Lieberman sends stern warning to Syria over weapons transfer
The Times reports that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened to call a snap general election if his coalition partners do not postpone the launch of a new public broadcasting corporation. The article suggests that if an election were called, public prosecutors would delay filing potential charges against Netanyahu over two ongoing criminal investigations, in order not to be seen to be influencing the vote.
The Telegraph online includes an interview with Israel’s former Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who recently left Netanyahu’s Likud party to establish his own political party after declaring his intention to run for Prime Minister. The article says that the disagreement over the Elor Azaria case opened cracks between Ya’alon and Netanyahu, which “widened into a political chasm”. Ya’alon says that he wants to restore “the statesmanlike Right” in Israel, but the article suggests that although his “call for civil discourse may appeal to some Israeli liberals, his staunchly right-wing views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” could make it hard for them to vote for him.
The Independent, Telegraph and i cover comments made by Israel’s Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said that Israel will destroy Syrian defence systems if Israeli jets come under fire again while carrying out operations over Syrian territory. Such an incident occurred last week, although an Israeli anti-missile system intercepted the Syrian rocket fire. Israel has periodically operated in Syrian airspace to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah, currently fighting in Syria for Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Writing in the Daily Mirror, Kevin Maguire says that barring entry last week to UK-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign leader Hugh Lanning shows the “growing intolerance” of Israel’s government. He suggests that “boycotting human rights campaigners such as Lanning will backfire” for Israel.
The i reports that a Hamas court in Gaza has sentenced two people to death for drug dealing. Hamas authorities apparently reported that £1.6m worth of drugs, mainly narcotics and cannabis, had been seized in January alone.
The Telegraph and the online edition of the Guardian report that Syrian rebel forces launched a surprise attack on government-held Jobar neighbourhood of Damascus. The Guardian online reports that “fierce clashes” took place in the capital.
The Guardian online also relays a report from Egypt’s al-Ahram, which says the country’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi will meet US President Donald Trump in Washington next month.
In the Israeli media, all dailies focus on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s suggestion over the weekend that he could call a general election if a new public broadcasting corporation is allowed to begin operating. Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon had reportedly come to a compromise over the new broadcasting corporation late last week, but Netanyahu stated that he had changed his mind. However, Yediot Ahronot and Israel Hayom report that a fresh compromise is in the works, especially after coalition ministers expressed opposition to a new elections. To this end, Israel Radio says that Minister Yariv Levin and Finance Ministry Director General Shai Babad met last night.
Writing in Yediot Ahronot, Sima Kadmon says that Netanyahu has been forced to back down over early calls for elections. She says: “The rashness, the emotional tempestuousness, the irrationality of his behaviour — all left him without any support.”
An apparent drone assassination across the Syrian-Israeli border is prominently reported by Yediot Ahronot, Maariv and Israel Hayom. All the papers say that a man was killed in the strike, whom some say was part of a pro-regime militia and responsible for air defences. Overnight Friday, Syria fired anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli jets carrying out an operation over Syrian territory targeting advanced weapons transfers to Hezbollah.
Israel Radio news reports that a Palestinian Authority (PA) officer was killed yesterday in the Balata refugee camp in the West Bank city of Nablus during an exchange of gunfire between PA security forces and wanted armed operatives.