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Biden Threatens Israel with Arms Embargo over Rafah Operation

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TOP HEADLINES:

  • Biden Threatens to Withhold Arms from Israel over Rafah Operation
  • Iran May Seek Nuclear Weapons if Threatened, Supreme Leader’s Adviser Warns
  • Iran and Iraq Renew Gas Export Agreement for Five More Years
  • Assad Regime Claims it Shot Down Israeli Missiles
  • Turkey Issues Temporary Export Permit to Israel, Israeli Press Claims

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★ ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Biden Threatens to Withhold Arms from Israel over Rafah Operation

In a significant policy shift, President Joe Biden publicly said he will withhold weapons from Israel if it launches operations and strikes in populated areas in Rafah, Gaza. The U.S. administration said it remains committed to supporting Israel’s defense, including continued support with Iron Dome missile interceptors, but rejects aiding operations that jeopardize civilian lives in Gaza. Following Biden’s announcement, a senior Israeli official said, “We have enough means to enter Rafah and occupy it without American assistance. Rafah will be occupied in any case.The main problem is the message it sends to Hezbollah and Iran, that Israel will apparently come without weapons to the conflict in the north. Biden made a grave mistake, both morally and politically.”

  1. UN Says Israeli Bombardment Has Displaced 80,000 from Rafah

UN aid teams report that 80,000 people have been displaced from Rafah, Gaza, as Israeli military actions intensify. Many displaced residents, previously uprooted from other Gaza regions, are fleeing under continual bombardment. Despite the reopening of the Kerem Shalom crossing, essential aid remains scarce. The UN stresses the critical need for consistent aid deliveries and secure access to replenish dwindling supplies, especially fuel.

  1. U.S. Lawmakers Draft Legislation to Counter ICC Actions Against Israel

In response to potential International Criminal Court (ICC) actions against Israeli officials, a group of Republican U.S. Representatives is preparing legislation aimed at penalizing ICC personnel. This move, described as precautionary, seeks to prevent the issuance of arrest warrants for alleged war crimes during the Gaza conflict. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul emphasized the legislation’s intent to protect U.S.-Israel relations and echoed similar measures proposed by Senator Tom Cotton. 

  1. Five EU Countries Set to Recognize State of Palestine

Reports indicate that on May 21, five European Union countries including Ireland, Spain, Slovenia, Malta, and Norway, plan to officially recognize the State of Palestine. This collective action, spearheaded by Spain, marks a significant diplomatic shift. These countries will join eight other EU members that have previously acknowledged Palestine’s sovereignty based on its pre-1967 borders. 

  1. United Airlines Suspends Flights to Tel Aviv Until Mid-June

United Airlines has announced the suspension of its daily flights to Tel Aviv until June 5, citing passenger and crew safety as the primary concern. The airline will also cancel its second daily flight to the Israeli city until June 19, as it continues to assess the evolving situation.

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★ IRAN

  1. Iran May Seek Nuclear Weapons if Threatened, Supreme Leader’s Adviser Warns

Kamal Kharrazi, an adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader, has indicated that Iran could revise its nuclear doctrine if it feels its existence is under threat, particularly from Israel. Despite a longstanding religious prohibition against nuclear weapons by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, escalating tensions with Israel have prompted discussions about a potential shift in military strategy. 

  1. Tehran Claims Western Nations Pleaded with Iran to Moderate Retaliatory Strikes

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said that Western countries have requested Iran to moderate its response to Israeli actions. Despite external pressures, Iran communicated its intention to retaliate directly to Israel, while reassuring the U.S. and its regional allies that they are not the targets. This assertion came during ongoing diplomatic efforts to establish a ceasefire in Gaza, with Iran pushing for an end to Israel’s operations there to prevent further escalation in the region.

  1. Iran and Iraq Renew Gas Export Agreement for Five More Years

Iran and Iraq have agreed to extend their gas export contract for an additional five years, confirmed Majid Chegeni, CEO of the National Iranian Gas Company, during the 28th Iran International Oil, Gas, Refining and Petrochemical Exhibition in Tehran. This extension reinforces the strong energy relations between the two nations. Additionally, Iran is seeking a $42 billion investment for its infrastructural projects, with half expected from domestic and international sources.

  1. Iran’s Money Supply Soars Under President Raisi, Spiking Inflation

During President Ebrahim Raisi’s 2.5-year term, Iran’s broad money supply has doubled to 10.33 quadrillion rials, fueling a surge in inflation to over 52%. The Central Bank of Iran has significantly increased the printing of unbacked banknotes to manage government debts, which have sharply risen due to ongoing budget deficits. This fiscal strategy has raised concerns about the long-term economic stability and the depletion of national reserves intended for future generations.

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★ IRAQ

  1. Iraqi Militants Launch Drone Attack on Israeli Base in Beersheba

Iraqi armed groups, identifying as the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq,” claimed responsibility for a drone strike on the Israeli Nevatim base in Beersheba. This attack is part of a series of responses to the ongoing conflict in Gaza. The groups previously targeted a location in Eilat, Israel, with similar methods. This escalation is aligned with actions from other Iran-affiliated groups across the region.

  1. Baghdad Says Peshmerga Forces Exempt from Customs Duties on Military Sales

The Ministerial Council for National Security, led by Prime Minister Muhammad Shiaa Al-Sudani, has granted the Kurdistan Regional Guard Forces an exemption from customs duties on military sales. This decision aligns the Peshmerga with other key defense bodies like the Ministries of Defense and Interior, enhancing their operational capabilities. Additionally, the council resolved to abolish the Karkh and Rusafa Operations Commands, reassigning military units to enhance command and control within Baghdad. 

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★ YEMEN

  1. Houthis Claim to Target Israeli Ships in Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea

Houthi forces announced they targeted two supposedly Israeli ships, MSC DIEGO and MSC GINA, in the Gulf of Aden, and the MSC VITTORIA in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, using ballistic missiles and drones. The Houthis said the strikes were responses to support the Palestinian cause and in retaliation against American-British aggression. They warned of continued operations to disrupt Israeli maritime activity linked to occupied Palestinian territories until the Gaza blockade is ended.

  1. Houthis Threaten to Target America in Response to Provocations

Hussein Al-Ezzi, a leader of the Houthi militia, has issued a warning that the group may target America if provocations against them do not cease. Al-Ezzi emphasized that this statement is not out of arrogance but a serious concern for regional peace, suggesting potential actions that Sanaa has refrained from taking thus far. 

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★ SYRIA

  1. Assad Regime Claims to Shoot Down Israeli Missiles Launched from Golan

The Syrian Ministry of Defense claimed on Thursday that its air defenses shot down Israeli missiles launched from the Golan Heights towards the Damascus countryside. The ministry said, “At approximately 3:20 p.m. today, the Israeli enemy launched an air aggression from the direction of the occupied Syrian Golan, targeting a building in the Damascus countryside. Our air defense media responded to the aggression’s missiles and shot down some of them, and the aggression led to some material losses.”

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LEBANON

  1. Israeli Drone Strike Kills Four Hezbollah Members in Southern Lebanon

An Israeli drone strike targeted a vehicle in Baflay near Tyre, southern Lebanon, killing four Hezbollah members. This incident is part of ongoing cross-border hostilities that also saw Hezbollah targeting Israeli electronic systems at the Ramia post. The strike resulted in the latest fatalities among multiple confrontations that have previously killed Lebanese militants and civilians. In response, Israeli jets have attacked Hezbollah military positions in southern Lebanon.

  1. Human Rights Watch Accuses Lebanon of Scapegoating Syrian Refugees

Human Rights Watch researcher Ramzi Qais criticized Lebanese authorities for their handling of the Syrian refugee crisis, accusing them of using refugees as scapegoats to distract from domestic issues. The organization documented cases from January to March 2024 where Syrian defectors and activists were arbitrarily detained, tortured, and forcibly returned to Syria, violating the principle of non-refoulement. Lebanese officials deny these claims, arguing that detentions are for crimes and not politically motivated.

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★ GULF REGION

  1. Saudi Crown Prince and Ukrainian President Discuss Ukraine Crisis Resolution

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky held a phone discussion on efforts to resolve the ongoing Ukrainian-Russian conflict. According to the Saudi News Agency, the leaders reviewed bilateral relations and exchanged views on various mutual interests. Their conversation also covered Saudi Arabia’s previous mediation role, which facilitated the release of 200 Ukrainian prisoners in 2022. This dialogue follows Zelensky’s visit to Riyadh last February, where further mediation efforts, including prisoner exchanges, were discussed.

  1. UAE Leads Global Cryptocurrency Ownership; Saudi Arabia Second in Gulf

The UAE has emerged as the global leader in cryptocurrency ownership, with 30% of its population engaged, while Saudi Arabia ranks second in the Gulf region at 11%. According to a Visual Capitalist report, the UAE’s top ranking is supported by government-friendly policies towards digital currencies. Meanwhile, a separate ranking based on the actual number of cryptocurrency owners places India, China, and the USA in the top three spots.

  1. Qatar Energy Set to Expand into Guyana’s Oil Sector

Qatar Energy is on the verge of securing a stake in Guyana’s offshore oil blocks, following a successful bid alongside Total Energy and Petronas. The consortium’s entry into the Guyanese market comes after the government offered 14 marine blocks to enhance economic development and diversify the sector currently dominated by an ExxonMobil-led coalition. This move aligns with Guyana’s recent policy adjustments that increased government royalties and introduced a corporate tax, aiming to boost local benefits from the burgeoning oil industry, which has discovered over 11 billion barrels of recoverable oil and gas since 2015.

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★ EGYPT AND NORTH AFRICA

  1. CIA Director Burns Returns to Cairo for More Gaza Ceasefire Talks

CIA Director William Burns has traveled from Tel Aviv to Cairo, continuing efforts to negotiate a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. He met with Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, discussing potential terms for halting Israeli operations in Rafah in exchange for releasing Israeli detainees. The White House continues to express cautious optimism about bridging differences between Israel and Hamas, emphasizing that securing a hostage deal remains a key objective for President Biden’s administration.

  1. Egypt Threatens to Cease Mediation Over Israeli Control of Rafah Crossing

Egypt has threatened to withdraw from mediating Gaza ceasefire talks after Israel seized control of the Rafah crossing, crucial for humanitarian aid. This move, condemned by Cairo, prompted Egypt to halt aid through the Kerem Shalom crossing, despite its reopening by Israel for aid delivery. 

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★ TURKIYE

  1. Turkey Issues Temporary Export Permit to Israel, Israeli Press Claims

Israel’s financial newspaper, Globes, reports that the Turkish Ministry of Commerce has granted temporary export permits to factories in the construction sector currently dealing with Israel. This decision reportedly followed a meeting between Turkish and Israeli commerce officials in Ankara, amidst broader restrictions on exports to Israel. The move has sparked discussions on Israel’s long-term dependency on Turkish imports, with plans for a trade conference with Greece and Cyprus to diversify supply sources. However, an official from the Turkish Ministry of Commerce has denied easing export restrictions, stating companies must route existing orders through third countries.

  1. Turkish Central Bank Adjusts Inflation Forecast to 38% for Year-End

The Central Bank of Turkey has revised its year-end inflation forecast to 38%, up from 36%. Governor Fatih Kara Khan announced the adjustment during the quarterly inflation report, noting a current rate of 69.8% in April, expected to peak at 75-76% this month. The forecast reflects a commitment to tight monetary policy amidst a slowdown in domestic demand, aiming to stabilize the inflation rate by year-end.

  1. Turkey Neutralizes Over 100 Suspected Terrorists in Ongoing Operations

The Turkish Ministry of National Defense reported that 108 suspected PKK terrorists were neutralized last week in northern Iraq and Syria, bringing the total to 953 neutralized since January. The Ministry said these operations will be continuous, as well as border security measures that have resulted in hundreds of arrests for illegal crossings and associated terrorist activities.

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📌 In case you missed it,

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  May 8, 2024

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  May 7, 2024

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  May 6, 2024

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