To listen to an audio version click here. (for supporters)
The Health Ministry reported 1,876 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, putting the infection rate at 6.8%. There are currently 907 people hospitalized in serious condition with 297 on ventilators. There have been 5,501 coronavirus related deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Over 4.25 million Israelis have already received the first dose of the vaccine, and over 2.85 million the second dose. Data released by Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer showed that coronavirus infections were reduced by 75%, and an 85% reduction in symptomatic infections, after the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
On Wednesday a 25 year old Israeli woman crossed into Syria from the Golan and was arrested by Syrian authorities in a Druze village near the border. The woman, a former resident of the ultra-Orthodox West Bank settlement of Modi’in Illit, had previously attempted to cross into Gaza, but had been stopped by the army.
Today, the woman was returned to Israel on a flight from Moscow, where she was sent as part of a prisoner swap brokered by Russia. In exchange for her return, Israel transferred to Syria two Syrian shepherds who were arrested after crossing the border, and pardoned Israeli Druze prisoner Nihal al-Mkat. The shepherds were suspected of being Hezbollah operatives. Israel also provided further compensation, the details of which are prohibited from publication.
US President Biden called PM Netanyahu on Wednesday for the first time. According to a statement from the PM Office, “The conversation was very friendly and warm and lasted about an hour. The two leaders noted the long-standing personal connection between them and said they would work together to further strengthen the strong alliance between Israel and the United States. President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed further advancing peace agreements, the Iranian threat and the region’s challenges and agreed to continue talks between them. The president also congratulated the prime minister on his leadership in the fight against coronavirus, and the two exchanged views on how to deal with the pandemic.”
Israel’s Ministry of Defense officially announced the start of development of the Arrow 4 missile defense system, which will replace the Arrow 2 as part of Israel’s multi-layer ballistic missile shield.