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As virus numbers soar, government to declare more areas as restricted zones

Health Ministry said recommending nationwide measures as renewed outbreak quickly becomes worse than the first

People walk with face masks on Jaffa Street in downtown Jerusalem on June 25, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
People walk with face masks on Jaffa Street in downtown Jerusalem on June 25, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

Israel said mulling merging settlement of Maale Adumim with Jerusalem

One of the options the government is considering regarding West Bank annexation is announcing within days that it is extending Israeli sovereignty only over the settlement-city of Maale Adumim and making it part of Jerusalem’s municipal borders, the Ynet news site reports.

The report says the option was raised last night during a meeting Defense Minister Benny Gantz held with the chiefs of the IDF, the Shin Bet and the Mossad, after several days of “war games” to assess possible outcomes of annexation.

The unsourced report says one of the “central options” that was discussed among security and government officials was to begin with the largely symbolic move of annexing just Maale Adumim, which is located east of the capital.

Iran says coronavirus death toll passes 10,000

Iran announces 134 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, taking the overall toll in the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak past 10,000.

“We lost 134 of our compatriots in the past 24 hours and the total number of victims is 10,130,” says health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari.

— AFP

Eiffel Tower reopens, ending 104-day coronavirus shutdown

Marking another milestone in France’s recovery from coronavirus lockdown, the Eiffel Tower reopens to visitors after its longest-ever closure in peace time: 104 days.

Tourists trickling back to Paris are delighted to find the landmark open, though some other attractions in the French capital remain closed. The Louvre Museum isn’t reopening until July 6.

People queue up prior to visiting the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, June 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

“It’s very special, very special because it’s only the Paris people,” says Annelies Bouwhuis, a 43-year-old visitor from the Netherlands. “We’ve seen a lot Paris people enjoying their city, enjoying their parks without all the tourists.”

Lifts that usually whisk visitors up the 324-meter (1,063-feet) tall wrought-iron Eiffel Tower remain closed, so for now people have to take the stairs.

Of the tower’s three decks, only the first two have reopened.

The tower has lost 27 million euros ($30 million) from the lockdown that started in March, according to its director general, Patrick Branco Ruivo.

— AP

Virus resurging in Europe as restrictions ease: WHO

Europe has seen a surge of COVID-19 cases since countries began easing restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the potentially fatal virus, the World Health Organization says.

“Last week, Europe saw an increase in weekly cases for the first time in months,” the WHO’s regional director for Europe Hans Kluge tells reporters.

“Thirty countries have seen increases in new cumulative cases over the past two weeks. In 11 of these countries, accelerated transmission has led to very significant resurgence that if left unchecked will push health systems to the brink once again in Europe,” he warns.

— AFP

Father of IDF soldier who was kidnapped, killed by Hamas in 1994 dies, aged 73

Yehuda Wachsman, the father of IDF soldier Nachshon Wachsman who was kidnapped and killed by the Hamas terror group 26 years ago, dies at age 73.

Nachshon Wachsman was held for several days by the terror group in 1994 and murdered after a failed military operation aimed at freeing him.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu eulogizes the father, saying that after the murder, Yehuda “chose life — educated and taught values, Torah and the love of the nation and the land.”

He sends his condolences to Yehuda’s widow, Esther, and the rest of the family.

Hamas says annexation would be ‘declaration of war,’ warns of ‘unprecedented price’

Palestinian terror group Hamas warns Israel will pay an “unprecedented price” if it annexes West Bank land, saying such a development would be a “declaration of war,” according to reports citing an Arabic-language video by Hamas spokesperson Abu Obeida.

“The resistance regards the annexation plan as a declaration of war on our people, and we will force the enemy to regret that decision,” he says.

Abu Obeida makes the threat in a video marking 14 years since the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit on the Gaza border. Shalit was freed in 2011 in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian terror convicts.

Against the backdrop of reports about a potential prisoner exchange deal that would return two civilians and the bodies of two IDF soldiers current held by Hamas, Abu Obeida says the group won’t settle for less than what Israel paid for Shalit.

Israel extends ban on entry of foreigners until August 1

The government extends the ban on anyone who isn’t a citizen or resident from entering Israel until August 1, the Ynet website reports.

The report cites a message sent to airlines by the Israel Aviation Authority.

The ban was announced in March to stem the coronavirus, which is resurging in the Jewish state and in many other countries.

Mossad chief visited Jordan with message from Netanyahu on annexation — report

Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen visited Jordan within the last few days at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request, Channel 13 reports, citing an unnamed Israeli official.

Head of the Mossad Yossi Cohen speaks at a Cyber conference at the Tel Aviv University on June 24, 2019. (Flash90)

Cohen reportedly met King Abdullah II and delivered an unspecified message from Netanyahu regarding West Bank annexation.

Jordan has voiced vociferous opposition to the plan and has threatened to nix or downgrade the 1994 peace treaty if it goes ahead.

Blue and White to hold closed meeting on annexation tomorrow — report

Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party will hold a closed meeting tomorrow on the issue of West Bank annexation, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The discussion is expected to last for three hours, the report says, adding that all Blue and White MKs must attend.

NYT poll shows commanding lead for Biden over Trump in 6 key US states

A New York Times survey in six key US states in which Donald Trump narrowly won the 2016 presidential election shows a significant edge for Democrat Joe Biden over Trump in all of them.

The poll — conducted June 8-18 among 3,780 voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona and North Carolina — also shows that Trump’s advantage among white voters is nearly gone.

The poll comes less than five months before the November election.

Israel said expecting ICC ruling on jurisdiction in war crimes probe within days

An unnamed Israeli diplomatic official is quoted by multiple Hebrew-language news outlets as saying Israel expects a decision in the coming days by the International Criminal Court on whether it has jurisdiction in a war crimes probe against Israel and the Palestinians.

The reports say Israel has began preparing for such an announcement, which could come as early as this weekend. The response is being overseen by a team including officials from the National Security Council, the justice and foreign ministries, and the international department at the military prosecution.

Israel could have submitted a response to the ICC on the matter but chose not to, “out of a fundamental view that the court has no authority to carry out the investigation,” the official is quoted as saying.

EU body recommends authorizing remdesivir to treat coronavirus

The European Medicines Agency says it has recommended authorizing the use of antiviral drug remdesivir to treat the coronavirus.

“Remdesivir is the first medicine against COVID-19 to be recommended for authorization in the EU,” the agency says, adding that the recommendation still needs approval from the European Commission.

— AFP

UN envoy warns Israeli annexation may fuel Palestinian extremism

The UN’s Middle East envoy warns Israel’s aim to annex parts of the West Bank may fuel extremism and ignite a regional conflict.

Such a move could do irrevocable damage to Israeli-Palestinian relations, and also turn Palestinians towards extremism, according to UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov.

United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov at a press conference at the (UNSCO) offices in Gaza City, September 25, 2017. (Adel Hana/AP)

If Palestinians “feel that there is no prospect of a peaceful resolution to the conflict, that only creates opportunities for radicals,” he tells journalists in Jerusalem.

Mladenov points to a “long litany of such developments” in the Middle East, referring to the rise of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. “You leave a vacuum, you take away a political prospect, you take away a positive agenda, and very quickly somebody comes and fills it with a negative and very destructive agenda,” he says.

While countries are yet to announce retaliatory measures, Mladenov warns Israeli annexation could spark a regional conflict.

“Nobody wants another war, another flare-up of violence in the Middle East, and certainly not one that has such a potential to ignite conflict way beyond its borders,” he says.

— AFP

IDF spokesperson, 100 other soldiers quarantined after COVID-19 exposure

Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman, the commander of the military spokesperson’s unit, has entered quarantine after being exposed to a coronavirus carrier during a meeting last week.

Incoming IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman at a ceremony in which he took over for outgoing spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis on September 15, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

“In light of this and in accordance with Health Ministry regulations, the IDF spokesperson will enter quarantine and continue to maintain his regular schedule as much as possible,” a statement from the military says.

Zilberman, who the Israel Defense Forces says is feeling well and has no symptoms of the virus, will soon take a COVID-19 test.

Along with Zilberman, the IDF says some 100 officers and soldiers from the spokesperson’s unit are also entering quarantine.

— Alexander Fulbright

Woman found dead in Rishon Lezion apartment

A woman is found dead in an apartment in the central city of Rishon Lezion, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.

Medics find the 36-year-old woman and declare her dead at the scene.

Details of the incident aren’t immediately clear.

Ashkelon man indicted over threats to Netanyahu and his family

A 57-year-old man from Ashkelon is indicted over threats against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife, Sara, and their son, Yair, Hebrew-language media reports.

The charges against Zvi Sabag are filed at the Ashkelon Magistrate’s Court.

According to the indictment, Sabag created a fake Facebook profile in which he used a profile picture of Netanyahu with a hangman’s noose around his neck and wrote: “Israel Police, please start directing traffic to Benjamin, Sara and Yair Netanyahu’s funerals.”

In the account’s “about” section, Sabag wrote that he “hates Benjamin Sara and Yair Netanyahu, and anyone who collaborates with them, to death.”

Mayim Bialik teams up with DC for superhero science books

“The Big Bang Theory” actor Mayim Bialik is joining DC Entertainment on a project that joins superhero power to the power of science.

DC Entertainment announces that Bialik will collaborate with popular comic writers and illustrators on a story collection that features Batman, Superman, the Flash and others in search of such mysteries such as why polar ice melts and what can be found at the bottom of the sea.

“Flash Facts” will come out in February and provide “a helpful bridge between the S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) lessons taught inside the classroom and how these principles affect our everyday lives,” DC announces.

Bialik herself is a neuroscientist and author whose previous books include “Beyond the Sling” and “Girling Up.”

This combination photo shows a cover image released by DC Comics of “Flash Facts” by Mayim Bialik, left, and Mayim Bialik as she speaks at AT&T’s SHAPE: “The Scully Effect is Real” panel on June 22, 2019, in Burbank, California. (Derek Charm/DC Comics via AP, left, and AP Photo)

— AP

UK Labour leader sacks senior MP for sharing story linking Floyd killing to Israel

UK media report that Labour leader Keir Starmer has fired a senior party member for retweeting an article in which Israel was accused of complicity in George Floyd’s killing, which had prompted condemnations from leading British Jewish groups.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, Britain’s shadow business secretary, during the Labour Party Conference at the Brighton Centre in Brighton, England, September 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow education secretary, shared a link on Twitter to an interview in the Independent with actress Maxine Peake, calling her “an absolute diamond.”

In the interview, Peake addressed the recent protests in the United States against racism following Floyd’s death in custody after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck.

“Systemic racism is a global issue,” Peake said. “The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services.”

A spokesman for the Israel Police said earlier this month “there is no tactic or protocol that calls to put pressure on the neck or airway.”

Following a series of condemnations from Jewish groups, a spokesperson for Starmer said

“The article Rebecca shared earlier today contained an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. As leader of the Labour Party, Keir has been clear that restoring trust with the Jewish community is a number one priority. Antisemitism takes many different forms and it is important that we all are vigilant against it,” a spokesperson for Starmer is quoted saying by British media.

Board of Deputies of British Jews thanks Labour chief for action on anti-Semitism

The Board of Deputies of British Jews praises Labour leader Keir Starmer for firing Shadow Education Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey after she shared an article linking Israel to the death of George Floyd, in what was attacked as promoting an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

The Board’s president, Marie van der Zyl, thanks Starmer for “backing his words with actions on antisemitism” and praises the party for improving how it deals with the matter after Jeremy Corbyn’s tumultuous tenure.

Demonstrators protest plan to build homes on popular Jerusalem nature site

Some 150 people, most of them teenagers, stage a noisy demonstration outside a meeting of the national planning committee in Jerusalem while it discusses an appeal against a decision by district planners last year to allow the construction of more than 5,000 residential units on a popular nature site just to the west of the capital.

White Ridge — Reches Lavan, in Hebrew — is home to a range of mammals and has a natural spring and pool that attracts many Jerusalemites, especially young people.

A decision is not expected for several weeks.

Demonstrators outside a meeting of the national planning committee call for the cancellation of plans to build on White Ridge, a popular nature site to the west of Jerusalem, June 25, 2020. (Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel)

— Sue Surkes

Education Ministry says 873 students, staff members have COVID-19

The Education Ministry says 873 students and staff members at schools and kindergartens have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the current wave of infections.

The ministry says 230 education institutions have been closed and 22,850 students and staff members have been sent into quarantine.

Government to approve strict virus restrictions in Bat Yam, municipality says

As coronavirus infections multiply in the central coastal city of Bat Yam, a municipality statement indicates that the government is about to approve strict restrictions in the city to stem the outbreak.

They include closing all beaches in Bat Yam between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., limiting gatherings of more than 10 people, and closing synagogues.

The measures will be in force for a week.

Task force says high number of serious COVID-19 cases indicates widespread outbreak

A new report by a military task force says the number of newly diagnosed COVID-19 patients in serious condition could be an indication of a significant rise in infections, Hebrew-language media reports.

The report says 67 new patients in serious condition have been identified in June. It says that is a strong indication that the current outbreak is more widespread than it seems, and includes many infected elderly people.

Palestinian workers entering Israel required to stay for 3 weeks due to outbreak

Most Palestinian workers arriving in Israel from the West Bank will need to remain in Israel for over two weeks in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) says.

“These measures aim to diminish movement between regions and curb the spread of the virus,” the military liaison to the Palestinians writes in a statement on its Arabic-language Facebook page.

Palestinian workers enter Israel through the Mitar checkpoint in the West Bank city of Hebron, on May 3, 2020. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Crossings for Palestinians into Israel will open on Sunday, June 28, to allow entry “in a concentrated manner.” Afterwards, workers will be barred from entering Israel from the West Bank until further notice. Workers will be permitted to return to the West Bank on July 16.

Health care workers, as well as workers with jobs in Atarot, an industrial area north of Jerusalem, will be permitted to enter and leave on a daily basis.

About 70,000 Palestinians are legally employed in Israel, according to labor rights group Kav l’Oved. An additional 30,000 are employed in Israeli settlements.

Many workers move back and forth between Israel and the West Bank on a daily basis. In March, the Supreme Court ruled that Israeli employers must provide adequate sleeping facilities to Palestinian workers to allow them to comply with the pandemic-related restrictions on movement.

— Aaron Boxerman

White House makes no final decision on annexation after 3 days of talks — report

The White House has made no final decision in a round of talks about whether to back Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank, the Reuters news agency reports, citing an unnamed US official.

The discussions have now concluded after three days, the report says.

It adds that US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and US envoy Avi Berkowitz are heading to Israel for more work.

Israel, UAE to announce cooperation on battling pandemic, Netanyahu says

In another sign of warming relations, the health ministers of Israel and the United Arab Emirates are about to announce cooperation in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says.

“This cooperation will be on research, development and technology, in areas that will improve the health security in the whole region,” Netanyahu says at a military ceremony, addressing newly-graduated IDF pilots.

“This is the result of continuous and intensive talks over the past months,” he says, according to a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office. “This will bring a blessing to many in the region.”

Gantz warns Hamas of ‘painful and forceful’ blow if it attacks

Defense Minister Benny Gantz responds to threats by the Hamas terror group to open a war if Israel annexes parts of the West Bank.

Speaking in front of newly-graduated IDF pilots, Gantz addresses the rulers of the Gaza Strip and says: “I suggest that the leaders of the movement remember that they will be the first to pay for their aggression if it happens.”

“The IDF is the strongest army in the region, and the price for any attempt to hurt Israeli civilians will be painful and forceful,” Gantz says.

Netanyahu, Gantz hint Israel behind recent strikes on Iranian sites in Syria

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both hint at Israel’s involvement in recent strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, speaking at a military ceremony.

“We will preempt and hit you, close or far away from our border,” Gantz says, addressing Iranian leaders.

Netanyahu says the government is “acting against our enemies’ attempts to develop precision missiles in Syria, Lebanon and [on] other fronts.”

US sanctions Iranian metal companies, merchants for funding Revolutionary Guards

The US Treasury Department unveils sanctions against the Iranian metallurgical sector, blacklisting several companies including subsidiaries of the country’s main steel producer.

In a statement, the Treasury says its Office of Foreign Assets Control is sanctioning four companies and four sales agents as part of a crackdown on companies believed to fund either Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps or the country’s “destabilizing behavior” worldwide.

“The Iranian regime continues to use profits from metals manufacturers and foreign sales agents to fund destabilizing behavior around the world,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says. “The United States remains committed to isolating key sectors of the Iranian economy until the revenues from such sectors are refocused toward the welfare of the Iranian people.”

The sanctions target five subsidiaries of Iran’s Mobarakeh Steel Company, which the Treasury says generates one percent of the country’s GDP. Four of the sanctioned are sales agents operating in either Germany or the United Arab Emirates, while one is a manufacturing subsidiary based in Iran.

Also targeted are three aluminum, steel and iron producers in Iran, which the Treasury says contributes to billions of dollars in sales and exports every year.

The Treasury also sanctions a company based in China and Hong Kong for supplying graphite to Iran.

— AFP

Health Ministry says 668 virus cases in 24 hours, nearing record daily tally

The Health Ministry announces 668 new coronavirus cases confirmed over the past 24 hours, nearing the country’s all-time record.

One new death brings the toll to 309.

The total cases now stand at 22,400, the ministry says, including 6,084 active cases.

Of them, 47 are in serious condition, including 29 on ventilators. Another 52 are in moderate condition, and the rest have mild or no symptoms.

The ministry says 17,697 COVID-19 tests were conducted yesterday, and 11,044 tests were done today by 7 p.m.

The rate of positive results is up to 2.6% yesterday and 2.8% today.

Fashion giant Fox accused of ‘piggish behavior’ for paying dividend despite losses

Fashion chain Fox is paying its shareholders a dividend of NIS 49 million ($14.2 million) for the first quarter of 2020, despite losses caused by the coronavirus crisis, Hebrew-language media reports.

The news comes after Fox demanded and received NIS 40 million from the government to compensate for the losses.

Zehava Galon, the former leader of the left-wing Meretz party, accuses Fox CEO Harel Wiesel of “piggish behavior” in a Channel 13 interview.

A quarterly report says Fox lost NIS 30.2 million in the first quarter of this year, compared with losing NIS 7.2 million in the same time in 2019.

IDF says annexation will cause Palestinian intifada, Mossad disagrees — report

Discussions between security chiefs have revealed deep disagreements between various top officials regarding the consequences of annexation of West Bank land, Channel 12 reports.

The unsourced report says IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi has warned the move could cause violent clashes in the West Bank, a wave of shooting terror attacks and even suicide bombings, in what would constitute a third Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

He also says the move could lead to a confrontation with the Hamas terror group in Gaza.

But Mossad chief Yossi Cohen reportedly disagrees, says he doesn’t believe annexation would necessarily cause violent reactions and dismisses the IDF estimation.

Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman expressed a view that is closer to that of the IDF, but said he doesn’t see a Palestinian interest in “breaking the rules of the game,” the report says.

Health Ministry said recommending nationwide restrictions; ministers to convene

The so-called coronavirus cabinet is expected to convene today or tomorrow to decide whether to approve partial lockdowns in more cities and communities identified as virus hotspots, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The Health Ministry is recommending reinstating sweeping nationwide restrictions, the report says.

Dershowitz to sue Netflix for including sexual assault claim by Epstein victim in series

Prominent US lawyer Alan Dershowitz says he will be suing Netflix for including in its new series “Filthy Rich” Virginia Roberts Giuffre’s claim that Jeffrey Epstein trafficked her and had her have sex with Dershowitz.

The lawyer says the streaming service included the claim despite knowing it was a “lie,” Channel 12 reports.

Alan Dershowitz, right, represented sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in a controversial 2008 plea deal and used to send him copies of his books to review before publication (JTA illustration by Laura E. Adkins)

US watchdogs: Trump’s Independence Day gala in 2019 cost $13 million

US government watchdogs say US President Trump’s Fourth of July gala in the country’s capital last year cost taxpayers more than $13 million, twice as much as previous celebrations.

Trump’s desire to have Department of Defense military vehicles participate helped drive up the cost, according to the Government Accountability Office. The president’s attendance also increased expenses.

Some other costs, such as for military flyovers of the National Mall, were not included in the estimate, the report says.

Trump’s military-focused Independence Day event went beyond the traditional concert and fireworks of years past.

The GAO estimates that holiday celebrations from 2016 to 2018 cost between $6 million and $7 million annually.

— AP

Netanyahu, ministers to declare more areas as restricted zones

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will convene the so-called coronavirus cabinet in a few minutes, the Prime Minister’s Office says in a statement.

The ministerial body will declare more areas as restricted zones due to high coronavirus infection rates, the statement says.

Jordan’s parliament speaker urges immediate steps against Israel over annexation

Atef Tarawneh, the speaker of the Jordanian parliament, urges his country’s government to take “escalation steps” against Israel “today,” according to local reports.

He says the action should be taken before the Jewish state makes a decision on the annexation of parts of the West Bank.

Up to 8% of US population has been infected with virus — CDC antibody survey

Between five and eight percent of the total US population has experienced infection with the new coronavirus, a top health body says, warning pregnant women are at a higher risk of getting severe COVID-19.

The estimate for infections by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is based on nationally representative antibody test surveys, which suggest that the count of confirmed cases represents only about a tenth of the real figure.

The US population is 329.8 million, and the true number of people who are or have previously been infected is between 16.5 and 26.4 million people, according to the estimate.

The infection figures came as Texas, one of the fastest states to ease its shutdown, halts steps to reopen its economy after a sharp rise in recent cases.

The number of new coronavirus infections is approaching record daily levels in the US, with more than 35,900 cases recorded in the past 24 hours, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

— AFP

IDF Military Intelligence chief, other commanders to enter virus quarantine

Military Intelligence chief Tamir Hayman and an unspecified number of other senior intelligence commanders will enter quarantine after being in proximity last week of an IDF officer who tested positive for the coronavirus, the military says.

Maj. Gen. Tamir Hayman, head of IDF Military Intelligence, speaks at a conference in Tel Aviv on June 5, 2019. (Yissachar Ruas)

Hayman and the other officers will be in quarantine until next week and “will continue to maintain a regular schedule as much as possible,” an IDF statement says.

All of the officers feel well and aren’t displaying symptoms of COVID-19, according to the IDF, and are set to soon be tested for the coronavirus.

— Alexander Fulbright

Police dish out 2,752 fines over past day to non-mask wearers

Police say they handed out 2,752 fines over the past day to Israelis not wearing face masks in public areas.

The government has recently ordered police to increase enforcement of the public health order requiring people to wear masks in public, as part of measures to contain the recent jump in new coronavirus infections.

Ministers also approved earlier this week hiking the fine for not wearing a mask from NIS 200 ($58) to NIS 500 ($145).

Three fines were also given to Israelis who violated quarantine and to two people living in a “restricted zone” for leaving their place of residence.

Meretz leader: Police minister using cops ‘to suppress’ anti-Netanyahu protests

The head of the left-wing Meretz party is accusing Public Security Minister Amir Ohana of using police “as a tool to suppress” protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“But this won’t help him, because freedom of speech and freedom of protest are foundational principles in a democratic system and the police must protect them,” MK Nitzan Horowitz tweets.

Horowitz is referring to the arrest of several protesters yesterday during an anti-corruption protest outside Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem. Police said the demonstrators blocked the road and disturbed public order, while Ohana, a close political ally of Netanyahu’s, denied the arrests were political.

The Meretz chief also calls for the release of three demonstrators who police continue to hold after they refused to be released under certain conditions, among them staying away from the Prime Minister’s Residence.

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Israel said expecting ICC ruling on jurisdiction in war crimes probe within days

An unnamed Israeli diplomatic official is quoted by multiple Hebrew-language news outlets as saying Israel expects a decision in the coming days by the International Criminal Court on whether it has jurisdiction in a war crimes probe against Israel and the Palestinians.

The reports say Israel has began preparing for such an announcement, which could come as early as this weekend. The response is being overseen by a team including officials from the National Security Council, the justice and foreign ministries, and the international department at the military prosecution.

Israel could have submitted a response to the ICC on the matter but chose not to, “out of a fundamental view that the court has no authority to carry out the investigation,” the official is quoted as saying.