Israel-Hezbollah hostilities continue amid funerals for victims in Lebanon

Hezbollah militants carry the flag-draped coffins of civilians killed in an Israeli strike on Feb. 14, during their funeral in the southern Lebanese town of Nabatiyeh, on Feb. 17, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 17 February 2024
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Israel-Hezbollah hostilities continue amid funerals for victims in Lebanon

  • Hostilities between Hezbollah and the Israeli army continued on Saturday
  • The Israeli Army carried out successive airstrikes on the outskirts of Beit Lif, Ramyah, and Aita Al-Shaab

BEIRUT: The residents of Nabatiyeh took to the streets on Saturday to hold funerals for the seven civilians who were killed on Wednesday when Israeli rockets struck a residential building in the southern city.
A representative of the speaker of the parliament attended the funerals, which were held in the courtyard of the city mosque.
Sheikh Abdel Hussein Sadiq, imam of Nabatiyeh, said during the funeral: “The innocent blood that was shed unjustly and savagely in a safe home in Nabatiyeh — which included a father, five women, and two children — proves the deliberate intention of the Israeli enemy to crush all human values and international conventions and laws.”
Elsewhere, hostilities between Hezbollah and the Israeli army continued on Saturday. Hezbollah announced the “targeting of the Baranit Barracks with a Falaq-1 missile, causing a direct hit.”
The Israeli Army carried out successive airstrikes on the outskirts of Beit Lif, Ramyah, and Aita Al-Shaab, and missile strikes on the outskirts of Aitaroun in the Bint Jbeil district. The Hamoul-Naqoura area and the outskirts of Alma Al-Shaab were subjected to artillery shelling.
A spokesman for the Israeli Army said its planes “attacked Hezbollah infrastructure in Jabal Blat and a military building in Bint Jbeil.”
Amos Hochstein, US envoy for energy affairs, said the US is trying to “keep the conflict in southern Lebanon at the lowest possible level.”
In a statement to CNBC, Hochstein stressed the “need for residents of southern border towns and villages to return to their homes, as well as residents on Israel’s northern border.”
Hochstein met with Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati during the ongoing Munich Security Conference.
“The situation on the border between the two countries changed after Oct. 7, and we will have to do a lot to support the Lebanese Army and build the economy in southern Lebanon. This will require international support from the Europeans and the Gulf states, and I hope to see their support in the coming phase,” Hochstein said.
Hochstein told Al-Arabiya TV: We are working quietly to end the conflict on the Lebanese border and prevent the war from expanding, which will not be in anyone’s interest.”
In other news, media reports stated that the French company Total had not signed contracts for gas and oil extraction in blocks 8 and 10 of Lebanese territorial waters. The signing deadline set by the Cabinet passed on Friday.
A source in Lebanon’s Ministry of Energy said: “The dispute with the consortium (which includes Qatar Energy and Italy’s Eni) is due to Total’s refusal to shorten the deadline for seismic surveys and drilling in Block 8 and Block 10. Total wants to continue this process until 2027, while the Lebanese side insists that this process be completed within a year and a half.”
Attorney Christina Abi Haidar told Arab News that those terms were “unjust to Lebanon because Total requested a year to determine if they would begin drilling an exploratory well.”
Abi Haidar said: “The Lebanese Cabinet requested better conditions for both parties before signing the contract. It is important to note that Total still holds the license to drill in Block 9. The company drilled one well, which was found to be non-commercial, and refused to drill a second one.”
Abi Haidar continued: “What happened is beneficial for Lebanon. Why should a French company be the sole owner of the licenses for all the blocks in our waters? Let others participate in the third licensing round.”


UAE food aid shipment arrives in Gaza

Updated 12 sec ago
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UAE food aid shipment arrives in Gaza

  • Shipment arrived via the maritime corridor from Larnaca in Cyprus

DUBAI: A UAE aid shipment carrying 252 tons of food arrived in Gaza bound for the north of the enclave, Emirates News Agency reported on Sunday.

The shipment arrived via the maritime corridor from Larnaca in Cyprus. The delivery involved cooperation from the US, Cyprus, UK, EU and UN.

The supplies were unloaded at UN warehouses in Deir Al-Balah and are awaiting distribution to Palestinians in need.

Emirati Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem Al-Hashimy said that the food supplies will be delivered and distributed in collaboration with international partners and humanitarian organizations, as part of the UAE’s efforts to provide relief and address the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

The UAE, in accordance with its historical commitment to the Palestinian people and under the guidance of its leadership, continues to provide urgent humanitarian aid and supplies to Gaza, she added.

Since the war began in October, the UAE has delivered more than 32,000 tons of urgent humanitarian supplies, including food, relief and medical supplies, via 260 flights, 49 airdrops and 1,243 trucks.

The UAE delivery came as Israel closed the Rafah border crossing. The World Health Organization said on Friday that it has received no medical supplies in the Gaza Strip for 10 days.
 


Helicopter carrying Iran's President Raisi makes rough landing, Iranian media say

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev meet at the site of Qiz Qalasi.
Updated 59 min 34 sec ago
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Helicopter carrying Iran's President Raisi makes rough landing, Iranian media say

  • IRNA said the helicopter in question had been carrying Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and local officials

DUBAI: A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his foreign minister made a rough landing on Sunday as it was crossing a mountainous area in heavy fog on the way back from a visit to Azerbaijan, Iranian news agencies said.
The bad weather was complicating rescue efforts, the state news agency IRNA reported. The semi-official Fars news agency urged Iranians to pray for Raisi and state TV carried prayers for his safety.
IRNA said the helicopter in question had been carrying Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and local officials.
Interior Minister Ahmed Vahidi told state TV only that one of the helicopters in a group of three had come down hard, and that authorities were awaiting further details.
Raisi, 63, was elected president at the second attempt in 2021, and since taking office has ordered a tightening of morality laws, overseen a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.
In Iran’s dual political system, split between the clerical establishment and the government, it is the supreme leader rather than the president who has the final say on all major policies.
But many see Raisi as a strong contender to succeed his mentor, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has strongly endorsed Raisi's main policies.


Israel war cabinet minister says to quit unless Gaza plan approved

Updated 19 May 2024
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Israel war cabinet minister says to quit unless Gaza plan approved

  • Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu dismisses comments as "washed-up words"
  • Broad splits emerge in Israeli war cabinet as Hamas regroups in northern Gaza

JERUSALEM: Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz said Saturday he would resign from the body unless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved a post-war plan for the Gaza Strip.

“The war cabinet must formulate and approve by June 8 an action plan that will lead to the realization of six strategic goals of national importance.. (or) we will be forced to resign from the government,” Gantz said, referring to his party, in a televised address directed at Netanyahu.

Gantz said the six goals included toppling Hamas, ensuring Israeli security control over the Palestinian territory and returning Israeli hostages.

“Along with maintaining Israeli security control, establish an American, European, Arab and Palestinian administration that will manage civilian affairs in the Gaza Strip and lay the foundation for a future alternative that is not Hamas or (Mahmud) Abbas,” he said, referring to the president of the Palestinian Authority.

He also urged the normalization of ties with Saudi Arabia “as part of an overall move that will create an alliance with the free world and the Arab world against Iran and its affiliates.”

Netanyahu responded to Gantz’s threat on Saturday by slamming the minister’s demands as “washed-up words whose meaning is clear: the end of the war and a defeat for Israel, the abandoning of most of the hostages, leaving Hamas intact and the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

The Israeli army has been battling Hamas militants across the Gaza Strip for more than seven months.

But broad splits have emerged in the Israeli war cabinet in recent days after Hamas fighters regrouped in northern Gaza, an area where Israel previously said the group had been neutralized.

Netanyahu came under personal attack from Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Wednesday for failing to rule out an Israeli government in Gaza after the war.

The Gaza war broke out after Hamas’s attack on October 7 on southern Israel which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

The militants also seized about 250 hostages, 124 of whom Israel estimates remain in Gaza, including 37 the military says are dead.

Israel’s military retaliation against Hamas has killed at least 35,386 people, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza’s health ministry, and an Israeli siege has brought dire food shortages and the threat of famine.


US, Iranian officials met in Oman after Israel escalation

Updated 19 May 2024
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US, Iranian officials met in Oman after Israel escalation

  • Washington called on Tehran to rein in proxy forces
  • Officials sat in separate rooms with Omani intermediaries passing messages

LONDON: US and Iranian officials held talks in Oman last week aimed at reducing regional tensions, the New York Times reported.

Through intermediaries from Oman, Washington’s top Middle East official Brett McGurk and the deputy special envoy for Iran, Abram Paley, spoke with Iranian counterparts.

It was the first contact between the two countries in the wake of Iran’s retaliatory missile and drone attack on Israel in April.

The US officials, who communicated with their Iranian counterparts in a separate room — with Omani officials passing on messages — requested that Tehran rein in its proxy forces across the region.

The US has had no diplomatic contact with Iran since 1979, and communicates with the country using intermediaries and back channels.

Since the outbreak of the Gaza war last October, Iran-backed militias — including Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and armed groups in Syria and Iraq — have ramped up attacks on Israeli and American targets.

But US officials have determined that neither Hezbollah nor Iran want an escalation and wider war.

After Israel struck Iran’s consulate in Damascus at the beginning of April, Tehran retaliated with hundreds of ballistic missiles and drones.

The attack — which was intercepted by air defense systems from Israel, the US and the UK, among others — was the first ever direct Iranian strike on Israel, which has for years targeted Iranian assets in Syria, whose government is a close ally of Tehran.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a news conference this week that the “Iranian threat” to Israel and US interests “is clear.”

He added: “We are working with Israel and other partners to protect against these threats and to prevent escalation into an all-out regional war through a calibrated combination of diplomacy, deterrence, force posture adjustments and use of force when necessary to protect our people and to defend our interests and our allies.”


Death toll from Israeli strike on Nuseirat rises to 31: Gaza officials

Updated 19 May 2024
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Death toll from Israeli strike on Nuseirat rises to 31: Gaza officials

  • Rescue workers continuing to search for missing people under the rubble
  • Heavy Israeli bombardments have been reported in the central Nuseirat camp

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: Gaza’s civil defense agency said Sunday that an Israeli air strike targeting a house at a refugee camp in the center of the Palestinian territory killed at least 31 people, updating an earlier toll.

“The civil defense crew were able to recover 31 martyrs and 20 wounded from a house belonging to the Hassan family, which was targeted by the Israeli occupation forces in the Nuseirat camp,” Gaza civil defense agency spokesman Mahmud Bassal told journalists.

He said rescue workers were continuing to search for missing people under the rubble.

Earlier on Sunday the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital had said it had received the bodies of 20 people killed in the strike which witnesses said occurred around 3:00 am local time.

The Israeli army when contacted by AFP asked for specific coordinates of the strike.

Palestinian official news agency Wafa reported that the wounded included several children.

Fierce battles and heavy Israeli bombardments have been reported in the central Nuseirat camp since the military launched a ground operation on the southern city of Rafah in early May.

Palestinian militants and Israeli troops have also clashed in north Gaza’s Jabalia camp for days now.

Witnesses said several other houses were targeted in air strikes during the night across Gaza, and that strikes and artillery shelling also hit parts of Rafah during the night.

The Israeli military said two more soldiers were killed in Gaza the previous day.

The military said 282 soldiers have been killed so far in the Gaza military campaign since the start of the ground offensive on October 27.