Israel destroys tower block, kills Hamas commander as Gaza civilian death toll mounts

Israel destroys tower block, kills Hamas commander as Gaza civilian death toll mounts
In Gaza City, people sifted through debris after an Israeli air strike destroyed a 12-story building near the coast. (AFP)
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Updated 13 May 2021

Israel destroys tower block, kills Hamas commander as Gaza civilian death toll mounts

Israel destroys tower block, kills Hamas commander as Gaza civilian death toll mounts
  • At least 56 people in Gaza, including 14 children, two Palestinians in the West Bank
  • Six Israelis have also been killed in the ongoing conflict

TEL AVIV: Heavy exchanges of rocket fire and air strikes, and rioting in mixed Jewish-Arab towns, fueled fears Wednesday that deadly violence between Israel and Palestinians could spiral into “full-scale war.”
Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz vowed more attacks on Hamas and other Islamist militant groups in Gaza to bring “total, long-term quiet” before considering a cease-fire.
“This is just the beginning,” warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “We’ll deliver them blows they haven’t dreamt of.”
Gaza militants have launched more than 1,000 rockets since Monday, said Israel’s army, which has carried out hundreds of air strikes on Islamist groups in the crowded coastal enclave of Gaza.
The most intense hostilities in seven years have killed at least 56 people in Gaza, including 14 children, and six in Israel, including an Israeli soldier and one Indian national, since Monday.

 

Three Palestinians were killed in West Bank clashes. And at least 230 Palestinians and 100 Israelis have been wounded.
An Israeli soldier was killed on Wednesday when Palestinian militants in Gaza fired an anti-tank missile near the border, the army said, amid tit-for-tat rocket fire and air strikes.
A statement from the army identified the soldier as Omer Tabib, 21, who was “killed this morning by the anti-tank missile launched by the Hamas terror group from Gaza at Israel.”
The bloodshed was triggered by weekend unrest at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.
As world powers voiced growing alarm over the crisis, the UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland warned that “we’re escalating toward a full-scale war.”
The UN Security Council held another emergency meeting without agreeing on a joint statement due to opposition from the United States, Israel’s ally.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called for an immediate end to violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories that has killed more than 50 people since Monday.
“Everything must be done to prevent a broader conflict, which will, first and foremost, affect the civilian populations on both sides,” Borrell said in a statement that condemned actions by both sides.

 

France’s foreign minister said the international community must do everything possible to avert a new conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, after Palestinian militants fired hundreds of rockets and the Israeli army launched air strikes.
“The cycle of violence in Gaza, in Jerusalem but also in the West Bank and several cities in Israel risk leading to a major escalation,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told parliament. “Everything must be done to avoid... a conflict” that would be the fourth such deadly confrontation in the last 15 years, he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for an urgent meeting of the Middle East Quartet in order to halt violence between Israel and the Palestinians.
Speaking alongside UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Lavrov said: “Today we’ve come to the common opinion that the most pressing task is to convene the Quartet of international mediators — Russia, the United States, the UN and the EU.”
Sergei Vershinin, a Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, called on Israel to “immediately” stop all settlement activities in the Palestinian Territories, RIA news agency reported.
Vershinin also said that Moscow called for the “status quo of Jerusalem’s sacred sites” to be respected, RIA reported. 
China’s special envoy on the Middle East, Zhai Jun, expressed “deep concern” over escalating clashes between Palestinians and Israel and urged all parties to exercise restraint to avoid further casualties.
In a meeting with Arab envoys and the chief representative of the Arab League in China, Zhai said Beijing would continue to push the UN Security Council to take action on the situation in East Jerusalem as soon as possible, according to a foreign ministry statement.

Netanyahu declared a state of emergency in the mixed Jewish-Arab Israeli city of Lod, where police said “wide-scale riots erupted among some of the Arab residents,” and authorities later imposed an overnight curfew there.
There were fears of widening civil unrest as protesters waving Palestinian flags burnt cars and properties, including a synagogue, clashed with Israeli police and attacked Jewish motorists in several Jewish-Arab towns.
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, in unusually strong language, denounced what he described as a “pogrom” in which “an incited and bloodthirsty Arab mob” had injured people and attacked sacred Jewish spaces.
Rivlin said Israelis needed “to be ready and armed, strong and determined, prepared to defend our home.”

 

Palestinian groups, mainly Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have launched more than 1,000 rockets, Israel’s army said, including hundreds at Tel Aviv, where air sirens wailed overnight.
Of these, 850 have hit in Israel or been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system, while the rest have crashed inside Gaza, the army said.
Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes on Gaza, the Israeli-blockaded strip of two million people that Hamas controls, targeting what the army described as “terror” sites.
Hamas said several of its top commanders were killed in Israeli strikes, including its military chief in Gaza City, Bassem Issa. Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet, also identified three other top Hamas militants who it said were killed.

 

Its leader Ismail Haniyeh threatened to step up attacks, warning that “if Israel wants to escalate, we are ready for it.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged both sides to “step back from the brink.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said “everything must be done” to avoid a new Middle East conflict.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said a US envoy would travel to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders to seek “a de-escalation of violence.”
In Gaza City, people sifted through debris after an Israeli air strike destroyed a 12-story building that Hamas had been a residential building. It was also known to house the offices of several Hamas officials.
Five members of a single family were killed by an Israeli strike in northern Gaza Tuesday, including young brothers Ibrahim and Marwan, who were filling sacks of straw at the time.
“We were laughing and having fun when suddenly they began to bomb us. Everything around us caught fire,” their cousin, also called Ibrahim, told AFP.
“I saw my cousins set alight and torn to pieces,” said the 14-year-old, breaking down in tears.

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In Israel’s central city of Lod, a man and a girl were killed Wednesday by rocket fire from Gaza. Israel identified one of the dead as 16-year-old Nadin Awad, an Arab Israeli.
Her cousin, Ahmad Ismail, told public broadcaster Kan that he was near Nadin when she was killed alongside her father Khalil Awad, 52.
“I was at home, we heard the noise of the rocket,” said Ismail. “It happened so quickly. Even if we had wanted to run somewhere, we don’t have a safe room.”
An Israeli woman was killed when rockets hit Rishon Letzion near Tel Aviv. In Ashkelon, a town near Gaza which Hamas threatened to turn into “hell,” rockets fired by militants killed two women Tuesday.
The crisis flared last Friday when weeks of tensions boiled over and Israeli riot police clashed with crowds of Palestinians at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque.
Nightly disturbances have since flared in east Jerusalem, leaving more than 900 Palestinians injured, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.
The unrest has been driven by anger over the looming evictions of Palestinian families from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
Large protests have been held in solidarity with Palestinians around the world, including in Britain and South Africa as well as in Muslim-majority countries including Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Tunisia and Turkey.

(With Reuters and AFP)


Shelling kills 16 in northern Syria’s Afrin: Monitor

Shelling kills 16 in northern Syria’s Afrin: Monitor
Updated 14 min 15 sec ago

Shelling kills 16 in northern Syria’s Afrin: Monitor

Shelling kills 16 in northern Syria’s Afrin: Monitor
  • The artillery fire originated from northern Aleppo province where Syrian regime and Kurdish forces are both deployed
  • A doctor, three hospital staff, three women and a child died at Al-Shifaa hospital

BEIRUT: Shelling of the rebel-held city of Afrin in northern Syria killed at least 16 people Saturday, many of them when a hospital was struck, a war monitor said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a doctor, three hospital staff, three women and a child died at Al-Shifaa hospital in the city which is held by Turkish-backed rebels.
The artillery fire originated from northern Aleppo province where Syrian regime and Kurdish forces are both deployed, the Britain-based group said.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) issued a statement denying any involvement in the shelling.


Egypt to launch two space research satellites in 2022

Egypt to launch two space research satellites in 2022
Updated 12 June 2021

Egypt to launch two space research satellites in 2022

Egypt to launch two space research satellites in 2022
  • Abdel Ghaffar said Egypt will launch a training and capacity-building program for 18 African researchers
  • The Egyptian Space Agency will distribute educational satellite sets among African countries

CAIRO: Egypt will launch two satellites next year, including NExSat-1, a lightweight vessel that will be used for remote sensing and scientific research, Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, Egyptian minister of higher education and scientific research, announced on Saturday.
Space authorities will also launch EgyptSat 2, which weighs 330 kilograms and will use sensor applications to employ a photographic accuracy of two meters from space.
The minister revealed the plans at the European-African Space Forum being held in Lisbon, Portugal. Mohamed El-Koosy, head of the Egyptian Space Agency, was also present.
Abdel Ghaffar said that Egypt will also host the headquarters of the African Space Agency, which includes all 54 countries on the continent.
The Egyptian Space Agency will be equipped with the latest equipment and space technology, he added.
The African Space Agency will be an “essential accelerator” for cooperation with Europe, he said, adding that Egypt will “spare no effort” in promoting multilateral cooperation in space activity.
“All the facilities and infrastructure for space projects are available in Egypt, and we are ready to become a reliable partner,” Abdel Ghaffar said, adding that all support will be “provided to Africa to benefit from space technology and its applications.”
He called on the EU to discuss the establishment of the European-African Space Training Program in Egypt, adding that the Egyptian agency will provide full logistical support for the program, which can provide annual training courses and degrees for African students and researchers.
Abdel Ghaffar said that next month Egypt will also launch a training and capacity-building program for 18 African researchers in various space fields.
The Egyptian Space Agency will distribute educational satellite sets among African countries, which will provide researchers and students with experience and technical skills, enabling them to conduct further space research, he said.
“We aim to transform Egypt into a center for training, research and development in space activities, adopt and encourage African youth to explore new horizons in space science, prepare them for the transformation of the digital economy, develop and support emerging technologies, spread the use of satellite images to support activities, especially in the field of agriculture, and stimulate exploration and innovation and provide social and economic benefits to improve the lives of all Africans,” the minister said.


‘Intense’ Iran nuclear talks resume as Germany calls for rapid progress

‘Intense’ Iran nuclear talks resume as Germany calls for rapid progress
Updated 12 June 2021

‘Intense’ Iran nuclear talks resume as Germany calls for rapid progress

‘Intense’ Iran nuclear talks resume as Germany calls for rapid progress
  • Senior diplomats from China, Germany, France, Russia, and Britain planned to meet at a hotel in the Austrian capital
  • The United States is not formally part of meetings that launched in Vienna earlier this year

VIENNA: Indirect talks between Tehran and Washington on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resumed in Vienna on Saturday as the European Union said negotiations were “intense” and Germany called for rapid progress.
The sixth round of talks kicked off as usual with a meeting of remaining parties to the deal — Iran, Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany and the European Union — in the basement of a luxury hotel.
The US delegation to the talks, known as the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is based in a hotel across the street as Iran refuses face-to-face meetings.
The talks’ chief coordinator, EU foreign policy official Enrique Mora, who is leading the shuttle diplomacy between Iran and the United States, has said he expects a deal in this round of talks. Other envoys, however, are more cautious, saying many difficult issues are yet to be resolved.
“We are making progress but the negotiations are intense and a number of issues (remain), including on how steps are to be implemented,” an EU spokesman said in a statement to reporters, adding that the aim was “to find ways to get very close to a final agreement in the coming days.”
The deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, imposed strict limits on Iran’s nuclear activities designed to extend the time Tehran would need to obtain enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon, if it chose to, to at least a year from two to three months.
Iran denies ever pursuing nuclear weapons, saying its aims are solely peaceful.
President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal in 2018 and reimposed economic sanctions lifted by the deal. Iran responded by breaching many of those limits, producing more enriched uranium than allowed and enriching to higher purity levels, recently to near weapons grade.
“Playing for time is in no-one’s interest,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who is not at the talks, told Reuters, urging all sides to show flexibility and pragmatism.
China’s top envoy said the main sticking point was US sanctions. “Our message to them (the United States) is that they should stop shilly-shallying by moving decisively to sanction-lifting,” China’s ambassador to the UN nuclear watchdog, Wang Qun, told reporters.
On the steps Iran must take to return to compliance with the deal, Wang said: “To a great extent, the major issues have been worked out as a matter of principle, though I think there are some fixes (left).”


Egypt, Sudan connecting Khartoum with Cairo-Cape Town rail line

Egypt, Sudan connecting Khartoum with Cairo-Cape Town rail line
Updated 12 June 2021

Egypt, Sudan connecting Khartoum with Cairo-Cape Town rail line

Egypt, Sudan connecting Khartoum with Cairo-Cape Town rail line
  • El-Wazir said that Egypt has taken “huge steps” to boost connectivity in Africa through infrastructure
  • He said that the Egyptian government is constructing the Cairo-Cape Town railway line to connect Egypt with other African countries

CAIRO: Egypt is working with Sudan to connect the Cairo-Cape Town railway route to the Sudanese capital Khartoum, Kamel El-Wazir, Egypt’s transport minister, has said.
Speaking on Saturday at a forum for heads of African investment agencies in Sharm El-Sheikh, El-Wazir said that Egypt has taken “huge steps” to boost connectivity in Africa through infrastructure.
He said that the Egyptian government is constructing the Cairo-Cape Town railway line to connect Egypt with other African countries.
El-Wazir said that the Ministry of Transport is executing 360-kilometer rail lines inside Egyptian territory, in addition to a six-kilometer line across Nasser Lake to Wadi Halfa in Sudan.
The government is executing another line to connect the monorail stretching from Matrouh governorate with a special link to El-Saloum city, he said.
Egypt is also coordinating with the Libyan government to extend a railway line to the city of Benghazi, he said.
Efforts exerted to develop land transport networks, railways, as well as sea and land ports have improved Egypt’s rank in the Road Quality Index featured in the Ease of Doing Business’ latest report, El-Wazir said.
The report also underlined Egypt’s readiness to transfer its expertise in making smart roads to other African countries.
Dhieu Mathok Diing, South Sudanese minister of investment, said that his government hopes that South Sudan will be connected to Egypt via a railway line in two to three years after the Egypt-Sudan link is completed.
Diing said that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s announcement that he is committed to the African agenda for development, as well as Egypt’s launching of the Cairo-Cape Town railway line and the Investment Promotion conference are decisions that demonstrate Egypt’s keenness to develop African countries.
He said that South Sudan has “high hopes” for the Cairo-Cape Town railway line, adding that the areas which will be included in the project inside South Sudan have been developed.
Diing said: “Cooperation among Africa’s great economic powers like Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria with the rest of African countries makes us believe that we can achieve growth, development and African integration.”


Houthis fire 55 Iranian-made ballistic missiles at Marib since start of 2021: Yemen information minister

Houthis fire 55 Iranian-made ballistic missiles at Marib since start of 2021: Yemen information minister
Updated 12 June 2021

Houthis fire 55 Iranian-made ballistic missiles at Marib since start of 2021: Yemen information minister

Houthis fire 55 Iranian-made ballistic missiles at Marib since start of 2021: Yemen information minister
  • Al-Eryani says Houthi attacks resulted in 344 civilian casualties in Marib since start of the year
  • Saudi ambassador to Yemen says Kingdom and the Arab coalition are constantly working with the two parties to the Riyadh Agreement to complete its implementation

AMMAN: Yemen’s Information Minister Moammar Al-Eryani criticized on Saturday the Houthi militia targeting of residential neighborhoods, displacement camps and civilians in Marib with more than 55 Iranian-made ballistic missiles since the start of the year.
He said that statistics confirm the militia, which is backed by Iran, has also launched 12 drones, three Katyusha rockets, six projectiles, and seven explosives from Jan. 1 to June 10.
Al-Eryani added that the statistics also recorded 344 civilian casualties during the same period from Houthi attacks on Marib governorate. 104 civilians, three women, and 15 children have been killed, while 180 civilians, 12 women, and 30 children have been wounded with varying severity of injuries due to the continuous shelling, he said in a series of tweets.
The Iran-baked Houthis launched a major offensive to capture the oil and gas-rich province from the internationally recognized government in February, sparking widespread condemnation as the province has been serving as a safe haven for tens of thousands of internally displaced peoeple who have been fleeing the fighting since the beginning of the conflict.
“The terrorist Houthi militia’s bombing of residential neighborhoods, civilian objects and displacement camps in the districts of Marib governorate, since the beginning of its massive military escalation, are systematic and deliberate killing of civilians, a violation of international laws and conventions, and amounts to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Al-Eryani said.
He added that the international community, the UN and the permanent members of the Security Council are required to assume their legal and moral responsibilities, and to pressure the militia to stop the daily killing of civilians with revenge motives, in which women and children fall victim.
He also pressed the body to re-classify the Houthis as a terrorist organization and prosecute its leaders as war criminals.
Last Saturday, a ballistic missile fired by the Houthis killed at least 21 people, including a 5-year-old girl, and wounded dozens of others in the government-held city
The missile hit a gas station in the Rawdha neighborhood in central Marib, and shortly after the Iran-backed militia launched an explosive-laden drone which destroyed two ambulances that had rushed to the area to transfer the injured to hospitals.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Yemen said the Kingdom and the Arab coalition are constantly working with the two parties to the Riyadh Agreement to complete its implementation.
“We are counting on everyone to put the interests of the Yemeni people above all else, and expedite the return of the Yemeni government to Aden to enable it to perform its duties to alleviate the suffering of the people and complete the implementation of all aspects of the agreement,” said Mohammed Al-Jaber.