Apple orders face masks worth $300,000 from Israel-based pharmacy chain
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Iran commander threatens to hit both Israel and US if ‘slightest error’ made

Comment by Hossein Salami comes in response to Times of Israel report on Defense Minister Bennett saying US has agreed to counter Iran in Iraq while Israel fights it in Syria

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards commander Major General Hossein Salami speaks during a pro-government rally in the capital Tehran's central Enghelab Square on November 25, 2019. (Atta Kenare/AFP)
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards commander Major General Hossein Salami speaks during a pro-government rally in the capital Tehran's central Enghelab Square on November 25, 2019. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

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

British finance minister, a friend of Israel, quits in reshuffle

Britain’s finance minister, Sajid Javid, resigns just weeks after Brexit and a month before he was due to deliver the government’s annual budget.

Javid’s spokesman confirms he will be leaving just as Prime Minister Boris Johnson carries out the first reshuffle of his cabinet since winning a parliamentary majority in December’s election.

Javid had been widely expected to keep his job in the cabinet shakeup.

Javid, a Muslim who is considered one of Israel’s strongest supporters in the British government, made a rare visit last year by a foreign dignitary to Jerusalem’s Western Wall and Temple Mount during a three-day visit to Israel and the West Bank. He also met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He has been a member of Conservative Friends of Israel since 2012, and has long campaigned against the BDS movement.

— with agencies

Japan confirms first death of person with new coronavirus

A woman in her 80s has become the first person with the new coronavirus to die in Japan, the country’s health minister says, cautioning it is not clear if the virus caused her death.

“The relationship between the new coronavirus and the death of the person is still unclear,” Katsunobu Kato says at a late-night briefing.

“This is the first death of a person who tested positive.”


New clashes reported in Libya despite UN ceasefire call

Rival forces clash in the Libyan capital, witnesses and pro-Government of National Accord (GNA) forces say, a day after a UN Security Council resolution called for a “lasting ceasefire.”

Flights are again suspended at Mitiga, Tripoli’s sole functioning airport, following rocket fire, as fighting breaks out between forces loyal to the UN-recognized GNA and fighters of strongman Khalifa Haftar in the capital’s south.


Resigning UK treasury chief refused PM’s demand to fire all his aides — source

Britain’s Press Association news agency quotes an unnamed source close to resigning finance minister Sajid Javid as saying Prime Minister Boris Johnson wanted him to sack his team of aides but he refused.

“He has turned down the job of Chancellor of the Exchequer,” the source says.

“The prime minister said he had to fire all his special advisers and replace them with Number 10 special advisers to make it one team. The chancellor said no self-respecting minister would accept those terms.”


Court remands rabbi Eliezer Berland for 8 days on fraud, extortion charges

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court extends by eight days the detention of convicted sex offender rabbi Eliezer Berland, who is accused of fraud, extortion, money laundering and other offenses.

The judge, Sharon Lari-Bavli, says Berland giving people placebo medicines testifies to the “grave danger” he poses.

UK premier appoints Rishi Sunak new finance minister

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson names Rishi Sunak to be his new finance minister, after Sajid Javid sensationally resigned.

Sunak, 39, has a business background and previously served as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, effectively Javid’s number two.


Turkey threatens force against ‘radicals’ in Syria’s Idlib

Turkey threatens to use force against “radicals” in Syria’s Idlib province after Russia accused Ankara of failing to “neutralize” jihadist groups under a 2018 deal.

“Force will be used in Idlib against those who do not abide by the ceasefire, including the radicals,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar is quoted as saying by the official Anadolu news agency.

“Any form of measure will be taken,” he says.


Syria parliament recognizes Armenian genocide

Syria’s parliament recognizes the 1915-17 murder of up to 1.5 million Armenians as genocide, as tensions run high with Turkey after deadly clashes in northwest Syria.

“The parliament… condemns and recognizes the genocide committed against the Armenians by the Ottoman state at the start of the twentieth century,” the parliament says in a statement.


Balloon-borne bombs explode over Israeli communities near Gaza

More balloon-borne explosive devices are launched from the Gaza Strip by terrorists.

One such device explodes over the city of Sderot, while another detonates over Israeli communities in the Sdot Negev region, according to Hebrew-language media.

There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Senior Saudi diplomat says there are ‘positive elements in Trump’s peace plan’

Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir says that US President Donald Trump’s peace plan can be the basis for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

“There are positive elements in Trump’s peace plan,” al-Jubeir says during a visit to Romania. “These elements may establish the basis for negotiation between the two sides.”

However, he goes on to say that “the Palestinians have rejected this plan and made it clear that it doesn’t meet their requirements,” stressing that “it is our duty to support the Palestinians.”

Apple orders face masks worth $300,000 from Israel-based pharmacy chain

Tech giant Apple has ordered thousands of face masks from Israel-based pharmacy chain Super-Pharm, amid global fears of the new coronavirus.

Super-Pharm, the largest drugstore chain in Israel. July 13, 2014. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

The face masks, worth a total of a million shekels (almost $300,000), are for Apple’s employees in Europe, according to Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language sister site.

They are being imported from a country in Africa, which wasn’t named in the report.

Neither Apple nor Super-Pharm have commented.

Balloon bomb from Gaza explodes over Sderot school, sends kids to shelters

A balloon-borne explosive device launched by terrorists from the Gaza Strip explodes over an elementary school in the city of Sderot.

The schoolkids are rushed to bomb shelters, according to Hebrew-language media.

Nobody is physically hurt, but several people suffer from anxiety.

It is the second bomb attached to balloons to be found today near a school in Sderot. There are no casualties in either attack.

Oxford Dictionary includes ‘yid’ definition for Tottenham fans

An alternative meaning for a controversial anti-Semitic epithet often used by fans of English soccer club Tottenham has been included in a list of new entries in a leading dictionary of British English.

The definitions of the words “yid” and “yiddo” — derogatory terms for Jews — have been updated in the Oxford English Dictionary to include “a supporter of or player for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.”

With concern from Tottenham and Jewish community leaders that the definition was misleading and the words’ offensive meaning had not been highlighted, the dictionary has included further context.

Tottenham Hotspur fans hold up a Yid sign at a soccer game. (Screen capture/YouTube)

“Originally and frequently derogatory and offensive, though also often as a self-designation,” the OED adds in the definition.

Some fans of Tottenham, a north London club which has traditionally drawn a large fan base from the Jewish communities, call themselves the “Yid Army.” But the usage of the nickname has stirred debate.

Tottenham has previously described it as a “call to arms” or a “defense mechanism” which portions of the team’s fans use as an attempt to reclaim the term from its racist usage by opposing fans.

“As a club, we have never accommodated the use of the Y word on any club channels or in club stores and have always been clear that our fans (both Jewish and gentile) have never used the term with any intent to cause offense,” Tottenham says in a statement following the release of the OED’s updated definitions.

— AP

U of Illinois student government passes resolution supporting Israel boycott

The student government at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign voted to adopt a resolution that supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

The 20-9 vote in favor follows a five-hour meeting of the US university’s Student Government, the Illini Hillel at the Cohen Center for Jewish Life says in a Facebook post. There were seven abstentions.

The resolution, which had 22 sponsors, calls on the university to divest from “companies that profit from human-rights violations in Palestine and other communities globally.” It names three companies that do business in Israel: Raytheon, Elbit Systems Ltd. and Northrup Grumman.

An amendment removing references to Israel loses in a 22-11 vote with six abstentions.

The university releases a statement following the vote noting that the resolution is nonbinding and that it has no plans to act on it.

“We are committed to dialogue and to supporting students as they navigate challenging conversations about diversity and inclusion,” the statement says, “and we will continue to plan programming designed to build understanding of different perspectives on complex and divisive issues.”

More than 30 students spoke out against the bill in public comments.


Greenblatt says people should stop calling West Bank communities ‘settlements’

US President Donald Trump’s former Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt says he opposes the use of the term “settlements” to describe Israeli communities in the West Bank.

“I don’t use those terms, settlements. I use the terms cities and towns, because that’s really what they are,” Greenblatt says during an interview with Israel’s Channel 13.

“The word ‘settlements’ has become a negative word over the decades, and I think people should start calling them what they are.”

US Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt speaks at a conference of Israel Hayom newspaper at Davidson Center in Jerusalem Old City, June 27, 2019 (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

Pompeo says settlement blacklist shows UN’s ‘unrelenting anti-Israel bias’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lambastes the United Nations’ blacklist of companies operating in the West Bank, published yesterday, calling it “outrageous” and saying it “confirms the unrelenting anti-Israel bias so prevalent at the UN.”

Pompeo calls on other UN members to reject it and says the United States will “never” cooperate with such lists.

No major change in ‘trajectory’ of coronavirus outbreak: WHO

The UN health agency says a sharp rise in reported COVID-19 cases in China, due to a change in counting methods, do not represent a big shift in the epidemic.

“This does not represent a significant change in the trajectory of the outbreak,” Michael Ryan, head of the WHO’s health emergencies program, says at a press conference.


US envoy Friedman calls settlement blacklist ‘stain on already blemished record’ of UN

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman joins Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in criticizing the UN blacklist of companies dealing in West Bank settlements.

In a tweet, Friedman calls the list “another stain on the already blemished record of the United Nations’ reflexive bias against Israel.”

Saudi FM says no plans for crown prince to meet Netanyahu

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, denies reports of an imminent meeting between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“There is no meeting planned between Saudi Arabia and Israel,” he tells Saudi-owned Al Arabiya English website in response to the reports, according to Reuters.

“Saudi Arabia’s policy has been very clear since the beginning of this conflict. There are no relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, and the Kingdom stands firmly behind Palestine.”

Iran warns US killing of Soleimani will lead to ‘liberation’ of Jerusalem

A spokesperson for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards warns that the US killing last month of Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani will lead to the “liberation” of Jerusalem.

The US strike in Iraq also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the commander of an Iran-backed Iraqi militia.

“The cowardly and craven assassination of commander Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis by the Americans will lead to the liberation of Jerusalem by the grace of God,” Ramezan Sharif says, according to the Reuters news agency which quotes Iran’s Tasnim news agency.

It is the latest anti-Israel threat following the US operation, after another Iranian senior official recently threatened to raze Tel Aviv.

Regime offensive in northwestern Syria has displaced more than 800,000 — UN

A Russia-backed Syrian regime offensive on the last major rebel bastion in the country’s northwest has displaced more than 800,000 people since December, the United Nations says.

“Of the more than 800,000 people who have been displaced in northwest Syria from 1 December 2019 to 12 February 2020, some 60 percent are estimated to be children,” says the United Nation’s humanitarian coordination office, OCHA.


Turkey slams Syria regime’s ‘hypocrisy’ over Armenian genocide recognition

Turkey slams Syrian parliament’s recognition of World War I killings of Armenians as genocide as a “hypocrisy,” as tensions run high with after deadly clashes in northwest Syria.

“This is a picture of hypocrisy on the part of a regime which has for years committed any kind of massacre on its own people… which has displaced millions and which is well known for its use of chemical weapons,” the foreign ministry says in a statement.


Netanyahu confirms he has offered to make Nir Barkat finance minister

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirms he has asked Likud MK Nir Barkat to be finance minister if he forms the next government.

At a Likud campaign event, Netanyahu says he and the former Jerusalem mayor plan “significant reforms” in the economy and the health system.

Reports earlier this week said Netanyahu could even make Barkat finance minister before the election, seeking to appeal to moderate right-wing voters. He has denied it, saying he has promised Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon the post until the March 2 election.

Nir Barkat (center) with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) during a special cabinet meeting for Jerusalem Day at the Ein Lavan spring in Jerusalem on June 2, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

Iran commander threatens to hit both Israel and US if ‘slightest error’ made

The commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps threatens to hit both Israel and the United States if they make an “error.”

Major General Hossein Salami makes the comment in a speech broadcast live on state TV, in response to a report by The Times of Israel on recent remarks by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett.

Bennett said at a campaign event at a synagogue on Saturday that Jerusalem and Washington have agreed that Israel will be in charge of countering Iranian influence in Syria, while the US will be in charge of doing so in Iraq.

Salami says that in light of that remark, Iran will view both countries as responsible in case of military action against it.

“If you make the slightest error, we will hit both of you,” he says, according to Reuters.

Rocket attack hits north Iraq base hosting US troops — security sources

A rocket attack has slammed into an Iraqi base in the remote province of Kirkuk where American troops are stationed, Iraqi and US security sources tell AFP.

There are no immediate reports of casualties.

It is the first attack on the K1 base since December 27, when a volley of around 30 rockets killed a US contractor there, which Washington blamed on the Hezbollah Brigades, a hardline Iraqi military faction close to Iran.

The US then carried out retaliatory strikes that left 25 Hezbollah Brigade fighters dead and, days later, killed Iran’s pointman on Iraqi affairs Qassem Soleimani.


US Senate acts to restrain Trump from attacking Iran

The US Senate approves a bipartisan measure limiting US President Donald Trump’s authority to launch military operations against Iran.

The measure, authored by Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, says Trump must win approval from Congress before engaging in further military action against Iran. Eight Republicans join with Democrats to pass the resolution by a 55-45 vote.

Kaine and other supporters say the resolution is not about Trump or even the presidency, but instead is an important reassertion of congressional power to declare war.

While Trump and other presidents “must always have the ability to defend the United States from imminent attack, the executive power to initiate war stops there,” Kaine says. “An offensive war requires a congressional debate and vote.”

The Democratic-controlled House passed a separate, nonbinding war powers resolution last month. The House could take up the Senate resolution later this month, says House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

Two-thirds votes in the House and GOP-run Senate would be needed to override an expected Trump veto.

— AP

US military says it seized Iran-made weapons in Arabian Sea this week

The US military says it has seized weapons of Iranian “design and manufacture” this week in the Arabian Sea.

The USS Normandy warship boarded a dhow on Sunday, the statement says, according to Reuters.

“The weapons seized include 150 ‘Dehlavieh’ anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM), which are Iranian-manufactured copies of Russian Kornet ATGMs,” the statement says.

“Other weapons components seized aboard the dhow were of Iranian design and manufacture and included three Iranian surface-to-air missiles, Iranian thermal imaging weapon scopes, and Iranian components for unmanned aerial and surface vessels.”

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Apple orders face masks worth $300,000 from Israel-based pharmacy chain

Tech giant Apple has ordered thousands of face masks from Israel-based pharmacy chain Super-Pharm, amid global fears of the new coronavirus.

Super-Pharm, the largest drugstore chain in Israel. July 13, 2014. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

The face masks, worth a total of a million shekels (almost $300,000), are for Apple’s employees in Europe, according to Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language sister site.

They are being imported from a country in Africa, which wasn’t named in the report.

Neither Apple nor Super-Pharm have commented.