Plea for Lebanon to remain neutral amid Israel-Hezbollah hostilities

Plea for Lebanon to remain neutral amid Israel-Hezbollah hostilities
Smoke billows from a compound in the southern Lebanese village of Odaisseh on Monday following Israeli bombardment amid ongoing cross-border tensions. (AFP)
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Updated 25 December 2023
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Plea for Lebanon to remain neutral amid Israel-Hezbollah hostilities

Plea for Lebanon to remain neutral amid Israel-Hezbollah hostilities
  • Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi says Lebanon ‘is a land of dialogue and peace’ while condemning Gaza genocide

BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi reiterated his plea for Lebanon to remain neutral on Monday amid continuing hostilities between Hezbollah and the Israel forces.

In his Christmas sermon, the patriarch spoke about “the families afflicted by the genocidal war on Gaza and our families in southern Lebanon because of the extension of this ill-fated and rejected war to their towns and villages, with the deaths it left behind, the destruction of homes, and the destruction of property.”

Al-Rahi condemned the “brutal genocide taking place in Gaza.”

He said: “We reject its spread to the southern villages. Lebanon is not a land of war but a land of dialogue and peace.”

Al-Rahi said: “The spread of the war to southern Lebanon contradicts Resolution 1701. Lebanon must return to its neutrality as a defender, through diplomacy, of any lost rights.

“The Baabda Declaration in 2012, unanimously approved by the political blocs, affirmed Lebanon’s neutrality with the expression ‘distancing itself’ and adopted it.

“Lebanon’s neutrality has been at the core of Lebanon’s identity since 1860, and it is politically neutral in that it neither fights nor is fought.”

Al-Rahi’s new appeal came as hostilities between Hezbollah and the Israeli army entered a new phase.

The attacks are now targeting residential houses on both sides of the Blue Line along the border, with some military operations transgressing the rules of engagement.

A security source told Arab News: “Scenes of destruction can be observed in residential neighborhoods in the border areas targeted by Israeli bombing.”

Hezbollah’s attacks are now hitting targets as far as 10 km inside Israel.

Sheikh Naim Kassem, deputy secretary-general, reiterated that the movement’s military operations on the southern front “are to support Gaza, and no one believes that this matter is isolated from protecting Lebanon.”

He said: “We are in one situation; the enemy is one, and this enemy is expansionist. Israel’s strategy is to target one group at a time, aiming to annihilate all.”

On Monday, Hezbollah announced that it had “targeted buildings in the Misgav Am settlement with missile weapons, in response to bombing villages and civilian homes” in southern Lebanon.

On Sunday, Hezbollah announced “targeting a residential building in the Avivim settlement, causing confirmed casualties.”

For the past 79 days, Hezbollah’s hostilities on the southern border have been limited to Israeli military outposts and gatherings of Israeli soldiers.

However, during the past week, the Israeli forces mainly targeted houses belonging to Hezbollah members and cadres in some border villages.

Israel targeted a house in Kfarkila with three shells on Monday, setting it on fire, after targeting a residential home on Sunday in Markaba.

Hezbollah announced the death of the house owner, Wissam Khalil Hammoud, who is one of its members.

Hezbollah also announced on Saturday the death of Ibrahim Salameh from the Aytaroun village after Israeli shelling targeted his house.

Hezbollah said it targeted a deployment of Israeli soldiers in the vicinity of the Metat barracks on Monday.

Since Monday morning, there has been a tense atmosphere in the border villages.

The outskirts of Naqoura, Hanin, and Wadi Hamul were targeted by Israeli artillery shelling.

Hezbollah declared that it initiated missile strikes on the Beit Hilal military base located east of Kiryat Shmona, the Israeli military site of Jal Al-Alam, and a gathering of Israeli soldiers near the Birkat Risha site.

Israeli forces conducted a series of attacks in the areas surrounding Aita Al-Shaab, Tallet Al-Raheb, Kafr Kila, and the Marjayoun Plain.

Additionally, Israeli warplanes targeted the outskirts of Aitaroun and Mays Al-Jabal, launching air-to-surface missiles that caused explosions heard in the Bint Jbeil area.

The Israeli forces used Burkan missiles, phosphorus bombs, and artillery in Monday’s bombardment and installed a surveillance balloon above the towns of Al-Dhahira and Alma Al-Shaab.

According to statistics gathered by journalists in southern Lebanon, the total number of casualties from Israeli airstrikes during the clashes in southern Lebanon over the past 79 days reached 159, including 107 in the south and 14 in Syria.

Among the casualties were 17 civilians in southern Lebanon, including three journalists, one soldier from the Lebanese Army, one from the Amal movement, one from the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, two from the Jamaa Islamiyya, and seven from the Islamic Jihad Movement, as well as nine casualties from the Hamas movement in Lebanon.


UN Security Council demands halt to siege of Sudan city of 1.8 mln people

The United Nations Security Council on Thursday demanded a halt to the siege of Al-Fashir by the paramilitary RSF.
The United Nations Security Council on Thursday demanded a halt to the siege of Al-Fashir by the paramilitary RSF.
Updated 59 min 47 sec ago
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UN Security Council demands halt to siege of Sudan city of 1.8 mln people

The United Nations Security Council on Thursday demanded a halt to the siege of Al-Fashir by the paramilitary RSF.
  • Council adopted British-drafted resolution that also calls for the withdrawal of all fighters that threaten the safety and security of civilians in Al-Fashir

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations Security Council on Thursday demanded a halt to the siege of Al-Fashir — a city of 1.8 million people in Sudan’s North Dafur region — by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and an immediate end to fighting in the area.
The 15-member council adopted a British-drafted resolution that also calls for the withdrawal of all fighters that threaten the safety and security of civilians in Al-Fashir, the last big city in the vast, western Darfur region not under RSF control.
War erupted in Sudan in April last year between the Sudanese army (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), creating the world’s largest displacement crisis. Top UN officials have warned that the worsening violence around Al-Fashir threatens to “unleash bloody intercommunal strife throughout Darfur.”


Israeli forces kill three Palestinians, seize weapons in West Bank raid

Israeli forces kill three Palestinians, seize weapons in West Bank raid
Updated 13 June 2024
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Israeli forces kill three Palestinians, seize weapons in West Bank raid

Israeli forces kill three Palestinians, seize weapons in West Bank raid
  • The West Bank has seen a surge in violence since the outbreak of the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza
  • Troops surrounded a building where two gunmen were holed up, exchanging fire with them, the army said

QABATIYA, West Bank: Israeli forces raided a town in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, killing three Palestinians and detaining several others in what the army described as an operation to pre-empt militant attacks.
The West Bank, among territories where Palestinians seek statehood, has seen a surge in violence since the outbreak of the war between Israel and the militant Islamist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
During the raid in Qabatiya, troops surrounded a building where two gunmen were holed up, exchanging fire with them, the army said. The two Palestinians were killed and witnesses saw the body of one them being lifted out by an armored bulldozer.
A third Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli troops elsewhere in the town, medical officials said.
There was no immediate claim of the dead men by any armed Palestinian faction. The army described the two killed in the building as “senior terrorists” without elaborating, and added that weapons were seized in the raid.
Several Palestinians were detained by troops, who also “exposed explosives planted into roads which were intended to be used to attack the forces,” the army statement said.
A soldier was wounded during exchanges of fire, it added.


Iran expands nuclear capacities further: IAEA

Iran expands nuclear capacities further: IAEA
Updated 13 June 2024
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Iran expands nuclear capacities further: IAEA

Iran expands nuclear capacities further: IAEA
  • Tehran is installing more cascades at the enrichment facilities in Natanz and Fordow
  • A cascade is a series of centrifuges, machines used in the process of enriching uranium

VIENNA: Iran is further expanding its nuclear capacities, the UN atomic watchdog said Thursday, one week after the agency’s board of governors passed a resolution criticizing Tehran’s lack of cooperation with the IAEA.
The International Atomic Energy Agency informed its members that Tehran told it that it was installing more cascades at the enrichment facilities in Natanz and Fordow, according to a statement sent to AFP.
A diplomatic source deemed this development as “moderate.”
A cascade is a series of centrifuges, machines used in the process of enriching uranium.
The motion brought by Britain, France and Germany — but opposed by China and Russia — at the IAEA’s 35-nation board last week was the first of its kind since November 2022.
The resolution — which Tehran slammed as “hasty and unwise” — came amid an impasse over Iran’s escalating nuclear activities and as Western powers fear Tehran may be seeking to develop a nuclear weapon, a claim Iran denies.
Although symbolic in nature at this stage, the censure motion aims to raise diplomatic pressure on Iran, with the option to potentially refer the issue to the UN Security Council.
In the past, similar resolutions have prompted Tehran to retaliate by removing surveillance cameras and other equipment from its nuclear facilities and ratcheting up its uranium enrichment activities.
According to the IAEA, Iran is the only non-nuclear weapon state to enrich uranium to the high level of 60 percent — just short of weapons-grade — while it keeps accumulating large uranium stockpiles.
The IAEA has said that Tehran has significantly ramped up its nuclear program and now has enough material to build several atomic bombs.
The Islamic republic has gradually broken away from its commitments under the nuclear deal it struck with world powers in 2015.
The landmark deal provided Iran with relief from Western sanctions in exchange for curbs on its atomic program, but it fell apart after the unilateral withdrawal of the United States under then-president Donald Trump in 2018.
Efforts to revive the deal have so far failed.


Houthi opening of Taiz road raises hopes of end to blockades

Houthi opening of Taiz road raises hopes of end to blockades
Updated 13 June 2024
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Houthi opening of Taiz road raises hopes of end to blockades

Houthi opening of Taiz road raises hopes of end to blockades
  • Bus driver says the opening of Al-Houban road reminds him of the fall of the Berlin Wall
  • Yemeni government military officials urged the Houthis to unlock the seven city entrances that remain closed

AL-MUKALLA: The besieged Yemen city of Taiz was filled with jubilation on Thursday as people crossed into the city from Houthi-controlled areas for the first time in years.

In a surprise move, the Houthis opened a key road, raising hopes of an end to the militia’s blockade of Yemen’s main city after almost a decade.

The arrival of the first car from Al-Houban in Taiz sparked huge celebrations among hundreds of Yemenis, who crowded the government side of the city to wave the national flag and sing patriotic chants.

Abdul Kareem Shaiban, the head of the government’s delegation at talks with the Houthis, told Arab News that the opening of the Al-Houban-Taiz city road would alleviate over nine years of suffering for local residents. The move would connect the city to Taiz, Ibb, Sanaa, and other Yemeni centers, allow food and supplies to be delivered, and reduce travel costs.

“Today, we were relieved that our families, mothers, sisters and brothers arrived and exited Taiz after the opening of this road and that the family finally united after years of separation,” Shaiban said. He also called on the Houthis not to harass individuals who crossed into their area, to open the city’s remaining blocked exits, and to lift their siege altogether.

The Houthi militia laid siege to the city of Taiz in early 2015 after their forces were unable to seize control due to stiff opposition from Yemeni government troops and allied resistance fighters.

The group barricaded the city’s major exits, posted snipers and laid landmines to prevent civilians from leaving or entering. The blockade has forced more than two million civilians to use perilous dirt tracks to leave or enter the city.

Local and international relief and rights organizations have long chastised the Houthis for impeding the delivery of essential humanitarian supplies and products to the besieged city, driving people to starvation.

As well as the Al-Houban road, they have reopened a route connecting Marib with Sanaa via Al-Bayda and have committed to consider lifting blockades on additional restricted highways. 

Responding to the Houthi proposal, the Yemeni government in Taiz sent bulldozers to clear trees, dunes, and barriers, while deminers cleared landmines from its side of the route.

Abu Mohammed, a bus driver from Taiz, said the opening of the road reminded him of the fall of the Berlin Wall. He added that he could now travel to his mother and other relatives in the countryside in one hour instead of seven, the length of his journey while the road was closed.

“This is an extremely significant event. This year’s Eid (Al-Adha) will be very joyful since I’m bringing my family from the city to see my mother in the countryside,” he told Arab News joyfully.

Other Yemenis from Taiz residing overseas, including politicians, journalists, businesspeople, and activists, expressed similar excitement.

“Thanks to the productive efforts of all serious people, smiles returned today to brighten the faces of the residents of Taiz, with the reopening of the major artery,” Shawki Ahmed Hayel Saeed, a prominent businessman from Taiz, said on X.

At the same time, Yemeni government military officials urged the Houthis to unlock the seven city entrances that remain closed and allow large vehicles carrying food and other supplies to enter the city via the newly opened route.

“This is a partial lifting of the siege on Taiz because the militia only allowed small cars and pedestrians to enter or leave Taiz through this road and does not yet allow trucks or food supplies to enter the city,” Abdul Basit Al-Baher, a Yemeni military official in Taiz, told Arab News.


Short circuit caused fire in Kuwait building housing foreign workers: fire service

A picture shows a building which was engulfed by fire, in Kuwait City, on June 12, 2024. (AFP)
A picture shows a building which was engulfed by fire, in Kuwait City, on June 12, 2024. (AFP)
Updated 13 June 2024
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Short circuit caused fire in Kuwait building housing foreign workers: fire service

A picture shows a building which was engulfed by fire, in Kuwait City, on June 12, 2024. (AFP)
  • Those killed were mostly Indians, and the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh was received by his Kuwaiti counterpart on Thursday

RIYADH: Kuwait’s fire service said on Thursday that an electrical short circuit caused the blaze that killed 50 people in a building housing foreign workers on Wednesday.

The fire broke out around dawn on Wednesday at the base of the block housing nearly 200 workers in the Mangaf area, south of Kuwait City.

Those killed were mostly Indians, and the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh was received by his Kuwaiti counterpart Sheikh Fahad Yusuf Saud Al-Sabah on Thursday.

Sheikh Fahad expressed his condolences over the tragic incident and Singh thanked Kuwait and its Emir Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah for the help and support extended to the families of those killed and injured in the blaze. 

Kuwaiti authorities said earlier on Thursday that three people had been detained for suspected manslaughter over the fire.