March 28th – April 1st

Monday, 28th March 2016

ISRAEL A supreme court ruling that strikes down a deal to develop the large offshore Leviathan gasfield has left Israel’s government searching for ways to proceed. The decision was a blow to Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, who had appeared before the court to push forward the agreement reached with companies led by Noble Energy of Texas and Delek Group of Israel. (Financial Times)

SYRIA The Syrian army, backed by Russian warplanes, is reported to be continuing its offensive against so-called Islamic State (IS) after recapturing the ancient city of Palmyra on Sunday. (BBC)

“The situation in Syria is very good,” Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), said March 28. “Even taking into account the cease-fires that are underway, there is no change in policy by Russia and it is in coordination with the resistance front.” The shift toward more optimism is the result of government troops’ — backed by Russian airstrikes and Hezbollah — retaking the ancient city of Palmyra. (Al Monitor)

TURKEY President Barack Obama does not plan on having talks with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he visits Washington later this week for a nuclear security summit, amid deep divisions between the two NATO nations. (Middle East Eye)

Tuesday, 29th March 2016

CYPRUSA distraught ex-husband sparked an international security alert on Tuesday when he hijacked a plane bound for Cairo and forced it to divert to Cyprus. (The National)

ISRAEL – Israel’s parliament gave initial approval on Monday to a bill that would allow members to suspend from the legislature colleagues whom they believe have supported Israel’s enemies or have acted against the state. The proposal was strongly criticized by opposition members who said it was aimed against Israel’s Arab lawmakers. (Al Arabiya)

MIGRANT CRISISThe United Nations said on Tuesday it was seeking to re-settle 1 in 10 Syrian; i.e. more than 450,000 Syrian refugees now in neighboring countries, by the end of 2018. A ministerial-level conference is being held in Geneva on Wednesday with the participation of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

SYRIA Syrian army successes will help accelerate a political settlement to the country’s civil war, President Bashar al-Assad said, because they weaken the position of international opponents who he accused of hindering any agreement. In an interview published as government forces, backed by heavy Russian air power, maintained an offensive against Islamic State militants, Assad said his government “continue to be flexible” in its approach to talks aimed at ending the war. (Reuters)

Wednesday, 30th March 2016

LEBANON Gulf counter-Hezbollah campaign threatens to deport Lebanese MP. Gulf ambassador to Lebanon told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the decision on Gulf countries confronting Hezbollah is of a strategic nature. The decision will be implemented within the framework of fighting the Iranian regional project on expanding its dominance. The ambassador revealed that the decision was taken by officials of a senior level in the Gulf. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

MIGRANT CRISISU.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged governments around the world Wednesday to let in more people from Syria, as the global body tries find new homes for almost half a million people who have fled the war-torn country. (Daily Mail)

SYRIA Syria’s president has said “opposition forces” could form part of a new government, the shape of which could be agreed at peace talks in Geneva. (BBC)

WAR ON TERRORSigns of wider military cooperation in Syria have emerged as Russia revealed that discussions have taken place about coordinating the liberation of the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa in conjunction with the US. (The Guardian)

Thursday, 31st March 2016

LEBANONLebanon’s armed forces acquired three U.S. helicopters worth $26 million on Thursday to help in efforts to stop Syria’s civil war spilling over its border, along with almost $29 million of British aid as EU countries also step up their support. (Daily Mail)

LIBYAThe chief of Libya’s new UN-backed government has reached Tripoli, defying threats from city militias, to proclaim a new order for the conflict-ravaged country in a move that could eventually pave the way for international forces to provide troops and air support. (The Guardian)

MIGRANT CRISIS Greek authorities on Thursday began bussing hundreds of migrants and refugees to accommodation in other parts of Greece from a port near Athens, where they spent weeks sleeping in the open and tensions flared over phone chargers and food. (Reuters)

SYRIA Britain’s foreign minister has scoffed at Syrian President Bashar Assad’s offer for a national unity government that includes members of the opposition, calling it insufficient. (The New York Times)

TURKEY A car bomb killed seven police officers and wounded around two dozen people in Turkey’s Diyarbakir on Thursday, security sources and officials said, a day before the prime minister is due to visit the biggest city in the largely Kurdish southeast. (Daily Mail)

Friday, 1st April 2016

LIBYA Libya’s UN-backed unity government has held meetings at a heavily guarded naval base in Tripoli. The leaders arrived at the base by ship from neighboring Tunisia on Wednesday in a high-risk bid to take power, after opponents prevented them from flying in by closing down Tripoli’s airspace. (Al Jazeera)

SYRIAPresident Bashar al-Assad has said he is willing to hold early presidential elections, but sharp differences over his future are still hampering efforts to resolve Syria’s five-year civil war. (Al Monitor)

Kurdish forces in Syria are preparing with the international coalition to “liberate” the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, the leader of Syria’s Kurds said on Thursday. (Al Monitor)

TURKEYRights group Amnesty International says Turkey has illegally returned thousands of Syrian refugees to their war-torn homeland since mid-January, highlighting what the group says are ‘fatal flaws’ in a recently-agreed refugee deal between Turkey and the European Union. (Deutsche Welle)

US President Barack Obama on Thursday reaffirmed the US commitment to Turkey’s security during a meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, while also discussing both countries’ efforts to fight ISIS, the White House said. (Al Arabiya)

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