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Media Summary

Idlib confirms first coronavirus case

BBC News reports on growing concern over coronavirus in Syria after the north-western province of Idlib confirmed its first case. Aid groups said a doctor contracted the virus at a hospital in a town near the Turkish border. There are fears the virus will spread rapidly through these vulnerable populations, overwhelming an already ravaged healthcare system. The international charity Save the Children said the confirmation of the virus in Idlib was “a major blow to the millions of civilians – mainly women and children – living in this area”.

The Telegraph reports that the Save the Children charity also said the world was abandoning Yemen’s children to die. Worldwide funding cuts to aid will mean tens of thousands of starving children going without life-saving treatment for severe malnutrition. These services were cut by 74 per cent after funding ran out in April. Earlier in the year 37,000 children every month were receiving life saving treatment, but today Yemen’s healthcare systems are only able to treat 9,500 children a month.

BBC News reports on the recent meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss Ethiopia’s new dam on the Blue Nile, which has the potential to control the flow of water that Egypt almost entirely relies on. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said during the meeting that the dam poses: “A threat of potentially existential proportions has emerged that could encroach on the single source of livelihood of over 100 million Egyptians”. Ethiopia’s Ambassador to the UN echoed a similar line saying: “For Ethiopia, accessing and utilising its water resources is not a matter of choice, but of existential necessity.”

The Independent reports that a day after the UK passed legislation targeting 20 Saudi nationals for sanctions, Defence Minister Ben Wallace called his Saudi counterpart to reiterate the UK’s support for the regime and its work. There was no statement from the UK about the phone call, but a statement in the Saudi-run news agency, Saudi Press Agency, said that Wallace “expressed his country’s appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s role in addressing threats to stability in the region”. This comes shortly after the UK lifted a ban of British arms sales to Saudi Arabia over its possible war crimes in the Yemen war.

Philip Collins writes in The Times that the UK should stop selling arms to the Saudis. Collins says “Britain’s brave new foreign policy punishes rogue states but our trade policy makes a mockery of those good intentions,” adding that it is not a difficult decision as the economic cost of stopping arms sales is low but “the moral cost is high”.

The Financial Times and The Economist report on the explosions at Iran’s military and nuclear sites. The Financial Timesreports that a group called the Cheetahs of the Homeland claimed responsibility for the explosion at Natanz, adding that more attacks were planned. The group said they were formed from Iranian intelligence and security agents who seek to overthrow the Islamic Republic. The Economist reports that while some of the recent explosions in Iran have innocuous explanations, others look intentional.

The Financial Times reports on the UAE’s first space mission. The $200m project to launch a probe to Mars is the culmination of six years work by Emirati and US scientists. It is part of a broader $5.4bn investment in the emerging space industry that it is hoped will spur development in an economy hit by the oil price crash and the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, with businesses in the UAE complaining about limited government support throughout the pandemic, some worry about the economic cost of the space project for what may turn out to be a vanity project.

All the Israeli media report on the latest explosions in western Tehran last night. Power outages were reported in the area after the explosions were heard. According to Al-Arabiya, the explosions occurred in missile depots belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps southwest of Tehran. Thursday’s event is the most recent in a series of explosions and fires reported in industrial areas and infrastructure sites throughout Iran over the past two weeks.

Ma’ariv publishes a new poll asking people, ‘If the election were held today, who would you vote for?’ The Likud received 36 seats, Yesh Atid-Telem 16 seats, Joint List 15 seats, Yamina 12 seats, Blue and White 10 seats, Shas 9 seats, Yisrael Beiteinu 9 seats, United Torah Judaism 7 seats, and Meretz 6 seats.  The Labour party fails to make it over the electoral threshold. The poll questioned 532 people on July 9. The margin of error is 4.4 per cent.

Kan Radio News reports that a Palestinian was killed last night by IDF fire. The Palestinian Health Ministry reported a fatality from IDF fire in the northern part of the Salfit district in Samaria. He was hit in the neck and and taken to the hospital in very serious condition, but was later pronounced dead. The Palestinians is believed to be appears one of two assailants who tried to throw firebombs at a military post near Ariel last night. The other fled the scene.

Israel Hayom includes an interview with Coalition Chairman Miki Zohar, where he describes a “complete disconnect” between the Likud and Blue and White. Furthermore, Zohar is convinced that if not for the coronavirus crisis, there would be no government. “The only thing keeping this government together is the pandemic crisis. If we weren’t in the middle of the second outbreak this type of government wouldn’t last … I don’t think the government will live out its days but I’m still optimistic – both sides could still come to their senses and work to stabilise the government.” Zohar also believes that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit is biased against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Would anyone be surprised if Netanyahu were to fire him? But he didn’t – not because he can’t but because he doesn’t want anyone to say that he fired Mendelblit because of the unreasonable and unfair things that the [AG] has done to him,” referring to the decisions to indict Netanyahu and later to deny him the opportunity to receive funding for his legal defence from several affluent friends. Mendelblit’s conduct towards the prime minister, Zohar said, “is disgraceful”. He further lambasted Netanyahu’s critics, saying: “The Netanyahu family has become a target. People understand that you can say anything you want about Bibi [Netanyahu]. But if you want to really hurt him, and go after his family – that’s where it hurts the most. The media doesn’t pull its punches. They’re obsessed.”

Yediot Ahronot reflects on this week’s failed attempt by right-wing opposition MK Bezalel Smotrich to establish a parliamentary committee of inquiry into alleged conflicts of interest in the judiciary. Forty three MKs supported the proposal, while 54 voted against it. Nahum Barnea writes, “Once upon a time, ages and ages ago, Tzahi Hanegbi was Israel’s justice minister. The president of the Supreme Court was Aharon Barak. By law, the courts’ administration is under the justice minister’s purview. When the two of them would meet, Justice Barak would place on the desk a pile of documents that needed the minister’s signature. Hanegbi adopted the following custom: he would sign the documents without reading them. That was how great his confidence was in the president of the Supreme Court, that was how much respect he had for the man and the office.  Hanegbi voted in favour of a motion to form a commission of inquiry into the conduct of the Supreme Court justices. Is today’s court more contrarian to the government than Barak’s Supreme Court was? The opposite is true; the court today is more conservative and more amenable to the government. Does the current Supreme Court suffer from more conflicts of interest than Barak’s court? The opposite is true; the justices nowadays are far more cautious and are far more vulnerable to criticism. It isn’t the Supreme Court justices who have changed; it’s the politicians who have changed. The coup is entirely theirs. Whereas Menachem Begin’s role model was the British regime, his successors’ role model is the anti-democratic regimes in Poland and Hungary.”

Yediot Ahronot and Haaretz both report that British cyclist Chris Froome will join Israel’s Start-Up Nation cycling team for the start of next season. The Israeli team announced that they had signed a multi-year contract with the four-time Tour de France winner on Thursday. Froome, who is leaving Britain’s Team INEOS, will wear Israel Start-UP Nation’s uniform in the upcoming season of international races, including the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia. Froome will likely ride with the team until the end of his career, in which he is one Tour de France win away from equalling the record of five victories. Sylvan Adams, the team’s co-owner, called Froome’s signing an “historic moment for ISN, Israel, Israeli sports, our many fans all around the world and, of course, for me personally – a moment of enormous pride.”