May 30, 2020

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04/06 Links Pt1: Government to announce nationwide lockdown until Friday; BDS founder: If Israel develops coronavirus vaccine you can take it

From Ian:

7 more fatalities take coronavirus toll to 56; infections climb to 8,611
Seven people died in Israel as a result of the coronavirus Monday, the Health Ministry and hospitals said, raising the death toll to 56.

The Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem said a man aged 77 and a woman aged 91 had died at the hospital. Both had multiple underlying health conditions.

And Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital announced the deaths of a 72-year-old man and an 87-year-old woman, who were also said to suffer from preexisting health complications.

A 90-year-old woman with preexisting conditions died in a Jaffa facility for coronavirus patients. She was moved there from Beersheba’s Mishan assisted living facility, and was the seventh person from the nursing home to die of the virus.

On Monday morning, the Yitzhak Shamir Medical Center in Be’er Yaakov near Tel Aviv announced there had been three fatalities at the hospital in the past 24 hours.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 8,611 on Monday morning, up only 181 from the evening tally a day earlier, continuing a slowdown that has largely been attributed to ongoing social distancing.

There are 141 patients in serious condition, including 107 on ventilators, and a further 191 in moderate condition. The ministry said 585 patients had recovered from the virus.

Government to announce nationwide lockdown until Friday

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to announce tough new restrictions on public movement on Monday evening, preventing all travel between cities from Tuesday afternoon until Friday morning.

The restrictions, set to be approved by ministers overnight, will also limit movement within towns and cities – only permitting access to shops in the immediate vicinity of residents’ homes – amid fears that the Passover holiday could lead to an aggravation of the coronavirus outbreak.

Increased lockdown measures come at the expense of pinpoint containment measures which discussed overnight Sunday, targeting several cities with particularly high rates of infection.

The decision comes against the backdrop of a rising death toll, which climbed to 56 on Monday. Confirmed cases of the virus increased to 8,611, including 141 patients in severe condition.

A total of 107 patients currently require a ventilator – an increase of less than 1% during the past 24 hours. Some 585 people have recovered from the illness to date.

Haredi towns and cities continue to represent the hotspot of the coronavirus outbreak in Israel, with the highest number of confirmed cases per 100,000 people located in Efrat (656.1), Kiryat Yearim (634.4), Bnei Brak (622.5) and Kfar Habad (585.6).

As of Monday morning, the two cities with the greatest number of confirmed cases were Jerusalem (1,316 cases) and Bnei Brak (1,222). Tel Aviv-Jaffa was home to the third most cases, with a far more modest 370 incidences of the disease.

Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman reacted angrily after municipal workers from Ramat Gan put up fences overnight between the city and neighboring Bnei Brak, restricting pedestrian movement between the cities. The Interior Ministry subsequently ordered Ramat Gan Mayor Carmel Shama-Hacohen to remove the barriers on Monday morning.

“The residents of Bnei Brak, together with all cities and other areas with large concentrations of haredi residents, should not be subject to discrimination,” said Litzman, who tested positive for coronavirus last week. “I urge the mayor of Ramat Gan to avoid provocative steps causing friction between the populations.”

Italian officials okay experimental Israeli drug for use on COVID-19 patients

Tel Aviv and North Carolina-based RedHill BioPharma announces that Italian officials have approved use of one of its experimental treatments for COVID-19 patients under a compassionate use program.

The chemical compound, opaganib, is still in testing stages as a drug for relieving lung inflammations, such as pneumonia, and doctors hope it could help COVID-19 patients with other underlying conditions.

“The approved opaganib expanded access program allows physicians in the three major hospitals in Italy to treat patients at high risk of developing pneumonia and those with pneumonia, including acute respiratory distress syndrome, secondary to SARS-CoV-2 infection,” says Dr. Mark L. Levitt, medical director at RedHill.

The Italian National Institute for Infectious Diseases and Central Italian Ethics Committee okay the treatment for use on 160 patients in three major hospitals.

BDS founder: If Israel develops coronavirus vaccine you can take it

If Israel finds a vaccine for coronavirus, boycotters can still take it, Omar Barghouti, founder of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement said on Sunday.

Barghouti made the remarks in a live video on the BDS Arabic Facebook page as part of a webinar on “BDS and Anti-normalization: The most important strategies to fight against the deal of the century, even in the time of COVID-19.”

The BDS founder warned that coronavirus cannot be a “honeymoon” for Israel and questioned why the Palestinian Authority hasn’t stopped security cooperation with Israel.

At the same time, he said “if you use medical equipment from Israel – it’s not a problem. Cooperating with Israel against the virus – to begin with, we didn’t consider it normalization.

“The BDS announced normalization criteria long ago,” Barghouti said. “If Israel finds a cure for cancer, for example, or any other virus, then there is no problem in cooperating with Israel to save millions of lives.”

However, Barghouti added, “up until now, we have not been in a situation where we need Israel urgently and no one else can save us but Israel. If that will happen, saving lives is more important than anything else.”

Time to start figuring out which businesses can reopen first and how

How do we reopen after the coronavirus goes away? The mere question, in the middle of the pandemic, is fraught.

Anyone entertaining the idea that businesses should move toward reopening is shamed as caring more about the stock market than people dying. Any discussion of how to get people working again is met with people smugly screaming “stay home!” at each other.

I am staying home, along with my whole family. We’re collectively taking COVID-19 very seriously. We’ve been in self-quarantine since March 13 — before restaurants and bars in the city were shut down, before Mayor Bill de Blasio finally closed city schools and days before his last trip to the gym.

All that to note that I’m no COVID-truther who thinks this is no big deal — it’s a very big deal. But looking ahead, figuring out a way to get people back to work has to be permitted. In fact, it’s essential.

It’s hard not to notice that many of the people shrieking and shaming are still employed. What about all the people who don’t have any money coming in for their families? We need to figure out the path back for them.

Businesses can’t open tomorrow or next week. But how do we get our city working again?

Must it be all or nothing? Can some businesses take proper precautions and reopen sooner than others?

Queen Elizabeth: “We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return”

Queen Elizabeth II just gave a pre-recorded address to Britain, which of course was broadcast around the world.

As you would expect, the Queen displayed that famous English stiff upper lip and sense of understatement, much as she did during World War II. It was only her fourth such [unscheduled] speech since assuming the throne on February 6, 1952.

I found this rather ‘dry’ speech to be quite emotional, at least for me. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was the sense of history from having this Queen deliver it. Perhaps it’s because, being just one generation removed from WWII, her wartime role still stirs something deep within me.

Boris Johnson in Hospital With Persistent COVID-19 Symptoms But Still Working

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was undergoing hospital tests on Monday after suffering persistent coronavirus symptoms for more than 10 days, but the government said he was in good spirits and still in charge.

Johnson, who had been isolating in Downing Street after testing positive for the virus last month, was taken to St Thomas’ Hospital in central London on Sunday night.

His office and ministers said Johnson, 55, continued to run the government, that he was doing well, and that he would undergo routine tests as a precaution. Downing Street declined to say what check-ups he would have.

“On the advice of my doctor, I went into hospital for some routine tests as I’m still experiencing coronavirus symptoms,” Johnson said on Twitter.

“I’m in good spirits and keeping in touch with my team, as we work together to fight this virus and keep everyone safe.”

Johnson’s spokesman said the prime minister had a comfortable night in the hospital and remained there under observation. He described Johnson’s symptoms as “persistent.” These included a high temperature and a cough.

The spokesman urged caution about media reports that Johnson was receiving oxygen treatment but refused to answer directly if he had pneumonia. Johnson continues to receive his ministerial box of government documents, he added.

Top Israeli Hospital Now Allowing Families to Visit Dying Coronavirus Patients, Encourages Other Facilities to Follow Suit

One of Israel’s largest hospitals has begun to allow close family members to be at the bedside of dying coronavirus patients and is hoping others around the world will begin to follow suit.

“Stories of patients who died alone shocked me as a human and as a [hospital] director,” said Ronni Gamzu, CEO of Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov Hospital). “We at Ichilov have formulated guidelines, effective immediately, which will allow family members, wearing full protective gear supplied by the hospital, to say farewell to their loved ones. This is our moral duty as medical staff and as human beings. I believe that the rest of the world will follow our example, as it should.”

Ichilov is the first hospital in the world to allow families of dying COVID-19 patients to bid farewell to their loved ones in person, the medical center said.

Israel had its 47th coronavirus death on Sunday with a confirmed total of 8,018 COVID-19 cases. 127 patients are currently in critical condition, according to local health officials.

Due to strict protocols in place to prevent the spread of the virus, many coronavirus patients are dying, either at home or in hospitals, without any loved ones by their side. Dr. Kamini Doobay, an emergency medicine physician at New York University Langone Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital, told NBC News, “Too many people are dying alone with absolutely no family around them. This is one of the most horrific things.”

She added, “So often a patient will be on their deathbed, dying alone, and it’s been incredibly painful to see the suffering of family members who I call from the ICU, hearing the tears, crying with them on the phone … I’ve never felt so physically and emotionally burdened in my life, I’ve never felt so deeply sad and distraught.”

Israel to produce special masks to accommodate haredi beards

Israelis who have beards for religious reasons will get the option of custom-made face masks to protect them from the coronavirus rather than being told to shave, a government official said on Monday.

As part of measures to combat the epidemic, Israeli authorities last week told people to cover their mouths and noses in public.

Many of the country’s Jews and Muslims, and some Christian clergymen, wear beards as a mark of faith, and the order raised questions as to how facial hair would be accommodated.

Health Ministry Deputy Director Itamar Grotto said masks would be adapted accordingly.

“We are creating an industrial certification for masks, which means that in a few days there will really be masks of different sizes,” he told Army Radio.

“…[So] those with beards will be able to use the appropriate masks.”

A spokesman for the Chief Rabbinate has said it might consider issuing a ruling permitting religious Jews to shave if the ministry were to deem it necessary.

Israeli, Chinese firms announce testing lab for Palestinians in West Bank, Gaza

A Chinese and an Israeli company on Monday announced they were setting up a laboratory to process around 3,000 coronavirus tests per day for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

There was no announcement of where the facility, which would be funded through donations, would be located.

BGI Group, a genome sequencing company based in southern China, opened labs in Wuhan at the height of the crisis there. It is partnering with AID GENOMICS, a genome testing company based in Rehovot, and charitable foundations.

“The worst of times reveals the best in people, [and] saving lives is of paramount importance”, said Dr. Ye Yin, the CEO of BGI. “We must work together to surmount whatever difficulty that lies ahead.” BGI said it was bringing a solution for China’s HuoYan Lab, and Mammoth Foundation, a charity in Shenzhen, China, also announced fund-raising in China for the effort.

The Health Ministry recently froze plans by Israeli firm MyHeritage to set up a coronavirus lab in Israel alongside BGI Group.

There is concern that an outbreak could quickly spread and overwhelm already precarious health systems in the West Bank and Gaza. Thus far, Palestinian authorities have said 226 people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been infected by the virus, including 21 who recovered and one who died.

A spokesman for the Hamas-run Health Ministry on Sunday said authorities in the Gaza Strip have nearly run out of kits to test for the highly contagious coronavirus.

PWM: While world mourns Corona victims, PLO and Fatah mourn terrorist hijacker

Corona crisis or not, both the PLO and Fatah are upholding PA tradition, praising and honoring terrorist plane hijacker Theresa Halsa who died of cancer last week.

An Israeli Arab terrorist and member of the Black September terror organization, Halsa, together with other terrorists, hijacked Sabena flight 571 from Vienna to Tel Aviv in May 1972. When the plane landed in Israel, Israeli military launched a rescue operation during which two male terrorists and one passenger were killed, while two female terrorists – including Halsa – were captured. Halsa was sentenced to life imprisonment, but was released in a prisoner exchange in 1983 and expelled to Jordan, where she lived until she died of cancer last week.

While the whole world is mourning thousands of victims of the Corona virus, Fatah youth movement Shabiba sent “condolences to all of humanity” over the death of the plane hijacker:

“The Fatah Shabiba [Youth] Movement in Palestine issued a statement in which it eulogized fighter Halsa and recalled the struggle history of the daughter of the Galilee, whose national consciousness began at an early stage with her joining Fatah and the military self-sacrificing activity at the forefront, by which she serves as an example and role model of the Palestinian resistance woman…
[The Shabiba] noted that fighter Halsa will stay alive in the hearts of the members of the younger generation and of all the generations of Palestine…
It conveyed the Shabiba’s condolences to her family, to all members of our Palestinian people, and to all of humanity.”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 29, 2020]

Predictably, both the PLO and Fatah mourned the terrorist hijacker, praising her as a patriot, “an example,” and “role model.” The official PA daily glorified her as “an icon of the struggle”:

Khaled Abu Toameh: Coronavirus crisis boosts Shtayyeh’s chances of becoming next PA president

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh has become the public face of the Palestinians’ fight against the coronavirus pandemic, winning plaudits from Palestinians from across the political spectrum for his management of the crisis.

One year after he was appointed as prime minister, Shtayyeh, 62, has significantly improved his chances of becoming the next PA president.

Most of the leaders of the PA, including 84-year-old President Mahmoud Abbas, have been in self-imposed isolation since the discovery of the first coronavirus case in the Bethlehem area on March 5.

Other Palestinian officials previously touted as possible successors to Abbas, including Jibril Rajoub, Majed Faraj, Saeb Erekat and Mahmoud Aloul, have also been in self-isolation since the outbreak of the virus due to underlying health issues.

“In the absence of Abbas and many senior Palestinian officials, Shtayyeh has taken the lead in combating the coronavirus pandemic,” Palestinian political analyst Maher Awad said. “So far, it seems that he’s doing a good job, and that’s why many Palestinians are satisfied with the way he’s handling the crisis. His public appearances and the daily briefings of his government’s spokesman, Ibrahim Milhem, are seen as very credible, transparent, reassuring and responsible.”

Last week, even Shtayyeh’s rivals in Hamas welcomed his recent announcement that the PA government, in light of the coronavirus crisis, would cancel its decision to force thousands of Palestinian employees from the Gaza Strip into early retirement. That decision was taken by the PA three years ago as part of economic sanctions aimed at undermining Hamas rule over the Gaza Strip.

Who Eats the Cake in Tehran?

The new message from Tehran is that Iran is in need of humanitarian aid to curb the coronavirus and prevent the death of large numbers of Iranians… The first sign that the message may be working came last Monday when Germany announced that it has arranged a $5 million cash line through the European Union for Iran to secure medical supplies needed to fight the pandemic. The German initiative, through a mechanism called Instex and designed to by-pass sanctions, is clearly meant to test the waters.

Nevertheless, the acceptance of the first Instex operation and the renewal of waivers might have two outcomes that may not please Washington…. The result could be a sham show of unity by the regime with a new message to Iranians, as German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas believes that change within the regime may be better than regime change.

The trouble with all this is that we have already been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. Europe and the United States have repeatedly tried to bring the Islamic Republic in from the cold by playing the accommodation, not to say appeasement, card, each time ending up as the cuckold in the story.

The tidbits offer an insight into the mindset of the weird clique dominating Iran since 1979 and why those who believe they are dealing with a normal government would need to have their heads examined. The Reagan administration, helped by Israel, smuggled over 1,000 anti-tanks missiles to Iran to help it stop the advance of the Iraqi invasion in the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. The mullahs paid half the cost of the missiles as down payment but refused to pay the second half after they had received all consignments. There was no need to pay “The Crusaders” the price.

On a smaller scale, Kangarloo relates the fate of a huge “key-shaped” cake bought in Tel Aviv as a Ramadan present from Reagan to Khomeini, regime godfather at the time. By the time Kangarloo arrived at the airport, the Revolutionary Guards had eaten the cake for Ramadan breakfast… Even in those early days it was clear who eats the cake in the Islamic Republic.

JCPA: Iran Threatens a Bold Response If the U.S. Strikes Iranian-Backed Shiite Militias in Iraq

In Iran, suspicions have arisen regarding an American move against pro-Iranian Shiite militias active in Iraq, and from an Iraqi prime ministerial election which could result in opposition to continued support for Iranian activities in Iraq. This comes after a renewed deployment of American forces at bases in the country and a number of reports in the international media claiming the United States plans to “crush” the Shiite militias loyal to Tehran. The main reports are focused on the Kata’ib Hizbullah, a member of the coalition of militias of the Popular Mobilization Forces (al-Hashd ash-Sha’bi) that has recently stepped up its threats to strike American forces and interests in Iraq.

On April 1, President Trump tweeted: “Upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq. If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!”1

On social media, Iranian regime supporters responded to Trump, mocking his tweet: “We are waiting for your newest silly move,” with an upload of a photograph of American naval officers who surrendered when apprehended a few years ago by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) navy, adding the hashtag #HardRevenge #عين_الأسد (referring to Ein al-Asad, the base that was attacked by Iran in retaliation for the assassination of Suleimani),2, 3 and accompanying photographs of coffins covered in American flags.

Tensions increased in light of the new Quds Force commander of the IRGC Esmail Ghaani’s first visit to Iraq. Ghaani replaced Kasem Suleimani, who was targeted on January 3, 2020. According to reports, Ghaani’s arrival by air was meant to consolidate the Shiite militias and to prevent the establishment of a new Iraqi government headed by Adnan al-Zurufi. Ghaani, who neither speaks fluent Arabic nor does he command the loyalty and the broad social network of his predecessor Suleimani, will be required to make great efforts in his mission to unify the Shiite factions and to prevent the election of al-Zurufi.4

Five missiles fired at ‘American’ oil company in Iraq – Iranian media

Amid rising tensions between Iran and the US, five missiles were fired at an “American oil company,” Iran’s Fars News Agency reported Monday.

Photos posted online showed several rockets and a rocket launcher that were discovered in the wake of the attack. The rockets appeared to be the same 107mm rockets used in attacks on US forces over the last year.

The report is based on an Iraqi report Monday morning that rockets had been fired at a company linked to Halliburton. How the website knew this is unclear, and photos were not available from the scene. It was also unclear who fired the alleged rockets; it could also be blamed on ISIS.
However, the alleged rocket attack fits a pattern of dozens of such attacks on bases housing US troops and against the US Embassy.

Iranian Lawmaker Says Military Was Right to Shoot Down Ukrainian Airliner

Hassan Norouzi, spokesman for the Iranian Parliament’s Legal and Judicial Commission, told the Hamdeli daily on Sunday that “The Iranian military did well by downing the [Ukrainian] passenger plane” on Jan. 8, killing all 176 onboard.

He claimed that “the plane was no longer under the control of the tower and appeared to have come under America’s control.”

Norouzi maintained that the plane “was in Israel the week before the incident and appeared to have been tampered with and manipulated there.”

“Given the fact that other countries were controlling the plane,” the Iranian military had no option but to shoot it down.

Iran’s virus deaths soar over 10,000 as regime deceives public – report

The rulers of the Islamic Republic of Iran have fabricated the number of Iranian coronavirus deaths in the Middle East’s epicenter of the deadly disease, with the real count of victims exceeding 10,000 people, according to Western security sources.

The German paper Die Welt first reported on Sunday that “The number of corona deaths in Iran is many times higher than the authorities there have previously admitted… the death toll passed the 10,000 mark about ten days ago when Iran officially reported slightly more than 2,000 deaths.”

According to the paper, which based on its data on Western security sources, the death rate in Iran is “four to five times higher than the regime admitted then. The current figures are currently officially 55,743 sufferers and 3,452 dead. The current death toll is apparently much higher. On Sunday, it was 12,380, according to Western security circles.”

Ebrahim Raisi, the Islamic Republic’s chief judge and a possible successor for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, ordered that thousands of coronavirus deaths be attributed to diseases such as heart failure or pneumonia, reported Die Welt.

The mass deception by Raisi involved directives to issue fake death certificates.

“The cover up by the mullahs is not only a health risk for the Iranians, but also for other countries,” the paper wrote based on information from those sources. “Around 50,000 Iranians traveled to Southeast Asia, Europe or Canada in the last two weeks of March.”

Iran Will Never Ask US for Coronavirus Help: Tehran Regime Official

Iran will never ask the United States for help in the fight against the new coronavirus, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Monday.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has rejected offers from Washington for humanitarian assistance for Iran, the Middle Eastern country so far worst-affected by the coronavirus, with 3,739 deaths and 60,500 people infected according to the latest figures on Monday.

“Iran has never asked and will not ask America to help Tehran in its fight against the outbreak … But America should lift all its illegal unilateral sanctions on Iran,” Mousavi said in a televised news conference.

Tensions between the two countries have been running high since 2018, when US President Donald Trump quit a 2015 agreement that lifted sanctions on Iran in return for curbs to its nuclear program. Washington reimposed sanctions which have crippled the Iranian economy.

Iranian authorities say US sanctions have hampered their efforts to curb the outbreak, urging other countries and the United Nations to call on the United States to lift them.

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