Five of the latest developing stories in the MENA region.
1. Houthis take over Yemen Presidential Palace
On Tuesday, one day after agreeing to a ceasefire, Shia Houthi fighters have taken over Yemen’s presidential palace which houses the main office of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, located in the capital of Sanaa. Hadi’s government is an ally in the US-led fight against al-Qaeda in Yemen.
The attack comes amid months of unrest. Renewed violence on Monday ended with nine people were reportedly killed and 90 wounded before a ceasefire agreement was reached.
The UN Security Council is scheduled to hold private consultations today on the crisis in Yemen at the request of Britain.
2. IMF Cuts 2015-2016 Growth Forecast for MENA, Pakistan, and Afghanistan
On Tuesday the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reduced its growth projections for the MENA region, Pakistan and Afghanistan, citing that “lower oil prices did not offset pervasive weaknesses around the globe” like the “depreciation of the euro and yen,” according to IMF Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard.
The World Economic Outlook (WEO) update reduced the region’s projected growth by .3% to 3.3% in 2015 and 3.7% in 2016.
3. Iranian General Mohammad Ali Alladadi Among Confirmed Dead in Latest Strike
Iran confirmed General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi as among the at least six dead in a raid that killed members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Lebanon’s Hezbollah [Islamic Resistance]. Jihad Mughniyeh, son of Hezbollah’s deceased leader Imad Mughniyeh, was also killed in the attack.
Iran and Hezbollah are Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s main regional allies as he fights to maintain control of the country. Hezbollah media state those killed were carrying out a “field reconnaissance mission in Mazraat Amal village.”
According to Al Jazeera, an Israeli security source has confirmed a helicopter strike in the Golan Heights.
Lebanon is currently home to more than 1 million Syrian refugees, adding additional pressure to an already precarious situation.
4. “Selfie” Adds Fuel to Long-Standing Conflict between Lebanon and Israel
A recent photograph by Miss Israel, Doron Matalon,at the Miss Universe pageant has reignited long-held anger. The photo- a “selfie,” also includes Miss Slovenia, Miss Japan and Miss Lebanon Saly Greige.
Initial anger was directed at Miss Lebanon for “fraternizing with the enemy” as some put it. According to Greige’s recounting of events though, Miss Israel snuck herself into the group before snapping a quick picture- commonly referred to as “photobombing.”
Greige remarked she was “cautious to avoid being in any photo or communication with Miss Israel,” and posted a revised version of the photograph with Miss Israel cropped out.
Miss Lebanon’s additional perspective reshaped the conversation, leading many Lebanese responders to Miss Israel’s alleged action as another example of what is described as Israeli aggression.
Matalon’s remarked the excitement was not a surprise, but “sad” nonetheless, releasing a statement wishing to all could “…put the hostility out of the game…”
Lebanon and Israel have been in an official ware since Israel’s formation in 1948. In 1993, Lebanon’s Daily Star reported Miss Lebanon Huda al-Turk was stripped of her title for posing with Miss Israel at the 1993 competition.
5. ISIL Issues Threat against Two Japanese Hostages; Japanese PM Cancelling Rest of Middle East Visit
A recent video shows two Japanese hostages in orange jumpsuits kneeling next to a knife-holding figure demanding a $200 million ransom to be paid to ISIL from Japan in the next 72 hours. The video also criticizes Japan for pledging to fight ISIL; it has not been independently verified at this time.
At a Jerusalem press conference, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the threat unacceptable, vowing to save the hostages. He stated Japan would not give in to terrorism and the safe return of the hostages- named as Kenji Goto, a well-known freelance journalist, and Haruna Yukawa, an entrepreneur, was a “top priority.”
Sources in Jerusalem now report PM Abe has cancelled the remaining days of his trip, a widely expected response, to return to Japan and address the crisis.