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THE EARLY PHOENIX – June 29, 2023

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TOP HEADLINES:

ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Israel Helped UAE Fend Off Major Cyberattack, Emirati Cyber Chief Says (Jerusalem Post). Israel recently helped the UAE fend off a serious DDoS (distributed denial of service) cyberattack, UAE cyber chief Muhammad al-Kuwaiti said on Tuesday. Speaking at the Tel Aviv Cyber Week Conference, he said, “Thank God for the Abraham Accords”…Israel’s cyber chief, Gabi Portnoy, urged international cyber officials to collaborate to prevent Iranian and Hezbollah hackers from launching attacks globally. He specifically mentioned the threat posed by the group MuddyWater, affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which targets not only Israel but also civilian targets in various other countries. 
  2. World Zionist Organization and New Knesset Group Push for Annexation of Jordan Valley (Times of Israel). The head of the World Zionist Organization, Yaakov Hagoel, called for Israel’s annexation of the Jordan Valley…Right-wing lawmakers in the Knesset also launched a new group called Sovereignty over the Jordan Valley First, aiming to achieve annexation…The annexation push was previously advocated by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but was put on hold due to the Abraham Accords agreements.
  3. In a Fiery Security Meeting, Ben Gvir Defended Violent Settlers as “Sweet Kids” (Times of Israel). A high-level meeting in Israel, convened by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to address settler violence in the West Bank ended without any agreed-upon actions. National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir reportedly downplayed the actions of Israeli extremists and opposed condemning the settler actions, instead calling for a harsher crackdown on Palestinians. Ben Gvir referred to the settler vigilantes as “sweet kids” and accused the participants of hypocrisy. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant accused Ben Gvir of paying lip service to law and order and urged him to condemn the rampages publicly.
  4. 15 Arrested for Raising Hamas Flags at Temple Mount on Eid al-Adha (Jerusalem Post). Fifteen Palestinians were arrested by Israeli police on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for allegedly displaying photos of terrorists and waving flags of Palestinian terrorist organizations, including Hamas, after the Eid al-Adha prayer. The flags and banners were confiscated, along with a single bullet. The Temple Mount, a site of religious significance for Jews and Muslims, is closed to non-Muslim visitors during Eid al-Adha.

TURKIYE

  1.  Erdogan Says PKK Activities in Sweden Unacceptable (Yeni Safak). During a phone conversation with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Turkish President Erdogan expressed his concerns about PKK supporters in Sweden organizing demonstrations, recruiting individuals, and providing financial support to terrorist groups. While acknowledging Sweden’s recent anti-terrorism measures, Erdogan stated that these activities are “unacceptable” to Ankara.
  2. Confidence-Building Measures Towards Normalization Should Continue, Türkiye Tells Armenia (Anadolu Agency). During a phone call, Turkish President Erdogan conveyed to Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan that confidence-building measures to normalize ties between Ankara and Yerevan should persist. Pashinyan congratulated Erdogan and the Turkish people on the occasion of Eid al-Adha. Erdogan reciprocated by expressing his wishes for peace and prosperity for humanity during the holiday.
  3. Erdogan Says Türkiye Opposes Any Threat to Al-Aqsa Mosque’s Sanctity, Status (Anadolu Agency). During a phone call, Turkish President Erdogan assured Palestinian President Abbas that Turkey would continue to support the Palestinian cause and oppose any actions that could harm the sanctity and status of Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem. Erdogan extended Eid al-Adha greetings to Abbas and expressed sorrow over recent developments in the occupied West Bank. He conveyed prayers and condolences to those affected by the Israeli airstrikes in the Jenin refugee camp and wished strength and patience to the victims’ families.

EGYPT & NORTH AFRICA

  1. New Tensions between Algeria and France Thwart Tebboune’s Visit to Paris (Al Sharq Al Awsat). The visit of Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to Paris, which was expected this June, was ruled out following events and statements that returned tension to the countries’ bilateral relations…What doomed Tebboune’s visit to Paris was a strong stance expressed last Tuesday by the Algerian Minister of Industry and Drug Products, Ali Aoun…[who claimed that] “lobbyists” in Algeria fabricated the scarcity crisis in medical anesthesia because it “works for the benefit of French producers of the drug.” 
  2. Libyan Government Threatens to Stop Production and Export of Oil (Al Arabiya). The Libyan government threatened to stop oil production and exports Wednesday if a judicial guard was not appointed over Libya’s National Oil Company. The Libyan government informed the head of the National Oil Corporation of the possibility of appointing a judicial guard over its accounts. The Libyan government, mandated by Parliament, said that stopping oil production and exports would become the last option if the judicial guard cannot carry out his duties with the Oil Corporation.
  3. Burhan Says He is Ready to Accept Türkiye’s Mediation to Stop Sudan Fighting (Al Jazeera). Al-Jazeera correspondent in Khartoum reported that warplanes launched intense raids on the Rapid Support Forces sites in areas south of Omdurman, west of Khartoum. At the same time, the head of the Sovereignty Council, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, expressed his willingness to accept any Turkish initiative to stop the fighting in Sudan.

GULF REGION & YEMEN

  1. King of Bahrain Becomes 4th Gulf Leader to Call Putin After Wagner Rebellion (Al Khaleej Online). Today, Wednesday, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa called Russian President Vladimir Putin, becoming the fourth Gulf leader to communicate with the latter against the backdrop of the Wagner Group’s rebellion…The Bahrain News Agency, BNA, said that the King of Bahrain reviewed, during his call with Putin, “the bilateral relations between the two countries, and ways to develop them in all fields,” in addition to “discussing the most prominent issues of common concern.”
  2. US Sanctions Emirati, Russian, and Central African Gold Companies for Funding the Wagner Company (The New Arab).The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on companies in the United Arab Emirates, Central African Republic, and Russia accusing them of engaging in illicit gold dealings to fund Russia’s Wagner mercenary group…The US Treasury said in a statement that it had imposed sanctions on four companies linked to the Wagner Group and its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin. It noted that illegal gold dealings finance the militia to support and expand its armed forces, including in Ukraine and Africa.

IRAN

  1.  Iranian President and Qatari Emir Vow to Widen Bilateral Ties (Tehran Times). Iranian President Raisi congratulated the Emir and people of Qatar on the occasion of Eid al-Adha and highlighted the potential for expanding cooperation between Iran and Qatar. Both leaders expressed their commitment to enhance regional and international cooperation. Raisi expressed Iran’s gratitude for Qatar’s efforts in advancing joint programs and agreements, emphasizing the importance of strengthening bilateral interactions. Qatari Prime Minister Al Thani congratulated Iran and expressed readiness to increase economic cooperation and investment in Iran. 
  2. Iran and Pakistan to Begin Free Trade Talks in September (Tasnim News Agency). Iran and Pakistan are set to begin direct talks for a free trade deal in September to reach an agreement by the end of the Iranian calendar year in March 2024. The trade balance between the two countries is currently in Iran’s favor, which may complicate the negotiations. However, Iranian officials believe a free trade deal would be more beneficial than a barter mechanism proposed by some businesses and government officials. The annual trade between Iran and Pakistan was around $2.4 billion, with Iran’s exports accounting for the majority. The Iranian government expects bilateral trade to increase by up to 20% by March 2025.
  3. Iran Cheers Albania’s Raid on Exiled MEK Group, Wants More (Al Monitor). Iranian officials have expressed support for Albania’s police raid on the dissident group Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), despite the MEK’s condemnation of the raid as a “criminal onslaught.” The Albanian Interior Ministry stated that the group had violated the terms of their asylum, leading to the raid. Iran’s Foreign Ministry called for legal action against the MEK and described the group as a terrorist organization. 

SYRIA

  1. Russian Military Claims US-Led Coalition is Violating Airspace Agreement in Syria (Syria TV). Brigadier General Oleg Gorinov, deputy head of the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria, accused the US-led international coalition of violating the protocols to prevent collisions in the Syrian airspace…He added that the center recorded 10 cases of violations related to international coalition drone flights in one day, according to the Russia Today channel.
  2. After News of Arrests in Wagner’s Ranks, Syrian Regime Denies Wagner’s Activity in Syria (Syria TV). The Syrian regime denied any current activity of the “Wagner” group in the country, following the rebellion of the group’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, against the Russian Ministry of Defense…Official sources told Russia Today channel, “Now in Syria there is an activity for companies of a purely economic nature, such as “Rosstroy Gas,” and Russian military units are taking Hmeimim base as their base and are continuing to perform their work, and there is no presence of elements or bodies affiliated with Wagner.
  3. Jordan Shoots Down Another Drug Drone from Assad Regime Territory (Orient ). On the first day of Eid al-Adha, the Jordanian army announced the downing of a third drone this month, coming from Syrian territory, according to the official Petra news agency…the Border Guard forces, in coordination with the military security services and the Drug Enforcement Administration, detected an attempt by a drone to cross the border illegally from Syrian territory to Jordanian territory…The source indicated that the drone was shot down inside Jordanian territory, and the seized items were transferred to the competent authorities.
  4. UN Says Recruitment of Child Soldiers in Syria is Increasing, Despite Decline in Fighting (Al Arabiya). Although fighting has ended in most parts of the country, a new United Nations report reveals that child recruitment in Syria is rising…The United Nations said in a statement released on Tuesday that the number of children recruited by armed groups in Syria had steadily increased over the past three years…It said it documented the recruitment of 813 children in 2020, which rose to 1,296 in 2021, but last year it recorded 1,696.

IRAQ

  1. Iraqi Government Seizes a Quarter of a Million Captagon Pills Inside an Iraqi School (Al Hadath). On Wednesday, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior announced the seizure of 250,000 Captagon pills inside a school building under rehabilitation in Anbar Governorate in its latest operations to counter the increasing spread of drugs…A statement by the ministry stated that, in “a qualitative operation, the Narcotics Affairs Directorate managed to seize 250,000 narcotic pills of the type Captagon and a kilogram of hashish inside a school under rehabilitation in the city of Ramadi,” the center of Anbar province in western Iraq.

LEBANON

  1. Hezbollah Links its Position on Lebanon’s Presidency to Iranian-American Negotiations (Al Sharq Al Awsat). The election of a President of the Republic enters a period of prolonged waiting unless French presidential envoy and former Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian can return to Beirut with a magic wand that opens the door to the search for a third presidential candidate from among the traditional competitors (the former Minister Jihad Azour, and the Marada Movement leader Suleiman Franjieh)…A former government source, who prefers not to be named, said Hizballah will not give away the card for electing a president for the republic for free, and it is currently depositing it with Iran to improve Iran’s conditions in its indirect negotiations with the United States, through mediation undertaken by the Sultanate of Oman.

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