News Digest — 7/31/20

Report: ‘Israel Has Gained Control Of Coronavirus Crisis’

Israel has gained control of the coronavirus crisis, researchers at Hebrew University claimed on Thursday (30th) in a new report. The number of patients in serious and moderate condition has stabilized and the doubling rate has hit 27 days.

“The measures taken to curb the pandemic in early and mid-July led to a significant decrease in the rate of infection and an increase in the number of inpatients,” the researchers wrote.

As such, they said there is less concern the hospital system will collapse under the strain of sick patients, something they warned against in their previous predictions.  However, the team noted that more people are expected to die from the virus over the next three weeks, due to the high number of people who were infected during the month of July.

The researchers said they believe the drop in infection is directly correlated to the new restrictions, and specifically the decision to ban large gatherings.  They said the government likely does not need to roll out any additional restrictions, but warned that the public must be on alert to follow the ones already in place.

The government was expected to decide Thursday (30th) to accept the recommendation of health Minister Yuli Edelstein and new coronavirus commissioner Ronni Gamzu to lift the partial closure on weekends for shopping, but due to some objections, it was decided to extend the current restrictions until next week.

In general,the number of seriously ill patients has decreased by 45% during this wave in comparison to the first, a Health Ministry document revealed Wednesday night (29th).  Moreover the number of people on ventilators is down 80%.  The number of deaths from the coronavirus can also be seen to have decreased by about 80% in the current wave compared to the previous one.

According to the report, there are several reasons for the drops, including a higher number of young and asymptomatic patients, the fact that the elderly and at-risk population is better protected than before and that doctors better understand how to treat seriously ill patients.



Hamas Defector Tells Israel His Job Was ‘To Down IDF Choppers’

The Shin Bet security agency said Thursday (30th) that a Hamas operative who made a dramatic escape from Gaza to Israel brought with him valuable intelligence on how the terror group operates.

Izz al-Din Hussein, 24, a resident of Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip, swam into Israel on June 28 where he was arrested by an IDF force and taken for questioning by the General Security Service, the agency said.

Hussein told his captors he voluntarily defected from Gaza due to personal family issues “and after persecution and defamation by senior Hamas figures,” the GSS said.

During his interrogation, Hussein revealed that he was drafted into the military wing of Hamas in 2013 and for the past two years worked for Hamas in an anti-aircraft unit where he commanded a shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile squadron.

His squad’s purpose was to bring down IDF helicopters inside the Gaza Strip with the goal of killing or abducting Israeli soldiers.

Hussein also described the various training and military activities Hamas carries out against Israel.

“Hussein’s activities in Hamas and the vast knowledge he acquired in this framework led to a unique investigation that revealed to the GSS a great deal of intelligence about the Hamas organization,” the agency said.

The Southern District Attorney’s Office filed an indictment Thursday (30th) in the Beersheba District Court alleging that Hussein had committed serious security offenses.

In a separate incident, a senior Hamas commander defected to Israel last month and was picked up by an Israel Navy boat.

Meanwhile, despite previous denials, Hamas eventually admitted that one of its officers had defected.  At the same time, the terror group carried out a string of arrests of other Hamas military members out of fear that they would also turn against the Iran-backed terror group.



Israeli Security Requires Control Over The Jordan Valley – Maj.-Gen. Gershon Hacohen

It has never been and will never be sufficient to dot Israeli troops sparsely across West Bank hilltops and along the Jordan Valley.  Instead, long-term Israeli sovereignty and settlement is needed across parts of the West Bank to ensure Israeli security.

The Jordan Valley buffer zone is an essential shield for Israel.  One need only look at the recent past to understand why.  Recall the lessons of the second intifada 20 years ago, the regional instability wrought by the “Arab Spring” 10 years ago, the continuing missile threat from Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and the unimpeded growth of Iran’s presence on Israel’s borders, including inside the West Bank and Gaza.  Even the stability and longevity of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan cannot be guaranteed if Israel abandons the scene.

IDF control of the Jordan Valley allows Israel to enforce the requirement, embedded in the U.S. peace proposal, that the future Palestinian state be demilitarized.  Moreover, the Iranian Quds Force and its Shiite militia allies are aggressively seeking to penetrate the West Bank from Jordan.

(The writer, a senior research fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, served in the IDF for 42 years, commanding troops in battle on the Egyptian and Syrian fronts.)



Former New York Times Writer Bari Weiss Continues To Champion Israel – Aviva Engel

On July 14, Bari Weiss, the acclaimed author of How To Fight Anti-Semitism, resigned as op-ed editor and columnist at the New York Times, citing harassment about the frequency with which she wrote about Jewish topics, as well as being called a “Nazi and a racist” by her colleagues.  During a Zoom conference on Thursday (30th), she said, “It’s not enough for a Jew to be an anti-anti-Semite.  That’s not what we’re put on earth to do.  We were put on earth to be Jews.  The more deeply I connect to my own Judaism and Jewish history, the stronger my conviction has become.  I am just extremely clear on who I am, what I’m about, and what I’m fighting for.”

“A lot of people think my resignation is nuts, like, why would you give up the prestige of that?  For me, it’s extremely clear: I am part of a line of people that are about values that are way bigger than any fancy platform or title.  That;s really what drives me.”  



Jewish Community In Russia Targeted Again In Anti-Semitic Attack

Some 30 headstones were vandalized in the Jewish synagogue in Saint Petersburg Wednesday night (29th), just as Jews around the world began observing Tisha B’Av.

A similar incident took place 12 years ago, the local Jewish leaders  said on Thursday (30th).  The administrators of the site filed a complaint with police, but because the place is considered private property, the families of the deceased have to file an official criminal complaint as well.

Israeli Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog told Israel Hayom that “it is very symbolic that on the eve of Tisha B’Av, anti-Semitic-lowlifes do such action, which should be condemned across the board.”  Herzog continued and recalled that during his visit to St. Petersburg, some time ago, he was very impressed by the community and added he was confident that the authorities “will find those responsible for the anti-Semitic acts and hold them accountable.”



Israel Startup Edges Closer to 1-Second Glaucoma Treatment

A round of financing that brought Israel’s Belkin Laser $12.25 million last week has brought the Yavne-based startup closer to realizing a one-second, non-invasive treatment for glaucoma

Glaucoma, or ocular hypertension, is a leading cause of blindness that affects 140 million globally.  However, there are only 6,000 glaucoma specialists throughout the world.

Belkin has developed a non-contact, painless treatment that is activated by a touchscreen, invented by Professor Michael Belkin – the technology can be used by all ophthalmologists, making treatment accessible to many more patients.

Prior to the fundraising-round completed last week, Belkin Laser raised $6.6 million from the Israel Innovation Authority and a $3 million grant from the prestigious European Horizon 2020.  

Belkin Laser CEO Daria Lemann-Blumenthal said that the latest investments – which came from Rimonci Capital, Santen Ventures, Inc., BioLight Life Sciences, CR-CP Life Science Fund, and C-Mer Eye Care Holdings – “signal that industry has trust in our technology.”

Lemann-Blumenthal said that the funds would be invested in GLAUrious, the company’s multi-center trial in Europe, and in new trials in Asia.

“Easy and effective glaucoma treatment is one step closer for millions of patients,” the CEO said.