On Friday August 3, 2018, near-record breaking temperatures were reported in Southern Europe where temperatures reached 46°C (115F) in Setúbal near Lisbon. Soaring temperatures were also recorded in Spain causing 3 deaths by heat stroke. The continent-wide heatwave has caused drought and wildfires from Greece to Sweden. As such, in Greece, high winds ignited dangerous wildfires, which killed more than 90 people last month.
In a surprising move, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz addressed in a letter to US President Donald Trump his rejection of the proposed peace plan for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. As such, King Salman informed President Trump that Saudi Arabia cannot support the ‘Deal of the Century’ if there is no mention of a settlement on the status of East Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital and the right of return of refugees.
On Tuesday July 25th, an attack, carried out by Houthi Rebels targeting a Saudi oil tanker West of Hodeidah port city, was thwarted by the Western-backed Arab coalition forces. The Red Sea port of Hodeidah sits on the strategic passageway of the Bab el-Mandeb strait but currently lies under the control of Houthi rebel forces as they are clashing with Saudi and Emirati military forces for control of the city. The Saudi-led intervention has marked its third year since it first began following the Houthi takeover of the capital Sana’a in 2015.
On Tuesday July 24th, Israeli Security Forces (ISF) intercepted a Syrian fighter jet that allegedly penetrated two kilometers deep inside Israeli airspace over the Golan Heights while carrying out air raids targeting militant positions in southwestern Syria. After two Patriot missiles were fired, reports indicated that the aircraft crashed inside militant-held positions in South Syria and that at least one out of two pilots supposedly died as a result. Later on, ISIS-affiliated militants released images of the downed plane on social media.
On Wednesday July 18th, the Israeli Knesset (parliament) voted in favor of the controversial bill that aims to define the country as a Jewish nation-state and approved into law following a second and third reading on the same day. A final draft of the bill was already approved back on Monday July 16th and the legislation would now be enshrined in the quasi-constitutional Basic Law.
On Saturday July 14th, Israeli Security Forces (ISF) launched its most severe airstrike campaign against the Gaza Strip since the war of 2014 (i.e. Operation Protective Edge) after militants allegedly fired over 200 rockets and other projectiles towards Israeli controlled areas. Sirens reportedly went off in southern parts of Israel, including Sha’ar HaNegev, Sdot Negev, Hof Ashkelon and Eshkol Regional Councils. As such, due to a high state of tensions, Israeli authorities closed public beaches and restricted gatherings of large groups in those areas.
Residents of Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria have been shaken, quite literally, during the past week by a series of earthquakes and aftershocks beginning in Jordan on Wednesday, July 4, and most recently experienced in Israel on Monday, July 9. Seismic activities are not abnormal for the area, occurring primarily in the Great Rift Valley, which extends from northern Syria to Mozambique. The area lies on the Dead Sea Transform fault system, a boundary that separates two major plate systems.
The largest anti-government protests in five years erupted in Jordan on May 30, 2018, the start of a multi-day demonstration opposing International Monetary Fund (IMF)-backed tax reform that appears to be aimed at raising additional tax revenues.
Since the 42nd commemoration of the Palestinian Land Day that began on Saturday March 30th, Palestinians from the Gaza Strip launched a 46-day long campaign to mainly demand the right of return of Palestinian refugees to Israeli controlled areas. The campaign was also meant to protest the transfer of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Nakbeh.