US foils Houthi drone boat attack in Red Sea

Members of the Yemeni Coast Guard affiliated with the Houthi group patrol the sea as demonstrators march through the Red Sea port city of Hodeida in solidarity with the people of Gaza. (AFP file photo)
Members of the Yemeni Coast Guard affiliated with the Houthi group patrol the sea as demonstrators march through the Red Sea port city of Hodeida in solidarity with the people of Gaza. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 03 April 2024
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US foils Houthi drone boat attack in Red Sea

US foils Houthi drone boat attack in Red Sea
  • Despite the US military and the UK marine agency’s repeated statements about Houthi strikes in the Red Sea, the Houthis have not formally claimed responsibility for new attacks on the critical maritime waterway since March 26

AL-MUKALLA: US Central Command forces destroyed on Monday an explosive-laden and remotely controlled boat readied for launch by Yemen’s Houthi militia, as a UK marine agency reported a new incident in the Red Sea.

CENTCOM said its forces destroyed a Houthi unmanned surface vessel after ascertaining that it intended to strike US-led marine coalition forces and international commercial ships in the Red Sea.

“These actions are necessary to protect our forces, ensure freedom of navigation, and make international waters safer and more secure for US, coalition, and merchant vessels,” CENTCOM said on X.

Houthi media reported on Monday that US and UK airplanes struck the district of Al-Taif in the western province of Hodeidah, the latest round of raids by the two countries’ militaries against Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen in response to Yemeni militia attacks on ships.

At the same time, the UK Maritime Trade Operations agency, which monitors ship attacks, cautioned ships cruising in the Red Sea on Monday to exercise caution after receiving alerts from a master ship regarding an incident 150 nautical miles northwest of Yemen’s western Hodeidah.

“The master of the vessel reported that they were hailed by an entity claiming to be Yemeni Navy who requested the vessel turn on its automatic identification system,” UKMTO said, adding: “Shortly after the hailing, a crew member of the vessel reported that they heard suspected gunshots.”

Despite the US military and the UK marine agency’s repeated statements about Houthi strikes in the Red Sea, the Houthis have not formally claimed responsibility for new attacks on the critical maritime waterway since March 26.

Since November, the Houthis have launched hundreds of ballistic missiles, drones, and remotely operated boats at commercial and navy ships sailing through international waters off Yemen in what the Yemeni militia says are efforts in support of the Palestinian people.

The Houthis say that their attacks aim to push Israel to break its embargo on the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

The US responded to Houthi attacks by launching retaliatory strikes against Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and redesignating the Houthi militia as a terrorist group.

The US State Department said on Monday that Tim Lenderking, the US special envoy for Yemen, will be visiting Saudi Arabia and Oman to discuss steps to de-escalate the current situation and renew focus on securing a durable peace for the Yemeni people.

The UN-brokered peace talks to end the Yemen war have mostly stagnated since the Houthis initiated attacks on ships in the Red Sea.

Meanwhile, the Aden-based central bank ordered commercial, Islamic, and microfinance banks on Tuesday to relocate their main operations from Houthi-controlled Sanaa to Aden, the interim capital of Yemen, within two months, only days after the Houthis released a new coin currency.

The central bank said in a statement that it asked banks to leave Sanaa after the Houthis issued a new currency in violation of the country’s monetary laws, banned the circulation of Aden-printed currency, and issued financial laws that could destroy Yemen’s monetary system, as well as risk freezing Sanaa-based bank accounts abroad.

“Any bank that fails to shift its operations center to Aden, the interim capital, during the specified term would face legal action under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Law,” the bank said in a statement.

On Saturday, the Sanaa-based central bank announced the issuance of a new 100-riyal coin for the first time in a decade, prompting the central bank in Aden to label the currency as “fake” and warning individuals and financial institutions in Houthi-controlled areas not to use it.

Mustafa Nasr, director of the Studies and Economic Media Center, told Arab News that the central bank’s move to Aden comes amid a deepening economic war between Yemen’s internationally recognized government and the Houthis, predicting that the Houthis may retaliate against banks that relocate operations to Aden.

“The banks in Sanaa are between a rock and a hard place; if they comply with the Aden central bank, they might be severely punished by the Houthis; if they don’t, they might lose the legitimacy of operating because the central bank in Aden is an internationally recognized authority,” Nasr said.

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Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza

Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza
Updated 26 May 2024
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Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza

Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza
  • Hamas armed wing says fired ‘large rocket barrage’ at Tel Aviv
  • Aid trucks begin entering Gaza through Kerem Shalom crossing

CAIRO/TEL AVIV: Rocket sirens blared Sunday in Israel’s commercial hub of Tel Aviv for the first time in months, with at least three blasts reported across central Israel, AFP correspondents said.

The Israeli military said sirens had been activated over central Israel as fighting raged in Gaza, including in the far-southern city of Rafah.

The armed wing of Palestinian militant group Hamas said it had launched a “large rocket barrage” on Tel Aviv.

The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said in a post on Telegram that they had targeted Tel Aviv “with a large rocket barrage in response to the Zionist massacres against civilians.”

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage from the latest barrage.

Earlier on Sunday, aid trucks entered Gaza from southern Israel through a new agreement to bypass the Rafah crossing with Egypt after Israeli forces seized the Palestinian side of it earlier this month. But was unclear if humanitarian groups would be able to access the aid because of ongoing fighting in the area.

A total of “200 trucks” had moved from the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, which has been shut since early May when Israel seized the Palestinian side of the terminal, to the Kerem Shalom crossing, some 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) to the south.

Egypt has refused to coordinate aid through Rafah as long as Israeli troops control the Palestinian side.

But on Friday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi agreed in a call with his US counterpart Joe Biden to allow aid through Kerem Shalom, the other entry point into southern Gaza, the White House said.

Al-Qahera News did not specify how many trucks had made their way through inspection into besieged Gaza, but said “four fuel trucks” had already crossed and were heading to hospitals.

All aid from Egypt is inspected by Israeli authorities and distributed via the United Nations.

The remainder of the 200 trucks were “expected to cross into Gaza today,” Khaled Zayed, head of the Egyptian Red Crescent in Al-Arish — where the bulk of aid arrives — said.


Drones kill 3 as Israel widens southern Lebanon attacks 

Husain Saleh was killed in Sunday’s drone attack. (Supplied)
Husain Saleh was killed in Sunday’s drone attack. (Supplied)
Updated 26 May 2024
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Drones kill 3 as Israel widens southern Lebanon attacks 

Husain Saleh was killed in Sunday’s drone attack. (Supplied)
  • Strike near UN peacekeeping base in Naqoura kills Hezbollah member
  • ‘We are waiting for you,’ Lebanese MP says after Israeli threat of ‘open war’

BEIRUT: Three people, including two civilians, were killed in drone strikes on Sunday as the Israeli army stepped up its attacks on Hezbollah and its ally in southern Lebanon.

The first strike, near a UNIFIL site in Naqoura, killed a Hezbollah member later identified as Mohammed Baydoun.

A second Israeli drone targeted a motorcycle in Aita Al-Shaab, killing a civilian named as Rafik Hassan Kassem, and badly injuring another man, Hussein Saleh, who later died from his wounds.

Saleh, a mechanic with no political affiliations, used to travel to nearby towns to feed domestic animals left behind by owners who fled the region. Arab News had previously interviewed him.

People close to Saleh said that “everyone advised him to stop visiting border villages in fear of being targeted, but he insisted on fulfilling his humanitarian duty.”

An Israeli drone also struck Jabal Al-Blat, opposite Israel’s Zar’it settlement, targeting a transmission tower for Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV Channel.

As hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel entered their 231st day, Khiam village was subjected to heavy Israeli raids, with military drones striking four targets.

In less than 48 hours, Israeli shelling reached the outskirts of Chihine, Majdal Zoun, Kfarhamam in Wadi Hamoul, Zebqine, and Naqoura.

Shelling subsequently reached the villages of Rachaya Al-Foukhar, Hamoul, Zebqine, Labbouneh, the Makraba forest, and the eastern outskirts of Khiam.

A fire erupted after a number of shells landed on the outskirts of Rab Al-Thalathine, near Al-Taybeh village.

Israeli raids on Aita Al-Shaab in the central sector caused serious damage to property, infrastructure and homes.

Hezbollah also announced the deaths of two people in Israeli raids on Aitaroun late on Saturday night.

One of the victims was named as Bilal Amin Mourad, a former principal in the Aitaroun public vocational school. Caretaker Minister of Education Abbas Halabi mourned Mourad’s death on Sunday.

Israeli army spokesperson Avichay Adraee said that the military struck Hezbollah targets in five regions in southern Lebanon.

He said that warplanes raided Hezbollah’s infrastructure and military buildings in Khiam and Aita Al-Shaab, adding that several areas in Khiam, Houla, Markaba and Kfarkila were also bombed.

Sirens sounded in Israeli settlements adjacent to the Lebanese border, including Shlomi, Betzet, Hanita, Ras Naqoura in western Galilee, Avivim in the upper Galilee, and Kiryat Shmona and its surroundings.

Meanwhile, missiles landed in an Israeli army site near Shlomi.

Israeli Army Radio announced that “two anti-armor missiles were launched from Lebanon toward Margaliot in the Galilee panhandle.”

The Israeli Channel 12 said “about 10 missiles were launched from Lebanon toward the Zar’it settlement in the upper Galilee, with no casualties reported.”

Hezbollah’s operations targeted “technical systems in the Israeli Al-Abad site with appropriate weapons, striking it directly and completely destroying it.”

The militant group also struck “a Merkava tank with a direct missile in the Al-Marj site, destroying it and killing and injuring its members.”

It subsequently targeted the Zibdine site in the Shebaa farms and a building for the Israeli soldiers in the Al-Manara settlement. It also hit two buildings for the Israeli soldiers in the Metula settlement and two other buildings for the Israeli soldiers in the Shtula settlement.

MP Mohammed Raad, head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, responded on Sunday to Israeli statements threatening to wage open war on Lebanon, saying: “We know your situation accurately, and we know who you are and we are waiting for you.”

In response to those criticizing the attacks in southern Lebanon in support of the Gaza Strip, Raad said: “When criminals take their crimes too far, they don’t spare anyone. That’s why we should prevent the enemy from looking for another target, so we don’t wind up being the other victims.”  

Referring to the kamikaze drones used to strike Israeli targets, Sheikh Nabil Kaouk, a member of Hezbollah’s Central Council, promised further operations that will “surprise and humiliate the enemy.”

He said: “For the first time in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Lebanese planes raid Israeli sites in occupied Palestine.”


Recognizing Palestinian state is ‘justice’ for Palestinians: Spain

Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Jose Manuel Albares (L) shakes hands with Palestinian PM.
Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Jose Manuel Albares (L) shakes hands with Palestinian PM.
Updated 26 May 2024
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Recognizing Palestinian state is ‘justice’ for Palestinians: Spain

Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Jose Manuel Albares (L) shakes hands with Palestinian PM.
  • Welcoming Spain’s move to recognize the Palestinian state on Tuesday, Mustafa said: “We want to have every country in Europe to do the same”

BRUSSELS: Recognizing the State of Palestine “is justice for the Palestinian people (and) the best guarantee of security for Israel,” Spain’s foreign minister Jose Manuel Albares said Sunday alongside Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Mustafa.
Welcoming Spain’s move, with Norway and Ireland, to recognize the Palestinian state on Tuesday, Mustafa said, “We want to have every country in Europe to do the same.”
Albares and Mustafa spoke side-by-side in Brussels, where the Palestinian leader was also meeting EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide.
Later Sunday, Mustafa was to have further talks with Borrell, Barth Eide and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.
On Monday he will have another meeting in Brussels with the Spanish, Norwegian and Irish ministers. And on Wednesday he will be in Spain.
Israel has warned Spain, Norway and Ireland that ties with them will face “serious consequences” for their announced recognition of a Palestinian state.
Israel’s devastating war in Gaza in retaliation for Hamas’s October 7 attack has given impetus to countries wanting recognition of the State of Palestine.
They hope that the steps toward a long-elusive two-state solution, with Israel and a Palestinian state, will build foundations for Middle East peace.
A majority of UN member countries recognize Palestinian statehood. European countries are split on the issue.
Spain, Norway and Italy will join EU nations Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Sweden in recognizing the State of Palestine.
Mustafa said recognition of a Palestinian state addresses “the injustice that has been inflicted on the Palestinian people for decades.”
“We hope that this momentum of recognitions and initiatives will continue,” he said.


‘Strong’ Palestinian Authority needed for Mideast peace: EU’s Borrell

‘Strong’ Palestinian Authority needed for Mideast peace: EU’s Borrell
Updated 26 May 2024
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‘Strong’ Palestinian Authority needed for Mideast peace: EU’s Borrell

‘Strong’ Palestinian Authority needed for Mideast peace: EU’s Borrell
  • Made comments alongside Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Mustafa

BRUSSELS: A “strong” Palestinian Authority is needed to bring peace in the Middle East, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Sunday alongside Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Mustafa.
“A functional Palestinian Authority is in Israel’s interest too, because in order to make peace, we need a strong Palestinian Authority, not a weaker one,” Borrell said.
He made the remarks to journalists just before holding talks with Mustafa on how the Palestinian administration can be built up to take over Gaza rule from Hamas.
“We see the meeting today as a very important opportunity for us as a government and new government to present our international partners with the outlines of our priorities and plans for the coming period,” Mustafa said.
The Palestinian leader said the “first priority” was to support Palestinians in Gaza, especially through a ceasefire, and then “rebuilding the institutions of the Palestinian Authority” in that territory, which Hamas seized control of in 2007.
He also called on international partners to press Israel to release Palestinian Authority funding so “we will be ready to reform our institutions... and hopefully together sustain our efforts toward statehood and peace for the region.”
The Brussels meeting, focused on international aid, was being chaired by Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, in connection with the 1993 Oslo Accords that established a series of arrangements between the Palestinians and Israel.
Israel is furious with Norway, and also Spain and Ireland, for announcing they will recognize the State of Palestine on Tuesday.


ICC prosecutor says Israel not ‘akin’ to Hamas

ICC prosecutor says Israel not ‘akin’ to Hamas
Updated 26 May 2024
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ICC prosecutor says Israel not ‘akin’ to Hamas

ICC prosecutor says Israel not ‘akin’ to Hamas
  • Karim Khan: ‘Are powerful states sincere when they say there’s a body of law or is this rules-based system all a nonsense, simply a tool of NATO and a post-colonial world, with no real intention of ap

LONDON: International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan justified his decision to request arrest warrants for Israel’s prime minister and defense minister in an interview with a British newspaper published on Sunday.
Khan said on Monday that he was seeking warrants for Benjamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant, as well as top Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Ismail Haniyeh and Mohamed Deif, on suspicions of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
His announcement sparked the ire of Israel and its allies the United States and United Kingdom, all of which criticized Khan for putting together Hamas, which attacked Israel on October 7, and Israel, which has carried out a relentless military campaign in Gaza since then.
“It’s a precarious moment internationally and if we don’t hold on to the law, we have nothing to cling onto,” Khan, who rarely speaks publicly, told the Sunday Times newspaper.
He added that countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia were watching closely as to whether global institutions would seek to uphold international law.
“Are powerful states sincere when they say there’s a body of law or is this rules-based system all a nonsense, simply a tool of NATO and a post-colonial world, with no real intention of applying law equally?” Khan asked.
The warrants, if granted by the ICC judges, would mean that any of the 124 ICC member states would technically be obliged to arrest Netanyahu and the others if they traveled there.
However the court has no mechanism to enforce its orders.
Netanyahu rejected “with disgust ... the comparison between democratic Israel and the mass murderers of Hamas,” and US President Joe Biden also stressed that “there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas.”
“I am not saying that Israel with its democracy and its supreme court is akin to Hamas, of course not,” Khan added in his interview.
“I couldn’t be clearer, Israel has every right to protect its population and to get the hostages back. But nobody has a license to commit war crimes or crimes against humanity. The means define us.”
He cited a number of allegations against Israel, including “the fact that water was turned off... that people queuing for food [were] targeted, that people from aid agencies have been killed.”
“This is not how war is supposed to be waged,” said Khan.
“If this is what compliance with international humanitarian law looks like, then the Geneva Conventions serve no purpose.”
The Gaza war broke out after Hamas’s unprecedented attack on October 7 resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.
Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,984 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.