Syrian rebels shoot down regime helicopter
The Times and Sky News have obtained video footage of Turkish-backed Syrian rebels shooting down an Assad regime helicopter in an escalation of violence in Idlib province that threatens to suck Turkey into a full-blown war with President Assad. BBC News and Reuters report that Turkey’s president Erdogan, has warned the Syrian government that it will “pay a very, very heavy price” for attacks on Turkish soldiers in north-west Syria. Five Turkish troops were killed in opposition-held Idlib province on Monday, as the Syrian army continued an offensive.
The Guardian and The Telegraph report that fierce fighting in Idlib province has sparked the largest mass displacement of civilians in the war to date, leaving hundreds of thousands of people camped out in tents on the Turkish border in sub-zero conditions. Reuters reports that two agencies said on Tuesday that more people have fled fighting in Syria over the past 10 weeks than at any other time in the 9-year-old conflict and the city of Idlib, where many are sheltering, could become a graveyard if hostilities continue.
The Guardian, The Associated Press and The Independent report that Sudan is prepared to hand over its former dictator,, Omar al-Bashir to the international criminal court in The Hague to face trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Reuters reports that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, appearing before the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, rejected US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal as a gift to Israel and unacceptable to Palestinians.
The Jewish Chronicle reports that the Jewish Labour Movement is among 25 organisations from around the world to sign a joint statement against President Trump’s “sham deal” Middle East peace plan, which promises to keep Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital.
Reuters reports that shortly after Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike in Iraq, the Tehran-backed organisation Hezbollah urgently met with Iraqi militia leaders, seeking to unite them in the face of a huge void left by their powerful mentor’s death.
Reuters reports that Lebanon’s new government won a vote of confidence from parliament on Tuesday as protesters trying to block the session clashed with security forces, leaving hundreds injured.
In The Telegraph, Mark Lowcock argues that the ‘carnage’ in Syria’s Idlib ‘should not come as a surprise’ to the international community, writing that a humanitarian calamity can only be avoided if UN Security Council members overcome ‘individual interests’ and put ‘a collective stake in humanity’ first.
In the Financial Times, David Gardner says that European could soon ‘feel the fallout’ from Idlib, as Turkey threats to reopen refugee routes north for fleeing Syrians, which will likely increase as the humanitarian crisis on the Syria-Turkish border gets worse.
In the Financial Times, Mehul Srivastava writes that Trump’s Middle East peace plan has failed to provide a significant political boost for Benjamin Netanyahu, as US backtracking over the application of Israeli sovereignty to settlements has stymied Netanyahu’s efforts to woo rightwing voters.
The Israeli media report Blue and White leader Benny Gantz’s comments that he would not form a government with the Joint List. Gantz spoke yesterday at an event in the Israeli-Arab town of Kafr Ana, saying: “There are serious disagreements between the Joint List and myself in all that pertains to the political, national and security issues of the State of Israel. Israel is a Jewish and democratic country, unique in the world, which needs to protect itself from outside enemies. It cannot tolerate support for terrorism or even refrain from condemning it. I am not afraid to speak with any legitimate political body, but the Joint List cannot be a part of a government under my leadership.”
Yediot Ahronot reports on efforts by Likud to boost the Jewish Power party so it gets enough votes to win seats in the election. Efforts to persuade the party to drop out of the election have been unsuccessful, so Likud is exploring new ideas with Jewish Power leader Itamar Ben Gvir. Among the options discussed was Ben Gvir’s request that Prime Minister Netanyahu appeal to senior religious Zionist rabbis asking them to issue statements of public support for Jewish Power.
Maariv reports that Israeli politicians have condemned the anti-Arab racist graffiti and vandalism in Kfar Jish (Gush Halav) yesterday. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu condemned the ‘malicious graffiti’ and said we “cannot accept any attacks on our citizens.” Blue and White leader Benny Gantz also condemned the attack and quoted Rabbi Kook saying: “Love of all beings must be alive in our hearts and souls, and especially the love of humanity. This morning a shocking racist act was perpetrated in Gush Halav. I trust the law enforcement agencies to find the criminals and bring them to justice.” Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman noted, “This is the third time we are witnessing acts of vandalism, property damage and malicious graffiti in Gush Halav. This must be investigated thoroughly, and we believe that the Israel police will bring the perpetrators to justice.”
All the Israeli media report that a rocket that was fired from the Gaza Strip last night and exploded in an open field in Shaar Hanegev. No one was injured and no damage was caused. Kan Radio reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel was preparing the surprise of a lifetime for Hamas, “If they don’t come to their senses and stop the rocket fire and the balloons, it will only be a matter of time before we spring our surprise.”