Hezbollah says it shot down Israeli drone in southern Lebanon

A Hezbollah fighter stands next to an Israeli drone in southern Lebanon on Monday, June 26, 2023. (AP)
A Hezbollah fighter stands next to an Israeli drone in southern Lebanon on Monday, June 26, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 26 June 2023
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Hezbollah says it shot down Israeli drone in southern Lebanon

A Hezbollah fighter stands next to an Israeli drone in southern Lebanon on Monday, June 26, 2023. (AP)
  • Israel military sources confirm a drone crashed but say there is no risk of any information leaking as a result

BEIRUT: Lebanese militant group Hezbollah said its operatives shot down an Israeli drone on Monday that was flying over southern Lebanon. It said the unmanned aerial vehicle violated Lebanese airspace in the Wadi Al-Azziya area near the town of Zebqine, southeast of the city of Tyre.

In a message posted on Twitter, Israeli military spokesman Avichay Adraee confirmed a drone had crashed in Lebanon while forces were carrying out routine activities. He added, in Arabic, that there were no concerns about the possibility of any information being leaked as a result.

The incident happened days after Israel warned Lebanon, through the UN, that it would use military force to clear two sites it claimed Hezbollah established inside Israeli territory. The sites are in the Shebaa Farms and the Kfarshouba Hills area, which is on the Israeli side of the Blue Line, a demarcation boundary between the two countries established by the UN in 2000, and which Lebanon considers “occupied Lebanese territory.”

There was a confrontation this month between residents of Kfarshouba and Israeli forces as a result of excavation work by the Israeli army on land owned by people in the Lebanese border town. Two tents were pitched on the other side of the Blue Line. Available information suggests they were placed there by Hezbollah, which considers the area to be “Lebanese territory and the residents have the right to access it.”

The Israeli army occupied the Kfarshouba Heights and surrounding agricultural land in 1978. When it withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000, the withdrawal did not extend to Kfarshouba and Shebaa Farms. The area is therefore on the Israeli side of the Blue Line, or withdrawal line.

The position taken by the UN was that the ultimate fate of the territories would be subject to a future resolution of the Israeli-Syrian conflict, because the area is considered to be Syrian territory, according to declared documents, and Syrian authorities failed to provide any documents proving it is actually Lebanese territory, although they did provide verbal acknowledgment.

Israeli military radio reports quoted sources in the army as saying that the new Hezbollah sites do not pose a security threat and that resolving this issue should be done through political and diplomatic channels.

Lebanon maintains enclaves in 13 places along the Blue Line, which extends from the western part of Shebaa Farms to Naqoura.

The latest incident took place in the run-up to the annual renewal of the mandate for the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, which is due in September. It could revive the controversy surrounding an amendment to the mandate introduced during last year’s renewal, at the bidding of the US, France and the UK despite Lebanese opposition, according to political observers.

The amendment stipulates that UNIFIL no longer requires prior permission or authorization to carry out assigned tasks and can conduct operations independently, including declared and undeclared patrols.

Lebanese authorities want the amendment removed and the mandate restored to its previous form, which states that UN forces must coordinate all activities with the Lebanese army.


Iraq PM arrives in Washington

Iraq PM arrives in Washington
Updated 14 April 2024
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Iraq PM arrives in Washington

Iraq PM arrives in Washington

Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shiaa Al-Sudani arrived in Washington, DC, on Sunday embarking on an official visit at the invitation of US President Joe Biden.

Discussions during Al-Sudani's visit will encompass various aspects of the bilateral relationship between the US and Iraq, including security and defense partnership and economic ties.

This emphasis on economic cooperation comes amidst ongoing negotiations between Washington and Baghdad concerning the future of the US-led military coalition in Iraq. As both parties engage in dialogue, the visit presents a significant opportunity to bolster economic collaboration and deepen the longstanding ties between the United States and Iraq.


Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon reopen airspace after Iran attacks

Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon reopen airspace after Iran attacks
Updated 14 April 2024
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Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon reopen airspace after Iran attacks

Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon reopen airspace after Iran attacks
  • Jordan’s state TV said the country had resumed air traffic operations, citing aviation authorities

CAIRO: Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon have reopened their airspace on Sunday after closing it late on Saturday as Iran launched drone and missile attacks against Israel, the three countries said on Sunday.

Jordan’s state TV said the country had resumed air traffic operations, citing aviation authorities. The opening of its airspace came more than three hours earlier than scheduled. 

Jordan announced the closure of its airspace to all incoming, departing, and transiting flights temporarily starting from 20:00 UTC, 11:00pm local time on Saturday, for several hours. 

The commission said at the time that the decision was taken to ensure the security and safety of civil aviation in the Jordanian airspace.

Iraq’s aviation authority said security risks had now been overcome.

Many flying objects were spotted over Jordan with images and videos circulated on social media showing air-defense systems shooting them down over the capital Amman and the northwestern regions on the borders with Syria and Israel.

Following a cabinet meeting early on Sunday, Jordanian government called for self-restraint and de-escalation, the Jordanian news agency, Petra, reported.

The government also said that Jordan dealt with some “flying objects” over the Kingdom on Sunday night and shot them down, adding that some shrapnels fell on uninhabited areas and no injuries were reported.

Lebanon said its airport will resume its activities after the overnight closure, state TV reported.

Iran launched explosive drones and fired missiles at Israel late on Saturday — its first direct attack on Israeli territory in a retaliatory strike that raises the threat of wider regional conflict.

Jordan, which lies between Iran and Israel, had readied air defenses to intercept any drones or missiles that violated its territory, two regional security sources said.

US and British warplanes were involved in shooting down some Israel-bound drones over the Iraq-Syria border area, Israel’s Channel 12 reported.


Israel’s Netanyahu vows victory after Iran strikes, fears of wider conflict grow

Israel’s Netanyahu vows victory after Iran strikes, fears of wider conflict grow
Updated 14 April 2024
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Israel’s Netanyahu vows victory after Iran strikes, fears of wider conflict grow

Israel’s Netanyahu vows victory after Iran strikes, fears of wider conflict grow
  • Iran had relied on its proxies across the region to attack Israeli and US targets in a show of support for the Palestinian militant group Hamas
  • Israel’s Channel 12 TV cited an unnamed Israeli official as saying there would be a “significant response” to the attack

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Sunday his country would achieve victory after the military said it shot down almost all the more than 300 drones and missiles launched by Iran in a sharp escalation of the Middle East conflict.
Tehran’s attacks late on Saturday, launched after a suspected Israeli air strike on its embassy compound in Damascus on April 1 that killed officers of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, raised the threat of a wider regional conflict.
Iran had relied on its proxies across the region to attack Israeli and US targets in a show of support for the Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza war with Israel, which shows no sign of easing despite numerous mediations efforts.
“We intercepted, we repelled, together we shall win,” Netanyahu posted on X.
The Israeli military said the armed forces had shot down more than 99 percent of the Iranian drones and missiles and were discussing follow-up options.
Israel’s Channel 12 TV cited an unnamed Israeli official as saying there would be a “significant response” to the attack.
The war in Gaza, which Israel invaded after an attack by Iran-backed Hamas on Oct. 7, has ratcheted up tensions in the region, spreading to fronts with Lebanon and Syria and drawing long-range fire at Israeli targets from as far away as Yemen and Iraq.
’Push toward escalation'
Iran’s most powerful ally in the region, the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah — which has been exchanging fire with Israel since the Gaza war began — said early on Sunday it had fired rockets at an Israeli base.
Drones were also reportedly launched against Israel by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group, which has attacked shipping lanes in an around the Red Sea to show solidarity with Hamas, British maritime security company Ambrey said in a statement.
Those clashes now threaten to morph into a direct open conflict pitting Iran and its regional allies against Israel and its main supporter, the United States. Regional power Egypt urged “utmost restraint.”
Israel’s chief military spokesperson, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, called Iran’s actions “very grave,” telling a televised briefing they “push the region toward escalation.”
Iran launched dozens of ground-to-ground missiles at Israel, including more than 10 cruise missiles, and most were intercepted outside Israeli borders, Hagari said.
The Iranian salvo caused light damage to one Israeli military facility, he said.
The Israeli military said it was not advising residents to prepare to take shelter, revising an earlier alert in an apparent signal of the end of the threat.
UN security council to meet
Iran had vowed retaliation for what it called the Israeli strike on its embassy compound that killed seven Revolutionary Guard officers, including two senior commanders. Tehran said its strike was punishment for “Israeli crimes.” Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the consulate attack.
“Should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe,” the Iranian mission to the United Nations said, warning the US to “stay away.” However, it also said Iran now “deemed the matter concluded.”
US President Joe Biden, who spoke by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said he would convene a meeting of leaders of the Group of Seven major economies on Sunday to coordinate a diplomatic response to what he called Iran’s brazen attack.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said America did not seek conflict with Iran but would not hesitate to act to protect US forces and support defense of Israel.
The UN Security Council was set to meet at 4 p.m. ET (2000 GMT) on Sunday after Israel requested it condemn Iran’s attack and designate the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization.
Iran’s Fars news agency quoted a source as saying Tehran was closely watching Jordan, which might become the next target is case of any moves in support of Israel.
Israel and Lebanon said they were closing their airspace on Saturday night. Israel reopened its airspace at 0430 GMT on Sunday, its airports authority said. Jordan, which lies between Iran and Israel, had readied air defenses to intercept any drone or missile that violated its territory, two regional security sources said.
Residents in several Jordanian cities said they heard heavy aerial activity.
Syria, an ally of Iran, said it was putting its ground-to-air defense systems around the capital and major bases on high alert, army sources there said.
The European Union, Britain, Japan, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Mexico, the Netherlands and Norway condemned Iran’s attack.


Iran launches retaliatory attack on Israel with hundreds of drones, missiles

Iran launches retaliatory attack on Israel with hundreds of drones, missiles
Updated 14 April 2024
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Iran launches retaliatory attack on Israel with hundreds of drones, missiles

Iran launches retaliatory attack on Israel with hundreds of drones, missiles
  • Iran launches first ever direct attack on Israel, risking major escalation as US pledges support for Tel Aviv
  • Iran has vowed retaliation for what it called an Israeli strike on its Damascus consulate on April 1

JERUSALEM/DUBAI: Iran launched a swarm of explosive drones and fired missiles at Israel late on Saturday in its first ever direct attack on Israeli territory, risking a major escalation as the United States pledged “ironclad” backing for Israel.
Sirens wailed and journalists in Israel said they heard distant heavy thuds and bangs from what local media called aerial interceptions of explosive drones. The ambulance service said there was no immediate word of casualties.
Israel’s military said more than 100 drones were launched from Iran, with security sources in Iraq and Jordan reporting dozens seen flying overhead and US officials saying the US military had shot some down.
Israel’s Channel 12 TV cited an unnamed Israeli official as saying there would be a “significant response” to the attack.

Iran’s state news agency cited a source saying its military had also launched a wave of ballistic missiles. Israel’s military also said missiles were fired, but there was no immediate report of these striking in Israel.
Iran has vowed retaliation for what it called an Israeli strike on its Damascus consulate on April 1 that killed seven Guards officers including two senior commanders and said its strike was a punishment for “Israeli crimes.” Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the consulate attack.
“Should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe,” the Iranian mission to the United Nations said, warning the US to “stay away.” However, it also said Iran now “deemed the matter concluded.”
US President Joe Biden, who on Friday had warned Iran against an attack, cut short a visit to his home state of Delaware to meet national security advisers in the White House Situation Room, an official said. He pledged to stand with Israel.
The Gaza war between Israel and Hamas, now in its seventh month, has driven up tensions in the region, spreading to fronts with Lebanon and Syria and drawing long-range fire at Israeli targets from as far away as Yemen and Iraq.
British maritime security company Ambrey said in a statement that drones were also reportedly launched against Israel by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group.
Those clashes now threaten to morph into a direct open conflict pitting Iran and its regional allies against Israel and its main supporter the United States, with regional power Egypt urging “utmost restraint.”
US and British warplanes were involved in shooting down some Israel-bound drones over the Iraq-Syria border area, Channel 12 reported. Three US officials said the US military had shot down drone aircraft without saying how many.

Escalation
“This is a severe and dangerous escalation. Our defensive and offensive capabilities are at the highest level of readiness ahead of this large-scale attack from Iran,” said Israel’s military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose official jet took off shortly after the attack began, convened the war cabinet at a military headquarters in Tel Aviv, his office said.
Israel’s military said sirens would sound in any threatened areas and that its defenses were poised to deal with the drones, which it said were “explosive.”
“We are used to having around 20 seconds to get to shelters when missiles come in. Here, the warning comes hours ahead of time. It naturally raises the anxiety level among the Israeli public,” said Nir Dvori, a Channel 12 TV correspondent on social media.
Israel’s military told residents of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to stay close to bomb shelters, putting the area on standby for possible impact from drone strikes.
Israel and Lebanon said they were closing their airspace on Saturday night. Jordan, which lies between Iran and Israel, had readied air defenses to intercept any drone or missile that violated its territory, two regional security sources said.
Residents in several Jordanian cities said they heard heavy aerial activity.
Syria, an ally of Iran, said it was putting its ground-to-air defense systems around the capital and major bases on high alert, army sources there said.

Condemnation
The European Union, Britain, France, Mexico, Czechia, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands all condemned Iran’s attack.
Israel has been bracing for an Iranian response to the Damascus consulate strike since last week, when Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Israel “must be punished and shall be” for an operation he called equivalent to one on Iranian soil.
Biden said on Friday that his only message to Iran was “Don’t,” but added that “we are devoted to the defense of Israel.”
Iran’s main ally in the region, the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah that has been exchanging fire with Israel since the Gaza war began on Oct. 7, said early on Sunday it had fired rockets at an Israeli base.
Earlier on Saturday, Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported that a Guards helicopter had boarded and taken into Iranian waters the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries.
MSC, which operates the Aries, confirmed Iran had seized the ship and said it was working “with the relevant authorities” for its safe return and the wellbeing of its 25 crew.
MSC leases the Aries from Gortal Shipping, an affiliate of Zodiac Maritime, Zodiac said in a statement, adding that MSC is responsible for all the vessel’s activities. Zodiac is partly owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer.
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz accused Iran of piracy.

'IRGC seize commercial ship'

For days, Iranian officials including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have threatened to “slap” Israel for its Syria strike.
Iran has largely avoided directly attacking Israel, despite its targeted killings of nuclear scientists and sabotage campaigns on Iran’s atomic sites. Iran has targeted Israeli or Jewish-linked sites through proxy forces.
Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip has inflamed decade-old tensions in the Middle East, and any new attack threatens to escalate that conflict into a wider regional war.
Flight-tracking data showed the airspace over Jordan empty, while few flights continued on their north-south routes over Iraq. A sole Middle East Airlines flight from Dubai to Beirut remained airborne over Syria.
Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported heavy Israeli airstrikes and shelling on multiple locations in south Lebanon following the launch of drones from Iran. The Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has been clashing with Israeli forces in the border area for more than six months.
Earlier Saturday, commandos from Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard rappelled from a helicopter onto an Israeli-affiliated container ship near the Strait of Hormuz and seized the vessel.
Iran’s state-run IRNA said a special forces unit of the Guard’s navy carried out the attack on the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries, a container ship associated with London-based Zodiac Maritime.
Zodiac Maritime is part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group. Zodiac declined to comment and referred questions to MSC. Geneva-based MSC acknowledged the seizure and said 25 crew members were on the ship.
“We are working closely with the relevant authorities to ensure their wellbeing, and safe return of the vessel,” MSC said.
White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the crew was made up of Indian, Filipino, Pakistani, Russian and Estonian nationals and urged Iran to release them and the vessel.
IRNA said the Guard would take the vessel into Iranian territorial waters.
A Middle East defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, provided video of the attack to The Associated Press in which Iranian commandos are seen rappelling onto a stack of containers on the vessel’s deck.
The video corresponded with known details of the MSC Aries. The commandos rappelled from what appeared to be a Soviet-era Mil Mi-17 helicopter, which both the Guard and the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen have used before to raid ships.
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz called on nations to list the Guard as a terrorist organization. Iran “is a criminal regime that supports Hamas’ crimes and is now conducting a pirate operation in violation of international law,” Katz said.
The US, Israel’s main backer, has stood by the country despite growing concerns over Israel’s war on Gaza killing more than 33,600 Palestinians and wounding over 76,200 more. Israel’s war began after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people and saw some 250 others taken hostage.
The Pentagon said Saturday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Israeli counterpart “to discuss urgent regional threats ... and made clear that Israel could count on full US support to defend Israel against any attacks by Iran and its regional proxies.” National security adviser Jake Sullivan also spoke with his counterpart to reinforce Washington’s “ironclad commitment to the security of Israel.”


Thousands gather in Iran in show of support for attack on Israel

Iranian demonstrators attend an anti-Israeli gathering in front of the British Embassy in Tehran, Iran, April 14, 2024. (REUTERS
Iranian demonstrators attend an anti-Israeli gathering in front of the British Embassy in Tehran, Iran, April 14, 2024. (REUTERS
Updated 14 April 2024
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Thousands gather in Iran in show of support for attack on Israel

Iranian demonstrators attend an anti-Israeli gathering in front of the British Embassy in Tehran, Iran, April 14, 2024. (REUTERS
  • Israel has killed more than 33,686 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry
  • Iran does not recognize Israel, and the two countries have fought a shadow war for years

TEHRAN: Thousands of Iranians took to the streets of Iran early Sunday in a show of support for the unprecedented drone and missile attack under way against arch foe Israel.
“Death to Israel!” and “Death to America!” chanted demonstrators in Tehran’s Palestine Square shortly after the Revolutionary Guards announced the launch of Operation Honest Promise.
A mural saying “the next slap is fiercer” was unveiled in the square where a huge banner has hung for days calling, in Hebrew, for Israelis to “take shelter.”
On Sunday, demonstrators waved Iranian and Palestinian national flags alongside banners reading “God’s victory is near.”
Iran’s attack came in retaliation for an April 1 strike that levelled the five-story consular annexe of the Iranian embassy in Damascus and killed seven Revolutionary Guards, two of them generals.
Tehran has since vowed to avenge the strike which was widely blamed on Israel.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pledged that the “evil (Israeli) regime will be punished.”

Iranian media described the attack on Israel as “complex” as it also involved Iranian allies in Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.
“This attack did not come from Iran only, and this regime (Israel) is being punished from four directions,” the Tasnim news agency said.
A large crowd of demonstrators gathered outside the British embassy in Tehran.
Supporters of the retaliatory attack also demonstrated in Iran’s third largest city Isfahan where Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi, one of the generals killed in the Damascus strike, is buried.
Demonstrators also gathered near the grave in the southern city of Kerman of prominent Guards commander Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a 2020 US drone strike in Baghdad.
Tehran had earlier appealed to Washington to keep out of its conflict with Israel but Iranian hopes were dashed after a Pentagon official confirmed that US forces were shooting down Israel-bound drones.
Iran insists it acted in “self-defense” after the targeting of its diplomatic mission in Damascus. It said it hoped its action would prompt no further escalation and “the matter can be deemed concluded.”

The latest developments took place against the backdrop of the Gaza war which began with Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel which killed 1,170 people, mostly civilians.
Tehran backs Hamas but has denied any direct involvement in its attack on Israel.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 33,686 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
Iran does not recognize Israel, and the two countries have fought a shadow war for years.
Anticipation of conflict with Israel had gripped Iran ever since the April 1 strike on its consulate.
“It is better to reach a compromise so that the war does not begin, and innocent people don’t die,” said Maryam, a 43-year-old private sector worker.
“God willing, our government will favor reason over emotion,” said Salehi, a 75-year-old retired government employee in central Tehran.
Ehsan, a 43-year-old university professor, said it was “logical” to retaliate.
“War is always bad and worrying — a person who has experienced war would never support it, but sometimes to achieve peace, a war is necessary,” he added.