Israel targets places of worship in Lebanon

Smoke billows over the southern Lebanese village of El-Khiam near the border with Israel on January 17, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 17 January 2024

Israel targets places of worship in Lebanon

  • On Wednesday, Hezbollah mourned one of its members, Rashid Mohammed Shaglil, from the town of Tamnin in the Bekaa

BEIRUT: The Israeli military has targeted places of worship for the first time in southern Lebanon in its war against Hezbollah.

For the past 100 days, the Israel Defense Forces has hit forests, residential homes and roads in the border area, but on Wednesday an Israeli drone raided the National Evangelical Church in the center of the town of Alma Al-Shaab, causing major damage to the home of the church’s cleric, Pastor Rabie Talib.

The IDF fired five smoke shells at Syrian workers in a grape orchard in the Wazzani plain, but there were no casualties.

A security source in the south said: “The bombing carried out by the Israeli Army on Tuesday on the Wadi Al-Saluki area is unprecedented in its ferocity. On Wednesday, it targeted the town of Hula after targeting the town of Mays Al-Jabal during the past days.”

According to the source, the IDF considers any activity in the area to be associated with Hezbollah. Therefore, the bombing of Wadi Saluki aims to disrupt the supply route that this valley provides to the party, specifically toward the towns of Hula and Mays Al-Jabal. The ultimate goal is to isolate and directly target these two towns.

Preemptive Israeli bombing on the border area targeted the Kafr Shuba Heights, the towns of Kafr Kila, Taybeh, Markba, Wadi Al-Saluki, Aita al-Shaab, the outskirts of Naqoura, the area between Ramia and Marwahin, and the outskirts of the towns of al-Dhahira, Yarin, Jebin, and Tair Harfa.

An Israeli drone raided a house near the mosque in the town of Aita al-Shaab, causing the house to burn.

The Israeli attacks focused on the town of Hula, specifically targeting houses. However, no one was injured and only material damage occurred.

Israeli artillery targeted the Marjayoun Plain and the area located on the outskirts of the town of Deir Mimas, towards the town of Taybeh, with three artillery shells.

Videos showed the widespread damage to houses, roads, and infrastructure. The people who were left took refuge in their homes, and the sound of women’s screams echoed whenever the houses trembled from the rockets exploding nearby, both on the outskirts and in the center of certain villages.

A cautious calm prevailed over the western and central sectors last night, amid continued enemy reconnaissance aircraft flying and firing flares over the border villages adjacent to the Blue Line.

Hezbollah said it targeted “a gathering of Israeli soldiers in the vicinity of the Raheb site with appropriate weapons.”

Later, Hezbollah announced “the use of Burkan missiles to strike the vicinity of Ruwaisat Al-Alam in the Kfar Shuba Heights.”

Israeli artillery responded by bombing the outskirts of Rashaya Al-Fakhar and Al-Habaria.

On Wednesday, Hezbollah mourned one of its members, Rashid Mohammed Shaglil, from the town of Tamnin in the Bekaa.

Firas Al-Abiad, Lebanon’s caretaker health minister, visited the southern region and inspected several hospitals and health centers in the Nabatieh region, adjacent to the hot spot.

At the Lebanese People’s Rescue Hospital in Nabatieh, Al-Abiad said: “Our mission is to stand by our people, whatever the circumstances. At the same time, we face a danger similar to any site of confrontation and resistance. Our enemy is a criminal who does not respect any international or humanitarian conventions or laws, and the health sector has been suffering casualties in this battle and fighting without weapons. Many health institutions have been subjected to direct and indirect aggression.”

After a meeting about health security in Nabatieh, Al-Abiad told a press conference: “We have created a plan for emergencies and coordination among different groups on the field to ensure that there are no shortcomings in delivering healthcare services, whether it's for the injured, displaced individuals, or families who are staying strong, despite limited resources. It is our responsibility to provide as much assistance as we can.”

Al-Abiad said the government has approved $98 million “to support government hospitals in covering the expenses of treating the injured. We have government hospitals on the front line, such as Mays Al-Jabal Hospital, which was subjected to a direct attack, and the hospitals of Marjayoun, Bint Jbeil, Hasbaya, Salah Ghandour, Jabal Amel, and others. These hospitals are undergoing training for emergency plans, and they have received batches of medical supplies to enhance their services.”

He added: “It is true that all of this is not enough in these circumstances, and we have listened to the problems facing health institutions in preparation for further assistance.”

Al-Abiad went to the civil defense center in Nabatieh, which is part of the Islamic Health Authority associated with Hezbollah.

These centers consist of approximately 1,000 volunteers, along with numerous ambulances and fire trucks, ready for any unforeseen situation. They are also connected to an operations room.

Meanwhile, families displaced to areas deep in the south began to complain of their inability to pay hight rents for furnished apartments.

Hezbollah had called on other southerners to host the displaced in unoccupied homes. However, “it seems that the grace period has ended, and homeowners have started demanding rent in dollars, despite our halted work in the south,” as one of the displaced said.

Samir Geagea, the leader of the Lebanese Forces party, said: “At the heart of the caretaker government’s responsibilities is to eliminate the specter of war in Lebanon and confront the dangerous issues that threaten the citizen’s security, life, family, livelihood, interests, and the future of the country.”

Iran condemns Israeli attack on Yemen’s Hodeidah port

Updated 21 July 2024

Iran condemns Israeli attack on Yemen’s Hodeidah port

  • Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said the attack was “an expression of the aggressive behavior of the child-killing Israeli regime.”

TEHRAN: Iran has condemned Israel’s deadly retaliatory strike on the Houthi-controlled port of Hodeidah in Yemen that the miltia say killed six people and wounded dozens more.
Late on Saturday, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani “strongly condemned” the attack saying it was “an expression of the aggressive behavior of the child-killing Israeli regime.”
Israeli warplanes on Saturday struck the vital port of Hodeidah in response to a deadly drone attack by the Iran-backed Houthis on Tel Aviv, which killed one civilian.
The Houthis have since threatened a “huge” retaliation against Israel.
Kanani added that Israel and its supporters, including the United States, were “directly responsible for the dangerous and unpredictable consequences of the continued crimes in Gaza, as well as the attacks on Yemen.”
Regional tensions have soared since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October, drawing in Iran-backed militant groups in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen.
Yemen’s Houthis, along with the Hezbollah group in Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza are part of a Tehran-aligned “axis of resistance” against Israel and its allies.
The Islamic republic has reiterated support for the groups but insisted they were independent in their decision-making and actions.

Archaeologists in Bahrain unearth Gulf’s earliest Christian structure

Updated 46 min 43 sec ago

Archaeologists in Bahrain unearth Gulf’s earliest Christian structure

  • Located in Samahij, in the Bahraini city of Muharraq, the unearthed structure is considered “the first material evidence of this ancient community”
  • Digging at the site commenced at a mound within the Samahij cemetery, where archaeologists discovered the remains of a mosque.

DUBAI: Bahraini and British archaeologists say they have discovered what is believed to be the first Christian structure in the Arabian Gulf, dating back to the fourth century.

Located in Samahij, in the Bahraini city of Muharraq, the unearthed structure is considered “the first material evidence of this ancient community,” according to the Bahrain National Communications Center.

“While Christianity is not predominantly associated with the Gulf states today, the Church of the East, also known as the Nestorian Church, flourished in the region for centuries until the 7th century CE, coinciding with the widespread Islam amongst the communities in 610 CE,” the NCC said in a statement.

Archeologists said that radiocarbon dating of the Samahij site confirmed “the building was occupied between the mid-4th and mid-8th centuries CE, likely abandoned as Islam spread among the local population.”

Digging at the site commenced at a mound within the Samahij cemetery, where archaeologists discovered the remains of a mosque.

Further excavation revealed a large building with eight rooms, including a kitchen, dining room, workshop, and three living quarters. It is believed that the construction of the mosque on the site contributed to the preservation of the building below, the NCC added.

The findings suggest the building may have been the residence of the bishop of the local diocese, which included Samahij. Historical sources refer to this area as “Mishmahig” or “Mashmahig,” likely variations of Samahij.

Records also indicate a connection between the region and central church authorities, with one bishop dismissed in 410 and another condemned for challenging church unity in the seventh century.

The excavation project, a collaborative effort between the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities and a British team led by Prof. Timothy Insoll of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at Exeter University, and Dr. Salman Al-Mahari of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, began in 2019 and culminated in these significant findings in 2023.

This discovery is unique due to its location in the heart of a modern, densely populated town, unlike previous Christian structures found in remote areas along the Gulf coast.

Notable finds include three plaster crosses, two adorning the building’s exterior and one possibly kept as a personal memento, along with wall carvings featuring a fish symbol and part of the “Chi Rho” symbol, representing “Christ.”

Al-Mahari explained that the excavation, now in its final stages, is an important piece of Bahraini history, providing valuable insights into the Christian presence in the region.

Initial studies suggested the site dated from the sixth to eighth centuries, but radiocarbon dating confirmed fourth century origins, making it one of the oldest Christian buildings in the Arabian Gulf. Recent findings include a clear Eastern cross on a plaster slab.

The excavation also revealed details about the building and its inhabitants’ lives. Constructed with stone walls coated in plaster and plaster floors, the building featured sockets and holes indicating door and seat placements. The kitchen contained built-in ovens with bases and storage areas. Artifacts suggest the inhabitants enjoyed a good standard of living, consuming meat, fish, shellfish, and various crops. The discovery of semi-precious agate beads and broken Indian pottery indicates the occupants were involved in trade, particularly with India. Small drinking glasses and 12 copper coins suggest the use of Sasanian Empire currency. Additionally, spindle whorls and copper needles hint at the possibility of cloth production for religious purposes.

Insoll said: “We stress the importance of this site and the need to preserve it, highlighting its historical and archaeological value.”

He added: “We were amused to find someone had drawn part of a face on a pearl shell using bitumen, possibly for a child who lived in the building. This is the first physical evidence of the Nestorian Church in Bahrain, providing a fascinating insight into how people lived, worked, and worshiped.”

Iraq to import electricity from Turkiye

Updated 21 July 2024

Iraq to import electricity from Turkiye

  • PM Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani said the new line is a “strategic” step to link Iraq with neighboring countries

BAGHDAD: Iraq said Sunday a new power line will bring electricity from Turkiye to its northern provinces as authorities aim to diversify the country’s energy sources to ease chronic power outages.
The 115-kilometer (71-mile) line connects to Kisik power plant west of Mosul and will provide 300 megawatts from Turkiye to Iraq’s northern provinces of Nineveh, Salah Al-Din and Kirkuk, according to a statement by the prime minister’s office.
PM Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani said the new line is a “strategic” step to link Iraq with neighboring countries.
“The line started operating today,” Ahmed Moussa, spokesperson for the electricity ministry, told AFP.
Decades of war have left Iraq’s infrastructure in a pitiful state, with power cuts worsening the blistering summer when temperatures often reach 50 Celsius (122 Fahrenheit).
Many households have just a few hours of mains electricity per day, and those who can afford it use private generators to keep fridges and air conditioners running.
Despite its vast oil reserves, Iraq remains dependent on imports to meet its energy needs, especially from neighboring Iran, which regularly cuts supplies.
Sudani has repeatedly stressed the need for Iraq to diversify energy sources to ease the chronic outages.
To reduce its dependence on Iranian gas, Baghdad has been exploring several possibilities including imports from Gulf countries.
In March, a 340-kilometer (210-mile) power line started operating to bring electricity from Jordan to Al-Rutbah in Iraq’s southwest.

Yemen’s Hodeidah battles port blaze after deadly Israel strike

Updated 21 July 2024

Yemen’s Hodeidah battles port blaze after deadly Israel strike

  • Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree said the militia’s “response to the Israeli aggression against our country is inevitably coming and will be huge.”
  • The strike killed six people and wounded 80, many of them with severe burns

HODEIDAH: Firefighting teams on Sunday were still battling a blaze at the Houthi-run port in Yemen’s Hodeidah, hours after an Israeli strike on the harbor triggered a massive fire and killed six people, according to the militia.
Saturday’s strike on the vital port, a key entry point for fuel and humanitarian aid, is the first claimed by Israel in the Arabian peninsula’s poorest country, about 2,000 kilometers (1,300 miles) away.
It killed six people and wounded 80, many of them with severe burns, the rebel-run health ministry said in a statement carried by Houthi media.

On Sunday, Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree said the militia’s “response to the Israeli aggression against our country is inevitably coming and will be huge.” 

Israel said it carried out the strike in response to a drone attack by the Houthis on Tel Aviv which killed one person on Friday.
More operations against the Houthis would follow “if they dare to attack us,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said.
Following the strike, the Israeli military said Sunday it intercepted a missile fired from Yemen toward the Red Sea resort town of Eilat, noting that “the projectile did not cross into Israeli territory.”
Saree, the Houthi spokesman, said the militia had fired ballistic missiles toward Eilat, the latest in a string of Houthi attempts to hit the port city.
The militia announcement came as firefighters struggled to contain the blaze at the Hodeidah port, with thick plumes of black smoke shrouding the sky above the city, said an AFP correspondent in the area.
Fuel storage tanks and a power plant at the port where still ablaze amid “slow” firefighting efforts, said a Hodeidah port employee.
The port employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for security concerns, said it could take days to contain the fire, a view echoed by Yemen experts.
“There is concern that the poorly equipped firefighters may not be able to contain the spreading fire, which could continue for days,” said Mohammed Albasha, senior Middle East analyst for the US-based Navanti Group, warning that it could reach food storage facilities at the harbor.
Hodeidah port, a vital entry point for fuel imports and international aid for militia-held areas of Yemen, had remained largely untouched through the decade-long war between the Houthis and the internationally recognized government propped up by neighboring Saudi Arabia.
The Houthis control swathes of Yemen, including much of its Red Sea coast, and the war has left millions of Yemenis dependent on aid supplied through the port.
Despite Houthi assurances of sufficient fuel stocks, Saturday’s strike triggered fears of worsening shortages, which war-weary Yemenis are ill-equiped to handle.
The attack is “going to have dire humanitarian effects on the millions of ordinary Yemenis living in Houthi-held Yemen,” Nicholas Brumfield, a Yemen expert, said on social media platform X.
It will drive up prices of fuel but also any goods carried by truck, the analyst said.
Yemen’s internationally-recognized government, which has been battling the Houthis for nearly a decade, condemned the strike, and held Israel responsible for a worsening humanitarian crisis.
A statement carried by the official Saba news agency said the Yemeni government holds “the Zionist entity fully responsible for any repercussions resulting from its air strikes, including the deepening of a humanitarian crises.”
It also warned the huthi militia against dragging the country into “senseless battles that serve the interests of the Iranian regime and its expansionist project in the region.”

‘Deeply concerned’ UN chief calls for restraint after Israel’s attack on Yemen

Updated 21 July 2024

‘Deeply concerned’ UN chief calls for restraint after Israel’s attack on Yemen

  • The internationally recognised government of Yemen also condemned Israel's airstrikes as a violation of international laws

DUBAI: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed deep concern over Israel’s airstrikes on Saturday in and around the port of Hodeidah in Yemen.

Guterres called on all parties to “avoid attacks that could harm civilians and damage civilian infrastructure.”

In a statement, the secretary-general said that he “remains deeply concerned about the risk of further escalation in the region and continues to urge all to exercise utmost restraint.”

Israel’s stike on Hodeidah, apparently in retaliation for the Houthi drone strike on Tel Aviv earlier this week, left several dead and more than 80 people injured.

Houthi-run Al-Masirah TV reported that Israeli planes struck a power plant and a fuel storage facility.

Meanwhile, the internationally recognised government of Yemen on Sunday condemned Israel's airstrikes as a violation of international laws, holding Israel responsible for worsening the humanitarian crisis and strengthening Houthi militias.

The government, in a statement, urged the Houthis to prioritize national interests and engage in peace, while calling on the international community to support Yemen's authority and implement Resolution 2216.

The government also reiterated support for the Palestinian people and called for an end to Israeli aggression.