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Report: Five Iranian-Backed Militia Killed in Syria in Alleged Israeli Air Strike

By DEBKAfile

Air strikes attributed to Israel south of Damascus and in Daraa Monday night, Aug. 31, are reported by Syrian opposition sources to have killed five Iranian-backed militiamen and injured ten. They say that the raids hit Syrian military positions on the outskirts of Damascus and its international airport. Hizbullah positions in the southern town of Daraa were also said to have been targeted. Contrary to these unconfirmed reports, the Syrian news agency SANA cites a military official as claiming that a civilian woman was killed in those air strikes as well two others who were killed and seven injured. The agency adds that Syria air defense systems were activated against "enemy targets over Damascus. If confirmed, this would be the latest reported IDF raid on pro-Iranian targets in Syria after relative inaction since early August. No comment has come from Israel. Hizbullah has threatened to kill an Israeli soldier for every fighter who loses his life in an IDF attack in Syria, but so far missed its aim in three attempts.

Iran's Khamenei says UAE 'betrayed' Muslim world with Israel deal

By MEE

Iran's supreme leader accused the United Arab Emirates of betraying the Muslim world with its decision to normalize relations with Israel. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised speech on Tuesday that the deal, which Palestinians referred to as a "stab in the back", would disgrace the UAE "forever". "Of course, the UAE's betrayal will not last long, but this stigma will always be remembered," he said. "They allowed the Zionist regime to enter the region and forgot Palestine. The Emiratis will be disgraced forever... I hope they wake up and compensate for what they did." Iranian authorities harshly criticized the US-brokered deal between the UAE and Tehran's longtime foe Israel, with some officials warning the UAE and Israel fostering closer ties risks igniting a firestorm in the region. Immediately after the deal's announcement, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said it was a "big mistake" and warned against allowing Israel a "foothold in the region". Meanwhile, UAE foreign ministry official Jamal al-Musharakh dismissed Khamenei's comments, saying the "path to peace and prosperity is not through incitement and hate speech. That kind of rhetoric is counterproductive to peace in the region'" Palestinians were dismayed by the UAE's move, worried it would weaken a long-standing pan-Arab position that only an Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and acceptance of Palestinian statehood would allow for normal relations with the Arab countries. While the Emirates has stated that the deal was predicated on Israel freezing its plan to annex large swathes of Judea and Samaria on the West Bank, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said that annexation is still on the table. Israel and the UAE are expecting economic and enhanced security benefits from normalisation, the first such accommodation between an Arab country and Israel in more than 20 years, largely forged through their shared distrust of Iran. On Saturday, the UAE announced it was scrapping its economic boycott of Israel, with officials from the two countries saying they are looking at cooperation in defense, medicine, agriculture, tourism and technology as part of the deal. Two days after the deal was signed, the head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency visited the UAE for security talks. On Monday, the first direct flight by Israel's flagship carrier El Al landed in Abu Dhabi, carrying US and Israeli officials including President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. In recent years, the UAE has held quiet talks with Israel and allowed Israelis with second passports into the country for trade and talks. The UAE's foreign minister recorded a message for the Palestinian diaspora living in the Emirates on Monday, the day of the first commercial flight between Israel and the Emirates. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan said the UAE was still committed to "establishing an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. We will continue to support the Palestinian cause based on our historic stance that stems from a deeply rooted, unshakable belief that will never change as a result of any considerations," he said. Kushner and U.S. officials visited a major air base in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, speaking to Emirati and American pilots on the tarmac, as Iran's supreme leader called the UAE's recognition of Israel "treason that will not last for long. The United Arab Emirates committed treachery against either the Islamic world or Arab nations and regional countries, as well as Palestine," Khamenei said. "The treason will not last for long."

Rosh Hashanah Dinner, Yom Kippur Break-Fast, and Sukkah Hops: How Risky are These High Holiday Activities During COVID-19?

By JTA

When Passover arrived just a few weeks after the pandemic set in earlier this year, it was clear that Seders with families and friends would not be happening. Five months later, as Jews across the country prepare for the High Holidays, calculating risk has become much harder. The pandemic seems under control in parts of the country but is still raging in others; some people are staying home as much as possible while others have practice going out safely; and the costs of disruption and isolation are beginning to feel more acute. That means the questions surrounding how to observe the holidays have murkier answers: Is it safe to do Rosh Hashanah dinner with the grandparents? What about our annual Yom Kippur break-fast with the neighbors? Can we still go sukkah hopping? JTA spoke to two epidemiologists who have been advising Jewish communities during the pandemic about the risks involved in these classic High Holiday traditions and more. Here's what they told us. While most non-Orthodox synagogues are planning to hold services exclusively over livestream, some synagogues, including many Orthodox ones, are planning to gather for in-person services, often truncated or otherwise adjusted to minimize disease risk. Among the most important ways to keep these services safe are maintaining distance between people, requiring masks, screening for illness or exposure to the virus and ensuring proper air flow. Eili Klein, a professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore, said he won't be attending in-person services this year. But for those who are, he said, outdoors is better. Klein cautioned that large tents erected by some synagogues to allow outdoor services might carry similar risks to being indoors. You want to be sure you're not gathering in a place where the air flow might not be very good, he said, and the center of a large tent can easily be one. "This gets into fluid dynamics and all these things where, if you're getting to that level, you're probably getting to a place where that's not a good idea." Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt, the chief of infectious diseases and hospital epidemiologist at Mount Sinai South Nassau on Long Island and an assistant rabbi at the Young Israel of Woodmere, a large Orthodox synagogue in Long Island's Nassau County, said he would feel comfortable praying at an indoor or outdoor minyan "if they're done properly." How can an indoor service be done properly? For Glatt, that means screening participants for illness or exposure to the virus, maintaining at least 6 feet of distance between people and keeping masks on while indoors. And it's not just about keeping to the guidelines while the services are taking place, he said. The safety of the in-person services depends on people adhering to safety guidelines in their lives outside of synagogue as well. "If you wish to be in public places like a minyan then you have to take the guidelines seriously, which means you're masking and social distancing as best as possible at all times," Glatt said. Hearing the shofar blown on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is considered a sacred commandment, so some synagogues are offering standalone shofar-blowing services outdoors to accommodate those who do not feel comfortable attending services in person. Both Klein and Glatt agreed that a short, outdoor shofar-blowing service would be relatively safe. But keeping people distanced and wearing masks is key. Some have suggested covering shofars with masks to prevent the virus from being dispersed when they are blown. Glatt has suggested that having someone blow the shofar who has already recovered from COVID-19 would be ideal, but he said the actual blowing of the shofar is unlikely to be a major risk. "Do it in the street, do it outside, have a set number of people showing up so you don't have more people than you expect," he said. Klein believes that outdoor situations with proper social distancing and participants largely wearing masks would be a "fairly safe environment," even with a somewhat large gathering. "The problem becomes, in any of these situations, if you have people violating those things, then that puts everyone at risk," he said. Risks are involved in getting together with people outside of your immediate bubble, according to Klein and Glatt. But there are ways to gather in small groups safely, beginning by keeping the gathering outside and guests from different households far apart. "Outdoors is better than indoors," Klein said. "That reduces the risks dramatically." Both Klein and Glatt said the main problem with big meals is the gathering of people, not the sharing of food. "There's been a lot of evidence that this does not seem to be spread by food," Klein said, meaning that giving gifts of food could be a way to celebrate the holiday without gathering in groups. Glatt said he would have one family, not a lot of different people. "Assuming the parties are all responsible, an outdoor meal is doable," he said. Still, if you live in a part of the country where the virus is still largely uncontrolled or if someone you've invited may have been exposed to the virus, it's best for everyone to stay home. And people who may be particularly vulnerable to the disease, including the elderly and those with other medical conditions, may want to avoid any risk at all. There's no reason to avoid fasting on Yom Kippur during a pandemic if you are otherwise able to do so, Glatt said. But the calculation would be different for someone who has the virus, as it is for anyone with special medical conditions. "There's no evidence that if somebody doesn't have COVID that fasting is a problem," he said. "If somebody does have COVID, they should discuss with their doctor." When it comes to sharing a Yom Kippur break-fast with friends or neighbors, the same guidance would apply as to a Rosh Hashanah dinner: Outdoors is better than indoors, distancing should be in place and the groups of people who do not live together should be kept to a minimum. This may be more challenging at break-fast, which often features buffet setups. The danger in a buffet is less likely to be sharing utensils — although offering hand sanitizer probably isn't a bad idea — but in the way diners are encouraged to congregate near each other. If you're hosting, you probably want to think about how your guests will get their food. For some communities, sukkah hopping, in which people (often kids or families) visit several sukkahs and eat something in each one, is a classic Sukkot holiday ritual. Sukkahs would seem to be perfectly designed for the pandemic because they are not enclosed. Still, because many sukkahs are small in size and sukkah hopping often involves many people, Klein and Glatt said the activity would need to be seriously modified to be safe. "Any activity which has mixing with a large group of people either serially or in a big group is not a safe activity," Klein said, adding that keeping the time spent inside the sukkahs to a minimum so people aren't crowded in small spaces for prolonged periods of time. If that can't be done, sukkah hopping should be avoided. "It's not something that it's going to be terrible if we don't have the children go to a sukkah hop," Glatt said. "It's a fun thing, but sometimes we don't do fun things because pikuach nefashos [saving a life]."

Cats of Knesset get Pawliamentary Immunity

By YnetNews
Filibuster, Lobby, Revision and Ethics are not only political terms but the names of some of the 30 street cats who live in the backyard of the Knesset in Jerusalem and who had recently been granted purrmanent residence by the facility's officials. The street cats have over the years made the parliament's backyard their home and have been unofficially adopted by some of the staff, who provided them with food and water. Some, however, had taken the liberty of entering the gleaming halls of power to the chagrin of certain members, who lodged complaints with the local management. As a result, Knesset Director Sami Baklash has asked Tamar Bar-On, the parliament's environment chief, to formulate a comprehensive and orderly adoption plan for the cats, which he called "an important link in the ecological balance of the facility." The city's veterinary services were later called in to provide shots, neutering and other medical services to the felines, while a dedicated area on the grounds was designated for the cat's dinning pleasure with dry food only on its menu. )"At the initial stage, the Knesset will transfer the cats to veterinary care, which will include neutering or spaying, marking each cat in its ear, vaccination against rabies, and medical treatment if the need arises," Bar-On said. "These cats are an important part of the Knesset ecosystem," Baklash said, "it is our duty to preserve this part of urban nature." Chairperson of the Knesset Environment Committee Miki Haimovich applauded the director's policy. "I have had the pleasure of meeting some of the residents of the Knesset grounds and was happy to see they were well cared for. As an animal lover, I support the director's policy and hope we can be an example to other public institutions."

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