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Hamas and Israel Truce Talks on Brink of Collapse

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TOP HEADLINES:

  • Hamas Rocket Attack Kills Israeli Soldiers at Aid Crossing, Placing Ceasefire Deal in Jeopardy
  • Hamas Warns Israeli Evacuation of Rafah Will End Hostage Negotiations
  • Leaked Documents Reveal Iran’s Drone Training Base for Hezbollah
  • Iraqi Parliament to Vote for New Speaker on Wednesday After 6-Month Deadlock
  • Saudi Arabia Adopts Gradual Approach to Israeli Normalization to Avoid Provoking Iran

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★ ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Hamas and Israel Truce Talks on Brink as CIA Director Attempts Mediation

Hamas negotiators left Cairo for Doha after a challenging round of truce and hostage negotiations with Israel, signaling a potential breakdown. Hamas insists on a permanent ceasefire, while Israel, under Netanyahu’s leadership, remains committed to military operations in Gaza’s Rafah. The three-stage proposal under discussion includes phased hostage releases and security arrangements, with both sides yet to find common ground. CIA Director Bill Burns is actively engaging in emergency talks to salvage the situation.

  1. Hamas Rocket Attack Kills Israeli Soldiers at Aid Crossing, Placing Ceasefire Deal in Jeopardy

A Hamas rocket strike near Gaza’s Kerem Shalom crossing resulted in the deaths of four Israeli soldiers. Following the attack, Israel closed the crossing and responded with airstrikes in Rafah, killing at least 12. This escalation interrupted ceasefire talks in Cairo, which aimed to secure a truce and facilitate hostage releases. The Israeli military began evacuating Palestinian civilians from eastern Rafah near the Israeli border on Monday. This move, affecting around 100,000 people, followed the unsuccessful negotiations between Hamas, Egypt, and Qatar. 

  1. Hamas Warns Israeli Evacuation of Rafah Will End Hostage Negotiations, Demands Binding Agreement from Netanyahu

A senior Hamas official has declared the Israeli army’s evacuation orders in Rafah as a perilous development that will derail ongoing hostage negotiations. The move, part of an operation aimed at dismantling Hamas, has been criticized by Hamas leaders who also hold the U.S. accountable for what they call acts of terrorism. Hamas leadership is set to convene in Doha to review the outcomes of recent Cairo negotiations and finalize their position. They are seeking definitive and enforceable assurances from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a ceasefire and complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. 

  1. Netanyahu Denies Sabotaging Hostage Deal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuted claims that he hindered a potential hostage release deal with Hamas, following critical comments that reportedly set back negotiations. As Netanyahu faced scrutiny, CIA Director William Burns visited Israel to discuss resuming talks, amid pressure from the U.S. and Qatar.

  1. Hamas Denies it Will Leave Qatar, Says it Will Relocate Only to Gaza

Musa Abu Marzouk, Deputy Head of Hamas, refuted media claims about closing Hamas’s Qatar office, saying Gaza would be the group’s sole destination if relocation happens. Speaking on MBC’s Al-Hekaya, he claimed the issue of leaving Doha has not been raised and said Hamas’s presence in Qatar was at the request of the U.S.  He dismissed reports of leaving Doha as Israeli pressure. Meanwhile, Yemen’s Houthis offered to host Hamas’ political office in Yemen.

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★ IRAN

  1. Leaked Documents Reveal Iran’s Drone Training Base for Hezbollah

Leaked documents revealed a covert Iranian center, the Ganjin Center, for training Hezbollah on drone attacks in northern Israel. The facility, near Qom, has expanded from a 500-meter to a 1,500-meter runway. Despite US sanctions, Iran’s drone manufacturing, led by Quds Aviation Industry, is thriving. Intelligence sources within Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and PMOI network divulged the center’s activities, which include testing and training on advanced drones.

  1. Iran’s Supreme Leader Urges Hajj Pilgrims to Protest Against Israel and the USA

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei declared this year’s Hajj as a platform for political expression against Israel and the US, urging Iranian pilgrims to chant slogans. He linked the call to historical tensions, referencing the deadly 1987 clashes between Iranian pilgrims and Saudi security. Khamenei criticized Western support for Israel, suggesting that without US backing, Israel would be less aggressive. He emphasized that these events would be remembered as significant historical moments of oppression and resistance.

  1. IAEA Chief to Iran for Nuclear Conference and Talks with Iranian Regime

Iran’s Isfahan city is set to host the International Conference on Nuclear Science and Technology 2024, starting today. The event, featuring over 100 speakers, including more than 50 international figures, will highlight significant advances in the nuclear sector. Attendees include Mohammad Eslami of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization and Rafael Grossi from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The conference, marking the 50th anniversary of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, aims to foster collaboration and showcase over 500 scientific studies.

  1. Controversy Over Appointment of Iranian President’s Wife to University Board

Jamileh Alamolhoda, wife of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, has been appointed to Tehran University’s faculty recruitment board, sparking significant controversy. Critics, including political insiders, denounce this move as nepotistic, pointing out Alamolhoda’s lack of relevant academic qualifications and her controversial statements on women’s rights. Her father, a well-known conservative cleric with strong ties to the Supreme Leader, adds to the controversy. This appointment coincides with a broader pattern of “political purification” across Iranian institutions, where dissenting academics and professionals are increasingly sidelined or expelled.

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YEMEN

  1. UK Newspaper Says Houthis Entered Alliance with Al-Qaeda in Yemen

A report by “The Telegraph” unveils an unexpected alliance between Iran-backed Houthis and Al-Qaeda in Yemen. Despite historical enmity, they’ve exchanged drones and prisoners, posing fresh risks in the already volatile region. Recent attacks, including a bombing that killed 6 soldiers, underscore this dangerous collaboration. Experts warn of its consequences, fearing it could thwart efforts to stabilize Yemen and endanger international trade routes. Officials from Yemen’s internationally recognized government are urging immediate global action, branding the Houthis as terrorists and seeking support to counter their expanding control and terrorist activities.

  1. Houthis Claim Capture of Israeli Spy Cell

The Houthi group announced the capture of alleged American and Israeli spies operating on Yemen’s western coast. Identified as part of the Israeli “Force 400,” those arrested allegedly gathered intelligence on Houthi sites, monitored missile launches and drone locations, and provided targeting data to US and UK forces. 

  1. Maersk Says Red Sea Crisis to Slash Shipping Capacity by 20% in Q2 2024

Maersk forecasts a 15-20% drop in container shipping capacity between the Far East and Europe in Q2 2024 due to Red Sea disruptions. Recent profit outlook upgrades reflect strong demand and altered routes to avoid conflict zones. CEO Vincent Clerc notes ongoing adjustments in response to heightened regional tensions. While facing quarterly losses, Maersk aims to offset Red Sea-related costs by adjusting customer rates. Meanwhile, Houthi threats to target ships navigating to Israeli ports signal continued regional instability. 

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★ IRAQ

  1. Iraqi Parliament to Vote for New Speaker on Wednesday After 6-Month Deadlock

An insider revealed to Al-Mustaqila that a political consensus has been reached among parliamentary factions to convene an extraordinary session on May 8, 2024, to elect a new Speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives. Salem Matar Al-Issawi is poised to succeed Muhammad Al-Halbousi. The decision follows extensive consultations among parties to break the deadlock. 

  1. Devastating Fire Destroys Hundreds of Shops in Erbil’s Historical Market

A severe fire decimated 227 shops in Erbil’s ancient “Bazari Qaisari” market last night, according to Erbil’s Mayor Nabaz Abdul Hamid. Immediate investigations are underway to determine the cause, with additional assessments of the extensive damage planned. Security measures are being enforced, with two individuals already detained on suspicion of looting during the incident. The mayor has dismissed any rumors of widespread theft during the chaos.

  1. Iraqi Shi’a Leaders Divided over U.S.-Iraq Arms Deal

A new agreement between Iraq and the United States for the purchase of helicopters and fighter planes has ignited disputes among Iraqi Shi’a leaders. Prime Minister Muhammad Shiaa Al-Sudani’s recent trip to the U.S. resulted in Iraq acquiring 21 aircraft, with additional planes donated for training purposes. However, prominent Shi’a figures, including Nouri al-Maliki, criticize the deal as enhancing American influence over Iraq’s military capabilities. This deal has also sparked allegations of corruption and calls for an investigation into the defense spending from those aligned with Iran.

  1. KRG President Barzani in Tehran to Mend Ties with Iranian Regime

Nechirvan Barzani, President of Iraqi Kurdistan, is engaged in diplomatic efforts in Tehran to assuage concerns over Kurdish-Turkish ties, emphasizing they don’t undermine Iranian interests in Iraq. Barzani is visiting Tehran to mend relations, crucial for issues important to the KRG such as budget allocation and security. Despite Tehran’s unease with Kurdish-Turkish alignment, Barzani aims to restore equilibrium, recognizing Iran’s pivotal role in Iraqi politics. 

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★ SYRIA

  1. Syrian Regime Troops Retreat from ISIS Attacks in Deir ez-Zor

Dozens of Syrian regime soldiers fled a post in Deir ez-Zor’s western countryside following a surprise ISIS assault. ISIS, armed with heavy machine guns, engaged regime forces near the Al-Masrab desert, leading an hour-long skirmish. Three soldiers were injured and equipment damaged. ISIS’s intensified attacks include simultaneous strikes on military outposts in Homs. Their stronghold in the Syrian desert poses challenges for regime forces, who struggle to contain the threat.

  1. Syria’s Diplomatic Resurgence on the Arab Stage

Syria, alongside Lebanon, is invited to the Arab summit in Bahrain, signaling a shift in regional dynamics. Former Syrian People’s Assembly member Muhannad al-Haj Ali notes Syria’s growing acceptance in Arab circles, evidenced by recent Riyadh summit attendance. Despite past tensions, many Arab states now seek normalized relations, recognizing Syria’s nationalist stance. Saudi Arabia’s recent delegation visit to Damascus underscores a shared interest in combating terrorism and crime. While diplomatic channels with the US remain uncertain, Syria’s hardline position complicates negotiations.

  1. Syrian Fuel Crisis Prompts Black Market Increase

Syria faces a steep surge in oil prices, exacerbating a fuel crisis. Gasoline costs have doubled, reaching 225,000 liras for a single refill in Aleppo. Shortages disrupt transportation, with delays exceeding 14 days for fuel allocations. Black market profiteering is intensifying due to the scarcity, affecting prices of consumer goods. The Assad regime attributes delays to supply chain issues and sanctions. Power generation is suffering due to fuel shortages, with relief expected in 15 days.

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★ JORDAN

  1. Jordan’s King Abdullah to Meet Biden at White House Today

U.S. President Joe Biden will hold an informal private meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the White House on Monday as hopes fade for a Gaza truce and hostage deal. The talks occur as disagreements persist between the U.S. and Israel regarding a planned Israeli military action in Rafah. This meeting follows recent unsuccessful negotiations and a violent confrontation at the Kerem Shalom crossing. Jordanian officials have vehemently opposed the Israeli plan to conduct an operation in Rafah, with Jordan’s foreign minister warning it will be “another massacre” of Palestinians.

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LEBANON

  1. Cross-Border Escalation: Rockets Launched from Lebanon Towards Galilee and Golan

Following Israeli airstrikes near Rayak, Lebanon, Hezbollah fired rockets towards Galilee and Golan. The attack targeted the 210th Golan Division’s base in Nafah. Israel responded with heavy artillery shelling near Markaba. Israeli airstrikes hit areas in Iqlim Al-Tuffah and Jabal Al-Rayhan, focusing on Al-Tasa Spring and surrounding areas. Israeli warplanes flew over Tire and Bint Jbeil districts and deployed flares near the Blue Line border. Reconnaissance aircraft monitored western and central villages throughout the night.

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★ GULF REGION

  1. Saudi Arabia Adopts Gradual Approach to Israeli Normalization to Avoid Provoking Iran

Saudi Arabia is adopting a gradual approach to normalize relations with Israel, aimed at enhancing cooperation without direct provocation of Iran. U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken highlighted that any significant progress requires stability in Gaza and a viable path towards a Palestinian state. Saudi Arabia seeks an informal defense pact with the U.S. and Israel to bolster its defenses against potential Iranian proxy attacks, aligning with its Vision 2030 goals. This strategy involves balancing regional diplomacy and security preparations, while aiming to maintain as much cooperation with Iran as possible to foster regional stability.

  1. Oil Futures Surge as Saudi Arabia Hikes Prices

Today, oil futures climbed after Saudi Arabia hiked prices for June, signaling increased summer demand. Brent crude reached $83.24 per barrel, while US West Texas Intermediate rose to $78.40. Last week, both saw their largest weekly losses in three months. Concerns about US Federal Reserve interest rate deliberations and escalating Gaza conflict tensions also influenced prices. Additionally, US energy companies decreased operating rigs for the second consecutive week. OPEC+ may extend production cuts if demand doesn’t rise, with formal talks set for June 1.

  1. Riyadh to Partner with China for Industrial City in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s National Housing Company (NHC) inked a deal with CITIC Construction Group during Minister Majid bin Abdullah Al-Hogail’s China visit. The pact aims to establish an industrial city and logistics zones with 12 factories to ensure seamless supply chains for residential projects. CEO Mohammed bin Saleh Al Butti represented NHC. This move aligns with NHC’s strategy to secure material supply chains and elevate project quality. The collaboration fosters economic growth, boosts residential standards, and supports local industry development, aligning with the strategic partnership between Saudi Arabia and China signed in December 2022.

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★ EGYPT AND NORTH AFRICA

  1. Report:  Israeli Defense Minister Supported Egyptian Ceasefire Initiative

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant expressed strong backing for an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire deal during a recent military cabinet meeting, emphasizing the moral imperative to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas. Despite his public criticism of Hamas’s commitment to peace, Galant argued the deal was a crucial opportunity for Israel. The Egyptian initiative, which aims to facilitate a ceasefire and the exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners, received broad support from the cabinet. However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed reservations, maintaining that any agreement must not leave Hamas in power.

  1. IMF Projects Egypt’s Dollar Earnings to Increase by $107B

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts a 14.6% increase in Egypt’s foreign exchange inflows to $107.3 billion this fiscal year, driven largely by investments in the Ras El Hekma development. This rise reflects gains across merchandise exports, tourism, Suez Canal revenues, remittances from Egyptians abroad, and net foreign direct investment. Despite this year’s boost, the IMF anticipates a decrease in inflows next year to approximately $91.2 billion. 

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★ TURKIYE

  1. Azerbaijan Continues Oil Flow to Israel via Turkey Despite Trade Boycott

Despite Ankara’s trade boycott against Israel, Azerbaijani oil continues its route through Turkey to Israel. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline plays a pivotal role, with 523,500 tons of oil shipped to Israel in January alone. President Aliyev’s strong ties with both Israel and Turkey ensure uninterrupted flow. In exchange, Israel supplies advanced weaponry to Azerbaijan. This alliance, established in 1992, extends beyond oil and arms, encompassing education and diplomatic relations. 

  1. Turkish Boycott Could Damage Israeli Economy

Turkey’s trade boycott against Israel could send shockwaves through the Israeli economy and is causing concern over rising prices and supply shortages. Turkish President Erdogan’s sudden move disrupts Israel’s dependency on cheap Turkish goods, exacerbating an already struggling Israeli industrial sector. The fallout includes potential price hikes in basic goods and real estate, along with challenges in oil imports through Turkey. Industries reliant on Turkish products, such as construction and automotive sectors, brace for significant losses.

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📌 In case you missed it,

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  May 3, 2024

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