US withholds aid for Lebanon
BBC News, the Guardian, Times, Independent, Sky News, Daily Mail and Reuters report that IS has confirmed the death of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and named his successor. An IS outlet announced on the messaging service Telegram that Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurashi was the group’s new leader and “caliph”. IS also confirmed the death of spokesman Abu al-Hasan al-Muhajir. The new IS spokesman, Abu Hamza al-Qurashi, also called on Muslims to swear allegiance to Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi.
The Economist analyses IS after the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and says: “The ‘caliph’ is dead, but his ultra-violent jihadist group lives on”.
The Independent and Reuters report that US troops have arrived back in north-east Syria, raising tensions for the Syrian Kurds who warn they face mounting pressure to hand control of the area to Assad. Sources within Syria reported a significant deployment of US troops near the border town of Kobani, as well as several troops and armoured vehicles moving towards Deir ez-Zor.
In the Spectator, John R. Bradley examines the “story behind Donald Trump’s fake withdrawal from Syria” saying: “The President is ending wars on Twitter – but not in the real world”.
The FT reports that Turkey has captured 18 Syrian military personnel during clashes in north-east Syria, fuelling fears that Ankara’s assault on Kurdish forces could lead to direct conflict with Damascus. Reuters reports that Turkey has handed over the members “as a result of the coordination with the authorities of the Russian Federation”.
The Guardian reports that Syrian Kurds are asking the Pentagon to block US-controlled air space over north-east Syria to Turkish armed drones which they claim are causing significant civilian casualties. Ilham Ahmed, the head of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), said the Kurds would hold the Pentagon responsible for Turkish war crimes if they did nothing to guarantee protection.
Reuters reports that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has stated that he aims to restore state authority over Kurdish controlled areas in north-east Syria, but he expected it to happen gradually.
The Independent and Reuters report that the Trump administration will issue sanctions waivers to allow Russia, China and the EU to continue nuclear non-proliferation work in Iran. The periodic waivers grant exemptions from US sanctions against Iran, and allow foreign companies to collaborate on the civilian nuclear programme with Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation.
BBC News, the FT, Economist and Reuters report that Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi will resign if political parties can agree on his replacement. President Barham Saleh is also drafting a new election law that will allow early parliamentary polls to be held. Tens of thousands of people have taken part in two waves of protests this month to demand more jobs, an end to corruption, and better services.
Reuters reports that Iran has stepped in to prevent the ouster of Mahdi amid anti-government demonstrations. In a secret meeting in Baghdad on Wednesday, Qassem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force, asked political allies to keep supporting Mahdi.
The Independent reports that Iraqi security forces are using military-grade tear gas canisters that shatter skulls. Amnesty International warned that police were using two variants of tear gas from Bulgaria and Serbia that are ten times heavier than the standard canisters causing “horrific injuries and death” when directly fired at protesters.
The Guardian reports that the death toll in Yemen has reached 100,000, according to a highly regarded database project that tracks the conflict. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project, which tracks confirmed fatalities in the conflict and is seen as reliable, said the figure included 12,000 civilian deaths in directly targeted attacks.
In the FT, Andrew England, Simeon Kerr and Ahmed Al Omran explain that Saudi Arabia is reining in government spending for the first time in three years in a bold calculation that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s economic reforms are having a positive impact.
Reuters reports that OPEC oil output has bounced in October from an eight-year low as a rapid recovery in Saudi Arabian production from attacks on oil facilities more than offset losses in Ecuador and voluntary curbs under a supply pact.
The Guardian reports that three British businessmen have admitted their roles in facilitating the payment of bribes between 1999 and 2016 in nine countries in Africa and the Middle East over 17 years.
Reuters reports that an Israeli-developed app offers turn-by-turn voice directions to help visitors navigate graveyards.
Benny Gantz meets Joint List: All the Israeli media report that Blue and White leader Benny Gantz met yesterday with Joint List leaders Ayman Odeh and Ahmed Tibi. Blue and White said the meeting was held in a “positive and substantive atmosphere and discussions focused on issues important to Arab society.” The media conclude there is no real chance of the Joint List joining a Gantz Government but the very fact they are meeting and talking is described by Yediot Ahronot as “historic.” After the meeting, Gantz told a supporters rally in Tel Aviv last night that he remained determined to form a broad liberal unity government and avoid a third election.
IDF responds to rocket fired from Gaza Strip: A rocket was fired last night from the Gaza Strip towards an Israeli community on the Israeli border. The Iron Dome system was activated but on this occasion did not intercept the missile as it landed in an open area and no one was injured. Kan news reported that in response a tank and an aircraft attacked two Hamas military positions last night in the northern Gaza Strip. Also last night, south of Jerusalem, two pipe bombs were thrown at the Rachel’s Tomb compound. They exploded in a parking lot and caused damage to two cars but no one was injured.
Hezbollah try to shoot down Israeli drone: The Israel media report a rare incident when yesterday afternoon an Israeli drone flying over southern Lebanon was shot at by an anti-aircraft missile, but missed. Lebanese media reported that the attempted strike forced the drone to leave Lebanese airspace. However Israel media emphasised that the Air Force did not intend to back down, and would continue to perform its missions. According to Ynet the drone was gathering intelligence on Hezbollah targets near the border.
Labour Party leaves wreath at Arafat’s grave: The Jerusalem Post reports that a delegation from Bristol Labour Party visited the West Bank and laid a wreath at PLO leader Yasser Arafat’s grave. The paper describes Yasser Arafat as, “the man former Prime Minister Menachem Begin dubbed “an animal on two feet” and former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said he had to take a “pill against vomiting” before shaking his hand.”