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THE EARLY PHOENIX – Oct 17, 2023

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THE EARLY PHOENIX – Oct 17-2023

Executive Summary: As the U.S. bolsters its support for Israel—evidenced by a presidential visit to Israel and troops on standby—Hamas continues its missile strikes in retaliation against Israeli actions. Despite Secretary Blinken announcing a Gaza aid plan in collaboration with Israel, Hamas leaders insist that Israel must free over 6,000 Palestinian prisoners for any hostage release. The spokesperson for Hamas’ military wing claims to hold more than 250 captives, while Ismail Haniyeh has issued veiled threats that question Israeli capabilities. Iran persists in its confrontational stance, disregarding international counsel. Syria, effectively under Iranian oversight, emerges as a potential battleground, with Assad providing unexpected comic relief in daily briefings. Turkey has escalated its involvement to secure a ceasefire and has engaged in hostage discussions with external Hamas leadership. The Gulf, Egypt, and much of North Africa are experiencing the ripple effects of the Levant crisis.

Top 5 Headlines:

★ President Biden to Visit Israel as Conflict with Hamas Escalates.
★ Hamas Leader Ismail Haniyeh Veils Threats and Mocks Israeli Capabilities.
★ Israel Requests $10B in Emergency US Military Aid.
★ Turkiye’s Foreign Minister Discusses Hostage Release with Hamas Leader.
★ Assad’s Latest Innovations in Captagon Smuggling: Mortar Shells.

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THE EARLY PHOENIX – Oct 17-2023

USA

  1. President Biden to Visit Israel as Conflict with Hamas Escalates. President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit Israel on Wednesday to show U.S. support as the Israel-Hamas conflict intensifies. The administration has pledged military aid and is considering asking Congress for an additional $2 billion for Israel and Ukraine. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the visit following extensive talks with Israeli officials (NBC). 
  2. US Troops on Standby for Deployment in Response to Israel-Hamas Conflict. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has placed a significant number of U.S. troops on standby for deployment to the Eastern Mediterranean. While not intended for combat, the troops are prepared to provide advisory and medical support to Israeli forces. The move comes as the U.S. continues to express strong support for Israel in the ongoing conflict with Hamas (Fox News). 
  3. Top U.S. General Visits Israel as Hamas Conflict Intensifies. Army General Michael “Erik” Kurilla, head of U.S. Central Command, made an unannounced visit to Israel to discuss defense needs and strategies for the ongoing conflict with Hamas. The visit comes ahead of a planned trip by U.S. President Joe Biden and aims to prevent the involvement of Iran and other Iran-backed groups. Kurilla is expected to hold high-level meetings with Israeli military leadership to ensure a clear understanding of defense requirements (Haaretz). 
  4. US Marine Rapid Response Force Moves Toward Israel. A US Marine rapid response force is heading toward Israel as the Pentagon prepares for potential deployment in the region. The force, consisting of 2,000 Marines and sailors, aims to deter Iran and Hezbollah while providing medical and logistical support to Israel. The move is part of a broader effort to prevent the Israel-Hamas conflict from escalating into a wider regional war (CNN). 
  5. US, Israel to Craft Gaza Aid Plan, Says Blinken. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the U.S. and Israel will develop a plan to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza without aiding Hamas. The announcement followed extensive talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. President Joe Biden is set to visit Israel to discuss the country’s war strategy and aims to minimize civilian casualties. Blinken has been engaged in diplomacy in the region, aiming to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza (Reuters).
  6. CBP Detains Iranian ‘Special Interest Aliens’ Over Security Concerns. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has apprehended four Iranians in Texas this month, classifying them as “special interest aliens” due to potential national security risks. This follows heightened terrorism concerns after a Hamas-led attack on Israel. Last week, two Lebanese nationals and an Egyptian man were also detained in Texas. The Department of Homeland Security warns of an increasing number of watch-listed individuals attempting U.S. entry (Fox News).
  7. House Committee Drafts Bill for Military Force in Israel-Hamas Conflict. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul revealed that his committee is drafting legislation to authorize U.S. military force if the Israel-Hamas conflict escalates into a wider war involving Iran. The move comes as President Joe Biden prepares to visit the region and indicates growing U.S. concern over the crisis. McCaul did not confirm if the White House specifically requested such authorization (The Hill). 

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THE EARLY PHOENIX – Oct 17-2023

ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES 

  1. Ismail Haniyeh Veils Threats and Mocks Israeli Capabilities in Comprehensive Strategy. Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, issues a series of veiled threats against Israel, mocking its military capabilities and readiness. He calls for a unified resistance that includes regional players like Hezbollah and Iran, emphasizing the group’s preparedness for a prolonged conflict. Haniyeh also frames the ongoing strife as part of a 75-year-long Palestinian struggle, criticizing international actors for their roles. He suggests that the conflict is not just a Palestinian issue but a broader regional concern, affecting countries like Egypt and Jordan. The leader also hints at the group’s military capabilities, including prisoners of war, as he outlines a multi-faceted strategy against Israel. For a full English transcript of Haniyeh’s statement, click here. To watch with English subtitles, click here (ACLS YouTube Channel). 
  2. Hamas Signals Willingness to Use Hostages as Bargaining Chips for Prisoner Release. A top Hamas leader indicated that the group may use hostages, including Israelis and non-Israelis, as leverage to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israel. The hostages were taken during a violent attack on southern Israeli communities, resulting in over 1,300 deaths. Israel’s military estimates that Hamas is holding around 199 hostages, while Hamas claims to have between 200 and 250 (Jerusalem Post).
  3. Hamas Releases Video of French-Israeli Hostage; Mother Appeals for Daughter’s Return. Hamas released a video of 21-year-old French-Israeli citizen Mia Schem, who was abducted from a music festival in Kibbutz Re’im. In the video, Schem is seen asking for her release. Her mother, Keren Schem, confirmed her daughter’s condition and appealed to world leaders for her return. Israel and the French embassy have not commented on the video. The IDF is taking all measures to secure the return of hostages, according to an IDF spokesman (Haaretz).
  4. US Urges Israel to Plan for Post-Hamas Gaza. The Biden administration is pressing Israel to develop a strategy for the scenario where Hamas’s rule in Gaza is toppled. While Israel’s focus remains on removing Hamas from power, U.S. officials warn that lack of a post-Hamas plan could lead to an indefinite IDF presence in Gaza. The issue has gained urgency as Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israeli officials, emphasizing the need to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza while maintaining international support for Israel’s military operation (Times of Israel).
  5. Israel Requests $10B in Emergency US Military Aid. Israel has reportedly asked the United States for $10 billion in emergency military assistance, according to The New York Times. The aid package is being assembled by Congress and the White House and will also include funds for Ukraine, Taiwan, and the US-Mexico border. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer confirmed that discussions are underway to provide Israel with various types of ammunition and precision-guided munitions (Times of Israel). 
  6. Shin Bet Chief Takes Responsibility for Lack of Early Warning in Hamas Attack. The head of Israel’s Shin Bet security agency admitted to failing to provide an early warning for the October 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel. The statement came as new rocket attacks targeted Tel Aviv and other areas, coinciding with a visit from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. No immediate casualties were reported (Times of Israel).
  7. Netanyahu Warns Iran and Hezbollah Against Testing Israel on Its Northern Borders. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has issued a warning to Iran and Hezbollah, cautioning them against “testing” Israel on its northern borders. He delivered this message during a speech in the Israeli Knesset, stating that the world needs to unite to defeat Hamas and likening Hamas to Nazis. Netanyahu’s remarks highlight concerns about regional stability and security along Israel’s northern frontiers (Sharq Awsat).
  8. EU to Open Humanitarian Air Corridor to Gaza via Egypt. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the European Union’s plan to establish a humanitarian air corridor to the Gaza Strip through Egypt. The first two flights carrying aid are set to launch this week. This comes after the EU tripled its humanitarian aid to over 75 million euros for Gaza (Al Nahar).
  9. German Chancellor to Visit Israel and Egypt During Middle East Conflict. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is set to visit Israel and Egypt as Western nations intensify their efforts to prevent further escalation in the Middle East conflict. During his visit to Israel, he expressed solidarity with the country, highlighting the importance of dialogue and preventing further escalation. Germany has expressed support for Israel following the recent violence initiated by Hamas, leading to discussions on security issues and humanitarian aid (Swiss Info).
  10. Putin Discusses Israel-Hamas Conflict with Netanyahu. Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu about the ongoing conflict with Hamas. Putin briefed Netanyahu on his talks with leaders from Palestine, Egypt, Iran, and Syria. The discussion centered on preventing further escalation and a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Putin expressed condolences for the deceased Israelis and outlined Russia’s efforts to normalize the situation (The Moscow Times).
  11. UN Security Council Rejects Russian Ceasefire Proposal for Gaza. The UN Security Council failed to adopt a Russian-led resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. The draft received five votes in favor and four against, with six abstentions. Russia blamed the failure on the “selfish intention of the western bloc,” while the US said the draft ignored Hamas’ terrorism. The resolution had aimed for a ceasefire, release of hostages, aid access, and civilian evacuation (UN News).

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THE EARLY PHOENIX – Oct 17-2023

IRAN

  1. Iranian Media Challenges Bolton’s Op-Ed, Defends Biden. Tehran Times responded to former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton’s criticism of President Biden’s West Asia policy, particularly regarding Iran. Bolton criticized the JCPOA and blamed Biden’s policies for the recent unrest in Tel Aviv, urging a reconsideration of the Middle East strategy. In contrast, the Iranian publication argued that what Bolton sees as appeasement reflects America’s waning influence in the region. Tehran Times concluded that Biden is pursuing U.S. national interests, which may not always align with Israel’s (Tehran Times).
  2. Tasnim Agency: Unbiased Middle East Reporting. The Iranian outlet claims American commanders are leading some Israeli operations in Gaza due to Israeli commanders’ psychological distress. The Americans are said to be advising against a ground invasion due to high risks. Concurrently, other media platforms are urging viewers to enlist for anti-Israel combat. The message, updated as of October 15, claimed over 1.3 million Iranians have already signed up. A website, Alaqsastorm.com/aqsa, also launched to facilitate this recruitment (Tasnim Agency, MEMRI). 
  3. Iranian MP Warns Israel Entering Gaza is a ‘Red Line. Ibrahim Azizi, Deputy Head of Iran’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, has cautioned that Israel’s ground entry into Gaza would be a “red line.” Azizi stressed that all resistance factions expect Israel not to make this grave mistake. He believes that if Israel continues rocket attacks on Gaza, a broader, more extensive front could emerge, ending the current conflict. Azizi also highlighted that the current resistance front includes Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, and Iran (Sputnik Arabic).

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THE EARLY PHOENIX – Oct 17-2023

SYRIA

  1. Russian Warplanes Target Outskirts of Idlib at Dawn. Russian aircraft carried out over 10 airstrikes on the outskirts of Idlib, specifically in the Sheikh Youssef area, early Tuesday morning. No casualties have been reported yet (Syria TV).
  2. US Deploys Radar System in Deir ez-Zor in Response to Iranian Threats. American forces have set up a radar system in Deir ez-Zor’s eastern countryside in response to attacks from Iranian militias west of the Euphrates River. The radar systems were transferred from Iraq and are positioned in the Al-Omar oil and Koniko gas fields. This move follows the US’s previous deployment of the “HIMARS” missile system in Syria to counter potential attacks from Iranian militias (Aleppo TV).
  3. Germany Urges Assad to Comply with Chemical Weapons Convention. Germany is urging the Assad regime to transparently reveal and dismantle its chemical weapons program in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention. Despite Syria’s membership in the convention for ten years, the regime has not met its obligations. Germany is insisting that the regime accept accountability and demonstrate the elimination of its chemical weapons program. The Assad regime had initially denied possessing such weapons but acknowledged their presence under the threat of potential US military intervention (Aleppo TV).
  4. Assad’s Latest Innovations in Captagon Smuggling:  Mortar Shells. In their latest smuggling innovation, Assad’s Captagon traffickers have found another inventive but absurd way to get drugs across the Jordanian border:  by putting them inside mortar shells and firing the shells into Jordan. Jordan’s border patrol, which now spends every day in a real-life game of “Whack-a-Mole” against Assad’s smugglers, received a timely tip that enabled them to bust the “Captagon mortar shell” operation, but the increasingly preposterous smuggling techniques have made the entire Jordan-Syria border zone resemble a rejected episode of “Breaking Bad.” (Baladi News). 
  5. Iran Urges Syrian Regime to Implement Economic Agreements. Iran has urged the Syrian regime to expedite the implementation of economic agreements established during the Iranian president’s visit to Damascus. These agreements cover significant sectors such as electricity, religious tourism, mobile phones, and education. Iran seeks a clear timetable for their execution, but the Syrian regime has faced criticism for potential delays and concerns over Iranian influence in these sectors (Zamanalwsl).

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THE EARLY PHOENIX – Oct 17-2023

TURKIYE

  1. Turkiye’s Foreign Minister Discusses Hostage Release with Hamas Leader. Turkiye’s Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan spoke with Hamas Political Bureau Chief Ismail Haniyeh about the release of hostages in Gaza. This marks the first public contact between Turkish officials and Hamas since the latter’s attack on Israel on October 7. Turkiye’s President Erdogan has been actively working for the hostages’ release and warned Iran against escalating tensions in the Israel-Hamas conflict. Fidan is set to visit Lebanon following his recent trip to Egypt (Al Monitor).
  2. President Erdogan Discusses Israel-Hamas Conflict with Global Leaders. In his phone call with the Iranian President Raisi, Erdogan emphasized the importance of ending the conflicts for global peace urging Iran to avoid actions that may escalate tensions and highlighted the potential for mutual positive steps to achieve a lasting Israel-Palestine solution. During his call with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Erodgan urged Western countries to take action against human rights violations in Gaza, while Sunak reiterated the U.K.’s unwavering support for Israel (TRT World, Daily Sabah).
  3. Turkish Foreign Minister Fidan to Visit Lebanon for High-Level Talks. Minister of Foreign Affairs Hakan Fidan is set to visit Lebanon on October 17 at the invitation of his Lebanese counterpart, Abdallah Bouhabib. The visit aims to discuss bilateral relations as well as current regional and international developments (Hurriyet).
  4. Estonia Inks $211M Deal with Turkiye for Armored Vehicles. Estonia is set to sign a $211 million contract with Turkiye for the acquisition of armored vehicles for its Defense Forces. Over 200 vehicles will be designated for the 2nd infantry brigade, which has seen significant investment recently. Four additional vehicles will be used for demining by the Estonian Rescue Agency. The deal is expected to be finalized on Wednesday, coinciding with a visit from Turkish National Defense Minister Yasar Guler (Anadolu Agency).
  5. Turkiye Delays Sweden’s NATO Membership During Fighter Jet Negotiations. Turkiye delays Sweden’s NATO entry, awaiting U.S. approval for a $20 billion F-16 fighter jet deal. This marks a second postponement, as Turkiye seeks positive signals from the U.S. for the jet sale. The timeline for Sweden’s NATO membership remains uncertain (Reuters).

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THTHE EARLY PHOENIX – Oct 17-2023

IRAQ

  1. Iran and Allies Coordinate with Hamas in New Operations Room. Reports indicate that Iran-aligned militias are collaborating with Hamas through a newly established “joint operations room.” This initiative also involves fighters from Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. An Iraqi faction leader speculates that the Israeli military has delayed ground operations due to anticipated retaliation from this multi-national resistance group. While Iranian officers are said to be orchestrating the activities, some believe that Iran’s main focus is on a “media war,” although counter-operations against Israel have not been ruled out (Sharq Awsat).
  2. Iranian-Omani Economic Cooperation Accelerates After Billions Transferred from Iraq to Iran via Oman. During a meeting at the annual International Monetary Fund and World Bank event in Marrakech, Mohammad Reza Farzin, the Governor of the Central Bank of Iran, and Tahir bin Salim Al Amri, his Omani counterpart, discussed accelerating the utilization of funds transferred from Iraq to Oman. Both parties emphasized the need to promptly employ these funds for business purposes to strengthen economic collaboration between Iran and Oman. Oman reaffirmed its dedication to financial and banking partnerships, particularly in regard to the transferred Iranian funds, highlighting the significance of broadening bilateral economic relations (Al Iraq News).

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THE EARLY PHOENIX – Oct 17-2023

THE GULF REGION & YEMEN

  1. Saudi Arabia’s Crude Oil Exports Hit 28-Month Low in August. In August, Saudi Arabia’s crude oil exports experienced a 7.1% decline, reaching their lowest point in 28 months at 5.58 million barrels per day, down from 6.01 million in July. This drop marks the fifth consecutive monthly decrease. Saudi Arabia had agreed to a voluntary oil supply cut of 1.3 million barrels per day in partnership with Russia, and this reduction in production contributed to the decline in exports. Additionally, Saudi crude production decreased to 8.92 million barrels per day in August, while inventories increased by 4.16 million barrels, reaching a total of 150.89 million (Sharq Awsat).
  2. Netanyahu and UAE Leader Discuss Regional Developments. In the first conversation between an Israeli Prime Minister and an Arab leader since the conflict began, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a phone call with the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. They discussed regional developments in the aftermath of the recent deadly attack by Hamas against Israeli citizens. Netanyahu emphasized Israel’s determination to destroy Hamas’ military and government capabilities while preventing harm to uninvolved parties (Anadolu Agency).

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THE EARLY PHOENIX – Oct 17-2023

EGYPT & NORTH AFRICA

  1. Egypt Issues $500 Million Panda Bonds in China. Egypt has issued Panda bonds for a three-year term, with a total value of 3.5 billion yuan (approximately $500 million), as announced by the Egyptian Ministry of Finance. The bonds were priced with a low yield of 3.5%, making them more attractive compared to international dollar bond interest rates in the face of global economic challenges. The funds raised from the bond sale will be used to finance projects and are backed by credit guarantees from international development banks (Sky News Arabia).
  2. Sisi and Putin Discuss Gaza Escalation and Peace Efforts. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, discussed the latest developments in the Gaza Strip and peace efforts during a phone call. The leaders emphasized the importance of prioritizing ceasefire efforts, protecting civilians, and addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. As Israeli airstrikes continue in Gaza, the leaders highlighted the urgency of providing safe access for humanitarian aid. This call took place during ongoing international efforts to achieve a ceasefire and deliver urgent aid to Gaza via the Rafah border crossing, despite Israeli reluctance. (Anadolu Agency).
  3. Political Impasse Threatens Libyan Elections Despite International Efforts. International efforts to expedite Libyan elections are hindered by ongoing political disputes. Despite parliament approving election laws, disagreements persist. The High Council of State opposes the laws, and the UN mission cites a lack of consensus. UN envoy Abdullah Battelli plans to meet Libyan leaders to resolve disputes and plan for a technocratic government. However, political analyst Mohamed Al-Raeish doubts parties will engage in mediation under Battelli’s leadership, given accusations of bias. The political crisis is set to escalate, with influential factions opposing the elections (Alhadath).
  4. Morocco and Polisario Stand Firm as UN Issues Official Report on Western Sahara. The UN issued a report on the Western Sahara conflict, confirming Morocco’s commitment to its 2007 self-governance proposal. However, Morocco shows flexibility in negotiations beyond this proposal, while the Polisario Front still insists on a self-determination referendum. Tensions between Morocco and Algeria affect the situation, with Algeria calling for direct talks between Morocco and the Polisario, while Morocco considers Algeria a party to the conflict (Mena Monitor).
  5. An African-North European ministerial meeting in Algeria discusses terrorism and poverty. In Algiers, representatives from 30 North European and African nations are meeting to address cross-border terrorism, irregular migration, climate change, trade, and economic cooperation. They’re also examining the African Union’s mechanisms to resist unconstitutional regime changes, particularly in the wake of the Niger military coup. Key topics include peace, security, economic partnerships, and multilateral cooperation to tackle regional challenges. The meeting underscores the importance of international support in resolving these pressing issues (Sharq Awsat).

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THE EARLY PHOENIX – Oct 17-2023

LEBANON

  1. Israel Shells Southern Lebanon in Response to Hezbollah Attack on Border Posts. The Israel-Lebanon border witnessed heightened tensions as Hezbollah reportedly attacked Israeli military posts. Israel responded with artillery shells targeting the outskirts of the Lebanese border town of Dhayra. Hezbollah claimed successful hits with “appropriate weapons,” but reports indicate it may have started with gunfire at Israeli surveillance cameras. The situation signals an alarming escalation in the region (Nahar Net).
  2. Lebanon Rejects War as Tensions Rise Between Hezbollah and Israel. The hashtag “Lebanon Does Not Want War” trended on Lebanese social media for three days amid growing concerns over Hezbollah’s actions and potential conflict with Israel. Prime Minister Najib Mikati expressed worry as tensions rose along the southern Lebanese border. Lebanese citizens fear being drawn into another war, given the nation’s economic fragility stemming from its financial crisis (Albawabh News).

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THE EARLY PHOENIX – Oct 17-2023

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