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Media Summary

Researchers in Israel identify ancient humans from 120,000 years ago

The BBC writes that a report by the Canadian government on the downing of a Ukrainian jet in 2020 has found no evidence it was “premeditated” but said Iran was “fully responsible”. Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 was hit by two missiles after taking off from Tehran on 8 January 2020, killing all 176 people on board. Iran said it mistook the aircraft for a US missile, but Canada said yesterday that the blame lay with Iran’s “civilian and military authorities”. Reuters reports that Iran dismissed the report as “highly politicised”.

The Times reports that the drone attack on a suspected nuclear facility in Iran caused substantial damage, despite reports from Tehran that the “sabotage” attempt had been foiled.

Reuters reports that a US official told reporters yesterday that Washington may need to rethink its approach to Iran if the serious differences between the two countries on resuming compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal cannot be resolved “in the foreseeable future”.

A op-ed in the Guardian by Jack Shenker argues that Egypt’s political prisoners have little hope and the West must share the blame. He notes that “worthy bromides about human rights and freedom of expression” from Western governments “ring hollow when Egypt’s dictatorship enjoys the financial backing and political patronage of presidents and prime ministers across the global north”.

Reuters, the Guardian and the BBC report researchers working in Israel have identified a previously unknown type of ancient human that lived alongside our species more than 100,000 years ago. They believe that the remains of a partial skull and jaw from an individual uncovered near the city of Ramla represent one of the “last survivors” of a very ancient human group that lived between 140,000 and 120,000 years ago.

The Financial Times notes how several unsolved murders of ‘diligent’ bankers in Lebanon has caused chills in the financial sector Lebanese bankers. The report says that those working in the once prestigious sector are now blamed by many for the country’s financial crisis.

The Guardian writes about a new report by Amnesty International that claims the latest flare-up of violence in the Gaza Strip was accompanied by a “catalogue of violations” committed by Israeli police against Palestinians in Israel and East Jerusalem.

The Independent reports that up to 300 migrants are feared dead in ship that capsized off coast of Yemen. Senior UN official gives no further details, but comment comes one week after reports of bodies washing up in Ras al-Arah.

In the Israeli media, Yediot Ahronot, Maariv and Israel Hayom all report about the requirements to wear masks indoors from Sunday. Kan Radio reports that top healthcare officials say Israel’s situation is unlikely to deteriorate seriously even if additional restrictions are not imposed. Most of the public has been inoculated and the vaccine prevents serious illness. Officials said that almost all of the people recently infected developed only mild symptoms. Yesterday more than 180 people tested positive in Israel, making it the fourth consecutive day in which the number of new infections exceeded 100. The new coronavirus cabinet will be convened for the first time on Sunday.

Haaretz, Maariv and Israel Hayom also focus on Iran. Amos Harel in Haaretz writes that the exact nature of the latest incident remains in a fog. A facility connected to Iran’s nuclear programme located west of Tehran was attacked on Wednesday morning. Reports on Iranian news websites indicated that a drone had been used and that the authorities had successfully thwarted the attack. A few additional details leaked later. The New York Times reported that the targeted building, near the city of Karaj, “was one of Iran’s main manufacturing centres for the production of the centrifuges used at the country’s two nuclear facilities, Fordow and Natanz”. The Times noted that the factory “was on a list of targets that Israel presented to the Trump administration early last year”. If we assume that Israel is behind the attack, then another interesting question is whether the drone attack on Wednesday, which happened during [IDF Chief of Staff] Kohavi’s visit in Washington, surprised the Americans, or whether the whole incident was coordinated in advance in order to pressure the Iranians. Israel Hayom writes that the attack on “the facility yet again shows the exceptional operational capabilities that Israel possesses in Iran (if Israel truly is responsible for the attack). As in the previous two cases — in which the installation in Natanz was damaged and the assassination of the Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh — Israel, which was reportedly behind the attacks, proved to be highly capable of gathering intelligence about its target and of developing creative operational ways of attacking. According to previous reports, the Mossad in past operations of this kind has made frequent use of non-Israelis to conduct operations for it on the ground. Presumably, foreigners smuggled the drones into Iran and used them to attack the nuclear facility before slipping away”.

Haaretz reports on the death in custody of an opponent of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and how it has generated powerful popular protests and has pushed disgust with the PA to the surface. Protesters in Hebron and Ramallah accused the PA of carrying out a political assassination, while some clashed with Palestinian police in Ramallah. Protesters also called on President Abbas and the PA to be “overthrown”. Banat, a former member of the Fatah movement, had been repeatedly arrested by the PA for his sharp criticism of its leadership in Facebook posts and videos. He accused them of corruption, as well as abandoning and profiteering off of Palestinian national interests in return for personal benefit and wealth.

Kan Radio reports that officials in Tel Aviv are preparing for tens of thousands of people to attend the pride parade at noon. The police believe that it will be the largest public event to have been held since the pandemic restrictions were lifted. The parade will start at 12:00 PM and approximately 1,500 police officers will provide security for the revellers.

Maariv reports that the mood within the Likud has become increasingly turbulent and tense as the party spends more time in the opposition. Several people who attended a meeting of the Likud Secretariat yesterday spoke out against having the party foot the bill for expenses related to Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu’s private residence on Azza Street in Jerusalem. Others criticised appointments that were made by Likud headquarters, as well as the decision to cover the cost of the wages paid to Netanyahu’s advisers. The Likud has found itself tens of millions of shekels in debt, and party officials are unsure how to come up with the money to cover its expenses.