China defying US sanctions on Iranian oil imports
BBC News, the Telegraph and Times report that Israeli forces are hunting for the killer of a 19-year-old student found stabbed to death outside the Jewish settlement of Migdal Oz in the West Bank. He is believed to have been abducted elsewhere before being stabbed and left at a roadside. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the culprit as a “despicable terrorist”. There has been no claim of responsibility for the killing, though a spokesman for Hamas justified the attack: “The Etzion Operation was as much as a response to the crimes of Occupation, the latest of which was the one committed at Wadi Hummus; it is also a response to the continued occupation of the Palestinian territory”.
The Financial Times reports that European efforts to launch a payments channel to facilitate trade with Iran have suffered a setback as the German former diplomat who was set to take over as Instex chief was forced to pull out. The move by Bernd Erbel followed revelations that the former ambassador to Tehran had previously expressed sympathy for Iran and criticised Israel. He said that Israel was “more than ever an alien body” in the Middle East and described the fall of Saddam Hussein as the “greatest tragedy of the early 21st century”.
Reuters reports that China imported Iranian crude oil in July for the second month since a US sanctions waiver ended, according to research from three data firms, with one estimate showing some oil entered tanks holding the country’s strategic reserves. According to the firms, between 4.4mn and 11mn barrels of Iranian crude were discharged into China last month, or 142,000 to 360,000 barrels per day (bpd). The upper end of that range would mean July imports still added up to close to half of their year-earlier level despite sanctions.
Reuters reports that US President Donald Trump has said no one is authorised to speak to Iran on behalf of the US, and accused French President Emmanuel Macron of sending “mixed signals” to Tehran over possible talks. “I know Emmanuel means well, as do all others, but nobody speaks for the United States but the United States itself,” Trump said in a series of tweets. A report earlier this week claimed Macron had invited Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to this month’s G7 summit to meet Trump. A French diplomat denied the report on Wednesday.
Reuters reports that Turksih Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has insisted that Turkey will not allow efforts to establish a safe zone in northeast Syria to stall in the same way that their agreement on control of the Syrian town of Manbij has been delayed. The Manbij roadmap was an agreement made last year for the withdrawal of the Kurdish YPG militia from the town. Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist organisation.
The Guardian and Reuters report that a senior UN official has claimed that fighting around Syria’s jihadi-controlled enclave of Idlib has triggered “total panic” among civilians, and that a feared government offensive in the area would be “playing with fire”. The renewed violence came as international concern about Syria mounts. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has stated that he was appalled by the situation in the enclave. “Appalled by situation in Idlib and how Assad backed by Russia revoked a ‘conditional’ ceasefire just days after announcing it – a repeated pattern of behaviour,” he tweeted. “Attacks on civilian targets are a violation of international humanitarian law – this must stop.”
The Financial Times reports that a Pentagon report has claimed that the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria has left US allies ill-equipped to deal with a resurgent Isis. Isis has been rebuilding its capabilities since the defeat of the caliphate in March 2019. It has established “resurgent cells” in the country and carried out assassinations, suicide attacks, abductions and arson of crops, the report said. The withdrawal of 2,000 US troops has “decreased the support available for Syrian partner forces at a time when their forces need more training and equipping to respond to the Isis resurgence”.
The Independent reports that the UN has claimed that more than 100,000 people are thought to have been detained, abducted or gone missing during the Syrian conflict. While the true number is difficult to verify because of a lack of access to detention sites, the UN’s political chief, Rosemary DiCarlo, said the figure comes from research by UN agencies and rights groups. DiCarlo said the Syrian government was responsible for the majority of cases. “Deaths in detention have continued to occur, many allegedly as a result of torture, neglect or humane conditions”.
The Telegraph and Times report that P &O Cruises has cancelled its cruises in the Gulf over fears that its ships could be targets Iran. The cruise line said it had decided to call off all trips in the region until next year amid the continuing standoff between the UK and Iran over the seizure of tankers. The Financial Times reports that top security firms have removed British guards from ships in the Gulf because of fears that Iran could try to capture UK nationals. Ambrey, the biggest company in the sector, and Maritime Asset Security and Training (MAST) said they had replaced UK citizens with guards from other countries.
BBC News and the Independent report that a man who moved to the US as a child has died after being deported to Iraq. Jimmy Aldaoud had been unable to obtain insulin to treat his diabetes, his lawyer claimed. Aldaoud had never been to Iraq and did not speak Arabic. He was deported in June as part of a crackdown on Iraqi immigrants with criminal convictions. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) said Aldaoud had accrued 20 convictions over two decades including assault with a dangerous weapon, domestic violence and home invasion.
The Telegraph reports that migrant labourers in Qatar have held rare strikes in the country in response to poor working conditions on World Cup 2022 construction sites. Thousands took part in two demonstrations over the last week in protest at delayed salaries and “inhuman” conditions. “We have not been paid for four months and we have not taken any leave since 2013,” one protester says. “The water we are given is not fit for human consumption.”
Reuters reports that a new locally-developed app helps Palestinian drivers in the occupied West Bank negotiate traffic at Israeli military checkpoints and uncover routes to towns mainstream providers often miss. Launched in June and designed by Palestinians, Doroob Navigator crowd-sources road closures and traffic data from users. It aims to supplant apps like Google Maps and Waze, which rarely account for Israeli restrictions and struggle to navigate between Palestinian cities.
Reuters reports that Iraq is close to reaching a deal with oil majors BP and Eni for an export pipeline project that was initially planned as part of a mega-deal with energy giant ExxonMobil, according to five senior Iraqi oil officials involved in the negotiations. Under the proposed $400 million (329 million pounds) agreement, British company BP and Italy’s Eni would run the scheme to build two seabed oil pipelines for Iraq’s southern exports through the Gulf, the sources told Reuters, declining to be named as the discussions have not been made public.
Reuters reports that the UAE has released three activists who were jailed on state security charges, two rights groups said on Thursday. Online activist Osama al-Najjar and Othman Al-Shehhi and Badr al-Buhairi, described by rights groups as activists with ties to the al-Islah Islamist group, banned by the UAE in 2014, were jailed after trials in 2014 and 2016, according to Human Rights Watch.
In the Times, Will Brown maintains that UN peacekeepers have hitherto been unable to prevent the spread of Jihadism: “UN peacekeepers have a hopeless task in trying to contain the spread of horrific violence and extremist ideology across a vast area”.
In the Guardian, Martin Chulov and Julian Borger argue that the announcement by Turkey and the US that they will set up a safe zone in Kurdish-run north-eastern Syria may be ‘wishful thinking’: “Lack of detail and strong opposition from Kurds means plan is unlikely to provide solution to region’s problems”.
In the Guardian, Peter Bradshaw reviews a documentary film entitled Gaza: “This sombre, angry documentary captures a sense of ordinary life in the strip bordered by Egypt, Israel and the sea”.
The Israeli media is dominated by reports of the ongoing manhunt to find the killers of Dvir Sorek who was stabbed to death on Thursday. The manhunt is currently said to be focused on Hebron and the nearby villages in the southern West Bank.
Yossi Yehoshua in Yediot Ahronot writes that the terror attack took place at a time in which two – ostensibly conflicting – trends are taking place in Judea and Samaria. One is a drop in the volume of popular terrorism, including stone-throwing, firebombs and disturbances. The other is Hamas’s efforts to operate cells in the West Bank and to set the ground on fire. “Hamas…is trying to achieve a number of objectives simultaneously: attack Israel, attack the Palestinian Authority, and maintain quiet in Gaza so that the truce arrangement efforts can succeed and not impair the Gaza Strip’s rehabilitation. Something is happening beneath the surface: over 300 attempted terror attacks were foiled in 2019 and the relative quiet is the result of nightly activity by the security forces throughout the West Bank. Just this week, for example, a Hamas cell in Hebron was caught that was planning a large terror attack in Jerusalem by means of a bomb, and in the Binyamin region, Palestinians were caught with an M-16, a bomb and pistols. That’s why the army is very clear in saying that terrorism has not disappeared, it has only been foiled.”
Alon Ben David in Maariv argues that lurking beneath the semblance of quiet: “Motivation to commit terror attacks remains high among terror cells that are part of an orderly chain-of-command and among lone terrorists. Hamas has been encouraging terrorism in the West Bank from Gaza and Turkey, and the recent discovery of the terror cell that was about to carry out a bombing attack is proof that Hamas is not afraid of the consequences. The realities of life in the West Bank, in which there is perpetual friction between millions of Palestinians and hundreds of thousands of Israelis, provide countless opportunities for terror attacks. Regrettably enough, Sorek also provided an opportunity of that kind.”
Yoav Limor in Israel Hayom writes that the perpetual friction between Israelis and Palestinians, the shared roads, the proximity of places of residence and work and the underlying fundamental emotions at play are a platform for endless terror attacks. “There is always going to be a determined terror cell that is going to succeed in spotting the breach or the mistake—and which will then strike.”
Yediot Ahronot reports that after State Comptroller, Matanyahu Engelman, decided to appoint a new Dispensations Committee that, among other things, would address the issue of approving a loan to fund Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s legal fees, three members of the committee, which is appointed by the State Comptroller’s Office, announced yesterday that they were resigning. A few months ago, the Dispensations Committee ruled that if Netanyahu wished to receive approval for a loan or a contribution, he must reveal his wealth. Netanyahu has not done so, and the assessment is that he is waiting for the new Dispensations Committee that perhaps will rule more to his liking.
Yediot Ahronot reports that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and State Attorney Shai Nitzan informed Balad, and former MK Hanin Zuabi, that they were considering indicting them, pending a hearing, on suspicion of offences that they had allegedly committed in the Knesset elections and in the elections for local authorities in 2013. Zuabi is suspected of forgery under aggravated circumstances, false registration of corporation documents, an attempt to obtain a benefit by deception and money laundering. Thirty five members of Balad, including the former secretary general, were informed that they could be prosecuted, pending a hearing, on charges of obtaining a benefit by deception under aggravated circumstances, forgery, use of forged documents, false registration of corporation documents and money laundering.
Kan Radio reports that the Jewish Power party asked the Central Elections Committee to disqualify the Joint List and Yair Lapid. The party said that the members of the Joint List supported terrorism and negated the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. The request to disqualify Lapid was based on what they called his harsh and racist generalisations against the Haredim. Earlier, four requests were made to disqualify Jewish Power or specific candidates from it. These requests were submitted by Blue and White, the Labour Party, the Democratic Union and the Israel Religious Action Centre.