1. Pictures are emerging Sunday morning of the utter destruction wreaked on the Barzah Research Center outside Damascus in a joint airstrike by the US, UK and France a day earlier.
- What’s less clear is how the strike will play out, with several regional players like Iran and Russia who could respond, and fears in Israel of being caught in the middle of a larger battle, or being abandoned on the battlefield.
- The top headline in Israel Hayom reads “Strike on Assad, message for Iran.”
- “Weeks before a decision on another waiver extension for the Iran nuclear deal and weeks before the planned summit between [US President Donald] Trump and [North Korean dicatator] Kim Jong Un, Trump has made clear with actions and not just words that a new era has indeed taken hold in America’s behavior,” columnist Avraham Ben Tzvi writes in the pro-government tabloid.
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2. But what is mission accomplished for Trump may be the start of a much more complicated mission for Israel.
- Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior Israeli security source told Israeli media on Saturday night: “The attack will enable the Americans to say, we’ve done what was necessary, and withdraw from Syria.” In such a scenario, “Israel remains alone, facing the threat of Iran establishing itself on the northern border,” the source said.
- “The 105 missiles fired at Syrian targets might actually bolster the resolve of the Syrian regime and its Russian, Iranian, and Lebanese allies. Since the Western strikes appear to have been a one-time operation and not the beginning of a sustained effort to change the balance of power in the region, they are unlikely to impact the resolve of Assad’s allies to ensure his victory,” The Times of Israel’s Raphael Ahren writes.
- The Haaretz daily reports that Israeli defense officials fear that Russia will respond to the strike by looking to limit how much it is willing to turn a blind eye to reported Israeli strikes in Syria.
- Yedioth Ahronoth’s Alex Fishman notes that the Kremlin is now speaking about selling Syria S-300 and S-400 air defense systems. “From Israel’s point of view, nothing happened yesterday morning that can improve its strategic situation,” he writes, adding that the threat of a confrontation with Iran is only growing.
3. Israel’s media also scoffs at the scope of the strike and sees it doing little to actually help Syrians.
- “The question of the impact of the strike on the Assad regime was answered yesterday with a video published by the Syrian information ministry showing the head having a ‘morning of business as usual,’” Yedioth Ahronoth reports.
- “The isolated nature of these attacks … highlight the extent to which the world has abandoned the Syrian people,” Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer writes.
4. Despite Israeli reservations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu very publicly supported the strikes on Syria, saying they sent a strong message to Assad.
- Netanyahu, though, also asked his ministers to stay mum on the matter, likely reflecting Israeli unease with how Russia may respond. According to Channel 10 news, Netanyahu’s office had already asked ministers to keep quiet, but had to reiterate it after Housing Minister Yoav Galant tweeted about chemical weapons being a red line.
- Israel Hayom notes that deputy minister Michael Oren, who like Galant is from the Kulanu party, also opened his yapper to support the move.
- The tabloid also reports that Joint (Arab) List leader Ayman Odeh criticized the strike as another example of “American bullying.”
- In Haaretz, Jackie Khoury writes that “a Western strike on an Arab capital will never bring its citizens into the streets to celebrate or turn public support in their (the West’s) favor, no matter how despotic the leader.”
5. Loose lips aren’t the only coalition trouble faced by Netanyahu, with a battle brewing over a law designed to clamp down on the High Court’s ability to strike down laws, which is being opposed by the Kulanu party.
- Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is maintaining “his opposition to a sweeping override and will only agree to a legislative override limited to a law that would allow for the detention and/or expulsion of asylum seekers,” Haaretz reports, citing sources close to the Kulanu leader.
- The Walla news website says the issue could be the next big coalition crisis, and that Kahlon could support a narrow version of the law that only muzzles the court in specific cases involving the deportation of asylum-seekers.
- But that’s not necessarily what the right-wing pushing for the bill wants.
- “The clause is one of the right’s big aspirations for years, given the deep disappointment over the court’s intervention on issues relating to the Palestinians, settlement building and outpost evacuations, as well as difficulties arising from implementing government policies,” the site reports.
- Minister Gilad Erdan tells Israel Radio Sunday morning that “If there is one issue worth going to elections for, this is it.”
6. In Saudi Arabia, Arab leaders are meeting for a confab under the shadow of the Syria crisis, with Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital also high on the agenda, Gulf-based Arab News reports.
- AFP notes that “Arab ministers at a preliminary meeting in Riyadh on Thursday focused heavily on blocking the move.”
7. For something completely different, the Indian Express reports on a family that has been living in a house inside a Jewish cemetery in Bangalore and nearing the end of a 27-year-long fight to get its voter IDs, denied them till now because their home is not officially listed.
- The family is paid to maintain the grounds by the Jewish Moses family who established the cemetery in 1904, but the lack of official address for the home has kept them from getting official documents, until a local politician finally stepped in to help out so the ailing family patriarch can get health care.
- “We tried applying for a voter’s card, but whenever we entered Moses Burial Grounds, Mysuru Road as the address, people would look at us suspiciously,” says Sadiq Sheikh, who moved to the home as an infant. “A few even thought we were fooling them.”