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Media Summary

Gaza periphery remains closed as IDF remains on high state of alert

Reuters report that Cathay Pacific and Air Seychelles have overflown Saudi Arabia for Israel flights for the first time, aviation data showed on Thursday, after Riyadh announced last month it would open its airspace to all airlines, paving the way for more overflights to and from Israel.

The BBC reports that State employees in many parts of Iraq have been given a day off work as temperatures rise to above 50C in several areas. Several of the country’s cities topped the list of the hottest places in the world on Thursday. As a result of the scorching heat, at least 10 provinces suspended work for most state employees, according to local reports.

The Guardian reviews artist and film-maker Sarah Beddington’s feature documentary debut with a record of her friendship with Fadia Loubani, a Palestinian woman in Bourj el-Barajneh in Beirut, one of the 58 UN refugee camps.

A corner of Beirut’s huge grain silo collapsed on the second anniversary of Lebanon’s port blast that killed nearly 220 people and destroyed swathes of the capital, Bel Trew reports in the Independent, as hundreds of protesters marched through the devastated city demanding justice for the dead and injured.

OPEC leaders Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates stand ready to deliver a “significant increase” in oil output should the world face a severe supply crisis this winter, sources familiar with the thinking of the top Gulf exporters tell Reuters.

All the Israeli media continue to focus on the high tension in the south of Israel. With Islamic Jihad threats to attack, roads remain closed for a third day running. The IDF remains on high alert and troops have been reinforced. According to Kan Radio, Security officials have said that the next two days will determine whether the situation will escalate or de-escalate. Israel is preparing its offensive options and at this stage it is believed that Islamic Jihad intends to see its threats to take vengeance through. Security officials said that this is no time to gamble and risk opening the roads because of fears of anti-tank and sniper fire on civilians. In addition to the road closures, the train service between Ashkelon and Sderot will also be suspended. Residents of Kibbutz Kerem Shalom have been under curfew for the past two days and left for a weekend vacation at a hotel in Jerusalem.

In Israel Hayom, security analyst Yoav Limor explains: “On Monday, the IDF and the Shin Bet arrested Bassem Saadi, the leader of Islamic Jihad in the West Bank and long-time wanted man. Islamic Jihad operatives in the West Bank, who have been under heavy military pressure in the last few months, demanded that the leadership in Gaza retaliate. In the past, the Gaza Strip members would do this by launching a few symbolic rockets, but this time, they decided to hit a high-quality Israeli target and to ensure this by using an anti-tank missile or sniper fire. The security establishment obtained this information and did exactly what it should: it closed the Gaza periphery to prevent loss of human life. Since large parts of the area can be hit from the Gaza Strip, any other alternative would have been a gamble. Concurrently, the IDF sent up aircraft to try and locate the launcher and sniper cells, and also in order to create deterrence. Israel hoped that these steps would restore calm, and also added pressure by means of Egypt and Qatar. As of last night, Islamic Jihad has refused to back down, and Israel went into higher gear: troops were demonstratively moved to the south and operational plans were approved, a clear signal that Israel does not want the situation to escalate — but is not afraid of that happening either.”

Former IDF head of intelligence Amos Yadlin explained on Channel 12 News that unlike the threat of rocket fire, for which Israel has alerts, the Iron Dome and secure protection spaces, the threat from anti-tank fire could target a bus, train or car and cause numerous fatalities with no warning. In a sense, Israel is a victim of its excellent intelligence, by knowing Islamic Jihad’s operation plan.

Yediot Ahronot notes the timing of the tension in the south coincides with Islamic Jihad Secretary General Ziyad al-Nakhalah meeting Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran. According to their security analyst Yossi Yehoshua, “With Iran’s guidance, Islamic Jihad has taken to the barricades, just as has Hezbollah, but without too many pronouncements, and it is preparing for an act of revenge. This past year, the IDF killed more than 20 of its operatives in Jenin, in a series of operations, and at no stage was a threat made linking Gaza to the West Bank, which only corroborates the assumption that a directive was issued from Tehran to retaliate in the south while Hezbollah increases the tension in the north in tandem with no real reason except to appease its patron. Hamas does not want to get into another round of fighting, because the public in Gaza complains about the sanctions that Israel imposes. But in the meantime, Islamic Jihad is only ramping up the volume with ridiculous demands such as that the IDF must stop its operational activity in the West Bank and release the operative that it arrested.”

Haaretz suggests “Israel and Lebanon aim to complete negotiations over their maritime border before natural gas starts being extracted from the Karish field next month”. According to US sources, “it’s not something that’s going to happen tomorrow”. But, “Israeli officials say that a signed agreement by September would invalidate Hezbollah’s claim that Israel was breaching Lebanon’s sovereignty, and therefore make it highly unlikely for the Iran-backed group to attack the natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea … the compromise that is taking shape between the two countries calls for drawing a border running north of the natural gas site in the Mediterranean – thereby declaring the area in dispute Israeli territory – but it also grants Lebanon the right to drill at a site that it is developing there.”

Israel Hayom reports that Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will depart for New York at the end of September to address the United Nations General Assembly. According to PA sources, Abbas will use his speech to ask the international community to upgrade the PA’s status from an observer state to full membership.

Next Wednesday the Likud hold their primary to decide the composition of their Knesset list by approximately 140,000 party members. Sima Kadmon in Yediot Ahronot predicts, “Netanyahu’s demand for loyalty will raise the Likud faction’s vocal Bibi-ists to the top slots.” However, “their voices will be silenced in the lead-up to the election so as not to drive away the voters who Netanyahu needs: moderate, stately right-wing voters who loathe Bibi-ism and shudder at partnering with Smotrich and Ben Gvir…. Netanyahu’s base in the Likud, which includes Yariv Levin, Dudi Amsalem, Galit Distel Atbaryan, Amir Ohana, Shlomo Karhi, and Miri Regev will probably take its place in the top ten. The moderate, stately right that Netanyahu hopes to win over is no longer in the Likud in any case.”

Maariv includes its regular polling update: This week, Likud receives: 34 seats, Yesh Atid: 23, Blue and White-New Hope: 11, Religious Zionist Party: 9, Shas: 8, United Torah Judaism: 7, Joint List: 6, Yisrael Beiteinu: 5, Labour Party: 5, United Arab List: 4, Meretz: 4, Zionist Spirit: 4.  This gives Netanyahu and his current bloc: 58, but if Ayelet Shaked’s Zionist Spirit were to agree, they would have 62 seats.