In reaction to the coalition agreement signed Monday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz that raises the possibility of a Knesset vote on annexing some of the West Bank, European Union Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell released a statement, saying in part: "The European Union reiterates that any annexation would constitute a serious violation of international law. The European Union will continue to closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and will act accordingly." In discussions with E.U. states, Borrell advocated imposing sanctions on Israel should it extend sovereignty to any part of the West Bank. French U.N. ambassador Nicolas de Rivière threatened, "Such steps if implemented would not pass unchallenged and shall not be overlooked in our relationship with Israel." However, E.U. sanctions are unlikely because they require unanimous consent and eight members, reportedly including Hungary and Austria, rejected Borrell's statement.
The High Court of Justice Thursday struck down as unconstitutional a law intended to encourage asylum seekers to leave Israel by requiring them to deposit 20 percent of their monthly salary into a locked account only accessible when they depart the country. Chief Justice Esther Hayut's opinion said the law "clearly, tangibly, and substantially undermines the infiltrating worker's property rights, while the benefit stemming from it is limited." The ruling gives the government 30 days to release the deposits accumulated since the law took affect in May 2017. Successive governments have claimed that the 60,000 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers, who arrived before Israel built a wall along the Egyptian border in 2013, are economic migrants rather than legitimate refugees.
Israel has taken to warning Hezbollah before launching attacks against it in Syria to avoid an escalation into a full war.
A day after President Trump, via tweet, "instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea," Revolutionary Guards Commander-in-chief Major General Hossein Salami declared, "I have ordered our naval forces to destroy any American terrorist force in the Persian Gulf that threatens security of Iran's military or non-military ships." Tehran relayed a similar message to Washington through the Swiss ambassador to Iran, who also represents U.S. interests in the country.
The unilateral two-week ceasefire declared by the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and the Saudi-led coalition backing him expired Thursday without any sign of them renewing it. Simultaneously, hundreds of poor Yemenis hired by Saudi Arabia to protect the border from Houthi incursions are reportedly rioting due to Riyadh's failure to pay them for the last six months.
A group of senior U.N. human rights officials pressed the Houthi authorities "to speed up the unconditional release of all Baha'i detainees" in line with last month's pardoning of all Baha'i prisoners of conscience. The Houthis, like their Iranian patrons, do not classify Baha'is as tolerated "People of the Book," and persecute them mercilessly.
Princess Basmah Bint Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud published on her official website and Facebook account a plea to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to release her: "This week, Muslims around the globe begin our Holy month of Ramadan... (I) will be spending it at al-Ha'ir prison unless my uncle, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and my cousin, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, decide to release me. My health is continuously deteriorating, which may lead to my death, it's VERY critical and they know it." The reason for her March 2019 detention remains murky. Her outspoken criticism of the kingdom's human rights record and support for Mohammed bin Nayef Al Saud, whom Mohammed bin Salman replaced as crown prince, are possibilities.
Riyadh appears to be behind an anti-Palestinian social media campaign exemplified by the "Palestine is not my cause" hashtag. One twitter post reads: "Basically Palestinian have sold their lands to jews and at the end they keep blaming Saudi Arabia!?" The accompanying attacks on Qatar, with whom Saudi Arabia severed relations in 2017, also suggest the kingdom's involvement.
The Libyan National Army (LNA), commanded by Khalifa Haftar and supported by Egypt, announced on Wednesday the capture of Mohamed al-Sanbakhti, also known as Abu Khaled Munir, who succeeded Hesham Ashmawy as the leader of al-Mourabitoun, a Libyan al-Qaeda affiliate responsible for attacks on Egyptian security forces and Coptic civilians. The LNA arrested Ashmawy in 2018 and extradited him to Egypt, where he was executed last month.
United Arab Emirates
The Trump administration is weighing curbing intelligence sharing with countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, that continue to punish homosexuality. Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, the first open homosexual appointed to a cabinet position, is leading the initiative and assembling a team to develop strategy with, according to Grennell, the "full support" of the President.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum