Iran to start 20 per cent uranium enrichment
The BBC and the Financial Times lead with Israel’s vaccination programme as it reached its one millionth mark over the weekend, the highest rate in the world per population. Israel has a rate of 11.55 vaccination doses per 100 people, followed by Bahrain at 3.49 and the UK at 1.47, according to a global tracking website affiliated with Oxford University. The reports say that Israel has managed to get so far ahead because it has safely subdivided shipments of the Pfizer vaccine to remote communities, and because it is able to contact people with priority access to the vaccine through its health care system, which by law all Israelis must register with a recognised health care provider. BBC correspondent Tom Bateman produced a new video in which he revisits some of those he met this year while covering the pandemic in Israel.
The Times reports that Iran has threatened to intensify its uranium production as it vowed to avenge the death of IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, who was assassinated in a US drone strike in Baghdad a year ago. On Saturday Iran announced that it planned to enrich uranium up to 20 per cent, one step away from weapons-grade levels, at its underground Fordow nuclear facility as soon as possible.
Reuters notes that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned US President Donald Trump over the weekend not to be “trapped” by an alleged Israeli plan to provoke a war through attacks on US forces in Iraq. Israel declined to comment on Zarif’s remarks.
The Telegraph follows the death of Palestinian teenager Ali Abu Alia, who was killed last month during what the Israeli military described as a “violent riot” in the West Bank village of al-Mughayyir, where residents were demonstrating against a nearby Jewish settlement. During those clashes, Palestinian officials say Ali was shot in the abdomen and shortly afterwards died of his wounds in hospital. Israeli military police have launched an investigation into his death, which the UN’s Middle East envoy described as “shocking” and unacceptable. In the most recent incident last Friday, a Palestinian man was reportedly left paralysed from the neck down after he was shot during a scuffle with Israeli soldiers. The soldiers had been confiscating a generator from his village in the South Hebron Hills.
The Guardian notes that a new report by the Association of Detainees and the Missing in Sednaya Prison (ADMSP) claims that families of detainees in Syrian prisons are routinely forced to bribe officials to be allowed to visit them or to win their release. Guards, judges, members of the military and in some cases, middlemen receive cuts as part of a corrupt network that feeds large amounts of cash into the country’s security apparatus.
Jordan has agreed to purchase one million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and another two million doses from the World Health Organization’s COVAX programme, according to Reuters. Since the outbreak first surfaced in Jordan in early March, 298,208 people had been infected and 3,903 people have died.
The Israeli media focuses this morning on the rising COVID-19 infection rate and the possibility of tighter restrictions to curb it. Kan Radio News reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu has proposed to close school for children in the fifth through tenth grades, and to reduce the number of workplaces that can open. Netanyahu wants those restrictions to be in force for at least one week, as opposed to Health Ministry officials, who have asked for two weeks. Even before the coronavirus cabinet is convened to discuss Netanyahu’s proposal, some local authorities — including Beer Sheva, Dimona, Bat Yam and Ramat Gan — have decided to close school from fifth through tenth grades. Hospitals throughout Israel have cancelled thousands of non-urgent surgeries because of the large number of people on ventilators and the number of COVID-19 patients who are in serious condition. According to the Health Ministry there were 5,135 new coronavirus cases diagnosed on Sunday, with the infection rate rising to 6.6 per cent. Medical authorities conducted 79,395 COVID-19 tests and 134,226 vaccinations. At least 731 patients are in serious condition, of whom 201 are on ventilators. The official death toll now stands at 3,416 after 12 more people passed away on Sunday. 69 people died from coronavirus since the start of 2021.
Maariv reports that a forum representing storeowners, called “Retailer Leaders’ Forum,” has issued an ultimatum to the government that if a full-scale and lockdown is not enforced by end of today, all places of business will reopen this coming Sunday. “For the first time since this severe economic crisis erupted we have joined forces to create an iron fist against the government’s policies, which have turned commerce into the first victim of the coronavirus without any reason,” said leaders of the forum. “We have united ranks from all [sub-]sectors of the commercial sector, and we are putting an end to the games and to the ‘divide and conquer’ policy,” said Shahar Turjeman, one of the forum leaders. Turjeman said that the government’s policies have resulted in 90,000 businesses shutting down and the loss of 200,000 jobs.
Channel 12 News reports on the growing number of violent attacks across Israel directed against Arabs and police officers following the death of Ahuvia Sandak, who was killed whilst fleeing from police in the West Bank who were pursing him on suspicion of throwing rocks at Palestinian vehicles. According to data compiled by Tag Meir, an organisation dedicated to fighting hate crimes against Palestinians, 21 attacks on individuals and property targeting either Palestinians or the police have been committed since Sandak’s death. According to Tag Meir’s data, no similar attacks were committed in the two weeks preceding the boy’s death. The acts of violence have included stone-throwing, assaults, vandalism, and attempted arson.
Yediot Ahronot follows the events surrounding Sandak’s death. According to the findings of a private detective who used to work for the Police Internal Investigations Department, the car in which Ahuvia Sandak and his friends fled from the police overturned after the police in pursuit rammed their car. The police said that Sandak’s car overturned due to second car veering out of its lane, and not because it had collided with the police vehicle. Several demonstrations have been held since the event. Some of those demonstrations have been violent. The demonstrators have demanded that the case be taken away from the Police Internal Investigations Department and that an external commission of inquiry be formed to review the case. All the papers report an Israeli woman was seriously wounded on Sunday after her car was struck by rocks while driving in the West Bank. The driver, who is in her thirties, suffered a head trauma and was evacuated to hospital. According to Israel Hayom, her two children, who were with her in the vehicle, were not harmed in the incident but apparently were key in stopping the car from crashing, pulling the handbrake when they realised what had happened. The IDF said a manhunt was underway for the perpetrators.
Kan Radio News reports that the State Attorney’s revised indictment against Prime Minister Netanyahu to the Jerusalem District Court cites more than 300 incidents in which the Walla News editorial board was asked to make its coverage of Netanyahu and his family more favourable. The prosecution contends that there is evidence that the Prime Minister was personally involved in 150 of the requests. Netanyahu issued a response that disputed those numbers, claiming the State Attorney’s Office had barely been able to find ten requests from the Prime Minister to Walla News over the course of four years. This comes to an average of one request per six months, while at the same time, about 10,000 articles on Netanyahu appeared on the website.