Weekly Roundup: US strikes Syria, Erdogan calls for snap elections, and a deadly plane crash in Algeria


The United States, in coordination with France and Britain, launched missile attacks on three locations in Syria on Saturday morning. The attacks targeted a science lab and two chemical weapons depots, and were intended to deter Bashar al-Assad from further use of chemical weapons against civilians, after a suspected chemical attack using sarin and chlorine killed dozens of civilians in Douma, eastern Damascus, on April 7. Trump’s decision to attack Syria drew strong criticism in the US and concern about deeper American involvement in the Syrian Civil War.



ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack on an Egyptian army base in the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday that killed at least eight soldiers. The attack comes two months after the launch of a massive operation against militants in Sinai as well as parts of Egypt’s Nile Delta and the Western Desert on the border with Libya. Meanwhile, Egypt on Sunday extended its nationwide state of emergency for another three months.



The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the Palestinian State’s official statistical body, released a report this week that revealed rising poverty levels in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The document showed that the proportion of Palestinians living below the poverty line increased from 26 percent in 2011 to  29 percent in 2017. While the West Bank in fact saw a decline in its poverty levels, the figures were skewed by the situation in the Gaza Strip, where the rate jumped from 38 to 53 percent in the same period–a 37 percent increase. Gaza, a small enclave on the Mediterranean blockaded by Israel and Egypt, is suffering a severe economic crisis that many observers say is leading towards a humanitarian disaster.



President Recip Tayyip Erdogan announced today that Turkey will hold snap elections on June 24, a year and a half earlier than elections were originally expected. Erdogan says that he wants to solidify the country’s transition to an executive presidency amidst uncertainty in the region. Last year, a referendum turned Turkey into a presidential republic instead of a parliamentary one, meaning that whoever wins this next election will be invested with extraordinary power.



Protesters in Iraq demonstrated against the US-led missile strikes in Syria over the weekend. The influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for the demonstrations and condemned American interference in the conflict. The Iraqi government also condemned the strikes, warning that they amounted to a “dangerous escalation” of the Syrian conflict that could end up increasing extremism.



Since 2011 Iran has steadily increased its support of Bashar al Assad’s regime. According to reports as of February of this year, Iranian forces and its proxies have been deployed in nearly 40 facilities including bases, training centers, drone control rooms and logistical nodes. Its presence has also included advising and training for battles. Iran states that it is in Syria to fight against “terrorist elements” at the invitation of the Syrian government. Given Iran’s role in Syria, the European Union is calling on Iran, as well as Russia, to use their influence on the Syrian government to prevent it from future use of chemical weapons against its people. Iran is calling the recent bombing of Syrian targets due to the use of chemical weapons a crime and called Theresa May, Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron “criminals”.


Saudi Arabia

Arab leaders met in Saudi Arabia on Sunday for the 29th Arab League Conference a day after coordinated attacks by the US, UK and France on three sites allegedly linked to the production of chemical weapons in Syria. They failed to discuss the strikes, instead focusing on Palestine calling President Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Saudi Arabia’s air defense forces intercepted three ballistic missiles fired at Riyadh and other cities on Wednesday by Yemen’s Houthis. Three rockets were shot down above the capital and the southern cities of Jizan and Najran, according to state media and the Saudi-led coalition.



Qatar raised $12 billion in a bond issue on Thursday, the largest placement by an emerging market sovereign this year, marking a successful comeback to the international debt markets despite a 10-month-long rift with its Gulf neighbors. Saudi Arabia launched a rival $11 billion bond during the same week, in a move seen as an attempt to absorb demand from the market and force Qatar to offer higher yields to attract interest.



Yemen’s armed Houthi movement said on Wednesday it launched a drone strike on a facility belonging to oil giant Saudi Aramco in southern Saudi Arabia whilst on Friday Yemen’s Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi said the group would continue to develop its military capabilities.



King Mohammed VI has returned to Morocco after a several weeks absence during which he reportedly underwent heart surgery in Paris to fix an irregular heartbeat. He left Morocco on February 26, provoking rumors and questions about his health.



At least 257 people were killed last Wednesday in a plane crash near the capital city of Algiers. It is the deadliest plane crash since 2014, when 298 people were killed when a Malaysian Airlines jet was shot down over the Ukraine. The plane was a Soviet-era Ilyushin. Algeria’s aviation safety record is shakey — two major crashes in 2014 killed 77 and 116 people each. This is the worst crash in Algeria’s history.