Satellite images show smoldering wreckage at Syrian Latakia port

Satellite images show smoldering wreckage at Syrian Latakia port
This satellite photograph taken by Planet Labs PBC show the smoldering wreckage after an Israeli strike on the port at Latakia, Syria, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 30 December 2021

Satellite images show smoldering wreckage at Syrian Latakia port

Satellite images show smoldering wreckage at Syrian Latakia port
  • Bahrain appoints its first ambassador to Damascus since it downgraded ties early in the conflict

BEIRUT: Satellite images taken this week over the Syrian port of Latakia show the smoldering wreckage after a reported Israeli missile strike, hours after firefighters contained a massive blaze.

The raid launched from the Mediterranean Sea on Tuesday was among the biggest launched by Israel into Syria, igniting a fire in the container terminal that raged for hours and caused significant material damage in the vicinity.

It damaged a nearby hospital and offices, and also shattered windows of residential buildings and cars parked in the area near the port. The explosion could be heard miles away.

It was the second such attack on the facility this month.




Flames rise from burning containers at the scene of a missile attack at the seaport of the coastal city of Latakia, Syria. (AP)

The Latakia seaport handles most of the imports to Syria, a country ravaged by a decade-old civil war and Western-imposed sanctions.

Another attack took place Dec. 7, when Syrian media reported Israeli warplanes hit the container terminal, also igniting a major fire.

Satellite photos obtained by The Associated Press from Planet Labs PBC on Thursday showed heavy smog over the container terminal on Wednesday, likely from the struck container still smoking. The images suggest it was a high precision strike that appeared to hit one container.

A Syrian military official said the Israeli missiles were fired from the sea, west of Latakia, hitting the terminal and igniting fires.

Maj. Mohannad Jafaar, head of the Latakia fire department, said 12 fire trucks worked for hours to contain the blaze.

He said the containers that were hit held spare auto parts and oil but there were no casualties.

The Israeli military, which rarely comments on individual attacks or discusses details of such operations, declined to comment on the reported strike.

Israel says it targets bases of Iran-allied militias, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah group, which has fighters in Syria. It says it attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for the militias.

Also on Thursday, Bahrain appointed its first ambassador to Damascus since it downgraded ties early in the conflict.

The appointment of Waheed Mubarak Sayyar, reported by Bahrain’s state news agency BNA, is part of a diplomatic shift in the Middle East as a growing number of Arab countries revive ties with President Bashar Assad.

Gulf states downgraded or shut missions in Damascus after the Syrian regime used force against the 2011 protests that developed into war.

Bahrain has said its embassy, and the Syrian diplomatic mission in Manama, have remained operational.

Last month, the UAE, which reopened its mission to Damascus in late 2018, sent its foreign minister to Damascus where he met Assad. It has called for Syria to be readmitted to the Arab League.

Abu Dhabi began to re-engage with Damascus after decisive gains by pro-regime forces, hoping to increase Arab clout in Syria at the expense of non-Arab Turkey and Iran, which supports Assad.

Oman last year became the first Gulf state to reinstate an ambassador to Syria.


Iraq security forces thwart Daesh attack in Kirkuk

Iraq security forces thwart Daesh attack in Kirkuk
Updated 7 sec ago

Iraq security forces thwart Daesh attack in Kirkuk

Iraq security forces thwart Daesh attack in Kirkuk

DUBAI: Security forces have thwarted a Daesh attack in the northern Iraqi region of Kirkuk.

“A group of ISIS remnants attacked a security point in the village of Khabaza, affiliated to Hawija district, southwest of Kirkuk, before they were confronted by a force from the 61st Brigade of the Popular Mobilization,” the Popular Mobilization Forces said in a statement carried by state media Iraqi News Agency.

“One of the brigade’s fighters was shot during the attack, and the point was reinforced strongly from the brigade’s headquarters and from its third regiment,” the statement added.

Iraqi security forces have undertaken extensive operations against Daesh to prevent their resurgence since declaring their defeat in 2017.

Iraqi anti-terror resistance groups have repeatedly warned that remnants of Daesh active in Syria’s east may find unhindered access to the Iraqi border and infiltrate the country to conduct militant activities.


Kuwait and US officials discuss bilateral ties

Kuwait and US officials discuss bilateral ties
Updated 10 min 43 sec ago

Kuwait and US officials discuss bilateral ties

Kuwait and US officials discuss bilateral ties

Kuwaiti Deputy Foreign Minister, Ambassador Majid Al-Dhafiri, met with Charge d’Affairs of the US Embassy in Kuwait Jim Holtsnider, state news agency (KUNA) reported.

During the meeting, both officials discussed bilateral relations and reviewed the latest regional and global developments of common interest.


Saudi Arabia leads condolences to Algeria over forest fires victims

Saudi Arabia leads condolences to Algeria over forest fires victims
Updated 16 min 12 sec ago

Saudi Arabia leads condolences to Algeria over forest fires victims

Saudi Arabia leads condolences to Algeria over forest fires victims
  • The rest of the Gulf countries released statements of “sincere condolences and sympathy” with the poeple of Algeria

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia led messages of condolences to Algeria over the victims of the wildfires that ravaged forests across different provinces, claiming at least 38 lives and injuring scores more.

The fires, triggered by drought and a blistering heatwave, spread throughout El-Tarf region near Algeria’s eastern border with Tunisia, forcing hundreds to flee their homes.

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent a cable of condolences to the Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, state news agency (SPA) reported.

In their cable, the king and crown prince conveyed “profound sorrow and sincere sympathy” to the president and families of the deceased, wishing the injured a speedy recovery.

The rest of the Gulf countries - UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar - released statements of “sincere condolences and sympathy” to the families of the victims and reaffirmed solidarity with the Algerian government over the raging wildfires.

Offering condolences, Nayef Al-Hajraf, Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), affirmed the solidarity and support of the Gulf countries with Algeria. He also wished a speedy recovery for the injured.
In a phone call, Tunisian President Kais Saied extended “heartfelt condolences” to his Algerian counterpart.

According to a presidency statement, Saied drew parallels between both countries in their fight against wildfires and vowed to dedicate Tunisia’s resources to support the Algerian people.

Jordan, Libya and Palestine voiced full support and solidarity with Algeria, with Sudan affirming “full confidence” in the ability of the Algerian government to address and overcome these challenging times.

The General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was also among the parties that expressed full solidarity with Algeria. Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha offered “sincere condolences” to the people and government of Algeria, reiterating support for the country and expressing “confidence in the ability of the Algerian leadership to overcome this crisis.”


Israel defies UN with raid on Palestine rights groups

Israel defies UN with raid on Palestine rights groups
Updated 19 August 2022

Israel defies UN with raid on Palestine rights groups

Israel defies UN with raid on Palestine rights groups
  • Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz repeats discredited claims of financing terror organizations
  • Nine EU countries have said they will continue working with the Palestinian groups because Israel has produced no evidence to support its accusations

RAMALLAH: Israel defied condemnation by the UN and the EU on Thursday by raiding and closing down seven Palestinian rights groups in the West Bank.

Security forces stormed the groups’ offices in Ramallah and seized files, computers and other equipment before sealing off entrances and declaring them permanently closed.

The seven groups are the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association; Al-Haq; Bisan Center for Research and Development; Defense for Children International — Palestine; Health Work Committees; the Union of Agricultural Work Committees; and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.

Israel has designated six of the groups as terrorist, and Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Thursday repeated discredited claims that they had raised funds for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which it views as a terrorist organization.

A picture the premises of Palestinian NGO Women's Union building in the West Bank city of Ramallah after it was raided by Israel forces on August 18, 2022. (Abbas Momani / AFP) 

The UN called for the terrorist designations to be revoked. “Despite offers to do so, Israeli authorities have not presented to the UN any credible evidence to justify these declarations,” the UN Human Rights Office said. “As such, the closures appear totally arbitrary.”

Nine EU countries have said they will continue working with the Palestinian groups because Israel has produced no evidence to support its accusations. “Past allegations of misuse of EU funds in relation to certain Palestinian civil society organizations have not been substantiated,” EU diplomacy chief Josep Borrell’s spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said on Thursday. “The EU will continue to stand by international law and support civil society organizations.”

After the raids, staff from Al-Haq removed the metal sheet covering their office door and vowed to get back to work. “We were established here not by Israel, not by their decision, and we will continue our work,” director Shawan Jabarin said.

Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh visited the group’s office and pledged his support. “This is not only an NGO, but this is also a state of Palestine institution — therefore as long as they work within the law, we will stand solid with them,” he said. 

Analysts speculated that Israel had attacked the groups because they were becoming increasingly effective at exposing Israel’s repression of Palestinian people. “I think Israel wants to restrict the activities of the Palestinian human rights institutions that worked to submit files to the International Criminal Court and were able to change world opinion of Palestinian human rights issues,” rights expert Majed Al-Arouri told Arab News.


Lebanon public sector faces paralysis as strikes widen

Lebanon public sector faces paralysis as strikes widen
Updated 18 August 2022

Lebanon public sector faces paralysis as strikes widen

Lebanon public sector faces paralysis as strikes widen
  • Move to raise customs dollar rate plunges markets into turmoil 

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s public sector and legal system are under growing strain amid widening strike action over the plunging value of salaries in the crisis-hit country.

Hundreds of judges continued their strike on Thursday in protest at having their salaries based on exchange rate of 1,507 Lebanese pounds to the dollar.

Civil servants have also decided to go on strike again for the same reason, despite being granted monthly aid.

Meanwhile, Lebanese university professors are continuing their open-ended strike, while students wait for work to resume so they can take last year’s final exams.

Lebanon took preliminary steps to raise the customs dollar rate from 1,507 Lebanese pounds — the rate adopted before the economic crisis hit three years ago — to 20,000 pounds.

The move created confusion in markets, adding to the chaos they were already facing.

The customs dollar is the price for calculating the customs value of imports, and is paid in Lebanese pounds.

On Thursday, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati sent a letter to Finance Minister Youssef Khalil demanding the customs dollar rate of 20,000 pounds be adopted.

Khalil told an expanded ministerial consultative meeting about the move.

The ministerial committee enjoys exceptional powers that allow it to adjust the customs dollar rate without the need for Cabinet approval.

Amin Salam, the caretaker economy minister, told a press conference on Thursday that the preliminary decision will be the subject of discussions between the finance minister and the central bank governor.

Salam said that the impact of the new customs dollar rate on prices of goods would be “insignificant,” adding that the current rate was no longer fair.

“We want to adjust the wages and salaries of civil servants,” he said.

Salam also voiced fears that traders might store goods to be sold later under the new rate.

“We are waiting for traders to provide us with the lists of goods they purchased previously,” the minister said.

Foodstuffs that will be subject to the customs dollar can be substituted by alternative products available in Lebanon, in order to encourage the industrial sector and the Lebanese industry, he said.

Salam said that expensive cheese and canned vegetables are among products that will be subject to the customs dollar.

He warned traders against pricing old products based on the new customs dollar rate.

The customs dollar is one of the main elements feeding the Lebanese treasury, which receives a percentage of the price of imported goods.

MP Ibrahim Kanaan, chair of the parliamentary finance and budget committee, said that he doubted the customs dollar would take into consideration people’s means and needs.

“How can we come up with the customs dollar? What are the covered and non-covered goods, and who is going to monitor the prices?” he asked.

Four rates are currently adopted in Lebanon by the state and banks, in addition to the black market rate, which reached about 33,000 Lebanese pounds to the dollar on Thursday.

Economic analysts have predicted that the country will witness a new wave of price increases while social security measures are negligible in the face of worsening economic pressures.

Observers are worried that this might encourage smugglers crossing Lebanese-Syrian border.

Hani Bohsali, head of the Food Importers’ Syndicate, told Arab News: “There are no luxury goods anymore. If we want to speak logically and put things in perspective, the interests of Lebanese come before the traders’ interests.”

Bohsali said the customs dollar “will affect oils and canned vegetables, and we are afraid that those demanding a wage increase might request another one after a while.”

He added: “We will all pay the price of and be affected by ill-considered decisions.

“Do we know what the repercussions of increasing the customs dollar are? Is it really going to profit the state? They calculated it based on how things stand currently, but what if the value of importation dropped by half as a result of the Lebanese low purchasing power.”

MP Ziad Hawat said that increasing the rate without a complete economic plan would not achieve the desired objectives.

He called for a consolidation of the exchange rate instead of “stealing people’s deposits.”