Syria is back in the Arab League, Israel is bombarding Gaza with airstrikes, and it’s almost election time in Turkey. Here’s your round up of our coverage, written by Abubakr Al-Shamahi, Middle East and North Africa editor at Al Jazeera Digital.
Prisons full of dissidents, hundreds of thousands of people dead and millions of refugees. Despite everything, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will find himself sitting at the head table again, along with his fellow leaders at the Arab League summit in Riyadh later this month. The Arab League’s re-embrace of Al-Assad, despite 12 years of war on his own people, is not a surprise. Syria’s return to regional favor has been signed for many months, with the first normalizers, such as the UAE, passing the baton of acceptance to Saudi Arabia, whose foreign minister was recently in Damascus.
Arab League states agreed to welcome Syria back into the organization on Sunday. The country was suspended more than a decade ago, the punishment for the brutal suppression of the Syrian opposition that dared to rise against al-Assad in 2011. But realpolitik, like al-Assad, has so far emerged victorious. With a weak opposition controlling only a small part of Syria, and a realignment of the regional order after Saudi Arabia turned its attention to Iran, the sense in Arab capitals is that the Freezing al-Assad no longer serves a purpose.
[READ: Syria’s return to the Arab League leaves opposition dismayed]
Will the rest of the Arab League get anything in return? Justice is clearly a nonstarter, so the focus instead appears on, well, Captagon, an amphetamine-like drug mass-produced in Syria that has exploded in popularity in the Gulf. At a meeting in Amman on May 1, Damascus said it would stop the smuggling of Captagon. And then on Monday, a day after Syria was readmitted to the Arab League, a Jordanian air attack reportedly killed a suspected Syrian drug smuggler and his family in southern Syria. Hmm, what?
Israel is bombing Gaza, again
The death of a Palestinian hunger striker, Khader Adnan, in an Israeli prison last week led to a brief exchange of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, and Israeli air attacks on the besieged territory. A regionally mediated truce quickly began, but that was suddenly shattered in the early hours of Tuesday morning by a series of Israeli airstrikes that killed three top Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders. (PIJ), as well as 10 others. All civilians. Including children.
This was the beginning of what Israel called Operation Shield and Arrow. Factions in Gaza eventually fired rockets back into Israel on Wednesday, but most were intercepted by Israel’s missile defense system. For its part, Israel continues its crackdown on Gaza, where at the time of writing 27 people have died, most of them civilians.
So the specter of war returned to Gaza, brought home in a shocking way by a live broadcast on Al Jazeera’s Youmna El Sayed, when the horizon suddenly lit up with rockets being launched from across Gaza.
Israel, which has launched attacks on the PIJ, now looks set to slow down. And yet at the same time, the signs are that the Israelis are unwilling to give assurances that the killing of PIJ leaders will stop anytime soon. Some analysts believe that this latest attack on Gaza is actually a political gamble more than a military operation: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to face growing opposition to home, where members of the far right within his cabinet increased the pressure to attack Gaza. The bet is that Hamas won’t take the bait and fight back, which could lead to a much wider conflict—a calculated risk that could lead to even more death and destruction if the guess is wrong. said Netanyahu.
There is still no justice for Shireen Abu Akleh
Exactly one year ago, our colleague Shireen Abu Akleh, Al Jazeera’s longtime Palestinian correspondent, was killed by Israeli forces while she was reporting in the occupied West Bank.
Apart from the eyewitness reports and detailed investigation, even the Israelis admitted that there is a high possibility that one of their soldiers killed Shireen. But the truth is that we are no closer to any justice. Al Jazeera submitted a case to the International Criminal Court in December, but we are nowhere near a prosecution. It appears, according to some, that the ICC does not have much interest in moving the investigation forward, instead choosing to focus on Ukraine and Russia.
Whatever is said about the ICC and the pursuit of justice, Shireen’s memory will live on in Al Jazeera, across the region and the rest of the world. A journalist who did his job, and was killed for it.
It’s almost election time in Turkey
As we approach the D-day of the election which is Sunday, May 14, temperatures are rising in Turkey, with reported attacks on opposition and government politicians. We’re ramping up our coverage as Turkey prepares to vote in some of its most consequential presidential and parliamentary elections in decades.
[READ: Don’t take our votes for granted, warn Kurdish voters in Turkey]
With President Recep Tayyip Erdogan facing his biggest test yet, here’s a voting guide.
By this time next week we should have the results of the parliamentary and presidential elections (or at least the first round). Watch this space.
And now for something different
Stand-up comedy has exploded in popularity around the world, and Syria is now starting to take action. The members of Styria, which is called the country’s first stand-up comedy troupe, perform every week in Damascus, to tell all kinds of jokes about the state of the country. Well, not all kinds. In Bashar al-Assad’s Syria, politics is still a red line.
Doctors in Sudan are targeted by threats, smear campaigns | Six dead after attack near synagogue on Djerba island in Tunisia | The EU delegation in Israel canceled the Europe Day event due to the planned presence of the far-right minister | Many Iranian actresses have been called out for not wearing a hijab | Top Biden aide discusses Yemen peace efforts with Saudi Arabia’s MBS | The Iraqi court released the death sentence for the killers of the prominent academic | Israel hands over Jordanian MP accused of arms smuggling | Syrians still fear that buildings will collapse three months after the earthquakes Will Ethiopia and Eritrea be dragged into the war in Sudan? | Iran kills two Quran burners, a Swedish-Iranian dual national, and the ‘sultan of cocaine’ | US congresswoman introduced the bill to restrict aid to Israel | HRW: The academic held by the Egyptian authorities is at risk of death | Biden urges ending US aid to Tunisia due to authoritarian turn | Egyptian ex-MP planning presidential bid says relatives arrested |
Quote of the Week
“[The Rapid Support Forces] SPOKE [a warehouse security guard] to get a gun and help himself … they said guns were everywhere, they told him that [Sudan] is the land of guns.” | Nadir el-Gadi, a Sudanese pharmaceutical supplier, recalled how one of the security guards at his warehouse tried to get the RSF to stop the thieves, but was met with indifference. El-Gadi also had his home and business raided by the paramilitary RSF, which is now fighting the country’s army despite ongoing ceasefire talks with Saudi Arabia.