Macron claims he convinced Trump to keep US forces in Syria
BBC News Online and the Daily Mail via AP report that the Israeli military has disabled a major tunnel dug by militants which reached into Israel from the Gaza Strip, officials say. Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said it was the longest and deepest tunnel of its kind Israel had discovered. A military spokesman said it had been dug since the 2014 Gaza war, when Israel destroyed more than 30 tunnels which it said were meant for attacks. Israeli Military spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Conricus said the tunnel had been dug by Hamas and began in the area of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip. He said it penetrated several metres into Israel in the direction of Nahal Oz, but did not yet have an exit. The tunnel stretched “several kilometres” into Gaza and connected with other tunnels from which attacks could be launched, he said. Israel disabled the tunnel over the weekend, according to the military. “We filled the tunnel with material that renders it useless for a very long period of time,” Conricus said.
The Daily Mail reports that hard-left activists who called for Labour’s Jewish wing to be expelled and believe the Israeli Embassy should be smashed want to run Momentum. Several candidates standing for the group’s ruling body made contentious remarks about either Jews or Israel, including claims that Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, was funding party moderates. Voting closes at midnight tonight for the 12 places representing members of the national co-ordinating group (NCG) of Momentum, the grassroots organisation set up to help Jeremy Corbyn become Labour leader in 2015. Sara Callaway, who wants to represent the South East, said the Jewish Labour Movement should be kicked out of the party for backing the “apartheid” state of Israel. Speaking at the Labour conference in September, she said: “We can’t be a party that has groups that support an apartheid state, wherever that apartheid state is.”
The Independent reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the US-led air strikes on Syrian targets, but warned that Iran’s presence in the country further endangered it. “Early this morning, under American leadership, the United States, France and the United Kingdom demonstrated that their commitment is not limited to proclamations of principle,” he said in a statement.
The Times, BBC News Online, the Independent, the Telegraph and the Guardian report that French President Emmanuel Macron has claimed that he convinced his US counterpart Donald Trump to keep troops in Syria for the long term and limit Saturday’s joint strikes to chemical weapons facilities. Macron said in an interview on Sunday that restricting the missile strikes to specific targets was not necessarily Trump’s initial plan. “We also persuaded him that we needed to limit the strikes to chemical weapons [sites], after things got a little carried away over tweets,” he said. The French President also said: “Ten days ago, President Trump was saying ‘the United States should withdraw from Syria’. We convinced him it was necessary to stay. We convinced him it was necessary to stay for the long term.”
The Times, BBC News Online, the Independent, the Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Guardian report that UK Prime Minister Theresa May will argue today that she struck against the Assad regime “in the national interest,” as she awaits the verdict of the Commons on her handling of the military action in Syria. After coming under intense pressure during the weekend for refusing to give parliament a vote before launching the strikes, May will ask for an emergency debate to give MPs the ability to discuss the military action at length. Labour will demand that the Commons is also given a vote at the end of the debate. The decision on whether to offer a vote will be taken by the Speaker, John Bercow. In a statement to MPs this afternoon, May will explicitly tie the action the UK took in the early hours of Saturday morning to the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal with a weapons-grade nerve agent in Salisbury last month. “Let me be absolutely clear: we have acted because it is in our national interest to do so,” the Prime Minister said. “It is in our national interest to prevent the further use of chemical weapons in Syria and to uphold and defend the global consensus that these weapons should not be used.” The Independent has published the government’s legal position on the strikes. The Independent also reports that only a quarter of Britons backed the UK’s decision to launch air strikes in Syria to punish the country’s regime for allegedly using chemical weapons, a new poll has revealed. The exclusive survey shows more people opposed than supported the action.
The Independent reports that Trump’s “mission accomplished” tweet may come back to haunt him as another battle looms around Damascus. Reporter Robert Fisk asks what will the US President and the British and French do if more images of gassed civilians dying in agony appear?
The Daily Mail reports that Britain was braced for a Russian cyber attack last night as officials warned of swift retaliation for the military strikes on Syria. Intelligence officers at GCHQ and the Ministry of Defence are on standby to hit back if the Kremlin wages cyber warfare. UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson acknowledged the threat yesterday, saying the UK had to take “every possible precaution”.
The Daily Mail reports that Two Russian warships laden with military vehicles have been spotted en route to Syria after Friday’s US-led airstrikes obliterated three suspected chemical weapons sites. An Alligator-landing ship was pictured cruising down The Bosphorus on Sunday as the world awaits Vladimir Putin’s response to this week’s co-ordinated military action against Syria. The vessel was spotted on its way to the Russian naval base at Tartus on the north Syrian coast. On its fourth deployment of Russian military equipment to the war-torn country the ship was seen laden with tanks, trucks, ambulances and an IED radar.
The Telegraph reports that Western air strikes have done little to degrade President Assad’s arsenal and his regime still has the capabilities of inflicting major damage, according to Syria’s former chemical weapons chief. Brigadier-General Zaher al-Sakat, who served as head of chemical warfare in the powerful 5th Division of the military until he defected in 2013, said the most strategic sites were not hit in Saturday’s strikes.
The Financial Times reports that Putin’s support for Assad paints Russia into a dangerous corner. After the chemical weapons facilities of Bashar al-Assad’s regime were hit by more than 100 missiles fired by the US and its allies, it was left to Russian politicians to respond on the Syrian president’s behalf.
The Telegraph and the Daily Mail report that Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn will try to force a vote in Parliament that would make it difficult for Prime Ministers to take military action without the approval of MPs, as he suggested Bashar al-Assad could be innocent of last week’s chemical weapons attack. The Labour leader suggested on Sunday that all planned use of force should be signed off by the Commons as he announced plans for a “war powers act” which would ensure that all governments are accountable “for what they do in our name”.
The Telegraph writes in an editorial that the events in Syria show “the weakness of Jeremy Corbyn,” arguing that “sometimes it is necessary to take up arms and yet he emphatically fails that test”.
The Guardian has published an op-ed by Corbyn where he argues that “diplomacy, and not bombing, is the way to end Syria’s agony”. He writes: “Further military action would be reckless. Even more than was the case in the disastrous interventions in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, the continuing war in Syria is fraught with the danger of a wider conflict, starting with Russia and dragging in Turkey, Iran, Israel and others.” He further argues that “the British government needs to act as a restraining influence in this crisis, not a camp follower”.
The Guardian has published an op-ed by Polly Toynbee, which argues that “May has tied us to Donald Trump. She must face the consequences”. She makes the argument that “the missile attack on Syria was a pointless, dangerous gesture. If given the chance, MPs must vote to condemn it”.
The Guardian published an op-ed by Scott Ludlam which argues that “Syria exposes the broken state of global governance,” and questions how we should respond. He writes that “people of good heart have a choice. We can stick to old interventions or write a new chapter in dissent and defiance”.
The Guardian reports that Western powers are to attempt to inject diplomatic momentum behind the military strikes against Syrian government chemical weapon sites by calling for the UN to launch a broad investigation into Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles. The UN security council’s 15 members will meet on Monday to discuss a call for a wider push to eliminate the covert Syrian government stockpiles, placing pressure on Russia to stop protecting Bashar al-Assad’s regime from a UN inquiry into its use of chemical weapons. The draft resolution will call on the UN to try to reinvigorate the stalled peace talks, accept a ceasefire and restore humanitarian access to besieged areas. The aim is to show that the western military intervention is part of a wider political and diplomatic strategy to drive chemical weapons from Syria once and for all.
The Times published an account by Rita Habib, who was abducted and abused under ISIS in Syria.
The Daily Mail via AFP reports that Israel on Sunday freed 207 African migrants from prison following a supreme court ruling, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu controversially reversed a deal with the UN refugee agency on the detainees’ fate. After an operation lasting several hours, a spokeswoman for the immigration authority told the AFP late on Sunday that all detainees had been released. There are around 42,000 African migrants in Israel. Authorities transferred 207 of them from a nearby open detention facility in February after they refused to leave the country.
The Daily Mail via AFP reports that Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Sunday announced a $150m donation for the maintenance of Islamic heritage in East Jerusalem. “Saudi Arabia announces a $150m grant to support the administration of Jerusalem’s Islamic property,” the monarch said at the opening of the Arab League summit in the kingdom’s eastern city of Dhahran. “I name this summit in Dhahran the Jerusalem Summit so that the entire world knows Palestine and its people remain at the heart of Arab concerns,” he said. King Salman also announced a $50m donation to UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees.
The Daily Mail via AFP reports that Israeli police used stun grenades on Sunday to try to calm a violent protest by ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem, the latest angry demonstration against military conscription. A police statement said four officers were slightly injured in scuffles as law enforcement tried to disperse “several hundred ultra-Orthodox extremists” outside an army enlistment office in the holy city. “Police used stun grenades and water cannon against rioters,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told the AFP.
Maariv, Yediot Ahronot, and Israel Hayom report that the IDF destroyed a “long and high-quality” tunnel which reached Israeli territory in the area of the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council. It was the eighth tunnel that has been exposed in the last six months. The military demolished the tunnel by infusing it with substances that rendered it unusable and irreparable. The papers report that The threat is expected to be removed entirely within approximately one year with the construction of the underground barrier and the progress of the technological developments. This morning, Kan Radio News reports that the IDF knows of additional tunnels in Gaza and is watching them as they are being excavated. It says that the military has not ruled out the possibility that Hamas may try to employ a tunnel for terrorist activity under cover of the demonstrations on the border fence.
Haaretz, Maariv and Israel Hayom report on a potential compromise between Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a bill that would allow the Knesset to override the disqualification of a bill by the Supreme Court bill. Kan Radio News reports that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit proposed that Netanyahu meet with Supreme Court President Esther Hayut in the context of Netanyahu’s hearing as many professional opinions as possible in advance of the dramatic change in legislation. A few days ago the Prime Minister met with former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak and Netanyahu also intends to invite retired senior judges to the forum of party chairpersons so that they can present their opinions to politicians on the subject of the override clause. Kahlon has said his party would only be prepared to tolerate an “override clause” that was limited to applying to legislation designed to remove Eritrean and Sudanese nationals from Israel.
The Times of Israel reports that on the 16th anniversary of his arrest for his role in killing five Israelis, Marwan Barghouti calls for continued resistance against Israel and reportedly tells Mahmoud Abbas to “Stand firm, Trump and his peace plan will soon be gone”.
Haaretz quotes French President Emmanuel Macron, who says he has convinced US President Donald Trump to keep military forces in Syria.
Haaretz reports that due to the absence of an agreement with Uganda to accept asylum seekers, 204 people were freed yesterday from the Saharonim detention facility in the Negev.