Syria buries dead after military academy drone attack

Update Syria buries dead after military academy drone attack
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Syrian state media blamed “terrorist organizations” for the drone strike in government-held Homs. (AFP)
Update Syria buries dead after military academy drone attack
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The drone strike happened as the cadet graduation ceremony was coming to an end. (AFP)
Update Syria buries dead after military academy drone attack
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An attack on Oct. 5 on a Syrian military academy killed 112 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. (AFP)
Update Syria buries dead after military academy drone attack
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No organization has admitted responsibility for the attack. (AFP)
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Updated 06 October 2023
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Syria buries dead after military academy drone attack

Syria buries dead after military academy drone attack
  • Strike on Homs Military Academy killed scores of people, including 31 women and at least five children
  • Russia's Putin sends condolences to Syria following the attack

Syria began burying its dead Friday after a drone attack on a military academy graduation ceremony in Homs killed dozens, while Damascus pummelled opposition-held areas in response to the assault by “terrorist organizations.”
Separately, Turkiye staged new raids on the Kurdish-controlled northeast, targeting energy infrastructure, with the death toll rising to 15 over two days, Kurdish officials said.
In one of the bloodiest single attacks on the army since Syria’s war began in 2011, Thursday’s assault came just after the ceremony attended by officers and their families, killing and wounding both military personnel and civilians.
State media said Friday 89 had died, including 31 women and five children, with 277 others wounded.
Dozens of distraught relatives gathered outside the Homs military hospital early Friday, an AFP correspondent said.
One woman was overwhelmed with grief at the loss of her son.
“Do not go, my beloved,” she cried. “This sleep does not befit you.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, reported a heavier toll of 123 dead, including 54 civilians, 39 of them women and children. It said at least 150 were wounded.
In a rare move since the war began, the government declared three days of mourning from Friday, with flags flying at half-mast.
Defense Minister Ali Mahmoud Abbas attended the first funerals for around 30 people, both military and civilians.
Military personnel saluted as caskets draped in Syrian flags were carried one by one to ambulances for transportation for burial.
Syria’s conflict has killed more than half a million people and displaced millions since 2011, spiralling into a devastating war involving foreign armies, militias and jihadists.
“Martyrdom, dignity and national pride come at a great cost,” Abbas told victims’ families, according to a statement broadcast on state television.
The blood of those who died “is dear, but the nation is dearer,” he added.
Abbas attended the graduation ceremony but left just minutes before the attack, an eyewitness and the Observatory said.
At the military hospital, Khawlah, 33, was searching among the coffins for her brother.
“Amjad did not die, I died,” she told AFP, grief-stricken.
No group has claimed responsibility, but the Syrian army accused “armed terrorist organizations” for the attack with “explosive-laden drones,” vowing to “respond with full force.”
The military on Thursday began bombing opposition-held areas in the northwest in apparent retaliation.
The Observatory said Friday 19 civilians had been killed, including four on Friday evening in the center of Idlib city.
It added that warplanes of government ally Russia continued air strikes late Friday in the Idlib area, after earlier leaving a child dead.
An AFP correspondent at a hospital in the city said staff appeared overwhelmed by the influx of wounded.
Aron Lund of the Century International think tank said President Bashar Assad and other family members trained at the Homs academy, meaning the attack “hits close to home” and “the very strong official reactions need to be seen in that context.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the attack, expressed his condolences to Assad, and pledged “to keep up our close cooperation” against “terrorism,” the Kremlin said.
Homs province was an opposition stronghold early in Syria’s conflict but has been in government hands for several years.
Swathes of Idlib province and areas bordering Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces are controlled by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syria branch.
HTS and the Islamic State jihadist group have used drones to attack government-held areas and Syrian and Russian military targets, according to the Observatory.
Thursday’s attack came as Turkiye began strikes in northeast Syria, hitting military and civilian targets including energy infrastructure, according to officials in the semi-autonomous Kurdish administration that controls the area.
Ankara had threatened retaliation for a bomb attack Sunday in the capital that wounded two security officers and was claimed by a branch of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkiye and its Western allies view as a terrorist organization.
The US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said Friday 15 people had been killed in the northeast Syria strikes over two days, including eight civilians.
Turkiye views the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) that dominate the SDF as an offshoot of PKK.
On Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a phone call that “Turkiye’s counter-terrorism operations in Iraq and Syria will continue with determination,” a Turkish diplomatic source said.
His comment came a day after the Pentagon said US warplanes shot down a Turkish drone deemed a threat to American forces in Syria.
Turkiye’s defense ministry said Friday that a soldier had died following a rocket attack on a Turkish military base in the northern Syrian town of Dabiq.


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

‘Ground trembles’ as Hezbollah launches 150 missiles in revenge strike
Updated 12 sec ago
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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.