Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis on Wednesday told Army Radio annexation "will certainly happen in the month of July" and that Israel is waiting for President Trump to make a declaration because "coordination with the American administration is not something that can be dismissed." A source informed the Jerusalem Post that Jerusalem and Washington will jointly determine next week where and when Israel will extend its laws in the West Bank.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson published a Hebrew op-ed in Yedioth Ahronoth Wednesday arguing that proposals to annex West Bank territory will (1) "fail in their objective of securing Israel's borders," (2) "put in jeopardy the progress that Israel has made in improving relationships with the Arab and Muslim world," and (3) "represent a violation of international law." UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba published a Hebrew op-ed in Yedioth Ahronoth two weeks ago that also warned annexation could jeopardize Israel's growing cooperation with Arab countries.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian adopted a more threatening tone, saying at a parliamentary hearing Wednesday, "An annexation decision could not be left without consequences and we are examining different options at a national level and also in coordination with our main European partners." Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin met with the US and Israeli ambassadors Tuesday to express "the concern of the Holy See regarding possible unilateral actions that may further jeopardize the search for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as the delicate situation in the Middle East."
Mazen Ghoneim, head of the Palestinian Water Authority, estimated Wednesday that Israel annexing the Jordan Valley would cost the Palestinian economy more than $3.5 billion by reducing the agricultural sector's access to water, threatening at least 73,000 jobs. A Hamas spokesman Wednesday called on the Palestinians in the West Bank to rise up and confront Israelis at checkpoints and military positions in reaction to the annexation plan. Meanwhile, 3,000 Gazans from both Hamas and Fatah, in a show of Palestinian unity, protested the anticipated annexation of West bank territory.
The Saudi-led coalition backing President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi's internationally recognized government launched a broad military operation against the Houthis Wednesday after an uptick a week ago in the Iranian-backed rebel movement's attacks on the kingdom. The Houthi movement on June 23 claimed to have hit with missiles and drones the Saudi defense and intelligence ministry buildings and King Salman Air Base, all in Riyadh, as well as military sites in the cities of Jazan and Najran. Turki al-Malki, the spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, on the other hand, maintained the kingdom intercepted the attack on the capital. Houthi-run al-Masirah TV reported Wednesday air strikes on Sanaa, Marib, al-Jouf, al-Bayda, Hajjah, and Saada provinces throughout the day and into the night.
French Ambassador to NATO Muriel Domenach sent a letter Tuesday to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg notifying him of Paris's decision to withdraw from Operation Sea Guardian, which enforces the UN arms embargo on Libya. The letter claims a NATO report into a June 10 confrontation between a French frigate and Turkish naval ships allegedly facilitating breaking the arms embargo "did not establish the facts." At a June 17-18 videoconference of NATO defense ministers, French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly accused three Turkish warships of conducting radar targeting on the French frigate Courbet three times, suggesting an imminent missile strike, when the Courbet sought to search a Turkish civilian ship suspected of violating the UN arms embargo on Libya. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced Wednesday that EU foreign ministers would meet at Paris's request on July 13 to discuss Ankara's destabilizing behavior, from illegal drilling in Cypriot waters to intervention in the Libyan civil war, and consider the imposition of sanctions.
Despite the White House determining last July that "Turkey's decision to purchase Russian S-400 air defense systems renders its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible," Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell said Tuesday that Turkish companies would continue to produce 139 components for the jets until 2022.
Early Wednesday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement urging "the government of Turkey to continue to maintain the Hagia Sophia as a museum, as an exemplar of its commitment to respect the faith traditions and diverse history that contributed to the Republic of Turkey, and to ensure it remains accessible to all." Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy responded by calling the administration of the Hagia Sophia, which was a church for 916 years before Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II converted it into a mosque in 1453, an "internal affair." The secular Turkish Republic transformed it into a museum in 1935. President Erdogan has voiced support for reconverting the Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
A Turkish business delegation plans to visit Libya within two weeks to assess how Turkish companies and banks might rebuild the country and meet its energy needs, two people familiar with the delegation told Reuters on Wednesday. Dunya newspaper reported on Monday that Turkish energy company Karadeniz Holding will submit a bid to supply up to 1,000 megawatts of electricity in Libya, where civil war has caused major power supply problems. Ankara hopes to profit from rebuilding the regions of Libya controlled by the Government of National Accord, the Turkish foreign and finance ministers visiting Tripoli earlier this month to discuss cooperation in the areas of investment, infrastructure, and oil.
Italian police in the southern port of Salerno seized 14 tons of amphetamines, apparently produced by ISIS in Syria to raise revenue, in the biggest amphetamine seizure in history. Investigators hypothesize that European drug traffickers turned to ISIS when COVID-19 restrictions prevented the domestic production of amphetamines. ISIS reportedly uses the amphetamine Fenethylline to "inhibit fear and pain." The 14 tons of Captagon pills has a street value of around $1.15 billion.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum