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Iranian Drone Deployment, Israel-Hezbollah Tension, Egypt Closes Gaza Border

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TOP HEADLINES:

  • Khamenei’s Message to Israel: Avoid War with Hezbollah
  • Iranian Drone Deployment in Syria’s Al Bukamal Revealed
  • Israel Nears Decision on Northern Border Attack
  • Egypt Closes Gaza Border After Israeli Seizure
  • Houthi Leaders’ Ties to US, Israeli Firms Uncovered

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★ ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Israel Nears Decision on Northern Border Attack

Israeli Army Chief of Staff Herzi Halevy announced that Israel is nearing a decision on a military strike along the northern border with Lebanon after a Hezbollah rocket strike from Lebanon ignited devastating fires in northern Israel. Emergency teams, supported by the IDF and police, are working to control the fires, with 11 smoke inhalation victims treated at Ziv Hospital. The fires were exacerbated by a failure to intercept two drones over Safed, causing additional blazes and injuries to 16 Israelis treated at Safed Hospital. The Israeli Fire Authority managed 15 fires in the Upper Galilee, where ex-Safed mayor Ilan Shochat and Golan security officer Gal Eyal described relentless firefighting efforts. Residents like Rafael Salab and Shai Golani expressed frustration and resilience. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for targeting multiple Israeli locations, including the Ramim barracks, while Lebanese media reported Israeli bombings in southern Lebanon using phosphorus shells. In response to the situation, Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich called for “burning all of Lebanon,” saying that the fires in the north are evidence of the country’s bankruptcy and the need for a stronger response. 

  1. Israel Confirms Death of Four Hostages Held by Hamas

The Israeli military announced that four hostages kidnapped on October 7, including three elderly men seen in a Hamas video pleading for release, have been confirmed dead. The four men—Nadav Popplewell, Amiram Cooper, Yoram Metzger, and Haim Peri—were killed during an army operation in Khan Younis, Gaza. Their bodies remain in Hamas custody, with the exact cause of death unknown. Protests have erupted across Israel, demanding the government approve the cease-fire plan to bring the hostages home.

  1. Ben-Gvir Demands Investigation into Labor Party Chairman Yair Golan

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir called on Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara to launch a criminal investigation against Labor Party Chairman Yair Golan. This follows Golan’s recent public call for reservist disobedience. Ben-Gvir labeled Golan’s statements as incitement to rebellion, particularly severe during wartime. In his letter, Ben-Gvir emphasized the importance of upholding the rule of law and urged immediate action from the Attorney General to ensure that Golan is held accountable.

  1. Seventy Protestors Arrested at San Francisco Israeli Consulate

Seventy anti-Israel protestors were arrested at the San Francisco building housing the Israeli consulate after occupying the lobby and refusing to leave. Demonstrators, who posted signs against Israel, were repeatedly warned by police before being detained. Photos and videos on social media showed protestors sitting in a circle and chanting “Free, free Palestine!” Consul General Marco Sermoneta confirmed the protestors did not enter the consulate offices. 

  1. Israel’s Hi-Tech Sector Faces 55% Investment Drop in 2023

Investments in Israeli start-ups fell by 55% in 2023, raising concerns about the hi-tech sector’s future, according to the Israel Innovation Authority. This decline, particularly in later funding rounds, has slowed employment growth and impacted the sector’s contribution to Israel’s GDP and exports. Many start-ups are relocating operations abroad due to local instability. The report calls for increased government funding to reduce dependence on foreign investments and support long-term growth. The sector’s resilience is at risk without substantial local investment and policy support.

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★ IRAN

  1. Khamenei’s Message to Israel: Avoid War with Hezbollah

Iran’s newly appointed Foreign Minister, Ali Baqeri, was sent on an unplanned trip to meet with leaders of Hezbollah, Assad, and Palestinian resistance factions. During his visit to Beirut and Damascus, Baqeri conveyed a message from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, indicating a significant upcoming development. The urgency of his trip coincides with the intensified conflict between Israel and Lebanon, suggesting that Iran is preparing its proxies for escalated actions. Baqeri emphasized, “If Israel had any rationality, it would not get involved in a war with Hezbollah, as it cannot harm Lebanon and its resistance.

  1. Iranian Drone Deployment in Syria’s Al Bukamal Revealed

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard has reinforced local and foreign militias in Albukamal, eastern Syria, with advanced suicide and reconnaissance drones. In May 2024, these drones were transported from Al-Sinaa neighborhood to Al-Katf and Corniche areas under the supervision of “Hajj Sajjad.” Using a civilian vehicle, the drones were concealed in underground warehouses near the Euphrates River to evade airstrikes. The drones arrived from Iraq through the illegal Al-Hari crossing and were stored in fortified tunnels and bases, highlighting Iran’s strategic military expansion and posing significant risks to regional stability and U.S. interests.

  1. Iran Leads OPEC’s Effort to Raise Oil Prices

Iran is spearheading the global operation to raise oil prices, leading OPEC’s surge in output alongside Iraq and Nigeria in May. Iraq’s output increase contradicts prior pledges, contributing significantly to the group exceeding its target by 250,000 bpd. Despite OPEC+ agreements, Iran and Venezuela boosted output, potentially aiming to maximize revenue and regain market share amidst U.S. sanctions-induced economic challenges. Higher oil prices may alleviate economic pressure, prompting Iran’s production ramp-up.

  1. Iran’s Presidential Race: Reformist Surprises

As Iran’s presidential elections approach on June 28, unexpected reformist candidates are emerging. Mohammad Reza Arif and Mohammad Sadr, both associated with former President Mohammad Khatami, are among the potential nominees despite internal opposition. Other notable reformist figures include Masoud Pezeshkian, Mahmoud Sadeghi, Muhammad Shariatmadari, and Mostafa Kawakibian, although their chances are slim. Calls for Eshaq Jahangiri, a former vice president, to run have also intensified.

  1. Khamenei Claims October 7 Attack Fulfills Khomeini’s Prophecy

On the 35th anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini’s death, Iran held a significant ceremony to honor the founder of the Islamic Revolution. Speaking at the event, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed that Khomeini’s predictions about the future of Palestine are being realized today. He stated that the October 7 attacks on Israel were foreseen by Khomeini and are manifestations of his vision. Khamenei’s speech emphasized the continued influence of Khomeini’s ideology, linking recent events to the late leader’s prophecy and underscoring Iran’s support for its proxies. 

  1. US Accused of Hiding British Bank’s Iran Transactions

Whistleblower Julian Knight, a former executive at British bank Standard Chartered, claims that US authorities concealed evidence of the bank’s involvement in over $100 billion in transactions for Iran and international terrorist groups like Hamas and al-Qaeda. Court documents allege that between 2008 and 2013, Standard Chartered violated sanctions by conducting thousands of transactions. Although the bank admitted to breaching sanctions and paid over $1.7 billion in fines, it denied facilitating terrorist funding. Knight asserts that US agencies misled the court to dismiss his whistleblower claims, accusing the government of a cover-up.

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★ SYRIA

  1. Assad Regime Refuses Syrian Refugee Returns to Lebanon

According to a Lebanese parliamentary source, approximately 1,100 Syrian refugees who voluntarily attempted to return to their country have faced rejection, primarily directed back to Lebanon by an official decision from the Assad regime. Despite their willingness to return, only 400 of them were allowed reentry. The Assad government categorizes most refugees as “undesirable,” citing perceived security and demographic threats to its survival. This refusal highlights tensions between Lebanon and the EU, which insists on the illegality and safety concerns of forcibly returning refugees to Syria. Analysts warn of existential dangers for Lebanon and criticize the regime’s stance as hindering potential solutions.

  1. SDF and Coalition Target ISIS Cell

The International Coalition and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) conducted an airdrop and ground raid operation east of Deir ez-Zor Governorate, targeting an ISIS cell. The SDF reported eliminating a “dangerous terrorist cell” responsible for recent bombings. During the raid in the village of Dahla, five cell members, including two leaders, were killed, and two were arrested. The targeted group’s hideout was destroyed after the operation. No comments have been made by the International Coalition or CENTCOM on the operation. Local sources confirmed the deaths of Khalil al-Muhammad, his son Omar, and two others during the raid.

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★ IRAQ

  1. Iran Dominates Iraq-Erbil Security Meeting, Poses Risks

In a meeting held today in Erbil, Iraq’s National Intelligence Council and the Kurdistan Region’s Security Council reviewed several critical issues, including the Iran-Iraq security agreement. Iran’s dominance over Iraq’s national security decisions was evident, with discussions highlighting Iran’s attempts to control Erbil, which threatens American interests. Topics included the PKK presence, refugee camps, and convicts. Following the deaths of its president and foreign minister, Iran seems intent on continuing its regional acts of violence, further destabilizing the region and undermining efforts for a unified Iraq with stable security.

  1. Iraq Seeks Korean Missile Defense Systems

Iraq’s urgent procurement of eight M-SAM-II ballistic air and missile defense system batteries from South Korea reflects a broader trend of Arab nations strengthening ties with East Asian defense suppliers. The $2.56 billion deal highlights Iraq’s need for advanced defense capabilities during regional tensions. South Korea’s M-SAM-II, known for its cutting-edge technology, joins recent defense contracts with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, signaling a shift towards Asian defense partnerships in the Middle East.

  1. ISIS Member Sentenced for Yazidi Genocide

The Karkh Criminal Court in Iraq sentenced an ISIS member to death for orchestrating genocide against Yazidi citizens. The convict, along with his cohorts, executed numerous Yazidis, documenting their atrocities with photos and videos shared on terrorist-affiliated social media. Additionally, he targeted security forces in Nineveh and Salah al-Din. This ruling comes under Anti-Terrorism Law No. 13 of 2005 and Yazidi Women Survivors Law No. (8) of 2021. The Yazidi community suffered gravely during ISIS’s 2014 Sinjar attack, with over 6,000 kidnapped, many still missing.

  1. Iraq Extradites Health Official from Belarus

Iraq’s Federal Integrity Commission successfully extradited a former Ministry of Health official from Belarus, accused of embezzling over $4 million by falsifying employee lists and disbursing illegal salaries. The extradition was achieved through cooperation among Iraq’s Recovery Department, Intelligence Service, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and international police. The official was arrested in Belarus and extradited following a Rusafa Criminal Court decision. Sentenced to seven years in absentia, this action underscores Iraq’s commitment to combating corruption and recovering stolen funds.

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★ YEMEN

  1. Houthi Leaders’ Ties to US, Israeli Firms Uncovered

The secret money laundering network run by the Houthi militia has been uncovered, revealing extensive operations aimed at controlling the Yemeni economy and evading international sanctions. Led by ten top officials from the Security and Intelligence Service under Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the network spans sectors such as real estate, medicines, and transport. These Houthi leaders are also linked to operations with private US and Israeli firms, including the American company Development Monitors, LLC, which operates in Houthi-controlled areas with militia support. This collaboration involves significant facilitation by Houthi leaders, further exposing their deep-rooted involvement in illegal financial activities and international partnerships to maintain their grip on power. This discovery builds on previous reports of American and Israeli companies operating in Yemen, highlighting the far-reaching implications of these illicit activities.

  1. US Army Intercepts Houthi Missiles Targeting Destroyer

The US Central Command reported that its forces intercepted and destroyed two anti-ship ballistic missiles aimed at the destroyer USS Gridley in the southern Red Sea. Central Command confirmed there were no damages or injuries. The Houthis admitted 16 fighters, including 15 officers, were killed in recent US-British air strikes targeting their positions in Yemen. 

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★ THE GULF

  1. Saudi Arabia Revises School Curriculum to Improve Israel’s Image

Saudi Arabia has significantly altered its school curriculum for the 2023-2024 year, removing references to Zionism as “racist” and acknowledging historical Jewish presence in the region. This marks a shift towards greater tolerance and openness, suggesting progress towards normalizing relations with Israel. While references to “Israeli occupation” persist, Israel is no longer labeled an “enemy state.” These changes indicate a potential move towards a “warm peace,” similar to the UAE and Bahrain’s approach following the Abraham Accords. Antisemitic content and incitement to violence have also been largely removed.

  1. Saudi Wealth Fund Seeks Investors for Sterling Bonds

The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) is initiating the sale of sterling-denominated bonds in two tranches. The indicative price for these bonds is set at 135 basis points above British government bonds for the five-year tranche and 145 basis points above for the 15-year tranche. The bond offering, expected to be at least $500 million, follows last month’s $5 billion Sukuk sale by Saudi Arabia. The PIF, managing assets over $700 billion, has engaged Barclays, BNP Paribas, HSBC, and J.P. Morgan as joint global coordinators. This move is part of Saudi Arabia’s broader strategy to diversify its economic investments and attract international investors.

  1. Saudi Arabia and Brazil Sign New Defense Cooperation Agreement

Saudi Arabia and Brazil have signed a significant defense cooperation agreement, reflecting the deepening ties between the two BRICS members. The agreement, signed by Saudi Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman and Brazilian Vice President and Minister of Development, Industry, and Trade, Geraldo Alckmin, aims to enhance collaboration in defense industries, research and development, and technology transfer in line with Saudi Vision 2030. The countries also discussed their shared stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, advocating for an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian aid access to Gaza. This agreement marks a critical step in bolstering Saudi-Brazilian relations and expanding their defense capabilities.

  1. Qatar Energy Signs Naphtha Supply Deal with Japan

Qatar Energy has signed a 10-year agreement with Japan’s Idemitsu Kosan to supply 6 million tons of naphtha, starting in July. This deal strengthens their nearly 50-year partnership. Saad Al-Kaabi, Qatari Minister of State for Energy Affairs, highlighted the mutual benefits and praised the efforts of both companies’ teams. This follows a similar agreement with Japan’s Marubeni Corporation last year, emphasizing Qatar Energy’s ongoing commitment to long-term international partnerships.

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★ EGYPT

  1. Egypt Closes Gaza Border After Israeli Seizure

Israel’s recent seizure of the Philadelphi Corridor on the Gaza-Egypt border prompted Egypt to unilaterally close the Rafah crossing, blocking aid deliveries and isolating Gaza’s 2.3 million residents. Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, announced that the crossing cannot reopen while under Israeli control and must be returned to Palestinian administration. This decision underscores Egypt’s limited options in the Gaza conflict and highlights the importance of the 1979 peace treaty for regional stability. Egypt’s leadership has used anti-Israel rhetoric to distract from internal issues, with the media often presenting a one-sided narrative.

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★ TURKIYE

  1. China Expands Influence in Turkiye Through Cooperation

Chinese Vice President Han Zheng emphasized Beijing’s active pursuit of expanded influence in Turkiye, highlighting their vast potential for cooperation. During a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan in Beijing, Han noted that China and Turkiye share significant common interests as major developing countries and emerging markets. He expressed China’s readiness to enhance mutual political trust, align development strategies, and support each other’s core interests within the Belt and Road framework. Fidan reaffirmed Turkiye’s commitment to the one-China principle and the goal of strengthening high-level exchanges and practical cooperation across various fields.

  1. Turkiye Joins BRICS with Russia’s Full Support

Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitriy Peskov announced Russia’s support for Turkiye’s interest in joining BRICS, emphasizing that this issue will be addressed at the upcoming BRICS summit chaired by Russia. Peskov highlighted the strategic significance of Turkiye, a key partner, showing increasing interest in the organization. He acknowledged that while BRICS may not meet all member interests, it continues to engage with interested states. This development reflects China’s broader strategy to expand its influence in the region, with Turkiye seeking new cooperation opportunities amid shifting global dynamics. Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan confirmed his participation in the BRICS meeting in Russia next week.

  1. Turkiye and Azerbaijan Extend Natural Gas Agreement for Six Years

Turkiye and Azerbaijan have extended their natural gas supply agreement until the end of 2030. The extension was formalized during the 29th International Caspian Oil and Natural Gas Fair in Baku, with Turkish Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar and Azerbaijani Economy Minister Mikayil Cabbarov in attendance. BOTAŞ Chairman Abdulvahit Fidan and Azerbaijan Gas Supply Company General Manager Lidya Salahova signed the agreement. Additionally, four agreements on natural gas delivery and exchange were signed between BOTAŞ and SOCAR President Rövşen Necef.

  1. Training Plane Crash in Türkiye Claims Lives of Two Pilots  

Two pilots lost their lives when an SF-260D training aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff from the 12th Air Transport Main Base Command in Kayseri, Türkiye. The National Defense Ministry reported that the cause of the crash remains unknown. Search and rescue operations are underway to investigate the incident and recover the pilots.

  1. Turkiye Prepares to Launch Local Satellite “Turksat 6A”

Turkiye is set to launch its locally developed satellite “Turksat 6A” in collaboration with SpaceX. Industry and Technology Minister Mehmet Fatih Kager announced the satellite will be sent to the U.S. today for a scheduled launch in July. Developed by Turkish scientists and engineers, this marks Turkiye’s entry into an elite group of 11 nations capable of producing communication satellites. The “Turksat 6A” represents Turkiye’s most advanced technological achievement, developed with the expertise of Turkish Aerospace Industries and funded by several national ministries and the company TURKSAT.

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📌 In case you missed it,

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX June 3, 2024

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