Israeli mercenaries involved in Cameroon President’s private army
The Times leads with the story that a private army under the authority of Cameroon’s President, called the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR), has been trained by Israeli mercenaries. The unit, which was said to have been established two decades ago by Avi Sivan, Israel’s former defence attaché to Cameroon, was involved in a massacre in February that triggered international outrage. A number of BIR soldiers trained since 2009 confirmed that they had each received a firearm produced by the Israeli arms manufacturer Israel Weapon Industries, including Tavor assault rifles. Israeli companies have also provided the BIR with armoured personnel carriers, investigators found.
The Guardian reports on the letter signed by 11 EU Foreign Ministers (Belgium, Ireland, Italy, France, Malta, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Finland) to the EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, demanding that the EU quickly provide them with a list of possible actions to stop Israel annexing large parts of the West Bank. On Tuesday evening Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. A Downing Street spokesman said: “The prime minister urged President Abbas to engage in negotiations and offered the UK’s support to foster dialogue. The leaders agreed to continue to work together on this issue and others.”
The Times reports that a roadside bomb on the M4 highway in Syria has injured at least three Russian soldiers and a number of Turkish-backed forces. Russia evacuated its troops and equipment to the Hmeimim air base in Latakia, 50 miles southwest of where the attack took place. It also launched retaliatory airstrikes on rebel positions in mountains in southern Idlib and Latakia provinces, while regime forces shelled Ariha, close to where the bomb exploded.
Writing in The Guardian, Arwa Mahdawi criticises Instagram for deleting a post from model Bella Hadid of her father’s Palestinian passport, saying that “asserting your humanity as a Palestinian is portrayed as an act of aggression”. Instagram said it violated “community guidelines on harassment or bullying” and noted the platform doesn’t allow “hate speech”.
The Times reports that Iran has executed a former defence ministry employee after he was convicted of selling secrets about the country’s missile programme to the CIA. Reza Asgari, who had retired from the ministry’s aerospace department in 2016 after working there for “many years”, is the second person to be executed for espionage in the past month.
The Independent focuses on new allegations by the UN that at least seven children and two women were killed in a suspected Saudi-led coalition airstrike in northwest Yemen on 12 July, just days after the UK announced it would resume controversial arms sales to Riyadh. Turki al-Maliki, spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition, said the alliance had referred the recent operation to its incident assessment team.
The Financial Times notes that Libya’s eastern-based parliament has said it would “welcome” Egyptian military intervention in the country’s civil war to counter what it described as “breaches of Libya’s sovereignty” by Turkey, which supports the UN-recognised administration in Tripoli. The invitation to Cairo from the parliament aligned with renegade General Khalifa Haftar increases the risk of direct clashes between Egypt and Turkey and possibly other regional powers that have been seeking to shape Libya’s future through a proxy war, the paper says.
The Guardian leads with a new UN report that says a “de facto caste system based on national origin” exists in Qatar, “according to which European, North American, Australian and Arab nationalities systematically enjoy greater human rights protections than South Asian and sub-Saharan African nationalities”. The report reveals that low-wage workers continue to suffer severe discrimination and exploitation, almost 10 years after FIFA awarded the World Cup to Qatar. Non-payment of wages, unsafe working conditions, racial profiling by the police and denial of access to some public spaces are among the catalogue of abuses described in the report.
All the Israeli media focus on the rising toll the coronavirus is having on the public. The Health Ministry said 1,718 people tested positive yesterday for the coronavirus. The number of infected people in Israel stands at more than 22,300, among whom 183 are hospitalised in serious condition and 56 are on ventilators. According to Kan Radio News, Health Ministry Director General Hezi Levy and Beitar Illit Mayor Meir Rubinstein reached an understanding yesterday that the lockdown on Beitar Illit is to be lifted this morning. Hundreds of people demonstrated once again last night at the entrance to the city, demanding compensation for the days that they were forbidden to leave for work.
Kan Radio News reports that a bill prohibiting conversion therapy in Israel will be introduced to the Knesset today. The bill, which was drafted by Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz, stipulates severe punitive measures for anyone who engages in conversion therapy in Israel.
Ma’ariv quotes one of the organisers of the Black Flag protests, which have been occurring outside the Prime Minister’s Office for the past few nights. Yarden Schwartzman told the newspaper: “The State of Israel is in a deep crisis of leadership at one of its most difficult hours. The situation that we have reached, in which hundreds of thousands are have financially collapsed and the Israeli government is preoccupied with anything but its citizens, has to end. That will happen only when the government is led by a person whose actions are dedicated only to the public’s benefit. Not escaping from trial, not tax breaks for himself, not slandering the justice system or renovating his private home—only the men and women who are citizens of this country. When there’s no leadership, it’s time that we show the way.”
Channel 13 News reports that its team was attacked by demonstrators outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem yesterday evening. The demonstrators violently wrested the microphones that were held by Avishai Ben Haim and Yossi Eli, shoved them and yelled at them. One demonstrator said to Avishai Ben Haim: “You loser. [The Likud has been] in power for 40 years—what are you talking about?” Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz wrote on Twitter: “Journalists in the State of Israel can and need to make their voices heard—without threats and without dictates. I condemn the threats to Channel 13 News’ commentator, Avishai Ben Haim. The right to protest is sacred—as is freedom of the press and freedom of speech.”
Writing in Yediot Ahronot, Steve Plocker calls for an immediate lockdown. He cites the government’s decision in early May to cave to the demands of public discourse and the Finance Ministry by haphazardly lifting the restrictions on the economy, social events, schools, entertainment and assemblies in general, as the reason for the return of the virus. He also says the decision by the Knesset’s Coronavirus Committee to allow gyms to reopen was another link in the chain of irresponsibility bordering on insanity.
All the Israeli media cover the announcement by the Defence Ministry and Israel Aerospace Industries that the Ofek 16 satellite’s camera is operational and that the first images transmitted to the ground control centre were of “excellent” quality. The spy satellite was launched last week and will be soon be handed over to the IDF Intelligence Corps.