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French press review 10 October 2015


New Intifada looms in the Middle East as Israel prepares to contain a wave of Palestinian stabbings, spreading fear in the country. Can Russia's offensive in Syria trigger a third World War? and Tunisia's civil society wins the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize for turning their country into the Arab Spring's sole democracy.


The stories receiving the most comments are the escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians after it spread from East Jerusalem to the Gaza Strip; the Russian military operation in Syria; and the award of the 2015 Nobel Prize to the people of Tunisia.

"Hold on Tunisia" is the caption of Libération’s front-page, to celebrates the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the country’s civil society groups for rescuing the only democracy of the Arab Spring from a wave of jihadist attacks.

According to the left-leaning newspaper, Tunisia is the sole country in the Arab Spring which stayed the course of the transition to democratic rule despite the pitfalls of terrorism, repression, corruption and recession.

Libé has a line-up of the laureates so that the world can applaud them: Tunisia’s powerful labour union, the UGTT, which has spearheaded the battle for workers’ rights in the country since independence; the corporate chiefs’ union UTICA; the Tunisian human rights league, the LTDH; and the Tunisian Bar Association, which all make up the quartet formed while the democratic process was at risk of being halted by a spate of political killings and widespread social unrest.

Libé credits the four players for launching the October 2013 national dialogue which paved the way for the formation of an independent unity government three weeks later, for supervising the adoption of a new constitution for the country and for leading to the democratic election of President Beji Caîd Assebsi four years later.

Libération takes up the moment of rage in the Middle East where the Islamist movement Hamas is calling for more unrest after Israeli troops killed six people in clashes on the border with the Palestinian territory.

According to the paper, a fresh wave of stabbings also hit Israel and the West Bank, including a revenge attack by a Jewish suspect that wounded two Palestinians and two Arab Israelis.

A resident of East Jerusalem describes the mood in the predominantly Arab region of the city. Everywhere, brothers and sisters are rising up and hitting the occupant with stones, Molotov cocktails, screw drivers and hammers, he tells the paper, adding that they don’t need orders from anyone and know what they have to do.

Le Figaro is monitoring Israel’s response. Tsahal has shifted four battalions to the West Bank and beefed up road checks and security around communities in expectation of a third Intifada.

The newspaper says it doesn’t believe the tensions could reach the dimensions of the popular revolt in September 2000. That was when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount, sparking unprecedented rioting in the Palestinian territories and repression by the Israeli army in which 3,000 Palestinians, 1,000 Israelis and 64 foreigners were killed.

Le Figaro also has a stupefying account of how Moscow and Tehran prepared the ongoing ground offensive in Syria. The paper reports that the Russians have deployed close to 3000 men around the Latakia airforce base. While NATO jumped to denounce the Russian military build-up in the Middle East and spectre of war, Le Figaro quotes observers as saying the outbreak of a third World War is unlikely.

Le Monde takes up a question which the French have not been able to answer. Are French jihadists in Syria terrorists or combatants? According to the evening publication, the issue has come to the fore in the wake of several judicial decisions regarding Syria.

For Le Monde, the debate sheds light on the difficulties of qualifying and establishing the crimes committed by French citizens and residents gone to fight in Syria while the French army carries out its first airstrikes against the Islamic State armed group.

One of the cases raised by Le Monde is that of two boys originating from Toulouse who spent a few days in Syria in January 2014. The office of the Paris prosecutor is demanding their trial by a children’s court, after refusing to qualify them as child soldiers.

And Le Parisien has the unbelievable story of a fantastic inmate held at a penitentiary in Allier in the central Auvergne region who promised to escape from prison and did it.

The young man aged 27, and a repeat offender with a track record in drug trafficking, walked out of the Moulins-Yzeure on Friday 2 October with permission to undergo a job interview at the local employment agency, and vanished into thin air. 

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