Cyprus rejects Hezbollah claim on Israel and airports

Cyprus rejects Hezbollah claim on Israel and airports
Smoke billows during Israeli bombardment on the village of Khiam in south Lebanon near the border with Israel on Jun. 19, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 20 June 2024
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Cyprus rejects Hezbollah claim on Israel and airports

Cyprus rejects Hezbollah claim on Israel and airports
  • “Cyprus is not involved, nor will it become involved, in any military conflicts,” government spokesperson Konstantinos Letymbiotis said
  • He called Nasrallah’s comments “not pleasant,” adding that “all necessary diplomatic steps will be taken“

NICOSIA: Cyprus on Thursday rejected as “groundless” allegations by the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement that airports on the east Mediterranean island might be used by Israeli warplanes if the Israel-Hamas war spreads.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah in a televised address on Wednesday threatened Cyprus in the event that total war erupts in the region.
“Opening Cypriot airports and bases to the Israeli enemy to target Lebanon would mean that the Cypriot government is part of the war, and the resistance will deal with it as part of the war,” he said, referring to Hezbollah.
The government in Nicosia swiftly denied any Cyprus military involvement in Israel’s war against Hezbollah ally Hamas.
“Cyprus is not involved, nor will it become involved, in any military conflicts,” government spokesperson Konstantinos Letymbiotis told state radio on Thursday.
He called Nasrallah’s comments “not pleasant,” adding that “all necessary diplomatic steps will be taken.”
The island is home to two British military bases, but these are on sovereign UK territory and not controlled by the Cyprus government.
The British Akrotiri air base on the south coast has been used by the Royal Air Force which has joined the US Air Force in targeting Houthi rebels in Yemen who have attacked shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
The Houthis say they are doing so in solidarity with the Palestinian Hamas movement.
Over the past decade, Cyprus has built stronger ties with Israel, particularly in the search for new energy sources and in tourism.
Cyprus is the European Union’s easternmost member, and is less than 200 kilometers (125 miles) from Lebanon.
President Nikos Christodoulides has denied there has been any Cypriot involvement in the Israel-Hamas war except as “part of the solution” as a staging post for humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip via a maritime corridor.
“Cyprus is not part of the problem. As it is widely acknowledged, its diplomatic footprint is part of the solution,” government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis added in a separate written statement on Thursday.
“Any public allegations that refer to an involvement of Cyprus through its infrastructure or its territory in the event of a confrontation that relates to Lebanon are totally groundless,” the statement said.
“Cyprus has never facilitated and will not facilitate any aggressive action or attack against any country.”
On the street, reactions to the Hezbollah leader’s remarks were mixed.
“It’s a very tense moment all over the world,” Brazilian tourist Glaussia, 54, told AFP, not giving her last name.
She added that it was important that “everybody make an effort for peace.”
Nicosia resident Costas stressed that his country’s only involvement in the current conflict was to provide “humanitarian help to the people over there.”
He said the government would not become involved in the war in any military capacity.
“Cyprus is a credible enabler of stability, and an acknowledged regional hub for humanitarian operations, based on excellent relations with all the countries in the region,” government spokesman Letymbiotis said in his statement.


Iran releases cargo of oil tanker St. Nikolas, shipping source says

Iran releases cargo of oil tanker St. Nikolas, shipping source says
Updated 9 sec ago
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Iran releases cargo of oil tanker St. Nikolas, shipping source says

Iran releases cargo of oil tanker St. Nikolas, shipping source says
ATHENS: Iran has released the oil cargo of a Greek-owned, Marshall-Islands-flagged tanker it seized in the Gulf of Oman earlier this year, a shipping source told Reuters on Thursday.
The vessel, M/T St. Nikolas, is still being held by Iran, the source added. It was laden with 1 million barrels of Iraqi crude oil destined for Turkiye when it was seized.
“The cargo was released earlier this week after negotiations,” the source said.
The cargo was transferred onto the Turkiye-flagged tanker T. Semahat earlier this week via a ship-to-ship transfer near Iran’s Larak Island, said Claire Jungman, chief of staff at US advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran, which tracks Iran-related tanker traffic via satellite data.
T.Semahat’s Turkiye-based operator Ditas, which is majority-owned by Turkish refiner Tupras, was not immediately available for comment.
The vessel had the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates as its destination and was sailing away from Iran on Thursday, LSEG shipping data showed.
LSEG data also showed T.Semahat had reached Larak Island earlier on July 21 and left that area close to being fully loaded with oil.
Iran seized the tanker in January in retaliation for the confiscation last year of the same vessel and its oil by the US, Iranian state media had reported at the time.
Iran’s foreign and oil ministries were not immediately available to comment.

Yemen airline resumes Sanaa-Jordan flights, banks rejoin global network under new deal

Yemen airline resumes Sanaa-Jordan flights, banks rejoin global network under new deal
Updated 19 min 41 sec ago
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Yemen airline resumes Sanaa-Jordan flights, banks rejoin global network under new deal

Yemen airline resumes Sanaa-Jordan flights, banks rejoin global network under new deal
  • Yemenia said in a statement that three flights were scheduled to leave Sanaa airport for Amman on Thursday
  • Militia leader warns of ‘escalation’ after Hodeidah airstrikes as US launches raids on missile sites

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s national airline resumed flights from the Houthi-held city of Sanaa to Jordan on Thursday, while the international banking transfer system reconnected Sanaa banks to its network after an agreement was implemented between the Yemeni government and the militia.

Yemenia Airways said in a statement that three flights were scheduled to leave Sanaa airport for Amman on Thursday, and that it was seeking permits for flights from the same airport to Egypt and India. 

On Monday, the Yemeni government and the Houthis agreed to lift economic sanctions on banks and allow Yemenia Airways to increase its daily flights from Sanaa to Amman from one to three.

The agreement also allows the airline to arrange more flights to Cairo and Mumbai, and to organize meetings to resolve its difficulties. 

Last month, the Houthis seized three Yemeni aircraft at Sanaa airport, disrupting flights to Amman and stranding hundreds of Yemeni pilgrims in Saudi Arabia.

The militia attempted to put pressure on the Yemeni government to reverse its decision for Yemenia to transfer its headquarters to the harbor city of Aden, Yemen’s temporary capital, and to stop selling tickets in Houthi-controlled regions.

Meanwhile, the Houthi official news agency reported on Wednesday that SWIFT had told Sanaa banks it had reconnected them to its system after the Yemeni government lifted punitive economic measures.

The Aden-based central bank revoked the licenses of six banks in Sanaa earlier this month for failing to comply with a directive to relocate their offices from Aden.

The Houthis also said their central bank had relaxed restrictions against financial institutions in government-controlled cities.

Meanwhile, US Central Command on Thursday said that two Houthi missiles had been destroyed on launchers in an area of Yemen held by the militia.

This came a day after the US military announced it had targeted a Houthi-held area to destroy three missile launchers. 

Since November, the Houthis have seized a commercial ship, sunk two more, and launched hundreds of ballistic missiles, drones, and drone boats at commercial and naval ships in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Indian Ocean in what it claims are actions in support of the Palestinian people and to force Israel to cease military operations in the Gaza Strip.

On Thursday, the militia’s leader, Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, pledged to respond to Israeli attacks on the Houthi-held western city of Hodeidah by initiating strikes on Israeli towns and attacking Israeli ships. 

“Our military operations will continue in the seas and deep into Palestine, and the attacks on our country will not stop us from escalating,” Al-Houthi said. 


Gaza casualty figures in war’s early stage accurate: Study

Gaza casualty figures in war’s early stage accurate: Study
Updated 25 July 2024
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Gaza casualty figures in war’s early stage accurate: Study

Gaza casualty figures in war’s early stage accurate: Study
  • Independent group Airwars says its research backs up death toll compiled by enclave’s Health Ministry in first 17 days
  • ‘We have, per incident, more people dying than we’ve seen in any other campaign’

LONDON: The Gaza Health Ministry’s casualty figures in the first 17 days of Israel’s assault on the enclave were accurate, a new study has found.

British group Airwars said the Hamas-run ministry had identified 7,000 people in the first few weeks of the conflict killed by Israeli strikes.

It added that its own research, which assessed 350 incidents, had identified 3,000 casualties in the period in question, 75 percent of whom were also identified by the ministry, leading it to believe that the authorities’ reporting was likely to be largely accurate.

Airwars, which works to independently verify the effects of conflicts on civilians, said it used a methodology it also deployed to assess figures from conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Libya and elsewhere.

It added that there had been far more than 350 incidents in the period in question, and that it would continue to study the conflict, but said it believed that statistics in Gaza had become less accurate as the war dragged on, with widespread destruction in the territory hampering local authorities’ ability to do their jobs.

Emily Tripp, the group’s director, said the rate at which people had died in the conflict’s preliminary stages had stood out.

“We have, per incident, more people dying than we’ve seen in any other campaign,” she told the New York Times. “The intensity is greater than anything else we’ve documented.”

Numerous other international groups and experts have also said the ministry’s data was initially accurate.

Mike Spagat, a professor at Royal Holloway College, University of London, who reviewed Airwars’ findings, told the NYT that the group’s figures “capture a large fraction of the underlying reality” of what Gaza’s authorities reported in the early days of the war.

A study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins in the US also found no evidence that the ministry’s data was significantly wrong up until early November. 

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who analyzed ID numbers from the ministry’s data compiled throughout October, found “no obvious reason” to query it.

But in December, Gaza’s authorities, citing the collapse of infrastructure in the enclave including at hospitals and morgues, announced that they would begin relying on “reliable media sources” for figures on casualties as well as what information could be gleaned on the ground.

The ministry’s most recent figures state that at least 39,000 people have been killed since Israel began its invasion in October. 

Israel has frequently queried the ministry’s figures based on its proximity to Hamas. Doubts have also been echoed by Israeli allies in the West, with US President Joe Biden at one stage saying he had “no confidence in the number (of deaths) that the Palestinians are using.” US officials have subsequently said the data is more accurate than initially believed to be.


Amnesty calls for full Sudan arms embargo

Amnesty calls for full Sudan arms embargo
Updated 25 July 2024
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Amnesty calls for full Sudan arms embargo

Amnesty calls for full Sudan arms embargo
  • “There are hundreds of thousands of weapons, millions of rounds of ammunition going into Sudan,” fueling mass human rights violations, said Brian Castner on Amnesty
  • The UN Security Council must “urgently expand the arms embargo to the rest of Sudan, and also strengthen its monitoring and verification mechanisms,” said Deprose Muchena

PORT SUDAN: Amnesty International called on the United Nations Thursday to extend the arms embargo on Darfur to cover all of Sudan, in a report on weapons flooding the war-torn country.
The 15-month war between Sudan’s regular army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces “is being fueled by an almost unimpeded supply of weapons into Sudan by states and corporate actors around the world,” the rights watchdog said.
The new report, titled “New Weapons Fuelling the Sudan Conflict,” found recently manufactured or transferred weapons from countries including Russia, Turkiye, Serbia, China and others were being imported and used on the battlefield.
Since it erupted in April last year, the war has killed tens of thousands of people, with some estimating the toll to be as high as 150,000, according to US envoy to Sudan Tom Perriello.
It has also uprooted over 10 million people, creating what the UN calls the world’s worst displacement crisis.
“There are hundreds of thousands of weapons, millions of rounds of ammunition going into Sudan,” fueling mass human rights violations, Brian Castner, Amnesty’s head of crisis research, told AFP.
The existing arms embargo, which since 2004 has applied only to Sudan’s western Darfur region, “is both too narrowly focused” and “too poorly implemented to have any meaningful impact on curbing these weapons flows,” the report found.
The UN Security Council must “urgently expand the arms embargo to the rest of Sudan, and also strengthen its monitoring and verification mechanisms,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty’s senior director for Regional Human Rights Impact.
Even if the Security Council — whose response to the Sudan war Amnesty has dubbed “woefully inadequate” — does not extend the embargo, “all states and corporate actors must immediately cease supplies of all arms and ammunition to Sudan,” or risk violating arms treaty obligations and international humanitarian law.
Both sides of the conflict have been repeatedly accused of war crimes including deliberately targeting civilians, indiscriminate shelling of residential areas and blocking humanitarian aid, while millions of Sudanese suffer on the brink of starvation.
According to Castner, the sheer volume of small arms entering Sudan is cause for significant alarm.
“Most people are killed by small arms. Most violations, including sexual violence and displacement, are facilitated by small arms,” the veteran weapons investigator said.
“It’s individual soldiers with rifles that are removing people from their homes and burning them,” he continued.
On Monday, French medical charity Doctors Without Borders said that of thousands of war-wounded treated at one of its main hospitals in the Sudanese capital, 53 percent suffered gunshot wounds.


Morocco heatwave kills more than 20 people in 24 hours: ministry

Morocco heatwave kills more than 20 people in 24 hours: ministry
Updated 25 July 2024
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Morocco heatwave kills more than 20 people in 24 hours: ministry

Morocco heatwave kills more than 20 people in 24 hours: ministry
  • Soaring temperatures affected much of the North African country from Monday to Wednesday

RABAT: A heatwave in Morocco has killed at least 21 people in a 24-hour period in the central city of Beni Mellal, the health ministry announced on Thursday.
The meteorology department said soaring temperatures affected much of the North African country from Monday to Wednesday, reaching 48 degrees Centigrade (118 Fahrenheit) in some areas.