Israel accuses Iran of Cyprus attack plot after suspect arrested

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said a terrorist incident directed by Iran targeted Israeli businesspeople. (AP)
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Updated 04 October 2021
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Israel accuses Iran of Cyprus attack plot after suspect arrested

  • "This was a terrorist incident directed by Iran against Israeli businesspeople living in Cyprus," said spokesman for Israel’s Prime Minister
  • Cypriot police chief Stelios Papatheodorou told reporters: "A person has been arrested, in whose possession a pistol and cartridges were found."

JERUSALEM/NICOSIA: Israel accused Iran on Monday of orchestrating an attempted attack against Israelis in Cyprus after police on the Mediterranean island said an armed individual had been arrested.
“This was a terrorist incident directed by Iran against Israeli businesspeople living in Cyprus,” Matan Sidi, spokesman for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, said in a statement.
There was no immediate comment from the Iranian Embassy in Nicosia.
Earlier on Monday, Cypriot police chief Stelios Papatheodorou told reporters: “A person has been arrested, in whose possession a pistol and cartridges were found.”
“It is a sensitive case, which is why a remand request was held behind closed doors,” Papatheodorou added.
Cypriot media, citing a police source, have reported that the suspect, who has not been charged, was arrested on Sept. 27 in the capital Nicosia, just after crossing by car from a checkpoint linking the Turkish-controlled north and the southern parts of the ethnically divided island.
A silencer was also found in his vehicle, the reports said. People using the checkpoint at the time reported extensive searches of vehicles during the crossover transit.
Israel appeared to hint that its intelligence services had contributed to Cyprus’ foiling of the suspected attack plot.
“There are security threats. As you can see, the Shin Bet, the Mossad, all of the security forces know how to handle them,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told reporters when asked about the incident. “The fact is that we’re there. We’re minding matters.”
Cypriot media have also reported that the suspect was on the island for about 20 days prior to his arrest and rented two cars in succession. They said he used an electric scooter to travel frequently to the north side of the island via a pedestrian crossing.
In his statement, Sidi denied local media reports on Sunday that described the arrest as having thwarted a criminally motivated assassination attempt against Teddy Sagi, an Israeli magnate.


Thousands of Lebanese mourn slain Christian political official

Updated 56 min 16 sec ago
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Thousands of Lebanese mourn slain Christian political official

  • The army said that Sleiman was killed in a carjacking by Syrian gang members who then took his body across the border
  • His party said it would consider Sleiman’s death a “political assassination until proven otherwise“

BYBLOS, Lebanon: Thousands of Lebanese on Friday mourned a slain Christian political official authorities said was killed by a Syrian gang, with supporters pointing the finger at Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah group.
Pascal Sleiman was a coordinator in the Byblos (Jbeil) area north of Beirut for the Lebanese Forces (LF) Christian party, which opposes the government in neighboring Syria and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.
On Monday, the army said that Sleiman, who had gone missing the day before, was killed in a carjacking by Syrian gang members who then took his body across the border.
His party said it would consider Sleiman’s death a “political assassination until proven otherwise.”
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has denied that his party was involved.
Speaking after Sleiman’s funeral, LF leader Samir Geagea called for the “failed, corrupt” authorities in Lebanon to be changed.
Geagea blamed their failure, among other things, on “illegal weapons” — a barely veiled reference to Hezbollah.
The Iran-backed group is the only party in Lebanon that has kept its weapons arsenal after the end of the 1975-1990 civil war, and it wields great influence on the country’s political life.
Since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on October 7, Hezbollah has traded near-daily cross-border fire with Israeli forces in actions opposed by the LF and other parties.
“We don’t want to wake up one day, as we did now, and find ourselves involved in a never-ending war,” Geagea said Friday.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, spiritual leader of Lebanon’s largest Christian sect, held back tears as he presided over Sleiman’s funeral in Byblos.
Outside the St. Georges church, LF supporters waved the party’s white flag with its cedar tree — the symbol of Lebanon — circled in red.
Mourners told AFP they were unconvinced by the army’s version that car thieves killed Sleiman.
“This story never convinced me. It is not coherent at all,” said Jean Habshi, 50, who came to pay his respects.
“Enough with Hezbollah, enough with the illegal weapons,” Roba Hajjal, 24, told AFP outside the church.
“If they (Hezbollah) did not kill him, at the very least they allowed the Syrians in. We are all at risk of meeting Pascal’s fate,” she said.
Lebanon has a long history of political assassinations that have taken place with impunity.
Years of economic meltdown have further strained a weak judiciary that has been widely accused of succumbing to political interference.
Ziad Hawat, an LF lawmaker from Byblos, on Friday called for a “serious, transparent” probe into Sleiman’s murder, adding that the party had concerns “based on past experiences.”
“We do not want the killer to be known to all,” he added, while “remaining unknown to the judiciary.”
On Tuesday, Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi vowed to get tough on Syrians after several were arrested on suspicion of involvement in Sleiman’s killing.


Dozens of Palestinians killed in Gaza as Hamas official vows to ‘break’ Israel

Updated 12 April 2024
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Dozens of Palestinians killed in Gaza as Hamas official vows to ‘break’ Israel

  • Residents of Al-Nusseirat camp in central Gaza said dozens were dead or wounded after Israeli bombardment from air, land and sea
  • Meshaal said: “It is an important round on the path of liberating Palestine and defeating the Zionist project“

GAZA: Israeli forces fought Palestinian militants in the north and center of the Gaza Strip on Friday as Khaled Meshaal, a senior official in Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement, said its six-month-old battle with Israel would “break the enemy soon.”
Most Israeli troops have been pulled out of Gaza in preparation for an assault on the southern city of Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians are sheltering, but fighting has continued in various areas.
Residents of Al-Nusseirat camp in central Gaza said dozens were dead or wounded after Israeli bombardment from air, land and sea that had followed a surprise ground offensive on Thursday, and that houses and two mosques had been destroyed.
Health officials said earlier that six people had been killed in strikes on the camp, and around 70 wounded, including three Palestinian journalists.
In Gaza City, Palestinian health officials said at least 25 people had been killed and several wounded in an Israeli air strike on a house in Al-Daraj neighborhood. Gaza’s health ministry said 89 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli military strikes in the space of 24 hours.
The Israel military (IDF) said it was pursuing “a precise intelligence-based operation” against militants and their infrastructure in central Gaza.
“Over the past day, IDF fighter jets struck over 60 terror targets in the Gaza Strip, including underground launch posts, military infrastructure and sites in which armed terrorists operated,” a military statement said. “In parallel, IDF artillery struck terrorist infrastructure in the central Gaza Strip.”
Meshaal spoke at an event in Doha, Qatar, to mourn members of Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh’s family killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza on Wednesday.
“This is not the final round,” he said. “It is an important round on the path of liberating Palestine and defeating the Zionist project.”
At least 33,545 Palestinians have now been killed since the Israeli offensive began, Gaza’s health ministry said, with most of the 2.3 million population displaced and much of the enclave laid to waste.
The war began when Hamas led an attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which 1,200 people were killed and 253 taken hostage. Around 130 are still being held incommunicado in Gaza, Israel says.


France urges no travel to Iran, Lebanon, Israel and Palestinian territories

Updated 12 April 2024
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France urges no travel to Iran, Lebanon, Israel and Palestinian territories

  • Iran has threatened reprisals against Israel over a strike on the Iranian consulate in Syria
  • France’s Foreign Minister asked that family members of French diplomats in Iran be evacuated

PARIS: France on Friday warned its citizens to “imperatively refrain from travel in the coming days to Iran, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories,” the foreign minister’s entourage told AFP.
Iran has threatened reprisals against Israel over a strike on the Iranian consulate in Syria on April 1 that killed seven Revolutionary Guards including two generals, sparking fears of an escalation of violence in the Middle East.
France’s Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne at a crisis meeting also asked that family members of French diplomats in Iran be evacuated, and no French civil servants be sent on missions to the listed countries.
Israel has bombarded the Gaza Strip since an unprecedented attack by Palestinian militant group Hamas against Israel on October 7. It has also stepped up strikes against Iranian personnel and allies in Syria and Lebanon.
Israel has traded near-daily cross-border fire with Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah since the start of the latest Gaza conflict.


Israeli forces kill two Palestinians including Hamas gunman

Updated 12 April 2024
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Israeli forces kill two Palestinians including Hamas gunman

  • Hamas confirms Mohammad Omar Daraghmeh’s death and his membership of its armed Al-Qassem Brigades

RAMALLAH: Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians, including a member of the armed wing of Hamas, near Tubas in the occupied West Bank on Friday following a raid on the town earlier in the morning, the military said.
It said Mohammad Omar Daraghmeh, whom it described as the head of Hamas infrastructure in the Tubas area of the Jordan valley was killed during an exchange of fire with security forces. It said a number of weapons and military-style equipment, including automatic rifles were found in his vehicle.
Hamas confirmed Daraghmeh’s death and his membership of its armed Al-Qassem Brigades.
The official Palestinian news agency WAFA said another man was killed by Israeli forces conducting a raid in the Al-Fara refugee camp in Tubas. Hamas said it mourned the man’s death but did not claim him as a member.
The military said forces carrying out the operation opened fire on Palestinians who threw explosive devices and killed one man it said was attempting to attack them.
The incident was the latest in a wave of confrontations in the West Bank between Israeli security forces and Palestinians, including both armed militants and unarmed protesters, since the start of the war in Gaza last October.
Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, most of them armed fighters but some of them unarmed civilians, and thousands have been arrested or detained. In the same period more than a dozen Israelis have been killed by Palestinian attackers.


US does not expect to be drawn into war but predicts attack by Iran against Israel

The North Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP)
Updated 12 April 2024
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US does not expect to be drawn into war but predicts attack by Iran against Israel

  • The White House said it warned Iran to not use that attack as a pretext to escalate further in the region

WASHINGTON: The United States expects an attack by Iran against Israel but one that would not be big enough to draw Washington into war, a US official said late on Thursday.
The White House said earlier Washington did not want conflict to spread in the Middle East and the US had told Iran it was not involved in an air strike against a top Iranian military commander in Damascus.
The White House added it warned Iran to not use that attack as a pretext to escalate further in the region.
Suspected Israeli warplanes bombed Iran’s embassy in Damascus on Monday in a strike for which Iran has vowed revenge and in which a top Iranian general and six other Iranian military officers were killed, ratcheting up tension in a region already strained by the Gaza war.
Iranian sources told Reuters Tehran has signalled to Washington that it will respond to Israel’s attack on its Syrian embassy in a way that aims to avoid major escalation and it will not act hastily, as Tehran presses demands including a Gaza truce.
The United States has been on high alert about possible retaliatory strikes from Iran and US envoys have been working to lower tensions.
Palestinian group Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200, according to Israeli tallies. Israel’s military assault on Hamas-governed Gaza has since killed over 33,000 according to the local health ministry, displaced nearly all of Gaza’s 2.3 million population, caused a humanitarian crisis and led to genocide allegations that Israeli denies.
Iran-backed groups have declared support for Palestinians, waging attacks from Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq. Tehran has avoided direct confrontation with Israel or the United States, while declaring support for its allies.

Battleground: Jerusalem
The biblical battle for the Holy City
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