Israeli strikes target Hezbollah inside Syria

The strikes have increased since Israel's war with Palestinian militant group Hamas, a Hezbollah ally. (REUTERS)
The strikes have increased since Israel's war with Palestinian militant group Hamas, a Hezbollah ally. (REUTERS)
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Updated 19 March 2024
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Israeli strikes target Hezbollah inside Syria

The strikes have increased since Israel's war with Palestinian militant group Hamas, a Hezbollah ally. (REUTERS)
  • Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes in Syria since civil war broke out in 2011, targeting Iran-backed forces including Hezbollah as well as Syrian army positions
  • Strikes have increased since Israel’s war with Hamas, a Hezbollah ally, began on October 7

BEIRUT: Israel launched missiles at several military targets outside the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Tuesday, Syria’s Defense Ministry said, in what regional intelligence and Syrian sources said were stepped-up strikes on fortifications of Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Syrian air defenses intercepted Israeli “missiles and shot down some of them,” the ministry said in a statement, adding they caused only material damage.
Two Syrian military sources familiar with the strikes said Israel targeted a Hezbollah ammunition depot near the city of Yabroud in the Qalamoun Mountains, northeast of the Syrian capital.
It was the second strike within 48 hours on the same mountain range that spills over into Lebanon, where the heavily armed Hezbollah has several major supply routes into Syria.

BACKGROUND

Two Syrian military sources familiar with the strikes said Israel targeted a Hezbollah ammunition depot near the city of Yabroud in the Qalamoun Mountains, northeast of the Syrian capital.

Hezbollah and the Israeli military have been trading fire since Hamas stormed southern Israel from the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7, in a steadily intensifying conflict that has fueled concern of wider escalation.
Another strike hit a nearby location near Qutayfah, almost 40 km east of Damascus, within the same stretch of territory where Hezbollah forces are well entrenched, according to a Western intelligence source.
“These latest raids are targeting Hezbollah’s infrastructure in Syria, especially its elaborate fortifications along the Lebanese-Syrian border,” the source who requested anonymity told Reuters. He also referred to a recent strike on the city of Qusayr along the border where Hezbollah maintains security control with checkpoints. An Israeli military spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
Iran has been a major backer of President Bashar Assad during Syria’s 13-year-old conflict.
Its support for Damascus and Hezbollah has drawn regular Israeli air strikes meant to curb Tehran’s extraterritorial military power.
The Israeli strikes in Syria have killed scores of Hezbollah and militia fighters drawn from a group of pro-Iranian proxy groups present in the eastern outskirts of Damascus and southern and southeastern Syria, Western and regional intelligence sources say.
They say since Oct.7 Israel has expanded both the nature of targets and territorial reach of its attacks to Syrian army encampments in Daraa province in the south, a source of sporadic mortars into Israel’s northern border.
The strikes have focused on the vicinity of the Al-Bukamal border crossing to the east in Deir Ezzor, a major supply route for Iraqi militias in and out of Syria.
Israel has also stepped its missile strikes into the heavily fortified Sayeda Zeinab neighborhood of the capital where a major shrine is located, and high-ranking militia leaders are known to have headquarters, both Syrian and Western intelligence sources say.
At least half a dozen Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers, mostly in the Sayeda Zainab area, along with several Hezbollah cadres were killed in the strikes.
Hezbollah says at least 20 of its fighters have been killed in Syria since Oct. 7.
The conflict marks the worst hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel since they fought a war in 2006, commonly known in Lebanon as “the July war.”

 


Syrian first lady Asma Assad has leukemia, presidency says

Syrian first lady Asma Assad has leukemia, presidency says
Updated 5 sec ago
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Syrian first lady Asma Assad has leukemia, presidency says

Syrian first lady Asma Assad has leukemia, presidency says
  • Statement stated that Asma would undergo a special treatment protocol that would require her to isolate
DUBAI: Syria’s first lady, Asma Assad, has been diagnosed with leukemia, the Syrian presidency said on Tuesday, almost five years after she announced she had fully recovered from breast cancer.
The statement said Asma, 48, would undergo a special treatment protocol that would require her to isolate, and that she would step away from public engagements as a result.
In August 2019, Asma said she had fully recovered from breast cancer that she said had been discovered early.
Since Syria plunged into war in 2011, the British-born former investment banker has taken on the public role of leading charity efforts and meeting families of killed soldiers, but has also become hated by the opposition.
She runs the Syria Trust for Development, a large NGO that acts as an umbrella organization for many of the aid and development operations in Syria.
Last year, she accompanied her husband, President Bashar Assad ,on a visit to the United Arab Emirates, her first known official trip abroad with him since 2011. She met Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the Emirati president’s mother, during a trip seen as a public signal of her growing role in public affairs.

Yemen’s Houthis say they downed US drone over Al-Bayda province

Yemen’s Houthis say they downed US drone over Al-Bayda province
Updated 43 min 34 sec ago
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Yemen’s Houthis say they downed US drone over Al-Bayda province

Yemen’s Houthis say they downed US drone over Al-Bayda province
  • The Houthis said last Friday they downed another US MQ9 drone over the southeastern province of Maareb

DUBAI: Yemen’s Houthis downed a US MQ9 drone over Al-Bayda province in southern Yemen, the Iran-aligned group’s military spokesperson said in a televised statement on Tuesday.

Yahya Saree said the drone was targeted with a locally made surface-to-air missile and that videos to support the claim would be released.

The Houthis said last Friday they downed another US MQ9 drone over the southeastern province of Maareb.

The group, which controls Yemen’s capital and most populous areas of the Arabian Peninsula state, has attacked international shipping in the Red Sea since November in solidarity with the Palestinians in the war between Israel and Hamas militants, drawing US and British retaliatory strikes since February.


Iranians pay last respects to President Ebrahim Raisi

Iranians pay last respects to President Ebrahim Raisi
Updated 2 min 44 sec ago
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Iranians pay last respects to President Ebrahim Raisi

Iranians pay last respects to President Ebrahim Raisi
  • Mourners set off from a central square in the northwestern city of Tabriz
  • Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declares five days of national mourning

TEHRAN: Tens of thousands of Iranians gathered Tuesday to mourn president Ebrahim Raisi and seven members of his entourage who were killed in a helicopter crash on a fog-shrouded mountainside in the northwest.

Waving Iranian flags and portraits of the late president, mourners set off from a central square in the northwestern city of Tabriz, where Raisi was headed when his helicopter crashed on Sunday.

They walked behind a lorry carrying the coffins of Raisi and his seven aides.

Their helicopter lost communications while it was on its way back to Tabriz after Raisi attended the inauguration of a joint dam project on the Aras river, which forms part of the border with Azerbaijan, in a ceremony with his counterpart Ilham Aliyev.

A massive search and rescue operation was launched on Sunday when two other helicopters flying alongside Raisi’s lost contact with his aircraft in bad weather.

State television announced his death in a report early on Monday, saying “the servant of the Iranian nation, Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi, has achieved the highest level of martyrdom,” showing pictures of him as a voice recited the Qur’an.

Killed alongside the Iranian president were Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, provincial officials and members of his security team.

Iran’s armed forces chief of staff Mohammad Bagheri ordered an investigation into the cause of the crash as Iranians in cities nationwide gathered to mourn Raisi and his entourage.

Tens of thousands gathered in the capital’s Valiasr Square on Monday.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ultimate authority in Iran, declared five days of national mourning and assigned vice president Mohammad Mokhber, 68, as caretaker president until a presidential election can be held.

State media later announced that the election would will be held on June 28.

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri, who served as deputy to Amir-Abdollahian, was named acting foreign minister.

From Tabriz, Raisi’s body will be flown to the Shiite clerical center of Qom on Tuesday before being moved to Tehran that evening.

Processions will be held in in the capital on Wednesday morning before Khamenei leads prayers at a farewell ceremony.

Raisi’s body will then be flown to his home city of Mashhad, in the northeast, where he will be buried on Thursday evening after funeral rites.

Raisi, 63, had been in office since 2021. The ultra-conservative’s time in office saw mass protests, a deepening economic crisis and unprecedented armed exchanges with arch-enemy Israel.

Raisi succeeded the moderate Hassan Rouhani, at a time when the economy was battered by US sanctions imposed over Iran’s nuclear activities.

Condolence messages flooded in from Iran’s allies around the region, including the Syrian government, Palestinian militant group Hamas and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

It was an unprecedented Hamas attack on Israel that sparked the devastating war in Gaza, now in its eighth month, and soaring tensions between Israel and the “resistance axis” led by Iran.

Israel’s killing of seven Revolutionary Guards in a drone strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on April 1 triggered Iran’s first ever direct attack on Israel, involving hundreds of missiles and drones.

In a speech hours before his death, Raisi underlined Iran’s support for the Palestinians, a centerpiece of its foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Palestinian flags were raised alongside Iranian flags at ceremonies held for the late president.


Israeli army raids West Bank’s Jenin, Palestinians say seven killed

Israeli army raids West Bank’s Jenin, Palestinians say seven killed
Updated 21 May 2024
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Israeli army raids West Bank’s Jenin, Palestinians say seven killed

Israeli army raids West Bank’s Jenin, Palestinians say seven killed
  • Among the Palestinians killed was a surgical doctor, the head of the Jenin Governmental Hospital said

JENIN: Israeli forces raided Jenin in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday in an operation that the Palestinian health ministry said killed seven Palestinians, including a doctor, and left nine others wounded.
The army said it was an operation against militants and that a number of Palestinian gunmen were shot. There was no immediate word of any Israeli casualties.
The health ministry account of the casualties was quoted by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA.
Among the Palestinians killed was a surgical doctor, the head of the Jenin Governmental Hospital said. He was killed in the vicinity of the hospital, the director said.
The West Bank is among territories Israel seized in a 1967 Middle East war. The Palestinians want it to be the core of an independent Palestinian state. US-sponsored talks on a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict broke down in 2014.


Dubai DXB airport sees record 2024 traffic after 8.4% rise in Q1

Dubai DXB airport sees record 2024 traffic after 8.4% rise in Q1
Updated 21 May 2024
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Dubai DXB airport sees record 2024 traffic after 8.4% rise in Q1

Dubai DXB airport sees record 2024 traffic after 8.4% rise in Q1
  • Dubai airport welcomed around 23 million passengers in January-March period, operator says 
  • India, Saudi Arabia and Britain were top three countries by passenger volumes in first quarter

DUBAI: Dubai’s main airport expects to handle a record passenger traffic this year after an 8.4% rise in the first quarter compared with a year earlier, operator Dubai Airports said on Tuesday.

Dubai International Airport (DXB), a major global travel hub, welcomed around 23 million passengers in the January-March period, the operator said in a statement, noting that the uptick was partly driven by increased destination offers by flagship carrier Emirates and its sister low-cost airline Flydubai.

“With a strong start to Q2 and an optimistic outlook for the rest of the year, we have revised our forecast for the year to 91 million guests, surpassing our previous annual traffic record of 89.1 million in 2018,” CEO Paul Griffiths said in the statement.

Dubai is the biggest tourism and trade hub in the Middle East, attracting a record 17.15 million international overnight visitors last year.

Its ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum last month approved a new passenger terminal in Al Maktoum International airport worth 128 billion dirhams ($34.85 billion).

The Al Maktoum International Airport will be the largest in the world with a capacity of up to 260 million passengers, and five times the size of DXB, he said, adding all operations at Dubai airport would be transferred to Al Maktoum in the coming years.

DXB is connected to 256 destinations across 102 countries. In the first quarter, India, Saudi Arabia and Britain were the top three countries by passenger numbers, Dubai Airports added. ($1 = 3.6729 UAE dirham)