News Digest — 9/21/20

Tens Of Thousands Of Israelis Fly Abroad To Avoid Lockdown

Tens of thousands of Israelis are seizing the opportunity to avoid the new lockdown by flying abroad to enjoy a more relaxed vacation in another country, Israel media reported.

Despite an imposed lockdown – which began on Friday (18th) and is expected to last for three weeks – the government ruled earlier this week that all previously scheduled flights for the coming weeks would proceed as planned.

According to Channel 12 News, some 15,000 people have flown in the past weeks and 7,000 more were expected to travel by Sunday (20th).

At the same time, another 40,000 are expected to leave over the next two weeks according to the report.

The choice of holidaymakers remains limited, however.  There are only two countries where Israelis can currently travel without being forced into mandatory quarantine upon arrival or return: Greece and Bulgaria.

In addition, anyone who takes a plane is required to provide negative results after having been tested, in accordance with the requirements of the destination country.

Israel’s Health Ministry reported on Saturday (19th) the toll of the coronavirus pandemic in the country recorded 5,299 new cases in 24 hours.



Coronavirus Cabinet Expected To Impose New Lockdown Restrictions

Israel’s Coronavirus Cabinet will be meeting Monday morning (21st) to vote on plans to tighten the nationwide lockdown which was imposed this past Friday (18th).

The cabinet is expected to approve a proposal to drastically cut back the number of businesses permitted to operate during the lockdown, barring a large number of workers from leaving home during the nationwide closure than was initially planned.

If approved, the plan being considered Monday (21st) would bar all factories which do not produce “essential” goods from operating during the lockdown.

In addition the Coronavirus Cabinet will consider increasing reinforcement of limits on the number of worshipers permitted at synagogues.

The plan comes as a team of researchers from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem released a report suggesting a significant increase in the number of coronavirus related fatalities in Israel, even with the existing lockdown in place.  With the current lockdown, the report claims, one to two thousand additional fatalities are expected by November.

The lockdown which began last Friday afternoon (18th), is tentatively scheduled to last for three weeks, though senior health officials have suggested it may be extended until there is a significant decrease in the number of new infections diagnosed per day.



Boris Johnson: Rosh Hashanah Marks ‘End Of A Year Many Would Like To Forget’

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reflected on the “disproportionate losses” in the Jewish community during the coronavirus pandemic, closures of synagogues and canceled simchas – as he wished British Jews a happy new year.

Delivering his Rosh Hashanah message to the community, he said the sound of the shofar would “signal not just the arrival of the new year, but also the end of one that so many would like to forget.”  In a year dominated by coronavirus, which has caused the deaths of more than 500 members of the community – and over 40,000 across the country, he said the virus “for reasons we still don’t fully understand, has hit Jews of Britain particularly hard.”

“And the disproportionate losses you have suffered have been compounded by the necessary privations of lockdown.  Synagogues that have remained open for centuries, welcoming worshipers on Shabbat even as Nazi bombs rained from the sky, were forced to close their doors just when people needed spiritual comfort more than ever.  It’s been a year of cancelled and postponed bar and bat mitzvah celebrations,” Johnson said.

The prime minister stated that the tightening of restrictions has “come as a real blow to those who hoped to mark the high holy days with some degree of normalcy.  Being required to mark Rosh Hashanah without the close embrace of family is making this a difficult end to what has been a very difficult year.  But here in the UK and around the world, Jewish communities have never been ones to take adversity lying down, so I was not surprised to see you respond to the challenges of coronavirus with typical vim, vigor and ingenuity,” he said.

In closing the prime minister added, “When it comes to totaling up good deeds from the year gone by, I can’t think of anything greater than doing what was needed, however tough, to save the lives of your fellow citizens.”    

“Wishing you Shana Tova – and may you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!”



Top Fatah Official Talks Of ‘Zionist Territorial Designs From Nile To Euphrates’

A senior Palestinian official has said the Palestinian people protect Arab nations from “the Zionist territorial designs from the Nile to the Euphrates.”

Speaking last week in criticism of the decision by the United Arab Emirates to normalize ties with Israel, Fatah Central Committee Member Azzam Al-Ahmad told Qatar’s Al-Araby TV: “We hope that the people of the UAE and Bahrain will restrain their leaders and make them reconsider what they have signed.  Do not destroy yourselves and the future of the entire Arab nation.”

His comments were provided and translated over the weekend by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).  

He explained: “We the Palestinians are defending all of you – we are defending Mecca, Baghdad, Cairo, Amman and Damascus.  This is our destiny as Palestinians.”

“We are the sentinels in Jerusalem who defend it against the Zionist territorial designs from the Nile to the Euphrates.”

Al-Ahmad vowed to “continue to serve as the spearhead in the confrontation against the American administration and the Zionist movement.  We… will continue to persevere and fight.  We have been fighting for over 100 years in defense of the Arab nation and the Islamic and Christian holy sites.”

The Palestinian Authority has lambasted the peace deal signed with Israel last Tuesday (15th), accusing Gulf states of betrayal and of a “stab in the back” of Palestinians.

A coalition representing a wide swath of Palestinian factions – including both Fatah and Hamas – called for a “day of “Intifada-like rejection” of the normalization deal signed last week.  In response, several sporadic demonstrations were held across the West Bank and Gaza numbering a few hundred.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians have found themselves increasingly isolated in their efforts to cut Israel off from the Arab world.

The PA was unable to muster much support during a summit of the 22-member Arab League earlier this month, with Arab foreign ministers failing to back a Palestinian push against normalization deals between Israel and Arab nations.



Hamas Operative Killed, Several Injured When Terror Tunnel Collapses In Gaza

At least one Hamas operative was killed Sunday (20th) and seven others sustained moderate-to-serious injuries when a terror tunnel collapsed in northern Gaza.

According to Palestinian media, the incident took place east of Beit Lahiya.  Local rescue services rushed the injured to a hospital in the Strip and shortly thereafter Hamas’ Interior Ministry confirmed that one of its operatives had died in the accident.

The Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, later identified the man as Khalil Muhammad, a resident of Jabalya.

Arab media issued conflicting reports about the cause of the collapse.  Some reported it was the result of faulty construction, while others said it was connected to a
“malfunction” of contrabands smuggled into Gaza through the underground passageway, while some speculated that the tunnel collapsed after the IDF detected it and “employed special technological measures to make it collapse.”

The Israeli military did not comment on the reports in Palestinian media.

Over the weekend, Israeli security forces detained four Palestinians who attempted to infiltrate into Israel by crossing the border fence from the Gaza Strip.

One of the four carried a knife, the IDF said in a statement.