UN food agency says aid convoy turned away by Israel, looted

UN food agency says aid convoy turned away by Israel, looted
In this image grab from an AFPTV video, people carry food parcels that were air-dropped from US aircrafts above a beach in the Gaza Strip, on Mar. 2, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 05 March 2024
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UN food agency says aid convoy turned away by Israel, looted

UN food agency says aid convoy turned away by Israel, looted
  • WFP said the 14-truck food convoy waited at the Wadi Gaza checkpoint for three hours before being turned away by the Israeli army
  • After the trucks were rerouted they were stopped by “a large crowd of desperate people who looted the food,” taking about 200 tons

ROME: The UN’s food agency said Tuesday that its aid convoy had been turned away by Israeli forces at the Gaza border, after which it was looted by “desperate people.”
The World Food Programme said the 14-truck food convoy waited at the Wadi Gaza checkpoint for three hours before being turned away by the Israeli army.
It was the first convoy attempted since the agency halted deliveries to the north of Gaza on February 20, after its convoy of trucks faced gunfire and looting.
At the time, the agency described the situation in northern Gaza as “complete chaos and violence due to the collapse of civil order.”
In Tuesday’s incident, after the trucks were rerouted they were stopped by “a large crowd of desperate people who looted the food,” taking about 200 tons, the WFP said in a statement.
The agency said that it was exploring all ways to bring food to northern Gaza, but that roads were the only way to transport large quantities of food needed to avert famine.
An airdrop earlier Tuesday, in conjunction with Jordan’s air force, dropped six tons of food, enough for 20,000 people, it said.
“Airdrops are a last resort and will not avert famine. We need entry points to northern Gaza that will allow us to deliver enough food for half a million people in desperate need,” the agency’s deputy executive director Carl Skau said.
Skau told the UN Security Council last week that a famine was imminent in northern Gaza if conditions remain unchanged.
The UN estimates that 2.2 million people — most of Gaza’s population — are on the brink of famine, particularly in the north where Israeli forces block aid from entering.
On Tuesday, the WFP said hunger had reached “catastrophic levels” in the north.
“Children are dying of hunger-related diseases and suffering severe levels of malnutrition,” it said, calling for more entry points into Gaza, including the north.
It said a ceasefire was urgently needed.
Since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, Gaza has been plunged into a food crisis, with outside aid severely restricted.


Reactions to the death of Iran’s president in a helicopter crash

Reactions to the death of Iran’s president in a helicopter crash
Updated 6 min 17 sec ago
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Reactions to the death of Iran’s president in a helicopter crash

Reactions to the death of Iran’s president in a helicopter crash
  • India’s Narendra Modi: ‘My heartfelt condolences to his family and the people of Iran’
  • Pakistan to observe a day of mourning and Pakistani flags to fly at half mast as a mark of respect

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Monday he was “deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic demise” of Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi after Iranian media reported he had died in a helicopter crash.

“My heartfelt condolences to his family and the people of Iran,” Modi posted on X, formerly Twitter. “India stands with Iran in this time of sorrow.”

UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed on X said: “I extend my deepest condolences to the Iranian government and people over the passing of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and those accompanying them following a tragic accident. We pray that God grants them eternal rest and we extend our heartfelt sympathies to their families. The UAE stands in solidarity with Iran at this difficult time.”

UAE Prime Minister and Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid also posted on X: “Our condolences and sincere sympathies to the brotherly Iranian people and their leadership on the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his Foreign Minister in a painful accident. Our hearts are with you in this difficult time. Our prayers are that God will cover them with His vast mercy and dwell them in His spacious Paradise.”

Russia’s embassy in Tehran offered condolences over Raisi’s death, state news agency TASS reported.

Turkish foreign minister Hakan Fidan also extended condolences to the Iranian people on the death of President Raisi and foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian.

The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad on X said: “Sincere condolences to the government and people of the Islamic Republic of Iran on the death of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdullahian, and the accompanying officials in the painful helicopter accident, asking God Almighty for mercy and forgiveness for them and for their families with patience and solace. We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani said in a statement: “With great sadness and sorrow, we have received the news of the death of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, along with their companions, in the unfortunate plane crash in northern Iran.”

He added, “We extend our sincere condolences and sympathy to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, Mr. Ali Khamenei, and to the government and people of Iran. We express our solidarity with the brotherly Iranian people and the responsible officials in the Islamic Republic during this painful tragedy.

“We ask God to have mercy on the departed, and may He grant patience and solace to their families and loved ones.”

Syrian President Bashar Assad in a statement also offered condolences to Iran’s Supreme Leader over death of the president and the foreign minister.

Pakistani prime minister Shehbaz Sharif posted on X: “I along with the government and people of Pakistan extend our deepest condolences and sympathies to the Iranian nation on this terrible loss. May the martyred souls rest in heavenly peace. The great Iranian nation will overcome this tragedy with customary courage.

“Pakistan had the pleasure of hosting President Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian on a historic visit, less than a month ago. They were good friends of Pakistan. Pakistan will observe a day of mourning and the flag will fly at half mast as a mark of respect for President Raisi and his companions and in solidarity with Brotherly Iran.”

European Council president Charles Michel posted on X: “The EU expresses its sincere condolences for the death of President Raisi and Foreign Minister Abdollahian, as well as other members of their delegation and crew in a helicopter accident. Our thoughts go to the families.”

A Hamas statement conveyed Hamas’ “deepest condolences and solidarity” to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the Iranian government, and the Iranian people for “this immense loss.”

It praised the deceased Iranian leaders for supporting the Palestinian cause and resistance against Israel and expressed confidence that Iran’s “deep-rooted institutions” will enable it to overcome “the repercussions of this great loss.”

Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, head of Yemen’s Houthi Supreme Revolutionary Committee, posted on X: “Our deepest condolences to the Iranian people, the Iranian leadership, and the families of President Raisi and the accompanying delegation on their reported martyrdom. We ask God to grant their families patience and solace. Verily we belong to Allah and to Him we shall return. The Iranian people will remain adhering to the loyal leaders of their people, by God’s will.”

Lebanon’s Hezbollah expressed condolences to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for the death of President Raisi, a statement said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said he was “deeply saddened” by the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and other officials in a helicopter crash, noting their shared commitment to bolstering ties.

“I am deeply saddened by the tragic deaths of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and several other officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said in a statement on social media.


Iran’s president, foreign minister and others found dead at helicopter crash site, state media says

The helicopter carrying Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi takes off at the Iranian border with Azerbaijan.
The helicopter carrying Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi takes off at the Iranian border with Azerbaijan.
Updated 20 May 2024
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Iran’s president, foreign minister and others found dead at helicopter crash site, state media says

The helicopter carrying Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi takes off at the Iranian border with Azerbaijan.
  • “We can see the wreckage and the situation does not look good,” Red Crescent official said
  • Turkish drone footage suggesting the helicopter went down in the mountains

DUBAI: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, the country’s foreign minister and others have been found dead at the site of a helicopter crash Monday after an hourslong search through a foggy, mountainous region of the country’s northwest, state media reported. Raisi was 63.

The crash comes as the Middle East remains unsettled by the Israel-Hamas war, during which Raisi under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei launched an unprecedented drone-and-missile attack on Israel just last month. Under Raisi, Iran enriched uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels, further escalating tensions with the West as Tehran also supplied bomb-carrying drones to Russia for its war in Ukraine and armed militia groups across the region.

Meanwhile, Iran has faced years of mass protests against its Shiite theocracy over its ailing economy and women’s rights – making the moment that much more sensitive for Tehran and the future of the country.

State TV gave no immediate cause for the crash in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province. Among the dead was Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, 60.

 

Rescue team works following a crash of a helicopter carrying Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi, in Varzaqan, East Azerbaijan Province, Iran, on May 19, 2024. (West Asia News Agency via REUTERS)

Raisi was traveling in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province. State TV said what it called a “hard landing” happened near Jolfa, a city on the border with the nation of Azerbaijan, some 600 kilometers (375 miles) northwest of the Iranian capital, Tehran. Later, state TV put it farther east near the village of Uzi, but details remained contradictory.
With Raisi were Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, the governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province and other officials and bodyguards, the state-run IRNA news agency reported. One local government official used the word “crash,” but others referred to either a “hard landing” or an “incident.”
Early Monday morning, Turkish authorities released what they described as drone footage showing what appeared to be a fire in the wilderness that they “suspected to be wreckage of helicopter.” The coordinates listed in the footage put the fire some 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of the Azerbaijan-Iranian border on the side of a steep mountain.

In this photo released by the Iranian Presidency Office, President Ebrahim Raisi, right, shakes hands with his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev during their meeting in the inauguration ceremony of dam of Qiz Qalasi, or Castel of Girl in Azeri, at the border of Iran and Azerbaijan, on May 19, 2024. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Footage released by the IRNA early Monday showed what the agency described as the crash site, across a steep valley in a green mountain range. Soldiers speaking in the local Azeri language said: “There it is, we found it.”
Shortly after, state TV in an on-screen scrolling text said: “There is no sign of live from people on board.” It did not elaborate, but the semiofficial Tasnim news agency showed rescuers using a small drone to fly over the site, with them speaking among themselves saying the same thing.
Religious leaders had urged the public to pray. State TV aired images of hundreds of the faithful, some with their hands outstretched in supplication, praying at Imam Reza Shrine in the city of Mashhad, one of Shiite Islam’s holiest sites, as well as in Qom and other locations across the country. State television’s main channel aired the prayers nonstop.
In Tehran, a group of men kneeling on the side of the street clasped strands of prayer beads and watched a video of Raisi praying, some of them visibly weeping.
“If anything happens to him we’ll be heartbroken,” said one of the men, Mehdi Seyedi. ”May the prayers work and may he return to the arms of the nation safe and sound.”

In this photo posted on social media by the Iran News Agency, a group of people from Hamadan, western Iran are seen pray for the health of President Raisi and his accompanying delegation. (X: @IrnaEnglish)

IRNA called the area a “forest” and the region is known to be mountainous as well. State TV aired images of SUVs racing through a wooded area and said they were being hampered by poor weather conditions, including heavy rain and wind. Rescuers could be seen walking in the fog and mist.
Khamenei himself also urged the public to pray.
“We hope that God the Almighty returns the dear president and his colleagues in full health to the arms of the nation,” Khamenei said, drawing an “amen” from the worshipers he was addressing.
However, the supreme leader also stressed the business of Iran’s government would continue no matter what. Under the Iranian constitution, Iran’s vice first president takes over if the president dies with Khamenei’s assent, and a new presidential election would be called within 50 days. First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber already had begun receiving calls from officials and foreign governments in Raisi’s absence, state media reported.
Raisi, 63, a hard-liner who formerly led the country’s judiciary, is viewed as a protégé of Khamenei and some analysts have suggested he could replace the 85-year-old leader after Khamenei’s death or resignation.
 

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on May 19, 2024, shows him speaking during meeting of members of the Revolutionary Guards in Tehran. (AFP)

Raisi had been on the border with Azerbaijan early Sunday to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev. The dam is the third one that the two nations built on the Aras River. The visit came despite chilly relations between the two nations, including over a gun attack on Azerbaijan’s Embassy in Tehran in 2023, and Azerbaijan’s diplomatic relations with Israel, which Iran’s Shiite theocracy views as its main enemy in the region.
Iran flies a variety of helicopters in the country, but international sanctions make it difficult to obtain parts for them. Its military air fleet also largely dates back to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. IRNA published images it described as Raisi taking off in what resembled a Bell helicopter, with a blue-and-white paint scheme previously seen in published photographs.
 

People follow the news of a crash of a helicopter carrying Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi on a TV in a shop in Tehran on May 19, 2024. (West Asia News Agency via REUTERS)

Raisi won Iran’s 2021 presidential election, a vote that saw the lowest turnout in the Islamic Republic’s history. Raisi is sanctioned by the US in part over his involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 at the end of the bloody Iran-Iraq war.
Under Raisi, Iran now enriches uranium at nearly weapons-grade levels and hampers international inspections. Iran has armed Russia in its war on Ukraine, as well as launched a massive drone-and-missile attack on Israel amid its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It also has continued arming proxy groups in the Mideast, like Yemen’s Houthi rebels and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, mass protests in the country have raged for years. The most recent involved the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini, a woman who had been earlier detained over allegedly not wearing a hijab, or headscarf, to the liking of authorities. The monthslong security crackdown that followed the demonstrations killed more than 500 people and saw over 22,000 detained.
In March, a United Nations investigative panel found that Iran was responsible for the “physical violence” that led to Amini’s death.


Moroccans in pro-Palestinian march rally against Israel ties

Moroccans in pro-Palestinian march rally against Israel ties
Updated 20 May 2024
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Moroccans in pro-Palestinian march rally against Israel ties

Moroccans in pro-Palestinian march rally against Israel ties
  • Rabat has officially denounced what it said were “flagrant violations of the provisions of international law” by Israel in its war against Hamas, but has not given any indication that normalization with Israel would be undone
  • Israel has killed at least 35,456 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data provided by the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry

CASABLANCA, Morocco: Thousands of Moroccans demonstrated Sunday in Casablanca in support of the Palestinian people and against ties with Israel, an AFP journalist said, more than seven months into the Gaza war.
Protesters in Morocco’s commercial capital chanted “Freedom for Palestine,” “If we don’t speak out, who will?” and “No to normalization,” and many wore keffiyeh scarves or waved Palestinian flags.
The North African kingdom established diplomatic ties with Israel in late 2020 under the US-brokered Abraham Accords which saw similar moves by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Under the deal, the United States recognized Morocco’s claim to sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
Since the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip began on October 7, large-scale demonstrations in Morocco have called for the abrogation of the normalization accord.
On Sunday, the demonstrators marched through central Casablanca in a protest called by a grouping of leftist parties and Islamist movements.
“I cannot remain indifferent and silent in the face of what is happening to the Palestinians who are being killed on a daily basis,” demonstrator Zahra Bensoukar, 43, told AFP.
Idriss Amer, 48, said he was protesting “in solidarity with the Palestinian people, against the Zionist massacre in Gaza and against normalization” of ties with Israel.
Rabat has officially denounced what it said were “flagrant violations of the provisions of international law” by Israel in its war against Hamas, but has not given any indication that normalization with Israel would be undone.
The Gaza war broke out after Hamas on October 7 launched an unprecedented attack on Israel which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,456 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data provided by the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
Hamas also took about 250 hostages on October 7, of whom 124 remain held in Gaza including 37 the Israeli military says are dead.
 

 


What do we know so far about the mysterious crash of the helicopter carrying Iran’s president?

What do we know so far about the mysterious crash of the helicopter carrying Iran’s president?
Updated 19 May 2024
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What do we know so far about the mysterious crash of the helicopter carrying Iran’s president?

What do we know so far about the mysterious crash of the helicopter carrying Iran’s president?
  • Initially, Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said the helicopter “was forced to make a hard landing due to the bad weather and fog”

BEIRUT: The apparent crash of a helicopter carrying Iran’s president and foreign minister on Sunday sent shock waves around the region.
Details remained scant in the hours after the incident, and it was unclear if Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and the other officials had survived.
Here’s what we know so far.
WHO WAS ON BOARD THE HELICOPTER AND WHERE WERE THEY GOING?
The helicopter was carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, the country’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, the governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province and other officials and bodyguards, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. Raisi was returning from a trip to Iran’s border with Azerbaijan earlier Sunday to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, the news agency said.
WHERE AND HOW DID THE HELICOPTER GO DOWN?
The helicopter apparently crashed or made an emergency landing in the Dizmar forest between the cities of Varzaqan and Jolfa in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province, near its border with Azerbaijan, under circumstances that remain unclear. Initially, Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said the helicopter “was forced to make a hard landing due to the bad weather and fog.”
WHAT IS THE STATUS OF THE SEARCH OPERATIONS?
Iranian officials have said the mountainous, forested terrain and heavy fog impeded search-and-rescue operations. The president of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, Pir-Hossein Koulivand, said 40 search teams were on the ground in the area despite “challenging weather conditions.” The search is being done by teams on the ground, as “the weather conditions have made it impossible to conduct aerial searches” via drones, Koulivand said, according to IRNA.
IF RAISI DIED IN THE CRASH, HOW MIGHT THIS IMPACT IRAN?
Raisi is seen as a protégé to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and a potential successor for his position within the country’s Shiite theocracy. Under the Iranian constitution, if he died, the country’s first vice president, Mohammad Mokhber, would become president. Khamenei has publicly assured Iranians that there would be “no disruption to the operations of the country” as a result of the crash.
WHAT HAS THE INTERNATIONAL REACTION BEEN?
Countries including Russia, Iraq and Qatar have made formal statements of concern about Raisi’s fate and offered to assist in the search operations.
Azerbaijani President Aliyev said he was “deeply concerned” to hear of the incident, and affirmed that Azerbaijan was ready to provide any support necessary. Relations between the two countries have been chilly due to Azerbaijan’s diplomatic relations with Israel, Iran’s regional arch-enemy.
There was no immediate official reaction from Israel. Last month, following an Israeli strike on an Iranian consular building in Damascus that killed two Iranian generals, Tehran launched hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel. They were mostly shot down and tensions have apparently since subsided.

 


EU Red Sea mission says it defended 120 ships from Houthi attacks

EU Red Sea mission says it defended 120 ships from Houthi attacks
Updated 19 May 2024
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EU Red Sea mission says it defended 120 ships from Houthi attacks

EU Red Sea mission says it defended 120 ships from Houthi attacks
  • Human rights activist raps cases of prisoner fatalities as a result of torture in militia’s captivity

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: The EU mission in the Red Sea, known as EUNAVFOR Aspides, said on Sunday that it had protected over 100 ships while sailing the critical trade channel and shot down more than a dozen Houthi missiles and drones in the last three months.

In a post on X marking three months since the start of its operation, the EU mission, which is now made up of five naval units and 1,000 personnel from 19 contributing nations, said that its forces had destroyed 12 drones, one drone boat, and four ballistic missiles fired by the Houthis from areas under their control in Yemen, as well as provided protection to 120 commercial ships since February.

“Great day for Freedom of Navigation, as 3 months have passed since the launch of ASPIDES. Three months of multiple challenges and great achievements. ASPIDES continues its mission in full compliance with international law, to ensure maritime security and seaborne trade,” EUNAVFOR Aspides said.

On Feb. 19, the EU announced the commencement of EUNAVFOR Aspides, a military operation in the Red Sea to defend international marine traffic against Houthi attacks.

At the same time, the Philippines Department of Migrant Workers said on Sunday that 23 of its citizens who were aboard the oil ship assaulted by Houthi militia in the Red Sea on Saturday were safe.

“The DMW is closely coordinating with international maritime authorities, shipping companies, and local manning agencies on the status of ships with Filipino seafarers traversing high-risk areas and war-like zones in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden,” the DMW said in a statement carried by the official Philippine News Agency. 

For seven months, the Houthis have launched hundreds of ballistic missiles, drones, and drone boats against commercial and navy ships along international commerce lanes off Yemen, including the Red Sea.

The Houthis claim that their strikes are intended to push Israel to cease the war in Gaza and allow humanitarian supplies into the Palestinian territory. 

Three civilian sailors, including two Filipinos, were killed in March after the Houthis launched a missile at their ship in the Red Sea.

Many international shipping companies directed their ships to avoid the Red Sea and other passages off Yemen, opting for longer and more costly routes through Africa.

Meanwhile, Yemen human rights activists have said that a man held by the Houthis during the last seven years died as a result of abuse in Houthi imprisonment, making him the latest victim of torture within Houthis detention facilities. 

On Saturday, the Houthis told the family of Najeed Hassan Farea in Taiz through the Yemen Red Crescent that their son had died in their custody, but they did not explain how.

The Houthis abducted Farea in February 2017 after storming his village and home in the Al-Taziya district, preventing him from contacting his family and denying them information about where he was being detained.

Eshraq Al-Maqtari, a human rights activist in Taiz who reached Farea’s family, told Arab News that the Houthis cruelly tortured the man and that his family was stunned to hear of his death after years of information blackout since his detention.

“He was denied the right to communicate, to know his fate, and the right to healthcare, which appears to have caused his death,” she said, adding that since the start of the year, there have been three verified cases of prisoner fatalities as a result of torture in Houthi captivity.