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Media Summary

Putin calls US presence in Syria “violation of international law”

BBC News reports that Facebook’s Oversight Board has recommended an independent review of post related to Israel and the Palestinians, after the company “failed to answer all its questions around alleged censorship of Palestinian activists”. The Oversight Board has recommended that the report and its conclusions be made public.

BBC News reports that Iranian musician Mehdi Rajabian is facing imprisonment over a new album he created in the basement of his home in northern Iran. The album, called ‘Coup Of The Gods,’ features a Brazilian orchestra along with musicians from several other countries and two female musicians from the US. Rajabian had already spent two years in jail, including a sting in solitary confinement, for the music he previously released. The artist told BBC News that the authorities “may re-accuse me. It really cannot be predicted. But I will not step back. It is very ridiculous that in this day and age we are talking about banning music”.

The Telegraph reports that President Vladimir Putin said the presence of American troops in Syria was “a violation of international law” during his meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He said US troops were preventing the emergence of peace in the war-torn country and that “only a consolidation of all forces in Syria will allow the country to get on its feet and start steady development, moving forward”. He said the presence of Russian troops in the country were there at the invitation of the Syrian regime, and were therefore not in violation of international law.

The Independent reports that a small body of water near the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea has turned blood red. Pictures of the body of water have been circulating across social media. Authorities have been stunned by the change in colour, but some suspect the change could have been caused by algae or iron oxide. Jordan’s water ministry was dispatched to test the body of water, with results expected to be published in the coming days.

The Guardian reports that the US has charged three former US intelligence operatives for working as mercenaries for the United Arab Emirates (UAE). According to documents from the US Department of Justice, the three are facing federal charges of conspiring to violate hacking laws. The three men were allegedly helping the UAE assisting the country’s clandestine Project Raven unit, which helped the country spy on its enemies.

The Times reports that the UK has been urged to intervene in the case of a Saudi teenager, Abdullah al-Howaiti who faces beheading for a murder he was arrested for at the age of 14. Despite evidence that al-Howaiti, now 19, was elsewhere at the time of the murder, his sentence has been upheld. This comes after Saudi authorities have promised to end the death penalty for minors. In a letter to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Sir Peter Bottomley MP wrote: “Your intervention is vital to ensuring that Abdullah’s life is saved and that Saudi Arabia abides by its promise to cease executing child defendants.”

Reuters reports that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will host a virtual meeting on Friday commemorating the one-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords. He will be joined by his counterparts from Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco. This will be the highest profile display of support for the Abraham Accords under the Biden administration.

In the Israeli media Prime Minister Naftali Bennett gave a series of interviews marking the holiday season. Speaking to Walla News, that also ran in Maariv, he was asked: “Yom Kippur Eve, a lot of rage, a lot of criticism, a lot of angry critics. Do you feel the need to apologise to them?” Bennett replied: “You are right, quite a few people in the public, especially on the right side of the map, were very disappointed with the way the government was formed and the composition of the government. I hope and expect them to come with an open mind and judge me and the government according to our actions.” He was also asked, “Your voters chose one man who made all sorts of commitments – not to sit with the United Arab List (UAL), only form a right-wing government. Do you feel any remorse?” He responded saying, “Day by day more decent people are willing to give a chance. Then they say that there is something better here than we thought – quietly we bring achievement after achievement. Unusual budget, restoration of relations with Jordan and Egypt. Relations with Jordan were not good, we restored them. I believe that in time a lot of people will understand that it is not right to sit on the side-lines and just criticise, but to come and join the move.”

On his relations with the UAL and its leader Mansour Abbas, Bennett said: “All his focus is on civil-economic issues, and I think he has made a very impressive move. We have so much in common. I look at the neglect in the Negev, everyone is hurt. In my government the perception is different. When there are problems do not sweep under the rug but take care of them. If it is in housing prices, Gaza, Iran.” He was reminded that he used to call Abbas a terror supporter and was asked what changed? “The one who paved this move is my predecessor, who for a long time had relations with Mansour Abbas under the table. When I do something I am not ashamed of him. I met and saw that he really wants to help the citizens. The alternative was a fifth election. We have a very diverse government and the surprise is that it works. The novelty in that there is a new generation – leadership of us and not leadership of me, sharing, with good will both within the country and in the US, with Jordan, with Egypt. I do not say that there are no disputes, but we always keep it civil. “

Kan News and Ynet highlighted Bennett’s comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “My perception is different than that of the defence minister although we work in harmony. I oppose a Palestinian state and I think it would be a grave mistake to import the failed Gaza model of Hamas which shoots rockets at us, and turn the entire West Bank to that … I see no logic in meeting Abbas when he’s suing our soldiers in the Hague and accuses our commanders of war crimes. In m opinion, the Palestinian Authority is a failed entity.”

Speaking to Channel 12 News, he apologised for “the pain I caused” to the family of Barel Hadaria Shmueli, the Border Police officer who was shot in the head on the Gaza border. “I made a mistake,” he said (referring to when he confused Barel’s name with his father’s). “I apologise to the family, but it is important to note that he was not murdered, he fell while fulfilling his duty.”

All the Israeli media include the latest Heath Ministry COVID-19 stats, whereby as of last night 10,779 Israelis have tested positive for the virus out of 179,732 tests carried out over the past 24 hours – putting the country’s positivity rate at 6.09 per cent. Israeli hospitals are treating 662 patients in serious condition, of which 195 are on ventilators. Haaretz reports that Israel could approve COVID vaccines for children aged five to 11. The paper suggests that vaccinations could begin as early as November.  There are currently around 150,000 students in quarantine, among them 41,000 active cases, even though there have been very few days of school.

Yediot Ahronot covers President Isaac Herzog receiving the credentials of the Ambassador of Bahrain. Herzog said, “Brave states take brave steps. The Abraham Accords were the fruit of both vision and power. The growing partnership between our countries is a model for the whole Middle East, and I hope that other states in our region will be inspired by your example.” Ambassador Khaled Yusuf Al Jalahma of Bahrain said, “Peace is the strategic choice of the Kingdom of Bahrain … His Majesty the King believes that dialogue, understanding, and building confidence are lofty principles and main foundations for achieving cooperation between nations and peoples … I am confident that this historic step will lay a solid foundation for relations between our two countries, based on the values of tolerance and coexistence between peoples, beliefs, and religions.”

Maariv and Haaretz cover a story in Politico that the US has decided to hold back some of the military aid it provides to Egypt due to human rights concerns. The Israeli media note the timing of the report comes a day after Prime Minister Bennett had a warm and positive meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi. According to Haaretz, “Israeli officials said Sissi has been seeking to strengthen ties with Israel and do so publicly in order to ease some of the strains with Washington over human rights.” The Egyptians “need the connection in order to alleviate the pressure they’re feeling from the international community as regards human rights in their country”. An Israeli diplomatic source told Haaretz: “In recent months the Egyptians seem to have decided that they should upgrade relations with Israel and give it more visibility.”

Israel Hayom covers “an unprecedented transatlantic initiative” whereby 313 cross-party parliamentarians from Europe, North America, and Israel have urged EU countries and democracies worldwide to help end the discrimination against Israel at the UN. The move was led by AJC’s Transatlantic Friends of Israel. The paper explains “the interparliamentary declaration concludes with three concrete demands: that EU members and fellow democracies ought to reject the excessive number of anti-Israel resolutions; reforms to the Human Rights Council to eliminate its permanent anti-Israel agenda Item 7; and the abolition of discriminatory committees and programs within the UN system that single out Israel”.