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Rocket shot from Gaza at Israel, no injuries or damage reported

Projectile said to land in open area after sirens go off in Kerem Shalom area, breaking calm along border

Smoke trails from a rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists are seen over the Gaza Strip on February 24, 2020. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
Smoke trails from a rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists are seen over the Gaza Strip on February 24, 2020. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s event as they happened.

Thousands attend Hasidic funeral in Ashdod as police look on

Thousands of people are reportedly taking part in an Ashdod funeral of a Hasidic rabbi who died overnight after contracting the coronavirus.

The Pittsburgh Rebbe, Rabbi Mordechai Leifer, 64, died overnight after a two-month battle with the virus. His name stems from the Hasidic dynasty founded in the US steel town some 100 years ago.

A statement from the police does not mention crowd size but says the funeral attendance is being okayed and attendees are expected to keep distance between each other and wear masks.

It says roads will be blocked off in the city, indicating that authorities knew in advance about the large crowd size.

A video from Kan news shows police in the middle of the massive crowd trying to tell people to keep distance between each other.

The crowd size would seem to go far, far beyond the 20 people allowed to gather in any one place under Israel’s current virus rules.

 

Minister says Gamliel should be fined, not fired for breaking rules, lying

Likud minister Tzachi Hanegbi is pushing back against suggestions that Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel should be fired, following a report that she broke lockdown  rules and lied about it after contracting the virus.

“This is not a criminal offense, but the breaking of guidelines. We have mechanisms set up, fines for instance. That’s the way to act,” he tells Army Radio.

Several commentators and opposition figures have urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire Gamliel following a report that she traveled to Tiberias for Yom Kippur and prayed inside a synagogue. After contracting the virus, she initially refused to answer questions from contact tracers and later lied about getting it from her driver, according to Haaretz.

Report: 20 people in synagogue with minister got virus

Channel 12 news reports that 20 of the worshipers who were in a synagogue with minister Gila Gamliel over Yom Kippur have contracted the coronavirus, pointing to the possibility that mask-wearing and distancing rules may not have been kept.

According to the report, 20 of the 26 positive cases in the city over the past day were traced to that synagogue.

Amid heavy criticism of her alleged behavior, breaking virus rules and then trying to cover it up, her father-in-law tells the channel that “they can say what they want, everything that was needed she told them. She [was in contact] with them. She has her own apartment.”

 

Rivlin tries to smooth ties with Armenia after arms sales to Azerbaijan

President Reuven Rivlin has spoken on the phone to his Armenian counterpart Armen Sarkissian amid anger in Yerevan over Israeli arms sales to Azerbaijan as a border dispute between the countries flares.

In this photo released by Ministry of Defense of Armenia on Sept. 29, 2020, an Armenian soldier fires an artillery piece during fighting with Azerbaijan’s forces in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. (Ministry of Defense of Armenia via AP)

“President Rivlin expressed his sorrow at the outbreak of violence between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and at the loss of life on both sides. He added that the State of Israel has longstanding relations with Azerbaijan and that the cooperation between the two countries is not aimed against any side,” a statement from his office reads.

“The president also noted that the State of Israel is interested in promoting relations with Armenia and is prepared to offer humanitarian aid, and that we welcome the opening of the Armenian embassy in Israel and hope that the Armenian ambassador will return soon,” it adds.

Palestinian leaders are failures, ex-Saudi spy chief says

The Palestinian leadership is composed of “failures” who erred in their harsh rhetoric against Gulf states that chose to normalize with Israel, former Saudi intelligence chief Bandar bin Sultan says in a pre-taped interview with Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV.

Bin Sultan served as the Saudi ambassador in Washington for over 30 years, as well as in several high-level intelligence positions after his return to Riyadh.

“What I heard from Palestinian leadership in recent days was truly painful to hear. This low level of discourse is not what we expect from officials who seek to gain global support for their cause. It is not surprising that they would use terms such as ‘traitors’ and ‘stabbed in the back,’ because those are their ways of dealing with each other. Their transgression against the Gulf states’ leadership with this reprehensible discourse is unacceptable,” Prince Bandar tells al-Arabiya.

“The Palestinian cause is a just cause, but its advocates are failures. The Israeli cause is unjust, but its advocates are successful. That sums up the events of the last 70 or 75 years,” he says.

The full interview will be shown on al-Arabiya later tonight.

— Aaron Boxerman

Scuffles between cops and attendees at mass Ashdod funeral

A video shows scuffles between police and attendees at an Ashdod funeral attended by thousands.

There is no word from police on the crowds or the shoving match.

The eulogy part of the funeral has ended and the rabbi’s body is being taken for burial.

Trump tweeting his way back to health

US President Donald Trump is apparently feeling better, or at least his thumbs are.

The president, recovering from a bout with COVID-19, lets loose with a massive storm of tweets, most of them in all caps, on all the reasons he thinks people should vote for him.

Trump’s apparent recovery has helped sparked a global stock rally as investors are encouraged by positive reports about his health.

France’s CAC 40 surges 0.8% in early trading to 4,862.59. Germany’s DAX rises 0.6% to 12,764.81. Britain’s FTSE 100 adds 0.5% to 5,930.28. US shares are set for an advance, with the future contracts for the Dow Industrials and the S&P 500 both up 0.6%.

— with AP

WHO estimates 10 percent of world got virus, warns other 90% at risk

The head of emergencies at the World Health Organization says its “best estimates” indicate that roughly one in 10 people worldwide may have been infected by the coronavirus.

Dr. Michael Ryan, speaking Monday to a meeting of the WHO’s 34-member executive board focusing on COVID-19, says the figures vary from urban to rural, and between different groups, but that ultimately it means “the vast majority of the world remains at risk.”

Students of the Russian University of Transport wearing face masks attend a lecture in Moscow on October 5, 2020. (Natalia KOLESNIKOVA / AFP)

The estimate — which would amount to more than 760 million people based on current world population of about 7.6 billion — far outstrips the number of confirmed cases as tallied by both WHO and Johns Hopkins University, now more than 35 million worldwide.

Experts have long said that the number of confirmed cases greatly underestimates the true figure.

— AP

Netanyahu, Modi agree to continue cooperation on virus tests

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to his counterpart in one of the few countries doing worse than Israel in its virus fight: Narendra Modi of India.

Netanyahu’s office says the two discussed continuing bilateral cooperation in fighting the coronavirus “with emphasis on technological cooperation and tests.”

Over the summer, Israel dispatched a team to India to try out new diagnostic tests on the country’s many test subjects.

An Indian COVID-19 patient provides samples to a medic helping Israel’s coronavirus mission to India. (Defense Ministry Spokesperson’s Office)

Netanyahu’s office says the countries will also cooperate on solar energy development.

There is no immediate word from Modi’s office.

Gamliel apologizes, says she may have made error in judgment

Minister Gila Gamliel has released a statement in which she admits to making some mistakes, after being accused of breaking virus rules and trying to cover it up.

Gamliel, who tested positive on Saturday, does not admit to doing anything wrong in traveling to Tiberias and praying inside a synagogue on Yom Kippur, but allows she may not have handled the situation correctly.

“I acted in line with guidelines, though it is possible I erred in my judgment. I am sorry, I will pay the fine,” she says in a statement carried in Hebrew-language media

Gamliel has faced calls for her firing since the affair broke earlier Monday.

Jewish American scientist among trio to win Nobel for hepatitis C discovery

American Jewish scientist Harvey J. Alter has won the Nobel Prize for Medicine along with  fellow American Charles M. Rice and British-born scientist Michael Houghton for their discovery of the hepatitis C virus, a major source of liver disease that affects millions worldwide.

Announcing the prize in Stockholm, the Nobel Committee notes that the trio’s work identified a major source of blood-borne hepatitis that couldn’t be explained by the previously discovered hepatitis A and B viruses. Their work, dating back to the 1970s and 1980s, has helped saved millions of lives, it says.

Nobel Committee members Patrik Ernfors (L) and Gunilla Karlsson Hedestam sit in front of a screen displaying the winners of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (L-R) American Harvey Alter, Briton Michael Houghton and American Charles Rice during a press conference at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, on October 5, 2020. (Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP)

Alter, who was born in 1935 in New York, carried out his prize-winning studies at the US National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, where he remains active, the committee said. Rice, born in 1952 in Sacramento, California, worked on hepatitis at Washington University in St. Louis and now works at Rockefeller University in New York. Houghton, born in Britain in 1950, studied at the Chiron Corporation in California before moving to the University of Alberta in Canada.

“Being the only son of Jewish parents in New York City, it was preordained that I would become a doctor,” Alter wrote in 2013. “One of my friends, of similar background, chose not to be a doctor and has never been heard from again.”

Doctors to decide on Trump discharge later today, official says

Doctors will decide today whether US President Donald Trump can be discharged from the hospital following emergency treatment for the coronavirus, a top White House official says.

Chief of Staff Mark Meadows tells Fox News that the “determination has not been made yet” but “doctors will make a decision on whether to discharge him later today.”

— AFP

Armenia says Israel may cut off arms sales to Azeris

The Armenian ambassador in Israel says Jerusalem may suspend arms shipments to Azerbaijan over fighting in the the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armen Smbatyan tells the Armenian Factor.am news site that Yerevan is in talks with Jerusalem on the matter, and Israel may stop the shipments in two to three days.

A spokesperson for Israel’s Foreign Ministry tells Walla news that Israel will not comment on the ambassador’s remarks.

“The Foreign Ministry will not comment on Israel’s defense exports.”

Yerevan has fumed over sales of kamikaze drones and other weapons to Azerbaijan, and recalled Smbatyan last week.

The fighting erupted September 27 and has killed dozens, marking the biggest escalation in the decades-old conflict over the region. Both sides have accused each other of expanding the hostilities beyond the conflict zone in Nagorno-Karabakh.

— with AP

Trump anxious to get out of hospital, officials say

White House officials say Trump is anxious to be released after three nights at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Doctors say Trump’s health is improving and volunteered that he could be discharged as early as today to continue the remainder of his treatment at the White House.

“This is an important day as the president continues to improve and is ready to get back to a normal work schedule,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows tells Fox News. He adds that Trump is “optimistic” he could be released today.

“We are still optimistic that based on his unbelievable progress and — and how strong he has been in terms of his fight against this COVID-19 disease, that he will be released,” Meadows says.

— Agencies

Gantz: We’ll reopen country if virus numbers continue to drop

Defense Minister Benny Gantz says he will push for Israel to roll back lockdown measures and allow businesses that are not client-facing to reopen, should infection numbers continue to slump.

The Blue and White leader says he will also move for schools to be opened for younger grades after the Sukkot holiday break ends.

The comments, widely carried in Hebrew media, comes moments before the cabinet is set to meet on possible plans to exit from the national lockdown.

Health Ministry officials have pushed for a slow, staged rollback. According to the reports, the reopening would take place in stages, with two or three weeks between each stage.

Israel has seen new infection numbers fall along with massively lowered testing, but the percentage of positive tests, seen as a key indicator, has also slackened slightly over the last few days.

There are still nearly 900 seriously ill patients in the hospital, and officials note that the infection rate in Israel remains among the highest in the world.

Poet-cum-Nobel winner Alter describes ‘nice upside-down’ win

Nobel Prize in Medicine winner Harvey Alter describes the 4:45 a.m. phone call he got from Stockholm as “the best alarm clock I’ve ever had.”

He says he ignored the first two times the phone rang before “angrily” answering it the third time, adding that his anger went away “in about a second.”

“It’s so kind of other-worldly,” he says. “It’s something you don’t think will ever happen and sometimes you don’t think you deserve it to happen and it happens.”

“In this crazy COVID year where everything is turned upside down, this is another nice upside down for me,” he adds.

Alter describes the journey to identifying hepatitis C as a decades-long effort. In a 1988 poem he wrote, “Let us see this elusive virus/If we don’t publish soon/They’re going to fire us!”

Here is that poem in full, for those into that sort of thing:

I think that I shall never see
This virus called non‐A, non‐B
A virus I cannot deliver
And yet I know it’s in the liver
A virus that we often blame,
But which exists alone by name
No antigen or DNA
No little test to mark its way.
A virus which in our confusion
Has forced us into mass collusion
To make exist just by exclusion
But is it real or an illusion?
Oh GREAT LIVER in the sky,
Show us where and tell us why
Send us thoughts that will inspire us
Let us see this elusive virus
If we don’t publish soon,
They’re going to fire us!

— With AP

Netanyahu: Wait for Health Ministry probe before passing judgment on Gamliel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is backing his minister under fire for allegedly breaking virus rules and trying to cover it up, amid calls for her to be fired.

Netanyahu says people should “wait before reaching conclusions until an investigation happening now at the Health Ministry is completed.”

“We should act according to statistics and tests and not according to initial reports and I suggest waiting, soon we will get a full picture,” he adds, according to a statement from his office.

Netanyahu also says that ministers, Knesset members and everyone else need to keep the rules.

Ministry: We only contact trace, are not probing allegations against Gamliel

The Health Ministry appears to be rebuffing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempt to foist onto it an investigation into possible wrongdoing by a minister who caught COVID-19 onto it.

The ministry says in a statement that Minister Gila Gamliel has cooperated with an epidemiological investigation, which has now been completed, but it’s not its job to do more than contact trace.

The ministry indicates that the investigation did not touch on matters related to her allegedly traveling against the rules, spending time in a synagogue with more people than necessary or reports that she tried to cover it up.

“Any information that is not related to contact tracing is not relevant and was not documented in the investigation,” the ministry says.

Moments earlier, Netanyahu said that people should wait until the results of the ministry investigation to know all the facts of the case.

Police thought fewer would show up to Pittsburgh Rebbe funeral; no arrests

A police spokesperson tells Channel 12 news that authorities had believed only 300 people would attend an Ashdod funeral for the head of the Pittsburgh Hasidic dynasty, and not the thousands who eventually showed up.

The spokesperson says 200 police were there to enforce rules, and blames the mass disobedience on the family and attendees.

Police and ultra-Orthodox Jews during the funeral of Pittsburgh Rebbe Mordechai Leifer in the city of Ashdod on October 5, 2020. (Flash90)

A police statement says the force shut down the eulogy part of the funeral when it saw that “attendees did not keep to emergency protocols regarding social distancing.”

“Police who had been prepared for the event dispersed the masses and there was no need for arrests,” it says.

Trump press secretary tests positive for COVID-19

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany says she has tested positive for COVID-19, days after US President Donald Trump’s diagnosis.

She says she was tested several times since Hope Hicks’s positive diagnosis on Thursday and came up negative every time. She says she did not know of Hicks’s diagnosis before holding a press briefing Thursday.

Joint List leader feeling some symptoms after COVID-19 diagnosis

Join List leader Ayman Odeh says he has been feeling symptoms since testing positive for the coronavirus on Sunday, but is doing okay.

He tells Channel 12 he had a fever on Sunday and today has a sore throat. He sounds raspy while speaking to the channel.

Odeh says he is not stopping work while he recovers at home.

“It’s true the government has failed, but the responsibility is on all of us, all of us [to keep to guidelines],” he says.

Ministers clash over reopening; police predict Simchat Torah rumpus

Several leaks are coming out of the cabinet meeting about a plan for opening the country back up.

Channel 12 news reports that any possible easements on the lockdown will not come until next week at the earliest, when ministers will be able to look at the post-holiday numbers.

Finance Minister Israel Katz is demanding that businesses be allowed to open immediately with the end of the holiday on Sunday, according to reports.

According to Kan, he gets into an argument with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, telling him that business owners cannot be held hostage by those refusing to keep the rules.

The station also reports that acting police commissioner Moti Cohen told the ministers that parts of the ultra-Orthodox community do not plan on ever falling in line with the lockdown, predicting many more confrontations on Saturday.  That day is the holiday of Simchat Torah, normally marked with raucous gatherings and sometimes heavy drinking.

A plan presented by coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu to increase fines significantly also faces opposition, according to the report.

Biden willing to hold in-person debate with Trump, if scientists okay it

Joe Biden says he is willing to go forward with an in-person debate later this month “if scientists say it’s safe,” even after US President Donald Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Speaking to reporters before boarding a flight to campaign in Florida, the Democratic presidential nominee declined to say Monday whether he believes the next presidential debate, scheduled for October 15, should be virtual.

Instead, he said he would “listen to the science” and that “if scientists say that it’s safe, that distances are safe, then I think that’s fine.” Biden and Trump stood about 10 feet (3 meters) apart during the last debate, though neither wore a mask during the event. Trump tested positive for the virus just two days later and is hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Plans for the second debate are in question following Trump’s diagnosis, and the development has already informed changes to the vice presidential debate. Vice President Mike Pence and Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, will stand 12 feet (3.6 meters) apart, rather than the 7 feet (2 meters) originally planned.

— AP

Ashkenazi to meet UAE counterpart in Berlin

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi is set to meet Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed tomorrow in Berlin, according to the Kan Public Broadcaster.

While the two have spoken over the phone, this will be the first public meeting between the two officials.

In addition to talks, Ashkenazi and Bin Zayed will visit the Holocaust Museum together, Kan reports.

— Aaron Boxerman

Israeli forces said to kill Palestinian assailant

Israeli forces reportedly shot and killed a Palestinian close to the West Bank settlement of Einav, east of the Palestinian city of Tulkarem, according to Palestinian media reports.

Another Palestinian was allegedly injured in the same incident.

According to Channel 12 news, the Palestinians were throwing Molotov cocktails at the troops.

The IDF did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

— Aaron Boxerman

Thirty new virus deaths recorded since morning

The Health Ministry reports 30 new deaths from the coronavirus since an earlier update this morning, bringing the total to 1,749.

However, it says there have only been 10 days today so far. It’s not immediately possible to square the discrepancy.

The ministry says there have been 3,843 new virus cases since this morning, bringing the total to 271,563.

The official figures show over 5,600 new cases since 24 hours ago, and 42 deaths.

Testing is slightly higher today than over the past two days, and the positivity rate remains just over 11 percent.

The ministry says 883 patients are in serious condition.

Netanyahu: Infections are sagging, but we’ll wait on opening up to be sure

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told ministers that no rollback of the coronavirus lockdown will be considered before October 18, Channel 12 news reports.

In a video released by the prime minister on Twitter, he says that while Israel is seeing infection numbers drop off, the experts recommend waiting a week to see if the trend continues.

“It’s too early to say if it will hold,” he says.

He adds that while Israel was the first to lockdown a second time, many European countries are preparing to follow in Israel’s footsteps, and the country needs to be able to emerge from the lockdown first as well, urging Israelis to keep to the rules.

In a slight jab at party member Gila Gamliel, he says everyone needs to keep to the rules, including “ministers in the government.”

Netanyahu on Sunday said he was resisting pressure to swiftly re-open the country.

According to a plan being considered by the ministers, schools will remain closed until at least the end of the month, though pre-schools may open sooner, the channel reports.

IDF confirms it shot Palestinian

The IDF says that it has thwarted an attempt by Palestinian assailants to attack soldiers close to Einav checkpoint in the West Bank.

“During a routine IDF operation near a military post, soldiers identified three terrorists who threw Molotov cocktails at them,” the IDF says in a statement.

“The fighters responded by firing and one of the terrorists was hit. None of our forces were injured. IDF soldiers are searching the area for the remaining two terrorists,” the IDF says.

Initial Palestinian media reports had claimed that one of those shot had died on the scene, although the IDF did not specify whether the wounded assailant had perished or not.

Palestinian reports also claimed that two other alleged attackers had been injured.

— Aaron Boxerman

Rocket alarm sounds near Gaza

A rocket alert siren has sounded in the Kerem Shalom region on the Gaza border, the Army’s Home Front Command says.

There are no reports of injuries or damage.

IDF: One rocket shot from Gaza

The military confirms that one rocket was shot from Gaza toward Israel. It does not say where the rocket landed.

Channel 12 news reports that the rocket landed in an open area inside Israel.

There are no injuries or damage.

Mickey Levy removed from coronavirus panel over visits to relatives

Yesh Atid MK Mickey Levy has been punished by his party after apparently breaking lockdown rules twice to visit family members.

“I spoke with MK Mickey Levy and we decided jointly that he will leave his post on the [Knesset’s] coronavirus committee, in light of him breaking the rules,” Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid says in a tweet.

Lapid had said last week that ministers who break the rules should be fired.

 

Report: Litzman attended mass Ashdod funeral

Among the thousands of people who attended a funeral of a Hasidic rabbi in Ashdod against lockdown rules was former minister Yaakov Litzman, Channel 13 news reports.

Litzman, the head of the UTJ party, already caught and recovered from COVID-19, so would likely not be a health risk.

However, he would be the latest politician to be caught breaking virus rules. Earlier in the day, fellow minister Gila Gamliel came under fire for traveling during the lockdown and praying inside a synagogue.

Yesh Atid MK Mickey Levy has also caught heat for visiting relatives.

Doctor to deliver update on Trump’s condition, after day-long silence

US President Donald Trump’s doctor will be delivering an update on the president’s condition later Monday afternoon, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Trump is undergoing treatment for a fourth day for COVID-19.

It has been more than 24 hours since Trump’s physicians last provided an update on his condition, though White House aides said Trump was hopeful to be discharged as soon as Monday afternoon.

Trump sent a number of all-caps tweets Monday morning encouraging supporters to vote, with just weeks until Election Day. But he has not yet appeared in photos or videos released by the White House on Monday.

— AP

Jewish cemetery in Athens defaced ahead of verdict in neo-Nazi attack

A Jewish cemetery has been desecrated near Athens just days before the keenly-awaited verdict in a murder trial involving neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, prompting strong condemnation from Greece’s government.

“Juden Raus,” a phrase once used by the Nazis that means “Jews Out” in German, was painted in black on the outside fence of the cemetery in the town of Nikaia, along with a symbol similar to the swastika used by Golden Dawn, the Israelite Council of Greece said.

In a statement, government spokesman Stelios Petsas denounces “this act of vandalism.”

“Nazism and anti-Semitism and their followers have no place in Greece and will not be tolerated,” he said.

An Athens court is due to hand down a verdict in a landmark murder trial on Wednesday involving Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos and other party members over the murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas in 2013.

A Holocaust denier and protege of Greece’s former dictator Georgios Papadopoulos, Michaloliakos has consistently maintained his innocence.

— AFP

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Trump anxious to get out of hospital, officials say

White House officials say Trump is anxious to be released after three nights at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Doctors say Trump’s health is improving and volunteered that he could be discharged as early as today to continue the remainder of his treatment at the White House.

“This is an important day as the president continues to improve and is ready to get back to a normal work schedule,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows tells Fox News. He adds that Trump is “optimistic” he could be released today.

“We are still optimistic that based on his unbelievable progress and — and how strong he has been in terms of his fight against this COVID-19 disease, that he will be released,” Meadows says.

— Agencies