Chinese-owned tanker hit by Houthi missile in Red Sea: CENTCOM

Chinese-owned tanker hit by Houthi missile in Red Sea: CENTCOM
The Houthis have vowed to target Israeli, British and US ships, as well as vessels heading to Israeli ports, disrupting traffic along the vital trade route. (Reuters file photo)
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Updated 24 March 2024
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Chinese-owned tanker hit by Houthi missile in Red Sea: CENTCOM

Chinese-owned tanker hit by Houthi missile in Red Sea: CENTCOM
  • Panamanian-flagged, Chinese-owned and operated Huang Pu issued a distress call but did not request assistance

DUBAI: A Chinese-owned oil tanker was attacked off Yemen Saturday by ballistic missiles fired by Houthi rebels, who have intensified strikes on Red Sea shipping, the US military said.
The Panamanian-flagged, Chinese-owned and operated Huang Pu issued a distress call but did not request assistance, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement on social media platform X early on Sunday.
“No casualties were reported, and the vessel resumed its course,” the statement said.
The Iran-backed rebels, who control much of Yemen’s Red Sea coast, have launched dozens of missile and drone strikes on shipping over the past four months, actions they say are in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

 


CENTCOM and the British navy’s United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations (UKMTO) said a fire had broken out on board the ship but was extinguished within 30 minutes.
The Marinetraffic tracking website later had the vessel sailing out of the Red Sea into the Gulf of Aden heading for its next port of call which, according to maritime security agency Ambrey, was New Mangalore in India.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which UKMTO said struck 23 nautical miles west of the Yemeni port of Mokha.
CENTCOM said Houthi rebels had launched four anti-ship ballistic missiles in the Red Sea near the Huang Pu before a fifth hit the vessel.
“The Houthis attacked the MV Huang despite previously stating they would not attack Chinese vessels,” it said.
According to Ambrey, “the tanker’s registration details, including name and operator, had been changed as recently as February 2024.”
It had been registered in 2019 by British firm Union Maritime Ltd, Ambrey said, and another vessel affiliated with the same company had previously been targeted by the Houthis.
The Houthis have vowed to target Israeli, British and US ships, as well as vessels heading to Israeli ports, disrupting traffic along the vital trade route.
The United States, which leads an international coalition meant to protect Red Sea shipping, has been hitting Houthi targets in Yemen since mid-January.
CENTCOM said that, following the attack on the Huang Pu, US forces engaged six drones launched by the Houthis, five of which crashed into the Red Sea.
The sixth flew into a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen, it said.

 


Netanyahu says deadly Israeli strike in Rafah was the result of a ‘tragic mistake’

Netanyahu says deadly Israeli strike in Rafah was the result of a ‘tragic mistake’
Updated 8 sec ago
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Netanyahu says deadly Israeli strike in Rafah was the result of a ‘tragic mistake’

Netanyahu says deadly Israeli strike in Rafah was the result of a ‘tragic mistake’
  • “Despite our utmost efforts not to harm innocent civilians, last night there was a tragic mistake,” Netanyahu said Monday in an address to Israel’s parliament

TEL AVIV, Israel: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that a “tragic mistake” was made in an Israeli strike in the southern Gaza city of Rafah that set fire to a camp housing displaced Palestinians and, according to local officials, killed at least 45 people.
The strike only added to the surging international criticism Israel has faced over its war with Hamas, with even its closest allies expressing outrage at civilian deaths. Israel insists it adheres to international law even as it faces scrutiny in the world’s top courts, one of which last week demanded that it halt the offensive in Rafah.
Netanyahu did not elaborate on the error. Israel’s military initially said it had carried out a precise airstrike on a Hamas compound, killing two senior militants. As details of the strike and fire emerged, the military said it had opened an investigation into the deaths of civilians.
Sunday night’s attack, which appeared to be one of the war’s deadliest, helped push the overall Palestinian death toll in the war above 36,000, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between fighters and noncombatants in its tally.
“Despite our utmost efforts not to harm innocent civilians, last night there was a tragic mistake,” Netanyahu said Monday in an address to Israel’s parliament. “We are investigating the incident and will obtain a conclusion because this is our policy.”
Mohammed Abuassa, who rushed to the scene in the northwestern neighborhood of Tel Al-Sultan, said rescuers “pulled out people who were in an unbearable state.”
“We pulled out children who were in pieces. We pulled out young and elderly people. The fire in the camp was unreal,” he said.
At least 45 people were killed, according to the Gaza Health Ministry and the Palestinian Red Crescent rescue service. The ministry said the dead included at least 12 women, eight children and three older adults, with another three bodies burned beyond recognition.
In a separate development, Egypt’s military said one of its soldiers was shot dead during an exchange of fire in the Rafah area, without providing further details. Israel said it was in contact with Egyptian authorities, and both sides said they were investigating.
An initial investigation found that the soldier had responded to an exchange of fire between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants, Egypt’s state-owned Qahera TV reported. Egypt has warned that Israel’s incursion in Rafah could threaten the two countries’ decades-old peace treaty.
The UN Security Council scheduled an emergency closed meeting for Tuesday afternoon on the situation in Rafah at the request of Algeria, the Arab representative on the council, two council diplomats told The Associated Press ahead of an official announcement.
Rafah, the southernmost Gaza city on the border with Egypt, had housed more than a million people — about half of Gaza’s population — displaced from other parts of the territory. Most have fled once again since Israel launched what it called a limited incursion there earlier this month. Hundreds of thousands are packed into squalid tent camps in and around the city.
Elsewhere in Rafah, the director of the Kuwait Hospital, one of the city’s last functioning medical centers, said it was shutting down and that staff members were relocating to a field hospital. Dr. Suhaib Al-Hamas said the decision was made after a strike killed two health workers Monday at the entrance to the hospital.
Netanyahu says Israel must destroy what he says are Hamas’ last remaining battalions in Rafah. The militant group launched a barrage of rockets Sunday from the city toward heavily populated central Israel, setting off air raid sirens but causing no injuries.
The strike on Rafah brought a new wave of condemnation, even from Israel’s strongest supporters.
The US National Security Council said in a statement that the “devastating images” from the strike on Rafah were “heartbreaking.” It said the US was working with the Israeli military and others to assess what happened.
French President Emmanuel Macron was more blunt, saying “these operations must stop” in a post on X. “There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian civilians. I call for full respect for international law and an immediate ceasefire,” he wrote.
The Foreign Office of Germany, which has been a staunch supporter of Israel for decades, said “the images of charred bodies, including children, from the airstrike in Rafah are unbearable.”
“The exact circumstances must be clarified, and the investigation announced by the Israeli army must now come quickly,” the ministry added. ”The civilian population must finally be better protected.”
Qatar, a key mediator in attempts to secure a ceasefire and the release of hostages held by Hamas, said the Rafah strike could “complicate” talks, Negotiations, which appear to be restarting, have faltered repeatedly over Hamas’ demand for a lasting truce and the withdrawal of Israeli forces, terms Israeli leaders have publicly rejected.
The Israeli military’s top legal official, Maj. Gen. Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi, said authorities were examining the strike in Rafah and that the military regrets the loss of civilian life.
Speaking to an Israeli lawyers’ conference, Tomer-Yerushalmi said Israel has launched 70 criminal investigations into possible violations of international law, including the deaths of civilians, the conditions at a detention facility holding suspected militants and the deaths of some inmates in Israeli custody. She said incidents of property crimes and looting were also being examined.
Israel has long maintained it has an independent judiciary capable of investigating and prosecuting abuses. But rights groups say Israeli authorities routinely fail to fully investigate violence against Palestinians and that even when soldiers are held accountable, the punishment is usually light.
Israel has denied allegations of genocide brought against it by South Africa at the International Court of Justice. Last week, the court ordered Israel to halt its Rafah offensive, a ruling it has no power to enforce.
Separately, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court is seeking arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as three Hamas leaders, over alleged crimes linked to the war. The ICC only intervenes when it concludes that the state in question is unable or unwilling to properly prosecute such crimes.
Israel says it does its best to adhere to the laws of war. Israeli leaders also say they face an enemy that makes no such commitment, embeds itself in civilian areas and refuses to release Israeli hostages unconditionally.
Hamas triggered the war with its Oct. 7 attack into Israel, in which Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seized some 250 hostages. Hamas still holds about 100 hostages and the remains of around 30 others after most of the rest were released during a ceasefire last year.
Around 80 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes. Severe hunger is widespread, and UN officials say parts of the territory are experiencing famine.


Security Council to hold emergency meeting after Rafah strike: diplomats

Security Council to hold emergency meeting after Rafah strike: diplomats
Updated 28 May 2024
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Security Council to hold emergency meeting after Rafah strike: diplomats

Security Council to hold emergency meeting after Rafah strike: diplomats

UNITED NATIONS, United States: The UN Security Council has convened an emergency meeting for Tuesday after a deadly Israeli strike on a displaced persons camp in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, diplomats told AFP.
The closed-door meeting was requested by Algeria, which is currently a non-permanent member of the council, diplomats said.


New settler units on Palestinian land hand Israel a powerful demographic weapon

New settler units on Palestinian land hand Israel a powerful demographic weapon
Updated 27 May 2024
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New settler units on Palestinian land hand Israel a powerful demographic weapon

New settler units on Palestinian land hand Israel a powerful demographic weapon
  • Israeli authorities accused of exploiting Gaza war to create “more facts on the ground” in occupied West Bank
  • Uptick noticed in approvals for illegal settlements in East Jerusalem within or alongside Palestinian neighborhoods

LONDON: On July 11 last year, 68-year-old Nora Ghaith and her husband Mustafa Sub Laban lost their battle to hold on to their home in Jerusalem’s Old City — in which Ghaith was born — when Israeli police broke down their door and forcibly evicted the elderly couple.

The eviction of the last remaining Palestinians in an apartment building now filled with settlers was carried out under a controversial law. This legislation enables Jews to claim properties that supposedly belonged to their families before they were evicted in 1948, and were subsequently occupied by Palestinian refugees.

Since Oct. 7, plans for no fewer than eight new settlements in East Jerusalem have been fast-tracked. (AFP)

The Legal and Administrative Matters Law was passed in 1970 after Israel annexed East Jerusalem. The same law does not, however, permit the far larger number of Palestinians whose families were evicted from West Jerusalem in 1948 to reclaim the properties they lost.

In fact, the Absentee Property Law, passed in 1950 and amended in 1973, prevents Palestinians from reclaiming lost properties.

Both laws are doubly unjust, critics say, because Jews who left East Jerusalem in 1948 were later given Palestinian properties in West Jerusalem as compensation, and in being allowed to “reclaim” properties in East Jerusalem are being doubly compensated.

Israeli troops patrol the Palestinian refugee camp of Al-Fara, in the occupied West Bank. (AFP)

Last year, the “deeply shocking and heart-breaking” eviction of the Ghaith-Sub Laban family and many other Palestinian families in East Jerusalem was condemned by UN experts as “part of Israel’s apartheid machinery at work, designed to consolidate Jewish ownership of Jerusalem and racially dominate the city’s population.”

The human rights special rapporteurs said such evictions were “a gross violation of international humanitarian law and a war crime,” and evidence of “intention to annex and colonize the occupied territory in violation of international law.”

Between Oct. 7 last year and March 10, some 98 Palestinian homes were demolished, research reveals. (AFP)

Less than a year on, however, two Israeli human rights nongovernmental organizations said that while the global community’s attention has been focused on the death and destruction unfolding in Gaza, there has been “a major acceleration in the promotion and fast-tracking of new settlement plans in East Jerusalem and a dramatic spike in the rate of demolitions of Palestinian homes.”

The Israeli government “is clearly exploiting the war to create more facts on the ground to predetermine the final status of Jerusalem and thwart all prospects for a negotiated political agreement, while forcibly displacing Palestinians from their homes and the city,” Amy Cohen, director of international relations at Ir Amim, told Arab News.

Ir Amim, or City of Nations, is an Israeli NGO working “to render Jerusalem a more equitable and sustainable city for the Israelis and Palestinians who share it and to help secure a negotiated resolution on the city.”

Research, carried out jointly with Bimkom-Planners for Planning Rights, reveals that between Oct. 7 last year and March 10, some 98 Palestinian homes were demolished — an almost two-fold monthly increase compared with the period preceding the war.

At the same time, there has been “a major uptick” in efforts to create illegal settlements in East Jerusalem either within or alongside Palestinian neighborhoods.

These plans provide for more than 12,000 housing units. With an average 6.5 births per woman among ultra-Orthodox Jewish families recorded in the period 2019 to 2021, this means tens of thousands of additional settlers will be moving into East Jerusalem.

From 2008 to May 12 this year, 1,498 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. (AFP)

According to the most recent census, approximately 361,700 (61 percent) of East Jerusalem’s population are Palestinian Arabs. The remaining 234,000 (40 percent) are Jewish — all of whom are regarded by the international community as illegal settlers in the territory, which has been occupied by Israel since the Six Day War in 1967.

The growing number of illegal settlements is especially concerning in light of the statistics for violent assaults in the West Bank. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, from 2008 to May 12 this year, 1,498 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — 10 times as many as the 149 Israeli deaths reported.

There is an even greater disparity in the number of injuries on both sides — 95,383 Palestinians and 2,373 Israelis.

The Israeli authorities “are certainly exploiting the circumstances right now, taking advantage of the fact that the international community is obviously overwhelmed with the horrific, catastrophic conditions in Gaza and all of its implications,” said Cohen.

The growing number of illegal settlements is especially concerning in light of the statistics for violent assaults in the West Bank. (AFP)

“So, while the attention is diverted there — and the Israeli government is complicit in this — the activists in the settler movement are really taking advantage of the circumstances to create more ‘facts on the ground.’”

These “facts” are motivated by the Israeli government’s policy “to ensure that Jerusalem remains what they often call the ‘united, eternal capital of Jerusalem,’ and to preserve the essence of the city being a Jewish capital.

“That means not only do they have to secure control over as much space as possible, but also over the demographic balance of the population — the demographic majority must be in favor of Jewish Israelis, which is being achieved by targeting the Palestinian population.”

She added: “These policies and these measures essentially put a cap on the Palestinian demographic, which serves as a form of — and it’s horrific to even say this — but a form of displacement and population control, to ensure that there will be a Jewish demographic majority in the city.

INNUMBERS

98 Palestinian homes demolished in Oct. 7-March 10 period in East Jerusalem.

12,000 Housing units planned in illegal settlements in East Jerusalem.

“And this has been playing out in the form of demolitions.”

Since Oct. 7, plans for no fewer than eight new settlements in East Jerusalem have been fast-tracked.

The fear, said Cohen, was that the situation was approaching a tipping point beyond which the implementation of a two-state solution would become impossible.

“If the international community were to come together today with representatives of Israel and the Palestinian Authority and begin to sit down and draw some sort of road map, it would look very, very different than it did 20 years ago, during Camp David or even before that during the Oslo Accords,” she said.

The Israeli government ‘is clearly exploiting the war to create more facts on the ground to predetermine the final status of Jerusalem,’ said Amy Cohen.

“Obviously, any road map would have to be adapted to the reality of today. You cannot reverse most of what has happened up until now in Jerusalem. But you can certainly prevent what Israel is trying to do right now.

“And so first and foremost is the need to really address the here and now, to halt the major developments on the ground for settlements and to halt the mechanisms of displacement, such as demolitions and evictions.”

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She added: “If the international community is really serious about a two-state solution, it needs to act now to hold Israel accountable to international law and the parameters of a two-state solution, and so far we haven’t seen that.”

Since the outbreak of the war there has been renewed discussion about the need to jump-start a new peace process, to renew dialogue toward an agreed-upon negotiated resolution.

The Absentee Property Law, passed in 1950 and amended in 1973, prevents Palestinians from reclaiming lost properties. (AFP)

“But with that, we have to bring back the centrality of Jerusalem in the debate, because without Jerusalem there is really no two-state solution.

“And as we all know, without a two-state solution, we will not be able to achieve peace and security for all of us, Israelis and Palestinians, living between the river and the sea.”


Aid trucks arrive in Gaza, but no deliveries yet

Aid trucks arrive in Gaza, but no deliveries yet
Updated 27 May 2024
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Aid trucks arrive in Gaza, but no deliveries yet

Aid trucks arrive in Gaza, but no deliveries yet

CAIRO: More than 100 aid trucks managed to reach the Gaza Strip by Monday morning after an agreement to reroute aid through the Kerem Shalom border crossing, but supplies have not been distributed amid an ongoing Israeli assault, sources said.

Deliveries are badly needed as little aid has reached southern Gaza since May 6, when Israel took control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing, about 3.5 km from Kerem Shalom and the main entry point into Gaza for humanitarian and commercial supplies.

The latest arrivals would be the biggest aid delivery into southern Gaza by far since the launch of Israel’s attacks in Rafah, with most days seeing no trucks crossing the border.

Israeli forces began a ground offensive in the east of Rafah over three weeks ago. An Israeli airstrike on Sunday triggered a fire that killed 45 people

Officials said in a tent camp in Rafah on Monday, prompting an outcry from global leaders. Egyptian security sources said 123 aid trucks had crossed the border and delivered goods to the UN. 

An Israeli source confirmed that aid had been brought into Gaza and delivered to partners.

An Egyptian aid source said four fuel trucks had also crossed the border.

However, UN and Palestinian officials said Palestinian trucks that went to pick up the aid at the crossing returned empty.

“Trucks moved through, but it was not possible to collect them due to the rocket attacks and the IAF (air force) strikes,” said a UN official in Gaza, adding that the supplies belonged to the UN’s Palestinian aid agency UNRWA and the World Food Programme.

On Friday, Egypt and the United States agreed to utilize Kerem Shalom until arrangements were made to re-open Rafah from the Palestinian side, the Egyptian presidency said. Egypt has refused to coordinate with Israel on the crossing.


With few signs of Syria solution, EU pledges more support to refugees

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell.
European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell.
Updated 44 min 26 sec ago
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With few signs of Syria solution, EU pledges more support to refugees

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell.
  • Jordan’s foreign minister said the international community was abandoning Syrian refugees as funding to support them in host countries dwindles

BRUSSELS: The European Union pledged more than 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion) on Monday to support displaced Syrians, but it dismissed any notion of them being able to return home because of instability under Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Before an EU-led donor conference on the 13-year-old war, Jordan’s foreign minister said that the international community was abandoning Syrian refugees as funding to support them in host countries dwindles, suggesting that ways had to be found to ease voluntary returns to Syria.
The EU conference aims to keep the war on the agenda, as well as support for the millions of refugees it has created. But as the economic and social burden on neighboring countries mounts the bloc is divided and unable to find solutions, diplomats say.
Refugees returning home is not yet one of them however, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell made clear at the start of the conference.
“While the European Union would wish that returning home could be a realistic option for all refugees, everywhere and always, we concur with the United Nations system that currently the conditions for safe, voluntary and dignified returns to Syria are not in place,” Borrell said.
“We insist that it is the Assad regime that bears the primary responsibility for putting in place these conditions.”
Borrell said the bloc was pledging 560 million euros in 2024 and 2025 to support refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan and a further 1 billion euros for Turkiye.
Syria has become a forgotten crisis that nobody wants to stir, amid the Israeli war in Gaza and tensions growing between Iran and Western powers over its regional activities.
Although Assad has long since reasserted control over most of Syria in a war that began with a 2011 uprising against him, more than 5 million refugees mostly in Lebanon, Turkiye and Jordan and millions more displaced internally still have little prospect of returning home.
“We’re going to be sending a very clear message from Jordan as a host country that we feel that refugees are being abandoned,” Ayman Safadi told reporters on arrival in Brussels. “Host countries are being abandoned.”
Jordan is hosting around 1.3 million Syrians. Safadi said the issue “can only be solved by them going back to their country. So we need to focus more on creating conditions conducive for them to return voluntarily.”
Funding to support refugees is dropping with the likes of the World Food Programme reducing its aid. Countries say hosting refugees is an increasing burden, notably in economic crisis-hit Lebanon, where the discontent has seen forced deportations.
“We expect our partners to uphold international law, including the principle of non-refoulement, and reject and condemn any forced deportations,” Borrell said.
The 8th Syria conference brings together European and Arab ministers along with key international organizations, but beyond vague promises and financial pledges there are few signs that Europe can take the lead, diplomats said.
The bloc has no ties with the Assad government and Monday’s talks come just ahead of the European elections on June 6-9 in which migration is a divisive issue among the EU’s 27 member states. With far-right and populist parties already expected to do well, there is little appetite to step up refugee support.
An upswing in migrant boat arrivals from Lebanon to Europe, with Cyprus and Italy major destinations, has prompted some EU countries to warn of a big new influx into the bloc.
“We’ll continue to do everything we can. But unless we’re helped, unless the international community shoulders its responsibility, there will be a decrease in services and there will be more suffering for refugees,” Safadi said.