The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s developments as they unfolded.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein is warning the cabinet he won’t accept changes to the government’s lockdown plan over the Jewish holidays, as the cabinet meets to debate the proposal.
“There is no choice but to impose a lockdown… This is a difficult day for the country. But there is no other choice but this proposal,” he says.
“Therefore I would like to be clear — with the exception of various cosmetic changes, I will not permit negotiations over the plan,” says Edelstein. “I am saying this clearly at the start of the discussion: if the plan is not accepted, I will pull it and I won’t bring forth an alternative plan. The coronavirus is not a political issue and not a matter of populism. It’s a matter of life and death.”
He speaks ahead of the cabinet meeting.
United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni laments his fellow party member Yaakov Litzman’s resignation from the cabinet over the government’s lockdown policy.
“We all hope the circumstances will be resolved and he can resume his position quickly,” says Gafni of the housing minister.
Palestinian leaders call for demonstrations against the “shameful” deals the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are set to sign with Israel.
Officials from both Gulf states are due to attend a ceremony at the White House on Tuesday to formalize ties with Israel, prompting Palestinian factions to unite in appeals for protest.
“We invite our population, in particular those in (Palestinian) refugee camps, to denounce these shameful agreements,” a statement reads, signed by groups including the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Gaza’s rulers Hamas.
The statement also calls for rallies outside embassies of the US, Israel, Bahrain and the UAE.
The deals with Israel were dubbed “peace for protection” by Saeb Erekat, PLO secretary-general.
“Some decision-makers now in the Arab world do believe that Arab national security metrics will depend on the protection of Israel,” he tells journalists on Sunday.
Erekat refers to Washington’s longstanding policy of ensuring Israel is militarily stronger than other countries in the Middle East.
Arab nations are not permitted “to have any superiority on Israel on any field,” notes Erekat.
An Israeli court sentences top model Bar Refaeli to nine months of community service and sentences her mother to 16 months in prison, ending a prolonged tax evasion case that had sullied the image of a once beloved national icon.
Refaeli is accompanied by her father, Raffi, and her mother, Tzipi, and flanked by lawyers. The 35-year-old Refaeli and her mother were convicted in July for offenses of evading paying taxes on income nearing $10 million.
According to a a plea bargain accepted by the court, the two were also each ordered to pay a NIS 2.5 million ($1.5 million) fine on top of millions of back taxes owed to the state. Tzipi Refaeli is set to begin serving her prison sentence next week.
Ministers are blaming health officials for the spiraling coronavirus crisis as Israel appears poised to enter its second nationwide lockdown, according to leaks from a cabinet meeting.
“We are forced to make difficult decisions because the Health Ministry didn’t prepare appropriately,” says Finance Minister Israel Katz, according to Channel 12.
Likud’s Zeev Elkin and Yuval Steinitz also cast blame.
“You changed your mind all the time,” Elkin says to coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu, the network reports.
And Steinitz, who supports a lockdown, says mockingly to top medical officials at the meeting: “Good for you for raising a ‘red flag’ now, when the hospitals are starting to fill up. You should have raised this red flag a month or two ago.”
Steinitz, Shas leader Aryeh Deri, and Elkin support a full two-week closure, it reports, though Deri asks that it begin later on Friday afternoon rather than 6 a.m.
But the network reports that not all hospital directors believe a total lockdown is necessary, disputing claims that the healthcare system is on the brink of collapse.
The novel coronavirus has killed at least 921,097 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Sunday.
At least 28,819,490 cases of coronavirus have been registered. Of these, at least 19,133,300 are now considered recovered.
The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections.
Many countries are testing only symptomatic or the most serious cases.
On Saturday, 4,806 new deaths and 284,827 new cases were recorded worldwide. Based on latest reports, the countries with the most new deaths were India with 1,114 new deaths, followed by Brazil with 814 and the United States with 523.
The United States is the worst-hit country with 193,705 deaths from 6,486,401 cases. At least 2,434,658 people have been declared recovered.
After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 131,210 deaths from 4,315,687 cases, India with 78,586 deaths from 4,754,356 cases, Mexico with 70,604 deaths from 663,973 cases, and the United Kingdom with 41,623 deaths from 365,174 cases.
The country with the highest number of deaths compared to its population is Peru with 93 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Belgium (86), Spain (64), Bolivia (63), and Chile (62).
China — excluding Hong Kong and Macau — has to date declared 85,184 cases, including 4,634 deaths and 80,399 recoveries.
Latin America and the Caribbean overall has 309,317 deaths from 8,229,215 cases, Europe 221,146 deaths from 4,471,410 infections and the United States and Canada 202,916 deaths from 6,622,504 cases.
Asia reported 114,518 deaths from 6,445,438 cases, Middle East 39,829 deaths from 1,671,988 cases, Africa 32,501 deaths from 1,348,379 cases, and Oceania 870 deaths from 30,563 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.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit tells cabinet ministers they cannot prevent protests during the lockdown, setting off a screaming match in the meeting, according to Channel 12.
Likud’s David Amsalem is said to have yelled at Mandelblit, “Take responsibility for the disease,” while claiming Mandelblit has “harmed public trust.”
Weekly protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem have drawn thousands and occasionally tens of thousands. Health officials have said there is no major outbreak linked to the demonstrations.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is weighing revisions to the lockdown proposal to allow businesses in the private sector to reduce their in-office workers to 30%-40%, rather than banning all workers from going to work as stipulated in the proposal, according to the Walla news site.
He is reportedly mulling the change following criticism from ministers and the head of the Bank of Israel, who warned of serious economic damage.
Netanyahu is asking coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein whether they oppose the change, it says.
Police in Afula have found a three-year-old girl in an apartment alongside the body of her mother, who apparently died of natural causes several days ago.
Police were called to the scene after neighbors heard the toddler’s cries and relatives reported the woman missing. They broke down the door to find the girl next to the decomposing body of her mother, who is said to have been in her 40s but is not immediately identified.
She appears to have died several days ago. Foul play is not suspected.
Science Minister Izhar Shay will host an online conference Tuesday with his counterparts in 18 other countries to discuss the coronavirus.
“During the conference, the science ministers will share knowledge about their countries’ efforts against the coronavirus including pioneering research and innovative medical technological developments,” a statement from the Science and Technology Ministry says.
“The participating countries will sign a joint declaration on international scientific cooperation regarding the coronavirus and creating channels for joint research between the countries.”
The countries are: Argentina, Belarus, Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Peru, Poland, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. The conference will be broadcast on YouTube.
Bahrain’s top Shiite cleric comes out against the normalization deal with Israel, saying it goes against the will of the people, according to the Reuters news agency.
Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim lives abroad. His condemnation comes two days after Bahrain joined the UAE in announcing it would establish diplomatic ties with Israel this week.
While Shiites make up around 70 percent of Bahrain’s Muslim residents, the ruling monarchy is Sunni, and enjoys close ties with many of the region’s other Sunni states. The ruling elites are firmly allied with Saudi Arabia in its rivalry with Shiite Iran, even as Bahrain’s Shiites have familial, linguistic and political ties with Tehran going back decades.
— with agencies
Among the outstanding issues being discussed by ministers on the lockdown plan are the operations of Ben Gurion International Airport.
Hebrew media reports say a special ministerial panel will likely be formed to hammer out how the airport will operate once a lockdown is imposed on the country.
Also on the agenda is whether schools should be allowed to reopen after two weeks, in the second phase of the lockdown plan. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly favors the reopening of kindergartens and elementary schools at this stage.
Meanwhile, the Ynet news site says the government may set out health regulations for demonstrations, which the attorney general has said cannot be banned under the government plan.
From inside the cabinet meeting, a minister muses to Hebrew media that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be moving away from the proposed restrictions of movement laid out in the lockdown plan. Under the proposal, in the first phase beginning Friday, Israelis must remain within 500 meters of their homes; in the second phase, intercity travel is banned.
“It appears Netanyahu is accepting the approach that the lockdown proposed by the Health Ministry must be softened, and that it must allow business activity [to continue],” the unnamed minister tells the Ynet news site.
The Kan public broadcaster also reports that Netanyahu appears increasingly convinced the tightest rules are not necessary.
Riot police in balaclavas harshly detain some 250 demonstrators as tens of thousands of people gathered for an opposition protest on the eve of talks between Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and his main ally, Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Masked agents in uniform and plain clothes snatch people from the streets as they assemble for the “March of Heroes” demonstration, often pushing or punching them, video posted on the Belarusian news site Tut.by shows.
“Some 250 people were detained in various districts of the capital,” the interior ministry says in a statement, adding that those detained were carrying flags and “offensive” placards.
Access to mobile internet was limited and central metro stations closed, with authorities moving police vans, military vehicles and barbed wire into the center ahead of the protest.
Despite the violent detentions, tens of thousands of protesters gathered in the city centre for a new massive march, an AFP correspondent says.
The cabinet has decided to keep schools open until Friday, rather than Wednesday as had previously been announced under the lockdown proposal, according to Hebrew media reports.
The decision comes following pressure from Education Minister Yoav Gallant.
Ninety UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, a spokesman for the UNIFIL force says, the first reported cases of the illness.
The confirmed cases were transferred to a special UNIFIL facility equipped to deal with Covid-19 cases, UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tenenti says in a statement.
He says 88 of those infected belonged to the same contingent, but he did not specify the nationalities of the 90 peacekeepers.
“We have undertaken robust contact tracing, and applied a thorough regime of testing and isolation” to prevent a larger outbreak, he says.
Some 45 countries contribute peacekeepers to UNIFIL, which was set up in 1978 to patrol the border between Lebanon and Israel which are technically at war.
In August, the UN extended the peace mission’s mandate by one year but reduced the force’s troop capacity from 15,000 to 13,000.
Tenenti says that UNIFIL’s operations along the Lebanon-Israel border are not affected by the new virus cases.
Lebanon has seen a spike in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases since an August 4 explosion ripped through the Beirut port, killing more than 190 people and ravaging swathes of the capital.
Sources in United Torah Judaism tell Army Radio the reason party leader Yaakov Litzman resigned from the cabinet earlier today was an impending indictment against him, and not the government’s coronavirus policy.
The sources say Litzman has been looking for a reason to resign for several weeks, before the attorney general makes a decision on whether to press criminal charges against him. If indicted, Litzman would be forced to resign as minister.
Last summer, police recommended that Litzman be indicted on charges of fraud and breach of trust for using his office to illicitly provide assistance to an alleged serial sex abuser, as well as on a separate bribery charge for helping to prevent the closure of a food business that his own ministry had deemed unsanitary.
The first case involves Malka Leifer, a former ultra-Orthodox girls’ school principal charged in Australia with 74 counts of child sex abuse. The police announced in February that they were investigating Litzman on suspicion that he had pressured employees in his office to alter the conclusions of psychiatric evaluations that had deemed Leifer fit for extradition.
The US State Department is praising Serbia for its decision to designate the Iran-backed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
The move “is another significant step limiting this Iranian backed terrorist group’s ability to operate in Europe. This important action was announced as part of the historic commitments President Trump secured on a wide range of economic normalization issues between Serbia and Kosovo, coupled with the steps both nations are taking to help achieve peace in the Middle East,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says in a statement.
“There is no doubt that the dominoes are falling on Hizballah’s European operations, where it has continued to plot terrorist attacks, procure military technology, and raise much needed funding.
“The United States continues to call on the European Union and European nations to designate or ban Hizballah in its entirety, and recognize the reality that it is a terrorist organization root and branch with no distinction between its so-called ‘military’ and ‘political’ wings. We urge all countries in Europe and elsewhere to take whatever action they can to prevent Hizballah operatives, recruiters, and financiers from operating on their territories.”
Earlier this month, the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying that Israel will establish diplomatic relations with Serbia and Kosovo, and both will set up embassies in Jerusalem.
The arrangement was apparently a part of an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia brokered by the US administration. Serbia and Kosovo — regional rivals that don’t recognize each other — each signed separate agreements with the US regarding the normalization of economic relations between the two Balkan countries.
The Gaza Strip records 100 new coronavirus cases today, raising the number of active infections detected outside quarantine centers to 1,588, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.
For seven months, Gaza managed to fend off the coronavirus by subjecting new arrivals to strict quarantine procedures and intensive testing. The coastal enclave’s first coronavirus cases were detected around three weeks ago.
Hamas health officials have warned that Gaza’s fragile health infrastructure cannot handle more than 2,000 active cases. As of two weeks ago, the Strip had only 87 ventilators available for its 1.8 million residents.
At the same time, even as cases climb, Gaza’s Interior Ministry is loosening restrictions. Some shops are going back to work, as well as universities. Some areas are being permitted to follow a nightly curfew rather than a 24-hour curfew.
“There is a great difference between simply loosening the curfew and a return to normal life,” Hamas Interior Ministry spokesperson Iyad al-Bazm says, while warning that if Gazans continue to violate the restrictions it could lead to “an large increase in deaths.”
Al-Bazm acknowledges reports of Gazans disobeying the restrictions against movement and gatherings, and says that Hamas is increasing the penalties for violations.
Fifteen Gazans have died from coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic.
— Aaron Boxerman
Ministers are expected to vote in the coming hour on whether to impose a lockdown, reports Channel 12.
The TV report says the government will likely allow workplaces to keep 30 percent of their in-person workers during the lockdown, softening the existing proposal which banned all in-person employees in the public sector.
But the report indicates the rest of the proposal will largely remain intact, including strict restrictions on movement in the first two weeks of the closure.
A reported Israeli airstrike on Friday targeted a missile production facility outside Aleppo, completely destroying one building and damaging another, according to satellite images released by a private Israeli intelligence firm.
“The attack intended to weaken the missile production in Syria, probably for Hezbollah, by harming its crucial elements,” says the company, ImageSat International, which specializes in satellite imagery analysis.
The strike, which was conducted in the predawn hours of Friday morning, targeted the Syrian regime’s missile factory in al-Safira, outside Aleppo, in northern Syria.
The Israel Defense Forces did not comment on the reported strikes, in accordance with its longstanding policy to neither confirm nor deny its activities in Syria.
The Aleppo region of northern Syria, near its border with Turkey, is an uncommon — but not unprecedented — site for reported Israeli airstrikes.
According to ImageSat, the two buildings that were hit in the strike “played a significant part in the missile production at the al-Safirah Missile Factory.”
Satellite images taken today showed at least some of the damage caused by the strike. One building, which ImageSat said likely contained explosives, was completely leveled in the attack. The second building sustained significant damage.
— Judah Ari Gross
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make a public statement tonight, likely on the new lockdown measures.
The comments will come ahead of his flight to Washington to sign the normalization deal with Bahrain and the UAE.
The survival of the Air France-KLM group is not guaranteed if the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic continues, Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra warns.
France and the Netherlands, each with a 14 percent share of the group, have poured out billions of euros in aid to help national carriers that virtually came to a standstill in the first half of 2020.
“It’s not a given,” Hoekstra says in an interview with Dutch public television NPO, stressing the need to cut costs.
In the spring, Paris gave Air France seven billion euros ($8.3 billion) in loans, and The Hague granted KLM similar aid worth 3.4 billion euros.
The bailout for KLM must be accompanied by “a comprehensive restructuring plan” as well as commitments to reestablish performance and competitiveness.
Hoekstra says he had insisted in talks with KLM on the importance of changing direction.
Dutch press agency ANP said KLM has to develop a restructuring plan by October 1.
The UK, which has suffered Europe’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak, has recorded more than 3,000 new cases of COVID-19 for the third day running for the first time since May.
The Department for Health and Social Services reports a further 3,330 cases on Sunday, taking the three-day tally above 10,000.
Though a ramp-up in testing accounts for some of the increase, it’s clear that the UK has seen the virus spread in recent weeks. Daily cases are more than double those reported a couple of weeks ago, a change that has stoked concerns of a second wave of the virus.
To get on top of the flare-up, authorities have tightened a number restrictions to everyday life. For example, the British government said social gatherings in England will be limited to six people from Monday, both indoors and outdoors, and that rule-breakers will face fines.
Daily deaths remain very low but the worry is that the rise in cases, even if confined to younger people, will lead to a rise in hospitalizations in coming weeks and potentially of more people dying.
The UK has an official virus-related death toll of over 41,600.
A prominent Kentucky infectious disease specialist who was hailed by the governor as a “front line hero” has died after a nearly four-month battle against COVID-19.
Dr. Rebecca Shadowen, who tested positive for the virus on May 13, died on Friday night, Med Center Health in Bowling Green says. Gov. Andy Beshear tweeted Saturday that he was “heartbroken” to hear of her death and urged people to follow her advice and “wear a mask in her honor.”
Connie Smith, president and CEO of Med Center Health, said Shadowen “will forever be remembered as a nationally recognized expert who provided the very best care for our patients and community. She was a dear friend to many.”
Before contracting the virus, Shadowen led Med Center Health’s work in National Institute of Health trials of patients’ treatment for the virus, according to media reports.
Shadowen had said she believed she contracted the virus after an elderly family member received care at home from an infected caregiver.
“COVID-19 does not discriminate in its ability to penetrate our homes and communities,” Shadowen said when announcing in the spring that she had tested positive for the virus.
While battling the virus, she surprised members of the Bowling Green–Warren County Coronavirus Workgroup by joining in a conference call, telling the group: “It’s a great day to be alive.” She stressed the importance of wearing a mask in public.
In his social media tribute Saturday, Beshear referred to Shadowen as a “front line hero who worked tirelessly to protect the lives of others.”
An assailant stabbed the driver of a car in western Germany early Sunday and investigators weren’t ruling out an Islamic extremist motive for the attack, police say.
Shortly after midnight, the unidentified assailant opened the door of a car that was driving slowly through Stolberg, near Aachen and close to the Belgian border, police say on Twitter. He stabbed the driver, who sustained wounds to the arm and later underwent an operation. Police said the injuries weren’t life-threatening.
They say the assailant is being sought nationwide and that police in the regional hub of Cologne took over the case “because an Islamist background cannot be ruled out.”
They won’t confirm or deny reports in the Bild and Aachener Zeitung newspapers that the assailant shouted “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great” in Arabic.
France’s health agency says that the country crossed the threshold of 10,000 new cases of COVID-19 in 24 hours — the most since widespread testing began in May.
Public Health France reported 10,561 new cases Saturday, compared to 9,406 fresh cases the day before.
France is one of European countries that has been the hardest hit by the virus, with a total of 30,910 people having died.
Prime Minister Jean Castex pledged on Friday that there would be a reduction in waiting times for tests, faced with what he described as a “manifest deterioration” of the situation. Around 10 millions tests have been carried out so far.
Around 200 people in Istanbul demonstrate against a French magazine’s decision to republish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
Satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo — the target of a massacre by Islamist gunmen in 2015 — reprinted the controversial images to mark the start of the trial earlier this month, of the alleged accomplices in the assault.
Images of the prophet are banned in Islam.
Twelve people, including some of France’s most celebrated cartoonists, were killed on January 7, 2015, when brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi went on a gun rampage at the paper’s offices in Paris.
Some protesters in Beyazit Square on the European side of Istanbul hold placards warning Charlie Hebdo and French President Emmanuel Macron “will pay a heavy price.”
Macron defended the magazine’s “freedom to blaspheme.”
Protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have started to gather near Ben Gurion Airport, in a bid to prevent the premier from traveling to Washington later this evening to sign the normalization deals with the UAE and Bahrain.
Demonstrators are trying to block roads near the airport, according to the Kan public broadcaster. A convoy of cars related to the demonstration are also trying to hold up traffic at the entrance to the airport.
נתב"ג עכשיו pic.twitter.com/JA1BzC2x9X
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) September 13, 2020
Ministers are expected to green-light the lockdown, beginning on Friday afternoon, at 2 p.m., rather than at 6 a.m. on Friday, as has been previously reported, according to Channel 12.
But the first phase of the plan — a full nationwide lockdown with strict limits on movement — will likely last three weeks, rather than two weeks, the report says.
Bernie Sanders is warning that if one-time rival Joe Biden does not do more to promote his policies and reach out to Latino voters, the Democratic presidential nominee is at risk of falling short to President Donald Trump this November.
Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist who left the primary race in the spring and has worked to shift Biden to the left on key issues, has made the warnings in public and private in recent days. Most recently, he went on MSNBC on Sunday to express concerns that Biden was not speaking up enough about his economic proposals.
“I think Biden’s in an excellent position to win this election, but I think we have got to do more as a campaign than just go after Trump,” he says. “We also have to give people a reason to vote for Joe Biden. And Joe has some pretty strong positions on the economy, and I think we should be talking about that more than we have.”
In a Friday interview with PBS, Sanders was more blunt: “Am I here to tell you absolutely, this is a slam dunk, no chance that he will lose? That is not what I’m saying,” the Vermont senator said.
His comments follow a week when Biden campaigned with union workers in Michigan and released a tax plan focused on boosting US manufacturing by punishing businesses that take jobs overseas. Biden also emphasized his economic agenda and attacked Trump for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, while the former vice president spent Labor Day with union workers in Pennsylvania.
The cabinet has given its approval to a three-week full nationwide closure, beginning Friday at 2 p.m., according to Hebrew media reports.
Ministers Amir Peretz, Zeev Elkin, and Asaf Zamir vote against it, while Itzhik Shmuli and Ofir Akunis abstain.
The final details are not immediately confirmed by the government, but are reported to include a ban on venturing more than 500 meters from home, except for essential errands. Schools, malls, hotels and leisure activities will be shuttered, while supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the nation in a press conference.
He notes his upcoming “historic” trip to Washington, to sign normalization deals with the UAE and Bahrain.
“Two peace deals in one month,” he marvels.
The deals will pump millions into the Israeli economy, he says.
“That’s always good, but it’s particularly good during the coronavirus,” he says.
Netanyahu insists that because Israel was among the first to reopen its economies in May after the first coronavirus lockdown, its economy is not in such bad shape.
“We were among the first to recognize the extent of the danger,” he says.
The number of seriously ill patients in Israel is among the lowest in the world; deaths per capita are among the lowest in the world, he adds.
“That we opened the economy early and fast” had a positive effect, he maintains.
He presents a slide showing the decline in Israel’s GDP in the second quarter of 2020 is less steep than in countries including the United States and Germany.
But amid the rising cases, Israel is forced to close again, he says, as are other countries around the world. The number of new confirmed cases held at about 2,000 per day for some two months, but last week rose steeply (to 3,000 and 4,000).
The prime minister says Israel held off on imposing a lockdown until the hospitals said it was necessary.
“On Thursday, they raised a red flag,” he says of the healthcare system.
The system cannot withstand the projected number of serious cases and deaths if no action is taken in the coming weeks, he says.
The government is therefore taking preemptive action, he says.
The lockdown will last three weeks, until the Simchat Torah holiday, says Netanyahu.
It may then be extended, he says.
The public sector will be restricted to the same levels as the March-April lockdown, while the private sector may continue working as usual, provided they do not accept customers.
Schools are closed during this period.
A special prayer framework for the High Holidays will be announced later, he says.
Supermarkets, pharmacies, and deliveries will continue to operate.
Gatherings will be restricted to 10 indoors, 20 indoors, adds the prime minister, saying, “This may be the most important thing.”
Israelis will be forced to remain within 500 meter from their homes, with exceptions for solo exercise.
“I know these steps are a heavy price for us all,” he says. “These are not the holidays we are used to. We certainly won’t be able to celebrate with our extended families.”
He promises compensation to businesses hurt by the lockdown.
If we don’t keep the rules, warns Netanyahu, the virus will spread and claim lives.
“If we keep the rules, and I am confident in this, we will defeat the virus. I see the vaccine on the way, and I see the fast testing that is… on the way,” he says.
Taking questions, Netanyahu interrupts the first lengthy question, telling the reporter “This is not your speech” after she says much of the public “feels there is no leader” and asks him who should be blamed for the failure.
“You say it’s a failure,” he says testily, and repeats that “I just showed how we shut down early… reopened the economy early… and the fact is that there are achievements.”
Netanyahu blames politics and “populism” for some of the difficulties in reducing the contagion, but denies capitulating to his political allies.
Throughout his career, from the IDF through to political leadership, he says, there have been people saying “You’re not a leader; you don’t have a path; you’re on the wrong path; you’re failing…” He has always put those criticisms aside, and focused on the mission, and has always “taken the right decisions for the good of the state.”
He rejects the notion that Israel’s health care system is short of equipment, or can’t cope with a few hundred seriously ill patients.
Asked what the lockdown is buying time for, and again whether the government has failed, he says, “No, really not. We didn’t fail.”
“The problem isn’t the equipment — it is the capacity of the [medical] teams to keep working,” he says. “Some of them are falling off their feet.”
He says Israel has soared recently from 30 to 70 red zones and simply has to act.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein says the new rules bring him no satisfaction.
“For three months, I tried to avoid a lockdown. I did everything so that we could live alongside the coronavirus, with rules here and there,” he says in a videoconference.
“In the circumstances that were created, we had no choice,” he says.
“It’s not easy,” acknowledges Edelstein.
The health minister says that if Israelis do not keep the rules, “all of this will be for nothing.” But if the rules are kept, “there is a light at the end of the tunnel” and the chains of infection could be cut, he says.
“We need the public’s cooperation,” he says.
Health Minister Edelstein says the public will be allowed to gather and pray on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, in a “very limited” fashion.
The rules on public prayer have yet to be unveiled.
He urges Israelis to protect the elderly population and resist the urge to visit and embrace older relatives.
Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu says the government was forced to announce the sweeping lockdown measures due to the soaring virus rates.
He says he is “losing sleep” over the pandemic, and maintains that the government was forced to act after some hospitals warned of overload.
The government alone “won’t defeat the coronavirus,” says Gamzu.
“Only the Israelis, only you, can defeat the coronavirus,” he says, urging everyone to keep the rules.
“If we do it wisely, we can finish this in two or three weeks,” he says, referring to the lockdown measures.
From the press conference in Jerusalem, Netanyahu heads to the airport for his flight to Washington.
The prime minister is traveling to the US to sign peace treaties with the UAE and Bahrain at the White House on Tuesday.
The Finance Ministry is projecting a NIS 6.5 billion ($1.8 billion) loss to the economy, as a result of the nationwide lockdown, according to Hebrew media reports.
The previous lockdown in March and April plunged Israel into a recession.
Saudi Arabia will partially lift its suspension on international flights from September 15, the interior ministry says, six months after travel curbs were imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The kingdom will end all restrictions on air, land and sea transport for Saudi citizens “after January 1” next year, the ministry adds, without specifying an exact date.
Gulf citizens and non-Saudis with valid residency permits or visas will be allowed to enter the kingdom from September 15, as long as they are not infected with the virus, the ministry says in a statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency.
Other “exceptional categories,” including government and military employees, foreign embassy workers and people requiring medical treatment, will also be allowed from September 15.
The ministry adds that Saudi Arabia will later announce a plan to gradually allow the umrah pilgrimage.
Saudi Arabia suspended the year-round umrah in March, over fears of the coronavirus pandemic spreading to Islam’s holiest cities.
After the lockdown measures are announced, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau must admit he failed in handling the coronavirus pandemic.
“Netanyahu simply can’t admit that he failed and apologize to the Israeli public. That was the minimum he had to do this evening. Those who are incapable of admitting failure also can’t rectify it. You failed, resign,” tweets Lapid.
His tweet comes after Netanyahu brushes off suggestions he mishandled the crisis during a press conference.
The cabinet votes to allow special needs educational programs to remain open during the three-week lockdown.
Also exempted from the rules are programs for at-risk children and teenagers.
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