US approves F-16 fighter jet sale to Turkiye, F-35s to Greece after Turkiye OKs Sweden’s entry to NATO

An F-16 fighter jet takes off during a media day of NATO's "Air Defender 23" military exercise at Spangdahlem US Air Base near the German-Belgian border in Spangdahlem, Germany June 14, 2023. (REUTERS)
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Updated 27 January 2024
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US approves F-16 fighter jet sale to Turkiye, F-35s to Greece after Turkiye OKs Sweden’s entry to NATO

  • NATO ally Turkiye has long sought to upgrade its F-16 fleet and had made its ratification of Sweden’s membership contingent on the approval of the sale of the new planes

WASHINGTON: The Biden administration has approved the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkiye following the Turkish government’s ratification this week of Sweden’s membership in NATO. The move is a significant development in the expansion of the alliance, which has taken on additional importance since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The State Department notified Congress of its approval of the $23 billion F-16 sale to Turkiye, along with a companion $8.6 billion sale of advanced F-35 fighter jets to Greece, late Friday. The move came just hours after Turkiye deposited its “instrument of ratification” for Sweden’s accession to NATO with Washington, which is the repository for alliance documents and after several key members of Congress lifted their objections.
The sale to Turkiye includes 40 new F-16s and equipment to modernize 79 of its existing F-16 fleet. The sale to Greece includes 40 F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters and related equipment.
NATO ally Turkiye has long sought to upgrade its F-16 fleet and had made its ratification of Sweden’s membership contingent on the approval of the sale of the new planes. The Biden administration had supported the sale, but several lawmakers had expressed objections due to human rights concerns.
Those objections, including from the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Jim Risch, R-Idaho, have now been overcome, officials said.
Cardin said in statement Friday that he had still had concerns about Turkiye’s rights record, but had agreed to the sale based on commitments Turkiye has made to improve it. “I look forward to beginning this new chapter in our relationship with Turkiye, expanding the NATO alliance, and working with our global allies in standing up to ongoing Russian aggression against its peaceful neighbors,” he said.
Turkiye had delayed its approval of Sweden’s NATO membership for more than a year, ostensibly because it believed Sweden did not take Turkiye’s national security concerns seriously enough, including its fight against Kurdish militants and other groups that Ankara considers to be security threats.
The delays had frustrated the U.S, and other NATO allies, almost all of whom had been swift to accept both Sweden and Finland into the alliance after the Nordic states dropped their longstanding military neutrality following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Sweden’s formal accession to NATO now depends on Hungary, which is the last remaining NATO ally not to have approved its membership. US and NATO officials have said they expect Hungary to act quickly, especially after Turkiye’s decision.

 

 


Daesh attack in Syria kills three soldiers: war monitor

Updated 43 min 32 sec ago
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Daesh attack in Syria kills three soldiers: war monitor

  • The militants “attacked a site where... regime forces were stationed“
  • The Syrian army had sent forces to the area, where Daesh attacks are common

BEIRUT: Daesh group militants killed three Syrian soldiers in an attack Tuesday on an army position in the Badia desert, a war monitor said.
The militants “attacked a site where... regime forces were stationed,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that a lieutenant colonel and two soldiers died.
The Syrian army had sent forces to the area, where Daesh attacks are common, ahead of an expected wider sweep, said the Britain-based Observatory which has a network of sources inside the country.
In an attack on May 3, Daesh fighters killed at least 15 Syrian pro-government fighters when they targeted three military positions in the desert, the Observatory had reported.
Daesh overran large swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a so-called caliphate and launching a reign of terror.
It was defeated territorially in Syria in 2019, but its remnants still carry out deadly attacks, particularly against pro-government forces and Kurdish-led fighters in Badia desert.
Syria’s war has claimed more than half a million lives and displaced millions more since it erupted in March 2011 with Damascus’s brutal repression of anti-government protests.


At least 9 Egyptian women and children die when vehicle slides off ferry and plunges into Nile River

Updated 28 min 22 sec ago
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At least 9 Egyptian women and children die when vehicle slides off ferry and plunges into Nile River

  • The accident, which happened in Monshat el-Kanater town in Giza province, also injured nine other passengers

CAIRO: At least nine Egyptian women and children died Tuesday when a small bus carrying about two dozen people slid off a ferry and plunged into the Nile River just outside Cairo, health authorities said.
The accident, which happened in Monshat el-Kanater town in Giza province, injured nine other passengers, the Health Ministry said in a statement. Giza is one of three provinces forming Greater Cairo.
Six of the injured were treated at the site while three others were transferred to hospitals. The ministry didn’t elaborate on their injuries.
A list of the nine dead obtained by The Associated Press showed four were minors.
Giza provincial Gov. Ahmed Rashed said the bus was retrieved from the river and rescue efforts were still underway as of midday Tuesday.
The cause of the accident was not immediately clear.
According to the state-owned Akhbar daily, about two dozen passengers, mostly women, were in the vehicle heading to work when the accident occurred. It said security forces detained the vehicle driver.
Ferry, railway and road accidents are common in Egypt, mainly because of poor maintenance and lack of regulations. In February, a ferry carrying day laborers sank in the Nile in Giza, killing at least 10 of the 15 people on board.


Syrian first lady Asma Assad has leukemia, presidency says

Updated 21 May 2024
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Syrian first lady Asma Assad has leukemia, presidency says

  • Statement stated that Asma would undergo a special treatment protocol that would require her to isolate

DUBAI: Syria’s first lady, Asma Assad, has been diagnosed with leukemia, the Syrian presidency said on Tuesday, almost five years after she announced she had fully recovered from breast cancer.
The statement said Asma, 48, would undergo a special treatment protocol that would require her to isolate, and that she would step away from public engagements as a result.
In August 2019, Asma said she had fully recovered from breast cancer that she said had been discovered early.
Since Syria plunged into war in 2011, the British-born former investment banker has taken on the public role of leading charity efforts and meeting families of killed soldiers, but has also become hated by the opposition.
She runs the Syria Trust for Development, a large NGO that acts as an umbrella organization for many of the aid and development operations in Syria.
Last year, she accompanied her husband, President Bashar Assad ,on a visit to the United Arab Emirates, her first known official trip abroad with him since 2011. She met Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the Emirati president’s mother, during a trip seen as a public signal of her growing role in public affairs.


Yemen’s Houthis say they downed US drone over Al-Bayda province

Updated 21 May 2024
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Yemen’s Houthis say they downed US drone over Al-Bayda province

  • The Houthis said last Friday they downed another US MQ9 drone over the southeastern province of Maareb

DUBAI: Yemen’s Houthis downed a US MQ9 drone over Al-Bayda province in southern Yemen, the Iran-aligned group’s military spokesperson said in a televised statement on Tuesday.

Yahya Saree said the drone was targeted with a locally made surface-to-air missile and that videos to support the claim would be released.

The Houthis said last Friday they downed another US MQ9 drone over the southeastern province of Maareb.

The group, which controls Yemen’s capital and most populous areas of the Arabian Peninsula state, has attacked international shipping in the Red Sea since November in solidarity with the Palestinians in the war between Israel and Hamas militants, drawing US and British retaliatory strikes since February.


Iranians pay last respects to President Ebrahim Raisi

People mourn the death of Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a helicopter crash.
Updated 21 May 2024
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Iranians pay last respects to President Ebrahim Raisi

  • Mourners set off from a central square in the northwestern city of Tabriz
  • Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declares five days of national mourning

TEHRAN: Tens of thousands of Iranians gathered Tuesday to mourn president Ebrahim Raisi and seven members of his entourage who were killed in a helicopter crash on a fog-shrouded mountainside in the northwest.

Waving Iranian flags and portraits of the late president, mourners set off from a central square in the northwestern city of Tabriz, where Raisi was headed when his helicopter crashed on Sunday.

They walked behind a lorry carrying the coffins of Raisi and his seven aides.

Their helicopter lost communications while it was on its way back to Tabriz after Raisi attended the inauguration of a joint dam project on the Aras river, which forms part of the border with Azerbaijan, in a ceremony with his counterpart Ilham Aliyev.

A massive search and rescue operation was launched on Sunday when two other helicopters flying alongside Raisi’s lost contact with his aircraft in bad weather.

State television announced his death in a report early on Monday, saying “the servant of the Iranian nation, Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi, has achieved the highest level of martyrdom,” showing pictures of him as a voice recited the Qur’an.

Killed alongside the Iranian president were Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, provincial officials and members of his security team.

Iran’s armed forces chief of staff Mohammad Bagheri ordered an investigation into the cause of the crash as Iranians in cities nationwide gathered to mourn Raisi and his entourage.

Tens of thousands gathered in the capital’s Valiasr Square on Monday.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ultimate authority in Iran, declared five days of national mourning and assigned vice president Mohammad Mokhber, 68, as caretaker president until a presidential election can be held.

State media later announced that the election would will be held on June 28.

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri, who served as deputy to Amir-Abdollahian, was named acting foreign minister.

From Tabriz, Raisi’s body will be flown to the Shiite clerical center of Qom on Tuesday before being moved to Tehran that evening.

Processions will be held in in the capital on Wednesday morning before Khamenei leads prayers at a farewell ceremony.

Raisi’s body will then be flown to his home city of Mashhad, in the northeast, where he will be buried on Thursday evening after funeral rites.

Raisi, 63, had been in office since 2021. The ultra-conservative’s time in office saw mass protests, a deepening economic crisis and unprecedented armed exchanges with arch-enemy Israel.

Raisi succeeded the moderate Hassan Rouhani, at a time when the economy was battered by US sanctions imposed over Iran’s nuclear activities.

Condolence messages flooded in from Iran’s allies around the region, including the Syrian government, Palestinian militant group Hamas and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

It was an unprecedented Hamas attack on Israel that sparked the devastating war in Gaza, now in its eighth month, and soaring tensions between Israel and the “resistance axis” led by Iran.

Israel’s killing of seven Revolutionary Guards in a drone strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on April 1 triggered Iran’s first ever direct attack on Israel, involving hundreds of missiles and drones.

In a speech hours before his death, Raisi underlined Iran’s support for the Palestinians, a centerpiece of its foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Palestinian flags were raised alongside Iranian flags at ceremonies held for the late president.