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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas appoints Mohammad Mustafa as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority (PA), in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 14, 2024 in this handout image.

Palestinian president office/Handout via REUTERS

Who is Muhammad Mustafa?

Mahmoud Abbas, the 88-year-old president of the widely unpopular Palestinian Authority, on Thursday named Muhammad Mustafa as the authority’s prime minister. Given Abbas’s age, and the need for a successor as leader of the PA who can offer some credible alternative to Hamas as the political voice of Palestinians, Mustafa will now become the subject of wide international scrutiny.

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Pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrate outside the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the day of a public hearing to allow parties to give their views on the legal consequences of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories before eventually issuing a non-binding legal opinion, in The Hague, Netherlands, February 19, 2024.

REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

Israeli occupation on trial at ICJ

Palestinian Authority Foreign Affairs Minister Riyad al-Maliki on Monday delivered an opening statement before the International Court of Justice at the Hague in a case about Israel’s occupation of Palestinian Territories since 1967. The UN-backed court will hear from more than 50 countries and three multinational organizations – the largest case in the ICJ’s history – but a decision could take months, and it would be non-binding.

This is separate from South Africa’s case alleging Israel is committing genocide in Gaza.

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Saudi Ambassador Nayef al-Sudairi with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki in Ramallah.

Reuters

Saudi Arabia tries to reassure the Palestinians – but of what?

Saudi Arabia’s first envoy to the Palestinian Authority, Nayef al-Sudairi, is currently visiting the West Bank, where he’s meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Al-Sudairi is also expected to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which Jews call the Temple Mount, which would mark the first visit of a Saudi official to East Jerusalem since Israel seized the territory in a 1967 war.

Why now? Al-Sudairi, who is also Saudi’s ambassador to Jordan, comes as Riyadh and Jerusalem are reportedly inching closer toward a diplomatic normalization deal – a huge development after Israel normalized ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco in recent years.

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President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a meeting in Ramallah.

REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

Palestinian leader to make rare visit to Jenin

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas traveled to Jenin today for the first time in over a decade. Though the PA — formed after the Oslo Accords — is technically the chief security and administrative authority in the northern West Bank city, Abbas’ men have lost control of parts of the West Bank, including Jenin, which is now run by semi-autonomous rival military groups.

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Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the first Arab-Chinese summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

IMAGO/APAimages via Reuters Connect

Can China broker another Mideast rapprochement?

Mahmoud Abbas, the octogenarian head of the Palestinian Authority, doesn’t travel much these days. But this week he will head to China for a three-day visit and meet with President Xi Jinping.

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Israeli forces stand near the scene of a shooting attack in Neve Yaacov, Jerusalem

REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Deadly attack at Jerusalem synagogue

A Palestinian gunman opened fire near a synagogue in east Jerusalem on Friday night, killing seven Israelis, including a 70-year-old woman, and wounding three. The assailant was shot dead by police. The attack, one of the deadliest within Israel in recent years, punctuated a week of rising violence and came just a day after seven Palestinian gunmen and two civilians were killed during an Israeli Defense Forces raid in the West Bank refugee camp of Jenin, which targeted suspected terrorists. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad vowed revenge, and subsequent rocket launches from the Gaza Strip were followed by limited Israeli strikes.

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Will Palestinians get to vote?

The last time Palestinians went to the polls was in 2006, after Mahmoud Abbas replaced longtime Fatah stalwart Yasser Arafat as president of the Palestinian Authority.But factional infighting between Fatah and Hamas (designated a terror group by the US and EU) brought the Palestinians to the "brink of civil war," Abbas said at the time. Discord over power, ideology and vision led to a bloody battle that saw Fatah expelled to the West Bank in 2007, where it has ruled ever since, while Hamas maintains power in the overcrowded Gaza Strip.

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Visitors look at Chinese Air Force fighter jets at a military base in Hangzhou.

Reuters

What We’re Watching: China targets Taiwan, Palestinian election heats up, Russia-Ukraine border tensions

Chinese jets swarm Taiwan: This week, multiple Chinese warplanes penetrated Taiwan's airspace. While Beijing does this quite often to flex its muscles, this time the jets took a different route, and one even got close to the Japanese island of Yonaguni, located less than 70 miles (113 kilometers) north of Taiwan. The maneuvers have been interpreted by experts as a direct warning from the Chinese to Japan not to overplay its hand. (It's worth noting that Tokyo could get dragged into a US conflict with China over Taiwan because, like Taiwan, it has a mutual defense treaty with the US.) More broadly, the flight patterns also indicate that China could surround Taiwan on three sides in an eventual invasion, cutting off the territory from US and Japanese military support. All this comes as the Biden administration has expressed serious concern (paywall) that Beijing is indeed planning to invade Taiwan in the very near term. With US-China relations getting hot, more rumblings over an invasion of Taiwan will surely turn the temperature even higher.

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