Trump warns Iran it ‘made big mistake’ shooting down US drone over Strait of Hormuz

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A 3 Khordad system, which is said to had been used to shoot down a US drone, according to IRINN, is being launched in this screen grab taken from an undated video. (IRINN/Reuters TV via Reuters)
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Above, a US Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk. A similar one was shot down by Iranian surface-to-air missile on Thursday. (AP)
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A map released by the Department of Defense shows the location where the drone was shot down in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz. (Department of Defense)
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Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said it shot down the drone Thursday morning when it entered Iranian airspace. (File/AFP)
Updated 21 June 2019

Trump warns Iran it ‘made big mistake’ shooting down US drone over Strait of Hormuz

  • Iran says it has ‘indisputable’ evidence US drone violated its airspace
  • US military’s Central Command called the downing an ‘unprovoked attack’

DUBAI: Donald Trump warned Iran it had made a ‘very big mistake’ in shooting down a US drone near the Strait of Hormuz Thursday.

The US said the RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drone was shot down in international airspace near the shipping lane through which a fifth of the world’s crude oil passes. 

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) claimed the drone had been shot down in  Iranian airspace.

The US military‘s Central Command released a statement calling the downing an “unprovoked attack.”

The RQ-4A Global Hawk is used for surveillance and reconnaissance missions. (File/AP)

“They made a very big mistake,” Trump said. “This country will not stand for it, that I can tell you.” The US president also raised some doubt over who ordered the strike saying: “I would imagine it was a general or somebody that made a mistake in shooting that drone down.”

But he added that it would have been far more serious had it been a piloted aircraft. “We had nobody in the drone. It would have made a big difference, let me tell you, it would have made a big, big difference,” he said.

The Trump administration called top congressional leaders to the White House for a briefing later on Thursday.

The incident is the latest in a string of provocations blamed on Tehran as tensions with the US continue to increase. On Wednesday, the US said it had intelligence that proved “without question” that Iran had attacked two tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week after they passed through the Strait of Hormuz.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir, said Iran had created a grave situation with its “aggressive behavior” and the Kingdom was consulting other Gulf Arab states on next steps.

“When you interfere with international shipping it has an impact on the supply of energy, it has an impact on the price of oil which has an impact on the world economy. It essentially affects almost every person on the globe,” Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, told reporters in London.

Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, and Al-Jubeir said any attempt to do so would provoke a “very, very strong reaction.”

Bahrain, which hosts a base for the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, described the incident as “a cowardly act of aggression.”

The CENTCOM statement said the maritime surveillance drone was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.

“Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false,” CENTCOM said, adding that “this was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace.”

The drone was downed at approximately 2335 GMT - in the early morning hours of local time in the Gulf.

The IRGC, which answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, claimed it shot down the drone when it entered Iranian airspace near the Kouhmobarak district in southern Iran’s Hormozgan province, close to the Strait of Hormuz.

“Borders are our red line,” IRGC commander Gen. Hossein Salami said. “Any enemy that violates the borders will be annihilated.”

Iran said Friday that it had “indisputable” evidence that a US drone it shot down this week had violated its airspace.

Deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi told Swiss ambassador, Markus Leitner, whose country represents US interests in Iran, of the evidence on Thursday night, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“Even some parts of the drone’s wreckage have been retrieved from Iran’s territorial waters,” Araghchi told the Swiss envoy.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin called for caution, warning any war between Iran and the US would be a “catastrophe for the region as a minimum.”

The RQ-4 Global Hawk, which cost over $100 million apiece and can fly higher than 10 miles in altitude and stay in the air for over 24 hours at a time. They have a distinguishable hump-shaped front and an engine atop. Their wingspan is bigger than a Boeing 737 passenger jet.

The attacks come against the backdrop of heightened tensions between the US and Iran following Trump’s decision last year to withdraw from a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

The US has ramped up sanctions that have drastically reduced Tehran’s oil exports as it moves to isolate Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile program and role in regional wars.

Since mid-May, explosive strikes blamed on Iran have hit six oil tankers. The US has sped an aircraft carrier to the Mideast and deployed additional troops alongside the tens of thousands already in the region.

Global jitters about a new Middle East conflagration disrupting oil exports have triggered a jump in crude prices. They surged by more than $3 to above $63 a barrel on Thursday.

Iran has claimed to have shot down American drones in the past. In the most-famous incident, in December 2011, Iran seized an RQ-170 Sentinel flown by the CIA to monitor Iranian nuclear sites after it entered Iranian airspace from neighboring Afghanistan.

*With AP and Reuters 

Israel demolishes Palestinian homes in Jerusalem area

Smoke rises from a Palestinian building after it was blown up by Israeli forces in the village of Sur Baher which sits on either side of the Israeli barrier in East Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank July 22, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 23 July 2019

Israel demolishes Palestinian homes in Jerusalem area

  • Dozens of Israeli police and military began sealing off at least four multi-story buildings in the Sur Baher area south of Jerusalem early Monday
  • Palestinians accuse Israel of using security as a pretext to force them out of the area

JERUSALEM: Israeli work crews on Monday began demolishing dozens of Palestinian homes on the outskirts of an east Jerusalem neighborhood, in one of the largest operations of its kind in years.
The demolitions capped a years-long legal battle over the buildings, constructed near the invisible line straddling the city and the occupied West Bank. Israel says the buildings were erected too close to its West Bank separation barrier. Residents say the buildings are on West Bank land, and the Palestinian Authority gave them construction permits.
In the wake of a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for the demolitions, Israeli work crews moved into the neighborhood overnight. Massive construction vehicles smashed through the roofs of several buildings, and large excavators were digging through the rubble.
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s minister of public security, said the Supreme Court ruled the illegal construction “constitutes a severe security threat and can provide cover to suicide bombers and other terrorists hiding among civilian population.”
He said that those who built houses along the separation barrier “took the law into their own hands.”
According to the United Nations, some 20 people already living in the buildings were being displaced, while 350 owners of properties that were under construction or not yet inhabited were also affected.
In a joint statement, senior UN humanitarian officials in the region expressed “sadness” over the demolitions and warned that many other homes could face “the same fate.”
“Israel’s policy of destroying Palestinian property is not compatible with its obligations under international humanitarian law,” they said.
Hussein Al-Sheikh, head of the civil affairs department of the Palestinians Authority, called Monday’s demolition a “crime” and demanded international intervention.
In Gaza, the territory’s Hamas rulers called for intensifying “resistance” to “the Zionist settlement project.”
“The increase in the occupation’s crimes against the residents of the holy city is a result of total American support,” said Hazem Qassem, a spokesman for the militant group.
Israel captured east Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war. The international community considers both areas to be occupied territory, and the Palestinians seek them as parts of a future independent state.
Israel annexed east Jerusalem and considers it part of its capital — a step that is not internationally recognized. But the competing claims to the territory have created myriad legal complexities.
Israel built its separation barrier in the early 2000s in a move it says was needed to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from reaching Israel from the West Bank. The Palestinians say the structure is an illegal land grab because it juts into the West Bank in many places.
Sur Baher is one of those places. In negotiations with residents, Israel built the route of the structure in Sur Baher inside the West Bank to prevent dividing the village and disrupting life, according to court documents.
Residents, claiming it is impossible to get Israeli building permits in east Jerusalem, began building the apartment buildings in the West Bank part of the village with permission from the Palestinian Authority.
Early this decade, the Israeli military ordered the construction to stop, saying it could not permit high-rise buildings so close to the separation barrier.
Israel’s Supreme Court this month rejected residents’ final appeal, clearing the way for the demolitions.
According to Ir Amim, an Israeli advocacy group that promotes equality and coexistence in the city, Israel has stepped up demolitions of unauthorized Palestinian properties in east Jerusalem.
It said Israel demolished some 63 housing units in the first half of this year, compared to 37 during the same period last year. Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem say it is nearly impossible to get a building permit from Israeli authorities.