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Health Ministry said to predict 1,000 serious COVID-19 patients in 3 weeks

Grim briefing reportedly leads ministers to conclude government is preparing to impose nationwide lockdown soon

A medical team at the coronavirus unit at Ichilov hospital, Tel Aviv, Israel, May 4, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
A medical team at the coronavirus unit at Ichilov hospital, Tel Aviv, Israel, May 4, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

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

Palestinians confirm 248 new West Bank coronavirus cases

The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry reports 403 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours. Of them, 248 infections have been confirmed in the West Bank, with an additional 155 among Palestinians in Israeli-controlled East Jerusalem, which the PA counts in its own statistics.

Hebron remains the center of the West Bank coronavirus outbreak with 119 new cases. However, dozens of cases are also spreading in refugee camps around the West Bank, including outside of Ramallah and in the Jordan Valley, the PA Health Ministry reports.

Despite strict lockdown restrictions implemented by the PA in West Bank areas it controls, the coronavirus curve continues to sharpen, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Saturday.

A total of 63 West Bank Palestinians have died from coronavirus since the pandemic began there in March.

— Aaron Boxerman

Iran reports record daily toll of 229 coronavirus deaths

Iran reports a new single-day record death toll of 229 from the novel coronavirus, after weeks of rising numbers in the Middle East’s worst-hit country.

“Sadly, we lost 229 of our compatriots to the COVID-19 infection in the past 24 hours,” health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari says.

“This raises the overall toll to 14,634,” she says in televised remarks.

Iran announced its previous record COVID-19 death toll of 221 on July 9.

The Islamic Republic has been battling a resurgence of the virus, with official figures showing a rise in both new infections and deaths since a two-month low in May.

Lari also raises the country’s caseload to 278,827, with 2,625 more people testing positive for the disease in the past day.


Culture minister slams Edelstein, says lockdown shouldn’t be on the table

Culture Minister Asaf Zamir (Blue and White) criticizes Health Minister Yuli Edelstein who said earlier that the decision by a Knesset committee to reopen restaurants will bring a new lockdown upon Israel.

Blue and White MK Asaf Zamir at the Knesset on May 14, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“The world ‘lockdown’ shouldn’t even be in our lexicon,” Zamir says.

“The economic ramifications of the coronavirus will be more severe than the health ones.”

Terrorist who killed Ari Fuld in West Bank sentenced to life in prison

A West Bank military court sentences a Palestinian teenager to life in prison over the murder of Israeli-American Ari Fuld in a 2018 stabbing terror attack at the West Bank’s Gush Etzion Junction, Hebrew-language media reports.

The Judea Military Court also orders 17-year-old Khalil Jabarin to pay an unspecified sum to Fuld’s family as compensation.

Khalil Jabarin, who fatally stabbed Israeli Ari Fuld in a West Bank terror attack on September 16, 2018 (Screenshot/Twitter)

The court earlier this year convicted Jabarin of one count of intentionally causing death — the court’s equivalent of murder — and three counts of attempted murder.

Jabarin stabbed Fuld, a father of four, multiple times in the back and neck as he was standing outside a supermarket near the Gush Etzion Junction in the central West Bank.

After he was stabbed, Fuld pursued and shot his assailant, who was attempting to attack a shop employee, possibly saving her life. He then collapsed and was rushed to a hospital, but succumbed to his wounds.

Former Jerusalem deputy mayor facing bribery charges, pending a hearing

Prosecutors notify Meir Turgeman, a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, that they intend to indict him for bribery and other corruption offenses, pending a hearing.

Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman at an event in Jerusalem on September 1, 2013. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Turgeman is accused of receiving more than NIS 350,000 ($102,000) in bribes, fraud, breach of trust, tax offenses and stealing almost NIS 70,000, according to a statement by the state prosecution.

Five others, including Turgeman’s son, will also be charged with bribery, breach of trust, obstruction of justice and forging evidence.

US defense secretary says he plans to visit China this year

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he plans to visit China this year, as Washington takes a tougher stance against Beijing in the disputed South China Sea.

Esper says he has spoken to his Chinese counterpart several times and hopes to make the trip by year’s end.

He tells a seminar that one of the goals of the trip will be to “establish the systems necessary for crisis communications and reinforce our intentions to openly compete in the international system in which we all belong.”


Leading candidate to turn down job of Health Ministry director of public health

As the Health Ministry struggles to find a suitable candidate agreeing to head its battle against the coronavirus, the ministry is reportedly having another staffing crisis.

Dr. Salman Zarka, the leading candidate to become the ministry’s new director of public health instead of Siegal Sadetzki, has refused, Channel 12 reports.

Zarka, the manager of Ziv Medical Center in Safed and an expert on public health, will notify Health Minister Yuli Edelstein that he is turning down the offer because “he has no chance of being successful in the job,” an unnamed associate of Zarka is quoted as saying.

The associate says Zarka won’t get sufficient authority, especially in light of the pending appointment of an official heading the campaign to contain the pandemic.

“He would have been criticized and wasted his time in battles with officials in the ministry.”

Sadetzki resigned earlier this month, criticizing the authorities’ handling of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and describing a chaotic and ineffective approach to tackling the crisis in a lengthy post to her Facebook page.

Rival Palestinian factions meet in Gaza to discuss joint rally

Senior Fatah and Hamas officials are meeting today in Gaza to discuss a planned joint rally to be held in the coming days, according to Hamas-linked Al-Resalah news.

Leaders of the rival Palestinian movements are scheduled to speak, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh.

“This will begin a new era of relations between Hamas and Fatah,” says Hamas senior official Hussam Badran.

A violent conflict between the two movements resulted in Hamas expelling Fatah from the Gaza Strip in 2007. Since then, several unsuccessful attempts have been made to create a unified Palestinian political front. Although Abbas speaking in a joint rally with Hamas in Gaza could be a major symbolic step in that direction, many Palestinians remain deeply skeptical that the two parties are serious about reaching an accord.

— Aaron Boxerman

Jerusalem councilman in virus quarantine shows up for discussion, causing panic

A Jerusalem Municipality meeting is abruptly halted after Councilman Yohanan Weitzman (United Torah Judaism) shows up even though he is supposed to be in coronavirus quarantine.

Weitzman, whose daughter was recently diagnosed with COVID-19, claims he doesn’t need to be in isolation, Hebrew-language media reports.

But other council members disagree and refuse to continue the discussion until he leaves. Everyone leaves the hall and a security guard is summoned.

Police arrest 3 settlers over July 5 violent clash with Palestinians

Three settlers have been arrested over their involvement in a violent clash with Palestinians earlier this month in which details are contested by both sides.

Police say they arrested the three men yesterday because they are suspected of firing the gunshots that injured two Palestinians in the northern West Bank on July 5. One of them has been remanded until Sunday and the two others have been remanded until Thursday.

Israeli security forces at the scene of clashes between settlers and Palestinians near the outpost of El Matan in the West Bank on July 5, 2020. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

The two Palestinians had been hospitalized in moderate and light condition respectively in the nearby Salfit governorate, the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry said at the time.

Four settlers were lightly injured by thrown stones during the melee and taken to Kfar Saba’s Meir Medical Center for treatment.

Police did not specify who instigated the clash.

The Honenu right-wing legal aid group accuses police of “backing Arab terror,” saying the settlers had been attacked and fired in self-defense to save themselves from “lynching.”

Labor federation threatens more strikes if no solution for social workers

The leader of the Histadrut labor federation threatens that additional public sector workers could go on strike if the government doesn’t reach an agreement with social workers to improve their working conditions.

Arnon Bar David meets with Inbal Hermoni, head of Israel Union of Social Workers, whose members launched an open-ended general strike earlier this month after failing to reach a deal with the Finance Ministry following repeated negotiations.

A statement from the Histadrut says Bar David warned during the meeting that other public sector employees could go on strike in solidarity with social workers, without further elaborating.

He pledged the Histadrut will begin paying NIS 1,000 to all striking workers out of its strike fund in the coming days, the statement says. Bar David and Hermoni also coordinated positions ahead of the latter’s expected meeting later today with Finance Minister Israel Katz.

Barbash agrees to head national campaign against COVID-19 — report

Prof. Gabi Barbash has agreed to head the national battle against the coronavirus, Channel 12 reports.

The appointment comes after several days of talks, presumably over what powers he will have.

Barbash has previously served as Health Ministry director general and headed Tel Aviv’s Ichilov hospital for many years.

Media: Barbash to be appointed today; no confirmation by Health Ministry

Hebrew-language media reports that Prof. Gabi Barbash will be appointed later today to head the national campaign against the coronavirus, without citing a source.

There is no official confirmation by the Health Ministry or any other government source.

Likud MK Sa’ar defends ‘rebel’ lawmaker after attacks from Netanyahu allies

A senior member of the Likud ruling party and an internal rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu extends support to MK Yifat Shasha-Biton, head of the Knesset’s coronavirus committee, who is under fire by the party leadership after she twice overturned government-issued coronavirus restrictions.

Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, February 19, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

MK Gideon Sa’ar, who lost to Netanyahu in the last Likud leadership primary, responds to claims that Shasha-Biton, also from Likud, is catering to narrow interests at the expense of the public.

“We are in a long and severe crisis, and public trust is vital for success,” Sa’ar tweets. “Real parliamentary oversight isn’t an ‘interest’ of the Knesset. It is needed both to reach better results and to build public trust.”

Barbash to get broad authority, appointment to be announced this evening — report

The Haaretz daily says Gabi Barbash’s appointment as head of the national campaign against the coronavirus will be officially announced this evening in a press conference.

The unsourced report says the agreement came after a series of conversations between Barbash, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein.

Barbash will reportedly receive relatively broad authority, more than merely heading the coronavirus testing apparatus.

Netherlands suspends aid to group that employed alleged Palestinian terrorists

The Dutch government has said it is suspending its contributions to a Palestinian organization that had used the subsidies to pay salaries to suspected terrorists.

The office of Sigrid Kaag, the Netherlands’ minister for foreign trade and development cooperation, told parliament yesterday that the Ramallah-based Union of Agricultural Work Committees used the money to pay two men in Israeli custody who are standing trial for the murder of a 17-year-old girl in a 2019 terror attack.

Samer Arbid and Abdul Razeq Farraj are alleged to be members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror organization and had worked for the Union of Agricultural Work Committees alongside their alleged involvement with that terror group.

Kaag announces the suspension of funding while answering a parliamentary query by the Freedom Party, the Christian Union and the Reformed Political Party. The information about the two suspects came from research by the Israel-based NGO Monitor group, which examines the activity of nongovernmental organizations involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

According to the research, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees has received about $23 million in subsidies from the Dutch government since 2010.

That funding was suspended indefinitely on July 9 pending an investigation of “possible ties” between the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a spokesperson for Kaag writes in a reply to the query.


Gantz’s office appears to confirm Barbash will head national virus response

Maj. Gen. Amir Abulafiya pulls his candidacy for the position of coronavirus point person amid reports that former Health Ministry director-general Gabi Barbash was due to get nominated for the role.

“He informed the defense minister and IDF chief of staff that he was withdrawing his candidacy,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s office says in a statement.

“The general wished Prof. Barbash the utmost success,” according to the statement, appearing to confirm the reports that Gabi Barbash will be appointed.

— Judah Ari Gross

Germany’s Yom Kippur synagogue attack suspect starts trial with racist rant

A German man accused of killing two people in one of the worst acts of anti-Semitic violence in post-war Germany seeks to lay out his racist worldview at the opening of his trial, prompting stern warnings from the judge.

Stephan Balliet, 28, stands accused of shooting dead two people in October after he tried and failed to storm a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle last year.

He has been charged with two counts of murder and multiple counts of attempted murder in a case that has deeply rattled the country and fueled alarm about rising right-wing extremism and anti-Jewish violence, 75 years after the end of the Nazi era.

Addressing the court, Balliet claims he “decided in 2015 not to do anything more for this society which has replaced me with Muslims and Negroes,” in reference to the year when hundreds of thousands asylum seekers, many fleeing war in Syria and Iraq, were given refuge in Germany.

Judge Ursula Mertens cuts him off, warning that he could be thrown out of the hearing.

“I have the possibility to exclude you from the proceedings. I will not tolerate you committing crimes and insulting people in this courtroom.”

Stephan Balliet, who is accused of shooting dead two people after an attempt to storm a synagogue in Halle, arrives into the courtroom prior to his trial on July 21, 2020 at the district court in Magdeburg, eastern Germany. (Photo by RONNY HARTMANN / various sources / AFP)

Undeterred, Balliet seeks to put forward his racist ideas, claiming he has “no problems with religions but with Semitism.”

Balliet tells the court he had been inspired by a gunman’s 2019 attack on Christchurch mosques in New Zealand, which killed 51 Muslim worshipers.

Prosecutors say Balliet used explosives and firearms to try to gain access to the synagogue, where 52 worshipers were celebrating Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

After failing to break through the synagogue’s locked wooden door, he shot dead a female passerby and a man in a nearby kebab shop.

He apologizes for killing the German woman, saying he “really did not plan to or want to” shoot her.


Anti-government protesters start gathering near PM’s residence for rally

Police block roads near the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, as protesters against the premier’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout gather for another rally.

Supporters of Netanyahu are also demonstrating, and police are separating the two groups and getting them away from the entrance to the official residence.

Police are deployed with increased force in the area, since many thousands are expected to attend.

Previous rallies have ended in violent clashes and mutual accusations between protesters and police.

Police arrest 3 suspected of stealing monkey from zoo

Police say they have arrested three young Israelis suspected of stealing a monkey from a zoo in the northern city of Kiryat Motzkin.

Police received a complaint several days ago that a monkey worth thousands of shekels disappeared, the statement says.

It adds that after a “swift investigation that included various actions, including using various technological means,” the suspects, all residents of Kiryat Ata in their 20s, were apprehended.

Police return the primate safely to the zoo, and say the suspects likely intended to sell it. They will be brought tomorrow morning before a judge for a remand hearing.

Wave of far-right threats to German public figures, possibly from police computers

A wave of threatening messages sent to politicians and other public figures in Germany is larger than previously thought, it emerges, deepening a row over possible far-right links in a regional police force.

At least 69 threats have been sent to almost 30 public figures and institutions across the country, says Peter Beuth, the interior minister of the state of Hesse.

The anonymous messages are all signed “NSU 2.0,” a reference to the German neo-Nazi cell National Socialist Underground that committed a string of racist murders in the 2000s.

Beuth tells the Hesse state parliament that in three cases, the recipients’ contact details may have been taken from police computers.

Last week, Hesse police chief Udo Muench resigned after it emerged that police computers were used to search for details of a far-left politician who subsequently received threatening emails.

Now, Beuth says there is so far “no proof” of a right-wing network within the police. He adds that the state police force is working to “restore its integrity” and identify the sender.


US accuses Chinese hackers of stealing COVID vaccine research

Two Chinese nationals have been indicted for hacking COVID-19 vaccine research and the intellectual property of companies in the United States and other countries, the US Justice Department says.

The Chinese hackers also targeted human rights activists in the United States and Hong Kong, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers says. he claims the hackers were working with China’s Ministry of State Security.


Jewish, Arab restaurateurs protest government policies in Haifa

Some 150 restaurant owners demonstrate in Haifa’s German Colony neighborhood against coronavirus closures forced upon them in recent months.

The restaurateurs, Jewish and Arab and from various areas of northern Israel, block roads and call for compensation and for the government to “resign.”

Hundreds attend several anti-government protests in Jerusalem

The anti-government protest near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence is actually comprised of several different rallies organized by more than 30 groups.

The rallies are by restaurant owners angry at repeated closures forced upon them in recent months; by self-employed Israelis who say government support has been insufficient, and by the so-called “black flag” anti-corruption protest against the premier, who is on trial for graft.

Additionally, demonstrators are railing against proposed legislation that would make government measures take effect without Knesset approval, saying it would remove vital oversight.

Hundreds are already demonstrating and police estimate thousands will show up.

Police have refused a request for masses to march later in the evening to the Knesset, but Channel 12 reports that an approval could be given.

Hezbollah says its member was killed in Israeli airstrike in Syria

The Hezbollah terror group accuses Israel of killing one of its members in an airstrike outside Damascus last night.

In a statement, the terror group says its operative Ali Kamel Mohsen Jawad was killed in an act of “Zionist aggression.”

In the past, Hezbollah has retaliated to deaths of its members at Israel’s hand with attacks on the Jewish state.

— Judah Ari Gross

Identifying inscriptions discovered in shoes of children sent to Auschwitz

Employees of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum have discovered handwritten inscriptions in shoes belonging to children who were sent to the Nazi death camp in German-occupied Poland.

The discoveries have been made in the course of efforts to preserve the shoes on display at the museum.

One inscription identifies a shoe as belonging to Amos Steinberg, who was born in Prague in 1938 and imprisoned with his parents in the Theresienstadt ghetto in 1942. He was later sent to Auschwitz.

“We can guess that it was most likely his mother who made sure that her child’s shoe was signed,” Hanna Kubik of the museum’s collections department says in a statement announcing the findings. “The father was deported in another transport. We know that on October 10, 1944, he was transferred from Auschwitz to the Dachau camp. He was liberated in the Kaufering sub-camp.”

One of the documents found in the shoes belonging to victims of Auschwitz camp, in July 2020. (Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum via JTA)

In another shoe, employees find documents in Hungarian with several names: Ackermann, Brávermann and Beinhorn.

“These people were probably deported to Auschwitz in the spring or summer of 1944 during the extermination of Hungarian Jews,” Kubik says. “I hope that more detailed research will reveal details about each individual.”

Vast quantities of children’s shoes are on display at Auschwitz, and the museum has been engaged in an ongoing effort to preserve them. Many historical artifacts have been found in this process, including letters, newspaper fragments and bank notes, some of which were used as lining or padding.

About 230,000 children are estimated to have been imprisoned in Auschwitz, the vast majority of whom perished there.


1,883 virus infections confirmed in 24 hours as active cases pass 30,000

Health Ministry data shows 1,883 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, with the number of active cases in Israel crossing 30,000 for the first time.

Two new deaths have been confirmed since this morning, bringing the toll to 424.

The total number of cases is 53,559, including 30,488 active cases.

The numbers of serious and moderate patients are slightly down, standing at 256 and 129, respectively. There are 77 patients on ventilators.

The ministry says the results of 27,299 coronavirus tests came back yesterday.

Health Ministry said to predict 1,000 serious COVID-19 patients in 3 weeks

The Health Ministry estimates that Israel will have 1,000 serious COVID-19 patients in three weeks, Channel 12 reports.

The report quotes unnamed ministers as saying they understand the government is preparing to impose a nationwide lockdown soon.

Police let anti-government protesters march from PM’s residence to Knesset

Police have given approval for anti-government protesters to march from the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem to the Knesset, and demonstrators are currently heading to the parliament building.

Hebrew-language media reports that some 2,000 people have attended the rally, which was organized by some 30 groups and protests various aspects of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout.

Likud, Blue and White said mulling delaying budget deadline to prevent elections

The dispute between the Likud and Blue and White parties regarding whether to approve a state budget for one or two years is so severe that the parties are reportedly weighing postponing the deadline for approving it.

The Kan public broadcaster reports that the move could be made to prevent the government from dissolving and elections being called over the matter, with each side refusing to budge.

In the present situation, if the budget isn’t approved by August 24, the Knesset will automatically dissolve.

Controversial virus law could be altered to avoid removing Knesset oversight

The Walla news site reports a potential compromise in a controversial government-proposed law that would make government restrictions to fight the coronavirus outbreak take effect immediately, without Knesset approval.

The report says the legislation will be changed so that instead of the Knesset okaying the measures retroactively, it will have 24 hours to approve them before they take effect.

Opposition lawmakers are reportedly demanding that the period be extended to 72 hours, to enable a “meaningful discussion.”

IDF says 886 soldiers have coronavirus, 7,558 are in quarantine

The Israel Defense Forces says 886 servicemen are currently diagnosed with the coronavirus, all displaying mild or no symptoms.

It says 7,558 soldiers are in quarantine.

Prominent members of Netanyahu’s party held event in violation of virus rules

Prominent members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party were caught yesterday attending an indoor event in violation of coronavirus rules, despite repeated government calls to adhere to the rules, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

Attendants included Yaakov Hagoel, chairman of World Likud and vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization, as well as former Likud MK Nava Boker, a local council head and prominent Likud activists, according to the report.

More than 40 people attended the event, according to witnesses, and not everyone was wearing a mask.

Police officers arrived and demanded that some participants leave, and after some did — including Hagoel — they handed a NIS 5,000 fine to the organizer, Yoram Yazdi, but let the event continue.

Hagoel comments that the event was “outdoors” and was held in compliance with the rules, but that he left when too many people showed up.

Shas MK Moshe Arbel to quarantine after exposure to COVID-19 patient

MK Moshe Arbel of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party will enter quarantine after being exposed to a coronavirus carrier, the Knesset’s spokesperson says.

The decision follows an epidemiological investigation by the Health Ministry.

Arbel is required to self-isolate until July 28.

Knesset member Moshe Arbel seen during a opening campaign event of the Shas party in Jerusalem, on July 22, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Chief rabbi urges government to consider size of synagogues in virus restrictions

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau calls on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein to ease restrictions on synagogues by allowing more people in large shrines.

Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, on March 29, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“There is nothing similar between a synagogue that can contain hundreds and sometimes thousands of worshipers, and a small synagogue that can barely host 20 people,” Lau writes in a letter sent to Netanyahu and Edelstein.

“The arbitrary setting of a small maximum number of worshipers isn’t right for every place,” he adds. “We must consider the size and the distance that can be kept from one another.”

Government mulling lowering minimum wage to boost employment — report

The government is considering extreme measures such as lowering the minimum wage to encourage businesses to hire workers amid the coronavirus crisis, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

Other proposals reportedly being weighed include lowering the payment for working extra hours.

Unemployment in Israel currently stands at 21%.

Litzman: Likud must decide if it is able to run coalition

Yaakov Litzman, head of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, says Blue and White’s choice to vote against the coalition’s wishes “is a challenge to our political partnership with them.”

He added that the Likud party “must decide if it is able to run a coalition or if it is losing itself politically.”

Newly appointed housing minister and former health minister Yaakov Litzman, at his installation ceremony at the Housing Ministry in Jerusalem on May 18, 2020. (Olivier FitoussiFlash90)
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