Iran ‘willing to swap prisoners with US’

Iran ‘willing to swap prisoners with US’
“We are negotiating for the release of Iranian citizens through parties who play a role in good faith,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said on Monday. (AFP)
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Updated 26 June 2023
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Iran ‘willing to swap prisoners with US’

Iran ‘willing to swap prisoners with US’
  • At least three Iranian-Americans are being held in Iran, including businessman Siamak Namazi, arrested in October 2015 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage

TEHRAN: Iran said on Monday it was hoping indirect talks with the US could lead to a “positive” outcome for a prisoner swap.

Iran announced earlier this month that it was engaged in Oman-mediated talks with the US over its nuclear deal and a possible prisoner exchange.

“We are negotiating for the release of Iranian citizens through parties who play a role in good faith,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said on Monday.

“We have to see if the American government is ready to make a final decision in this regard,” he told reporters, adding that Tehran hoped “to witness such a positive event.”

At least three Iranian-Americans are being held in Iran, including businessman Siamak Namazi, arrested in October 2015 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage.

The other two are venture capitalist Emad Sharqi, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison on spying charges, and Morad Tahbaz, who also holds British nationality, and was jailed for 10 years for “conspiring with America.”

In the past two months, Iran released six European citizens and recovered an Iranian diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, who was convicted of terrorism and imprisoned in Belgium.

Kanani’s comment came following media reports that Washington and Tehran were close to an interim deal to replace the 2015 nuclear accord. 

The two sides have denied these reports.

Known as the JCPOA, the accord granted Iran much-needed sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear deal before it collapsed in 2018 after Washington unilateral pullout.

In recent days, the two capitals have denied media reports that they were close to reaching an interim deal to replace the 2015 accord.

Efforts to revive the accord have so far failed to yield results.

Stop-start talks that began in April last year to restore the nuclear deal have yet to bear fruit.

Tehran and Washington cut diplomatic ties in 1980.


US military targets Houthi radar sites in Yemen after a merchant sailor goes missing

US military targets Houthi radar sites in Yemen after a merchant sailor goes missing
Updated 3 sec ago
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US military targets Houthi radar sites in Yemen after a merchant sailor goes missing

US military targets Houthi radar sites in Yemen after a merchant sailor goes missing
  • US strikes destroyed seven radars within Houthi-controlled territory, the military’s Central Command said
  • US separately destroyed two bomb-laden drone boats in the Red Sea, as well as a drone launched by the Houthis over the waterway
DUBAI: The United States military unleashed a wave of attacks targeting radar sites operated by Yemen’s Houthi rebels over their assaults on shipping in the crucial Red Sea corridor, authorities said Saturday, after one merchant sailor went missing following an earlier Houthi strike on a ship.
The attacks come as the US Navy faces the most intense combat its seen since World War II in trying to counter the Houthi campaign — attacks the rebels say are meant to halt the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip. However, the Iranian-backed rebel assaults often see the Houthis target ships and sailors who have nothing to do with the war while traffic remains halved through a corridor vital for cargo and energy shipments between Asia, Europe and the Mideast.
US strikes destroyed seven radars within Houthi-controlled territory, the military’s Central Command said. It did not elaborate on how the sites were destroyed and did not immediately respond to questions from The Associated Press.
“These radars allow the Houthis to target maritime vessels and endanger commercial shipping,” Central Command said in a statement.
The US separately destroyed two bomb-laden drone boats in the Red Sea, as well as a drone launched by the Houthis over the waterway, it said.
The Houthis, who have held Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, since 2014, did not acknowledge the strikes, nor any military losses. That’s been typical since the US began launching airstrikes targeting the rebels.
Meanwhile, Central Command said one commercial sailor from the Liberian-flagged, Greek-owned bulk cargo carrier Tutor remained missing after an attack Wednesday by the Houthis that used a bomb-carrying drone boat to strike the vessel.
“The crew abandoned ship and were rescued by USS Philippine Sea and partner forces,” Central Command said. The “Tutor remains in the Red Sea and is slowly taking on water.”
The Houthis have launched more than 50 attacks on shipping, killed three sailors, seized one vessel and sunk another since November, according to the US Maritime Administration. A US-led airstrike campaign has targeted the Houthis since January, with a series of strikes May 30 killing at least 16 people and wounding 42 others, the rebels say.
The war in the Gaza Strip has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians there, according to Gaza health officials, while hundreds of others have been killed in Israeli operations in the West Bank. It began after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostage.
“The Houthis claim to be acting on behalf of Palestinians in Gaza and yet they are targeting and threatening the lives of third-country nationals who have nothing to do with the conflict in Gaza,” Central Command said. “The ongoing threat to international commerce caused by the Houthis in fact makes it harder to deliver badly needed assistance to the people of Yemen as well as Gaza.”

A usually joyous Muslim holiday reminds families in Gaza of war’s punishing toll

A usually joyous Muslim holiday reminds families in Gaza of war’s punishing toll
Updated 8 min 3 sec ago
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A usually joyous Muslim holiday reminds families in Gaza of war’s punishing toll

A usually joyous Muslim holiday reminds families in Gaza of war’s punishing toll

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip: Last summer, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip celebrated the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha the way it’s supposed to be: with large family feasts, meat shared with those less fortunate, and new clothes and gifts for children.
But this year, after eight months of devastating war between Israel and Hamas, many families will eat canned food in stifling tents. There’s hardly any meat or livestock at local markets, and no money for holiday treats or presents — only war, hunger and misery, with no end in sight.
“There is no Eid this year,” said Nadia Hamouda, whose daughter was killed in the war and who fled from her home in northern Gaza months ago and is staying in a tent in the central town of Deir Al-Balah. “When we hear the call to prayer, we cry over those we lost and the things we lost, and what has happened to us, and how we used to live before.”
Muslims around the world will celebrate the four-day Eid Al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, early in the week. It commemorates the Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Ismail, as recounted in the Qur’an. In the Jewish and Christian traditions, Abraham is called to sacrifice his other son, Isaac.
Gaza was impoverished and isolated even before the war, but people still managed to celebrate by hanging up colorful decorations, surprising children with treats and gifts, and purchasing meat or slaughtering livestock to share with those less fortunate.
“It was a real Eid,” Hamouda said. “Everyone was happy, including the children.”
Now much of Gaza is in ruins and most of the population of 2.3 million Palestinians have fled their homes. After Hamas’ surprise attack into Israel on Oct. 7, in which Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people and took another 250 hostage, Israel launched a massive air and ground assault.
The war has killed over 37,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry. It has destroyed most of Gaza’s agriculture and food production, leaving people reliant on humanitarian aid that has been held up by Israeli restrictions and the ongoing fighting.
United Nations agencies have warned that over a million people — nearly half the population — could experience the highest level of starvation in the coming weeks.
In early May, Egypt shut down its crossing into the southern Gazan city of Rafah after Israel captured the Palestinian side of it, sealing the only route for people to enter or leave the territory. That means virtually no Palestinians from Gaza will be able to make the annual Hajj pilgrimage that precedes the Eid.
Ashraf Sahwiel, who was among hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled from Gaza City earlier in the war and is also living in a tent, has no idea when or if he’ll be able to return.
“We don’t even know what happened to our houses or whether we’ll be able to live in them again, or if it’s even possible to rebuild,” he said.
Abdelsattar Al-Batsh said he and his family of seven haven’t eaten meat since the war began. A kilogram (2 pounds) of meat costs 200 shekels (around $50). A live sheep, which could be bought for as little as $200 before the war, now costs $1,300 — if it’s even available.
“Today, there is only war. No money. No work. Our houses have been destroyed. I have nothing,” Al-Batsh said.
Iyad Al-Bayouk, who owns a now-shuttered cattle farm in southern Gaza, said severe shortages of both livestock and feed due to Israel’s blockade have driven up prices. Some local farms have been turned into shelters.
Mohammed Abdel Rahim, who has been sheltering in a building in an empty cattle farm in central Gaza for months, said the farm-turned-shelter was particularly bad in the winter, when it smelled like animals and was infested with bugs. As the heat set in, the ground dried out, making it more bearable, he said.
Abdelkarim Motawq, another displaced Palestinian from northern Gaza, used to work in the local meat industry, which did brisk business ahead of the holiday. This year, his family can only afford rice and beans.
“I wish I could work again,” he said. “It was a busy season for me, during which I would bring money home and buy food, clothing, nuts, and meat for my children. But today there’s nothing left.”


WHO voices alarm at swelling West Bank health crisis

WHO voices alarm at swelling West Bank health crisis
Updated 15 June 2024
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WHO voices alarm at swelling West Bank health crisis

WHO voices alarm at swelling West Bank health crisis
  • Israel has killed at least 37,266 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the territory’s health ministry

GENEVA: The World Health Organization decried Friday an escalating health crisis in the occupied West Bank, where growing restrictions, violence and attacks on health infrastructure are increasingly obstructing access to care.
In a statement, the UN health agency said it was calling “for the immediate and active protection of civilians and health care in the West Bank.”
It noted that a spike in violence in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, since the war in Gaza erupted on October 7 had by June 10 left 521 Palestinians dead, including 126 children.
Palestinian officials have put the West Bank death toll even higher, saying at least 545 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops or settlers since the Gaza war broke out.
In addition to the deaths, more than 5,200 people — 800 of them children — have been injured, the WHO said, stressing that this only added to “the growing burden of trauma and emergency care at already strained health facilities.”
The West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, has experienced a surge in violence for more than a year, but especially since the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza erupted more than eight months ago.
That war began after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages. Of these, 116 remain in Gaza, although the army says 41 are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 37,266 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the territory’s health ministry.
The war has repeatedly seen health facilities in the Gaza Strip come under attack.
And the WHO said Friday that health care in the West Bank was also facing increasing attacks.
Between October 7 and May 28, it said it had documented a full 480 such attacks in the West Bank, including on health facilities and ambulances, and the detention of health workers and patients.
Those attacks had left 16 people dead and 95 injured, it said.
At the same time, checkpoint closures, growing insecurity, and sieges and closures of entire communities were making movement within the West Bank increasingly restricted, making access to care ever more difficult.
The WHO warned that a long-standing fiscal crisis — made worse since October 7 as Israel increased its withholding of tax revenue meant for the Palestinian territory — was also taking its toll on health care.
This, it said, had resulted in “health workers receiving only half of their salary for nearly a year and 45 percent of essential medications being out of stock.”
And hospitals were operating at only around 70 percent capacity, it said.
It had also become more difficult for patients to seek medical care outside the West Bank, with 44 percent of requests to go to facilities in East Jerusalem and Israel denied or pending since October 7.
 

 


Crew evacuated from Greek-owned vessel hit by Houthis

Crew evacuated from Greek-owned vessel hit by Houthis
Updated 15 June 2024
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Crew evacuated from Greek-owned vessel hit by Houthis

Crew evacuated from Greek-owned vessel hit by Houthis
  • The attack near the Yemeni port of Hodeidah on Wednesday caused severe flooding and damage to the engine room and left Tutor unable to maneuver
  • Tutor’s 22 crew members are mostly Filipino. A Greek ship has been assigned to tow Tutor, which is carrying 80,000 tons of coal

MANILA/LONDON: The crew of a Greek-owned vessel damaged in an attack by Yemeni Houthi militants has been evacuated, and the abandoned ship is drifting in the Red Sea, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said on Friday.

One sailor from Tutor, the Liberia-flagged coal carrier, remains missing, officials in the Philippines said.
The attack near the Yemeni port of Hodeidah on Wednesday caused severe flooding and damage to the engine room and left Tutor unable to maneuver.
Iran-aligned Houthis claimed responsibility for the missile strike on Tutor and another vessel, Verbena, in the Gulf of Aden, over the past days. Their attacks also damaged two other ships in the last week, “marking a significant increase in effectiveness,” British security firm Ambrey said.
The Houthis have used drones and missiles to assault ships in the Red Sea, the Bab Al-Mandab Strait and the Gulf of Aden since November, saying they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza war. They have sunk one ship, seized another vessel and killed three seafarers in separate attacks.
“This situation cannot go on,” International Maritime Organization Secretary-General Arsenio Dominguez said in a statement.
Tutor’s 22 crew members are mostly Filipino, Hans Cacdac, the Philippines’ Department of Migrant Workers secretary, told a press conference in Manila.
Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr said the country’s authorities were coordinating with the UKMTO to take the crew members to Djibouti and bring them home.
The missing crew member was believed to be trapped in the engine room, maritime sources said.
“We are still ... trying to account for the particular seafarer in that ship. We are praying we could find him,” Cacdac said.
The ship’s Athens-based manager Evalend Shipping has not responded to Reuters’ requests for comment.
Tsavliris Salvage Group has been assigned to tow the ship, which is carrying 80,000 tons of coal, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. The project will involve two vessels. The first is expected to reach Tutor on Monday morning and the second on Tuesday evening.
The Houthis’ air and sea campaign has disrupted global shipping, causing delays and costs to cascade through supply chains. At least 65 countries and major energy and shipping companies — including Shell, BP, Maersk and Cosco — have been affected, according to a report by the US Defense Intelligence Agency.
INTERCARGO, which represents dry cargo ship owners, urged states to enhance maritime security in the area.
“We demand that all involved parties cease their deliberate and targeted attacks on innocent seafarers with immediate effect,” it said. (Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales in Manila and Renee Maltezou and Yannis Souliotis in Athens, Jonathan Saul in London, Adam Makary and Enas Alashray in Cairo, and Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Cynthia Osterman)


Tunisia sentences five over missing migrants

Tunisia sentences five over missing migrants
Updated 15 June 2024
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Tunisia sentences five over missing migrants

Tunisia sentences five over missing migrants
  • Tunisia and neighboring Libya are major departure points for migrants attempting perilous sea crossings to Europe

TUNIS: A Tunisian court has sentenced five people to prison for organizing an illegal migrant sea crossing that resulted in 18 deaths or disappearances, a spokesman said Friday.
The boat carrying the migrants, all Tunisians, went missing off the coast of the southeastern city of Zarzis during an attempt to reach Italy in September 2022.
The five Tunisian defendants, including two still at large, received prison terms ranging from four to 10 years on Thursday night, said Lassad Horr, spokesman for the Medenine court.
The incident sparked protests and a general strike in Zarzis. President Kais Saied later ordered an investigation to uncover what happened.
The court spokesman said Friday that a boat, two cars and a GPS device had been seized as part of the investigation.
Tunisia and neighboring Libya are major departure points for migrants attempting perilous sea crossings to Europe.
Each year, tens of thousands of migrants — mainly Sub-Saharan Africans — attempt to cross the Mediterranean from Tunisia, whose shores are about 150 kilometers (90 miles) from the Italian island of Lampedusa.
On May 19, the Tunisian National Guard said 23 people had been missing for two weeks off Nabeul in the northeast. On May 29, four others disappeared off Mahdia on the central coast, while 17 were rescued.
More than 1,300 people died or went missing last year in shipwrecks off the North African country, according to the Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic Rights, a non-governmental organization.
The International Organization for Migration has said more than 27,000 migrants have died in the Mediterranean in the past decade, including more than 3,000 last year.