Far behind in polls, Israel’s Livni quits politics

Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni gives a press conference in Tel Aviv, in which she announced her retirement from politics. (AP Photo)
Updated 18 February 2019
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Far behind in polls, Israel’s Livni quits politics

  • Livni, who gained international recognition in part thanks to her past role as a negotiator with the Palestinians, also said she was bringing her Hatnua party to an end
  • She had recently helped lead Israel’s main opposition, the center-left Zionist Union alliance, but a split in January ended the arrangement that also included the Labour party

TEL AVIV: Former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, whose party has trailed far behind in polls ahead of April 9 elections, announced Monday she was retiring from politics.

Livni, who gained international recognition in part thanks to her past role as a negotiator with the Palestinians, also said her Hatnua party would not run in the elections.

The 60-year-old said in a statement before journalists in Tel Aviv she was bringing her party to “an end ... knowing I did all I could for my beloved state and to unite the forces that would fight for it. It’s not up to me any more.”

Livni, who also previously served in the Mossad spy agency, narrowly missed out on becoming prime minister after 2009 elections.

She had recently helped lead Israel’s main opposition, the center-left Zionist Union alliance, but a split in January ended the arrangement that also included the Labour party.

Labour party leader Avi Gabbay dramatically announced then that he would no longer partner with Livni as she sat stone-faced next to him.

While the Zionist Union won the second-most seats in the last general election in 2015, it more recently tumbled in opinion polls.

Livni sought to mount a campaign for April 9 elections outside the Zionist Union, but struggled to gain any traction or form the large alliance she sought.

Labour and Gabbay have also faltered in opinion polls.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to remain premier after the elections, polls consistently show, despite a series of corruption investigations into his affairs.

The attorney general is however expected to announce in the coming weeks whether he intends to indict Netanyahu, and an announcement before the elections could shake up the campaign.

The right-wing prime minister’s main challenger is seen as former military chief of staff Benny Gantz and his centrist Israel Resilience party.


Daesh militants kill 7 US-backed fighters in Syria: commanders

Updated 26 March 2019
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Daesh militants kill 7 US-backed fighters in Syria: commanders

  • Manbij is a former Daesh stronghold that is now ruled by a military council affiliated with the Syrian Democratic Forces
  • Daesh has vowed to carry out revenge attacks against the SDF

BEIRUT: Daesh militants killed seven US-backed fighters in the northern Syrian city of Manbij, its military council said on Tuesday, days after the group’s “caliphate” was declared defeated.

Daesh has claimed the Manbij attack. Manbij is a former Daesh stronghold that is now ruled by a military council affiliated with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US-backed Kurdish-led alliance which declared victory over Daesh in its last redoubt in eastern Syria on Saturday.
At around midnight (2200 GMT) on Monday, gunmen opened fire at fighters manning a checkpoint at the entrance to the city, killing seven, the council said.

“The caliphate’s soldiers attacked a checkpoint ... west of Manbij city last night,” said a statement published on the group’s social media channels.
Council spokesman Sherfan Darwish earlier said it could be a revenge attack by Daesh sleeper cells.
“After the victory over IS, we have entered the phase of sleeper cells,” Darwish said.
“These sleeper cells are being activated and carrying out attacks but we will foil their operations.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor of the war, said the attack was probably the work of Daesh, which would make it “the first attack of its kind” since the SDF declared the defeat of the caliphate last week.
Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman said it was also the bloodiest attack in Manbij since January 16, when 19 people, including four US service personnel, were killed in a suicide bombing claimed by Daesh.
Daesh has vowed to carry out revenge attacks against the SDF for the six-month offensive which culminated in the militants’ defeat in the village of Baghouz, close to the Iraqi border, on Saturday.
The Observatory said hundreds of SDF members had been killed in attacks believed to have been carried out by Daesh sleeper cells since August.
Manbij is also a major point of contention between the Kurds, who lead the SDF, and neighboring Turkey, which is deeply opposed to their autonomous administration in northeastern and parts of northern Syria.
The city is one of the few areas west of the Euphrates that remains under Kurdish influence after Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel allies overran the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in March last year.
In December, Ankara threatened to launch a new offensive to dislodge the People’s Protection Units (YPG) — the Kurdish force that forms the backbone of the SDF — from the entire length of the border.
The YPG is considered a terrorist group by Ankara because of its links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the outlawed rebel group that has fought a deadly insurgency for self-rule in southeastern Turkey since 1984.