A wave of torrential downpours and strong winds swept through Israel early today. The storm system, which comes after a period of unseasonably warm and dry weather, hit the north in the early morning hours and was making its way south, with low temperatures, heavy showers and strong gusts expected to last until Saturday.
Before the current rainstorm, measurements showed that this year’s annual rainfall in northern Israel stood at around 50% percent of the yearly average, but this number has soared to over 110% of the region’s expected quantity of precipitation in a little over 24 hours. Major flooding was reported in northern and central Israel as entire streets became submerged in Tayibe, Umm al-Fahm, Baqa al-Gharbiyye, Qalansawe and Kafr Qara. The Sea of Galilee reportedly rose by 6 cm within 24 hours.
Israel granted permits to Christians living in Gaza to visit Bethlehem and Jerusalem for Christmas. There are around 1000, mostly Greek Orthodox, Christians living among the 2 million inhabitants of Gaza.
PM Netanyahu is facing off against challenger Gideon Sa’ar in primary elections for the leadership of the Likud party today. Preliminary results are expected after midnight tonight. Netanyahu is expected to easily win, but a strong showing by Sa’ar of at least 30% of the vote would make Sa’ar the clear heir apparent to Netanyahu for the leadership spot.
Iran’s top-rated chess champion Alireza Firouzja, the world’s second-highest-rated junior player, has decided not to play for his country, in an apparent reaction to Tehran’s informal ban on competing against Israeli players. Firouzja is currently living in France, and may decide to play under the French or American flag.