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UN envoy at Palestinian rally against annexation: Don’t give up statehood dream

Nikolay Mladenov tells thousands at Jericho demonstration, which IDF sought to block Palestinians from attending, ‘you’re not renting a house here, this is your home’

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Palestinians attend a protest against Israeli annexation plans in Jericho on June 22, 2020. (Screen capture/Facebook)
Palestinians attend a protest against Israeli annexation plans in Jericho on June 22, 2020. (Screen capture/Facebook)

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

Ministers instruct health system to ready for 2,000 more patients on ventilators

The “coronavirus cabinet” tasked with leading the government’s response to the coronavirus votes unanimously to instruct the healthcare system to prepare for hospitals around the country to accept an additional 2,000 coronavirus patients who will need to be hooked up to ventilators.

The directive also instructs hospitals to be prepared for an additional 2,000 patients requiring ventilators for respiratory illnesses other than COVID-19.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells ministers during the meeting that the government must take every preventative measure in order to avoid such an extreme scenario, but that nevertheless, the Health Ministry must still be prepared for it.

Waitress files sexual harassment complaint against former senior Israeli MK

A waitress who claims that a former senior Israeli politician committed a sexually obscene act against her at her workplace has filed a complaint at the Yarkon Police Station in northern Tel Aviv. The identity of the politician has not been revealed.

More than 1,100,000 workers fired or furloughed — CBS

Newly released Central Bureau of Statistics data shows that more than one million, one hundred thousand workers were fired or placed on unpaid leave through the month of May because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump appears to push AOC to challenge Schumer in Senate primary

US President Donald Trump retweets an article on speculation that progressive Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez might challenge Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer in the 2022 primary.

“Actually, that would be a big improvement – and she would win!” the president tweets.

Opposition head discusses dangers of annexation with UN envoy

Opposition chairman Yair Lapid meets with UN Middle East envoy Nikolay Mladenov to “discuss at length the possible implications of annexation and [the resulting] instability in the West Bank and Gaza, according to a statement from his office.

Somewhat notably, he uses the term West Bank, rather than Judea and Samaria, which is rather rare for non-left-wing Israeli politicians.

Trump peddles conspiracy theory about potential rigging of 2020 elections

US President Donald Trump peddles a conspiracy theory, claiming that the upcoming presidential race will be “rigged” thanks to “MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!”

The president provides no proof for the claim. While he has frequently criticized mail-in ballots, he himself has admitted voting in such a matter in the past.

Bennett claims Hezbollah encouraging migrants in Lebanon to cross into Israel

Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett claims the Hezbollah terror group is “encouraging” migrants to illegally cross the Lebanese border into Israel.

Lebanon’s unprecedented economic crisis means that many migrants have not been paid for months while some salaries were cut by more than half. Others have lost their jobs after employers dumped them on the streets or outside their home country’s embassies.

Last week, Israeli troops detained a man who crossed into Israel from southern Lebanon. The Sudanese migrant appeared to be coming to the Jewish state in search of work.

Bennett did not provide proof of a concentrated effort by the Lebanese terror group, but simply says in a video statement that Hezbollah is “surely satisfied” with the result, hoping that it will lead Israel to “fall asleep at the wheel.”

‘Coronavirus cabinet’ rejects Defense Ministry recommendation to ready for 2,500 patients on ventilators

The Defense Ministry warns Israel may face a scenario in which up to 2,500 COVID-19 patients require ventilation, amid an increase in new coronavirus infections.

Under this potential scenario, which was presented to the so-called coronavirus cabinet, Israel could see 2,500 people on ventilators, 7,500 requiring hospitalization, 125,000 sick with COVID-19 and hundreds killed by the virus, according to a statement from Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s office.

“The scenario is based on models that took into account extreme situations from the world. It must be emphasized this is not a forecast but rather an operational scenario that the Defense Ministry is recommending the state prepare for in terms of the tools at its disposal,” the statement says.

But the coronavirus cabinet has evidently rejected the prediction, instead directing the health system to prepare for as many as 2,000 patients requiring ventilation.

Detained Lebanese woman accused of dealing with Israel

A Lebanese political activist who was detained last week was charged on Monday with collaborating with Israel and referred to a military prosecutor, Lebanon’s state-run news agency reports.

The National News Agency says Government Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Fadi Akiki charged Kinda El-Khatib with visiting Israel and “dealing with spies of the Israeli enemy.” The report adds that the judge referred El-Khatib to a military investigative judge for questioning. The military judge is expected to issue a formal arrest warrant.

Lebanon and Israel are in a state of war and each bans its citizens from visiting the other country.

El-Khatib was detained last week with her brother, who was later released. According to local media reports, she had visited Israel by crossing from Jordan.

She has been active on social media, where she harshly criticized Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group and its strong ally, Lebanese President Michel Aoun. Hezbollah and Israel fought a monthlong war in 2006.

Shortly before the charges were filed today, dozens rallied in Beirut demanding El-Khatib’s release and saying that she was innocent.

The protesters say El-Khatib’s case is similar to that of Ziad Itani, a Lebanese stage actor who was released in 2018 after being cleared of charges of collaborating with Israel. Itani spent about four months in prison.

— AP

ZOA launches campaign in Israel pushing government to annex parts of West Bank

The Zionist Organization of America has launched a campaign to push the government of Israel to move forward with plans to annex large parts of the West Bank.

As part of its campaign, the ZOA has plastered two large posters at the entrance to Jerusalem that read “sovereignty NOW” and “America stands with Israel at this historic moment.

The campaign appears to go against the will of the public, which according to a recent Channel 12 poll only supports the controversial move to the tune of 34%.

World shares slip as global virus tally approaches 9 million

World stock markets mostly traded lower today as reports of new coronavirus infections in the US and worldwide surged, with the global total approaching 9 million.

European markets opened lower after a mixed session in Asia, though Wall Street futures were up slightly.

Britain’s FTSE 100 lost 0.4% to 6,265 and the CAC 40 in Paris fell 0.7% to 4,946. Germany’s DAX slid 0.7% to 12,250, with payments company Wirecard diving almost 40% after it said that some $2 billion in missing funds in an accounting scandal probably don’t exist.

US markets appeared set to edge up, with futures for the S&P 500 and the Dow up 0.6% and 0.5%.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index slipped 0.2% to 22,437.27, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong sank 0.5% to 24,515.23. The Kospi in South Korea slipped 0.7% to 2,126.73.

The Shanghai Composite index edged 0.1% lower to 2,965.27, while India’s Sensex jumped 0.9%. Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 was almost unchanged at 5,944.50, supported by a report that consumer spending has rebounded more quickly from the pandemic shock than expected, analysts say.

Investors appear cautious with prices already relatively high and “out of whack” with earnings expectations, Mizuho Bank said in a commentary. “And so, investors may be increasingly nervous about being caught on the wrong side of ‘irrational exuberance,'” it says.

On top of that, the “sheer speed and amplitude of the equity market rebound … from the depths of the March sell-off may also counsel some patience rather than haste; prudently pausing to take profits for the quarter,” it said.

The World Health Organization on Sunday reported the largest single-day increase in coronavirus cases by its count, at more than 183,000 new cases in the previous 24 hours. The UN health agency said on Sunday that Brazil led the way with 54,771 cases and the US next at 36,617. India confirmed 15,400 new cases.

The United States also reported more than 30,000 new coronavirus cases on Friday and Saturday, with the daily totals their highest since May 1. A large share of the cases are in the South, West and Midwest, where hospitals in some areas are becoming overwhelmed.

— AP

Coronavirus cabinet set to approve increase in penalty for Israelis who don’t wear masks

The ministerial cabinet tasked with leading the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is expected to approve an increase in the fines given out to Israelis who fail to wear masks while out in public, Hebrew media reports.

The fines are expected to be raised from NIS 200 to NIS 500 ($145).

In addition, Hebrew media reports that the coronavius cabinet will also authorize municipalities to close businesses that violate guidelines aimed at curbing the pandemic.

WHO chief warns world leaders not to ‘politicize’ pandemic

World leaders must not politicize the coronavirus pandemic but unite to fight it, the head of the World Health Organization warns, reminding all that the pandemic is still accelerating and producing record daily increases in infections.

The comments by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has faced criticism from US President Donald Trump, come as the number of reported infections soared in Brazil, Iraq, India and southern and western US states, straining local hospitals.

In New York City, once the epicenter of the US outbreak, today is a key day for lifting many coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

It took over three months for the world to see 1 million virus infections, but the last 1 million cases have come in just eight days, Tedros says during a videoconference for the Dubai-based World Government Summit.

Tedros does not mention Trump’s name or the fact that he is determined to pull the United States out of the UN health agency but warned against “politicizing” the pandemic.

“The greatest threat we face now is not the virus itself, it’s the lack of global solidarity and global leadership,” he says. “We cannot defeat this pandemic with a divided world.”

Trump has criticized the WHO for its early response to the outbreak and what he considers its excessive praise of China, where the outbreak began, as his administration’s response in the U.S. has come under scrutiny. In response, Trump has threatened to end all US funding for the WHO.

Nearly 9 million people have been infected by the virus worldwide and more than 468,000 have died, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Experts say the actual numbers are much higher, due to limited testing and asymptomatic cases.

— AP

Report: Shin Bet chief warns renewed use of tracking technology exposes agency to hacking

Shin Bet chief Nadav Argman warned the government’s “coronavirus cabinet” that the renewed use of the security service’s technology to identify individuals exposed to the virus leaves the agency open to hacking of its sensitive technology, a participant in the latest session of the key ministerial body tells Channel 13.

Germany works to tame meatpacking outbreak

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman says “everything needs to be done” to contain an outbreak of the coronavirus linked to a large slaughterhouse where over 1,300 people have tested positive for COVID-19.

Steffen Seibert says 20 workers at the Toennies meat plant in the western Guetersloh region have been hospitalized and several are in intensive care.

“We very much hope that all those who have fallen ill survive,” Seibert tells reporters in Berlin. “This is an outbreak that needs to be taken very seriously.”

Authorities have scrambled to stop the outbreak from spreading, by ordering mass tests of all workers and putting thousands of people into quarantine. The outbreak at Toennies, where many workers are migrants from Eastern Europe, has pushed up Germany’s daily infection rate.

Authorities have dispatched virologists, contact tracing teams and the German army to help contain the outbreak.

Germany’s disease control center says the country has seen 190,359 confirmed cases and 8,885 virus-related deaths — about five times fewer deaths than in Britain.

— AP

IDF reportedly blocking entrances to Jericho where PA rally against annexation slated to begin shortly

The IDF is blocking entrances to the Palestinian city of Jericho in the Jordan Valley, where the PA has organized a protest against Israel’s plans to annex large parts of the West Bank. The rally is slated to begin at 5 p.m., Ynet reports.

Palestinian village targeted in latest apparent hate crime

Residents of the Palestinian village of Beitillu woke up this morning to discover that their central West Bank town had been targeted in an apparent hate crime, the Yesh Din rights group reports.

Five vehicles had their tires slashed and a home nearby was spray-painted with the Hebrew phrase “Enough throwing stones” and a Star of David.

Police have yet to open a probe into the matter, but rights groups say that arrests in such cases are exceedingly rare anyway.

In highest single-day total since pandemic’s start, 142 cases reported in PA areas of West Bank

Since this morning, 142 new coronavirus infections have been confirmed in the West Bank, Palestinian government spokesperson Ibrahim Milhim says, the highest single-day increase in cases since the start of the pandemic.

The West Bank has witnessed a concerning spike in cases over the past week, with Palestinian health officials saying that they may be entering a “second wave.” Four out of the last five days have set new records for infections in the area.

To prevent the spread of the virus, social gatherings were banned across the West Bank on Saturday, and two governorates — Hebron and Nablus — have been placed under lockdown. Hebron, especially, has emerged as the epicenter of the outbreak, registering over 200 cases in the last two days alone.

The total number of West Bank cases is now 903. Two West Bank residents have died from the novel coronavirus, according to Palestinian health ministry statistics.

— Aaron Boxerman

Al-Qaeda-linked group in Syria detains former commander

The main al-Qaeda-linked group in Syria has detained one of its own former commanders who had defected and set up his own hardline outfit earlier this year after coming out against a ceasefire, opposition activists says.

The activists said a big force from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS, raided the house of Jamal Zeina, better known as Abu Malek al-Tali, on the outskirts of the northwestern city of Idlib and detained him.

Al-Tali was behind major operations for the group that used to be known as Nusra Front, including the December 2013 kidnapping of 12 Orthodox nuns from Maaloula, a Christian village in Syria that insurgents controlled for few months during the country’s nine-year conflict. Nusra Front exchanged the nuns four months later with women held in Syrian government prisons.

In 2014, militants under al-Tali’s command briefly stormed the Lebanese border town of Arsal and captured more than two dozen Lebanese soldiers and policemen. Nusra Front exchanged the troops it was holding with prisoners held in Lebanon.

Al-Tali, a Syrian citizen, is known to be a hardliner who is opposed to a truce reached in March between Russia and Turkey that stopped a Syrian government offensive on Idlib province, the last remaining rebel stronghold in the country. The three-month offensive under the cover of Russian airstrikes killed hundreds and sent a million people fleeing toward the Turkish border.

Al-Tali defected in April and set up his own group that became close to al-Qaeda-linked Horas al-Din group, Arabic for “Guardians of Religion.” Horas al-Din are hardcore al-Qaeda elements who broke away from HTS.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says al-Tali defected from HTS in April, adding that he had personally acquired large sums of money from the deal to release the nuns.

The Shaam Newtork, an activist collective, said al-Tali and other former HTS commanders have been opposed to recent policies adopted by the group’s top commander, Abu Mohammed al-Golani, who has been taking cautious steps since Turkey sent thousands of soldiers into Idlib earlier this year.

Al-Tali’s son, Orwa, was shot dead in 2017 in an apparent internal feud between militants in northwest Syria.

— AP

2,766 Israelis return to work in previous day; 1,140 file for unemployment

The Israeli Employment Service reports that 2,766 people returned to work  in the previous day.

In addition, 1,140 Israelis filed for unemployment.

Since the government began easing restrictions aimed at curbing the pandemic last month, 353,616 people have returned to their places of work after being furloughed.

US State Department official: We aren’t barring Israel from Chinese investments

US State Department Assistant Secretary of Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker tells the Kan public broadcaster that Washington is not telling Jerusalem that it cannot invest in Chinese corporations

The issue is reported to have become a source of friction between the two close allies as Israel has sought to develop its relationship with Beijing.

“We are not telling Israel what to decide when it comes to investments from China. Obviously you need to have a normal relationship with Beijing,” he tells Kan.

However, he adds that a separate body responsible for auditing such business deals with China is necessary.

Trains return to the tracks, albeit with few passengers aboard

Israel Railways returned to operation this morning, but Channel 12 reports that very few passengers took advantage of the train service.

Usually, 250,000 passengers purchase train tickets every day. Today, just 52,000 tickets purchased tickets.

However, the network says, the numbers are expected to rise in the coming days.

Jordan seeks $6.6 billion for Syria crisis

Jordan announces it is seeking $6.6 billion from international donors to face the ongoing challenge of hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.

“We are launching a $6.6 billion intervention plan for the Syria crisis for 2020-2022,” Planning and International Cooperation Minister Wissam Rabadi says at a press conference.

He requested the international community’s continued support, saying the Hashemite kingdom “is hosting more than 1.3 million Syrians.”

“This has had serious repercussions on the economy, infrastructure and budget of the Jordanian state,” Rabadi says.

Citing the coronavirus pandemic, he says the world was facing “exceptional circumstances” that presented “an additional burden for Jordan.”

Jordan hosts some 650,000 Syrian refugees registered with the UN refugee agency, while authorities say some 700,000 Syrians were already in the kingdom before the conflict started in 2011.

In early 2018, the government and UN agencies approved a $7.3 billion aid plan for the kingdom to respond to the Syria crisis in 2018-2020.

Jordan, which shares a border with Syria, has often complained of shrinking international aid.

The Syria conflict has killed over 380,000 people and displaced millions.


Over two-thirds of Americans think its acceptable to question US-Israel relationship — poll

A poll published in the Washington Post finds that 67 percent of Americans believe that it is “acceptable” to question the Israeli-American relationship, or that it’s the “duty” of members of Congress to do so.

The survey conducted by pollster Shibley Telhami finds that number climbs to an overwhelming 81 percent among Democrats, but that even a majority of Republicans agreed that questioning the long-hailed relationship is acceptable.

The online survey polled 2,395 respondents on March 12-20.

Those surveyed were asked the following: “In the midterm election, several members of the House of Representatives were elected who have been vocally critical of Israeli government policies and of American support for Israel. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with their specific criticism, or whether or not you back American support for Israel, tell me which of the following is closer to your view?

Nine percent of respondents said it is “unacceptable” for members of Congress to question the Israeli-American relationship. Among Republicans, this number climbed to 12%, but among Democrats, it dropped to six percent.

Nineteen percent said it is the “duty” of Congress members to defend the US-Israel relationship. Among Republicans, this number climbed to 32%, but among Democrats, it dropped to nine percent. Among independents, the number stood at 12%.

Twenty-eight percent of respondents said that it’s unacceptable to question the US-Israel relationship or that “members of Congress have a duty as members to defend the relationship.”

IDF announces new restrictions for soldiers as virus cases mount

The Israeli military announces new limitations on soldiers amid rising coronavirus cases, as it seeks to limit the contagion’s spread among troops.

Soldiers serving on bases have been told to prepare for the possibility they will be required to remain there for a month straight; soldiers on leave will be forbidden to attend clubs, bars, movie theaters and other places of mass gathering and instructed to minimize their stay in closed public spaces; meetings will be limited to 10 participants, while conferences will be limited to 50 participants in closed spaces and 100 in open spaces; soldiers are currently forbidden from riding on trains.

The military is also returning to a “capsule” system, whereby efforts will be made to keep soldiers on shifts serving with the same personnel, to limit exposure to multiple people.

Italy, Germany, US seek Libya ceasefire after Egypt threat

Italy, Germany and the United States are pushing for a ceasefire and deescalation of tensions in Libya following a warning by Egypt that it would intervene militarily if Turkish-backed forces attack the strategic city of Sirte.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, say after talks in Rome that a cease-fire is urgent given the Egyptian threat. Di Maio also called for the quick naming of a new UN envoy and the strong enforcement of a UN arms embargo on Libya.

“If we stop the arrival of weapons, or strongly reduce them, we will be able to reduce the aggressiveness of the Libyan parties in this conflict,” Di Maio said.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi warned over the weekend that any attack on Sirte or the inland Jufra air base by Turkish-backed forces loyal to the UN-supported but weak government in Tripoli would amount to crossing a “red line.”

He said Egypt could intervene militarily with the intention of protecting its western border with the oil-rich country, and of bringing stability — including establishing conditions for a cease-fire.

The Tripoli-based government dismissed el-Sissi’s comments as a “declaration of war” while authorities in the east welcomed his support.

— AP

UN envoy tells Palestinians rallying against annexation not to give up on statehood dream

United Nations envoy Nikolay Mladenov tells Palestinians never to give up on their dream of statehood, emphasizing that Israel’s planned annexation of the West Bank was not only illegal but “would kill the dream of peace.”

“You’re not renting a house here, this is your home. You do not throw away the keys to something that you have been building for 25 years. You protect it and you invest in the future, a future that is built on shared values of democracy, accountability and prosperity for everyone,” Mladenov says.

“People of Palestine — never give up, never give up, never give up,” Mladenov concludes, “because peace is what we’re all for.”

During his speech, Mladenov also leads a moment of silence for Iyad Hallak, a young Palestinian with special needs killed by Israeli police earlier this month.

The official Palestinian WAFA news site reports that the IDF shut down two checkpoints and blocked dozens of buses from arriving at the protest.

— Aaron Boxerman

IDF clashes with Palestinians at roadblocks preventing them from reaching anti-annexation rally

Palestinians are clashing with Israeli soldiers who have set up roadblocks outside the Jordan Valley city of Jericho where a mass demonstration against Israeli annexation plans is taking place, according to the Local Focus news alert service.

Seven new MKs sworn in, taking ministers’ Knesset seats

Seven new lawmakers are sworn in to the Knesset making use of a recently passed law that enables ministers to give up their positions as MKs in order to enable a different member of their party to take their spot in parliament.

One of the MKs, Yorai Lahav-Hertzano joins the opposition instead of siding with the government.

MKs Michal Cotler-Wunsch, Einav Kabala, Hila Shay, and Tehila Friedman are all sworn in for the Blue and White party. Lahav-Hertzano, who has served as an MK for Blue and White in the past, joins Yesh Atid-Telem, the party’s former partner, in the opposition.

Another two MKs enter the Knesset, one for each of the two ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism.

MK Uriel Busso, the former deputy mayor of Petah Tikva, is sworn in as a replacement for Interior Minister Aryeh Deri of Shas.

Former MK Yitzhak Pindros returns to the Knesset as he is sworn in as a replacement for Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush.

Iran will send Ukraine airline black boxes to France

Iran says that it will send the black boxes of a shot-down Ukrainian plane to France in the “next few days” and expressed readiness to resolve remaining issues.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif makes the remarks in a phone call with his Canadian counterpart Francois-Philippe Champagne, his ministry says in a statement.

“The decision to send the black boxes has been made for some time and it will soon be acted upon,” Zarif is quoted as saying.

The ministry says the process had been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen most international flights canceled.

Iran says its coronavirus outbreak has killed 9,742 people out of more than 207,500 infected since reporting its first cases in February.

According to the statement, Iran had told Ukraine that it was ready to “resolve legal issues and discuss how to compensate the families” of victims, but was yet to receive a delegation from the other party.

Flight 752, an Ukraine International Airlines jetliner, was struck by two missiles and crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran’s main airport on January 8.

The Islamic republic admitted days later that its forces accidentally shot down the Kiev-bound jetliner, killing all 176 people on board.

Tehran’s air defenses had been on high alert at the time in case the US retaliated against Iranian strikes hours earlier on American troops stationed in Iraq.

Those strikes were carried out in response to the killing of a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport.


Police open probe into apparent hate crime targeting Palestinian village

Police announce that they’ve opened an investigation into an apparent hate crime in the Palestinian village of Beitillu where residents woke up this morning to discover five vehicles with their tires slashed and a home nearby spray-painted with the Hebrew phrase “Enough throwing stones” next to a Star of David.

Rights groups lament that arrests in such cases are exceedingly rare.

IDF: Soldiers open fire at Palestinians hurling fire bombs at civilian vehicles

IDF soldiers operating near the central West Bank village of of Deir Abu Masha’al opened fire at a pair of Palestinians attempting to hurl Molotov cocktails at civilian vehicles, the army says, adding that the troops hit one of the suspects while the second managed to flee the scene.

4 Palestinians hit by rubber-tipped bullets fired by IDF at flying checkpoint

Four Palestinians have been injured after being hit by rubber-tipped bullets fired by Israeli troops at the Jordan Valley’s Hamra Junction, the Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service reports.

The incident took place at a temporary checkpoint established by the IDF in order to prevent Palestinians from reaching an anti-annexation protest taking place in nearby Jericho.

EU, Russian, Japanese and Chinese diplomats address PA anti-annexation rally

European Union, Russian, Japanese and Chinese representatives emphasized their opposition to Israeli unilateral annexation and their commitment to a two-state solution at a Fatah organized rally attended by thousands.

“Russia sees that the only solution is an agreed upon settlement on the basis of the two-state principle,” Russian Ambassador to Palestine Gocha Buachidze says. “We need an urgent resumption of negotiations between the two parties under UN mediation.”

EU Representative Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff also warns Palestinians not take any unilateral moves of their own in response.

Members of the top Fatah and Palestinian leadership are in attendance, including Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, Palestinian Liberation Organization Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat, and top ministers in the Palestinian government.

— Aaron Boxerman

Jordanian envoy tells Palestinians: ‘Preventing annexation is protecting peace’

At a Fatah-organized mass rally in the West Bank, Jordanian Consul to Palestine Mohammad Abu Wandi says Jordan will continue expending “all possible efforts” to prevent Israel’s planned annexation of the West Bank.

“Preventing annexation is protecting peace,” Abu Wanadi says.

— Aaron Boxerman

Israel reaches record number of openly gay lawmakers

Israel has sworn in its latest openly gay lawmaker, marking a record for the country considered a regional pioneer on LGBT rights, despite opposition from religious conservatives.

Yorai Lahav Hertzanu from the centrist Blue and White alliance became the latest politician to join the 120-seat Knesset, bringing to six the number of openly gay lawmakers.

All are men and represent parties from across the political spectrum, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Lahav Hertzanu’s appointment came after a law change allowing ministers to leave their parliamentary seat and be replaced by another member of their own party.

Five percent of Israeli lawmakers are now openly gay, the fourth-highest figure in the world, according to political scientist Andrew Reynolds.

It comes “after Britain, 8.1%, Liechtenstein, 8%, and the Scottish parliament, 7.7%,” said Reynolds, who directs an LGBT representative program at the University of North Carolina in the United States.

Israel’s first LGBT lawmaker, Uzi Even, was appointed in 2002, and the community in the Jewish state has far more rights than those in most Middle Eastern countries.

Openly gay soldiers serve in the military, while Israel recognizes same-sex marriages conducted abroad, and gay and lesbian couples have surrogacy rights.

“There have been very positive developments in recent decades,” says Or Keshet from Israel’s leading LGBT organization Aguda.

“It’s very encouraging that there are six lawmakers representing different parties from the community,” he said, adding that their success made them role models for young people.

“But we expect all those elected to represent us and advance equal rights,” says Keshet. “And there is still a lot to do.”


Coronavirus cases worldwide pass 9 million

More than nine million people have now been infected with the coronavirus worldwide as of this afternoon, according to official figured.

More than half of the 9,000,091 cases are in Europe and the United States: Europe having recorded 2,537,451 and the United States 2,281,903.

The number of cases worldwide has doubled since May 16 and more than a million new cases have been recorded in the past seven days. The official figures nevertheless reflect only a fraction of the true number, as many countries only test serious cases.


Erekat at anti-annexation rally: Netanyahu and Trump are on one side, rest of world on another

Speaking at the anti-annexation rally, Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization Saeb Erekat says in English, “Today, the world came to us, they spoke to us, and they told us ‘we’re not alone.’ They’re with us in the battle for freedom and dignity and justice. They told Netanyahu and Trump, you are on one side, and facing you is international law.” Ereket calls event “unprecedented,” and says, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Netanyahu and Trump, you have two choices. Annexation and the path to death, or an end to occupation and the path to life. There is no other choice,” he adds in Arabic.

— Aaron Boxerman

‘I’m mother of the martyr, who I pray will be the last one,’ says Iyad Halak’s mother at rally

“I am the mother of the martyr, who I pray will be the last martyr,” Iyad Halak’s mother says in a speech addressing thousands at a Fatah-organized rally in the West Bank against Israeli annexation plans.

“We must end the injustice. Jerusalem weeps from its heart from the racism and military policies of the occupation,” Halak says.

“As a teacher, I say, ‘Teach in your schools that we do not want war,'” Halak adds.

— Aaron Boxerman

Shin Bet chief: We’re not yet at emergency situation that warrants our tracking

Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman tells ministers at today’s “corona cabinet” meeting that Israel is not yet facing an “emergency situation” that warrants the use of the security agency’s invasive tracking technology in order to identify individuals who have been exposed to the coronavirus, Channel 13 reports.

Argaman says that once such a scenario arrives, he will remove his opposition to the proposal.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and several other Likud ministers disagreed with Argaman’s position, saying that such invasive measures are necessary already.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Economy Minister Amir Peretz were among those who supported Argaman’s position, Channel 13 reports.

Health Ministry reports 274 new virus cases in past 24 hours

The Health Ministry’s latest data shows 274 coronavirus cases diagnosed over the past 24 hours, continuing the ongoing trend of the past week, which has seen 200-300 cases a day on most days.

The latest cases brings the national total to 21,008, of which 4,940 were active cases — 45 of those in serious condition, 29 of whom were on ventilators. Meanwhile, 54 people were in moderate condition while the rest had no more than mild symptoms.

The death toll stands at 307, the same number it had been in the morning.

TV: Government likely to have no choice but to renew use of Shin Bet tracking

The government will not have any choice but to renew use of invasive Shin Bet tracking technology to identify those exposed to the coronavirus, Channel 13 speculates.

The reason cited is that an updated version of the Health Ministry’s Shield phone application that updates users when they have come in contact with a carrier will not be ready for use for another several weeks.

Infectious disease doctor says virus weakens over time; colleagues disagree

A infectious disease specialist in Italy claims that the coronavirus is losing its strength and might even die out before a vaccine is developed, though his colleagues vehemently disagree with him and there does not appear to be medical proof to support his argument.

“It was like an aggressive tiger in March and April, but now it’s like a wild cat,” the New York Daily news quotes Professor Matteo Bassetti, the chief of infectious diseases at San Martino General Hospital in Genoa, Italy, as saying.

He says that contrary to earlier in the year, when seriously ill patients in Italy were dying in higher numbers, now more of them with severe symptoms are managing to recover.

“Even elderly patients, aged 80 or 90, are now sitting up in bed and they are breathing without help. The same patients would have died in two or three days, before.”

AG to review PM request to probe leaked recordings from cabinet meetings

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit says he will review Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request to probe leaked recordings from the meetings of the so-called “coronavirus cabinet” of ministers tasked with handling the pandemic.

Netanyahu fumed earlier in the day over leaks to the media from cabinet meetings that showed the premier was pushing for reinstating controversial digital tracking of coronavirus patients in order to curb infections, while the Shin Bet security agency was imploring ministers not to approve the move.

“I don’t remember such a thing being done in all my years as prime minister,” he said.

Former health minister filmed shaking hands with colleague in Knesset

Ex-health minister Yaakov Litzman — who is already alleged to have violated his former office’s guidelines by participating in an illegal, indoor prayer service, where he may have contracted the coronavirus —  is filmed in the Knesset plenum today shaking hands with new UTJ MK Yitzhak Pindros.


Virus carrier identified among thousands who attended Friday prayers at Temple Mount

A coronavirus carrier has been identified among the tens of thousands who attended prayer services at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif holy site in Jerusalem last Friday.

The individual spent much of the day at the flashpoint compound, Army Radio reports.

Kashrut supervisor filmed taking envelope of cash from food production plant owners

The Kan public broadcaster publishes footage of a senior official in the country’s official Orthodox Rabbinate taking bribes in the form of envelopes stuffed with cash, in exchange for providing them with kosher certification.

Haifa movie theater to reopen in accordance with virus guidelines allowing 250 people

A movie theater in Haifa will reopen this evening in accordance with the government’s coronavirus-curbing guidelines, Channel 12 reports.

Each hall inside will be allowed to have up to 250 people inside, and the TV network reports that a teddy bear will be placed between movie-goers, in order to maintain distance.

TV: IDF chief asks Gantz to close Army Radio

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi asks Defense Minister Benny Gantz to shutter the decades old Army Radio, or remove the channel from the military track, at the very least, Channel 12 reports.

Army Radio has long dominated media culture in Israel, with new recruits receiving senior positions in one of the most listened-to news channels in the country — and oftentimes at just 18 years old. When they finish their service, they are often hired for positions at other prominent networks across the country.

The network is also often criticized for parroting the military’s version of its operations in conflict zones. It has also received criticism from the right for its hiring of what the right claims to be largely left-wing anchors and show hosts.

UK eases lockdown further as deaths, cases slow

Britain recorded fewer than 1,000 daily confirmed cases of coronavirus on Monday and the daily death toll dropped to 15, as officials say restrictions for the most vulnerable would be eased.

The death toll among people who tested positive for COVID-19 rose by 15 to 42,647, the lowest daily increase since March 15, although there is always a lag in reported deaths over the weekend.

A total of 958 people tested positive in the 24 hours to Monday morning, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock says only one in 1,700 people now had the virus, down from one in 400 a month ago.

“All of those figures are coming down and pointing in the right direction,” he tells a daily media briefing.

“It shows that while there’s still much to do, we are clearly making progress.”

Britain’s coronavirus outbreak has been the deadliest in Europe, but stay-at-home orders imposed in late March are slowly being eased.

Some of the youngest children have gone back to school and non-essential shops have reopened.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce plans for pubs and restaurants on Tuesday, with a restart date of July 4 already penciled in.

But while most Britons have been enjoying a taste of normal life, 2.2 million people in England are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, and have been advised to continue to avoid all social contact.


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Health Ministry reports 274 new virus cases in past 24 hours

The Health Ministry’s latest data shows 274 coronavirus cases diagnosed over the past 24 hours, continuing the ongoing trend of the past week, which has seen 200-300 cases a day on most days.

The latest cases brings the national total to 21,008, of which 4,940 were active cases — 45 of those in serious condition, 29 of whom were on ventilators. Meanwhile, 54 people were in moderate condition while the rest had no more than mild symptoms.

The death toll stands at 307, the same number it had been in the morning.