EU foreign policy chief holds talks in Beirut, warns against escalation of Gaza conflict

Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bouhabib, left, gestures as he welcomes European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell before their meeting in Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024. (AP)
Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bouhabib, left, gestures as he welcomes European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell before their meeting in Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 06 January 2024
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EU foreign policy chief holds talks in Beirut, warns against escalation of Gaza conflict

EU foreign policy chief holds talks in Beirut, warns against escalation of Gaza conflict
  • Earlier in the day, Hezbollah responded to Israel’s assassination of Hamas deputy leader Saleh Al-Arouri in Beirut on Tuesday by bombing an Israeli air control base

BEIRUT: EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has warned that an expansion of the war in Gaza into a wider regional conflict, especially one that involves Lebanon, must be prevented.

“It is imperative to avoid regional escalation in the Middle East,” he said during a press conference in Beirut on Saturday with Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib. “It is absolutely necessary to avoid Lebanon being dragged into a regional conflict.”

Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said his efforts are focused on preventing this from happening.

After a meeting with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati in Beirut, Borrell said: “The priority is to avoid regional escalation and push diplomatic efforts to create the conditions to reach a just and lasting peace between Israel and Palestine and in the region.”

Mikati told Borrell the Lebanese people are “advocates of peace, not war, and we seek to achieve stability” and “we are making the necessary contacts in this regard because any large-scale explosion (of hostilities) in southern Lebanon will lead the region to a widespread explosion.”

He said Lebanon “is committed to implementing UN Resolution 1701, and its full implementation first calls for Israel to stop violating Lebanese sovereignty and to withdraw from the Lebanese territories that it still occupies.”

Resolution 1701 was approved by the UN Security Council in August 2006 with the aim of resolving the war that year between Israel and Hezbollah.

During a meeting with Nabih Berri, the speaker of Lebanon’s parliament, Borrell reportedly expressed “great concern about the war continuing in the Gaza Strip,” his “keenness to not expand it toward Lebanon,” and his “fear of Israeli escalation.”

Borrell said “stopping the War on the Gaza Strip must be the priority since it is the gateway to restoring calm to Lebanon. It will be then easy to discuss the full implementation of the provisions of Resolution 1701.”

Berri told Borrell that Lebanon is committed to international legitimacy and all relevant UN resolutions, in particular Resolution 1701, the implementation of which begins with Israel halting its aggression and withdrawing from the Lebanese territory it occupies.

He added: “War can be avoided and we must avoid it. Diplomacy can prevail to find a solution.”

Borrell said “it is necessary to avoid escalation in the Middle East and dragging Lebanon into war, which is the last thing (the country) needs.

“Lebanon is on the front line of the current conflict. It enjoys stability and can preserve its interests and independence, thus contributing to regional stability.” He also emphasized the need to implement Resolution 1701.

Borrell also met Gen. Aroldo Lazaro, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon’s head of mission and force commander, to discuss the current situation along the Blue Line, the demarcation line between Lebanon and Israel established by the UN in June 2000, and the importance of efforts to prevent any escalation of violence.

UNIFIL’s media office said: “The pursuit of a diplomatic solution is not only possible but also necessary.”

Borrell talks came shortly after Hezbollah targeted Israel’s Meron air control base with 62 missiles on Saturday, which the group said resulted in “direct and confirmed hits.” It described the attack as an “initial response” to the assassination by Israel of Hamas deputy leader Saleh Al-Arouri in a southern suburb of Beirut on Tuesday.

Hours earlier, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah had said during a speech that a response to the attack that killed Al-Arouri would “inevitably come, and it will be determined on the ground.”

A political observer described Hezbollah’s comment that the response was only an initial one as “a convenient tactic for the party that does not deviate from the rules of engagement adopted on the southern Lebanese front for the past 91 days.”

Explaining the reason for choosing the target of its attack, Hezbollah said: “Meron air control base is located on the top of Mount Jarmaq in northern occupied Palestine, the highest mountain peak in occupied Palestine. It is the only center for management, surveillance and air control in northern Israel and no major alternative exists.”

The base “is concerned with organizing all air operations toward Syria, Lebanon, Turkiye, Cyprus and the northern part of the eastern basin of the Mediterranean Sea” and “one of two main bases in all of Israel — Meron in the north and Mitzpe Ramon in the south.”

The Israeli army on Saturday morning ordered the closure of all streets and intersections along the border with Lebanon, and stepped up airstrikes on border areas in Lebanon. These strikes extended into a new location, between Kawthariyat Al-Siyad and the town of Sharqiya in Sidon district. Three strikes took place there and it was the first time such Israeli attacks have crossed the Litani River.

Israeli airstrikes also hit the surrounding areas of Aita Al-Shaab, Yaroun, Beit Lev, Khiam, Kafr Kila, Al-Housh, Burj Al-Muluk, Markaba, Rab El-Thalathine, and Al-Adaysah. Drone attacks targeted the towns of Marwahin and Yarin more than once, while artillery shells were fired at areas on the outskirts of the cities of Marwahin and Al-Dhahira. Israeli artillery also targeted the western outskirts of the towns of Mays Al-Jabal, Wadi Al-Saluki and Hula.

Hezbollah said its forces successfully struck a site in the town of Metulla, near the border, and army barracks in Zarit, and targeted a group of enemy soldiers near Honen Barracks. They also attacked a military site in the Margolet settlement, using an anti-tank missile, and a site at Bayad Blida.

A Syrian refugee, Fatima Al-Aoush, was reportedly injured in one Israeli attack at the Tower of Kings in Lebanon. The town of Yaron was also targeted by Israeli drones, and Khiam was reportedly struck by phosphorus bombs, as a result of which two civilians suffered burns.

Fajr Forces, the military wing of Jamaa Islamiyya, said that they bombed the city of Kiryat Shmona on Friday evening.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah mourned four of its members killed in the fighting: Mustafa Hassan Saad from Bint Jbeil, Khader Muhanna from Kafr Kila, Abdullah Al-Asmar from Al-Adisa, and Abbas Hassan Rammal.

 

 


Israeli forces kill senior Palestinian militant in Jenin: army

Israeli forces kill senior Palestinian militant in Jenin: army
Updated 56 min 12 sec ago
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Israeli forces kill senior Palestinian militant in Jenin: army

Israeli forces kill senior Palestinian militant in Jenin: army
  • The strike by a fighter jet and helicopter killed Islam Khamayseh
  • Khamayseh was a leader of the Jenin Battalion

RAMALLAH: The Israeli military said on Saturday it killed a senior Palestinian militant during an air strike on an “operations center” in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.
“A number of significant terrorists were inside the compound,” the Israeli Defense Forces said in a statement posted to Telegram.
It said the strike by a fighter jet and helicopter killed Islam Khamayseh, a “senior terrorist operative in the Jenin Camp” who was responsible for a series of attacks in the area.
The Al-Quds Brigade, the armed wing of militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, confirmed in a statement that Khamayseh was killed and several others wounded during an Israeli raid on Friday night.
It said Khamayseh was a leader of the Jenin Battalion, which is affiliated with Islamic Jihad.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health said one person was killed and eight were wounded and receiving hospital treatment as a result of Israel’s operation in Jenin on Friday night.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967 and its troops routinely carry out incursions into areas such as Jenin, which are nominally under the Palestinian Authority’s security control.
The West Bank has seen a recent surge in violence, particularly since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on October 7.
More than 500 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers across the West Bank since October 7, according to Palestinian officials, and at least 20 Israelis have been killed over the same period, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
The Gaza Strip has been at war since Hamas’s unprecedented attack on October 7 resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip has killed at least 35,303 people, most of them civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.


Fierce fighting in northern Gaza as aid starts to roll off US-built pier

Fierce fighting in northern Gaza as aid starts to roll off US-built pier
Updated 18 May 2024
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Fierce fighting in northern Gaza as aid starts to roll off US-built pier

Fierce fighting in northern Gaza as aid starts to roll off US-built pier
  • Residents say Israeli bulldozers demolishing homes, shops in Jabalia
  • Hamas says US floating aid pier no substitute for end to Israeli siege

CAIRO: Israeli forces battled Hamas fighters in the narrow alleyways of Jabalia in northern Gaza on Friday in some of the fiercest engagements since they returned to the area a week ago, while in the south militants attacked tanks massing around Rafah.

Residents said Israeli armor had thrust as far as the market at the heart of Jabalia, the largest of Gaza’s eight historic refugee camps, and that bulldozers were demolishing homes and shops in the path of the advance.
“Tanks and planes are wiping out residential districts and markets, shops, restaurants, everything. It is all happening before the one-eyed world,” Ayman Rajab, a resident of western Jabalia, said via a chat app.
Israel had said its forces cleared Jabalia months earlier in the Gaza war, triggered by the deadly Hamas-led attacks on southern Israel on Oct. 7, but said last week it was returning to prevent Islamist militants re-grouping there.
In southern Gaza bordering Egypt, thick smoke rose over Rafah, where an escalating Israeli assault has sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing from what was one of the few remaining places of refuge.
“People are terrified and they’re trying to get away,” Jens Laerke, UN humanitarian office spokesperson, said in Geneva, adding that most were following orders to move north toward the coast but that there were no safe routes or destinations.
As the fighting raged, the US military said trucks started moving aid ashore from a temporary pier, the first to reach the besieged enclave by sea in weeks.
The World Food Programme, which expects food, water, shelter and medical supplies to arrive through the floating dock, said the aid was transported to its warehouses in Deir Al Balah in central Gaza and told partners it was ready for distribution.

The United Nations earlier reiterated that truck convoys by land — disrupted this month by the assault on Rafah — were still the most efficient way of getting aid in.
“To stave off the horrors of famine, we must use the fastest and most obvious route to reach the people of Gaza – and for that, we need access by land now,” deputy UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said.
US aid was arriving in Cyprus for delivery to Gaza via the new pier, Washington said.
Hamas demanded an end to Israel’s siege and accused Washington of complicity with an Israeli policy of “starvation and blockade.”
The White House said US national security adviser Jake Sullivan would visit Israel on Sunday and stress the need for a targeted offensive against Hamas militants rather than a full-scale assault on Rafah.
A group of US medical workers left the Gaza Strip after getting stuck at the hospital where they were providing care, the White House said.

Humanitarian fears
The Israel Defense Forces said troops killed more than 60 militants in Jabalia in recent days and located a weapons warehouse in a “divisional-level offensive.”
A divisional operation would typically involve several brigades of thousands of troops each, making it one of the biggest of the war.
“The 7th Brigade’s fire control center directed dozens of airstrikes, eliminated terrorists and destroyed terrorist infrastructure,” the IDF said.
At least 35,303 Palestinians have now been killed, according to figures from the enclave’s health ministry, while aid agencies have warned repeatedly of widespread hunger and dire shortages of fuel and medical supplies.
Israel says it must capture Rafah to destroy Hamas and ensure the country’s safety. In the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, 1,200 people died in Israel and 253 were taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies. About 128 hostages are still being held in Gaza.
Israel said on Friday that its forces retrieved the bodies of three people killed at the Nova music festival in Israel on Oct. 7 and taken into Gaza.
In response, Hamas said negotiations were the only way for Israel to retrieve hostages alive: “The enemy will not get its prisoners except as lifeless corpses or through an honorable exchange deal for our people and our resistance.”
Talks on a ceasefire have been at an impasse.

‘Tragic war’
Israeli tanks and warplanes bombarded parts of Rafah on Friday, while the armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad said they fired anti-tank missiles and mortars at forces massing to the east, southeast and inside the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.
UNRWA, the main UN aid agency for Palestinians, said more than 630,000 people had fled Rafah since the offensive began on May 6.
“They’re moving to areas where there is no water — we’ve got to truck it in — and people aren’t getting enough food,” Sam Rose, director of planning at UNRWA, told Reuters on Friday by telephone from Rafah, where he said it was eerily quiet.
At the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, where South Africa has accused Israel of violating the Genocide Convention, Israeli Justice Ministry official Gilad Noam defended the operation.
The South African legal team, which set out its case for fresh emergency measures the previous day, framed the Israeli military operation as part of a genocidal plan aimed at bringing about the destruction of the Palestinian people.


Fierce fighting in northern Gaza as aid starts to roll off US-built pier

Fierce fighting in northern Gaza as aid starts to roll off US-built pier
Updated 18 May 2024
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Fierce fighting in northern Gaza as aid starts to roll off US-built pier

Fierce fighting in northern Gaza as aid starts to roll off US-built pier
  • Residents say Israeli bulldozers demolishing homes and shops in Jabalia in the path of the advance
  • Hamas says US floating aid pier is no substitute for end of Israeli siege of Gaza

CAIRO: Israeli forces battled Hamas fighters in the narrow alleyways of Jabalia in northern Gaza on Friday in some of the fiercest engagements since they returned to the area a week ago, while in the south militants attacked tanks massing around Rafah.

Residents said Israeli armor had thrust as far as the market at the heart of Jabalia, the largest of Gaza’s eight historic refugee camps, and that bulldozers were demolishing homes and shops in the path of the advance.
“Tanks and planes are wiping out residential districts and markets, shops, restaurants, everything. It is all happening before the one-eyed world,” Ayman Rajab, a resident of western Jabalia, said via a chat app.
Israel had said its forces cleared Jabalia months earlier in the Gaza war, triggered by the deadly Hamas-led attacks on southern Israel on Oct. 7, but said last week it was returning to prevent Islamist militants re-grouping there.
In southern Gaza bordering Egypt, thick smoke rose over Rafah, where an escalating Israeli assault has sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing from what was one of the few remaining places of refuge.
“People are terrified and they’re trying to get away,” Jens Laerke, UN humanitarian office spokesperson, said in Geneva, adding that most were following orders to move north toward the coast but that there were no safe routes or destinations.
As the fighting raged, the US military said trucks started moving aid ashore from a temporary pier, the first to reach the besieged enclave by sea in weeks.
The World Food Programme, which expects food, water, shelter and medical supplies to arrive through the floating dock, said the aid was transported to its warehouses in Deir Al Balah in central Gaza and told partners it was ready for distribution.

Ships are seen near a temporary floating pier built to receive humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip in Gaza Beach on May 18, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces/Handout via REUTERS)

The United Nations earlier reiterated that truck convoys by land — disrupted this month by the assault on Rafah — were still the most efficient way of getting aid in.
“To stave off the horrors of famine, we must use the fastest and most obvious route to reach the people of Gaza – and for that, we need access by land now,” deputy UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said.
US aid was arriving in Cyprus for delivery to Gaza via the new pier, Washington said.
Hamas demanded an end to Israel’s siege and accused Washington of complicity with an Israeli policy of “starvation and blockade.”
The White House said US national security adviser Jake Sullivan would visit Israel on Sunday and stress the need for a targeted offensive against Hamas militants rather than a full-scale assault on Rafah.
A group of US medical workers left the Gaza Strip after getting stuck at the hospital where they were providing care, the White House said.

Ships are seen near a temporary floating pier built to receive humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip in Gaza Beach on May 18, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces/Handout via REUTERS)

Humanitarian fears
The Israel Defense Forces said troops killed more than 60 militants in Jabalia in recent days and located a weapons warehouse in a “divisional-level offensive.”
A divisional operation would typically involve several brigades of thousands of troops each, making it one of the biggest of the war.
“The 7th Brigade’s fire control center directed dozens of airstrikes, eliminated terrorists and destroyed terrorist infrastructure,” the IDF said.
At least 35,303 Palestinians have now been killed, according to figures from the enclave’s health ministry, while aid agencies have warned repeatedly of widespread hunger and dire shortages of fuel and medical supplies.
Israel says it must capture Rafah to destroy Hamas and ensure the country’s safety. In the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, 1,200 people died in Israel and 253 were taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies. About 128 hostages are still being held in Gaza.
Israel said on Friday that its forces retrieved the bodies of three people killed at the Nova music festival in Israel on Oct. 7 and taken into Gaza.
In response, Hamas said negotiations were the only way for Israel to retrieve hostages alive: “The enemy will not get its prisoners except as lifeless corpses or through an honorable exchange deal for our people and our resistance.”
Talks on a ceasefire have been at an impasse.

’Tragic war’
Israeli tanks and warplanes bombarded parts of Rafah on Friday, while the armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad said they fired anti-tank missiles and mortars at forces massing to the east, southeast and inside the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.
UNRWA, the main UN aid agency for Palestinians, said more than 630,000 people had fled Rafah since the offensive began on May 6.
“They’re moving to areas where there is no water — we’ve got to truck it in — and people aren’t getting enough food,” Sam Rose, director of planning at UNRWA, told Reuters on Friday by telephone from Rafah, where he said it was eerily quiet.
At the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, where South Africa has accused Israel of violating the Genocide Convention, Israeli Justice Ministry official Gilad Noam defended the operation.
The South African legal team, which set out its case for fresh emergency measures the previous day, framed the Israeli military operation as part of a genocidal plan aimed at bringing about the destruction of the Palestinian people.


WHO says no medical supplies received in Gaza for 10 days

WHO says no medical supplies received in Gaza for 10 days
Updated 18 May 2024
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WHO says no medical supplies received in Gaza for 10 days

WHO says no medical supplies received in Gaza for 10 days

GENEVA: The World Health Organization said Friday that it has received no medical supplies in the Gaza Strip for 10 days as Israel pursues a new offensive against Hamas.
Israel’s closure of the Rafah crossing into Gaza has caused “a difficult situation,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said. “The last medical supplies that we got in Gaza was before May 6.”
Israeli troops entered the city of Rafah on May 7 to extend their offensive against Hamas over the militant group’s attacks seven months earlier. They closed the Rafah crossing into Egypt that is crucial for humanitarian supplies.
With UN agencies warning of a growing risk of famine in Gaza, the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings from Israel are also virtually shut down.
Jasarevic said the biggest concern was over fuel needed to keep clinics and hospitals running. Gaza’s health facilities need up to 1.8 million liters of fuel a month to keep operating.
The spokesman said only 159,000 liters had entered Rafah since the border closure. “This is clearly not sufficient,” he added, highlighting how only 13 out of 36 hospitals across the Palestinian territory were now “partially” operating.
“Hospitals still functioning are running out of fuel, and that puts so many lives at danger,” said Jasarevic. “Current military operations in Rafah are putting countless lives at risk.”
The Hamas attack on October 7 resulted in the death of more than 1,170 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures. Out of 252 people taken hostage, 128 are still held inside Gaza, but the army says 38 have died.
More than 35,300 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the Palestinian territory since the war broke out, according to data provided by the health ministry of Hamas-run Gaza.


Hezbollah uses new weapons in Israel attacks

Hezbollah uses new weapons in Israel attacks
Updated 18 May 2024
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Hezbollah uses new weapons in Israel attacks

Hezbollah uses new weapons in Israel attacks
  • The Israeli army said three soldiers were wounded in an attack on Thursday
  • Hezbollah has a large arsenal of weapons, that it has expanded significantly in recent years

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s powerful armed group Hezbollah announced on Thursday it had used a drone capable of firing rockets at a military position in one of its latest attacks in northern Israel.
Israel and Hezbollah have been involved in near-daily exchanges of fire since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out on October 7.
Hezbollah announced it had used an “armed attack drone” equipped with two S-5 rockets on a military position in Metula in northern Israel.
The Iran-backed group published a video showing the drone heading toward the position, where tanks were stationed, with the footage showing the moment the two rockets were released followed by the drone exploding.
It was the first time they had announced the use of this type of weapon since the cross-border exchanges with Israel erupted in October.
The Israeli army said three soldiers were wounded in Thursday’s attack.
Hezbollah-affiliated media said that the drone’s warhead consisted of between 25 and 30 kilogrammes (55 and 66 pounds) of high explosive.
Military analyst Khalil Helou told AFP that the use of drones offers Hezbollah the ability to launch the attack from within Israeli territory, as they can fly at low altitudes, evading detection by radar.
Hezbollah also announced on Wednesday that it had launched a strike using “attack drones” on a base west of the northern Israeli town of Tiberias.
That attack was the group’s deepest into Israeli territory since fighting flared, analysts said.
In recent weeks, the Lebanese militant group has announced attacks that it has described as “complex,” using attack drones and missiles to hit military positions, as well as troops and vehicles.
It has also used guided and heavy missiles, such as Iran’s Burkan and Almas missiles, as well as the Jihad Mughniyeh missile, named after a Hezbollah leader killed by Israeli fire in Syria in 2015.
Helou, a retired general, said that depite its new weaponry, Hezbollah still relied primarily on Kornet anti-tank missiles with a range of just five to eight kilometers.
They also use the Konkurs anti-tank missile, which can penetrate Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.
Hezbollah has a large arsenal of weapons, that it has expanded significantly in recent years.
The group has said repeatedly that it has advanced weapons capable of striking deep inside Israeli territory.
Analysts have described the skirmishes between Israel and Hamas as a war of “attrition,” in which each side is testing the other, as well as their own tactics.
Hezbollah has expanded the range of its attacks in response to strikes targeting its munitions and infrastructure, or its military commanders.
One such Israeli strike on Wednesday targeted the village of Brital in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa Valley, with the Israeli army later announcing it had hit a “terror target related to Hezbollah’s precision missile project.”
Helou said Hezbollah’s targeting of the base near Tiberias and its use of the rocket-equipped drone “can be interpreted as a response to the attack on Brital, but it remains a shy response compared to the group’s capabilities.”
He suggested that the Israeli strike likely hit a depot for Iranian missiles that had not yet been used by Hezbollah.
“Hezbollah does not wish to expand the circle of the conflict,” Helou said.
“What is happening is a war of attrition through which it is trying to distract the Israeli army” from Gaza and seeking to prevent it from “launching a wide-ranging attack on Lebanon.”