US sanctions Lebanon money exchanger for alleged ties to Hezbollah

Supporters of Hezbollah attend a televised speech by the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut’s southern suburbs. (File/AFP)
Supporters of Hezbollah attend a televised speech by the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut’s southern suburbs. (File/AFP)
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Updated 24 January 2023

US sanctions Lebanon money exchanger for alleged ties to Hezbollah

Supporters of Hezbollah attend a speech by the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut’s southern suburbs. (File/AFP)
  • Announcement said Hassan Moukalled was a financial adviser to Iranian-backed Hezbollah
  • It also sanctioned Moukalled’s two sons, saying they were involved in the same financial dealings

BEIRUT: The US Treasury said on Tuesday it was placing sanctions on Lebanese money exchanger Hassan Moukalled and his business for alleged financial ties to blacklisted group Hezbollah.
Its announcement said Moukalled was a financial adviser to Iranian-backed Hezbollah, which is also designated by the United States, and carried out financial transactions on its behalf that earned him hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“Today, the Treasury Department is taking action against a corrupt money exchanger, whose financial engineering actively supports and enables Hezbollah and its interests at the expense of the Lebanese people and economy,” Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism Brian E. Nelson said.
A Treasury statement said Moukalled’s business CTEX was licensed by Lebanon’s central bank. Neither Moukalled, Hezbollah’s media office nor the central bank immediately responded to Reuters’ requests for comment.
It also sanctioned Moukalled’s two sons, saying they were involved in the same financial dealings.
Moukalled regularly appears on Lebanese television channels as a financial expert and has more than 50,000 followers on Twitter, making him one of the rare public-facing figures sanctioned by Washington for financial links to Hezbollah.
Founded in 1982 by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and classified by the United States and other Western countries as a “terrorist organization,” Hezbollah is a heavily-armed and politically powerful faction.
The Treasury regularly issues sanctions against alleged members of Hezbollah’s financial networks, most recently in December.


Israeli troops kill Palestinian driver as car speeds off: army

Israeli troops kill Palestinian driver as car speeds off: army
Updated 16 sec ago

Israeli troops kill Palestinian driver as car speeds off: army

Israeli troops kill Palestinian driver as car speeds off: army
  • Killing marks the latest bloodshed in spiraling violence that comes as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits the region

HEBRON: Israeli troops killed a Palestinian driver in the occupied West Bank Monday, officials on both sides said, with the army saying the car had hit a soldier’s leg before speeding off.
Nassim Naif Salman Abu Fouda, 26, died from “a bullet wound to the head fired by the occupation (Israeli) soldiers in Hebron this morning,” the Palestinian health ministry said.
The Israeli army said that soldiers had “identified a suspicious vehicle” and “asked the driver to stop the vehicle in order to inspect it.”
“A soldier approached the vehicle and the driver rammed into his leg,” it added.
Troops then “fired toward the vehicle as it attempted to flee the scene and hits were identified,” the army statement said. “The vehicle continued driving and then crashed.”
An eyewitness told AFP that “four or five soldiers surrounded him (Abu Fouda) when he was in his car, front and behind.”
“They started shooting at him, then he was hit,” added the witness, Hazem Abu Sneineh.
The army said the driver was taken from the car by Palestinian medics and “was later declared dead.”
Abu Fouda’s body was wrapped in a green Islamic prayer rug as it was carried from a mosque in central Hebron for burial, surrounded by hundreds of mourners.
He is the 35th Palestinian killed in the conflict this month, in the West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem — including militants, civilians and several children — according to an AFP tally based on official sources from both sides.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967.
The funeral in Hebron was held just before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Israel for a visit that will also include talks with the Palestinian leadership, amid one of the conflict’s deadliest phases in years.
Israel is reeling after a Palestinian killed six Israelis including a child and one Ukrainian citizen in a shooting on Friday outside a synagogue in east Jerusalem.
The attack came a day after Israeli forces killed 10 Palestinians in the Jenin refugee camp, in a raid the army claimed targeted operatives from Islamic Jihad.
On Sunday, CIA Director Williams Burns held talks in the West Bank with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to discuss the “dangerous developments,” the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.
The US embassy declined to comment to AFP on CIA chief’s meeting.


Iran summons Ukraine envoy over top aide’s drone strike remarks

Footage shows what is said to be the moment of an explosion at a military industry factory in Isfahan, Iran. (Reuters)
Footage shows what is said to be the moment of an explosion at a military industry factory in Isfahan, Iran. (Reuters)
Updated 21 min ago

Iran summons Ukraine envoy over top aide’s drone strike remarks

Footage shows what is said to be the moment of an explosion at a military industry factory in Isfahan, Iran. (Reuters)
  • Podoliak linked in a tweet on Sunday Iran’s support for Russia’s invasion of his country with the night-time strike on a military site

TEHRAN: Tehran on Monday summoned a Ukrainian diplomat to protest “biased” remarks by a presidential aide in Kyiv over a recent drone strike in Iran, the Islamic republic’s foreign ministry said.
Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, linked in a tweet on Sunday Iran’s support for Russia’s invasion of his country with the night-time strike on a military site.
“Explosive night in Iran — drone and missile production, oil refineries,” he said. “War logic... bills the authors and accomplices strictly.”
“Ukraine did warn you,” Podoliak added.
Iran’s foreign ministry said Ukraine’s charge d’affaires in Tehran had been summoned to provide “an official and immediate explanation from the Ukrainian government.”
It called Podoliak’s remarks “strange and biased,” adding in a statement it hoped “such positions will not be repeated.”
Iranian authorities reported an “unsuccessful” drone attack late Saturday night that targeted a defense ministry “workshop complex” in the central Isfahan province, home to the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility.
An anti-aircraft system destroyed one drone and two others exploded, the defense ministry said, adding that there were no casualties and only minor damage to the site.
Dramatic video footage widely shared on social media and published by Iranian state media showed a fireball lighting up the night sky, with people outside seen running and emergency service vehicles speeding toward the site.
Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Iran of supplying military drones to Russia for its war in Ukraine, a claim that is denied by Tehran.


UNICEF calls for protection of children amidst violence in Palestine

UNICEF calls for protection of children amidst violence in Palestine
Updated 30 January 2023

UNICEF calls for protection of children amidst violence in Palestine

UNICEF calls for protection of children amidst violence in Palestine
  • Alarm over killing of 7 Palestinians, 1 Israeli since the start of 2023

AMMAN: UNICEF has raised the alarm at the number of children killed and injured because of the recent escalation in violence between the Palestinians and Israelis.

In a statement issued on Sunday, UNICEF said that seven Palestinian children and one Israeli child have been killed since the beginning of 2023.

“Children continue to pay the highest price of violence,” the organization said, fearing that more would suffer.

“UNICEF appeals to all parties to de-escalate, exercise the utmost restraint and refrain from using violence, especially against children, in accordance with international law.

“Violence is never a solution, and all forms of violence against children are unacceptable. This must end.” 

All children are entitled to special protection under international human rights law, in particular under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. UNICEF stressed that all of their rights, including the right to life and protection, must be upheld at all times.

 


Blinken reaffirms need for two-state solution on arrival in Israel

Blinken reaffirms need for two-state solution on arrival in Israel
Updated 54 min 36 sec ago

Blinken reaffirms need for two-state solution on arrival in Israel

Blinken reaffirms need for two-state solution on arrival in Israel
  • Since the start of the year, Israeli-Palestinian conflict has claimed lives of 35 Palestinian adults, children
  • Over the same period six Israeli civilians, including a child, and a Ukrainian civilian have been killed

TEL AVIV: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Israel and Palestinians to calm tensions as he visited on Monday during the worst violence in years, reaffirming a long-stalled peace vision as the “only path” forward.
While focusing censure on a Palestinian gun spree outside a synagogue that has put Israel on high alert, Blinken also cautioned against any celebration or avenging of such bloodshed.
Seven people were shot dead in Friday’s attack by an East Jerusalem man who was himself killed by police. Lionized by many fellow Palestinians, he had no known links to militant groups.
A day earlier, Israel carried out an unusually deep raid on Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, killing 10 residents, most of them gunmen. At least 35 Palestinians, including fighters and civilians, have died in violence surging since Jan. 1, medical officials say.
“It is the responsibility of everyone to take steps to calm tensions rather than inflame them,” Blinken told reporters after landing in Tel Aviv.
Friday’s rampage, he said, “was more than attack on individuals. It was also an attack on the universal act of practicing one’s faith. We condemn it in the strongest terms.
“And we condemn all those who celebrate these and any other acts of terrorism that take innocent lives, no matter who the victim is or what they believe. Calls for vengeance against more innocent victims are not the answer.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Blinken will meet later on Monday, has called for more citizens to carry guns as a precaution against such street attacks. But he has also warned Israelis not to resort to vigilante violence.
Blinken is due to see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday.
Palestinian officials said Israeli settlers had set fire on Monday to two cars near the northern West Bank city of Nablus and thrown stones at a house near Ramallah, following a similar attack on Sunday.
Elsewhere in the West Bank, Palestinian officials said Israeli troops killed a 26-year-old man at a checkpoint. The army said troops opened fire on the man’s car after he rammed into one of them and attempted to flee an inspection.
The last round of US-sponsored talks on founding a Palestinian state alongside Israel stalled in 2014.
Netanyahu’s new hard-line government includes partners who oppose Palestinian statehood, and control over the Palestinian territories is divided between Abbas, who favors diplomacy, and rival Hamas Islamists, who are sworn to Israel’s destruction.
Washington remains “a stalwart believer in the negotiated two-state solution — the only path to a lasting resolution for the conflict,” Blinken said in earlier remarks in Cairo.
Recent data, though, indicates that public support for a two-state solution has reached a historic low. According a survey published last week by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research, just 33 percent of Palestinians and 34 percent of Israeli Jews say they support it, marking a significant drop from data collected in 2020.
Two-thirds of Palestinians and 53 percent of Israeli Jews said they were opposed to the two-state solution.
The US has voiced support for Israel’s security and for Palestinians to enjoy equal measures of dignity.


Ten dead in new toll after fresh Syria strikes

Ten dead in new toll after fresh Syria strikes
Updated 30 January 2023

Ten dead in new toll after fresh Syria strikes

Ten dead in new toll after fresh Syria strikes

BEIRUT: A total of 10 people were killed in a series of drone strikes targeting pro-Iran factions in eastern Syria, including three dead in strikes on Monday, a war monitor said.
A pro-Iran commander was among the three killed in the drone strikes Monday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that they had been inspecting the site of strikes that had killed seven others the previous evening.
"A commander in an Iran-backed group and two of his companions, all of them non-Syrian, were killed this morning after renewed drone strikes," the Observatory said Monday.
Pro-Iran factions, including Iraqi groups as well as Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah, have a major presence around the Iraq-Syria border, and are heavily deployed south and west of the Euphrates in Syria's Deir Ezzor province.
The commander's pick-up truck was targeted while he was inspecting the site of the Sunday evening strike that destroyed a convoy of six refrigerated trucks transporting Iranian weapons to Syria from Iraq.
The convoy was struck in the Albu Kamal border region, said the Observatory, which has a wide network of sources inside Syria.
The seven killed Sunday were truck drivers and their assistants, all of them non-Syrians, the Observatory said, adding that they were "killed as a result of unidentified aircraft targeting a convoy of Iran-backed groups".
The monitor could not verify the identities of the victims.


An Iraqi border official however told AFP that the vehicles targeted in Sunday's attack were Iraqi trucks.
But the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the press, said that the trucks were not transporting Iraqi goods and had crossed illegally into Syria.
"Iraq does not export anything to Syria," he said Monday.
No country claimed the assault, but Israel has carried out hundreds of air and missile strikes against Iran-backed and government forces in Syria, where the US military is also active.
"The trucks were transporting Iranian weapons," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman had told AFP Sunday.
Tehran provides military support to its ally Damascus in Syria's civil war, including through armed factions.
The strikes hit a convoy of trucks, but also the headquarters of Iran-backed groups in the area, activist Omar Abu Layla, who heads the Deir Ezzor 24 media outlet, told AFP Monday.
"There was heavy damage in the area that was struck," he said.
A pro-Syrian government radio station had reported Sunday that "unidentified war planes targeted, in a number of raids, six refrigerated trucks", without providing further details.
The Syrian government did not immediately comment on the strikes.


The Observatory said at least two similar convoys had entered Syria from Iraq this week, offloading their cargo to pro-Iran groups in the eastern town of Al-Mayadeen.
Both Albu Kamal and Al-Mayadeen are in Deir Ezzor, and Albu Kamal has seen similar strikes in the past.
The Observatory said in November that a strike in the area hit a pro-Iran militia convoy of "fuel tankers and trucks loaded with weapons", killing at least 14, though an Iraqi border guard official said there were no casualties.
In December, Israel's then-military chief Aviv Kohavi said his country had launched the raid, adding that the convoy was carrying weapons bound for Lebanon, where Hezbollah has an influential role.
Israel rarely comments on individual raids but has acknowledged carrying out hundreds of air and missile strikes in Syria since civil war broke out in 2011.
A US-led coalition fighting the remnants of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria has also carried out strikes on pro-Iran fighters in Syria in the past.
The conflict in Syria started with the brutal repression of peaceful protests and escalated to pull in foreign powers and global jihadists.
Nearly half a million people have been killed in Syria's conflict, which has also displaced about half of the country's pre-war population.