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Media Summary

Japan refuses to join US-led Gulf maritime force

Reuters reports that Japan will not join a US-led maritime force to guard oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz but may send patrol aircraft, according to government sources. Additionally, Japan may send warships independently to protect Japanese ships. “We are closely monitoring the situation and continue to collect information while working closely with the United States and other countries,” said Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.

BBC News, the Guardian, Telegraph, Financial Times and Reuters report that under a new royal decree, women over the age of 21 in Saudi Arabia can apply for a passport without authorisation from a male guardian. The royal decree also grants women the right to register child births, marriages or a divorce. They also cover employment regulations that expand work opportunities for women. Under the rule, all citizens have the right to work without facing discrimination based on gender, disability or age.

Reuters reports that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has declared that Iran is “ready for the worst” in attempting to salvage the JCPOA, but that he was sure Tehran would prevail. “We have a hard battle ahead, but we shall surely win,” Rouhani said on live state television. “We are not acting on the assumption we will get results through talks and accords,” Rouhani said.

BBC News, the Independent and Reuters report that Facebook says it has discovered that people linked to the Saudi authorities have been using its platforms to spread propaganda through fake accounts. It says the operation mainly targeted the Middle East and North Africa, and most of the content was in Arabic. In a statement, Facebook said it acted this week to tackle “co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour” on its platform and on Instagram, which the company owns. More than 350 accounts and pages have been removed. It is rare for the social media giant to publicly link such activities to a government. Saudi Arabia has so far made no public comments on the issue.

Reuters reports that, though the US Congress has not enacted legislation to punish Saudi human rights abuses, lawmakers have claimed that efforts to stop military sales and impose sanctions would continue after their August break. There are several pieces of legislation – including 18 more resolutions to block weapons sales – making their way through the Senate or House of Representatives as some lawmakers still hope to push Trump towards stronger action against Riyadh.

BBC News and the Independent report that at least 32 people have been killed in an attack by the rebel Houthi movement on a military parade in Yemen. The parade in the southern port city of Aden was targeted by missiles and an armed drone. Aden is the seat of Yemen’s internationally recognised government. Earlier, 10 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a police station in the city. It is not clear if the two attacks are linked.

Reuters reports that Syrian state media reported on Thursday that a ceasefire had been agreed in the last rebel bastion in the country, the northwest, where aid agencies say a government offensive is growing bloodier. State media, citing a military source, said the ceasefire would take place from Thursday night, as long as rebel fighters implement the terms of a de-escalation agreement brokered last year by Russia and Turkey. There was no immediate rebel comment. Reuters reports that the UN will investigate attacks on UN-supported facilities in northwest Syria, two days after two-thirds of the Security Council pushed for such an inquiry. The UK, France, US, Germany, Belgium, Peru, Poland, Kuwait, the Dominican Republic and Indonesia delivered a demarche – a formal diplomatic petition – to Guterres over the lack of an inquiry into attacks on some 14 locations.

The Times reports that the head of the Chabad Lubavitch culture centre in Berlin, Yehuda Teichtal, has claimed that he was allegedly spat upon and subjected to a volley of anti-Semitic abuse as he walked home from prayers. The attack was the latest episode in a wave of crimes that has prompted one Jewish leader in the capital to call for plain-clothes policemen to be stationed outside every synagogue. Teichtal said that as he passed a block of flats, two men leant out of a window, spat on him and cursed him in Arabic.

The Telegraph and Times report that terrorism experts have explained that while the killing of Hamza bin Laden has dealt a symbolic blow to al-Qaeda, it may have little practical impact on the resilient jihadist network. Thomas Joscelyn, a researcher with the US-based Long War Journal website, maintains that “although Hamza bin Laden has been an important voice for the group, I don’t think he was ever next in line […] Al-Qaeda wasn’t going to hand him the reins because of his name and lineage. He was building up his jihadist bona fides and may have eventually been in a position to take over, but that was far from certain.”

The Independent reports that Iranian women are sharing videos of themselves removing their headscarves in public, despite a recent ruling they could face 10 years in jail for doing so. Masih Alinejad, a US-based Iranian journalist and activist, started a social media campaign in 2014 encouraging women in Iran to share self-portraits without the Islamic veil, which she then goes on to share on her Facebook page.“Today I have received lots of videos from inside Iran. And women in these videos are braver and angrier than before,” she said.

Reuters reports that Turkey has granted its radio and television watchdog sweeping oversight over all online content, including streaming platforms like Netflix and online news outlets, in a move that raised concerns over possible censorship. “The aim of this regulation is to establish the methods and principles to regulate the presentation and provision of radio, television and on-demand broadcast services, the handing of broadcast licenses to media service providers, the granting of broadcasting authorities to platform administrators and the supervision of the broadcasts in question,” the regulation said.

Reuters reports that the Trump administration will allow approximately 7,000 Syrians who have fled war in their country to stay 18 months longer in the US, extending them a temporary protection. The US grants Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to immigrants whose home countries have been devastated by war or natural disaster and are deemed too dangerous to return.

The Jewish Chronicle reports that Community Security Trust (CST) has released the Anti-Semitic Incidents Report January-June 2019, which recorded 892 anti-Semitic incidents in the UK during the first six months of 2019. This is the highest number of incidents CST has ever recorded in the January to June period of any year and is a ten per cent increase from the 810 incidents recorded during the same period in 2018; which was itself a record high for this six month period, and formed part of a record annual total of 1,688 anti-Semitic incidents for 2018. CST has recorded antisemitic incidents since 1984.

In BBC News, Frank Gardner examines “whether anything been achieved in the Yemen conflict”: “Meanwhile, the much-heralded Stockholm peace talks of last December have failed to translate into a lasting peace deal – or even a lasting ceasefire. While others can debate what they have gained or lost in Yemen, that country’s agony continues”.

In the Guardian, Rosena Allin-Khan MP explains how anti-Semites hijacked her work with Palestinian children: “The idea that engaging with the government that has the power to improve conditions on the ground for Palestinians is somehow wrong is bizarre and deeply misguided. We must not abandon diplomacy at a time when Donald Trump is in the White House and Boris Johnson resides in No 10. To be told not to engage with the people who control the flawed permit system is naive, and dangerous for the most vulnerable people in Palestine”.

The Economist reports that “young Palestinians are leaving Gaza in droves”, maintaining that “with few jobs and no hope, there is little reason for them to stay”.

In the Spectator, Paul Wood argues that Lebanon represents the “world’s best failed state”: “However bad things get, most Lebanese I speak to believe that at least they won’t get dragged into another war with Israel”.

In the Israeli media, Kan Radio reports that the chairman of the Central Elections Committee and Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, said there was no electronic voting in Israel due to attempts by ‘foreign elements’ to intervene in the elections. Melcer said he would hold a public hearing with the Attorney General and all of the parties to consider petitions to allow filming in polling stations but was clear that this would not involve filming voters casting their vote.

Ynet reports that the Likud asked Melcer to allow cameras in polling stations in the Israeli Arab sector after they claimed that violations of electoral law had occurred in the last elections. On election day last April, Judge Melcer was alerted to the fact that Likud party activists placed 1,200 cameras in polling stations in Israeli Arab cities and towns. Israeli media reported earlier this week that the Likud budget for cameras in Arab sector polling stations has been increased to NIS 2 million, and that there is a plan in place to employ hundreds of “observers” on election day and they have even sent a request to the Israel Police asking for protection for the observers. Melcer lodged a complaint with the Attorney General’s office as well as the acting police commissioner, demanding an investigation. The Attorney General is expected to publish his recommendations next week. Human rights organisations have already appealed to Melcer asking him to veto any attempt to place cameras in polling stations.

Israel Hayom discusses its recent poll saying that “now that the lists have been finalised, it appears that the right wing will be unable to muster the necessary majority to form a coalition headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.” Its poll showed the bloc of parties supporting Netanyahu receiving 55 seats, with Yisrael Beitenu who wants a unity government winning 10 seats.

In Haaretz, Yossi Verter writes that: “As the days go by and the polls multiply, the average Likudnik – lawmaker, minister, even a local-branch activist – is increasingly recognising that the coveted electoral goal of 61 Knesset seats on September 17 is looking hard to achieve. At the moment, the prize they would like to see at the end of the route – the establishment of a joint right-wing and ultra-Orthodox government – is far beyond the hills of darkness at the moment. He adds that something is creaking in the kingdom of Balfour Street. Even if they do miraculously garner 61 seats (Likud wins 34, ultra-Orthodox 16, the right-wing parties 11; Labor doesn’t cross the electoral threshold; there’s another low turnout among the Arab community), their numbers will include Naftali Bennett and his loyalists from Hayamin Hehadash, Matan Kahana and Roni Sassover. Bennett has already made it clear that he’s not eager to serve as the springboard that serves Netanyahu on his way to obtaining immunity from prosecution.”

Yossi Yehoshua in Yediot Ahronot writes that the incident on the Gaza border yesterday “Should serve as a major warning sign for the IDF, with regard to the rules of engagement. It was only due to a miracle that this incident did not end with three fatalities from the Golani Brigade, but rather with three people injured and the terrorist killed.” He argues that: “The heart of the story is the erosion of the security perimeter—the buffer zone near the border fence, which Palestinians are forbidden to enter. The security perimeter used to be 300 meters beyond the fence, within Palestinian territory. At Hamas’s demand it was reduced to a mere 100 meters. It is forbidden [for Palestinians] to enter it, but the troops are not permitted to shoot—in order to injure or kill—at those who enter it, because there are Palestinians who cross and are not terrorist operatives, and there are Hamas’s Restraining Force operatives who can also be armed near the fence. The combatants in the Gaza Division face an almost impossible dilemma: on one hand, the orders to the troops on the ground are not to shoot at Palestinians who cross the fence if they are unarmed, but to catch them. Conversely, they are permitted to shoot at an armed Palestinian who crosses the fence…The bottom line is that the troops are confused, so we need to return to the policy that was in force years ago: No one crosses the security perimeter. You don’t wait to check who they are, but rather prevent infiltration by shooting in the air, shooting at the legs, and finally, if there is no choice—killing them. For if there is a dilemma between an injured or dead IDF soldier, and [refraining from shooting because] one is undecided whether the Palestinian crossing the line is a terrorist or not—it is best to play it safe [and shoot].”