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Ministers end meeting without decision on reopening schools, stores

Coronavirus cabinet to reconvene next week; Netanyahu seeks five-stage plan to lift restrictions, rather than current 9 stages, in move opposed by top health officials

A child plays in the city center of Jerusalem as Israel steps out of coronavirus lockdown and rolls back restrictions on October 21, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
A child plays in the city center of Jerusalem as Israel steps out of coronavirus lockdown and rolls back restrictions on October 21, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s developments as they unfolded.

Cop who fatally shot autistic Palestinian man to be charged with reckless homicide

A Border Police officer who shot and killed an autistic Palestinian man in Jerusalem’s Old City in May after mistaking him for a terrorist will be tried for reckless homicide, the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department (PIID) announces in a statement.

Iyad al-Hallak, a 32-year-old man with special needs, was walking from his home in Wadi Joz in late May when two police officers claimed they spotted a “suspicious object” in his hand. The officers chased him through the streets before cornering him in a garbage room and shooting him.

A pre-trial hearing will be held before the charges are filed, PIID says.

The officer’s commander, who participated in the chase and was present at the shooting, will not be charged.

“After examining all the circumstances of the incident, it was decided to close his case, since no criminal offense was apparent in his conduct,” a spokesperson for PIID says.

Aaron Boxerman

The parents of Iyad Halak, an autistic Palestinian man who was fatally shot by Israeli police, Khiri, right, and mother Rana, talk during an interview in Jerusalem, June 3, 2020. (Mahmoud Illean/AP)

Virus czar: Hospitals have virus ‘under control’

Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu says the healthcare system is no longer under threat of collapse due to the coronavirus.

“There are empty beds in coronavirus wards,” he tells ministers, according to Army Radio. “There are 900 in coronavirus wards, 200 in other wards and another 900 beds for geriatric patients. The situation is under control.”

Gamzu also expresses hope that virus testing levels will rise again in the next 10 days to 50,000-60,000 daily.

A father hospitalized with COVID-19 watches his son marry at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, October 18, 2020 (Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital)

Ministers meet on lockdown measures, with treasury pushing for stores to open

Ministers of the so-called coronavirus cabinet are meeting to discuss the latest infection rates and the government plan to gradually reopen the economy after a month-long lockdown.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the easing of the rules likely will be in fewer stages than the nine that had been laid out by the government, through February, according to leaks from the meeting to Hebrew media.

But the prime minister also warns the rules can be tightened again, if infections rise.

“We must work from stage to stage, according to the [infection] rates. If the situation deteriorates, we will have no choice but to impose restrictions,” he is quoted saying.

Finance Minister Israel Katz, meanwhile, is pushing for stores to be reopened from next week, according to reports.

Health minister accuses treasury of ‘populism’ for seeking to reopen businesses

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein is going head to head with Finance Minister Israel Katz over the treasury’s demand that stores be reopened next week.

Katz is also seeking to reopen hairdressers and other small businesses.

That, according to Edelstein, is “populism.”

“For the sake of public health and the Israeli economy, it’s expected that everyone learn the lessons from the fast lifting of the first lockdown,” says Edelstein, raising the specter of a third lockdown if the rules are again lifted too quickly.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein speaks during a press conference at Airport City, outside Tel Aviv, on September 17, 2020. (Flash90)

“Instead of statements, the Finance Ministry must give adequate compensation to all those hurt by the lockdown instead of pocket change,” he adds.

Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu warns that lifting additional restrictions right now is “dangerous.”

The government lifted some rules on Sunday. The next steps will only be taken in early November, but hinge on infection rates remaining low.

People wearing face masks shop for groceries at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem as Israel steps out of coronavirus lockdown and rolls back restrictions on October 20, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Netanyahu said taken aback by high positive COVID results among children

During the coronavirus cabinet meeting, the Health Ministry’s Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis presents rates of positive results of a coronavirus test among those under 18 years old, which are higher than among adults.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls the finding “astonishing,” according to leaks from the meeting.

Alroy-Preis warns that kids are likely to infect adults, even if asymptomatic.

Children on the first day of school in Jerusalem, September 1, 2020. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Fracas in Knesset as submarines inquiry advanced, then 2nd vote called

In a serious blow to the governing coalition, the Knesset votes to form a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the so-called submarines affair — only to have the vote immediately canceled by Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud), who says it must be conducted by name ballot.

Another vote is taking place now.

The proposal on the submarine affair was put forward by Meretz lawmaker Tamar Zandberg with the backing of the Yesh Atid-Telem party.

The case snared several close associates of Netanyahu, but not the premier himself, on suspicion that they received bribes as part of a massive graft scheme in the multi-billion-shekel state purchase of naval vessels from the German shipbuilder.

The motion was not expected to be approved after Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party said it wouldn’t back it, but in a surprise turn of events it was supported by 25 lawmakers and opposed by just 23.

After canceling first vote, Knesset votes against probe into submarine affair

The Knesset rejects a proposal to form a parliamentary inquiry into the submarines affair, after nullifying an earlier vote that advanced the bid against the coalition’s wishes.

Likud MK Miki Zohar — who is coalition whip — says various coalition lawmakers did not know to vote in the first round, because he had asked for a name ballot, rather than an electronic vote, and they were waiting for their names to be called. He says Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin erred in ordering a regular vote and a repeat vote had to be called. Under parliamentary procedure, lawmakers can request that a vote be held by name ballot, which sees them call out their vote when their names are called.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu halted a coronavirus cabinet meeting so ministers could rush to the plenum to vote against the proposal to form a state probe into the major corruption scandal, which has ensnared several close associates of Netanyahu but not the premier himself, according to Channel 12.

Opposition MKs shout “shame,” and “who needs democracy?” after the first vote — which passed 25-23 — was nullified by the Knesset speaker, a member of the Likud party.

Tweets Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg, who lodged the proposal: “Unbelievable disgrace: The coalition canceled a vote after the proposal to create a parliamentary inquiry into the submarines affair that I proposed passed! There is no way you can steal a vote.”

Opposition to petition top court after coalition disqualifies vote on subs probe

Opposition lawmakers respond furiously after a vote advancing a commission of inquiry into the submarines affair is disqualified on technical grounds by the coalition. The proposal is rejected during the second vote.

“We will petition the High Court,” says Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz in a tweet. “They won’t steal votes in the Israeli Knesset.”

Other opposition lawmakers also rip into the coalition’s conduct.

“When the election results won’t suit Netanyahu, will he also call for a name ballot?” tweets Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, referring to the government’s grounds for nixing the first vote.

Police find body of missing woman, 22, in Jerusalem forest

Police have found the body of a 22-year-old woman in the Jerusalem forest, according to Hebrew media reports. The cause of death is not specified, though police don’t suspect foul play.

The woman, named as Shifra Yehudit Firestein, went missing on Tuesday night.

Global virus death toll hits 1,126,471; over 40 million infected

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 1,126,471 people since the outbreak emerged in China late last year, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Wednesday.

At least 40,856,210 cases have been registered worldwide. Of these, at least 28,035,900 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections.

Many countries are testing only symptomatic or the most serious cases.

On Tuesday, 6,630 new deaths and 382,496 new cases were recorded worldwide.

The countries with the most new deaths were the United States with 854, followed by India with 717 and Brazil with 651.

The US is the worst-affected country with 221,083 deaths from 8,275,066 cases. At least 3,295,148 people there have been declared recovered.

After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 154,837 deaths from 5,273,954 cases, India with 115,914 deaths from 7,651,107 cases, Mexico with 86,993 deaths from 860,714 cases, and the United Kingdom with 43,967 deaths from 762,542 cases.

The country with the highest number of deaths compared to its population is Peru with 103 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Belgium with 91, Spain 73 and Bolivia 73.

China — excluding Hong Kong and Macau — has to date declared 85,715 cases, including 4,634 deaths and 80,834 recoveries.

Latin America and the Caribbean overall have 383,779 deaths from 10,619,763 cases, Europe 254,318 deaths from 7,834,778 infections, and the United States and Canada 230,875 deaths from 8,478,221 cases.

Asia has reported 161,879 deaths from 9,873,513 cases, the Middle East 54,381 deaths from 2,350,882 cases, Africa 40,225 deaths from 1,665,509 cases, and Oceania 1,008 deaths from 33,551 cases.

As a result of corrections by national authorities or late publication of data, the figures updated over the past 24 hours may not correspond exactly to the previous day’s tallies.


Lapid: Netanyahu’s people shot Israel’s democracy point-blank

Opposition leader Yair Lapid strongly condemns the coalition’s cancelation of a parliamentary vote forming a commission of inquiry into the submarines affair, accusing Likud members of unraveling Israel’s democracy.

He says: “I’ve been a member of Knesset for eight years. Never has a vote been canceled after the vote. I’ve spoken to the longest serving members of this house, none of them remember something like this. In the history of the Knesset never has the speaker of the Knesset canceled a vote in a session he wasn’t even managing. If you can cancel votes, you can close the Knesset. It isn’t needed anymore.”

Lapid calls the parliament “just a theater so that Netanyahu can go around the world and claim Israel is still a democracy.”

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid speaking in the Knesset plenum, October 12, 2020. (Yaniv Nadav/Knesset spokesperson’s office)

Lapid says the government was eager to block the formation of the commission of inquiry because “if a committee is formed to investigate the submarine scandal, it will get to Netanyahu. He is up to his neck in this scandal. That’s why they are willing to do everything to prevent an investigation.”

He also expresses his disappointment that his allies-turned-rivals Blue and White skipped the vote.

“They aren’t the last line of defense for democracy, they are the last line of defense for Netanyahu,” says Lapid. “Netanyahu’s people shot Israel’s democracy from point blank range and Blue and White ran away again.”

Deputy Knesset speaker, an opposition MK, backs decision to scrap 1st vote

Deputy Knesset Speaker Mansour Abbas (Joint List) backs up Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin’s decision to cancel the first vote on the parliamentary commission of inquiry into the submarines affair.

Abbas was chairing the first vote, which passed 25-23 but was later disqualified on technical grounds by Levin, who said coalition lawmakers thought the vote would be by roll call and therefore did not partake in the electronic vote called by Abbas.

In a joint statement, Levin and Abbas say: “It was correct to cancel the outcome of the first vote.”

Mansour Abbas of the Ra’am party holds a press conference after a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on April 16, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Lebanon’s exit from crisis hinges on new PM, says president

Crisis-hit Lebanon’s next prime minister, the third in a year, will have to spearhead reforms and battle corruption, President Michel Aoun says.

Aoun is speaking at a televised news conference a day before his scheduled consultations with MPs to name Lebanon’s new premier.

“I hope that you will think well about the consequences the nomination (of a premier) will have on the process of forming a government,” Aoun says, addressing lawmakers.

It will affect “reform plans and international rescue initiatives,” he said.

Saad Hariri resigned as premier in October 2019 in the wake of unprecedented street protests, but he is now expected to make a comeback at the helm of the next government.

Most parliamentary blocs have pledged support for Hariri, although Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement are against his nomination.

However, the FPM’s allies, the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah movement and Amal, are expected to endorse Hariri.

“Will the person who will have to bear the burden of being named and forming a government commit to addressing corruption and launching a reform drive?” Aoun asks/

Lebanon has appointed two new premiers since Hariri resigned last October.


Netanyahu pauses coronavirus meeting to address World Economic Forum panel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pauses the coronavirus cabinet meeting, citing an issue of “important national interest.”

His office says he’s set to address a World Economic Forum panel headlined “The Great Reset: Harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

Knesset legal adviser to weigh government’s conduct in submarine vote

The Knesset legal adviser will appraise the government’s decision, which cited procedural voting issues, to overturn a vote to form a parliamentary inquiry into the submarines affair.

The probe comes amid conflicting claims about when Likud MK Miki Zohar asked for a roll-call vote in the case — before or after voting began — and whether he had the authority to do so.

Gantz to head to US for security meetings at Pentagon

Defense Minister Benny Gantz will fly to the United States tonight for a “security meeting” with US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, as well as discussions with other officials in the Pentagon, Gantz’s office says.

The meetings will likely focus on the proposed sale of F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates and the potential impact on Israel’s so-called qualitative military edge, its military superiority in the region, which the US is legally mandated to maintain.

Gantz will return to Israel on Friday, his office says.

Judah Ari Gross

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper,, right, with Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the Pentagon, Washington, September 22, 2020. (Shmulik Almani/Defense Ministry)

Health Ministry report warns kids with COVID could be superspreaders

The Health Ministry report on COVID-19 infections among children and teenagers, presented today at the coronavirus cabinet, reportedly warns that kids are “infected, infect others and could be superspreaders.”

“Since most of them don’t display symptoms, it’s hard to detect a large portion of the children who are carrying the virus and they are likely to be a source of infection for others,” the ministry report says, according to the Haaretz daily.

The report finds that 8% of coronavirus tests conducted on children under 18 through September have returned positive, compared to 6% among adults. The finding was also confirmed in the country’s random nationwide sampling for coronavirus antibodies, which found that 7.1% of minors had antibodies, compared to 1.7%-4.8% among adults.

Netanyahu has called this finding “astonishing.”

Young children at a kindergarten in Yashresh on October 18, 2020, after being shut down during a monthlong national coronavirus lockdown. (Yossi Aloni/FLASH90)

Poll: Ahead of election, 8 in 10 Americans say misinformation a major problem

In a presidential election year that has thrown the country’s divisions into stark relief, Americans can agree on this: Misinformation about government and politics is a major problem.

A survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Opinion Research and USAFacts finds that while voters say it’s pretty easy to find accurate information about voting, they have a harder time knowing whether there’s any factual basis for the information they’re getting from and about the candidates.

Among the poll’s findings: More than 8 in 10 rated the spread of misinformation about government a “major problem.”

In this combination of pictures created on September 29, 2020, Democratic US presidential candidate Joe Biden (L) and US President Donald Trump speak during the first presidential debate at the Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. (Jim Watson and Saul Loeb/AFP)

The poll finds the candidates and their campaigns are themselves seen as not credible by many Americans, with less than a third of Americans saying campaign messages from either Biden or Trump are often or always based on facts.

Roughly half of respondents said Trump’s campaign messages are rarely or never based in fact, while about 4 in 10 respondents say that of Biden’s campaign.

Not surprisingly, Democrats and Republicans disagree about which candidate has the bigger problem with the facts. But Trump scores lower even among his own party, with nearly a quarter of Republicans saying his campaign messages are rarely or never based in fact compared with only about 1 in 10 Democrats who say the same about Biden.

While partisan disagreement is nothing new, the battles used to be more about policies or ideas rather than disagreements about fundamental facts or whether the other side is even telling the truth.

When Americans do try to verify news about the campaign, internet searches are the preferred way, the survey found, with 35% saying they turn to the web to see if news about the contest is true.

Supporters cheer as President Donald Trump leaves after speaking at a campaign rally at Middle Georgia Regional Airport, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Macon, Ga. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Traditional news sources fared worse: 13% said they turn to cable news networks, 8% said national news networks and only 3% went with newspapers or online news sites, reflecting a broader loss of trust in news organizations.

Social media received similarly poor marks, with only 5% saying it’s where they go to verify whether election-related news is true. Nevertheless, social media remains a leading source of news for many, with 37% saying they get news from platforms like Facebook or Twitter at least once a day.

One silver lining in the poll? At least 6 in 10 Americans say it’s easy to find factual information about registering to vote and casting their ballot. That’s especially good news during a pandemic year election in which many voters will vote by mail for the first time.

The AP-NORC/USAFacts poll of 1,121 adults was conducted Sept. 15-25 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.


7 arrested in Paris over alleged attempted car-ramming outside Israel embassy

Seven British nationals are reportedly in custody in Paris after an attempted car-ramming of a police officer outside the Israeli Embassy in the French capital.

The incident happened on Monday night, according to local media. It said a dark  BMW with “three to four people” inside, followed by a Mercedes, attempted to hit an officer outside the embassy, then fled. The officer dodged the vehicles and was not hurt.

The seven suspects arrested Tuesday night are said to include four men and three women, who are described as British nationals of Pakistani origin.

Virus testing lab to open in airport on November 3 — report

A coronavirus testing lab will open in Ben Gurion Airport on November 3, allowing Israeli travelers to get tested in advance of their flights abroad, Channel 12 reports.

Drive-in testing at the airport will be available 72 hours in advance of flights and will include a fast test option (NIS 135) and one that will take 14 hours to process (NIS 45).

Travelers at the almost empty halls of Ben Gurion International Airport, during a nationwide lockdown, October 12, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/FLASH90)

Knesset secretary says procedural request in submarine vote not unprecedented

Knesset Secretary Yardena Meller-Horowitz says it’s not unprecedented for a coalition chairman to ask for a roll-call vote, as Likud MK Miki Zohar did earlier, after questions arose on his authority to make the request. She says such a request is “something that happens from time to time and what happened today should not be viewed as a precedent.”

Zohar’s request — which was apparently initially ignored, though it remains unclear precisely when he asked — prompted a revote on a bid to form a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the submarines affair. After the opposition passed the proposal, the Likud lawmaker claimed coalition MKs expected to have their names called and therefore didn’t vote electronically and the Knesset speaker called a second vote, during which the proposal was overturned.

Pope endorses same-sex civil unions in new documentary film

Pope Francis endorses same-sex civil unions for the first time as pope while being interviewed for the feature-length documentary “Francesco,” which had its premiere at the Rome Film Festival on today.

The papal thumbs up comes midway through the film that delves into issues Francis cares about most, including the environment, poverty, migration, racial and income inequality, and the people most affected by discrimination.

“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God,” Francis says in one of his sit-down interviews for the film. “What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”

While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages. However, he had never come out publicly in favor of civil unions as pope.


Israeli strike kills 3 pro-Iran fighters in Syria — monitor

Three Iran-backed paramilitary fighters were killed in an overnight Israeli strike that hit Syria’s southern province of Quneitra, a war monitor says.

The three were from the Syrian Resistance to Liberate the Golan, a group linked to the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, says Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The group was formed more than six years ago to launch attacks in the Golan Heights.

At least one of the killed fighters was Syrian, the Observatory said, but the nationalities of the other two remained unclear.

The official SANA news agency reported the Israeli strike on a “school” in Quneitra’s northern countryside shortly after midnight, but did not mention casualties.

Abdul Rahman says that Iran-backed fighters were staying inside the facility the night of the attack.


US treasury secretary discusses ‘strategic cooperation’ with Qatari emir

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met today in Doha with Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to discuss “strategic cooperation” between the two countries, Qatar says.

“Throughout the meeting, a survey of strategic cooperation between the two friendly nations was conducted, as well as the dimensions of support and reinforcement, especially in the economic arena,” the official Qatar News Agency says in a statement.

The two officials also discussed “matters of mutual interest,” according to QNA.

The meeting comes against the backdrop of reports that the US and Qatar are looking to reach a deal which would mend fences between the Gulf Emirate and its neighbors. A Saudi-led coalition of countries severed ties with Doha in 2017.

Aaron Boxerman

Qatar agrees to keep up Gaza payments through end of 2021 — report

Qatar has agreed to continue to provide monthly aid to impoverished residents of the Gaza Strip through the end of 2021, the Ynet news site reports.

The sum of the monthly aid has yet to be determined, it says.

The decision comes amid intensive negotiations between Israel and Hamas, through international intermediaries, the site reports.

It also comes as US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is in Doha.

Palestinians receive financial aid from Qatar at a post office in Gaza City, June 20, 2019.
(Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Fatal stabbing in Dresden 2 weeks ago investigated as terror attack

A knife attack that killed one tourist and seriously injured another in the German city of Dresden two weeks ago is being treated as a terrorist attack, prosecutors say.

A 20-year-old Syrian man was arrested on Tuesday evening and is believed to have an Islamist background, federal prosecutors in the city of Karlsruhe say.


5 hurt in construction accident in Beit Shemesh

Five people are injured, two of them seriously, after scaffolding collapses at a construction site in Beit Shemesh.

Medics are providing treatment to the wounded. Three are in moderate condition.

Emergency services are also checking whether any other workers are trapped under the rubble.

Pompeo hopes Sudan will quickly recognize Israel

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he hopes Sudan will soon recognize Israel as Washington moved to remove the Arab country as a state sponsor of terrorism.

“We continue to work to make the case to every country to recognize Israel,” Pompeo tells reporters.

“We are working diligently with them to make the case for why that’s in the Sudanese government’s best interest to make that sovereign decision. We hope that they’ll do that, and we hope that they’ll do that quickly.”


U~S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department, in Washington, October 14, 2020. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Trump rape accuser expected in court amid defamation suit

A woman who says President Donald Trump raped her in the 1990s is expected to be in court to hear lawyers argue whether Trump can substitute the United States for himself as the defendant in her defamation lawsuit.

E. Jean Carroll’s lawyers will argue that Trump cannot claim he was acting in an official capacity when he made statements denying the encounter with Carroll in a luxury department store dressing room in midtown Manhattan.

Justice Department attorneys say Trump had to respond in June 2019 to accusations Carroll made against him in a book because the claims related to his fitness for office.

The arguments are taking place in Manhattan federal court before Judge Lewis A. Kaplan. Unlike most proceedings these days, the lawyers will be in a courtroom. Kaplan is expected to rule later in a written opinion.

E. Jean Carroll in New York in 2006. (Juliean Nesmo/ Wikimedia Commons)

Carroll sued last year, saying defamatory attacks by Trump include assertions that Carroll had falsely accused other men of rape, that she lied about him to advance a secret political conspiracy and sell books and that he had never met her — even though they’d been photographed together. Her lawyers noted Trump also had said: “She’s not my type.”

Carroll was a 52-year-old media figure hosting an advice show when she says the encounter with Trump occurred sometime between the fall of 1995 and spring of 1996.

They recognized one another from each other’s media exposure and Carroll was struck “by his boyish good looks,” according to her lawsuit.

When Trump asked for her help to get a gift for “a girl,” Carroll “was surprised but thrilled that Trump would want her advice” and the search eventually led to the store’s lingerie section, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said they ended up together in a dressing room after teasing each other to try on a see-through lilac gray bodysuit. Once there, Trump closed the door, pushed her against a wall, bumped her head twice against a wall and pulled down her tights before raping her, the lawsuit said.


Netanyahu said seeking five-stage plan to fully lift lockdown

Today’s hours-long coronavirus cabinet meeting will likely end without resolution, with ministers set to meet again early next week, according to Hebrew media reports.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will present a plan that will see the health restrictions lifted in five stages, rather than the current nine, reports say.

Health officials said against Netanyahu’s five-stage plan to ease virus rules

Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu and the Health Ministry’s head of public health services, Sharon Alroy-Preis, are reportedly against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan for a five-stage plan to fully lift the lockdown.

The current plan calls for removing restrictions in nine separate stages.

The health officials warn the process must be more gradual.

Decisions won’t be made by ministers on the issue until Sunday, at the earliest.

Iran daily virus cases exceed 5,000 in new record

Iran’s daily novel coronavirus caseload surpasses 5,000 infections — a new record — according to official figures announced Tuesday, as death rates remain high.

Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari says the country had registered a record 5,039 new infections in the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number to 539,670.

There were also 322 new deaths, as the worst-hit country in the Middle East counted 31,034 fatalities since February.

Government spokesman Ali Rabii tells a press conference that “the spread of the virus is rising in 12 provinces including Tehran, and nine provinces are on alert,” urging “cooperation” to curb its transmission.


Coronavirus cabinet meeting ends without decisions on schools, shops

The meeting of the coronavirus cabinet ends without decisions on reopening schools and stores.

Ministers will reconvene next week to discuss the lifting of lockdown restrictions.

Volunteer in AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine trial dies in Brazil — report

A Brazilian volunteer in the coronavirus vaccine trial run by Oxford University and AstraZeneca has died, according to Reuters.

The report cites the Brazilian health authority. The cause of death is not immediately clear.

Spain becomes first EU nation with one million coronavirus cases

Spain has become the first European Union nation to surpass a million coronavirus infections, official data shows, as the government mulls fresh restrictions on public life to curb the spread of the disease.

The country recorded 16,973 confirmed cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, the health ministry announces Wednesday, taking the total to 1,005,295 since its first case was diagnosed on January 31 on the remote island of La Gomera in the Canary Islands.

Of this number, 34,366 people have died, after 156 more deaths were recorded in the previous 24 hours.

Spain, which is home to around 47 million people, is only the sixth country in the world to cross this grim milestone after the United States, India, Brazil, Russia and Argentina, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.


TikTok says it will crack down on anti-Semitism, white nationalism

Video snippet sharing sensation TikTok says it is cracking down on hateful content, banning anti-Semitic stereotypes and white nationalism posts.

Expanded rules against promoting hateful ideologies at TikTok include barring “misinformation and hurtful stereotypes” about Jewish, Muslim and other communities, the company says in a blog post.

“This includes misinformation about notable Jewish individuals and families who are used as proxies to spread anti-Semitism,” TikTok says.

The platform has already banned posts denying the Holocaust.

A TikTok video showing a teenager playing the role of a Holocaust victim (Screenshot)

TikTok will also remove posts hurtful content aimed at the LGBTQ+ community, including promotion of conversion therapy or the notion that sexuality is not innate.

Safety teams at TikTok already tasked with removing hateful ideologies such as neo-Nazism and white supremacy will now also take down content with “neighboring ideologies” such as white nationalism and male supremacy, according to the company.

“As part of our efforts to prevent hateful ideologies from taking root, we will stem the spread of coded language and symbols that can normalize hateful speech and behavior,” TikTok says.

Teams enforcing content rules are being trained to take into account nuances such as a member of a disenfranchised group using a slur as a term of empowerment, according to TikTok.

“On the other hand, if a slur is being used hatefully, it doesn’t belong on TikTok,” the company says.

Social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube have ramped up their battles against hateful content as social justice protests roil US cities and political rhetoric stokes social division ahead of the US presidential election next month.


Pompeo says Syria not forthcoming on missing Americans

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that Syria’s regime has not revealed all it knows about two missing Americans despite a rare visit by a US official.

Despite the absence of diplomatic relations, a US official visited Damascus in August to seek the freedom of journalist Austin Tice and Syrian-American Majd Kamalmaz, The Wall Street Journal first reported on Sunday.

“Our ask is that the Syrians release Mr. Tice — they tell us what they know. They have chosen not to do that so far,” Pompeo tells reporters when asked about the mission by the White House official, Kash Patel.

“We are continuing to work for the return not only of Austin but of every American that’s held,” Pompeo says.

Austin Tice (photo credit: screen capture, YouTube)
Austin Tice (screen capture: YouTube)

Tice was a freelance photojournalist working for Agence France-Presse, McClatchy News, The Washington Post, CBS and other news organizations when he disappeared after being detained at a checkpoint near Damascus on August 14, 2012.

Thirty-one years old at the time he was captured, Tice appeared blindfolded in the custody of an unidentified group of armed men in a video a month later.

Since then, there has been no official information on whether he is alive or dead.


Protests held across country against domestic violence after women murdered

Protests are being held around the country against domestic violence, following several murders this week of women by their partners.

The rallies are held in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Beersheba, Nazareth and Rishon Lezion, according to reports.

Mysterious flight travels directly from Israel to Sudan

Flight tracking sites record a mysterious unregistered flight that traveled directly from Israel to Sudan earlier today and is now on its way back.

The route comes on the heels of efforts by the United States to normalize ties between Khartoum and Jerusalem.

Erekat remains in serious condition with COVID-19

The daughter of senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat, who is hospitalized in Jerusalem with COVID-19, says he’s “still intubated and connected to the ECMO machine.”

“Hopefully things will take a better way. Pray for my father,” she says in a video message.

In rare statement, exiled Fatah chief Dahlan hopes Erekat recovers

Exiled Fatah security chief Mohammad Dahlan issued a rare statement in support of senior Palestinian Liberation Organization official Saeb Erekat, who is currently in critical condition with coronavirus complications.

“I shared a long friendship with Dr. Saeb Erekat. We broke bread together. Fatah brought us together. In this charged times, as Saeb fights for his life, I pray for him, I hope for him to be cured and a safe return to his family. The journey continues,” Dahlan said.

Dahlan, who lives in Abu Dhabi, is a bitter rival of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He has lived in the UAE since 2011, when he was expelled from the West Bank. Officials in Ramallah publicly accused of him of bearing some blame for the UAE’s decision to normalize ties with Israel in mid-August.

Aaron Boxerman

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