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Daniel Estrin

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.

Since joining NPR in 2017, he has reported from Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. He has chronicled the Trump Administration's policies that have shaped the region, and told stories of everyday life for Israelis and Palestinians. He has also uncovered tales of ancient manuscripts, secret agents and forbidden travel.

Estrin has reported from the Middle East for over a decade, including seven years with the Associated Press. His reporting has taken him to Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Jordan, Russia and Ukraine. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New Republic, PRI's The World and other media.

He was his country's most powerful man. Time magazine crowned him "king of Israel." But he couldn't win over Israel's unforgiving free press. So he is accused of buying his way inside the newsroom of a leading news site, secretly dictating flattering coverage that helped him win reelection twice.

That allegation is at the center of an unprecedented courtroom drama that kicks off Sunday in Jerusalem: the State of Israel v. Benjamin Netanyahu.

For Gaza's broke grooms, the coronavirus crisis has been the perfect time to get married.

With wedding halls closed and public gatherings forbidden to prevent the spread of the virus, many couples have celebrated their marriage in alleyways and apartments — so grooms can save the fortune they're normally expected to spend on big parties.

Palestinian tradition dictates that the groom pay for the wedding, not the bride or her family.

Israeli researchers have tracked a global trend of anti-Semitic hate speech blaming Jews and Israelis for the coronavirus. But they stress that Jews are not the only target of virus-related conspiracy theories.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to step down as prime minister next year, as he and election rival Benny Gantz have reached a deal for a unity government. The agreement is set to break the deadlock Israel has faced over three elections in the past 12 months.

The right-wing prime minister would stay in office until October 2021 and then hand over the position to centrist Gantz, according to a statement released by the parties.

Updated at 2:14 p.m. ET

The coronavirus did not stop the tradition of the Holy Fire on Saturday, the centuries-old ceremony held annually at the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem the day before Easter on the Eastern Orthodox Christian calendar. But some adjustments were made.

Usually tens of thousands of pilgrims pack the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and surround the Edicule, the inner sanctum that houses the spot where tradition says Jesus was entombed and resurrected.

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are confronting the coronavirus crisis using familiar tactics from half a century of Israeli military occupation.

Village councils and political committees, well-schooled in community organizing through years of confronting Israel, have mobilized.

In the shadow of Israeli watchtowers and settlements, they have co-opted an emblem of their occupier and set up improvised checkpoints — to enforce a Palestinian Authority lockdown in areas where Palestinian police are not permitted to patrol.

For centuries, Hindus gathered to burn corpses on funeral pyres along the Ganges River. Jews received condolences at home during a seven-day mourning period. Muslims huddled together to wash the corpses of loved ones in Iraq and across the Arab world.

But global burial rituals are being dramatically changed by the coronavirus pandemic.

In the global race for medical supplies and a coronavirus cure, the Israeli government is mobilizing its spies, soldiers and secretive scientists.

Israel does not usually divulge what its covert agencies are up to. Some of the shadowy efforts have come under criticism, particularly over privacy concerns about surveillance. But recent announcements about these agencies' coronavirus war efforts could also serve to reassure a worried public as Israel struggles to contain COVID-19, with more than 6,000 positive cases and more than 30 dead.

Here are some examples:

Some devout Orthodox Jewish communities have been slow to follow lockdown orders in Israel, helping drive a surge in coronavirus cases that officials are struggling to contain.

Known in Israel as Haredim, or those who tremble in awe before God, ultra-Orthodox Jews make up about 12% of Israel's population — but they account for as much as 60% of Israel's COVID-19 cases in major hospitals, according to estimates. More than 6,000 Israelis have been infected and at least 31 have died.

A political twist in Israel may help the embattled prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, stay in power.

After three inconclusive elections, the right wing Netanyahu and his centrist rival Benny Gantz are reportedly close to a deal to rotate as prime minister, with Netanyahu taking the first turn.

A Holocaust survivor is the first reported fatality in Israel from COVID-19.

Israeli media report that 88-year-old Arie Even moved from Hungary to Israel in 1949. He died Friday.

He was one of several residents and staff at a retirement home in Jerusalem to catch the coronavirus, after a social worker reportedly caught the virus from a French visitor at a wedding.

His family said they were saddened not to be able to be with him during his final days. They were asked to stay away in order to not catch the virus.

Hundreds of Israelis were startled Wednesday by an unsolicited text message.

"Hello. According to an epidemiological investigation," it began, addressing each recipient by name. "You were near someone sick with the coronavirus. You must immediately isolate at home [14 days] to protect your relatives and the public. ... This information will be used only for this purpose and will be erased when no longer needed. Sincerely, public health services."

In a setback for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's president said Sunday he will give centrist retired army general Benny Gantz the first chance to try to form a new government following this month's inconclusive elections.

Gantz was tapped after a majority of 61 lawmakers in the 120-member Parliament told President Reuven Rivlin they support Gantz over Netanyahu. A coalition of Arab parties, including a staunchly Palestinian nationalist faction, decisively helped tip the scales by unanimously endorsing Gantz.

The U.S. military has launched a formal investigation into claims of civilian casualties during the U.S. raid against ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a military spokesman told NPR.

The investigation was prompted by an NPR report about a Syrian farmer who said his arm was blown off and his two friends were killed by U.S. helicopter fire in the village where American special forces were attacking Baghdadi's compound in October.

Updated on March 4 at 1 p.m. ET

Benjamin Netanyahu, fighting to hang on as prime minister, rebounded in Monday's election, but it is unclear he will have the parliamentary majority he needs to win a new term. Can the "King of Israel" — as his diehard supporters like to chant — find a way to extend his reign?

His veritable throne has been wobbling in the past year. Bribery allegations led to an indictment. Onetime allies turned against him, mounting the strongest challenge yet to his political survival. Election after election ended in stalemate.

Updated on March 2 at 10:21 a.m. ET

After two failed tries, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is hoping to win another term on Monday in the country's unprecedented third election in less than a year.

President Trump's Mideast peace plan was expected to help Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instantly fulfill a campaign promise to annex occupied land that Israelis and Palestinians have fought over for more than half a century.

But it didn't go as Netanyahu had hoped.

Among devout Orthodox Jews, the intense study of Talmud is no longer just a man's world. Women are increasingly delving into this central religious work, and American expats in Israel are at the forefront of the trend.

They're following a custom called Daf Yomi, Hebrew for "daily page," which involves reading a page a day of this centuries-old, multivolume collection of rabbinic teachings, debates and interpretations of Judaism. It takes about seven years and five months to read all 2,711 pages.

The White House has invited Israeli leaders to visit next week to discuss the administration's long-awaited Middle East peace plan. Meanwhile, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have already brokered their own unofficial deal with Israel — and it's beginning to have an impact.

Strawberries and snacks from Gaza may now be sold abroad. Gazan fishermen can venture farther into the Mediterranean for a better catch. Thousands of unemployed Palestinians are suddenly allowed to leave the territory to work in Israel after more than a decade.

Her Israeli critics have called her a traitor and devil's advocate for representing Palestinians facing terrorism charges in Israeli courts. She calls herself a "losing lawyer," losing case after case, defending Palestinian suspects for nearly five decades.

Now the fiery Lea Tsemel, 75, is the subject of an award-winning documentary — and a target in the latest battle between Israel's liberal filmmakers and right-wing activists led by the country's nationalist culture minister.

A Syrian farmer says his arm was blown off and his two friends were killed by U.S. helicopter fire in the village where American special forces were attacking the compound of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October.

Updated on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. ET

In Iraq and Syria, news of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's death has stirred a mix of responses — from joy to disbelief to dread.

Since President Trump announced this weekend that Baghdadi died during a U.S. military operation in Syria, analysts have been grappling with the implications for the militant organization that has now lost its main chief in addition to all the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

After weeks of raucous, jubilant protests and sometimes violent attempts to quell them, there was celebration in the streets of Beirut today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting in foreign language).

Lebanon's mass street protests resemble other outpourings of anger in places like Chile and Ecuador. But the Lebanese never miss an excuse to party.

Faced with years of war, Lebanese have coped with strife by using satire, humor and lots of dancing. This thawra or revolution, as anti-government protesters in Lebanon call it, is no different. It's accompanied by clever handwritten signs, profanity-laced chants and even "Baby Shark" singalongs.

As the five-day cease-fire along Turkey's border with Syria continues to falter, the commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) tells NPR he thinks the deal is "really terrible."

Turkey's defense ministry says the country's forces have captured a Syrian border city after clashes with Kurdish-led militias. But a Syrian monitoring group said the fight was still ongoing.

Turkish officials said on state media Saturday that the strategic town of Ras al-Ayn, which sits on the northeastern part of the border, has been "brought under control." Several surrounding villages have also been overtaken, the officials said.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving prime minister, faces his toughest political battle for survival in years, as the country holds unprecedented repeat elections Tuesday.

This is the second time Israelis are going to the polls in less than six months. Netanyahu, 69, forced the do-over in a last-minute move, just weeks after April elections, because he secured a narrow win but failed to build a parliament majority.

The Trump administration has shown unwavering support for the Israeli government, except for one major criticism: China's growing influence in the Israeli economy.

Chinese companies have invested in strategic Israeli infrastructure, from shipping to electricity to public transportation, and they have bought up millions of dollars in stakes in cutting-edge technology startups.

Where Israel sees an opportunity to access the world's second-largest economy, the United States sees security threats posed by its main adversary.

It takes a few seconds: Palestinians place electronic ID cards on a sensor, stare at the aperture of a small black camera, then walk past panels fanning open to let them through.

Israel is upgrading its West Bank checkpoints with facial recognition technology to verify Palestinians' identities as they cross into Israel. The new system, which began rolling out late last year, eases their passage with shorter wait times — but is drawing criticism about the role the controversial technology plays in Israel's military control over Palestinians.

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