Work begins on Iraq-Iran rail link

Iranian Vice President Mohammed Mokhber and Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani attend a ceremony on Saturday in Basra to lay the foundation stone for a railway connection project. (AFP)
Iranian Vice President Mohammed Mokhber and Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani attend a ceremony on Saturday in Basra to lay the foundation stone for a railway connection project. (AFP)
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Updated 02 September 2023
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Work begins on Iraq-Iran rail link

Work begins on Iraq-Iran rail link
  • The project will connect port city of Basra to Iran’s vast railway network through Chalamja border crossing

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s prime minister on Saturday inaugurated construction work on what is slated to become the first railway line connecting the country to neighboring Iran, a major political and economic partner.

The “Basra-Chalamja connection project” will link the major port city of Basra in southern Iraq to Iran’s vast railway network through the Chalamja border crossing, said a Transport Ministry official.
It is estimated that the project will take “between 18 and 24 months.”
The goal is to be able to transport “travelers from Iran and Central Asian countries” to holy cities, Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani said in a speech.
He noted that the project had been under discussion for years before an agreement was reached in 2021.

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The prime minister thanked Iran for planned demining operations at the border to clear the way for the train line and for a railway bridge over the Shatt Al-Arab waterway.

During Saturday’s ceremony, Al-Sudani laid a symbolic foundation stone alongside Iran’s first vice president, Mohammed Mokhber.
Al-Sudani thanked Tehran for planned demining operations at the border to clear the way for the train line and for a railway bridge over the Shatt Al-Arab waterway, where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers converge before spilling into the Gulf.
Iraq and Iran fought an eight-year war in the 1980s after Saddam Hussein invaded his neighbor in the wake of Iran’s 1979 revolution.
Mokhber hailed the “strategic” project that he said would be completed “over the next two years,” Iranian state media reported him as saying.
Half the 32 km of rail track planned will be on the Iran side of the border, its IRNA news
agency said. War-ravaged and beset by rampant corruption, Iraq suffers from dilapidated infrastructure, including outdated highways and railways.
Al-Sudani’s government has been working on forging a growing number of regional partnerships.
In May, Baghdad unveiled a $17-billion project known as the “Route of Development” for a road and railway stretching 1,200 km from Iraq’s northern border with Turkiye to the Gulf in the south.

 


‘Ground trembles’ as Hezbollah launches 150 missiles in revenge strike

‘Ground trembles’ as Hezbollah launches 150 missiles in revenge strike
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‘Ground trembles’ as Hezbollah launches 150 missiles in revenge strike

‘Ground trembles’ as Hezbollah launches 150 missiles in revenge strike
  • The attacks marked a significant deterioration in the situation on the southern Lebanese border

BEIRUT: Residents of southern Lebanon’s border area took shelter late on Sunday as Hezbollah launched more than 150 missiles at targets inside Israel in one of the largest attacks since the conflict began.

“The ground trembles beneath us and the sky is covered by missiles,” one resident told Arab News.

Hezbollah’s barrage followed a series of Israeli drone strikes earlier in the day that killed at least eight of the group’s members and civilians.

Hezbollah responded by launching missiles toward Kiryat Shmona, the Golan, and military sites in the Al-Manara and Misgav Am areas. 

The attacks marked a significant deterioration in the situation on the southern Lebanese border.

“These are unprecedented barrages of missiles,”  the resident said.

“The area is shaking from the sounds of missiles above our heads heading toward the other side of the border. We see Iron Dome explosions above the towns all the way to the Nabatiyeh area.”

After the two deadly attacks on Naqoura and Aita Al-Shaab earlier on Sunday, the Israeli army struck a motorcycle in the town of Hula with a missile from a military drone, killing three Hezbollah members, Tariq Awad, Hussein Salman Mustafa, and Wissam Ali Hamid, whose brother was killed in an Israeli attack on the city of Bint Jbeil a few weeks ago.  

The Israeli army attacked the town of Yaron in the Bint Jbeil district with two air-to-surface missiles, killing two Hezbollah members. 

The towns of Aitaroun and Al-Adisa were hit by dozens of phosphorus shells, causing’ fires in several neighborhoods.


Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza

Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza
Updated 26 May 2024
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Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza

Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza
  • Hamas armed wing says fired ‘large rocket barrage’ at Tel Aviv
  • Aid trucks begin entering Gaza through Kerem Shalom crossing

CAIRO/TEL AVIV: Rocket sirens blared Sunday in Israel’s commercial hub of Tel Aviv for the first time in months, with at least three blasts reported across central Israel, AFP correspondents said.

The Israeli military said sirens had been activated over central Israel as fighting raged in Gaza, including in the far-southern city of Rafah.

The armed wing of Palestinian militant group Hamas said it had launched a “large rocket barrage” on Tel Aviv.

The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said in a post on Telegram that they had targeted Tel Aviv “with a large rocket barrage in response to the Zionist massacres against civilians.”

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage from the latest barrage.

Earlier on Sunday, aid trucks entered Gaza from southern Israel through a new agreement to bypass the Rafah crossing with Egypt after Israeli forces seized the Palestinian side of it earlier this month. But was unclear if humanitarian groups would be able to access the aid because of ongoing fighting in the area.

A total of “200 trucks” had moved from the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, which has been shut since early May when Israel seized the Palestinian side of the terminal, to the Kerem Shalom crossing, some 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) to the south.

Egypt has refused to coordinate aid through Rafah as long as Israeli troops control the Palestinian side.

But on Friday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi agreed in a call with his US counterpart Joe Biden to allow aid through Kerem Shalom, the other entry point into southern Gaza, the White House said.

Al-Qahera News did not specify how many trucks had made their way through inspection into besieged Gaza, but said “four fuel trucks” had already crossed and were heading to hospitals.

All aid from Egypt is inspected by Israeli authorities and distributed via the United Nations.

The remainder of the 200 trucks were “expected to cross into Gaza today,” Khaled Zayed, head of the Egyptian Red Crescent in Al-Arish — where the bulk of aid arrives — said.


Drones kill 3 as Israel widens southern Lebanon attacks 

Husain Saleh was killed in Sunday’s drone attack. (Supplied)
Husain Saleh was killed in Sunday’s drone attack. (Supplied)
Updated 26 May 2024
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Drones kill 3 as Israel widens southern Lebanon attacks 

Husain Saleh was killed in Sunday’s drone attack. (Supplied)
  • Strike near UN peacekeeping base in Naqoura kills Hezbollah member
  • ‘We are waiting for you,’ Lebanese MP says after Israeli threat of ‘open war’

BEIRUT: Three people, including two civilians, were killed in drone strikes on Sunday as the Israeli army stepped up its attacks on Hezbollah and its ally in southern Lebanon.

The first strike, near a UNIFIL site in Naqoura, killed a Hezbollah member later identified as Mohammed Baydoun.

A second Israeli drone targeted a motorcycle in Aita Al-Shaab, killing a civilian named as Rafik Hassan Kassem, and badly injuring another man, Hussein Saleh, who later died from his wounds.

Saleh, a mechanic with no political affiliations, used to travel to nearby towns to feed domestic animals left behind by owners who fled the region. Arab News had previously interviewed him.

People close to Saleh said that “everyone advised him to stop visiting border villages in fear of being targeted, but he insisted on fulfilling his humanitarian duty.”

An Israeli drone also struck Jabal Al-Blat, opposite Israel’s Zar’it settlement, targeting a transmission tower for Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV Channel.

As hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel entered their 231st day, Khiam village was subjected to heavy Israeli raids, with military drones striking four targets.

In less than 48 hours, Israeli shelling reached the outskirts of Chihine, Majdal Zoun, Kfarhamam in Wadi Hamoul, Zebqine, and Naqoura.

Shelling subsequently reached the villages of Rachaya Al-Foukhar, Hamoul, Zebqine, Labbouneh, the Makraba forest, and the eastern outskirts of Khiam.

A fire erupted after a number of shells landed on the outskirts of Rab Al-Thalathine, near Al-Taybeh village.

Israeli raids on Aita Al-Shaab in the central sector caused serious damage to property, infrastructure and homes.

Hezbollah also announced the deaths of two people in Israeli raids on Aitaroun late on Saturday night.

One of the victims was named as Bilal Amin Mourad, a former principal in the Aitaroun public vocational school. Caretaker Minister of Education Abbas Halabi mourned Mourad’s death on Sunday.

Israeli army spokesperson Avichay Adraee said that the military struck Hezbollah targets in five regions in southern Lebanon.

He said that warplanes raided Hezbollah’s infrastructure and military buildings in Khiam and Aita Al-Shaab, adding that several areas in Khiam, Houla, Markaba and Kfarkila were also bombed.

Sirens sounded in Israeli settlements adjacent to the Lebanese border, including Shlomi, Betzet, Hanita, Ras Naqoura in western Galilee, Avivim in the upper Galilee, and Kiryat Shmona and its surroundings.

Meanwhile, missiles landed in an Israeli army site near Shlomi.

Israeli Army Radio announced that “two anti-armor missiles were launched from Lebanon toward Margaliot in the Galilee panhandle.”

The Israeli Channel 12 said “about 10 missiles were launched from Lebanon toward the Zar’it settlement in the upper Galilee, with no casualties reported.”

Hezbollah’s operations targeted “technical systems in the Israeli Al-Abad site with appropriate weapons, striking it directly and completely destroying it.”

The militant group also struck “a Merkava tank with a direct missile in the Al-Marj site, destroying it and killing and injuring its members.”

It subsequently targeted the Zibdine site in the Shebaa farms and a building for the Israeli soldiers in the Al-Manara settlement. It also hit two buildings for the Israeli soldiers in the Metula settlement and two other buildings for the Israeli soldiers in the Shtula settlement.

MP Mohammed Raad, head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, responded on Sunday to Israeli statements threatening to wage open war on Lebanon, saying: “We know your situation accurately, and we know who you are and we are waiting for you.”

In response to those criticizing the attacks in southern Lebanon in support of the Gaza Strip, Raad said: “When criminals take their crimes too far, they don’t spare anyone. That’s why we should prevent the enemy from looking for another target, so we don’t wind up being the other victims.”  

Referring to the kamikaze drones used to strike Israeli targets, Sheikh Nabil Kaouk, a member of Hezbollah’s Central Council, promised further operations that will “surprise and humiliate the enemy.”

He said: “For the first time in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Lebanese planes raid Israeli sites in occupied Palestine.”


Recognizing Palestinian state is ‘justice’ for Palestinians: Spain

Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Jose Manuel Albares (L) shakes hands with Palestinian PM.
Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Jose Manuel Albares (L) shakes hands with Palestinian PM.
Updated 26 May 2024
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Recognizing Palestinian state is ‘justice’ for Palestinians: Spain

Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Jose Manuel Albares (L) shakes hands with Palestinian PM.
  • Welcoming Spain’s move to recognize the Palestinian state on Tuesday, Mustafa said: “We want to have every country in Europe to do the same”

BRUSSELS: Recognizing the State of Palestine “is justice for the Palestinian people (and) the best guarantee of security for Israel,” Spain’s foreign minister Jose Manuel Albares said Sunday alongside Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Mustafa.
Welcoming Spain’s move, with Norway and Ireland, to recognize the Palestinian state on Tuesday, Mustafa said, “We want to have every country in Europe to do the same.”
Albares and Mustafa spoke side-by-side in Brussels, where the Palestinian leader was also meeting EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide.
Later Sunday, Mustafa was to have further talks with Borrell, Barth Eide and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.
On Monday he will have another meeting in Brussels with the Spanish, Norwegian and Irish ministers. And on Wednesday he will be in Spain.
Israel has warned Spain, Norway and Ireland that ties with them will face “serious consequences” for their announced recognition of a Palestinian state.
Israel’s devastating war in Gaza in retaliation for Hamas’s October 7 attack has given impetus to countries wanting recognition of the State of Palestine.
They hope that the steps toward a long-elusive two-state solution, with Israel and a Palestinian state, will build foundations for Middle East peace.
A majority of UN member countries recognize Palestinian statehood. European countries are split on the issue.
Spain, Norway and Italy will join EU nations Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Sweden in recognizing the State of Palestine.
Mustafa said recognition of a Palestinian state addresses “the injustice that has been inflicted on the Palestinian people for decades.”
“We hope that this momentum of recognitions and initiatives will continue,” he said.


‘Strong’ Palestinian Authority needed for Mideast peace: EU’s Borrell

‘Strong’ Palestinian Authority needed for Mideast peace: EU’s Borrell
Updated 26 May 2024
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‘Strong’ Palestinian Authority needed for Mideast peace: EU’s Borrell

‘Strong’ Palestinian Authority needed for Mideast peace: EU’s Borrell
  • Made comments alongside Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Mustafa

BRUSSELS: A “strong” Palestinian Authority is needed to bring peace in the Middle East, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Sunday alongside Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Mustafa.
“A functional Palestinian Authority is in Israel’s interest too, because in order to make peace, we need a strong Palestinian Authority, not a weaker one,” Borrell said.
He made the remarks to journalists just before holding talks with Mustafa on how the Palestinian administration can be built up to take over Gaza rule from Hamas.
“We see the meeting today as a very important opportunity for us as a government and new government to present our international partners with the outlines of our priorities and plans for the coming period,” Mustafa said.
The Palestinian leader said the “first priority” was to support Palestinians in Gaza, especially through a ceasefire, and then “rebuilding the institutions of the Palestinian Authority” in that territory, which Hamas seized control of in 2007.
He also called on international partners to press Israel to release Palestinian Authority funding so “we will be ready to reform our institutions... and hopefully together sustain our efforts toward statehood and peace for the region.”
The Brussels meeting, focused on international aid, was being chaired by Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, in connection with the 1993 Oslo Accords that established a series of arrangements between the Palestinians and Israel.
Israel is furious with Norway, and also Spain and Ireland, for announcing they will recognize the State of Palestine on Tuesday.