End of the Week Executive Analysis
Israel-Hamas War Updates
Crisis Unfolding: The Middle East on the Brink
The Middle East remained on edge this week as the Gaza-Israel Conflict 2023 deepened and the Iranian regime stepped up proxy attacks on the United States and Israel. The Israeli ground operation in Gaza has progressed to the point that Israeli troops have encircled Gaza city and set the stage for what are sure to be intense fights against the thousands of Hamas fighters who are operating from tunnels under the city. The Iranian regime’s strategy to stop the Israelis from crushing Hamas militarily has not succeeded thus far. The Iranians appeared to hope that proxy threats on other fronts, coupled with massive international political pressure, could compel the Israelis to halt or significantly slow their counterattack on Hamas. The international pressure against Israel has indeed been unprecedented, with massive protests and unrest in Europe, the United States, and far beyond, but it has had little effect on Israeli decision-making due to the near-unanimous judgment among Israelis that Hamas must be fully destroyed if Israel is to survive as a nation. Hizballah has stepped up attacks on Israel from Lebanon and Syria, but in a limited way that has not constrained Israel in Gaza, and so far Hizballah leaders have not appeared eager to enter into full-scale, 2006-type war with Israel. Similarly, the Houthis have launched several missile attacks aimed at Israel, but these have largely been thwarted by Saudi and Israeli defenses and have not had a major effect, though the Houthis this week shot down a US drone as a warning of further escalation.
The greatest risk of a wider war has come in Iraq and Syria, where Iranian-directed militias have carried out more than 40 attacks against U.S. troops since October 7th. Tehran and its militias have threatened to escalate further if the United States does not compel Israel to halt its Gaza operations. For its part, the Biden administration has refrained from major military responses to these attacks, choosing to hit empty Iranian warehouses in Syria rather than Iranian or militia troops. Instead, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and energy envoy Amos Hochstein traveled this week to Iraq and Lebanon, respectively, to seek de-escalation via Iraqi and Lebanese interlocutors. But there is little sign so far that the Iranian regime is interested in ceasing its attacks or in conceding to the destruction of Hamas.
The Middle East therefore is at its most dangerous point in decades. The Israelis believe they are responding to a test of their very survival and will not stop their military operations until Hamas is gone. The Iranian regime and Hizballah are not ready to give up their effort to save Hamas, and they fear what will happen to them after Hamas is gone and Israel is free to turn its full attention to the IRGC/Hizballah in the north. The U.S. administration is going to great lengths to avoid confronting the Iranian regime, but the Iranian regime is playing with fire on all fronts and Washington may soon have no choice but to respond militarily. The entire world is fixated on Gaza now, but the Iranians’ behavior is risking a wider conflict that could engulf the entire region and make the Gaza crisis insignificant.
- Former U.S. Diplomat and Founder of the American Center for Levant Studies, Joel Rayburn Discusses Gaza-Israel Conflict 2023. In a recent discussion, former U.S. diplomat Joel Rayburn commented on the influx of diplomatic messages from Arab diplomats to the American president, urging a shift in U.S. policy to maintain Arab support. Rayburn downplayed the short-term impact of these messages on American administration decisions. The conversation also touched on the complexities of Israeli partnerships in the context of Hamas, the description of the current Israeli government by some politicians as fascist, and the broader security issues in the MENA region, including the influence of the Iranian regime and its affiliates. For the full video with English subtitles go here (ACLS YouTube).
Top 5 Headlines: Israel-Hamas War Updates
- Hostage Deal: Release of 100 Women Israeli Hostages in Exchange for Palestinian Prisoners.
- Khamenei Defends Nasrallah, Urges Against All-Out War.
- Oil Exports from Iraqi Kurdistan Halted Over Unpaid Dues.
- Turkiye’s Defense of Hamas Complicates Relations with EU.
- Syrian Intelligence Officials Arrested for Alleged Ties with Israel.
- Pompeo Analyzes Iran’s Growing Influence in the Middle East at Hudson Institute.
ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
Escalation and Diplomacy in Israel: From War Updates to Peace Efforts
- Israeli Tanks Penetrate Central Gaza. Israeli tanks have penetrated central Gaza City, encircling major medical facilities and entrapping thousands, including patients and medical staff. As Israel intensifies its military operations in Gaza, this move exacerbates the humanitarian crisis, with widespread civilian displacement and severe damage to infrastructure. The ongoing Gaza-Israel Conflict 2023 has resulted in significant human and economic tolls, including extensive casualties and billions in damage costs (Al Arabiya).
- Netanyahu Proposes Civilian Government for Post-War Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reveals a plan for Gaza post-conflict, aiming to establish a civilian government while ensuring the region remains demilitarized and free from extremism. This plan, diverging from previous statements about reoccupying Gaza, adds to the uncertainty regarding the future of the area. Amidst international concerns, the proposal includes robust security measures but lacks detailed implementation strategies, heightening ambiguities about the region’s governance post-conflict (Al Arabiya).
- Israeli Economy Suffers $600 Million Weekly Loss Due to Workforce Shortage. The Central Bank of Israel reports a staggering weekly economic loss of 2.3 billion shekels ($600 million) due to workforce shortages exacerbated by the ongoing conflict with Hamas. The economic strain stems from school closures nationwide, the evacuation of 144,000 workers from border areas, and the historic summoning of 360,000 reserve soldiers, impacting businesses across the country (SNA Business).
- Gaza Conflict Impacts Global Travel, Causes Decline in Flight Bookings. The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas has significantly impacted the global travel market, leading to a notable decline in international flight reservations since the beginning of the Gaza-Israel Conflict 2023. This downturn, particularly evident in the Americas, reflects a 10% drop in bookings since the outbreak of hostilities. The Middle East has seen a 9% decrease in travel traffic, with international bookings to the region dropping by 26%. This shift has adversely affected the post-pandemic recovery of the global aviation sector (SNA Business).
- Israeli Soldier Casualties in Gaza Operation Increase to 36. The Times of Israel reports the death of an additional Israeli soldier in the ongoing battles in Gaza, raising the total number of Israeli military fatalities to 36 since the commencement of the ground operation. This development occurs amidst continued hostilities, including significant strikes on key locations in Gaza (Asharq Al Awsat).
- Palestinians Fear Repeat of 1948 Nakba After Gaza Exodus. Thousands of Palestinians are fleeing Gaza City, haunted by the prospect of a new Nakba, reminiscent of the mass displacement in 1948 since the beginning of the Gaza- Israel Conflict 2023. They navigate a harrowing path past Israeli tanks and remnants of conflict, moving from the northern to the southern part of the enclave. The Israeli military’s declared objective is the elimination of Hamas, which Israel accuses of major attacks on October 7. The exodus intensifies as the siege around Gaza City tightens, with many fearing they may never return to their homes, mirroring the historic displacement of their ancestors (Asharq Al Awsat).
- Reuters Denies Prior Knowledge of Hamas October 7 Attack. Reuters has categorically denied allegations that it had advance knowledge of the Hamas attack on Israeli civilians and soldiers on October 7. The denial comes in response to claims by Honest Reporting, suggesting that Reuters and other international news organizations were aware of the attack beforehand. Reuters clarified that the photographs it published were taken by independent photographers in Gaza, with no prior relationship to them, and only after the events had started. The Israeli government has sought clarifications from news agencies regarding these claims, which Honest Reporting stated were not accusations of complicity but raised ethical concerns about media coverage. The Associated Press, also cited in the report, affirmed that it had no prior knowledge of the attacks (Asharq Awsat).
- US and India Discuss Security, Indo-Pacific, and Israel-Hamas War. Top diplomats and defense chiefs from the US and India met to discuss a range of security issues, including the Indo-Pacific strategy, China, and the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken highlighted the deepening partnership between the two nations in various domains, including defense and technology. Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar expressed concerns over the Middle East situation, reiterating India’s stance for direct negotiations towards a sovereign Palestine and peace with Israel. The meeting also touched on a diplomatic dispute involving Canada and India, with Blinken urging cooperative resolution. Defense talks focused on integrating industrial bases and co-producing defense systems, underscoring the strategic importance of the Indo-Pacific region and the strengthening US-India partnership (AP).
- Israel Implements Daily Humanitarian Truces in Northern Gaza. The latest Israel-Hamas War Updates from Arabic sources says that Israel has agreed to implement daily humanitarian “truces” in the northern Gaza Strip, starting Thursday, to facilitate the safe exit of civilians to the south. This decision comes during intense battles and bombing operations in the area. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, emphasizing his goal to “eliminate Hamas,” stated that these truces are not indicative of a ceasefire. US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby confirmed that these truces, lasting four hours each day, are aimed at ensuring no military operations occur in these areas during the truce period. The agreement for humanitarian truces follows a significant escalation in conflict since October 7, resulting in substantial casualties on both Israeli and Palestinian sides (i24).
- EU Issues Isolation Warning to Israel Over Gaza Conduct. European Council President Charles Michel has cautioned Israel about potential isolation from the international community due to its actions in the Gaza Strip. Michel emphasized the importance of adhering to international law, particularly in regard to the ongoing siege in Gaza, stating that such actions could lead to Israel’s international isolation. Highlighting the necessity of civilian safety, he also stressed the urgency of resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the establishment of two states, a priority for the European Union. The EU plans to organize an international conference on this issue in the near future (MEMO).
- UN Human Rights Chief Questions Israel’s Civilian Protection Measures in Gaza. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk expressed doubts about Israel’s commitment to protecting civilians in Gaza amidst its military operations against Hamas. Speaking from Jordan, Turk highlighted the unsafe conditions across Gaza, where bombardment is ongoing in all parts of the strip. He criticized Israel’s instructions for civilians to relocate to so-called ‘safe zones’ in southern Gaza, emphasizing that these unilaterally established zones do not guarantee security. Turk stressed the urgent need for a ceasefire based on human rights imperatives, describing the situation in Gaza as nightmarish. He also addressed the rising violence in the West Bank, where Israeli actions are increasingly under scrutiny, calling for immediate measures to protect civilians there (The National).
- Israel Implements Groundbreaking Sperm Preservation for Fallen Soldiers. In a groundbreaking medical and ethical move, Israel has initiated a program to preserve the sperm of soldiers killed in action, facilitating potential future conception. This initiative, reflecting Israel’s advanced fertility technology, raises significant ethical and legal debates, particularly regarding the wishes of the deceased and the rights of their families in a society deeply invested in procreation and lineage (Al Hurra).
- Israel Denies Reports of Hostage Swap Negotiations with Hamas in Gaza. Israeli officials have denied reports of negotiations for a prisoner swap with Hamas in Gaza. Qatari mediators had initiated discussions with Hamas to secure the release of Israeli women and children held in Gaza in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. While the talks have been described as “moving positively,” there are no breakthroughs yet, and both sides remain entrenched. The exact numbers of hostages and prisoners involved are unclear, and the ongoing conflict in the region casts a shadow over potential agreements (YNet).
Iran’s Proxy War Update and Regional Strategy
- Pompeo Analyzes the Gaza-Israel Conflict 2023 and Iran’s Growing Influence in the Middle East at Hudson Institute. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a comprehensive discussion with Dr. Mike Doran at the Hudson Institute, highlighted the increasing influence of Iran in the Middle East and criticized what he perceives as a U.S. policy of appeasement. Pompeo pointed out how this policy has allowed Iran to strengthen its proxy networks, including groups like Hamas and the Houthis. He emphasized that these groups cannot be viewed independently but as extensions of Tehran’s agenda. Pompeo also addressed the situation in Syria, noting Iran’s involvement in actions against American interests. He underscored the necessity of supporting Israel’s right to self-defense and criticized the international community’s calls for Israeli restraint. The former Secretary’s comments shed light on the complex geopolitical dynamics in the region, especially the interplay between Iran’s strategic maneuvers and the broader context of Middle Eastern conflicts (ACLS YouTube).
- Iran’s Foreign Minister Discusses Escalation in Gaza with Qatari Counterpart. Iranian Foreign Minister Hussein Amir Abdullahian, in a recent phone call with Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani, discussed the escalating conflict in Gaza. They condemned the attacks against civilians and expressed concern over the humanitarian crisis in the region. Both diplomats focused on finding political solutions to end the ongoing military actions and emphasized the importance of immediate ceasefire and continued delivery of humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza. This conversation reflects ongoing diplomatic efforts to address the intensifying situation in Gaza (Fars News).
- ECO Members Highlight Importance of Goods Transit Through Iran, Says Raisi. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi reported that the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) members emphasized the significance of transiting goods through Iran during their recent meeting. He noted that Iran was recognized as a cost-effective and time-saving route for transporting goods. This was highlighted during Raisi’s visit to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, where he discussed the role of ECO in enhancing regional communication and cooperation. The summit addressed key topics like trade facilitation, customs, environmental issues, and the advancement of science and technology. Additionally, the Palestinian issue was a prominent topic, underscoring its importance in the Islamic world. Raisi’s trip also resulted in the signing of strategic documents and 18 cooperation agreements with Tajikistan, reinforcing cultural and civilizational ties (IRNA).
- Iranian Proxies Continue Assault on US, Israel Despite Airstrikes. Despite recent US airstrikes targeting an IRGC arms depot in Syria, Iranian proxies have escalated their attacks against American troops and Israel. This series of attacks resulted in injuries to US personnel and continued aggression against Israeli targets. The US’s airstrike, intended as a warning, was seemingly disregarded by Iran and its affiliated groups. The Iranian Foreign Minister’s conversation with his Qatari counterpart further indicated an expected expansion of conflict scope. Additionally, Israel responded to a drone attack from Syria, holding the Syrian government accountable for any terror activity originating from its territory. This escalation of hostilities is causing concern in Washington, with calls for a stronger response to Iran’s actions (Iran International).
- Iranian Foreign Minister Predicts Wider Conflict. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, in a call with his Qatari counterpart, warned of the inevitable expansion of the Gaza-Israel conflict 2023 due to intensifying attacks in Gaza. This statement raises concerns about the effectiveness of Washington’s diplomatic endeavors and military deployments in preventing further destabilization in the Middle East. Iran, an ally of Hamas, has not directly intervened but has repeatedly expressed solidarity with Hamas amidst Israeli strikes. These developments occur as Israel intensifies its efforts to dismantle Hamas infrastructure, which is reportedly embedded within civilian areas in Gaza. Iran’s support for Hamas, and its denial of involvement in the October 7 attack that escalated the crisis, highlights the complex web of regional alliances and animosities. Iran also supports Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, groups with strong connections to Hamas (Iran International).
- Israel’s Arrow-3 System Successfully Intercepts Yemeni Missile. Israel deployed its highly advanced Arrow-3 air and missile defense system for the first time to intercept a long-range missile launched from Yemen towards the Red Sea region. This marks the first operational use of the Arrow-3 system, which was developed in collaboration between the Israel Missile Defense Organization, the Israel Ministry of Defense, and the United States Missile Defense Agency. The Arrow-3, designed to intercept missiles outside the atmosphere, is a significant component of Israel’s multi-layered defense strategy and one of the most sophisticated systems globally for defending against long-range ballistic missile threats. This interception follows the recent first use of the Arrow-2 system, underlining Israel’s ongoing efforts to enhance its defensive capabilities (NaharNet).
- Norwegian-Iranian Man Charged in Deadly Oslo Pride Attack. Zainar Matapour, a Norwegian citizen originally from Iran, has been charged with aggravated terrorism for the deadly shooting at an LGBTQ festival in Oslo in June 2022. Matapour, aged 44, fired multiple shots into a crowd outside a gay bar, killing two people and injuring nine. He had previously pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group. Four other suspects are linked to the shooting, with two outside Norway. The trial is scheduled for March, and if found guilty, Matapour faces a 30-year prison sentence. Norway has experienced lone wolf attacks in recent years, including a mass shooting in 2011 (ABC News).
The Ripple Effects: Security and Political Dynamics in Iraq
- Iraqi Factions Target US Bases on Thursday in Response to Gaza Conflict. Iraqi armed factions have launched separate operations against American military bases in Iraq, including Ain al-Asad in the west and Harir in Erbil, northern Iraq. These operations, involving various weapons and drones, are reportedly in direct response to Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip and perceived US support for Israel. The Pentagon has acknowledged at least 40 drone and missile attacks on US forces by Iranian-backed groups in Iraq and Syria in recent weeks, coinciding with the Gaza war. While these attacks have caused only minor injuries, they underscore the heightened risk to American personnel in the region. The US maintains a presence of approximately 3,400 soldiers in Iraq and Syria, with air defenses actively intercepting hostile missiles and drones (Al Hadath).
- Iraq’s Military Spending and Armament Focus. In 2023, Iraq dedicated about 15% of its massive $153 billion budget, over $18 billion, to its security and military institutions. This substantial allocation is aimed at enhancing the capabilities of its armed forces, which include the ground force, air force, naval force, army aviation, and air defense, along with approximately 160,000 members of the Popular Mobilization Forces. Despite being ranked 45th globally in military strength, down from 4th before 2003, Iraq continues to prioritize modernizing its military with advanced weapons. The Iraqi government, recognizing the ongoing security challenges, including ISIS activity and regional conflicts like the Israeli war on Gaza, has been focused on strengthening its military institution. This includes revising armament contracts and enhancing air defense, with significant support from the US, Russia, and China for weaponry. Despite some political debates, especially regarding arms deals with the US and preferences for Russian contracts, the necessity of addressing security threats and empowering Iraqi forces remains a key government and parliamentary agenda (The New Arab).
- Iraq at a Crossroads: Balancing US Relations and Domestic Pressures. Iraq faces a delicate geopolitical and domestic situation due to the conflict due to the war between Israel and Hamas. Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shiaa Al-Sudani is navigating complex relationships between the United States and various Iraqi factions, including Shiite militias aligned with Iran. Iraq’s historical stance against recognizing Israel and criminalizing relations with it adds to the complexity, particularly in light of the recent conflict. Al-Sudani’s diplomatic efforts, including communication with regional and US leaders, reflect attempts to balance these dynamics. However, the resurgence of attacks on US interests in Iraq by pro-Iranian militias complicates this balance, potentially threatening Iraq’s political stability and its crucial relationships, notably with the United States. The presence of American forces and Iraq’s reliance on the US for economic and security assistance further entangle these dynamics. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s visit to Baghdad underscores the importance of Iraq in the broader Middle East context and the necessity of a diplomatic approach to ensure stability in the region. Al-Sudani faces intense pressures from within his coalition and rivals like Muqtada al-Sadr, making the situation increasingly precarious (Shafaq News).
- Iraq Asserts Oil Export Increase Aligns with OPEC+ Agreement. The Iraqi Ministry of Oil has stated that the recent increase in the country’s crude oil exports is a natural occurrence and does not contravene the OPEC+ agreement on production levels. This increase, sometimes attributed to a decrease in domestic consumption or natural conditions affecting consumption rates, is seen as part of normal fluctuations and doesn’t impact agreed production quotas. Iraq reaffirms its commitment to the OPEC+ agreement, emphasizing its role in maintaining global oil market stability for the benefit of producers, consumers, and investors. The Ministry also highlighted OPEC Plus’s readiness to make decisions for market stability and balance, noting optimistic projections for increased oil demand and economic growth, particularly in China post-pandemic. This statement comes amidst concerns about the impacts of increased Iraqi oil exports on the broader OPEC+ production agreement (Shafq News).
- Potential Sadrist Movement Actions Against US Forces in Iraq. The Sadrist movement’s stance on targeting American bases in Iraq depends on Muqtada al-Sadr’s directives. If al-Sadr instructs, the movement will explicitly announce any decision to target US bases. Their current anger is fueled by events in Gaza and wider Palestinian cities, with blame placed on Washington for supporting perceived aggression. The US Department of Defense reported 41 recent attacks on its forces in Iraq and Syria, resulting in 56 soldier injuries. US Defense Secretary Anthony Blinken’s recent visit to Iraq, amid heightened tensions and security concerns, saw him wearing a bullet-proof vest at Baghdad International Airport. This precaution sends a significant message about safety in Iraq, given escalating conflicts and political dynamics (Baghdad Today).
- Al-Sudani’s Disappointment Following Tehran Visit Over Militia Issue. Iraqi PM Muhammad al-Sudani’s recent visit to Iran ended in disappointment. He sought Tehran’s help to stop militia attacks on US forces, but Iran declined, stating the groups made their own decisions. This follows continued attacks amid the Israel-Gaza conflict, despite Al-Sudani’s efforts to persuade militias to stop. It underscores Iraq’s intricate internal and regional politics, with the influence of armed groups and Iraq’s relations with Iran and the US (Al Hadath).
- Oil Exports from Iraqi Kurdistan Halted Over Unpaid Dues. Norwegian firm DNO stated that international oil companies in Iraqi Kurdistan won’t resume oil exports through a closed pipeline until they resolve around $1 billion in delayed payments. The Petroleum Industry Association of Kurdistan (Apicure) suffered losses of $7 billion due to the pipeline closure. DNO, one of Apicure’s members, stressed the need for clarity on contractual entitlements for past and future oil exports. This decision comes after debts exceeding $300 million accumulated from oil sales in 2022 and 2023 to the Kurdistan Regional Government. The pipeline closure by Turkiye was in response to an ICC ruling in March, requiring compensation to Baghdad for unauthorized oil exports from 2014 to 2018. Negotiations continue (Al Hadath).
THE GULF REGION & YEMEN
Yemen and the Gulf: Escalating Tensions and Diplomatic Moves
- Gaza Crisis Developments: Drone Hits Israeli School, Diplomatic Efforts Underway, and Hostage Deal Negotiated. A drone struck an elementary school in Eilat, Israel, while Yemen’s Houthis claimed responsibility for missile attacks on Israel. Diplomatic efforts, including a Qatari-Egyptian summit and talks between Qatar and the UAE, aim to de-escalate the Gaza crisis. Additionally, CIA and Mossad chiefs met with Qatari officials for hostage talks related to the conflict. A humanitarian exchange deal between Hamas and Israel involving the release of prisoners and children was also reached. The situation remains critical, with ongoing casualties on both sides. The hostage deal negotiated is said to be to release 100 women Israeli hostages in exchange for Israel releasing all the female and minor aged prisoners in Israeli prisons (Arab News, Khaleej Online, Al Jazeera, Jerusalem Post, Al Hadath).
- Yemen’s Internet Collapses During Houthi Rebel Attacks. Yemen experienced a major internet outage as Houthi rebels, who control YemenNet, the nation’s primary internet provider, disrupted services. The cause, initially cited as maintenance, remains unclear. This incident occurred alongside Houthi drone and missile attacks on Israel and the downing of a US MQ-9 Reaper drone, contributing to regional tensions amid the Gaza conflict initiated by Hamas militants’ attack on southern Israel (Times of Israel).
EGYPT & NORTH AFRICA
Egypt’s Mediating Role in the Israel-Hamas War Updates: Ceasefire and Diplomacy Efforts
- Hamas Delegation in Cairo Discusses Ceasefire, Prisoner Exchange, and Humanitarian Truce. Hamas, led by Ismail Haniyeh, met with Major General Abbas Kamel of Egyptian Intelligence in Cairo to address the Gaza situation. Talks centered on Israeli attacks, ceasefire prospects, relief convoys, and a potential prisoner exchange. Egypt’s mediation role is crucial in achieving a humanitarian truce and delivering aid to Gaza. Progress is evident, with discussions involving UN support and international cooperation emphasizing peace and the two-state solution (Al Hadath, Al Jazeera, Al Hadath).
Syria’s Role: From War Crimes Trials to Regional Diplomacy
- Trial of Syrian War Criminal Scheduled in The Hague. A significant trial is set to commence on November 30, 2023, in The Hague, Netherlands, focusing on war crimes committed in Syria. The accused, M.D., a member of the Liwa al-Quds militia allied with the Syrian regime, was arrested by Dutch police in May 2022. Liwa al-Quds, originating from the Neirab Palestinian refugee camp near Aleppo, has been closely working with Syrian intelligence and armed forces. The case involves the January 2013 arrest of a civilian from the Neirab camp, who was reportedly subjected to ill-treatment and torture in Syrian Air Force Intelligence prison. The Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research has been instrumental in gathering testimony and evidence for the trial, which is expected to shed light on the broader issue of human rights violations during the Syrian conflict (Dstouria).
- Assad to Attend Emergency Arab Summit on Gaza in Riyadh. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is set to participate in the emergency Arab summit scheduled for Saturday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This summit, an extraordinary session of the Arab League Council, aims to discuss and devise strategies to address the ongoing escalation in the Palestinian territories. The announcement from the Syrian presidency, shared on their official accounts, confirms Assad’s involvement in these crucial discussions. This development follows Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Al-Miqdad’s attendance at the preparatory meeting of the Arab League Council at the ministerial level in Riyadh (North Press).
- Syrian Intelligence Officials Arrested for Alleged Ties with Israel. Syrian Military Intelligence, especially the Sa’sa branch, witnessed a major shakeup amid allegations of cooperation with Israeli intelligence, as reported by Israeli journalist Aydi Cohen. President Bashar al-Assad’s regime responded by arresting numerous branch officers, including its head. These developments align with Cohen’s previous claims about Assad’s regime protecting Israeli borders and resisting regime change. Asaad Al-Zoubi, a political analyst, questioned the regime’s involvement in a Military College bombing and subsequent actions. In parallel, the regime initiated an anti-corruption campaign, leading to multiple arrests and investigations, revealing deeper issues within the regime (Shaam News).
- SDF Cadres, Including Leaders, Killed in Manbij Explosion. An explosion at the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Youth Council headquarters in Manbij, east of Aleppo, caused casualties, including fatalities and injuries among SDF members. The blast also inflicted significant damage to the building. The exact cause remains uncertain, but speculation suggests a potential Turkish drone strike during a military meeting. This incident follows a series of similar attacks in the region, including one that killed three SDF military figures. Northern Syria, under SDF control, has seen frequent airstrikes, resulting in casualties among their ranks (Shaam News).
- Damascus Official Reports Public Drug Trade in City Market. Jalal Qasas from the Damascus Governorate Council revealed widespread drug sales in Damascus’s bird market, causing public disturbances and safety concerns. Efforts are underway to regulate the market and possibly relocate it to reduce these issues. Despite the Syrian regime’s anti-drug stance, reports suggest regime complicity in the drug trade, especially in areas under its control (Shaam News).
- Suwayda Continues Anti-Regime Protests for 11th Consecutive Friday. Hundreds in Suwayda, Syria, continued their demonstrations for the 11th Friday in a row, demanding the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The latest protest saw the participation of doctors and health workers, advocating for political change and adherence to UN Resolution 2254, which calls for a political transition in Syria. The demonstration, marked by an atmosphere of unity and enthusiasm, is part of a peaceful uprising that began over two months ago due to worsening living conditions and security, also demanding Iran’s withdrawal from Syria (Syria TV).
Turkiye and EU: Israel-Hamas War Updates Revibrating Consequences
- Turkiye’s Defense of Hamas Complicates Relations with EU. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s defense of Hamas in the Gaza-Israel conflict has strained Turkiye’s relationship with the European Union. While Turkiye is an EU candidate country, negotiations have been frozen since 2018. Erdogan’s support for Hamas, which is classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, the US, and the EU, has raised concerns in Brussels. The EU values democratic principles, but it doesn’t want to sever ties with Turkiye due to its strategic location. Erdogan’s positions have shifted, complicating the possibility of mediation in the conflict, and EU-Turkiye negotiations become increasingly challenging (Elaph).
- AK Party Criticizes EU Report on Türkiye. The governing AK Party in Türkiye has criticized the European Union Commission’s 2023 Türkiye Report, stating that it maintains a biased approach towards Türkiye. The report’s assessment of Türkiye’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was particularly condemned by AK Party spokesperson Omer Celik. He argued that the EU has lost its authority to speak on behalf of humanitarian and universal values, as there is a divergence between European streets and European states on this issue. Türkiye has been actively involved in aid efforts for Gaza (TRT World).
Lebanon’s Role in Israel-Hamas War Updates: Hezbollah’s Involvement and Israel’s Response
- Hezbollah Mourns Seven of Its Members. Escalating border military operations and exchanges of bombardments with the Israeli army, Hezbollah mourns the loss of seven members. The deceased members include Ali Khalil Al-Ali “Khader,” Muhammad Ali Abbas Assaf “Jawad,” Abdul Latif Hassan Suwaidan “Safi,” Muhammad Qasim Tlais “Abu Ali,” Jawad Mahdi Hashem “Abu Saleh,” Jaafar Ali Sarhan “Mahran,” and Qasim Muhammad Awada “Malak Ghanem.” They hailed from various towns in southern Lebanon and the Bekaa region (Al Nahar).
- Khamenei Defends Nasrallah, Urges Against All-Out War. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, convened a secret meeting with leaders of pro-Tehran factions in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and Yemen. During the meeting, he emphasized the importance of unity and avoiding engagement in an all-out war. Khamenei stated that the strategy, endorsed by Tehran and Hezbollah, focuses on Gaza and discourages involvement in side battles. He defended Hezbollah’s secretary-general, Sayyed Hashem Saffieddine, stating that Nasrallah’s speech was coordinated with key officials and aimed to support Gaza without escalating other fronts. Khamenei cited favorable international circumstances for the Palestinian cause (Nahar Net).
- Israel Renews Bombing of Southern Lebanon Border Areas. Israel conducted airstrikes and artillery bombardment in southern Lebanon, targeting towns near the Blue Line. This action followed missile launches towards Israeli territory. The Israeli army aimed at Hezbollah infrastructure, observation points, and technological equipment. Southern Lebanese towns, including Labouneh, Ramiya, Al-Jabain, Ras Al-Naqoura, Al-Labouneh, Yater, and Buwayda, were affected by the Israeli attacks. The border region is experiencing ongoing hostilities due to the Israeli conflict with armed factions and the situation in the Gaza Strip (Sharq Awsat).
- Israel-Lebanon Border Escalation. Clashes intensified on the Lebanese-Israeli border, with mutual bombing between Hezbollah and the Israeli army. Israeli warplanes conducted airstrikes in southern Lebanon, targeting towns near the Blue Line. Hezbollah retaliated by targeting Israeli military sites with guided missiles, including tanks and infantry forces. The border region is experiencing heightened tensions due to the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, with daily exchanges of gunfire and bombings. The situation has resulted in casualties on both sides, with concerns about the conflict expanding to include Lebanon. Efforts have been made by the United States to prevent Lebanon’s involvement in the war (Al Hurra).