Ukraine uses long-range missiles secretly provided by US to hit Russian-held areas, officials say

Ukraine uses long-range missiles secretly provided by US to hit Russian-held areas, officials say
Ukraine for the first time has begun using long-range ballistic missiles provided secretly by the United States, bombing a Russian military airfield in Crimea last week and Russian forces in another occupied area overnight, American officials said Wednesday. (AFP/File)
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Updated 24 April 2024
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Ukraine uses long-range missiles secretly provided by US to hit Russian-held areas, officials say

Ukraine uses long-range missiles secretly provided by US to hit Russian-held areas, officials say
  • The new missiles give Ukraine nearly double the striking distance up to 300 kilometers
  • The two US officials would not provide the exact number of missiles given last month or in the latest aid package, which totals about $1 billion

WASHINGTON: Ukraine for the first time has begun using long-range ballistic missiles provided secretly by the United States, bombing a Russian military airfield in Crimea last week and Russian forces in another occupied area overnight, American officials said Wednesday.
Long sought by Ukrainian leaders, the new missiles give Ukraine nearly double the striking distance — up to 300 kilometers (190 miles) — that it had with the mid-range version of the weapon that it received from the US last October. One of the officials said the US is providing more of these missiles in a new military aid package signed by President Joe Biden on Wednesday.
Biden approved delivery of the long-range Army Tactical Missile System, known as ATACMS, in February, and then in March the US included a “significant” number of them in a $300 million aid package announced, one official said.
The two US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the delivery before it became public, would not provide the exact number of missiles given last month or in the latest aid package, which totals about $1 billion.
Ukraine has been forced to ration its weapons and is facing increasing Russian attacks. Ukraine had been begging for the long-range system because the missiles provide a critical ability to strike Russian targets that are farther away, allowing Ukrainian forces to stay safely out of range.
Information about the delivery was kept so quiet that lawmakers and others in recent days have been demanding that the US send the weapons — not knowing they were already in Ukraine.
For months, the US resisted sending Ukraine the long-range missiles out of concern that Kyiv could use them to hit deep into Russian territory, enraging Moscow and escalating the conflict. That was a key reason the administration sent the mid-range version, with a range of about 160 kilometers (roughly 100 miles), in October instead.
Adm. Christopher Grady, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday that the White House and military planners looked carefully at the risks of providing long-range fires to Ukraine and determined that the time was right to provide them now.
He told The Associated Press in an interview that long-range weapons will help Ukraine take out Russian logistics nodes and troop concentrations that are not on the front lines. Grady declined to identify what specific weapons were being provided but said they will be “very disruptive if used properly, and I’m confident they will be.”
Like many of the other sophisticated weapons systems provided to Ukraine, the administration weighed whether their use would risk further escalating the conflict. The administration is continuing to make clear that the weapons cannot be used to hit targets in Russia — only those inside Ukrainian territory, according to one of the US officials.
“I think the time is right, and the boss (Biden) made the decision the time is right to provide these based on where the fight is right now,” Grady said Wednesday. “I think it was a very well considered decision, and we really wrung it out — but again, any time you introduce a new system, any change — into a battlefield, you have to think through the escalatory nature of it.”
Ukrainian officials haven’t publicly acknowledged the receipt or use of long-range ATACMS. But in thanking Congress for passing the new aid bill Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky noted on the social platform X that “Ukraine’s long-range capabilities, artillery and air defense are extremely important tools for the quick restoration of a just peace.”
One of the US officials said the Biden administration warned Russia last year that if Moscow acquired and used long-range ballistic missiles in Ukraine, Washington would provide the same capability to Kyiv.
Russia got some of those weapons from North Korea and has used them on the battlefield in Ukraine, said the official, prompting the Biden administration to greenlight the new long-range missiles.
The US had refused to confirm that the long-range missiles were given to Ukraine until they were actually used on the battlefield and Kyiv leaders approved the public release. One official said the weapons were used early last week to strike the airfield in Dzhankoi, a city in Crimea, a peninsula that Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014. They were used again overnight east of the occupied city of Berdyansk.
Videos on social media last week showed the explosions at the military airfield, but officials at the time would not confirm it was the ATACMS.
Ukraine’s first use of the weapon came as political gridlock in Congress had delayed approval of a $95 billion foreign aid package for months, including funding for Ukraine, Israel and other allies. Facing acute shortages of artillery and air defense systems, Ukraine has been rationing its munitions as US funding was delayed.
With the war now in its third year, Russia used the delay in US weapons deliveries and its own edge in firepower and personnel to step up attacks across eastern Ukraine. It has increasingly used satellite-guided gliding bombs — dropped from planes from a safe distance — to pummel Ukrainian forces beset by a shortage of troops and ammunition.
The mid-range missiles provided last year, and some of the long-range ones sent more recently, carry cluster munitions that open in the air when fired, releasing hundreds of bomblets rather than a single warhead. Others sent recently have a single warhead.
One critical factor in the March decision to send the weapons was the US Army’s ability to begin replacing the older ATACMS. The Army is now buying the Precision Strike Missile, so is more comfortable taking ATACMS off the shelves to provide to Ukraine, the official said.


Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy

Updated 4 sec ago
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Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy

Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy
The infant girl, her mother and 4-year-old sister were in an unseaworthy boat laden with migrants that had set off from Sfax in Tunisia
SOS Humanity workers aboard its “Humanity 1” vessel found many of the migrants exhausted

LAMPEDUSA, Italy: The body of a five-month-old baby was found on Tuesday when some 85 migrants heading for Italy from Tunisia were rescued from distress at sea, according to a Reuters witness.
The infant girl, her mother and 4-year-old sister were in an unseaworthy boat laden with migrants that had set off from Sfax in Tunisia two days earlier bound for Italy, according to charity group SOS Humanity.
SOS Humanity workers aboard its “Humanity 1” vessel found many of the migrants exhausted and suffering from seasickness and fuel burns as they were rescued before dawn on Tuesday, the group said in a statement.
Some 185 migrants rescued in separate operations this week, including the stricken boat overnight, were being taken aboard “Humanity 1” to the port of Livorno in northwest Italy. Another 120 migrants were transferred by coast guard boat to the Italian island of Lampedusa in the southern Mediterranean.
Tunisia is grappling with a migrant crisis and has replaced Libya as the main departure point for people fleeing poverty and conflict further south in Africa as well as the Middle East in hopes of a better life in Europe.
Italy has sought to curb migrant arrivals from Africa, making it harder charity ships to operate in the Mediterranean, limiting the number of rescues they can carry out and often forcing them to make huge detours to bring migrants ashore.

Putin says Ukraine should hold presidential election

Putin says Ukraine should hold presidential election
Updated 7 min 18 sec ago
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Putin says Ukraine should hold presidential election

Putin says Ukraine should hold presidential election
  • Zelensky has not faced an election despite the expiry of his term

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday Ukraine should hold a presidential election following the expiry of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s five-year term.
Zelensky has not faced an election despite the expiry of his term, something he and Kyiv’s allies deem the right decision in wartime. Putin said the only legitimate authority in Ukraine now was parliament, and that its head should be given power.


US cautions UK against censuring Iran over nuclear program: Report

US cautions UK against censuring Iran over nuclear program: Report
Updated 42 min 40 sec ago
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US cautions UK against censuring Iran over nuclear program: Report

US cautions UK against censuring Iran over nuclear program: Report
  • Britain, France expected to condemn Tehran in resolution at IAEA meeting
  • Washington seeking to avoid Mideast escalation amid simmering tensions

LONDON: The US has warned the UK against condemning Iran’s nuclear program at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency next week, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Amid simmering tensions in the Middle East and a US presidential election in November, Washington is reportedly seeking to avoid a regional escalation.

At an IAEA board of governors’ meeting next week, the UK and France are expected to deliver a censuring resolution against Iran over its nuclear program.

But the US is said to have warned other countries to abstain from the resolution, which was drafted over growing frustration with Tehran’s defiance of the IAEA.

Officials in the US have denied lobbying against the British and French move.

As well as electoral concerns, the White House also fears that Iran may be prone to instability following last month’s exchange of strikes with Israel, and the death of the country’s president and foreign minister in a helicopter crash.

UK officials believe that Iran’s nuclear program is as advanced as ever and are “deeply concerned” about escalation, the Daily Telegraph reported.

From June 3-7, the 35-member IAEA board of governors will gather for a quarterly meeting.

Iran is believed to have been enriching uranium to 60 percent purity for three years, following Washington’s axing of the nuclear deal under former President Donald Trump.

Tehran has maintained that it seeks to use the uranium for a civil nuclear program. But the IAEA has warned that no country has enriched to 60 percent purity without later developing nuclear weapons.

Last week, a senior European diplomat described Iranian nuclear violations as “unprecedented” in comments to Reuters.

“There is no slowing down of its programme and there is no real goodwill by Iran to cooperate with the IAEA,” the diplomat said. “All our indicators are flashing red.”


Danish parliament rejects proposal to recognize Palestinian state

Danish parliament rejects proposal to recognize Palestinian state
Updated 28 May 2024
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Danish parliament rejects proposal to recognize Palestinian state

Danish parliament rejects proposal to recognize Palestinian state
  • The Danish bill was first proposed in late February by four left-wing parties
  • “We cannot recognize an independent Palestinian state, for the sole reason that the preconditions are not really there,” Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said

COPENHAGEN: Denmark’s parliament on Tuesday voted down a bill to recognize a Palestinian state, after the Danish foreign minister previously said the necessary preconditions for an independent country were lacking.
Ireland, Spain and Norway on Tuesday formally recognized a Palestinian state, after their announcement last week that they would do so angered Israel which called the move a “reward for terrorism” and recalled its ambassadors.
The Danish bill was first proposed in late February by four left-wing parties.
“We cannot recognize an independent Palestinian state, for the sole reason that the preconditions are not really there,” Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said when the bill was first debated in parliament in April.
“We cannot support this resolution, but we wish that there will come a day where we can,” Rasmussen, who was not present at the vote on Tuesday, added.
Denmark has, following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that triggered Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, said that Israel has a right to defend itself, but has more recently urged the country to show restraint and maintained it must respect international law.
Dublin, Madrid and Oslo have painted their decision as a move aimed at accelerating efforts to secure a ceasefire in Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza, and have urged other countries to follow suit.


Growing number of Indian women perform Hajj without male guardians

Growing number of Indian women perform Hajj without male guardians
Updated 28 May 2024
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Growing number of Indian women perform Hajj without male guardians

Growing number of Indian women perform Hajj without male guardians
  • More than 4,600 pilgrims registered in the ‘without mahram’ category
  • Most of them are from the southern state of Kerala

NEW DELHI: The number of Indian women going on Hajj without a male guardian has increased by nearly 20 percent since last year, the Haj Committee of India said on Tuesday.

With more than 200 million Indians following Islam, the Hindu-majority country has the world’s largest Muslim-minority population. Under the 2023 Hajj quota, 175,000 of them are traveling to Saudi Arabia this year for the spiritual journey that constitutes one of the five pillars of Islam.

The pilgrim breakdown is 51 percent male and 49 percent female, according to Haj Committee of India data, which also shows that the number of female pilgrims is on the rise, especially those traveling on their own.

Saudi Arabia last year lifted a rule that required female pilgrims to be accompanied by a mahram, or male guardian. India tweaked its Hajj policy accordingly in February 2023, and sent 4,000 pilgrims registered in the category for women traveling without a guardian.

“This time 4,665 women are going without mahram, and it was around 4,000 last year,” Haj Committee of India chairman A.P. Abdullakkutty told Arab News.

“It is heartening to see the growing number of female pilgrims every year. This signifies growing female empowerment among Muslim women and their growing confidence. Women are asserting their independence more than before.”

Most of the women traveling alone come from the southern state of Kerala, where Muslims constitute about 27 percent of the population, and Islam is the second-largest religion after Hinduism.

“Out of the 4,665 women going without mahram this time 3,000 are from Kerala,” Abdullakkutty said.

“The reason more women are going from Kerala is because the imams are more encouraging.”

This year, Hajj is expected to begin on June 14 and end on June 19. While the pilgrimage can be performed over five or six days, many pilgrims choose to arrive early for what may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fulfill their religious duty.

Hajj flights for Indian pilgrims started on May 9.

At least two of the flights will be run only by women and carry only female pilgrims. Both are Jeddah-bound and scheduled to depart from Kerala’s Kochi International Airport.