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Israeli Forces Seize Rafah-Egypt Border Crossing as Cease-Fire Talks Falter

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TOP HEADLINES:

  • Israeli Forces Seize Control of Rafah’s Border Crossing to Egypt
  • Israeli Officials Claim Egypt and Qatar Revised Proposal to Increase Pressure on Netanyahu
  • Hamas Leader Haniyeh Says “Ball Is in Israel’s Court” on Truce Proposal
  • Iranian Regime Hints it Could Share Nuclear Technology Internationally
  • Ship Grounding Temporarily Closes Turkiye’s Bosphorus Strait

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★ ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Israeli Forces Seize Control of Rafah’s Border Crossing to Egypt

The IDF has taken complete operational control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing as of 7:00 a.m. Tuesday, following a coordinated operation by the 401st Brigade. This military action included targeted strikes against Hamas in East Rafah, initiated based on intelligence about terrorist activities. The operation also involved air strikes by Israel Air Force jets, which destroyed Hamas military infrastructure and resulted in the deaths of 20 terrorists. The IDF reports no casualties among its forces and continues to secure the area, with the Israeli flag now raised at the crossing.

  1. Israeli Officials Claim Egypt and Qatar Revised Proposal to Increase Pressure on Netanyahu

An Israeli source revealed that recent adjustments to a ceasefire proposal by Egypt and Qatar are designed to pressure Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into acceptance. This follows Hamas’s endorsement of the modified proposal, which includes assurances on Israel’s commitment to a ceasefire post-kidnapper release—terms not previously agreed by Israel. As a result, the decision now rests with Netanyahu, as Hamas prepares for further negotiations in Cairo. The Israeli government has yet to approve the proposal, considering it significantly different from their accepted terms.

  1. Ball Is in Israel’s Court, Hamas Says of Truce Proposal

Ismail Haniyeh, leader of Hamas, announced that the decision on a ceasefire in Gaza now rests with Israel, following Hamas’ acceptance of truce terms suggested by Egypt and Qatar. In discussions with Iran’s foreign minister, Haniyeh conveyed Hamas’ commitment to advocating for Palestinian rights under any political settlement, which includes demands to cease hostilities, exchange prisoners, end the blockade on Gaza, and initiate reconstruction. The ceasefire plan comprises three phases and aims to halt the ongoing conflict, leading to the release of captives on both sides.

  1. Israeli Officials Frustrated with U.S. handling of hostage talks

Israeli officials expressed disappointment with the U.S. for not briefing them about a new Hamas ceasefire proposal negotiated by Egypt and Qatar, which Hamas accepted. The U.S. insists it has kept Israel informed, with no surprises in the difficult negotiation process conducted through intermediaries. The unfolding situation has deepened tensions between the U.S. and Israel, with Israeli suspicions growing that the U.S. gave assurances to Hamas the cease-fire would become permanent after hostage release. 

  1. U.S. Postpones Delivery of Precision Munitions to Israel to Discourage Rafah Assault

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Biden administration has delayed the delivery of precision-guided munitions to Israel, including MK-82 bombs and JDAM kits. This decision aligns with U.S. efforts to discourage a full-scale Israeli invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza. The arms agreement, initially finalized in February, remains unfulfilled, though the White House has reiterated its unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.

  1. UN General Assembly Could Vote on Palestinian Statehood Soon

The UN General Assembly may soon vote to recognize Palestinian statehood, potentially granting them full membership. This move follows a US veto at the Security Council last month. The vote not only tests global support for Palestine but could also trigger the US to cease funding any UN body that admits them as a full member, due to American legal stipulations. The resolution, which also confers additional rights short of full membership, has been criticized by Israel’s UN Ambassador for contravening the UN Charter and altering nothing on the ground.

  1. Hamas Plans to Include Dead Israeli Hostages in Initial Hostage Exchange

Hamas has notified mediators that the first phase of its proposed hostage and truce deal will include the remains of an unspecified number of deceased individuals among the 33 captives to be released. This phase is also set to commence a 42-day truce, exchanging these hostages for a significant number of Palestinian prisoners. Israel contends that the terms presented by Hamas differ substantially from what was previously agreed upon. Current discussions continue with the involvement of U.S., Egyptian, and Qatari mediators as both sides seek a resolution.

  1. Biden Urges Netanyahu to Reconsider Rafah Offensive

In a phone call on Monday, President Joe Biden cautioned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against a potential military offensive in Rafah, Gaza, with Biden emphasizing a cease-fire as the best strategy to protect lives. The discussions also addressed the deteriorating situation, with both leaders facing increased public and international pressure for peace. Netanyahu, however, reaffirmed Israel’s stance on self-defense in a recent speech, despite global calls for de-escalation.

  1. Opposition Leader Lapid Advocates Delay in Rafah Operation to Facilitate Hostage Deal

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid proposed delaying the Rafah military operation by 48 hours to advance a prisoner exchange deal, criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for risking the operation’s success. Following Hamas’s acceptance of the mediators’ proposal, Lapid highlighted internal government disagreements and urged the government to prioritize the return of detainees from Gaza. He also promised a parliamentary “safety net” to support the government in negotiating the deal. 

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★ IRAN

  1. Iranian Regime Hints it Could Share Nuclear Technology Internationally

Mohammad Eslami, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, declared Iran’s willingness to share nuclear technology internationally at a conference in Isfahan. This announcement coincided with UN IAEA chief Rafael Grossi’s visit aimed at addressing tensions over Iran’s accelerated nuclear pursuits, including enrichment near weapons-grade levels. Despite claiming peaceful intentions and calling for sanction relief, Iran’s actions, such as enriching uranium to 83.7% and limiting IAEA inspections, have heightened global apprehensions regarding the potential military aspects of its nuclear ambitions.

  1. Iran Sentences Another Social Media Activist to Death for “Corruption on Earth”

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court in Isfahan has handed down a death sentence to social media activist Mahmoud Mehrabi for “corruption on earth,” a charge often used to suppress dissent. This ruling follows closely on the sentencing of dissident rapper Toomaj Salehi, who was similarly condemned for supporting 2022’s anti-regime protests. Mehrabi, accused of various anti-regime activities on Instagram, was re-arrested shortly after a brief release on bail. His lawyer hopes for an overturn by the Supreme Court amid rising execution rates, with 767 reported in the last year alone.

  1. U.S. Says Malaysians are Facilitating Iranian Oil Exports and Hamas Financing

A senior U.S. Treasury official highlighted that Iran’s ability to export oil depends heavily on Malaysian service providers, with significant oil transfers occurring near Singapore. The U.S. is intensifying efforts to curb these activities, which also involve financing routes for the Palestinian group Hamas in Southeast Asia. Additionally, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Malaysian companies accused of aiding Iran’s drone production. These efforts coincide with measures against Russia, including a price cap on oil to limit profits while maintaining global energy market stability.

  1. FBI Races to Counter China’s and Iran’s Hunt for Dissidents in the US

China and Iran have intensified their pursuit of dissidents in the US, using tactics such as private investigators, organized crime gangs, and threats of violence. The FBI has responded by ramping up efforts to thwart these attempts, which target activists like Masih Alinejad, who criticized Iran’s human rights abuses. Justice Department prosecutions aim to hold offenders accountable and reinforce American values of free expression.

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★ IRAQ

  1. Iraqi Militants Claim Drone Attack on Israeli Air Base in Eilat

Iraqi armed factions have declared responsibility for a drone attack on an Israeli air base in Eilat. This announcement follows their previous claim of targeting Haifa’s port with a cruise missile in support of Hamas. The group, identifying as “Islamic Resistance in Iraq,” stated the operations are part of a broader coalition of Iran-aligned militias in the region, engaging in actions against Israel to back the Palestinian cause. 

  1. Barzani Seeks Iran’s Backing to Delay Kurdistan Elections

Nechirvan Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Region, visited Tehran to discuss with Iranian leaders the postponement of the upcoming Kurdistan Parliament elections against the backdrop of rising tensions with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The meetings, which included top Iranian officials, aimed to secure Iran’s support for the delay and address concerns regarding Kurdish opposition groups and regional security dynamics involving Israel and Turkey. Iran’s response appears supportive of Barzani’s request.

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★ SYRIA

  1. U.S. Repatriates 11 American Citizens from Northeastern Syria

Matthew Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, announced the repatriation of 11 American citizens, including five minors, from northeastern Syria. This marks the largest single return of U.S. nationals from the region to date. The U.S. Also assisted in the repatriation of individuals from Canada, Finland, and the Netherlands.

  1. IRGC Gives Iraqi Militants Control of Syrian Oil Fields

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard has transferred control of the Al-Kharata and Al-Ward oil fields in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor region to the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces. Local sources report that this marks the first time Iraqi leaders have accessed these sites, coordinating directly with Iranian forces. The Al-Ward field produces over 8,000 barrels daily, while Al-Kharata yields more than 3,500. This development follows unsuccessful efforts by the Assad regime to reclaim these strategic assets.

  1. Syrian Democratic Council to Open Diplomatic Offices in Arab Countries

Mahmoud Al-Muslat, co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), announced plans to establish representative offices in various Arab and foreign nations, including Gulf Cooperation Council countries. Al-Muslat emphasized the importance of Arab involvement in Syria and mentioned ongoing contacts with countries like Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Despite challenges from some Arab nations normalizing relations with the Syrian regime, the SDC says it remains committed to promoting a distinctly Syrian project and facilitating international discussions on Syria’s future.

  1. Syrian Official Says State Cannot Afford to Light Damascus Streets

Wissam Muhammad, director of lighting and electricity in Damascus, reported that the Syrian state budget is insufficient to maintain street lighting across the city. Despite initiatives from citizens and plans to incorporate solar-powered lights, issues like theft prevent reliable solutions in smaller alleys. Efforts to enhance lighting in major tunnels are progressing, with the introduction of energy-efficient systems and exemptions from power cuts in some areas. Meanwhile, misinformation circulates regarding charging citizens for street lighting, which officials have denied.

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LEBANON

  1. Hezbollah Drone Attack Kills Two Israeli Soldiers in Metula

Two Israeli soldiers were killed and another wounded in a Hezbollah drone strike on a military post near Metula, northern Israel. In retaliation, Israeli jets targeted Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon, hitting around 15 military targets. The escalating conflict, marked by frequent exchanges of fire, has raised concerns about a potential broader conflict reminiscent of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. 

  1. Rights Group Claims IDF Strike in Lebanon Killed Aid Workers, Not Terrorists

Human Rights Watch investigated a March IDF strike in south Lebanon, which resulted in seven deaths, and concluded the victims were emergency workers, not terrorists as claimed by Israel. The strike targeted a facility used by the Lebanese Succour Association, a humanitarian group, with no military presence detected at the site. HRW has called for an investigation into the incident as a potential war crime, emphasizing the strike’s failure to distinguish between civilian and military targets. Social media evidence suggested some victims may have supported Jamaa al-Islamiya, but were not active combatants.

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★ GULF REGION

  1. Qatari Delegation Returns to Cairo for Another Round of Ceasefire Talks

Qatar has dispatched a delegation to Cairo to advance indirect ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas. The Qatari Foreign Ministry expressed hopes for achieving an immediate and lasting truce in Gaza, alongside arrangements for prisoner exchanges and continuous humanitarian aid. This initiative follows Hamas’s acceptance of a ceasefire proposal mediated by Egypt and Qatar.

  1. Saudi Arabia Condemns Potential Israeli Invasion of Rafah

Saudi Arabia has issued a stark warning against Israel’s potential invasion of Rafah, labeling it as part of a “systematic bloody campaign” to displace Palestinians. The Saudi Foreign Ministry denounced the planned actions as severe violations of international law and human rights, highlighting the threat to civilian life and the exacerbation of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Riyadh has called for immediate international intervention to halt what it describes as ongoing atrocities against Palestinians in the occupied territories.

  1. Progress in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Turkey’s Defense Collaboration

Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Turkey are advancing their military cooperation through the Saudi-Turkish-Pakistani Tripartite Committee, focusing on defense capabilities and technology exchange. Recent meetings in Riyadh, Rawalpindi, and Istanbul have emphasized enhancing defense industries and aligning with Saudi Vision 2030. This collaboration is seen as a stepping stone towards forming a significant military alliance among the three nations.

  1. Aramco Pays Out $31 Billion Dividend Despite Economic Challenges

Despite a decline in profits, Aramco has sustained its $31 billion dividend payment to the Saudi government and other shareholders, bolstering the kingdom’s economy amid a persistent budget deficit. These dividends are vital as oil prices stay below the level required for budget equilibrium. This financial strategy supports Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious economic transformations, including the futuristic Neom project and investments in tourism and sports leagues.

  1. UAE Floods Damage Up to 50,000 Cars, Costs Could Top $250 Million

Record-breaking rainfall in the UAE last month led to extensive flooding, damaging up to 50,000 cars with estimated insured losses potentially reaching $250 million. The deluge, described in a report by reinsurance broker Guy Carpenter, also affected Bahrain and Oman, pushing the regional insured losses to as much as $850 million. The severe weather event disrupted life across the UAE, including at Dubai’s major international airport.

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★ EGYPT AND NORTH AFRICA

  1. Egypt Seals Off Rafah Crossing

According to Israeli media outlet Yedioth Ahronoth, Egypt has sealed off the Rafah land crossing with concrete blocks, effectively halting all movement into and out of Gaza from the Egyptian side. This action took place despite official Egyptian statements denying the closure. The newspaper provided photographic evidence to support its report of the blockade that commenced on Monday.

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★ TURKIYE

  1. Ship Grounding Temporarily Closes Bosphorus Strait

The Bosphorus Strait was temporarily closed to maritime traffic after the Alexis cargo ship, en route from Ukraine to Egypt, ran aground due to a rudder malfunction. The 229-meter vessel blocked the strait on the Turkish coast, prompting immediate rescue operations to manage the disruption. Navigation resumed later, following the anchoring issue of another ship, the Liberian-flagged tanker Berea, which also experienced difficulties near the Sultan Selim I Bridge due to adverse weather. Coastal safety authorities and tugboats responded promptly to both incidents, stabilizing the situation.

  1. Has Türkiye Launched a Major Assault on PKK in Northern Iraq?

Turkey apparently has launched a significant military campaign against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, potentially signaling its intent to end the four-decade-long conflict by summer’s end. This operation follows recent diplomatic engagements in Baghdad and Erbil, hinting at potential collaboration with local authorities. Turkish forces have been active in various regions, reportedly killing dozens of PKK members. Defense Minister Yaşar Guler has also warned the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan against harboring PKK fighters, suggesting possible expansion of military actions to the Sulaymaniyah area and towards the Iran border. Observers speculate that Turkey’s recent military successes may stem from tacit support received during President Erdogan’s visits to Iraq.

  1. Türkiye Calls for Israeli Acceptance of Hamas Ceasefire Offer

Turkish President Erdogan urged Western powers to pressure Israel into accepting a ceasefire deal, following Hamas’s announcement of agreement to the proposal. Erdogan’s call came after a phone conversation with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, where he stressed the importance of ending the conflict. Additionally, Erdogan reaffirmed Türkiye’s commitment to combating terrorism, targeting PKK affiliates in northern Iraq and Syria. 

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📌 In case you missed it,

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  May 6, 2024

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