High Court to government: Prove Old City cable car will boost tourism
search
Live updates (closed)

Shin Bet secretly tracked most Israelis’ phones for at least 2.5 years — TV

Channel 13 says security agency received dispensation from Justice Ministry officials for controversial surveillance, but few in the government were informed

A woman uses a cellphone as people wear face masks for fear of coronavirus in downtown Jerusalem, June 8, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
A woman uses a cellphone as people wear face masks for fear of coronavirus in downtown Jerusalem, June 8, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

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

Netanyahu says Israel won’t tolerate any attack from Syria, Lebanon

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Syria and Lebanon will bear responsibility for any attack against Israel emanating from its territory.

Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, he says Israel “won’t allow Iran to entrench militarily on our northern border.

“Lebanon and Syria are responsible for any attack from its territory against Israel. We will not allow anyone to upend our security or threaten our citizens; we won’t tolerate an attack on our forces,” adds Netanyahu.

“The IDF is prepared to respond to any threat,” he adds.

The comment comes amid heightened tensions between Israel and the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist group along the northern border.

Ministers fume as coronavirus cabinet limited to 10

The government restricts the high-level coronavirus cabinet, which makes decisions on the pandemic policies, from 16 to 10 ministers.

On the panel are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, Finance Minister Israel Katz, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, Science Minister Izhar Shay, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, Labor Minister Amir Peretz, and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri.

Though many of the decisions relate to the school system, Education Minister Yoav Gallant is kept off the panel. Also booted are the tourism minister, welfare minister, transportation minister, and social equality minister.

Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman, a former health minister, storms out of the room as the decision is announced, reports the Ynet news site.

‘No magic solutions’ to end pandemic, says Netanyahu

Netanyahu, at the cabinet meeting, says Israelis must be more careful to heed social distancing and mask-wearing rules to curb the virus spread.

“But I want to emphasize — there are no magic solutions,” he says. “Without the personal responsibility of all of you, the citizens of Israel, there is no possibility of stemming the virus. I want to say I’ve seen an improvement in the behavior, but more is needed. The virus will be beaten by wearing masks, keeping personal space, hygiene, and avoiding gatherings.”

Cabinet approves virus stimulus checks

The cabinet approves the government’s plan to send stimulus checks to most Israelis.

Under the plan, single Israelis aged 18 and over would each receive NIS 750 ($218). Couples with one child will receive a one-time payment of NIS 2,000 ($583), rising to NIS 2,500 ($729) for those with two children, and NIS 3,000 ($875) for those with three or more.

Some NIS 6 billion ($1.75 billion) will be allocated for the grants, which will be given to all citizens with the exception of “those earning over NIS 640,000 (approximately $186,000) per annum and senior civil servants earning over NIS 30,000 (approximately $8,700) per month.”

Finance Ministry officials have opposed the proposal.

The bid now goes to the Knesset for approval.

AG questions legality of aid for Sara Netanyahu’s court costs

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit says the Permits Committee should check whether it was legal for Sara Netanyahu to accept financial aid from the prime minister’s cousin to cover the costs of her attorneys in a criminal case against her.

In a statement to the High Court of Justice, he questions whether Sara Netanyahu’s acceptance of $270,000 from Nathan Milikovsky was tantamount to an unlawful, indirect gift to the prime minister, and says it should be investigated.

Finance minister warns that school year won’t open if budget stalls

Finance Minister Israel Katz warns the cabinet that if a one-year budget is not passed immediately, the school year won’t open in September.

The government is mired in a fight over the budget, with Netanyahu’s Likud seeking a one-year budget and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White insisting on a two-year plan as stipulated in their coalition agreement. The deadline to pass a budget is August 25. If no budget is passed by that time, the country goes to elections.

“We must pass a budget now. If we don’t manage, the school year won’t open,” Katz is quoted by Hebrew media as warning ministers.

Jordan to reopen to ‘low risk’ countries in August

Jordan will reopen its airports to commercial flights next month after a near five-month shutdown imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus, an official says.

The move comes as the country is trying to revive its economy which has been badly hit since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Civil aviation commission chief Haitham Misto tells state television that flights from 22 “low risk” countries will be allowed from August 5.

The countries listed by the health ministry include Austria, Canada, China, Denmark, Georgia, Germany, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, Switzerland and Thailand, he says.

Travelers from those countries will not need to isolate for 14 days when they reach Jordan but must be tested for the virus before arriving, Misto says, adding that the list would be updated every two weeks.

Transport Minister Khaled Saif however says that those travelers must show proof of having spent two weeks in one of the countries on the list before arriving in Jordan.

Anyone providing false information will be fined 10,000 dinars ($14,000), he says.

AFP

IDF detains 2 senior Hamas officials in Hebron

The Israel Defense Forces detained Hamas senior officials Naif Rajoub and Hatem Qafisha in Hebron Sunday morning, according to the Palestinian Authority’s official WAFA news agency.

Rajoub, brother of Fatah Secretary-General Jibril Rajoub, was formerly minister of religious affairs for the Gaza-based terror group, while Qafisha is the representative for Hebron in the Hamas-led Palestinian Legislative Council.

Hamas official Ahmad Bahr, head of the PLC in Gaza, condemns the arrests as “an attempt to isolate the Palestinian people from their representatives” in a statement.

Asked to comment on the detention of the two Hamas officials, the Shin Bet security service tells The Times of Israel that Rajoub and Qafisha had been “detained for an interrogation, at the end of which they ought to be released.”

The Shin Bet declines to comment on the grounds for the interrogations.

Aaron Boxerman

Bomb kills eight in Turkish-held Syria town — monitor

A bomb in a Syria border town controlled by Turkey and its Syrian proxies killed at least eight people, including six civilians, on Sunday, a Britain-based war monitor says.

The blast from an explosive-rigged motorbike rips through a vegetable market in the volatile town of Ras al-Ain, wounding at least 19 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.

Such bombings are common in the town, which was held by Kurdish forces before Turkish troops and their Syria proxies seized it last October.

The Turkish defense ministry blames Sunday’s attack on the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which still controls much of northeastern Syria.

Despite the key role the YPG played in the US-led campaign to drive the Islamic State group out of northern and eastern Syria, Ankara has launched repeated incursions against the group, which it regards as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged a deadly insurgency in southeastern Turkey since 1984.

“The terror organization PKK/YPG once more targeted innocent civilians,” the ministry says on Twitter.

AFP

Global virus death toll hits 645,715

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 645,715 people since emerging in China late last year, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Sunday.

At least 16,072,290 cases of coronavirus have been registered in 196 countries and territories. Of these, at least 9,061,300 are now considered recovered.

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.

On Saturday, 6,003 new deaths and 260,578 new cases were recorded worldwide. The countries with the most new deaths were Brazil with 1,211, followed by the United States with 1,067 and Mexico with 729.

The US is the worst-hit country with 146,463 deaths from 4,178,730 cases. At least 1,279,414 people have been declared recovered.

The next hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 86,449 deaths from 2,394,513 cases, the United Kingdom with 45,738 deaths from 298,681 cases, Mexico with 43,374 deaths from 385,036 cases and Italy with 35,102 deaths from 245,864 cases.

The country with the highest number of deaths compared to its population is Belgium with 85 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by the United Kingdom with 67, Spain 61, Italy 58, and Sweden 56.

China — excluding Hong Kong and Macau — has to date declared 83,830 cases (46 new since Saturday), including 4,634 deaths and 78,908 recoveries.

AFP

Alleged stabber of anti-Netanyahu protester to remain in custody

A man suspected of stabbing an anti-Netanyahu protester in southern Israel on Saturday will remain in custody for two more days, a court rules.

The suspect is named as Felix Eliav, 20, of Sderot.

He was arrested on suspicion of involvement in an altercation at the Sha’ar Hanegev Junction that resulted in a protester suffering light injuries to his neck from an apparent stabbing.

Eliav claims he was acting in self-defense.

“The leftists attacked me with sticks and a broomstick. I had to defend myself,” he tells the court, according to Hebrew reports.

Iran reports 216 more virus deaths, warns of fatigued medical staff

Iran reports 216 new deaths from the novel coronavirus on Sunday, calling on its citizens to observe health protocols more closely to ease the burden on exhausted medical staff.

“Our biggest concerns are the infection and fatigue of medical staff,” health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari says in a televised briefing.

“We can help them and prevent the spread of the disease” by observing basic guidelines such as hand-washing, mask-wearing and social distancing, she adds.

Iran said earlier this month that 5,000 health workers had been infected with the novel coronavirus and 140 had lost their lives.

According to Lari, the 216 fatalities recorded in the past 24 hours brought to 15,700 the overall death toll in the country’s outbreak.

AFP

100 days to US election: 8 in 10 Americans say country headed in wrong direction

With the November election 100 days away, more Americans say the country is heading in the wrong direction than at any previous point in Donald Trump’s presidency, putting the incumbent in a perilous position as his reelection bid against Democrat Joe Biden enters a pivotal stretch.

A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research also finds Trump’s approval for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic falling to a new low, with just 32% of Americans supportive of his approach. Even Trump’s standing on the economy, long the high water mark for the president, has fallen over the past few months after seeming ascendant earlier this year.

Those political headwinds have sparked a sudden summer shift in the White House and the Trump campaign. After spending months playing down the pandemic and largely ignoring the virus’ resurgence in several states, Trump warned this past week that the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. After repeatedly minimizing the importance of wearing masks to limit the spread of the virus, Trump urged Americans to do exactly that. And after insisting he would press forward with a large campaign convention in August, the president announced that he was scrapping those plans.

Trump’s abrupt about-face underscores the reality of the situation he faces just over three months from Election Day. Even as he tries to refocus his contest with Biden on divisive cultural issues and an ominous “law and order” message, Trump’s reelection prospects are likely to be inextricably linked to his handling of the pandemic and whether voters believe the country will head back in the right direction under his leadership.

The AP-NORC poll makes clear the challenge ahead for Trump on that front: 8 in 10 Americans say the country is heading in the wrong direction. That’s more than at any point since Trump took office. The poll also finds just 38% of Americans say the national economy is good, down from 67% in January, before the pandemic upended most aspects of everyday life.

AP

US-based Zoroastrian priest killed in Iran

A Zoroastrian priest who resided in the United States has been killed on a visit to Iran, the country’s judiciary says in local media reports.

The body of Arash Kasravi was found in the central province of Kerman alongside those of two other people who were not members of the religious minority, the province’s prosecutor is quoted as saying.

“Three bodies were discovered in a villa in Mahan city and they were apparently murdered,” Dadkhoda Salari tells state television.

“Investigations showed that one of them was Arash Kasravi, a member of the Zoroastrian religious minority,” he adds.

The prosecutor does not disclose the identity of the two others who were slain.

But he adds that the murder seemed financially motivated, and noted that $10,000 (8,500 euros) was found in one of the victims’ cars.

Iran’s Etemad newspaper says Kasravi was a US resident who had been living in California with his family for the past 10 years.

The daily says he had returned to Iran last year to attend his father’s funeral and stayed for inheritance proceedings but disappeared days ago with two “friends” before being found dead.

Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion in Persia prior to the arrival of Islam, but according to government figures only counted about 25,000 adherents in 2018.

It is officially recognized as a minority religion in Iran, along with Christianity and Judaism.

AFP

Lapid slams ‘chauvinist’ government over all-male coronavirus cabinet

Opposition leader Yair Lapid lashes the government for leaving female ministers out of the coronavirus cabinet.

“There is not a single woman in the new coronavirus cabinet. Not a single woman! The largest government in the history of the state and they didn’t include a single woman. Out-of-touch chauvinists,” he tweets.

The coronavirus cabinet, which oversees government decisions on the virus, was whittled down this morning from 16 ministers to 10.

High Court to government: Prove Old City cable car will boost tourism

In what could be the beginning of the end for a highly controversial plan to string a cable car between West Jerusalem and the Old City, the High Court of Justice orders the government and others to detail the “factual basis” on which they have claimed that the project will boost tourism, within the framework of planning law.

Sunday’s court response touches on what could turn out to be the Achilles heel of the entire initiative: the government’s successful move to have the project dealt with by the National Infrastructure Committee — a fast-track body within the Finance Ministry — rather than the usual planning hierarchy, which must allow for public objections at each stage of consideration. The NIC was set up to handle major infrastructure projects such as gas and railway lines that cross local authority boundaries.

In 2016, the government amended planning and building law to add “tourist infrastructure” projects to the definition of “national infrastructure” plans that can be dealt with by the National Infrastructure Committee, and specifically named tourism transportation systems.

The High Court now wants the government and all the other bodies involved in approving the project to detail the “factual basis” on which the cable car meets the wording of the planning law — whether it really will “serve as a tourist attraction,” and “make a real contribution to tourism in the area.”

The cable car, pushed by the Tourism Ministry, is due to start at the First Station Cultural Center in southern Jerusalem, pass over the historic Hinnom Valley to Mount Zion, then float along, parallel to the Old City walls, before reaching Dung Gate, the closest entrance to the Western Wall.

The plan’s many critics say that it  will turn Jerusalem’s most precious historic vistas into a theme park, and will help neither tourism nor transportation.

Sue Surkes

1/5 of Israelis cut back on food since economic crisis began — survey

More than half of Israelis are concerned they won’t be able to cover their monthly expenses, and one-fifth have cut back on the amount of food they consume in the wake of the financial crisis created by the pandemic, according to a survey by the Central Bureau of Statistics.

It finds a 9 percent increase in the number of Israelis concerned they can’t pay their monthly bills since a similar survey in May.

The survey says that 21% of respondents say they or their family members are buying less food or eating less since the pandemic began.

The CBS survey also finds high levels of anxiety among the public — 42% — up 11% since May. Another 21% experience feelings of depression, and 19% report they are lonely.

Among those 65 and over, 38% say they’re anxious, 24% say they’re lonely, and 20% say they’re depressed.

Netanyahu says women weren’t intentionally excluded from virus panel

According to the Kan public broadcaster, Netanyahu is pushing back against criticism after the coronavirus cabinet is reshuffled, leaving out female ministers.

“It’s not intentional. There are various forums that don’t have women, like some security forums. What’s important is that decisions will be made, and as quickly as possible,” the prime minister is quoted as saying, after opposition leader Lapid brands the government “chauvinist.”

Netanyahu’s associates lash AG: ‘He has decided to topple the PM at any cost’

Sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are quoted criticizing Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, after the top government legal official suggests it may have been illegal for Sara Netanyahu to accept funding from the prime minister’s cousin for her legal fees in a criminal case.

“He’s lost all restraint. He decided to topple the prime minister at any cost and is charging at him like a train without brakes,” the source says, according to Hebrew reports.

Finance Ministry’s accountant general announces resignation amid budget crisis

The Finance Ministry’s Accountant General Roni Hizkiyahu announces his resignation.

Hizkiyahu says he’ll leave office when the 2020 budget is approved, or in October, whichever comes first.

His resignation comes as the government wrangles over the budget ahead of a late August deadline.

Ministers ordered to keep quiet on northern tensions — TV

Ministers have been ordered not to publicly comment on tensions along the northern borders with Syria and Lebanon, Channel 12 reports.

As stimulus checks advanced, state lacks bank account info for nearly 2 million

The National Insurance Institute says it doesn’t have the bank account information for 1.75 million Israelis to dispense the government’s stimulus grants.

The NII says it’s working to locate and verify the accounts. Those who aren’t in the system will be able to receive a check at the post office, it adds.

The stimulus grants were approved earlier by the cabinet and must still receive the Knesset’s backing before the money is distributed.

Blue and White minister sympathizes with anti-Netanyahu protesters

Agriculture Minister Alon Schuster of the Blue and White party says he sympathizes with the protesters rallying against Netanyahu.

“I can certainly imagine myself among those protesting,” says the government minister.

His comments are condemned by Likud Minister Ze’ev Elkin.

“This is the sort of schizophrenia some Blue and White members are living with,” says Elkin. “You can’t be both in and out.”

East Jerusalem man killed in family dispute — activists

A Palestinian man was allegedly killed in Kafr Aqab in Jerusalem today against the backdrop of a family dispute, local activists say, although police have yet to confirm his death.

“There was a local dispute/incident that took place when a man was shot and taken to hospital with critical injuries. Police are investigating the incident and searching for suspects involved,” Israeli Police foreign press spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says.

Ghazi al-Muhalwis was shot by his son-in-law while in his car. His son-in-law and his gang then set the car on fire, local council member Samih Abu Rumeila tells The Times of Israel. Abu Rumeila says that al-Muhalwis was taken to al-Makassid hospital in Jerusalem, where he died of his wounds.

Abu Rumeila says the police have still not shown up to investigate the scene of the crime in Kafr Aqab.

“There’s no police here to investigate, as usual. The police only ever come here to fine people,” Abu Rumeila says.

Kfar Aqab residents, within Jerusalem’s boundaries but beyond the security wall, have long said that they do not receive enough municipal services or police protection.

Aaron Boxerman

California racial justice protesters set fire to courthouse

A protest through the streets of downtown Oakland, California, in support of racial justice and police reform turned violent when “agitators” among the demonstrators set fire to a courthouse, vandalized a police station and shot fireworks at officers, authorities say.

About 700 demonstrators participate in what started as a peaceful march Saturday night but then some broke from the larger group and smashed windows, spray-painted graffiti and pointed lasers at officers, the Oakland Police Department says on Twitter. Several tweets call for peace and ask organizers to “help us provide safe spaces and safe places for demonstrators.”

Several fires are set in the downtown area, including one at the Alameda County Superior Courthouse that was quickly contained. Police say protesters at one point were “breaking windows and chanting racial slurs at residents.” Photos tweeted by the department show broken glass and paint splattered on the police headquarters building.

Video posted by police show a man kicking down barricades in front of the building after an “unlawful assembly” was declared by police around 11:30 p.m. and officers asked the crowd to disperse. Police say they made several arrests but did not provide details. There were no immediate reports of injuries to protesters or officers.

AP

Transportation minister seeks tourism corridor with Cyprus, Greece

Transportation Minister Miri Regev has been instructed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to build a tourism corridor with Cyprus, Greece and other countries with low virus rates.

According to Hebrew reports, Regev has ordered her staff to start negotiations with the relevant parties and set up a plan.

It’s unclear if the countries will agree to the plan, considering Israel’s high rates of infection.

German farm locked down after 174 workers contract COVID-19

Some 500 workers are in quarantine on a large Bavarian farm to contain a mass coronavirus outbreak, German officials say, as they announced free COVID-19 tests for worried local residents.

A total of 174 seasonal workers have tested positive for the virus since Friday, Werner Bumeder, the district administrator of Dingolfing-Landau, tells a press conference.

Most of the seasonal employees come from Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine, he says, and had been working in close proximity harvesting cucumbers at the farm in the municipality of Mamming.

He stresses that the cluster appeared to be limited to “a closed group of people” and had not yet spread to the wider population.

The farm’s 480 employees and managers are all in lockdown on-site, with those who have tested negative staying in separate accommodation from those known to be infected.

The farm itself has been closed off from the outside world with a security team monitoring the quarantine.

AFP

Defense minister warns Hezbollah: Israel will respond forcefully to any attack

Defense Minister Benny Gantz issues a clear threat to the Hezbollah terror group overlooking the northern border, saying the Jewish state was prepared to take harsh action against “anyone who tests us,” as the Lebanese militia was suspected of planning to strike Israel in retaliation for the death of one of its fighters earlier this week.

Gantz also indicates Israel will continue to act in Syria and Lebanon, despite the tensions, in order to ensure its security.

“We will continue to ensure our security interests, which include removing Iranian entrenchment in Syria, blocking the transfer of advanced [weapons], and preventing the development of precision [guided missiles] anywhere in the region — in Syria or in Lebanon,” he says.

The defense minister indicates he does not believe that the current situation would lead to a larger conflict or an all-out war, but says he “recommends to the other side not to drag us into that.”

Gantz again warns the governments of Syria and Lebanon that they would be held responsible for any attacks against Israel coming from their territory.

“We don’t want any unnecessary escalations [of violence], but anyone who tests us will meet a very high capability to take action, and I hope we won’t need to use it,” he adds.

The defense minister visited the northern region today, meeting with the top brass of the Northern Command and lower-ranking commanders in the field, amid concerns that Hezbollah would carry out some kind of attack against Israeli military targets after the terror group accused Israel of killing its fighter in an airstrike on Damascus International Airport on Monday night.

The expectation in the military is that Hezbollah will likely retaliate with a missile strike — as it did under similar circumstances last year — or with a sniper attack on Israeli troops or with improvised explosive device planted along the border.

“We believe there can be [security] events on the border. We are prepared for all possibilities,” he says.

Judah Ari Gross

Palestinian man arrested after allegedly trying to steal cop’s gun

A Palestinian man has been arrested at the Etzion Junction in the West Bank after attempting to snatch a police officer’s weapon.

The suspect attempted to grab the firearm as the police officer issued a ticket on a traffic violation.

The man has been arrested.

US: Mideast will face more violence if Iran arms embargo not extended

The US special representative for Iran seeks to rally Gulf allies as Washington tried to extend an arms embargo on Tehran, warning failure would “intensify” regional conflicts.

“I’ve spoken with leaders here in the Gulf and around the world — no one believes that Iran should be able to freely buy and sell conventional weapons such as fighter jets… and various kinds of missiles,” Brian Hook tells journalists in an online briefing while on a visit to Qatar.

The United States has urged the UN Security Council to extend an arms embargo on Iran that expires in October.

The extension is opposed by veto-wielding Russia and China, which stand to gain major arms contracts from Iran.

“If the Security Council fails to extend the arms embargo by October 18, Iran will be able to freely buy and sell these weapons,” Hook says.

“Imagine what the region will look like if this happens, conflicts in places like Syria and Yemen will certainly intensify.”

US arch-foe Iran is a key player on the side of the Syrian government in the country’s conflict and is aligned with Houthi rebels in Yemen fighting the government, supported by a coalition led by US ally Saudi Arabia.

Washington has warned it could employ a disputed legal move to restore wide UN sanctions on Iran if the Security Council does not prolong a ban on conventional arms sales to the Islamic republic.

AFP

New virus czar will oppose closure, task IDF with contact tracing, testing — TV

The new virus czar, Ronni Gamzu, will present his new coronavirus plan on Tuesday, Channel 12 reports, which will see the military tasked with contact tracing and testing.

According to the network, Gamzu will oppose a closure or tightened restrictions to curb the virus. Instead, he will recommend the IDF oversee epidemiological investigations and play a larger role in testing.

The criteria for the government restrictions will be “transparent and consistent” across the board, the report says, to restore public trust.

Gamzu will also work to change the government advocacy.

TV: Shin Bet secretly tracked most Israelis’ phones for at least 2.5 years

The Shin Bet security service secretly began tapping Israelis’ cellphones several years ago, in a clandestine program that lasted two and a half years and may be ongoing, reports Channel 13 in a bombshell revelation.

The classified operation, whose name remains under gag order, was approved by senior Justice Ministry officials, but was not subject to government or parliamentary oversight, the network says.

Former state prosecutor Shai Nitzan and Attorney General Avichai Mandeblit authorized the program, which was originally part of Shin Bet efforts to crack down on IS activity, it says.

The Justice Ministry allowed the service to access the personal data of most Israelis for six months, before later extending that continuously, for at least for 2.5 years and possibly until today, the report says.

The Shin Bet tracking is similar to its current surveillance to trace virus carriers — but unlike that program, was not required to be anchored in law.

The report says that information retrieved from the cellphones by the Shin Bet was later used in criminal cases, but the judges were not informed of the source of the evidence.

Israeli drone falls in Lebanon — IDF

The Israel Defense Forces say a drone has fallen in Lebanon during operational activity.

“There is no concern that information [from the UAV] was leaked,” it says.

4 more people die of virus; 1,268 new cases recorded in 24 hours

The Health Ministry records 1,268 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours. Four more people have died of COVID-19 since the morning, bringing the national death toll to 468.

According to the ministry, 303 people are in serious condition, 98 of them on ventilators, and 172 are in moderate condition from the virus. The rest are showing mild or no symptoms.

It says there are 34,282 active cases.

The ministry says 15,471 tests were conducted yesterday, of which 7.6% came back positive.

Large explosions reported at base south of Baghdad

Al-Arabiya and al-Mayadeen both report that large explosions have been seen at Al-Saqr Camp south of Baghdad, which is a base allegedly belonging to both Popular Mobilization Force units and Iraqi state security forces.

The Popular Mobilization Forces form an umbrella group of Iraqi militias, created after a 2014 fatwa by Iraqi Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani, which called on Iraqis to fight the Islamic State. Some of the militias are backed by Iran, some by the Iraqi government, and others are loyal to Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Iraqi security services claim the explosions are the result of ammunition overheating in the sweltering summer heat, according to Baghdad-based Nas News.

The explosions, however, come at a time of heightened tensions and threats between Iran and the United States after a US fighter jet allegedly narrowly passed an Iranian passenger plane in Syria.

No casualties have been reported so far.

Aaron Boxerman

Senior Hamas official contracts COVID-19

Senior Hamas official Maher Salah has been infected with the novel coronavirus, the terror group says in a statement.

Salah, who is Hamas’s director of diaspora affairs, remains in good health, Hamas says.

It was not clear where Salah is currently based. In Gaza, only three active cases of the novel coronavirus remain, all of which have been successfully contained in quarantine centers for new arrivals to the Gaza Strip.

Aaron Boxerman

Hezbollah deputy dismisses Israeli warnings and ‘chest-beating’

Hezbollah’s deputy chief brushes off Israel’s warnings and keeps quiet on whether the terror group will retaliate against the Jewish state over the death of its fighter in an airstrike last week.

“If Israel decides to go to war with us, then we will confront them, and the 2006 [Second Lebanon] War will be the model for our response,” says Hezbollah deputy chief Naim Qasim in an interview to pro-Hezbollah al-Mayadeen TV.

“We’re used to Israeli threats; they do not offer us a new political vision. This is mere chest-beating,” Qasim says.

He says the organization is keeping its cards close to its chest on a possible response.

with Aaron Boxerman

read more:
comments
Live updates (closed)

High Court to government: Prove Old City cable car will boost tourism

In what could be the beginning of the end for a highly controversial plan to string a cable car between West Jerusalem and the Old City, the High Court of Justice orders the government and others to detail the “factual basis” on which they have claimed that the project will boost tourism, within the framework of planning law.

Sunday’s court response touches on what could turn out to be the Achilles heel of the entire initiative: the government’s successful move to have the project dealt with by the National Infrastructure Committee — a fast-track body within the Finance Ministry — rather than the usual planning hierarchy, which must allow for public objections at each stage of consideration. The NIC was set up to handle major infrastructure projects such as gas and railway lines that cross local authority boundaries.

In 2016, the government amended planning and building law to add “tourist infrastructure” projects to the definition of “national infrastructure” plans that can be dealt with by the National Infrastructure Committee, and specifically named tourism transportation systems.

The High Court now wants the government and all the other bodies involved in approving the project to detail the “factual basis” on which the cable car meets the wording of the planning law — whether it really will “serve as a tourist attraction,” and “make a real contribution to tourism in the area.”

The cable car, pushed by the Tourism Ministry, is due to start at the First Station Cultural Center in southern Jerusalem, pass over the historic Hinnom Valley to Mount Zion, then float along, parallel to the Old City walls, before reaching Dung Gate, the closest entrance to the Western Wall.

The plan’s many critics say that it  will turn Jerusalem’s most precious historic vistas into a theme park, and will help neither tourism nor transportation.

Sue Surkes