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Haredi protest against lockdown in apparent bid to bypass restrictions on travel

Families seen with suitcases in area of Bnei Brak demonstration as they make their way homes after Rosh Hashanah; similar protest held in Jerusalem

Ultra-Orthodox protesters burn a trash dumpster in Bnei Brak on September 20, 2020. (Screen capture: Twitter)
Ultra-Orthodox protesters burn a trash dumpster in Bnei Brak on September 20, 2020. (Screen capture: Twitter)

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

Hundreds protest in Germany against virus restrictions

DUESSELDORF, Germany — Hundreds of people demonstrate in downtown Duesseldorf against government coronavirus restrictions and in support of a host of other causes.

People wave signs with slogans like “end to panic, corona pandemic is a lie” and “corona rebels” as songs decrying coronavirus restrictions are played.

They chant “free Julian Assange” along with one speaker, and form a “W” — symbolizing “we all” — with their hands, which they raise over their heads as the theme to Chariots of Fire played.

No masks are to be seen, aside from on journalists covering the rally, and a few children mingled among the crowd.

Before breaking away to walk along a route through the western city, the crowd sways to Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” and a man in a Superman costume sings along.

Police report no incidents.

— AP

Police said expecting some Israelis may use protest exemption to bypass lockdown

Police are preparing for the possibility that Israelis will try to exploit the exemption for protesting in the national lockdown rules that took effect on Friday to get around restrictions on movement.

“We are well aware there will be those who try to take advantage of the various exceptions to return home after not being at home for the [Rosh Hashanah] holiday,” a police source tells Haaretz. “Whoever wants can bypass the regulations, but we expect responsibility from the public.”

The newspaper said police intend to question drivers at checkpoints around the country when the Jewish New Year ends this evening and fine those who didn’t spend Rosh Hashanah at home.

Additionally, police are gearing up for the weekly protest at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem, which will take place this evening despite the lockdown.

Hundreds of officers and water cannons are already deployed in the area of the Prime Minister’s Residence, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

Iran’s Zarif lashes out at Pompeo over UN sanctions declaration

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif lashes out at US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for asserting UN sanctions on Iran were back in force, in a move disputed by other Security Council members.

“The world says NO Security Council sanctions were restored,” Zarif writes on Twitter.

“But Mr. ‘We lied, We cheated, We stole’ threatens to punish a world that refuses to live in his parallel universe,” he adds.

100,000 march in Minsk for week 7 of Belarus protests

KYIV, Ukraine — Tens of thousands of Belarusians calling for the authoritarian president to resign march through the capital as the country’s wave of protests enters its seventh week.

Hundreds of soldiers block off the center of Minsk, deploying water cannons and armored personnel carriers and erecting barbed wire barriers. Protests also take place in several other cities, including Brest and Grodno.

The crowd in Minsk includes about 100,000 people, says Ales Bialiatski, head of the Viasna human rights organization. He says dozens of demonstrators were arrested in Minsk and Grodno.

Protests began August 9 after an election that official results say gave President Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term in office; opponents and some poll workers say the results were manipulated.

Lukashenko, who has repressed opposition and independent news media during 26 years in power, has rejected suggestions of dialogue with the protesters. Many members of the Coordination Council that was formed by the opposition to push for a transition of power have been arrested or have fled the country.

The Minsk demonstrators carry the red-and-white flags that were independent Belarus’ national standard before being replaced in 1995, early in Lukashenko’s tenure. Some bear placards depicting Lukashenko as a mustachioed cockroach.

Although protests have taken place daily since the election, the Sunday gatherings in Minsk have been by far the largest, attracting crowds of as many as 200,000 people.

“Every Sunday, you are showing yourselves and the world that the Belarusian people are the power,” Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who was Lukashenko’s main election opponent, says in a video message from Lithuania, where she is in exile.

— AP

Protesters with old Belarusian national flags march during an opposition rally to protest the official presidential election results in Minsk, Belarus, September 20, 2020. (AP Photo/

Convoy of anti-Netanyahu protesters heads to Jerusalem; demonstrators at sites rally around country

A convoy of anti-Netanyahu protesters is making its way to Jerusalem for this evening’s demonstration against the premier.

Protesters are also rallying at bridges and highway overpasses across the country and are expected to demonstrate near Netanyahu’s home in the coastal town of Caesarea.

‘Decisive’ meeting to be held in Abu Dhabi on Israel-Sudan normalization — report

American, Emirati and Sudanese officials are will hold a “decisive” meeting in Abu Dhabi today to discuss normalizing diplomatic relations between Sudan and Israel, the Walla news site reports.

Quoting Sudanese officials, the report says that if the US agrees to Sudan’s requests for aid, an announcement that Sudan will normalize ties with Israel will likely be made in the coming days.

The Sudanese officials say Khartoum has three demands for normalization: The supply of wheat and fuel worth $1.2 billion; the receipt of a $2 billion loan to stabilize its economy; and a pledge of financial assistance for the next three years.

Additionally, Sudan is seeking to be removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The report also says Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed the establishment of ties between Israel and Sudan when he was in Washington last week for the signing of the normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Police divide area around PM’s residence into protest ‘capsules’

Police are dividing the area around the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem into separate “capsules” to ensure social distancing between protesters at this evening’s anti-Netanyahu demonstration.

FM Ashkenazi hails US declaration that UN sanctions on Iran in force

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi hails the US for announcing that UN nuclear sanctions on Iran are back in force.

“I thank the US for its determined policy at the Security Council… to prevent the removal of the arms embargo on Iran,” Ashkenazi says in a Foreign Ministry statement.

Despite the US declaration that “snapback” sanctions were now in effect, other members of the Security Council have dismissed the move.

“I call on all other countries in the world to stand alongside the US to, to refrain from selling weaponry to Iran and to enforce the sanctions in full,” Ashkenazi says.

He also appeals directly to the three European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran — France, Britain and Germany — to drop their opposition to the US move and enact the sanctions on Iran.

Lebanon hosts concert for Beirut blast victims at ravaged palace

BEIRUT — Lebanon holds a concert for the victims of last month’s deadly Beirut blast in the grounds of a 19th-century palace wrecked by the massive explosion.

The August 4 blast at the capital’s port killed more than 190 people, wounded thousands and destroyed or damaged buildings across swathes of the city.

“To be able to mourn, to take the time to really remember, it was important to have this moment of music,” artistic director Jean-Louis Mainguy says.

The event is held in the gardens of the Sursock Palace, whose windows, red-tiled roof, ceilings and furniture were ravaged in the blast.

The concert, broadcast on television and streamed online in the late evening, kicks off with a rendition of “Li Beirut,” an ode to the city by famed Lebanese singer Fairouz.

It is set to include virtual contributions from Lebanese artists, as well as the voices of some 250 choir singers from around the country.

Organizers asked Beirut residents to place a lit candle on their balconies and in their windows in commemoration.

The event was initially to be held at the port, but was moved after the air quality around the site was deemed too poor.

Last night, Mika, a singer of Lebanese origin, headlined another concert streamed online to fundraise after the blast.


Number of COVID-19 patients in serious condition rises to 643, with record 170 on ventilators

The Health Ministry reports another 1,906 coronavirus cases, bringing the number of infections since the pandemic began to 187,396.

It also confirms another seven deaths, raising the national toll to 1,236.

The ministry says there are 52,262 active cases, including 643 in serious condition, with a record 170 on ventilators.

Additional lockdown restrictions not expected before Yom Kippur — TV

Any tightening of the national coronavirus lockdown isn’t expected to take force before Yom Kippur, Channel 12 news reports.

The Day of Atonement begins this year on the night of September 27 and ends the next evening.

The network says both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein back further restrictions, while coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu is opposed.

Among the new measures being weighed are further limiting the number of employees at private sector workplaces and upping enforcement of the virus regulations at protests and synagogues, according to the report.

“There is no expectation at the moment for an end to lockdown and restrictions and there is also no defined aim. It turns out we’ll reach 700-800 serious patients, even during the lockdown,” Health Ministry officials are quoted as saying.

They also express concern there could be a jump in two weeks from family gatherings some Israelis held before the lockdown took effect.

Virus czar warns Israel could reach 20 coronavirus deaths a day by end of week

Coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu said he fears the number of COVID-19 patients in serious condition could reach 800 by the end of the week, with some 20 people dying each day.

“Our situation is grave,” he tells Channel 12 news.

Gamzu signals opposition to tightening the lockdown that took effect on Friday, saying he’s worried “this formula won’t work.”

He also says he’s instructed all hospitals to open additional coronavirus wards, warning “we’re in an emergency.”

2nd Republican senator comes out against Supreme Court nomination vote before election

WASHINGTON — A second Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, says she would oppose any vote on a new Supreme Court nominee “this close to” the November 3 presidential election, making a delay more likely.

She adds her voice to that of Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who went further yesterday, saying the replacement to late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg should be made only by the president elected in November.

If two more Republican senators join Murkowski and Collins, they could block, or at least delay, a confirmation vote.


Police didn’t enforce virus rules at Haredi synagogues in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak — TV

Police didn’t enforce the government-approved restrictions on prayers during Rosh Hashanah at ultra-Orthodox synagogues in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, Channel 12 news reports.

Anti-Netanyahu protesters hold weekly rally in Jerusalem amid national lockdown

A few thousand protesters are rallying in Jerusalem for the weekly demonstration against Prime Minister Netanyahu, amid a nationwide lockdown aimed at curbing the coronavirus pandemic.

Police divided up the area outside the Prime Minister’s Residence into socially distanced “capsules,” but video from the protest shows demonstrators largely appearing to ignore them, though some instead stand apart on chalk markings drawn by protesters.

According to Channel 12 news, a man was arrested for calling for people to disobey the virus restrictions.

Bahrain breaks up Iran-backed attack plot, Saudi state TV reports

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Bahrain broke up a plot by militants backed by Iran to launch attacks on diplomats and foreigners in the island nation home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, just days after normalizing relations with Israel, Saudi state television reports.

Bahrain’s Interior Ministry and its state media don’t immediately acknowledge the arrests. Bahraini government officials, who routinely claim breaking up plots by militants backed by Iran, don’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Saudi state TV report airs footage of what appears to be police raiding a home with a hidden passage. The footage shows assault rifles and explosives, apparently seized in the raid. A Saudi state TV reporter says those planning the attacks wanted to carry them out in revenge for the US killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani this January in a drone strike in Baghdad.

Some militants have been arrested, while others are believed to be in Iran, the Saudi state TV report says.

Iranian state media acknowledges the reports of the Bahraini arrests, but no official comments on them.

Bahrain is home to the 5th Fleet, which patrols the waterways of the Mideast. Officials have worried in the past that the sailors and Marines attached to the base in Manama could be targeted, as well as others who make up the 7,000 American troops there. Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the 5th Fleet, declines to comment and refers questions to the Bahraini government.

Bahrain, an island kingdom off the coast of Saudi Arabia, just last week normalized relations with Israel alongside the United Arab Emirates. The Saudi state TV report didn’t mention that.

— AP

UN chief says won’t support reimposing Iran sanctions without okay from Security Council

UNITED NATIONS — Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the United Nations will not support reimposing sanctions on Iran as the United States is demanding until he gets a green light from the Security Council.

The UN chief says in a letter to the council president obtained by The Associated Press that “there would appear to be uncertainty” on whether or not US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo triggered the “snapback” mechanism in the Security Council resolution that enshrined the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers.

The Trump administration declared yesterday that all UN sanctions against Iran have been restored, a move most of the rest of the world rejects as illegal and is likely to ignore. The US announcement is certain to cause controversy during the UN’s annual high-level meetings of the General Assembly starting Monday, which is being held mainly virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The US announcement came 30 days after Pompeo notified the council that the administration was triggering “snapback” because Iran was in “significant non-performance” with its obligations under the accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

But the overwhelming majority of members in the 15-nation council call the US action illegal because President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the plan in 2018.

They point to Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the nuclear agreement. It states that “a JCPOA participant state” can trigger the “snapback” mechanism. The US insists that as an original participant it has the legal right, even though it ceased participating.

Guterres notes in the letter that “the Security Council has taken no action subsequent to the receipt of the letter of the US secretary of state, neither have any of its members or its president.”

He says the majority of council members have written to the council president “to the effect that the letter did not constitute a notification” that “snapback” was triggered. And he says the presidents of the council for August and September “have indicated that they were not in a position to take any action in regard to this matter.”

Therefore, Guterres says: “It is not for the secretary-general to proceed as if no such uncertainty exists.”

Guterres says the UN won’t take any action “pending clarification by the Security Council” on whether or not sanctions that have been lifted should be reimposed.

— AP

US to sanction over 2 dozen targets linked to Iranian weapons programs — report

The US will announce sanctions tomorrow on over two dozen individuals and entities ties to Iran’s nuclear, missile and conventional weapons programs, Reuters reports, after declaring the restoration of UN sanctions on Tehran despite opposition from fellow Security Council members.

A senior US official cited by the news agency warns Iran could have enough material to build a nuclear weapon by the end of the year and says the Islamic Republic has resumed cooperation with North Korea on long-range missile development.

The official also says the Trump administration will issue a new executive order tomorrow that targeting anyone who buys or sells weapons with Iran.

“Iran is clearly doing everything it can to keep in existence a virtual turnkey capability to get back into the weaponization business at a moment’s notice should it choose to do so,” the official is quoted saying about Tehran’s nuclear program.

Man arrested on suspicion of attempted ramming at anti-Netanyahu rally in Jerusalem

Police have arrested a driver who accelerated toward barricades surrounding the anti-Netanyahu protest outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.

The incident is being investigated and reports describe it as a suspected attempted ramming attack.

The driver is said to have slammed on the brakes before colliding with the barricades.

Shas MK tests positive for coronavirus

Shas MK Moshe Arbel has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Several lawmakers have contracted COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

Shas MK Moshe Arbel at a campaign event in Jerusalem on July 22, 2019. (Noam Revkin FentonFlash90)

Egypt discovers 14 ancient sarcophagi at Saqqara necropolis

CAIRO — Egypt’s antiquities ministry announces the discovery of 14 sarcophagi in the Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo that had lain buried for 2,500 years.

The coffins were found two days ago during an archaeological dig at the burial spot where another 13 wooden sarcophagi had been discovered last week, the ministry says in a statement.

The vast Saqqara necropolis is located around 16 kilometers (10 miles) south of the famed Giza pyramids. It is part of the ancient city of Memphis, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and hosts the colossal step Pyramid of Djoser.

Photographs of the well-preserved wooden coffins show ornate and intricate paintings, with maroon and blue lines, as well as hieroglyphic pictorials.

The ministry says more excavations have been planned, with the expectation that another trove of wooden coffins would be found at the site.

In a video distributed this month announcing the discoveries, Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani said the recent finds at Saqqara were “just the beginning.”

Egypt has sought to promote archaeological discoveries across the country in a bid to revive tourism, which took a hit from restrictions on travel due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.


Video shows officers arresting driver who sped toward anti-Netanyahu rally

New video on social media shows the arrest of a driver suspected of trying to ram anti-Netanyahu protesters outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.

In the short clip, a car can be seen driving toward police barricades before coming to a screeching halt as officers tell the driver to stop, some of them with their guns drawn.

Police then pull the driver from the vehicle and wrestle him to the ground. Toward the end of the video, one officer appears to punch the suspect in the groin area before grasping him by the neck. It was not clear what prompted this.

Pompeo says Europeans ‘haven’t lifted a finger’ to stop arms sales to Iran

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sys European leaders “haven’t lifted a finger” to halt arms sales to Iran after they rejected a unilateral US declaration that UN sanctions on Tehran were back in force.

The administration of President Donald Trump said the sanctions had been re-activated under the “snapback” mechanism in a landmark 2015 nuclear treaty — despite Washington having withdrawn from the deal.

France, Germany and Britain issued a joint statement today saying Washington’s “purported notification” was “incapable of having any legal effect.”

Pompeo tells Fox News that “arms sales, tanks, air defense systems, all of those, in a couple of weeks, would have been permitted to have been sold. And the Europeans have not joined us in this.

“They tell us privately we don’t want the arms sales to come back… but they haven’t lifted a finger.”

Pompeo adds that “weapons that Iran will sell will end up in the hands of Hezbollah and make life tragically worse for the people of Lebanon,” which was rocked last month by a massive port explosion in Beirut.

The sanctions on Iran were lifted when it joined the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and the US) and Germany in signing the 2015 treaty to curb the Iranian nuclear program.

Pompeo also calls today for fundamental changes to Iran’s government in remarks at a conservative megachurch in suburban Dallas, Texas.

“We pray for the Iranian people that they will get a government that they deserve,” he says.


Ultra-Orthodox protesters in Bnei Brak demonstrate against holiday lockdown

Dozens of ultra-Orthodox protesters demonstrate in Bnei Brak against the national lockdown over the holidays.

According to the Haaretz daily, families with suitcases can be seen in the area of the demonstration making their way home, apparently using the exemption of protests to circumvent the restrictions on travel.

Video shows the protesters burning a dumpster in the middle of the street and reports say some of them yell “Nazis” at police.

Hundreds attend a similar protest in Jerusalem’s Kikar Hashabbat.

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Iran’s Zarif lashes out at Pompeo over UN sanctions declaration

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif lashes out at US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for asserting UN sanctions on Iran were back in force, in a move disputed by other Security Council members.

“The world says NO Security Council sanctions were restored,” Zarif writes on Twitter.

“But Mr. ‘We lied, We cheated, We stole’ threatens to punish a world that refuses to live in his parallel universe,” he adds.