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Iran Installs Centrifuges, Conducts Cyberattacks, and Threatens European Security

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Top Headlines: 

  • Ben-Gvir Halts Gaza Aid Security, Smotrich Redirects PA Funds
  • Hezbollah and ISIS Collaborate to Target US Forces in Syria
  • U.S. Defunds Interaction Group for Lobbying Against Assad Sanctions
  • Iran Installing More Centrifuges at Fordow
  • Türkiye Signs F-16 Fighter Deal with the United States

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ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Ben-Gvir Halts Gaza Aid Security, Smotrich Redirects PA Funds

After IDF Chief Herzl Halevi complained about far-right activists blocking aid convoys, Washington imposed sanctions on the Israeli group “Tzav 9” for attacking aid convoys to Gaza, damaging trucks, and discarding life-saving humanitarian supplies. The group, linked to Israeli army reservists and settlers, opposes U.S. efforts for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Ben-Gvir instructed Deputy Commissioner Avshalom Peled and Superintendent Cohen not to assist, deeming it the IDF’s responsibility. Shabtai’s letter details instances of Ben-Gvir interfering with police operations, violating a High Court order prohibiting him from issuing operational directives.

In a separate development, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich announced the transfer of $134 million from the Palestinian Authority’s frozen funds to victims of terrorism, calling it “historical justice.” He criticized the PA for supporting terrorism by compensating families of terrorists and prisoners.

  1. Gantz Criticizes Netanyahu Over Hostage Deal Stalemate

National Unity leader Benny Gantz, in interviews with major Israeli broadcasters, criticized Prime Minister Netanyahu for failing to advance a hostage return deal. Gantz suggested that Israel should consider a temporary ceasefire in Gaza to secure the release of hostages taken by Hamas. He emphasized the need for international pressure on Qatar and Egypt to facilitate the deal. Expressing disappointment with Netanyahu’s handling of the situation, Gantz called for renewed public trust through elections.

  1. IDF Neutralizes Two Senior Terrorists in West Bank During 13-Hour Operation

A 13-hour operation led by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers from the Duvdevan and Haruv units, alongside Border Police officers and guided by Shin Bet intelligence, resulted in neutralizing two senior terrorists in Jenin, West Bank, several arrests, and the seizure of numerous weapons. IDF engineering forces disarmed explosives on rigged roads, leading to multiple gun battles. A key moment involved a “pressure-cooker” procedure by Duvdevan soldiers, resulting in a firefight where shoulder-mounted missiles were used by the terrorists. Both suspects were killed, and weapons were found on their bodies. One IDF soldier sustained light injuries and was taken to the hospital. The arrested suspects and seized weapons are now with security authorities for further investigation.

  1. Former Ambassador’s Son Found Decapitated in Northern Israel

Israeli police are investigating the brutal murder of Rabia Araidi, 43, whose decapitated head was discovered in the Bedouin town of Basmat Tab’un and body in the Zalmon stream. Araidi, the son of the late Druze author and former Israeli ambassador to Norway, Naim Araidi, was reportedly involved with the Abu Latif crime organization. This murder marks the 92nd Arab homicide in 2024

  1. Hamas to Open Office in Baghdad with Official Approval

Hamas plans to open a relations and media office in Baghdad with official government approval, according to Shafaq News Agency. The source clarified that contrary to rumors, no Hamas camp will be established on the city’s outskirts. This development follows strained relations between Qatar and Hamas leaders in Doha, who have been negotiating to end the Gaza conflict. CNN reported that Qatar has threatened to expel Hamas leaders.

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LEBANON

  1. Israel Rejects France’s Plan for Lebanon Border Security Talks

Israel has rejected France’s proposal for a tripartite committee to ease tensions on the Lebanon border, citing France’s hostility after barring Israeli participation in a military exhibition. Defense Minister Yoav Galant announced that Israel will not join the proposed framework with France, the US, and Israel. French President Emmanuel Macron suggested this during the G7 summit. Israel initially supported the idea but withdrew after France excluded Israeli companies from the Eurosatory arms show. Talks will now proceed without France, focusing on US-Israel coordination.

  1. Israeli Army Confirms Strike on Hezbollah Headquarters in Janata

Israeli Army Radio clarified that the attack on a house in Janata, southern Lebanon, targeted a Hezbollah headquarters, not an assassination of a Hezbollah official. Conflicting reports suggested an assassination attempt, but the target had left before the bombing. The Israeli raid killed one civilian and injured at least seven others. Lebanese sources reported a second woman’s death. The attack caused significant damage to a multi-storey building. Alarm sirens sounded in Upper Galilee, Israel, indicating possible missile strikes or drone activity. Hezbollah claimed 12 operations against Israeli sites, including targeting a Hummer and a military factory.

  1. IDF Uses Medieval Trébuchet to Combat Hezbollah on Border

IDF reserve forces have been using a trébuchet, a medieval siege weapon, to ignite bushes and dry vegetation near IDF posts on the northern border. This tactic, shared on social media, aims to prevent Hezbollah fighters from using dense foliage as cover, which complicates the detection of Hezbollah cells. Initially, reserve soldiers used Molotov cocktails, and Lebanese sources also reported the use of incendiary drones. To avoid using valuable artillery, soldiers employed the trébuchet, capable of hurling burning objects over several hundred meters. This ancient weapon was last used in Europe until the 15th century. Hezbollah claims they have carried out 2,125 attacks against Israel since the war began.

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IRAN

  1. Iran Installs IR-6 and Plans 18 IR-2M Centrifuges

Iran has begun installing additional centrifuges for uranium enrichment at its underground Fordow facility, responding to an IAEA Board of Directors’ decision. A confidential IAEA report revealed Iran’s plan to install eight cascades of advanced IR-6 centrifuges at Fordow and is working on four cascades. Although Iran had long-term plans for these installations, the recent actions follow the IAEA’s decision. At Natanz, Iran also plans to install 18 cascades of IR-2M machines but has not specified a timeline. The United States threatened to respond if Iran accelerates uranium enrichment, following a report from the IAEA. The US called for Iran to cooperate with the IAEA and comply with its obligations.

  1. G7 Warns Iran Against Missile Transfers to Russia

The Group of Seven leaders warned Iran not to provide Russia with ballistic missiles, following the confirmation that their strategic agreement had been halted due to issues on the Iranian side. Amid the Ukraine war, Iran and Russia have grown closer, with Iran supplying Russia with kamikaze drones. The G7 emphasized that transferring ballistic missiles would be a significant escalation and a threat to European security. Despite ongoing cooperation talks, Russia’s TASS news agency reported procedural issues delaying the agreement. Political analysts suggest this halt might be a strategic move by Putin to pressure Iran’s isolated government.

  1. Iran Among Top Sources of 300 Million Daily Cyberattacks

Microsoft President Brad Smith revealed that the company detects approximately 300 million cyberattacks on its users daily, with a significant portion originating from China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia. Addressing the House Committee on Homeland Security, Smith emphasized the need for robust cybersecurity measures due to the increasing skill and aggression of these adversaries. The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency identified Iran as a major cyber threat, with attacks targeting critical infrastructure and financial institutions

  1. Iranian Presidential Hopefuls Clash in Televised Debates

Despite being warned to avoid defamatory remarks, Iran’s six presidential candidates engaged in heated debates, accusing each other of corruption and human rights abuses. Tehran’s mayor, Alireza Zakani, highlighted his anti-corruption efforts despite his controversial tenure. Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, former Tehran mayor and current parliament speaker, faced financial mismanagement accusations. Mostafa Pourmohammadi’s candidacy was overshadowed by his role in the 1988 mass executions. The candidates focused on the economy and foreign policy. Former president Hassan Rouhani prioritized lifting sanctions, while Saeed Jalili criticized past negotiations with the West. Massoud Pezeshkian blamed economic woes on internal issues and sanctions.

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SYRIA

  1. U.S. Defunds Interaction Group for Lobbying Against Assad Sanctions

This move follows earlier reports that the Biden administration opposed the bill’s inclusion in recent legislative packages, working quietly to ease pressure on the Assad regime despite publicly maintaining a stance against normalization. The U.S. House of Representatives has decided to halt funding for Interaction, a humanitarian organization accused of lobbying against the Anti-Normalization with Assad Act. The decision to defund Interaction signals Congress’s growing mistrust in the Biden administration’s approach to Syria. Interaction, founded in 1984 and representing over 165 aid organizations, reportedly pressured Congress to oppose the legislation aimed at maintaining sanctions against the Assad regime. 

  1. Hezbollah and ISIS Collaborate to Target US Forces in Syria

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports secret coordination between Hezbollah and ISIS to target US and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Deir ez-Zor. Leaders from Hezbollah, ISIS, and Iran’s Fourth Division met in April to plan attacks. The collaboration aims to destabilize areas under US and SDF control, with Hezbollah providing funding and arms. Recent months have seen increased ISIS attacks and local militant activities in these regions. Civilians are calling for urgent action to restore security and stability. The Observatory had previously documented similar cooperation between Iranian militias and ISIS.

  1. Iranian Militias’ Presence in Syria and Potential Movement to Lebanon

Iranian militias have established significant positions throughout Syria, poised to support Hezbollah in Lebanon if conflict escalates. In northwest Syria, these forces are stationed at 177 positions in Aleppo, 27 in Idlib, and 17 in Latakia. In northeast Syria, 77 positions are held in Deir ez-Zor by various groups including Fatemiyoun, Zeinabiyoun, Hezbollah, Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, and Harakat al-Nujaba. Central Syria sees these militias at 16 positions in Raqqa and significant presence in Palmyra, Hama (29 positions), and Homs (67 positions). In southern Syria, militias are stationed in Daraa and Quneitra, including Abu Ghadir’s faction. These groups, supported by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, are prepared to mobilize to Lebanon, potentially increasing regional tensions and conflict.

  1. Assad Government Licenses New Iranian Islamic Bank

The Assad government has licensed a new bank, Al-Madina Islamic Bank, based in Damascus with a capital of 50 billion Syrian pounds. Owned by Iran’s Farab Soroush Afaq Qeshm, the bank will offer 40% of its shares to Syrian public subscription. This addition brings the number of private Islamic banks in Syria to five. Fahd Darwish, head of the Syrian-Iranian Chamber of Commerce, stated that the bank will enhance commercial activity and improve the trade balance between Syria and Iran. The bank’s launch is imminent, with preparations for its offices and staff recruitment already underway.

  1. Turkish and Russian Officers Meet to Open Key Aleppo Road

Turkish and Russian officers met at the Abu al-Zindin crossing in eastern Aleppo to discuss reopening the M4 international road, which connects areas controlled by Syrian opposition factions with those held by the Syrian regime. This move has sparked significant local opposition, with residents and rebels protesting against the entry of Russian patrols into the “Euphrates Shield” area and any collaboration with the Syrian regime. 

  1. Clashes at Syrian Border Highlight Regime’s Internal Corruption

Clashes erupted between Assad’s militias at the Nassib border crossing with Jordan on Thursday, injuring regime personnel. The “Ahrar Houran Gathering” reported that a dispute between a regime police officer and a Military Security-affiliated group led to gunfire. The conflict began when Ahmed Adnan Al-Sharif, recently returned from the UAE, tried to enter Nasib Customs despite being barred for alleged embezzlement. Al-Sharif’s armed group clashed with police and Political Security Branch members, injuring a policeman. Al-Sharif is linked to a local Military Security group involved in customs corruption, reflecting broader systemic corruption under Assad’s regime.

  1. Türkiye Reports on Syrian Refugee Returns in 2023

Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya announced that 103,045 Syrians returned to Syria from Turkiye in 2023. From 2016 to 2024, a total of 658,463 Syrians have returned. Currently, 3,114,099 Syrians remain under temporary protection in Turkiye. Additionally, 1,125,623 foreigners hold residency, and 234,528 live under international protection. The minister highlighted Türkiye’s efforts against migrant smuggling, with 191,450 illegal immigrants prevented from crossing the border in one year and 7,599 operations resulting in 12,386 arrests.

  1. Severe Water Crisis Affects 1,000 Displaced Persons Camps in Northwestern Syria

The Syria Response Coordinators team reports a worsening water crisis in northern Syria’s displaced persons camps since early 2024. Over the past two months, more than 991 camps have completely run out of water, while 318 camps face significant shortages. Additionally, 829 camps lack proper sanitation. The rising temperatures and water scarcity heighten fears of disease outbreaks, with skin disease cases reported in 487 camps. The lack of waste management exacerbates the situation. The team urges immediate water provision to these camps as families spend up to 39% of their income on water during summer, and many camps have inadequate sanitation facilities.

  1. Armed Attack Kills Three Iraqi Pilgrims in Eastern Syria

Three Iraqi pilgrims were killed in an armed attack on their bus in eastern Syria, according to Syrian sources on Thursday. The victims, identified as Shiite pilgrims, were returning from Damascus to the Iraqi border when unknown assailants targeted their vehicle in the town of Al-Dweir, east of Deir ez-Zor. The attack highlights the ongoing tensions and local hostility towards Iranian-backed militias’ presence in Syria, as many Syrians do not welcome the influx of Shiite visitors. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

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YEMEN

  1. Houthi Missile Attack on Gulf of Aden Ship Injures Sailor

In the Gulf of Aden, a Houthi missile attack targeted the M/V Verbena, a Ukrainian-owned, Palau-flagged bulk carrier operated by Poland. The U.S. Central Command confirmed the attack resulted in damage, fires, and the serious injury of a civilian sailor, who was medically evacuated by U.S. forces. The ship was en route to Italy from Malaysia with wooden construction materials. The attack is part of a series of Houthi operations disrupting international shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. 

  1. Houthis Launch Three New Attacks in the Red Sea and Arabian Sea

The Iranian Houthi group announced three new military operations in the Red Sea and Arabian Sea. The group’s military spokesman, Yahya Saree, stated that these operations were carried out by their naval, missile, and drone forces within the past 24 hours. The first attack targeted the ship “Verbena” in the Arabian Sea, causing a fire. The second and third attacks hit the ships “Seaguardian” and “Athina” in the Red Sea, respectively. 

  1. Yemen’s Armed Forces Warn of New Weapons in Next Conflict

Deputy Director of Moral Guidance Abdullah bin Amer announced that the Yemeni Armed Forces have acquired new weapons, indicating that the upcoming war will be unlike previous ones. In a post on (X), bin Amer warned, “Beware of free and independent Yemen. New weapons might be tested in the next round of ground warfare.” He emphasized that the forthcoming conflict will not be among Yemenis themselves but will unite them against their true enemy, targeting them from Mahra to Kamaran and Socotra to Saada.

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IRAQ

  1. Rising Tensions Between Iranian-Backed Political Rivals in Iraq

Nouri al-Maliki, leader of the State of Law Coalition, supports early elections in Iraq by year’s end to curb Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani’s influence. Sources say Al Sudani is forming alliances to establish a new political entity challenging traditional groups like the State of Law, Hikma Movement, and Sadrist Movement. Most political bloc leaders back al-Maliki’s call, viewing it as a way to prevent a new strong competitor. Al-Maliki warns against using political funds in elections. Reports indicate Al Sudani, supported by significant media and financial resources, seeks to bolster his influence. The coming months will be crucial in determining Iraq’s political future, with early elections potentially reshaping the post-2003 political system.

  1. Iraqi Intelligence Arrests Syrian Drug Dealer with 24 kg of Crystal Meth

The Iraqi Intelligence Service announced on Thursday the arrest of a Syrian drug dealer at the Al-Qaim border crossing with Syria. In a major operation, the dealer was found in possession of 24 kilograms of crystal meth. An informed source described this as the largest operation of its kind conducted by the intelligence service.

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THE GULF

  1. Aramco Signs 20-Year Deal for U.S. LNG Supply

Saudi Aramco has signed a preliminary 20-year agreement to buy liquefied natural gas from the Rio Grande facility in Texas, operated by NextDecade. The deal, involving 1.2 million tons of LNG annually, is expected to be finalized soon. Nasser Al-Naimi, Aramco’s President of Exploration and Production, emphasized LNG’s importance in meeting global energy demands. Aramco plans to purchase the gas at the Henry Hub price and deliver it on board the ship. The agreement, still under negotiation, awaits the final investment decision for Unit Four of the Rio Grande facility.

  1. Washington Reconsiders Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

The Biden administration’s focus has shifted toward a potential tripartite agreement involving Saudi Arabia and Israel. Senator Ben Cardin, a key Democrat, is reassessing limits on U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, signaling a “convergence” in relations. Cardin, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has instructed a review of all comments on these sales, indicating a potential change since former chair Bob Menendez blocked sales over Saudi oil production cuts.

  1. UAE’s Emirates Airlines Fined by US for Violating Iraqi Airspace Ban

The United States has fined Emirates Airlines $1.8 million for operating flights in restricted Iraqi airspace. The US Department of Transportation found that Emirates flew aircraft with JetBlue Airways’ code over areas prohibited by the Federal Aviation Administration. An investigation revealed that between December 2021 and August 2022, Emirates conducted numerous flights in the restricted zone, violating their operational authority and a prior agreement from October 2020. JetBlue stated their codeshare agreement with Emirates ended in October 2022 and denied involvement with the flights in question.

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 EGYPT & AFRICA

  1. Sisi Travels to Saudi Arabia for Hajj

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi departed for Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj, as announced by Egypt’s Presidency. Sisi will arrive in Medina to pray at the Prophet’s Mosque and visit the grave of the Prophet Muhammad. Notably, Sisi performed Umrah during his visit to Saudi Arabia last year, coinciding with the 32nd Arab Summit in Jeddah.

  1. Security Council Urges Rapid Support Forces to Lift in Sudan

The UN Security Council called on the Rapid Support Forces to end their siege of El Fasher in North Darfur, Sudan, and to cease fighting immediately. The resolution, drafted by Britain and supported by 14 members with Russia abstaining, demands the withdrawal of fighters threatening civilian safety. El Fasher, home to over 1.8 million people, has been a conflict zone since April 2023. Russia opposed the vote, citing previous ceasefire failures. 

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 TURKIYE

  1. Türkiye Signs F-16 Fighter Deal with the United States

Türkiye has signed a deal with the United States to purchase F-16 fighters, according to the Turkish Ministry of Defense. The details are still under review, and the public will be informed once finalized. The deal, valued at $23 billion, includes 40 new F-16 fighters and 79 modernization kits for Türkiye’s existing fleet. This follows the US State Department’s recent approval and the US Congress’s green light in February. The deal comes after Türkiye ratified Sweden’s NATO membership, and marks a significant development after the US excluded Türkiye from the F-35 program in 2020 due to its purchase of the Russian S-400 defense system.

  1. World Bank to Provide Türkiye with $18 Billion Financing

The World Bank’s regional director in Turkiye, Humberto Lopez, announced that Türkiye will receive $18 billion in financing over the next three years, surpassing the current $17 billion. Lopez expressed optimism about Türkiye’s economy, highlighting efforts by the Treasury and Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek to combat inflation. He acknowledged the challenges but emphasized the opportunities this effort will create. The financing will be divided, with $12 billion allocated to the private sector and $6 billion to the public sector. Lopez also noted Türkiye’s strong infrastructure and workforce as key assets.

  1. Türkiye Dismantles Mossad Cell Operating in Europe and Arab Countries

Turkish intelligence has dismantled a Mossad spy network consisting of nine members, mostly from one family, operating in Türkiye and several European and Arab countries. The Turkish newspaper “Sabah” reported that the cell, led by Ahmed Arsin Tomlujali, an insurance company owner in Istanbul, was arrested last April. The network conducted espionage activities for Mossad, including monitoring and photographing targets. Eight members were arrested, with six charged with espionage. The cell members carried out tasks in Türkiye, Germany, Georgia, and Lebanon, and received payments from Mossad for their activities. 

  1. Türkiye Leads Successful Effort at ITU to Aid Palestine’s Telecom Reconstruction

A UN resolution to rebuild Palestine’s telecommunications infrastructure was passed with 34 votes in favor at the ITU Council meeting. Deputy Minister of Transport and Infrastructure, Dr. Ömer Fatih Sayan, highlighted Türkiye’s leadership in securing the resolution despite opposition from the US, UK, and Canada. The resolution, co-presented by 33 countries, calls for international support to modernize Palestine’s telecom sector and mandates regular reporting by ITU. The successful passage marks a significant achievement for Palestine under Türkiye’s leadership. ITU Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin will coordinate the implementation efforts.

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📌 In case you missed it,

📰  THE EARLY PHOENIX June 13, 2024

📰  THE EARLY PHOENIX June 12, 2024

📰  THE EARLY PHOENIX June 11, 2024

📰  THE EARLY PHOENIX June 10, 2024

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