OECD: Virus triggered worst global recession in century — even without 2nd wave
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Police step up enforcement as 175 new virus cases diagnosed

Health Ministry figures show 2,869 active cases; among them are over 400 students and teachers; 24,000 quarantined in outbreak linked to schools

Israelis in Tel Aviv, June 9, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israelis in Tel Aviv, June 9, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

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

German FM warns against annexation as Israel says Trump plan will go forward

Germany’s foreign minister warns Israel that its plan to begin annexing parts of the West Bank would violate international law, but he declines to say how Germany or Europe would respond.

The visit to Jerusalem — Heiko Maas’s first trip outside of Europe since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic — comes just weeks before Israel intends to extend its sovereignty over Jewish West Bank settlements, in line with US President Donald Trump’s controversial Mideast plan.

Speaking at a news conference, Maas says Germany and the European Union “seek dialogue” with Israel.

But he makes clear that Europe considers annexation incompatible with international law. “I have not set up any price tags,” he says, adding that the purpose of his visit was to learn more about Israel’s plans.

Maas also says he doesn’t believe in conducting politics by making threats.

The annexation plans has come under harsh criticism from some of Israel’s closest allies, including Germany, who say that unilaterally redrawing the Mideast map would destroy any lingering hopes for establishing a Palestinian state and reaching a two-state peace agreement.

“Many people in Israel — and also in the European Union — are preoccupied with the current developments in the Middle East peace process and the possible annexation plans,” Maas says before his visit. “Germany remains committed to the goal of a negotiated two-state solution. We will also talk about this and I will underline that we are ready to support all initiatives to revive talks between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi says Israel will be going ahead with the Trump peace plan.

“There are currently significant regional opportunities, most notably President Trump’s Peace Initiative. It is an important milestone for the region, and it represents a significant opportunity,” he says.

“The plan will be pursued responsibly, in full coordination with the United States, while maintaining Israel’s peace agreements and strategic interests. We intend to do it in a dialogue with our neighbors. Israel wants peace and security.”

AP, Raphael Ahren

Ashkenazi lauds Germany for outlawing Hezbollah, urges EU to follow suit

In his comments alongside his German counterpart, Foreign Minister Ashkenazi also thanks Berlin for outlawing the Hezbollah terror group and urges European countries to follow suit.

“I thank, once again, the German government for its recent decision to outlaw Hezbollah. Germany has made it clear that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization and must be treated as such. We call on the EU to follow Germany’s lead and also outlaw Hezbollah,” says the foreign minister.

with Raphael Ahren

19 staff in Azerbaijan president’s office contract virus

Nineteen staff members in the office of Azerbaijan’s president have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials say, as authorities in the repressive Caucasus nation struggle to contain an escalating crisis.

A further 13 infections are also confirmed among employees of the emergency situations ministry and the ministry of labor, anti-virus task force spokesman Ramin Bairamly says.

Azerbaijan has registered 98 deaths and a total of 8,191 coronavirus cases after a 23 percent increase in new infections from last week.

The oil-rich country initially imposed a state of emergency in late March to contain the outbreak. It was lifted along with most virus restrictions on May 31.

“Nineteen cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed among the employees of the Presidential Administration,” says Bairamly.

“In the ministry of labour seven people were infected, in the emergency situations ministry – five people.”

AFP

Iran announces 2,000 more coronavirus cases

Iran announces more than 2,000 new coronavirus infections, in line with a recent surge in cases that President Hassan Rouhani attributes to increased testing.

“When more tests are done, then naturally more cases are identified,” Rouhani tells a televised meeting of his cabinet.

But the high number of recent cases “does not have a negative aspect to it, and people should not worry,” he adds.

Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari says the 2,011 infections confirmed in the past 24 hours had raised Iran’s overall caseload to 177,938.

She adds that fatalities had reached 8,506 with 81 new deaths over the same period.

The ministry says it has carried out more than one million COVID-19 tests since it reported the country’s first cases on February 19.

There has been skepticism at home and abroad about Iran’s official figures, with concerns the real toll could be much higher.

AFP

OECD: Virus triggered worst global recession in century — even without 2nd wave

The virus crisis has triggered the worst global recession in nearly a century — and the pain is not over yet even if there is no second wave of infections, an international economic report warns.

Hundreds of millions of people have lost their jobs, and the crisis is hitting the poor and young people the hardest, worsening inequalities, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says in its latest analysis of global economic data.

“It is probably the most uncertain and dramatic outlook since the creation of the OECD,” Secretary General Angel Gurria says. “We cannot make projections as as we normally do.”

In the best-case scenario, if there is no second wave of infections, the agency forecasts a global drop in economic output of 6% this year, and a rise of 2.8% next year. If the coronavirus re-emerges later in the year, however, the global economy could shrink 7.6%, the OECD says.

“With or without a second outbreak, the consequences will be severe and long-lasting,” the report says.

Global stock markets dropped after the release of the report, which is more downbeat than other forecasts from the likes of the World Bank.

In case of a second wave of contagions, the OECD forecast that the average unemployment rate across the 37 developed countries that it represents would double this year to 10% and see “little recovery” in 2021. In the more optimistic scenario, the figure would be 9.2%. In poorer countries, the numbers are often higher, and informal workers are especially vulnerable.

AP

Education Ministry: 428 student and teachers have virus; nearly 24,000 quarantined

The Education Ministry says 428 students and teachers have contracted the coronavirus in the renewed outbreak linked to schools, an increase of 10 cases since last night.

It says 23,786 people are in quarantine after 139 schools are closed. The ministry has been closing all schools where virus cases have been found and sending students and staff into home isolation to curb the spread of the virus.

Diamond Exchange freezes trading after worker contracts virus

Trading at the Diamond Exchange was halted Tuesday after a worker tested positive with COVID-19, according to Hebrew reports.

According to the Ynet news site, a trader was tested for the coronavirus two days ago after feeling unwell. He was confirmed to be carrying the virus, prompting the closure of two of the exchange halls until Sunday.

Global virus death toll rises to 411,588

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 411,588 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.

At least 7,254,140 cases of coronavirus have been registered in 196 countries and territories. Of these, at least 3,214,600 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections.

Many countries are testing only symptomatic or the most serious cases.

The United States is the worst-hit country with 112,006 deaths from 1,979,893 cases. At least 524,855 people have been declared recovered.

After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Britain with 40,883 deaths from 289,140 cases, Brazil with 38,406 deaths from 739,503 infections, Italy with 34,043 deaths from 235,561 cases, and France with 29,296 deaths from 191,394 cases.

China — excluding Hong Kong and Macau — has to date declared 4,634 deaths and 83,046 infections with 78,357 recoveries.

Europe overall has 185,130 deaths from 2,318,773 cases, the United States and Canada have 119,958 deaths from 2,076,546 infections, Latin America and the Caribbean 69,372 deaths from 1,411,279 cases, Asia 20,581 deaths from 734,260 cases, the Middle East 10,887 deaths from 501,180 cases, Africa 5,529 deaths from 203,457 cases, and Oceania 131 deaths from 8,648 cases.

As a result of corrections by national authorities or late publication of data, the figures updated over the past 24 hours may not correspond exactly to the previous day’s tallies.

AFP

Iran urges China, Russia: Block extension of UN arms embargo

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani urges UN Security Council members, especially veto-wielding China and Russia, to oppose a US “conspiracy” to extend an arms embargo on the Islamic Republic.

“We will reach a point… when, based on Resolution 2231, all arms embargoes on Iran will be lifted,” says Rouhani

“The Americans are already angry and upset… and are preparing a resolution and want to bring it to the Security Council,” he tells a televised cabinet meeting.

The ban on selling weapons to Iran is set to be progressively eased from October in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2231. The weapons include battle tanks, combat aircraft, warships and missiles or missile systems, according to the resolution.

But a UN embargo on materials, goods, equipment and technology that Iran could use for its ballistic missile program will remain in place until October 2023.

The European Union has said it will continue to enforce its own arms embargo against Iran after the lifting of the first UN embargo.

Resolution 2231 blessed the landmark international agreement reached in 2015 that placed limits on Iran’s nuclear program.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord — known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — in 2018 and began reimposing sanctions on the Islamic republic.

The United Nations Security Council includes among its 15 members five veto-wielding permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

Rouhani appeals to those other than the United States to oppose its bid to extend the arms embargo.

“We expect the four permanent members to stand against this conspiracy, for global interests, global stability,” he says.

“We especially expect (this from) our two friendly countries, Russia and China.”

Washington said last week it had shared a draft resolution with Russia to extend the ban, with Moscow and Beijing having already voiced opposition to the measure.

“Russia and China need to join a global consensus on Iran’s conduct,” says Kelly Craft, the US ambassador to the UN.

“This is an absolute imperative that we exercise all our options to make certain that this UN arms embargo is extended.”

AFP

Settler leaders split on report Netanyahu seeking limited annexation

Two settler leaders are divided on a report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will apply Israeli sovereignty only to three large settlement areas, rather than annexing all Jewish West Bank settlements, with one dismissing the notion and the other saying it is a step in the right direction.

Davidi Ben Zion, deputy mayor of the Samaria Regional Council, calls the idea of partial extension of sovereignty a “disgrace.”

“Once again we are being dragged into a discourse of ‘what are the foreign interests, what will they say in the White House and how will the Jordanians protest,'” he tells Zman Israel, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language sister site.

Extending sovereignty is “entirely an Israeli decision,” he adds, saying the time had come for Israel to take action.

“There is no way to know if there were will be a better and more appropriate time to extend sovereignty,” he says.

“This is the right… measure, on condition that it doesn’t involve the establishment of a terror state in the heart of Israel,” Ben Zion says, referring to a future Palestinian self-ruled area in the West Bank.

However, Gush Etzion Regional Council chairman Shlomo Ne’eman says he would be “happy about this possibility if it comes about.”

Ne’eman says that as far as he is concerned there is no need to apply sovereignty on the whole Etzion Bloc, just a stretch of “300 meters to the Rachel’s Tomb” the religious pilgrimage site located in the nearby Palestinian West Bank town of Bethlehem.

Extending Israeli rule to replace the current military rule on settlements in the West Bank “breaks the embargo against sovereignty, and that is what is important,” he says.

Nonetheless, Ne’eman stresses that he would “always oppose a Palestinian state.”

Moscow deaths up 57% in May from last year

Moscow health authorities say that 15,713 people died in May amid the coronavirus epidemic, which is 5,715 more fatalities than in May 2019.

The Russian capital recorded a 57 percent increase in year-on-year fatalities in May, according to the city authorities.

AFP

Austria to open borders to most European countries next week

Austria announces it will open its borders to most European neighbors beginning June 16 with the exceptions of Spain, Portugal, Sweden and Britain.

Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg also says that the border with Italy to the south would be open without conditions, but that a travel warning for Austrian citizens is in place for Lombardy. The northern Italian region has been the epicenter of Italy’s epidemic, showing triple-digit growth in daily infections while much of the rest of the country counts a handful or fewer.

While Italy opened its borders on June 3, Austria’s reluctance to open the shared border has been a sore spot between the neighbors, especially as the summer tourism season gets under way.

Austria’s opening means that visitors from 31 countries no longer are required to undergo a two-week quarantine.

AP

Planes scrambled over Gaza, then called back in false alarm of airspace breach

The Israeli military scrambled warplanes after it appeared as though an aircraft had penetrated Israeli airspace from the Gaza Strip.

The Israel Defense Forces quickly determined that the radars had made a false identification, that no infiltration had taken place, and called off its planes.

“This was a non-event,” an army spokesperson says.

Judah Ari Gross

Celine Dion reschedules Tel Aviv concert for June 2021

Celine Dion has rescheduled her Tel Aviv concert for June 2021 amid the pandemic.

The singer was supposed to perform on August 4 and 5. Tens of thousands of tickets had been sold for the show, which was to be held in Yarkon Park.

The shows are now scheduled to take place on June 19-20, 2021.

Israel’s borders to remain closed to non-citizens, non-residents through July 1

Israel has extended its entry ban for non-Israelis who are not permanent residents until July 1, according to Channel 13.

The decision to keep the borders closed comes as virus cases continue to rise.

Rishon Lezion municipality worker gets virus, sending city hall into quarantine

The Rishon Lezion municipality has sent all of its workers into quarantine after an employee contracts COVID-19, the central Israel city’s administration says.

All of the municipality employees are expected to be tested on Thursday.

Fauci: No evidence asymptomatic carriers don’t transmit COVID-19

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top infectious-disease expert, says the World Health Organization had to backtrack on its statement about asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus being rare because that simply “was not correct.”

The WHO’s technical lead on the pandemic has tried to clear up “misunderstandings” about comments she made that were widely understood to suggest that people without COVID-19 symptoms rarely transmit the virus. Maria Van Kerkhove insisted yesterday that she was referring only to a few studies, not a complete picture.

Weighing in, Fauci says the range of ways symptoms manifest is “extraordinary” in that some infected people have no or barely noticeable symptoms while others have more severe symptoms that require them to be hospitalized in intensive care.

Fauci says on ABC’s “Good Morning America”: “What happened the other day is that a member of the WHO was saying that transmission from an asymptomatic person to an uninfected person was very rare.”

He continues: “They walked that back because there’s no evidence to indicate that’s the case. And, in fact, the evidence that we have, given the percentage of people, which is about 25, 45% of the totality of infected people, likely are without symptoms. And we know from epidemiological studies that they can transmit to someone who is uninfected, even when they’re without symptoms. So to make a statement — to say that’s a rare event — was not correct. And that’s the reason why the WHO walked that back.”

AP

German FM meets Netanyahu on ‘developments’ in peace process

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

“They spoke about bilateral issues, on crises in the region as well as current developments in the Middle East peace process,” the German Foreign Office says, in an apparent euphemism for Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank.

318,000 Israelis rejoined workforce since virus rules eased

The Employment Service says 318,262 Israelis have returned to work since the government eased lockdown restrictions last month.

It says 5,059 have returned to work in the past 24 hours, while 964 have been laid off.

The service does not provide updated countrywide unemployment rates, which topped 1 million at the height of the pandemic in April.

‘Gone with the Wind’ removed from HBO Max after racism protests

“Gone with the Wind” was removed from the HBO Max streaming platform yesterday, as mass protests against racism and police brutality prompt television networks to reassess their offerings.

The multiple Oscar-winning US Civil War epic released in 1939 remains the highest-grossing movie of all time adjusted for inflation, but its depiction of contented slaves and heroic slaveholders has garnered criticism.

“‘Gone With The Wind’ is a product of its time and depicts some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that have, unfortunately, been commonplace in American society,” an HBO Max spokesperson says in a statement to AFP.

“These racist depictions were wrong then and are wrong today, and we felt that to keep this title up without an explanation and a denouncement of those depictions would be irresponsible.”

The film will return to the recently launched streaming platform at a later date, along with a discussion of its historical context, the company says.

No edits will be made, “because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed.”

“If we are to create a more just, equitable and inclusive future, we must first acknowledge and understand our history.”

AFP

Italian prosecutors to question PM over government handling of virus

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and the country’s health and interior ministers are to be questioned by prosecutors looking into how the government handled the coronavirus pandemic, news agencies report.

Sources close to the probe are cited as saying Conte, Health Minister Roberto Speranza and Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese would be asked in particular about the failure to designate hotspot areas so-called “red zones,” allowing the virus to spread.

AFP

CrossFit founder ousted after tweet on George Floyd

The founder and CEO of CrossFit is stepping down after his tweet about George Floyd sparked a social media backlash and a wave of affiliated gyms cut ties with the company.

Reebok also dropped its affiliation with CrossFit this week.

Greg Glassman says on CrossFit Inc.’s website late Tuesday that he will retire. Glassman had apologized earlier for tweets that sparked online outrage by connecting Floyd, an African American man who died at the hands of the Minneapolis police, and the coronavirus pandemic in a tweet. He says he had made a mistake and should have been more sensitive, but denied being racist.

“On Saturday I created a rift in the CrossFit community and unintentionally hurt many of its members,” Glassman says. “I cannot let my behavior stand in the way of HQ’s or affiliates’ missions.”

Glassman’s exit may have been sealed after BuzzFeed posted a Zoom call he held with some CrossFit affiliates in which Glassman reportedly said: “We’re not mourning for George Floyd — I don’t think me or any of my staff are.” Buzzfeed said it received the recording through its anonymous tip line.

The Zoom call took place hours before Glassman made a glib response on Twitter to a post by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a health research group, which said, “Racism is a public health issue.”

“ It’s FLOYD-19,” he replied Saturday, and in a second tweet criticized the group’s “failed” quarantine model and accused it of attempting to “model a solution to racism.”

Some 1,250 gyms have now severed links with CrossFit, according to industry blog Morning Chalk Up. An anonymously curated Google spreadsheet lists hundreds of CrossFit affiliates with links to their social media accounts, with most saying they have cut ties, or are considering doing so.

AP

Blood type may determine susceptibility to COVID-19, study indicates

Genetic testing firm 23andMe says it has found preliminary evidence that people with type O blood may be less susceptible to contracting COVID-19.

In a blog post Monday, the company says initial data from a study it is conducting on the virus indicated those with type O blood were 9 to 18 percent less likely to have tested positive for the coronavirus. Those exposed to the virus, such as medical workers and other emergency personnel, were 13% to 16% less likely to test positive, according to 23andMe.

Jerusalem high school at heart of virus outbreak to reopen

A Jerusalem high school that has seen a wide outbreak of the coronavirus will begin to reopen on Thursday.

Over 150 students and staff at the Gymnasia Rechavia school have been infected with COVID-19.

The school will partially reopen Thursday, primarily for 11th and 12th graders who must complete their matriculation exams. The principal tells Channel 12 that small groups of students will return in the first phase of reopening, rather than the full classes that preceded the outbreak.

Gantz to German FM: Trump peace plan a historic opportunity

Defense Minister Benny Gantz meets German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Jerusalem, in talks that focus on the Trump peace plan, Iran and Israel’s planned annexation of portions of the West Bank, among other issues.

According to a Defense Ministry statement, the two also discussed regional developments and the diplomatic steps that are on the agenda.

“Gantz told Maas that the US administration’s peace plan represents a historic opportunity that he views as important to advance, together with the administration,” says the statement. “This will [be advanced] with a responsible outlook and the utmost dialogue with various actors in the region, and as part of a broad international dialogue.”

Maas earlier in the day warned Israel against annexation, but stopped short of threatening European sanctions.

Gantz also thanks Maas for outlawing the Hezbollah terrorist group and its fight against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism and defense of Israel “with an emphasis on in international fora.”

Erekat: No need to declare Palestine a state, it already is one

There is no need to declare a Palestinian state, as Palestine has already been legally defined as a state since 2012, chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat tells Ynet news.

“There’s no declaration, we don’t need a declaration,” Erekat says. “Our legal status is that we are a state under occupation. Resolution 67/19 of 2012 of the [United Nations] General Assembly specified the geographic location of the State of Palestine as the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem and gave us the status of observer state or non-member state.”

Erekat’s comments follow Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh’s remarks in Ramallah on Tuesday, where he stated that the Palestinian Authority would transition into a state if Israel proceeded with its plan to annex parts of the West Bank.

“Those who speak of declaring a state don’t know what they are talking about,” Erekat says.

Aaron Boxerman

Netanyahu to German FM: Israel must control Jordan Valley, keep settlements there under peace deal

During his meeting with Germany’s foreign minister, Netanyahu stressed Israel’s security needs in the Jordan Valley and said the world should stop “feeding the illusion of displacing people from their homes,” according to a statement from his office.

“The prime minister upheld Israel’s vital interests in any future deal, such as the need for full security control west of the Jordan. In addition, Prime Minister Netanyahu said any realistic plan must recognize the Israeli settlements in the area and not feed the illusion of displacing people from their homes,” the statement says.

The two also discussed the impact of the pandemic on the economy, Iran’s nuclear program and a bid by Israel to end funding for NGOs that oppose the Jewish state, the statement says.

George Floyd’s brother to US Congress: ‘Stop the pain,’ advance reforms

The brother of George Floyd, whose killing by police sparked worldwide protests against racism, tells the US Congress to “stop the pain” by passing reforms to address and reduce police brutality.

One day after burying his brother in Houston, Philonise Floyd appears in person before a House hearing, where he describes the anguish of watching a video of George’s death and demands lawmakers address the systemic problems in law enforcement.

“I’m here to ask you to make it stop. Stop the pain,” the younger Floyd says, wiping his forehead and holding back tears.

“I can’t tell you the kind of pain you feel when you watch… your big brother, who you looked up to your whole entire life, die — die begging for his mom,” he adds.

“George called for help and he was ignored. Please listen to the call I’m making to you now, to the call of our family and the calls ringing out in the streets across the world,” says Floyd, who wore an anti-virus mask bearing an image of his brother.

“Maybe by speaking with you today, I can make sure that his death will not be in vain.”

George Floyd, 46, died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25, when a white officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

Video of the shocking abuse went viral, and protests — some violent, most peaceful — erupted from coast to coast in some of the most serious US civil unrest in generations.

The testimony came shortly after congressional Democrats unveiled a package of sweeping reforms aimed at reducing systemic racism in US law enforcement.

AFP

Education Ministry: 433 students, teachers have virus

The number of students and teachers who have contracted COVID-19 in a new outbreak centered in schools climbs to 433, according to the Education Ministry.

Nearly 24,000 are in quarantine after 144 schools shut down after discovering virus cases.

UK scientist: Lockdown a week earlier could have halved deaths

A scientist whose modeling helped set Britain’s coronavirus strategy says the country’s death toll could have been cut in half if lockdown had been introduced a week earlier.

Britain has the second-highest confirmed death toll in the world from COVID-19, at more than 41,000. Including cases where coronavirus was suspected but not confirmed by a test, the total is over 50,000.

Neil Ferguson, professor of mathematical biology at Imperial College London, tells lawmakers that when key decisions were being made in March, scientists underestimated how widely the virus had spread in the UK.

He tells Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee that “the epidemic was doubling every three to four days before lockdown interventions were introduced,” rather than the five to six days estimated at the time.

Ferguson says that “had we introduced lockdown measures a week earlier, we would have reduced the final death toll by at least a half.”

He also says the death toll would have been lower if residents of nursing homes had been shielded from infection, something that didn’t happen.

Ferguson developed models that predicted hundreds of thousands would die unless the UK imposed drastic restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

AP

Report: German FM warns countries could sanction Israel over annexation

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned Netanyahu, Gantz and Ashkenazi during their respective meetings that countries other than Germany could apply sanctions and recognize a Palestinian state if Israel annexes parts of the West Bank, the Haaretz daily reports.

According to the report, Maas warned these unspecified countries were pushing the EU to sanction Israel, if such action is taken.

Police fine 381 over failure to wear masks in public

Police have stepped up enforcement against Israelis who do not wear masks in public, handing out hundreds of fines, according to Channel 12.

The amount of mask fines distributed today, 381, is four times as high as every day last week, the television report says.

Police have also fined more businesses who failed to heed the emergency rules.

The fine for not wearing a mask in public will set you back 200 shekels ($60).

Organization of Islamic Cooperation: Israel annexation plan a ‘serious escalation’

Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank mark a “serious escalation” that threatens the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation says.

Israel intends to annex West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley, as proposed by US President Donald Trump, with initial steps slated to begin from July 1.

Following a virtual meeting of OIC foreign ministers, the pan-Islamic body says it “warns against the dangerous intention of Israel.”

The annexation threat amounts to “an official declaration by Israel of revocation of all its signed agreements” and “a serious escalation of its colonial policies and measures,” the OIC says in a statement.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan reiterates the move would represent a “dangerous escalation” that threatens the chances of resuming the peace process.

AFP

Report: Ireland, other European nations will recognize Palestine if annexation goes ahead

Palestinian officials tell the Kan public broadcaster that several European countries, including Ireland, have said they will recognize a Palestinian state if Israel goes ahead with annexation.

The other countries allegedly planning such a move are not named in the report.

The Palestinian sources say France, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg and Portugal have yet to respond.

175 new virus cases diagnosed in past 24 hours

The Health Ministry says 175 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the past 24 hours.

The number of active cases stands at 2,869. Thirty-one are in serious condition, including 22 on ventilators. Another 42 are in moderate condition and the rest are displaying mild symptoms.

The ministry says 14,817 tests were conducted on Tuesday.

No additional deaths are reported, keeping the toll at 299.

President, ministers discuss pandemic challenges with US Jewish leaders

President Reuven Rivlin and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi hold a Zoom meeting with US Jewish leaders to discuss the challenges facing American Jews amid the pandemic.

“These are days when we are all facing the challenges of the coronavirus and, more than ever, it is most important to deepen the bonds between us. It is time for us to be there for each other,” says Rivlin, according to a statement from his office.

“For many years, the American Jewish community has stood with Israel. Today, we are here to hear you, and to see how we can help in any way. Because despite the distance between us, we feel closer today than ever before,” he says.

Ashkenazi says: “The sense of mutual obligation between the State of Israel and the global Jewish community is a cornerstone of Israeli diplomacy around the world and for me personally as foreign minister. I salute the leaders of the American Jewish community for their leadership as they confront the coronavirus pandemic. We share the same fate and we must work together to get through this crisis.”

A spokesperson for Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich says she pre-recorded a message that was displayed at the meeting but could not attend alongside Rivlin and Ashkenazi due to time constraints.

TV: Crowding at West Bank checkpoint raising risk of outbreak

Channel 12 reports mass crowding at a West Bank checkpoint every morning, as hundreds of Palestinian laborers make their way into Israel for work.

The TV report says social distancing and mask-wearing is not observed at Bethlehem’s checkpoint 300, raising the risk of a coronavirus outbreak.

Christopher Columbus statue beheaded in Boston

A statue of Christopher Columbus in Boston has been beheaded, police say, as calls to remove sculptures commemorating colonizers and slavers sweep America on the back of anti-racism protests.

A Columbus statue was also vandalized in Richmond, Virginia, this week, according to local reports.

The incidents come as pressure builds in the United States to rid the country of monuments associated with racism following massive demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis last month.

Italian explorer Columbus, long hailed by school textbooks as the discoverer of “The New World,” is considered by many to have spurred years of genocide against indigenous groups in the Americas.

He is regularly denounced in a similar way to Civil War generals of the pro-slavery south.

The statue — which stands on a plinth in the heart of Boston — has been controversial for years, like other Columbus statues across the US, and has been vandalized in the past.

AFP

Personal info of US police officers leaked online

Personal information of police officers in departments nationwide is being leaked online amid tense interactions at demonstrations across the US over the police custody death of George Floyd and others, according to an unclassified intelligence document from the US Department of Homeland Security, obtained by The Associated Press.

The document warns that the effort, known as “doxxing,” could lead to attacks by “violent opportunists or domestic violent extremists” or could prevent law enforcement officials from carrying out their duties.

Multiple high-ranking police officials in a number of cities, including Washington, Atlanta, Boston and New York have had their personal information shared on social media, including their home addresses, email addresses and phone numbers, the report warns.

“At least one of the police commissioners was targeted for his alleged support of the use of tear gas to disperse protests,” it says.

Police officials nationwide have spoken out lately saying they feel caught in the middle of trying to stop violent protests, and feel abandoned by lawmakers in the demand for police reform. Some have said they fear for their lives.

AP

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OECD: Virus triggered worst global recession in century — even without 2nd wave

The virus crisis has triggered the worst global recession in nearly a century — and the pain is not over yet even if there is no second wave of infections, an international economic report warns.

Hundreds of millions of people have lost their jobs, and the crisis is hitting the poor and young people the hardest, worsening inequalities, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says in its latest analysis of global economic data.

“It is probably the most uncertain and dramatic outlook since the creation of the OECD,” Secretary General Angel Gurria says. “We cannot make projections as as we normally do.”

In the best-case scenario, if there is no second wave of infections, the agency forecasts a global drop in economic output of 6% this year, and a rise of 2.8% next year. If the coronavirus re-emerges later in the year, however, the global economy could shrink 7.6%, the OECD says.

“With or without a second outbreak, the consequences will be severe and long-lasting,” the report says.

Global stock markets dropped after the release of the report, which is more downbeat than other forecasts from the likes of the World Bank.

In case of a second wave of contagions, the OECD forecast that the average unemployment rate across the 37 developed countries that it represents would double this year to 10% and see “little recovery” in 2021. In the more optimistic scenario, the figure would be 9.2%. In poorer countries, the numbers are often higher, and informal workers are especially vulnerable.

AP