Visiting Israeli defense chief seeks to reaffirm US support

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) meets with Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Thursday, June 3, 2021, at the State Department in Washington. (AP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) meets with Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Thursday, June 3, 2021, at the State Department in Washington. (AP)
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Updated 03 June 2021

Visiting Israeli defense chief seeks to reaffirm US support

Visiting Israeli defense chief seeks to reaffirm US support
  • A key aim of Gantz’s visit to Washington is believed to be securing US funding to help restock Israel’s Iron Dome
  • Blinken says Americans also were talking to Gantz about getting aid in to Gaza

WASHINGTON: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz sought a reaffirmation of US security commitments to Israel on Thursday as the country weathers its greatest domestic political upheaval in years and the aftermath of last month’s war with Hamas in Gaza.
A key aim of Gantz’s visit to Washington is believed to be securing US funding to help restock Israel’s Iron Dome, a sophisticated missile defense system that smacked down many of the more than 4,000 rockets that Hamas fired toward Israel last month. More than a week of Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rockets killed 254 people in Hamas-ruled Palestinian Gaza and 12 in Israel.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, appearing briefly with Gantz in front of reporters, said Americans also were talking to Gantz about getting aid in to Gaza to help rebuild housing and services damaged and destroyed in the fighting, in addition to discussing Israeli security. Gantz’s other stops Thursday include a meeting with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
The Biden administration pledged ongoing support for Iron Dome on the eve of Gantz’s visit.
“During the conflict we saw the Iron Dome system, which our nations developed together, save the lives of countless innocent civilians,” acting Assistant Secretary of State Joey Hood told the Israel Policy Forum, a New York-based research group.
President Joe Biden “is clear about this administration’s support for replenishing this system to support Israel’s ability to defend itself in the future,” Hood said.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, touring Israel this week in a show of support after the latest Gaza war, said he expected Israelis to seek up to $1 billion from the US for Iron Dome, including for restocking the system’s interception missiles.
The US partnership in Israel’s Iron Dome has wide bipartisan support in Congress, as does overall US support for Israel’s defense, a tenet of US foreign policy for decades. Last month’s war, however — the fiercest Israeli-Palestinian fighting since 2014 — has exposed a rift in Biden’s Democratic Party. Progressives and some others demanded a cease-fire by Israel as well as Hamas as Palestinian deaths grew in the crowded Gaza Strip, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, said the US should take an “even-handed” approach to ally Israel in its long-running conflict with the Palestinians.
The latest Gaza war started May 10 after Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem in support of Palestinian protests against Israel’s heavy-handed policing of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a site sacred to Jews and Muslims, and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers.
Biden and his administration have stressed US support for Israel’s defense and condemnation of Hamas attacks, while exhorting both sides to avoid incendiary moves. Long-term, the administration says it is maintaining US backing for reviving a moribund peace process that would include a separate state for Palestinians.
Gantz’s visit with Israel’s top ally comes as Israeli opposition leaders seek to come together in a coalition to oust Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, ending his record 12 years in power.
Gantz is part of the coalition pushing to unseat Netanyahu. He is expected to remain in his post as defense minister if the government changes.


UAE confirms 3,014 new COVID-19 cases

UAE confirms 3,014 new COVID-19 cases
Updated 5 sec ago

UAE confirms 3,014 new COVID-19 cases

UAE confirms 3,014 new COVID-19 cases
  • The UAE has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates at 233.98 doses administered per 100 people

DUBAI: The UAE on Thursday confirmed 3,014 new coronavirus infections, pushing active cases to 50,010 in the country.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention also said that 4 patients died as a result of COVID-19 complications.

An additional 1,067 individuals have recovered.

The country’s caseload stands at 816,945 known confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 2,204 deaths since the pandemic started.

The UAE has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates, at 233.98 doses administered per 100 people, with 23,141,751 vaccines provided so far.

Despite this, health authorities continue the call for residents to adhere to basic health and prevention protocols, including social distancing and wearing masks.

The World Health Organization earlier said new infections globally have increased by 20 percent over the past week, with nearly 19 million total reported cases, mostly attributed to the omicron variant.


Egypt FM outlines plans for COP27 climate summit

Egypt FM outlines plans for COP27 climate summit
Updated 17 min 43 sec ago

Egypt FM outlines plans for COP27 climate summit

Egypt FM outlines plans for COP27 climate summit

CAIRO: Egypt Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has urged the global community to “move from the stage of pledges to the stage of actual implementation” on initiatives to combat climate change.

Shoukry, the president-designate of the UN climate change summit (COP27) to be held in Egypt in November 2022, held a phone discussion with Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, to outline Egypt’s preparations for the presidency of the next summit.

Following the talks Shoukry said that Egypt intends to build on the achievements of the Glasgow COP26 forum and "harness the rising international momentum to confront climate change."

He said that Egypt plans to take a leadership role in global climate action in coming months, as previously highlighted by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi during the last session of the World Youth Forum.

Espinosa praised the work and coordination at all levels to enhance international efforts on climate change and ensure the next session of the conference in Egypt is a success.


Storm blankets Syrian tented camps in snow, at least one child dead

Storm blankets Syrian tented camps in snow, at least one child dead
Updated 17 min 50 sec ago

Storm blankets Syrian tented camps in snow, at least one child dead

Storm blankets Syrian tented camps in snow, at least one child dead
  • The child died and its mother was in intensive care after snow caused their tent to collapse in the Qastal Miqdad area

ZAITOUN CAMP, Syria: At least one child was killed in northern Syria this week when a storm blanketed tented camps in snow and brought freezing temperatures, compounding the misery of thousands of people displaced by the Mediterranean country’s decade-long war.
The child died and its mother was in intensive care after snow caused their tent to collapse in the Qastal Miqdad area, as a result of the storm that struck on Jan. 18, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.
Two children were hospitalized due to the cold, it said.
“I was scared the tent would fall down on the kids,” Abu Anas said in Zaitoun camp in northern Syria, after his family fled from eastern Gouta, an area on the outskirts of Damascus that was devastated by the conflict.
“It is a miserable situation. No heating, a tent that is not suitable even for animals. Our situation is bad,” he said after Storm Hiba struck.
In his camp, people laid stones across puddles to create footpaths.
The United Nations, which warned about flooding once the snow started to melt, said 362 tents had been damaged in the region as of Jan. 19 and more than 400 families had been affected.
In the northern camp of Abraz, one of the worst affected places, families had to be evacuated, the United Nations said.
The storm also disrupted life elsewhere in Syria. In government-held areas, universities and other educational institutions postponed exams. Syria’s ports temporarily closed.
Syria’s civil war has killed hundreds of thousands of people, forced millions to flee their homes, creating one of the worst refugee crises since World War Two.
With Russian backing, the Syrian government has regained control of most of the country, driving rebel opponents to pockets of territory in the north.


Cruise missiles, drones used in Houthi attack on Abu Dhabi says ambassador

Cruise missiles, drones used in Houthi attack on Abu Dhabi says ambassador
Updated 48 min 53 sec ago

Cruise missiles, drones used in Houthi attack on Abu Dhabi says ambassador

Cruise missiles, drones used in Houthi attack on Abu Dhabi says ambassador

DUBAI: The Houthi attacks targeting civilian sites in Abu Dhabi were carried out with a battery of weapons including cruise missiles, and drones, the UAE Ambassador to Washington Yousef Al-Otaiba said.

It is the first time the UAE has said missiles were used in Monday’s attack in which three people were killed and seven others were injured.

The Houthi militia launched a number of drones and ballistic missiles, causing three tankers to explode near storage facilities owned by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (ADNOC).

There was also a fire at a construction site at Abu Dhabi during the attack.

Al-Otaiba said the UAE intercepted some of the missiles.

Earlier, the ambassador called on the US to Support re-designating the militia as a terrorist Organization.

In response to the attacks, US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday his administration was considering re-designating the Houthis an international terrorist organization.

The UAE had "long left the Yemen war," Otaiba said in his comments to JINSA. "Attacking a country that is not in combat makes a very clear case" to reinstate the Houthi terrorist designation. 


Biden weighs up returning Houthis to US terror list

Biden weighs up returning Houthis to US terror list
Updated 20 January 2022

Biden weighs up returning Houthis to US terror list

Biden weighs up returning Houthis to US terror list
  • US leader faces criticism over failure to address terrorist violence as he says it is 'not the time to give up' on nuclear talks with Iran

CHICAGO: US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that he is considering re-designating Yemen’s Houthi militia as an international terrorist organization days after the Iran-backed group killed three people in a drone strike in the UAE.
Marking his first full year in office with a two-hour press conference, Biden focused on his domestic efforts and the fight against COVID-19, but also touched on foreign policy issues, mostly addressing the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, and also taking questions on Iran and Yemen.
Weeks after taking office in 2021, Biden officially delisted the Houthi militia as a “foreign terrorist organization,” a designation put in place by his predecessor, Donald Trump.
The US leader has also worked to bring Iran back to the negotiating table over its nuclear weapons program.
Asked if he would redesignate the Houthis as a terrorist group, Biden replied: “It’s under consideration.”
Houthi rebels claimed credit for a cross-border drone strike on Monday that killed three migrant workers in the UAE.
Biden’s Special Envoy to Yemen, Tim Lenderking, was sent to the Gulf and London on Wednesday “to reinvigorate peace efforts in coordination with the UN, senior regional government officials and other international partners,” according to a statement from US State Department spokesman Ned Price.
“The special envoy and his team will press the parties to de-escalate militarily and participate fully in an inclusive UN-led peace process,” Price said.
Lenderking will also address “the urgent need to mitigate the dire humanitarian and economic crises facing Yemenis.”

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Price quoted UN data released last week that shows 16 million people in Yemen need aid totaling about $3.9 billion.
“It is imperative that donors, especially regional donors, provide additional funding, and that all parties to the conflict take steps to improve humanitarian access and address Yemen’s fuel crisis,” the UN said.
Biden was also asked if he was making progress with Iran in efforts to force the regime to adhere to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or nuclear deal.
“It is not time to give up. There is some progress to be made,” he replied.
However, the lengthy press conference was clearly intended to highlight Biden’s achievements since being sworn in as president one year ago on Jan. 20, 2021.
Political analyst Dalia Al-Aqidi said Biden’s press conference sounded more like a campaign speech, and appeared to be orchestrated to allow him to address his political talking points as Democrats and Republicans prepare for a midterm election battle for control for the House and Senate this year.
“Basically, we just saw the first draft of his presidential campaign pitch, and I expect that America will hear the same speech over and over while the country is suffering from a stalling economy and colossal inflation,” said Al-Aqidi, a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy.
She criticized Biden’s failure to address terrorist violence that resurfaced in Colleyville, Texas, this week when four members of a synagogue were held hostage until the gunman was killed by police.
The US leader confirmed he plans to run for re-election and will keep Kamala Harris as his vice presidential running mate. He also defended his role in the sudden US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Biden initially took questions from 11 reporters, who were on a list he held at the podium. Questions focused on the economy, mounting tensions with Russia over Ukraine, and growing polarization in the US. He acknowledged the need to get out of the White House and “speak directly” to the American people.
Halfway through the press conference, Biden accepted questions from other reporters who were sometimes openly critical of his performance.
The US leader insisted he has made significant progress easing the economic burden caused by the global pandemic, including creating 6 million jobs, reducing unemployment to 3.9 percent and getting 210 million Americans fully vaccinated.
Biden also claimed he is working to bring the country together, and blamed the failure to bridge the nation’s growing divide on Trump, citing private discussions he has had with several Republican senators who say they fear Trump will undermine their re-election if they support Biden’s agenda.