Shooting in Syria could mark new phase in Israeli campaign

Shooting in Syria could mark new phase in Israeli campaign
Druse supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad wave Syrian flags during a rally close to the Syrian border demanding the return of the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in 1967, in Majdal Shams, Golan Heights. (AP/File)
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Updated 18 October 2021

Shooting in Syria could mark new phase in Israeli campaign

Shooting in Syria could mark new phase in Israeli campaign
  • Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed the strategic territory

JERUSALEM: The death of a former Syrian Druze lawmaker, allegedly by Israeli sniper fire, could mark a new phase in what Israel calls its war against Iranian entrenchment in neighboring Syria.

Syria’s state-run news agency said that Midhat Saleh was fatally shot Saturday in Ein el-Tinneh, a village along the Israeli frontier in the Golan Heights where he ran a Syrian government office. Israeli media said Saleh had been assisting the Iranian military against Israel.

The Israeli military declined to comment, but if Saleh was indeed killed by Israel, it would mark the first time that Israeli snipers are known to have killed someone identified as an Iranian-linked target across the border. Israel has said it will not tolerate a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria and has acknowledged carrying out scores of airstrikes on alleged Iranian arms shipments and military targets in Syria in recent years.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed the strategic territory, which overlooks northern Israel. Most of the world does not recognize the annexation, though the Trump administration declared the territory to be part of Israel.

Saleh was born in Majdal Shams, in the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan, and was jailed several times by Israel, most recently for 12 years until 1997. He later moved to Syria, was elected to parliament in 1998 and served as an adviser to the government on the Golan issue.

The small Druze community living in the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan generally has good relations with Israel. But many members still profess loyalty to Syria, in part because they have relatives on the other side of the border.

Samih Ayoub, a resident on the Israeli side of the Golan, told Israel’s Army Radio station Saleh had “no connection” to Iran or to any militia. “He’s just a quiet man who works in an office. They killed him next to his house,” he said.

Saleh’s brother, Yasser Saleh, a doctor in Damascus, said his brother also lived in the Syrian capital but visited the border area periodically, slept there and sometimes spoke with relatives across the frontier. He said his younger brother had survived an earlier assassination attempt in early 2011 and remained committed to ending Israel’s control over the Golan Heights until the end. He said his brother was survived by a wife and two children, including a son named Golan.

While there was no official comment, Israeli military commentators — who are given high-level background briefings with top army brass — said Saleh was intimately involved in assisting the Iranians build up their capabilities along the Israeli front. Iran has sent thousands of forces to Syria to back the army of President Bashar Assad during the country’s decade-long civil war.

“He answered directly to the Iranians,” wrote Yossi Yehoshua, a military correspondent for Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s largest paid daily newspaper.

Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser, told Army Radio that if Israel killed Saleh, it was meant to send a message to the Iranians and not connected to the past. “I assume this was not an act of revenge,” he said. “We’re not talking about a mass murderer.”

Yoel Guzansky, a senior fellow and expert on Iran at the Institute for National Security Studies, a Tel Aviv think tank, said it was not a sure thing that Israel had even been involved. He said that Saleh was not an especially valuable target and also had tense relations with Iranian proxy Hezbollah and objected to the group’s activities in the Golan.

But he said that if Israel did indeed kill Saleh through an unprecedented sniper attack, it sent a powerful message to Iran and Syria about their activities near the Israeli border.

“It says that we have many ways and many techniques,” he said. “We’re watching you.”


Jordan reports its highest daily number of COVID-19 cases to date as fourth wave rages

According to government figures, 4,556,988 people in Jordan have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 4,168,651 have received two shots. (Reuters/File Photo)
According to government figures, 4,556,988 people in Jordan have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 4,168,651 have received two shots. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 59 min 53 sec ago

Jordan reports its highest daily number of COVID-19 cases to date as fourth wave rages

According to government figures, 4,556,988 people in Jordan have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 4,168,651 have received two shots. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • An additional 11,478 cases have been confirmed, bringing the total in the country since the pandemic began to 1,152,526
  • Nearly 23 percent of tests returned a positive result, 18 percent above the 5 percent rate considered ‘safe’ by authorities

AMMAN: Jordan on Monday reported the highest number of daily COVID-19 cases in the country since the pandemic began, as the kingdom battles to contain a surging fourth wave of coronavirus infections.

Authorities said an additional 11,478 cases have been confirmed, bringing the total to 1,152,526, and another 15 people have died of conditions related to the disease. The death toll now stands at 13,088.

Nearly 23 percent of PCR tests returned a positive result, 18 percent above the 5 percent rate considered “safe” by the government.

A further 158 COVID-19 patients were admitted to hospital, while 107 have recovered and been discharged. A total of 714 people are currently receiving hospital treatment for the disease.

The government said occupancy rates of isolation beds by COVID-19 patients in the country’s northern, central and southern regions stand at 10 percent, 19 percent and 8 percent respectively.

According to government figures, 4,556,988 people in Jordan have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 4,168,651 have received two shots.


Algerian president in Egypt on official visit

Algerian president in Egypt on official visit
Updated 25 min 39 sec ago

Algerian president in Egypt on official visit

Algerian president in Egypt on official visit
  • Abdelmadjid Tebboune is on a two-day state visit
  • Egypt is the third Arab country that Tebboune has visited since he took office in December 2019

CAIRO: Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi received on Monday evening his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune at Cairo International Airport.

Tebboune is on a two-day state visit, and is expected to discuss with El-Sisi Arab and African security issues, including the crisis in neighboring Libya.

The two presidents previously met in January 2020 on the sidelines of the Berlin conference on the Libyan crisis.

Egypt is the third Arab country that Tebboune has visited since he took office in December 2019, after Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.

El-Sisi received a written message from Tebboune last week after receiving Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra in Cairo.

El-Sisi and Lamamra discussed bilateral relations and Arab issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Libyan crisis.


Egypt not to blame for failure of Renaissance Dam talks: FM

Egypt not to blame for failure of Renaissance Dam talks: FM
Updated 24 January 2022

Egypt not to blame for failure of Renaissance Dam talks: FM

Egypt not to blame for failure of Renaissance Dam talks: FM
  • Sameh Shoukry: Egypt is always ready to resume negotiations with Ethiopia if there is a political will to reach an agreement
  • Egypt and Sudan reject Ethiopia’s insistence on filling the dam before reaching a binding agreement

CAIRO: Cairo is not to blame for the failure of negotiations over the filling and operation of Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has said.

“Egypt is always ready to resume negotiations with Ethiopia if there is a political will to reach an agreement,” he added.

“Egypt is always keen to reach consensus between the three countries — Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia — and to reach a binding legal agreement in accordance with the rules of international law and international practices, in a manner that meets the needs of all parties, which is Ethiopia’s right to development, and the right of Egypt and Sudan to their share of the Nile waters.”

Negotiations between the three countries failed in April 2021 and have not resumed since. Egypt and Sudan reject Ethiopia’s insistence on filling the dam before reaching a binding agreement.


Egypt approves Merck COVID-19 pill, says to be produced locally

Egypt approves Merck COVID-19 pill, says to be produced locally
Updated 24 January 2022

Egypt approves Merck COVID-19 pill, says to be produced locally

Egypt approves Merck COVID-19 pill, says to be produced locally

CAIRO: Egypt approved Merck & Co’s COVID-19 pill Molnupiravir for emergency use, the country’s drug authority said on Monday, adding that the pill would be locally produced.
The drug will initially be manufactured by five local companies, to be joined later by several other firms, the Egyptian Drug Authority said in a statement.


Arab League calls for Houthis to be classified terror group

Arab League calls for Houthis to be classified terror group
Updated 24 January 2022

Arab League calls for Houthis to be classified terror group

Arab League calls for Houthis to be classified terror group
  • The league affirmed its support for “the UAE’s right to self-defense and to respond to aggression under international law”
  • The league also welcomed the UN Security Council’s “unified position” in condemning the Houthi attacks

CAIRO: The Arab League has urged the international community to classify Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia as a terrorist organization after last week’s missile and drone attacks on the UAE.

The call followed an emergency meeting of the Arab League on Sunday to discuss the “brutal and vicious terrorist attack on civilians and civilian targets.”

It said the attacks “constitute a violation of international law and international humanitarian law, and a real threat to vital civilian facilities, energy supplies and the stability of the global economy.

“They also constitute a threat to regional peace and security, undermine Arab national security, harm international peace and security, and pose a threat to international commercial shipping lines.”

The meeting welcomed the solidarity of countries, as well as regional and international organizations, with the UAE.

The Arab League also welcomed the UN Security Council’s “unified position” in condemning the Houthi attacks.

The meeting affirmed the league’s support for “the UAE’s right to self-defense and to respond to aggression under international law.”

It stressed “the need for the international community to stand united in the face of this terrorist act that threatens regional and international peace and stability, and to take immediate and decisive measures to deter the Houthi militias, in order to stop their repeated criminal acts in Yemen and the region.”