Battles rage in Rafah after US says Gaza truce still possible

A Palestinian woman stands among the rubble of a damaged building, which was destroyed during Israel’s military offensive in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, June 12, 2024. (Reuters)
A Palestinian woman stands among the rubble of a damaged building, which was destroyed during Israel’s military offensive in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, June 12, 2024. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 13 June 2024
Follow

Battles rage in Rafah after US says Gaza truce still possible

A Palestinian woman stands among the rubble of a damaged building, which was destroyed during Israel’s military offensive.
  • Israeli ground forces have been operating in Rafah since early May, despite widespread alarm over the fate of Palestinian civilians there
  • Western areas of Rafah came under heavy fire on Thursday from the air, sea and land, residents said

GAZA: Israeli helicopters struck Gaza’s Rafah Thursday, residents said, with Hamas militants reporting street battles in the southern city after top US diplomat Antony Blinken said a truce was still possible.
But the war raged on, and tensions soared on Israel’s northern border with more attacks by Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah forces targeting military positions.
Israel, which has traded near-daily fire with Hamas ally Hezbollah since the start of the Gaza war, said it would respond “with force.”
Israeli ground forces have been operating in Rafah since early May, despite widespread alarm over the fate of Palestinian civilians there, including in a ruling by the International Court of Justice later that month.
Western areas of Rafah came under heavy fire on Thursday from the air, sea and land, residents said.
“There was very intense fire from warplanes, Apaches (helicopters) and quadcopters, in addition to Israeli artillery and military battle ships, all of which were striking the area west of Rafah,” one told AFP.
Hamas said its fighters were battling Israeli troops on the streets in the city, near the besieged Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt.
The Gaza war began after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel which resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages. Of these, 116 remain in Gaza although the army says 41 are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory military offensive has left at least 37,232 people dead in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-ruled territory’s health ministry.
The latest toll includes at least 30 more deaths over the previous day, it said.
Efforts to reach a truce stalled when Israel began ground operations in Rafah, but US President Joe Biden in late May launched a new effort to secure a deal.
On Monday the UN Security Council adopted a US-drafted resolution supporting the plan.
Blinken, in Doha on Wednesday to promote Biden’s ceasefire roadmap, said Washington would work with regional partners to “close the deal.”
Hamas responded to mediators Qatar and Egypt late Tuesday. Blinken said some of its proposed amendments “are workable and some are not.”
Senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan said the group sought “a permanent ceasefire and complete withdrawal” of Israeli troops from Gaza, demands repeatedly rejected by Israel.
The plan includes a six-week ceasefire, a hostage-prisoner exchange and Gaza reconstruction.
It would be the first truce since a week-long November pause in fighting saw hostages freed and Palestinians released from Israeli jails.
Blinken said Israel was behind the plan, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose government has far-right members strongly opposed to the deal, has not publicly endorsed it.
Blinken expressed hopes that an agreement could be reached.
“We have to see... over the course of the coming days whether those gaps are bridgeable,” he said.
A UN investigation concluded Wednesday that Israel had committed crimes against humanity during the war, while Israeli and Palestinian armed groups had both committed war crimes.
The independent Commission of Inquiry’s report is the first in-depth investigation by UN experts into Gaza’s bloodiest-ever war.
Israel’s foreign ministry dismissed it as “biased and tainted by a distinct anti-Israeli agenda.”
The war has led to widespread destruction, with hospitals out of service and the UN warning of famine.
The World Health Organization said more than 8,000 children aged under five have been treated for acute malnutrition in Gaza, where only two stabilization centers for severely malnourished patients currently operate.
“Despite reports of increased delivery of food, there is currently no evidence that those who need it most are receiving sufficient quantity and quality of food,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Israeli campaign group the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, which seeks a negotiated return of the hostages, said Hamas’s response “represents another step toward accepting Israel’s hostage deal proposal,” a reference to the Biden plan.
Some Gazans have called on Hamas to do more to secure an agreement.
“Hamas does not see that we are tired, we are dead, we are destroyed,” said a man called Abu Shaker.
“What are you waiting for? The war must end at any cost.”
Israel’s military on Thursday said troops carried out “targeted operations in the area of Rafah,” where they found weapons and killed several militants “in close-quarters encounters.”
More than 10 militants were killed in central Gaza, it said.
An AFP reporter reported overnight strikes and shelling elsewhere in the coastal territory.
Gaza’s civil defense agency said three bodies were recovered from a home in Nuseirat, central Gaza, after an Israeli strike.
On Wednesday Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis attacked a merchant ship in the Red Sea, part of a campaign they say is in solidarity with Palestinians.
On Thursday, a merchant ship caught fire after being hit by two “projectiles” in the Gulf of Aden, Britain’s navy-run United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said.
Fallout from the Gaza war is also regularly felt on the Israeli-Lebanon frontier, where deadly cross-border exchanges have escalated.
Hezbollah on both Wednesday and Thursday said it attacked military targets in Israel with barrages of rockets and drones, in retaliation for an Israeli strike that killed one of its commanders.
The Israeli military said most launches had been intercepted while others ignited fires.
Government spokesman David Mencer told a press briefing that “Israel will respond with force to all aggressions by Hezbollah.”
Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, speaking during a visit to Baghdad by Iran’s acting foreign minister, said the potential “expansion of the war is a danger, not only for Lebanon but for the entire region.”


Iraq hangs 10 convicted of ‘terrorism’: security and health sources

Under Iraqi law, terrorism and murder offenses are punishable by death, and execution decrees must be signed by the president.
Under Iraqi law, terrorism and murder offenses are punishable by death, and execution decrees must be signed by the president.
Updated 54 min 20 sec ago
Follow

Iraq hangs 10 convicted of ‘terrorism’: security and health sources

Under Iraqi law, terrorism and murder offenses are punishable by death, and execution decrees must be signed by the president.
  • Health official said 10 Iraqis “convicted of terrorism crimes and of being members of the Daesh group were executed by hanging” at Al-Hut prison in Nasiriyah

NASIRIYAH: Iraqi authorities on Monday hanged 10 people convicted of “terrorism,” security and health sources said.
Courts have handed down hundreds of death and life imprisonment sentences in recent years to Iraqis convicted of “terrorism.”
Under Iraqi law, terrorism and murder offenses are punishable by death, and execution decrees must be signed by the president.
A health official said 10 Iraqis “convicted of terrorism crimes and of being members of the Daesh group were executed by hanging” at Al-Hut prison in the southern city of Nasiriyah.
A security source confirmed the executions.
They were hanged under Article 4 of the anti-terrorism law and the health department had received their bodies, the health official told AFP.
The sources spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Al-Hut is a notorious prison in Nasiriyah whose Arabic name means “the whale,” because Iraqis believe those jailed there never walk out alive.


Egypt keen to work with partners to find swift solution to Sudan crisis, foreign minister says

Egypt keen to work with partners to find swift solution to Sudan crisis, foreign minister says
Updated 22 July 2024
Follow

Egypt keen to work with partners to find swift solution to Sudan crisis, foreign minister says

Egypt keen to work with partners to find swift solution to Sudan crisis, foreign minister says
  • African Union official praises Cairo during talks in Ghana for its pivotal role in efforts to enhance regional security and stability
  • FM Abdelatty emphasized the need for increased consultation and coordination between member states and the union’s agencies

CAIRO: Egypt earned praise during talks on Monday in Accra, Ghana, for the pivotal role it plays in efforts to enhance security and stability on the African continent.

Bankole Adeoye, the African Union’s commissioner for political affairs, peace and security, said he was keen to continue to coordinate with Cairo on all priority issues related to the bloc.

It came as he held talks with Badr Abdelatty, Egypt’s minister of foreign affairs, emigration and Egyptian expatriates, on the sidelines of the sixth Mid-Year Coordination Meeting of the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities.

They discussed the latest political and security developments in the crisis in Sudan and agreed on the need to unite the country’s civil political forces, preserve national unity and institutions, and coordinate regional and international mediation.

Abdelatty said Egypt was aware of the seriousness of the situation and eager to work with all partners and mechanisms to resolve the crisis swiftly. He stressed the importance of fully involving Sudan in talks about ways to resolve the situation, to preserve “our Sudanese brothers’ ownership of these solutions and proposals.”

The minister welcomed consultations and coordination with the African Union’s commissioner on peace and security in Africa. He said Egypt remains committed to support of the organization and its agencies, and to participation in its Peace and Security Council, in pursuit of peace and stability.

Abdelatty emphasized the need for increased consultation and coordination between member states and the union’s agencies in response to escalating security challenges on the continent, the expanding scope of conflicts and the associated human suffering.

He also outlined Egypt’s agenda and planned activities for its chairmanship of the Peace and Security Council in October. He said its plans prioritize the operationalization of the African Union Center for Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development, an effort that President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has led within the union to support countries facing multiple crises.

Egypt welcomed the approval by the Peace and Security Council of a request from the Somali government to extend the time frame for the third phase of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia, Abdelatty said. He highlighted plans for the deployment of a new mission in the country when the current one expires, and emphasized the need to support the Somali government’s efforts to enhance security and stability.

Adeoye and Abdelatty also discussed other issues of mutual concern, including the Great Lakes issue, the Renaissance Dam, security challenges in the Red Sea, and the situation in the Horn of Africa.


Iran’s Revolutionary Guards intercepted UAE-managed tanker, Ambrey says

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards intercepted UAE-managed tanker, Ambrey says
Updated 22 July 2024
Follow

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards intercepted UAE-managed tanker, Ambrey says

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards intercepted UAE-managed tanker, Ambrey says
  • Vessel had loaded marine gas oil off the coast of Iraq and was destined for Sharjah when it was intercepted on Sunday 61NM southwest of Iran’s port of Bushehr

DUBAI: Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have intercepted a Togo-flagged, UAE-managed products tanker carrying 1,500 tons of marine gas oil, British security firm Ambrey said on Monday.
The vessel had loaded marine gas oil off the coast of Iraq and was destined for UAE’s Sharjah when it was intercepted on Sunday 61 nautical miles southwest of Iran’s port of Bushehr, Ambrey said.
Ambrey added that the incident is unlikely to be politically motivated and is not assessed as a ‘war’ event.
The interception was likely a counter-smuggling operation by the IRGC, as the vessel’s “trading behavior was consistent with previous IRGC target profile,” Ambrey said.
Iran, which has some of the world’s cheapest fuel prices due to heavy subsidies and the plunge in the value of its currency, has been fighting rampant fuel smuggling to neighboring countries.
No further information was provided regarding the fate of the vessel.


UN warns Iraq becoming major regional drug conduit

Iraq’s premier Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani attends an anti-drug conference held with regional officials in Baghdad on July 22, 2024.
Iraq’s premier Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani attends an anti-drug conference held with regional officials in Baghdad on July 22, 2024.
Updated 22 July 2024
Follow

UN warns Iraq becoming major regional drug conduit

Iraq’s premier Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani attends an anti-drug conference held with regional officials in Baghdad on July 22, 2024.
  • “Iraq appears to be at the nexus of regional trafficking routes for both methamphetamine and captagon,” UNODC said
  • Authorities in Iraq regularly announce large seizures of captagon, much of it moved across the border with Syria

BAGHDAD: Iraqi authorities seized record quantities of the potent stimulant captagon last year, at an estimated value of up to $144 million, with the country increasingly a critical drug conduit, a UN report said Monday.
“Iraq has been experiencing a dramatic surge in drug trafficking and consumption for the past five years,” according to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report.
In 2023 alone, authorities “seized a record-high 24 million captagon tablets,” the equivalent of over 4.1 tons, with an estimated “retail value” of between $84 million and $144 million, it said.
“Iraq appears to be at the nexus of regional trafficking routes for both methamphetamine and captagon,” UNODC said, adding that it is “becoming a critical juncture in the complex trafficking dynamics observed in the Near and Middle East region.”
Captagon seizures in Iraq “reportedly tripled between 2022 and 2023, and overall amounts seized in 2023 are 34 times higher than in 2019.”
An amphetamine derived from a once-legal treatment for narcolepsy and attention disorder, captagon today is trafficked through several Middle Eastern countries, with Syria the main country of origin.
Authorities in conflict-scarred Iraq regularly announce large seizures of captagon, much of it moved across the porous 600-kilometer (370-mile) border with war-torn Syria.
According to UNODC, 82 percent of the captagon seized in the region between 2019 and 2023 originated in Syria, followed by neighboring Lebanon, at 17 percent.
Iraq faces an explosion in domestic drug use, with the repeated crises that have gripped the conflict-ridden country of 43 million people driving up usage.
During an anti-drug conference attended by regional officials, Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani called for regional cooperation.
“Coordinating and cooperating to pursue and dismantle drug gangs will serve regional and international security,” he said, adding that “Iraq is open to all cooperation” to fight “cross-border crime.”
“We will support any effort aiming to eliminate drug hubs, manufacturing stations, and cutting off their supply chains.”


UN expert urges probe of Iran ‘genocide’ in 1980s

UN expert urges probe of Iran ‘genocide’ in 1980s
Updated 22 July 2024
Follow

UN expert urges probe of Iran ‘genocide’ in 1980s

UN expert urges probe of Iran ‘genocide’ in 1980s
  • UN Special rapporteur says the Iranian regime and its leaders should not be allowed to escape the consequences of their crimes

GENEVA: A United Nations expert called Monday for an international investigation into a range of “atrocity crimes” committed in Iran in connection with a purge of dissidents in the 1980s.
“There should be no impunity for such gross human rights violations, regardless of when they were committed,” said Javaid Rehman, the UN’s independent special rapporteur on the rights situation in Iran, insisting that “the Iranian regime and its leaders should not be allowed to escape the consequences of their crimes against humanity and genocide.”