US sanctions four over ‘malicious cyber activity’ for Iran’s military

US sanctions four over ‘malicious cyber activity’ for Iran’s military
The US ramped up its sanctions against Iran on Tuesday, designating four people and two companies it says were "involved in malicious cyber activity" on behalf of the country's military. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 23 April 2024
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US sanctions four over ‘malicious cyber activity’ for Iran’s military

US sanctions four over ‘malicious cyber activity’ for Iran’s military
  • The individuals and companies were working “on behalf of” Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Cyber Electronic Command (IRGC-CEC), the Treasury said
  • Tuesday’s sanctions are the latest to be levied against Tehran by the United States

WASHINGTON: The US ramped up its sanctions against Iran on Tuesday, designating four people and two companies it says were “involved in malicious cyber activity” on behalf of the country’s military.
“These actors targeted more than a dozen US companies and government entities through cyber operations, including spear phishing and malware attacks,” the US Treasury Department said in a statement.
The individuals and companies were working “on behalf of” Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Cyber Electronic Command (IRGC-CEC), the Treasury said.
“Iranian malicious cyber actors continue to target US companies and government entities in a coordinated, multi-pronged campaign intended to destabilize our critical infrastructure and cause harm to our citizens,” the Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence Brian Nelson said in a statement.
“The United States will continue to leverage our whole-of-government approach to expose and disrupt these networks’ operations,” he added.
Tuesday’s sanctions are the latest to be levied against Tehran by the United States and its allies for supporting anti-Israel proxies in the Middle East and for providing military support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Last week, the US and Britain announced widespread sanctions against Iran’s military drone program in response to Tehran’s large-scale attack against Israel earlier this month.
That attack came in response to an April 1 air strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus — widely blamed on Israel — that killed seven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including two generals.
A day after those sanctions were unveiled, the US fined a Thailand-based firm $20 million for more than 450 possible Iran sanctions violations.
They included processing close to $300 million in wire transfers for a company jointly owned by the National Petroleum Company of Iran.
Alongside the Tuesday’s sanctions, the US Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have also indicted the four individuals in question, “for their roles in cyber activity targeting US entities,” the Treasury Department said.


Egypt condemns terrorist bombing in Mogadishu as death toll rises to 9

Egypt condemns terrorist bombing in Mogadishu as death toll rises to 9
Updated 7 sec ago
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Egypt condemns terrorist bombing in Mogadishu as death toll rises to 9

Egypt condemns terrorist bombing in Mogadishu as death toll rises to 9

CAIRO: Egypt on Monday condemned the terrorist bombing that targeted a cafe in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu late on Sunday. 

Egypt expressed its full solidarity and support for Somalia’s efforts to confront all forms of extremism and terrorism, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Emigration, and Egyptian Expatriates.

The death toll from the car bombing at the cafe that was packed with football fans watching the Euro 2024 final has risen to nine, security sources in Somalia said on Monday.

Egypt expressed its sincere condolences to the government and people of Somalia and the families of the victims, wishing a speedy recovery for the injured.

The popular Top Coffee restaurant, which is located near the presidential palace in the center of Mogadishu, was thronged with young men watching the final.


Syria’s Assad says will only meet Turkiye’s Erdogan if ‘core’ issues addressed

Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on May 29, 2023, Syria’s President Bashar Assad in Damascus on July 16, 2023.
Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on May 29, 2023, Syria’s President Bashar Assad in Damascus on July 16, 2023.
Updated 9 min 38 sec ago
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Syria’s Assad says will only meet Turkiye’s Erdogan if ‘core’ issues addressed

Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on May 29, 2023, Syria’s President Bashar Assad in Damascus on July 16, 2023.
  • Erdogan said earlier in July he would extend an invitation to Assad “any time” for possible talks to restore relations
  • “What is the basis for the meeting? Would it be ending the reasons for the problem, which are supporting terrorism and withdrawing from Syrian lands?”: Assad

DUBAI: Syria’s President Bashar Assad said on Monday he would only meet Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan if the two countries could focus on the core issues of Ankara’s support for “terrorism” and the pullout of Turkish forces from Syrian territory.
“The problem is not the meeting, but its content,” a video clip released by the presidency showed Assad telling reporters in Damascus.
Turkiye severed ties with Syria in 2011 after the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, in which it supported rebels looking to oust Assad. The Syrian leader views the rebels as terrorists.
Ankara also established a “safe zone” in northern Syria where Turkish troops are now stationed, and it has carried out several cross-border military operations against militants it says threaten Turkiye’s national security.
Erdogan said earlier in July he would extend an invitation to Assad “any time” for possible talks to restore relations.
“What is the basis for the meeting? Would it be ending the reasons for the problem, which are supporting terrorism and withdrawing from Syrian lands?... This is the core of the problem.”
“If there were no discussion about the core of (the problem), what would such a meeting mean?“
Assad added that he would respond positively to any initiative aimed at improving bilateral ties but that the basis for such talks must be set first.


Azerbaijan reopens its embassy in Iran as the two countries try to ease tensions

An Iranian worker paints Azerbaijan’s sign on the entrance gate to the new Azeri embassy in Tehran, Iran, 15 July 2024. (EPA)
An Iranian worker paints Azerbaijan’s sign on the entrance gate to the new Azeri embassy in Tehran, Iran, 15 July 2024. (EPA)
Updated 15 July 2024
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Azerbaijan reopens its embassy in Iran as the two countries try to ease tensions

An Iranian worker paints Azerbaijan’s sign on the entrance gate to the new Azeri embassy in Tehran, Iran, 15 July 2024. (EPA)
  • Relations between Tehran and Baku, which have been tense for a long time, soured further after a gunman in January 2023 stormed Azerbaijan’s embassy in Tehran

TEHRAN: The embassy of Azerbaijan in Tehran resumed its work Monday after more than a year of negotiations between the two countries to ease tensions, Iran’s semi-official media outlets reported.
A source in the Azeri embassy in Tehran told The Associated Press that the embassy has resumed its operations in the Iranian capital, but said it won’t be officially announced until the Iranian foreign ministry confirms the development.
But an Azeri website news.az Monday quoted Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry as saying that its embassy in Iran has restarted work at a new address in Tehran. The report added that the embassy reopened following negotiations between Azerbaijan and Iran.
Relations between Tehran and Baku, which have been tense for a long time, soured further after a gunman in January 2023 stormed Azerbaijan’s embassy in Iran’s capital, killing its security chief and wounding two guards.
Iran said the attack was based on a personal cause, and said the gunman’s wife had disappeared after a visit to the embassy, but Azeri President Ilham Aliyev called the assault a “terrorist attack.” Baku accused Tehran of supporting hard-line extremists who tried to overthrow its government, a charge Tehran denied.
In April 2023, Azerbaijan expelled four Iranian diplomats from Baku. A month later, Iran expelled four Azeri diplomats, who had been working in Azerbaijan’s Embassy in Tehran and its consulate in the northwestern city of Tabriz.
The attack spiked long-simmering tensions between the two neighboring countries.
Relations between the two also remain tense because Azerbaijan in March 2023 opened an embassy in Israel. Azerbaijan also maintains close ties to Israel, which Tehran views as its top regional enemy. Iran has repeatedly opposed improving relations between Azerbaijan and Israel.
Azerbaijan borders Iran’s northwest and belonged to the Persian Empire until the early 19th century. There are over 12 million Ethnic Azeris in Iran who represent the Islamic Republic’s largest minority group. That means maintaining good relations with Baku is even more important for Tehran.
There have been tensions between the two countries as Azerbaijan and Armenia have fought over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Iran also wants to maintain its 44-kilometer (27-mile) border with landlocked Armenia — something that could be threatened if Azerbaijan seizes new territory through warfare.
Iran-Azerbaijan’s relations improved during the era of the late Ebrahim Raisi. In May, Iran and Azerbaijan inaugurated a dam of Qiz Qalasi, or Castel of Girl in Azeri, on a joint border river in northwest Iran. Aliyev attended the inauguration.
During the ceremony, Raisi said that the relationship between Tehran and Baku is beyond neighboring and is “unbreakable.”
Raisi died in a helicopter crash — that also killed the country’s foreign minister and others — just after the inauguration ceremony. His body was found a day after the crash.


Israel hits Gaza from land, sea and air as Hamas halts talks

A Palestinian woman reacts next to a child after an Israeli air strike on a UN school sheltering displaced people.
A Palestinian woman reacts next to a child after an Israeli air strike on a UN school sheltering displaced people.
Updated 15 July 2024
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Israel hits Gaza from land, sea and air as Hamas halts talks

A Palestinian woman reacts next to a child after an Israeli air strike on a UN school sheltering displaced people.
  • Eyewitnesses said the Israeli army had shelled the Al-Mughraqa area and the northern outskirts of the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza
  • Hamas said on Sunday it was withdrawing from ceasefire talks

GAZA STRIP: Israel hammered the Gaza Strip from the air, sea and land Monday as the war in the Palestinian territory showed no sign of abating, with Hamas saying it was pulling out of truce talks.
Shells rained down on the neighborhoods of Tal Al-Hawa, Sheikh Ajlin and Al-Sabra in Gaza City, AFP correspondents reported, while eyewitnesses said the Israeli army had shelled the Al-Mughraqa area and the northern outskirts of the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.
Paramedics from the Palestinian Red Crescent said they had retrieved the bodies of five people, including three children, after Israeli air strikes in the Al-Maghazi camp, also in the central Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, eyewitnesses reported Israeli gunship fire east of Khan Yunis, in southern Gaza, and shelling and Apache helicopter attacks in western areas of the southernmost city of Rafah.
The Israeli military said in a statement that it was continuing its activity throughout the coastal territory, and said it had conducted raids in Rafah and central Gaza that killed “a number of” militants, as well as air strikes throughout the strip over the past day.
It also said its naval forces had been firing at targets in Gaza.
The relentless bombardments came as prospects dwindled for a truce and hostage release deal being secured any time soon.
Hamas said on Sunday it was withdrawing from ceasefire talks.
The decision followed an Israeli strike targeting the head of Hamas’s military wing, Mohammed Deif, which the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said killed 92 people.
Deif’s fate remains unknown, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying there was “no certainty” he was dead while a senior Hamas official told AFP that Deif was “well and directly overseeing” operations.
Speaking after the strike on Al-Mawasi, a second senior official from the militant group cited Israeli “massacres” and its attitude to negotiations as a reason for suspending negotiations.
But according to the official, Haniyeh told international mediators Hamas was “ready to resume negotiations” when Israel’s government “demonstrates seriousness in reaching a ceasefire agreement and a prisoner exchange deal.”
Last week, US President Joe Biden had suggested a deal might be close, saying at a NATO summit that both sides had agreed to a framework he had set out in late May.
Hamas on Monday lashed out at the US, accusing it of supporting “genocide” by supplying Israel with “internationally banned” weapons.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the... American disdain for the blood of the children and women of our Palestinian people... by providing all types of prohibited weapons to the ‘Israeli’ occupation,” a statement from the Hamas government media office said.
Talks between the warring parties have been mediated by Qatar and Egypt, with US support, but months of negotiations have failed to bring a breakthrough.
The war was sparked by Hamas’s surprise October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom are still in Gaza including 42 the Israeli military says are dead.
Israel responded with a military offensive that has killed at least 38,584 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data provided by the Gaza health ministry.
The war and accompanying siege have devastated the Palestinian territory, destroying much of its infrastructure, leaving the majority of its 2.4 million residents displaced and causing a dire shortage of food, medicines and other basic goods.
Among the devastated facilities have been multiple schools. On Sunday, Israeli forces struck a UN-run school in Nuseirat camp that was being used as a shelter for displaced people but which the military said “served as a hideout” for militants.
The civil defense agency in Gaza said 15 people were killed in the strike, the fifth attack in just over a week to hit a school used as shelter by displaced Palestinians.


Middle East and North Africa aid project set to kick off in Morocco

Middle East and North Africa aid project set to kick off in Morocco
In September of 2023, Morocco was stricken with a deadly earthquake that left thousands injured and homeless. (Supplied)
Updated 15 July 2024
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Middle East and North Africa aid project set to kick off in Morocco

Middle East and North Africa aid project set to kick off in Morocco

DUBAI: UAE’s latest humanitarian project will kick off in Morocco to provide medical relief for over 25,000 people a year in earthquake stricken areas across the Middle East and North Africa. 
Asterians United, a mobile medical service unit, was recently launched by Aster Healthcare in collaboration with UAE Red Crescent. The first group of aid vehicles left UAE on Friday and is en route to Taroudant, Morocco.
Each team vehicle will have one doctor, a minimum of one nursing staff and a driver. The mobile medical vans will provide consultations, first-aid treatment and other essential medical services directly to communities in need.
The project will run for 10 years and is subject to renewal, according to a memorandum of understanding between Moroccan authorities and UAE Red Crescent officials.
Other aid missions will eventually be launched in the region, after the initial outreach activities in Morocco.
Morocco was hit by a deadly earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.8 on the Richter scale, in September 2023 which left thousands injured and still battling the lack of stable shelter, clean water and essential sanitation facilities.