This section serves as a list of brief and important updates related to the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean. Content is collected via open sources, cross-checked and subsequently re-shared here. All content is handpicked by the EastMed & MidEast Observatory Team.

1US pressure on Israel to act on the Gaza war and the Rafah attack (10 May 2024)
The US, being Israel's closest ally since the beginning of the war against Hamas, has been providing $3.8 billion in military aid each year, with the latest appropriation released by Congress amounting to an additional $14 billion in aid. Fearing the plague inside the Gaza Strip and civilians dying, the US gradually put more and more pressure on Israel to cease fire and provide humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians. The pressure, in addition to public statements by officials, was seen with the US no longer vetoing UN resolutions condemning Israel. Another strong pressure on Israel from the US is the delay in sending ammunition, something that is happening for the first time. Analyses of why the US chose to put actual pressure on Israel vary. Initially, the bombs that would be sent to Israel could be used in Rafah, and this would have devastating consequences for civilians in urban areas. Another reason is the diplomatic pressure on Israel to compromise in the talks in Egypt with the goal of signing a ceasefire agreement. Finally, one more reason that can explain this pressure towards Israel is the upcoming US elections. US involvement in the war with Hamas does not help Biden's popularity, as polls show that young Democratic voters do not intend to vote for him because of his involvement in the war.

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2Rumours of an alliance between Arab States and Israel against Iran (26 April 2024)
After the attack by Iran against Israel on April 13, there are strong rumours about the involvement of the Arab states in favour of Israel. With the signing of the Abrahamic Accords by Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, and Bahrain at the White House in 2020, possibilities for peace and economic development emerged for the states involved. On the night of Iran's attack on Israel, with the launch of more than 300 missiles and drones, Jordan continued to intercept, allowing military aircraft of Israel's allies to enter its internal space. The Jordanians' explanation for their consent was that it was to defend their sovereignty. Washington Post columnist David Ignatius said that "Israel is a leader of a regional coalition against Iran"... "where in that coalition Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Jordan provided quiet help in bringing down." Despite the above view, Arab leaders are reluctant to openly show support for Israel because of the various protests that have erupted during the war with Hama. In addition to the rumours of the involvement of the Arab States in providing information to the US about the Iranian attack, Saudi Arabia and the UAE explicitly deny the opposite direct military contribution to Israel. The Gulf Arab States, Egypt, and Jordan are looking to the US for help in curbing Iran's activities, hoping for a peace plan to prevent a regional war.

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3The day after Iran attacked Israel and the prompts of the international community (17 April 2024)
Iran's drone and missile attacks on Israel further escalate the situation in the Middle East. On the occasion of the bombing of the Iranian Embassy in Damascus and the killing of officers, Iran launched an air attack on Israel, which was almost completely repelled by Israel's anti-aircraft system with the help of the US, Britain, France, and Jordan. In the aftermath of the attack, the international community is concerned about Israel's retaliation against Iran for fear of possible escalation. Israel's allies calling for a de-escalation of the situation are urging a non-immediate response or attack towards Iran. The US has made it clear it will not get involved in a possible Israeli counterattack on Iran as the G7 group, chaired by Italy, prepares sanctions against Iran and individuals. Also, Russia, despite its close ties with Iran, expresses its concern for a possible escalation of tensions in the region.

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4Israel's Gaza ceasefire proposal collapses (9 April 2024)
During the talks that took place in Cairo, Egypt, Hamas rejected an Israeli proposal for a ceasefire with US officials present. The presence of American officials shows the intense pressure Israel is under from the US for a cease-fire agreement that would release civilians and provide humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians. The political office of Hamas rejected Israel's proposal, considering that there is no progress. The Prime Minister of Israel announced after the talks that there is a date for the military intervention in Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of civilians and locally displaced people are sheltering.

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5Proposal for a draft resolution of the S.C. of the UN by France for a ceasefire in Gaza (4 April 2024)
France proposed a resolution for the UN Security Council that proposes an immediate ceasefire, the immediate release of the hostages held by Hamas, and massive humanitarian aid to Gaza to prevent starvation. For the long-term goal, the resolution proposes a two-state solution that will live peacefully without upheaval. The announcement of the plan mentions the need for urgency and the immediacy that the Security Council needs to show.

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6Closer relations between Russia and Iran after Putin's re-election (21 March 2024 )
Russia and Iran are signalling their intention to strengthen ties after Putin's re-election, according to an analysis by The Jerusalem Post. Iran's leader, Ebrahim Raisi, expressed hopes for further strengthening of relations between the two countries, calling for closer ties. The two countries already have close ties, with Iran supplying drones to Russia used in attacks in the war with Ukraine.The conversation between the two leaders took place after Putin's re-election, with the Iranian leader praising his unimpeded re-election. In addition, it was hoped that Putin's new term would promote relations between the two countries.Of great importance are Russia's shared beliefs in regional organisations such as the SCO and BRICS, as well as projects such as the Rasht-Astara railway.At the same time, Iran is building up its nuclear and military capabilities, as well as its drone capabilities. His ties with Russia in this area are strengthening, with their cooperation having wider implications in the Middle East. This could pose a threat to Israel, as Russia and Iran have close ties to Hamas.

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7Analysis: The landmark Turkey-Somalia defense pact was signed just weeks after Ethiopia and Somaliland's controversial Red Sea deal. (20 March 2024)
The recent defence deal between Turkey and Somalia has raised concerns about the potential for tensions in the Red Sea. This agreement strengthens Turkish influence in the region, with Turkey providing Somalia with training and equipment for its naval forces. In return, Ankara will assume the protection of Somalia's coastline and its maritime borders. The agreement is expected to have significant implications for Somalia's security and economy.After the agreement was ratified, Somalia's president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, described the Turkish presence as helping to protect territorial waters and develop the Somali navy. Adam Hussain, from Somalia's Ministry of Interior, explained that cooperation with Turkey is close because of its capacity and its strong relationship with Mogadishu (Somalia's capital). Turkey has also provided significant financial aid to Somalia and manages important infrastructure. This increase in Turkish presence in Somalia comes at a time of concern over influence and security in the Red Sea, as a memorandum of understanding was recently signed between Ethiopia and Somaliland, creating diplomatic tensions.Relations between Asmara (Eritrea's capital) and Addis Ababa (Ethiopia's capital) have reached their worst point since 2018, as Ethiopia's claims to a dominant port on the Red Sea cause Eritrea to worry about a possible invasion. These occurred during the war in Gaza and the Houthi attacks on ships in the Bab el-Madeb Strait. The US and Britain have responded with military strikes in Yemen, raising tensions in the region. Many believe the Turkey-Somalia deal strengthens Mogadishu's hand in its dispute with Addis Ababa, while Turkey maintains close relations with Ethiopia.

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8Chances of Mideast Ramadan Ceasefire Deal Diminishing (March 6, 2024)
Negotiations in Cairo to declare a truce in the framework of Ramadan seem to b e failing. With Hamas presenting its own proposal for a ceasefire and the Israeli side not taking part in the latest round of talks, Israel is demanding from Hamas a list of the names of the hostages being held as a first step towards a deal. Hamas announc es that this is a step that must be taken after the ceasefire since the hostages are being held in various places in the Gaza Strip. Despite the absence of the Israelis from the round of negotiations in Cairo, the Egyptian diplomatic team will remain in co ntact with them so that the negotiations continue and do not collapse. The US Vice President put pressure on Israel to provide more humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, urging Hamas to accept the proposal for a cease - fire agreement put forward by Israel.
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9Draft ceasefire agreement for the Gaza Strip (March 1, 2024)
Following the collapse of the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, a renewed agreement is expected within the first ten days of March. The goal of the agreement is a long-term peaceful situation in the region, with the first step being a ceasefire during Ramadan. In addition to the internal pressures faced by the Israeli Prime Minister to reach an agreement, the President of the United States has announced the possibility of an agreement by Monday, March 4. Despite the collapse of the previous 7-day agreement due to mutual accusations of violating its terms, at this stage, both sides seem to be softening their stances. The draft of the new agreement includes a ceasefire in densely populated areas, the release of hostages and prisoners, as well as the provision of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.
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10US proposes UN resolution calling for ‘temporary ceasefire’ in Gaza (19 February, 2024)
The United States has proposed a UN resolution calling for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza and advising against an Israeli attack on Rafah. This resolution aims to support the release of hostages and facilitate humanitarian aid to Gaza. Concerns are also highlighted about Israel's plans for offensives in Rafah, which could worsen the already dire humanitarian situation. In cooperation with other countries, the US has been involved in discussions about a possible truce between Israel and Hamas, as well as the exchange of hostages. This proposed resolution constitutes a significant change in language, with the US advocating a "ceasefire," a term previously opposed by Israel.
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11Leaders of Ireland and Spain ask the E.U. for an assessment of whether Israel respects human rights (February 15, 2024)
The Prime Ministers of Spain and Ireland are lobbying Israel to prevent a ground operation in Rafah. The southern region of the Gaza Strip is home to hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians due to the war between Hamas and Israel. With the UN health agency in Gaza expressing strong concerns about the consequences of a ground operation in Rafah and with many leaders urging Israel to respect human rights, the prime ministers of Spain and Ireland are trying to apply pressure through European diplomacy. In the joint letter they sent to the President of the Commission and the Head of Foreign Affairs, the leaders of the two countries requested a legal opinion on whether Israel complies with the human rights of Palestinians during wartime. A lever of pressure from Brussels towards Israel is the EU-Israel trade association agreement, which advances human rights and democratic principles.
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12The 40-year peace agreement between Israel and Egypt is at a critical point due to the developments in Rafah. (February 7, 2024)
Much of the Palestinian population was displaced south to the Rafah area due to Israeli airstrikes and ground operations. With civilians piling up in Rafah, Egypt's armed forces manned the border with tanks and armoured personnel carriers. The fortification of the Egyptians is due to the possibility that Israel will intervene in Rafah with a ground operation and push the civilians towards Egypt and the Sinai area. With Israel considering that the presence of Hamas brigades is strong in the Rafah area, the possibility of a ground operation is not ruled out. Finally, Egypt warns Israel that if the Palestinians are forced to leave their land and advance to Egypt, then the 40-year-old Camp David peace agreement of 1973 between the two countries will be threatened.
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13Three members of the U.S. military lost their lives in a drone attack in Jordan, believed to be orchestrated by Iran. (29, January, 2024)
Three U.S. service members were killed and 34 wounded in a drone attack by Iran-backed militants in northeastern Jordan near the Syrian border. President Biden stated that the attack was carried out by radical Iran-backed groups in Syria and Iraq. Iran denied involvement, citing a conflict between U.S. forces and regional resistance groups. The attack marks a significant escalation in tensions in the Middle East.
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14Israel-Gaza war: IDF says 24 killed in Gaza in one day (January 22, 2024)
On Monday, January 22, the deadliest blow to the Israeli army during its ground operation in the Gaza Strip against Hamas, which listed 24 reserve losses in an attempt by them to enable the safe return of the residents of southern Israel following the evacuation that had taken place following the 7 October Hamas attack. The chief spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said a rocket-propelled grenade likely hit a tank and the subsequent explosions in nearby buildings may have been caused by mines planted by Israeli forces. The details of the incident are under investigation.
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15USA and Britain: Fired against the Houthis in Yemen (January 12, 2024)
In response to Houthi attacks on Israeli ships in the Red Sea to express their "disapproval" of the events taking place in Gaza against the Palestinians, the US and Britain bombed the Yemeni capital Sanaa this morning, sending the message that they are not going to allow other actors to undermine free navigation. In fact, the president of the USA, Biden stated that he is willing to take any measure to ensure the integrity of shipping.
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16Assassination of one of the leaders of Hamas (03 January 2024)
Hamas second-in-command Saleh al-Arouri and two armed forces chiefs were killed in an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon. Israel did not comment on the matter, but unnamed US officials did; they say Israel was behind the strike. Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad vowed punishment for the attack that killed Saleh al-Arouri. Saleh al-Arouri was elected deputy chairman of the political team in 2017 and was the founder of the military wing of the Qassam Brigades.

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17Israel's perplexed Gaza strategy: Time to make tough decisions (21 December 2023)
Over 20,000 Palestinians have been killed as a result of Israel's military operation in Gaza, many of them are youngsters. According to the UN, about 20% of prewar structures have been destroyed, and more than half of Gazans are suffering from acute hunger, unemployment has grown to 85%, and illness is rising. However, Israel's objectives in Gaza are larger and more strategic than causing suffering to Palestinians. The Gaza war differs from many past battles in that there is no single fixed goal. Instead, a more or less clear set of objectives is emerging: Israel wants to destroy Hamas, arrest or murder its leaders, devastate its military capabilities, and terminate its rule in Gaza. It wants the return of hostages seized on October 7, the prevention of another assault, notably by Hezbollah, Iran's proxy in Lebanon, and the maintenance of international backing, particularly from the US. Israel's reaction to the assaults has been erratic, yielding varied outcomes. Israelis think they cannot return to a pre-October 7 environment in which Hamas remains hostile and intact over the border in Gaza. They are concerned that Iran's proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, may strike Israel as well, utilizing a significantly larger rocket arsenal and far more capable militants to execute a far more destructive attack on Israel's north. Over 200,000 Israelis have evacuated locations bordering Gaza and Lebanon since October 7. To regain popular trust, Israeli authorities have sworn to completely destroy Hamas. In practice, however, defeating Hamas might entail a variety of things. The group's massive size and ability to blend in with the populace make eradication difficult, especially without murdering a large number of Palestinian civilians. Israel may be able to kill enough members, particularly commanders and veteran soldiers, to devastate the group's military capabilities, making it harder to fight and conduct operations against Israel. Hamas represents an ideology that will be much more difficult to eradicate. Muqawama, or resistance, holds that the only way to destroy Israel (and the US) is via constant armed action, a belief shared by Hezbollah and Iran. If Israel destroys Hamas only to be replaced by a powerful new group with the same ethos, Israel will have just replaced one opponent with another. A very separate component of dismantling Hamas is its long-term replacement as Gaza's government. There has been little movement on this issue, and the situation for Israel is worse than it was on October 7.

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18Gaza Strip Ceasefire (November 22, 2023)
Qatar's proposal for a partial cease-fire in the Gaza Strip has managed to convince both sides of the war, Israel and Hamas, to declare a four-day truce. The purpose of the truce is the exchange of prisoners. Qatar's foreign ministry describes the ceasefire as the first step that will lead to a long-term solution to the problem. The failure of the United Nations and Western countries to plan policies that will normalize the situation is resolved by Qatar after weeks of intense negotiations between those directly involved. According to Hamas, 150 women and children of Palestinian descent will be released from Israel, and humanitarian aid will be allowed to enter through Rafah. As part of the agreed framework for the ceasefire, it is envisaged that ground operations will be completely halted, airstrikes in southern Gaza will be suspended, and airstrikes will be reduced to six hours per twenty-four hours in northern Gaza in exchange for the release of the 50 Israelis women and children held by Hamas. Israel said that for every additional 10 Israelis released by Hamas, the ceasefire would be extended for 24 hours. Qatar's role as a mediator between the diplomatic missions of the two countries was crucial. Qatar's goal was to de-escalate tensions in the negotiations, with the ultimate goal of protecting civilians.

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19What the Gaza Conflict Means for Saudi Arabia (8 November 2023)
Hamas has halted negotiations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which would have normalized relations and elicited Israeli pledges on the Palestinian issue. This has put Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) in an awkward position as he seeks regional peace to diversify the Saudi economy and lessen its reliance on oil exports. The battle has also put MBS under pressure to take the lead in post-Hamas Gaza and help Palestinians. The Biden administration had made significant headway in brokering Saudi recognition of Israel before Hamas's surprise attack on Israel. However, the Palestinian problem presented a challenge as Arab publics continue to support the Palestinian cause. Saudi Arabia stated that normalization would require Israel to take significant steps on the Palestinian issue. To reach an agreement with Riyadh, Israel would have to go above and beyond what it did in the run-up to the Abraham Accords, a series of normalization accords between Israel and Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates set to take effect in 2020-21. Saudi Arabia's readiness to accept a deal with Israel reflects a larger change in its foreign policy, often aimed at opposing its arch-rival, Iran. As a result, Riyadh has altered its regional strategy, stressing dialogue and the pursuit of stability. Diplomatic talks have begun, with some suggestions requesting Saudi Arabia deploy military and administrative staff to manage Gaza following the battle. Saudi Arabia may be prepared to contribute financially to a UN-approved transitional government that leads to the reinstatement of Palestinian Authority rule in Gaza. However, this position would not be like previous Saudi assistance accords, which were essentially cash dumps on preferred clients. The Gaza situation is likely to end, putting further Middle Eastern diplomatic attempts on hold. Israel wants a stronger connection with Saudi Arabia, and Saudis want to profit from Israel's vibrant economy. If the United States refocuses on Israeli-Saudi diplomacy, it must consider the expense of new military deployments and the heightened risk of nuclear weapons proliferation.

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20The Israel-Hamas Conflict Enters a 'Fresh Stage': Anticipated Developments (31 October 2023)

Israel has entered a new phase in the war against Hamas in Gaza, with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) increasing its ground operations within the strip. The densely populated and built-up Gaza region presents challenges to the IDF, as it may need to break up its forces, making them vulnerable to small groups of Hamas gunmen. The rubble created by Israeli bombing also offers opportunities for small groups of fighters to find cover, set up sniper positions, and plant booby traps. Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since 2007, has long prepared for an Israeli invasion, collocating military supplies and assets in civilian facilities and building a vast tunnel network. Hamas fighters may use these tunnels to ambush Israeli forces or capture more hostages. Israel aims to destroy Hamas, which in practice means killing its leaders, but they are difficult to find and destroy from the air. Israel has faced challenges in targeting Hamas and other leaders in Gaza, with over 200 hostages taken by the group. This complicates the fighting, as many Hamas leaders do not live in Gaza but spend their days in safer locations in countries like Qatar, Turkey, and Lebanon. The high Israeli death toll from Hamas's Oct. 7 attack may change this calculus, as Israel tries to balance the civilian toll with the risk to its troops and the likelihood that Hamas is mixing fighters and military assets among the civilian population. Israel has denied fuel, electricity, and other civilian necessities to Gaza, creating a massive humanitarian crisis. If Israel fails to provide aid and wag war in the same area, the already-high human cost will skyrocket, with children, older adults, and other noncombatants paying the price. Israeli leaders must also consider international, and especially U.S., opinion. Many Arab leaders privately loathe Hamas and would be delighted if Israel destroyed it. However, their publics are pleased that Israel has been hit hard and outraged at the destruction that Israel is raining down on Gaza. U.S. officials are concerned about the risk to American hostages and the danger that the conflict will spread throughout the region and threaten U.S. forces and allies. A broader war involving Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed groups would pose a grave threat to Israel, increase the risk of international terrorism, and implicate many U.S. interests. Israel will face even more fundamental challenges when seeking to end military operations, such as who or what would take its place. Polls show that Hamas is not popular, but its Palestinian rivals lack the military assets and social and economic networks that Hamas has in Gaza.

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21Could the conflict in Gaza spark a broader war in the Middle East? (19 October 2023)

The Israel-Hamas war began as a limited conflict between Israel and Hamas, with Israel, Iran, and the United States each having reasons to avoid an expanded war. Israel has its military response in Gaza, Iran likely wants to avert a potential clash with the United States, and Washington is not interested in a destabilizing regional conflict that would disrupt oil markets, fuel extremism, and draw attention from the war in Ukraine. Iran's most important regional ally, Hezbollah, faces its own challenges in Lebanon, where a new war with Israel could deepen the country's political and economic crises. The wider neighborhood also has little interest in seeing this war escalate, as Arab states such as Jordan and Egypt already face acute socio-economic problems, which would be exacerbated by the arrival of refugees. For countries in the Gulf, an expanded war would disrupt their ambitious economic development projects; it could also impede their efforts to repair frayed regional relationships and end ongoing conflicts in Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Gaza already faces a severe humanitarian crisis amid unprecedented Israeli bombing and expectations of a ground incursion, and large parts of Israel are the targets of regular missile attacks. However, the magnitude of Hamas's attacks and the realities on the ground as war unfolded in Gaza were already changing key actors' strategic calculations, making regional escalation more likely. Iran's foreign minister warned that as long as Israel's campaign in Gaza continues, "it is highly probable that many other fronts will be opened," adding that if Israel decides to enter Gaza, the resistance leaders will turn it into a graveyard of the occupation soldiers. As rhetoric across the region grows more heated and casualties of the war rise, there is reason to believe that Iran will continue to exercise some caution. Hezbollah's public messages have begun to function as a tacit endorsement of regional militant groups that might wish to join the conflict, leaving the door open for a direct Iranian intervention.

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22October 7, 2023: What happened in Gaza? ( 9 October 2023)
On Saturday, October 7, 2023, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups launched a coordinated attack known as Operation al-Aqsa Flood, targeting multiple border areas of Israel. This attack came on a significant date, coinciding with the Jewish sabbath, the end of Sukkot (a Jewish festival), and a day after the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. The operation involved air and land attacks, with an extensive rocket assault reaching as far as Tel Aviv. Hamas militants breached the security barrier, overran military and police facilities, and carried out attacks on towns, kibbutzim, and roads. The initial assault resulted in casualties and the abduction of hundreds of Israeli officers and civilians. In response, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) initiated Operation Iron Swords to retake territory from Hamas. This sparked clashes along the Gaza-Israel border, with militants taking control of various locations. The IDF carried out airstrikes on suspected Hamas leadership compounds and civilian areas, causing civilian casualties and significant destruction. The conflict also spilled into the West Bank and led to clashes with Lebanese Hezbollah across the Israel-Lebanon border. Israel prepared for a possible ground offensive into Gaza and imposed a total blockade on the region. The casualty toll in the first three days of fighting reached over 1,300 people, with civilians accounting for a significant portion. Israeli and Palestinian casualties numbered around 800 and 500, respectively, with an estimated 130 Israelis held hostage by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The conflict's roots lie in the enduring Israel-Palestine conflict, according to analysts, let Hamas in undertaking these coordinated terrorist attacks in an effort to disrupt the normalisation of diplomatic relations of Israel with other Arab states."
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23Israel's Complex Dilemma: Responding to Hamas Attacks in Gaza (7 October 2023)
Amid a barrage of rockets from Hamas, Israel's immediate focus is on defending its towns and military installations from sudden and severe attacks originating in the Gaza Strip. However, these tasks are formidable due to the scale and surprise of Hamas's onslaught. Israel also faces complex decisions regarding how to weaken Hamas and prevent future attacks. Restoring deterrence against Hamas and other adversaries, safeguarding the West Bank, protecting diplomatic gains, and managing a hostage situation are among Israel's critical challenges. The central issue revolves around the Gaza Strip, where Hamas has held power since 2007. Israeli leaders have hesitated to conduct large-scale, sustained ground operations there, even during previous crises. While Israel has employed airstrikes and economic pressure to keep Hamas off-balance in the past, this approach may not suffice given the current escalation. A ground incursion could yield short-term gains, such as weakening Hamas and reducing immediate threats to Israel. However, it carries substantial risks due to the territory's dense urban environment, potential for civilian casualties, and Hamas's tunnel infrastructure. A ground invasion could also lead to Israel administering the Gaza Strip, further complicating the situation. Addressing the long-term influence of Hamas in Gaza poses a significant challenge. Identifying credible Palestinian partners to govern the strip is difficult, as the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas, has limited support and is reluctant to collaborate with Israel. A military occupation would not address these governance issues, leaving Israel with the responsibility of managing the strip's economic challenges and hostile population. Additionally, Israel must ensure that the West Bank remains relatively stable, especially during a Gaza incursion. The West Bank is already experiencing heightened violence, and the Hamas attacks provide inspiration for angry Palestinians. Hostages held by Hamas add complexity to the situation, as they grant the group significant leverage and complicate military operations. Restoring deterrence is another crucial goal for Israel, balancing the need to prevent future attacks with the imperative to adhere to proportionality in international law. Achieving deterrence without excessive casualties and ensuring international support are considerable challenges. Providing Hamas with political alternatives to maintain its legitimacy may be necessary for long-term deterrence, but the volatile situation and Israeli concerns make this approach uncertain.
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24Major ISIS Figure Captured in Northern Syria: USCENTCOM's Operation Success Amid Ongoing Civil Conflict (25 September 2023)
A September 25 US Central Command (USCENTCOM) press release announced the capture of Abu Halil al-Fad'ani, who appears to be an official with ties throughout the ISIS network. Following a September 23 helicopter raid in northern Syria, Abu Halil al-Fad'ani was captured with no injuries to civilians. It is recalled that Syria is in a 12-year civil war with half a million lives lost.
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25 The people of Libya are asking the government to take political responsibility after the tragedy caused by storm Daniel (19 September 2022)
Storm Daniel hit Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Libya on September 4, 2023. Libya suffered the most damage, where two dams near Derna were destroyed, causing 4,000 deaths and thousands missing in the ruins, as well as Greece, with damage costing about 2 billion dollars. The residents of Derna rose up in demonstrations, demanding political responsibility from the authorities. In addition to the direct victims, such as the dead and missing, thousands of Libyans are affected since there are water-borne diseases, and there is also a danger from the displacement of land minb es from the torrential rains.
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26Tragedy Strikes Morocco: The Aftermath of the 6.8 Richter Scale Sonic Earthquake (11 September 2023)
On September 9, shortly after 11:00 p.m., a sonic earthquake struck Morocco, leaving almost 2,500 dead and thousands injured. For four consecutive days, superhuman efforts are being made to rescue those trapped and find the missing in the ruins. The earthquake, measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale, hit the province of Al Hawz and created conditions reminiscent of a war zone. Morocco declared three days of mourning, and Algeria, which, for political reasons, prohibited access to the interior of the area, will allow flights for humanitarian reasons. The international community showed the necessary mobilisation, with France contributing 5.3 million euros to non-governmental organisations dealing with the problem. Spain sent a team of 56 people and 4 dogs; Turkey sent 256 people; England sent 60 experts and 4 dogs; and the Chinese Red Cross offered $200,000 to Morocco.
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27Hundreds of inmates participate in Bahrain's most significant hunger strike (28 August 2023)
Hundreds of prisoners of conscience have been on hunger strike in Bahraini prisons since August 7. The protestors claim their human rights, such as the right to pray collectively in mosques inside the prison, not to be locked in their cell almost 24 hours a day, which has existed until now, and finally, their right to medical care. Bahraini authorities have imprisoned more than 1,200 prisoners of conscience as they also hunt down relatives of the "offenders". One of the prisoners is activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. As the activist's daughter complains in an interview with Al Jazeera, she fears for her father's life in prison and emphasises that the violation of human rights in Bahrain is done with the blessings of Western countries. The Minister of the Interior of the government had a meeting with the president of the National Institute for Human Rights and with the president of the Committee of the Prisoners, where a statement from the Minister followed. What the minister stated was contradicted by Abdulhadi al-Khawaja (imprisoned activist) saying "too little, too late".

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28Tunisia's persistent issue: police violence, public response, and the dynamics of power (23 August 2023)
The issue of police violence is a longstanding concern in Tunisia, with many activists who protest against police injustice sharing stories of personal encounters with brutality. Instances of police violence have been a part of the country's history even before independence in 1956. Today, Tunisians often believe that the police determine the boundaries of public behavior in cities and towns. Accounts of torture, assault, and unexplained deaths in custody persist, but public outcry remains rare. Cases documented by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) illustrate the current situation: individuals like Rachid, who was tortured after arrest; Adel, who suffered violence for a traffic incident; and Hamdi, who died in prison after showing signs of violence. Even in protests against police violence, progress has been minimal. Police tactics have shifted over time, especially since President Saied assumed more power. Tear gas and force are now deployed more swiftly during protests, and all protesters are treated as targets. The influence and impunity of the police have grown, with allies of President Saied occupying key positions within the Interior Ministry. Legal reform efforts have aimed to limit police discretion in interpreting laws to impose their own agenda, yet challenges remain. Police abuses, such as stopping people based on perceived breaches of "public morality," disproportionately affect vulnerable communities, including the LGBT community. Public perception of the police is complex. While there's criticism of police misconduct, there's also a willingness to tolerate a degree of wrongdoing in exchange for security and order. Common crimes often see high clear-up rates, reinforcing the image of law enforcement providing security. President Saied has aligned himself with the security services, elevating their power and granting them significant impunity. He has even deployed security forces against communities he draws support from, potentially undermining his populist credentials as economic struggles could lead to further protests and challenges to his authority.

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29Tunisia's political landscape: President Saied's rule amidst challenges and populist strategies (9 August 2023)
After President Saied suspended Tunisia's parliament, dismissed the prime minister, and took direct control in July 2021, the nation has faced a series of challenges. The economy remains stagnant, shortages of essential goods are frequent, and international support has waned due to political arrests and allegations of racism against Black refugees and migrants. Although public opinion polls are often unreliable, Saied still appears to retain significant support, with many approving of his actions despite the country's perilous financial situation. However, the depth of this backing is questionable, as his rallies have been lackluster, and the recent parliamentary elections saw record-low turnout. Saied's strategy involves shifting blame for the country's problems away from his government and onto others, such as the judiciary, NGOs, and international entities. This populist approach resonates with segments of the population disillusioned with the previous political elite. Yet, concerns about scapegoating and fostering a sense of uniformity have emerged, as tourism and business suffer, and citizens express unease about the nation's direction. Despite concentrating power, Saied has not delivered the progress that many had hoped for, leaving the nation in a state of political uncertainty and economic struggle.

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30Israel's Jenin Operation: Deadly Clashes and Rising Tensions (10 July 2023)

Israel has conducted a significant military operation in the West Bank city of Jenin, described as a major aerial and ground offensive and the largest in the Palestinian territory in years. The attack, which began in the early hours of Monday, resulted in the deaths of at least eight Palestinians and many who were injured, with the death toll expected to rise. Israeli forces, estimated to be between 1,000 and 2,000 soldiers, supported by armored bulldozers and snipers, entered Jenin and its refugee camp after informing the White House of their plans. The operation included drone strikes on buildings and encountered resistance from Palestinians. The streets of Jenin were largely empty, and ambulances faced difficulties crossing Israeli checkpoints. The Israeli military claimed it was an extensive counter- terrorism effort and targeted a command center used by a local militant group. The incursion into Jenin is the largest since the 2002 battle of Jenin during the second intifada. The operation has drawn condemnation from Palestinian officials, and protests erupted across the West Bank. The situation remains tense, and there are concerns about potential escalation and retaliatory actions from Palestinian factions.

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31Swedish Embassy breached in Baghdad: Unrest escalates following Quran burning incident (29 June 2023)

Demonstrators breached the perimeter of the Swedish embassy in Baghdad following a Quran burning incident in Sweden. Muqtada al-Sadr, a prominent Iraqi Shia cleric, ordered the protests and called for the expulsion of the Swedish ambassador. Social media videos showed protesters climbing over barricades outside the embassy, but the extent of their entry into the building remains unclear. The Swedish government assured the safety of its staff and maintained regular contact with them. The incident lasted for approximately 15 minutes before concluding, according to Iraqi security sources. The protests in Baghdad were triggered by an individual burning a copy of the Quran outside a mosque in Stockholm during the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Adha. Salwan Momika, who burned and destroyed the Quran, is reported to be living in Sweden and holds Iraqi citizenship and as a result, Al-Sadr demanded the withdrawal of Iraqi nationality from the organizer of the Quran burning in Stockholm. Muslim countries and Islamic organizations, including Iran, Kuwait, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Arab League, and the Gulf Cooperation Council, strongly condemned the Quran burning incident. Morocco recalled its ambassador to Sweden. In a separate incident earlier this year, Iraqi protesters clashed with security forces outside the Swedish embassy over another Quran burning in Stockholm.

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32UAE and Qatar reopen Embassies, ending six-year diplomatic rift (19 June 2023)

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar have agreed to reopen their embassies, ending a six-year diplomatic rift between the two countries. The announcement came after a boycott and blockade of Qatar by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt in 2017 over allegations of supporting terrorist groups and having close ties with Iran. Qatar, which denied the accusations, managed to weather the crisis due to its gas wealth and alliances with Turkey and Iran. The boycott was officially lifted in January 2021, and Qatar recently hosted the FIFA World Cup, welcoming leaders from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE. The United States welcomed the resumption of diplomatic ties, considering it a significant step towards regional stability. In addition, Turkey, which had supported Qatar during the crisis, has also improved its relations with the UAE and Saudi Arabia. This development takes place amidst easing Gulf rivalries, as Saudi Arabia and Iran announced the end of a seven-year break in ties in March.

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33 Avoiding Double Taxation: Russia and Oman sign agreement, strengthening economic ties (8 June 2023)

An agreement has been signed between Russia and Oman to avoid double taxation, as per information from Russian financial officials on Thursday, 8 June. This action is perceived as a big step in deepening the economic ties between both nations. Deputy Finance Minister, Alexei Sazanov, mentioned that mutual trade had grown by 46% in 2022, emphasizing that it is important to further enhance trading activity and solidify economic connections.

Russia had expressed intentions to end its double taxation agreements with countries it perceives as "unfriendly", specifically those that have imposed sanctions due to Moscow’s actions in Ukraine. Currently, Russia has these deals with 84 countries, including those that have sanctioned Moscow, such as the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Japan.

In the agreement, there's a general 15% withholding tax on income from dividends, which reduces to 10% for companies owning at least 20% of the dividend-paying entity, the finance ministry explained. A 10% tax rate is applied to interest income and royalties. State-controlled organizations and other forms of public investment will not be subjected to withholding tax on dividends and interest income.

The agreement is planned to be ratified this year, with an intention to become effective from January 1, 2024.

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34Middle East roundup: More violence in Sudan despite ceasefire (25 May 2023)

In Sudan, a ceasefire was signed between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, but like previous truces, it failed to hold. Despite the presence of a US-Saudi team to monitor the ceasefire, ground assaults and air attacks continued in Khartoum and Omdurman. While there was a temporary lull in the fighting, humanitarian aid deliveries remained slow due to logistical and security challenges. The outcome of the conflict has been devastating, with over 860 civilians killed, more than 1 million people displaced, and 25 million in need of aid. Meanwhile, in Turkey, the presidential election campaign is entering its final stretch before the run-off on Sunday. Both candidates, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, have adopted a more overt nationalist tone. Kilicdaroglu has promised to force Syrian refugees out of the country, appealing to the 5 percent of voters who did not support either candidate in the first round. Kilicdaroglu has gained the support of nationalist politician Umit Ozdag, who has expressed anti-immigration views and hinted at a potential role as interior minister if Kilicdaroglu wins. However, Kilicdaroglu faces a significant challenge as he finished almost 5 percentage points behind Erdogan in the initial round. He aims to regain ground by emphasizing his tough stance on refugees and maintaining the belief among his supporters that victory is possible.

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35The functioning of Saudi Arabia's diplomatic mission in Syria has resumed (9 May 2023)

Saudi Arabia has announced the reopening of its embassy in Syria, almost a decade after the two countries cut diplomatic ties. The decision comes just days after Syria was readmitted into the Arab League, with several Arab states, including the United Arab Emirates, ending years of isolation and normalising relations with President Bashar al-Assad's regime. While the Saudi foreign ministry did not provide a specific date for the reopening of the embassy, Syria's state news agency confirmed that it will resume its diplomatic mission in Saudi Arabia. Reuters sources revealed in March that the two countries had agreed to reopen their embassies, with contacts between them intensifying after a China-brokered deal to re-establish ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which is a key ally of Assad. The move has been met with opposition from the United States, which has been critical of moves by regional countries to normalise relations with Assad, citing the regime's brutal suppression of the conflict and the need for progress towards a political solution. However, the Saudi foreign ministry stated that the decision would support regional security and stability.

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36Fighting has continued despite an extended ceasefire in Sudan (28 Apr. 2023)

Rival factions in Sudan's military have agreed to extend a three-day ceasefire by another 72 hours, following intense diplomatic efforts by neighbouring countries, the US, UK, and UN. The previous truce allowed thousands of people to flee to safety and dozens of countries to evacuate their citizens. However, there are still reports of heavy fighting in the capital, Khartoum. At least 512 people have been killed, with almost 4,200 injured, and many more expected to die due to outbreaks of disease and a lack of services. Most hospitals in conflict areas are not functioning, and over 60% of health facilities in Khartoum are inactive. The International Rescue Committee warns that the international community is in danger of neglecting the wider crisis in Sudan in the rush to evacuate foreign nationals. The fighting broke out on 15 April as a result of a bitter power struggle between the regular army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. The factions fear losing power because there are men on both sides who could end up at the International Criminal Court for war crimes committed in Darfur almost 20 years ago. The recent crisis in Sudan poses major threats for the stability of other wider region of Middle East.

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37Despite the Iran-Saudi agreement, Lebanon remains in a political deadlock (21 Apr. 2023)

The recent Saudi-Iran deal could improve the geopolitical situation in the Middle East. However, the agreement could exacerbate Lebanon's institutional paralysis as rival parliamentary blocs compete for power. The economic crisis in Lebanon, which began in 2019, has led to the Lebanese pound losing over 90% of its value, causing widespread financial collapse. Moreover, Lebanon has had no president and only a caretaker government since last year. Attempts by foreign powers, including the US, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, France and Egypt, to end the deadlock, have yet to succeed. Though the Saudi-Iran deal has helped to broker the release of Iran-backed Houthi prisoners in Yemen, the deal appears to have little influence over Lebanon's political situation. The opposition blocs, Hezbollah and its allies, have pushed for Christian politician Sleiman Frangieh to become the next president, but the majority of the country's political blocs have rejected him. As a Hezbollah ally, Frangieh was close to becoming president in 2016 before the group ultimately backed another of its Christian allies, Michel Aoun. The delay in choosing a president has benefited Frangieh's position, which Hezbollah continues to support. Despite the Saudi-Iran deal, experts believe Hezbollah is unlikely to change its position on Frangieh, as conceding to an opposition candidate would compromise the group's regional interests.

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38Following demonstrations, Netanyahu changes his mind about firing Israel's defense minister (10 Apr. 2023)

Israel is facing a surge in violence on many fronts, including rocket fire from Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria, a roadside shooting in the West Bank, and a car ramming in Tel Aviv. Amidst this crisis, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reversed his decision to fire Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who had warned that the prime minister's judicial overhaul was harming the military. Netanyahu announced in a televised speech that Gallant would remain in his position, stating that they would continue to work together for the security of the citizens of Israel. Gallant's removal had triggered protests against the unpopular plan to disempower the judiciary, with many Israelis concluding that even their security could be sacrificed for Netanyahu's personal interests. The security crisis has further shaken Netanyahu's popularity, with a poll showing that only 27% of respondents rely on the government to handle the wave of terror. In his speech, Netanyahu tried to dispel doubts about his leadership, stating that the Israeli air force had struck back hard and that troops would "reach and settle accounts with all the terrorists." He also said that he was "restoring deterrence" that had allegedly been weakened by the previous government. According to the poll, only a fifth of the Israeli public approved of the premier's performance. The survey by respected pollster Camil Fuchs for Channel 13 showed that the Likud party-led coalition would be trounced today by the parties that held power before last November's elections by a 64 to 46 margin. The poll pointed to a surge in popularity for former defense minister Benny Gantz and his center-right National Unity party. National Unity would win 29 seats, Yesh Atid would gain 21 seats, and Netanyahu's Likud party would crash from 32 to 20 seats. The current coalition has 64 seats, including 14 held by two right-wing extremist parties, Religious Zionism and Jewish Power. Their popularity is also declining, with the poll giving them a combined 11 seats. The new poll results amounted to an all-out "collapse" for the coalition, according to Israeli analysts.

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39Saudi Arabia and Iran decide to reopen embassies, during negotiations in Beijing to resume diplomatic relations (6 Apr. 2023)

Saudi Arabia and Iran have agreed to restore diplomatic relations and reopen their embassies, marking a significant development in the ongoing conflict between the two nations. The decision was made during a meeting between the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Iran, held on April 6, 2023, in Beijing and facilitated by Chinese officials. The two countries have been at odds for decades, with tensions heightened following the 2016 execution of prominent Shia cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, by Saudi Arabia and the subsequent attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Saudi Arabia and Iran have been engaged in a proxy war in Yemen, and have supported opposing sides in the conflict in Syria. The decision to restore diplomatic relations could have significant implications for the region and global politics. It could lead to increased stability in the Middle East and potentially pave the way for more cooperation between the two nations. The move also reflects China's growing influence in the Middle East, as it seeks to strengthen ties with both Saudi Arabia and Iran. However, there are concerns that the decision could upset other countries in the region, particularly Israel and the United States, who view Iran as a threat to their national security. The restoration of diplomatic relations could also face challenges from hardline factions in both Saudi Arabia and Iran, who are opposed to any rapprochement between the two nations. It remains unclear what the future holds for the Saudi Arabia-Iran relationship, but the decision to restore diplomatic ties is a positive step towards reducing tensions and promoting peace in the region. The restoration of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran is a significant development that could have far-reaching implications for the region and the world. It is, however, a positive step towards reducing tensions and promoting stability in the Middle East.

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40After Netanyahu removes minister who opposed judicial reform, protests in Israel spread widely (27 Mar. 2023)
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu removed his defense minister due to his opposition to a proposed judicial reform, large crowds flooded the streets of Tel Aviv on the 26th March. Demonstrators, waving Israeli flags and yelling "democratia," were observed obstructing roads and bridges, including the Ayalon Highway. On Tel Aviv's main thoroughfare, protesters started a number of fires. Its foul, black smoke billowed into the sky and partially obscured several of the city's famous towers. While Tel Aviv protests had subsided by around 2 a.m. local time, live pictures from the area showed security personnel using water cannons to disperse the remaining crowd. The announcement read, "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has chosen to reassign Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to his post." During a speech Saturday night, when Netanyahu was away from the country on an official trip to the United Kingdom, Gallant urged for a halt to the judicial reforms. In opposition to the proposals, which detractors claim would erode the independence of the judiciary, several military reservists have vowed to resign from their positions. According to Gallant, moving forward with the ideas could put Israel's security in danger. A number of well-known authorities demanded that the judicial reform process be put on hold as a result of his removal and the widespread demonstrations that followed. The eyes of the entire world are on you, said Israel's President Isaac Herzog in a Facebook post on Monday, urging Netanyahu and his administration to immediately halt the preparations. The entire country is filled with deep concern. Everyone is at risk: society, the economy, and security, according to Herzog's statement.

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41Iraq: New electoral law triggers demonstrations (27 Mar. 2023)

On March 27th, the Iraqi parliament approved a controversial election law that undid many of the changes made after the 2019 October protest movement. Protests against the law began in late February and intensified in early March, as well as before and after the law was passed. Around half of these protests occurred in Thi Qar province, where the 2019 movement began, and where Iraqi security forces and Iran-backed militias violently suppressed demonstrators, leading to the reported deaths of hundreds of people. Demonstrations also occurred in major cities, including Baghdad. The new law goes against the key demands of the 2019 protest movement by dividing provinces into multiple electoral districts and reintroducing provincial councils. Independent members of parliament criticized the new law for implementing the Sainte-Lague vote-counting method, which they believe will favor larger electoral blocs over smaller parties. The Iran-aligned Shiite Coordination Framework bloc, which lost seats in the 2021 elections, was one of the primary architects of the new law.

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42Yemen: Despite regional diplomatic advances, violence has increased in Marib Governorate (16 Mar. 2023)

The number of battles involving Houthi and anti-Houthi troops in Marib tripled in March compared to the previous month, reaching its highest level since May 2022. Since the implementation of the truce mediated by the UN in April 2022, the Houthi and anti-Houthi frontlines in Yemen have not changed much. The uptick in hostilities is probably an effort by the Houthis to gain leverage in on-going political negotiations. Despite efforts to end the crisis, including talks on detainees related to the war between the Houthi de facto government and the Internationally Recognized Government (IRG) in March, the violence continues despite the restoration of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Yemen descended into civil war in 2014 after the Houthis overthrew the country's government.

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