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Media Summary

Israel hits three targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire

BBC News reports that a group of Egyptian architects won the bid to reconstruct the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul which was destroyed by the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group. The winning bid was one of 123 designs submitted to the  UN’s “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” project. A spokesperson for the UN said the mosque “will be a landmark in the process of advancing the war-torn city’s reconciliation.” In June 2017 IS blew up the 12-century mosque in Mosul as government troops advanced to recapture the city.

Yolande Knell and Phil Marzouk write for BBC News about how surrogate sex therapy is helping injured Israeli soldiers. They write “Although critics liken this to prostitution, in Israel it has become accepted to the extent that the state covers the cost for soldiers with injuries that affect their ability to have sex.”

The Associated Press reports on a rocket fired from Gaza to Israel yesterday. The projectile landed in the south of the country, with no reports of damage or casualties. Early this morning the Israeli Airforce hit a weapons manufacturing site, a tunnel for arms smuggling and a training site, all belonging to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Najmeh Bozorgmehr writes for The Financial Times about how the domestic power struggle within Iran has intensified amid ongoing nuclear talks. She writes “The spectre of direct contact with the US over the nuclear deal has intensified the power struggle in Tehran and further complicated Iran’s political scene ahead of presidential elections on June 18 which reformists fear will be dominated by hardliners and could see the lowest turnout in the country’s recent history. Such an outcome could limit the room for negotiation over the nuclear deal after the election.”

The Economist speculates on Israel’s motive in possibly attacking Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility. The paper notes “Enter Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, who is no fan of the deal. Was his aim to goad Iran into more nuclear activity in order to provoke Mr Biden to walk away, or the opposite: to slow down Iranian enrichment, thus easing pressure on Mr Biden to re-enter the deal? Notably, the attack occurred as Lloyd Austin, America’s secretary of defence, was in Israel.”

The Telegraph reports on Denmark’s controversial decision to deport Syrian refugees. After ruling that Syria is safe to return, the Danish government has revoked the residency of dozens of Syrian refugees. Asmaa al-Natoor, one of the refugees facing deportation, described the policy as a form of “psychological war.” This is seen as part of a longer trend of “immigrant-bashing” decisions in Danish politics, flowing from the populist Danish People’s Party. While Denmark cannot force out the refugees, the government is offering thousands of Euros to those who choose a “voluntary return” to Syria.

The Guardian features a series of photographs from Rami al-Bustan. “On cars, restaurant walls and buildings reduced to rubble, Bashar al-Assad’s face is plastered across the country, a decade after he crushed the first protests against his rule.”

The Times reports that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s longstanding spokesman Ibrahim Kalin  has released a new song this week. The paper notes that Kalin has released a number of songs in the past, but were often ridiculed. Kalin’s latest song, I’m Nothing, featured renowned Turkish musician Erkan Ogur has already racked up 140,000 views on YouTube.

The Israeli media returns to its focus on the potential formation of a governing coalition. Maariv reports that coalition talks between the Likud and Yamina are making headway with the next negotiating meeting to take place early next week. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yamina leader Naftali Bennett met twice last week, in private and with the negotiating teams. As of last night, the package being talked about reportedly includes a merger agreement and the senior portfolios of defence and foreign affairs, plus culture, along with other positions in the Knesset and government for Yamina. Sources believes that in light of Religious Zionist Party Chairman Bezalel Smotrich’s consistent opposition to forming a government that relies in any way on the United Arab List, Netanyahu will try to form a 59-seat coalition with no connection to the UAL which will enable Smotrich to support it without breaking his promise. According to Maariv the pro-change bloc is sceptical about progress to forming a government headed by Netanyahu. Sources close to Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid said that the talks between him and Bennett had not stopped for a minute.

Israel Hayom focuses on Likud pressure on Smotrich to agree to having a government supported by the United Arab List. In the last few days, UAL figures relayed a message to the Likud with the central issues that they wish to advance if such cooperation becomes possible, which Likud sources say include nothing that Smotrich could object to. In its messages, the UAL did not relate to the two hot potatoes —cancelling/changing the nation-state law and the Kamenitz law, which expands enforcement of the sanctions for construction violations — but rather consisted mainly of budget demands for Arab citizens. Likud figures said that these demands were “reasonable, sensible, correct, good for the Arab sector and good for the Israeli public”. The paper claims that Smotrich has repeatedly stated that he is firmly opposed to any cooperation or reliance on the UAL, but a post of his last Tuesday raised hope in the Likud that something will change. His conciliatory post was written after another shocking case of murder in Arab society, a mother of three children. “Arab society is suffering from real distress. As a state and as a society, we have a moral and civil obligation to stand by its side and help it,” Smotrich wrote. Last night however, after a rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel, Smotrich wrote on Twitter: “Do you truly want the State of Israel to be a hostage to the Islamic Movement and for its government to be dependent on it when responding to fire from Hamas (Gaza’s Islamic Movement) from Gaza?!”

Yossi Verter in Haaretz also discusses the negotiations between Netanyahu and Bennett writing that “for now, Bennett has less reason to fear Netanyahu’s blame games. The prime minister’s steamroller is being aimed instead at Smotrich’s party”. He comments that the pro-change bloc is “waiting for Netanyahu to fail,” adding sarcastically that “dozens of politicians and the millions of voters behind them, of whom the vast majority come from the centre-left, are counting on the right-wing, annexationist Bennett, with his seven seats, to whom they want to give the biggest prize of all, and on the integrity of our new king of racism and benightedness, Bezalel Smotrich. Happy days are here again.”

Yediot Ahronot, Maariv and Israel Hayom all report the outdoor mask mandate will be rescinded starting Sunday. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein adopted the ministry experts’ position that the low rates of coronavirus infections have rendered this cautionary measure moot. However, the indoor mask mandate will remain in force.

Haaretz relates to recent increased tension between Israel and Iran. During the holiday, the New York Times cited an Israeli defence source who said Israel wants to calm things down with Iran and does not plan to respond to the latest Iranian attack on a cargo-ship owned by Israeli businessman Rami Ungar. The missile fired at Hyperion Ray followed three attacks attributed to Israel within less than a week. These consisted of a routine shelling on an Iranian arms delivery in Damascus, an explosion on a command vessel of the Revolutionary Guard in the Red Sea and an explosion in the nuclear facility in Natanz, which apparently disrupted the centrifuges’ uranium enriching activity for months to come. Iran responded with an announcement that it was upgrading its uranium enrichment to 60 per cent. The Biden administration’s interpretation of the nuclear issue is very different from the rigid, alarmist line led by Prime Minister Netanyahu. The moves on the ground, in addition to the different approaches, raise the potential for a public clash with Washington. Meanwhile, the question of Iran’s response remains hanging. Will Tehran make do with firing on vessels? It has other means of hurting Israel, but it can also decide to stop its military moves, if it reaches the conclusion that an opportunity for a quick agreement with convenient terms with the Americans is within reach.

Kan Radio reports that the IDF last night attacked Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for yesterday’s rocket fire on the western Negev. Israel Air Force warplanes bombed a weapons production site, a tunnel used for weapons smuggling, and a Hamas military post. The rocket landed in uninhabited territory not far from Sderot. No one was injured and no damage was caused.

In Haaretz, Amos Harel writes about Israel’s approach to Coronavirus. “The meteoric success of Israel’s vaccination drive (and it bears reiterating that part of the credit goes to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence) shouldn’t spare the government from the duty to soberly examine how everything has been handled in Israel since February of last year … following Iron Dome, the vaccinations are the new-fangled trick – and Israelis are in love with magic technological solutions that cover up the failures of leadership, everyday management and long-term planning. Yet this is precisely the time for a national inquiry, to learn the lessons of the past year’s events, so that Israel is better prepared for the next major crisis. But the prospects for that appear slim, as evidenced by the cabinet decision that Netanyahu led to archive the minutes of all of the discussions on the coronavirus pandemic, keeping them confidential for 30 years.”

Kan Radio quotes Palestinian media outlets reporting that two Israelis, Shafa and Salah Abu Hussein, residents of Baka al-Gharbiya, were murdered last night while driving in their car in Tulkarm, which is in Palestinian Authority territory. Anonymous gunmen shot at them from a passing car. Reports said that the victims were brothers.

Kan Radio also reports that police have deployed in large numbers in the area of the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem this morning ahead of the first Friday prayers of the month of Ramadan. Last night there were disturbances in East Jerusalem near Herod’s Gate and Damascus Gate. A policeman sustained a head injury when one of the rioters assaulted him. The assailant and another rioter were taken into custody.