How serious an impact will reduced rice supplies have on the Arab world following India’s export ban?

Special How serious an impact will reduced rice supplies have on the Arab world following India’s export ban?
Rice is a food staple in the Gulf but India’s ban on the export of non-basmati varieties owing to delayed sowing could lead to price hikes. (AFP)
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Updated 02 August 2023

How serious an impact will reduced rice supplies have on the Arab world following India’s export ban?

How serious an impact will reduced rice supplies have on the Arab world following India’s export ban?
  • Indian decision to prioritize the domestic market follows delayed monsoon rains and price rises
  • Effect of reduced supplies and higher prices to vary from country to country in the Middle East and North Africa

DUBAI/NEW DELHI: India’s decision to ban the export of several varieties of rice in order to ensure sufficient supplies at home is pushing up prices on the global market, a development whose impact on food-insecure countries is being viewed with concern by experts.

Although the ban does not include the popular basmati variety, which is a staple at Gulf dinner tables, it is triggering an increase in the prices of all rice varieties, adding to the vulnerabilities of import-reliant economies of the Middle East and Africa.

While the Indian restrictions might contribute to food price inflation in the Arab region, economists who specialize in the field of agriculture do not anticipate a rice shortage.

“The impact is not going to be restricted to exporters to the Arab countries, nor rice production levels in the Arab region,” Fadel El-Zubi, lead consultant for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Jordan and the agency’s former chief in Iraq, told Arab News.

Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, said last week that the move would increase price volatility and should be reconsidered. (AFP)

“The impact will be seen on global prices in stock exchange markets.”

He said the price increases would not be limited to the cereal coming out of India but would apply to rice produced in other markets too, from the US to Australia.

“This is going to be the main impact. Yet, the increase in prices won’t be similar to the increase in wheat prices. (Also) the increase in rice prices will be for a short term. This is my expectation.”

El-Zubi was referring to the soaring price of wheat on the world market as a result of the war between Russia and Ukraine, which before February 2022 were jointly responsible for almost a third of the world’s wheat and barley production.

Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports following its invasion led to fears of grain shortages and spiraling food prices, whose impact would have been felt most by the world’s most food-insecure nations, particularly in Africa.

Last summer, a UN- and Turkiye-brokered deal between Russia and Ukraine allowed both nations to continue exporting grain. But earlier this month, Moscow withdrew from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, renewing fears of food-price inflation.

The ban on exports of non-basmati white rice imposed on July 20 by India — the world’s largest supplier of rice, accounting for almost 40 percent of global trade — has added to those fears.

Responding to the Indian decision, Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, said last week that the move would increase price volatility and should be reconsidered.

“In the current environment, these types of restrictions are likely to exacerbate volatility in food prices in the rest of the world and they can also lead to retaliatory measures,” he said.

“We would encourage the removal of these type of export restrictions because they can be harmful globally.”

But Indian food policy analyst Devinder Sharma believes the ban was the correct response to guarantee India’s own food security. He said the IMF was not justified in criticizing India’s market controls when Western nations continued to use vast quantities of grain for making biofuels.

“Despite the threat from the IMF, I think the Indian government has taken the right decision. India’s own domestic food security is of paramount importance,” Sharma told Arab News.

“Regarding the shortfall in the global supply, why don’t you ask America and Europe to cut down on ethanol production? The former consumes 90 million tons of food grain for its ethanol production, while the EU uses 12 million tons. They should stop it.

“India has to take care of its own food security. Imagine, 3 million people died in the 1943 Bengal famine because food was diverted. I think India has taken the right decision.”

For now, anecdotal evidence suggests few consumers in Arab countries are concerned about the impact of India’s export ban.

“We in Jordan consume basmati rice and not the white non-basmati rice that was included in the ban,” Jamal Amr, foodstuff representative at Jordan’s Chamber of Commerce, told Arab News.

He said Jordan bought most of its rice from the US, the EU, East Asian countries, Uruguay and Argentina.

“I am not stockpiling rice and I am not planning to. Things look normal to me,” Emirati housewife Umm Mohamed, a resident of Dubai, told Arab News. “My family and the domestic helpers all eat rice as a main staple.”

A farmer harvests at a rice paddy on the outskirts of Srinagar, India. (AFP)

The picture is the same in Saudi Arabia. “Rice is the main source of food in Saudi Arabia,” retired engineer Abu Akram said.

“In every main meal, we have to put basmati rice on the table. Saudi families usually store rice in quantities that can last for a month or two.”

He said he was not concerned about a possible price rise, but was thinking of asking his sons to buy extra rice, “just in case.”

In the era of globalization, involving free movement of goods, people and capital, the shopping habits of rice eaters in the Arab world are not immune to fluctuations in the fortunes of Indian agriculture.

India’s farmers typically start planting rice and other water-intensive crops from June 1 to coincide with the annual monsoon season. However, the country received 10 percent less rain than the average for June, with that figure rising to 60 percent in some states.

Although the monsoon rains have now arrived, the delay held up the planting of summer crops, a setback that experts believe prompted the Indian government to curb exports of rice.

Just a few days after the restriction was imposed, the UAE announced its own four-month ban on the export and re-import of all rice varieties, starting from July 28.

The UAE imports almost 90 percent of its food, making it especially vulnerable to fluctuations in global prices. According to Reuters data, the UAE was among the top 10 importers of non-basmati rice from India in 2020, buying almost 346,000 tons.

Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the UK and the US also feature among the top 10 importers.

A farmer spreads unpolished rice to dry along a highway in Toopran Mandal in the Medak district, some 55 km from Hyderabad on November 11, 2021. (AFP)

Large quantities of rice imported by the UAE are later exported after packaging in the free zones. The ban on re-importing will therefore affect countries that buy packaged rice from the UAE.

Other countries that are likely to feel the squeeze of India’s export ban are African importers such as Benin. But even big economies like China will be affected, despite it being a major rice producer in its own right.

Arab countries that are likely to suffer the most from India’s export ban are Egypt, Algeria and Sudan, all of which already face economic turbulence and the effects of rising wheat prices. In Sudan’s case, a deadly feud between two generals since April 15 has compounded the woes of a population ravaged by hunger and malnutrition.

Unsurprisingly, some observers believe India made the wrong call, undermining its carefully cultivated image as a reliable trade partner and aspiring leader of the Global South.

“I feel the ban on the export of rice is a knee-jerk reaction to control prices in the domestic market with elections in view,” said Gokul Patnaik, former chairman of India’s government-affiliated Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority.

“But it gives a very bad name to India which is emerging as an agri-exporter. Earlier, India was a net importer and of late it had earned a good reputation as an exporter. Countries which are buying from India will definitely feel this kind of reaction. To switch on and off is not good if one is to be a consistent exporter.”

He added: “What the government could have done was to control the taxes. It could have increased export tax. If you are going to be in international trade, you should always be open to import and export. You should not ban.

“Importing countries expect you to be consistent and you should not only be a fair-weather friend. Export-import is a question of trust. If you lose trust, people don’t want to continue.”

The ban on exports of non-basmati white rice imposed on July 20 by India. (AFP)

It is not just rice that has become costlier in India in recent weeks. The prices of tomatoes and other staples have also risen following the late arrival of the monsoon rains in some parts of the country and unexpectedly heavy downpours in others.

With heavy rains damaging standing crops in some regions, predictions now are of poor harvests and even higher prices of farm produce. Public anger over food inflation could become a clear disadvantage for the government, which faces several regional elections this year in the run-up to the national vote.

Brajesh Jha, a professor at the Institute of Economic Growth in Delhi, takes the view that India is ill equipped to be a major exporter, but believes the ban is largely tied to the general election next year, which takes primacy over international relations.

“India is an exporter of food grains. (But) the kind of arable lands and the population that is dependent on foodgrains (means) India cannot be an exporter,” he told Arab News.

“Rice is exported from those areas which are semi-arid. The way the population is increasing, India needs lots of food grains.

“No doubt India’s standing among the community of nations will get a beating with this kind of decision, but the election is way more important (for the government) than the impression people form about it.”

Other experts say the Indian government should have implemented alternative policies that would have avoided compounding the global food crisis while at the same time stabilizing domestic prices.

“India could have used this opportunity to be a global leader that is helping against a potential food crisis,” Anupam Manur, an international trade economist at the Takshashila Institution in Bengaluru, told Arab News.

“Instead, imposing a ban on an essential commodity at such a time will weaken India’s arguments against other countries weaponizing supply chains by imposing export controls on semiconductors, rare earth elements or medical application programming interface.”

Workers transplant rice paddy in West Bengal, India. (Getty Images)

He added: “If it truly wants to mitigate a domestic price rise, the government can open up the warehouses which have more than adequate rice stocks.

“India might not bend to international pressure, but if domestic production increases, it might yet make a grand gesture of relaxing the ban.”

While such a gesture would ease global concerns, El-Zubi says that many Arab countries, including Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Jordan, are in no position to meet their own demand for wheat and rice as they lack the necessary water resources.

“Jordan produces only 3 percent of the wheat it needs,” he told Arab News.

According to him, Arab countries with fragile economies face serious challenges from food shortages, so they should expand the sources from which they buy strategic food staples, diversify payment methods and broaden their food supply chains and routes.

How Iranian drones went into action from Yemen to Ukraine to Israel

How Iranian drones went into action from Yemen to Ukraine to Israel
Updated 6 sec ago

How Iranian drones went into action from Yemen to Ukraine to Israel

How Iranian drones went into action from Yemen to Ukraine to Israel
  • Country has come a long way since first building surveillance drones during the Iran-Iraq War
  • Attack on Israel showed UAVs deployed en masse are vulnerable to sophisticated air defense systems

LONDON: In July 2018, a senior Iranian official made an announcement that raised eyebrows around the Middle East.

The Islamic Republic, said Manouchehr Manteqi, head of the Headquarters for Development of Knowledge-Based Aviation and Aeronautics Technology and Industry, was now capable of producing drones self-sufficiently, without reliance on foreign suppliers or outside technical know-how.

International sanctions restricting imports of vital technology had effectively crippled Iran’s ability to develop sophisticated conventional military aircraft.

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi (C) and Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Gharaei Ashtiani (R) attend an unveiling ceremony of the new drone "Mohajer 10" in Tehran on August 22, 2023. (Iranian Presidency photo handout/AFP)

But now, said Manteqi, “designing and building drone parts for special needs (is) done by Iranian knowledge-based companies.”

In developing its own drone technology, Iran had found a way to build up its military capabilities regardless of sanctions.

Iran had already come a long way in the development of unmanned aerial vehicles, having first embarked on the creation of surveillance drones during the Iran-Iraq War.

Speaking in September 2016, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Hossein Bagheri, chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, credited the tactical demands of the eight-year conflict as having been “pivotal in the production of modern science and technology for future use.”

This, he said, had led to the development of “Iranian-manufactured long-range drones (that) can target terrorists’ positions from a great distance and with a surface of one meter square.”

Iran’s first UAV was the Ababil, a low-tech surveillance drone built in the 1980s by the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Co. It first flew in 1985 and was quickly joined by the Mohajer, developed by the Quds Aviation Industry Co.

Although initially both of these drones were fairly primitive, over the years both platforms have been steadily developed and have become far more sophisticated.

According to a report in state newspaper Tehran Times, the current Ababil-5, unveiled on Iran Army Day in April 2022, has a range of about 480 km and can carry up to six smart bombs or missiles.

But the Mohajer 10, launched last year on Aug. 22, appears to be an even more capable, hi-tech UAV, closely resembling America’s MQ-9 Reaper in both looks and capabilities.

Armed with several missiles and able to remain aloft for 24 hours at an altitude of up to 7 km, it has a claimed range of 2,000 km. If true, this means it is capable of hitting targets almost anywhere in any country in the Middle East.

This appeared to be confirmed in July 2022, when Javad Karimi Qodousi, a member of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, told Iran’s state news agency IRNA that “Iran’s strategy in building drones is to maintain the security of the country's surrounding environment up to a depth of 2,000 kilometers.”

He added: “According to the declared policy of the Leader of the Revolution, any person, group or country who stands up against the Zionist regime, the Islamic Republic will support him with all its might, and the Islamic Republic can provide them with knowledge in the field of drones.”

By 2021, following a rash of attacks in the region, it was clear that Iranian drone technology was in the hands of non-state actors and militias throughout the Middle East.

Speaking during a visit to Iraq in May 2021, Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, said the Iranian drone program “has innovated with sophisticated, indigenously produced drones, which it supplies to regional allies.”

This “broad diffusion of Iranian drone technologies makes it almost impossible to tell who conducted a lethal drone strike in the region, and thus who should be held responsible and accountable.”

This, he added, “is only going to get more difficult.”

As it has raced to supply proxies and allies throughout the region and the wider world with these weapons, Iran has developed a second, cheaper class of UAV — the so-called “loitering munition,” or suicide drone.

Variations of these weapons, relatively cheap to produce but capable of carrying a significant explosive payload over hundreds of kilometers, have been produced in large numbers by the IRGC-linked Shahed Aviation Industries Research Center.

In September 2019, the Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for an attack by 25 drones and other missiles on Saudi Aramco oil sites at Abqaiq and Khurais in eastern Saudi Arabia.

Afterward, the Kingdom’s Defense Ministry displayed wreckage that revealed delta-winged Shahed 136 drones were among the weapons that had been fired at the Kingdom.

The Houthis have claimed responsibility for other attacks by Iranian-made drones. In 2020, another Saudi oil facility was hit, at Jazan near the Yemen border; the following year, four drones targeted a civilian airport at Abha in southern Saudi Arabia, setting an aircraft on fire; and in January 2022 drones struck two targets in Abu Dhabi — at the international airport and an oil storage facility, where three workers were killed.

In addition to supplying non-state actors with its drones, Iran is also developing a lucrative export market for the technology.

In November 2022, analysis by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy concluded that Iran “may be outsourcing kamikaze drone production to Venezuela,” a country sanctioned by the US in part because of its ties with Tehran, and in July 2023, Forbes reported that Bolivia had also expressed interest in acquiring Iranian drone technology.

Iran is not alone in developing markets for such weapons in South America. In December 2022, military intelligence and analysis organization Janes reported that Argentina had signed a contract with the Israeli Ministry of Defense to buy man-portable anti-personnel and anti-tank loitering munitions, produced by Israeli arms company Uvision.

Only four days ago, it was reported that Iranian-made armed drones have been used by the Sudanese army to turn the tide of conflict in the country’s civil war and halt the progress of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

According to Reuters, Sudan’s acting Foreign Minister Ali Sadeq denied his country had obtained any weapons from Iran. But the news agency cited “six Iranian sources, regional officials and diplomats,” who confirmed that Sudan’s military “had acquired Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over the past few months.”

Iran’s interest in Sudan is strategic, according to an unnamed Western diplomat quoted by Reuters: “They now have a staging post on the Red Sea and on the African side.”

But Iran’s most significant state customer for its deadly drone technology to date is Russia.

In September 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expelled Iranian diplomats from the country after several downed drones were found to have been made in Iran.

“We have a number of these downed Iranian drones, and these have been sold to Russia to kill our people and are being used against civilian infrastructure and peaceful civilians,” Zelensky told Arab News at the time.

Since then, drone use on both sides in the conflict has escalated, with Russia procuring many of its weapons and surveillance systems from Iran, in violation of UN resolutions.

At a meeting in New York on Friday the UK’s deputy political coordinator told the UN Security Council that “Russia has procured thousands of Iranian Shahed drones and has used them in a campaign against Ukraine’s electricity infrastructure, which is intended to beat Ukraine into submission by depriving its civilians of power and heat.”

But although Iran has successfully exported its drones, and drone technology, to several countries and non-state actors, its own use of the weapons has not been particularly auspicious.

As initially developed, drones were intended first for surveillance, and then as armed platforms for tactical use against single targets.

It is not known what Iran hoped to achieve by unleashing a swarm of 170 drones at once against Israel on Saturday night, in its first openly direct attack against the country. But all the reportedly failed attack has done is demonstrate that slow-moving drones deployed en masse in a full-frontal assault are extremely vulnerable to sophisticated air defense systems.

The vast majority of the drones, and the 30 cruise and 120 ballistic missiles fired at Israel in retaliation for the Israeli airstrike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on April 1, were shot down, either intercepted by American warships and aircraft or downed by Israel’s multi-layered anti-missile systems.

Drone warfare through the years

The word “drone” used to describe an unmanned aerial vehicle was first coined during the Second World War, when the British converted a Tiger Moth biplane to operate as an unmanned, radio-controlled target for anti-aircraft gunnery training. Codenamed Queen Bee, between 1933 and 1943, hundreds were built. Purpose-built drones as we know them today first took to the skies over Vietnam in the 1960s in the shape of the Ryan Aeronautical Model 147 Lightning Bug. Radio-controlled, the jet-powered aircraft was launched from under-wing pylons fitted to converted C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. After its reconnaissance mission was over, the Lightning Bug parachuted itself back to Earth, where it could be recovered by a helicopter. It was Israel that developed what is considered to be the world’s first modern military surveillance drone, the propellor-driven Mastiff, which first flew in 1973. Made by Tadiran Electronic Industries, it could be launched from a runway and remain airborne for up to seven hours, feeding back live video.

• • • • • •

The Mastiff was acquired by the US military, which led to a collaboration between AAI, a US aerospace company, and the government-owned Israel Aerospace Industries. The result was the more sophisticated AAI RQ-2 Pioneer, a reconnaissance drone used extensively during the 1991 Gulf War. The breakthrough in drones as battlefield weapons was made thanks to Abraham Karem, a former designer for the Israeli Air Force who emigrated to the US in the late 1970s. His GNAT 750 drone was acquired by General Atomics and operated extensively by the CIA over Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1993 and 1994. This evolved into the satellite-linked RQ-1 Predator. First used to laser-designate targets and guide weapons fired by other aircraft, by 2000 it had been equipped with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, and the first was fired in anger less than a month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America.

• • • • • •

The first strike, against a convoy carrying a Taliban leader in Afghanistan, missed. But on Nov. 14, 2001, a Predator that had taken off from a US air base in Uzbekistan fired two Hellfire missiles into a building near Kabul, killing Mohammed Atef, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, and several other senior Al-Qaeda personnel. Since then, silent death from the air has become the signature of American military power, thanks to a remotely operated weapons system from which no one is safe, no matter where they are. This was made clear by the audacious attack on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp’s Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, killed by a drone strike as he left Baghdad airport on Jan. 3, 2020. The MQ-9 Reaper drone that killed him had been launched from a military base in the Middle East and was controlled by operators at a US airbase over 12,000 km away in Nevada. — Jonathan Gornall


Gazans flood road north after ‘open checkpoint’ rumors

Gazans flood road north after ‘open checkpoint’ rumors
Updated 12 min 16 sec ago

Gazans flood road north after ‘open checkpoint’ rumors

Gazans flood road north after ‘open checkpoint’ rumors
  • Israel has killed more than 33,686 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry
  • More than 1.5 million Palestinians have taken refuge in the southern city of Rafah, according to the UN

GAZA CITY: Thousands of Gazans flooded the coast road north on Sunday after hearing that several people managed to cross a closed checkpoint toward Gaza City despite Israel denying it was open.
An AFP journalist saw mothers holding their children’s hands and families piling onto donkey carts with their luggage as they journeyed. They hoped to cross a military checkpoint on Al-Rashid road south of Gaza City, but the Israeli army said that reports the route was open were “not true.”
On the other side, desperate families waited for their loved ones in the rubble of the battered main city in the Palestinian territory.
Mahmoud Awdeh said he was waiting for his wife, who has been in the southern city of Khan Younis since the start of the war on Oct. 7.
“She told me over the phone that people are leaving the southern part and heading to the north,” Awdeh said.
“She told me she’s waiting at the checkpoint until the army agrees to let her head to the north,” he said, hoping she could cross safely.
During the day, rumors also spread that the Israeli army was allowing women, children, and men over 50 to go to the north, a claim denied by the army.
Since Israel assaulted Gaza following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, the army has besieged the territory, telling Gazans to leave some areas and preventing them from moving across the narrow strip.
More than 1.5 million Palestinians have taken refuge in the southern city of Rafah, according to the UN.
Several Gazans said they came under attack on the route, and AFP footage showed people ducking for cover. The Palestinian official news agency Wafa said Israeli forces “bomb(ed) displaced Palestinians as they were trying to return to the north of Gaza Strip through Al-Rasheed Street.”
Wafa shared a video on X, showing people running away from a blast.
Nour, a displaced Gazan, said: “When we arrived at the (Israeli) checkpoint, they would let women pass or stop them, but they shot at men, so we had to return; we didn’t want to die.”
AFP has approached the Israeli military for comment.
Elsewhere in Gaza, the fighting continued on Sunday after Iran launched a huge drone and missile attack on Israel.
In Rafah on Sunday, Palestinians said Iran’s attack on Israel underwhelmed them.
“The Iranian response came so late, after 190 days of war,” Khaled Al Nems said. “You can see our suffering.”
“Their response is too little too late,” he added.
Walid Al Kurdi, a displaced Palestinian living in Rafah, said “Iran’s attack on Israel is not our business.”
“The only thing we care about is returning to our homes,” he said.
“We are waiting for the coming 48 hours to see if (Israel) responds to Iran or if they are playing with us and want to distract attention away from Rafah.”
Israel has said it plans to send ground forces into Rafah to eradicate remaining Hamas militants there.


Israeli airstrikes, artillery reach deep into Bekaa Valley as tensions soar

Israeli airstrikes, artillery reach deep into Bekaa Valley as tensions soar
Updated 20 min 47 sec ago

Israeli airstrikes, artillery reach deep into Bekaa Valley as tensions soar

Israeli airstrikes, artillery reach deep into Bekaa Valley as tensions soar
  • Hezbollah modifies its tactics in south Lebanon amidst the backdrop of Iranian attack on Israel

BEIRUT: Israeli forces on Sunday struck a Hezbollah site in Lebanon’s east near the Syrian border as tensions soared following Iran’s direct attack on Israel.

Shelling heavily targeted Lebanese border villages and the Bekaa Valley on Saturday night, as the Israeli military carried out raids on Khiam, Kfarkila, and Odaisseh.

Artillery shelling also targeted Houla, Wadi Saluki, the vicinity of Deir Mimas, and areas along the Litani River.

The raid on Khiam resulted in the death of one person, and many civilians were injured in other villages.


Hezbollah has exchanged near-daily cross-border fire with Israel since the Palestinian group attacked southern Israel on October 7, triggering war in the Gaza Strip.

A missile exploded near a Lebanese Army intelligence office in the Jdeidet Marjayoun village.

The missile caused significant material damage to the facility and nearby houses, but miraculously, nobody was injured.

On Sunday morning, Israeli warplanes targeted the park in Jabal Safi adjacent to Jbaa and the outskirts of a village in Iqlim Al-Tuffah.

A sonic boom caused by missile fire damaged several houses, shops, and schools in Jbaa, while Israeli planes also targeted areas deep inside central Bekaa, specifically a three-floor building between the Saraain and Nabi Chit villages. Additionally, military aircraft were seen flying over Baalbek and its surroundings.

The Israeli military said that it struck “an important weapon manufacturing site for Hezbollah in Nabi Chit.”

Hezbollah’s own attacks were limited to Israeli military outposts repeatedly targeted since the outbreak of hostilities, including the air and missile defense headquarters at the Kaylaa outpost in the Golan Heights, which Hezbollah targeted with dozens of Katyusha missiles.

Following the Iranian attack on Israel overnight, Hezbollah’s supporters rallied in Beirut’s southern suburbs, holding the party’s banner and chanting slogans in support of Tehran.

News that the majority of the Iranian drones and missiles were intercepted before reaching Israeli airspace, however, prompted criticism of the attack online.

Beirut's Rafic Hariri International Airport closed for six hours after news of the impending attack broke on Saturday evening.

Lebanese people flocked to gas stations to fill their tanks in case escalating tensions affected supplies in the coming days.

The representative of the country’s fuel distributors, Fadi Abu Shaqra, said that “fuel is secured, and the quantities are sufficient for (the next several) days.”

He said gasoline and diesel were available, and there was no need for the public to worry about shortages.

Caretaker Public Works and Transportation Minister Ali Hamia said the airport will gradually return to work as normal.

“Closing the airport was a precautionary measure. It took into account the safety and security of people arriving and departing,” Hamia said.

“At 7 a.m., we suspended the closure decision. The airspace was opened, and work will gradually return to its normal course.”

Middle East Airlines said it had rescheduled a number of flights and announced the successful departure of flights to London and Dubai.



Egypt’s FM expresses need for restraint in calls to foreign ministers of Iran, Israel

Israeli Air Force heavy lift military transport helicopters fly over in the southern Negev desert on April 14, 2024. (AFP)
Israeli Air Force heavy lift military transport helicopters fly over in the southern Negev desert on April 14, 2024. (AFP)
Updated 36 min 24 sec ago

Egypt’s FM expresses need for restraint in calls to foreign ministers of Iran, Israel

Israeli Air Force heavy lift military transport helicopters fly over in the southern Negev desert on April 14, 2024. (AFP)
  • Shoukry called on his Iranian and Israeli counterparts “to exercise utmost self-restraint and refrain from provocations”

CAIRO: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry expressed the need for restraint in phone calls with the foreign ministers of Iran and Israel on Sunday, Egypt said.
Shoukry called on his Iranian and Israeli counterparts “to exercise utmost self-restraint and refrain from provocations that would increase tension and instability in the region,” a foreign ministry statement said.
Egypt is ready to intensify its efforts to defuse the current crisis, “which has begun taking a dangerous turn as it coincides with the crisis in the Gaza Strip and adds tension to other hot spots in the region,” the statement added.
Shoukry also held a call on Sunday with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to discuss “what has become a serious threat to the security and stability” of the Middle East after Iran launched drones and missile on Israel early on Sunday.

Cyprus suspends processing of Syrian asylum applications

Cyprus suspends processing of Syrian asylum applications
Updated 48 min 22 sec ago

Cyprus suspends processing of Syrian asylum applications

Cyprus suspends processing of Syrian asylum applications
  • According to Cyprus Interior Ministry statistics, some 2,140 people arrived by boat to EU-member Cyprus between Jan. 1 and April 4 of this year, the vast majority of them Syrian nationals departing from Lebanon

NICOSIA: Cyprus has said it’s suspending processing all asylum applications by Syrian nationals because large numbers of refugees from the war-torn country continue to reach the island nation by boat, primarily from Lebanon.
In a written statement, the Cypriot government said the suspension is also partly because of ongoing efforts to get the EU to redesignate some areas of the war-torn country as safe zones to enable repatriations.
The drastic step comes in the wake of Cypriot President Nicos Christodoulides’ visit to Lebanon early last week to appeal to authorities there to stop departures of migrant-laden boats from their shores. The request comes in light of a 27-fold increase in migrant arrivals to Cyprus so far this year over the same period last year.
According to Cyprus Interior Ministry statistics, some 2,140 people arrived by boat to EU-member Cyprus between Jan. 1 and April 4 of this year, the vast majority of them Syrian nationals departing from Lebanon. In contrast, only 78 people arrived by boat to the island nation in the corresponding period last year.
Last Monday, Christodoulides and Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati called on the EU to provide financial support to help cash-strapped Lebanon stop migrants from reaching Cyprus.
Just days prior to his Lebanon trip, the Cypriot president said that he had personally asked EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen to intercede with Lebanese authorities to curb migrant boat departures.
Although the EU should provide “substantial” EU support to Lebanon, Christodoulides said any financial help should be linked to how effectively Lebanese authorities monitor their coastline and prevent boat departures.