What happened in the Middle East this week?

Read the most important news from the Middle East.

Hello everyone and welcome to Inshallah, the Substack newsletter that summarises the most important news from the Middle East. 

  • The Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh named by the West as the leader of the Islamic Republic’s disbanded military nuclear program was killed Friday, December 27, in an ambush on the outskirts of Tehran, authorities said. In a statement on Friday, Iran's defense ministry said: "Armed terrorists targeted a vehicle carrying Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, head of the ministry's research and innovation organization. After a clash between the terrorists and his bodyguards, Mr. Fakhrizadeh was severely injured and rushed to a hospital. Unfortunately, the medical team's efforts to save him were unsuccessful and minutes ago he passed away." Fakhrizadeh was the most renowned Iranian nuclear scientist and a senior officer of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. He has been considered as extremely powerful and instrumental in Iran's nuclear program.

  • Egyptian authorities freed 3 activists belonging to the human rights organization EIPR after a month in prison after being accused of ‘joining a terror group’ and ‘spreading false news’. News media organizations highlighted how international pressure, especially the video of the American actress Scarlett Johansson, contributed to their release. However, the fourth human rights activist Patrick Zaky remained in prison, but his hearing has been anticipated today December 5, 2020.

  • A new World Bank report analyses the root causes of Lebanon’s ongoing social and economic crises and calls for the formation of a reform-minded government to urgently implement a comprehensive reform agenda. Lebanon is suffering from a dangerous depletion of resources, including human capital, with brain drain becoming an increasingly desperate option, according to the World Bank report. Authorities have disagreed between themselves on the assessment, diagnosis, and solutions for the crisis. The result has been a slew of uncoordinated, non-comprehensive, and insufficient policy measures that have worsened economic and social conditions. The government has failed to formalize a fiscal policy consistent with a credible medium-term macroeconomic framework. Read the full report here.

  • Lebanon's Hezbollah said Friday it had filed slander lawsuits against an ex-parliamentarian and a political party who allegedly claimed the Shiite movement was responsible for the Beirut port blast. "The accusations directed at Hezbollah over the port blast are false and constitute a real injustice," Hezbollah lawmaker Ibrahim al-Moussawi said. An investigation into the blast launched by Lebanese authorities has led to the arrest of 25 people, including top port and customs officials. Read more here.

  • The Swedish-Iranian scientist Ahmadreza Djalali has been granted a reprieve, his lawyer said on Wednesday. He is facing execution in Iran for espionage. Ahmadreza Djalali was not been transferred out of Evin prison in Tehran to Raja’i Shahr jail as expected on Tuesday night, his lawyer said, which would have been a prelude to his killing. It was not immediately clear if the reprieve was temporary or arose from the intense public and diplomatic pressure placed on the Iranian authorities to re-examine his case. Learn more about this story here.

  • On 1 September, the Libyan coast guard stopped and seized two boats 35 miles off the coast of Benghazi. Eighteen people were on board the Antartide and Medinea fishing vessels, including eight Italians, six Tunisians, two Indonesians and two Senegalese nationals. After their arrest, they were transferred to Benghazi, a region in eastern Libya controlled by the warlord and self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) leader Khalifa Haftar. They have been detained there ever since. Read the full story I wrote for The New Arab here.

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Follow me on Twitter: @DarioSabaghi.