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THE EARLY PHOENIX – June 28, 2023

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ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Israel Seizes Millions in Crypto Assets Belonging to Iran’s Quds Force and Hezbollah (Jerusalem Post). According to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defense establishment has seized millions of dollars in cryptocurrency belonging to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force and Hezbollah. This seizure represents the largest confiscation of cryptocurrency from these groups to date. Cryptocurrency has become a preferred means of financing for terror organizations due to its ability to evade banking regulations and tracking mechanisms. Gallant emphasized that the funds were intended for terrorist activities and reaffirmed Israel’s commitment to combating terror financing.
  2. Netanyahu Tells US Lawmakers He is Heading to China (Times of Israel). Prime Minister Netanyahu has confirmed that he will travel to China…The announcement followed speculation that the visit indicates Netanyahu’s growing impatience with Washington. Netanyahu emphasized that military and intelligence cooperation between Israel and the US is at an all-time high, and he reaffirmed the US as Israel’s principal ally. Critics, however, argue that the visit could harm Israeli interests and damage the special relationship with the US. 
  3. Herzog Calls Abbas to Urge a Fight Against Terror and to Condemn Settler Violence (Times of Israel). President Isaac Herzog spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, emphasizing the need to combat terrorism and incitement following recent deadly attacks on Israelis in the West Bank. Herzog also condemned vigilante attacks by Israelis on Palestinian civilians. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant spoke with senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein al-Sheikh, expressing Israel’s concern over the violence against Palestinian citizens and the need for swift action against terrorism. Both sides agreed on the importance of calming the situation to benefit both Israeli and Palestinian populations. The call marked the first publicly announced contact between Gallant and Palestinian Authority officials. 
  4. Israeli Bill Seeks to Revive Western Wall Compromise After Six Years (Jerusalem Post). The proposed law seeks to allow Orthodox prayer arrangements in the central plaza of the Western Wall while also providing space for egalitarian prayers in the southern plaza. The bill has received support from various Knesset members, including opposition leader MK Yair Lapid. The Kotel Compromise was initially approved in 2016 but was later reversed due to pressure from ultra-Orthodox parties. The new bill suggests establishing a council to oversee the egalitarian plaza and introduces a role for the person in charge of the southern prayer plaza.

TURKIYE

  1. Sweden Says it Fully Supports Türkiye Against All Threats to Turkish National Security (Anadolu Agency). Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom expressed full support for Turkey against all threats to its security, including condemning terrorist organizations such as the PKK. Speaking alongside British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, Billstrom emphasized Sweden’s commitment to being an active and loyal ally, contributing to NATO’s security. Sweden recently passed an anti-terror law to enhance cooperation with Turkey and other NATO and EU countries, hoping to gain approval for its NATO membership bid. Turkey has already approved Finland’s membership but awaits Sweden’s compliance with a trilateral memorandum addressing Ankara’s security concerns.
  2. Erdogan, Mitsotakis Voice Hope for New Era in Turkish-Greek Ties (TRT World). Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed optimism about improved bilateral relations following recent elections in both countries. Erdogan congratulated Mitsotakis in a phone call after he was sworn in as Greek premier, highlighting the opportunity presented by strong governments trusted by their respective peoples. Erdogan’s victory in the Turkish presidential election runoff and his party’s majority in parliament, along with Mitsotakis’ conservative New Democracy party winning over 40 percent of the vote in Greece, set the stage for a potentially positive future for bilateral ties.
  3. Swedish Prosecutor Asks to Extradite PKK Terror Suspect to Türkiye (Anadolu Agency). A Swedish prosecutor has requested that a suspect arrested for terror activities be extradited to Turkey. The suspect is accused of collecting money for the PKK/YPG terror group and is facing charges including “financing terrorism,” “attempted extortion,” and “armed assault.” The prosecutor stated that there was substantial evidence linking the suspect to the PKK and requested a five-year prison sentence and extradition to Turkey. The verdict is expected to be announced on July 7. The suspect was arrested in January for allegedly collecting money for the PKK through armed threats in a restaurant.

EGYPT & NORTH AFRICA

  1. Sporadic Clashes in Sudan Despite RSF’s Declaration of a “Unilateral” Truce (SKY News Arabia). Despite the Rapid Support Forces’ announcement of a unilateral truce, clashes continue intermittently in some parts of Sudan on Tuesday…A source told “Sky News Arabia” that the Sudanese army’s artillery bombardment targeted several RSF stations south of Omdurman, near Al-Fatihab Bridge and North Bahri…The Sudanese army did not issue an official statement commenting on the unilateral truce, which was announced by the commander of the Rapid Support Forces, Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo, known as “Hamidti.”
  2. African Union Demands Immediate Demilitarization of Khartoum (Al Rakoba News). The Peace and Security Council of the African Union called for the immediate demilitarization of Khartoum and an unconditional cessation of hostilities after the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, witnessed a strategic battle near the police headquarters between the army and the Rapid Support Forces.The Council expressed its support for the plan of the Group of Heads of State of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development in East Africa, “IGAD,” regarding the conflict in Sudan and praised the efforts made by the organization.

GULF REGION & YEMEN

  1. US, UK, and France Jointly Call Houthis to Abandon Military Option in Yemen (Al Hadath). A statement by the three countries accused the Houthi group of “exacerbating the terrible humanitarian and economic crises in Yemen by continuing to prevent oil exports,” calling on the Houthis to “immediately stop any actions that would further harm Yemen’s economy.” The three countries called on the Houthis to abandon “any military option, and any return to conflict would lead to their complete isolation by the international community.”
  2. Adjusted OPEC+ Production Quotas Strengthens Dominance of the Gulf States (Al Khaleej Online). Reuters reported on Tuesday that the recent adjustments in the oil production quotas for the member states of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) granted more lavish quotas for the production of the Gulf countries in the organization at the expense of African countries that suffer from weak output due to security problems or inadequate investment…Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz, bin Salman, announced one of the most significant amendments to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) framework in the past few years, describing it as a reward for countries that invest in the oil sector.
  3. Gulf Leaders Communicate With Putin after the Aborted Wagner Rebellion (New Arab). Leaders of the Arab Gulf states on Monday and Tuesday expressed support for Russian President Vladimir Putin following the aborted mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group on Saturday…Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held a phone call with Putin on Tuesday, in which the prince expressed his full support for Russia’s efforts to thwart the short-lived coup attempt, according to the Russian state media agency…Mohammed bin Salman’s call came after the leaders of Qatar and the UAE similarly reached out to the embattled Russian president on Monday in separate support offers.
  4. Saudi Ambassador to Washington: We Focus on “Integrating Relations” With Israel, Not Normalization (Libyaa Khbar). The Saudi ambassador said, in a press interview published by the Israeli “i24NEWS” channel, that “Saudi Arabia focuses on integration over normal relations with Israel,” adding: “We are not saying normalization, we are talking about an integrated, unified Middle East, as a bloc like Europe, Where we all have sovereign rights and sovereign states, but we have a common interest, so this is not normalization.”
  5. Britain Announces Attempted Hijacking of a Ship in the Red Sea (Al-Mashhad). The British Maritime Trade Operations Authority announced on Tuesday that a ship had been subjected to an attempted hijacking near the port of Salif on the Red Sea. The British Navy stated that two boats carrying weapons approached a vessel near the Yemeni port of Saleef overlooking the Red Sea.

IRAN

  1. Saudi Aramco and Total Launch $11B Project Near Offshore Field Shared With Iran (Iran International). Saudi Aramco and TotalEnergies have signed an $11 billion contract to build a petrochemicals complex near an offshore field shared by Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. Iran has significant oil and gas reserves. Iran has objected to the development, claiming it breaks international laws without consent.
  2. Iran’s Police Chief Visits Russia to Boost Cooperation (Tasnim News Agency). Commander of the Law Enforcement Command of Iran, Brigadier General Ahmadreza Radan, has traveled to Russia to discuss and sign an agreement on security and police cooperation between the two countries. The visit aims to strengthen collaboration in combating terrorism, human trafficking, and drug smuggling, as well as in scientific and research fields. General Radan highlighted the willingness of Iran and Russia to share experiences and use standard equipment in the fight against various crimes. 
  3. Iranian Security Official In Qatar To Deepen Ties (Iran International). Iran’s Deputy Interior Minister, Majid Mirahmadi, visited Doha to discuss expanding security cooperation with Qatari officials. The talks focused on security and law enforcement collaboration, including the possibility of establishing a joint security commission in Iran. The release of Iranian fishermen and their boats and finding solutions to combat drug smuggling were also addressed. Iran and Qatar have been strengthening bilateral ties, and the recent restoration of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia signals a shift towards closer regional cooperation among Persian Gulf Sunni Arab states.

SYRIA

  1. Syrian Regime Bombs Daraa for First Time in Five Years (Enab Baladi). On June 27, the Syrian regime air force bombed areas in the western countryside of Daraa governorate with two air raids for the first time since the end of military operations in the area in 2018…Enab Baladi’s correspondent in the western countryside of Daraa reported that the shelling targeted two locations whose nature has not yet been known near the town of al-Yadoudeh, adjacent to the city of Daraa. A former leader of the opposition factions from Tafas…told Enab Baladi that battles took place in the area on Sunday morning between regime forces and the opposition group “Abu Tariq al-Subaihi.”
  2. Autonomous Administration Calls for US to Establish No-Fly Zone in Northeastern Syria (Al Sharq Al Awsat). A delegation from the “Autonomous Administration of Northeast” parties in Syria discussed with the US special envoy to Syria, Nicholas Grainger, the recent Turkish escalation and the US administration’s policy in Syria…A prominent Kurdish official who participated in the meeting that was held last (Sunday) evening in the city of Hasakah revealed that Washington is working to ease the tension between Turkey and the Autonomous Administration, but it is unable to impose a no-fly zone in the Syrian sphere and will pressure Ankara, its NATO ally, to curb its attacks on the administration’s areas of influence in the northeast of the country.
  3. Assad Tells UN the Return of Syrian Refugees Should Not Be “Politicized” (Al Ghad News). Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stressed the need not to politicize the issue of the return of Syrian refugees, during his meeting with Martin Griffiths, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, according to official Syrian media reports on Monday…[Assad] said the safe return of Syrian refugees is the supreme goal of the Syrian state, and that the issue is linked to providing for the reconstruction of damaged buildings in the villages and cities to which they will return.

IRAQ

  1. Iraq Has Fourth-Highest Unemployment in the World (Iraq News). BNN Network (World of Statistics) revealed that Iraq ranked fourth highest in the unemployment rate in the world, with a rate of 15.55%, indicating that the repercussions of unemployment are deeply felt throughout the country, which confirms the urgent need to take adequate measures to address this issue…Despite the ongoing crises in Turkey, the unemployment rate in the country is 10.2%, which puts it in tenth place on the global list.

LEBANON

  1. Lebanese Security Seizes 450,000 Captagon Pills (Al Sharq Al Awsat ). The Internal Security Forces in Lebanon seized 450,000 Captagon pills in an international drug smuggling network warehouse in the Kokoudi area in the capital, Beirut…the Internal Security Forces said in a communiqué, “As a result of the continuous follow-up carried out by the Internal Security Forces units to pursue drug smuggling networks to and from the Lebanese territory and to arrest those involved in these cases, the Information Division reached confirmed data about an international drug smuggling network preparing to smuggle a large amount of Captagon pills to Kinshasa, through the port of Beirut, in preparation for re-exporting them to one of the Arab Gulf countries.”

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