PA President Mahmoud Abbas declared on Tuesday, "The Palestine Liberation Organization and the State of Palestine are absolved, as of today, of all the agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments and of all the commitments based on these understandings and agreements, including the security ones." He attributed his decision to the Prime Minister Netanyahu's stated plans to annex parts of the West Bank allocated to Israel by the "Deal of the Century" and the Trump administration moving its embassy to Jerusalem.
During a Tuesday virtual fundraiser with Jewish Democrats, Joe Biden stressed, "Israel needs to stop the threat of annexation and stop settlement activity, because it will choke off any hope for peace." However, the Palestinian Authority must "acknowledge, flat-out, Israel's right to exist — period — as an independent Jewish state and guarantee the borders." Biden also endorsed the Taylor Force Act, which halts aid to the Palestinian Authority if as long as it pay the salaries those who have committed terrorist attacks against Israelis.
The Tripoli-based Government of International Accord's (GNA) forces Tuesday captured from Khalfa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) the towns of Bader and Tiji along the Tunisian border. This comes a day after the GNA captured al-Watiya airbase, which the LNA controlled since 2014. Being the LNA's only airbase in western Libya, al-Watiya served as the launching pad for air attacks on the capital. LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mesmari declared, "We will recapture the airbase." However, in a sign that recent GNA victories in Western Libya signal a broader shift in the balance of power, al-Mesmari later announced that LNA forces will retreat 2-3 kilometers from all front lines in Tripoli by midday Wednesday. The UAE, which rushed three Pantsir-type air defense systems to al-Watiya in the 48 hours before it fell, similarly appears less optimistic about the LNA's chances, UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash tweeting Tuesday: "The UAE's position on the Libyan crisis has been firm and clear & shared by the majority of the international community - the only acceptable path forward involves an immediate, comprehensive ceasefire & return to the political process."
Syrian Finance Minister Maamoun Hamdan approved the "precautionary seizure" Tuesday of the assets belonging to President Bashar al-Assad's cousin Rami Makhlouf, CEO of the mobile phone company Syriatel and one of Syria's richest men, to guarantee the payment of sums owed to the telecom regulatory authority. The order also applied to the assets of Makhlouf's wife and children. Makhlouf has posted three videos on Facebook in recent weeks condemning the government for extorting money from his business empire and imploring the president to intervene.
UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen on Monday informed the UN Security Council that he is ready to convene a third session of the Small Body of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva as soon as global travel conditions allow since opposition co-chair Hadi al-Bahra and government co-chair Ahmad Kuzbari each affirmed their support. The 150-member Syrian Constitutional Committee is comprised of 50 representatives from the Syrian government, 50 representatives from opposition factions, and 50 UN appointees supposed to represent Syrian civil society. Since its formation in September 2019, the body has failed to make any progress writing a new Syrian constitution. The "Small Body" consists of 15 members from each of the three aforementioned groups and is responsible for drafting the constitution that the entire body is then supposed to ratify. Although Pedersen testified that the March Turkish-Russian ceasefire agreement has brought relative calm to Idlib," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) documented Tuesday regime-initiated fierce clashes in the north-western countryside of Hama and Hayaat Tahrir al-Sham killing three regime soldiers with a guided missile in Idlib province. The SOHR also reported Monday that ISIS executed seven regime-backed militiamen in the Deir Ezzor desert a few hours after blocking the Damascus-Deir Ezzor road near Kabajib.
US Naval Forces Central Command Tuesday issued a warning, clearly aimed at Iran, that "due to recent events and in order to enhance safety, minimize ambiguity and reduce opportunities for miscalculation, all vessels are advised to maintain a safe distance of at least 100 meters from US naval vessels in international waters/straits. Armed vessels approaching within 100 meters of a US naval vessel may be interpreted as a threat and subject to lawful defensive measures."
The Washington Post published that US and foreign government officials believe that Israel launched the May 9 cyberattack on computers at Iran's Shahid Rajaee port terminal, which delayed traffic around the port for days, in retaliation for a failed April 24 Iranian attempt to hack computers operating Israeli rural water distribution systems.
United Arab Emirates
In the first commercial flight between the UAE and Israel, an Etihad Airways cargo jet carrying medical aid for Palestinians landed at Ben-Gurion Airport Tuesday night. The aid consisted of 14 tons of medical supplies, including protective equipment and 10 ventilators. Neither the West Bank nor the Gaza Strip has an airport.
Fighting between the forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi's internationally recognized government and the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) ebbed Tuesday after STC leader Aidaroos Al-Zubaidi accepted Riyadh's invitation to hold truce negotiations in Saudi Arabia. The fighting erupted when Hadi's forces tried to wrest Aden from the STC after the latter declared self-rule in Aden and other southern provinces on April 25.
The New York Times revealed that several prominent Saudis incarcerated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – including Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Salman al Saud and Princess Basmah bint Saud – have hired lobbyists with links to the Trump administration to advocate their release.
A Katyusha rocket hit an empty house near the US Embassy in the first attack on the Green Zone since Mustafa al-Kadhimi became Iraq's prime minister on May 7. The US has blamed the Tehran-backed Kataib Hezbollah for carrying out similar rocket attacks on the Green Zone in the past.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum