Executive Analysis: Tensions in the MENA region are escalating on multiple fronts, creating a complex web of geopolitical challenges. Israel is preparing for a possible ground invasion in Gaza, exacerbating an already dire humanitarian situation and causing international division, as evidenced by the UN’s failure to condemn Hamas due to Russia-US rivalry. Iran is making controversial moves to privatize its oil industry while opposing U.S. resolutions at the UN. Iraq is grappling with both PKK airstrikes and a burgeoning drug trade. In the Gulf, stock markets are declining during ongoing conflicts, and Yemen faces a humanitarian crisis due to Hurricane Tej. Egypt is securing significant energy financing and taking a stand against forced relocations from Gaza, while Syria sees an increased U.S. military presence and retaliatory attacks from Iran-backed militias. Turkiye’s suspension of energy cooperation with Israel and depreciation of its Lira add another layer of complexity. Lebanon faces international pressure to deploy its army and withdraw Hezbollah, signaling potential for wider regional conflict. The MENA region is a tinderbox, with each country facing its unique set of challenges, yet interconnected in a complex web of geopolitical tensions. Understanding these developments can aid in informed decision-making related to foreign policy and national security.
Top 5 Headlines:
- Israel Gears Up for Ground Invasion in Gaza as Death Toll Climbs
- Iran Moves to Privatize Oil Industry, Faces International Scrutiny.
- Iraq Initiates Large-Scale Anti-Drug Operation as PKK Airstrikes Continue.
- Yemen Faces Humanitarian Crisis as Hurricane Tej Causes Widespread Devastation.
- Lebanon Under International Pressure to Deploy Army, Withdraw Hezbollah.
ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
- Israeli Troops Enter Gaza in Preparatory Move for Anticipated Ground Invasion. The Israeli military carried out a ground raid in northern Gaza as a preparation for an expected larger ground invasion. The United Nations warned of fuel running out in Gaza, hampering relief efforts. The death toll in Gaza surpassed 7,000, with an increased risk of more casualties if Israel proceeds with a ground offensive against Hamas (AP).
- Escalating Conflict in Gaza Results in 7,000 Deaths; Missiles Target Tel Aviv. Israel’s ongoing Operation “Iron Swords” has led to over 7,000 deaths in Gaza, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health. Al-Qassam Brigades retaliated with missile attacks on Tel Aviv. The UN states there is no safe place in Gaza, and the Israeli army is preparing for a possible ground invasion despite international warnings (Al Hadath).
- UNGA to Call for Gaza War Ceasefire, Without Condemning Hamas. The UN General Assembly is set to demand a Gaza war ceasefire in a resolution, but it does not condemn Hamas for the October 7 attack. Jordan is pushing for international support, emphasizing the need to protect civilians and allow humanitarian aid. The resolution also opposes plans to relocate Palestinians outside Gaza, fearing permanent expulsion (Jerusalem Post).
- Russia-US Rivalry Blocks UNSC Condemnation of Hamas. Russian-American competition hinders UNSC condemnation of Hamas following the Gaza war and the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, which resulted in numerous casualties. Despite both countries submitting resolutions condemning Hamas, the UNSC failed to reach a consensus, with Russia and China vetoing the US-backed resolution (Jerusalem Post).
- Hamas and Islamic Jihad Threaten Severe Response to Israeli Ground Invasion. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have warned of a fierce response to an Israeli ground invasion in Gaza, vowing to make it a challenging endeavor. The article also touches on the presence of hostages held by Hamas, adding complexity to the situation (AL-Monitor).
- Israeli Banks’ Stocks Drop 20% Since Gaza War Onset. The stocks of Israel’s top five banks listed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange have fallen by 20% since the start of the Gaza war on October 8. Foreign investors continue to sell shares in Israeli companies, particularly banks. Despite these losses, Israeli banks had previously reported substantial profits in the first half of 2023, but are now expected to face declining earnings in the last quarter of the year. The ongoing conflict is contributing to the drop in bank stock values, with uncertainty affecting investor sentiment (Anadolu Agency).
- UK to hold emergency response meeting on Israel-Gaza strategy. Britain will convene a meeting of the government’s COBRA emergency response committee on Thursday to consider its strategy and approach towards Gaza and the Israeli-Hamas conflict, Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden told Times Radio. Britain is pushing for a humanitarian pause to the conflict, and for Britons in Gaza to be able to leave safely (Jerusalem Post).
- Spanish Minister Urges Europe to Cut Ties with Israel During Gaza Conflict.. Spain’s Acting Minister of Social Rights, Ione Belarra, has called on European nations to sever diplomatic relations with Israel, impose an arms embargo, and implement economic sanctions. She labeled the situation in Gaza a “genocide” and demanded that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other leaders responsible for civilian bombings face the International Criminal Court. Belarra accused the EU and the US of endorsing Israel’s actions, which she considered a violation of human rights (MEM).
- Japan Urges Israel to Halt Gaza Attacks for Humanitarian Aid. Japan has called on Israel to temporarily cease its attacks on besieged Gaza to allow humanitarian aid to enter, according to Reuters. The appeal was made during a meeting between Japan’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Israeli Ambassador to Japan. Japan is also arranging a visit by its Foreign Minister to Israel and Jordan to contribute to Middle East conflict de-escalation efforts (Sharq Awsat).
- Satellite Images Show Gaza Strip Before and After Israeli Airstrikes. Satellite images reveal the impact of recent Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, particularly in Beit Hanoun and Atatra. The Israeli Air Force has been targeting weapons depots and Hamas tunnels, causing substantial damage to the region (Jerusalem Post).
- Israeli Women in France Advocating for Kidnapped Family Members Held by Hamas. Four Israeli women are in France, meeting with French and international leaders to gain support in securing the release of their family members held hostage by Hamas in Gaza. Their advocacy efforts aim to raise awareness and seek assistance in bringing their loved ones back home (Jerusalem Post).
- Israeli Ground Forces Raid Hamas Sites in Gaza, Withdraw – IDF. Israeli ground forces conducted a limited incursion into Gaza, targeting Hamas sites and withdrawing shortly after. The operation, carried out by the Givati Brigade, involved tanks and infantry striking terrorists, terror infrastructure, and anti-tank missile launch posts. In addition, Israel struck 250 Hamas targets overnight, bringing the total airstrikes for the week to around 1,000. The IDF also struck Hamas from the sea near the Khan Yunis area. Despite reduced rocket fire from Gaza overnight, the IDF urges Israelis to remain vigilant. The IDF continues to purchase equipment and receives support from the US. The government faces criticism for its support to evacuees and survivors. International pressure grows regarding humanitarian issues in Gaza. Iranian and Turkish officials express their views on the conflict (Jerusalem Post).
- Israel’s Imports at Risk Due to Ongoing Conflict. The article discusses the potential threat to Israel’s imports due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. Shipping companies are reconsidering calling Israeli ports due to the conflict, increasing risk premiums and costs for shipping. Israel relies heavily on imports for various essential goods, and the situation could impact its food and other supplies. The conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon further adds to the risks. If shipping companies avoid Israeli ports, it could result in shortages (Times of Israel).
- Indian Protest for Gaza Mistakenly Raises Italian-Like Flag. A pro-Palestine march in Kerala, India, went viral for mistakenly raising a flag resembling Italy’s instead of Palestine’s. The flag actually belonged to the Indian Islamic Welfare Party, whose logo is similar to the Italian flag. The incident drew mockery online, including from Indian political figures (Sharq Awsat).
- Iran’s Regime Plans To ‘De-Nationalize’ The Oil Industry. Iran’s government plans to transfer its oil industry to the “private sector,” effectively concentrating the nation’s wealth with insiders. The Seventh Development Plan grants rights for oil and gas activities to private entities, diminishing the concept of national ownership. This shift raises concerns about quasi-state organizations, controlled by regime insiders, taking over the industry. Sanctions and unclear regulations further hinder foreign investment (Iran International).
- Iranian Politician Warns Against Involvement in Gaza Conflict. Prominent Iranian politician Mohsen Mirdamadi has criticized Iran’s support for Hamas and its involvement in the conflict in Gaza. He argues that the continued existence of Hamas is essential for Israel’s defeat, as it weakens Israel’s position and garners international support for an independent Palestinian state. Mirdamadi also suggests that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, is aware of the risks of direct involvement in the Israel-Hamas war and has advised against it (Iran International).
- Iranian FM Urges Global Action Against Israeli Gaza Attacks. Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, criticizes Israel’s unchecked actions in Gaza and calls on the international community, including the UN Human Rights Council, to swiftly address these violations, hold Israel accountable for war crimes, and stop the ongoing humanitarian crisis (Islam Times).
- Iran Opposes US Resolution on Palestine at UN. Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, revealed Iran’s efforts to prevent the voting of a US draft resolution in favor of Israel at the UN Security Council. China and Russia supported Iran’s position by vetoing the resolution. Amirabdollahian expressed concerns about the situation in the Middle East, citing a civilian crisis in Gaza and the need for regional stability. He planned to discuss Iran’s stance on the Palestinian issue with the UN Secretary-General (Irna).
- Iran and Russia Strengthen Cooperation in Automotive, Aerospace Industries. Iran and Russia discussed areas of cooperation, particularly in technology, including the manufacturing of cars, aircraft, and space technology. Both countries aim to expand their bilateral relations and consider these sectors as pivotal for cooperation. Iran’s Vice President for Science, Technology, and Knowledge-Based Economy, Sorena Sattari, emphasized Iran’s readiness to collaborate in various fields, such as science, health, safety, and sustainable food and energy production. The meeting concluded with an agreement to establish specialized working teams for expedited collaboration (Fars News).
- Turkish Military Conducts Airstrikes on PKK Targets in Northern Iraq. The Turkish Ministry of Defense announced that its air force conducted airstrikes against PKK terrorist targets in various locations in northern Iraq. The strikes, which targeted caves, hideouts, and warehouses, resulted in the destruction of 19 targets. The operation aimed to eliminate senior terrorist leaders while avoiding harm to civilians, historical sites, and friendly forces (Anadolu Agency).
- Iraq Launches Major Operation Against Drug Trade. Iraq’s Ministry of Interior announced the launch of “Operation Deterrence II,” the country’s largest effort to combat the growing drug trade, which is seen as a major threat similar to terrorism. The operation resulted in the arrest of 16,399 individuals involved in drug crimes, including 9,600 who had received death sentences or life imprisonment. It led to the seizure of various drugs, firearms, and explosives. The operation killed 13 drug dealers, injured 11, and caused casualties among security forces. This initiative reflects the seriousness of tackling the drug problem in Iraq, affecting both young people and society as a whole (Sharq Awsat).
- Militant Group Targets Ain al-Asad Base with Drone. On Thursday, Iraqi factions announced the targeting of Ain al-Asad base in western Anbar. A group known as the “Islamic Resistance Movement in Iraq” stated that its fighters used a drone to directly strike Ain al-Asad, successfully hitting their targets (Al-Nahar).
THE GULF REGION & YEMEN
- Gulf Stock Markets Fall as Middle East Conflict and Interest Rate Worries Persist. Gulf markets slump as Middle East conflict and interest rate concerns persist. The Saudi stock index dropped 0.7%, influenced by a decline in Saudi Aramco and Ma’aden Mining shares. Arabtec Construction Services rises over 5% after signing a 10-year contract. Dubai’s main index falls 1.1% due to a decrease in Emirates NBD. QNB Al Ahli Bank shares decline 1.1% in Qatar. Immune Complex shares plummet by up to 7.6% after announcing sharp net profit decline (Banker).
- Hurricane Tej Devastates Yemen: Over 40 Casualties and Thousands Displaced. Cyclone Tej has wreaked havoc in southeastern Yemen, resulting in 42 dead and injured, and displacing over 13,000 people, more than half of whom are children. Al-Mahra was the hardest-hit governorate, with two deaths and 40 injuries. The cyclone also damaged 500 homes and prompted UNICEF to prepare medical and nutritional supplies (Al Hadath).
EGYPT & NORTH AFRICA
- Sisi to Macron: No Entry into Egyptian Territory. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, after a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Cairo, declared that Egypt will not allow any displacement into its territory. This statement is seen in response to Israel’s threats to forcibly relocate Gaza residents. Sisi emphasized the need to prevent further escalation and called for a peaceful solution, while Macron expressed solidarity and his intent to broaden alliances (Akhbar Alkhaleej).
- Egypt Secures $500 Million Financing, EU Backs Egypt-Greece Energy Network Project. Egypt has obtained $500 million in financing from the Arab Investment and Export Credit Guarantee Corporation. The EU supports the Egypt-Greece energy network project, accelerating its licensing and funding. Greece’s Copelouzos Group is developing a 950-kilometer, 3 GW capacity “Greece Interconnector” to transport green energy from Egypt to Europe. The Greek company plans to establish 5.9 GW renewable energy stations in Egypt. Notably, Copelouzos Group, in collaboration with Infinity Power, accelerates renewable energy generation for the shared submarine cable between Greece and Egypt (Sharq Awsat).
- Gaza Tensions Threaten Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan Economies. The economic crises in Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan are escalating due to tensions in Gaza and the potential for war with Hamas. This increases pressure on these countries and may have global ramifications, including impacting oil supply chains and economic stability. Officials warn of the need to address these challenges and provide financial support (Sky News Arabia).
- Libyan Parliament Calls for Immediate Departure of Ambassadors from Israel-Supporting Nations. Libya’s House of Representatives demands the immediate departure of ambassadors from nations supporting Israel and threatens to halt oil and gas exports if the Israeli-Gaza conflict continues. They consider it a genocidal war led by the US and the West, aiming to eradicate Palestinian rights. The application of the ambassador’s departure request in Western Libya remains unclear, as they are under a different recognized government than that of the House of Representatives in the east (Shafaqna).
- Libya Expands Maritime Borders in the Mediterranean. Libya’s interim “Unity Government,” led by Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, has established a new maritime zone, intensifying the race for energy resources in the Mediterranean. This move raises regional and international concerns, given ongoing disputes over maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean. The decision extends Libya’s maritime authority from 12 to 24 nautical miles. The legal implications and potential conflicts related to this decision remain contentious, further fueling the power struggle in the region’s energy resources (Sharq Awsat).
- Threats to Italian Forces in Libya During Gaza Solidarity Protests.As Gaza Support Rallies Unfold in Western Libya, Demonstrators Demand Withdrawal of Western-Backed Foreign Troops. A militia leader, Salah Badi, threatened Italian forces in Misrata, triggering security concerns. The Municipal Council held discussions to address the issue. Meanwhile, Libyan UN envoy Bathily’s efforts to evacuate foreign forces face challenges due to divisions and external influence, according to a UN report. The situation remains volatile in Libya (AL Nahar).
- Tribal Fighters Settle with SDF, Deir ez-Zor Council Leader Arrested. Local sources report that tribal fighters settled with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), while Syrian regime forces arrested a Deir ez-Zor Military Council leader. Around 20 tribesmen reconciled with the SDF within a U.S. base in Al-Omar oil field. Simultaneously, the regime detained the council leader near a river crossing in At-Tarif. The SDF previously announced the end of military operations in Deir ez-Zor’s countryside after clashes with Arab tribal fighters, resulting in casualties (Syria TV).
- Massive Military Reinforcements Deployed in Northeast Syria by the Coalition Within a Week. The U.S.-led coalition deployed substantial military reinforcements to its bases in northeastern Syria. The convoy included tanks, field artillery, and armored vehicles from Kurdistan, Iraq, crossing the Walid border into Deir ez-Zor. The coalition also introduced air defense systems to counter potential missile threats. This escalation coincides with ongoing U.S. military exercises (Zaman Alwsl).
- Iran-Backed Militias Launch 7 Attacks on Coalition Bases in Revenge for Gaza. Iranian-backed militias executed multiple attacks against U.S.-led coalition forces in northern and eastern Syria in retaliation for Gaza. The strikes involved rocket attacks and drone assaults, with seven incidents recorded since October 19, targeting various coalition bases. Details of the attacks revealed several confrontations with U.S. forces and damage to facilities, emphasizing growing tensions in the region (SyriaHR).
- Idlib Shelling Claims Civilian Lives. Civilian casualties ensued as Syrian regime forces used heavy artillery to shell Idlib city. Three were killed, and others wounded in the “Al-Naseem” neighborhood. Prior reports by the Syrian Civil Defense revealed 119 casualties in 995 attacks. Additionally, Russia bolstered its military presence near southern Idlib’s opposition-held areas (Syria TV).
- Turkiye Suspends Energy Cooperation with Israel During Gaza Conflict. Turkiye has suspended plans for energy cooperation with Israel in the wake of the Gaza conflict, including the cancellation of the Turkish Energy Minister’s planned visit to Israel. This decision comes after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized Israel’s actions in Gaza, calling for an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian aid access. The planned visit aimed to discuss the possibility of transporting natural gas from Israel to Europe through Turkiye. Israel currently exports gas to Europe via Egypt, but the export to Egypt is currently on hold (Aljazeera).
- Serbian President and Turkish Defense Minister Discuss Ties and Kosovo. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic recently met with Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler, affirming their commitment to strengthening relations and ongoing political dialogue. Vucic emphasized the significance of Guler’s visit, particularly in the context of Turkiye assuming command in NATO’s Kosovo peacekeeping mission. Serbia remains dedicated to the EU’s dialogue process with Pristina, focusing on the safety of the Serbian people in Kosovo (TRT World).
- Türkiye and TRNC Conduct Joint Military Exercise in Northern Cyprus. Türkiye and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) completed a two-day military exercise aimed at ensuring security and protecting their rights in the Eastern Mediterranean. The exercise also highlighted the importance of search and rescue operations and sovereignty in the region. Thirteen military representatives from six countries observed the naval phase, emphasizing the ongoing commitment to security and cooperation in the region. This exercise is in line with Türkiye and TRNC’s support for a two-state solution in Cyprus (TRT World).
- Turkish Lira Hits New Record High: Exchange Rates on October 26, 2023. The article is about recent developments in Turkiye’s economy and the impact of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statement regarding Hamas. It discusses the depreciation of the Turkish Lira (TL) against the US Dollar and Euro, the anticipated Central Bank’s interest rate decision, and ongoing economic changes (Cum Huriyet).
- Turkiye-Israel Normalization Under Scrutiny: Will It End? Turkiye’s relations with Israel have been fluctuating, and President Erdoğan’s recent criticism of Israel has raised questions about the future of their normalization process. Tensions between Israel and Hamas in the Middle East have started to impact these diplomatic ties. Erdoğan’s strong words and refusal to meet with Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu have added to the uncertainty. The earlier optimism, which saw leaders planning mutual visits and cooperation in various fields, now faces an uncertain future (Cum Huriyet).
- Erdogan Sparks Outrage with Hamas Statements. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statements about the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) have stirred outrage in Israel. Erdogan rejected labeling Hamas as a terrorist organization, considering it a liberation movement. Israel strongly rejected these statements, insisting that Hamas is a heinous terrorist organization. Tensions Escalated Between the Two Nations During Ongoing Events in the Gaza Strip (Aljazeera).
- Turkish Drone Strikes Sever Water and Electricity Supply in Northeast Syria. Recent Turkish drone strikes on Kurdish-controlled areas in northeast Syria have damaged vital infrastructure, leading to the disruption of water and electricity supplies for millions of people. The damage is exacerbating the struggle for essential water access. Turkiye is called upon to immediately cease targeting critical infrastructure necessary for the well-being of the population, including power and water stations (HRW).
- Hezbollah’s Messages: Path to Jerusalem, Tripartite Meeting, and Air Defense. Hezbollah conveyed several messages to Israel, signaling its determination to achieve objectives without resorting to open warfare. These messages included political warnings and field actions, such as the launch of an anti-aircraft missile, challenging Israeli aerial superiority (Lebanon24).
- Israeli Army Strikes Lebanon After Drone Attack. The Israeli military conducted an airstrike in Lebanon targeting a site from which a surface-to-air missile was launched at an Israeli drone. The Israeli Defense Forces’ air defense system intercepted the missile, and in response, an Israeli aircraft struck the missile launch site in Lebanon. Ongoing tensions and daily skirmishes between Israel and Hezbollah have escalated since Hamas launched an unprecedented attack in October. The situation raises concerns about wider regional instability and potential conflict in southern Lebanon (Al-Nahar).
- International Calls for Lebanon to Deploy Army and Withdraw Hezbollah. International contacts were made with Lebanese authorities following the caretaker Prime Minister’s commitment to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701. The international community urged Lebanon to honor this resolution, emphasizing the need for the army and UNIFIL forces to control the southern border and the withdrawal of Hezbollah and Palestinians. Failure to do so could risk conflict, and Lebanon may receive international-American guarantees to prevent war if these steps are taken (Nahar Net).