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The Gulf Region & Yemen in November 2023

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November 1, 2023

  1. The Gulf Cooperation Council and the Muslim World League condemn the targeting of Jabalia camp. The Gulf Cooperation Council and the Islamic World League strongly denounce the Israeli military’s assault on Gaza’s Jabalia Camp, considering it a heinous war crime and urging the international community to protect civilians. The attack resulted in approximately 400 casualties, including fatalities and injuries (:24).
  2. UAE Reiterates Commitment to Abraham Accords Amid Israel-Hamas Conflict. The United Arab Emirates affirms its dedication to the Abraham Accords despite the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. Emirati officials emphasize the Accords’ role in fostering regional security and people-to-people engagement. They call for countering hate narratives and distinguishing between Hamas and the Palestinian population (Jerusalem Post).
  3. Qatar-Brokered Deal for Gaza Evacuations Involving Egypt, Hamas, and Israel. Qatar has mediated an agreement between Egypt, Israel, and Hamas, with U.S. coordination, to facilitate the evacuation of foreign passport holders and critically injured individuals from besieged Gaza. The agreement permits their movement through the Rafah border crossing into Egypt, although the duration of the crossing’s opening remains unspecified (Jerusalem Post).
  4. Saudi Arabia Still Interested in Normalization with Israel. According to Axios, Saudi Arabia remains interested in pursuing a normalization agreement with Israel, with a congressional delegation from the United States visiting the kingdom. The congressional delegation, led by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, was told by Saudi officials that they are still interested in a normalization deal with Israel. These statements come after a major attack by Iran-backed Hamas on Israel in October. However, Saudi Arabia has suspended talks regarding potential normalization with Israel after the outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Hamas (Alhurra).
  5. Iran-Backed Houthis Strike Israel as Hezbollah Considers Joining Conflict. Iran-supported Houthi rebels launched ballistic missiles at Israel’s Eilat, signaling their entry into the Israel-Hamas conflict. This move raises concerns of wider regional involvement. Meanwhile, Hezbollah in Lebanon contemplates a potential war declaration against Israel. The situation remains fluid, with the United States and Iran closely monitoring the developments (Iran International).
  6. International Calls for Investigation into the Death of a Yemeni Relief Worker in Houthi Detention. The organization “Save the Children” has suspended two-thirds of its programs in areas under Houthi control in Yemen following the death of Hisham Al-Hakimi, head of security and safety for the organization, during his detention in a Houthi-controlled intelligence prison. There are international demands for an immediate and independent investigation into the incident, as well as calls for the release of three United Nations staff members currently detained by the Houthis. European Union ambassadors in Yemen have also called for a swift and comprehensive disclosure of the circumstances surrounding Al-Hakimi’s death (Sharq Awsat).

November 2, 2023

  1. Saudi Arabia Launches Campaign to Aid Gaza with $13.6 Million in the First Hour. Saudi Arabia initiated a public campaign via the “Sahm” platform, part of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, to provide assistance to Palestinians in Gaza. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed donated a combined 50 million Saudi riyals (approximately $13.6 million) in the campaign’s first hour. Total contributions reached 60 million Saudi riyals (around $16 million) by early afternoon (Alkhaleej Online).
  2. Jewish Delegation in Qatar Seeks Release of Israeli Hostages. The World Jewish Congress (WJC) delegation, including Jewish leaders from the UK, France, and Switzerland, held discussions in Qatar to address the situation of 240 Israeli hostages in Gaza. WJC President Ronald Lauder emphasized the concerns of global Jewry and sought influential Arab leaders’ intervention for their unconditional release. Qatar expressed its commitment to securing their freedom, aiming for humanitarianism and regional peace. Lauder remains hopeful for positive outcomes in these engagements (Jerusalem Post).
  3. Saudi Defense Minister Discusses Regional De-escalation with Blinken. Saudi Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman and his U.S. counterpart, Antony Blinken, held discussions in Washington, addressing efforts to de-escalate regional tensions and enhancing strategic relations. The U.S. reaffirmed the importance of Saudi Arabia in maintaining regional security and stability, particularly during the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict and the potential for regional escalation (Alarabiya).
  4. Houthis Enhance Missile Capabilities with Iranian Support. Houthi rebels in Yemen have improved their missile arsenal with Iranian guidance, boasting advanced precision-guided rockets and long-range missiles. They now pose a potential threat to Israel’s airspace, as well as regional stability amid ongoing conflicts, as recently seen with intensified rocket attacks in the Gaza Strip (i24).
  5. Houthis Vow to Continue Rocket and Drone Attacks on Israel. Houthi rebels have announced launching a significant batch of drones and rockets at various targets in Israel in response to ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza. The Houthi spokesperson, Yahya Saree, stated they would persist with these attacks until Israel halts its offensive in Gaza, further escalating regional tensions (Alhadath).

November 3, 2023

  1. UAE Warns of Gaza Conflict Spreading Regionally, Presses for Ceasefire. The UAE has warned of a real danger of the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza spreading to the region and is working tirelessly to ensure a humanitarian ceasefire. The State Minister, Noura Al Kaabi, emphasized the need to reduce tensions in the region and prevent further escalation. She also expressed concerns about the potential for extremist groups to exploit the situation for their ideological agendas (Alarabiya).
  2. Gulf Stock Markets Rise After U.S. Interest Rate Hold. Most Gulf stock markets closed higher on Thursday as risk appetite returned following the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to keep interest rates unchanged. Analysts focused on Jerome Powell’s statement that raising interest rates over the next 20 months would likely slow the economy after a “massive” jump in U.S. GDP in the third quarter, leaving the door open for further rate hikes if necessary. Gulf countries, including the UAE, closely monitor the Federal Reserve’s policy due to their currencies’ peg to the U.S. dollar (SNA Business).
  3. Houthi Requests Rocket Delivery Service to Israel, and Activists Mock. A member of Yemen’s Houthi group, Mahdi al-Bokheeti, sparked a social media reaction by calling on Saudi Arabia to allow the group’s rockets to reach Israel. His statement highlights tensions between the Houthis, Saudi Arabia, and Israel amidst ongoing conflicts in the region. Netizens humorously questioned if the rocket was headed to Jazan or Tel Aviv and suggested he double-checked the destination (CNN Arabic).

November 6, 2023

  1. Saudi Arabia Rejects Gaza Forced Displacement, Discusses Humanitarian Aid with Blinken. Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan discussed efforts to halt military escalation in Gaza and provide humanitarian aid at an Arab-American meeting. He emphasized Saudi Arabia’s firm rejection of forced displacement of Gaza residents and condemned targeting civilians and vital infrastructure (Sharq Awsat).
  2. Saudi Arabia Summons Major U.S. Aircraft Carriers to Yemeni Coast. In a move coinciding with escalating tensions amid Riyadh’s alignment with Israel, Saudi Arabia has summoned major U.S. aircraft carriers to the western coast of Yemen. The aircraft carrier “Eisenhower” transited the Suez Canal en route to the Red Sea. This development comes amidst increased missile attacks on Israeli-held territories in Palestine by Yemeni forces. The deployment of U.S. carriers to the Red Sea raises concerns about potential actions by Yemen, including the closure of the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, a vital passageway for Gulf oil to U.S. and Israeli markets. This move also coincides with Israel’s announcement of resumed U.S.-mediated negotiations for normalization with Saudi Arabia, further linking the Yemen issue with diplomatic relations (Motabaat).
  3. Qatar Calls for Uniting Efforts to Halt Gaza War and Deliver Aid. Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, emphasized the need for regional and international diplomatic efforts to secure an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. He also stressed the importance of permanently opening the Rafah crossing for the flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza. Qatar continues its mediation efforts to release Palestinian prisoners held by Hamas, warning that ongoing airstrikes exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in the region (Aljazeera).
  4. Impending Collapse of Saudi-Houthi Ceasefire. Western sources predict the collapse of the declared ceasefire between Saudi Arabia and the Houthi militias if the latter launches attacks towards occupied Palestinian territories. Allowing Houthi missiles to reach Israel or fall over Saudi soil could undermine Saudi diplomatic efforts with Iran and the Houthi rebels. The Houthi rebels, acting as Iran’s proxies in the region, may be seeking local support and attempting to establish themselves as the dominant force in Yemen willing to challenge Israel, a country with limited popularity in the Arab world (Almashhad).

 

November 7, 2023

  1. Palestinian-Emirati Talks on Ceasing Gaza War. Hussein Al-Sheikh, the Secretary-General of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, discussed ways to cease the war in Gaza with the UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The talks also covered opening safe passages for humanitarian aid and coordinating international efforts to achieve an immediate ceasefire. The UAE is diplomatically pushing for an end to the Gaza conflict, providing humanitarian support, and establishing a field hospital in Gaza (Alkhaleej Online).
  2. Qatar Denounces Israeli Claims of Tunnels under Gaza’s Sheikh Hamad Hospital. Qatar strongly condemns Israeli military’s baseless allegations of tunnels beneath Gaza’s Sheikh Hamad Hospital, considering it an attempt to justify the targeting of civilian facilities. The hospital, funded by Qatar and supervised by the Qatari committee for Gaza’s reconstruction, provides essential medical services for civilians (Aljazeera).
  3. UAE Sets Up Field Hospital in Coordination with Israel in Southern Gaza. The UAE’s President, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, has initiated the establishment of a field hospital in Gaza as part of the “Al Faris Al Shahim 3” humanitarian campaign. The hospital, expected to have a capacity of 150 beds, will be built in coordination with Israel and offer a range of medical services, including surgery, pediatrics, dental care, and psychological support (i24).
  4. Houthi Group Announces New Drone Attack on Israel. The Yemeni Houthi group has declared launching a batch of drones targeting sensitive Israeli locations. They caused disruptions at undisclosed targets in Israel. The Houthi spokesman vowed further military operations in support of the Palestinian people against Israeli aggression in Gaza, with Israel yet to respond (Aljazeera).

November 8, 2023

  1. n the grand hallways of diplomatic deliberation, Saudi Arabia contemplates a historic decision. Saudi Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih has conveyed that the prospect of normalizing ties with Israel remains a live debate. This consideration comes even as the region grapples with the reverberations of the Gaza conflict. Minister Al-Falih advocates for a vision of peace that transcends Saudi-Israeli relations, hinting at a broader regional tapestry of reconciliation. He also stands firm against leveraging oil prices as a bargaining chip to broker a ceasefire in Gaza, signaling a commitment to diplomatic solutions over economic pressures (Gulf365).
  2. Reflecting a prioritization of regional stability, Saudi Arabia has chosen to postpone a significant international convergence. The Arab-African summit, initially set to celebrate cooperation and unity, gives way to urgent Arab League and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation meetings focused on the turbulence in Gaza. It’s a clear message that for the Kingdom, the immediate imperative is to quell the flames of conflict and pave the way for a peaceful resolution. This deferral is emblematic of Saudi Arabia’s role as a mediator and a reminder of the delicate balance it seeks to maintain amidst ongoing violence (The National News).

November 9, 2023

  1. Yemeni Houthis Down U.S. MQ-9 Drone Off Yemeni Coast. The Yemeni Houthi group has claimed responsibility for shooting down a U.S. MQ-9 military drone. U.S. officials, requesting anonymity, confirmed the incident occurred off the coast of Yemen, without specifying if it was in international airspace. The Houthis allege the drone was engaged in surveillance and espionage activities over Yemeni territorial waters. The U.S. Department of Defense acknowledged the downing of the aircraft by Houthi forces (Sky News Arabia). 
  2. Houthi Movement Vows Continued Strikes on Israel in Solidarity with Gaza. Yemen’s Houthi group has pledged to maintain its attacks on Israel until the cessation of what it describes as genocidal actions in Gaza. Following the downing of a US MQ-9 drone, which the Houthis claim was on a reconnaissance mission, the group emphasizes its commitment to supporting the Palestinians. The Houthi forces have previously targeted Israel with missiles and drones, aiming at sensitive locations. The National Salvation Government in Sanaa echoes this sentiment, considering it a duty to oppose the Israeli operations in Gaza (MEMO). 
  3. U.S. Ramps Up Diplomatic Actions to Mitigate Yemen. The U.S. is proactively seeking to mitigate the conflict in Yemen to avert a potential regional escalation, coordinating with Omani representatives to bolster a UN-led political dialogue aimed at establishing peace. With the Gaza conflict’s potential expansion causing concern, the State Department has issued a cautionary notice to Americans in the Middle East and has imposed travel restrictions to several countries, including Yemen, due to increased safety threats. Despite the ongoing Israel-Gaza hostilities, Oman persists with its mediation, while the U.S. envoy to Yemen stresses the critical need to preserve the momentum of the Yemeni peace process (Balqees).
  4. Saudi Arabia to Host Three Summits on Gaza War. Saudi Arabia announces hosting two emergency summits for Arab and Islamic nations to address the Gaza war and a third summit for African countries, aiming for a peaceful resolution. The dates are yet to be determined. Iranian President Raisi plans to attend the Islamic summit, marking his first visit to Riyadh since the recent reconciliation between the two nations, mediated by China (i24).
  5. British Foreign Secretary Visits Saudi Arabia for Gaza Diplomacy. UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly visits Saudi Arabia to enhance diplomatic efforts on the Gaza and southern Israel conflict. High-level talks aim to prevent escalation and work towards a two-state solution. Cleverly emphasizes the UK’s commitment to preventing crises, increasing humanitarian aid to Gaza, and condemns settler violence, urging accountability for a peaceful resolution (Sharq Awsat).
  6. Saudi Arabia Announces Failure of Juba Talks on Sudan’s War. Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and the African Union’s “IGAD” disclosed the Sudanese army and paramilitary forces failed to agree on a ceasefire during the Juba 2 talks. Despite the impasse, both sides commit to facilitating humanitarian aid and confidence-building measures. The statement emphasizes commitments to address obstacles to aid delivery and encourages media de-escalation, urging an end to hostilities (Al Seyassah).
  7. Unified Gulf Visa and Drug Control Strategy Adopted. Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have approved a unified tourist visa to facilitate movement among member states and launched a comprehensive strategy to combat drug abuse. The ministers also honored winners of the Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz Security Research Award and discussed the application of artificial intelligence in the security sector (Alkhaleej Online).

November 10, 2023

  1. 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).  
  2. 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).

November 14, 2023

  1. Al-Houthi Announces New Operation in Occupied Territories. Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, leader of the Ansar Allah movement, disclosed a recent operation in the occupied territories, executed by the missile force and unmanned weapons of the Sanaa forces. Critiquing the Arab-Islamic summit in Riyadh for mere verbal demands, he emphasized the Yemeni people’s readiness to support Gaza, noting the impact of Sana’a’s stance on Israeli maritime operations in the Red Sea (Yemen News).
  2. US Envoy to Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, Embarks on Gulf Tour. Timothy Lenderking, the US special envoy to Yemen, is set to visit Arab Gulf states this week, as announced by the US State Department. His agenda includes meetings with partners from Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE, and other international stakeholders, focusing on discussions to secure a permanent ceasefire in the region (Al Sharq News). 
  3. Dubai Air Show Sees Billions in New Aircraft Deals. The Dubai Air Show, a leading global aviation event, has kicked off with the announcement of new aircraft purchase agreements totaling tens of billions of dollars, signaling a robust recovery of the aviation sector from the Covid-19 pandemic. Key deals include Emirates Airlines’ $52 billion agreement for 95 Boeing 777-9, 777-8, and 787 planes, Flydubai’s $11 billion contract for 30 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, Sun Express’s order for 45 737 MAX aircraft with options for 45 more, and EgyptAir’s deal for 18 Boeing 737 MAX planes through a leasing arrangement with Air Lease Corporation (Sky News Arabia). 
  4. Algeria and China Explore Strengthening Military and Security Ties. Algeria and China are in discussions to enhance their military and security cooperation. This development was revealed during a meeting between Lieutenant General Said Chengriha, Chief of Staff of the Algerian People’s National Army, and Lieutenant General Liu Xinli, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Chinese Central Military Commission, as part of Chengriha’s official visit to China. The meeting, which focused on various issues of mutual interest, was reported by the Algerian Ministry of National Defense (Bahrain News Agency). 

November 15, 2023

  1. Qatar Mediates Potential Israel-Hamas Deal for Hostage Release and Ceasefire. Qatar is actively mediating a potential agreement between Israel and Hamas, aiming for the release of about 50 civilian hostages from Gaza and a three-day ceasefire. The proposed deal, involving coordination with the US, also includes the release of Palestinian women and children from Israeli jails and an increase in humanitarian aid to Gaza. While Hamas has agreed in principle, Israel is still negotiating the details (Jerusalem Post).
  2. Houthi Group Launches Ballistic Missiles at Israel, Threatens Israeli Ships in Red Sea. The Yemeni Houthi group, Ansar Allah, fired ballistic missiles at Israel, including Eilat, amid the Israeli-Gaza conflict. Houthi leader Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi threatens Israeli ships in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab. Israel’s “Arrow” defense system intercepted a Red Sea missile in response, heightening regional tensions. Source of the projectile remains undisclosed (Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya). 

November 17, 2023

  1. Saudi-CARICOM Summit Paves the Way for Strategic Partnership. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman led the inaugural Saudi-CARICOM summit in Riyadh, marking a significant step in strengthening relations. The leaders discussed common interests, emphasizing cooperation and sustainable development. They issued a joint statement focusing on peace, stability, and prosperity, with plans for enhanced cooperation in areas such as education, health, tourism, and investment. The summit also welcomed Saudi Arabia’s Green Middle East Initiative and set the stage for future collaboration, with a follow-up summit planned for 2026. The trade exchange between Saudi Arabia and CARICOM countries in 2023 is expected to exceed 203 million Saudi riyals (Asharq).
  2. French Minister of Armed Forces Engages in Diplomatic Talks in Qatar. French Minister Sébastien LeCournot held discussions with Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani in Doha. They discussed enhancing cooperation between France and Qatar as part of LeCournot’s regional tour, which includes Gulf countries, Egypt, and Israel. The talks follow his recent meeting in Riyadh with Saudi Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman and are taking place amid ongoing Israeli aggression in Gaza and concerns about Western bias in favor of Israel in the region (Khaleej Online).
  3. Multiple Migrant Boat Tragedies Off Yemen’s Coast. Two separate incidents off Yemen’s coast have resulted in significant loss of life among African migrants. The first incident involved a boat carrying 75 migrants, primarily from the Horn of Africa, sinking near Mokha, with 26 rescued and 49 missing. The second, a boat carrying around 90 migrants, including 60 women, capsized off Yemen’s coast en route from Djibouti, leaving over 64 feared dead. These tragedies underscore the perilous journey migrants undertake to reach Yemen, often aiming for the Gulf region, and highlight the urgent need for safer migration pathways (Al Hadath).

November 20, 2023

Galaxy Leader Hijacking: Divergent Views on Houthi Rebels’ Bold Move.

The recent hijacking of the ‘Galaxy Leader’ by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea, a cargo ship owned by a British company and operated under a Japanese flag, marks a significant escalation in regional tensions. This audacious act, aligned with the Houthis’ threats against Israeli or Israeli-affiliated vessels. Despite Israeli Defence Forces confirming no Israeli citizens were onboard, the incident has sparked international alarm, raising the stakes for maritime security in a critical global shipping lane. The Houthi group’s claim of responsibility, framing it as a retaliatory act against perceived Israeli aggression, were reported to have used a helicopter to seize a Japanese cargo ship in the southern Red Sea. 

In an Al Arabiya TV interview, contrasting views on the ‘Galaxy Leader’ incident were discussed. Dr. Hossein Royoran, a Tehran political science professor, denied Iranian involvement, attributing the attack to Houthi rebels reacting to Gaza’s crisis. He criticized the global community’s stance on arms support, seeing the seizure as a warning to Israel and the U.S., not an escalation sign. Jonathan Gilliam, a New York-based expert, argued Iran’s indirect involvement through Houthi support, suggesting broader conflict intentions. Royoran, on the other hand, cited Q88.com records affirming the ship’s Israeli ownership, declaring it ‘legitimate targets’. Gilliam concluded the discussion by assuring the audience of the United States’ resolve to prevent such incidents in the future. Referring to the ongoing conflict in Gaza and the uncertainties surrounding it, he suggested that continued aggression in the Red Sea might prompt direct U.S. military action against Iran, termed as the ‘Head of the Snake.’

November 21, 2023

Can Arab Nations Successfully Lead Global Efforts for Gaza Peace and Ceasefire? The Arab-Islamic ministerial committee’s decision to initiate their diplomatic tour for a Gaza ceasefire in China and Russia presents a complex and somewhat paradoxical scenario in the realm of international diplomacy. This choice raises critical questions about the alignment of values and objectives, especially considering the current global context. China, as a starting point for the initiative, is a significant global player with substantial diplomatic influence. However, China’s human rights record, particularly concerning the Uyghur Muslim population, casts a shadow over its role as a mediator in a conflict deeply rooted in religious and ethnic tensions. The treatment of Uyghur Muslims contradicts the principles of religious freedom and human rights, essential elements in any peace process in the Middle East. This contradiction might lead to skepticism about China’s commitment to impartiality and justice in the Gaza conflict. Similarly, Russia‘s involvement, demonstrated by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hosting a meeting with Arab foreign ministers, adds another layer of complexity. Russia’s actions in Ukraine, marked by widespread condemnation for the humanitarian crisis, bring into question its role as a peacemaker. The Arab world’s pursuit of peace in Gaza through Russian mediation might appear incongruous, given Russia’s current military engagements and their humanitarian implications.

Three Years Post-Delisting, Houthis Challenge U.S. with Red Sea Confrontation. The recent seizure of the “Galaxy Leader” ship by the Houthi group in the Red Sea has intensified regional tensions, posing a significant challenge to the current U.S. administration’s approach towards the group. Notably, this administration’s first executive order upon taking office was to delist the Houthis from the terrorist list and halt sanctions, a decision now under scrutiny in light of recent events. A Pentagon official emphasized the seizure as a threat to navigation freedom, implicating Iran’s involvement and asserting that it contravenes international law. In a bold statement, the Houthi group has warned against foreign intervention in Yemeni waters, asserting their control over the western coast and readiness to use missiles and weapons in defense. Moreover, the group has vowed continuous attacks aimed at Israel’s “demise,” declaring their autonomy from Iranian influence and willingness to confront the U.S. The situation has become a litmus test for the U.S. administration, balancing its initial diplomatic approach with the need to respond to the Houthis’ aggressive actions and their implications for regional stability and international maritime security.

November 23, 2023

  1. Qatar Announces Imminent Ceasefire in Gaza. Qatar’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Majed Al-Ansari, anticipates the announcement of a ceasefire in Gaza in the coming hours. Talks on the humanitarian truce between Hamas and Israel are progressing positively, with efforts from Qatar, Egypt, and the United States. The ceasefire involves a temporary exchange of prisoners and is expected to begin within 24 hours (Aljazeera).
  2. Saudi and U.S. Foreign Ministers Discuss Gaza Crisis. Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan received a call from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, addressing ways to halt the dangerous military escalation in Gaza. They emphasized the need for a humanitarian ceasefire agreement, discussed efforts for delivering aid to prevent a worsening humanitarian crisis, and strongly opposed forced displacement in Gaza. Bin Farhan called for international action against Israeli violations of international law and humanitarian principles, urging ethical responsibility to uphold legitimate international decisions (Al Nahar).
  3. Gulf States Break Records with $178.6 Billion Projects. Gulf Cooperation Council nations set a record with $178.6 billion in contracts since the start of 2023, surpassing the 2014 record. Saudi Arabia and the UAE exceeded previous records, contributing to the total. The sector’s heightened activity is attributed to oil prices, Saudi Vision 2030, Dubai real estate revival, and long-awaited projects in gas and petrochemicals. The market anticipates surpassing $185 billion by year-end, maintaining momentum into the next year (Alkhaleej Online).
  4. Positive Signs for Israeli-Saudi Talks. The U.S. National Security Council spokesperson, John Kirby, indicates ongoing normalization efforts between Israel and Saudi Arabia, despite initial communication halt. Kirby highlights “positive signals” for continued negotiations, addressing both the Israeli-Saudi relationship and efforts to secure the release of all Israeli captives. Kirby emphasizes the U.S.’s commitment to supporting Israel in the face of existential threats (i24).
  5. Houthi Group Launches Missiles at Eilat, Israel Intercepts. Houthi Group Houthi Group Escalates Hostilities with Israel, Launching Missiles and Seizing Vessels. Yemen’s Houthi rebels have intensified their aggression against Israel, marking a significant escalation in regional tensions. A Houthi spokesperson declared the launch of missiles at military targets in Israel’s Eilat, with Israel intercepting a cruise missile. This attack is part of a broader pattern of hostility, following the Houthi’s recent seizure of an Israeli-owned ship. Yemeni naval forces, aligned with the Houthis, persist in targeting Israeli ships and have advised companies against engaging with Israeli vessels. The region has seen a surge in Houthi drone and missile attacks on Israel lately.
    Adding to the tensions, the Houthi group has issued a severe warning, identifying Red Sea shipping, especially Israeli-affiliated vessels, as “legitimate targets.” This follows their capture of an Israel-linked cargo ship in the Bab al-Mandab Strait, emphasizing their intent to target any ship associated with Israel in this strategic waterway.
    Further compounding the situation, a Houthi commander was recently filmed aboard the hijacked vessel Galaxy Leader, reassuring the crew. The hijacking, a direct response to Israel’s actions in Gaza, targeted a vessel linked to an Israeli business figure. Japan is leading negotiations for the ship’s release. The Houthi-controlled port of Hodeidah presents strategic challenges, and Iran’s backing of Houthi forces heightens concerns over regional maritime security. This series of aggressive actions by the Houthis adds a complex and dangerous layer to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East (Aljazeera, New Arab, Maritime Executive).

November 24, 2023

  1. U.S. Destroyer Thwarts Houthi Attack After Eilat Targeting. The U.S. destroyer Thomas Hudner intercepted multiple Houthi attack drones originating from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, preventing an assault in the Red Sea. The Central Command stated that the drones were neutralized while the American destroyer was on patrol. The incident followed Houthi missile strikes on Israeli military targets in Eilat, with the group vowing to continue military operations until Israeli aggression against Gaza and the West Bank ceases.

November 27, 2023

U.S. Navy Recovers Hijacked Tanker, Evades Yemeni Missiles; Eisenhower Arrives in Gulf. The U.S. Navy intervened in the hijacking of the Central Park, a Liberian-flagged tanker managed by Zodiac Maritime, in the Gulf of Aden near Yemen. The vessel, associated with Israel, was seized by armed individuals and subsequently recovered by U.S. forces. Concurrently, two ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, narrowly missing a U.S. naval ship involved in the operation. The presence of the U.S. Navy in the region, including the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, is part of ongoing efforts to ensure maritime security in these strategic waters. In related news, Yemen’s Houthi rebels have affirmed their decision to close the Red Sea to Israeli ships despite the recent Gaza ceasefire, signaling a continuation of their assertive stance.

Biden’s Diplomacy and Hamas: A Barrier to Saudi-Israeli Normalization? President Biden’s suggestion that U.S. diplomacy influenced Hamas’s operations in Israel, aimed at disrupting the Saudi-Israel normalization, intertwines with complex Middle Eastern geopolitics, highlighting America’s significant regional influence. Concurrently, Saudi Arabia proposes a post-ceasefire plan for Gaza, advocating a demilitarized Palestinian state and leading reconstruction, signaling a strategic shift in its stance towards Israel. This shift is underscored by a critical development: “The Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has already blocked the phone numbers of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and all his aides and envoys,” sources close to the palace reveal. This decisive action emphasizes the Crown Prince’s intention to seek new Israeli partners for normalization after resolving the Palestinian issue, marking a significant recalibration of Saudi-Israeli relations.Israel’s withdrawal from the Mediterranean Regional Forum, as Saudi Arabia emphasizes the need for a lasting Gaza ceasefire and a credible peace plan, reflects the fluid nature of regional alliances. The Gulf markets’ response to fluctuating oil prices amidst these diplomatic shifts illustrates the tight linkage between regional politics and economic stability. Saudi Arabia’s resilience in market trends amidst geopolitical uncertainties showcases its economic robustness. This intricate web of diplomatic overtures, strategic recalibrations, and economic factors continues to shape the dynamic narrative of Middle Eastern geopolitics, particularly in the context of the Saudi-Israel normalization process and Biden’s regional diplomacy. The recent statements by the Egyptian president, proposing a Palestinian state, and Israel’s rejection of this proposal, further complicate the regional dialogue, indicating the ongoing complexity and sensitivity of these evolving relationships.

November 28, 2023

  1. CIA Director in Qatar for Hamas-Israel Ceasefire Expansion Talks.  Israeli Mossad and CIA directors held a meeting with the Qatari Prime Minister in Doha to discuss extending the Israel-Hamas ceasefire for 48 hours and explore broader agreements. The talks, also attended by Egyptian officials, centered on a potential wide-ranging exchange, including the release of Israeli soldiers held by Hamas. The ceasefire extension depended on ongoing hostage releases, possibly including the first-time release of some Israeli men. Israel expressed readiness for further extensions with additional hostage releases. Concurrently, CIA Director William Burns met with Israeli intelligence chief David Barnea in Doha, aiming to expand negotiations in secret talks in Qatar, mediated by intelligence officials and Qatar’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani. The focus was on including the release of male prisoners, moving beyond the initial focus on women and children, with discussions addressing the ceasefire extension and the potential release of American detainees held by Hamas in Gaza
  2. Saudi Crown Prince and Zelensky Discuss Ukrainian Crisis. Ukrainian President Zelensky and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held a phone call to discuss the latest developments in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Bin Salman affirmed Saudi support for international efforts to politically resolve the crisis. The leaders also reviewed bilateral relations and common interests. The call follows Saudi-hosted consultations in August involving national security advisors from various countries on the Ukrainian crisis (Alkhaleej Online).
  3. Yemen’s Strategic Moves: Prisoner Exchange Standoff, Gaza Warning, and Red Sea Impact on Israel.  Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a Houthi leader, urges Saudi Arabia to prioritize a comprehensive Yemeni prisoner exchange, accusing them of hindering negotiations. Al-Houthi also warns of an alleged Israeli plot in Gaza, cautioning Palestinians about hidden motives behind aid restrictions. Additionally, the Yemeni armed forces’ decision to close the Red Sea to Israeli ships has heightened insurance premiums, impacting 70% of Israel’s food imports and exacerbating the crisis for the Zionist entity.

November 29, 2023

  1. Riyadh Wins Bid to Host Expo 2030. Riyadh secures an overwhelming victory over Rome and Busan to host Expo 2030, with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman promising an unprecedented event aligned with Saudi Vision 2030. The International Exhibitions Bureau announced the Saudi capital’s win with 119 votes in the secret electronic ballot of 180 member countries. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan emphasized the Kingdom’s global standing and expressed commitment to redefine international expos with an inclusive approach.
  2. Saudi Offer to Iran on Hamas and War: What Are the Details? Saudi Arabia reportedly proposed enhanced cooperation and economic investment to Iran, contingent on Tehran and its regional proxies refraining from escalating the conflict between Israel and Hamas. The proposal, made following Hamas’s attack on Israel, was conveyed directly and through various channels. While the seriousness of Iran’s response remains unclear, the Saudis emphasize de-escalation, expressing concerns about Iran’s support for armed groups in the Arab world. The initiative was discussed during a meeting between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the recent Arab-Islamic summit in Riyadh.
  3. Israel Warns Qatar: Cooperation Now, Accountability Later. A senior Israeli official stated that Israel currently needs Qatar’s support for the Israeli detainees in Gaza but will hold Qatar accountable later for backing Hamas. Israel’s efforts to monitor financial transfers to Hamas were discussed, emphasizing the focus on reducing the impact of debts. The official underscored that Israel would pursue anyone supporting Hamas, mentioning Qatar specifically, even if they currently play a positive role in the detainee issue.
  4. G7 Supports Gaza Ceasefire Extension, Urges Houthis to Halt Maritime Threats. G7 foreign ministers endorse the extension of the current Gaza ceasefire and future truces, urging increased aid and facilitating the release of prisoners. They also call on Yemen’s Houthi rebels to cease maritime threats and release the crew of a seized ship in the Red Sea. The ministers emphasize the importance of safeguarding civilians, adhering to international law, and committing to a two-state solution in Israel-Palestine. The statement follows Qatar’s announcement of a ceasefire extension, brokered with U.S. and Egyptian involvement.

November 30, 2023

  1. Israeli Shipping Company Reroutes from Suez Canal. The Israeli shipping company Zim has decided to reroute its vessels away from the Suez Canal due to heightened tensions in the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea. This move follows recent incidents, including the attack on an Israeli-owned container ship in the Indian Ocean and the detention of the “Galaxy Leader” by the Yemeni Houthi group. The Houthis have repeatedly threatened to target ships linked to Israeli companies, raising security and cost concerns for maritime trade. The diversion of ships from the Suez Canal, a crucial route overseeing 10% of global maritime trade, signifies increased operational costs and possible delays for Israeli and international shipping companies.
  2. Saudi Arabia’s Global Oil and Gas Investment Exposed. The Guardian’s investigation reveals Saudi Arabia’s extensive plan to boost global demand for oil and gas, particularly in developing countries. Critics argue this strategy aims to create dependency on harmful fossil fuels. Despite limited public information, the plan reportedly includes increasing fossil fuel-powered transportation in Africa and promoting high fuel-consuming supersonic air travel. This strategy aligns with Saudi Arabia’s economic interests but contrasts with global climate commitments and renewable energy potential in regions like Africa.

 

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