Israel says no troops in Gaza, cites communication error

An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip on Thursday. (REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip on Thursday. (REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
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Updated 14 May 2021

Israel says no troops in Gaza, cites communication error

Israel says no troops in Gaza, cites communication error
  • Israeli army earlier announced that ground troops have entered Palestinian enclave
  • Army spokesman John Conricus confirmed the escalation 

JERUSALEM: The Israeli army clarified early Friday that its troops had not entered the Gaza Strip as it had earlier stated, blaming an “internal communication” problem for the confusion.

Just after midnight, the army sent a message to the media saying troops were in the Gaza Strip, and this was confirmed to AFP by the army’s spokesperson.

“Israeli planes and troops on the ground are carrying out an attack in the Gaza Strip,” the Israeli army said in a brief message.

Army spokesman John Conricus confirmed the escalation without specifying the scale of the operation.

“We are prepared, and continue to prepare for various scenarios,” Conricus said, describing a ground offensive as “one scenario.”

Earlier Thursday, Israel said it was massing troops along the Gaza frontier and calling up 9,000 reservists ahead of a possible ground invasion of the Hamas-ruled territory, as the two bitter enemies plunged closer to all-out war.

Visiting a rocket defense battery, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told troops to be prepared for an extended campaign against Hamas. “It will take more time, but ... we will achieve our goal — to restore peace to the state of Israel,” he said.

In Gaza, AFP photographers said people were evacuating their homes in the northeastern part of the enclave ahead of possible Israeli attacks, with Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, warning of a “heavy response” to a possible ground incursion

Two hours later after announcing the entry of ground troops into the Palestinian enclave, the army published a clarification saying there were “no soldiers” in Gaza.

The volence continued nonetheless, with Israel bombarding Gaza with artillery and air strikes on Friday in response to a new barrage of rocket fire from the Hamas-run enclave, in an intensification of a conflict that has now claimed more than 100 Palestinian lives.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said the death toll has climbed to 103 Palestinians, including 27 children and 11 women, with 530 people wounded.

The Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups have confirmed 20 deaths in their ranks, though Israel says that number is much higher. Seven people have been killed in Israel, including a 6-year-old boy.

Israeli security forces have also been scrambled to contain deadly riots between Jews and Arabs, and projectiles have been fired from Lebanon.

Images early Friday showed large balls of flame turning the night sky orange in densely packed Gaza, while rockets were seen tracing through the air towards Israel.

The United Nations said the Security Council would meet on Sunday to address the conflict as the world body's Secretary General called for "an immediate de-escalation and cessation of hostilities".

"Too many innocent civilians have already died," Antonio Guterres tweeted. "This conflict can only increase radicalization and extremism in the whole region."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington was "deeply concerned about the violence in the streets of Israel", and the State Department urged citizens to "reconsider travel to Israel".

Several international airlines -- including KLM, British Airways, Virgin, Lufthansa and Iberia -- cancelled flights amid the aerial onslaught.

Inside Israel, seven people have been killed since Monday, including one six-year-old, after a rocket struck a family home.

The Israeli military said it had hit targets in Gaza more than 600 times while 1,750 rockets were fired from the enclave.

Hundreds of rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defence system.

Three rockets were also fired from southern Lebanon towards Israel, landing in the Mediterranean Sea, Israel's army said.

A source close to Israel's arch-enemy Hezbollah said the Lebanese Shiite group had no link to the incident.

The military escalation was triggered by weekend unrest at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

The disturbances, in which riot police had repeatedly clashed with Palestinians, has been driven by anger over the looming evictions of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of east Jerusalem.

The surging tensions sparked clashes in many of Israel's mixed towns where Jews live alongside Arabs, who make up about 20 percent of the country's population.

Nearly 1,000 border police were called in to quell the violence, and more than 400 people were arrested.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said inter-communal violence in multiple towns was at a level not seen for decades, and that police were "literally preventing pogroms".

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said police were increasing their use of force, warning of the "option" of deploying soldiers in towns.

Israeli far-right groups have clashed with security forces and Arab Israelis, with television footage Wednesday showing a far-right mob beating a man they considered an Arab in Bat Yam, near Tel Aviv, leaving him with serious injuries.

In Lod, which has become a flashpoint of Arab-Jewish clashes this week with an Arab resident shot dead and a synagogue torched, a gunman opened fire Thursday at a group of Jews, wounding one.
Netanyahu said the violence was "unacceptable".

"Nothing justifies the lynching of Arabs by Jews, and nothing justifies the lynching of Jews by Arabs," he said, adding Israel was fighting a battle "on two fronts".

The stepped-up fighting came as communal violence in Israel erupted for a fourth night, with Jewish and Arab mobs clashing in the flashpoint town of Lod. The fighting took place despite a bolstered police presence ordered by the nation’s leaders.

 

 


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.


Countdown begins to Egypt-Saudi Arabia power link

Countdown begins to Egypt-Saudi Arabia power link
Updated 12 June 2021

Countdown begins to Egypt-Saudi Arabia power link

Countdown begins to Egypt-Saudi Arabia power link
  • Egypt and Saudi Arabia signed a cooperation agreement in 2012 to establish the electrical interconnection project
  • The project will be the main axis in the Arab electrical linkage, which aims to create an infrastructure for electricity trade between Arab countries

CAIRO: Egypt’s electrical interconnection project with Saudi Arabia — a scheme that will increase grid capacity to 2,000 megawatts — will be launched shortly, according to Mohammed Shaker, Egyptian minister of electricity.
Speaking on the sidelines of the first forum of heads of African investment agencies in Sharm El-Sheikh on Saturday, Shaker said that tenders for the implementation of the project have been finalized but the winning company has yet to be announced.
Shaker said that a global consultant will undertake studies to adjust the paths of the power lines.
Transmission lines between the two countries will be established under the DC (direct current) system, the latest in Egypt and the Arab region, he said.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia signed a cooperation agreement in 2012 to establish the electrical interconnection project. 
The project will be the main axis in the Arab electrical linkage, which aims to create an infrastructure for electricity trade between Arab countries.
Shaker said that Egypt has become a center for electrical interconnection after dramatically increasing its power production, “thanks to the presidential support for plans.”