Iraqi Kurds mourn loved ones lost on Mediterranean migrant route

The full moon rises behind the Abbasid Bridge or know in Kurdish as Dalal Bridgein Kurdish, in the city of Zakho in Iraq’s northern autonomous Kurdistan region close to the Turkish border on June 20, 2024. (AFP)
The full moon rises behind the Abbasid Bridge or know in Kurdish as Dalal Bridgein Kurdish, in the city of Zakho in Iraq’s northern autonomous Kurdistan region close to the Turkish border on June 20, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 21 June 2024
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Iraqi Kurds mourn loved ones lost on Mediterranean migrant route

Iraqi Kurds mourn loved ones lost on Mediterranean migrant route
  • In unstable Iraq, Kurdish region has always presented image of relative prosperity and stability
  • But autonomous region, like rest of the resource-rich country, also suffers from endemic corruption

IRBIL: Waiting at home in Iraqi Kurdistan, Khadija Hussein holds faint hope of hearing word of further survivors from the shipwrecked vessel that carried 11 of her family members from neighboring Turkiye.
Khadija’s nephew Rebwar, his sister-in-law Mojdeh and both their families were aboard a sailing boat that sank overnight between Sunday and Monday off the Italian coast.
Twelve people were plucked from the water after the boat sank around 120 nautical miles off Calabria, one of whom died after disembarking. More than 60 remain unaccounted for after six bodies were retrieved on Wednesday from the sea by the Italian coast guard.
“What’s clear is that Mojdeh survived. We spoke to her on the phone,” the 54-year-old housewife told AFP.
Mojdeh’s son and another child from the family are also known to have survived — the eight other relatives of Khadija who were onboard are still unaccounted for.
“We have no further details,” Khadija said, a black veil draped over her hair.
On a moldering wall at the entrance to the family home in Irbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, a poster announces a vigil organized on Wednesday to receive condolences.
Two family photos on display showed the victims, parents and children smiling broadly and dressed in their best clothes. Mojdeh is with her husband Abdel Qader, a cab driver. Her sister Hiro is pictured with her husband Rebwar, a blacksmith.
The two couples had almost changed their minds and decided not to depart.
“They had informed the parents, and everyone was relieved,” Khadija explained, but after an insistent intervention by a people smuggler, the group had a change of heart.
They were supposed to make contact with the family in Irbil when they arrived in Europe to start their new life.
“Hours went by, and we heard nothing more,” Khadija said.
The smuggler, meanwhile, had switched off their phone
News of deaths like these on Europe’s migrant routes has become all too common in the autonomous Kurdish region. The area has been touched by other tragedies, whether on the English Channel or in the frozen forests of Belarus.
In the Irbil schoolyard requisitioned for the vigil, dozens of women huddle together, seated under a tent, all dressed in black, their features drawn, in a silence broken by the cries of children.
At the mosque, the men of the family welcomed dozens of visitors who had come to pay their respects in a reception room, listening to verses from the Qur'an.
Kamal Hamad, Rebwar’s father, explained that he spoke to his son on Wednesday, 12 June, when he was already on the boat. His grief is compounded by incomprehension.
“They knew full well that traveling by sea in this way meant certain death,” the 60-year-old said. “Why leave? In our country it’s better than elsewhere.”
In an unstable Iraq, the Kurdish region has always presented an image of relative prosperity and stability. Property developments, highways, universities and private schools are all under construction.
But the autonomous region, like the rest of the resource-rich country, also suffers from endemic corruption, the cronyism of the ruling clans and an economic stasis that has left its young people disillusioned.
A Gallup poll from 2022 showed two out of every three Kurdish residents thought it would be difficult to find a job.
According to the International Organization for Migration, some 3,155 migrants died or disappeared in the Mediterranean last year.
The president of the Association of Migrants Returned from Europe, Bakr Ali, told AFP that the sailing boat was carrying a “majority of Kurds from Iraq and Iran.”
“There were also a number of Afghans,” he said, adding that the boat had set sail from Bodrum in Turkiye.
Bakhtiar Qader, Rebwar’s cousin, said some 30 people from autonomous Kurdistan were among those traveling on the vessel.
He also doesn’t understand the stubbornness of the two couples. Especially as they “had their own house, car, children and jobs.”
“I, like their parents and friends, tried to talk them out of it,” he said.
“But they wouldn’t listen,” the 40-year-old, wearing a black shirt and a salt-and-pepper beard explained.
“They didn’t know that death was waiting for them.”


Israeli jets strike Houthi targets in Yemen in response to attacks, military says

Israeli jets strike Houthi targets in Yemen in response to attacks, military says
Updated 27 sec ago
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Israeli jets strike Houthi targets in Yemen in response to attacks, military says

Israeli jets strike Houthi targets in Yemen in response to attacks, military says
  • A news outlet run by Houthi militia says the strikes targeted oil facilities and caused fatalities
  • Houthis used a long-range drone to target Tel Aviv on Friday, killing one man and injuring others

AL-MUKALLA: Israeli warplanes struck the Houthi-held western Yemeni city of Hodeidah on Saturday, apparently in retaliation for the Houthi drone strike on Tel Aviv earlier this week.

Houthi-run Al-Masirah TV reported that Israeli planes hit a power plant and a gasoline storage facility, killing and injuring several people.

Images circulating on social media showed a massive ball of fire and thick fog billowing from the targets.

Mohammed Abdul Sallam, the Houthi chief negotiator based in Muscat, said the airstrikes targeted “civilian” facilities to “pressure them to stop supporting Gaza,” vowing to continue attacks on ships and Israel itself until Israel ends its war in the enclave.

“We emphasize that this brutal aggression will only strengthen the determination and steadfastness of the Yemeni people and their valiant armed forces in their support for Gaza,” he said in a post on X.

Other Houthi officials vowed to retaliate. “We will respond more violently and harshly to this Zionist-American orgy,” Abdul Sallam Jahaf, a member of the Houthi Shura Council.

On Friday, the Houthis launched an explosive-laden drone into a Tel Aviv residential area, killing one person and injuring at least 10.

Critics of the militia argue the Houthis will use the bombings to legitimize their rule and crush dissidents in regions under their control.

“An Israeli airstrike is precisely what the #Houthis have long sought to legitimize their power consolidation. This event offers a pretext for increased repression of the population & violence in #Yemen and beyond. The Houthis excel at inviting conflict to sustain their authority,” Nadwa Al-Dawsari, a non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C. said on X.


Sudan fire kills nine

Emergency services rescued several people who had been trapped on the ground floor of the building.
Emergency services rescued several people who had been trapped on the ground floor of the building.
Updated 50 min 26 sec ago
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Sudan fire kills nine

Emergency services rescued several people who had been trapped on the ground floor of the building.
  • At least four people remain in hospital but are in stable condition, the police said in a statement

PORT SUDAN: Fire tore through an apartment block in Port Sudan killing nine people in the city which the Sudanese army has made its base during fighting with rival paramilitaries, police said Saturday.
Emergency services rescued several people who had been trapped on the ground floor of the building when an electrical short circuit triggered the blaze.
At least four people remain in hospital but are in stable condition, the police said in a statement, without saying when the blaze took place.
Sudan has been gripped by war since April 2023.
The conflict between the regular army under Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, led by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, has left tens of thousands dead and forced more than 10 million from their homes, according to the United Nations.


US criticizes ICJ opinion on Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories

Israeli security forces close-off a main entrance to Huwara town in the occupied West Bank following attacks by Israeli settlers
Israeli security forces close-off a main entrance to Huwara town in the occupied West Bank following attacks by Israeli settlers
Updated 18 min 30 sec ago
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US criticizes ICJ opinion on Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories

Israeli security forces close-off a main entrance to Huwara town in the occupied West Bank following attacks by Israeli settlers
  • “We are concerned that the breadth of the court’s opinion will complicate efforts to resolve the conflict and bring about an urgently needed” peace: State Department

WASHINGTON: The US criticized “the breadth” of the top UN court’s opinion that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories is illegal, with Washington saying it would complicate efforts to resolve the conflict.
“We have been clear that Israel’s program of government support for settlements is both inconsistent with international law and obstructs the cause of peace,” a US State Department spokesperson said on Saturday in an email.
“However, we are concerned that the breadth of the court’s opinion will complicate efforts to resolve the conflict,” the State Department added.
The International Court of Justice, or the World Court, said on Friday that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and settlements was illegal and should be ended as soon as possible, delivering its strongest findings to date on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The State Department said the ICJ opinion that Israel must withdraw as soon as possible from the Palestinian territories was “inconsistent with the established framework” for resolving the conflict.
Washington said that framework took into account Israel’s security needs, which it says were highlighted by the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. Those attacks killed 1,200, with around 250 people taken as hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Two-state solution
The advisory opinion by ICJ judges is not binding but carries weight under international law and may weaken support for Israel.
The State Department said the way forward was through direct negotiations.
“Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the regime associated with them, have been established and are being maintained in violation of international law,” ICJ President Nawaf Salam said on Friday while reading the findings of a 15-judge panel.
The court said Israel’s obligations include paying restitution for harm and “the evacuation of all settlers from existing settlements.”
Israel rejected the opinion and said a political settlement can only be reached through negotiations. The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the opinion, which it called historic.
The State Department said it “strongly discourages” parties from using the ICJ opinion “as a pretext for further unilateral actions that deepen divisions or for supplanting a negotiated two-state solution.”
The ICJ case stems from a 2022 request for a legal opinion from the United Nations General Assembly. It predates Israel’s war in Gaza, which began after the Oct. 7 attacks and has killed almost 39,000, according to the health ministry in Gaza, which has been under Hamas rule, while causing a hunger crisis, displacing Gaza’s nearly entire 2.3 million people and spurring genocide allegations that Israel denies.
The ICJ opinion said the UN Security Council, the General Assembly and all states have an obligation not to recognize the occupation as legal nor “render aid or assistance” toward maintaining Israel’s presence in the Palestinian territories.
Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem — which the Palestinians want for a state — in the Six-Day War in 1967 and has since built and expanded settlements in the West Bank. 


Hezbollah, Hamas say launched rocket salvos at north Israel

Smoke rises from a fire after Hezbollah fired a barrage of projectiles towards Israel from Lebanon.
Smoke rises from a fire after Hezbollah fired a barrage of projectiles towards Israel from Lebanon.
Updated 20 July 2024
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Hezbollah, Hamas say launched rocket salvos at north Israel

Smoke rises from a fire after Hezbollah fired a barrage of projectiles towards Israel from Lebanon.
  • Hezbollah said it launched “dozens of Katyusha rockets” on Dafna, an area in Israel’s north, “in response to the attack on civilians”

BEIRUT: Hezbollah and its Palestinian ally Hamas said they launched rocket barrages at Israeli positions Saturday to avenge a strike that injured civilians in south Lebanon and the Gaza war toll.
Hezbollah has traded near-daily fire with Israeli forces in support of Hamas since the Palestinian militant group’s October 7 attack on southern Israel triggered war in the Gaza Strip.
Earlier Saturday, Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said Syrian nationals, including children, had been injured after an “enemy drone targeted an empty four-wheel drive” near their tent, less than four kilometers from the border.
Doctor Mouenes Kalakesh who heads the Marjayoun government hospital said a woman and her three children, two of them minors, had been admitted for shrapnel injuries after the strike outside Burj Al-Muluk.
Among them was an 11-year-old boy in critical condition after he sustained shrapnel injuries and a head wound, Kalakesh told AFP.
Hezbollah said it launched “dozens of Katyusha rockets” on Dafna, an area in Israel’s north that the group said it was targeting for the first time, “in response to the attack on civilians.”
On Wednesday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah had warned his Iran-backed group would hit new targets in Israel if more civilians were killed in Israeli strikes.
Later Saturday, Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, said they fired a rocket salvo from south Lebanon toward an Israeli military position in the Upper Galilee “in response to the Zionist massacres against civilians in the Gaza Strip.”
The Israeli army said a total of 45 “projectiles” had been fired from Lebanon Saturday afternoon, toward the occupied Golan Heights and the Galilee, reporting no casualties.
The army said it struck “the launcher... in southern Lebanon from which the projectiles were launched toward the Golan Heights,” also targeting “an additional Hezbollah launcher.”
On Thursday, Israeli strikes killed at least five people, including the commander of a Hamas-allied group in Lebanon, militant groups and a security source said.
On Tuesday, Lebanese official media said separate Israeli strikes in south Lebanon killed five Syrians, three of them children, with Hezbollah announcing rocket fire at Israel in retaliation.
The violence since October has killed at least 515 people in Lebanon, according to an AFP tally.
Most of the dead have been fighters, but they have included at least 104 civilians.
On the Israeli side, 18 soldiers and 13 civilians have been killed, according to Israeli authorities.


Israeli warplanes pound Houthi-held Hodeidah

Israeli warplanes pound Houthi-held Hodeidah
Updated 20 July 2024
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Israeli warplanes pound Houthi-held Hodeidah

Israeli warplanes pound Houthi-held Hodeidah
  • Houthi officials vowed to retaliate. “We will respond more violently and harshly to this Zionist-American orgy,” Abdul Sallam Jahaf, a member of the Houthi Shura Council

AL-MUKALLA: Israeli warplanes struck the Houthi-held western Yemeni city of Hodeidah on Saturday, apparently in retaliation for the Houthi drone strike on Tel Aviv earlier this week.

Houthi-run Al-Masirah TV reported that Israeli planes hit a power plant and a gasoline storage facility, killing and injuring several people.

Images circulating on social media showed a massive ball of fire and thick fog billowing from the targets.

Mohammed Abdul Sallam, the Houthi chief negotiator based in Muscat, said the airstrikes targeted “civilian” facilities to “pressure them to stop supporting Gaza,” vowing to continue attacks on ships and Israel itself until Israel ends its war in the enclave.

“We emphasize that this brutal aggression will only strengthen the determination and steadfastness of the Yemeni people and their valiant armed forces in their support for Gaza,” he said in a post on X.

Other Houthi officials vowed to retaliate. “We will respond more violently and harshly to this Zionist-American orgy,” Abdul Sallam Jahaf, a member of the Houthi Shura Council.

On Friday, the Houthis launched an explosive-laden drone into a Tel Aviv residential area, killing one person and injuring at least 10.

Critics of the militia argue the Houthis will use the bombings to legitimize their rule and crush dissidents in regions under their control.

“An Israeli airstrike is precisely what the #Houthis have long sought to legitimize their power consolidation. This event offers a pretext for increased repression of the population & violence in #Yemen and beyond. The Houthis excel at inviting conflict to sustain their authority,” Nadwa Al-Dawsari, a non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C. said on X.