Iran says Israeli strike in Syria killed 2 IRGC members while on advisory mission

Iran says Israeli strike in Syria killed 2 IRGC members while on advisory mission
Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard stated through its website that two of its forces stationed in Syria were killed in an Israeli airstrike Saturday. (AP/File)
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Updated 02 December 2023
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Iran says Israeli strike in Syria killed 2 IRGC members while on advisory mission

Iran says Israeli strike in Syria killed 2 IRGC members while on advisory mission
  • The report on the Guard’s news portal identified the two members as Mohammad Ali Ataei Shourcheh and Panah Taghizadeh
  • The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based opposition war monitor, said the strikes hit the southern Damascus suburb of Sayyida Zeinab

TEHRAN: Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard stated through its website that two of its forces stationed in Syria were killed in an Israeli airstrike Saturday.
The report on the Guard’s news portal identified the two members as Mohammad Ali Ataei Shourcheh and Panah Taghizadeh, and said they were carrying out an advisory mission in Syria. It did not elaborate on their rank, or the area where they were killed.
Syrian state media, quoting an unnamed military official, said Israeli airstrikes hit several areas on the outskirts of the capital Damascus early Saturday. The strikes resulted in only “material losses,” the report added.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based opposition war monitor, said the strikes hit the southern Damascus suburb of Sayyida Zeinab, where “there are military forces working with the Lebanese (militant group) Hezbollah.” It said the strike killed two Syrian citizens and two foreigners and wounded five others.
This latest development is likely to increase tensions between Israel and Iran, which has been a staunch supporter of the militant Palestinian group Hamas. Iranian officials have warned repeatedly that the Israel-Hamas war, which erupted on Oct.7, could spread to other parts of the region.
Iran’s military presence in Syria has been a major concern for Israel, which has vowed to stop Iranian entrenchment along its northern border. Syria has accused Israel of carrying out hundreds of strikes on targets in government-controlled parts in recent years — but Israel has rarely acknowledged such strikes.
Iran has been a main supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad during the country’s 12-year civil war. Thousands of Iran-backed fighters have been deployed in Syria where they helped tip the balance of power in Assad’s favor over the past years.
Scores of Iranian Revolutionary Guard members have been killed during the war in Syria though Tehran has long said it has only a military advisory role in Syria.
Since the Israel-Hamas began, Israel has carried out several strikes targeting Syria, putting the international airports of Damascus and the northern city of Aleppo out of commission for more than a month.


Israeli team in Qatar in last push for Gaza peace deal

Israeli team in Qatar in last push for Gaza peace deal
Updated 27 February 2024
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Israeli team in Qatar in last push for Gaza peace deal

Israeli team in Qatar in last push for Gaza peace deal

JEDDAH: A high-level Israeli delegation arrived on Monday in Qatar, where political leaders of Hamas are based, as the combatants in the Gaza war closed in on a ceasefire and hostage deal that the US says is now within reach.
The presence of both sides suggested talks were further along than at any time since a big push at the start of February, when Israel rejected a Hamas proposal as “delusional.”
In public, both sides continue to blame each other. Israel says it will agree only to a temporary pause in fighting to secure the release of hostages. Hamas says it will not free them without a permanent end to the war.
After meeting Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said the group had embraced mediators’ efforts to find an end to the war, and accused Israel of stalling while Gazans die under siege. “We will not allow the enemy to use negotiations as a cover for this crime,” he said.
Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said any ceasefire agreement would require “securing an end to the aggression, the withdrawal of the occupation, the returning of the displaced, the entry of aid, shelter equipment, and rebuilding.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was ready for a deal, and it was up to Hamas to drop demands he described as “outlandish” and “from another planet.”
Israel is under pressure from the US to agree on a truce to prevent a threatened assault on Rafah in southern Gaza.


Israeli forces kill three Palestinians in West Bank clashes, WAFA says

Israeli forces kill three Palestinians in West Bank clashes, WAFA says
Updated 27 February 2024
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Israeli forces kill three Palestinians in West Bank clashes, WAFA says

Israeli forces kill three Palestinians in West Bank clashes, WAFA says

CAIRO: Three Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in clashes in the occupied West Bank early on Tuesday, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said.
At least 400 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers and settlers since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas gunmen.


A ferry sinks in the Nile in Egypt, killing at least 10 people

A ferry sinks in the Nile in Egypt, killing at least 10 people
Updated 27 February 2024
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A ferry sinks in the Nile in Egypt, killing at least 10 people

A ferry sinks in the Nile in Egypt, killing at least 10 people
  • Many Egyptians make their way using boats on a daily basis, especially in Upper Egypt and the Nile Delta

CAIRO: A ferry carrying day laborers sank in the Nile just outside the Egyptian capital, killing at least 10 of the 15 people on board, authorities said Monday.
The five who survived were transported to a hospital and later discharged, the Ministry of Manpower said in a statement. The cause of the sinking was not made immediately clear.
The ministry allocated compensation of 200,000 Egyptian pounds (around $6,466) to each family of the deceased and 20,000 ($646) to each of the five injured.
The laborers were on their way to work at a local construction firm. It took rescue teams hours to recover the bodies, according to local media which aired live-stream videos on social media platforms showing divers searching for the dead as villagers waited on the Nile banks.
The incident took place in the town of Monshat el-Kanater in Giza, which is one of three provinces forming Greater Cairo.
Many Egyptians make their way using boats on a daily basis, especially in Upper Egypt and the Nile Delta. Sailing along the Nile is also a favorite pastime during holidays in the Arab world’s most populous country.
Ferry, railway and road accidents are common in Egypt mainly because of poor maintenance and the lack of regulations.
In 2022, two people died and eight went missing after a small truck they were riding in slid off a ferry and plunged into the Nile. And in 2015, 35 people died in a collision between a passenger boat and a scow on the Nile.

 


France reiterates support for Morocco’s Western Sahara plan

France reiterates support for Morocco’s Western Sahara plan
Updated 27 February 2024
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France reiterates support for Morocco’s Western Sahara plan

France reiterates support for Morocco’s Western Sahara plan
  • The foreign minister’s visit comes after a series of diplomatic tensions between Rabat and Paris, the former colonial power which is home to a large diaspora

RABAT: France’s Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne, during a trip to Morocco intended to warm strained relations, on Monday reiterated French support of Morocco’s autonomy plan for disputed Western Sahara.
The former Spanish colony is largely controlled by Morocco but claimed by the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, which in 2020 declared a “self-defense war” and seeks the territory’s independence.
The United Nations considers Western Sahara a “non-self-governing territory.”
“This is an existential issue for Morocco. We know it,” Sejourne said during a press conference alongside his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita.
Sejourne said Morocco can count on France’s “clear and constant support” for its autonomy plan.
Rabat advocates limited autonomy for the vast desert territory which is home to abundant phosphates and fisheries.
Sejourne told journalists he wanted to support Moroccan efforts in developing the area.
“Morocco has invested a lot in development projects for the benefit of the local population and in terms of training, renewable energies, tourism,” and the use of ocean resources, he said.
The foreign minister’s visit comes after a series of diplomatic tensions between Rabat and Paris, the former colonial power which is home to a large diaspora.
Moroccans have been particularly upset by President Emmanuel Macron’s desired rapprochement with Algeria.
Sejourne proposed on Monday a partnership with Morocco focussed over the next 30 years on renewable energies, training and industrial development.
Morocco’s Bourita said “France is a distinguished partner of Morocco on the political, economic and humanitarian levels.”
The Polisario continues to demand a UN-supervised referendum on self-determination, which was agreed in a 1991 ceasefire accord after a 15-year war between the Front and Morocco. The referendum has still not taken place.
In late 2020 then-US president Donald Trump recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara in return for Rabat’s normalization of ties with Israel. Morocco has since then pursued an increasingly intense diplomatic effort to win over other countries.
 

 


What would a new Palestinian government in the West Bank mean for the war in Gaza?

What would a new Palestinian government in the West Bank mean for the war in Gaza?
Updated 27 February 2024
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What would a new Palestinian government in the West Bank mean for the war in Gaza?

What would a new Palestinian government in the West Bank mean for the war in Gaza?
  • Israel killed 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry
  • It was granted limited autonomy in parts of the West Bank and Gaza ahead of what the Palestinians hoped would be full statehood in both territories as well as east Jerusalem, lands that Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war

RAMALLAH: The Palestinian Authority’s prime minister announced his government’s resignation on Monday, seen as the first step in a reform process urged by the United States as part of its latest ambitious plans to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But it will do little to address the authority’s longstanding lack of legitimacy among its own people or its strained relations with Israel. Both pose major obstacles to US plans calling for the PA, which administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, to govern postwar Gaza ahead of eventual statehood.
That’s assuming that the war in Gaza ends with the defeat of the Hamas militant group — an Israeli and US goal that seems elusive nearly five months into the grueling war that has killed almost 30,000 Palestinians and pushed the territory to the brink of famine.

This handout picture provided by the Palestinian Authority's Press Office (PPO) shows Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh (L) presenting the resignation of his government to President Mahmud Abbas, in Ramallah on February 26, 2024. (AFP)

Here’s a look at the government shakeup and what it means for the Israel-Hamas war.
WHAT IS THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY?
The PA was created in the early 1990s through interim peace agreements signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, then led by Yasser Arafat.
It was granted limited autonomy in parts of the West Bank and Gaza ahead of what the Palestinians hoped would be full statehood in both territories as well as east Jerusalem, lands that Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war.
But the sides were unable to reach a final agreement through several rounds of peace talks. Mahmoud Abbas was elected president of the PA in 2005, months after Arafat’s death. Hamas won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections the following year, triggering an international boycott of the PA.

A displaced Palestinian child stands outside a makeshift tent attached to a school hosting families from other parts of the Gaza Strip in the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza on February 26, 2024, as battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas continue for the fifth month. (AFP)

A power struggle between Abbas’ secular Fatah party and Hamas boiled over in the summer of 2007, with Hamas seizing power in Gaza after a week of street battles. That effectively confined Abbas’ authority to parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Abbas recognizes Israel, is opposed to armed struggle and is committed to a two-state solution. His security forces have cooperated with the Israeli military to crack down on Hamas and other armed groups, and his government has worked with Israel to facilitate work permits, medical travel and other civilian affairs.
WHAT DOES THE RESIGNATION MEAN?
In announcing his resignation, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said new arrangements were needed to address “the new reality in the Gaza Strip.”
Abbas accepted Shtayyeh’s resignation and is expected to replace him with Mohammad Mustafa, a US-educated economist who has held senior positions at the World Bank and currently leads the Palestine Investment Fund. He was deputy prime minister and economy minister from 2013-2015.

Palestinians search the rubble of their house destroyed in an overnight Israeli air strike in east Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on February 26, 2024, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AFP)

As a political independent and not a Fatah loyalist like Shtayyeh, Mustafa’s appointment would likely be welcomed by the US, Israel and other countries.
Mustafa has no political base of his own, and the 88-year-old Abbas will still have the final say on any major policies. Still, the appointment would convey the image of a reformed, professional PA that can run Gaza, which is important for the US
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said it was up to the Palestinians to choose their leaders, but that the US welcomes any steps to “reform and revitalize” the PA.
“We think those steps are positive. We think that they’re an important step to achieving a reunited Gaza and West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.”
HOW DO PALESTINIANS VIEW THE AUTHORITY?
Abbas’ popularity has plummeted in recent years, with polls consistently finding that a large majority of Palestinians want him to resign. The PA’s security coordination with Israel is extremely unpopular, causing many Palestinians to view it as a subcontractor of the occupation.
Both the PA and Hamas have cracked down on dissent in the territories they control, violently suppressing protests and jailing and torturing critics. Abbas’ mandate expired in 2009 but he has refused to hold elections, citing Israeli restrictions.
Hamas, whose popularity has soared during this and previous rounds of violence, would likely do well in any free election.
But the most popular Palestinian leader by far is Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah leader who is serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison after a 2004 terrorism conviction.
Hamas is demanding his release in exchange for some of the hostages it captured in the Oct. 7 attack that ignited the war, but Israel has refused.
Hamas has called for all the Palestinian factions to establish an interim government to prepare the way for elections. But Israel, the US and other Western countries are likely to boycott any Palestinian body that includes the militant group, which they view as a terrorist organization.
DOES ISRAEL SUPPORT THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY?
Israel prefers the PA to Hamas. But even though they cooperate on security matters, Israel accuses the PA of inciting terrorism, and the PA accuses Israel of apartheid and genocide.
Israel’s criticism largely focuses on the PA’s provision of financial aid to the families of Palestinian prisoners and Palestinians killed by Israeli forces — including militants who killed Israelis. Israel says the payments incentivize terrorism. The PA portrays them as social welfare for victims of the occupation.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the PA should have no role in postwar Gaza. He says Israel will maintain open-ended security control over the territory while local Palestinian leaders administer civilian affairs. Netanyahu’s government is opposed to Palestinian statehood.
The US has outlined a path to a broader postwar settlement in which Saudi Arabia would recognize Israel and join other Arab states and a revitalized PA in helping to rebuild and govern Gaza — all in exchange for a credible path to an independent Palestinian state.
The reform of the PA represents a small part of that package, which has yet to win over the Israeli government.