Iran linked to rocket attack on US oil targets in southern Iraq
Iran linked to rocket attack on US oil targets in southern Iraq/node/1513341/middle-east
Iran linked to rocket attack on US oil targets in southern Iraq
An Iraqi soldier stands next to a military vehicle at the entry of Zubair oilfield after a rocket struck the site of residential and operations headquarters of several oil companies at Burjesia area, in Basra, Iraq, on June 19, 2019. (REUTERS/Essam Al-Sudani)
BAGHDAD, Iraq: Iran was accused of sowing further chaos on Wednesday when a rocket hit a site near Basra in southern Iraq used by US and other oil companies.
The attack came hours after three rockets landed in the Rumailah oil field in Basra, near a camp used by the US oil services company Baker Hughes.
It was the fourth oil-related terrorist attack since Tehran threatened to halt exports from the Arabian Gulf in response to US sanctions aimed at reducing Iran’s oil sales to zero.
Three people were injured in Wednesday’s incident, when a short-range Katyusha rocket hit a drilling site in the Burjesiya area near Basra, an operational area for oil companies including Royal Dutch Shell, Eni of Italy and the US giant ExxonMobil.
The finger of blame was immediately pointed at Iran-backed armed groups in the area, particularly Kata’ib Hezbollah. “They are equipped with this type of rocket, which is ubiquitous among the Iranian-supported militias,” security analyst Dr. Theodore Karasik told Arab News.
TIMELINE OF TERROR
● July 21, 2018 Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says if Iran’s oil sales are impeded by sanctions, ‘no other country in the region will export oil either.’
● April 21, 2019 US says it will end sanctions exemptions allowing some countries to buy Iranian oil, with the aim of reducing its exports to zero.
● May 12 Four tankers — two Saudi, one Emirati and one Norwegian — are sabotaged with explosive mines off the coast of Fujairah in the UAE. ● May 14 Drone attacks on two oil pumping stations temporarily shut down pipeline from eastern Saudi Arabia to Yanbu port on the Red Sea.
● June 13 Two tankers, one Japanese and one Norwegian, are attacked in the Gulf of Oman, leaving one ablaze and both adrift.
● June 19 Rocket attack targets foreign oil installations near Basra in southern Iraq, where Iran-backed militias are active.
“The Islamic Republican Guard Corps has created a supply network for local militias that helped to build up a weapons stock around Basra. It is easily fed by new supplies from Iran because of the porous nature of the border between the two, both on land and at sea,” said Karasik, senior adviser at Gulf State Analytics in Washington, DC.
An Iraqi security source also blamed Iran-backed militias. “The team that launched the rocket is made up of more than one group and were well trained in missile launching,” he said.
The rocket was fired from farmland about 4 km away and landed 100 meters from part of the site used as a residence and operations center by Exxon. Company staff were flown to Dubai.
Abbas Maher, mayor of the nearby town of Zubair, said he believed Iran-backed groups had specifically targeted Exxon to “send a message” to the US.
“We cannot separate this from regional developments, meaning the US-Iranian conflict,” he said. “These incidents have political objectives.”
Meanwhile US investigators presented more evidence that Iran was behind last week’s tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman.
“The limpet mine used in the attack … bears a striking resemblance to Iranian mines already publicly displayed in Iranian military parades,” said US Navy Commander Sean Kido.
Israel strikes house of Hamas political chief in Gaza Strip
Yahya Sinwar is the Islamist movement’s de facto leader in the Israeli-blockaded Palestinian enclave
Updated 16 May 2021
GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Israeli air strikes hit the home of Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas’ political wing in the Gaza Strip, the army said Sunday, but without saying if he was killed.
“Among the targets struck are the residences of Yahya Sinwar, Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau in Gaza, as well as of his brother, Muhammad Sinwar, Head of Logistics and Manpower for Hamas,” Israel’s army said in a statement, releasing a video showing plumes of smoke and intense damage.
“Both residences served as military infrastructure for the Hamas terror organization.”
Witnesses confirmed to AFP a strike had hit Sinwar’s house.
Sinwar, a former commander of Hamas’s military branch, served more than two decades in an Israeli jail before he was released in 2011 as a part of a prisoner exchange.
First elected as the head of Hamas’s political wing in Gaza in 2017, he was re-elected in March, extending his tenure as the Islamist movement’s de facto leader in the Israeli-blockaded Palestinian enclave.
Hamas overall chief Ismail Haniyeh is currently based in Qatar.
The army said it had also carried out strikes targeting Hamas tunnel systems.
As of 07:00 a.m. (0400 GMT) Sunday, Israel’s army said that Palestinian militants in Gaza had fired some 2,900 rockets toward Israel.
The army said 450 rockets fell short inside Gaza, while Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system has intercepted approximately 1,150 rockets.
Philippines starts barring travelers from Oman, UAE as COVID-19 safety precaution
All existing travel restrictions of passengers coming from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka are extended until May 31
Updated 16 May 2021
DUBAI: The Philippines has started barring the entry of travelers from Oman and the United Arab Emirates as part of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, particularly the COVID-19 variant from India.
“All existing travel restrictions of passengers coming from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka are extended until 2359H of May 31, 2021,” Philippine presidential spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said in a statement.
“The Department of Transportation should ensure that airlines are directed not to allow the boarding of passengers who are prohibited from entering the country pursuant to travel restrictions imposed by the Office of the President and IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) resolutions except if they are part of the repatriation efforts of the national government,” Roque added.
The Philippines on Saturday reported 10 new COVID-19 cases of the so-called ‘double mutant’ variant first detected in India, bringing the total to 12. The India coronavirus variant carries two mutations, E484Q and L425R.
Experts say the E484Q mutation is similar to the E484K mutation or the ‘escape mutation’ which helps the virus gets past the body’s immune system, while L452R is found to be an efficient spreader of the coronavirus.
The first two reported cases were overseas Filipino workers who separately arrived from Oman and the UAE, which prompted Philippine authorities to consequently impose the travel ban until the end of the month.
Both Gulf countries host a huge community of Filipino expatriate workers, and the Philippine government has implemented measures to ensure those returning to the country follow stringent protocols to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
As Palestinians observe ‘Nakba’ worldwide, Israeli forces go on rampage in Gaza
Saudi foreign minister calls for ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Gaza
Protesters march in major North American, European cities in support of the Palestinian cause
Updated 16 May 2021
GAZA CITY/LONDON/NEW YORK: Palestinians on Saturday marked the anniversary of the Nakba, the “catastrophe” when more than 700,000 were driven from their homes to establish the state of Israel in 1948.
Israel observed the day by killing two women and eight children from one family in an airstrike on a refugee camp.
Three heavy missiles also destroyed the 12-story Al-Jala’a Tower in Gaza City, which housed the offices of media outlets including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera, and bombed the home of Khalil Al-Hayeh, a senior Hamas leader.
Israeli airstrikes on Gaza have killed at least 139 people, including 39 children and 22 women.
Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel and killed eight people, the latest on Saturday when a man died in a rocket strike on the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan.
There was outrage over the attack on the AP building, which also contained residential apartments. The Israeli military said Hamas was operating inside the building, but offered no evidence.
“The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today,” AP chief executive Gary Pruitt said. “We are shocked and horrified.”
Earlier, an Israeli air raid on the densely populated Shati refugee camp west of Gaza City killed 10 Palestinians from one family, Israel’s deadliest single strike of the conflict.
Missiles targeted the three-story home of Alaa Abu Hatab, 35, killing his wife, four of his five children, his sister, and four of her five children. A five-month-old baby survived, along with Abu Hatab’s daughter, who is in intensive care.
Abu Hatab’s brother-in-law Muhammad Al-Hadidi wept as he told Arab News how his children had insisted on spending the night at their uncle’s house to play with their cousins.
“I heard the sound of the bombing, but I did not know it was the building my wife and children were in. I received a call to tell me Abu Hatab’s house was targeted. I went quickly, to find all my children with my wife, under the rubble.”
This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)
As Israeli airstrikes continued, Heba Al-Attar, 45, told Arab News: “The feeling I have is, when will I be killed? When will our house be destroyed? How will my three children live without me if they survive? I feel scared every day, I can’t sleep at night.”
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry called on Saturday for an immediate ceasefire. They urged “the international community to confront the aggressive Israeli practices against the brotherly Palestinian people.”
Tens of thousands march
As Israeli forces stepped up the bombardment of Gaza, tens of thousands of protesters marched in major European cities including London, Berlin, Madrid and Paris in support of the Palestinian cause.
In London, several thousand protesters carrying placards reading “Stop Bombing Gaza” and chanting “Free Palestine” converged on Marble Arch, near the British capital’s Hyde Park, to march toward the Israeli embassy.
Packed crowds stretched all along Kensington High Street where the embassy is located.
“This time is different,” Palestinian Ambassador Husam Zomlot told the demonstrators.
“This time we will not be denied any more. We are united. We have had enough of oppression.”
Simon Makepace, a 61-year-old accountant told AFP he had joined the protests because “the whole world should be doing something about it, including this country.”
In cities across North America, tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators also called for an end to Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip.
The protests were held on the anniversary of Nakba Day, or “catastrophe,” that saw hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced during Israel’s creation in 1947-1948.
Gatherings to show solidarity with Palestinians on the anniversary of Nakba Day, took place in cities including New York, Boston, Washington, Montreal and Dearborn, Michigan.
Several Jewish people attended, carrying placards that said “Not in my name” and “Solidarity with Palestine” as the protesters took over a street in the area which has a large Arab population.
“I’m here because I want a Palestinian life to equal an Israeli life and today it doesn’t,” said 35-year-old Emraan Khan, a corporate strategist from Manhattan, as he waved a Palestinian flag.
“When you have a nuclear-armed state and another state of villagers with rocks it is clear who is to blame,” he added.
Alison Zambrano, a 20-year-old student, traveled from neighboring Connecticut for the demo.
“Palestinians have the right to live freely and children in Gaza should not be being killed,” she told AFP.
Mashhour Ahmad, a 73-year-old Palestinian who has lived in New York for 50 years, said “don’t blame the victim for the aggression.”
“I’m telling Mr. Biden and his cabinet to stop supporting the killing. Support the victims, stop the oppression.
“The violence committed by the Israeli army recently is genocide,” he added, raising a poster above his head that said “Free Palestine, End the occupation.”
President Joe Biden spoke separately Saturday with his Israeli and Palestinian counterparts, expressing his “grave concern” over six days of violence that has left scores dead or wounded.
He expressed Washington’s “strong commitment to a negotiated two-state solution as the best path to reach a just and lasting resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the White House said.
Throngs of people gathered in Copley Square in Boston, while a few hundred rallied on the Washington Monument grounds in the US capital.
Several thousand demonstrated in Montreal, Canada, calling for “the liberation of Palestine.”
Protesters also denounced “war crimes” committed by Israel in Gaza and carried placards accusing Israel of violating international law during the protest in the center of the Canadian city.
What is the Nakba?
The Nakba, or "catastrophe", is commemorated by Arabs worldwide as the day more than 710,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their villages and cities by rampaging Israeli Zionist forces in 1948. Palestinian society has never been the same since, with many still living until today in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Gaza.
UN chief: Foreign fighters in Libya are violating ceasefire
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said progress must continue on the political, economic and security tracks in Libya to enable elections to go ahead on Dec. 24
Updated 16 May 2021
NEW YORK: The UN chief said foreign fighters and mercenaries remain in Libya in violation of last October’s ceasefire agreement and called for their withdrawal and an end to violations of the UN arms embargo, saying these are “critical elements” for lasting peace in the north African country and the region.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a report to the UN Security Council obtained by The Associated Press that the smooth transfer of power to a new interim government, which took power in March, “brings renewed hope for the reunification of the country and its institutions and for a lasting peace.”
But he said progress must continue on the political, economic and security tracks to enable elections to go ahead on Dec. 24.
Libya has been wracked by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, and split the North African country between a UN-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the country’s east, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.
In April 2019, east-based commander Khalifa Haftar and his forces launched an offensive to try and capture Tripoli.
His 14-month-long campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up its military support of the UN-backed regime with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries. An October cease-fire agreement that included a demand for all foreign fighters and mercenaries leave Libya within 90 days led to a deal on the transitional government and December elections.
The UN estimated in December that there were at least 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya, including Syrians, Russians, Sudanese and Chadians. But at an informal council meeting in late April, speakers said there were more than 20,000, including 13,000 Syrians and 11,000 Sudanese, according to diplomats.
Guterres said in the new report that while the ceasefire continues to hold, the UN political mission in Libya has received reports of fortifications and defensive positions being set up in central Libya on the key route between the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to the country’s major oil fields and export terminals, and Jufra.
“Despite the commitments made by the parties, air cargo activities reportedly continued with flights to various air bases in Libya’s western and eastern regions,” the secretary-general said. “Reports indicated that there was no reduction of foreign fighters or of their activities in central Libya.”
Guterres said the Government of National Unity must prioritize security sector reform including filling senior civilian and military appointments, producing a roadmap for reunifying the Libyan army, and addressing the proliferation of armed groups.
“Bringing one of the world’s largest uncontrolled stocks of arms and ammunition under state control is vital,” he said.
“I reiterate my call on member states and Libyan national actors to put an end to violations of the arms embargo and to facilitate the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries from the country.”
Last month, the Security Council approved a resolution urging all foreign forces and mercenaries to leave Libya and authorizing a small UN team to monitor the cease-fire agreement. In an April 7 letter to the council, Guterres proposed an initial maximum of 60 monitors for a phased deployment as part of the UN mission, known as UNSMIL.
In his new report, Guterres said that the monitors’ deployment to Libya is contingent on the UN General Assembly approving the resources to cover security, logistical, medical and operational requirements, which will be submitted “in the near future.”
He also raised human rights violations, especially the continuing detention of migrants and refugees.
According to the International Organization for Migration’s most recent report, there are more than 571,000 migrants in Libya. And as of May 2, Guterres said over 4,300 migrants and refugees were being held in detention centers across the country.
Guterres called on Libyan authorities to release migrants and refugees from detention centers “on an urgent basis,” and put in place measures to protect them from sexual violence.
Tens of thousands of Tigray refugees have fled into Sudan, with whom Ethiopia is locked in multiple disputes over a contentious border zone
Updated 16 May 2021
ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia’s army said that a large group of fighters, allegedly members of the former ruling party of the conflict-torn Tigray region, had been “destroyed” attempting to enter the country from neighboring Sudan.
Brig. Gen. Tesfaye Ayalew told the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate on Friday that a force of some 320 had tried to enter Ethiopia via the town of Humera in northern Tigray.
“Some of them perished by thirst on the road, a portion was captured, and those who refused to surrender were destroyed by the army,” he said.
Tigray was plunged into conflict in November last year when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, sent troops to oust the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which dominated the country’s politics for decades.
While he promised a brief military campaign, fighting continues with no end in sight, with evidence of massacres, brutal sexual violence and fears of humanitarian catastrophe.
Tens of thousands of refugees have fled into Sudan, with whom Ethiopia is locked in multiple disputes over a contentious border zone, and the construction of a massive hydroelectric project on the Blue Nile.
Ayalew, referring to the force as the “junta,” which is how the Ethiopian government refers to the TPLF, said it was led by “US-based former Ethiopia defense forces officers who turned traitors and another group based in Khartoum.”
He alleged a military agreement “reveals the junta has been working secretly together with a few Sudanese leaders and army officers as well as Ethiopia’s enemies.”
He described the destruction of the force, details of which could not be independently confirmed by AFP, as “a big victory, for our army and our country.”
AFP has reached out to the Sudanese government, which was not immediately available for comment. Khartoum has previously denied accusations it is helping forces in Tigray.
“We are deeply concerned about increasing political and ethnic polarization throughout the country,” the State Department said Friday.
Ethiopia has again delayed its national election after some opposition parties said they would not take part and as conflict in
the Tigray region means no vote is being held there, further complicating the prime minister’s efforts to centralize power.
The head of the national elections board, Birtukan Mideksa, in a meeting with political parties’ representatives on Saturday said the June 5 vote in Africa’s second most populous country would be postponed until a yet-unknown date, citing the need to finish printing ballots, training staffers and compiling voters’ information.
The election board has said some 36.2 million people have registered to vote. It was hoped that up to 50 million would do so.
Ethiopia last year delayed the vote, the first major electoral test for Abiy, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. That heightened tensions with the Tigray region’s leaders, who declared that the prime minister’s mandate had ended and defiantly held a regional vote of their own that Ethiopia called illegal.
The prime minister, who introduced sweeping political reforms after taking office in 2018 and won the Nobel Peace Prize the following year, has repeatedly vowed that this election would be free and fair. Abiy will keep his post if his Prosperity Party wins a majority of seats in the national assembly.
But questions about the vote have been growing.
The campaign director for one of Ethiopia’s largest opposition parties, Yilkal Getnet with the Hibir Ethiopia Democratic Party, said his party has long believed the country is not ready to hold an election at this time.
“There are lots of peace and security challenges across the country in addition to the border issue with Sudan,” Yilkal said, adding that the safety of millions is in question.
“As opposed to the ruling party’s thinking, we don’t believe that the election will solve these problems. A national dialogue on a range of issues should come first.”