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Health Ministry urges Israelis take COVID tests before Rosh Hashanah festivities

Top health official defends decision not to impose lockdown over Jewish new year and other upcoming holidays, citing ‘clear’ signs of declining morbidity

A health worker takes a swab sample from a man at a coronavirus testing site in the northern city of Safed, August 31, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)
A health worker takes a swab sample from a man at a coronavirus testing site in the northern city of Safed, August 31, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

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

Most COVID patients in serious condition aren’t fully vaccinated, a 1st in current wave

Medical personnel treat a patient in the coronavirus ward at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem on August 25, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Medical personnel treat a patient in the coronavirus ward at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem on August 25, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The number of Israelis hospitalized in serious condition with COVID-19 complications who are not completely vaccinated has surpassed those who are fully vaccinated, according to the Kan public broadcaster, the first time that has happened during the current wave of morbidity.

State asks top court to further delay demolition of West Bank Bedouin village

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

The government formally asks the High Court of Justice to push off 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 government cites “significant progress” on reaching an agreement for evacuating Khan al-Ahmar residents and asks to show the judges a classified files on the matter.

Businessman back in Israel after being jailed in Jordan, getting sick with COVID

Yehiel Hayavi. (Courtesy)
Yehiel Hayavi. (Courtesy)

An Israeli businessman has returned to the country after his release from jail in Jordan, where he was hospitalized in serious condition.

Yehiel Hayavi, 65, was jailed last month. His family claims he was framed by a local businessman, who lured him to the country under the pretext of signing a phony business deal, which led to his arrest on August 9.

After contracting COVID-19 behind bars, he was transferred to a local hospital. His family reached out to the Foreign Ministry for assistance, and last week a Jordanian judge ordered his release.

Florida gunman in body armor kills 4, including mom cradling baby

Four people are dead, including a mother who was still cradling her now-deceased baby, in what Florida sheriff’s deputies are calling a massive gun-battle early today with a suspect they say was “ready for battle.”

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says the unidentified suspect was dressed in full body armor — including a bulletproof vest — when he was found outside a Lakeland home that had been booby-trapped.

After two rounds of gunfire with police and deputies — where dozens, “if not hundreds of rounds,” were exchanged, Judd says, the suspect was shot once and left the home to surrender. Inside the home, authorities found an 11-year-old girl who had been shot multiple times.

She told deputies there were three dead people inside, Judd says during a news conference today.

Egypt’s Sissi sends Rosh Hashanah greetings in call with Herzog

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi (L) during a press conference in France, December 7, 2020, and Israeli President Isaac Herzog (R) during a graduation ceremony at the National Security College in Glilot, central Israel, July 14, 2021. (AP/Michel Euler, Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi (L) during a press conference in France, December 7, 2020, and Israeli President Isaac Herzog (R) during a graduation ceremony at the National Security College in Glilot, central Israel, July 14, 2021. (AP/Michel Euler, Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah el-Sissi phoned President Isaac Herzog to send greetings for the Jewish new year tomorrow evening, the latter’s office says.

“The two leaders discussed bilateral issues and joint interests between the two neighboring countries. President Herzog thanked the Egyptian president for the important roles he fills in striving for stability and peace in the region,” a statement from Herzog’s office says.

Guinean colonel seizes control of state TV, declares gov’t dissolved

Members of the Guinean armed forces drive through the central neighborhood of Kaloum in Conakry on September 5, 2021, after sustained gunfire was heard. (Cellou Binani/AFP)
Members of the Guinean armed forces drive through the central neighborhood of Kaloum in Conakry on September 5, 2021, after sustained gunfire was heard. (Cellou Binani/AFP)

CONAKRY, Guinea — A Guinean army colonel seizes control of state television and declares that President Alpha Conde’s government has been dissolved and the West African nation’s borders closed, an announcement that comes after hours of heavy gunfire erupted near the presidential palace.

The dramatic developments today bear all the hallmarks of a West African coup d’etat. After seizing the airwaves, the mutinous soldiers vow to restore democracy and give themselves a name: The National Committee of Gathering and Development.

Col. Mamadi Doumbouya sits draped in a Guinean flag with a half dozen other soldiers in uniform alongside him as he reads the statement, vowing: “The duty of a soldier is to save the country.”

He makes no mention of Conde’s whereabouts and it is not immediately known where the 83-year-old leader is after today’s attack. Conde’s popularity has plummeted since he sought a third term last year, saying that term limits did not apply to him.

Health Ministry urges Israelis take COVID tests before Rosh Hashanah festivities

A health worker takes a swab sample from a man at a coronavirus testing site in the northern city of Safed, August 31, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)
A health worker takes a swab sample from a man at a coronavirus testing site in the northern city of Safed, August 31, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The Health Ministry is urging Israelis to take a home coronavirus test before celebrating Rosh Hashanah with family members tomorrow evening.

It also calls for those marking the Jewish new year to hold meals and prayers outside if possible.

According to Channel 12 news, the number of tests performed today is expected to be the highest since the pandemic began.

Last year, Israelis celebrated Rosh Hashanah under lockdown, but the current government has resisted reimposing sweeping restrictions to contain a recent surge in morbidity, instead relying on vaccination and more limited curbs on gatherings and economic activity.

Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash defends the decision not to impose a lockdown, saying that, while “there are concerns,” there are “clear” signs of declining morbidity, such as the drop in serious cases from a recent peak.

“I’m sure we’ll celebrate the holidays safely,” he tells Channel 12 news.

Senior GOP House member says Taliban holding some Americans

Republican Representative Michael McCaul of Texas speaks during the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing on the administration foreign policy priorities on Capitol Hill on March 10, 2021, in Washington. (Ken Cedeno/ Pool via AP)
Republican Representative Michael McCaul of Texas speaks during the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing on the administration foreign policy priorities on Capitol Hill on March 10, 2021, in Washington. (Ken Cedeno/ Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON — The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee says some Americans who have been trying to get out of Afghanistan since the US military left are sitting in airplanes at an airport ready to leave, but the Taliban are not letting them take off.

US Representative Michael McCaul of Texas says there are six airplanes at the Mazar-e-Sharif airport with American citizens on board, along with their Afghan interpreters, and the Taliban are “holding them hostage” right now.

A worker at the Mazar-e-Sharif airport confirms several aircraft he believes were chartered by the US are parked at the airport. Taliban have prevented them from leaving, saying they wanted to check the documents of those on board, many of whom do not have passports or visas. The airport official does not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject.

McCaul, speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” says the Taliban have made demands. He gives no specifics but says he is worried “They’re going to demand more and more, whether it be cash or legitimacy as the government of Afghanistan.”

He says the aircraft have been at the airport for “the last couple days.”

Germany’s Merkel calls for talks with Taliban on evacuations

A Taliban soldier walks on the tarmac at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 5, 2021.  (AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon)
A Taliban soldier walks on the tarmac at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon)

BERLIN — Germany’s chancellor says the country must engage with the Taliban in order to help evacuate Afghans who had worked for them.

Angela Merkel tells reporters today that “we simply have to talk to the Taliban about how we can get the people who used to work for Germany out of the country and to safety.” She adds: “They are the ones one needs to talk to now.”

She says it’s also in Germany’s interest to support international aid organizations who are helping improve the humanitarian conditions in Afghanistan. She calls it a good signal that the airport in Kabul was reopened, allowing medical aid into the country again.

Some Western countries have been reluctant about talking with the Taliban.

Merkel’s remarks come after a spokesman for the Taliban told a German newspaper that his group was ready for full diplomatic relations with the Germans, and had “forgiven” them their past cooperation with the Americans in the country.

Merkel doesn’t refer to his remarks, nor does she talk about establishing any kind of official diplomatic relations.

Israel to relaunch tourism for vaccinated groups from select countries

Israelis and vaccinated tourists wearing masks for COVID-19 protection arrive to Israel's Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on May 23, 2021, after a partial re-opening of the border to inoculated tourists from 14 countries. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
Ilustrative: Israelis and vaccinated tourists wearing masks for COVID-19 protection arrive to Israel's Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on May 23, 2021. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Israel says it will relaunch a pilot program granting entry to tourist groups from select countries, as the daily coronavirus caseload dips ahead of the Jewish High Holidays.

A Tourism Ministry statement says the program applying to groups of 5 to 30 tourists will restart on September 19.

But visitors from countries labeled “red” by Israel based on the rate of viral transmission will still be barred.

The program, launched in May, was halted on August 11 “due to new regulations and restrictions from the health ministry in line with the rising morbidity rates at the time,” a Tourism Ministry spokeswoman tells AFP.

The first part of the pilot program saw over 2,000 tourists enter the country.

The ministry says that “not one corona[virus] case was identified among the groups.”

Incoming tourists in the renewed program must be fully vaccinated with a recent negative COVID test and undergo antibody testing upon arrival in order to skip quarantine, the ministry says.

September 19 is a day before the beginning of Sukkot, a weeklong holiday which normally draws many Jewish tourists to Israel.

The High Holiday season begins at sundown tomorrow, with the start of Jewish New Year.

Suspect hit with terror charge over deadly hotel firebombing in Acre

A car is set on fire during clashes between Arabs and Jews in Acre, northern Israel, on May 12, 2021. (Roni Ofer/Flash90)
A car is set on fire during clashes between Arabs and Jews in Acre, northern Israel, on May 12, 2021. (Roni Ofer/Flash90)

Prosecutors file charges against a resident of Acre over the deadly firebombing of a hotel in the northern city in May, amid ethnic violence during fighting between Israel and the Gaza-ruling terror group.

According to prosecutors, Hassan Eid, 27, used a rock to smash the famed Efendi hotel’s glass door, then poured flammable material inside and set it alight.

A statement from prosecutors noted other suspects later threw Molotov cocktails into the hotel.

“The actions of the defendant and others led to the conflagration in the hotel’s reception room, which abated after a few minutes. After the fire subsided, others arrived at the hotel with the knowledge that it was under Jewish ownership, and sowed more destruction out of a racist motive,” the statement says.

The charges against Eid are arson as an act of terror and rioting out of a racist motive.

Several other suspects have been charged in the case, but none with the death of hotel guest Aby Har-Even, 84, who was hospitalized in critical condition after suffering from burns and smoke inhalation. Har-Even, a former leader of Israel’s space program and a winner of the prestigious Israel Prize, succumbed to his wounds in the hospital several weeks later.

Touring Gaza border, Herzog says Israel’s enemies rejoice over country’s internal divides

President Isaac Herzog meets with Israeli troops while touring the Gaza border in southern Israel on September 5, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog meets with Israeli troops while touring the Gaza border in southern Israel on September 5, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Visiting the Gaza border area, President Isaac Herzog addresses the controversy over the killing of Barel Hadaria Shmueli, a border guard fatally shot by a Palestinian gunman during a riot along the southern frontier last month.

“Barel fell as a hero. Let us not have internal disputes… the enemies beyond our fence will rejoice,” Herzog says in a meeting military commanders and troops.

Herzog was accompanied on the visit by IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, who earlier today may with Shmueli’s family, which has been highly critical of the military and government.

Disabled activists block roads around Ben Gurion Airport

Disabled activists block roads leading to and from Ben Gurion Airport as part of renewed protests for increased welfare benefits.

Top US general warns ‘very good probability’ of civil war in Afghanistan

A Taliban fighter stands guard as people move past him at a market with currency exchange shops in Kabul on September 5, 2021. (Aamir Qureshi/AFP)
A Taliban fighter stands guard as people move past him at a market with currency exchange shops in Kabul on September 5, 2021. (Aamir Qureshi/AFP)

KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban fighters advance deep into the last holdout province of Panjshir, as the top US general warns Afghanistan faces a wider civil war that would offer fertile ground for a resurgence of terrorism.

Following their lightning fast-rout of Afghanistan’s army last month — and celebrations when the last US troops flew out after 20 years of war on Monday — the Taliban are seeking to crush resistance forces defending the mountainous Panjshir Valley.

The Taliban, who rolled into Kabul three weeks ago at a speed that analysts say likely surprised even the hardline Islamists themselves, are yet to finalize their new regime.

But US General Mark Milley questions whether they can consolidate power as they seek to shift from a guerrilla force to government.

“I think there’s at least a very good probability of a broader civil war,” says Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a bleak assessment.

“That will then in turn lead to conditions that could, in fact, lead to a reconstitution of Al-Qaeda or a growth of ISIS (Islamic State group),” he tells Fox News.

Taliban official Bilal Karimi reports heavy clashes today in Panjshir, and while resistance fighters insist they have the Islamists at bay, analysts warn they are struggling.

Report: Egypt’s Sissi leading initiative to renew Israel-Palestinian peace talks

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi speaks during a press conference at the Elysee palace in Paris, France, December 7, 2020. (Michel Euler/AP)
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi speaks during a press conference at the Elysee palace in Paris, France, December 7, 2020. (Michel Euler/AP)

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is leading a push to jumpstart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, according to a report in the London-based Rai al-Youm online newspaper.

Citing “high-ranking” Arab sources, the paper says that Egypt’s intelligence service is set to finalize a peace initiative it has been working on with unspecified Arab and European elements.

The report does not give details on what this initiative will include, but says Egypt is set to host Israeli, Palestinian, American, European and Arab officials soon to discuss the proposal before officially unveiling it.

The report comes days after Sissi hosted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah II for talks.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who has ruled out starting a diplomatic process with the PA, is also expected to visit Egypt soon, after receiving an invitation from Sissi during Egyptian spy chief Abbas Kamel’s trip to Israel last month.

IDF to close off West Bank, Gaza during Rosh Hashanah

Israeli soldiers check the ID of a Palestinian woman at the Tapuach junction checkpoint next to the West Bank city of Nablus, June 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)
Illustrative: Israeli soldiers check the ID of a Palestinian woman at the Tapuach junction checkpoint next to the West Bank city of Nablus, June 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)

The military announces it will impose a closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip starting at 4 p.m. tomorrow, hours before the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.

The closure, a routine procedure during Israeli and Jewish holidays, will remain in effect until 12:01 a.m. Thursday, after Rosh Hashanah ends earlier that evening.

Similar closures will be also be imposed later this month during the holidays of Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah.

A statement from the Israel Defense Forces says exemptions to enter Israel will be only be made for “humanitarian, medical and exceptional cases.”

Health Ministry announces appointment of new deputy director

The Health Ministry announces the appointment of Dr. Sefi Mendlovic as its deputy director-general.

Mendlovic, who is currently deputy director of Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, will take over for Itamar Grotto, who announced his resignation last year.

Bennett says COVID booster shots helping prevent holiday lockdown

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, September 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, Pool)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, September 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, Pool)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says the government’s COVID-19 booster vaccination drive will help allow the country to avoid a full lockdown during the coming Jewish holiday season.

Religious and secular Israelis alike mark the Jewish new year with Rosh Hashanah starting tomorrow night. Jews will also observe the fast day of Yom Kippur and the weeklong Sukkot festival over the next few weeks.

The holiday season is marked by traditional family gatherings as well as packed services in synagogues. The government has urged families to avoid large gatherings. And synagogue prayers will be limited to small groups of vaccinated people.

Bennett tells the cabinet today that unvaccinated children shouldn’t be brought to synagogues.

Convicted killer Zadorov charged in retrial over 2006 murder of 13-year-old girl

Roman Zadorov outside Shata Prison in northern Israel after being released to house arrest ahead of a retrial, August 26, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Roman Zadorov outside Shata Prison in northern Israel after being released to house arrest ahead of a retrial, August 26, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

State prosecutors file a revised indictment against Roman Zadorov in a retrial over the 2006 murder of a 13-year-old schoolgirl.

Zadorov, who was released to house arrest last month, will be tried again on the basis of new evidence, after serving more than a decade for the murder of Tair Rada, which he maintains he did not commit.

The new indictment charges Zadorov with premeditated murder, aggravated murder and obstruction of justice.

A number of new witnesses are set to testify during the retrial.

Stone quarry believed to be from Second Temple period uncovered in Jerusalem

A 2000-year-old stone quarry discovered in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Hotzvim. (Shai Halevi, Israel Antiquities Authority)
A 2000-year-old stone quarry discovered in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Hotzvim. (Shai Halevi, Israel Antiquities Authority)

Archaeologists have uncovered an ancient quarry in Jerusalem believed to be from the Second Temple period.

In a statement, the Israel Antiquities Authority notes the quarry was discovered in what is now the city’s Har Hotzvim tech park, whose name means “Quarrymen’s Hill” in Hebrew.

The IAA says the site, only part of which has been excavated, had “massive building blocks” mined from it to use in construction projects.

“The large-scale building projects in ancient Jerusalem, such as the Temple Mount, required a vast amount of building materials and the ability to organize and coordinate the quarrying and transportation of thousands of building blocks to the ancient city,” Moran Hagbi, who directed the excavation, is quoted saying in the statement.

He also says that as large stones were found in various stages of preparation before their use in building, “we can copy ancient technologies and experiment with them in order to recreate the processes by which the building stones were quarried.”

Doctors successfully separate twins born conjoined at head, a first in Israel

A screenshot from a video released by Soroka Medical Center on September 5, 2021, on a succesfull operation to separate twin girls conjoined at the head. (Screen capture: Facebook)
A screenshot from a video released by Soroka Medical Center on September 5, 2021, on a succesfull operation to separate twin girls conjoined at the head. (Screen capture: Facebook)

Doctors at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba successfully separate a pair of twin girls born conjoined at the head, the first time the rare surgery has been performed in Israel.

The craniopagus twins were born last August, connected at the head but with separate brains.

Lapid to meet with Russian FM in Moscow after Rosh Hashanah

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a meeting in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021 (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a meeting in Moscow, Russia, February 10, 2021 (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will fly to Moscow to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov after Rosh Hashanah ends on Wednesday evening, his office announces.

Lapid will fly back to Israel Thursday, according to a statement from his office, which doesn’t say what the two will discus.

The meeting will be Lapid’s first with Lavrov since becoming foreign minister in June.

Israel’s population stands at over 9.3 million on Rosh Hashanah eve

Illustrative: Newborn babies in a Jerusalem hospital. (Flash90)
Illustrative: Newborn babies in a Jerusalem hospital. (Flash90)

On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, the Central Bureau of Statistics reports Israel’s population passed 9.3 million this year, growing by 146,000 people from the year before, a rise of 1.6 percent.

The population comprises more than 6.9 million Jews, or 74 percent; over 1.9 million Arabs, who account for 21%; and another 466,000 people of other ethnic groups, 5% of the population.

In the past year, 172,000 babies were born and around 22,000 people moved to Israel, including 20,000 new immigrants.

The past year saw 48,000 deaths, including around 5,800 from the coronavirus in the 11.5 months since last Rosh Hashanah.

Life expectancy for Israeli men is 80.7 years and for women 84.8 years.

Saudi Arabia says it intercepted missile fired by Yemen’s Houthis, debris hurts 2

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia intercepted a ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels and debris that fell on a neighborhood near Dammam wounded at least two children, the kingdom says.

Images published by the state-run Saudi Press Agency shows glass and debris across a townhouse there, which is in the kingdom’s eastern reaches and near the headquarters of the state-run oil giant Saudi Aramco. At least 14 homes in the area sustained damage, the agency reports.

The Houthis launched three bomb-laden drones and three ballistic missiles in the attack, military spokesman Brig. Gen. Turki al-Malki says.

Houthi military spokesman Yahia Sarei says in a tweet the rebels launched a military operation deep in Saudi Arabia. In a statement today, the rebels claim they sent at least eight explosive-laded drones and fired one ballistic missile on Aramco facilities in the city of Ras Tanura, about 55 kilometers (34 miles) north of Dammam.

The Houthis also claim they targeted Aramco facilities in the cities of Jeddah, Jizan and Najran with five ballistic missiles and two explosive-laden drones.

The rebels don’t offer evidence supporting their claims.

The US Consulate in nearby Dhahran sent an alert to American citizens warning them about the attack, which it described as targeting the area around Dhahran, Dammam and Khobar.

“Stay alert in case of additional future attacks,” the consulate says.

Saudi Arabia is mired in a yearslong, deadlocked war backing Yemen’s toppled government against the Iranian-backed Houthis. The Saudi-led war, which began in March 2015, has seen an uptick in recent months amid a Houthi effort to capture the city of Marib.

That also has seen renewed, long-range attacks by the Houthis on Saudi Arabia. A bomb-laden drone on Tuesday crashed into the kingdom’s Abha airport, wounding eight people and damaging a civilian plane.

renewed, long-range attacks by the Houthis on Saudi Arabia. A bomb-laden drone on Tuesday crashed into the kingdom’s Abha airport, wounding eight people and damaging a civilian plane.

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