Infect the port, disinfect the beach: 6 things to know for May 19

1. Port of crawl: The Washington Post’s uncovering of an Israeli cyberattack that seemingly crippled an Iranian port gets wide media coverage in the Hebrew press Tuesday morning.

2. Israel can hack it: Former Military Intelligence head and current INSS think tanker Amos Yadlin tweets that the hack was seemingly the work of a “superpower,” but indicates that that superpower is indeed Israel at least when it comes to breaking into computers.

  • “If this cyberattack was indeed Israel’s response to the Iranian attack on civilian infrastructure (water and sewage systems), Israel is sending an important message to Iran regarding the vulnerability of key elements of Iran’s economy to Israeli cyber capabilities,” he writes.
  • Army Radio reporter Tzahi Dabish calls the attack part of IDF chief Aviv Kohavi’s version of a “war between wars,” i.e. non-conventional military actions outside the confines of normal conflict. “You see it in Beirut, in Iraq and now with the cyberattack,” he tweets.
  • While Israel claimed that the Iranian cyberattack on its water facilities was thwarted, the Ynet news site reports that in actuality, six facilities were damaged in one way or another.
  • “One station recorded ‘irregularities from unplanned data changes’; at another, a pump that started working nonstop was disconnected automatically, at another water facility, a takeover of the control system was recorded. However, there was no disruption in water distribution,” the site reports, without citing a source.
  • Channel 13 and Axios reporter Barak Ravid points out that he reported on May 9 about a secret high-level cabinet meeting to discuss the Iranian cyberattack on Israel’s water facilities and a possible Israeli retaliation.
  • “This was a very irregular cyberattack against civilian water facilities which is against every ethic and every code even in times of war,” a senior Israeli official was quoted telling him at the time. “We didn’t expect this even from the Iranians. It is just not done.”

3. But can Iran? Now that Israel has hit back with a hack of an Iranian civilian facility, there are fears that Iran will retaliate.

4. Back to the beach: With the spread of the coronavirus fading, beaches are getting ready to open up officially on Wednesday.

  • Walla reports that 136 beaches will officially open, after millions of shekels of work to make them coronavirus ready.
  • Among the guidelines beaches will have to maintain are “a distance of two meters between bathers, marked off, a notice about the guidelines on loudspeakers every hour, signage, disinfection of bathrooms every hour and shutting down dressing rooms and showers.”
  • Anyone who has been to the beach in the Israel or seen pictures, though, knows that them being officially closed didn’t keep many away, especially as temperatures began to soar. While water sports were allowed, casual tanners and bathers were not, and lifeguards were told to stay home in a situation the head of the lifeguards union tells Ynet was “absurd.”
  • “If people come to the beach, it’s a catastrophe. And we see, two weeks after they opened them for non-bathers, people are leaving in ambulances, there are drownings,” Avi Afiah says.
  • He adds that there were actual undercover lifeguards (if there’s a better concept for a network drama, I haven’t heard of it) who were sent to the beaches to stroll and save anybody who went in the water anyway.
  • Pouring some cold water (or maybe scalding in this case) on Tel Aviv’s good time, Israel Hayom reports on the increase in coronavirus cases in the White City, with it heading toward the “red line” that would turn it into an outbreak zone and force everything to shut down.
  • According to the paper, the city is seeing larger increases in cases than Bnei Brak or Beit Shemesh, and is one step below needing “targeted treatment.”
  • “This means the city needs attention, PSAs and tests. It’s clear that Tel Aviv is on the map,” an unnamed “expert source” is quoted saying. The source adds that it seems that the rise is mostly from transmission within families, and that it is taking steps.

5. Your want a virus with that shake: Even more exciting than beach season opening for some is the news that bars, restaurants and clubs have gotten the all-clear to open on May 27.

  • Channel 12 reports that establishments will be able to host up to 100 people or 85 percent of their space, and can also open outdoor seating arrangements with a meter between diners.
  • These rules are significantly more lax than many countries, which have allowed eateries and other places to open at 25% or 50% capacity and with the normal two meters between diners.
  • Event halls have also gotten the go-ahead to open, according to Channel 13, but that will only take place on June 14. While at that point you will have been able to eat a single meter from 99 strangers at a restaurant for two weeks, you will have to make sure to stay two meters away from Aunt Rona at your cousin’s bar mitzvah. Have fun playing socially distant Coke and Pepsi.
  • Want to get away? Kan reports that a list is being drawn up of countries that will be in a non-quarantine pact with Israel. Among the destinations that Israelis can visit without having to spend two weeks cooped up: Greece, Cyprus, Georgia, the Seychelles and Montenegro, all of which have had relatively low infection numbers. Visitors from there will also not have to quarantine in Israel.
  • “Sources with knowledge of the details said that no final decision has been made, but there is a desire to allow the [travel] and are planning a pilot in June and July to look into the possibility,” the outlet reports.

6. Friday the minister got a shtickle update: Former health minister Yaakov Litzman has already gotten away from his train wreck of an office, but his attacks on his former director general and his own admissions are not exactly making the shift smooth.

  • Speaking to Kan, Litzman indicates he really wasn’t involved in the whole doing his job and dealing with the most important crisis since World War II thing.
  • “Here and there they updated me as well,” he says.
  • He also gives Israelis good reason to be thankful he left the office, explaining that he regrets supporting locking down ultra-Orthodox areas or shutting down synagogues — the single largest virus incubators — and saying steps the government took to keep the virus away were too extreme. “Reality is with me. I was right. We are far away from 10,000 dead.”
  • This comes just a couple days after Litzman criticized director general Moshe Bar-Siman Tov for pushing lockdowns, quarantines and the like.
  • Channel 12 news quotes an unnamed minister saying Litzman is just trying to save face for being the face of lockdowns of ultra-Orthodox areas, and that he “many times wasn’t present at all.”
  • “Even if there was an exaggeration and panic, Litzman didn’t sound the alarm at any stage,” the minister says.
  • Haaretz’s Amos Harel writes that even if Litzman was right about the threat being exaggerated, it doesn’t excuse his cheap parting shots. “The last-minute, public disavowal by the outgoing minister of his own director general is even uglier given the general performance of the former during the crisis. Litzman had basically disappeared from the scene even before he came down with COVID-19 – after deliberately violating the guidelines issued by his ministry – and inadvertently undermined the health of his voters through exemptions he made sure that the ultra-Orthodox were given as the crisis began to unfold.”

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