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Hezbollah drone strike on Israeli soldiers amid escalating tensions and advanced arsenal buildup at Beirut Airport.

IRGC Arrests Top Officer: Spy, Lebanon Dysfunctional, Gallant to Washington, Assad Bombs Unarmed Civilian Protests 

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Top Headlines: 

  • IRGC Arrests Top Chief Hajj Rasoul in Syria as Israel’s Spy After Consulate Bombing
  • Nasrallah’s Threats to Cyprus Highlight Lebanese State Dysfunction
  • After Netanyahu’s Criticism, Gallant Heads to Washington
  • Unarmed Protests Persist in South Syria Despite Explosions
  • Russia and Iran Inaugurate Rasht-Caspian Railway

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LEBANON

  1. Hezbollah Enhances Arsenal, Executes Drone Strike on Israeli Soldiers

Hezbollah has significantly bolstered its weaponry since the 2006 conflict with Israel, now possessing nearly 150,000 rockets, precision-guided missiles like the Fateh 110, and a variety of drones, including kamikaze and Shahed 136 attack drones. The group also holds advanced anti-ship missiles, such as the Russian Yakhnot and Chinese Silkworm, threatening Israel’s coastal infrastructure. American officials have expressed concerns about the Israeli Iron Dome’s ability to counter Hezbollah’s extensive missile and drone arsenal in a potential large-scale conflict. Israel has communicated these concerns to the U.S., noting the possibility of Iron Dome batteries running out of ammunition during a massive attack. The Israeli military estimates Hezbollah has about 150,000 rockets, including precision-guided munitions. In a recent escalation, Hezbollah executed a drone attack on Israeli soldiers at the Ras Naqoura naval site and a missile strike on Ruwaisat al-Qarn in Shebaa Farms, following threats from leader Hassan Nasrallah. This precise air assault inflicted casualties and significant damage, responding to an Israeli attack in Derkiva.

  1. Nasrallah’s Threats to Cyprus Highlight Lebanese State Dysfunction

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s threats against Cyprus for potentially allowing Israeli use of its airports and bases have drawn criticism from Lebanese newspaper Annahar. The paper highlights the damage these threats are causing to Lebanon’s relations with its close neighbor Cyprus and the European Union, noting the lack of official condemnation from Lebanon reflects the state’s dysfunction due to fear of Hezbollah’s senior leaders. In response, European Union foreign ministers will meet to discuss supporting Nicosia. The Cypriot Foreign Minister will brief his counterparts on the risks, while EU officials, concerned about war escalation and its impact on refugee flows, engage in talks with Hezbollah, the Lebanese government, and Iran to de-escalate tensions. On Friday, Al-Hadath reported that UN troops enhanced fortifications at several centers. Meanwhile, Iran’s mission to the United Nations declared that Hezbollah can defend itself and Lebanon against Israel. The statement, posted on X, warned that any rash decision by Israel could trigger a new regional war, ultimately resulting in Israel’s defeat. The message emphasized Hezbollah’s defensive capabilities, hinting that the time might have come for what they referred to as the self-annihilation of Israel

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ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Israeli Forces Intensify Offensive in Gaza’s Rafah

Israeli forces have intensified their offensive in Rafah and surrounding areas in Gaza, engaging near Hamas tunnels and advancing tanks to Rafah’s west and north after gaining control of other sectors. Since Friday, more than 30 Palestinians have been killed in strikes. In the West Bank, two Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces. A Hamas mortar attack in central Gaza killed two Israeli reservists, Omer Smadga and Saadia Yaakov Derai, both sons of prominent Israeli figures, and seriously wounded three other soldiers. Concurrently, The IDF’s elite Multi-Domain Unit, known as the Ghost Unit, concluded a raid on a university in the central Gaza Strip, identified as a Hamas command center. During the operation, Hamas operatives opened fire from the university complex. IDF troops discovered a cache of weapons and barrels packed with explosives at the site.

  1. IDF Downs Suspected Drone Over Golan Heights

The IDF announced it shot down a suspected drone that entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon over the northern Golan Heights. Sirens sounded in Kela Alon and Sha’al during the incident. Additionally, several rockets were launched at northern Israel, causing no injuries. In response, Israeli troops shelled southern Lebanon with artillery. IDF fighter jets also struck Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon’s Taybeh and Deir Seryan overnight.

  1. Israel Summons Armenian Ambassador After Palestine Recognition

Following Armenia’s recognition of the State of Palestine, the Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned the Armenian ambassador for a stern reprimand. Armenia announced its recognition to promote Middle Eastern peace and emphasized the urgent situation in Gaza. Armenia’s Foreign Ministry highlighted its commitment to international law and peaceful coexistence. The Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Hussein Al-Sheikh praised the decision as a victory for justice and Palestinian independence. Previously, Spain, Ireland, and Norway also recognized Palestine, prompting Israeli discontent.

  1. After Netanyahu’s Criticism, Gallant Heads to Washington

In the wake of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial video criticizing the US for delaying arms shipments, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant arrives in Washington on Sunday for a three-day visit. Gallant’s mission aims to mend the rift caused by Netanyahu’s comments and discuss the war in Gaza and potential conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon. He is set to meet with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and other senior officials, despite an unconfirmed schedule. Gallant will address tensions between Washington and Tel Aviv, focusing on arms sales, Iran policy, and northern front issues

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IRAN

  1. IRGC Arrests Top Chief Hajj Rasoul in Syria as Israel’s Spy After Consulate Bombing

Hours after the Iranian consulate in Damascus was bombed, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard arrested Hajj Rasoul, a top commander in northeastern Syria, and transferred him to Iran. Accused of betraying the consulate’s leaders to Israel, Rasoul’s arrest led to thorough investigations revealing extensive security breaches and implicating many militia members who were also detained. Rasoul’s disappearance caused the collapse of the cultural center’s activities, as he had held all operational control for years. Two weeks later, Abu Ruqayya al-Irani, known for his extreme methods, was appointed director in Deir ez-Zor but soon left with all Iranian militia leaders, leaving local employee Mohammed al-Dhib in charge. Al-Dhib struggled to manage, with over half the staff absent and the rest intermittently asking about salaries. All activities ceased, except for minimal educational courses with few attendees, highlighting the deep impact of Rasoul’s arrest on operations.

  1. Russia and Iran Inaugurate Rasht-Caspian Railway

Senior officials from Russia, Iran, and Azerbaijan inaugurated the Rasht-Caspian Railway in Iran’s Gilan province. This railway is a crucial segment of the International North-South Transport Corridor, linking the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea. The 37-kilometer railway aims to enhance trade among the Caspian littoral states, including Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan, bolstering regional connectivity and economic cooperation. Acting President Mohammad Mokhber announced during the event that Iran has increased its oil sales from under 300,000 to 1.8 million barrels per day within a year and a half, crediting the late President Raisi’s diligent efforts. 

  1. Iran’s Energy Crisis Exposes Regime’s Governance Failures

Iran’s severe energy crisis, marked by drastic industrial power cuts, demonstrates the regime’s governance failures. Despite ideal solar conditions and plans for new power plants, only a fraction materialized, leaving a 14,000 MW summer shortfall. Inefficiencies in the outdated grid cause a 13% electricity loss, equivalent to the steel industry’s consumption. Government stopgaps like adjusting office hours fail to address core issues, leading to estimated annual industrial losses of $6-8 billion. The regime’s debt to private power plants, now at $1.5 billion, further complicates the situation. The World Bank and IMF project continuous GDP deceleration, exacerbated by domestic energy shortages and ongoing sanctions. Mismanagement is evident in basic errors by top officials and the failure to leverage renewable energy, with solar contributing just 1% to electricity

  1. Australia Sanctions IRGC Despite Legal Constraints

Australia has announced sanctions targeting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), despite its laws preventing the designation of government entities as terrorist organizations. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that while Australia cannot legally list the IRGC as terrorists, it has employed targeted financial sanctions against more than 80 individuals and institutions associated with the IRGC, including key commanders. These measures, implemented since the violent suppression of nationwide protests in September 2022, aim to restrict the IRGC’s activities and financial resources. Australia initially imposed sanctions against the IRGC in 2010, highlighting the effectiveness of these actions in curbing the group’s influence.

  1. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Faces Movement Restrictions After Disqualification

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been restricted in his movements after being disqualified from the presidential race. The Iranian regime imposed these restrictions following a Tuesday interview where Ahmadinejad criticized Iran’s foreign policy and expressed willingness to negotiate with former U.S. President Trump to resolve the longstanding conflict stemming from the 1979 siege of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. This move underscores the regime’s control over political dissent and international diplomacy.

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SYRIA

  1. Erdogan to Russia, Ahmad to Germany, Syrian Crisis Talks

Fears have arisen that the region might be handed over to the Assad regime under a clandestine Russian-Turkish agreement, with Turkish-linked military police arresting dissenting “National Army” members to suppress opposition. Recent protests in Turkish-controlled areas reflect strong resistance to Russian involvement, underscoring local discontent with Turkey’s maneuvers. The Syrian Observatory reported a secret meeting between Russian and Turkish forces in Tal Abyad, causing confusion among Turkish-backed factions. Turkish media announced that President Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit, to discuss the issue of proposed Syrian-Kurdish elections that were never inaugurated. Meanwhile, Elham Ahmed met with German politicians to discuss solutions to the Syrian crisis and the role of the Autonomous Administration in north and east Syria. She urged Germany and the international community to pressure Turkiye to cease its aggression in the region.

  1. ISIS Activity Surges in Syria, Causing Significant Casualties

ISIS has increased its activity in Deir ez-Zor, Syria, claiming responsibility for several attacks that resulted in six SDF fatalities: three in Dhiban, two between Jadeed Bakara and Jadeed Akidat, and one in Uzman al-Dubais. Meanwhile, the Assad regime claims to have concluded a combing campaign against ISIS, without providing evidence of casualties. In recent attacks in central Syria’s desert, over 70 Assad regime officers and soldiers were killed, and 100 were injured. The Palestinian Al-Quds Brigade and the Iranian-backed Al-Baqir Brigade also suffered losses, highlighting the growing threat of ISIS in the region. Desperate for fighters against the group, the regime has intensified recruitment, offering legal settlements and high salaries.

  1. Suwayda Demonstrators Persist Despite Explosions and Threats

Despite four powerful blasts around 5 a.m., participants continued to converge for the central demonstration in Karama Square, Suwayda. The resilience of the protestors underscores the ongoing unrest and opposition to Assad’s regime in the region. The peaceful movement, demanding regime change, political transition, and the release of detainees as outlined in International Resolution 2254, has persisted undeterred for ten consecutive months. Demonstrators from neighboring towns and cities chanted against the regime, held banners urging election boycotts, and denounced participation in what they termed an “election charade.” Early Friday, protesters gathered in the heart of the square, undeterred by the explosions reported by the “Suwayda 24” network, highlighting their determination for political change.

  1. Mariem Kamalmaz Advocates for Accountability Before Congress

Today, Mariem Kamalmaz, daughter of Syrian American doctor Majd Kamalmaz, who was killed by the Syrian regime, spoke with Congressman French Hill and Ambassador Stephen Rapp behind her. She emphasized the need to hold the Assad regime accountable for the atrocities committed against innocent people, including her father, who was murdered without any crime. Mariem stressed the importance of raising awareness and increasing accountability for the Syrian regime’s actions. She strongly opposed normalizing relations with a regime responsible for killing thousands and called for international condemnation of such actions

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YEMEN

  1. EU to Double Red Sea Fleet to Counter Houthi Threats

The European Union plans to double its naval presence in the Red Sea to address increasing Houthi attacks. Admiral Vassilios Greparis emphasized the need for more assets due to the vast area needing protection. The EU’s ASPEDS mission has, since February, intercepted over 12 attacks and neutralized four ballistic missiles, providing assistance to 164 ships near Yemen. This initiative complements the American-British “Prosperity Guardian” mission, aimed at safeguarding cargo routes and enhancing regional security against ongoing Houthi disruptions.

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IRAQ

  1. Popular Mobilization Forces Leadership Accused of Mafia Operations

A high-level security source revealed that the leadership of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Iraq operates as a mafia involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking, and dollar smuggling, acting above the law and the constitution. The anonymous source asserted that this mafia controls security, political, and judicial decisions in Iraq, granting them absolute freedom. Despite the arrest of thousands of Iranian drug dealers over the years, judicial actions against these PMF leaders remain stalled as they appoint and influence judges. The source emphasized that without dismantling the PMF, cleaning up the judiciary, and reforming the Interior Ministry and security institutions, Iraq will continue to be a hub for drugs and global terrorism. 

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 THE GULF

  1. Gulf Countries Attract $170 Billion in Post-Pandemic Foreign Investments

Gulf countries secured $169.8 billion in foreign direct investments over three years following the COVID-19 pandemic, while exporting $185.5 billion in investments, according to UNCTAD. The UAE led with $74 billion in inbound investments, bolstered by incentives like full foreign ownership and golden residency. Saudi Arabia followed with $63.5 billion, aiming to diversify its economy. Oman attracted over $19 billion, offering long-term residencies to investors. Bahrain drew $11.4 billion, implementing an economic recovery plan. Kuwait secured $3.4 billion amid political instability, while Qatar experienced a $1.49 billion contraction in foreign investment flows.

  1. UAE Economy Projected to Grow by 6.2% in 2025

The UAE Central Bank anticipates a 6.2% growth in the national economy for 2025, following a projected 3.9% growth in 2024, driven by robust performance in non-oil sectors. In its first-quarter report, the Central Bank forecasts a 5.4% growth in non-oil GDP and a 0.3% growth in oil GDP for 2024, with oil GDP expected to surge by 8.4% in 2025. The UAE economy grew by 4.3% in Q4 2023, with a strong showing from both non-oil and oil sectors. The financial sector recorded a surplus of 85.6 billion dirhams in 2023, bolstered by sustainable revenues and corporate tax introduction.

  1. Uganda and UAE Sign Agreement to Build New International Airport

Uganda has signed an agreement with the UAE’s Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry to construct a new international airport in the northeast, near the Kenyan border. This will be Uganda’s third international airport, expanding the UAE’s economic influence in the region beyond energy sectors. Construction is set to begin in August, as announced by Abdullah Sultan Al Owais, Chairman of the Sharjah Chamber. President Yoweri Museveni highlighted the agreement as a testament to strong relations with Gulf partners and a significant opportunity for increased cooperation in investment and trade.

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 EGYPT

  1. Egyptian Exports to Israel Surge Despite Conflict

In 2024, Egyptian exports to Israel doubled compared to the previous year, reaching $25 million in May. Despite tensions, energy and security cooperation between Egypt and Israel has intensified. The trade between Egypt and Israel grew by 56% last year, despite strained relations following the Al-Aqsa Flood operation and recent incidents at the Rafah border crossing.

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TURKIYE

  1. Erdoğan’s Iraq Visit Boosts Turkey’s Exports

President Erdoğan’s visit to Iraq in April significantly enhanced commercial relations, marking a new era for Turkey’s exports. The visit included signing cooperation agreements in various sectors, resulting in Iraq becoming the top country for increased Turkish exports in the first five months of the year, with a rise of $790.3 million. Turkey’s overall exports grew by 4.5% to $106.9 billion during this period. The main exports to Iraq included grains, furniture, chemicals, and electronics. Istanbul-based companies led in exports to Iraq, followed by Gaziantep, Mardin, Şırnak, and Mersin.

  1. Erdoğan to Meet Putin, Biden in Consecutive Summits

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will embark on a diplomatic tour starting early July, beginning with Russian President Vladimir Putin and followed by U.S. President Joe Biden. Erdoğan will attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Kazakhstan, focusing on energy and trade, and discuss critical issues with Putin, including the Ukraine war and energy projects. He will then visit Azerbaijan for the Organization of Turkic States summit. Erdoğan’s tour concludes in Washington for the NATO summit, where he will address the Gaza conflict and meet Biden. Finally, he will visit Turkish Cyprus to commemorate the 1974 military operation.

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📌 In case you missed it,

📰  THE EARLY PHOENIX June 20, 2024

📰  THE EARLY PHOENIX June 19, 2024

📰  THE EARLY PHOENIX June 18, 2024

📰  THE EARLY PHOENIX June 17, 2024

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