March 31, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

New Iran Cartoon Competition Focuses on U.S. Responsibility for Coronavirus - Ben Cohen (Algemeiner)
    The organizer of Iran's Holocaust cartoon contest, Masoud Shojaei-Tabatabaei, has a new theme - promoting the conspiracy theory that the U.S. is behind the coronavirus pandemic.
    He announced in Tehran on Wednesday that more than 2,000 submissions had been received from cartoonists in 68 countries for the new competition, sponsored by Iran's Ministry of Health.

IDF Tank Assembly Line Converted to Making Medical Equipment - Hanan Greenwood (Israel Hayom)
    The Defense Ministry's Rehabilitation and Maintenance Center outside Tel Aviv produces Merkava tanks, builds command and control centers, and upgrades vehicles and communications systems for the army.
    In recent days, however, the center's assembly lines have been converted to help fight the war against the coronavirus.
    The center's commander, Col. Udi Amira, said the assembly line for manufacturing tank seats was repurposed to make protective goggles for medical crews and is now producing 1,400 protective goggles per day.
    At an IDF vehicle factory in Haifa, one assembly line is refitting ambulances to protect their crews against the virus.
    One of the factories is gearing up to manufacture ventilators made from medical equipment.

Israeli Innovation to Produce Hundreds of Respirators a Day (Jerusalem Post)
    As respirators have become essential to deal with the complications of the coronavirus, First Robotics League, Microsoft Israel Research and Development, Ichilov Medical Center, Magen David Adom and Unit 108 of the Air Force have come together to find an innovative solution to avoid future shortages in Israel and around the world.
    The Israeli Air Force is managing the project.
   The idea is to create an "open source" respirator that can be mass produced in labs at low cost, without the need for factories.
    "This is a product that uses a manual respiration balloon and operates it smartly and automatically....All of its assembling instructions are open to the public, in Israel and worldwide," the developers explained.

Two Israeli Hospitals Launch AI-Based Tele-ICU to Support Covid-19 Patients - Tammy Lovell (HealthcareITNews)
    Israeli clinical intelligence firm CLEW is working with Sheba Medical Center and Ichilov Hospital, using its TeleICU solution CLEW-ICU to manage patients infected with the Covid-19 virus, while protecting frontline care workers.
    The platform's artificial intelligence-based algorithms are trained to identify respiratory deterioration in advance, enabling early interventions that might change the patient's clinical outcome.
    This allows healthcare workers to identify disease severity from a remote command center.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iranian Militias Said to Be the Main Vector for Covid-19 Infections in Syria - O. Peri
    Syrian opposition websites report that the main vector for the spread of Covid-19 in eastern Syria was the pro-Iran militias coming in from Iran and Iraq, where the disease is rampant. The Euphrates Eye Facebook page reported that there were over 100 cases in Al-Bukamal, and that 31 members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards in Deir Al-Zour city had been infected, of whom 16 had been transferred to Iran. Many cases were also reported among Hizbullah members in the city.
        The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the disease had spread in Al-Mayadeen, with 15 cases among the Iran loyalist militias - 11 Iranians and four Iraqis. It also reported cases in Damascus, Tartus, Latakia, and Homs provinces. One report said that 520 people from these areas had already died. Syrian journalist Ziad Al-Rayes reported: "The virus is spreading in military bases where Iranian militias are stationed, such as the Al-Sha'irat airport [in Homs province], the Hama military airfield, and Aleppo international airport."  (MEMRI)
  • 21 Nobel Laureates Condemn Iran over Coronavirus Outbreak Secrecy - Christopher Carbone
    The Iranian regime's cover-up of the spread of coronavirus has resulted in an unprecedented catastrophe in the country, a group of 21 Nobel Laureates warned Monday in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
        "As a result of the regime's inaction, there has been a serious lack of preventive measures to control and ward off the spread of the novel coronavirus in Iran....As a result of all this, Covid-19 has aggressively spread death and infections across Iran. We are asking for your urgent intervention in the situation that is unfolding in Iran, as a means of preventing the further expansion of this catastrophe."  (Fox News)
  • German Court Sentences Tunisian to 10 Years for Ricin Bomb Plot - Raghida Bahnam
    Judge Jan van Lessen at Dusseldorf's higher regional court sentenced Tunisian Sief Allah H, 31, to 10 years in prison last week for planning a biological bomb attack with the deadly poison ricin. The ISIS sympathizer had ordered castor seeds, explosives and metal ball bearings on the internet in order to build the toxic bomb. His German wife Yasmin, 43, stands accused of helping him build the bomb but she is now being tried separately. The judge said they had produced enough ricin to potentially kill up to 13,500 people. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel's Coronavirus Count Reaches 4,831, Death Toll Is 17
    The Ministry of Health reported Tuesday morning that the number of cases of Covid-19 in Israel had risen to 4,831. 83 patients are severely ill, with 69 on ventilators and sedated. 95 people are moderately ill. The latest two fatalities were a woman in her 50s and a woman, 49, both with other pre-existing medical conditions. (Globes)
        See also Israeli Expert: Coronavirus Infection Rate Declining - Maytal Yasur Beit-Or
    Since last week, there has been a consistent decline in the rate of coronavirus infections in Israel, which are now doubling at a rate of once every eight days compared to once every three days, Prof. Gabi Barabash, former director of the Health Ministry and of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, told Channel 12. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israeli Woman Charged with Spying for Hizbullah - Gilad Morag
    An Israeli woman, 25, has been indicted for spying for Hizbullah. The woman was in contact with Ali, a resident of Lebanon, through Facebook, and he asked her to take and send photographs. The photos she sent included military vehicles, the perimeter fence on the Israel-Lebanon border, Haifa Port, an air force base, Iron Dome missile defense installations, the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel, and Haifa's Rambam Healthcare Campus. (Ynet News)
  • Israel, U.S. Hold Joint F-35 Drill - Anna Ahronheim
    Israeli Air Force F-35s trained alongside American F-35s on Sunday over southern Israel. While other joint exercises have been cancelled because of the coronavirus, the drill received special permission since it involved no person-to-person contact. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • How Hizbullah Is Dealing with the Coronavirus - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira
    After the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, air traffic from Tehran to Beirut continued without letup as Lebanese students and their families fled the universities in Iran, particularly the madrasas of Qom where thousands of Lebanese students learn, and returned to Lebanon without being checked or put in quarantine, thereby spreading the disease from Iran to Lebanon.
        At the same time that Hizbullah has committed itself to help the Lebanese state deal with the coronavirus, hundreds of Hizbullah fighters are up to their necks in the war in Idlib, Syria, which continues to inflict losses on Hizbullah and to spark outrage among the Shiite community. The writer is a senior research fellow at the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • British-Israeli Project Aims to Identify Anti-Covid-19 Drug - Jacob Judah
    Teams at the Weizmann Institute for Science in Israel and the Diamond Light Source laboratory in Oxfordshire outlined their current findings and research plans in a discussion hosted by Weizmann UK on Thursday. Weizmann Vice President for Public Affairs and Resource Development Roee Ozir said, "We have probably somewhere between 20 and 30 initiatives of talented and creative scientists who are trying to push their research very quickly and look for remedies as soon as possible."
        Dr. Nir London, who is leading the team at Weizmann that is searching for a drug candidate, said they are seeking to develop an anti-viral drug which will target protease, one of the 30 proteins that are essential for the activity of the virus. The Weizmann Institute and its international partners are seeking to conduct multiple stages of its research concurrently and thereby shorten the research cycle.
        Weizmann has pioneered a form of research that is "completely open and shared in real time with the entire scientific community." To find the compounds that are able to inhibit protease, "instead of following up on only a few tens of compounds, we aim to follow up on 500 to a 1,000 compounds in parallel and so drastically shorten the timescale," London said.
        The team published the data that they had gathered online and issued a "call to arms to medical chemists around the world" inviting them to submit proposals for which compounds might be best placed to bind to the coronavirus. "Within a few days, we got hundreds of proposals from medicinal chemists all around the world....Our premise is that if there is a safe compound which shows efficacy against the virus, humanity needs to know about this fast."  (Jewish Chronicle-UK)

U.S. Amb. Cherith Norman Chalet, Acting Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, told the Security Council on Monday:
  • "In recent days, we have seen close coordination between Israeli and Palestinian authorities as they seek to prevent widespread harm from the presence of Covid-19 among their peoples."
  • "Both the Israeli and Palestinian ministries of health have been coordinating regularly to mitigate the spread and impact of the coronavirus. They have been meeting regularly for conversations about recent developments. And they have been sharing best practices with one another to help those in their care stay safe and healthy."
  • "This kind of dialogue, though just one example, is a model of collaboration and cooperation. It is a tangible demonstration of the good that comes - and the human lives that can literally be saved - when leaders come to the table just to talk with one another - to recognize one another's dignity, and to do the hard work of laying out a path to a safer, healthier, more prosperous future."
  • "So, when this disease passes...each member of this Council will be able to point to the cooperation we're seeing now and say that dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians is possible. We will be able to say that achieving mutually beneficial solutions is possible."
  • "I want everyone to take note of what we've seen in recent days, and to remember it. Because when Covid-19 has passed, the need for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians will be just as great as it was before."
  • "The Council will have an important role to play in reminding both sides that in a time of trial, it was dialogue that saw them through to the other side. We continue to believe that a comprehensive and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians is in reach."