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One of the most important aspects of the weekend’s short but violent conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) was what didn’t happen: Hamas’ involvement.
A ceasefire between Israel and the PIJ over Gaza that went into effect at 11:30 pm local time (4:30 pm ET) Sunday appeared to be holding almost 24 hours later. The conflict led to the death of at least 44 militants and civilians in Gaza, according to information from the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Fifteen of the dead were children. Israel insists that most of those killed were militants, and that several civilians were killed by failed militant rocket launches.
Hamas, the militant group that runs Gaza, expressed support for the PIJ’s actions. But it kept its much larger and more powerful arsenal of rockets out of the equation, while Israel’s military made it clear from the outset that they were focusing solely on PIJ targets.
That kept the conflict from spiraling into a larger, more dangerous confrontation, and closer to what happened during the 11-day war in May 2021.
So why not get involved? According to analysts and Israeli officials, one reason is the fact that it is still only 15 months since the 2021 conflict that led to considerable damage and death in Gaza. Palestinians there are still rebuilding their homes, and Hamas is rebuilding its arsenal.
The Israeli government also believes its campaign of economic incentives – boosting the number of permits given to Gazans to cross into Israel for work – is succeeding.
Israel and Egypt have imposed a closure on Gaza since 2007, limiting access to the territory via land, air and sea, including tight restrictions on the movement of residents and the flow of goods.
If rockets are fired, Israel closes the border and thousands of Gazans with permits cannot work in Israel or get paid.
On Monday, a senior Israeli diplomatic official said Hamas was “an enemy not a partner … but there is cooperation we can do, predominantly through Egypt, to improve the situation in Gaza.”
For showing restraint, Hamas will expect to be rewarded.
Lapid’s first big security test
The weekend’s conflict was also the first major military test for interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid. Unlike his predecessor Naftali Bennett, Lapid is not known for his military combat experience. But like US President Joe Biden’s visit last month, it was another moment for Lapid to look like a real prime minister — images Lapid likely hopes Israelis remember as they had to the polls in November.
The conflict also brought about another breakthrough, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale: former prime minister, now opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu met with Lapid on Sunday to receive a security briefing on the operation. It was his first security briefing since leaving power – even though by law it is supposed to be standard practice. Until this weekend, Netanyahu had boycotted the meetings.
After the meeting, Netanyahu said he supported the operation and gave his “full backing to the government, the IDF, and the security forces.”
Parts of Gaza once again lie in rubble and the mourning continues for lost lives, but for everyday Israelis and Gazans, the conflict has not led to a substantial change in the political situation on the ground.
Russia envoy to Iran nuclear talks says they are “moving in right direction”
Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s chief negotiator in Vienna for talks aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal, on Sunday told media, “I cannot guarantee [anything], but the impression is that we are moving in the right direction.” He said there were “minimal” unresolved issues, “just 3 [or] 4.”
- Background: Tehran ramped up uranium enrichment at a pace not seen since the signing of the 2015 nuclear deal. Former US President Donald Trump withdrew from that agreement in 2018. In June, Iran switched off surveillance cameras used by the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor activity at the country’s key nuclear facilities. Sunday marked the fourth day of this latest round – the ninth – of the Iran nuclear talks.
- Why it matters: Talks broke down earlier this year over Tehran’s insistence that the US remove the Revolutionary Guards from its list of terrorist organizations, which the US has refused to do. The US did however send Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley to Vienna for the new round of talks, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last Monday that the US is “prepared to move forward on the basis of what’s been agreed,” but it it is unclear if Iran is prepared to do the same.
Putin, Erdogan agree to begin partial payment in rubles for Russian gas
Bilateral talks in Sochi between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan included an agreement to pay Russia in rubles for partial gas supplies. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said the two presidents reached agreements on establishing a financial banking bloc “to enable commercial companies, Russian citizens, to pay during tourist trips and exchange money.”
- Background: Russia has been trying to force its customers to pay for energy in rubles. President Vladimir Putin signed a decree in March that requires buyers of natural gas from “unfriendly countries” to hold accounts at Gazprombank — Russia’s third-largest bank — and settle contracts in rubles.
- Why it matters: Russia is on a mission to prove it’s not as isolated as the US would like it to be. Tightening relations between Putin and Erdogan may provide Russia with routes to ease the pressure of western sanctions on the country. The ruble crashed to a record low in the wake of the invasion, but it is the world’s best-performing currency this year, according to Reuters. The central bank has implemented policies to prevent investors and companies from selling the currency and other measures that force them to buy it.
Iran city reaches 53 degrees Celsius, the hottest temperature in the world this year
Abadan, Iran had a high temperature of 53.0° C (127.4° F) Friday – the highest temperature recorded anywhere in the world in 2022, according to weather historian Maximiliano Herrera.
- Background: Numerous locations across Iran, Iraq and Kuwait topped 50 degrees Celsius Friday. Temperatures were expected to drop back closer to average after the weekend, with highs in the mid to upper 40s Celsius. The highest temperature ever recorded in the world is 56.7° C (134.1° F) in Death Valley, California, on July 10, 1913.
- Why it matters: Heat of this caliber raises major concerns for heat-related illness, especially for those without access to water and proper shelter and is likely to bolster arguments for action on climate change.
The citizens of one of the richest Arab countries are demanding a rise in wages.
Kuwaitis took to Twitter to express their frustration at the country’s economic situation, blaming official corruption and greed for alleged inequality in pay.
Kuwaiti citizens are a minority in the country of 4.2 million, making up just 30% of the population, according to the World Population Review. Most rely on government jobs to make a living.
“It’s inconceivable that a rich country like Kuwait that has a small number of people and the strongest currency in the world [wouldn’t raise wages],” tweeted Mohammed Al Huwaishel. “The demands of the people must be met without conditions.”
Many Kuwaitis take government jobs – where pay can be up to 28% higher than the private sector – because they either lack the necessary skills to work in the private sector or because some of those jobs are seen as menial, according to the Middle East Institute .
Due to the benefits offered in government jobs, the private sector finds it difficult to lure Kuwaitis. According to the International Monetary Fund, public wages and benefits account for one-third of the government’s budget. The government set aside $72 billion in spending for its latest budget.
The World Bank warned in December that the government’s wage bill is unsustainable, saying that if the situation continues, the country’s financial reserves will be depleted. The nation has made the least progress among oil-rich Gulf Arab countries to reform its wage bill and has even increased hiring, it said.
Another hashtag on Twitter called on the government to write off citizens’ debt, which is not without precedent. After the end of the 1991 Gulf War, the government wrote off almost all consumer debt.
By Mohammed Abdelbary