Iran’s foreign minister accuses US of giving Israel ‘green light’ to attack consulate in Syria

Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian meets with his counterpart from Syria in Damascus on April 8, 2024. (AFP)
Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian meets with his counterpart from Syria in Damascus on April 8, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 09 April 2024
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Iran’s foreign minister accuses US of giving Israel ‘green light’ to attack consulate in Syria

Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian meets with his counterpart from Syria in Damascus on April 8, 2024. (AFP)

DAMASCUS, Syria: Iran’s foreign minister Monday accused the United States of giving Israel the “green light” for a strike on its consulate building in Syria that killed seven Iranian military officials including two generals.
Hossein Amirabdollahian reiterated Tehran’s vows that it will respond to the attack, widely blamed on Israel, that appeared to signify an escalation of Israel’s targeting of military officials from Iran, which supports militant groups fighting Israel in Gaza, and along its border with Lebanon.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in an address Monday reiterated the Iran-backed group’s support for a Tehran military response to the attack that killed Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior military official in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, and worsened fears of the war spiraling into the rest of the Middle East.




Smoke rises after what the Iranian media said was an Israeli strike on a building close to the Iranian embassy in Damascus, Syria April 1, 2024. (REUTERS)

Since the war in Gaza began six months ago, clashes have increased between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Hamas, which rules Gaza and attacked Israel on Oct. 7, is also backed by Iran, as well as an umbrella group of Iraqi militias targeting US military bases and positions in Syria and Iraq.
Though Israel has regularly conducted strikes targeting Iranian military officials and allies, Zahedi’s death was the most significant blow for Tehran since a US drone targeted and killed Quds Force chief Gen. Qassim Soleimani in 2020 in Baghdad.
“I’d like to say with a very loud voice from here in Damascus that America has a responsibility in what happened and must be held responsible,” Amirabdollahian told reporters in Damascus during a visit where he met his Syrian counterpart, Faisal Mekdad, who condemned both the strike and Israel’s offensive in Gaza. Amirabdollahian also met President Bashar Assad, with whom he discussed Gaza and the wider situation in the region, a statement from Assad’s office said.
The Iranian foreign minister, who earlier that day inaugurated the opening of a new consular section in a nearby building, justified his claims by saying that Washington and “two European countries” did not condemn the attack on the diplomatic building.
He said that failure to condemn the attack “indicates that Washington had given the green light to Israel to commit this crime.”
The Biden administration has insisted that it had no advance knowledge of the airstrike. Washington is Israel’s vital military ally.
Israel, which rarely acknowledges strikes against Iranian targets, said it had no comment on the strike in the Syrian capital. However, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said last week that the US has assessed Israel was responsible.
Initially after the strikes, Iranian state media said Zahedi led the Quds Force in Lebanon and Syria until 2016.
Then, in a public address Monday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Zahedi was a key figure for the Lebanese group, and had three four-year stints in the tiny Mediterranean country.
Nasrallah, like Syria, and other key allies of Tehran, have said they remain committed to backing Iran.
“It’s a natural right for Iran. It’s natural for the Islamic Republic to conduct this response (to the consulate attack),” Nasrallah said.
Nasrallah said Zahedi’s first involvement was until 2002, overseeing Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon, and helping Hezbollah scale up. Zahedi’s second term covered some of the fiercest fighting in Syria’s uprising turned civil war, where Tehran and Russia played a key role in backing Assad against opposition forces. Zahedi’s final stint began in 2020 and ended when he was killed.
Hezbollah militants and Israeli troops have clashed along the tense Lebanon-Israel border since Oct. 8, the day after the Hamas attack on southern Israel.
The Hezbollah leader said that the moment the clashes began, Zahedi reportedly wanted to join Hezbollah militants on the front line but wasn’t permitted to do so.
Earlier Monday, Israeli airstrikes over southern Lebanon killed Ali Ahmad Hussein, an elite commander of Hezbollah’s secretive Radwan Force. Hezbollah announced Hussein’s death, but did not give any details on the circumstances or his role with the group in line with how it makes public the deaths of its members.
The killing of Hussein, one of the most senior militants slain thus far, came ahead of the Iranian foreign minister’s visit to Syria.
Israel considers Hezbollah its most serious immediate threat, estimating it has some 150,000 rockets and missiles, including precision-guided missiles that can hit anywhere in Israel. The group, which has thousands of battle-hardened fighters who participated in Syria’s 12-year conflict, also has different types of military drones.
In January, Israeli jets struck and killed another elite Hezbollah commander from the Radwan Force, Wissam Al-Tawil, who fought with the group for decades and took part in some of its biggest battles.
Hezbollah says it will stop firing rockets once a ceasefire is reached in the Gaza Strip that would end the Israel-Hamas war. Israeli officials have been demanding that the Radwan Force withdraw from the border area in order for tens of thousands of displaced Israelis to return home.
Washington and Paris have been scrambling to find a diplomatic resolution to halt the fighting along the Lebanon-Israel border, hoping to prevent a new all-out war between Hezbollah and Israel since a month-long war in the summer of 2006.
The risk of war spreading to Lebanon has worsened existing political tensions within the country between Hezbollah and their most vocal opponent, the nationalist Christian Lebanese Forces party.
Matters worsened Monday when the Lebanese military announced the death of a Lebanese Forces local official who had been kidnapped a day earlier in northern Lebanon. The Lebanese Army said they detained three Syrians accused in the kidnapping and killing of Pascale Suleiman as they tried to steal his car.
The Lebanese Forces party cast doubt on the army’s findings, saying they believed it was a political assassination.
Nasrallah in his speech slammed members of the Christian party and allies who had accused Hezbollah of being involved in the kidnapping. calling it “baseless” and dangerous rhetoric.
 

 


Israeli strikes kill at least 42 in Gaza, enclave’s government media office says

Israeli strikes kill at least 42 in Gaza, enclave’s government media office says
Updated 23 June 2024
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Israeli strikes kill at least 42 in Gaza, enclave’s government media office says

Israeli strikes kill at least 42 in Gaza, enclave’s government media office says
  • One Israeli strike on houses in Al-Shati, a historic refugee camp, killed 24 people
  • Another 18 Palestinians killed in a strike on houses in the Al-Tuffah neighborhood

CAIRO: At least 42 people were killed in Israeli attacks on districts of Gaza City in the north of the Palestinian enclave on Saturday, the director of the Hamas-run government media office said.

One Israeli strike on houses in Al-Shati, one of the Gaza Strip’s eight historic refugee camps, killed 24 people, Ismail Al-Thawabta said. Another 18 Palestinians were killed in a strike on houses in the Al-Tuffah neighborhood.

The Israeli military released a brief statement saying: “A short while ago, IDF fighter jets struck two Hamas military infrastructure sites in the area of Gaza City.”

It said more details would be released soon.

Exchanges of fire across the Lebanese border between Israel and the powerful Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah have also escalated in recent weeks, raising fears of an even wider war.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday that the cross-border hostilities must not turn Lebanon into “another Gaza,” warning of the risk of triggering a catastrophe “beyond imagination.”

His warning came as Israel stepped up its strikes in the Gaza Strip, where one hospital in Gaza City reported at least 30 dead on Friday.

Fighting continued Saturday morning, with witnesses reporting gunbattles between militants and Israeli forces in Gaza City.

And in the city’s Zeitun neighborhood, Israeli helicopters fired at militants, witnesses said.

The Israeli military meanwhile said troops continued to carry out operations in central Gaza “eliminating several armed terrorists and dismantling terrorist infrastructure in the area.”

“Fighter jets and additional aircraft struck numerous terror targets in the Gaza Strip, including armed terrorists, weapons storage facilities, and additional terrorist infrastructure,” it added.

In southern Gaza, the ICRC on Friday said 22 dead and 45 wounded people were taken to a Red Cross field hospital after shelling with “heavy calibre projectiles” near its Gaza office.

“Firing so dangerously close to humanitarian structures puts the lives of civilians and humanitarians at risk,” the ICRC said on X.

The health ministry in the Hamas-run territory blamed the shelling on Israel, saying there were 25 killed and 50 wounded in the southern coastal Al-Mawasi area, where thousands of displaced people have been sheltering in tents.

An Israeli military spokesman did not acknowledge any role in the incident but said it was “under review.”

In the north of the Strip, the director of Gaza City’s Al-Ahli hospital was quoted by the territory’s health ministry as reporting 30 dead in strikes.

“It has been a difficult and brutal day in Gaza City. So far, around 30 martyrs have arrived at the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital,” doctor Fadel Naeem was quoted as saying.

Civil defense agency spokesman Mahmud Basal said five municipal workers died when a garage in the city was bombed.

Lebanon-based Hamas ally Hezbollah meanwhile claimed a number of attacks on Israeli troops and positions near the border on Friday, including two using drones.

The Israeli army said it had carried out multiple retaliatory strikes on both days.

Israeli jets on Friday struck a “Hezbollah military structure in the area of Khiam, a Hezbollah military post in the area of Mais Al-Jabal, and Hezbollah terrorist infrastructure in the areas of Taybeh and Tallouseh in southern Lebanon,” the army said in a statement.

Experts are divided on the prospect of a wider war, almost nine months into Israel’s campaign to eradicate Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Amid the escalating exchanges between Israel and Hezbollah, Israel’s military said Tuesday that plans for an offensive in Lebanon had been “approved and validated.”

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said “no place” in Israel would “be spared our rockets” in a wider war, and also threatened nearby European Union member Cyprus.

Citing the “bellicose rhetoric” on both sides, UN chief Guterres warned Friday that the risk of all-out war was real.

“One rash move — one miscalculation — could trigger a catastrophe that goes far beyond the border, and frankly, beyond imagination,” he said.

Israel’s ally the United States has appealed for de-escalation.

The violence on the Lebanon border began after the October 7 attack on southern Israel by Hamas militants from Gaza. That attack resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

The militants also seized hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza although the army says 41 are dead.

As of Thursday, Israel’s retaliatory offensive had killed at least 37,431 people, also mostly civilians, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Months of negotiations toward a truce and a hostage release have failed to make headway, but mediator Qatar insisted Friday it was still working to “bridge the gap” between Israel and Hamas.

The war has destroyed much of Gaza’s infrastructure and left residents short of food, fuel and other essentials.

On June 16 the army said it would implement a daily “tactical pause of military activity” in a southern Gaza corridor to facilitate aid delivery.

But on Friday Richard Peeperkorn of the World Health Organization said “we did not see an impact on the humanitarian supplies coming in.”

Hisham Salem in Jabalia camp said: “The markets... used to be full, but now there is nothing left. I go around the entire market and I can’t find a kilo of onions, and if I do... it costs 140 shekels ($37).”

Doctor Thanos Gargavanis, a WHO trauma surgeon and emergency officer, said the UN in Gaza was trying to “operate in an unworkable environment.”

According to the WHO, 17 of the 36 hospitals in Gaza are operational, but only partially.

Israel’s military on Friday identified two more soldiers killed in Gaza, bringing the death toll since ground operations began to at least 312.

The war has revived a global push for Palestinians to be given a state of their own.

Armenia on Friday declared its recognition of “the State of Palestine,” prompting Israel to summon its ambassador for “a severe reprimand.”


Algerian women pioneer eco-friendly farming

Algerian women pioneer eco-friendly farming
Updated 23 June 2024
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Algerian women pioneer eco-friendly farming

Algerian women pioneer eco-friendly farming
  • The plant ecology and biodiversity graduates now run one of the country’s rare ecological plots of land, where the produce is grown in harmony with the broader ecosystem and without using pesticides

ALGIERS: Ibtissem Mahtout and Amira Messous pick fresh strawberries and tomatoes on the eco-friendly smallholding the two women are working near Algiers, a pioneering initiative in Algeria’s male-dominated agricultural sector.
After graduating from university four years ago, they left the capital and started working on the small patch of land in Douaouda, some 30 kilometers (18 miles) to the west.
“As soon as I’m in the field I’m happy,” said Messous, 28, holding a bundle of fresh beetroot.
“From morning to night, we’re here. To me, it’s the most beautiful job in the world.”
The plant ecology and biodiversity graduates now run one of the country’s rare ecological plots of land, where the produce is grown in harmony with the broader ecosystem and without using pesticides.

Amira Messous (L) and Ibtissem Mahtout (C) speak to a customer at their vegetable and fruit stand during the Friday market at an educational farm in Zeralda on May 30, 2024. (AFP)

Messous said it was challenging at first to “have to integrate” into a sector in which most people who work the land are men.
According to local media, as of last October just four percent of workers registered with the Chamber of Agriculture in Tipaza province where their land is were women.
But some “male farmers are happy to see educated women working the land,” said Messous.
“They take the time to explain things to us, and it brings more value to their own work.”
Her 29-year-old partner, Mahtout, recalls that they launched the project with just 60,000 Algerian dinars (around $445) — “enough to buy basic tools” — after renting the patch of land.

With the help of Torba, an association that promotes ecological farming in Algeria, they “learned to plant, to sow, to work the soil.”
Today, their 1,300-square-meter farm even employs one male worker full-time — and up to eight part-timers at harvest time.
When they are not in the fields themselves, the two women make full use of social media to sell their produce.

Ibtissem Mahtout (C) speaks with a customer who has come to pick up or buy their produce, at the Friday market at an educational farm in Zeralda, west of Algiers on May 30, 2024. (AFP)

On Instagram, they advertise their baskets of seasonal fruits and vegetables each week, and take orders for the produce on WhatsApp.
Come Friday, the first day of the Algerian weekend, clients pick up their orders at a larger farm in nearby Zeralda, where other smallholders also sell produce including flowers.
“We want to eat something healthy from time to time,” said Fatma Zohra, a 72-year-old loyal customer and subscriber to the small farm’s social media account.
“I found these girls very nice, and when I discovered they sell to subscribers, I wanted to encourage them.”
Each week, the pair sell between 10 and 30 baskets of fruit and vegetables that are in season.
The farm in Zeralda where they market their produce is also educational, and runs themed programs for children.
In addition to the Friday farmers’ market, it is also a meeting space for local families and offers cooking classes, entertainment and cultural events.
 


Tens of thousands rally against Israeli government

Tens of thousands rally against Israeli government
Updated 17 min 5 sec ago
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Tens of thousands rally against Israeli government

Tens of thousands rally against Israeli government
  • Anti-government protest organization Hofshi Israel estimated more than 150,000 people attended the rally, calling it the biggest since the Gaza war began

TEL AVIV: Tens of thousands of protesters waving Israeli flags and chanting slogans against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government rallied in Tel Aviv Saturday, demanding new elections and the return of hostages held in Gaza.
Large protests have occurred in the Israeli city on a weekly basis over Netanyahu’s handling of the nearly nine-month-old war in Gaza started by Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel.
Many protesters held signs reading “Crime Minister” and “Stop the War” as people poured into the biggest Israeli city’s main thoroughfare.
“I am here because I am afraid of the future of my grandchild. There will be no future for them if we don’t go out and get rid of the horrible government,” said 66-year-old contractor Shai Erel.
“All of the rats in the Knesset... I wouldn’t let any one of them be a guard of a kindergarten.”
Anti-government protest organization Hofshi Israel estimated more than 150,000 people attended the rally, calling it the biggest since the Gaza war began.
Some demonstrators lay on the ground covered in red paint in the city’s Democracy Square to protest what they say is the death of the country’s democracy under Netanyahu.
In an address to the crowd, a former head of Israel’s domestic Shin Bet security agency, Yuval Diskin, condemned Netanyahu as Israel’s “worst prime minister.”
Many are frustrated with the country’s right-wing coalition, which includes Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and other far-right ultra-nationalists, accusing it of prolonging the war in Gaza and putting the country’s security and hostages at risk.
Yoram, a 50-year-old tour guide who declined to give his last name, said he was attending every weekly protest as Israel needed elections “yesterday” because of Netanyahu.
“I really hope that the government collapses,” he said. “If we go to the original date of elections in 2026, it is not going to be a democratic election.”
Hamas militants seized 251 hostages on October 7, of whom Israel believes 116 remain in Gaza, including 41 who the army says are dead.
A separate Tel Aviv rally on Saturday night drew thousands of relatives and supporters of the hostages.
The attack on Israel resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive in Gaza has killed at least 37,551 people, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory.
 

 


Israeli forces strap wounded Palestinian to jeep during raid

Israeli forces strap wounded Palestinian to jeep during raid
Updated 23 June 2024
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Israeli forces strap wounded Palestinian to jeep during raid

Israeli forces strap wounded Palestinian to jeep during raid
  • A video circulating on social media and verified by Reuters showed a Palestinian resident of Jenin, Mujahed Azmi, on the jeep that passes through two ambulances

JERUSALEM: Israeli army forces strapped a wounded Palestinian man to the hood of a military jeep during an arrest raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin on Saturday. A video circulating on social media and verified by Reuters showed a Palestinian resident of Jenin, Mujahed Azmi, on the jeep that passes through two ambulances.
The Israeli military in a statement said Israeli forces were fired at and exchanged fire, wounding a suspect and apprehending him.
Soldiers then violated military protocol, the statement said. “The suspect was taken by the forces while tied on top of a vehicle,” it said.
The military said the “conduct of the forces in the video of the incident does not conform to the values” of the Israeli military and that the incident will be investigated and dealt with.
The individual was transferred to medics for treatment, the military said.
Reuters was able to match the location from corroborating and verified footage shared on social media that shows a vehicle transporting an individual tied on top of a vehicle in Jenin. The date was confirmed by an eyewitness interviewed by Reuters.
According to the family of Azmi, there was an arrest raid, and he was injured during the raid, and when the family asked for an ambulance, the army took Mujahed, strapped him on the hood and drove off.
Violence in the West Bank, already on the rise before the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, has escalated since then with frequent army raids on militant groups, rampages by Jewish settlers in Palestinian villages, and deadly Palestinian street attacks.


ICRC official describes Rafah as a ‘ghost town’

ICRC official describes Rafah as a ‘ghost town’
Updated 22 June 2024
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ICRC official describes Rafah as a ‘ghost town’

ICRC official describes Rafah as a ‘ghost town’
  • Desperation among Gaza’s 2.4 million population has increased as fighting rages, sparking warnings from agencies that they are unable to deliver aid

JERUSALEM: Days after Israel announced a daily pause in fighting on a key route to allow more aid into Gaza, chaos in the besieged Palestinian territory has left vital supplies piled up and undistributed in the searing summer heat.
More than eight months of war have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip and repeated UN warnings of famine.
William Schomburg, International Committee of the Red Cross chief in Rafah, described Rafah City as a “ghost town.”
“It is a ghost town in the sense that you see very few people, high levels of destruction, and just another symbol of the unfolding tragedy that has become Gaza over the last nine months,” he said.
The UN food agency has said its aid convoys have been looted inside Gaza by “desperate people.”
Desperation among Gaza’s 2.4 million population has increased as fighting rages, sparking warnings from agencies that they are unable to deliver aid.
Israel says it has let supplies in and called on agencies to step up deliveries.
“The breakdown of public order and safety is increasingly endangering humanitarian workers and operations in Gaza,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, said in a briefing.
“Alongside the fighting, criminal activities and the risk of theft and robbery has effectively prevented humanitarian access to critical locations.”
But Israel says it has allowed hundreds of trucks of aid into southern Gaza, trading blame with the UN over why the aid is stacking up.
It shared aerial footage of containers lined up on the Gazan side of the Kerem Shalom crossing and more trucks arriving to add to the stockpile.
With civil order breaking down in Gaza, the UN says it has been unable to pick up any supplies from Kerem Shalom since Tuesday, leaving crucial aid in limbo.