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Foiled US Embassy Attack in Lebanon Points to Hezbollah Motives

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TOP HEADLINES:

  • Hezbollah Linked to Attack on US Embassy in Beirut, Lebanese Journalist Claims
  • Israel’s Covert Influence Campaign Targets US Lawmakers
  • Assad’s Captagon Cartel Persists with Shipments Despite Jordanian and Saudi Pleas
  • Houthis Launch Missiles in Red Sea, Drone Attacks Taiz
  • Hamas and Fatah to Hold Reconciliation Talks in China

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★ ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Israel Intercepts Hezbollah Drones; Missiles and Artillery Cause Injuries

The Israeli army intercepted two drones from Lebanon, while Hezbollah launched missile attacks on Israeli soldiers near Birkat Risha and artillery strikes at Al-Malikiyah, causing injuries. Hezbollah announced it targeted Israeli soldiers with artillery at Al-Malikiyah, and Israeli media reported missile strikes from Lebanon on the area and sirens in Western Galilee. In response, Israeli aircraft targeted Hezbollah positions in Naqoura and the outskirts of Al-Jebeen, Ayta Al-Shaab, and Ramiya. Reconnaissance and flare bombs were deployed over southern Lebanon, reaching the Litani River and the sea coast, with incendiary bombs igniting fires in forests near the Blue Line. Israel is preparing for a potential large-scale military operation in Lebanon, calling up 50,000 reserve soldiers. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the northern border, warning of decisive action and extending the call-up to 350,000 reserves. Researcher Tal Beeri of the Alma Institute highlights that a full-scale war could see Hezbollah launching thousands of drones and missiles daily, targeting all of Israel, including Haifa and Gush Dan. Senior Hezbollah official Naim Qassem confirmed Alma’s predication stating that Israel will face “devastation and destruction” if it expands the war with Lebanon. Qassem emphasized that Hezbollah does not seek to escalate the conflict but is fully prepared for an all-out war if necessary. These statements followed Hezbollah’s drone attacks on Israeli military sites.

  1. Jerusalem Day Flag March Sparks Tensions With Heightened Security

Jerusalem Day, marking 57 years since Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem after the Six-Day War, saw celebrations including the annual Flag March through the Damascus Gate to the Western Wall. This route has a history of sparking violence, especially this year following calls from Hamas for confrontation. The 2021 march contributed to a 10-day conflict between Israel and Hamas. Over 3,000 police officers were deployed to ensure safety, with Palestinian shops often closing due to fears of clashes. Israeli settlers, led by hardline ministers Smotrich and Ben Gvir, entered Al-Aqsa Mosque, carrying Israeli flags and wearing coordinated uniforms. This incursion, seen as provocative by Palestinians, symbolizes Israeli dominance over a deeply revered site and exacerbates tensions. Damascus Gate, a powerful symbol of Palestinian identity, and Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites, are central to the conflict, with these actions perceived as attempts to assert control over key Palestinian heritage and religious locations.

  1. Israel’s Raids in West Bank Camps Fuel Militancy

An Israeli raid in the West Bank’s Nur Shams refugee camp sparked a near three-day battle, leaving homes destroyed and residents displaced. Despite being far from Gaza, this camp remains a hotbed of resistance, highlighting the limits of Israel’s military strategy. The ongoing conflict has claimed over 500 Palestinian lives in the West Bank since the latest Israel-Hamas war began, further straining hopes for a peaceful resolution. Militants continue to operate openly, reflecting deep-seated grievances and the long-standing struggle for Palestinian statehood.

  1. Nine IDF Soldiers Injured in Base Explosion in Southern Israel

Nine Israeli soldiers were injured, two seriously, in an explosion at a southern base, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Two soldiers are in moderate condition and five have minor injuries. They were taken to a hospital in Beersheba. The cause of the blast is under investigation. Earlier on Tuesday, shrapnel from Israeli anti-missile interceptors injured a soldier in northern Israel and sparked a fire near Safed. The interceptors were launched after a false alarm about a suspicious aerial object from Lebanon. The injured soldier was treated and his family notified. 11 said to be injured in possible explosive-laden drone hit in Hurfeish, northern Israel

  1. Liberman Warns of Imminent Large-Scale Iranian Missile Attack

Avigdor Liberman, an opposition Member of Knesset (MK) and chairman of the Yisrael Beytenu party, has warned of Iran’s plans to launch a large-scale missile attack on Israel within the next two years, describing it as an “Iranian extermination program.” He emphasized the threat of Iran developing a “nuclear umbrella” to enable this strike and called for strong retaliatory measures and close coordination with the United States. Liberman also criticized Prime Minister Netanyahu’s conflict management and advocated for decisive action against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

  1. Israel’s Covert Influence Campaign Targets US Lawmakers

Israel has been running a covert online influence campaign targeting US lawmakers, using fake accounts, according to The New York Times. Launched by Stoic, a political marketing firm hired by the Diaspora Ministry for $2 million, the campaign aimed to spread pro-Israel messaging. Hundreds of fake accounts posed as real Americans on X, Facebook, and Instagram, focusing on Black and Democratic lawmakers. The Diaspora Ministry denied involvement. Meta and OpenAI disrupted the operation, finding it largely ineffective. Many of the fake accounts’ followers were bots, and Meta removed numerous accounts tied to the campaign.

  1. Hamas and Fatah to Hold Reconciliation Talks in China

Hamas and Fatah will meet in China in mid-June for reconciliation talks. Despite deep divisions, the meetings indicate Hamas’s intent to influence the post-war order in Palestinian territories. While Hamas knows it cannot join any new internationally recognized government, it seeks a technocratic administration for the West Bank and Gaza. Senior Hamas official Basim Naim emphasized the group’s focus on political unity rather than holding government positions. The US and EU oppose any governing role for Hamas post-war, though officials acknowledge that Hamas will likely remain influential.

  1. “The Times”: Hamas Base in Istanbul Behind Failed Attack on Israel

An Israeli intelligence official claimed that a Hamas cell in Turkiye is directing terrorist attacks in Israel, including a foiled suicide operation. The British newspaper “The Times” reported that the Israeli security service, Shin Bet, arrested Anas Shorman, a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian origin, who planned to carry out a suicide attack in Israel with a 12-kilogram bomb. According to Shin Bet, Shorman was recruited by Imad Abed, a Hamas member in Turkiye. The head of Hamas in Istanbul is Zaher Jabarin, a veteran leader imprisoned in 1993 for his role in kidnapping and murdering an Israeli police officer.

  1. US House Approves Bill Sanctioning International Criminal Court

The US House of Representatives has passed a bill enabling sanctions against the International Criminal Court (ICC) if it investigates or prosecutes individuals protected by the US or its allies. This follows ICC arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Defense Minister, and others. Supporters argue it sends a strong message of support for Israel and protects American officials and soldiers from future prosecutions. Critics claim it harms allies like Japan and France who cooperate with the ICC.

  1. CIA Chief Pushes for Hostage Deal Amid Israeli Standoff

CIA Director William Burns and White House Mideast envoy Brett McGurk traveled to Doha and Cairo to advance a proposal for releasing Israeli hostages. The US seeks a ceasefire, with the proposal emphasizing phased hostages’ release and Gaza’s reconstruction. Hamas remains hesitant, demanding assurances for a permanent ceasefire and Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Despite internal disagreements in Israel, the US continues to press for a resolution to the Israel-Hamas conflict, aiming to establish a political path forward.

  1. Elliot Brandt Named Next AIPAC CEO

Elliot Brandt, a longtime senior official at AIPAC, will become CEO after the November US presidential elections. Brandt, currently vice CEO, will replace Howard Kohr, who is stepping down after nearly 20 years. Brandt’s leadership comes as Israel faces ongoing conflicts and heightened international scrutiny. AIPAC continues to advocate for US support of Israel, increased military aid, and opposition to international legal actions against Israel. The organization aims to unify its membership and strengthen bipartisan support for Israel in Congress.

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★ IRAN

  1. Guardian Council’s Crucial Decision: Iran’s Presidential Candidates Under Scrutiny

All eyes are on Iran’s Guardian Council, expected to narrow down the 80 hopefuls to a few candidates for the upcoming snap presidential election. The council began deliberations on Tuesday to finalize the list of candidates deemed fit by the ruling establishment. Iran’s Guardian Council has five days to vet the over 80 candidates for the snap presidential election. Notable figures include a former president, a former Parliament speaker, 38 former and current lawmakers, 13 ex-ministers, and three current ministers, with four women also among the candidates. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s influence ensures Iran’s political and economic policies remain stable despite President Ebrahim Raisi’s death. Candidates like Ali Larijani advocate for new approaches, while Saeed Jalili proposes a hardline stance. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf’s candidacies add to the dynamic political landscape. The Guardian Council is set to narrow the list of candidates vying for President Ebrahim Raisi’s seat, likely excluding clerics for the first time since 1981. Notable contenders include Vice Presidents, ministers, and Tehran’s mayor, all promising to continue Raisi’s policies. Among them, Mehrdad Bazrpash stands out despite controversies and accusations of corruption. Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disqualification is anticipated.

  1. IRGC Vows Revenge on Israel after Death of Adviser in Syria

IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami warned that Israel will pay for the death of IRGC adviser Saeed Abyar, killed in an Israeli airstrike in Aleppo. Salami offered condolences and stated that the Zionist regime should expect Iran’s response. He praised Abyar’s support to anti-Israeli resistance groups, calling his martyrdom an inspiration.

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★ LEBANON

  1. Hezbollah Linked to Attack on US Embassy in Beirut, Lebanese Journalist Claims

The US embassy in Beirut was attacked by a Syrian gunman, who was quickly arrested after being wounded by the Lebanese army. Notably, an ISIS icon was printed on the assailant’s clothes, an unusual and bold display in broad daylight, suggesting orchestration, as no one typically dares to dress that way in public and reach such a heavily controlled area unnoticed. The weak and distant attack from the embassy implies the gunman, supposedly acting alone, was sent to die. Lebanese journalist Hanna Saleh attributed the attack to Hezbollah, calling it a “highly dangerous event” in a heavily militarized area. Saleh indicated that this was a deliberate message from Hezbollah, exacerbated by the recent visit of the Iranian Foreign Minister to Beirut. He highlighted past confrontations between the Lebanese army and ISIS, disrupted by political pressures from Hezbollah and former President Michel Aoun, framing this incident as part of escalating threats to American interests in the region. The US embassy confirmed the safety of its staff and facilities, while the Lebanese army also detained the gunman’s brother.

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★ SYRIA

  1. Assad’s Captagon Cartel Persists with Shipments Despite Jordanian and Saudi Pleas

Jordan’s anti-narcotics department thwarted an enormous drug smuggling operation, arresting members of two gangs linked to regional drug trafficking networks. After a two-month intelligence effort and investigations involving security agencies, authorities seized 9.5 million Captagon pills and 143 kilograms of hashish concealed in heavy machinery, intended for smuggling through the Al-Omari border crossing into Saudi Arabia. Although Jordan did not specify the source, Reuters reported the drugs originated from Syria. Jordanian officials noted that unlike previous operations, these drugs were intercepted at the Saudi border, highlighting an alarming trend. Lebanese Hezbollah and other Iran-backed militias controlling southern Syria are implicated in this booming drug and arms trade, valued in billions. The General Security Directorate released footage of the operation, underscoring the ongoing threat posed by Assad’s burgeoning Captagon cartel, which shows no signs of abating. This revelation follows a thwarted Iranian-led plot to smuggle weapons into Jordan, aiming to support anti-monarchy sabotage.

  1. Iran Reduces Fuel Supplies to Syria

Despite promises of relief, fuel shortages in Syrian regime-controlled areas have persisted since early 2024. Syrian oil imports from Iran, Assad’s main supplier, fell by 27% in the first quarter of 2024 compared to the last quarter of 2023. Regime officials cite financial difficulties and international sanctions, but analysts point to growing tensions between Tehran and Damascus. Iran supplied Syria with about 6.9 million barrels of oil from January to March 2024, down from 8.8 million barrels in the previous quarter. The Syrian government is tapping into strategic reserves and implementing austerity measures to cope with the crisis.

  1. Khamenei-Driven Iraqi Efforts to Reconcile Turkiye and Syria

Iraqi PM Muhammad Shiaa al-Sudani has increased communications with Assad after his recent visit to Iran, where he met Khamenei to pay condolences. Al-Sudani announced reconciliation efforts between Turkiye and Syria, facilitated through contacts with both Bashar al-Assad and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Despite these efforts, both sides deny negotiations or Turkiye’s readiness to withdraw from Syria. Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Al-Miqdad demands Turkiye’s withdrawal as a dialogue prerequisite, while Turkish EU representative Faruk Kaymakci stresses a comprehensive solution addressing terrorism, political processes, refugee returns, and humanitarian aid. These attempts, likely influenced by Iran, also involve regional security and economic cooperation, emphasizing a unified stance against Zionist aggression in Gaza.

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★ IRAQ

  1. Iran-Linked Proxies Suspected in Iraq Attacks

Gunmen attacked the British Cambridge Institute in Diwaniyah, Iraq, injuring a police officer with a hand grenade, part of a broader pattern of violence targeting Western interests. Iraqi security forces arrested individuals linked to recent attacks on foreign entities, including American and British businesses. Simultaneously, an assault on the U.S. Embassy in Beirut points to coordinated actions by Iran’s proxies, reflecting a strategic effort to undermine Western influence in the region. 

  1. Saudi Mediates Iraq-Kuwait Khor Abdullah Dispute

Saudi Arabia is mediating between Iraq and Kuwait to resolve long standing disputes over Khor Abdullah, a waterway critical for both nations. The foreign ministers of Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia are holding meetings in Riyadh to address the issue. The conflict over Khor Abdullah has been a significant point of tension since the era of Saddam Hussein, contributing to wars between Iraq and Kuwait. In January, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait demanded Iraq adhere to a 2012 navigation agreement deposited with the UN, following political moves in Iraq to cancel the agreement unilaterally.

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★ YEMEN

  1. Houthis Launch Missiles in Red Sea, Drone Attacks Taiz

In the last 24 hours, Houthi forces have escalated their offensive actions, launching two anti-ship ballistic missiles into the Red Sea from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen. The US Army Central Command confirmed that no casualties or damage were reported. This reckless behavior by the Iran-backed Houthis threatens regional stability and the safety of sailors in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Concurrently, a Houthi drone bombarded a residential neighborhood in Taiz, injuring Adnan Qasim Radman and his son Muhannad. They sustained serious injuries and were transferred to Al-Thawra Hospital. The attack highlights the Houthis’ continued disregard for civilian lives. Additionally, human rights activist Ishraq Al-Maqtari reported the Houthis’ increasing military activity in Taiz, including building military sites and spreading explosive devices near civilian areas. The British maritime security company Ambrey is investigating the missile activity in the Red Sea.

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★ THE GULF

  1. Security Leaders from Egypt, Qatar, and the US Meet in Doha to Discuss Gaza Truce

Egyptian, Qatari, and American security leaders are meeting in Doha to discuss resuming truce negotiations in Gaza. CIA Director William Burns and Brett McGurk, Biden’s senior advisor for Middle East affairs, will visit the region to advocate for a ceasefire. An Egyptian security delegation is intensifying efforts to advance the negotiations. Meanwhile, a delegation from the Islamic Jihad movement, led by Secretary-General Ziad al-Nakhalah, is in Cairo to discuss Gaza’s situation. Israeli media reports that Israel seeks American guarantees to continue actions against Hamas if the potential ceasefire is violated.

  1. Qatar Acquires 10% Stake in Major Chinese Investment Fund

Qatar’s sovereign fund has purchased a 10% stake in China’s second-largest mutual fund company, China AMC, from Primavera Capital for at least $490 million. This move underscores the strengthening economic ties between China and Middle Eastern nations, particularly as China becomes a major importer of liquefied natural gas from the region. The investment highlights Qatar’s efforts to boost production and solidify international partnerships. Since June last year, Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds have invested $7 billion in China, according to Global SWF. Regulatory approval for this investment is pending in China.

  1. UAE Detains British Advisor on Espionage Charges

The Times reported that UAE authorities in Dubai have detained former British Royal Navy officer Matt Crutcher for seven months on espionage charges.Crutcher, now a security consultant, was questioned about his ties to the British Ministry of Defense. Crutcher had lived in Dubai from 2014 to 2021, working on security matters. A British Foreign Office spokesperson confirmed support for Crutcher and ongoing contact with UAE authorities. This incident echoes the 2018 case of British researcher Matthew Hedges, who was sentenced to life in prison for espionage before being pardoned by the late Emirati President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

  1. Saudi Coalition to Establish Major Logistics Hub in Djibouti

A coalition of Saudi investors signed a contract to create the Saudi Logistics City in Djibouti’s free zone, securing a 120,000 square meter area for long-term lease. The initiative, led by Hassan Al-Huwaizi of the Federation of Saudi Chambers, aims to build a permanent exhibition space for Saudi industries to facilitate exports to Africa. The 92-year lease includes facilities and warehouses, enhancing trade links via Djibouti’s strategic port. This move underscores Saudi Arabia’s commitment to strengthening economic ties with Africa.

  1. OPEC+ Agreement Revitalizes Saudi-Venezuela Oil Relations

Saudi Arabia aims to bolster cooperation with oil producers following the OPEC+ agreement to extend production cuts and gradually ease restrictions. The Saudi Press Agency reported that the Council of Ministers authorized Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman to discuss a draft memorandum of understanding with Venezuela. While details are sparse, the move signifies a renewed focus on energy collaboration between the two founding OPEC members. Established in 1960, OPEC was created to counter major oil companies, and this renewed partnership underscores the enduring strategic importance of their relationship.

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★ EGYPT

  1. Egypt-U.S. Dialogue on Arms Control and Nonproliferation Begins in Cairo

On May 30, the U.S. and Egypt held their first annual in-person dialogue on arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation in Cairo. Led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alexandra Bell and Director for Disarmament Bassem Hassan, the meeting highlighted the longstanding cooperation between the two nations. The discussion focused on reducing the risks of weapons of mass destruction and strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Ms. Bell praised the candid and thorough exchange, emphasizing both countries’ commitment to global arms control efforts.

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★ TURKIYE

  1. Possible Emirati Acquisition of One of Turkiye’s Largest Banks

Turkiye’s Koç Holding Group is in talks with the UAE’s First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) regarding the sale of its stake in Yapi Kredi Bank, one of Turkiye’s largest banks. Koç Holding confirmed ongoing discussions about potential investment alternatives, following media reports about the deal. Reuters indicated that FAB is in advanced negotiations to acquire Koç’s 61.2% stake in Yapi Kredi for around $8 billion. Bloomberg previously reported FAB’s interest in Turkish banks, including Yapi Kredi. This potential acquisition comes as Turkish-Emirati relations strengthen, highlighted by a Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement signed in March 2023.

  1. Turkiye Urges China to Change Perception on Uyghur Turks

During his visit to China, Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan emphasized the importance of changing global and Islamic perceptions of the cultural rights and lives of Uyghur Turks. He suggested that improving this perception benefits both China and Turkiye. Fidan also highlighted the potential for deeper political and commercial cooperation between the two countries, including balanced trade and increased Chinese investments in Turkiye.

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📌 In case you missed it,

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX June 4, 2024

📰 THE EARLY PHOENIX June 3, 2024

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