US, Iranian envoys in Lebanon as UNIFIL renewal vote falters

US, Iranian envoys in Lebanon as UNIFIL renewal vote falters
Dorothy Shea, US ambassador to Lebanon, and Amos Hochstein, US senior adviser for energy security, meet with Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, in Beirut on Aug. 30, 2023. (Reuters)
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Updated 30 August 2023
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US, Iranian envoys in Lebanon as UNIFIL renewal vote falters

US, Iranian envoys in Lebanon as UNIFIL renewal vote falters
  • The US envoy began a two-day visit to Lebanon to follow up on the historic maritime boundary agreement reached last October
  • The US energy envoy was accompanied by US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea, who described the meeting with Berri as “excellent and constructive”

BEIRUT: Lebanon is committed to maintaining internal security, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri told US energy security envoy Amos Hochstein on Wednesday, hours before a UN vote on peacekeeping missions in the south of the country was delayed.
Berri highlighted “the depth of the relationship with UNIFIL since 1978, and Lebanon’s keenness to maintain stability and its sovereignty over all of Lebanese territory.”
The US envoy began a two-day visit to Lebanon to follow up on the historic maritime boundary agreement reached last October, and discuss areas of mutual and regional interest.
Hochstein oversaw the demarcation of maritime borders between Lebanon and Israel through indirect negotiations mediated by the US, and Lebanon is awaiting the results of exploration in Block 9, which was initiated by TotalEnergies. It is expected to take 60 days to discover the viability of commercial gas operations in the block.
The US energy envoy was accompanied by US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea, who described the meeting with Berri as “excellent and constructive.”
On the first day of his visit, Hochstein also met caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Energy Minister Walid Fayad.
Hochstein’s visit comes at the invitation of the tripartite consortium of oil and gas exploration in Lebanese waters, which includes TotalEnergies of France, Eni of Italy and Qatar Energy. It comes days after Total began exploring for oil in Block 9, and as preparations are underway for a mission related to exploration surveys in Block 8.
The US envoy, accompanied by Fayad and Total officials, is set to visit an oil platform during his trip.
Hours after Hochstein’s arrival, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian arrived in Lebanon on an unscheduled visit. His visit to the country comes after his latest trip to Riyadh, which involved talks with the Saudi leadership.
The Iranian minister’s itinerary includes meetings with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, as well as the Hezbollah leadership.
Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Mojtaba Amani said on X (formerly Twitter) that Abdollahian’s agenda involves “talks and meetings with Lebanese officials on topics of common interest.”
He added: “This visit reflects Iran’s policy and its constructive role in supporting Lebanon’s stability and prosperity.”


Iran-backed Hezbollah downs Israeli drone in southern Lebanon

Iran-backed Hezbollah downs Israeli drone in southern Lebanon
Updated 52 min 39 sec ago
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Iran-backed Hezbollah downs Israeli drone in southern Lebanon

Iran-backed Hezbollah downs Israeli drone in southern Lebanon
  • Hezbollah said the drone was an Israeli Hermes 450, a multi-payload drone made by Elbit Systems, an Israel-based weapons manufacturer

AMMAN: Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah said on Sunday it downed an Israeli drone that was on a combat mission in southern Lebanon.
The drone that was brought down above the Al Aishiyeh area in southern Lebanon was “waging its attacks on our steadfast people,” a statement said by the group said.
Israeli forces and Lebanon’s armed group Hezbollah have been exchanging fire for over six months in parallel to the Gaza war, in the most serious hostilities since they fought a major war in 2006.
Hezbollah said the drone was an Israeli Hermes 450, a multi-payload drone made by Elbit Systems, an Israel-based weapons manufacturer.
The fighting has fueled concern about the risk of further escalation.
At least 370 Lebanese, including more than 240 Hezbollah fighters and 68 civilians, have been killed in the fighting according to a Reuters tally. Eighteen Israelis, including soldiers and civilians, have been killed on the Israeli side of the border, according to Israeli tallies.

 


UK PM discusses Gaza developments with Jordan’s king

UK PM discusses Gaza developments with Jordan’s king
Updated 22 April 2024
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UK PM discusses Gaza developments with Jordan’s king

UK PM discusses Gaza developments with Jordan’s king
  • Sunak told the king that the UK’s ultimate goal is to achieve a workable two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Sunday made a phone call to Jordan’s King Abdullah to discuss developments in the Gaza Strip, 10 Downing Street announced.
During the call, Sunak renewed the UK’s support for Jordan’s security and that of the region, saying a significant escalation is “not in anyone’s interests.”
He added that the UK’s focus remains on finding a solution to the conflict in Gaza.
The UK continues to work toward an immediate humanitarian truce to bring in much larger amounts of aid and return the Israeli hostages held by Hamas safely to their families, “leading to a longer-term sustainable ceasefire,” Sunak said.
The two leaders “discussed joint efforts to significantly step up aid to Gaza, with the UK taking part in Jordanian-led aid drops and a humanitarian land corridor to Gaza, as well as the maritime aid corridor from Cyprus,” Downing Street said.
Sunak told the king that the UK’s ultimate goal is to achieve a workable two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. 
The two leaders “agreed on the importance of supporting a reformed Palestinian authority to deliver stability and prosperity across the Palestinian territories,” Downing Street said.
King Abdullah warned of the danger of regional escalation, which he said threatens international peace and security, Jordan’s official Petra news agency reported.
He renewed his call for the international community to intensify efforts to reach an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza to alleviate the worsening humanitarian catastrophe in the besieged Palestinian territory, and warned of the dangerous consequences of an Israeli assault on Rafah.
The king stressed the need to protect civilians in Gaza and ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid. 
He pointed to the importance of continuing to support the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees to enable it to provide its humanitarian services in accordance with its UN mandate.


Five rockets fired from Mosul toward US military base inside Syria: security sources

Five rockets fired from Mosul toward US military base inside Syria: security sources
Updated 21 April 2024
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Five rockets fired from Mosul toward US military base inside Syria: security sources

Five rockets fired from Mosul toward US military base inside Syria: security sources
  • Attack comes on same day Iraqi PM Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani returned from visit to US

MOSUL: At least five rockets were launched from Iraq’s town of Zummar toward a US military base in northeastern Syria on Sunday, two Iraqi security sources told Reuters.
The attack against US forces is the first since early February when Iranian-backed groups in Iraq stopped their attacks against US troops.
The attack comes on the same day Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani returned from a visit to the US and met with President Joe Biden at the White House.
Two security sources and a senior army officer said a rocket launcher fixed on the back of a small truck had been parked in Zummar border town with Syria.
The military official said the truck caught fire with an explosion from unfired rockets at the same time as warplanes were in the sky.
“We can’t confirm that the truck was bombed by US warplanes unless we investigate it,” said a military official on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the incident.
The attacks came one day after a huge blast at a military base in Iraq early on Saturday killed a member of an Iraqi security force that includes Iran-backed groups. The force commander said it was an attack while the army said it was investigating and there were no warplanes in the sky at the time.


Israel’s brutal tactics blamed for Palestinians’ financial crisis

Israel’s brutal tactics blamed for Palestinians’ financial crisis
Updated 21 April 2024
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Israel’s brutal tactics blamed for Palestinians’ financial crisis

Israel’s brutal tactics blamed for Palestinians’ financial crisis

JERUSALEM: The Gaza war is speeding up Israel’s “annexation” of the Palestinian economy, say analysts, who argue it has been hobbled for decades by agreements that followed the Oslo peace accords.

While the Israel-Hamas war raging since Oct. 7 has devastated swaths of Gaza, it has also hit the public finances and wider economy of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israel is tightening the noose on the Palestinian Authority, which rules parts of the West Bank, by withholding tax revenues it collects on its behalf, said economist Adel Samara.

Palestinian livelihoods have also been hurt by bans on laborers crossing into Israel and by a sharp downturn in tourism in the violence-plagued territory, including a quiet Christmas season in Bethlehem.

Samara said that “technically speaking, there is no Palestinian economy under Israeli occupation — Israel has effectively annexed our economy.”

The Palestinian economy is largely governed by the 1994 Paris Protocol, which granted sole control over the territories’ borders to Israel and, with it, the right to collect import duties and value-added tax for the Palestinian Authority.

Israel has repeatedly leveraged this power to deprive the authority of much-needed revenues.

But the Gaza war has further tightened Israel’s grip, Samara said, with the bulk of customs duties withheld since Hamas sparked the war with the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

“Without these funds, the Palestinian Authority struggles to pay the salaries of its civil servants and its running costs,” said Taher Al-Labadi, a researcher at the French Institute for the Near East.


UN rapporteur raps Israeli obstruction of field visit to Gaza

 UN rapporteur raps Israeli obstruction of field visit to Gaza
Updated 21 April 2024
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UN rapporteur raps Israeli obstruction of field visit to Gaza

 UN rapporteur raps Israeli obstruction of field visit to Gaza
  • Shoukry pointed out that the increase in Israeli assaults and illegal settlement practices in the West Bank raises the risk of the conflict erupting in the entirety of the occupied Palestinian territories

CAIRO: Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese discussed the condition of human rights and Israeli practices in the occupied Palestinian territories on Sunday.

Shoukry received Albanese, the UN special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories, in Cairo, where they called for an immediate end to Israeli attacks on Gaza in compliance with international laws and demanded the safe delivery of humanitarian aid.

They also called for a stop to mounting settler violence in the West Bank, demanding accountability of the perpetrators.

Shoukry pointed out that the increase in Israeli assaults and illegal settlement practices in the West Bank raises the risk of the conflict erupting in the entirety of the occupied Palestinian territories.

He warned of the security repercussions of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which undermines the stability of the broader region.

The foreign minister expressed regret over the reluctance of several countries so far to describe Israeli practices as a flagrant violation of international law.

Shoukry and Albanese discussed the status of human rights and the humanitarian condition of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Shoukry reiterated the need to stop Israel from implementing policies of collective punishment, indiscriminately targeting civilians, and displacing Palestinians from their lands.

The UN rapporteur denounced Israel’s refusal to allow her to conduct a field visit to the Gaza Strip and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Albanese expressed her deep concern for the catastrophic humanitarian situation Palestinians are experiencing and called on Israel to comply with its obligations under international law as the occupying power.

She also stressed her keenness to continue discussions with Egypt regarding ways to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians.