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9,739 new infections recorded Friday; serious COVID cases rise slightly

Health minister defends government’s pandemic response, calling to ‘stop with the panic’; also notes signs surging morbidity is waning, but warns ‘it’s too early to celebrate’

A Magen David Adom health worker takes a swab sample at a rapid testing facility in Jerusalem, on August 29, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A Magen David Adom health worker takes a swab sample at a rapid testing facility in Jerusalem, on August 29, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

Iranian president urges elections in Afghanistan ‘as soon as possible’

Iran's new President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during his swearing in ceremony at the Iranian parliament in the capital Tehran, on August 5, 2021. (Atta Kenare/AFP)
Iran's new President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during his swearing in ceremony at the Iranian parliament in the capital Tehran, on August 5, 2021. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

TEHRAN — Iran’s president is calling for elections in Afghanistan to determine the future of the country, where he hopes peace will return after Western troops have left and the Taliban have seized control.

Speaking on state TV today, Ebrahim Raisi says that the Afghan people should vote to determine their own government “as soon as possible.”

“A government should be established there which is elected by the votes and the will of the people,” he says.

“The Islamic Republic has always sought peace and calm in Afghanistan, and an end to bloodshed and fratricide, and the sovereignty of the people’s will. We support a government elected by the Afghan people,” he adds.

State to ask High Court for further delay in razing of West Bank Bedouin village

The West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, on October 21, 2018. (Majdi Mohammed/AP)
The West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, on October 21, 2018. (Majdi Mohammed/AP)

The government will file a request with the High Court of Justice tomorrow to delay by six months the planned demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin village in the West Bank that Israel says was constructed illegally.

A statement from the Foreign Ministry announcing the move says that the request is “based on interagency staff work that includes a diplomatic opinion of the Foreign Ministry.”

In July, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid sent a request for a further delay to the attorney general and cabinet secretary, saying that the new government needed more time to study the matter after.

Bennett speaks with IDF chief, says commanders have ‘complete and absolute’ backing

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi meet at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on June 16, 2021. (Haim Tzach/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi meet at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on June 16, 2021. (Haim Tzach/GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and senior commanders in the military’s Southern Command, amid the ongoing controversy over the fatal shooting of Border Police officer Barel Hadaria Shmueli during a riot along the Gaza border.

“My backing for IDF commanders is complete and absolute,” Bennett says, according to a statement from his office.

“Where there is a battle, there are also mistakes, and sometimes they are tragic,” he is quoted as telling the officers.

“I greatly appreciate the dedication of the IDF commanders and their immense personal sacrifice for the sake of national security,” the premier adds.

Shmueli’s parents have refused to accept the IDF’s investigation into the death, and his father has indicated that Bennett should resign, as the issue has become a focus of partisan politics.

“The family is permitted [to say] everything. Our job is to give answers, listen and embrace,” Bennett says, while adding he “expect politicians and public figures not to touch the IDF and its commanders. We have no other IDF.”

Health minister defends pandemic response: ‘Stop with the panic’

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz visits  Ziv Medical Center in the northern city of Safed, on August 24, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz visits Ziv Medical Center in the northern city of Safed, on August 24, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz defends the government’s pandemic response amid a surge in coronavirus cases that has seen daily infections hit record levels this week.

“I don’t want to shutdown the country — I said there won’t be a lockdown and there isn’t one,” Horowitz tells Channel 13 news. “I don’t want to send hundreds of thousands to unemployment and don’t want to close learning institutions and businesses.”

He adds: “Stop with the panic. We are acting with consideration and responsibility. We are doing the important things to combat morbidity, but at the same time we want to keep the country open.”

Despite the high number of daily infections, Horowitz says that there are signs that morbidity is declining, noting that serious cases have started to decline.

“It’s too early to celebrate, but there are signs of optimism,” he says.

Suspect charged with assaulting 5 Jews in London’s Stamford Hill

A man in traditional Muslim garb is seen punching an ultra-Orthodox man in the street, in the heavily-Jewish neighborhood of Stamford Hill. (Screenshot/Twitter)
A man in traditional Muslim garb is seen punching an ultra-Orthodox man in the street, in the heavily-Jewish neighborhood of Stamford Hill. (Screenshot/Twitter)

A man accused of assaulting Jews in London’s Stamford Hill neighborhood appears in court today as he is charged over the attacks.

Abdullah Qureshi, 28, is accused of assaulting five people on August 18, including a 64-year-old he allegedly punched, knocking him unconscious. Police arrested Qureshi on Thursday.

The charges against Qureshi are one count of racially or religiously aggravated wounding or grievous bodily harm; four counts of racially or religiously aggravated common assault; and one count of racially or religious aggravated criminal damage.

9,739 new infections recorded Friday; serious COVID cases rise slightly

Health workers handle samples at a temporary COVID-19 testing facility in the northern city of  Safed, on August 31, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Health workers handle samples at a temporary COVID-19 testing facility in the northern city of Safed, on August 31, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The Health Ministry reports that 9,739 new coronavirus cases were confirmed yesterday, ending a stretch in which daily infections topped 10,000 for four consecutive days.

Another 4,145 infections have been recorded since midnight, with active cases now at 90,750. There have been 1,112,744 verified coronavirus cases in Israel since the pandemic began.

The number of serious cases ticks up slightly to 677, after beginning to decline in recent days from a peak of 753 during the current wave.

The death toll stands at 7,153, with 16 fatalities yesterday.

The positive test rate yesterday was 6.91 percent.

According to the Health Ministry, 6,010,685 people have received one COVID-19 vaccine dose, and 5,507,351 have received two shots. Another 2,573,020 have been administered a third dose.

IDF chief: A society that doesn’t back its army will find it has nobody to fight for it

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaks at a ceremony on the Israel Navy's Haifa Base, on September 2, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaks at a ceremony on the Israel Navy's Haifa Base, on September 2, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi issues an extraordinary statement highlighting the existential imperative that the nation back its army commanders and soldiers.

He is speaking out amid the ongoing controversy over the August 21 killing by a Gaza gunman of Border Police officer Barel Hadaria Shmueli. Shmueli’s parents have refused to accept the IDF’s investigation into the death, and his father has indicated that the prime minister should resign, as the issue has become a focus of partisan politics.

Border Police officer Barel Shmueli (left) killed in a shooting by a Gaza gunman on the border on August 21, 2021, and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right). (Border Police; Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“A society that does not back its soldiers and commanders, including when they make mistakes, will discover that it has nobody to fight for it,” Kohavi says in a Rosh Hashana message sent to IDF commanders and soldiers, and released to the media.

“The readiness to sustain loss of life [in the defense of Israel] is crucial to national resilience, and that resilience is vital to the continuation of our very existence.”

Alluding to the IDF investigation of Shmueli’s death, which found flaws in the way the forces at the border operated, but not wider negligence or failures, Kohavi notes that in times of combat, “decisions are usually taken in situations of uncertainty, and quickly, therefore there is always the possibility of mistakes being made.” It is the IDF’s obligation to thoroughly investigate, “to get to the truth and learn the lessons, but mistakes of judgment on the battlefield are not matters for blame and punishment.”

He stresses: “Commanders and soldiers, you have my fullest backing. Continue to initiate and to take responsibility, to be bold, and to bear the consequences,” he writes.

He concludes: “The backing we give you relates first and foremost to the system of command and leadership in the IDF. We will not change it; we will bolster it. This is not only an issue for the IDF, it is an issue for the State of Israel, and at its heart is the question of what kind of military commanders it wants — bold and full of initiative or defensive and hesitant. Be bold.”

Herzog secretly visited Jordan for meeting with king

President Isaac Herzog (left) speaks during a conference in Jerusalem, on August 1, 2021, and Jordan's King Abdullah II (right) listens during a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Amman, Jordan, on May 26, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90; AP/Alex Brandon, Pool)
President Isaac Herzog (left) speaks during a conference in Jerusalem, on August 1, 2021, and Jordan's King Abdullah II (right) listens during a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Amman, Jordan, on May 26, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90; AP/Alex Brandon, Pool)

President Isaac Herzog traveled last week to Jordan for talks with King Abdullah II, Herzog reveals, in the latest sign of warming ties between the countries.

He spent a very positive and important evening with the king at his palace, Herzog tells Channel 12 and 13 primetime news.

“Jordan is a very important country. I have immense respect for King Abdullah, a great leader and a highly significant regional actor,” Herzog is also quoted saying in a statement from his office. “In our meeting, among the things we discussed were the core issues in the dialogue between our states.”

He adds: “There is a sense in the region of a desire to make progress, a desire to speak.”

Herzog notes that it’s been a year since the first Abraham Accords — the normalization agreements between Israel and four of its regional neighbors, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — were signed.

“These accords created an important regional infrastructure. They are highly important agreements, which are transforming our region and the dialogue within it,” he says.

Herzog says that he plans “to speak with and meet other heads of state in the region.”

“I speak with many leaders from all around the world, almost every day, in full coordination with the Government of Israel. I think that it is very important for the State of Israel’s strategic and diplomatic interests to engage everyone in dialogue,” he says.

Herzog’s trip was the latest in a series of high-level contacts between the countries after the swearing-in of Israel’s new government last month, following strained bilateral ties in recent years during the premiership of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Hamas chief speaks by phone with Iran’s new FM

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh spoke today with Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the latter’s office says.

During the phone call, Haniyeh praises Iran’s position on the Palestinian issue and its support for Hamas, according to the Lebanese TV channel al-Mayadeen.

Amir-Abdollahian meanwhile hails the “the Palestinian resistance” in their struggle against Israel, especially during May’s 11-day war, and expresses Tehran’s support for “jihad for the liberation of Palestine, and the formation of an independent Palestinian state on its historical lands with Jerusalem as its capital.”

This is the first conversation between the two since Amir-Abdollahian was appointed to his post last month.

116-year-old woman in Turkey recovers from COVID

A nurse monitors Ayse Karatay at the City Hospital in Eskisehir, western Turkey, on September 4, 2021. (IHA via AP)
A nurse monitors Ayse Karatay at the City Hospital in Eskisehir, western Turkey, on September 4, 2021. (IHA via AP)

ANKARA, Turkey — A 116-year-old woman in Turkey has survived COVID-19, according to her son, making her one of the oldest patients to beat the disease.

Ayse Karatay has now been moved to a normal ward, her son Ibrahim tells the Demiroren news agency today.

“My mother fell ill at the age of 116 and stayed in the intensive care unit for three weeks… Her health is very good now and she’s getting better,” he says.

French nun Sister Andre recovered from COVID-19 in February, days before her 117th birthday. She is the world’s second-oldest living person.

Ayse, from Emirdag in Afyonkarahisar, western Turkey, was treated in Eskisehir City Hospital after falling ill and testing positive for COVID-19 last month.

Ibrahim says that she had only received one shot of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine before she became sick, adding that she was probably infected by a family member.

Ayse was born during the Ottoman Empire, when exact dates of birth were rarely officially recorded.

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