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Media Summary

Saudi Arabia to impose 24-hour lockdown

The Independent reports that Mike Pompeo waived strict coronavirus travel restrictions to fly to Israel on Wednesday for a lightning visit, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his power-sharing partner Benny Gantz to discuss a Middle East peace deal and Israeli plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. The Times reports that Israel is coming under pressure as President Donald Trump seeks to force US allies to join his campaign to check China’s global ambitions.

The Guardian, The Independent and BBC News and report that Israel’s new unity government is due to be sworn in on Sunday amid inter-ministerial squabbling, following a deal made by rivals Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz to end a political deadlock that has dragged on for more than 500 days.

Reuters reports that Israel’s children can go back to school and nurseries full-time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday, as the country presses on with easing its coronavirus curbs.  

The Guardian reports that Matthew Hedges, the UK citizen held for seven months by the United Arab Emirates, has accused the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, of being tone deaf after he described the Gulf state as a “true friend and valued partner of the UK”.

Reuters reports that the US is considering measures it could take in response to Iran’s shipment of fuel to crisis-stricken Venezuela, a senior official in President Donald Trump’s administration told Reuters on Thursday.

The Times and The Telegraph report that the FBI has accidentally revealed the identity of a Saudi diplomat, allegedly named Mussaed Ahmed al-Jarrah, who is suspected of providing support to two of the 9/11 hijackers.

Reuters reports that the US on Thursday blamed Islamic State militants — not the Taliban — for a gruesome hospital attack in Afghanistan this week that killed two newborn babies, and it renewed calls for Afghans to embrace a troubled peace push with the Taliban insurgency.

The Telegraph reports that Saudi Arabia has said it will impose a full, 24-hour lockdown during the five-day Eid al-Fitr festival, which falls at the end of Ramadan, due to rising coronavirus infections.

BBC News reports that a dramatic rise has been reported in the number of people dying with coronavirus-like symptoms in the southern Yemeni city of Aden.

The Times reports that the Premier League is coming under sustained political pressure to block the takeover of Newcastle United by a Saudi Arabia-backed consortium.

In the Financial Times, Chloe Cornish argues that Iraq’s new prime minister faces a daunting task to stabilise the country, as Mustafa al-Kadhimi has to deal with growing domestic grievances and a proxy Iran-US conflict.

In the Associated Press, Samya Kullab shows how one Iraqi doctor’s fight with Covid-19 has laid bare a battered health system, as Iraq struggles to case with dramatic rises in cases.

All the Israeli media report the number of people in Israel who have died of the coronavirus rose by one yesterday to 265. Yesterday, only 15 new cases were detected. The number of confirmed cases dropped to 3,800; 60 of them are in serious condition, and 50 are on ventilators. As part of the continued easing of restrictions, schools will reopen in full on Sunday aside from places where there is high morbidity. Every student will have to bring a declaration of health when entering. Students in years four to twelve will wear masks. In places where morbidity is detected, the schools will close based on the instructions of the Health Ministry. The decision to reopen schools on Sunday will be up to each local authority and based on its preparations. Haaretz reports that Professor Gabby Sarusi of Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva, has invented “an almost instantaneous, affordable breath test for coronavirus based on spectroscopy, which outputs the positive or negative result in less than 1 minute – and even as little as 20 seconds. The device, which can test one’s breath – another breakthrough – or nasal or throat swabs is still undergoing validation, a process of another two to three months. Mass production can hopefully begin from September or October. Moreover, the device is automated: “If we assume 20 seconds per test, one device can get through 4,500 tests a day, Sarusi says.”

All the Israeli media report that an Israeli soldier was moderately hurt in a car ramming attack yesterday in the southern West Bank. A second IDF soldier at the scene shot and neutralised the perpetrator, who later succumbed to his wounds. The assailant is a 19-year-old youth who lives in the area. He reportedly left behind a suicide note. The attack took place close to the settlement of Negohot in the Hebron Hills. According to an initial investigation, the attacker deliberately veered from the road in order to hit a group of soldiers, he accelerated and then hit the soldier.

Ynet notes the area where the attack occurred is close to the Al-Fawar refugee camp near the city of Hebron, where according to Palestinian officials, a 15 year old teen was killed early on Wednesday in clashes with Israeli security forces. Israeli army said the clashes erupted during a raid in the area as part of Israel’s efforts to locate the perpetrator who killed IDF soldier Amit Ben Yigal on Tuesday by throwing a rock at his head.

Israel Hayom reports that the European Union has issued a strong condemnation of the Palestinian incitement against Israel in school textbooks. According to paper, “The European Parliament, which is generally pro-Palestinian in its resolutions, published the results of its vote on whether to condemn the Palestinians on Thursday, with surprising figures: 402 were in favour, compared to 263 who voted against the measure, and 13 who abstained. The measure may suggest that the MEPs were affected by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-SE) and other organisations, which have over the past several years taken pains to show just how common spread the anti-Israel incitement is in Palestinian Authority schools. The MEPs also voiced concern over the use of European taxpayer’s money to fund programmes in Palestinian schools because of its potential misuse to promote terrorism.” IMPACT-SE CEO Marcus Sheff told Israel Hayom: “There now must be a moment of truth for the European Union. Will it continue to ignore the parliament that oversees its spending? Will the European Commission now publicly release the freshly minted report on the Palestinian Authority’s textbooks? Governments, legislators and over a million Palestinian children know what’s in the textbooks. Classifying the report is senseless and frankly, seems highly suspicious.”

Writing in Maariv, Ben Caspit asks whether “Netanyahu planning new elections?” He speculates that the “rebellion in the Likud and the crisis that Netanyahu is facing at this time with top members of his party are in fact a deliberate ploy to sabotage the national unity government at the last minute.” He explains, “two central threats pushed Netanyahu into making a deal with Benny Gantz that was not good for him: the possibility that the Supreme Court would disqualify him from serving while under indictment, and the coronavirus crisis. The threat of the High Court of Justice was removed last week, while the coronavirus crisis is making clear signs of weakening…. According to this theory, Netanyahu will ask Gantz on Saturday night to give up two or three of Blue and White’s portfolios for the Likud. Gantz will refuse and the deal will collapse. Israel will hold a fourth election. Is this indeed Netanyahu’s plan? It’s not certain that he himself knows, but it is definitely an option. We will know soon enough.”