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Health Ministry said expected to further delay start of new Green Pass rules

With updated guidelines due to take effect Thursday, ministers expected to vote to let Israelis continue using their existing certificates until October 17

An Illustration of the new green pass, in Jerusalem, October 3, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
An Illustration of the new green pass, in Jerusalem, October 3, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

Israel tells diplomatic missions to up vigilance after alleged Cyprus plot — TV

Israel has told embassies and missions worldwide to up their vigilance over fears over an Iranian terror attack following an alleged plot in Cyprus and other recent events, Channel 12 news reports.

The network also says three other members of an Iranian terror cell have fled the island. Cypriot authorities have arrested an Azeri national in connection to the plot, which Israel has alleged was an Iran-backed effort to target one or more Israeli businesspeople in Cyprus.

New Shin Bet chief’s appointment could be delayed by anonymous letter — reports

Unsourced Hebrew media reports say the appointment of a new Shin Bet chief could be further delayed by an anonymous letter that includes unspecified allegations against Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s choice for the post, “Resh,” whose full name is barred from being published for security reasons.

The letter was reportedly sent to the Goldberg Committee, which vets appointments to senior positions. The panel is due to convene Friday to review the candidacy of Bennett’s pick.

A statement sent on behalf of “Resh” dismisses the letter as being “without factual basis” and “full of lies.”

“As is required, testimony to that will be presented to the committee,” the statement says.

Health Ministry said expected to further delay start of new Green Pass rules

The Health Ministry is expected to announce that new Green Pass rules will be delayed by another 10 days, according to Hebrew media reports.

Israelis will be able to use their existing passes until October 17.

The Kan public broadcaster says the government is expected to approve the additional delay by tomorrow, when the new rules are set to take effect, due to continued technical problems with issuing certificates.

The report says ministers are also expected to exempt additional outdoor venues from the Green Pass amid the recent drop in morbidity.

Additional sexual assault complaint said filed against top doctor

Another police complaint has reportedly been filed against Prof. Arie Levine, the senior doctor arrested Sunday on suspicion of multiple sex offenses against female patients in his care, including at least one minor.

According to the Walla news site, multiple additional women have stepped forward with allegations of sexual assault since Levine’s name was cleared for publication in the press earlier this week.

At least one other woman has filed a police complaint, the report says.

At a hearing at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court earlier this week, Levine, 64, was remanded for four days. He will be brought back to court tomorrow for an additional hearing on his remand.

Levine, who is director of the Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition Unit at Holon’s Wolfson Medical Center and practices at a private clinic, has denied wrongdoing.

Police said Monday that among his suspected crimes, committed over a number of years, was the rape of a girl under the age of 14.

Biden administration said to ask Israel to limit settlement construction

The Biden administration has asked Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to restrain settlement building in the West Bank, according to the Walls news site.

Citing unnamed Israeli sources, the report says the request was relayed to the Prime Minister’s Office last week, with acting US Ambassador Michael Ratney phoning PMO officials to say the Biden administration wants plans for new settlements to be reduced in scope.

Ratney also reportedly raised concerns about possible future construction in the so-called E1 corridor between Jerusalem and the Ma’ale Adumim settlement.

An unnamed senior US official tells the news site that the administration has been in contact with Israel about settlements every week since Biden hosted Bennett at the White House in late August.

Iran opposition group reveals alleged drone command centers, manufacturing sites

PARIS — The Quds Force of the elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), responsible for Iran’s controversial operations abroad, is increasingly using drones as the main means for carrying out airstrikes and supplying proxies, an exiled opposition group says.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) says that the drones are being manufactured at eight plants in Iran, sometimes using materials smuggled from abroad, and then sent to countries like Iraq and Syria where they are assembled and then deployed.

The NCRI, the political wing of the People’s Mujahedin (MEK), which is banned in Iran, says it based its findings on reports from the network of supporters the MEK claims to maintain inside the country.

It supplies images that it claims are of drone production plants but it isn’t immediately possible to independently verify the claims.

The Quds Force, which was led by commander Qassem Soleimani until his killing in a US strike in Iraq in 2020, is accused by the West of leading Iranian operations in Iraq, Syria and Yemen and seeking to strike Western targets.

The NCRI says the Quds Force is “chiefly using various unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for its terrorist operations as well as for supplying its proxies in the region.”

“To an extent, the regime is trying to compensate for its outdated and decrepit air force with this technology,” it adds.

It says that to produce the drones Iran has been smuggling some of the main parts, such as engines and electronic components from China as well as raw materials from Turkey and South Korea.

It says there is now a specialized UAV Command among the five command units of the IRGC Aerospace Force. The UAV Command has several groups that are stationed at various bases across Iran.

Texas police say 4 injured in high school shooting; 18-year-old suspect flees

ARLINGTON, Texas — An 18-year-old opened fire inside a Dallas-area high school, leaving four people injured before fleeing, authorities say.

The shooting happened at Timberview High School in Arlington, which is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area.

Authorities say at a news conference that the shooting happened after a fight broke out in the school.

Police are searching for the suspected shooter, whom they identified as Timothy George Simpkins. They say he might be driving a 2018 Silver Dodge Charger with license plate PFY-6260.

Arlington Assistant Police Chief Kevin Kolbye says two of the four injured people were shot. Three of the four were taken to hospitals and the other person refused treatment.

UK High Court finds Dubai ruler hacked ex-wife’s phone using NSO spyware

LONDON — Britain’s High Court finds that the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, hacked the phones of his ex-wife Princess Haya and her attorneys during their legal battle over custody of their two children.

Al Maktoum, 72, gave his “express or implied authority” to hack the phones of the princess, 47, and her attorneys using Pegasus spyware produced by the NSO Group of Israel. The software is licensed exclusively to states for the use of their security services.

The hacking came to light partly through the work of William Marczak, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, who has studied government use of spyware. In addition, attorney Cherie Blair, the wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, told Princess Haya’s lawyer, Fiona Shackleton, that she may have been hacked, the court heard.

Cherie Blair, then an NSO adviser, contacted Shackleton to tell her that the software may have been “misused”.

Al Maktoum’s lawyers choose not to offer evidence in court to counter the allegation. His lawyers argue that Princess Haya has not proved her case and that he cannot confirm or deny whether the UAE had a contract with the NSO Group.

His lawyers suggest that another country, such as Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia or Jordan may have been responsible for the hacking.

Texas high school put on lockdown amid reports of shooting

ARLINGTON, Texas — A Dallas-area school district says that law enforcement is responding to reports of an “active shooter situation” at a high school.

The Mansfield Independent School District says in a news release that Timberview High School is on lockdown. The school is in Arlington, which is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area.

An Arlington Police Department spokeswoman says officers responded to a shooting at the school, but that she can’t confirm whether there were any injuries. The police department says on Twitter that officers are doing a “methodical search” and are working closely with other law enforcement agencies.

The district said that students and staff are locked in the classrooms or offices.

The report comes just days after a shooting at a Houston charter school that injured an administrator.

Austrian Chancellor Kurz investigated over corruption claims

VIENNA — Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is under investigation over claims that government money was used in a corrupt deal to ensure positive coverage in a tabloid newspaper, prosecutors announce.

Prosecutors say that “Kurz and nine other suspects, as well as three organizations” were being probed over various corruption offenses relating to the affair.

German hotel workers probed over singer’s antisemitism allegations

FRANKFURT, Germany — German prosecutors have opened an investigation into employees at a hotel after a rock musician made accusations of antisemitism against them in a video posted on social media.

The singer Gil Ofarim said in an emotional video published yesterday that two employees at the Westin hotel in Leipzig, in eastern Germany, had asked him to “put away” a Star of David pendant before he would be allowed to check in.

Two employees at the Westin were subsequently suspended while the accusations are investigated, a spokeswoman for the Marriott International hotel group says today.

“Prosecutors are currently examining the accusations made against the hotel employees,” say authorities in Leipzig.

At the same time, one of the accused files for defamation, describing the events “very differently” to the singer, according to a spokeswoman for the police.

The same individual reported threats made against him via his Instagram account.

Ofarim rejected the defamation allegation, saying that it was “exactly like how I described it in the video.”

“I find it shameful and sad that I still have to justify and explain myself after such an incident,” he tells Spiegel Online.

After the video was published yesterday, thousands of individuals gathered outside the hotel to demonstrate in solidarity with the singer and against antisemitism.

The German government’s Commissioner for Jewish Life and the Fight against Anti-Semitism Felix Klein offered his “sympathy and solidarity” to Ofarim in an interview with the Funke media group.

It was “good and important” that the incident had been made public, Klein said, and showed the need for more “education” on antisemitism in Germany.

Talks stall on Israel, Hamas prisoner swap — report

Egyptian-mediated talks between Israel and Hamas on a possible prisoner swap deal have stalled, with the two sides remaining firm in their demands, the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel reports.

Citing unnamed sources familiar with the negotiations, the report says Israel is refusing the Gaza-ruling terror group’s demand to release 1,000 prisoners and that several other issues remain unresolved.

Vetting panel to meet Friday to review Bennett’s pick for next Shin Bet chief

A committee for vetting senior appointments announces it will convene Friday to discuss Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s appointment of a new Shin Bet chief.

Appointees to the most senior positions must be vetted by the panel, known as the Goldberg Committee.

Bennett has tapped “Resh,” the Shin Bet’s deputy chief, to succeed Nadav Argaman as head of the security service.

Senior diplomat hints Oman a top contender to normalize ties with Israel next

A senior Foreign Ministry official hints that Oman is at the top of the list of countries that may normalize relations with Israel next.

“We’re speaking basically to all countries in the region, in the Middle East and North Africa… They each have to decide when will be the right time for them and how to go about it. We’re speaking to all of them, Oman as well…we have ongoing cooperation,” Eliav Benjamin, head of the ministry’s Middle East and Peace Process Division, says in a briefing with international media.

Benjamin notes Israel used to have an official mission in Muscat that was opened after the Oslo Accords. He also says Israel still participates in a multilateral project with Oman, Jordan and others in the region on water cooperation.

Benjamin acknowledges that internal factors within Oman and other countries also play a role in the pace and manner in which the Abraham Accords can be expanded. Haitham bin Tariq took over in January as the sultan of Oman after the death of Qaboos bin Said, who was instrumental in the warming of Muscat’s relations with Israel.

Analysts say the new sultan, who is still working to boost his legitimacy at home, will have a harder time taking on such a controversial move so shortly after entering office. Oman has repeatedly said in recent months that it will not normalize ties with Israel before Palestinians are granted a state of their own.

Nonetheless, Benjamin is optimistic “with Oman and also with other countries. I really hope that when we meet this time next year, if not before, we will be able to talk about other countries that have joined.”

Herzog, German president discuss Israelis held by Hamas amid ceasefire talks

President Isaac Herzog meets with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Ukraine ahead of the memorial ceremony this evening marking 80 years since the Babi Yar massacre, when tens of thousands of people, mostly Jews, were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators.

Both are due to speak at the ceremony and a statement from Herzog’s office says the two noted the “powerful symbolism” of them meeting today.

Herzog and Steinmeier also “talked at length about the matter of the State of Israel’s captured and missing [citizens] in the Gaza Strip and other places,” according to the statement.

Germany has previously been linked to efforts to broker a prisoner swap between Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group, which is holding a pair of Israeli citizens who entered the Strip and the bodies of two soldiers killed in the 2014 war. The statement says Herzog acknowledged this while meeting with Steinmeier.

Israel and Hamas have been holding indirect talks to firm up a shaky ceasefire since 11 days of fighting between the sides in May. Israel has vowed not to allow a full reconstruction of Gaza without a prisoner swap.

Lapid denounces antisemitic graffiti found at Auschwitz museum

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid denounces the antisemitic graffiti recently discovered at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum.

“In the name of the State of Israel, I condemn this criminal act and call on the local authorities to quickly find those guilty and bring them to justice under the full severity of the law,” Lapid tweets.

Druze town again leads Israel in matriculating high schoolers

The northern Druze town of Beit Jann leads among all Israeli communities in the percentage of high school students who passed the matriculation exam in 2020.

Beit Jann has topped the rankings numerous time in recent years, though it scores far below other communities with high matriculation rates in terms of socioeconomic measures.

Following Beit Jann in the Education Ministry’s rankings are Givatayim, Modiin, Efrat, Hod Hasharon, Gedera, Deir Hanna, Ramat Hasharon, Drom Hasharon and Lev Hasharon. Both Beit Jann and Deir Hanna have socioeconomic rankings of three, while all the other communities in the top 10 have a score of at least six or above.

At the bottom of the list are primarily communities with significant ultra-Orthodox populations and several Arab towns.

Liberman, visiting World Bank chief discuss furthering economic cooperation

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman meets with visiting World Bank chief David Malpass for talks on boosting economic cooperation between the sides, according to the Treasury.

Liberman says in a statement that the two also discussed the coronavirus pandemic and “the global economic situation.”

Malpass and the World Bank officials he is traveling with are expected to meet with other senior Israeli officials and with representatives of startups during their stay.

Nobel in chemistry goes to 2 scientists for finding ‘greener’ way to build molecules

STOCKHOLM — Two scientists win the Nobel Prize for chemistry for finding an “ingenious” and environmentally cleaner way to build molecules that can be used to make everything from medicines to food flavorings.

The work of Benjamin List of Germany and Scotland-born David W.C. MacMillan has allowed scientists to produce those molecules more cheaply, efficiently, safely — and with significantly less environmental impact.

“It’s already benefiting humankind greatly,” says Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, a member of the Nobel panel.

Making molecules — which requires linking individual atoms together in specific arrangement — is a difficult and slow task. Until beginning of the millennium, chemists had only two methods — or catalysts — to speed up the process.

That all changed in 2000, when List, of the Max Planck Institute, and MacMillan, of Princeton University, independently reported that small organic molecules can be used to do the same job as big enzymes and metal catalysts.

The new method, known as asymmetric organocatalysis, “is used widely today, for example, in drug discovery and in fine chemicals production,” says Wittung-Stafshede.

Johan Åqvist, chair of the Nobel panel, calls the new method as “simple as it is ingenious.”

“The fact is that many people have wondered why we didn’t think of it earlier,” he adds.

Israeli man convicted of aggravated murder for killing wife

The Jerusalem District Court finds an Israeli man guilty of murdering his wife in October 2019.

The court finds convicts Eliran Malul of aggravated murder for stabbing his wife Michal Sela to death in front of their young daughter.

“Nothing can bring back those no longer with us,” the judge says. “Our hope is that this ruling will contribute to the fight on violence against women.”

Sentencing will be at a later date.

Michal Sela, found stabbed to death at her home outside Jerusalem on October 3, 2019. (Facebook)

Thousands of Gazans apply for permits to work in Israel

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Thousands of Gazans apply today for work permits for Israel, which has been reopening its gates to laborers from the Palestinian enclave following the latest military conflict in May.

In Jabalia, a refugee camp in northern Gaza, a crowd of men holding their identity papers lined up hoping to obtain a permit to work in Israel, AFP journalists say.

“There is no work in the Gaza Strip,” says Fathi Abu Nur, a 40-year-old unemployed man.

“Yesterday I heard that workers are registering to get permits (for Israel),” he says.

“I hope things will get better because the current situation is really difficult,” the father of five says.

The total number of permits being granted by Israel to Palestinian laborers in Gaza is 7,000, an Israeli security official tells AFP, up from 5,000 workers and traders allowed in August.

In May, Israel and Hamas reached a truce following 11 days of the deadliest fighting in years.

Israel has since been easing restrictions on the Palestinian enclave, including reopening crossings, expanding the fishing zone and permitting the entry of certain goods.

Many Palestinians want to work in Israel, where wages are higher than in Gaza.

Cyprus said to suspect terror in alleged plot to kill Israelis

Cypriot authorities are probing an Azeri national on suspicion of carrying out a terror attack as part of an alleged plot to assassinate one or more Israeli businesspeople in Cyprus, according to Israel’s Channel 12 news.

During a hearing at which the suspect’s remand is extended by six days, Cypriot police reveal they are also investigating the suspect for attempted murder, belonging to a criminal organization, conspiracy to commit a crime and being in the country illegally, among other charges.

The suspect’s lawyer tells the Israeli network that his client denies any terror links and has nothing to hide.

The lawyer also denies any Iranian connection to the alleged plot, despite Israel’s government blaming “Iranian terror” for the reported assassination attempt.

“The investigating unit has not proven these things to us,” the lawyer says.

The network further reports the Mossad intelligence agency believes seven Israelis were targeted as part of the plot – businessman Teddy Sagi and six people who work with him.

Teddy Sagi (Courtesy)

French far-right Jewish pundit overtakes Le Pen in support — poll

PARIS — A poll in France suggests for the first time that far-right pundit Eric Zemmour would qualify for the second round of next year’s presidential election and eclipse traditional far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Some 17-18 percent of voters tell Harris Interactive polling they will vote for Zemmour in the first round, compared with 15-16 percent for Le Pen.

This would mean he would advance to a second round with President Emmanuel Macron, who was credited with 24-27 percent of voter intentions in the first round, set to be held on April 10.

The online poll of 1,310 people, carried out on October 4 and published in Challenges magazine, implies Macron would win a run-off vote against Zemmour by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent.

Analysts stress the election remains highly unpredictable and forecasting is rendered more difficult by France’s two-round system, which sees the two highest-placed winners in the first round proceed to the run-off.

But the poll will add momentum to Zemmour’s radical anti-immigration and anti-Islam campaign, even though he is still yet to officially declare his intention to run.

For the last four years, polls have consistently suggested Macron and Le Pen would meet in the run-off on April 24 — a repeat of the last election in 2017.

“A candidate has never been known to experience such a change in voter intentions in so short a space of time as we’ve seen with Eric Zemmour,” pollster Antoine Gautier from Harris Interactive commented on the results of the survey.

Zemmour — who is Jewish — was seen as winning only 7 percent when the group tested his popularity with voters for the first time on September 8.

Tourist entries to Israel last month 128% higher than in September 2020 — ministry

The Tourism Ministry reports tourist entries to Israel last month were more than double the number in September 2020, but were less than 10 percent than the pre-COVID figure recorded for that month in 2019.

A statement from the ministry says 34,500 tourists entered Israel in September this year, up 128% from the year before when the then-government imposed a national lockdown amid the country’s second coronavirus wave. The Tourism Ministry says 405,000 tourists entered Israel in September 2019.

Between January and September this year, 243,500 tourists entered Israel, down from 782,700 during that period in 2020. The ministry did not explain why tourist entries were down in 2021 relative to last year. The previous government shuttered Israel’s airports and land borders for several weeks this year starting in late January as morbidity and fatalities surged.

In 2019, nearly 3.3 million tourists entered Israel between January and September.

Berlin soccer club bans fan for antisemitic abuse of Maccabi Haifa supporters

BERLIN — Union Berlin has identified a person it says was one of the perpetrators of antisemitic abuse against Maccabi Haifa fans and banned him from the club’s grounds and premises indefinitely.

Union says today that it has also contacted the German soccer federation to register a nationwide stadium ban against the individual, who allegedly took part in the abuse of the Israeli team’s fans during their Europa Conference League game at Berlin’s Olympiastadion on September 30.

The Bundesliga club doesn’t name the fan.

“We would like to thank the Union supporters who showed solidarity with the victims on the evening of the game, and our fan clubs for their clear position. It’s good that we have already been able to identify a perpetrator,” club president Dirk Zingler says in a statement.

“There is no tolerance whatsoever for discrimination at Union Berlin. We have therefore taken all the measures available to us to remove this person from our ranks,” says Zingler, who adds the club has also forwarded “all the information we have” to investigating police.

UEFA opened a disciplinary case against the club yesterday, without giving a timetable for any decisions.

Union had already responded the day after the match by condemning the “shameful and intolerable” abuse. Zingler apologized for the fans’ actions.

It was the first soccer game involving an Israeli team played at the stadium built for the 1936 Olympics hosted by Nazi Germany.

Iran claims ‘serious concerns’ over ‘presence of terrorists and Zionists’ in Caucasus

MOSCOW — Iran says that it has “serious concerns” about Israel’s presence in the Caucasus, as tensions mount between Iran and Azerbaijan over Baku’s ties with Israel, a major arms supplier.

“We certainly will not tolerate geopolitical change and map change in the Caucasus, and we have serious concerns about the presence of terrorists and Zionists in this region,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian tells reporters in Moscow.

Majority of Israeli parents will vaccinate kids ages 5-11 if FDA gives approval — poll

A majority of Israeli parents — 57 percent — would agree to vaccinate their 5- to 11-year-olds if the FDA approves Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine for this age group, according to a poll that was released today.

In a press release, Bar-Ilan University says the survey found “significant differences” in attitudes among those polled, with men, parents older than 40, those with academic agrees and people with higher incomes all more likely to back vaccination.

The survey was conducted between September 23 and October 3 and included 894 months and fathers. No margin of error was given.

Iran FM says expects nuclear talks to ‘soon’ resume in Vienna

MOSCOW — Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian says in Moscow that he expects negotiations on the Iran nuclear deal to restart in Austria soon.

“I emphasized that we are now finalizing consultations on this matter and will soon restore our negotiations in Vienna,” Amir-Abdollahian says during talks with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Lapid to visit Washington next week to meet with Blinken

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will visit Washington next week to visit with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, his office announces.

The trip will take place on October 12-14, according to a statement from Lapid’s office, which gives no further details on the visit.

The US State Department said last month that Blinken invited Lapid to visit in October. The two last met in Rome shortly after Lapid became foreign minister in June.

Citing unnamed Israeli officials, the Walla news site reports that the focus of Lapid’s trip will be Iran, ahead of the possible renewal of nuclear talks in the coming weeks.

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