Top 5 Headlines:
- Jordan Clashes with Iranian Drug Smugglers Inside Syrian Grounds.
- Israeli Military Denies Accusations: No “Dumb Bombs” in Gaza.
- Houthis Warn Maritime Coalition: Red Sea Will Be Your Graveyard.
- Egypt Rejects Joint Forces with Israel on Gaza Border.
- Trilateral Qatar-US-Israel Meeting in Warsaw to Discuss Gaza Agreement.
★ ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
- Rising Toll: Israeli Military Losses in Gaza. The Israeli military has sustained significant losses in its ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza. Recently, the Israeli army reported the death of four soldiers in southern Gaza, adding to the rising toll of military casualties. Since the conflict began on October 7, the Israeli military has lost a total of 458 soldiers.
- Israeli Military Denies Accusations: No “Dumb Bombs” in Gaza. On the 73rd day of the Israel-Hamas conflict, the Israeli military refutes allegations of indiscriminate shelling in Gaza, asserting the use of precision munitions. Amid international criticism, a senior Israeli officer emphasizes the military’s commitment to minimizing civilian casualties. The officer addresses concerns over “dumb bombs” and dismisses reports of white phosphorus use. Israel acknowledges mistakes in targeting during the war, attributing high civilian casualties to Gaza’s population density.
- Hamas’ Financial Strength and Hostage Deal Stalemate. Hamas demonstrates financial resilience, with an estimated value of $500 million, independent of external funding. This financial stability is maintained through diverse income sources including global business ventures, real estate, and an informal donation network. Hamas has consistently rejected Israeli proposals for releasing hostages, conditioning their agreement on an immediate ceasefire and the inclusion of non-Hamas Palestinian prisoners in the deal. On the other side, Israel, with encouragement from the U.S. under President Biden’s administration, is considering the release of significant Palestinian prisoners, including those convicted of serious crimes, in an effort to reach a new prisoner exchange agreement. This move signifies a potentially pivotal step in the ongoing diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict. In a related development, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) targeted and killed Subhi Ferwana, a key financier of Hamas, in a Gaza airstrike. Ferwana and his brother operated a company named Hamsat, channeling millions to finance terrorist salaries and military equipment. The IDF underscores that disrupting Hamas’s financial network is vital in weakening its military capabilities.
- Gaza Crisis: Airstrikes’ Toll and Deepening Hunger Emergency. The Gaza Strip is facing a dire humanitarian situation, marked by the devastating impact of Israeli airstrikes and a severe hunger crisis. Recent airstrikes in northern Gaza have resulted in the loss of 110 lives in one day, signaling a drastic escalation in the conflict. The airstrikes have not only caused significant civilian casualties but also damaged critical infrastructure. Compounding the situation is a severe hunger crisis, as revealed by a human rights study. It reports that 71% of Gaza’s population is facing acute hunger, with allegations against Israel of using starvation tactics against Palestinian civilians. The study highlights the desperate measures taken by 64% of the population, including consuming weeds, unripe fruits, and expired food to combat hunger. The crisis is further aggravated by Israel’s blockade, which restricts access to water and other essential resources, leading to widespread health issues in Gaza.
- Gaza Crisis: UN Delays, France Sanctions, UN Official Criticized. The UN Security Council has postponed a decision on a Gaza resolution, struggling to find consensus on a UAE proposal that calls for halting hostilities and increasing aid, with the U.S. seeking a focus shift towards conflict cessation. Concurrently, France is imposing sanctions on Israeli extremist settlers, mirroring steps by other European nations concerned with settler violence in the West Bank, a move that aligns with the UK’s recent sanctions. Amidst these developments, UN Women’s Deputy Chair Sarah Douglas faces backlash for anti-Israel social media posts, igniting debates over impartiality in the UN, as she is accused of one-sided criticism without acknowledging Hamas’s actions against Israeli women.
- Impending Mass Demolitions Threaten East Jerusalem Amid Global Gaza Focus. East Jerusalem residents, including Mujahed Badran’s family, face potential home demolitions as Israel plans thousands in the occupied area. Silwan, with historical significance, is targeted by settler groups backed by influential politicians. The looming demolitions coincide with the Israeli government’s broader settlement expansion plans, exploiting the global focus on Gaza. Advocates call for action to halt the displacement, emphasizing the need for substantive measures beyond mere statements.
- Tehran Warns Against Cooperation with “Maritime Coalition to Deter Houthis”. Iran cautions against collaboration with the U.S.-led maritime coalition to counter Houthi threats, warning of a new regional map after the Gaza war. Iranian officials defend Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, emphasizing their strategic significance against Israel. The statements mark Tehran’s first response to Houthi strikes on commercial ships, reflecting heightened tensions amid the formation of a naval alliance.
- IRGC Navy Mobilizes Ocean-Going Volunteer Forces. Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Navy establishes a naval Basij unit, comprising local volunteer sailors with rocket-equipped vessels, capable of ocean missions. The initiative follows the successful experience in the Persian Gulf, with plans to expand to the Caspian Sea. The mobilization forces showcase bravery, having thwarted Somali pirates in a previous incident.
- E3 Expresses Concern Over Iran’s Nuclear Activities at UN Security Council. The UK, France, and Germany, collectively known as the E3, issued a joint statement at the UN Security Council, expressing deep concern over Iran’s nuclear violations. They highlighted Iran’s stockpiles of enriched uranium, missile proliferation, and lack of cooperation with the IAEA. The E3 stressed the need for Iran to reverse its nuclear escalation and urged diplomatic solutions to address the crisis.
- Russia Advocates JCPOA Restart for Global Security. Russian UN Representative Vasily Nebenzya stresses the vital need to reinstate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) for Iran’s nuclear program, emphasizing its significance for international security. Nebenzya urges a prompt restart, stating it’s the only path aligning with regional and global security interests. He cautions against introducing contentious elements in UN reports, aiming to safeguard the delicate prospects of fully restoring the Vienna agreements.
- West Accuses Iran of Nuclear Violations, Russia of Drone Transfers. Western powers, including the UK, France, and Germany, accused Iran of violating the 2015 nuclear agreement by testing missiles, enriching uranium to 60%, and transferring drones to Russia. Despite denials from Iran and Russia, the U.S. and European nations emphasized the severity of the violations, urging Iran to reverse its nuclear escalation.
- Ultra-Hardliners in Iran Advocate for Ahmadinejad’s Political Comeback. Iran’s Paydari Party, led by ultra-hardliner Sadegh Mahsouli, is reportedly working to bring former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad back to the political scene. Ahmadinejad’s former aide, Abdolreza Davari, claims that Mahsouli signaled Ahmadinejad’s willingness to re-enter politics with a share in power. Despite past criticisms, Mahsouli recently praised Ahmadinejad’s charisma and management skills.
- Breaking Free: Iran’s Call to Liberate Its Economy from Dollar Dependency. Iran seeks to reduce its economy’s reliance on the US dollar due to recent fluctuations affecting goods and services. The country’s oil-based economy and import-heavy practices contribute to the dollar’s dominance. Experts argue that diversifying away from the dollar would enhance economic resilience, reduce sanctions impact, and strengthen bargaining power.
- Iran’s Dams Depleted as Hydroelectric Overuse Deepens Water Crisis. Iran faces a critical water crisis as official statistics reveal a 22% increase in dam water discharge to compensate for a severe electricity deficit. Despite targeting 6,000 megawatts of new power plants, only 15% has been achieved, mainly thermal plants with low efficiency.
- Iran Urges Pakistan to Designate Rask Attack Perpetrators as Terror Group. Iranian Foreign Minister Amirabdollahian calls on Pakistan to identify the Jaish-ul-Adl terrorist group responsible for the Rask attack. He emphasizes the necessity of bilateral cooperation to enhance border security and prevent future acts of terrorism. Pakistan reaffirms its commitment to collaborating with Iran against terrorism, expressing condemnation for the recent terrorist attack.
- Iran’s Customs Chief Touts Success in Making Iraq a Non-Producing Importer. Iran’s Customs Chief, Mohammad Reza Pour-Mohammadi, declared that Iraq is among the top importers of Iranian goods. Pour-Mohammadi boasted about Iran’s efforts, involving popular mobilization, parties, and the Iraqi government, in transforming Iraq into a non-producing, importing country. He noted that Iran’s exports to Iraq exceeded $6 billion in the past eight months, with expectations of further growth under the Sudanese government.
- Hezbollah Unit 313 Reinforces Military Presence in Al-Bukamal. The “Euphrates Eye” captured images of Hezbollah’s Unit 313 sending heavy military reinforcements, including tanks and artillery, from Deir al-Zor to Al-Bukamal in eastern Syria. The unit plans to deploy tanks and armored vehicles for desert reconnaissance and position 57mm field artillery along the Euphrates River, enhancing its influence in areas controlled by the Syrian regime and Iranian militias in Deir al-Zor.
- Unidentified Drone Targets Iranian Revolutionary Guard Militia Convoy in Al-Bukamal. An unidentified drone attacked a military convoy of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard militia in the outskirts of Al-Bukamal, Deir al-Zor province. Reports indicate the incident resulted in the death of three Syrian nationals working with the militia. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights recorded explosions in Al-Bukamal amid drone activity, continuing a trend of recent drone strikes in areas under the influence of Syrian regime forces and Iranian militias.
- Jordan Clashes with Iranian Drug Smugglers Inside Syrian Grounds.
Jordanian forces engaged in a significant conflict with drug smugglers, allegedly backed by Iran, inside Syrian territory. This escalation, primarily in the Suwayda and Daraa governorates, involved air strikes and armed confrontations. The Jordanian military’s actions were in response to increased drug trafficking activities from Syria to Jordan, a situation that has threatened Jordan’s national security. The involvement of Iranian-supported elements in these smuggling operations has further complicated the situation, adding a layer of geopolitical tension to the already volatile border region. This clash reflects the broader regional challenges posed by the Syrian crisis, particularly the implications of external influences like Iran in the conflict dynamics.
- Israeli Strikes Target Syrian Regime Site in Golan Heights. The Israeli military announced it targeted a Syrian regime military site in response to rocket attacks from Syrian territory towards the occupied Golan Heights. Israeli artillery and tanks retaliated against the sources of fire in Syria. This incident follows repeated Israeli strikes on Syrian regime and Iranian militia positions, causing disruptions to Damascus and Aleppo international airports.
- Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Announce Arrest of Drug Dealer in Raqqa. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced the arrest of a drug dealer and the seizure of approximately 120 kilograms of hashish in Raqqa, northern Syria. The military discipline unit conducted a raid on the dealer’s residence, who was involved in drug trafficking, and apprehended the individual, describing the operation as part of combating a form of warfare targeting both military forces and society.
- Russian Airstrikes Target Idlib Outskirts Amid UN Delegation Presence. Russian warplanes resumed airstrikes on several areas in Idlib countryside on Tuesday, coinciding with the presence of a United Nations delegation in the city center. The airstrikes targeted the western outskirts of Idlib, where civilians, including displaced persons near a refugee camp, were affected. The attacks continue amid escalating violence in northwestern Syria, resulting in civilian casualties and displacement, exacerbating an already dire humanitarian situation. The UN warns of the largest humanitarian crisis since 2019, with thousands displaced, casualties, and damaged infrastructure.
- Escalation on the Southern Front: Israel Widens Shelling. The Israeli military intensifies artillery strikes on several villages and towns in Lebanon’s south. Israeli forces targeted homes in Al-Abassiyeh, conducted intermittent shelling in various towns, and launched anti-tank missiles near the Lebanese border. Hezbollah responded with three military operations, striking Israeli military positions in both the eastern and western sectors along the Lebanese-Palestinian border.
- Strategic Maneuvers in Army Commander Extension Debate. Lebanon’s political maneuvering around the extension of Army Commander General Joseph Aoun’s term reveals tactical moves by political factions. The article underscores the careful balance between supporting Christian allies and avoiding undermining the presidency’s importance. The focus is on maintaining Christian positions while sending nuanced signals to internal and external stakeholders, navigating a complex political landscape.
- Mikati Commends Lebanese Solidarity amid Ongoing Conflicts. Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati praises Lebanon’s resilience and unity in the face of ongoing challenges, emphasizing the need for a swift presidential election and the continuation of parliamentary and governmental functions.
- Israel Proposes Hezbollah Withdrawal to Ease Border Tensions. Israel reportedly informed the United States of its desire to push Hezbollah six miles away from the Lebanese border as part of a diplomatic agreement to de-escalate border tensions. Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, emphasized the need for progress in the coming weeks.
★ THE GULF REGION & YEMEN
- Urgent Threat in Red Sea: Houthis Deploy Mines, Drones, Bomb Boats. The Houthi militia’s strategic shift to using booby-trapped boats, water mines, and drones marks a significant escalation in maritime conflicts in the Red Sea. This new approach, aimed at targeting commercial vessels, threatens to disrupt vital shipping lanes, potentially costing billions of dollars and impacting the economies of multiple nations. In a high-level meeting, Houthi leaders recognized the limitations of their missile technology and decided to enhance their naval offensive capabilities. The militia now heavily relies on two types of advanced bomb boats – the “Blue Fish” and the “Shark 33.” These vessels, capable of carrying large amounts of explosives and reaching speeds of up to 50 nautical knots, pose a severe risk to giant cargo ships. The United States, leading a coalition of ten countries, is actively working to counter this heightened threat. This international response underscores the gravity of the situation and the potential for widespread economic ramifications if shipping in this critical region is disrupted.
- Israel Considers Participation in Red Sea Operation Against Houthis. Israeli Ambassador to Russia, Alexander Ben Zvi, suggests Israel might join an operation to secure navigation and protect ships in the Red Sea amid Houthi attacks. Concerned about the economic impact on the region, Israel aims to collaborate with alliance partners to counter the Houthi threat, emphasizing its broader international significance beyond Israel’s interests.
- Trilateral Qatar-US-Israel Meeting in Warsaw to Discuss Gaza Agreement. Qatar’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, will meet with CIA Director William Burns and Israeli intelligence chief David Barnea in Warsaw, Poland, to discuss a potential new agreement for the release of Israeli prisoners in Gaza. The talks aim to address ongoing hostilities and achieve a comprehensive and sustainable ceasefire in Gaza.
- UAE Nuclear Energy Completes Fourth Reactor at Barakah.The UAE’s nuclear energy agency announced the completion of the fourth reactor at the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant. With the fourth reactor operational, Barakah is set to generate 25% of the UAE’s electricity needs over the next sixty years.
- Qatar Charity Raises $55 Million in 7-Hour Campaign for Gaza Relief. Qatar Charity launched the “Palestine Duty” relief campaign, raising $55 million in seven hours for Gaza. Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani donated $27.5 million, emphasizing Qatar’s support for Palestinians affected by the conflict. The initiative aims to provide urgent needs such as medicine, food, tents, clothing, water, and childcare items.
- Houthis Warn Maritime Coalition: Red Sea Will Be Your Graveyard. Iran-backed Houthi rebels issued a stark warning, vowing to sink US warships in the Red Sea. The threat comes as the US launches a multinational force to safeguard vessels navigating the region.
- Escalating Maritime Conflict: Global Trade Struggles Amid Houthi Threats. Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea raise concerns about global trade disruptions. As the U.S. prepares to lead a multinational maritime protection force against Houthi attacks, tensions escalate, potentially expanding regional conflicts and involving international powers. The recent suspension of major shipping companies’ sea routes amplifies fears of supply chain disruption and inflation, highlighting the broader impact beyond Israel’s maritime trade dependence.
- Houthi Official Affirms Gaza Stance Despite Maritime Alliance. Senior Houthi negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam stated to Reuters that the Houthi group will not alter its position on the conflict in Gaza due to the formation of a multinational maritime alliance to protect navigation in the Red Sea. Abdulsalam argued that the U.S.-led maritime alliance is unnecessary, asserting that waters adjacent to Yemen are safe for all except Israeli ships or those bound for Israel, citing perceived injustice in the war on Palestine and the blockade on Gaza.
- Helicopter Crash Claims Iraqi Pilot’s Life During Election Security Mission. A military helicopter crashed in Tuz Khurmatu, northern Iraq, killing one pilot and injuring another due to a technical malfunction. The incident occurred during a mission to support the security plan for provincial council elections. The deceased pilot, Colonel Marwan Jalal, and the injured pilot, Captain Ala Salman, were part of the election security efforts.
- Iraq’s Financial Initiatives for Kurdistan: Gesture or Solution? Despite symbolic financial gestures from Baghdad to Kurdistan, the economic and political crisis persists. Recent allocations for Kurdistan’s parliamentary elections and emergency funds are viewed cautiously, as Baghdad continues to withhold the region’s budget share. The initiatives aim to prevent a collapse of public services in Kurdistan amid tensions, highlighting the underlying need for a swift resolution to the budget deadlock.
- Border Trade at Shalamcheh Crossing Halted Due to Iraqi Elections. Iranian customs announced the suspension of export and trade activities at the Shalamcheh border crossing during the Iraqi elections from December 18 to 19, 2023. While passenger movements continue, the halt affects commercial truck shipments through this border point.
- Iraq’s Heavy Reliance on Oil Poses Economic Threat. Iraq’s Ministry of Finance revealed that over 95% of the federal budget, exceeding 106 trillion dinars in ten months, relies on oil revenues. Economic experts warn of the risks associated with such dependence, urging diversification into agriculture, industry, and tourism, alongside promoting foreign direct investment and enhancing financial transparency and accountability to build a more resilient and sustainable economy.
★ EGYPT & AFRICA
- Sisi Third Presidential Term. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, after securing a third presidential term, highlighted the challenges facing Egypt, with the Gaza war topping the list. Sisi emphasized the need to address the threat to national security posed by the conflict on the eastern borders and its broader implications for the Palestinian cause. He commended the unprecedented voter turnout in the elections, describing it as a rejection of inhumane wars and a demonstration of unity. Sisi pledged to continue building a new republic, emphasizing a democratic state that prioritizes human development and national security.
- Egypt Rejects Joint Forces with Israel on Gaza Border. Egypt has rejected deploying joint forces with Israel along the Philadelphi Corridor on the Gaza border. Recent Israeli shelling near the area led to Cairo’s dissatisfaction, as it violates a bilateral agreement requiring prior authorization for military actions. Egypt asserts the region is tunnel-free. The issue was reportedly discussed in a recent meeting between Israel’s Shin Bet chief and Egyptian officials.
- Egyptian Ministry of Transport Explores Partnership with Saudi National Shipping Company. Egypt’s Minister of Transport, Kamel El-Wazir, and the head of the Suez Canal Authority, Osama Rabie, discussed forming a partnership between the Egyptian Ministry of Transport, the Suez Canal Authority, and the Saudi National Shipping Company (Bahri). The collaboration aims to enhance maritime transport cooperation, including the possibility of shipbuilding and maintenance projects in collaboration with Egyptian transport entities.
- Egypt’s Debt Diplomacy: Israel’s Controversial Proposal. Israel contemplates settling Gazans in Sinai, Egypt, in exchange for canceling Egypt’s external debt. The proposal raises concerns over the manipulation of debt for political gains. Egypt, facing a severe economic crisis and high external debts, may consider the offer, impacting its relations with the pro-Palestinian population. This tactic echoes historical instances where debt cancellation influenced political compliance, revealing the exploitation of economic leverage for geopolitical objectives.
- Israeli Gas Imports to Egypt Exceed One Billion Cubic Feet Daily. Israeli gas imports to Egypt have surpassed one billion cubic feet daily for the first time since their resumption last month, according to Bloomberg. The influx increased from an average of 850 million cubic feet daily last month. Israel’s Energy Ministry mentioned that partners in the Tamar offshore gas field can export up to an additional 500 million cubic meters annually to Egypt.
- Turkey-Hungary Joint Venture “Gidran” Strengthens Defense Ties. Turkey and Hungary enhance their strong relations in the defense industry through a joint venture, officially signing the agreement for the production of the tactical armored vehicle known as “Gidran“.
- Mapping the Future of Hydrogen: Turkey Urged to Join European Initiative. The President of the Green Hydrogen Producers Association, Yusuf Günay, emphasizes the importance of Turkey’s inclusion in the European Hydrogen Backbone Initiative, which aims to map the pipelines of the future “hydrogen economy.” Günay stresses Turkey’s potential as a valuable green hydrogen supplier to the EU, calling for active participation to reduce dependency on natural gas and contribute to clean energy transformation.
- Turkey Achieves First-Ever Export of Indigenous Aircraft Engines. Turkey’s defense industry marks a historic milestone by exporting indigenous aviation engines, securing orders from five countries. TEI engineers are actively engaged in fulfilling orders and negotiating new agreements with multiple nations. This groundbreaking move establishes Turkey as an exporter of high-tech aviation engines for the first time in its history. Additionally, Turkey’s inaugural combat aircraft, KAAN, successfully completes a critical test ahead of its scheduled first flight on December 27th.
- Turkish Exports to Spain Reach Record High. Turkish exports to Spain have set a new record, totaling $8.55 billion from January to November. Spain’s share of Turkey’s total exports reached an all-time high, increasing by 2.5% annually to $8.55 billion. Germany, the United States, and the United Kingdom secured the top positions in Turkey’s export destinations.
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