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Al-Julani’s Brutality: HTS Leader Escalates Arrests and Beatings of Civilians and Journalists

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TOP HEADLINES:

  • Three U.S. Soldiers Injured on Gaza Pier 
  • US Congress Moves to Sanction ICC
  • US Army Reports Houthi Missile Launches in Red Sea
  • Al-Julani’s Brutality Exposed: HTS Intensifies Arrests and Beatings
  • King of Bahrain Declares End to Problems with Iran

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★ ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Three U.S. Soldiers Injured on Gaza Pier During Controversy Over Biden’s Initiative

Three U.S. soldiers were injured on the temporary pier off the Gaza coast on Thursday, with one critically wounded and the other two sustaining minor injuries. The incident has sparked criticism of the Biden administration’s decision to establish the pier, a $320 million project intended for humanitarian aid delivery.

Senator Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) called the Gaza pier an “incredibly stupid idea,” while Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) argued that “America should not be the port authority of Gaza.” Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) labeled the initiative a “disaster and a waste of money,” accusing President Biden of endangering troops to appease the pro-Hamas faction of his party. Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, deputy commander of Central Command, confirmed that one soldier was hospitalized in Israel, while the other two returned to duty. Despite assurances from senior U.S. officials that no American boots would be on the ground in Gaza, the pier’s implementation continues to draw scrutiny and debate.

  1. US Congress Moves to Sanction ICC Over Netanyahu Arrest Warrant

In response to the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) request for arrest warrants against Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, members of the US Congress are drafting a bill to impose sanctions on ICC officials. The bipartisan effort aims to deter the court from pursuing charges against Israeli leaders. Republican Congressman Michael McCaul emphasized the need for deterrence, with the draft law expected to be introduced when Congress reconvenes on June 3. This follows a history of US opposition to ICC investigations perceived as infringing on national sovereignty, such as the Trump administration’s 2020 sanctions on ICC staff, later lifted by President Biden in 2021. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has expressed willingness to collaborate with Congress on imposing sanctions, reinforcing the US stance against the ICC’s jurisdiction over the Gaza conflict. 

  1. ICC’s Indictment Controversy: Netanyahu’s Strengthened Position and International Legal Challenges

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) has sparked both domestic support and international controversy. While this move has been celebrated by critics of Israel, it has simultaneously bolstered Netanyahu’s standing at home, compelling President Joe Biden to denounce the charges. German Chancellor Olaf Schulz clarified that no arrest warrant has been issued yet, emphasizing Israel’s robust judiciary. The broader campaign against Israel, reminiscent of tactics used against apartheid-era South Africa, poses significant long-term risks, including potential international sanctions.

  1. Unified Legal Verdicts Challenge Israel’s Rafah Operations

In a heated session at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Israel staunchly defended its military operation in Rafah against South Africa’s accusations of genocide, arguing the offensive is vital for dismantling Hamas. South Africa urged the ICJ to order Israel to halt its attacks and withdraw from Gaza, describing the situation as “continuous genocide.” During these allegations, Israeli representative Gilad Noam denounced the claims as a distortion of reality and an abuse of the term genocide, emphasizing Israel’s adherence to international law and the necessity of targeting Hamas’s extensive tunnel network. The ICJ, however, ordered Israel to cease its Rafah assault and demanded the release of hostages taken by Hamas during the October 7 attack. Simultaneously, the International Criminal Court (ICC) ruled for an immediate halt to Israel’s operations due to civilian safety concerns, sparking controversy given Hamas’s reports of lower casualties in Rafah. The enforcement of these decisions now hinges on the UN Security Council, where a US veto is anticipated. Despite these rulings, Israeli warplanes launched new strikes, underscoring the ongoing tension and Rafah’s strategic importance.

  1. South Carolina Adopts IHRA Definition, Bolstering U.S.-Israel Ties

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster signed into law a bill codifying the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, addressing the rising tide of antisemitism globally and within the U.S., particularly on college campuses and in major cities. Governor McMaster highlighted South Carolina’s historical support for Israel and the Jewish community, noting the state’s long-standing Jewish heritage, including the country’s oldest continuously operating synagogue, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, established in 1749. State Representative Beth Bernstein, the bill’s main sponsor, emphasized the need for a clear definition to effectively combat antisemitism. Elan Carr, CEO of the Israeli American Council, praised South Carolina’s leadership in adopting laws against the BDS movement. The bill’s passage was celebrated by community leaders, including Brandon Fish from the Charleston Jewish Federation, who acknowledged the collaborative effort to bring the bill to fruition.

  1. Netanyahu Unveils Strategic Plans Against Hezbollah

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that Israel has “detailed, important and even surprising plans” to address the Hezbollah threat on its northern border. The strategic plan likely includes enhanced military operations with targeted strikes against Hezbollah operatives and infrastructure in Southern Lebanon, demonstrated by the elimination of hundreds of operatives. It also involves defensive fortifications by strengthening positions and anti-rocket systems to intercept incoming projectiles, increased surveillance and intelligence-gathering to preemptively neutralize threats, and civic measures to ensure the safe return of displaced citizens by creating secure conditions in northern Israeli communities, including rebuilding infrastructure and providing security guarantees. 

  1. World Bank Warns of Imminent Financial Collapse in Palestinian Territories

The World Bank has issued a stark warning about the impending financial collapse of the Palestinian Authority, driven by prolonged conflict and economic instability. The report highlights severe fiscal deficits, reduced international aid, and the devastating impact of military operations on Gaza. The potential collapse poses a threat to regional stability and could exacerbate humanitarian crises. Recommendations include urgent financial interventions and sustainable economic policies to avert disaster. This situation underscores the critical need for a comprehensive peace solution to address the underlying economic and political issues fueling the conflict.

  1. Knesset Moves to Expand Negev Funding to Include Judea Townships

In a preliminary reading, the Knesset advanced a bill redefining the southernmost region of Judea as part of Israel’s Negev region, allowing impoverished towns like Kiryat Arba to receive additional government funding. Otzma Yehudit MK Limor Son Har-Melech, a supporter of the bill, argues it addresses long-standing discrimination, as these communities have been excluded from Negev Development Authority support since the early 1990s. The bill passed with 52 in favor and 37 against, despite Opposition Leader Yair Lapid’s criticism that it distorts geographical realities and diverts funds from towns affected by conflicts in Gaza and the North. Further readings and potential amendments will follow before it can become law.

  1. Netanyahu Refutes Reports of Ignored Hamas Warnings

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) denied claims that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received warnings from IDF Intelligence about a potential Hamas attack from Gaza. The reports, based on documents from the NGO Hatzlaha, were dismissed by the PMO, stating the documents suggested Hamas was focusing on other areas. The PMO emphasized that security bodies believed Hamas was deterred and seeking an arrangement with Israel. Despite Netanyahu’s efforts to distance himself from the failure to foresee the October 7 attack, public opinion is divided, and he faces backlash and scrutiny, including aggressive ad campaigns.

  1. The 2,000 Exiled Jewish Children”: Oporto Jewish Community’s Powerful New Film Project

The Oporto Jewish Community announced “The 2,000 Exiled Jewish Children,” a film about the 1493 expulsion of 2,000 Jewish children from Portugal to São Tomé by King João II. Announced at the Oporto Jewish Museum on the Portuguese Inquisition’s anniversary, the event saw attendance from 1,000 Portuguese schoolchildren. Michael Rothwell, the museum director, emphasized the film’s educational value in teaching about historical antisemitism and promoting tolerance. Building on the success of “1506: The Lisbon Genocide,” the new film aims to show that the Holocaust was part of a broader history of Jewish persecution. Gabriel Senderowicz, the community president, stressed its relevance to current antisemitic threats.

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★ IRAN

  1. Official Reports on Raisi Helicopter Crash Spur Skepticism and Distrust

The first official report on the helicopter crash that killed Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi confirms no signs of an external attack and attributes the crash to a fire after hitting altitude. The helicopter, following a pre-planned route, caught fire and crashed in a mountainous region, complicating rescue efforts. Despite these findings, the report’s lack of detailed explanations has sparked widespread skepticism and eroded public trust. Critics argue that the vague conclusions and Iran’s history of misinformation, such as the downing of a Ukrainian airliner in 2020, deepen public mistrust. The Iranian military’s assertion of no criminal activity and the acknowledgment of the helicopter’s age and sanctions-induced maintenance issues further highlight the complexities of the incident. This growing skepticism underscores the regime’s ongoing struggle with credibility and transparency amidst a backdrop of historical deceit.

  1. Iran-Backed Proxies Convene at Raisi’s Funeral in Tehran

On the sidelines of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s funeral, key figures from Iran-backed terrorist groups, including Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, PFLP, Ansarullah (Houthis), and Iraqi Shia militants, met with IRGC and Quds Force leaders. This gathering, seen as a show of strength and solidarity, emphasized the continuation of their efforts against Israel. The late Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was highlighted as a crucial link in Iran’s network of proxies. The meeting is perceived as a propaganda move to maintain Iran’s image and influence in the region. Experts view this assembly as a signal to the West of Iran’s deep ties with these groups and the centralized control Iran exerts over them.

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★ YEMEN

  1. US Army Reports Houthi Missile Launches in Red Sea

US Central Command reported that the Houthis fired two anti-ship ballistic missiles in the Red Sea, with no casualties or damage to American, coalition, or commercial ships. Earlier, the Houthis claimed to have targeted the ship Essex in the Mediterranean, MSC Alexandra in the Arabian Sea, and Yannis in the Red Sea.

  1. European Action Looms Against Houthi Threats to International Shipping

Yemeni diplomatic sources indicate that several European nations are preparing to classify the Houthi group as a global terrorist organization, following the example set by the United States and Australia. European security agencies have recommended this move in response to increased piracy by the Iran-backed militia in the Red Sea, which has harmed the global economy. The expansion of Houthi military operations targeting international shipping lines into the Mediterranean Sea is likely to prompt further punitive measures from Western countries.

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★ THE GULF

  1. CIA Chief to Meet Mossad Head and Qatari PM in Europe to Revive Hostage Talks

CIA Director William Burns will meet Mossad Chief David Barnea and Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Europe to restart negotiations for the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas, officials confirmed to The Times of Israel. This will be the first high-level meeting since talks collapsed two weeks ago.

  1. UAE Commits $10 Billion for Investments in Pakistan

The United Arab Emirates has pledged $10 billion to invest in key economic sectors in Pakistan. This announcement followed discussions between UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shehbaz Sharif in Abu Dhabi. The investment aims to bolster Pakistan’s economy and enhance bilateral cooperation. Both leaders explored opportunities to expand their economic, trade, and development partnerships. Prime Minister Sharif emphasized Pakistan’s commitment to strengthening ties with the UAE and leveraging its development experience. The UAE is the largest investment partner in the region for Pakistan, with trade between the two nations reaching approximately $7 billion in 2022.

  1. King of Bahrain Declares End to Problems with Iran

Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa announced that Bahrain no longer has issues with Iran, signaling readiness to normalize relations. During a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, the King emphasized the alignment of Arab countries on holding a peace conference to resolve Middle East conflicts, with Russia’s support. King Hamad highlighted Bahrain’s intention to establish normal diplomatic, commercial, and cultural relations with Iran, underscoring a shift towards positive neighborly ties.

  1. Goldman Sachs Secures License for Regional HQ in Saudi Arabia

Goldman Sachs has obtained a license to establish its regional headquarters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, according to a source quoted by Reuters. This decision follows the Kingdom’s new regulations requiring companies without regional headquarters in Saudi Arabia to potentially forfeit lucrative government contracts. Companies that set up headquarters in the Kingdom will benefit from tax incentives. Bloomberg News first reported the development. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman aims to attract foreign investment to diversify the economy away from oil dependency. Goldman Sachs declined to comment on the news.

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★ SYRIA

The Early Phoenix: Breaking News

  1. Al-Julani’s Brutality Exposed: HTS Leader’s Reign of Terror Intensifies with Arrests and Beatings of Civilians and Journalists 

Idlib, Syria – May 24, 2024 – The leader of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Abu Muhammad al-Julani, is ramping up his violent campaign against unarmed civilians and journalists in Idlib. In a brazen display of power, HTS forces have arrested multiple civilians accused of inciting protests against Al-Julani. This follows a wave of mass demonstrations across Idlib and Aleppo demanding his ouster. Earlier today, HTS’s General Security Service detained dozens civilians in Al-Fu’ah and Bansh for organizing and participating in protests calling for Al-Julani’s removal. The detainees’ whereabouts remain unknown, raising fears of torture or extrajudicial killings. Adding to the turmoil, several prominent journalists, including Omar Haj Qadour, have been arrested. Qadour, known for his outspoken criticism of HTS, was reportedly beaten severely, highlighting the regime’s ruthless tactics to silence dissent. Despite these draconian measures, the resistance movement shows no signs of abating. Thousands have taken to the streets in various towns and cities, including Idlib, Binnish, Jisr al-Shughur, Killi, Atarib, and Kafr Takharim. Demonstrators are not only calling for Al-Julani’s removal but also condemning the violent actions of HTS security forces. The crackdown has only intensified since May 15, when Al-Julani ominously declared that crossing “red lines” would not be tolerated. This statement has since been followed by a heavy security presence, including military checkpoints and armed patrols, aimed at quelling the protests. Today’s arrests and assaults on journalists are a stark reminder of the oppressive climate under Al-Julani’s rule. The international community must take notice and act decisively to support the civilians of Idlib in their fight for freedom and justice.

 

The Early Phoenix will continue to monitor and report on these critical developments as they unfold, bringing the truth to light and standing in solidarity with those bravely opposing tyranny in Syria.

  1. US Accuses Russia and Syrian Regime of Blocking Constitutional Committee Efforts

The US Embassy in Syria accused Russia and the Syrian regime of obstructing the Syrian-led Constitutional Committee’s meetings. The embassy stated that Russia’s and the regime’s claims about Geneva’s lack of identity are tactics to avoid addressing the Syrian people’s legitimate neutral demands. Despite Russia discussing arms control and humanitarian issues in Geneva, it blocks the Constitutional Committee from meeting there. This follows UN envoy Geir Pedersen’s call for a ninth round of talks in Geneva, which the Syrian opposition agreed to but the regime rejected.

  1. Syrian Community Conditions Support for Trump on Assad’s Removal

During a meeting in Michigan, the Syrian community set a condition for supporting Donald Trump’s presidential campaign: a commitment to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and tighten sanctions. Trump’s campaign was represented by Richard Grenell and Michael Boulos. Syrian writer Maher Sharafeddine stated that the community’s support hinges on Trump promising a stronger Syria policy than Joe Biden’s, including preventing Assad’s resurgence and supporting a political transition. While the meeting was deemed positive, no promises were confirmed. Polls show Trump leading Biden among Arab and Muslim voters in key swing states.

  1. Debra Tice Reveals Syrian Regime’s Conditions for Releasing Her Son

Debra Tice, mother of kidnapped American journalist Austin Tice, shared details of her 2014 trip to Syria and the regime’s conditions for his release. In an interview with The Times, she described traveling alone from Beirut to Damascus and receiving a message stating the regime’s demands: political rapprochement with the US, easing sanctions, and withdrawing US troops from northeastern Syria. Debra affirmed that Austin is alive, based on early 2023 intelligence, and criticized the lack of action from US officials following her meeting with President Biden in 2022. The Syrian regime’s conditions do not include ransom or prisoner exchange.

  1. Assad’s Regime Seeks Financial Support from Arab Nations

Syrian Finance Minister Kenan Yaghi called on Arab countries for financial aid, citing “war losses,” as normalization efforts falter. Speaking to CNBC Arabia, Yaghi projected a 1.5% economic growth for 2024, blaming banking sanctions for hindering financial transfers. He estimated war damages at over $300 billion and emphasized the need for economic reforms and infrastructure loans. During the 2024 joint annual meetings of Arab financial bodies in Egypt, Syria sought Arab financial support. Foreign Minister Faisal Al-Miqdad previously requested aid from Saudi Arabia and Gulf states in exchange for addressing drug trafficking and refugee issues.

  1. Prisoners’ Escape in Palmyra Sparks Dispute Among Iranian Militia Leaders

Last night, Iranian militias in Palmyra, Homs, were on high alert for hours after several prisoners escaped from a Revolutionary Guard prison. A source told Zaman al-Wasl that temporary checkpoints were set up around the city and Palmyra Military Airport, with cars and passers-by being thoroughly checked. The alert began after seven ISIS prisoners escaped, leading to disputes among militia leaders who accused each other of facilitating the escape for information on hidden ISIS treasures. The escaped prisoners, transferred from Deir ez-Zor, hold Iraqi, Pakistani, and Saudi nationalities and are significant due to their past activities in the Syrian desert.

  1. ISIS Reports Weekly Attacks in Syria

ISIS reported four attacks against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeastern Syria last week. According to Al-Naba’, ISIS’s publication, the group conducted 26 operations across regions including West Africa, Iraq, the Levant, and Khorasan. In Syria, ISIS claimed responsibility for killing and wounding five SDF members in Deir ez-Zor. Attacks included targeting an SDF checkpoint in Dhiban and an SDF headquarters near Al-Harijiya. Additionally, a military vehicle was attacked between Jdeid Bakara and Jadeed Akidat, resulting in two SDF fatalities and vehicle damage.

  1. EU Divided Over Syria, Lebanon Left to Handle Crisis Alone

European countries are grappling with the Syrian crisis as international donor support declines. The refugee influx, coupled with discussions with the Assad regime, is causing divisions within the European Union. Despite efforts to keep Syria on the global agenda, funding for refugees is dwindling, and prospects for their return home remain slim. The upcoming Syria conference faces decreased participation and waning interest, with even Arab Gulf states reducing their contributions. Divisions persist within the EU, with some advocating for dialogue with Assad to address refugee issues, while others, like France, demand preconditions. Tensions between the EU and refugee-hosting countries are evident, with Lebanon rejecting EU aid and seeking to address the crisis independently. Concerns about increased refugee flows to Europe persist, prompting calls for reevaluating approaches to the Syrian crisis.

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★ TURKIYE

  1. Turkiye Frustrated Over Stalled EU Membership Talks

European Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi, during his visit to Turkiye, avoided committing to resuming EU membership talks for Turkiye, focusing instead on trade relations and a “positive agenda.” Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan expressed frustration over certain unnamed countries blocking Turkiye’s EU accession. Turkiye remains committed to joining the EU, despite the lengthy negotiation process that began in 2005. The European Commission’s 2023 report highlighted Turkiye’s democratic shortcomings. Both sides agreed to modernize the Customs Union Agreement and improve visa processes, aiming for stronger economic ties and regular high-level meetings to enhance cooperation.

  1. Dendias Labels Türkiye an ‘Existential Threat’ to Greece

Greek Defense Minister Nikos Dendias called Türkiye an “existential threat” while acknowledging the current positive climate in bilateral relations during a parliamentary address. Dendias emphasized that Türkiye’s disputes over Greek sovereignty and international treaties pose a fundamental threat. Despite welcoming improved relations, he stressed the need for Greece to reform its armed forces. Dendias noted Greece’s substantial defense budget and recent military acquisitions. Türkiye and Greece have longstanding tensions over issues such as maritime boundaries and airspace. Although no skirmishes have occurred recently, both countries continue to prepare for potential conflicts while advocating for dialogue.

  1. Syrian Mafias and Turkish Generals Involved in Citizen Smuggling to Türkiye

Economic hardship drives Syrians, especially those in areas controlled by Turkiye-affiliated militias, to seek refuge in Turkiye. Despite tightened border controls, smuggling persists, now involving Turkish military personnel. Investigative journalist Barış Terkoglu exposed a scandal where high-ranking Turkish officers, including a brigadier general, smuggled Syrians for money. Syrian mafias and Turkish officials collaborate using various methods: military vehicles, commercial permits, and tunnels. Smuggling extends beyond people to include goods like pistachios and olive oil. Terkoglu highlights the security and corruption issues exacerbated by political failures in managing the refugee crisis.

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📌 In case you missed it,

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  May 23, 2024

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  May 22, 2024

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  May 21, 2024

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX  May 20, 2024

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