Europe’s coronavirus cases top two million
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President sends holiday greetings to Muslim citizens on eve of Eid al-Fitr

Reuven Rivlin lauds Arab and Muslim leadership in Israel for contributing to containment of virus, thereby safeguarding all country’s citizens

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

President Reuven Rivlin sends holiday greetings to Muslims on Eid al-Fitr on May 23, 2020. (Screen capture/YouTube)
President Reuven Rivlin sends holiday greetings to Muslims on Eid al-Fitr on May 23, 2020. (Screen capture/YouTube)

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

Erdogan, Trump discuss Syria, Libya in phone call

US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan speak on the phone regarding the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Libya, Turkish media reports.

The two agree to remain in touch regarding efforts to promote peace in the region.

Arara residents fire at responding officers, lightly injuring two of them

Two police officers responding to reports of a shooting in the northern Arab Israeli town of Arara are lightly injured from gunfire shortly after their arrival at the scene.

A town resident was also injured in the incident.

France health minister wants limits on use of malaria drug to treat virus

France’s health minister wants to limit use of a popular malaria drug as a coronavirus treatment after a new study found it ineffective and warned of increased health risks.

Olivier Veran tweets that he asked France’s public health council to draft new rules for prescribing hydroxychloroquine and other treatments within 48 hours.

He specifically cites a study of 100,000 patients worldwide, published Friday in the Lancet, saying hydroxychloroquine and related drug chloroquine were ineffective against the virus and were tied to a greater risk of death and heart rhythm problems.

Prominent French virologist Dr. Didier Raoult drew international attention – including from US President Donald Trump – for his research early in the pandemic suggesting hydroxychloroquine reduced virus symptoms. Raoult’s office didn’t comment on the minister’s move.

France included the drug in a trial of multiple treatments and allowed its use for hospitalized patients.

— AP

Russia relays readiness to organize Netanyahu-Abbas meeting

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov relays Moscow’s willingness to organize a meeting between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a phone call with PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh.

Bogdanov confirms Russia’s “support of the lawful rights of the Palestinian people for self-determination, including creation of its own independent state within the 1967 borders with the capital in Eastern Jerusalem that would live in peace and good neighborhood with Israel,” according to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement covered by the TASS Russian News Agency.

Earlier this week, Channel 13 reported that Russia is seeking to arrange a meeting in the coming weeks between US and Palestinian officials to help renew ties between Washington and Ramallah, which have frayed during US President Donald Trump’s presidency.

Citing unnamed Western diplomats, Channel 13 news reported the planned meeting in Geneva is also aimed at preventing an escalation of violence in the West Bank and allowing the Palestinian Authority to propose changes to Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, which it has rejected out of hand.

The European Union and United Nations were also part of the Russian effort, viewing it as an opportunity to jump-start peace talks and halt Netanyahu’s vow to annex parts of the West Bank that would become part of Israel under the US plan, the report said.

“The only way to stop annexation is to renew contact between the Palestinians and the US government,” a Western diplomat was quoted saying.

Likud MK: Conviction of PM would be ‘greatest injustice in Israel’s history’

Likud MK and coalition chairman Miki Zohar tells Channel 12 that a decision by the court to not acquit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be “the greatest injustice in Israel’s history, the greatest injustice in Israeli democracy ever.”

“The public at home will say one thing: if the prime minister is not acquitted, we will lose our faith, we will lose our faith in the system,” the Netanyahu ally says.

Education Minister: Hypocritical media dying to see Netanyahu in the dock

Education Minister Yoav Gallant claims the media is obsessed with seeing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “in the dock” when his trial opens tomorrow.

Falling in line with the message fellow Likud MK Miki Zohar put forward moments earlier on Channel 12, Gallant calls on Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to release recordings from the Harpaz Affair, which is “hovering like a black cloud” for over a decade.

Likud MK, former PM rival: I did not expect to be appointed minister

Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar who ran in the party’s leadership primary against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this year tells Channel 12 that he was not surprised that the premier did not appoint him to a ministerial post in the new government.

Sa’ar came in fourth place in the Likud slate primaries, but was skipped over by other lawmakers much further down the list for ministerial positions.

“If there are no expectations there are no disappointments,” Sa’ar says, recalling the same remark that was made to him by former prime minister Ariel Sharon.

Sa’ar confirms that he was offered the same UN/US envoy combo-position that Gilad Erdan decided to take after he declined.

Gideon Sa’ar: I cannot support the Trump plan as it currently stands

Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar tells Channel 12 that he “cannot support the Trump plan as it currently stands” due to its envisioning of a Palestinian state being established alongside Israel.

US envoy wishes Muslims in Israel and around the world a ‘Happy Eid’

 

Report: Law enforcement concerned prosecution’s witnesses against PM will be pressured

Law enforcement officials are concerned that the prosecution’s key witnesses against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be illicitly pressured to back away from testifying against the premier in the trial that opens tomorrow, Channel 13 reports.

Ohana sought to check whether ex-state prosecutor illegally accessed database — report

Shortly before being replaced as justice minister, Amir Ohana sought to check — behind Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s back — whether former state prosecutor Shai Nitzan illegally accessed his old office’s database after leaving the post, Channel 13 reports.

PA reportedly assures Israel its security forces will prevent breakout of intifada

Palestinian security forces have assured their Israeli counterparts that they will work to thwart acts of violence and prevent the breakout of an intifada, Channel 13 reports.

This comes despite PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s declaration earlier this week that he was ending security cooperation with Israel.

Assisted living center checking veracity of COVID-19 tests after resident tests positive

The Mishan assisted living facility in Beersheba is checking whether its previous coronavirus tests had been faulty after a resident who had contracted the virus received two negative tests in a row before testing positive earlier today, Channel 13 reports.

The Health Ministry has ordered all residents and staff in Mishan to be tested.

 

PM represents the right-wing camp that is being put on trial tomorrow — Likud MK

Likud MK and Public Security Minister Amir Ohana tells Channel 12 that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu represents the right-wing camp and that as a result, the right wing as a whole is being put on trial on Sunday.

Europe’s coronavirus cases top two million

More than two million cases of the new coronavirus have been officially declared in Europe, nearly two-thirds of which were reported in Russia, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and France, according to an official tally.

With at least 173,133 deaths out of 2,001,995 cases, Europe is the continent most affected by the pandemic.

Worldwide, a total of 5,244,616 cases, including 339,011 deaths, have been recorded.

Russia is the European country with the highest number of cases (335,882 with 3,388 deaths) and a daily increase of about 10,000 new cases reported since the beginning of May.

The United Kingdom (257,154 cases with 36,675 deaths), Spain (234,824 cases with 28,628 deaths), Italy (229,327 cases with 32,735 deaths) and France (182,219 cases with 28,289 deaths) are the other four worst-hit European countries.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections.

Many countries are testing only symptomatic or the most serious cases.

— AFP

US borders with Canada, Mexico closed another month

The US government has extended for another month restrictions on non-essential travel across the borders with Canada and Mexico to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The US Department of Homeland Security says the closure, first ordered on March 20 and due to expire Wednesday, will be extended until June 22 and reviewed every 30 days.

“Non-essential travel will not be permitted until this administration is convinced that doing so is safe and secure,” says interim DHS chief Chad Wolf.

“We have been in contact with our Canadian and Mexican counterparts and they also agree that extending these restrictions is prudent at this time. We appreciate our partnership with Mexico and Canada in ensuring that North America is working together to combat the ongoing global pandemic,” he says.

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced earlier that the Canada-US border will remain closed to all non-essential travel for another month, until June 21 to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

The world’s longest international frontier at 8,900 kilometers (5,500 miles) was closed to travelers on March 21, but trade in goods has continued.

The prime minister also left open the possibility of further extensions. “We will continue to watch carefully what’s happening elsewhere in the world and around us as we make decisions on next steps,” he said.

Mexico shares a 3,100 kilometer (1,900 mile) border, and travel limitations have been in place since March 20. As in the Canadian case, trade in goods continues.

The United States, Canada and Mexico have been part of a regional free trade agreement since 1994.

— AFP

Likud’s Ohana says he’ll accompany PM at trial tomorrow

Likud MK and Public Security Minister Amir Ohana tells Channel 12 that he will accompany Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the opening of his trial tomorrow.

Hebrew media reports that other Likud MKs are expected to join Netanyahu.

Ohana declines to commit on police chief appointment

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana declines to commit on the appointment of a police chief from within the force during a Channel 12 interview.

Officials concerned over possible clashes between IDF, PA security forces

Security establishment officials tells Channel 12 that they are very concerned about the possibility of clashes breaking out between Israeli and Palestinian security forces in the coming weeks when the IDF carries out arrests in Area A.

The IDF typically coordinates these operations with the PA, which will withdraw its forces ahead of such raids to avoid getting caught in clashes between the army and Palestinian suspects.

With PA President Mahmoud Abbas announcing the severing of security cooperation with Israel, the PA will no longer be getting heads-ups from their Israeli counterparts.

Hebrew media reports that PA security officers have been told not to respond to the calls of their Israeli counterparts for the time being.

29 new virus cases since Thursday, as COVID-19 tally climbs to 16,712

The Health Ministry announces that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has risen to 16,712, an increase of 29 since the Health Ministry released figures on Thursday night.

The country’s death toll from COVID-19 stands at 279.

According to the Health Ministry, 47 people infected with COVID-19 were in serious condition, 36 of whom were on ventilators.

Another 30 people are in moderate condition and the rest have mild symptoms.

So far, 14,090 people have recovered from the virus, while 2,343 are still sick; 579 tests have been conducted today, and 5,010 yesterday.

Coronavirus cases pass 5.25 million worldwide

The number of coronavirus cases recorded worldwide has passed 5.25 million, more than two thirds of them in Europe and the United States, according to an official tally.

There are now 5,250,658 cases officially recorded, with 339,172 deaths attributed to the virus. Europe is the hardest-hit continent, with 2,003,510 cases and 173,186 deaths, while the United States is the worst-hit country, with 1,604,879 cases and 96,125 deaths.

These latest figures mean that the number of recorded cases worldwide has doubled in a month, and that 250,000 new cases have been recorded in less than three days.

The region that is seeing the swiftest rise in cases is now Latin America and the Caribbean, which saw 33,719 recorded on Friday — against 28,647 in the United States and Canada, which was previously where new recorded cases were appearing fastest.

— AFP

Libya’s UN-recognized government says seizes 3 barracks

Forces loyal to Libya’s UN-recognized government says they seized three barracks from fighters aligned with strongman Khalifa Haftar south of the capital, in an apparent new victory against their rival.

“Our forces have regained control of the Yarmouk, Hamza and Al-Sawarikh camps,” south of Tripoli, says Mohamad Gnounou, spokesman for the Government of National Accord (GNA) forces.

Gnounou, in a statement, says Haftar fighters were fleeing, but GNA forces “continue to pursue” them.

There is no immediate comment from Hafar’s forces.

Haftar, who controls swathes of eastern Libya, seized the barracks in October 2019, months after he launched an offensive to capture Tripoli, where the GNA is based.

The announcement comes days after Ahmad al-Mesmari, a spokesman for Haftar’s forces, said his fighters would pull back from some positions south of Tripoli.

Oil-rich Libya plunged into conflict after the ouster and killing of veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising, with rival administrations and militias vying for power.

The battle for Tripoli has left hundreds dead, including dozens of civilians, and displaced more than 200,000 people.

— AFP

Rivlin sends Muslims holiday greetings on eve of Eid al-Fitr

President Reuven Rivlin sends holiday greetings to Israel’s Muslim citizens who began celebrating Eid al-Fitr this evening.

“We have also seen up close the strength in leadership of the leaders of the Muslim-Arab society in Israel who contributed to the containing of the virus and caring for health and safety of all Israelis, Jews and Arabs, Jews and Muslims alike,” he says in a video message.

Regev claims millions of Israelis to stand alongside PM tomorrow

Likud minister Miri Regev claims that “millions of citizens will be at the prime minister’s side” when he arrives in court tomorrow for the opening of his corruption trial.

“The people of Israel love and appreciate the prime minister and cry out amid the incessant injustice and persecution against him and against what he represents for many in Israel,” Regev writes in a Facebook post.

“Tomorrow I will be in court to strengthen and support the prime minister, I will be there to represent the millions of citizens who believe in his innocence. Benjamin Netanyahu, don’t be afraid, you’re not alone. With the help of God we will succeed,” she says.

Leviathan natural gas field halts production after ‘operational event’

Production at the Leviathan natural gas field off the coast of Haifa halts following an “operational event,” Reuters reports, citing a statement from Noble Energy, which is operating the project.

The incident is not expected to cause any environmental impact, Reuters reports.

Noble Energy says the site’s flare system had been activated to burn off excess gas, generating a flame from shore, Reuters reports.

The Energy Ministry describes the incident as an “emergency closure” of the platform and says further details are pending.

Yamina calls Netanyahu-Gantz government ‘fat and out of touch’

The far-right Yamina party calls the new Netanyahu-Gantz government “fat and out of touch.”

“The government will be cutting back on the education and health budgets tomorrow in order to fund two prime ministerial offices with secretaries, security guards, staff, pensions and vehicles,” the party says in a statement, lambasting the bloated size of the new government.

Lapid: Likud MKs are inciting violence against law enforcement

Yesh Atid-Telem chairman and opposition leader Yair Lapid accuses Likud lawmakers of inciting violence against law enforcement officials.

“One after the other, Likud ministers have gone on air in the last day with one purpose: to threaten the judges and incite with violent statements against law authorities,” he tweets.

“This is the only coup attempt taking place here,” he says, referring to Likud claims that the PM corruption trial is a coup attempt.

“Netanyahu and Gantz, it’s your duty to go speak out against this phenomenon and make clear that you will not let anyone [target] Attorney General Avichai Mandelbit or the courts.”

Afghan Taliban announce three-day Eid ceasefire

The Taliban announces a three-day ceasefire during the Eid al-Fitr holiday in a surprise move following months of bloody fighting with Afghan forces after the group signed a landmark agreement with the US.

“The leadership instructs all the mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate to take special measures for security for the countrymen, and conduct no offensive operation against the enemy anywhere,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid says in a statement posted on social media.

The Taliban statement also instructs its fighters to refrain from entering government areas and also said that Kabul forces were not allowed to enter territories under their control.

Since the US invasion in 2001 there has only been one other pause in the fighting — a surprise three-day ceasefire between the Taliban and Kabul marking the religious festival of Eid in 2018.

During the brief lull in fighting, Afghans responded joyfully, with Taliban fighters, security forces and civilians hugging, sharing ice creams and posing for selfies in previously unimaginable scenes.

The announcement comes just days after the Taliban’s leader Haibatullah Akhundzada urged Washington “not to waste” the opportunity offered by the deal the militants signed with the United States that set the stage for the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country.

The US-Taliban deal is also aimed at paving the way for the insurgents to hold direct peace talks with Kabul.

— AFP

CDC reports 1,852 American COVID-19 deaths in one day

The US Centers for Disease Control reports that 1,852 Americans died due to the coronavirus between Thursday and Friday, bringing the total number in the country since the start of the pandemic to 96,002.

The CDC says the total number of confirmed cases in the US has climbed by 24,268 since its previous count and now stands at 1,595,885.

Czech PM slams ministers who lambasted Israel for annexation plans

Three senior Czech officials — the incumbent foreign minister and two of his predecessors — have come out against Israel’s supposed plan to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank.

In an elaborate op-ed, Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček, Culture Minister Lubomír Zaorálek and senior MP Karel Schwarzenberg affirm their country’s strong alliance with the Jewish state, but argued that the new government in Jerusalem’s annexation plan was not only a grave and unacceptable violation of international law but also raises serious questions about the future of Israel as a democracy.

But shortly after the article appeared in the Pravo daily newspaper, the country’s prime minister, Andrej Babis, is distancing himself from the piece, saying he was not consulted before its publication. Determining foreign policy is the prerogative of the entire government and therefore it is “unacceptable” for Petříček and Zaorálek — to voice their opinion on such an important matter, he tells reporters.

Czech President Milos Zeman — known as a staunch supporter of Israel’s right-wing government — issues a formal statement denouncing the op-ed as disruptive of Prague’s relations with Jerusalem and Washington.

“This article is a denial of the current foreign policy of the Czech Republic towards the State of Israel,” his spokesperson, Jiří Ovčáček, says.

— Raphael Ahren

Gantz, Ashkanazi send Muslims holiday greetings; PM yet to do same

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi from the Blue and White party extend holiday greetings to Muslim citizens on the eve of the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has yet to do the same.

As heatwave breaks, masks again required in public, at school

Masks are now again required to be worn by students in schools and by all Israelis outdoors.

The Health Ministry had lifted the requirement last week due to the severe heat wave affecting the country.

Israeli jailed in Peru over suspected drug smuggling released to house arrest

An Israeli woman jailed in Peru over allegations of attempted drug smuggling is released to house arrest.

The Ynet news site reports that Hodaya Monsonego has been transferred to the home of a member of Lima’s Jewish community.

Hodaya Monsonego, 24, is currently in jail in Lima, Peru for her alleged involvement in a suspected drug smuggling operation. (Screenshot/Channel 12)

Monsonego, 24, was arrested approximately nine months ago in Lima for her alleged involvement in an attempt to smuggle a large amount of cocaine from Peru to Israel.

In a report aired February on Channel 12, her family said that Monsonego is mentally impaired and that she was likely exploited by a friend and the friend’s relative, who, according to the report, was the mastermind of the operation.

 

Rivlin welcomes release of Israeli jailed in Peru over suspected drug smuggling

President Reuven Rivlin welcomes the release to house arrest of Hodaya Monsonego, arrested approximately nine months ago in Lima for her alleged involvement in an attempt to smuggle a large amount of cocaine from Peru to Israel.

“Thank you to the Peruvian authorities for their response to my request regarding Hodaya Monsonego. I hope this is a step towards her full release soon,” Rivlin says in a tweet.

In February Rivlin wrote a letter to the president of Peru, Martín Vizcarra, asking him to grant clemency to Monsonego, who suffers from “medical issues and has been diagnosed with limited cognitive ability” which impairs her judgement, according to a statement sent out by the president’s office. Rivlin stressed that the young woman has no previous criminal record and that it is “reasonable to believe that her unique condition…led her to be involved in the alleged matter unintentionally.”

Iranian fuel shipment reaches Venezuelan waters

The first of five tankers carrying Iranian fuel and oil products entered Venezuelan waters on Saturday, a Venezuelan government official says.

“The ships of the sister Islamic Republic of Iran are in our exclusive economic zone,” Venezuelan oil minister Tareck El Aissami writes on Twitter after the arrival of the first tanker, named Fortune.

The fleet is carrying about 1.5 million barrels of gasoline according to media reports, and arrives amid tensions between Tehran and Washington, which has imposed sanctions on Venezuelan oil exports and Iran.

Venezuela had said its navy and air force would escort the tankers after Tehran warned of “consequences” if the US stopped the ships from reaching their destination.

— AFP

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Europe’s coronavirus cases top two million

More than two million cases of the new coronavirus have been officially declared in Europe, nearly two-thirds of which were reported in Russia, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and France, according to an official tally.

With at least 173,133 deaths out of 2,001,995 cases, Europe is the continent most affected by the pandemic.

Worldwide, a total of 5,244,616 cases, including 339,011 deaths, have been recorded.

Russia is the European country with the highest number of cases (335,882 with 3,388 deaths) and a daily increase of about 10,000 new cases reported since the beginning of May.

The United Kingdom (257,154 cases with 36,675 deaths), Spain (234,824 cases with 28,628 deaths), Italy (229,327 cases with 32,735 deaths) and France (182,219 cases with 28,289 deaths) are the other four worst-hit European countries.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections.

Many countries are testing only symptomatic or the most serious cases.

— AFP