News Digest — 7/20/20

For First Time In Weeks, Israel Sees Less Than 1,000 Daily Virus Cases

Israel saw less than 1,000 new daily coronavirus cases for the first time in weeks, health officials confirmed on Monday (20th).

Over the past few weeks Israel had been seeing a rapid surge in new COVID-19 cases, with the diagnosis nearing the 2,000 mark over the weekend and contagion rate spiking to above 7%.

The Health Ministry reported that 951 people tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday (19th), bringing the number of active patients currently ill with the disease to 28,424.

With 19,337 coronavirus tests conducted, the infection rate has decreased to just 5.5%, the lowest it’s been in the past two weeks.

The ministry said the death toll from coronavirus-related complications has risen to 415, an increase of almost 10 new deaths since Saturday evening (18th).

The number of patients in serious condition has gone up to 259, with 75 requiring respiratory support through ventilators.  Overall, 681 patients are being treated in hospitals, with the rest fighting the virus at home.

The ministry added the number of confirmed diagnoses in people living outside areas declared as “hotspots” or those returning from overseas, has been declining in recent days.



IDF Troops ‘Take Action’ Against Lebanese Drone That Enters Israeli Airspace

A Lebanese drone crossed the border and entered Israeli airspace Sunday evening (19th) the Israeli Defense Forces said.

A Lebanese journalist affiliated with the Hezbollah terror group reported that the device was “hijacked” by the Israeli military and forced to land.

The IDF did not confirm the report, but said the troops “took action against the drone with a variety of tools.”

According to Lebanese reporter, Ali Shoeib, the drone was being used to film a video for Hezbollah along the border when the IDF took control of it electronically, and took command of it inside Israel.

In a tweet, Shoeib claimed the device sent back photos from above Israeli territory before it was brought down, sharing one of the images.

The IDF refused to comment on what happened to the drone – if it indeed “landed” in Israel.

Israel defense officials have accused Hezbollah of using ostensibly civilian tools, including drones, to conduct reconnaissance along the border.

“The IDF will continue to act to prevent violations of Israeli sovereignty,” the military said.

Though relatively calm in terms of weapons-fire exchanges, Israel’s border with Lebanon has been increasingly active in recent months with drug and gun smuggling, as well as regular attempts by migrants to cross the border from the economically devastated Lebanon, into Israel.



IDF Captures Three Terrorists After Attack, Drive-By Shooting

Following joint intelligence and operational activity of IDF troops along with the Shin Bet, (Israel’s internal security agency) three terrorists were apprehended in Jalazone, north of Ramallah on Saturday (18th).

The IDF released information about the incident on Sunday (20th).

A few hours prior to their capture, the terrorists attempted to carry out a terror attack by hurling an explosive device, as well as an attempted drive-by shooting from their vehicle towards the community of Beit-El, Northeast of Ramallah.  No injuries or damages were reported.

The terrorists were transferred to Israel’s Shin Bet for further questioning.

“The security forces will continue operating in order to maintain the security in the region, to thwart attempted terror attacks and to apprehend terrorists,” said an Army statement.

Similarly on Wednesday (15th), IDF troops thwarted an attempted terror attack by apprehending four terrorists adjacent to the city of Nablus (Shechem).

Molotov cocktails and explosive devices were found on them, as they appeared headed toward perpetrating a terror attack.  

The terrorists were transferred to security forces for questioning and the explosives and weapons were confiscated.



French Officials Mark Anniversary Of Mass Arrest Of Jews During Holocaust

France’s veterans’ minister, Genevieve Darrieussecq, led a ceremony Sunday (19th) commemorating the Vel d’Hiv roundup, a mass arrest of Jews by French police on July 16-17, 1942, before their extermination in Nazi death camps.

Alongside Paris Mayor, Anne Hidalgo, Darrieussecq took part in a wreath-laying to pay her respects to the 13,000-plus victims of the roundup, one of the most shameful acts undertaken by the country’s wartime government.

Following the Nazi invasion of France in 1940, the country was ruled by a government commonly known as Vichy France, which collaborated with Nazi Germany.

Vel d’Hiv derives from the name of the Winter Velodrome bicycle stadium where many of the detainees were confined before they were deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and death camp in German-occupied Poland and were mass-murdered.  Over 4,000 children were included in the roundup.  

The men, women and children were imprisoned at the stadium and in several other locations for days in unsanitary conditions and without sufficient water, leading to dozens of fatalities.

In 1995, some 53 years later, former president Jacques Chirac finally apologized for the role the French authorities had in the raid.  President Emmanuel Macron went further in 2017, acknowledging the responsibility the French state had in those events and in the Holocaust.

Darrieussecq said Sunday (19th) “there is no space for ambiguity, the Vel d’Hiv roundup is an issue belonging to France.”



Explosion At Iranian Power Station Joins Growing List Of Mysterious Blasts

An explosion at a power plant in the central Iranian province of Isfahan on Sunday (19th) caused no injuries, but joins a growing list of mysterious blasts over the past month in the Islamic Republic.

The official IRNA news agency reported a large transformer exploded at a power station in the city of Isfahan but that the damage was being repaired and the power supply was uninterrupted.

There have been several mysterious explosions and fires at Iranian military, nuclear and industrial facilities over the past several weeks.

Also on Sunday (19th), the BBC’s Persian language news service published satellite images of where a large fire reportedly took place in the Garmadreh area west of the capital Tehran earlier this month, where Iranian authorities had denied anything took place.

The burned-out area covers about 22,000 square meters, almost three times the size of a football field, showing that a fire did occur in Garmadreh at the same time as the reports on July 11 of “the sound of an explosion” in the area west of Tehran. 

Sunday’s (19th) incident is the latest in a string of fires and explosions at military and civilian sites across Iran in recent weeks, including a blast at a suspected ballistic missile facility outside Tehran and another at a health center killing 19 people.

Over the past few weeks explosions and fires have hit a shipyard in southern Iran, a factory south of Tehran which killed two people, a petrochemical plant, and a mysterious powerful blast which caused massive damage at the top-secret Natanz nuclear complex in central Iran

The Iranian authorities called the Natanz fire an accident, but the New York Times suggested Israel might have been behind the event.



Israeli Startup’s Synthetic Cornea Could Restore Sight To Millions Around The World

The Israeli startup CorNeat Vision has received approval to conduct clinical trials of a synthetic cornea that bio-integrates with the human eye.

The Health Ministry-approved trial of the CorNeat KPro will be run at Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikvah on 10 patients suffering from corneal blindness who are either not candidates for or have experienced one or more failed cornea transplants the company announced last week.

The CorNeat KPro implant is designed to replace deformed, scared or opacified corneas and restore the vision of corneal blind patients immediately following implantation.  The lens of the device is designed to integrate with ocular tissue using a patented synthetic non-degradable nanofabric skirt, which is placed under the conjunctiva.

Dr. Gilad Litvin, chief medical officer at CorNeat Vision and the inventor of the KPro device, said the implantation procedure is “relatively simple” and takes less than an hour.  “We expect it will enable millions of blind patients around the world, even in areas where there is no corneal practice nor culture of organ donation, to regain their sight.” Litvin said.

The first in-human implant of the CorNeat KPro will be led by head of Beilinson’s Ophthalmology Department, professor Irit Bahar, who called the technology behind KPro “the key to turning the tide on global blindness.”