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Turkey Supports Sweden's NATO Membership, Uncertainty Remains Over Timing
Plus: Protests in Israel, Refugees in Tunisia pushed out, Hezbollah warns action against Israel, and Syria reopens border crossing for humanitarian aid.
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Turkey Supports Sweden's Membership, Uncertainty Remains Over Timing
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to submit Sweden's NATO membership bid to Turkey's parliament, as reported by NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg on July 10.
This development occurred ahead of the NATO leaders summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, where member countries hoped to welcome Sweden as a new member.
The exact timing of Sweden's accession will be decided by the Turkish parliament.
Erdogan's decision followed assurances from Stockholm regarding its handling of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) supporters within its territory.
Last year, Turkey, Sweden, and Finland signed a trilateral memorandum of understanding to address terrorism and arms embargoes.
Both Scandinavian countries have pursued NATO membership following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
While Finland's NATO membership was ratified earlier this year by Ankara, Sweden's ratification was postponed due to concerns over protests against Turkey and the burning of the Quran by far-right activists.
All NATO members must approve any applications to the alliance.
However, Erdogan warned that his parliament is unlikely to ratify Sweden's accession before going into recess until October 1.
This indicates that the issue of Sweden's NATO membership is not yet resolved and that Turkey's efforts to acquire F-16 fighter jets from the United States while overcoming congressional sanctions remain a major obstacle.
In the meantime, Turkey has also renewed its bid to join the European Union, using Sweden's NATO entry as leverage.
Erdogan suggested that European nations should facilitate Turkey's EU membership in exchange for approving Sweden's NATO membership.
However, these are separate processes for two distinct institutions.
Turkey's relationship with the EU has been challenging, with membership talks freezing in 2018.
The EU criticized Turkey for implementing political reforms that moved it further away from EU standards.
The recent developments regarding Sweden's NATO bid received positive feedback from the West but drew criticism from Moscow, highlighting Turkey's pivotal role in the Ukraine conflict.
Erdogan has maintained a delicate balance by maintaining close ties with Russia while emphasizing his commitment to NATO, enabling Turkey to have a unique position as the only NATO member with influence in Russia.
Israeli Protesters Nationwide Rally Against Judicial System Overhaul
Israeli protesters flooded the streets on Tuesday, July 11, engaging in countrywide demonstrations against the government's controversial plan to revamp the judicial system.
The protests followed the parliamentary coalition's initial approval of a bill to restrict the Supreme Court's oversight powers, a move that has deeply divided the nation.
Demonstrators opposing the proposed changes as a step towards authoritarian rule staged widespread protests throughout the day, including a large-scale gathering at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.
The bill, which still requires two more votes, received renewed momentum from the overnight parliamentary vote.
Although the police made several arrests and used a water cannon to disperse protesters, no major violence occurred.
Netanyahu's ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox allies aim to diminish the authority of unelected judges, granting themselves control over judge appointments and the ability to overturn court decisions.
Critics argue that these changes undermine the system of checks and balances and consolidate power in the hands of Netanyahu and his allies.
The United States, Israel's key ally, has also voiced concerns and urged a cautious approach to legal reforms.
Hundreds of Migrants Transferred from Desolate Border Area in Tunisia
Hundreds of migrants enduring extreme heat and harsh living conditions at an isolated military area in the Sahara desert, located on Tunisia's border, have been relocated to shelters in two nearby towns.
These migrants had either fled or were expelled from Sfax, a southern port city in Tunisia, as tensions escalated following a killing on July 3.
Many of them were initially transferred to the military site on the Libyan border earlier in July, prompting criticism of the government due to the unfavorable conditions.
Sfax serves as a hub for traffickers organizing sea trips across the Mediterranean to Italy.
International human rights organizations have expressed concerns that measures implemented by Tunisian President Kais Saied in response to the rising number of migrants are jeopardizing lives.
Within the past ten days, the bodies of two migrants were discovered near Tunisia's border with Algeria, prompting authorities to launch an investigation into the cause of their deaths.
The violence between migrants and local residents has intensified since a 40-year-old Tunisian man was fatally stabbed during clashes between locals and sub-Saharan African migrants in Sfax, a city located approximately 300km from the capital.
The following day, a young man was fatally shot by a rifle in the Tunisian town of Sbeitla when the police attempted to apprehend a local businessman suspected of running an illegal gambling operation.
This incident sparked confrontations between enraged youths and law enforcement.
Furthermore, a migrant boat sank off the Tunisian coastline on Sunday, July 9, resulting in the recovery of one body, the rescue of 11 individuals, and the declaration of 10 others as missing.
Irregular migration to Europe has increased by approximately 12 percent in 2023, as indicated by data from Europe's border agency in May, with the central Mediterranean region experiencing more than a twofold surge.
Tunisia's migration policies have raised doubts shortly after the EU offered the Tunisian government $1 billion to assist its economy and enhance border control.
Hezbollah Warns of Action in Response to Israeli Attack on Lebanon
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah stated on Wednesday, July 12, that the organization is prepared to defend itself against any Israeli attack following an altercation on the Lebanon-Israel border.
Three Hezbollah members were injured in an explosion near the border.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) intervened when "multiple suspects" attempted sabotage near the border fence.
Nasrallah addressed the incident during a speech, and tensions are high due to ongoing disputes over the Lebanese town of Ghajjar.
The situation worsened when Hezbollah set up tents in the disputed area controlled by Israel.
Nasrallah criticized the United Nations for failing to prevent Israeli actions in Ghajjar.
Border clashes between Israel and Hezbollah have increased recently, including military exercises near the border.
Syria Reopens Border Crossing for Humanitarian Aid After Security Council Stalemate
Syria's UN ambassador announced on Thursday, July 13, that Damascus will reopen the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, allowing humanitarian aid to flow into rebel-held areas.
The decision, described as a "sovereign decision," enables aid to be transported from Turkey overland for six months, starting immediately.
Previously, aid was delivered to northwest Syria through this crossing, but the arrangement expired on Monday due to a Security Council stalemate.
The closure affected over four million people in need of essential supplies such as food, water, and medicine.
Russia vetoed a nine-month extension and failed to gather enough votes for a six-month extension.
Following Syria's concession, the UN received a letter confirming the reopening of the crossing.
While two other crossings remained open after the Bab al-Hawa closure, the majority of aid to rebel-held areas passed through this particular crossing.
The Damascus government has consistently criticized such aid deliveries as a violation of its sovereignty, while Russia has been gradually undermining the agreement.
Russia's intervention in Syria has been influential in supporting the regime.
Syria's conflict has caused immense devastation, with over 500,000 deaths, displacing millions, and severely damaging infrastructure and industry.
The Security Council members had been seeking a compromise to extend the cross-border aid deal, which has been operational since 2014.
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My name is Dario Sabaghi, and I am a freelance journalist interested in international news focusing on the MENA region.
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