British coverage of the Middle East this morning is dominated by Syria. The Independent leads its coverage with increasing calls from Israeli leaders for international action against the Syrian regime, quoting Israeli president Shimon Peres and vice-prime minister Shaul Mofaz. The Times reports online comments from foreign secretary William Hague in which he refuses to rule out international military action in Syria and compares the situation to Bosnia in the 1990s. The Telegraph also reports on Hague’s comments as part of its extensive online coverage of Syria, which also includes reports of Syrian rebel actions in Damascus and Dera, calls from Alawites for Syrian president Bashar as-Assad to be tougher and footage of the latest regime massacres. The Guardian online reports on Syrian regime bombardments in Homs, the problems besetting Libya including a decision to delay its elections, and that former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is slipping in and out of a coma. BBC online reports on the election of a new leader of the opposition Syrian National Council.
In other news, the Independent i reports on the resumption of contacts between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, whilst the Independent has a letter from the press attaché in the Israeli embassy in London defending the right of settlements in the West Bank to hire private security firms to defend them. The Independent also has coverage of an annual gay pride rally in Tel Aviv. The Daily Mail has a comment from Melanie Phillips arguing that allowing the visit by England footballers to the former Nazi concentration at Dachau to be accompanied by reporters was a PR stunt.
Over the weekend, Saturday’s press saw coverage of the collapse of talks between Iran and the IAEA over access to suspected nuclear weapons research sites, as well as coverage of massacres in Syria. Writing in the Guardian, David Owen advocated intervention in Syria with the support of Russia. An article in the Independent described the activities of the G4S, a private security firm working on London 2012, including its activities in Israel. Meanwhile the Financial Times had a feature on London’s first Israeli film festival, opening this month.
The Independent on Sunday had a feature on life in Gaza, five years on from the Hamas takeover; the Observer had an article on the Stuxnet virus, mentioning Israeli involvement; and the Sunday Times reported on the cancellation of a controversial performance of Wagner in Tel Aviv.
The issue of Syria also dominates the Israeli media this morning, in particular the advances of Syrian rebels who, according to front-page reports in Maariv, Yediot Ahronot and Israel Hayom have captured an air force base. Meanwhile Israel Radio and Israel Hayom report on the comments of Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh that Syria’s chemical weapons stocks are the largest in the world and that it possesses rockets that cover the entire territory of the State of Israel.
Still prominent in the news is the issue of the evacuation of five buildings in the Givat Haulpana neighbourhood of the Bet El settlement in the West Bank, following a High Court ruling that they were built on privately owned Palestinian land. Negotiations continue with the residents to secure their voluntary evacuation of their homes, including over the question of whether the buildings will be destroyed, which the residents are resisting. Haaretz reports on plans to relocate the residents to mobile homes on land currently part of a military base in the area.
The issue of illegal African immigrants is also prominent, with the Jerusalem Post reporting on its front page the arrest of several South Sudanese immigrants in Eilat, in advance of a one week deadline for illegal South Sudanese immigrants to register for voluntary return to their home country. Israel Hayom reports on the comments of Minister for the Interior Eli Yishai on the need to return the migrants to their homes. Ynetnews is also reporting this morning on a graffiti attack in Yad Vashem, with slogans in Hebrew praising Hitler.
The issue of Syria was also prominent in the Israeli media over the weekend, with Israeli president Shimon Peres criticising international inaction. Peres’s forthcoming visit to Washington, where he will receive the Medal of Honour, was also previewed, including his plan to ask for the release of jailed former US intelligence analyst Jonathan Pollard, who was convicted of spying for Israel. Also reported yesterday was a Graffiti attack on the joint Jewish-Arab peace village of Neve Shalom.