Macron returns to Lebanon to push for reforms
The BBC, Financial Times, Independent, Guardian and The Times lead with French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Lebanon. According to the reports, Macron is visiting Lebanon to press the country’s leaders to form a government as soon as possible to implement reforms to tackle corruption. Just before his arrival, political parties agreed on a new prime minister. Mustapha Adib, Lebanon’s former ambassador to Germany, said he wanted an immediate start to reforms and an International Monetary Fund rescue package. Macron is offering to host an aid conference in mid-October to help the country recover from the explosion in Beirut a month ago.
A number of Saudi officials, including two members of the royal family, have been sacked. The BBC, Guardian, Financial Times and The Telegraph report that Saudi King Salman had relieved Prince Fahad bin Turki of his role as commander of joint forces in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. His son, Abdulaziz bin Fahad, was also removed as a deputy governor. The men, along with four other officials, face an investigation into “suspicious financial dealings” at the Ministry of Defence. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the King’s son and Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler, has spearheaded a campaign against alleged corruption in the government. However, critics say the high-profile arrests have been aimed at removing obstacles to the prince’s hold on power.
The Times reports on the ceasefire reached between Israel and Hamas. The paper notes the different tone taken by Hamas and Israel. Hamas leadership termed the ceasefire “an understanding to rein in the latest escalation and end aggression against our people,” and thanked the Qataris. Israeli military officials emphasised the ceasefire was a result of Israel’s decision to respond to the incendiary devices floating over its border with airstrikes and a closure of the border-crossings through which fuel and supplies are brought into the beleaguered coastal strip.
This morning The Telegraph published video images from inside a detention centre in Saudi Arabia that is housing thousands of African migrants. Saudi Arabia has agreed to investigate following a Sunday Telegraph exclusive which revealed the Gulf State is keeping hundreds, if not thousands, of African migrants locked in cramped and unhygienic detention centres as part of a drive to stop the spread of coronavirus. The British government said it was “very concerned” about the revelations and the official opposition called for immediate action from the Saudi authorities. A spokesman for the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, said the UN was also investigating.
The Independent reports on the suspected Israeli air-raid on key positions held by the Iranian military in southern Syria on Monday night. The report notes that while Iran serves as an ally of Syria in its ongoing civil war, Tehran’s involvement is seen as a threat by Israel – where officials have vowed to prevent any permanent build-up of forces. In recent months, Israeli officials have also expressed concern that Hezbollah is trying to establish facilities to produce precision-guided missiles in Syria.
The Financial Times notes how the dispute between members of the UN’s Security Council over the reimposition of UN sanctions on Iran has thrown an engine of post-war multilateralism into paralysis. The Trump administration stands against the other four permanent members of the Security Council – China, France, Russia and the UK – in aiming to reimpose sanctions on Iran. There is no procedure to determine which side is correct, threatening permanent stasis and adding weight to calls for reform. European observers said the dispute over the Iran deal posed a grave threat to the credibility of the Security Council.
The Israel media focus on the high level of coronavirus infection rate in Israel. According to Health Ministry data, more than 1,600 people tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday and 12 people died of the disease. The number of people who are hospitalised in serious condition with COVID-19 stands at 414. Kan Radio News reports that Health Ministry officials intend to demand at the coronavirus cabinet meeting tomorrow that red cities be placed on lockdown. In anticipation that that demand might be rejected, Health Ministry officials have also drawn up a list of severe restrictions that they believe should be imposed on red localities in the absence of a lockdown. The measures that are currently being contemplated include a night-time curfew and orders to shut down all but the most vital businesses.
Israel media reports that this morning an IDF soldier and a policeman were lightly wounded in a suspected car-ramming attack at Tapuach Junction in the northern West Bank. Ynet reported, according to the police, the car approached from the direction of the Arab village of Huwara in southern Nablus and rammed his car at a police checkpoint where the two servicemen were stationed. The driver then exited the vehicle and continued to advance toward them with a knife drawn. The injured officer opened fire and neutralised the attacker who is in moderate condition.
The Israeli media also focus on the ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel on Monday that stopped the flow of incendiary and explosive balloons from the Gaza Strip to southern Israel for the time being. Per the agreements with the Qataris, Israel reopened the Kerem Shalom crossing to merchandise, resumed shipments of fuel to the Gaza Strip and re-extended the fishing zone to 15 nautical miles, as it had been until the balloon activity recommenced more than three weeks ago. The IDF believes the severe rise of the coronavirus in the Gaza Strip had an important effect on Hamas and that it was able to leverage greater financial assistance from the Qataris. As of yesterday morning, there were 319 active cases of coronavirus patients in the Gaza Strip, 286 of whom were outside the quarantine facilities.
Ma’ariv reports on the suspected Israeli air strike in southern Syria on Monday night. According to Syria media, the Israeli Air Force struck several targets, including weapon shipments near the airport in Damascus, which were intended for Hezbollah or Iranian proxies. There were conflicting reports in the Syrian media about the number of fatalities. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that seven Syrian soldiers and three members of a militia associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard were killed. In contrast, the Syrian news agency SANA reported that two Syrian soldiers were killed and seven others were injured in the air strikes.
Makor Rishon and Ma’ariv follow the reaction of the settlement leadership to the comments that a senior official in the United Arab Emirates made yesterday regarding annexation. Emirati Foreign Ministry Policy Planning Director Jamal Al Musharakh said that his country had received assurances that [plans for] annexation had been halted. He also said that annexation would not stop normalisation with Israel. In response, the Yesha Council sent a letter to the Prime Minister in which they demanded that the Civil Administration’s Planning and Construction Committee be convened as early as this week to approve more construction in the West Bank. The committee, which is supposed to be convened once every quarter, according to an agreement that was reached with the Prime Minister, has not been convened for six months. The last time the committee was convened was shortly before the April general elections.