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Top cop in Haredi town indicates he’s turning a blind eye to closure violations

Recording of Modiin Illit’s top law enforcement official shows him saying he won’t ‘mess with’ synagogues, so long as they listen to officers when someone calls in a complaint

A view of the settlement of Modiin Illit, February 2019. (Flash90)
A view of the settlement of Modiin Illit, February 2019. (Flash90)

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

Shin Bet chief ‘sorry’ for breaking lockdown rules, ‘takes responsibility’

Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman apologizes for hosting relatives at his home on Friday, the eve of Sukkot, against government directives.

A statement from Argaman says the guests included “his soldier daughter, after a month and a half away from home, and his wife’s daughter, her husband and their infant son — who is watched over by [Argaman’s] wife on weekdays.”

It says all those in attendance “stayed in the open air.”

Argaman says he “is sorry for the event and takes full responsibility for it.”

Acting police chief enters quarantine after contact with virus carrier

Acting Police Commissioner Motti Cohen enters quarantine after exposure to a confirmed coronavirus carrier while touring the country’s north, his office says.

Cohen feels well and will continue working while in quarantine.

Acting Chief of Police Motti Cohen visits a temporary checkpoint in Jerusalem on September 18, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Man critically injured in car crash in southern Israel

A man is critically injured in a traffic accident near Bror Hayil, in southern Israel.

The man, aged around 30, is being treated by paramedics at the scene of the collision of two vehicles.

Two others were hurt in the crash, with their conditions called mild and moderate.

Israel, Jordan sign deal to allow planes to cross between countries’ territories

Israel and Jordan sign an aviation agreement to allow airlines to cross between the two countries’ territories en route to various destinations.

Coupled with Saudi Arabia’s recent agreement to allow flights between Israel and Gulf states to fly over its territory, the deal is expected to shorten regional flight paths and help airlines save fuel.

American Jewish poet Louise Glück wins Nobel literature prize

The Nobel Prize for literature is awarded to American Jewish poet Louise Glück “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.”

The prize is announced in Stockholm by Mats Malm, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy.

This photo taken on November 19, 2014, shows US author Louise Gluck giving a speech at the 2014 National Book Awards in New York City (Robin Marchant / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

New York-born Glück, 77, who is a professor of English at Yale University, made her debut in 1968 with “Firstborn,” and “was soon acclaimed as one of the most prominent poets in American contemporary literature,” the Nobel Academy says.

Her poetry is “characterized by a striving for clarity,” often focusing on childhood and family life, and close relationship with parents and siblings, it says.

It notes her 2006 collection “Averno,” calling it “masterly” and “a visionary interpretation of the myth of Persephone’s descent into hell in the captivity of Hades, the god of death.”

The award, which includes a 10 million kronor (more than $1.1 million) prize, comes after several years of controversy and scandal for the world’s pre-eminent literary accolade.

— with AP


Official in charge of tracing: We’ll be able to handle up to 6,000 daily cases

The head of the Israeli military’s new contact tracing center, slated to begin leading epidemiological investigations starting November 1, tells Channel 12 the body will be able to handle up to 6,000 new daily infections, but not more.

“We built this ‘machine’ expecting a certain workload… We will not be able to handle every number of infected,” the Home Front Command’s Col. Reli Margalit warns.

He says it is necessary to bring illness down to “a sane number.”

IDF contact tracers in the central city of Ramle, in a TV report released on September 25, 2020. (Screenshot/Channel 13)

Police break up illegal gathering at a synagogue in Ashdod

Police break up an illegal gathering at a synagogue in Ashdod.

Authorities say a policewoman was assaulted during the incident, and a suspect was arrested.

Second Trump-Biden debate going virtual amid president’s illness

The second presidential debate between US President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden will take place virtually amid the fallout from the president’s diagnosis of COVID-19.

The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates debates makes the announcement a week before the two are scheduled to face off in Miami. The candidates will “participate from separate remote locations,” while the participants and moderator remain in Miami, the commission says.

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

Trump was diagnosed with the coronavirus a week ago and said he looked forward to debating Biden on stage in Miami, saying, “It will be great!”

Biden, for his part, said he and Trump “shouldn’t have a debate” as long as the president remains COVID positive. Biden told reporters in Pennsylvania that he was “looking forward to being able to debate him” but said “we’re going to have to follow very strict guidelines.”

— AP

Netanyahu to bring peace deal with UAE for approval in cabinet and Knesset

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will bring Israel’s normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates to approval in the cabinet and the Knesset on Monday, his office says.

Though Netanyahu signed the historic Abraham Accords last month, Israeli law says they must still be approved by ministers and the legislature.

L-R: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan participate in the signing of the Abraham Accords at the White House on September 15, 2020. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)

Trump says he’ll refuse to debate Biden virtually

US President Donald Trump says he’ll refuse to debate Joe Biden virtually, as organizers have announced.

“I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” he tells Fox News.

The change had been made due to Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis.

Head of Bnei Brak hospital quits after saying Haredim ‘killing people’ with virus

The head of a Bnei Brak hospital has resigned after contentious comments about the ultra-Orthodox public during a radio interview.

Moti Ravid, of Mayanei HaYeshua, was widely criticized for telling Kan radio earlier: “Until today there has never been an entire public that has ignored authority like this, and killed people… I don’t understand what religion has to do with what they’re doing. They were taught to get everything and give nothing for years.”

Prof. Moti Ravid (Arielinson / Wikipedia)

In resigning, Ravid says he was misunderstood and wants to help the ultra-Orthodox public.

“I was referring to extremist sects,” he says. “I did not want to hurt anyone. I very much apologize for people being hurt.”

A patient infected with coronavirus is seen during morning prayer in Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center, Bnei Brak, Israel, April 27, 2020 (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Shas MK Ya’akov Asher tells Channel 12 that Ravid has worked with the local community for 20 years. He says his comments were “unfortunate” and “I want to ascribe it to the exhaustion” of everybody in the healthcare system.

Asher says the majority of ultra-Orthodox are following the rules. “I’ve just come from Bnei Brak… It’s like Tisha B’av there,” he says of the quiet streets, usually teeming with celebratory events on Sukkot.

NY Daily News features Haredi protests on front page, declaring: ‘Oy, revolt’

Reporting on ultra-Orthodox protests against coronavirus restrictions on New York, the New York Daily News splashes the words “Oy, revolt” on its front page today.

“Here in Borough Park, we don’t go by the laws of America. We have our own laws,” a subhead declares, quoting one of the protesters.

Hundreds took part in the Wednesday demonstrations, the second night of protests amid anger and resentment in New York City neighborhoods facing new coronavirus shutdowns, with some residents saying the state is unfairly targeting Orthodox Jewish communities as it tries to stamp out hot spots before they spread.

Young Israeli girl spends lockdown with friend: A huge pet snake

Reuters reports on a young Israeli girl whose best friend during the coronavirus lockdown has been a huge pet python.

“It helps me pass the time because I really like to hang out with snakes and sometimes I help snakes shed [their skin] and I help them to be happy during coronavirus,” Inbar Regev says.

Regev’s family runs an animal sanctuary in southern Israel.

Her mother Sarit says: “Inbar was raised with all these animals and she was raised with the snakes. When Inbar was little she swam inside the bath with the snake and now she has grown up and the snake got bigger, so they swim together in the pool. It’s very natural for us,” she says.

Report: Public transportation to resume near-full operations next week

The Transportation Ministry has decided to bring public transportation back to nearly full operations starting next week, Channel 12 reports.

Intercity and intracity routes will be back to normal starting Sunday, but only until 8 p.m. at first, the network reports.

Meanwhile, buses will only be allowed to carry 50 percent of their capacity, to ensure social distancing.

File: Commuters wear face masks as they ride a public bus in the southern city of Ashkelon, March 29, 2020 (Flash90)

Fatah, Islamic Jihad leaders meet to talk Palestinian reconciliation

Fatah Secretary General Jibril Rajoub meets Islamic Jihad chief Ziyad al-Nakhaleh in Beirut to discuss “mechanisms for achieving [Palestinian] reconciliation,” according to the official Palestinian Authority WAFA news agency.

“Fatah is ready to achieve reconciliation and hold elections to renew the legitimacy of the components of the Palestinian political system,” Rajoub says.

Recent weeks have seen a flurry of talks between various Palestinian factions to mend the rifts between Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian groups. PA President Mahmoud Abbas led a meeting of Palestinian faction chiefs in early September at which both Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and al-Nakhaleh spoke.

Senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, attends by video conference a meeting with deputy Hamas chief Saleh al-Arouri (unseen) discussing Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank, on July 2, 2020. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Many Palestinians remain skeptical that the talks will lead to national unity. Several attempts to reconcile the various Palestinian factions since the 2007 rift between Fatah and Hamas have fizzled out.

Islamic Jihad first split from Fatah in 1994, when it left the Palestine Liberation Organization in protest of the Oslo peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

Al-Nakhaleh has also remarked that Islamic Jihad is conditioning Palestinian unity on joining a “PLO that does not recognize Israel,” a demand unlikely to be granted.

— Aaron Boxerman

Hezbollah: Maritime talks with Israel in no way represent normalization

Hezbollah’s political wing says in a statement that Lebanon’s upcoming talks with Israel on a longstanding disputed maritime border do not in any way constitute normalization with the Jewish state.

“Despite all the talk that has been going around, the negotiating framework deals with our southern maritime borders and reclaiming our land, so as to delineate our national sovereignty,” the Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc says.

“It has absolutely nothing to do with ‘reconciling’ with the greedy Zionist enemy, nor with the normalization which some Arab countries have adopted. These countries never believed in or practiced resistance against the Nation’s enemy for a single day.”

— with Aaron Boxerman

Police to probe leak of video damaging to anti-Netanyahu protest leader

Police says they will investigate why a damaging internal police video of anti-government protest leader Amir Haskel was leaked to the media, after it emerged the footage was filmed by a policeman for documenting purposes.

Haskel has been in hot water, and accused of racism, for comments he made to an Ethiopian Israeli policewoman while being arrested in August. In the video, Haskel, surrounded by police, turned to a policewoman of Ethiopian origin and shouted “I brought your parents here from Ethiopia, aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”

Acting police chief Motti Cohen now rejects accusations police are attempting to delegitimize the protests through the release of the video.

Former Israeli Air Force general and leading critic of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Brig. Gen. Amir Haskel in Tel Aviv, on June 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

“The police is not a political body!” he says in a statement. “Claims officials acted out of improper interests are divorced from reality!”

Demonstrators have accused the force of often using disproportionate force against the rallies, supposedly under the direction of Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, a top ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Police officials have rejected taking any sides on the matter.

Persian music master Shajarian, who backed Iran protests, dies

Mohammad Reza Shajarian, whose distinctive voice quavered to traditional Persian music on state radio for years before supporting protesters following Iran’s contested 2009 election, has died, state TV reports. He was 80.

Shajarian enlivened Iran’s traditional music with his singing style, which soared, swooped and trilled over long-known poetry set to song. But the later years of his life saw him forced to only perform abroad, after he backed those who challenged the disputed re-election of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by telling state radio to stop using his songs.

“After what happened, I said ‘no way’ and threatened to file a complaint against them if they continued to use my music,” Shajarian told The Associated Press in 2009.

The TV report says he died from cancer.

— AP

Assad: Normalization with Israel possible if it returns our lands

Syrian President Bashar Assad says the condition for normalizing relations with Israel is the return of the Golan Heights to his country.

“For three decades we have been extremely clear. For Syria, peace is a matter of restoring rights. We are ready to normalize relations with Israel, but only after we return our land to ourselves,” he tells Russia’s state-owned news agency Rossiya Segodnya.

But “Israel is not ready for this,” he says. “We have seen no Israeli official who is ready to move one step forward toward peace.”

Syrian President Bashar Assad listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Damascus, Syria, January 7, 2020. (Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Health Ministry chief: Hospitals aren’t collapsing, health system is heroic

Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy holds a press conference on the state of the coronavirus pandemic.

Levy says the high infection rates have caused “great stress” on hospitals, but insists they “are not collapsing. The health system is not collapsing. The health system is heroic — in the community and in hospitals.”

He implores the public to adhere to health guidelines and avoid all gatherings.

Health Ministry director general Chezy Levy during a press conference in Jerusalem on June 21, 2020 (Flash90)

Levy rejects the possibility that Israel will seek to achieve herd immunity in its fight against COVID-19.

“Herd immunity requires many illnesses and deaths. We will not go down that route.”

Trump doesn’t think he’s ‘contagious at all,’ is ready to hold campaign rallies

US President Donald Trump says that he is ready to hold campaign rallies and credits an experimental drug treatment with helping his recovery from COVID-19, although there is no way for the president or his doctors to know whether the drug had any effect.

“I’m feeling good. Really good. I think perfect,” Trump said a short time ago during a telephone interview with Fox Business, his first since he tested positive.

“I think I’m better to the point where I’d love to do a rally tonight,” Trump said adding that he no longer thinks he’s “contagious at all.”

In this Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, photo, US President Donald Trump removes his mask as he stands on the Blue Room Balcony upon returning to the White House in Washington, after leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda, Maryland (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Trump did not indicate where or when he might have contracted the virus, saying only, “If you’re anywhere around this thing you can catch it.” But he mentioned a recent Rose Garden event announcing his new Supreme Court nominee and a meeting with military families. He said family members often want to get up close to him and “kiss” and “hug” him.

“I can’t say ‘Back up. Stand 10 feet away,'” Trump said.

— AP

Court won’t rethink barring demolition of home of alleged Palestinian killer

The High Court of Justice rejects a request to hold another hearing on its decision to bar the military from demolishing the home of a Palestinian man charged with killing an Israeli soldier.

The court in August forbade the Israel Defense Forces from demolishing the home of Nazmi Abu Bakr, who is accused of killing 21-year-old Sgt. First Class Amit Ben-Ygal by throwing a brick at him from a rooftop, as the soldier took part in an operation in the West Bank village of Yabed in May.

Following heavy criticism of the ruling by politicians and Ben-Ygal’s family, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit instructed prosecutors to file a motion for the High Court to hold another hearing on the matter.

Sgt. First Class Amit Ben-Ygal, who was killed when a rock was thrown at his head during an arrest raid in the northern West Bank village of Yabed on May 12, 2020. (Social media)

But Chief Justice Esther Hayut rejects the request, saying that even assuming a mistake in the interpretation of the law had been made in the original decision, a repeat hearing can only be called if new legislation is passed, changing the legal situation.

Since no new law has been passed on the subject of demolishing attackers’ homes, Hayut rules that the original decision stands.

Gantz tells Netanyahu: 2021 budget must pass soon

Defense Minister Benny Gantz sends a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he demands that the premier immediately instruct the Finance Ministry to begin preparing the 2021 state budget, and to allow its approval by December.

“Any action to thwart the approval of the budget means preferring personal considerations to the good of the Israeli people,” he says.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks to IDF Home Front Command soldiers during a visit to the southern city of Ashdod, September 14, 2020. (Flash90)

Gantz also demands that long-delayed cabinet regulations solidifying the power-sharing agreements between Likud and Blue and White be ratified, and that progress be made on stalled public appointments, including the appointment of a new state attorney and police chief.

“There is a great distance between the unity agreement we signed and where we are,” he says. “The government’s conduct does not allow proper, democratic and worthy governance.”

US set to hit all of Iran’s financial sector with sanctions

The Trump administration is poised to announce that it will blacklist Iran’s entire financial sector, dealing another blow to an economy that is already reeling under US sanctions. The move could deepen tensions with European nations over Iran.

Administration officials and congressional aides say the decision is expected on Thursday. The move is expected to hit 14 Iranian banks that have thus far escaped the re-imposition of US sanctions and, more importantly, subject foreign, non-Iranian financial institutions to penalties for doing business with them. Thus, it will effectively cut them off from the international financial system.

European nations have opposed the blanket financial services blacklisting because it will open up their biggest banks and other companies to US penalties for conducting business with Iran that had previously been allowed.

— AP

Likud: Gantz trying to divert attention from his crumbling party

Reacting to Benny Gantz’s letter to the prime minister criticizing government conduct, Likud says: “Blue and White are continuing to deal in petty politics to divert fire from their crumbling party.”

The party claims it is Blue and White that is holding up senior appointments.

Netanyahu, it says, “will continue to do what is right for the country, not for Blue and White’s populism.”

It calls on the party to “stop looking for fights and enlist to the joint fight against coronavirus.”

NATO chief says allies will leave Afghanistan together

NATO insists that its members will consult and decide together on when to leave Afghanistan, after US President Donald Trump vowed to bring American troops home by Christmas.

Trump, trailing in polls ahead of the November 3 presidential election, made his surprise announcement on Twitter yesterday, dramatically speeding up the timeline for ending America’s longest war.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg repeats the alliance’s longstanding position that it will end its mission in Afghanistan only when conditions on the ground permit.

“We decided to go into Afghanistan together, we will make decisions on future adjustments together, and when the time is right, we will leave together,” Stoltenberg says at a news conference after talks with North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg holds a joint press conference with the Turkish Foreign Minister after their meeting at the Foreign Ministry building in Ankara, on October 05, 2020. (Adem ALTAN / AFP)

NATO went into Afghanistan following the 2001 US-led invasion to topple the Taliban in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. It ended its combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014 and has vastly reduced its presence on the ground, but maintains a 12,000-strong force training and advising local forces.


Brig. Gen. Ghassan Alian to serve as Israel’s military liaison to Palestinians

Defense Minister Benny Gantz announces he will appoint Brig. Gen. Ghassan Alian to serve as the country’s next military liaison to the Palestinians, formally known as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT.

In addition, Gantz decides to appoint Brig. Gen. (res.) Ofer Sarig to the role of IDF comptroller, a position he has filled in an acting capacity for the past year and a half.

Alian, the first Druze officer to command the Golani Brigade, will take over for Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, who currently serves in the role and whose tenure ends in a few months, Gantz’s office says.

Then-Col. Ghassan Alian during a patrol in July 2013 in Jenin. (Yossi Zeliger/FLASH90)

Alian, who currently serves as the head of the Civil Administration within the COGAT unit, will be promoted to the rank of major general.

“The defense minister would like to thank Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, who will finish his position as coordinator of government activities in the territories in the next few months,” Gantz’s office says.

After Trump refuses virtual town hall, Biden plans to hold event alone

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign says because of President Donald Trump’s rejection of a virtual presidential debate on Oct. 15, the Democratic challenger will hold his own town hall event the same night.

Biden spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield says that the Commission on Presidential Debates should reschedule the town hall debate for Oct. 22. That’s the night a third debate was to take place.

Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the first presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 29, 2020. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)

The commission earlier announced that any Oct. 15 debate would be virtual because of Trump’s recent COVID-19 diagnosis. Biden said he was willing to abide by the format change, but Trump blasted the decision and argued without evidence that the commission was trying to help Biden.

Bedingfield says in her statement that Trump is trying to “evade accountability” by avoiding facing voters directly.

— AP

Netanyahu: Budget passed in December will be for 2020 only, Gantz agreed to this

Prime Minister Netanyahu is now saying the budget passed in the last week of December will be for 2020 alone — not 2021.

He claims Blue and White, which has demanded a budget for 2021 as soon as possible, had agreed to this when a budget deadline delay bill was passed in August.

“We agreed and passed a bill that the 2020 budget will be passed in December and at the same time the 2021 budget will be prepared,” he says. “This is the bill they approved and unfortunately Blue and White are denying it.”

This is incorrect. The budget delay bill did not rule on which budget would be passed when. It merely put off the deadline to make that decision to late December, as failing to do so by August 25 would have led to the government’s automatic collapse.

Bnei Brak rabbis: Simchat Torah prayers in synagogues fine; PM: We’ll lose lives

In a message to Bnei Brak residents, top city rabbis say prayers and dance rituals of Saturday’s Simchat Torah holiday can be held inside synagogues — in contravention of coronavirus guidelines.

The rabbis say prayers in open spaces are preferable but that gathering inside synagogue yards, as well as in the buildings themselves, is allowed.

They urge “the necessary caution at this time, to not be hurt or — Heaven forbid — hurt others.”

Israelis dance with the Torah scroll during Simchat Torah celebrations in Beitar Illit in 2009. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Israelis dance with a Torah scroll during Simchat Torah celebrations in Beitar Illit, in 2009. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Meanwhile, the prime minister is urging the ultra-Orthodox public to do the exact opposite on Saturday.

“I ask of everyone who is listening, protect yourselves — no dancing on Simchat Torah,” Prime Minister Netanyahu tells Kol Barama radio. “There is no greater blasphemy than for us to lose lives due to Simchat Torah. Pray outside, and keep to the rules.”

6 charged in plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Whitmer over virus restrictions

Six men plotted to try to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at her vacation home, according to a criminal complaint unsealed today in federal court.

Four of the six men had planned to meet Wednesday to “make a payment on explosives and exchange tactical gear,” the FBI says in the court filing.

The FBI quotes one of the accused as saying Whitmer “has no checks and balances at all. She has uncontrolled power right now. All good things must come to an end.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks during a news conference in Lansing, Mich., May 21, 2020 (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP, Pool)

The government used informants and undercover agents to thwart the alleged plot.

The criminal complaint says the plan involved Whitmer and her second home in northern Michigan.

Whitmer has been praised but also deeply criticized for the state’s response to the coronavirus. She put major restrictions on personal movement throughout the state and on the economy, although many of those limits have been lifted.

Through electronic communications, two of the alleged conspirators “agreed to unite others in their cause and take violent action against multiple state governments that they believe are violating the US Constitution,” the FBI says.

— AP

27 people died of coronavirus today, Health Ministry says

The Health Ministry says 27 people died of COVID-19 today, bringing the national death toll to 1,864.

So far, 2,332 cases have been diagnosed today. The total number of cases since the pandemic started stands at 284,705, of which 61,466 are active.

The number of serious cases stands at 863, with 241 on ventilators.

Police told Haredi worshipers they’d turn blind eye to closure violations — TV

Channel 12 publishes details from a call between a police official and extremist ultra-Orthodox representatives in a Haredi town, which it says shows police agreeing to turn a blind eye to lockdown violations by worshipers at synagogues.

The recording is of a call between the police chief in the Haredi town of Modiin Illit, Tzahi Halfon, and an unidentified member of a hardline community. In it, Halfon is heard urging worshipers not to fight with policemen when they arrive to break up gatherings, heavily hinting that the worshipers can do whatever they want once the cops leave.

“Between us, you know I’m not trying to harass anyone,” Halfon is heard saying. But, he says, he has no choice but to send a car “the moment a citizen calls in [with a complaint].

View of the settlement of Modiin Illit, February 2019 (Flash90)

“A police car comes? It’s not a problem if you don’t want to listen to the officer. I only ask that when a policeman comes, get out of the synagogue… The moment they listen to the officer, the moment they disperse, we don’t mess with that synagogue. Understand what I’m telling you.”

Police in response say Halfon misspoke, but insist he at no point suggested that police would turn a blind eye to lockdown violations.

The report follows one in Haaretz earlier this week, which said that ahead of the Sukkot holiday Jerusalem police made a deal with some extremist ultra-Orthodox communities, under which they could hold mass events despite the national lockdown on condition that the gatherings would not be publicized.

IDF chief violated lockdown by hosting relatives, sorry for ‘misunderstanding’

IDF chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi is the latest Israeli official to flout coronavirus restrictions, Channel 12 news reports.

On Friday, Sukkot eve, Kohavi hosted his inlaws at his home, the network says — against virus regulations.

The military says in the statement that the inlaws, who live three houses away from the military chief and his wife, came to visit and sat in the yard, with masks and social distancing. The military says this was the result of a misunderstanding, with the family thinking meeting in open spaces was allowed.

“The chief of staff is sorry for [the incident] and accepts responsibility.”


Thousands protest against Netanyahu, in hundreds of locations throughout country

Thousands of people are once again protesting this evening against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in small socially distanced events throughout the country.

It is the third such occasion since the government banned mass protests, citing the coronavirus pandemic. These had been taking place several times a week, mostly in Jerusalem, with the largest protests on Saturday evenings.

Currently, activists are only allowed to protest up to a kilometer from their homes. This has led to hundreds of small protest events being organized throughout the country, with websites dedicated to informing Israelis where the nearest event to their home is.

Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Dizengoff Square Tel Aviv on October 8, 2020 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Several attacks are reported against protesters. Activists near Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan were assaulted with pepper spray. On Tel Aviv’s Namir Road, one protester was hit with an egg.

NYC mayor: Police response to ‘disgusting’ assault of journalist ‘will be fixed’

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says the assault of Orthodox journalist Jacob Kornbluh by a crowd in Borough Park was “disgusting” and vows that police will have a more organized response if further unrest breaks out tonight.

Kornbluh, a reporter for Jewish Insider, was assaulted by a mob of protesters yesterday night during the second straight night of protests that turned violent in Borough Park, a heavily Orthodox Brooklyn neighborhood. The protests oppose restrictions that have been imposed because Borough Park is experiencing a spike in coronavirus cases.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio wears a mask while honoring healthcare workers at Brooklyn’s Kings County Hospital Center at a ceremony during the coronavirus pandemic, April 24, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

“I saw the video of the attack on Jacob Kornbluh, it’s absolutely unacceptable,” de Blasio says at a press conference. “Disgusting, really. I mean, here’s a journalist who really cares about doing the work of informing people what’s going on and here’s a mob of people attacking him. It’s just unacceptable. There need to be consequences for that.”

De Blasio says he was unsatisfied with the police response. “There is something here that needs to be fixed right away. It will be fixed today and made public. Violence is unacceptable regardless of who commits it.”


US imposes sweeping sanctions on Iran’s major banks

US President Donald Trump’s administration imposes sweeping sanctions on Iran’s banking sector, taking a major new step aimed at crippling the arch-rival’s economy weeks ahead of US elections.

The US Treasury Department says it is designating 18 major Iranian banks, a step that could largely cut off the nation of 80 million people from the world’s financial system as it tries to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Trump administration does not list specific accusations against most of the banks, instead declaring broadly that the entire Iranian financial sector may be used to support the government’s contested nuclear program and its “malign regional influence.”

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at the White House, March 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says that the action will “stop illicit access to US dollars.”

“Our sanctions programs will continue until Iran stops its support of terrorist activities and ends its nuclear programs,” he says in a statement.


Top health official signals lockdown won’t be eased next week

The director-general of the Health Ministry says the lockdown will likely not be eased this week, signaling ministers could extend it for another week when they meet Tuesday.

The current lockdown measures, which began September 18, are currently set to expire on October 14.

Chezy Levy predicts the lockdown will begin to be eased the week after next, and stresses the lifting of restrictions will be much more gradual than after the initial closure earlier this year.

He says he hopes local restrictions can be used to address outbreaks rather than nationwide measures when the lockdown ends.

He also acknowledges the economic, mental and social costs of the lockdown.

“We know what the price of the lockdown is. This isn’t a cure,” Levy tells Channel 12 news.

He says, however, “we brought down morbidity in this lockdown” and that there are measures indicating it has been successful in stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

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