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Senior health official warns Israel on verge of new serious outbreak — TV

Ministry source tells network recent days have seen more moderate and serious cases than in entire previous month, states main problematic area is Jerusalem

Israelis wearing face masks walk in Jerusalem on June 2, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Israelis wearing face masks walk in Jerusalem on June 2, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

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

Lapid holds first update meeting with PM Netanyahu as opposition leader

Yesh Atid-Telem leader Yair Lapid meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time since he became leader of the opposition in the wake of the last election.

The prime minister is required to hold regular update meetings on state, security and other matters with the opposition leader. But seldom has there been such public animosity between two political figures as between Netanyahu and Lapid.

Lapid broke up his alliance with Blue and White’s Benny Gantz over the latter’s decision to enter into a government with Netanyahu, whom he has ruled out as a partner and lashed repeatedly for his criminal cases and attacks on the country’s institutions.

Netanyahu too vilified Lapid repeatedly throughout the recent election cycles.

New report finds anti-Semitism on the rise in Czech Republic

The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the Czech Republic doubled last year, the country’s Jewish community says.

In its annual report, the Federation of the Jewish Communities says there were 694 anti-Semitic attacks in 2019 compared with 347 in the previous year.

A majority of the attacks — 95 percent — were registered on the internet, often on disinformation websites, far-right media and produced by activists involved in an international campaign to boycott Israel.

In this Thursday Jan. 24, 2019 file photo, visitors walk through the cemetery of the former Nazi concentration camp in Terezin, Czech Republic (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, file)

The Jewish community says there were three attacks on Jewish property last year and six other incidents involved anti-Semitic threats, harassment and verbal insults. No physical attack was registered in 2019.

— AP

Global vaccine group urges virus solidarity ahead of summit

The head of the global vaccine alliance warns “nobody is safe unless everybody is safe” from the new coronavirus, urging international solidarity ahead of a fundraising summit as the pandemic threatens to trigger a resurgence of preventable diseases.

Scientists are racing to identify and test possible vaccines for COVID-19 as nations grapple with the economic and societal consequences of the virus lockdowns.

In this photo taken on April 29, 2020, an engineer shows an experimental vaccine for the COVID-19 coronavirus that was tested at the Quality Control Laboratory at the Sinovac Biotech facilities in Beijing. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP)

Seth Berkley of Gavi, the vaccine alliance, says the international community must ensure all countries will have access to any potential vaccines, regardless of their wealth.

“This is a global problem that needs a global solution and we have to all work together,” he said.


After police killing, minister says better ways needed to identify the disabled

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, who is in charge of police, says Israeli authorities must look into better ways for security forces to identify special needs people in the field, after the killing of Saturday of an autistic Palestinian man by police officers who wrongly suspected he was armed.

“Maybe there are nuances that can be understood to prevent the recurrence of such incidents,” he says. “Work is being done on this and I intend to promote it.”

Ohana says the family of Iyad Halak deserves an embrace, and says he hopes there will not be an attempt to recreate violent protests in America over the killing of George Floyd by a policeman.

Iyad Halak (Courtesy)

“I think we are in better shape [than in the US]. We need to maintain this, our coexistence.”

Girls’ school in Ashkelon closes, 700 enter isolation after virus case found

A religious girl’s high school in Ashkelon has been closed after a student came down with the coronavirus.

Some 700 students and staff will enter isolation for at least a week at Tzvia Ulpana.

China warns Britain interfering in Hong Kong will ‘backfire’

China warns Britain that interfering in Hong Kong will backfire, after the former colonial power vowed to give sanctuary to locals who may flee the city if a controversial security law is passed.

The United States and Britain have enraged Beijing with their criticism of planned national security legislation that critics fear would destroy the semi-autonomous city’s limited freedoms.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has further angered Beijing by suggesting that it has time to “reconsider” the plan, which could soon be enacted after the proposal was endorsed by China’s rubber-stamp parliament last week.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, meanwhile, said London would not “walk away” from Hong Kongers worried by Beijing’s control over the international business hub.

A pro-democracy protester waves a British colonial flag during a rally at a shopping mall in the Central district in Hong Kong on June 1, 2020. (ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP)

Johnson wrote in a column for The Times newspaper and the South China Morning Post that he would offer millions of Hong Kongers visas and a possible route to UK citizenship if China persists with its national security law.

— AP

Iran’s Khamenei says Floyd killing shows ‘true face’ of US

The police killing of unarmed African American man George Floyd shows the “true face” of the United States and its oppression of the peoples of the world, including its own, Iran’s supreme leader says.

“The fact that a policeman has cold-bloodedly pressed his knee on the throat of a black man until he died and that other policemen watched on without doing anything is nothing knew,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says in a televised speech.

“It is the truce face of America, it’s what it has always done all over the world — in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other countries, and before that in Vietnam.

“It is the normal course of action of the United States, it’s the true face of their regime,” Khamenei says.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses the nation in a televised speech, April 9, 2020. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

“These are realities that have always been camouflaged or hidden, but they are not new.”


Abbas adviser: Annexation will cause unprecedented violence, streets are boiling

An adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas tells Kan news that if Israel moves forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank it will lead to an unprecedented wave of violence.

“You don’t know how the Palestinian street is boiling,” Mahmoud al-Habbash says. “Every home, every young person… can turn into a powder keg if Israel carries out the annexation. When a person loses hope for peace and justice he can turn into a bomb.

“We are not making threats,” he says. “But this is the reality.”

He says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is pushing the region to an explosion… [he] is opening the gates of violence.”

Italy reopens its borders, Austria and Germany set to follow

Italy reopens its borders to European travelers as the continent slowly emerges from quarantines to restart battered economies.

European nations among the hardest hit by the outbreak have mostly flattened out infection curves and turned to the task of balancing economic recovery against the risk of a second wave of cases.

Italy — the first country badly hammered in Europe — is leading the way to restart, hoping tourism will revive its recession-hit economy three months after the nation shut down.

Meanwhile Austria says it will scrap virus controls on all land borders, except for Italy, still viewed by some of neighbors as a virus hotspot.

A van drives towards the French-Italian border near Menton on June 3, 2020 as Italy reopened its frontiers with Europe, three months after the country went into coronavirus lockdown. (Valery HACHE / AFP)

Germany will also lift its blanket travel warning for European nations from June 15, replacing it with warnings for individual countries.


Top soccer official: Fans’ behavior outside TA match endangers continued play

A top soccer official says the behavior of fans outside a match in Tel Aviv yesterday endangers continued league play.

League games restarted Saturday without fans. However, hundreds of fans of Hapoel Tel Aviv gathered outside a Tel Aviv stadium yesterday night to celebrate their team’s win, angering health officials.

Israel Professional Football Leagues chairman Erez Kalfon tells Kan radio that players, fans an teams are all responsible for upholding social distancing rules to allow games to continue.

“We view this seriously and we’ve made clear to teams what needs to happen so we don’t see this happen a second time.”

Hundreds of fans of soccer club Hapoel Tel Aviv celebrating a win outside Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv on June 2, 2020, without adhering to social distancing rules. (Screenshot: Twitter)

Top Swedish scientist admits country could have battled virus better

Sweden’s chief epidemiologist shows contrition as criticism mounts over the Scandinavian country’s hotly debated method of fighting the coronavirus, which has resulted in one of the highest death rates per capita in the world.

Sweden has stood out among European nations and the world for the way it has handled the pandemic, not shutting down the country or the economy like others but relying on citizens’ sense of civic duty. Swedish authorities have advised people to practice social distancing, but schools, bars and restaurants have been kept open the entire time. Only gatherings of more than 50 people have been banned.

“I think there is potential for improvement in what we have done in Sweden, quite clearly,” Anders Tegnell of the Public Health Agency tells Swedish radio.

Swedish chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell during a daily news conference on the coronavirus outbreak in Stockholm, Sweden, April 9, 2020. (Anders Wiklund/TT via PA)

Sweden, a nation of 10.2 million people, has seen 4,468 deaths linked to COVID-19, which is far more than its Nordic neighbors and one of the highest death rates per capita in the world. Denmark has had 580 coronavirus deaths, Finland has seen 320 and Norway has had 237, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

“If we were to encounter the same disease again, knowing precisely what we know about it today, I think we would settle on doing something in between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world has done,” says Tegnell, considered the architect of the unique Swedish pandemic approach.

— AP

Leaders of Greece and Cyprus set to visit Israel to talk flight resumption

The leaders of Greece and Cyprus are expected to visit Israel this month, and discuss a renewal of flights between the countries, Channel 12 reports.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will come on June 16 to discuss restarting tourism, as well as tensions with Turkey over gas drilling in the Mediterranean, the report says.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades will arrive on June 23 along with ministers of defense, foreign affairs, energy and tourism for meetings on joint interests.

Justice minister rejects Likud MK’s attack on Mandelblit as ‘fake news’

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn of Blue and White clashed with a Likud legislator at the Knesset earlier today, after the latter called for further pressure on Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit over his actions in the Harpaz affair.

MK Shlomo Karai asked Nissenkorn during a Knesset discussion whether he would insist on Mandelblit releasing 2010 recordings of conversations Mandelblit had with Gabi Ashkenazi, then the IDF chief and now the foreign minister. Critics have claimed these recordings indicate the two were acting illegally to quash an investigation into the affair.

“Are you not worried that the attorney general [now] holds the authorities of the only post that could probe him?” Karai asked Nissenkorn, referring to Mandelblit recently also assuming the responsibilities of acting state attorney, until the post is filled, “Will you demand that the attorney general publish the recordings? Will you demand his resignation?”

New Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn speaks during a ceremony at the Justice Ministry on May 18, 2020. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Nissenkorn responded by saying it would be well for Karai to “focus on serving the public rather than attempting to baselessly slander public servants.”

He said Mandelblit’s conduct in the affair “was reviewed by all relevant parties. To my understanding, all recordings relevant to Mandelblit are known to law enforcement and he was questioned on them.

“Fake news will stay fake news even if we repeat it a hundred times.”

Virus on rise again in Iran with over 3,000 cases for third day

The spread of novel coronavirus has accelerated again this month in Iran which officially confirms over 3,000 new cases for a third consecutive day.

The country has recorded an additional 3,134 cases, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour tells state television, bringing the total number of infections to 160,696.

Another 70 people have died, Jahanpour adds, taking the death toll to 8,012 since the outbreak was first declared in the country in February.

Iranians shop in the capital Tehran on June 2, 2020 during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic (ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Infections have been on a rising trajectory in the Islamic Republic since hitting a near two-month low on May 2, though the official number of daily deaths has remained below 100 in recent weeks.


UK leader says will press Israel against actions ‘which make peace difficult’

British PM Boris Johnson reiterates his concerns over Israeli annexation, saying such unilateral action “would be damaging” to peace and “contrary to international law.”

In a letter to an MP, Johnson says he has stressed this to Israel’s leadership and says his government “will continue to press Israel and the Palestinians strongly on the need to refrain from taking actions which make peace more difficult.”

Poll finds half of Israeli Jews back annexation, but only with US support

A new poll shows 50 percent of Jewish Israelis are for annexation in the West Bank, with the number dropping to 25 percent if the move is not done with American support.

Recent days have seen a flurry of reports that Washington is less interested than previously thought on quickly moving forward with the process, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu previously saying he would begin to push forward with the move on July 1.

The government is highly unlikely to take any action without US backing.

The Israeli Voice Index for May 2020 published today by the Israel Democracy Institute finds that voters of all but one party (Yamina) would not back annexation that does not have US support.

The poll also finds that 58% believe annexation may well lead to Palestinians initiating a third intifada.

Trump: I’ve done more for blacks than any president except, possibly, Lincoln

US President Donald Trump says he’s done more for black Americans than any president in history, with the “possible exception” of Abraham Lincoln.

Responding to mass protests throughout the country over police violence and racism toward the black community, Trump tweets: “In 3 1/2 years, I’ve done much more for our Black population than Joe Biden has done in 43 years. Actually, he set them back big time with his Crime Bill, which he doesn’t even remember.

I’ve done more for Black Americans, in fact, than any President in US history, with the possible exception of another Republican President, the late, great, Abraham Lincoln…and it’s not even close.”

US President Donald Trump at the White House, May 29, 2020. (AP/Alex Brandon)

Abbas extends West Bank state of emergency until July 4

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has extended the state of emergency in the West Bank due to the coronavirus crisis for another thirty days.

“The status quo is still the same. There are no lockdowns. The state of emergency is simply to control areas in which infections may appear in the coming period,” Palestinian Authority government spokesperson Ibrahim Milhim writes on Twitter.

The state of emergency in the West Bank is now due to end on July 4.

— Aaron Boxerman

Peace Now hangs signs over Ayalon Highway declaring ‘war’ on annexation

The Peace Now organization is holding demonstrations on several bridges along the central Ayalon Highway against plans to annex West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley.

Activists have hung signs over the highway declaring that “There will be a war on annexation!”

The organization says it is launching a larger campaign against the move with multiple protests.

Peace Now activists hang a sign protesting annexation on a bridge over the Ayalon Highway, June 3, 2020 (Courtesy Peace Now)

Peace Now executive director Shaked Morag says the plan is “a disaster for Israel. A disconnected, irresponsible step on the diplomatic, defense and moral levels that will blow up in our face.”

Top settler leader says US plan shows Trump ‘not a friend of Israel’

A top settler leader says US President Donald Trump and his adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner have shown through their peace proposal that “they are not friends of the State of Israel.”

Amid reports that Washington has put the breaks on swift annexation in the West Bank, David Elhayani, head of the Yesha Council of West Bank mayors, tells the Haaretz newspaper: “Trump and Kushner had shown through the proposal that they are not friends of the State of Israel and do not consider the security and settlement interests of the State of Israel.”

Elhayani and other West Bank mayors have been increasingly critical of the Trump plan in recent days due to it including the formation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank if Palestinians meet certain strict requirements (which they have already rejected) including dismantling Hamas, recognizing Israel as a Jewish state and giving up the so-called right of return.

MK David Bitan’s pre-trial hearing to be held in July

Likud MK David Bitan’s pre-trial hearing will be held in mid-July, justice officials say.

Bitan is set to be charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, as well as money laundering and tax offenses.

He is accused of receiving NIS 992,000 ($287,000) in bribes while serving as deputy mayor of Rishon Lezion and as a Knesset member in exchange for various political favors.

Gaza officials say 5 new coronavirus cases diagnosed

Five new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Gaza, the territory’s health ministry says.

The cases were confirmed among Gazans quarantined upon arrival in the Strip after the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, the ministry says.

There are 66 confirmed coronavirus infections in Gaza, with one death.

— Aaron Boxerman

Netanyahu elects to keep schools open, says any place with virus will close

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided not to order a blanket closure of schools for now following discussions with the education minister and National Security Council.

“Any school where a virus case is diagnosed will close,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office says.

The prime minister “instructed the education minister to work on solutions for protecting and distancing students and teaching staff.”

He will continue to hold situation assessments in the coming days.

ILLUSTRATIVE — Children arrive at Paula Ben Gurion elementary school in Jerusalem on September 1, 2015 (Hadas Parush/Flash 90)

Another virus death takes national toll to 291

A 71-year-old man has died of coronavirus. He suffered from various prior ailments and had been sedated and intubated for over a month, health officials say.

His death takes the national toll up to 291.

US defense chief opposes use of Insurrection Act to quell unrest

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he opposes invoking a rarely used law to deploy US military troops to quell nationwide protests over police brutality against African Americans.

“I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act,” Esper says, two days after President Donald Trump said he could do so to call up the army to quash protests.

“I’ve always believed and continue to believe that the National Guard is best-suited for performing domestic support to civil authorities in these situations,” Esper says.

Screen capture from video of US Defense Secretary Mark Esper during an interview with CNN, January 12, 2020. (YouTube)

“The option to use active-duty forces should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations,” he tells reporters in the Pentagon. “We are not in one of those situations now.”


Health Ministry: HMOs to launch widespread serological testing next week

The Health Ministry says widespread serological testing will begin next week, led by Israel’s health maintenance organizations.

The initial round of testing will include 70,000 people from all over the country, it says. Tens of thousands more will later be tested as part of an ongoing effort.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein says the tests, which identify coronavirus antibodies in the blood and can help better assess the country’s infection rate and readiness for a new sickness wave, “are another important tool to give us a better intelligence assessment on coronavirus hotspots.”

Police minister calls to ‘minimize harm’ to cannabis users charged with offenses

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana has said authorities should “minimize harm” to normative citizens charged with offenses related to cannabis use.

Ohana says so in his office’s response to a High Court petition calling on the court to instruct the government to annul the criminality of cannabis use.

Ohana says he will form a team to review a more tolerant policy toward cannabis use.

Illustrative image of someone smoking cannabis (Tunatura; iStock by Getty Images)

Earlier this year the prime minister said he would seek to wipe the criminal records of Israelis convicted of possessing or using marijuana.

92 coronavirus cases diagnosed in past 24 hours, continuing higher trend

The Health Ministry says 92 more virus diagnoses were made in the past 24 hours, taking the national count to 17,377 and continuing a days-long trend of higher infection rates hovering around the 100 mark.

The death toll is at 291 following the death of another patient earlier.

The number of active cases continues to rise with 2,103 in total. The rest have recovered. Of these 27 are in serious condition, with 25 on ventilators.

UN rights chief slams ‘structural racism’ in US after protests

The UN rights chief decries Wednesday “structural racism” in the United States, and voices alarm at the “unprecedented assault” on journalists covering protests across the country after George Floyd’s death in custody.

“The voices calling for an end to the killings of unarmed African Americans need to be heard. The voices calling for an end to police violence need to be heard. And the voices calling for an end to the endemic and structural racism that blights US society need to be heard,” Michelle Bachelet says in a statement.

“What has been happening is an unprecedented assault on journalists,” she adds.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet listens during a meeting with Venezuela’s Education Minister Aristóbulo Istúriz, at the Foreign Ministry, in Caracas, Venezuela, June 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)


WHO says hydroxychloroquine coronavirus trials to resume

The World Health Organization says clinical trials of the drug hydroxychloroquine will resume, having been suspended pending a safety review in the search for coronavirus treatments.

“On the basis of the available mortality data… the executive group will communicate with the principal investigators in the trial about resuming the hydroxychloroquine arm,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tells a virtual news briefing.

In this photo taken on March 11, 2020, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a daily press briefing on COVID-19, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. (Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)


Tel Aviv plans to more than double cycling paths over next 5 years

The Tel Aviv Municipality says it has approved a plan to more than double the amount of bicycle paths in the city over the next five years.

The plan will see the accumulated length of bike paths rise from 140 kilometers to 300 kilometers by 2025.

“The city of Tel Aviv-Yafo has undergone a revolution in recent years and bicycles and personal vehicles have become an integral part of the urban culture,” Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai says. “We continue to work and pave additional kilometers of bike paths while keeping three main goals in sight: returning the sidewalks to pedestrians, reducing traffic congestion, reducing air pollution.”

A man rides a bicycle while his dog runs next to him, on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, September 24, 2019 (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Report: Gantz to get costly motorcade, though he says he doesn’t want one

Defense Minister Benny Gantz is set to get a security motorcade similar to that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, due to his new role as alternate prime minister, Channel 12 news reports.

The new security arrangements will come at a cost of NIS 23 million ($6.6 million), the network says, though it does not explain whether this is per year or otherwise.

Gantz’s office tells Channel 12 he is not interested nor has he asked for such arrangements. But the network says it is a direct result of his new title, which necessitates security treatment by the Shin Bet similar to that of the prime minister, and may not be entirely up to him.

Senior health official tells TV Israel on verge of new serious outbreak

A senior official in the Health Ministry warns Channel 13 that Israel is on the verge of a new serious coronavirus outbreak.

The official says the main problematic area is Jerusalem. He adds that virus cases are not only tied to the capital’s schools.

He also claims that the past few days have seen more moderate and serious cases than in the entire previous month.

People shop at the market in the northern city of Safed, on June 3, 2020 (David Cohen/Flash90)

Auschwitz museum struggling for funds under lockdown

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum has been forced to launch an appeal for funding after two months under a coronavirus lockdown that saw revenue from visitors dry up.

The site of Nazi Germany’s most notorious death camp normally draws more than two million visitors from across the globe each year.

“We are calling for financial assistance from all those who consider it necessary to preserve memory,” the museum says in a statement published on its official website.

This file photo taken on December 5, 2019 shows a man walking by the barbed wire fence enclosing the memorial site of the former Auschwitz German Nazi death camp. (Janek Skarzynski/AFP)

“The 2020 budget has collapsed,” it says, despite “special support” from the Polish culture ministry and the Auschwitz-Birkenau International Foundation, which will help maintain jobs and continue maintenance work to preserve the site.


Settler mayor: Trump a ‘true friend’ and strong ally of Israel

The head of the Binyamin Regional Council in the West Bank, Yisrael Gantz, rejects Yesha Council leader David Elhayani’s comments earlier that Donald Trump is “not a friend” of Israel.

“President Donald Trump is not only a true friend of Israel but a strong ally of ours, with all that entails,” he says.

“We are very grateful for his historic support for the Jewish people’s rights in Judea and Samaria.”

PM said seeking to shirk NIS 600K in taxes for expenses at private home

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to avoid paying taxes on expenses at his private house in Caesarea for the period of 2013-2018, Channel 13 news reports.

In 2018 Netanyahu’s party led and passed a bill absolving him of taxes for his private home going forward.

But the network says the Tax Authority is demanding NIS 600,000 ($170,000) from bills for various work done at the house before the law was passed, including gardening, water, electricity, services and more.

It says Netanyahu has instructed his office to try to get the state to pay the taxes through various legal loopholes.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s private residence in Caesarea. (Screen capture: Channel 10)

Netanyahu’s office says in response to the report that no prime minister has ever been required to pay for such expenses and that the Tax Authority’s request is “unprecedented.”

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Leaders of Greece and Cyprus set to visit Israel to talk flight resumption

The leaders of Greece and Cyprus are expected to visit Israel this month, and discuss a renewal of flights between the countries, Channel 12 reports.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will come on June 16 to discuss restarting tourism, as well as tensions with Turkey over gas drilling in the Mediterranean, the report says.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades will arrive on June 23 along with ministers of defense, foreign affairs, energy and tourism for meetings on joint interests.