HomePoliticsBriefingThe sense of measure

The sense of measure

A Palestinian girl climbs over debris a day after an operation by the Israeli Special Forces in the Nuseirat camp, in the central Gaza Strip on June 9, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas militant group. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)

Operation Arnon: how the IDF operation to free four hostages killed 274 Palestinians in Nuseirat, Netanyahu announced that Israel is prepared for a very tense operation against Hezbollah, Dozens arrested following attack on US Embassy in Beirut, Hamas signals post-war ambition in talks with Palestinian rival Fatah, Samy Gemayel calls on Hezbollah to lay down its arms, Israel’s centrist Minister Benny Gantz quits Netanyahu government, China to host Hamas-Fatah talks in mid-June, Blinken to travel to Middle East to press for Gaza ceasefire, Israeli strike on UN school kills dozens in central Gaza, Russia, China and Algeria raised concerns on US ceasefire proposals, US sanctions Nablus-based militant group Lions’ Den, Increasing tensions in the Red Sea as Iran-aligned Houthis restore attacks, Several killed in Israeli attack in Syria, Israeli Prime Minister to address the US Congress on July 24 on “his truth” about the war on Gaza, Dozens killed near Sudan’s capital as UN warns of soaring displacement, Thousands of Syrians travelling to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj as the two countries’ relations improve, Major bushfire in Akkar destroyed more than 250,000 square metres of olive and oak tree groves, homes evacuated, Mikati denies allegations of interference in judiciary in relation to circular issued by Public Prosecutor

Free four, kill two hundred. Leaving more than eight hundred wounded. Where will they go – you might wonder. To the only hospital left in central Gaza, Shuhada al-Aqsa hospital, in Nuseirat: one only working electric generator, about to fail, and no blood supply left. The bombings continue on the central area of ​​the Strip, after Israeli Forces rescued four of the hostages held by Hamas since the October 7 attack, leaving in the operation 274 people dead, in one of the single bloodiest Israeli assaults of the eight-month long ongoing war.

Gazan paramedics and residents said the assault killed scores of people and left mangled bodies of men, women and children strewn around a marketplace and a mosque. And while Israel named the rescued hostages as Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 22, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 41 – circulating images of the reunion with their families, after being taken to hospital for medical checks and ensured they are all in good health, according to the military – no names nor faces, no identity acknowledged, for yet other hundreds of nameless, anonymous Palestinians. 


Inflated death, the Dahiya doctrine

In the immediate hours after the rescue, a different picture unfolded back in Gaza, where Palestinian Health Ministry officials and local medics said an Israeli military assault in Nuseirat – a historic refugee camp in the Strip – had killed scores of people. The Ministry did not say how many of the fatalities were combatants and how many were civilians: what is clear, however, is that the sense of measure, in these past eight months that left 37,000 people dead in Gaza, has gone. Lost under the rhetoric of retaliation, collateral damage, right to self-defense. Of a highly specialized and professional army – from the threat of a starving, besieged population.

The rule of the ‘Dahiya doctrine,’ involving the deliberate use of disproportionate force by the IDF against civilians in the 2006 Lebanon War, has been clearly, directly supporting the Israeli war in Gaza since October 2023 – connected to senior Israeli military figures who architected the doctrine’s institutionalization into official IDF policy. Among those, former IDF Chief of General Staff Gadi Eizenkot, whose name reappeared on newspapers’ front pages for having resigned from Netanyahu’s war cabinet, along with centrist Minister Benny Gantz, on Sunday, June 9. The 2006 strategy, named after Beirut’s southern suburbs, justifies countering an enemy by systematically targeting its civilian population with overwhelming disproportionate force.

It is the usual law that governs the price of the dead on the Israeli war market – the simple law of inflation, which, as the number increases, decreases the value.

The Nuseirat massacre is not a new strategy for the IDF. To give an idea of the past twenty years of attacks on Gaza – 2004, Operation Rainbow: two Israelis killed, 63 Palestinians; Operation Days of Penitence: five Israeli deaths, 175 Palestinians; 2006, Operation Summer Rains: five Israelis and 462 Palestinians killed, of which 405 in Gaza alone; in the same year, Operation Autumn Clouds caused one Israeli and 53 Palestinian deaths. 2007, 13 Israeli deaths, 373 Palestinians; 2008, 18 Israelis, 455 Palestinians, including 290 in Gaza; Operation Hot Winter: four Israelis and 112 Palestinians; 2009, Operation Cast Lead, known as the Gaza massacre: 13 Israelis and a number of Palestinian deaths ranging between 600 and 1300. Operation Pillar of Defense, or Hijarat Sajil, in 2012: six Israeli deaths, 171 Palestinians. Operation Protective Edge, 2014: 72 Israeli deaths, 2310 Palestinian deaths, including 578 children. And in 2021, Operation Guardians of the Walls, unleashed in response to the protests following the eviction of some Palestinian families living in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, caused 256 deaths in Gaza alone.

Today’s numbers are of epochal significance: 1,200 Israeli deaths, on October 7 only, and more than 37,000 of Palestinians. In Nuseirat, in just one day, four hostages alive for almost three hundred dead and eight hundred wounded – whose lives, or we’d rather call them survivals, at the very moment in which we count them, are hanging by a thread.


Al Jazeera under the spotlight

The count, among the hundreds of deaths of Nuseirat, of Hamas members and innocent victims of the Israeli assault, is though problematized by the allegation – still unconfirmed – of an Al Jazeera journalist, Abdullah Al-Jamal, killed by the IDF during its rescue operation, among the abductors of the Nova Festival’s hostages, three of whom he was allegedly hiding in his home, the Israeli military said.

To respond to the alleged accusation, Al Jazeera confirmed that Abdullah Al-Jamal had never worked with them, but rather was hired by the writer of an opinion article in 2019, and that these accusations are completely unfounded. The network also claimed that these allegations are a continuation of the process of “slander and misinformation” with the aim of “harming Al Jazeera’s reputation, professionalism and independence,” and called for careful investigation before publishing any of these. “Al Jazeera Media Network reserves all its legal rights to refute all these allegations,” the channel posted on its X account.

A month ago, Israel decided to close the activities and confiscate the equipment – including cell phones and computers of journalists, editors and staff members – of the Qatar-based channel, accused of being the megaphone of Hamas and of instigating violence against the Jewish state. The ban renewal will be evaluated 45 days after the decision, rejected by the channel which defined the shutdown imposed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government as a criminal act.

However, circulating videos of a Gazawi loudly criticizing Hamas – being cut off by the network’s journalists – raise concerns over the independence of the media.


Saving Netanyahu’s majority, ensuring ‘collateral genocide’

And as Israeli war aggression on Gaza intensifies, the centrist war cabinet’s bloc has withdrawn from the race, putting the already-weakened Western support for Israel at serious risk. On Sunday, June 9, Israel’s centrist Minister Benny Gantz revealed his resignation from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s emergency government, followed by National Unity MK Gadi Eisenkot. The same Eiseknot who outlined the Dahiya doctrine.

The move comes after the Minister postponed his resignation, which was expected on the previous day, due to the rescue operation of the four hostages from the Nuseirat camp and the consequent massacre of more than two hundred Palestinians in the central Strip. Last month, Gantz presented the conservative Prime Minister with a June 8 deadline to come up with a clear day-after strategy for Gaza, where the military offensive does not seem to rest. 

“Netanyahu is preventing us from advancing toward true victory,” Gantz said in a televised news conference. “That is why we are leaving the emergency government today, with a heavy heart but with full confidence.” Netanyahu responded in a social media post, telling Gantz it was no time to abandon the battlefront.

Commenting on the expected news, analysts say that the departure of Gantz’s party would not pose an immediate threat to Netanyahu’s governing coalition, which controls 64 of the Knesset’s 120 seats: nonetheless, it could have a serious impact on its long-term sustainability. With Gantz gone, in fact, Netanyahu would lose the backing of a centrist bloc that has helped broaden support for the government in Israel and abroad, at a time of increasing diplomatic and domestic pressure eight months into the war. Netanyahu would have to rely more heavily on the political backing of ultra-nationalist parties, whose leaders angered Washington even before the war and who have since called for a return to a complete Israeli occupation of Gaza.

In such perspective, not only the prospects of success in the latest ceasefire efforts are limited, but the already lost sense of measure, in this war that cannot be defined as such – unbalanced aggression, ‘collateral genocide,’ as media defined it – could nothing but worsen.


In Lebanon

Insecurity at the US Embassy: More than 40 people have been arrested as reported in connection with the US Embassy attack of Wednesday morning, carried out by a Syrian national, according to the Lebanese military. Several of those, however, have already been released.

The assailant, who was wounded in a gunfight with soldiers, has been arrested and taken to hospital. The army offered no further details, but a photo being circulated on social media shows a bloodied man wearing a vest with ‘Islamic State’ written on it in Arabic and the English initials ‘I’ and ‘S.’ When asked by a reporter during a press conference in Washington about the identity of the shooter, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said “we know that the individual who was arrested was wearing what appears to be insignia of the Islamic State, but we are conducting a thorough investigation with Lebanese authorities.”

The Embassy, which sits in the city’s northern suburb of Awkar, posted on X that “small arms fire” had been reported at 8.34am “in the vicinity of the entrance” to the building. It added that the embassy staff were “safe.” It lies north of Beirut in a highly secured zone with multiple checkpoints along the route to the entrance, having moved there following a suicide attack in 1983 which killed 63 people.

However, the area remains tense. In September last year, a gunman opened fire at the Embassy, without causing casualties, on the anniversary of the deadly September 1984 car bombing outside the building that killed at least 20 people. The Lebanese police had then said the 2023 attacker was a delivery driver seeking revenge for his perceived humiliation by security personnel.


Towards a full-scale war: On June 5, Hezbollah fired two suicide drones into an Israeli village that killed two people and injured 11; Israeli firefighters also rushed to put out almost 100 fires that broke out from Hezbollah attacks. To respond to the escalation from its northern border, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel is prepared for a very tense operation against the Lebanese group.

“We are prepared for a very intense operation in the north. One way or another, we will restore security to the north,” Netanyahu said during a visit to the border area. Hezbollah said later that it launched several attacks on Israeli positions during the day, including a “guided missile” strike on an “Iron Dome platform in the Ramot Naftali barracks.” 

Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited some of the areas hit by the fires in the north and later told reporters that “it is unacceptable that a region in our country is targeted while Lebanon remains quiet. We must burn all of Hezbollah’s outposts. Destroy them.”

Despite Israel’s rhetoric, however, experts do not believe an Israeli invasion is imminent. A ground invasion into Lebanon would likely result in severe international condemnation and strained relations with key allies for Israel, in a moment the country is facing significant challenges on multiple fronts, including internal political dynamics.


Avoiding escalations: Washington and Paris have both been seeking de-escalation. “We’ve heard Israeli leaders say the solution that they prefer is a diplomatic solution. And obviously that is the solution that we prefer too and that we’re trying to pursue,” US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Tuesday. 

On its side, Hezbollah has signaled its eventual openness to an agreement that benefits Lebanon, but has said there can be no discussions until Israel halts the Gaza offensive – something mediators are struggling to achieve. Israel has also indicated its openness to a diplomatic settlement that would restore security in the north, whilst preparing for a military offensive to achieve the same goal.

The US official at the heart of diplomatic contacts, Amos Hochstein, brokered an unlikely diplomatic deal between Lebanon and Israel in 2022 over their disputed maritime boundary. On May 30, Hochstein said he did not expect peace between Hezbollah and Israel but that a set of understandings could remove some of the impetus for conflict and establish a recognized border between Lebanon and Israel.

A French proposal submitted to Beirut in February, moreover, included elite Hezbollah fighters withdrawing 10 km from the frontier and negotiations aimed at settling disputes over the land border.


Gemayel’s speech: In a speech delivered in his hometown of Bikfaya over the weekend, Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel reportedly called on Hezbollah to cease hostilities with the Israeli army on Lebanon’s southern border, saying that the country will not rest until the daily clashes that began in October stop. “Hand over your weapons to the state, respect the law and the constitution, and we are ready to cooperate with you,” Gemayel said, according to remarks made during a meeting with young members of his party and relayed by several local media outlets.

Gemayel is also quoted as demanding that the Lebanese Army take charge of the country’s borders “from north to south,” adding that all Lebanese have a responsibility to prevent anyone “encroaching” on national territory. Calling for unity between Muslims and Christians to restore the country, which has been mired in multifaceted crises since 2019, Gemayel is cited as once again expressing his refusal to let a ‘militia’ decide Lebanon’s future on behalf of another state – a likely reference to Iran, which supports Hezbollah. Gemayel reportedly went on to accuse Hezbollah of blocking the presidential election, vacant since Michel Aoun stepped down at the end of October 2022.

Last, in a message to the youth of Lebanon, Gemayel was reported saying that “you are the ones who believe in the state, life and peace and reject war and destruction. This is your country. Take back your decision. Unite so that we can restore our decision through the state and we refuse to have a militia decide our future on behalf of another country.”


On fire: As the heat wave continues to dominate Lebanon, the fire danger index continues to rise sharply in the majority of Lebanese areas. On Saturday, Akkar’s fire forecast updated by the National Early Warning System platform of Lebanon’s National Council for Scientific Research (NCSR) indicated high chances of fire, especially in the areas closer to the coastline. 

A major fire broke out in the bush on the eastern edge of Aydamoun, in the Akkar region, on Friday, June 7, and quickly spread to the village’s olive groves. Some residents living on the outskirts of the town have been evacuated from their homes. The flames spread to oak forests, orchards and agricultural fields, and threatened several houses, electricity poles and cables. 

Based on aerial photographs taken by the Darb Akkar Association, an environmental organization in the region, it is estimated that about 261,000 square meteres of olive and oak trees and grasslands were destroyed in the fire.

Civil Defense rescue workers and local residents worked through the afternoon and night, until sunrise, to extinguish the fires. By early morning, the fire was brought under control: “ a heroic act that lasted all night until sunrise, saving Akar from a real disaster,” NGO Akkar Trail posted on its Facebook page.

“The Civil Defense and the Akkar Trail team to fight forest fires, reinforced by a drift from the ancient municipality of Akkar and a number of volunteers, and with scientific support from the CNRS National Scientific Research Council, worked on the brink of a fire that started in a very dangerous area of the municipality’s forests, amid dense forests of proteins and Indian pine. The task, which was named very difficult, due to the lack of good routes for the machines to pass and feel, is added to by working at night in a very dense and difficult environment,” the post reads.


Judiciary interference: On Saturday, June 8, the media office of caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati issued a statement regarding the statements that followed Mikati’s letter to all Ministries and public administrations regarding the necessity of adhering to the circular issued by the Acting Top Public Prosecutor Jamal Hajjar, ordering that they no longer comply with instructions issued by Mount Lebanon Appeals Court Public Prosecutor Ghada Aoun. “The Prime Minister is constitutionally and legally authorized to issue circulars and circulate them to all Ministries and Departments,” the statement said, as reported by state-run National News Agency (NNA).

Hajjar on Friday ordered state institutions, including State Security, General Security, the Internal Security Forces and Customs, to no longer comply with Aoun’s instructions. The action, in concrete terms, means the judge can no longer serve summons, search warrants or any other document related to the cases her office is pursuing. 

After allegations of interference in the judiciary, Mikati claimed to “respond to the comments” raised by his circular, explaining that he “followed up on a letter sent” by Hajjar asking him, in accordance with his prerogatives, “to enjoin the administrations to comply with the judge’s decision in its administrative and non-judicial aspects.” “The Prime Minister did not intervene in the content of the decision taken by the Public Prosecutor, especially with regard to the judicial signals that are circulated by the State Prosecution of Cassation,” the text continues, specifying that Mikati’s “role is limited to giving administrative directives.”

Aoun reacted strongly to the Prosecutor’s decision as well as to the circular from Mikati, whom she accused via her X account of “violating the constitution.” “No, Mr. Prime Minister, this violation of the constitution is unacceptable,” she wrote. “There is a separation of powers, and you do not have the right to send this letter to the administrations. You do not have the right to violate Article 7 of Law No. 206/2022 to protect yourself or someone else. You are clearly violating the law, and this exposes you to prosecution.”

In regard to Hajjar’s circular, moreover, Aoun wrote, in invective terms: “a country of accountability, a country of impunity. The whole concern of the system now is getting rid of me because they are not accustomed to being pursued by anyone. They are accustomed to stealing from people, and there is no one to hold them accountable. This is what you want, Your Honor.” 


In The Region 

Striking shelters: On Thursday, June 6, Israel hit a UN school in Gaza in what it described as a targeted airstrike on up to 30 fighters affiliated with Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, while Palestinian and UN sources said among the victims there were mainly women and children.

Video footage showed Palestinians hauling away bodies and scores of injured in a hospital after the attack, which took place at a sensitive moment in mediated talks on a ceasefire that would involve releasing hostages held by Hamas and some of the Palestinians held in Israeli jails.  The building was once used as a school, but with no schools now operating in Gaza it was being used as a shelter.

Run by the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA), it was sheltering 6,000 displaced people at the time, UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said. “At least 35 people were killed and many more injured,” he wrote on X. “Claims that armed groups may have been inside the shelter are shocking. We are however unable to verify these claims. Attacking, targeting or using UN buildings for military purposes are a blatant disregard of international humanitarian law.”

Late on Thursday, Hamas media said an Israeli airstrike on the house of the mayor of Al-Nuseirat camp in central Gaza Strip killed the mayor, Eyad Al-Mghari, and some members of his family. Moreover, in a separate Israeli airstrike on a house in Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza Strip, three Palestinians were killed and several others were wounded, medics said. There was no immediate response from the Israeli military on the two latest accounts.


Never-ending negotiations: In this context, US President Joe Biden laid out a three-phase ceasefire plan for the Gaza Strip a week ago that he described as an Israeli initiative, while seeking international support for the plan that Hamas is still studying. It circulated a one-page draft resolution to the 15-member UN Security Council on Monday and a revised version on Wednesday, both seen by Reuters. A resolution needs at least nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the US, France, Britain, China or Russia to pass.

The current draft welcomes the ceasefire proposal, describes it as “acceptable” to Israel, “calls upon Hamas to also accept it, and urges both parties to fully implement its terms without delay and without condition.” 

Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari said Hamas had not yet responded to the latest ceasefire proposal and was still studying it, adding that Qatar, Egypt and the US mediation efforts are still ongoing. Hamas sources said there was nothing new to respond to, adding the Israeli proposal was old and the group rejected it because it did not speak of an end to the war or a complete pullout from Gaza.

Listing some details of the proposal, it includes a “full and complete ceasefire” in the Gaza Strip as part of phase one and “upon agreement of the parties, a permanent end to hostilities” in phase two.

On Thursday, however, Russia and China, which hold veto powers, along with Algeria – the Council’s only Arab member – raised concerns. Russia proposed amendments to the US text, which were seen by Reuters, calling upon both Hamas and Israel to accept the proposal and demanding an immediate, unconditional and permanent ceasefire respected by all parties. Moscow also wants the draft to stress that the phase one ceasefire will remain in place as long as negotiations continue on phase two, reflecting remarks made by Biden last week.

In this endless effort, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to the Middle East this week, as announced by the US State Department Friday. In his eighth visit to the region since October 7, the top S diplomat will visit Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Qatar and meet with their senior leaders.


Netanyahu’s version: Amid growing tensions between Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden, who has supported Israel’s campaign in Gaza but has recently been more critical of its tactics, Netanyahu said he will “present the truth” about its war on Gaza when he addresses the US Congress on July 24 during a visit to Washington, Republican leaders said on Thursday. 

Israel’s Prime Minister will speak to a joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate, House Speaker Mike Johnson and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. It was not immediately clear if Netanyahu would meet with Biden during his US visit.

“I am very moved to have the privilege of representing Israel before both Houses of Congress and to present the truth about our just war against those who seek to destroy us to the representatives of the American people and the entire world,” Netanyahu said in the statement.

Biden’s support for Israel has emerged as a political liability for the President in the run-up to November’s elections, with some Democrats and voters furious over the thousands of civilian deaths in Gaza, and Republicans criticizing the President for his position on the war, saying he is not doing enough to help Israel. Moreover, at least eight officials have quit the Biden administration citing their opposition to his policy. 


Sanctioning the Lions’ Den: In the latest Washington’s move aimed at ‘restoring stability’ in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on Palestinian militant group Lions’ Den, the State Department said.

The group is the first Palestinian target of sanctions under an executive order on West Bank violence issued by President Biden in February, which had previously been used to impose financial restrictions on Jewish settlers involved in attacks on Palestinians. The group emerged in recent years in the old city of Nablus, and has engaged in firefights with Israeli forces and attacks on Jewish settlements.

In a statement announcing the action, department spokesperson Matthew Miller cited attacks by Lions’ Den on Israelis as well as Palestinians in the West Bank since 2022. “The United States condemns any and all acts of violence committed in the West Bank, whoever the perpetrators, and we will use the tools at our disposal to expose and hold accountable those who threaten peace and stability there,” Miller said.

The move freezes any assets the group holds under US jurisdiction and bars Americans from dealing with the group, although it was unclear if Lions’ Den held any such assets or connections. Other Palestinian armed groups, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, have been designated under more stringent US counterterrorism authorities, but Thursday’s move falls short of taking that step for Lions’ Den.


Palestinian post-war ambitions: At the same time, reconciliation talks between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah will take place this month, in mid-June, in China, according to officials from both sides. They follow two recent rounds of unity talks held during the past months in China and Russia.

The next meeting, held amid attempts by international mediators to reach a ceasefire deal for Gaza, will focus on the key sticking points of the ‘day-after’ plan – how the enclave will be governed after the permanent ceasefire.

Highlighting that the Islamist group is likely to retain influence after Israel’s war in Gaza, the meetings of Hamas politicians with officials from the Fatah party point to the group’s aim of shaping the post-war order in the Palestinian territories. Hamas, which ruled Gaza before the war, recognizes it cannot be part of any internationally recognized new government of the Palestinian territories when fighting in the enclave eventually ends, said a source quoted by Reuters. Nonetheless, it wants Fatah to agree to a new technocratic administration for the West Bank and Gaza as part of a wider political deal, the source added.

Despite Israel’s war goal of destroying the group, most observers agree Hamas will exist in some form after a ceasefire: likely influential, more than governing. An offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement has deep reach and ideological roots in Palestinian society: the prospect of its surviving as an influential political player is a thorny issue for Western states.

The Hamas-Fatah split further complicates the goal of a unity government. The factions hold deeply diverging views about strategy, with Fatah committed to negotiations with Israel to bring about an independent nation while Hamas backs armed struggle and does not recognize Israel. The bitterness spilled into the open at an Arab summit in May, when Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud  Abbas accused Hamas of giving Israel “more pretexts” to destroy Gaza by launching the October 7 attack – a remark that Hamas considered regrettable, calling ‘Tufan al-Aqsa’ a crucial moment in the Palestinian struggle.

While Hamas’ 1988 founding charter called for Israel’s destruction, in 2017, the group said it agreed to a transitional Palestinian state within frontiers pre-dating the 1967 war. Still opposed to the recognition of Israel’s right to exist, Hamas has restated the 2017 position after the eruption of the Gaza war.


The Houthi front: Yemen’s Houthi group said on Thursday it launched two joint military operations with the Iraqi Islamic Resistance against ships at Israel’s Haifa port. “The first targeted two ships carrying military equipment in the port of Haifa, while the second targeted a ship that violated the decision to ban entry to the port,” Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Saree said in a televised statement.

The Houthis, who control Yemen’s capital Sanaa and most populous areas, have attacked international shipping in the Red Sea since November in solidarity with the Palestinians in the war between Israel and Hamas, drawing US and British retaliatory strikes since February. The campaign has disrupted global shipping, forcing firms to re-route to longer and more expensive journeys around southern Africa, and stoked fears that the Israel-Hamas war could spread and destabilize the wider Middle East.

On Friday, the Iran-aligned group said they targeted two vessels in the Red Sea with drones and missiles, but there was no independent confirmation of the purported attacks. The group targeted the Elbella and AAL GENOA vessels with “a number of drones and ballistic and naval missiles,” Saree said in another televised speech, without specifying the date on which the strikes were carried out. Separately, the US Central Command said on Friday that Houthis launched in the past 24 hours four anti-ship ballistic missiles over the Red Sea, destroying one drone launched from a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen into the Bab al-Mandab Strait as well as a Houthi patrol boat in the Red Sea, the US military said in a post on X.


In Syria: A number of people were killed in an Israeli air attack targeting sites in the vicinity of the Syrian city of Aleppo last Monday, June 3, Syrian state media said citing a military source, the second reported attack on the country in less than a week. The strike “led to a number of fatalities and some material damage,” the source said, without elaborating.

Israel previously launched air attacks on May 29 on Syria’s central region as well as the coastal city of Baniyas, killing a child and injuring ten civilians, according to Syrian state media.

For years Israel has been carrying out attacks against what it has described as Iran-linked targets in Syria, where Tehran’s influence has grown since it began supporting President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war that started in 2011.

In this regard, Iran’s acting Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Tuesday and discussed Israel’s war on Gaza with his Syrian counterpart Faisal Mekdad. Bagheri Kani travelled to Syria after meetings in Beirut on Monday, his first trip abroad since becoming Iran’s acting top diplomat following the deaths of his predecessor and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash last month.


To Hajj again: For the first time in more than a decade, thousands of Syrians are travelling directly from government-held parts of Syria to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, the ritual pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, as a signal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s gradual reintegration into the Arab fold.

After Syria’s conflict erupted in 2011, Saudi Arabia cut ties with Assad and backed figures opposed to him – including by granting Syria’s opposition thousands of visas to be distributed among Syrian pilgrims in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Turkey. But Riyadh re-established ties with Damascus last year and in May appointed its first envoy to Syria since the rift.

Direct flights also resumed, allowing pilgrims to head straight from Damascus to Jeddah to perform the Hajj, considered a religious duty for all Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime if they are capable.


Eyes on Sudan: Pro-democracy activists in Sudan say about 40 people have been killed on Thursday, June 6, in violent artillery fire by paramilitary forces in the twin city of the Sudanese capital Khartoum, Omdurman, as fighting and displacement intensify across the war-ravaged country. The Karari Resistance Committee, one of hundreds of grassroots organizations that coordinate aid across Sudan, said on Friday that the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) group was behind the deadly attack on Omdurman a day earlier.

The report has come just days after an RSF attack on a village in Sudan’s central Gezira state killed at least 100 people, according to local activists.

The deadly assault on the village of Wad al-Noura on Wednesday drew widespread condemnation this week, including from UNICEF’s Executive Director Catherine Russell, who said at least 35 children were reported killed and more than 20 others injured. “This is yet another grim reminder of how the children of Sudan are paying the price for the brutal violence,” Russell said in a statement on Thursday. 

War erupted in Sudan in mid-April 2023 between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary RSF, creating the world’s largest displacement crisis and leaving at least 15,500 people dead, according to United Nations estimates. 

“Over the past year, thousands of children have been killed and injured. Children have been recruited, abducted and subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence. Over five million children have been forced from their homes,” Russell continued.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) also warned that internal displacement across Sudan could soon top 10 million. The Agency said 9.9 million people were internally displaced across the country’s 18 states; more than half of those displaced are women and more than a quarter are children under age five. “Imagine a city the size of London being displaced. That’s what it’s like, but it’s happening with the constant threat of crossfire, with famine, disease and brutal ethnic and gender-based violence,” said IOM Director General Amy Pope.


What We’re Reading

Hawks and doves: In a grand display of financial theatre, the Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) recently unveiled their latest proposal for returning deposits – converging with the upcoming elections which will shape the future direction and role of the association. Maan Barazy wrote for NOW, supposing the elections result in the renewal of the current leadership, that while this path should lay the foundation for revitalizing the banking sector and addressing its gaps, the association is likely to face further division, fragmentation, and lack of purpose.

Unpredictable calculation: NOW’s political psychologist Ramzi Abou Ismail analyzed the implication of the latest Israeli threats to invade south Lebanon in light of the rule of deterrence governing the Middle East, and the ability of diplomacy to mediate tensions among escalating war rhetoric. 

Childhood, Interrupted: Valeria Rando wrote about the medical journey of Adam Afana, the first kid injured in the Israeli onslaught on Gaza landing in Lebanon to receive specialized medical care at the American University of Beirut’s Medical Center.


Lebanon +

In the latest episode of Ronnie Chatah’s The Beirut Banyan, photojournalist Patrick Baz dove deep into stories behind the lens and the realities of conflict photography and capturing conflict zones; from his experience as a child growing up in war-torn Beirut, to his first assignments in war zones – Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Bosnia, Libya; from the pressure on his mental health, to the latest rediscovery of the pleasure of taking pictures.