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Trump says US will take Sudan off terror blacklist

US president doesn’t mention Israel in announcement, but deal widely seen as preceding possible normalization agreement between Jerusalem and Khartoum

US President Donald Trump speaks with reporters as he walks to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, October 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
US President Donald Trump speaks with reporters as he walks to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, October 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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

Iran says it will sell more arms than buy after embargo lifted

Iran says it is more inclined to sell weapons than buy them, after it announced the end of a longstanding UN conventional arms embargo.

Tehran says the ban imposed more than a decade ago was lifted “automatically” as of yesterday, based on the terms of a 2015 landmark nuclear deal with world powers, from which the United States has withdrawn.

“Before being a buyer in the arms market, Iran has the ability to supply” other countries, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh tells reporters.

“Of course, Iran is not like the United States, whose president seeks to sell deadly weapons to slaughter the Yemeni people,” he adds, referring to US weapons purchased by Saudi Arabia, which leads a military coalition in Yemen — fighting Houthi rebels backed by Tehran.

The lifting of the embargo allows Iran to buy and sell military equipment including tanks, armored vehicles, combat aircraft, helicopters and heavy artillery.

An Iranian clergyman stands next to missiles and army troops, during a maneuver, in an undisclosed location in Iran, November 13, 2012. (Majid Asgaripour/ Mehr News Agency via AP/ File)

According to Khatibzadeh, Iran will “act responsibly” and sell weapons to other countries “based on its own calculations.”

The embargo on the sale of arms to Iran was due to start expiring progressively from October 18, under the terms of the UN resolution that enshrined the 2015 nuclear deal.

However, Washington has argued that arms sales to Iran would still violate UN resolutions, and has threatened sanctions on anyone involved is such deals.

US President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the nuclear deal and unilaterally begun reimposing economic sanctions on Iran in 2018.

AFP

AG: No criminal probe into Gamliel over allegations she lied to contact tracers

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announces he will not pursue a criminal probe into Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel following reports she lied to epidemiological investigators about breaking lockdown after she contracted the coronavirus.

“There is no basis for an allegation of untrue reporting,” Mandelblit says in a statement. “The findings show that she fully cooperated and provided true facts.”

Breaking the coronavirus restrictions on travel from home can be punished with a fine. However, misleading contact tracing investigators or knowingly spreading the virus can carry separate heavy penalties.

Then Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel attends a ceremony in Jerusalem on May 18 2020. (Flash90)

The announcement came after reports Gamliel’s epidemiological investigation indicated that she lied to Health Ministry officials investigating how she was infected with the coronavirus. A slew of reports in Hebrew-language media alleged the minister deliberately misled investigators, telling them she spent the Yom Kippur holiday praying at a Tel Aviv synagogue when she actually broke lockdown regulations and drove to the northern city of Tiberias.

Intercity public transportation to operate on weekends as lockdown eased

Intercity buses will resume operations on weekends as the lockdown is partially lifted, according to Hebrew media reports.

Trains, however, will operate only Sunday through Thursday.

Buses will continue to only carry passengers up to 50% capacity, in line with health regulations, reports say.

UN stockpiling 1 billion syringes for COVID-19 vaccine

The United Nations says it will stockpile one billion syringes around the world by the end of 2021, to be used for the delivery of any future coronavirus vaccine.

UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, says it aims to get 520 million syringes in its warehouses by the end of this year, to guarantee an initial supply in countries ahead of the vaccine.

“The world will need as many syringes as doses of vaccine,” UNICEF says in a statement.

UNICEF says it is also buying five million safety boxes for used syringes.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide passed 40 million on Monday, according to an AFP tally based on official sources. More than 1.1 million deaths have been recorded across the globe.

“Vaccinating the world against COVID-19 will be one of the largest mass undertakings in human history, and we will need to move as quickly as the vaccines can be produced,” says UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore.

“By the end of the year, we will already have over half a billion syringes pre-positioned where they can be deployed quickly and cost effectively.”

AFP

China clashes with US over arms embargo on Iran

China accuses the United States of “peddling arms” and “interfering” in other countries’ affairs after Washington threatens sanctions against any nation taking advantage of the end of a UN ban to sell weapons to Iran.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned against anyone supplying arms to the Islamic Republic after Tehran said a longstanding UN embargo against such deals had expired.

China’s foreign ministry says Pompeo’s remarks were “utterly unjustifiable.”

“It is the US that peddles arms and ammunition everywhere, uses military trade to serve geopolitical interests, and even openly interferes in the internal affairs of other countries,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian tells reporters.

Asked if China would now sell arms to Iran, Zhao does not directly address the issue but said Beijing would “handle military trade in accordance with its military export policy and its international obligations.”

AFP

Iran again breaks record for daily virus deaths

Iran records its worst day of new deaths since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with 337 confirmed dead on Monday.

The grim milestone represents a significant spike from the previous single-day death toll record of 279.

Fatalities have soared in recent weeks, as authorities struggle to contain the virus’s spread months into the pandemic.

The Islamic Republic has seen the worst outbreak in the Middle East with a death toll that topped 30,000 this week. The government has resisted a total lockdown to salvage its devastated economy, already weakened by unprecedented US sanctions.

Now the death toll is skyrocketing, eclipsing the previous highs recorded in March amid the worst of its outbreak.

AP

Woman found dead in apparent murder in Haifa; partner arrested

A woman in her thirties is found dead in her Haifa home, with stab wounds on her upper body.

Her partner, 28, is arrested by police in the northern city after he raises their suspicion by not wearing a facemask.

Poll: 75% of American Jews plan to vote for Biden

Three-quarters of American Jews intend to vote for Joe Biden, a survey finds.

The poll by the American Jewish Committee quizzed 1,334 American Jews over the age of 18 on their political preferences. The telephone polling was conducted September 9-October 4, it says. The margin of error is 4.2%.

It finds that 75% say they’ll vote for Biden, and 22% for Trump. Support for Trump or Biden largely seems to be linked to religious affiliation.

The AJC says: “Trump is preferred by 74% of Orthodox, 23% of Conservative, 20% of Reform, 3% of Reconstructionist, and 14% of Secular Jews. Biden is the choice of 18% of Orthodox, 72% of Conservative, 78% of Reform, 93% of Reconstructionist, and 83% of Secular Jews.”

This combination of file pictures created on September 29, 2020, shows US President Donald Trump (L) and Democratic candidate Joe Biden squaring off during the first presidential debate at the Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. (Jim Watson and Saul Loeb/AFP)

Lapid rips into Netanyahu over ultra-Orthodox health violations

Opposition leader Yair Lapid lays into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for failing to enforce health violations in the ultra-Orthodox community. Netanyahu and the Haredi parties are close political allies.

“Because of his trial, Netanyahu is running away from a clash with the ultra-Orthodox parties. He needs them so he surrenders to them. That surrender harms everyone but first and foremost it harms the ultra-Orthodox population. The state has a responsibility to stand up against those who break the law,” says Lapid.

“If I were prime minister today, an educational institution that doesn’t abide by the rules wouldn’t get a 5,000 shekel fine, it would get a 100,000 shekel fine. The next step would be to remove their funding — not partial funding, all of it. An educational institution that doesn’t abide by the law wouldn’t get a cent from the state. It’s not against the ultra-Orthodox, it’s in favor of the ultra-Orthodox. It will save their lives.

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid speaking in the Knesset plenum, October 12, 2020. (Yaniv Nadav/Knesset spokesperson’s office)

“They are no longer a small group in Mea Shearim, it’s a million people and if the rules don’t apply to a million people then they don’t apply to anyone. Israel cannot afford that,” adds Lapid.

French police raid Islamist groups after teacher’s beheading

French police swoop on radical Islamist groups three days after the beheading of a teacher who had shown his pupils satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

The raids come a day after tens of thousands of people took part in rallies countrywide to honor teacher Samuel Paty and defend freedom of expression, including the right to show cartoons regarded by many Muslims as insulting.

Gerald Darmanin says the swoop on Islamist networks was designed to send a message that “enemies of the Republic” would not enjoy “a minute’s respite.”

Sources close to the operation tell AFP that individuals targeted in the police operation were known to the police for radical preachings or hate speech on social media.

Darmanin says the government would also tighten the noose on organizations with links to Islamist networks, including the high-profile Anti-Islamophobia Collective.

AFP

2 Emirati ministers said among delegation headed to Israel

Two Emirati ministers will be among the delegation arriving in Jerusalem tomorrow, Army Radio reports.

The UAE officials will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Israel Katz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, it says.

 

Gantz: I respect Haredi community but we can’t accept ‘anarchy’

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, speaking at a Blue and White faction meeting, says the ultra-Orthodox must heed the government’s pandemic rules, after many Haredi schools openly defied the guidelines and reopened.

“Learning Torah and its studies are things that are important to the people of Israel, I don’t belittle this at all, but there cannot be one law for some and another law for others,” says Gantz. “I am in favor of dialogue, in favor of listening. We must be attuned to their needs but we cannot accept anarchy.”

Ultra-Orthodox kids make their way back home from a Talmud Torah in Jerusalem, October 18, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Gantz also addresses the coalition crisis around the 2021 budget, saying: “If there is no budget, we’ll go to elections.”

Netanyahu is widely believed to be using the budget crisis to call early elections, thus avoiding the transfer of power to Gantz next year under their coalition agreement.

TV: Technical glitch blamed for suspicions minister lied to contact tracers

A technical glitch is being blamed for suspicions that Likud Minister Gila Gamliel, who contracted the coronavirus, lied to contact tracers on her whereabouts, according to Channel 13.

According to the network, Gamliel truthfully told a Health Ministry contact tracer over the phone that she was in Tiberias over Yom Kippur, rather than her hometown of Tel Aviv. But the form autofilled her answer with her city of residence.

The ministry is investigating whether the glitch has affected previous epidemiological probes, it says.

Woman found dead in Beersheba apartment; husband suspected of murder

A woman in her sixties has been found dead in her home in the southern city of Beersheba from a head wound.

Her husband is found on the roof of the building, contemplating suicide, raising suspicions that he murdered his wife, according to the Ynet news site. Police escorted the man off the roof and sent him for medical care, the report says.

It’s the second suspected murder of a woman by her spouse in a day, with the body of another woman found earlier in Haifa.

Netanyahu seeks dialogue with Haredim to end health violations

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the government will step up enforcement against violators of the health regulations, but adds that he hopes to resolve the disagreements with ultra-Orthodox leaders through “dialogue.”

“We will step up enforcement and tighten the lockdowns and take all the steps needed. I hope we can do this through dialogue,” says Netanyahu at the weekly Likud faction meeting.

“There was also a drop [in cases] among the Haredi public. It’s more difficult there. It’s more crowded there, they don’t have Zoom,” he continued.

“We ask for the cooperation of the Haredi community and its leaders,” Netanyahu says, while urging Israelis to “put politics aside” to defeat the virus.

Comptroller report finds IDF not prepared to handle chemical weapons attack

The Israel Defense Forces is not fully prepared to handle and operate during a chemical weapons attack, according to a new state comptroller report.

The State Comptroller’s Office finds a number of issues in the preparedness of combat troops to fight under the conditions of a chemical attack, as well as in the training and maintenance of the military units that are specifically meant to respond to atomic, biological and chemical attacks, so-called ABC battalions.

The comptroller report does however praise the military’s recent efforts to upgrade its equipment that is used to counteract chemical attacks.

The military responds to the report, saying that it is generally aware of the problems and is taking steps to address the lacunae noted in the comptroller’s assessment.

“The IDF thanks the state comptroller for carrying out this intensive check into this critical topic. The IDF is studying the findings of the report and has already begun to address the issues — in both the headquarters and in the field — after receiving a draft of the report,” the military says in a statement.

The threat of chemical attack has become more substantial over the past decade as Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s regime has repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to use such weapons in its civil war, raising concerns that he could use them in a conflict with Israel, which remains technically at war with Damascus.

Judah Ari Gross

UAE cabinet approves treaty to normalize ties with Israel

United Arab Emirates ministers have approved the treaty with Israel to normalize diplomatic ties, the country’s WAM news agency reports.

The cabinet “is ordering the commencement of constitutional procedures to issue a national ordinance ratifying the accord.”

L-R: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan participate in the signing of the Abraham Accords at the White House on September 15, 2020. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)

Likud’s Miki Zohar says he’s softening his tone

Likud MK Miki Zohar, the coalition whip known for his wildly inflammatory statements, tells party lawmakers he’ll be softening his tone from now on.

“When we cross red lines with things we say against our rivals, I think the public doesn’t like it, certainly at this time,” he says at a Likud faction meeting, referring to the pandemic.

“I, along with everyone else, will personally change this discourse because I think this is a discourse that will speak more to the public,” he says. “It’s not easy for me to come here and admit in front of everyone that I did things that shouldn’t have been done.”

Likud MK Miki Zohar reacts during a meeting at the Knesset, January 13, 2020. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Netanyahu brushes off polls, attacks Bennett

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismisses opinion polls showing his Likud party falling, while right-wing rival Naftali Bennett’s Yamina soars.

“I’m not worried about the polls. I am never successful in polls, only in elections,” says Netanyahu.

He also attacks Bennett, who is in the opposition, for voting in favor of a no-confidence vote last week.

Naftali Bennett speaking at the Knesset on October 15, 2020. (Gideon Sharon/Knesset)

“Let him decide if he’s right wing or not right wing. I think it astounded many people, it astounded me,” says Netanyahu. “I can understand voting in favor of dispersing the Knesset, but voting for Yair Lapid as prime minister?”

Egypt says another trove of ancient coffins found in Saqqara

Egyptian archaeologists have unearthed another trove of ancient coffins in a vast necropolis south of Cairo, authorities say.

The Tourism and Antiquities Ministry says in a statement that archaeologists found the collection of colorful, sealed sarcophagi buried more than 2,500 years ago at the Saqqara necropolis.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, says more than 80 coffins were found.

Archaeologists also found colorful, gilded wooden statues, the ministry says. Details of the new discovery will be announced in a news conference at the famed Step Pyramid of Djoser, it says.

Egypt has sought to publicize its archaeological finds in an effort to revive its key tourism sector, which was badly hit by the turmoil that followed the 2011 uprising. The sector was also dealt a further blow this year by the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly and Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khalid el-Anany toured the area and inspected the new discovery, which came just over two weeks after the ministry revealed 59 sealed sarcophagi, with mummies inside most of them, in the same area of Saqqara.

The Saqqara site is part of the necropolis at Egypt’s ancient capital of Memphis that includes the famed Giza Pyramids, as well as smaller pyramids at Abu Sir, Dahshur and Abu Ruwaysh. The ruins of Memphis were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1970s.

The plateau hosts at least 11 pyramids, including the Step Pyramid, along with hundreds of tombs of ancient officials and other sites that range from the 1st Dynasty (2920-2770 B.C.) to the Coptic period (395-642).

AP

This undated photo provided by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities shows a trove of ancient coffins and artifacts that Egyptian archaeologists unearthed in a vast necropolis south of Cairo, authorities said Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, in Saqqara, south of Cairo, Egypt. (Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities via AP)

1 in 11 Bnei Brak residents have antibodies for virus — survey

A serological survey finds that one in 11 residents of Bnei Brak carry coronavirus antibodies, Channel 12 reports.

That figure rises to 14% among youth in Bnei Brak.

The survey of 8,637 Bnei Brak residents was carried out between June and August by the Health Ministry.

It also finds that one-fifth of those who tested positive for the virus in the past didn’t have antibodies.

TV: Trump expected to remove Sudan from terror list, paving way for Israel ties

Channel 12, citing sources in Sudan, reports that US President Donald Trump is expected to tweet today that he’s removing Sudan from the terror blacklist, a step that will pave the way for the normalization of ties between Khartoum and Jerusalem.

PM at Knesset session on ‘Netanyahu’s disgraceful failure’ to handle pandemic

The Knesset plenum convenes with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu present after over 40 lawmakers sign a petition to meet on “Netanyahu’s disgraceful failure to handle the crisis” of the pandemic.

The prime minister is expected to address the session.

As it begins, former tourism minister Asaf Zamir of Blue and White, who recently resigned from the government over its curbs on anti-Netanyahu protests during lockdown, attacks the prime minister.

“When you called for unity, I believed you. It’s the last time I believed you because there is no chance you believed it yourself,” says Zamir, referring to the unity government of Likud and Blue and White.

He pleads with Netanyahu to pass a budget for 2021.

COVID testing down by 30% in virus hotspots — report

Coronavirus testing is down 30 percent in so-called “red” cities with high infection rates over the past week, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

That’s five times less than other parts of the country, it says.

The report, which says it’s a Health Ministry analysis of the data, could signal that the dramatically reduced daily tallies are a result of less testing.

Clalit Health Services workers take swab samples for preschool and daycare staff members at a drive-thru coronavirus testing site in the central city of Lod, October 16, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Netanyahu urges opposition to support his pandemic response

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset plenum.

He says that in most countries, the opposition leader supports the government’s fight against the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, this is not the case in Israel,” he says.

“I think that in times in emergency” all must come together, adds Netanyahu.

“Don’t use the coronavirus to split the people in order to get a few more votes in the polls,” he says.

Virus czar wants to remove 4 ultra-Orthodox areas from hotspot list

Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu wants to ease lockdown restrictions in areas that were previously flagged as hotspots as the coronavirus infection rates there improve, Hebrew media reports say.

The cities and towns are Rechasim, Modiin Illit, Beitar Illit and the Kiryat Mattesdorf neighborhood of Jerusalem, all ultra-Orthodox majority areas.

As some lockdown rules were eased Sunday around the country, these areas remained under a nearly full closure until at least midnight Wednesday, though kindergartens, preschools and daycares were permitted to reopen. The other red zones include Bnei Brak south of Jabotinsky Street, Elad and the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Ramat Shlomo, Ramat Eshkol, and Maalot Dafna.

Yisrael Beytenu MK admits to violating virus rules

A Yisrael Beytenu lawmaker admits in the Knesset to violating the lockdown, joining a long list of politicians to do the same.

“I have small children, their friends come over. What do you think, that they don’t meet up? That everyone is sitting in a prison? I don’t need to sit in a prison because of the stupidity of others,” MK Yulia Malinovsky says during a meeting earlier of the Knesset’s Coronavirus Committee.

Trump says people tired of hearing about COVID

US President Donald Trump says people are tired of hearing from Dr. Anthony Fauci “and all these idiots” about the coronavirus.

Trump has made no secret of his growing impatience with Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert.

Speaking today to campaign staffers, Trump calls Fauci a “disaster,” but said he would create bigger issues for himself if he fired the doctor.

Fauci is head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is a member of the White House coronavirus task force.

Trump has needled Fauci over his advice on wearing face masks.

Nearly 220,000 Americans have died from the disease the virus causes.

AP

Health Ministry: 1,526 new virus cases recorded in 24 hours

The Health Ministry records 1,526 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the number of active cases to 29,567.

It says 632 people are in serious condition, 246 on ventilators. Another 180 are in moderate condition, with the rest displaying mild symptoms. The ministry says 3.5% of tests returned positive on Monday, the same as Sunday.

The death toll stands at 2,260. That is 51 more deaths than this morning’s figure, though the ministry says 14 have died since midnight and the discrepancy is not immediately clear.

Bahrain’s cabinet approves establishment of ties with Israel

Bahrain’s cabinet approves the agreement about the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel the countries signed yesterday in Manama.

During a weekly cabinet session hosted by Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, the ministers were updated about the eight agreements signed with Israel.

“The Cabinet welcomed the agreements and memoranda of understanding signed between Bahrain and Israel, noting that they are based on the vision of the Kingdom, under the leadership of HM the King, for peace as a strategic option to advance the peace and stability process in the Middle East,” according to the Bahrain News Agency.

“They are also aimed at promoting tolerance, coexistence and openness to religions and cultures to establish broader relations for the benefit of the region’s countries and peoples in order to enhance the efforts to resolve the Palestinian issue in accordance with the two-state solution, international legitimacy resolutions, and the Arab Peace Initiative, the cabinet said.”

Raphael Ahren

US officials say Sudan may be removed from terror blacklist within days

Two US officials confirm to Reuters that Washington may remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism in the coming days.

The report says the sides are still working on a deal that would see Sudan forge ties with Israel in exchange for the US gesture.

IDF activity reported on Gaza border

The Israel Defense Forces is carrying out unspecified operations along the Gaza border to “neutralize threats,” according to Channel 12.

The military activity has the army on high alert for a possible response from Hamas, but residents of the area are told they should press on with their routines.

Gantz visits Israel vaccine lab ahead of start of human testing

Defense Minister Benny Gantz announces that Israel’s Institute for Biological Research will begin testing a coronavirus vaccine on humans at the end of the month.

Following a visit to the shadowy national laboratory and a meeting with its head Shmuel Shapira, Gantz reveals the name of the vaccine: Brilife, a portmanteau of the Hebrew word for health — bri’ut — and life.

“We are at a very significant moment,” Gantz says. “Prof. Shapira and the entire team have done fantastic work. They are the scientific forefront of the State of Israel and they have brought this vaccine to the stage where we can soon begin trials on human beings.”

Shapira says the institute began working on a vaccine on February 2 and that it is nearing completion now.

“If this process succeeds, it will be great news for the State of Israel and maybe for all nations of the world,” Gantz says.

Judah Ari Gross

Trump says he’ll take Sudan off terror blacklist

US President Donald Trump says that he will remove Sudan from the blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism.

The move is seen as preceding a possible Israel-Sudan normalization deal — similar to those with Bahrain and UAE — though Trump does not mention Israel in his tweet.

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Yisrael Beytenu MK admits to violating virus rules

A Yisrael Beytenu lawmaker admits in the Knesset to violating the lockdown, joining a long list of politicians to do the same.

“I have small children, their friends come over. What do you think, that they don’t meet up? That everyone is sitting in a prison? I don’t need to sit in a prison because of the stupidity of others,” MK Yulia Malinovsky says during a meeting earlier of the Knesset’s Coronavirus Committee.