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Media Summary

UAE probe successfully enters Mars’ orbit

The BBC focuses on the United Arab Emirates becoming the fifth country to successfully send a probe to orbit Mars. UAE scientists will now studying the planet’s atmosphere. The probe, called Hope, carries three instruments that will observe, among other targets, how neutral atoms of hydrogen and oxygen – remnants from Mars’ once abundant water – leak into space.

The Financial Times looks at the political gambit of Islamist leader Mansour Abbas seeking to carve out an opportunity for his Arab party, Ra’am, to wield influence in the Knesset to win better conditions in Israeli society for Arab voters.

Reuters reports on new studies emerging from Israel about the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccination. According to data from the Weizmann Institute of Science, among the first fully-vaccinated group in Israel there was a 53 per cent reduction in new cases, a 39 per cent decline in hospitalisations and a 31 per cent drop in severe illnesses from mid-January until Feb. 6.

The Independent argues that the UAE’s could be seen as an interplanetary extension of the Gulf state’s desire to punch above its weight in the international arena, mirroring an ambitious and combative foreign policy which has seen it getting involved in conflicts in Yemen, Libya and Syria.

The Times reports that Iranian-backed rebels have attacked a stronghold of the Yemen government supported by Saudi Arabia, just days after US President Biden said that he was withdrawing support for the Saudi-led coalition in its battle with the Houthis. The article suggests the latest attack will add to fears that, rather than helping to end the war in Yemen, the change in US policy will set off more fighting.

The Telegraph and The Guardian note that new Government figures released yesterday shows the UK has significantly increased the number of licences issued for weapons exports to Saudi Arabia after the ban was lifted in July last year. “The Saudis have as much right to defend themselves as anyone else,” says former international trade secretary Liam Fox. Human Rights groups have expressed concerns over how UK weapons could be used in the Saudi’s offensive campaign in Yemen.

The Independent looks at the challenges that Libyan Interim Prime Minister-elect Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah must confront as he looks to form a technocratic government that would oversee the country’s affairs until elections at the end of 2021.

Iran has started its vaccination campaign, according to a report in the BBC. Health Minister Saeed Namaki’s son Parsa was the first person to receive a shot of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine. He said he wanted to “cultivate trust” among members of the public. The Iranian health ministry has reported 1.47 million cases of COVID-19 and 58,536 related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

In the Israeli media, Maariv reports on the Health Ministry’s three-part plan for gradually lifting all restrictions on the economy and public gatherings, including schools. The plan is contingent upon certain benchmarks being met in terms of the vaccination rate, the coronavirus reproduction rate and the number of patients in hospitals. The first stage, which lifted the restrictions on individuals from straying more than 1,000 meters from their homes and the ban on housing mixing, began earlier this week. The second stage will allow for shopping malls, gyms, museums and libraries to be reopened and is due to begin on February 23. The third stage is scheduled to begin on March 9, at which point restaurants, function halls, public attractions and conference halls will be reopened to the public.

Kan Radio News reports that the Cabinet has approved the re-opening of the school system tomorrow. In the first stage, kindergartens-to-fourth grade in green and yellow towns will open. Ultra-Orthodox MKs responded angrily to the decision to reopen some schools, saying that Prime Minister Netanyahu had promised them that a plan that they had drafted would be approved. Their proposal is to reopen schools to all children who are immune. Interior Minister Aryeh Deri is considering resigning from the coronavirus cabinet in protest.

The Cabinet also approved plans to increase oversight of people travelling to and from Israel. For the moment, travellers are required proof of a negative coronavirus test; proof of vaccination and proof that a person has recovered from COVID-19 will not be sufficient for travel. The stricter regulations were passed due to fears that people who recovered once from the disease could become infected a second time from other variants of the virus.

Yediot Ahronot notes that the Jerusalem District Court will not decide on when the evidentiary stage of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s trial will begin until it has ruled on the legality of the authorisation that was given by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to the police to begin an investigation into Netanyahu’s conduct. The Prime Minister’s lawyers are pushing for the trial to resume after the March election. Yesterday, the court rejected a motion by Netanyahu’s lawyers to instruct the state to lift the redaction on parts of a document that contains the Attorney General’s approval to investigate Case 4,000.

A new poll by Kan News shows that the Likud would remain the largest party after the elections on 29 seats, with Yesh Atid on 18, New Hope on 14, Yamina on 13, Joint List on 9, Shas on 8, UTJ on 7, Labour Party on 6, Yisrael Beiteinu on 6, Religious Zionist Party on 5 and Blue and White on 4. Walla News reports that the Likud and Religious Zionist party, led MKs Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir of Jewish Power, have signed a vote-sharing agreement.