US shoots down 4 drones launched from Houthi-controlled areas

US shoots down 4 drones launched from Houthi-controlled areas
The US Navy's guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon has been on patrol in the Red Sea in the past days. (Photo courtesy of CENTCOM)
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Updated 24 December 2023
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US shoots down 4 drones launched from Houthi-controlled areas

US shoots down 4 drones launched from Houthi-controlled areas
  • The Iran-aligned Houthis have disrupted world trade for weeks with attacks on ships passing through the Bab Al-Mandab Strait

CAIRO: The United States shot down four drones headed toward a US destroyer in the southern Red Sea and launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen on Saturday, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said.
“These attacks represent the 14th and 15th attacks on commercial shipping by Houthi militants since Oct. 17,” CENTCOM wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
The Iran-aligned Houthis, who control much of Yemen, have disrupted world trade for weeks with attacks on ships passing through the Bab Al-Mandab Strait at the southern end of the Red Sea in what they say is a response to Israel’s war in Gaza.
The US Naval Forces Central Command responded to distress calls from two ships under attack, CENTCOM said.
The Norwegian-flagged, -owned and -operated chemical/oil tanker Blaamanen reported a near miss in a Houthi drone attack, while a Gabon-owned, Indian-flagged crude oil tanker reported being hit by a one-way attack, CENTCOM wrote on X.
The Indian tanker was sailing in front of the Norwegian ship when it was hit by the drone, Blaamanen’s operator Hansa Tankers said in a statement on Sunday.
“Owing to the close vicinity our master alerted the US Navy which came to the scene, offering protection,” the company said.
The Norwegian tanker transporting non-flammable vegetable oil from Europe to India and its crew were safe and proceeded as planned, Hansa Tankers added.
Two Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles were also “fired into international shipping lanes in the Southern Red Sea from Houthi controlled areas of Yemen,” it said. “No ships reported being impacted by the ballistic missiles.”
The UK Maritime Trade Operations agency earlier reported that an uncrewed aerial system had exploded near a vessel in the Bab Al-Mandab Strait, 45 nautical miles southwest of Saleef, Yemen.
The United States launched Operation Prosperity Guardian three days ago, saying more than a dozen countries had agreed to participate in an effort that will involve joint patrols in Red Sea waters near Yemen.
The Sanaa-based group has obstructed their passage through the strait.


In Tehran, fears grow of potential Iran-Israel war

Updated 3 sec ago
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In Tehran, fears grow of potential Iran-Israel war

In Tehran, fears grow of potential Iran-Israel war
Like most Iranians, Maryam has been following the news about a stand-off between Iran and Israel since a strike hit Iran’s consulate in Damascus on April 1
The attack, which Tehran has blamed on Israel, killed seven members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, including two generals

TEHRAN: After three days off, people in Tehran returned to work as normal on Saturday, but with a lingering cloud of concern that soaring tensions between Iran and its arch foe Israel could tip over into war.
“I don’t know who is at fault and who is not, but it is better to reach a compromise so that the war does not begin, and innocent people don’t die,” said Maryam, a 43-year-old private sector worker.
Like most Iranians, Maryam has been following the news about a stand-off between Iran and Israel since a strike hit Iran’s consulate in Damascus on April 1.
The attack, which Tehran has blamed on Israel, killed seven members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, including two generals.
Iran has since vowed to punish Israel for the attack, without specifying how.
The United States and other nations have urged restraint.
Ties frayed further on Saturday, when Iran seized an Israeli-linked ship in the Gulf.
Israel then issued a warning that Iran would “bear the consequences for choosing to escalate the situation any further.”
The Iranian reformist newspaper Shargh said on Saturday that “the longer Tehran’s response is delayed, the more it has negative consequences on the country’s economy and intensifies concerns in society.”
This uncertainty has weighed on the return to school for students after the long holidays that follow the Iranian New Year, celebrated on March 31 — as well as the end of Ramadan.
“God willing, our government will favor reason over emotion,” said Salehi, a 75-year-old retired government employee in central Tehran.
“If that is the case, there should be no conflict,” he told AFP.
But other Tehran residents would like the government to have a stronger response than was seen after previous killings of Iranian soldiers blamed on Israel.
“This time we must respond to it with more seriousness and determination,” said Yusof, a 37-year-old private sector employee.
Ehsan, a 43-year-old university professor, said it was “logical” to retaliate, because the Israelis “attacked an Iranian diplomatic building” in Syria’s capital Damascus.
“War is always bad and worrying — a person who has experienced war would never support it, but sometimes to achieve peace, a war is necessary,” he added.
Ahmad Zeidabadi, an expert in international relations, said “it seems that the authorities have not yet made a final decision, as it will probably have serious consequences.”
Tehran has to also take into account any response’s impact on public opinion, which appears to currently be more concerned about economic difficulties than by the war in Gaza, he said.
“The possibility of war worries business leaders, in particular those who depend on the rate of foreign currencies,” Zeidabadi told AFP.
“Some of them fear that it will cause a shortage of food.”
In a sign of these fears, Iran’s rial has plunged to a historic low of around 650,000 to the US dollar on the black market.
The government also faces “a dilemma” on a strategic level, said Ali Bigdeli, an academic specializing in international affairs.
“Israel’s attack can drag Iran to the edge of an unwanted war,” Bigdeli told the reformist newspaper Ham Mihan.
“Entering the war and attacking Israel from Iran’s territory is in the interest of Israel,” he said.
It could offer Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “a justification for the Gaza war, and will end the Gaza war in the shadow of the war with Iran,” he added.
Former Iranian deputy foreign minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari said that Tehran “should choose the least costly and at the same time most profitable option to respond to Israel.”
“The most legitimate target for an Iranian strike would be Israel’s security and military installations in the territories occupied since 1967, particularly in the Golan Heights,” he said.



After three days off, people in Tehran returned to work as normal on Saturday, but with a lingering cloud of concern that soaring tensions between Iran and its arch foe Israel could tip over into war. (AFP/File)

Fighting intensifies on Lebanon border as Israel responds to Hezbollah rocket attacks

Fighting intensifies on Lebanon border as Israel responds to Hezbollah rocket attacks
Updated 33 min 10 sec ago
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Fighting intensifies on Lebanon border as Israel responds to Hezbollah rocket attacks

Fighting intensifies on Lebanon border as Israel responds to Hezbollah rocket attacks
  • The Israeli army said that it struck “an extensive Hezbollah military complex in Jabal Al-Rihane”
  • Israeli airstrikes also targeted the Iqlim Al-Tuffah area, north of the Litani River, but there were no casualties

BEIRUT: Israel launched a series of airstrikes on Lebanese border towns on Saturday, a day after Hezbollah targeted Israeli military sites with dozens of Katyusha rockets.
Israeli strikes targeted the Aaramta and Al-Rihane Heights in the Jezzine area.
The Israeli army said that it struck “an extensive Hezbollah military complex in Jabal Al-Rihane.”
Early on Saturday, Israeli airstrikes hit the towns of Taybeh, Odaisseh, the outskirts of Hula, and the area between Ramya and Beit Lif in the Bint Jbeil district, destroying a three-story residential building.
Israeli airstrikes also targeted the Iqlim Al-Tuffah area, north of the Litani River, but there were no casualties.
The Majidiya Plain-GHajjar axis, the outskirts of the town of Mari in the Hasbaya District, the Arqoub-Hasbaya area, and the occupied Shebaa Farms were also hit.
Israeli surveillance aircraft continued to fly over the region.
Hezbollah said on Friday that it launched dozens of Katyusha rockets at Israeli artillery positions in response to attacks on southern villages and civilian homes.
The militant group also said it targeted the Ramot Naftali base in northern Israel with assault drones.
According to the Israeli army, about 40 rockets were launched from Lebanese territory, but most were intercepted by the Iron Dome system, and there were no reports of injuries.
Two Hezbollah assault drones had also been intercepted on Friday, it said.
Sunday marks 190 days since the outbreak of hostilities between Hezbollah and the Israeli army on the southern Lebanese border.
At least 274 Hezbollah fighters have been killed, with the group refusing to disclose the number of wounded.
Late on Friday, the group launched a series of attacks on Israeli military locations, including the Miskaf General site, Israeli artillery positions in Zaoura, the Ruwaizat Al-Alam site in the Lebanese Kfarchouba Hills, Al-Marj, Al-Samaka site in the Kfarchouba Hills, and Karantina Hill.
After inspecting damage in areas in the eastern sector and the Blue Line, UNIFIL commander Gen. Aroldo Lazaro said that “a political and diplomatic solution is the only possible way,” and called on all parties “to stop hostile actions so that people can return and rebuild.”
Hezbollah MP Ihab Hamadeh said: “So long as the Israeli aggression against Gaza continues, the resistance front in Lebanon is open against the Israelis, and the work and performance of the resistance are a fortress and protection for Lebanon.”


Syrian state media: explosive device blows up car in Damascus

Syrian state media: explosive device blows up car in Damascus
Updated 13 April 2024
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Syrian state media: explosive device blows up car in Damascus

Syrian state media: explosive device blows up car in Damascus
  • Security incidents, including blasts targeting military or civilian vehicles, occur intermittently in the capital
  • It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the blast or who was the target

DAMASCUS: An explosive device went off in a car in an upscale neighborhood of Damascus Saturday, Syrian state media said, quoting a police source and adding that there were no victims.
Security incidents, including blasts targeting military or civilian vehicles, occur intermittently in the capital. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the blast or who was the target.
But it came with tensions high in the city after Iran vowed retaliation for an air strike it blamed on Israel.
The April 1 strike destroyed the Iranian consulate in Damascus, killing seven Revolutionary Guards, including two generals.
Syria’s official SANA news agency, quoting a Damascus police command source, said an explosion “in the Mazzeh area resulted from an explosive device detonating in a car in Al-Huda square.”
It added that there were no casualties.
The city’s Mazzeh district is where Iran’s embassy and other foreign missions are located.
Britain-based war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said without elaborating that the driver of the car was “a Lebanese national who has yet to be identified.”
The Observatory, which has a wide network of sources inside Syria, said the authorities had cordoned off the scene of the explosion, and that the vehicle had been “slightly damaged.”
Both Damascus and Tehran blame Israel for the April 1 raid on the consular building, but it has not commented.
The Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has a significant presence in the Damascus region.
The strike came against the backdrop of Israel and Hamas’s ongoing war, which began with the Iran-backed Palestinian militant group’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel.


Missing Israeli teen found ‘murdered’ in West Bank: Netanyahu

Missing Israeli teen found ‘murdered’ in West Bank: Netanyahu
Updated 13 April 2024
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Missing Israeli teen found ‘murdered’ in West Bank: Netanyahu

Missing Israeli teen found ‘murdered’ in West Bank: Netanyahu
  • The disappearance of 14-year-old Benjamin Achimeir on Friday sparked a huge manhunt and attacks on Palestinian villages
  • Achimeir went missing early on Friday from the Malachi Hashalom outpost near the city of Ramallah

JERUSALEM: A missing Israeli teenager was found dead in the occupied West Bank on Saturday, in what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a “heinous murder.”
The disappearance of 14-year-old Benjamin Achimeir on Friday sparked a huge manhunt and attacks on Palestinian villages.
“The heinous murder of the boy... is a serious crime,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
Israeli forces “are in an intensive pursuit after the heinous murderers and all those who collaborated with them,” he said.
Achimeir went missing early on Friday from the Malachi Hashalom outpost near the city of Ramallah.
His body was found nearby, the Israeli army and security forces said.
Hundreds of thousands of Israelis live in West Bank settlements considered illegal under international law.
The incident comes with tensions already high due to the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.
Following Achimeir’s disappearance, Israeli security forces and hundreds of volunteers formed a search party.
On Friday afternoon Jewish settlers who were part of the manhunt raided the village of Al-Mughayyir near Malachi Hashalom, according to an AFP reporter.
At least one person was killed and 25 wounded, the Palestinian health ministry said on Friday.
Overnight, the official Palestinian news agency reported that five Palestinians were injured in another settler attack in the Abu Falah village near Ramallah.


Iran says Israel ‘in complete panic’ over Syria attack response

Iran says Israel ‘in complete panic’ over Syria attack response
Updated 13 April 2024
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Iran says Israel ‘in complete panic’ over Syria attack response

Iran says Israel ‘in complete panic’ over Syria attack response
  • “It has been a week that the Zionists are in complete panic and are on alert,” said Yahya Rahim Safavi
  • “They don’t know what Iran wants to do, so they and their supporters are terrified”

TEHRAN: An adviser to Iran’s supreme leader said Saturday that Israel is panicking over a possible retaliatory response from Iran after a strike in Syria which killed members of its Revolutionary Guards.
“It has been a week that the Zionists are in complete panic and are on alert,“
Yahya Rahim Safavi, senior adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.
“They don’t know what Iran wants to do, so they and their supporters are terrified,” ISNA quoted him as saying.
Tehran has blamed Israel and vowed to avenge the April 1 air strike on Damascus that levelled the Iranian embassy’s consular annex, killing seven members of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including two generals.
Following the strike, which Israel has not commented on, its army announced a leave suspension. It also said officials decided to increase manpower and draft reserve soldiers to operate air defenses.
“This psychological, media and political war is more terrifying for them than the war itself, because they are waiting for an attack every night and many of them have fled and gone to shelters,” Safavi added.
Britain-based war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the April 1 strike killed 16 people. Among the dead were generals Mohammad Reza Zahedi and Mohammad Hadi Hajji Rahimi who were senior commanders in the Quds Force, the IRGC’s foreign operations arm.
Zahedi, 63, was the most senior Iranian soldier killed since a United States missile strike at Baghdad airport in 2020 killed Quds Force chief General Qasem Soleimani.
The strike in Damascus took place against the backdrop of the Gaza war which began with Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel which killed 1,170 people, mostly civilians.
Tehran backs Hamas but has denied any direct involvement in the attack which triggered relentless bombardment and a ground invasion as Israel vowed to destroy Hamas.
The health ministry in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory says at least 33,686 people have been killed there during six months of war.
Iran does not recognize Israel, and the two countries have fought a shadow war for years.
The Islamic republic accuses Israel of having carried out a wave of sabotage attacks and assassinations targeting its nuclear program.