Top 5 Headlines:
- Houthis Escalate Missile Attacks on Red Sea Shipping.
- Egyptian Foreign Minister Visits Washington to Discuss Gaza Ceasefire.
- Jordanian Forces Kill 3 Drug Smugglers, Seize Large Captagon Shipment.
- Iran-backed Militants Attack US Base in Syria.
- Saudi Arabia Rejects Gradual Oil Reduction at Climate Conference.
ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
- Israel Considers Flooding Gaza Tunnels in Escalated Conflict. Israel contemplates using a large pumping system to flood Hamas tunnels in Gaza with seawater. Meanwhile, the IDF, alongside Shin Bet, intensifies operations against Hamas, targeting their headquarters in Jabalia and advancing in Khan Yunis. IDF casualties have risen to 80, including recent deaths of an officer and two soldiers. Hamas’s attack near an Israeli base with sensitive weaponry, including nuclear-capable missiles, adds to the conflict’s severity. Israeli forces also conducted a major incursion into Jenin in the West Bank, resulting in clashes and arrests. Challenges in neutralizing Hamas, particularly the Qassam Brigades, are compounded by the group’s ideological roots and external support. The deployment of the Kfir Brigade in Gaza highlights Israel’s tactical focus, while Hamas’s ambush on November 18 inflicted significant losses on the IDF. Rocket alarms in central Israel, including Tel Aviv, signal ongoing hostilities.
- Tense Exchange as Netanyahu Addresses Families of Hostages. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces hostility from hostage families, stating there’s currently no chance to free everyone. Families express anguish over the situation, emphasizing the urgency of bringing captives home. Netanyahu’s remarks during the meeting triggered anger among attendees.
- IDF Overlooked Clear Warnings Before October 7 Hamas Attack. Despite receiving detailed intelligence about Hamas’s large-scale invasion plans, including a July 2022 IDF report and public statements by Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, Israeli military leadership failed to act effectively. Key IDF commando units were reassigned from the Gaza border just days before the attack. Intelligence warnings, including increased drills by Hamas’s Nukhba forces and signs of an imminent attack, were noted but not fully acted upon, leading to a delayed response to the October 7 onslaught.
- New Evidence of Rape and Sexual Violence During October 7 Rampage Emerges. Eyewitnesses and volunteers have provided new accounts of sexual violence committed by Hamas-led terrorists during the October 7 attack in Israel. Survivors and investigators have reported instances of rape and mutilation, shedding light on the brutality of the assault. The UN has recently committed to investigating these sexual crimes after weeks of international silence. Israeli authorities are building sexual assault cases against Gazan terrorists involved in the attacks.
- US: Hamas Withholds Female Hostages to Silence Them on Abuse. The US State Department asserts that Hamas is retaining female hostages to prevent them from disclosing sexual violence experienced during captivity. This refusal led to the collapse of a ceasefire with Israel. The US condemns Hamas’s atrocities and supports Israel’s efforts to hold them accountable.
- Israel Seeks International Coalition to Protect Red Sea Shipping Lanes. In response to Houthi attacks, Israel formally approaches countries like the UK and Japan to establish a task force dedicated to securing maritime routes in the Red Sea. Amid concerns of potential Houthi threats, Israel expands naval activities in the region, emphasizing the need for international collaboration to counter maritime security challenges.
- Rising Unrest and Drug Threats Amid Regional Tensions. Jordan faces increasing internal turmoil, fueled by public discontent over the Israel-Hamas conflict and exacerbated by Iran’s influence in the region. Recent reports highlight a surge in drug smuggling from Syria, linked to Iran’s “axis of evil.” Jordanian forces recently neutralized three smugglers and seized a significant haul of narcotics. These developments underscore Jordan’s growing security challenges and the need for heightened vigilance in the face of regional instability.
- Chosen Ayatollah Khamenei Meets Handpicked Cuban President. Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, met with Cuban President Díaz-Canel today to discuss forming an international coalition against Western domination. Both Iran and Cuba, subject to Western sanctions, seek to strengthen their alliance, focusing on scientific collaboration. They expressed mutual concern over global matters, especially the Palestinian situation. President Díaz-Canel condemned Israeli actions in Gaza, labeling them as genocide, and urged for global unity against such double standards.
- Iran Vows Revenge After Israeli Strike Kills IRGC Officers in Syria. Iran threatens retaliation against Israel following the death of two IRGC officers in a recent Israeli airstrike in Syria. Tensions escalate amid the ongoing conflict, with Tehran emphasizing its commitment to defending its interests and advisory forces in Syria.
- Iran-Russia Alliance Strengthens with President Raisi’s Moscow Visit. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi‘s diplomatic visit to Moscow on December 7 marks his second since taking office, signifying a deepening Iran-Russia alliance. The visit, encompassing discussions on economic ties and regional issues, including Palestine and Gaza, coincides with the signing of a pact against unilateral coercive measures. This agreement, criticized for countering U.S. sanctions, was formalized at a Caspian countries’ meeting in Moscow. It underlines both nations’ commitment to resist illegal sanctions, with Russia supporting Iran’s BRICS membership and promoting the North-South Corridor.
- Iran and Russia Forge Alliance Against Unilateral Coercive Measures. Iran and Russia, in a joint move, signed a pact to counter unilateral coercive measures, criticizing U.S. sanctions. The agreement was inked by the foreign ministers during a Caspian countries’ meeting in Moscow. Lavrov emphasized standing against illegal sanctions, supporting Iran’s BRICS membership, and promoting North-South Corridor activities. Amirabdollahian highlighted the review of past agreements and praised fruitful diplomatic interaction.
- Iran Urges Caspian Consensus and Action Against Gaza Atrocities. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian calls for consensus among Caspian littoral countries and proposes a secretariat for joint administration. Emphasizing the need for economic cooperation, he condemns Israeli atrocities in Gaza and advocates for international action, urging a unified message to the US and a boycott on Israeli goods.
- Iran Rejects Baseless UK Accusations on Red Sea Attacks. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Nasser Kanaani, dismisses the UK’s unfounded claims linking Iran to recent Red Sea attacks. Kanaani condemns the accusations as politically motivated and influenced by third parties, urging UK officials to focus on condemning Israeli crimes and supporting humanitarian aid delivery to Gaza.
- U.S. Base in Syria Hit by Rocket Attacks Launched from Iraq. The U.S. Ramelan base in western Kurdistan (Syrian Kurdistan) was attacked with 15 rockets launched from Iraq, as confirmed by U.S. Central Command. No injuries or damages reported. U.S. bases in Syria have faced recent missile and drone attacks amid regional tensions. The U.S. leads an international coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria under Operation Inherent Resolve.
- Iraqi Militia Buries Slain Members and Threatens U.S. The Iraqi armed group “Al-Nujaba” buried five members killed in a U.S. strike in Kirkuk, vowing revenge against the United States. The militants were targeted while preparing to launch missiles towards the “Hareer” military base in Erbil. The U.S. described the airstrike as self-defense against an imminent threat. The incident marks a resumption of attacks by Iran-backed militias on international coalition bases in Iraq and Syria after the end of the Gaza ceasefire.
- Foiled Attempt to Sell Suspected Mercury for up to $30,000 in Western Iraq. Security forces in Anbar province, western Iraq, arrested two individuals attempting to sell a box containing a substance believed to be mercury for around $30,000. The operation was carried out following information about the sale, coordinated with judicial approvals, leading to the apprehension of the suspects and the confiscation of the suspected mercury.
THE GULF REGION & YEMEN
- Houthis Escalate Attacks, U.S. Mulls Naval Task Force Response. In response to intensifying Houthi missile attacks and maritime threats, the U.S. is reevaluating its strategy, contemplating a naval task force to safeguard commercial vessels in the Red Sea. This comes after a failed interception of a ship hijacking, spotlighting the Houthi-Iran connection and escalating regional tensions. The Biden administration, criticized for its lenient approach, faces Congressional pressure for a stronger stance. Recent drone strikes targeted Houthi military sites in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, causing explosions. Independent sources confirm five airstrikes on Houthi locations, destroying drone stores and factories. While Saudi media previously linked an arms depot explosion to an alleged Israeli airstrike, Israel and the Houthis denied involvement.
- Saudi Arabia Rejects Gradual Oil Reduction at Climate Conference. Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman ruled out any gradual reduction in oil usage during the COP28 climate talks. He emphasized Saudi Arabia and other nations would not agree to such a step, dismissing it as implausible. The minister downplayed Western financial contributions to the climate’s “Loss and Damage Fund,” highlighting Saudi Arabia’s commitment to allocate up to $50 billion for African countries, emphasizing climate goals and infrastructure development in collaboration with southern partners.
- Putin to Visit UAE and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov announced that President Vladimir Putin will undertake a working visit to the UAE and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. While coordinated oil market actions may be discussed, such conversations typically occur within the OPEC+ framework. The visit follows the recent OPEC+ agreement among the three countries to voluntarily cut production by approximately 2.2 million barrels per day.
- Gulf Cooperation Warns Against Gaza Conflict Expansion. Gulf Cooperation Council leaders caution against the Gaza conflict expanding to other Middle East regions. Qatar’s Emir stresses the need to end the occupation across all Palestinian territories, urging Israel to return to credible two-state negotiations. The GCC reiterates its unwavering support for Palestine, emphasizing the dangers of continued occupation and violations of Palestinian rights. Diplomatic efforts persist to halt the Gaza war, but Israel impedes progress, reinforcing Gulf unity on regional issues.
EGYPT & AFRICA
- Egyptian Foreign Minister Visits Washington to Discuss Gaza Ceasefire. Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, embarks on a visit to Washington to discuss efforts towards a Gaza ceasefire. Egypt asserts its role in facilitating the return of Egyptians from Gaza, countering misinformation about the process.
- Sisi Stresses Need for Palestinian State with Jerusalem as Capital. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi emphasizes the international community’s role in implementing the two-state solution for an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Sisi also discusses Egypt’s readiness to coordinate and receive international aid for Gaza, highlighting ongoing efforts to provide humanitarian assistance.
- Egypt Unveils New Weapons Amid Regional Tensions. Egypt reveals advanced weaponry at the “IDEX 2023” international defense exhibition, including the domestically manufactured frigate “El-Gebal” and the missile launcher “Raad 200.” These developments come amid escalating regional tensions, with Egypt facing pressure and challenges from various fronts, including the Gaza conflict and involvement of other actors like the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The showcased weapons enhance Egypt’s capabilities for surface, air, and underwater threats, reflecting its commitment to sovereignty and regional stability.
- Nigerian Army Airstrike Accidentally Kills 85 Civilians. A Nigerian military drone strike mistakenly killed at least 85 civilians in a village in the northwest state of Kaduna on Sunday, as confirmed by the emergency services on Tuesday. The President has called for an investigation into the incident, expressing deep regret and sorrow for the loss of Nigerian lives. The military acknowledged the accidental strike, targeting villagers participating in an Islamic festival, leading to ongoing negotiations between emergency officials and the local community to ease tensions and access the affected village.
- Turkiye Warns Israel Against Targeting Hamas on Its Territory. Turkiye has issued a strong warning to Israel following the announcement by Israel’s security chief, Ronen Bar, about pursuing Hamas leaders globally, including in Turkiye. This stance by Turkiye underscores the escalating tensions and the serious consequences of any Israeli intelligence operations against Hamas on Turkish soil.
- Equal Treatment Urged: Turkish Ambassador Calls for Enhanced EU-Turkiye Cooperation. Turkiye’s ambassador to the EU, Faruk Kaymakci, urges the European Union to treat Turkiye as an equal candidate country, emphasizing the need for trust-building measures. Kaymakci highlights concerns over the insufficient growth of Turkish-EU relations in key areas and calls for the removal of conditions hindering the update of the 1995 Customs Union deal. The ambassador also emphasizes the importance of facilitating visa issuance for Turkish nationals and advocates deeper cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
- Erdogan Accuses Netanyahu of Jeopardizing the Region for Political Gain. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemns Israel’s war on Gaza, accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of endangering the region for political longevity. Erdogan emphasizes the urgent need for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and the delivery of humanitarian aid during his participation in the Gulf-Turkiye Summit in Doha.
- Erdogan Highlights Global Impact of Expo 2023 Doha during Visit. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan emphasizes Expo 2023 Doha’s significance on the global stage, discussing regional issues with Qatari leaders before the 44th Gulf Cooperation Council Summit. Erdogan applauds the Expo’s international participation and envisions increased global engagement in the future. The expo, themed “Green Desert, Better Environment,” focuses on sustainable innovations and combating desertification, running until March 28, 2024.
- Israel’s Strategic Misstep with Hizballah: Military Expert. Israeli General Kobi Marom warns of a grave strategic mistake in Israel’s approach to Lebanon’s Hizballah. He criticizes Israel’s response to the recent attack, stressing the significant security challenge posed by Hizballah in the north. Marom urges the Israeli government to define clear objectives and increase attacks on the front lines, calling for immediate talks with the U.S. to address regional security concerns.
- Border Tensions: Hizballah Targets Israeli Soldiers. Recent developments on the Lebanon-Israel border include Hizballah targeting Israeli soldiers in two separate incidents, resulting in direct hits. Concurrently, Israeli artillery shelled several southern Lebanese towns. Israeli warplanes carried out raids, and missiles launched from Lebanon struck a fortified Israeli military site, causing severe damage. Tensions remain high, marked by frequent cross-border exchanges of fire.
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