Turkey won’t support NATO defence plan unless YPG labelled terrorists
Reuters reports that Turkey will resist efforts by its NATO allies to persuade it to back an alliance defence plan for the Baltics and Poland until its demands are met over a plan for Turkey’s defence. Turkey wants NATO to formally recognise the YPG militia, the main component of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as terrorists and is infuriated that its allies have given the militia support.
The Guardian reports that a lawyer representing a Palestinian aid worker alleged to have diverted tens of millions of pounds to Hamas has accused Israel of dragging out the secretive trial for three years despite a lack of evidence. Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet, has accused Mohammed El Halabi of transferring more than $7m (£5.4m) a year to the Palestinian group, though World Vision retorted that its entire operating budget in Gaza – regularly audited – was far less than that amount.
BBC News, the Guardian and Reuters report that Iraq is setting up military “crisis cells” to quell civil unrest which has left more than 300 people dead. Protesters torched the Iranian consulate in Najaf on Wednesday, while eight people were killed in Nasiriya on Thursday.
The Guardian and Reuters report that Human Rights Watch has claimed that the Turkish “safe zone” in northern Syria is far from safe, citing ongoing fighting and abuses such as executions and home confiscations. HRW claims that Turkish-backed Syrian rebel groups that had done much of the fighting on the ground could be guilty of war crimes against the local population.
The Telegraph reports that the Syrian regime has claimed that foreign IS suspects could be tried in Syrian courts, raising the prospect the regime could use them as leverage against the West. More than 10,000 IS fighters are currently in the detention of Western-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in north-east Syria.
Reuters reports that US Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley has claimed that the chances of a successful outcome from peace talks on ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan were higher than before and could happen in the “near term”.
BBC News and Reuters report that a military court in Egypt has sentenced to death a man once considered the country’s most wanted jihadist. Hisham Ashmawi was found guilty of involvement in several attacks, including one in western Egypt in 2014 that killed 22 security personnel.
The Times reports that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rebuked Egypt over a police raid on independent news outlet Mada Masra. “As part of our long-standing strategic relationship with Egypt, we continue to raise the fundamental importance of respect for human rights, universal freedoms and the need for a robust civil society”.
The Guardian reports that the Saudi-led coalition has said it will release 200 Houthi rebel prisoners and allow some flights out of the rebel-held capital, Sana’a – moves seen as a sign that efforts to end the five-year conflict are gaining momentum.
Reuters reports that French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has suggested that Paris was considering triggering a mechanism within the JCPOA that could lead to UN sanctions, given Tehran’s repeated breach of parts of the 2015 accord.
Reuters reports that petrol stations in Lebanon will begin an open-ended strike on Thursday nationwide, a union representative said on Wednesday amid the country’s worst economic crisis in decades. The FT reports that Lebanon has vowed to repay $1.5bn to holders of its government debt as planned this week despite a stalled economy and drained dollar reserves.
In the FT, Chloe Cornish argues that the “turmoil in Lebanon is hurting Syria”: “As Beirut runs out of hard cash, businesses across the border suffer”.
The Guardian reports that the UN has been accused of trying to starve out refugees and asylum seekers sheltering for safety inside a centre run by the UN refugee agency in Tripoli.
The FT reports that Roger Jenkins, a former Barclays banker and the “gatekeeper” has denied devising a side deal that prosecutors say dishonestly funnelled £322mn in secret fees demanded by Qatar.
Reuters reports that the global casualty toll of landmines doubled in 2018 from 2013 due to conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria and Mali and the increased use of improvised landmines set by militant groups including IS.
The Daily Mail reports that a jihadi bride has revealed details of her life as an IS enforcer. She was assigned to the state’s brutal police force, patrolling the streets for women who broke shariah law and bringing them in for floggings.
In the Guardian, Azadeh Moaveni argues that “we must not abandon the women and children of IS in camps in Syria”.
In the Independent, Robert Fisk maintains that “I talked to everybody I could in Syria, controversial or otherwise. That’s how you find out the truth”.
No progress in coalition talks: All the Israeli media report that Knesset speaker and Likud MK Yuli Edelstein’s efforts to broker a unity government between Blue and White and Likud faltered last night. Edelstein had proposed to restart talks between the two parties in a bid to avert a third election, and met with their negotiating teams. Despite the “positive and good spirits,” however, the gaps are wide. Blue and White officials are refusing to serve in a government with Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister, even for a limited period, due to his recent criminal indictments. Likud officials are refusing to soften their demands with respect to Netanyahu going first in any prime ministerial rotation scheme, including the exact details of what his “suspension” from the post would entail. Nevertheless, Edelstein will reportedly meet with the two sides again on Sunday.
IDF demolishes homes of Hamas cell in West Bank: The Israel Defence Forces overnight demolished the homes of four Palestinians responsible for the murder of Dvir Shorek, 19, all Israeli media reported. The cell, reportedly affiliated with Hamas, came from the village of Beit Kahil near Hebron in the southern West Bank. Clashes broke out in the area during the IDF operation. Shorek was stabbed to death near a highway in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc last August. Defence Minister Naftali Bennett announced yesterday that Israel would no longer return the bodies of Palestinians killed while carrying out terrorist attacks, whatever their organisational affiliation or geographic location (West Bank or Gaza). The policy shift was explained as a deterrent step and as a bid to gather bargaining chips vis-à-vis ongoing negotiations with Hamas for the return of the bodies of two IDF soldiers and two Israeli civilians held captive in Gaza. But Channel 12 news reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu may delay the move due to reservations among the Israeli security establishment regarding the effectiveness of the policy.
Pompeo says legality of settlements was obvious: In an interview to Israel Hayom, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the recent US shift on Israeli settlements. Pompeo said: “This was really a legal analysis change more than anything else…What is inconsistent is those who believe that international law requires that every settlement is illegal just by the nature of it being a settlement. Our statement is limited in the sense that it is not illegal per se, that there are other mechanisms to resolve it, including most importantly the political resolution that ultimately needs to be achieved.” Pompeo said he hoped that “before too long we will present our peace vision to the world,” alluding to the long-delayed plan for Israeli-Palestinian talks.