As Jordan, US forces intercept Iranian drones bound for Israel, Tehran warns Amman against aiding Israel

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Objects are seen in the sky above Jerusalem after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel, in Jerusalem April 14, 2024. (REUTERS)
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An Iranian drone. (AFP/File)
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Updated 14 April 2024
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As Jordan, US forces intercept Iranian drones bound for Israel, Tehran warns Amman against aiding Israel

  • The US military operating from undisclosed bases in the region also shot down a number of Iranian drones in Sweida and Daraa provinces in southern Syria near the Jordanian border, security sources told Reuters

AMMAN: Jordanian jets downed dozens of Iranian drones flying across northern and central Jordan heading to Israel, triggering a warning from Tehran on Amman against aiding Israel.

Two regional security sources said the drones were brought down in the air on the Jordanian side of the Jordan Valley and were heading in the direction of Jerusalem.

Others were intercepted close to the Iraqi-Syrian border. They gave no further details.

The US military operating from undisclosed bases in the region also shot down a number of Iranian drones in Sweida and Daraa provinces in southern Syria near the Jordanian border, security sources told Reuters.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps said it launched dozens of drones and missiles at Israel in an attack that may trigger a major escalation between the regional archenemies.

Two regional security sources earlier said Jordan's air defenses were ready to intercept and shoot down any Iranian drones or aircraft that violate its airspace.

They said the army was also in a state of high alert and radar systems were monitoring any drone activity coming from the direction of Iraq and Syria.

Iran, meanwhile, said it is watching Jordan for any moves in support of Israel during Tehran’s retaliatory attacks, warning the country may become the “next target,” a military source told the semi-official news agency Fars on Sunday.

 

 

“A military informed source said (we) are closely monitoring Jordan’s movements during the punitive attacks ... and if they participate in any possible action (to back Israel), they will be the next target,” Fars reported.

Residents in several cities in the northern part of the country near Syria and central and southern areas heard heavy aerial activity. A security source said the country’s air force was intensifying reconnaissance flights.

Jordan had earlier said it closed its airspace starting on Saturday night to all incoming, departing and transiting aircraft in what officials told Reuters were precautionary measures in the event of an Iranian strike across its border.
“The relevant authorities took the decision to close the airspace for precautionary reasons as a result of the surrounding security situation,” Jordan’s government spokesperson Muhannad Mubaideen said.
Mubaideen denied media reports that the kingdom had announced a state of emergency, adding they were baseless and there was no cause for concern among its citizens.
Jordan neighbors Syria and Iraq – both countries where Iranian proxy forces operate – and also is next door to Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
It has watched Israel’s war against the Palestinian group Hamas, another Iranian ally, with rising alarm for fear of getting caught in a crossfire.
Late last year, Amman asked Washington to deploy Patriot air defense systems to Jordan to bolster its border defenses.
Officials say the Pentagon had since increased its military aid to the kingdom, a major regional ally, where hundreds of US troops are based and hold extensive exercises with the army throughout the year.
In January, three US service members were killed and dozens wounded in a drone attack by Iran-backed militants on US troops in northeastern Jordan near the Syrian border.
It was the first deadly strike against US forces since the Israel-Hamas war erupted in October, and marks a major escalation in tensions that have engulfed the Middle East.


More than one in four Syrians ‘extremely poor’: World Bank

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More than one in four Syrians ‘extremely poor’: World Bank

27 percent of Syrians — about 5.7 million individuals — live in extreme poverty
“Continued funding shortfalls and limited access to humanitarian assistance” have further strained poor Syrians, the World Bank said

BEIRUT: More than a quarter of Syrians live in extreme poverty, the World Bank said Saturday, 13 years into a devastating civil war that has battered the economy and impoverished millions.
The World Bank published two new reports on Syria, which found that “27 percent of Syrians — about 5.7 million individuals — live in extreme poverty.”
“Extreme poverty, while virtually non-existent before the conflict, affected more than one in four Syrians in 2022” and might have further deteriorated after a deadly earthquake last year, one of the reports said.
The quake killed about 6,000 people in the country.
According to the United Nations, about 90 percent of Syrians live in poverty, while it previously estimated that around 2 million lived in extreme poverty after more than a decade of war.
The report cited neighbor Lebanon’s economic meltdown in late 2019, the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, as having eroded the welfare of Syrian households in recent years.
The civil war in Syria has also ravaged the economy, infrastructure and industry, while Western sanctions have added to the country’s woes.
“Continued funding shortfalls and limited access to humanitarian assistance” have further strained poor Syrians, already coping with “soaring prices, reduced access to essential services and rising unemployment,” the World Bank said.
The UN told AFP previously that its humanitarian response plan for Syria for 2024 requires more than $4 billion but that it is only six percent funded.
The international community is set to meet in Brussels Monday to try and muster funds for Syria at a yearly pledging conference.
A lack of opportunities and dwindling aid has pushed many Syrians to rely on money sent from relatives abroad to survive, with the World Bank estimating that “in 2022, the total value of remittances received by Syrian households reached about $1.05 billion.”
Syria’s estimated GDP stood at around $6.2 billion in 2023.
Syria’s “real GDP is projected to contract by 1.5 percent in 2024, extending the 1.2 percent decline in 2023,” the report said.
“Inflation is anticipated to remain high in 2024 due to the pass-through effects of currency depreciation, along with persistent shortages and potential further subsidy cuts (for) food and fuel,” it said.
Syria’s war has killed more than half a million people and displaced millions more since it erupted in 2011 after Damascus cracked down on anti-government protests.

Mediated Israel-Hamas talks on hostage deal expected next week, source says

Updated 26 min 29 sec ago
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Mediated Israel-Hamas talks on hostage deal expected next week, source says

  • The source declined to be identified given the sensitivity of the issue

JERUSALEM: Mediated negotiations between Israel and Hamas to reach a deal to free Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip are due to restart next week, an official with knowledge of the matter said on Saturday.
The decision to restart the talks, said the source, who declined to be identified by name or nationality given the sensitivity of the issue, came after the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency met with the head of the CIA and the prime minister of Qatar, which has been a mediator.
“At the end of the meeting, it was decided that in the coming week negotiations will open based on new proposals led by the mediators, Egypt and Qatar and with active US involvement,” the source said.


Yemen’s Houthis postpone release of 100 prisoners belonging to government forces

Updated 37 min 58 sec ago
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Yemen’s Houthis postpone release of 100 prisoners belonging to government forces

  • The Houthis, an Iran-aligned movement that controls part of the country, last released prisoners in April 2023
  • Yemen has been embroiled in years of civil war that has killed tens of thousands of people and left millions hungry

CAIRO: Yemen’s Houthis said they had postponed the release of around 100 prisoners belonging to government forces that had previously been announced to take place on Saturday.
A Houthi official said that the delay was because of “technical reasons,” adding the release would take place at another time.
The head of the Houthi Prisoner Affairs Committee, Abdul Qader Al-Murtada, said on Friday that the group would release more than 100 prisoners in what he called “a unilateral humanitarian initiative.”
The Houthis, an Iran-aligned movement that controls part of the country, last released prisoners in April 2023 in an exchange of 250 Houthis for 70 government forces.
Yemen has been embroiled in years of civil war that has killed tens of thousands of people and left millions hungry.
The Houthis are the de facto authorities in northern Yemen, while the internationally recognized government is represented by the Political Leadership Council, which took over power from Yemen’s president-in-exile.


Spain demands Israel comply with UN court ruling on Rafah, Britain criticizes order

Updated 25 May 2024
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Spain demands Israel comply with UN court ruling on Rafah, Britain criticizes order

  • Spanish government: Ruling by the International Court of Justice is legally binding
  • British government says ruling would strengthen Palestinian Islamist group Hamas

MADRID/LONDON: The Spanish government demanded on Saturday that Israel comply with an order by the top UN court to immediately stop its bombardment and ground assault on the Gazan city of Rafah.
It stressed that the ruling on Friday by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was legally binding.
“The precautionary measures set out by the ICJ, including that Israel should cease its military offensive in Rafah, are compulsory. Israel must comply with them,” Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares wrote on X.
“The same goes for a ceasefire, the release of the hostages and access for humanitarian aid (to Gaza),” he said.
“The suffering of the people of Gaza and the violence must end.”
The British government, meanwhile, has criticized the World Court order, saying the ruling would strengthen Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.
“The reason there isn’t a pause in the fighting is because Hamas turned down a very generous hostage deal from Israel. The intervention of these courts — including the ICJ today — will strengthen the view of Hamas that they can hold on to hostages and stay in Gaza,” a UK foreign ministry spokesperson said late on Friday.
“And if that happens there won’t be either peace, or a two-state solution.”
In a case brought by South Africa alleging the Israeli assault on Gaza amounts to “genocide,” the ICJ ordered Israel on Friday to “immediately halt” the ground and air offensive in Rafah.
The operations began on May 7 despite international fears for the safety of the 1.4 million civilians trapped in the city.
The Hague-based ICJ, whose orders are legally binding but lack direct enforcement mechanisms, also ruled that Israel must keep open the key Rafah crossing with Egypt to allow “unhindered” humanitarian aid into Gaza.
And it urged the “unconditional” release of hostages taken by Hamas fighters during their October 7 attack in Israel.
Israel responded on Saturday by bombing Rafah and other parts of the densely populated Gaza Strip.
Spain is one of the European countries to have been most critical of Israel over the war in Gaza.
On Wednesday, Spain, Ireland and Norway said their governments would recognize a Palestinian state from next week.
Israel summoned their envoys to “reprimand” them for the decision and on Friday said it would ban Spain’s consulate in Jerusalem from helping Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
The war in Gaza began after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Some 252 people were taken hostage, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the Israeli army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,857 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to data from the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.


Israeli strike kills two Hezbollah fighters in Syria: monitor

Updated 25 May 2024
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Israeli strike kills two Hezbollah fighters in Syria: monitor

  • It was the third strike against Hezbollah targets in Syria in about a week

BEIRUT: An Israeli drone strike in central Syria killed two fighters from Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement on Saturday, a war monitor said.
“An Israeli drone fired two missiles at a Hezbollah car and truck near the town of Qusayr in Homs province, as they were on their way to Al-Dabaa military airport, killing at least two Hezbollah fighters and wounding others,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
It was the third strike against Hezbollah targets in Syria in about a week.
On Monday, Israeli strikes in the Qusayr area, which is close to the Lebanese border, killed eight pro-Iranian fighters, said Observatory, a Britain-based monitor with a network of sources in Syria.
At least one Hezbollah fighter was among those killed, a source from Hezbollah told AFP at the time.
Another strike, on May 18, targeted “a Hezbollah commander and his companion,” the Observatory said. It did not report any casualties.
Israel rarely comments on individual strikes in Syria but has repeatedly said it will not allow its arch-enemy Iran to expand its presence there.
Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria since the outbreak of the civil war in its northern neighbor, mainly targeting army positions and Iran-backed fighters including from Hezbollah.
The strikes have increased since Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip began on October 7, when the Iran-backed Palestinian militant group launched an unprecedented attack against Israel.
Syria’s war has killed more than half a million people and displaced millions more since it erupted in 2011 after Damascus cracked down on anti-government protests.