Top 5 Headlines:
- Israeli Women Tragedy Becomes the Beacon of Resilience.
- Israel Confiscates Millions in Hamas Funds During West Bank Raids.
- Iran Supplies Hezbollah with Advanced Weapons.
- Israel Retaliates with Airstrikes in Syria Following Rocket Attacks.
- Hezbollah Accuses Israel of Hacking Lebanese CCTV Cameras.
★ ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
- Gaza Crisis: Israel’s Lethal Strikes and a ‘Regrettable Mistake. In a devastating escalation in Gaza, Israeli forces have continued their intense military campaign, resulting in over 21,507 Palestinian deaths, including a tragic incident where 86 people died in the Maghazi refugee camp due to an Israeli airstrike termed a “regrettable mistake.” Nearly 200 Palestinians were killed in the last 24 hours amid airstrikes and artillery barrages. The Israeli Defence Minister affirmed the operations as crucial to their mission against Hamas. The U.S. urged Israel to scale down the war, but Israel shows no signs of compliance. As Gaza grapples with severe shortages of essential supplies, international pressure has led Israel to partially open borders for aid. However, logistical hurdles and security concerns hamper effective distribution. The high civilian toll and destruction in Gaza have sparked global concern and criticism, especially following the acknowledgment of the mistaken airstrike at Maghazi.
- Israeli Women Tragedy Becomes the Beacon of Resilience. The New York Times’ investigation, involving over 150 interviews, unveiled the harrowing story of Gal Abdush, a 34-year-old mother. Abdush was a victim of rape and murder; her body, alongside her husband’s, was found in a shocking state. Throughout southern Israel, including the Supernova music festival site, more than 30 women were tragically discovered. These victims bore signs of sexual assault and brutalization, some with torn clothing and others with more gruesome injuries. Eyewitness accounts paint a horrific picture of these events, with two teenage sisters also falling victim. The urgency of Jewish burial customs led to many victims being interred without comprehensive medical examinations, complicating the collection of evidence. Among the few survivors, there’s a noticeable hesitance to seek treatment or discuss their trauma, highlighting the lasting impact of these atrocities. In contrast to these dark events, Israeli women’s increasing involvement in the conflict against Hamas is noteworthy. Major Sapir Barki of the Home Front Command shared her experiences during the October 7 attacks, emphasizing the critical role of focus and resilience in such dire circumstances. Similarly, Michal Mor, CEO of Smart Shooter, is at the forefront of integrating advanced technology in warfare, notably through smart fire control systems which improve accuracy under duress.
- Israel Confiscates Millions in Hamas Funds During West Bank Raids. Israeli forces conducted widespread raids across the West Bank, targeting Hamas funding sources. They seized millions of dollars, arresting 21 people in cities including Ramallah, Tulkarm, Jenin, and Hebron. Clashes during the operation resulted in one death and 14 injuries in Ramallah. The raids, involving the army, police, and Shin Bet, focused on foreign exchange and money transfer agencies, confiscating cash, safes, documents, and devices. The operation, which included a special cyber crimes unit, also targeted cryptocurrency funding sources.
- Son of Hamas Leader Killed in IDF Strike. The IDF reportedly killed Muhammad Issa, the son of Marwan Issa, a top deputy to Hamas’s Gaza military chief, Muhammad Deif, in an attack on Thursday morning.
- American-Israeli Hostage Judy Weinstein Declared Dead, Held by Hamas. American-Israeli Judy Weinstein, 70, was killed by Hamas on October 7, following her husband’s death. Both their bodies remain in Hamas custody. Six other American hostages are held by Hamas.
- The Guardian Warns of Repercussions for Israel’s Assassination Attempt on Hamas Leaders Abroad. The Guardian has cautioned against Israel’s plan to assassinate Hamas leaders in countries such as Turkiye, emphasizing concerns that such actions may yield counterproductive results and prove ineffective, with past experiences suggesting that assassinations don’t necessarily achieve their intended goals.
- Israeli War Council Discusses New Qatari Initiative. Israel’s War Cabinet is set to discuss a new Qatari initiative aimed at the release of Gaza-held prisoners. The move comes as the US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, Roger Carstens, acknowledges Qatar’s pivotal role as a mediator in prisoner exchange negotiations between Hamas and Israel.
- Confronting Iran’s Escalation: A Call for Decisive Action. In a recent analysis, former National Security Advisor, John Bolton warned that the escalating aggression of Iran has been spotlighted as a growing concern for global stability. The piece underscores Iran’s involvement in a series of hostile acts, including attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea and the deployment of an Iranian drone against an Israeli-affiliated merchant ship. These incidents are portrayed as part of Iran’s broader strategy to challenge Western interests and destabilize the Middle East. The analysis criticizes the current U.S. administration for its perceived lack of effective response, arguing that Iran’s continued belligerence is partly due to inadequate deterrence. It is suggested that a more assertive military response, targeting key Iranian assets, is necessary to impose significant costs on Tehran and alter its strategic calculations. The piece also delves into the wider regional implications, emphasizing the need to diminish Iran’s influence over proxy groups like Hamas and Hizballah. This is seen as crucial for reducing regional tensions and preventing further escalation of conflicts. The call to action includes a shift towards a more proactive Western policy, particularly in supporting Israel’s efforts to counteract Hamas, to effectively confront and curtail Iran’s aggressive maneuvers.
- Iran Claims Hamas Ready for Months-Long Conflict. Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hussein Amir-Abdollahian, states that Hamas informed Iran of its capacity to sustain a war with Israel for several months. He also asserts that the end of the conflict will be determined by the Palestinian people, not the US or Israel.
- Iran Supplies Hezbollah with Advanced Weapons. Iran is arming Hezbollah in Lebanon with precise missiles, air defenses, and drones in preparation for a potential conflict with Israel. These weapons are transported via Damascus airport, frequently targeted by Israel to thwart these transfers. Iran had already supplied Hezbollah with missiles, but Israel’s air defenses have intercepted them. The senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps official coordinating these efforts was recently assassinated in Syria, adding to regional tensions.
- Western Powers Criticize Iran’s Nuclear Enrichment Acceleration. Western nations, including France, Germany, Britain, and the United States, have criticized Iran for accelerating its high-grade uranium enrichment. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported Iran’s increased production, which contradicted a previous reduction. This development raises concerns about Iran’s commitment to de-escalation and regional stability amid growing tensions in the Middle East.
- Iran Executes Four Alleged Mossad Spies, Amid Rising Tensions. Iran executed three men and one woman accused of spying for Israel’s Mossad, citing charges of kidnapping Iranian security forces and collaborating against the state. The hangings come as Iran-Israel tensions escalate, with both nations accusing each other of espionage and shadow warfare.
- Israel Retaliates with Airstrikes in Syria Following Rocket Attacks. In response to two rockets fired from Syria into Israeli-controlled territory, the Israeli army conducted airstrikes in Syria, targeting areas near Damascus and the southern Sweida province. These strikes resulted in the death of 11 members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) at Damascus International Airport, who were reportedly overseeing Iran-backed forces in eastern Syria. The IRGC has refuted these claims. This escalation follows a pattern of Israeli airstrikes in Syria, primarily against Iran-backed forces and Syrian army positions, as Israel maintains its stance against Iran’s expansion in the region. The ongoing conflict has led to significant casualties on both sides, including Hezbollah fighters, civilians, and journalists in Lebanon, as well as Israeli civilians and soldiers. Israel has warned of intensifying military action if Hezbollah does not withdraw from the border area.
- Assad Regime Begins Drone Strike Campaign to Kill Civilians in Idlib. Two individuals were killed and several injured in the northeastern countryside of Idlib, Syria, following an attack by Syrian regime forces using a “suicide drone.” The attack targeted the Maarat al-Naasan axis, with additional artillery shelling hitting Al-Fatira, Maarat Al-Naasan, Darat Azza, and Kafr Nouran. This incident follows a similar attack last Saturday, where a civilian was killed near Aleppo. The Syrian Civil Defense reported a significant increase in attacks by the regime and its allies throughout 2023, including air strikes, artillery, and missile attacks, leading to numerous civilian casualties, including children and women. The use of drones and other explosive devices has been a notable tactic, causing widespread destruction and loss of life in the region.
- SDF General: US Fails to Apply Adequate Pressure to Stop Turkish Attacks in Northern Syria. General Mazloum Abdi, the Commander-in-Chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), expressed concern that Turkiye continues its ongoing attacks in northern and eastern Syria, with insufficient pressure from the United States to halt them. He also discussed other regional developments in a recent interview.
- Senior ISIS Leader Responsible for Al-Hol Camp Killed by SDF in Security Operation. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced the killing of a senior ISIS leader responsible for the Al-Hol camp, home to tens of thousands of displaced individuals. SDF units, with support from the US-led international coalition, conducted a raid and engaged with the leader, Abu Ubaida Al-Iraqi, who refused to surrender and attempted to detonate a suicide belt. He was subsequently killed in the operation. Abu Ubaida was involved in numerous killings in the camp and was the primary planner of attacks against Kurdish security and military checkpoints.
- UN Warns of Depleting Health Resources During Winter in Syria. The United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) expresses concern over ongoing hostilities in northern Syria, warning of the impact on civilians and the depletion of health resources during the winter. The recent escalation of fighting has resulted in casualties and damage to healthcare facilities, with heightened respiratory infections affecting young children. OCHA calls for additional support from donor organizations, as only 36% of the annual humanitarian response plan for Syria has been funded by the end of 2023.
- Ongoing Protests for Change Continue in Sweida’s Al-Karama Square. Thousands of protesters gather in Sweida’s Al-Karama Square, demanding political change in Syria. The demonstrations persist despite reduced media coverage, with participants emphasizing their commitment to the protests and calls for implementing relevant UN resolutions. Various civil and professional groups from Sweida and its surroundings join the ongoing protests, maintaining their resolve to continue until their demands are met.
- Hezbollah and Israel Exchange Fire Across Borders. Hezbollah announced it targeted two military sites in northern Israel, leading to sirens sounding across the region. In response, the Israeli army conducted large-scale strikes in southern Lebanon, targeting Hezbollah infrastructure and cells preparing for further attacks. These strikes followed a series of rocket barrages and drone infiltrations from Lebanon into northern Israel, causing damage in Kiryat Shmona but no reported injuries. The Israeli army’s response included bombing a Hezbollah military compound and intercepting a drone near Haifa. Lebanese state media attributed Hezbollah’s missile fire to an Israeli airstrike that killed a Hezbollah member and two relatives.
- Hezbollah Accuses Israel of Hacking Lebanese CCTV Cameras. Hezbollah accuses Israel of hacking CCTV cameras in southern Lebanon, urging residents to turn them off. The armed group alleges Israel’s use of footage to target its fighters. Since the Israel-Hamas war started on October 7, border skirmishes escalated, resulting in over 150 Lebanese and 13 Israeli deaths. Hezbollah confirms Israel’s camera hacking for increased visibility post its cross-border attacks.
- Hochstein’s Upcoming Mediation in Beirut. U.S. mediator Amos Hochstein is set to return to Beirut in mid-January for mediation between Lebanon and Israel, focusing on delineating their land border. U.S. Ambassador Dorothy Shea confirmed this plan and emphasized the need to pacify the situation and implement UN resolution 1701, potentially addressing the Shebaa Farms issue.
★ THE GULF REGION & YEMEN
- Urgent Security Council Meeting on West Bank Tensions. The UAE called for an urgent Security Council meeting to discuss escalating tensions in the West Bank and their impact on the two-state solution. The UAE described extremist violence and Israeli incursions as threats to Palestinian-Israeli relations, while the Council adopted a resolution to expedite aid to Gaza and called for an investigation into violence against Palestinians.
- Saudi Stocks Conclude 2023 with Highest Annual Close in 18 Years. The Saudi stock market achieved its highest annual closing level in 18 years, with the main index, TASI, rising approximately 13.5%. Factors contributing to this surge include increased liquidity, ongoing IPO activity, and regulatory reforms to enhance market efficiency and attract investment.
- Gulf Real Estate Deals Reach $171.6 Billion in 10 Months. Kuwaiti company “Kamco Invest” reported that Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) real estate deals totaled $171.6 billion in the first ten months of 2023, marking a 21.1% YoY increase. Dubai accounted for 52.1% of the total GCC real estate transaction value. Dubai saw a nearly 57% YoY increase due to rising developer prices and high demand for luxury properties valued over $1.3 million. Abu Dhabi also experienced a 56% increase, contributing to the GCC’s total real estate value surpassing 2022 estimates by reaching $165.8 billion.
- US Navy Downs Houthi Drone and Ballistic Missile in the Red Sea. The US military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) announced that the US Navy intercepted a Houthi drone and an anti-ship ballistic missile in the southern Red Sea. The incident occurred on Thursday when the USS Mason downed the drone and missile between 5:45 and 6:10 PM Sanaa time.
- US Imposes Sanctions on Networks Facilitating Money Transfers from Iran to Houthis in Yemen. The United States has imposed sanctions on an individual and three currency exchange companies accused of facilitating the transfer of financial support from Iran to the Houthi Ansar Allah group in Yemen. Two of the currency exchange companies are based in Yemen, while the third is located in Turkiye. The sanctions target a network through which Iranian financier Saeed al-Jamal, previously sanctioned by the US since June 2021, provided funds to the Houthis. The designated companies include Aman Cargo, described as an intermediary for delivering financing from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to the Houthis, Nabko Money Exchange based in Sanaa, and Al-Rawda Exchange, operated by the Houthi group to transfer funds from Turkiye to Yemeni riyals.
- Turkiye Strengthens Military Presence in Northern Iraq. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Turkiye’s plans to reinforce its military bases in northern Iraq following an attack by the Kurdish Workers’ Party. The establishment of these bases without coordination with Iraqi authorities has raised concerns about their tacit approval.
- Iran’s Exploitation of Regional Tensions for Resolving US Presence in Iraq. Iran is leveraging regional tensions, notably in the aftermath of the Gaza conflict, to address the contentious issue of the US military presence in Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shiaa Al-Sudani’s statements hint at the willingness to terminate the international coalition’s presence, reflecting Iran’s influence and raising concerns about strained US-Iraq relations.
- Iraq Initiates $2 Billion New City Project. Iraq has laid the foundation for a new $2 billion residential city project near Baghdad, with two Chinese companies already constructing 30,000 housing units. This initiative is part of a larger plan to build five new cities across Iraq, with contracts for four additional cities expected soon. The project aims to address the housing crisis by creating 250,000 to 300,000 housing units for low and middle-income families.
- Sanchez Charts a New Path for Economic Relations with Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez have announced plans to enhance their partnership across various sectors. This move aligns with Iraq’s goal to strengthen its international presence and attract Spanish investments in exchange for oil imports.
★ EGYPT & AFRICA
- Despite Suez Canal Losses, 7 Reasons for Egypt’s Non-Involvement in Confronting the Houthis. The Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea have led to economic losses for the Suez Canal. Yet, Egypt remains uninvolved in the alliance against them. This article outlines seven reasons for Egypt’s reluctance to engage in military action, including a diplomatic approach, internal economic challenges, and concerns about the effectiveness of such an intervention. Additionally, historical experiences, a unified Arab stance, and reassurances from Iran contribute to Egypt’s non-involvement in confronting the Houthi threat.
- Egypt Joins UAE-Israel Land Bridge Project. Egypt has joined the UAE-Israel land bridge project to counter Houthi attacks in the Red Sea. Trucknet, an Israeli company, signed an agreement with Egypt’s WWCS, owned by businessman Hisham Helmy, to extend the land bridge’s path through Egyptian territory.
- Hamas Delegation Arrives in Egypt for Ceasefire Talks. A Hamas delegation arrives in Cairo to discuss an Egyptian plan, including ceasefires and the gradual release of hostages, aiming to end hostilities following Hamas’s attack on Israeli territories.
- Intense Airstrikes by the Sudanese Army in South Darfur. The Sudanese army conducted intensive airstrikes in several neighborhoods of Nyala, South Darfur, resulting in casualties. Renewed clashes between the army and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) erupted in Khartoum, with reports of heavy artillery shelling and drone strikes. The conflict continues to escalate in Sudan.
- Turkiye Arrests 3 ISIS Officials Planning to Attack Iraqi Embassy in Ankara. Turkish authorities have arrested several wanted individuals, including three ISIS officials, who were planning to attack the Iraqi embassy in the capital, Ankara, according to the official Turkish news agency Anadolu.
- Turkiye Successfully Tests Locally-Made Warhead-Equipped Torpedoes. Turkiye’s Ministry of Defense announces successful tests of the domestically-produced “Akya” heavy torpedo, fired from a Turkish submarine in the eastern Mediterranean. The torpedo accurately hit its target from a distance of 12,000 yards in its first launch.