Egypt steps in to avert new war on Gaza

A photo taken from Gaza City on May 29, 2018, shows a smoke billowing in the background following an Israeli air strike on the Palestinian enclave. (AFP)
Updated 30 May 2018
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Egypt steps in to avert new war on Gaza

  • Explosions shook the impoverished territory, which has been blockaded by Israel for more than a decade
  • Hamas and Islamic Jihad said the fire was in retaliation for Israeli attacks targeting their positions

GAZA: Egypt intervened on Tuesday to defuse tension after Israel launched the most devastating attacks on Gaza since the bloody conflict in 2014.

 Israeli jets pounded dozens of military targets in the impoverished territory after what it said were cross-border rocket and mortar attacks by Gaza’s Hamas rulers and the militant group Islamic Jihad.
The clashes came after hundreds of Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops during weeks of protests on the Gaza border.
A Palestinian official in Gaza said Egypt was in touch with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Israel to stop the fighting deteriorating into a wider conflict. Daoud Shehab, an Islamic Jihad spokesman, also said an Egyptian official had been in contact with the group to try to restore calm.
“If Israel abides by calm and ceases all forms of aggression against our people in Gaza, we will also maintain calm,” he said.
He said Islamic Jihad did not want the violence to escalate and blamed Israel for the flare-up.
There were no immediate reports of casualties in Gaza. Three Israeli soldiers were wounded by projectiles.
In a rare joint statement, Hamas and Islamic Jihad said the fire was in retaliation for Israeli attacks targeting their positions.
Three members of Islamic Jihad were killed in an Israeli strike on Sunday, and the group vowed revenge.
Early on Tuesday, about 30 mortar shells were fired toward Israel from Gaza. Israel said most were intercepted by its air defense systems.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed a “powerful” response after the initial mortar barrage.
Shortly after he spoke, Israel’s military began its  airstrikes. Explosions shook the impoverished territory, which has been blockaded by Israel for more than a decade,  and smoke rose from areas hit. At least seven bases of Hamas and Islamic Jihad were struck.
Later in the day, further rockets or mortar rounds from Gaza were intercepted by Israel. The Israeli military said some of the mortar rounds were supplied by Iran.
Israel said it responded by hitting more than 35 “military targets” throughout the day, including a tunnel that stretched under Egypt and into its territory, weapons storage facilities and militant bases.
Israel’s military said it was not seeking an escalation, but warned Hamas, with whom it has fought three wars since 2008.
“They have the ability, the control and the power to escalate or to de-escalate the situation, to rein in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and their own extremist factions in Hamas or to escalate the situation,” said military spokesman Jonathan Conricus.


Iran lawmakers authorize firm action against US ‘terrorist’ acts

Updated 24 min 3 sec ago
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Iran lawmakers authorize firm action against US ‘terrorist’ acts

  • President Donald Trump on April 8 designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps a foreign terrorist group
  • Tehran reacted to the designation by naming the US Central Command a terrorist organization

DUBAI: Iran’s parliament passed a bill on Tuesday requiring the government take firm steps to respond to “terrorist actions” by US forces, state TV reported, retaliating against Washington’s blacklisting of the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards.
President Donald Trump on April 8 designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist group, in an unprecedented step that drew Iranian condemnation and raised concerns about retaliatory attacks on US forces.
Tehran reacted to the designation, which took effect on April 15, by naming the US Central Command (CENTCOM) a terrorist organization and the US government a sponsor of terrorism.
“The bill authorizes the government to take firm and retaliatory measures against terrorist activities of American forces that endangers Iran’s interests,” TV reported.
“The government should use legal, political and diplomatic measures in response to the American actions.”
Highly loyal to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the IRGC is a powerful force which controls much of the Iranian economy and wields political influence in the country’s faction-ridden clerical establishment.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency said some 168 lawmakers out of 210 present at the parliament voted for the bill.
Tensions have been on the rise between Tehran and Washington since last year, when Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers and reimposed sanctions on the country.
In recent years, there have been periodic confrontations between the IRGC and US military in the Gulf.
The new chief commander of the IRGC Hossein Salami, appointed after the US blacklisting, has warned in the past that Iran could use its cruise and ballistic missiles and drones, mines, speedboats, and missile launchers in the Gulf area to confront the United States.
The Trump administration, which has taken a hard line on Iran, said in a statement on Monday that the president has decided not to reissue waivers in May allowing importers to buy Iranian oil without facing US sanctions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the heightening economic pressure on Iran showed that Washington was in panic.
“Escalating #EconomicTERRORISM against Iranians exposes panic & desperation of US regime — and chronic failures of its client co-conspirators,” Zarif Tweeted on Tuesday.
A commander of Iran’s IRGC said on Monday that Tehran would block all exports through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if Tehran is barred from using the waterway, where a fifth of global oil consumption passes on its way from Middle East producers to major markets.