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IDF said to determine Gaza rockets were fired from Hamas launchpad

Reports say Gaza-ruling terror group told Israel that it didn’t intend to fire the rockets, claimed weather or some other factor caused projectiles to launch

Masked members of Hamas ride a vehicle next to a rocket launcher during a rally in the Rafah refugee camp, Gaza Strip, Aug. 21, 2016 (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Masked members of Hamas ride a vehicle next to a rocket launcher during a rally in the Rafah refugee camp, Gaza Strip, Aug. 21, 2016 (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

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

Netanyahu to Gaza terror groups: ‘Don’t try us’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip after two rockets were fired overnight from the coastal enclave toward Israel.

“Even during the coronavirus crisis, don’t try us,” he says during the weekly cabinet meeting.

He adds: “I never detail our operational plans, but I say to them, the price of the continued aggression will be very high.”

Egyptian intelligence to hold talks with Hamas after Gaza rocket fire — report

Egyptian intelligence will hold talks with the Hamas terror group in light of “the tense atmosphere” in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources tell the Kan public broadcaster.

Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired two rockets at Israel overnight, prompting retaliatory strikes on targets linked to Hamas, the de facto ruler of the Strip.

Historic mosque on Istanbul’s Bosporus Strait damaged in fire

ISTANBUL — A historic wooden mosque in Istanbul is on fire and Turkish firefighters are trying to put out the blaze from both land and sea.

The Vanikoy Mosque, built in the 17th century during the reign of Ottoman Sultan IV Mehmed, is located on the Asian side of Istanbul along the Bosporus Strait. Videos show heavy smoke pouring from the structure.

The firefighters are trying to prevent the fire from reaching a forest behind the mosque and the neighboring houses that line the Bosporus.

The mosque is a wooden structure with a single minaret. The cause of the fire is not yet determined.

— AP

Israel opens bidding for building in East Jerusalem neighborhood

Bidding opened this morning to construct 1,257 units in a controversial planned neighborhood in East Jerusalem, the Israel Lands Authority announces.

If built, Givat HaMatos would be the first new Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem in two decades. The area’s location has raised concerns that it could disrupt the continuity of a future Palestinian state, cutting off East Jerusalem Palestinians from Bethlehem.

While first announced in 2012, the international community has roundly condemned previously Israeli declarations to advance construction in the area, leading the project to be quietly shelved for years.

The Peace Now settlement watchdog calls the new units “a fatal blow to the two-state solution.”

“This catastrophe can still be stopped, and we hope that government officials who still feel a tiny drop of responsibility for our collective future will do whatever they can to drop the bidding,” Peace Now says in a statement.

But right-wing Jerusalem deputy mayor Aryeh King, a longtime activist with the settler organization The Israel Land Fund, praises the decision to build in Givat HaMatos.

“I am very hopeful that this will be the first signs of a thaw in construction in the city’s east, which will lead the rise in housing costs in the city to stop,” says King.

— Aaron Boxerman

Health minister livid over leaked details on Pfizer vaccine deal: ‘A grave crime’

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein is fuming over leaked details of Israel’s agreement with Pfizer to purchase the coronavirus vaccine that the US pharma firm is developing.

“A grave crime was committed on Friday. Some source passed on details of the agreement with Pfizer, which had confidentiality from the press,” Edelstein says during the cabinet meeting, according to a Health Ministry statement.

He adds: “I have no doubt this will make it more difficult to reach understandings with other countries, because they’re exposed to what we signed with Pfizer.”

After Netanyahu and Edelstein announced the signing of the deal on Friday, the Ynet news reported that the deal doesn’t require Pfizer to supply the vaccines, saying only that the company intends to do so “according to circumstances.” If Pfizer doesn’t supply them, it’ll return Israel’s advance.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein speaks during a press conference at Airport City, outside Tel Aviv, on September 17, 2020. (Flash90)

Cabinet ratifies normalization deal with Bahrain

The cabinet ratifies the “Joint Communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic, peaceful, and friendly relations” with the Kingdom of Bahrain, concluding the two countries’ normalization process that began roughly two months ago.

“The establishment of peace and normalization with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan constitute a major achievement for the State of Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says at the weekly cabinet meeting, minutes before the vote.

— Raphael Ahren

Fatah, Hamas to hold reconciliation talks in Cairo

Senior officials from rival Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas will meet tomorrow in Cairo to continue reconciliation talks, the Hamas terror group says.

Hamas deputies Saleh al-Arouri and Khalil al-Hayya will be part of the delegation, according to reports in Hamas-linked Palestinian media.

According to Ma’an, a news source rumored to be close to the Palestinian Authority security services, Fatah Secretary-General Jibril Rajoub will attend the talks as well.

The two major Palestinian movements have been at odds since 2007, when Hamas expelled Fatah from the Gaza Strip following a bloody struggle for supremacy in the coastal enclave.

Several attempts to bridge the differences between the two groups have been unsuccessful. A round of talks which began earlier this summer amid talk of Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank prompted positive rhetoric between the two sides, but little movement on the ground toward Palestinian national unity.

— Aaron Boxerman

Senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub, right, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, attends by video conference a meeting with deputy Hamas chief Saleh al-Arouri, July 2, 2020. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Police said to tell ministers that nighttime curfew will have limited effectiveness

Police warn the high-level coronavirus cabinet that imposing a nighttime curfew nationwide will be “a big investment with low effectiveness,” according to Hebrew media reports.

Police representatives tell ministers that a curfew will only be effective in limited areas for a limited time in bringing down coronavirus infections, the reports say.

Police also reportedly complain they lack the authority to enforce violations of the lockdown in private homes.

Trump claims Biden won because election was ‘rigged’

Donald Trump appears to acknowledge his loss to Joe Biden in the US presidential elections, claiming without evidence that voting was “rigged” in favor of his Democratic rival.


New virus czar reportedly also not a fan of nighttime virus curfew

New coronavirus czar Nachman Ash tells the coronavirus cabinet that there is no proof that nighttime curfews are an effective tool in battling COVID-19, Hebrew media reports say.

Netanyahu: If Pfizer provides other countries with vaccine, ‘it will supply exactly the same thing to us’

Prime Minister Netanyahu joins Health Minister Yuli Edelstein in condemning the leaking of details on the coronavirus vaccine deal that Israel signed with Pfizer.

“We are bound by confidential agreements and there are articles that cannot be published because this is the arrangement with them. We do not want to risk the supply of vaccines by opening these agreements,” the premier says during the cabinet meeting.

Netanyahu also appears to reference reports that Pfizer isn’t bound under the agreement to supply Israel with the vaccine.

“To the extent that Pfizer supplies vaccines to the leading countries of the world, it will supply exactly the same thing to us,” he says.

2 Israelis said to test negative for mutated COVID strain found in minks

Tests show that two Israelis aren’t infected with a mutated strain of the coronavirus found in minks, Channel 13 news reports.

Rather, the two Israelis were infected with a standard strain of COVID-19, the network says.

Minks look out of a cage at a fur farm in the village of Litusovo, northeast of Minsk, Belarus, December 6, 2012. (AP/Sergei Grits)

Trump denies acknowledging loss to Biden: ‘I concede NOTHING!’

After appearing to acknowledge his loss to Joe Biden in the 2020 US presidential race, Donald Trump insists he did no such thing.

“He only won in the eyes of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA. I concede NOTHING! We have a long way to go. This was a RIGGED ELECTION!” Trump writes on Twitter.

Palestinian man reportedly crosses into Lebanon from Israel

In what some Lebanese media are dubbing a “reverse [infiltration] incident,” a Palestinian man has reportedly been apprehended after crossing into Lebanon from Israel, the Lebanese Army says in a statement.

“An Intelligence Directorate patrol detained a Palestinian man outside of the village of Dahira after he crossed the technical fence from inside occupied Palestinian lands,” the Army says.

While infiltration attempts occur occasionally from Lebanon into Israel, such movement in the opposite direction appears to be less common.

— Aaron Boxerman

Abbas spokesman denounces Pompeo plan to visit settlement

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman denounced the trip US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will reportedly make to a West Bank settlement this week.

“Neither this visit nor any US support for Israeli settlements in Palestinian lands can give legitimacy to the settlements or change the fact that they are doomed to end,” Nabil Abu Rudeineh says in a statement carried by the Wafa news agency.

Pompeo is said to be planning a visit to the Psagot winery.

He also denounces Israel’s issuing of a tender to build over 1,200 homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamatos, which the Palestinians seek for a future state.

Rudeineh calls the move “a continuation of the occupation government’s attempts to kill the internationally supported two-state solution.”

New virus czar said to recommend lockdown of 6 ‘red’ cities

New coronavirus czar Nachman Ash is recommending lockdowns be imposed on six “red” cities with high infection rates, according to television reports.

Ash is also said to recommend that nighttime curfew be imposed in ten “orange” cities, despite earlier saying this wasn’t an effective tool in fighting the virus.

Education minister said to warn that Israel’s headed for 3rd lockdown

Education Minister Yoav Gallant complains that schools are being prevented from reopening due to illegal mass gatherings that are causing the coronavirus to spread.

“In practice, what happens is that we pay for the illegitimate things that happen. Parties, protests, prayers and so on. Ultimately, the one who suffers is the one who waits in line, like the education system,” Gallant is quoted saying by Hebrew during a coronavirus cabinet meeting.

He also says that Israel is headed for a third lockdown.

Netanyahu said to tell virus cabinet there won’t be nationwide curfew

Prime Minister Netanyahu tells the coronavirus cabinet that a proposal to impose a nationwide nightly curfew to curb infection rates has now been junked, Hebrew media reports say.

Instead, Netanyahu is pushing for forcing businesses to be shuttered at 7 p.m., according to the reports.

Iranian opposition figure Mousavi tests positive for COVID

Iranian opposition figure Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife, under house arrest for nearly a decade, have tested positive for COVID-19, an opposition website reports.

Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard “were examined by a doctor at their home… and their general state of health is good,” adds the Kaleme site, close to the former prime minister-turned-dissident.

Mousavi, now 79, along with Mehdi Karroubi, 83, were reformist candidates in the controversial election of 2009, which was won by hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

They claimed the vote was rigged, triggering months of mass protests dubbed the “Green Movement.”

Hundreds of thousands took to the streets, particularly in the capital Tehran, in the biggest challenge to the system since the Islamic revolution of 1979.

Mousavi and Karroubi were placed under house arrest without trial in early 2011, along with their wives.

Iranian opposition leaders, Mehdi Karroubi, right, and Mir Hossein Mousavi talk in Tehran, Iran, Oct. 10, 2009. (AP)

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called their opposition movement “sedition” and repeatedly demanded the two men repent before receiving any pardon.

Iran has been battling the Middle East’s deadliest novel coronavirus outbreak since February.

It has recorded almost 41,500 deaths out of 762,000 cases, according to official figures considered to be underestimated, even by Iranian officials.

Authorities are considering imposing new nationwide anti-virus restrictions from November 21, after reporting a record 12,453 cases today, according to the health ministry.


IDF said to determine Gaza rockets were fired from Hamas launchpad

The military has reached the conclusion that two rockets launched from the Gaza Strip overnight were fired out a launchpad belonging to Hamas and not Islamic Jihad, Army Radio reports.

The Israel Defense Forces is still looking into the circumstances of the rocket fire and the possibility that lightning caused the projectiles to launch.

According to the Ynet news site, Hamas sent a message to Israel saying it didn’t intentionally launch the rockets and that the weather or some other reason beyond it’s control caused them to be fired.

IDF troops fire warning shots in air at suspects who approached Lebanon border

Israeli soldiers fired shots in the air to warn two suspects in Lebanon who approached the border fence, the military says.

The Israel Defense Forces says the suspects skedaddled after the warning shots were fired.

“The IDF won’t allow any attempt to violate the State of Israel’s sovereingty,” the military says in a statement.

COVID vaccine scientist hopes for return to ‘normal’ by next winter

LONDON — If coronavirus vaccinations are rolled out widely, life could return to “normal” by next winter, one of the scientists behind the front-running coronavirus vaccine tells British television.

Ugur Sahin, the Turkish co-founder of German firm BioN, tells the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show that “this winter will be hard,” without any major impact from vaccinations.

Together with US giant Pfizer, BioN is developing the leading candidate in the worldwide chase for a vaccine.

“If all goes well, we will start to deliver the vaccine at the end of this year, or beginning of next year,” Sahin says.

“Our goal is to deliver more than 300 million doses by April next year, which could already have an impact,” he says.

The infection rate will then go down in the summer, he predicts, adding that it is essential that there is a high take-up of the vaccination by autumn.

“I’m confident that this will happen,” he says.

A number of vaccination companies are working to increase the supply, he says: “so we could have a normal winter next (year).”


Health Ministry says 292 new virus cases recorded since midnight, positive test rate at 3.2%

The Health Ministry says 292 coronavirus cases have been recorded since midnight, bringing the number of infections since the pandemic began to 323,741.

The death toll remains at 2,732.

Of the 7,269 active cases, there are 304 people in serious condition, with 133 on ventilators. Another 103 are in moderate condition and the rest have mild or no symtpoms.

The ministry says 9,215 tests have been performed so far today, with 3.2 percent coming back positive.

Deputy AG likens government rhetoric against prosecutors to Protocols of the Elders of Zion

Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber strongly criticizes the government and Prime Minister Netanyahu over claims by the premier and his allies that his indictment on graft charges was part of a “judicial coup.”

“Sometimes, in order to not admit the truth of a lack of leadership, the fan is turned on to disperse the blame in all direction,” Zilber says at a conference hosted by the Israel Democracy Institute, according to the Haaretz daily.

“They are creating an imaginary reality of a ‘prosecution within the prosecution,’ or a state of secret evil bureaucrats plotting a coup. Add some blood to the mix and you have — with a twist — a crazy comeback of the Protocols of the Bureaucrats of Zion,” she adds, likening the government’s rhetoric to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious fabricated anti-Semitic text from 1903 purporting to describe a Jewish plan for global domination.

Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber at a meeting of the Knesset’s Economic Affairs Committee on December 3, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Acting police chief enters quarantine after exposure to virus carrier

Acting police chief Motti Cohen enters quarantine after coming into contact with a confirmed COVID-19 carrier, police say.

“The acting police commissioner feels well and will continue his activities from quarantine until the end of Shabbat,” a police statement says.

Acting Chief of Police Motti Cohen visits a temporary checkpoint in Jerusalem on September 18, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel, Bahrain and US to hold trilateral meeting in Jerusalem on Wednesday — report

Officials from Israel, Bahrain, and the United States will hold a trilateral meeting in Jerusalem on Wednesday, the Walla news site reports.

The meeting is expected to be attended by Prime Minister Netanyahu, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al- Zayani. The report quotes Netanyahu’s office saying Foreign Minster Gabi Ashkenazi was also invited to take part.

Israeli officials quoted by the news site say they are working to finalize an aviation agreement for direct flights between Tel Aviv and Manama by Wednesday so it can be signed at the meeting.

The meeting will come after Israel and Bahrain signed a US-brokered agreement to establish diplomatic ties during a ceremony last month in Manama.

Fines for Haredi schools that violated virus lockdown cancelled — TV

Dozens of fines handed out to ultra-Orthodox schools that opened in violation of coronavirus lockdown rules have been cancelled, Channel 12 news reports.

According to the network, 68 fines — the vast majority given to Haredi schools — were cancelled because the government regulations that mandated the fines for lockdown violators were not approved by the Knesset.

In recording, Sara Netanyahu heard calling Yamina’s Shaked ‘disturbed’

Channel 13 news airs a recording made by Nir Hefetz, a former aide to Prime Minister Netanyahu turned state’s witness, of the premier’s wife Sara denigrating Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked.

In the recording, Sara Netanyahu recalls to Hefetz an incident that she said happened when Shaked served as an aide to Netanyahu from 2006-2008 and Ofir Akunis, now a Likud minister, was her husband’s spokesman.

It was not clear when the recording was made.

Sara: “He [Netanyahu] thought if I saw her three times or Naftali [Bennett] three times, I’ll change. I told him, ‘This doesn’t change my opinion.’ But he already offered them.”

Hefetz: “(Laughs.)”

Sara: “She would come to the street… she would stand in the street, houses, apartments and yell, ‘Ofir come down!’ He would open the window and say, ‘Have you gone crazy? All the neighbors here hear.’ Now she’s reached resolutions like this… She would yell, ‘Ofir you don’t know what I’ll do to you. I’ll wipe you out.’ He told her, ‘I’ll contact the police if you continue like this.’ You know, he would talk with me sometimes and say to me, ‘You don’t know what she does. She would come in the night, stand and shriek, ‘Ofir I’m going to kill you.’ The girl is disturbed.”

In response to the recording, Shaked’s office says she “never addressed baseless gossip and has no intention to start doing so.”

Coronavirus cabinet meeting ends without any decisions on lockdown measures

A meeting of the coronavirus cabinet meeting ends without ministers approving any rollback of lockdown measures, or any new restrictions.

Netanyahu tells ministers that he and Defense Minister Benny Gantz will meet privately to discuss what measures should be taken, according to reports.

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Egyptian intelligence to hold talks with Hamas after Gaza rocket fire — report

Egyptian intelligence will hold talks with the Hamas terror group in light of “the tense atmosphere” in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources tell the Kan public broadcaster.

Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired two rockets at Israel overnight, prompting retaliatory strikes on targets linked to Hamas, the de facto ruler of the Strip.