Intensive Israeli drone activity in Lebanon extends as far north as Baalbek for first time

Special Intensive Israeli drone activity in Lebanon extends as far north as Baalbek for first time
Smoke billows following an Israeli bombardment of the southern Lebanese village of Aita Al-Shaab, Dec. 18, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 19 December 2023
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Intensive Israeli drone activity in Lebanon extends as far north as Baalbek for first time

Intensive Israeli drone activity in Lebanon extends as far north as Baalbek for first time
  • Meanwhile aggressive operations and exchanges of fire between Israel and Hezbollah continue along border on southern Lebanese front
  • It follows a warning from French foreign minister that hostilities could escalate into full-scale war from which Lebanon ‘would never recover’

BEIRUT: Intensive activity by Israeli drones was evident in the skies over the city of Baalbek and surrounding villages in northern Lebanon on Tuesday.

It was the first time Israeli drones had been spotted in the city, which is in the Bekaa Valley, east of the Litani River, about 67 kilometers northeast of Beirut.

It came a day after French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, speaking during a visit to Lebanon, warned that the hostilities in southern Lebanon could escalate into full-scale war.

The Israeli army has been using drones in its operations in southern Lebanon to launch guided missiles at targets. Israeli military spy planes have violated the airspace of the region as far north as the city of Hermel in the past two months, even crossing the border into Syrian territory. The Baalbek-Hermel region is a stronghold of Hezbollah, which has military sites located there.

Israeli army radio reports said that “warning sirens sounded in several settlements in the Upper Galilee (area near the border with Lebanon) in the afternoon due to suspicion of drone infiltrations. The air defenses were activated after a suspicious object was detected above Bar’am.”

According to Israeli media, “a rocket was launched from Lebanon toward a target in Malkiya in Upper Galilee and ambulance teams rushed to the scene.”

Hostile Israeli operations continued in southern Lebanon on Tuesday. Hezbollah’s media department said “an Israeli Merkava tank fired direct shells toward the town of Yaroun, and remnants of an interceptive missile fell near the vocational school in the town of Bint Jbeil.”

The operations specifically targeted villages in the western and central sectors, extending to the outskirts of the coastal city of Tyre and beyond the Litani River.

The Israeli bombing targeted the outskirts of Al-Khiyam town with incendiary phosphorus shells, as well as the outskirts of the towns of Blida and Hula. The Israeli army also targeted the vicinity of Aita Al-Shaab and Naqoura with early-morning gunfire.

In addition, Israeli forces used drones to bomb the southern and eastern outskirts of Maroun Al-Ras and Mays Al-Jabal, as well as the outskirts of Naqoura, Jabal Al-Labbouneh, the Ain Alma area, the area between the towns of Naqoura and Alma Al-Shaab, and olive groves between Dermamas and Kafr Kila. A shell reportedly landed near houses in the town of Rmeish.

Hezbollah said it had targeted the “Israeli military outpost of Metula, causing confirmed casualties.”

On Monday afternoon, an Israeli drone attack targeted a spot very close to the village of Aita Al-Shaab, where residents and Hezbollah supporters were attending the funeral of one of the group’s fighters. Hezbollah said it responded by bombing Israeli Iron Dome air-defense platforms in the vicinity of Kabri, east of the city of Nahariya, and also struck the city of Kiryat Shmona.

Colonna, the French foreign minister, concluded her visit to Lebanon on Monday by warning against “expanding the area of tensions and violating Resolution 1701.” UN Security Council Resolution 1701 was adopted in 2006 with the intention of resolving the war that took place that year between Israel and Hezbollah.

“If Lebanon plunged into war, it would never recover,” Colonna said, adding that “the situation is very dangerous.”

During a meeting with Colonna at the French embassy in Beirut, Maj. Gen. Aroldo Lazaro, commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, said “the level of tension on both sides of the Blue Line is very dangerous.”

He added that “Hezbollah is using more long-range weapons and Israel is violating the Lebanese airspace,” but noted that “in the past three days, the exchange of fire has decreased.”


UNRWA slams Israeli allegations in Google Ads dispute

UNRWA slams Israeli allegations in Google Ads dispute
Updated 15 sec ago
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UNRWA slams Israeli allegations in Google Ads dispute

UNRWA slams Israeli allegations in Google Ads dispute
  • Israeli government’s claims appear as “sponsored links” at the top of Google search results for UNRWA

LONDON: The UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees has rejected claims made against it in Israeli advertisements on Google as “unrealistic.”

The Israeli government’s claims appear as “sponsored links” at the top of Google search results for UNRWA, Anadolu Agency reported.

These advertisements from the Tel Aviv administration’s website contain unsubstantiated allegations, including accusations of UNRWA employees’ involvement in the Oct. 7 attacks and that the agency has been infiltrated by Hamas and other groups.

UNRWA spokesman, Jonathan Fowler, said that the allegations of infiltration were baseless. Fowler noted that the agency had conducted repeated investigations and taken corrective actions when allegations of neutrality violations had arisen, both during and before the war in Gaza.

He stressed that there was no evidence linking any of the agency’s employees to the Oct. 7 operation on settlements adjacent to Gaza.

Earlier in April, an independent review headed by the French former foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, found that Israeli authorities had yet to provide any evidence to back up their allegations that a dozen people worked for UNRWA.

The wide-ranging 48-page report, seen by Arab News, also found that Israel had not previously expressed concerns about any individuals named on the agency staffing lists that it had been receiving since 2011.
 


UN experts say Sudan paramilitaries recruiting in Central Africa

UN experts say Sudan paramilitaries recruiting in Central Africa
Updated 24 min 23 sec ago
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UN experts say Sudan paramilitaries recruiting in Central Africa

UN experts say Sudan paramilitaries recruiting in Central Africa
  • “The spillover effect of the conflict in the Sudan has significantly affected the situation in the Central African Republic,” said the expert committee
  • This “continues to constitute a security threat to civilians and an impediment to humanitarian activities in the area“

UNITED NATIONS: Sudanese paramilitary forces are using the Central African Republic as a “supply chain,” including for recruitment of fighters, according to a report published Friday by UN experts, who are concerned about a “spillover effect.”
Sudan descended into war in April 2023 when the generals in charge of the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) took up arms against each other in a fight for control, rejecting a plan to integrate.
“The spillover effect of the conflict in the Sudan has significantly affected the situation in the Central African Republic,” said the expert committee, formed by the UN Security Council to monitor sanctions on Central Africa.
They highlighted in particular the humanitarian situation, as the country sees an influx of millions of Sudanese refugees, as well as incursions by the two warring Sudanese parties — plus air raids by the Sudanese army in and around the Umm Dafog border post, where the RSF is present.
This “continues to constitute a security threat to civilians and an impediment to humanitarian activities in the area,” the experts said.
They insist the paramilitaries are also using the Am Dafok area in the Central African Republic on the border “as a key logistical hub.”
Because the RSF can “move between the two countries easily through a long-standing network” they have been able to recruit “from among armed groups in the Central African Republic.”
“Opposition armed groups from the Central African Republic have been reported to have actively recruited for, and sent members of their own groups to fight in, the Sudan under RSF,” the experts said.
They noted in particular fighters in Sudan since as early as August 2023 from the Central African rebel group Popular Front for the Rebirth of Central Africa (FPRC).
The experts said they are aware that this armed group and others “are still able to cross between the Sudan and the Central African Republic at will and use Sudanese territory to launch attacks.”
The experts thus called on Central African authorities to “counteract the surge in arms trafficking from neighboring countries, particularly given the current conflict situation in the Sudan.”
They also asked the leaders to combat “the infiltration of foreign fighters into the Central African Republic, which poses a significant long-term threat to the region.”


UAE, UK leaders discuss bilateral ties at G7 summit

UAE, UK leaders discuss bilateral ties at G7 summit
Updated 15 June 2024
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UAE, UK leaders discuss bilateral ties at G7 summit

UAE, UK leaders discuss bilateral ties at G7 summit
  • Sheikh Mohamed, Sunak discussed a number of regional and international issues of mutual interest

DUBAI: UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with UK Prime Minister Sunak on Friday on the sidelines of the G7 Summit session on artificial intelligence and energy in Apulia, Emirates News Agency reported.

During the meeting, the two leaders talked about how to strengthen and expand bilateral relations in a variety of areas, including economics and development.

The two leaders also discussed a number of regional and international issues of mutual interest, emphasizing the importance of laying the groundwork for peace, stability, and security in the Middle East.


Hezbollah keeps up pressure on Israel days after commander’s death

Hezbollah keeps up pressure on Israel days after commander’s death
Updated 15 June 2024
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Hezbollah keeps up pressure on Israel days after commander’s death

Hezbollah keeps up pressure on Israel days after commander’s death
  • Hezbollah said Saturday that it targeted the Meron base in northern Israel with “guided missiles,” and sent “attack drones” toward another Israeli base
  • The Israeli army said “two projectiles were fired from Lebanon toward the IDF (army) Aerial Control Unit in the area of Meron in northern Israel“

BEIRUT: Hezbollah on Saturday kept up retaliatory attacks on military positions in northern Israel, and one person was killed in Lebanon, days after an Israeli strike hit a senior commander from the Iran-backed group.
Senior Hezbollah commander Taleb Abdallah was killed in an Israeli strike in the village of Jouaiyya on Tuesday, alongside three comrades, a source close to the group had told AFP.
Hezbollah said Saturday that it targeted the Meron base in northern Israel with “guided missiles,” and sent “attack drones” toward another Israeli base “as part of the response to the attack and assassination carried out by the enemy in Jouaiyya.”
Israel and Hezbollah, a Hamas ally, have traded near-daily cross-border fire since the Palestinian militant group’s October 7 attack on Israel which triggered war in the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli army had confirmed it carried out the strike targeting Abdallah, describing him as “one of Hezbollah’s most senior commanders in southern Lebanon.”
On Saturday, the Israeli army said “two projectiles were fired from Lebanon toward the IDF (army) Aerial Control Unit in the area of Meron in northern Israel,” reporting “no injuries or damage to the unit’s capabilities.”
It also said “several aerial targets were identified crossing from Lebanon into Israeli territory” and falling in the Goren area, adding there were no reported injuries but that “a fire broke out.”
“Aircraft struck a Hezbollah terrorist” in south Lebanon’s Aitarun area, the military said, adding that “artillery fired to remove a threat,” also in the Aitarun area.
A source close to Hezbollah and rescuers affiliated with the group said a non-Lebanese man was killed in Aitarun, without providing further details.
Lebanon’s official National News Agency had reported unspecified casualties in an “Israeli drone” strike on a motorbike on the road between Aitarun and Bint Jbeil in southern Lebanon.
On Wednesday, top Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine vowed the group would “increase the intensity, strength, quantity and quality of our attacks,” while speaking at Abdallah’s funeral.
A Lebanese military source said Abdallah was the “most important” Hezbollah commander to have been killed since the start of the war.
The cross-border violence has killed at least 471 people in Lebanon, most of them fighters but also including 91 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
Israeli authorities say at least 15 Israeli soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed in the country’s north.


Islamic Jihad says only way to free Israeli hostages is Gaza withdrawal, prisoner deal

Islamic Jihad says only way to free Israeli hostages is Gaza withdrawal, prisoner deal
Updated 15 June 2024
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Islamic Jihad says only way to free Israeli hostages is Gaza withdrawal, prisoner deal

Islamic Jihad says only way to free Israeli hostages is Gaza withdrawal, prisoner deal
  • The spokesman of Al-Quds Brigades made the remarks in a video posted on Telegram
  • Islamic Jihad is a smaller ally of Hamas

CAIRO: The armed wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad said on Saturday the only way to return Israeli hostages is through Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, ending its offensive and reaching a deal for exchanging Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners.
The spokesman of Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian group, made the remarks in a video posted on Telegram.
Islamic Jihad is a smaller ally of the militant Islamist group Hamas, which led a rampage in southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which 1,200 people were killed and over 250 taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies. More than 100 hostages are believed to remain captive in Gaza, although at least 40 have been declared dead in absentia by Israeli authorities.
At least 37,296 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s military campaign to eliminate Hamas, according to the Gaza health ministry.