Two British nationals detained in Iran
BBC News, the Guardian, Telegraph, Times, Independent, Financial Times and Reuters report that Arab nations have condemned a plan by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to annex part of the West Bank. On Tuesday, Netanyahu pledged to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea if he is returned to office following next week’s general election. Officials in Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia sharply criticised the announcement. The Arab League denounced “the dangerous development” as “aggression”. Palestinian diplomat Saeb Erekat said such a move would be a “war crime” that would “bury any chance of peace”.
BBC Radio 4’s Today programme interviewed Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK and Dan Diker from the Jerusalem Institute for Public Affairs
In the Guardian, Peter Beaumont argues that Benjamin Netanyahu’s election threats could become reality this time: “Israeli PM is a master of fiery rhetoric but Trump’s support could embolden him to action”.
In the Times, Roger Boyes argues that Benjamin Netanyahu remains Israel’s “best hope for peace”: “Netanyahu remains the only politician with the clout required to keep the US onside”.
The Guardian, Times, Financial Times and Reuters report that US President Donald Trump has fired national security adviser John Bolton in a pair of tweets laying bare internal divisions within his inner circle, saying he had “disagreed strongly” with his top aide. The departure raises the possibility that Trump’s foreign policy could now make a dovish turn in the run up to next year’s elections, in particular with respect to Iran. Bolton inists that he had offered to resign. Reuters reports that an adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Bolton’s firing pointed to the failure of Washington’s “maximum pressure strategy”.
In the Guardian, Patrick Wintour examines how Bolton’s dismissal will affect US foreign policy: “Trump’s anti-interventionist instincts likely to come to the fore in flashpoint countries”.
Reuters reports that Israeli aircraft struck in Gaza on Wednesday hours after rockets from the Palestinian enclave triggered sirens that forced Benjamin Netanyahu off the stage at an election rally in Israel. The Israeli military said 15 targets were hit, including a weapons manufacturing facility, a naval compound used by militants and tunnels belonging to Hamas, the dominant armed force in Gaza. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
BBC News, the Guardian, Telegraph, Financial Times and Reuters report that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has summoned the Iranian ambassador to the Foreign Office after the Adrian Darya 1 transferred its cargo to Syria in breach of EU sanctions. Satellite images appeared to show the vessel off the Syrian coast on Friday. In a statement, the Foreign Office said Iran’s actions represented an “unacceptable violation of international norms” and that the UK would raise the issue at the UN General Assembly later this month.
BBC News and the Guardian report that a Turkish newspaper has published new details of a recording which reportedly captured the final moments of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The prominent government critic was killed in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul last October. The Sabah newspaper says the transcript is from a recording taken inside and later obtained by Turkish intelligence. It includes information such as the journalist’s alleged last words.
The Times, BBC News, Guardian, Telegraph, Times and Reuters report that two British-Australian women and an Australian man have been detained in Iran. One of the women was arrested with her boyfriend 10 weeks ago on unknown charges while another woman was jailed for 10 years. Iran has held several dual nationals in recent years, including the British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. The two cases are not thought to be linked.
Reuters reports that the US on Tuesday announced sanctions on a “wide range of terrorists and their supporters,” including the Palestinian group Hamas and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The targets include 15 leaders, individuals and entities affiliated with groups such as Hamas, al Qaeda, Islamic State and Iran’s IRGC, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement.
Reuters reports that Lebanon’s president said he hopes the US will resume mediation efforts to resolve a land and sea border dispute with Israel, after the man who had been leading them changed jobs. President Michel Aoun made the comments, reported in state news agency NNA, after meeting the new US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs David Schenker.
The Independent and Reuters report that airstrikes hit a part of northwest Syria for the first time since a ceasefire was declared 10 days ago, a war monitor and rebel group spokesman said on Tuesday. Syrian government forces and their Russian allies unilaterally agreed a truce on 31 August in opposition-controlled Idlib, where a “de-escalation zone” was brokered two years ago. The intense airstrikes by Russian and Syrian warplanes that had accompanied a Syrian government push to re-take the area had stopped, since 31 August, although there has been ground fighting and shelling.
Reuters reports that the US on Tuesday said it was “totally unacceptable” for Iran to drag its feet in cooperating with the UN nuclear watchdog, which is seeking answers to issues that diplomats say include the discovery of uranium traces at an undeclared site. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which is policing Iran’s nuclear deal with major powers, has called in recent days on Iran to step up its cooperation, warning “time is of the essence”.
BBC News and the Independent report that at least 31 people have been killed in a stampede during commemorations for the Shia Day of Ashura in the Iraqi city of Karbala. A health ministry spokesman said another 100 people were injured and warned that the death toll could rise. The stampede reportedly occurred when a pilgrim tripped while hundreds of thousands were performing a ritual.
Reuters reports that Turkey sees opportunity to boost trade with the US amid Washington’s trade war with Beijing, the Turkish trade minister said on Tuesday, reinforcing an ambitious goal of quadrupling the bilateral trade to $100 billion a year. “We have determined that the issues between the US and China will create a significant opportunity for trade in various sectors,” Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan told a joint press conference with US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
The Independent reports that the Moroccan authorities’ imprisonment of a journalist over having an abortion and sex outside of marriage “flagrantly violate” her rights, Human Rights Watch has warned. The organisation called for the authorities to drop the charges and release her immediately, arguing that her right to privacy and liberty had been violated. Police in capital of Rabat arrested Hajar Raissouni on 31 August and allegedly interrogated her about her private life.
The Financial Times reports that Hungary is drawing up plans to upgrade diplomatic relations with Syria, a move that will anger EU members. Budapest has for months been working on a proposal to send a chargé d’affaires back to Syria, according to diplomats in Brussels and Beirut, which would be a precursor to reopening its closed embassy eventually.
In Reuters, Maayan Lubell examines whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can win a record fifth term
Netanyahu rushed to safe room during rocket attack in southern Israel: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was rushed off stage during a campaign event last night in Ashdod, as rocket sirens went off in the southern Israeli city, Israeli media reported yesterday. The IDF later confirmed that two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip, both of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome defence system. Images and video of Netanyahu cutting his speech short and being hustled off stage to a safe room by his security detail quickly went viral. Channel 12 speculated that Palestinian groups knew the premier was holding a campaign event at that time in Ashdod, since it was broadcast live on Netanyahu’s Facebook page – contrary to normal security practices for senior officials in sensitive regions. Yediot Ahronot’s Nahum Barnea wrote that, “Regardless of their political affiliations, the rest of the Israelis are also going to have a hard time forgetting those images. Hamas, a small terror organisation, succeeded in forcing the prime minister of Israel into a bomb shelter.” Netanyahu later returned to the stage and resumed the campaign event. Overnight, IDF fighter jets struck 15 targets inside the Gaza Strip, including a weapons production site, naval assets and a tunnel.
Bolton firing roils Israeli politics: Israeli media reported extensively on the firing of US national security adviser John Bolton yesterday. The move, announced by President Donald Trump via twitter, was viewed in Israel as a step away from Washington’s hardline policies against Iran championed by Bolton. As Trump explained the firing, he “disagreed strongly with many of [Bolton’s] suggestions.” Channel 13’s Barak Ravid described it as “the real dramatic announcement yesterday,” contrasting it with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s declaration of intent to annex the Jordan Valley. Gabi Ashkenazi, number four in the Blue and White party, told Israel Army Radio this morning that “I would be worried about the possibility that after this agreement between Iran and the Americans, Israel will be left on her own against Iran, something that all prime ministers before Netanyahu were very careful to avoid.”
Camera amendment: Kann Radio reported that the Knesset was set to vote this afternoon on legislation that would allow cameras to be placed at polling stations during next week’s general election. The measure is unlikely to pass since the Netanyahu government lacks an absolute 61-vote majority, a fact that has not dissuaded the government from bringing it to a vote. Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party will reportedly boycott the vote, and Blue and White will abstain, so as not to hand Prime Minister Netanyahu an image of them voting against the legislation. The Knesset plenum is expected to be only half-full for the speeches and vote surrounding the issue.