Top health official warns of possible ‘second wave’ outbreak in May
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Police reportedly agree not to scuffle with bereaved families on Memorial Day

Cops will block cemeteries, but won’t physically stop those who insist on forcing their way in anyway despite coronavirus restrictions

A woman visits the grave of a family member at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem on April 22, 2020. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A woman visits the grave of a family member at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem on April 22, 2020. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

Hundreds of troops carrying out demolitions at illegal outposts

Hundreds of Israeli security personnel descend on several outposts outside of the flashpoint Yitzhar settlement in the northern West Bank to carry out demolitions of six illegal structures.

Four of the structures are located in the Kipa Sruga and Tekuma outposts in Area C, and two are in Kumi Ori in Area B, according to a spokesman for the Civil Administration — the Defense Ministry body that authorizes West Bank construction.

While the Oslo Accords bar Israelis from building in Area B, the residents of Kumi Ori — where only a handful of families live along with several dozen far-right activists known as hilltop youth — have long flouted those laws.

One of the two homes demolished in Kumi Ori belongs to the family of Neria Zarog, who, according to a security official who spoke to The Times of Israel last year, is a “violent extremist” who has inspired attacks against Palestinians and Israeli forces alike.

Zarog rebuilt his home almost immediately after it was razed for its lack of permits in January, a Civil Administration spokesman says.

Zarog was arrested this morning for “refusing to evacuate” the scene in order for the security forces to raze his home, a Border Police spokesman says.

Jacob Magid

Yitzhar settlement condemns demolitions; far-right attorney petitions High Court

A statement from the Yitzhar settlement condems the demolition, blasting the government for green-lighting it in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The settlement calls the measure a “price tag,” a term that refers to vandalism and other hate crimes carried out by Jewish ultra-nationalists ostensibly in retaliation for Palestinian violence or government policies perceived as hostile to the settler movement.

In the middle of the demolition, far-right activist-attorney Itamar Ben Gvir issues a statement saying that his legal assistant Hananel Dorfman had petitioned the High Court to compel the forces to halt the razing.

Jacob Magid

In role reversal, Egypt sends virus aid to US

Egypt yesterday flew a plane of medical supplies to the United States to assist in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, a role reversal for a top US aid recipient.

Egypt’s general-turned-president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has been eager to cement relations with US President Donald Trump, and his country has already shipped medical goods with fanfare to China and Italy.

A video statement from Sisi’s office shows crates in wrapping that read in English and Arabic, “From the Egyptian people to the American people,” being loaded into a military cargo plane.

Dutch Ruppersberger, who leads a group in the US House of Representatives that promotes relations with Egypt, says the plane landed at Andrews Air Force base outside Washington.

The plane brought 200,000 masks, 48,000 shoe covers and 20,000 surgical caps among other supplies, says Ruppersberger, a Democrat who heads the bipartisan group.

“This is why international diplomacy and maintaining relationships with allies like Egypt are essential not in times of crisis, but every day,” he writes on Twitter.

The US ambassador in Cairo, Jonathan Cohen, also voices appreciation for the “generous” shipment.

Egypt has reported 250 deaths from COVID-19 and some 3,300 cases, according to the World Health Organization.

AFP

Blue and White MK: There will be no legislation bypassing High Court

Blue and White MK Chili Tropper says the new government with Likud will not advance legislation that bypasses the High Court of Justice, a long-held aspiration of many right-wing politicians.

“There will be no legislation bypassing the High Court. If it [the court] decides that Netanyahu cannot form a government, we will respect that and probably go to elections,” Tropper tells Army Radio.

Activists have petitioned the court to block Netanyahu from forming a coalition due to the bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges against him.

Blue and White and Likud clinched a unity deal this week after over a year of political deadlock.

Cabinet set to approve Memorial Day, Independence Day closure

The cabinet will convene today to vote on a plan to close the nation’s military cemeteries during next week’s Memorial Day in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

In its announcement on Tuesday, the Prime Minister’s Office said the government is also planning to impose a nationwide lockdown the following day, on Israel’s Independence Day, in order to prevent large celebrations and gatherings.

The Prime Minister’s Office has said intercity travel would be prohibited on Memorial Day, with the exception of people going to work and shopping in permitted stores.

A lockdown planned for Independence Day would be similar to ones imposed on the first and last days of the week-long Passover holiday, when Israelis were prohibited from leaving their towns and stores were forced to shut down.

Ministers will also debate the possibility of nightly closures of Arab towns and cities during the upcoming month-long Ramadan holiday, which traditionally sees families gather for post-fast festive meals after sundown.

Border Police officer stabbed in West Bank attack

A Border Police officer has been stabbed at a junction near Abu Dis in the West Bank, police say in a statement.

The stabbing is a suspected terror attack, it says.

The injured officer is conscious, according to police.

It says the stabber has “been neutralized,” without elaborating.

US health chief: Second wave of virus next winter could be worse

A second wave of the novel coronavirus in the US could be even more destructive because it will likely collide with the beginning of flu season, one of the United States’ top health officials says.

Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), calls on Americans to use the coming months to prepare — and get their flu shots.

“There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” he is quoted as saying in an interview with the Washington Post published late Tuesday.

“We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time,” he says.

The US has recorded more than 800,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University, with 44,845 deaths — the most reported of any country.

AFP

Medics say wounded officer in moderate condition

The Magen David Adom emergency service says the officer stabbed in the West Bank is moderately hurt in the attack.

Medics are treating the man, it says.

West Bank attack was combined car-ramming and stabbing — police

A Border Police officer is moderately injured in a combined car-ramming and stabbing attack at a checkpoint east of Jerusalem on Wednesday morning, police say.

According to police, the assailant rammed his car into the border guard, then got out of the vehicle and attacked the officer with a knife before other troops at the scene shot him.

It was not immediately clear if the suspect has been killed.

Police say a pipe bomb was also found at the scene, requiring the area to be closed off until sappers could remove the device.

The identity of the assailant is not immediately released.

Judah Ari Gross

Iran claims successful launch of military satellite

Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard says it launched a military satellite into orbit amid wider tensions with the United States, a successful launch after months of failures.

There was no immediate independent confirmation of the launch of the satellite, which the Guard called “Noor,” or light. The US State Department and the Pentagon, which say that such launches advance Iran’s ballistic missile program, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On its official website, the Guard says the satellite successfully reached an orbit of 425 kilometers (264 miles) above the Earth’s surface.

The two-stage satellite launch took off from Iran’s Central Desert, the Guard says, without elaborating. The paramilitary force says it used a Ghased, or “messenger,” satellite carrier to put the device into space, a previously unheard-of system.

The launch comes amid tensions between Tehran and Washington over its collapsing nuclear deal and after a US drone strike killed Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in January.

Iran has suffered several failed satellite launches in recent months.

On Sunday, the Guard acknowledged it had a tense encounter with US warships in the Persian Gulf last week, but alleged without offering evidence that American forces sparked the incident.

AP

Chief rabbis to join Christian, Muslim, Druze leaders in interfaith prayer

Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druze religious leaders in Israel will hold an interfaith virtual prayer today at 3 p.m., amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Chief Rabbis Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau will join the Greek Orthodox patriarch Theophilos III and Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Pierbattista Pizzaballa, imam Sheikhs Jamal al-Ubra and Aqeel al-Atrash, and Druze leader Sheikh Mowafak Tarif, to pray for the victims of the pandemic.

The prayer will be recorded and broadcast from the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.

Footage emerges from West Bank ramming-stabbing

Footage from the attack at a West Bank checkpoint this morning shows the Palestinian assailant accelerate his van into the Border Police officer, then get out and attack him with a pair of scissors.

The border guard initially fights back against his attacker and shoves him away. The officer then runs away as other border guards at the scene are seen opening fire at the assailant.

— Judah Ari Gross

Virus toll rises to 185 as woman, 95, succumbs to illness

A 95-year-old woman dies of the coronavirus in southern Israel, bringing the death toll from the virus to 185.

Her death is announced by the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.

Health Ministry: Virus death toll up to 187, with 14,326 infections

The Health Ministry says 187 people have died of the coronavirus.

It records 14,326 cases, a rise of 443 infections in 24 hours, more than double the increase as compared to a day earlier.

The ministry says 148 people are in serious condition, 111 of them on ventilators.

Another 124 are in moderate condition.

The ministry says 4,961 people have recovered.

Man, 70, in serious condition after paraglider plummets into Sea of Galilee

A paraglider plummets into the Sea of Galilee after its operator, a 70-year-old man, experiences a “medical incident,” Channel 12 reports.

The man is pulled from the lake in northern Israel. Medics are trying to revive him, the network says.

Woman, 52, dies of coronavirus in Jerusalem

A 52-year-old woman with preexisting health conditions has died of the coronavirus, Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center says.

Parents of teen girl killed in terror attack embrace new baby daughter

The mother of Rina Shnerb, 17, who was murdered in a terror attack last summer near the Dolev settlement, has given birth to a baby girl.

Shnerb’s father, who along with his son was injured in the bombing that killed his daughter at the West Bank spring, tells Army Radio they learned of the pregnancy during the week-long shiva mourning period for Rina.

“During the shiva, we learned that we’re pregnant,” Eitan Shnerb tells the station. “It helped me recover. God heals us all.”

Rina Shnerb, 17, who was killed in a terror attack in the West Bank on August 23, 2019 (courtesy)

Ahead of Ramadan, Health Ministry places billboards with rules in Arab areas

The Health Ministry is launching an ad campaign warning Arab Israelis to abide by the health rules during the upcoming month-long Ramadan holiday.

The ministry urges Muslims to pray at home and have the nightly iftar break-fast meals at home without guests, in accordance with the health regulations amid the pandemic.

It says it’s placing billboards in Arab Israeli towns and cities, purchasing print and radio ads, and sending text messages to Bedouin Israelis in the Negev to raise awareness, in a NIS 3 million ($85,000) campaign.

Liberman says Gantz and Netanyahu are ‘shameless opportunists’

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman condemns the unity government of Likud and Blue and White.

“I carefully read the coalition agreement, the fine print and the large print,” he tweets. “This is nothing more than a work arrangement for Gantz and immunity for Netanyahu. This is a coalition of opportunists who lost all shame.”

Following the first round of elections in April 2019, Liberman refused to join a Netanyahu-led coalition over disagreements with his ultra-Orthodox allies, precipitating another national vote. After the September vote, the kingmaker Liberman pushed for a unity government of Likud and Blue and White, which failed to materialize, prompting the March 2 election. The Yisrael Beytenu leader and Netanyahu ally-turned-rival is now in the opposition, after Gantz broke with political partner Yair Lapid to join Netanyahu in a coalition.

Netanyahu praises troops over fast response to ramming-stabbing

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hails Israeli security forces for their swift response to a Palestinian assailant who attacked a guard in the West Bank in a combined car-ramming and stabbing assault. The attacker was shot dead at the scene.

“On behalf of all Israelis, I send my wishes for a fast recovery to the officer who was hurt, and praise the troops who worked quickly to neutralize the terrorist,” says Netanyahu.

US health officials say two died of virus in California in early, mid-February

Health officials say two people died with the coronavirus in California weeks before the first reported death in the United States from the disease.

Santa Clara County officials say the people died at home February 6 and February 17. The first reported death in the nation from the virus was on February 29 in Kirkland, Washington.

The Medical Examiner-Coroner received confirmation Tuesday that tissue samples sent to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested positive for the virus, officials say.

The announcement came after California Gov. Gavin Newsom promises a “deep dive” update Wednesday into the state’s ability to test for the coronavirus and to track and isolate people who have it. That is one of the six indicators he says is key to lifting a “stay-at-home” order that has slowed the spread of the disease while forcing millions of people to file for unemployment benefits.

“This will go to the obvious questions and queries that all of us are asking: When? … When do you see a little bit of a release in the valve so that we can let out a little of this pressure,” Newsom says.

AP

Top health official warns of possible ‘second wave’ outbreak in May

Professor Sigal Sadetsky, the head of the Health Ministry’s Public Health Services, warns that infections could swell in May if Israelis don’t heed social distancing measures.

“I am concerned there will be a second wave of infection in May,” she tells the Kan public broadcaster. “It’s impossible to ensure that people don’t get infected if they don’t observe social distancing.”

She stresses that unless the rules are kept, Israel could see a rise in infections and a backtracking to stricter lockdown measures.

Malaria drug stockpiled by Israel shows no benefit in virus treatment — study

A malaria drug widely touted by US President Donald Trump for treating the new coronavirus and stockpiled by Israel shows no benefit in a large analysis of its use in US veterans hospitals. There are more deaths among those given hydroxychloroquine versus standard care, researchers report.

The nationwide study is not a rigorous experiment. But with 368 patients, it’s the largest look so far at hydroxychloroquine with or without the antibiotic azithromycin for COVID-19, which has killed more than 171,000 people as of Tuesday.

The study is posted on an online site for researchers and has not been reviewed by other scientists. Grants from the National Institutes of Health and the University of Virginia paid for the work.

Researchers analyze medical records of 368 male veterans hospitalized with confirmed coronavirus infection at Veterans Health Administration medical centers who died or were discharged by April 11.

About 28% who were given hydroxychloroquine plus usual care died, versus 11% of those getting routine care alone. About 22% of those getting the drug plus azithromycin died too, but the difference between that group and usual care was not considered large enough to rule out other factors that could have affected survival.

Hydroxychloroquine made no difference in the need for a breathing machine, either.

Researchers do not track side effects, but note a hint that hydroxychloroquine might have damaged other organs. The drug has long been known to have potentially serious side effects, including altering the heartbeat in a way that could lead to sudden death.

Israel has stockpiled both chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine on the assumption that if trials find that it is beneficial in the treatment of COVID-19 this would spark a buying war for the drugs.

AP, Times of Israel

2 men, 85 and 79, die of virus overnight

More information emerges on the victims of the coronavirus who died overnight.

The Shoham Medical Center says an 85-year-old man who has been hospitalized since April 7 has died of COVID-19. He was a resident of the Yavne’el nursing home, which has seen a large number of cases.

A 79-year-old man died of the virus in the Maayanei Yeshua hospital in Bnei Brak.

Baldfaced brazenness: Knesset members said refusing to wear masks

Lawmakers on the Knesset’s Arrangements Committee are refusing to wear masks in parliament, according to reports.

Photos of the barefaced MKs are shared by reporters on social media. They include Yesh Atid MK Boaz Toporovsky.

The Knesset director has instructed parliamentary staff to leave the room so as not to endanger themselves, Channel 13 reports.

Israel has made mask-wearing mandatory and is fining violators. According to the reports, the lawmakers, who enjoy parliamentary immunity, cannot be forced to do so.

Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon on lockdown after 1st virus case found

A Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon has been put on lockdown after the UN announced the first confirmed case of coronavirus in one of the country’s numerous and crowded camps.

The patient, a Palestinian refugee from Syria, has been taken to the state-run Rafic Hariri hospital in Beirut, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, says.

Medical experts are due to visit the Wavel camp in the eastern Bekaa Valley later on Wednesday to carry out tests, the agency adds.

The testing will focus on the woman’s relatives and people she has interacted with, as well as 50 others chosen arbitrarily “inside the camp and its surroundings,” says Lebanon’s official National News Agency.

AFP

Man on paraglider who crashed into Sea of Galilee dies

The man operating a paraglider who plunged into the Sea of Galilee earlier today has been pronounced dead.

The man, 74, is not immediately identified.

Security forces complete razing of illegal West Bank buildings; 2 arrested

Security forces have completed the razing of six illegal structures at three West Bank outposts near the settlement of Yitzhar.

Two people have been arrested.

Worker stabbed by husband at Afula supermarket

A woman has been stabbed by her husband at the supermarket where she works in the northern town of Afula, Hebrew reports say.

She is in serious condition.

Police are searching for the attacker, who fled.

US state of Missouri suing China over virus

The US state of Missouri is suing China’s leadership over the coronavirus, prompting an angry rebuke from Beijing over the “absurd” claim.

Missouri is seeking damages over what it described as deliberate deception and insufficient action to stop the pandemic.

The first-of-a-kind state lawsuit comes amid calls in Congress to punish China and a campaign by US President Donald Trump to focus on Beijing’s role as he faces criticism over his own handling of the crisis.

Missouri — led by Trump’s Republican Party — files a lawsuit in a federal court seeking an unspecified amount in damages and an injunction on continuing actions by China that are alleged to include hoarding of protective equipment.

“The Chinese government lied to the world about the danger and contagious nature of COVID-19, silenced whistleblowers and did little to stop the spread of the disease,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt says.

“They must be held accountable for their actions,” he says.

The lawsuit’s chances of success are far from certain as US law, under the principle of sovereign immunity, generally forbids court action against foreign governments. Missouri addresses the issue by suing the ruling Communist Party, arguing that it is not formally an organ of the Chinese state.

AFP

Likud said threatening to break up Yamina, absorb some MKs into coalition

A Likud source tells Channel 13 it may try to break up the right-wing Yamina party, drawing some of its lawmakers into its coalition while excluding others. The threat appears to be aimed at leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked to get them to back down on their demands for several ministerial portfolios.

“If Yamina doesn’t accept our offer, we will try to break it up and bring them in in pieces,” the source says. “First Rafi Peretz and then [Bezalel] Smotrich.”

Yamina, in response, says: “We are one faction. We won’t let the prime minister do to us what he did to Blue and White.”

That’s a reference to the dissolution of Benny Gantz’s alliance, after the former IDF chief broke with partners Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon to forge a coalition with Netanyahu.

435 virus deaths in Spain as daily toll rises for second day

Spain says another 435 people died in the past 24 hours, with the figures showing a slight increase for a second day running, bringing the overall death toll to 21,717.

Spain has suffered the third-highest number of deaths in the world after the United States and Italy, with infections now passing 208,000 cases, health ministry figures shows.

AFP

Germany to start first clinical tests on coronavirus vaccine

Germany has authorized its first clinical test of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, the country’s regulatory body says, green-lighting trials on human volunteers for an RNA vaccine developed by German firm Biontech and US giant Pfizer.

“The Paul-Ehrlich-Institut… has authorized the first clinical trial of a vaccine against COVID-19 in Germany,” the regulatory body says in a statement.

It adds that approval was the “result of a careful assessment of the potential risk/benefit profile of the vaccine candidate.”

AFP

Virus death toll in Europe surpasses 110,000

The death toll from the novel coronavirus in Europe has passed 110,000, according to figures compiled by AFP from official sources by 0920 GMT on Wednesday.

With 110,192 people dead from 1,246,840 cases registered, Europe is the hardest hit continent by the pandemic that has killed 177,368 people around the world.

Italy has recorded 24,648 deaths, Spain 21,717, France 20,796 and Britain 17,337.

AFP

Baby born prematurely to mother with coronavirus dies

A baby girl who was born prematurely to a woman with the coronavirus has died at the Poriah Medical Center in Tiberias.

The woman gave birth to twin girls last week in her 35th week of pregnancy, while sick with the virus.

The twins were moved to a preemie ward as the mother was discharged home. Both babies tested negative for the virus.

The condition of one of the babies deteriorated yesterday and efforts by the doctors to save her failed.

Bennett defends ‘difficult’ plan to close military cemeteries on Memorial Day

Interim Defense Minister Naftali Bennett defends the government’s plan to shutter the country’s military cemeteries for next week’s Memorial Day out of concern that people would visit them en masse and potentially spread the coronavirus widely.

“This was a very, very difficult decision, but it was necessary as every year some 1.5 million people visit cemeteries, many of them elderly,” Bennett tells reporters.

“This would have been a coronavirus bomb,” he says.

Under the plan, which has yet to be formally approved by the government but is expected to be shortly, police officers will be stationed outside the cemeteries and roadblocks will be set up in the surrounding streets to ensure that people do not visit their loved ones’ graves.

Bennett says he hopes that these precautions will not be necessary and that family and friends will not try to visit the cemeteries, but adds that if they do, police officers will show the utmost restraint.

“A bereaved father is not going to be physically stopped from visiting a cemetery on Memorial Day,” he says, adding, “But we expect that people won’t come.”

Judah Ari Gross

For 1st time in 5 years, Jews, Serbs, Roma join Croatia memorial at death camp

Croatia’s Jews, Serbs and Roma join an official commemoration for the victims of a World War II death camp for the first time in five years, after snubbing the event to protest a resurgence of Nazi ideology.

Known as Croatia’s Auschwitz, the Jasenovac camp was run by the Nazi-allied Ustasha regime, which persecuted and killed hundreds of thousands of ethnic Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascist Croatians during the war.

On Wednesday, the 75th anniversary of the camp’s closure, representatives of ethnic Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascists joined the top officials to honor the dead at the striking flower-shaped monument that stands on the former camp-site.

The groups say they decided to attend this year’s ceremony to show solidarity during the coronavirus crisis as well as to start a conversation with authorities about lingering intolerance.

“Things have not changed but taking into the account the difficult situation caused by the virus … we decided to join the ceremony,” says Ognjen Kraus, head of an umbrella association of Jewish groups.

“We also extend our hand (to the government) to start talking about the burning issue … and remove the stain on Croatia due to historical revisionism,” he tells AFP. “We want deeds not words.”

AFP

Shin Bet says it arrested Palestinians planning bombing of Jerusalem stadium

Israeli security forces arrested three Palestinian men last month who are suspected of planning to carry out terror attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank, including a bombing in the capital’s Teddy Stadium, the Shin Bet security service says.

According to the Shin Bet, the three members of the terror cell — Ahmad Sajdaya, Muhammad Hammad, and Umar Eid — initially planned to construct a bomb and set it off in Teddy Stadium, performing reconnaissance operations and other preparations, before realizing that this would be too difficult to carry out due to the venue’s tight security.

Instead, the trio planned to carry out bombing attacks on IDF troops in the West Bank and attempted a number of attacks last month, the Shin Bet says.

According to the security service, the three men also assisted in a number of attempted bombings against Israeli troops in recent years.

Judah Ari Gross

New UK virus hospital turned away patients over staff shortage: report

London’s temporary hospital set up to deal with coronavirus had to turn 30 patients away due to “staffing issues,” The Guardian reports, but the government insists the claims are “misleading.”

A planned transfer of seriously ill patients to the 4,000-bed Nightingale Hospital in east London was “canceled due to staffing issues,” according to NHS documents seen by the newspaper.

Staff at the facility, which has treated 41 patients since opening earlier this month, tell the paper that they couldn’t get enough critical care nurses based in other hospitals to work there.

But the government calls the claims “misleading,” saying the hospital was only intended as an emergency overflow if other facilities in the capital became overwhelmed.

“It is misleading to suggest coronavirus patients are being turned away from NHS Nightingale due to a shortage of staff,” says the health department.

“NHS Nightingale has been set up to treat patients if the NHS was overwhelmed but thanks to the great work of selfless NHS staff, there is spare capacity in existing London hospitals to treat all coronavirus patients there instead.”

AFP

Worldwide virus death toll up to 177,822

The worldwide death toll from the novel coronavirus pandemic rises to 177,822, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT.

More than 2,571,880 declared cases have been registered in 193 countries and territories since the epidemic first emerged in China in December.

Of these cases, at least 583,000 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 the most serious cases.

In the United States, now the worst-hit country, the death toll stood at 45,075 with 825,306 infections. At least 75,673 patients have recovered.

Italy is the next most affected country with 24,648 deaths and 183,957 confirmed infections.

It is followed by Spain with 21,717 fatalities and 208,389 confirmed infections, France with 20,796 deaths and 158,050 infections and Britain with 17,337 deaths and 129,044 cases.

China — excluding Hong Kong and Macau — has to date declared 4,632 deaths and 82,788 cases.

Europe has listed 1,248,469 cases and 110,522 deaths to date; the US and Canada together have 863,728 cases with 46,985 deaths; Asia 176,914 cases with 7,372 deaths; the Middle East 134,870 cases with 5,886 deaths; Latin America and the Caribbean 115,347 cases with 5,767 deaths; Africa 24,611 cases with 1,195 deaths; and Oceania 7,942 cases with 95 deaths.

AFP

Ministers said pushing Netanyahu to open schools, more businesses

Some cabinet ministers are reportedly pushing Netanyahu to ease the virus restrictions further and reopen schools and more businesses, over the objections of National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat.

According to Channel 12, the ministers urging a scaleback include Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Likud ministers Tzachi Hanegbi, Tzipi Hotovely, and Ofir Akunis.

Ben-Shabbat warned that such steps would cause a significant outbreak of the virus.

Netanyahu says another debate on the issue will be held within 24 hours, the report says.

The conversation comes as ministers meet remotely to debate a closure on next week’s Memorial Day and Independence Day.

Can dogs detect COVID-19? Canines in training to sniff out virus

Can dogs detect COVID-19? A British charity believes so, and has begun training canines to sniff out the coronavirus following previous screening success with various illnesses.

Medical Detection Dogs, set up in 2008 to harness dogs’ sharp sense of smell to detect human diseases, started working on the project late last month.

In its training room in Milton Keynes, in central England, the dogs are being intensively trained to sniff out samples of the virus, and indicate when they have found it to receive a treat.

The approach is based on a belief that each disease triggers a distinct odor, which canines are uniquely well-placed to smell.

The charity has previously worked with its dogs to detect cancers, Parkinson’s disease and bacterial infections using samples taken from patients.

“We believe dogs can detect COVID-19 and will be able to screen hundreds of people very, very rapidly so we know who needs to be tested and isolated,” Claire Guest, founder and chief executive of Medical Detection Dogs, tells AFP.

AFP

Jewish Agency offers no-interest loans to Jewish communities in crisis

The Jewish Agency, in conjunction with Keren Hayesod and Jewish Federations of North America, announces a loan fund for Jewish communities around the world hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

“This comes in response to urgent calls from communities and organizations in countries such as Italy, Spain, South Africa, South American communities, and others to provide immediate cash flow. This fund will provide no-interest loans to organizations providing services essential to the continuing existence of Jewish communities which are now at-risk to survive the COVID-19 crisis,” it says in a statement.

Says chairman Isaac Herzog: “We are dealing with an unprecedented crisis that is impacting every aspect of life, including the Jewish world. The Jewish Agency, together with our partners at Keren Hayesod and JFNA, will work to ensure the continued existence of Jewish communities and their vital activities. The Jewish people are responsible for one another, now more than ever.”

WATCH LIVE: Chief rabbis, Christian leaders, imams in joint prayer amid pandemic

A rare interfaith prayer by Israel’s chief rabbis and leading Christian, Muslims and Druze religious figures is set to be held to pray for victims of the coronavirus pandemic.

הרבנים הראשיים לישראל יחד עם מנהיגי הדתות בישראל יתכנסו לשאת תפילה מיוחדת לאור משבר הבריאות העולמי והעלייה בגזענות…

פורסם על ידי ‏הרבנות הראשית לישראל‏ ב- יום רביעי, 22 באפריל 2020

The special Psalms-based prayer reads as follows:

“Until now, Your mercy has aided us and Your kindness has not abandoned us,
therefore we plead and request before You to heal us, Lord and we will be
healed, Save us and we will be saved, for You are our glory.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing before
you, O Lord, my rock and redeemer. As in the words of Psalm 121 “A song for
ascents: I turn my eyes to the mountains; from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot give
way; Your guardian will not slumber; see, the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers
nor sleeps! The Lord is your guardian; the Lord is your protection at your right
hand.

By day the sun will not strike you, nor the moon by night. The Lord will
guard you from all harm; He will guard your life. The Lord will guard your going
and coming now and forever.”

Netanyahu to meet with Yamina leaders for coalition talks

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with leaders of the right-wing Yamina party this evening at 7 p.m. for coalition talks, according to his office.

MKs Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked, Bezalel Smotrich, and Rafi Peretz will attend the meeting, the Walla news site reports.

Cabinet approves Memorial Day, Independence Day closure — reports

The cabinet has approved a nationwide closure next week coinciding with Memorial Day and Independence Day to prevent gatherings and the spread of the virus, Hebrew reports say.

The regulation will prevent Israelis from leaving their homes from Monday evening through Wednesday, except for essential reasons.

Military cemeteries will be closed.

Ministers also said to green-light nightly Ramadan closures

During the meeting, the ministers also authorize nightly closures in Arab areas during the month of Ramadan, as the evenings are usually marked with festive break-fast meals.

There is no official confirmation of the decisions.

Trump says US will destroy any Iranian gunboats harassing American ships

US President Donald Trump says he has ordered the US military to attack and destroy any Iranian vessel that harasses US Navy ships.

“I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea,” Trump says on Twitter.

The order comes one week after 11 small armed Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps speedboats swarmed around US Navy and Coast Guard ships in international waters in the northern Gulf.

AFP

Israel condemns Iran satellite launch, urges more sanctions

Israel’s Foreign Ministry denounces a satellite launch claimed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

“Israel strongly condemns the military satellite launch attempt by the Revolutionary Guards, a terror organization that is recognized as such by the United States,” it says.

The Foreign Ministry adds: “Israel calls on the international community to condemn the launch and impose additional sanctions on the Iranian regime to deter it from its defiant and dangerous activities.”

Knesset panel puts kibosh on police phone tracking to enforce quarantine

The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has voted to freeze legislation that would have allowed police to use phone tracking technology to enforce quarantine orders, lawmakers say.

“After a series of serious discussions in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the panel has decided not to okay a digital tracking bill, which was presented by the government. The panel has proven it is not a rubber stamp (like ministers),” Yesh Atid-Telem MK Moshe Ya’alon says in a tweet.

Israel Police wearing protective clothing seen in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem to arrest a man diagnosed with the coronavirus who broke quarantine orders April 6, 2020. (Israel Police)

Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked, whose party is in the caretaker government, also backs the decision.

“The police carry out thousands of  home visits to those who need to be in quarantine, and so the benefit is outweighed by the harm to privacy,” she writes on Twitter.

The law would have given police permission to use GPS data to enforce home isolation orders for those who came in contact with a coronavirus carrier or who were abroad in the previous two weeks.

Police had been using the phone tracking for enforcement under emergency regulations that expire at midnight.

 

 

Vatican prepares to resume some activity next month

The Vatican is thinking ahead to a “Phase II” of the coronavirus pandemic and plans to resume normal activities starting early next month.

The Vatican says its secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, met with the Holy See’s top officials on Wednesday to “reflect on a second phase of the COVID-19 emergency.”

Italy, the European epicenter of the pandemic, is planning a gradual reopening of some activity and services starting May 4. In a statement, the Vatican says it would follow suit, deciding on a “gradual reactivation of ordinary services, while keeping in place the health precautions aimed at limiting contagion.”

Pope Francis delivers his blessing from the window of his studio overlooking an empty St. Peter’s Square due to restrictions to contain the Covid-19 virus, at the Vatican, March 29, 2020. (Vatican News via AP)

The Vatican closed its doors to tourists when Italy locked down in early March after recording its first domestic case February 21. The Vatican has registered nine positive tests so far.

— AP

Bennett says he wants to join government, but only if it’s headed right way

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett says his Yamina party wants to be in the government, but only if it aligns with his nationalist faction’s agenda.

“We always want to be in government, but only if the ship is sailing in the same direction more or less that we find acceptable,” he says at a press conference.

Bennett’s comments come before he is scheduled to meet with Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu for coalition talks.

Naftali Bennett speaks with Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting with the heads of the right-wing parties on March 4, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The party has threatened to bolt to the opposition if its priorities are not met, after the centrist Blue and White signed a deal with Likud to form a government.

PMO confirms lockdown rules for Memorial Day, Independence Day and Ramadan

The Prime Minister’s office confirms that ministers have approved emergency lockdown measures for Ramadan, Memorial day and Independence Day.

Over Ramadan, which begins Thursday, all stores in towns with majority Muslim populations aside from pharmacies will be closed from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. to discourage people from congregating during the holy month, which typically sees fasting during the day and get-togethers at night.

On Memorial Day, which begins Monday night and ends Tuesday evening, people will be barred from visiting military cemeteries and memorial sites.

On Independence Day, which begins directly after, a general curfew will be in effect requiring people to remain near their homes, and banning intercity travel.

The curfew will begin at 5 p.m. on April 28 and expire at 8 p.m. the next day.

 

Weddings still allowed to have up to 19 guests

The Prime Minister’s Office also announces that weddings will once again be allowed with up to 19 people, so long as the nuptials take place in an open area and all attendees (except the happy couple) maintain a distance of two meters (6.5 feet) between each other.

However, that same change was already announced earlier this week along with an earlier raft of rollback measures. It is unclear what is new in the regulations published now.

Gal Sade Knigsfild and Nofar Almakias pose for a picture with face mask before their wedding in Moshav Yashresh on April 6, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Ministers also amend the rules to include job interviews in the list of acceptable reasons to leave home.

Deri lobbying to open more stores

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri is pushing for the government to open more stores, his spokesperson says.

He says in a statement that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to hold a meeting on the matter Thursday and asked an aide draw up a list of commercial businesses that could potentially reopen.

In this March 28, 2020, photo, a cat walks in a closed food market during lockdown following government measures to help stop the spread of the coronavirus in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

“I can find no logic in allowing some sectors to open stores and telling others to remain shut … people need to make a living,” the Shas leader says, according to the statement.

On Wednesday, Ikea branches in Israel reopened under rules drawn up to enforce social distancing, drawing large crowds.

Ministry says over 11,000 tests taken Tuesday, ups Monday record

The Health Ministry says it tested 13,342 people for the novel coronavirus on Monday, updating its previously announced figure of 12,281 for the day.

Both numbers marked the highest number of tests in a single day announced by the ministry.

It says 11,422 tests were taken on Tuesday, continuing a run of several consecutive days with at least 10,000 tests.

 

 

Religious leaders hold interfaith prayer to free world from plague

Seven top religious leaders from various faiths have held a joint prayer session in Jerusalem to beseech God for an end to the coronavirus crisis.

Chief Ashekanzi and Sephardic rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef,  Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, Latin Patriarch Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Imam Sheikh Gamal el Ubra, Imam Sheikh Agel Al-Atrash and Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif all took part in the prayer on a patio at the King David hotel, standing two meters from each other.

Spiritual leaders of all faiths in Israel holding a united prayer at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on April 22, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

” Out of true faith in solidarity, we now call on all citizens of the world to join forces and carry a joint prayer to health and unity,” reads a statement about the prayer, which it says was a joint initiative of the Rabbinate, the government and Jewish and other religious communities around the world.

The Joint Global Prayer:

God of the first and of the last, God of all Creatures, Lord of all generations, He arouses those who sleep and awakens those who slumber, He heals the sick, opens the eyes of the blind and raises those who are bowed down. We come before you with a bowed head, and with bent stature, and plead.

Hundreds of thousands died, millions have fallen sick. Save, we beseech thee, O Lord. We entreat thee, O Lord, send prosperity! Send complete recovery to the sick, avert the plague from Your world.

Please – God, You who have nourished us in famine and provided us with plenty, You have removed us from pestilence, and freed us from severe and long-lasting disease – Help us.

Until now, Your mercy has aided us and Your kindness has not abandoned us, therefore we plead and request before You to heal us, Lord and we will be healed, Save us and we will be saved, for You are our glory.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing before you, O Lord, my rock and redeemer.

As in the words of Psalm 121 “A song for ascents:

I turn my eyes to the mountains; from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot give way; Your guardian will not slumber; see, the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps! The Lord is your guardian; the Lord is your protection at your right hand. By day the sun will not strike you, nor the moon by night. The Lord will guard you from all harm; He will guard your life. The Lord will guard your going and coming now and forever.”

UK records 759 more deaths, pushing toll to 18,100

The British government says 759 more people with the coronavirus have died in UK hospitals, taking the total to 18,100.

The daily increase reported was lower than the 823 in the previous 24-hour period.

The UK’s death toll is the fourth highest in Europe, behind Italy, Spain and France, all of whom have reported more than 20,000 deaths.

However, there has been increasing scrutiny of the UK figures in recent days for understating the actual number of people having died of COVID-19. The numbers don’t include those who have died in care homes or elsewhere in the community.

Earlier, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the country was at the “peak” but that it was too early to start considering a relaxation of the lockdown measures in place since March 23.

— AP

Woman, 98, dies, bringing coronavirus death toll to 188

A 98-year-old woman with the novel coronavirus has died at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Hospital, bringing the death toll to Israel to 188.

Reports name the woman as Hanna Weiser, a Holocaust survivor.

Labor head to be economy minister, defends joining Netanyahu to influence policy

Labor leader Amir Peretz tells Army Radio he will be Economy Minister in the new government headed by Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu. Fellow Labor MK Itzik Shmuli will head be minister of labor and social services, he says.

He defends his decision to join the government, saying he led the anti-Netanyahu push as far as he could, but wants to have influence.

Amir Peretz speaks at a party faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 17, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“I want the Labor Party to return to the center of public life. When the socio-economic crisis is at its height, I could not stand to the side,” he says.

However, he adds that even before the March 2 elections, while his party was still allied with Meretz and before the extent of the health crisis was known, he had decided to make a “strategic partnership” with Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party.

“Gantz is a good and decent man,” he says.

Asked about West Bank annexation, which will seemingly be among the government’s top agenda items, he says he has always supported annexation of the Etzion settlement bloc south of Jerusalem.

The Labor Party’s central leadership is set to vote Sunday on whether to join the government. On Tuesday, Labor MK Merav Michaeli, who has refused to join the government, said she hopes the move is torpedoed by the vote.

Peretz tells Army Radio that he will respect the decision, whatever it is, though he’s already started holding meetings as economy minister-designate.

Germany approves human trials of potential COVID-19 vaccine

Germany’s health minister has given regulatory approval for the first trial in the country of a vaccine for the coronavirus.

Jens Spahn says the trial will involve 200 people ages 18-55. He cautions the process of fully testing the vaccine would take months.

Germany’s regulatory authority, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, approved the trial for an RNA-based vaccine being jointly developed by BioNTech and Pfizer. Regulatory approval for trials is also being sought in the United States and China.

Numerous companies are racing to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus that has infected more than 2.5 million people worldwide and caused at least 178,000 deaths in the past four months.

— AP

US officials say Iran satellite launch may have failed

American officials tell the Fox News outlet the military has not detected new satellites in orbit, indicating that Iran’s launch earlier today appears to have failed.

This is not immediately confirmed by the Pentagon.

— Judah Ari Gross

Pompeo: Annexation up to Israel to decide, happy elections are over

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he is happy to see Israel on its way to forming a government and avoiding more elections.

“A fourth government we think wouldn’t have been in their best interest, but we’ll leave that to them. We think it’s not in the world’s best interest. We’re glad there’s now a fully formed government,” he says.

Addressing Israel’s annexation drive of the West Bank, he says only that “the Israelis will ultimately make those decisions. Thats an Israeli decision, and we will work closely with them to share our views of this in a private setting.”

Pompeo says more aid could go to Palestinians

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicates a $5 million grant to the Palestinians to help them deal with the coronavirus could be followed by more help, but expresses concern about aid reaching where it is needed.

“We’ll evaluate if those $5 million both worked, delivered and second if there’s more resources that are both either appropriate or can be delivered in a way that actually gets to the Palestinian people,” he says.

He says he thinks the Palestinians “are gonna need a lot of help” getting through the health crisis.

UMass Hillel defaced with ‘Palestine’ graffiti

The University of Massachusetts Amherst Hillel House was defaced with red spray paint on Holocaust Remembrance Day, school officials say.

The off-campus center of Jewish life was found with the word “Palestine” written in Arabic with red spray paint Tuesday morning. In an email to the UMass community, Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy called the graffiti a “cowardly act of hate.”

“In this period of global crisis, it is more important than ever that we reject hatred and intolerance,” Subbaswamy said in the statement. “The hateful actions of any individual cannot change that, and will, in fact, strengthen our resolve to stand in solidarity with the members of our Jewish community.”

Amherst police responded to the off-campus house and are investigating the incident. No additional information was immediately available.

— AP

German government slams anti-Semitic ‘Zoom bombing’ incident

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert says an incident in which protesters broke into an online Holocaust memorial on Monday and waved pictures of Hitler and pornography was “a disgrace, a despicable act.”

Seibert says the government expressed its deep regret to the Israeli embassy, which hosted the event, and to Zvi Joseef Herschel, who lost most of his family in the Holocaust, and was giving a presentation when the disruption occurred.

“The vast majority of Germans and the German government are firmly resolved to stand up to any form of anti-Semitism in our country,” Seibert adds.

Berlin police confirm that a criminal investigation has been opened.

— AP

Italy virus death toll passes 25,000

Italy’s official death toll from the novel coronavirus has topped 25,000, but the number of those currently being treated declined for a third consecutive day as the government considers easing some of the lockdown measures.

With 437 fatalities reported by the civil protection services over the past 24 hours, the Mediterranean country’s official toll over the past two months rose to 25,085 — the second-highest in the world after the United States.

Worldwide, the death toll is now over 180,000, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

The decline in the number of active virus cases was accompanied by a fall in the number of people receiving intensive care treatment to the lowest level since March 18.

— AFP

Man arrested on suspicion of setting fire to Jerusalem City Hall — reports

An East Jerusalem man has reportedly been arrested on suspicion of setting fire to Jerusalem’s City Hall.

There are no immediate reports of injuries from the fire, but a picture shows damage to outside of the building.

Channel 12 news calls the fire “massive.”

Independence Day fireworks reportedly given green light

The government has okayed a plan to allow local municipalities to put on fireworks displays on Independence Day next week, the Ynet news site reports.

The plan will be for cities to put on displays in more than one location to allow people to watch the light show from home.

Earlier this week, the IDF said it was canceling a traditional nationwide airshow, in which planes traverse the country, to keep spectators from gathering together.

Palestinians reject annexation plans, threaten to nix accords

The Palestinian Authority is objecting to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying that it is up to Israel to decide on annexing the West Bank.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas says in a pre-Ramadan address that he has told Israel and the US that any annexation will lead to the cancellation of all accords with them, an oft-repeated threat.

Nabil Abu Rdeineh, a spokesman for Abbas, says the US does not have the right to give away Palestinian land, predicting that the comments will be used as a green light for Israel’s new government to push ahead with annexation plans.

He adds that the comments prove that the US cannot be a mediator in peace negotiations.

The PA Foreign Ministry also speaks out against Pompeo, calling his comments more proof that America is involved in helping Israel annex swaths of lands the Palestinians claim for their future state.

Speaking to EU diplomat Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh says Israel’s annexation drive will destroy the two-state solution, urging the Quartet to stymie Jerusalem.

PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki also urges French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian to rally Europe to the side of the Palestinians to stop Israel’s plans.

Ikea draws crowds, raising ire of still-shuttered stores, politicians

Anger is rising faster than a Billy bookshelf over the opening of Ikea furniture stores, which some are pointing to as a symbol of Israel’s seemingly inconsistent regulations regarding what businesses may operate under current coronavirus emergency regulations.

Israelis flocked to the store’s three branches on Wednesday, leading to reports of long lines of people needing their flatpack fix.

Small business owners have been pushing for the government to allow them to re-open, citing weeks of lost income.

General view of an Ikea branch in Israel in Moshav Eshtaol, north of Beit Shemesh, March 5, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Tali Friedman, the head of the Mahane Yehuda Jerusalem open air market seller’s association, tells Ynet that stores will re-open on Sunday whether they are allowed to or not.

“It’s ridiculous that places that are not essential like Ikea are opening and have long lines out the doors, and just the market sellers are left to suffer,” she says.

Ministers also pointed to Ikea’s opening as a sign of hypocrisy during a government discussion on opening more stores earlier in the day.

Speaking to Channel 12 news, Health Ministry director Moshe Bar Siman-Tov says that “we are aware that we needed to do some decisions more logically, but we will fix it.”

He says the government will decide on the next rollback measures on Thursday.

 

 

 

US, Canada appear to identify Iranian satellite in orbit

The United States and Canada have identified new objects in orbit around the Earth, which appears to be the newly launched Iranian satellite, NOOR, and part of the rocket that brought it into space.

This appears to contradict reports by the Fox News outlet that no new satellites had been identified in orbit around the planet.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command, known by the acronym NORAD, designates the new objects as 2020-024A and 2020-024B in its list of satellites. It is not immediately clear which is the NOOR satellite and which is the rocket.

— Judah Ari Gross

Ministry: 556 new COVID-19 cases in last 24 hours

The Health Ministry announces that the number of coronavirus cases is up to 14,498, marking 556 new cases in the last 24 hours and continuing a worrying upward trend after numbers appeared to have stabilized at around 250 case a day.

The death toll is up to 189.

The ministry says 141 people are in serious condition, including 106 on ventilators, showing no large jump in the number of serious cases.

Netanyahu-Bennett meeting ends without coalition deal

A meeting between Likud head Benjamin Netanyahu and Yamina leader Naftali Bennett has ended without a coalition agreement, a joint statement from both parties says.

The statement says the meeting was “positive,” and another one will be held sometime in the future.

According to Kan news, Yamina is demanding three ministries for the six Knesset seats it brings to the table.

The outlet also reports that disagreements remain over the issue of a possible prisoner swap to free Israeli captives and soldiers’ remains held in Gaza by the Hamas terror group.

Channel 12 news reports that United Torah Judaism signed on the dotted line to rejoin the coalition after just a seven-minute meeting.

AG threatens criminal probe after journalist allowed to listen to meeting

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is threatening to open a criminal investigation if a journalist is given unauthorized access to a cabinet meeting again.

During a pre-dawn cabinet meeting early Sunday, Kan reporter Michael Shemesh managed to report quotes in real time, after a participant gave him full access to listen in on the conference call.

“A member of the government or civil servant authorized to participate in a cabinet meeting, through the trust emplaced in them, who allows another actor not authorized to take part in the cabinet meeting to listen in, essentially allowing them to be present, is in violation of their authority and is breaking their duties according to the law,” Mandelblit writes in an official letter.

He says it is not known who put Shemesh on the call.

Minutes from Israeli cabinet meetings are considered top secret and any leak from them is technically illegal.

Reacting to the decision, Shemesh writes on Twitter that “the fact that the attorney general wants to open a criminal investigation against ministers and journalists to stop them from leaking from cabinet meetings should worry any media person and every citizen in a democratic state.”

Two cats in New York come down with coronavirus

Two pet cats in New York state have tested positive for the coronavirus, marking the first confirmed cases in companion animals in the United States, federal officials say.

The cats, which had mild respiratory illnesses and are expected to recover, are thought to have contracted the virus from people in their households or neighborhoods, the US Department of Agriculture and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The finding, which comes after positive tests in seven tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo, adds to a small number of confirmed cases of the virus in animals worldwide. US authorities say that while it appears some animals can get the virus from people, there’s no indication the animals are transmitting it to human beings.

A woman wears mask and gloves, feeds cats during a lockdown that imposed by the government to help stem the spread of the coronavirus, in Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, April 4, 2020. The virus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

“We don’t want people to panic. We don’t want people to be afraid of pets” or to rush to test them en masse, said Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh, a CDC official who works on human-animal health connections. “There’s no evidence that pets are playing a role in spreading this disease to people.”

The two cats live in different parts of the state; the USDA and CDC wouldn’t say where specifically.

The agencies have recommended that any pet owners with COVID-19 avoid petting, snuggling or other contact with their animals as much as possible, including wearing a face covering while caring for them.

— AP

Labor politburo gives thumbs up to joining government

The Labor party’s leadership has unanimously approved the party joining the government coalescing around a power-sharing deal between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, according to several reports.

The party will seemingly enter the government as part of an agreement with Blue and White.

The party’s central committee has given the go ahead for leader Amir Peretz to manage talks with Blue and White for the two factions to coordinate on parliamentary matters and policy issues, Ynet reports.

Trump should save troops from virus instead of picking fight, Iran general says

Iran’s military spokesman says US President Donald Trump should concentrate on “saving” his own country from the “major crisis” caused by coronavirus, instead of making threats.

“Today, instead of intimidating others, the Americans would do better to save their troops infected by the coronavirus,” says Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi, spokesman for Iran’s armed forces.

His comments, in an interview with the semi-official ISNA news agency, come after Trump said on Twitter he had “instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea”.

“If the US is skillful and competent, they will withdraw their troops (from the Middle East) in order to save (the country) from the coronavirus disease… before mobilizing all other forces in the US… to save the people from this major crisis hitting their country,” Shekarchi says.

— AFP

Labor central committee must still give go-ahead for joining coalition

A spokesperson for Labor MK Merav Michaeli says a party vote on entering the government was a preliminary matter, and a full vote by the Labor central committee will only take place on Sunday.

Police will not fight families who force way to cemeteries on Memorial Day

Police will reportedly not actively enforce an order banning bereaved families from cemeteries who wish to visit the graves of their loved ones on Memorial Day next week.

According to reports in Haaretz and Kan, while police will set up roadblocks to block access to the cemeteries, if families try to force their way in, they will not use physical force to stop them.

Israeli soldiers participate in an official Memorial Day ceremony in the Nahalat Yitshak Cemetery, Tel Aviv on May 8, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)

The decision is part of an agreement with the Yad Labanim association of families who lost loved ones in military service.

The head of Yad Labanim says he does not think many families will break lockdown rules shutting the cemeteries in order to pay respects.

Eye in sky reveals damage to missile stronghold in Syria

Satellite pictures captured by Planet Labs’s orbiting fleet appear to show extensive damage from an alleged Israeli missile strike on a military facility in Syria Monday.

The photos appear to show heavy damage to a missile storage facility in the mountains north of Palmyra.

Nine people were killed in the strike, including fighters loyal to Iran, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

UN agency says grenade found at Gaza school for refugees

The UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees says it found a hand grenade and a bulletproof vest hidden at a school in Gaza on Tuesday.

“As soon as the items were discovered, they were removed and UNRWA informed the de facto authorities in Gaza and in Israel,” the agency says in a statement.

“UNRWA strongly and unequivocally condemns the individual or group responsible for this flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law and calls on the de facto authorities in the Gaza Strip to ensure that this inviolability is respected and upheld,” it adds.

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Top health official warns of possible ‘second wave’ outbreak in May

Professor Sigal Sadetsky, the head of the Health Ministry’s Public Health Services, warns that infections could swell in May if Israelis don’t heed social distancing measures.

“I am concerned there will be a second wave of infection in May,” she tells the Kan public broadcaster. “It’s impossible to ensure that people don’t get infected if they don’t observe social distancing.”

She stresses that unless the rules are kept, Israel could see a rise in infections and a backtracking to stricter lockdown measures.