Hezbollah barrages deal heavy damage in northern Israel

Hezbollah barrages deal heavy damage in northern Israel
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Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from Lebanon, amid ongoing cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, as seen from the Hula Valley in northern Israel, May 23, 2024. (Reuters)
Hezbollah barrages deal heavy damage in northern Israel
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Smoke rises in a hill after it was hit by a rocket fired from Lebanon, in Hula Valley in the upper Galilee on May 23, 2024. (AFP)
Hezbollah barrages deal heavy damage in northern Israel
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A police officer handles the remains of a rocket that hit a road after it was fired from Lebanon, amid ongoing cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, in the Hula Valley in northern Israel, May 23, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 May 2024
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Hezbollah barrages deal heavy damage in northern Israel

Hezbollah barrages deal heavy damage in northern Israel
  • The barrages have dealt a heavy blow to Israeli towns and villages near the border which have been evacuated for more than six months
  • The Israeli defense ministry body responsible for rebuilding northern communities said it had received 930 reports of damage

SHTULA: A momentary shriek presages a bone-juddering blast, followed by a plume of thick black smoke. Refrigerator-sized holes mark where Hezbollah anti-tank missiles like this one have hit along Israel’s northern border.
Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has been exchanging near-daily cross-border fire with the Israeli army since Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack triggered war in Gaza.
The Iran-backed militants have launched thousands of rockets, mortar rounds, anti-tank missiles and attack drones at northern Israel.
The exchanges of fire have killed at least 11 civilians and 14 soldiers in Israel, according to the army.
At least 429 people have been killed in Lebanon, mostly militants but also including at least 82 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
The barrages have dealt a heavy blow to Israeli towns and villages near the border which have been evacuated for more than six months. They have also served as a warning of the far greater destruction that would be wrought by a full-blown war.
The Israeli defense ministry body responsible for rebuilding northern communities said it had received 930 reports of damage — around a third of them categorized as moderate to critical — the vast majority of it inflicted on residential buildings.
Hundreds more cases remain unassessed in towns like Arab Al-Aramsheh, Menara and Metula because it is considered too hazardous for inspectors to enter.
The report did not cite an estimated cost, but a senior defense official who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity said reconstruction in the hardest hit locations could take months to a year.
In Kibbutz Menara, around 30 percent of buildings have suffered substantial damage, the official said.
At least 26 percent of the reported damage was caused by Israeli troops who have entrenched themselves in evacuated towns and villages along the 120-kilometer (75-mile) border, according to the Northern Horizon Directorate report.
The Israeli military said it “regrets any damage to the residents’ property” and is working to minimize damage as much as possible.
The most vulnerable communities were evacuated immediately after the outbreak of hostilities, displacing some 60,000 civilians. Access to them is restricted by the Israeli military.
But AFP reporters managed to visit Shtula, a village of 300 people sitting on the border that has 44 recorded cases of moderate to critical damage.
Although her neighbor’s house suffered a direct hit, and missiles pounded several other nearby buildings facing Lebanon, Ora Hatan, 60, is one of the few residents who has stayed on.
“An anti-tank missile flew over the chicken coop and right into the house,” said Hatan, pointing at a neighbor’s property.
“A direct hit. Fortunately, no one was home.”
Even after more than seven months of intense bombardment, Hatan won’t leave.
“It’s my house. It’s my land. It’s my country. Where would I go? Why should I go?” she told AFP on her balcony overlooking the Lebanese village of Raymeh two kilometers (little more than a mile) away.
As the war grinds on, and Hezbollah attacks show no sign of relenting, northern residents have grown weary of what many see as talk and little action.
For months, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has said Israel will restore security — diplomatically or militarily. The two sides fought a devastating war in 2006.
Israel’s Channel 13 reported that National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi told lawmakers Wednesday that “the cabinet hasn’t defined any clear objective concerning the north — not dates, not targets, not strategic aims.”
A poll published Thursday by Israel’s public broadcaster showed that 46 percent of respondents backed military action in Lebanon, while 29 percent opposed.
On Thursday, a few hundred activists set up a protest camp to demand urgent action to restore security and allow displaced residents to return to their homes in the north.
One of the organizers, Nisan Zeevi, lives in kibbutz Kfar Giladi and serves on its emergency response team.
Across the valley from his home, a fortified tower seven storys high looms over the kibbutzim in the valley below that have been frequent targets of drone and missile strikes.
A house in the neighboring kibbutz bears a gaping hole where a missile strike killed a woman and her son in January.
Zeevi said the camp aimed “to express our protest to the Israeli government and to the world until they find a solution to the severe security situation.”


Syrian President Assad’s Baath Party clinches control of parliament

Syrian President Assad’s Baath Party clinches control of parliament
Updated 9 sec ago
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Syrian President Assad’s Baath Party clinches control of parliament

Syrian President Assad’s Baath Party clinches control of parliament
DAMASCUS: The results of Syria’s parliamentary elections, announced Thursday, showed that President Bashar Assad’s Baath Party has won a majority of seats, as expected.
The elections for 250 parliamentary seats were held Monday at 8,151 centers in government-held areas of the country, but the voting was repeated in several districts — including Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Daraa — after election officials said there had been irregularities, including voters casting ballots twice.
The heads of some electoral centers were referred to the judiciary for alleged electoral violations.
Altogether, 1,516 candidates were competing for the 250 seats. However, only 65 of those seats were seen as truly up for competition, as the Baath Party and allied parties presented a list of 185 candidates. Typically, all candidates who make it through the Baath Party primaries and appear on the final list win seats.
The results announced Thursday showed that all 185 candidates from the Baath Party and its allies won seats as expected, an increase from the 177 seats won by the coalition in 2020.
Turnout was 38 percent of the 19.3 million eligible voters, election officials said.
Unlike presidential elections, Syrians in the diaspora are not eligible to vote in parliamentary elections.
The head of the Supreme Judicial Committee for Elections, Jihad Murad, who announced the results, said they “reflected the broadest representation of the Syrian people in their various groups and sectors.”
The vote is the fourth since the country’s civil war began in March 2011.
With Assad facing term limits that would end his presidency in 2028, the next parliament is widely expected to try to pass a constitutional amendment to extend his term.
An amendment requires a three-quarters majority, or 188 votes, just over the number of seats held by the Bath Party and its allies. However, nominally independent candidates are also generally seen as loyal to the government.

Israel bombards central Gaza as tanks advance deeper in Rafah

Israel bombards central Gaza as tanks advance deeper in Rafah
Updated 18 July 2024
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Israel bombards central Gaza as tanks advance deeper in Rafah

Israel bombards central Gaza as tanks advance deeper in Rafah
  • One Israeli airstrike kills six people in Zawayda town in central Gaza
  • An Israeli airstrike killed three people in a car in Deir Al-Balah

CAIRO: Israeli forces bombarded the Gaza Strip’s historic refugee camps in the center of the enclave and struck Gaza City in the north on Thursday, killing at least 13 people, and tanks pushed deeper into Rafah in the south, health officials and residents said.
One Israeli airstrike killed six people in Zawayda town in central Gaza and two other people were killed in a strike on a house in Bureij camp. An Israeli air strike killed three people in a car in Deir Al-Balah, a city packed with people displaced from elsewhere in Gaza, health officials said.
In Gaza City in the north, medics said two Palestinians were killed in another airstrike.
The Israeli military said in a statement its forces killed two senior Islamic Jihad commanders in two airstrikes in Gaza City, including one whom it said had taken part in the Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel that triggered the Gaza war.
In Rafah, residents said Israeli tanks advanced deeper in the western side of the city and took position on a hilltop there. The Israeli military said forces located several tunnels and killed several gunmen.
The armed wing of militant group Hamas and its allies said they fired mortar bombs at Israeli forces in southwest Rafah on Thursday.
More than a million people had sought shelter in Rafah from fighting further north, but most have scattered again since Israel launched an offensive in and around the city in May.
The fighting has pushed the 60-bed Red Cross field hospital in Rafah to the brink of capacity, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement on Thursday.
“The repeated mass casualty events resulting from the unrelenting hostilities have stretched to breaking point the response capacity of our hospital – and all health facilities in southern Gaza – to care for those with life-threatening injuries,” said William Schomburg, head of the ICRC’s subdelegation in Gaza.
CEASEFIRE EFFORTS STALLED
More than nine months into the war, Palestinian fighters led by Hamas are still able to attack Israeli forces with anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs, occasionally firing rocket barrages into Israel.
Israel vowed to eradicate Hamas after its militants killed 1,200 people and took more than 250 hostages in the Oct. 7 attack, according to Israeli tallies. More than 38,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory offensive since then, Gaza health authorities say.
On Tuesday, Israel said it had eliminated half of the leadership of Hamas’ military wing and killed or captured about 14,000 fighters since the start of the war. Israel says 326 of its soldiers have been killed in Gaza.
Hamas doesn’t release figures of casualties among its ranks and said Israel was exaggerating to portray a “fake victory.”
Diplomatic efforts by Arab mediators to halt the hostilities, backed by the United States, appear on hold, though all sides say they are open to more talks, including Israel and Hamas.
A deal would aim to end the war and release Israeli hostages in Gaza in return for many Palestinians jailed by Israel.
Hamas was awaiting an Israeli response to a ceasefire offer drafted by the United States based on ideas announced by President Joe Biden, a Palestinian official close to the mediation effort said.
“The feeling in Hamas is that (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu is stalling and that he might not say anything before he goes to the United States next week,” said the official, who asked not to be named.


Omani brothers behind Shi’ite mosque attack, police say

Omani brothers behind Shi’ite mosque attack, police say
Updated 18 July 2024
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Omani brothers behind Shi’ite mosque attack, police say

Omani brothers behind Shi’ite mosque attack, police say
  • The brothers were killed in a shoot-out with security officers

MUSCAT: Perpetrators in the shooting that targeted a Shi’ite mosque in Oman’s Wadi al-Kabir area near the capital Muscat were all Omani citizens, state news agency ONA said on Thursday.

The perpetrators were brothers and were killed in a shoot-out with security officers, according to a statement released by the Omani police.

Monday’s shooting killed at least six people -- four Pakistanis, an Indian and an Omani police officer -- and wounded 28, authorities have said.

Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack in a rare operation in one of the most stable countries in the Middle East, the group said in a statement on Telegram on Tuesday.

The police said in their statement on Thursday that the perpetrators “were influenced by misguided ideas.”

 


Lebanese media, Hamas-allied group says Israel strike kills commander

Lebanese media, Hamas-allied group says Israel strike kills commander
Updated 18 July 2024
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Lebanese media, Hamas-allied group says Israel strike kills commander

Lebanese media, Hamas-allied group says Israel strike kills commander
  • Jamaa Islamiya, formed in the 1960s, has claimed responsibility for multiple attacks against Israel

Beirut, Lebanon: Official media in Lebanon and a Hamas-allied group said one of its commanders had been killed in an Israeli strike on Thursday in the country’s eastern Bekaa valley.
Since Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel that triggered the war in the Gaza Strip, Israel has repeatedly targeted the commanders and members of Jamaa Islamiya, whose armed wing in the past nine months has launched attacks on Israel from southern Lebanon.
Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) said that “Jamaa Islamiya commander Mohammed Hamed Jbara” was killed when an “enemy drone” targeted his vehicle in the village of Ghazze, in the Bekaa valley.
Jamaa Islamiya and its armed wing the Fajr Forces in a statement said Jbara, a commander also known as Abu Mahmud, was killed in a “treacherous Zionist raid” in the Bekaa.
Jamaa Islamiya, formed in the 1960s, has claimed responsibility for multiple attacks against Israel, including joint operations with Hamas in Lebanon.
The Fajr Forces, Jamaa Islamiya’s armed wing, was established in 1982 to fight against the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
In June, an Israeli strike on a vehicle in east Lebanon killed a Jamaa Islamiya leader who Israel’s military said supplied weapons to the group and to Hamas.
The cross-border violence since October has killed 512 people in Lebanon, mostly fighters — nine of them from Jamaa Islamiya — according to an AFP tally, but also including at least 104 civilians.
On the Israeli side, 17 soldiers and 13 civilians have been killed, according to authorities.
The exchanges of fire — mostly between Hezbollah and Israeli forces — have largely been restricted to the Lebanon-Israel border area, although Israel has repeatedly struck deeper inside Lebanese territory.
The violence has raised fears of all-out conflict between the two foes, who last went to war in the summer of 2006.


Far-right Israeli minister visits sensitive Jerusalem holy site, imperiling Gaza ceasefire talks

Far-right Israeli minister visits sensitive Jerusalem holy site, imperiling Gaza ceasefire talks
Updated 18 July 2024
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Far-right Israeli minister visits sensitive Jerusalem holy site, imperiling Gaza ceasefire talks

Far-right Israeli minister visits sensitive Jerusalem holy site, imperiling Gaza ceasefire talks
  • Ben-Gvir said he was pressuring Netanyahu not to give in to international pressure and to continue with the military campaign in Gaza

JERUSALEM: Israel’s far-right national security minister visited Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site on Thursday morning, threatening to disrupt Gaza ceasefire talks.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist settler leader, said he had gone up to the contested Jerusalem hilltop compound of Al Aqsa Mosque to pray for the return of the hostages ″but without a reckless deal.”
Ben-Gvir said he was pressuring Netanyahu not to give in to international pressure and to continue with the military campaign in Gaza.
The move threatens to disrupt sensitive talks aimed at reaching a ceasefire in the 9-month-old Israel-Hamas war. Israeli negotiators landed in Cairo on Wednesday to continue talks.
Ben-Gvir’s visit also came just days before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaves for a trip to the United States, where he will address Congress. Ben-Gvir last visited the site in May, to protest countries unilaterally recognizing Palestinian statehood.
Jews and Muslims both claim the Jerusalem hilltop compound, which is considered the holiest site for Jews.
Palestinians consider the mosque a national symbol and view such visits as provocative, though Ben-Gvir has frequently visited the site, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, during tense periods. Tensions over the compound have fueled past rounds of violence.