Putin warns Netanyahu to back off from military strikes in Syria
The Guardian and the Independent report on the confrontation between Iranian forces and Israel last weekend in Syria. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed that Israel will continue its operations across the border in Syria after an F-16 fighter jet was shot down. The Israeli warplane was hit by Syrian anti-aircraft fire on its return from a bombing raid on Iranian targets in the early hours of Saturday. Its two crew members survived with non-life-threatening injuries. In response, Israel launched a second ferocious raid, believed to be its most aggressive in years, which it said hit 12 Iranian and Syrian military sites.
The Daily Mail reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Netanyahu to back off from military strikes in Syria. Putin told Netanyahu in a phone call on Saturday evening to avoid a course of action that could have “dangerous consequences for the region”. Netanyahu acknowledged his call with Putin on Saturday evening, saying he had told him of Israel’s intention to continue defending itself against any aggression and to prevent Iran from establishing a presence “in Syria or anywhere else.”
The Independent and BBC News Online report on the opening of the trial of Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi today. Palestinians say Tamimi embodies their David vs. Goliath struggle against a brutal military occupation and Israel portrays as a staged provocation meant to embarrass its military. Israel has treated Tamimi’s actions as a criminal offence, indicting her on charges of assault and incitement that could potentially land her in prison for several years.
The Daily Mail and the Times report that Netanyahu said he has been discussing with the United States the possibility of Israel annexing Jewish settlements in the West Bank, drawing swift condemnation from Palestinian leaders. Netanyahu did not say how far discussions had gone on annexing some of the land that the Palestinians want for a future state – a move that would be certain to meet strong international opposition. “On the subject of applying sovereignty, I can say that I have been talking to the Americans about it for some time,” Netanyahu told a closed-door meeting of his right-wing Likud party’s legislators on Monday, according to the party’s spokesman. It is believed that Netanyahu’s main intention is to placate his own party members. He made the remarks at a meeting only a day after he had blocked a private member’s bill to extend Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements. Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said any annexation would ‘destroy all efforts to try and save the peace process’.
The Independent reports that Virgin Atlantic has changed the name of an in-flight meal after social media backlash from pro-Israel supporters. The dish which is a mix of Maftoul and other couscous, tomatoes and cucumber seasoned with parsley, mint and lemon vinaigrette, was formerly called “Palestinian couscous salad” on the menu. The name has since been changed to “couscous salad” after various complaints.
The Daily Mail via AFP reports that Israel on Monday accused Turkey of helping the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas to gain in military strength, following its arrest and deportation of a Turkish citizen. The Shin Bet intelligence agency said the movement’s “economic and military activity in Turkey takes place unhindered as Turkish officials turn a blind eye and on occasion, encourage it”.
The Daily Mail via AP reports that a group of Palestinians attacked two soldiers who mistakenly drove an army vehicle into the West Bank city of Jenin on Monday, the Israeli Defence Forces said. The IDF said the Palestinians surrounded their vehicle, threw rocks at the soldiers and stole a gun. A female soldier was wounded and later evacuated to hospital, it said.
The Times reports that Islamic State in Egypt has threatened to kill anyone who votes or participates in next month’s presidential election in a gruesome video that purports to show militants murdering alleged army collaborators and soldiers. The 23-minute video in which Islamic State threatens to turn the country into a “cemetery” during the election campaign. It was released after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is widely expected to win the polls being held from 26-28 March. The government launched a huge counter-terrorism operation in Sinai and the Nile Delta, which the army has claimed is the definitive battle to wipe out “terrorist hotbeds”.
The Telegraph reports that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, is still alive but injuries and poor health have forced him to relinquish control of the terror group, according to an Iraqi intelligence chief and US officials. Baghdadi is hiding out in the desert on the Syrian side of the Syria-Iraq border northeast of Deir Ezzor province, said Abu Ali al-Basri, director general of Iraq’s intelligence and counter-terrorism office at the ministry of interior. US officials confirmed to CNN that while Baghdadi’s injuries were not considered life-threatening they did mean he has not been able to continue to command the daily operations of the group.
The Daily Express reports that Iranian leaders flaunted its ballistic missile capabilities, which includes a nuclear-capable medium-range missile. According to experts, the missile appears to share similarities with North Korean technology. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivered a speech during a ceremony to mark the 39th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, introducing the missiles at a military parade.
The Daily Express reports that Serkan Topal, a deputy in the Turkish parliament, has suggested Turkey and Syria restore diplomatic communication. He said: “Ankara and Damascus have to put dialogue back on track. I brought the issue to the agenda at a parliamentary session, pointing out that it has to be discussed in the ministerial council. So far, we haven’t received a response with regard to the initiative.”
In the Israeli media all the papers prominently report the two IDF soldiers who accidently entered Jenin yesterday and who were attacked by a mob. Yediot Ahronot, Maariv and Israel Hayom all describe the incident as a near lynching. Haaretz emphasises that they were rescued by members of the Palestinian police. Similarly, Maariv includes commentary that notes “the behaviour of the Palestinian security personnel proves, and not for the first time, the degree to which the cooperation and their contacts with Israel’s security establishment are vital for maintaining the relative quiet in the West Bank and staving off a deterioration.” In contrast, Yediot Ahronot, includes commentary arguing, “the State of Israel consciously gave up the right of free entry for its citizens into Palestinian Authority (PA) territories, and later on an order was issued that made entry into PA territories a criminal offence. In such a situation, in which the PA territories are free of Jews, at least de facto, such lynching attempts are almost inevitable. It is not pleasant to write, but this is compounded by the loss of the IDF’s power of deterrence.”
This morning Channel Two reports Defence Minister Lieberman toured the north and discussed events over the weekend. Lieberman said, “I’ve tried not to talk in recent days, I do not think it’s time to talk, but to do, I’m trying to focus on action, we’re engaged in determined and responsible action. There are no limitations, we do not accept any limitations, we acted with determination and every step we take, we do a lot of work, everything has to be done accurately, planned and calculated.’
All the papers also report what Yediot Ahronot calls an “unprecedented accusation” from the Trump administration that Netanyahu lied when he told a Likud Party meeting that the US and Israel were discussing proposals for Israel to annex West Bank settlements. In the commentary Yediot Ahronot notes, “Trump is hardly a man who is committed to the truth. But yesterday it was not only Netanyahu’s lies that set the White House on edge, it was the liberty he took to entangle the US administration with a world that is already angry at Trump for his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The White House’s statement from last night was also designed to signal that what is permissible to the president is certainly not acceptable when it comes from his imitators.” In Maariv, vehement critic of the prime minister, Ben Caspit explains that Netanyahu habitually lies: “Netanyahu makes use of his ability to promise everyone, simultaneously, conflicting promises, to spread white lies in all directions, to have it both ways, in order to promote his political goals. What are his political goals? Actually, there is only one: to remain in power.” He argues in the context of impending police recommendations, “He now needs every drop of support, every fragment of legitimacy, any help, even the tiniest, to try to build a critical mass among the right wing and his right wing coalition so as to strengthen himself against a disintegration similar to what happened to Ehud Olmert at the time. His remarks to the Likud faction created the impression that thanks to Netanyahu, the Americans will agree to the annexation of the territories, or at least some of them. How dare we entertain the idea of replacing a leader like this, one who is capable of persuading the US administration to recognise the annexation of territories in Judea and Samaria to Israel?”
Maariv and Yediot Ahronot report on the High Court of Justice rejecting a petition calling on the police commissioner not to include indictment recommendations in the investigations against Prime Minister Netanyahu. The decision clears the way for the police to submit their recommendations “as early as today.”
Haaretz reports on an announcement by the White House, that US President Trump spoke on the phone with Russian President Putin and said to him that this was the time to work towards a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
Haaretz and Yediot Ahronot report that David Grossman has won the Israel Prize for literature. Haaretz quotes Education Minister Naftali Bennett referring to Grossman as, “one of the most moving, profound and influential voices in Israeli literature.” While Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called him, “one of the greatest writers of the Jewish people.”