The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they unfolded.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel is looking to open up to Greek and Cypriot visitors starting August 1.
The date is later than the July 1 target that has been bandied about, and the list of countries whose citizens would be allowed in is also smaller than a larger roster initially suggested in reports.
“This all depends on the coronavirus pandemic, but if the numbers allow is this is the target date for opening up the skies,” Netanyahu says at a press availability alongside visiting Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who is in Israel for a single day series of G2G meetings.
Turkey has made the wearing of face masks mandatory in five more provinces, following an uptick in COVID-19 cases.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweets that the wearing of masks is now compulsory in 42 of Turkey’s 81 provinces.
In the remaining provinces, residents are required to wear masks on public transportation and in shops and malls, and are being advised to wear masks and keep to social distancing practices elsewhere.
Turkey is seeing an upward trend in the daily number of infections after the government authorized cafes, restaurants, gyms, parks, beaches and museums to reopen, lifted inter-city travel restrictions and eased stay-at-home orders for the elderly and young at the start of June.
The daily number of infections climbed to above 1,500 in the past five days after hovering around 800-900 previously. The country has registered a total of 179,831 cases and 4,825 deaths.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis says alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that August 1 will also be the date when Israelis are allowed to return to Greece.
He says his goal is to put safety first.
Mitsotakis earlier told the Yedioth Ahronoth paper that he was hoping to resume bilateral tourism between the countries soon.
On Monday, Greece welcomed the first international flights whose passengers didn’t face compulsory COVID-19 tests, to Athens and Thessaloniki. Direct international flights to regional Greek airports, including its sun-kissed islands, will begin on July 1. Visitors will be subject to random virus testing.
“A lot will depend on whether people feel comfortable to travel and whether we can project Greece as a safe destination,” Mitsotakis acknowledged then.
On Sunday, a group of Israelis was not allowed to board a flight for Greece at the last moment after the airline said the country would not let them in, despite Israelis believing they had been deemed a “green country” by Athens.
However, Greece said it had to keep to EU rules which forbid entry from those outside Schengen borders until July 1 at least.
— with AP
Iran says a resolution by the UN nuclear watchdog on Tehran’s refusal to allow access to certain sites would be a “totally unconstructive measure.”
“Naturally, if such a resolution, which clearly involves American objectives, is passed, the Islamic Republic of Iran will have to take the necessary measures proportionally, and its responsibility will lie with those who have adopted such political and destructive approaches,” says Iranian envoy in Vienna Kazem Gharibabadi, according to Iran’s Tasnim news site.
He also repeats a claim that the IAEA’s reason for wanting to visit the site is malarkey because it is based on Israeli intelligence.
“We are working in broad and transparent cooperation with the IAEA, but it does not mean that we would agree to every request from the IAEA on the basis of the bogus claims of our enemies,” he says.
New Zealand is no longer free from the new coronavirus after two women who flew from London to see a dying parent tested positive.
The new cases spark a round of testing for anybody who might have been close to them, including their flight’s fellow passengers and crew, staff members at a hotel and a family member.
The women are isolated and have delayed the funeral of their parent until they have recovered.
New Zealand has counted 22 deaths from COVID-19, and until Tuesday, everyone else among the 1,500 people known to have been infected had recovered.
South Korea’s government has released a military surveillance video showing clouds of smoke rising from the ground as a building thought to be a liaison office with North Korea collapsed, after Pyongyang said it had blown up the building.
South Korean military releases footage showing smoke coming from inter-Korean liaison office as North Korea reportedly blew up the building in a dramatic display of anger that sharply raises tensions on the Korean Peninsula. https://t.co/pNCu0s43AI pic.twitter.com/hwhAh13NSu
— ABC News (@ABC) June 16, 2020
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency says the nation destroyed the inter-Korean office in a “terrific explosion” because its “enraged people” were determined to “force (the) human scum and those, who have sheltered the scum, to pay dearly for their crimes,” apparently referring to North Korean defectors living in South Korea who for years have floated anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border.
South Korea expressed “strong regret” over the destruction and warns of a stern response if North Korea takes additional steps that aggravate tensions.
The statement, issued following an emergency National Security Council meeting, says the demolition is “an act that betrays hopes for an improvement in South-North Korean relations and the establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula.”
South Korea’s Defense Ministry separately says it closely monitors North Korean military activities and was prepared to strongly counter any future provocation.
The demolition of the building, which is located on North Korean territory and had no South Koreans working there, is largely symbolic. But it’s still the most provocative thing North Korea has done since it entered nuclear diplomacy in 2018 after a US-North Korean standoff had many fearing war. It will pose a serious setback to the efforts of liberal South Korean President Moon Jae-in to restore inter-Korean engagement.
Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is suing a former worker at the Prime Minister’s Residence for libel and breach of contract after the ex-employee told investigators that she had lied when she defended the premier’s wife in a previous statement.
The suit is seeking NIS 200,000 ($57,000) from Sylvie Genesia, who reportedly sent text messages describing how the manager of the Prime Minister’s Residence told her to pen a letter lauding Sara Netanyahu, even though Netanyahu’s housekeeping demands had brought her to tears.
Netanyahu’s lawyers accuse Genesia of lying about her being poorly treated and accuses her of extortion, though it’s not clear whom she is attempting to extort.
Sara Netanyahu faces a civil lawsuit from former employee Shira Raban, who claims the premier’s wife mistreated her during a brief stint working at the residence.
Finance Minister Israel Katz is urging the government to rescind coronavirus restrictions that have kept cultural events frozen, with theaters, performances spaces and other venues still shuttered despite nearly every other part of the economy reopening.
Katz links his request to Netanyahu’s earlier announcement of August 1 as the target date for opening up borders to some visitors.
“This is the time to unshackle the cultural world [and let it resume] full activities. The hundreds of millions earmarked for the culture minister, Chili Tropper, to bolster the sector, will allow artists and other professionals to get back to working fully,” he says in a tweet.
Israel’s plan to annex nearly a third of the West Bank is a vision of “21st-century apartheid,” a large group of independent United Nations experts are warning.
The letter is signed by more than 40 independent special rapporteurs. along with a range of UN working groups on various rights issues. They do not speak for the UN, but report their findings to it.
The experts say the annexation would be a “serious violation” of the United Nations charter and the Geneva Conventions, and would only intensify human rights violations in the West Bank.
“What would be left of the West Bank would be a Palestinian Bantustan, islands of disconnected land completely surrounded by Israel and with no territorial connection to the outside world,” they say.
The experts say that Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem in 1980 and the Golan Heights in 1981 saw condemnation but no meaningful response from the international immunity.
“This time must be different,” they say. “The lessons from the past are clear: Criticism without consequences will neither forestall annexation nor end the occupation.”
Researchers in England say they have the first evidence that a drug can improve COVID-19 survival: A cheap, widely available steroid called dexamethasone reduced deaths by up to one third in severely ill hospitalized patients.
Researchers say they will publish results soon. The study is a large, strict test that randomly assigned 2,104 patients to get the drug and compared them with 4,321 patients getting only usual care.
The drug was given either orally or through an IV. After 28 days, it had reduced deaths by 35% in patients who needed treatment with breathing machines and by 20% in those only needing supplemental oxygen. It did not appear to help less ill patients.
“This is an extremely welcome result,” one study leader, Peter Horby of the University of Oxford, says in a statement. “The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment, so dexamethasone should now become standard of care in these patients. Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.”
Even though the drug only helps in severe cases, “countless lives will be saved globally,” says Nick Cammack of Wellcome, a British charity that supports science research.
“Dexamethasone must now be rolled out and accessed by thousands of critically ill patients around the world,” says Cammack, who had no role in the study. “It is highly affordable, easy to make, can be scaled up quickly and only needs a small dosage.”
Britain’s statistics agency says the total number of coronavirus-related deaths across the UK has reached almost 52,000 by the week ending June 5.
The updated figure from the Office for National Statistics is around 10,000 higher than the government’s daily tally, which is based on initial cause of death assessments. Those from the statistics agency are collated from death registrations, which can take a couple of weeks to be issued.
The statistics agency also said there were around 64,500 more deaths across the UK than the five-year average over the period of the pandemic. The UK recorded its first virus-related death in early March.
Excess deaths are widely considered to be the best gauge of the virus’ impact as they provide a clear guide over historical periods and include all-cause mortality.
Excess deaths in the UK have been declining over the past few weeks, along with a decline in the daily coronavirus death toll.
Palestinian security officers are destroying secret files out of fear that Israeli forces will enter their offices and seize them should fighting break out after parts of the West Bank are annexed into Israel, AFP reports.
Palestinian sources tell AFP the campaign began a month ago after an order came from “above.”
Some information has been scanned and placed on USB sticks, which are now being hidden.
During the Second Intifada, Israeli soldiers entered some Palestinian offices and seized confidential documents and Palestinians fear it may happen again.
Israel’s Channel 12 news previously reported on the files being destroyed or hidden.
A survey conducted in Italy on the psychological impact of coronavirus lockdowns on children has quantified what many parents observed during weeks cooped up at home: kids were more irritable, had trouble sleeping and for some of the youngest, wept inconsolably and regressed developmentally.
Those symptoms were more pronounced in families in which the parents were particularly stressed and in families with elderly relatives at high risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19, the national survey by the Giannina Gaslini Pediatric Hospital in Genoa in conjunction with the University of Genoa finds.
Among those with children under age 6, 65% reported their children suffered behavior problems and regression. The most common problems cited were increased irritability, sleep issues and separation anxiety. Some respondents also reported their children wept inconsolably, the researchers found.
Of respondents with children aged 6-18, 71% reported their children also displayed problems including anxiety and shortness of breath. Adolescents had particular trouble going to sleep and waking up, sleep disturbances that researchers termed a sort of “domestic jet lag.”
The anonymous survey of 6,800 people was conducted online March 24-April 3. The start date was two weeks into a 10-week lockdown in Italy, the first country in the West to be hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
A girl who says two soccer players had sex with her and a friend despite them being underage has wrapped up testimony to police, after seven hours in the hot seat, the Ynet news site reports.
The second girl and the two Maccabi Tel Aviv players, who have not been named, gave statements to police earlier this week. No arrests have been made.
The father of US Rep. Ilhan Omar has died of the coronavirus, her office says.
Nur Omar Mohamed, 67 died Monday, according to Buzzfeed news.
“No words can describe what he means to me and all who knew him,” Omar says in a statement.
Mohamed brought Ilhan and the rest of his family from Somalia to the US in 1996.
إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ
Surely we belong to God and to him shall we return.
It is with tremendous sadness and pain to say goodbye to my father, Nur Omar Mohamed. No words can describe what he meant to me and all who knew and loved him. pic.twitter.com/gb7q0gMXG2
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) June 16, 2020
The government has okayed the Health Ministry acceptance of stocks of coronavirus drug remdesivir from Gilead Sciences.
The drug is widely viewed as the most promising treatment available today. It is not clear how many doses Israel will be receiving.
In May, Asher Shalmon, the Health Ministry’s director of international relations, told The Times of Israel that Israel’s strong relationship with the California-based Gilead put the country in a good position to ensure supply.
“We have a long-lasting relationship with the company, they have strong representation here, and this helps in making sure it is available here,” he said.
Israeli hospitals were part of two studies into remdesivir’s effectiveness. The drug helped save the country’s first seriously ill patient, an East Jerusalem bus driver in his 30s, according to the Health Ministry.
Israel is also stockpiling hydroxychloroquine, though studies have shown it to be dangerous when given to COVID-19 patients.
An Israeli diplomatic source dismisses a letter by a group of UN rights experts warning against the consequences of West Bank annexation and what it terms “21st century apartheid.”
The source, who speaks on condition of anonymity, says that the experts are not knowledgeable about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the statement “does nothing to help finding a solution to the conflict or to create a constructive dialogue between the parties.”
“This statement is signed by an eclectic group of members of the UN Human Rights Council, some of whom have nothing to do with the region or the rights the statement deals with. One of the signatories, for instance, is special rapporteur for the rights of people with leprosy,” says the source.
“Those people have nothing to do with the issue this statement deals with, which shows that they have no real concern for human rights, but that it’s merely a political statement,” the source adds.
— Raphael Ahren
A 5.4 magnitude earthquake has struck in the middle of the Red Sea, some 245 kilometers (150 miles) south of Eilat.
Shaking is felt as far north as the Sinai Peninsula.
No damage or injuries are reported in Israel.
Beijing’s education commission has ordered the closure of the capital’s schools again, following a new outbreak of the coronavirus in the city of 21 million people.
The commission says on its WeChat social media account that all schools will resume online teaching from Wednesday and universities should also suspend the return of students.
Coalition whip Miki Zohar says on Twitter that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised his Likud faction Monday that no government he leads will ever recognize a Palestinian state, even in principle.
“We will never recognize a Palestinian state!” he tweets.
He says the Trump plan “which will allow the start of extending sovereignty over all settlements without removing one Jew from his home and a series of more sovereignties by keeping the roads, is a historic plan and an opportunity that cannot be missed!”
There is no confirmation from Netanyahu, but the Yesha settlement council, which is opposed to the Trump plan, says it “welcomes the shift in Netanyahu’s stance.”
Netanyahu initially embraced the two-state solution at the start of his term in 2009, but has since shied from publicly endorsing anything more than a vague “state-minus” for the Palestinians.
US officials say they expect health insurance companies will cover vaccines for COVID-19 without charging copays, once those vaccines are developed and become available.
At a briefing for reporters Tuesday, a senior Trump administration official says the government has been talking with insurers about offering vaccines at no cost to patients. The industry earlier made a similar commitment to cover testing for the coronavirus without charging copays.
The White House has launched an initiative to quickly manufacture millions of doses of COVID vaccines, once the Food and Drug Administration approves one or more formulations. Candidate vaccines are in early trials, and the goal — considered ambitious — is to have 300 million doses by early next year.
Insurers generally have a strong financial interest in covering vaccines, seeing them as a win-win. Vaccination helps the insurers’ customers stay healthy, and preventing disease saves the companies money.
The Health Ministry announces that there have been 258 new coronavirus cases since Monday evening, as new infection numbers continue to surge.
The single-day tally appears to be the largest since late April. Israel now has 19,495 confirmed cases. There are 3,744 active cases and only a handful of new recoveries.
Tel Aviv, seen as the center of the newest outbreak, has passed the 1,000 case mark, according to ministry figures.
No new deaths are reported, keeping the toll at 302, but there are 39 people in serious condition, including 29 on ventilators.
A new coronavirus hotel has opened in Jerusalem to house those from Tel Aviv’s asylum-seeker population who have contracted the pathogen, as well as other cases of people who may not be able to isolate at home, a Channel 13 news reporter tweets.
While many of the hotels for the sick and quarantined were shut down as the virus appeared to fade, the network of quarantine hotels was never fully shut down, even after the requirement for all incoming people to self-isolate in them was lifted, as those who were unable to quarantine at home for two weeks were still given the option to use these facilities if they so chose.
— Or Heller אור הלר (@OrHeller) June 16, 2020
— with Judah Ari Gross
The so-called coronavirus cabinet of ministers dealing with the health crisis is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, with new cases on the upswing.
According to Channel 12 news, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein is pushing for the reopening of the economy to be halted. However, he is expected to run into serious conflict with other ministers, who want to see the country reopened.
At least 20 Indian soldiers have been killed in a violent face-off with Chinese forces on the disputed Himalayan border, the Indian army says, the deadliest clash between the nuclear-armed neighbors in decades.
India had earlier said three of its troops were killed, but in a statement later Tuesday the army adds that 17 more “who were critically injured (on Monday) in the line of duty at the stand-off location and exposed to sub-zero temperatures in the high altitude terrain have succumbed to their injuries, taking the total that were killed in action to 20.”
Greek authorities say more than 7,800 coronavirus tests were carried out on passengers who arrived at Athens international Airport last week and turned up four cases.
Authorities said the 7,804 checks were carried out on flights that arrived June 8-14, before Greece opened to most European tourists this week without compulsory coronavirus tests.
Greece has been eager to promote itself as a safe tourist destination, and to salvage what is left of the summer tourist season. The country is heavily dependent on tourism, which makes up around 20% of its economy.
Tourists have been able to fly into Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki since Monday, and are subject to random coronavirus tests rather than mandatory testing and quarantine. International flights will be able to fly directly to regional airports from July 1.
In a sign of the lasting effects of the economic slowdown from the coronavirus pandemic, a Knesset report predicts that some 70,000 business will shut their doors for good in 2020, according to the Ynet news site.
The report says 30,000 businesses are expected to open over the year, leaving Israel with a net loss of 40,000 businesses.
Anecdotal reports have pointed to high rates of “for rent” signs on storefronts in Tel Aviv’s and Jerusalem’s city centers, as small businesses failed to keep their heads above water during the two-month lockdown.
Iran has said it will “soon” send France the black boxes of a Ukrainian jetliner its forces mistakenly shot down in January, Canada’s prime minister says
“The black boxes are supposed to be sent to France soon,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tells a daily briefing, adding that the coronavirus pandemic had delayed the handover.
“We’re going to continue to put pressure on the Iranian regime alongside our international partners to get answers, to get justice, to get compensation for the families,” he adds.
The prime minister says he raised the analysis of the black boxes in a telephone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky “a couple of days ago.”
Many of the passengers on board the downed airliner were Canadian, and Ottawa has demanded for months that Iran, which does not have the technical means to decode the black boxes, send the items abroad so that their content can be analyzed.
Incoming Shas MK Rabbi Baruch Gazahay has resigned his post amid a storm over a history of making misogynistic and racist remarks.
Gazahay was set to enter the Knesset on Tuesday along with 12 others following the final approval Monday night of the so-called Norwegian Law, which lets ministers resign from parliament and be replaced by the next person on their party’s electoral slate.
But over the course of the day, several videos have emerged in which he disparages women, Arabs and others in lectures to teenagers, and makes quack claims about science.
After the videos first came out, Gazahay claimed the reported remarks were “a few sentences taken out of context from a two-hour lesson in front of his students about four years ago.”
בש״ס טענו היום שההתבטאות של ח״כ המיועד הרב ברוך גזהיי היתה מעידה חד פעמית. שימו לב לאמירות הנוספות שהבאנו הערב- התבטאויות דוחות כלפי נשים וגזענות בלתי נסבלת כלפי ערבים ובדואים. מה יגידו בש״ס שמתיימרת להניף את דגל המלחמה בגזענות? pic.twitter.com/nkZMsdsCr5
— דפנה ליאל (@DaphnaLiel) June 16, 2020
But on Tuesday night more remarks are published by Channel 12 news, including a video in which he says “there’s no such thing as a good-looking Arab,” and claims that Muslim women wear head-coverings because they get beaten in the face so often.
He also mocks the queen of England as a “vile goy.”