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Media Summary

Iranian vessels responsible for largest illegal fishing operation in world

BBC News and The Independent report on warnings from UNICEF that millions of children in Yemen could be pushed to the brink of starvation as a result of a huge drop in humanitarian aid funding due to the coronavirus pandemic. UNICEF said the number of malnourished Yemeni children could reach 2.4 million by the end of the year, a 20 per cent increase on the current figure. Yemen faces the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and the coronavirus pandemic has only compounded the impact of the war.

The Independent and Reuters report that an Egyptian belly dancer was sentenced to prison following a country-wide crackdown on social media. Sama el-Masry was ordered to pay 300,000 Egyptian pounds (£15,000) and handed a three-year jail term for videos and photos uploaded to social media sites, including TikTok. John Talaat, a member of Egyptian parliament who asked for legal action against el-Masry and other female TikTok users said “there is a huge difference between freedom and debauchery”.

Reuters and The Associated Press report that the US Ambassador to Lebanon has defied a ruling from a Lebanese judge banning her from appearing on television for a year over remarks criticising Hezbollah. US Ambassador Dorothy Shea told a Saudi-owned Al-Hadath that the Trump administration had “great concerns” over Hezbollah’s role in the government. On Sunday Shea made several media appearances in defiance of the judge’s order and described the ruling as a “really pathetic” attempt to silence the media. Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti summoned the US ambassador over her comments, and the two are expected to meet this afternoon.

The Guardian reports that according to the NGO Global Fishing Watch, a fleet of up to 193 Iranian vessels could be one of the largest illegal fishing operations in the world. Global Fishing Watch provides fisheries intelligence and analysis to African coastal states to help fight illegal and unregulated fishing. The Iranian fleet has been operating in Somalia and Yemen as early as January 2019.

Reuters reports that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday that Iran is experiencing its toughest year yet because of US sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking on a televised speech, Rouhani said: “It’s been the most difficult year due to the enemy’s economic pressure and the pandemic. The economic pressure that began in 2018 has increased … and today it is the toughest pressure on our dear country.”

In an interview with the Associated Press, Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, said the expiring UN arms embargo on Iran must stay in place. Hook said the embargo will prevent Iran from “becoming the arms dealer of choice for rogue regimes and terrorist organisations around the world”. Hook added: “If we let it expire, you can be certain that what Iran has been doing in the dark, it will do in broad daylight and then some.”

Anshel Pfeffer writes for The Times that on Wednesday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to announce initial plans for West Banka annexation but has yet to inform political partners and Israel’s security establishment as he may “not know how far the Trump administration is prepared to let him go”.

Writing in The Guardian, Simon Tisdall says “everyone loses from Netanyahu’s territorial ambitions” and that it is difficult to find an upside to his plan, which is illegal under international law.

Nesrine Malik writes for The Guardian about her lockdown experience in Cairo amid the coronavirus pandemic. As soon as the first case of the virus was confirmed in the country “the government imposed a partial lockdown and closed the airports”.

All the Israeli media cover the latest Health Ministry update regarding coronavirus. As of last night there were 218 new cases of coronavirus in Israel. There are now 6,265 people infected, of them 45 patients described as being in serious condition with 24 on ventilators. A total of 318 Israelis have died from the disease. Yediot Ahronot reports that Health Ministry Director General Prof. Hezi Levy warned that if the morbidity rate continued as is without steps being taken, there would a major loss of control and hundreds of Israelis would die. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein presented several far-reaching recommendations for the cabinet to approve, including restricting events to up to 50 people, restricting prayers to 19 people in synagogues and other houses of worship, restricting assemblies to 20 people, moving tests to Zoom, operating summer camps and other summer vacation frameworks in capsules of up to 15 children, moving 30 per cent of public service workers to working from home, and more. Edelstein’s proposals were met with strong resistance from the ministers, led by Finance Minister Yisrael Katz who said that limiting the number of people at events meant closing the events industry. “The solution is to increase enforcement on businesses and people who violate instructions, and not by decisions to reduce and large-scale closings,” Katz said, and he promised to complete legislation and make preparations to have enforcement implemented by local authorities.  Minister Katz was also vehemently opposed to capsule learning in summer schools and said that this meant that parents would have to stay home. Minister Edelstein warned, “We are the start of a second wave. I took steps with the other relevant ministers to reopen event halls, cultural events, public transportation and more, but I stressed that if we do not strictly comply with instructions, we will have close them. Unfortunately, I was not sufficiently heeded. Sadly, there is a populist competition as to who can be more dismissive of the need to be careful. Of course, the recommendations are unpleasant, but the situation requires this.” 

The coronavirus cabinet will meet this afternoon to discuss the Health Ministry’s recommendations to intensify restrictions on gatherings.  Haaretz reports, “the panel advising the National Security Council on the coronavirus outbreak sent a letter to the prime minister and health minister on Saturday night warning that the country “has lost control of the pandemic” and should take immediate steps to blunt the virus’ spread – or else face another lockdown within weeks.”

Ynet reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he is ready to negotiate with the Palestinians, adding that annexation “will advance peace.” Speaking in a pre-recorded speech during the event organised by the American Christians United for Israel group, Netanyahu urged the Palestinian Authority to “embrace” the US peace plan, saying: “I encourage the Palestinians not to lose another opportunity, not to waste another century trying to destroy Israel,” said Netanyahu. “The Palestinians should be prepared to negotiate a historic compromise that could bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians alike. Israel is ready for such negotiations, I am ready, for such negotiations.”

Kan Radio News reported the Israel Navy arrested a young man from the Gaza Strip last night who had crossed the maritime border with Israel by swimming, about two kilometres north of Zikim. He was unarmed and was taken for questioning. IDF detection systems spotted the swimmer and monitored him until he was caught and pulled from the sea. His motivation is still unknown.

All the Israeli media cover an embarrassing incident at the start of yesterday’s cabinet meeting that was caught on camera. Prime Minister Netanyahu opened the meeting, and after he spoke the reporters were asked to leave the room. Gantz did not receive the floor, and he gestured angrily at Cabinet Secretary Tzahi Braverman and at Netanyahu’s chief of staff, Asher Hayun. “Why didn’t you let me speak?” asked Gantz. Hayun replied that he did not know that he had wanted to speak.  Gantz became angry and said that it had been agreed that he would speak. Hayun whispered to Netanyahu, “Gantz wishes to speak here and now.” Netanyahu waved dismissively and said, “Let him talk later, not now.” After they exchanged words, it was agreed that the journalists would be called back into the hall and Gantz would speak to them. At the end of the meeting, it was claimed that the incident originated in a misunderstanding between Netanyahu and Gantz’s bureaus. Netanyahu thought Gantz would speak at the start of the coronavirus cabinet meeting, and the latter thought that he was supposed to speak at the start of the regular cabinet meeting.