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Media Summary

Iran claims to have arrested Mossad-linked spy cell

The BBC reports on the Russian justice ministry’s attempt to try and shut down the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency, an organisation involved in helping the immigration of Jews to Israel. The reasoning for this surrounds unspecified legal breaches but is it could also be related to Israel’s stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A hearing is set for July 28 at Moscow’s Basmanny District Court. Since the war in the Ukraine, Russian Jewish immigration to Israel has skyrocketed.

The Times publishes an article on the Iranian government’s claim to have arrested spies connected to a network of the Mossad. In an official press release, Iran stated these agents have been planning “terror attacks against sensitive sites”. Israel has neither confirmed or denied the reports. Israel is suspected of conducting a number of operations in Iran in recent months with the aim of slowing down their nuclear progress.

Reuters describes the deaths of two Palestinians in the West bank after a midnight clash with Israeli forces. The two dead Palestinians were claimed by the militant group named Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. The IDF also attacked a fishing boat off the coast of the Gaza Strip over the weekend, which was accused of smuggling in weapons and supplies for Hamas from Egypt.

The Independent reports on the death of a man in Israel who died after a sinkhole over 40 feet deep opened up under a swimming pool during a company party in Karmi Yosef, south-east of Tel Aviv. The owners of the property have been arrested on suspicion of causing death by negligence.

The Financial Times yesterday relayed a report on a court ruling from May 2022, whereby after a 20-year-legal battle Israel’s top court granted the Israeli armed forces the rights to the Palestinian village of Khirbet al Fakheit at the south of the West Bank. The article contains accounts of Palestinians affected by the decision, as well as the IDF.

Reuters comments on Israeli airline Elal’s return to the Boeing 777-200ER aircraft in order to meet the high travel demand into Israel this summer, as many travellers return to the state for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of Elal’s aircraft have been side-lined due to the pandemic but are now set to return.

All the Israeli media report on the successful operation over the weekend to apprehend a terrorist cell suspected of planning new terrorist attacks. On Saturday night, officers from the Special Unit for Counter-Terror Warfare (Yamam) surrounded a house in Nablus that was being used by a terrorist cell planning to commit a shooting attack at Joseph’s Tomb in the next few days. The Israeli troops entered the city using undercover vehicles. As soon as they disembarked, the troops came under fire from within the house where the terrorist cell was holed up. According to Palestinian reports, at least two Palestinian wanted men were killed in the exchanges of fire and four others were injured. The Israeli troops suffered no casualties.

Maariv follows Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s comments at yesterday’s weekly cabinet meeting where he praised the security forces for what he described as an “efficient and successful operation” the night before in Nablus. Prime Minister Lapid said: “Last night, IDF, Shin Bet and Yamam forces raided wanted men’s hideouts in Nablus. We are talking about terrorists who recently carried out a series of shooting attacks. In the course of the operation, the terrorists opened fire from the rooftops and the alleyways of the Nablus Casbah. Our troops reacted quickly, efficiently and precisely. A number of terrorists were killed in the exchanges of fire, other terrorists were injured [and] large quantities of weapons were seized. This government’s policy is decisive.” Lapid then said, “We will not sit and wait for Israeli civilians to be attacked. We will go out and strike at the terrorists in their homes.”

Meanwhile, Haaretz notes that a Palestinian carrying a knife was arrested Sunday after approaching an Israeli soldier at Tapuah Junction in the northern West Bank while the soldier was on routine security duty. The soldier fired in the air and the suspect gave up, the Israel Defense Forces’ Spokesperson’s Unit said. The suspect was sent for interrogation by the Shin Bet security service, and no soldiers were hurt in the incident.

A missile engineer serving in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was killed last week in an apparent assassination Channel 12 News reports, quoting from Iranian state media. According to social media, Said Thamardar Mutlak was killed in the south-central Iranian city of Shiraz last week. Mainstream and social media referred to him as a “martyr” – an elevation usually reserved in Iran for those who are killed in the line of duty. According to Channel 12 News, several social media posts alleged that state-run media had been instructed to downplay Mutlak’s death and that his family had been warned by authorities not to share the news of his assassination. Israel has been suspected of being behind a series of mysterious mishaps in key nuclear sites in Iran in 2022, as well as the assassination of key IRGC personnel, high-ranking officials, and nuclear scientists.

Ynet also follows reports in Iranian media that an “Israeli spy ring” was arrested over the weekend after planting explosives at a nuclear facility in Isfahan. Tehran announced on Saturday that it had arrested members of a “spy ring” working for Israel with “powerful explosives” hours before they managed to execute “terror attacks in sensitive sites”. According to state media, the cell crossed into Iran from Iraq’s Kurdistan region after “months of training” in Africa. Iran’s Intelligence Ministry did not specify, however, how many cell members were arrested and did not publish details about their nationality.

In a commentary in Israel Hayom, Ariel Kahana writes that whilst Lapid might be right about siding with Ukraine and the West over Russia, he is not necessarily being smart. “Surprisingly, a major difference between Lapid and Netanyahu has now come to light on the question of Israel’s place in the world. Lapid believes that Israel’s proper place is in the bosom of the liberal West. He believes in its moral depth, which Israel relies on and will need in due course. That is why he frequently talks about being ‘on the right side of history,’ and that is also why he pushed to upgrade relations with the European Union. Lapid might be right in his clash with Putin, but his actions aren’t necessarily smart. Netanyahu believes in navigating between West and East, depending on Israel’s interests. His policy might be less pleasant to contemplate, but it is without doubt far more realistic. Israel definitely needs moral strength in order to thrive, but that isn’t enough on its own. The strong survive; the ones who play nice get destroyed.”

Walla reports on the political reaction to comments made by MK Miri Regev during an interview in which she said that were the matter up to her, “it would be possible to stop Netanyahu’s trial during the run-up to elections”. Ram Ben Barak (Yesh Atid), chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said: “It’s a good thing it isn’t up to her … but if we don’t win this election, that is precisely what is going to happen: an override clause [allowing the legislative branch to overturn Supreme Court rulings], there will be a French law [exempting incumbents from prosecution while in office], trials will be canceled. Accused individuals will not stand trial. The choice is either democracy or Ben Gvir and Netanyahu.” Labour Party Faction Chairman MK Ram Shefa said: “We simply must not allow them to return [to power]. Every day, another member of the Likud lets slip their plans if they return. The government of change that we formed is a government that will save the State of Israel and Israeli democracy. We will do what it takes to form the next government and to prevent them from getting their hands on the steering wheel.” Former Meretz Party Chairwoman Zehava Galon, who is running again for the party leadership, wrote, “Voila, here’s another reason I’ve returned: So [things like this] aren’t up to her.”

Kan News poll found that if elections were held today, the pro-Netanyahu bloc would win 60 seats. The Likud picked up an additional seat relative to the last poll and is projected to win 35 seats, while Yesh Atid has lost one seat and is now projected to win 22 seats. Blue and White is predicted to gain 12 seats, followed by Religious Zionist Party on 10, Shas on 8, United Torah Judaism on 7, Labour Party on 6, Arab Joint List on 5, Yisrael Beiteinu on 5, Meretz on 4 and the United Arab List on 4.