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THE EARLY PHOENIX – July 6, 2023

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ISRAEL AND PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Netanyahu: Armed Shia Group is Holding Russian-Israeli Citizen Elizabeth Tsurkov in Iraq (Al Arabiya). On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that “an armed Shiite group is holding an Israeli-Russian citizen in Iraq…The woman is alive, and Israel considers Iraq responsible for her safety,” Netanyahu said. Netanyahu’s office revealed that the woman works in the academic field, and she had gone missing in Iraq a few months ago, but she is still alive and is being held by the Shiite Hezbollah Brigades.
  2. After Rocket Attack, Israel Strikes Hamas Target in Gaza, as Fighting Shifts Following Jenin Offensive (Times of Israel). Israeli airstrikes targeted a weapons workshop used by Hamas’ chemical unit and a site for processing rocket components in Gaza in response to rocket fire on southern Israel. Palestinian media reported several homes being damaged, but no injuries were reported. Meanwhile, in the West Bank, Israeli troops withdrew from Jenin after a 44-hour-long incursion, leaving behind rubble and devastation as residents returned to find their homes destroyed. The military operation aimed to target terror groups in the Palestinian refugee camp.
  3. Gallant: IDF May Need More Jenin Operations in the Future (Jerusalem Post). Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stated that while the IDF succeeded in Jenin, one or two additional operations may be necessary to fully address the terror situation there. The destruction of terror infrastructure and the retreat of Jenin terrorists were significant victories. Gallant emphasized the influence of Islamic Jihad in Jenin and the role of Iran in supporting the group. The IDF’s drone capabilities were highlighted for their precision and the minimal civilian casualties in Jenin. The hope is for the Palestinian Authority to take charge and calm the situation, but long-term solutions to reduce motivations for terror in Jenin remain unclear.
  4. ‘Israeli Forces are Happy to Kill Children,’ BBC Anchor Tells Ex-PM Bennett (Jerusalem Post). During an interview with former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a BBC anchor, Anjana Gadgil, stated, “Israeli forces are happy to kill children” while discussing the Israeli operation in Jenin. Bennett defended the Israeli military’s actions, stating that all those killed were militants and that young terrorists who engage in violence bear responsibility for their actions. The comments made by the BBC anchor have received strong criticism from the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the media watchdog HonestReporting, with complaints filed against Gadgil for breaching journalistic standards.
  5. Palestinians Grapple with Large-Scale Damage in Jenin Following Israeli Withdrawal (Times of Israel). Following the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Jenin refugee camp, Palestinians returned to find widespread damage, including destroyed buildings, torn-up roads, and damaged infrastructure. The Israeli Defense Forces conducted a significant operation in Jenin, citing it as a hotbed of terrorism. The fighting involved clashes between IDF troops and Palestinian gunmen, with casualties reported on both sides. The operation targeted terror groups, and while significant damage was inflicted, the long-term effects on the situation remain uncertain. 
  6. IRGC Quds Force commander Qaani says Jenin proves Israel can be beaten (Jerusalem Post). Iran’s Quds Force commander, Esmael Qaani, said that the battle in Jenin this week shows that Palestinian young men can confront Israel’s army, even when Israel deploys its best units. He made the comments in a statement that was posted on pro-regime Tasnim News online on Wednesday. “Today, we are witnessing that the Zionist regime brought all its forces to the field in the Jenin camp, but the Palestinian youth hit him in the mouth.” He claims that Palestinians can carry out numerous operations against Israel. 
  7. French Journalist Arrested at Gilboa Crossing with Three Grenades in his Car (Jerusalem Post). A French journalist was arrested at the Gilboa Crossing in northern Israel with three grenades found in his car on Wednesday, according to a statement from the Defense Ministry. According to the statement, the journalist, driving from Jenin, had an official journalist ID and was taken into custody for further investigation. 
  8. Knesset Passes Preliminary Reading of the Bill to Sap Bar Association of Key Powers (Times of Israel). Weeks after the government opponent was elected as IBA head, the legislation would hand its seats on the politically fraught judge-selecting panel to a new government-controlled body. The bill, which the government backs, would remove the bar’s licensing authority, its ability to sanction lawyers for misconduct, and its representation on the committee that selects judges, effectively voiding its powers. These would instead go to a yet-to-be-created Lawyers Council, which would be led by a district court judge appointed by the justice minister.

TURKIYE

  1. Ahead of Vilnius Summit, Turkiye Refuses to Bow to Time Pressure Regarding Sweden’s NATO Membership (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Turkiye preempted the high-level meeting of its foreign ministers, Finland and Sweden, which will be held in Brussels on Thursday, with the participation of the heads of intelligence services and national security advisers in the three countries to discuss Stockholm’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), stressing that it will not be subject to time pressure because of the NATO summit that will be held in Lithuania on the 11th and 12th of July.

Egypt & North Africa

  1. In a Sign of Reconciliation, Egyptian President Sisi Will Visit Ankara on July 27 (Alkhaleej). Turkish media reported that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi will visit Turkiye on July 27. It is worth noting that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, recently agreed to raise diplomatic relations and exchange ambassadors.
  2. Norwegian Company Will Invest $5B in Egyptian Wind Farm (Cnn Business Arabic). The Egyptian Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy and the Norwegian company Scatec signed an agreement on Wednesday to provide a plot of land to construct a wind power plant project in Upper Egypt at an investment cost of $5 billion. According to the agreement, the wind power plant to be established in West Sohag will produce 5 gigawatts of electricity annually, according to a statement issued by the Egyptian Cabinet. Egypt aims to raise the contribution of renewable energy to 42 percent of the country’s energy mix by 2030.
  3. Tunisia: Security Forces Expel 400 Migrants to Libya Borders after Death of Tunisian During Clashes (The New Arab). Since 3 June, over 400 sub-Saharan migrants and asylum seekers were reportedly forcibly expelled to the Libyan border amid an escalation of anti-immigrant sentiment in the North African state after the death of a Tunisian man during clashes with a group of migrants in Sfax. On Monday, Tunisian security forces deported the first group of twenty migrants, including a pregnant woman and a child, to the Ben Gardane Area, a militarized Tunisia-Libya border zone.
  4. After a Hot Night, Cautious Calm in Sfax; Tunisian President Holds Criminal Networks Responsible for Immigration (Al Jazeera). After a hot night of protests in several neighborhoods in the state of Sfax, condemning the killing of a Tunisian at the hands of immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa, a cautious calm prevails throughout the city, south of the capital, Tunis. This comes while warnings are continuing of the escalation of confrontations and the frequency of threats between the two parties in a way that would fuel the pace of violence and exacerbate the current crisis.
  5.  Sudanese Army Says Rapid Support Forces are Planning to Transfer the War to the North and East (Al Jazeera). Al-Jazeera correspondent in Sudan reported hearing heavy gunfire around the neighborhoods of Rumaila, Al-Hilla Al-Jadida, Al-Lamab, and the industrial area west of Khartoum, coinciding with the flight of warplanes over the capital’s sky. The Sudanese army spokesman, Nabil Abdullah, told Al-Jazeera that the military operations are proceeding according to the prepared plan and that they have achieved great success in Omdurman. For its part, the Rapid Support Forces published pictures that it said were the wreckage of a Sudanese army MiG plane that was shot down by its forces during the battles in Khartoum North. In a similar context, the Al-Jazeera Net correspondent quoted Sudanese security sources, describing them as “al-Rafi’a,” that the Rapid Support Forces are planning to expand the scope of the war to the north and east of the country during the next stage after they retreated in Khartoum.
  6. Sudanese Banking System is Paralyzed, Government is Unable to Provide Services, and Poverty is Knocking on the Door (Al Sharq Al Awsat). There are widespread calls for the owners of grocery stores in the neighborhoods to allow their customers to borrow at the expense of their salaries that they have not received for three months, that is, since the outbreak of war in the country, while social media has been crowded with calls for workers in need, because their salaries have not been paid, and they find themselves unable to survive. In their homes, because of the fighting or leaving them where they have safety and perhaps food, the banking system is still faltering, preventing even those who can access their balances to manage their lives.

THE GULF & YEMEN

  1.  Saudi Arabia and Kuwait Assert Rights to Gas Fields Eyed by Iran (Times of Israel). Riyadh’s official press agency says Dorra field, known to Iranians as Arash, is under the joint ownership of Saudis and Kuwaitis; the declaration comes after Tehran said preparing to drill. The dispute over the field — whose recoverable reserves are estimated at some 220 billion cubic meters (seven trillion cubic feet) — dates back to the 1960s, when Iran and Kuwait awarded overlapping offshore concessions.
  2. Emirati Economic Zones Sign Investment Agreement with Israeli Manufacturers Association (Al Nahar). The Emirates News Agency, WAM, stated that the UAE and Israel are looking forward to enhancing mutual investment and cooperation in the field of manufacturing within the framework of an agreement signed by the Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zones “RAKEZ” with the Israeli Manufacturers Association today, Wednesday. WAM said that the memorandum of understanding calls for cooperation between the two sides to create investment opportunities and expand the scope of industrial partnership operations.
  3. Yemen Dismantles Houthi Cell in Marib (Arab News). Security authorities in Yemen’s central city of Marib have dismantled a Houthi cell responsible for plotting assaults against military and civilian facilities and assassinating security and military officers in the city, Yemen’s Ministry of Interior said. Two members confessed in a five-minute video released by the ministry to planting IEDs inside an oil plant and blowing up another at a pickup driven by a military officer, claiming that Houthi figures trained them on how to plant and denote explosive devices and paid them a little over $500 for each mission. The ministry said the confessions revealed that a Houthi leader named Ahmed Ali Al-Amer controls the cell and trains its members in using the explosives. In contrast, another Houthi figure named Majed Al-Deraq was responsible for transporting the explosives from Sanaa to Marib.

IRAN 

  1.  At SCO, Raisi Calls for the Removal of Dollar Dominance to Shape a Fair International System (Shargh Daily). Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi addressed the 23rd Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and emphasized the need to remove the dominance of the US dollar to shape a fair international system. He also highlighted the importance of unity, respect for values and sanctities, and the sovereignty of nations within the SCO. Raeisi called for regional security based on cooperation among nations and expressed Iran’s commitment to fighting terrorism and extremism. He also discussed economic cooperation, strengthening links and transportation routes, and the significance of addressing environmental threats through multilateral cooperation. Finally, he condemned interference in countries’ internal affairs and supported Palestine’s freedom.  
  2.  Iran Must Stop Executions of Protesters, Says UN Fact-Finding Mission (Reuters). A UN fact-finding mission has called on Iranian authorities to halt the execution of individuals sentenced to death for participating in anti-government protests in 2022. The mission also urged releasing those detained for peacefully assembling and reporting on the protests. Iranian leaders have accused Western enemies of instigating the unrest. In response, Iran’s High Council for Human Rights criticized the establishment of the fact-finding mission as politically motivated. In May, Iran executed three men allegedly involved in the deaths of security forces during the demonstrations.
  3.  Iran’s Entry into SCO on US Independence Day Not A Coincidence  (Tasnim News Agency). A Russian expert has stated that Iran’s official entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on the United States’ Independence Day is not coincidental. The expert highlighted that Iran’s acceptance into the organization on July 4th is significant, emphasizing that Iran’s relationship with the US does not define its relationship with the world. Iran’s accession to the SCO is seen as a contribution to the shared ideals of the member states. The expert also mentioned the importance of Iran’s participation within the framework of the North-South project and the potential for economic growth and trade expansion between the countries involved.
  4.  US Navy Says it Prevented Iran From Seizing Tankers in the Gulf of Oman (Reuters). The U.S. Navy has announced that it prevented Iran from seizing two commercial tankers in the Gulf of Oman. One of the tankers involved was the Richmond Voyager, managed by U.S. oil major Chevron, and the crew onboard was reported to be safe. An Iranian navy vessel fired shots during the seizure attempt. The incidents occurred in the waters between Iran and Oman, and further details about how the U.S. Navy prevented the seizures have not been provided at this stage.
  5. Iran Tries to Seize Two Oil Tankers Near Persian Gulf  (Bloomberg). The US Navy stopped Iranian forces from seizing two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday, AP reported, increasing tensions between the countries as they seek to ease relations strained by Iran’s nuclear program and the detention of foreign nationals. The move comes days after a tanker previously seized by the US for allegedly transporting Iranian crude arrived in Texas. This year, Iran has controlled at least three oil tankers around the waterway, a key transit route for oil exports from the Persian Gulf, citing judicial complaints and forged leasing documents. 
  6. Iran Faces Legal Action Over Downing of Ukrainian Plane (Politico). Iran is being taken to the International Court of Justice over the shooting down of a Ukraine International Airlines flight in January 2020. The case has been brought by four countries — Canada, Sweden, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. The four countries — who all lost citizens in the crash — argued Iran “failed to take all practicable measures to prevent the unlawful and intentional commission of an offense.” They also say that Iran failed to undertake impartial, transparent, and fair criminal investigations and prosecutions in the aftermath of the crash.
  7. IRGC Claims US Influence Weakening  (Iran International). Speaking at a rally this Wednesday, Esmail Ghaani, Iran’s IRGC Quds Force Commander, spoke of Iran’s growing influence and the United States’ waning influence in the MENA region. Pointing to the rise of China as a regional power broker, he boasted of the regime’s gains. “Let us find our place in this changing power structure … Good steps have been taken, but we must figure out when to get on the power transfer train. Moreover, “The problem is that we want to tread our own path, but the US wants to put us on a path that defines itself. The art of the Islamic revolution is to recognize its own path and move in this direction.”

SYRIA

  1. Russia and Syria Begin 6 Days of Joint Military Exercises (Al Arabiya). On Tuesday evening, Admiral Oleg Gorinov, head of the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria, announced that joint military exercises for the Russian and Syrian air and air defense forces will begin in Syria on Wednesday and last for six days.”During the exercises, it is planned to work on joint actions of the Air Force, air defense forces and means, and electronic warfare in repelling air attacks,” Gorinov said.
  2.  Syrian Regime Source Says Russian, Qatari, and Emirati Companies Plan to Invest in Syrian Airports (Ronahi TV). After media outlets close to the Damascus government revealed, during the past hours, the entry of the private sector into investment, management, and operation operations for Damascus International Airport; through a share of forty-nine percent, An official source at the airport said today that three Russian, Qatari and Emirati companies had been contracted for this purpose. The source added that the investing companies are the Russian “Larousse” companies, the Qatari “Middle East” company, and the Emirati “Airasia Travel.”
  3.  Human Rights Watch Says the Lebanese Army Arbitrarily Arrested Thousands of Syrians and Handed Them Over to Assad (Orient). Human Rights Watch confirmed that the Lebanese army arbitrarily arrested thousands of Syrians intending to deport them to Syria between April and May 2023, noting that among the detainees were unaccompanied children. A report issued by the organization on Wednesday said that the Lebanese army ignored the status of Syrians as refugees or their fears of persecution in the event of their return. The report states the testimony of a Syrian forcibly deported from Lebanon to Syria. 

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