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Media Summary

ISIS claims 80 attacks in cities around the world

The BBC reports that preliminary data from the Israeli Beresheet spacecraft suggests a technical glitch in one of its components caused the lander to crash on the Moon. The malfunction triggered a chain of events that eventually caused its main engine to switch off. Despite a restart, this meant that the spacecraft was unable to slow down during the final stages of its descent. The Israeli spacecraft was the first privately funded probe to attempt a soft landing on the Moon.

The Guardian has published a letter from former European politicians condemning the Trump administration’s Israel-Palestine policy and calling on European powers to reject any US Middle East peace plan which is not fair to the Palestinians. The letter is signed by 25 former foreign ministers, six former prime ministers, and two former Nato secretary generals and says Europe must stand by the two state solution for Israel and Palestine. The letter concludes by arguing that Israel and the Palestinian territories are sliding into a one-state reality of unequal rights, adding: “This cannot continue. For the Israelis, for the Palestinians or for us in Europe. Right now, Europe is facing a defining opportunity to reinforce our shared principles and long-held commitments in relation to the Middle East peace process and thereby manifest Europe’s unique role as a point of reference for a rules-based global order.”

In the Telegraph, Julie Burchill writes: “Why I’m in love with Israel, the nation that cannot be stopped”. Burchill argues that in the middle of their haters and their cheerleaders, the Israelis, are just trying to be a country like any other, rather than a symbol of good or evil. They’re doing pretty well she argues. In just over 70 years since the ancient homeland of the Jews was reclaimed, they are already the 10th oldest uninterrupted democracy in the world. This is a country where army generals run as centrist candidates, rather than plan coups and revolutions. 13th Happiest Country, 10th Healthiest Country, 7th Best Place to be Gay, 3rd Most Educated – and, of course, the number one “Start-Up Nation”.

In the Guardian, Donald Macintyre, the author of “Gaza: Preparing for dawn” writes: “Palestinians eye Israel’s election: ‘People could make peace … the problem is politicians’”. Palestinians hoped for change, writes Macintyre. However he argues that a lurch to the right in Israel’s elections has only brought despair.

In the Financial Times, former Norwegian Prime Minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland writes: “Europe must take a stand in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”, arguing that the approach to peace adopted after the Oslo Accords has been abandoned. Following Netanyahu’s narrow victory last week, Brundtland argues, the EU needs to make it clear that if Israel moves to seize this land permanently, it will not be business as usual. Brundtland continues, writing that calculations in Israel are clearly being affected by changes in US policy, most notably President Donald Trump’s declaration that he recognises Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights — internationally recognised as occupied Syrian territory. But as Israel’s neighbour and main trading partner, he adds, as well as the main provider of aid to the Palestinian Authority, the EU can also influence Israel. Brundtland concludes that the principles of the two-state solution offer the most, perhaps the only, logical approach. After all, this is a conflict between two competing national movements. Both of them deserve peace, security and justice.

The BBC reports that the Red Cross is seeking information about three staff members abducted in Syria five-and-a-half years ago. In its first detailed statement on the incident, it says Louisa Akavi, Alaa Rajab and Nabil Bakdounes were seized in October 2013 while travelling to Idlib province in north-western Syria. Akavi was held by the Islamic State group and there is evidence she was alive in late 2018, the Red Cross says. The fate of Mr Rajab and Mr Bakdounes is not known. Ms Akavi, a citizen of New Zealand, is a 62-year-old nurse who has carried out 17 field missions. Alaa Rajab and Nabil Bakdounes, both Syrian nationals, worked as drivers who delivered humanitarian assistance in the country. New Zealand says that a Special Forces team has been trying to locate Ms Akavi.

The Times reports that the sons of Egyptian President Sisi are taking key roles in his administration as he pushes through constitutional changes to cement his grip on power until 2030. Members of Egypt’s parliament are expected this week to vote through plans that will extend the presidential time limit from two four-year terms to six-year ones. Sisi will be allowed to extend his present term by two years to 2024, and then stand for an extra six-year term. Some MPs and civil society activists are opposing the change, saying that it would put a final nail into the coffin of the 2011 revolution that was supposed to have ended semi-permanent military rule. Sisi will be 76 in 2030 and will have ruled for 16 years. The 2011 Egyptian revolution was also intended to prevent President Mubarak, now 90, from passing on his throne to his son, Gamal, 55. However, Sisi’s son Mahmoud, a brigadier-general in the general intelligence service, is said to be supervising an informal committee monitoring the progress of the reform. The president’s eldest son, Mustafa, is a senior official in the supervisory Administrative Control Authority, which has taken a higher profile under Sisi as he tries to assert his own and the army’s power over the bureaucracy. A third son, Hassan, formerly an oil executive, is said to have joined the intelligence service.

The Sunday Telegraph and Independent report that according to reports, Shamima Begum was a member of the ISIS morality police, a feared group which enforced the terror organisation’s strict interpretation of Islamic law. The Sunday Telegraph reports that the 19-year-old British citizen, who fled her home in Bethnal Green four years ago with two other schoolgirls, has claimed that she was only a “housewife” during her time living with the group in Syria. But according to reports, she played a much more active role in the organisation’s reign of terror as a member of the “hisba” – which metes out punishment to those found flouting ISIS laws on how to dress and behave.  One activist quoted by the newspaper said Begum had been seen holding an automatic weapon and shouting at Syrian women in the city of Raqqa for wearing brightly coloured shoes.

The Times reports that the Islamic State has claimed it has carried out co-ordinated attacks in 80 cities around the world in recent days, its first terrorist “success” since the fall of the so-called caliphate last month. Suicide bombs, assassinations and landmines had killed 362 people in 92 attacks from Russia to West Africa in a “revenge invasion” for the loss of its proto state, it said. The jihadist group has not announced a new central base and claims to be operating as a covert network. It called the new campaign of terrorism “Vengeance for Sham [Greater Syria]”.

Reuters reports that according to Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday, Iran will ask the international community to take a position on the US designation of its Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organisation. “Today … we will send messages to foreign ministers of all countries to tell them it is necessary for them to express their stances, and to warn them that this unprecedented and dangerous US measure has had and will have consequences,” Zarif was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA. Zarif said he had also sent letters to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the United Nations Security Council to protest against “this illegal US measure”.

The Telegraph reports that the Iraqi parliament has proposed banning online multiplayer video games, amid fears they are corrupting young people and getting them hooked on violent fantasies. Iraq’s cultural parliamentary committee submitted a draft law over the weekend seeking to ban the games, singling out the multiplayer deathmatch game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). Islamic clerics have also raised concerns about young people becoming absorbed in scenes of glorified violence, considering their country’s own long history of war, destruction and bloodshed.  “The committee is concerned about the obsession over these electronic games that ignite violence among children and youth. Its influence has spread rapidly among Iraq’s society,” committee head Sameaa Gullab said at a press conference in Baghdad. The draft law, awaiting revision by parliament’s Speaker, follows reports in the Iraqi media about young people spending vast stretches of time playing the so-called “battle royale” games.  There were also reports of a wave of divorces and suicides being linked to the games and their hold on young people.

In the Israeli media Yediot Ahronoth reports on what it refers to as the “Kassam Generation” joining the Israeli army. They profile nine 18 year old residents of the south of Israel whose only reality is living under the threat of missiles fired from Gaza in the last 18 years. They discuss their hopes and dreams for the future.

Haaretz reports that former European prime ministers and foreign ministers have called for the EU to reaffirm its support for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in advance of the publication of US President Donald Trump’s peace plan. In a letter, the former leaders urged the EU not to support Trump’s plan if it does not respect this principle and international law. Among the 37 signatories are former British foreign secretaries David Miliband and Jack Straw.

Maariv leads with a report of a “steep decline” in charitable donations to organisations that are helping the poor and needy. The report notes that usually in the lead up to the Passover festival hundreds of thousands of shekels are donated.

All the newspapers focus on domestic politics with President Reuven Rivlin beginning his consultation process with political parties today. Israel Hayom says the “real battle” now is within the Likud. Matti Tuchfeld suggests: “As always, the real fight will be within the Likud. Many of the MKs consider themselves as having been upgraded as a result of their place in the primary and because the Likud grew from 30 to 36 seats. But many are competing for the few portfolios left. All the incumbent ministers are likely to be appointed ministers. The assessment is that the most senior portfolio in the Likud, assuming defence is given to Lieberman, will be foreign affairs, which will most likely be kept by Yisrael Katz…. In addition, Netanyahu will appoint two new ministers: Nir Barkat and Gidon Saar, in addition to Yoav Galant, who is already a minister. But the list of people waiting to become ministers is long: Avi Dichter, Tzipi Hotovely (who wants the education portfolio), Gila Gamliel, David Amsalem, Amir Ohana and Yoav Kisch. The assessment is that only one or two of the MKs who are not ministers will be upgraded to minister.”

According to Yediot Ahronoth the most difficult negotiations will be between the Likud and Yisrael Beteinu, with its leader Lieberman demanding a return to the defence ministry and a change in policy regarding Hamas and Gaza. According to the paper, Lieberman is demanding that the military conscription law be passed “without changing a comma or a period.” However, Lieberman is not trying to get a government headed by Gantz formed, and he called reports about a possible unity government “nonsense.”

Channel 13 news speculates that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering appointing Yariv Levin justice minister. Levin is considered very hawkish on everything to do with the Supreme Court, even more so than current Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. From the outset of his political tenure, Netanyahu maintained a certain relationship with the Supreme Court, he refrained from clashing harshly with it, and even had a personal connection with Aharon Barak. Yariv Levin is the anti-Aharon Barak incarnate. Should he be appointed, the Supreme Court justices will yet miss Ayelet Shaked. Levin wants to enact the override clause; dissolve the Judges Selection Committee, or at least reduce the role of Supreme Court justices on the committee; and cancel the current process for appointning the Supreme Court president – abolishing the rule whereby whoever has more seniority becomes president. Levin also supports repealing the basic laws that were not passed through a referendum: Human Dignity and Liberty, and Freedom of Occupation. It can be said that everything we know about the power of the Supreme Court will be completely changed under Levin.

Kan news reports that the hunger strike by security prisoners in Israeli prisons is about to end. According to an incipient agreement with Hamas prisoners, the Prisons Service will install public telephones inside their cell blocks. They will be able to speak with their families for limited periods of time, but the Prisons Service will keep jamming mobile phone signals. The rest of the prisoners’ demands—resuming family visits from Gaza and revoking the sanctions against Hamas prisoners—were rejected.

Ynet reports that a delegation from Israel that was due to attend a conference in Bahrain this week has pulled out due to security concerns. A spokeswoman for Israel’s Economy Ministry said a planned visit by Israel’s Economy Minister Eli Cohen had been “delayed because of political issues.” The group of around 30 Israeli business executives and government officials was scheduled to participate in a conference organised by the US- based Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) in Bahrain on April 15-18.