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Media Summary

New IAEA report condemns lack of oversight of Iran’s nuclear programme

A video report from BBC News examines Lebanon’s political and economic crisis. The report notes that the deteriorating situation has plunged a country desperate for fuel into darkness, with some experiencing power cuts of 20 hours a day.

The Financial Times reports on the impact of Lebanon’s fuel shortage on Hezbollah. The paper notes, “Districts that have traditionally supported Hezbollah are estimated to be among the areas worst-hit by deprivation … there is no polling data to show whether the crises are denting Hezbollah’s support. Its charitable organisations still provide aid to many while the state has been slow to help. But as the crisis hurt its constituents, Hezbollah had been unable to fulfil its traditional role of provider and protector.”

The Guardian details how European countries and the US will decide today whether to censure Iran over a damning report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The document released by the IAEA says that Tehran’s new hard-line government has made oversight of its nuclear programme impossible. The report notes: “Iran’s failure to respond to the agency’s requests for access to its monitoring equipment is seriously compromising the agency’s technical capability to maintain continuity of knowledge.”

The Economist reports that “Iranians worry their new government is inept”. The paper notes that, “Since Mr Raisi’s victory in a rigged election on June 18, cases of covid-19 in Iran have spiked. The daily death toll is among the highest in the world. Most Iranians blame the country’s (unelected) clerical regime.”

In the Israeli media, the ongoing search for the jailbreak is the leading news story. Nahum Barnea argues in Yediot Ahronot that the domestic intelligence services (GSS) deserves its fair share of the blame for failing to prevent the escape. He writes: “The GSS appears to share some of the responsibility for the lack of intelligence information at Gilboa Prison. It did not know of the escape plan, and what is even more disturbing — it has unable to locate the escapees as of Thursday evening. The GSS is not the Prison Service: it is an elite unit. Expectations are high. We assume it can discover any suspicious phone call in the West Bank, any terrorist plot in Gaza. But it did not anticipate the riots in the mixed cities in May and it failed to catch the escapees and their helpers this week. There may be some Israelis who find the ineptness of the security forces amusing; I find it worrying.”

Elsewhere, Kan Radio reports that the government will step up its enforcement of quarantine regulation by reinstating legal penalties to violators acting in a way that could spread the coronavirus. Yesterday Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has instructed law-enforcement officials to pursue criminal charges against any Israeli presenting forged Covid-19 test results upon returning from abroad. A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said: “The Israeli government takes seriously the entry of people in Israel with forged documents who could deliberately spread the disease. This constitutes an irresponsible act of harm to public peace and we will continue to take harsh actions against violators of the law.” Last night 50 Israelis returning from Uman were detained at Ben Gurion Airport despite the fact that they tested positive for the virus before boarding the plane in Kiev. They presented negative test results before boarding the flight to Israel, but unnamed sources tell Yediot Ahronot that some pilgrims who had tested positive managed to exit local quarantine hotels before the mandatory ten days isolation was over and, after traveling to Kyiv, were able to obtain forged virus tests in order to board planes back to Israel. Some 14.3 per cent of 2,000 returning pilgrims from Uman who were screened by Magen David Adom tested positive for COVID-19.

A total of 7,813 Israelis tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, out of 125,463 tests administered, the Health Ministry announced on Friday. There are 672 patients in serious condition, with 173 on ventilators. The number of Israelis who received their third COVID-19 vaccine dose is 2,763,886, with 5,531,637 having had two doses and 6,031,635 having received just one. So far, 7,319 Israelis have died from the virus.

In Yediot Ahronot, health affairs correspondent Sarit Rosenblum compares the battle against the pandemic to the prison break: “It is no coincidence that the current chapter in our battle against the coronavirus resembles our handling of the security prisoners who escaped Gilboa Prison: on the surface, a false and soothing semblance of routine. Below the surface — a clear and immediate danger with nobody lifting a finger to prevent it.” While noting that on the surface the data are encouraging, she warns against the effect of “the sloppy manner in which the school year began at a time of peak infection, as well as permitting mass infection events, with the government’s blessing, from family holiday gatherings, to mass performances and mass prayers to infection from overseas. What won’t the government do to maintain quiet, either with the hasids who go to Uman or, with all the many differences, with the inmates of Gilboa Prison?”

Maariv reports on Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s one-day visit to Russia where he met his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. After the meeting, the two issued a joint statement, clarifying: “The message to Iran must be strong and clear. A nuclear Iran will lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Iran’s progress towards nuclear capability is not just an Israeli problem – it is a problem for the whole world”. Asked for his position on the Israeli attacks on Syrian territory, the Russian Foreign Minister said: “We do not want the Syrian territories to be used against the State of Israel or against any other country. All the questions that arise in this matter are discussed on a daily basis between the representatives of our military echelon (of Russia and of Israel). This procedure of ongoing security coordination has certainly proved its effectiveness, and today we agreed that it will continue.”

Walla and Maariv quote senior Israeli and American officials about more details from the meeting two weeks ago between US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. According to the sources, President Biden said he did not intend to abandon his plan to reopen the US Consulate in Jerusalem. Biden reportedly stressed that reopening the consulate is an election promise. Bennett made it clear to Biden that he opposed such a move but agreed to set up teams to find an acceptable solution on both sides.

Israel Hayom reports that Bahrain’s national carrier, Gulf Air, will begin operating twice-weekly flights from Israel starting 30 September. Gulf Air confirmed the date on Twitter, adding the new route will operate on Mondays and Thursdays. The route was initially announced in April and was originally scheduled to start on June 3, but was postponed.