Israel strike crippling Syria’s main airport hikes tensions

Israel strike crippling Syria’s main airport hikes tensions
A handout picture released by Syrian Arab News Agency on June 12, 2022 shows damage at the Damascus International Airport following an Israeli strike. (File/AFP)
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Updated 14 June 2022

Israel strike crippling Syria’s main airport hikes tensions

Israel strike crippling Syria’s main airport hikes tensions
  • The strikes further ratchet up tensions in the confrontation between Israel on one side and Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah on the other
  • Iran has accused Israel of assassinating several high-ranking Revolutionary Guard members

BEIRUT: Israel marked a major escalation in its years-long campaign of airstrikes in Syria, carrying out an attack last week that shut down the country’s main civilian airport in Damascus as Israel steps up efforts to stop Iranian weapons shipments to Hezbollah.
Commercial flights were still halted at Damascus International Airport five days after Friday’s pre-dawn airstrikes smashed into its runways, leaving multiple craters, and damaged the air control tower and other buildings.
The strikes further ratchet up tensions in the confrontation between Israel on one side and Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah on the other. Iran has accused Israel of assassinating several high-ranking Revolutionary Guard members, while Hezbollah has threatened to strike a gas rig Israel is setting up in Mediterranean Sea area that Lebanon also claims as its waters.
The escalation comes as Russia, the top ally of Iran and Syria, is preoccupied with its war in Ukraine. Russia has naval and air bases in Syria and troops deployed there, backing Damascus in Syria’s long civil war.
For years, Israel has been carrying out airstrikes in Syria, saying it is determined to prevent Iran’s entrenchment near its northern border and the smuggling of weapons to Hezbollah, which is funded and armed by Tehran. The strikes have largely hit bases of Iranian-allied militias, including Hezbollah, as well as convoys said to be carrying arms to Hezbollah.
Friday’s strikes were the most extensive against a civilian target and, by shutting the airport down, had the widest impact. As in the past, Israel did not claim responsibility for the strikes.
The airport had remained operational even during the worst days of Syria’s 11-year civil war. It has both a civilian and a military section and satellite photos showed the runways on both sides with at least three craters each.
Along with the runways, the strikes hit or damaged airport halls and a radar tower and an arms shipment that was in the civilian side of the airport, said Rami Abdurrahman who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict in Syria.
Military positions south of Damascus were also hit.
Despite the escalation, Syria and Hezbollah both remained relatively muted about the attack. Syrian state media said Israeli strikes wounded one person and caused “significant” damage to infrastructure and rendered the main civilian runway unserviceable until further notice. Flights were rerouted to Aleppo’s airport while repairs were underway.
Syrian Prime Minister Hussein Arnous visited the airport Sunday to inspect repairs. Photos posted by SANA showed a bulldozer working on what appeared to be the runway while another showed damage inside one of the airport’s rooms with glass blown out, chairs unhinged from their place and electric cables dangling from the ceiling.
Israeli media reported that the aim of the latest attack was to prevent the flow of equipment used in precision-guided missiles to Hezbollah.
Military affairs analyst Yossi Yehoshua wrote in Israel’s daily Yedioth Ahronoth that the Iranians have tried to ramp up aerial operations, first using cargo planes and hiding the weapons in hangars at Damascus International Airport. He claimed that now Iran and Hezbollah were using civilian flights to Damascus and Beirut to smuggle advanced military materiel to Hezbollah.
“Materiel consists of relatively small parts that look innocuous enough” and are easy to hide inside checked baggage on a civilian flight, Yehoshua wrote.
Amos Harel, senior military correspondent for Israel’s daily Haaretz, wrote that Iran has sought ways around Israeli disruptions and recently some of the best systems have been smuggled in hand luggage on commercial flights.
He added that the action suggests Israel perhaps feels it can take far-reaching military steps now, while international attention is focused on Ukraine.
Past Israeli strikes have largely gone without retaliation from the Syrians. Israeli airstrikes in Syria are usually coordinated with Moscow through a “deconfliction mechanism” to avoid direct confrontation with Russian forces in Syria.
In a rare public rebuke, Russia’s Foreign Ministry denounced Friday’s airstrikes as “provocative” and a “violation of the basic norms of international law.”
A Lebanese journalist who covers Arab-Israeli affairs, Sateh Noureddine, wrote that Israel’s move to knock out Damascus’ airport signals “a plan to impose a complete air blockade on Iran while also striking at Hezbollah, depriving it of a vital air link with its only military supply center.”
The strikes could be a first step toward a possible Israel-Hezbollah war, Noureddine warned, writing in the Lebanese news site Al-Modon, where he is editor-in-chief.
Hezbollah and Israel have had a series of confrontations, including a full-scale war in 2006. Tensions between the two enemies have been escalating over a maritime border dispute between Lebanon and Israel, with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatening last week to strike the Israeli gas rig being set up.
In February, Nasrallah said the group has been manufacturing military drones in Lebanon and has the technology to turn thousands of missiles in their possession into precision-guided munitions.
A Lebanese military analyst who closely follows affairs in Syria and Lebanon said Syrian officials have been unusually “tightlipped” since the strike, given its significance.
“There is silence in Syria at all levels and the real scope of the strike is unknown,” he said, asking that his name not be made public in order to discuss the Syrian reaction.
“The timing of the strike and link with to regional developments is puzzling,” he said.


Palestinian cause ‘alive and well’ in Kuwait: Minister 

Palestinian cause ‘alive and well’ in Kuwait: Minister 
Updated 10 sec ago

Palestinian cause ‘alive and well’ in Kuwait: Minister 

Palestinian cause ‘alive and well’ in Kuwait: Minister 
  • His comments came after holding a meeting with Kuwait’s Ambassador to Jordan and Palestine Aziz Al-Dihani

 KUWAIT: The Palestinian cause is “alive and well in the hearts of the leaders, government and people of Kuwait,” the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) cited Palestine’s Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs Sheikh Hatem Al-Bakri as saying. 
 
His comments came after holding a meeting with Kuwait’s Ambassador to Jordan and Palestine Aziz Al-Dihani on Tuesday. 
 
“The State of Kuwait is keen on supporting the Palestinian political leadership in their quest to establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital,” the minister said. 
 
The meeting reviewed matters related to the Awqaf ministry and service sectors, with a focus on the support from Kuwaiti charitable organizations to the Palestinian people, KUNA reported. 
 
Ambassador Al-Dihani said Kuwait strongly believes in the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights to independence and maintains its support of Palestine on the regional and international scale. 


Jordanian king meets Bahraini officials meet to discuss bilateral ties

Jordanian king meets Bahraini officials meet to discuss bilateral ties
Updated 44 min 23 sec ago

Jordanian king meets Bahraini officials meet to discuss bilateral ties

Jordanian king meets Bahraini officials meet to discuss bilateral ties
  • Various challenges that threaten the stability and security of countries in the region were discussed in the meeting

DUBAI: Jordan’s King discussed regional and international issues with Bahrain’s minister of foreign affairs on Tuesday during a meeting in Al Husseiniya Palace in Amman. 
King Abdullah II discussed with Bahrain’s Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani ways to further enhance cooperation between the two nations, according to state news agency BNA. 
Al Zayani, who was on an official visit to Jordan, also met with Ayman Safadi, the deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Jordan. 
The pair spoke about developments, and the various challenges that threaten the stability and security of countries in the region. 
Bahrain’s foreign minister said a number of regional issues were discussed such as the Palestine, the war in Yemen, the Iranian nuclear file, the war in Ukraine, global food security and the energy crisis.’
With a focus on the Palestinian issue, Al Zayani called for an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. 
The two ministers agreed that a ‘comprehensive and just settlement that preserves the rights of the Palestinian people’ must be reached in order to begin the peace process. 
They also praised efforts made by Egypt to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza, and the ‘necessity of its extension’ to benefit both Palestinians and Israelis. 
Al Zayani and Safadi agreed that a two-state solution was the way forward. 
“There is no other solution to this conflict,” said Safadi. “If the two-state solution is not achieved, we are going towards a one-state situation, which would perpetuate apartheid; this would not lead to peace."
When discussing Syria, Jordan’s foreign minister stressed the need to ‘activate pan-Arab action to solve the Syrian crisis’ that will help the country abolish terrorism. 


Safadi added that Jordan and Bahrain would continue to reiterate their support for Iraq, its security and stability. 
He added that both nations also welcomed the Yemen ceasefire, which he hoped would lead to a comprehensive political solution that will help end hostilities in Yemen and uphold security in GCC member states.


Palestinian President Abbas skirts apology for Munich attack

Palestinian President Abbas skirts apology for Munich attack
Updated 17 August 2022

Palestinian President Abbas skirts apology for Munich attack

Palestinian President Abbas skirts apology for Munich attack
  • Germany has long argued the term should only be used to describe the Nazis’ singular crime of killing six million Jews before and during World War II

BERLIN: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas expressed no regret Tuesday for the deadly attack by Palestinian militants on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics a half century ago, countering that Israel had committed “50 Holocausts” against Palestinians over the years.
Eleven Israeli athletes and a German police officer died after members of the Palestinian militant group Black September took hostages at the Olympic Village on Sept. 5, 1972. At the time of the attack, the group was linked to Abbas’ Fatah party.
Asked whether as Palestinian leader he planned to apologize to Israel and Germany for the attack ahead of the 50th anniversary next month, Abbas responded instead by citing allegations of atrocities committed by Israel since 1947.
“If we want to go over the past, go ahead,” Abbas told reporters after a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin. “I have 50 slaughters that Israel committed.”
Standing next to Scholz, Abbas explicitly used the word “Holocausts” in his reply, drawing a grimace from the German chancellor. Germany has long argued the term should only be used to describe the Nazis’ singular crime of killing six million Jews before and during World War II.
While Scholz had earlier rejected the Palestinian leader’s description of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as “apartheid,” he did not immediately rebuke Abbas for using the term “Holocaust.”
In a statement to German daily Bild, Scholz later criticized Abbas’s choice of words, saying any downplaying of the horrors of the Holocaust was “unacceptable.”
Conservative German lawmaker Armin Laschet likewise expressed outrage at Abbas’ comments.
“The (Palestinian) leader would have gained sympathy if he had apologized for the terrorist attack on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics 1972,” he wrote on Twitter. “Accusing Israel of ‘50 Holocausts’ instead is the most disgusting speech ever heard in the German Chancellery,” he said.
In his response, the Palestinian president also said he was committed to building trust and achieving a peaceful solution to the conflict with Israel.
“Please come to peace,” he said. “Please come to security, let’s build trust between us and you. This is better than other kinds of talking.”
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said Abbas’ remarks about “50 Holocausts,” made on German soil, were “not only a moral disgrace, but a monstrous lie.”
“Six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, including one and a half million Jewish children,” Lapid tweeted. “History will never forgive him.”
Weeks before a planned somber commemoration marking the 50th anniversary of the Munich attack, Germany has also found itself embroiled in controversy in its dealings with the relatives of the Israelis who were killed.
Victims’ families announced last week that they planned to boycott the ceremony after failing to reach agreement on bigger compensation from the German government.
Relatives of the athletes have long accused Germany of failing to secure the Olympic Village, refusing Israeli help and botching a rescue operation in which five of the attackers also died.

 


Tunisia intercepts nearly 100 Europe-bound migrants

Tunisia intercepts nearly 100 Europe-bound migrants
Updated 16 August 2022

Tunisia intercepts nearly 100 Europe-bound migrants

Tunisia intercepts nearly 100 Europe-bound migrants
  • Tunisia and Libya are the main points of departure for migrants trying to reach Europe from Africa

TUNIS: Tunisia said Tuesday it had foiled several attempts by almost 100 migrants to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea since the previous day.

Tunisia and Libya are the main points of departure for migrants trying to reach Europe from Africa. Sea crossing attempts tend to increase during spring and summer.

Tunisia’s National Guard said it had prevented five maritime crossings and rescued 80 people, mostly Tunisians and including 35 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

It said “preventive operations” were also carried out near Menzel Temime in the north, Mahdia and Kerkennah on the central coast and Zarzis in the south, leading to 11 arrests.

The National Guard said it had seized “a sum of money” without specifying the amount, and an inflatable boat in these operations.

On Monday, maritime and military authorities said 657 people were rescued or prevented from trying to cross in 46 separate incidents between Friday and Monday.

The Defense Ministry said that 42 Egyptians who had set sail from Libya were rescued Sunday off Kerkennah, after their boat sank and they took refuge on an oil platform.

Tunisia is in the throes of political and economic crises, and Libya has been gripped by lawlessness since 2011 that has seen militias turn to people trafficking.

The two countries are also the gateway for sub-Saharan Africans hoping for a better life by escaping impoverished and strife-torn countries such as Sudan.

The EU’s Frontex border agency says the central Mediterranean route was used by more than 42,500 migrants between January and July, up 44 percent compared with the first seven months of 2021.


25 dead in airstrikes, shelling in north Syria

25 dead in airstrikes, shelling in north Syria
Updated 17 August 2022

25 dead in airstrikes, shelling in north Syria

25 dead in airstrikes, shelling in north Syria
  • Turkish attacks target Assad forces and Kurdish fighters in border town

JEDDAH: At least 25 people were killed in northern Syria on Tuesday after Turkey launched airstrikes and an artillery bombardment targeting Assad regime forces and Kurdish fighters near the border town of Kobane.

The Turkish shelling began overnight, when artillery salvoes hit the town and around its edges. It continued throughout the day, and at least one child was killed.
Kurdish YPG militia fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces responded with a mortar attack on a Turkish military border post in Sanliurfa province that killed one soldier and injured four.
After the mortar attack, Turkish forces conducted retaliatory fire against targets in the Kobane area. “According to initial information in the region, 13 terrorists were neutralized. Operations in the region are continuing,” the Defense Ministry in Ankara said.

FASTFACT

Kurdish YPG militia fighters responded with a mortar attack on a Turkish military border post in Sanliurfa province that killed one soldier and injured four.

Dilvin, a shopkeeper in Kobane, said chaos broke out in the town when the shelling intensified on Tuesday. “People started running everywhere, cars everywhere, people asking about their friends and their family. Then the sounds started to build, the sounds were everywhere,” she said.
“There was so much screaming. So much fear. Now everyone is locked up at home.”
Later on Tuesday, 11 people died in Turkish airstrikes on a Syria border post run by Assad regime forces. It was not clear if the dead were Syrian government troops or Kurdish fighters.
Syrian regime forces have deployed in areas controlled by the SDF near the border with Turkey as part of agreements intended to stem cross-border offensives by Ankara targeting Kurdish forces it views as terrorists.
Turkey has launched a series of attacks since 2016 targeting Kurdish forces and Daesh, but they have rarely resulted in the deaths of Syrian regime fighters.
If regime forces are confirmed to be among those killed on Tuesday, the attack would be one of the largest escalations since Ankara and Damascus traded attacks in 2020 following a Syrian regime strike that killed 33 Turkish soldiers in the northwestern province of Idlib.
Turkey has stepped up its attacks in Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria since July, when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed to obtain a green light from regional allies Iran and Russia for a fresh offensive into northern Syria.
Turkey has been hostile to Syrian leader Bashar Assad, and backed rebels calling for his removal. But last week Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu enraged the Syrian opposition by calling for reconciliation between the regime and the rebels.