Israel drops leaflets warning Gazans not to approach border

A Palestinian hurls stones at Israeli troops during clashes at Israel-Gaza border in the central Gaza strip early this week. (Reuters)
Updated 20 April 2018
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Israel drops leaflets warning Gazans not to approach border

GAZA: Israel dropped leaflets in the Gaza Strip on Friday warning Palestinians not to approach its border fence as the military braced for fresh clashes along the frontier.
Thousands of Palestinians were expected to gather along the Israel-Gaza border, as they have every Friday over the past month for mass demonstrations that have turned violent and during which Israeli forces have killed thirty-one Palestinians and wounded hundreds.
Each week, some Gazans have hurled stones and burning tires near the frontier fence, where Israeli army sharpshooters are deployed.
The soldiers have opened fire at those who come too close to the fence, drawing international criticism for the lethal tactics used.
Israel has blamed the Islamist militant group Hamas of staging riots and trying to carry out attacks.
It was the first time leaflets were dropped in the recent round of violence.
“The Hamas terror organization is taking advantage of you in order to carry out terror attacks. The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) is prepared for all scenarios. Stay away from the fence and do not attempt to harm it,” said the leaflets scattered by Israeli aircraft in the early morning in areas along the border.
The mass protest, dubbed “The Great March of Return” — evoking a longtime call for refugees to regain ancestral homes in what is now Israel — began on March 30 and is expected to culminate on May 15.


US still aiming to cut Iran oil sales to zero: US envoy for Iran

Updated 15 October 2018
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US still aiming to cut Iran oil sales to zero: US envoy for Iran

  • Hook said Iran's ballistic missile activities need to be deterred.
  • An industry source and tanker data revealed that Turkey and Italy are the last buyers of Iranian crude outside China, India and the Middle East.

PARIS: The United States is still aiming to cut Iran's oil sales to zero and does not foresee the re-imposition of oil sanctions against Tehran on Nov. 4 as having a negative impact on the market as it is well-supplied and balanced, Washington's special envoy for Iran said on Monday.
Speaking to reporters in a conference call, Brian Hook also said Iran's ballistic missile activities need to be deterred and that European efforts to create a special purpose vehicle for trade with Tehran would find no demand as more than 100 foreign firms had indicated they would be leaving the country.

Hook's statements came as an industry source and tanker data revealed that Turkey and Italy are the last buyers of Iranian crude outside China, India and the Middle East, the latest sign that shipments are taking a major hit from looming US sanctions.
The Islamic Republic has exported 1.33 million barrels per day so far in October to India, China, Turkey and the Middle East, according to Refinitiv Eikon data. No vessels are shown heading to Europe with Iranian crude.
However, an industry source who also tracks the exports estimated shipments at 1.5 million bpd, including vessels which are not showing on AIS satellite tracking, of which a 1 million-barrel tanker is going to Italy.
That’s down from at least 2.5 million bpd in April, before President Donald Trump in May withdrew the United States from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed sanctions. The figures also mark a further fall from 1.6 million bpd in September.
The expected loss of a sizeable amount of Iranian supply has helped drive a rally in oil prices, which on Oct. 3 hit their highest since late 2014 at $86.74 a barrel. Crude has since eased to $81 although analysts say the Iranian export drop remains supportive.
“It’s one of the reasons why prices are still above $80,” said Eugen Weinberg, analyst at Commerzbank.
The October figures add to signs that buyers are sufficiently wary of the US sanctions to stop or scale back their Iranian crude dealings, and that exports are falling more steeply than some in the market expected.
For sure, definitive export data is hard to uncover. Tanker schedules are often adjusted, exports vary week by week and the tracking of tankers, while easier than in the past due to satellite information, remains both art and science.
In the first week of October, Iran’s crude exports averaged 1.1 million bpd according to Refinitiv and less than 1 million bpd according to another industry source.
While Washington has said it wants to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero, Iran and Saudi Arabia say that is unlikely to happen. The Trump administration is considering waivers on sanctions for countries that are reducing their imports.
India, a major buyer, has ordered Iranian oil for November.
Iran, which has pledged to block any OPEC supply increase that the country deems to be against its interests, says it has found new buyers for its oil and its crude output has fallen only slightly.
For September, Iran told OPEC its crude output dropped by 50,000 bpd to 3.76 million bpd, while consultants and government agencies that OPEC uses to monitor production reported a larger fall to 3.45 million bpd.
Indeed, Iran may not yet have cut production to match the rate of decline in its exports, as the country appears to be storing more oil on ships, as it did during sanctions that applied until the 2015 nuclear deal.