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Media Summary

Israel’s cyberattack cripples Iranian shipping in Gulf

All the Israeli media focus on the recent cyber-warfare between Israel and Iran. The military affair commentators call for a review of security measures at Israel’s critical civilian infrastructure, and although the Israeli authorities reported no damage to the water facilities that were targeted by Iran in late April. Yedioth Ahronoth’s Alex Fishman speculates that the main reason for US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Israel last week was not to discuss the Trump administration’s peace plan, but to convince Israel not to launch an even larger cyberattack than the one that it committed on Iran’s Shahid Rajaee port. Israel Hayom’s Yoav Limor writes that Israel did not follow the standard playbook for its retaliatory cyberattack against Iran: “Cyberwarfare is usually a clandestine affair … not only did [Israel] launch a cyberattack, it also made sure that everyone knew that it was responsible for it … Israel did that deliberately, defiantly, even crudely.”

Kan Radio News reports that the cabinet voted yesterday in favour of easing further coronavirus restrictions. The ban on going to the beach was lifted ahead of the resumption of lifeguard services today. Museums, synagogues, churches and mosques have also been given permission to reopen, provided that everyone present maintains two meters’ distance from one another, wears masks and maintains personal hygiene. The cabinet also decided that Israelis who return from overseas will be permitted to quarantine themselves in their own homes and will not be required to do so at a hotel. The number of people in Israel who have died of the coronavirus stands at 278. The number of active coronavirus cases stands at 2,946, among whom 50 are in serious condition.

Times of Israel report that Israel is contemplating joining up with Greece, Cyprus, the Seychelles, Georgia and Montenegro — all boasting low infection rates — to form a free travel bloc that would allow travellers to skip two weeks of isolation. The initiative was discussed at a meeting Tuesday attended by officials from the Health Ministry, Tourism Ministry and Airports Authority. The plan, yet to receive final approval, would have a pilot stage over the summer during which officials would carefully track the effects of an open-border policy from the five nations.

Yedioth Ahronoth reports that a Jordanian man has been moderately wounded after breaching the Israeli-Jordanian border. The 49-year-old man approached the border south of the Sea of Galilee carrying a large bag at 6:00am and was subsequently shot in the leg by Israeli security forces. The forces found a host of weapons in the man’s bag, including AK-47 rifles.

Ma’ariv reports that the State Attorney’s Office has said it is opposed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request to be excused from the first hearing of his trial, which is scheduled to begin on Sunday after having been postponed from March. Netanyahu asked to be exempted from having to attend the court session, citing the high cost of deploying his security detail, but the State Attorney said that his appearance was needed to ensure equality before the law. Netanyahu’s lawyers, Amit Haddad and Micha Fettman, criticised the State Attorney’s Office’s response, which they described as “patently ludicrous.” They noted that the indictment would not actually be read into the record on Sunday “and the prime minister’s defence lawyers will respond, as is the norm, that he is fully aware of all details of the indictment.”

The Guardian reports on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech last night in which he declared to end security cooperation with Israel and the US, citing the imminent threat of Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank. The report notes that Abbas has threatened to stop such cooperation several times before, and it was unclear on Tuesday what his declaration would mean in practice, especially in terms of the future of the Palestinian security apparatus.

The Associated Press reports that an unmarked Etihad Airways cargo plane flew aid to help the Palestinians fight the coronavirus pandemic from the capital of the UAE into Israel on Tuesday, marking the first known direct commercial flight between the two nations. The UAE has no diplomatic ties to Israel, yet “the flight marked a moment of cooperation between Israel and the UAE after years of rumoured back-channel discussions between them over the mutual enmity of Iran and other issues.”

Writing in The Times, Diplomatic Correspondent Catherine Philp reports on the Israeli cyberattack that crippled Iranian shipping through the Strait of Hormuz for days, in an apparent retaliation after an attempt to crash Israeli water purification facilities. Philp writes that the attack was a deep embarrassment for Iran, given its frequent boasts about its power to close down shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, a leading conduit for oil. The incident did not prevent other shipping from passing through but disrupted operations in Shahid Rajaee for days.

The Telegraph’s James Rothwell writes about Hezbollah’s “attack tunnel” network beneath Lebanon’s border with Israel after being taken on a tour by the IDF to one tunnel half a mile long and 260-feet deep. The report notes that having flooded most of the tunnel with concrete, Israel is putting it to another use: a key part of a lobbying campaign to get Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, banned in the EU. An IDF spokesman said “multiple delegations of German officials” visited the tunnel before Berlin made its decision last month to ban the whole organisation. Rothwell writes that “had it not been discovered last year, Israel says the tunnel would have been used to kidnap soldiers, or even launch a shock invasion of parts of its northern Galilee territory.”

The Associated Press reports on Israel-Lebanon relations the eve of the 20th anniversary when the IDF withdrew from southern Lebanon. The report says that the anniversary comes as Israeli troops are striking Hezbollah targets in neighbouring Syria and drilling for what could be an invasion of Lebanon. Hezbollah is beefing up its own forces and threatening to invade Israel. The bitter enemies routinely exchange warnings and threats, and that both sides are gearing up for a possible war that neither seems to want.

BBC NewsThe TelegraphThe Independent and The Guardian report on the family rift between Syrian President Bashar Assad and his billionaire cousin Rami Makhlouf. The relationship between the two has steadily worsened over the last few months after Makhlouf took to social media to criticise the President’s handling of the civil war. On 3 May, he said: “Mr President, security apparatuses have started to infringe on people’s freedom. Those are your people, your supporters.” In his most recent video, posted on Sunday, Makhlouf apologised to his staff, 28 of whom were arrested by Syria’s security agencies in the last week or so. He said: “Most of the legal matters are still pending without any progress, especially with regard to those arrested by mysterious people”.