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Erdan: Biden administration recognizes 2-state solution ‘not on the table’

At event marking one-year anniversary of Abraham Accords, Israeli ambassador to UN says US and Israel now ‘focused on what unites us rather than what divides us’

UN Ambassadors from Israel Gilad Erdan, from the UAE Lana Nusseibah, from the US Linda Thomas-Greenfield, from Morocco Omar Hilale, and from Bahrain Jamal Al Rowaiei at a New York event marking the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords, September 13, 2021. (Jacob Magid/ Times of Israel)
UN Ambassadors from Israel Gilad Erdan, from the UAE Lana Nusseibah, from the US Linda Thomas-Greenfield, from Morocco Omar Hilale, and from Bahrain Jamal Al Rowaiei at a New York event marking the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords, September 13, 2021. (Jacob Magid/ Times of Israel)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.

7,781 new coronavirus patients diagnosed in past day

The Health Ministry announces that 7,781 people were diagnosed with coronavirus over the past day, with a positivity rate of 5.22 percent.

According to the figures, there are 684 patients hospitalized in serious condition across the country, with 247 of them in critical condition, and 186 on respirators.

In total, 7,406 people have died since the beginning of the outbreak.

Ultra-Orthodox MK given personal security guards after attack outside home

Knesset Guard Superintendant Yossi Grif decides to increase MK Meir Proush’s personal security following an attack on him this morning outside his home, in which two assailants tried to cut his beard.

Two security personnel from the Knesset Guard will now accompany Porush wherever he goes.

The attackers fled the scene and are still at large.

Erdan: Biden administration recognizes 2-state solution ‘not currently achievable’

Asked for his thoughts on the Biden administration’s support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan says Jerusalem respects the position, but thinks differently on the matter.

“The current Israeli government thinks differently and believes that it’s not currently achievable,” Erdan tells The Times of Israel on the sidelines of an event marking the one-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords. “Even the Biden administration, when they speak with us, they recognize that it’s not something that currently can be achieved.”

Erdan says that, in the meantime, both Israel and the US are focusing on advancing economic projects that can improve the quality of life for Palestinians.

“The [two-state] option is not on the table, so we’re focused on what unites us rather than what divides us,” the ambassador says.

Erdan notes that the Trump administration, which initiated the Abraham Accords, did not always support the two-state model either. “It wasn’t the position of the previous administration, though from time to time it was,” Erdan says.

UN envoy to US says administration committed to both Abraham Accords and 2-state solution

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield says that while the Biden administration supports building on the Abraham Accords, it still is committed to a two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Thomas-Greenfield reiterates the oft-used administration talking point that the US supports “equal measures of prosperity.”

She says the Biden administration backs not only building on the existing normalization agreements, but establishing new deals.

However, she avoids offering any specifics to that end.

Oldest US veteran of WWII celebrates his 112th birthday

A Louisiana man who is the oldest living World War II veteran in the United States is marking his 112th birthday today.

Lawrence Brooks celebrated with a drive-by party at his New Orleans home, hosted by the National War War II Museum, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reports. He also received greetings from Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, who tweeted, “Mr. Brooks, the entire state of Louisiana thanks you for your service and we all wish you a joyous birthday.”

The museum has previously hosted parties for Brooks, although the coronavirus pandemic has caused those events to shift to drive-by celebrations for the past two years.

Born in Norwood, Louisiana, in 1909, Brooks has lived in New Orleans since 1929. Drafted in 1940, he was a private in the Army’s mostly Black 91st Engineer Battalion, a unit that was stationed in New Guinea and the Philippines, and built infrastructure such as bridges, roads, and airstrips.

Bahrain envoy hopes Abraham Accords will spur ‘comprehensive peace’ in Mideast

Bahrain’s Ambassador to the UN Jamal Al Rowaiei calls for building on the Abraham Accords to form a “just and comprehensive peace” in the region in remarks at an event marking the one-year anniversary of the normalization agreement his country signed with Israel.

Rowaiei is ostensibly referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but does not mention the Palestinians by name. The Palestinian issue is also absent from the remarks of UAE’s Ambassador to the UN Lana Nusseibah and Morocco’s Ambassador to the UN Omar Hilale.

At anniversary event, Erdan thanks US for forging Abraham Accords

UN Ambassadors from Israel Gilad Erdan, from the UAE Lana Nusseibah, from the US Linda Thomas-Greenfield, from Morocco Omar Hilale, and from Bahrain Jamal Al Rowaiei at a New York event marking the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords, September 13, 2021. (Jacob Magid/ Times of Israel)
UN Ambassadors from Israel Gilad Erdan, from the UAE Lana Nusseibah, from the US Linda Thomas-Greenfield, from Morocco Omar Hilale, and from Bahrain Jamal Al Rowaiei at a New York event marking the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords, September 13, 2021. (Jacob Magid/ Times of Israel)

At a New York event marking the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan lauds the role the US has played in promoting the accords.

“Today, we celebrate the landmark agreements and the critical role the United States played, and continues to play in making them a success, for which we thank them very much. The fact that the Accords have received such strong bipartisan support is a testament to their great importance,” Erdan says.

The Israeli envoy also uses the opportunity to jab at the Palestinians, saying, “perhaps even the Palestinians, as they see the benefits of our peace and the prosperity it brings, will finally view these Accords as an opportunity and not a threat.”

Iran nuclear program central topic in Bennett-Sissi meeting — Israeli official

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi meet on September 13, 2021, in Sharm el-Sheikh. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi meet on September 13, 2021, in Sharm el-Sheikh. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Iran’s nuclear program and support for armed proxy groups was one of the main topics discussed Monday between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi during their meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, an Israeli government source says.

The two leaders also discussed other important regional challenges, the source says, including Turkey’s role in the Libyan civil war, Egypt-Ethiopia tensions over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project on the Blue Nile, and the threat of jihadist terrorist groups.

Bennett and Sissi dealt with the Israel-Egypt relationship as well, talking about ways to significantly increase bilateral trade and tourism.

Turning to Gaza, the leaders discussed measures to prevent Hamas from rearming — including strengthening oversight at the Rafah border crossing — and to maintain the calm in the coastal strip, as well as the issue of Israeli soldiers and civilians still held by Hamas.

UN chief says world must engage with Taliban to avoid Afghanistan’s collapse

UN chief Antonio Guterres calls for international engagement with the Taliban to avert an economic collapse in Afghanistan, insisting aid could be used as leverage to improve human rights.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a donor conference for the conflict-torn country, Guterres says: “It is impossible to provide humanitarian assistance inside Afghanistan without engaging with the de facto authorities.

“It is very important to engage with the Taliban at the present moment,” he adds.

Humanitarian needs were already towering before the Taliban swept into power on August 15, says the UN secretary-general, urging the international community to “find ways to allow for an injection of cash in the Afghan economy.”

It was vital, he says, to allow the economy to breathe and avoid a collapse that would have “devastating consequences” for Afghanistan and the wider region.

Hamas praises Jerusalem stabbing, links attack to prison break

Hamas and Islamic Jihad praise a Palestinian stabbing attack near Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station that left two Israelis moderately wounded.

The stabber, Basil Shawamra, is in critical condition in Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem.

In a statement, Hamas deems the stabbing a “heroic operation.” The terror group adds that an apparent rise in stabbings is due to the media firestorm generated by the escape of six Palestinian security prisoners from Israeli jail; four have been re-arrested by Israel.

“Sustaining the clash with the Zionist occupation and escalating the pace of operations by various means is the best option to confront the Zionist occupation,” al-Qanou says.

Islamic Jihad spokesperson Daoud Shehab says: “Acts of resistance are the legitimate right of the Palestinian people, and we bless and support this jihadist act.”

Shin Bet: Jerusalem stabber entered Israel from West Bank illegally

The Palestinian teenager who stabbed two Israeli men outside Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station, moderately wounding them, entered Israel illegally, according to the Shin Bet security service.

When and how the 17-year-old terrorist, Basil Shawamra, entered Israel from his hometown of Deir al-Asal al-Fauqa, near Hebron, in the West Bank is not immediately known, the Shin Bet says.

This appears to refute a claim by opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who blamed the government’s decision to end a closure on the West Bank for the attack.

“Two days ago, against the view of the police, [Prime Minister Naftali Bennett] removed the closure on Judea and Samaria. The tragic results we saw today with the terror attack at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station,” Netanyahu says.

As the closure would only affect the entrance of Palestinians with work permits into Israel, the illegal infiltration by Shawamra would likely not have been impeded.

Bennett after meeting Sissi: ‘We laid the foundation for deep ties’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi meet on September 13, 2021, in Sharm el-Sheikh. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi meet on September 13, 2021, in Sharm el-Sheikh. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says he had “an important and very good meeting” with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in Sharm el-Sheikh, in which the two “laid the foundation for deep ties moving forward.”

According to a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office, Bennett and Sissi “discussed a wide range of issues, including ways to deepen and strengthen cooperation between countries, with an emphasis on expanding the scope of mutual trade, as well as a wide range of regional and international issues.”

Prime Minister Bennett thanked Sissi for Egypt’s “important role in the region,” noting that after more than four decades, the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt “continues to serve as a cornerstone in Middle East security and stability,” the statement says.

Bennett also emphasized the “significant role” that Egypt plays in “maintaining security stability in the Gaza Strip, and in finding a solution to the issue of prisoners and missing persons,” captured by the Hamas terror group.

Leading Israeli opponent of coronavirus vaccines dies of COVID-19

A vocal opponent of vaccines against coronavirus dies after he was hospitalized in serious condition with COVID-19.

Hai Shoulian remained defiantly opposed to vaccines until his death, urging fellow anti-vaxxers “to continue fighting” and resisting government “coercion” in a Facebook post two days ago that included a photo of him hooked up to an oxygen concentrator.

חברים יקרים. מצבי קריטי ביותר.אני במצב קשה מאוד בבית חולים וולפסון שבחולון מחלקת קורונה.לא מסוגל לדבר ולהגיב…

Posted by Hai Shoulian on Saturday, September 11, 2021

“The situation is most critical. I’m not capable of speaking or responding to people. I have no oxygen and am unable to stabilize,” he wrote. “A lack of oxygen is a terrible thing.”

In comments on the post, some of his followers claimed, without proof, that Shoulian was killed by the pro-vaccine Israeli government in an effort to silence him.

 

Pope expresses Holocaust ‘shame’ before Slovak Jews

Pope Francis meets the Jewish community at the Rybne Square in Bratislava, Slovakia, on September 13, 2021. (Tiziana FABI / AFP)
Pope Francis meets the Jewish community at the Rybne Square in Bratislava, Slovakia, on September 13, 2021. (Tiziana FABI / AFP)

Pope Francis voice “shame” over the massacre of more than 100,000 Slovak Jews in the Holocaust, condemning World War II’s “frenzy of hatred” and lingering anti-Semitism.

“Here, in this place, the Name of God was dishonored,” the pope says, speaking in front of a Holocaust memorial on Rybne Square in a former Jewish neighborhood of the Slovak capital Bratislava, where a synagogue was torn down during Communist times.

Slovakia during World War II was governed by a Nazi puppet regime headed up by a Catholic priest, Jozef Tiso, who signed anti-Jewish laws and allowed the deportation of Jews.

“Here, reflecting on the history of the Jewish people marked by this tragic affront to the most high, we admit with shame how often his ineffable name has been used for unspeakable acts of inhumanity,” the pope says.

“Let us unite in condemning all violence and every form of anti-Semitism,” he adds.

Sderot mayor cancels pre-Yom Kippur prayer events due to rocket fire

Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi cancels the Gaza border city’s planned Selichot mass pre-Yom Kippur prayer events for Monday night, citing the risk of further rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

Overnight Sunday, terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired two rockets at Israel, which were intercepted by the Gaza Strip, marking a third consecutive night of rocket fire from Gaza.

Holon says other buildings in danger of collapse, but won’t inspect unless requested

The Holon city architect is urging residents of the town to be proactive about getting their buildings inspected, following the dramatic collapse of a 32-family building yesterday, just hours after it was evacuated.

Speaking to Israel Radio, Aviad Mor, who is also acting city engineer, says the municipality is not planning to carry out widespread inspections even though other buildings could also be in danger of collapsing, stressing it is the responsibility of residents to take the lead.

“The city will not be inspecting nearby buildings unless there is a specific request from residents,” Mor says. “There are limited resources for regular inspections of dangerous buildings. The cooperation of residents is paramount.”

Guard reportedly suspected of watching TV instead of cameras during prison break

Police officers and prison guards inspect the scene of a prison escape outside the Gilboa Prison in northern Israel, on September 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
Police officers and prison guards inspect the scene of a prison escape outside the Gilboa Prison in northern Israel, on September 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Walla reports that the escape of six Palestinian security prisoners from a prison in northern Israel last week was filmed in real-time by the facility’s security cameras, but no one was monitoring them at the time of the jailbreak.

According to the report, guard dogs in the prison yard began barking as the prisoners started emerging from the hole, activating a warning system in which the security cameras focus on the area of the prison where the dogs are barking.

The guard on duty at the time, however, is suspected of watching television and not noticing the live feed of the six escaping nor the warning system that was activated, the report says.

Israeli security forces have recaptured four of the prisoners since they broke out of the high-security Gilboa Prison, among them notorious Fatah terror commander Zakaria Zubeidi and reported mastermind Mahmoud al-Arida, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative. The other four are also members of Islamic Jihad, including Iham Kamamji and Munadil Nafiyat, who are still on the run.

Lancet report: No need for vaccine third jab booster

A new report in The Lancet medical journal claims that vaccines are effective enough at preventing severe COVID-19 that there is no current need for the general population to be given third doses.

Some countries, including Israel, have started offering booster shots over fears about the much more contagious Delta variant, causing the World Health Organization to call for a moratorium on third shots amid concerns about vaccine supplies to poorer nations, where millions have yet to receive their first.

But the Lancet report concludes that even with the threat of Delta, “booster doses for the general population are not appropriate at this stage in the pandemic.”

The authors, who reviewed observational studies and clinical trials, found that vaccines remain highly effective against severe symptoms of COVID-19, across all the main virus variants including Delta, although they had lower success in preventing asymptomatic disease.

“If vaccines are deployed where they would do the most good, they could hasten the end of the pandemic by inhibiting further evolution of variants,” says lead author Ana-Maria Henao-Restrepo, of the WHO.

The authors of the study argue that the current variants had not developed sufficiently to escape the immune response provided by vaccines currently in use, and if new virus mutations did emerge that were able to evade this response, it would be better to deliver specially modified vaccine boosters aimed at newer variants rather than those based on the existing vaccines.

Italian police open abduction investigation against Eitan Biran’s grandfather

Italian police have opened an abduction investigation against Shmuel Peleg, the grandfather of 6-year-old Eitan Biran, who lost his family in a cable car disaster in Italy earlier this year, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica reports.

Eitan’s current legal guardian, Aya Biran-Nirko, the Italy-based sister of the child’s late father, filed a complaint with the Italian police on Saturday, claiming that he was abducted by Peleg and taken to Israel.

The boy’s other aunt, Gali Peleg, denied that the child had been abducted, saying she has initiated legal proceedings to adopt her nephew.

Holon to provide NIS 5,000 apiece to families of collapsed apartment building

The Holon municipality announces that it will provide financial assistance of NIS 5,000 to each family evacuated from the building that collapsed in the city yesterday.

The building on Serlin Street in the central Israeli city collapsed just 30 hours after it was evacuated of its 32 families.

The building gave way on its own, reflecting how close the situation had been to becoming a mass-casualty disaster resembling the collapse in June of a high-rise residential building in Florida, which killed 98 people.

Fire and rescue services had determined it to be in danger of immediate collapse, and rushed residents out, allowing only those who needed vital medications to return briefly.

Bennett-Sissi meeting: Egypt will offer to host international peace summit — report

Al-Arabiya reports that Egypt is to offer to host an international peace conference, during the meeting between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in Sharm el-Sheikh,

The report follows a statement issued by Sissi’s office that said the two leaders were expected to discuss the peace process during their meeting.

Holocaust survivor, scholar awarded $815,000 Balzan Prize

Author Saul Friedlander during the Leipzig Book Fair award ceremony in Leipzig, eastern Germany, March 22, 2007. (AP Photo/Eckehard Schulz, File)
Author Saul Friedlander during the Leipzig Book Fair award ceremony in Leipzig, eastern Germany, March 22, 2007. (AP Photo/Eckehard Schulz, File)

Israeli-French-American Holocaust survivor and historian Saul Friedlander is announced as one the recipients of this year’s Balzan Prizes, recognizing scholarly and scientific achievements.

Friedlander, who has taught at both the University of California, Los Angeles and Tel Aviv University, is awarded the prize for Holocaust and Genocide Studies for his work broadening the perspective on the history of the Holocaust.

Friedlander, 88, was born in Prague in 1932 in a non-religious Jewish family, which fled to France after the German occupation in March 1939. His parents hid him in a Catholic boarding school near Vichy, where they were later captured and sent to Auschwitz.

With his parents’ agreement, Friedlander was baptized as a Catholic and later, out of his own conviction, considered becoming a priest. After he learned in 1946 that his parents had been killed at Auschwitz, Friedlander reclaimed his Jewish identity. He later said, “for the first time, I felt Jewish.”

Friedlander was recognized for examining the persecution of all Jews in Europe, going beyond country-focused studies that had preceded him, and for making personal documents accepted in scholarly practice.

“His authority is special in the sense that he is both a scholar and a victim of the Holocaust. He says that you can study your own experiences in a critical way,’’ says Marjan Schwegman, a Dutch historian who announced the prize. “The way he integrates the voices of victims, perpetrators and bystanders in this narrative has changed the way historians write about the history of the Holocaust.”

Hospital: Jerusalem stabbing victims stable, conscious

Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital says the two victims injured in a stabbing attack in the capital’s Central Bus Station are “stable, fully conscious, suffering from upper-body injuries and being treated in the trauma unit.”

Police say the stabber, who is in serious condition after being shot by police, was a 17-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank city of Hebron.

Bennett and Sissi meeting begins

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi has begins in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Relasing a photo of the two sitting together, Sissi’s office says they they will discuss finding ways to revive the peace process and developments in the region.

Police confirm terrorist stabbing attack at Jerusalem bus station

Police confirm reports of a stabbing attack at  the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, saying that that “a terrorist entered a store on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem and stabbed two civilians with a knife.”

A Border Patrol officer who saw the incident fired at the attacker and “neutralized” him, police say, adding that he is currently being treated after having been examined by a police sapper.

A knife used in a stabbing attack at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station on September 13, 2021. (Israel Police)

2 injured in stabbing at Jerusalem Central Bus Station

Paramedics at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station after a stabbing attack, September 13, 2021. (Zaka)
Paramedics at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station after a stabbing attack, September 13, 2021. (Zaka)

Two people have been moderately injured in a suspected terrorist stabbing attack at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station.

Magen David Adom says its paramedics were treating two men in their mid-20s who were moderately wounded in the stabbing. The two were being evacuated to a hospital.

The suspected assailant was shot by security guards. There was no immediate word on his condition.

 

Militia leader to be sentenced in Minnesota mosque bombing

This undated file photo provided by The Ford County Sheriff's Office in Paxton, Ill., shows Michael Hari, a militia leader convicted of master­minding the bombing of a Minnesota mosque. (Ford County Sheriff's Office via AP File)
This undated file photo provided by The Ford County Sheriff's Office in Paxton, Ill., shows Michael Hari, a militia leader convicted of master­minding the bombing of a Minnesota mosque. (Ford County Sheriff's Office via AP File)

The leader of an Illinois anti-government militia group who authorities say masterminded the 2017 bombing of a Minnesota mosque is to be sentenced today for several civil rights and hate crimes in an attack that terrified the local Muslim community.

Emily Claire Hari, who was previously known as Michael Hari and recently said she is transgender, faces a mandatory minimum of 30 years in prison for the attack on Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington. Defense attorneys are asking for the minimum, but prosecutors are seeking a life sentence, saying Hari hasn’t taken responsibility for the attack.

“This bomb – the Defendant’s bomb – was an act of terror intended to destroy the heart of a community,” prosecutors wrote in papers asking for a life sentence. While no one was physically hurt, prosecutors wrote, “the Defendant irrevocably destroyed the sense of safety and peace that a house of worship is supposed to provide.”

Hari was convicted in December on five counts, including damaging property because of its religious character and obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs. She did not testify at trial and it was unknown if she would make a statement at sentencing.

‘End the humiliation’: Lebanon’s new cabinet holds first meeting

Lebanon's Finance Minister Youssef Khalil (L) and Minister of Economy Amin Salam (R) leave the presidential palace in Baabda, east of the capital Beirut, following a cabinet meeting on September 13, 2021. (ANWAR AMRO / AFP)
Lebanon's Finance Minister Youssef Khalil (L) and Minister of Economy Amin Salam (R) leave the presidential palace in Baabda, east of the capital Beirut, following a cabinet meeting on September 13, 2021. (ANWAR AMRO / AFP)

Lebanon’s newly formed government holds its first meeting to discuss ways of rescuing the country from one of its worst ever economic crises.

The meeting, during which a ministerial statement is to be drafted to be submitted to a confidence vote in parliament, opens in the presence of President Michel Aoun.

Aoun says in a statement he hopes the committee tasked with drafting the statement will include the pursuit of negotiations with the International Monetary Fund. Talks with the IMF on financial assistance are key to rescuing Lebanon, which defaulted on its debt last year and has since been sliding into poverty.

“We will tackle solutions to the fuel and medicine shortages in order to end the humiliation” to the population, Prime Minister Najib Mikati says during the meeting.

Gunmen free 240 inmates from Nigerian prison

A prison authority spokesman says that heavily armed gunmen stormed a jail in Nigeria’s central Kogi state overnight, freeing scores of inmates.

It is unclear who the gunmen were but central and northwest Nigeria have been terrorized by criminal gangs for years.

“The medium Security Custodial Centre in Kabba, Kogi State, has been attacked by yet to be identified gunmen and 240 inmates forcefully released,” Nigeria’s correctional service spokesman Francis Enobore says in a statement.

At about 2245 GMT, he says, numerous attackers “engaged the armed guards in a fierce gun battle.”

The gunmen invaded the prison, which had 294 prisoners in custody at the time, including 224 pre-trial detainees.

Investigations are under way to find the escapees, he adds.

COVID cases spike in Syria’s Idlib

In this image taken from video, dozens of medical workers protest a decision to grant Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government a seat on the executive board of the World Health Organization, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Idlib, Syria.  (AP)
In this image taken from video, dozens of medical workers protest a decision to grant Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government a seat on the executive board of the World Health Organization, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Idlib, Syria. (AP)

Local authorities say that cases of COVID-19 have increased alarmingly over the past month in Syria’s rebel-controlled northern region of Idlib.

Although cases of the virus had stabilized earlier this year, sometimes numbering fewer than 100 per day, local officials say contaminations have begun soaring again since mid-August.

On September 6, more than 1,500 new cases were recorded in one day across Idlib region, which borders Turkey and is home to more than three million people.

“We are witnessing a sudden and severe wave,” says Hossam Qara Mohammad, the doctor in charge of battling the pandemic for the ad hoc local administration.

The spike in COVID numbers comes roughly two weeks after Syrian refugees in Turkey were granted one-off permission to visit relatives in the Idlib enclave for the Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday a month ago.

Prisons chief says 300 escape attempts thwarted in last 10 years

Israel Prisons Service Commissioner Katy Perry (Screenshot/YouTube)
Israel Prisons Service Commissioner Katy Perry (Screenshot/YouTube)

Israel Prisons Service Commissioner Katy Perry, speaking at the Knesset Interior Security Committee, defends the IPS against criticism following the escape last week of six Palestinian security prisoners from Gilboa Prison.

“We have thwarted some 300 intentions and attempts to escape from prisons in the last decade,” she tells Knesset members.

Perry, who entered the job in January, has pushed back against demands that she resign following the escape, one of the most serious prison breaks in the country’s history.

In a letter to IPS guards and staff, Perry acknowledged that the incident had shaken the organization and said it was necessary to “investigate in depth” whatever negligence had led to the prison break and implement the takeaways from the findings.

Bennett to meet Sissi this afternoon in Sinai — Egyptian president’s office

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is set to meet today with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in the Sinai town of Sharm el-Sheikh, Sissi’s office says.

The meeting comes hours after the Taba crossing point for cars between Israel and Sinai became fully operational with no limit on the number of entry permits, with extended opening hours.

Last month, Israel scaled back its security travel advisory for the Sinai for the first time in years. The decision was made after Egyptian intelligence head Abbas Kamel visited Israel for high-level talks on Gaza.

UN rights chief blasts ‘lack of inclusivity’ of Taliban government

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet criticizes the new Taliban interim government in Afghanistan, which is drawn exclusively from loyalist ranks and counts no women.

Speaking before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Bachelet says she is “dismayed by the lack of inclusivity of the so-called caretaker cabinet, which includes no women and few non-Pashtuns.”

Taliban fighters take control of the Afghan presidential palace after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Zabi Karimi)

The announcement of the government last week was a key step in the Taliban’s consolidation of power over Afghanistan, following a stunning military victory that saw them oust the US-backed administration on August 15.

Notorious for their brutal and oppressive rule from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban had promised a more inclusive government this time.

Pope calls for Europe to show pandemic ‘solidarity’

Pope Francis arrives at the Cathedral of Saint Martin, in Bratislava, Slovakia, Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Pope Francis arrives at the Cathedral of Saint Martin, in Bratislava, Slovakia, Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Pope Francis calls for Europe to show “solidarity” around the world during economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, speaking on a visit to Slovakia — one of the worst-hit countries in Europe.

On his first foreign trip since a colon operation in July, the 84-year-old Argentine pontiff calls the pandemic “the great test of our own time.”

“It has taught us how easy it is, even when we are all in the same boat, to withdraw and think only of ourselves,” he says.

Slovakia, a European Union member with a population of 5.4 million, had the highest per capita COVID-19 contagion and mortality rates in the world for several weeks this year.

The pope is due to meet with members of Slovakia’s Jewish community later today, a day after warning that anti-Semitism was still “lurking” around the world.

UN seeks $606 million for Afghanistan after Taliban takeover

The United Nations is hosting a high-level donors conference to drum up emergency funds for Afghanistan after last month’s Taliban takeover of the country that stunned the world.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is leading the world body’s call for more than $600 million for the rest of this year in a “flash appeal” for Afghans after their country’s government was toppled by the Taliban and US and NATO forces exited the 20-year war in a chaotic departure.

There are concerns that instability and upended humanitarian efforts, compounded by an ongoing drought, could further endanger lives and plunge Afghanistan toward famine.

The conference puts to the test some Western governments and other big traditional UN donors who want to help everyday Afghans without handing a public relations victory or cash to the Taliban, who ousted the internationally backed government in a lightning sweep.

PA, Hamas slam Lapid’s plan for Gaza reconstruction

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas slam Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s remarks that Gaza could be handed economic projects in exchange for a quiescent Hamas.

“The enemy has resorted to various proposals in order to weaken the resistance, and they did not succeed. Its resort to such a plan indicates its inability to deal with the resistance and our Palestinian people,” says Hamas spokesperson Hazim Qasim.

Lapid delivered a speech last night in Herzliya calling for a two-stage plan in Gaza to end the enclave’s ongoing humanitarian crisis and weaken the Hamas terror group, which rules the Strip. Both stages would see long-awaited reforms to Gaza’s infrastructure, many of which have been on the table for years.

Lapid’s plan would see the Palestinian Authority take charge of implementing such initiatives on the ground in Gaza. In remarks delivered to the Palestinian cabinet, however, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh pans the proposal.

“Gaza’s problem is political. It is the same problem that all of Palestine faces, including Jerusalem. There must be a serious political process based in international law, to end the occupation and lift the blockade… this would make the reconstruction of Gaza possible and sustainable,” Shtayyeh says.

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