The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented that Israeli airstrikes on Monday killed 14 Iranians and Iranian-backed militiamen in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor. Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett remarked Tuesday, "Iranian soldiers who come to Syrian soil and work in it, their blood is on their heads. They risk their lives, pay with their lives and will continue to do so more intensely. We will not give up and will not allow the establishment of a frontal Iranian base in Syria." Israeli security sources told military reporters Tuesday that Iran is drawing down its forces in Syria for the first time since entering the conflict and that Israel will continue to attack Iranian targets until Tehran pulls out all of its forces.
The semiofficial Tasnim news agency reported that unknown gunmen killed Col. Shakiba Salimi and two other members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in a shootout near the Kurdish town of Divandarreh. Numerous militant Kurdish separatist groups operate in the region, including the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK), the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK), and the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI).
Facebook's "April 2020 Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Report," which was posted on Tuesday, announced the removal of 118 Pages, 389 Facebook accounts, 27 Groups, and 6 Instagram accounts linked to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Corporation (IRIB) and suspected of "coordinated inauthentic behavior." State-owned IRIB holds a monopoly of domestic radio and television services in Iran and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appoints its director-general.
In response to a request from Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released on Monday a report on the Trump administration's compliance with the 1954 Atomic Energy Act (AEA) in its dealings with Saudi Arabia. Congress passed the AEA to limit the proliferation risks associated with exporting civilian nuclear technology. The report implies that executive agencies did not fulfill their obligation to keep relevant congressional committees apprised of the state of negotiations with Riyadh, as "Congress on occasion learned of developments through non-agency sources and had to apply forceful measures, including holds on nominations, to get information from the executive branch." Accordingly, the GAO recommended amending the AEA to specify what information executive agencies must provide to Congress on nuclear cooperation negotiations and create clear timelines for the provision of that information.
Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) issued a statement Tuesday through his media office welcoming any political initiative to end the Libyan Civil War, from amending the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement that created the GNA to creating a new constitutional order and calling elections. However, he ruled out negotiations with Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA), calling for national unity to defeat him. This call for unity follows a militia tied to the Interior Ministry kidnapping Monday the administrative director of the Audit Bureau, whose members are appointed by the Tripoli-based parliament to uncover graft.
Pro-GNA forces launched a ground offensive Tuesday morning against the LNA-controlled al-Watiya Airbase after several weeks of GNA drone and artillery attacks on the facility that has served as Khalifa Haftar's headquarters for operations in Libya's west. Al Jazeera reports that a majority of the base is in GNA hands while Libya's Al-Ahrar TV cited an anonymous GNA source claiming that Osama Meseik, the LNA commander at the installation, died in the assault.
After Likud and Blue and White revised some clauses in their coalition agreement, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit advised the High Court of Justice not to strike it down, opining, "Intervention by the honorable court in coalition agreements should be reserved for exceptional and rare cases." The two main changes were shortening a six-month freeze on senior appointments to 100 days and that the coalition will prioritize COVID-19-related legislation during this period, but not exclude under most circumstances all other legislation. The court will deliver by Thursday its rulings on the petitions challenging parts of the coalition agreement and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ability to form a government while under indictment
IDF tanks struck three Hamas sites in the Gaza Strip Tuesday night after a rocket from the strip landed in southern Israel causing no injuries or damage. It was the first rocket attack on Israel from Gaza in 40 days.
Yemeni Information Minister Muammar Al-Iryani accused the Houthi militia of ramping up the conscription of Yemeni civilians following defeats in the Jawf, Marib, and Bayda provinces.
Lebanese Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti summoned the German ambassador on Tuesday for an explanation as to why Berlin banned Hezbollah's political wing last Thursday, his office saying: "Hezbollah is a main political component in Lebanon which represents a wide section of the people and part of parliament."
A day after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas extended the COVID-19 state of emergency until June 5, the EU donated €38 million Tuesday to cover the April salaries and pensions of around 43,000 West Bank civil servants. This contribution is part of a €71 million EU aid package to help the PA cope with the pandemic.
During a Tuesday Zoom conference call, UNRWA's Washington director, Elizabeth Campbell, said that the organization has only received a third of its $1.2 billion annual budget, is facing the worst financial crisis in its history, and can only pay its 30,000 healthcare workers until the end of this month.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum