Israel news summary

Israel News for 8-17-2020

News Update

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The Health Ministry reported 1,044 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, amid a drop in testing. There are currently 23,945 active cases of which 398 people are hospitalized in serious condition and 113 on ventilators. There have been 690 coronavirus related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The Ministry of Health order exempting Israelis returning home from “green” countries from the need to self-isolate for 14 days came into effect today. The 20 countries on the list are: Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Jordan, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Slovenia and the UK.

The Rebbe of Belz, the leader of one of the largest Chassidic communities in Israel, was admitted into the coronavirus ward at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center yesterday. Just 11 days earlier, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, 72, hosted a massive indoor wedding for his grandson, with thousands of guests. There was little mask wearing or social distancing. The rebbe has been openly dismissive of health ministry corona directives and instructed his followers not to report infections to the authorities to avoid restrictions against the community.

The IDF attacked several sites belonging to Hamas for a sixth night in a row in response to incendiary balloon attacks. Over 30 fires broke out in Israeli communities bordering Gaza on Sunday.

PM Netanyahu said yesterday that he expects more Arab countries to follow the example of the peace agreement between Israel and the UAE. The PM also said that Israel is working on arranging direct flights to the UAE that will pass over Saudi Arabia.

Israel Air Force fighter jets will take part this week in its first-ever joint exercises on German soil with the German Air Force and the air forces of other countries. The German Air Force announced that Israeli jets will fly over Munich to commemorate the Israelis murdered during the 1972 Olympic Games and return via the former Dachau concentration camp, where Israel Air Force representatives will lay wreaths in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 8-14-2020

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The Health Ministry reported 1,739 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours. There are currently 23,665 active cases of which 377 people are hospitalized in serious condition and 110 on ventilators. There have been 657 coronavirus related deaths since the start of the pandemic. A new general lockdown is being considered if the infection rate does not drop.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will launch full diplomatic relations. Under the agreement, brokered by US President Trump and sealed in a three way phone call between Trump, Netanyahu and the UAE Crown Prince, the countries will exchange embassies and normalize relations, and Israel will halt plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

A joint statement from the U.S., the UAE and Israel said delegations would meet in the coming weeks to sign deals on direct flights, security, telecommunications, energy, tourism and health care. The two countries also will partner on fighting the coronavirus pandemic. The UAE will be the third Arab country, after Egypt and Jordan, to have full diplomatic relations with Israel.

UAE Foreign Affairs Minister Anwar Gargash was quick to stress that the agreement was aimed at ending Israel’s annexation plans. But that didn’t stop the Palestinians from condemning the deal and withdrawing their diplomatic mission from the UAE.

PM Netanyahu said there was “no change” in his intention to annex parts of the West Bank, but that his plans were on “temporary hold.” Leaders of the settler movement expressed their unhappiness with that (to put it mildly). The PM also confirmed that he kept the agreement secret from Defense Minister Gantz and Foreign Minister Ashkenazi, in order to avoid potential leaks.

[Given that it has been apparent in recent months that the US would not approve of an Israeli annexation, this deal seems to be a way out that benefits everyone, except for the settlers and right wing proponents of annexation. Trump gets a big pre-election diplomacy win, Netanyahu gets a big win in the midst of his personal legal struggles and in the face of potential new elections, and Gantz gets to avoid having to either support annexation and alienate his supporters, or oppose it and risk bringing down the government and enter a new election, which he most likely would lose. Even the Palestinians should be happy, since annexation is off the table for the foreseeable future. And of course, Israel wins by having another “friendly” Arab nation on its strategic, diplomatic and economic horizon.]

Six hundred Israeli tourists a week will be allowed to visit four Greek locations without the need for mandatory quarantine upon arrival, starting next week, according to an agreement signed between the two countries on Thursday. The locations open to Israeli tourists are Athens, Thessaloniki and the islands of Crete and Carpo.

Israeli tourists will not be able to visit the rest of the country because states in the European Union are not permitted to accept tourists from countries with a high coronavirus infection rate, which in Israel now stands at 6.7%. Israeli tourists will be required to undergo a coronavirus test before boarding their flight in Israel and after landing in Greece. They will be required to self-isolate until the results are known. They will not be required to quarantine upon their return to Israel.

Croatia and Bulgaria are also countries which Israeli’s can visit without quarantining. Italy, the UK, Georgia, Germany, Hong Kong, Jordan, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Estonia, Canada, Rwanda, Denmark, Slovenia, and Austria are on the list of countries from which Israeli citizens may return to Israel without going into isolation.

The head of the Shin Bet, Nadav Argaman, was secretly married 2 days ago, on his 60th birthday. It is his second marriage.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 8-12-2020

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The Health Ministry reported 1,819 new coronavirus cases in the 24 hour period since Tuesday morning. There are currently 24,963 active cases of which 379 people are hospitalized in serious condition and 109 on ventilators. There have been 633 coronavirus related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Coronavirus czar Professor Ronni Gamzu yesterday expressed concern at the drop in the number of tests conducted daily, which may conceal a greater rate of infection. Gamzu warned more restrictions could be imposed if the rate of infection is not reduced considerably.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that he would investigate the vaccine that Russia claims to have developed. Israel is developing its own vaccine candidate and intends to begin human trials as early as October. It has also signed with Moderna and Arcturus Therapeutics for the option to buy their potential vaccines.

Dozens of masked settler youths threw rocks and bottles of paint at border police near the settlement of Yitzhar this morning, as police demolished three wooden buildings that were constructed illegally in the Shevach Haaretz outpost near Yitzhar. One border policeman was injured. Yamina MK Betzalel Smotrich condemned the attack against police as well as the demolition of the structures.

Incendiary balloons continue to be launched into Israel from Gaza, starting fires in border communities. The IDF said today that it has carried out strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza with tanks, attack helicopters and fighter jets in response to the attacks. One missile launched from an attack helicopter landed near a cowshed in a kibbutz near the border fence, but did not explode. The shed was damaged. The IDF is investigating the accident.

The United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon’s (UNIFIL) mandate is up for renewal next month, and Israel and the US are demanding that the force get more authority to ensure Hezbollah’s compliance with UN resolutions. To read more about this click here.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 8-10-2020

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The Health Ministry reported 884 new coronavirus cases on Sunday. There are currently 23,998 active cases, of which 397 are in serious condition and 118 on ventilators. There have been 606 coronavirus related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The coronavirus cabinet has decided to once again restrict the number of people allowed to travel in a car to three, including the driver; extend a ban on more than 10 people at any indoor gatherings, including restaurants and synagogues, while outdoor meetings will be limited to no more than 20 people at a time.

Closures will also be reimposed on all nightclubs, bars, event halls, cultural venues, water parks and amusement parks. Existing restrictions on public events, including conventions, parties, festivals and organized trips, will be extended until further notice.

IDF aircraft struck a Hamas observation post in northern Gaza yesterday in response to explosive balloons that were launched into Israel.

Earlier today Hamas fired a barrage of at least four rockets towards the Mediterranean Sea as an apparent warning to Israel. Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar, which is considered close to Hamas, reported Saturday that the group had informed Egyptian intelligence officials mediating between it and Israel that the relative calm along the border would end. Hamas is worried that the Qatari aid it is receiving might end next month.

PM Netanyahu and DM Gantz have agreed on a compromise to extend the deadline for passing a budget for several months to avoid the potential for another round of elections. According to the original agreement, if a budget was not passed by August 25, the government would fall and new elections would be called. Netanyahu wants a 1 year budget while Gantz insists on a 2 year budget.

For the past week, thousands of Palestinians have been illegally entering Israel (through several holes in fences) to go to beaches in Jaffa, Herzliya, Haifa, Netanya and Tel Aviv — and the IDF has not stopped them. In some cases soldiers have even helped the families cross into Israel and then back into PA territory. The IDF had no comment.

Hotels and vacation rentals in the north and the south are full as Israelis who usually go abroad, vacation in the country. To read more about this click here.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 8-5-2020

News Update

The Health Ministry reported 1,692 in the last 24 hours. There are currently 341 people in serious condition and 99 on ventilators. There have been 561 coronavirus related deaths since the start of the pandemic. The IDF will be sending 2,000 soldiers to assist health officials with testing and epidemiological investigations of COVID-19 patients.

PM Netanyahu and DM Gantz are still locked in a battle over passing a new budget, which could lead to the calling of a new election. The power sharing agreement reached between the two leaders calls for a 2 year budget, which is what Gantz is insisting on. But Netanyahu is demanding a one year budget.

The PM could be looking to force an election, which current polls indicate that he would win. It would probably also spell an end to Gantz’s chances of ever becoming PM. Netanyahu claims that an annual budget would allow the government to immediately allocate funds to battle the coronavirus and that a longer-term budget would include spending cuts. Gantz claims that Israel needed a long-term fiscal plan for economic and political stability.

Knesset members overwhelmingly voted to reject a bill that would allow the Knesset to override decisions of the High Court of Justice (supreme court).

A massive explosion rocked Beirut yesterday. Over 100 are reported killed, with another 100 missing and over 4,000 missing. Rescue teams and volunteers are trying to find victims and survivors that may have been buried under the rubble. One major hospital was heavily damaged. Sources say that the explosion apparently originated in the port, where there are warehouses that store explosives. Israel has offered humanitarian assistance.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 8-3-2020

News Update

The Health Ministry reported 708 in the last 24 hours, based on only 9,953 tests, which is a very small number. There are currently 334 people in serious condition and 100 on ventilators. There have been 541 coronavirus related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Prof. Ronni Gamzu, the coronavirus czar, recommended general closure in localities with high infection rates and easing of restrictions for localities with low infection rates. He also recommended fewer restrictions in open spaces such as parks, more severe restrictions in closed spaces such as restaurants and gyms, the cancellation of the partial closure on weekends. The most prominent centers of infections are localities and neighborhoods with ultra-Orthodox and Arab residents.

The IDF attacked 4 men who were spotted planting explosives near the Israeli-Syrian border fence. The men were hit by fire from ground and air forces.

The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted a rocket fired from Gaza into Israeli territory on Sunday. A vehicle was damaged by shrapnel from the interception.

The Prime Minister’s Office has ordered the stoppage all test flights of the newly acquired “Air Force 1” plane to be used by the PM and the President. The plane, currently being renovated by Israel Aerospace Industries near the Ben Gurion Airport, has come under public criticism for its increasing cost. After years of delays, the plane’s first test flight was conducted last November, and the last test flight took place on February 10.

The decision to halt work on the plane and cease any upcoming test flights apparently came due to the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis which effected millions of citizens across Israel — to avoid additional criticism of the project, which has already cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Tens of thousands of Israelis, whose relatives fled Austria due to Nazi persecution, will now be able to obtain Austrian citizenship, free of charge. Previously, only survivors themselves were entitled to receive the citizenship. Now, the law applies to anyone who was a citizen of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, or lived in Austria before March 12, 1938, the date the Third Reich annexed the country.