How Iran might retaliate for suspected Israeli strike on its Damascus embassy building

Special How Iran might retaliate for suspected Israeli strike on its Damascus embassy building
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Syrian emergency and security personnel search the rubble at the site of an Iranian embassy annex building in Damascus that was hit in an Israeli airstrike on April 1, 2024. At least 13 people were killed, including two Iranian Revolutionary Guards generals and five personnel from the force. (AFP/File)
Special How Iran might retaliate for suspected Israeli strike on its Damascus embassy building
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A top view shows the demolished Iranian Embassy’s consular annex in Damascus, Syria, after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike on April 1, 2024, killing at least 13 people, including two Iranian Revolutionary Guards generals and five personnel from the force. (AFP/File)
Special How Iran might retaliate for suspected Israeli strike on its Damascus embassy building
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People walk past portraits of slain Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi's and Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi written "Martyrs of Quds" (Jerusalem), on April 3, 2024 in Tehran, after they were killed in a strike at the consular annex of the Iranian embassy in Damascus. (AFP)
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Updated 10 April 2024
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How Iran might retaliate for suspected Israeli strike on its Damascus embassy building

How Iran might retaliate for suspected Israeli strike on its Damascus embassy building
  • Iran has ‘no choice but to respond’ to attack that killed two IRGC commanders, but the risks are considerable
  • Analysts suspect Iran will use its regional proxies to strike Israel rather than opt for direct assault

LONDON: With bated breath, the world awaits Iran’s promised retaliation for last week’s suspected Israeli airstrike on its embassy annex in the Syrian capital Damascus. Whatever form Teheran’s revenge takes, there is mounting public fear it could trigger an all-out war.

At least 16 people were reportedly killed in the April 1 attack, including two senior commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ extraterritorial Quds Force — Mohammad Reza Zahedi and his deputy Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi.




Iran's slain Quds Force commander Mohammad Reza Zahedi. (AFP/File)

A day after the attack, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi promised the strike would “not go unanswered.” Five days later, Yahya Rahim Safavi, senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned that Israel’s embassies “are no longer safe.”

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied involvement in the strike, but Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said the US has assessed that the Israelis were responsible.

Middle East experts believe Iran’s promised revenge could take many forms, potentially involving direct missile strikes via one of the IRGC’s proxy groups in the region, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon.




In this photo taken on October 18, 2023, demonstrators gather outside the Israeli embassy in Amman, Jordan, in solidarity with the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip. A high Iranian official has warned that Israel's embassies “are no longer safe” after the Israeli April 1 air strike on the consular building annex of Iran's embassy in Syria. (AFP/File)

“Retaliation seems inevitable. But what form it takes is anyone’s guess,” Ali Vaez, director of the Iran Project at the International Crisis Group, told Arab News.

An attack on an Israeli Embassy “will be on par with what Israel did in Damascus,” said Vaez, but “no one knows for sure what form the Iranian response will take.”

FASTFACTS

• Jan. 3, 2020: Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad.

• Dec. 25, 2023: Seyyed Razi, who headed the IRGC’s logistics and military coordination in Syria, killed outside Damascus in suspected Israeli strike.

• Jan. 20, 2024: Senior Quds Force commander Hajj Sadegh killed when Israel struck a building in Damascus’ Mazzeh neighborhood.

• April 1, 2024: Mohammed Reza Zahedi, his deputy Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi, and five other IRGC officers killed in suspected Israeli strike on embassy annex in Damascus.

Israel seems to have taken pre-emptive measures. Not only has it bolstered its air defenses and called up reservists, but it also shuttered 28 of its 103 diplomatic missions around the world on Friday, according to the Jerusalem Post, and stepped up security measures around its various consulates and missions.

Stressing that the strike is “unusual,” especially during such “complex and sensitive times,” Eva J. Koulouriotis, a political analyst specializing in the Middle East, believes “Tehran has no choice but to respond.”

She told Arab News: “Tel Aviv, which chose to assassinate Gen. Zahedi and his companions in the Iranian consulate building in Damascus, was able to assassinate him outside the consulate or at the Masnaa crossing on the Syrian-Lebanese border, or even in his office in the southern suburb of Beirut.




Rubble is cleared at the site of an Iranian embassy annex building in Damascus that was demolished by an Israeli airstrike on April 1, 2024, killing at least 13 people were killed, including two Iranian Revolutionary Guards generals and five personnel from the force. (AFP/File)

“However, the choice of this place by the Israeli leadership, which is also the residence of the Iranian ambassador, is a message of escalation addressed directly to Khamenei and the IRGC.”

Koulouriotis did not discount the possibility of an attack on an Israeli Embassy.

“Last December, an explosion occurred near the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi, without causing any casualties,” she said. “Although no party claimed responsibility for the attack, there is a belief in Israel that Iran had a hand in this bombing.

“Therefore, in my opinion, Tehran will take a similar step in the future without claiming responsibility for the attack, but it will not be a direct response to the attack on the consulate in Damascus due to the sensitivity of this step.”

Notwithstanding, Koulouriotis believes “the Iranian response must be publicly adopted to achieve deterrence on the one hand and to satisfy the popular base of the Iranian regime on the other.

“Therefore, for Tehran to go towards a public and direct attack on an Israeli diplomatic mission in one of the countries of the region will mean a dangerous escalation, not with Israel alone, but with the country in which the attack took place.”




A billboard displays a portrait of slain Iran's Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi with a slogan reading in Hebrew, "You will be punished", at Palestine Square in Tehran. Iranian officials have warned that the latest assassination will not go unanswered. (AFP/File)

Phillip Smyth, a fellow at the Washington Institute and former researcher with the University of Maryland, believes the statement from Khamenei’s adviser Safavi about Israeli embassies was “certainly a threat,” but “the issue is if Iran or its proxies can deliver on that promise.”

He told Arab News: “Other operations, such as in India and Thailand — both involving Lebanese Hezbollah — failed. There is a lot of intelligence pressure on these types of operations, too.”

Vaez of the International Crisis Group concurs that a response would be “a very difficult needle to thread for Iran.”

He said: “Tehran doesn’t want to fall into an Israeli trap that would justify expanding the war but also can’t afford to allow Israel to target Iranian diplomatic facilities at no cost.”

Smyth, an expert on Iranian proxies, agreed that a conventional direct retaliation, such as using ballistic missiles as its military did before to target US forces and Kurdish sites in Iraq, “could open up the Islamic Republic to more direct strikes by Israel.”

In 2020, Iran responded to the unprecedented US assassination of Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad Airport with a direct attack on US troops, launching a barrage of ballistic missiles at the Ain Al-Assad base in Iraq.




Razi Moussavi (L), a senior adviser for Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), is shown with Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in this undated handout picture released by the Tasnim news agency on Dec. 25, 2023. Moussavi was killed by an Israeli strike in Syria on Dec. 25, 2023, while Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike in Iraq in 2020. (AFP)

Since the suspected Israeli attack on the Iranian Embassy annex in Damascus, the US has been on high alert, braced for Iran’s “inevitable” response that could come within the next week, a top US administration official told CNN on April 5.   

The US, Israel’s strongest ally, was quick to deny involvement or prior knowledge of the attack and warned Iran not to retaliate against American interests.

“We will not hesitate to defend our personnel and repeat our prior warnings to Iran and its proxies not to take advantage of the situation — again, an attack in which we had no involvement or advanced knowledge — to resume their attacks on US personnel,” Robert Wood, deputy US ambassador to the UN, said in a statement.

US troops in the Middle East, particularly those stationed in Iraq and Syria, have been frequent targets for Iran and its proxies.




Members of Iraq's Al-Nujaba and Kataib Hezbollah militia carry a placard depicting Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani (L) and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis as they march during a funeral in Baghdad on December 4, 2023, for five militants killed a day earlier in a US strike in northern Iraq. (AFP)

Smyth said Tehran might resort to using its “well-developed army of proxy groups spread out across the region,” which include Hezbollah in Lebanon, Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq, militias in Syria, and the Houthis in Yemen.

Hezbollah announced on Friday that it was “fully prepared” to go to war with Israel.

In a speech commemorating Jerusalem Day, the group’s chief, Hassan Nasrallah, described the April 1 strike as a “turning point” and said Iran’s retaliation was “inevitable.”




Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivers a televised speech during a gathering to mark annual Quds (Jerusalem) Day commemorations in Beirut's southern suburb on April 5, 2024. (AFP)

Middle East analyst Koulouriotis said the most likely first response scenario is that Iran would “give the green light to Hezbollah in Lebanon … to launch a heavy missile strike against a number of cities in northern Israel, the most important of which is Haifa.”

However, “this scenario is complicated and may lead to the opening of an expanded war against Hezbollah that will end with Iran losing the Lebanon card after Hamas in Gaza.”

Tehran might also order its multinational militias in Syria to direct a missile strike against one of Israel’s military bases in the Golan, said Koulouriotis, but this option “is also futile.”

She added: “Moscow may not agree to bring Damascus into a direct conflict with Tel Aviv, which may lead to Assad paying a heavy price, and thus Tehran will have risked the efforts of 14 years of war in Syria.”




Map showing the Golan Heights, Syrian territory that Israel seized during the 1967 Six-Day War.
An analyst said Iran might find Israeli positions in the Golan region an appropriate target as it seeks to respond to Israel's April 1 attack on Iran's consulate building annex in Damascus. (AFP)

As Tehran considers the Damascus embassy annex strike a direct attack “targeting its prestige in the region,” Koulouriotis said it might choose a direct response to Israel using ballistic missiles and suicide drones, “and the Golan region may be suitable for this response.

“Despite the complexities of this scenario linked to the Israeli reaction, which may lead to additional escalation, it saves face for the Iranian regime and sends a message to Tel Aviv that Tehran will not tolerate crossing the red lines.”

Smyth of the Washington Institute believes that while “there may be a (grander) effort to demonstrate a new weapons capability by a proxy or even Iran itself,” Tehran’s response might also take a form similar to the Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.




Houthi fighters are seen on board the British-owned Galaxy Leader ship that the Iran-backed militia seized as it passed through the Al-Mandab Strait off Yemen in November 23, 2024. (AFP/ File) 

“They’ve already demonstrated attempts to economically harm the Israelis by establishing quasi-blockades of the Red Sea by using the Houthis,” he said.

Meanwhile, communities across the Middle East can only wait with mounting concern for the seemingly inevitable Iranian response, mindful that they will likely bear the brunt of any resulting escalation.

Indeed, it is not so much a question of if, but when.

“The delay in response is mainly related to the indirect negotiations between Tehran and Washington,” said Koulouriotis. “To prevent the Iranian response from leading to an expanded war or a more dangerous escalation in the region.”
 

 


Will proposed ICC arrest warrants for Gaza war figures deliver justice for Palestinians?

Will proposed ICC arrest warrants for Gaza war figures deliver justice for Palestinians?
Updated 3 min 37 sec ago
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Will proposed ICC arrest warrants for Gaza war figures deliver justice for Palestinians?

Will proposed ICC arrest warrants for Gaza war figures deliver justice for Palestinians?
  • International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Karim Khan hopes to bring senior Israeli and Hamas leaders to trial
  • Some experts think the move is intended to nudge the warring parties toward a hostage deal and a ceasefire

LONDON: By applying for arrest warrants for senior Israeli ministers and Hamas commanders, Karim Khan, prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, has thrust the court itself into the spotlight, raising questions about the move’s likelihood of success and timing.

Calling it “totally absurd” and “a travesty of justice,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed Khan’s decision to seek arrest warrants against him and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, together with several Hamas commanders, for war crimes.

A protester shows a sign bearing portraits of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu transformed to Nazi Germany's leader Adolf Hitler during a demonstration called by French organization "France Palestine Solidarite" in Paris, on May 27, 2024. (AFP)

For his part, Gallant labeled the proposed warrants against him and his prime minister as “disgraceful,” claiming that it was motivated by a desire to reverse the foundation of the state of Israel.

Considering the scant likelihood in this case of an ICC arrest warrant being acted upon — a move Hassan Imran, a senior legal adviser at human rights organization Law for Palestine, told Arab News would be “precedent-making” — it raises the question: What is motivating Khan?

Exterior view of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, on April 30, 2024.  (AP/File) 

Julie Norman, a senior associate fellow at the London-based Royal United Services Institute, believes the proposed arrest warrants could be intended to nudge the warring parties toward a deal.

“Supporters of the move are hoping the charges will add pressure for both sides to end the conflict, for Hamas to release the hostages, and for Israel to increase access to humanitarian aid in Gaza,” said Norman.

Although some have said the ICC’s action would complicate any ceasefire negotiations, Mark Kersten, assistant professor of criminal justice and criminology at Canada’s University of the Fraser Valley, told a Middle Eastern news outlet that “complicated” did not necessarily equate to “worse” negotiations.

FASTFACTS

• The International Criminal Court is an intergovernmental organization and tribunal seat in The Hague, Netherlands.

• The ICC is distinct from the International Court of Justice, a UN organ that hears disputes between states.

• The ICC was established in 2002 in a follow-up of the multilateral Rome Statute.

“Take Colombia, where the ICC had a decade-long preliminary examination,” he said. “Accountability processes negotiated during the peace process there translated into meaningful justice for many of the wartime atrocities committed by the government and the rebels.

“Moreover, for the ICC to undermine negotiations, there must be a realistic prospect of a peace process. If such negotiations do not exist, the claim that pursuing accountability will ruin them is likely a red herring — an argument intended to shield the perpetrators of atrocities.”

Palestinians gather at the site of an Israeli strike on a camp area housing internally displaced people in Rafah on May 27. (AFP)

Khan’s request has gone to the ICC’s pre-trial chamber, where it will now be down to the three sitting judges — Romania’s Iulia Motoc, Benin’s Reine Alapini-Gansou, and France’s Nicolas Guillou — to determine whether to take action or not.

After seven months of fact-finding, lawyers believe Khan’s case is strong: Netanyahu and Gallant have been accused of using starvation as a weapon of war, willfully causing suffering, willfully killing, intentionally attacking civilian populations, extermination and persecution.

Sergey Vasiliev, associate professor of law at the University of Amsterdam, told Turkiye’s Anadolu news agency that the ICC judges now have to decide whether there are reasonable grounds the accused committed the crimes and if an arrest, as opposed to a summons, is necessary.

“I expect the judges to grant the request. I assume the investigation has been conducted thoroughly over the past seven months, the evidence amply sufficient to meet the threshold and it to be a concise yet compelling legal narrative,” said Vasiliev. 

Judges of the committee of the International Criminal Court Committee are assembled at the ICC headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands. (ICC file photo)

Justifying his position, Vasiliev said the standard for “reasonable grounds” was not as demanding as the more onerous “substantial grounds to believe,” adding that applications for arrest warrants were not “generally expected to provide elaborate analysis of the evidence.”

As to the timeline, some commentators expect the judges will make their decision in the near future.

“I think it is a matter of days until we know if the arrest warrants will be issued and then all 124 states that are members of the court are obligated to take action on them,” Gershon Baskin, Middle East director at the International Communities Organization, told Arab News. 

Children enjoy the luxury of riding atop a vehicle as many other Palestinians travel on foot along with their belongings to flee Rafah on May 28, 2024 , due to an Israeli military operation on May 28, 2024. (REUTERS)

Given that the ICC neither carries out arrests nor tries people in absentia, the question then becomes one of enforcement. There has been little sign of Israel handing over its own people, with Gallant stressing “it is not a party and does not recognize its authority.”

Nor do Gallant and Netanyahu have to worry about the US turning them over to the ICC. Khan’s move has engendered a rare moment of concord across the aisle, with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham pushing to censure the ICC.

Graham received a positive response from Secretary of State Antony Blinken after asking: “I want to take actions, not just words. Will you support a bipartisan effort to sanction the ICC — not only for the outrage against Israel but to protect, in the future, our own interests?”

US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) gives a statement to the press during his visit in Tel Aviv, Israel, on May 29, 2024. (REUTERS)

Catching some off-guard, particularly given its vocal support for Israel and having echoed other European states in describing the ICC move as “deeply unhelpful,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz confirmed Germany would not defy an ICC arrest warrant were one to be issued.

On Monday, Israel’s Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara said Israel’s legal system is actively investigating allegations of possible criminal misconduct during the war in Gaza and that Khan’s request for arrest warrants was therefore hasty and inappropriate. 

“The states that established the court saw it as a tool for dealing with situations where there is ‘no law and no judge.’ That is not our situation,” Baharav-Miara told a conference of the Israel Bar Association.

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“It would have been more correct for the prosecutor to wait until the internal state procedures were completed before making a decision. It would have been right to give the state of Israel a fair opportunity in this regard.”

Julia Roknifard, an assistant professor at the University of Nottingham’s School of Politics, History, and International Relations, says that in all likelihood, the ICC will not see a case actioned given the lack of jurisdiction it has over Israel itself.

“Netanyahu liked to travel to the US, but I don’t think he is welcome there now, and I don’t think he is in the mood right now to travel at all, so I think it is very unlikely that we would see an arrest were a warrant issued,” Roknifard told Arab News.

Echoing Roknifard, Baskin said it was highly unlikely that Gallant and Netanyahu would travel to any country in which they had any concern of being arrested and handed over to the ICC, describing warrants as “kind of a moot point.”

Roknifard does not believe Khan is pursuing warrants for mere symbolic reasons. “I wouldn’t read into the ICC motion more than it is supposed to be — to charge individuals with the crimes they have (allegedly) committed,” she said

International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan. (AFP)

Instead, like Imran, Roknifard touts the importance of the case brought by South Africa to the International Court of Justice, which last week ordered Israel to cease its offensive in Rafah — an order that Israel has ignored.

Commenting on Khan’s proposed arrest warrants, Imran said he saw it as less about a particular case and more about the future, or lack thereof, of the ICC.

“European states, I think, now have to make a choice between the institutions they have been supporting financially and their calls for a rules-based order modeled around international law and their support for Israel,” Imran told Arab News.

“We have seen many of them criticize the court in the wake of Khan’s announcement, and now we see some stating they will respect the decision, but it’s hard to tell what they will do were Netanyahu to actually travel to their territory with an arrest warrant out for him.

“Some will try and beat around the bush. But if they did not apply the decision, they would be essentially disowning this international institution and basically disintegrating the ICC and, if they do, that means they will have to change their policy goals.”
 

 


Syria says Israeli strike kills girl, wounds 10 civilians

A handout picture released by Syrian Arab News Agency on May 29, 2024 shows damage caused inside an apartment in Baniyas.
A handout picture released by Syrian Arab News Agency on May 29, 2024 shows damage caused inside an apartment in Baniyas.
Updated 29 May 2024
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Syria says Israeli strike kills girl, wounds 10 civilians

A handout picture released by Syrian Arab News Agency on May 29, 2024 shows damage caused inside an apartment in Baniyas.
  • The girl was killed after an Israeli missile and Syrian air defense missile exploded and then fell on the coast
  • The Observatory said the Israeli strikes targeted “at least one military site... in the eastern countryside of Homs, causing plumes of smoke to rise“

BEIRUT: Syria’s defense ministry said an Israeli air strike Wednesday killed a girl and wounded 10 civilians on the country’s coast, with a war monitor reporting another raid killed three pro-Hezbollah fighters.
“The Israeli enemy launched an air attack from the direction of Lebanon, targeting a central site and a residential building in Baniyas city in the coastal region, killing a girl and wounding 10 civilians,” a ministry statement said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said the girl was killed after an Israeli missile and Syrian air defense missile exploded and then fell on the coast.
“Two explosions resonated... in the coastal city of Baniyas, killing a girl,” said the Britain-based monitor, which put the number of civilians wounded higher at 20.
The Observatory said “the explosions resulted from an Israeli missile and a Syrian air defense missile falling.”
The Observatory also said the Israeli strike on central Syria killed three Syrian fighters working with Lebanon’s Hezbollah group.
“Three Syrian fighters working with the Lebanese Hezbollah group were killed in an Israeli strike targeting a military site... in the eastern countryside of Homs,” said the Observatory.
Earlier on Wednesday, state media had said air defenses intercepted Israeli “targets” over central Syria, and the Observatory reported an Israeli attack on a military site.
“Syrian air defense intercepts enemy targets in the skies of the city of Homs,” the official SANA news agency reported.
The Observatory said the Israeli strikes targeted “at least one military site... in the eastern countryside of Homs, causing plumes of smoke to rise.”
The monitor, which has a network of sources inside Syria, said the area also housed members of Iran-backed groups including Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah.
On Saturday, an Israeli drone strike in central Syria, near the border with Lebanon, killed two Hezbollah fighters, the Observatory had said.
Israel rarely comments on individual strikes in Syria but has repeatedly said it will not allow its arch-enemy Iran to expand its presence there.
Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria since the outbreak of the civil war in its northern neighbor, mainly targeting army positions and Iran-backed fighters including from Hezbollah.
The strikes have increased since Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip began on October 7, when the Iran-backed Palestinian militant group launched an unprecedented attack against Israel.
Syria’s war has killed more than half a million people and displaced millions more since it erupted in 2011 after Damascus cracked down on anti-government protests.


‘All Eyes on Rafah’ image garners millions of shares in latest social media solidarity campaign

‘All Eyes on Rafah’ image garners millions of shares in latest social media solidarity campaign
Updated 29 May 2024
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‘All Eyes on Rafah’ image garners millions of shares in latest social media solidarity campaign

‘All Eyes on Rafah’ image garners millions of shares in latest social media solidarity campaign
  • Image depicts tents in a camp arranged to spell out “All Eyes on Rafah”
  • By Wednesday morning, post surpassed 40 million shares on Instagram

LONDON: The image “All Eyes on Rafah” has garnered millions of shares in the latest social media solidarity campaign, drawing widespread attention to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza.

The post renewed advocacy efforts following a deadly Israeli airstrike on the city in southern Gaza.

According to Forbes, the slogan appears to have originated from a comment by Rik Peeperkorn, director of the World Health Organization’s Office of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

In February, Peeperkorn used the phrase to shift attention toward Rafah after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered an evacuation plan for the city ahead of planned attacks targeting what Netanyahu claims are the last remaining strongholds of the militant group Hamas.

By Wednesday morning, the post had surpassed 40 million shares on Instagram, with the hashtag #AllEyesonRafah trending across social media platforms.

The image, believed to be one of the first examples of AI-generated viral activist artwork, depicts tents in a camp arranged to spell out “All Eyes on Rafah.”

The phrase is intended to highlight the plight of Rafah, where local authorities reported the loss of at least 45 civilian lives following an Israeli airstrike on Sunday, which Netanyahu described on Monday as a “tragic mistake.”

Israel has faced international scrutiny for the attack, which is part of a broader offensive by the Israeli army in and around Rafah.

The decision has been widely condemned by world leaders who have urged Israel to halt its invasion in an area where about 1.4 million displaced Palestinians from elsewhere in the Gaza Strip had sought shelter.

Last Friday, the International Court of Justice ordered an immediate halt to the offensive, a position rejected by Israel.

In an opinion piece in The Jewish Chronicle on Wednesday, journalist Josh Kaplan described the post as “another vapid, lazy way to say ‘I care,’” arguing that the slogan “is one in the long canon of feel good posts that achieve very little but make the sharer feel, even just for a second, like they’re doing something to help.”

Kaplan wrote: “I understand that there is outrage at the way Israel is conducting its war. The images coming out of Gaza often feel indefensible. But what does sharing an AI image that looks nothing like Gaza actually do?”

He added: “To learn about the conflict and to formulate an opinion that maintains dignity for all sides is something that cannot be accomplished by sharing an Instagram post. All it does is make Israelis, who will have to be involved in any future peace process, feel, yet again, that the world doesn’t care about their suffering.”


Yemen’s Houthis say they downed US MQ-9 drone in Yemen’s Maareb

Yemen’s Houthis say they downed US MQ-9 drone in Yemen’s Maareb
Updated 29 May 2024
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Yemen’s Houthis say they downed US MQ-9 drone in Yemen’s Maareb

Yemen’s Houthis say they downed US MQ-9 drone in Yemen’s Maareb
  • Houthis’s spokesman Yahya Sarea said that this drone “is the sixth UAV that has been shot down so far“

CAIRO: Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis said they downed a US MQ-9 drone in Yemen’s southeastern province of Maareb, the group’s military spokesman said in a televised speech on Wednesday.
Houthis’s spokesman Yahya Sarea said that this drone “is the sixth UAV that has been shot down so far.”
On May 21, Houthis shot down another drone over Al-Bayda province in Southern Yemen.
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.


Israel says it seizes key Gaza-Egypt corridor

Israel says it seizes key Gaza-Egypt corridor
Updated 29 May 2024
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Israel says it seizes key Gaza-Egypt corridor

Israel says it seizes key Gaza-Egypt corridor
  • “Israel is using these allegations to justify continuing the operation on the Palestinian city of Rafah and prolonging the war for political purposes,” Egyptian source said
  • Israel’s National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said, however, that the war could go on until the year’s end

GAZA: The Israeli army said it took control on Wednesday of a vital Gaza-Egypt corridor suspected of aiding weapons smuggling as it intensified its offensive against Hamas in the border city of Rafah.
The UN Security Council was set to meet for a second day of emergency talks after a strike at the weekend ignited a fire that Gaza officials said killed 45 people and injured about 250.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was among the many leaders to voice revulsion at the bloodshed, demanding that “this horror must stop.”
Israel’s National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said, however, that the war could go on until the year’s end.
“We may have another seven months of fighting to consolidate our success and achieve what we have defined as the destruction of Hamas’s power and military capabilities,” Hanegbi said.
An Israeli military official later told reporters the army had taken “operational control” of the strategic, 14-kilometer (8.5-mile) Philadelphi corridor along the Gaza-Egypt border.
The corridor had served as a buffer between Gaza and Egypt, but since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, there were fears it was being used to channel weapons to armed groups in the Palestinian territory.
Its seizure comes weeks after Israeli forces took the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, which alleged Wednesday Israel was using claims of cross-border tunnels as cover for its Rafah offensive.
“Israel is using these allegations to justify continuing the operation on the Palestinian city of Rafah and prolonging the war for political purposes,” a high-level Egyptian source was quoted as saying by state-linked Al-Qahera News.
In besieged Rafah, witnesses reported escalated fighting with helicopters intensifying attacks, supported by artillery and smoke grenades.
Hamas’s military wing said it was firing rockets at Israeli troops.
AFPTV footage showed Palestinians with bloodied midriffs and bandaged limbs after being wounded in strikes near Khan Yunis, close to Rafah, being taken to the European Hospital on makeshift gurneys.
“The rockets fell directly on us. I was hurled three meters (yards)... I don’t know how I managed to get up on my feet,” said one who did not give his name.
Gaza’s civil defense said three bodies were recovered from a Khan Yunis house after it was shelled.
The United States has been among the countries urging Israel to refrain from a full-scale offensive into Rafah, the last Gaza city to see ground fighting, because of the risk to civilians.
However, the White House said Tuesday that so far it had not seen Israel cross President Joe Biden’s “red lines,” with National Security Council spokesman John Kirby saying: “We have not seen them smash into Rafah.”
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Israel to quickly devise a post-war strategy for Gaza, stressing: “In the absence of a plan for the day after, there won’t be a day after.”
A steady stream of civilians has been fleeing Rafah, the new hotspot in the gruelling war, many carrying belongings on their shoulders, in cars or on donkey-drawn carts.
Before the Rafah offensive began on May 7, the United Nations had warned that up to 1.4 million people were sheltering there. Since then, one million have fled the area, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) has said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Sunday’s strike and ensuing fire a “tragic accident.” The army said it had targeted a Hamas compound and killed two senior members of the group.
Israel’s military said it was investigating the strike, and its spokesman Daniel Hagari said on Tuesday that “our munition alone could not have ignited a fire of this size.”
Gaza civil defense agency official Mohammad Al-Mughayyir said 21 more people were killed in a similar strike Tuesday “targeting the tents of displaced people” in western Rafah.
The army denied this, saying it “did not strike in the humanitarian area in Al-Mawasi,” an area it had designated for displaced people from Rafah to shelter.
New fighting also hit other areas of the besieged Palestinian territory of 2.4 million people.
In the north, Israeli military vehicles unleashed intense gunfire east of Gaza City, an AFP reporter said, and residents reported strikes on Jabalia.
The Gaza war was sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,189 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on 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 36,171 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
Nearly eight months into the deadliest Gaza war, Israel has faced ever louder opposition and cases before two Netherlands-based international courts.
At the UN Security Council, Algeria has presented a draft resolution that “demands an immediate ceasefire respected by all parties” and the release of all hostages.
Algeria’s UN ambassador Amar Bendjama has not specified when he hopes to put the draft to a vote.
Chinese ambassador Fu Cong expressed hope for a vote this week as President Xi Jinping told Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in Beijing he was “deeply pained” by the situation in Gaza.
French UN ambassador Nicolas de Riviere said “it’s high time for this council to take action. This is a matter of life and death. This is a matter of emergency.”
US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, when asked about the draft resolution, said: “We’re waiting to see it and then we’ll react to it.”
Brazil, whose ties with Israel have soured over the war, on Wednesday recalled its ambassador, further raising tensions between the two.
Meanwhile, the World Central Kitchen nonprofit organization said it was stopping its operations in Rafah because of “ongoing attacks” in the southern city.