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Rocket fired from Gaza hits open field in southern Israel

No injuries or damage reported in attack; sirens sound in open areas, but not towns or cities

The smoke trail of a rocket, fired by Palestinian terrorists, flying over the Gaza Strip, on February 23, 2020. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
The smoke trail of a rocket, fired by Palestinian terrorists, flying over the Gaza Strip, on February 23, 2020. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

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

Jordan snubs Netanyahu, Gantz over annexation — report

Jordan’s King Abdullah II is not taking phone calls from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the Hashemite kingdom seethes over Israeli plans to annex portions of the West Bank, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reports.

The Jordanian leadership is also being coy with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and is refusing to set a date for a meeting on the annexation plans, the report says, citing a Jordanian official.

Israel knows annexation will hurt burgeoning Gulf ties — official

Israel is well aware that West Bank annexation would impair burgeoning ties with Gulf states, a diplomatic official tells Army Radio.

“It’s obvious to us that the pace of relations between Israel and Gulf states will slow or be halted as a result of annexation,” the official says, days after a UAE diplomat penned an op-ed in an Israeli newspaper against the move.

Thousands at Jerusalem protest seek lifeline for culture

Thousands of people are rallying outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on behalf of the country’s ailing cultural industry, which has been hit hard by the pandemic, reports say.

Prominent singers, actors and other workers are demanding government help to bail out the industry.

Parts of Beijing locked down as virus outbreak gathers fresh pace

All indoor sports and entertainment venues are shut down in China’s capital as authorities race to contain a coronavirus outbreak linked to a wholesale food market, with some neighborhoods placed under completed lockdown.

Tens of thousands of people are also targeted in a massive test and trace program, as the number of cases from the new Beijing cluster increased to 79.

The outbreak comes after China had largely brought the virus under control following its emergence in a central Chinese city late last year, highlighting the enduring dangers for the rest of the world about a second wave of the pandemic.

Indoor sports and entertainment venues across Beijing have been ordered to close, the municipal party committee says at a press conference Monday.

City official Xu Ying tells reporters that all areas must “strengthen public space disinfection and temporarily close sports and recreation indoor facilities,” as well as increasing temperature checks and forbidding non-residents from entering communities.

Earlier today health officials reported 49 new coronavirus cases nationwide, including 36 more in Beijing where a cluster linked to the Xinfadi market in the south of the city has fueled fears of a second wave of infections.

AFP

Foreign minister speaks to Bedouin diplomat manhandled by guards

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi says he has spoken to Israel’s first-ever Bedouin diplomat, who has complained to police that he was manhandled by security guards at a bus depot in Jerusalem.

“There is no room in Israeli society for violence,” says Ashkenazi in a tweet. “I trust law enforcement will investigate the matter and get to the bottom of it.”

Iran warns it may reimpose lockdown as virus infections soar

Iran warns it may have to reimpose tough measures against the novel coronavirus to ensure social distancing, as it reports more than 100 deaths for a second straight day.

Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari says 113 new fatalities take to 8,950 the total number of COVID-19 deaths since the country’s outbreak began in February.

She also says another 2,449 people had tested positive for the virus in the past 24 hours, taking the Islamic Republic’s overall caseload to 189,876.

Iran’s government shut schools, postponed major public events and barred inter-city travel to stop the virus’s spread in March before gradually easing restrictions from April.

Official figures have shown a rising trajectory in new confirmed cases since early May, when Iran hit a near two-month low in daily recorded infections.

Government spokesman Ali Rabiei bemoans the lack of social distancing among people at holy sites and on public transportation.

“In the (Tehran) subway, although 90 percent of passengers use masks, social distancing is not being observed,” he tells a news conference.

AFP

Taste of freedom: Parisians return to cafes and restaurants after 3 months

Paris is rediscovering itself, as its cafes and restaurants reopen for the first time since the fast-spreading coronavirus forced them to close their doors March 14.

“Salut!” says a masked manager to a pair of regular customers as they entered Les Favoris brasserie in southern Paris on Monday for their shot of morning espresso.

The surprise permission to reopen came from France’s president, in a televised address to the nation Sunday night.

“We will rediscover … the art of living, our taste for freedom,” President Emmanuel Macron says, citing progress in fighting the virus. “We will rediscover France.”

Restaurants outside the Paris region opened earlier this month, and Paris cafes were allowed to serve people outside but not open their doors.

After three months of losses, some restaurateurs fear it will take a long time for business to come back. “People got in the habit of no longer going to restaurants,” chef Amandine Chaignot tells Le Parisien newspaper.

AP

Patient, 73, threatens medical staff with knife before surgery; is arrested

A 73-year-old man hospitalized at the Wolfson Medical Center uses a knife to threaten medical staff who were preparing him for surgery.

He has been arrested.

EU foreign ministers push Pompeo on Israeli annexation

EU foreign ministers hold video talks with their US counterpart Mike Pompeo as rifts widen over how to handle relations with Israel, China and international organizations.

The meeting kicks off a crunch week for trans-Atlantic ties, with a virtual meeting of NATO defense ministers starting Wednesday already overshadowed by Washington’s controversial plans to slash its troop presence in Germany.

US President Donald Trump’s “America First” approach has seen ties with Europe lurch from crisis to crisis in recent years, but EU officials are determined to keep talking to Washington, even if little progress is apparent.

High on the agenda will be the Middle East peace process, as Brussels seeks to persuade Israel to back down from plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

The new Israeli government led once again by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has signaled it intends to annex West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley, as proposed by Trump, with initial steps to begin from July 1.

A senior EU official says Monday’s talks with Pompeo would begin three weeks “devoted to strongly reaching out” to all parties — including the Israeli and US governments — to try to stop the moves.

EU ministers will press their objections to annexations — which they say breach international law — with Pompeo.

“We are reaching out trying to persuade everybody that annexations are not a good idea and will create instability, and the Israeli government should reconsider,” the official says.

Pompeo has urged the Palestinians to embrace Trump’s Middle East peace plan, which promises them an independent but condensed and demilitarized state as well as international investment.

AFP

Settler leader against Trump plan snubbed by Likud, embraced by Yamina

The Likud party refuses to allow a settler leader to join a faction meeting in the Knesset to voice his objections to the Trump administration’s peace plan, prompting the right-wing opposition Yamina party to host him instead.

David Elhayani is embraced by Yamina, which says it will always be home to the pro-settlement right in a statement describing the incident.

“A right-wing party cannot refuse to host the representatives of the settlements who are currently sensing a real danger to their life’s work,” Yamina says.

Elhayani drew ire earlier this month from Netanyahu for his criticism of the peace plan and for saying Donald Trump is no friend of Israel.

Greek PM to visit Israel to discuss energy, West Bank annexation

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will travel to Israel tomorrow for wide-ranging talks covering energy and his counterpart’s controversial plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

Mitsotakis will lead the largest high-level delegation to Israel since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with six ministers in tow including defense and tourism.

Their overnight stay follows a visit to Jerusalem last week by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who voiced European discontent at Israeli proposals to annex West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley.

The step forms part of a peace plan unveiled by US President Donald Trump in January, which has been backed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and wholly rejected by the Palestinians.

“We will discuss the peace plan of President Trump and we will talk about energy and the EastMed (gas pipeline), stability in the Middle East with an emphasis on Iran and Lebanon,” Israeli Foreign Ministry official Iris Ambor tells journalists on Monday.

Israel, Greece and Cyprus in January signed the EastMed deal for a huge pipeline to ship gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe, despite objections from Turkey.

Mitsotakis will hold talks with Netanyahu on Tuesday and the following day visit Jerusalem’s Holocaust memorial site Yad Vashem, Ambor says.

The Greece delegation will not travel to the West Bank city of Ramallah, headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, according to Israeli officials.

The European Union is weighing retaliatory measures as a response to Israeli annexation, which could begin from July 1, although sanctions would require the agreement of all 27 member states.

Israel is counting on European allies such as Austria and Hungary — who last month refused to back a resolution against annexation — and “friendly” countries such as Greece and Cyprus to tone down the EU response.

AFP

Construction begins on ‘The American Road’ encircling Jerusalem

Israel has begun building a bypass road linking West Bank settlements to Jerusalem, in a project dubbed “The American Road” that is set to cost over $250 million, Reuters reports.

The road will connect settlements north and south of the capital to the city, as well as cut travel times for East Jerusalem neighborhoods, city officials say. It is poised to be completed in the summer of 2021, says the report.

Fadi Al-Hidmi, the Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, tells Reuters the project “cuts off Palestinian neighborhoods within the city from one another.” Jerusalem officials counter that it will benefit both Jewish and Arab residents of Jerusalem.

“It doesn’t unite the settlements. It’s not about uniting borders or municipal lines,” says Deputy Mayor Arieh King, a hawkish council member. “But it does connect them more on the daily level – whether it’s studies, tourism or commerce. And then in practice you create a huge Jerusalem metropolis.”

Critics say the road undermines the possibility of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The building comes amid ramped up talk of prospective Israeli annexation of portions of the West Bank, which could begin in July under the Trump peace plan.

So-called Norwegian Law to be brought for final votes

The Likud and Blue and White parties have agreed to advance a bill allowing ministers to give up their positions as Knesset members in order to enable a different member of their party slate to take their spot in parliament.

The so-called Norwegian Law will be brought to its second and third readings today,  Hebrew reports say. If it clears the plenary votes, it will become law.

Netanyahu had tried to delay the vote — sought by Blue and White — for leverage, after seeking to make a retroactive change to the unity coalition deal between Likud and Benny Gantz’s party.

A source in Likud tells the Kan public broadcaster that Gantz has agreed to make the change sought by Netanyahu.

“Blue and White caved. We will amend the agreement and ensure the continued term of the alternate prime minister in a year and a half,” the source says.

The coalition deal agreed on by the parties stipulates that if the Knesset is dissolved and elections are called between November 2020 and November 2021 — after a six-month “emergency period” ends but before Gantz becomes prime minister as part of the power-sharing deal — Gantz would automatically become the transitional prime minister instead of Netanyahu.

But Netanyahu is now reportedly demanding that the deal be changed so that he will remain prime minister if elections are called during that time.

The deal says that if the High Court strikes down legislation passed as part of the coalition deal during the emergency period, Netanyahu will be the transitional leader. However, the premier now fears that the court could make such a decision after November, according to Channel 12.

Netanyahu was also demanding that the coalition deal be changed so that the government would serve for a full four-year term instead of the current three, fearing that clause would hand the court grounds to annul the deal.

Netanyahu and Gantz met earlier today on the issue.

TV: Netanyahu says annexation could be implemented in stages

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly acknowledged that annexation of portions  of the West Bank could happen piece by piece.

“It’s possible that annexation won’t happen in one round but rather will be implemented in stages,” Channel 13 cites the prime minister as telling a group of visiting IDF officers in the reserves. “The US is demanding the agreement of [Defense Minister Benny] Gantz and [Foreign Minister Gabi] Ashkenazi.”

The TV report says the comment was made during a meeting with senior IDF officers in the reserves who support annexation.

During the meeting, Netanyahu’s office said the premier referred to annexation as a “historic opportunity.”

UN nuclear watchdog chief asks Iran for access to sites flagged by Israel

The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog calls on Iran to allow “prompt access” to two sites where past nuclear activity may have occurred.

“I hope we can do better,” Rafael Grossi, director general of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), tells reporters when asked about the agency’s current relationship with Iran.

Grossi is speaking at the start of a meeting of the agency’s Board of Governors which is expected to discuss a report earlier this month in which the IAEA expressed “serious concern” that Iran has been blocking inspections at two sites.

“There are areas where our cooperation is ongoing and there is this issue where quite clearly we are in disagreement,” he says.

Grossi repeats an appeal to Iran to “cooperate immediately and fully” with the agency.

If the Board of Governors pass a resolution critical of Iran, it would be the first of its kind since 2012.

Even though the two sites in question are not thought to be directly relevant to Iran’s current activities, the agency says it needs to know if activities going back almost two decades have been properly declared and all materials accounted for.

The report details efforts by the agency’s officials to get access to the locations.

Iran told the agency the report was a source of “deep regret and disappointment” and hinted the queries were based on “fabricated information” from “intelligence services.”

Israel has previously claimed its intelligence services unearthed information on an alleged previous nuclear weapons program in Iran.

Grossi says there were “no legal ambiguities” around the requests for access.

“The agency works on the basis of a very rigorous, dogged, meticulous technical and scientific analysis of information,” he says, insisting: “Nothing is taken at face value.”

Western states have voiced concern over Iran’s denial of access to the sites concerned, with the United States being particularly vocal.

AFP

Anti-migrant activist confesses placing stickers on justice’s mailbox

A right-wing activist known for calling for the deportation of African migrants has admitted to plastering stickers denouncing the High Court on the mailbox of a justice, who subsequently filed a police complaint.

Sheffi Paz concedes she put papers reading, “The blood of Jews is free. The High Court of Justice” on the mailbox of Justice Uzi Fogelman.

Perceiving the message as a warning, Fogelman filed a complaint after another justice received two threatening letters, Hebrew reports say. It’s unclear if Paz is also connected to the threats against Justice Anat Baron on Sunday.

“It took me time to find his address,” she tells Kan. “Otherwise I would have done it a long time ago.”

Intelligence minister: World must do more to press Iran on nuclear sites

Israel’s Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen says the international community must do more to gain access to suspected Iranian nuclear sites.

“Words and political speeches are not enough. The IAEA has been asking Iran for clarifications for a year without results. There are two suspicious facilities that IAEA’s inspectors have not been granted access to since January 2020. Without any doubt the Iranian regime is hiding its nuclear activity from the international community. The same regime which consistently declares its intentions to destroy the State of Israel and to wipe it off the map,” he says.

“Therefore, I urge the IAEA and its Director General Rafael Grossi, whom I met earlier this year in Vienna, to condemn Iran’s violation of the nuclear agreement and to act proactively against Tehran’s nuclear plan.

“I also call upon the global community to refrain from the old mechanism of the United Nations Security Council and restore international sanctions against Iranian uranium enrichment, plutonium-related heavy water work, and ballistic missile development. The sanctions should not be lifted until Iran opens its facilities to IAEA inspectors and refrains from building a nuclear weapon.”

TV: Netanyahu tells Likud the US peace plan won’t be brought to cabinet vote

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells Likud lawmakers he won’t bring the US peace plan to the government or parliament for approval, according to Channel 13.

He also says he’s unsure what his Blue and White coalition partners’ position is on annexation, the television report says. The US is demanding Blue and White be on board before Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank can go ahead.

 

 

Top health official: We don’t know where and how virus is spreading

A senior Health Ministry official acknowledges that authorities are in the dark on  how the coronavirus is spreading in Israel.

“Right now, we don’t have markers to detect who is spreading the virus, as we did in the beginning. We don’t know where we need to be particularly careful, and where we need to carry out more tests — and this is the problem,” Sigal Sadetzky tells the Kan public broadcaster.

She says the rising infections are being recorded across the country.

But Sadetzky says the situation is not “out of control.”

“The disease is spreading more slowly now than it did previously because we did learned some things, [but] our [detection] capabilities are worse than they were. It worries me.”

“If we don’t stop the virus, it will continue to spread,” she warns.

In landmark ruling, US Supreme Court extends civil rights law to LGBT workers

The US Supreme Court rules that federal protections against workplace discrimination apply equally to sexual orientation, contrary to the position taken by the administration of US President Donald Trump.

The landmark decision says Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlaws discrimination against employees because of a person’s sex, also covers sexual orientation and transgender status.

“Today we must decide whether someone can be fired simply for being homosexual or transgender,” the court says. “The answer is clear.”

AFP

Halle synagogue shooter set to go on trial

A German man charged with a deadly anti-Semitic shooting in the eastern city of Halle last year will go on trial on July 21, a regional court says.

Stephan Balliet is accused of shooting dead two people in October after he tried and failed to storm a synagogue.

He has been charged with two counts of murder and several counts of attempted murder relating to a total of 68 people.

“The defendant is suspected of having committed an attack on the synagogue in Halle on October 9, 2019 with the anti-Semitic, racist and xenophobic intention of attempting to murder citizens of the Jewish faith,” the higher regional court in Naumburg says.

Balliet is accused of attempting to use explosives and firearms to gain access to the closed synagogue, where 52 worshipers were celebrating Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

After failing to storm the synagogue, he shot dead a passerby and pointed his firearm at other people, prosecutors say. He is then accused of shooting dead a man at a nearby kebab shop after attempting to kill all nine people inside with a grenade.

He filmed the attack and livestreamed it on the internet. Balliet also published documents online that explain his motivation for the attack and call for the killing of all Jews.

Prosecutors says he made a “very comprehensive” confession during an interrogation, confirming “far-right and anti-Semitic motives.”

AFP

Hamas urges Palestinian unity in ‘resistance’ to annexation

Gaza rulers Hamas call for unity among Palestinians and “resistance” against Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aims to begin a process of annexing West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley from July 1, as part of a US peace initiative.

“We call for the annexation project to be confronted with resistance in all forms,” says senior Hamas official Salah al-Bardawil, using a euphemism for violence.

“We call on our people to transform this hardship into an opportunity to get the Palestinian project back on track,” he tells a press conference.

with AFP

Cancellation of heritage trips cost Israeli economy $200 million

The cancellation of trips for Jewish youths and young adults due to the coronavirus crisis will cost the Israeli economy about $200 million.

Trips for about 60,000 young Jews planned for the spring and summer have been canceled, Israel’s business daily Calcalist reports. The heritage trips include programs sponsored by Birthright Israel-Taglit, Masa, and Jewish schools and youth groups.

The estimated loss does not include revenue from air travel.

Israel closed its borders to the entrance of non-citizens on March 18. It has twice pushed back reopening to foreigners, with no definite date set yet.

The Interior Ministry approved special visas for people attending Masa’s long-term programs in Israel, with a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

The Israel Experience-Educational Tourism Services Ltd., which organizes many of the heritage trips including Birthright, tells Calcalist that it has lost $40 million in revenue in the past four months and put 75 percent of its employees on unpaid leave.

JTA

Israeli brothers suspected of murdering compatriot in Belgium over drugs

Belgian police arrested two Israeli brothers on suspicion of the murder of another Israeli man whose bullet-riddled body was found in a river.

The arrests Thursday in what police said was a drug-related crime followed the discovery of the body on March 15 at the Kattendijk dock inside the Antwerp port, in the city’s north. The body was dumped there inside a bag along with heavy objects that police believe were meant to keep the body submerged, the Gazet van Antwepren reports Monday.

The 21-year-old victim was not a resident of Antwerp, Belgian authorities say. The report did not name the victim nor the suspects, both in their 20s, who were living in Antwerp when the crime was committed.

“The identification [of the body] sped up the research,” Kristof Aerts, the Antwerp police spokesman, tells the Gazet, adding that the arrests were made possible thanks to “extra information from Israeli authorities.”

Aerts also says police believe the victim was killed in the context of “score settling in the drug world.”

JTA

Treasury threatens to dock teachers’ pay if they don’t add 9 days in summer

The Finance Ministry says it will reduce the salaries of teachers who refuse to teach for nine days in July to make up for lost class time during the weeks-long nationwide pandemic lockdown.

The warning by finance officials comes amid a brewing fight between the Education Ministry and teachers’  unions over the added days during summer break.

The school year has been extended into July as a result of the virus, but union officials for middle school and high school teachers have pushed back on requirements to continue teaching into the summer months without an increase in pay for those days.

Suspect in London rabbi stabbing due in court

A London man charged with attempted murder in the stabbing of a rabbi on a city street is due to appear in court.

The suspect in custody was identified as Stanley Francis of Stoke Newington, located in northeast London. He is scheduled to appear at Thames Magistrates’ Court today, the London-based Jewish Times reports. He also was charged with possession of an offensive weapon, according to the report.

He was taken into custody the day after the Friday morning attack on Rabbi Alter Yaacov Schlesinger of the Satmar Yeshiva in Stamford Hill, the Jewish Chronicle reported. The rabbi, who is in his 50s, is reported to be in stable condition after being stabbed multiple times on High Street in Stoke Newington.

Passersby detained Francis, who they said perpetrated the attack, until police arrived.

Police said they are “maintaining an open mind” about the motive for the attack, The Guardian reported. They have not yet said the attack was a hate crime or linked to anti-Semitism.

with JTA

Health minister reprimands MKs for not wearing face masks

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, speaking in the Knesset plenum, chides lawmakers for failing to wear face masks.

MKs “walk around the Knesset without masks and call me ‘a pest’ when I tell them off,” says Edelstein, a former parliamentary speaker.

“But when they fear they’ve been infected by the coronavirus, they use their personal connections, jump through hoops and bypass the line. Where’s the personal example?”

“If we don’t observe the rules, we won’t be able to keep the economy open, over time,” he says.

 

FDA revokes permission to use malaria drugs touted by Trump on COVID-19

The US Food and Drug Administration is revoking its emergency authorization for malaria drugs promoted by President Donald Trump for treating COVID-19 amid growing evidence that they do not work and could cause deadly side effects.

The agency says the drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are unlikely to be effective in treating the coronavirus. Citing reports of heart complications, the FDA said the drugs pose a greater risk to patients than any potential benefits.

The decades-old drugs, also prescribed for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, can cause heart rhythm problems, severely low blood pressure and muscle or nerve damage.

The move means that shipments of the drugs obtained by the federal government will no longer be distributed to state and local health authorities. The drugs are still available for alternate uses, so US doctors could still prescribe them for COVID-19 — a practice known as off-label prescribing.

On Thursday, a National Institutes of Health expert panel revised its guidelines to specifically recommend against the drug’s use except in formal studies.

Trump aggressively pushed the drug beginning in the first weeks of the outbreak and stunned medical professionals when he revealed that he was taking the drug preemptively against infection.

AP

182 new virus cases recorded in 24 hours

The Health Ministry says 182 new COVID-19 cases have been diagnosed in the past 24 hours, bringing the number of active infections to 3,520.

The number of daily cases has been on the rise in recent weeks, and topped 200 late last week before dipping slightly over the weekend.

The ministry says 35 people are in serious condition, 25 of them on ventilators. Another 45 are in moderate condition and the rest are displaying mild symptoms.

No additional deaths are recorded since the morning, keeping the toll at 302.

The ministry data says 8,840 coronavirus tests were conducted on Sunday.

The city with the most new cases in the past three days is Tel Aviv-Jaffa, with 50, followed by Rahat (32), Baqa al-Gharbiyye (27), Haifa (24), and Jerusalem (19).

Pompeo, in Jewish forum, calls on Israel to stand with US against China

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking to the American Jewish Committee, urges Israel to stand with the United States against China.

“Standing up to the Chinese Communist Party is a growing challenge to the United States, to Israel, indeed to all free people,” he says in an address Sunday to the AJC’s annual Global Forum, which was moved online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pompeo alludes to Trump administration unhappiness with Israel for its expanding commercial ties with China, which US officials believe offers the Asian nation a back door to obtain intelligence on Israeli and US military capacities.

“Beijing’s opaque military buildup, reckless indifference to its internal obligations, and disinformation campaigns endanger us all,” he says. “We all must be alert to the Chinese Communist Party’s threat to our way of life. Standing against bad actors is at the core of America’s values. Both of our nations are rooted in respect for God-given rights, individual freedom and human equality.”

The Global Forum was to have been held in Berlin this year.

JTA

Police expected to close statutory rape case against soccer players

The statutory rape case against two Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer players is expected to be closed, Channel 12 reports.

The two players were interrogated on Sunday over suspicions that they had sex with two underage girls.

The TV report says investigators have been presented with correspondence indicating that the girls lied about their age.

Barring new revelations in the testimony of the second girl, police are expected to close the case.

13 sick, 1 dies in coronavirus outbreak at Tel Aviv nursing home — TV

A resident has died and 13 people have been infected with the coronavirus at a Tel Aviv nursing home, Channel 12 reports.

The TV report says the outbreak at the Medical Palace center was detected on Saturday with a random test of a resident, who turned up positive.

Since then, 13 others have been diagnosed and a resident has died of COVID-19.

One of the infected has been hospitalized.

The fatality is not immediately identified.

EU foreign ministers tell Pompeo they reject Trump plan, seek new peace effort

European Union foreign ministers urge the United States to join a new effort to breathe life into long-stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, but they rejected President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan as the basis for any international process.

Trump’s proposal, which was unveiled in February, would foresee the eventual creation of a Palestinian state, but it falls far short of minimal Palestinian demands and would leave sizable chunks of the West Bank in Israeli hands.

Speaking after chairing video talks between the ministers and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says the Europeans “recognize the merit of the US plan because it has created a certain momentum where there was nothing.”

“This momentum can be used to start a joint international effort of the basis of existing internationally agreed parameters,” Borrell says, referring to the need for a two-state solution, based along the 1967 lines, with the possibility of mutually agreed land-swaps.

“We made clear that it is important to encourage the Israelis and the Palestinians to engage in a credible and meaningful political process,” Borrell says. “For us, there is no other way than to resume talks.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also insists on the need “to revive the peace process in the region and find a way for both sides to speak and negotiate with each other.”

“A multilateral format could certainly be the right framework for this, and we are prepared to support any initiative in this direction — and I would be glad if our colleague from Washington also were prepared to do this,” Maas says. No details of what the new effort might look like were provided.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he wants to move forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank, perhaps in early July, and Borrell says the ministers warned Pompeo about “the consequences of a possible annexation for the prospects of a two-state solution, but also for regional stability.”

In recent months, the 27-nation bloc has debated whether to modify its Middle East policy amid growing concern that settlement activity and US diplomatic moves, like the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, are undermining the chances of a two-state solution.

But while the EU is the biggest provider of aid to the Palestinians, the member countries have little obvious leverage over Israel that they would be prepared to use, and it’s unclear what action, if any, they would take should Netanyahu push ahead with his annexation plan.

AP

US pilot found dead after F-15 crash near England

The pilot of a fighter jet that crashed into the North Sea, off the coast of northern England, has been found dead, the US Air Force says.

In a statement hours after the crash, it says, “The pilot of the downed F-15C Eagle from the 48th Fighter Wing has been located, and confirmed deceased.”

It says this is a “tragic loss” for the 48th Fighter wing community and sends condolences to the pilot’s family.

The name of the pilot will not be released until all next of kin notifications have been made.

Earlier, rescuers found the wreckage of the jet that was on a routine training mission from RAF Lakenheath when it crashed at 9:40 a.m. The cause of the crash was not immediately clear.

Britain’s coast guard located wreckage from the downed fighter, and recovery efforts were underway, the US Air Force says in a statement.

Coast guard officials say in a statement that they received reports the plane went down 74 nautical miles off Flamborough Head on the Yorkshire coast.

A helicopter and lifeboats were deployed.

“Other vessels nearby are heading to the area,” the coast guard says in a statement.

Lakenheath is a Royal Air Force base that hosts the US Air Force’s 48th Fighter Wing, known as the Liberty Wing. The base is about 80 miles (130 kilometers) northeast of London.

The wing has more than 4,500 active-duty military members.

AP

Another 52 students, teachers diagnosed with virus

According to data released by the Education Ministry, another 52 students and teachers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases linked to the outbreak in schools to 578.

The Health Ministry said earlier that 182 people in Israel have been confirmed infected since last night, including the 52 students and teachers.

The ministry says 169 schools remain closed.

Hamas official: ‘Mass actions’ planned to fight Israeli annexation

Hamas deputy political chief Saleh al-Arouri tells the Hamas-linked al-Resalah TV channel that “mass actions” are being planned “in all regions,” in protest against Israel’s planned annexation of the West Bank.

Al-Arouri does not say what the mass actions might look like. But he says that the crisis may become militarized.

“We cannot exclude the possibility that — in the wake of Israeli aggression — matters may reach a point of escalation in the confrontation, which might lead to military escalation,” al-Arouri says.

Hamas is willing to work with any group to coordinate anti-annexation efforts, al-Arouri says, including the Palestinian Authority.

“The PA should remove any fears that we will take their place in the West Bank. We only want to extend an outstretched hand to join in resisting the occupier,” al-Arouri says.

This week, the two rival Palestinian factions observed the 13th anniversary of their schism, which formally began when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June 2007. The takeover — which Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh called “a dark coup” on Monday — dissolved the Hamas-Fatah unity government. Subsequent attempts to reconcile the two dueling Palestinian factions have yielded little progress.

— Aaron Boxerman

Rocket fired from Gaza, hits open field in Israel

A rocket is fired into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, striking an open field, the military says.

The projectile explodes in an open area in the Eshkol region of southern Israel, causing neither damage nor injury.

The launch triggers sirens in the field near where the rocket hit, but not in any populated areas, the military says.

Judah Ari Gross

Health Ministry confirms outbreak at Tel Aviv nursing home

The Health Ministry confirms a coronavirus outbreak at the Tel Aviv Medical Palace nursing home.

It says 10 people have tested positive after a random sampling.

That includes five asymptomatic staff members, it says.

One of the sick residents has been hospitalized and the remaining infected will soon be hospitalized, it says.

A male resident of the nursing home, with complicated preexisting medical conditions, has died, it confirms.

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Another 52 students, teachers diagnosed with virus

According to data released by the Education Ministry, another 52 students and teachers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases linked to the outbreak in schools to 578.

The Health Ministry said earlier that 182 people in Israel have been confirmed infected since last night, including the 52 students and teachers.

The ministry says 169 schools remain closed.