ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
- Fifth Successful Prisoner Exchange: Hope for Permanent Ceasefire Emerges. Qatar’s Foreign Ministry announces the fifth successful exchange between Israel and Hamas, releasing 30 Palestinian civilians in exchange for ten Israelis. The Red Cross facilitates the transfer, with both sides expressing hope for a lasting ceasefire. Emotional scenes unfold as the liberated Palestinians, including 15 women and 15 minors, reunite with families in Ramallah and Jerusalem.
- Israel’s Gaza Offensive Sparks Concerns, Ministers Threaten Government Dissolution. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expresses deep concern over Israel’s reported plans to expand attacks on Gaza after the humanitarian ceasefire. Israeli ministers warn of dissolving the government if the war halts. Amidst diplomatic efforts for a long-term truce, extreme statements from Israeli officials heighten tensions, complicating peace talks. The situation continues to escalate, with the humanitarian crisis worsening, emphasizing the urgent need for a lasting resolution.
- Israeli Strike Allegedly Claims Lives of Three Hostages in Gaza. The Al-Qassam Brigades report that three hostages were killed in a prior Israeli airstrike in Gaza. Despite Hamas’s readiness to extend the existing ceasefire for an additional four days, international mediators intensify efforts for a lasting ceasefire and the release of all hostages.
- Israeli Forces Declare Jenin a Closed Military Zone Amid Clashes. The Israeli military declared Jenin a closed military zone after entering the city, engaging in armed confrontations with Palestinian resistance fighters. Israeli forces besiege Jenin’s hospitals, causing injuries, and arrest individuals amid intense military actions in the West Bank. Multiple incursions and clashes occur in various Palestinian areas.
- Hamas Urges Media Presence to Witness Gaza’s Devastation. Hamas calls on journalists and news agencies to intensify their presence in Gaza to witness the extent of the damage caused by the Israeli war since October 7. The statement highlights the discovery of civilian bodies under rubble, destruction of vital infrastructure, and deliberate targeting of Gaza’s Islamic University. Hamas also urges global solidarity on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, condemning Israeli aggression and advocating for Palestinian rights to freedom, independence, and self-determination.
- Secret Talks in Doha: Agreement to Extend Gaza Ceasefire. In confidential discussions in Doha, Israeli, American, Egyptian, and Qatari officials have reportedly agreed to extend the Israel-Hamas ceasefire for the release of more Gaza prisoners. Negotiations focus on releasing women and children first, with potential extensions based on continued progress. The talks involve high-level intelligence officials, including CIA Director William Burns. Possibility of a ceasefire extension or resumption of hostilities looms, pending the release of Israeli prisoners. Qatar hints at negotiations for the release of Israeli soldiers held by Hamas.
- Hamas to Release Russian Detainees in Appreciation of Putin’s Stance. Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk announces the release of Russian detainees, unrelated to the Israel exchange deal, expressing gratitude for President Putin’s supportive positions. The gesture follows the release of Israeli prisoners, with this move aimed at acknowledging Putin’s stance on Gaza.
- UN Explores Opening “Second Crossing” to Gaza, Citing Constraints. UN Humanitarian Coordinator Martin Griffiths heads to Amman to discuss the potential opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing for humanitarian aid entry into Gaza via Israel. While acknowledging current aid deliveries through the Rafah crossing, Griffiths emphasizes the need for additional crossings to meet Gaza’s growing humanitarian needs. Diplomatically, the possibility of opening Kerem Shalom is seen as unlikely at present, with Israel’s reluctance due to its military presence in the region.
- IDF Military Intelligence Chief to Resign Following October 7 Events. Military Intelligence Directorate Chief Aharon Haliva plans to resign, taking responsibility for the October 7 attack. Excluded from a crucial conversation, he anticipates retirement after the war, leaving the Intelligence Division in search of a successor. The General Staff’s communication lapses raise concerns, leaving the timing of Haliva’s departure uncertain.
- Iranian Media Criticizes Senator Cotton’s Hawkish Stance on Foreign Policy. Iranian media targets U.S. Senator Tom Cotton for advocating ‘massive retaliation against Iran,’ highlighting his military background and political career marked by warmongering views. The report emphasizes Cotton’s support for aggressive policies, including sanctions on Iran and backing for Israeli actions in Gaza, while criticizing U.S. foreign policy in West Asia and its repercussions. The piece suggests that such policies only foster global resentment towards America.
- Cybersecurity Concerns Rise as Iranian-Linked Hackers Target Pennsylvania Water Utility. Pro-Iran hackers, identified as the CyberAv3ngers, breach the Municipal Water Authority of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, prompting a federal investigation. The cyberattack, linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, forces manual operation of a pump station. Amid concerns about critical infrastructure vulnerabilities, the utility plans to replace Israeli-made equipment. While the water authority assures the public of no immediate water safety threat, experts caution against overstating the incident’s significance due to the hacking group’s history of false claims.
- Debate Over Rouhani’s Election Role Sparks Tensions. Tensions rise in Tehran as the March 1 elections approach, focusing on the contested role of former President Hassan Rouhani. Disqualifications by hardliner-controlled authorities stir controversy, with Rouhani’s potential candidacy creating a political divide. Amid hardline efforts to sideline him, Rouhani’s influence on social media emerges as a significant factor, shaping the dynamics of the upcoming elections.
- Iran and Syria to Exclude Dollar in Bilateral Trade. The Central Bank of Iran’s governor, Mohammad Reza Farzin, announced the intention to exclude the US dollar from trade between Tehran and Damascus. Discussions during his visit to Syria emphasized strengthening monetary-banking ties and joint investments. Farzin highlighted the importance of using national currencies, anticipating increased trade volumes and the opening of an Iranian bank branch in Syria soon. Syrian counterparts expressed the necessity of boosting trade exchanges and forming a joint working group for technological collaboration in communication and banking.
- Iranian Delegation Misses UNSC Palestine Meeting Due to US Visa Delay. Iran faced a setback as US visa delays prevented its delegation from attending the scheduled UNSC meeting on Palestine. Iranian officials, including Foreign Minister Amirabdollahian, highlighted ongoing efforts for a Gaza ceasefire and emphasized discussions with Hamas for sustainable peace. The meeting’s significance led to the rescheduling of President Raisi’s visit to Ankara. Continuous communication with Qatar’s Prime Minister focuses on mediating the exchange of prisoners in the Gaza conflict.
- Iraqi Faction Warns of Intense Winter for U.S. Forces. The Iraqi group “Ahl al-Kahf” issues a threat to U.S. forces, anticipating a hot winter despite the temporary truce between Hamas and Israel. The group warns of impending fire, citing ongoing attacks through rockets and drones. Over the past five weeks, daily missile and drone strikes targeted U.S. forces in Syria and Iraq, attributed to the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq.”
- Ministry of Oil Negotiates with Halliburton to Develop the Akkas Gas Field. Iraq’s Ministry of Oil announces serious negotiations with the U.S. company Halliburton for the development and investment of the Akkas gas field in Anbar province. The ministry emphasizes its focus on western regions, with seismic teams conducting extensive studies.
THE GULF REGION & YEMEN
- Riyadh Wins Bid to Host Expo 2030. Riyadh secures an overwhelming victory over Rome and Busan to host Expo 2030, with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman promising an unprecedented event aligned with Saudi Vision 2030. The International Exhibitions Bureau announced the Saudi capital’s win with 119 votes in the secret electronic ballot of 180 member countries. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan emphasized the Kingdom’s global standing and expressed commitment to redefine international expos with an inclusive approach.
- Saudi Offer to Iran on Hamas and War: What Are the Details? Saudi Arabia reportedly proposed enhanced cooperation and economic investment to Iran, contingent on Tehran and its regional proxies refraining from escalating the conflict between Israel and Hamas. The proposal, made following Hamas’s attack on Israel, was conveyed directly and through various channels. While the seriousness of Iran’s response remains unclear, the Saudis emphasize de-escalation, expressing concerns about Iran’s support for armed groups in the Arab world. The initiative was discussed during a meeting between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the recent Arab-Islamic summit in Riyadh.
- Israel Warns Qatar: Cooperation Now, Accountability Later. A senior Israeli official stated that Israel currently needs Qatar’s support for the Israeli detainees in Gaza but will hold Qatar accountable later for backing Hamas. Israel’s efforts to monitor financial transfers to Hamas were discussed, emphasizing the focus on reducing the impact of debts. The official underscored that Israel would pursue anyone supporting Hamas, mentioning Qatar specifically, even if they currently play a positive role in the detainee issue.
- G7 Supports Gaza Ceasefire Extension, Urges Houthis to Halt Maritime Threats. G7 foreign ministers endorse the extension of the current Gaza ceasefire and future truces, urging increased aid and facilitating the release of prisoners. They also call on Yemen’s Houthi rebels to cease maritime threats and release the crew of a seized ship in the Red Sea. The ministers emphasize the importance of safeguarding civilians, adhering to international law, and committing to a two-state solution in Israel-Palestine. The statement follows Qatar’s announcement of a ceasefire extension, brokered with U.S. and Egyptian involvement.
EGYPT & NORTH AFRICA
- Egypt Calls for “Permanent and Unconditional” Ceasefire in Gaza. Egypt urges a “permanent and unconditional” ceasefire in Gaza, emphasizing the need to halt Israeli violations. The statement also calls for sustained humanitarian aid to address the unprecedented crisis in the region. Amid a truce, Egypt works to deliver aid through the Rafah crossing, as the initial 4-day ceasefire extends.
- Israel Plans Settlement on Border with Egypt. Israel approves plans for a large settlement on the border with Egypt, featuring over 1100 housing units, 200 hotel rooms, and various facilities. The settlement, including Nitzana, aims to serve as a regional hub, promoting education and desert tourism. The government’s previous decisions and ongoing promotion of the settlement have raised concerns, with detailed plans encompassing housing, public institutions, commerce, and tourism.
- EU-Made Agreement: $9 Billion Boost for Egyptian Development. The European Union and Egypt agreed on a $9 billion development plan, unrelated to Gaza’s war fallout, aiming to support Egypt’s growth. Ambassador Christian Berger assured ongoing EU support, discussing debt reduction strategies and expressing optimism about negotiations on Egypt’s debt restructuring. Berger emphasized international support for Palestinian-Israeli coexistence and urged turning the crisis into an opportunity for positive change.
- First Iranian Bank to Commence Operations Soon in Syria. Iran’s Central Bank Governor, Mohammad Reza Farzin, announces the imminent commencement of the first Iranian bank’s operations in Syria. Emphasizing enhanced banking cooperation, trade relations, and joint investments, the move aligns with efforts to strengthen economic ties and resolve banking issues between the two nations.
- Iran Renews Denial of Involvement in Attacks on US Bases in Syria. Iran reiterates its denial of any involvement in attacks targeting U.S. bases in Syria since October. Iranian envoy to the UN, Amir Saad Irvani, refutes U.S. accusations, labeling them an intentional diversion from what Iran deems as the U.S.’s blatant violations of international law in Syria. The majority of attacks, claimed by the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq,” are closely associated with Iran and the Revolutionary Guard.
- 29 Countries Vote Against Chemical Weapons Ban Resolutions Condemning Syrian Regime. The Syrian Network for Human Rights reports that 29 countries, including Russia, voted against resolutions by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Many nations have filed lawsuits against the Syrian regime at the International Court of Justice for its repeated violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The report notes that the Syrian regime conducted 184 chemical weapon attacks since signing the convention in September 2013. The OPCW issued 10 resolutions aimed at dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons program, destroying production and storage facilities, safeguarding victims’ rights, and holding those responsible for chemical weapon attacks accountable.
- Erdoğan Condemns Netanyahu as “Butcher of Gaza,” Urges Lasting Truce. President Erdoğan criticizes Netanyahu for Gaza atrocities, accusing him of genocide. Türkiye demands Israeli accountability for war crimes, emphasizing support for Gaza. Erdoğan pessimistic about a lasting truce, citing Netanyahu’s actions fueling anti-Semitism and endangering global Jewish communities.
- Erdogan Vows Diplomatic Push for Gaza Cease-Fire and Hostage Release. President Erdogan pledges intensified diplomatic efforts for a permanent cease-fire and hostage release in Gaza, condemning Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as the “butcher of Gaza.” Erdogan criticizes Netanyahu’s actions, cites ongoing atrocities, and emphasizes Türkiye’s commitment to holding Israel accountable for war crimes.
- Turkey Signals Approval for Sweden’s NATO Membership in Weeks. Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström reports that Turkey is expected to approve Sweden’s NATO membership in the coming weeks. The announcement follows a bilateral meeting between the Swedish and Turkish foreign ministers ahead of NATO foreign ministers’ discussions. Turkey emphasizes the need for Sweden to address terrorism concerns, while NATO continues pressure on Turkey regarding Ukraine, facing a stalled conflict and Washington’s delays.
- Turkish Foreign Minister and US Secretary of State Discuss Gaza and Sweden’s NATO Bid. Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to discuss the Gaza situation and Sweden’s NATO membership. Talks come amid an extended humanitarian pause in the Gaza conflict. The Turkish parliament delayed the consideration of Sweden’s NATO accession, citing security concerns, as Fidan engages in bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels.
- Israeli Forces Break Unofficial Truce, Fire on Lebanese Army. Despite an unofficial truce, Israeli soldiers fired on a Lebanese Army patrol near Houla’s southern border. The ceasefire, marked by occasional Israeli shelling, drone activity, and previous incidents, has strained tensions. The breach follows Lebanon’s and Hezbollah’s cautious observance, impacting the temporary reduction in hostilities seen during the Israel-Hamas ceasefire.
- French Envoy Resumes Presidential Mission in Lebanon. French Presidential Envoy Jean-Yves Le Drian resumes his mission in Lebanon to address the prolonged presidential vacuum. Le Drian emphasizes the French-backed initiative and seeks Lebanese consensus on upcoming political milestones.
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