Media Summary

Israel begins fourth vaccine campaign

BBC News reports that an Egyptian teenager has killed herself over alleged blackmail. Two suspects have been arrested. Basant Khaled was reportedly sent digitally altered images of herself, which ultimately drove her to suicide. Her death sparked outrage across the country and demand for increased justice on social media.

BBC News and The Associated Press report that a Canadian court has awarded the families of six peopled killed in the plane downed near Tehran in January 2020 £62m in compensation. The families of the victims filed a civil lawsuit against Iran. However, it is not clear how the money will be collected from the Islamic Republic.

The Financial Times, The Guardian and Reuters report that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said recent data has shown a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine increases antibodies fivefold. Israel began its campaign to vaccinate medical workers and those over 60 on Monday. Israel’s health ministry said that the threat of the Omicron variant is milder than initially expected. Yet on Monday, the country recorded 10,644 cases, a 360 per cent rise compared to the previous week.

The Telegraph reports Israel’s health minister announced yesterday that same sex couples, single men, and transgender people will be allowed to become parents through surrogacy. The announcement was called a “historic day” for Israel’s LGBT community. Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said: “Today, we are putting an end to years of injustice and discrimination. Full equality. That is the simple demand, and it is the goal of the LGBT struggle, the long struggle of my community.”

The Independent reports that new findings from B’Tselem have found Israel killed over 300 Palestinians in 2021, marking a seven-year high. According to the report, “over the last year Israeli security forces’ use of ‘lethal, wanton, unlawful open-fire policy’ resulted in the killing of 313 Palestinians, including 71 minors across the occupied Palestinian territories”.

Jake Wallis Simons writes for The Spectator about why US President Joe Biden won’t stand up to Iran. He writes “The current American administration doesn’t seem to believe in its own power in the way that Donald Trump did. With the ultra-dovish Robert Malley in charge of the nuclear negotiations with Iran, the military option has not even got near the table. This has caused immense frustration to US allies, not least Israel, who understand that without it, the West is all carrot and no stick.”

Leading all Israeli newspapers is the account of the Israeli naval officer, the sole survivor of a fatal helicopter crash on Tuesday, who told the story of how he tried to save his two crew members after they crashed into the ocean. “I was able to pull myself out of the helicopter, and only after many attempts to rescue my friends, Erez Sachyani and Chen Fogel, was I rescued by a Coast Guard boat,” Captain Ron Berman recounted from his hospital bed. Preliminary findings of the crash suggest that a severe malfunction was most likely the cause. The helicopter — a Eurocopter AS565 Panther — was taking part in a training exercise Monday night when it went down.

The spread of Omicron variant continues to be covered extensively. More than 10,000 people tested positive in Israel for the virus yesterday, alongside a rise in the number of people who are hospitalised in serious condition, almost one quarter of whom are fully vaccinated. Maariv reports that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visited Sheba Hospital yesterday, where he was given a review of a new study being conducted by Professor Gili Regev-Yochay on the efficacy of a fourth vaccine dose. Initial results of the test have shown that the fourth dose, which is now available to Israelis over 60 and medical teams, raises the level of antibody protection fivefold within the space of seven days.

Israel Hayom says that pharmacies have reported a 700 per cent rise in the sale of rapid antigen testing kits for home use in recent days in response to the spiking infection rate. Health Ministry officials have also become increasingly concerned about a possible shortage of medical staff. Within the space of two days the number of medical personnel in quarantine rose from 500 to 1,200.

Sarit Rosenblum writes in Yediot Ahronot about the situation in schools in Israel, in which many have remained opened in keeping with the Education Ministry’s guidelines despite rapid rises in the number of infected children and teaches. Sarit says: “For two years, and despite countless warnings, nobody bothered to prepare the Israeli education system for living with the pandemic. At the moment, it is being kept open at any price—and the health and social price is being paid by the students. Some of them will continue to pay in the future, with compound interest.”

Maariv reports that the leaders of the right-wing parties in the Opposition are scheduled to discuss today the possibility of boycotting Knesset debates to protest the fact that the House Committee approved an expedited legislative process for the electricity bill, contrary to the professional opinion of the Knesset legal adviser and prevented them from explaining their reservations to the bill. Likud MK Shlomo Karhi said last night that the coalition was stealing the Knesset and trampling the opposition. He called on the opposition to form an alternative parliament to the Knesset. The Knesset held a stormy debate this morning on the electricity bill that is to be put to a vote in second and third readings shortly.

Hisham Abu Hawash, a Palestinian man who has been held in administrative detention for more than a year and who has been on a hunger strike for the past 140 days, has agreed to end his hunger strike in exchange for Israeli assurances that he will be released in late February, once the current term of his detention ends. According to Yediot Ahronot, Hamas praised Abu Hawash, an alleged member of Islamic Jihad from the West Bank town Dura, for scoring a “new victory that highlights the abilities of the Palestinian people and its heroic prisoners, who are victorious in every battle against Israel.” The Israeli decision not to extend Abu Hawash’s detention further apparently stems from concerns that his death might “precipitate a flare-up in the south or even worse”.

Kan Radio reports the IDF shot down a Hezbollah drone last night after it penetrated Israeli airspace from Lebanon. The IDF Spokesperson’s Office said that the drone had been under constant surveillance and had been downed after crossing the border.