Iran’s Supreme Leader Hosts Syria’s President and Qatar’s Emir


Iran’s Supreme Leader Hosts Syria’s President and Qatar’s Emir 

On Sunday, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad made a surprise visit to Iran—his second since the start of Syria’s war in 2011. While there, Assad met with Iran’s supreme leader and president. His trip to Syria comes amid Damascus’ warming ties with Gulf Arab states and can be seen as an attempt by the Iranian leadership to shore up his status as a member of Iran’s Axis of Resistance. As Khamenei said, “the bond and the relationship between Iran and Syria are vital to both countries, and we should not let these relations weaken. Rather, we should strengthen them as much as possible.” Khamenei also separately hosted Qatar’s emir this week—they last met in January 2020 after former Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani was killed—where he warned “wherever the Zionists step in, they bring corruption, and they are unable to give any power or concessions to other countries. Therefore, we the countries of the region must strengthen our relations as much as possible through cooperation and consultation.” These comments show Khamenei views the Abraham Accords as a threat.  

Israel and the Palestinian Territories 

Hamas Condemns Death of Al Jazeera Reporter 

Following the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh in Jenin, Hamas, without evidence, accused Israel of an “assassination and premeditated murder” of Aqleh. Israeli and Palestinian officials have been accusing each other of complicity in her death, with the Palestinians refusing to join a joint investigation with Israel into the episode. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz told the Knesset this week that initial findings showed no IDF fire directed at Abu Akleh, but Israel had “seen footage of indiscriminate shooting by Palestinian terrorists, which is likely to have hit the journalist.”

Threats to Assassinate Hamas’ Leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar and Thwarting Arms Transfers 

In the aftermath of deadly terrorist attacks in Israel, Haaretz reported this week that Egypt has sent Israel a warning not to assassinate Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, during meetings between Egyptian intelligence and their Israeli counterparts. Cairo cautioned that such a step could lead to a new war and destroy all previous understandings between Israel and Gaza. At the same time, other reports emerged this week that Israel was not planning on assassinating Palestinian terrorist leaders in Gaza, but is instead focusing on retaliating against Hamas leadership abroad, particularly Saleh al-Arouri, who directs covert military networks in the West Bank and is seen as close with Iran, as well as Zaher Jabarin, who is in charge of finances. Separately, in an attempt to showcase the ongoing threat from Hamas, Israeli security forces revealed that it had thwarted an attempt to smuggle weapons production materials from the Sinai Peninsula through the Mediterranean Sea to Hamas on April 8.


Iranian Artillery Fire Hits North of Erbil

Iraqi Kurdish media reported this week that artillery fire from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) hit an area north of Erbil, which Iranian media described as terrorist bases. A shell landed in Sidekan, near the Iranian border. Iran has targeted Iranian Kurdish militants in Iraq on previous occasions.  


Nasrallah Gives Speeches Ahead of Parliamentary Elections

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah delivered three speeches this week, ahead of Lebanon’s election on May 15, each coinciding with an “election festival” held in the group’s various electoral strongholds – south Lebanon’s cities of Tyre and Nabatieh, South Beirut, and finally in the Bekaa Valley.

In his first speech, Nasrallah described the May 15 parliamentary polls as a “political July War,” referring to the 2006 War between Israel and Hezbollah and stressed that his group would “practice political resistance in the elections to preserve the military resistance.” He stressed that Hezbollah and the “Resistance,” far from negatively impacting Lebanon’s economy, were actually providing an economic boon by protecting the country’s right to extract its oil and gas “from [the Israeli] enemy.” In his subsequent speech, Nasrallah reiterated this theme, saying Hezbollah would insist on remaining in any government, irrespective of its composition, to protect the “resistance.”

In the last speech, Nasrallah again returned to these themes, saying it was Israel that wanted the Lebanese to abandon “the resistance” to weaken the country and make it riper for exploitation and attack – from Israel but also actors like ISIS. He also accused the United States of starving Lebanon, and of helping Lebanese depositors to smuggle their money out of the country. He finally promised that his group, over the next for years, would work on a “strategic project” for the entire Beqaa, “the project of a tunnel linking Beirut to the Beqaa.”  

Hezbollah Issues Condolences Over Death of Al-Jazeera Reporter Shireen Abu Aqleh

Hezbollah’s Media Relations Department issued statements of condolences to Al Jazeera and the family of reporter Shireen Abu Aqleh, who was killed in an exchange of fire between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in Jenin. Hezbollah’s statement described her as a “resistance journalist, who never tarried in documenting the realities of the Zionist crimes against her people over 20 years.”  

The statement added that Shireen’s death “in the heat of the event confirms the important and critical role that brave journalists carry upon themselves to uncover the daily terrorist ‘Israeli’ abuses, which the Occupation tries to bury by tightening the screws on journalists and media outlets.” The statement ended by condemning Israeli abuses against journalists and called on international bodies to prevent Israeli forces from doing so. Interestingly, Hezbollah’s statement did not explicitly accuse Israel of killing Abu Aqleh, intentionally or otherwise.

Relatedly, Hamas representative in Lebanon Dr. Ahmad Abdulhadi, accompanied by the group’s political and military official Abdul Majid Al-Awad, visited Al Jazeera’s offices in Beirut to meet with the office’s director Mazen Ibrahim and the producer Alaa Al-Awad to convey their condolences over Abu Aqleh’s death.

Hezbollah Inaugurates Wind Farm in Baalbek 

Hezbollah this week reportedly inaugurated a wind farm to generate electricity in the neighborhood of Al-Aseira in Baalbek. Hezbollah’s Deputy Official for Baalbek Hani Fakhreddine said that activating this power station would contribute to providing the area with potable water. The project, according to the report, was carried out by the Arch architectural consulting group.  

New Jersey Man Convicted Of Receiving Military-Type Training From Hezbollah, Marriage Fraud, And Making False Statements 

Alexei Saab, 44, was convicted on Wednesday of receiving military-type training from a designated foreign terrorist organization, Hezbollah, marriage fraud conspiracy, and making false statements, following a two-week trial.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “A unanimous jury found today that Alexei Saab is guilty of receiving military-type training from Hezbollah, a known terrorist organization. The evidence at trial showed that Saab surveilled some of New York’s most iconic and highly trafficked locations, such as the U.N. headquarters, Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, the Empire State Building, and local airports, tunnels, and bridges— in order to provide critical intelligence on how they could be most effectively attacked. Saab’s chilling campaign against the American ideals of liberty and freedom has thankfully come to an end.”

According to documents and evidence submitted at trial, Saab joined Hezbollah in 1996, where he monitored Israeli forces and their South Lebanon Army allies in south Lebanon. He attended his first military training in 1999, and in 2000 transferred to Hezbollah’s unit responsible for external operations. Later in 2000, he entered the United States, while maintaining his affiliation with Hezbollah. 

In addition to his attack-planning activities in the United States, Saab conducted operations abroad. For example, in or about 2003, Saab attempted to murder a man he later understood to be a suspected Israeli spy. Saab pointed a firearm at the individual at close range and pulled the trigger twice, but the firearm did not fire. Saab also conducted surveillance in Istanbul, Turkey, and elsewhere.


Israel Conducts Strikes in Syria

On Friday, Syrian air defenses were activated in response to what Syrian media dubbed “Israeli aggression” over the Masyaf area. This area has seen airstrikes in the past, especially given its hosting of Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center facilities. This followed an Israeli missile strike targeting the Qurs al-Nafl site in Quneitra in southwest Syria near the border with Israel early Wednesday morning. Four missiles were reportedly fired towards the site, with no casualties occurring. Later on Wednesday morning, a second Israeli attack, this time with tank fire, was reported in Jubata Al Khashab and az-Zuhur, located slightly south of the site targeted earlier, according to local reports. At least 15 shells were reportedly fired towards observation points belonging to the Syrian military. This came on the heels of a reported airstrike in Deir el-Zour on Saturday, which has been targeted in the past given the presence of Iran-backed militias in the area.