Israel set to mark its first virtual Holocaust Remembrance Day
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Unity government deal guarantees vote on West Bank annexation

According to coalition agreement signed by Netanyahu and Gantz, all government legislation will need agreement from both sides, but bill to apply sovereignty can’t be blocked

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before a map of the Jordan Valley, vowing to extend Israeli sovereignty there if reelected, during a speech in Ramat Gan on September 10, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before a map of the Jordan Valley, vowing to extend Israeli sovereignty there if reelected, during a speech in Ramat Gan on September 10, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

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

Closure on Jerusalem neighborhoods, Bnei Brak not expected to be renewed

Health officials and ministers will hold a meeting at 10 a.m. to discuss whether to renew closure rules in the city of Bnei Brak and various neighborhoods in Jerusalem that had seen high rates of infection.

The regulations expired last night at midnight. The authorities are not expected to recommend further action after encouraging figures show the virus spread has slowed down considerably in these predominantly ultra-Orthodox areas, and after local officials pledge to move the remaining sick residents to isolation hotels, according to a Health Ministry statement from Sunday night.

Many of the rules related to Bnei Brak were already lifted last week, though public transportation was not allowed to resume.

The residents of Bnei Brak and the Jerusalem neighborhoods are now under the same rules as the rest of the country, which bar them from venturing more than 100 meters from their homes except to purchase food and supplies or go to work.

Israel set to mark its first virtual Holocaust Remembrance Day

Israel on Monday night and Tuesday will solemnly mark its annual Holocaust Remembrance Day, though all events and ceremonies will be moved online due to the pandemic.

The annual ceremony at the Yad Vashem memorial has been pre-recorded.

In lieu of in-person survivor testimony, the museum is directing Israelis to peruse its digital resources on the Holocaust and many Israelis are expected to attend videoconference testimonies later in the evening.

Holocaust survivors have been among the 172 fatalities of the virus in Israel, including Aryeh Even, the country’s first death from the pandemic, and Eliezer Grynfeld, 96, who greeted Pope Francis at Yad Vashem in 2014.

China reports 12 new virus cases, none of them in Wuhan

China reports 12 new coronavirus cases, eight of them brought from outside the country, and no new deaths.

Another 992 people are being isolated and monitored for suspected cases or positive tests without showing symptoms. Wuhan, once the epicenter of the global pandemic, reports no new cases. China has now reported a total of 4,632 deaths and 82,747 cases.

AP

At least 20 employees of Afghan presidential palace contract virus

At least 20 employees at Afghanistan’s presidential palace have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a senior government official who asks to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to comment on the subject.

It isn’t clear whether President Ashraf Ghani had been in contact with any of the employees or whether he had been tested himself. The presidential palace has refused to comment.

Ghani has reportedly been self-isolating, although he still meets daily with some senior officials. At 70 and a cancer survivor, Ghani is considered in the higher risk category.

Afghanistan has reported only 993 positive cases even as the International Office of Migration, which monitors the movement of refugees, says more than 200,000 Afghans have returned from Iran in the last two months. Iran is one of the hardest-hit countries in the region with more than 82,000 confirmed cases and over 5,000 deaths.

AP

New research suggests many have had coronavirus with no symptoms

A flood of new research suggests that far more people have had the coronavirus without any symptoms, fueling hope that it will turn out to be much less lethal than originally feared.

While that’s clearly good news, it also means it’s impossible to know who around you may be contagious. That complicates decisions about returning to work, school and normal life.

In the last week, reports of silent infections have come from a homeless shelter in Boston, a US Navy aircraft carrier, pregnant women at a New York hospital, several European countries and California.

The head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 25% of infected people might not have symptoms. The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Hyten, thinks it may be as high as 60% to 70% among military personnel.

None of these numbers can be fully trusted because they’re based on flawed and inadequate testing, says Dr. Michael Mina of Harvard’s School of Public Health.

Collectively, though, they suggest “we have just been off the mark by huge, huge numbers” for estimating total infections, he says.

AP

Bereaved parents beg Netanyahu not to close military cemeteries on Memorial Day

Parents of fallen IDF soldiers are pleading with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow them access to military cemeteries on Israel’s Memorial Day next week.

The Defense Ministry is weighing closing the cemeteries to all visitors over fears of a virus outbreak at the sites, which are generally full on Memorial Day.

“Banning bereaved parents from going to the graves of their sons on Memorial Day is cruel,” Irit Shachar, whose son Omri was killed in a car accident in 2012 during his military service, tells Army Radio. “I am in favor of canceling the entry to others, but I can’t [not go], it would just be the death of me.”

The head of the Yad L’Banim organization told Channel 12 on Sunday he’s received hundreds of complaints from bereaved parents over the government’s proposal, including some who threatened to clash with security forces guarding the cemeteries.

 

Netanyahu and Gantz meeting at PM’s residence for coalition talks

In a joint Likud-Blue and White statement, the political parties say Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz are meeting at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem for coalition talks.

No further information on the progress of the negotiations is provided.

Israel sends condolences to Canada over deadly Nova Scotia gun rampage

Israel sends condolences to Canada after the deadliest shooting rampage in its history kills 16 people in Nova Scotia.

“I send my condolences to the families of the victims and to the Canadian people,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz says in a statement.

The shooter, disguised as a police officer, gunned down 16 people in their homes and set fires.

A police officer was among those killed. Several bodies were found inside and outside one home in the small, rural town of Portapique, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) north of Halifax — what police called the first scene. Bodies were also found at other locations. The assault began late Saturday, and authorities believe the shooter may have targeted his first victims but then began attacking randomly.

The gunman was also killed.

with AP

Independence Day flyover canceled due to pandemic

The air force’s Independence Day flyover, a staple of the annual celebrations, has been scrapped to prevent gatherings on the holiday, which begins next Tuesday night.

But four planes will fly over the country’s hospitals to salute medical staff fighting the virus, Army Radio says.

People watch the Israeli Air Force’s annual flyover for Independence Day in Jerusalem, May 9, 2019. (Yonathan Sindel/Flash90)

Ya’alon: We won’t vote for anti-Netanyahu bills, Gantz just using it as leverage

Telem leader Moshe Ya’alon, a former Benny Gantz ally in Blue and White, says he won’t support proposed legislation that aims to disqualify Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a government, saying the bills are merely a pressure tactic aimed at securing a final coalition deal between Blue and White and Netanyahu’s Likud.

Gantz, who is also interim Knesset speaker, has threatened to advance legislation that would prevent anyone facing criminal charges from forming a government, unless Netanyahu agrees to a coalition deal.

He seemingly has the support of the majority of the Knesset for these measures, though he has yet to take any steps toward advancing them.

Netanyahu faces bribery, fraud, and breach of trust charges.

“These laws are too important to be used as a political game,” Ya’alon tweets, addressing Gantz. “The only way is for you to stop negotiating with Netanyahu. You won’t use our votes to join an immunity and corruption government.”

Ya’alon’s Telem was part of Gantz’s Blue and White alliance before its dissolution. Two of his rightist lawmakers, Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser, have broken ranks to form their own faction. Ya’alon is a former Likud minister who served as defense chief under Netanyahu, until his resignation in 2016, when his job was given to Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman.

Liberman on Sunday urged Gantz to drop coalition talks and advance the anti-Netanyahu legislation.

Deal or no deal? Blue and White sources put out mixed signals

Blue and White sources tell the Kan public broadcaster a final coalition deal won’t imminently be signed.

Gantz did not go to the Prime Minister’s Residence to sign the deal, but is still working on bridging the gaps, the sources say.

The Blue and White leader had previously said he won’t go back to the premier’s residence unless Netanyahu agrees to sign.

But officials in the party tell the Ynet news site that a coalition agreement could be signed within the hour.

“If there will be a mutual desire to close [the deal], we can reach an agreement within an hour,” the source is quoted as saying.

Virus death toll climbs to 173, with 13,654 infections

The virus death toll in Israel has climbed to 173, the Health Ministry says.

The latest fatality is not immediately identified.

The number of infections rises to 13,654, an increase of 163 since last night.

The ministry says 150 people are currently in serious condition, 114 of them on ventilators.

Another 134 are in moderate condition.

Most (9,326) are displaying mild symptoms, and 3,872 have recovered.

 

Patients at virus hotels said breaking IDF rules, smuggling in pot and alcohol

The Home Front Command has started conducting searches in hotel rooms at the Dan Panorama in Tel Aviv, after some patients housed at the virus isolation facility are caught sneaking pot and alcohol, according to Channel 12.

“We lowered our profile, but there are drug parties here and we are careful not to film anyone so that they don’t get in trouble or arrested,” one unnamed patient is quoted as saying, adding that guards have started asking questions and searching rooms.

It’s unclear why alcohol is banned at the facility.

Netanyahu-Gantz meeting ends without agreement

The meeting between Netanyahu and Gantz has ended without a coalition agreement, Hebrew reports say.

The two are still at odds over the judicial appointments committee, according to the reports.

Heading to Knesset, Gantz expected to green-light anti-Netanyahu legislation

Knesset Speaker Gantz is now heading to the parliament, following a meeting with Netanyahu that failed to yield coalition agreements.

According to Hebrew reports, Gantz will enable proposed legislation that would ban Netanyahu from forming a government to move forward.

The Blue and White leader has held up the bills until now as he negotiated with the Likud leader, even though he seemingly had a majority in parliament to approve them.

Now, it seems, they’ll be put on the agenda.

Judge who mocked sex convict rabbi with ‘Mentos’ quip is reprimanded

A judge who mocked a sex offender rabbi accused of defrauding his sick and elderly followers out of millions of shekels with miracle cures, including the administering of candy to cancer patients, has been “severely reprimanded” for her courtroom conduct.

The incident occurred during a remand hearing for Eliezer Berland, who was arrested in February for alleged widespread fraud involving cash payments for promises of miraculous recoveries.

Judge Sharon Lary-Bavly shot back, “Give him a Mentos,” referring to his touted cure, as presented in the court documents.

The widely reported quip was praised on social media but earned the disapproval of the Supreme Court president, who ordered an inquiry into Lary-Bavly’s conduct.

Singapore virus cases surge to 8,000

Singapore’s virus infections shoot up to nearly 8,000 after a record 1,426 cases were reported Monday.

The tiny city-state now has the highest number of cases in Southeast Asia at 7,984, a massive surge from just 200 on March 15. Authorities say most of the new cases were again linked to foreign workers, who account for over a million of Singapore’s workforce.

More than 200,000 low-wage workers from Asia live in tightly packed dormitories that became virus hotspots after they were overlooked earlier by the government. Over half of the registered 43 dormitories have been declared “isolated areas” with workers quarantined, while several thousands have been moved out to alternative sites to reduce crowding.

The government has said cases are expected to rise amid ongoing testing at the dorms, but hope that a partial lockdown until May 4, mandatory wearing of masks and strict social distancing measures will help curb the spread of the virus.

AP

White House and Congress expect to clinch deal on virus aid

The Trump administration and Congress expect an agreement Monday on an aid package of up to $450 billion to boost a small-business loan program that has run out of money and add funds for hospitals and COVID-19 testing.

As talks continue, US President Donald Trump says there’s a “good chance” of reaching a bipartisan agreement with Democrats.

“We are very close to a deal,” Trump says Sunday at the White House.

Along with the small business boost, Trump says the negotiators were looking at “helping our hospitals,” particularly hard-hit rural health care providers.

The Senate is scheduled for a pro forma session Monday, but no vote has been set.

The House announces it could meet as soon as Wednesday for a vote on the pending package, according to a schedule update from Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat of Maryland.

AP

Hard-hit Iran begins reopening economy after virus outbreak

Iran begins opening intercity highways and major shopping centers to stimulate its sanctions-choked economy, gambling that it has brought under control its coronavirus outbreak — one of the worst in the world — even as some fear it could lead to a second wave of infections

Stores from high-end malls to the meandering alleyways of Tehran’s historic Grand Bazaar open their doors, though the government limits their working hours until 6 p.m. Restaurants, gyms and other locations remain closed, however.

There are still lingering questions over Iran’s outbreak and the safety of those returning to work. Taxi drivers partition their seats from the customers with plastic shields and wore masks, having seen colleagues sickened and killed by the virus and the COVID-19 illness it causes.

“We, the taxi drivers, are at the highest risk than anybody else because we are constantly in touch with people,” cab driver Nemat Hassanzadeh says. “Despite that, we have no choice but to work because we cannot afford to sleep at home and not to work with these high prices. … I am a tenant and need the money to pay the monthly rent and also pay off my car loan.”

Iran’s outbreak has killed over 5,000 people in over 80,000 reported cases, though even Iran’s parliament suggests the death toll is nearly double that and overall cases remain vastly underreported. Deaths and new cases continue to be reported.

AP

Bnei Brak, Deir al-Asad have highest infection rates per capita

According to Health Ministry data, the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak continues to have the highest coronavirus infection rates in the country per 100,000 residents.

The ultra-Orthodox city has 1,202 infections per 100,000 residents (2,349 actual cases). It’s followed by Deir al-Asad in northern Israel with 99 cases, a rate of 796 for 100,000 residents.

They are followed by Elad, Kochav Yaakov, Kiryat Ye’arim, Kfar Chabad, Efrat, Mizpe Ramon, Beitar Illit and Modiin Illit.

Jerusalem, which has the largest number of cases (2,672), is in 15th place, when ranked per capita.

Likud: Unity talks with Blue and White ongoing

Likud says the unity talks with Benny Gantz’s Blue and White are ongoing.

The comment comes as Gantz is believed to soon begin advancing legislation against Netanyahu.

Doctors perform C-section on sedated woman seriously ill from virus

A 27-year-old woman with coronavirus gave birth at a hospital in northern Israel — while sedated and on a ventilator.

Doctors at Ziv Medical Center performed a C-section on the woman, who was in her 32nd week of pregnancy, according to Channel 12.

The baby was born healthy and transferred to a PICU.

The mother’s condition continues to be serious.

The baby’s father, who also has the virus, is hospitalized in the same ward.

189,500 Holocaust survivors live in Israel, treasury says

On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the treasury says there are 189,500 Holocaust survivors living in Israel.

Some 31,000 are over the age of 90, while more than 800 of them are over 100 years old.

The average age of the survivors is 83.9.

Italy mulls psychological testing of lockdown impact

Italian scientists want the government to conduct psychological tests on a sample of the population to determine how long people can stay confined to their homes, a report says.

The Corriere della Sera newspaper says scientists want to understand how long Italians “are able to endure a lockdown” in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will announce a new set of social guidelines this week that could include the tests, the report says.

Italy entered into a progressively more restrictive lockdown over the first half of March that has since been replicated by most European nations.

AFP

Experts: Coronvirus brings spike in anti-Semitic sentiments

Israeli researchers report that the global coronavirus outbreak has sparked a rise in anti-Semitic expression blaming Jews for the spread of the disease and the economic recession it has caused.

The findings, which come in an annual report by Tel Aviv University researchers on anti-Semitism, show an 18% spike in attacks against Jews last year. The report warns that the pandemic has threatened to amp up incitement even more.

Although they do not include 2020 statistics, the researchers say the hatred has come from sources as varied as right-wing European politicians, ultra-conservative American pastors, anti-Zionist intellectuals and Iranian state authorities.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant rise in accusations that Jews, as individuals and as a collective, are behind the spread of the virus or are directly profiting from it,” says Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, an umbrella group representing Jewish communities across the continent. “The language and imagery used clearly identifies a revival of the medieval ‘blood libels’ when Jews were accused of spreading disease, poisoning wells or controlling economies.”

Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry releases its report every year on the eve of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, which begins Monday at sundown.

AP

Netanyahu speaks to falafel seller facing ruin from pandemic

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to Yuval Carmi, a falafel store owner in southern Israel whose story of financial ruin amid the pandemic turned him overnight into a symbol of the economic toll of the virus.

Carmi’s tearful account brought a Channel 13 television crew to tears and his story was covered by numerous media outlets on Sunday.

“I saw you yesterday [on TV] and you touched my heart,” Netanyahu says in the phone call. “And I’ll help you. We’re going to help everyone.”

The prime minister says there have been difficulties in distributing state funds to businesses but says the government will help with bailouts.

Yuval Carmi, a falafel store owner in Ashdod who has been hit hard by the pandemic, April 19. 2020. (screen capture: Channel 13)

Kissing, touching banned as iconic Australia soap opera resumes production

The long-running Australian soap opera “Neighbours” returned from a three-week production break on Monday and plans to resume full production next week with new coronavirus safeguards.

“Neighbours” production company Fremantle Australia says in a statement on Monday it is one of the few TV dramas in the English-speaking world to resume production during the pandemic.

“Neighbours” is Australia’s longest-running TV series, first screening in 1985. It has been sold to more than 60 countries and has a larger following in Britain than Australia.

Its Melbourne studio will be separated into three scene areas with no crews allowed to cross between the areas, Fremantle said.

“Creative editing will be employed to ensure this has minimal impact on screen,” Fremantle says.

Fremantle expects that if there is a COVID-19 infection on set, contact tracing will be easy due to social distancing measures.

“We’re going to assume if someone does get sick, we don’t have to shut the entire shoot. We just close that group and carry on,” Fremantle chief executive Chris Oliver tells Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Scenes involving kissing and holding hands will not be allowed due to Australian social distancing rules.

Communications and Arts Minister Paul Fletcher welcomes the drama’s continuation.

“I certainly wish them well and there is no doubt that the arts sector has been hit very hard by social distancing,” Fletcher says.

AP

Opposition MK: Gantz must quit as speaker to get our votes on Netanyahu bills

Meretz MK Yair Golan says his left-wing party won’t support bills that aim to unseat Netanyahu unless Blue and White’s Benny Gantz quits as Knesset speaker.

“If Benny Gantz wants our support for this aforementioned batch of bills, he should relinquish the position of Knesset speaker to a seasoned and experienced lawmaker from the [left-wing] bloc who isn’t tilting toward the government of corruption and waste. This would be the first step in restoring lost confidence,” he tweets.

Gantz has yet to officially approve the legislation targeting Netanyahu, according to a Knesset agenda for Monday.

Amid pandemic, MKs cleared to join committee meetings by videoconference

Lawmakers sick with the coronavirus, in quarantine, or who have preexisting illnesses that put them at risk from the virus can now attend parliamentary committee meetings and votes from afar.

The Knesset Arrangements Committee approves the decision, but chair Avi Nissenkorn stresses it’s for “exceptional cases and is not a blanket approval” for all lawmakers who want to videoconference in.

Spain daily virus death toll drops under 400

A total of 399 people died of COVID-19 in Spain over the past 24 hours, down from 410 a day earlier, the government says.

The latest figures also shows the number of cases soaring to 200,210 in Spain, which has suffered the third-highest number of virus deaths in the world after the United States and Italy.

AFP

Coronavirus patient, 45, wakes up after 29 days; is now breathing on his own

A 45-year-old man with the coronavirus has woken up after nearly a month in sedation at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon.

The man, who had been in serious condition, has started breathing on his own, 29 days after he was put on a ventilator and sedated.

Parents seethe as teachers union head opposes extending school through July

Parents are fuming at the head of the teachers’ union, after Yaffa Ben David insists teachers will not work in July, despite the Education Ministry’s directives.

In a heated television interview on Sunday, which has since gone viral, Ben David said: “We will not add a single day at our expense.”

Schools have been closed since March due to the pandemic and are expected to reopen before the school year ends. The Education Ministry has said it will extend the year through July and break for summer vacation in August.

Many teachers have continued to teach online in the interim. Teachers receive salaries through the summer months, which they say compensates for the poor pay and rigors of teaching in the remaining 10 months of the year. In Ben David’s view, asking teachers to work in the summer is tantamount to having them work for free.

But others, including interviewers Yonit Levi and Keren Marciano, accuse her of self-seeking and sabotaging the state’s efforts to rehabilitate the economy as parents will not be able to go back to work if schools aren’t extended.

Her comments draw widespread criticism on social media.

“I know teachers and educational workers from up close,” says Likud MK Yifat Shasha Biton on Twitter, who is housing minister. “Most of them are moral, dedicated people who are committed to the best interests of the students and the success of the system. The shameful, aggressive and divorced from reality show by the person who is meant to represent them harms them and hurts their reputation.”

But Ben David also receives dozens of supportive comments on her Facebook page from fellow teachers.

British hospitals slam government over shortages of medical equipment

Hospital organizations are slamming Britain’s government for its failure to give medical staff appropriate clothing and equipment to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.

With so many promises dashed, Chris Hopson of the NHS Providers tells the BBC there is “relatively low confidence” that a shipment of 400,000 surgical gowns due to arrive last weekend from Turkey will arrive Monday.

The NHS Confederation, which represents organizations across healthcare, describes the failed delivery at a time of critically low stocks as making “a difficult situation worse.”

The confederation’s CEO Niall Dickson, says it “would have been better had the government not made the announcement in the first place.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says he’s hopeful “that later today that flight will take off and we will get those gowns.’’

British medical personnel have been arguing for weeks that the ongoing debacle in getting the right equipment to the right people is forcing doctors to put their own lives in danger to treat the sick and hurting medical care across the board.

AP

TV report: Blue and White, Likud resolve differences, ready to sign unity deal

A television report says the final disagreement between Blue and White and Likud, on the judicial appointments panel, has been resolved, clearing the way for a unity government deal.

The report, which quotes “sources close to the negotiations,” says the deal could soon be signed.

Blue and White set to convene members on coalition talks

Other Hebrew media outlets are also reporting that the gaps in the coalition negotiations have been bridged, citing Likud sources.

The Kan public broadcaster says Blue and White is denying the claim, but later quotes sources in the party as saying the issue is “resolvable.”

There is no official statement on the issue.

According to Kan, Blue and White is set to convene its members in an hour for an update on coalition talks.

Global virus death toll climbs to 165,216

The worldwide death toll from the novel coronavirus pandemic rises to 165,216, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT.

More than 2,403,410 declared cases have been registered in 193 countries and territories since the epidemic first emerged in China in December.

Of these cases, at least 537,700 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 the most serious cases.

In the United States, now the worst-hit country, the death toll stands at 40,683 with 759,786 infections. At least 70,980 patients have recovered.

Italy is the next most affected country with 23,660 deaths and 178,972 confirmed infections.

It is followed by Spain with 20,852 fatalities and 200,210 confirmed infections, France with 19,718 deaths and 152,894 infections and Britain with 16,060 deaths and 120,067 cases.

China — excluding Hong Kong and Macau — has to date declared 4,632 deaths and 82,747 cases.

Europe has listed 1,183,307 cases and 104,028 deaths; the US and Canada together have 793,169 cases with 42,212 deaths; Asia 166,453 cases with 7,030 deaths; the Middle East 126,793 cases with 5,664 deaths; Latin America and the Caribbean 103,857 cases with 5,068 deaths; Africa 21,957 cases with 1,124 deaths; and Oceania 7,879 cases with 90 deaths.

AFP

Norwegian Air subsidiaries file for bankruptcy, cutting 4,700 staff

Norwegian Air says four of its subsidiaries in Sweden and Denmark had filed for bankruptcy, affecting some 4,700 pilots and crew, as a result of the economic impact of the new coronavirus.

“It is heartbreaking that our Swedish and Danish pilot and cabin crew subsidiaries now are forced to file for bankruptcy, and I’m truly sorry for the consequences this will have for our colleagues,” Jacob Schram, chief executive of Norwegian Air, says in a statement.

AFP

French foreign minister: Virus exacerbating global diplomatic rift

France’s foreign minister says that the coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating diplomatic “fractures,” heightening US-China rivalry and weakening multilateralism.

“It seems to me that we are witnessing an amplification of the fractures that have been undermining the international order for years. The pandemic is the continuation, by different means, of the struggle between powers,” Jean-Yves Le Drian tells Le Monde newspaper.

“My fear is that the world after [the outbreak] will strongly resemble the world before, but worse.”

— AFP

China rejects Australia’s call for probe into virus response

China rejects Australia’s call for a probe examining the global response to the coronavirus pandemic — including Beijing’s early handling of the outbreak.

Washington and several allies have accused China of failing to adequately respond to the viral disease threat in the weeks after it was first detected in the central city of Wuhan late last year.

But Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang says the accusations disrespect “the Chinese people’s tremendous efforts and sacrifices” in fighting the contagion.

“Any question about China’s transparency in the prevention and control of epidemic situation is not in line with facts,” Geng tells a regular press briefing in response to a question about Australian foreign minister Marise Payne, who a day earlier said her country would “insist” on the probe into the response by Beijing and the WHO.

— AFP

US oil price plunges almost 40% to 22-year low

US oil dives to nearly $11 per barrel, the lowest level since 1998, extending a dizzying plunge to almost 40 percent on abundant supplies and virus-sapped demand.

Just before 1200 GMT, the US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for May delivery tanked to $11.31 per barrel, as the market was hit also by technical trade ahead of the contract’s expiration later today.

— AFP

Israeli cybersecurity firm warns of increase in online scams during virus crisis

Israeli cybersecurity firm Check Point warns of a recent sharp rise in online scams attempting to take advantage of people seeking financial relief amid the coronavirus crisis.

Many of these scams involved phishing through web pages designed to look government websites that require people to fill in their personal information, according to a report by Check Point.

The company says there has been a large uptick since March in domain registrations of websites relating to coronavirus stimulus packages and financial relief, dozens of which it flagged as malicious and hundreds more as suspicious.

Police report fewer fines for breaking virus regulations

The Israel Police reports that officers have given out 1,277 fines over the past 24-hours to Israelis breaking social distancing regulations aimed at stemming the coronavirus outbreak.

The number represents a dramatic drop in fines from last week when around 3,000 were given a day.

Patients at virus hotels said avoiding tests to prevent being kicked out

The Home Front Command is seeking to force some patients at the virus isolation facility it’s running at the Dan Panorama in Tel Aviv to take coronavirus tests after several have been avoiding them in order to remain at the hotel for longer, Channel 12 news reports.

Earlier today, the channel reported that rooms were being searched after some patients were caught sneaking in marijuana and alcohol.

Patients at the hotel, and other in Jerusalem, are mostly not showing symptoms of the virus but are being housed in isolation to prevent spreading the virus.

Abbas orders slight easing of virus lockdowns for Palestinians

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas orders an easing of some lockdown measures that have been applied in the West Bank as part of efforts to contain an outbreak of the coronavirus among the Palestinain population, according to Ma’an news.

Abbas, however, did not specify what restrictions would be lifted, the report says.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh says at the meeting that, following Abbas’s instructions, the government will announce what measures it will take while striking a balance between public interest and health.

Police not yet giving fines for not wearing masks as they wait for new forms

Police are not yet giving out fines to Israelis failing to wear face masks as ordered by the government due to officers not yet having received the form for giving out a NIS 200 fine, Channel 12 news reports.

Earlier today, the Israel Police reported that officers have given out 1,277 fines over the past 24 hours to Israelis breaking social distancing regulations aimed at stemming the coronavirus outbreak.

The number represents a dramatic drop in fines from last week when around 3,000 were given a day.

Swastikas spray-painted on Florida synagogue

Police release images from a surveillance video showing a young white man spray-painting swastikas on a synagogue in Sarasota, Florida.

The vandalism to the front doors of Temple Emanu-El in Sarasota caused about $5,000 in damages, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. The incident occurred on April 2 after midnight.

PLEASE SHARE: Detectives are attempting to identify the suspect responsible for vandalizing a Jewish temple in Sarasota….

פורסם על ידי ‏‎Sarasota County (FL) Sheriff's Office‎‏ ב- יום שישי, 17 באפריל 2020

Religious services and programming at the Reform synagogue have been canceled due to the coronavirus crisis. The synagogue, in the southwestern part of Florida, was closed at the time of the incident.

The synagogue says in a post on its Facebook page that it is grateful for the outpouring of community support in the wake of the attack.

— JTA

Diaspora minister: We need to prepare for a wave of aliyah due to coronavirus

Diaspora Minister Tzipi Hotovely, speaking with the heads of the Nefesh B’Nefesh organization which encourages Jewish immigration from the US to Israel, says Israel must prepare for an influx due to the coronavirus crisis.

“World Jewry is facing a new reality following the coronavirus crisis. There is an awakening among the communities and we must be prepared for a wave of aliyah to Israel, to reach out and give a warm home to every Jew during such a difficult time,” she says.

25,000 Israeli businesses could close as a result of coronavirus crisis — forecast

Israeli information services company CofaceBDI warns that some 25,000 businesses in Israel could be forced to close down by the end of the year as a result of the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

CofaceBDI forecast that the closures would come in two waves, the first of which would be felt in the coming weeks, Channel 12 news reports.

Business in sectors already reeling from the shuttering of large swaths of the economy, such as tourism, travel and leisure, would be among the first to close, the company says. It also includes in the first wave retailers that don’t sell food or do online deliveries, wholesalers and companies that are export dependent.

The second wave will include companies involved in real estate and industry, according to CofaceBDI.

“Effectively the second wave is influenced both by the collapse [of businesses] in the first wave and the decline in the public’s purchasing power, the number of unemployed, faulty transfer of payments, etc.,” the firm’s CEO Eyal Yanai tells Channel 12.

Violent anti-Semitic crimes worldwide reached 5-year record in 2019

The number of anti-Semitic violent crimes documented worldwide last year rose to 456 cases, an 18% increase over 2018 and the highest tally since 2014, the European Jewish Congress says in the Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide 2019.

More than a quarter of the cases that are classified in the report as violent were threats. The rest involved actual physical violence, including 242 cases of vandalism, 21 cases of arson and 62 assaults on people, with about a quarter of them involving a weapon.

The data were not aggregated according to country, though the report does include many Western countries and countries with large Jewish populations.

“Not only have the numbers increased substantially but the worst types of attacks grew, which should be extremely disturbing for leaders and authorities around the world,” EJC President Moshe Kantor says in a statement.

He adds that the coronavirus pandemic is changing the way in which anti-Semitism is being expressed.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant rise in accusations that Jews, as individuals and as a collective, are behind the spread of the virus or are directly profiting from it,” Kantor said. “The language and imagery used clearly identifies a revival of the medieval ‘blood libels’ when Jews were accused of spreading disease, poisoning wells or controlling economies.”

— JTA

US Holocaust museum to hold virtual remembrance ceremony

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum will hold a virtual ceremony to honor victims and survivors of the Holocaust.

The ceremony, scheduled for 11 a.m. EST tomorrow, which is Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, will be simulcast on Facebook and YouTube.

The program, which will be prerecorded, will include remarks made by Elie Wiesel, the late author, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor who was the founding chairman of the museum, from his speech at the 2009 Days of Remembrance ceremony. It also will feature an address by Benjamin Ferencz, the last surviving Nuremberg prosecutor, and tributes from Holocaust survivors to the family members they lost.

Viewers can share their remembrances and reflection online using the hashtag #WeRemember.

— JTA

Health minister recovers from COVID-19

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman’s office announces that he has recovered from the coronavirus after receiving the results of a second consecutive test that came back negative.

“It was a great opportunity for me to become personally aware of the dedicated work of the country’s precious medical staff,” he says in a statement.

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman at a press conference about the coronavirus at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on March 11, 2020. (Flash90)

“I urge the citizens of Israel to continue to obey all the Health Ministry guidelines on social distancing,” he adds.

Hours after testing positive for the virus, a Channel 12 report revealed that Litzman had been spotted earlier that week attending illegal prayer services at a synagogue nearby his home, leading to calls for his ouster.

— Jacob Magid

Netanyahu and Gantz to meet again

Likud and Blue and White say in a joint statement that their respective party leaders, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, will meet shortly to continue negotiations aimed at finalizing the formation of a unity government.

Earlier this morning, a meeting between the two ended without an agreement.

 

De Blasio cancels Celebrate Israel parade amid coronavirus fears

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announces that the Celebrate Israel parade, scheduled for June 7, has been canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Netanyahu and Gantz said to finalize unity government deal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz have reportedly finalized a deal to form a unity government in which they would share the premiership under a rotation agreement, with Netanyahu serving for the first 18 months.

The two are currently meeting for the second time today and are planning to give joint press statements later this evening, Channel 12 news reports.

Israelis prepare to mark solitary Holocaust Remembrance Day

Israel tonight and tomorrow will solemnly mark its annual Holocaust Remembrance Day, though all events and ceremonies have been moved online due to the pandemic.

The annual ceremony at the Yad Vashem memorial has been pre-recorded.

In lieu of in-person survivor testimony, the museum is directing Israelis to peruse its digital resources on the Holocaust and many Israelis are expected to attend videoconference testimonies later in the evening.

Holocaust survivors have been among the 172 fatalities of the virus in Israel, including Aryeh Even, the country’s first death from the pandemic, and Eliezer Grynfeld, 96, who greeted Pope Francis at Yad Vashem in 2014.

Tomorrow, Israelis are planning to mark the annual two-minute silence at 10 a.m., on their balconies.

Netanyahu and Gantz sign unity government deal

The Likud and Blue and White announce that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz have signed an agreement to establish a “national emergency government.”

The deal will allow for Netanyahu to remain prime minister for a year and a half, after which he will be replaced by Gantz, as part of a rotation deal that will be bound in law.

Until then, Gantz will reportedly serve as defense minister, while Blue and White No. 2 Gabi Ashkenazi will serve as foreign minister.

Lapid slams unity government deal

Yesh Atid-Telem leader Yair Lapid slams the unity government deal signed between Likud and Blue and White.

“So the compromise on the Judicial Appointments Committee is that Bibi [Netanyahu] chose all its representatives. Gantz and [Blue and White MK Gabi] Ashkenazi agreed to allow the criminal defendant to appoint the judges that will judge on his matters,” tweets Lapid, referring to the premier’s indictment on graft charges.

Yesh Atid-Telem ran as part of the Blue and White alliance in all three elections over the past year, before breaking with Gantz over his appointment as Knesset speaker with the backing of Netanyahu’s political allies.

Gantz: ‘We prevented fourth elections. We will protect democracy’

In his first comment following signing a unity government agreement with Benjamin Netanyahu, Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz says that the move has prevented further elections during the global pandemic.

“We prevented fourth elections. We will protect democracy. We will fight the coronavirus and take care of all Israeli citizens,” he writes on Twitter.

“There is a national emergency government,” he says.

Likud, Blue and White release coalition agreement

The Likud and Blue and White parties release the coalition agreement signed between them to form an “emergency national government.”

The two parties say the agreement was reached “in light of the state of emergency in the country and in light of the medical, economic and social challenges facing the State of Israel.”

The government is set to also include Shas, United Torah Judaism, and Labor, with Yamina possibly to join at a later stage.

According to the a summary of the agreement put out by both parties:

— The government and the security cabinet will have equal representation from the right-wing religious bloc and the center-left bloc.

— There will be 36 ministers in total and 16 deputy ministers.

— The “coronavirus cabinet” will be set up under the joint leadership of Netanyahu and Gantz, who will coordinate the treatment of the pandemic with the participation of relevant ministers and professionals.

— With the inauguration of the government, Prime Minister Netanyahu will be sworn in as incumbent prime minister and Blue and White chairman, Benny Gantz as the designated prime minister to begin in October 2021

— If any of the parties dissolves the Knesset or does not vote for the state budget, the prime minister of the second party will take office, and only half a year later, elections will take place.

— The government will be sworn in after a legislative process is completed that will regulate the prime minister’s status and the existence of the rotation agreement.

— Upon the establishment of the government, it will be defined as a “national emergency government” for a period of six months, and no legislation unrelated to the battle against the coronavirus will be adopted without consent of both sides. At the same time, a negotiating team will be set up to discuss the unity government that will be established upon the end of the coronavirus struggle. However, Netanyahu will be allowed to bring to the government and the Knesset from July a vote on Trump’s declaration of Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank.

— The finance, health, public security, housing and construction, transport and education portfolios will go to the Likud and its partners while the defense, foreign, justice, media, cultural and economic ministries will be controlled by Blue and White and its partners.

— Raoul Wootliff

Unity government deal promises vote on annexation in July

According to the wording of the “emergency government” deal between the Likud and Blue and White, from July 1, 2020, Netanyahu “will be able to bring the agreement reached with the US on the application of sovereignty [in the West Bank] for the approval of the cabinet and or the Knesset.

Furthermore, “if the prime minister chooses to bring the proposal before the Knesset, he will be able to do the same through another MK, provided that the lawmaker is from the Likud party who will be obligated to ensure that the legislation is identical to the version placed before the cabinet.”

In addition, “the law will be passed as quickly as possible… and will not be disrupted or delayed by the chairmen of either the House or the Foreign Affairs and Defense committees.”

Likely ministers in the incoming government

The new government will have 32 ministers, swelling to 36 once the coronavirus crisis is over, according to the coalition agreement issued late Monday. That will make it the largest government in Israeli history.

Likud incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu will continue as prime minister for the first 18 months, to be succeeded by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz. Gantz will be acting prime minister for the first 18 months, and Netanyahu will be acting prime minister for the second 18 months.

Cabinet positions will be divided equally between the Netanyahu- and Gantz-led blocs. Each bloc will also have eight deputy ministers.

Among the likely ministers:

Defense Minister: Gantz

Finance Minister: Israel Katz (Likud)

Foreign Minister: Gabi Ashkenazi (Blue and White)

Justice Minister: Avi Nissenkorn (Blue and White)

Housing and construction: Reserved for a Likud MK

Education: Reserved for a Likud MK

Economy: Amir Peretz (Labor)

Social welfare: Itzik Shmuli (Labor)

Public Security: Miri Regev (Likud)

Health: Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism)

Education: Reserved for a Yamina MK, if Yamina joins the coalition

Transportation: Reserved for a Likud MK

Interior: Aryeh Deri (Shas)

Absorption: Pnina Tamano-Shata (Blue and White)

Culture: Either Assaf Zamir or Miki Haimovich (Blue and White)

Communications: Orit Farkash Hacohen (Blue and White) or Yoaz Hendel (Derekh Eretz)

Knesset Speaker: Yariv Levin (Likud)

Blue and White official: Gantz will have status of PM from the get-go

A Blue and White official briefs reporters that as a result of the unity coalition agreement between Likud and Blue and White, Benny Gantz will receive the status of prime minister from the moment the deal is signed, even while he serves as deputy to Benjamin Netanyahu for the first year and a half.

The official then goes on to list what he deems as the “achievements” of the Blue and White negotiators:

— Benny Gantz will take office as prime minister a year and a half from the day of the government’s inauguration, without a need for a swearing-in.

— A “coronavirus cabinet” led jointly by Netanyahu and Gantz will be established to “outline the state’s exit strategy from the crisis restore the economy, care for the self-employed, and prepare the healthcare system for challenges ahead.”

— Blue and White will have the power to veto any piece of legislation or government decision.

— Senior appointments to the government will be frozen for the first six months and the selections will only be advanced in joint agreement between the two parties.

— Former Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein, who last month refused to comply with a High Court of Justice ruling requiring that he hold a vote on his replacement, will be barred from returning to the role.

— The sides agreed to pass a two-year state budget, “to ensure the stability and restoration of the economy following the coronavirus crisis.”

— The Committee for the Appointment of Judges will be led by the Justice Minister from the Blue and White party.

— If Netanyahu dissolves the Knesset, Gantz will immediately take office and elections will not be allowed to be held for a period of six months.

— “The Trump plan will be promoted responsibly, while maintaining the strategic assets of the State of Israel and stability in the region.”

— A “reconciliation cabinet” will be established, and headed jointly by Gantz and Netanyahu, who will work to repair the ruptures in Israeli society.

— Jacob Magid

Yamina expected to stay out of government, for now

Yamina is expected to stay out of the “national emergency” government being formed between Likud and Blue and White, with senior members of the right-wing party reportedly angry at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over certain aspects of the deal.

Netanyahu and Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett nonetheless just spoke on the phone about the recently achieved unity government. The two sides agreed to meet after Holocaust Memorial Day, a statement from Bennett’s office says.

According to the deal signed by Netanyahu and Gantz, the government of 32 ministers will be expanded to 36, after the “emergency period” during the coronavirus crisis, leaving open the possibility of Yamina joining at a later date.

Netanyahu tells right-wing partners he’ll ‘uphold principles of the national camp’

Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke with all the leaders of the right-wing religious bloc, after signing the unity deal with Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz, the premier’s spokesman says.

“The prime minister said that the establishment of a unity government in the face of the coronavirus pandemic is a national imperative.

“The prime minister pledged that he will continue to uphold the principles of the national camp and the right-wing bloc within the unity government,” Netanyahu’s spokesman says in a statement.

Coalition deal includes official residence for deputy PM

According to the coalition agreement signed by Netanyahu and Gantz, the position of acting prime minister — which Netanyahu is set to fill once Gantz becomes prime minister in 18 months — includes an official state residence, akin to the Prime Minister’s Residence.

Gantz will therefore likely move from his current Rosh HaAyin home, while he serves as deputy prime minsiter.

Previously, both the Likud and Blue and White had denied that any such clause would be included in the agreement.

Erekat: New annexation-backing government a ‘threat’ to Mideast

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat says that the new government agreed upon by Netanyahu and Gantz threatens the stability of the entire Middle East, due to its commitment to bring a vote on applying Israeli sovereignty to parts of the West Bank.

“A government coalition based on a commitment to annex more occupied Palestinian territory is a threat to a rules-based world order in general, but to peace, security, and stability in the Middle East in particular. Annexation means the end of any possibility for a negotiated solution,” Erekat says in a statement.

“It is an international responsibility to hold the new Israeli government accountable and to demand full implementation of its obligations under international law and signed agreements,” he says.

“The new Israeli government has two options; to either open the doors for a meaningful peace process or to further jeopardize any hope for peace. To pursue the path of cooperation, honoring its obligations under international law, or to carry on with the further expansion of its illegal colonial-settlements, annexation, and other violations of Israeli obligations.”

189,500 Holocaust survivors living in Israel; 15,170 survivors died this year

On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israel’s Ministry of Finance reports that there are about 189,500 Holocaust survivors living in Israel, with some 31,000 over the age of 90 and more than 800 who are over 100 years old.

In the past year, some 15,170 survivors have died.

Gantz thanks UTJ leader for ‘tremendous’ help in forming unity government

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz calls UTJ’s Moshe Gafni to thank him for the “tremendous behind-the-scenes contribution to the establishment of the unity government,” according to a UTJ statement.

The two agreed to cooperate in a government “set up for the benefit of Israeli citizens,” the statement adds.

Palestinian PM slams ‘annexation government’

Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh condemns the formation of the new government, saying the agreement would wreck hopes of peace.

“The formation of an Israeli annexation government means ending the two-state solution and the dismantling of the rights of the people of Palestine,” Shtayyeh tweets.

Worldwide population of 14.7 million Jews falls well short of pre-World War II numbers

The worldwide population of Jews, standing at 14.7 million, still falls short of the pre-World War II numbers, according to a report by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

The figures, which are similar to the population of world Jewry in 1925, were released ahead of Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. The numbers are current to the end of 2018.

World Jewry reached a population of 16.6 million right before the start of World War II in 1939.

Israel’s 6.7 million Jews make up 45 percent of the world total. Some 5.2 million Jews were born in the country, while about 1 million are natives of either Europe or the Americas, as well as about 293,000 of Africa and 164,000 of Asia.

The United States has the second-largest Jewish population, with 5.7 million, followed by France at about 450,000, and Canada at some 392,000. Next is the United Kingdom (292,000), Argentina (180,000), Russia (165,000), Germany (118,000) and Australia (116,000).

— JTA

WHO insists it hid nothing, sounded virus alarm from start

The World Health Organization insists that it sounded the alarm on the novel coronavirus right from the very start, and hid nothing from Washington about the deadly pandemic.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says there were no secrets at the UN agency after being blasted by the United States for allegedly downplaying the initial COVID-19 outbreak in China.

“We have been warning from day one that this is a devil that everyone should fight,” Tedros tells a virtual briefing in Geneva.

— AFP

US oil prices tumble into negative territory for first time

Oil prices end New York trading in the negative for the first time ever, as a supply glut forced traders to pay others to take the commodity.

With scarce space to store oil, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for May delivery ends trading at -$37.63 a barrel ahead of tomorrow’s close for futures contracts — when traders who buy and sell the commodity for profit would have had to take physical possession of it.

The unprecedented price drop is a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, which has devastated the global economy by forcing billions of people to stay home to stop its spread, and an ongoing price war between top producers Saudi Arabia and Russia.

That price war contributed to an oversupply that drove crude lower, to the disadvantage of US shale producers.

— AFP

2 women die of COVID-19 in Jerusalem hospital bringing Israeli toll to 177

Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Cente says that two women, a 63-year-old and 85-year-old, have died from the coronavirus at the hospital, bringing the COVID-19 death toll in Israel to 177.

The hospital says they both suffered from underlying conditions.

Zalman Kossowsky, former chief rabbi of Zurich and a US Marines chaplain, dies at 80

Rabbi Zalman Kossowsky, a former chief rabbi of Zurich, who led congregations on three continents during a career that spanned decades, has died.

Despite German language media reports, Kossowsky’s synagogue in Boynton Beach, Florida, stresses that he passed away Sunday of natural causes unconnected to the coronavirus pandemic. He was 80.

Born in Tehran to Lithuanian refugees fleeing the Soviet takeover of their country, Kossowsky was raised in South Africa. He later went to Israel for his rabbinic studies before migrating to the United States, where he stayed for better part of the 1960s and ’70s, serving at one point as a chaplain in the US Marines and working on his doctorate in sociology.

He later served as a congregational rabbi of the Kenton Shul in London before accepting the role of chief rabbi of the ICZ, a communal umbrella organization representing Orthodox, liberal and secular Jewish streams in Switzerland’s largest city, which he led from 1991 to 2007.

— JTA

Gantz will be able to replace Netanyahu-tied envoy to US once he becomes PM

Interestingly, the coalition agreement states that Gantz can appoint his own ambassador to the United States as soon as he enters the Prime Minister’s Office in October 2021. Currently, the important post is held by Ron Dermer, one of Netanyahu’s closest confidants.

But critics consider Dermer, who has close ties to the administration of President Donald Trump, as a partisan supporter of the Republican party, which may have also contributed to Blue and White insisted they can replace him.

At the same time, the deal stipulates that Israel’s envoys to the UK, France, Australia and to the United Nations in New York will be appointed by Netanyahu for the entire time of the unity government’s existence “and cannot be replaced after the rotation agreement was implemented.”

Netanyahu is thus likely to offer ambassadorships in these attractive posts to some disgruntled Likud heavyweights who were not appointed ministers.

— Raphael Ahren

Man, 48, dies of virus; had no underlying health woes

A 48-year-old man with no preexisting health issues has died of the coronavirus, the Ichilov Medical Center in Tel Aviv says.

The man, who is not immediately identified, had been attached to a ventilator for a week.

The national COVID-19 death toll stands at 178.

From home, Israelis to pause to remember 6 million slain by Nazis

The annual Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorations, which began Monday night, will continue today, when at 10 a.m. a siren will sound throughout the country in memory of the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis.

Confined to their homes, many Israelis are expected to stand on their balconies during the siren, which traditionally brings the entire country to a standstill.

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Israel set to mark its first virtual Holocaust Remembrance Day

Israel on Monday night and Tuesday will solemnly mark its annual Holocaust Remembrance Day, though all events and ceremonies will be moved online due to the pandemic.

The annual ceremony at the Yad Vashem memorial has been pre-recorded.

In lieu of in-person survivor testimony, the museum is directing Israelis to peruse its digital resources on the Holocaust and many Israelis are expected to attend videoconference testimonies later in the evening.

Holocaust survivors have been among the 172 fatalities of the virus in Israel, including Aryeh Even, the country’s first death from the pandemic, and Eliezer Grynfeld, 96, who greeted Pope Francis at Yad Vashem in 2014.