On Feb. 17, Hamas elected Yahya Sinwar, a former Israeli prisoner who was released in the Gilad Shalit deal, as its new leader in Gaza.
While largely unknown to the outside world due to his preference to shun the media, Sinwar, a senior member of Hamas' military wing, is considered one of the most powerful men in Gaza, serving as the link between the organisation's political and military wings.
Had Mr. Obama had the chance to read Ike's Gamble, Michael Doran's account of President Dwight D. ("Ike") Eisenhower's statecraft before, during and after the Suez Crisis of 1956, he might have saved his breath. Mr. Doran, a scholar and former State and Defence Department official in the George W. Bush Administration, describes a seasoned, wily and prudent President who aligned the United States with what he understood to be the legitimate hopes of Arab peoples, even at the cost of damaging relations with America's closest allies - and made a hash of things.
Change sweeping across the Middle East has prompted several Sunni Arab states to engage more closely with Israel. Shared strategic threats - the growing threat posed by Iran and its allies, the expanding threat of Sunni Jihadism, and US retrenchment - are key drivers, especially for Gulf states, whilst shared opportunities in energy and trade are also factors for Egypt and Jordan.
Former Israeli Prime Minister and President Shimon Peres' funeral in Jerusalem on Friday, September 30 was attended by world leaders past and present, including US President Barack Obama, former US President Bill Clinton and Britain's Prince Charles.
Wilayat Sinai, an organisation identified with Islamic State, has recently suffered a series of serious blows from the Egyptian Army. Most prominent among them was the air strike in early August 2016 that killed dozens of senior commanders, launched as part of a targeted campaign against terrorism in Egypt in general, and in Sinai in particular. The recent decline in the intensity of Wilayat Sinai's attacks against the Egyptian army, alongside a drop in its media activity and propaganda systems, may point to cumulative damage to the organisation and a decline in its strength.
This Update features some background and analysis of Turkey's intervention in the Syrian civil war last week, in an operation termed "Euphrates Shield" launched last Wednesday, and aimed initially at the ISIS-held town of Jarablus - which Kurdish forces looked poised to take.
This weekend saw a visit to Israel by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. That may not ostensibly seem surprising given that Israel and Egypt have had full diplomatic relations for almost four decades, but in fact was a highly unusual step - the first such visit in nine years. As such it was a sign of the changing strategic environment and warming security ties between Jerusalem and Cairo - as the pieces in this Update discuss.
Last week brought news that Israel and Turkey are set to restore full diplomatic ties, ending the six-year impasse that followed Israel's interception of the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has heralded the deal as "an agreement of strategic importance" that will improve stability in the region, but it may be too soon to start celebrating.