- Hezbollah’s Anti-Tank Strikes Escalate Israel’s Northern Tensions.
- Barghouti’s Potential Release: A Path to Palestinian Leadership.
- Turkiye’s Double Standards: Preaching Democracy, Silencing Journalists.
- Iranian Hackers Target African Telecom Companies, Including Egypt.
- Iraq’s Shiite-Al-Halbousi Alliance Wins Iraqi Provincial Elections.
★ ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
- IDF Escalates Gaza Offensive: Major Evacuations and Tunnel Network Destruction. In the ongoing conflict in Gaza, the IDF is close to completing its ground offensive in northern Gaza, specifically in the neighborhoods of Daraj and Tuffah, targeting Hamas’s remaining battalions. The IDF has control over areas like Beit Hanoun and Jabaliya, with significant operations in Shejaiya. Over the past day, 230 Hamas targets were struck. In southern Gaza, the focus is on Khan Younis, where the IDF’s 7th Armored Brigade is active. A major Hamas command center in Gaza City’s Al-Nukhba Neighborhood was uncovered, revealing a complex tunnel system used by Hamas leaders for operations and movement. This discovery marks a critical blow to Hamas’s capabilities. The conflict has resulted in the deaths of 3 more Israeli soldiers and serious injuries to 5 others. The Israeli army announced that 40 of its fighters were injured, eight of whom in critical conditions. Northern Gaza’s displacement has led to intensified street battles.
- Israel’s Use of AI in Gaza Conflict: Tactics and Technologies Explored. Israel’s utilization of artificial intelligence (AI) in its Gaza military operations is a focal point of discussion. The AI systems Gospel and Alchemist, developed by unit 8200 of the Israeli army, play a critical role in integrating intelligence for target identification. The article highlights the significant impact of Israel’s AI-driven operations on Gaza, resulting in high civilian casualties and extensive infrastructural damage. Defense analyst Sam Cranny-Evans notes that while AI proposes targets, human decisions lead to actual attacks. The article also touches on the broader implications of AI in warfare and the ethical concerns it raises.
- Israel’s Gaza Shift: Strategic Reassessment and New Governance Horizons. Israel’s military strategy in Gaza, characterized by extensive damage and high casualties, has been analyzed for its complex objectives including dismantling Hamas, preventing future attacks, and restoring trust in security institutions. A recent policy shift indicates a newfound openness to Palestinian Authority control in post-war Gaza, contingent on significant reforms. This strategy also involves a commitment to Gaza’s reconstruction in cooperation with various stakeholders. The recalibration of this approach reflects an evolving strategy, focusing on targeted actions against key figures, reducing civilian harm, and strengthening governance, aligning with broader international perspectives.
- Exclusive Study Exposes Misinformation War Against Israel. As 2023 ends, the Israel-Hamas conflict is mired in disinformation, fueled by restricted media access in Gaza and the deaths of journalists. Misinformation spreaders have used social media to circulate false narratives to millions. This includes repurposing old footage from different conflicts, like the Syrian civil war, to mislead about the Israel-Hamas war. The ‘Pallywood’ phenomenon involves repackaging old footage to falsely show Palestinian staged scenes. Anti-Israel disinformation has also reused images from Russian campaigns to falsely accuse Syrian rescue workers of staging atrocities. Russia, linked with Hamas and critical of Israel, has leveraged the conflict to weaken Western support for Ukraine and divert attention from its own actions. Russian and Iranian officials falsely claimed Ukraine’s involvement in arms supply in the conflict. Social media platforms like Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, and X (formerly Twitter) have been key in spreading fake news, driven by financial incentives.
- Barghouti’s Potential Release: A Path to Palestinian Leadership. A Saudi-French plan suggests exiling Hamas leaders to Algeria, deploying Arab peacekeeping forces in Gaza, and forming a transitional council. Despite these proposals, Hamas has turned down an Israeli proposition for a 7-day ceasefire, insisting on a more extended truce and the liberation of 500 Palestinian detainees. These negotiations, complex and multi-faceted, could significantly impact the Palestinian political scene and the wider regional dispute. Central to recent talks is the potential prisoner exchange deal, notably involving Marwan Barghouti. Egypt’s mediation between Hamas and Israel has brought Barghouti’s release into focus, positioning him as a potential successor to Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority. Hamas’s stance is firm on connecting the prisoner swap to the end of hostilities in Gaza, prioritizing the release of prominent prisoners like Barghouti.
- Suspension of Israeli ‘Safar Hamidbar’ Unit After Allegations of Palestinian Abuse. The Israeli military has suspended the operations of its “Safar Hamidbar” (Desert Border) unit, known for recruiting extremist “hilltop youth” settlers. This decision follows multiple allegations of violence against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley. Established in 2020 for anti-smuggling operations, the unit, including the Lions of the Valley battalion, was effective in seizing illegal weapons. However, reports detail its involvement in abusive incidents in Palestinian villages such as Wadi al-Siq. The unit’s members, including some with criminal records, are accused of using their position to further Jewish control in Area C of the West Bank.
- Economic Devastation in Gaza: War Leads to 66% Job Loss. The war between Israel and Hamas has led to a catastrophic loss of employment in Gaza, with nearly 66 percent of jobs, or 192,000 positions, vanishing since October 7. This data, released by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), highlights the severe economic impact of the conflict. The West Bank also faces significant job reductions, with a one-third decrease in employment. Gaza, already struggling with high poverty and unemployment rates, faces an exacerbated humanitarian crisis, pushing the region towards dependency on international aid. The conflict has not only devastated the labor market but also damaged or destroyed 18 percent of all pre-conflict structures in Gaza, further hindering economic recovery.
- EU’s Borrell and German FM Accused of Misrepresenting IRGC Terror Listing. German lawmaker Norbert Röttgen accuses German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell of misleading the public about the possibility of designating Iran’s IRGC as a terrorist organization in Europe, citing a classified EU expert opinion that contradicts their claims. Experts argue that legal grounds exist for such a designation, but it remains a contentious issue.
- Israel Targets Syrian Army Sites in Quneitra Countryside. Israel launched missile strikes on Syrian army positions near the villages of Arnah and Hadar in the Quneitra countryside in southwestern Syria. In response, Syria reportedly fired four missiles towards the occupied Golan Heights.
- Russian-Syrian Joint Military Exercises at Aleppo’s Kuweires Airport. Russian and Syrian Pro-Iran forces are preparing for joint military exercises at Kuweires Airport in northeastern Aleppo. Recent activity at the airport involved the transportation of military equipment and ammunition. These exercises aim to enhance the capabilities of participating units in utilizing advanced weaponry.
- Assad Approves Law Regulating the Entry of Raw Gold into Syria. Bashar al-Assad has approved Law No. 34 for the year 2023, which regulates the entry of raw gold into government-controlled areas. The law allows both Syrian and foreign residents and non-residents to import raw gold under specific conditions. It also imposes fines on those who delay processing raw gold into finished products.
- Hezbollah’s Escalation at Israel’s Northern Front: Anti-Tank Missile Strikes and Ongoing Tensions. In recent developments along the Israel-Hezbollah conflict’s northern front, two Israeli civilians were wounded in Moshav Dovev by an anti-tank missile fired from Lebanon. A similar strike occurred in Moshav Avivim, resulting in vehicle fires but no injuries. Israel’s Iron Dome intercepted rockets targeting Kiryat Shmona. In response, Israeli forces conducted airstrikes on Hezbollah positions in Lebanon. This escalation follows a series of intermittent hostilities, including rocket barrages by Hezbollah and preemptive Israeli strikes. The Israeli army executed substantial strikes in southern Lebanon, marking an unprecedented move since the Second Lebanon War. These actions come after increased tensions, including infiltration attempts, missile firings, and shootings towards Israeli towns. Hezbollah launched rockets at Kiryat Shmona, vowing to defend Lebanese communities and support Gaza against Israeli attacks. Israel retaliated with airstrikes on Hezbollah military sites. Meanwhile, Lebanon reiterated its commitment to UN Resolution 1701 and called for Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanese territories still under occupation at the United Nations General Assembly, citing ongoing Israeli violations of international law.
- U.S. Charges Hezbollah Member for 1994 Buenos Aires Bombing. A senior Hezbollah member, Samuel Salman El Reda, has been charged with terrorism offenses, including the deadly bombing of a Buenos Aires building in 1994 that killed 85 people. He remains at large and is believed to be in Lebanon. The indictment alleges his involvement in planning and executing the attack and his role in recruiting and managing operatives for the Islamic Jihad Organization, a segment of Hezbollah focused on terrorism and intelligence activities outside of Lebanon.
★ THE GULF REGION & YEMEN
- Missile Technology in Yemen Conflict: The Chinese-Iranian Connection and its Regional Implications. The Houthi rebels in Yemen have intensified their regional aggression, executing over 100 drone and missile attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea, disrupting global trade routes. This surge in violence has prompted calls for direct military action against their leadership and infrastructure. The Houthis, with ties to Iran, are expanding their operations, including attempted attacks on Israel and engaging in piracy. Their missile technology, potentially based on Chinese designs acquired via Iran, adds complexity to the regional conflict. The U.S. has responded by forming a naval coalition to safeguard Red Sea shipping lanes. In addition to threatening Israeli interests and supporting Hamas in Gaza, Houthi actions now jeopardize global maritime security and trade. Exporters are exploring air shipping as an alternative to bypass these threats. Houthi attacks on commercial shipping vessels in the Red Sea have caused an increase in the market value of maritime shipping companies, which transport everything from manufactured products to oil and other goods. According to a report by Bloomberg, the combined market value of the largest publicly traded shipping companies has risen by approximately $22 billion since December 12th, as attacks on shipping vessels have intensified. Meanwhile, the Houthi leader has threatened to target U.S. warships if the U.S. acts against Iranian-backed militias in Yemen. Surprisingly, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have abstained from joining the maritime protection alliance in the Red Sea, possibly to avoid direct conflict and escalation with Iran. Concurrently, Qatar and Oman are engaging Iran in talks about the Gaza situation, advocating for the rights of the Palestinian people and seeking a comprehensive peace solution.
- Rocket Attack on U.S. Base in Iraq Spurs Security Response. A rocket attack targeted a U.S. military base in Iraq at 7:30 am on December 20th, with a 122mm rocket fired at the Ain al-Asad Air Base. The attack’s origin was traced to a modified truck capable of launching multiple rockets. In response, the U.S. is seeking to strengthen cooperation with Iraq to counteract such attacks on American forces.
- Turkiye Destroys 14 PKK Targets in Northern Iraq. Turkiye’s Ministry of Defense has announced the destruction of 14 Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq, along with the neutralization of several militants. Turkish airstrikes also targeted caves, hideouts, and warehouses associated with the rebel group, according to Anadolu Agency. Turkiye continues its airstrikes on targets in Syria and Iraq, considering the PKK as a designated “terrorist organization.”
- Shiite Forces and Al-Halbousi Alliance Emerge Victorious in Iraqi Provincial Council Elections. The Iraqi provincial council elections, the first in a decade, revealed the influence of tribes and financial power on the political scene and witnessed a significant decline in voter turnout. Shiite parties and the Al-Halbousi-led “Advancement” list secured victories. The elections also highlighted the absence of the Sadr movement, and some civil forces withdrew, benefiting Iran-affiliated groups and traditional political parties.
- Iraq Affirms Commitment to International Cooperation. Iraq’s Prime Minister, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, met with the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, to discuss the successful local elections and emphasized Iraq’s dedication to completing constitutional requirements and supporting administrative decentralization.
★ EGYPT & AFRICA
- Iranian Hackers Target African Telecom Companies, Including Egypt. A security report reveals that Iranian hackers, known as MuddyWater, targeted telecommunications companies in three African countries: Egypt, Sudan, and Tanzania. This marks the first time the Iranian group has focused on African institutions, with previous attacks primarily in the Middle East.
- Former Israeli Official Warns of Hamas Leaders Possibly Fleeing to Egypt. Following intensified Israeli military operations in Khan Yunis, some former Israeli officials have warned of Hamas leaders potentially escaping to Egypt through underground tunnels. Despite many tunnels being destroyed in 2015, concerns persist about the situation.
- Red Sea Nations Share Responsibility for Safeguarding Navigation Freedom. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry emphasized that the Red Sea nations bear the responsibility to protect it and ensure freedom of navigation. Egypt continues to collaborate with partners to secure suitable conditions for navigation freedom in the Red Sea, in response to rising concerns over Houthi attacks.
- Egypt Mediates “Difficult” Gaza Ceasefire Between Hamas and Israel Demands. The United States is engaged in “very serious” negotiations for a new ceasefire in Gaza and the release of more Israeli hostages. However, reaching an agreement remains uncertain due to Hamas’ insistence on a complete end to the Israeli offensive in the Palestinian territory. Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ political office, visited Egypt for talks, and other Palestinian factions are also discussing an end to the conflict.
- Turkiye’s Double Standards: Preaching Democracy, Silencing Journalists. In a striking display of hypocrisy, Turkiye has sentenced Syrian journalists Alaa Farhat and Ahmed Al-Rihawi to six years in prison for allegedly “insulting the Republic of Turkiye.” This verdict follows their contentious arrest in March 2023 after a debate on the “Details” program, where Turkish political analyst Oktay Yilmaz made offensive remarks against Syrians. The incident, which stemmed from a discussion on Turkish forces’ misconduct along the Syria-Turkiye border, led to Yilmaz’s complaint against the journalists. Despite Orient Channel’s commitment to journalistic standards, the Turkish judiciary’s decision starkly contrasts with its professed democratic ideals, sparking international condemnation and calls for the protection of press freedom and journalists’ rights by the Syrian Journalists Association.
- Turkish “Bayraktar TB3” Drone Successfully Completes 13th Test Flight. Turkish defense company Baykar announced the successful completion of the 13th test flight for the “Bayraktar TB3” armed drone. The drone flew for 32 hours at medium altitudes, demonstrating system performance and endurance. Baykar developed the TB3 with national capabilities, allowing it to take off and land on short-runway ships, conduct reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, and carry smart munitions. It is suitable for use on both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.
- Turkiye and Iran Discuss Palestinian Issue. Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmed Yildiz met with his Iranian counterpart Ali Baqeri and discussed bilateral relations and the Palestinian issue during his visit to Tehran. Both countries emphasized the need for regional and international cooperation in resolving the Palestinian conflict and expressed hopes for a ceasefire and a path towards a solution.
- Turkish Minister Explores Collaboration Opportunities with China. Turkish Minister of Industry and Technology, Mehmet Fatih Kacır, discussed potential cooperation in various fields with Chinese officials during his visit to China. Topics of discussion ranged from electric cars and renewable energy to battery production and nuclear power stations. Turkiye aims to become a production hub for electric cars and batteries, and it ranks highly in solar and wind energy production in Europe.
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