4 Palestinians killed during border protests

A photo taken on July 20, 2018 shows a fireball exploding in Gaza City during Israeli bombardment. (AFP)
Updated 21 July 2018

4 Palestinians killed during border protests

  • Two Palestinians were killed in a strike east of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza and one more near Rafah
  • Airstrikes were continuing into the evening, with a number of explosions in different parts of Gaza

GAZA: Israeli forces unleashed a wave of strikes across the Gaza Strip on Friday after saying troops came under fire, killing three Hamas members as a fresh escalation heightened fears of wider conflict.
Fireballs exploded into the sky over the Palestinian enclave as the UN urged all sides to step “back from the brink” of war after months of tensions.
A fourth Palestinian was also shot dead during protests along the frontier with Israel, Gaza’s Health Ministry said.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said “everyone in Gaza needs to step back from the brink. Not next week. Not tomorrow. Right now!“
“Those who want to provoke Palestinians and Israelis into another war must not succeed,” he wrote on Twitter.
An Israeli army statement said shots were fired at troops during renewed protests along the Gaza-Israel frontier and “in response... aircraft and tanks targeted military targets throughout the Gaza Strip.”
It did not say if any Israeli soldiers were hurt in the shooting.
Two Palestinians were killed in a strike east of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza and one more near Rafah, the enclave’s health ministry said.
The military wing of Hamas named the three men as Shaban Abu Khatar, Mohammed Abu Farhana and Mahmoud Qushta, saying they were fighters.
Israel’s military said its aircraft and tanks had targeted “eight military posts” belonging to Hamas.
It said jets were conducting strikes in “various locations” as part of a “wide-scale attack.”
“Hamas chose to escalate the security situation and will bear the consequences for its actions,” the military warned.
Airstrikes were continuing into the evening, with a number of explosions in different parts of Gaza, AFP correspondents said.
Gaza’s Health Ministry said a fourth man named as Mohammed Badwan was later shot dead by Israeli forces during protests along the border.
Israeli media reported Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was receiving an emergency briefing from the army on the situation.
Last weekend saw the most severe exchange of fire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since a 2014 war, raising worries of another round of conflict.
Israel hit dozens of sites it said belonged to militants in the Gaza Strip in Saturday’s strikes, killing two Palestinian teenagers.
The same day, around 200 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from Gaza and four Israelis were wounded when a rocket hit a house in the nearby Israeli city of Sderot.
For more than a week, Israel has been hardening its response to kites and incendiary balloons launched from Gaza
In recent days, the Israeli army has opened fire at groups launching such devices. Israel’s Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned of a “much tougher” response against Hamas if it fires more rockets from the Gaza Strip.
Israeli DefenSe Minister Avigdor Lieberman has raised the threat of a large-scale operation in the Gaza Strip if Hamas does not stop the kites and balloons being launched.
Israeli television this week broadcast footage of army training maneuvers for an incursion into the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu also conducted a tour along the border region for the first time since the start of the clashes.
Government officials such as Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan have called for systematic attacks on kite launchers.
Israel has also further tightened its blockade of Gaza by closing the only goods crossing, suspending oil and gas deliveries.


Saudi-led coalition tightens the screws on Houthi smuggling routes

Iranian-backed militants ride on the back of a police patrol truck after participating in a Houthi gathering in Sanaa, as Yemen’s legitimage government tightens security measures. (Reuters)
Updated 2 min 35 sec ago

Saudi-led coalition tightens the screws on Houthi smuggling routes

  • Security measures intensified around main sea and land entry posts in Yemen to prevent Iran arms supply to rebels

AL-MUKALLA: The Saudi-led coalition and Yemen’s internationally recognized government have intensified security measures around main sea and land entry posts in Yemen to prevent Iran from smuggling arms to Houthis in Yemen.

Over the last couple of months, hundreds of Yemeni coast guard soldiers have been deployed off the Yemeni coasts on the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, as the coalition tightens security checks at the Shihen border crossing in the western province of Mahra.
Dozens of army and security checkpoints have also stepped up the inspection of vehicles that cross into Houthi-controlled territories in northern Yemen. Local army officers and experts say those measures have yielded considerable results, as several arms shipments have been intercepted before reaching the Houthis.

Yemen alert
In the Red Sea, local officers said Yemeni troops had consolidated their presence on the island of Perim near Bab Al-Mandab Strait, and off the coasts of the provinces of Hodeida and Taiz.
The coast guard initiated a hotline for receiving alerts from local fishermen, who were urged to report any suspected movements of boats in the Red Sea.
“Local fishermen are now helping us monitor the sea. They alert us about any ship or a boat suspected of carrying weapons to Houthis,” a coast guard officer in the Red Sea Khokha district told Arab News on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters, adding that coast guard forces had increased sea patrols around Zuqar and Perim Islands with the same aim.
The two islands are located at the southern entrance of the Red Sea, where arms shipments from Iran are thought to pass through.
The same officer said that three ships carrying a large amount of explosive materials heading to Houthis had been intercepted at sea in the last three months.
Last week, the commander of the Yemeni coast guard in the western coast announced seizing a ship carrying 20 tons of urea fertilizer. The material can be used for making bombs.
The investigation with the three Yemeni fishermen captured on the ship showed that they received cargo from unidentified smugglers near the Somali port city of Zeila and were asked to give it to the Houthis for several thousand Saudi riyals.
“A big smuggling network is involved,” the officer who learned about the investigation said.
“We are confident that the Iranian smugglers do not directly hand over shipments to the Yemenis. All directions come from big smugglers in Yemen. We have learnt that Iranian smugglers pretending to be fishermen are active near Somalia.”

FASTFACTS

• The coast guard initiated a hotline for receiving alerts from local fishermen.

• Three ships carrying a large amount of explosive materials heading to Houthis ‘had been intercepted at sea in the last three months.’

• Yemen’s coast guard authority crumbled in late 2014 when Houthis seized control of Sanaa and expanded across the country, triggering a civil war.

In the southeastern province of Hadramout, dozens of soldiers have been deployed across a vast and porous coastline at suspected entry points for arms and drugs.
Maj. Gen. Faraj Salmeen Al-Bahsani, the governor of Hadramout, said the deployment was the last phase of a plan aimed at securing the province’s coasts.
“The coalition has asked us to secure areas between Shiher and Mahra to prevent smuggling,” he told Arab News. “We have discovered several vehicles carrying weapons to the Houthis.”

Starting from scratch
Yemen’s coast guard authority crumbled in late 2014 when Houthis seized control of Sanaa and expanded across the country, triggering a civil war.
When the Saudi-led coalition intervened militarily in support of Yemen’s government, monitoring the country’s sea waters was left to the coalition’s navy. At the same time, the coalition had to rebuild the coast guard by training troops inside and outside Yemen, building facilities and equipping the forces with boats that would enable them to take on the mission.
The governor of Hadramout said that the coast guard branch in the large province was now working without much help as the coalition had furnished them with the equipment needed for the missions.
“We have stood on our feet thanks to great help from the coalition. They provided us with radar and boats,” Al-Bahsani added.

Smuggling focal points
Yemeni experts believed that large shipments of Iranian weapons to the Houthis went through a few seaports that were under rebel control in the western province of Hodeida.
“It is true that the Houthis might bring in light devices and weapons on land through government-controlled areas. But rockets, drones and heavy weapons come through Hodeida,” Yasser Al Yafae, a political analyst, told Arab News.
Hodeida city, which hosts Yemen’s biggest seaport, was the target of a major military offensive that managed to liberate several seaports on the Red Sea and reach the city’s outskirts.
The offensive was canceled in late 2018 under the UN-brokered Stockholm Agreement that obliged the coalition-backed Yemeni forces to stop hostilities in exchange for a Houthi withdrawal from Hodeida’s seaport. Two years later, the Houthis have neither pulled out of the seaports nor allowed inspection on ships docked.
“The inauspicious Stockholm Agreement allowed Houthis to use Hodeida seaports to smuggle, weapons, weapons and drones,” Yahya Abu Hatem, a Yemeni military expert, told Al-Arabiya Al-Hadath on Friday.