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Media Summary

Israel foils Hamas malware ‘honeytrap’ operation

The Times and The Independent report that the Israeli military claims to have foiled a Hamas “honeytrap” operation in which soldiers’ phones were compromised by Hamas operatives posing as young women, as soldiers were targeted with messages in the hope that they would download malware that allowed their phones to be hacked.

The Guardian and Financial Times report that the UN-backed arms embargo in Libya has become a joke and the country’s financial position is deteriorating rapidly, the UN deputy special envoy for Libya, Stephanie Williams, has said after foreign ministers met in Munich to try to enforce a ceasefire between the two warring sides.

The Telegraph and The Guardian report that plans by an Israeli group to host a Burning Man-style festival in the West Bank has been mired in controversy after Palestinian leaders rejected the invitation to take part as “insulting”.

The Times reports that President Erdogan of Turkey has warned the Assad regime and its Russian allies to cease their offensive on the last rebel-held region in Syria or face direct intervention by Turkish forces within two weeks. Reuters and the Associated Press report that Syrian government forces made significant advances on Sunday in the country’s north western Aleppo province, seizing most of the rebel-held region, before a new round of talks between Turkey and Russia to discuss the escalation in the area.

Reuters and the Associated Press report that Israeli commercial planes have started flying over Sudan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday, casting the new air corridor as the result of a breakthrough meeting with the African Muslim country’s de-facto leader this month.

The Associated Press reports that Israeli opposition leader Benny Gantz is vowing to form a government that will include neither the indicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor the predominantly Arab parties in Parliament.

Reuters reports that hardliners are set to tighten control of Iran this week in a parliamentary election stacked in their favour, as the leadership closes ranks in a deepening confrontation with Washington.

The Telegraph reports that Kurdistan’s prime minister has said Britain should provide more spies and military capability to Kurdish forces, as he warned that ISIS was already re-emerging following the withdrawal of foreign troops.

BBC News reports that an aircraft belonging to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen has crashed in the northern province of al-Jawf, as a coalition spokesman confirmed that a Saudi Tornado fighter jet had “fallen” while carrying out a support mission near Yemeni army units.

The Guardian reports that Canada and other countries whose nationals were killed in the Iranian strike on a Ukrainian civilian jet leaving Tehran have stepped up their requests for Iran to hand over the black box to a third party for examination.

The Independent reports that rockets were fired near the US embassy in Iraq and a military base hosting American troops, according to officials. There have been no causalities reported following the strikes, which fell amid heightened tensions in the Middle East.

The Guardian reports that hundreds of thousands of civilians, many of them women and children, are stranded with little food or shelter in sub-zero temperatures in north-western Syria, forced from their homes by a Russian-backed military offensive that has often targeted hospitals and other civilian infrastructure.

In The Times Anthony Loyd interviews Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, who claims that the war in Libya is beginning to turn thanks to Turkish support but that the country remains on the verge of economic collapse due to oil embargoes.

In The Independent, Borzou Daragahi writes that millions of desperate refugees struggling in Turkey hope to cross to Europe, as networks of smugglers are poised to profit from frustrated migrants.

In The Telegraph, Sara Elizabeth Williams writes that residents in Idlib province remain fearful as the Syrian regime comes closer to wresting the final provinces under rebel control.

The Israeli media report the Hamas operation to hack the phones of IDF soldiers via elaborate cyber “honeytrap” attacks. The IDF yesterday said Hamas used fake profiles of young attractive women on popular social apps like Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp and Telegram to target active duty conscripts. Once a conversation ensued, the “women” – writing and sometimes speaking in broken Hebrew – enticed the target into downloading a malicious app that inserted spyware onto the soldiers’ phone, allowing Hamas to sweep up data, ascertain exact locations, and listen in on conversations. The IDF said no classified information was leaked, despite hundreds of soldiers being targeted (with “dozens” actually downloading the spyware). This is at least the third such operation by Hamas’s cyber unit since 2017.

The Israeli media report Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments yesterday that an Israeli aircraft recently flew over Sudan. Netanyahu earlier this month met with Sudan’s interim leader (in Uganda) and said the two countries would begin a process of diplomatic normalisation. The Times of Israel reported this morning that the plane was a private Israeli executive jet and not the national carrier, El Al. Netanyahu, speaking at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations, added: “This is quite a change. The Israeli mochileros, the backpackers, fly to South America and start hiking. We just reduced three hours of their flight time. They don’t have to go to Spain and then around Africa. They can now fly directly over Sudan right to Brazil, Argentina.”

Maariv reports Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan’s comments at the Munich Security Conference, where he said relations with Israel would only be upgraded after a peace agreement was signed that “meets the Palestinians’ terms.” Bin Farhan made similar comments late last week in an interview, denying rumours that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was planning to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu, saying: “There is no meeting planned between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Saudi Arabia’s policy has been very clear since the beginning of this conflict. There are no relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel and the Kingdom stands firmly behind Palestine.”