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Media Summary

Flash floods cause large scale damage and death in Yemen

BBC News, The Telegraph and The Times report that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s deadline to form a government expired last night. President Reuven Rivlin is expected to give Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid the mandate to form a governing coalition.

The Associated Press reports that Israel fired missiles at the northwest Syrian towns of Haffeh and Masyaf, with Syrian state media claiming that air defence systems shot down some of the missiles, but one person was killed while six were wounded. Syrian state media said civilians were among those dead and wounded and a military official said a plastic factory was one of the targets struck.

Bel Trew writes for The Independent about why the cancelled Palestinian elections are bad news for everyone, not just Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. She argues: “The repercussions of the decision have already seen protests in both Gaza and the West Bank and have sparked concerns there could be an escalation of violence and a deeper rift in the Palestinian leadership … amid a surge in violence between Israelis and Palestinians over recent weeks, the added dimension of inter-Palestinian conflict leaves a bleak outlook for the future.”

BBC News and The Independent report that a senior member of the Swiss embassy in Tehran died after falling from a high-rise building. The Swiss foreign ministry confirmed that the victim was a 51-year-old woman. She was reportedly the deputy chief of the US section at the Swiss embassy. Switzerland has served as the unofficial representative of the US in Iran since 1980.

BBC News reports that flash flooding in Yemen has caused severe damage across the country and left several people dead. Early this week a flash flood in Tarim, a town in the government-held province of Hadramawt, killed four people and caused large scale damage to the homes of 167 families. A report from the UN indicated close to 4,000 families have been affected by the flooding since the start of the rainy season in April.

The Financial Times reports that the United Arab Emirates has reformed its residency rules in the hope of attracting wealthy expatriates. The UAE has begun issues dozens of passports to wealthy workers in recent months, including Sir Tim Clark, the veteran president of Dubai’s Emirates airline, and Tony Douglas, chief executive of Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways. New reforms include a 10 year “golden-visa” programme, which gives foreigners a path to residency, and changes to a longstanding rule about business ownership, which previous required foreigners to have an Emirati partner.

The Guardian reports that illegal operations by EU member states to push back asylum seekers are linked to the death of more than 2,000 people. The paper’s findings are based on UN and non-governmental reports. According to the findings, “European countries, supported by EU’s border agency Frontex, systematically pushed back refugees, including children fleeing from wars, in their thousands, using illegal tactics ranging from assault to brutality during detention or transportation” marking one of the biggest mass expulsions in decades.

The Associated Press reports that Iraq’s vaccine rollout has been extremely slow due to apathy, fear, and rumours. In an effort to boost vaccination rates, Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr released images of himself getting the shot last week, which has now led to hundreds of his followers to get the jab. One follower of al-Sadr said, “Seeing him get the vaccine has motivated me.” The country’s vaccination campaign comes amid concerns over rising cases in recent days.

In the Israeli media, all the papers report that Syrian state media has claimed that Israel conducted airstrikes on several coastal cities in western Syria. The report said the missiles were fired at 2:00am (local time) at the el-Haffah region, on the outskirts of Latakiya, and at el-Siyaf, west of Hama. Anti-missile batteries were used in an attempt to down the missiles. The attacks were reportedly aimed at civilian targets on the outskirts of Latakiya, including a plastics factory. According to foreign reports, Israel has attacked targets in western Syria in the past that are suspected of manufacturing advanced weaponry and precise missiles intended for Iranian proxies, primarily Hezbollah.

Yediot Ahronot reports that the Israel Defense Forces early Wednesday arrested the wife of Muntasir Shalabi, who is suspected of carrying out a shooting attack at the Tapuach Junction, near the settlement of Itamar in the West Bank on Sunday. The military said Shalabi’s wife was detained by troops in a raid on the village of Turmusayya last night. According to KAN, Shalabi returned to the West Bank a year ago, having lived in the US for many years. The IDF is preparing for an increase in terrorist attacks in the West Bank over the cancellation of the Palestinian elections and has deployed additional troops to the area of Ramallah and Nablus. The military said the troops will remain there at least until the suspected terrorist is apprehended and tensions subside.

Walla reports on the first conversation between US President Joe Biden and United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayad last night. The President reportedly told the UAE’s de facto leader that the normalisation of relations with Israel are of strategic importance and he expressed his full support for strengthening and expanding these arrangements. Last month, the Biden administration updated Congress that it had decided to advance the arms deal with the UAE that was made by the Trump administration. The transaction, which includes drones and F-35s, was initially delayed by the Biden administration.

All the papers report that the Netanyahu trial has resumed in the Jerusalem District Court following a two week break. The former CEO of Walla, Ilan Yeshua, is now being cross-examined as part of Case 4000. During the first day, the defence focused on attempts to demonstrate that Yeshua interfered in the work of the editors as a routine matter, even prior to Shaul Elovitch’s instructions. Yeshua confirmed that “interfering in content can happen,” but stressed that “up to a certain point, in different dosages”.

There is growing frustration about the lack of a full state inquiry into the disaster at Mount Meron last week. So far, the police’s Lahav 433 unit, the Justice Ministry department that investigates police misconduct and the state comptroller, have opened up investigations into the disaster, but all three lack the authority to question or subpoena people involved in preparing or running the event. Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and other police officials, along with the families of the 45 victims, have called for a state inquiry. The Attorney General, Avichai Mendelblit, is reportedly waiting to see whether the cabinet decides to set up a state inquiry before deciding whether he gives more powers to one of the agencies already investigating the disaster.

In Yediot Ahronot, Yuval Karni writes that State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman’s decision to open an investigation into the Mount Meron disaster on Monday, straight after the Knesset debated about who will investigate, was particularly convenient for Netanyahu. Karni writes: “It gives the prime minister a comfortable and flexible auditor, while also weakening the struggle to establish a state inquiry, a government inquiry or any other kind of inquiry that might actually target its slings and arrows at the political echelon and at Netanyahu, in particular.” He added: “Englman is a toothless watchdog, a clear Netanyahu appointee, who ensured that the role would not be manned by a powerful and authoritative Supreme Court judge as was in years prior.”

Lebanon and Israel resumed US-mediated negotiations over their disputed maritime border yesterday after a months-long hiatus. The fifth round of talks happened at the UN base in the town of Naqura in southern Lebanon. Lebanon and Israel took part in indirect US-brokered talks to discuss demarcation late last year, but they quickly stalled after Lebanon demanded a larger area of the Mediterranean Sea, including part of the Karish gas field, where Israel has given exploration rights to a Greek firm. A statement by the Lebanese presidency issued after the resumption of talks said the US mediator had asked for negotiations to be on the basis of Israeli and Lebanese border lines already submitted and registered with the UN. However, this was rejected by the Lebanese negotiators.