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Media Summary

Israel to impose nationwide lockdown this Friday

The BBC, Financial Times and The Guardian report on Israel enforcing a second nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus this Friday. The BBC writes that “Netanyahu has faced criticism for his handling of the outbreak. Critics say his failure to tackle the virus effectively has led to another national lockdown. Many nations are experiencing second surges of the virus. However, most governments are now imposing smaller local lockdowns in affected areas, rather than blanket national ones.” The Guardian claims that some business owners, including restaurateurs, have said they will choose to ignore the rules or face financial ruin. The Financial Times quotes the Israeli finance ministry which expects a nearly $2bn impact on the economy.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran, has not been taken to court to face new charges as expected, according to the BBC. Iranian state media had said she would be required to face fresh charges four years after her initial conviction. Mr Ratcliffe believes the postponement might have been to do with efforts made by the British Embassy to attend the hearing. The Guardian follows the detention of UK-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who faces 10 years in jail in Iran on espionage charges. The family of Moore-Gilbert said they “remain strong and are far from giving up hope” of her release as hundreds of her friends marked the second anniversary of her detention on Sunday.

The Telegraph leads with a report on a close confidant of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Adnan Tanriverdi whose private security firm, Sadat Group, has drawn comparisons with Russia’s Wagner Group, which does foreign military operations for President Vladimir Putin, including fighting for General Heftar’s forces in Libya. Sadat Group is believed to be Erdogan’s own mercenary group that helps train pro-Turkish forces in Syria and Libya.

The Times reports that Turkey has said it will continue to look for gas in disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean, despite pulling back an exploration ship hours after Greece announced its biggest military expansion in two decades. Greece is buying new hardware from France, including 18 Rafale fighter jets, four multipurpose frigates and four navy helicopters. It will also recruit 15,000 troops and boost its spending on heavy weaponry and cyber-defences.

All the Israeli media focus on the nationwide lockdown approved by the Cabinet that will begin on Friday, the eve of Rosh Hashanah, and will continue until the last day of Sukkot, 11 October. People will not be permitted to stray more than 500 meters from their homes, and gatherings will be limited to ten in a closed space, and to 20 in an open space. Prayer services will be permitted in a small format. Schools will be closed except for special education and boarding schools. There will be a closure of all businesses that receive the public in the fields of commerce, culture, recreation and domestic tourism, including swimming pools, but private businesses that do not receive the public and which provide essential services may continue operating. Housing and Construction Minister Yaakov Litzman (UTJ) resigned yesterday from the Cabinet over his opposition to the lockdown during the Jewish holidays.

According to Yediot Ahronot, there was 3,167 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. A total of 519 people are reported to be in serious condition, of which 144 are on ventilators. The Israeli death toll since the start of the pandemic stands at 1,119 people.

In Ma’ariv, Ben Caspit questions the wisdom behind the lockdown decision: “Israel is about to be the only Western country to impose a second lockdown. Why? Nobody can provide a convincing explanation…  You don’t have to be an epidemiologist to realise that a lockdown does not solve the coronavirus problem, but only creates a temporary lull… Its effect fades a short time afterwards and the situation reverts to its former state.”

Also in Ma’ariv, Yehuda Sharoni queries whether businesses will survive a second lockdown. Sharoni writes: “The business sector includes hundreds of thousands of restaurant owners, hotel owners, reception hall owners, gym owners, retail store owners, and of course, the tourism industry… The lockdown will destroy tens of thousands of those business-owners. They no longer believe the government’s promises.” Sharoni calls for the Finance Ministry to quickly promote a new aid plan that includes the following elements: compensation that takes into account the drop in sales, reactivating the paid leave model and compensating for city taxes and other fees.

Sever Plocker of Yediot Ahronot provides a fact-check on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech last night. Plocker says Netanyahu was wrong to say the number of seriously ill per million residents in Israel is relatively low compared to other countries. “Israel currently has 54 people seriously ill with the coronavirus per million residents. In the US, there are 44 per million, in Brazil there are 39, in Mexico 23, in Spain 22, in Russia 16, in France 9, in Austria 5, in Italy and Germany about 2.5 coronavirus patients per million residents, and in the UK, Norway, Finland, and Denmark, the numbers are negligible, close to zero.” However, Moshe Cohen and Maayan Harouni write in Ma’ariv that the number of infected people per million residents is much higher in Israel in comparison to other countries around the world because “the criterion for determining whether someone is ‘positive’ for the coronavirus in laboratory tests in Israel is higher than in countries such as Germany and the US”.

The Times of Israel reveals that the Trump administration gave the UAE a commitment during normalisation negotiations that Washington would not recognise Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank until 2024 at the earliest. According to sources, the UAE were uninterested in receiving an Israeli commitment to an annexation freeze since they understood that Netanyahu would not move forward with the move without US support.

Israel Hayom reports that satellite images released by ImageSat International on Sunday shows the airstrikes attributed to Israel near the town of al-Safirah, in northern Syria, on Friday hit a missile production plant. One building, which ImageSat said likely contained a large quantity of explosives, was destroyed in the attack. The second building sustained significant damage. “The attack intended to weaken missile production in Syria, probably for Hezbollah, by harming its crucial elements,” said ImageSat International.