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)
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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.


Israel says sanctions relief for Iran could mean ‘terror on steroids’

Israel says sanctions relief for Iran could mean ‘terror on steroids’
Updated 16 sec ago

Israel says sanctions relief for Iran could mean ‘terror on steroids’

Israel says sanctions relief for Iran could mean ‘terror on steroids’
  • Warning against world powers easing sanctions against Tehran as they seek a new nuclear deal
JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said funding for Iran could lead to “terror on steroids” on Tuesday, in an apparent warning against world powers easing sanctions against Tehran as they seek a new nuclear deal.
“The last thing you want to do ... is pour tens of billions of dollars into this apparatus. Because what will you get? Terror on steroids,” Bennett said in a video address to the World Economic Forum in Davos.

UN Palestinian refugee agency seeks $1.6 billion

UN Palestinian refugee agency seeks $1.6 billion
Updated 42 min 21 sec ago

UN Palestinian refugee agency seeks $1.6 billion

UN Palestinian refugee agency seeks $1.6 billion
  • UNRWA’s funding suffered a blow in 2018 when former US president Donald Trump cut support to the agency

JERUSALEM: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, announced a $1.6 billion funding appeal Tuesday to help counter “chronic” budget shortfalls.
It is the latest in a series of warnings from UNRWA on possible deep cuts if the international community fails to provide more support.
“Chronic agency budget shortfalls threaten the livelihoods and well-being of the Palestine refugees that UNRWA serves and pose a serious threat to the agency’s ability to maintain services,” agency head Philippe Lazzarini said in a statement.
UNRWA’s funding suffered a blow in 2018 when former US president Donald Trump cut support to the agency.
His administration branded UNRWA as “irredeemably flawed,” siding with Israeli criticisms of the agency founded in 1949, a year after Israel’s creation.
President Joe Biden’s administration has restored some support, but UNRWA has said it is still struggling.
In November, it warned it was facing an “existential threat” over budget gaps.
The agency has a staff of 28,000 and provides services such as education and health care to more than five million Palestinians registered in the Palestinian territories, including Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.


Coalition targets Houthi strongholds in Sanaa

Coalition targets Houthi strongholds in Sanaa
Updated 18 January 2022

Coalition targets Houthi strongholds in Sanaa

Coalition targets Houthi strongholds in Sanaa
  • The drone attack targeted oil tankers in the Abu Dhabi, killing three people and wounding six others

DUBAI: The Coalition announced on Tuesday a series of airstrikes against Houthi militia strongholds and camps in Yemen’s capital Sanaa, a day after the group launched a rare and deadly attack on the United Arab Emirates.

The drone attack targeted oil tankers in the Abu Dhabi, killing three people and wounding six others.

In a statement, the Coalition said it destroyed warehouses and communications system for drones in Jabal al-Nabi Shuaib. The UAE is part of the Saudi-led pro-government coalition fighting the Houthi militia.


Iranian-Swedish dissident’s ‘terrorist’ trial to open

Iranian-Swedish dissident’s ‘terrorist’ trial to open
Updated 18 January 2022

Iranian-Swedish dissident’s ‘terrorist’ trial to open

Iranian-Swedish dissident’s ‘terrorist’ trial to open
  • Habib Chaab is accused of ‘planning and carrying out a number of terrorist acts, including bomb attacks in Khuzestan province’
TEHRAN: The trial of an Iranian-Swedish dissident held in Iran for over a year accused of carrying out “bomb attacks” for an Arab separatist group opens Tuesday, the judiciary said.
Habib Chaab disappeared during a visit to Turkey in October 2020 and a month later appeared in a video broadcast by Iranian state television, in which he confessed to launching attacks.
In December that year, Turkish authorities announced the arrest of 11 people suspected of spying and involvement in the alleged kidnapping of Chaab on behalf of Iran.
Iran accuses Chaab of leading the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA), which Tehran has designated as a terrorist group.
“The first hearing in the case of Habib Farjollah Chaab, also known as Habib Asyud, the leader of the terrorist group ASMLA, opens tomorrow (Tuesday) before Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court,” the judiciary’s Mizan Online agency said.
Chaab is accused of “planning and carrying out a number of terrorist acts, including bomb attacks in Khuzestan province,” the agency said.
Khuzestan, an oil-rich southwestern province, has a large Arab population that has regularly complained of being marginalized.
Chaab is also accused of “destroying public property with the aim of opposing the Islamic republic,” Mizan said.
Iran does not recognize dual nationality for its nationals, and Sweden had been denied consular access to Chaab.
Turkish police say Chaab was kidnapped in Istanbul before being taken him to Van, on the Iranian border, before he was handed over to authorities in Tehran.
In a video broadcast by state television in Iran after his arrest, Chaab claimed responsibility for an attack in September 2018 on a military parade in the city of Ahvaz that killed at least 29 people.
Such videos are common in Iran, and are frequently condemned by rights groups arguing that confessions are often forced through torture.

Abu Dhabi requires COVID-19 booster shots to enter emirate

Abu Dhabi requires COVID-19 booster shots to enter emirate
Updated 18 January 2022

Abu Dhabi requires COVID-19 booster shots to enter emirate

Abu Dhabi requires COVID-19 booster shots to enter emirate
  • People entering the UAE capital must show a ‘green pass’ on gov’t app

DUBAI, UAE: Facing a nationwide surge in coronavirus cases fueled by the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant, Abu Dhabi is requiring people entering the city to show proof of booster shots.
The government’s health app said earlier this week that people entering the capital of the United Arab Emirates must show a “green pass,” confirming their vaccination status. The app says that visitors are no longer considered fully vaccinated unless they have received a booster at least six months after their second dose.
Those wishing to enter Abu Dhabi also must have have tested negative for the virus within the last two weeks to maintain their “green” status.
Abu Dhabi requires that residents show their green pass before entering public places or government buildings.
The UAE boasts among the world’s highest vaccination rates per capita. The country has fully vaccinated more than 90 percent of its population, health authorities have said. Although infections had plummeted in December, cases recently have skyrocketed to heights unseen in months.