Fourth Nationwide Lockdown Coming? COVID Cases Skyrocket; Jerusalem: New Sheikh Jarrah Eviction Battle Looms

   

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A fourth COVID-19 lockdown may be unavoidable if the number of severe hospitalized cases exceeds 1,200, Israel’s coronavirus czar warned at a press conference on Monday. According to Professor Salman Zarka, the Health Ministry will ask Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to instate a complete shutdown should the quality of care decline due to the pandemic.

“Minor restrictions won’t help — a lockdown like the first one, with people not allowed farther than 100 meters outside the house — will,” the professor said.

“It’s important we don’t get to those numbers, and certainly not to a situation in which the hospitals can’t cope,” Zarka told reporters, adding: “The more the numbers go up, we might have to approach the government and ask for a way of cutting them down significantly, like a lockdown. I hope we don’t wind up there.”

According to the coronavirus response coordinator, the number of confirmed cases is rising consistently, and has not yet peaked. The Health Ministry reported a record-breaking 37,887 new cases on Monday after 332,993 tests were conducted, putting the infection rate at 11.38 percent. There are currently 247 COVID patients in serious condition, 79 in critical condition, 59 on ventilators and 13 on ECMO respiratory machines.

In an effort to relieve the pressure on medical staff, Health Ministry Director-General Professor Nachman Ash announced that nursing students, paramedics and IDF soldiers would be sent to hospitals to assist with the transfer of patients and test processing.

   

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Some eight months after the Hamas terror group used an eviction battle in eastern Jerusalem as a pretext to start an 11-day armed conflict with the Jewish state, another Palestinian family in the Sheikh Jarrah/Shimon HaTzadik neighborhood has received an eviction notice.

Fatima Salem, 69, has been requested to leave by her home’s new owner, Jerusalem city council member Yonatan Yosef. Initially scheduled for the end of December, Israel Police have now asked for a flexible eviction order for between late January and early February.

While Salem maintains that she has lived in the two-story home her entire life, the property was until recently owned by the Haddad family, who were expelled from Shimon HaTzadik when Jordan occupied Jerusalem in 1948. After Israel gained control over the holy city in the 1967 Six-Day War, the Haddads, a Jewish family, reclaimed ownership.

According to their lawyer, following a 1980s legal fight, the Salem family paid rent to the Haddads through the Jerusalem district court. However, when Yonatan Yosef bought the house from the family, he successfully won a new eviction order from Israel’s civil enforcement agency.

Yosef’s grandfather, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef — who between 1973 and 1983 was Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi — in the 1930s served as a cantor for Sheikh Jarrah’s Jewish community. “This place rightfully belongs to Jews, and I’m acting according to the law,” said Yosef, who previously lived in a different house in the neighborhood and acted as the community’s unofficial spokesperson.

   

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A 6.6-magnitude earthquake hit off Cyprus’ west coast early Tuesday, the US government’s Geological Survey announced. The tremor reportedly shook buildings in the country’s capital of Nicosia, some 130 kilometers away.

Shockwaves were also felt in nearby countries Israel, Lebanon and Turkey. The Israel Police said it received hundreds of calls from concerned residents, and reassured the public there were no tsunami threats.

There was no immediate report of damage or injuries in Israel. The Mediterranean island is some 450 kilometers (280 miles) from the Jewish state.

Cyprus lies in an earthquake-prone area, but high magnitude tremors are relatively uncommon. The biggest quake in recent years was a magnitude 6.8 in 1996, which killed two people in the coastal city of Paphos.

   

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A bipartisan group of American lawmakers announced a new caucus to support the Abraham Accords, the historic US-brokered agreements that normalized relations between Israel and several Arab states. The caucus will include members from the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Among the eight co-founders are Sens. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Cory Booker (D-New Jersey). The House members are Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-Washington), Brad Schneider (D-Illinois), Anne Wagner (R-Missouri) and David Trone (D-Maryland).

“The caucus will provide an opportunity to strengthen the Abraham Accords by encouraging partnerships among the existing Abraham Accords countries and expanding the agreement to include countries that do not currently have diplomatic relations with Israel,” the lawmakers said in a statement.

The co-chairs of the Abraham Accords Caucus in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset — Ofir Akunis (Likud) and Ruth Wasserman Lande (Blue and White) — congratulated their American counterparts. “I deeply cherish the support from the United States and offer my congratulations on the establishment of a sister-caucus in America,” Wasserman Lande said in a statement.

The Trump administration-brokered Abraham Accords originally included the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, with the later additions of Sudan and Morocco.

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