Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza

A Palestinian man walks past a destroyed building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 26, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas militant group continues. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)
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Updated 27 May 2024
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Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza

  • Hamas armed wing says fired ‘large rocket barrage’ at Tel Aviv
  • Aid trucks begin entering Gaza through Kerem Shalom crossing

CAIRO/TEL AVIV: Rocket sirens blared Sunday in Israel’s commercial hub of Tel Aviv for the first time in months, with at least three blasts reported across central Israel, AFP correspondents said.

The Israeli military said sirens had been activated over central Israel as fighting raged in Gaza, including in the far-southern city of Rafah.

The armed wing of Palestinian militant group Hamas said it had launched a “large rocket barrage” on Tel Aviv.

The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said in a post on Telegram that they had targeted Tel Aviv “with a large rocket barrage in response to the Zionist massacres against civilians.”

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage from the latest barrage.

Earlier on Sunday, aid trucks entered Gaza from southern Israel through a new agreement to bypass the Rafah crossing with Egypt after Israeli forces seized the Palestinian side of it earlier this month. But was unclear if humanitarian groups would be able to access the aid because of ongoing fighting in the area.

A total of “200 trucks” had moved from the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, which has been shut since early May when Israel seized the Palestinian side of the terminal, to the Kerem Shalom crossing, some 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) to the south.

Egypt has refused to coordinate aid through Rafah as long as Israeli troops control the Palestinian side.

But on Friday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi agreed in a call with his US counterpart Joe Biden to allow aid through Kerem Shalom, the other entry point into southern Gaza, the White House said.

Al-Qahera News did not specify how many trucks had made their way through inspection into besieged Gaza, but said “four fuel trucks” had already crossed and were heading to hospitals.

All aid from Egypt is inspected by Israeli authorities and distributed via the United Nations.

The remainder of the 200 trucks were “expected to cross into Gaza today,” Khaled Zayed, head of the Egyptian Red Crescent in Al-Arish — where the bulk of aid arrives — said.


German foreign minister to visit Beirut as fears rise of wider conflict with Israel

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German foreign minister to visit Beirut as fears rise of wider conflict with Israel

  • Lebanon counts on success of US diplomatic efforts to prevent full-scale war
  • Former ambassador to US tells Arab News: ‘No one has an interest in open war’

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock walks alongside her Lebanese counterpart Abdallah Bou Habib (R) on January 10, 2024 in Beirut. Baerbock will be seeing Habib again soon as she makes shuttle visits to Lebanon, Israel, and the West Bank. (AFP/File)

 

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Foreign Affairs Minister Abdallah Bou Habib met with French Ambassador Herva Magro, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, and US Ambassador Lisa Johnson on Friday.

The minister reiterated Lebanon’s call for the full implementation of UN Resolution 1701.

Hennis-Plasschaert said there was “no inevitability (to wider conflict with Israel)” during her visit to UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon.

Also on Friday, it was announced that German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock will make shuttle visits to Lebanon, Israel, and the West Bank.

Concerned at the risk of Israel’s war on Gaza spreading across the region, US President Joe Biden sent his special envoy Amos Hochstein to embark on a new round of diplomacy last week. Hochstein called for “urgent” de-escalation during talks with Lebanon and Israel on Tuesday, informing both sides that “the threat of a full-scale war persists and must be avoided.”

It is widely believed in Lebanon that Hochstein convinced Israel to refrain from escalating its military actions against Lebanon for the time being.

In a meeting with visiting Israeli officials including National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer in Washington on Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken underscored the importance of “avoiding further escalation in Lebanon and reaching a diplomatic resolution that allows Israeli and Lebanese families to return to their homes,” according to a statement.

According to his spokesperson, Matthew Miller, Blinken also stressed America’s “unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.”

During his talks in Beirut, Hochstein reportedly reassured Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati that Biden’s proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza was being viewed positively, and that Qatar was working to make it happen.

Hochstein also reportedly told Mikati that “things are under control and positive when it comes to the war between Lebanon and Israel.”

Former Lebanese Ambassador to Washington, Riad Tabbarah, described threats of war as a “mere outburst.”

He told Arab News: “Since military operations began on the southern front about nine months ago, the Lebanese have been hearing that war is coming, but it never arrives.

“During diplomatic negotiations, it is common for both sides to face pressure and threats,” he continued. “It appears that there are numerous and diverse negotiations happening behind the scenes, including discussions between the Americans and Iranians, as well as between the Americans and Hezbollah.”

Tabbarah acknowledged the recklessness of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and said the Israeli leader “has two options — either war or prison. And there is significant pressure on him, especially from the families of the hostages.”

Tabbarah noted that there are limits to what military action can achieve. “We still recall the time when former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon crossed those limits in 1982 when he set the Litani Line as his target. However, he went beyond that and reached Beirut. As a result, international powers united to bring him back to the Litani Line.

“No one has an interest in war,” he continued. “Americans, Europeans, and Iranians are working in the opposite direction. The general trend is to avoid escalating to open war.”

Military operations on the Lebanese front decreased significantly on Friday, although the outskirts of Naqoura in the western sector were targeted by Israeli artillery, causing a fire in a house. In the morning, an Israeli military raid targeted the town of Wazzani.

Hezbollah made a series of announcements about their operations, which were “focused on specific targets within the rules of engagement.”

Hezbollah attacked the sites of Ramtha and Samaka in the occupied Lebanese Kfar Shouba Hills, the Zabadin site in the occupied Lebanese Shebaa Farms, and carried out an air attack using drones on the Ras Al-Naqoura naval site, aiming at locations containing Israeli military personnel.

The Lebanese Ministry of Health said that, up to June 19, it has recorded a total of 1,774 casualties, including 432 fatalities, caused by Israeli attacks.

-ENDS-
 


2 Palestinians killed in West Bank

Updated 21 June 2024
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2 Palestinians killed in West Bank

  • The Wafa Agency reported that eyewitnesses saw Israeli special forces firing live ammunition at a vehicle on Friday afternoon as it passed along the main street of Qalqilya in the northern West Bank

QALQILYA: Israeli and Palestinian authorities said at least two Palestinians were killed in an Israeli operation in the occupied West Bank city of Qalqilya on Friday.
The Palestinian Ministry of Civil Affairs reported the death of the two men.
“The General Authority of Civil Affairs informed the Ministry of Health of the martyrdom of Mahmoud Hassan Abdul Rahman Zaid, 28, and Ihab Abdul Karim Musa Abu Hamed, 29, by Israeli gunfire in Qalqilya,” it said in a statement.
The Wafa Agency reported that eyewitnesses saw Israeli special forces firing live ammunition at a vehicle on Friday afternoon as it passed along the main street of Qalqilya in the northern West Bank.
Images taken by an AFP journalist on the ground showed the destroyed storefront of a downtown shoe shop and blood stains in front of it.
Police forces have killed 2 “wanted terrorists in Qalqilya,” Israeli authorities said.
In a joint statement, the Israeli police, army, and Shin Bet security service said that Israeli forces “attempted to arrest two terrorists” from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, one of whom “was planning to carry out an attack in the area.”
“During the arrest, fire was opened on our forces, who returned fire and neutralized the terrorists,” the statement read, adding that the forces found handguns on the Palestinians.
The West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, has experienced a surge in violence for more than a year, particularly since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7.
At least 549 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers across the West Bank since October 7, according to Palestinian officials.

 


Lebanon cannot become another Gaza, UN chief warns

Updated 21 June 2024
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Lebanon cannot become another Gaza, UN chief warns

  • UN chief's comments come amid escalating tensions between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah
  • Iran-backed Hezbollah has been firing rockets at Israel in solidarity with Palestinian ally Hamas

UNITED NATIONS: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday he is profoundly concerned by escalating tensions between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah and that UN peacekeepers are working to calm the situation and prevent miscalculation.
“One rash move — one miscalculation — could trigger a catastrophe that goes far beyond the border, and frankly, beyond imagination,” he told reporters. “Let’s be clear: The people of the region and the people of the world cannot afford Lebanon to become another Gaza.”
Iran-backed Hezbollah has been firing rockets at Israel in solidarity with its Palestinian ally Hamas since the Gaza war erupted in October, forcing tens of thousands to flee homes in Israel, where political pressure is building for tougher action.
Tens of thousands of Lebanese have also fled their homes following Israeli strikes in south Lebanon.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations said on Friday that Hezbollah has the capability to defend itself and Lebanon against Israel, warning that “perhaps the time for the self-annihilation of this illegitimate regime has come.”
“Any imprudent decision by the occupying Israeli regime to save itself could plunge the region into a new war,” Iran’s UN mission posted on X.
A UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL, as well as unarmed technical observers known as UNTSO, have long been stationed in southern Lebanon to monitor hostilities along the demarcation line between Lebanon and Israel, known as the Blue Line.
“UN peacekeepers are on the ground working to de-escalate tensions and help prevent miscalculation,” Guterres said.
“The world must say loudly and clearly: immediate de-escalation is not only possible – it is essential,” he said. “There is no military solution.”


Huge wildfire kills 11 people in southeastern Turkiye

Updated 21 June 2024
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Huge wildfire kills 11 people in southeastern Turkiye

  • The fire was brought under control early on Friday

CINAR, Turkiye: A huge wildfire killed 11 people and critically injured five as it ripped through Turkiye’s mainly Kurdish southeast, the health minister said on Friday.
Hundreds of animals also perished or were badly injured in the blaze that roared across the dry landscape, sending flames into the night sky.
By morning, the fire had left huge areas of charred and blackened land across the Diyarbakir and Mardin provinces.
“Eleven people lost their lives,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca wrote on X, adding that another 78 people suffered injuries and smoke inhalation.
Of that number, five people were being treated in intensive care, he said.
Turkiye’s pro-Kurdish DEM party, which won many municipalities in the southeast in the March local elections, criticized the government’s intervention as “late and insufficient.”
During the night, DEM had urged the government to send water bombers, saying fighting the blaze from the ground was “not enough.”
An AFP reporter in Koksalan village in Diyarbakir province saw around 100 animals lying dead on the ground.
Residents said around half their flock of about 1,000 sheep and goats had perished in the blaze.
A local vet, who did not want to give his name, confirmed around half the flock had died and said many of those that survived were being treated for burns.
“We don’t have very clear information on how many animals have been affected,” the vet said.
“But at the moment, just under half of the survivors will have to be slaughtered because they can’t be saved.”
Seracettin Bedirhanoglu, a member of the opposition CHP party and leader of the eastern Van province, described the images as “unbearable,” urging vets to go to the area to help treat the wounded animals.
“They are defenseless and helpless ... In every big fire, they get hurt first. I ask my veterinarian brothers and sisters: please go to the fire zone because they need you,” he wrote on X.
Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya blamed the fire on “a stubble burn” which started late on Thursday and spread quickly due to strong winds, affecting five villages.
Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said on X the public prosecutor’s office had opened a probe into the cause of the fire.
Turkiye has suffered 74 wildfires so far this year, which have ravaged 12,910 hectares of land, according to the European Forest Fire Information System.
In the summer of 2021, Turkiye suffered its worst-ever wildfires.
They claimed nine lives and destroyed huge swaths of forested land across its Mediterranean and Aegean coasts.
The disaster prompted a political crisis after it emerged that Turkiye had no functioning firefighting planes.
It heaped pressure on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was forced to accept international help.
It also prompted Ankara to push through Turkiye’s delayed ratification of the Paris Climate Accord, becoming the last Group of 20 major economies to do so.
Experts say human-driven climate change is causing more frequent and more intense wildfires and other natural disasters and have warned Turkiye to take measures to tackle the problem.

 


UN chief warns: Lebanon cannot become another Gaza

Updated 21 June 2024
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UN chief warns: Lebanon cannot become another Gaza

  • “Let’s be clear: The people of the region and the people of the world cannot afford Lebanon to become another Gaza,” Guterres said
  • Iran’s mission to the United Nations said on Friday that Hezbollah has the capability to defend itself and Lebanon against Israel

UNITED NATIONS: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday he is profoundly concerned by escalating tensions between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah and that UN peacekeepers are working to calm the situation and prevent miscalculation.
“One rash move — one miscalculation — could trigger a catastrophe that goes far beyond the border, and frankly, beyond imagination,” he told reporters. “Let’s be clear: The people of the region and the people of the world cannot afford Lebanon to become another Gaza.”
Iran-backed Hezbollah has been firing rockets at Israel in solidarity with its Palestinian ally Hamas since the Gaza war erupted in October, forcing tens of thousands to flee homes in Israel, where political pressure is building for tougher action.
Tens of thousands of Lebanese have also fled their homes following Israeli strikes in south Lebanon.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations said on Friday that Hezbollah has the capability to defend itself and Lebanon against Israel, warning that “perhaps the time for the self-annihilation of this illegitimate regime has come.”
“Any imprudent decision by the occupying Israeli regime to save itself could plunge the region into a new war,” Iran’s UN mission posted on X.
A UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL, as well as unarmed technical observers known as UNTSO, have long been stationed in southern Lebanon to monitor hostilities along the demarcation line between Lebanon and Israel, known as the Blue Line.
“UN peacekeepers are on the ground working to de-escalate tensions and help prevent miscalculation,” Guterres said.
“The world must say loudly and clearly: immediate de-escalation is not only possible – it is essential,” he said. “There is no military solution.”