Israeli attacks in southern Lebanon kill 6 members of Hezbollah, ally

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A banner hangs on the side of a building that was damaged by an Israeli air raid two days earlier in Lebanon's southern city of Nabatieyh on February 16, 2024. Israeli strikes on targets in south Lebanon killed five fighters from Hezbollah and the allied Amal movement, the groups said on February 16, adding to an uptick in violence causing international alarm. (AFP)
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Hezbollah militants and supporters attend the funeral of Ali al-Debs, one of the militant group's commanders killed by an Israeli air raid two days earlier, in Lebanon's southern city of Nabatieyh on February 16, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 16 February 2024

Israeli attacks in southern Lebanon kill 6 members of Hezbollah, ally

  • PM Mikati says Israel’s killing of civilians is a ‘crime against humanity’
  • Nasrallah: Israel will pay price for shedding  blood of our women and children

BEIRUT: Six Hezbollah and Amal Movement members were killed in an Israeli shelling early Friday morning in southern Lebanon.

Israeli warplanes raided the towns of Qantara, Deir Seryan and the vicinity of Wadi Saluki.

The raid on a house in Qantara killed three Amal Movement members: Ali Hassan Issa from the town of Jibchit, Mohammed Hussein Said from the town of Qsaybeh and Qassem Nizar Berro from the town of Charqiyeh.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah mourned two of its members: Mustafa Khodr Qassir from the town of Deir Qanoun En Nahr and Mohammed Ali Darwiche from the town of Srebbine in southern Lebanon.

The Israeli army acknowledged through its spokesman that on Thursday night, “we attacked a military building and infrastructure belonging to the Hezbollah organization in the village of Qantara.”

Israeli media reported that “the internal front in the north has decided to close roads on the northern border to traffic following the Israeli army’s assessment of the situation, and in anticipation of a response by Hezbollah.”

Hezbollah targeted the Kiryat Shmona barracks at midnight on Thursday with Falaq-1 missiles in response to the massacre committed by the Israeli army in the cities of Nabatiyeh and Al-Sowanah two days ago.

The Civil Defense announced that after continuing search-and-rescue operations and comprehensive field surveys at the site of the building partially destroyed by the Israeli drone in Nabatiyeh on Wednesday evening, they retrieved a total of 11 civilian bodies, transported two wounded to Nabatiyeh Governmental Hospital, and extinguished a fire that broke out inside the targeted building.

While families held funeral processions in the southern villages, Israeli raids continued on Aita Al-Shaab, Beit Lif and Bint Jbeil.

Hostile operations continued for the second consecutive day within the rules of engagement adopted since Hezbollah opened the southern front “to support the Gaza Strip,” meaning south of the Litani River.

This comes after both parties violated these rules two days ago, with the Israeli side targeting Lebanese civilians in the area north of the Litani River, and Hezbollah targeting Safed with its operations.

Commenting on the Nabatiyeh attack, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said: “The enemy went too far in killing civilians. Its goal is to put pressure on the resistance to stop, because all pressure since Oct. 7 was aimed at stopping the southern front. The answer to the massacre must be to continue and escalate the action.”

He added: “Targeting the Kiryat Shmona settlement with dozens of Katyusha rockets and a number of Al-Falaq missiles is an initial response.

“The Israeli enemy will pay the price for shedding the blood of our women and children in Nabatiyeh and Al-Sowanah.” 

In response to the Israeli defense minister’s threat to the capital, Beirut, Nasrallah said: “It seems that he has forgotten that the resistance possesses a tremendous and accurate missile capability that allows its hand to extend from Kiryat Shmona to Eilat.”

A Lebanese security source said: “The Israeli Army is focusing its hostile operations on cutting off Hezbollah’s supply routes with fire and blocking off the roads connecting the border villages to each other.”

The source noted: “Completely uninhabited areas are witnessing unprecedented destruction of homes and infrastructure. The Israeli army deals with anything moving in the area as a target.”

Israeli reconnaissance planes continue to fly over southern Lebanon, reaching the course of the Litani River.

In a speech delivered during the opening session of the 60th Munich Security Conference, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati affirmed that “Lebanon will continue to adhere to all UN resolutions.”

He said: “Israel should implement these resolutions, stop its hostilities in southern Lebanon and its violation of the Lebanese sovereignty, and withdraw from all occupied Lebanese territory.”

Mikati questioned “the steps taken by the international community to stop this ongoing hostility.”

He said: “Only two days ago, a family of seven, including children and women, was targeted in southern Lebanon. Killing and targeting innocent children, women and elderly people are crimes against humanity.”

Mikati emphasized that “periodic wars and conflicts in the Middle East, along with their global repercussions, will not end without a two-state solution and the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian State.”

Mikati called on “international actors to support peace-making efforts, help to prevent and resolve conflicts, and protect civilians from harm.”

Caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib instructed Lebanon’s permanent representative to the UN to file a complaint before the UN Security Council on Friday.

This came after “the Israeli raid that targeted a residential building in Nabatiyeh, killing 11, including women and children, and causing extensive damage to the building, in addition to a second raid targeting the house of Lebanese citizen Jalal Mohsen in the Souaneh village, killing his wife and his two children.”

The complaint emphasized that “Israel’s deliberate and direct targeting of civilians in their houses is a violation of the international humanitarian law and a war crime in which all those involved are directly and indirectly subject to international responsibility.”

The complaint added: “The attacks also violated Lebanon’s sovereignty and the security of its territory and citizens, and defied all UN resolutions compelling Israel to stop its violations of Lebanese sovereignty and put an end to its occupation of Lebanese territories, including the Resolution 1701.

“What is concerning is that this escalation comes at a time when international efforts and diplomatic moves intensify to diffuse the situation, and while Lebanon reiterates its rejection of the war and provides a road map for sustainable security in the south.

“This prompts us to urge the international community to exert pressure on Israel to curb its ongoing escalating hostilities and stop the Israeli aggression against Lebanon and its people, in order to avoid the expansion of the conflict and a full-scale destructive regional war that will be difficult to contain.”

Iranians split on presidential vote as hardships mount

Updated 21 June 2024

Iranians split on presidential vote as hardships mount

  • The election comes as Iran grapples with economic pressures, international sanctions and enforcement of the compulsory headscarves for women

TEHRAN: With just a week remaining before a presidential election, Iranians are divided over whether voting will address pressing economic issues and mandatory hijab laws.
Iranians head to the polls on June 28 to choose from six candidates — five conservatives and a relative reformist — to succeed Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash last month.
The election comes as Iran grapples with economic pressures, international sanctions and enforcement of the compulsory headscarves for women.
“They promise change, but won’t do much,” said Hamid Habibi, a 54-year-old shop owner at Tehran’s bustling Grand Bazar.
“I’ve watched the debates and campaigns; they speak beautifully but need to back their words with action,” he said.
Despite his skepticism, Habibi plans to vote next week.
The candidates have held two debates, each pledging to tackle the financial challenges impacting the country’s 85 million people.
“The economic situation is deteriorating daily, and I don’t foresee any improvements,” said Fariba, a 30-year-old who runs an online store.
“Regardless of who wins, our lives won’t change,” she said.

Others, like 57-year-old baker Taghi Dodangeh, remain hopeful.
“Change is certain,” he said, viewing voting as a religious duty and national obligation.
But Jowzi, a 61-year-old housewife, expressed doubts, especially about the candidate line-up.
“There’s hardly any differences between the six,” she said. “One cannot say any of them belongs to a different group.”
Iran’s Guardian Council approved six candidates after disqualifying most moderates and reformists.
Leading contenders include conservative parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, ultraconservative former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and the sole reformist candidate, Masoud Pezeshkian.
Keshvar, a 53-year-old mother, intends to vote for the candidate with the most robust economic plan.
“Young people are grappling with economic hardships,” she said.
“Raisi made efforts, but on the ground, things didn’t change much for the general public, and they were unhappy.”
In the 2021 election that brought Raisi to power, many voters stayed away, resulting in a participation rate just under 49 percent — the lowest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has urged a high voter turnout.
Yet, 26-year-old shopkeeper Mahdi Zeinali said he would only vote if a candidate proves to be “the right person.”
This election comes at a turbulent time, with the Gaza war raging between Iran’s adversary Israel and Tehran-backed Palestinian militant group Hamas, along with ongoing diplomatic tensions over Iran’s nuclear program.
Compulsory hijab laws remain contentious, particularly since mass protests triggered by the 2022 death in custody of Mahsa Amini.
Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, was detained for an alleged breach of Iran’s dress code for women, who are required to cover their heads and necks and wear modest clothing in public.
Despite increased enforcement, many women, especially in Tehran, defy the dress code.
Fariba expressed concern that after the election, “things would go back to where they were,” and young women won’t be able to remove their headscarves.
Jowzi, an undecided voter who wears a veil, regards it as a “personal” choice and opposes state interference.
“It makes no difference who becomes president,” she said.
“What’s important is what they actually do. It’s not important to me whether or not they have a turban. They need to act humanely.”

Armenia recognizes Palestine as a state, says Armenian Foreign Ministry

Updated 21 June 2024

Armenia recognizes Palestine as a state, says Armenian Foreign Ministry

  • A series of countries have recognized Palestine amid Israel's ongoing war in Gaza
  • Israel is a major arms supplier to Armenia's long-time arch-foe neighbor Azerbaijan

YEREVAN: Armenia announced Friday its recognition of the State of Palestine, the latest country to do so during the war in Gaza, saying it was against “violence toward civilian populations.”
A series of countries have recognized the State of Palestine amid the war between Israel and Hamas, drawing strong rebukes from Israeli officials.
“Confirming its commitment to international law, equality of nations, sovereignty and peaceful coexistence, the Republic of Armenia recognizes the State of Palestine,” Yerevan said.
Armenia added that it is “genuinely interested in establishing long-term peace and stability in the Middle-East.”
Yerevan, which has itself been ridden by conflict with neighboring Azerbaijan for decades, slammed Israel’s military conduct in Gaza.
“Armenia deplores using civilian infrastructure as shields during armed conflicts and violence toward civilian populations,” the ministry said.
It also deplored Hamas for “the captivity of civilian persons” and said it “joins the demands of international community on freeing them.”
A senior official from the Palestinian Authority, Hussein Al-Sheikh, welcomed the move.
“This is a victory for right, justice, legitimacy and the struggle of our Palestinian people for liberation and independence,” Al-Sheikh said on social media.
“Thank you our friend Armenia.”
The Gaza war was sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Militants also took 251 hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza, including 41 the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 37,431 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the territory’s health ministry.
Israel is a major arms supplier to Armenia’s arch-foe neighbor Azerbaijan, with which Yerevan had been locked in a decades-long territorial dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region that Baku recaptured last year from Armenian separatists.

Israel ‘pause’ in Gaza had no impact on aid supplies: WHO

Updated 21 June 2024

Israel ‘pause’ in Gaza had no impact on aid supplies: WHO

  • The Israeli military had over the weekend announced a daily humanitarian “pause” in fighting on a key road in eastern Rafah
  • World Food Programme has warned that a massive public health crisis is looming in Gaza due to the lack of clean water, food and medical supplies

Geneva: The “pause” that the Israeli military had declared in Gaza to facilitate aid flows has had no impact on deliveries of the badly-needed aid, the UN’s health agency said on Friday.
“So overall, we the UN can say that we did not see an impact on the humanitarian supplies coming in since that, I will say, unilateral announcement of this technical pause,” said Richard Peeperkorn, the World Health Organization representative in the Palestinian territories.
“That is the overall assessment,” he said.
The Israeli military had over the weekend announced a daily humanitarian “pause” in fighting on a key road in eastern Rafah, but a United Nations spokesman said days later that “this has yet to translate into more aid reaching people in need.”

Intense heat in Gaza could worsen health crisis for Palestinians

The World Health Organization warned on Friday that scorching heat in the Gaza Strip could exacerbate health problems for Palestinians displaced by Israeli bombardment and heavy fighting between its forces and Hamas militants.
The World Food Programme has warned that a massive public health crisis is looming in Gaza due to the lack of clean water, food and medical supplies.
“We’ve seen massive displacement over the last weeks and months, and we know that combination and the heat can cause a rise in diseases,” said Richard Peeperkorn, WHO’s representative for Gaza and the West Bank.
“We have water contamination because of hot water, and we will have much more food spoilage because of the high temperature. We will get insect mosquitoes and flies, dehydration, heat stroke.”
Extreme heat has killed hundreds worldwide as the northern hemisphere summer begins.
Peeperkorn said in Gaza, due to poor water and sanitation conditions, the number of cases of diarrhea were 25 times higher than usual.
Contaminated water and poor sanitation are linked to diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery and hepatitis A, according to the WHO.
The WHO has been unable to carry out medical evacuations from Gaza since the closure of the Rafah crossing in early May.
Peeperkorn said an estimated 10,000 patients still required medical evacuation from Gaza, half of whom are suffering from ailments related to the war.
Israel’s air and ground offensive has killed more than 37,400 people in the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory, according to health authorities there.
More than eight months of war, sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian territory and repeated UN warnings of famine.
The October Hamas attack on Israel resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
The militants also seized hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza although the army says 41 are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive in Gaza has killed at least 37,431 people, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory.

Israeli forces step up bombardment across Gaza, amid fierce fighting

Updated 21 June 2024

Israeli forces step up bombardment across Gaza, amid fierce fighting

  • Tanks forcing their way into the western and northern parts of the city, having already captured the east, south and center.
  • Residents said the Israelis appeared to by trying to complete their capture of Rafah

CAIRO: Israeli forces pounded Rafah and other areas across the Gaza Strip and engaged in close-quarter combat with fighters led by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, residents and Israel’s military said.
Residents said the Israelis appeared to by trying to complete their capture of Rafah, the city on the enclave’s southern edge that has been the focus of an Israeli assault since early May.
Tanks were forcing their way into the western and northern parts of the city, having already captured the east, south and center. Israeli forces fired from planes, tanks and ships off the coast, forcing a new wave of displacement from the city, which had been sheltering more than a million displaced people, most of whom have been forced to flee again.
The Israeli military said on Friday its forces were conducting “precise, intelligence-based” actions in the Rafah area, where troops were involved in close-quarter combat and had located tunnels used by militants. It also reported actions elsewhere in the enclave.
Some residents said the pace of the Israeli raid has been accelerated in the past two days. They said sounds of explosions and gunfire indicating fierce fighting have been almost non-stop.
More than eight months into the war in Gaza, Israel’s advance is now focused on the two last areas its forces had yet to storm: Rafah on Gaza’s southern edge and the area surrounding Deir Al-Balah in the center.
“The entire city of Rafah is an area of Israeli military operations,” Ahmed Al-Sofi, the mayor of Rafah, said in a statement carried by Hamas media on Friday.
“The city lives through a humanitarian catastrophe and people are dying inside their tents because of Israeli bombardment,” he added.
Sofi said there was no medical facility functioning in the city, and that remaining residents and displaced families lacked the minimum of their daily needs of food and water.
Palestinian and UN figures show that fewer than 100,000 people may have remained in the far western side of the city, which had been sheltering more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people before the Israeli assault began in early May.
The military accused Hamas of using Palestinian civilians as human shields, an allegation Hamas denies.
“The soldiers located inside a civilian residence large quantities of weapons hidden in wardrobes, including grenades, explosives, a launcher and anti-tank missiles, ammunition, and arms,” the military said in a statement late on Thursday.
Hamas’ armed wing said on Thursday its fighters had hit two Israeli tanks with anti-tank rockets in the Shaboura camp in Rafah, and killed soldiers who tried to flee through the alleys. There was no Israeli immediate comment on the Hamas claim.
In nearby Khan Younis, an Israeli air strike on Friday killed three people, including a father and son, medics said.
In parallel, Israeli forces continued a new push back into some Gaza City suburbs in the north of the enclave, where they fought with Hamas-led militants. Residents said the army forces had destroyed many homes in the heart of Gaza City on Thursday.
Later on Friday, an Israeli air strike on a main road in Gaza City killed four Palestinians, medics said.
Israel’s ground and air campaign was triggered when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
The offensive has left Gaza in ruins, killed more than 37,400 people, according to Palestinian health authorities, and left nearly the entire population homeless and destitute.

Iran summons Italy envoy over Canada sanctions: state media

Updated 21 June 2024

Iran summons Italy envoy over Canada sanctions: state media

  • Canada on Wednesday listed the Guards as “a terrorist entity”
  • Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani called the move “hostile” and contrary to international law

Tehran: Iran has summoned the Italian ambassador, who represents Canadian interests in Tehran, after Ottawa listed the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist entity, state media said on Friday.
Tensions have been high between the two countries, which broke off diplomatic relations in 2012. In the absence of a diplomatic mission, Canada’s interests in Iran have been represented by Italy.
Canada on Wednesday listed the Guards as “a terrorist entity,” citing “disregard for human rights” and “willingness to destabilize the international rules-based order.”
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani called the move “hostile” and contrary to international law.
On Thursday, the ministry summoned the Italian ambassador to Tehran, Paola Amadei, “to convey our country’s firm protest against the Canadian government’s illegal action,” the official IRNA news agency reported.
In a post on social media platform X, Iran’s acting foreign minister, Ali Bagheri, said the “Canadian government will be responsible for the consequences of this provocative and irresponsible decision.”
Ottawa’s designation bars Revolutionary Guards members from entering Canada and prohibits Canadians from dealing with them. It also allows for the seizure of any assets the Guards or its members hold in Canada.
Canada and other nations are pursuing legal action against Iran at the International Court of Justice over the downing of Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 in January 2020.
The passenger jet was shot down shortly after take-off from Tehran, killing all 176 people on board, including 85 Canadian citizens and permanent residents. Iran said the missile strike was a mistake.
Ottawa has previously listed the Quds Force, the Guards’ foreign operations arm, as a terrorist entity and, in 2022, permanently denied entry to more than 10,000 Iranian officials, including Guards members.
The United States designated the Guards as a foreign terrorist organization in April 2019 and the European Union sanctioned them this month for allegedly supplying drones to Russia and its allies in the Middle East.