Iraq’s Kataib Hezbollah suspends attacks on US forces – statement

Iraq’s Kataib Hezbollah suspends attacks on US forces – statement
Iran-aligned Iraqi armed group Kataib Hezbollah announced the suspension of all its military operations against U.S. troops in the region, in a decision aimed at preventing "embarrassment" to the Iraqi government, the group said in a statement. (AFP/File)
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Updated 31 January 2024
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Iraq’s Kataib Hezbollah suspends attacks on US forces – statement

Iraq’s Kataib Hezbollah suspends attacks on US forces – statement
  • An Iraqi official said Kataib Hezbollah’s decision came after intensive contacts by the Iraqi government with both US officials and Iraqi armed groups
  • “Clearly what happened was a step too far and put everyone at a crossroads,” the official said

BAGHDAD: Iran-aligned Iraqi armed group Kataib Hezbollah announced the suspension of all its military operations against US troops in the region, in a decision aimed at preventing “embarrassment” to the Iraqi government, the group said in a statement.
Three US troops were killed in a drone attack near the Jordan-Syria border on Sunday that the Pentagon said bore the “footprints” of Kataib Hezbollah, though a final assessment had not yet been made.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, an Iraqi official said Kataib Hezbollah’s decision came after intensive contacts by the Iraqi government with both US officials and Iraqi armed groups to prevent escalation after the Jordan attack.
“Clearly what happened was a step too far and put everyone at a crossroads,” the official said.
Founded in the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, Kataib Hezbollah is one of the elite Iraqi armed factions closest to Iran.
It is the most powerful armed faction in the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of hard-line Shiite armed groups that have claimed more than 150 attacks on US forces since the Gaza war began in October.
Iraq’s government is backed by parties and armed groups close to Iran, though not directly by the hard-line groups that have been firing on US forces, Western and Iraqi officials say.
Baghdad has condemned the attacks while also saying regional escalation would continue as long as the Gaza war went on.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin vowed on Monday the US would take “all necessary actions” to defend its troops after the deadly drone attack, even as President Joe Biden’s administration stressed it was not seeking a war with Iran.


Kuwait calls on voters to elect members of the national assembly on April 4

Kuwait calls on voters to elect members of the national assembly on April 4
Updated 40 min 50 sec ago
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Kuwait calls on voters to elect members of the national assembly on April 4

Kuwait calls on voters to elect members of the national assembly on April 4
  • Last month, Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah issued a decree to dissolve parliament

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait called on Saturday for voters to elect members of the national assembly on April 4, Kuwait News Agency said.

On Wednesday, government spokesman Amer Al-Ajmi said the Kuwaiti Cabinet had approved a draft emiri decree inviting voters to elect the National Assembly and added that registration of candidates would begin on March 4.

Last month, Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah issued a decree to dissolve the parliament.

The decree was based on the national assembly’s “violation of the constitutional principles,” KUNA added.

The assembly was elected in June 2023 following a proposal by the prime minister that was approved by the cabinet.


Thousands protest Tunisia economic woes

Thousands protest Tunisia economic woes
Updated 02 March 2024
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Thousands protest Tunisia economic woes

Thousands protest Tunisia economic woes
  • Protesters denounce the implementation of "diktats" from the IMF at the expense of ordinary Tunisians
  • Tunisia's economy is at a standstill with growth of 0.4 percent and an unemployment rate of 16.4 percent in 2023

TUNIS: Thousands protested deteriorating living standards outside the prime minister’s office in Tunis on Saturday following a call from Tunisia’s main trade union confederation.

“The economic and social situation continues to worsen,” the confederation’s head, Noureddine Taboubi, said in a speech to protesters.
Taboubi said the state’s ability to service its foreign debt in 2023 had been “to the detriment of the people and resulted in shortages of basic products.”
He criticized the implementation of “diktats from the International Monetary Fund” (IMF) at the expense of ordinary Tunisians.
The Tunisian economy is at a standstill with growth of 0.4 percent and an unemployment rate of 16.4 percent in 2023, according to the National Institute of Statistics.
Unemployment stood at 15.2 percent at the end of 2022.
President Kais Saied has ruled by decree since a July 2021 power grab and last year rammed through a constitution that gave his office unlimited powers and neutered parliament.
Weathering a grave economic crisis, Tunis concluded an agreement with the IMF in October 2022 for a $2 billion loan facility.
But loan tranches stalled when the president rejected reforms demanded by the IMF.
 


Investigation into death of El-Arish University student reopened

Members of the Egyptian police special forces stand guard in Cairo. (AFP file photo)
Members of the Egyptian police special forces stand guard in Cairo. (AFP file photo)
Updated 02 March 2024
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Investigation into death of El-Arish University student reopened

Members of the Egyptian police special forces stand guard in Cairo. (AFP file photo)
  • El-Zoghbi’s father Salah said: “I do not know the details of what Naira faced, but we approached the prosecution after finding threatening messages from some of her peers on her phone

CAIRO: The Egyptian Public Prosecutor decided on Saturday to reopen the investigation into the death of Naira Salah El-Zoghbi, a 21-year-old veterinary medicine student at El-Arish University in North Sinai whose death 10 days ago was originally recorded as a suicide.

Allegations of blackmail and bullying linked to El-Zoghbi’s death have been circulated widely on social media.

Ahmed Salama, the lawyer representing El-Zoghbi’s family, told Arab News: “The prosecution ordered the exhumation of the victim’s body to determine the cause of death. Her grave in the village of Meet Tarif, her hometown in the Dakahlia governorate, was opened under security surveillance to take necessary samples.”

Salama added: “Investigations are underway to uncover the circumstances of the girl’s death, awaiting the forensic report that will be issued and announced in due time.

“There might be a criminal angle because we learned that a cat which drank from the same cup as Naira died instantly.”

El-Zoghbi’s father Salah said: “I do not know the details of what Naira faced, but we approached the prosecution after finding threatening messages from some of her peers on her phone.

“I was unaware of what exactly happened to my daughter, but I was surprised by a call from the university requesting my presence. Upon arrival, I learned of Naira’s death without knowing the cause. After going to the hospital, it turned out my daughter died from acute poisoning, and her body was released for burial last Sunday.”

He added: “I was surprised by (claims) on social media that several of her peers had blackmailed her due to disputes and because she was distinguished and excelled academically. However, I did not know the nature of these problems or the blackmail. Naira used to talk to her mother and tell her about some normal issues with her peers, but she didn’t know the real reasons behind these problems.”

Egyptian newspapers quoted El-Zoghbi’s mother as saying that she received a call from her daughter, who was in distress due to severe “cramps and vomiting.”

Her mother advised her to take some painkillers, but, shortly after, the university called to inform the family that El-Zoghbi had been taken to hospital. By the time her family arrived in El-Arish, El-Zoghbi had already been pronounced dead.

One of El-Zoghbi’s fellow students, who asked to remain anonymous and was among those who initiated the “Justice for El-Arish Student” campaign on Facebook, told Arab News: “I joined peers in a campaign to demand justice for Naira, and we found overwhelming support.

“We knew there were disputes between (Naira) and one of her roommates following a verbal altercation in the presence of several students.

“Some students said that her roommate had secretly photographed her in the bathroom to humiliate and bully her due to the altercation that occurred between them.”

Some of El-Zoghbi’s friends claimed her roommate had sent El-Zoghbi threats, demanding an apology and warning that otherwise she would expose her by posting her pictures on social-media platforms.

El-Zoghbi apparently complied and apologized on a private WhatsApp group for the university’s students.

A source from the university administration revealed details of the incident to Arab News, saying: “The student swallowed a pesticide pill while she was on campus and survived for more than 12 hours. Attempts were made to treat her at the hospital, but she eventually passed away.”

 


UN official lauds Egyptian role in delivering Gaza aid

UN official lauds Egyptian role in delivering Gaza aid
Updated 02 March 2024
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UN official lauds Egyptian role in delivering Gaza aid

UN official lauds Egyptian role in delivering Gaza aid
  • FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu, during talks with Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, said that Cairo’s support for Gaza had prevented the humanitarian situation in the enclave from further deteriorating

CAIRO: The head of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has praised Egypt for supporting Gaza with humanitarian aid.

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu, during talks with Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, said that Cairo’s support for Gaza had prevented the humanitarian situation in the enclave from further deteriorating.

“This is not new for Egypt; this country has had the capacity and expertise for thousands of years to play its important regional role,” he said.

“The FAO is doing its utmost to support the people of Gaza in cooperation with other UN organizations and relevant parties; to ensure the alleviation of the suffering of innocent people.”

Speaking to the media, Madbouly said: “The war in Gaza has had its reflections on the neighboring countries of the conflict zone, including Egypt.

“Nevertheless, most of the aid reaching there is sourced from Egypt, contributing over 80 percent of the total humanitarian aid entering the Gaza Strip so far.”

Egypt “looks forward to the support of the FAO to ensure the delivery and increase of aid,” Madbouly added.

Ashraf Abu Hajr, a political expert, told Arab News: “Egypt’s cooperation with the FAO will undoubtedly yield positive results on the issue of delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza, as Egypt continues its efforts at all levels to support our Palestinian brethren.

“Over the past five months, Egypt has received 40,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid from countries around the world to be delivered to Gaza, while Cairo has provided 100,000 tonnes, illustrating that Egypt has sent nearly two-thirds of the humanitarian aid to the sector.”

He added: “Egypt has prioritized sending aid to Gaza, saving its inhabitants, and has worked on including in it food, water and medicine to help Palestinians withstand and thwart Israeli plans for forced displacement.

“Egypt is looking for newer ways every day to introduce humanitarian aid, whether by land through the Rafah crossing, or by air. Cairo has mobilized global public opinion, drawing attention to the crimes committed against our brethren in Palestine.”


Israel on board with Gaza peace deal, as US airdrops begin

Israel on board with Gaza peace deal, as US airdrops begin
Updated 02 March 2024
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Israel on board with Gaza peace deal, as US airdrops begin

Israel on board with Gaza peace deal, as US airdrops begin
  • International mediators have been working for weeks to broker a deal to pause the fighting in Gaza
  • Now up to Hamas to agree to it, senior US administration official said Saturday

WASHINGTON DC: Israel has broadly accepted a ceasefire deal with Hamas, a senior US official said Saturday, as the first American air drops of humanitarian aid were carried out over war-ravaged Gaza.
The framework agreement envisages a six-week cessation of hostilities, which could begin immediately if the Palestinian militant group signs off on the release of the most vulnerable hostages it holds, the official told reporters on a call.
“The Israelis have more or less accepted it,” the administration official said. “Right now, the ball is in the camp of Hamas.”
The announcement came hours after US military cargo planes began airdropping humanitarian aid into the besieged Gaza Strip.
The United Nations has warned of famine in Gaza, and more than 100 people were left dead earlier this week in a frenzied scramble for food from a truck convoy delivering aid, with Israeli forces opening fire on the crowd.
Saturday’s drop, which included 38,000 meals, was conducted “to provide essential relief to civilians affected by the ongoing conflict,” the US Central Command said.
A CENTCOM official told AFP that the meals were made up of US military rations that did not contain pork, the consumption of which is prohibited by Islam.
Negotiators from regional powers have been working around the clock to secure a Gaza truce by the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in about one week.
“It will be a six-week ceasefire in Gaza starting today if Hamas agrees to release the defined category of vulnerable hostages... the sick, the wounded, elderly and women,” the administration official said.
Hamas militants took about 250 hostages during their unprecedented cross-border attack on Israel on October 7, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 31 that Israel says are presumed dead. It was unclear how many of the remaining hostages are deemed vulnerable.
The United States hopes any truce would create space for a more enduring peace. A Hamas delegation was expected to fly to Cairo on Saturday for talks on a truce, a source close to the group told AFP.
The administration official said a ceasefire would also allow a “significant surge” in humanitarian aid to Gaza, with airdrops not seen as a replacement for full-scale relief convoys.
“None of these — maritime corridors, airdrops — are an alternative to the fundamental need to move assistance through as many land crossings as possible. That’s the most efficient way to get aid in at scale,” a second US official told reporters.
The brutal October 7 attack by Hamas resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, according to official figures.
Israel responded with a relentless assault on Hamas-controlled Gaza that has taken a devastating toll on civilians trapped there, killing more than 30,000 people, according to the territory’s health ministry.
The amount of aid brought into Gaza by truck has plummeted during nearly five months of war, and Gazans are facing dire shortages of food, water and medicines.
Some foreign militaries have airdropped supplies to Gaza, sending long lines of aid pallets floating down into the war-torn territory on parachutes.
Jordan has been conducting many of the operations with the support of countries including Britain, France and the Netherlands, while Egypt sent several military planes on an air drop Thursday together with the United Arab Emirates.
Biden has pushed Israel to reduce civilian casualties and allow aid in, while at the same time he has maintained military assistance for the key US ally.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby described the airdrops as a “tough military operation” that required careful planning by the Pentagon for the safety of both Gazan civilians and US military personnel.