Hezbollah, Israel trade strikes at Lebanese border in latest escalation

Hezbollah, Israel trade strikes at Lebanese border in latest escalation
A view shows smoke as seen from the Lebanese city of Tyre looking towards the Lebanese-Israeli border where Hezbollah has been exchanging fire with Israeli forces (Reuters)
Updated 18 November 2023
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Hezbollah, Israel trade strikes at Lebanese border in latest escalation

Hezbollah, Israel trade strikes at Lebanese border in latest escalation
  • Lebanese officials said an Israeli air strike hit a building in an industrial area near the town of Nabatieh

BEIRUT: Hezbollah and Israel traded rocket and missile fire in areas near the Lebanese-Israeli border on Saturday, officials on both sides said, in the latest flare-up of violence which the United States worries will cause conflict to spiral in the Middle East.
The Iran-backed Hezbollah said it shot down an Israeli drone near the border in the early hours of Saturday. Israel’s military said it intercepted a missile fired at an Israeli drone. Reuters could not verify either statement.
Lebanese officials said an Israeli air strike hit a building in an industrial area near the town of Nabatieh, one of the deepest Israeli strikes inside Lebanese territory since fighting began last month. The Israeli military did not immediately comment on the incident.
Lawmaker Hani Kobeissy distributed a video online of him visiting the site which he said was an aluminum supply store that had been bombed by Israel.
Hezbollah released a series of statements early on Saturday saying it had hit Israeli military sites and troops in areas along the border and caused casualties.
The violence is a spillover from Israel’s war against Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Hamas, which controls Gaza, attacked Israeli towns on Oct. 7 killing 1,200 people, according to Israel. Israel has bombarded and invaded Gaza since then, killing 12,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities.
Hezbollah has attacked Israeli troops at the Lebanese border since the latest Gaza war began and Israel has launched air and artillery strikes against southern Lebanon. More than 70 Hezbollah fighters and 10 civilians have been killed and at least 10 Israelis, most of them soldiers, have been killed.
It is the deadliest violence since the two sides fought a war in 2006. Western officials worry that its escalation risks drawing Iran and the United States further into the conflict.


Blinken says some of Hamas’ proposed changes to ceasefire plan in Gaza are workable

Blinken says some of Hamas’ proposed changes to ceasefire plan in Gaza are workable
Updated 12 min 47 sec ago
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Blinken says some of Hamas’ proposed changes to ceasefire plan in Gaza are workable

Blinken says some of Hamas’ proposed changes to ceasefire plan in Gaza are workable
  • US secretary says said the mediators will keep trying to “close this deal
  • Ceasefire proposal has global support but has not been fully embraced by Israel, Hamas

BEIRUT: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that mediators would keep trying to close an elusive ceasefire deal for Gaza after Hamas proposed changes to a US-backed plan, some of which he said were “workable” and some not.
The back-and-forth laid bare frustration over the difficulty of reaching an accord that could end eight months of war that has decimated the territory, killed tens of thousands of Palestinians and left scores of Israeli hostages still languishing in militant captivity. Previous moments of optimism have been repeatedly dashed by the differences between the two sides.
The ceasefire proposal has global support but has not been fully embraced by Israel or Hamas. Blinken did not spell out what changes Hamas sought, but he said the mediators — Qatar, Egypt and the US — will keep trying to “close this deal.” He put the onus on Hamas, accusing it of changing its demands.
“Hamas has proposed numerous changes to the proposal that was on the table. ... Some of the changes are workable. Some are not,” Blinken told reporters in Qatar. “I believe that they (the differences) are bridgeable, but that doesn’t mean they will be bridged because ultimately Hamas has to decide.”
Blinken’s comments came as Lebanon’s Hezbollah fired a massive barrage of rockets into northern Israel to avenge the killing of a top commander, further escalating regional tensions.
Hezbollah, an Iran-backed ally of Hamas, has traded fire with Israel nearly every day since the Israel-Hamas war began and says it will stop only if there is a truce in Gaza. That has raised fears of an even more devastating regional conflagration.
Air-raid sirens sounded across northern Israel, and the military said about 215 projectiles were fired from southern Lebanon, making it one of the largest attacks since the fighting began. There were no immediate reports of casualties as some rockets were intercepted while others ignited brush fires.
Hamas asks for changes
Hamas conveyed its official reply to the proposal to mediators on Tuesday. Hamas spokesman Jihad Taha told the Lebanese news outlet ElNashra that the “amendments” requested by the group aim to guarantee a permanent ceasefire and complete Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza.
The proposal announced by US President Joe Biden includes those provisions, but Hamas has expressed wariness about whether Israel will implement the terms. While the US says Israel has accepted the proposal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given conflicting statements, saying Israel is still intent on its goal of destroying Hamas.
Blinken, on his eighth visit to the region since the start of the war, said the deal on the table was “virtually identical” to one Hamas put forth on May 6. The UN Security Council voted overwhelmingly in favor of the plan on Monday.
“At some point in a negotiation, and this has gone back and forth for a long time, you get to a point where if one side continues to change its demands, including making demands and insisting on changes for things that it already accepted, you have to question whether they’re proceeding in good faith or not,” he said.
Speaking alongside Blinken, Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani said there had been “counterproductive” actions by both sides.
The proposal’s three-phase plan would begin with a six-week ceasefire and the release of some hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. Israeli forces would withdraw from populated areas, and Palestinian civilians would be allowed to return to their homes. Aid distribution would also increase.
At the same time, negotiations would start over the second phase, which is to bring “a permanent end to hostilities” and “full withdrawal” of Israeli troops from Gaza in exchange for the release of all remaining hostages.
Phase three would see the launch of a reconstruction plan for Gaza and the return of remains of deceased hostages.
A major hitch for both sides appears to be the negotiations for the second phase.
Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, said Israel will demand that Hamas be removed from power as part of any agreement on that phase.
“One of our conditions is not only the release of the hostages, it’s also the future of Gaza,” Erdan told CNN’s “The Source” on Monday. “We cannot agree to Hamas continuing to be the rulers of Gaza because then Gaza will continue to pose a threat to Israel.”
He also said Israel opposes a provision extending the initial ceasefire as long as talks are going on, saying it would allow Hamas to “continue with endless and meaningless negotiations.”
Hamas, in turn, appears to want stronger guarantees up front that the talks will lead to the permanent ceasefire and withdrawal.
Netanyahu’s far-right coalition allies have rejected the proposal and threaten to bring down his government if he ends the war leaving Hamas intact. But Netanyahu is also under mounting pressure to accept a deal to bring the hostages back. Thousands of Israelis, including families of the hostages, have demonstrated in favor of the US-backed plan.
Israel’s bombardment and ground offensives in Gaza have killed over 37,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian health officials, who do not give the breakdown of civilians and fighters. The war has also driven some 80 percent of the population of 2.3 million from their homes, and Israeli restrictions and ongoing fighting have hindered efforts to bring in humanitarian aid, fueling widespread hunger.
Israel launched its campaign after Hamas and other militants stormed into Israel on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 hostage. Over 100 hostages were released during a weeklong ceasefire last year in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. Hamas is believed to be holding around 80 hostages and the remains of another 40.
Revenge for slain commander
Netanyahu’s office said he was conducting a security assessment in light of Hezbollah’s barrage in the north and what it called Hamas’ “negative response” to the proposal.
Hezbollah said it fired missiles and rockets at two military bases in retaliation for the killing of Taleb Sami Abdullah, 55. Known within Hezbollah as Hajj Abu Taleb, he is the most senior commander killed since the fighting began eight months ago. The Israeli strike late Tuesday destroyed a house where Abdullah and three other officials were meeting, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the border.
A Hezbollah official told The Associated Press that Abdullah was in charge of a large part of the Lebanon-Israel front, including the area facing the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona, which Hezbollah has repeatedly attacked in recent days, causing fires in the area.
The official, who was not authorized to speak to media and spoke on condition of anonymity, said Abdullah had joined Hezbollah decades ago and took part in attacks against Israeli forces during their 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon that ended in May 2000.
Israeli airstrikes on Lebanon have killed over 400 people, most of them Hezbollah members, but the dead also include more than 70 civilians and noncombatants. On the Israeli side, 15 soldiers and 10 civilians have been killed since the war in Gaza began.
Other groups allied with Iran, including powerful militias in Iraq and Syria, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen, have also attacked Israeli, US and other targets since the start of the war, often drawing Western retaliation. In April, Israel and Iran traded fire directly for the first time.


Hamas proposed amendments to Gaza ceasefire plan ‘not significant’, says senior leader

Hamas proposed amendments to Gaza ceasefire plan ‘not significant’, says senior leader
Updated 16 min 26 sec ago
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Hamas proposed amendments to Gaza ceasefire plan ‘not significant’, says senior leader

Hamas proposed amendments to Gaza ceasefire plan ‘not significant’, says senior leader
  • Hamas demands it select a list of 100 Palestinians with long term sentences to be released from Israeli jails

DOHA: The changes that Hamas have requested to a ceasefire proposal presented by the United States are “not significant” and include the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip, a senior leader in the group told Reuters on Thursday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that Hamas had proposed numerous changes, some unworkable, to the US-backed proposal, but that mediators were determined to close the gaps.
Hamas demands it select a list of 100 Palestinians with long term sentences to be released from Israeli jails, said the senior Hamas leader.
Hamas objected to the Israeli document’s exclusion of 100 Palestinian prisoners with high sentences, whom Hamas would identify, as well as the restriction on the time period for the release of prisoners with high sentences to no more than 15 years remaining of their sentences, said the Hamas official.
“There are no significant amendments that, according to Hamas leadership, warrant objection,” said the Hamas leader.


Blinken says some of Hamas’ proposed changes to a ceasefire plan in Gaza are workable and some not

Blinken says some of Hamas’ proposed changes to a ceasefire plan in Gaza are workable and some not
Updated 13 June 2024
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Blinken says some of Hamas’ proposed changes to a ceasefire plan in Gaza are workable and some not

Blinken says some of Hamas’ proposed changes to a ceasefire plan in Gaza are workable and some not
  • Without spelling out what changes Hamas sought, he said the mediators — Qatar, Egypt and the US — will keep trying to “close this deal”
  • The ceasefire proposal has global support but has not been fully embraced by Israel or Hamas

Without spelling out what changes Hamas sought, he said the mediators — Qatar, Egypt and the US — will keep trying to “close this deal”

The ceasefire proposal has global support but has not been fully embraced by Israel or Hamas

BEIRUT: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that mediators would keep trying to close an elusive ceasefire deal for Gaza after Hamas proposed changes to a US-backed plan, some of which he said were “workable” and some not.
The back-and-forth laid bare frustration over the difficulty of reaching an accord that could end eight months of war that has decimated the territory, killed tens of thousands of Palestinians and left scores of Israeli hostages still languishing in militant captivity. Previous moments of optimism have been repeatedly dashed by the differences between the two sides.
The ceasefire proposal has global support but has not been fully embraced by Israel or Hamas. Blinken did not spell out what changes Hamas sought, but he said the mediators — Qatar, Egypt and the US — will keep trying to “close this deal.” He put the onus on Hamas, accusing it of changing its demands.
“Hamas has proposed numerous changes to the proposal that was on the table. ... Some of the changes are workable. Some are not,” Blinken told reporters in Qatar. “I believe that they (the differences) are bridgeable, but that doesn’t mean they will be bridged because ultimately Hamas has to decide.”
Blinken’s comments came as Lebanon’s Hezbollah fired a massive barrage of rockets into northern Israel to avenge the killing of a top commander, further escalating regional tensions.
Hezbollah, an Iran-backed ally of Hamas, has traded fire with Israel nearly every day since the Israel-Hamas war began and says it will stop only if there is a truce in Gaza. That has raised fears of an even more devastating regional conflagration.
Air-raid sirens sounded across northern Israel, and the military said about 215 projectiles were fired from southern Lebanon, making it one of the largest attacks since the fighting began. There were no immediate reports of casualties as some rockets were intercepted while others ignited brush fires.
Hamas asks for changes

Hamas conveyed its official reply to the proposal to mediators on Tuesday. Hamas spokesman Jihad Taha told the Lebanese news outlet ElNashra that the “amendments” requested by the group aim to guarantee a permanent ceasefire and complete Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza.
The proposal announced by US President Joe Biden includes those provisions, but Hamas has expressed wariness about whether Israel will implement the terms. While the US says Israel has accepted the proposal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given conflicting statements, saying Israel is still intent on its goal of destroying Hamas.
Blinken, on his eighth visit to the region since the start of the war, said the deal on the table was “virtually identical” to one Hamas put forth on May 6. The UN Security Council voted overwhelmingly in favor of the plan on Monday.
“At some point in a negotiation, and this has gone back and forth for a long time, you get to a point where if one side continues to change its demands, including making demands and insisting on changes for things that it already accepted, you have to question whether they’re proceeding in good faith or not,” he said.
Speaking alongside Blinken, Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani said there had been “counterproductive” actions by both sides.
The proposal’s three-phase plan would begin with a six-week ceasefire and the release of some hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. Israeli forces would withdraw from populated areas, and Palestinian civilians would be allowed to return to their homes. Aid distribution would also increase.
At the same time, negotiations would start over the second phase, which is to bring “a permanent end to hostilities” and “full withdrawal” of Israeli troops from Gaza in exchange for the release of all remaining hostages.
Phase three would see the launch of a reconstruction plan for Gaza and the return of remains of deceased hostages.
A major hitch for both sides appears to be the negotiations for the second phase.
Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, said Israel will demand that Hamas be removed from power as part of any agreement on that phase.
“One of our conditions is not only the release of the hostages, it’s also the future of Gaza,” Erdan told CNN’s “The Source” on Monday. “We cannot agree to Hamas continuing to be the rulers of Gaza because then Gaza will continue to pose a threat to Israel.”
He also said Israel opposes a provision extending the initial ceasefire as long as talks are going on, saying it would allow Hamas to “continue with endless and meaningless negotiations.”
Hamas, in turn, appears to want stronger guarantees up front that the talks will lead to the permanent ceasefire and withdrawal.
Netanyahu’s far-right coalition allies have rejected the proposal and threaten to bring down his government if he ends the war leaving Hamas intact. But Netanyahu is also under mounting pressure to accept a deal to bring the hostages back. Thousands of Israelis, including families of the hostages, have demonstrated in favor of the US-backed plan.
Israel’s bombardment and ground offensives in Gaza have killed over 37,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian health officials, who do not give the breakdown of civilians and fighters. The war has also driven some 80 percent of the population of 2.3 million from their homes, and Israeli restrictions and ongoing fighting have hindered efforts to bring in humanitarian aid, fueling widespread hunger.
Israel launched its campaign after Hamas and other militants stormed into Israel on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 hostage. Over 100 hostages were released during a weeklong ceasefire last year in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. Hamas is believed to be holding around 80 hostages and the remains of another 40.
Revenge for slain commander
Netanyahu’s office said he was conducting a security assessment in light of Hezbollah’s barrage in the north and what it called Hamas’ “negative response” to the proposal.
Hezbollah said it fired missiles and rockets at two military bases in retaliation for the killing of Taleb Sami Abdullah, 55. Known within Hezbollah as Hajj Abu Taleb, he is the most senior commander killed since the fighting began eight months ago. The Israeli strike late Tuesday destroyed a house where Abdullah and three other officials were meeting, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the border.
A Hezbollah official told The Associated Press that Abdullah was in charge of a large part of the Lebanon-Israel front, including the area facing the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona, which Hezbollah has repeatedly attacked in recent days, causing fires in the area.
The official, who was not authorized to speak to media and spoke on condition of anonymity, said Abdullah had joined Hezbollah decades ago and took part in attacks against Israeli forces during their 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon that ended in May 2000.
Israeli airstrikes on Lebanon have killed over 400 people, most of them Hezbollah members, but the dead also include more than 70 civilians and noncombatants. On the Israeli side, 15 soldiers and 10 civilians have been killed since the war in Gaza began.
Other groups allied with Iran, including powerful militias in Iraq and Syria, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen, have also attacked Israeli, US and other targets since the start of the war, often drawing Western retaliation. In April, Israel and Iran traded fire directly for the first time.
 


Hamas urges US to put ‘pressure’ on Israel for permanent Gaza ceasefire: statement

Hamas urges US to put ‘pressure’ on Israel for permanent Gaza ceasefire: statement
Updated 13 June 2024
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Hamas urges US to put ‘pressure’ on Israel for permanent Gaza ceasefire: statement

Hamas urges US to put ‘pressure’ on Israel for permanent Gaza ceasefire: statement

GAZA STRIP: The Hamas militant group in Gaza called on Washington on Thursday to “pressure” Israel to accept a permanent ceasefire in the territory, as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wraps up a Mideast tour.

“He continues to talk about Israel’s agreement of the latest (ceasefire) proposal, but we have not heard any Israeli official speak out on this,” Hamas said in a statement, urging Blinken to put “direct pressure” on Israel.


Iran expanding enrichment capacity after IAEA resolution, diplomats say

Iran expanding enrichment capacity after IAEA resolution, diplomats say
Updated 13 June 2024
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Iran expanding enrichment capacity after IAEA resolution, diplomats say

Iran expanding enrichment capacity after IAEA resolution, diplomats say
  • Iran is only enriching to up to 60 percent at an above-ground pilot plant at Natanz and its Fordow site, which is dug into a mountain

VIENNA/PARIS: Iran is responding to last week’s UN nuclear watchdog board resolution against it by expanding its uranium-enrichment capacity at two underground sites, but the escalation is not as big as many had feared, diplomats said on Wednesday.
Iran bristles at such resolutions by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors, and it reacted to the previous one 18 months earlier by enriching to up to 60 percent purity, close to weapons grade, at a second site and announcing a large expansion of its enrichment program.
This time it plans to install more cascades, or clusters, of centrifuges, the machines that enrich uranium, at both its underground enrichment sites, five diplomats said. IAEA inspectors observing Iran’s progress plan to issue a report to member states on Thursday, three of the diplomats said.
“It’s not as much as I would expect,” one Vienna-based diplomat said, referring to the scale of Iran’s escalation.
“Why? I don’t know. Maybe they’re waiting for the new government,” they said, referring to the death in a helicopter crash last month of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, and the presidential election due to be held on June 28.
The IAEA Board passed a resolution a week ago calling on Iran to step up cooperation with the IAEA and reverse its recent barring of inspectors despite earlier US concerns Tehran would respond with atomic escalation. Only Russia and China opposed.
Diplomats did not go into specifics on the number or type of centrifuges being added or what level they would enrich to, though one diplomat said they would not be used to quickly expand Iran’s production of uranium enriched to up to 60 percent, close to the 90 percent of weapons grade.
The diplomats said they would wait to see what the IAEA said Iran had actually done but they were aware of Iran’s plans.
The move is “at the lower end of expectations and something we’re pretty sure they were going to do anyway,” one diplomat said, meaning it would have happened even without the resolution.
Iran did not fully follow through on its November 2022 announcement after the previous resolution. While it installed all the centrifuges it said it would at its underground enrichment plant at Natanz, 12 cascades of one advanced model, the IR-2m, are not yet in operation.
Iran is only enriching to up to 60 percent at an above-ground pilot plant at Natanz and its Fordow site, which is dug into a mountain. In November 2022 it started enriching to up to 60 percent at Fordow but it has yet to install all the additional cascades it said it would.