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Media Summary

US slashes Afghanistan aid amid troop withdrawal

The Times reports that the US has slashed $1 billion of funding for Afghanistan and vowed to press ahead with the full-scale withdrawal of its troops after failing to persuade the country’s feuding leaders to form a power-sharing government.

The Times and BBC News report that Jordan has introduced a 12 month prison sentence for anyone who steps outdoors during the coronavirus crisis in its attempts to protect residents, hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and its fragile health service. Reuters reports that Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz said on Tuesday the government would allow people to go on foot to buy groceries in neighbourhood shops to ease daily life for the nearly 10 million inhabitants under a tight curfew.

Reuters and the Associated Press report that Libya confirmed its first case of coronavirus on Tuesday, with years of violence leaving its healthcare system highly vulnerable. Reuters reports that a prison in the Libyan capital Tripoli was shelled on Tuesday, injuring several people, its warden said, as a bombardment intensified despite pleas for a ceasefire to tackle the coronavirus.

Reuters reports that Israel has unveiled analysis of coronavirus patients’ voices to yield a “vocal fingerprint” to help detect COVID-19 symptoms in others and prioritise testing and treatment, the Israeli Defence Ministry said on Tuesday.

The Associated Press reports that Saudi military forces have committed grave abuses against civilians in Yemen over the past year, including torture, forced disappearances and arbitrary detention, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Wednesday.

Reuters reports that an immediate nationwide ceasefire is needed across Syria to enable an “all-out-effort” to stamp out the coronavirus and prevent it from ravaging a beleaguered population, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Tuesday.

BBC News reports that Saudi Arabia has confirmed its first death from Covid-19. The victim was a 51-year-old man from Afghanistan, the Saudi health ministry says.

The Associated Press reports that Pakistan halted all domestic passenger flights to stop the spread of the new coronavirus on Wednesday after reporting nearly 1,000 cases in the country.

In The Telegraph, Raf Sanchez examines how Israel’s air defence experiments with lasers and algorithms has helped it stay a step ahead of its enemies, as Israel has become a hub of innovation in air defence systems.

In the Financial Times, David Sheppard says the oil industry is currently facing its biggest crisis in 100 years, as Gulf producers are facing up to the crash in oil demand as coronavirus begins to force economies into hibernation across the world.

In The Independent, Kim Sengupta argues coronavirus shouldn’t be dismissed as a tool for biological warfare, as terror groups have had a long-term interest in the utility of sarin gas or novichok.

The Israeli media expect the Knesset to meet today to elect a new speaker. The papers note the current Speaker Yuli Edelstein still has to decide whether to allow the vote, as he was instructed to by the Supreme Court earlier this week. If the vote does not take place, Yediot Ahronot suggest it would be “an act unprecedented in the history of the Knesset.” The papers note several prominent Likud officials who have urged Edelstein to accept the Supreme Court ruling. As of last night Edelstein had not yet announced his decision. According to Maariv, he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and they discussed the possibility that Edelstein might resign before a vote.

Yediot Ahronot reports that Blue and White leader Benny Gantz is considering two possible courses of action to end the political impasse. One option is to form a unity government, but this is considered less likely. The paper suggests the more surprising option is Blue and White allowing the interim Government to continue without them. Gantz is examining the possibility of the current government leading the fight against coronavirus with Blue and White using its majority in the Knesset to scrutinise and limit the government’s actions. The paper quotes a senior Blue and White official saying: “We won’t be part of that government, but Netanyahu’s time there will be counted as part of his term in an alternating premiership. If he acts in the course of that period to prevent the forming of a unity government, we’ll be able to act against him in the Knesset by means of legislation against him.”  The paper also quotes a Likud source saying: “No one in the Likud is going to accept a proposal for a time-limited emergency or unity government as long as Gantz controls the Knesset. That isn’t going to happen,”

Channel 12 News reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu has asked the head of Mossad to establish an emergency control room with the director general of the Ministry of Defence in a joint effort to procure medical devices from abroad and examine whether Israeli military industries can produce the necessary equipment.