26 killed in Al-Qaeda attack in Yemen’s Abyan

Military personnel of Yemen’s separatist Southern Transitional Council during their redeployment from the southern Yemeni province of Abyan, Yemen, Dec. 14, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 06 September 2022
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26 killed in Al-Qaeda attack in Yemen’s Abyan

  • Heavy fighting resulted in the deaths of 20 soldiers, including local security leader Col. Yasser Nasser Shayae
  • Attack comes as security forces seek to reclaim control of several remote areas in the south that have long been regarded as safe havens for militants

AL-MUKALLA: At least 26 people were killed on Tuesday when Al-Qaeda militants attacked a military outpost manned by Yemeni security forces in the southern province of Abyan, the group’s deadliest strike in months.

Mohammed Al-Naqeeb, a spokesperson for pro-independence southern forces, said the attack on a Security Belt Forces location in Ahwar resulted in hours of heavy fighting and the deaths of 20 soldiers, including local security leader Col. Yasser Nasser Shayae, and six militants.

“The attackers used a variety of weapons, including heavy and light machine guns, RPGs and grenades, and our forces were able to neutralize them all,” Al-Naqeeb said.

The attack comes as military and security forces seek to reclaim control of several rugged and remote areas in the south that have long been regarded as safe havens for militants.

Thanks to help from the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen, Yemeni forces have largely succeeded in thwarting Al-Qaeda’s attempts to regroup and thus recapture cities in southern provinces.

Since early 2016, Yemeni troops have driven militants out of Al-Mukalla, the capital of the southeastern province of Hadramout, Zinjbar and other Abyan cities, as well as Lahj province. Hundreds of soldiers have been killed or injured in attacks by Al-Qaeda over the period.

Residents of Abyan have recently reported seeing militants setting up checkpoints in remote areas, attacking locals and kidnapping security and military personnel, despite efforts to confront them.

The latest attack prompted officials to call for increased international support for security and military units.

“We are dealing with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the world’s largest terrorist organization. If we were successful in defeating them, the world as a whole, not just the south, would benefit,” Al-Naqeeb said.

Mohammed Al-Ghaithi, the head of the Consultations and Reconciliation Commission, a body that advises the Presidential Leadership Council, said that peace would not come until all terrorist organizations and those who support them were destroyed.

He also called for military support so that forces could fight Al-Qaeda and other armed groups.

“Peace and stability can only be attained by utterly eradicating terrorism and its supporters.,” he said.

“Friends, partners and allies from across the globe and in our region must assume full accountability for our military’s battle against terrorism, including the obligation to assist our troops as they face this incredibly deadly common threat.”


Jerusalem official takes on French consulate after Israel arms show ban

Updated 8 sec ago
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Jerusalem official takes on French consulate after Israel arms show ban

JERUSALEM: Jerusalem’s deputy mayor, an ultranationalist Israeli politician, has asked for rubbish not to be collected from the French consulate after Paris barred Israeli firms from an arms show.
Organizers of the Eurosatory trade show just outside Paris said last month French authorities had banned Israeli firms, with the French defense ministry attributing the decision the Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip’s Rafah city.
Deputy Mayor Arieh King posted on social media platform X a letter he had addressed to the municipal sanitation department, asking “to instruct Jerusalem municipal maintenance workers to cease immediately garbage removal service from the French consulate building.”
A City Hall statement said King’s request would not be implemented.
In his letter, he denounced “traitorous and anti-Israeli conduct” by French President Emmanuel Macron, who King said aimed “to harm the State of Israel and Israeli industry,” in an apparent reference to the French expo move.
“As the City Hall of Israel’s capital, we must not stand idly by and accept the French president’s decision to stand alongside the Hamas terrorist organization,” King wrote.
France has an embassy in the coastal city of Tel Aviv and a consulate in Jerusalem which also serves Palestinians in the city’s Israeli-annexed east as well as the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the future capital of an independent state, while Israel considers the whole of Jerusalem as its indivisible capital.
The Jerusalem City Hall told AFP in a statement that garbage collection would continue at the French consulate.
“The Jerusalem municipality removes trash from all parts of the city on a professional basis and provides the best service to all its residents,” it said.
A municipal official, requesting anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the press, told AFP King has no authority to decide on such a move.
French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu has told French media it was inappropriate to host Israeli weapons manufacturers and defense firms at the expo given Macron’s calls for an end to the fighting in Rafah, which went unheeded.
Israel, which has vowed to crush Hamas militants in Gaza following the group’s October 7 attack, sent ground troops into the far-southern city in early May despite widespread concern for Palestinian civilians sheltering there.
Seventy-four Israeli firms were set to take part in the Eurosatory event which opened on Monday. Organizers said about 10 of them were planning to exhibit weapons.
“By decision of the government authorities, there will be no stand for the Israeli defense industry at the Eurosatory 2024 fair,” Coges Events had said in a statement confirming the ban.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant last week condemned “hostile policies against Israel” by France, in remarks rejected by other senior officials.

Germany cancels arrest warrant for Lebanon’s ex-central bank chief

Updated 30 min 32 sec ago
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Germany cancels arrest warrant for Lebanon’s ex-central bank chief

  • The cancelation had come after an appeal from the defendant, and because he no longer held the position of central bank chief
  • The regional court of Munich had “confirmed the urgent suspicion with regard to the offenses charged against the defendant“

MUNICH/BEIRUT: German authorities have canceled their arrest warrant for Lebanon’s former central bank chief for technical reasons, but are continuing their probe and keeping his assets frozen, the Munich prosecutor’s office told Reuters on Wednesday.
Riad Salameh, 73, was Lebanon’s central bank governor for 30 years until July 2023. In his final months as governor, Germany issued an arrest warrant for him on corruption charges, two sources in Lebanon told Reuters.
Responding to questions from Reuters, a spokeswoman for the Munich prosecutor’s office confirmed on Wednesday that the arrest warrant was canceled on June 10.
The spokeswoman said the cancelation had come after an appeal from the defendant, and because he no longer held the position of central bank chief — meaning there was “no longer any risk that he will suppress evidence in this function.”
She said the regional court of Munich had “confirmed the urgent suspicion with regard to the offenses charged against the defendant” and that Germany’s “investigations are ongoing.”
Salameh declined a Reuters request for comment on the development.
Salameh and his brother Raja are being investigated in Lebanon and at least five European countries for allegedly taking hundreds of millions of dollars from Lebanon’s central bank and laundering the funds abroad. They deny the accusations.
Germany confirmed in February that it was conducting money laundering investigations into Salameh and his brother, and had issued an arrest warrant.
The Munich public prosecutor’s office said in February it had also seized three commercial properties in Munich and Hamburg with a total value of around 28 million euros, and shares worth around seven million euros in a Duesseldorf-based property company, as part of the case.
On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the public prosecutor’s office said it had “dismissed as unfounded” an appeal against the seizure order, which it said dated back to Jan. 26, 2023.
Lebanese judge Helene Iskandar, who has charged Salameh in a separate case in Lebanon and has been following up on the foreign probes into him, confirmed on Wednesday that the warrant had been canceled but that Germany’s investigation into Salameh would remain open.
Salameh still faces an arrest warrant in France as part of its own investigation into whether he embezzled public funds, as well as a resultant Interpol red notice.


Hezbollah fires more projectiles at Israel as tensions spike

An Israeli soldier checks a house that was hit by a Hezbollah rocket in Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel near the Lebanon border
Updated 19 June 2024
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Hezbollah fires more projectiles at Israel as tensions spike

  • "Approximately 15 projectiles were identified from Lebanon toward the area of Kiryat Shmona," the military said
  • "IDF artillery struck the sources of fire"

JERUSALEM: Lebanon’s Hezbollah fired a fresh barrage of projectiles into northern Israel on Wednesday, the Israeli army said, a day after Israel warned of a “total war” with the Iran-backed militant group.
Hezbollah, a Hamas ally, and Israel have been trading near-daily fire since the Gaza war was triggered by the Palestinian militant group’s October 7 attack on southern Israel.
“Approximately 15 projectiles were identified from Lebanon toward the area of Kiryat Shmona, several of which were intercepted by IDF (army) aerial defense array,” the military said in a statement.
“IDF artillery struck the sources of fire,” it said, adding the incoming fire did not cause any casualties.
The military said its warplanes also struck a Hezbollah military structure in the area of Tyre and infrastructure in Khiam in Lebanon.
Hezbollah said on Wednesday it fired “dozens of Katyusha rockets and artillery rounds” at a barracks in Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel in retaliation for the “Israeli enemy attacks” on Yarun and Khiam.
Lebanon’s official National News agency reported Israeli strikes on several areas in south Lebanon on Wednesday, including on the villages of Yarun and Khiam.
The Shiite Muslim movement, which also claimed a drone attack on troops in Metula in northern Israel, said four of its fighters had been killed.
The clashes came a day after the Israeli military said it had approved operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon.
“As part of the situational assessment, operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon were approved and validated,” the military said in a statement.
The approval came as Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz warned Hezbollah on Tuesday that it would be destroyed in the event of a “total war” between the two.
“We are very close to the moment when we will decide to change the rules of the game against Hezbollah and Lebanon,” he said in a statement issued by his office.
“In a total war, Hezbollah will be destroyed and Lebanon will be hit hard.”
The latest tit-for-tat comes as US presidential envoy Amos Hochstein visited Israel and Lebanon this week, calling for an “urgent” de-escalation on the border.
The Israel-Lebanon clashes have killed at least 478 people in Lebanon, most of them fighters but also including 93 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
Israeli authorities say at least 15 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed in the country’s north.


Shipping industry urges Red Sea action as Houthis sink second vessel

Updated 19 June 2024
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Shipping industry urges Red Sea action as Houthis sink second vessel

  • “It is deplorable that innocent seafarers are being attacked while simply performing their jobs, vital jobs which keep the world warm, fed, and clothed,” the world’s top shipping associations said
  • “These attacks must stop now”

LONDON: Urgent action must be taken in the Red Sea to stop attacks on merchant shipping by Yemen’s Houthis, leading industry groups said on Wednesday, after the sinking of a second ship.
Iran-aligned Houthi militants first launched drone and missile strikes on the important trade route in November in what they say is solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. In more than 70 attacks, they have also seized one vessel and its crew and killed at least three seafarers.
“It is deplorable that innocent seafarers are being attacked while simply performing their jobs, vital jobs which keep the world warm, fed, and clothed,” the world’s top shipping associations said in a joint statement.
“These attacks must stop now. We call for states with influence in the region to safeguard our innocent seafarers and for the swift de-escalation of the situation in the Red Sea.”
The Greek-owned Tutor coal carrier attacked by Yemen’s Houthi militants in the Red Sea last week has sunk, salvagers confirmed on Wednesday.
The vessel was struck with missiles and an explosive-laden remote-controlled boat, according to sources.
International naval forces have been deployed to provide mainly defensive support for ships still sailing through the Red Sea, but the attacks have increased significantly.
Insurance industry sources said on Wednesday there was also mounting concern over the use of attack drone boats by the Houthis.
“They are harder to defend against and potentially more lethal as they strike the waterline,” one industry source said.
“Missiles have — to date — mainly caused deck and superstructure damage (to ships).”
There have been 10 Houthi strikes so far in June compared with five in May, said Munro Anderson, head of operations at marine war risk and insurance specialist Vessel Protect, part of Pen Underwriting. “The first successful use of an unmanned surface vessel represents a new challenge for commercial shipping within an already complex environment,” he added.
Insurance industry sources said that additional war risk premiums, paid when vessels sail through the Red Sea, had hovered close to 0.7 percent of the value of a ship in recent days from around 1 percent earlier this year.
They added that with a second ship sinking and the losses likely to emerge from that, rates are likely to firm up, adding hundreds of thousands of dollars of extra costs to every voyage.
Ships must divert around southern Africa, which is the best way to protect seafarers, said Stephen Cotton, General Secretary with the International Transport Workers’ Federation, the leading seafarer’s union.
“We would also welcome proper escorts and the shielding of ships by naval forces, which would reduce the risks of ships being hit,” he added.


Palestinian girl with burns from Israeli shelling hopes for treatment

Updated 19 June 2024
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Palestinian girl with burns from Israeli shelling hopes for treatment

  • Hanan was out walking in Al-Bureij refugee camp where the family had taken shelter after leaving their home when she was caught in Israeli shellfire
  • Instead of spending the Eid Al-Adha festival playing with friends, she has spent it in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital being treated

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza: The disfiguring facial burns of 10-year-old Hanan Akel show how Israel’s military campaign in Gaza is not only causing thousands of deaths but terrible injuries afflicting both old and young.
Hanan lay in a hospital cot in Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza Strip, struggling to move her mouth as she spoke and with her eyes partly shut, patches of her forehead still raw and stitched scars across her nose and lips.
When her mother Walaa Akel tried to clean her, she wailed.
Israel has been at war in Gaza for more than eight months saying it wants to destroy Hamas, the Palestinian group that attacked Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,200 people and grabbing 253 hostages according to Israeli tallies.
The ground and air assault on Gaza has killed more than 37,396 people and injured 85,523 according to Palestinian health authorities, while driving nearly all the tiny territory’s people from their homes with massive bombardments.
Hanan was out walking in Al-Bureij refugee camp where the family had taken shelter after leaving their home when she was caught in Israeli shellfire, her mother Walaa said.
Instead of spending the Eid Al-Adha festival playing with friends, she has spent it in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital being treated for second and third degree burns on her face and limbs.
“I used to go with my friends. Play, buy things, eat and celebrate Eid. We were happy. We used to play on the swings and we used to wear our Eid clothes. We used to wear nice new shoes,” she said.
Now she hopes for treatment and for her face to heal.
“I want to go back to what I was like before,” she said.
Since Israel expanded its offensive last month to include the southern city of Rafah, where the border post to Egypt is located, the frontier has been closed and Gaza residents have been unable to go abroad for medical help.
Doctor Mahmoud Mahani, the plastic surgeon treating Hanan at the hospital, said she needs urgent treatment somewhere with more advanced equipment.
Walaa Akel said her daughter used to be “as beautiful as the moon.” Now, Hanan often wants to look at videos and pictures of what her face was like before.
“She says to me ‘mama, I wish I could walk. Mama, I wish I could stand. I wish I could play with my siblings’,” said Walaa.