Israel shells Lebanese border areas after rockets fired

Israel shells Lebanese border areas after rockets fired
Israel has earlier responded to two rockets on July 20 with artillery fire. (File/AFP)
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Updated 04 August 2021

Israel shells Lebanese border areas after rockets fired

Israel shells Lebanese border areas after rockets fired
  • The US State Department will remain engaged with Israeli and Lebanese partners to de-escalate the situation
  • The military said in a statement the alerts sounded in at least three communities near the border with Lebanon

BEIRUT: Tensions rose on the Lebanese-Israeli border on Wednesday after unknown individuals fired three rockets from Lebanese territory.
Two fell on the Israeli city of Kiryat Shmona while the third rocket landed inside Lebanon. No party has yet claimed responsibility.
Israel retaliated by bombing Lebanese border areas, causing fires. Avichay Adraee, spokesman for the Israeli military, said: “The Lebanese government is fully responsible for any rocket fire originating from its territory.”
Rocket warning sirens sounded in northern Israel near the Lebanese border, the military said.
There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. The military said in a statement the alerts sounded in at least three communities near the border with Lebanon.
Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett left a Knesset (Parliament) session to hold security consultations following the rocket fire from Lebanon.
The United States condemns rocket attacks by armed groups based in Lebanon on Israel, the US State Department said on Wednesday.
It will remain engaged with Israeli and Lebanese partners to de-escalate the situation.
“We absolutely condemn the rocket attacks from armed groups, based in Lebanon, that were fired into Israel,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
Candice Ardell, deputy director of the media office of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), said: “The Commander of UNIFIL Stephano Del Col is in direct contact with all parties. He urged them to cease fire and exercise maximum restraint to avoid further escalation, especially on this sad anniversary (of the Beirut port explosion).”
The border has been mostly quiet since Israel fought a 2006 war against Hezbollah guerrillas, who have sway in southern Lebanon and advanced rockets.
But small Palestinian factions in Lebanon have fired sporadically on Israel in the past, and two rockets were launched at Israel on July 20, causing no damage or injuries. Israel responded to that incident with artillery fire.

— With input from AFP and Reuters.


Algeria gives disgraced ex-leader Bouteflika 3-days mourning

Algeria gives disgraced ex-leader Bouteflika 3-days mourning
Updated 56 min 26 sec ago

Algeria gives disgraced ex-leader Bouteflika 3-days mourning

Algeria gives disgraced ex-leader Bouteflika 3-days mourning
  • Bouteflika, who had been ailing since a stroke in 2013, died Friday at 84
  • Bouteflika's 20-year-long rule, riddled with corruption, ended in disgrace as he was pushed from power amid huge street protests

ALGIERS: Algeria’s leader declared a three-day period of mourning starting Saturday for former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, whose 20-year-long rule, riddled with corruption, ended in disgrace as he was pushed from power amid huge street protests when he decided to seek a new term.
Bouteflika, who had been ailing since a stroke in 2013, died Friday at 84. His public appearances had been rare in the final years of his presidency, and he had not been seen since President Abdelmadjid Tebboune took office in late 2019.
Flags are to fly at half-staff during the mourning period, the president’s office said. The honors reflect Bouteflika’s role in Algeria’s brutal seven-year war for independence from France that ended in 1962. Those who fought are considered martyrs today.
The former president’s lawyer, Salim Salim Hadjouti, said Bouteflika was being laid to rest in an official ceremony at El Alia cemetery, in the section where martyrs of the revolution for independence are buried, a special honor.
Since Bouteflika’s death, public television has not shown images of him, a clear sign that authorities prefer not to go overboard with a farewell as the North African nation has turned past the Bouteflika era. Early on in his mandate, Tebboune announced his policy of a “new Algeria.”
Tebboune has led a fight against the corruption, including in the Bouteflika clan as it emerged that a close circle of officials around the president were enriching themselves and allegedly making decisions in the place of the ailing president. Bouteflika’s brother and special counsellor Said was acquitted in January by a military appeals court of allegedly plotting against the army and the state, but faces corruption charges.


Yemen’s Houthis execute nine men for involvement in Samad death

Yemen’s Houthis execute nine men for involvement in Samad death
Updated 18 September 2021

Yemen’s Houthis execute nine men for involvement in Samad death

Yemen’s Houthis execute nine men for involvement in Samad death
  • Samad held the post of president in the Houthi-controlled administration

DUBAI: The Iran-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen said on Saturday that authorities had executed nine men who were convicted of involvement in the 2018 killing of Saleh al-Samad, then the armed group’s top civilian leader. 
Samad, who held the post of president in the Houthi-controlled administration which runs most of northern Yemen, was killed in April 2018 by a Saudi-led coalition air strike in the port city of Hodeidah on Yemen's west coast. 
He was the most senior official to be killed by the coalition in the years-long war in which the Houthis are fighting forces loyal to the internationally recognised government based in the southern port city of Aden. 
The government is backed by a Saudi-led coalition that has received support from Western powers. 
Saudi Arabia and its mostly Gulf Arab allies allege the Houthis are proxies for their arch-rival Iran, something the group and Tehran deny. 
Houthi authorities said the nine men were charged and convicted for their involvement in the killing of Samad, including spying and sharing sensitive information with the Saudi-led coalition. 
The Houthis said the execution by firing squad was witnessed by “masses,” including blood relatives and Houthi leaders in the capital Sanaa, which they control.


Abu Dhabi updates entry rules, COVID-19 test no longer required for UAE travelers

Abu Dhabi updates entry rules, COVID-19 test no longer required for UAE travelers
Updated 18 September 2021

Abu Dhabi updates entry rules, COVID-19 test no longer required for UAE travelers

Abu Dhabi updates entry rules, COVID-19 test no longer required for UAE travelers
  • Abu Dhabi had restricted entry into the emirate to those with a negative PCR test
  • The Covid-19 testing requirements to enter will be removed starting Sunday, Sept. 19

DUBAI: The Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee announced that residents, tourists or citizens traveling from within the UAE are no longer required to present a COVID-19 test result to enter the emirate effective Sunday.

The UAE's capital had restricted entry into the emirate to those with a negative PCR test. 

The comittee said the Covid-19 testing requirements to enter will be removed starting Sunday, Sept. 19. 

The rule applies to residents, citizens and tourists traveling to Abu Dhabi from within the UAE. 

The Abu Dhabi Media Office said the decision follows the announcement of a decreased Covid-19 infection rate in the emirate of 0.2 per cent of total tests and the activation of the green pass system to enter some public places.

“The committee will continue to monitor infection rates & urges all citizens, residents & visitors to continue adhering to precautionary measures to protect public health & safety, maintain successes, & advance the nation’s sustainable recovery,” the media office said on Twitter. 

On Friday, the ministry of health in the UAE announced 521 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of recorded cases in the country to 731,828. 

It also announced 2 deaths due to COVID-19 complications, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 2,071.

An additional 614 individuals had fully recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries to 723,337.


Three Iranian dissidents to be honored by PEN America

Iranians wearing protective masks cross a main road in Tehran during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. (AFP file photo)
Iranians wearing protective masks cross a main road in Tehran during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. (AFP file photo)
Updated 18 September 2021

Three Iranian dissidents to be honored by PEN America

Iranians wearing protective masks cross a main road in Tehran during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. (AFP file photo)
  • The PEN gala is scheduled for Oct. 5 at its longtime venue the American Museum of Natural History, with Awkwafina serving as host

NEW YORK: Three imprisoned Iranian dissidents will be honored next month at Pen America’s annual gala.
The literary and human rights organization announced on Thursday that writer-filmmaker Baktash Abtin, novelist-journalist Keyvan Bajan and author-critic Reza Khandan Mahabadi are this year’s recipients of the 2021 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award.
All three are members of the anti-censorship Iranian Writers Association and are serving a collective 15.5 years on charges including endangering national security and “spreading propaganda.”
“Baktash Abtin, Keyvan Bajan, and Reza Khandan Mahabadi are embodiments of the spirit that animates our work at PEN America. They are writers who are called not only to offer prose and ideas on a page, but to live fearlessly — and sacrifice immensely in service of the liberties that underpin free thought, art, culture, and creativity,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement.
“By taking up the mantle of leadership within Iran’s literary community, they have served as beacons for countless authors and thinkers whose ability to imagine, push boundaries, and challenge repression under the most dangerous conditions is fed by the knowledge that they do not stand alone.”
The PEN gala is scheduled for Oct. 5 at its longtime venue the American Museum of Natural History, with Awkwafina serving as host.


Spoons become a new symbol of Palestinian ‘freedom’

Palestinians shop at a market in the old city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. (AFP)
Palestinians shop at a market in the old city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. (AFP)
Updated 18 September 2021

Spoons become a new symbol of Palestinian ‘freedom’

Palestinians shop at a market in the old city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. (AFP)
  • Prisoners carried out jail break with the utensil

JERUSALEM: The humble spoon has taken its place alongside traditional flags and banners as a Palestinian resistance symbol, after prisoners were said to have carried out one of Israel’s most spectacular jail breaks with the utensil.

When the six Palestinian militants escaped through a tunnel on Sept. 6 from the high security Gilboa Prison, social networks shared images of a tunnel at the foot of a sink, and a hole dug outside.
A hashtag, “the miraculous spoon,” suggested how the Hollywood-style feat might have occurred.
But whether or not the utensil had really been involved or its role was cooked up was at first unclear.
Then on Wednesday a lawyer for one of the fugitives who has since been recaptured told AFP that his client, Mahmud Abdullah Ardah, said he had used spoons, plates and even the handle of a kettle to dig the tunnel from his cell.
He began scraping his way out from the northern Israeli institution in December, the lawyer, Roslan MaHajjana, said.
Ardah was one of four fugitives later arrested after the army poured troops into the occupied West Bank as part of a massive manhunt.
All six were accused of plotting or carrying out attacks against Israelis.
Two men remain on the loose following the extremely rare escape. Israel has begun an inquiry into lapses that led to the embarrassing incident, which Palestinians see as a “victory.”
“With determination, vigilance... and cunning, and with a spoon, it was possible to dig a tunnel through which the Palestinians escaped and the enemy was imprisoned,” writer Sari Orabi said on the Arabi 21 website.
Palestinian cartoonist Mohammed Sabaaneh says the escape has served up “black humor” and exposed Israel’s security system to ridicule.
He has made several drawings featuring the utensil, including one titled “The Tunnel of Freedom.”
The issue has also stirred admiration outside the Palestinian territories, where spoons have been carried in demonstrations supporting prisoners detained by Israel.
In Kuwait, the artist Maitham Abdal sculpted a giant hand firmly clasping a spoon — the “spoon of freedom,” as he calls it.
Similarly inspired, Amman-based graphic designer Raed Al-Qatnani symbolically depicted six silhouettes taking a bridge to freedom, represented by a spoon.
For him, it also evokes the numerous hunger strikes undertaken by Palestinian prisoners to protest their incarceration.
In Tulkarem, a city in the West Bank occupied since 1967 by Israel, the escape brought back memories for Ghassan Mahdawi. He and another prisoner escaped from an Israeli prison in 1996 through a tunnel dug using not kitchen implements but nails.
He had been arrested for belonging to an armed group during the first Palestinian intifada, which lasted until the early 1990s.
“There’s nothing prisoners can’t do ... and there is always a flaw” in the system, said Mahdawi, who was rearrested and then released after a total of 19 years in custody.
In his view, the most recent escapees may have used tools other than spoons, obtained inside the prison, to carry out what every prisoner dreams of but few accomplish.
“To escape from an Israeli prison is something each inmate thinks about,” Mahdawi said.
To have done it with a spoon, he added, is something that “will go down in history.”