Fire breaks out near Israel's main airport, nearby homes evacuated

Fire breaks out near Israel's main airport, nearby homes evacuated
File photo shows El Al Boeing 777 plane at Ben Gurion Airport. (Reuters)
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Updated 02 May 2021

Fire breaks out near Israel's main airport, nearby homes evacuated

Fire breaks out near Israel's main airport, nearby homes evacuated

DUBAI: A fire broke out on Sunday at an abandoned vehicles parking lot near Ben Gurion Airport, Israel’s main international airport.

Police asked residents at nearby homes to evacuate and blocked all traffic to the area. 

Six firefighting teams are reportedly on the scene to extinguish the flames, Israeli news website Ynet said. 


UN peace envoy warns of ‘all-out war’ as Israeli bombardment of Gaza continues

UN peace envoy warns of ‘all-out war’ as Israeli bombardment of Gaza continues
Updated 11 min 58 sec ago

UN peace envoy warns of ‘all-out war’ as Israeli bombardment of Gaza continues

UN peace envoy warns of ‘all-out war’ as Israeli bombardment of Gaza continues
  • Tor Wennesland: Cease fire immediately. We are escalating toward an all-out war. Leaders on all sides must take responsibility for de-escalation
  • Wennesland: The cost of the war in Gaza is devastating and paid for by ordinary people. The UN is working with all parties to restore calm. Stop the violence now

GAZA CITY: The UN’s Middle East peace envoy on Wednesday warned of “all-out war” unless there was an “immediate ceasefire” as Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip saw a dramatic rise in the Palestinian death toll.

Loud explosions continued throughout the day as Israel pounded Hamas targets and forces in Gaza responded by launching hundreds of rockets deep into Israeli territory.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health said that at least 56 people had so far been killed, including 14 children, five women, and an elderly man, while more than 335 had been injured.

In a statement, Tor Wennesland, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said: “Cease fire immediately. We are escalating toward an all-out war. Leaders on all sides must take responsibility for de-escalation.

“The cost of the war in Gaza is devastating and paid for by ordinary people. The UN is working with all parties to restore calm. Stop the violence now.”

Palestinian and Israeli reports said efforts were being made by Egypt, the UN, and a number of other countries to restore calm and return to the ceasefire agreement.

The bloodshed was triggered by weekend unrest at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

Military exchanges have escalated over recent days, sparking international pleas for an end to the violence.

On Wednesday, Israel targeted a number of Hamas government buildings and houses, private cars, agricultural plots, and military training sites belonging to the movement and Islamic Jihad were also hit.

Bombing was stepped up following the destruction of two residential towers in Gaza City, and Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, retaliated by firing a barrage of rockets toward Tel Aviv and Beersheba. The commander of the Gaza brigade, Basem Issa, along with others were reported to have been killed during the strikes.

The Islamic Jihad announced that a number of its leaders belonging to its missile unit, most notably Muhammad Abu Al-Ata, died when an apartment in the center of Gaza City was hit.

Al-Qassam Brigades and Al-Quds Brigades fired hundreds of rockets toward Tel Aviv and Beersheba — cities far from Gaza that had not previously been targeted.

Mother-of-three Sherine Awad, 38, told Arab News: “The terror and fear do not stop. After the towers were hit, I moved from my apartment because it is in a high-rise. I moved to my friend’s house with my children, but last night a house was bombed near the place I took shelter in.

“This is not life. We cannot bear all this. The bombing does not stop, and the terrifying sounds are nonstop. My children are in a state of fear and shock. Our life has taken a U-turn from what was planned for the Eid reception.”

The streets of Gaza City were mostly empty on Wednesday except for some pedestrians and cars, while most of the shops remained closed barring some grocery stores.

Ahmed Al-Kahlout, a grocer on Nasr Street, told Arab News that on the last day of Ramadan people still needed supplies and “fear does not prevent them from buying food.

“There are deaths, but people in their homes want to eat. This is not the first time Gaza has faced an escalation, but this time it is the most severe since the 2014 war,” he said.

Despite both sides in the conflict threatening further bombing, Palestinians in Gaza are hoping the latest round of bloodshed and destruction will end soon.

“We hope this will end. It will definitely end, but when? Nobody knows. Hopefully, it will be soon,” Awad said.


El-Sisi: Egypt’s water rights ‘will not be violated’

El-Sisi: Egypt’s water rights ‘will not be violated’
Updated 21 min 13 sec ago

El-Sisi: Egypt’s water rights ‘will not be violated’

El-Sisi: Egypt’s water rights ‘will not be violated’
  • Talks over the filling and operation of the dam between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan have come to a halt

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has said that Egyptians’ concerns over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) are “legitimate” and warned that Egypt will not give up its water rights.

“I appreciate your concern about the dam crisis, and I share this concern with you and consider it a healthy phenomenon that stems from Egyptians’ fear and love for their country, but I call on Egyptians to be patient,” he said, adding that negotiations will take time.

Speaking on the sidelines of the inauguration of several projects, El-Sisi said that pressure is being applied to solve the crisis through negotiations.

“Our rights will not be violated,” he added.

Cairo  has witnessed intense diplomatic activity recently, with Jeffrey Feltman, US envoy to the Horn of Africa, and Felix Tshisekedi, president of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the current session of the African Union, holding talks in an effort to reach a settlement.

Talks over the filling and operation of the dam between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan have come to a halt.

Earlier, Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry’s spokesman, Dina Mufti, expressed hopes that negotiations will resume following Tshisekedi’s efforts to break the deadlock.

Feltman called for a “profitable solution” for all parties involved.

Ethiopia began work on the 1.8-kilometer dam in 2011. Egypt fears the GERD will threaten its water supply from the Nile, while Sudan is concerned about the dam’s safety and its own water flow.

Both Cairo and Khartoum are calling for a binding and comprehensive deal that guarantees the rights and interests of all three countries.


US sends diplomat to try to quell Israeli-Palestinian violence

US sends diplomat to try to quell Israeli-Palestinian violence
Updated 55 min 28 sec ago

US sends diplomat to try to quell Israeli-Palestinian violence

US sends diplomat to try to quell Israeli-Palestinian violence
  • Violence between Israelis and Palestinians has appeared to catch the Biden administration off guard as it pursued other priorities
  • Israel said it killed 16 members of the Hamas armed wing in Gaza in a barrage on Wednesday.

WASHINGTON: The United States dispatched a senior diplomat on Wednesday to urge Israelis and Palestinians to calm the worst flare-up in violence between them in years.
The violence has appeared to catch the Biden administration off guard as it pursued other priorities.
In remarks welcomed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended Israel’s right to protect itself and condemned rockets fired by Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip.
He also said Israel had a particular obligation to avoid civilian casualties.
Israel said it killed 16 members of the Hamas armed wing in Gaza in a barrage on Wednesday. At least 56 people have been killed in Gaza since violence escalated on Monday, according to the enclave’s health ministry. Six people have been killed in Israel, medical officials said.
The military action follows unrest involving Israeli police and Palestinian protesters near Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem.
Blinken, who spoke by telephone to Netanyahu, said he had sent Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hady Amr to meet with both sides.
“He will urge, on my behalf and on behalf of President (Joe) Biden, a de-escalation of violence.”
Biden has yet to name an ambassador to Israel, a post his predecessor Donald Trump had filled before his inauguration. Other top state department officials handling the region are still awaiting approval from the Senate.
Deflecting suggestions that the long-standing conflict has not been a priority, Blinken repeatedly described the administration as “fully engaged.”
“We are deeply engaged across the board. State Department, White House, senior officials, with the Israelis, Palestinians and other countries and partners in the region to call for and push for de-escalation,” Blinken said.
A senior State Department official, asked if Biden would speak with Netanyahu, said further “high level engagement” from Washington was to be expected.
In his remarks, Blinken drew a distinction between “a terrorist organization, Hamas that is indiscriminately raining down rockets in fact targeting civilians, and Israel’s response, defending itself.”
However, he added: “I think Israel has an extra burden in trying to do everything they possibly can to avoid civilian casualties, even as it is rightfully responding in defense of the people.”
Netanyahu’s office said: “Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked Blinken for the US support for Israel’s right to self-defense, a right that the secretary of state reiterated in this call.”


Israel declares curfew in Arab-Jewish town hit by violence

Israel declares curfew in Arab-Jewish town hit by violence
Updated 12 May 2021

Israel declares curfew in Arab-Jewish town hit by violence

Israel declares curfew in Arab-Jewish town hit by violence
  • Israeli police declared a night-time curfew and deployed heavily armed reinforcements after violence erupted in mixed towns
  • "We have lost control of the city and the streets," Lod Mayor Yair Revivo told Channel 12 News

LOD/ISRAEL: Jews cleared Torah scrolls from a torched synagogue on Wednesday and burnt-out cars lined nearby streets in an ethnically mixed Israeli town hit by violence denounced by the president as “unforgivable” acts by Arabs incensed at air strikes on Gaza.
Moving to head off further violence in Lod, which has also seen assaults by Jews on Arab passersby, police declared a night-time curfew and deployed heavily armed reinforcements.
In several other areas populated by Israel’s 21 percent Arab minority, Palestinian flags adorned electricity poles and hundreds of residents have turned out for protests, sometimes clashing with police or Jewish residents.
“We have lost control of the city and the streets,” Lod Mayor Yair Revivo told Channel 12 News after nightly confrontations, in which an Arab townsman was shot dead, a killing in which two Jewish suspects have been arrested.
Scores of other people have been arrested in Lod and in majority-Arab towns in central and northern Israel, including Umm Al-Fahm along the West Bank border and Jisr Al-Zarqa on the Mediterranean coast, police said.
In Lod, men carried Torah scrolls through the blackened and debris-strewn yard of the torched synagogue. President Reuven Rivlin described events in terms recalling anti-Semitism abroad.
“The sight of the pogrom in Lod and the disturbances across the country by an incited and bloodthirsty Arab mob ... is unforgivable,” he said, calling the flying of the Palestinian flag by protesters “a brutal assault on shared existence.”
Israel’s Arab minority — Palestinian by heritage, Israeli by citizenship — is mostly descended from the Palestinians who lived under Ottoman and then British colonial rule before staying in Israel after the country’s 1948 creation.
Most are bilingual in Arabic and Hebrew, and feel a sense of kinship with Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They often complain of systemic discrimination, unfair access to housing, health care, and education services.
Tension in Arab-Jewish towns has risen as Israel conducted air strikes in Gaza and Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel in an escalation of violence since clashes in East Jerusalem on Monday morning.
Ibrahim, an Arab councillor with the Lod municipality, said: “What is happening now is (an) uprising that is going on (in) cities like Ramle, Lod, Jaffa, Acre and Haifa,” calling events in Gaza and Jerusalem a “red line” for Arabs.
In the coastal city of Acre, Uri Buri, a Jewish-owned fish restaurant, was set fire to and some Arab residents said they were scared to leave home.
In Jaffa, near Tel Aviv, Arab protesters clashed with police firing stun grenades to disperse them.
“We condemn that our people’s solidarity and cohesion with our brethren in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip is being channelled through acts of sabotage to public and private property, as is now happening at Umm Al-Fahm’s entrance,” said Samir Mahamid, Mayor of Umm Al-Fahm.
Neighbourhoods with Arab residents, including Lod and Jaffa, were among those where sirens were triggered by rocket fire. An Arab resident of Lod and his daughter were killed on Wednesday when a vehicle was hit by a rocket, Israeli authorities said.
In Haifa and Jaffa, and in the Arab city of Nazareth, protesters have chanted slogans in support of Palestinians facing eviction from an East Jerusalem neighborhood under a long-running legal case.
Arab citizens of Israel were among the thousands of protesters who have faced off in recent days with Israeli police near Al-Aqsa mosque and elsewhere in Jerusalem’s Old City.
A spokesman for the Hamas Islamist militant group in Gaza encouraged Arab citizens to “rise up” against “our enemy and yours.”


Syrian landmines wash into Lebanon due to floods

Syrian landmines wash into Lebanon due to floods
Updated 12 May 2021

Syrian landmines wash into Lebanon due to floods

Syrian landmines wash into Lebanon due to floods
  • Multiple accidents have been recorded this year along the northern border, a Lebanese military source told Arab News
  • Authorities urge citizens to avoid suspicious areas, stay on paved roads, and do not approach or tamper with any suspicious object 

BEIRUT: As authorities continue to find and extract land mines left behind from the Lebanese Civil War, a new wave of explosives has entered the country’s border due to a natural disaster.  

The Lebanese Armed Forces on Wednesday said landmines planted along the Lebanese-Syrian border have washed into Lebanese territories due to winter flooding. 

“Landmines planted on the Lebanese-Syrian borders are a result of the Syrian conflict,” a Lebanese military source told Arab News.

“As these mines drifted into Lebanese territories, it has become harder for the Lebanese army to clear them. Multiple accidents have been recorded this year, which has injured many who were not familiar with the nature of the foreign objects they found.”

The source said a majority of accidents occurred in the northern border region due to the flooding and soil erosion caused by the winter floods. All injuries were on Lebanese soil.

The army command issued a statement, which warned “ammunition comes in different shapes and sizes and may be camouflaged in different ways and dispersed randomly.”

Areas that are potentially contaminated with landmines are not marked with signs or barbed wire to warn people yet. The army command has urged citizens to avoid suspicious areas, stay on paved roads, and not to approach or tamper with any object or unexploded ordnance.

The Lebanese Mine Action Center (LMAC), which is part of the Lebanese Armed Forces, has been carrying out the Lebanese National Mine Action Program with support from the UN Development Program to cover shortfalls.

The LMAC aims to secure a safe country where civilians can walk and move freely without the threat of landmines by the year 2025. The center’s mission focuses on areas in south Lebanon, which is the most contaminated area with landmines and suspicious objects.

“The closer we get to a minefield in the remote areas of south Lebanon, the more red-painted stones we see,” United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Officer Captain Yang Dong from China said.

“The red stones remind us of safe and unsafe areas. They remind us not to step around. If there are red stones nearby, it is dangerous and there could be some mines there.”

In Jan. 2020, the UNIFIL’s scope of work increased with the signing of a new agreement with the LMAC while the country marked International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action on April 4.

Over the past five years, the UNIFIL’s demining efforts have cleared nearly 5 million square meters of mine-infested land in south Lebanon. It has also destroyed more than 43,500 landmines, bombs, and unexploded ordnances.

The threat of landmines is real and spreading awareness is vital for the Lebanese people.

Since 1975, landmines and unexploded materials left behind from the Lebanese Civil War have led to 3,847 deaths and injuries. The most casualties were recorded in 2006 when 209 people were killed or injured, including 40 children under the age of 12.