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Israel Kills Top Iranian General in Damascus—How Will Tehran Respond?

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TOP HEADLINES:

  • Iran Vows Retribution for Israeli Strike on Damascus Consulate
  • White House Says Israel Agreed to Address US Concerns Over Rafah
  • Israeli Airstrike in Gaza Reportedly Kills International Aid Workers
  • Iran-Sponsored Iraqi Militant Group Vows to Arm Thousands of Jordanian Militants
  • Sullivan to Visit Riyadh for Talks on “Major Deal” Between Israel and Saudi Arabia

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★ IRAN

  1. Iran Vows Retribution for Israeli Strike on Damascus Consulate

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, pledged retaliation after seven IRGC officers, including two top generals, were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Iran’s consulate in Damascus. Among the casualties was General Mohammad-Reza Zahedi, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force in Syria. Khamenei condemned the attack and promised to make Israel regret its actions. 

  1. Iran Accuses US After Israeli Attack on Embassy in Damascus

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian conveyed a critical message to the US, implicating it in an Israeli missile strike on Iran’s embassy in Damascus, which resulted in the deaths of seven IRGC generals and military advisers. Following the attack, Iran summoned a Swiss embassy official—Switzerland represents US interests in Iran—to protest. Amirabdollahian emphasized that the US, as a backer of Israel, must be held accountable for this act, which Iran views as a terrorist attack.

  1. Iran Warned Russia of Moscow Terror Attack, Report Reveals

Iran reportedly alerted Russia to an imminent terror attack on a Moscow concert hall, which claimed 144 lives and was linked lto ISIS-K. Tehran’s warnings came days before the attack, based on intelligence gathered from interviews with ISIS operatives tied to earlier bombings in Iran. While Iran apprehended suspects after attacks in Kerman, communication lacked specifics. Both Iran and Russia disregarded US warnings.

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★ ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. White House Says Israel Agreed to Address US Concerns Over Rafah

The White House, after discussions with Israeli counterparts about Israel’s planned operation in Rafah, said Israel agreed to consider US concerns regarding potential humanitarian consequences of such an operation. The Biden administration has signaled it would not support an Israeli operation in Rafah without significant steps by the IDF to minimize civilian casualties and to increase the flow of humanitarian aid.

  1. IDF on High Alert After Zahedi’s Assassination

In the wake of the strike near Damascus that killed Quds Force commander Mohamad Reza Zahedi, the Israeli Army increased its readiness for potential Iranian retaliation, especially potential threats to Israeli diplomatic missions globally. Iran claimed that three missiles from an Israeli F-35 targeted the location where prominent Iranian commanders were present.

  1. US Nears Approval for Largest Arms Sale to Israel Since October 7th

The US is on the verge of approving its most significant arms sale to Israel since the Gaza conflict began on October 7th. The proposed deal encompasses a range of weaponry, from fighter jets to air-to-air missiles. The Biden administration is considering the sale of up to 50 new F-15 fighter jets, 30 AIM-120 medium-range air-to-air missiles, and precision-guided munition kits, with a potential value exceeding $18 billion. 

  1. Israeli Airstrike in Gaza Reportedly Kills International Aid Workers

An Israeli airstrike in Gaza reportedly resulted in the deaths of seven World Central Kitchen staff, including nationals from Australia, Britain, and Poland. The incident occurred despite coordination with the IDF, in a zone supposedly safe from conflict. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called for accountability for the death of an Australian citizen involved, emphasizing the need for the protection of civilians and humanitarian workers. The IDF is conducting a high-level investigation into the event, which has drawn international condemnation and led to the temporary suspension of WCK’s operations in Gaza.

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★ IRAQ

  1. Iran-Sponsored Iraqi Militant Group Vows to Arm Thousands of Jordanian Militants

The Iraqi Hezbollah Brigades’ security chief, Abu Ali al-Askari, announced plans to equip the Jordanian Islamic Resistance with weapons for 12,000 fighters, including light and medium arms, anti-tank launchers, tactical missiles, millions of rounds of ammunition, and tons of explosives. This move aims to defend Palestinians and disrupt land routes to Israel. Meanwhile, the group claimed responsibility for attacking Eilat, Israel. The announcement follows a reduction in attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, as noted by U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller. The Iraqi Resistance, aligned with Iran, has been active in attacks on U.S. and international forces in Iraq and Syria since mid-October, escalating since the Gaza conflict began. In response, the U.S. has launched airstrikes against Iraqi militia leaders, resulting in several deaths.

  1. Iraq Connects its Power Grid to Jordan, Opening the Way for Jordanian Electricity Exports

Iraq will initiate a 340-kilometer power line from Jordan, enhancing its energy diversification efforts and addressing chronic power shortages. Starting operation on Saturday, this line will initially supply 40 megawatts to the Al-Rutbah region, eventually increasing to 500 megawatts for Anbar province. This move aims to alleviate dependency on Iranian imports, which are subject to U.S. sanctions and intermittent disruptions. Iraq, despite its significant oil resources, faces daily power outages, exacerbated during summer’s extreme heat, driving the need for reliable energy solutions.

  1. US Ambassador Urges KDP not to Boycott June Elections

US Ambassador to Iraq Alina L. Romanowski is actively encouraging the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) to participate in the upcoming June 10 elections in the Kurdistan region. The KDP announced last month it will boycott due to concerns over election fairness, particularly after Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court invalidated the minority quota seats in February. Romanowski’s discussions in Erbil with Kurdish leaders focused on seeking a peaceful resolution and the importance of KDP’s involvement for a legitimate election process. 

  1. Iraq and Saudi Arabia Partner to Clear Cluster Bombs in Southern Iraq

Iraq has teamed up with Saudi Arabia to tackle the removal of cluster bomb remnants in the Muthanna governorate, with the signing of a memorandum of understanding facilitated by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre. This initiative aims to clear about 91 square kilometers of land contaminated with explosive ordnance, marking a significant step in addressing one of the highest concentrations of explosive remnants in the world. This effort aligns with Iraq’s commitment to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, targeting a mine-free status by 2028, following extensive contamination from historical conflicts and defensive measures by ISIS.

  1. Iraqi Militants Ease Confrontation with US, But Target Israel

Following attacks on Iraqi Hezbollah leader Abu Bakr al-Sadr in February, Iraqi militant factions, operating under the “Axis of Resistance,” are showing restraint towards US military targets, but announcing assaults on Israel, with the latest targeting Eilat. The Israeli military confirmed an aerial attack on Eilat from the east, causing no casualties. The Iran-backed Iraqi factions, labeled as “Islamic Resistance in Iraq,” claimed responsibility for the strike. Iraqi armed factions also announced they have targeted the Israeli Tel Nof Airbase in Rahovot using drones. 

  1. Iran-Linked Iraqi Federal Court to Review Legality of US Forces’ Presence in Iraq

The Iraqi Federal Supreme Court is poised to review a lawsuit challenging the presence of US forces in Iraq. The suit, lodged against the Iraqi Prime Minister and President, seeks reparations for damages since January 1, 2009. Initiated by Iraqi MP Basim Khushan, the lawsuit disputes the legality of the US military’s stay under the existing security pact with Iraq and calls for its cancellation. Khushan contends that the US military presence has been detrimental and advocates for their departure. The legal action coincides with ongoing negotiations between Iraq and the US over a new military accord. Iran-backed militias are calling for the withdrawal of US forces after targeted strikes on Iran-aligned militia leaders and facilities.

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★ SYRIA

  1. Russia Calls for UN Security Council Session on “Damascus Attack” Tuesday

Russia’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Dmitry Polyanskiy, announced the UN Security Council will convene an open session Tuesday regarding Israel’s attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus. Polyanskiy stated that Tehran sent a message to the Security Council condemning the airstrike, prompting the session. The meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. New York time. Iran’s Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Zahra Ershadi, requested in a letter to the Security Council a condemnation of the attack and an urgent meeting to address Israel’s alleged violations of international law, according to IRNA news agency.

  1. Iranian-backed Militants Attack US Base in Eastern Syria

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Monday evening that armed groups supported by Iran attacked the US Tanf Base in Syria with a drone. This assault follows Israel’s strike on Iran’s consulate in Damascus earlier in the day. The Observatory noted these groups had refrained from attacks on the base for over a month. The attack reportedly failed, with the downing of a suicide drone near the base perimeter with no reported damages. 

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★ LEBANON

  1. US Proposal for Lebanon Peace Deal on Hold Pending Gaza Cease Fire

Proposals by U.S. Envoy Amos Hochstein for a diplomatic solution to Lebanon’s internal political stalemate and to the Israel-Hizballah border conflict are on hold, awaiting potential outcomes of a “Gaza ceasefire.” Local issues, especially municipal elections, may see resolution or delay, while the government refrains from discussion, leaving it to parliament. Sources who spoke to the US Embassy suggested that once a Gaza ceasefire is declared, US envoy Amos Hochstein will continue mediation between Lebanon and Israel to gradually implement Resolution 1701, enhancing the army and supporting international forces to reestablish border tranquility. 

  1. Israeli Moves Portend Escalation in Lebanon

Writer Mohammed Aloush in “Al-Diyar” reported mounting conviction within Lebanese resistance circles that significant Israeli escalation looms closer, possibly following a military operation in Rafah. Sources suggested this will Not necessarily entail full-scale war, but rather a gradual increase in tension between April and May, as Israel intensifies Syrian strikes targeting arms depots, airports, and specific resistance zones. Hizballah reportedly replenished rocket stocks after intensified Israeli strikes in Qusair and Qalamoun. Israel reportedly aims to uncover Hizballah’s long-range missile reserves. Israeli plans to evacuate northern residents to Jerusalem shelters indicate the closeness to potential escalation, likely exposing northern Israel to resistance rockets from borders to Haifa. 

  1. Hezbollah Mourns Fallen Iranian Commanders, Vows Resistance

Hezbollah mourns Iranian Revolutionary Guard leaders killed in rocket strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus. Notable among the deceased is General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, honored for supporting Lebanon’s resistance movement. Hezbollah denounces Israel’s attack as a crime and vows to continue resisting. Zahedi’s sacrifice strengthens the resolve against Israel’s aggression, reinforcing the commitment to defending the oppressed. Hezbollah warns Israel that targeting leaders won’t halt resistance. The group promises retaliation against Israel’s actions.

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★ YEMEN

  1. US-British Airstrike Hits Houthi Positions in Port of Hodeidah

Houthi rebels reported a US-British airstrike on Hodeidah, Yemen’s coastal province. No immediate details on the strike’s outcome were provided. Hodeidah, vital for its airport, three key ports, and lengthy coastline, holds strategic importance. Three days earlier, the US military destroyed four Houthi drones in the Red Sea. Houthis, claiming to retaliate for the Gaza conflict, has targeted international ships, leading the US-led coalition to retaliate against the Houthis in Yemen since January 12. 

  1. US Envoy Visits Riyadh and Muscat to Discuss Stopping Houthi Attacks

US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking travels to Saudi Arabia and Oman this week to engage with regional allies on how to stop Houthi assaults in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Lenderking’s objective also will be to  strengthen peace initiatives and facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid. The US reiterates its dedication to peace in Yemen, promising backing for UN-directed peace endeavors upon the cessation of Houthi hostilities.

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★ GULF REGION

  1. Biden’s National Security Advisor Sullivan to Visit Riyadh for Talks on “Major Deal” Between Israel and Saudi Arabia

Jake Sullivan, the White House National Security Advisor, is set to visit Saudi Arabia this week for discussions with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The visit aims to advance U.S. efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. These talks, paused following a Hamas attack on Israel and subsequent Israeli strikes on Gaza in October, have recently resumed. Although a significant breakthrough is not expected during Sullivan’s visit, wide-ranging consultations on various topics are planned. This visit follows statements by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken about “good progress” in normalization talks without providing a specific timeline. Saudi Arabia seeks a defense pact with Washington and support for its civilian nuclear program in any normalization agreement.

  1. Foreign Investment in Saudi Real Estate Surged by 411% Since 2021

Foreign investment in Saudi real estate has surged by an astounding 411% over the past three years. According to Saudi newspaper “Al-Eqtisadiah,” foreign investment licenses in the real estate sector reached approximately 46 licenses in 2023, compared to just 9 licenses in 2021. Data from the Saudi Ministry of Investment indicates a 64% increase in licenses in 2023 compared to 2022. The real estate sector led investment deals in Q4 2023, with 23 completed transactions, followed by media and entertainment with ten deals. The UK led investments in Saudi Arabia with six deals, followed by the UAE, the USA, and South Korea with three deals each. Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing, Majid Al-Hogail, noted that the real estate sector contributed about 12.2% to the non-oil GDP, while construction contributed about 11.3% until Q3 of last year.

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★ EGYPT AND NORTH AFRICA

  1. Egypt’s Foreign Asset Deficit Shrinks Following Key Financial Deal

Egypt’s foreign asset deficit was reduced by 217.1 billion Egyptian pounds ($7.04 billion) to 679 billion pounds in February, following a $5 billion installment from a $24 billion deal related to the Ras El Hekma project with the UAE, announced by Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly. The impact of an $8 billion IMF support program signed on March 6 is not yet reflected in the data. The Central Bank’s reliance on foreign assets has been crucial for supporting the Egyptian currency, which adjusted to slightly below 50 pounds per dollar in March.

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★ TURKIYE

  1. EU Commends Turkey’s Municipal Elections After Big Electoral Setback for Erdogan

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell commended the orderly conduct and professionalism of Turkey’s municipal elections, culminating in an opposition triumph. Citing the elections as evidence of Turkey’s dedication to local democratic processes, Borrell underscored the significance of fundamental rights and democratic principles in the context of EU-Turkey relations. The secular Republican People’s Party achieved victories in key urban centers, including Istanbul, over President Erdogan’s party. Borrell voiced his anticipation for reforms that would foster closer integration with the EU, in the context of halted membership discussions since 2018, and the pursuit of stronger collaboration in areas such as migration, energy, and commerce.

  1. Is Selcuk Bayraktar the Natural Successor to Erdogan?

Turkish engineer Selcuk Bayraktar, renowned for his “TB2” drones that were crucial in Ukraine’s defense against Russia and have been deployed in various global conflicts, has become a notable figure in Turkey. As the son-in-law of President Erdogan, Bayraktar’s drones have enhanced his profile as a potential future leader. Although he has dismissed any political aspirations, there is ongoing conjecture about his possible presidential run, especially as Erdogan approaches the conclusion of his term limit by 2028. Bayraktar’s drones, acclaimed for transforming the dynamics of warfare, add to his growing prominence as Turkey seeks to expand its international clout.

  1. Turkey’s Shift From Anti-Israel Rhetoric to Diplomatic Reconciliation

The Erdogan government, in the midst of a change in domestic politics following Erdogan’s losses in local elections, is seeking to repair diplomatic relations with Israel, diverging from Erdogan’s prior anti-Israel statements. Even with Erdogan’s harsh critiques, a Turkish diplomat disclosed plans to enhance relations with Israel after the elections. The electoral setback experienced by Erdogan’s AK Party marks a notable change, leading to a commitment to reflection and possible policy changes. This alteration in Turkey’s political scene may influence the balance of power in the region, opening opportunities for renewed diplomatic dialogue between Turkey and Israel.

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📌 Incase you missed it,

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  April 1 , 2024
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