Palestinian trucker kills Israeli soldier in ramming, is shot

Palestinian trucker kills Israeli soldier in ramming, is shot
Truck driver rammed his vehicle near a checkpoint in the West Bank, injuring three people before he was "neutralised" in the latest attack to rock the occupied territory. (AFP)
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Updated 31 August 2023
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Palestinian trucker kills Israeli soldier in ramming, is shot

Palestinian trucker kills Israeli soldier in ramming, is shot
  • Violence comes a day after Israeli police shot and killed 14-year-old Palestinian boy who stabbed man in Jerusalem

TEL AVIV, Israel: A Palestinian truck driver killed an Israeli soldier and injured two others in a ramming attack on a checkpoint on the boundary with the occupied West Bank on Thursday, Israeli police and medical officials said.
The driver was shot and wounded by troops following a pursuit between Maccabim checkpoint and the Palestinian village of Nilin, a police commander said. The commander described the driver as a 41-year-old who had a permit to work in Israel.
The militant group Hamas, which has stepped up attacks in the West Bank in a challenge to Israel and the internationally backed Palestinian Authority, described the incident as an “heroic operation” but did not claim credit.
The violence comes a day after Israeli police shot and killed a 14-year-old Palestinian boy who stabbed a man in a Jerusalem light-rail station and after Palestinian militants detonated a bomb near a convoy of Israeli troops escorting Jewish worshippers to a holy site in the occupied West Bank, wounding four Israeli troops.
The unrest is part of more than a yearlong wave of violence that has surged to levels unseen in the West Bank in some two decades.
According to Israel’s Defense Ministry, the driver sped away from the area and was stopped by security guards at a separate checkpoint nearby.
Palestinian assaults against Israelis have spiked alongside Israel’s intensification of arrest raids in the West Bank since last spring. Some 30 people have been killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis since the start of 2023.
The near-nightly raids have fueled tensions in the region and have ushered in some of the worst fighting between Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank since the last Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s.
Nearly 180 Palestinians have been killed in the violence. Israel says most of those killed have been militants, but stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions as well as people not involved in the confrontations have also been killed.


US, West must return to imposing cost on Iran’s ‘malign activity’ to restore Middle East stability, says Mike Pompeo

US, West must return to imposing cost on Iran’s ‘malign activity’ to restore Middle East stability, says Mike Pompeo
Updated 7 sec ago
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US, West must return to imposing cost on Iran’s ‘malign activity’ to restore Middle East stability, says Mike Pompeo

US, West must return to imposing cost on Iran’s ‘malign activity’ to restore Middle East stability, says Mike Pompeo
  • Former US Secretary of State, speaking at FII Priority Miami summit, claimed US deterrence of Iranian regime had been lost

LONDON: Taking away all capability for Iran to create instability in the Middle East was the driving force behind the implementation of the Abraham Accords in 2020 and US policy needs to move back toward imposing a cost on malign actions by the regime in Tehran, Mike Pompeo said on Thursday.

The accords were agreements signed by the UAE and Bahrain to normalize relations with Israel brokered by then US President Donald Trump. Sudan and Morocco also later agreed to establish ties with Israel.

The former US Secretary of State told the Future Investment Initiative Priority forum in Miami the process of formulation to signing of the accords happened as a result of a “central thesis” held by all involved that the Islamic Republic was the “malign actor” in the region.

“You should know, I’m hopeless biased as they’re still trying to kill me, if you see me walking around with a security team it’s not because I enjoy it but because I still need it,” he said.

“I think that’s telling. You can see (Iran’s) hand in what happened in Gaza, they supported, funded and essentially facilitated the capacity for Hamas to carry out the barbaric attacks (on Israel) which took place on Oct. 7.

“Today, without the Iranian support you’d still have shipping through the Red Sea, instead of transit having to move some other way because you’ve got missiles being launched into (the area) with relatively good accuracy.

“Nearly all the instability that takes place in the Middle East is as a direct result of that regime in Iran, the United States had the lead in deterring them and we’ve lost that,” he added.

Pompeo praised Saudi Aramco for stabilizing the oil markets following an attack claimed by the Iranian-backed Houthis on its facilities in Abqaiq–Khurais in eastern Saudi Arabia, but pinpointed that attack as the beginning of the end of the US and the West being capable of deterring the Iranian regime.

Despite a US drone strike which assassinated senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps official Qassem Soleimani in 2020, Pompeo said the current administration of President Joe Biden and the leadership in many countries in Europe were now unwilling to impose a cost on Tehran for its malign activities.

“We permitted (Iran) for three years to fire rockets out of Yemen into southern Saudi Arabia and we did nothing and that was a precursor to what I think you’re seeing today,” he said.

Pompeo also said part of the solution was being serious about taking Iranian crude oil off the market and limiting revenue for the regime from that source, adding that in Jan. 2021 Iran had $4 billion worth of foreign exchange reserves compared with between $25 and $30 billion today.


‘Pattern’ of Israeli attacks on hospitals either intentional or ‘reckless incompetence,’ MSF chief tells UNSC

‘Pattern’ of Israeli attacks on hospitals either intentional or ‘reckless incompetence,’ MSF chief tells UNSC
Updated 7 min 15 sec ago
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‘Pattern’ of Israeli attacks on hospitals either intentional or ‘reckless incompetence,’ MSF chief tells UNSC

‘Pattern’ of Israeli attacks on hospitals either intentional or ‘reckless incompetence,’ MSF chief tells UNSC
  • Christopher Lockyear says a resolution calling for anything short of a ceasefire is ‘gross negligence’
  • He paints an apocalyptic picture of health facilities, staff and patients in Gaza, where the focus is on mere survival amid complete erosion of humanitarian laws
  • Children as young as 5 are expressing their desire to die rather than live with injuries and trauma

NEW YORK: In one of the most powerful speeches delivered at the UN Security Council since beginning of the war in Gaza, the secretary-general of the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) on Thursday called for the UN body to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and ensure protection of health facilities, workers and patients.

He said the world is watching council members “deliberate and delay while civilians die,” and expressed outrage at the recent US veto that prevented the adoption of “the most evident of resolutions, one demanding an immediate and sustained ceasefire.”

Christopher Lockyear said: “Three times this council has had an opportunity to vote for the ceasefire that is so desperately needed. And three times the United States has used its veto power.”

He said the draft resolution tabled by the US last week to rival the Algerian draft it vetoed and “ostensibly” calling for a ceasefire is “misleading at best.”

Although the draft in question does support a call for a ceasefire, it refers to it as a temporary measure that needs to be enacted “as soon as practicable,” which many have understood as leaving the decision for its implementation to the Israelis.

Lockyear called on the council to reject “any resolution that further hampers humanitarian efforts on the ground and leads this council to tacitly endorse the continued violence and mass atrocities in Gaza.”

He added: “The people of Gaza need a ceasefire, not when practicable, but now. They need a sustained ceasefire, not a temporary period of calm. Anything short of this is gross negligence. The protection of civilians in Gaza cannot be contingent on resolutions from this council which instrumentalize humanitarianism to blur political objectives.”

Lockyear painted an apocalyptic picture of the situation in Rafah, the last refuge for Gazans, where over 1 million displaced Palestinians are sheltering and which is now being engulfed with fear of a ground invasion.

Over four months of war have killed nearly 30,000 Palestinians in Israel’s constant bombing and attacks, according to MSF.

More than 1.7 million are estimated to have been forcibly displaced and facing infected wounds and disease, as the organization says providing healthcare is becoming “virtually impossible” in Gaza, where medical facilities have not been safe from military attacks.

“Our patients have catastrophic injuries, amputations, crushed limbs and severe burns,” Lockyear said.

“They need sophisticated care. They need long and intensive rehabilitation. Medics cannot treat these injuries on a battlefield or in the ashes of destroyed hospitals. Our surgeons are running out of basic gauze to stop their patients from bleeding out. They use it once, squeeze out the blood, wash it, sterilize it, and reuse it for the next patient.

“The humanitarian crisis in Gaza has left pregnant women without medical care for months. Women in labor cannot reach functional delivery rooms. They are giving birth in plastic tents and public buildings.

“Medical teams have added a new acronym to their vocabulary, WCNSF: Wounded child, no surviving family.

“Children who do survive this war will not only bear the visible wounds of traumas and injuries, but the invisible ones to those of repeated displacements, constant fear and witnessing family members being literally dismembered before their eyes. These psychological injuries have led children as young as 5 to tell us that they would prefer to die.”

On Feb. 20, a MSF staff member’s wife and daughter-in-law were killed and six other people were injured when an Israeli tank fired on a clearly marked MSF staff shelter in Al-Mawasi in Khan Younis.

Israeli forces last week evacuated then raided Nasser Hospital, the largest remaining medical facility in southern Gaza. Those who were forced out have nowhere to go, said MSF. They cannot move back to the now largely destroyed north, and in Rafah they live amid constant Israeli airstrikes and the fear of an extensive ground incursion.

Since the beginning of the war in Gaza, MSF medical teams and patients have been forced to evacuate nine different healthcare facilities in the Gaza Strip. Five MSF workers have been killed. Today’s MSF efforts to help are “entirely inadequate,” said Lockyear.

He added: “For 138 days we have witnessed the unimaginable suffering of the people of Gaza. For 138 days we have watched the systematic obliteration of a health system we have supported for decades. We have watched our patients and our colleagues be killed and maimed. This situation is the combination of a war Israel is waging on the entire population of the Gaza Strip; a war of collective punishment, a war without rules, a war at all costs.

“The laws and the principles we collectively depend on to enable humanitarian assistance are now eroded to the point of becoming meaningless.

“The humanitarian response in Gaza today is an illusion. A convenient illusion that perpetuates a narrative that this war is being waged in line with international laws. Calls for humanitarian assistance have echoed across this chamber. Yet in Gaza, we have less and less every day: less space, less medicine, less food, less water, less safety. We no longer speak of a humanitarian scale up. We speak of how to survive even without the bare minimum.”

Lockyear said the Israeli attacks against medical facilities and staff have become now “all too familiar.”

He said: “Israeli forces have attacked our convoys, detained our staff, bulldozed our vehicles. Hospitals have been bombed and raided.

“This pattern of attacks is either intentional or indicative of reckless incompetence. Our colleagues in Gaza are fearful that as I speak to you today, they will be punished tomorrow.”

Lockyear cautioned against casting international humanitarian law to the wind as that “will reverberate well beyond Gaza. It will be an enduring burden on our collective conscience. This is not just political inaction: It has become political complicity.”

The humanitarian official demanded from the Security Council “the protections promised under international humanitarian law,” and a ceasefire from both parties.

Lockyear asked council members: “We demand the space to turn the illusion of aid to meaningful assistance. What will you do to make this happen?”


How US-Iran proxy wars are keeping the Middle East on edge

How US-Iran proxy wars are keeping the Middle East on edge
Updated 5 min 10 sec ago
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How US-Iran proxy wars are keeping the Middle East on edge

How US-Iran proxy wars are keeping the Middle East on edge
  • Experts see militias backed by Iran as nothing more than “expendable pawns” in a chess game
  • Tehran strenuously denies any connection with the mainly Shiite militias

DUBAI: Iran and the US are engaged in an intensifying proxy war, which is playing out across several Middle Eastern states. Although neither side appears to be looking for a direct confrontation, vulnerable Arab countries with divided loyalties are paying the biggest price.

That seems to be the consensus view of Middle East experts as low-intensity wars rage on in several parts of the region in addition to the full-on Gaza conflict.

Since Oct. 7 last year, Iran-backed militias have mounted more than 170 attacks on US military bases and assets in Syria, Iraq and Jordan in response to US support for Israel in the Israel-Hamas war, prompting American retaliation.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Houthi allies in Yemen have launched repeated attacks on commercial and military shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, likewise prompting retaliatory strikes by the US and UK on militia targets.

While analysts believe the US and Iran are unlikely to become embroiled in a direct state-on-state confrontation, attacks by Iranian proxies are expected to occur for as long as Israel’s military campaign in Gaza continues.

Some experts think Iran is acutely aware of the Biden administration’s fear of a regional escalation and has sought to exploit this threat as a means of influencing the course of the war in Gaza.

Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, believes Iran is trying “to instrumentalize that fear by directly ordering, indirectly encouraging, or acquiescing to proxy attacks against Israel, the US, and international shipping.”

This photo released by the Houthi Media Center shows the Iran-backed Houthi forces boarding the cargo ship Galaxy Leader on Nov. 19, 2023, in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen. (Handout via AP)

In this way, Iran “hopes a terrified Biden administration will increase pressure on Israel to end the war before total destruction of Hamas,” he told Arab News.

However, this proxy war is playing out on the sovereign territories of Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Yemen — all nations that can ill-afford to be swept up in a regional conflict. Some commentators say Arab lives in these countries are being treated as expendable.

“I think the attacks signal bloody bargaining between America and Israel on one side and Iran on the other,” Ayad Abu Shakra, a journalist at Asharq Al-Awsat, told Arab News.

“I don’t think there is any ‘war of survival’ or a ‘war of elimination’ between the two camps, the Israeli-American camp and the Iranian camp. They are bargaining, as if in a bazaar, but with blood. The Iranians are fighting the Americans with Arab bodies and vice versa.”

This bargaining, as it were, has the potential to get out of hand, however.

On Jan. 28, US forces stationed at Tower 22, a remote installation in Jordan, close to the Syrian and Iraqi borders, came under drone attack, leaving three US soldiers dead and 34 wounded.

US President Joe Biden said the drone attack was launched from Iraq by an Iran-backed militia. He vowed to retaliate at a time and in a manner of America’s choosing.

On Feb. 3, the US military launched an air assault on 85 targets at seven locations across Iraq and Syria including command and control headquarters and weapon storage sites used by Iran-backed militias and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

This was followed on Feb. 7 by a drone attack on eastern Baghdad that killed Abu Baqir Al-Saadi, commander of Kataib Hezbollah, the Iraqi militia that Washington had deemed responsible for the attack on US troops in Jordan.

Iran of course denies links to any militias in the Middle East. For instance, in a Jan. 29 letter to the UN Security Council, Amir Saeid Iravani, Iran’s ambassador to the UN, said: “There is no group affiliated with the Islamic Republic or Iran’s armed forces, whether in Iraq, Syria, or elsewhere that operates directly or indirectly under the control of the Islamic Republic of Iran or acts on its behalf.

“Therefore, the Islamic Republic of Iran is not responsible for the actions of any individual or group within the region.”

Iran denies links to any militias in the Middle East. But to fighters and supporters of Lebanon's Hezbollah, there is no hiding what is obvious. (AFP/File photo)

Some Republican lawmakers had exhorted the administration to authorize a direct strike against Iran, even if it risked sparking a wider escalation. Others accused Biden of responding too slowly and giving the enemy too much forewarning.

Wary about being dragged into another potentially open-ended Middle East war, especially during an election year, Biden has appeared keen to limit the scope of America’s retaliation.

“The Biden administration partially called the Islamic Republic’s bluff by harshly reacting to the killing of three American servicemen and women in Jordan, but publicly signaled that it would not target Iranian territory,” said Alfoneh.

“Retaliating for the loss of American life was a correct response, but the US would perhaps be better off keeping the Islamic Republic guessing about America’s retaliation, which may include Iranian territory in the future.”

Iran is likewise mindful of the potential blowback from its activities. But by operating through its network of proxies throughout the region, Tehran feels it can deny any involvement in attacks on Israel or US targets while reaping the benefits.

“After 1979, when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini declared the export of the Islamic revolution, Iranians formed the IRGC,” said Abu Shakra.

“It was almost an open secret that they would rather fight their wars of negotiations with the Americans and Israelis in Arab cities rather than fight them in Iran’s cities.

“They eventually took over Beirut, Baghdad, Damascus and Sanaa, and now they are negotiating with the Americans and the Israelis through massacres, in which the Arabs are paying the price, not the Iranians.”

Hossein Salami, head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. (AFP)

Nevertheless, according to analysts, Iran has sometimes overplayed its hand, leading to a more aggressive US response, as was the case when the administration of former President Donald Trump ordered the killing of Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in Jan. 2020, allegedly to stave off a planned attack on US forces in Iraq.

“They are reminded of the accepted bargaining limits,” said Abu Shakra. “The assassination of Qassem Soleimani, for example, was such a reminder and a big hit. Both America and Iran are still respecting ‘the rules of engagement.’”

The latest US retaliation does appear to have had an impact. On Feb. 12, the Pentagon announced there had been 186 US casualties in Iraq, Syria and Jordan since Oct. 18. A day later, on Feb. 13, it declared there had been no further attacks on US forces.

Washington is also likely in no hurry to attack Iran directly because the survival of the Islamic Republic has other uses. “It’s important to note that Iran is a sizable player whom the West can ‘use’ in any role,” said Abu Shakra.

“Whether Washington admits it or not, Iran is a very important bulwark against the rise of Sunni militant Islam. Iran is also a potential counterbalance against a nuclear Pakistan. Iran is an important bulwark against the expansion of the Chinese in the Gulf.

“No one has the strategic interest of destroying Iran. Neither America, nor Russia, nor India can ignore the role or influence of Iran.”

Critics of the Biden administration say its hesitance about a direct confrontation with Iran was demonstrated by its response to the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, including efforts through media leaks to play down an Iranian link and prevent a regional escalation.

When Israel began its retaliatory campaign in Gaza, the US said there was no proof that Iran was behind the Oct. 7 attack, said Abu Shakra. Then, within a week or two, the US said it did not want the conflict to spread.

“They wanted it to be limited,” he said. “The Americans did not want any involvement with the Iranian militias in Lebanon and Iraq. I think unless the Iranians overplay their cards and become too arrogant, the current fighting will remain limited to Iran’s Arab appendages.

“I think neither the US nor Israel nor the pro-Tehran Iraqi regime or Iran itself has any real interest in direct confrontation, which would be apocalyptic if it were to happen.”

INNUMBERS

269 People killed in Lebanon since violence erupted in October 2023.

40 Civilians are believed to be among the dead in Lebanon.

16 Israeli nationals were killed in the north, including 6 civilians.

Likewise, Alfoneh believes Iran has little to gain from a direct conflict with the US. Instead, it can outsource its activities to proxies to tilt regional affairs in its favor.

“The Islamic Republic achieved all of its objectives on Oct. 7,” said Alfoneh. “Hamas’ terrorist incursion into Israel shattered the myth of Israel’s invulnerability.

“Iran got even with Israel, which for years has bombed Iranian and allied positions in Syria, and even engaged in operations on Iranian soil, and the attack sabotaged diplomatic normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel.”

The interests of the Palestinians, and indeed the populations of the wider Arab region caught in the crossfire, are thereby secondary to these geopolitical goals.

“The fate of Hamas and Palestinian civilians is of no interest to the Islamic Republic, which perceives them as expendable pawns in a grander chess game in the region,” said Alfoneh.

“Therefore, the Islamic Republic is not interested in spreading the war in Gaza, which may directly entangle Iran in a war with Israel and, possibly, with the US.”

 


Israel strike kills 2 fighters in Lebanon: security source

Israel strike kills 2 fighters in Lebanon: security source
Updated 22 February 2024
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Israel strike kills 2 fighters in Lebanon: security source

Israel strike kills 2 fighters in Lebanon: security source
  • An Israeli drone shot two guided missiles at the building in Kfar Rumman
  • Hezbollah later confirmed that two of its fighters had been killed by Israeli fire

BEIRUT: Two Hezbollah fighters were killed in an Israeli drone strike on a residential building in south Lebanon on Thursday, a security source said, with the Iran-backed group later announcing retaliatory rocket fire.
Hezbollah and its arch-foe Israel have been exchanging near-daily fire across the border since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on October 7.
An Israeli drone shot two guided missiles at the building in Kfar Rumman, near the southern city of Nabatiyeh, the security source said, declining to be identified as they were not authorized to brief the media.
Kfar Rumman lies around 12 kilometers (seven miles) from the Israeli border.
Hezbollah later confirmed that two of its fighters had been killed by Israeli fire.
It said it had fired “dozens of Katyusha rockets” at two Israeli barracks in response to the drone strike and other “attacks on villages and civilian homes.”
The Hamas ally claimed at least nine other attacks on Israeli troops and positions on Thursday.
The violence on Israel’s northern border has sparked fears of another full-blown war between Israel and Hezbollah like that of 2006.
Since October, at least 273 people have been killed on the Lebanese side, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also including 42 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and six civilians have been killed, according to the Israeli army.
Last week, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah vowed that Israel would pay “with blood,” after 10 civilians, including seven members of one family, were killed in Lebanon’s largest single-day death toll so far. Five Hezbollah fighters were also killed.
On Wednesday, an Israeli strike killed a woman and a girl, prompting retaliatory fire from Hezbollah.


Libya ex-militias agree to leave capital after clashes

Libya ex-militias agree to leave capital after clashes
Updated 22 February 2024
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Libya ex-militias agree to leave capital after clashes

Libya ex-militias agree to leave capital after clashes

TRIPOLI: Armed groups in Tripoli have agreed to leave the Libyan capital and to be replaced with regular forces, the interior minister said on Wednesday, after a spate of deadly clashes.

“After a month of consultations, we came to an agreement with the security groups that they will leave the capital soon,” said Imad Trabelsi, a member of Libya’s internationally recognized government.

“There will only be city police officers, emergency police, and those who do criminal investigations,” he told a news conference.

The deal will see the General Security Force, the Special Deterrence Force which controls the east of Tripoli, Brigade 444 in southern Tripoli, and Brigade 111, attached to the general staff quit the capital.

The decision also concerns the Stability Support Authority, a group based in the neighborhood of Abu Salim, where 10 people were killed at the weekend, including SSA members.

These groups evolved from the myriad of militias that filled a security vacuum after the 2011 overthrow of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising.

Heavily armed and equipped, they are not under the direct authority of the ministries of interior or defense, though they receive public funds.

They operate independently and have been granted a special status by the prime minister and the presidential council in 2021.

The groups are most visible at roundabouts and main street intersections, where their often-masked members install checkpoints, blocking traffic with weapon-mounted armored vehicles.

They have sometimes been involved in violent clashes, even in Tripoli’s residential areas, as was the case last August between the Special Deterrence Force and Brigade 444. The fighting left 55 people dead and 146 wounded.