Israel kills 42 in Gaza as Netanyahu warns war will go on

Israel kills 42 in Gaza as Netanyahu warns war will go on
A firefighter and others inspect the rubble of a residential building that was hit by an Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 16 May 2021

Israel kills 42 in Gaza as Netanyahu warns war will go on

Israel kills 42 in Gaza as Netanyahu warns war will go on
  • The Gaza Health Ministry said 16 women and 10 children were among those killed
  • Earlier, the Israeli military said it destroyed the home of Gaza’s top Hamas leader in a separate strike

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip: Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City flattened three buildings and killed at least 42 people Sunday, Palestinian medics said. Despite the heavy death toll and international efforts to broker a cease-fire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled the fourth war with Gaza’s Hamas rulers would rage on.
In a televised address, Netanyahu said Sunday evening the attacks were continuing at “full-force” and will “take time.“ Israel “wants to levy a heavy price” from the Hamas militant group, he said, flanked by his defense minister and political rival, Benny Gantz, in a show of unity.
The Israeli air assault early Sunday was the deadliest single attack since heavy fighting broke out between Israel and Hamas nearly a week ago, marking the worst fighting here since their devastating 2014 war in Gaza.
The airstrikes hit a major downtown street of residential buildings and storefronts over the course of five minutes after midnight, destroying two adjacent buildings and one about 50 yards (meters) down the road.
At one point, a rescuer shouted, “Can you hear me?” into a hole in the rubble. “Are you OK?” Minutes later, first responders pulled a survivor out and carried him off on an orange stretcher. The Gaza Health Ministry said 16 women and 10 children were among those killed, with more than 50 people wounded, and rescue efforts are still underway.
Earlier, the Israeli military said it destroyed the home of Gaza’s top Hamas leader, Yahiyeh Sinwar, in a separate strike in the southern town of Khan Younis. It was the third such attack in the last two days on the homes of senior Hamas leaders, who have gone underground.

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Israel appears to have stepped up strikes in recent days to inflict as much damage as possible on Hamas as international mediators work to end the fighting and stave off an Israeli ground invasion in Gaza. But targeting the group’s leaders could hinder those efforts. A US diplomat is in the region to try to de-escalate tensions, and the UN Security Council is meeting Sunday.
In its airstrikes, Israel has leveled a number of Gaza City’s tallest office and residential buildings, alleging they contain Hamas military infrastructure. Among them was the building housing The Associated Press office and those of other media outlets.
The latest outbreak of violence began in east Jerusalem last month, when Palestinian protests and clashes with police broke out in response to Israeli police tactics during Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers. A focal point of clashes was the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a frequent flashpoint that is located on a hilltop compound that is revered by both Muslims and Jews.
Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem late Monday, triggering the Israeli assault on impoverished Gaza, which is home to more than 2 million Palestinians and has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.
At least 188 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including 55 children and 33 women, with 1,230 people wounded. Eight people in Israel have been killed, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier.
Speaking alongside Netanyahu on Sunday, Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, said Hamas did not anticipate Israel’s overwhelming response to its rocket fire. “Hamas made a serious and grave mistake and didn’t read us properly.”
The turmoil has also spilled over elsewhere, fueling protests in the occupied West Bank and stoking violence within Israel between its Jewish and Arab citizens, with clashes and vigilante attacks on people and property.
On Sunday, a driver rammed into an Israeli checkpoint in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah — where the Palestinian families had been threatened with eviction — injuring six officers before police shot and killed the attacker, Israeli police said.
The violence also sparked pro-Palestinian protests in cities across Europe and the United States, with French police firing tear gas and water cannons at demonstrators in Paris.
The military said Sunday it struck Sinwar’s home and that of his brother Muhammad, another senior Hamas member. On Saturday it destroyed the home of Khalil al-Hayeh, a senior figure in Hamas’ political branch.
Hamas’ upper echelon has gone into hiding in Gaza, and it is unlikely any were at home at the time of the strikes. Hamas’ top leader, Ismail Haniyeh, divides his time between Turkey and Qatar, both of which provide political support to the group.
Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militant group have acknowledged 20 fighters killed since the fighting broke out Monday. Israel says the real number is far higher and has released the names and photos of two dozen alleged operatives it says were “eliminated.”
An Egyptian diplomat said Israel’s targeting of Hamas political leaders would complicate cease-fire efforts. The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door negotiations, said Cairo is working to broker an end to the fighting, as are other international actors.
The Egyptian diplomat said the destruction of Hamas’ rocket capabilities would require a ground invasion that would “inflame the whole region.” Egypt, which made peace with Israel decades ago, has threatened to “suspend” cooperation in various fields, the official said, without elaborating.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has affirmed its support for Israel while working to de-escalate the crisis. American diplomat Hady Amr met with Gantz, the Israeli defense minister, who thanked the US for its support. Gantz said Israel “takes every precaution to strike at military targets only and avoid harming civilians, while its civilians are the targets of indiscriminate attack.”
Hamas and other militant groups have fired some 2,900 rockets into Israel. The military said 450 of the rockets had fallen short or misfired, while Israeli air defenses intercepted 1,150.
The interception rate appeared to have significantly dropped since the start of the conflict, when Israel said 90% were intercepted. The military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Israel has meanwhile carried out hundreds of airstrikes across Gaza.
On Saturday, Israel bombed the 12-story al-Jalaa Building, which housed the offices of The Associated Press, the TV network Al-Jazeera and other media outlets, along with several floors of apartments.
Netanyahu alleged that Hamas military intelligence was operating inside the building. Such reasoning is routinely given for targeting certain locations in airstrikes, including residential buildings. The military also has accused the militant group of using journalists as human shields, but provided no evidence to back up the claims.
The AP has operated from the building for 15 years, including through three previous wars between Israel and Hamas. During those conflicts as well as the current one, the news agency’s cameras, operating from its top floor office and roof terrace, offered 24-hour live shots as militants’ rockets arched toward Israel and Israeli airstrikes hammered the city and its surroundings.
“We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building,” AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said in a statement. “This is something we actively check to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.”
In the afternoon, the military called the building’s owner and warned a strike would come within an hour. AP staffers and other occupants evacuated safely. Soon after, three missiles hit the building and destroyed it, bringing it crashing down in a giant cloud of dust.
“The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today,” Pruitt said. “We are shocked and horrified.”


Iran to announce result of presidential race led by ultraconservative

Iran to announce result of presidential race led by ultraconservative
Updated 6 min 48 sec ago

Iran to announce result of presidential race led by ultraconservative

Iran to announce result of presidential race led by ultraconservative
  • Ultraconservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi was seen as all but certain to emerge victorious
  • Voting was extended by two hours past the original midnight deadline

TEHRAN: Iran was Saturday set to announce the winner of a presidential election in which ultraconservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi was seen as all but certain to emerge victorious over his three low-profile rivals.
If elected, Raisi, 60, would take over from moderate Hassan Rouhani at a time the Islamic republic is seeking to salvage its tattered nuclear deal with major powers and free itself from punishing US sanctions that have driven a painful economic downturn.
Raisi, the head of the judiciary whose black turban signifies direct descent from Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, is seen as close to the 81-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ultimate political power in Iran.
Voting on Friday was extended by two hours past the original midnight deadline amid fears of a low turnout of 50 percent or less. The paper ballots were being counted overnight and the result is expected by around noon (0730 GMT).
Many voters chose to stay away after the field of some 600 hopefuls was winnowed down to seven candidates, all men, excluding an ex-president and a former parliament speaker.
Three of the vetted candidates dropped out of the race two days before Friday’s election, and two of them threw their support behind Raisi.
Former populist president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, one of those who were disqualified by the powerful 12-member Guardian Council of clerics and jurists, joined those who said they would not cast their ballot.
Raisi’s only rival from the reformist camp was the low-profile former central bank chief Abdolnaser Hemmati, 65, who had polled in the low single digits before the election.
Iran’s electorate, of now almost 60 million eligible voters, has delivered surprise results before, observers warn. If no clear winner emerges, a runoff will be held next Friday.
On election day, pictures of often flag-waving voters in the country of 83 million dominated state TV coverage, but away from the polling stations some voiced anger at what they saw as a stage-managed election.
“Whether I vote or not, someone has already been elected,” scoffed Tehran shopkeeper Saeed Zareie. “They organize the elections for the media.”
Enthusiasm has been dampened further by the economic malaise of spiralling inflation and job losses, and the pandemic that proved more deadly in Iran than anywhere else in the region, killing more than 80,000 people by the official count.
Among those who lined up to vote at schools, mosques and community centers, many said they supported Raisi, who has promised to fight corruption, help the poor and build millions of flats for low-income families.
A nurse named Sahebiyan said she backed the frontrunner for his anti-graft credentials and on hopes he would “move the country forward... and save the people from economic, cultural and social deprivation.”
Raisi has been named in Iranian media as a possible successor to Khamenei.
To opposition and human rights groups, his name is linked to the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988. The US government has sanctioned him over the purge, in which Raisi has denied playing a part.
Ultimate power in Iran, since its 1979 revolution toppled the US-backed monarchy, rests with the supreme leader, but the president wields major influence in fields from industrial policy to foreign affairs.
Rouhani, 72, leaves office in August after serving the maximum two consecutive four-year-terms allowed under the constitution.
His landmark achievement was the 2015 deal with world powers under which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.
But high hopes for greater prosperity were crushed in 2018 when then-US president Donald Trump withdrew from the accord and launched a “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign against Iran.
While Iran has always denied seeking a nuclear weapon, Trump charged it is still planning to build the bomb and destabilising the Middle East through armed proxy groups in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.
As old and new US sanctions hit Iran, trade dried up and foreign companies bolted. The economy nosedived and spiralling prices fueled repeated bouts of social unrest which were put down by security forces.
Iran’s ultraconservative camp — which deeply distrusts the United States, labelled the “Great Satan” or the “Global Arrogance” in the Islamic republic — attacked Rouhani over the failing deal.
Despite this, there is broad agreement among all the candidates including Raisi that Iran must seek an end to the US sanctions in ongoing talks in Vienna aiming to revive the nuclear accord.


Abu Dhabi temporarily suspends use of coronavirus green pass due to technical issues

Abu Dhabi temporarily suspends use of coronavirus green pass due to technical issues
Updated 34 min 23 sec ago

Abu Dhabi temporarily suspends use of coronavirus green pass due to technical issues

Abu Dhabi temporarily suspends use of coronavirus green pass due to technical issues
  • The committee approved the use of text messages to show coronavirus test results for those wishing to enter Abu Dhabi

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi has temporarily suspended the use of green pass on Al Hosn app due to technical issues faced by some users, state news agency WAM reported.
The Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee said it reviewed the possible causes of the problem, as the digital platform received a surge in new subscriptions. It has also ensured the app’s team are working to restore the service as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the committee approved the use of text messages to show coronavirus test results for those wishing to enter Abu Dhabi.
The decision came into effect on June 18 and will continue until the app is updated.
Residents and visitors who want to enter public spaces including shopping malls and large supermarkets, gyms, hotels, parks and beaches, private beaches and restaurants and cafes must have a green status on Al Hosn, to have access in such places.


EU’s Borrell plans Beirut talks as economic crisis fears deepen

EU’s Borrell plans Beirut talks as economic crisis fears deepen
Updated 19 June 2021

EU’s Borrell plans Beirut talks as economic crisis fears deepen

EU’s Borrell plans Beirut talks as economic crisis fears deepen
  • Lebanon fuel crunch inspires demonstrations at gas stations and supermarkets
  • Rocket-propelled grenades found in Beirut rubbish

BEIRUT: Josep Borrell, the high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy and vice-president of the European Commission, is expected to start a round of talks with Lebanese officials in Beirut on Saturday.

This comes days ahead of a meeting of EU officials in Brussels, called by France, to discuss imposing sanctions on Lebanese officials accused of corruption and political obstruction.

Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, director general of the General Security, highlighted “Russia’s constant will to stand by Lebanon and support it on the economic and security levels.”

He made his comments following talks with Russian officials.

Ibrahim added: “There should be a government, regardless of its form, in order to find solutions to all problems in Lebanon.”

He is a prominent figure in Lebanon who often conducts foreign negotiations.

Meanwhile, the living crisis is worsening, leading to armed clashes.

People are still waiting for long hours to fill up on gasoline amid shortages of fuel, which is subsidized by the state. The subsidy is expected to be lifted soon.

But this is dependent on the ration card for needy people, which is still being debated by parliamentary committees.

The fuel crisis sparked a clash on Friday in front of a gas station in Tripoli, which led to a shooting, with no casualties.

Also in Tripoli, a clash in front of a supermarket led to exchanging shots, causing two injuries.

The city has the biggest percentage of struggling Lebanese, who were impoverished further due to the collapse of the currency.

For the second consecutive day, employees of the public sector stuck to their strike which was called for by the Public Administration Employees Association in protest against the collapse of their purchasing power and the deterioration of economic and living conditions.

Contacts and consultations related to forming the new government have stalled after the failure of the initiative of the Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, but he has insisted that “it is still standing.”

Walid Jumblatt, president of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) said: “It is impossible for some officials to keep waiting while the country’s conditions are retreating.”

Jumblatt added: “It is time for a settlement away from personal calculations.”

In the past two days, Berri had joined Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri in accusing President Michel Aoun and his political party of trying to get the blocking third in the government, contrary to the constitution.

Meanwhile, Lebanese Internal Security forces announced that they “captured 16 RPG type rocket-propelled grenades, and five grenades of other types dumped in waste containers near the House of the Druze Community in Lebanon in Beirut.”

Internal Security also declared that the “old ammunition” was removed after being examined by its explosives experts.

The identity of the party which disposed of the ammunition remains unknown.

The Anti-Narcotics Division at the Lebanese Customs seized a large quantity of Captagon pills hidden in a container loaded with stones, destined to be smuggled to Saudi Arabia via the port of Beirut.

“Some people implicated in the operation were arrested,” declared the caretaker Minister of Interior Mohammed Fahmi.

Speaking at the Port of Beirut, he revealed that the shipment was destined for Jeddah.


EU sets out potential criteria for Lebanese sanctions — document

EU sets out potential criteria for Lebanese sanctions — document
Updated 18 June 2021

EU sets out potential criteria for Lebanese sanctions — document

EU sets out potential criteria for Lebanese sanctions — document
  • Led by France, the EU is seeking to ramp up pressure on Lebanon's squabbling politicians
  • Senior European official told Reuters Paris had set its sights on sanctioning powerful Christian politician Gebran Bassil

PARIS/BRUSSELS: Criteria for European Union sanctions being prepared for Lebanese politicians are likely to be corruption, obstructing efforts to form a government, financial mishandling and human rights abuses, according to a diplomatic note seen by Reuters.
Led by France, the EU is seeking to ramp up pressure on Lebanon’s squabbling politicians after 11 months of a crisis that has left Lebanon facing financial collapse, hyperinflation, electricity blackouts, and fuel and food shortages.
The bloc, which has been holding technical discussions on possible measures for the last month, has yet to decide on which approach to take, but foreign policy chief Josep Borrell is due in Lebanon this weekend and will report back to foreign ministers on Monday.
As many senior Lebanese politicians have homes, bank accounts and investments in the EU, and send their children to universities there, a withdrawal of that access could help focus minds.
Paris says it has already taken measures to restrict entry for some Lebanese officials it sees as blocking efforts to tackle the crisis, which is rooted in decades of state corruption and debt, although it has not named anybody publicly.
The EU first needs to set up a sanctions regime that could then see individuals hit by travel bans and asset freezes, although it may also decide to not list anybody immediately.
The note, which also outlines the strengths and weaknesses of taking such a measure, focuses on four criteria. It begins with obstructing the establishment of a government, the political process or the successful completion of the political transition and then turns to obstructing the implementation of urgent reforms needed to overcome the political, economic and social crisis.
Financial mishandling, which would target people, entities or bodies believed to be responsible for the mismanagement of public finances and the banking sector, is also a core criteria as is the violation of human rights as a result of the economic and social crisis.
“It might be argued that the lack of political responsibility of the leadership in Lebanon is at the core of a massive implosion of the economy,” the note reads, referring to the possible human rights criteria.
“This has led to significant suffering and has affected the human rights of the population in Lebanon.”
Such diplomatic notes are common in EU policymaking, circulated among EU diplomats and officials, although they are not made public.
The note also says an “exit strategy” proposing benchmarks for establishing whether the sanctions regime has served its purpose as well as for renewing or lifting individual designations should also be put in place.
How quickly sanctions could be imposed is still unclear, but with political divisions continuing to worsen, the bloc is likely to press ahead before the summer holiday period.
There are divisions among the 27 EU states over the wisdom of EU sanctions, but the bloc’s two main powers, France and Germany are in favor, which is likely to prove pivotal. A larger group of nations has yet to specify their approach.
Hungary has publicly denounced EU efforts to pressure Lebanese politicians.
A senior European official told Reuters Paris had set its sights on sanctioning powerful Christian politician Gebran Bassil, who is already under US sanctions.


UN human rights office demands end to Houthi offensive in Marib

UN human rights office demands end to Houthi offensive in Marib
Updated 18 June 2021

UN human rights office demands end to Houthi offensive in Marib

UN human rights office demands end to Houthi offensive in Marib
  • UNCHR says Iran-backed rebels who target civilians in Yemen are guilty of war crimes and ‘must be held accountable’
  • Houthi drone attack on a gas station in Marib killed more than 20 people, including two children, earlier this month

LONDON: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNCHR) has demanded an end to the Iran-backed Houthis’ assault on Marib in Yemen and criticized their cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia.

“We are seriously concerned at the continuing impact of fighting on civilians and the targeting of civilian objects in Marib Governorate in Yemen,” UNCHR spokesperson Liz Throssell told Arab News in a human rights briefing on Friday.

“Houthi forces, also known as Ansar Allah, have been trying to seize from the Yemeni government for several months.”

She highlighted a recent missile and drone attack on a compound, which housed civilian infrastructure and a mosque. The attack left eight dead and injured 30 more. Ambulances were also targeted during the attack as first responders were among the injured.

Throssell also pointed to another Houthi atrocity in Marib — the June 5 missile attack on a petrol station — which killed 21 people, including two children under the age of 13.

“Victims of arbitrary killings, including those amounting to war crimes, have a right to justice, and perpetrators of such acts, regardless of affiliation, must be held accountable,” Throssell said.

“We call on all parties in the conflict to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, including their obligation to respect the principles of distinction. It prohibits the targeting of civilians and civilian objects and infrastructure, as well as the principles of proportionality and precautions in attack.”

The UN representative also addressed the Houthis’ sustained assault on neighboring Saudi Arabia.

“Cross-border attacks by Ansar Allah into the territory of Saudi Arabia have also been continuing,” Throssell said.

“To date, since January, Ansar Allah has launched some 128 drone strikes and 31 ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia. While the majority of the targets have been of a military nature, civilian infrastructure, including civilian airports and industrial facilities, have been hit.”

Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, has been embroiled in a bitter civil war since the Iran-backed Houthi rebels seized power in a 2014 coup. A Saudi-led coalition then intervened in the conflict on behalf of the UN-recognized government.

The Kingdom proposed a comprehensive peace plan, which is backed by its regional and Western partners. The coalition sees an end to the fighting, supports the delivery of humanitarian aid, and the implementation of a political solution to the conflict.

However, the Houthis have flouted the agreement and pushed forward in an attempt to capture the government-held city of Marib — an assault that has claimed the lives of many civilians.

“We urge all parties in the conflict to go back to the negotiating table and agree on a nationwide ceasefire,” Throssell said. “As has been repeated time and again, only a political solution can end this conflict.”