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Rocket shot from Gaza intercepted hours after cross-border tunnel uncovered

Military confirms Iron Dome knocked missile out of sky, no injuries or damage reported; TV claims Qatar has agreed to funnel tens of millions to Gaza

A picture taken on October 20, 2020, shows an Israeli observation post at the Gaza-Israel border, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
A picture taken on October 20, 2020, shows an Israeli observation post at the Gaza-Israel border, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

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

First UAE official ministerial delegation to publicly visit Israel

The first official senior delegation from the UAE is set to arrive in Israel for a five-hour visit that will include bilateral talks geared at implementing the normalization agreement signed in Washington last month.

It is the first time UAE ministers visit the Jewish state publicly since the two countries announced the normalization of ties on August 13.

UAE Economy Minister Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri and Minister of State for Financial Affairs Obaid Humaid Al Tayer will be welcomed at Ben Gurion Airport by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, who is said to have been instrumental in finalizing the deal.

Israeli officials said traveling with UAE delegation after secret visit

The Walla news site reports senior officials from the Prime Minister’s Office are also on board the flight from Abu Dhabi.

According to the report, the officials were in Manama on Monday for the signing of the normalization deal with Bahrain, and instead of returning to Israel, secretly traveled to Abu Dhabi for talks with Emirati officials.

This is your captain speaking

Captain Naeem Alameri greets passengers aboard Flight EY8014 from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv:

“This is an historical moment for UAE country and Israel, and we are looking forward to salaam [peace] in the future for our region.”

More on the welcoming ceremony

The official meet and greet on the tarmac is to be followed by speeches from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, UAE Minister of State for Financial Affairs Obaid Humaid Al Tayer and US International Development Finance Corporation CEO Adam S. Boehler.

The UAE delegation will then sit down for a trilateral meeting with the Israelis and a US delegation. Avi Berkowitz, the US administration’s envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, will also attend the meeting.

That will then be followed by a bilateral meeting, also at the airport, with just the Israeli and UAE teams — the first-ever direct bilateral meeting between ministers from the two countries.

1st public senior delegation from UAE lands in Israel

The plane carrying a senior delegation from the United Arab Emirates lands at Ben Gurion Airport.

It is the first time UAE ministers visit the Jewish state publicly since the two countries announced the normalization of ties on August 13.

Netanyahu: Today we are making history in a way that will stand for generations

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes opening remarks to the delegation, saying the visit marks an important step for both nations.

“Welcome to Israel,” Netanyahu says. “Today we are making history in a way that will stand for generations.”

The prime minister says they will be signing four agreements that will make “a tangible difference for our peoples.”

“The enthusiasm for this agreement among our peoples is enormous and reflects the potential that is being realized today,” he says.

Prime Minister addresses a welcoming ceremony for senior United Arab Emirates officials at Ben Gurion Airport on October 20, 2020 (screenshot: GPO)

Netanyahu thanks UAE crown prince for his leadership: ‘We are all sons of Abraham’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asks the Emirati ministers to send a message of thanks to the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates.

“Please convey to the crown prince our deep appreciation for his groundbreaking leadership. We are working together to change the Middle East for the better,” Netanyahu says. “We are all sons of Abraham.”

Netanyahu asks US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to convey his thanks to US President Donald Trump and his senior adviser Jared Kushner for their role in the agreement.

Netanyahu introduces agreements to be signed: ‘We will do amazing things together’

After UAE Minister of State for Financial Affairs Obaid Humaid Al Tayer talks of need to reduce the “regulatory sandbox,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says of the two countries: “We will do amazing things together.”

The first agreement signed is for the promotion and protection of investments.

It is signed by Al Tayer and Finance Minister Israel Katz.

The second is a memorandum of understanding between the two nations on Innovation in Science and Technology.

Israel, US, UAE announce $3 billion investment fund

A joint statement from the UAE, Israel and the US sent out by the US embassy in Israel announces the creation of a fund to funnel investment to projects that “promote regional economic cooperation and prosperity in the Middle East and beyond.”

The announcement of the Abraham Fund, long on platitudes and short on details, puts the size of the kitty at more than $3 billion, though it is unclear if that has been pledged or is a goal.

“The fund will enable its members to launch people-focused investments, providing opportunity and hope for the region and its youth by enabling them to build a future that serves them and their communities,” the statement reads.

“The partners welcome participation from other countries to advance these objectives.”

As part of the fund, which was included in the Abraham Accords, the three countries will open a development office in Israel.

“The Abraham Fund will tackle challenges facing the region and increase economic opportunity for everyone,” Adam Boehler, CEO of the US International Development Finance Corporation, says in the statement. “We are excited to take this historic partnership to the next level to promote shared prosperity.”

Private meetings begin after airport ceremony

The public part of the UAE ceremony has now ended and the various officials have moved off the tarmac for about four hours of meetings before the Emirati delegation is scheduled to return to Abu Dhabi.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, White House aide Avi Berkowitz, UAE Minister of State for Financial Affairs Obaid Humaid Al-Tayer and UAE Minister of Economy Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri.

Later he is scheduled to meet only with Mnuchin.

Founder of UAE state-run media agency dies at 78

Ibrahim al-Abed, the founder of the United Arab Emirates’ state-run WAM news agency and a pioneering media figure as the oil-rich nation grew into a regional power, has died at age 78.

Al-Abed long served as the head of the country’s National Media Council, a government regulatory body. He also was a de facto government spokesman, with his phone number the first ring by foreign journalists for decades as Abu Dhabi and Dubai grew into the skyscraper-studded cities they are today.

This undated photo released by Emirates News Agency, WAM, shows Ibrahim al-Abed, the founder of the state-run news agency. (WAM via AP)

WAM, which announced al-Abed’s death, offered no cause.

A Palestinian by birth, al-Abed fled on his father’s shoulders during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s establishment, his longtime colleague and friend Peter Hellyer said.

Al-Abed created the WAM news agency in 1977 and helped Hellyer set up the agency’s English wire in 1978. He also served as a trusted media adviser to generations of Emirati government officials, later becoming an Emirati citizen himself.

— AP

Israeli firm signs deal to pipe UAE oil to Europe

An oil pipeline running from Eilat to Ashkelon will be extended to the UAE, providing the Emirates with a bridge to get fossil fuel directly to Europe.

The memorandum of understanding is between the state-owned Europe-Asia Pipeline Co., formerly the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Co., and a company called MED-RED Land Bridge, which is a joint venture between Israelis and Emiratis, according to an announcement.

It was signed in Abu Dhabi with US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and other US and UAE officials present, meaning it would have taken place shortly before they flew to Israel.

Hisham Abd Ahmid Ahmid, Vice Chairman National Holding and Itzik Levy, EAPC CEO sign a pipeline agreement on October 20, 2020. (Courtesy: EAPC)

EAPC says in a statement that the collaboration is significant news for the global energy market, since it offers oil producers and refiners the shortest most efficient and cost-effective route to transport oil and oil products from the Arabian Gulf to the consumption centers in the West, and provides access for consumers in the Far East to oil produced in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions.

The deal is worth $700 million to $800 million, according to Reuters.

EAPC was originally formed in 1968 to ferry Iranian oil to Israel. It has continued to operate since that spigot was shut and in 2014 was responsible for the worst oil spill in the nation’s history.

View of the oil leak from a pipe of the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company in the Arava area of South Israel, which caused Israel’s biggest environmental disaster, on December 9, 2014. (Marc Israel Sellem/Jerusalem Post/POOL)

Agreements meant to lay groundwork for Israeli-UAE businesses

Senior Foreign Ministry official Tamar Kaplan Turgeman tells Kan that the four agreement being signed “are significant in laying the groundwork for businesses and citizens — the aviation agreements, the visa waiver, a deal to protect and advance mutual investment, and a communique on science and tech cooperation.”

Report: Ministers to free all places but one from red-zone restrictions

Ministers are expected to vote tonight to lift red-city restrictions on all locales except for one Jerusalem neighborhood, Channel 12 news reports.

According to the report, coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu will recommend that ministers ease the closures on towns still labeled red under the traffic light plan, in light of sinking infection rates there. That will leave Ramat Shlomo in East Jerusalem as the only red area in the country.

Bnei Brak has seen an 85% drop in infections over the last two weeks according to the report. However, Health Ministry figures show it still had over 650 infections over the past week, the second-highest figure in the country. On October 4, that number was over 3,400.

Reports have indicated a slowdown in testing in red zones, as they strive to be upgraded out of the most severe restrictions. According to Yedioth Ahronoth, the city of Bnei Brak has refused to allow Magen David Adom to set up a rapid testing enter in the city.

Johnson gives Manchester deadline to bend on tightened lockdown

The British government has given the city of Manchester a noon Tuesday deadline to agree to tighter coronavirus measures, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson struggles to impose his plan for localized restrictions on restive regions.

Johnson’s government is resisting a recommendation from its scientific advisory committee for a short “circuit-breaker” national lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Instead it has adopted a three-tier system for England, with areas classed as medium, high and very high risk. In the top tier, pubs have to close and people are barred from mixing with members of other households.

So far only the Liverpool and Lancashire regions of northwest England have been placed in the highest tier. Nearby Greater Manchester, with a population of almost 3 million, has been holding out for more support for workers and businesses affected by the restrictions.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said if the government imposed the measures, “we would obviously have to accept that decision… But I would say to them at this point are they sure that that is a wise thing to do?”

— AP

Iran to hold massive air defense drill

Iran says it is planning a massive air defense drill covering about half of the country, the Tasnim news outlet reports.

The drill will begin tomorrow and test the country’s combat readiness for air attack. It will involve “homegrown missile systems, radars, electronic warfare equipment, and communication systems countering aerial threats,” according to the report.

Fighter jets and drones will also be deployed.

The UN recently allowed an arms embargo on Iran to expire, leading to worries that it may attempt to purchase Russia’s advanced S-400 air defense system.

Suspected Haaretz saboteur to be charged today — police

A police spokesperson says a man suspected of attempting to sabotage the Haaretz newspaper’s electrical system and verbally attacking reporter Gidi Weitz will be charged with criminal trespass, threats and willful damage to property.

Police will ask a judge to order the Ramat Gan man, 41, held behind bars for the remainder of the legal proceedings.

He is suspected of hurling insults at [Weitz] during their short conversation and of subsequently sabotaging the electrical system, causing damage to the building systems before leaving the office building.

Lab workers union head sounds alarm over testing slowdown

The head of the union representing lab workers has shifted from complaining about not enough manpower to raising alarms about not enough coronavirus tests to run.

Everyone is complacent. The labs are standing stocked and ready, but we aren’t getting any swabs,” Asther Admon tells Army Radio.

“As areas emerge from the lockdown, it’s important that we do more and more tests to cut off the infection chain. We’re going back to the mistakes we made in May.”

Nearly 40,000 tests were run on Monday. At the height of the second wave, some 60,000 tests a day were run.

According to Channel 13 news, advisers to coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu have expressed concerns about gamed testing numbers as previously high infection areas show massive, unlikely drops in new cases, as well as undesirably low levels of testing.

Official data shows testing rates in many Haredi cities falling by half over the last two weeks. In other cities like Tel Aviv and Netanya, by comparison, testing rates have remained relatively steady.

Three-way talks yield airport grip-and-(maybe)-grin

Wondering what’s happening with the historic visit of a UAE delegation to Israel?Us too.

The US Embassy releases a picture of the masked peacemakers standing in a room. In front of flags. And a window. Photo editors have a term for pictures like this: The Execution at Dawn.

It’s a style they know well.

Things look a bit more lively around Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.

As the Emiratis prepare for their return flight home after a couple more hours of nonstop fun, Kan reports that Arkia will only begin flying to the Emirates in January, as had been reported previously.

UAE says it wants to exchange embassies lickety-split

The Foreign Minister of the UAE tells his Israeli counterpart in a letter that the Emirates is looking to establish an embassy in Tel Aviv as soon as possible.

An Emirati official handing a letter to Foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi at a ceremony in Israel on October 20, 2020. (Courtesy: Foreign Ministry)

The letter from Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan is handed to Gabi Ashkenazi during a working lunch by a member of the delegation that made the trip to Israel. The two met in Berlin earlier this month in the first public high level bilateral between the countries.

In the letter Bin Zayed also expresses hopes that Israel will open an embassy in Abu Dhabi post haste, and thanks Ashkenazi for his hard work advancing ties according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

There is no immediate word if Ashkenazi has replied to the letter.

Speaking to Emirati journalists who made the trip, he tells them that Israel appreciates the courageous steps taken by Abu Dhabi in establishing ties, according to a statement from his ministry.

Palestinians fume over ‘shameful’ UAE visit

PLO official Wasel Abu Youssef tells Reuters that the visit by a UAE delegation to Israel is “shameful.”

“The bilateral agreements that were announced today and the delegations that come and go, all of that offers the occupation a strength to escalate its aggression and its crimes against the Palestinian people and increases its intransigence and arrogance,” he says.

Hazem Qassem, a spokesman for Hamas in Gaza, tells the agency that “such a visit will only encourage the occupation to pursue the gradual annexation of West Bank lands.”

Delaying schools opens up business options, Health Ministry official says

Health Ministry deputy head Itamar Grotto tells a Knesset committee that delaying the opening of schools until stage 3 would create possibilities to open up stores or other business activities.

He does not specify what activities, aside from zimmer guesthouses, which currently will only be okayed to open in stage 3.

Grotto adds that discussions are taking place to allow businesses to open early and offer takeaway service, similar to that allowed by restaurants.

Rogue cloud treats Jerusalem to first surprise shower of season

A freakishly hot summer in Jerusalem is being capped by a freak rainstorm that has swept across the city, bringing showers and joy to the capital.

The rainstorm is freakish not for the time of year — in fact it’s a bit late for the first rain of the season — but because it appears to have come out of nowhere.

Forecasts for Tuesday called for unseasonably warm weather and partially cloudy skies. The storm appears to be the result of a single large cloud that sneaked across the city.

A satellite view showing the single cloud bringing a storm to Jerusalem on october 20, 2020. (screen capture: Windy.com)

“One cloud (the sky is clear nationwide) throws off all the models,” tweets the amateur meteorologist behind the popular Yerushamayim weather site, which crashes thanks to the storm.

“Fine, you caught me with my pants down. You don’t need to bring down the site,” he adds.

The first rain of the season is always an event in Israel, where the dry season lasts from mid-spring until early fall.

Like videos of otherwise unremarkable rain? Have a ball:

 

Gantz says nothing to fear from shadowy Gaza ‘engineering operation’

Defense Minister Benny Gantz visits the IDF’s Gaza Division, following an unspecified “engineering operation” along the border.

“I can assure the residents of the area that we are doing everything to ensure a quiet and safe life,” Gantz says in a video statement. “Sleep quietly and the IDF soldiers and security forces will continue their operations to defend you.”

Gantz, who was accompanied by IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, met with senior commanders and toured the barrier being built along the border, according to his office.

On Monday, the Israel Defense Forces restricted access to the border with southern Gaza due to the “engineering operation,” which it refused to elaborate on.

The military stressed there was no danger to Israeli communities near the border and later eased the security measures it put in place.

— Alex Fulbright

Ministers to mull upped fines to quash obstinate Haredi schools

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein says he will ask the coronavirus cabinet to approve harsher fines on businesses and educational facilities that open illicitly.

“The coronavirus is not a bike rider. It can go up as fast as it can go down, if we break or if we don’t know how to enforce,” he says during a tour of a Tiberias hospital, according to Israel Hayom.

“There’s a big gap between the cautious approach being taken by the cabinet and what is happening on the street, or violating guidelines by educational institutions and businesses.”

Policemen at a checkpoint to the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak on October 18, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Edelstein has complained several times about weak enforcement allowing ultra-Orthodox schools to remain open with only a few fines thrown around. The current maximum fine that can be levied against an institution for being open is NIS 5,000, which some feel falls short of a deterrent.

Lawmakers have also said they will look into pulling state funding from such institutions.

 

 

Coronavirus cabinet meeting delayed

The ministerial meeting on coronavirus matters has been pushed off until tomorrow.

According to Ynet, the delay is the result of disagreements over opening elementary schools.

Gamzu promises a virus test in every nose (and maybe a faster exit)

Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu tells a media briefing that Israelis will now be able to get coronavirus tests freely through their health maintenance organizations, and will no longer need a referral from a doctor.

He also says that officials have seen a significant dip in infection rates across all communities.

“We went into the lockdown with 9,000 cases and 140 red cities. We’re now in a better situation,” he says. (In actuality Israel didn’t hit 9,000 cases a day until October 1, over a week into the lockdown.)

“We thought the drop would turn all red cities into orange ones, but we kept going with the closure because we thought it was the correct and safe method for everyone to continue to act this way,” he says.

He also says officials will discuss the possibility of speeding up the Health Ministry’s slow, careful several-month planned exit from the lockdown.

Man who beheaded teacher contacted parent who led campaign against him

A man who beheaded a history teacher outside Paris last week had been in contact with a parent who was leading an online campaign against the teacher, police sources say.

The 18-year-old killer had exchanged messages on WhatsApp with the man, who wanted Samuel Paty fired after his daughter told him how the teacher had shown cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a lesson on free speech.

The father is one of 16 people being held over the killing that has sent shock waves through France five years after jihadists massacred 12 people at the satirical magazine that published the cartoons.

Abdullakh Anzorov, who is of Chechen origin, launched the attack as Paty was returning home on Friday from the junior high school where he taught in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Paris.

The police sources does not say how Anzorov had come into contact with the father, who had led a fierce campaign against Paty for showing the cartoons seen by many Muslims as offensive.

But the father had put his telephone number in a Facebook post with a video calling for protests against Paty.

The father, whose daughter was a pupil of Paty’s but was not in class at the time of the lesson according to police sources, accused the teacher of “pornography” for showing a cartoon of Mohammed naked.

— AFP

Ministers vote to take Haredi cities out of the red

Ministers have voted to lift red-city restrictions from all remaining locales that had been under the high-infection classification, a government statement announces.

The move means only the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo will remain a red zone, with special restrictions.

No longer in the red zone are Bnei Brak, with the country’s second highest number of cases; Modiin Ilit, with the highest number of cases per capita; Elad; and Beitar Ilit, along with several other Jerusalem neighborhoods.

The decision, by a panel of ministers formed to hash out restricted areas, is effective immediately.

The Knesset Law Committee has also given a retroactive go-ahead for moving out of the lockdown and into the first exit stage. However, lawmakers vote to shorten the amount of time for the first stage by four days in order to push the government to hurry up opening stores, hair salons, synagogues and hotels and allowing large weddings, among other things.

Emirati delegation makes way back to Abu Dhabi

The delegation of Emiratis is returning to Abu Dhabi, after a lightning trip to glamorous Ben-Gurion Airport.

An Etihad flight carrying the delegation took off from Tel Aviv at 5:42 p.m., and is scheduled to land there in about an hour and a half, after a straight shot over the West Bank, Jordan and now Saudi Arabia, whose airspace it is currently traversing.

IDF says ‘terror tunnel’ found on Gaza border

The military reveals it has uncovered a “terror tunnel” dug in the Gaza Strip that ran dozens of meters into Israeli territory.

The Israel Defense Forces says following an “indication” from the barrier system it is installing on the border, military engineers located the concrete-lined tunnel near the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis.

“The route [of the tunnel] was located as part of the ongoing efforts to find and neutralize tunnels and thanks to the technological and [intelligence] collection capabilities of the barrier,” the IDF says in a statement.

It says the tunnel did not reach far enough into Israel to reach an underground barrier being built beneath the border area and did not pose a threat to communities in the area.

This photo provided by the Israel Defense Forces on October 20, 2020 shows a soldier operating along the border with the southern Gaza Strip, after a tunnel entering Israeli territory was found in the area. (Israel Defense Forces)

The statement doesn’t specify who dug the tunnel, but the IDF reiterates it holds the Hamas terror group responsible as the Palestinian enclave’s ruler.

“The IDF is determined to defend Israel’s sovereignty and the security of its citizens and will continue to act against terror — above and below ground — in every area where it may be required,” the military says.

The announcement comes a day after the IDF restricted access to the southern Gaza border area due to what it said was an unspecified “engineering operation.” It stressed there was no danger to residents of the area and on Monday night eased the security restrictions.

— Alex Fulbright

Education Ministry accuses Health Ministry of giving it the run-around

An Education Ministry source tells Walla news that the Health Ministry is not being straight, amid heated disagreements among officials over plans to open elementary schools.

Education officials have said they would not split first and second grades into pods, but the Health Ministry has rejected allowing schools to open without them, leading to a possible delay in sending off kids until next month.

The source says it was the Health Ministry that initially okayed opening the grades without capsules, saying it would not make a big difference at that age.

“Every week we get a different set of answers which don’t match up between what appears in the press and what is written down, and which change from person to person. We don’t understand if this is a part of the ministry’s plans,” the source says.

Number of confirmed virus cases continues to plummet

New figures published by the Health Ministry show the number of new coronavirus cases thus far on Tuesday below 400, even as testing levels remain high.

The ministry says only 2.9 percent of over 26,000 tests have come back positive, the lowest figure in months, aside from Saturday, which saw both lower testing and fewer confirmed cases.

The numbers, which were current as of 6:52 p.m. are liable to change once more information becomes available, but are the latest signs of optimism after a month-long lockdown meant to curb runaway infection rates.

The death toll has continued to rise though, with another 10 fatalities bringing it to 2,278.

There are 22,854 active cases, of which 616 are in serious condition. The number of people on ventilators rises slightly to 234.

Saeb Erekat still critical but stable — hospital

Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem says senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat’s condition is unchanged, and the 65-year-old negotiator remains in critical but stable condition while on artificial respiration.

Hadassah says doctors are consulting with experts around the world as they grapple with what they described as a complicated case of COVID-19 due to Erekat’s history of health issues.

The hospital says Erekat, who underwent a lung transplant in 2017, suffered from a weak immune system and a bacterial infection in addition to COVID-19.

— AP

Health Ministry source said to warn of coming virus spike

A senior Health Ministry official says experts are predicting the downward slide in new coronavirus cases will halt and the country will see a spike in new cases as infections rebound thanks to non-compliance with virus guidelines.

“We expect a significant rise in infection in the next seven to 10 days. With the level of violations we are seeing, there’s no escaping it,” the unnamed source is quoted saying by Channel 12 news.

The source warns that plans to open up more school grades and businesses could be put off should the numbers in fact rise.

“Parents need to pray that infection figures go down,” the source says.

Curfews may be considered if COVID numbers bounce back — report

A source close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the possibility of nightly curfews will be considered if virus cases rebound, Channel 13 reports.

The move, which was tried to little effect in some hot spots last month, will be intended to prevent large gatherings at night.

Tunnel diggers could be heard until night before discovery — report

The Kan broadcaster reports that voices could still be heard Monday night inside a tunnel the military discovered running from Gaza into Israel.

According to the report, the voices set off an underground system meant to block tunnels or alert authorities to their existence.

However, the IDF seemingly knew about the tunnel hours earlier on Monday, though it attempted to act coy by only referring to an “engineering operation” on the Gaza border.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz writes in a tweet that the tunnel was only discovered this morning.

“Even when it seems quiet in the south, under the ground terror groups are not letting up their efforts to hurt Israel’s citizens and its sovereignty,” he says.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacts to the news by saying that Israel is acting determinedly to protect its citizens, in an uncharacteristically terse statement. Gantz, who leads the Blue and White party, is among his chief rivals.

Health Ministry shoots raspberries back at Education Ministry

Sources in the Health and Education Ministries are continuing to fling insults at each other, using the media to air their smack talk across this schoolyard we call Israel.

“It’s easiest to find excuses,” a Health Ministry source tells Kan, after Education Ministry sources blamed possible school opening delays on them.

“Even without the coronavirus, every parent in Israel knows the education system was not ready for smaller classes, like the sardine protests,” the source adds, referring to short-lived protests movements against large class sizes in years past. “Even 100 reforms won’t help. The virus just exposed the existing ills in the system.”

France to shut down Hamas-inspired group behind beheading

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that a pro-Hamas group active in France would be dissolved for being “directly implicated” in the murder of a history teacher.

The decision to shut down the “Sheikh Yassine Collective”, which supports the Palestinian cause and is named after the Hamas founder, will be made at a Wednesday cabinet meeting, he tells an audience in a Paris suburb.

— AFP

Rocket alarm sounds near Gaza

A rocket alarm is going off in Nahal Oz near the Gaza border.  There is no immediate confirmation of a rocket launch.

Erekat hooked up to ECMO machine as daughter holds out hope for recovery

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat is still alive and in intensive care, his office reports.

Erekat, who was rushed to Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem two days ago after complications from coronavirus placed his life at risk, is now being supported by an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine, as well as a ventilator.

The relatively rare medical device is occasionally used as a last resort for patients whose taxed bodies cannot absorb enough oxygen even with a ventilator.

“My father is still in the intensive care unit. His condition is stable with ventilator support. Today, he was connected to the ECMO machine to support the lung and prevent its damage. God willing, his condition will improve,” says Erekat’s daughter Salam, who is also a physician.

— Aaron Boxerman

Rocket said shot down near Sderot

Channel 12 news reports that at least one rocket was seemingly downed near Sderot.

There is no confirmation from the military, which only says it is looking into the rocket alarm.

A security video shows what appears to be an interceptor missile sent skyward.

IDF confirms it knocked down Gaza rocket

The IDF confirms that an Iron Dome interceptor shot down a rocket fired out of Gaza.

There are no reports of injuries or damage.

Report: Qatar agrees to pay $60m to Gaza, may be Israel’s newest Gulf friend

A Channel 13 report claims that Israel has convinced Qatar to pay out $60 million to Gaza through the end of the year.

The figure is lower than an agreement to funnel $100 million into Gaza reported on by Channel 12 last week.

Neither report is confirmed.

According to Channel 13’s unsourced report, there is an Israeli team in Doha now working on the agreement. The channel claims that Qatar sees the deal with Israel to pay millions to its main foe Hamas, Gaza’s de facto ruler, as a way of getting back in the good graces of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The channel speculates that Qatar, which is being blackballed by the GCC due to its attempts to remain close to Iran, is likely to be one of the countries supposedly lining up to establish ties with Israel, seeing the payments, which have been going on for years, as a sign of the growing warmth between Jerusalem and Doha.

Supreme leader supremely annoyed at Gulf states for talking to Zionists

Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei has a message for any country that dares negotiate with Israel: Don’t.

“Muslim nations will never accept the humiliation of compromising with the Zionist regime. If the US thinks they can solve the region’s problem in this way, they are wrong. The status of any regime that negotiates with the usurping Zionist regime will be shaken before its nation,” tweets Khamenei, in an apparent reference to the UAE and all of the other Gulf countries warming up to Israel.

He does not explain what “shaken before its nation” means.

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Palestinians fume over ‘shameful’ UAE visit

PLO official Wasel Abu Youssef tells Reuters that the visit by a UAE delegation to Israel is “shameful.”

“The bilateral agreements that were announced today and the delegations that come and go, all of that offers the occupation a strength to escalate its aggression and its crimes against the Palestinian people and increases its intransigence and arrogance,” he says.

Hazem Qassem, a spokesman for Hamas in Gaza, tells the agency that “such a visit will only encourage the occupation to pursue the gradual annexation of West Bank lands.”