Media Summary

US defends 2019 airstrike on Islamic State despite concerns over civilian deaths

The BBCThe Times and The Guardian report that the US military has defended as “legitimate” an airstrike attack which killed dozens of people in Syria in 2019. The attack on Islamic State fighters killed 80 people, as the group made their last stand. The US identified 16 of the dead as militants, and four as civilians. But officials could not conclude on more than 60, and a spokesperson told the BBC it was “highly likely” more civilians were killed. An independent investigation into the strike was never conducted, according to a New York Times report which accused the military of a cover-up. The Telegraph writes about the Lebanese beach town immune to the economic collapse. “Lebanon’s multidimensional poverty rate – the proportion of people unable to afford at least one essential service – reached 82 per cent this summer. But for those with cash still to burn, the party never stopped in Batroun. The town is home to one of Lebanon’s most controversial politicians, Gebran Bassil, a polarising figure, who depending on who you ask is either responsible for preserving the town as an island of success amid the collapse, or is one of the chief architects of the country’s downfall.” The Times publishes a commentary on what the UK must do to free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Iran. “To get Nazanin released, we must pay our debt. Only refunding the £400m Britain owes Iran will return Zaghari-Ratcliffe to her family. It is our moral duty to do so.” Meanwhile, the Guardian publishes its view on the issue, arguing that “Prime Minister Boris Johnson must explain why the government has not paid its debt to Iran and remedy this shocking situation”. The Independent and The Financial Times report that the son of former Libyan ruler Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has registered as a presidential candidate in the country’s election next month. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was the apparent heir to his father and integral in shaping policy in the country before the 2011 uprising that toppled his family’s reign and pushed him into the shadows. The Guardian follows the group of women subjected to invasive gynaecological searches at Doha airport last October, who are suing Qatari authorities, seeking redress for an ordeal that sparked global condemnation, their lawyer said on Monday. Women on 10 Qatar Airways flights from Doha, including 13 Australians, were subjected to the examinations late last year as authorities searched for the mother of a newborn found abandoned in an airport bathroom. In the Israeli media, Maariv reports that the Ministerial Committee for Legislation yesterday unanimously approved Justice Minister Gideon Saar’s bill to limit a prime minister’s term to eight years. Saar wrote on Facebook after the vote: “Limited terms is an important principle in enabling the government to act on behalf of the citizens instead of on behalf of themselves and their survival. We will continue to strengthen Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.” Whilst coalition partners issued congratulatory messages on the first step in getting the bill passed into law, the Opposition criticised the bill, saying: “Parliamentary democracies cannot limit prime ministers’ terms but rather leave to the public the decision to elect, in free elections, who will continue to lead them, each time.” In Yediot Ahronot, law professor Yedidia Stern also criticises the bill, which would amend Basic Law: Government, writing: “The sharp political divide tempts coalitions—in both blocs—to make use of their momentary power to tailor the system to its own interests. That is an abuse—albeit usually legal—of the Knesset’s powers as the legislative branch. … Limiting the term of a leader suits presidential regimes, in which the president has vast powers and the length of their terms does not depend on parliament’s consent. Israel, on the other hand, is a parliamentary regime.  The Knesset elects the prime minister and it can end his or her term at any moment. The biggest shortcoming of the bill is that it seeks to transplant an organ of one animal (a presidential regime) into the body of a different animal (a parliamentary regime). When this was done before, for example, with the direct election of the prime minister law, it ended badly, and the transplanted organ was rejected.” Kan Radio reports that Health Ministry Director General Prof. Nachman Ash has approved vaccinating children aged five to 11 against COVID-19. Health Ministry officials believe that it will be possible to start vaccinating next week. Prof. Ash said that an overwhelming majority of the members of the advisory committee believe that the vaccine is safe and that the benefit of vaccinating children is greater than the risk. 390 Israelis tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday. 145 patients are currently in critical condition with 34 people on respirators. Maariv reports that Shin Bet Director Ronen Bar held his first work meeting in Egypt and met with Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate Director Abbas Kamel, among other Egyptian officials. National Security Council Director Eyal Hulata joined Bar for the trip and meetings in Egypt. Israeli security officials defined the meeting as a work meeting that was designed, among other things, to allow the two men to get to know one another. Despite several reports in Arab media outlets, there currently is no new information about progress in resolving the issue of the missing soldiers and captives. Israel and Hamas also remain far from reaching a long-term truce arrangement. Israeli officials believe that the gaps between the two sides have remained large and describe the recent reports about supposed progress as psychological warfare [by Hamas], in an attempt to apply pressure and to persuade the Egyptians that they want to reach an accommodation. Haaretz publishes a commentary about how this week was supposed to see the rotation between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz had their unity government survived. “It would take a superhuman effort not to feel at least some bitterness at this outcome. Over the five months since the inauguration of the new government, photographers and pundits have made it their business to highlight every Gantz grimace as he sits alongside his new senior partners – much younger men for whom he doesn’t even try to show any respect. In interviews, he confirms that he still plans to become prime minister one day. And while he recently took to TikTok with some rather embarrassing videos laughing at the former prime minister, he never fully quashes the rumours that he may yet reenter a partnership with Netanyahu.” Israel Hayom follows local media reports in Colombia in which Defence Minister Diego Molano says Bogota is monitoring the activities Hezbollah on its soil after expelling two of its operatives suspected of planning to harm Israelis and Americans staying in the South American country. Last week Colombian President Ivan Duque visited and told the media: “Colombia and Israel have a dynamic relationship of cooperation. For us, Israel has never stopped being a friendly country in the areas of security, innovation, science and technology.”