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Media Summary

Cut in UN aid to Syria could threaten millions

BBC News reports Tunisia’s health ministry has warned that the country’s COVID-19 situation is catastrophic. The country has recorded some of its highest number of infections as its healthcare system has all but collapsed. A health ministry spokesperson said hospitals were struggling to provide oxygen. The World Health Organization has warned that the “worst is still to come” for countries in Africa.

BBC News writes that the UN Security Council has agreed to back the African Union’s mediation efforts between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt over the Nile dam. The US’s ambassador to the UN said that “the African Union is the most appropriate venue to address this dispute, and the US is committed to providing political and technical support”. The European Union has also expressed support for the mediation efforts, urging both sides to intensify talks.

The Telegraph reports that millions of Syrians living in rebel-controlled areas of the country will face a humanitarian catastrophe if cross-border aid is not extended on Friday. The UN Security Council is due to vote on whether to extend a mandate for the aid today. Russia has been threatening to veto the extension, arguing that all aid should be transferred through the Syrian regime. The UN deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria warned that “if the UN can no longer deliver relief supplies to northwest Syria, millions of people are going to suffer, people are going to die, it’s going to be a disaster”.

The Independent writes about Iran’s efforts to mediate between the Afghan government and the Taliban, as it hosted envoys from both sides in Tehran this week. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif hosted a two-day summit which produced no breakthrough. A statement released by the two sides at the end of the summit said: “The two sides understand the risks of continuing war for the country and have agreed that war is not a solution to the Afghan issue, and all efforts should be made towards a political and peaceful solution.”

The Guardian notes that Iran, Turkey and Russia are moving to fill the diplomatic and military vacuum in Afghanistan following the incremental withdrawal of US forces. The paper says: “A lively debate is under way inside Iran on how to approach the Taliban. Some analysts argue mass migration from Afghanistan caused by a Taliban insurgency might help the Iranian economy, and that Iran should not oppose a Taliban takeover.”

David Patrikarakos writes in the New Statesman about what is next in Israel and Iran’s shadow war. He argues: “Events are once more pitting the Middle East’s regional superpowers against each other. Civilians on both sides fear they will be the victims.”

All the Israeli media cover the continued rise in coronavirus infections. Maariv leads with new Health Minister Horowitz admitting that he does not have all the information. Yediot Ahronot reports that the reproduction number currently stands at 1.4. The average number of people testing positive daily has risen from 263 a week ago to 473 this week, meaning the number of confirmed cases is doubling about every ten days. At this rate, in a month and a half, Israel could be back to 10,000 cases a day. The percentage of positive tests will leap from 0.7 per cent to 13 per cent. The rate of increase in the number of seriously ill is no less restrained, but rather even faster. It doubles every eight days. And once again: if this rate continues, there will be roughly 1,200 people in serious condition in another five weeks. In the commentary, Sever Plocker writes: “Jerusalem is imitating London, in other words, doing what British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is doing: be the consequences what they may — declares Johnson — I am releasing the British from a regime of restrictions. Let the citizens look out for themselves. The British are on the way to 70,000 cases a day; 100 world-renowned scientists warned Johnson on Wednesday against seeing his intentions through. We are liable to be headed to 10,000 cases a day, and almost no one is sounding the alarm.” Kan Radio News notes Health Ministry Director of Public Health Services Dr Sharon Alroy-Preis’ warning that Israel would have to impose another lockdown if steps were not taken now to reduce infection.

Israel Hayom carries a report based on Arabic media sources that relates to Operation Guardian of the Walls in May. According to the reports, Hamas along with Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards established a joint war room together in Beirut and that officers from the three groups coordinated during the fighting in Gaza. The paper quotes Ibrahim Al Amin, the editor-in-chief of the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Akhbar newspaper, who said in an interview that “Quds Force commander Esmail Qaani visited the joint operations room in Beirut twice during the escalations,” and added that “Hezbollah transferred weapons and ammunition to Gaza and helped rescue senior Palestinian officials from the area during that period”. According to Al Amin, the Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah provided Hamas with information on the IDF, which he said “helped thwart Israeli operations next to the border and in the Gaza Strip” and claimed that had Israel increased fighting efforts in Gaza, Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force would have joined in the conflict.

All the Israeli media cover Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s decision to cancel married yeshiva students’ eligibility for day-care subsidies for their children. Yediot Ahronot quotes the minister explaining, “It is unthinkable that we, as the pro-change government, will not change priorities … and from my standpoint, the top priority is people who serve in the IDF, perform reserve duty, work and pay taxes.” Lieberman added: “The difference between me and Deri, Litzman and Gafni … is that they want to keep their constituents impoverished, poor, dependent on charities and handouts. In contrast, I want them to escape poverty, to be able to make a living and not be dependent on all these allowances.”

Haaretz reports on the decision by the High Court of Justice yesterday to deny several petitions challenging Israel’s Nation-State Law, saying that the law, which further consolidates Israel’s Jewish character, does not contravene the state’s democratic character. Ten of the 11 presiding justices favoured denying the petitions, with Justice George Karra – the only Arab on the court’s bench – a dissenting voice. “This basic law is but one chapter in our constitution taking shape and it does not negate Israel’s character as a democratic state,” Esther Hayut, the court’s president, wrote in the conclusion of the court’s ruling. “As such, I do not believe that the Knesset has exceeded the narrow limit on its legislative authority when it enacted into law the Basic Law on Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People.”

According to Israeli Hayom the US and Israel appeared to be at loggerheads in the first public disagreement between the new government and the Biden administration. The clash was triggered by indirect US criticism on Thursday over Israel’s decision to destroy the family home of a Palestinian-American accused of involvement in a shooting that killed an Israeli and wounded two others in the West Bank in May. Muntasir Shalabi was indicted in an Israeli military court over the attack in which student Yehuda Guetta was shot dead. In a statement after the home was destroyed, the US Embassy in Jerusalem called on “all parties to refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “This certainly includes the punitive demolition of Palestinian homes,” a spokesperson said. “As we stated numerous times, the home of an entire family should not be demolished for the actions of one individual.” Kan Radio News notes that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with his counterpart Foreign Minister Yair Lapid last night about the demolition.