Lebanese-Israeli maritime border talks last five hours

Lebanese-Israeli maritime border talks last five hours
A naval vessel of the UNIFIL patrols the Mediterranean waters off the coast of the southernmost Lebanese town of Naqura by the border with Israel, on May 4, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 05 May 2021

Lebanese-Israeli maritime border talks last five hours

Lebanese-Israeli maritime border talks last five hours
  • Washington has described the latest talks, to be brokered by US diplomat John Desrocher, as ‘a positive step toward a long-awaited resolution’

BEIRUT: Lebanon and Israel resumed US-mediated talks over their disputed maritime border on Tuesday with more than five hours of discussions at a UN peacekeeping base near the southern Lebanese town of Al-Naqoura.

The resumption of negotiations follows a five-month hiatus in efforts to clear the way for offshore oil and gas exploration.

Washington has described the latest talks, to be brokered by US diplomat John Desrocher, as “a positive step toward a long-awaited resolution.”

A previous round of negotiations was suspended last November after a dispute over an additional area demanded by Lebanon and its insistence on its right to its entire maritime wealth.

The US delegation arrived in the Ras Al-Naqoura border crossing in a convoy of cars from Beirut, while the Lebanese military delegation traveled aboard two helicopters.

Talks took place amid tight security by the army and the UNIFIL forces from the UN headquarters in Al-Naqoura.

President Michel Aoun followed up on negotiations with the caretaker Minister of Defense Zeina Aker in light of the directives he gave to the negotiating delegation at a meeting on Monday.

The US Embassy in Beirut is expected to issue a statement on Wednesday on the course of the negotiation session, the fifth after the resumption of the latest round.

Aoun has refused to sign Decree 6433 to amend the borders drawn by the Lebanese army, according to which Lebanon would get 2,290 square km instead of 860 square km. This disputed area is in a potentially gas-rich region.

Lebanon sent a map in 2011 to the UN relating to a claim of 860 square km. But it was later found that the map was based on wrong approximations and today Lebanon is demanding an additional area of ​​1,430 square km that includes parts of the Karish gas field in which a Greek company works for Israel. The current Lebanese proposal is known as Line 29. Israel accused Lebanon of obstructing negotiations by expanding the disputed area.

Aoun refused to sign the decree to amend the borders, arguing that this requires a Cabinet decision, but Hassan Diab, the caretaker prime minister, refused to hold a Cabinet session, claiming it would contravene the work of the caretaker government.

Lebanon has returned to the negotiating table against a backdrop of political, economic and financial crisis, and is counting on Israel’s need to resolve the disputed areas to accelerate gas exploration and the exploitation of northern fields, where the bulk of its gas wealth is concentrated.

According to a military source, the Lebanese army will begin demarcating the border from point B1 at the last point in Ras Al-Naqoura by land to point 29 in the sea. This demarcation adopts the standards and foundations of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The head of the Lebanese delegation to the negotiations is Pilot Staff Brig. Gen. Bassam Yassin, and the delegation includes Navy Staff Col. Mazen Basbous, expert Naguib Masih, and member of the Petroleum Sector Administration Board, Engineer Wissam Shabat.

The Israeli delegation was headed by the Director-General of the Energy Ministry, Udi Adiri, who was appointed by Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz. The delegation includes Reuven Azar, foreign policy adviser to the prime minister; Alon Bar, head of the Political-Strategic Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Brig. Gen. Oren Setter, head of the Israeli army’s strategic division; lawyer Mor Halutz, chief of staff to the minister of energy; Amit Hoeman, director of the Department of International Law of the Ministry of Foreign Affair; Aviv Ayash, senior adviser to Israel’s minister of energy, and Dr. Haim Srebro, an international expert on borders who previously served as director general of the Survey of Israel.

David Hale, US undersecretary of state, who visited Beirut a few weeks ago, paved the way for the resumption of negotiations.

Agence France-Presse quoted a Lebanese presidency source as saying the negotiations “will pick up where it left, and we do not accept the line proposed by the Israeli side, and they do not accept ours, so we will see what the mediator proposes.”

Civil activists called on social media for a gathering on Tuesday in Martyrs’ Square in Beirut under the banner “Neglecting our oil rights is high treason.”

 


Israel shells Lebanon after failed launches toward Israeli territory

Israel shells Lebanon after failed launches toward Israeli territory
Updated 18 May 2021

Israel shells Lebanon after failed launches toward Israeli territory

Israel shells Lebanon after failed launches toward Israeli territory

TEL AVIV/BEIRUT: Six shells were fired from Lebanon towards northern Israel on Monday but fell short of crossing the border, the Israeli military said.
It said that in response, artillery was fired at "the sources of the launches" in Lebanon.
A Lebanese security source said shells were heard being fired from south Lebanon and efforts were being made to identify the location. The source said about 22 shells were fired by Israeli artillery on Lebanese territory.
There were no reports of casualties or damage, and the shelling did not appear to signal the opening of a new front in Israel's fighting with militants in the Gaza Strip.
The Lebanese shelling caused Israeli air raid sirens to blare near the kibbutz of Misgav Am, along Israel's northern border with Lebanon.
It was the second incident of cross-border fire in the past week. On Thursday, three rockets were launched from Lebanon toward northern Israel but landed in the Mediterranean Sea, causing no damage or casualties.
Israel fought a 2006 war against Hezbollah guerrillas, who have sway in southern Lebanon and advanced rockets. The border has been mostly quiet since then.
Small Palestinian factions in Lebanon have fired sporadically on Israel in the past.


Gaza facing water, power crisis after deadly Israeli attacks lift death toll to 200

Gaza facing water, power crisis after deadly Israeli attacks lift death toll to 200
A man inspects the rubble of destroyed commercial building and Gaza health care clinic following an Israeli airstrike on the upper floors of a commercial building in Gaza City, on Monday, May 17, 2021. (AP)
Updated 17 May 2021

Gaza facing water, power crisis after deadly Israeli attacks lift death toll to 200

Gaza facing water, power crisis after deadly Israeli attacks lift death toll to 200
  • Gaza City mayor Yahya Al-Sarraj accused Israel of deliberately targeting infrastructure and destroying main streets, including access to Al-Shifa Hospital
  • 59 children, 35 women among victims of Gaza strikes

GAZA CITY: Residents of the Gaza Strip were awakened in the early hours of Monday by the heaviest Israeli bombardment since the conflict escalated a week ago as residential buildings were hit and vital power and water links destroyed.

The overnight attacks brought the Palestinian death toll to almost 200, including 59 children and 35 women, while more than 1,300 have been injured.

Israel targeted homes, apartments and commercial buildings, and also struck a car and a cafeteria on the seashore, resulting in deaths and injuries.

The relentless bombardment has severely hit electricity, water and sanitation services in Gaza, raising fears of a deepening humanitarian crisis for the 2 million people living there.

Gaza City mayor Yahya Al-Sarraj said that essential services had been cut back significantly in recent days due to limited resources and damage to roads, power lines and water pipes.

He accused Israel of deliberately targeting infrastructure and destroying main streets, including access to Al-Shifa Hospital.

Sanitation and water supply to the population have been badly hit, Al-Sarraj told Arab News.

“The only desalination plant in Gaza City has stopped working as a result of the Israeli bombardment of the surrounding areas and the inability of workers to reach it, and the continuous electricity cuts have affected the pumping of water in the wells into homes,” he said.

Ziad Sheikh Khalil, 44, is trying to provide lighting for the house he shares with his wife and four children by charging batteries during the few hours that electricity is available.

“We hardly get three hours of electricity a day,” he told Arab News.

“When the power is on, all the family members work quickly to charge mobile phones, as well as operate the washing machine and pump water to the tanks at the top of the building.”

The Gaza Strip has suffered from severe electricity shortages for many years, but in recent days the crisis has worsened due to the lack of fuel and damage to the 10 power lines that come from Israel.

Six of Gaza’s 10 electricity lines are down and supply has been more than halved, according to Mohammed Thabet, a spokesperson for the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company.

“There are some border areas completely cut off from electricity,” he said.

Repair crews are unable to fix the lines due to continued attacks.

The closure of the Kerem Abu Salem crossing has also hit fuel supplies for the only power station in the Gaza Strip, he said.

Thabit added: “Electricity networks inside the Gaza Strip also have been hit by the Israeli bombing of residential areas. It increases the difficulties facing the company.”

 


Jordan MPs launch diplomatic assault on Israel with call for envoy’s expulsion

Jordan MPs launch diplomatic assault on Israel with call for envoy’s expulsion
Updated 17 May 2021

Jordan MPs launch diplomatic assault on Israel with call for envoy’s expulsion

Jordan MPs launch diplomatic assault on Israel with call for envoy’s expulsion
  • Ninety MPs out of Jordan’s 130-strong lower house of parliament signed a memorandum requesting the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador
  • Move comes as a sign of protest and rejection of Israel’s “brutal and barbaric” attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque and Gaza

AMMAN: Jordanian MPs on Monday called for Israel’s ambassador in Amman to be expelled in response to “Israel’s crimes against humanity.”

Almost all lawmakers who took the podium during Monday’s special session on the violence in Gaza and the occupied West Bank urged the government to expel the envoy following Israel’s actions in Jerusalem and subsequent bombing campaign.

Jordan is the custodian of the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Ninety MPs out of Jordan’s 130-strong lower house of parliament signed a memorandum requesting the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador in Amman as a sign of protest and rejection of Israel’s “brutal and barbaric” attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque and Gaza.

The petition, a copy of which was seen by Arab News, calls on the government to adopt a bold stance toward cutting diplomatic ties with the “Zionist entity” by expelling the Israeli envoy and recalling Jordan’s ambassador in Tel Aviv.

Last week, the Jordanian government said it had summoned the Israeli charge d’affaires in Amman to object to the “Israeli assaults against Al-Aqsa Mosque worshippers and East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.”

Other MPs demanded the cancelation of all agreements with Israel, including the 1994 Jordan-Israel peace treaty and the gas deal between the two countries.

In 2016, Jordan’s National Electric Power Company signed a 15-year agreement with Noble Energy, a Houston-based company that holds the largest share in the Israeli Leviathan gas field, to buy $10 billion of natural gas.

The government at the time said it would import 250-300 million cubic feet of natural gas per day from Noble Energy, adding the deal would save the kingdom around $990 million. Under the agreement, Jordan will receive 3 billion cubic meters of gas per year.

Other deputies, mostly of Islamist leaning, hailed Hamas’ “acts of resistance,” and called for action against Israel in the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh, who attended the session, said that Jordan has its own legal and diplomatic toolbox to deal with the Israeli attacks on Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank, adding: “All options are on the table.”

Al-Khasawneh said that some of these diplomatic options will be used to protect Palestinians’ rights and others to highlight Israel’s violations.

The prime minister accused Israel of committing crimes against humanity, and said that Jordan’s unwavering position on the long-running conflict is rooted in the three “no’s” declared by King Abdullah: No to giving up Jerusalem, no to dropping the right of return for Palestinians, and no to the resettlement of Palestinians in Jordan.

With some MPs threatening the government with a no-confidence motion if it fails to expel the ambassador, Al-Khasawneh said that the “government will examine all options and will take the right action that serves the national interests once it receives the parliamentary petition.”

Sheikh Jarrah

A group of MPs also requested that a parliamentary delegation visit Sheikh Jarrah to deliver a message to the world’s parliaments on what they termed the “injustice exercised against the Palestinians” in the East Jerusalem neighborhood.

In a memorandum submitted for immediate action, 100 MPs demanded that a parliamentary delegation be formed to visit Sheikh Jarrah with the aim of supporting the Palestinian presence in Jerusalem and reaffirming Jordanian custodianship of the Old City’s holy shrines.

Al-Khasawneh said that the government has provided the Palestinian Authority with documents on Sheikh Jarrah to help the Ramallah-based government address Israeli “demographic change” practices in Jerusalem.

During a visit to Ramallah on April 22, Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi submitted documents to PA President Mahmoud Abbas proving Palestinian ownership of Sheikh Jarrah.

Jordan administered the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, until the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war, but remains custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem.

Safadi’s trip to the occupied West Bank came after families were reportedly given court orders to leave their homes in the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah by May 5 or face eviction.

“We have provided all the documents that we have that can help the Palestinian residents to preserve their full rights. Jerusalem is a red line for Jordan, the king and our people, as it is a red line for the state of Palestine. We will confront any effort to undermine the existing historical and legal status of the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem,” Safadi was quoted as saying following his meeting with Abbas.

In response to some deputies who claimed that the government has failed to submit all registration documents to the Palestinians, Safadi said: “This is untrue. The government has checked every relevant paper in the (national) archives and has submitted all documents to the Palestinian people and government, and has also attested all the documents handed to the Sheikh Jarrah’s residents proving their ownership of their neighborhood.”

At a meeting with MPs on Sunday, King Abdullah said that “no country is more supportive of the Palestinians than Jordan,” adding that intensive talks were underway with active international stakeholders to stop the Israeli escalation, and safeguard Palestinian lives and property.


Houthi leader kills cardiologist, his brother for opposing mosque sermon

Houthi leader kills cardiologist, his brother for opposing mosque sermon
A fighter loyal to Yemen's government mans a position near the frontline facing Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the country's northeastern province of Marib. (AFP file photo)
Updated 18 May 2021

Houthi leader kills cardiologist, his brother for opposing mosque sermon

Houthi leader kills cardiologist, his brother for opposing mosque sermon
  • Civilians abducted for removing pictures of Soleimani, Nasrallah from streets, walls of homes

AL-MUKALLA: A Houthi religious leader shot dead a cardiologist and his brother and wounded several others for denouncing his sermons at a mosque in the southern Yemeni province of Taiz, residents and officials reported on Monday.

Abdul Basit Al-Baher, a Yemeni army spokesman in Taiz city, told Arab News that Azit Al-Azi Abdul Nour opened fire at a gathering in Maqbanah district when a number of people took exception to his radical preaching.

Ahmed Al-Shameri, a cardiologist, and his brother Hamoud were killed in the shooting and others, including a child, were injured.

“The Houthi preacher angered locals after insulting the prophet’s companions and wives,” Al-Baher said.

He added that locals disconnected electricity from the small mosque where the Houthi was giving his address when he refused to stop speaking and members of the Iran-backed militant group sneaked him out of the building as tensions mounted and residents demanded justice.

Separately, an international rights group said on Monday that Houthis had abducted a group of residents from a small village in Yemen’s Al-Mahwit province for allegedly tearing down and removing images bearing slogans of Iranian and Hezbollah leaders.

Abdurrahman Barman, a Yemeni human rights advocate and director of the American Center for Justice (ACJ), told Arab News that heavily armed Houthis in three military vehicles descended on Al-Oura village in Shibam Kawkaban district and abducted 42 people, including children.

Those seized were accused of taking down pictures of the late Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani, and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah from streets and walls of their homes.

The Houthis released the villagers three days later after a tribal mediation in which it was agreed they would attend a local police station when the Eid break was over.

Following interviews with relatives of the captured villagers, the ACJ said that the abductees had been subjected to psychological and physical torture in a bid to force confessions out of them.

“Our children and women are living in great fear at that moment, and some women have fallen ill from the terrible tragedy as the Houthi forces stormed houses and pointed their weapons at people,” one relative reportedly told the organization.

FASTFACT

Yemen’s information minister, Moammar Al- Eryani, on Monday strongly condemned a Houthi drone strike on Sunday on a local market in Al-Durihimi district, south of Hodeidah province, that killed a civilian and wounded several others.

Meanwhile, Yemen’s information minister, Moammar Al- Eryani, on Monday strongly condemned a Houthi drone strike on Sunday on a local market in Al-Durihimi district, south of Hodeidah province, that killed a civilian and wounded several others.

He called on the UN mission responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement in Hodeidah to condemn the shelling of civilian targets which was in breach of the terms of the deal.

In a tweet, Al-Eryani said: “This heinous terrorist crime is a continuation of the crimes and violations committed by the Houthi militia against citizens in liberated areas of Hodeidah, shelling with artillery, mortars, drones, planting mines, IEDs (improvised explosive devices) on public roads, whose victims are civilians, including children and women.”

Without naming the Houthis, Gen. Abhijit Guha, head of the UN mission in Hodeidah, condemned the drone strike.

Gen. Guha urged warring factions on Monday to adhere to their pledges to avoid targeting civilians during military operations.

“I urge the parties to respect the sanctity of human life and protect civilians as per their obligations and undertake steps that will move further toward peace in the governorate and across Yemen,” he said in a statement seen by Arab News.

 


Turkey kills top Kurdish commander: Erdogan

Turkey kills top Kurdish commander: Erdogan
Updated 17 May 2021

Turkey kills top Kurdish commander: Erdogan

Turkey kills top Kurdish commander: Erdogan
  • Erdogan said the military push had eliminated a Syrian-born "terrorist" who used the nom de guerre Sofi Nurettin
  • Turkish army regularly conducts cross-border operations and air raids against PKK bases in northern Iraq

ANKARA: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that Turkish forces had killed a top Syrian Kurdish commander during an offensive in neighboring Iraq.
The Turkish army last month launched a new ground and air offensive against militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party dubbed Operation Claw Lightning.
Erdogan said the military push had eliminated a Syrian-born “terrorist” who used the nom de guerre Sofi Nurettin.
He said Nurettin had served as the PKK’s top military commander in Syria.
Nurettin “was neutralized by the operation carried out in northern Iraq,” Erdogan said in televised remarks.
The PKK — listed as a terror group by Ankara and much of the international community — has been using Iraq’s northern mountains as a springboard in its decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.
The Turkish army regularly conducts cross-border operations and air raids against PKK bases in northern Iraq.
Turkey launched another operation in February against PKK rebels holed up in the northern Iraqi region of Dohuk.
That raid created controversy because it was designed in part to rescue 12 Turkish soldiers and an Iraqi held captive by the PKK in a cave.
Turkey accused the PKK of executing the 13 men before they could be freed.
Erdogan said on Monday that Nurettin bore partial responsibility for the 13 deaths.