Top 5 Headlines:
- Armed Drone Strike Hits Al-Harir Air Base Housing U.S. Forces in Iraq.
- Yemeni Houthis Down U.S. MQ-9 Drone Off Yemeni Coast.
- US Strikes IRGC-linked Bakery and Empty warehouses in Syria.
- Mossad and Brazilian Security Thwart Iranian Plot Against Israelis..
- Hezbollah Withdraws 1500 Fighters from Syria After Escalation with Israel.
ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
- Israeli Defense Systems Intercept Missile Fired from Yemen. The Israeli military intercepted a missile launched from Yemen towards the southern city of Eilat. Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attack, stating they targeted sensitive areas in Israel, including military sites in Eilat. The Israeli army reported no breach of airspace, while the Houthis asserted successful strikes on their intended targets. This comes after ongoing violence, with a significant Palestinian death toll in Gaza since October 7 and nearly 1,600 Israelis killed, as per official records (Anadolu Agency).
- Mossad and Brazilian Security Thwart Iranian Plot Against Israelis. Israeli intelligence, collaborating with Brazilian authorities, has intercepted a Hezbollah-directed terror plot in Brazil. The operation, linked to Iran, targeted Israeli and Jewish entities, leading to arrests in São Paulo. This disruption comes amidst heightened tensions with Hamas in Gaza and ongoing conflicts on Israeli borders (i24).
- Israeli Forces Target Hezbollah Sites in Lebanon. Israeli forces struck Hezbollah ammunition depots and military positions in southern Lebanon in retaliation to earlier attacks, causing significant explosions. The strikes aimed at preventing further missile launches into Israel (i24).
- IDF and Shin Bet Neutralize Hamas Rocket System Leader. The IDF, in collaboration with the Shin Bet, eliminated Ibrahim Abu-Maazib, the head of Hamas’ Nuhba missile system in the Central Camps Brigade. The targeted operation aimed to thwart numerous anti-tank missile attacks against Israeli civilians and military forces. Additionally, naval forces targeted a rocket launch position to counter ongoing threats (Maariv).
- U.S. Lawmaker Advocates for Strong Bipartisan Support for Israel and Humanitarian Aid to Palestinians. Congressman Greg Stanton, in a recent hearing, passionately defended bipartisan support for Israel while also advocating for humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. Condemning anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, Stanton stressed the necessity of dismantling Hamas to ensure peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. He noted the importance of Israel to U.S. national security and urged Congress to pass a security funding package that includes aid for Gaza. Stanton’s remarks also included support for a Palestinian state and acknowledgment of the complex governance issues in Gaza, highlighting the need for careful consideration of the Palestinian Authority’s future role (ACLS YouTube).
- Iran Eyes Russian Hypersonic Missile Capabilities. The International Institute for Strategic Studies reveals Iran’s interest in Russian hypersonic missile technology, which could pose significant threats to the Gulf region. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has intensified the exchange of missile and drone advancements between Tehran and Moscow, potentially undermining global stability and arms control treaties (The National).
- Iran’s Illicit Drug Trade: A Pillar of Influence and Corruption. Iran, leveraging its Revolutionary Guard, is implicated as a major player in global drug trafficking, particularly with the synthetic drug Captagon. This trade strengthens its political influence and finances in the Middle East, with ties to the Assad regime and Hezbollah, raising concerns over regional stability and the health of youth populations (AZE Media).
- Iran Dismisses G7 Call to Cease Support for Hamas. Iran has rejected a G7 demand to stop backing Hamas and destabilizing actions in the Middle East. Despite G7 calls for humanitarian measures in the Israeli-Hamas conflict, Iran criticizes the group for not condemning Israel, maintaining its stance of supporting Palestinian resistance while denying direct involvement in attacks (Arab News).
- Iran’s Coercion of Jews Highlights Wider Oppression. Iranian Jews were compelled to denounce Israel, contrasting Tehran’s silence on Hamas’ atrocities. This coercion reflects Iran’s broader pattern of terror against women and minorities, underscoring the regime’s support for Hamas’ actions akin to ISIS’ brutality. Calls for regime change amplify as the plight of Iran’s diverse communities gains international attention (Jerusalem Post).
- Hamas Military Chief’s Ties with Slain IRGC Commander Exposed. Recent revelations have confirmed a longstanding operational alliance between Mohammed Deif, leader of Hamas’ military wing, and Qassem Soleimani, the late IRGC-Quds Force commander. This partnership was marked by the strategic planning of various operations, highlighting a significant connection between the two factions, both recognized by the U.S. as terrorist organizations. The IRGC-Quds Force, a unit within the Iranian military, has been officially designated as a terrorist group by the United States due to its involvement in terrorist operations globally (Iran International).
- Iran’s Ex-IRGC Minister Threatens to Eliminate Hostages if Attacked. Mohsen Rafighdoust, the former IRGC minister, has issued a dire warning, stating that Iran could swiftly eliminate hostages from major world powers in retaliation if the country is attacked. This alarming statement is at odds with Iran’s public denial of hostage-taking, despite evidence to the contrary, including a recent exchange involving American hostages. The case of French citizen Louis Arnaud, sentenced on disputed national security charges, further exposes the regime’s strategy of detaining foreign nationals for political leverage, underscoring a grave human rights concern (Iran International).
- Iranian Cyber Group Imperial Kitten Strikes Israeli Tech. The Iran-linked cyber group Imperial Kitten has targeted Israeli transport, logistics, and tech sectors during the Israel-Hamas conflict. CrowdStrike’s findings reveal the group’s strategic cyber-attacks and web compromises, aligning with Iranian intelligence interests and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ operations (Info Security).
- Exiled Prince Urges World to Cut Tehran’s Support for Extremism. Reza Pahlavi, Iran’s exiled prince, emphasizes the need to distinguish between Iranians and the regime, calling for global action to counter Tehran’s support for extremist groups like Hamas. Pahlavi warns of the regime’s impact on global conflicts, urging an end to its support to curb extremism (Iran International).
- Ex-Iraqi PM Al-Maliki Threatens Danger to U.S. Forces in Iraq. Former Prime Minister Abbas al-Maliki, has openly declared that U.S. forces will not find safety in Iraq or the wider region as long as the U.S. continues to back Israel. In his statement during a press interview, he emphasized that the only way to de-escalate tensions in the region is for Washington to cease its support for what he refers to as the “Zionist occupier.” Al-Maliki warns of an open and escalating conflict against Israel, suggesting that the U.S. policy is pressuring regional leaders, including Iraq’s Prime Minister Muhammad Shiaa al-Sudani, to prioritize U.S. interests and the protection of Israel, despite ongoing violations. This comes against the backdrop of claimed attacks by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq on American bases, signaling a volatile and deteriorating security situation for U.S. military presence in the region (Al Iraq News).
- Armed Drone Strike Hits Al-Harir Air Base Housing U.S. Forces in Iraq. The Al-Harir Air Base in northern Iraq, known to host American troops, was the recent target of an armed drone attack, as confirmed by two security sources to Reuters. This development follows reports by Kurdish media of a significant explosion near Harir Airport in Erbil, within the Kurdistan region. Iraqi factions have publicly declared a war on Israel, identifying American military installations in Iraq as potential targets in retaliation for Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip. These factions, part of the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq,” have been responsible for prior assaults on various American bases, including “Ain al-Assad” and “Harir,” escalating hostilities in the region (Alsharq).
- Gaza War Deepens Shiite Division in Iraq. The Israeli war on Gaza exacerbates Shiite divisions in Iraq, particularly within the “Coordination Framework.” Signals from meetings between Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hint at a lack of US pressure, leading to continued attacks on US bases. The split within the framework, evident in former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s absence, reflects a sharp divide after Blinken’s visit and al-Sudani’s trip to Tehran (Sharq Awsat).
- Turkiye Advances on “Al-Jazra” Dam Construction Despite Iraqi Protests. Turkiye’s ongoing construction of the “Al-Jazra” Dam on the Tigris River is set to cut Iraq’s water supply by over 50%, despite a decade of Iraqi objections. Iraqi Water Resources Minister Aoun Dhiab Abdullah highlights the anticipated reduction in water quality and quantity, amidst a severe water scarcity crisis in Iraq. Turkiye maintains its stance on the sovereign management of the river’s waters (Al Nahar).
THE GULF REGION & YEMEN
- Yemeni Houthis Down U.S. MQ-9 Drone Off Yemeni Coast. The Yemeni Houthi group has claimed responsibility for shooting down a U.S. MQ-9 military drone. U.S. officials, requesting anonymity, confirmed the incident occurred off the coast of Yemen, without specifying if it was in international airspace. The Houthis allege the drone was engaged in surveillance and espionage activities over Yemeni territorial waters. The U.S. Department of Defense acknowledged the downing of the aircraft by Houthi forces (Sky News Arabia).
- Houthi Movement Vows Continued Strikes on Israel in Solidarity with Gaza. Yemen’s Houthi group has pledged to maintain its attacks on Israel until the cessation of what it describes as genocidal actions in Gaza. Following the downing of a US MQ-9 drone, which the Houthis claim was on a reconnaissance mission, the group emphasizes its commitment to supporting the Palestinians. The Houthi forces have previously targeted Israel with missiles and drones, aiming at sensitive locations. The National Salvation Government in Sanaa echoes this sentiment, considering it a duty to oppose the Israeli operations in Gaza (MEMO).
- U.S. Ramps Up Diplomatic Actions to Mitigate Yemen. The U.S. is proactively seeking to mitigate the conflict in Yemen to avert a potential regional escalation, coordinating with Omani representatives to bolster a UN-led political dialogue aimed at establishing peace. With the Gaza conflict’s potential expansion causing concern, the State Department has issued a cautionary notice to Americans in the Middle East and has imposed travel restrictions to several countries, including Yemen, due to increased safety threats. Despite the ongoing Israel-Gaza hostilities, Oman persists with its mediation, while the U.S. envoy to Yemen stresses the critical need to preserve the momentum of the Yemeni peace process (Balqees).
- Saudi Arabia to Host Three Summits on Gaza War. Saudi Arabia announces hosting two emergency summits for Arab and Islamic nations to address the Gaza war and a third summit for African countries, aiming for a peaceful resolution. The dates are yet to be determined. Iranian President Raisi plans to attend the Islamic summit, marking his first visit to Riyadh since the recent reconciliation between the two nations, mediated by China (i24).
- British Foreign Secretary Visits Saudi Arabia for Gaza Diplomacy. UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly visits Saudi Arabia to enhance diplomatic efforts on the Gaza and southern Israel conflict. High-level talks aim to prevent escalation and work towards a two-state solution. Cleverly emphasizes the UK’s commitment to preventing crises, increasing humanitarian aid to Gaza, and condemns settler violence, urging accountability for a peaceful resolution (Sharq Awsat).
- Saudi Arabia Announces Failure of Juba Talks on Sudan’s War. Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and the African Union’s “IGAD” disclosed the Sudanese army and paramilitary forces failed to agree on a ceasefire during the Juba 2 talks. Despite the impasse, both sides commit to facilitating humanitarian aid and confidence-building measures. The statement emphasizes commitments to address obstacles to aid delivery and encourages media de-escalation, urging an end to hostilities (Al Seyassah).
- Unified Gulf Visa and Drug Control Strategy Adopted. Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have approved a unified tourist visa to facilitate movement among member states and launched a comprehensive strategy to combat drug abuse. The ministers also honored winners of the Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz Security Research Award and discussed the application of artificial intelligence in the security sector (Alkhaleej Online).
EGYPT & NORTH AFRICA
- Egypt and Qatar Mediate for Hostage Release and Gaza Truce. Egypt and Qatar are actively negotiating to secure the release of 10 to 15 hostages from Gaza, potentially in exchange for a temporary ceasefire. These efforts follow a successful prior intervention by Qatar, releasing a mother and daughter with American citizenship. CIA Director William Burns’s visits to Israel and Qatar may further facilitate progress towards an agreement, amidst ongoing discussions for a three-day ceasefire linked to the hostages’ release, including six American citizens (i24).
- Egypt Declines U.S. Proposal for Gaza Security Role Post-Conflict. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has turned down a U.S. proposal for Egypt to manage security in the Gaza Strip after the current hostilities cease, emphasizing the need for Hamas to continue its security role along the Egypt-Gaza border. This decision aligns with Egypt’s stance on maintaining regional stability and comes after U.S. calls for a reduced Israeli presence in Gaza post-conflict, advocating for Palestinian Authority leadership and opposing any forced displacement of Palestinians or siege on Gaza (i24).
- Evacuation Operations Through the Rafah Crossing Were Disrupted. Evacuation efforts from Gaza to Egypt through Rafah Crossing were halted for the second time since November due to Israel’s refusal to approve the list of wounded individuals. Israel’s objection obstructed the planned evacuation on Wednesday, prompting frustration among those seeking to cross (AL Nahar).
- Egypt’s Gas Exports Face Challenges After Gaza War. The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies suggests that the European Union’s prospects of receiving more liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Egypt in the short and medium term seem unlikely due to gas shortages and reduced imports from Israel. Egypt, which supplied 80% of its LNG exports to Europe last year, faces obstacles as conflicts in Israel and Hamas led to the closure of the Tamar gas field and the suspension of exports through the East Mediterranean Gas Pipeline (EMG) (SNA Business).
- Russia Proposes Withdrawing Libya Case from ICC. Russia suggests pulling the Libyan case from the International Criminal Court (ICC), arguing that the court is biased and a tool in the hands of the West. Russia proposes transferring investigation and reconciliation tasks to Libyans, criticizing the ICC’s effectiveness and financial constraints. The diplomat calls for restoring Libyan cases to the UN Security Council and strengthening the International Court of Justice, emphasizing reliance on national courts for trials in Libya and Sudan (Al Wasat).
- Sudan: Juba Agreements Face Implementation Test, Oil Facilities Under Threat. Following talks in Juba between Sudanese military and Rapid Support Forces, attention shifts to practical implementation amid varying expectations. Meanwhile, battles intensify around oil sites, risking a vital national asset. War drums persist in North Darfur and West Kordofan (AL Nahar).
- U.S. House Committee Passes ‘Captagon 2’ Bill to Sanction Assad Regime’s Drug Network. The U.S. Congress introduced a bill to impose sanctions on individuals linked to the Captagon drug trade, directly pressuring the Assad regime and its affiliates, who reportedly earn $5.7 billion annually from this illicit business. The ‘Captagon 2’ bill mandates the U.S. President to evaluate sanctions within six months against key figures linked to the Syrian regime’s drug trade, including Maher al-Assad and seven others, intensifying the crackdown on Captagon trafficking. The ‘Captagon 2’ bill compels the U.S. administration to consider sanctions against Syrian regime affiliates within six months, including Maher al-Assad. A report to Congress is due within 30 days post-decision. The bill highlights the vast Captagon production under regime control as a threat to regional and global security (Sham News).
- US Strikes IRGC-linked Site in Syria Following Attacks. In response to assaults on American forces, US F-15s targeted an IRGC-affiliated weapons storage in Syria. The Pentagon emphasized its commitment to defending US personnel and interests, signaling readiness for further action to deter aggression from Iran-backed groups. Russian media platform, Sputnik, reported that according to their sources on ground, the American strikes were targeted towards a bakery and empty warehouses (Iran International).
- Israeli Strikes Hit Military Sites in Southern Syria. Israel conducted an aerial assault on military targets in southern Syria, resulting in material damages. The operation, which involved missiles launched over Lebanon, struck air defense and radar stations. This action continues Israel’s long-standing policy of targeting sites associated with Iranian influence in the region (Syria TV).
- Putin, Erdogan, and Raisi Strengthen Ties in Central Asia. Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi are intensifying diplomatic efforts in Central Asia. Putin’s visit to Kazakhstan and Erdogan and Raisi’s participation in the Economic Cooperation Organization summit in Uzbekistan highlight the region’s growing strategic importance. Amidst these developments, Erdogan’s strong criticism of Western silence on Gaza at the summit further emphasizes the dynamic and multifaceted nature of international relations in this key geopolitical arena (Asharq).
- Key Factors Behind EU’s Reluctance to Admit Turkiye: A Comprehensive Overview. The European Union’s hesitation to admit Turkiye stems from a range of issues including concerns over Turkiye’s human rights record and political freedoms, the unresolved Cyprus dispute, economic disparities, and Turkiye’s unique geopolitical position. Cultural and religious differences, challenges in managing migration and border security, divergent foreign policies, and internal Turkish politics under President Erdoğan have also been significant factors. Additionally, there is a general reluctance within the EU towards further enlargement, often influenced by public opinion in member states, which tends to be skeptical about Turkiye’s accession due to various concerns including cultural integration and economic competition (Delegation of the EU to Turkiye).
- Turkish Foreign Ministry Criticizes EU’s 2023 Report as Unjust and Biased. The Turkish Foreign Ministry has strongly rejected the European Commission’s 2023 Report, labeling it as unjust and biased. They dispute claims regarding political criteria and fundamental rights, citing political obstruction in EU negotiations since 2009. The Ministry criticizes the EU for contradictory actions, such as blocking dialogue while alleging decreased alignment in critical policy areas. They refute allegations of failing to meet Customs Union obligations, attributing issues to the EU’s politicization of negotiations. The Ministry also condemns the EU’s stance on the Hamas-Israel conflict and the Eastern Mediterranean, Aegean, and Cyprus issues, accusing the EU of bias and unfairness. Despite these criticisms, Turkiye acknowledges the EU’s recognition of its economic development and alignment with EU standards in many areas. The Ministry urges the EU to adopt a fair and inclusive enlargement policy and to reflect Turkiye’s candidacy status in its actions and discourse (Turkish Foreign Ministry).
- Erdogan Urges Economic Cooperation Organization to Condemn Israeli Attacks on Gaza. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calls on the Economic Cooperation Organization to denounce Israel’s ongoing attacks on Gaza, highlighting the need for collective Muslim solidarity. Erdogan criticizes Israel’s actions and emphasizes Turkiye’s humanitarian aid efforts for Gaza (Anadolu Agency).
- Türkiye’s Defense Exports Reach $4.3 Billion in 10 Months. Türkiye’s defense and aviation industry exports amounted to $4.3 billion in the first 10 months of 2023, with a target of $6 billion for the year. The sector’s 10.8% increase in October contributes to Türkiye’s goal of reducing defense imports and establishing a stronger global market presence (Hurriyet Daily News).
- Hezbollah Redeploys 1,500 Fighters from Syria. Hezbollah has withdrawn approximately 1,500 members from Syria, where they were supporting the Syrian regime’s forces. This move, occurring over the past two weeks, includes withdrawals from key locations in Aleppo and Idlib. The redeployment to Lebanon follows increased tensions with the Israeli army along the southern border, coinciding with Israel’s ongoing military campaign in Gaza (AlJazeera).
- Hezbollah’s Anti-Ship Missiles Pose Increased Threat to U.S. Navy. Sources indicate that Hezbollah’s acquisition of advanced Russian anti-ship missiles, including the Yakhont with a 300 km range, significantly boosts its threat capability against the U.S. Navy. This development underscores the heightened risk of regional conflict, aligning with Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s previous warnings. U.S. officials acknowledge the seriousness of Hezbollah’s expanded arsenal without confirming specific missile types (Elnashra).