Al-Qaeda leader killed by US airstrike in Yemen
BBC News, The Telegraph, The Associated Press and The Independent report that the United States has killed the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), President Donald Trump said. Qasim al-Raymi, who has led the jihadist group since 2015, was killed in a US operation in Yemen, according to the White House.
Reuters reports that the world’s biggest humanitarian aid operation will be scaled-down next month in Houthi-controlled Yemen, because donors and aid workers say they can no longer ensure that food for millions of people is reaching those who need it.
BBC News, Reuters, The Telegraph, The Independent and The Times report that there has been a flare-up in violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories, as four Palestinians have been killed during clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank and twelve Israeli soldiers were hurt in Jerusalem in a Palestinian car-ramming attack.
The Guardian and The Independent report that Syrian Kurds have said they will hold trials for Islamic State fighters from more than 50 countries, including about 30 from Britain, after becoming exasperated by a failure to reach international agreements over what to do with them.
The Times reports that Turkish artillery fired on Syrian regime troops that are fighting both jihadists and other rebels in northwest Syria, as Ankara is sucked deeper into the last stages of the civil war. Reuters reports that Russian-led Syrian government forces on Thursday entered Saraqeb town in northwest Idlib in the latest push to capture the last rebel stronghold, state media said.
Reuters reports that Lebanon’s government approved a rescue plan to pull the country out of its worst financial crisis in decades on Thursday, including interest rate cuts, recapitalisation of banks and other “painful steps”, according to a copy seen by Reuters.
In The Independent, Bel Trew writes that the EU has warned that Trump’s peace plan ‘cannot pass unchallenged’ whilst Tehran has called for the expulsion of Israelis ‘through jihad’.
In The Jewish Chronicle, Amnon Be’eri Sulitzeanu and Thabet Abu Rass insist Israel’s Arab citizens must not be treated as political pawns within any future peace initiative, asserting that Arab Israelis are ‘an integral, valued group within Israeli society’ and must not have their rights threatened.
In The Associated Press, Joseph Krauss and Mohammed Daraghmeh argue Arab anger at Trump’s Middle East plan could mobilise Arab voters in Israel, potentially denying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu another term and throwing the implementation of the Trump plan into doubt.
All the Israeli media report the violent attacks in the West Bank in the past 48 hours. Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Yossi Yehoshua says Israel Defence Forces (IDF) officers believe the violence can be contained with a combination of military and political means. Yehoshua states that in order to calm the situation in the West Bank, it is necessary to keep errors at a minimum and differentiate between those committing attacks and the general Palestinian population, as was done in the recent past. He also questions the judgment of carrying out the demolition of a terrorist’s house in Jenin on Wednesday morning, “at such a volatile and sensitive time”. Also writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Shimrit Meir says the rise of violence is linked to the release of the Trump plan for Israel and the Palestinians: “The inept way in which the presentation of the deal was handled, both in Washington and in Jerusalem, has led to a situation in which we are suffering from a wave of violence in retaliation for something that has not even happened; the annexation declarations have created an atmosphere of emergency and a sense of national humiliation among the Palestinians.”
Kan Radio News reports that Russia has accused the Israeli Air Force of endangering a Russian passenger plane carrying 172 passengers as it allegedly bombed military targets in Syria. The Russian military said that the Airbus A320 was attempting to land in Damascus during the Israeli airstrike, but was forced to land in the Khmeimim air base in north west Syria, which serves as a base for the Russian Air Force. The Sputnik news agency reported that the Russian Defence Ministry alleged that it had become routine for IAF aircraft to use civilian planes as a shield against Syrian air defence systems.
The Times of Israel reports that Jared Kushner said on Thursday that the upcoming press conference in New York with former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — in which they plan to condemn the Trump peace plan — was “almost pathetic” and coming from a place of envy that the two had failed to solidify a final accord. Yesterday, Kushner spoke at the UN Security Council about the Trump plan in a closed session.
Maariv reports a new election poll conducted by the Panels Polling Institute on 5 February. Despite the release of the US plan and the developments this week with Israel and Sudan, there has been no significant change in the blocs, the composition of the parties or their size. Blue and White are expected to win 36 seats, Likud 33, Joint List 13, Yamina 8, Labour-Gesher/Meretz 8, UTJ 7, Yisrael Beiteinu 7 and Shas 7.
Israel Hayom also reports a new poll which surveyed people’s confidence about who they would vote for by sector and by party. The party whose voters are most confident in their choice is UTJ, with 79 per cent of its voters saying they will vote for the party again. Shas came in second place with 65 per cent of its voters certain. The party with the highest rate of swing voters is Yamina: only 28 per cent of its voters said that they were certain to vote for it on 2 March.