Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz at a joint press briefing Monday warned Israel will hold Lebanon responsible for any Hezbollah attack after between three and five armed members of the group crossed the border near Mount Dov but fled when the IDF opened fire on them with machine guns and tank shells. While Hezbollah issued a statement denying the incursion, the IDF says military security cameras documented it. The statement did, however, promise retaliation for Israel killing Hezbollah operative Ali Kamel Mohsen in a strike on an Iranian-backed ammunition store on Damascus's outskirts last week.
Moody's downgraded Lebanon's credit score from Ca to C, the lowest possible rating, reasoning that the lack of economic and fiscal policy reform precludes foreign aid that could facilitate government debt restructuring. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian declared last Thursday, "France is ready to fully mobilize at Lebanon's side and to mobilize all its partners, but for that serious and credible recovery measures have to be implemented." International donors never delivered $10.2 billion in loans and $860 million in grants pledged at a 2018 conference in Paris due to the lack of promised reforms. Lebanon's credit score downgrade comes on the same day as the government reimposed severe COVID-19 restrictions until August 10 following a spike in infections.
Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya expressed optimism Monday that the EU-Turkish conflict over Turkish energy exploration in Greek and Cypriot waters reached an "inflection point" thanks to Ankara's willingness to pause exploration for at least a month to enable dialogue. Yet, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who also participated in the news conference, did not confirm his government's commitment to a pause. French President Emmanuel Macron last Thursday demanded the EU impose sanctions on Turkey for its violations of Greek and Cypriot maritime zones.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba disclosed Monday that an Iranian delegation will visit Ukraine on Wednesday and Thursday to negotiate compensation for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps shooting down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 on January 8, killing 176. In February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy rejected an Iranian compensation offer of $80,000 per victim as insufficient. After France's Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety completed a preliminary investigative analysis of the plane's black boxes, Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Yevhenii Yenin tweeted last Friday, "The transcript confirmed the fact of illegal interference with the plane."
The Economic Court in Cairo sentenced five young women to two years in prison each for inciting "debauchery" and "immorality" on the video-sharing app TikTok. Each must also pay a 300,000 Egyptian pound ($18,763) fine. Egypt has arrested 12 female TikTok users over the past four months and some members of parliament are demanding its suspension for promoting nudity and immorality.
Stephanie Williams, acting head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, announced Monday "the finalization of the process to initiate an international audit of the two branches of the Central Bank of Libya" by Deloitte. The Tobruk-based government aligned with Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) established its own central bank in 2014. As most of the international community only recognizes the Tripoli-based National Oil Company's (NOC) right to export oil, virtually all oil export revenue was deposited in the Government of National Accord's (GNA) central bank. Accusing the GNA of inequitably distributing the country's oil revenue and using some to pay its militias along with Turkish-trained Syrian mercenaries, tribes loyal to the Tobruk-based government last January shut down the country's main oil terminals. LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mosmari earlier this month conditioned ending the oil blockade on auditing the GNA-affiliated central bank.
Doha revealed Monday it has opened exploratory talks with the International Olympic Committee to host the 2032 Summer Games. No Middle Eastern country has ever hosted an Olympic event. An indictment unsealed in April by the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York said that at the 2010 FIFA executive committee meeting "Ricardo Teixeira, Nicolas Leoz and co-conspirator #1 were offered and received bribe payments in exchange for their votes in favor of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup."
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum