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U.S.-Saudi Defense Pact Won’t Proceed Without Israel-Saudi Normalization

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TOP HEADLINES:

  • US Clarifies:  No U.S.-Saudi Defense Pact Without Israel Normalization
  • US Defense Secretary Says Hamas Isn’t Planning Attacks on US Troops
  • UN Says Gaza Reconstruction Will Cost $40 Billion and Take Decades
  • For First Time, Bahraini Militant Group Claims Drone Attack on Israel
  • Turkey Ceases All Trade with Israel, Citing Gaza Humanitarian Concerns

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★ ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. US Defense Secretary Says Hamas Isn’t Planning Attacks on US Troops in Gaza

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has stated there are currently no indications of Hamas planning attacks on US troops stationed in Gaza. He emphasized the unpredictable nature of the combat zone while asserting that protective measures are in place. Additionally, a new US-constructed maritime pier in Gaza, aimed at improving humanitarian aid delivery, is set to open soon, despite delays caused by adverse weather.

  1. UN Estimates Gaza Reconstruction Will Cost $40 Billion

The United Nations projects that rebuilding Gaza could cost up to $40 billion and take as long as 80 years following extensive damage from prolonged conflict. Abdullah Al-Dardari, a UN official, emphasized the unprecedented scale of destruction, likening the challenge to post-World War II reconstruction. Immediate needs include housing, and restoring social and economic normalcy within three years post-ceasefire. The UNDP warns of a prolonged humanitarian crisis with severe impacts on health, education, and the local economy, requiring a significant international effort to address the extensive damage and psychological aftermath.

  1. Israel Set to Shut Down Al Jazeera’s Operations in Israel

Israel’s cabinet is expected to endorse the closure of Al Jazeera’s operations within the country, following approval from the Attorney General. This decision is part of a broader law passed on April 1st, aimed at the news network, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to enforce immediately. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has challenged the law in the Supreme Court, arguing that it infringes on free speech rights.

  1. Survivors of October 7 Attack File U.S. Lawsuit Against U.S.-Based Hamas Supporters

On Wednesday, survivors and victims of the October 7 massacre, both American and Israeli, filed a lawsuit in the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia. They accuse American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) and National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) of collaborating with Hamas to promote and justify the group’s attacks. The plaintiffs seek damages, alleging AMP and NSJP helped Hamas with PR and organized anti-Israel protests in the US. The lawsuit emphasizes this action is against supporting terrorism under the guise of free speech.

  1. UK Sanctions Israeli Extremist Groups for West Bank Violence

Britain has announced a second package of sanctions targeting extremist groups in the West Bank linked to violence against Palestinians. The British foreign ministry identified two groups, Hilltop Youth and Lehava, and four individuals, including Noam Federman and Neria Ben Pazi, citing their involvement in human rights abuses and illegal activities. The sanctions, which include asset freezes and travel bans, were introduced by Foreign Secretary David Cameron. Cameron emphasized that these measures were necessary due to the threat these groups and individuals pose to regional security and peace prospects.

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★ IRAN

  1. Iran Invites Expatriates to Check Arrest Status Online Before Visiting

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian announced that Iranian expatriates can use an online system to determine if they face arrest upon returning to Iran. This measure is aimed at easing fears among Iranians abroad concerned by ongoing detentions of dual-nationals and those who supported the 2022 protests. The system, called ‘Porseman-e Taradod,’ promises clear information on travel safety despite the Iranian regime’s strategy of using detained expatriates as leverage in international negotiations, including recent high-profile cases and demands for large ransoms from Western countries.

  1. Controversial Proposal for Opposition Unity in Iran Sparks Debate

Mehdi Nasiri, a former ideologue of Iran’s regime now in Canada, has called for a coalition between domestic reformists and royalists in exile to overthrow Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. This has ignited diverse opinions across Iran. Critics question Nasiri’s credibility, noting his past as a regime hardliner and doubting the feasibility of such an alliance. Key figures mentioned by Nasiri, including Nobel laureate Narges Mohammadi and exiled Prince Reza Pahlavi, have not responded, while commentators speculate on Nasiri’s motives and the potential impact of his proposal.

  1. Iran Frees Detained Ship Crew

Iran has released the crew of the detained MCS Aries ship as a humanitarian gesture, according to Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian. The crew was initially held for disabling their radar in Iranian waters. The release followed Amirabdollahian’s discussions with Estonia’s Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna, who welcomed the decision and advocated for enhanced bilateral cooperation. Both ministers also discussed broader issues, including the need for a ceasefire and humanitarian relief in Gaza.

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YEMEN

  1. US-UK Conduct Five Air Strikes on Hodeidah Airport in Yemen

The Houthi group has reported that Hodeidah International Airport in western Yemen was hit by five air strikes conducted by US and UK forces. These strikes are part of ongoing operations by a Washington-led coalition responding to Houthi attacks on commercial and international maritime routes in the Red Sea. No details were provided on the impact of the strikes, and there has been no immediate response from either the American or British governments regarding the operation.

  1. IMF Says External Financing Needed to Stabilize Yemen’s Economy

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has highlighted the urgent need for external financing to stabilize Yemen’s economy and support its humanitarian needs. The cessation of Yemeni oil exports has widened the fiscal deficit to 4.5% of GDP in 2023, straining the budget and foreign reserves. The IMF emphasized that Yemen’s economic recovery is contingent on the success of peace talks and reforms. Additionally, tensions in the Red Sea pose a risk to commercial activities and could reduce external support, potentially worsening Yemen’s already fragile economic situation.

  1. Yemen Faces Severe Liquidity Crisis

Yemen’s ongoing liquidity crisis has intensified, severely impacting its markets, particularly in Houthi-controlled areas. The crisis stems from a halt in oil exports, damaging the value of the Yemeni riyal, which now approaches 1,700 riyals to the US dollar. Disputes between monetary institutions have split the currency system, creating two distinct economic zones within the country. This division exacerbates the liquidity issue, driven by the circulation of damaged banknotes and recent unilateral financial decisions by the Sana’a Authority. 

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★ IRAQ

  1. Iraqi Islamic Resistance Targets Israeli Port of Eilat

The Iraqi Islamic Resistance announced today that it targeted a vital facility in Eilat, historically known as Umm Rashrash, using a drone. This action, they stated, is part of their ongoing resistance against the occupation and in support of the people in Gaza. The group emphasized its commitment to continue operations against what it calls the “aggressor entity,” in retaliation for atrocities committed against Palestinian civilians.

  1. Iraq and Kurdistan Rank Near Bottom in Press Freedoms

Reporters without Borders (RSF) has classified Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region, as one of the world’s most challenging areas for journalists, ranking it 169th out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Indicator. Despite constitutional guarantees, the reality is grim with threats of terrorism, political upheaval, and targeted attacks complicating journalists’ safety. Lawsuits, cyber-crime bills with harsh penalties, and political influence over media funding further restrict press freedom. Additionally, Amnesty International criticized Kurdistan authorities for their ongoing suppression of journalists through detentions and unfair trials.

  1. Iraqi Parties Reportedly Agree on Postponement of Kurdistan Elections

Iraqi parties have agreed to postpone the upcoming June parliamentary elections in the Kurdistan region, with Kurdistan’s President Nechirvan Barzani preparing to announce a new date. The decision, facilitated by Barzani’s negotiations, aims to address concerns raised by the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s recent election boycott over electoral boundary changes and minority seat cancellations. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani emphasized the importance of inclusive participation in these elections.

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★ SYRIA

  1. Protests Erupt in Suwayda Against Syrian Regime Reinforcements

The southern Druze-majority city of Suwayda saw significant protests in Karama Square as locals demonstrated against the Syrian regime’s recent deployment of military forces to the area. The demonstrators, coming from various nearby villages and cities, called for freedom and the regime’s overthrow. The Southern Clans Gathering issued a statement condemning the military buildup, which they claim threatens the security and cohesion of their community. They vowed to continue their peaceful protests and resist any attempts at intimidation or violence by the regime.

  1. Tensions Between Tehran and Assad Worsen Syrian Economic Crisis

Economic disagreements between Tehran and the Assad regime have emerged over the implementation of bilateral economic agreements, with Syrian officials delaying commitments citing international sanctions and a dire need for liquidity. Consequently, Iran has temporarily ceased oil supplies to Syria, demanding faster action on promised projects across various sectors. This halt in oil supply has exacerbated the living conditions in Syria, leading to increased fuel prices and intensified economic hardship for its citizens.

  1. US Admits to Mistakenly Killing Civilian in Syria Identified as ISIS Leader

US Central Command confirmed the accidental killing of a civilian during a May 2023 drone strike in Qorqania, Idlib, initially believed to be an ISIS leader. The strike targeted Lutfi Hassan Masto, a 56-year-old father and shepherd. Despite initial claims he was an ISIS leader, subsequent investigations revealed no evidence of Masto’s involvement with terrorist groups. This incident has prompted a reevaluation of targeting procedures to minimize civilian casualties. The US has faced criticism for the delay in acknowledging the mistake and the decision against compensating Masto’s family.

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LEBANON

  1. Lebanon Seeks Global Recognition of Safe Zones in Syria to Facilitate Refugee Return

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has urged for international acknowledgment that most regions in Syria are now safe enough for Syrian refugees to return home. During meetings with European leaders in Beirut, Mikati highlighted Lebanon’s strategy of prioritizing the return of Syrian economic migrants. He also expressed gratitude for the European Union’s support in bolstering Lebanon’s border control and facilitating voluntary returns in collaboration with the UNHCR. The EU has committed substantial financial aid to both Syrian refugees and Lebanese host communities, with plans to enhance the efficiency and organization of the return process.

  1. France Proposes Three-Phase Plan to Resolve Hezbollah-Israel Conflict

France has introduced a three-phase proposal aimed at resolving the ongoing conflict between Hezbollah and Israel. The plan includes an initial withdrawal of armed groups from the border, followed by the deployment of 15,000 Lebanese troops supported by UNIFIL to ensure stability. The final phase involves resuming talks between Jerusalem and Beirut to delineate their border, complemented by international support for Lebanon’s military and socio-economic development. Nabih Berri, Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, said the French proposal aimed at addressing the Israel-Hezbollah conflict contains both acceptable and contentious points that require modification. He also warned against Israel’s ongoing destruction of border towns to prevent further escalation and to uphold International Resolution 1701.

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JORDAN

  1. Hamas Intercepts Jordanian Humanitarian Aid in Gaza

The U.S. State Department reported that Hamas hijacked a Jordanian humanitarian aid shipment destined for Gaza, which was later recovered. Matthew Miller, the spokesman, stated that this act jeopardizes the well-being of Gaza’s civilians in need. The UNRWA is expected to condemn the diversion strongly. Miller described this as a significant breach by Hamas.

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★ GULF REGION

  1. US Clarifies:  No U.S.-Saudi Defense Pact Without Israel Normalization

  1. Saudi Arabia Intensifies Political Arrests Amid Normalization Moves

Saudi Arabia is reportedly increasing political arrests of individuals opposed to the Kingdom’s normalization efforts with Israel. Sources say criticism of these policies, especially via online platforms, is being closely monitored and suppressed. This tightening of internal security indicates Riyadh’s determination to control political dissent and shape public discourse on sensitive political issues.

  1. Bahraini Militant Group Claims Drone Attack on Israel

Saraya Al-Ashtar, a Bahraini Shiite militant group supported by Iran, claimed responsibility for a drone strike on April 27 against a land transportation company in Umm Al-Rashrash, Eilat, Israel. This marks the group’s first reported attack on Israel. The US has designated Saraya Al-Ashtar as a Foreign Terrorist Organization since 2018, recognizing its involvement in violent actions aimed at destabilizing Bahrain and the region.

  1. US Relocates Warplanes to Qatar After UAE Restricts US Activities

According to the Wall Street Journal, the UAE has prohibited the US from launching military operations against Yemen and Iraq from Al Dhafra Air Base, citing self-protection and the desire to avoid escalating tensions with Iran. In response, the Pentagon has relocated fighter jets, armed drones, and other aircraft to Qatar, according to a Wall Street Journal report. This repositioning reflects growing caution among Gulf states, wary of potential retaliatory attacks by Iranian proxies.

  1. UAE Boosts Oil Production Capacity Ahead of OPEC+ Meeting

The United Arab Emirates has increased its oil production capacity to 4.85 million barrels per day, a significant rise from 4.65 million at the end of last year. Announced by Abu Dhabi National Oil Co., this development occurs just as the UAE prepares for an upcoming OPEC+ meeting, where oil output levels for the latter half of 2024 will be discussed. This move reflects the UAE’s ongoing push for a higher production quota within the group.

  1. Qatar Refutes Misinformation About Ties to US University Protests

Doha has denied allegations linking Qatar to recent protests at American universities supporting Palestinian solidarity. The Qatari embassy in Washington criticized the dissemination of such claims as irresponsible and reasserted Qatar’s commitment to combating all forms of hate speech. The Embassy also said Qatar values its longstanding educational partnerships with American universities in Doha, which it said operate independently, focusing on local educational contributions without influencing or interfering with curriculum content abroad.

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★ EGYPT AND NORTH AFRICA

  1. Egypt Forms Union of Arab Tribes to Safeguard Against External Threats

Egypt has established a Union of Arab Tribes, encompassing tribal leaders from Sinai, Matrouh, and southern governorates. According to Sheikh Ali Freij, the union aims to fortify Egypt’s borders, particularly against threats from Libya and potential displacement plans concerning Gaza. This strategic initiative seeks to bolster national security and maintain Egyptian sovereignty, uniting tribes in collaboration with the Egyptian Armed Forces to combat terrorism and external aggressions.

  1. Egypt Gains Leverage in Gaza Truce Talks

According to a report by Le Figaro, Egypt is increasingly influential in brokering a ceasefire and prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas. This leverage is partly due to Egypt’s strategic relationship with Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza. Cairo’s deepening involvement comes as Israel distrusts Qatar’s mediation efforts. Egypt’s intelligence director, Abbas Kamel, actively engaged in the discussions, proposes a long-term truce, demonstrating Cairo’s pivotal role in these critical negotiations.

  1. Hamas Delegation to Visit Egypt for Ceasefire Talks

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh announced plans for a delegation to visit Egypt to advance ceasefire negotiations. The visit follows discussions with Qatar and Egypt, emphasizing the constructive roles both countries play in mediating these talks. The U.S. and Israel are focusing on a temporary truce and prisoner exchanges, while Hamas insists on a full cessation of hostilities and Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

  1. Egypt’s Economic Crisis: A Vicious Cycle of Challenges

Experts argue that despite significant international loans and Gulf support, the Egyptian economy remains in a critical state, trapped in a cycle of inefficiency and debt. At a Cairo symposium, they criticized the government’s economic management, highlighting a lack of clear identity and excessive reliance on borrowing. The state’s approach, they contend, has failed to address fundamental structural issues, leading to recurring economic problems and a reliance on temporary financial solutions without substantial institutional or economic reforms.

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★ TURKIYE

  1. Turkey Ceases All Trade with Israel, Citing Gaza Humanitarian Concerns

Turkey has terminated all trade relations with Israel, responding to what it describes as worsening humanitarian conditions in Gaza. This decision, escalating from initial export restrictions imposed on April 9, has provoked strong reactions from Israeli officials. Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz criticized Turkey for breaching trade agreements and advised looking towards local production and other trade partners. The cessation, covering imports and exports, aims to pressure Israel into declaring a ceasefire and facilitating humanitarian aid. The move is expected to significantly impact the Israeli economy, which is heavily reliant on Turkish imports. Meanwhile, Turkish exporters are exploring options to reroute their goods through third countries to fulfill ongoing orders and commitments to Israeli markets.

  1. Turkey Faces Record High Inflation Rate of Nearly 70%

Turkey’s inflation surged to 69.80% in April, the highest rate observed in the last 16 months, primarily fueled by increases in education, hospitality, and transportation costs. This recent spike, as reported by TurkStat, follows a 43.68% rate in April 2023. Despite the sharp rise, Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek remains optimistic, anticipating a significant decline post-May. The Central Bank continues with its high interest rate strategy to combat inflation, maintaining a steady rate of 50% after recent hikes.

  1. Erdogan Reengages with Opposition

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Ozgur Ozal, leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party, for the first time in eight years. This significant meeting followed the opposition’s recent local election victories over Erdogan’s party. Discussions focused on economic issues, constitutional reform, and other national concerns. No official statements were made post-meeting, but the talks are part of broader efforts to draft a new constitution with wider political involvement.

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📌 In case you missed it,

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  May 2, 2024

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  May 1, 2024

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  April 30 , 2024

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  April 29 , 2024

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