War drums are pounding in the Israeli press as the US and its allies gear up for a possible Kosovo-style air campaign against Syrian President Bashar Assad in the wake of suspected chemical weapons use against civilians. Sleek gray American destroyers grace the front pages.
Despite the fact that a UN investigating team has yet to investigate the incident, and no conclusive evidence has surfaced corroborating the use of chemical weapons last week near Damascus — or Assad’s culpability in the incident — the Israeli press considers it a proven fact. Israel Hayom notes the Syrian government’s “massive use of chemical weapons” and cites opposition figures of 1,300 killed. Haaretz uses the same descriptor, but at least notes (far, far down in its coverage) that Doctors Without Borders reported a much lower number of deaths — 355 — thus far from suspected nerve gas.
Yedioth Ahronoth turns up the drama, reporting that “it took 892 long, torturous days, red with the blood of 100,000-120,000 dead Syrians” but because of Assad’s (reported) gas attack that slaughtered hundreds of civilians, “the US at long last is waking up and is prepared for action which will bring an end to the civil war in Syria.” The paper cites anonymous “sources in Washington” who said that American intelligence has incontrovertible proof that Syria used chemical weapons against civilians. Despite said proof, it reports that Washington is not publishing the evidence, nor stating that Assad crossed the much-touted red line.
Maariv also toes the line, saying Assad’s army used chemical weapons last week, and immediately works to assuage Israelis’ fears that they, rather than Assad, will be in the cross-hairs next.
“It’s reasonable to assume that Jerusalem is asking the Americans to work with them in case the US decides to attack,” the paper writes. “That’s because of the possible consequences of American action on Israel.”
What consequences? Have no fear, Maariv writes, for “the assessment in Jerusalem is that the chances that Assad will attack Israel if Syria is attacked by the US are small. That’s because Assad knows that Israel will respond to Syrian fire and that the situation will likely deteriorate into a conflict which will weaken him.”
Haaretz, on the other hand, argues that a possible American strike on Syria “will oblige Israel to sharpen its intelligence awareness about what’s going on there and also to prepare for less-expected incidents, which will likely drag it into the conflict.”
Israel Hayom goes further that all the rest in its speculations, citing another anonymous chatty Cathy in Washington, who says that the White House’s present dilemma is whether to topple Assad in the US incursion, or to leave him in power.
“According to the source, the US is considering this issue with its allies, Israel among them,” it writes. “The Israeli recommendation itself remains secret, because Israel asked to be part of the decision, but not be found on the front lines.”
Elsewhere in the world, Haaretz reports that the Muslim Brotherhood failed to bring people back to the streets on Friday in the group’s latest bid to protest against the military-run government that ousted its president. The paper describes the military’s large-scale blockades of Cairo’s main squares, “which turned in recent weeks to battlefields.”
“Protests against the release of former president Hosni Mubarak, who is now under house arrest in a military hospital in south Cairo, also drew merely small numbers of demonstrators,” the paper reports.
Mubarak, Maariv reports, is a free man, and said, following his release to the military hospital, “Thank Allah, the truth came to light.” The paper adds that in his first day of freedom since being deposed in 2011, the former dictator “played with his grandchildren, ordered in food from his favorite restaurant — and stung the Muslim Brotherhood: ‘The people know who loves the country and who hates it.’”
Yedioth Ahronoth reports on the outrage voiced by some Tel Aviv residents after a 16-year-old girl was stabbed during a mugging on the boardwalk. According to Yedioth, the suspected assailant is believed to be a foreign worker who stole the girl’s phone and stabbed her when she resisted.
“I don’t feel like a hero,” the paper quotes the girl saying after recovering awakening following her surgery. “In retrospect, I shouldn’t have struggled.”
A handful of demonstrators, garbed in white T-shirts splattered with red paint, took to the beachfront in an attempt “to warn people and explain to them what is likely to happen to them. It’s no longer just south Tel Aviv, it’s already happening in the center.”