Lebanon teacher killed as children narrowly escape deadly drone strike

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The aunt of 11-year-old Lebanese school boy Mohammad Ali Nasser shows his shirt covered with blood at the General Hospital in Nabatieh, following his injury during an Israeli drone strike on the car of a Hezbollah fighter in southern Lebanon on May 24, 2024. (AFP)
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Lebanese schoolboy Qassem Jaffal receives treatment at the General Hospital in Nabatieh, following an Israeli drone attack that killed a Hezbollah fighter and wounded three children riding their bus to school at the time on the road leading to the southern city on May 23, 2024. (AFP)
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People standing on a side road are seen through the smashed windshield of a school bus that was damaged while passing a car of a Hezbollah fighter as it was trageted by an Israeli drone strike on a road leading to the southern Lebanese city of Nabatieh on May 23, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 23 May 2024

Lebanon teacher killed as children narrowly escape deadly drone strike

  • ‘Divine providence’ saves students from certain death, says bus driver
  • Hezbollah launches rocket attacks after Israeli army steps up border assaults 

BEIRUT: Lebanese school children on a bus had a narrow escape when a drone strike killed a Hezbollah member in the car ahead, blowing out the windscreen of their vehicle and wounding three pupils.

Mohammed Nasser Farran, also a physics teacher at a public school in Nabatieh, was killed in the Israeli strike that targeted his car early on Thursday.

Three students were injured in the attack, which left the car in flames.

The strike was the first targeting a school teacher since the beginning of the confrontation between Hezbollah and the Israeli army. 

Farran, 35, who is originally from Nabatieh and a resident of Kfarsir, was on his way to the Hassan Kamel Al-Sabbah public high school in Nabatieh at 7:15 a.m. to supervise quarterly exams.

An Israeli drone directly targeted his Toyota car on the Nabatieh road, killing him instantly.

Hezbollah mourned Farran’s death and said that he was a member of the group.

The bus was carrying middle school students as young as 14 to the Choukine public school when the drone struck.

Bus driver Ahmad Sbeity said that the drone launched a rocket toward the car, and the subsequent explosion shattered the bus windscreen.

Students screamed while the driver tried to calm the situation.

“Three of them were injured, with blood running from different parts of their bodies, while others had panic attacks and were screaming continuously. Divine providence saved these students from inevitable death,” Sbeity said.

The driver contacted the ambulance and Lebanese Red Cross, which took the injured to the hospital. He also asked another bus driver to return the other students to their homes.

“What happened is a brutal criminal act. This enemy does not differentiate between a student and a civilian, and between a school and a hospital.”

Following the attack, 11-year-old Mohammed Ali Nasser, one of the three injured students, was seen sitting on the sidewalk, his clothes stained with blood.

Nasser was taken to hospital, and later said that he and his classmates heard an explosion and saw the car burst into flames.

Students immediately placed their backpacks on their heads in fear of another raid, he said.

Nasser said that he would return to school after treatment and was not afraid of Israel.

Two other students, Ali Reda Moussa Ayyash, 13, and Qassem Mohammed Jaffal, 12, were also injured, while more than 10 others were treated for panic and stress.

Abbas Shmeisani, principal of Hassan Kamel Al-Sabbah Public High School in Nabatieh, mourned the death of the physics teacher.

Farran was an “active educator characterized by ethics, generosity, politeness, and dedication. Such is our fate with this criminal and terrorist enemy,” he said.

Nisreen Choueib, principal of Choukine Public School, condemned the targeting of school students.

“Our students sleep to the shaking of the walls from the sounds of raids, wake up to the sound of gunfire, and go to their schools where education is resilience and victory,” Choueib said.

Caretaker Agriculture Minister Abbas Hajj Hassan said: “History will record that this enemy has become adept at targeting children.”

Hezbollah targeted Israel’s military sites with rockets in response to the strike, including the recently established headquarters of the 91st Division at the Ayelet base, and the headquarters of the Sahel Battalion of the 769th Brigade at the Beit Hillel base.

Sirens sounded in the Upper Galilee in the settlements of Ayelet Hashachar, Rehaniya, Avivim, Alma, and Yir’on.

The Israeli army said the air defense forces “intercepted and destroyed 30 rockets launched from Lebanon toward the Upper Galilee.”

Hezbollah said it targeted Israeli surveillance equipment at Metula and Al-Raheb.

Israeli media reported that fires broke out between Kiryat Shmona and Beit Hillel after five rockets fell, while the Kiryat Shmona area lost power after a rocket attack.

The Israeli army continued its assaults on the border area, with the outskirts of the town of Aitaroun hit by intermittent shelling from Israeli positions.

A combat drone carrying a missile raided an agricultural orchard in the Hamoul area on the outskirts of the town of Naqoura.

Sudan one of world’s ‘worst crises’ in decades: medical charity

Updated 5 sec ago

Sudan one of world’s ‘worst crises’ in decades: medical charity

Port Sudan, Sudan: The ongoing civil war in Sudan has provoked one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises in decades, the international chief of the medical charity Doctors Without Borders said Thursday.
War has raged for more than a year between the regular military under army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces led by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
“Sudan is one of the worst crises the world has seen for decades... yet the humanitarian response is profoundly inadequate,” Christos Christou, international president of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), said on social media platform X.
“There are extreme levels of suffering across the country, and the needs are growing by the day,” he added.
The conflict, which began in April 2023 has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and displaced more than nine million people, according to the United Nations.
Both sides have been accused of war crimes including deliberately targeting civilians, indiscriminate shelling of residential areas and blocking humanitarian aid, despite warnings that millions are on the brink of starvation.
Rights groups and the United States have also accused the paramilitaries of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Iran condemns Canada's listing of Revolutionary Guards as terrorist group

Updated 12 min 36 sec ago

Iran condemns Canada's listing of Revolutionary Guards as terrorist group

DUBAI: Iran condemned Canada's listing of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization as "an unwise and unconventional politically-motivated step," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency on Thursday.
"Canada's action will not have any effect on the Revolutionary Guards' legitimate and deterrent power," Kanaani said, adding that Tehran reserves the right to respond accordingly to the listing.
On Wednesday, Ottawa listed the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organisation, a step that could lead to the investigation of former senior Iranian officials now living in Canada.
The United States took a similar step in 2019 against the Revolutionary Guards, which Western nations accuse of carrying out a global terrorist campaign.
Tehran rejects such claims, saying that the elite force is a sovereign institution responsible for safeguarding national security.

Rifts seem to appear between Israel’s political and military leadership over conduct of the Gaza war

Updated 20 June 2024

Rifts seem to appear between Israel’s political and military leadership over conduct of the Gaza war

  • “Hamas is an ideology, we cannot eliminate an ideology,” said Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari
  • PM Netanyahu's office quickly rebuffed the spokesman's statement, saying Hamas has to be defeated

JERUSALEM: The Israeli army’s chief spokesman on Wednesday appeared to question the stated goal of destroying the Hamas militant group in Gaza in a rare public rift between the country’s political and military leadership.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted Israel will pursue the fight against Hamas, the group running the besieged Gaza Strip, until its military and governing capabilities in the Palestinian territory are eliminated. But with the war now in its ninth month, frustration has been mounting with no clear end or postwar plan in sight.
“This business of destroying Hamas, making Hamas disappear — it’s simply throwing sand in the eyes of the public,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the military spokesperson, told Israel’s Channel 13 TV. “Hamas is an idea, Hamas is a party. It’s rooted in the hearts of the people — whoever thinks we can eliminate Hamas is wrong.”
Netanyahu’s office responded by saying that the country’s security Cabinet, chaired by the prime minister, “has defined the destruction of Hamas’ military and governing capabilities as one of the goals of the war. The Israeli military, of course, is committed to this.”
The military quickly issued a clarification, saying it was “committed to achieving the goals of the war as defined by the Cabinet” and that it has been working on this “throughout the war, day and night, and will continue to do so.”
Hagari’s comments, it said, “referred to the destruction of Hamas as an ideology and an idea, and this was said by him very clearly and explicitly,” the military statement added. “Any other claim is taking things out of context.”
There have already been open signs of discontent over the handling of the war by Netanyahu’s government, a coalition that includes right-wing hard-liners who oppose any kind of settlement with Hamas. Months of internationally mediated truce talks, including a proposal floated this month by President Joe Biden, have stalled.
Benny Gantz, a former military chief and centrist politician, withdrew from Netanyahu’s war Cabinet earlier this month, citing frustration over the prime minister’s conduct of the war.
And early this week, Netanyahu expressed displeasure with the army’s decision to declare a “tactical pause” in the southern Gaza city of Rafah to help deliver humanitarian aid to the besieged territory. An aide said Netanyahu was caught off guard by the announcement, and Israeli TV stations quoted him as saying “we have a country with an army, not an army with a country.”
Israel attacked Gaza in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 cross-border attack into southern Israel, which killed some 1,200 people and took 250 hostage.
Israel’s war effort initially enjoyed broad public support, but in recent months wide divisions have emerged. While Netanyahu has pledged “total victory,” a growing array of critics and protesters have backed a ceasefire that would bring home the roughly 120 hostages still in Gaza. The Israeli military has already pronounced more than 40 of them dead, and officials fear that number will rise the longer the hostages are held.
Inside Gaza, the war has killed more than 37,100 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between combatants and civilians. The war has largely cut off the flow of medicine, food and other supplies to Palestinians, who are facing widespread hunger.
The United Nations said Wednesday that its humanitarian workers were once again unable to pick up aid shipments at the Kerem Shalom border crossing from Israel because of a lack of law and order.
UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said that although there were no clashes along the route where Israel has declared a daily pause in fighting, the lawlessness in the area prevented UN workers from picking up aid. This means that no trucks have been able to use the new route since Israel announced the daily pause on Sunday.
In recent weeks, Israel’s military has concentrated its offensive in the nearby city of Rafah, which lies on the border with Egypt and where it says Hamas’ last remnants are holding out.
More than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million people had earlier taken shelter in Rafah to escape fighting elsewhere in the territory, and the city is now nearly empty as the Israeli military carries out airstrikes and ground operations.
The Israeli military says it has killed over 500 militants and inflicted heavy damage on Hamas’ forces, but officials expect the operation to continue for at least several more weeks.
Israel also has taken over a 14-kilometer (8-mile) corridor along Gaza’s border with Egypt, including the Rafah border crossing. Footage circulating on social media shows the crossing blackened and destroyed, with only the former passenger terminal remaining intact. Before Israel moved into the area, the crossing was used to deliver humanitarian aid and to allow Palestinians to leave the territory.
The head of the Rafah municipality, Ahmed Al-Sufi, said Wednesday that Israeli strikes have destroyed more than 70 percent of the facilities and infrastructure. He accused Israeli forces of systematically targeting camps in Rafah, adding that entire residential areas in one neighborhood have been destroyed. Al-Sufi didn’t immediately respond to a request for additional information.
In a separate incident, 11 people were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, said Dr. Saleh Al-Hamas of the nearby European Hospital. There were no further details and the Israeli military had no immediate comment.

Libyans want an end to country’s divisions and feuding politicians to hold elections, UN envoy says

Updated 20 June 2024

Libyans want an end to country’s divisions and feuding politicians to hold elections, UN envoy says

  • Koury said there is consensus that the current “status quo is not sustainable” – and the political process needs to advance toward elections

UNITED NATIONS: Libyans from rival regions and all walks of life are fed up with the country’s divisions and want political players to end their years-long impasse and agree to hold national elections, a key step to peace in the oil-rich north African country, the UN deputy representative said Wednesday.
Stephanie Koury told the UN Security Council that she has been meeting political leaders, civil society representatives, academics, women’s groups, military leaders and others in the country’s rival east and west to listen to their views. She said there is consensus that the current “status quo is not sustainable” – and the political process needs to advance toward elections.
Libya plunged into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. In the chaos that followed, the country split, with rival administrations in the east and west backed by rogue militias and foreign governments.
The country’s current political crisis stems from the failure to hold elections on Dec. 24, 2021, and the refusal of Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah — who led a transitional government in the capital of Tripoli — to step down. In response, Libya’s east-based parliament appointed a rival prime minister who was suspended. The east is now governed by Prime Minister Ossama Hammad while the powerful military commander Khalifa Haftar continues to hold sway.
Koury, the top UN official in Libya since the resignation of special representative Abdoulaye Bathily in April, said many Libyans she spoke to signaled the importance of a “pact” or agreement that would affirm, among other things, the rival parties’ respect for the outcome of elections. They also expressed deep concern at the country’s divisions and parallel governments, and provided ideas on a roadmap to elections, she said.
“While institutional and political divisions keep deepening, ordinary Libyans long for peace, stability, prosperity and reconciliation,” Koury said. “Resolute and united action to advance a political process is needed by Libyans with the support of the international community.”
In February, Bathily warned the country’s feuding political actors that if they didn’t urgently form a unified government and move toward elections Libya will slide into “disintegration.”
The three African nations on the council – Sierra Leone, Algeria and Mozambique joined by Guyana – said in a joint statement Wednesday that “the Security Council must remain committed to an inclusive Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political process facilitated by the United Nations … for the holding of national elections.”
The four countries called on the rival political players “to move from the entrenched institutional and political positions, resolve their differences, build consensus and facilitate the holding of national election.”
US deputy Ambassador Robert Wood said the United States also continues to firmly support the UN political mission’s efforts “to bring Libya closer to unlocking a viable process toward long-overdue elections.”
“Progress toward greater military integration remains key to reaffirming Libyan sovereignty and preventing Libya from becoming enmeshed in regional turmoil,” he said.
Turning to Russia’s actions in Libya, Wood told the council the United States recently sanctioned “Russian state-owned enterprise Goznak for producing counterfeit currency globally and printing more than $1 billion worth of counterfeit Libyan currency, which exacerbated Libya’s economic challenges.”
Libya is under a UN arms embargo, and Wood said the United States also notes “with particular concern the recent reports of Russian Federation naval vessels unloading military hardware in Libya.”
Libya’s UN Ambassador Taher El-Sonni, who represents the internationally recognized government in the west, stressed that national reconciliation is the only way to rebuild social cohesion and trust between the rivals, unite the country and pave the way for elections.
“We are tired and fed up from the stalemate and the vicious cycle that we have been going through for decades now,” he said. “We are tired and fed up from being lectured on what to do and what not to do,” and from the Security Council’s inaction.
“We are tired and fed up to use Libya as a proxy for certain countries and regional powers for selfish greedy battles, some of which have colonial ambitions,” El-Sonni said.
He called on the Security Council “to leave Libya alone” and let the people decide their own future and “take their destiny in their own hands.”

US military’s stop-start Gaza pier to resume operations, officials say

Updated 20 June 2024

US military’s stop-start Gaza pier to resume operations, officials say

  • The US military estimates the pier will cost more than $200 million for the first 90 days and involve about 1,000 service members

WASHINGTON: The US military’s on-again, off-again floating pier in Gaza is expected to resume operations on Thursday to unload sorely needed humanitarian aid for Palestinians, two US officials told Reuters on Wednesday.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the pier had been re-attached to the shore on Wednesday after being temporarily removed last Friday due to poor sea conditions.
Aid began arriving via the US-built pier on May 17, and the UN said it transported 137 trucks of aid to warehouses, some 900 metric tons.
But then rough seas damaged the pier, forcing repairs, and poor weather and security considerations have limited the number of days it has been operational.
US President Joe Biden announced in March the plan to put the pier in place for aid deliveries as famine loomed in Gaza, a Hamas-run enclave of 2.3 million people, during the war between Israel and the Palestinian militants.
The US military estimates the pier will cost more than $200 million for the first 90 days and involve about 1,000 service members.
It is unclear how much longer it will be operational.
Speaking at the Pentagon on Tuesday, spokesperson Air Force Major General Patrick Ryder declined to say when the military might halt its pier operations altogether. He said the pier has so far allowed for a total of over 3,500 metric tons of aid to reach Gaza’s shores.
“With the caveat that this has always been intended to be a temporary pier, I’m not aware at this point of any established date of: ‘This is when we’re going to stop,’” he told reporters.
“And again, taking a step back here, the big picture: Whether it be by land, sea or air, (the United States is) employing all avenues to get assistance into Gaza.”