Hezbollah ‘shot down Israeli drone’
The Guardian and Reuters report that Hezbollah has said it downed an Israeli unmanned aircraft outside a southern Lebanese town. The drone is now in the hands of Hezbollah’s fighters, the Iranian-backed group said. The Israeli military said one of its drones “fell inside southern Lebanon during routine operations”. In a statement, it did not say what caused the crash and noted “there is no concern information could be taken from it”. Hezbollah said they “confronted” the drone with “appropriate weapons” as it was heading towards Ramyah.
The Times and Reuters report that the Israeli cabinet approved draft legislation on Sunday to have cameras monitor polling stations in next week’s election, a move opponents said was effectively meant to intimidate Arab voters. Cabinet ministers voted unanimously in favour of the legislation, despite objections to the last-minute change from the Attorney General and President Reuven Rivlin. The move is being seen by the opposition as an attempt to suppress Arab voters and delegitimise their ballots.
BBC News, the Guardian and Independent report that Iran has confirmed that the Adrian Darya 1 has sold its cargo after docking “on the Mediterranean coast”. Satellite images showed the vessel off the coast of Syria on Friday. The US vowed on Sunday to impose sanctions on any buyer of the oil.
BBC News reports that Iran has begun using new advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium – the latest step in reducing its commitment to the JCPOA. Forty such centrifuges were now operational, said nuclear agency spokesman Behruz Kamalvandi. Reuters reports that the director of Iran’s nuclear energy agency Ali Akbar Salehi said on Sunday the European parties to the JCPOA have failed to fulfil their commitments under the pact.
Reuters reports that samples taken by the UN nuclear watchdog at what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a “secret atomic warehouse” in Tehran showed traces of uranium that Iran has yet to explain. The IAEA is investigating the particles’ origin and has asked Iran to explain the traces. But Tehran has not done so, stoking tensions between Washington and Tehran. In a speech a year ago, Netanyahu called on the IAEA to visit the site immediately, saying it had housed 15 kg (33 lb) of unspecified radioactive material that had since been removed.
BBC News, the Times, Independent and Reuters report that President Trump has called off peace negotiations with the Taliban who have vowed to fight “for a hundred years” in response. Trump tweeted he had been set to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and senior Taliban leaders on Sunday. But he cancelled the Camp David meeting after the militants admitted they were behind a recent attack that killed a US soldier. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has confirmed that peace talks are on hold and that the US will keep providing military support to Afghan troops.
In the Times, Hugh Tomlinson maintains that the backlash from the collapse in peace negotiations between the US and Taliban could be austere: “Afghanistan goes to the polls for presidential elections this month, knowing that the Taliban are likely to take bloody revenge on the campaign. As ever, those who suffer most will be the Afghan people”.
The Times and Reuters report that Turkish troops have entered Kurdish-controlled Syria to conduct joint patrols with the US for the first time, in a key concession from Washington. Armoured Turkish vehicles passed through an opening in the border by the town of Akcakale on the Turkish side and Tal Abyad in northeast Syria. Tal Abyad is directly north of Raqqa and not near the front line with regime troops. The deployment has huge symbolic importance for President Erdogan, who has been demanding the right to control what happens on the Kurdish-dominated Syrian side of the border.
The Guardian and Reuters report that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have sought to present a united front in an attempt to ward off a potential war in Yemen between their surrogate armies. Yemen’s Saudi-backed government was ousted last month from key areas in the south by UAE-supported southern separatists, exposing divisions between the two Middle East allies. In a joint statement, the Gulf powers “reaffirmed continued support for the legitimate government of Yemen” and called on warring parties to immediately cease “all military operations” and “stop media propaganda” that fuels hostilities.
The Guardian, Independent, Financial Times and Reuters report that Saudi Arabia has replaced the country’s energy minister with Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman. The new energy minister is the older half-brother of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and an experienced oil industry figure in Saudi Arabia. He has been minister of state for energy affairs since 2017. The move, announced on Sunday, comes as Brent crude oil trades below $60 a barrel, well below the $80 to $85 a barrel that analysts say is needed to balance the Saudi budget.
Reuters reports that Turkey’s government has no plan to replace the opposition mayors of Istanbul and Ankara with state-appointed trustees, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Sunday. Soylu had threatened last week “to devastate” Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), over his support for the ousted mayors of the cities of Diyarbakir, Van and Mardin. But in a CNN Turk interview on Sunday, Soylu said: “For Istanbul and Ankara, for such thing to be in question (appointment of a trustee) is not possible.”
Reuters reports that the UAE’s Minister of Energy and Industry Suhail al-Mazrouei said on Sunday that OPEC and non-OPEC producers are “committed” to achieving oil market balance. Asked about possible deeper production cuts, the minister said he was not concerned about current oil prices, rather the level of oil inventories. “The fear of slower (oil) demand is only going to happen if that tension is escalating and I am personally hopeful that is not the case,” Mazrouei told Reuters on Sunday.
Reuters reports that Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah has been admitted to a hospital in the US for medical tests and postponed a meeting with President Trump planned for this week in Washington, state news agency KUNA said on Sunday.
Reuters reports that the Polish Foreign Ministry on Sunday condemned violence against a group of Israeli students beaten at a Warsaw nightclub early on Saturday. “(The Polish ministry of foreign affairs) condemns acts of aggression carried out by or against foreigners in Poland.
The Guardian reports that the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has released a video that attempts to edit out a gaffe at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting where he refers to his UK counterpart as former Russian President Boris Yeltsin. “I’ve returned from a very pleasant visit in London, where I’ve met with Prime Minister Boris Yeltsin and the US defence secretary,” Netanyahu said.
The Independent reports that one of the best preserved texts in the Dead Sea has prompted further mystery after a study into the document found chemicals from outside the region had been used to preserve it. The first of the Dead Sea scrolls were found in 1947 by Bedouin shepherds looking for a lost sheep. The discovery prompted years of archaeological work in 11 caves surrounding the salt lake, and unearthed some of the most well-preserved ancient texts ever found.
In the Financial Times, Ilan Ben Zion has written a profile of Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit who has reommended that Prime Minister Netanyahu be indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust: “He knows that no other consideration but the objective legal analysis of the situation is relevant here; no political consideration, no self-interest”
Hezbollah claims it shot down Israeli drone: Israeli and Lebanese media report Hezbollah claims that it shot down an Israeli drone overnight, near the southern Lebanese village of Ramyah. Israel’s Army Radio reported that the IDF refuted those allegations, only confirming that an Israeli drone had crashed in Lebanon (not that it was shot down). Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah last week vowed to begin shooting down Israeli aircraft that stray into Lebanese airspace.
Air strikes reported near Syria-Iraq border: Israeli media (quoting Syrian sources) have reported that multiple explosions at Shiite militia weapons depots and vehicles occurred overnight at the Syria-Iraq border near the eastern Syrian town of Al Bukamel. The strikes reportedly killed eighteen people, including potentially Iranian personnel. According to Ynet News, Al Bukamel sits at a major Euphrates River crossing point and access road between Syria and Iraq, and forms an integral part of Iran’s “land bridge” from Iran to the Mediterranean Sea.
Gantz rejects rotating premiership with Netanyahu: Blue and White leader Benny Gantz told Army Radio this morning that he would not accept a rotating premiership with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the September 17 election, due to the incumbent’s looming corruption indictments. Gantz was responding to reports last night from Blue and White sources saying they would “not join a Netanyahu government, not even in an alternating premiership arrangement, as long as there are legal proceedings against him.” Gantz had in recent weeks been inconsistent on whether he would agree to serve in a government with Netanyahu.
Netanyahu says he met with Boris “Yeltsin” in London: Israeli media reported an uncharacteristic gaffe by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday, where he told his cabinet members that he had met with British Prime Minister Boris “Yeltsin” during his surprise visit to London last week. Netanyahu quickly corrected himself – “Boris Johnson,” of course – and joked that he was testing whether his ministers were awake and paying attention. Video of the prime minister’s preliminary statement at the weekly cabinet meeting was filmed by the attending press pool and published on social media, although subsequent video uploaded to the the prime minister’s official Twitter account edited out the mistake.