Briefly, back to Syria
Hebrew media review

Briefly, back to Syria

Mysterious explosions at Assad’s strategic port city draw attention away from Egyptian violence, but not for long

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

Illustrative photo of buildings damaged by Syrian government airstrikes and shelling, in the Jouret al-Chiyah neighborhood of Homs, Syria, in July 2013. (photo credit: AP/Lens Young Homsi)
Illustrative photo of buildings damaged by Syrian government airstrikes and shelling, in the Jouret al-Chiyah neighborhood of Homs, Syria, in July 2013. (photo credit: AP/Lens Young Homsi)

For the first time in nearly a week, most of the Hebrew dailies feature a report from Syria above the ongoing turmoil in Egypt, as mysterious explosions at a weapons facility in Latakia capture the attention of the Israeli press. However, the uncertainty from Israel’s southern neighbor still gets more attention than that coming from the north.

According to the dailies, the mysterious explosions happened Friday night at a stronghold of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The papers all quote foreign press reports saying the massive weapon storage facilities were attacked either from the air or from the sea.

Yedioth Ahronoth cites Hezbollah’s al-Manar channel, which denied the explosions were a result of foreign involvement and claimed they were caused by rockets fired from the areas in which the regime and rebel forces were fighting.

Latakia, Maariv notes, is the port city where many of Assad’s advanced weapons — including supplies sent by Iran — are kept. The paper also quotes regime sources who said the explosions were the result of an accident, not an attack.

The office of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told Israel Hayom that the reports of the attack were being studied, in what constituted the only response by an Israeli body to a story with more questions than answers.

In Haaretz, veteran columnist Amos Harel writes that the attack in the strategic port city took place when the eyes — and media outlets — of the world were looking further south, at Egypt.

“Syria is not the only point of interest over the weekend,” Harel says. The ongoing crisis in Egypt, he writes, is “being felt along the border with Israel,” and decision makers must assume that attempts to carry out a terror attack against Israeli targets will increase.

All the Hebrew dailies write about the weekend fights between those loyal to ousted president Mohammed Morsi and those who toppled him.

Though they all tell the same story, each paper focuses on a slightly different issue. Israel Hayom highlights the “chaos in the streets” of Egypt and the Islamic Brotherhood’s fulfilled promised of “demonstrations of rage” across the country; Maariv reports that Islamist supporters of the ousted Muslim Brotherhood president threw two young men off a building during demonstrations in the coastal city of Alexandria; and Yedioth describes last week’s victory celebrations being replaced by “fire and violence.”

The main headline of Haaretz sums the feeling in the Israeli press nicely, stating “tens dead in clashes between supporters of the uprising and Morsi loyalists; fear of escalation.”

“The revolution has only started,” is the headline of Sever Plotzker’s analysis in Yedioth Ahronoth. After winning a majority in parliament and the presidency, he writes, the Islamic Brotherhood’s leadership “immediately understood what the liberals tend to forget: it doesn’t matter how you rose to power, it’s important that you change the government’s characteristics so that you never lose it again.”

In the past year, Plotzker writes, the goal of the Brotherhood was to destroy and rebuild Egypt’s institutions so that they wouldn’t threaten its rule. One can guess, he says, that were it not for last weeks rebellion “Egypt would have quickly become another single-party Islamic state.”

The fight in Egypt, Plotzker hints, is a microcosm of the important battle being waged between religious and secular political movements “over the future of the Arab world.”

There are also a number of domestic issues addressed in Sunday’s papers, namely the scheduled vote of the ministerial legislation committee. The committee, the dailies say, is expected to approve the bill suggested by the Peri Committee and pave the way for enlistment of ultra-Orthodox men.

A less political story can be found in Yedioth Ahronoth, which reports on a million-year-old cave complex discovered during construction work on the security barrier. The caverns found are “breathtaking,” one witness tells the daily, while Professor Amos Frumkin says there is much to be explored in the site, near the central Israeli town of Kfar Saba.

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