UN peacekeeping chief calls for end to Hezbollah-Israel violence

Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix speaks during an interview at UN Headquarters in New York City on November 20, 2023. (AFP)
Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix speaks during an interview at UN Headquarters in New York City on November 20, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 13 January 2024
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UN peacekeeping chief calls for end to Hezbollah-Israel violence

UN peacekeeping chief calls for end to Hezbollah-Israel violence
  • Jean-Pierre Lacroix says UNIFIL ‘remains steadfast’ in support of peace
  • Israeli army continues use of prohibited phosphorus bombs in border strikes

BEIRUT: The UN’s peacekeeping chief has called for an end to the violence between Hezbollah and Israel following a four-day visit to Lebanon.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the UN’s under-secretary-general for peace operations, warned in a concluding statement: “Each day violence continues along the Blue Line increases the risk of a larger and more devastating conflict.”

He warned that UNIFIL forces, which oversee peacekeeping operations in southern Lebanon, had suffered casualties as a result of the border hostilities.

Lacroix added: “Since the exchanges of fire began, dozens of civilians and journalists have been injured or killed. UNIFIL positions have been hit more than 20 times, with three peacekeepers injured. This is not acceptable and must end.”

FASTFACT

Jean-Pierre Lacroix’s main message in those meetings was ‘the need to calm regional tensions that could have potential implications for peace and stability in Lebanon.’

“Parties and actors involved in the exchanges of fire must avoid harm to civilians and maintain the inviolability of UN personnel and premises.”

He commended the perseverance of the more than 10,000 UNIFIL peacekeepers operating in the south.

UNIFIL is continuing to implement its mandate “despite the unprecedented challenges since 2006,” Lacroix said.

He added: “The mission and its peacekeepers remain steadfast in their continued support for a long-term solution to the conflict.”

Lacroix’s trip to Lebanon took place amid surging tensions along the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel.

The UN official met major Lebanese political and military figures, urging a commitment to a durable political and diplomatic solution.

He met Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib, Defense Minister Maurice Sleem, army chief Gen. Joseph Aoun and General Security chief Maj. Gen. Elias Al-Baysari.

Lacroix also met ambassadors from countries deploying troops to UNIFIL, ambassadors of the permanent members of the UN Security Council and other members of the diplomatic community in Lebanon.

His main message in those meetings was “the need to calm regional tensions that could have potential implications for peace and stability in Lebanon,” a statement said.

After the trip, Lacroix said: “We are deeply concerned about the acts of violence across the Blue Line and the rhetoric that we witnessed since Oct. 8, which indicates the possibility of a broader escalation that should be avoided at all costs.”

Lebanese media reported a cooling of tensions on the southern front over the past two days, with a fall in casualty numbers.

After meeting Lebanese officials on Thursday, US energy envoy Amos Hochstein called for “cooling down the front, in light of the difficulty of a current ceasefire before ending the war on Gaza.”

Hochstein also visited Israel during his tour, aiming to reduce tensions on the northern border and limit confrontations to 8 km on either side, to avoid civilian casualties.

Hezbollah conducted five operations on Friday and declared it had carried out four more operations by Saturday afternoon.

The group targeted the Israeli Al-Assi military site, the Birkat Risha site, the Pranit barracks and its garrison, and the Miskav Am site.

Israeli artillery bombardment was restricted to Lebanese villages near the front, including the outskirts of Khiam, Kafr Kila, Aita Al-Shaab and Hula, within 7 km of the border.

The Israeli military also continued its use of prohibited phosphorus bombs to strike the Khiam Plain and the town of Kafr Kila.

Its airstrikes targeted the outskirts of border towns, particularly Mays Al-Jabal, which was hit more than four times.

Yaroun, Marwahin, Yarin, Tayr Harfa and the surrounding areas of Naqoura were also targeted.

Israeli reconnaissance aircraft continued to fly in the southern airspace, up to the outskirts of the Litani River.

 


Israeli missiles hit site in Iran, Iran and US media report

Israeli missiles hit site in Iran, Iran and US media report
Updated 3 min 43 sec ago
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Israeli missiles hit site in Iran, Iran and US media report

Israeli missiles hit site in Iran, Iran and US media report

DUBAI/WASHINGTON: Israeli missiles have hit a site in Iran, ABC News reported late on Thursday, citing a US official, while Iranian state media reported an explosion in the center of the country, days after Iran launched a retaliatory drone strike on Israel.

Commercial flights began diverting their routes early Friday morning over western Iran without explanation as one semiofficial news agency in the Islamic Republic claimed there had been “explosions” heard over the city of Isfahan.

Some Emirates and Flydubai flights that were flying over Iran early on Friday made sudden sharp turns away from the airspace, according to flight paths shown on tracking website Flightradar24.

“Flights over Isfahan, Shiraz and Tehran cities have been suspended,” state media reported.

Israel had said it would retaliate against Iran’s weekend attack, which involved hundreds of drones and missiles in retaliation for a suspected Israeli strike on its embassy compound in Syria. Most of the Iranian drones and missiles were downed before reaching Israeli territory.

The semiofficial Fars news agency reported on the sound of explosions over Isfahan near its international airport. It offered no explanation for the blast.

Several Iranian nuclear sites are located in Isfahan province, including Natanz, centerpiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment program. Isfahan, Isome 350 kilometers (215 miles) south of Iran’s capital, Tehran, is also home to a major air base for the Iranian military.

Unconfirmed posts on social media were saying at least seven Iranian cities were hit by strikes.

Iran’s government offered no immediate comment. The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

The state-run IRNA news agency reported that Iran fired air defense batteries early Friday morning across several provinces after reports of explosions near the city of Isfahan.

It did not elaborate on what caused the batteries to fire, though people across the area reported hearing the sounds.
The semiofficial Fars and Tasnim news agencies reported the sound of blasts, without giving a cause. State television acknowledged “loud noise” in the area.

Hossein Dalirian, a spokesman for Iran’s civilian space program, said on the X social media platform that several small “quadcopter” drones had been shot down. It wasn’t immediately clear where that happened or if it was part of the ongoing incident in Iran.

Iran told the United Nations Security Council on Thursday that Israel “must be compelled to stop any further military adventurism against our interests” as the UN secretary-general warned that the Middle East was in a “moment of maximum peril.”
Israel had said it was going to retaliate against Iran’s April 13 missile and drone attack.

Analysts and observers have been raising concerns about the risks of the Israel-Gaza war spreading into the rest of the region.

Oil prices and jumped on the reports of the Israeli strike. Brent crude futures rose 2 percent to $88.86 a barrel, the dollar gained broadly, gold rose 1 percent and S&P 500 futures dropped 1 percent.
Israel’s assault on Gaza began after Palestinian Islamist group Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200, according to Israeli tallies. Israel’s military offensive has killed over 33,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the local health ministry.
Iran-backed groups have declared support for Palestinians, launching attacks from Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq.


Hamas slams US veto of Palestinian UN membership bid

Hamas slams US veto of Palestinian UN membership bid
Updated 19 April 2024
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Hamas slams US veto of Palestinian UN membership bid

Hamas slams US veto of Palestinian UN membership bid

PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES: Palestinian militant group Hamas condemned on Friday the US veto that ended a long-shot Palestinian bid for full United Nations membership.
“Hamas condemns the American veto at the Security Council of the draft resolution granting Palestine full membership in the United Nations,” the Gaza Strip rulers said in a statement, which comes amid growing international concern over the toll inflicted by the war in the besieged Palestinian territory.
The veto by Israel’s main ally and military backer had been expected ahead of the vote, which took place more than six months into Israel’s offensive in Gaza, in retaliation for the deadly October 7 attack by Hamas militants.
Twelve countries voted in favor of the draft resolution, which was introduced by Algeria and “recommends to the General Assembly that the State of Palestine be admitted to membership of the United Nations.” Britain and Switzerland abstained.


Gazans search for remains after deadly Rafah strike

Gazans search for remains after deadly Rafah strike
Updated 18 April 2024
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Gazans search for remains after deadly Rafah strike

Gazans search for remains after deadly Rafah strike

An Israeli strike hit the home where a displaced Palestinian family was sheltering in the southern city of Rafah, relatives and neighbors told AFP as they scraped at the soil with their hands.

Al-Arja said the blast killed at least 10 people.

“We retrieved the remains of children and women, finding arms and feet. They were all torn to pieces.

“This is horrifying. It’s not normal,” he said, hauling concrete and broken olive branches from the wreckage. “The entire world is complicit.”

Soon after the war began on Oct. 7, Israel told Palestinians living in the north of Gaza to move to “safe zones” in the territory’s south, like Rafah.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has since vowed to invade the city, where around 1.5 million people live in shelters, more than half the territory’s population.

“How is Rafah a safe place?” said Zeyad Ayyad, a relative of the victims. He sighed as he cradled a fragment of the remains.

“I heard the bombing last night and then went back to sleep. I did not think it hit my aunt’s house.”

The search for remains was long and painful. The strike left a huge crater and children picked through the rubble while neighbors removed debris, tarpaulin, a pink top.

“We can see them under the rubble and we’re unable to retrieve them,” Al-Arja said. 

“These are people who came from the north because it was said the south is safe.”

“They struck without any warning,” he said.

In a separate strike on the house in Rafah’s Al-Salam neighborhood overnight on Tuesday, rescue crews recovered the corpses of eight family members, including five children and two women, Gaza’s civil defense service said.

“An Israeli rocket hit a house of displaced people,” said resident Sami Nyrab. 

“My sister’s son-in-law, her daughter, and her children were having dinner when an Israeli missile demolished their house over their heads.”


Dubai clears up after epic rains swamp glitzy city

Dubai clears up after epic rains swamp glitzy city
Updated 18 April 2024
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Dubai clears up after epic rains swamp glitzy city

Dubai clears up after epic rains swamp glitzy city
  • The rains were the heaviest experienced by the UAE in the 75 years that records have been kept

DUBAI: Dubai was busy on Thursday clearing its waterlogged roads and drying out flooded homes two days after a record storm deposited a year’s worth of rainfall in a day.

Dubai International Airport, a major travel hub, struggled to clear a backlog of flights, and many roads were still flooded in the aftermath of Tuesday’s deluge.

The rains were the heaviest experienced by the UAE in the 75 years that records have been kept. 

They brought much of the country to a standstill and caused significant damage.

Flooding trapped residents in traffic, offices, and homes. 

Many reported leaks at their homes, while footage circulated on social media showed malls overrun with water pouring from roofs.

Traffic remained heavily disrupted. 

A highway through Dubai was reduced to a single lane in one direction, while the main road connecting Dubai with Abu Dhabi was closed in the Abu Dhabi direction.

“This was like nothing else. It was like an alien invasion,” said Jonathan Richards, a Dubai resident from Britain.

“I woke up the other morning to people in kayaks, pet dogs, pet cats, and suitcases outside my house.”

Another resident, Rinku Makhecha, said the rain swamped her newly renovated house, which she moved into two weeks ago.

“My entire living room is just like ... all my furniture is floating right now,” she said.

In Dubai’s streets, some vehicles, including buses, could be seen almost entirely submerged in water. 

Long queues formed at petrol stations.

Dubai Airport had not resumed normal operation after the storm flooded taxiways, forcing flight diversions, delays, and cancellations.

Dubai Airport Chief Operating Officer Majed Al Joker told Al Arabiya TV he expected Dubai International Airport to reach 60 to 70 percent capacity by the end of Thursday and full operational capacity within 24 hours.

The airport struggled to get food to stranded passengers, with nearby roads flooded and overcrowding limited access to those who had confirmed bookings.

While some roadways into hard-hit communities remain flooded, delivery services across Dubai, whose residents are used to ordering everything at the click of a mouse, slowly began returning to the streets.

Following Tuesday’s events, questions were raised about whether cloud seeding, a process that the UAE frequently conducts, could have caused the heavy rains.

A UAE government agency overseeing cloud seeding — manipulating clouds to increase rainfall — denied conducting such operations before the storm.

President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said in a statement that he had ordered authorities to assess the damage and support families impacted by the storm.

Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum said on X that the safety of citizens, residents, and visitors was the utmost priority.

“At a meeting with government officials in Dubai, we set directives to prepare comprehensive plans in response to natural crises such as the unexpected current weather conditions,” he said.


Hezbollah says 2 fighters killed in Israeli strikes

Hezbollah says 2 fighters killed in Israeli strikes
Updated 19 April 2024
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Hezbollah says 2 fighters killed in Israeli strikes

Hezbollah says 2 fighters killed in Israeli strikes
  • GPS interference affecting both sides of Lebanese border, source says

BEIRUT: Two Hezbollah fighters were killed on Wednesday as Israel intensified strikes on south Lebanon following an attack by the Iran-backed group that wounded 14 Israeli soldiers.

Israel and Hezbollah have exchanged near-daily cross-border fire since Palestinian militant group Hamas attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7, triggering war in the Gaza Strip.

A security source said: “Hezbollah’s complex attack against the Israeli army in Wadi Al-Aramshe early on Wednesday, which led to the injury of 14 Israeli soldiers, including six with serious injuries, was absorbed by the Israeli side after the painful blow it directed at the party by assassinating three of its field officials.”

The Israeli army responded to the Wadi Al-Aramshe operation on Wednesday night by targeting the town of Iaat in the Bekaa Valley, 5 km from Baalbek. A drone strike hit a warehouse belonging to a member of the Al-Zein family, resulting in light wounds to one civilian.

Israel continues to jam GPS around the Lebanese southern border region, especially during military operations.

A security source said: “This interference negatively affects both the Israeli army and Hezbollah in targeting objectives.”

Hezbollah announced a series of operations since dawn on Thursday, targeting Israeli military sites opposite the Lebanese border.

The group targeted an Israeli force attempting to withdraw a military vehicle that was targeted on Wednesday at Metula, opposite the Lebanese town of Kfarkela.

At dawn, Israeli soldiers in Al-Malikiyah, opposite the Lebanese town of Aitaroun, were targeted by Hezbollah using missiles.

The group also targeted Israeli soldiers in Al-Marj.

“After careful monitoring and anticipation of the enemy’s movement at Al-Marj … they were targeted with missile weapons and suffered a direct hit; some died while others were injured,” the group said in a statement.

Hezbollah attacked Israeli soldiers using missiles in the Hanita forest, opposite the Lebanese town of Alma Al-Shaab.

On Thursday, the party mourned two members killed in Wednesday night’s shelling of Kfarkela. Mohammed Jamil Al-Shami from Kfarkela and Ali Ahmed Hamadeh from Doueir were killed in the Israeli operation.

The Israeli army targeted Lebanese towns with heavy shelling until dawn on Thursday. The town of Khiam was a priority target; correspondents in the area counted seven strikes and 128 artillery and phosphorous shells impacting between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m.

A young man from Habboush, Ahmed Hassan Al-Ahmed, was killed in the shelling and mourned by residents of his town.

Jets struck Hezbollah targets in Khiam, including infrastructure and two military buildings, the Israeli army said.

Israeli drones targeted a house on the outskirts of Markaba and in Blida on Thursday, with casualties reported.

The Israeli army also targeted Kfarkela with two missiles from a drone, and with artillery and phosphorous shells. From Metula opposite the border, Israeli soldiers combed the town with heavy machine guns.

The outskirts of Dhayra, Al-Bustan and Aita Al-Shaab were hit by gunfire from the Israeli position in Birkat Risha and other positions adjacent to the Blue Line.

German airline Lufthansa announced on Thursday it had extended the suspension of flights to Beirut and Tehran until April 30.

The decision was taken on the night of the Iranian attack on Israel last weekend.

UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tenenti said that the organization’s peacekeepers “remain in their positions and carry out their duties, as well as our civilian staff.”

He added: “The safety and security of UN staff and their families are our priority.”