The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s developments as they unfolded.
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.
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.
The South Korean government says no unusual activity has been detected in North Korea after unconfirmed reports described leader Kim Jong Un as in fragile condition after heart surgery.
The presidential Blue House says it has no information about the rumors on Kim’s health. Speculation often surfaces about North Korea’s leadership based on attendance at important state events. Kim, who is in his mid-30s, missed the celebration of his late grandfather and state founder Kim Il Sung on April 15, the country’s most important holiday.
At his last public appearance, he presided over a political bureau meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party on April 11, discussing preventive measures against the coronavirus and electing his sister as an alternate member of the bureau. However, state media reported Kim sent greetings to Syrian President Bashar Assad last week and a “birthday spread” to a North Korean woman who turned 100 on Monday.
“We have no information to confirm regarding rumors about Chairman Kim Jong Un’s health issue that have been reported by some media outlets. Also, no unusual developments have been detected inside North Korea,” Blue House spokesman Kang Min-seok says in the statement.
A US official says the White House was aware before the reports appeared late Monday that Kim’s health might be precarious. The official says the US had information that Kim may have undergone surgery and that complications may have rendered him “incapacitated or worse.” But, the official stresses that the US has nothing to confirm the surgery had taken place or that any complications had occurred.
“We just don’t know,” says the official, who is not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and speaks on condition of anonymity. The US official won’t elaborate on where the information came from or when it had been received. The White House and State Department have no comment.
Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard announces that it has significantly upgraded the range of its anti-warship missiles, the state-run news agency reports.
The Guard says it now possesses surface-to-surface and subsurface anti-warship missiles with a range as high as 700 kilometers (430 miles), according to its top naval officer, Adm. Ali Reza Tangsiri.
In September, Iranian officials said the country’s most advanced anti-warship missiles had a range of about 300 kilometers, some 180 miles.
Iran periodically announces major advances in its weapons capabilities that cannot be verified independently. Its armed forces are believed to have surface-to-surface missiles with a range of 2,000 kilometers, or 1,250 miles, that can reach Israel and US bases in the Mideast.
Tangsiri’s remarks come a day after the Guard acknowledged its naval forces had a tense encounter with US warships in the Persian Gulf last week.
A 57-year-old woman has died in Jerusalem from the coronavirus, bringing the death toll to 179.
The woman had preexisting health problems, the Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center says.
China reports another 11 coronavirus cases today, including six in the province of Heilongjiang that borders Russia.
No new deaths are reported, with the total remaining at 4,632 among 82,758 cases. Nearly another 1,000 people are under quarantine and monitoring as suspected cases or people who had tested positive for the virus but are showing no symptoms.
Despite the dramatic drop in cases, China has maintained strict social distancing rules, including a ban on foreign travelers.
The World Health Organization advises that governments and societies remain vigilant to stop transmission of the coronavirus, saying the lifting of lockdowns and other measures needs to be done gradually.
“This is not the time to be lax. Instead, we need to ready ourselves for a new way of living for the foreseeable future,” says Dr. Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific.
Takeshi also says that rushing to ease or lift restrictions would “likely lead to a resurgence of diseases” and that individuals and societies need to be ready for a new way of living that “strikes the right balance” between virus measures and allowing for national and regional economies to start functioning once more.
“As we move forward in this difficult time, our lives, our health system and approach to stopping transmission must continue to adapt and evolve along with the epidemic, at least until a vaccine or very effective treatment is found. This process will need to become our new normal,” he says.
The virus death toll has climbed to 181, according to the Health Ministry.
It says there are 13,883 people sick with COVID-19, a rise of 170 since last night.
The ministry says 142 are in serious condition, 113 of them on ventilators.
Another 135 people are in moderate condition.
It says 4,353 have recovered from the virus, which is an increase of over 300 since yesterday.
New York, with the worst outbreak in the United States, reported late Monday that hospitalizations in the state have leveled off and the day’s death toll, at 478, is the lowest in three weeks, down from a peak of nearly 800. Still, the city canceled three of its biggest June events: the Puerto Rican Day parade, the Israel parade and the gay pride march.
The coronavirus death toll in the United States — the country with the most fatalities in the pandemic — has climbed by 1,433 in the past 24 hours to reach 42,094, the latest tally from Johns Hopkins University shows.
The US has recorded more than 784,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the global health crisis, according to the Baltimore-based university.
Some 50,000 special education students are heading back to school today, under Health Ministry restrictions that some parents say are infeasible.
According to Health Ministry regulations, special education programs are allowed to operate for groups of up to three children, with 15-minute intervals between alternating groups.
Schools have been disinfected in anticipation of the students’ return, Channel 12 reports.
The TV network cites parents who criticize the new rules, which include social distancing measures, saying it’s impractical to expect the students not to touch or to wear masks. Parents were also reportedly frustrated by the limited timeframes of classes and treatments being offered as staff divide the students into small groups.
A dozen Israeli teenagers in Rishon Lezion have been fined by authorities for holding an outdoor party Monday night, in violation of the coronavirus rules and on Israel’s annual Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The party was attended by some 25 people, aged 16 to 20, according to Channel 12. Some managed to get away from the local inspectors who broke up the gathering and 12 fines were issued.
A two-minute siren brings the country to a full stop, as Israelis remember the victims of the Nazi atrocities on its annual Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Most are observing the moment of silence from their homes and balconies, due to the pandemic restrictions.
The 48-year-old virus victim who succumbed overnight is identified as Rabbi Chaim Aharon Torchin, the head of the “Or Yitzhak” yeshiva in Bnei Brak.
Torchin is survived by his wife and 14 children.
הרב חיים אהרן טורצ'ין, תושב בני ברק בן 48 שחלה לפני שלושה שבועות בקורונה, נפטר הלילה בבית החולים איכילוב בת"א. טורצ'ין היה ללא מחלות רקע, הותיר אחריו אישה ו- 14 ילדים. יהי זכרו ברוך. @ynetalerts pic.twitter.com/MtqjcbGRKG
— איתי בלומנטל Itay Blumental (@ItayBlumental) April 21, 2020
The Ichilov Hospital where he died stressed that Torchin had no underlying illnesses.
The Knesset’s annual Holocaust Remembrance Day memorial begins with a speech by Blue and White’s Benny Gantz, whose parents were survivors.
He recalls his childhood in Kfar Ahim, where many residents were Holocaust survivors, but few spoke about it.
“Only later would my parents allow themselves to tell the story. I remember one moment, when my mother told my daughter Noga about the last days and hours in Bergen Belsen, before the liberation. She was then 16 or 17, a shadow of a girl, who weighed 28 kilogram (61 lbs). And when my daughter asked her ‘how did you hold on?’ she answered, ‘I wanted to see how it ends.’ She saw the ending and was part of the building of the State of Israel.”
He says Israel has an obligation to protect and assist its Holocaust survivors, particularly now, during the pandemic, when many are left alone.
He also addresses the unity government deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and says he has taken “upon myself the mission to protect democracy, since I believe it is the source of our power as a society” and says he wants to unify Israelis.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Defense Ministry officials and a representative of bereaved families of fallen IDF soldiers to hammer out a decision on whether to permit Memorial Day visits at military cemeteries next week, which health authorities have recommended be barred altogether to avoid the spread of the virus.
Channel 12 reports that an emerging compromise would see the graveside visits by immediate family members staggered over this week and early next week to avoid crowding at the sites.
Memorial Day begins next Monday evening and ends Tuesday evening.
US President Donald Trump says he will temporarily suspend immigration to the United States because of the coronavirus pandemic, despite the US already being the worst-hit country in the world.
Trump refers to the “Invisible Enemy,” a phrase he has used to describe the virus that has killed more than 42,000 people in the US, which has more than 766,660 infections.
“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” he tweeted Monday night.
The State Department issued around 462,000 immigrant visas in the 2019 fiscal year, while US Citizens and Immigration Services granted permanent residence to nearly 577,000 individuals.
Trump says the move wills also protect American jobs, although the state-imposed lockdowns to slow the virus have already left 22 million people in the US out of work.
His tweet gives no further details about what the measure would entail, how it would be implemented or how long it would be in place.
A 100-year-old woman has died of the coronavirus, bringing the death toll to 182.
The Kaplan Medical Center says it allowed the woman’s daughter to say goodbye while wearing protective gear.
A car used by the World Health Organization to transport swab samples to be tested for the COVID-19 virus has been attacked in western Myanmar, killing the driver and wounding a passenger.
The Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reports that the vehicle bearing a UN license plate was attacked in Rakhine State en route to Yangon late Monday afternoon.
Rakhine has been the scene of bitter fighting between the government and the Arakan Army, an ethnic guerrilla group fighting for autonomy in Rakhine State. Each side blamed the other for the Monday attack.
The newspaper account says the driver and the passenger, a health worker, wre taken to a nearby hospital. The father of the driver, 28-year-old Pyae Sone Win Mg, says his son died Tuesday morning.
The Czech Republic is launching a comprehensive study with a goal to determine the number of undetected infections with the coronavirus in its population.
Health Minister Adam Vojtech says some 27,000 people across the country will be tested in the next two weeks, starting on Thursday.
The study will be conducted in different parts of the Czech Republic where the epidemic is at different stages on people aged 18 – 89. In the capital of Prague and the second largest city of Brno, children also will be included.
The samples of the population tested will include volunteers as well a selected group suffering from chronic diseases.
A significant number of people infected with the coronavirus suffer no or only mild symptoms, but there is concern that they might unwittingly spread the virus to others. At the same time, those people are expected to be immune to COVID-19 in the future.
The results, which will be known in early May, should help authorities to adjust the plans to gradually relax restrictive measures imposed to contain the pandemic.
The Czech Republic has 6,914 people tested positive for the coronavirus, and 196 have died, according to Health Ministry figures.
A 30-year-old man from southern Israel has been hospitalized by force after contracting the coronavirus and refusing to move to an isolation hotel, the Ynet news site reports.
The man, a resident of Rahat, is also fined NIS 5,000 ($1,400) for his noncompliance.
The man was apprehended by police after going to work despite his diagnosis.
His forced hospitalization is a rare incident in Israel, with health authorities largely working to coax those with the virus to self-isolate or move to the isolation hotels of their own volition.
Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte confirms that Italy can start reopening on May 4, but he douses any hopes of a total loosening of some of the strictest lockdown measures in a Western democracy.
“Many citizens are tired of the efforts that have been made so far and would like a significant loosening of these measures, or even their total abolition,” Conte says in a Facebook post, adding that “a decision of that kind would be irresponsible.”
Conte indicates that moves to relax the restrictions would be announced by the end of the week, and that they would take into account the different circumstances among regions.
Italy’s north, hardest-hit by the virus and the country’s economic engine, has been straining to restart industry after a shutdown of nonessential manufacturing on March 26 — even as some have received permission to reopen with a much-reduced workforce in recent days.
Veneto regional governor Luca Zaia estimates as much as 40% of companies are already working in the region. Conte points out that the regions still were not able to keep up with some necessities for a reopening, including masks and gloves, noting that the government had supplied 110 million masks in addition to 3,000 ventilators to hospitals. “It is too easy to say, ‘let’s open everything,” Conte says.
Spain sees a slight increase in the daily death toll from novel coronavirus, with 430 people dying in the past 24 hours, health ministry data shows.
So far, 21,282 people have succumbed to the pandemic in Spain, which has suffered the third-highest number of deaths in the world after the United States and Italy.
Addressing the Knesset Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reads a poem by his father-in-law, whose family perished in the war.
Says Netanyahu: “My father-in-law, the late Shmuel Ben-Artzi, made aliyah in the 1930s, as a Zionist pioneer. His entire family stayed behind in Poland and was destroyed. Afterwards, he wrote the following poem in their memory. He wrote: To the dear and holy memory of my brothers – Meir, Shimon Tzvi and Aryeh – and my sisters – Yehudit and Pesla – who were plucked in the bud by impure hands.
Last night I was in the village of my birth,
In the landscape that is dear to my heart in its radiance,
In the well of my childhood a reflection still shimmers,
My father’s house still stands.
The chestnut trees are already stained red,
This is the nature of Poland’s autumn.
My brother and I lumber, as before,
On the path to our sukkah, we carry branches to cover it.
The wind chases a cloud through the sky;
Tonight the rain won’t dare to come.
We will arrive home in a moment.
We will decorate the sukkah by hand as dictated in law.
We approached the house—Gentiles in our midst!
I searched for a sukkah of peace in vain.
My brother left me his burden—and is no more!
All alone there I cried until the dream ended.”
At the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, National Security Council head Meir Ben Shabbat updated Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz this morning on “the treatment of the coronavirus epidemic and preparations for Independence Day and Memorial Day,” Blue and White says in a statement.
— Raoul Wootliff
Joint List MK Mansour Abbas also addresses the parliament’s Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony.
“I offer a prayer from the Quran for the souls of the six million killed in the Holocaust,” says Abbas. “As a Palestinian Arab and a religious Muslim… I have empathy for the pain and suffering over the years of Holocaust survivors and the families of the victims. I stand here and express my solidarity with the Jewish people here and around the world, the people singled out by the Nazis as a target for genocide and mass murder.”
The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 170,000 people globally, close to two thirds of them in hardest-hit Europe, according to an AFP tally Tuesday at 0935 GMT.
In total, 170,226 people have died from the virus around the world, including 106,737 in Europe. With 42,364 deaths, the United States has the highest mortality rate, followed by Italy with 24,114 fatalities and Spain’s 21,282. France has 20,265 deaths and Britain 16,509.
There are 2,483,086 recorded cases around the world, though the number of actual infections is believed to be higher since many countries are only testing the most serious cases.
The figures have been compiled by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Official statistics show that at least 1,500 more people with the new coronavirus have died in Britain than the 16,500 whose deaths have been announced by the government.
The Office for National Statistics says that 1,043 deaths in nursing homes in England and Wales up to April 10 involved COVID-19, with 826 of those deaths recorded in the final week of that period. More than 500 other people died in hospices and private homes.
Those are not included in the UK government’s daily total, which only includes deaths in hospitals.
The figures show that the total number of deaths in the week to April 10 — 18,516 — was the highest weekly total in 20 years. About a third of all deaths involved the coronavirus.
The British government is under pressure to include nursing-home deaths in its daily coronavirus figures amid fears the number is being underreported.
Liz Kendall, social care spokeswoman for the opposition Labour Party, says “these awful figures are only scratching the surface of the emerging crisis in social care, because they are already 11 days out of date.”
Sweden’s state alcohol monopoly that runs a chain of liquor stores says it has put up signs in its shops to tell patrons that vodka, gin and other spirits meant for consumption doesn’t work as hand sanitizer.
A spokeswoman for Systembolaget, Therese Elmgren, tells Sweden TT news agency that they had received questions from customers — both in shops and online — after which they decided to put up the signs stating that strong alcoholic beverages don’t work as sanitizer.
“It needs to have a higher percentage,” Elmgren says.
The cabinet extends emergency regulations that allow Israel to quarantine all arrivals in the country at specially outfitted hotels, to stem the outbreak of the virus.
The rules are now in effect until May 6.
Italy’s extraordinary commissioner for the COVID-19 emergency says that for the first time during the pandemic the nation has more respirators than patients with coronavirus infections in intensive care beds.
“This gives us the strength to go forward,” Domenico Arcuri tells reporters on Tuesday. There are currently some 2,500 patients receiving intensive care for coronavirus infections.
Arcuri speaks of the “anguish, with which, each night, we had to decide where to send these instruments, which, in the end, save lives” when there weren’t enough respirators for those all needing them.
“I’ll keep that with me for all my life, and I wouldn’t wish anyone else to experience” the dilemma of choosing which hospital received them, he says.
For several days running now in Italy, the number of patients in intensive care wards have been diminishing. Italy has Europe’s highest number of deaths — more than 24,000 — in the outbreak, which in the early weeks overwhelmed hospitals, especially in the north where most known cases were registered.
Thirteen nursing home residents and seven members of staff at a facility in Bnei Brak are confirmed infected with COVID-19, according to Channel 12.
The 160 residents have been kept in the building without visitors to avoid an outbreak since mid-March, the report says.
The UN General Assembly demands global action to quickly scale up the development of and access to medicines, vaccines and equipment to battle the pandemic.
The UN resolution asks Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to work with the WHO and make recommendations to ensure that all people have equitable and timely access to testing, medical supplies, drugs and future vaccines, especially in developing countries.
African officials have been outspoken about the need for medical supplies across the 54-nation continent, where health systems have historically been underfunded and will be overwhelmed by the virus.
Even under a best-case scenario, Africa will need $44 billion for testing, personal protective equipment and treatment of coronavirus, according to a report last week by the UN Economic Commission for Africa. The worst-case scenario estimates $446 billion would be needed.
WHO says the number of beds in intensive care units available to treat COVID-19 patients in 43 African countries is less than 5,000. That’s about five beds per 1 million people compared to 4,000 beds per 1 million in Europe.
Singapore will extend its partial lockdown by another four weeks after reporting thousands of new coronavirus cases in recent days, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says.
The tiny city-state reports 1,111 new cases earlier Tuesday to increase its total to 9,125, the most in Southeast Asia. It marks the second straight day of over 1,000 new cases after a single-day high of 1,426 were announced on Monday. Foreign workers staying in crowded dormitories account for nearly 80% of infections.
Lee says the sharp upsurge in cases is due to aggressive testing of workers in the dorms, including those who are asymptomatic.
Although the viral clusters in the dorms have remained largely contained, Lee says circuit-breaker measures that shut down nonessential businesses and schools until May 4 will be extended to June 1 or until infections ease.
He says this will allow the government to detect and contain the virus spread early if there is a transmission from the dorms to the wider community.
Although the number of new cases in the wider community has dropped to below 30 per day, Lee says there is still a number of cases that cannot be linked to any clusters, suggesting a larger, hidden reservoir of cases in the community.
“Many will be disappointed by the extension of the circuit breaker, especially our businesses and workers, who are hurting greatly,” Lee says in a televised speech. “But I hope you understand that this short-term pain is to stamp out the virus, protect the health and safety of our loved ones, and allow us to revive our economy.”
A New Jersey man accused of coordinating a neo-Nazi group’s plot to vandalize synagogues and telling FBI agents that he fantasized about killing black people at a mall has been freed from jail several months after his arrest.
Richard Tobin, 19, was released on $100,000 bond last Wednesday, according to Matthew Reilly, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey. A federal magistrate ordered Tobin to remain under house arrest, prohibited him from accessing the internet and barred him from having any contact with current or former members of the neo-Nazi group, called The Base, and another group called Atomwaffen Division, court records show.
The records don’t explain why US Magistrate Judge Karen Williams in Camden, New Jersey, agreed to set bond for Tobin, who was arrested by the FBI in November. The magistrate sealed court records related to Tobin’s bond request.
A criminal complaint said Tobin was a member of a “white racially motivated violent extremist group” that has “proclaimed war” against minority groups in the US. The complaint doesn’t name the group, but its description matches The Base.
From his home in Brooklawn, New Jersey, Tobin communicated online with other members of The Base and directed them to vandalize synagogues in Michigan and Wisconsin last year, the complaint alleges. He told investigators that he had launched “Operation Kristallnacht,” a reference to the deadly pogrom in 1938 when Nazis looted and burned synagogues and Jewish-owned homes and stores in Germany.
Tobin also told FBI agents that he was “triggered by the state of the country” and recounted a time when he became enraged at seeing large crowds of black people at a mall in Edison, New Jersey.
“That day, he had a machete in his car and he wanted to ‘let loose’ with it,” the complaint says.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas expresses outrage at an event last night during which anti-Semites disrupted the Israeli Embassy’s virtual Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony by displaying photos of Adolf Hitler.
“What an incredible lack of respect toward survivors and toward the memory of the deceased,” Maas tweets in German. “It’s an indescribable shame!”
On Monday evening, Israel’s embassy in Berlin conducted a Zoom meeting, featuring Holocaust survivor Zvi Herschel. Some “anti-Israel activists disrupted his talk posting pictures of Hitler and shouting anti-Semitic slogans,” according to Ambassador Jeremy Issacharoff.
The online event was temporarily suspended, but resumed after a short while, “without the activists and conducted in an appropriate and respectful way,” Issacharoff said on his Twitter account. “To dishonour the memory of the #Holocaust and the dignity of the survivor is beyond shame and disgrace and shows the blatant antisemitic nature of the activists.”
— Raphael Ahren
Several media outlets have noted that this week and the next’s days of commemoration and Independence Day, as well as several legislative measures required by the coalition agreement, may cause the new government to only be sworn in in early May.
This means Netanyahu will be serving as prime minister until November, not October, 2021 (according to the 18-month period agreed upon), for those of you marking your calendars.
Alleged Israeli airstrikes late Monday near the central Syrian city of Palmyra killed nine fighters loyal to the Iran-backed Damascus regime, a war monitor says.
Those who died in several missile strikes included three Syrians and six foreigners of unknown nationalities, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.
— with AFP
German prosecutors say they have charged the suspect in last year’s botched attack on a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle with murder and attempted murder, among other offenses.
The German man in his late 20s attempted to attack a synagogue on October 9, which was Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day. He later killed shot and killed a 40-year-old woman in the street outside and a 20-year-old man at a nearby kebab shop.
The man, who was previously unknown to police, posted an anti-Semitic screed before the attack and broadcast the shooting live on a popular gaming site.
Federal prosecutors say the suspect, whom they identify only as Stephan B. in line with German privacy rules, was indicted on two counts of murder and 68 counts of attempted murder, along with other charges including bodily harm and incitement.
Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz will give a live statement to the media tonight at 8:30 p.m. following the signing of a coalition deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday evening.
As on every year, the official closing ceremony of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day is now starting at Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot (Ghetto Fighters).
But this year the ceremony, like all others, is being held without an audience.
The Health Ministry announces it conducted 12,281 coronavirus tests yesterday, the first time it has passed the 12,000 mark.
Tests have been hovering at around 9,000-10,000 a day in recent days, with health officials saying they hope to bring up numbers further with the introduction of new testing equipment purchased from China.
The Beersheba District Court this morning ruled that a local printing house must compensate an LGBT rights group after it refused to print posters for the Gay Pride Parade in the city some three years ago.
At the time the owner of the business wrote to the person that contacted him to inquire on prices: “We do not deal with abominable material. We are Jews!”
The court this morning ruled that the owner must pay The Aguda – Israel’s LGBT Task Force a sum of NIS 50,000 ($14,000) for discrimination.
Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich of the religious right-wing part Yamina calls the ruling “outrageous,” tweeting that the court was “forcing a religious and mitzvah-keeping man to act against his belief at his private business. [This is] serious secular coercion.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held discussions earlier about what measures to take during next week’s Memorial Day and Independence Day, though no decisions have yet been made, his office says.
Though most events for both days have been canceled or will be broadcast without audiences present, several issues are still being weighed, among them a possible national lockdown of the country for Independence Day to prevent mass celebrations; and potentially allowing families of fallen soldiers to visit cemeteries during Memorial Day in a reduced capacity to prevent crowding.
Yesterday several ultra-Orthodox residents of Beit Shemesh protesting against social distancing measures and the ban on holding prayers at synagogues amid the coronavirus pandemic wore Holocaust-era yellow stars.
בית שמש עכשיו: חרדים קיצוניים בהפגנות אלימות נגד האיסורים של משרד הבריאות לגבי התקהלות בבתי כנסת. עשרות מפגינים עונדים…
Protesters appeared to be likening their treatment by Israeli authorities to the Nazi persecution of Jews.
Extreme ultra-Orthodox protesters have on several occasions elicited public outrage for using symbols of the Holocaust, including yellow stars and striped concentration camp uniforms, to protest against perceived injustices.
Benny Gantz’s erstwhile partner Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid-Telem will hold a press conference this evening on the formation of a unity government between Gantz and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Apparently seeking to preempt Gantz’s own presser at 8:30 p.m., Lapid says he will be speaking at 8:15 p.m.
He’ll likely use his time to lambaste the new coalition.
Police publish an English-language update on the latest coronavirus restrictions and fines for violating them.
You can read them here.
In a bit of positive news, the Ynet news site reports on a seriously ill coronavirus patient who has recovered.
The 58-year-old man had been in serious condition and was sedated and on a ventilator for over two weeks but has now recovered and been released home.
The European Union says its vaunted tourist industry is facing “staggering” figures of decline because of the coronavirus crisis and the bloc’s internal market commissioner wants the sector to be first in line when it comes to recovery funds.
Thierry Breton mentions figures that the tourism economy could slump up to 70% and will be among the last to recover as the 27-nation bloc is facing perhaps the toughest challenge since its inception.
Across Europe, desolation illustrates the tourism crisis, from empty squares like the Brussels Grand Place to deserted monuments like Rome’s Colosseum while idle gondolas await non-existent tourists in Venice. Arrival areas in airports stand empty and beaches, basking in the sunshine, are deserted.
The unprecedented scenes since World War II are hitting anything from multinational airlines to family-owned hotels.
“Tourism was the first sector to be hit by the coronavirus and I am sure that it will be the slowest to recover and come out of this phase,” Breton tells a European Parliament committee via videolink on Tuesday.
Benny Gantz’s former ally Moshe Ya’alon says this Holocaust Remembrance Day “was particularly difficult.”
He tweets: “To watch yesterday the news reports on a bloated, expensive government, that contains no ’emergency’ or ‘unity,’ but rather immunity and corruption, and then to watch a report on a lonely 94-year-old Holocaust survivor calling police because he’s run out of medicine and he’s hungry.
“Have we become Sodom? Are we like Gomorrah? Shameful.”
Former prime minister Ehud Barak says Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz “is weak and naive” for the coalition deal he made with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Barak says the deal is a joke, and says Netanyahu will never honor his vow to rotate the premiership with Gantz in 18 months’ time. “Write it down.”
The former Netanyahu ally, who has become a vociferous critic in recent years, claims — while admitting he has no evidence — that Netanyahu must have blackmailed Gantz with some sensitive information in order to coerce him into such a bad deal.
Speaking after Barak, Shas party leader Aryeh Deri says Netanyahu intends to honor every element of the agreement. He says Netanyahu has promised him he will hand the premiership over to Gantz and insists he will have no option but to do so under the agreement.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to enact a closure of Israeli cities during Independence Day next Wednesday to prevent celebrations and crowding, the Prime Minister’s Office says.
And on Memorial Day, on Monday and Tuesday, cemeteries will remain closed and families will not be allowed to visit their loved ones’ graves. Small ceremonies will be held at military cemeteries and broadcast to the public, officials say. A near-full city closure will also be imposed on that day, with residents only allowed to leave their towns for necessary shopping or for work.
The cabinet will be asked to approve both measures later tonight.
Channel 12 news reports that as recently as Sunday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was attempting to reach a 61-seat majority in the Knesset without Blue and White.
The report says Labor MKs Amir Peretz and Itzik Shmuli were offered far-reaching benefits if they agreed to join without Benny Gantz.
Shmuli was offered the justice or education ministries, while Peretz was promised the finance ministry and even a rotation of the premiership for one year out of four.
Peretz and Shmuli refused.
Likud refuses to comment on the claims.
Yair Lapid rails against the new government agreed upon by Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I apologize to everyone who I convinced over the past year to vote for Benny Gantz and Blue and White. I didn’t believe your votes would be stolen,” he says in a live press conference.
“There has not been such deceit since the establishment of the state. Instead of Israel before all else, [it’s] the seat before all else,” Lapid says, paraphrasing Gantz’s election slogan.
Under such a government Israelis “will never know the truth” about Netanyahu’s alleged involvement in the submarine case.
“No promise you were given will be honored. Not one,” he says. “In this government Miri Regev will choose the police chief. Netanyahu will choose the state prosecutor and the judges who will preside over his trial.”
He asserts that, “All the institutions intended to defend democracy have been handed over to a man accused of criminality.”
He says the government, through its plan to carry out annexation of West Bank settlements, will lead to the annulment of Israel’s peace agreement with Jordan and to irreversible damage with Democrats in the US and the Jewish community there.
Now speaking, Benny Gantz says Israel in recent months stood “before the greatest crisis to health, economy and society in recent decades” while it faced its greatest political crisis.
“Some wanted to continue to move toward more and more elections and perhaps score political points… I and my colleagues could not stand by,” he says.
“We chose to safeguard democracy and fight coronavirus and its consequences. We had to pull up our sleeves, leave our comfort zone of statements,” he says.
“We thought it was better to win against coronavirus than to win on social media… We chose a national cause over a party cause.”
Of criticism of the size of the emerging government, the largest in Israeli history, Gantz says: “I would have preferred a slimmer government… and at least as far as I’m concerned I will do my best to minimize the number of positions in my bloc.”
The number of coronavirus fatalities has risen to 184 with the deaths of three more patients, the Health Ministry says.
The ministry initially sent out an erroneous report claiming 197 had died — a jump of 18 fatalities — but retracted it minutes later before sending out the correct numbers. Officials said the error was caused by faulty data input into the system.
Meanwhile, the number of virus cases rises to 13,942, with 139 people in serious condition, of which 113 are on ventilators.
Rocks were thrown at a group of IDF soldiers distributing food in the ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem earlier tonight, the military says.
No troops were injured, though damage was caused to their car, the army says. The military says police are investigating the incident.
In a statement, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi denounces the attack on the troops. “This was a violent, criminal act, which deserves total condemnation. The fact that IDF soldiers who were assisting the local government and citizens to distribute food were violently attacked by residents of Mea Shearim is very serious and requires denunciation, thorough treatment and soul-searching,” Kohavi says.
“The IDF will continue to assist in the national effort as much as it is asked,” he adds.
— Judah Ari Gross
A poll by Channel 13 news indicates 62 percent of the public supports the newly agreed upon unity government, while 22% oppose it.
Among Likud voters 80% support the union, while 57% of Blue and White voters back it.
Meanwhile, only 31% believe Benjamin Netanyahu will honor the deal and vacate the Prime Minister’s Office in 18 months, 41% believe he won’t do so and 23% say they don’t know.
Finally, 48% believe Benny Gantz gave up more to strike a deal, while 23% think Netanyahu made greater concessions.
A senior Health Ministry official speaking to Channel 12 news criticizes the severity of the restrictions his office has championed during the coronavirus crisis, and blames the “anxiety-prone” personalities of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the ministry’s Director-General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov.
The unnamed official says the precautions taken by the government in its choice of restrictions were “crazy and unnecessary.” Israel “should have imposed less severe limitations, and then today we may have had 400 dead and 1,000 on ventilators, but unfortunate as that may be, it would be preferable to the terrible harm done to the economy.”
The official asserts the government should immediately bring all Israelis back to work “under social distancing guidelines and hygiene practices.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tentatively began his return to work today after being hospitalized for coronavirus, as parliament returned and criticism grew over the government’s response to the outbreak.
Johnson spoke on the phone to US President Donald Trump about the international response to COVID-19, and officials say he will speak to Queen Elizabeth II in the coming days for the first time in three weeks.
However, his spokesman says the 55-year-old, who spent several days in intensive care, is not yet “formally doing government work” as he recuperates at his official countryside retreat of Chequers.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab remains in temporary charge and will take prime minister’s questions on Wednesday during a semi-virtual session of the House of Commons.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri signs new regulations instructing local authorities to give businesses a three-month exemption on property taxes.
“The aid will ease businesses’ [money] difficulties,” Deri says, noting that some “are facing collapse” due to the extended closures caused by coronavirus.
Labor party chief Amir Peretz says his party will join the unity government of Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz.
“The Labor party is returning to national leadership,” he tweets. “We decided to join the equal unity government… and in a year and a half will be partners to Benny Gantz becoming the 13th prime minister of Israel. Because as we’ve said — for us it’s people before all else.”
The Labor party currently consists of three MKs, one of which has said she will refuse to sit in a Netanyahu-led government. Peretz’s bid must still be ratified by party members.
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, perhaps the leading living ultra-Orthodox authority, was overruled yesterday by a lesser rabbi after he called to immediately reopen yeshivas, Channel 12 reports.
Kanievsky, of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox community in Bnei Brak, signed a letter calling for Torah studies to resume immediately at institutions, while maintaining hygiene precautions, saying it was “a holy obligation” to reopen them, the report says.
But in a move many in the community call shocking, the Lithuanian sect’s weekly newspaper Yated Ne’eman refused to publish it after Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, another top leader in the community but usually seen as a lesser authority, forbade it.
Associates of Kanievsky deny the report.
Egypt yesterday flew a plane of medical supplies to the United States to assist in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, a role reversal for a top US aid recipient.
Egypt’s general-turned-president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has been eager to cement relations with US President Donald Trump, and his country has already shipped medical goods with fanfare to China and Italy.
A video statement from Sisi’s office shows crates in wrapping that read in English and Arabic, “From the Egyptian people to the American people,” being loaded into a military cargo plane.
Dutch Ruppersberger, who leads a group in the US House of Representatives that promotes relations with Egypt, says the plane landed at Andrews Air Force base outside Washington.
The plane brought 200,000 masks, 48,000 shoe covers and 20,000 surgical caps among other supplies, says Ruppersberger, a Democrat who heads the bipartisan group.
“This is why international diplomacy and maintaining relationships with allies like Egypt are essential not in times of crisis, but every day,” he writes on Twitter.
The US ambassador in Cairo, Jonathan Cohen, also voices appreciation for the “generous” shipment.
Egypt has reported 250 deaths from COVID-19 and some 3,300 cases, according to the World Health Organization.