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Media Summary

UK-Israel vaccine deal falls through

A video report from BBC News focuses on the energy crisis impacting Lebanon. The video notes that at the heart of the crisis is a “a dysfunctional electricity sector, responsible for almost half of the country’s national debt”. The report investigates allegations of widespread corruption in Lebanon’s energy sector and reports of contamination in Lebanon’s fuel oil.

The Telegraph reports that a vaccine swap between Israel and the UK has fallen through due to “technical” issues. Under the deal, Israel was to send 1 million doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The two countries were reportedly at an “advanced” stage of talks before they ended.

The Independent writes that Iraq is battling 50C heat amid crippling electrical shortages. The country has been suffering rolling blackouts after Iran cut off a crucial power supply. The paper also notes that Iraq’s electricity minister submitted his resignation amid the scorching temperatures and ongoing crisis.

The Economist analyses how Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is boosting his image by aiding Gaza, especially in the eyes of US President Joe Biden. The paper notes that his role in brokering the ceasefire and pledging $500m in reconstruction for the Gaza Strip has given President Sisi a much-needed diplomatic boost. “Biden did not speak to Mr Sisi during his first four months in the White House. The conflict in Gaza changed that: Mr Sisi received two presidential phone calls in one w eek, then a visit from America’s secretary of state. According to the official summaries, Mr Biden made only passing reference to human rights.”

The Guardian and The Associated Press report on Israeli airstrikes in Gaza in retaliation for incendiary balloons launched towards Israel from the Gaza Strip. According to Hamas sources Israel hit training sites and there were no injuries reported.

Kan Radio News reports that Israeli Air Force jets struck a Hamas weapons production site in the Gaza Strip last night in retaliation for incendiary balloons that were flown into Israeli territory. The IDF Spokesperson’s Office said that the site they struck was used for weapons research and development. Yesterday four fires in the Eshkol area of the western Negev were caused by incendiary balloons. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defence Minister Benny Gantz reiterated that they would not allow the “trickling” policy that had preceded Operation Guardian of the Walls and said that the rule for an incendiary balloon was the same as the rule for a rocket attack. Channel 12 News adds that last night’s attack took place after two weeks of quiet in the Gaza periphery. Two weeks ago, after incendiary balloons caused 20 fires, the IDF attacked Hamas military compounds. Despite the incendiary balloons, yesterday and in the last few days, negotiations continued between Israel and Hamas with Egyptian mediation. Israeli officials said yesterday that the Egyptian mediator “is very serious and committed to the task”. Israel has stressed that the condition for rebuilding Gaza after Operation Guardian of the Walls is the return of the MIAs and hostages. Efforts are also being made in the talks to let the Qatari money into the Gaza Strip, but in contrast to the past, Israel is insisting that the mechanism for transferring the money be supervised.

Yediot Ahronot reports that a female IDF soldier was moderately wounded Thursday in a stabbing attack at a bus stop next to her military base in the West Bank. The attacker tried to seize the soldier’s weapon and in the ensuing struggle stabbed her in the back. Paramedics rushed to the scene and found the soldier moderately hurt and stable. She was airlifted to hospital. The attacker tried to flee the scene with the stolen weapon but was quickly apprehended by security forces. The circumstances of the attack are under investigation.

All the Israeli media cover the sudden death of a 43-year-old IDF commander, who collapsed with heart failure while exercising. Col. Sharon Asman was the new commander of the Nahal infantry brigade, and his death comes just two and a half days after beginning his new position. Haaretz quotes Prime Minister Bennett, who offered his condolences to Asman’s family. “He was one of our best. He gave the best years of his life to keep Israel safe. His untimely death is painful and unfortunate. Our hearts go out to his family.” Defence Minister Gantz also praised Asman: “I remember him well, as a battalion commander in the 2014 Gaza War. He was sharp and focused, leading them heroically and with an inner peace that characterised him so much.” Channel 12 News noted that Asman was injured during the 2014 conflict, and despite being hospitalised he insisted on discharging himself to return to the battlefield to be with his unit.

Israel Hayom covers the visit of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his meeting with President Rivlin. The paper quotes Rivlin, who said Germany has been “our strong partner in the uncompromising fight against antisemitism” and has stood with Israel against “the forces of terror who seek to wipe us off the map”.  Steinmeier will also meet with Israel’s new Prime Minister and visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum. He is expected to reiterate Germany’s strong support for Israel.

Yediot Ahronot includes a warning from Health Ministry officials that a fourth wave of the coronavirus in Israel has begun, despite the efficacy of the vaccine. For the first time since April, more than 300 people tested positive yesterday. The number of active cases now exceeds 2,000. Data that was shown yesterday at the daily situation assessment of the national COVID-19 control centre indicated that the percentage of fully vaccinated people who contracted the coronavirus had increased over the past two weeks in every age group, although it was relatively high among people aged 60 and above. The number of vaccinated patients being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals increased as well. Of the 27 patients who are currently hospitalised in serious condition, eight of them are fully vaccinated, and most of them are elderly or oncological patients. To date, this is the highest number of vaccinated patients in serious condition.

Maariv covers the first “coalition crisis” for the new government over the citizenship bill. Meretz announced that it would vote against the bill, which would prevent Palestinian and Israeli Arab family unification. Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked from Yamina intends to put the bill to a vote on Monday, but Meretz Faction Chairwoman MK Michal Rozin asked her to wait, so as not to give propaganda material to the opposition. Meretz issued a statement yesterday: “This is a bill that discriminates against a population on a racist basis, which was born in sin. Meretz petitioned the High Court of Justice against it in the past and will vote against it if it is put to a vote.” Meretz thereby joined the United Arab List (UAL), which is also opposed to it unless humanitarian exemptions are included. Interior Minister Shaked spoke with UAL leader Mansour Abbas twice on Wednesday, but they did not reach agreement. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also tried to persuade Abbas yesterday to at least abstain in the vote on extending the ordinance, but the UAL stressed that without a solution for thousands of families that suffer from the ban on their receiving citizenship after uniting with their families, he would not be able to support the bill.

Broadcast media cover the latest allegations against former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The police are investigating allegations that a jacuzzi was installed at the state’s expense in the Netanyahus’ private home in Caesarea. The probe began after the Prime Minister’s Office’s legal advisor acquiesced to Attorney General Mandelblit. Netanyahu harshly criticised the report and said that a jacuzzi had never been installed ever since the home was purchased 20 years ago and that the state had obviously never paid a penny for something that did not exist.