Monday, April 20, 2020

From Ian:

Israel publishes plan to protect elderly; death toll rises to 174
The Health Ministry published a national plan to protect almost 90,000 elderly citizens living in residential facilities on Monday, as Israel seeks to tackle further outbreaks of coronavirus in nursing homes and assisted living.

Among the 174 Israelis who have died from the coronavirus to date, including two new fatalities on Monday, more than 60 were residents of nursing homes and assisted living.

The plan, developed by Sourasky Medical Center chief executive Prof. Ronni Gamzu, emphasizes that great attention and resources must be dedicated to institutions caring for the elderly "if there are aspirations for an exit strategy."

Ten "iron" principles are identified in the plan, including management of the crisis by one government body; the establishment of isolated beds in geriatric rehabilitation centers for sick residents; increased coronavirus testing; additional staff and protective equipment; and emotional support to combat the impact of isolation and reduced social activities.

Roni Ozeri, chairman of the Association of Nursing Homes and Assisted Living in Israel, welcomed the publication of the plan but emphasized that any assistance "must address the state's criminal neglect in recent years." The state must recruit and provide licenses to an additional 6,000 nursing staff to solve current shortages, he said.

"Nursing facilities, which suffered from a structural deficit of approximately one million shekels per year even before the crisis due to insufficient Health Ministry budgets, must receive an emergency budget with far greater amounts than currently being discussed," Ozeri said.

A total of 13,654 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Israel to date. Some 150 people are in serious condition, including 114 patients requiring ventilation. So far, 3,872 patients have fully recovered.
‘Nationwide Curfew Could Be Imposed During Israel’s Memorial Day’
A senior Israeli defense official warned on Sunday that the government may for the first time in the country’s history impose a nationwide 24-hour curfew during Memorial Day next week, to prevent a major coronavirus outbreak.

Yom Hazikaron, Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism, begins next Monday evening (April 27) and ends the following evening.

Usually, people gather at graves of fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism during Memorial Day eve and on the day itself, either spontaneously or during official state ceremonies.

The official said that even though no public events were planned this year, there is a fear that gatherings may take place nonetheless, leading to a spike in community spread of the coronavirus, undermining the lockdown measures that have been in place for the past month to fight the pandemic.

“This is a very delicate subject because of the various emotional matters involved; this is perhaps the most sensitive issue in Israeli society,” the official said, adding that “Defense Minister Naftali Bennett will make a decision after considering all aspects; we have to accommodate the bereaved families, but also take into account public health concerns.”
Bereaved families threaten to storm closed cemeteries on Memorial Day
The head of an organization representing relatives of fallen soldiers and terror victims has cautioned that bereaved families will not accept the shuttering of military cemeteries during Memorial Day next week.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that the traditional commemoration events will take place on April 27-28 without crowds in light of the coronavirus pandemic, fearing a renewed outbreak if annual ceremonies are held as normal.

“Unfortunately, it is the first time since the country’s founding that military cemeteries will be empty [on Memorial Day],” Eli Ben Shem, chairman of Yad Labanim, wrote Sunday to Netanyahu, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and other senior officials.

“Following the directive by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett canceling the ceremonies and the order not to come to the military cemeteries on Memorial Day, we are receiving hundreds of messages from families who don’t accept it and are threatening to force their way in,” he said.

Ben Shem said some bereaved relatives had even threatened to commit suicide on their loved one’s grave.

“I am convinced we must do everything to prevent difficult images of this kind on Memorial Day, the hardest day of the year for the families,” he wrote, asking Netanyahu to intervene.

He said that a “widespread public campaign” was necessary to avoid confrontations between bereaved families and police.

Traditional Independence Day IAF flyover cancelled due to coronavirus
The traditional Israel Air Force flyover to celebrate Independence Day will not take place this year to avoid gatherings amid the coronavirus outbreak, the IDF announced Monday.

Instead, a smaller flyover of four IAF aerobatics planes will take place over hospitals in a show of solidarity with medical crews. The IAF was conducting practice flights on Monday.

The IDF asked citizens to follow Health Ministry guidelines and not to gather. The flyover will be available on a livestream broadcast by Israeli media, it said.

Independence Day begins the evening of Tuesday, April 28. It will end on Wednesday, April 29.

The annual flyover is one of the most popular parts of Independence Day celebrations. Millions of Israelis watch combat jets, transport aircraft and helicopters fly over the entire country.

Israel Seeing More Recovering Coronavirus Patients than New Cases
The number of recovered coronavirus patients in Israel has exceeded the number of new patients over the past three days, according to the Health Ministry’s data. On Sunday, 226 new Israeli coronavirus patients were diagnosed and 298 recovered from the disease. On Saturday, 283 new patients were diagnosed and 330 recovered. On Friday, April 17, 224 new patients were diagnosed and 308 recovered.

This is the first time that the number of people recovering from the disease exceeds the number of people infected with the virus for three days in a row. At the same time, there has been a decline in the number of patients who need artificial ventilation. Over the past four days, that number has dropped from 137 to 114.

In the recent past, the decrease in the number of patients on artificial ventilators was more often than not the result of their death. However, the pattern until very recently used to be that the death of patients was accompanied by an increase in the number of patients whose health was rapidly deteriorating. This has not been the case these past few days.

Over the past four days, the spread of the disease has also stopped in Israel’s Haredi communities. These data may indicate the end of the first wave of the pandemic in Israel, and some experts believe that the peak of the outbreak of the virus is behind us.
NYTs: Ultra-Orthodox Enclave in Israel Opens to Outsiders to Fight a Virus
By the time the mayor of Bnei Brak grasped the deadly seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic, his city had already become Israel’s biggest center of contagion.

An ultra-Orthodox enclave in the shadow of Tel Aviv, Bnei Brak had one in seven of Israel’s cases, and as many as a third of its 210,000 residents were expected to get sick.

The very customs that have protected its venerable traditions from change — strict limits on modern technology, an aversion to secular media, a deep suspicion of state institutions — had deafened Bnei Brak’s residents to urgent public health warnings. Densely packed with sprawling families in shoe-box apartments whose lives revolved around shoulder-to-shoulder worship and study, it was fertile ground for the rapid spread of Covid-19.

In desperation, Mayor Avraham Rubinstein reached outside his community for help from people the ultra-Orthodox have long seen as a threat to their way of life: the army.

Two weeks later, Bnei Brak still holds Israel’s biggest concentration of known virus cases, but the crisis is rapidly coming under control. The rate of new infections has been cut by more than half, the number tested per week has tripled, and only 2,109 residents have tested positive. Synagogues and yeshivas are locked, the streets nearly empty. The sounds of prayer can still be heard at regular intervals, but from balconies and rooftops.

The story of Bnei Brak’s rapid reversal is not just one of coolheaded military leadership under a different kind of enemy fire, but also of the uneasy bridging of one of Israel’s most acrimonious divides: between a cloistered community that treats outsiders as hostile and the army as a particular threat, fearing its reputation as a secular melting pot, and Israelis who view the ultra-Orthodox as backward and a burden, in part because most refuse military service.

“It’s the fusion between the other parts of Israel and the Orthodox Jewish community,” said Maj. Gen. Ronny Numa, a reservist and the former head of Israel’s Central Command, who got a late-night call from Mr. Rubinstein two weeks ago and took charge at City Hall the next morning. (h/t Zvi)
Bnei Brak still has highest per capita infection rate as lockdown rolled back
Bnei Brak has the highest per capita rate of coronavirus infection, Health Ministry data released Monday showed, even as emergency quarantine measures blocking entry to and exit from the ultra-Orthodox city were set to be eased.

The Tel Aviv suburb had 1,202 infections per 100,000 residents (2,349 actual cases), followed by the northern Arab Israeli town of Deir al-Asad in northern Israel with 99 cases, a rate of 796 for 100,000 residents. On Saturday, Deir al-Asad and neighboring Bi’ina became restricted areas for seven days, amid fears of a coronavirus outbreak.

Over the past week, Bnei Brak has seen a 24 percent rise in new cases of COVID-19, while ultra-Orthodox cities Elad, Beitar Illit, Modiin Illit and Jerusalem all saw even larger spikes.

Elad had the third highest per capita infection rate with 321 cases, which is 686 per 100,000 residents, followed by Kochav Yaakov (59 cases, which is 685 per 100,000 residents), Kiryat Ye’arim (39 cases, which is 682 per 100,000 residents), Kfar Chabad (45 cases, which is 669 per 100,000 residents), Efrat (64 cases, which is 559 per 1000,000 residents), Mizpe Ramon (24 cases, which is 480 per 100,000 residents), Beitar Illit (233 cases, which is 393 per 100,000 residents) and Modiin Illit (288 cases, which is 390 per 100,000 residents).

The majority of the cities in the top 10 list of per capita cases of infection are predominantly ultra-Orthodox.

Jerusalem, which has the largest number of cases (2,672), was in 15th place per capita. Figures were not released detailing infection rates for individual neighborhoods within the capital.
Israeli Arab Doctors and Nurses Help Orthodox Jewish Patients With Religious Practice in Midst of Coronavirus Crisis
Coexistence between Israeli Arabs and Jews in the face of the global coronavirus pandemic found expression in two incidents that were widely shared over the weekend across various media platforms.

In one case, two Arab nurses helped an elderly man critically ill with coronavirus to lay tefillin (phylacteries), something the man was unable to do on his own because his entire left side was paralyzed.

The incident was caught on video and broadcast on Israel’s Channel 13.

In an interview with journalist Amnon Levy, one of the nurses, Khalil Ghazawi, said he and his fellow nurse were working in the coronavirus ward when the man asked them for help laying tefillin.

“We looked at each other – it was weird – we didn’t know what to do,” said Ghazawi. “In the end we put the tefillin on, we worked it out.”

“He was very happy,” he said of the patient, “and he said, ‘Thank you with all my heart.’”

“I was happy inside, believe me,” Ghazawi added.

Asked whether he had received a positive response to his good deed, he said that he “received a lot of responses,” including from hospital staff. “They were very happy,” he recounted.

The patient, he noted, ultimately recovered and has been released from the hospital. (h/t Zvi)
‘Avenger’ Benjamin Levin, ‘Forrest Gump of Jewish history,’ succumbs to COVID-19
When Benjamin Levin told his life-story to Steven Spielberg, the acclaimed director called Levin “the Forrest Gump of Jewish history.”

As the youngest and last surviving member of the celebrated “Avengers” partisan group, Levin later swam off the destroyed Altalena and smuggled himself into the new Jewish state. Last week, at age 93, Levin succumbed to a brief battle with COVID-19 outside New York City.

The formative experiences of Levin’s life took place during the Holocaust, when he joined the “Avengers” partisan group. In the forests of Lithuania, the adolescent fighter killed Nazis, blew up their trains and bridges, and helped sustain other Jews trapped inside ghettos.

Calling his late father “extraordinarily unassuming,” son Chaim Levin spoke with The Times of Israel on Thursday. According to Levin, the key moments of his father’s life revolved around making difficult choices.

“Ordinary people are put into extraordinary circumstances,” said Levin. “What they do after is the measure of humanity.”

After watching the Nazis decimate the Jewish community of Vilna, Levin joined the “Avengers,” a small partisan band led by firebrand Abba Kovner. Levin was 14 and had a pronounced “wild streak,” having been in a youth gang and smoked cigarettes since age 8.

Important for the partisan group, Levin brought the asset of short stature and non-assuming looks. These traits served him well as a scout and saboteur.

During the German occupation of Lithuania, Levin’s group destroyed miles of railroads, blew up bridges, and killed an estimated 212 Nazis. Prisoners were never taken, including when the Jewish partisans helped liberate Vilnius in 1944. Marching through town with the Red Army, the “Avengers” identified collaborators for execution.
United Hatzalah's Eli Beer recovers from coronavirus, returning to Israel
United Hatzalah president Eli Beer is expected to arrive back in Israel Tuesday afternoon after spending nearly one month suffering from coronavirus in a Miami hospital.

“He’s been everywhere, and now it is time for him to come home to his small family and his huge family at United Hatzalah,” his wife, Gitty Beer told The Jerusalem Post.

She said her husband had been in India and London before Miami, where he caught coronavirus. She has not seen him for four months.

Beer was seriously ill and forced into a coronavirus induced coma. He spent nearly two weeks intubated, after contracting the disease while on a fundraising trip for his organization.

Before being intubated, he recorded a video in which he explained his predicament to the public, "My situation is difficult, my breathing is getting worse... I need you to keep davening [praying] and keep doing mitzvahs."

Gitty Beer said that the organization did not stop operating in her husband's absence. Herself a United Hatzalah volunteer, she said that she delivered two babies while he was away and continued to drive her Hatzalah ambulance.

On Monday, the organization was celebrating, as Beer boarded a special flight from the US to Israel.

Tel Aviv University Professor Granted US Patent for Coronavirus Vaccine Design
A professor at Tel Aviv University (TAU) has been granted a patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for his innovative vaccine design for the novel coronavirus, also known as SARS-CoV-2, TAU announced on Sunday.

Prof. Jonathan Gershoni of the School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology at TAU’s George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences created a vaccine that “targets the novel coronavirus’s Achilles’ heel, its Receptor Binding Motif (RBM), a critical structure that enables the virus to bind to and infect a target cell,” according to TAU.

Gershoni explained that the vaccine would reconstruct the coronavirus’s RBM, a small feature of its “spike” protein. This specific protein is a major surface protein that the virus uses to bind to a receptor, which is another protein that provides a pathway to a human cell.

TAU said, “After the spike protein binds to the human cell receptor, the viral membrane fuses with the human cell membrane, allowing the genome of the virus to enter human cells and begin infection.”

Gershoni’s team is said to have completed the initial steps toward reconstituting the new SARS-CoV-2’s RBM. The reconstitution of the new RBM and its use as a basis for a new vaccine is covered by an additional pending patent application to the USPTO.
‘You touched my heart,’ Netanyahu tells falafel seller facing ruin from pandemic
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday spoke on the phone with Yuval Carmi, a falafel store owner in southern Israel whose story of financial ruin amid the pandemic turned him overnight into a symbol of the virus’ economic toll.

Carmi’s tearful account brought a Channel 13 television crew to tears and his story was covered by numerous media outlets on Sunday.

“Look at my wallet, it’s empty,” the Ashdod man said, pulling out his wallet. “I don’t have a shekel in my pocket… I’m embarrassed to face my children, to tell them I have nothing I can buy for you. I have nothing to give them. I have nothing to give them to eat. I don’t know what to do,” he said, crying and then apologizing for his tears.

“I saw you yesterday [on TV] and you touched my heart,” Netanyahu told Carmi Monday. “And I’ll help you. We’re going to help everyone. You have reached deep into my heart and the hearts of Israeli citizens.”

The prime minister acknowledged there have been difficulties in distributing state funds to businesses but promised that the government would help with bailouts.

In a video of Netanyahu taken during the phone call and distributed by his office, Carmi can be heard thanking the premier and refraining from directly placing the blame on him.

“I am not making my claims against you but against your advisers,” he said. “Apparently they are not telling you what’s going on with the people.”

In a tweet, Netanyahu said he would “work around the clock to save the lives and livelihoods of all Israeli citizens.”
Coming soon across Israel: Futuristic temperature testers using defense tech
As Israelis adjust to a new normal of temperature checks during every shopping trip, defense companies are innovating to make the process more accurate and less invasive.

Store workers have suddenly found themselves expected to check customers’ temperatures. They greet arrivals with hand-held thermometers to fulfill the government’s new rules, instituted on Sunday, aimed at stopping people with a fever from entering. Bosses also need to check workers’ temperatures.

Like in other countries that have introduced temperature checks, store owners are eager to automate the process. Just as metal detector arches have become a feature of Israeli life because of terror threats, temperature screening machines are widely expected to become commonplace because of coronavirus. And such devices have suddenly become big business.

In Israel, the technology is being developed at lightning speed, because the building blocks are there in the defense sector. “Normally, my company makes technology to intercept malicious drones,” said Matan Melamed, CEO of Iron-Drone and a graduate of the IDF intelligence unit 8200, which is famous for producing innovators who repurpose military ideas. “We wanted to help fight coronavirus, but we can’t make masks and know nothing of ventilators, yet we know thermal cameras really really well.

“Within two days we realized what a temperature device should look like and designed it. The prototype was tested at a customer’s site, a supermarket, within two weeks.”

Production of his ThermoGate machine began on Monday, and he expects that with two weeks Israelis will be using them to scan themselves at workplaces and stores. He predicts that they will stay in place long after the coronavirus crisis subsides. “Everybody will feel safer with temperature checks in the future,” he said, adding that employers are likely to see them as a way to keep the workforce healthy.
Interior Ministry: Half a Million Israelis Have Flown Home Since the Start of the Coronavirus Crisis
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, some 500,000 Israelis have returned home from abroad, according to the country’s Interior Ministry.

Approximately 15 percent returned after an “extended stay” abroad, the business daily Globes reported on Sunday.

The top reasons given by Israeli backpackers for their return were the low quality of healthcare in third world countries, parental pressure and the closure of countries to tourism.

Israel worked to return thousands of Israelis home during the shutdowns, with Israel’s national airline El Al flying them in from destinations across the world.

Some of the returnees had moved abroad permanently; there are an estimated 500,000 living in Western countries, not including their children, according to the report. Many of the returnees in this latter category returned because they were put on unpaid leave.

The Israeli government grants incentives to returning Israeli nationals, including income tax benefits. Those living abroad for five years get an income tax exemption for five years, and 10 years for capital gains tax.
Idaho lawmaker claims nonessential workers being treated like Jews in Holocaust
A right-wing Idaho lawmaker called her state’s governor “Little Hitler” and suggested that workers deemed “nonessential” to the workforce during the coronavirus pandemic are being treated like Jews during the Holocaust.

“I mean, that’s no different than Nazi Germany, where you had government telling people: ‘You are an essential worker or a nonessential worker,’ and the nonessential workers got put on a train,” said State Rep. Heather Scott in a podcast interview, the Idaho State Journal reported Sunday.

Across the US, elected officials suspicious of big government and outraged with orders to close churches, gun stores and other businesses deemed nonessential insist that the public health response is being used as an excuse to trample constitutional rights.

Far-right extremists have increasingly compared the governors issuing the orders to Adolf Hitler, in a bid to spark chaos and use the crisis to amplify their ideology, according to experts.

Local leaders were outraged at Scott’s comments.

“Mass murder and genocide is not the same thing as deciding which businesses should essentially stay open and which should stay closed,” Rabbi Tamar Malino of Temple Beth Shalom in nearby Spokane, Washington, told the outlet.

Brenda Hammond, president of the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force, said the comments showed a “deep disregard and lack of respect for what the Jewish people experienced during the time of the Holocaust. It also shows an extreme ignorance of history.”
Unity negotiations blow up as Gantz walks out
Two hours of talks to finalize a deal for a unity government fell apart Monday morning after Blue and White leader Benny Gantz walked out of the meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

It appears that the talks came up against a brick wall over the Judges Selection Committee.

Gantz appeared to be heading to the Knesset, where he is expected to launch the process of passing legislation to ensure that candidates under indictment cannot serve as prime minister, legislation that has been characterized as personally targeting Netanyahu.

While Blue and White and the Likud have been at the brink of agreement on most major issues for days now, it appears that a lack of faith in each other is holding up the finalization of a unity government deal.

On Sunday, officials in Blue and White told Israel Hayom that it would be a "fateful day" for the talks on forming a unity government.

"If by [Sunday] night no solution is reached for the issues that remain, it will be a lot harder to arrive at an agreement later on," they said.

According to officials familiar with the negotiations, this past weekend did see a significant breakthrough, but complications arose when a draft deal was outlined. Most of the dispute on Sunday had to do with a guarantee that a rotation for prime minister would be honored if the Supreme Court were to intervene and rule that Netanyahu could not continue in that role because of the indictments against him.

Blue and White is concerned that Netanyahu might remain prime minister for another year and a half, and only after that point would the Supreme Court disqualify him from the position. According to what has been agreed thus far, if that were to happen, it would prevent the rotation from proceeding in full because Netanyahu would not be serving as acting prime minister, which would force an automatic dissolution of the Knesset. The two sides are trying to find a formula that will allow the rotation to go ahead as planned without any "drastic" steps.

PMW warning letter to Palestinian banks: Stop allowing salaries to be transferred to terrorists or face dire consequences
Legislation set to take effect on May 9, 2020, applies substantial parts of Israel’s Anti-Terror Law to Judea and Samaria. Palestinian Media Watch has written to the heads of the different banks in the Palestinian Authority areas, warning them that if they continue to provide bank accounts through which the PA pays salaries to terrorist prisoners after May 9, they could face personal criminal liability as well as exposing their banks to civil law suits from terror victims.

The new legislation provides that any person who conducts any transaction with assets, including money, in order to facilitate, further, fund, or reward a person for carrying out terror related offences, is himself committing an offence punishable with 10 years in prison and a substantial fine.

Since PMW has conclusively shown that the PA payments to the terrorist prisoners are a reward for acts of terror, any person involved in this process, including the PA administrative staff and the banks, after May 9, 2020, will be committing a criminal offence pursuant to the new Israeli legislation.

To avoid the criminal liability, the PA banks must immediately close all the accounts into which the PA makes the payments for the benefit of the terrorist prisoners. It is irrelevant whether the accounts are in the names of the terrorist prisoners themselves or in the name of any proxy they appointed.

Should the banks not heed PMW’s warning, Israel should immediately act to enforce the new law, including seizing the terror funds directly from the banks.

In addition, should the PA not immediately desist from making these payments, PMW recommends that Israel initiate personal criminal proceedings against both the PA personnel involved in this process and the banking staff.
Khaled Abu Toameh: PLO in diplomatic blitz to prevent ‘annexation,’ free prisoners
As part of its effort to rally worldwide opposition to Israeli plans to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and Northern Dead Sea, the Palestinian leadership appealed to more countries to pressure Israel to refrain from taking such a step.

The Palestinian leadership is also demanding that the international community exert pressure on Israel to release Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons in light of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said on Sunday that he had more phone conservations with international parties, including European Union Representative for the Middle East Peace Process Susanna Terstal, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya, Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Mikhail Bogdanov, and Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney.

“Erekat discussed in his talks the situation in the Palestinian territories and the prospects of the Palestinian-Israeli settlement based on international laws, serving the peace process with the help of the international community, especially members of the UN Security Council, and the release of [Palestinian] prisoners,” according to a statement issued by the PLO.

The statement said that Erekat “found consensus among his interlocutors to reject [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s and [US President Donald] Trump’s plan for annexation and the continued expansion of settlements.”
Hamas Threatens Violence if Israel Doesn’t Meet Demands for Advanced Coronavirus Equipment
As fears rise of a major coronavirus outbreak in Gaza, a senior Hamas official threatened violence against Israel if the terrorist group does not receive the equipment it wants to tackle the pandemic, Israel’s Channel 13 reported on Sunday.

“We are keeping the option of using ‘other tools’ if we fail to make Israel comply with our demands to receive medical equipment that will enable us to deal with the coronavirus crisis,” said Khalil al-Hayya on Sunday.

“We will not allow any Palestinian in the Gaza Strip to die from coronavirus because of the Gaza blockade,” he fumed. “We are putting pressure on Israel through mediators to allow the entry of tools and equipment into Gaza.”

“All options are open to force Israel to allow medical equipment to enter Gaza,” al-Hayya added.

Israel does not ban the transfer of medical equipment to Gaza, and has facilitated the passage of thousands of testing kits and masks. Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories regularly posts details of such transfers.

According to Channel 13, citing anonymous Palestinian sources, Hamas is also demanding ventilators and other advanced medical equipment from Israel and is willing to agree to a prisoner exchange deal in order to receive it.
The Palestinian Virus: Abbas's Role Models
Abu Jihad was not assassinated by Israel because of any political activities or ideology. His assassination stopped him from masterminding more attacks and killing more Israelis.

Abbas and his Fatah officials, nonetheless, believe that Abu Jihad and other Palestinian terrorists are honorable and decent men who were fighting for the sake of their people. What contribution did these terrorists make to Palestinian society? Did they build a school or a hospital for their people?

When Abbas describes terrorists as heroes, he is actually telling young Palestinians that those who plan and carry out terrorist attacks against Israelis should serve as role models. Abbas evidently wants all Palestinians to be like Abu Jihad and the terrorists in Israeli prisons. For Abbas and other Palestinian leaders, the glorification of terrorists seems to be more important than the fight against a deadly virus.

Hezbollah in crisis, but Israel cannot take its eyes off it
IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman recently told reporters that the corona pandemic had hit hard in some of the region's countries and there was "a decline in hostile activity toward Israel." The severe outbreak of the disease in Iran has reduced the volume of its military activity against Israel as regards the supplying of weapons and financing of terrorism.

The plague hit Lebanon during an ongoing economic crisis. The dire situation of both countries has had a profound effect on Hezbollah, the terrorist organization that is supported by Iran and which is an integral part of the Lebanese government.

In an article published by researchers at the National Security Research Institute, Orna Mizrahi and Yoram Schweitzer state, "In these circumstances there is heightened pressure on Hezbollah, which is responsible for the appointment of the current minister of health."
Mizrahi and Schweitzer recommended that "the IDF should continue to use the opportunity to strike Hezbollah forces in Syria and disrupt their efforts to bring weapons into Lebanon." The IDF, it seems, agreed with the assessment of the two.

According to foreign publications, the Israeli Air Force recently carried out a series of strikes in Syria, some to prevent the organization from obtaining long-range guided missiles, and some against the "Golan File" unit that Hezbollah has established on the Golan Heights.
An epidemic or not, since the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah stars at the top of the threat scenarios table prepared by the IDF. The man who worries the most is the commander of the IDF's Northern Command, Maj.-Gen. Amir Baram.

Muslim-American Academic Kevin Barrett on Iranian TV: Coronavirus May Have Been Unleashed by U.S.
On April 7, 2020, Ofogh TV (Iran) aired a discussion about coronavirus on the Nader Talebzadeh Show, which is hosted by Iranian filmmaker Nader Talebzadeh. Muslim-American academic and conspiracy theorist Dr. Kevin Barrett, who sat next to a picture of deceased IRGC Quds Force Commander General Qasem Soleimani, said that the coronavirus may have been unleashed by the United States as an act of biological warfare targeting China and Iran. For more about Dr. Kevin Barret, a convert to Islam, see MEMRI TV Clips No. 7474 and No. 4220. Later in the show, Iranian lecturer Dr. Ali Karami said that pandemics are a way of controlling the world population, which he said is consistent with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s beliefs about foreign policy. He also said that there are U.S. Patents for the coronavirus. In addition, Ayatollah Mohammad Mehdi Mirbagheri, a member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts, said that if the coronavirus is really an act of biological warfare, Iran must strengthen itself.

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