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Media Summary

Escaped UAE princess back in Dubai

The BBC and Daily Mail report that a US sponsored resolution condemning militant group Hamas for firing rockets into Israel has failed to pass at the UN General Assembly. The BBC reports that the resolution won a majority of 87 to 57, with 33 abstentions, but did not reach the required two-thirds backing. US envoy Nikki Haley had said adoption would right a “historic wrong” as the UN has not passed such a condemnation. A Hamas spokesman said the outcome was a “slap” to President Donald Trump’s administration. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that although the two-thirds was not achieved, this was the first time there was a “sweeping majority of countries ” who had stood up against Hamas. The Daily Mail reports that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah party is locked in a bitter decade-long split with Hamas, also welcomed the resolution’s defeat saying: “The Palestinian presidency will not allow for the condemnation of the national Palestinian struggle.” Saudi Arabia’s UN Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, said the US resolution would “undermine the two-state solution which we aspire to.” He said it would also turn attention away from Israel’s occupation, settlement activities and “blockade” – whether in Gaza, the West Bank or East Jerusalem.

The Guardian and Financial Times report on Yemen peace talks in Sweden. The Financial Times reports that Yemen’s warring factions have opened their first peace talks in more than two years, with negotiators reaching an early deal on a prisoner release. In talks in Sweden, representatives of the country’s Saudi-backed government and the Iran-allied Houthi rebels reached a deal to free more than 5,000 detainees. “The coming days are a milestone,” Martin Griffiths, the UN envoy for Yemen, told reporters after the prisoner swap agreement was announced. “Don’t waver,” he urged the parties to the talks. “Let us work in good faith . . . to deliver a message of peace.” Elizabeth Dickinson, senior Arabian Peninsula analyst for the International Crisis Group, said Mr Griffiths would seek to set up a public framework for the negotiations while trying to forge progress on three specific issues: preventing an all-out battle for Hodeidah port; reopening Sana’a airport to allow the injured to leave the Yemeni capital; and shoring up the central bank to stabilise the economic crisis. The Guardian reports that talks opened as the UN’s World Food Programme said a survey of food security in Yemen had found that more than 15 million people are in a “crisis” or “emergency” situation and that that number could hit 20 million without sustained food aid.

The BBC and Independent  report that according to US media, American President Donald Trump is set to appoint State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert as his new ambassador to the United Nations. The BBC reports that Ms Nauert, 48, was made State Department spokeswoman in April 2017, her first government position. US media outlet, Fox News said President Trump would tweet about the appointment on Friday morning, whilst Bloomberg said it had been told of the decision to appoint Ms Nauert by three sources. Ms Nauert worked for Fox News from 1998 to 2005 and, after two years away during which she worked for ABC, she returned to Fox in 2007, later becoming a presenter for Fox & Friends.

Reuters reports that Israel told Lebanon’s army and UN peacekeepers on Thursday to destroy a tunnel it said had been dug by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah movement across the border into Israeli territory. Israel’s military said this week it had identified a number of passages and sent diggers and troops close to the frontier to block them. The peacekeepers, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), confirmed the existence of a tunnel near the “blue line” frontier between the two countries in a statement on Thursday, describing it as a “serious occurrence”. Israel said its operation would stop on its side of the border. But Israeli media on Wednesday quoted an unnamed senior official saying Israel could broaden its actions into Lebanon.

The Times reports that President Trump is facing two legal challenges over claims that he profited improperly from a foreign power after the disclosure that lobbyists representing the Saudi government paid for about 500 rooms at his Washington hotel shortly after his election victory. The stays at the Trump International Hotel, costing an estimated $270,000 for rooms, food and parking, were for US military veterans who were brought to the capital in a Saudi-funded campaign against anti-terrorism legsilation.

The Telegraph and the Independent report that Dubai’s Government has broken its silence on the case of its missing princess. The Independent reports that Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum, who has been missing since being forcibly detained while fleeing her home country nine months ago, is back in Dubai, according to a statement from the government. The daughter of the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, she has not been heard from since she was seized from a boat off the coast of India in March by what witnesses said were armed men. The Telegraph reports that the princess tried to escape the country in March after complaining she was effectively being held prisoner by her repressive father. She fled across the border to Oman with the help of a friend, before boarding a boat to meet French national Hervé Jaubert, who had himself managed to successfully escape the Emirates in 2010. The boat set sail for the Indian coast but was intercepted by three Indian and two Emirati warships – with Mr Jaubert claiming he and his crew were beaten by commandos before Latifa was whisked away. Detained in Dubai, an international civil and criminal justice organisation, published a video sent from the 33-year-old princess in the event of her capture. “My father is the most evil person I have ever met in my life,” she says tearfully in the video. “He’s pure evil. There’s nothing good in him. “If you are watching this it’s not such a good thing, either I’m dead or I’m in a very, very, very bad situation.”

The Financial Times reports that a suicide bomber killed at least three people on Thursday in southeastern Iran, home to the Sunni Muslim minority. Domestic media reported that a van loaded with explosives was stopped and went off before entering into the governor’s office in the port city of Chabahar.

Reuters reports that the New York prosecutor’s office has withdrawn an appeal to extend the sentence of a former executive at Turkey’s state-owned lender Halkbank, the Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency said on Friday. A US court sentenced Hakan Atilla, an executive from Halkbank, to 32 months in prison in May for helping Iran evade US sanctions in a case that has strained already tense ties between NATO allies Ankara and Washington. Halkbank, which denies any wrongdoing, has since faced potential US fines in relation to the case, which Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has condemned.

The Israeli media report extensively on Operation Northern Shield on the Israeli- Lebanon border. Yediot Ahronot notes the operation will take months to complete. The assessment is that “Hezbollah has few tunnels, and the reason is not because Hezbollah lacks the operational ability to build them, but simply because it has better alternatives: the first is its rockets. The second: a large number of troops and ordnance in the villages in southern Lebanon which have become military compounds.”  The paper focuses on the village of Kila where the first tunnel began. The village mostly Shiite has been turned into a military compound with headquarters, weapons warehouses and military positions. “In the south of the village is a road that goes along the border. There are a number of lookouts along the road that are also used for demonstrations. The main headquarters is located in the village, where there are about 20 warehouses with weapons, combat positions, lookout positions, dozens of underground positions for the troops in an emergency and advanced intelligence headquarters based on lookouts and patrols. Dozens of Hezbollah activists live in the village. In a situation of fighting, they are supposed to beef up the many troops of Hezbollah’s Radwan special operations unit who returned from Syria and who have a great deal of battle experience. When the order is given, the plan is for the combatants to be deployed in the villages that abut Israel, and to  launch an attack against communities in the Galilee.”

Maariv reports that security officials believe that the tunnels’ demolition will take several weeks and is more urgent than addressing the threat of the precision-guided missiles in Lebanon. According to the paper, there is a higher likelihood that an Israeli attack on their precision missiles would evolve into a military clash and that Hezbollah will not respond to the tunnels’ demolition.

Haaretz reflects on the military preparations for the operation which took place in Europe. It included “sending 11 Engineering Corps service members to Europe, where they trained and learned from excavation experts about working in rough terrain and with similar rock types as the ones in which Hezbollah dug its tunnels from Lebanon under the border into Israel. Only a few people in the army knew about Hezbollah’s tunnel enterprise, so preparations were made under a veil of secrecy, with people involved believing for a long time that they were participating in routine training.” The paper quotes a senior Israel Defence Forces (IDF) officer, “We realised we had to train people to excavate. We encountered such tunnels in the Second Lebanon War. We called them ‘nature reserves,’ which served as underground command centres. We trained in terrain we weren’t accustomed to, working in hard earth and rocky terrain and in tough areas, in order to learn about excavating.”

Maariv notes the current IDF position regarding Hamas, that the conditions have been created on the ground for a truce after the recent escalation last month, in which both sides realise that they had been very close to a military clash. The paper credits Israel with improving the civilian situation in the Gaza Strip, mainly the electricity supply. The Qatari money made it possible for Hamas to show achievements to the residents, it lowered the level of pressure, as well as the level of the flames with Israel. There was also a drop in the volume of incidents on the border fence last month. Furthermore, “The IDF believes that a broader plan is needed that will be drawn up by National Security Council Director Meir Ben-Shabbat, who has been heading the truce arrangement efforts with Hamas for the last year. That said, the IDF still believes that despite the drop in tension, there is still the potential for further escalation and that is why the window of opportunity should be capitalised on. If nothing is done, the window will close, and the situation could escalate again.”

Kan radio news reports that the US sponsored UN General Assembly resolution to condemn Hamas failed because the draft resolution did not receive the necessary two-thirds majority. A total of 87 countries supported it and 57 opposed it. A total of 33 countries abstained. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the UN has condemned Israel more than 500 times over the years, yet it has never condemned Hamas. She added that there is nothing more anti-Semitic than to say that terrorism is not terrorism when it is employed against the Jewish state. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that while the necessary two-thirds majority was not obtained, this was the first time that a majority of countries has voted against Hamas. Netanyahu praised the countries that supported the draft resolution. The Israeli delegation to the UN views it as a real achievement.

Channel Two News last night revealed that former defence minister Avigdor Lieberman lashed out at Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot at a meeting a few weeks before he resigned, and said that when he meets with the IDF’s top officers, he feels as if he were meeting with Peace Now. He said this at a meeting that was discussing security policy for Gaza, during which Eisenkot was opposed to a ground incursion.

Channel Ten News’s Barak Ravid revealed that the Trump administration is blocking a $500 million arms deal between Israel and Croatia, for the sale of 12 US made F-16 fighter jets refurbished and upgraded by Israel. After Israel added sophisticated Israeli-made electronic systems. He reports that the US was also competing for the Croatia tender, and US officials claimed Israel was being dishonest and trying to profit off the back of the US. He notes this is a very rare standoff after two years of incredibly close relations between Israel and the Trump administration, especially when it comes to military and defence cooperation.