Israel hits Hamas targets as Gaza militants fire rockets

A fireball rises following an air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip early Monday. Israel launched airstrikes against Gaza, a source inside the enclave said. (Photo by Said Khatib / AFP)
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A fireball rises following an air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip early Monday. Israel launched airstrikes against Gaza, a source inside the enclave said. (Photo by Said Khatib / AFP)
A fireball rises following an air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip early Monday. Israel launched airstrikes against Gaza, a source inside the enclave said. (Photo by Said Khatib / AFP)
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A fireball rises following an air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip early Monday. Israel launched airstrikes against Gaza, a source inside the enclave said. (Photo by Said Khatib / AFP)
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Updated 14 September 2021

Israel hits Hamas targets as Gaza militants fire rockets

Israel hits Hamas targets as Gaza militants fire rockets
  • The launch came at a time of heightened tensions following an escape by six Palestinian militants from an Israeli prison last week

JERUSALEM: Israeli aircraft struck a series of targets in the Gaza Strip early Monday while Palestinian militants launched rockets into Israel in the third consecutive night of fighting between the sides.

The violence took place shortly before Israel’s prime minister, Naftali Bennett, was heading to Egypt for a visit expected to focus on Egyptian efforts to broker a long-term truce between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers in the wake of an 11-day war last May.

Those efforts appear to have come to a standstill in recent weeks. Tensions have further risen after last week’s escape from an Israeli prison by six Palestinian inmates.

The Israeli military reported three separate rocket launches late Sunday and early Monday, saying at least two of them were intercepted by its rocket defenses. It said it attacked a number of Hamas targets in retaliation. There were no reports of casualties on either side.

In other violence, the Israeli army said an assailant attempted to stab a soldier at a busy intersection in the occupied West Bank. It said that soldiers shot the attacker, who was taken to a hospital. No further details were immediately available.

In downtown Jerusalem, meanwhile, police said a 17-year-old Palestinian boy stabbed and wounded two people near the city’s central bus station.

Jerusalem police chief Doron Turjeman said the assailant was shot by an officer. The boy suffered a serious gunshot wound to the chest.

Last week’s prison break appears to have heightened tensions across the region, with Palestinians staging a number of protests in solidarity with the men. In Palestinian society, nearly every family has seen a member imprisoned by Israel, and the thousands of prisoners held by Israel are widely seen as heroes paying a price for the national cause.

Over the weekend, Israel caught four of the six Palestinian inmates, who tunneled out of a maximum security prison on Sept. 6. Palestinian militants reacted to the arrests with rocket fire. Israel’s search for the last two prisoners is continuing.

Mediation efforts

The Egyptian-mediated efforts to deliver a long-term truce have struggled with the sides unable to agree on a system to renew Qatari payments to needy Gaza families. Israel has demanded guarantees that Hamas does not divert the money for military use.

Gaza is an impoverished territory whose population is overwhelmingly comprised of families who fled or were forced from properties in what is now Israel during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment in 1948.

Hamas is pushing for Israel to end a crippling blockade that has devastated Gaza’s economy, while Israel is demanding that Hamas free two captive Israeli civilians and return the remains of two dead Israeli soldiers.

Hamas has controlled Gaza since ousting the forces of the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority in 2007, a year after the Islamic militant group won Palestinian parliamentary elections.

Since then, Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and numerous smaller rounds of fighting.

On Sunday, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Sunday called for a new approach to end the cycle of fighting with Hamas, describing a plan of international investment in Gaza’s infrastructure in exchange for pressure on Hamas to halt its military buildup and preserve calm.

“The policy Israel has pursued up until now hasn’t substantially changed the situation,” Lapid told a security conference. “We need to change direction,” he added.

Much about his proposal — which he said was made in consultation with the United States and other countries — has been floated before but never implemented due to the fighting, deep distrust and bitter internal divisions on both sides. Bennett, whom Lapid is to replace in 2023 under a rotation agreement, did not immediately comment on the proposal.


Date set for Iran nuclear talks

Date set for Iran nuclear talks
Updated 14 sec ago

Date set for Iran nuclear talks

Date set for Iran nuclear talks
  • EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell said at the weekend he was ready to meet Iranian leaders
  • The 2015 deal collapsed in 2018 when the US pulled out and President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions

JEDDAH: Talks aimed at reviving the collapsed Iran nuclear deal will resume this week, two Iranian members of parliament said on Sunday.

After a private meeting with Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, MP Ahmad Alirezabeigui said “talks with the 4+1 Group will restart on Thursday in Brussels.” Another Iranian MP, Behrouz Mohebbi Najmabadi, said negotiations would resume “this week.”

The 4+1 Group consists of four UN Security Council permanent members — Britain, China, France and Russia — and Germany. They began negotiations with Iran in Vienna in April over reviving the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the agreement with world powers to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting economic sanctions.

That deal collapsed in 2018 when the US pulled out and President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions, and Iran responded by breaching the deal’s restrictions on its enrichment of uranium.

Trump’s successor Joe Biden is keen to revive the deal and the US is taking part indirectly in the Vienna talks. However, discussions have been suspended since June in a stalemate over who concedes first — Iran by complying with the agreement, or the US by lifting sanctions. US allies in the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, are also concerned that the agreement fails to address wider issues such as Iran’s ballistic missiles and its malign regional activities.

EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell said at the weekend he was ready to meet Iranian leaders. “The goal remains to resume negotiations in Vienna as quickly as possible,” his spokesman said.


Unvaccinated government employees to be banned from entering workplace, says Egyptian PM

Unvaccinated government employees to be banned from entering workplace, says Egyptian PM
Updated 17 October 2021

Unvaccinated government employees to be banned from entering workplace, says Egyptian PM

Unvaccinated government employees to be banned from entering workplace, says Egyptian PM
  • Health minister announced a second arrival of 1.6 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine at Cairo airport
  • The doses were provided by the US through the global COVAX initiative

CAIRO: Unvaccinated government employees will be banned from entering their workplace, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said, as the health minister spoke of the quantity and variety of jabs available and the expansion of specialist centers administering them.

“It must be ensured that all workers in the administrative authorities of the governorates are vaccinated, and soon any employee who has not been vaccinated will not be allowed to enter, especially with the wide availability of vaccines,” he told a meeting.

He called for awareness campaigns in governorates explaining the importance of vaccines, especially since the Ministry of Health was ready to provide any required quantity during this stage.

“We have 60.5 million doses of vaccines and, by the end of this month, the number of available vaccines will reach 70 million," said Dr. Hala Zayed, who is the minister of health and population. 

She acknowledged the importance of awareness campaigns and in taking the necessary measures to encourage citizens to get jabbed.

She said the number of vaccination centers had been increased and that, in the coming period, they would be established in areas frequented by citizens. These locations would include courts, traffic departments, metro stations, trains, and in front of mosques and churches on Fridays and Sundays.

The centers were for any governorate that requested them and the goal was to vaccinate citizens quickly.

Zayed said Egypt had started manufacturing vaccines and that, starting next week, the manufacturing technology would be transferred from its Chinese partner.

She also announced a second arrival of 1.6 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine at Cairo International Airport, provided by the US through the global COVAX initiative.

Khaled Megahed, from the ministry, said the Pfizer vaccine had approval for use from both the World Health Organization and the Egyptian Drug Authority.

The shipment of vaccines received would be analyzed in the authority’s laboratories before being distributed to 1,100 vaccination centers.

The first shipment of Pfizer vaccines, also 1.6 million doses, was received last September as part of a series of shipments provided by the US to Egypt.


Arab coalition: 165 Houthis killed, 10 military vehicles destroyed in Abedia

Arab coalition: 165 Houthis killed, 10 military vehicles destroyed in Abedia
Updated 17 October 2021

Arab coalition: 165 Houthis killed, 10 military vehicles destroyed in Abedia

Arab coalition: 165 Houthis killed, 10 military vehicles destroyed in Abedia
  • The US has called on the Houthis to stop their offensive on Marib
  • The coalition announced on Saturday that it had killed 160 Houthis and destroyed 11 military vehicles in Abedia

RIYADH: The Arab coalition said on Sunday that 165 Houthis had been killed and ten military vehicles destroyed in operations in Marib’s Abedia district.

The coalition said it had carried out 41 operations targeting Houthis in Abedia and surrounding villages during the last 24 hours.

Abedia is a district in Yemen’s Marib which has been under a Houthi siege since Sept. 23, hindering the movement of civilians and impeding humanitarian aid flows.

The Houthis continue to carry out their terrorist operations against civilians and prevent medical aid from reaching patients in Abedia, the coalition said.

On Saturday, the US called on the Houthis to stop their offensive on Marib, and listen to the urgent calls from across Yemen and the international community to bring this conflict to an end and support a UN-led inclusive peace process.

“The Houthis are obstructing movement of people and humanitarian aid, preventing essential services from reaching the 35,000 residents of Abedia,” a US State Department statement said.

“The US urges the Houthis to immediately permit safe passage for civilians, life-saving aid, and the wounded. As the UN stated this week, it stands ready with its partners to provide this much needed assistance to the people of Marib,” the statement added.

The coalition announced on Saturday that it had killed 160 Houthis and destroyed 11 military vehicles in similar operations in Abedia.


Syrian constitutional committee agrees to start drafting constitutional reform: UN envoy

Syrian constitutional committee agrees to start drafting constitutional reform: UN envoy
Updated 17 October 2021

Syrian constitutional committee agrees to start drafting constitutional reform: UN envoy

Syrian constitutional committee agrees to start drafting constitutional reform: UN envoy
  • Syrian government and opposition co-chair meeting for first time, agree to launch process for drafting constitutional reform
  • Pedersen says the Syrian Constitutional Committee is an important contribution to the political process but will not be able to solve the political crisis itself

BEIRUT: Syria’s government and opposition in the war-torn country have agreed to start drafting constitutional reforms, the UN Syria envoy announced Sunday, a major step after a nine-month hiatus of talks and several fruitless rounds.
UN special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen didn’t say what was behind the agreement or offer details of what comes next. The drafting sessions formally begin Monday.
Pedersen met Sunday with the co-chairs of a committee which includes figures from fourth-term President Bashar Assad’s government, as well as exiles and civil society representatives. The two sat together for the first time to discuss how to proceed, and plans for the week ahead, Pedersen said.
Thirty representatives divided between the two sides, along with 15 members of civil society, will be meeting with Pedersen in Geneva until Friday.
“I have been negotiating between the parties to establish a consensus on how we are going to move forward. I am very pleased to say we have reached such consensus,” Pedersen told reporters, appealing to all parties to maintain the spirit.
“My appeal for the 45 (members) is that we work as we have agreed to, and that we now start the drafting process of the constitutional committee,” he said.
The last round of talks ended in January without progress. Pedersen announced late September an agreement on “methodology” for a sixth round. It’s based on three pillars: respect for rules of procedure, the submission of texts of “basic constitutional principles” ahead of the meeting, and regular meetings of the co-chairs with him before and during the meeting.
Syria’s 10-year conflict has killed over 350,000 people and displaced half the country’s pre-war 23 million population, including more than 5 million refugees mostly in neighboring countries.
At a Russia-hosted Syrian peace conference in January 2018, an agreement was reached to form a 150-member committee to draft a new constitution.
The 2012 United Nations’ road map to peace in Syria calls for the drafting of a new constitution and ends with UN-supervised elections with all Syrians, including members of the diaspora, eligible to participate.
After the fifth round of negotiations failed in late January, Pedersen hinted the Syrian government delegation was to blame for the lack of progress.
The United States and several Western allies accused Assad of deliberately stalling and delaying the drafting of a new constitution until after presidential elections to avoid a UN-supervised vote, as called for by the Security Council.
In late May, Assad was re-elected in what the government called a landslide for a fourth seven-year term. The West and his opposition described the election as illegitimate and a sham.
Pedersen said the need for “a genuine intra-Syrian dialogue” was reportedly discussed by Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin recently in Moscow, “and through this, a genuine process of Syrian political reform.”


Jordan says no current plans to operate flights to Syria

Jordan says no current plans to operate flights to Syria
Updated 17 October 2021

Jordan says no current plans to operate flights to Syria

Jordan says no current plans to operate flights to Syria

CAIRO: Jordan’s Civil Aviation Regulatory Commission said that there are no current plans to operate flights between Jordan and Syria, state news agency PETRA reported on Sunday.
Jordan’s state carrier, Royal Jordanian, said in September it would resume direct flights to Damascus for the first time in nearly a decade, in what would have been the latest step to restore extensive business ties with Syria.

More to follow...