Lebanon teacher killed as children narrowly escape deadly drone strike

Update Lebanon teacher killed as children narrowly escape deadly drone strike
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The aunt of 11-year-old Lebanese school boy Mohammad Ali Nasser shows his shirt covered with blood at the General Hospital in Nabatieh, following his injury during an Israeli drone strike on the car of a Hezbollah fighter in southern Lebanon on May 24, 2024. (AFP)
Update Lebanon teacher killed as children narrowly escape deadly drone strike
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Lebanese schoolboy Qassem Jaffal receives treatment at the General Hospital in Nabatieh, following an Israeli drone attack that killed a Hezbollah fighter and wounded three children riding their bus to school at the time on the road leading to the southern city on May 23, 2024. (AFP)
Update Lebanon teacher killed as children narrowly escape deadly drone strike
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People standing on a side road are seen through the smashed windshield of a school bus that was damaged while passing a car of a Hezbollah fighter as it was trageted by an Israeli drone strike on a road leading to the southern Lebanese city of Nabatieh on May 23, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 23 May 2024
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Lebanon teacher killed as children narrowly escape deadly drone strike

Lebanon teacher killed as children narrowly escape deadly drone strike
  • ‘Divine providence’ saves students from certain death, says bus driver
  • Hezbollah launches rocket attacks after Israeli army steps up border assaults 

BEIRUT: Lebanese school children on a bus had a narrow escape when a drone strike killed a Hezbollah member in the car ahead, blowing out the windscreen of their vehicle and wounding three pupils.

Mohammed Nasser Farran, also a physics teacher at a public school in Nabatieh, was killed in the Israeli strike that targeted his car early on Thursday.

Three students were injured in the attack, which left the car in flames.

The strike was the first targeting a school teacher since the beginning of the confrontation between Hezbollah and the Israeli army. 

Farran, 35, who is originally from Nabatieh and a resident of Kfarsir, was on his way to the Hassan Kamel Al-Sabbah public high school in Nabatieh at 7:15 a.m. to supervise quarterly exams.

An Israeli drone directly targeted his Toyota car on the Nabatieh road, killing him instantly.

Hezbollah mourned Farran’s death and said that he was a member of the group.

The bus was carrying middle school students as young as 14 to the Choukine public school when the drone struck.

Bus driver Ahmad Sbeity said that the drone launched a rocket toward the car, and the subsequent explosion shattered the bus windscreen.

Students screamed while the driver tried to calm the situation.

“Three of them were injured, with blood running from different parts of their bodies, while others had panic attacks and were screaming continuously. Divine providence saved these students from inevitable death,” Sbeity said.

The driver contacted the ambulance and Lebanese Red Cross, which took the injured to the hospital. He also asked another bus driver to return the other students to their homes.

“What happened is a brutal criminal act. This enemy does not differentiate between a student and a civilian, and between a school and a hospital.”

Following the attack, 11-year-old Mohammed Ali Nasser, one of the three injured students, was seen sitting on the sidewalk, his clothes stained with blood.

Nasser was taken to hospital, and later said that he and his classmates heard an explosion and saw the car burst into flames.

Students immediately placed their backpacks on their heads in fear of another raid, he said.

Nasser said that he would return to school after treatment and was not afraid of Israel.

Two other students, Ali Reda Moussa Ayyash, 13, and Qassem Mohammed Jaffal, 12, were also injured, while more than 10 others were treated for panic and stress.

Abbas Shmeisani, principal of Hassan Kamel Al-Sabbah Public High School in Nabatieh, mourned the death of the physics teacher.

Farran was an “active educator characterized by ethics, generosity, politeness, and dedication. Such is our fate with this criminal and terrorist enemy,” he said.

Nisreen Choueib, principal of Choukine Public School, condemned the targeting of school students.

“Our students sleep to the shaking of the walls from the sounds of raids, wake up to the sound of gunfire, and go to their schools where education is resilience and victory,” Choueib said.

Caretaker Agriculture Minister Abbas Hajj Hassan said: “History will record that this enemy has become adept at targeting children.”

Hezbollah targeted Israel’s military sites with rockets in response to the strike, including the recently established headquarters of the 91st Division at the Ayelet base, and the headquarters of the Sahel Battalion of the 769th Brigade at the Beit Hillel base.

Sirens sounded in the Upper Galilee in the settlements of Ayelet Hashachar, Rehaniya, Avivim, Alma, and Yir’on.

The Israeli army said the air defense forces “intercepted and destroyed 30 rockets launched from Lebanon toward the Upper Galilee.”

Hezbollah said it targeted Israeli surveillance equipment at Metula and Al-Raheb.

Israeli media reported that fires broke out between Kiryat Shmona and Beit Hillel after five rockets fell, while the Kiryat Shmona area lost power after a rocket attack.

The Israeli army continued its assaults on the border area, with the outskirts of the town of Aitaroun hit by intermittent shelling from Israeli positions.

A combat drone carrying a missile raided an agricultural orchard in the Hamoul area on the outskirts of the town of Naqoura.


UN experts say firms sending arms to Israel could be complicit in abuses

UN experts say firms sending arms to Israel could be complicit in abuses
Updated 5 sec ago
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UN experts say firms sending arms to Israel could be complicit in abuses

UN experts say firms sending arms to Israel could be complicit in abuses
The group of 30 experts, including several UN Special Rapporteurs, said arms manufacturers supplying Israel should halt their transfers of war materiel
The UN experts said on Thursday the risk to arms firms had increased since the International Court of Justice ordered Israel last month to halt its military offensive in Rafah

GENEVA: A group of United Nations experts on Thursday warned arms and ammunitions manufacturers against taking part in the transfer of weapons to Israel, saying it could make them complicit in human rights abuses and violations of international law.
The group of 30 experts, including several UN Special Rapporteurs, said arms manufacturers supplying Israel should halt their transfers of war materiel, “even if they are executed under existing export licenses.”
“These companies, by sending weapons, parts, components, and ammunition to Israeli forces, risk being complicit in serious violations of international human rights and international humanitarian laws,” the experts said in a statement.
There was no immediate comment from Israel which has repeatedly denied carrying out abuses during its Gaza operations, saying it is acting to defend itself and is fighting Hamas militants, not the Palestinian population.
The UN experts said on Thursday the risk to arms firms had increased since the International Court of Justice ordered Israel last month to halt its military offensive in Rafah in the southern tip of the Gaza Strip, in a landmark emergency ruling in South Africa’s case accusing Israel of genocide.
“In this context, continuing arms transfers to Israel may be seen as knowingly providing assistance for operations that contravene international human rights and international humanitarian laws and may result in profit from such assistance,” the experts said.
Israel has rejected the genocide accusations as false and grossly distorted.
The UN human rights office said on Wednesday that Israeli forces may have repeatedly violated the laws of war and failed to distinguish between civilians and fighters in the Gaza conflict. Israel dismissed the findings as flawed.
Israel’s air and ground offensive has killed more than 37,400 people in the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory, according to health authorities there.
Israel launched its assault after Hamas fighters stormed across the border into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking more than 250 people hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

Hezbollah fires rockets at Israel after fighter killed

Hezbollah fires rockets at Israel after fighter killed
Updated 57 min 1 sec ago
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Hezbollah fires rockets at Israel after fighter killed

Hezbollah fires rockets at Israel after fighter killed
  • Hezbollah announced that one of its fighters had been killed
  • A source close to the group told AFP he was killed in the Deir Kifa strike

BEIRUT: Hezbollah said it fired “dozens” of rockets into northern Israel Thursday in retaliation for a deadly strike in south Lebanon, a day after a fiery speech from the group’s leader.
Israel and Hezbollah, a powerful Lebanese movement allied with Hamas, have traded near-daily cross-border fire since the Palestinian militant group’s October 7 attack on Israel which triggered war in the Gaza Strip.
Fears of a regional war rose after Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned Wednesday “no place” in Israel would be spared in case of all-out war against his group, and threatened the nearby island nation of Cyprus if it opened its airports to Israel.
Hezbollah on Thursday said that “in response to the assassination that the Israeli enemy carried out in the village of Deir Kifa,” fighters targeted an Israeli barracks “with dozens of Katyusha rockets.”
Lebanon’s official National News Agency (NNA) had reported one dead after an “enemy drone” struck a vehicle in south Lebanon’s Deir Kifa area.
Hezbollah announced that one of its fighters had been killed. A source close to the group, requesting anonymity, told AFP he was killed in the Deir Kifa strike.
The Israeli military said an air strike “eliminated” a Hezbollah operative in the Deir Kifa area, saying he was “responsible for planning and carrying out terror attacks against Israel and commanding Hezbollah ground forces” in south Lebanon’s Jouaiyya area.
Elsewhere, Israeli fighter jets struck “a Hezbollah surface-to-air missile launcher that posed a threat to aircraft operating over Lebanon,” the army statement added.
The exchanges between the foes, which last went to war in 2006, have escalated in recent weeks, and the Israeli military said Tuesday that “operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon were approved and validated.”
After the Hezbollah leader’s threats against Cyprus, Lebanon’s foreign ministry said Thursday that “relations between Lebanon and Cyprus are based on a rich history of diplomatic cooperation.”
Contacts and consultations continue between the two countries “at the highest levels,” a foreign ministry statement said, without making specific reference to Nasrallah’s remarks.
In a conversation with his Cyprus counterpart, Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib expressed “Lebanon’s constant reliance on the positive role that Cyprus plays in supporting regional stability,” the NNA reported.
Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides had denied his country’s involvement in the war and said it was “part of the solution.”
The cross-border violence has killed at least 479 people in Lebanon, most of them fighters but also including 93 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
Israeli authorities say at least 15 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed in the country’s north.


UNHCR chief warns of ‘insufficent’ humanitarian access to Sudan

UNHCR chief warns of ‘insufficent’ humanitarian access to Sudan
Updated 20 June 2024
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UNHCR chief warns of ‘insufficent’ humanitarian access to Sudan

UNHCR chief warns of ‘insufficent’ humanitarian access to Sudan
  • Grandi said that although he had “seen a little bit of progress in the last few weeks,” much more action was needed to improve access
  • The global community had to continue lobbying for aid access, he said

JUBA: Humanitarian access to war-torn Sudan remains woefully “insufficient,” raising the risk of starvation among its population, Filippo Grandi, the head of the UN refugee agency, warned.
War has raged since April 2023 between the regular military under army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces led by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
The conflict has left tens of thousands dead and displaced more than ten million people, according to the United Nations.
In an interview with AFP on Wednesday, Grandi, who leads the United Nations’ refugee agency UNHCR, said that although he had “seen a little bit of progress in the last few weeks,” much more action was needed to improve access.
“We are asking all the parties to give access to humanitarians because our presence there is insufficient to help the people in need, and especially to bring the food and the other supplies that are needed for people that otherwise risk starvation,” he said.
Aid workers were able to get “a bit more” access than before, due to “insistence... on the part of the international community,” said Grandi, during a visit to South Sudan, which has seen a huge influx of returnees from Sudan since April last year.
The global community had to continue lobbying for aid access, he said, “because otherwise we risk having more displacement, and even worse, we risk seeing people dying of hunger.”
“I am very worried because I was hoping at the beginning like many Sudanese did, that this would be a short-lived conflict.”
Both sides have been accused of war crimes including deliberately targeting civilians, indiscriminate shelling of residential areas and blocking humanitarian aid, despite warnings that millions are on the brink of starvation.
Rights groups and the United States have also accused the paramilitaries of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
Christos Christou, the international chief of the medical charity Doctors Without Borders, on Thursday described Sudan as “one of the worst crises the world has seen for decades... yet the humanitarian response is profoundly inadequate.”
“There are extreme levels of suffering across the country, and the needs are growing by the day,” he said on X.


Kuwait announces power cuts as demand spikes in summer heat

Kuwait announces power cuts as demand spikes in summer heat
Updated 20 June 2024
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Kuwait announces power cuts as demand spikes in summer heat

Kuwait announces power cuts as demand spikes in summer heat
  • Temperatures are expected to climb above the 50 degree Celsius mark in the coming days.
  • Kuwait signed short-term contracts to buy 500 megawatts of electricity, including 300 MW from Oman and 200 MW from Qatar

Kuwait City: Kuwait has announced temporary power cuts in some parts of the country during peak consumption hours, saying it is struggling to meet increased demand spurred by extreme summer heat.
In a statement on Wednesday, Kuwait’s Ministry of Electricity, Water and Renewable Energy said the scheduled cuts would occur for up to two hours a day, in the first such step for the OPEC member state as climate change causes temperatures to rise.
It blamed the cuts on “the inability of power plants to meet increased demand” during peak hours amid “a rise in temperatures compared to the same period in previous years.”
On Thursday, the ministry published a schedule of expected cuts across several parts of the country, after urging residents to ration consumption to ease the load on power plants.
Kuwait, one of the largest crude producers in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), is considered one of the world’s hottest desert countries.
In recent years, climate change has made summer peaks hotter and longer.
The extreme heat raises reliance on energy-guzzling air conditioners which are ubiquitous in Kuwait during the summer months.
Temperatures neared 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) on Thursday, according to Kuwait’s Meteorological Department.
“What we are experiencing today is the result of climate change,” said Kuwaiti astronomer and scientist Adel Al-Saadoun, noting that temperatures are expected to climb above the 50 degree Celsius mark in the coming days.
Last month, Kuwait signed short-term contracts to buy 500 megawatts of electricity, including 300 MW from Oman and 200 MW from Qatar, during the summer months. The contracts would last from June 1 to August 31.
Kamel Harami, a Kuwaiti energy expert, said that the Gulf state needed to revamp its energy infrastructure.
“The available energy is not sufficient, and instead of relying on oil and gas, we must go toward nuclear, solar and wind energy,” he told AFP.
“This is only the beginning of the crisis, and the programmed cuts of electricity will continue in the coming years if we do not accelerate the construction of power stations.”
Umm Mohammed, a Kuwaiti woman in her sixties, said she was left without power for two hours on Wednesday.
“We weren’t severely affected,” she told AFP, noting that the house remained cool during the brief outage.
“Some turn their homes into refrigerators, even when they are not inside, and this raises the load” on power plants, she said.


Iraqis flock to river or ice rink to escape searing heat

Iraqis flock to river or ice rink to escape searing heat
Updated 20 June 2024
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Iraqis flock to river or ice rink to escape searing heat

Iraqis flock to river or ice rink to escape searing heat
  • Iraq is grappling with a blistering summer, with temperatures often exceeding 50 degrees Celsius
  • The United Nations ranks Iraq among the world’s five most climate-vulnerable nations

Baghdad: In the sizzling Baghdad heat, Mussa Abdallah takes to the Tigris river during the day to cool off, while others opt for ice skating to escape the relentless temperatures.
“At the end of the day, I’m sweaty and exhausted because of the sun,” said Abdallah, a 21-year-old house painter in the Iraqi capital.
“At home, there’s no electricity. If I want to wash, the water is scalding hot,” he added, describing how water stored above ground virtually boils at this time of year.
Iraq is grappling with a blistering summer, with temperatures often exceeding 50 degrees Celsius, exacerbated by declining rainfall, rampant desertification and frequent dust storms.
The United Nations ranks Iraq among the world’s five most climate-vulnerable nations.
Almost every day after work, Abdallah retreats to the Tigris to escape the sweltering heat.
“We’re young and want to have a good time — where else can we go?” the decorator said on the banks of the river, traces of white paint still visible on his temples and long-sleeved T-shirt.
While Abdallah puts his sandals back on, nearby others are taking the plunge and two bathers are washing their hair with soap.
As night brings little relief from the sweltering gusts, residents of Baghdad flock to the city’s lone indoor ice rink to find respite.
The rink is in one of the air-conditioned shopping malls that have sprung up in the capital in recent years, attracting up to 100 visitors on busy days, 25-year-old instructor Sajjad Mohamed said.
“Twenty-four hours a day, the electricity never goes out. There’s a cooling system” for the ice, Mohamed said.
Abbas, 26, discovered ice skating in Turkiye. Now back in Iraq, he is pursuing it enthusiastically.
“When we finish work in the afternoon, it’s either go home, or go to shopping malls and other places where it’s cold,” he said.
The soaring seasonal temperatures have become a troubling fact of life for the overwhelming majority of Iraq’s 43 million inhabitants.
Although it is rich in oil, Iraq has seen its infrastructure suffer after decades of conflict and failed public policy that has resulted in long power cuts on the public grid with generators unable to handle the strain.
On the banks of the Tigris, Rashid Al-Rashed takes off his T-shirt to dive into the Tigris.
“At home it’s hot, I can’t stay there for long. The public electricity is inadequate,” the 17-year-old garbage collector said.
To escape the heat, “I bathe every day, for 10 minutes or a quarter of an hour,” he added.
Elsewhere on the river, a police boat moves along a dozen bathers from the water for their safety.
“When we make them leave, they come back,” said a policeman, seeking to explain everything was being done to prevent deaths from drownings.
But the danger is evident. On his phone, he displays the body of an 11-year-old boy found nearly 48 hours after drowning.
While the river — despite its danger — is free, those with more means can pay $10 for an afternoon with family or friends at Baghdad Aqua Park.
“This year summer came earlier, so we have more visitors,” one of the water park’s administrators Ali Yussef said. “People are coming after work or school,” he added.
Maitham Mahdi, 31, was on his second visit of the month. “I think I’ll be coming a lot during the summer,” the civil servant, still dressed in his swimsuit, said as he departed the indoor pool.
Mahdi also complained about the electricity at home. “We come here to get a bit of fresh air,” he explained.
Iraq has just gone through four years of drought, marked by water shortages and a drastic drop in river flow.
But on the back of a wet winter, officials are hoping the more generous rainfall will have a knock-on effect over the summer.
Despite those hopes, however, the thermometer continues to climb.
The meteorological service is forecasting 50 degrees Celsius this week in the capital and southern cities such as Basra and Nasiriyah.
Its director, Amer Al-Jaberi, said with its semi-desert climate, Iraq is expecting “heat waves,” particularly in the south, adding these intensifying phenomena are also the result of climate change.