As 1.5 million pilgrims gather on Mount Arafat near Mecca on Monday to celebrate Hajj, Arab media focuses on violence in Syria and Iraq, as well as on an illegal tunnel connecting Gaza to Israel for terrorist purposes.
“The Israeli army discovers the largest tunnel from Gaza,” reads a headline in Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat, featuring a photo of the narrow cement-walled tunnel. The coverage begins with the congratulations of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the soldiers serving on the border with Gaza.
“This is the fourth tunnel discovered by the Israeli army within a year, but the biggest, most dangerous and best-equipped,” notes the article.
“A ‘booby-trapped’ tunnel discovered between Gaza and Israel,” reads the headline of London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, basing its coverage largely on reporting in the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth.
Independent Palestinian daily Al-Quds also bases much of its reporting on Israeli media, featuring Israeli infographics and aerial maps (in Hebrew).
PA official daily Al-Ayyam leads its front page with the tunnel story, featuring a photo of a young Israeli female officer standing inside the tunnel. The report begins with Israel’s decision to ban the import of construction material into the Gaza Strip until an investigation about the tunnel is complete.
Meanwhile, Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah, another official PA daily, relegates the tunnel story to second position, underneath a report on the sinking Sunday of a boat carrying Palestinian refugees between the Islands of Malta and Lampedusa. The front page features a photo of a young boy saved from the ship, wrapped in a blue blanket as police officers stand in the background.
“Israel ‘discovers’ a cross-border tunnel between Gaza and into the Green Line,” reads the daily’s headline, oddly putting the word “discovers” in quotation marks.
The website of Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya features an image gallery of photos taken at the Israeli side of the tunnel, noting that in late September Israel allowed the entry of construction materials into Gaza, a leniency now revoked.
‘Iraq controlled by terror’
As 40 Iraqis were killed Sunday in a series of 10 car bombs in central and southern Iraq, hardliner Shiite leader Muqtada Al-Sadr gives an exclusive interview to A-Sharq Al-Awsat, claiming that terror reigns free in Iraq these days, and that the future will likely be worse.
“Iraq today is at the height of danger and has fallen prisoner to terrorism, extremism and violence. The ruler [of Iraq] is terror, car bombs, killing and blood. Nothing else rules. This is Iraq and this is its situation,” Sadr said.
The Shiite leader also blasted his co-coreligionist, Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, whom he described as a despot.
Maliki, he opined, may remain in power “for a third and perhaps a fourth term, or even for life,” supported by new alliances with the Kurds and even the Sunnis.
Sadr said that Maliki will likely postpone the next elections using new emergency laws. He added that he never supported Maliki’s candidacy for prime minister, preferring secular Shiite leader Iyad Allawi or religious leader and former vice president Adel Abdul Hadi. However, pressure placed upon him forced Sadr to side with Maliki, to his great disappointment.