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Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) have reached an agreement to step up terror attacks against Israel, especially in Jerusalem and the West Bank. The Iranian-backed groups also agreed to increase coordination between their military wings. The deal was made during meetings between Hamas and PIJ leaders in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

A joint statement by the Hamas-affiliated Palestine Information Center said that the two terrorist organizations praised the increase in “resistance operations” in the West Bank and Jerusalem, adding that they came in response to “settler terrorism and crimes of the Zionist occupation soldiers.”

The statement was published shortly before Israeli authorities announced the capture of the terrorists who had carried out a shooting attack in the Jenin area last Thursday, killing Yehuda Dimentman. PIJ’s military wing on Sunday claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place near the Homesh outpost.

Experts believe that the upsurge in Hamas and PIJ attacks on Israelis also aims to undermine the Palestinian Authority. “Hamas and Islamic Jihad are hoping to kill two birds with one stone,” said a Ramallah-based analyst. “They know that the attacks make [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas appear as if he’s losing control of the situation.”

   

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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in a televised address Sunday evening warned the Israeli public that the “fifth wave has begun” amid the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus.

With Israel having registered over 1,000 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, the government on Monday approved the Health Ministry’s recommendation to classify the United States, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Morocco, Portugal, Canada, Switzerland and Turkey as “red” countries and place them under a travel ban. The measure is supposed to come into effect at midnight local time between Tuesday and Wednesday.

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In addition, the coronavirus reproduction rate (R) hit 1.22 on Monday, the highest since August. The R rate represents how many people each virus carrier has infected on average, and it only mirrors the situation as of about 10 days prior.

Israelis are not allowed to travel to red countries unless they receive special permission from a governmental Exception Committee. In addition, if they return to Israel, they need to be quarantined for a minimum of seven days, even if they are fully vaccinated, including the first day in a coronavirus hotel – at least until they receive the result of the PCR test taken upon landing.

Israeli borders have been closed to foreign nationals since the end of November, with very limited exceptions.

   

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The United Nations General Assembly concluded its activities for 2021 over the weekend. This year, once again, Israel was the primary – almost exclusive – target of condemnations and resolutions by the international body.

In total, the General Assembly passed 14 anti-Israel resolutions in 2021, while the other 194 countries in the world were hit with a grand total of four resolutions of condemnation – against North Korea, Iran, Myanmar, and Russian activity in Crimea. Meanwhile, a draft resolution against the Syrian regime highlighting its crimes against humanity was deferred.

The two latest condemnations were issued on December 17. In one resolution, pertaining to an event in 2006, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed “concern that Israel did not acknowledge its responsibility for the oil spill” off the Lebanese coast and failed to clarify how it intends to compensate the Lebanese government for it. The second resolution condemned Israel for “exploiting the natural resources of the Palestinians, and on the Golan Heights.”

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UN Watch, a Geneva-based non-governmental watchdog organization, harshly criticized the United Nations. “Today’s farce at the General Assembly underscores a simple fact: the UN’s automatic majority has no interest in truly helping Palestinians, nor in protecting anyone’s human rights; the goal of these ritual, one-sided condemnations is to scapegoat Israel,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.

   

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Israeli swimmer Anastasia Gorbenko further amazed at the World Swimming Championships in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, picking up a second gold medal two days after securing Israel’s first-ever first-place win at the competition.

Gorbenko, aged 18, took the gold in the 100-meter individual medley. She finished with a time of 57.80 seconds, edging out French swimmer Beryl Gastaldello.

On Friday, Gorbenko finished first in the 50-meter breaststroke, the first-ever gold for Israel at the championships. Her result of 29.34 seconds set a new Israeli record for women in that event.

She also made history earlier this year when she became the first female Israeli swimmer to advance to an Olympic final.

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