UK destroyer downs suspected attack drone ‘targeting Red Sea shipping’

Update UK destroyer downs suspected attack drone ‘targeting Red Sea shipping’
A US Navy sailor from USS Bataan monitors as the amphibious assault ship transits the Suez Canal into the Red Sea to help guard enforce law and order. (Photo courtesy: DVIDS/AFP)
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Updated 17 December 2023
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UK destroyer downs suspected attack drone ‘targeting Red Sea shipping’

UK destroyer downs suspected attack drone ‘targeting Red Sea shipping’
  • Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd said the suspension will remain until the threat is removed
  • A Maersk ship was targetted by the Houthis on Thursday and a Hapag-Lloyd vessel on Friday

DUBAI: A UK destroyer has brought down a suspected attack drone in the Red Sea, defense minister Grant Shapps said Saturday, amid rising maritime tensions in the region.
Britain announced last month that it was sending HMS Diamond, one of its most advanced naval vessels, to the Gulf to shore up its presence in the region.
“Overnight, HMS Diamond shot down a suspected attack drone which was targeting merchant shipping in the Red Sea. One Sea Viper missile was fired and successfully destroyed the target,” Shapps said in a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter.
HMS Diamond, a Type 45 destroyer, is conducting operations to ensure freedom of navigation, reassure merchant vessels and ensure the safe flow of trade, the defense ministry said.
The deployment followed the outbreak of conflict between Israel and Hamas and the seizure of an Israeli-linked cargo vessel by Iranian-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels in the Red Sea on November 19.
The Houthis have launched a series of drone and missile strikes targeting Israel since Hamas militants poured over the border into Israel on October 7, killing around 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures. Around 240 people were kidnapped in the attacks.
Vowing to destroy Hamas and bring back the hostages, Israel launched a massive military offensive that the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry says has killed at least 18,800 people, mostly women and children.
The Houthi rebels have threatened to attack any vessels heading to Israeli ports unless food and medicine are allowed into the besieged Gaza Strip.

Two of the world’s largest shipping firms, Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd, said Friday they were suspending passage through a Red Sea strait vital for global commerce, after the incidents.
Maersk said this followed a “near-miss incident involving Maersk Gibraltar yesterday” as well as Friday’s attack, in which the rebels struck a Hapag-Lloyd cargo ship in the Red Sea.
A US defense official identified it as the Liberia-flagged Al-Jasrah, a 368-meter (1,207-foot) container ship built in 2016.

Shapps warned Saturday that “the recent spate of illegal attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security in the Red Sea.
“The UK remains committed to repelling these attacks to protect the free flow of global trade,” he added.
Royal Navy vessels have been permanently deployed to the region since 1980 and since 2011 have fallen under “Operation Kipion,” the name used for the UK’s maritime presence in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean.
The vessel joined the frigate HMS Lancaster which deployed to the region last year, as well as three mine hunters and a support ship.
“We have instructed all Maersk vessels in the area bound to pass through the Bab Al-Mandab Strait to pause their journey until further notice,” it said.

Yemeni Houthis vow more attacks 
Later on Friday, during a pro-Palestinian rally in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, the Houthis said they attacked two other ships in the area.
“Container ships MSC Palatium and MSC Alanya were targeted by two naval missiles as they were heading toward the Israeli entity,” Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree said in a broadcast on the rebels’ television channel.
The rebels said that, in an earlier attack, the Maersk Gibraltar vessel was “targeted with a drone and the hit was direct.” According to a US official, the missile missed.
Saree said the attack came after the ship’s crew “refused to respond to the calls of the Yemeni naval services,” and that it was intended as retaliation for the “oppression of the Palestinian people.”
CENTCOM said that the MSC Alanya was only threatened but not struck, while the Palatium was hit by one of two ballistic missiles fired.
In a statement posted December 9 on social media, the Houthis said they “will prevent the passage” of ships heading to Israel — regardless of ownership — if food and medicine are not allowed into besieged, Hamas-ruled Gaza.
On Tuesday, they claimed responsibility for a missile strike on a Norwegian-flagged tanker.
Last month, they seized an Israel-linked cargo vessel, the Galaxy Leader, and its 25 international crew members.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Friday said the Houthi attacks “endanger not only Israel’s security” but also international shipping routes.
Speaking in Tel Aviv, United States National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan expressed similar concern and said Washington is working with the international community “to deal with this threat.”

Saudi Arabia warns against broader conflict 

Asked at a press conference in Oslo about the potential for broader conflict after the Houthi attacks, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said: “Our region is very complex and we do not need any other conflicts to erupt.”
The Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen has for years backed the internationally recognized Yemeni government against the Houthis, but a UN-brokered ceasefire has largely held since expiring over a year ago.
Iran’s Defense Minister Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani warned on Wednesday against the possible deployment of multinational forces in the Red Sea, which he said would lead to “extraordinary problems,” the ISNA news agency said.
The attack on the Al-Jasrah occurred near Bab Al-Mandab, the narrow strait between Yemen and northeast Africa through which around 20,000 ships pass annually.
The area leads to the Red Sea, Israel’s southern port facilities and the Suez Canal, making it part of a strategic route for Gulf oil and natural gas shipments.
The Houthis have declared themselves part of the “axis of resistance” of Iran-affiliated groups.
Western warships are patrolling the area and have shot down Houthi missiles and drones several times.


Quake kills four, injures 120 in northeastern Iran: state media

Quake kills four, injures 120 in northeastern Iran: state media
Updated 18 June 2024
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Quake kills four, injures 120 in northeastern Iran: state media

Quake kills four, injures 120 in northeastern Iran: state media
  • The US Geological Survey said it hit at a depth of 10 kilometers

TEHRAN: At least four people were killed and 120 injured Tuesday in a 4.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Iran’s northeastern city of Kashmar, state media reported.
The quake struck at 1:24 p.m. (0954 GMT), state television and the local governor said, while the US Geological Survey said it hit at a depth of 10 kilometers (six miles).


Israeli forces deepen Rafah invasion, kill 17 in central camps

Israeli forces deepen Rafah invasion, kill 17 in central camps
Updated 54 min 23 sec ago
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Israeli forces deepen Rafah invasion, kill 17 in central camps

Israeli forces deepen Rafah invasion, kill 17 in central camps
  • Residents reported heavy bombardments from tanks and planes in several areas of Rafah
  • Israeli tanks were operating inside Tel Al-Sultan, Al-Izba, and Zurub areas in Rafah’s west, as well as Shaboura at the heart of the city

CAIRO: Israeli airstrikes on Tuesday killed at least 17 Palestinians in two of the Gaza Strip’s historic refugee camps and Israeli tanks pushed deeper into the enclave’s southern city of Rafah, residents and medics said.
Residents reported heavy bombardments from tanks and planes in several areas of Rafah, where more than a million people had taken refuge before May. Most of the population has fled northwards since then as Israeli forces invaded the city.
“Rafah is being bombed without any intervention from the world, the occupation (Israel) is acting freely here,” a Rafah resident and father of six told Reuters via a chat app.
Israeli tanks were operating inside Tel Al-Sultan, Al-Izba, and Zurub areas in Rafah’s west, as well as Shaboura at the heart of the city. They also continued to occupy the eastern neighborhoods and outskirts as well as the border with Egypt and the vital Rafah border crossing.
“There are Israeli forces in most areas, there is heavy resistance too and they are making them pay dearly but the occupation is not ethical and they are destroying the city and the refugee camp,” the resident said.
Palestinian health officials said one man was killed in the morning by Israeli fire on the eastern side of Rafah. Medics said they believed many others had been killed in the past days and weeks but rescue teams could not reach them.

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The Israeli military said it was continuing “precise, intelligence-based activity” in Rafah, killing many Palestinian gunmen over the past day in close-range combat and seized weapons. The air force struck dozens of targets across the Gaza Strip in the past day, it added.
In the central Gaza Strip, two separate Israeli air strikes on two houses killed 17 Palestinians in Al-Nuseirat and Al-Bureij, two designated refugee camps that are home to families and descendants of people who fled to Gaza in the 1948 war around the creation of Israel, medics said.
“Every more hour of delay, Israel kills more people, we want a ceasefire now,” said Khalil, 45, a teacher from Gaza, now displaced with his family in Deir Al-Balah city in the central Gaza Strip.
“Enough of our blood, I say it to Israel, America, and our leaders too. The war must stop,” he told Reuters via a chat app.
The Israeli military statement did not comment directly on the 17 deaths but said forces continued to operate against militant factions in central Gaza areas.
The commander of an Islamic Jihad sniper cell was killed by an Israeli warplane, and troops also “eliminated” a militant cell, it said.
The armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad said fighters confronted Israeli forces in combat zones with anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs, and have in some areas detonated pre-planted explosive devices against army units.
Israel’s ground and air campaign was triggered when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
The offensive has left Gaza in ruins, killing more than 37,400 people, according to its health authorities, and left much of the population homeless and destitute.
Since a week-long truce in November, repeated attempts to arrange a ceasefire have failed, with Hamas insisting on a permanent end to the war and full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Netanyahu refuses to end the war before Hamas is eradicated and the hostages are freed.


Health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says war death toll at 37,372

Health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says war death toll at 37,372
Updated 18 June 2024
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Health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says war death toll at 37,372

Health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says war death toll at 37,372
  • The toll includes at least 25 deaths in the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said Tuesday that at least 37,372 people have been killed in the territory during more than eight months of war between Israel and Palestinian militants.
The toll includes at least 25 deaths in the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said, adding that a total of 85,452 people had been wounded in the Gaza Strip since the war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7.


US wants to avoid ‘greater war’ along Lebanon-Israel border, envoy says

US wants to avoid ‘greater war’ along Lebanon-Israel border, envoy says
Updated 18 June 2024
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US wants to avoid ‘greater war’ along Lebanon-Israel border, envoy says

US wants to avoid ‘greater war’ along Lebanon-Israel border, envoy says
  • US envoy Amos Hochstein: ‘The conflict... between Israel and Hezbollah has gone on for long enough’

BEIRUT: The US is trying to avert a greater war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, American envoy Amos Hochstein said on Tuesday, following an escalation in cross-border fire between the foes along Lebanon’s southern frontier.

Hochstein described the situation on the border between Lebanon and Israel as “very critical and very dangerous.”

Hochstein, who arrived in Beirut from Tel Aviv, said during a series of meetings with Lebanese officials that “further escalation between Israel and Lebanon must be avoided so we won’t reach an open war. We seek to stop the escalation in order to avoid a major war.”

He said a ceasefire in Gaza might end the war in southern Lebanon and allow displaced people to return to their homes, adding that “the conflict along both sides of the Blue Line has been going on for too long and ending it is in everyone’s interest.”

The situation on the southern front has escalated in the past couple of days with Hezbollah’s recent unprecedented attacks.

A Hezbollah reconnaissance Hudhud-1 drone released on Tuesday detailed footage of the port of Haifa Bay area and the Carmel area specifically, as well as a military manufacturing company and other military bases in Nahariya, Safad and Kiryat Shmona.

Hezbollah said the drone was equipped with the latest photography technology “to identify its targets and the enemy’s gatherings and equipment.”

It added that “the drone is characterized by its small size and radar, which makes it difficult to detect, follow and down with air defense missiles.

“It is also known for its small amount of thermal radiation, reducing its likelihood of being hit by infrared missiles. It is also characterized by its low acoustic fingerprint, making it hard to identify in a battle atmosphere.”

Hochstein met Lebanese army chief Joseph Aoun in the presence of the US Ambassador to Lebanon Lisa Johnson.

The discussions revolved around the general situation in Lebanon and the region, as well as developments on the southern border.

The US is highly concerned that hostilities between Hezbollah and the Israeli army could escalate into an open war.

Aoun visited the Pentagon for the first time last week, where the escalating tensions with Israel were discussed.

After an hour-long meeting with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Hochstein told reporters that his visit “comes under difficult circumstances, and this is why he was dispatched by President Joe Biden to Lebanon.”

He said he had a positive meeting with Berri, where they discussed the proposed deal in relation to Gaza, “which gives an opportunity to end the conflict on both sides of the Blue Line.”

Hochstein added that “the deal proposed by President Biden on May 31, 2024, which includes the release of the hostages and a full and complete ceasefire leading to the end of the war in Gaza, and which was approved by the Israeli side, Qatar, Egypt, the G7 and the UN Security Council, could end the war in Gaza and plan the withdrawal of the Israeli forces. If this is what Hamas wants, it should accept the deal.”

He noted: “A ceasefire in Gaza and/or an alternative diplomatic solution could also bring the conflict across the Blue Line to an end, creating conditions for displaced Lebanese civilians to go home in the south, and for Israeli civilians to go home in their north. The conflict along the Blue Line between Israel and Hezbollah has gone on for long enough. Innocent people are dying. Property is damaged. Families are shattered, and the Lebanese economy continues to decline. The country is suffering for no good reason. It’s in everyone’s interest to resolve it quickly and diplomatically. That is both achievable. And it is urgent.”

Prime Minister Najib Mikati told Hochstein that “Lebanon does not seek escalation, and what is required is to stop the ongoing Israeli aggression against Lebanon and return to calm and stability on the southern border.” 

He said: “We continue to strive to stop the escalation, establish security and stability, and stop the ongoing violations of Lebanese sovereignty and the systematic killing and destruction committed by Israel. However, the continuous Israeli threats to Lebanon will not prevent us from continuing our efforts to establish calm, which is a priority for us and all of Lebanon’s friends.”

Hochstein said: “We are going through dangerous times and critical moments, and we are working together to find ways to prevent further escalation.”

In Tel Aviv, the head of the National Unity Party, Benny Gantz, told Hochstein: “Time is running out for an internationally mediated arrangement on the northern border with Lebanon.”

Gantz wrote on social media that during his meeting with Hochstein, “I emphasized my commitment to removing the threat Hezbollah to the citizens of northern Israel, regardless of developments on the war in Gaza, and will support any responsible and effective political or military decision on the matter from outside the government.”

Israeli Channel 12 reported: “Israel informed Hochstein that operations in Rafah, Gaza Strip, were nearing completion and the end of operations in Rafah would affect the region and the Lebanon front.”

According to the Israeli army, Hezbollah has fired more than 5,000 rockets, anti-tank shells, and explosive drones into northern Israel since Oct. 8.

Hezbollah halted its hostile operations for 48 hours, despite Israel not stopping its targeting of party members. The latest of these attacks was on Tuesday afternoon when a combat drone targeted a man driving a car to the town of Borgholiyeh, north of the city of Tyre.

Another drone targeted a Hezbollah member driving a vehicle on Monday on the road linking the towns of Selaa and Chehabiyeh in the Tyre area, leading to his death.

Israeli warplanes also conducted violent raids on the town of Chaqra, which hosts displaced people from frontline villages.

Hezbollah announced on Tuesday that it targeted “a Merkava tank inside the Hadab Yarin site with an assault drone, hitting it directly.”


UAE allocates $70 million in humanitarian aid for Sudan

UAE allocates $70 million in humanitarian aid for Sudan
Updated 18 June 2024
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UAE allocates $70 million in humanitarian aid for Sudan

UAE allocates $70 million in humanitarian aid for Sudan
  • Since the onset of the crisis, the UAE has launched an air bridge with Sudan and Chad

DUBAI: The UAE has said 70 percent of the $100 million pledge it announced for UN agencies last April will go towards supporting humanitarian aid efforts in Sudan, Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the funds would be directed to key UN partners, including the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Food Programme, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Health Organization. The money will provide food and health support, protect women and children, and offer livelihoods and shelter in emergencies.
Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem bint Ibrahim Al-Hashemi emphasized the UAE’s commitment to humanitarian support for the Sudanese people. She highlighted ongoing efforts to provide aid in cooperation with the WFP, including operations in El-Fasher and other areas in Sudan.
Since the onset of the crisis, the UAE has launched an air bridge with Sudan and Chad, delivering 9,500 tons of food and medical supplies through 148 relief flights and a ship carrying some 1,000 tons of urgent supplies. Additionally, the UAE has supported Sudanese refugee camps in Chad and South Sudan by providing food.