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Multiple reports of rule-defying mass gatherings for Simchat Torah

Videos show ultra-Orthodox worshipers celebrating holiday without maintaining health regulations in Jerusalem, Modiin and Tiberias

Illustrative: Ultra-Orthodox Jews dance during Simchat Torah celebrations, October 10, 2020 (David Cohen/Flash90)
Illustrative: Ultra-Orthodox Jews dance during Simchat Torah celebrations, October 10, 2020 (David Cohen/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Saturday’s events as they happened.

Tehran to impose fines for violations of virus rules as caseload soars

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran is to start imposing fines for breaches of health regulations in the capital, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announces, after daily coronavirus infections hit a record high this week.

Iran has previously held back from using fines to enforce mask-wearing in public and other health protocols, but they will now be imposed in the capital Tehran, Rouhani tells a televised meeting of the country’s coronavirus taskforce.

The police, the Basij paramilitary force and health inspectors will have powers to impose the fines, and offenders will have two weeks to make payment into a health ministry account, Rouhani says.

Breaches punishable by a fine include refusal to quarantine while sick and failure to wear a mask in a public space or require a customer to do so.

Fines range from 500,000 rials ($1.60) for not wearing a mask to a maximum of 10 million ($32.80) for businesses not observing health protocols.

The fines represent a not insignificant sum for Iranians who have endured a deep recession since Washington reimposed crippling economic sanctions in 2018.

The minimum monthly wage stands at around 18 million rials, worth less than $60 following a sharp fall in the value of the currency.

Iran’s daily death toll from the novel coronavirus hit a record high of 239 on Wednesday. Daily infections reached a new high of 4,392 the following day.

The virus has now killed more than 28,000 people and infected more than 496,000 in Iran, according to health ministry figures.

— AFP

Egypt’s Sissi signs strategic maritime deal with Greece

CAIRO — Egypt’s president has ratified a maritime deal setting its Mediterranean Sea boundary with Greece and demarcating an exclusive economic zone for oil and gas drilling rights, the state-run news agency reports, in a move that has angered Turkey.

The bilateral agreement is widely seen as a response to a rival deal between Turkey and Libya’s Tripoli-based government that spiked tensions in the East Mediterranean region, along with Turkey’s disputed oil and gas exploration in the seawaters.

The MENA news agency says that the deal, signed by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, was published by the official gazette today.

The ratification comes over two months after the Egyptian and Greek foreign ministers signed the deal in Cairo.

The Egypt-Greece deal establishes “partial demarcation of the sea boundaries between the two countries, and that the remaining demarcation would be achieved through consultations.”

Egyptian Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Al had in August called the deal with Greece “very significant.”

The Ankara-Tripoli maritime deal was dismissed by the governments of Egypt, Cyprus and Greece as infringing on their economic rights in the gas-rich Mediterranean Sea.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the Egypt-Greece agreement “worthless,” vowing to keep his disputed pact with the Tripoli government in place.

— AP

Top health official signals lockdown won’t be eased next week

The director-general of the Health Ministry says the lockdown will likely not be eased this week, signaling ministers could extend it for another week when they meet Tuesday.

The current lockdown measures, which began September 18, are currently set to expire on October 14.

Chezy Levy predicts the lockdown will begin to be eased the week after next, and stresses the lifting of restrictions will be much more gradual than after the initial closure earlier this year.

He says he hopes local restrictions can be used to address outbreaks rather than nationwide measures when the lockdown ends.

He also acknowledges the economic, mental and social costs of the lockdown.

“We know what the price of the lockdown is. This isn’t a cure,” Levy tells Channel 12 news.

He says, however, “we brought down morbidity in this lockdown” and that there are measures indicating it has been successful in stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

Health Ministry reports 1,941 new infections, 28 more deaths over Shabbat

The Health Ministry reports 1,941 new coronavirus cases over Shabbat, bringing the number of cases since the pandemic began to 289,799.

The ministry also confirms another 28 deaths, raising the national toll 1,914.

Of the 62,165 active cases, there are 845 people in serious condition, with 232 on ventilators. Another 290 are in moderate condition and the rest have mild or no symptoms.

In total, 1,544 coronavirus patients are being treated in hospitals.

Of the 35,171 tests performed yesterday, 8.3 percent came back positive. The ministry says 9,364 tests have been performed so far today, 7.7% have been positive.

Sports minister: Politics won’t be a factor in selection of next coach of national soccer team

Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper says politics won’t be a factor in the selection of the next coach of the national soccer team.

Tropper is responding to Transportation Minister Miri Regev’s comments yesterday that Eyal Berkovic, a talk show host and former soccer star, would never coach the team because he called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party a “criminal organization.”

Regev, a Likud ally of Netanyahu’s, was culture and sports minister before Tropper.

“We’ll conduct ourselves in a statesman-like and a topical way. Politics and the politicians will remain on the side. A specific political view doesn’t need to be related to the position of coach,” Tropper is quoted saying by Army Radio.

Following Regev’s comments, Berkovic told Sport One that he hopes to be the next coach of the national team.

The current coach, Willibald Ruttensteiner, is set to step down in December.

Plan for gradual lifting of lockdown to take months — TV

Prime Minister Netanyahu is insisting that the lockdown measures remain in force even after they expire on October 14 and not be eased until at least October 18, Channel 12 news reports.

The network also publishes the Health Ministry’s plan for easing the lockdown, which is expected to last for months.

While there are proposed dates for lifting the restrictions, the report says any easing of the restrictions could be pushed off if the infection rate hasn’t dropped enough.

In the first stage, which will begin October 18, the restrictions on protests will be lifted, families that live apart can get together, beaches will reopen and restaurants can offer takeaway, if the number of new cases per day drops to 2,000.

In the second stage, which will start November 1 if there are only 1,000 cases a day, grades 1-4 can return to school, synagogues can reopen and elective medical procedures will resume.

In the third stage, which will start November 15 if the number of daily infections falls to 500, businesses with in-store customers can open, as can gyms, shops, malls and outdoor markets.

In the fourth stage, restaurants and cafes can reopen as can “attractions” if there are only 250 new cases a day.

In the fifth stage, which will begin on December 13, pools, hotels and guest houses can reopen, while in the sixth stage, starting December 27, museums, leisure and entertainment venues can open and group sports will be allowed.

In the seventh stage, one January 10, all grades above fourth can return to school and in the final stage, starting January 24, theme parks can open and mass cultural events will be allowed.

Ex-Shin Bet chief: Anti-PM protests not a question of right or left, ‘it doesn’t matter who replaces him’

Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin estimates that some 200,000 Israelis are protesting this evening, with most of them calling for Prime Minister Netanyahu to resign due to his indictment on graft charges and handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s not a question of right or left; it doesn’t matter who replaces him,” he tells Channel 12 news from a protest near his home.

Diskin, who has previously been outspoken in his criticism of Netanyahu, says those protesting believe in the right to demonstrate and that he regrets if social-distancing requires were not being upheld.

“But I understand the demonstrators’ passion. A young generation sees its future being destroyed,” he says.

He also condemns Israel’s “rotten politics” and says they must change.

“It’s just destroying the country. It’s the key existential threat to the future of our country. Look where it has brought us… look at how the people are suffering. Our leaders are showing contempt for us and contempt for the [COVID] regulations,” he says, referring to violations of the virus regulations by senior ministers and other senior officials.

Yuval Diskin addresses an online protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 21, 2020. (Screen capture/Channel 12)

Thousands rally at Tel Aviv’s Habima Square for weekly anti-Netanyahu protest

Thousands of demonstrators fill Habima Square in Tel Aviv for this week’s anti-Netanyahu protests, calling on the prime minister to resign.

Dozens of demonstrators pour into the neighboring streets, clutching signs reading “Let us go,” “Bibi, you’re destroying my future,” or, simply “Go.”

“We want a government that cares about the public,” says Itay Flicker, a Tel Aviv resident. “We are demonstrating because people are really suffering — in terms of health, the economy and so on. But the government is totally detached from all that.”

Wajdi Haj Yahya, a lawyer who lives in Taybeh, also participates in the protests tonight. A small group of Taybeh residents join Yahya to demonstrate in the northern Arab city’s downtown.

“We’ve previously protested on a bridge outside the city. Tonight we brought it into the city. There’s a lot of fear and frustration with politics, but we think it is important to wake up the Arab public,” Yahya says.

— Aaron Boxerman

Over 200,000 taking part in anti-Netanyahu rallies across Israel — protest group

Over 200,000 Israelis are taking part in anti-Netanyahu demonstrations across the country this evening, the “Black Flag” protest group says.

Channel 13 news also forecasts over 200,000 are participating in this week’s rallies, describing the protests as the largest since the demonstrations against Netanyahu began this summer.

Likud MK resigns from key panel in protest of restrictions on small businesses

Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar resigns from a Knesset committee that is charged with approving the government’s emergency orders in protest of the restrictions on small businesses during the current nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

In a letter to the coalition whip, Sa’ar also cites his opposition to “Big Coronavirus Lockdown” in his decision to resign from the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.

The law, passed in July, limited Knesset oversight over the government’s emergency powers.

“During the previous meeting, I couldn’t support the restrictions on small businesses (with less than 10 employees) at a time when [indoor] gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed. I also can’t do this in the future. Therefore, I no longer see any reason for my membership in the committee,” Sa’ar says.

Sa’ar is an internal Likud rival of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s and last year unsuccessfully challenged the premier in the party’s leadership primaries.

His criticism of the restrictions on small businesses comes days after Likud Finance Minister Israel Katz criticized them, leading to a harsh clapback from Netanyahu.

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

Trump makes first public appearance since hospital stay: ‘I’m feeling great’

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump makes his first public appearance since returning to the White House after being treated for the coronavirus. The White House has refused to declare that he is no longer contagious, and the gathering of hundreds of people on the South Lawn goes ahead despite the guidance of public health officials.

Trump delivers an address on his support for law enforcement from Blue Room balcony to a friendly crowd. The president wears a mask as he walks for the speech but takes it off to make his remarks. He receives an enthusiastic response from his supporters.

“I’m feeling great,” says Trump, who says he is thankful for their good wishes and prayers as he recovers.

Trump is also priming for a Florida rally on Monday.

— AP

US President Donald Trump removes his face mask to speak from the Blue Room Balcony of the White House to a crowd of supporters, October 10, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Hundreds of anti-Netanyahu protesters march in Tel Aviv

Several hundred protesters are marching through the streets in northern Tel Aviv and call for Prime Minister Netanyahu to resign.

Clusters of demonstrators are milling around the city center.

Police say marching without a permit is illegal. In a statement on a similar march by demonstrators near Habima Square, police say demonstrators are “endangering themselves and those who use the roads.”

— Aaron Boxerman

Israeli midfielder tests positive for COVID-19 ahead of match versus Czechs

Israeli midfielder Nir Bitton has tested positive for the coronavirus ahead of the Nations League match tomorrow against the Czech Republic.

Bitton’s COVID-19 infection is announced by Scottish club Celtic.

The diagnosis comes after three Czech Republic players have tested positive.

The Czech players were not identified and were in isolation, while 16 others — 11 players and five staff members — were retested. Of the 11 players, 10 tested negative and one result was again inconclusive, the Czech Football Association said on Saturday.

The Czechs play in Haifa tomorrow, and Scotland in Glasgow on Wednesday.

— with AP

Israel’s Nir Bitton shoots a penalty shot during the Euro 2020 playoff semifinal soccer match between Scotland and Israel, at the Hampden stadium in Glasgow, Scotland, October 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

Woman arrested for spray-painting cop car at Tel Aviv protest

Police say they arrested a woman in Tel Aviv for spray-painting a police car with graffiti during protests in the coastal city.

Commenting on clashes between cops and demonstrators, police allege protesters attacked police offers at barricades meant to prevent marches and threw objects at them.

Several officers were injured and treated at the scene, according to police.

In first, Israel Start-Up Nation wins stage at Giro d’Italia

Alex Dowsett solos to victory in the Giro d’Italia cycling tournament’s eighth stage Saturday to give his Israel Start-Up Nation team a first win.

In Vieste, Dowsett produced a powerful finish to cross the line alone more than a minute ahead of Italian Salvatore Puccio of Ineos and Briton Matthew Holmes of WorldTeam Lotto.

Dowsett shook off his five breakaway companions with 20 kilometers to go, with the former world Hour Record holder finishing as in a time trial. The eighth stage was a 200-kilometer route between Giovinazzo and Vieste

The 32-year-old rider from Essex claims his second Giro stage win, seven years after his first.

“I can’t say how much I needed a win like this in such a difficult year,” says Dowsett.

“Since Israel Start-Up Nation stepped up to the WorldTour, we’ve been fighting for this victory.”

He adds: “I don’t have a contract yet for next year and with a baby coming in January, I really needed such a result so badly, I cannot believe it.”

It is the first time the Israel Start-Up Nation, founded five years ago, has won a stage in a Grand Tour race.

— with AFP

Team Israel Start-Up Nation rider England’s Alex Dowsett, wearing a face mask, celebrates with a bottle of champagne on the podium after winning the 8th stage of the Giro d’Italia 2020 cycling race, a 200-kilometer route between Giovinazzo and Vieste, on October 10, 2020. (Luca Bettini/AFP)

2 anti-mask protests held in Rome despite surge in new infections

ROME – Rome is the site of two anti-mask protests, even as Italy undergoes a resurgence of coronavirus infections.

The Italian Health Ministry reports another 5,724 cases in the last 24 hours and 29 deaths. Most cases are asymptomatic and determined through increased testing — more than 133,000 in the period.

Protesters at one of the demonstrations complain about measures they call harsh, including a new order for all Italians to wear masks outdoors or face fines of up to 1,000 euros ($1,200). Most of the new cases are in Lombardy in the north, which tallied 1,140 new infections, followed by Campania, which includes Naples, and Veneto.

In front of the Duomo Cathedral In Milan, entertainment workers protest against the government’s economic policies to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Italy has reached totals of nearly 350,000 confirmed cases and 36,140 deaths.

— AP

Entertainment workers protest against the Italian government’s economic policies to combat the spread of COVID-19, in front of Milan’s Duomo Cathedral, Italy, Saturday, Oct 10, 2020. (Claudio Furlan/Lapresse via AP)

Multiple reports, videos of rule-defying mass gatherings for Simchat Torah

Reports are coming in of various lockdown violations this evening amid Simchat Torah celebrations in ultra-Orthodox areas. Ahead of the holiday leading rabbis urged the Haredi public to avoid mass gatherings during the usually-festive events, in which religious Jews celebrate the completion of the yearly cycle of Torah readings and the start of the next.

Not everyone appears to have listened, however.

In Modiin, Channel 12 reports that several synagogues were evacuated by police after worshipers failed to maintain health regulations and gathered en masse.

A video from Tiberias shows dancing without masks or distancing.

In Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood Ynet reports that hundreds gathered to sing and dance without any distancing. The report says dozens of buses later left the neighborhood, bearing signs declaring them to be ferrying participants in a “protest against religious persecution.”

Elsewhere, some appear to be more closely adhering to health guidelines, as seen in his video from an unknown location.

Iran records 251 more coronavirus fatalities in single-day high

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran announces its highest single-day death toll from the coronavirus with 251 confirmed dead.

Health Ministry spokesperson Sima Sadat Lari says this pushes the total confirmed death toll to 28,544, making it the hardest-hit country in the region.

A further 3,822 new cases are confirmed over the past 24-hour period, raising total nationwide recorded cases to 500,075. Nearly 4,509 patients are in critical condition.

— AP

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