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Fall in transmission rate suggests morbidity receding; serious cases up to 717

Israeli member of FDA panel backs extra coronavirus vaccine doses for all Israelis despite voting to limit boosters in US: ‘We’re in a much different situation here’

A Magen David Adom volunteer takes a swab sample from an Israeli woman at a coronavirus testing site in the Golan Heights town of Katzrin, on September 15, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)
A Magen David Adom volunteer takes a swab sample from an Israeli woman at a coronavirus testing site in the Golan Heights town of Katzrin, on September 15, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

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

Jewish Republican Lee Zeldin reveals he had leukemia, is now in remission

Republican Representative Lee Zeldin of New York speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, on November 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
Republican Representative Lee Zeldin of New York speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, on November 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

NEW YORK — US Representative Lee Zeldin reveals that he was diagnosed last November with early stage chronic myeloid leukemia but said that he responded well to treatments and is now in remission.

Zeldin, a Long Island Republican who’s running for New York governor, says that the diagnosis had no impact on his work or Army Reserve duties. The Iraq War veteran says that he suffers no side effects from treatment and that his health is now “phenomenal.”

“Over the last nine months, I have achieved complete remission, am expected to live a normal life, and my doctor says I currently have no evidence of this disease in my system,” Zeldin says in a statement released today through his Congressional office.

Zeldin, 41, is in his fourth term representing the eastern half of Long Island, which includes sprawling suburbs, rural farms and the Hamptons. Zeldin is a supporter of former US president Donald Trump and in January, objected to Congress certifying election results showing that Joe Biden had defeated Trump.

In April, amid sexual harassment allegations that led to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s resignation, Zeldin announced that he would run for the office in next year’s election.

Zeldin’s hematologist, Dr. Jeffrey Vacirca, says that the congressman “responded extraordinarily well” to targeted therapy and “has achieved complete remission.”

“Successfully treated early chronic myeloid leukemia is now a chronic disease, which carries a normal life expectancy,” Vacirca says in a statement released through Zeldin’s office. “Congressman Zeldin is incredibly healthy, is expected to enjoy a normal life and has no evidence of disease.”

Iran nuclear chief seeks to speed up conversion of heavy water reactor

Technicians work at the Arak heavy water reactor's secondary circuit, as officials and media visit the site, near Arak, 150 miles southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, on December 23, 2019. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)
Technicians work at the Arak heavy water reactor's secondary circuit, as officials and media visit the site, near Arak, 150 miles southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, on December 23, 2019. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

TEHRAN, Iram — The new head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran has said that he wants to speed up the conversion of the country’s Arak heavy water reactor into a research facility.

Under a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, the Islamic Republic agreed to modify the Arak reactor so that it could not produce military-grade plutonium.

“This project must be reconfigured and returned to operation as soon as possible,” Iranian media quotes Mohammad Eslami as saying during a visit to the site this week.

No time frame was specified.

The nuclear deal gave Iran sanctions relief in return for tight controls on its nuclear program, monitored by the UN.

Tehran has gradually rolled back its nuclear commitments since 2019, a year after then-US president Donald Trump withdrew from the multilateral deal and began reimposing sanctions.

Iran said in 2019 that a secondary circuit for the Arak reactor had become operational as part of its redesign, but that the reactor’s primary circuit, which contains the core, was still being built.

It also said that the US withdrawal from the nuclear accord had slowed the reactor’s conversion.

Eslami’s comments came just days after the head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog, Rafael Grossi, visited Tehran and reached a temporary arrangement to continue surveillance of Iranian nuclear facilities.

IDF opens probe after officer filmed shoving left-wing activist in West Bank

Video shows an Israeli soldier shoving an activist from the left-wing Combatants for Peace group during a protest in the southern West Bank, on September 17, 2021. (Screenshot/Twitter)
Video shows an Israeli soldier shoving an activist from the left-wing Combatants for Peace group during a protest in the southern West Bank, on September 17, 2021. (Screenshot/Twitter)

The military condemns the conduct of an officer and launches an investigation after video shows him shoving a left-wing activist to the ground during a demonstration in the southern West Bank.

The Israel Defense Forces accuses the protesters from Combatants for Peace of blocking a road to the Avigayil outpost at the time of the incident and charges that some of them tried to physically accost soldiers.

The group denies any activists were behaving violently and says that “the response of the army was a blatant lie.” It also says that they were bringing water to a Palestinian village.

“The violence by soldiers toward peace activists must stop,” tweets Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz of the left-wing Meretz party.

French FM says ties with Australia, US in ‘serious crisis,’ accuses them of ‘duplicity’

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks during a joint press conference with his Qatari counterpart in Qatar's capital Doha, on September 13, 2021. (Karim Jafaar/AFP)
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks during a joint press conference with his Qatari counterpart in Qatar's capital Doha, on September 13, 2021. (Karim Jafaar/AFP)

PARIS — France accuses Australia and the United States of lying in a crisis over a security pact that saw Canberra scrap a contract to buy French submarines in favor of American vessels.

“There has been lying, duplicity, a major breach of trust and contempt. This will not do,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian tells France 2 television, saying a “serious crisis” is now in progress between the allies after Paris recalled its ambassadors to Canberra and Washington.

He also lashes out at the “permanent opportunism” of the British government, which he dismisses as the “third wheel” in the security pact with Australia and the United States.

NATO would have to take account of what has happened as it reconsiders future strategy, he adds.

MK says Ra’am won’t quit coalition in case of Gaza fighting

Ra'am MK Walid Taha attends a Knesset Arrangements Committee meeting, on June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ra'am MK Walid Taha attends a Knesset Arrangements Committee meeting, on June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ra’am MK Walid Taha says that the Islamist party won’t bring down the coalition in case of a military operation in Gaza.

Taha tells Channel 12 news that Ra’am is “disgusted by wars” but suggests that Israeli government policy toward Gaza won’t significantly change if Ra’am were to leave the coalition.

“Let’s assume, God forbid there’s a situation of war with Gaza. Then what? We’ve left the government. The government that comes after will do well with Gaza,” he says.

Supporters of those charged over US Capitol riot trickle in for DC rally

Matt Braynard, the organizer behind the rally and a former Trump campaign staffer, speaks during the rally near the US Capitol in Washington, on September 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Matt Braynard, the organizer behind the rally and a former Trump campaign staffer, speaks during the rally near the US Capitol in Washington, on September 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON — In the shadow of a fortified Capitol, a few hundred demonstrators turn up for a rally to support those charged in January’s riot, but are vastly outnumbered by the media and a heavy police presence.

US Capitol Police are taking no chances, with hundreds of officers brought into Washington in an effort to avoid a repeat of the pre-inauguration attack. The fence around the Capitol was put back up, the city police force was fully activated and Capitol Police requested assistance from the National Guard.

There were a few scuffles as the rally and one person was arrested for carrying a knife, police say, but no major incidents were reported early on. Still, law enforcement officials remain on edge, concerned about the possibility of violent protesters and counterprotesters. Police are also preparing for the possibility that some demonstrators may arrive with weapons, though backpacks are allowed into the area and there are no checkpoints.

The rally is ringed by heavy dump trucks and is taking place in fields far from the Capitol building. Law enforcement officers gear up at a staging areas and metal barricades are placed around the streets. Inside the Capitol, police riot shields are placed near doors and windows, a stark difference from January, when officers inside were left without riot equipment and quickly overwhelmed as the crowd stormed inside.

Fall in transmission rate suggests morbidity receding; serious cases up to 717

A Magen David Adom volunteer takes a swab sample from an Israeli woman at a coronavirus testing site in the Golan Heights town of Katzrin, on September 15, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)
A Magen David Adom volunteer takes a swab sample from an Israeli woman at a coronavirus testing site in the Golan Heights town of Katzrin, on September 15, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

Updated Health Ministry figures show that over 10,000 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed this weekend — 4,863 yesterday and another 5,344 since midnight.

The number of serious cases rises to 717, after falling below 700 at the start of the month. Of those in serious condition, 195 are on ventilators.

There are 84,527 active cases in Israel, and 1,219,374 infections have been confirmed since the pandemic began.

The death toll stands at 7,507.

Ministry figures also show the R-rate — the number of new cases stemming from each coronavirus infection — falling below 1 again. Any figure above 1 signals the spread of the virus is accelerating, while any reading below 1 indicates morbidity is receding.

According to the ministry, 6,061,244 Israelis have received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose, 5,574,359 have received two doses and 3,031,423 have received a booster shot.

Bennett: FDA ‘decided to follow in Israel’s path’ on COVID booster shots

A health worker prepares a Covid-19 vaccine in Jerusalem, on August 24, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A health worker prepares a Covid-19 vaccine in Jerusalem, on August 24, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In his first public comments on a FDA panel’s decision to only approve booster shots of Pfizer’s coronavirus for older Americans and others who are considered to be high-risk, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett predicts the US will gradually begin to offer extra doses of the vaccine.

“The FDA decided to follow in Israel’s path,” he asserts on Twitter.

All Israelis over 12 are currently eligible to receive a booster shot once 5 months have passed since their second dose, and Israeli researchers presented data to the panel showing the waning effectiveness of Pfizer’s vaccine over time.

Police minister says one of the Palestinian fugitives still in Israel

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev visits Ketziot prison in southern Israel, on September 9, 2021. (Israel Prisons Service)
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev visits Ketziot prison in southern Israel, on September 9, 2021. (Israel Prisons Service)

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev says one of the two Palestinian security prisoners who have yet to be captured is still within Israeli territory, nearly two weeks after tunneling out a prison in northern Israel.

Barlev tells Channel 12 news that the other is in the West Bank.

“We’ll catch them,” he says.

Four of the six prisoners have been recaptured since they escaped from Gilboa Prison early on September 6, in what is considered one of the worst jailbreaks in Israel’s history.

UN to rely on vaccine honor system for world leaders at General Assembly

UNITED NATIONS — The UN General Assembly is relying on a vaccine honor system for world leaders before they speak at next week’s meeting.

Presidents, premiers, monarchs and other dignitaries won’t have to show vaccination cards or other proof of inoculation. Assembly President Abdulla Shahid says that they’ll simply attest to being vaccinated by swiping their ID badges.

The UN has been wrestling with how to implement a New York City vaccination requirement for convention centers. Russia has criticized the policy, and the first scheduled speaker, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, says that he doesn’t plan to get vaccinated anytime soon. He contracted the coronavirus in July 2020.

Shahid told members earlier this week that he supported the New York City policy but didn’t give details on how it would work. Shahid, a 59-year-old Maldivian, was elected president of the UN General Assembly in June.

Next week, more than 100 heads of state and government and over 20 foreign ministers have signed up to speak in person. Other nations are participating by video for the speeches, where leaders discuss global issues, spotlight domestic ones and use the world stage to court allies or assail foes. The coronavirus pandemic forced the assembly’s top-level annual meeting to go mostly virtual last year.

Israeli member of FDA panel says all vaccinated Israelis should get booster

Dr. Ofer Levy of Boston Children's Hospital speaks with Israel's Channel 12 news in an interview aired on September 18, 2021. (Screen capture: Channel 12)
Dr. Ofer Levy of Boston Children's Hospital speaks with Israel's Channel 12 news in an interview aired on September 18, 2021. (Screen capture: Channel 12)

An Israeli member of the FDA advisory panel that voted only to okay booster shots of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for older Americans and others deemed high-risk defends the decision not to approve extra doses for anyone over 16 in an interview with Israeli television.

“We went over a lot of data, a lot of documents, we did complicated work yesterday, but in my opinion it came out the right way,” Dr. Ofer Levy of Boston Children’s tells Channel 12 news.

Asked why he voted against administering booster shots more widely, he says, “There are a lot of figures that show us that a third dose will help and its safe, but in our opinion… we need to see more data concerning youths before we vote in favor of a third dose.”

Levy says that he “felt some sort of pride” in seeing Israeli researchers present the panel with data in favor of booster shots, which Israel offers to all those over 12, and that their presentation “really helped all the people on our committee.”

He adds that all Israelis eligible to get booster shots should do so, despite his vote yesterday.

“They definitely need to get vaccinated… there’s no doubt that the vaccine effectively protects against the worst effects of the coronavirus,” he says. “We’re in a much different situation here in the United States.”

Indonesia’s most wanted jihadist killed in shootout with security forces

PALU, Indonesia — Indonesia’s most wanted militant with ties to the Islamic State jihadist group was killed today in a gunbattle with security forces, the military says, in a victory for the counterterrorism campaign against extremists in the jungles of Sulawesi island.

Ali Kalora was one of two militants killed in the shootout, says Central Sulawesi’s regional military chief Brig. Gen. Farid Makruf. He identifies the other suspected extremist as Jaka Ramadan.

The two men were fatally shot during a raid late Saturday by a joint team of military and police officers in Central Sulawesi province’s mountainous Parigi Moutong district, Makruf says. It borders Poso district, considered an extremist hotbed in the province.

“Ali Kalora was the most wanted terrorist and leader of MIT,” Makruf says, referring to the Indonesian acronym of the East Indonesia Mujahideen network, a militant group that claims allegiance to the Islamic State. He says that security forces were searching for the four remaining members of the group.

The East Indonesia Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for several killings of police officers and minority Christians.

Security operations in Central Sulawesi have intensified in recent months to try to capture members of the network, particularly targeting Ali Kalora, the group’s leader. The network pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in 2014.

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