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Early Edition: October 17, 2023

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A curated weekday guide to major news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.

ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR

Thousands of people have gathered at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, the only remaining exit out of Gaza, hoping that diplomatic efforts will open the crossing before the expected Israeli ground incursion. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been in discussions with Egypt and Israel to reopen the crossing. However, there has been no progress in negotiations, the U.N. said, with Egypt blaming Israel for “not cooperating.” Egypt has focused on allowing aid into Gaza and has said it could host medical evacuations and Gazans with permission to travel onwards. Israeli strikes have hit the Rafah crossing area at least three times since its air campaign began. Ece Goksedef reports for BBC News.

ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR – INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE

Iran foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian yesterday warned that an Iranian-backed network of militias would open “multiple fronts” against Israel if attacks killing civilians in Gaza continued. He said a “pre-emptive action” was possible “in the coming few hours.” The announcement comes after Abdollahian met with leaders from Hamas, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militant group in Lebanon, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Abdollahian confirmed that Tehran received “deceitful messages” from the United States aimed at ensuring the conflict does not expand. Farnaz Fassihi reports for the New York Times.

ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR – U.S. RESPONSE

President Biden will visit Israel tomorrow, signifying U.S. commitment to Israel. According to White House National Security spokesperson John Kirby, Biden will meet with top Israeli officials to discuss their strategy and humanitarian assistance for Palestinians inside Gaza. Biden will then travel to Jordan to meet Egyptian and Palestinian Authority leaders and address the “dire humanitarian needs.” Stephen Kalin, Summer Said, Fatima AbdulKarim, Tarini Parti, and William Mauldin report for the Wall Street Journal.

General Michael “Erik” Kurilla, Commander of the U.S. Central Command, has arrived in Israel to meet with Israel’s military leadership. “I’m here to ensure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself, and am particularly focused on avoiding other parties expanding the conflict,” General Kurilla said. U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

A rapid response force, consisting of 2,000 U.S. Marines and sailors, is being deployed to the eastern Mediterranean, two defense officials said. The force is tasked with providing Israel medical and logistical support. Officials have stressed that the United States has no plans to deploy U.S. soldiers to fight in the Israel-Hamas war. Natasha Bertrand and Oren Liebermann report for CNN.

U.S. diplomatic efforts in the Middle East appear to be failing, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with regional allies to ensure the conflict does not expand. Blinken was kept waiting for several hours by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who framed the conflict as “military operations that have claimed the lives of innocent people,” effectively siding against the Israeli offensive. Saudi Arabia is reportedly pausing U.S.-backed efforts to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel. While Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said we “unequivocally condemn” Hamas’ attack, he also said, “we need to understand that this is the result of accumulated fury and hatred over four decades, where the Palestinians had no hope to find a solution.” Nahal Toosi reports for POLIITICO.

GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS 

The man who killed two Swedish nationals and injured a third in Brussels was shot dead by police yesterday evening. Brussels authorities have placed the city on maximum terror alert since the incident. The Brussels prosecutor’s office believes the attack was inspired by the self-styled Islamic State militant group. It is believed the gunman is of Tunisian origin and was in Belgium unlawfully following his asylum application being rejected. Sofia Bettiza and Gem O’Reilly report for BBC News.

Turkey has stalled the ratification of Sweden’s NATO bid as it hopes to leverage Sweden’s accession to gain U.S. support for its request to buy F-16 jets. The 17-month delay shows no signs of ending despite Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s promise during the NATO summit in July to send Sweden’s bid to parliament in October. The State Department may seek congressional approval to sell F-16 fighter jets and modernization kits to Turkey worth $20 billion, two people familiar with the situation said. However, there is no clear timeline. Jonathan Spicer, Huseyin Hayatsever, and Tuvan Gumrukcu report for Reuters.

Poland’s ruling hard-right Law and Justice party has secured the most votes with over 35 percent in the national election but is likely to fall short of a governing majority. The centrist opposition party Civic Platform secured just over 30 percent and will likely be able to form a coalition government. Voter turnout was around 74 percent, the highest in Poland since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Anthony Faiola and Annabelle Chapman report for the Washington Post.

RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS

Russia is withdrawing the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, citing the irresponsible attitude of the United States toward global security. Russia will remain a signatory to the treaty and continue participating in the global monitoring system. Earlier this month, President Vladimir Putin said, “I am not ready to say whether we really need to conduct tests or not, but it is possible theoretically to behave in the same way as the United States.” Guy Faulconbridge reports for Reuters.

Russia’s large-scale assault on the small east Ukrainian city of Avdiivka, which began last week, has made little progress and led to heavy Russian losses. Russia lost 2,000 troops on the first day of the assault on Avdiivka, Col. Oleksiy Dmytrashkivskiy, a Ukrainian military spokesperson said. Russia also lost at least 36 armored vehicles since the initial assault, according to open-source intelligence analysts. The Russian failure to gain much territory in the east mirrors Ukraine’s slow counter-offensive in the south. Ian Lovett reports for the Wall Street Journal.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen yesterday said the United States would continue supporting Ukraine and pledged more aid during a meeting of European finance ministers. Yellen attempted to assuage European concerns that the standstill in the House of Representatives and the Israel-Hamas war would diminish U.S. resolve in supporting Ukraine. Yesterday, Yellen said, “I absolutely believe that we will get” funding for Ukraine and Israel through Congress. Alan Rappeport reports for the New York Times.

U.S. RELATIONS

The Venezuelan government and opposition will today resume discussions about electoral guarantees in the upcoming 2024 election, President Nicolas Maduro said. The two sides last met in November 2022. Two sources said that the United States could lift some restrictions on Venezuela’s banking sector if Maduro commits to a presidential election date and lifts the ban on opposition candidates. The United States imposed sanctions on Venezuela after the Maduro regime came to power in what the United States considers a sham election. Mayela Armas, Matt Spetalnick and Marianna Parraga report for Reuters.

The United States and the Marshall Islands yesterday signed a 20-year agreement on economic assistance worth $2.3 billion, chief U.S. negotiator Joseph Yun said. Under the Compacts of Free Association, the United States will provide economic assistance to the Marshall Islands and will be responsible for its defense while gaining exclusive military access to strategic portions of the Pacific Ocean. Former officials said the agreement was delayed because State Department lawyers objected to the funding being used to address the U.S. nuclear legacy in the region out of fear more claims could be brought. David Brunnstrom and Michael Martina reports for Reuters.

DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – TRUMP LEGAL MATTERS

Former President Trump was placed under a limited gag order by District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who is overseeing his federal election interference case. Trump must stop disparaging prosecutors, witnesses, and court personnel involved in the trial. However, Chutkan’s order falls short of what prosecutors sought, as Trump may continue verbally abusing President Biden. She also said, “Trump can certainly claim he’s being unfairly prosecuted,” provided he does not denigrate individual prosecutors. This is Trump’s second gag order this month, following a ruling in his civil fraud trial in New York, which bars him from discussing court personnel. Rachel Weiner, Perry Stein, Tom Jackman, Devlin Barrett, and Spencer S. Hsu report for the Washington Post.

Former President Trump seeks to give evidence in U.K. courts, where he is suing for “significant damage and distress” over the “Steele Dossier” that alleged Trump bribed officials and participated in sex parties in Russia. The allegations were gathered in a dossier by Orbis Business Intelligence, which was hired to investigate Russian election interference in 2016. Buzzfeed then published the allegations. A lawyer for Orbis said, “any reputational damage, and any resulting distress, allegedly suffered will have been caused by the BuzzFeed publication, for which the claimant accepts Orbis is not liable.” Dominic Casciani reports for BBC News.

OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS

Federal prosecutors yesterday filed a notice to appeal the sentences of five far-right Proud Boys group members convicted for their role in the Jan. 6 attack. This marks the second such appeal, with the first relating to the sentencing of Oath Keepers members. While prosecutors are not required to give reasons for the appeal, it could reflect their dissatisfaction with the length of the sentences handed down. Tom Jackman reports for the Washington Post.

Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) has won the support of several of his most prominent opponents, offering a clearer path to becoming Speaker of the House. People close to Jordan said only 10 Republican holdouts remain. Jordan is a hard-line co-founder of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus. Luke Broadwater reports for the New York Times.

The Supreme Court has barred two Texas-based manufacturers from selling products that can be converted into firearms called “ghost guns,” lifting an injunction that blocked enforcement of a 2022 federal regulation. The federal regulation expanded the definition of a firearm under the 1968 Gun Control Act to include gun parts and kits. The Supreme Court held that the injunction favoring ghost gun kit makers, despite the prior intervention by the justices, “openly flouted” the Supreme Court’s authority. Andrew Chung reports for Reuters.

Violent crime across the United States has dropped to pre-Covid-19 levels, while property crimes rose substantially, according to the FBI’s annual crime report published yesterday. The rates of murder and non-negligent manslaughter decreased by 6.1 percent. Rape fell by 5.4 percent. Property crimes jumped 7.1 percent. Jim Salter reports for AP News.


The post Early Edition: October 17, 2023 appeared first on Just Security.

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