The military loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi's internationally recognized government launched a military offensive Monday to recapture Aden from the UAE-backed, separatist Southern Transitional Council's (STC) Security Belt Forces (SBF) militia. Government tanks and heavy weapons shelled SBF positions outside Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, which is east of Aden. The STC, expecting an invasion after declaring self-rule on April 25 in Aden and other places under its control, laid land mines to block a government advance. After the offensive commenced, STC leader Aidarous Al-Zubaidi ordered the SBF to halt the government forces and they are reportedly using rocket-propelled grenades to that end. A government commander admitted, "We are now dealing with a huge number of landmines planted by separatists that slowed down our advance. But the offensive is moving according to plan." However, STC spokesman Nizar Haytham told Arab News that its forces had repelled the offensive. STC official Nabil al-Hanachi communicated to AFP that the military wing of the government-aligned al-Islah party carried out the attack on Zinjibar.
Following a Monday teleconference, the foreign ministers of Greece, Egypt, Cyprus, France, and the UAE issued a statement denouncing – among other things – Turkey's illegal drilling operations in Cypriot waters, escalating violations of Greek airspace, and intervention in the Libyan civil war. The statement said, "The Ministers strongly condemned Turkey's military interference in Libya, and urged Turkey to fully respect the UN arms embargo, and to stop the influx of foreign fighters from Syria to Libya. These developments constitute a threat to the stability of Libya's neighbors in Africa as well as in Europe." Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy responded with a statement accusing those five countries of forming an "alliance of evil" promoting "regional chaos and instability." Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu added during a Tuesday interview with the Turkish broadcaster Akit TV that the UAE and Egypt "are the force that unsettled Libya and destroyed Yemen." Cavusoglu particularly singled out the UAE for criticism, stating, "If you are asking who is destabilizing this region, who is bringing chaos, then we would say Abu Dhabi without any hesitation." He further alleged, without proof, that the UAE is supporting Somalia's al-Shabaab terrorist group, which has sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda.
With coalition negotiations seemingly completed, Benny Gantz resigned as Knesset speaker to be replaced by Likud MK Yariv Levin when the new government is sworn in Thursday. A source from the religious Zionist Yamina party, which is heading to the opposition, told Ynet, "Today's date, May 12, will go down in history as the start of Netanyahu's fall from power." Likud in turn accused Yamina, whose six MKs would have made it the smallest right-wing faction in the coalition, of demanding four senior cabinet portfolios unconnected to the priorities of religious Zionism.
Under US pressure, Israel will review Hong Kong-based CK Hutchison Holdings' bid to build the Sorek B desalination plant, which is expected to produce 200 billion liters of water annually, a quarter of Israel's overall water consumption. Last August, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned, "Using China as an interconnector, as a backbone for a network, puts at risk that network. It makes a likelihood that we will not deem that network trusted, and the United States has a policy of not permitting American information to flow across networks that aren't trusted."
A day before Secretary Pompeo arrives in Jerusalem, a US official informed Barak Ravid of Israel's Channel 13 news, "If the Palestinians continue to refuse to engage and don't come to the table it could have negative consequences for them and it will make our decision-making regarding annexation much easier." However, Maariv's US political correspondent, Shlomo Shamir, wrote Monday that one reason for Pompeo's trip is to dissuade Netanyahu from annexing any part of the West Bank on the grounds that it would undermine the Trump peace plan. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday invited representatives of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to attend a Saturday meeting in Ramallah to discuss Netanyahu's plan to extend Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank.
Saudi Aramco announced Tuesday it will pay an $18.8 billion dividend for the first quarter although it may have to borrow to cover it because the dividend is significantly greater than free cash flow for the period. In the lead up to its IPO last December, Aramco promised a $75 billion annual dividend for the first five years to entice investors.
Four sources informed Reuters on Tuesday that the OPEC+ countries, which agreed last month to cut oil output collectively by 9.7 million bpd in May and June before gradually ramping up production again, plan to continue the 9.7 million bpd cut beyond June. On Monday, Saudi Arabia announced it would cut an extra 1 million bpd in June above the April deal's requirements while the UAE and Kuwait committed to increasing their June output cuts by 100,000 bpd and 80,000 bpd respectively.
Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok rejected Tuesday signing any agreement that would permit Ethiopia to commence filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam's reservoir. Sudan and Egypt each fear the dam's downstream effects. Egypt appealed to the UN Security Council two weeks ago to stop Ethiopia from starting to fill the dam in July, as announced by the Ethiopian government last March.
The NGO Syrians for Truth and Justice shared a report with Al-Monitor documenting Turkey recruiting Syrian children to fight on behalf of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord for $3,000 along with free cigarettes, food, and housing. A fighter in Libya from the ethnic Turkmen Sultan Murad Division, a Turkish-backed Syrian rebel militia, acknowledged there are at least five children in his group.
The Lebanese government decided Tuesday to reimpose a lockdown for four days, starting on Wednesday night, as the number of new COVID-19 cases spiked after lifting some restrictions last week.
The UK's Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) on Tuesday decided against immediately complying with the Muslim Council of Britain's request to conduct an investigation into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party because the Tories are conducting an internal probe into the matter. If dissatisfied with the party probe, the EHRC will revisit launching their own investigation.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum