Three Hezbollah Members Killed in Targeted Strike in Southern Lebanon 

Smoke billows following an Israeli air strike on the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila near the border with Israel on January 9, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. (AFP)
Smoke billows following an Israeli air strike on the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila near the border with Israel on January 9, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. (AFP)
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Three Hezbollah Members Killed in Targeted Strike in Southern Lebanon 

Smoke billows following an Israeli air strike on the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila near the border with Israel on January 9, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. (AFP)
Smoke billows following an Israeli air strike on the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila near the border with Israel on January 9, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. (AFP)

Hezbollah launched explosive drones at an army base in northern Israel on Tuesday, declaring the attack part of its response to recent Israeli assassinations in Lebanon, as sources reported three Hezbollah fighters killed in an Israeli strike. 

The group said its drones had hit the Israeli army headquarters in Safed as part of retaliation for last week's killing of deputy Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut, and in response to Monday's killing of a Hezbollah commander. 

A source familiar with Hezbollah operations said it marked the first time the group had attacked Safed, some 14 km (8 miles) from the border, during hostilities that began three months ago after Hamas attacked Israel from the Gaza Strip. 

An Israeli army spokesperson said a northern base was hit in an aerial attack but there had been no damage or casualties. The spokesperson did not say precisely where the incident occurred. 

More than 130 Hezbollah fighters have been killed in Lebanon during the hostilities with Israel, their worst confrontation since they went to war in 2006. The violence has forced tens of thousands of people to flee homes on both sides of the border, and has raised concern the conflict could intensify and spread further. 

The three Hezbollah fighters killed on Tuesday died in a strike on their vehicle in the town of Ghandouriyeh in the south of Lebanon, the sources said, without identifying them. 

In a statement, the Israeli military said its air force attacked Hezbollah targets in Kila - an apparent reference to the Lebanese border village of Kfar Kila - and a drone squad belonging to the group elsewhere in southern Lebanon. 

The Hezbollah commander killed on Monday, Wissam Tawil, was a commander in the party's elite Radwan forces and the most senior Hezbollah officer killed so far in the conflict. He had played a leading role in directing its operations in the south. 

Hezbollah deputy leader Naim Qassem, in a televised speech on Tuesday, said his group did not want to expand the war from Lebanon, "but if Israel expands (it), the response is inevitable to the maximum extent required to deter Israel". 



Halo Trust Calls for Focus on Peace Efforts, Mine Clearance in Yemen

Saudi Arabia’s Masam project has removed over half a million mines and unexploded ordnance in Yemen. (Masam)
Saudi Arabia’s Masam project has removed over half a million mines and unexploded ordnance in Yemen. (Masam)
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Halo Trust Calls for Focus on Peace Efforts, Mine Clearance in Yemen

Saudi Arabia’s Masam project has removed over half a million mines and unexploded ordnance in Yemen. (Masam)
Saudi Arabia’s Masam project has removed over half a million mines and unexploded ordnance in Yemen. (Masam)

Five months since the Iran-backed Houthi militias launched their first attack on commercial shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, an international organization called for a renewed focus on humanitarian development and peace efforts in Yemen, where people continue to endure one of the worst landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) crises in the world.

The HALO Trust, a humanitarian mine clearance organization, said in a statement last week that during the 2022 ceasefire, there was a 160% increase in UXO and mine accidents as people tried to return to their homes in Taiz.

“It is imperative that we don't forget the ordinary Yemeni men, women, and children living day-to-day in severe humanitarian need, and the dangers posed by unexploded weapons near their homes and communities,” Matt Smith, head of Region for Middle East and North Africa.

He said most of HALO’s work in Yemen is in crowded and complex urban environments and close to active frontlines and former battlefields, meaning it requires different skills and greater community liaison compared with clearance in rural areas.

Since 2019, HALO Yemen has been clearing mines and other explosives in the frontline in Taiz, a city divided by battle lines between the north and south of the country for the last nine years.

“Despite airstrikes under 20km away, and daily exchanges of fire across frontlines in the city, our teams haven't stopped working in the last six months,” said Smith.

As the only international NGO doing this work in Taiz city, HALO teams have responded to more than 100 call-outs to remove or destroy various dangerous items and has cleared minefields with trained teams and armored machines, handing safe land back to communities that regularly experience fatal or life-changing accidents.

Daily threats

Smith said that in many places, explosives including mines, rockets, mortars, anti-aircraft rounds and IEDs are found among homes, clinics, schools, and other amenities.

“These pose a daily threat to Yemeni civilians, particularly children. Many children are injured while they play, or when collecting scrap metal to sell and help feed their families,” he noted.

So far, HALO demining teams have made two million square meters of land safe in Taiz and Aden - the equivalent of around 280 football pitches - so that people can go to work and markets safely, and children can walk to school and play outside without fear of losing a limb, or worse.

Smith said that during the 2022 ceasefire, there was a 160% increase in UXO and mine accidents as people tried to return to their homes in Taiz, illustrating that mine action activities will need to play an integral part in the peace process for peacebuilding efforts to be successful.

“Urban recovery and reconstruction will also be hampered if the amount of explosive ordnance present in urban areas across Yemen isn’t addressed,” he warned.

The Halo Trust also affirmed that clearance of landmines and explosives is needed on key roads along frontlines proposed for re-opening under a UN-brokered truce.

The organization said it works closely with the Office of the UN Special Envoy (OSESGY) and other actors to address the complex threat should parties reach an agreement.


Qassam Resumes Attacks against Israel from Southern Lebanon 

A Long exposure photo taken from position in northern Israel near the border with southern Lebanon, shows a rocket fired from Israel heading towards southern Lebanon on April 17, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. (AFP)
A Long exposure photo taken from position in northern Israel near the border with southern Lebanon, shows a rocket fired from Israel heading towards southern Lebanon on April 17, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. (AFP)
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Qassam Resumes Attacks against Israel from Southern Lebanon 

A Long exposure photo taken from position in northern Israel near the border with southern Lebanon, shows a rocket fired from Israel heading towards southern Lebanon on April 17, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. (AFP)
A Long exposure photo taken from position in northern Israel near the border with southern Lebanon, shows a rocket fired from Israel heading towards southern Lebanon on April 17, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. (AFP)

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stressed on Sunday the military determination to return residents of northern Israel back to their homes and that it was preparing to carry out the task.

Speaking during a tour near the Syrian border, he said his forces were raising their readiness to carry out offensive missions to prevent Iranian entrenchment in the region.

In a post on the X platform, he added that he visited the Golan region to “assess the situation” on the border and operations against Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran.

Moreover, he spoke of raising the preparedness of the army to carry out a “possible military operation that would allow the residents of the north to return home after a change in the security situation.”

Meanwhile, the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian Hamas movement, entered the fray again on Sunday by firing over 20 grad rockets from southern Lebanon against Israel’s Shumira barracks.

In a statement, the group said the attack was in “retaliation to the Zionist enemy’s massacres in Gaza.”

The group had last carried out an operation against Israel from the South in February.

Hours earlier, Hezbollah deputy leader Naim Qassem vowed that the Iran-backed party “would retaliate if Israel attacks Lebanon.”

In remarks to NBC News, he stressed that Hezbollah does not want another major war, but it will not allow the Israeli army to violate the unspoken “rules of engagement”.

“We will not accept that the Israelis transgress the rules of engagement that are currently set in the south” of Lebanon, he said. “If the Israelis increase their attacks, we will increase our attacks as well.”

Moreover, he said the fighting is now limited to the Lebanese-Palestinian border and it has its rules and limits. “The resistance is supporting Gaza and this support is serving its purpose,” Qassem added.

“Therefore, we will continue to do so, and we will not wage a full-scale war unless the Israelis decide to get into war against us,” he said. “Then we are ready for the full confrontation.”

Amid these threats, the Israeli army is forging ahead with its strategy of destroying homes and civilian infrastructure in Lebanese border regions.

It has so far completely destroyed 1,500 and partially damaged 5,000 houses in the South.

On the other hand, Hezbollah continues to target Israeli positions and houses Israeli settlements.

David Azoulay, the mayor of the Metulla settlement, said Hezbollah has destroyed over 140 houses in Metulla alone since the eruption of the border clashes in October.

Metulla, which lies adjacent to Lebanon’s towns of Khiam and Kfar Killa, has come under heavy attacks by Hezbollah in recent days targeting Israeli soldiers.


Sudani Prepares to Pave New Path in Ties with Türkiye as Erdogan Visits Iraq

Türkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Iraq's Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani shake hands during a welcome ceremony in Ankara, Türkiye, Tuesday, March 21, 2023. (AP)
Türkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Iraq's Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani shake hands during a welcome ceremony in Ankara, Türkiye, Tuesday, March 21, 2023. (AP)
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Sudani Prepares to Pave New Path in Ties with Türkiye as Erdogan Visits Iraq

Türkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Iraq's Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani shake hands during a welcome ceremony in Ankara, Türkiye, Tuesday, March 21, 2023. (AP)
Türkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Iraq's Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani shake hands during a welcome ceremony in Ankara, Türkiye, Tuesday, March 21, 2023. (AP)

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani will welcome in Baghdad on Monday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan’s visit will last several days and is expected to pave the way for a new chapter in relations with Baghdad. He is also set to visit Erbil, capital of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.

Informed sources said Iraq and Türkiye are expected to sign dozens of agreements during the visit. They will also ink a strategic cooperation agreement covering security, water, economic affairs, energy and transportation.

Iraqi Ambassador to Ankara Majid al-Lachmawi said Erdogan’s trip will help resolve pending disputes with Iraq.

“The visit will create a comprehensive qualitative leap in cooperation relations between Iraq and Türkiye,” he said in a statement.

Officials will also discuss resuming the export of Iraqi oil through Türkiye.

Erdogan’s visit is part of Iraqi and Turkish efforts to bolster bilateral relations given the joint projects and agreements that may be approved between them, including Iraq’s Development Road Initiative, added the ambassador.

This will be Erdogan’s first trip to Iraq since 2011.

Turkish Defense Minister Yashar Guler said last week that the water file will be one of the most important articles on Erdogan’s agenda.

Iraq’s Minister of Water Resources Aoun Diab Abdullah underscored the importance of economic ties between Baghdad and Ankara, saying they have common interests, especially in the water file.

He stressed the need for the fair distribution of water resources between their countries.

Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid underlined on Sunday the importance of consolidating relations between Baghdad and Ankara and bolstering joint work on the international and regional levels.

“Iraq is looking forward to developing special relations with neighboring Türkiye on various levels. It is keen on forging ties with sisterly and friendly countries that are based on respecting sovereignty and refraining from meddling in their internal affairs,” said Rashid during a meeting with Turkish Ambassador to Baghdad Ali Reza Guney.

Erdogan is visiting Iraq as PM Sudani concluded last week a six-day visit to the United States where he met with President Joe Biden.

During the trip, Sudani managed to resolve several pending issues between Baghdad and Washington. Iraqi and American officials also signed dozens of joint agreements.


Washington Signs Five-Year Assistance Agreement with Yemen

 A USAID contribution to UNICEF humanitarian response in Yemen (UN)
A USAID contribution to UNICEF humanitarian response in Yemen (UN)
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Washington Signs Five-Year Assistance Agreement with Yemen

 A USAID contribution to UNICEF humanitarian response in Yemen (UN)
A USAID contribution to UNICEF humanitarian response in Yemen (UN)

The US on Sunday announced the signing of a five-year agreement to assist Yemen with its immediate needs and with advancing the internationally-recognized government’s vision for the long-term stability and prosperity of the country.
“The US and Yemen have a productive partnership that endures even in the face of the unprecedented challenges we face today,” said Kimberlee Bell, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Country Director for Yemen.
The agreement, signed on behalf of Yemen by Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Waed Abdullah Batheeb, reflects the unwavering commitment of the United States to Yemen’s prosperity, stability, and people, a USAID statement said.
Since 2015, the Agency has provided more than $5.8 billion in humanitarian and development assistance in support of the Yemeni people.
“The American people remain committed to assisting Yemen with both its immediate needs and with advancing the Government of Yemen’s vision for the country’s long-term stability and prosperity,” Bell said.
USAID’s economic growth program works to stabilize Yemen’s macro economy by improving monetary and fiscal policy and facilitating international trade.
This partnership helps Yemenis access essential healthcare, including initiatives promoting reproductive and maternal and child health, improves nutrition for children and pregnant women, strengthens the country’s healthcare system, increases access to safe water and sanitation, and improves water and sanitation service delivery.
Additional programs improve early grade reading, numeracy, and writing skills, support non-formal learning centers and a remedial curriculum for out-of-school children, assist the educational needs of girls and children with disabilities, promote community cohesion and reconciliation, and strengthen the peacebuilding capacity of local and national government institutions.
The agreement outlines how USAID’s development assistance will accelerate Yemen’s economic growth, improve access to essential water, health, and education services, and strengthen governance and reconciliation.
Last February, the Agency said that acute food insecurity in seven governorates in Houthi-controlled northern Yemen is projected to decline to Emergency—IPC 4—or worse levels during the February-to-May period.
Also, UN reports had revealed that increased military activities in the Red Sea carries the risk of hampering the imports of wheat to Yemen.
In its February Emergency Fact Sheet, USAID said Houthi hostilities in the Red Sea, in conjunction with joint US and United Kingdom airstrikes on Houthi targets in northern Yemen, prompted USAID/BHA partners to enhance contingency planning activities in mid- to late January to ensure the continued provision of humanitarian aid.

 


Iran-Backed Hezbollah Downs Israeli Drone in Southern Lebanon 

Smoke rises from an Israeli border town as a result of a rocket launched from southern Lebanon, as seen from Israel, 17 April 2024. (EPA)
Smoke rises from an Israeli border town as a result of a rocket launched from southern Lebanon, as seen from Israel, 17 April 2024. (EPA)
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Iran-Backed Hezbollah Downs Israeli Drone in Southern Lebanon 

Smoke rises from an Israeli border town as a result of a rocket launched from southern Lebanon, as seen from Israel, 17 April 2024. (EPA)
Smoke rises from an Israeli border town as a result of a rocket launched from southern Lebanon, as seen from Israel, 17 April 2024. (EPA)

The Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah said on Sunday it downed an Israeli drone that was on a combat mission in southern Lebanon.

The drone that was brought down above the Al Aishiyeh area in southern Lebanon was "waging its attacks on our steadfast people," a statement said by the group said.

Israeli forces and Hezbollah have been exchanging fire for over six months in parallel to the Gaza war, in the most serious hostilities since they fought a major war in 2006.

Hezbollah said the drone was an Israeli Hermes 450, a multi-payload drone made by Elbit Systems, an Israel-based weapons manufacturer.

The fighting has fueled concern about the risk of further escalation.

At least 370 Lebanese, including more than 240 Hezbollah fighters and 68 civilians, have been killed in the fighting according to a Reuters tally. Eighteen Israelis, including soldiers and civilians, have been killed on the Israeli side of the border, according to Israeli tallies.


Bodies Found at Gaza Hospital, Israel Wows to 'Increase Pressure' on Hamas

Palestinian health workers dig for bodies buried by Israeli forces in Nasser hospital compound in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on April 21, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Palestinian health workers dig for bodies buried by Israeli forces in Nasser hospital compound in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on April 21, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
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Bodies Found at Gaza Hospital, Israel Wows to 'Increase Pressure' on Hamas

Palestinian health workers dig for bodies buried by Israeli forces in Nasser hospital compound in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on April 21, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Palestinian health workers dig for bodies buried by Israeli forces in Nasser hospital compound in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on April 21, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

Gaza's civil defense said Sunday dozens of bodies had been found buried at a Gaza hospital complex previously raided by Israel, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to ramp up military pressure on Hamas.

Netanyahu, who threatened action "in the coming days" but did not specify, has repeatedly said the Israeli army will launch a ground assault on Rafah despite international concern for civilians who have taken refuge in the southern city.

Gaza's civil defense agency said its teams had discovered 50 bodies since Saturday buried in the courtyard of the Nasser Medical Complex in Gaza's main southern city of Khan Yunis.

"We are continuing the search operation today and are waiting for all graves to be exhumed in order to give a final number of martyrs," Mahmud Bassal, spokesman for the civil defence agency, told AFP.

"There were no clothes on some bodies, which certainly indicates (the victims) faced torture and abuse," Bassal said.

Israel's military said it was checking the reports.

Hamas in a statement said the 50 bodies were exhumed from what it called a "mass grave of those executed in cold blood and buried with military bulldozers in the hospital's courtyard".

Israel pulled its ground forces from Khan Yunis on April 7 after carrying out what it called a "precise and limited operation" at the hospital, one of Gaza's biggest.

Hospitals in Gaza have faced the brunt of the Israeli assault, with the military accusing Hamas of using the facilities as command centers and to hold hostages abducted in the October 7 attack, claims denied by the Palestinian militants.

On Sunday, an AFP photographer saw civil defense crews exhuming human remains from the courtyard, while grieving relatives collected bodies wrapped in white.

Netanyahu, in a video statement on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover, said Israel "will deliver additional and painful blows" to Hamas.

"In the coming days we will increase the military and political pressure on Hamas because this is the only way to free our hostages," he said.

Israel estimates 129 captives remain in Gaza after the October 7 Hamas attack, including 34 who the military says are dead.

The army has said at least some of the hostages are held in Rafah, so far been spared an Israeli invasion and where most of Gaza's 2.4 million people have sought shelter.


Two Palestinians Killed by Israeli Troops in West Bank

Palestinians inspect the damage following an Israeli raid at Nur Shams camp, in Tulkarm, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, April 21, 2024. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Palestinians inspect the damage following an Israeli raid at Nur Shams camp, in Tulkarm, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, April 21, 2024. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
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Two Palestinians Killed by Israeli Troops in West Bank

Palestinians inspect the damage following an Israeli raid at Nur Shams camp, in Tulkarm, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, April 21, 2024. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Palestinians inspect the damage following an Israeli raid at Nur Shams camp, in Tulkarm, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, April 21, 2024. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinian teenagers in the occupied West Bank Sunday, the Palestinian health ministry said, as the army confirmed it "neutralized" two attackers who fired at soldiers.

The incident, after numerous deaths during an Israeli raid further north in the Palestinian territory, added to a two-year surge of violence in the West Bank that has accelerated since the war in Gaza began on October 7.

The Palestinian health ministry in Ramallah said the deaths of the two Palestinians were "caused by occupation (Israeli army) bullets.”

It identified the two as Muhammad Majid Musa Jabareen, 19, and Musa Mahmud Musa Jabareen, 18.

According to the Israeli army, one of them attempted to stab soldiers that were in the area, “who responded with live fire and neutralized him."

At the same time, the other Palestinian “opened fire at the soldiers, who responded with live fire and neutralized him too,” the military said.

The official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that the latest incident occurred at the entrance to the village of Beit Einun near the city of Hebron.

Quoting two Palestinian security sources, Wafa reported that the men succumbed to their wounds after they were fired on.

Following the incident troops stormed Beit Einun and raided several homes, the agency reported.

On Saturday, Israeli forces killed 14 Palestinians during a raid in the West Bank, while an ambulance driver was killed as he went to pick up wounded from a separate attack by violent Jewish settlers, Palestinian authorities said.
Israeli forces began an extended raid in the early hours of Friday in the Nur Shams area, near the flashpoint Palestinian city of Tulkarm and exchanged fire with armed fighters well into Saturday.


Israeli Strikes on Southern Gaza City of Rafah Kill 22, Mostly Children

A Palestinian woman checks the rubble of a home hit by overnight Israeli bombing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (Photo by AFP)
A Palestinian woman checks the rubble of a home hit by overnight Israeli bombing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (Photo by AFP)
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Israeli Strikes on Southern Gaza City of Rafah Kill 22, Mostly Children

A Palestinian woman checks the rubble of a home hit by overnight Israeli bombing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (Photo by AFP)
A Palestinian woman checks the rubble of a home hit by overnight Israeli bombing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (Photo by AFP)

Israeli strikes on the southern Gaza city of Rafah overnight killed 22 people, including 18 children, health officials said Sunday.

Israel has carried out near-daily air raids on Rafah, where more than half of Gaza's population of 2.3 million has sought refuge from fighting elsewhere. It has also vowed to expand its ground offensive to the city on the border with Egypt despite international calls for restraint, including from the US.

The first Israeli strike in Rafah killed a man, his wife and their 3-year-old child, according to the nearby Kuwaiti Hospital, which received the bodies. The woman was pregnant and the doctors managed to save the baby, the hospital said.
The second strike killed 17 children and two women, all from an extended family, according to hospital records. Mohammed al-Beheiri said his daughter, Rasha, and her six children, the youngest 18 months old, were among those killed. Her husband's second wife and their three children were still under the rubble, al-Beheiri said.

The Israel-Hamas war has killed over 34,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials, devastated Gaza's two largest cities and left a swath of destruction across the territory. Around 80% of the population have fled their homes to other parts of the besieged coastal enclave, which experts say is on the brink of famine.


Abbas: US Veto Against Palestine Full UN Membership is ‘Regrettable, Irresponsible’

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (dpa)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (dpa)
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Abbas: US Veto Against Palestine Full UN Membership is ‘Regrettable, Irresponsible’

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (dpa)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (dpa)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday termed the US veto at the Security Council against his country’s request for full membership in the UN as “disappointing, regrettable, shameful, irresponsible, and unjustified.”

In an interview with the official Palestinian news agency Wafa, the President said the US veto to block the resolution, which was introduced by Algeria, constitutes a blatant aggression against the rights, history, land, and sanctities of the Palestinian people, challenging the will of the international community.

“While the world agrees on the application of international law and stands by the Palestinian right, America continues to support the occupation, refusing to compel Israel to stop its genocidal war,” Abbas said.

“It provides Israel with weapons and funds,” the President added.

He then accused Washington of abandoning all promises regarding the two-state solution and achieving peace in the region.

“The Palestinian leadership will reconsider bilateral relations with the US to ensure the protection of our people’s interests, our cause, and our rights,” he affirmed.

Abbas warned that the entire region is heading towards further instability in the absence of a just solution to the Palestinian cause, based on Palestinian, Arab and international frameworks.

The US on Thursday vetoed a resolution at the UN Security Council that would have paved the way for the state of Palestine to gain full membership at the United Nations.

The vote in the 15-member Council was 12 in favor and two abstentions – the UK and Switzerland.


Lebanese Gangs Control Crossings on Syria Border

Lebanese-Syrian border crossing (Central News Agency)
Lebanese-Syrian border crossing (Central News Agency)
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Lebanese Gangs Control Crossings on Syria Border

Lebanese-Syrian border crossing (Central News Agency)
Lebanese-Syrian border crossing (Central News Agency)

The story of Lebanese Forces coordinator Pascal Sleiman’s murder on April 7 is still unfolding. His body was found in a Syrian village near Lebanon’s Hermel district, where stolen cars often cross into Syria from Lebanon due to lax border control.

This incident isn’t isolated; investigations show the perpetrators moved freely from Jbeil to Lebanese villages near Hermel.

Recently, during daylight hours, unidentified individuals kidnapped Syrian Mohammed Ghasab on the international road between the Lebanese towns of Riyaq and Baalbek, near Brital town’s entrance.

They took him into Syria through an illegal crossing, having lured him via social media ads about traveling to Europe. The General Directorate of Internal Security Forces had warned against such traps set by professional gangs.

Ghasab’s wife, Nariman Al-Munawar, received a ransom demand of $35,000 to release him, with instructions to send photos of the cash.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Munawar reaffirmed that she’s struggling to provide for her five children and wonders how she’ll come up with the ransom money.

Lebanon still struggles to control its border with Syria, where Syrian villages have become havens for criminal gangs involved in drug trafficking, car theft, and even human trafficking.

These areas, inhabited mostly by Lebanese, operate independently from state control.

They're connected to Lebanon and Syria by 17 illegal crossings, each with names like Alam Crossing and Nasser al-Din Crossing.

Lebanese authorities can only access these areas by coordinating with Syrian security, and vice versa.

Around 8,000 people live in these villages.

An unnamed security source told Asharq Al-Awsat that smuggling of humans, food, and stolen cars between Syria and Lebanon is rampant through these border crossings.

Gangs dealing in drugs and weapons operate freely in these areas, with visible weapons and no authority to stop them.

This activity spans a 22-kilometer border stretch from Al-Qaa to Saqiet al-Jisr, reaching the North Lebanon Governorate’s borders.

Despite efforts to control the borders, the situation remains chaotic.