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French press review 18 July 2014

The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur Thursday, in strife-torn east Ukraine is everyone’s front-page story this morning. All 298 people on board died in the crash which US officials are blaming on a missile attack.


Libération reports that the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists are accusing each other of shooting down the airliner which crashed in a cornfield in the village of Grabova near the Russian border.

Aujourd’hui en France/Le Parisien reports that 154 Dutch nationals were on the ill-fated Boeing 777 when it went down, adding that 100 of the passengers were on their way to an HIV/Aids conference in the Malaysian capital.

Dossier: Gaza 2009

Amid calls for an international inquiry, Le Figaro says experts are already painting the scenario as a military attack.

This missile was definitely one step too far, argues the right-wing newspaper in an editorial. For Le Figaro the fact that the airliner was downed a day after the downing of a Ukrainian fighter jet in the same Russian border area is poised to further fan the flames off the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War.

The French press is also monitoring the launch of Israeli ground operations in Gaza.

The offensive was to destroy a network of tunnels allegedly used by Hamas members to assemble rockets and to stage cross-border attacks, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.

According to the paper, Israel denies nursing any intentions to annexe the Gaza Strip or to take out the Hamas Islamists running the territory, as some right-wing hawks in the Israeli government such as Avigdor Lieberman are proposing.

Le Figaro says that by giving in to pressure from some 50,000 reservists waiting to be drafted, Netanyahu is taking a serious risk – Israeli troops suffering heavy losses at the hands of Hamas fighters who specialise in guerrilla warfare.

Le Monde has also been investigating the carnage on a beach in Gaza last Wednesday when four children were killed and several others wounded by an apparent Israeli naval bombardment.

There were three strikes in all, according to the paper: the first strike scattered terrified children and adults on the beach, while the second and third struck as they ran, setting fire to huts and small shacks used by fishermen.

It reports that several children who later sought shelter inside a hotel suffered shrapnel injuries. Several hours after the strikes, the Israeli military described the deaths as "tragic" and said it was investigating the incident.

Libération says that the strikes at the beach in Gaza which killed the four children occurred before the eyes of its correspondent. He told the paper the second missile was deliberate and probably fired by a drone and not by an F16, because there were no craters where the shells landed.

Dossier: War in Mali

Le Figaro marks President François Hollande’s visit to Côte d’Ivoire with a short article.

He presented himself during the trip as a uniter, writes the right-wing paper. Hollande urged members of ousted President Laurent Gabgbo’s Popular Front Party to participate in upcoming elections scheduled for the end of 2015.

Le Figaro reports that a faction of the ex-ruling party has set Gbagbo’s release as a precondition for taking part in the reconciliation process. The right-wing newspaper observes that, while President Alassane Ouattara tries to present himself as a reconciler, dozens of Gbagbo’s supporters who were arrested during the post-election crisis remain in prison without trial, as opposed to Ouattara’s backers, allowed to walk free even though many are suspected of committing atrocities during the country’s civil war.

The signing of a judicial accord that would help Côte d’Ivoire train judges and set up tribunals is one of the main objectives of Hollande’s visit to the west African country, according to Le Figaro.

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