Russia unleashes ‘largest’ drone attack on Kyiv

Workers clear debries as firefighters extinguish a fire at a medical facility, destroyed by a missile strike, in the city of Dnipro on May 26, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP)
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Updated 28 May 2023

Russia unleashes ‘largest’ drone attack on Kyiv

  • Air defense systems downed at least 20 drones moving toward Kyiv

JEDDAH: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday praised his country’s air defense forces, after the capital Kyiv saw the largest drone attack since the beginning of the Russian military offensive.

The latest drone attack came as Russia has intensified aerial strikes on the capital this month, and warned the West against escalating the conflict after the US agreed to greenlight F-16 deliveries.

Ukraine’s Air Force said it downed 52 out of the 54 Russia-launched drones, calling it a record attack with the Iranian-made ‘kamikaze’ drones.

Ukraine said the latest attack in Kyiv was “the most important of the invasion.”

“Every time you shoot down enemy drones and missiles, lives are saved ... you are heroes!” Zelensky told his air defense forces, also thanking rescuers.

This was the 14th drone attack on the Ukrainian capital by Russia this month.

“People are in shock. There’s a lot of damage, the windows were broken, the roof was damaged,” said Sergei Movchan, a 50-year-old resident whose house was damaged by debris.

Kyiv had been relatively spared since the beginning of the year, but in May its residents have had to live with almost nightly air raid sirens and thundering explosions.

In Kyiv the air raid alert lasted more than five hours as the attack was carried out in several waves.

Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, described the assault as “massive” with drones “arriving from several directions at once.”

Authorities reported two killed and three others wounded as debris of the downed drones fell in several districts.

Sunday was to be celebrated as Kyiv’s city day, usually marked by street concerts and celebrations.

“Today the enemy decided to ‘congratulate’ the population on Kyiv Day with the help of their killer drones,” the authorities said.

Congratulating residents on Kyiv Day, presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak said the capital had “stood up” to Russia.

“Kyiv, a city of free and brave people, has become a symbol of Ukraine’s unbreakable spirit and the Kremlin’s failed imperial ambitions,” Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said.

Ukraine’s air force said that “a record” of 54 drones were launched from the regions of Briansk and Krasnodar in Russia, adding that 52 were destroyed.

It said Russia used Shahed drones from Iran.

The president put forward a bill that would see Ukraine impose sanctions onIran for 50 years, Zelenskiy’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak said on Sunday.

A suspected bomb blast kills at least 4 Christian worshippers during Mass in southern Philippines

Members of police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) stand guard along a popular market street in Manila on June 1, 2022. (AFP)
Updated 03 December 2023

A suspected bomb blast kills at least 4 Christian worshippers during Mass in southern Philippines

  • 'Foreign terrorists’ behind deadly Philippine bombing — officials
  • Bombing follows military operations against Islamists

MANILA: Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr condemned a deadly bombing on Sunday, blaming “foreign terrorists,” as police and the military strengthened security in the country’s south and around the capital Manila.
At least four people were killed and at least 50 injured after a bomb exploded during a morning Catholic Mass in a university gymnasium in Marawi, a city in the south of the country besieged by Islamist militants for five months in 2017.
“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the senseless and most heinous acts perpetrated by foreign terrorists,” Marcos said in a statement. “Extremists who wield violence against the innocent will always be regarded as enemies to our society.”
Law enforcement operations to bring to justice the perpetrators of the “terrorist activity” will “continue unabated,” Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro told a press conference.
There were “strong indications of a foreign element” in the bombing, Teodoro said, refusing to elaborate so as not to compromise ongoing investigation.
Fragments of a 16-mm mortar were recovered at the scene, senior police official Emmanuel Peralta told the press conference.

The blast in Marawi, capital of Lanao del Sur province, followed a series of military operations against local pro-Daesh groups in the southern Philippines, the military chief said, including one on Sunday in Lanao del Sur that led to the killing of a leader of the Dawlah Islamiya-Maute group.
“It is possible that what happened this morning was a retaliatory attack,” Armed Forces Chief Romeo Brawner told the press conference.
The Islamic State-linked Maute seized Marawi on May 2017, seeking to make it a Southeast Asian “wilayat” – or governorate — for Islamic State. In the ensuing five-month battle, Islamist fighters and Philippine forces killed more than a thousand people, including civilians.
Military officials surveyed the gym at the Mindanao State University, which appeared intact except for burn marks in the center where the explosion occurred, according to images shared by the Lanao del Sur government on Facebook. White plastic chairs were strewn about.
Videos posted by DZBB radio on X showed rescuers carrying injured people out of the gym on plastic chairs.
Police offices in Mindanao and the capital region were placed on high alert and police checkpoints tightened “to prevent possible follow-up incidents,” police official Peralta said.
The coast guard directed its districts to intensify pre-departure inspection at ports.
Mindanao State University is “deeply saddened and appalled by the act of violence that occurred during a religious gathering,” the school posted on Facebook. “We unequivocally condemn in the strongest possible terms this senseless and horrific act.”
The university said it was said it was suspending classes until further notice. 

Breaches by Iran-affiliated hackers spanned multiple US states, federal agencies say

Updated 03 December 2023

Breaches by Iran-affiliated hackers spanned multiple US states, federal agencies say

  • Since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war, the group has expanded and accelerated targeting Israeli critical infrastructure, said Check Point’s Sergey Shykevich

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania: A small western Pennsylvania water authority was just one of multiple organizations breached in the United States by Iran-affiliated hackers who targeted a specific industrial control device because it is Israeli-made, US and Israeli authorities say.
“The victims span multiple US states,” the FBI, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, known as CISA, as well as Israel’s National Cyber Directorate said in an advisory emailed to The Associated Press late Friday.
They did not say how many organizations were hacked or otherwise describe them.
Matthew Mottes, the chairman of the Municipal Water Authority of Aliquippa, which discovered it had been hacked on Nov. 25, said Thursday that federal officials had told him the same group also breached four other utilities and an aquarium.
Cybersecurity experts say that while there is no evidence of Iranian involvement in the Oct. 7 attack into Israel by Hamas that triggered the war in Gaza they expected state-backed Iranian hackers and pro-Palestinian hacktivists to step up cyberattacks on Israeli and its allies in its aftermath. And indeed that has happened.
The multiagency advisory explained what CISA had not when it confirmed the Pennsylvania hack on Wednesday — that other industries outside water and water-treatment facilities use the same equipment — Vision Series programmable logic controllers made by Unitronics — and were also potentially vulnerable.
Those industries include “energy, food and beverage manufacturing and health care,” the advisory says. The devices regulate processes including pressure, temperature and fluid flow.
The Aliquippa hack promoted workers to temporarily halt pumping in a remote station that regulates water pressure for two nearby towns, leading crews to switch to manual operation. The hackers left a digital calling card on the compromised device saying all Israeli-made equipment is “a legal target.”
The multiagency advisory said it was not known if the hackers had tried to penetrate deeper into breached networks. The access they did get enabled “more profound cyber physical effects on processes and equipment,” it said.
The advisory says the hackers, who call themselves “Cyber Av3ngers,” are affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which the US designated as a foreign terrorist organization in 2019. The group targeted the Unitronics devices at least since Nov. 22, it said.
An online search Saturday with the Shodan service identified more than 200 such Internet-connected devices in the US and more than 1,700 globally.
The advisory notes that Unitronics devices ship with a default password, a practice experts discourage as it makes them more vulnerable to hacking. Best practices call for devices to require a unique password to be created out of the box. It says the hackers likely accessed affected devices by “exploiting cybersecurity weaknesses, including poor password security and exposure to the Internet.”
Experts say many water utilities have paid insufficient attention to cybersecurity.
In response to the Aliquippa hack, three Pennsylvania congressmen asked the US Justice Department in a letter to investigate. Americans must know their drinking water and other basic infrastructure is safe from “nation-state adversaries and terrorist organizations,” US Sens. John Fetterman and Bob Casey and US Rep. Chris Deluzio said. Cyber Av3ngers claimed in an Oct. 30 social media post to have hacked 10 water treatment stations in Israel, though it is not clear if they shut down any equipment.
Since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war, the group has expanded and accelerated targeting Israeli critical infrastructure, said Check Point’s Sergey Shykevich. Iran and Israel were engaged in low-level cyberconflict prior to the Oct. 7. Unitronics has not responded to the AP queries about the hacks.
The attack came less than a month after a federal appeals court decision prompted the EPA to rescind a rule that would have obliged USpublic water systems to include cybersecurity testing in their regular federally mandated audits. The rollback was triggered by a federal appeals court decision in a case brought by Missouri, Arkansas and Iowa, and joined by a water utility trade group.
The Biden administration has been trying to shore up cybersecurity of critical infrastructure — more than 80 percent of which is privately owned — and has imposed regulations on sectors including electric utilities, gas pipelines and nuclear facilities. But many experts complain that too many vital industries are permitted to self-regulate.


Ex-president barred from leaving Ukraine amid alleged plan to meet with Hungary’s Viktor Orban

Updated 03 December 2023

Ex-president barred from leaving Ukraine amid alleged plan to meet with Hungary’s Viktor Orban

  • Officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have been monitoring safety at the Zaporizhzhia plant, which is one of the world’s 10 biggest nuclear power stations

KYIV, Ukraine: Former President Petro Poroshenko was denied permission to leave Ukraine for a planned meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Ukraine’s security service said Saturday.
Poroshenko announced Friday that he had been turned away at the border despite previously receiving permission from Parliament to leave the country. Under martial law, Ukrainian men between 18 and 60 years of age are not allowed to leave the country without special approval.
The 58-year-old, who lost his re-election bid in 2019 to current Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, said that he had planned to meet with US House Speaker Mike Johnson, and the Polish parliament during his trip.
But security officials said that Poroshenko had also agreed to meet Orban, who has previously praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and refused to support Kyiv’s bid for EU accession. In a statement on social media, they said such talks would make Poroshenko a “tool in the hands of the Russian special services.”
Poroshenko, who called his experience at the border an “attack on unity”, is yet to comment on the allegation that he planned to meet Orban.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was left on “the verge of a nuclear and radiation accident” Saturday after it was unable to draw power from two of the lines connecting it to the local energy grid, the country’s nuclear energy operator said.
It said that the plant switched to diesel generators to stop the plant from overheating before off-site power was restored by Kyiv.
Russia occupied the Zaporizhzhia plant in the early stages of the war. Over the past year, the station has become a focal point of concern for international observers, with both Moscow and Kyiv accusing each other of shelling the plant.
In a statement on social media, Petro Kotin, head of Ukraine’s nuclear energy operator, accused Moscow of “incorrect, erroneous, and often deliberately risky operation of the equipment” at the site.
The Associated Press was unable to independently verify the claims.
Officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have been monitoring safety at the Zaporizhzhia plant, which is one of the world’s 10 biggest nuclear power stations.
Although the plant’s six reactors have been shut down for months, it still needs power and qualified staff to operate crucial cooling systems and other safety features.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, Russia launched 11 Iranian-made Shahed drones and one guided cruise missile overnight Saturday, military officials said. The missile and all but one of the drones were reportedly destroyed by Ukrainian air defenses.
The Russian Defense Ministry also said that it had shot down two Ukrainian C-200 rockets over the Sea of Azov.


Tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian supporters stage events across Britain

Updated 03 December 2023

Tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian supporters stage events across Britain

LONDON: Tens of thousands of people across the UK held protests on Saturday as part of a “Day of Action” against the resumption of Israel’s renewed attack on Gaza following a seven-day pause in fighting, organizers said. 

“Israel’s decision to resume its bombardment of Gaza flies in the face of international law, which prohibits collective punishment and attacks on civilians,” said Ben Jamal, the director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign — one of the organizers of the nationwide call. 

“Every humanitarian agency on the ground has indicated that the scale of destruction already wrought by Israel has pushed Gaza to the brink of catastrophe, where deaths from disease and lack of medical services could outstrip the current casualty figures,” he added.

“In that context not only is it unconscionable that Israel would renew its attacks, (but) it is also shameful and unacceptable that UK political leaders would give their support, tacitly or explicitly.”

At least 193 Palestinians have been killed since the cease-fire ended on Friday, according to Gazan health officials, adding to the more than 15,000 Palestinians killed since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas following a surprise attack on Oct. 7 in southern Israel.

“Ordinary people across the UK will come out again to show the vast majority of them support a permanent cease-fire, they will show their solidarity with Palestinians who are experiencing unbearable suffering, (and) they will also demand the root causes are not forgotten — Israel’s decades-long military occupation of Palestinian territories and its system of apartheid against Palestinians.

“We demand justice for the Palestinian people – their right to self-determination and to live in freedom, dignity and with equality,” he added.

PSC has organized weekly national marches in London since the war began, some of which organizers said drew around 800,000 people and was among the nations biggest demonstrations in history. The next scheduled national march is set to be held on Dec. 9.

Various events were held around the country as part of the call, including cease-fire rallies and vigils in places such as Brighton, Hull in the north of England, Coventry in the center, Canterbury in the southeast, and the Welsh capital Cardiff.

Attacker stabs German tourist to death in Paris

Updated 03 December 2023

Attacker stabs German tourist to death in Paris

  • A police source said the attacker was known for psychiatric disorders

PARIS: A person known to the French authorities as a radical Islamist with mental health troubles stabbed a German tourist to death and wounded two people in central Paris on Saturday before being arrested, officials said.
The attack took place close to the Eiffel Tower during a busy late weekend night and came with the country on its highest alert for attacks as tensions rise against the background of the war between Israel and Hamas.
“We will not give in to terrorism,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne wrote on X, formerly Twitter, after the attack.
French anti-terror prosecutors said that they would now take on the investigation.
The attacker was known to authorities as a radical Islamist and was being treated for mental illness, a police source told AFP.
He shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest“) before being arrested, the source added.
The Paris prosecutor’s office said the attacker is French, born in 1997, and has been arrested in an investigation into murder and attempted murder.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin who visited the the scene by the River Seine’s Bir Hakeim bridge said the man had already been sentenced in 2016 to “four years in prison” for planning another attack which he failed to carry out.
“A man attacked a couple who were foreign tourists. A German tourist who was born in the Philippines died from the stabbing,” he said.
A taxi driver who witnessed the scene intervened, Darmanin said. The attacker then crossed the Seine attacking others and injuring one with a hammer, while police chased in pursuit.
Police used a taser to neutralize the man who was then arrested.
“He had threatened them very violently... he will now have to answer for his actions before justice,” Darmanin said.
The suspect told police he could not stand Muslims being killed in “Afghanistan and Palestine,” according to the minister.
Joseph S., 37 years old, a supermarket manager who asked not to give his last name, witnessed the scene, as he sat in a bar.
He heard screams and people shouting “help, help” as they ran. A man wielding an object attacked a man who had fallen down, and within 10 minutes the police arrived, he told AFP.
The country has suffered several attacks by Islamist extremists, including the November 2015 suicide and gun attacks in Paris claimed by the Daesh group in which 130 people were killed.
There had been a relative lull in recent years, even as officials have warned that the threat remains.
But tensions have risen in France, home to large Jewish and Muslim populations, following Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7 and Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip.
Security in Paris is also under particular scrutiny as it gears up to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.
In October, teacher Dominique Bernard was killed in the northern French town of Arras by a young radicalized Islamist from Russia’s Caucasus region.