The Early Phoenix

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No Gaza Cease Fire, but Palestinians Name New Prime Minister


  • Abbas to Name New Palestinian Prime Minister
  • Lebanon Lodges UNSC Complaint Against Israel for Airstrikes
  • Jordan’s Queen Accuses Israel of Deliberately Starving Gazans
  • EU Prepares €7.4 Billion Aid Package for Egypt
  • Erdoğan Set for Strategic Visit to Iraq in April



  1. Abbas to Name Mohammad Mustafa as New PA Prime Minister

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas plans to appoint Mohammad Mustafa, an economist and close ally, as the next PA prime minister. This move aims to establish a technocratic government in the West Bank and prepare for eventual PA leadership in Gaza once the current conflict has ended. Mustafa will face the difficult task of forming a cabinet that meets both domestic and international expectations for reform. Skepticism stemming from his close relationship with Abbas raises questions about the potential for genuine change within the PA, especially with Abbas himself remaining as the overall head of the PA.

  1. Israeli Official Rebukes US Intel Report on Netanyahu’s Leadership

A senior Israeli official, speaking anonymously, blasted a US intelligence report that casts doubt on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership. The annual U.S. intelligence threat assessment, released to Congress on Monday, suggested Netanyahu’s position could be weakened by public dissatisfaction and ongoing protests demanding his resignation. The official emphasized Israel’s sovereignty in electing its leaders and implied that the intelligence report was part of an attempt by the U.S. administration to pressure Netanyahu out of power and steer Israelis into forming a new centrist government without him. 

  1. U.S. Military Ships Head Toward Gaza to Construct Floating Pier

Four U.S. Army vessels have departed Virginia, bound for Gaza with equipment to construct a floating pier to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza strip. The mission will involve around 1,000 U.S. troops and will seek to address the growing food crisis affecting Gaza’s 2.3 million inhabitants by enabling over 2 million meal deliveries daily.

  1. American-Israeli Soldier Itay Chen Confirmed Killed in Hamas Attack

The Israeli military has confirmed the death of Itay Chen, a 19-year-old American-Israeli soldier missing since the Hamas attack on October 7. New intelligence revealed Chen was killed on October 7 and his body taken to Gaza by Hamas. Recent cease fire talks have stalled due to Hamas’s refusal of terms for releasing the remaining hostages or revealing the status of the hostages, alive or dead, that Hamas holds.

  1. Knesset Passes Law Pressuring Palestinian Authority Finances

Israel has increased its pressure on the Palestinian Authority (PA) by passing a law in the Knesset allowing Israeli citizens affected by Palestinian armed actions to seek compensation. The move could result in significant new pressure on already weakened PA finances and affect the struggling economy in PA territories.

  1. Israeli Police Shoot Palestinian Teen Who Aimed Fireworks at Them in East Jerusalem

In East Jerusalem’s Shuafat refugee camp, Israeli Border Police officers fatally shot a 13-year-old Palestinian who aimed fireworks at them. Witnesses claimed the fireworks posed no threat to the officers. Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir commended the police response to the incident.

  1. Ben Gvir Calls for Declaration of War on Lebanon

Following Hizballah’s launch of over 100 rockets into Israel, Israeli National Security Minister Ben-Gvir publicly urged Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to declare war on Lebanon. The Israeli military responded to the Hizballah rocket salvo by striking Hizballah targets in Lebanon, including as far north as Baalbek in the Bekaa Valley. Israeli officials threatened further attacks on Lebanese territory unless Hizballah withdraws from the border area.

  1. Gantz Ally Breaks Away, Demands Independent Seat in Israeli War Cabinet

Gideon Sa’ar, Israeli Minister and former ally of Benny Gantz, has announced his departure from their joint political platform and his plans to reinstate his previous party, New Hope, to ensure his perspectives are represented in the Israeli War Cabinet. The move comes after months of growing political discord between Sa’ar and Gantz, with Sa’ar expressing a desire to return to his right-wing roots while Gantz remains aligned with more left-wing or centrist factions. The Knesset House Committee is set to discuss the reformation of New Hope, as Sa’ar and his followers seek a more significant role in shaping Israel’s wartime policies.



  1. Israel Expands Airstrikes in Southern Lebanon and the Bekaa

Israel has extended its strikes against Hizballah leaders deeper into Southern Lebanon, targeting areas over 12 kilometers from the border, mirroring Hizballah’s range of attack on Israeli military headquarters in Safed. On Wednesday morning, Israel killed senior Hamas leader Hadi Mustafa as he traveled by car in southern Lebanon. The strike came a day after the IDF revealed that it had hit approximately 4,500 Hizballah targets in Lebanon and Syria over the last five months, killing more than 300 Hizballah fighters and injuring over 750. Israeli strikes recently have begun to stretch much further north to Baalbek in the Northern Bekaa Valley, widening the confrontation zone far beyond the southern Lebanese border.

  1. Lebanon Lodges UN Security Council Complaint Against Israel for Baalbek Attacks

Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib has instructed Lebanon’s UN mission to file a complaint with the UN Security Council following Israeli airstrikes on 11 and 12 March 2024 in Baalbek. Bou Habib and the Foreign Ministry claimed the strikes in regions far from Lebanon’s southern border indicated Israel’s intent to widen the conflict and potentially trigger a regional war. Lebanon urged international pressure on Israel to stop airstrikes in Lebanon.

  1. Nasrallah Meets Hamas Negotiator, Supports Hamas Demand for Permanent Ceasefire

Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah hosted senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya, Deputy Hamas Chief in Gaza, to coordinate positions on the ongoing Gaza cease-fire negotiations. Nasrallah supported Hamas’s insistence on a complete, permanent ceasefire as a precondition for releasing hostages. Meanwhile, an anonymous Hamas official revealed ongoing coordination with Hezbollah regarding their conflict with Israel, but also indicated the possibility of a non-declared truce during Ramadan. The Hamas official blamed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the lack of a breakthrough in ceasefire negotiations. Conversely, Israel accuses Hamas of not genuinely seeking a ceasefire and aiming instead to raise Middle East tensions during the Muslim holy month.



  1. Queen Rania Accuses Israel of Deliberately Starving Gazans, Calls for Immediate Ceasefire

Jordan’s Queen Rania, in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, highlighted the severe humanitarian impact of the war in Gaza and accused Israel of deliberately restricting Gaza’s access to basic needs. She described the situation as “deprivation by design” and called for an immediate ceasefire and for an international humanitarian aid operation for Gazans. Queen Rania said the atrocities of October 7 do not justify Israel’s actions in Gaza and said that Palestinians have endured hardships at Israel’s hands equivalent to Israel’s suffering on October 7. Her remarks drew immediate criticism from senior Israelis, including Israeli Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who tweeted that the Queen should remember her late father-in-law King Hussein’s experience with Palestinian terrorism, adding, “Black September sends you its best regards.”



  1. Houthis Attack USS Mason, Greek Ship Repels Houthi Drones

U.S. Central Command announced that Iran-backed Houthi militants fired a ballistic missile from Yemen towards the USS Mason in the Red Sea on Tuesday, but the missile failed to hit the destroyer and caused no casualties or damage. In a related action, U.S. and coalition forces intercepted and destroyed two Houthi-launched drones. Meanwhile, a Greek naval vessel, part of the European Union’s Red Sea protection mission, engaged and repelled two drones, forcing them to retreat, a Greek Defense Staff official said on Wednesday. The EU began its Red Sea mission in February to help protect the main maritime trade route from Houthis attacks. Greece is participating with a frigate in this mission.

  1. German Shippers Say Houthi Attacks Add $1 Million Cost per Voyage

The German Shipowners’ Association (VDR) announced on Tuesday that shipping companies are facing an extra expense of $1 million for each voyage due to the necessity of rerouting around the Cape of Good Hope. This change, aimed at avoiding Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, has significantly affected the global trade flow. Since mid-November, Houthi assaults from Yemen have targeted ships bound for or connected to Israel, disrupting one of the most vital trade pathways, which facilitates 12% of global commerce. 



  1. Iranian Hardliners Quarrel over Parliament Speaker Position

Having won Iran’s recent elections two weeks ago, hardliner factions now find themselves in a fierce battle over the position of Speaker of Parliament. Current speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf is emerging as one of the most prominent contenders, but challengers for the position are increasing due to Qalibaf’s declining popularity among voters and intense competition from other hard-line conservatives. The hardliner infighting has caused Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to war Iran’s political blocs of the dangers of internal rivalry. 

  1. US Intel Report Predicts Instability in Post-Khamenei Iran

The intra-hardliner tension aligns with the U.S. intelligence community’s recent prediction of political instability in a post-Khamenei Iran. The U.S. report assessed that the eventual death of Khamenei may pose significant challenges for a country grappling with deep internal divisions and economic woes. The report notes that the Islamic Republic has had only a single leadership transition in its 45-year history, and Khamenei’s 30+ years of rule have resulted in escalating discontent over governance and social restrictions. The report underscores Iran’s economic struggles, with inflation outpacing wage growth and diminishing household spending power. 



  1. U.S. Pressures Iraqi Prime Minister to Resolve Disputes with Kurds Ahead of Washington Visit

Ahead of Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani’s anticipated visit to the White House, his first since assuming office in October 2022, Washington is pressuring Baghdad to mend relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government. During recent meetings at the World Economic Forum in Davos, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan emphasized the importance of progress in resolving the disputes between Baghdad and Erbil. Ongoing tensions involve budget allocations and oil export disputes, with the Iraqi Federal Court issuing decisions that undermine Kurdistan’s constitutionally established autonomy. 

  1. Iraq in Talks to Import Turkmen Gas Via Iran

Iraq is in talks to import Turkmenistan’s gas through Iran, aiming for delivery as early as this summer, according to Iraqi Electricity Minister Ziyad Ali Fadel. A protocol signed in November 2023 outlines the commercial terms for a five-year transfer agreement. With all prerequisites met by January 2024, the deal awaits final negotiations with Iran for transit arrangements. Turkmenistan commits to supplying 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually to Iraq. Iraq’s power plants heavily rely on gas imports, particularly from Iran.


★ The Gulf

  1. Saudi Council of Ministers Reiterates the Kingdom’s Requirement for Two-State Solution

Meeting on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers called for an immediate end to Israel’s “aggression” in the Gaza strip and reiterated the Kingdom’s position that there must be a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with an independent Palestinian state in 1967 boundaries. The Council also called on the parties in the Sudan conflict to abide by the commitments they made in the the Jeddah Agreement of last year.



  1. EU Prepares €7.4 Billion Aid Package for Egypt

To bolster Egypt’s economy and address the migration crisis, the European Union has devised a €7.4 billion aid package. The initiative, announced by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen alongside leaders from Greece, Italy, and Belgium during a visit to Cairo, marks the latest in EU agreements with North African countries. The package encompasses grants and loans through 2027, immediate financial aid of €1 billion, and further support contingent on IMF-negotiated reforms. It also focuses on energy sector support, managing the influx of Sudanese refugees, and securing Egypt’s borders with Libya to mitigate Mediterranean crossings.



  1. Clashes Between Drug Traffickers in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor

Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria witnessed severe clashes between two drug trafficking groups under the control of Syrian forces and Iranian militias, due to disputes over drug shipments, including Captagon. The clash between factions associated with the Iranian militias and former National Defense militia leaders underscores the region’s deep-seated issues with drug trafficking. Meanwhile, Iranian militias have distributed food baskets in an effort to recruit youth by exploiting economic hardships and offering incentives in a region suffering from neglect and lack of infrastructure in rural areas.

  1. Millions of Assad Regime Captagon Pills Seized in Benghazi Port

Libyan customs at Benghazi’s seaport have intercepted millions of Captagon pills hidden in a shipment of apples from Syrian ports controlled by Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The operation uncovered 17,812,300 pills within three refrigerated containers, which were promptly destroyed. This incident aligns with broader patterns of drug trafficking attributed to Assad’s Syria and allied militias, including Hizballah. Similar smuggling attempts have been thwarted by Jordanian authorities, underscoring a systematic strategy by Assad and Iran to flood Arab nations with narcotics.



  1. Erdoğan Set for Strategic Visit to Iraq in April

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is scheduled to visit Iraq before the end of April, his first trip to Baghdad since 2012. The trip coincides with Turkiye’s establishment of a Joint Turkish-Iraqi Operations Center aimed at eliminating the PKK presence in Northern Iraq. This strategic initiative targets control points in critical regions such as Kandil, Sinjar, Mahmur, Suleimaniyah, and Gara. The collaboration includes intelligence sharing, logistical support, and military coordination to conduct operations effectively. 

  1. Erdogan Warns Against Spillover of Ukraine Conflict into NATO

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cautioned against any actions that could escalate the Ukraine conflict or spread it to NATO territories. Advocating for Ukraine’s sovereignty while maintaining balanced ties with Russia, Turkey has emerged as a key mediator, providing support to Ukraine yet opposing sanctions on Moscow. Erdogan, addressing foreign ambassadors in Ankara, highlighted Turkey’s efforts to revive the Black Sea grain deal and emphasized the importance of peace initiatives that include Russia. He announced plans to host Russian President Vladimir Putin after Russia’s elections.

  1. Turkey’s Strategic Pivot to Somalia

Turkey has marked a significant presence in the Horn of Africa by signing a military and economic agreement with Somalia on February 8, positioning it as a key gateway to Africa due to its strategic geographical location. This partnership includes an oil exploration agreement in Somalia’s regions, signaling Somalia’s potential emergence as a major oil producer. Turkey’s turn towards Somalia with full political and military weight aims to bolster the Somali army to eliminate the Al-Shabab movement within two years, raising regional and international concerns about Turkey’s growing influence in the area despite normalization efforts with several Arab countries in recent years. Turkey’s significant investments in Africa highlight its commitment to being a major player in the region amidst geopolitical rivalries.


📌 Incase you missed it,

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX March 12, 2024

🌍 The Region March 4, 2024

🔗 Follow the latest news from the American Center for Levant Studies via Google News

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