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Media Summary

Houthi drone bombs Yemeni military parade

The Financial Times, BBCGuardian, IndependentTimes, Telegraph and Reuters report on US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo’s speech in Cairo on Thursday. The Financial Times reports that the US Secretary of State said the US would “not retreat until the terror fight is over” in a speech that sought to reassure Arab allies while delivering a stinging rebuke of the Obama administration’s Middle East policy. Speaking in Cairo, where former President Barack Obama delivered his keynote Middle East speech a decade ago, Mr Pompeo said: “We learnt that when America retreats, chaos often follows, when we neglect our friends resentment builds and when we partner with our enemies they advance. The age of self-inflicted American shame is over,” he added, without mentioning President Obama by name. Pompeo said that Washington is committed to the “dismantling of ISIS, the ISIS threat and the ongoing fight against radical Islamism in all of its forms” as he also launched a tirade against Iran. Pompeo reserved his harshest words for the Iranian regime. “We will not ease our campaign to stop Iran’s malevolent influence and actions against this region and the world,” he said. He also vowed that US economic sanctions on Tehran “will keep getting tougher until Iran starts behaving like a normal country”. He added that in Syria, Washington would use “diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot”. Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s Foreign Minister, responded on social media by saying: “Whenever/wherever US interferes, chaos, repression and resentment follow.”

Reuters reports that, according to Palestinian officials on Thursday, a planned trip to Moscow next week by the leader of Hamas has been cancelled, amid new friction between the Islamist group that controls Gaza and the Palestinian Authority. The planned meeting between Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was called off due to Lavrov’s busy schedule, Moussa Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas official, tweeted. No new date was announced.

The Guardian reports that more than half a billion pounds of UK council workers’ pension money has been directly invested by local authorities in arms companies involved in supplying Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen, in which thousands of civilians have been killed. Council pension funds have sizeable shareholdings in BAE Systems, Airbus, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, according to nearly 100 freedom of information requests. Between them, 43 pension funds directly hold shares worth £566m in the five companies and earned more than £18.5m in dividends in 2018, a period in which civilian deaths reportedly surged and a punishing famine took hold.

The Times, BBC and the Telegraph report that a drone exploded above a Yemeni military parade, killing six people. The Telegraph reports that Houthi rebels used an explosive-packed drone to target Yemen’s military leaders at an army parade on Thursday, killing six soldiers and wounding several senior officers. The rebels detonated the drone above a ceremonial dais, spraying Yemeni officers with shrapnel and causing the ceremony to dissolve into chaos. The Times reports that among those injured were some of the pro-government forces’ top brass, including the deputy chief of staff and head of intelligence. Ahmed al-Turki, the governor of Lahj, the southern province near Aden where the attack took place, was also hurt. The five dead are all believed to be soldiers. One guard in the video at the airbase was seen bleeding profusely, but appears to have survived. The BBC reports that the drone exploded above a podium at al-Anad base, in the southern province of Lahj. A Houthi-run TV channel said the rebels had targeted personnel from the Saudi-led coalition backing the government.

The Guardian reports that the UK government is taking part in a pioneering international aid project which could see consignments of maggots sent to crisis zones such as Syria as a simple and effective way to clean wounds. So-called maggot therapy was used in the first world war, when their efficacy in helping wounds heal was discovered by accident, and it is sometimes used in the NHS to clean ulcers. The initiative, co-sponsored by the Department for International Development (DfID), will develop techniques to help people in conflict zones or areas affected by humanitarian crises to use maggots where other medical facilities might not be available, such as Syria and South Sudan.

The Independent reports that an article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz  describing shawarma, as “an iconic Israeli street food” and saying it was ‘making a comeback in Tel Aviv’ has been mocked and criticised on social media. Some sarcastically suggested other foods could be claimed by different nations. “Pizza, the classic street food of the USA can now be found in Naples,” one wrote. Another joked: “Hamburger, an iconic Swedish street food can now be found even in America.” Others took it further, with one writing: “Pizza, the iconic Senegalese street food, is slowly making a comeback in Dakar.” Another tweeted: “Shawarma? Israeli. Falafel? Israeli. Gyros? Israeli. Pizza? Israel, all the way, baby.” However, others were less amused by the headline, going as far to label it and “gastronomic theft”.

Yedioth Ahronoth and Maariv report that the Attorney General is expected to decide by February 20 whether or not to indict the Prime Minister, pending a hearing. The report notes that February 21 is the last date to submit party lists for the Knesset elections, and the country’s top legal officials apparently wish to make Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s legal situation known prior to that date. Hahadashot reported last night that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had instructed the police to conduct supplemental investigative work into Case 4,000, but that is not expected to lead to delays in his decision about whether to indict Netanyahu. The Likud said: “The time between police recommendations and a hearing takes approximately 18 months on average. In the case of Prime Minister Netanyahu, it takes only a few weeks. Everyone sees that a frenzied race is being waged in an attempt to forcibly compress and shorten complex legal proceedings. It is no wonder that much of the public senses that this is a rigged game with foreknown results.” A statement from the Justice Ministry said: “The process of examining the investigative cases concerning the prime minister has been taking place in an orderly and professional manner, in keeping with the plan that was set well before elections were called. At this stage, we do not know when the process will end. Any reports in this context are strictly speculation.”

Yediot Ahronot reports events at the Labor Party Convention where Avi Gabbay was booed in what the paper terms a ‘Turbulent Debate’. Israel Hayom describes the story as: ‘World War Brewing in Labor Party’ adding that a Labor party official claimed that “Gabbay Betrayed Our Values” and should be replaced. Gabbay did manage to persuade the party to approve a motion enabling him to reserve three spots on the party’s list of election candidates. MK Eitan Cabel lambasted Gabbay and said that he had been wrong to support him. Cabel accused Gabbay of lying and said that anyone who betrayed the party’s values could not lead it. In Haaretz, Chemi Shalev argues that Cabel’s comments were an “open rebellion; a call for mutiny, at a most inopportune time and Gabbay cannot afford to let it stand. If he doesn’t clip Cabel’s wings in the upcoming party primaries he will have to contend with a permanent and popular rival and, in due course, contender for his throne.”

Yossi Verter writes about Benny Gantz in Haaretz and says: “It’s clear to Gantz that the 12 to 14 seats his party, Hosen L’Yisrael, is getting in the polls don’t put him in the ballpark to form the next government. He’s waiting for one of the two other former Israel Defence Forces Chiefs of Staff – Gabi Ashkenazi and Moshe Ya’alon (with a clear preference for the former) – and for the independent MK Orli Levi-Abekasis, who has reestablished her father’s Gesher party. Gantz apparently believes that having another IDF chief by his side, along with a social-justice symbol who also happens to be a Mizrahi woman, could help catapult him to the top.” He adds: “This will be the first campaign in a decade in which Netanyahu, who has accumulated respectable mileage in office, will be challenged by a figure, maybe two, with inarguable security credentials. In this militaristic country, if you’ve been chief of staff you don’t have to prove anything. All you have to do is show up.”

Kan Radio reports warnings by the Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot that the IDF would take action against Lebanon if Iran were to establish a military presence there. Eisenkot insinuated during an interview with Kan News that Israel has been engaged in covert operations in Lebanon. Eisenkot said: “We have not attacked Lebanon overtly, but we have been taking action in a very large number of covert and clandestine dimensions.”

Maariv reports that four of the five teenagers in the Jewish terrorism case have been released from custody and placed under house arrest. All five detainees are minors, and students at the Pri Haaretz Yeshiva in the Rehelim settlement. They were arrested over an incident in October in which Aisha Rabi, a mother of nine from the village Bidya, was killed when stones were thrown at the car in which she was traveling close to the settlement.

Haaretz reports that the IDF Ombudsman, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brik, is retiring. In an interview with Kan Radio, Brik reiterated his warning about the IDF’s readiness for war and said that the military, the security cabinet and the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee had neither internalised nor discussed the harsh criticism of the IDF.

Kan Radio reports that Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said after meeting with an Israeli delegation in Zagreb that Israel had told Croatia that it would be unable to provide it with a dozen F-16s because the United States objected to the sale. The deal was estimated to be worth approximately half a billion dollars.

Yediot Ahronoth reports that the military court in Jaffa extended the remand of five soldiers from the Netzah Yehuda Battalion, who are suspected of attacking two Palestinians as revenge for the murder of their friends a month ago. All five are suspected of abuse and causing injury under aggravated circumstances.