Secret deal to allow ISIS fighters to flee
BBC News at 10 last night reported a secret deal that allowed hundreds of ISIS fighters and their families to escape from Raqqa under the eyes of the US-led coalition and Kurdish-led forces. The convoy included some of ISIS’s most notorious members and many foreign fighters. The deal is now also reported on BBC News Online
The Times reports that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has opened a new front in his attempts to change the Middle East by intervening in Palestinian politics. The Crown Prince summoned Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to Riyadh last week and reportedly instructed him to back US President Donald Trump’s peace plan.
The Mail Online reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signalled on Monday that Israel would take military action in Syria to ensure that Iran-backed forces stay away from the border.
The Independent reports that Israeli police believe that they have sufficient evidence to charge Netanyahu with bribery in relation to the acceptance of gifts from Arnon Milchan.
Dr Nizar Ayoub, the Director of Al-Marsad (Arab Human Rights Centre in the Golan Heights ) has a letter published in the Guardian in which he writes that former International Development Secretary Priti Patel’s now infamous visit to the Golan Heights should be used to highlight the plight of Syrians in the “occupied” territory.
BBC News Online and the Times cover yesterday’s earthquake on the Iran-Iraq border where thousands of Iranians have spent a second night outdoors in bitterly cold temperatures.
The Guardian reports on the ongoing efforts to free British citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, noting that her plight has now become intertwined with machinations over Brexit at home and the geopolitics of a “fracturing” Middle East.
The Telegraph features a report on the Iranian prison Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is being held in, noting that it is claimed torture and inhuman treatment is “routine” there.
The Telegraph also reports that the family of British ISIS fighter Jack Letts are concerned for his mental health after his three years in Syria.
Roula Khalaf writes in the FT that the Saad Hariri affair demonstrates the extent, and the risk, of Saudi influence in the country.
The FT reports that despite Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi looking “unassailable” in next year’s presidential elections, his opponents – who include Anwar Sadat’s nephew – believe that they may be able to create an opportunity to beat al-Sisi by highlighting civil rights abuses in the country.
The FT also covers Riyadh’s intervention in Lebanese politics which it notes is intended to “curb Hezbollah”.
In the Israeli media, Yediot Ahronot reports new revelations in the Case 1000 investigation alleging that Netanyahu and his wife received gifts from wealthy friends, primarily Arnon Milchan and James Packer. This morning the paper includes testimony from Arnon Milchan, saying: “At a certain point I gave my staff carte blanche to give them (the Netanyahus) whatever they wanted… I didn’t want anything from them, and I didn’t receive anything from them.” In addition, according to the testimony of Milchan and Packer’s assistant, “buying the champagne wasn’t done at the initiative of Milchan or Packer, it was always at the initiative of the Netanyahus. Sara would ask for bottles (in cases) of six or 12 bottles of champagne. Bibi would ask for cigars and also knew about the amounts of champagne that his wife received. The company driver would make a special trip to Jerusalem in order to deliver the cigars and champagne.” The paper quotes the response from Prime Minister’s office, saying: “The plague of fake news continues. What is being attributed to the Prime Minister and his wife is incorrect. The Prime Minister and his wife acted lawfully, so there will be nothing.”
Maariv and Haaretz prominently report the most deadly earthquake in the world this year. Over 450 have been killed and thousands injured in Iran.
Maariv, Israel Hayom and Haaretz all focus on the increased state of alert and deployment of the Iron Dome missile defence batteries in the centre of the country. According to Maariv, “the IDF increased its troop presence, and farmers with land near the border can only work there after receiving special permission”. Kan Radio News mentions US President Donald Trump’s Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt saying last night that the extreme statements made by Islamic Jihad and its provocation of Israel were very harmful to the residents of Gaza and posed a grave danger.
Maariv reports comments by Labour Party Chairman Avi Gabbay, who told a meeting with students from Tel Aviv University that “the left wing has forgotten what it means to be Jewish”. The comment is a repeat of the famous statement that Netanyahu whispered into the ear of Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri in 1997. Gabbay was criticised by figures on the left, including from the Zionist Union. MK Ksenia Svetlova said: “Judaism is a religion, it’s a nationality, it’s culture, it’s a way of life. It is impossible to forget how to be Jewish. It’s that simple.”
Haaretz reveals that Israel intends to deny entry to seven members of a delegation of European officials because of their anti-Israel, pro-boycott activity. According to government ministers, the purpose of the visit was to meet with the convicted Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, considered a terrorist by Israel.