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Israel-Palestine war: Five stories you may have missed from the Middle East

Including air strikes in northern Syria, UAE firm buying a fifth of Zimbabwean land, Egyptian presidential contender quitting the race and Afghanistan's 'forgotten' earthquake
Relatives mourn at the funeral of the victims of a drone attack on a military academy in Homs, Syria, on 5 October 2023 (AFP)
Relatives mourn at the funeral of the victims of a drone attack on a military academy in Homs, Syria, on 5 October 2023 (AFP)

Global headlines have been dominated by the Israel-Palestine war since Hamas's attack on Israel on 7 October.

At the time of writing, about 1,400 Israelis have been confirmed killed in the Hamas-led offensive, and 2,750 Palestinians in the subsequent Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the north of the besieged enclave, home to 2.2 million people, have fled south amid Israeli bombing and the threat of an imminent ground invasion. 

The bloodshed has overshadowed other news from the Middle East and North Africa during the past 10 days: here are some stories from the region and beyond that you may have missed.

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Syria: Air strikes by Ankara and Damascus

Turkish air strikes in northeastern Syria, targeting the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), killed at least 20 people on 9 October, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

The SDF confirmed "a number of our forces were killed and others wounded" in the strike, the latest in a series of bombing raids conducted by Turkey since 5 October. 

The SOHR, a UK-based activist group that monitors the war, said the target was a training centre for Kurdish Asayish security forces.

Turkey has intensified its air strikes on Syria's Kurdish-held northeast after a bomb attack in Ankara outside the Turkish parliament on 1 October, during which both attackers were killed. The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) claimed responsibility. Turkey accuses Kurdish groups within the SDF of being the Syrian arm of the PKK.

Follow Middle East Eye's live coverage for the latest on the Israel-Palestine war

Separately, Syrian government forces hit the last rebel stronghold in the northwest of the country, killing at least 14 people, including four children. In turn, rebel forces launched rocket attacks on pro-government areas in Aleppo, Hama, and Latakia provinces, wounding more than 20 civilians and killing two, according to pro-government media.

The funeral of Kurdish Asayish security forces, killed in a Turkish drone strike, in Amuda, northern Syria, on 7 October 2023 (AFP)

The exchanges occurred after scores of military recruits, who were about to graduate as lieutenants, were killed in Homs on 4 October.

No organisation has yet to claim responsibility for the incident: the Syrian government put the number of dead at 90, while the Observatory said 123 people were killed.

Read more: Turkish air strike kills at least 20 people and Who is responsible for Homs' attack?

UAE: Firm to buy 20 percent of Zimbabwe's land

A Zimbabwe- and Dubai-based company has signed a memorandum of understanding with Zimbabwe that would see a fifth of the southern African country conceded for carbon credit production.

Sultan al-Jaber, Cop 28 president-designate, at the ADIPEC energy conference in Abu Dhabi, on 2 October 2023 (AP)

The deal will give UAE firm Blue Carbon blanket control over 7.5 million hectares of Zimbabwean forest. It comes shortly after the company signed similar deals with other African countries, including Liberia, which is conceding 10 percent of its territory to the firm, in breach of several land laws.

The contracts come ahead of the UN climate summit Cop 28, set to take place in Dubai in November, where carbon credits will be a topline issue.

Read more: UAE firm inks deal to buy a fifth of Zimbabwe's land for carbon credit scheme

Iran: Anger at 'forgotten' Afghanistan earthquake

As the world focused on events in Israel and Palestine, much of Iranian media highlighted the plight of Afghans who lost family members and homes in Herat’s deadly earthquake.

On 7 October, a 6.3 magnitude quake near the city in northeastern Afghanistan resulted in more than 4,000 deaths, thousands of injuries, and the destruction of at least 20 villages.

Afghans clear debris in Nayeb Rafi village, Herat province, Afghanistan, on 10 October 2023 after an earthquake (AFP)

Several daily newspapers criticised the lack of attention given to survivors. On 10 October, the progressive Ham-Mihan daily reported that this was the deadliest earthquake in Afghanistan since 1998, adding that the exact death toll was not yet precise because of limited access to the region.

“The little information provided by the Afghan government and the war in the Middle East have drawn international attention away from the earthquake. Due to this, limited humanitarian aid was sent to the survivors,” it said.

On 11 October, the ISNA news agency reported that Iran's Red Crescent had dispatched a team to the quake-hit region, less than 100km from the Iranian-Afghan border. However, several daily newspapers criticised the lack of attention given to survivors.

Read more: Iranian press review: Afghanistan earthquake overshadowed by Gaza war

Egypt: Ahmed al-Tantawy quits presidential race

Ahmed al-Tantawy, who intended to run against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt’s election in December, has pulled out of the race.

On Friday, the opposition politician’s campaign said he had collected just under 60 percent of the 25,000 endorsements threshold needed to register his candidacy. Each candidate needs the backing of either 20 MPs or 25,000 citizens by 15 October to be eligible.

A supporter takes a selfie with opposition politician Ahmed Tantawy on 4 October 2023 (Supplied)

Despite the setback, Tantawy said he would continue his career in politics. "I do not and will not withdraw," he told supporters in comments reported by AFP. "My motto will remain 'bread, freedom and social justice'," making use of an Egyptian opposition slogan from the revolution of 2011.

Earlier in the week, Tantawy accused the government of blocking his supporters from registering endorsements. “Every day, our supporters queue in front of registry offices, from morning till night, and go home without being able to file their nominations,” Tantawy told a gathering of supporters in Damietta only two days before he quit the race.

Read more: Ahmed Tantawy, the presidential challenger making waves in Egypt

Sudan: Six months on, economic war intensifies

The war in Sudan broke out on 15 April, and six months on the Sudanese army and its partner-turned-enemy, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary, are fighting in arenas far beyond the battlefield.

The conflict extends to supply lines, media confrontations, international relations, the cultural sphere and, most significantly, the economy. 

​ A fire in a livestock market in al-Fasher, North Darfur, Sudan, after bombardment by the RSF on 1 September 2023 (AFP) ​

Sanctions imposed by the United States on companies and individuals connected to the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the RSF have now been extended to any local, regional or international entities dealing with them.

The sanctions have also hit the Sudanese Islamic Movement (SIM), which has been accused by the US of "obstructing efforts to reach a ceasefire between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces, mobilizing forces to enable continued fighting, and opposing Sudanese civilian efforts to resume Sudan’s stalled democratic transition".

Read more: Sudan's economic war intensifies, sanctions widen

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