Israel strikes Syria again, rocking Damascus

Israel strikes Syria again, rocking Damascus
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Israel strikes Syria again, rocking Damascus
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Updated 06 May 2013

Israel strikes Syria again, rocking Damascus

Israel strikes Syria again, rocking Damascus

BEIRUT: Israel carried out its second air strike in days on Syria early on Sunday, a Western intelligence source said, in an attack that shook Damascus with a series of powerful blasts and drove columns of fire into the night sky.
Israel declined comment but Syria accused the Jewish state of striking a military facility just north of the capital — one which its jets had first targeted three months ago. Iran, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and an arch-enemy for Israel, urged states in the region to resist the Israeli attack.
People living near the Jamraya base spoke of explosions over several hours in various places near Damascus, including a town housing senior officials: “Night turned into day,” one man said.
The Western intelligence source told Reuters the operation hit Iranian-supplied missiles headed for Lebanon’s Hezbollah, a similar target to the two previous strikes this year, which have been defended as justifiable by Israel’s ally the United States:
“In last night’s attack, as in the previous one, what was attacked were stores of Fateh-110 missiles that were in transit from Iran to Hezbollah,” the intelligence source said.
An Israeli official had confirmed a similar raid on Friday. In Lebanon, Hezbollah declined immediate comment.
Video footage uploaded onto the Internet by activists showed a series of explosions. One lit up the skyline of Damascus while another sent up a tower of flames and secondary blasts.
Syrian state media accused Israel of attacking in response to Assad’s forces’ recent successes against rebels who, with Western approval, have been trying to topple him for two years.
In 40 years since a war with a Syria then ruled by Assad’s father, Israel has been locked in a cold standoff with Damascus, fought Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006 and is threatening to attack Iran, accusing Tehran of trying to develop nuclear weapons.
But it is wary of instability in Syria, has long viewed Hezbollah as the more immediate threat and has shown little enthusiasm for US and European calls for Assad’s overthrow.
The raid follows intense debate in the United States over whether the use of chemical weapons by Syrian troops might push President Barack Obama to intervene more forcefully on the rebel side, but Western powers remain concerned at the presence of anti-Western Islamist fighters among Assad’s opponents.
It was unclear whether Israel sought US approval for the action; in the past, officials have indicated that Israel sees a need only to inform Washington once a mission was under way.
At a routine public appearance, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made no direct reference to the strikes but spoke pointedly of his responsibility to ensure Israel’s future.
He maintained a plan to fly to China later in the day, suggesting a confidence that, as with the raid in January, Assad — and Hezbollah — would limit any reprisal. However, an Israeli military source said the army had deployed more anti-missile defense systems near the northern borders in recent days.

Night of explosions
“The sky was red all night. We didn’t sleep a single second. The explosions started after midnight and continued through the night,” one man told Reuters from Hameh, less than a mile from the Jamraya military research facility.
“There were explosions on all sides of my house,” he added, saying people hid in basements during the events.
Another witness spoke of fire near Qura Assad, a town around 5 km (3 miles) west of Jamraya where many high-level government officials live. In the center of Damascus, people said their first thought was that there was an earthquake.
Identified by Syrian media as the Jamraya military research center, the target was also hit by Israel in another assault on Jan. 30. Jamraya, on the northern approaches to Damascus, is just 15 km (10 miles) from the Lebanese border.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the blasts hit Jamraya as well as a nearby ammunition depot.
Other activists said a missile brigade and two Republican Guard battalions may also have been targeted in the heavily militarized area just north of Damascus.
Reports by activists and state media are difficult to verify in Syria because of restrictions on journalists operating there.
People living in southern Lebanon said they heard frequent sounds of jets overhead and believed they were Israeli.
The streets of central Damascus were almost empty of pedestrians and traffic on Sunday morning, the start of the working week. Only a few shops were open. Checkpoints that have protected the government-controlled zone from rebel attack appeared to have been reinforced with additional men.
Syria’s state television said the strikes were a response to recent military gains by Assad’s forces against rebels: “The new Israeli attack is an attempt to raise the morale of the terrorist groups which have been reeling from strikes by our noble army,” it said.
Speaking shortly before Sunday’s attack, President Obama said Israel had a right to act: “The Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah,” he said.
In Israel, a military spokeswoman said of the attack in Syria: “We don’t respond to this kind of report.”
Netanyahu appeared at the dedication of a highway junction in memory of his late father. He made no reference to raids but said his father “taught me that the greatest responsibility we have is to ensure Israel’s security and guarantee its future.”

Missile "better than scud"
Israel has repeatedly made clear it is prepared to use force to prevent advanced weapons from Syria reaching Hezbollah guerrillas, who fought a 34-day war with Israel seven years ago.
Uzi Rubin, an Israeli missile expert and former defense official said the Fateh-110 missile “is better than the Scud, it has a half-ton warhead.” Iran has said it adapted the missile for anti-ship use by installing a guidance system, he added.
With Assad battling the revolt, Israelis also worry that Islamist rebels could loot his arsenals and eventually hit the Jewish state, ending four decades of relative cross-border calm.
There was no immediate indication of how Syria would respond to Sunday’s attack. After Israel’s January raid, Damascus protested to the United Nations and the Syrian ambassador to Lebanon promised a “surprise decision,” but no direct military retaliation followed.
Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi was quoted by the ISNA news agency as saying on Sunday: “The Zionist regime’s attack on Syria, which occurred with the US’s green light, revealed the relationship between mercenary terrorists and their supporters and the regime occupying Jerusalem ... The evil actions of the Zionist regime can threaten the security of the entire region.”
The uprising against Assad began with street protests that were met with force and grew into a bloody civil war in which the United Nations says at least 70,000 people have been killed.
Assad has lost control of large areas of north and eastern Syria, and is battling rebels on the fringes of Damascus.
But his forces have launched counter-offensives in recent weeks.


Eid festivities stop as Israel pounds Gaza

Eid festivities stop as Israel pounds Gaza
Updated 12 May 2021

Eid festivities stop as Israel pounds Gaza

Eid festivities stop as Israel pounds Gaza
  • Eid preparations came to a halt on the largely empty streets as shops downed shutters and people stayed indoors

GAZA CITY: The Gaza Strip echoed to the sound of explosions as fighting between Israel and Hamas in contested Jerusalem escalated on Tuesday.

Since Monday night, 26 Palestinians, including nine children and a woman, have been killed in Gaza, most by Israeli airstrikes, health officials said.

Eid preparations came to a halt on the largely empty streets as shops downed shutters and people stayed indoors.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said: “As long as the Zionist aggression against our people continues, the Palestinian resistance, especially Hamas, will remain in a state of permanent clash with the occupation, which has made Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and the Gaza Strip a target and a scene for its crimes and violations.”

Israeli warplanes attacked dozens of sites in Gaza, including homes and farming areas, as well as military training sites belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We are in the midst of a military campaign. The Israeli army has been attacking hundreds of Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza.”

Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, said in a statement: “The enemy bombed a target where our mujahideen were present to repel the aggression, and we have martyrs and missing persons.”

Gazans endured a long night of bombardment and terror. Some lost their loved ones, others their homes.

Rashad Al-Sayed, 57, who lives on the sixth floor of the Tiba building in Al-Shati refugee camp, west of Gaza City, said that the roof of the house collapsed on his family as they tried to sleep after dawn prayers.

From a bed in Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital, he told Arab News: “It was a harsh night, we could not sleep, and when we decided to sleep, the roof fell on us. Israeli warplanes struck an apartment above my flat on the seventh floor.”

Al-Sayed was slightly injured, but his eldest son, Ahmed, 23, was badly hurt and is in intensive care in the same hospital.

Eyewitnesses told Arab News that Israeli warplanes fired four missiles at an apartment on the seventh floor at about 4:30 a.m., causing damage in most of the building, and killing a woman and her son on the floor below.


Egypt, Saudi FMs discuss Israeli attacks against Palestinians

Egypt, Saudi FMs discuss Israeli attacks against Palestinians
Updated 11 May 2021

Egypt, Saudi FMs discuss Israeli attacks against Palestinians

Egypt, Saudi FMs discuss Israeli attacks against Palestinians
  • Cairo spokesperson briefs Prince Faisal on efforts Egypt is making to restore peace
  • FMs agree on prioritizing political solutions in a way that ensures strengthening stability in the region

CAIRO: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud discussed in a phone call on Monday attacks carried out by Israeli forces at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and other recent developments in Jerusalem.

Police fired tear gas and stun grenades inside the mosque and at least three Palestinians lost an eye after being struck by plastic bullets that witnesses said were aimed directly at their heads.

Tensions on the Gaza Strip border with Israel continued to mount following recent violent confrontations at the mosque and in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Ahmed Hafez, a spokesperson for the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Shoukry briefed Prince Faisal on the efforts Egypt is making to restore peace. He stressed the need for Israel to halt its aggression and to provide the necessary protection for the Palestinian people.

The two ministers affirmed their rejection of all illegal practices aimed at undermining legitimate Palestinian rights. They also agreed on prioritizing political solutions in a way that ensures strengthening stability in the region and the importance of all parties respecting international law.

In an official statement, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry expressed its condemnation of “these rapid and dangerous developments.”

The statement emphasized the need to stop all practices that violate the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, especially during the month of Ramadan. The statement also called for the protection of Palestinian civilians in the mosque and others in East Jerusalem.


Gazans serving up smoked fish on first day of Eid

Gazans serving up smoked fish on first day of Eid
Updated 11 May 2021

Gazans serving up smoked fish on first day of Eid

Gazans serving up smoked fish on first day of Eid
  • Palestinians say herring and fesikh fish increase the appetite and are useful for the stomach following a month of fasting
  • Local fish industry is flourishing as imported herring fish from Israel, which for years had been the main supplier for Gaza’s needs, has decreased significantly

GAZA STRIP: Abed Rabbo Adwan, who learned a few years ago how to prepare herring, prefers to cook the fish at his home in the city of Rafah, which is in the southern Gaza Strip. 

Herring and fesikh fish are used as the main dish on the tables of the majority of Gaza residents during the first day of Eid Al-Fitr because they believe it increases the appetite and is useful for the stomach following a month of fasting.

Its popularity has spread throughout Palestinian homes, especially in the southern Gaza Strip, adjacent to the border with Egypt.

Adwan said that preparing herring at home guarantees quality, and at a much lower price compared to what is available in the market, which is usually prepared locally or imported from Israel.

He said his family helps him prepare the fish, which creates an atmosphere of happiness during the last days of Ramadan and ahead of Eid.

The local fish industry is flourishing as the import of herring fish from Israel, which for years had been the main supplier for Gaza’s needs, has decreased significantly. The price of a kilo of locally prepared smoked fish is 20 shekels ($6), about half the price of its imported counterpart from Israel.

To start, Adwan buys a kilo of mackerel or frozen tuna, cleans the fish, and then salts it with some help from his family. After that, he smokes the fish in a primitive way that does not cost much.

The preparation begins with removing its entrails, filling the cleaned fish with salt, and leaving it for 24 hours. After washing it well and then drying the fish, he hangs it vertically with iron clips over iron bars inside an oven. The flames are ignited with charcoal and sawdust.

Adwan does not have a furnace. He uses an iron container as an oven and closes it tightly to block the air so the fish inside does not catch fire or get spoiled.

“The fish remains in this position, exposed to smoke, for about two hours,” he said. “This gives the fish the taste of smoke and turns its color from white to yellowish to gold. Then it is ready to eat.”

As some in his family prefer fesikh to herring for breakfast on the first day of Eid, Adwan makes a limited amount of it using a different method. A kilo of fesikh in the market ranges between 10 and 30 shekels and it is stored in a place away from the air for about a month.

Traders say that Gaza produces large quantities of herring and fesikh which is sufficient for local consumption. Gaza can even export the fish if given the opportunity.

Ibrahim Hejazy, the owner of one of the largest herring plants in Gaza, said he started in the industry about seven years ago with a limited quantity that was for personal consumption. The idea developed and he set up a factory that started to produce quantity.

“I was encouraged by the great turnout to expand the factory and bring in a special oven for preparation,” Hejazy said. “Today, we have become the most famous factory in the Gaza Strip, distributing what we produce to merchants, distributors and shops.”

Hejazi took over other bakeries and doubled his workforce, which would have been overloaded with work in the middle of Ramadan. They work all night and day preparing smoked fish to meet the market’s needs.


Gaza violence: 40 killed, more than 200 wounded in relentless Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket barrage

People gather at the site of a collapsed building in the aftermath of Israeli air strikes on Gaza City on May 11, 2021. (AFP)
People gather at the site of a collapsed building in the aftermath of Israeli air strikes on Gaza City on May 11, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 34 min 16 sec ago

Gaza violence: 40 killed, more than 200 wounded in relentless Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket barrage

People gather at the site of a collapsed building in the aftermath of Israeli air strikes on Gaza City on May 11, 2021. (AFP)
  • At least 35 people in the Palestinian enclave and 5 in Israel have been killed so far
  • Israel Airports Authority halt take-offs at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport "to allow defense of nation's skies"

GAZA CITY/JERUSALEM/CAIRO: Dozens of people died in relentless Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip and a rocket barrage by Hamas militants on Israeli targets on Tuesday and early Wednesday.

It was the heaviest fighting between the bitter enemies since 2014, and it showed no signs of slowing.

The death toll in Gaza rose to 35 Palestinians, including 10 children, according to the Health Ministry. Over 200 people were wounded.

Five Israelis, including three women and a child, were killed by rocket fire Tuesday and early Wednesday, and dozens of people wounded. 

Israel stepped up its attacks Tuesday night, flattening a high-rise building used by the Hamas militant group and killing at least three militants in their hideouts as Palestinian rockets rained down almost nonstop on the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon.

Israeli firefighter extinguishes a burning vehicle on Tuesday after Hamas launched rockets from Gaza Strip to Ashkelon, at southern Israel. (AFP)

As the death toll mounted, Israel snubbed an offer by Egypt to broker an end to the violence. 

“Egypt extensively reached out to Israel and other concerned countries urging them to exert all possible efforts to prevent the deterioration of the situation,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said. “But we did not get the necessary response.” Instead, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to rain more death on Gaza. 

“Both the strength of the attacks and the frequency of the attacks will be increased,” he said, and military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said Israel was increasing its forces on the Gaza border.

The US State Department urged restraint on both sides.

Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the attacks on Gaza were a “miserable show of force at the expense of children’s blood,” and “Israeli provocations” were an affront to Muslims on the eve of the Eid holiday.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which held an emergency meeting in Jeddah, “praised the steadfastness of the Palestinian people in the occupied city of Jerusalem.”

Burnt vehicles are seen in the town of Holon near Tel Aviv after rockets were launched towards Israel from the Gaza Strip by Hamas. (AFP)

The conflict spread to Gaza after days of protests in occupied East Jerusalem, where hundreds of Palestinians — including worshippers praying in Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site — were injured in a violent Israeli crackdown with stun grenades, tear gas and plastic bullets.
On Monday and Tuesday, Gazans endured a long night and day of bombardment and terror. Some lost their loved ones, others their homes.
Rashad Al-Sayed, 57, who lives on the sixth floor of the Tiba building in Al-Shati refugee camp, west of Gaza City, said the roof of the house collapsed on his family as they tried to sleep after dawn prayers.
From a bed in Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital, he told Arab News: “It was a harsh night, we could not sleep, and when we decided to sleep, the roof fell on us. Israeli warplanes struck an apartment above my flat on the seventh floor.”
Al-Sayed was slightly injured, but his eldest son, Ahmed, 23, was badly hurt and is in intensive care in the same hospital.

A huge column of smoke billows from an oil facility in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon on May 11, 2021, after rockets were fired by the Palestinian Hamas movement. (AFP)

Witnesses told Arab News that Israeli warplanes fired four missiles at an apartment on the seventh floor of a tower block during dawn prayers at about 4:30 a.m., causing damage in most of the building, and killing a woman, her 19-year-old disabled son and another man on the floor below.
At midday, an air strike hit a building in the city center, sending terrified residents running into the street, including women and barefoot children. The Islamic Jihad militant group said the strike killed three of its commanders.
A 13-story residential block in the Gaza Strip collapsed on Tuesday night after being hit by an Israeli air strike. Three plumes of thick smoke rose from the tower, its upper stories still intact until it collapsed to the ground. The tower housed an office used by the Hamas political leadership.
The Gaza Health Ministry said 28 people, including 10 children and the woman, had been killed and 152 injured since Monday. Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Kidra said Israel’s “relentless assault” was overwhelming the healthcare system, which has been struggling with COVID-19.
Electricity in the surrounding area went out, and residents were using flashlights.

Flames are seen following an Israeli air strike on Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, on May 11, 2021. (AFP)

Shortly after the attack, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group said they would respond by firing rockets at Tel Aviv.
Air raid sirens and explosions were heard around the city, and the skies were lit up by the streaks of multiple interceptor missiles launched toward the incoming rockets.
Pedestrians ran for shelter, and diners streamed out of Tel Aviv restaurants while others flattened themselves on pavements as the sirens sounded.
Israeli television stations said three people had been wounded in the suburb of Holon.
The Israel Airports Authority said it had halted take-offs at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport “to allow defense of (the) nation’s skies.”
“We are now carrying out our promise,” Hamas’s armed wing said in a statement. “The Qassam Brigades are launching their biggest rocket strike against Tel Aviv and its suburbs, with 130 rockets, in response to the enemy’s targeting of residential towers.”
Hours earlier, Israel had sent 80 jets to bomb Gaza and massed tanks on the border as rocket barrages hit Israeli towns for a second day, deepening a conflict in which at least 28 people in the Palestinian enclave and two in Israel have been killed.
Residents of the block and people living nearby had been warned to evacuate the area around an hour before the air strike, according to witnesses, and there were no reports of casualties two hours after it collapsed.
The most serious outbreak of fighting since 2019 between Israel and armed factions in Gaza was triggered by clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque on Monday.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

The city, holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians, has been tense during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, with the threat of a court ruling evicting Palestinians from homes claimed by Jewish settlers adding to the friction.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would step up its strikes on Gaza, an enclave of 2 million people, in response to the rocket attacks.
“Both the strength of the attacks and the frequency of the attacks will be increased,” he said in a video statement.
Within an hour, Israel said it had deployed jets to bomb rocket launch sites in and around Gaza City.Officials said infantry and armor were being dispatched to reinforce the tanks already gathered on the border, evoking memories of the last Israeli ground incursion into Gaza to stop rocket attacks, in 2014.
More than 2,100 Gazans were killed in the seven-week war that followed, according to the Gaza health ministry, along with 73 Israelis, and thousands of homes in Gaza were razed.
On Tuesday, before the block collapsed, the Gaza health ministry said at least 28 Palestinians, including 10 children, had been killed and 152 wounded by Israeli strikes since Hamas on Monday fired rockets toward Jerusalem for the first time since 2014.
Israel’s national ambulance service said two women had been killed in rocket strikes on the southern city of Ashkelon.
The International Committee of the Red Cross urged all sides to step back, and reminded them of the requirement in international law to try to avoid civilian casualties.

(With AP, Reuters)


Iran has enriched uranium to up to 63 percent purity, IAEA says

Iran has enriched uranium to up to 63 percent purity, IAEA says
Updated 12 May 2021

Iran has enriched uranium to up to 63 percent purity, IAEA says

Iran has enriched uranium to up to 63 percent purity, IAEA says
  • Iran made the shift to 60%, a big step towards nuclear weapons-grade from the 20% previously achieved
  • The deal says Iran cannot enrich beyond 3.67% fissile purity, far from the 90% of weapons-grade

VIENNA: “Fluctuations” at Iran’s Natanz plant pushed the purity to which it enriched uranium to 63 percent, higher than the announced 60 percent that complicated talks to revive its nuclear deal with world powers, a report by the UN nuclear watchdog said on Tuesday.
Iran made the shift to 60 percent, a big step toward nuclear weapons-grade from the 20 percent previously achieved, last month in response to an explosion and power cut at Natanz that Tehran has blamed on Israel and appears to have damaged its enrichment output at a larger, underground facility there.
Iran’s move rattled the current indirect talks with the United States to agree conditions for both sides to return fully to the 2015 nuclear deal, which was undermined when Washington abandoned it in 2018, prompting Tehran to violate its terms.
The deal says Iran cannot enrich beyond 3.67 percent fissile purity, far from the 90 percent of weapons-grade. Iran has long denied any intention to develop nuclear weapons.
“According to Iran, fluctuations of the enrichment levels... were experienced,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in the confidential report to its member states, seen by Reuters.
“The agency’s analysis of the ES (environmental samples) taken on 22 April 2021 shows an enrichment level of up to 63 percent U-235, which is consistent with the fluctuations of the enrichment levels (described by Iran),” it added, without saying why the fluctuations had occurred.
A previous IAEA report last month said Iran was using one cascade, or cluster, of advanced IR-6 centrifuge machines to enrich to up to 60 percent and feeding the tails, or depleted uranium, from that process into a cascade of IR-4 machines to enrich to up to 20 percent.
Tuesday’s report said the Islamic Republic was now feeding the tails from the IR-4 cascade into a cascade of 27 IR-5 and 30 IR-6s centrifuges to refine uranium to up to 5 percent.