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Gantz, IDF chief defend army amid pushback over border cop’s death

Defense minister rejects claims that overly restrictive open-fire regulations led to killing of Barel Shmueli on the Gaza border

Border Police officer Barel Shmueli who was critically wounded in a shooting on the Gaza border, on August 21, 2021. He died of his injuries on August 30. (Border Police)
Border Police officer Barel Shmueli who was critically wounded in a shooting on the Gaza border, on August 21, 2021. He died of his injuries on August 30. (Border Police)

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

Qatar and UN to soon inform Gazan families they’re eligible for subsidies

Qatar and the United Nations will soon begin informing Gazan families that they are eligible for Qatari cash assistance, a UN source says.

“Within the coming two days, some of the beneficiaries will start getting notifications about their eligibility for the cash assistance,” the UN source tells The Times of Israel.

Earlier this month, Qatar, the UN and Israel agreed on a new mechanism for pumping Qatari subsidies into the Gaza Strip. The subsidies are a key demand of the Hamas terror group, but Israel had long hesitated, saying earlier agreements on the matter were too favorable to Hamas.

Under the new agreement, Qatar will transfer $100 per month to 100,000 poor Gazan families via the UN and Palestinian banks. The UN said last week that it hoped to begin providing the cash assistance to the coastal enclave over the next two to three weeks.

Qatar’s Gaza envoy Mohammad al-Emadi is set to visit the enclave tomorrow, according to Palestinian media reports.

New Iran FM says he’s been invited to Paris

Iran’s new foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, has said French President Emmanuel Macron has invited him to Paris, state TV reports.

There is no immediate comment from the Elysee Palace.

Amir-Abdollahian attended a summit in Baghdad on Saturday alongside regional leaders and Macron, the only leader from outside the region.

“The French were very interested to use the opportunity (of the Iraq summit) to get close to Iran,” the minister is quoted as saying by state TV’s website in a late-night report.

“Mr. Macron … came to me twice and stressed that ‘we are very interested for you to travel to Paris,'” he says.

“He called his foreign minister over and said: ‘I have invited (Amir-Abdollahian) … and we should review bilateral ties and find solutions to maintain talks.'”

Iran and France, alongside Britain, China and Germany, are the remaining parties to the troubled 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.

Palestinians mourn man found shot in West Bank, blame Israel

Hundreds of people mourn the death of a man Palestinian health officials claim was killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank.

Raed Jadallah, 39, a resident of Beit Ur al-Tahta near Ramallah, is buried on Wednesday.

According to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa, Jadallah was a gardener and was shot at the western entrance of his village while returning from work in Israel. The circumstances of the death were unclear, as there were no conflicts in the area when the shooting happened Tuesday night.

The Palestinian foreign ministry described the killing as a “heinous crime” and blamed the Israeli army for Jadallah’s death. The Israeli military has not commented on the circumstances of the incident.

“They are catching us as if they are fishing,” Mohammad Jadallah, Raed’s uncle, says of his nephew’s killing. “This is not acceptable.”

Ibrahim Zaki, a relative of the slain man, tells Palestine TV that Raed Jadallah did not show up to meet a friend as arranged after work. Raed’s son and the friend had heard that there had been shooting in the area near the meeting place, called his phone and went to look for him.

The friend says they followed traces of blood on the ground and found Raed’s body nearby. Zaki says it appeared that Jadallah had been shot from a hill on which the Israeli military is often located.

Jadallah was born in Jerusalem and left behind four children, according to Palestinian television.

Government approves special grants for frontline COVID medical staff

The cabinet approves a proposal by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to earmark NIS 55 million ($17 million) for frontline medical staff who treated COVID-19 patients amid the pandemic.

According to Army Radio, healthcare workers will receive a NIS 1,000 ($300) grant for entertainment and leisure activities.

“The special grant is an expression of gratitude by Israel’s citizens to the medical teams in Israel,” says Bennett, praising the frontline pandemic workers.

UN warns of pending food crisis in Afghanistan

A senior UN official warns that food in Afghanistan could run out this month, threatening to add a hunger crisis to the challenges facing the country’s new Taliban rulers as they endeavor to restore stability after decades of war.

Ramiz Alakbarov says that about a third of the country’s population of 38 million is facing “emergency” or “crisis” levels of food insecurity. Alakbarov is the local UN humanitarian coordinator. With winter coming and a severe drought ongoing, more money is needed to feed the population.

He says the UN’s World Food Program has brought in food and distributed it to tens of thousands of people in recent weeks. But of the $1.3 billion needed for aid efforts, only 39% has been received.

Alakbarov says: “Without additional funding, food stocks will run out at the end of September.”

Gantz defends IDF, government amid backlash over border guard’s death

Defense Minister Benny Gantz defends the military top brass and the government against ongoing allegations that they caused the death of a border guard last month by issuing overly restrictive open-fire regulations for the troops responding to a riot along the Gaza border.

“I want to stress that IDF soldiers have full support to act to neutralize all those who have the means and the intention [to harm them] and in accordance with protocols. The rules of engagement are determined by the military command alone, in accordance with the law and the operational need, and this is how it will continue,” Gantz says.

During the demonstration along the border, dozens of rioters rushed the security barrier, including a gunman who ran up to a hole in the concrete wall that was used as a sniper position and fired a pistol at the border guard on the other side, hitting him in the head and fatally wounding him. The rules of engagement, which required troops to receive permission from higher-ranking officers before they could open fire, were blamed for allowing the rioters to get so close to the border barrier. The military has promised to investigate the incident.

“The IDF deals with operations every day, every hour and it is an organization with one of the best cultures of investigations in Israel and in the world. I trust the chief of staff, the head of the [Southern] Command and all of the officials will know to learn the necessary lessons in the deepest [way] and [with the] utmost transparency,” Gantz says.

50-year-old man seriously injured in Yavne stabbing

A 50-year-old man is stabbed and seriously injured in the central city of Yavne.

The circumstances are not immediately clear. According to the Kan public broadcaster, eyewitnesses say the assailant was a taxi driver, but this is not immediately confirmed by police.

Egypt signs Med-Red Sea high-speed rail link deal

Egypt signs a $4.45-billion contract with a consortium including Siemens to construct a high-speed electric rail line between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, state television says.

The railway will run 660 kilometers (410 miles) between Marsa Matrouh on northern Egypt’s Mediterranean coast to the Red Sea port of Ain Sokhna in the east.

State television says the deal covers the design, implementation and “maintenance for 15 years of the (Egypt’s) first fast electric train network… worth $4.45 billion.”

The project will be carried out by the transport ministry and a consortium of Egyptian and German companies, led by Arab Contractors, Orascom and Siemens, it adds.

In February, the ministry announced the end of preliminary work on the project, which is to be completed in 2023.

The line will stop at 21 stations including the coastal city of Alexandria and the country’s new administrative capital, some 45 kilometers east of Cairo.

Siemens said on its website that the project will “save passengers up to 50 percent on travel time” and “ensure faster delivery of goods thanks to creating a rail link from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean.”

Moderna says tainted COVID vaccines sent to Japan contained steel

Moderna says tainted batches of its COVID-19 vaccine sent to Japan were contaminated with stainless steel particles, but the company does not expect it to pose “an undue risk to patient safety.”

The US biotech firm is facing major setbacks in Japan, with hundreds of thousands of doses suspended following reports of foreign substances detected in vials.

Authorities are also investigating the deaths of two men who received doses from a tainted batch, but the cause of their deaths is so far unknown.

In a joint statement with its Japanese partner Takeda, Moderna says the contamination in one of three suspended lots had been traced back to production line flaws at a factory run by its Spanish contractor, ROVI Pharma Industrial Services.

“The rare presence of stainless steel particles in the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine does not pose an undue risk to patient safety and it does not adversely affect the benefit/risk profile of the product,” the statement says.

Metallic particles of this size injected into a muscle may cause a site reaction, but are unlikely to go beyond that, it adds.

“Stainless steel is routinely used in heart valves, joint replacements and metal sutures and staples. As such, it is not expected that injection of the particles identified in these lots in Japan would result in increased medical risk.”

Moderna adds that for the time being, there was no evidence that the two deaths were related to administration of the vaccine and “the relationship is currently considered to be coincidental.” An investigation is ongoing.

Lapid promises closer look at NSO Group

Israel’s foreign minister plays down criticism of the country’s regulation of the cyberespionage firm NSO Group, but vows to step up efforts to ensure the company’s controversial spyware doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Speaking to foreign journalists, Yair Lapid says the government has only limited control over how defense exports are used by customers. Yet, he says that Israel is committed to enforcing and strengthening safeguards to prevent abuse of all types of weapons.

“We are going to look at this again,” Lapid says. “We’re going to make sure, or try to make sure to the extent of what is doable and what is not, that nobody is misusing anything that we sell.”

NSO has come under widespread criticism over reports that its flagship spyware product, Pegasus, has been misused by governments to spy on dissidents, journalists, human rights workers and possibly even heads of state. Pegasus is able to stealthily infiltrate a target’s mobile phone, giving users access to data, email, contacts and even their cameras and microphones.

NSO has denied wrongdoing. It says it sells Pegasus only to governments and only for the purpose of catching criminals and terrorists.

Israel’s Defense Ministry regulates all arms exports, including cyber products. In late July, the ministry said it had sent a team to meet with NSO representatives after France said it was looking into suspicions that President Emmanuel Macron may have been targeted by Moroccan security agents using Pegasus spyware.

Morocco has denied the allegations, and NSO has said Macron’s phone was not targeted.

Lapid, saying he was aware of the “rumors” about NSO, compares cyber exports to traditional arms sales. He says that despite the many safeguards in place, it is impossible to guarantee what a customer will do with the weapon.

“Once you have sold the jet, the cannon, the gun or the missile, or Pegasus, it is in the hands of the government who bought it,” Lapid says. “So we’re trying our best to make sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. But no one has an ability to fully protect the other side after it was sold.”

But he says Israel is working to make sure that nobody is using Pegasus “against civilians or against dissidents.”

Actress hospitalized with COVID rues declining the vaccine

Actress Irit Kaplan, 48, has been hospitalized with COVID-19, according to Ichilov Medical Center.

From her hospital bed, she expresses regret for declining the vaccine over fears it would exacerbate her preexisting autoimmune condition.

“I feel like I’m dying, it’s hard for me to breathe, I’m losing strength, it’s real suffering,” she says, urging all Israelis to get immunized against the “cursed disease.”

According to the hospital, Kaplan is in serious condition.

Public hospitals announce surgery strike, demand more funding

Public hospitals announce surgeries will be suspended Thursday between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., as the healthcare system steps up its labor action against the government and calls for additional state funding.

IDF chief defends army’s military advocate general after far-right threat

IDF chief Aviv Kohavi defends outgoing Military Advocate General Sharon Afek after a far-right activist called for him to be killed in an ongoing public fight over the army’s response to a riot along the Gaza border in which a border guard was shot dead by a Palestinian gunman at point-blank range.

“I want to give you strength in the face of — not for the first time — personal, offensive remarks. You are a terrific advocate, you are a terrific lawyer, you are an ethical man, and you are an extraordinary military advocate general,” Kohavi says, speaking at an event marking the end of Afek’s tenure in the role.

“These things are marginal, they are irrelevant, you are at a much higher ethical and humanitarian level, and we are with you,” he says.

Earlier in the day, convicted Jewish terrorist Baruch Marzel posted a photograph of Afek on Twitter, saying he should be killed for “abandoning the soul of IDF soldiers.”

“This crazy, disgusting, disconnected man should have been behind the hole in the wall in Gaza and got hit with what was meant for our soldiers,” Marzel wrote, referring to the sniper position where the Border Police officer, Barel Shmueli, was shot in the head.

3-year-old girl in serious condition with post-COVID condition

A three-year-old girl is hospitalized in serious condition in the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan as a result of complications of COVID-19.

The girl has pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS), a rare condition that develops in some children after exposure to the coronavirus. She contracted COVID earlier this month and was believed to have recovered fully when she developed serious symptoms. The girl is unconscious and on a respirator, according to Hebrew media reports.

Police fear Jewish-Arab violence could flare up again during holidays — TV

Channel 12 reports that police are planning to boost reinforcements in Jewish-Arab cities and towns over the Jewish holidays this month, amid fears of the renewal of intercommunal clashes.

Israel saw unprecedented ethnic violence in May in its mixed cities, amid the war between Israel and terror groups in Gaza.

US cheers Israel’s plans to recognize undocumented Palestinian spouses

The US praises Israel’s renewed engagement with the Palestinians, after Defense Minister Benny Gantz announces a plan to recognize thousands of undocumented Palestinian spouses. Gantz also met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas this week, in the first meeting of its kind between the sides in over a decade.

“The US is pleased to see Israel and the Palestinian Authority working together to yield positive results, including an agreement to regularize the status of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank. We look forward to more such tangible steps in the months ahead,” a State Department statement says.

Gantz announced on Monday that Israel plans to legalize thousands of undocumented foreign nationals married to Palestinians as part of an overall Israeli strategy to strengthen the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian spouses have resided illegally in the West Bank for years with little legal recourse to obtain permits to live with their families. Israeli courts have ruled that family unification in the West Bank is not a right guaranteed by international law.

Over 10,000 new COVID cases diagnosed Tuesday, for 2nd day in row

The Health Ministry says over 10,000 new COVID cases were diagnosed Tuesday, for the second consecutive day.

In its updated figures, the ministry says 10,384 cases were detected yesterday, and another 7,386 since midnight.

The death toll leaps by 56 deaths since the ministry last updated the figures on Tuesday morning, reaching 7,086.

According to the ministry, serious cases are down, standing at 675. The testing positivity rate of 6.74% is also slightly lower than the past few days.

The Health Ministry says over 2.3 million Israelis have received the third COVID vaccine dose — and nearly 6 million have been given at least one shot.

Iran says nuclear talks might not resume for 2-3 months

Stalled talks aimed at reviving Iran’s nuclear agreement with world powers will likely not resume for another two to three months, according to Iran’s foreign ministry.

Steered by the European Union, the talks began in April and seek to bring the US back into a deal agreed in 2015. Former US president Donald Trump abandoned the accord in 2018 and began imposing tough sanctions on Iran.

Negotiations were adjourned on June 20, two days after ultraconservative Ebrahim Raisi won Iran’s presidential election, and no date has been set for a resumption of dialogue.

“We are not seeking to flee the negotiation table and the… government considers a real negotiation is a negotiation that produces palpable results allowing the rights of the Iranian nation to be guaranteed,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian says during an interview broadcast by state television.

The Vienna talks are “one of the questions on the foreign policy and government agenda,” he says.

But “the other party knows full well that a process of two to three months is required for the new government to establish itself and to start taking decisions.”

State said to agree to give HMOs another NIS 240 million because of pandemic

In the midst of a public fight over health spending during the pandemic, the Health Ministry and Finance Ministry have agreed to increase the budget for Israel’s health providers by NIS 240 million ($74 million) for July-October, according to Hebrew media reports.

The HMOs have fought for additional state funding, citing the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Portugal bans Israelis from visiting, including vaccinated — reports

Portugal has become the first European country to ban Israelis from visiting, including vaccinated travelers, according to Hebrew media reports.

The revised travel rules come as Israel sees record COVID cases.

Truce comes into force in Syria’s Daraa after weeks of fighting

A Russian-brokered ceasefire comes into force in Daraa province, the cradle of Syria’s uprising where government forces have been battling holdout rebels, a war monitor and state media say.

The southern province of Daraa, held for years by opposition forces, was returned to government control in 2018 under a previous Moscow-backed ceasefire that had allowed rebels to stay in some areas.

But since late July armed groups have exchanged artillery fire with government forces and the regime has imposed a crippling siege on Daraa city’s southern district of Daraa al-Balad.

On Wednesday, the warring parties appear to reach a new truce, with Russia deploying military police in Daraa al-Balad after weeks of mediating talks, says the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The deployment comes after dozens of rebels were bused from the district to opposition-held territory in Syria’s north last week before intense fighting resumed at the weekend, hampering ceasefire efforts.

“Implementation has started of the latest ceasefire agreement with the deployment of Russian military police inside Daraa al-Balad,” says Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman.

A picture shows Russian troops in the Syrian district of Daraa al-Balad in Syria’s southern province of Daraa, on September 1, 2021. (Sam HARIRI / AFP)

Under the terms of the deal, the Syrian government would erect three checkpoints inside Daraa al-Balad, having left the area for years under the control of former rebel fighters, says the Observatory.

Opposition fighters that choose to remain in Daraa-al-Balad would have to surrender their firearms, the Observatory adds, saying those who reject a deal will be evacuated.

The official SANA news agency publishes photos of crowds at so-called “reconciliation centers” set-up in Daraa al-Balad.

“Armed fighters in Daraa al-Balad started handing over their weapons and settling their status at reconciliation centers,” it says.

Kiryat Gat man accused of murdering teenage son freed from custody — TV

In a bombshell ruling, a man accused of murdering his 14-year-old son has been freed and the legal proceedings against him have been suspended, after psychiatrists say he was in the midst of a psychotic episode during the killing and is not criminally responsible, Channel 12 reports.

The man is now free to go to his home in Kiryat Gat, where the stabbing murder of his son took place in March, the network says.


France rolls out COVID booster shots for people over 65

France has started administering coronavirus booster shots to people over 65 and those with underlying health conditions.

The move is meant to shore up their vaccine protection against the highly contagious Delta variant. People can get the shot on the condition a minimum six-month period has passed since they got fully vaccinated with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

The Health Ministry says about 18 million people are eligible for the booster shot.

France has been facing increased cases since July, with a slight decrease in recent weeks — from 23,000 per day around mid-August to the current 17,000. Health officials are concerned about a reversal of the trend as children return to school on Thursday.

Almost 44 million people, or 65% of the French population, are fully vaccinated.

Gaza vaccine drive targets students ages 16-18

Palestinian health authorities are launching a vaccination drive for students in the Gaza Strip ages 16-18 as the territory contends with a third wave of coronavirus infections.

Health officials begin giving the Pfizer vaccine in Gaza Strip schools and aim to inoculate more than 100,000 students in the coming weeks. Palestinian officials in the West Bank began a similar drive on Tuesday.

The Gaza Health Ministry reported six deaths and more than 1,400 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, the highest number since a new wave of infections began in August.

Less than half the population of the West Bank has received a first vaccine dose, and around 15% of Gaza’s population has gotten a first shot.

Lapid: US pullout from Afghanistan was probably right decision, done wrongly

In a mild criticism, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid suggests the US withdrawal from Afghanistan could have been better executed.

Speaking to the foreign press, Lapid is asked: “When you see America, Israel’s key ally, in such visible retreat in such a manner, you must be very concerned?”

Lapid replies: “Well, I think the entire globe was concerned, and first and foremost the Americans themselves. It didn’t happen the way it was supposed to happen.

“And then again… it was probably the right decision maybe that wasn’t performed in the right manner and yet I suggest everyone listen to President Biden’s last speech about the necessity of the move itself.”

“I don’t think we yet understand completely all the consequences of this move, of this retreat… I think we should wait a little before we jump to conclusions” about its effect on the region, he says.


Education Ministry: 88% of students showed up for 1st day of school

The Education Ministry says 88 percent of Israel’s students showed up for the first day of school today, far exceeding expectations.

The high rates of attendance come as Israel experiences a record surge in COVID-19 cases.

Israel says it thwarted smuggling of equipment for Hamas tunnels

Israel’s Defense Ministry says it seized filtration equipment at a West Bank crossing that it believes was set to be smuggled into the Gaza Strip to aid Hamas’s tunnel project.

The shipment included filters, valves and instructions in Hebrew on how to assemble the equipment, the Defense Ministry says.

It was confiscated at the Tarkumiyah crossing near Hebron.

Lapid: US reopening of Jerusalem consulate a ‘bad idea’

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid says the reopening of the US consulate in Jerusalem, the de facto mission to the Palestinians in the capital, is a “bad idea.”

“We think it’s a bad idea and we’ve told America we think it’s a bad idea,” Lapid tells reporters in an English-language briefing.

He says the reopening “will send the wrong message, not only to the region, not only to the Palestinians, but also to other countries, and we don’t want this to happen.”

“And besides, we have an interesting yet delicate structure of our government and we think this might destabilize this government and I don’t think the American administration wants this to happen,” adds the foreign minister.

US President Joe Biden raised the issue with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during their meeting last week, and made clear that he still plans to reopen the mission after it was shuttered by former president Donald Trump in 2019, a US official said.

The Biden administration announced its plan to reopen the consulate in May, but agreed to hold off on the move until after Bennett’s government passes a budget in November in order to prevent the destabilization of the nascent coalition, according to Israeli officials.

UN allocates $10 million to ensure fuel for Lebanon’s hospitals

The United Nations says its humanitarian funds have allocated Lebanon $10 million to help the cash-strapped nation buy vital fuel to power hospitals and water stations.

“Lebanon faces profound uncertainty. The humanitarian community, though, is resolved to assist all vulnerable populations, whether Lebanese, refugees or migrants,” UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths tweets during a visit to Beirut.

The UN’s humanitarian agency OCHA said yesterday a $6 million allocation from the Lebanon Humanitarian Fund was planned to help 65 hospitals, primary healthcare centers, dispensaries and medical cold storage facilities.

Another $4 million would be set aside for health centers as well as water stations and four water facilities that serve more than two-thirds of Lebanon’s population, it said in a statement.

“The allocation will help 2.3 million people across Lebanon by making sure there is enough fuel to keep water stations functioning,” said OCHA.

“The fuel shortage, a result of the ongoing socioeconomic and political crises, is jeopardizing the availability of health care and drinking water for nearly everyone in Lebanon,” it added.

Pope inadvertently quotes Putin to condemn West’s Afghan war

Pope Francis criticizes the West’s two-decade-long involvement in Afghanistan as an outsider’s attempt to impose democracy — although he does it by citing Russia’s Vladimir Putin while thinking he was quoting Germany’s Angela Merkel.

Asked during a radio interview about the new political map taking shape in Afghanistan after the United States and its allies withdrew from the Taliban-controlled country after 20 years of war, the pope says he would answer with a quote that he attributed to the German chancellor, whom he describes as “one of the world’s greatest political figures.”

“It is necessary to put an end to the irresponsible policy of intervening from outside and building democracy in other countries, ignoring the traditions of the peoples,” the pope says, using his own translation into Spanish.

But the words were spoken last month by the Russian president in the presence of Merkel, during her visit to Moscow.

During the meeting on August 20, Putin scathingly criticized the West over Afghanistan, saying that the Taliban’s rapid sweep over the country has shown the futility of Western attempts to enforce its own vision of democracy. Merkel, meanwhile, urged Russia to use its contacts with the Taliban to press for Afghan citizens who helped Germany to be allowed to leave Afghanistan.

World’s COVID death toll rises to 4,518,163

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 4,518,163 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1000 GMT.

At least 217,629,220 cases of coronavirus have been registered.

The vast majority have recovered, though some have continued to experience symptoms weeks or even months later.

The figures are based on daily reports provided by health authorities in each country.

They exclude revisions made by other statistical organizations, which show that the number of deaths is much higher.

The World Health Organization estimates that the pandemic’s overall toll could be two to three times higher than official records, due to the excess mortality that is directly and indirectly linked to COVID-19.

A large number of the less severe or asymptomatic cases also remain undetected, despite intensified testing in many countries.

On Tuesday, 9,532 new deaths and 620,015 new cases were recorded worldwide.

Based on latest reports, the countries with the most new deaths were United States with 1,173, followed by Brazil with 839 and Mexico with 835.

The United States is the worst-affected country with 640,108 deaths from 39,198,268 cases.

After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 580,413 deaths from 20,776,870 cases, India with 439,020 deaths from 32,810,845 cases, Mexico with 259,326 deaths from 3,352,410 cases, and Peru with 198,295 deaths from 2,150,006 cases.

The country with the highest number of deaths compared to its population is Peru with 601 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Hungary with 311, Bosnia-Herzegovina with 299, the Republic of North Macedonia with 285, the Czech Republic with 284 and Montenegro with 274.

Latin America and the Caribbean overall has 1,439,815 deaths from 43,267,940 cases, Europe 1,250,797 deaths from 63,211,899 infections, and Asia 780,056 deaths from 50,246,141 cases.

The United States and Canada have reported 667,032 deaths from 40,695,535 cases, Africa 196,249 deaths from 7,790,864 cases, the Middle East 182,494 deaths from 12,295,204 cases, and Oceania 1,720 deaths from 121,638 cases.

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

Jerusalem court drops incitement charges for 5 teenagers over ‘hate wedding’

A Jerusalem court exonerates five Jewish suspects who were charged with incitement to terrorism for celebrating, during a wedding in 2015, the murder of a Palestinian baby.

The reason for the exoneration is not immediately clear. The defendants were minors at the time and the court documents are therefore classified, the Ynet news site reports.

The five minors had been indicted in 2016.

In 2018, prosecutors admitted they lost the original video footage of the incident.

The video from what was dubbed the “hate wedding” featured friends of the accused assailants in a deadly July 2015 firebomb attack on the home of the Dawabshe family in the Palestinian village of Duma.

In the video, published by Channel 10, partygoers can be seen stabbing a photo of 18-month-old Ali Dawabshe, who was burned alive in the attack along with his parents, and waving knives, rifles, pistols and Molotov cocktails. The crowd then chants the words to a song that includes a verse from Judges 16:28, in which Samson says, “Let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” The crowd substitutes “Palestinians” for “Philistines.”

Another son, Ahmed Dawabsha, who was 5 at the time, underwent months of treatment for severe burns sustained in the attack.

UN: Weather disasters 4-5 more common than in 1970s, but deaths down

Weather disasters are striking the world four to five times more often and causing seven times more damage than in the 1970s, the United Nations weather agency reports.

But these disasters are killing far fewer people. In the 1970s and 1980s, they killed an average of about 170 people a day worldwide. In the 2010s, that dropped to about 40 per day, the World Meteorological Organization says in a report that looks at more than 11,000 weather disasters in the past half-century.

The report comes during a disaster-filled summer globally, including deadly floods in Germany and a heat wave in the Mediterranean, and with the United States simultaneously struck by powerful Hurricane Ida and an onslaught of drought-worsened wildfires.

Deer pass a Greenville building destroyed by the Dixie Fire, on Aug. 7, 2021, in Plumas County, Calif. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

“The good news is that we have been able to minimize the amount of casualties once we have started having growing amount of disasters: heatwaves, flooding events, drought, and especially … intense tropical storms like Ida, which has been hitting recently Louisiana and Mississippi in the United States,” Petteri Taalas, WMO’s secretary-general, tells a news conference.

“But the bad news is that the economic losses have been growing very rapidly and this growth is supposed to continue,” he adds. “We are going to see more climatic extremes because of climate change, and these negative trends in climate will continue for the coming decades.”

In the 1970s, the world averaged about 711 weather disasters a year, but from 2000 to 2009 that was up to 3,536 a year or nearly 10 a day, according to the report, which used data from the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters in Belgium. The average number of yearly disasters dropped a bit in the 2010s to 3,165, the report says.

Most death and damage during 50 years of weather disasters came from storms, flooding and drought.

Egypt virus cases rise amid Delta variant, fewer restrictions

The number of daily COVID-19 cases confirmed in Egypt has grown steadily in recent weeks amid relaxed precautionary measures and the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

Its Health Ministry reports late Tuesday 279 cases in 24 hours and nine deaths, compared to 194 cases and seven deaths on the same day last week.

The Delta variant was first detected in Egypt in July. Daily reported cases have gone up as authorities relaxed restrictions, allowing concerts and other large events where few participants wear face masks or maintain a distance from others.

Authorities have reported a total of 288,440 confirmed cases and 16,736 deaths since the start of the pandemic, but the actual numbers are believed much higher due to limited testing.

Bennett taps Shin Bet deputy as agency’s new chief

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett picks the deputy head of the Shin Bet security service to succeed the current leader of the organization, Nadav Argaman.

For security reasons, the deputy Shin Bet chief can only be identified by the first Hebrew letter of his name, “Resh,” until he enters office.

“Resh is a courageous fighter and an excellent commander. I have no doubt that he will lead the service to new heights of excellence for the security of Israel,” Bennett says in a statement announcing Resh’s appointment.

Resh is expected to formally enter the role in the coming weeks, replacing Argaman, who has served at the head of the organization since 2016. One of Bennett’s first acts as premier was to extend Argaman’s tenure through October in order to allow for more time to find a suitable successor.

Resh beat out the prior deputy head of the Shin Bet, who can only be identified by the first Hebrew letter of his name, also “Resh,”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) and Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman meet at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on June 15, 2021. (Haim Tzach/GPO)
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