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  • Police patrol outside the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem on September 25, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

    A sweeping new lockdown went into effect in Israel at 2 p.m. on Friday, as lawmakers continued to argue over possible restrictions for protests and public prayers.

    Most proposed measures went into effect, however plans to limit demonstrations and prayers were not included as they fall outside the cabinet’s authority and had not yet received Knesset approval.

    Hebrew-language media reports suggested that synagogues would in any case be closed for the Sabbath and on Yom Kippur would operate under the previous restrictions in place for the holiday of Rosh Hashanah.

  • THE MODEST beefing up of the US force in Syria over the last week suggests that no immediate withdrawal is in the offing. (photo credit: REUTERS)

    The United States this week reinforced its military presence in northeastern Syria. Six Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles were deployed to the area, and around 100 troops were added to the roughly 500 that are already present in Syria east of the Euphrates River. The US also continues to maintain a separate presence west of the Euphrates in the area around the base at al-Tanf, on the Syrian-Jordanian border. 

    The beefing-up of the US military presence appears to be a response to the increasing tempo of Russian attempts to harass US forces, and to expand Moscow’s presence in Syria east of the Euphrates. On August 26, four US troops were wounded when the vehicle in which they were traveling collided with a Russian military vehicle. 

    The incident took place outside the town of Derik/Malkiyeh, at the northeastern tip of Syria close to the Tigris River and the border with Iraq. This area lies far east of the Euphrates, and well inside of an area designated as a US-controlled security zone. That is, the Russian presence in the area was itself a provocation. The collision with the US vehicle took place at a time when Russian military helicopters were deployed above the area. It appears to have been deliberately initiated by the Russian force. 

  • U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 21, 2017 (photo credit: REUTERS / JONATHAN ERNST)

    Bahrain’s establishment of peace with Israel has not quelled its pursuit of a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with east Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa told the UN General Assembly on Wednesday.

    “We have announced the establishment of relations with the State of Israel, sending a civilized message affirming that our hand is extended for a just and comprehensive peace, as it is the best guarantee for the future of all peoples of the region,” he said in a virtual address to mark the opening of the 75th UNGA.

    Bahrain had followed the example set by the United Arab Emirates, Khalifa said, as he lauded it for its “courageous,” “successful” and “blessed step” on behalf of regional peace.

    The UAE reached a “historic peace agreement” with Israel, under the auspices and efforts of the United States of America, in exchange for stopping Israel’s annexation of the Palestinian lands,” he said.

    Jordan, Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia also spoke of the importance of a two-state solution at the pre-1967 lines when they addressed the UNGA. That vision runs counter to US President Donald Trump’s two-state plan, which recognizes existing Israeli sovereignty over most of Jerusalem and allows for Israel to annex up to 30% of the West Bank.

  • Ultra-Orthodox Jews, wearing face masks during morning prayers in a synagogue separated by plastic partitions, follow new government measures to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, in Bnei Brak, Sept 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

    The Health Ministry said Thursday morning that 6,808 new virus cases were diagnosed a day earlier, after ministers agreed in a late-night vote to drastically tighten the national lockdown.

    It was the second day in a row that the number of new cases neared 7,000.

    The ministry said that a notably high 12.9 percent of the tests that came back Wednesday were positive. There were 54,364 tests carried out.

    Beginning Friday at 2 p.m., nearly all businesses will be closed, with the exception of specific companies and factories designated as “vital” by the Defense Ministry’s National Emergency Authority. The decision, drafted Wednesday by the coronavirus cabinet and approved by the full cabinet on Thursday morning, exempted supermarkets and pharmacies from the closure, and allowed restaurants to work on a home delivery basis only.


  • FILE PHOTO: Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif looks on during a meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow, Russia December 30, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS/EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA)

    Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is trying to entice Russia to become closer to Iran through bilateral relations, Iranian media reported Thursday.

    He arrived in Moscow to discuss relations with Russia.His goal is to pave the way for Iran to circumvent the US embargo and sanctions. Iran seeks to harness Russia and also China to confront “US lawlessness,” Iran’s Tasnim News Agency reported.

    Zarif praised the “important role of Russia and China in supporting the UN Security Council and countering US illegal actions in the Security Council,” the report quoted him as saying. “The Russian government and its representation in the UN have had the best position alongside China during the difficult recent months,” he said.

  • Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen during a vote at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on August 24, 2020. (photo credit: OREN BEN HAKOON/FLASH90)

    The country is heading back into a complete lockdown which is to begin Friday and is likely to last until at least the end of the holidays.

    After eight hours of deliberations, the coronavirus cabinet made its recommendations, which was brought to the full cabinet for a late-night vote.

    The lockdown is expected to be more stringent than the one in March, and should include shuttering synagogues, reducing the number of people who can protest, closing all nonessential businesses and markets, reducing public transportation routes and allowing citizens to gather only within their nuclear families.

  • Medical staff at the coronavirus ward of the Kaplan Medical Center, in Rehovot, on September 22, 2020 (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

    The Health Ministry said on Wednesday morning that 6,923 new virus cases had been diagnosed in Israel the previous day, a massive surge to a record-high number of infections, as the coronavirus cabinet was set to meet on tightening the national lockdown.

    The latest figures pushed the number of Israel’s confirmed cases since the start of the outbreak past the 200,000 mark — 200,041 — only a month after the country hit 100,000 cases.

  • Huntington Lake Fire Department volunteer Steve Monke captured video when trees at China Peak Mountain Resort caught on fire on Sept. 8, 2020. (photo: Sacramento Bee / taken from video)

    The staggering statistics keep piling up for California’s wildfire season: August and September account for five of the six biggest fires in nearly 90 years of recorded history for the state.

    The destructive Creek Fire that continues to burn in Fresno County grew about 3,000 acres between Monday and Tuesday for a new total of 283,724 acres, leapfrogging the 2017 Thomas Fire for the No. 6 spot, according to Cal Fire records. It is 30% contained.

    Ahead of the Creek Fire, which started Sept. 4, are four massive wildfire complexes that sparked during a freak mid-August thunderstorm. The storm pummeled Northern California and the Bay Area with thousands of lightning strikes, igniting dozens of large fires and hundreds of smaller ones. Then, gusty winds within the next few weeks caused some of the larger incidents to swell or erupt in size.

  • Defense Minister Benny Gantz and senior advisor to the U.S. President, Jared Kushner, have just completed a meeting at the White House.

    Gantz opened the meeting with remarks expressing gratitude for the exceptional efforts and achievements on the part of Kushner and the American government in advancing peace and stability in the Middle East, culminating in the Abraham Accords.

    The two discussed "avenues for jointly furthering additional accords as an instrument for ensuring regional stability and protecting Israel’s security, while maintaining Israel’s qualitative edge throughout the process."

    At the end of the meeting, Gantz stressed that "the historic achievements led by the American government highlight the centrality and depth of the friendship between Israel and the U.S., which is grounded in shared aspirations, values, and interests, and which is an important anchor of regional and global stability."

  • US President Donald Trump is seen on a screen broadcasting to an empty conference room as he delivers a pre-recorded address to the 75th annual UN General Assembly at United Nations headquarters. September 22, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/MIKE SEGAR)

    The US President, Donald Trump, addressed the UN General Assembly on Tuesday and voiced optimism that more peace agreements in the Middle East are possible. As the General Debate is taking place mostly virtually this year due to COVID-19, The President delivered his speech from the White House. 

    The first part of Trump’s speech was mostly focused on the pandemic, and he sharply criticized China for its response to the virus.

    The President addressed the recent agreements that the White House brokered, such as the economic agreement between Serbia and Kosovo, and the historic Abraham Accords between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. Trump said that there are “many other Middle Eastern countries to come.”

    “They are coming fast, and they know it's great for them, and it's great for the world,” he continued. “These groundbreaking peace deals are the dawn of the new middle East... we intend to deliver more peace agreements shortly, and I have never been more optimistic for the future of the region. There is no blood in the sand. Those days are hopefully over.”

  • In this image made from UNTV video, U.S. President Donald Trump speaks in a pre-recorded message which was played during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, at the United Nations headquarters in New York. AP Photo

    WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday demanded that the United Nations hold China accountable for the coronavirus pandemic as he defends his own handling of COVID-19 in America where the death toll is nearing 200,000.

    “We have waged a fierce battle against the invisible enemy – the China virus – which has claimed countless lives in 188 countries,” Trump said in a prerecorded address to the U.N. General Assembly that lasted less than seven minutes.

    “As we pursue this bright future, we must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world: China.”

  • Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks to IDF Home Front Command soldiers, Ashdod. September 14, 2020 (photo credit: FLASH90)

    Just hours after he instructed the IDF to prepare a field hospital for coronavirus patients, Defense Minister Benny Gantz flew from one red country to another to meet his US counterpart, Mark Esper, in Washington.

    The whirlwind 24-hour trip would include “meetings to discuss maintaining Israel’s qualitative edge, international policy vis-à-vis Iran and strategy for stopping its expansion and entrenchment in the Middle East, as well as discussions on defense cooperation and procurement,” Gantz’s office said.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Washington last week to sign normalization accords with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. He was highly criticized for his trip, which took place just days before Israel entered a second lockdown as the rate of coronavirus infections and deaths spiked.

  • ISRAELI F-35 takes off from an airbase in southern Israel (photo credit: AMIT AGRONOV/ISRAEL AIR FORCE)

    The United States and the United Arab Emirates hope to have an initial agreement on the sale of F-35 stealth fighter jets to the Gulf state in place by December, as the Trump administration studies how to structure a deal without running afoul of Israel.

    Sources close to the negotiations said the goal is to have a letter of agreement in place in time for UAE National Day celebrated on Dec. 2.

    Any deal must satisfy decades of agreement with Israel that states any US weapons sold to the region must not impair Israel's "qualitative military edge," (QME) guaranteeing US weapons furnished to Israel are "superior in capability" to those sold to its neighbors.

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Provocative Commentary

“The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the morning, He will be in the last place the remainder of the day.” 
― E.M. Bounds

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