The soaring death toll in Syria features high in Arabic-language dailies Thursday, with reports of nearly 200 fatalities Wednesday and an escalation in violence in the capital Damascus.

“Bombing spreads fear in Damascus,” reads the headline of London-based daily Al-Hayat, which features a photo of armed militiamen engaged in battle with Assad’s forces in Aleppo.

Al-Jazeera reports summary executions in the vicinity of Damascus, broadcasting footage of street fighting and government aerial bombings across the country. According to the station, the Free Syrian Army downed a government helicopter in the northern city of Idlib.

‘What remains of Syria when its seat in the Arab League remains empty and the Arabs grow accustomed to its emptiness?’

In a somewhat poetic op-ed titled “What remains of Syria?” Al-Hayat editor-in-chief Ghassan Cherbel describes how far Syria has deteriorated in its international standing.

“What remains of Syria when its seat in the Arab League remains empty and the Arabs grow accustomed to its emptiness? And when its membership in the Organization of Islamic Conference is suspended, and the attendance of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cannot prevent the decision? And when the UN General Assembly isolates it with 133 votes, demanding that it begin political transition as a way out of its predicament?”

“What’s left of Syria when Khaled Mashaal leaves it, despaired by his inability to convince its leaders that the solution should be political and not military, and that what’s taking place is a revolution and not the acts of armed gangs? And thus, the ‘axis of resilience’ loses its only Sunni component which brought it to the heart of Gaza and the hear of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

Meanwhile, Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya reports that Iran and Syria are causing rifts within the Yemeni Baath party. Elements within the party have complained recently that Iran has been interfering in its political and organizational matters. Three members of the party were even dismissed, and face prosecution, for “colluding with a foreign state” and traveling to Iran, the channel reports.

Liberman’s letter dominates Palestinian news

A letter sent by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman to members of the Middle East Quartet (Russia, the US, the EU and the UN), demanding that they pressure the Palestinian Authority into holding presidential elections which he hoped would oust President Mahmoud Abbas, is leading the news in Palestinian media Thursday.

“Liberman incites ‘the Quartet’ against President Abbas,” reads the headline of establishment Palestinian daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah. The daily claims that Liberman’s letter came as a response to “the increased anti-occupation Palestinian activity in the diplomatic and legal arenas.”

In a sarcastic op-ed written in rhyme, Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah editor-in-chief Hafez Barghouti refers to Liberman as “the mace-toting disco and bar bouncer who recently came to our country from Moldova

In a sarcastic op-ed written in rhyme, Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah editor-in-chief Hafez Barghouti refers to Liberman as “the mace-toting disco and bar bouncer who recently came to our country from Moldova,” referring to the foreign minister’s disreputable student job.

Three of the daily’s five editorials Thursday are dedicated to bashing Liberman, and they do not mince words in doing so.

“The man named Avigdor Liberman, who became foreign minister of the entity [a derogatory term for Israel]… has commanded us, the owners of the land… to turn to the polls and elect a new president instead of President Abbas which his holiness no longer likes,” writes Barghouti.

Another columnist, Yahya Rabbah, highlights the “insolence” of Liberman’s letter.

“Once again, the unpleasant racist voice of Avigdor Liberman booms down at us… claiming that Israel should act to bring about Palestinian elections and get rid of President Abu Mazen because he obstructs the road to peace,” writes Rabbah. “These statements are clearly ridiculous.”

Jerusalem-based daily Al-Quds, in a slightly more cool-headed editorial titled “Liberman continues his incitement,” claims that Liberamn’s letter represents deep-seated racism in Israeli society, tying it to the attack on Palestinian youths in Jerusalem this week.

“What does Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman want, and what is he trying to convince people of, and what is he actually trying to say?” asks the daily.

“Is anyone in the world convinced that this Liberman wants peace and that President Abu Mazen is the obstacle in achieving it? Liberman, this expansionist racist, cannot even convince the government which he represents; which was forced to issue a statement in which it asserts that his statements against the president do not express the opinion of the government in which he serves as foreign minister and should represent its foreign policy.”