Israeli military says 2 hostages rescued in overnight Gaza operation

Fernando Simon Marman and Louis Hare reunite with loved ones at the Sheba Medical Center, in Ramat Gan, Israel, February 12, 2024. (Reuters)
Fernando Simon Marman and Louis Hare reunite with loved ones at the Sheba Medical Center, in Ramat Gan, Israel, February 12, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 12 February 2024
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Israeli military says 2 hostages rescued in overnight Gaza operation

Fernando Simon Marman and Louis Hare reunite with loved ones at the Sheba Medical Center, in Ramat Gan, Israel.
  • The freed hostages were identified as Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har , 70
  • They were among those kidnapped by attackers Hamas from Israel's Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak on Oct. 7, 2023

JERUSALEM: The Israeli military announced early Monday that two hostages taken by Hamas during its October 7 attacks were rescued in an overnight operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.
The military said in a statement that “during a joint IDF (military), ISA (Shin Bet security agency), and Israel Police operation in Rafah, overnight, two Israeli hostages were rescued, Fernando Simon Marman (60) and Louis Har (70), who were kidnapped by the Hamas terrorist organization on October 7th from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak.”
“They are both in good medical condition, and were transferred for medical examination at the Sheba Tel Hashomer hospital,” the statement added.
During the October 7 attacks, Palestinian militants seized about 250 hostages, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures. Israel says around 130 are still in Gaza, but 29 are thought to be dead.
Israel responded to the attacks with a relentless offensive in Gaza, which the territory’s health ministry says has killed at least 28,176 people, mostly women and children.
Dozens of captives taken on October 7 were released during a one-week truce in November that also saw the release of more than 200 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
Renewed talks for a pause in the fighting have been held in Cairo, with Hamas open to a fresh ceasefire, including more prisoner-hostage exchanges.
Hamas’s military wing on Sunday said two hostages had been killed and eight others seriously wounded in Israeli bombardment in recent days, a claim AFP was unable to independently verify.
Netanyahu has faced calls for early elections and mounting protests over his administration’s failure to bring home the hostages.


Palestinian FM says Hamas knows it cannot be in new govt

Palestinian FM says Hamas knows it cannot be in new govt
Updated 30 min 33 sec ago
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Palestinian FM says Hamas knows it cannot be in new govt

Palestinian FM says Hamas knows it cannot be in new govt
  • “The time now is not for a government where Hamas will be part of it, because, in this case, then it will be boycotted by a number of countries, as happened before,” he said

GENEVA: Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al-Maliki said Wednesday he believes Hamas understands why it should not be part of a new government in the Palestinian territories.
Maliki told a press conference that a “technocratic” government was needed, without the group which is fighting a bitter war against Israel.
“The time now is not for a national coalition government,” Al-Maliki said.
“The time now is not for a government where Hamas will be part of it, because, in this case, then it will be boycotted by a number of countries, as happened before,” he told the UN correspondents’ association.
“We don’t want to be in a situation like that. We want to be accepted and engaging fully with the international community,” he explained.
Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced Monday the resignation of his government, which rules parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, citing the need for change after the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza ends.
A decree from Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said the government will stay on in an interim capacity until a new one is formed.
Maliki said the priority was engaging the international community on to help provide emergency relief to Palestinians, and then looking at how Gaza could be reconstructed.
“Later, when the situation is right, then we could contemplate that option. But what comes first is how to salvage the situation. How to salvage innocent Palestinian lives. How to stop this insane war and how to be able to protect Palestinian people,” he said.
“That’s why I think Hamas should understand this, and I do believe that they are in support of the idea to establish, today, a technocratic government.
“A government that is based on experts, individuals who are completely committed to take up the reins and the responsibility for this period — a difficult one — and to move the whole country into a period of transition into a stable kind of situation where, at the end, we might be able to think about elections.
“And after elections, the outcome of the elections will determine the type of government that will govern the state of Palestine later.”
Maliki is in Geneva to attend the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The war in Gaza began after Hamas launched an attack on October 7 that killed about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli figures.
Hamas militants also took hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza.
Israel’s retaliatory bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza have killed at least 29,954 people, most of them women and children, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.


Turkish drones kill 3 in an attack on a local Christian militia in northeastern Syria, officials say

Turkish drones kill 3 in an attack on a local Christian militia in northeastern Syria, officials say
Updated 28 February 2024
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Turkish drones kill 3 in an attack on a local Christian militia in northeastern Syria, officials say

Turkish drones kill 3 in an attack on a local Christian militia in northeastern Syria, officials say
  • The force that was targeted, the local Christian Syriac police known as Sutoro, works under the US-backed and Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria
  • The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said three Suturo police members were killed, as well as one civilian

BEIRUT: Turkish drone strikes in northeastern Syria on Wednesday killed at least three members of a local Christian force and wounded others, including civilians, a Kurdish official and a Syrian opposition war monitor said.
There was no immediate comment from Ankara on Wednesday’s airstrikes. Turkiye has been attacking Kurdish fighters in Syria for years but attacks on the fighters from the country’s Christian minority have been rare.
The force that was targeted, the local Christian Syriac police known as Sutoro, works under the US-backed and Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria.
Siamand Ali of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces told The Associated Press that the Turkish drones initially hit three Suturo vehicles near the northeastern town of Malikiyah. When a fourth vehicle, a pick-up truck, arrived at the scene to retrieve the casualties from the strike, it also came under attack, he said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said three Suturo police members were killed, as well as one civilian.
The Observatory said the attack was the latest of 65 such strikes so far this year in northeastern Syria that have killed 18 people, mostly Kurdish fighters.
Turkiye often launches strikes against targets in Syria and Iraq it believes to be affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK — a banned Kurdish separatist group that has waged an insurgency against Turkiye since the 1980s. Turkiye says that the main Kurdish militia in Syria, known as People’s Defense Units, or YPG, is an affiliate of the PKK.
Turkiye’s state-run Anadolu Agency however, reported on Tuesday that the Turkish intelligence agency, MIT, had killed a senior Kurdish fighter member in an operation in the northern Syrian town of Qamishli.
The report identified the woman operative as Emine Seyid Ahmed, a Syrian national, who allegedly went by the code name of “Azadi Derik.”
She reportedly joined the Kurdish Women Protection Units, or YPJ, in 2011 and allegedly planned a number of attacks against Turkish security forces as well as cross-border missile attacks targeting civilians in Turkiye, Anadolu reported.


Syrian man dies of wounds from anti-Assad protest

Syrian man dies of wounds from anti-Assad protest
Updated 28 February 2024
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Syrian man dies of wounds from anti-Assad protest

Syrian man dies of wounds from anti-Assad protest
  • It was the first fatality linked to demonstrations about economic conditions that swept across Sweida

DAMASCUS: A Syrian man died of gunshot wounds sustained in a protest against President Bashar Assad in the southern flashpoint province of Sweida on Wednesday, a medical source and two local monitors said.
It was the first fatality reported that was linked to the demonstrations about economic conditions that swept across Druze-majority Sweida last year and quickly spiralled into rallies against Assad.
Suwayda 24, a local news website, reported that a 52-year-old man succumbed to gunshot wounds after security forces guarding a government building shot at nearby protesters.
A local medical source and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the 13-year war, confirmed the fatality.
Suwayda 24 said the spiritual head of the Druze sect Sheikh Hikmat Al-Hijri met with protesters on Wednesday and said the man was a “martyr.”
Last August, steep gasoline prices sparked mass protests across Sweida, a province that had largely been spared the violence that has ravaged the rest of Syria since 2011, when Assad’s crackdown on demonstrations against him sparked a full-blown war.
The demonstrators swiftly turned their criticism to Assad and demanded sweeping political changes. Across the province, scores of local branches of the ruling Baath party were forced shut by protesters tearing down posters of the president and his father, a rare show of defiance in areas under government rule.


Hamas claims rocket fire on north Israel from south Lebanon

Hamas claims rocket fire on north Israel from south Lebanon
Updated 28 February 2024
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Hamas claims rocket fire on north Israel from south Lebanon

Hamas claims rocket fire on north Israel from south Lebanon
  • Hamas’s armed wing the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades said in a statement it targeted two Israeli military sites with two barrages of “Grad rockets“
  • The Israeli military said in a statement that “approximately 10 launches which crossed from Lebanon into northern Israel were identified“

BEIRUT: The military wing of Palestinian group Hamas on Wednesday said it fired a volley of rockets toward northern Israel from south Lebanon, amid escalating exchanges at the Lebanon-Israel border in recent days.
Hezbollah, a Hamas ally, has exchanged near-daily fire with the Israeli army since war erupted between Israel and the Gaza-based Palestinian militant group in October, while Palestinian groups in Lebanon have also occasionally claimed attacks.
Hamas’s armed wing the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades said in a statement it targeted two Israeli military sites with two barrages of “Grad rockets.”
The attack from south Lebanon came in “response to Zionist massacres against civilians in the Gaza Strip and the assassination of martyred leaders and their brothers in the southern suburbs” of Beirut, the statement added.
The Israeli military said in a statement that “approximately 10 launches which crossed from Lebanon into northern Israel were identified,” adding that sirens had sounded in north Israel’s Kiryat Shmona area.
Air defenses “successfully intercepted a number of the launches,” the statement said, adding that the army “struck the sources of the fire in Lebanon.”
Israeli police reported property damage in the Kiryat Shmona area but no wounded.
A strike in January, which a United States defense official said was carried out by Israel, killed Hamas’s deputy leader Saleh Al-Aruri and six militants in Hezbollah’s south Beirut stronghold — the most high-profile Hamas figure to be killed during the war.
This month, security sources told AFP a senior Hamas officer had survived an assassination attempt south of Beirut.
The escalating cross-border exchanges since October 8, the day after the Israel-Hamas war erupted, have stoked fears of all-out war on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.
The exchanges have killed at least 284 people on the Lebanese side, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also including 44 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
At least 24 fighters from Palestinian groups including from 10 Hamas are also among the dead.
On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and six civilians have been killed, according to the Israeli army.


US, Red Sea coalition forces destroy 5 Houthi drones

A ship is docked at the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen. (REUTERS file photo)
A ship is docked at the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen. (REUTERS file photo)
Updated 3 min 1 sec ago
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US, Red Sea coalition forces destroy 5 Houthi drones

A ship is docked at the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen. (REUTERS file photo)
  • The attack comes as the Houthis continue a series of assaults at sea over Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip and as the US and its allies launch airstrikes trying to stop them

AL-MUKALLA: A US warplane and a coalition cruiser in the Red Sea intercepted and destroyed five explosive-laden drones launched by Yemen’s Houthi militia on Tuesday night, the US Central Command said on Wednesday.

This came as the Houthis said that the US and UK “aggression” conducted more attacks on the western province of Hodeidah.

“On Feb. 27, between the hours of 9:50 p.m. and 10:55 p.m. (Sanaa time), US aircraft and a coalition warship shot down five Iranian-backed Houthi one-way attack (OWA) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in the Red Sea,” CENTCOM announced on social media.

Houthi media said that the US and UK had launched two airstrikes on targets on the Red Sea Labwan Island in Hodeidah province on Tuesday night, inflicting damage on the targeted areas.

At the same time, UK Maritime Trade Operations, a maritime agency that investigates ship attacks, said on Tuesday night that it had received an alert about an explosion 60 nautical miles west of Hodeidah in which a rocket was spotted hitting the starboard side of a ship sailing through the Red Sea.

The US, according to a senior US military official, has targeted more than 230 locations in Houthi-controlled parts of Yemen, possibly destroying hundreds of Houthi weapons in recent weeks, and it, together with its ally naval forces, has intercepted and destroyed dozens of Houthi missiles and drones.

In a testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism on Tuesday, Daniel Shapiro, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy, said that the US Department of Defense was committed to defending civilians and international shipping lanes against Houthi attacks.

He added that the attacks had impeded the supply of humanitarian aid, such as food and medicine, to Yemen and other impoverished nations.

Since November, the Iran-backed Houthis have fired hundreds of drones and missiles against commercial and naval ships in the Red Sea, Bab Al-Mandab and the Gulf of Aden, while also declaring a ban on any Israel-bound or related ships from passing through international maritime waters near Yemen.

The Houthis say that they want to force Israel to let food, water and other critical humanitarian supplies into the Gaza Strip. 

Despite airstrikes and local and international pleas for de-escalation in the Red Sea, the Houthis have pledged to continue their assaults until Israel removes its blockade on Gaza.

The UK Embassy in Yemen warned on Wednesday that Houthi assaults on ships would result in an environmental catastrophe off Yemen’s shores, citing the Lebanese-operated MV Rubymar ship, which generated a big oil slick in the Red Sea after being hit by Houthi missiles.

“Despite years of international effort to avert a crisis with the FSO SAFER, the Houthis are threatening another environmental disaster with the reckless attack on the MV Rubymar. The vessel is now at risk of leaking into the Red Sea. We call on the Houthis to stop their attacks,” the embassy said on X.

Yemen’s government told Arab News on Tuesday that they were racing against time to save the MV Rubymar ship, which was sinking with a cargo of 22,000 tons of fertilizer, and that they were seeking assistance from nations and conservation groups to bring the ship to land.

Meanwhile, Yemen’s Interior Ministry said that it had apprehended 10 people who were planning to kidnap foreigners and government officials in the eastern province of Mahra.

The official news agency SABA quoted Interior Minister Ibrahim Haydan as thanking local security officials in Mahra for discovering a “terrorist” cell of 10 people on Sunday after tracking them for months, adding that security forces exchanged fire with the group when they refused to surrender.