Israel Expands Operations to Rafah and Lebanon; US Retaliates in Iraq; Jordan Grapples with Captagon War
- Houthis Cease Ship Attacks During Saudi Visit
- Israeli Strikes on Rafah Panic Civilians on Both Borders
- Hezbollah Commander Killed, Israeli Soldiers Injured
- US Drone Strike Kills Iraqi Hezbollah Leader
- Jordan Foils Drug Smuggling, Kills Smugglers on Syrian Border
- Meta Suspends Accounts of Khamenei, When Will X?
On February 8, 2024, Meta, the parent company of Instagram, announced the suspension of the official Instagram accounts of Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, citing “repeated violations” of its policies against dangerous entities and individuals. Despite this, Khamenei continues to be active on Elon Musk’s X platform, where his posts frequently criticize Israel and praise Hamas.
- Iran Executes Amputation Sentence for Sheep Theft.
Iran’s execution of a severe sentence, the amputation of four fingers of 34-year-old Yousef Ta for purportedly stealing five sheep, has sparked outrage. Despite Yousef’s insistence on his innocence throughout his 13-month imprisonment, the harsh punishment was carried out. This act, condemned by human rights advocates, highlights the extreme measures of the Iranian judicial system, especially in contrast to the widespread corruption and embezzlement by officials within the same regime.
- Five Journalists Vanish Following Raid on Iranian News Site.
In Tehran, five journalists from the Fardaye Eghtesad website, including its editor and deputy editor, remain unaccounted for three days after a security forces’ raid resulted in the detention of 30 staff members. The incident, cloaked in secrecy with no details on the missing journalists’ status, has heightened concerns over their safety. The judiciary attributes the arrests to matters under security investigation, not journalistic work, amidst speculations linking the detentions to exposes on Iran’s covert international financial dealings.
- Iran, China, and Russia Engaged in Illicit Efforts to Acquire Sensitive U.S. Technology, DHS Reports.
Jim Mancuso, Assistant Director of the Global Trade Division at Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), has raised alarms over Iran, China, and Russia’s attempts to illicitly obtain sensitive U.S. technology. This concern is underscored by the discovery of American microelectronics and communications systems in Iranian drones on battlefields in Ukraine and the Middle East. These nations employ sophisticated networks to bypass U.S. export laws, with technologies often routed through China to end destinations like Iran. The U.S. is actively targeting these procurement networks to prevent the furtherance of adversaries’ military capabilities and uphold national security.
- US Adult Performer Whitney Wright’s Controversial Visit to Iran Sparks Debate.
Whitney Wright, a 32-year-old adult performer from the US, recently visited Tehran, Iran, causing controversy by posting a photo of herself at the former US embassy, now an anti-American museum. Her presence in Iran, a country where her profession is deemed “obscene,” alongside her visit to significant historical sites, has ignited discussions on social media and among critics regarding Iran’s enforcement of its mandatory hijab law and the government’s approach to foreign visitors. This visit comes amidst a backdrop of significant unrest in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini and ongoing debates over women’s rights and freedoms. Iran’s Foreign Ministry acknowledged Wright’s visit, noting no impediments for US citizens traveling to Iran, despite ongoing tensions between the two nations.
- Iran Coerces Religious Minorities into Supporting Islamic Revolution Celebrations.
In Iran, Jewish and other non-Muslim communities have been compelled to participate in events celebrating the Islamic Revolution, signaling the regime’s attempt to fabricate broad support as elections approach. Notably, leaders from the Jewish, Armenian, and Zoroastrian minorities, alongside Revolutionary Guard commanders, were reported to show “enthusiastic attendance.” This move aims to mask the regime’s oppressive treatment of these groups, with the Jewish population notably declining from 80,000 pre-revolution to 5,000-8,000 today, many having fled to Israel and the US. Experts label these minorities as “hostages,” pressured to display allegiance amidst widespread discrimination and religious freedom restrictions, highlighting the regime’s attempt to project unity and support falsely.
- Iran’s Foreign Investment Figures Disputed.
Ali Fikri, head of the Iranian Foreign Investment Organization, claims Iran drew $10.6 billion in foreign investments since President Raisi’s 2021 inauguration, with significant contributions from Russia in the oil and gas sector. This figure starkly contrasts with the UNCTAD’s report of only $1.5 billion for 2022, highlighting discrepancies between contract values and actual financial inflows. These conflicting reports suggest Iran’s potential overstatement of investment figures to boost its global image amidst economic challenges and currency devaluation, with Russian investments notably focusing on service contracts rather than direct financial inputs.
- Houthis Cease Ship Attacks During Saudi Visit: Meeting Insights Revealed.
Today, the Houthis refrained from launching any ship attacks as they visited Saudi Arabia. Insights from the meeting between Houthi representatives and Saudi officials suggest progress in overcoming key obstacles to the UN roadmap for Yemeni peace. Muhammad Abdel Salam, the chief Houthi negotiator, characterized the talks as constructive, underscoring mutual interests in resolving the crisis.
- American-British Raids Strike Yemeni Coastal Areas.
The Yemeni Houthi group reported two American and British airstrikes targeting Hodeidah Governorate and Baqim area in Saada Governorate. Al-Masirah TV confirmed the attacks without specifying objectives or outcomes.
★ ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
- Israeli Military Mobilizes in Rafah Despite Cairo Ceasefire Talks.
The Israeli military prepares for intervention in Rafah, Gaza, despite ongoing talks in Cairo for a ceasefire with Hamas. This decision follows Hamas’ rejection of a ceasefire proposal, despite reassurances from the US State Department about the potential for an agreement. Israeli airstrikes targeted the border area between Egypt and Gaza, causing casualties among displaced individuals. The severity of the strikes sparked horrific panic among the displaced population. Egyptian military helicopters patrolled the Philadelphia axis area in response to the airstrikes. The Egyptian military reinforced concrete walls and installed barbed wire to prevent Palestinian migration toward North Sinai.
- Israeli Army Neutralizes Hamas Fighters and Uncovers Hostage Site in Gaza Clashes.
The Israeli army successfully neutralized more than 20 Hamas fighters during violent clashes and discovered various combat equipment, including RPG launchers and ammunition. Commando units, paratroopers, the Nahal Brigade, and Unit 414 contributed to these operations, aiming to dismantle Hamas’ military infrastructure. Additionally, the army uncovered a hostage-taking site within a large Hamas tunnel in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza. The tunnel was used to detain 12 hostages at different times, three of whom have returned to Israel. The operation, led by elite combat engineering units “Yahalom” and other special forces, revealed a complex tunnel network extending approximately one kilometer, including facilities for guarding the hostages such as a bathroom and rest area.
- Israeli Plan Echoes Arafat’s 1982 Exile Amid Hamas Demands for Gaza.
Israeli leaders are considering the possibility of exiling Yahya Al-Sanwar, Hamas’s leader in Gaza, and other key figures from the group, as part of a plan to achieve stability in the region. This proposal, reminiscent of Yasser Arafat’s exile in 1982, is contingent upon the release of all detained hostages and aims to replace Hamas’s governance with a more moderate regime. Meanwhile, Hamas is pressing for various demands, including the withdrawal of IDF forces from Gaza, the release of prisoners, and halting Jewish visits to the Temple Mount. Additionally, they seek significant humanitarian aid, infrastructure repair, and the establishment of shelter camps for civilians.
- Hezbollah Commander Killed, Israeli Soldiers Injured.
A Hezbollah commander was killed, and Israeli soldiers were injured in clashes. The Israeli army reported that an officer and two soldiers sustained injuries, one of them serious, following a missile attack launched from Lebanon by Hezbollah. In response, an Israeli drone strike targeted and killed Hezbollah’s military commander, Abbas Al-Debs, in Nabatieh, southern Lebanon. Subsequently, the Israeli army retaliated by targeting Hezbollah’s military infrastructure in the Khiam area, following the launch of anti-tank missiles from Lebanon.
- US Drone Strike Kills Iraqi Hezbollah Leader, Sparks Tensions.
CENTCOM has confirmed the execution of a drone strike in eastern Baghdad. The strike, intended to neutralize a prominent leader responsible for attacks against American forces, resulted in the death of a high-ranking figure within the Iraqi Hezbollah Brigades, an organization with ties to Iran, along with two others. This action has elicited strong reactions from Baghdad, which has denounced the strike as a violation of its sovereignty and a threat to regional stability.
- Fatemiyoun Militia’s Propaganda Film Echoes ISIS Tactics.
The Fatemiyoun militia, supported by Iran and active in Syria, released a propaganda film imitating the style and techniques of ISIS propaganda, depicting members of the militia in the historic theater of Palmyra chanting promises to reach Jerusalem. The video, circulated by accounts close to Iran, coincides with rising tensions following the killing of militia leader Ali Al-Husseini in recent US airstrikes targeting Iranian-affiliated militias in Syria and Iraq. Al-Husseini, a prominent figure close to the Quds Force and previously allied with Qassem Soleimani, was responsible for protecting ammunition depots in Deir ez-Zor. The Fatemiyoun militia, primarily composed of Afghan fighters based in Iran, has been accused of human rights violations and is part of Iran’s broader efforts to expand influence in the region, further complicating the complex dynamics of the Syrian conflict.
- Jordan Foils Drug Smuggling, Kills Smugglers on Syrian Border.
The Jordanian army successfully intercepted a drug smuggling operation on the Syrian border, resulting in the deaths of three smugglers and injuries to others. The operation, conducted in coordination with military security services and the Anti-Narcotics Administration, seized large quantities of narcotics. Despite Jordan’s efforts to combat smuggling, tensions arose between the Jordanian Foreign Ministry and the Assad regime, with accusations exchanged over military operations targeting smugglers. Jordan provided intelligence to Syria on smuggling networks, but the regime’s response fell short of addressing the issue, leading to heightened concerns over the proliferation of drug smuggling activities.
- Turkish Bombings Plunge Al-Hasakah into Darkness: Urgent Humanitarian Crisis in Syria.
Turkish bombings in Syria have plunged the city of Al-Hasakah into darkness for the sixth consecutive day, exacerbating an already dire humanitarian situation. The bombings destroyed electricity facilities crucial for powering essential services like bakeries, water wells, and hospitals, leaving residents without access to basic necessities during the winter season. Testimonies from locals paint a grim picture of the hardships they face, with long queues for fuel and a scarcity of resources. The situation continues to deteriorate, with main electricity and fuel supplies dwindling. The Turkish attacks have ravaged infrastructure and civilian facilities, amplifying the suffering of the population and raising concerns of an impending humanitarian catastrophe.
- Turkish Armed Forces Neutralize 44 Terrorists in Ongoing Counterterrorism Operations.
During a press conference, Admiral Zeki Akturk, Press and Public Relations Advisor at the Ministry of National Defence, reiterated the Turkish Armed Forces’ unwavering commitment to combating terrorism. Akturk reported that in the past week alone, 44 terrorists were neutralized in operations spanning northern Iraq and Syria. These operations primarily targeted terrorist organizations such as the PKK / KCK / PYD-YPG, DAESH, and FETO. Since the beginning of 2024, a total of 359 terrorists have been killed, with 144 in northern Iraq and 215 in northern Syria, underscoring Turkey’s ongoing efforts to maintain security and stability in the region.
★ Arabian Gulf
- Saudi Defense Minister Meets with US and UN Envoys on Yemen Peace Efforts.
Saudi Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman held discussions with both the US special envoy to Yemen, Tim Lenderking, and the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg. During the meetings, they discussed developments in Yemen and reaffirmed the Kingdom’s support for international efforts to facilitate a roadmap for peace in Yemen. Prince Khalid emphasized the importance of encouraging dialogue among Yemeni parties and achieving a political solution under UN supervision. Additionally, Grundberg’s discussions in Riyadh focused on reducing regional escalation, promoting restraint in Yemen, and supporting progress towards a ceasefire and improved living conditions. The UN’s roadmap includes commitments such as a nationwide ceasefire, salary payments, resumption of oil exports, and easing restrictions on transportation hubs.
- Saudi Arabia Rejects Calls to Cease Funding to UNRWA.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah reiterated his country’s support for UNRWA during a meeting with Philippe Lazzarini, the Commissioner-General of the agency. He urged all donors to fulfill their obligations in supporting humanitarian efforts for Palestinians to alleviate the ongoing crisis in occupied Palestine. Additionally, Prince Faisal discussed regional developments, including the situation in the Gaza Strip, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and French Foreign Minister Stephane Ségournet during separate phone calls.
- Israeli and Hamas Delegations Engage in Talks for Ceasefire and Prisoner Release in Cairo.
Israeli and Hamas delegations have convened in Cairo for negotiations aimed at securing a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and facilitating the release of Palestinian prisoners and Israeli detainees. The talks, facilitated by Egypt and Qatar, seek to address the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Despite challenges, both sides have expressed willingness to engage in dialogue to achieve a lasting peace agreement. The discussions, which involve rounds of indirect negotiations, are seen as a crucial step towards de-escalating tensions in the region and restoring stability.
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