Hong Kong marks Tiananmen anniversary, defying a police ban
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118 new COVID-19 cases recorded in 24 hours, with nearly 13,000 tested

300 students and teachers said among ill in fresh virus outbreak, 87 schools shuttered; number of active cases rises to 2,191

Jerusalemites walk and shop at the Mamilla Mall near Jerusalem's Old City on June 4, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Jerusalemites walk and shop at the Mamilla Mall near Jerusalem's Old City on June 4, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

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

Rivlin pleads for softer tone in public fight over annexation, peace plan

President Reuven Rivlin chides Israelis for their rhetoric against US President Donald Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan as right-wing leaders trade barbs over the proposal.

“We are brothers and sisters, I want to remind us today, and not in an abstract or distant way. In recent days, the question of annexation is once again the subject of difficult conversations. Us and them. Are you with us or against us? We all suffer from this kind of discourse. Discussing fateful questions — and the question of annexation is indeed a fateful one — must take place. It must take place in every country that wants the best for its people,” says Rivlin.

“Each person has their own view of the world. This is the stuff of Israeli democracy. We do not recoil from the critics or the questioners, but we must beware of those who silence the conversation. We must not prevent questions, doubts or criticism from any political side. Disagree — yes. Argue — absolutely. But the verbal violence, the name-calling, the ridiculing, and the contempt must stop. I, who remember well the attempts to silence the critics at the time of Oslo and the disengagement and remember how hard we worked to recover from that shutdown, make this request of you — enough.”

The president’s plea comes hours after David Elhayani, who chairs the Yesha umbrella council of settlement mayors, again condemned the Trump plan.

“If someone comes to me with a cake while holding a gun to my head will I just take some cake and then say ‘goodbye,’” he said, explaining his need to warn of the dangers he perceives. “My duty is to save us from the existential threats.”

Iran records highest yet number of daily virus infections

Iran announces 3,574 new coronavirus infections Thursday, its highest daily count since the outbreak began in February.

It is the fourth straight day that the daily caseload had topped 3,000. The previous high was 3,186, recorded on March 30, at the height of the initial outbreak.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour says that 59 people had died of COVID-19 over the previous 24 hours.

AFP

Iran’s president bashes Trump for response to US protests

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani calls George Floyd’s killing “brutal” and criticizes US President Donald Trump for posing for photos while holding a Bible.

Rouhani in a televised speech says Floyd “was killed in the most brutal way.”

“We express sympathy toward the American people who are on the streets while harshly condemning the crime,” he says, referring to Floyd’s death after a white police officer was caught on video pressing his knee to Floyd’s neck.

Rouhani also makes reference to the clearing of peaceful protesters from a park outside the White House with chemical agents and flash bang grenades so that Trump could walk to a church for a photo opportunity.

“It is a shame that the president stands with a Bible when he plans to act against his people,” Rouhni says.

Iranian officials regularly take advantage of protests in the US to criticize the administration, even though Iran itself in November put down nationwide demonstrations by killing hundreds, arresting thousands and disrupting internet access.

State television has repeatedly aired images of the US unrest.

AP

Report: IDF officer conducted unauthorized raid in Syria, killed 2-3

The Haaretz daily releases an investigative report on an IDF officer from the Golani Brigade, who allegedly carried out an unauthorized cross-border raid into Syria which the army then covered up.

According to the report, during a patrol led by Lt. Guy Eliyahu, Golani soldiers decided to cross the border into Syria. They approached a house and ordered those present, said not to be a threat to Israel, to open the door. Those inside apparently believed the Israeli interlopers to be pro-Iranian militiamen and opened fire.

What ensued was a gunfight in which Israeli soldiers killed two or three of the Syrians in the house before escaping back over the border into Israel, unhurt. The army has proceeded to cover up the incident, it says.

The date of the alleged incident remains classified.

Guy Eliyahu’s unit, according to the report, sees itself above military protocol, but his behavior, which the report says “often bordered on the criminal,” was overlooked by the higher ups. A small number of senior military officers knew the background of the Syria incident, but did not come forward, the report says.

“This was an incident that could have easily ended up with kidnapped soldiers or the bodies of fighters [held] in Lebanon or Tehran,” a military source says.

Eliyahu’s soldiers are also accused of vandalizing Palestinian cars in Nablus in 2018 and threatening residents, during a military operation, in retaliation for the deaths of their IDF comrades.

With just 27 deaths, Lebanon gets high marks for virus response

Even as it scrambles to avoid economic collapse, Lebanon has recorded some of the lowest infection and mortality rates in the Middle East since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The health ministry has warned it is too early to cry victory, but a three-month lockdown is gradually being lifted.

The first confirmed case was reported on February 21 among a group who flew in from a pilgrimage in hard-hit Iran.

Projections on the spread of the pandemic in a country that only had 128 beds available for coronavirus patients were bleak, with forecasts putting the death toll in the hundreds.

By June 3, however, the country of six million had only recorded 1,256 cases of COVID-19 and 27 deaths.

Lebanon’s deaths per million are among the lowest in the region — along with others including Jordan and Tunisia — and far below those of Iran, Turkey, Israel and several Gulf states.

“If we compare our infection rate per million inhabitants and our mortality rate, we are faring much better than countries around us,” Souha Kanj, head of the infectious diseases department at the American University of Beirut, tells AFP.

While some cases have gone unreported and the scale of testing remains limited, health experts agree that major outbreaks could not have gone unnoticed.

Most new infections were reported among Lebanese recently repatriated on special flights and the authorities have only recorded two deaths over the past month.

AFP

British chief rabbi: Floyd’s shocking murder a wake up call for us all

British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis condemns the “shocking and tragic murder” of George Floyd, calling it an “essential wake up call” for humanity.

Poll: Most Israelis expected High Court to disqualify Netanyahu

A Tel Aviv University survey shows that most Israelis expected the High Court of Justice to disqualify Netanyahu from forming a government last month due to the criminal indictments against him, according to Zman Israel, The Times of Israel’s sister Hebrew-language site.

The court ultimately ruled unanimously there was no legal impediment, paving the way for the new Netanyahu-led unity government after over a year of political deadlock.

According to the Peace Index, 51% of the 613 respondents said they were somewhat opposed or very opposed to the court ruling. Another 35% said they back the ruling and 13.5% didn’t answer.

Overall, 59.5% said they expected the justices to rule against Netanyahu.

285 students, teachers said sick with virus

Army Radio is reporting that 285 students and teachers have been diagnosed with the coronavirus amid a renewed outbreak largely centered in schools.

2 Jerusalem teens charged with hate crime over Palestinian tree vandalism

Two teenagers from Jerusalem, both 16, are charged with a hate crime after damaging olive trees belonging to a Palestinian farmer in the West Bank.

The attack near the settlement of Bat Ayin was racially motivated, the court papers say.

Liberman blasts Netanyahu on annexation, says Gantz ‘very weak’

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, in an interview with The New York Times, says Netanyahu is seeking annexation to “run away” from problems like his criminal charges and the sinking economy.

He says Netanyahu could have annexed the strategic Jordan Valley over a year ago, but refrained.

“You have a majority,” he says, calling the prime minister’s bluff. “What’s your problem? You speak about the Jordan Valley. Let’s go.”

Liberman says he favors annexing the Jordan Valley, even if it interferes with emerging diplomatic ties with moderate Arab states.

“There are risks,” he says. “But also I don’t know any national struggle without any risks. There are risks and a price in everything. And I’m ready to pay the price.”

Liberman also says the risks of violence in the West Bank are “serious” if Netanyahu goes ahead with the move.

He also calls Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who took up his old job, “very weak” for joining forces with Netanyahu.

“It really was a betrayal of his promises, his commitments to his voters,” he says.

“I think he is still very weak,” adds Liberman. “He feels that he doesn’t have the power to be a real prime minister. He prefers to be minister of defense in Netanyahu’s government.”

“It’s not unity when Gantz gave up everything that he promised,” he says. “It’s a fifth Netanyahu government.”

Some settler leaders said to call for resignation of official who berated Trump

Some settler leaders are calling for David Elhayani to step down after the head of the Yesha umbrella council said US President Donald Trump is not a friend of Israel, Channel 13 reports.

According to the TV network, a fight broke out in an internal WhatsApp group of settler leaders after Elhayani made the comments to the Haaretz daily, in protest of the Trump peace plan.

At least two local council leaders, who are not named, berated him and called for him to resign, while others came to his defense, the report says.

Rabbi said violently attacked outside synagogue by volunteer cop

A volunteer policeman in the central city of Petah Tikva assaulted an elderly rabbi outside a synagogue following a fight over mask-wearing, the Ynet news site reports.

Footage posted by the site shows the man knocking the ultra-Orthodox rabbi to the ground and violently kicking him in his face and chest.

An eyewitness says the incident came after an argument broke out over the weekend between the synagogue leaders and the volunteer cop over the wearing of masks.

“The absurd part is that everyone was wearing masks. Obviously, it was specifically the rabbi who forced everyone to be with a mask, over their mouths and noses. In the end he was the one who was the target of that man’s fury, who has claimed that he’s ‘aiding the public,'” the witness, identified as Yaakov, says.

Police say they’re investigating.

Minneapolis officials peg looting damage at $55 million

Officials in Minneapolis say the looting and property damage that following the death of George Floyd has caused at least $55 million in destruction.

Vandals damaged or set fire to at least 220 buildings in the city where Floyd died, but that number is expected to go up, city officials say.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey will ask for state and federal aid to help rebuild after the civil unrest. Until that happens, community members are pitching in to support Minneapolis neighborhoods.

More than $1 million has been raised to help businesses in north Minneapolis, WCCO-TV reports. The West Broadway Business and Area Coalition says it will announce how they plan to use the money in the coming weeks.

The violence follows the death of Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, ignoring Floyd’s cries that he couldn’t breathe.

Prosecutors upgraded charges against the officer, Derek Chauvin, to second-degree murder on Wednesday and charged three other officers with aiding and abetting in the case that has rocked the nation with protests over race and police brutality.

AP

Global virus death toll hits 385,869

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 385,869 people since the outbreak first emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Thursday.

At least 6,522,050 cases of coronavirus have been registered in 196 countries and territories. Of these, at least 2,820,000 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 cases or the most serious ones.

The United States is the worst-hit country with 107,175 deaths from 1,851,520 cases. At least 479,258 people have been declared recovered.

After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Britain with 39,728 deaths from 279,856 cases, Italy with 33,601 deaths from 233,836 cases, Brazil with 32,548 deaths and 584,016 cases and France with 29,021 deaths and 188,674 cases.

China — excluding Hong Kong and Macau — has to date declared 4,634 deaths and 83,022 infections. It has 78,319 recovered cases.

AFP

42 million Americans unemployed amid pandemic

The ranks of US workers laid off at least temporarily by the coronavirus pandemic exceeds 42 million, with 1.87 million new jobless benefit claims filed last week, the Labor Department says.

However the number of new claims filed in the week ended May 30 was 249,000 less than the week prior, indicating the unprecedented layoffs were slowing.

AFP

Gantz: Ask not what world Jewry did for Israel, but what we can do for world Jewry

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, addressing a Makor Rishon conference, says Israel must do more to support world Jewry, particularly now as it struggles with the pandemic and rising anti-Semitism.

“Since the founding of the State of Israel, its diaspora has been the source of strength. We must ask, what have you done for your people? For Diaspora Jewry the answer is obvious, from the women of Hadassah through the lone soldiers… Diaspora Jewry is an ally of Israel on every front, empowering and embracing, building foundations. Have we asked [ourselves] what we’ve done for them?”

He says that now, facing the coronavirus crisis and growing anti-Jewish sentiment, “we must learn to be there for them, now and forever. To provide spiritual comfort, to be a source of strength, to assist in enabling Jewish communal life. Not only with slogans, but with actions.”

Hong Kong marks Tiananmen anniversary, defying a police ban

Thousands of people in Hong Kong defy a police ban, breaking through barricades to hold a candlelight vigil on the 31st anniversary of China’s crushing of a democracy movement centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

With democracy all but snuffed out in mainland China, the focus has shifted increasingly to semi-autonomous Hong Kong, where authorities for the first time banned the annual vigil to remember victims of the 1989 crackdown.

Beijing is taking a tougher stance following months of anti-government protests last year, in what activists see as an accelerating erosion of the city’s rights and liberties. Earlier Thursday, the Hong Kong legislature passed a law making it a crime to disrespect China’s national anthem after the pro-democracy lawmakers disrupted proceeding twice to try to prevent the vote.

Despite the ban on the vigil, crowds pour into Victoria Park to light candles and observe a minute of silence at 8:09 p.m. (1209 GMT, 8:09 a.m. EDT). Many chanted “Democracy now” and also “Stand for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”

While police play recordings warning people not to participate in the unauthorized gathering, they do little to stop people from entering the park. Authorities had cited the need for social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak in barricading the sprawling park, but activists saw that as a convenient excuse.

“We all know the Hong Kong government and the Chinese government really don’t want to see the candle lights in Victoria Park,” says Wu’er Kaixi, a former student leader who was No. 2 on the government’s most-wanted list following the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Hundreds and possibly thousands of people were killed when tanks and troops moved in on the night of June 3-4, 1989, to break up weeks of student-led protests that had spread to other cities and were seen as a threat to Communist Party rule.

AP

Trains to resume Monday

Train routes are expected to resume on Monday after a months-long hiatus due to the pandemic.

Passengers must wear masks and will face temperature tests on the platforms.

Democrats prepare police reform bills after Floyd’s death

US Congressional Democrats, powered by the Congressional Black Caucus, are preparing a sweeping package of police reforms as pressure builds on the federal government to respond to the death of George Floyd and others in law enforcement interactions.

With the urgency of mass protests outside their doors, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are working furiously to draft what could become one of the most ambitious efforts in years to oversee the way law enforcement works. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California, both former presidential candidates, are expected to announce a package in coming days, with a House bill coming soon.

Both the Senate and House efforts are expected to include changes to police accountability laws, such as revising immunity provisions, and creating a database of police use-of-force incidents. Revamped training requirements are planned, too, among them a ban on the use of choke holds. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has endorsed such a ban.

“We have a moral moment in our country,” Rep. Karen Bass, Democrat of California, the chairwoman of the CBC, said on a conference call Wednesday.

The political stakes of any police reform effort are high, amplified in an election year by President Donald Trump’s “law and order” stance, including his threats to call in the U.S. military to clamp down on protesters. With mass unrest now entering a second week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sought to shift the national tone Wednesday by walking and talking with protesters outside the Capitol.

The House is expected to vote by month’s end. “We’ll be intense, proactive,” Pelosi said on MSNBC.

With Democrats in the majority, the bills will almost certainly pass the House. But the outcome in the Senate is less certain. Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the chamber would take a look at the issues, but he has not endorsed any particular legislation.

AP

Likud MK accuses Joint List lawmaker with COVID-19 of ‘terror attack’ on Knesset

Likud MK Fateen Mulla has accused a Joint List lawmaker sick with the coronavirus of deliberately spreading the virus, in a “terror attack” on the Knesset.

“This is an attack of the Joint List on the Knesset,” he writes in an internal WhatsApp group, referring to the diagnosis of Sami Abou Shahadeh, according to Channel 12.

His comments are derided by Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi, who sneers on Twitter that Mulla is taking over the role of former Likud politician Ayoub Kara, who like Mulla is Druze and has a history of controversial statements.

Likud minister: We didn’t say we’d adopt full Trump plan, only parts of it

Likud’s Yuval Steinitz, a senior minister, suggests the Israeli government is planning to only partially adopt the Trump administration’s peace plan.

“We didn’t announce that we’re adopting the Trump plan, but rather parts of it,” he says, amid growing criticism on the right against the founding of a Palestinian state, which under the proposal would come after Israel is allowed to annex portions of the West Bank.

“For us to say that we won’t take the sovereignty because it’s not everything could lead to the squandering of a historic opportunity,” he adds.

US official says Navy veteran freed by Iran

US officials say US Navy veteran Michael White has been freed by Iran and departed the country on a Swiss government aircraft.

White was detained in July 2018 while visiting a girlfriend in Iran. He was convicted of insulting Iran’s supreme leader and posting private information online.

He was released from prison in March on a medical furlough that required him to remain in the country in the care of the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which represents America’s interests in Iran.

AP, with ToI staff

Safed school shuttered after van driver, staff member contract virus

A school in the northern city of Safed is shuttered after a staff member and van driver are diagnosed with COVID-19.

All 250 students and staff are ordered into home quarantine.

The school is identified by the Ynet news site as the “Bat Ayin” ultra-Orthodox elementary school for boys.

Brazil sees highest virus death toll in 24 hours

Brazil has reported another 1,349 COVID-19 deaths, the largest 24-hour increase in the country’s coronavirus death toll since its outbreak began.

The Health Ministry delayed release of the data until 10:00 p.m. local time Wednesday, after the country’s widely watched evening news program had ended. The ministry cited “technical problems.” It also canceled its daily COVID-19 press conference.

The latest virus-related deaths broke a single-day record set Tuesday.

Brazil has reported about 32,500 deaths from the virus so far, the fourth most of any country in the world, trailing just behind Italy. Experts believe the actual death toll is significantly higher but hasn’t been registered due to insufficient testing.

President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday also designated Gen. Eduardo Pazuello as interim health minister, after nearly three weeks without anyone officially leading the ministry.

AP

57,000 Israelis gain employment this week, 6,100 laid off

The unemployment service says the number of Israelis reporting their return to work this week is nearly ten times the amount of the newly unemployed.

It says 56,937 have informed the service of renewed employment, compared to 6,102 seeking unemployment benefits.

3 Joint List MKs test negative for virus after colleague infected

Joint List MKs Ayman Odeh, Aida Touma-Sliman and Yousef Jabareen test negative for COVID-19 after their colleague Sami Abou Shahadeh contracted the virus, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

Home of Bedouin Israeli killer of soldier demolished over illegal construction

The family home of a Bedouin Israeli man who stabbed an IDF soldier to death in 2017 has been demolished by the state — not as a punitive measure to deter terrorist attacks, but rather since it was built illegally in southern Israel, Channel 12 reports.

The TV report says the razing was carried out by a Finance Ministry unit, which oversees illegal construction.

Khaled Abu Jaudah, from an unrecognized village in southern Israel, has been convicted of fatally stabbing Ron Kokia, a sergeant in the IDF’s Nahal Infantry Brigade, as he waited at a bus stop in Arad on November 30, 2017.

Floyd to be eulogized in Minneapolis memorial, first of 3

Mourners converge in Minneapolis for the first in a series of a memorials to George Floyd, whose death at the hands of police has sparked protests around the world against racial injustice.

The afternoon event is set for North Central University, where the civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton is scheduled to be among those eulogizing the 46-year-old Floyd.

“He was a human being. He had family, he had dreams, he had hopes. The real duty of one with this type of assignment is to underscore the value of the human life that was taken, which gives the reason the movement was occurring,” Sharpton says ahead of the gathering.

Memorials are set to take place in three cities over six days: After the Minneapolis event, Floyd’s body will go to Raeford, North Carolina, where he was born, for a public viewing and private family service on Saturday.

Next, a public viewing will be held Monday in Houston, where he was raised and lived most of his life. Then a 500-person service will take place Tuesday at the Fountain of Praise church.

The farewells for Floyd — an out-of-work bouncer who was arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store and died after a white officer pressed his knee on the handcuffed black man’s neck for several minutes — come as demonstrations across the US and around the globe continue.

AP

Russia, without irony, tells US to respect protests, protect journalists

The Russian Foreign Ministry urges the US authorities to respect Americans’ right for peaceful protest amid the wave of demonstrations sparked by George Floyd’s death.

The ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, says Moscow has taken note of the use of tear gas to disperse rallies and massive arrests of protesters in the US. She also points out numerous journalists, including Russian reporters, were hurt while covering the protests.

Moscow long has bristled at Washington’s criticism of its human rights record amid Russia-US tensions. Zakharova sought to turn the tables on the US by pointing to the authorities forceful response to protests.

She says “it’s time for the US to drop the mentor’s tone and look in the mirror,” challenging the US authorities to “start respecting peoples’ rights and observing democratic standards at home.”

AP

Dutch to cull thousands of mink after COVID-19 transmission to humans

Dutch health officials have ordered the slaughter of around 10,000 mink to start Friday on farms where coronavirus outbreaks have been reported, possibly infecting at least two employees.

The cleanup of the mink farms in southern Netherlands, the epicenter of the country’s outbreak, is aimed at preventing further contamination, two senior Dutch ministers say.

Health officials warned the “virus can continue to circulate on mink farms for a long time and therefore posed a risk to public and animal health,” the ministers say in a letter to parliament.

Around 10,000 mink are to be culled in the clean-up on the fur farms, agriculture department spokeswoman Elise van den Bosch says.

The estimate did not take into account mink pups born in spring, with female animals giving birth to about four to six offspring, she tells AFP Thursday.

The ministers describe it as a “difficult measure” adding that farmers would be financially compensated.

AFP

Former Likud MK Glick said beaten in East Jerusalem

Former Likud MK Yehudah Glick has been attacked by Palestinians in East Jerusalem, according to Hebrew media reports.

He is said to be lightly injured in the assault by Palestinian passersby, which came as he paid a condolence call to the family of Iyad Halak, a 32-year-old East Jerusalem man with special needs who was shot to death by police on Saturday.

Reports say Glick is taken to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

Glick, a Temple Mount activist, was shot four times in a 2014 assassination attempt by a Palestinian gunman.

Sweden offers free virus testing for all with symptoms

Sweden says it will provide free testing for anyone showing coronavirus symptoms and conduct contact tracing for those who are infected.

The announcement comes as the country says it will also allow domestic travel across the country, almost three months after it was discouraged in line with anti-virus measures.

The aim of the new testing program is to control infection rates in the country, which did not impose strict lockdown measures like many of its European neighbors.

The government says it will dedicate 5.9 billion Swedish kronor ($640 million), in addition to a billion kroner already promised, to cover the costs of testing and contact tracing.

“From now on, everyone with symptoms will be able to test themselves for COVID-19 free of cost,” Minister for Financial Markets Per Bolund tells reporters.

Both tests to screen for active infections and serological tests to discover previous infections will be made widely available.

Sweden has reported nearly 42,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 4,500 deaths, according to the latest figures Thursday.

AFP

HMOs warn labs can’t handle ‘flood’ of new coronavirus tests — TV

Channel 12 says all of Israel’s HMOs are complaining to the Health Ministry about the “flood” of coronavirus tests this week, which they say their labs can’t adequately handle.

It cites a letter to the Health Ministry that warns that “all the labs are in crisis and there is no chance of withstanding the number of tests… because we don’t have enough manpower for this task.”

The ministry previously oversaw all testing, before handing over the process to the HMOs.

This week saw a marked increase in tests amid a new COVID-19 outbreak in the country, largely linked to schools.

Egypt FM speaks to Jordan counterpart, warns of ‘disastrous’ annexation fallout

“Any unilateral actions” by Israel such as annexation could result in “disastrous consequences,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh al-Shoukry says after speaking with his Jordanian counterpart, Ayman al-Safadi.

“[Both ministers] rejected the annexation of any parts of the West Bank to Israel,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ahmad Hafez says, adding that the only solution was a return to negotiations and the two-state framework.

During the phone call, Jordan and Egypt committed to continue working together to support the advancement of the peace process and to protect Palestinians’ legitimate rights, Hafez says.

Aaron Boxerman

301 students and teachers have virus; 87 schools closed

According to the Education Ministry, 301 students and teachers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the renewed outbreak this week.

Eighty-seven schools and daycares have been closed to stem the spread of the virus, the ministry says.

Thousands of others remain in home quarantine.

Anti-annexation rally called off by police; activists say they’re coming anyway

Police have canceled an anti-annexation rally in Tel Aviv scheduled for Saturday night over fears of overcrowding amid the pandemic, Channel 12 reports.

Police say the venue for the joint Jewish-Arab demonstration in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv is too small, as social media buzz around the rally indicates a large crowd will show up. Activists, meanwhile, say police demanded they reduce the crowd and they refused, prompting the cancellation.

Activists nonetheless say they’ll show up to protest the proposed annexation of portions of the West Bank under the Trump peace plan.

Protests are allowed under the emergency regulations for the pandemic.

“It’s not surprising that the only demonstration that police are trying to cancel is the Arab-Jewish protest against annexation and occupation and in favor of peace and democracy,” tweets Joint List leader Ayman Odeh. “The coronavirus is dangerous, but we cannot give up our right to protest in the public sphere. The demonstration will be held in defiance of the right-wing government and police.”

Netanyahu chides ‘hyperactive’ ministers for unveiling own virus policies — TV

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reprimanded his ministers for making public declarations on reopening parts of the economy amid the pandemic without receiving the backing of the government, Channel 12 reports.

“Ministers are announcing decisions in an independent fashion. Everyone is hyperactive and wants to operate in their field, but it has wider ramifications,” he is quoted as saying. “There is a competition [between ministers] on who opens first. And the faster we reopen, the infections are likely to rise.”

The comments appear to be directed at Transportation Minister Miri Regev, who announced the train lines would resume despite criticism by health officials, and Education Minister Yoav Gallant, who has dismissed calls to shutter schools again despite a new outbreak in the education system.

Health Ministry: 118 new coronavirus cases recorded in 24 hours

Continuing the upward trend, the Health Ministry records another 118 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.

The number of active cases now stands at 2,191.

Of the sick, 33 are in moderate condition. Another 30 are in serious condition, 23 of them on ventilators.

The ministry says 12,929 tests were carried out yesterday.

No additional deaths are reported, keeping the toll at 291.

Breakdown of new virus cases by city

According to Health Ministry data, Jerusalem, Israel’s largest city, has seen 53 new coronavirus cases in the past several days.

It’s followed by Tel Aviv-Jaffa (25), Beersheba (17), Bnei Brak (15), Ashdod (14) and Rahat (10), with the remaining cases scattered across the country.

Norway to withhold PA funding over textbooks that promote violence

Norway says it will withhold half of the year’s funding to the Palestinian Authority’s education system until it stops using textbooks that promote hate and violence.

Foreign Affairs Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide makes the announcement in response to a parliamentary question on the issue. She says Norwegian aid to the Palestinian education sector does not go for textbooks or other educational material, and is part of a larger program that includes donors from several countries. In 2019, the program included the construction of 220 new classrooms and 63 new public schools.

Soreide also says that she raised the issue in a meeting with the PA’s education minister, Marwan Awartan, on May 21 and in February with Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.

The European Union commissioned a report by the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research following a report by the NGO IMPACT-se that found incitement to hatred, violence and martyrdom in PA textbooks.

In May, the European Parliament passed resolutions that condemn the Palestinian Authority for continuing to teach hate and oppose EU aid to the Palestinian Authority being used for this purpose.

JTA

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Hong Kong marks Tiananmen anniversary, defying a police ban

Thousands of people in Hong Kong defy a police ban, breaking through barricades to hold a candlelight vigil on the 31st anniversary of China’s crushing of a democracy movement centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

With democracy all but snuffed out in mainland China, the focus has shifted increasingly to semi-autonomous Hong Kong, where authorities for the first time banned the annual vigil to remember victims of the 1989 crackdown.

Beijing is taking a tougher stance following months of anti-government protests last year, in what activists see as an accelerating erosion of the city’s rights and liberties. Earlier Thursday, the Hong Kong legislature passed a law making it a crime to disrespect China’s national anthem after the pro-democracy lawmakers disrupted proceeding twice to try to prevent the vote.

Despite the ban on the vigil, crowds pour into Victoria Park to light candles and observe a minute of silence at 8:09 p.m. (1209 GMT, 8:09 a.m. EDT). Many chanted “Democracy now” and also “Stand for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”

While police play recordings warning people not to participate in the unauthorized gathering, they do little to stop people from entering the park. Authorities had cited the need for social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak in barricading the sprawling park, but activists saw that as a convenient excuse.

“We all know the Hong Kong government and the Chinese government really don’t want to see the candle lights in Victoria Park,” says Wu’er Kaixi, a former student leader who was No. 2 on the government’s most-wanted list following the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Hundreds and possibly thousands of people were killed when tanks and troops moved in on the night of June 3-4, 1989, to break up weeks of student-led protests that had spread to other cities and were seen as a threat to Communist Party rule.

AP