Apr 1, 2020 - World

Scoop: Netanyahu shared fake video as proof of Iranian virus cover-up

Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shared with his Cabinet a video he claimed was evidence of Iran concealing coronavirus deaths by dropping bodies in garbage dumps, two Cabinet ministers tell me.

Behind the scenes: Several hours later, Netanyahu's office realized the video had nothing to do with Iran, or with the coronavirus crisis. It was a clip from “Pandemic," a 2007 Hallmark Channel mini-series.

The backdrop: Iran has been Netanyahu's top foreign policy focus for 25 years. Israeli intelligence believes there have been up to five times more coronavirus deaths there than the 3,036 that have been officially acknowledged, an Israeli official tells me. Netanyahu thought he'd seen evidence of a cover-up.

During a conference call with Cabinet ministers on Monday, Netanyahu said he'd seen a video of Iranian soldiers loading bodies onto trucks and dropping them at garbage dumps.

  • According to two ministers who were on the call, Netanyahu said his national security adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat, had shown him the video.
  • Many of the ministers asked to watch the video, and Netanyahu asked his national security adviser to send it to the entire Cabinet.
  • The video had been shared by Iranians on social media over the last week, and it was passed on to Netanyahu without any confirmation of its authenticity.

The prime minister’s office didn’t deny this account. It said the video had only been sent to three Cabinet ministers who requested it and were told it came from social media and its authenticity was unclear.

Go deeper: Israel stunned as rivals Netanyahu and Gantz join forces

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Netanyahu says July 1 deadline for West Bank annexation won't change

Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday at a Likud Party faction meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, that his July 1 deadline for starting the process of annexation in the West Bank will not change, according to people in attendance.

Why it matters: The White House and the State Department have stressed over the last few weeks that the deadline set by Netanyahu is "not sacred" to the Trump administration — and that any discussion of annexation needs to be in the context of renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Zipline drones deliver masks to hospitals; vaccines could be next

Zipline's drone drops medical supplies via parachute. Image courtesy of Zipline.

Zipline, a California drone company, has made its U.S. debut by delivering medical supplies to hospitals in North Carolina under a pilot program honed in Africa.

Why it matters: The effort, made possible by a waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration to Novant Health, is the nation's longest-range drone delivery operation and could demonstrate how drones could be used in future pandemics, Zipline officials said.

NHL unveils 24-team playoff plan to return from coronavirus hiatus

Data: NHL; Table: Axios Visuals

The NHL unveiled its return-to-play plan on Tuesday, formally announcing that 24 of its 31 teams will return for a playoff tournament in two hub cities, if and when medically cleared.

Why it matters: Hockey is the first major North American sports league to sketch out its plans to return from a coronavirus-driven hiatus in such detail, and it's also the first one to officially pull the plug on its regular season, which will trigger ticket refunds.