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Global investigation unveils alleged financial misdeeds by Likud MK Nir Barkat

Pandora Papers find senior politician held assets under his name in Virgin Islands, transferred them to his brother rather than blind trust; Barkat dismisses ‘ridiculous’ claims

Likud lawmaker Nir Barkat speaks at a conference in Tel Aviv, June 10, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Likud lawmaker Nir Barkat speaks at a conference in Tel Aviv, June 10, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

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

Coronavirus cabinet says new Green Pass mandatory barcode scan to begin Tuesday

The coronavirus cabinet ends its first meeting in over a month, saying it has decided to start forcing public venues to scan the barcode on the new Green Pass documents upon entry, starting on Tuesday.

The move is an apparent attempt to cause more Israeli to get the new Green Pass issued today, which is given only to those who have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 in the past five months.

Enforcement will begin on Thursday, the statement says.

Museums will be exempted to allow school classes to visit without taking COVID-19 tests. City libraries will also be exempted to allow books to be borrowed without a Green Pass.

Bennett said set to delay vote on submarine affair inquiry until after budget passes

After Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced that he has okayed the potential formation of a commission of inquiry into the so-called “Submarine Affair,” the Kan public broadcaster says Prime Minister Naftali Bennett intends to delay the step until after the state budget is approved.

The report says the premier is currently hesitant to call a cabinet vote on the matter since some members of his Yamina party oppose a probe into the major corruption scandal, which has ensnared many associates of Benjamin Netanyahu, but not the former prime minister himself.

Bennett would presumably be more willing to hold such a vote after the approval of the budget — a move that must be made by next month to prevent the current government from automatically dissolving.

The diverse right-center-left-Islamist coalition only has a razor-thin parliamentary majority, and Bennett would want to avoid raising contentious issues that could cause friction ahead of the budget’s approval.

Reports: Israeli billionaire escapes assassination in Cyprus at last moment

A prominent and famous Israeli billionaire was the target of an attempted assassination in Cyprus in recent days that was dramatically foiled at the last moment after he was warned by local security agencies and left the country, Hebrew media reports.

After some details were published by Cypriot and Israeli media, Channel 12 news reports that an Azeri mercenary from the Russian mafia who was sent to kill the businessman has been arrested in Cyprus, very close to a building regularly used by his target.

The Israeli businessman, whose identity is barred from publication, has many assets in Cyprus.

The report says authorities initially suspected an Iranian terror plot, but have now concluded it is not terror-related at all and that the saga may not be over.

Global investigation unveils alleged financial misdeeds by Likud MK Nir Barkat

Senior Likud MK Nir Barkat is named in a massive trove of leaked documents about financial secrecy in global tax havens published by a group of investigative journalists worldwide.

Some 565 Israelis are listed in the Pandora Papers, published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, according to Shomrim, an investigative journalism nonprofit organization that took part in the investigation.

According to the report, the eToro company in which Barkat has holdings is registered in the Virgin Islands, despite the majority of its offices being located in Israel.

Barkat, while serving as Jerusalem’s mayor, claimed that his wealth was under a blind trust, as most politicians do. Yet the leaked data shows that much of his wealth was still under his name until 2019.

After Barkat was elected to the Knesset in 2019, he transferred the same shares to his brother Eli Barkat, despite the Knesset’s ethics committee’s guidelines requiring a “public trust company,” Shomrim says.

Barkat responds that “when he entered the public arena some 18 years ago, he transferred the management of all his business activity to his brother, and when he was elected to the Knesset, he filed blind trust documents alongside a full declaration of capital to the ethics committee and asked for its guidance. It is hard to disconnect the political interests at play in the publication of this ridiculous ‘investigation.'”

Leaders, including Jordan king, hid millions offshore: ‘Pandora Papers’ probe

More than a dozen heads of state and government, including the king of Jordan and the Czech prime minister, have amassed millions in secret offshore assets, according to an investigation published Sunday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

The so-called “Pandora Papers” investigation — involving some 600 journalists from dozens of media including The Washington Post and The Guardian — is based on the leak of some 11.9 million documents from 14 financial services companies around the world.

Hamas denies ‘rumors’ of long-term ceasefire with Israel, prisoner swap deal

Hamas denies Arabic media reports that a long-term ceasefire deal has been reached between Israel and Gaza-based terror groups, including a prisoner exchange between the two sides.

“Spreading such rumors will not succeed in putting pressure on the leadership of the resistance,” senior Hamas official Zaher Jabareen says in a statement.

A delegation of senior Hamas officials, including Hamas terror chief Ismail Haniyeh, arrived in Cairo this morning, for talks with Egyptian intelligence.

Joint List deplores ‘militaristic’ move to use IDF in battle against Arab crime

Arab Israeli politicians from the opposition Joint List party criticize a decision by the government to involve the Shin Bet and the IDF in the fight against rising organized crime in Arab communities.

“Fight criminals, not democracy. The sole responsibility for law enforcement among civilians is the police, not intelligence agencies and the military. After decades of government and police treating [Arab locales] as their backyard, the last thing we need is more of the same attitude: police for Jews and Shin Bet for Arabs,” Joint List chief Ayman Odeh says in a tweet.

His colleague Sami Abou Shehadah from the hardline nationalist Balad faction agrees.

“The militaristic mindset that leads the government to involve the army and the Shin Bet to deal with the organized crime in Arab society proves what we’ve always said: the State of Israel deals with Arab citizens as a security threat, not as civilians,” Abou Shehadeh says.

Bennett says Delta outbreak under control, but seeks to avoid complacency

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says during a meeting of the coronavirus cabinet that the outbreak of the Delta variant is starting to be brought under control.

“When a virus starts retreating, we can’t let it recover,” Bennett says, according to Hebrew media, advocating the continuation of tight restrictions to avoid “signaling to the public that we are stopping to wear masks — on the contrary.”

He says the “most pressing task” is to ease restrictions on the education system to stop the “mass quarantines in schools.”

He says the government should try to enable daily life to continue, but without causing the complacency seen after previous waves of infections: “What goes away can also come back.”

‘Significant progress’ reported in talks for Israel-Hamas prisoner swap

The Al-Arabiya news website reports “significant progress” in negotiations between Israel and the Hamas terror group regarding a potential prisoner swap deal, citing Palestinian sources.

Hamas leaders have reportedly agreed with Egyptian authorities on understandings, some of which relate to talks of a swap that would see Palestinian security prisoners freed in exchange for Israeli civilians and bodies of soldiers held in Gaza.

There is no immediate confirmation from Israeli or Egyptian sources.

Health Ministry said to push for many Green Pass rules to be nixed in a week

Representatives of the Health Ministry in the coronavirus cabinet meeting have recommended that ministers cancel various Green Pass restrictions in a week if morbidity doesn’t start rising again, Hebrew media reports.

They want the move from Green Pass restrictions to “purple badge” restrictions to be in effect for outdoor restaurant spaces, gyms, outdoor attractions, swimming pools, museums and libraries.

Green Pass rules limit entry to public places only to those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine or had the disease in the previous five months.

Purple badge restrictions mean anyone can access those places, provided that basic distancing rules are enforced and that the number of simultaneous customers is limited to prevent overcrowding.

After chaos, Health Ministry says new Green Pass rules to take effect Thursday

The Health Ministry says in a statement that due to the crashing of its website and app as Israelis rushed to download new Green Passes, existing vaccination or recovery certificates will still be used to allow access to various public spaces until Thursday.

“To allow the public time to get organized, enforcement of the Green Pass won’t be conducted during these days,” the statement says.

The ministry says that 1,030,000 new Green Passes have been issued. The old passes were originally due to expire today.

Coronavirus cabinet starts its first meeting in over a month

The high-level coronavirus cabinet convenes for its first meeting in over a month.

The meeting will discuss ways to incentivize Israeli citizens to get a booster vaccine dose, as well as potentially easing some restrictions as morbidity is expected to decline further.

Razvozov to represent government at opening of Israeli pavilion at Dubai Expo

Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov’s office says that he will travel tomorrow to Dubai and represent the Israeli government in the inauguration ceremony of the Israeli pavilion at the Expo 2020 event.

The Israeli pavilion at the world fair celebrates Israel’s normalization of ties with the United Arab Emirates, signed last year.

People take pictures in the Israel pavilion during a media tour ahead of the opening of the Dubai Expo 2020 in the Gulf Emirate, on September 27, 2021. (AFP)

Justice minister Sa’ar says he has okayed potential probe of submarine scandal

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar tells the Kan public broadcaster that he has agreed with Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s demand to open a governmental commission of inquiry into the so-called “Submarine Affair,” a massive corruption case that has ensnared a number of close associates of Benjamin Netanyahu, though not the former prime minister himself.

The green light for the move has been approved by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, Sa’ar says.

Gantz is therefore now free to bring the formation of the commission before the cabinet for approval.

The submarine affair, also known as Case 3000, revolves around allegations of a massive bribery scheme in Israel’s multi-billion shekel purchase of naval vessels from German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp.

The scandal also involved the sale of two Dolphin-class submarines and two anti-submarine warships by Germany to Egypt, allegedly approved by Netanyahu without consulting or notifying then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and then-IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz. Israel had long been granted an unofficial veto over such sales by Germany.

Suspects in Kafr Qasim assault on police officers remanded for 5 days

Three suspects in the beating of police officers in the Arab Israeli city of Kafr Qasim have been remanded until Thursday, police say.

Police arrested the three suspects over the weekend after several officers were assaulted early Friday by private security guards working for the municipality. Police suspect a fourth man, who hasn’t been arrested, was also involved in the attack.

The officers had sought to enter the town’s municipality after receiving a report that someone had been violently taken into the building, but were denied entry by the guards. A scuffle broke out and several cops were beaten and bloodied.

Small plane crashes into building in Italy; 8 reported dead

A small private plane carrying six passengers and a crew of two crashes into a vacant, two-story office building in a Milan suburb, with Italian news reports saying that all aboard have perished.

The LaPresse news agency initially quotes firefighters at the scene saying that the pilot and all five passengers aboard have been killed. But later, LaPresse and other media say that there were eight people aboard the flight, including a boy.

Rai state TV says that the passengers are believed to be French.

Fire officials can’t immediately be reached to confirm the nationalities or the number of people aboard the plane.

Firefighters tweet that no one other than those aboard were involved in the early afternoon crash near a subway station in San Donato Milanese, a small town near Milan. They say that several cars in a nearby parking lot were set ablaze, but apparently the vehicles were unoccupied at the time.

A thick column of dark smoke rises from the crash site and is visible for kilometers.

Firefighters are extinguishing the flames of the now-charred building, which reportedly was under renovation.

Report: Green Pass rules for outdoor gatherings could be nixed soon

The Green Pass rules limiting access to large outdoor gatherings only to those who have recently been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 could reportedly be nixed if morbidity continues its current decline.

Channel 12 news says that ahead of the coronavirus cabinet being convened for the first time in weeks, there are negotiations over canceling the Green Pass requirements for outdoor gatherings of over 100 people.

Ministers decide IDF, Shin Bet to help deal with illegal weapons in Arab community

A panel of ministers tasked with battling rampant crime in the Arab community has ended its first meeting, a statement says, adding that it has been decided that the IDF and the Shin Bet security agency will be involved in a new effort to tackle the proliferation of illegal weapons within the community.

The Justice Ministry will promote legislation handing enforcement bodies more legal means, including a minimum punishment for possession of weapons and trade in weapons.

The implementation of the new plan will be immediate.

2 said dead, 3 wounded in Kabul blast

Initial information shows that two civilians have been killed and three wounded in a blast near the entrance to the large Eid Gah Mosque in Kabul, according to Qari Sayed Khosti, a spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid says on Twitter that “a number of civilians” have died.

A prayer ceremony for Mujahid’s mother, who died last week, was being held at the mosque, the spokesman wrote on social media yesterday, adding that “all people and friends are invited to attend.”

Ahmadullah, a shopkeeper nearby, tells AFP: “I heard the sound of an explosion near the Eid Gah Mosque followed by guns firing. Just ahead of the blast, the Taliban had blocked the road to hold a prayer ceremony for Zabihullah Mujahid’s mother in the Eid Gah Mosque.”

Ambulances carrying the wounded are seen rushing towards Kabul’s Emergency Hospital in the Shahr-e Naw area.

The hospital says on Twitter that four patients are being treated.

Islamic Movement guards try to block photographers from entering court hearing

Staff of a private militia belonging to the Islamic Movement have tried to prevent suspects in an assault on police officers from being photographed, standing at the entrance to a court hearing on their remand and physically blocking photographers from entering.

“You don’t have an approval to enter, this is a private area,” the two men tell a photographer for the Walla news site, according to footage published by the outlet. The report says court guards weren’t around.

“Calm down, don’t be a hero,” the men can be heard saying, despite having no authority to prevent journalists from entering the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court hearing.

The photographers are eventually allowed in.

Police arrested four suspects over the weekend after several officers were assaulted early Friday by private security guards working for the municipality of the Arab Israeli city of Kafr Qasim.

The officers had sought to enter the town’s municipality after receiving a report that someone had been violently taken into the building, but were denied entry by the guards. A scuffle broke out and several cops were beaten and bloodied.

Algeria bans French military planes from its airspace

The Algerian government has banned French military planes from its airspace, the French army says, amid a diplomatic crisis sparked by a visa row and reported critical comments from French President Emmanuel Macron.

France’s jets regularly fly over Algerian territory to reach the Sahel region of western Africa, where its soldiers are helping to battle jihadist insurgents as part of its Barkhane operation.

Blast kills several civilians near Kabul mosque, Taliban says

An explosion outside a mosque in the Afghan capital has killed “a number of civilians,” a senior Taliban official says.

The blast struck near the entrance of the Eid Gah Mosque in Kabul, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid says on Twitter.

Initial study: Those infected with COVID after 1st vaccine should get 2nd dose

An initial study focusing on hundreds of Israeli healthcare workers has found that people infected with COVID-19 shortly after receiving their first Pfizer vaccine dose have similar protection to those who have got one vaccine dose and haven’t been infected — meaning they should get a second vaccine dose.

The study, by researchers from Bar-Ilan University and Ziv Medical Center, shows that even though getting a single vaccine shot after being infected with COVID-19 yields particularly high antibody levels, that doesn’t work the other way around.

The lead researcher, epidemiologist Prof. Michael Edelstein, is therefore recommending an additional vaccine dose for those who got infected after their first shot.

But he admits the study “was conducted on a small cohort,” and that therefore more comprehensive research is needed to confirm or refute the finding.

Israeli runner Chemtai-Salpeter finishes 5th in London Marathon

Israeli marathonist Lonah Chemtai-Salpeter finishes fifth in the women’s London Marathon, scoring her best time of the year at 2 hours, 18 minutes and 54 seconds.

The winner is Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya, and world record holder and defending champion Brigid Kosgei finishes fourth.

Chemtai-Salpeter is racing after her disappointment at the Tokyo Olympics, where she was in the leading group until menstrual cramps forced her to slow down in the last few kilometers.

Suspect remanded for 8 days over murder of 17-year-old girl

The suspect in the murder of 17-year-old girl Lital Yael Melnik in the Haifa suburb of Kiryat Motzkin has been remanded for eight days.

The suspect is a 49-year-old man who works at a psychiatric hospital and reportedly treated Melnik, who had a history of mental health difficulties.

Bennett says crime in Arab community has reached ‘monstrous magnitude’

For the first time, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett convenes a panel of ministers tasked with tackling the ongoing epidemic of violent crime in the Arab Israeli community, where at least 95 people have been murdered this year.

At the outset of the meeting, Bennett says the situation in the Arab sector “has reached a red line.”

“This is a problem that has been ignored and neglected — it has reached monstrous magnitude,” the premier says. “The Arab public must understand that the security forces aren’t the enemy — they are the solution. Stand behind the police and security forces, stand behind the state.”

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