Children among dead as Israeli forces widen attacks on Hezbollah

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Lebanese army soldiers and onlookers gather around the carcasses of a car after it was hit by an Israeli strike, reportedly killing a local Hamas official, in Majd al-Jabal in Lebanon's Bekaa valley, on May 17, 2024. (AFP)
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Smoke billows during Israeli bombardment over the Lebanese village of Al-Najjariyeh in southern Lebanon near the border with Israel. (AFP)
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Updated 17 May 2024

Children among dead as Israeli forces widen attacks on Hezbollah

  • Southern Lebanon faces ‘escalating violence,’ army veteran tells Arab News
  • US Embassy joins calls for a new Lebanese president to ‘unite the nation’

BEIRUT: Two children from a Syrian refugee family and a Hezbollah fighter were killed when Israeli airstrikes on Friday hit an area of southern Lebanon more than 30 km inside the border.

Israeli strikes targeted Najjariyeh and Addousiyeh, adjacent villages south of the coastal city of Sidon, killing the children and a Hezbollah fighter driving a pickup truck.

Hezbollah responded to the raids by firing dozens of rockets toward the upper Galilee, western Galilee, the Galilee panhandle, and the Golan.

Israeli media claimed that 140 rockets were fired toward the north of the country.


Hezbollah has traded cross-border fire with Israeli forces almost daily since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel that sparked the war in Gaza, now in its eighth month.

Israeli forces and Hezbollah have expanded their hostilities, with both launching drone attacks deep into Lebanese territory and northern Israel.

Retired Brig. Gen. Khaled Hamadeh of the Lebanese Army said that the situation in southern Lebanon is “escalating toward more violent attacks.”

Hezbollah insists on linking a ceasefire in southern Lebanon to an end to hostilities in Gaza.

Hamadeh said that no efforts were being made to stop the clashes between Israel and Hezbollah, unlike the situation in Gaza.

In a statement, Hezbollah said it targeted Israel’s Tsnobar logistics base in the Golan with 50 Katyusha rockets in response to the strike on Najjarieh.

According to Israeli media, rocket salvos were aimed at military bases in Katzrin and areas north of Lake Tiberias.

Two people were injured in rocket blasts in Karam bin Zamra in the upper Galilee, media added.

CCTV cameras installed outside homes in Najjarieh showed an Israeli drone following the pickup truck as the driver, named as Hussein Khodor Mehdi, attempted to flee.

The first missile launched by the drone missed its target, but a second that struck the truck, setting it on fire and killing the driver. Three onlookers were also injured.

Hezbollah said that Mehdi, 62, was “martyred on the road to Jerusalem.”

Israeli Army Radio said the victim was a senior commander in the Hezbollah air force.

It claimed that the army planes shelled Hezbollah’s infrastructure in Najjarieh.

The second airstrike targeted a congregation hall and a cement factory, wounding several members of a Syrian refugee family. Two children, Osama and Hani Al-Khaled, later died from their injuries.

Hezbollah said it targeted the Al-Raheb military site with artillery and Israeli positions in Al-Zaoura with a salvo of Katyusha rockets.

According to a security source, Hezbollah’s latest targets included surveillance balloons near Tiberias and Adamit in the Galilee.

Early on Friday, Hezbollah attacked the newly established headquarters of the 411th Artillery Battalion in Kibbutz Jaatoun, east of Nahariyya, with drones in response to the Israeli killing of two Hezbollah fighters, Ali Fawzi Ayoub, 26, and Mohammed Hassan Ali Fares, 34, the previous day.

In his Friday sermon, Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek, head of Hezbollah’s Shariah Council, said the group was “waging its fierce war on the north of Palestine, pursuing the enemy, blinding its espionage, and breaking what were once red lines, as well pursuing its soldiers in their hideouts until the war on Gaza stops.”

The US Embassy in Lebanon issued a warning over the conflict on the southern border and the presidential vacuum in the country.

Electing a president was crucial to ensuring Lebanon’s participation in regional discussions and future diplomatic agreements concerning its southern border, the embassy said.

Lebanon “needs and deserves a president who unites the nation, prioritizes the well-being of its citizens, and forms a broad and inclusive coalition to restore political stability and implement necessary economic reforms,” the statement added.

The ambassadors of Egypt, France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the US to Lebanon issued a statement this week warning of “the critical situation facing the Lebanese people and the difficult-to-manage repercussions on Lebanon’s economy and social stability due to the delay of necessary reforms.”


Israeli attack on southern Gaza kills 71 people and said to target head of Hamas' military wing

Updated 36 min 42 sec ago

Israeli attack on southern Gaza kills 71 people and said to target head of Hamas' military wing

  • Israeli attack on Saturday that hit tents housing displaced people

CAIRO: The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said an Israeli strike on Saturday killed 71 people at the Al-Mawasi camp for war displaced in the south of the Palestinian territory.
Al-Mawasi, near the city of Khan Yunis, was designated as one of the safe zones by Israel after it ordered civilians to evacuate other parts of the Gaza Strip.
The ministry condemned what it called a “brutal massacre by the occupation,” referring to Israel. It said 71 people were killed and at least 289 wounded, with additional victims yet to be found.
The Israeli military said it was looking into the reported bombing.
Fleets of ambulances rushed casualties to the Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis, the Kuwaiti field hospital in Rafah and other nearby clinics.
Gaza’s civil defense agency said ongoing shelling had prevented its teams from reaching victims in the tent city where tens of thousands have sought refuge.
“There are still many bodies of martyrs scattered in the streets, under the rubble and around the tents of the displaced that cannot be reached due to the heavy shelling of the occupation (Israeli army) that targeted places and tents in the in Al-Mawasi,” said civil defense spokesman Mahmud Bassal.
Al-Mawasi had been declared a safe zone by Israel as it pursues its military offensive in other parts of the Gaza Strip in response to the October 7 Hamas attacks.
The UN Palestinian relief agency, UNRWA, has estimated that up to 1.5 million people may now be in the whole Al-Mawasi district.
Suhaib Al-Hams, head of the Kuwait field hospital, called the attack “a real massacre.”
He said there were many “severe injuries including amputations and lacerations of internal organs.”
“A real disaster is happening now amid the collapse of the health care system,” he added.
The strike came on the 281st day of the war unleashed by the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel that resulted in 1,195 deaths, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza, including 42 the military says are dead.
Israel’s military reprisal has killed at least 38,345 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data from Gaza’s health ministry.

Iran president-elect says ready for ‘constructive dialogue’ with EU

Updated 13 July 2024

Iran president-elect says ready for ‘constructive dialogue’ with EU

Tehran: Iran’s president-elect Masoud Pezeshkian said he looks forward to improved relations with European nations, even though he accused them of reneging on commitments to mitigate the impact of US sanctions.
Pezeshkian on July 6 won a runoff election against ultraconservative Saeed Jalili.
The 69-year-old has called for “constructive relations” with Western countries to “get Iran out of its isolation,” and favors reviving the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and global powers.
Washington unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018, reimposing sanctions and leading Iran to gradually reduce commitment to its terms. The deal aimed to curb nuclear activity which Tehran maintains is for peaceful purposes.
Writing late Friday in the English-language Tehran Times newspaper, Pezeshkian said that after the US withdrawal from the 2015 deal, European countries committed to try to salvage it and mitigate the impact of US sanctions.
“European countries have reneged on all these commitments,” Pezeshkian wrote.
“Despite these missteps, I look forward to engaging in constructive dialogue with European countries to set our relations on the right path, based on principles of mutual respect and equal footing.”
European Union spokeswoman Nabila Massrali had earlier congratulated Pezeshkian on his election, adding that the 27-member bloc is “ready to engage with the new government in line with EU policy of critical engagement.”
Pezeshkian is a heart surgeon whose only previous government experience was as health minister about two decades ago.
The death of ultraconservative president Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash necessitated the election, which was not due until 2025.
Pezeshkian is considered a “reformist” in Iran, and was the only candidate from that camp allowed to stand in the election, for which all contenders were approved by Iran’s Guardian Council.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on all major policy issues in the country.
Under the hard-won 2015 deal Iran agreed to freeze its nuclear program in return for the lifting of the crippling international sanctions.
After the US withdrawal and reimposition of sanctions, Iran gradually began reneging on its own commitments to the agreement.
The parties to the 2015 deal with Iran saw it as the best way to stop the Islamic republic from building a nuclear bomb — a goal Tehran has always denied.
European Union members France and Germany were also party to the deal, along with Britain, China and Russia.
The European nations tried to salvage it, but Iran accused them of perceived inaction.

As bombs shatter Gaza, boxing coach emboldens girls

Updated 13 July 2024

As bombs shatter Gaza, boxing coach emboldens girls

  • The boxing club where girls once learned to jab, build their stamina, and make friends has been demolished
  • There are no protective equipment in the open-air sandy space between tents where displaced girls now practice

GAZA: Israel’s offensive in Gaza has pulverized most of its sports facilities and equipment, but that has not stopped boxing coach Osama Ayoub from training Palestinian girls in a tent camp that offers no protection from airstrikes or shelling.
The boxing club where girls once learned to jab, build their stamina, and make friends has been demolished.
There are no protective equipment, ring, or punch bags in the open-air sandy space between the tents where displaced girls now practice — a mattress and pillow will have to do — but Ayoub says the training has helped them overcome their fear of war.
“They started going out on the street. They started going out at night. Their personalities became much stronger, and even their families saw they were stronger,” he said.
It’s all about improvization. One young girl unleashes barehanded punches and weaves left and right to dodge imaginary fists. “Throw a right,” yells the coach, who puts up his fists for the girls to punch.
“They have determination, they have contentment, they have courage. At first, they were afraid of the war we are living in, but through boxing, they have benefited a lot,” he said.
Gaza offered playgrounds, football, tennis, karate, and other sports before terrifying bombs began dropping from the skies, flattening entire neighborhoods.
Attempts to restart sports are risky, even when played outside. On Tuesday, an Israeli missile slammed into a football match at a tent encampment, killing at least 29 people, Palestinian officials said.
Yet the boxers dream of international competitions overseas worlds away from Gaza. This tiny, densely populated enclave suffered from poverty and high unemployment even long before Hamas triggered the war on Oct. 7.
“I hope that this war will end and that our message will reach everyone in the name of the girls of Gaza,” said one of the boxers, Bilsan Ayoub.
The chances of that happening soon are slim. Months of mediation by the US, Egypt, and Qatar have failed to secure a truce between Israel and its arch-enemy Hamas, never mind a permanent ceasefire.
So, all the boxers can do is keep practicing as each side demands concessions from the other, and the conflict rages.
“We do not have anything left, being displaced. We do not have clips, gloves, teeth protection, said Ayoub, who has to improvise daily to keep her dream of international competition alive.
“The tools are very simple, but we want to continue in this game until we achieve our dream and end the war,” she said.

UN chief urges funds for Palestinians, saying Israel is forcing Gazans 'to move like human pinballs'

Updated 13 July 2024

UN chief urges funds for Palestinians, saying Israel is forcing Gazans 'to move like human pinballs'

  • UN chief Antonio Guterres earlier pleaded for help from donors to fund the embattled agency, warning that Palestinians would lose a “critical lifeline” without UNRWA

GENEVA: The United Nations chief appealed for funding Friday for the beleaguered UN agency helping Palestinian refugees in Gaza and elsewhere in the Middle East, accusing Israel of issuing evacuation orders that force Palestinians “to move like human pinballs across a landscape of destruction and death.”

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a donor’s conference that the agency, known as UNRWA, faces “a profound funding gap.” The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said it had enough funds to continue operating through September, following a pledging conference for the embattled body where UN chief Antonio Guterres pleaded for help from donors.
“We have worked tirelessly with partners to restore confidence in the agency,” UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said, after several nations withheld funding following Israeli allegations in January that a number of UNRWA’s employees participated in the October 7 attack by Hamas.
Lazzarini said new pledges of funds would help ensure emergency operations until September.
Guterres had pleaded with donors to fund the embattled UN agency, warning that Palestinians would lose a “critical lifeline” without UNRWA. Without financial support to UNRWA, Guterres said “Palestinian refugees will lose a critical lifeline and the last ray of hope for a better future.”
“Let me be clear — there is no alternative to UNRWA,” he said.
“Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse in Gaza — somehow, appallingly, civilians are being pushed into ever deeper circles of hell,” Guterres added.
According to Guterres, 195 UNRWA staff members have been killed in the war, the highest death toll for staff in UN history.
The US Congress has barred further funding for UNRWA. President Joe Biden’s administration has instead directed funding for Palestinian civilians to other bodies while saying that UNRWA is uniquely equipped to distribute aid.
The war started with Hamas’s October attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
Israel responded with a military offensive that has killed at least 38,345 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Argentina designates Hamas a terrorist group in show of support for Israel

Updated 13 July 2024

Argentina designates Hamas a terrorist group in show of support for Israel

  • The US, European Union and several other countries long put a terrorist designation on Hamas, which ruled the Gaza Strip before its current war with Israel
  • Israel has killed more than 38,000 Palestinians, displaced over 80 percent of the territory’s people and triggered a humanitarian disaster

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina: Argentina designated Hamas a terrorist organization Friday and ordered a freeze on the financial assets of the Palestinian group, a largely symbolic move as President Javier Milei seeks to align Argentina strongly with the US and Israel.
Announcing the decision, Milei’s office cited the militant Palestinian group’s cross-border attack on Israel last Oct. 7 that killed some 1,200 people and took 250 others hostage, in the deadliest assault in Israel’s 76-year history.
The statement also mentioned Hamas’ close ties to Iran, which Argentina blames for two deadly militant attacks on Jewish sites in the country.
The move comes just days before the 30th anniversary of one of those attacks, the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. It killed 85 people and wounded hundreds more in the worst such attack in Argentina’s modern history.
The other attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, in 1992, killed more than 20 people. Argentina’s judiciary has accused members of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group of carrying out the two attacks.
Friday’s announcement professed Milei’s “unwavering commitment to recognizing terrorists for what they are,” adding that “it’s the first time that there is a political will to do so.”
The US, European Union and several other countries long put a terrorist designation on Hamas, which ruled the Gaza Strip before its current war with Israel.
Previous left-leaning Peronist governments in Argentina, home to the largest Jewish community in Latin America, have maintained friendly ties with Israel but also voiced support for Palestinian statehood.
Since coming into office in December, Milei has set himself apart from even Israel’s closest allies in his vocal support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A huge swell in global pressure has left Israel deeply isolated over its military campaign in Gaza, which has killed more than 38,000 Palestinians, displaced over 80 percent of the territory’s people and triggered a humanitarian disaster.
“Argentina must once again align itself with Western civilization,” Milei’s office said Friday.
For his first state visit as president earlier this year, Milei flew to Jerusalem in a show of support for the Israeli government and promised to move his nation’s embassy to the contested capital — drawing praise from Netanyahu and ire from Hamas.
Although raised a Roman Catholic, Milei says he has a deep spiritual connection with Judaism.