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Bashar Assad arrest warrant issued by French court for 2013 chemical attacks in Syria.

Arrest Warrant for Assad, Iran’s Cybercrimes, Hezbollah Expands, US Urges Diplomacy

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Top Headlines: 

  • Arrest Warrant Against Bashar Assad in France
  • Second Syrian American Murdered by Assad Regime Confirmed
  • Hezbollah Expands, Israel Urged to Diplomacy, Western Pleas to Nasrallah
  • Iran’s Cybercrimes: Extortion, Service Damage, Data Theft
  • UAE Mediates Successful Prisoner Exchange Between Russia and Ukraine

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SYRIA 

  1. French Court Approves Arrest Warrant Against Bashar Assad for 2013 Chemical Attacks

The Paris Court of Appeal has upheld an arrest warrant against Bashar al-Assad for complicity in crimes against humanity linked to the 2013 chemical attacks in Syria. The arrest warrant serves several critical functions: it applies international legal pressure on Assad, restricts his ability to travel, acts as a symbolic condemnation, sets a precedent for prosecuting heads of state for crimes against humanity, and supports ongoing legal proceedings. It also provides a sense of justice for the victims and their families. The prosecutor is considering an appeal to the Court of Cassation, but the Paris court’s decision stands as a decisive step toward justice for the victims of Assad’s regime. Rejecting the National Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor’s request to cancel the warrant due to presidential immunity, the court’s decision highlights Assad’s direct involvement in the brutal sarin gas attacks in Daraa, Douma, and Guta Eastern, which claimed over a thousand lives. The investigation, ongoing since 2021, has resulted in four arrest warrants, including for Assad, his brother Maher, and two officers. Compelling evidence from photos, videos, and testimonies of survivors and defectors underpins these warrants. The court’s ruling follows complaints by several human rights organizations and covers attacks in Adra and Douma that injured 450 people. Based on “universal jurisdiction,” this landmark case emphasizes the international community’s commitment to holding Assad accountable for his heinous crimes.

  1. Second Syrian American Murdered by Assad Regime Confirmed

A new detailed report has revealed the death of Jamal Shaheen Al-Matni, a Syrian-American citizen, under torture in the Assad regime’s Saydnaya Military Prison. Al-Matni, originally from Suwayda and born in 1952, returned to Syria in March 2021 after decades in the United States. Shortly after his return, he was arrested by Syrian Military Intelligence and subsequently tortured to death. His family only learned of his death through a civil registry statement, revealing he died on December 23, 2021. This disclosure follows the recent announcement of the murder of Syrian-American doctor Majd Kamlmaz by the Assad regime. Al-Matni’s family faced significant blackmail and obfuscation from Syrian authorities, including false accusations of terrorism and demands for ransom. 

  1. Syria Among Worst for Child Recruitment and Trafficking

Syria has been identified as one of the 13 worst countries for human trafficking in a recent U.S. report, alongside Afghanistan, North Korea, and China. The report criticized not only the Syrian regime forces, pro-regime militias, and non-state groups for recruiting children but also highlighted the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) for similar actions. Despite promises to cease such practices, the SDF continues to exploit children, often through misleading training course advertisements. The “Revolutionary Youth Movement,” affiliated with the Democratic Union Party, was also noted for deceiving and forcibly recruiting children into extremist structures under the guise of training courses in northeastern Syria.

  1. Israel Acknowledges Bombing Syrian Village in Quneitra

Israel admitted to bombing the village of Al-Hamidiyah in Syria’s Quneitra region through leaflets dropped by aircraft. The leaflets, addressed to Syrian military leaders and soldiers, warned against any military presence violating agreements. This follows earlier leaflets threatening regime army members and Hezbollah collaborators. The bombing caused material damage, though no casualties were reported. Israel’s actions are part of ongoing efforts to prevent Hezbollah’s activities near the occupied Golan Heights, highlighting the region’s tense security situation. Israeli military patrols and construction activities along the border have intensified since mid-2022.

  1. Iranian Militia Leader Inspects Al-Bukamal Post-Airstrike

Haj Askar, a key military and security official for Iranian militias, inspected Al-Bukamal and nearby positions along the Euphrates River after an airstrike targeted a militia site in the area. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that four medium-sized trucks, accompanied by Iraqi Hezbollah vehicles, crossed from Iraq into Syria. This visit follows the June 21 airstrike that killed three, including two Iraqi nationals. Askar’s tour began in Al-Qaim, Iraq, and proceeded immediately upon his arrival in Al-Bukamal. This inspection aligns with recent visits by other Iranian military leaders, including Haj Amin, to address the heightened threat from the Islamic State in the region and to discuss needed reinforcements for militia ranks. 

  1. Iranian Militias and ISIS Escalate Pressure on SDF in Northeastern Syria

Renewed clashes between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Iran-backed National Defense Militia in Deir ez-Zor Governorate resulted in several injuries and collateral damage. The confrontation near Al-Jardhi saw both sides exchange fire, causing five injuries. In response, the SDF has reinforced its positions along the Euphrates River, anticipating further attacks. Concurrently, the Iranian-backed Iraqi Hezbollah militia sent reinforcements to the region. In separate operations supported by the U.S.-led coalition forces, the SDF also conducted a raid, capturing an alleged ISIS operative. In retaliation, ISIS-affiliated gunmen set fire to an oil well in Deir ez-Zor’s Sayjan field after the well’s investor refused to pay zakat, illustrating ISIS’s continued influence and extortion efforts. Despite their expulsion, ISIS still demands zakat taxes from locals to fund its operations, with the investor having received prior threats via WhatsApp. This incident, alongside recent attacks on oil tanks by unidentified gunmen, demonstrate the rise of ISIS in Syria.

  1. Suwayda Locals Pressure Regime into Moving Confrontational Checkpoint

The people of As-Suwayda effectively achieved the removal of a newly established regime checkpoint near Al-Anqud roundabout. Following armed clashes and intense mediation by local religious and civil bodies, an agreement was reached to relocate the checkpoint westward and convert it into a non-search military point. This marks a major victory for the local factions and residents, who demanded the checkpoint’s removal. Sheikh Yusuf Jarbou’s efforts were instrumental in this outcome. The factions agreed to cease escalation, and the regime pledged not to erect new checkpoints, with implementation expected within two days.

  1. Syrian Regime Promotes New High-Value Banknotes After Economic Challenges

Muhammad Khair al-Akkam, a member of Assad’s parliament, suggested introducing new, higher-value banknotes, despite official denials. He claimed this move, alongside electronic payments, would not harm the economy or cause inflation. Al-Akkam linked potential economic improvements to political progress and asserted that a stable exchange rate over the past year indicates positive economic decisions. Meanwhile, economist Hassan Hazouri noted that inflation necessitates issuing larger denominations. The Central Bank previously denied plans to issue 10,000-pound notes, but market demand for higher-value notes has led to shortages of smaller denominations.

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ISRAEL-HEZBOLLAH CRISIS

  1. Hezbollah Expands, Israel Urged to Diplomacy, Western Pleas to Nasrallah

As Hezbollah is reportedly coordinating with Iran and Russia preparing to expand its naval operational reach in addition to ground preparations, US leaders were meeting with the Israeli Defense Minister in Washington urging a diplomatic solution with the faction. The Israeli defense minister informed his US counterpart that his country is prepared to use unprecedented weapons and ensure a swift resolution. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited IDF soldiers in the north, vowing to achieve total victory over Israel’s enemies. He expressed confidence in the troops, stating, “I rely on you and the people of Israel rely on you.” Meanwhile on the other side, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock met with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati. Baerbock stressed the need for cooperation to reduce escalation and achieve a ceasefire. Meanwhile, U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein warned Hezbollah in Beirut that continued attacks could provoke Israeli military action, and he urged a diplomatic resolution. Despite Hezbollah’s denials of seeking war, its strikes on northern Israel persist. National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz emphasized the IDF’s capability to dismantle Hezbollah swiftly, highlighting the importance of addressing the regional threat posed by Iran.

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ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Israeli Court Orders Ultra-Orthodox Conscription, Sparking Controversy

The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students must be drafted, causing significant political upheaval. Approximately 3,000 students will receive draft orders, a number the ultra-Orthodox community can reportedly tolerate. The court acknowledges that full immediate conscription is impractical and allows for gradual implementation. Reactions are mixed: some political figures support the decision for justice, while others, like United Torah Judaism members, see it as a threat to the Torah’s role in Jewish survival. Rabbi Moshe Maya, a former Shas MK, criticized the ruling as an “offense to religion” and vowed resistance, emphasizing the importance of Torah study for divine protection. In contrast, MK Naama Lazimi of the Labor Party argued that such views misrepresent Sephardic tradition and criticized the use of religious teachings for political purposes.

  1. IDF Strike in Gaza Kills Sister of Hamas Chief Haniyeh

An Israeli airstrike in Gaza City reportedly killed the sister of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and nine other family members. The IDF did not comment on the attack but confirmed targeting Hamas operatives in separate strikes on Gaza City schools, used for terror activities and holding hostages. The IDF emphasized efforts to minimize civilian casualties and criticized Hamas for using civilian structures as shields.

  1. Israel Intercepts Iran-Backed Iraqi Militia Drone Aimed at Eilat

The Israeli defense forces intercepted the drone before it entered the area, causing it to crash into the Red Sea near Eilat. The “Islamic Resistance in Iraq” claimed responsibility and vowed to continue its pattern of assaults using also ballistic missiles. Eilat authorities have urged residents to adhere to Home Front Command safety directives.

  1. Israel Fears Iran May Exploit U.S. Elections to Achieve Nuclear Capability

During a Pentagon visit, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin of Iran’s potential to advance its nuclear ambitions amid U.S. election distractions and Israel’s regional conflicts. Gallant emphasized the urgency of American intervention to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Concerns are heightened by Iran’s strategic patience and Hezbollah’s provocations on Israel’s northern border. The meeting also addressed U.S.-Israel cooperation, regional security, and the importance of a diplomatic resolution to ongoing conflicts. The U.S. reaffirmed its commitment to Israel’s defense and the urgency of diplomatic efforts to avoid further escalation.

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IRAN

  1. Iran’s Cybercrimes: Extortion, Service Damage, Data Theft

Iran’s cyberattacks have tripled since Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre, targeting Israel and nations like the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Germany, according to Gaby Portnoy at Tel Aviv University’s Cyber Week conference. Iran’s cybercrimes include information extortion, damaging global digital services, and stealing government data for cyber-terrorism. They have increased attacks on Israel, targeting critical infrastructure, conducted disinformation campaigns with fake social media accounts, and masqueraded as Israeli hackers. They also claimed to breach the Dimona nuclear facility, stealing confidential documents. 

  1. Iran Unveils 17 New Energy Projects to Boost Production

Iran has inaugurated 17 new oil, refining, and petrochemical projects, including crude oil storage tanks, a gas pressure boosting station, and a pipeline. The projects are expected to increase crude oil production by 10,000 barrels per day, collect 4 million cubic meters of flare gas, and boost Euro-5 diesel production by 5.7 million liters per day. They also expand crude oil storage capacity by 18 million barrels and petrochemical production by 3 million tons annually. Iran’s Oil Minister Javad Owji highlighted that these projects are part of a $34 billion investment aimed at enhancing energy output and exports.

  1. Iran’s Shadow Banking Network Funnels Billions to Military

The US announced sanctions on around 50 entities and individuals for transferring billions of dollars to Iran’s military. This “shadow banking network” facilitated the Ministry of Defense and the Revolutionary Guard’s access to international finance, generating funds through oil and petrochemical sales. These funds reportedly supported Iranian agents, including the Houthis and drone transfers to Russia. The new sanctions target companies in Iran, Turkiye, Hong Kong, and other countries, freezing their US assets and prohibiting American dealings with them. Iran’s UN mission condemned the sanctions as part of an “economic war” against its people.

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YEMEN

  1. Houthi Militia Secures $2 Billion Annually from Telecoms

The Houthi militia in Yemen secures $2 billion annually from the telecommunications sector, significantly funding their military and espionage efforts. Exploiting telecom infrastructure, including submarine cables, they impose a 1% levy on telecom bills to sustain their militia fund. The Yemeni government’s inability to reclaim control over this sector has enabled continued Houthi dominance and revenue generation. The centralized infrastructure in Sana’a has facilitated this control, highlighting the urgent need for strategic intervention to disrupt their financial and surveillance capabilities.

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IRAQ

  1. Iraq Allocates Billions to Enhance Air Defense and Weapons Capabilities

Iraq has allocated $3.826 billion, with $2.295 billion for the current year, to enhance its military capabilities. The funds will be used to purchase new weapons, including French Rafale aircraft, and to improve air defense systems and radars. Despite having 95 combat aircraft from various countries, Iraq seeks to bolster its airspace security due to its vast desert areas. Technical and military committees are contracting for anti-aircraft weapons. Experts argue the budget is insufficient but emphasize the importance of advanced air defenses and diversified armament sources to protect Iraqi skies and support military operations.

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 THE GULF

  1. Saudi Arabia to Buy 80 Electric Trucks from China in World’s Largest Single Electric Truck Contract

The General Authority of Ports (Mawani) signed a major contract with the Chinese company Sany to supply King Abdulaziz Port in Dammam with 80 electric trucks, marking the largest single contract for electric trucks globally. This $1.8 billion investment will make the port the largest in the Middle East to utilize such a fleet, enhancing its role as a sustainable logistics hub. The initiative aligns with Saudi Vision 2030 and the Green Saudi Arabia Initiative by reducing emissions and operational costs. This strategic partnership aims to modernize the port’s infrastructure and bolster its logistical efficiency.

  1. UAE Mediates Successful Prisoner Exchange Between Russia and Ukraine

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the successful mediation between Russia and Ukraine, leading to the exchange of 180 prisoners from both sides. The UAE reaffirmed its commitment to supporting peaceful resolutions and reducing escalation through dialogue and diplomacy. This mediation effort aims to contribute to a peaceful solution to the conflict and alleviate its humanitarian impact. The announcement underscores the UAE’s ongoing efforts to facilitate diplomatic initiatives in the region.

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 EGYPT

  1. Egypt to Import $1.18 Billion in Fuel to Halt Power Outages

Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly announced plans to import $1.18 billion worth of fuel oil and natural gas to mitigate ongoing power outages worsened by heat waves. The shipments are expected to arrive by the third week of July, aiming to stabilize electricity supply for the rest of the summer. This move is part of the government’s efforts to address the energy crisis and ensure uninterrupted power during the peak usage months.

  1. Egyptian Banks Raise International Credit Card Limits Amid Currency Decline

Egypt’s three largest banks have increased the limits on international credit card transactions by 50% and halved foreign exchange commissions to 5%. This move aims to reassure dollar holders and card users about the availability of foreign currency. The changes come as the Egyptian pound dropped 1.7% against the dollar, reaching its lowest level in 70 days. The National Bank of Egypt, Banque Misr, and Commercial International Bank have all raised their credit card limits and reduced fees, aiming to restore normalcy and counter rumors of a black market for currency trading.

  1. Egypt Attracts $2.4 Billion in Arab Investments in Six Months

Egypt received $2.46 billion in net investment from Arab countries in the first half of the fiscal year 2023-24, with the UAE leading at $951.2 million. The Central Bank of Egypt reported an overall increase in net foreign investments to $3.208 billion by the second quarter of 2023. The flexible exchange rate policy and the Ras al-Hikma deal are expected to boost further Arab and foreign investments. Egypt aims to attract $30 billion in foreign direct investments in the fiscal year 2024-25, up from $10 billion in 2022-23.

  1. Power Cuts Fuel Public Outrage in Egypt During Heatwave

Egypt’s government extended power outages from two to three hours daily, aggravating public anger over persistent electricity shortages. Residents in Cairo and Alexandria experienced outages up to six hours, disrupting daily life and vital services. The cuts coincide with a severe heatwave and are attributed to high gas consumption at power stations. Media figures criticized the government’s lack of transparency and planning, while social media users mocked the government’s handling of the crisis. Experts warned of further disruptions due to delayed gas shipments and rising fuel costs, impacting agriculture and increasing food prices.

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 TURKIYE

  1. Turkiye Criticizes NATO Allies’ Support for Kurdish Units in Syria

Turkiye has criticized NATO allies, particularly the United States and Britain, for supporting the Kurdish People’s Protection Units in Syria, stating it contradicts alliance goals. Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan emphasized Turkiye’s higher sensitivity towards the PKK threat and continued diplomatic efforts to address the issue. Fidan highlighted Turkiye and Russia’s achievement in halting conflict between the Syrian army and opposition, urging Damascus to utilize this period for repatriation and economic revival. He expressed disappointment at Syria’s insufficient use of the current calm to resolve internal issues.

  1. Turkish-Russian Efforts Aim to Unite Syrian Regime and Opposition

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan highlighted the significant achievement by Turkiye and Russia in halting the conflict between the Syrian regime and opposition, facilitated through agreements and the Astana process. Fidan urged Damascus to use this period wisely to resolve constitutional issues, achieve peace with the opposition, and enable the return of millions of refugees to rebuild the country. Despite ongoing diplomatic efforts, Damascus has not fully utilized the opportunity. Fidan emphasized the importance of continued cooperation with Russia to stabilize Syria and address terrorism.

  1. Türkiye and Iran Discuss Bilateral Relations in Tehran

Türkiye’s Deputy Foreign Minister Burhanettin Duran met with Iran’s acting Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri in Tehran to discuss bilateral relations. The meeting followed the Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), hosted by Iran. Duran thanked Iran for hosting the forum and extended best wishes for Iran’s upcoming presidential elections. Ankara’s ambassador to Iran, Hicabi Kirlangic, also attended. Duran emphasized Türkiye’s commitment to enhancing cooperation within the 35-member ACD, Asia’s largest international platform.

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📌 In case you missed it,

📰  THE EARLY PHOENIX June 25, 2024

📰  THE EARLY PHOENIX June 24, 2024

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