by the mutations, including Omicron.

Among newly infected, high-risk patients treated within three days of the onset of symptoms, Pfizer’s pill has been shown to cut hospitalization or death by nearly 90%.

In reversal of previous ruling, suspect in 17-year-old girl’s murder to remain in custody

Lital Yael Melnik. (Facebook)
Lital Yael Melnik. (Facebook)

The Haifa District Court overturns a lower court decision earlier today to release a 49-year-old nurse suspected of killing 17-year-old Lital Yael Melnik last month to house arrest, saying he will stay in detention at least until tomorrow.

The Haifa Magistrate’s Court earlier ruled that Edward Kachura, a nurse at a psychiatric facility in the north who met Melnik when she was hospitalized, should be released to 14 days of house arrest, with the judge saying police are struggling to establish their case against the suspect.

That decision had sparked outrage by Melnik’s family and by many observers.

Iran says any nuclear deal requires ‘verifiable’ lifting of all sanctions

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian is seen before meeting with his Russian counterpart in Moscow, on October 6, 2021. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool/AFP)
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian is seen before meeting with his Russian counterpart in Moscow, on October 6, 2021. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool/AFP)

After nuclear talks between Iran and world powers resume in Vienna, Tehran says any return to the 2015 deal abandoned by the US would have to include the lifting of all sanctions imposed after the Islamic Republic’s departure.

In a statement cited by the Reuters news agency, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian says: “The United States still fails to properly understand the fact that there is no way to return to the deal without verifiable and effective lifting of all sanctions imposed on the Iranian nation after the US departure.”

“The return of the US to the nuclear deal would be meaningless without guarantees to prevent the recurrence of the bitter experience of the past,” he says, adding that “this opportunity is not a window that can remain open forever.”

G7: ‘Highly transmissible’ Omicron requires ‘urgent action’

The new COVID-19 variant Omicron is highly transmissible and requires “urgent action,” G7 health ministers say, praising South Africa’s “exemplary work” for both detecting the coronavirus strain and alerting others to it.

“The global community is faced with the threat of a new, at a first evaluation, highly transmissible variant of COVID-19, which requires urgent action,” the health ministers say in a statement following a meeting on the development.

Knesset extends COVID-19 emergency law by 2 more months

The Knesset plenum extends by two months the COVID-19 emergency law giving the government extended powers to manage its pandemic response.

The law was set to expire at the end of November, which has now been delayed until January 31.

Gantz says Israel doesn’t oppose Iran nuclear talks but ‘can’t allow deceptions’

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at a ceremony on the first night the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, November 28, 2021. (Flash90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at a ceremony on the first night the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, November 28, 2021. (Flash90)

Israeli defense officials are sharing intelligence “indicating Iran is continuing to rush toward a nuclear” program ahead of the nuclear talks that resumed today, Defense Minister Benny Gantz says.

Speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new Military Intelligence base in the Negev desert, the defense minister calls on world powers to exact a “price” from Iran for its continued uranium enrichment in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal.

“There needs to be a price that is expressed in economic sanctions and military activities so that the Iranians halt their nuclear race and their regional aggression. We don’t oppose the talks, but we can’t allow deceptions. We don’t ignore the international and regional need to reach a solution with the Iranians, but we can’t absolve ourselves as the strong and independent State of Israel from putting up our own solutions to defend ourselves with our own hands if we decide that is what we must do,” Gantz says.

Morocco to push for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, says king

Moroccan King Mohammed VI waves to a crowd as he arrives for the opening session of the Moroccan Parliament in Rabat, Morocco, on October 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)
Moroccan King Mohammed VI waves to a crowd as he arrives for the opening session of the Moroccan Parliament in Rabat, Morocco, on October 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)

Morocco will push for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, King Mohammed VI says, almost a year after his country renewed ties with the Jewish state.

“Morocco will continue its efforts, building on its position and its excellent relations with all sides and relevant international actors, to provide the appropriate conditions for a return to the negotiating table,” the monarch says in a televised address.

Morocco renewed official relations with Israel in December last year, two decades after it cut ties with the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

The rapprochement came amid a string of normalization deals between Israel and Arab countries, brokered by the Trump administration.

In a speech, delivered on the UN-organized “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People,” King Mohammed stresses Morocco’s “total solidarity with the Palestinian people” and its right to an independent state alongside Israel.

He calls for trust-building efforts and urged both sides “to refrain from actions that obstruct the peace process.”

The king, who heads the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s Al-Quds committee charged with protecting Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, warned against any attempt to change the city’s “juridicial, historic and demographic” status.

His speech comes days after an unprecedented visit by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who signed a wide-ranging security pact with the kingdom.

Left-wing and Islamist organizations in Morocco have called for protests today to voice their solidarity with the Palestinians.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to step down — report

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey appears on a screen as he speaks remotely during a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill on October 28, 2020, in Washington. (Greg Nash/Pool via AP)
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey appears on a screen as he speaks remotely during a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill on October 28, 2020, in Washington. (Greg Nash/Pool via AP)

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey is expected to step down as the social media network’s CEO, CNBC reports.

The CNBC report cites unnamed sources and Twitter does not immediately reply to a request seeking comment.

Dorsey is credited with coming up with the idea for Twitter when eventual co-founder Evan Williams gave workers at blogging startup Odeo two weeks to work on fun new projects as a way to break up the daily routine.

After hiking IDF salaries by 50%, Israel takes same step with national service

After Israel recently raised IDF soldiers’ salaries by 50%, the government has announced the same move for those serving in the civilian alternative, national service.

In a joint statement announcing the move, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman say that starting in January, the monthly payment for the estimated 18,000 national service volunteers will jump from NIS 540 ($170) to NIS 810 ($255).

They estimate the cost of the move to be about NIS 60 million ($19 million).

Boy, 7, in serious condition after concrete pole falls on him in Beit Shemesh

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says a 7-year-old boy has been seriously injured by a concrete pole that fell on him in a backyard in Beit Shemesh.

Medics are taking the boy to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, alongside two other children who suffered mild injuries.

IDF officer dismissed amid suspicion he secretly filmed female soldiers

Dan Sharoni, an IDF officer accused of sexual offenses, appears in court in news footage broadcast on November 24, 2021. (Screenshot)
Dan Sharoni, an IDF officer accused of sexual offenses, appears in court in news footage broadcast on November 24, 2021. (Screenshot)

An Israel Defense Forces officer suspected of secretly filming his female soldiers in intimate situations is being removed from his position as a criminal inquiry into his alleged crimes takes place, the military says.

Today, the head of the IDF Technology and Logistics Directorate, Maj. Gen. Michel Yanko, signed a “removal letter” against the officer, Lt. Col. Dan Sharoni, who led the IDF’s driving academy, the IDF says.

“The IDF views with great severity any violation of a sexual nature and will continue to advance a policy of zero-tolerance against anyone who behaves this way,” the military says in a statement.

Sharoni was arrested earlier this month for allegedly repeatedly filming his female subordinates without their knowledge. He has been in custody since his arrest and military prosecutors will today request a further extension of his remand, the IDF says.

Contestant in Israel-hosted Miss Universe diagnosed with COVID

Contestants congratulate new Miss Universe Catriona Gray, center, from the Philippines during the final round of the 67th Miss Universe competition in Bangkok, Thailand on December 17, 2018.(AP/Gemunu Amarasinghe)
Contestants congratulate new Miss Universe Catriona Gray, center, from the Philippines during the final round of the 67th Miss Universe competition in Bangkok, Thailand on December 17, 2018.(AP/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

A contestant at the Miss Universe contest being held in the southern Israel city of Eilat has been diagnosed with COVID-19, the event’s organizers say.

The unidentified contestant is said to have tested positive in a test taken upon landing in Israel, and to have been quarantining ever since.

All those who have come in contact with her have been notified, including other contestants and production members.

Nuclear talks between Iran and world powers resume in Vienna

The Coburg Palais, the venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) revival talks, in Vienna on November 29, 2021. (VLADIMIR SIMICEK / AFP)
The Coburg Palais, the venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) revival talks, in Vienna on November 29, 2021. (VLADIMIR SIMICEK / AFP)

Talks over Iran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal with world powers have resumed in Vienna after a more than five-month hiatus.

That’s according to Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency and a spokesman for the EU delegation at the negotiations.

“In Vienna, JCPOA Joint Commission… just started,” the EU spokesman tweets, using the formal acronym for the deal which put strict limits on Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.

The remaining signatories to the nuclear deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — Iran, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain — are convening at the Palais Coburg, the luxury hotel where the agreement was signed six years ago. The talks come as Austria is a week into a lockdown imposed because of a surge of coronavirus cases.

Cable car crash survivor to be handed to Italy by Dec. 12 as final appeal rejected

The Biran family, with Eitan on the right. (Courtesy)
The Biran family, with Eitan on the right. (Courtesy)

Rejecting a final appeal on the matter, the Supreme Court rules that Eitan Biran, the six-year-old boy who was orphaned in a cable car crash in Italy, must be returned to his paternal family in Italy by December 12.

Biran has been part of a custody fight between his Italy-based paternal family and his Israel-based maternal family.

After an Italian court temporarily granted the paternal family custody during the court case, Biran’s maternal grandfather Shmuel Peleg secretly whisked him to Israel via Switzerland, prompting claims of kidnapping.

Israel’s top court has previously said Biran should be returned to Italy, but delayed the implementation of that ruling to discuss Peleg’s appeal. Now, it has rejected the appeal and set a deadline two weeks from today.

Doctor who returned from UK suspected to have contracted Omicron strain

An Israeli doctor who works at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv and who recently returned from a conference in London is suspected to have contracted the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, Hebrew media reports.

The doctor initially tested negative for COVID-19 when returning to Israel and went to work at the hospital before being told he was positive and suspected to be the third confirmed Omicron case in the country.

Sheba says the doctor has undergone an epidemiological investigation.

The doctor had received three vaccine shots and has mild symptoms.

Meeting Lapid, UK top diplomat vows to work ‘flat out’ to stop Iran getting nukes

(L) Yair Lapid on November 22, 2021 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90) and (R)  Liz Truss on Oct. 3, 2021 (AP Photo/Jon Super)
(L) Yair Lapid on November 22, 2021 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90) and (R) Liz Truss on Oct. 3, 2021 (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Britain will work “flat out” and keep “all options on the table” in order to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, foreign minister Liz Truss vows in a press briefing in London alongside her Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid.

Truss makes the comments shortly after signing a memorandum of understanding aimed at creating stronger collaboration between the two nations on cyber-security, defense and trade.

She says Britain will “work flat out to prevent the Iranian regime from gaining nuclear weapons. We are absolutely determined to prevent Iran from securing a nuclear weapon.”

Iran has said it hopes to reach an agreement with major powers on salvaging its 2015 nuclear deal at talks resuming today in Vienna.

Truss says Britain “wants those talks to work, but if they don’t work, all options are on the table”.

But Lapid accuses Tehran of simply trying to get sanctions lifted.

“They will play for time, earn billions from the removal of sanctions, continue to deceive the world, and covertly advance their nuclear program. This is what they have done in the past and it is what they will do this time as well. The world must prevent this, and it can prevent this,” he says, calling for “tighter sanctions (and) tighter supervision.”

The pair said earlier in a joint article in the Daily Telegraph newspaper they would “work night and day to prevent the Iranian regime from ever becoming a nuclear power.”

Nazareth man shot dead, becoming 116th Arab murder victim this year

The man in his 40s shot in the northern city of Nazareth has been confirmed dead, the latest homicide victim in the Arab community amid efforts to curb a wave of violent crime.

Police forces put up roadblocks and arrest two suspects found alongside a loaded pistol.

An initial investigation indicates the incident was an underworld hit.

The Abraham Initiative nonprofit says this is the 116th murder in the Arab community this year, by far an all-time record.

Amsterdam synagogue declares Jewish expert on Spinoza ‘persona non grata’

More than 350 years after philosopher Baruch Spinoza was excommunicated from the Spanish-Portuguese Jewish community in Amsterdam, a leader of the community has banned a scholar of Spinoza’s work from visiting the community’s synagogue and library due to his research of the “heretic.”

Baruch Spinoza (Wikimedia)
Baruch Spinoza (Wikimedia)

Yitzhak Melamed, a professor of philosophy at Johns Hopkins University, is denied his request to visit the synagogue with a film crew with plans to film Melamed conducting research in the library’s archives.

Responding to the professor in a letter, Rabbi Joseph Serfaty, a leader of Amsterdam’s Sephardic community, tells Melamed he will not be welcomed into the building — a building in which Spinoza himself may have studied, as he was enrolled in the school that was once housed there.

“The chachamim and parnassim of Kahal Kados Torah excommunicated Spinoza and his writings with the severest possible ban, a ban that remains in force and cannot be rescinded. You have devoted your life to the study of Spinoza’s banned works and the development of his ideas,” Serfaty writes, using the Hebrew words for the community’s leaders.

“Your request to visit our complex and create a film about this Epicouros [heretic]… is incompatible with our centuries-old halachic, historic and ethical tradition and an unacceptable assault on our identity and heritage,” he adds.

He concludes the letter by barring Melamed from the building. “I therefore deny your request and declare you persona non grata in the Portuguese Synagogue complex,” he writes.

Spinoza was born into the Spanish-Portuguese Jewish community in Amsterdam and became a philosopher who laid the intellectual foundations of the Enlightenment. He was excommunicated by Amsterdam’s Jews in 1656 for heresy.

In 2015, the community hosted a debate over whether the excommunication should be lifted, but ultimately did not lift the ban.

After thaw with UAE, Erdogan says Turkey will seek to mend ties with Israel, Egypt

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Composite/AP)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Composite/AP)

Turkey will take steps to improve relations with Israel and Egypt similar to those taken with the UAE, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says in comments published by Turkish media.

Ties between Turkey and the UAE were strained over regional issues, but Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed’s visit to Ankara last week thawed relations as the countries sealed multibillion-dollar investments.

“Just as a step was taken between us and the United Arab Emirates, we will take similar steps with the others,” Erdogan tells Turkish reporters on board his plane returning from a trip to Turkmenistan at the weekend, NTV broadcaster reports.

He suggests Turkish ambassadors could be sent back to Egypt and Israel and says he is planning a return visit to the UAE in February.

“Now when we have made our decision, we will of course be in a position to appoint ambassadors within a defined schedule,” Erdogan says, without offering a timeline.

In 2018, Turkey ordered out Israel’s ambassador over the killing of rioters along the Gaza Strip border.

Erdogan and Israeli leaders recently held talks that resulted in the release of an Israeli couple arrested in Turkey as suspected spies after filming Erdogan’s palace. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett subsequently spoke on the phone with the Turkish president and thanked him.

Turkey and Egypt broke off relations after the 2013 overthrow of ex-Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who was supported by Erdogan. They expelled their respective ambassadors and downgraded their relations in 2013.

Turkey sought a rapprochement with Egypt earlier this year despite supporting opposing sides in the conflict in Libya. In March, Ankara said it had established its first diplomatic contacts with Cairo since 2013, while the Turkish foreign minister in April heralded a “new era” in ties with Egypt.

The two countries held talks again in September as efforts continued toward normalizing their relations without significant progress.

Former senior Tel Aviv municipal official arrested on suspicion of child sex abuse

A former senior official in the Tel Aviv Municipality is arrested over suspected child sex abuse committed several years ago, according to the police.

In a statement, police say officers have seized computers and other equipment in his office and will ask for the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court to extend his remand.

The investigation began when allegations surfaced against the former official, who hasn’t been publicly named. The allegations said he had abused a Tel Aviv resident when the latter was underage, and again several years later when he was an adult.

The suspect’s lawyer is denying the allegations.

Palestinian arrested at Haifa hospital after threatening suicide

A Palestinian in his 30s from the West Bank city of Tulkarem is arrested at the entrance to Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center after threatening to commit suicide, police say in a statement.

Security guards, suspecting the man could be planning a suicide bombing, detain him while he tries to escape. They call in a sapper who confirms he doesn’t have an explosive device.

The man, who is staying in Israel illegally, is taken for questioning.

Man critically wounded from gunfire in Nazareth

A man is reportedly critically injured from gunfire in the northern Arab city of Nazareth, the latest incident of rising violent crime plaguing the Arab community.

The man, around 40 years old, is being treated by Magen David Adom medics.

Lapid signs economy MoU with UK, warns Iran playing for time in nuclear talks

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (R) and his British counterpart Liz Truss at the UK Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office in London, November 29, 2021. (Stuart Mitchell)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (R) and his British counterpart Liz Truss at the UK Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office in London, November 29, 2021. (Stuart Mitchell)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid signs a memorandum of understanding with his British counterpart Liz Truss, saying that it will lead to a free trade agreement, increased security cooperation and joint development of high-tech projects.

“This agreement is not just a win-win, but a must-must,” says Lapid in his speech after the agreement is signed at the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office in London.

Lapid turns to the Iran nuclear talks reopening today in Vienna, underscoring the importance of the banking sanctions. He argues that the Iranians are negotiating in order to gain access to funds to support Hezbollah and other terrorist groups, and to play for time while they “covertly advance their nuclear program.”

Lapid calls for “tighter sanctions, tighter supervision.”

“Conduct any talks from a position of strength,” he urges.

Bennett urges world powers to resist Iran’s ‘nuclear blackmail’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett adjusts his mask at a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, November 28, 2021. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool via AP)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett adjusts his mask at a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, November 28, 2021. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool via AP)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett calls on world powers not to “give in to Iran’s nuclear blackmail” as negotiations commence in Vienna.

In a video statement delivered to representatives of nations opening negotiations with Iran, Bennett says Tehran seeks “to end sanctions in exchange for almost nothing” and keep its nuclear program intact while receiving hundreds of billions of dollars once sanctions are lifted.

Negotiators from Iran and world powers are meeting in Vienna to resume talks aimed at reviving a 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran has ramped up its uranium enrichment since the United States withdrew from the landmark nuclear agreement between world powers and Iran in 2018.

Israel vocally opposed that agreement, and Israeli officials now say Tehran is closer than ever to developing nuclear arms, something it will not abide. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is visiting London and Paris this week to discuss Iran with British and French officials. Defense Minister Benny Gantz will head to Washington this week with the same aim.

Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. It has blamed the breakdown of the agreement on the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from it and restore crippling sanctions.

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