Israel defense chief to discuss Gaza, Lebanon on US trip

Israel defense chief to discuss Gaza, Lebanon on US trip
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks during his meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (not pictured) at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S., March 26, 2024. (Reuters)
Updated 23 June 2024
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Israel defense chief to discuss Gaza, Lebanon on US trip

Israel defense chief to discuss Gaza, Lebanon on US trip

JERUSALEM: Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant headed to Washington on Sunday to discuss the next phase of the Gaza war and escalating hostilities on the border with Lebanon, where exchanges of fire with Hezbollah have stoked fears of wider conflict.
Iran-backed Hezbollah has been trading fire with Israel since the Gaza war erupted more than eight months ago. The group has said it will not stop until there is a ceasefire in Gaza.
“We are prepared for any action that may be required in Gaza, Lebanon, and in more areas,” Gallant said in a statement before setting off to Washington, where he said he will meet his counterpart Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Earlier in June, Hezbollah targeted Israeli towns and military sites with the largest volleys of rockets and drones in the hostilities so far, after an Israeli strike killed the most senior Hezbollah commander yet.
US envoy Amos Hochstein visited Israel and Lebanon last week in an attempt to cool tensions, amid an uptick in cross-border fire and an escalation in rhetoric on both sides.
Some Israeli officials have linked the ongoing Israeli push into Rafah, the southern area of Gaza where it says it is targeting the last battalions of militant Islamist group Hamas, to a potential focus on Lebanon.
Gallant appeared to make the same link in his statement.
“The transition to Phase C in Gaza is of great importance. I will discuss this transition with US officials, how it may enable additional things and I know that we will achieve close cooperation with the US on this issue as well,” Gallant said.
Scaling back Gaza operations would free up forces to take on Hezbollah, were Israel to launch a ground offensive or step up its aerial bombardments.
Officials have described the third and last phase of Israel’s Gaza offensive as winding down fighting while stepping up efforts to stabilize a post-Hamas rule and begin reconstruction in the enclave, much of which has been laid to waste.
Gallant, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, has sparred with the premier in the past few months, calling for a clearer post-war plan for Gaza that will not leave Israel in charge, a demand echoed by the White House.
Netanyahu has been walking a tightrope as he seeks to keep his government together by balancing the demands of the defense establishment, including ex-generals like Gallant, and far-right coalition partners who have resisted any post-Gaza strategy that could open the way to a future Palestinian state.
The head of Israel’s parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Yuli Edelstein, told Army Radio on Sunday that fighting Hezbollah would be complex either way, now or later.
“We are not in the right position to conduct fighting on both the southern front and the northern front. We will have to deploy differently in the south in order to fight in the north,” said Edelstein, also a Likud member.
Edelstein criticized a video by Netanyahu released last week in which the prime minister said the Biden administration was “withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel.” The video led to a spat with the White House.
President Joe Biden’s administration paused a shipment of 2,000 pound and 500-pound bombs in May over concerns about their impact if used in densely-populated areas of Gaza. Israel was still due to get billions of dollars worth of US weaponry.
“I hope that in the discussions behind closed doors much more will be achieved than by attempts to create pressure with videos,” Edelstein said, referring to Gallant’s trip.
Israel’s ground and air campaign in Gaza was triggered when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
The offensive has killed more than 37,400 people, according to Palestinian health authorities, and left nearly the entire population of the enclave homeless and destitute.


Oman’s mosque attackers were all Omani citizens, police say

Oman’s mosque attackers were all Omani citizens, police say
Updated 40 sec ago
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Oman’s mosque attackers were all Omani citizens, police say

Oman’s mosque attackers were all Omani citizens, police say
  • The perpetrators were brothers and 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.

The mosque shooting on Tuesday killed nine people and wounded at least 30 others, authorities earlier 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 manipulating and misleading ideas.”

 


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

Lebanese media, Hamas-allied group says Israel strike kills commander
Updated 17 min 47 sec ago
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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.


KSrelief runs volunteer medical projects in Sudan, Yemen

KSrelief runs volunteer medical projects in Sudan, Yemen
Updated 30 min 55 sec ago
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KSrelief runs volunteer medical projects in Sudan, Yemen

KSrelief runs volunteer medical projects in Sudan, Yemen

RIYADH: The Kingdom’s aid agency KSrelief continues to provide healthcare for vulnerable people in Sudan and Yemen, the Saudi Press Agency reported late Wednesday evening.

The project in Port Sudan for urology surgery, from July 13 to 20, involves 11 volunteers with training in various specialties.

The team members have already completed six surgeries.

A similar project is currently being implemented for orthopedic surgery in the Seiyun district of Yemen’s Hadhramaut governorate, with seven operations already completed.


Oil Updates – prices rise on bigger-than-expected drop in US crude stocks

Oil Updates – prices rise on bigger-than-expected drop in US crude stocks
Updated 32 min 55 sec ago
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Oil Updates – prices rise on bigger-than-expected drop in US crude stocks

Oil Updates – prices rise on bigger-than-expected drop in US crude stocks

SINGAPORE: Oil prices extended gains from the previous session on Thursday, buoyed by a bigger-than-expected decline last week in crude stocks in the US, the world’s largest oil consumer, according to Reuters.

Brent futures rose 58 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $85.66 a barrel by 8:30 a.m. Saudi time, while US West Texas Intermediate crude gained 75 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $83.60.

Both contracts settled higher on Wednesday.

US crude inventories fell by 4.9 million barrels last week, the latest data from the US Energy Information Administration showed. That exceeds a decline of 30,000 barrels forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll and a drop of 4.4 million barrels in a report from the American Petroleum Institute trade group.

“Healthy demand signals from the US outweighs concerns from modest Chinese growth last week,” said Priyanka Sachdeva, senior market analyst at Phillip Nova.

“Hopes of a Fed easing, which can boost economic growth, and current summer travel in the US are ensuring enough traction in oil demand from the world’s largest economy,” Sachdeva said.

The prospects of cuts in interest rates in coming months in the both the US and Europe helped to support the market.

Federal Reserve officials said on Wednesday the US central bank is “closer” to cutting interest rates given inflation’s improved trajectory and a labor market in better balance, possibly setting the stage for a reduction in borrowing costs in September.

Also, US economic activity expanded at a slight to modest pace from late May through early July with firms expecting slower growth ahead.

The European Central Bank, meanwhile, is all but certain to keep interest rates unchanged on Thursday, but signalled that its next move is likely to be a cut.

Investors are also awaiting policy news from a key leadership gathering in China that is to end on Thursday.

The dollar eased on Thursday for a third straight session. A weaker dollar can boost demand for oil by making greenback-denominated commodities like oil cheaper for holders of other currencies. 


Student protesters vow ‘complete shutdown’ in Bangladesh after days of violent protest

Student protesters vow ‘complete shutdown’ in Bangladesh after days of violent protest
Updated 24 min 54 sec ago
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Student protesters vow ‘complete shutdown’ in Bangladesh after days of violent protest

Student protesters vow ‘complete shutdown’ in Bangladesh after days of violent protest
  • Students have been demonstrating for weeks against a quota system for government jobs they say favors allies of the ruling party
  • Protests have escalated since violence broke out on the campus of Dhaka University on Monday

DHAKA: People stayed home and many malls closed their doors Thursday morning in Bangladesh’s capital as protesters attempted to impose a “complete shutdown” after days of student protesters violently clashing with police and ruling party-backed student activists.
Traffic was thin on Dhaka’s usually clogged streets. Offices and banks opened, but commuters complained that transport was limited.
Salma Rahman, an official at a financial institution in Dhaka, said that she left his car at home and caught a ride on a motorcycle. “Our office has alerted us to stay safe on streets, as there is fear that violence could happen during the shutdown.”
Students have been demonstrating for weeks against a quota system for government jobs they say favors allies of the ruling party, but the protests have escalated since violence broke out on the campus of Dhaka University on Monday. Six people were killed amid protests on Tuesday, leading the government to ask universities across the country to close and police to raid the main opposition party’s headquarters.
The violence continued late Wednesday in Dhaka. Traffic was halted on a major highway as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters, who set fire to a toll booth, blocked streets and detonated explosives, Somoy TV reported.
Other news outlets said scores were injured in the hours of violence.
On Thursday morning, with classes suspended and dormitories closed, students near Dhaka’s BRAC University clashed with police, who fired tear gas.
Police set up checkpoints at the entrances to Dhaka University.
On Wednesday night, the protesters announced they would enforce “a complete shutdown” across the country on Thursday in response to security officials’ continued attacks on the campus demonstrators. The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party said that it would do what it could to make the shutdown a success.
Protesters are demanding an end to a quota system that reserves up to 30 percent of government jobs for family members of veterans who fought in Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971. They argue that the system is discriminatory and benefits supporters of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, whose Awami League party led the independence movement, and they want it replaced with a merit-based system.
Hasina’s government halted the quotas after mass student protests in 2018. But last month, Bangladesh’s High Court nullified that decision and reinstated the quotas after relatives of the 1971 veterans filed petitions, triggering the latest demonstrations. The Supreme Court then suspended the High Court’s ruling and is expected to rule on Aug. 7. The government has also separately appealed the High Court decision in the wake of the protest, according to the attorney general’s office.
“I am requesting all to wait with patience until the verdict is delivered,” Hasina said in a televised address Wednesday evening. “I believe our students will get justice from the apex court. They will not be disappointed.”
While job opportunities have expanded in Bangladesh’s private sector, many people prefer government jobs because they are stable and well paid. Each year, some 400,000 graduates compete for 3,000 jobs in the civil service exam.
Hasina said there would be a judicial probe into Tuesday’s deaths and vowed that those responsible would be brought to justice.
“Some precious lives have been lost unnecessarily,” she said. “I condemn every killing.”
UN Human Rights chief Volker Turk said in a post on the social media platform X that all acts of violence and deadly use of force must be investigated and the perpetrators held accountable. Turk said freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fundamental human rights.
Bangladesh’s ruling party blamed the BNP for the chaos, and Dhaka police raided the party’s headquarters late Tuesday. Detective Chief Harun-or-Rashid said police arrested seven members of the party’s student wing, and said detectives found 100 crude bombs, 500 wooden and bamboo sticks, and five to six bottles of gasoline in the raid.
Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, a senior BNP leader, said the raid was a government attempt to divert attention from the protests.