US Navy vows to protect Red Sea and Arabian Gulf amid Iran threats

Vice Admiral Scott Stearney, commander of the US 5th Fleet, said the US Navy would ensure free navigation for shipping in the region's waterways. (AFP)
Updated 09 September 2018
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US Navy vows to protect Red Sea and Arabian Gulf amid Iran threats

  • Vice Admiral Scott Stearney says US Navy will ensure the free flow of shipping in the Gulf and Red Sea
  • US Navy to hold a series of exercises in the region's waters this month

JEDDAH: The US Navy has vowed to ensure the free flow of shipping in the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea after Iranian threats to disrupt the waterways.

Vice Admiral Scott Stearney, commander of the US 5th Fleet based in Bahrain, said Iran’s activities across the region are “promoting instability” that is “affecting the region significantly” through its backing of Yemen’s Houthi rebels, Bloomberg reported.

“The US and our partners stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce wherever international law allows,” he said on Sunday.

The commander made the comments as he announced a series of exercises this month with regional and global allies as part of the US 5th Fleet Theater Counter Mine and Maritime Security Exercise. One of the exercises will take place in Djibouti, near the Bab Al-Mandeb Strait which marks the entrance to the Red Sea.  The waters in the Strait have been threatened by the Houthi militia in Yemen, which controls part of the Red Sea coast. The Iran-backed group have carried out several attacks targeting international shipping.

Iran has also threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Arabian Gulf if it is stopped from exporting its own oil.

The US is set to impose a second wave of sanctions in November that will target the Iranian energy sector, including the sale of crude to international customers.

The sanctions are being reimposed after  Donald Trump withdrew the US from the nuclear deal between Iran and international powers earlier this year.

The deal sought to curb Iran’s atomic program in exchange for an easing of the sanctions that had crippled the country’s economy.

Trump criticized the deal for doing little to stop Iran’s interventionist foreign policy in the Middle East and its ballistic missile program.


Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

A firefighting aircraft flies over a forest near Kibbutz Harel, which was damaged by wildfires during a record heatwave, in Israel May 24, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 May 2019
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Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

  • Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes on Thursday as fires raged
  • The fires were fueled by high temperatures and dry condition

JERUSALEM: Egypt and four European countries sent aircraft to help Israel battle wildfires that have forced the evacuation of some small towns, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday, as a record heatwave looked set to worsen conditions.
At an emergency briefing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had appealed for international help to combat the fires, and that firefighting planes were coming in from Greece, Croatia, Italy and Cyprus.
Egypt, on the orders of President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, had also sent two helicopters to assist Israel, Netanyahu told reporters.
The Palestinian Authority and Russia had also offered help, Netanyahu said.
Israel braced for wildfires on Friday amid a major heat wave that shows no signs of abating.
Israel “really appreciates” the help, Netanyahu said, singling out El-Sisi for sending aid.
“I am deeply thankful for the readiness of neighbors to help us in a time of crisis, just as we help them,” Netanyahu said.
Israel’s Fire and Rescue Service said blazes in a key corridor between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were mostly under control but difficult weather remained a conflagration risk.
“As of this moment, this (containment) is being done in the best possible way, but the challenge is yet ahead of us given the weather conditions, the winds and the extreme heat,” Netanyahu said.
Some 3,500 residents of small towns in the path of the fires were evacuated on Thursday, officials said. Dozens of homes have burned down.

Evacuations
Thousands of people were evacuated from towns and dozens of homes were burned on Thursday as fires raged, fueled by high temperatures and dry conditions. Over 500 acres of woodland have burned, said Nitai Zecharya, an Israeli official from the Jewish National Fund, known for planting forests in the country.
Zecharya said that while firefighters had brought most of the blaze under control, officials remained “very stressed” about strong winds fanning flames and “spreading fires to other fronts.”
The cause of the fires remains unclear, but they erupted following the Jewish festival of Lag Ba’Omer, which observers mark with bonfires.
A sweltering heat wave is pushing temperatures in parts of the country up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, or 43 Celsius.