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Media Summary

ISIS prison camps in Syria a ticking time bomb

Anshel Pfeffer writes in The Economist on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasting too soon about defeating coronavirus. Israel only reported a handful of new cases in late May and early June after a decisive lockdown, but since its reopening the country is now close to 2,000 cases a day, higher than its first peak. Public health officials say the country opened up too fast while the government neglected taking steps to keep the virus under control. Netanyahu’s handling of the crisis has left the majority of the country unhappy as thousands of people have taken to the streets in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv calling for his resignation and aid for people and businesses impacted by the virus.

BBC News reports that the Israeli Knesset has passed a bill banning gay conversion therapy. The bill passed its initial stage after two parties in the coalition – Blue and White and Labor – joined the opposition to vote in favour of the bill.

Frank Gardner reports for BBC News that ISIS prison camps in north-east Syria are a ticking time bomb for the West. Riots and attempted breakouts are becoming commonplace, ISIS has vowed to liberate the camps, and people-smuggling networks are being assembled. Together, these developments risk becoming a serious security problem for the world.

The Financial Times, GuardianBBC News and The Times report on the incident in Syria yesterday in which two US fighter jets ‘threatened’ and Iranian passenger plane as it passed through Syrian airspace en route to Beirut, according to Iranian media reports. A spokesman for US Central Command said a US F-15 “conducted a standard visual inspection of a Mahan Air passenger airliner at a safe distance,” adding that it was “conducted in accordance with international standards”. Iran’s Idlib State News Agency said the pilot of the Iranian flight had to quickly change altitude, which resulted in injuries to several passengers.

The Telegraph reports that Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, two of the ‘Beatles’ British jihadists, have admitted their involvement in the mistreatment of Western hostages. While previously refusing to speak about their role within ISIS, the two now say they were “liaisons” to Western hostages.

Bel Tew writes for The Independent about the devastating toll coronavirus has taken in war torn Yemen. The country’s COVID-19 mortality rate is five times the global average, and nearly 100 medics have been killed by the virus. A report released on Thursday by the international health charity, MedGlobal, said at least 1,610 cases have been reported with 446 deaths.

Reuters reports that US President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke on the phone on Thursday. According to a White House spokesman, the two discussed the fight against coronavirus and “re-energising global economies” while reaffirming “the strong United States-Saudi defence partnership”.

All the Israeli media cover the protests last night outside the Prime Minister’s Residence where fifty-five people were arrested. Channel 12 News reported that demonstrators clashed with police at the scene. After several warnings, the police dispersed the protestors with water cannons. Approximately 4,000 people are estimated to have protested the government and some 200 people demonstrated in support of it. The demonstrators held signs and chanted slogans against the government and the police. Several female demonstrators bared their breasts and held signs that read: “Justice looks better on camera.” At a certain point, the police warned the demonstrators that they intended to disperse them by force and shortly thereafter they began to use water cannons from the police vehicles. Shortly before 1:00 AM, Paris Square was mostly cleared out and the police continued trying to disperse the demonstrators from the nearby streets until about 1:30 AM. Dozens of demonstrators moved to Independence Park to continue protesting, and police on horseback dispersed them.

All the Israeli media report on Prime Minister Netanyahu appointing Prof. Ronni Gamzu, as chief of the national coronavirus task force. At a press conference last night Netanyahu said, “Prof. Gamzu has one major mission – to break the chain of contagion… For this purpose, he will be given full authority in three areas – testing, investigations, and quarantine… The government will rule on future closures and restrictions in accordance with the policies that Prof. Gamzu will devise.” He added that the IDF will help Prof. Gamzu carry out his policies and that he had agreed with Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz to cut by half the number of panel members at the Coronavirus Cabinet which directs the government’s response to the epidemic. Netanyahu also said, “this week we added 2,000 positions for nurses and 400 for doctors. We significantly increased the salary of social workers.” Meanwhile, the number of fatalities from coronavirus in Israel rose last night by eight to 442. Statistics provided by the Health Ministry show that the number of cases increased in the past 24 hours by 1,549. A total of 301 patients are hospitalised in serious condition, including 82 on ventilators.

Maariv includes its latest poll asking, If elections were held today, for which party would you vote? Likud receives: 32 seats, Yesh Atid-Telem: 18 seats, Joint List: 15 seats, Yamina: 12 seats, Shas: 10 seats, Blue and White: 9 seats, Yisrael Beiteinu: 9 seats, United Torah Judaism: 8 seats, Meretz: 7 seats.

In Yediot Ahronot Nahum Barnea speculates over the possibility of early elections, writing: “If a budget is not approved by August, we will go to elections in November. Netanyahu brandishes this threat; with a bit of luck he will be able to form a coalition that will relieve him of his trial. Gantz demands that a two-year budget be approved in conjunction with this, per the coalition agreement. Approval of the agreement will ostensibly ensure his appointment as prime minister in November 2021. He insists. In his place, I would agree to a budget now. Such an agreement would render Netanyahu’s threat empty of content. As for the next budget, the time has come for Gantz to understand that there will be no alternating premiership. He will not replace Netanyahu. Let him at least force Netanyahu to show up for his trial.”

Israel Hayom reports that the Qatari envoy to Gaza, Mohammed Al-Emadi, will deliver the latest monthly cash instalment ($10 million) to help needy families in the Gaza Strip tomorrow. Al-Emadi said in an official statement that the funds would be distributed via post offices throughout Gaza to some 100,000 families, with each family receiving $100. The distribution process is expected to continue until next Wednesday, July 29. Qatar has approved the delivery of $150 million to Gaza throughout 2020, primarily earmarked for humanitarian initiatives and families in need. Since 2012, Qatar has transferred upwards of one billion dollars to Gaza for various purposes.