Frankly Speaking: Are Palestinian Christians facing extinction?

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Updated 29 January 2024

Frankly Speaking: Are Palestinian Christians facing extinction?

Frankly Speaking: Are Palestinian Christians facing extinction?
  • Palestinian pastor describes Israel’s Gaza war as “a genocide,” slams Western governments for failing to protect Palestinians
  • Rev. Munther Isaac insists Christians seek no special treatment, says he does not want to see Israel destroyed or Jews leave

DUBAI: Israel’s brutal war in Gaza is threatening to end the existence of Palestinian Christians in both the enclave and the occupied West Bank, Rev. Munther Isaac of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem has said.

Appearing on “Frankly Speaking,” the Arab News weekly show, the Palestinian pastor did not mince words while speaking on topics ranging from the Church’s position on the conflict to whether the West has begun turning on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“It is a genocide. Israel told the world what it is doing, what it wants to do, and facts speak for themselves,” he said.

“How was the killing of thousands of children self-defense? How is that related to Oct. 7? How was the displacement of close to 2 million people self-defense?”

Rev. Munther Isaac of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem spoke with Katie Jensen on Frankly Speaking. (Arab News photo)

Militants led by the Palestinian group Hamas killed around 1,300 people, mostly civilians, in an unprecedented attack on southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7 last year. Another 250 people were taken hostage, according to Israel.

The events triggered Israel’s retaliatory assault on Gaza, which has killed more than 26,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials, and reduced vast swathes of the enclave to rubble.

“It became clear to us, especially as Palestinians, in the very first few weeks of the war, even days, that this is an attempt to end life in Gaza as we know it,” Isaac said.

The war has had a ripple effect beyond Gaza, with the tens of thousands of Christians who live in the West Bank also suffering, Isaac added.

Palestinian Christians march in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on Oct. 23, 2023, in solidarity with the people of Gaza amid Israeli aggression. (AFP)

“Here in the West Bank, many Palestinian Christian families have already left out of fear. They look at what was happening in Gaza and they think, ‘could this happen to us one day?’”

Isaac said it is “impossible to thrive as a community in the midst of conflict, oppression and occupation.

“Life here was so difficult before Oct. 7; it’s even more difficult now. Many have lost their jobs because there is no tourism. Jerusalem is completely blocked now, isolated from us.”

Rev. Munther Isaac of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem spoke with Katie Jensen on Frankly Speaking. He said Israel’s actions in Gaza amount to genocide and are completely unrelated to the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack. (Arab News photo)

Isaac’s community were already a minority dealing with their own challenges even prior to Oct. 7, with just around 1,000 Christians residing in Gaza.

Though Israel often touts itself as a protector of Christians in the Middle East, the bombing campaigns in Gaza have laid waste to homes and churches of Palestinian Christians there.

“There is this illusion that Israel treats Christians favorably or in a special way. And if anything, this war made sure that this is not true,” Isaac told Katie Jensen, the host of “Frankly Speaking.”

The bombing of Gaza’s Greek Orthodox Saint Porphyrius Church on Oct. 19 claimed the lives of at least 18 Palestinian civilians who were sheltering in the church. Two months later, Israeli snipers reportedly shot and killed a mother and daughter as they left the sole Catholic Church in Gaza.

This picture taken on January 5, 2024, shows Gaza City's Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Porphyrius, damaged in Israeli bombardment during the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement. (AFP)

“Everyone who sees what happened in Gaza realizes that everybody is a target. Churches were not safe. Christians took refuge in the churches thinking that they were safe, but evidently, they were wrong,” Isaac said.

Though the already-small Gazan Christian community has been struck a particularly severe blow with the deaths of many of its members, Isaac made it clear that he did not seek any special treatment for Palestine’s Christians.

“I don’t think we want to be treated in a special way,” he said. “We want an end to the war. We want an end to the occupation.

“We want to contribute in a reality in which there are equal rights to all citizens. We want to feel as equals to everyone else in this land, Muslims and Jews.”

Palestinians search the destroyed annex of the Greek Orthodox Saint Porphyrius Church that was damaged in a strike on Gaza City on October 20, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)

Moving on to South Africa’s case against Israel at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Isaac reiterated that Israel’s actions in Gaza amount to genocide and are completely unrelated to the Oct. 7 attack.

He expressed shock over “the fact that Western countries that boast all the time about human rights and international law are willing to turn such a blind eye to something like this.”

He praised South Africa’s initiation of the proceedings against Israel, which began at the end of December last year.

The ICJ handed down its ruling on Jan. 26, ordering Israel to “prevent genocide and desist from killing, injuring, destroying life and preventing births,” enable the provision of humanitarian services, and submit regular reports to the court.

Despite ruling in South Africa’s favor on many accounts, the judgement stopped short of ordering an immediate ceasefire — and many are skeptical that the ruling will be enforceable or anything more than symbolic.

Members of the South African legal team talks to journalists at Tambo International Airport in Ekurhuleni, South Africa, on January 14, 2024, upon their return from The Netherlands, where they represented their country in a two-day hearing against Isreal at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. (AFP)

However, for Isaac, it is important that “Israel realize that there are countries (and) leaders willing to stand firm and take courageous positions. Israel has been doing what it’s been doing because no one ever held Israel accountable.”

He said: “I was pleased just with the idea that all the crimes of Israel have been displayed in front of the whole world to see.

“I am very pleased that it’s a country like South Africa that led the efforts, because they have the moral credibility and authority to speak about such issues. A country that endured colonization and apartheid has the credibility to speak against colonization and apartheid, and a genocide.”

During his Christmas sermon last year, an emotional plea titled “Christ in the Rubble,” Isaac delivered a scathing condemnation of what he viewed as hypocrisy, double standards and silence practiced by both Western nations and the church.

“In the shadow of the empire they turn the colonizer into the victim and the colonized into the oppressor,” he said.



In his now-viral sermon, Isaac slammed what he saw as the hypocrisy of Western states, saying: “To our European friends, I never, ever want to hear you lecture us on human rights or international law again. And I mean this.”

While Palestinians have witnessed the world’s support, from the ICJ ruling to mass protests and outpourings of solidarity across the world, others were not so keen to criticize Israel for its actions. The US, UK and Germany, among others, opposed the judgment.

With more and more civilians dying as a result of its bombardment and military operations in Gaza, there are signs that even Israel’s strongest allies are beginning to distance themselves. Isaac, though, sees any signs of support from major Western powers so far as empty words.

“For months now, we’ve heard that America has put some red lines to Israel as to what it can do and what it cannot do. And all these red lines have been crossed,” he said.

For Isaac, “anything America says about the war comes to us as empty words. Until we see it, we will (not) believe it. And to be honest, this has been the most important element that empowered Israel and enabled Israel to commit such war crimes, because no one is holding them accountable. You can say whatever you want in press conferences, but it’s what facts on the ground are that matters to us.”

Jewish Americans march in midtown Manhattan, New York City, on December 28, 2023, against the deaths of Palestinians in Gaza amid Israeli bombardment. (Getty Images via AFP)

Deploring what he called Christian-majority countries’ failure to support Palestinian rights, he said: “It’s very disappointing, and disheartening, to be honest, especially when you combine that with public statements from many of these countries about their concern about the Christian presence in the Middle East.

“Yet all they do is support policies that endanger our presence. It’s so hypocritical and it’s so dismissive of our plights, our opinions, and our perspectives. They never talk to us.”

“They don’t look at us Palestinians as equals, whether we are Christians or Muslims. This is the heart of the issue,” he said.

“They have other plans. They have political ambitions. They have political alliances, and that is what they care about the most (at) the expense of our presence, our reality on the ground.”



In addition to calling out the silence or double standards of governments, Isaac criticized the stance of churches, many of whom as institutions remain silent even if congregants express their support.

“Church leaders are not speaking for their people. I think the people clearly realize there is severe injustice, and they’re very concerned about what is happening in Gaza. Yet church leaders are paralyzed to speak and to challenge Israel for what it’s doing.”

He was asked if religious position really matters in a largely secular world, where politics and upcoming elections clearly have the upper hand.

“I hope it does, and the question is, which religious position matters,” he said. “Let us not forget that Israel uses the Bible to justify what it’s doing.

“Many Christians support Israel for theological beliefs and certainly many, not just Jewish groups, use religion to justify exclusivity and fundamentalism and the denial of the rights of the other.”

Pro-Palestinian supporters wearing masks picturing Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L), as well as US and British leaders march by the Houses of Parliament in London during a demonstration on Jan. 6, 2024, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. (AFP)

Isaac did not shy away from calling on faith leaders to take a strong stance on Gaza, saying “it’s time that the voices that believe in inclusivity, in peace, in justice and equality make their voices heard, and not in a diplomatic nice way.

“I’m tired, to be honest, of faith leaders just calling for peace and praying for peace,” he said.

“We need to call things out by their name. There is a system of apartheid in our country. It is time to speak to uphold these principles.”

As a religious figure, what is Isaac’s position on the right of Jews to be able to live in peace, particularly given that Jerusalem is a shared holy site for the three Abrahamic faiths?

“Everybody has the right to live in peace everywhere,” he said. “When Western Christian leaders press us on this, I say Jews should have the right and freedom to live in peace everywhere, in the United States, in Europe, even in Arab countries.

“We should be in a position where Jews don’t feel threatened anywhere.”

Elaborating on the point, he said: “It seems that the whole world is determined to make sure Jews are safe, but not in their land, in our land. And then they blame us for it as if we are antisemites, whereas antisemitism is what drove Jews from Europe to begin with, to come to our land.”

Israeli soldiers restrain Jewish settlers after they stormed the Palestinian West Bank village of Dayr Sharaf, located about seven kilometers from the Jewish Einav settlement following the death of an Israeli man on November 2, 2023. (AFP)

Isaac said he does not “want to see Israel destroyed or Jews leave,” adding that he desired a future in which his children “will have Israeli friends.

“It’s not just to end the conflict, but to live in a reality in which we are friends and neighbors with the Israelis,” he said.

While safety and equality for all is a priority, Isaac said Palestinians’ right to exist should not be negated.

“The world was okay with Israel shifting more and more and more to the right, openly saying there will never be a Palestinian state, openly saying only Jews have a right to the land, and then electing openly racist leaders, continuing with the building of settlements for all these years, making sure there can never be a Palestinian state, and then blaming the Palestinians for it,” he said.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me. So, unless we as an international community, as faith leaders, unite and call for this idea of justice and equal rights, it will not happen.”



Iran launches retaliatory attack on Israel with hundreds of drones, missiles

Iran launches retaliatory attack on Israel with hundreds of drones, missiles
Updated 14 April 2024

Iran launches retaliatory attack on Israel with hundreds of drones, missiles

Iran launches retaliatory attack on Israel with hundreds of drones, missiles
  • Iran launches first ever direct attack on Israel, risking major escalation as US pledges support for Tel Aviv
  • Iran has vowed retaliation for what it called an Israeli strike on its Damascus consulate on April 1

JERUSALEM/DUBAI: Iran launched a swarm of explosive drones and fired missiles at Israel late on Saturday in its first ever direct attack on Israeli territory, risking a major escalation as the United States pledged “ironclad” backing for Israel.
Sirens wailed and journalists in Israel said they heard distant heavy thuds and bangs from what local media called aerial interceptions of explosive drones. The ambulance service said there was no immediate word of casualties.
Israel’s military said more than 100 drones were launched from Iran, with security sources in Iraq and Jordan reporting dozens seen flying overhead and US officials saying the US military had shot some down.
Israel’s Channel 12 TV cited an unnamed Israeli official as saying there would be a “significant response” to the attack.

Iran’s state news agency cited a source saying its military had also launched a wave of ballistic missiles. Israel’s military also said missiles were fired, but there was no immediate report of these striking in Israel.
Iran has vowed retaliation for what it called an Israeli strike on its Damascus consulate on April 1 that killed seven Guards officers including two senior commanders and said its strike was a punishment for “Israeli crimes.” Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the consulate attack.
“Should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe,” the Iranian mission to the United Nations said, warning the US to “stay away.” However, it also said Iran now “deemed the matter concluded.”
US President Joe Biden, who on Friday had warned Iran against an attack, cut short a visit to his home state of Delaware to meet national security advisers in the White House Situation Room, an official said. He pledged to stand with Israel.
The Gaza war between Israel and Hamas, now in its seventh month, has driven up tensions in the region, spreading to fronts with Lebanon and Syria and drawing long-range fire at Israeli targets from as far away as Yemen and Iraq.
British maritime security company Ambrey said in a statement that drones were also reportedly launched against Israel by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group.
Those clashes now threaten to morph into a direct open conflict pitting Iran and its regional allies against Israel and its main supporter the United States, with regional power Egypt urging “utmost restraint.”
US and British warplanes were involved in shooting down some Israel-bound drones over the Iraq-Syria border area, Channel 12 reported. Three US officials said the US military had shot down drone aircraft without saying how many.

“This is a severe and dangerous escalation. Our defensive and offensive capabilities are at the highest level of readiness ahead of this large-scale attack from Iran,” said Israel’s military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose official jet took off shortly after the attack began, convened the war cabinet at a military headquarters in Tel Aviv, his office said.
Israel’s military said sirens would sound in any threatened areas and that its defenses were poised to deal with the drones, which it said were “explosive.”
“We are used to having around 20 seconds to get to shelters when missiles come in. Here, the warning comes hours ahead of time. It naturally raises the anxiety level among the Israeli public,” said Nir Dvori, a Channel 12 TV correspondent on social media.
Israel’s military told residents of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to stay close to bomb shelters, putting the area on standby for possible impact from drone strikes.
Israel and Lebanon said they were closing their airspace on Saturday night. Jordan, which lies between Iran and Israel, had readied air defenses to intercept any drone or missile that violated its territory, two regional security sources said.
Residents in several Jordanian cities said they heard heavy aerial activity.
Syria, an ally of Iran, said it was putting its ground-to-air defense systems around the capital and major bases on high alert, army sources there said.

The European Union, Britain, France, Mexico, Czechia, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands all condemned Iran’s attack.
Israel has been bracing for an Iranian response to the Damascus consulate strike since last week, when Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Israel “must be punished and shall be” for an operation he called equivalent to one on Iranian soil.
Biden said on Friday that his only message to Iran was “Don’t,” but added that “we are devoted to the defense of Israel.”
Iran’s main ally in the region, the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah that has been exchanging fire with Israel since the Gaza war began on Oct. 7, said early on Sunday it had fired rockets at an Israeli base.
Earlier on Saturday, Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported that a Guards helicopter had boarded and taken into Iranian waters the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries.
MSC, which operates the Aries, confirmed Iran had seized the ship and said it was working “with the relevant authorities” for its safe return and the wellbeing of its 25 crew.
MSC leases the Aries from Gortal Shipping, an affiliate of Zodiac Maritime, Zodiac said in a statement, adding that MSC is responsible for all the vessel’s activities. Zodiac is partly owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer.
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz accused Iran of piracy.

'IRGC seize commercial ship'

For days, Iranian officials including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have threatened to “slap” Israel for its Syria strike.
Iran has largely avoided directly attacking Israel, despite its targeted killings of nuclear scientists and sabotage campaigns on Iran’s atomic sites. Iran has targeted Israeli or Jewish-linked sites through proxy forces.
Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip has inflamed decade-old tensions in the Middle East, and any new attack threatens to escalate that conflict into a wider regional war.
Flight-tracking data showed the airspace over Jordan empty, while few flights continued on their north-south routes over Iraq. A sole Middle East Airlines flight from Dubai to Beirut remained airborne over Syria.
Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported heavy Israeli airstrikes and shelling on multiple locations in south Lebanon following the launch of drones from Iran. The Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has been clashing with Israeli forces in the border area for more than six months.
Earlier Saturday, commandos from Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard rappelled from a helicopter onto an Israeli-affiliated container ship near the Strait of Hormuz and seized the vessel.
Iran’s state-run IRNA said a special forces unit of the Guard’s navy carried out the attack on the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries, a container ship associated with London-based Zodiac Maritime.
Zodiac Maritime is part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group. Zodiac declined to comment and referred questions to MSC. Geneva-based MSC acknowledged the seizure and said 25 crew members were on the ship.
“We are working closely with the relevant authorities to ensure their wellbeing, and safe return of the vessel,” MSC said.
White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the crew was made up of Indian, Filipino, Pakistani, Russian and Estonian nationals and urged Iran to release them and the vessel.
IRNA said the Guard would take the vessel into Iranian territorial waters.
A Middle East defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, provided video of the attack to The Associated Press in which Iranian commandos are seen rappelling onto a stack of containers on the vessel’s deck.
The video corresponded with known details of the MSC Aries. The commandos rappelled from what appeared to be a Soviet-era Mil Mi-17 helicopter, which both the Guard and the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen have used before to raid ships.
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz called on nations to list the Guard as a terrorist organization. Iran “is a criminal regime that supports Hamas’ crimes and is now conducting a pirate operation in violation of international law,” Katz said.
The US, Israel’s main backer, has stood by the country despite growing concerns over Israel’s war on Gaza killing more than 33,600 Palestinians and wounding over 76,200 more. Israel’s war began after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people and saw some 250 others taken hostage.
The Pentagon said Saturday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Israeli counterpart “to discuss urgent regional threats ... and made clear that Israel could count on full US support to defend Israel against any attacks by Iran and its regional proxies.” National security adviser Jake Sullivan also spoke with his counterpart to reinforce Washington’s “ironclad commitment to the security of Israel.”

Thousands gather in Iran in show of support for attack on Israel

Iranian demonstrators attend an anti-Israeli gathering in front of the British Embassy in Tehran, Iran, April 14, 2024. (REUTERS
Iranian demonstrators attend an anti-Israeli gathering in front of the British Embassy in Tehran, Iran, April 14, 2024. (REUTERS
Updated 14 April 2024

Thousands gather in Iran in show of support for attack on Israel

Iranian demonstrators attend an anti-Israeli gathering in front of the British Embassy in Tehran, Iran, April 14, 2024. (REUTERS
  • Israel has killed more than 33,686 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry
  • Iran does not recognize Israel, and the two countries have fought a shadow war for years

TEHRAN: Thousands of Iranians took to the streets of Iran early Sunday in a show of support for the unprecedented drone and missile attack under way against arch foe Israel.
“Death to Israel!” and “Death to America!” chanted demonstrators in Tehran’s Palestine Square shortly after the Revolutionary Guards announced the launch of Operation Honest Promise.
A mural saying “the next slap is fiercer” was unveiled in the square where a huge banner has hung for days calling, in Hebrew, for Israelis to “take shelter.”
On Sunday, demonstrators waved Iranian and Palestinian national flags alongside banners reading “God’s victory is near.”
Iran’s attack came in retaliation for an April 1 strike that levelled the five-story consular annexe of the Iranian embassy in Damascus and killed seven Revolutionary Guards, two of them generals.
Tehran has since vowed to avenge the strike which was widely blamed on Israel.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pledged that the “evil (Israeli) regime will be punished.”

Iranian media described the attack on Israel as “complex” as it also involved Iranian allies in Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.
“This attack did not come from Iran only, and this regime (Israel) is being punished from four directions,” the Tasnim news agency said.
A large crowd of demonstrators gathered outside the British embassy in Tehran.
Supporters of the retaliatory attack also demonstrated in Iran’s third largest city Isfahan where Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi, one of the generals killed in the Damascus strike, is buried.
Demonstrators also gathered near the grave in the southern city of Kerman of prominent Guards commander Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a 2020 US drone strike in Baghdad.
Tehran had earlier appealed to Washington to keep out of its conflict with Israel but Iranian hopes were dashed after a Pentagon official confirmed that US forces were shooting down Israel-bound drones.
Iran insists it acted in “self-defense” after the targeting of its diplomatic mission in Damascus. It said it hoped its action would prompt no further escalation and “the matter can be deemed concluded.”

The latest developments 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 its attack on Israel.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 33,686 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
Iran does not recognize Israel, and the two countries have fought a shadow war for years.
Anticipation of conflict with Israel had gripped Iran ever since the April 1 strike on its consulate.
“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.
“God willing, our government will favor reason over emotion,” said Salehi, a 75-year-old retired government employee in central Tehran.
Ehsan, a 43-year-old university professor, said it was “logical” to retaliate.
“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.


UN Security Council to meet on Sunday to discuss Iran attacks on Israel

UN Security Council to meet on Sunday to discuss Iran attacks on Israel
Updated 14 April 2024

UN Security Council to meet on Sunday to discuss Iran attacks on Israel

UN Security Council to meet on Sunday to discuss Iran attacks on Israel
  • Israel requested the meeting, urging council to condemn Iran and designate IRGC as a terror organization
  • Iran blamed its retaliatory attack on the council’s failure to condemn Israel’s strike on its Damascus consulate

NEW YORK: The UN Security Council is set to hold an emergency meeting on Sunday afternoon in New York to discuss Iran’s attack on Israel, the Maltese presidency of the council has announced.

Iran on Saturday launched dozens of drones and missiles at Israel in a retaliatory attack after an Israeli strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus which killed seven revolutionary guards, including two generals. Iran had warned that Israel would be "punished" for the strike, which took place on April 1st.

The Security Council meeting was requested by Israel’s permanent representative to the UN to “unequivocally condemn Iran for these grave violations and immediately act to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization.”

In a letter to the Maltese ambassador, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the council for the month of April, Gilad Erdan called the attack “a severe and dangerous escalation” adding that the gravity and volume of the attacks are unprecedented, and are a flagrant violation of Israel’s sovereignty, of international law, and of Security council resolution.

“Iran poses a direct threat to international peace, and brazenly violates the UN charter and security council resolutions. The time has come for the security council to take concrete action against the Iranian threat,” Erdan said.

Iran’s permanent mission to the UN had posted on X that “had the UN Security Council condemned the Zionist regime’s reprehensible act of aggression on our diplomatic premises in Damascus and subsequently brought to justice its perpetrators, the imperative for Iran to punish this rogue regime might have been obviated.”

The mission described Saturday’s attacks as “an invocation of Article 51 of the UN Charter,” which invokes the “inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”

It said the retaliatory attacks occurred following a 13-day period marked by the Security Council’s “inaction and silence, coupled with its failure to condemn the Israeli regime’s aggressions. Certain countries’ precipitous condemnation of Iran’s exercise of its legitimate right suggests a reversal of roles, equating the victim with the criminal.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned “the serious escalation represented by the large-scale attack launched on Israel by the Islamic Republic of Iran this evening,” and called for an immediate cessation of such hostilities. He said neither the region nor the world can afford another war.

“I am deeply alarmed about the very real danger of a devastating region-wide escalation,” said the UN chief in a statement as he urged “all parties to exercise maximum restraint to avoid any action that could lead to major military confrontations on multiple fronts in the Middle East.”



Egypt air defenses on maximum alert: media

Egypt air defenses on maximum alert: media
Updated 14 April 2024

Egypt air defenses on maximum alert: media

Egypt air defenses on maximum alert: media
  • The Egyptian foregn ministry said it was “deeply concerned” by the events, and called for “maximum restraint” by all sides

CAIRO: Egypt’s air defenses were on “maximum alert” Sunday after Iran launched a drone and missile attack on Israel, a TV channel close to the intelligence services reported, as Cairo warned against an escalation of the conflict.
“A crisis cell ... is closely monitoring the situation and submitting reports to President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi hour by hour,” Al-Qahera News said late Saturday, citing a senior security official.
The Egyptian foregn ministry said it was “deeply concerned” by the events, and called for “maximum restraint” by all sides.
Warning of the risk of a “regional expansion of the conflict,” the ministry said in a statement that it was “in direct contact with all the parties to the conflict to try to contain the situation.”
Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October, Cairo has sought to walk a delicate tightrope between showing solidarity with the Palestinians while also maintaining its ties with Israel.
It has also hosted several rounds of negotiations seeking to agree a truce in the six-month war.

Iran and Israel: From allies to deadly enemies

Iran and Israel: From allies to deadly enemies
Updated 14 April 2024

Iran and Israel: From allies to deadly enemies

Iran and Israel: From allies to deadly enemies
  • Israel has killed more than 33,600 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry

PARIS: Israel and Iran have moved from once being firm allies to sworn enemies.
Here is a recap of their volatile relationship over the past half century.

Israel, following its creation in 1948, had close ties with Iran, which becomes the second Muslim country to recognize the Jewish state after Turkiye.
They become allies under the shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. At the time, Iran was home to the biggest Jewish community in the Middle East.
The new Jewish state imported 40 percent of its oil from Iran in exchange for weapons, technology and agricultural produce.
Israel’s Mossad spy agency helped train the shah’s feared Savak secret police.

The 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran toppled the shah, dramatically ending the friendship between the two states.
Israel did not recognize the new Islamic Republic.
The ayatollahs considered Israel illegal occupiers of Jerusalem. Informal commercial links remained in place, however.
Islamic Jihad became the first Islamist Palestinian organization to take up arms against Israel in 1980, with Iran as its main backer.
Nonetheless, Israel sent Tehran around 1,500 missiles to help it fight Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war that raged from 1980 to 1988.

Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 to counter Palestinian groups based there, going all the way to briefly hold the capital Beirut.
Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps subsequently backed the creation of militant group Hezbollah, which waged a campaign against Israeli forces from Shiite strongholds in southern Lebanon.
Israel blamed Hezbollah for attacks abroad, including in Argentina, where the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy killed 29 people and a 1994 attack on a Jewish community center left 85 dead.

Tensions rose after the election in 2005 of ultra conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who talked on several occasions of bringing an end to Israel and described the Holocaust as a “myth.”
Iran resumed uranium enrichment at Isfahan the same year.
When the Iran nuclear deal was brokered by world powers in 2015, Netanyahu slammed it as an “historic mistake.”
He was the first to congratulate then-US president Donald Trump when he withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018.
Iran has since resumed uranium enrichment.

Officially still at war with Syria, Israel claimed to want to stay out of the civil war that broke out in 2011 and still simmers.
But from 2013 on, Israel — wary of Hezbollah and Iran’s presence on the side of Syrian President Bashar Assad — carried out hundreds of air strikes against them in Syria.

Israel began cultivating ties with long-time foe Saudi Arabia, Iran’s main religious and regional rival.
In September 2020 Saudi allies the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed normalization accords with Israel.
The Unites States sought Israel-Saudi rapprochement, but the efforts were derailed by the Gaza War.

Over the following months Israel accused Iran of attacks on vessels. Iran accused Israel of targeted assassinations and the sabotage of the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz.
Israel was blamed for targeted attacks on Iranians in Syria, including top members of the Revolutionary Guard in 2022 and 2023.
An Israeli airstrike on Iran’s consular annex building in Damascus on April 1, 2024 killed more than a dozen people — including two senior members of the Revolutionary Guards.
US President Joe Biden warned that Iran was “threatening to launch a significant attack on Israel,” promising Israel “ironclad” support.
On April 13 — two weeks after the unprecedented attack on its consular facilities — Iran responded by sending waves of drones from its territory toward Israel, which closed its airspace, as did Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s air defense systems were deployed and that it was prepared for a “direct attack from Iran.”