Downing of drones in Red Sea ‘legitimate defense’: France

The Houthis have recently attacked ships they allege have direct links to Israel but the latest threat widens the scope of their targets. (REUTERS)
The Houthis have recently attacked ships they allege have direct links to Israel but the latest threat widens the scope of their targets. (REUTERS)
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Updated 11 December 2023
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Downing of drones in Red Sea ‘legitimate defense’: France

Downing of drones in Red Sea ‘legitimate defense’: France
  • In a statement posted on social media, the Houthis said they will prevent the passage of ships heading to Israel if humanitarian aid is not allowed into Gaza

PARIS: A French frigate that shot down two drones in the Red Sea was acting in self-defense after coming under attack from the unmanned aerial vehicles, the Foreign Ministry in Paris said on Monday.
The French general staff reported on Sunday that the Languedoc frigate, operating in the Red Sea, had opened fire on two drones heading straight toward it from the Yemen coast, destroying both.
The incident came after Houthis threatened on Saturday to attack any vessels heading to Israeli ports unless food and medicine were allowed into the besieged Gaza Strip.
The Foreign Ministry said the drones were engaged in an “attack” on its vessel and had been downed in “legitimate defense.”
The incident occurred amid “attacks and acts of piracy committed by Houthis in the Red Sea,” which represented a “worrying increase of assaults on the freedom of navigation in that zone,” it added.
The ministry urged the Houthis to “immediately stop attacks on civilians” and the freedom of movement.

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The Foreign Ministry urged the Houthis to ‘immediately stop attacks on civilians’ and the freedom of movement.

France was closely following developments in the Red Sea and called “on all actors to avoid any regional flare-up.”
The general staff said on Sunday the drone interceptions happened at 2030 GMT and 2230 GMT on Saturday, 110 km from the Yemeni coast and the port of Hodeidah, which is under Houthi control.
The drones “were flying directly toward the vessel,” the general staff said. The frigate used surface-to-air missiles of the Aster 15 type, designed for defense against short- to medium-range threats, a military source said.
The French navy had not used surface-to-air missiles in self-defense before.
The incident came amid heightened tensions in the Red Sea and surrounding waters, following a series of maritime attacks by Houthis since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7.
In a statement posted on social media, the Houthis said they will prevent the passage of ships heading to Israel if humanitarian aid is not allowed into Gaza.
The Houthis have recently attacked ships they allege have direct links to Israel but the latest threat widens the scope of their targets.
Hamas welcomed the Houthi stance as “bold and courageous.”
A US destroyer shot down three drones earlier this month while providing assistance to commercial ships in the Red Sea that were targeted by attacks from Yemen, according to Washington.
It condemned what it said was “a direct threat” to maritime security.
Saturday’s incident was the first time that Houthis had targeted a French military vessel since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

 


French envoy calls for Gaza ceasefire, condemns West Bank violence

French envoy calls for Gaza ceasefire, condemns West Bank violence
Updated 16 sec ago
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French envoy calls for Gaza ceasefire, condemns West Bank violence

French envoy calls for Gaza ceasefire, condemns West Bank violence

AMMAN: The ⁠French ambassador to Jordan has pledged ongoing financial assistance to the UN Relief and Works Agency.

During a meeting with the Jordanian-French Friendship Committee of the Senate, Alexis Le Cour Grandmaison highlighted the need to prioritize a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and curb settler violence in the West Bank.

Grandmaison reiterated France’s support for UN resolutions concerning Gaza and pledged ongoing financial assistance to UNRWA, reported Jordanian news agency Petra.

The ambassador praised Jordan’s efforts in providing aid to Gaza and lauded King Abdullah II’s stance on the Palestinian issue and Israel-Hamas war. He also reiterated his country’s support of Jordan’s role in ensuring regional peace and stability and backing for its custodianship of holy sites in Jerusalem.

Senator Issa Murad stressed a ceasefire in Gaza was urgently needed and commended King Abdullah II’s humanitarian efforts to alleviate conditions there. He emphasized the importance of international support for UNRWA.

The committee urged France to increase aid to Gaza and to use its influence on the international stage, particularly in the UN Security Council, to address the Palestinian question and end the Gaza conflict.


Israel carries out biggest Ramallah raid in years, witnesses say

Israel carries out biggest Ramallah raid in years, witnesses say
Updated 8 min 40 sec ago
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Israel carries out biggest Ramallah raid in years, witnesses say

Israel carries out biggest Ramallah raid in years, witnesses say
  • Witnesses in Ramallah said Israeli forces had driven dozens of military vehicles into the city
  • Israeli forces shot and killed 16-year-old Mustafa Abu Shalbak while raiding Am’ari refugee camp

RAMALLAH: Israeli forces swept into the Palestinians’ administrative capital of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank overnight, killing a 16-year-old in a refugee camp during their biggest raid into the city in years, Palestinian sources said on Monday.
Witnesses in Ramallah said Israeli forces had driven dozens of military vehicles into the city, which is the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Palestinian health ministry said Israeli forces shot and killed 16-year-old Mustafa Abu Shalbak while raiding Am’ari refugee camp.
The Palestinian news agency WAFA said confrontations broke out as Israeli forces stormed the camp, “during which live bullets were fired at Palestinian youths,” wounding Abu Shalbak in the neck and chest.
The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Violence has surged across the West Bank in parallel to the Gaza war, with at least 400 Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers and settlers, and Israel regularly raiding Palestinian areas across the territory it occupied in 1967.
Israeli forces also tore up a main road in the West Bank city of Tulkarm during a raid there, witnesses said.
WAFA also reported that Israeli forces had stormed the West Bank city of Nablus, and blew up the home of a man previously accused by Israel of carrying out an attack in which a British-Israeli mother and her two daughters were killed in April in the West Bank.
The man, Moaz Al-Masri, was killed by Israeli forces in Nablus last May.
Israeli forces detained at least 55 Palestinians in raids across the West Bank overnight, according to The Palestinian Prisoners Club.


Erdogan and Abbas to discuss delivering aid to Gaza

Erdogan and Abbas to discuss delivering aid to Gaza
Updated 22 min 3 sec ago
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Erdogan and Abbas to discuss delivering aid to Gaza

Erdogan and Abbas to discuss delivering aid to Gaza
  • Ankara has no direct involvement in truce talks

ANKARA: President Tayyip Erdogan is set to discuss Turkiye’s efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during talks this week in Ankara, a Turkish diplomatic source said on Monday.
Speaking at a diplomatic forum in Turkiye at the weekend, the Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Minister Riyad-al Al-Maliki said Abbas would pay a visit to Ankara on Tuesday and meet Erdogan.
Turkiye, which has harshly criticized Israel for its attacks on Gaza and backed measures to have it tried for genocide at the World Court, has repeatedly called for a ceasefire. But Ankara has no direct involvement in truce talks.
Unlike its Western allies and some Gulf nations, NATO member Turkiye does not view Hamas, the Palestinian militant group which runs Gaza and on Oct. 7 carried out an attack inside Israel that prompted the Israeli campaign, as a terrorist organization.
Erdogan and Abbas will discuss recent developments in Gaza as well as the situation in the West Bank, the diplomatic source said.
“Turkiye has been delivering extensive humanitarian aid to Gaza in coordination with Egypt since the beginning of Israel’s attacks... Within this scope, humanitarian aid operations will also be discussed during the meetings with President Abbas,” the source said.


UN rights chief says essential to avoid conflagration in Gaza war

UN rights chief says essential to avoid conflagration in Gaza war
Updated 33 min 38 sec ago
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UN rights chief says essential to avoid conflagration in Gaza war

UN rights chief says essential to avoid conflagration in Gaza war
  • The war in Gaza had already spilled over in neighboring countries
  • Turk said last week that war crimes had been committed by all parties in the conflict between Israel and Hamas

GENEVA: The United Nations human rights chief on Monday it was imperative to avoid any exacerbation of the war in Gaza, warning that any conflagration could have broad repercussions across the Middle East and beyond the region.
Addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Volker Turk said the war in Gaza, which has been raging since the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas gunmen in southern Israel, had already spilled over in neighboring countries.
“I am deeply concerned that in this powder keg, any spark could lead to a much broader conflagration,” said Turk, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“This would have implications for every country in the Middle East, and many beyond it.”
Turk described the military escalation in southern Lebanon between Israel, Hezbollah and other armed groups as “extremely worrying.”
“It is imperative to do everything possible to avoid a wider conflagration,” he said.
The Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah and Israel have been locked in hostilities for months in parallel to the Gaza war. It has marked the worst conflict between them since 2006.
The Gaza war began when Hamas stormed Israel on Oct. 7 in an attack that killed 1,200 people and resulted in another 253 being abducted, according to Israeli tallies.
The attack drew an Israeli offensive in Hamas-run Gaza. Health authorities in the enclave say more than 30,000 Palestinians have been confirmed killed during the offensive.
Turk said last week that war crimes had been committed by all parties in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. They should be investigated and those responsible be held accountable, he said.


A 4-year-old Gaza boy lost his arm – and his family. Half a world away, he’s getting a second chance

A 4-year-old Gaza boy lost his arm – and his family. Half a world away, he’s getting a second chance
Updated 04 March 2024
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A 4-year-old Gaza boy lost his arm – and his family. Half a world away, he’s getting a second chance

A 4-year-old Gaza boy lost his arm – and his family. Half a world away, he’s getting a second chance
  • Through the efforts of family and strangers, Omar was brought out of Gaza and to the United States
  • Yet no one knows what future awaits Omar

NEW YORK: Omar Abu Kuwaik is far from his home in Gaza. The 4-year-old’s parents and sister were killed by an Israeli airstrike, when he lost part of his arm.
He’s one of the lucky ones.
Through the efforts of family and strangers, Omar was brought out of Gaza and to the United States, where he received treatment, including a prosthetic arm. He spent his days in a house run by a medical charity in New York City, accompanied by his aunt.
It was a small measure of grace in a sea of turmoil for him and his aunt, Maha Abu Kuwaik, as they looked to an uncertain future. The grief and despair for those still trapped in Gaza is never far away.
Abu Kuwaik is glad she could do this for her beloved brother’s son, whom she now considers her fourth child.
But it was a terrible choice. Going with Omar meant leaving her husband and three teenage children behind in a sprawling tent camp in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah. With Israel carrying out strikes in areas where it told civilians to take shelter, including Rafah, Abu Kuwaik knows she might never see her family again.
“My kids love Omar so much,” she said. “They told me, ‘We’re not children anymore. Go, let Omar get treated. It’s what’s best for him. It’s his only chance.’”
Omar was an outgoing boy, she said, and he’s clever like his late father, an engineer. Now he’s often withdrawn and breaks into tears easily.
Ask Omar a question, and he covers his ears with his right hand and the stump of his left arm, declaring, “I don’t want to talk.”
“Kindergarten was nice,” he eventually admits, “and I was happy on the first day.” He started school just weeks before the war. But he doesn’t want to go to kindergarten anymore. He’s afraid to leave his aunt’s side.
Flying to New York may have given him a new dream, though.
“When I grow up, I want to be pilot,” Omar said, “so I can bring people places.”
Omar was the first Palestinian child from Gaza taken in by the Global Medical Relief Fund. The Staten Island charity’s founder, Elissa Montanti, has spent a quarter-century getting hundreds of kids free medical care after they lost limbs to wars or disasters.
Each child started out as a stranger. Each one joined what she calls her “global family,” and will come back to the US for new prosthetic limbs as their bodies grow. Her charity sponsors everything except the medical treatment, which is donated, primarily by Shriners Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
The deadliest round of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in decades was sparked Oct. 7 when Hamas-led militants broke through Israel’s security barrier around Gaza and stormed into Israeli communities. Around 1,200 people were killed and some 250 taken hostage.
Israel has laid waste to much of Gaza in response. In five months of war, 80 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million people fled their homes.
The death toll in Gaza topped 30,000 Thursday, with more than 70,000 wounded, the Health Ministry said. The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants but says women and children make up around two-thirds of those killed. Israel blames civilian deaths on Hamas, saying militants operate among the population.
Two weeks into the war, Omar and Abu Kuwaik narrowly escaped death. The two families evacuated their Gaza City apartments just before Israeli airstrikes flattened the buildings.
With only the clothes on their backs, the families split up to stay with different relatives. But in wartime, seemingly trivial decisions — like where to seek shelter — have outsized consequences.
On Dec. 6, two Israeli airstrikes slammed into Omar’s grandparents’ home in the Nuseirat refugee camp. The explosion peeled the skin from his face. His left arm could not be saved below the elbow. He had burns on his leg and torso. His parents, 6-year-old sister, grandparents, two aunts and a cousin were killed.
Omar was pinned beneath the rubble. Rescuers dug until they found his little body, still warm, bleeding but somehow alive.
“Our view was, anywhere is better for him than being in Gaza,” said Adib Chouiki, vice president of Rahma Worldwide, a US-based charity, who heard about Omar from the group’s team in Gaza.
Israel and Egypt tightly restrict movement of people out of Gaza, allowing just a few hundred to exit each day, mostly those with foreign citizenship. The World Health Organization says 2,293 patients – 1,498 wounded and 795 ill – have left Gaza for medical treatment alongside 1,625 companions. Yet roughly 8,000 patients remain on a waiting list to go abroad, according to the UN refugee agency.
Chouiki began reaching out to contacts in the Palestinian, Israeli and Egyptian governments. He got new passports for Omar and Abu Kuwaik, and Israeli security clearance for them to travel to Egypt.
An ambulance brought them to the border, where an Egyptian ambulance whisked them across the Sinai desert.
Inside an Egyptian military hospital, Omar and his aunt waited for weeks until US Customs and Border Protection gave them the green light to fly to New York on Jan. 17.
At Shriners Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, Omar had skin graft surgery for the burn on his leg. He was eager to get his new prosthetic arm Wednesday, smiling mischievously as he reached out to touch it. “My arm is nice.”
Omar and his aunt boarded a plane to Cairo the next day, accompanied by a member of her extended family. They’ll stay at his home in Egypt while seeking more permanent housing.
“I almost don’t sleep,” Abu Kuwaik said. “I think about Omar and I think about my kids, and the conditions they’re living in back there in the tents.”
Food is scarce. Israel’s near-total blockade of Gaza has pushed more than half a million Palestinians toward starvation and raised fears of imminent famine. The flimsy tent her family shares with 40 other people offers little protection from rain and wind, she said. When one person gets sick, illness spreads like wildfire.
The war has repeatedly knocked out cellphone and Internet service in Gaza, but Abu Kuwaik keeps in touch “when there’s network.”
With their return to Egypt, Omar and his aunt’s futures are unclear; they might be stuck in exile.
For Abu Kuwaik, though, there’s no home for Omar to go back to.
“I cannot imagine ... that I go back back to Gaza,” she said. “What would his life be? Where is his future?