Israel’s focus on a new Palestinian armed group in Nablus, how the war in Ukraine is impacting the Middle East, and a year on from Sudan’s military coup. Here’s your round-up, written by Abubakr Al-Shamahi, Al Jazeera Digital’s Middle East and North Africa editor.
When it comes to Palestinian politics and armed resistance, the same groups have dominated for decades, organisations such as Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. But in recent months a new armed group has emerged called the Lions’ Den. The Nablus-based group, which you can read more about in this explainer, is seen as evidence of the frustration young Palestinians feel towards their own ageing leadership, who they view as ineffective in confronting Israel.
Israel has been conducting near-daily raids on the occupied West Bank since March, killing dozens of Palestinians, but there now seems to be a focus on crushing the Lions’ Den. That’s led to deadly consequences – on Sunday one of the group’s leaders was assassinated, while on Tuesday six Palestinians were killed, five of them during an Israeli raid on Nablus.
The Ukraine war’s Middle East connection
Middle Eastern countries continue to find themselves in an awkward position when it comes to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Many have tried to chart a middle path by avoiding outright support for either party. It’s proven difficult, with the knock-on effects of the conflict increasing, and the contradictions of the “neutral” approach increasingly apparent.
Take Saudi Arabia. The US, and other Western nations, have wanted oil prices to come down, for their own domestic reasons, but also to put pressure on Russia. The Saudis haven’t played along, and instead made sure that OPEC+ lowered oil production to keep prices up. In this analysis piece, Giorgio Cafiero explains Riyadh’s thinking, and their wish to keep strong relations with the US, Russia and China.
Then there’s Israel, again a country that the West had expected to be fully part of the anti-Russian coalition, but which has shown itself to be less than willing to fully back Ukraine. The last week has been a perfect example of the contradictions. The Ukrainians were hoping that Israel would supply them with the Iron Dome air defence system, but after talks between the two sides, the Israelis said that wouldn’t be happening. That led to Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy criticising Israel’s neutrality, which he argued was strengthening relations between Russia and Iran.
Violence and protests in Sudan
The number of people who have died after fighting between two tribal groups in southern Sudan is staggering. Authorities now say they’ve counted 220 dead in Blue Nile province, which borders Ethiopia and South Sudan. We’ve previously explained some of the root causes of the conflict during a rise in violence in July that killed dozens. The fact that the fighting hasn’t gone away shows just how deep-rooted the conflict, which began over a land dispute, is becoming.
The violence is just one element of the unrest that people in Sudan face today. Tuesday marked a year since a military coup, and protesters demonstrated in a show of defiance against Sudan’s rulers. Reporter Mat Nashed sent this dispatch from Khartoum, where at least one protester died, and witnesses reported men with knives chasing protesters.
What comes next? Protesters want a full return to civilian rule, as the military tries to find a way to at least hold on to some power. Resistance – even beyond protests – continues to grow. But either way, Sudan needs to find a solution to the impasse. As the central bank’s former deputy governor, Farouck Kamabreesi, points out, the coup led to a funding freeze from donors, and a suspension of debt relief. That’s unlikely to be reversed until some form of civilian government returns.
And now for something different
The 2022 FIFA World Cup is just around the corner. Some people (possibly me) are desperately waiting for squad lists to be announced, and may or may not have a wallchart up already. For those people, I’d recommend this World Cup quiz — the more questions you get right, the more goals you score, the closer you get to taking your team to the World Cup final. I’m going to be adding England’s first World Cup win since 1966 to my CV.
Iranian protesters mark 40 days since the death of Mahsa Amini – Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will not attend an upcoming Arab summit due to “doctors’ advice” – Iran opens new consulate in Armenia in a warning to Azerbaijan – France repatriates citizens from Syrian camps housing suspected ISIL family members – Lebanon begins ‘voluntary’ repatriation of Syrian refugees – Shireen Abu Akleh’s family meet Pope Francis at the Vatican – Israel begins gas production at Karish as maritime border deal is signed with Lebanon – Attack on shrine in Iranian city of Shiraz kills 15.
Quote of the Week
“Qatar has been subjected to an unprecedented campaign that no host country has ever faced… that made many question, unfortunately, about the real reasons and motives behind this campaign.” — Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, as the country makes its final preparations before the World Cup, set to kick off on November 20. Qatar has come under criticism for the treatment of migrant workers and human rights concerns. Doha has said that it has made changes, and the emir’s comments highlight how the leadership feels Qatar is being unfairly targeted.