The Times of Israel is live blogged Thursday’s events as they happened.
Raed Salah, the firebrand leader of an outlawed Islamist group, will serve 28 months in prison for incitement to violence, an Israeli court rules today, rejecting an appeal against his conviction.
Salah, the leader of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, was convicted in November of incitement to terror and membership in an outlawed organization after giving a sermon in 2017 which he praised a terror attack on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount that left two police officers dead and inflamed regional tensions.
The Haifa District Court upheld the conviction and the 28-month sentence, but ruled that he would not need to report to prison until August 4 so that he can celebrate the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, which ends a day earlier.
Salah, a former mayor of Umm al-Fahm who has become a cause celebre in some pro-Palestinian circles, has served several stints in prison for incitement or support for terror.
LONDON — A UK woman who as a teenager ran away to join the Islamic State jihadist group wins the right to return to Britain to fight for the restoration of her citizenship, which was revoked on national security grounds.
Shamima Begum was one of three east London schoolgirls who traveled to Syria in 2015. She resurfaced at a refugee camp in Syria and told reporters she wanted to come home, but was denied the chance after former home secretary Sajid Javid revoked her citizenship.
He argued that she was Bangladeshi by descent and could go there.
She challenged the decision, arguing she is not the citizen of another country and that Javid’s decision left her stateless.
“Ms Begum is not afraid of facing British justice, she welcomes it,” her lawyer, Daniel Furner, sys in a statement after the ruling. “But the stripping of her citizenship without a chance to clear her name is not justice — it is the opposite.”
AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan’s top court has dissolved the country’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, a transnational Islamist group, an official says, citing the group’s failure to “rectify its legal status.”
“The Court of Cassation yesterday issued a final verdict ruling that the Muslim Brotherhood group is dissolved and has lost its legal status, for failing to rectify its legal status under Jordanian law,” the official says, requesting anonymity.
The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, is a pan-Islamic movement with both charitable and political arms.
It has faced years of pressure, especially in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, and has been outlawed as a terrorist group in Egypt and banned in several other countries.
Amman had tolerated the group’s political arm for decades, but since 2014 authorities have considered it illegal, arguing its license was not renewed under a 2014 law on political parties.
Sheikh Hamza Mansur, head of the organisation’s ruling council, says the group would appeal against the ruling.
“The Muslim Brotherhood … is a model of moderation and an important element in strengthening national unity, so dissolving it is not in the national interest,” he tells AFP.
The Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood has wide grassroots support in the kingdom.
The Jerusalem Municipality announces it has appointed a former IDF officer convicted for striking a Danish peace activist in the face with his rifle to manage the city’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Lt. Col. (Res.) Shalom Eisner has been serving as the National Security Council’s representative to the capital, which is leading the country in the number of active COVID-19 infections.
Eisner reached a plea deal with the military over the 2012 incident under which he served two months of community service and was ordered to resign his commission at the minimum retirement age.
In a statement, the Jerusalem Municipality doesn’t spell out what Eisner’s responsibilities will be but says it’ll prepare a plan to “receive authority, resources and tools to eradicate the virus in the city.”
Ministers who took part in a meeting convened today by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have agreed on a series of further restrictions to contain the continued rise in coronavirus infections, according to Channel 12 news.
The network says the measures include a nationwide lockdown on weekends which will run from Friday to Sunday mornings; limiting outdoor gatherings to 20 people and indoor ones to 10; only allowing restaurants to offer delivery; and closing gyms and pools, among other measures.
Netanyahu says he’ll convene the government later this evening to approve new restrictions, which he says are aimed at preventing a general lockdown.
“This is the goal… to take interim steps to prevent a general lockdown in light of the gigantic jump in morbidity to around 1,800 cases and the doubling of the number of severe cases every seven days. This is the goal,” a statement from his office quotes him saying during the meeting.
LONDON — The British government accuses “Russian actors” of seeking to disrupt last year’s general election by circulating leaked trade documents between London and Washington.
“On the basis of extensive analysis, the government has concluded that it is almost certain that Russian actors sought to interfere with the 2019 general election through the online amplification of illicitly acquired and leaked government documents,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says.
Beaches and gyms will be closed as part of a nationwide lockdown during weekends that the government is expected to approve this evening, according to Channel 12 news.
The network says other restrictions that will be in place are limiting synagogue attendance to 10 people and closing malls.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut rails against a proposed parliamentary panel to investigate judges’ alleged conflicts of interests, which the Knesset voted against establishing earlier this month.
“Alongside the coronavirus wave, the judiciary also has to deal with another murky wave, which reached the lowest level with the proposal to establish a committee to examine ‘conflicts of interests of senior justice system officials,'” she writes in a letter to court employees.
She adds: “This is a proposal that stems from non-substantive motives that is meant to gore the judicial branch in an attempt to terrorize us and harm judicial independence and the public’s faith in the courts.”
The proposal, which was championed by far-right MK Bezalel Smotrich, received backing from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party but was rejected by the Knesset plenum.
If approved by the government this evening, new lockdown measures during weekends will come into effect tomorrow morning, Channel 12 news reports.
The network also says Israelis will be allowed to leave their homes during the lockdowns, but public gatherings of over 20 people will be banned.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit says he hasn’t issued a legal opinion on a series of new measures against the coronavirus that the government is expected to approve this evening, potentially signaling they could face legal obstacles.
In a statement quoted by Hebrew media, Mandelblit says he learned about the proposed restrictions — which include a lockdown over weekends — from the media.
“The legal position on the matter will be formulated and presented before the Government of Israel at the government meeting this evening,” the statement says.
The head of the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians criticizes the government’s expected approval of lockdown measures over weekends as lacking medical sense.
“If a sweeping decision is made on lockdowns during weekends or preventing access to open areas, it has no epidemiological logic,” Hagai Levine, an epidemiologist with the Hadassah School of Public Health, writes on Twitter.
He adds: “I order to maintain public trust and public health decision-making must be conducted transparently, in a planned way, on the basis of epidemiological logic and data and not on the basis of political considerations. There are alternative strategies.”
Also criticizing the proposed weekend lockdowns is Modiin Mayor Haim Bibas, who heads the Federation of Local Authorities.
“The government is losing the public with loss of sense. They want to close summer schools when the morbidity rate in them is only 0.14%!?” he says in a statement. “Someone is deceiving the public and pushing with all strength for the closure of the economy.”
Bibas warns of “total destruction of the economic system that won’t be possible to rehabilitate.”
LONDON — Britain, the United States and Canada accuse Russia of trying to steal information from researchers seeking a COVID-19 vaccine.
The three nations allege that hacking group APT29, also known as Cozy Bear and said to be part of the Russian intelligence service, is attacking academic and pharmaceutical research institutions involved in coronavirus vaccine development.
Britain’s National Cybersecurity Centre makes the announcement, which was coordinated with authorities in the US and Canada.
“It is completely unacceptable that the Russian Intelligence Services are targeting those working to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says in a statement. “While others pursue their selfish interests with reckless behavior, the UK and its allies are getting on with the hard work of finding a vaccine and protecting global health.”
The persistent and ongoing attacks are seen by intelligence officials as an effort to steal intellectual property, rather than to disrupt research. The campaign of “malicious activity” is ongoing and includes attacks ”predominantly against government, diplomatic, think-tank, healthcare and energy targets,” the National Cybersecurity Centre says in a statement.
It’s unclear whether any information actually was stolen but the center says individuals’ confidential information is not believed to have been compromised.
Cozy Bear, also known as the “dukes,″ has been identified by Washington as one of two Russian government-linked hacking groups that broke into the Democratic National Committee computer network and stole emails ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The other group is usually called Fancy Bear.
An internal Likud party rival of Prime Minister Netanyahu pans a series of new virus-related restrictions expected to be approved by this government this evening, among them the imposition of lockdowns on weekends.
“It’s hard for me to find a logical organizing idea in the decisions that will be brought to the government this evening. They’ll definitely lead to an exacerbation of the harm to the economy but it’s doubtful if they’ll achieve they’re intended result,” MK Gideon Sa’ar tweets.
“Better: Perform organized staff work and don’t rush,” he adds.
Yamina MK Naftali Bennett, who served as defense minister until May and has been a sharp critic of the government’s handling of the pandemic, also rips the proposed weekend lockdowns, calling it “out of touch, illogical and destructive.”
“The government is in panic, firing in all directions, without any logic,” he writes on Twitter.
The Health Ministry is announcing that Maj. Gen. Amir Abulafia will be appointed “coronavirus project manager,” taking charge of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Hebrew media reports.
However, the Israel Defense Forces says no final decision has been made.
“He is being considered for assisting the decision-makers, but nothing has been decided yet. We will make an announcement when we know,” says Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman, head of the military’s spokesperson unit.
— with Judah Ari Gross
The Israel Defense Forces rolls out new restrictions on soldiers in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus in its ranks, including barring troops from taking part in gatherings of more than five people while on leave, IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman says.
The military is also considering confining to their units combat soldiers and other troops who serve on closed bases. These service members are already required to remain on their bases through the end of next week, so the IDF top brass will wait until Monday to make a decision on the matter, Zilberman tells reporters.
Currently, 673 conscripted soldiers, officers, non-commissioned officers and civilian employees of the IDF are sick with COVID-19 — all of them with light symptoms — while roughly 11,500 troops are in quarantine after coming into contact with a confirmed carrier of the coronavirus, according to the military.
In light of the growing number of cases within the military, the IDF has reopened one coronavirus hotel in Ashkelon — where up to 500 soldiers with light symptoms can recover — with plans to open two more locations to bring the military’s total capacity of beds up to nearly 1,200, Zilberman says.
Soldiers who are currently recovering from the disease at home are able to request to be transported to the military’s coronavirus hotels through a smartphone application, and they will be taken in specially-designed vehicles with a hermetically sealed compartment to prevent the driver from contracting the virus, the spokesman says.
— Judah Ari Gross
A proposal to impose a lockdown during weekends that the government is expected to approve this evening won’t take effect this weekend, Channel 12 news reports.
The network cites opposition from the Blue and White ministers and a request by Prime Minister Netanyahu for the Knesset’s Constitution Law and Justice Committee to begin preparing legislation for the lockdowns that can be fast-tracked next week.
Blue and White is reportedly pushing for protests to be exempt from the lockdowns and for limiting the distance Israelis can exercise from their homes to 500 meters.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s main opposition party lodges a protest to a top court against the recent presidential election in which its candidate narrowly lost to conservative incumbent Andrzej Duda.
The liberal Civic Platform party says the whole electoral process was “not fair.” The Supreme Court has 21 days to review all protests and rule whether any of them undermines the validity of the election.
The challenge is seen as unlikely to succeed, in what will be the first big test for the Supreme Court. The court’s new president was appointed in May with the backing of the ruling Law and Justice party that also backed Duda’s reelection.
“It was not a fair election,” says Barbara Nowacka of the Civic Platform, before filing the protest.
The party claims that Duda got an unfair campaign boost from the government and from state-run media, who were allegedly praising the president and trying to discredit his opponent, Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski.
It also says that many voters abroad were not able to cast their ballots because they did not get them on time, due to poor organization by some of Poland’s diplomatic missions.
The OSCE body overseeing democratic processes has said the July 12 voting was organized professionally on the whole, but noted the public broadcaster’s being used as a campaign tool for Duda.
There are also some 780 other challenges, mostly from individual people.
The State Electoral Commission announced Monday that Duda won a second five-year term on 51.03% of the vote, against 48.07% for Trzaskowski.
Rapper Ice Cube slams NBA legend and columnist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for calling him out in a piece taking celebrities to task for posting anti-Semitic statements on social media.
Abdul-Jabbar’s latest column in The Hollywood Reporter named Ice Cube among various figures from the entertainment world he cited for perpetuating anti-Semitic canards.
“Shame on the Hollywood Reporter who obviously gave my brother Kareem 30 pieces of silver to cut us down without even a phone call,” the rapper tweets.
The reference to “30 pieces of silver” is a nod to Judas, the disciple said to have betrayed Jesus.
Abdul-Jabbar’s column noted a series of tweets Ice Cube had posted in early June, including a mural some have called anti-Semitic and images associated with conspiracy theories against Jews.
Tourism Minister Asaf Zamir comes out against a series of strict restrictions the government is set to approve this evening in order to halt the continued rise in coronavirus infections.
Zamir, a member of the Blue and White party, warns the measures “will cause enormous damage to the economy.”
“Closing summer schools and daycares is a de-facto lockdown for parents who were set to go out to work,” he writes on Twitter.
He notes it hasn’t yet been two weeks since the government further tightened restrictions and that it would only be possible to see the effects next week.
“This is irresponsible and illogical behavior. The public trust in the government’s decision is low and making haphazard and dramatic decisions like these will only lower it further,” Zamir says.
While acknowledging there may be a need for further restrictions, he says they shouldn’t be passed hastily.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz calls for his ministry’s procurement office to strike a deal with the MyHeritage DNA testing company to dramatically increase the number of coronavirus tests the company performs for the government, from roughly 10,000 tests per day to 30,000 within a few weeks, his office says.
The Defense Ministry says this decision was made “at the request of the Health Ministry,” and that it hopes to have an agreement signed with the company within the next few days.
“The Directorate of Production and Procurement in the Defense Ministry has launched a negotiation process with MyHeritage, in order to increase the company’s laboratory output threefold within a few weeks — from 10,000 daily tests to about 30,000 tests per day,” his office says.
“The Defense Ministry also aims to shorten response times by expanding automation processes and connecting the laboratory directly to healthcare providers,” the ministry says.
— Judah Ari Gross
BERLIN — Two German men were arrested today on suspicion of spearheading a far-right group that posted pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic material online, prosecutors say.
A suspect accused of co-founding the “Goyim Party Germany” group in 2016, identified only as Fadi J. in line with German privacy laws, was arrested in the Dutch town of Heerlen, federal prosecutors say. The second suspect, Marcus B, who allegedly joined the group in 2018, was arrested in Berlin. Their apartments were searched, as were those of six other suspects.
German prosecutors say the group ran a website on which material denying the Holocaust and downplaying or approving of the crimes of the Nazi regime was posted. They say the site also featured “deeply disparaging anti-Semitic propaganda,” including a call to kill Jews.
The two men were administrators for the group and played a leading role, according to prosecutors’ statement. Federal prosecutors say they would seek Fadi J.’s extradition from the Netherlands to Germany.
The Hamas terror group has blocked two Saudi-owned news networks, Al-Arabiya and Al-Hadath, from operating in the Gaza Strip over allegations of false reporting, multiple sources say.
Hamas’s interior ministry and Al-Arabiya both confirm the ban, which was imposed over a report alleging that Hamas had arrested several of its members for collaborating with Israel.
A journalist who works with Al-Arabiya, who requested anonymity, says the order bars “anyone or any business from providing services” to either network.
Al-Arabiya’s office in Gaza was previously closed over a report concerning alleged ties between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
But it and Al-Hadath, which are Saudi-owned but based in Dubai, still work with freelancers in the Palestinian enclave.
Hamas, which took power in Gaza in 2007, relies on substantial aid from Qatar, which remains the target of a Saudi-led regional blockade.
In a statement, the Palestinian journalists union denounced the reporting ban, saying “restrictions on press freedom and repeated shutdown of media” in Gaza were “contrary to national values and principles.”
Ministers are expected to approve restrictions this evening requiring most businesses to close tomorrow at 5 p.m. and remain shuttered for the rest of the weekend, Channel 12 news reports.
No restrictions on movement will be approved, according to the network.
The decision to impose such restrictions comes after a proposed lockdown during weekends that would start tomorrow was pushed off due to apparent legal difficulties.
There have been 1,939 new coronavirus cases recorded over the past day, Health Ministry figures show, a new high in Israel for a 24-hour period.
Another three people died from COVID-19, raising the national toll to 383.
According to the ministry, there are now 24,956 active cases in Israel. Among those currently sick, 203 are in serious condition, including 58 on ventilators. Another 110 people are in moderate condition and the rest have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.
Of the 45,607 people to test positive for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, 20,268 have recovered.
The ministry also says 30,508 tests were performed yesterday.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri acknowledged the government didn’t take sufficient measures to prevent a resurgence of the coronavirus during a meeting of ministers today, set to discuss imposing further restrictions, Channel 12 news reports.
“When we were still at 100 [new] sick people a day we needed to prepare,” Deri, who heads the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, is quoted saying by the network. “With testing, quarantines and cutting the infection rate.”
He also warned the health system could be overwhelmed in the winter, when Israel could face an outbreak of the flu and coronavirus simultaneously, if preparations aren’t made.
The report also says that during the meeting, Health Ministry officials warned that Israel could see 20 coronavirus deaths a day next month if the rate of new infections isn’t curbed.
The ministry has previously taken flak for what we’re seen as highly over-pessimistic forecasts, including predicting last month that as many as 5,000 people could require ventilators during a second wave.
Hundreds of Israelis protest against Prime Minister Netanyahu outside his official residence in Jerusalem, calling on him to resign due to his indictment on graft charges.
The demonstration comes days after thousands took part in a rally outside the Prime Minister’s residence, during which some protesters clashed with police.
A cabinet meeting to approve a series of new restrictions to curb the ongoing rise in new COVID-19 cases has begun.
Among the measures expected to be approved are lockdowns on weekends, further limits on gatherings and the shuttering of summer schools and other educational programs.
NIS 1.8 billion ($522 million) of the NIS 6 billion total in handouts for all Israelis promised by Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday will go to families with a monthly income of over NIS 22,000 ($6,390), including over 200,000 families with an income of over NIS 40,000 ($12,775) per month, according to Channel 13 news.
The network also notes 114,000 Israelis with assets over $1 million, 16,000 Israelis with $5-50 million in assets and 50 Israelis with assets of over $500 million will also receive the handouts.
At the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu warns ministers Israel will have 1,600 serious cases in 3 weeks if it doesn’t “flatten the curve,” Channel 12 reports. (There are currently 203 serious cases.)
For his part, Defense Minister Benny Gantz says he favors nationwide lockdowns at night during the week.
National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat reportedly says he wants Seder night-style full lockdowns on weekends, and the country’s beaches closed from tomorrow.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri was quoted as saying earlier in the evening that Israel has failed in dealing with the second wave of the virus, and that it needs to institute new restrictions to prevent a further surge in contagion with winter ahead.
Reports earlier in the evening have indicated that a full lockdown mooted for this weekend is unlikely, for legislative reasons. But this has not been confirmed.
This evening’s protest in front of the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem is being conducted with relative calm, after Tuesday night’s rally saw clashes with police and led to 50 arrests.
Several hundred people are attending the protest, compared to thousands two days ago. As on Tuesday night, the protesters skew young.
Protesters chant “Bibi to jail” and hold signs calling for a “siege on Balfour.”
In addition to chants, there are drums, vuvuzelas, and cowbells.
Ofra, 54, says this is her second time attending the protests, which have been ongoing for several weeks. “There’s a sense as a country that we’ve totally lost our way, and that the people at the top are out for themselves, not for us,” she says.
Amit, 26, came from central Israel to attend the protests for the first time. A student, he says the economic impact of coronavirus forced him to move back in with his parents.
“I think this isn’t a right-wing or left-wing rally. I’m not really anywhere on the political spectrum. I have right-wing friends here and left-wing friends here,” Amit says.
Avi Ofer, who says he is one of the protest’s organizers, tells The Times of Israel that about 200 people have signed up to spend the night sleeping in a protest tent at the scene.
— Aaron Boxerman
Two Israeli water facilities were recently hit by cyber attacks, the Ynet news site reports, adding that the authorities say no damage was caused.
One of the facilities was in the Upper Galilee, and the other in the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council area, it adds.
The incidents follow an attack in April, blamed by Western intelligence on Iran, in which cyber hackers tried to increase chlorine levels in the water flowing to Israeli residential areas. A Western intelligence official told the Financial Times last month that hundreds of people would have been at risk of getting sick and that the attack was close to being successful. The head of Israel’s National Cyber Directorate hinted that the attack may have aimed to mix chlorine or other chemicals into the water supply.
The latest attacks targeted “two small sewage treatment facilities in agricultural areas, which were repaired immediately by the local authorities, with no damage to services and no practical impact,” according to Israel’s Water Authority, as quoted by Ynet.
The prime minister tells cabinet members “the alternative to the steps we [want to] take today is much more difficult steps tomorrow, which we are trying to avoid.”
He adds that the proposals brought before ministers “are mainly aimed at stopping gatherings.”
Finance Ministry director Karen Turner pushes back against criticism by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies over the conduct of bureaucrats in her office. The criticism came in regard to the bureaucrats’ handling of the government’s orders regarding the economic response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is very difficult for me to remain indifferent to the unprecedented criticism of my ministry’s staff, and in particular the head of the budget department Shaul Meridor, and in general to the very violent discourse that has been developing against us on social media,” she tweets.
She says the role of Meridor and the others is simply to implement the policy decisions of the government, and that they are not involved in making policy themselves.
Netanyahu on Friday lashed out at Finance Ministry officials who reportedly oppose his plan to disperse financial aid to all Israeli adults.
“It’s inconceivable that bureaucrats are briefing [the media] against decisions made by the government, and are working to thwart them. We won’t accept this,” Netanyahu wrote on Facebook.
The premier didn’t name any officials, but shared a post by Likud MK Shlomi Karai that included a large photo of Meridor.