Syrian port ablaze as Israeli airstrikes hit Iran arms cache

A picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on December 7, 2021 shows fire near containers of the Syrian port of Latakia. (AFP)
A picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on December 7, 2021 shows fire near containers of the Syrian port of Latakia. (AFP)
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Updated 29 December 2021

Syrian port ablaze as Israeli airstrikes hit Iran arms cache

A picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on December 7, 2021 shows fire near containers of the Syrian port of Latakia. (AFP)
  • Firefighters battle flames in burning weapons containers
  • Assad regime admits ‘significant damage’

JEDDAH/DAMASCUS: Israeli warplanes launched devastating airstrikes early on Tuesday targeting the Syrian port of Latakia, destroying weapons and ammunition storage depots operated by Iran.

The attack set off explosions and a massive blaze that lit up the Mediterranean seafront and sent plumes of dark smoke billowing into the air. Firefighters trained hoses on stacks of blazing containers.

Latakia Gov. Ismail Hilal said civil defense crews had brought the blaze under control by midday, and were dousing the embers.

“The Israeli enemy carried out an aerial aggression with several missiles from the direction of the Mediterranean ... targeting the container yard in Latakia port,” a Syrian military spokesman said. The strike caused “significant material damage,” the spokesman admitted.

Syrian authorities claimed the blazing containers had carried “engine oil and spare parts for cars and other vehicles.”

However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the war monitor based in Britain, said the cargo was “arms and munitions” which had detonated in “powerful explosions that were felt across the city of Latakia and its suburbs.”

Israel has routinely carried out airstrikes on Syria since the civil war began in 2011, mostly targeting Syrian government troops, allied Iran-backed forces and Hezbollah fighters.

HIGHLIGHT

Iran finances, arms and commands a number of Syrian and foreign militia groups fighting alongside the regular armed forces, including fighters from Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The latest attack was the second time in a month that it has hit the port of Latakia, in the heartland of Bashar Assad’s minority Alawite community.  So far this year, Israel has targeted Syria nearly 30 times, killing 130 people including five civilians and 125 loyalist fighters, according to Observatory figures.

On Dec. 7, it carried out a strike targeting an Iranian arms shipment in Latakia, its first on the port since the start of the civil war.

While Israel rarely comments on individual strikes, it has acknowledged mounting hundreds since 2011. According to a report by the Israeli army, it hit about 50 targets in Syria in 2020.

In the deadliest operation since the strikes began, Israel killed 57 government troops and allied fighters in eastern Syria in January this year.

The Israeli military has defended the strikes as a necessary measure to prevent Iran from gaining a foothold on its doorstep.

Israel’s head of military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, has accused Iran of “continuing to promote subversion and terror” in the Middle East.

In a shadow war, Israel has targeted suspected Iranian military facilities in Syria and mounted a sabotage campaign against Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran finances, arms and commands a number of Syrian and foreign militia groups fighting alongside the regular armed forces, including fighters from Hezbollah in Lebanon.


Iraq trial of Briton and German for antiquity theft adjourned

Iraq trial of Briton and German for antiquity theft adjourned
Updated 25 min 13 sec ago

Iraq trial of Briton and German for antiquity theft adjourned

Iraq trial of Briton and German for antiquity theft adjourned
  • James Fitton and Volker Waldmann have been in custody since they were arrested on March 20 at Baghdad airport
  • According to customs officers, Fitton’s baggage contained 10 stone fragments, pieces of pottery or ceramics; Waldmann had two pieces, but denied they were his

BAGHDAD: An Iraqi court on Sunday adjourned for two weeks the trial of a Briton and a German man accused of trying to smuggle antiquities after a defense lawyer called for more investigations.
James Fitton, 66, a retired British geologist, and Volker Waldmann, 60, a Berlin psychologist, have been in custody since they were arrested on March 20 at Baghdad airport as they wound up their holiday.
According to statements from customs officers and witnesses, Fitton’s baggage contained 10 stone fragments, pieces of pottery or ceramics. Waldmann allegedly had two pieces, but denied they were his.
The two men did not know each other before they traveled to Iraq on an organized tour, and both say they had no intention of breaking the law.
The trial was adjourned until June 6 to allow time for further investigations, at the request of Waldmann’s defense lawyer, Furat Kuba.
During initial investigations, “certain important aspects were not examined,” Kuba said, citing the report of an expert committee that said the fragments found with the men were antiquities.
“We don’t have any more details: what site do these pieces come from? What era, what civilization do they date back to?” Kuba asked, adding there were also outstanding questions relating to the site where the fragments were collected.
“Is it fenced and protected?” Kuba asked. “Are there signs indicating that these are ancient pieces that it is forbidden to collect?“
Kuba said he wanted the tour guide or an Iraqi official who had been present at the site to give evidence in court as to whether the tourists had received instructions prohibiting them from picking up fragments.
Their trial comes with the war-ravaged country, whose tourism infrastructure is almost non-existent, timidly opening to visitors.
Iraq has also been trying to recover antiquities that were looted over a period of decades from the country whose civilization dates back thousands of years.
The judge told the accused they were charged under a 2002 law which provides for sentences up to the death penalty for those guilty of “intentionally taking or trying to take out of Iraq an antiquity.”
Fitton, at the start of the trial, when asked why he tried to take the artefacts out of Iraq, cited his “hobby,” saying he was interested in “geology and ancient history and archaeology,” and was not aware that taking the fragments was illegal.
Waldmann has denied the pieces allegedly found in his luggage were his, but they belonged to Fitton.


Iranian news agency ISNA says members of Israeli intelligence network discovered and arrested in Iran

Iranian news agency ISNA says members of Israeli intelligence network discovered and arrested in Iran
Updated 9 sec ago

Iranian news agency ISNA says members of Israeli intelligence network discovered and arrested in Iran

Iranian news agency ISNA says members of Israeli intelligence network discovered and arrested in Iran

DUBAI: Iran's semi-official ISNA news agency reported on Sunday that members of an Israeli intelligence service network had been discovered and arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“Under the guidance of the Zionist regime's intelligence service, the network attempted to steal and destroy personal and public property, kidnapping and obtaining fabricated confessions through a network of thugs,” the IRGC public relations service said in a statement. 


Iran Revolutionary Guards member assassinated in Tehran: State media

Iran Revolutionary Guards member assassinated in Tehran: State media
Updated 35 min 43 sec ago

Iran Revolutionary Guards member assassinated in Tehran: State media

Iran Revolutionary Guards member assassinated in Tehran: State media
  • The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the ideological arm of Iran’s military, identified Khodai as a colonel
  • According to IRNA, Khodai was killed by five bullets as he returned home at around 4:00 p.m. (1130 GMT)

TEHRAN: Gunmen shot dead a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on Sunday in the east of the capital Tehran, state news agency IRNA reported.
“Sayyad Khodai... was assassinated during a gun attack carried out by two motorcylists in Tehran’s Mohahedin-e Eslam Street,” IRNA said.
The agency described him as a “defender of the sanctuary” — a term used to describe anyone who works on behalf of the Islamic republic in Syria or Iraq.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the ideological arm of Iran’s military, identified Khodai as a colonel.
In a statement posted on their website, the Guards also denounced a “terrorist act” they claimed was carried out by “elements linked to global arrogance” — a reference to the United States and its allies.
The Guards said they launched an investigation to identify the “aggressor or aggressors.”
According to IRNA, Khodai was killed by five bullets as he returned home at around 4:00 p.m. (1130 GMT).
The agency published pictures showing a man slumped over in the driver’s seat of a car, with blood around the collar of his blue shirt and on his right upper arm.
He is strapped in with his seat belt and the front window on the passenger side has been shot out.


Israeli court sentences Palestinian jailbreakers to 5 years

Israeli court sentences Palestinian jailbreakers to 5 years
Updated 22 May 2022

Israeli court sentences Palestinian jailbreakers to 5 years

Israeli court sentences Palestinian jailbreakers to 5 years
  • The jailbreak sparked a massive manhunt in the country’s north and the occupied West Bank in search for the men

TEL AVIV: An Israeli court on Sunday sentenced six Palestinian inmates to five years in prison for tunneling out of their cell last year and escaping from a high-security facility in the biggest prison break of its kind in decades.
The jailbreak sparked a massive manhunt in the country’s north and the occupied West Bank in search for the men, who were members of Palestinian militant groups. They were recaptured days later.
The bold escape dominated newscasts, sparked heavy criticism of Israel’s prison service and prompted the government to launch an inquiry. According to various reports, the men dug a tunnel through the floor of their shared cell undetected over several months and managed to slip past a sleeping prison guard after emerging through a hole outside the facility.
The judge ruled that the sentence took into account the fact that the prison break paralyzed the nation for days, the costs it took to recapture the inmates and the harm to public security caused by having prisoners under life sentence and convicted of serious crimes escape.
The five-year sentence will be added to the prison terms the prisoners were already serving. Five other inmates charged with assisting the men were sentenced to an additional four years.
Israel considers all six of the escapees to be terrorists. Five of them are from the Islamic Jihad militant group, with four of them serving life sentences. The sixth, Zakaria Zubeidi, is a member of the secular Fatah group of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Zubeidi was a militant leader during the second Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s and well known in Israel both for his militant activity and his love for giving media interviews.
Palestinians consider prisoners held by Israel to be heroes of their national cause and many on social media celebrated the escape and held demonstrations in support of the prisoners.


Oman ends all COVID-19 protective measures

Oman ends all COVID-19 protective measures
Updated 22 May 2022

Oman ends all COVID-19 protective measures

Oman ends all COVID-19 protective measures
  • All measures that had been taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, in all venues and for all activities have been lifted

Oman announced on Sunday the lifting of all measures that had been taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, in all venues and for all activities, state TV reported, citing a statement from the government committee dealing with the pandemic.
There have been 389,943 infections and 4,260 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the sultanate since the pandemic began, according to Reuters data.