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U.S. Scrambles for Cease Fire Deal as Israel Begins Limited Rafah Operations

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TOP HEADLINES:

  • CIA Director Burns Meets Netanyahu Push for Cease Fire Deal
  • US Says it Supports Israel’s Limited Operation at Rafah Crossing
  • Report:  Biden’s Iran Envoy Put Classified Info on Phone Hacked by Hostile Actors
  • Gaza Conflict Cooling Israeli-UAE Business Relations
  • Israel’s Control Over Philadelphia Corridor Puts Egypt in a Bind

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★ ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. CIA Director Bill Burns Meeting with Netanyahu in Israel Today to Push for Cease Fire Deal

CIA Director Bill Burns is set to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel on Wednesday, Reuters reports. This visit follows Burns’ recent discussions in Doha with the Qatari Prime Minister about mediation efforts in the Israel-Hamas conflict. The U.S. remains focused on securing a ceasefire that would facilitate a hostage-prisoner exchange and enhance humanitarian aid to Gaza. This comes shortly after Israeli forces seized control of the Rafah crossing, intensifying the need for diplomatic resolutions and the reopening of key aid corridors.

  1. US Says it Supports Israel’s Limited Operation at Rafah Crossing

The US has expressed initial support for Israel’s operation to take control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing, aimed at preventing Hamas from generating revenue through the gate. State Department spokespeople stressed the operation’s legitimacy but highlighted concerns over potential expansion and its impact on Gaza’s aid flow. The Biden administration emphasized the need for a swift reopening of the crossing to ensure continued aid deliveries.

  1. Israeli Military Targets Over 100 Sites in Gaza, Including Operations in Rafah

The Israeli military has conducted airstrikes on over 100 targets across Gaza in the past 24 hours, targeting military installations, observation posts, and launch sites. The operations include a focused, limited-scale operation east of Rafah, as the army continues its strategic engagement in the region. This follows their recent takeover of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing, marking a significant military maneuver in the southern Gaza Strip, as reported by the Arab World News Agency.

  1. Hamas Releases Video Claiming Israeli Hostage Deaths Due to IDF Strikes

Hamas has released a propaganda video stating that Israeli-US-Canadian citizen Judy Weinstein, along with another unnamed hostage, died in Gaza from injuries sustained during an Israeli bombardment. The group blames the destruction of medical facilities by Israeli forces for the inability to provide adequate care, contributing to their deaths. Kibbutz Nir Oz had previously confirmed Weinstein’s death on October 7, later announced in December. The video portrays damaged buildings and hospitals, emphasizing the impact of military actions on detainees and local healthcare services.

  1. Israel Wants Non-Hamas Palestinian Groups to Run Rafah Crossing

Following its takeover of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing, Israel plans to integrate Palestinian groups not affiliated with Hamas to manage aid flow from Egypt into Gaza. This move aims to ensure more effective inspection and distribution of humanitarian aid, according to reports from Walla. The strategy also involves diminishing Hamas’s control over key logistical hubs in Gaza.

  1. Israeli Labor Union Chief Calls for Early Elections, Threatens General Strike

Arnon Bar-David, leader of Israel’s Histadrut labor federation, has urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to schedule early elections. He indicated that the federation might initiate a general strike to pressure the government if Netanyahu does not comply. This call for action stems from dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of the October 7 attacks by Hamas, where 1,200 people were killed, and subsequent failures to secure the release of hostages still held in Gaza. Bar-David expressed a lack of confidence in the current government’s accountability and leadership.

  1. First Aid Shipment on its Way to US-Built Offshore Pier in Gaza

Humanitarian aid for Gaza is being loaded onto the US-flagged Sagamore in Cyprus, marking the inaugural use of a new US-built offshore jetty designed to facilitate aid delivery to Gaza. This development follows the establishment of a direct sea corridor by Cyprus earlier this year, aimed at mitigating disruptions caused by ongoing military conflicts and border closures. The aid, including contributions from the United Arab Emirates, is set to be transferred to Gaza via US military support vessels and trucks.

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★ IRAN

  1. Senators Say Biden’s Iran Envoy Put Classified Documents on Phone That Was Hacked by Hostile Actors

Republican Senators Jim Risch and Michael McCaul allege that Rob Malley, US special envoy for Iran currently on unpaid leave, mishandled classified documents by sending them to his personal email and downloading them onto his personal phone, which was then compromised by hostile cyber actors. They detailed their concerns in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, citing security risks but provided no evidence to support their claims. The State Department, maintaining its long-standing policy, has not commented on individual security clearances. Malley has declined to comment on the allegations.

  1. Pakistani Intelligence Uncovers Billion-Dollar Fuel Smuggling Operation Between Iran and Pakistan

A Pakistani intelligence report reveals that over $1 billion of fuel is smuggled annually from Iran to Pakistan, accounting for 14% of Pakistan’s fuel consumption. This illicit trade incurs significant revenue losses for Pakistan, estimated at $820 million in taxes and duties. Daily, about 2,000 vehicles transport fuel across the 900-kilometer border, a practice entrenched despite military tensions. The report also highlights the involvement of over 200 individuals, including officials, underscoring corruption and the economic dependency of 2.4 million people in Pakistan’s impoverished Balochistan.

  1. Iranian President Says Tehran Will Use Both “Talks and Missiles”

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi emphasized the dual necessity of maintaining missile defenses alongside diplomatic negotiations to address national security challenges. In a televised interview, Raisi highlighted Iran’s recent military operations as a stand against hostility, while continuing to engage in international talks. He criticized the inconsistency of Western nations in negotiations and underscored the simultaneous importance of military readiness and diplomacy. Raisi also condemned ongoing conflicts in Gaza, declaring the resilience of Palestinians against external aggression.

  1. IAEA’s Ongoing Struggle for Nuclear Compliance with Iran

Rafael Grossi, head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog, returned from Iran without finalizing a deal but discussed steps for implementing last year’s agreement aimed at enhancing Tehran’s cooperation with the IAEA. Despite Tehran’s assurances to increase transparency and reinstall monitoring equipment, progress remains minimal. Grossi highlighted the need for serious engagement and realistic expectations, amidst Iran’s demands for sanction relief. This visit occurs as Iran continues enriching uranium up to 60%, nearing weapon-grade levels, complicating international efforts to monitor its nuclear activities.

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★ IRAQ

  1. Iraqi Court Grants Barzani’s Request to Halt Kurdistan Election Preparations

  1. Locked in Dispute with KDP, PUK Leader Visits Washington Seeking U.S. Support

Bafel Talabani’s visit to Washington this week highlights the escalating rivalry between the two major Kurdish parties in Iraq, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, as they both seek U.S. support. This diplomatic outreach coincides with increased regional pressures, particularly from Turkey and Iran, each backing different factions within Iraq.

  1. Kataib Hezbollah Demands US Troop Withdrawal from Iraq

Iraq’s Kataib Hezbollah, designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, has reiterated calls for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. The group criticized both the US for lacking commitment to withdraw and the Iraqi government for not facilitating the removal. These statements come during ongoing US-Iraq discussions on the future of American troops, who are part of an international coalition against jihadists. The dialogue resumed following a temporary suspension of hostilities by Kataib Hezbollah, after a series of retaliatory strikes by US forces.

  1. Iraq’s Reservoirs Replenished by Recent Rains

Iraq’s Darbandikhan dam reservoir, crucial for water supply, is nearing full capacity after significant rainfall. This improvement follows years of drought and record low water levels in 2019, exacerbated by upstream dam constructions in neighboring countries. The replenished reservoirs, vital for agriculture and domestic use, signal a temporary relief in Iraq’s persistent water scarcity issues, although officials warn that environmental challenges persist. In the Kurdistan region, excessive rains have also caused floods, impacting local communities.

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★ SYRIA

  1. Tehran Unhappy with Assad Regime’s “Neutral” Stance in Gaza War

Sources say Iran has rejected Syria’s seemingly neutral stance on the ongoing Gaza war, expressing frustration as Damascus explores potential normalization with Western nations, a move reminiscent of its alignment against Saddam Hussein in 1990. Iran perceives a lack of reciprocity from Assad for its longstanding support, especially as rumors emerge of dialogue offers from the West to Syria. Additionally, the appointment of Major General Kifah Melhem, a figure with anti-Iran sentiments, as head of Syria’s National Security Office has exacerbated Tehran’s concerns. These worries are compounded by unverified reports of Syrian security possibly leaking information about Iranian operatives to Israel, leading to targeted strikes. Iran’s dissatisfaction is further fueled by the Syrian regime’s hesitation to implement agreements with Tehran, citing financial strains and international sanctions.

  1. Report Says Russia Cannot Achieve its Goals in Syria

A report from the Syrian Dialogue Center critiques Russia’s inability to secure its desired outcomes in Syria. Despite military intervention and influence, Russia faces hurdles due to limited leverage and internal conflicts among allies. The report suggests Assad’s future could become negotiable, potentially compromising Russian influence. Tensions with Turkey and Iran add complexity, worsened by the Ukrainian conflict’s impact. Syria serves as a pivotal stage for Russia’s global repositioning, challenging Western dominance. The conflict becomes leverage for future negotiations, bolstering Russia’s diplomatic standing and complicating decisions without its involvement.

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LEBANON

  1. Israel Strikes Southern Lebanon Targets in Retaliation for Hezbollah Drone Attacks

Following drone attacks by Lebanese Hezbollah on northern Israel, the Israeli army confirmed airstrikes on six Hezbollah locations in southern Lebanon. This escalation is part of ongoing hostilities that have intensified recently, with both sides engaging in frequent cross-border bombings. The Israeli army’s operations aimed to neutralize threats in Tayr Harfa and Al-Jebeen, responding to Hezbollah’s drone attacks which included attempts to strike military sites and Iron Dome platforms in Israel.

  1. Poland Dismantles Smuggling Ring Funding Hezbollah

Polish authorities, with assistance from Eurojust and German and Dutch police, have dismantled a migrant smuggling network operating along the Polish-Belarusian border. This network, implicated in funding Hezbollah and other groups, facilitated the illegal migration of individuals from the Middle East to Germany. Thirty-six suspects, including the network leaders Ahmad R. from Germany and Mohammed A., have been charged. Investigations revealed over $30 million transferred to Hezbollah-linked accounts and additional funds to U.S.-sanctioned entities.

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★ GULF REGION

  1. Gaza Conflict Cooling Israeli-UAE Business Relations

The ongoing war in Gaza has significantly cooled the business interactions between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, a relationship that blossomed after the 2020 Abraham Accords. Despite maintaining diplomatic connections, recent business engagements have become subdued and less public due to regional tensions. Business activities continue but at a reduced pace, with new deals scarce as UAE entities show caution and Israeli businesses face operational disruptions from military call-ups.

  1. ADNOC Secures 15-Year LNG Supply Deal with Germany’s EnBW

ADNOC has signed a 15-year agreement with EnBW, one of Germany’s largest energy companies, to supply 600,000 metric tons of liquefied natural gas annually from its upcoming Ruwais project in Abu Dhabi. The project, expected to commence in 2028, aims to be the world’s lowest in carbon emissions intensity for an LNG facility. This deal, which aligns with the UAE-Germany 2022 energy security and industrial growth pact, marks ADNOC’s third long-term commitment for LNG from Ruwais.

  1. Kuwait and Turkey Sign Key Defense Deals, Including Purchase of Turkish Drones

Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Emir of Kuwait, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan oversaw the signing of several defense and economic agreements during the Emir’s first official visit to a non-Arab country in Ankara. These agreements include a significant purchase of Bayraktar armed drones and a memorandum of understanding to enhance investment cooperation. The visit also featured strategic discussions on boosting defense direct contracts and increasing trade and investment ties.

  1. Saudi Arabia’s “The Line” Project Faces Financial and Planning Setbacks

A Wall Street Journal report highlights significant challenges in the development of “The Line,” a futuristic city initiative by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The ambitious NEOM project, aimed at diversifying the economy, has encountered substantial financial overruns and planning mishaps. Originally intended to house 9 million people and cost $500 billion, it now targets fewer than 200,000 residents in its initial phase. The report details unexecuted plans, excessive spending on infrastructure, and shifts in construction strategies, raising concerns about the feasibility and economic impact of the massive project.

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★ EGYPT AND NORTH AFRICA

  1. Israel’s Control Over Philadelphia Corridor Puts Egypt in a Bind

Israel’s recent move to take control of the Rafah crossing and the Philadelphia corridor, traditionally under Egyptian control as per the Camp David Accords, has put Egypt in a difficult position. Egypt, which had previously issued warnings against such actions, responded with a call for restraint and warned of the severe humanitarian impacts on Gazans. Major General Adel Al-Omda emphasized Egypt’s calm yet firm stance, warning that while Cairo is not seeking conflict, it will protect its national security interests. This development marks the first Israeli military presence in the Philadelphia axis since 2005, raising concerns about the adherence to the Camp David Accords, which restrict military deployments in certain areas. 

  1. Egypt Frustrated with Israel as Exchange deal talks continue in Cairo

Reports suggest Egyptian frustration with Israel’s reluctance to sign a negotiated prisoner exchange deal. Meanwhile, amidst White House calls for Gaza ceasefire, talks continue with delegations from Doha, Washington, Hamas, and Israel. Israeli officials have acknowledged Egypt’s discontent over the stalled agreement. 

  1. Egypt’s Government Debt Hits 81.4% of GDP

Egypt’s government debt has climbed to 81.4% of GDP in Q1 2024, up from 80.5% a year ago, reports the Institute of International Finance. Household sector debt dipped to 7.6%, while non-financial companies reduced to 19.1% of GDP. Financial sector debt increased to 6.1%. Egypt aims to negotiate debt-for-equity swaps with creditor nations, targeting 38% of its external debt, reveals the 2030 presidential strategy. Negotiations for a $100-120 million debt swap with China are in advanced stages, according to Al Arabiya Business.

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★ TURKIYE

  1. Turkey Renews Threat of Military Action in Northern Syria

Turkish President Erdogan is signalling a potential third military operation in northern Syria against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), alleging ties to the PKK. Despite previous threats, Turkish forces have refrained from direct confrontation due to international pressure. Analysts suggest recent diplomatic moves with Baghdad may embolden Ankara. However, obstacles remain, including opposition from global powers and the specter of destabilizing Syria further. Erdogan’s recent visit to Iraq signals his intent to secure borders and disrupt PKK supply lines.

  1. Türkiye’s Exports to Iraq Exceed $1 Billion in a Month

Economic ties between Türkiye and Iraq have seen notable growth in recent years, contributing to trade expansion and Iraq’s import-export surge. Türkiye’s Statistical Institute reported $1.189 billion worth of commodities, commercial goods, food, medical, and agricultural products exported to Iraq last month, contributing significantly to bilateral trade. Trade volume between the two nations reached around $13 billion in 2023, with Türkiye exporting $12.8 billion worth of goods to Iraq. The visit of Türkiye’s President to Baghdad aimed to enhance economic cooperation, potentially boosting Türkiye’s exports to $15 billion in the near future.

  1. Turkish Airports Set New Record: 18 Million Passengers in April

April witnessed a remarkable surge in passenger traffic at Turkish airports, with a staggering 53.7% increase compared to the previous year, totaling 18 million passengers. Transport and Infrastructure Minister Abdulkadir Uraloglu announced the milestone, citing data from the State Airports Authority General Directorate (DHMI). Domestic flights saw a surge of 52.9%, while international flights spiked by 55.1%. Overall, airports served 178,614 planes, with Istanbul Airport accounting for 6.6 million passengers, marking a 48% annual increase. Sabiha Gokcen Airport, Türkiye’s second-busiest, welcomed 3.3 million passengers and 19,815 planes.

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📌 In case you missed it,

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  May 7, 2024

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  May 6, 2024

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