UN General Assembly Kicks Off amid COVID-19 ResurgencePolitics

   

The 75th United Nations General Assembly kicks off on Tuesday. But given the global pandemic, the confab will be a virtual affair. All sessions will be streamed online, with world leaders each delivering a pre-recorded 15-minute speech.

On Tuesday, the heads of four out of the five permanent member-states of the UN Security Council will give addresses: US President Donald Trump; Chinese President Xi Jinping; Russian President Vladimir Putin; and French President Emmanuel Macron.

President Trump is expected to highlight the US-mediated normalization agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. He also said that he would have a “strong message” for China, where the first cases of coronavirus were reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statements are slated to be aired on Tuesday, September 29.

   

Israeli authorities have registered a record-high number of active coronavirus cases in the country, with more than 50,000 people currently infected with the pathogen. Israel has now surpassed the United States in per capita cases of COVID-19. The Jewish state also ranks above the global average in per capita deaths.

Meanwhile, hospitals in Jerusalem and the southern city of Ashdod announced that they were overloaded and could no longer accept additional coronavirus patients. It  came as Health Ministry Director General Chezy Levy ordered all hospitals to suspend elective surgeries and dedicate all of their resources to fighting the pandemic. Medical centers in other parts of the nation have been ordered to prepare by the end of the month for the arrival of several hundred additional COVID-19 patients with serious symptoms.

Concurrently, Israeli Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz has ordered the military to construct a field hospital to help ease the burden on health facilities. He also approved the enlistment of hundreds of additional soldiers to work as coronavirus contact tracers.

   

Israeli Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz on Tuesday was set to depart for Washington, D.C., where he will hold high-level talks with his American counterpart Mark Esper and other Pentagon officials.

Topping the agenda will be discussions on how to uphold Israel’s qualitative military edge in the Middle East, as well as Iran’s regional expansionism and potential nuclearization.

Gantz’s visit comes as the Trump Administration is seeking to sell fifth generation F-35 stealth fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates, a move vehemently opposed by Jerusalem prior to the recent peace deal with Abu Dhabi.

   

Officials from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ ruling Fatah faction and the Hamas terror group are set to meet in Istanbul, Turkey, for talks geared toward ending their 15-year-long rift.

According to a Fatah statement, the discussions will focus on “ending the division and applying the directives of the conference of Palestinian faction heads,” a reference to a body of senior Palestinian officials that recently met in the wake of the United Arab Emirates’ normalization agreement with Israel.

Palestinians across the political spectrum have slammed the deal, which they deem a betrayal given that most Arab states had previously pledged to not forge open relations with Jerusalem prior to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

   

The “second wave” of COVID-19 has forced millions of people to once again take precautions such as adhering to strict social distancing regulations.

Enter Israeli company Flytrex, which Walmart representatives recently approached with a view to launching a project to use drones to deliver goods to consumers.

The Flytrex drone delivery system is currently being tested in Iceland and soon in the US.

Shoppers will be able to use a mobile app to browse a catalog containing some 200 items. The automated drones will take off across the street from a Walmart location and travel a distance of up to three miles carrying a package weighing a maximum of 6.6 pounds (2.9 kg). Flytrex drones can make drop-offs directly into backyards from 80 feet in the air.

   

The Arava Institute in southern Israel has produced a type of date not cultivated since the time of the Maccabees. The dates were grown using a 2,000-year-old seed found during a 2005 excavation at Masada. Since then, scientists have located six additional ancient date seeds, five of them coming from the caves of Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found after having been written between 150 BCE and 70 CE.

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