US envoy warns Iran not to attack Americans over Syria consulate strike

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Updated 03 April 2024

US envoy warns Iran not to attack Americans over Syria consulate strike

  • Ambassador Robert Wood tells Security council the US was not involved in the strike now did it know about it ahead of time
  • ‘Iran has exercised considerable restraint but there are limits to our forbearance,’ says Iranian ambassador

NEW YORK CITY: Israel must bear the full responsibility for the consequences of its attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, and Iran reserves its right to deliver a “decisive response to such reprehensible acts,” Tehran’s deputy permanent representative to the UN told members of the Security Council during a meeting on Tuesday.

“Iran has exercised considerable restraint but there are limits to our forbearance,” said Zahra Ershadi.

On Monday, an Israeli airstrike destroyed Iran’s Consulate in the Syrian capital, Damascus, killing 12 people, including two Iranian generals and a member of the Lebanese militant group, Hezbollah. At least six Syrian citizens were also killed by the strike.

Ershadi called on the Security Council to condemn the attack, which she said “goes beyond mere criminality and represents a profound affront to the shared principle of the inviolability of representatives and diplomatic and consular premises.”

The envoy accused Israel of escalating and perpetuating the conflict in Gaza while evading accountability while it “kills civilians and uses starvation as a method of warfare.”

She continued: “Israel’s primary concern is to use force to advance its apartheid policies, ethnic-cleansing, genocidal acts, and military objectives in Gaza at all costs.

“The absence of accountability and the Security Council's inaction has only encouraged this regime to continue its violations unchecked.”

Ershadi also accused the US of bearing responsibility “for all crimes committed by the Israeli regime.”

US ambassador Robert Wood reiterated that Washington has communicated to Iran that it “had no involvement” in the strike on the consulate, nor did it have any knowledge of it ahead of time.

“We cannot confirm any information about this event,” he said, adding that “as we gather details, one thing is clear: Iran and its proxy and partner groups need to avoid escalating tensions in the region.”

Wood said that since the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, the US has repeatedly warned Iran not to take advantage of the situation by escalating its “longstanding proxy war against Israel and other actors,” but Iran has ignored that warning.

“Terrorists and other armed groups, some backed by the Syrian regime and Iran, have used Syrian territory to plot and launch attacks on Israel and US facilities and personnel,” he added.

He warned that US authorities “will not hesitate to defend our personnel, and repeat our prior warnings to Iran and its proxies not to take advantage of this situation to resume their attacks on US personnel.”

Wood also expressed his sadness and grave concern about the recent Israeli air strike that hit a World Central Kitchen aid convoy.

“This incident is yet a further reminder that Israel needs to do much more to protect humanitarian personnel and facilities in Gaza,” he said. “It is unacceptable and inexplicable that nearly six months into this conflict, Israeli military deconfliction mechanisms are not functioning appropriately.”

Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia, who had called for the emergency meeting of the Security Council, said he condemned the Israeli strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus in the strongest terms, and stressed that it followed a trend of escalating Israeli attacks on Syrian soil and other neighboring countries.

“We’re of the view that such aggressive actions by Israel are designed to further fuel the conflict,” he said. “They are absolutely unacceptable and must stop.

“We urge West Jerusalem to abandon the practice of provocative acts of force in the territory of Syria and other neighboring countries, which is fraught with extremely dangerous risks and consequences for the entire region, a region that is already destabilized as the results of the six-month escalation of violence around Gaza.”

Nebenzia warned council members that should they fail to condemn attacks on diplomatic premises then “next time, the diplomatic mission of any state could be targeted by an air raid.”

Slovenia’s permanent representative to the UN denounced “attacks on diplomatic premises, that are unacceptable and unjustifiable.”

Samuel Zbogar expressed his country’s profound concern about the spillover effects of the war in Gaza across the region, which has already “had a strong impact on the situation along the Blue Line and in the Red Sea,” and he called on all parties to show restraint.

“It should be in no one’s interest to have further dangerous escalation in the Middle East,” he added. “Any of the geographically separated but ultimately intertwined crises could take on a life of their own.

“People of the region have suffered enough and this includes people in Palestine, Israel, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Iran and elsewhere. We should all place their interests first, and this is why it is crucial for this council to send a clear call for restraint by all, starting with compliance with Resolution 2728, demanding a ceasefire.”

China’s deputy ambassador, Geng Shuang, strongly condemned the attack “of an extremely vicious nature” on Iran’s consulate and reaffirmed the inviolability of diplomatic institutions.

Since the conflict in Gaza began in October, Geng said, there have been attacks on homes, schools, hospitals, humanitarian facilities, UN agencies, “and today attacks on diplomatic premises. The red line of international law and the basic norms of international relations have been breached time and again, and the moral bottom line of human conscience has been crushed time and time again. Such a situation, such a tragedy must stop immediately.”

Syrian first lady Asma Assad has leukemia, presidency says

Updated 33 min 16 sec ago

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

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

Updated 36 min 45 sec ago

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.

Israeli army raids West Bank’s Jenin, Palestinians say seven killed

Updated 21 May 2024

Israeli army raids West Bank’s Jenin, Palestinians say seven killed

  • Among the Palestinians killed was a surgical doctor, the head of the Jenin Governmental Hospital said

JENIN: Israeli forces raided Jenin in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday in an operation that the Palestinian health ministry said killed seven Palestinians, including a doctor, and left nine others wounded.
The army said it was an operation against militants and that a number of Palestinian gunmen were shot. There was no immediate word of any Israeli casualties.
The health ministry account of the casualties was quoted by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA.
Among the Palestinians killed was a surgical doctor, the head of the Jenin Governmental Hospital said. He was killed in the vicinity of the hospital, the director said.
The West Bank is among territories Israel seized in a 1967 Middle East war. The Palestinians want it to be the core of an independent Palestinian state. US-sponsored talks on a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict broke down in 2014.

Dubai DXB airport sees record 2024 traffic after 8.4% rise in Q1

Updated 21 May 2024

Dubai DXB airport sees record 2024 traffic after 8.4% rise in Q1

  • Dubai airport welcomed around 23 million passengers in January-March period, operator says 
  • India, Saudi Arabia and Britain were top three countries by passenger volumes in first quarter

DUBAI: Dubai’s main airport expects to handle a record passenger traffic this year after an 8.4% rise in the first quarter compared with a year earlier, operator Dubai Airports said on Tuesday.

Dubai International Airport (DXB), a major global travel hub, welcomed around 23 million passengers in the January-March period, the operator said in a statement, noting that the uptick was partly driven by increased destination offers by flagship carrier Emirates and its sister low-cost airline Flydubai.

“With a strong start to Q2 and an optimistic outlook for the rest of the year, we have revised our forecast for the year to 91 million guests, surpassing our previous annual traffic record of 89.1 million in 2018,” CEO Paul Griffiths said in the statement.

Dubai is the biggest tourism and trade hub in the Middle East, attracting a record 17.15 million international overnight visitors last year.

Its ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum last month approved a new passenger terminal in Al Maktoum International airport worth 128 billion dirhams ($34.85 billion).

The Al Maktoum International Airport will be the largest in the world with a capacity of up to 260 million passengers, and five times the size of DXB, he said, adding all operations at Dubai airport would be transferred to Al Maktoum in the coming years.

DXB is connected to 256 destinations across 102 countries. In the first quarter, India, Saudi Arabia and Britain were the top three countries by passenger numbers, Dubai Airports added. ($1 = 3.6729 UAE dirham)