Pakistan hits 'terrorist hideouts' in airstrike on Iran

Pakistan hits 'terrorist hideouts' in airstrike on Iran
The IRGC have launched missile attacks on multiple “terrorist” targets in Syria and in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, Iranian state media reported on January 16. (AFP)
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Updated 18 January 2024
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Pakistan hits 'terrorist hideouts' in airstrike on Iran

Pakistan hits 'terrorist hideouts' in airstrike on Iran

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan conducted strikes inside Iran on Thursday, targeting separatist Baloch militants, its foreign ministry said, two days after Tehran said it had attacked the bases of another group within Pakistani territory.
The neighbors have had rocky relations in the past, but the strikes are the highest-profile cross-border intrusion in recent years, for which Tehran has demanded an explanation, the semi-official Tasnim news agency said.
The Iran-Pakistan exchange deepens worries about instability across the Middle East since the war between Israel and Hamas started on Oct. 7, with Iran’s allies also entering the fray from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-haq Kakar will cut short a visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos and return home, a foreign ministry spokesperson said.
Earlier, Iranian media said several missiles hit a village in the Sistan-Baluchestan province that borders Pakistan, killing three women and four children, all non-Iranians.
“A number of terrorists were killed during the intelligence-based operation,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said, describing it as a “series of highly coordinated and specifically targeted precision military strikes against terrorist hideouts.”
“Pakistan fully respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the ministry added in its statement.
“The sole objective of today’s act was in pursuit of Pakistan’s own security and national interest, which is paramount and cannot be compromised.”
Tehran has asked Islamabad for an explanation about the strikes, Iran’s Tasnim news agency said, citing an unidentified official. Pakistan’s charge’d affaires, its most senior diplomat in Tehran, has been summoned, Iranian media said.
A Pakistani intelligence source told Reuters the strikes were carried out by military aircraft.
“Our forces have conducted strikes to target Baloch militants inside Iran,” said the official in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.
“The targeted militants belong to BLF,” he added, referring to the Baloch Liberation Front, which seeks independence for Pakistan’s Balochistan province.
Iran said on Tuesday it had hit Israel-linked militant bases inside Pakistan. Both targeted groups are ethnically Baloch, but it was not clear if they co-operate.
Nuclear-armed Pakistan said civilians had been hit and two children killed, warning of consequences for which Tehran would be responsible.
Islamabad recalled its ambassador from Iran on Wednesday in protest against what it called a “blatant breach” of its sovereignty.
Escalation fears
Iran had been flexing its muscles in the region, even before its cross-border incursion into Pakistan.
It launched strikes on Syria against what Tehran said were Islamic State sites and Iraq, where it said it had struck an Israeli espionage center. Baghdad recalled its ambassador from Tehran.
The neighbors had appeared to be improving ties, with Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and Pakistan’s Kakar meeting at Davos this week, before the Iranian strikes on Pakistan.
Pakistan’s comments after its retaliatory strikes signal a desire to keep the row contained, but analysts warned it could get out of hand.
“Iran’s motivation for attacking Pakistan remains opaque but in light of broader Iranian behavior in the region it can escalate,” Asfandyr Mir, a senior expert on South Asia security at the US Institute of Peace, told Reuters.
“What will cause anxiety in Tehran is that Pakistan has crossed a line by hitting inside Iranian territory, a threshold that even the US and Israel have been careful to not breach.”
Khwaja Asif, Pakistan’s defense minister until August, said the action was retaliatory.
“A measured response has been given and it was important,” he told Geo TV. “There should be ongoing efforts on the side that this doesn’t escalate.”
Both targeted militant groups operate in an area that includes Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan and Iran’s southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan province. Both are restive, mineral-rich and largely underdeveloped.
The BLF, which Islamabad targeted inside Iran, is waging an armed insurgency against the Pakistani state.
This includes hitting Chinese citizens and investments in Balochistan, which is Pakistan’s largest province by land mass, but its least populated and developed. Large portions are lawless.
The Jaish al Adl (JAA), which Iran targeted, is also an ethnic militant group, but with Sunni Islamist leanings that primarily Shiite Iran sees as a threat.
The group has carried out attacks in Iran against its powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps.
In its previous incarnation as Jundallah, the group had pledged allegiance to Iraq- and Syria-based jihadist group Daesh.


Saudi Arabia’s Prince Faisal meets with French foreign minister Sejourne

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Faisal meets with French foreign minister Sejourne
Updated 52 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia’s Prince Faisal meets with French foreign minister Sejourne

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Faisal meets with French foreign minister Sejourne
  • The two ministers discussed Saudi-French relations
  • Also discussed the situation in Gaza

PARIS: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan met with the French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Stephane Sejourne in Paris on Friday.

During the meeting, the two ministers discussed Saudi-French relations and ways to enhance them and ways to improve coordination on various issues of mutual concern, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The two ministers also discussed the situation in Gaza and its surroundings and the need to deliver humanitarian assistance to the civilians in the enclave.

The meeting was also attended by Saudi Ambassador to France Fahd bin Mayouf Al-Ruwaili, the Foreign Minister's office director general Abdulrahman Al-Dawood, and ministry Advisor Manal Radwan.


What We Are Reading Today: The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality

What We Are Reading Today: The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality
Updated 8 min 49 sec ago
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What We Are Reading Today: The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality

What We Are Reading Today: The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality

For the first time, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa unveils $6.3 billion budget ahead of federal government

For the first time, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa unveils $6.3 billion budget ahead of federal government
Updated 24 May 2024
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For the first time, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa unveils $6.3 billion budget ahead of federal government

For the first time, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa unveils $6.3 billion budget ahead of federal government
  • Critics say the move will further deepen the trust deficit between the provincial and federal authorities
  • KP finance minister says the province did not get its due share in revenue, faced $499.08 million deficit

PESHAWAR: For the first time in history, Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province on Friday announced its budget of Rs1,754 billion ($6.3 billion) before the federal government, with one of its senior officials justifying the move on the basis of provincial autonomy.

The KP government is led by former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, whose administration in Islamabad was ousted from power following a parliamentary no-confidence vote in April 2022.

Since then, its leadership has struggled to stay politically afloat, with many of its members, including Khan, being incarcerated for several months in multiple legal cases. The PTI is now in the opposition at the center, where its lawmakers frequently clash with members of the treasury benches in a deeply polarized environment.

Speaking to Arab News, KP finance minister’s media officer, Anwar Khan Khattak, said a province could present its own budget after the 18th amendment, which ensures autonomy to all federating units.

“We are not in competition either with provinces or the federal government,” he said. “We have our own exclusivity in terms of governance. That’s why we took a lead in presenting our budget.”

“A province only needs the federal government’s assistance in achieving tax targets,” he added.

However, Asmat Shah, a Peshawar-based journalist and expert on economic affairs, said provinces presented their budget after the federal government, saying the KP government’s decision to do the opposite would only widen the trust deficit with the administration in Islamabad.

“The only logic I see behind KP’s move to present the budget before the federal government is that it wants to demonstrate efficiency to its voters,” he maintained. “Secondly, the PTI-led government wants to show the masses it is not dependent on the federal authorities while making critical decisions.”

Criticizing the budget itself, Shah said that the provincial government should have allocated more funds for security, education and health sectors, which were badly affected due to years of militancy in the region.

Earlier, KP’s finance minister Aftab Alam unveiled the budget in the provincial assembly.

“The total outlay of the budget is Rs1,754 billion,” he said. “Mr. Speaker, development expenditures have a lead role for people’s prosperity and development of the province. Development expenditure not only enhances people’s life standard but creates job opportunities to move the economy in tandem. Rs416.30 billion ($1.49 billion) has been allocated for development expenditures for the fiscal budget 2024-25.”

Alam also criticized the federal authorities for not providing the province’s due share in revenue.

“Mr. Speaker, it is to be mentioned that following the merger of erstwhile tribal districts into KP, the province has a total Rs262 billion ($940.72 million) annual share in the NFC [National Finance Commission] award but the province has received only Rs123 billion ($441.64 million),” he added. “Keeping in view this, KP is facing an annual deficit of Rs139 billion ($499.08 million).”


UK government ‘unequivocally failing’ Palestinians in Gaza, says charity adviser

UK government ‘unequivocally failing’ Palestinians in Gaza, says charity adviser
Updated 24 May 2024
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UK government ‘unequivocally failing’ Palestinians in Gaza, says charity adviser

UK government ‘unequivocally failing’ Palestinians in Gaza, says charity adviser
  • Save the Children official questions UK’s commitment to upholding international humanitarian law
  • Young people in Gaza enduring ‘the most dangerous and dire situation for children anywhere in the world’

LONDON: Palestinians in Gaza, and particularly young people, are being “unequivocally failed” by the British government, a charity adviser said on Friday.

Liz Bradshaw, Save the Children’s senior adviser on the Israel-Hamas conflict, told The Independent newspaper that a “shameful failure by the UK government” was having a huge impact on youngsters living through “the most dangerous and dire situation for children anywhere in the world.”

Health officials in Gaza say more than 35,000 Palestinians, over half of them women and children, have been killed in the territory since Oct. 7 and the outbreak of an Israeli retaliation for a Hamas attack in southern Israel, which claimed around 1,200 lives.

Bradshaw said UK arms sales to Israel were having a “high impact” on the lives of Palestinian civilians. David Cameron, the UK foreign secretary, recently admitted that he was “not really interested” in stopping weapon sales to Israel.

Children in Gaza faced immediate physical risk “from horrific blast injuries caused by the use of explosive weapons in intensely dense populated areas, like Rafah, or from amputations, leaving them in agonizing pain,” Bradshaw said.

She added that, in places like Rafah where the Israeli military is engaged in an offensive, people were facing repeated displacement “in some cases, four or five, six times condensed into ever smaller areas, where frankly, there just simply aren’t the conditions for that number of people to survive.”

According to Bradshaw, children in Gaza are in acute need of mental health support to deal with the “lifelong” psychological scars they will have gained from what they have witnessed.

She also called into question the UK government’s commitment to upholding international humanitarian law and to protecting civilians suffering in Gaza.

“The UK speaks in very powerful terms about protection of civilians in other parts of the world like Ukraine, so why are we not seeing the same level of commitment and concern in relation to Palestinian children in Gaza?” she asked.

“It’s pretty abject stuff. We hear a lot about the deep concern that they have, but frankly, their deep concern is meaningless to children in Gaza. And it’s meaningless to our staff who are desperately battling against the odds to help children. We need action, not words from this government, and it’s long, long overdue.”


Lebanon ‘open to any effort to curb Israeli aggression,’ says Berri

Lebanon ‘open to any effort to curb Israeli aggression,’ says Berri
Updated 24 May 2024
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Lebanon ‘open to any effort to curb Israeli aggression,’ says Berri

Lebanon ‘open to any effort to curb Israeli aggression,’ says Berri
  • Parliamentary speaker accuses Israel of ‘greed’ over Lebanese resources
  • Berri’s statement came as hostilities between Hezbollah and the Israeli army in the southern border region entered their 230th day

BEIRUT: Lebanon is willing to cooperate with any international effort to stop Israeli aggression and bring security to the region, Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri said on Friday.
However, in a statement marking the 24th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, Berri warned that Lebanon “is not ready to waive any of its sovereign rights.”
He also accused Israel of displaying “greed toward Lebanon, its resources, its entity, and its land, sea, and air borders.”
Berri’s statement came as hostilities between Hezbollah and the Israeli army in the southern border region entered their 230th day.
The parliamentary speaker called for intensified international and regional efforts to halt Israel’s assault in the Gaza Strip, saying this was crucial to maintain security and stability in the entire region.
Hezbollah claims its actions have been in support of Gaza amid further Israeli threats to Lebanon.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Thursday from the northern command headquarters “to carry out detailed, important and even surprising plans to return displaced settlers to the north.”
He claimed Israel had killed hundreds of Hezbollah fighters.
Benny Gantz, a minister in the Israeli war Cabinet, said: “Get ready from now on for the return of the residents of the north to their houses safely in early September by force or order.”
Berri returned from Tehran after attending the funeral of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who was killed in a helicopter crash on May 19.
In his message to the Lebanese, he renewed Lebanon’s “commitment and adherence to UN Resolution 1701, and all its terms and stipulations.”
The resolution calls for an end to hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon to be replaced by Lebanese and UNIFIL forces in southern Lebanon, and the disarmament of armed groups including Hezbollah.
Berri accused Israel of ignoring the resolution “since the moment it was issued, with over 30,000 land, sea and air violations.”
Lebanon “upholds its right to defend its land with all the available means in the face of Israeli hostilities,” he said.
He called for the liberation of “the remaining occupied territory in the Kfarchouba Hills, the occupied Shebaa Farms, the northern part of the GHajjar village, and the contested border points with occupied Palestine all the way to the B1 point in Ras Al-Naqoura.”
Caretaker Minister of Defense Maurice Slim said that Lebanon preferred peace to war.
However, “defending the land was and will be the Lebanese state’s choice through the resilience of its army and people, especially the steadfast ones who are still residing in their villages and towns to repel the aggression,” he said.
Israeli warplanes on Thursday struck the town of Maroun Al-Ras in the Bint Jbeil district.
Sirens sounded in Israeli settlements opposite the border with Lebanon amid fears of possible drone attacks.
The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Friday that Hezbollah’s drones caused significant damage in the northern towns and resulted in several fatalities.
Another newspaper, Israel Hayom, said that Hezbollah’s drones are “one of the biggest threats facing Israel in the northern arena.”
The newspaper said that Hezbollah leader Mohammed Hassan Fares, who was killed by an Israeli drone strike last week in Qana, was a scientist who specialized in robotics and machine learning.