Iraq Forms ‘Military Committee’ to Schedule US Withdrawal

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein and his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Albares Bueno during a press conference (Foreign Ministry media office)
Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein and his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Albares Bueno during a press conference (Foreign Ministry media office)
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Iraq Forms ‘Military Committee’ to Schedule US Withdrawal

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein and his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Albares Bueno during a press conference (Foreign Ministry media office)
Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein and his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Albares Bueno during a press conference (Foreign Ministry media office)

Iraq announced the success of negotiations with the US government to launch a Higher Military Committee to set a timetable for a phased withdrawal of the troops and ending the US-led international coalition’s presence in the country.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the move comes "in fulfillment of its national obligations and in line with the growing capacity and efficiency of the Iraqi government," declaring the success of the ongoing negotiations with the US.
The statement explained that the negotiations concluded with the "necessity of launching the Higher Military Committee (HMC) at the level of working groups to evaluate the threat and danger of ISIS and the situational and operational requirements."
The two parties also agreed on strengthening the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces "to put a clear timeline that specifies the duration of the presence of the US-led international coalition's advisors in Iraq."
The statement added that one of the committee's goals is to start "the gradual and deliberate reduction of its advisors in Iraq , ending the military mission of the coalition against ISIS, and shifting to comprehensive bilateral relations with the coalition countries."
Iraq renewed its commitment to maintain the "safety of the international coalition's advisors during the negotiation period in all parts of the country, and maintaining stability and preventing escalation."
Earlier, the State Administration Coalition, an alliance of Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish political parties, held a meeting and called on all countries to respect Iraq's sovereignty and ensure its internal security is not threatened.
During the meeting, the coalition denounced and rejected all attacks on Iraqi territory, calling on all countries to respect Iraq's sovereignty.
The coalition affirmed its support for government efforts aimed at conducting bilateral dialogue with the international coalition to redetermine the relationship, with the end of its unique mission to assist Iraq in its war against the terrorist organization.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein discussed Spain's role in the international coalition with his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Albares Bueno.
Spain is part of the US-led international coalition tasked with training and advising the Iraqi security forces in their fight against ISIS.
During a joint press conference at the Iraqi Foreign Ministry headquarters in Baghdad, Hussein explained that the Spanish soldiers helped Iraq In its war against ISIS.
He valued Spain's role as a member of the NATO mission and assisting the Iraqi forces.
For his part, the Spanish minister said they discussed military attacks targeting Spanish bases, adding that the two parties will hold meetings with military officials in Baghdad to discuss protecting the military forces.
- Approval after rejection
Earlier, local media reported that Washington had yet to respond to Iraq's request regarding the activation of the bilateral committee to begin the US withdrawal from Iraq, which Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al-Sudani had announced on Jan. 04.
Sudani chaired a meeting of the Ministerial Council for National Security, during which the latest developments in the security situation in Iraq were discussed.
The talks focused on the recent attacks in Iraq, constituting a flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty. It emphasized taking all necessary political, diplomatic, and security measures to protect Iraq's sovereignty and preserve its security.
- Withdrawal scenario
Political science professor at al-Nahrain University Yassin al-Bakri stated that the timing of the message, its circumstances, and the way it was announced suggest that it includes strict definitions about the nature of the US presence in Iraq.
Bakri estimated that the US officials would demand clear and serious commitments regarding the protection of their advisors while holding the Iraqi government responsible for the security, political, and economic repercussions.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat that US demands mean Iraq may pay the price.
He explained that it was essential to consider how political forces would view a tense relationship with the US.
It is clear that there is no consensus on the withdrawal request, said the expert, noting that Sunnis and Kurds want the US forces to remain in Iraq, and there are parties within the Coordination Framework that understand the repercussions of this move.
He explained that the conflict now is between the concept of "state and non-state," linking the domestic interest with the repercussions of the escalation in Iran.



Drone, Rocket Attacks Targeted US Forces in Iraq, US Officials Say

An aerial file photo taken from a helicopter shows Ain al-Asad air base in the western Anbar desert, Iraq, December 29, 2019. (AP)
An aerial file photo taken from a helicopter shows Ain al-Asad air base in the western Anbar desert, Iraq, December 29, 2019. (AP)
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Drone, Rocket Attacks Targeted US Forces in Iraq, US Officials Say

An aerial file photo taken from a helicopter shows Ain al-Asad air base in the western Anbar desert, Iraq, December 29, 2019. (AP)
An aerial file photo taken from a helicopter shows Ain al-Asad air base in the western Anbar desert, Iraq, December 29, 2019. (AP)

US forces in Iraq and Syria faced two separate rocket and explosive drone attacks in less than 24 hours, Iraqi security sources and US officials told Reuters on Monday, the first reported after a near three-month pause.

At least one armed drone was launched at the Ain al-Asad air base that hosts US troops in the western Iraqi province of Anbar, a US official said.

That followed five rockets fired from northern Iraq towards US forces at a base in Rumalyn in remote northeastern Syria, on Sunday, according to US and Iraqi officials.

There were no reports of casualties or significant damage from the drone attacks.

On Saturday, a massive explosion at a military base in Iraq killed a member of an Iraqi security force that includes Iran-backed groups.

The force commander said it was an attack while the army said it was investigating and that there were no warplanes in the sky at the time. The US. military denied involvement.

Near-daily rocket and drone strikes on US forces began in mid-October and were claimed by a group of Iran-backed Shiite armed groups known as the so-called “Islamic Resistance in Iraq”, who cited US backing for Israel's war in Gaza.

The attacks stopped in late January under pressure from Iraqi authorities and Iran, following deadly US retaliatory airstrikes in Iraq, after three US soldiers were killed in a drone strike on a small base on the Iraqi-Jordanian border.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani returned at the weekend from a week-long visit to the United States where he met President Joe Biden in an effort to turn a new page in US-Iraqi relations despite soaring regional tensions.

The US invaded Iraq in 2003 and toppled longtime leader Saddam Hussein, withdrawing in 2011 before returning in 2014 at the head of an international military coalition at the Baghdad government's request to help fight ISIS extremists.

The US has some 2,500 troops in Iraq and 900 in eastern Syria on an advise-and-assist mission.


Israeli Military Intelligence Chief Resigns over Failure to Prevent Oct. 7 Attack

Hostages who were abducted by Hamas gunmen during the October 7 attack on Israel are handed over by Hamas to the International Red Cross, as part of a hostages-prisoners swap deal between Hamas and Israel amid a temporary truce, in an unknown location in the Gaza Strip, November 24, 2023. Hamas Military Wing/Handout via REUTERS
Hostages who were abducted by Hamas gunmen during the October 7 attack on Israel are handed over by Hamas to the International Red Cross, as part of a hostages-prisoners swap deal between Hamas and Israel amid a temporary truce, in an unknown location in the Gaza Strip, November 24, 2023. Hamas Military Wing/Handout via REUTERS
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Israeli Military Intelligence Chief Resigns over Failure to Prevent Oct. 7 Attack

Hostages who were abducted by Hamas gunmen during the October 7 attack on Israel are handed over by Hamas to the International Red Cross, as part of a hostages-prisoners swap deal between Hamas and Israel amid a temporary truce, in an unknown location in the Gaza Strip, November 24, 2023. Hamas Military Wing/Handout via REUTERS
Hostages who were abducted by Hamas gunmen during the October 7 attack on Israel are handed over by Hamas to the International Red Cross, as part of a hostages-prisoners swap deal between Hamas and Israel amid a temporary truce, in an unknown location in the Gaza Strip, November 24, 2023. Hamas Military Wing/Handout via REUTERS

The head of Israel's military intelligence directorate resigned on Monday over the failures surrounding Hamas' unprecedented Oct. 7 attack, the military said, becoming the first senior figure to step down over his role in the deadliest assault in Israel's history.
Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva's resignation sets the stage for what's expected to be more fallout from Israel's top security brass over Hamas' attack, when Hamas blasted through Israel's border defenses, rampaged through Israeli communities unchallenged for hours and killed 1,200 people, most civilians, while taking roughly 250 hostages into Gaza. That attack set off the war against Hamas in Gaza, now in its seventh month.
Shortly after the war, Haliva had publicly said that he shouldered blame for not preventing the assault as the head of the military department responsible for providing the government and the military with intelligence warnings and daily alerts.
The military said in the statement that the military chief of staff accepted Haliva’s request to resign and thanked him for his service.
While Haliva and others have accepted blame for failing to stop the attack, others have stopped short, most notably Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said he will answer tough questions about his role but has not outright acknowledged direct responsibility for allowing the attack to unfold. He has also not indicated that he will step down.
The Hamas attack, which came on a Jewish holiday, caught Israel and its vaunted security establishment entirely off guard. Israelis' sense of faith in their military — seen by most Jews as one of the country's most trustworthy institutions — was shattered in the face of Hamas' onslaught.
The attack set off the devastating war that has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to local health officials, at least two-thirds of them children and women.
It has devastated Gaza’s two largest cities, and driven 80% of the territory’s population to flee to other parts of the besieged coastal enclave. The war has sparked a humanitarian catastrophe that has drawn warnings of imminent famine.
The attack also sent shock waves through the region. Tensions have rocked the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as well as cities and towns within Israel itself.


Iraq's Kataib Hezbollah Denies Saying It Resumes Attacks on US Forces

A member of Iraqi security forces is seen at Ain al-Asad airbase in the Anbar province, Iraq December 29, 2019. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani/File Photo
A member of Iraqi security forces is seen at Ain al-Asad airbase in the Anbar province, Iraq December 29, 2019. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani/File Photo
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Iraq's Kataib Hezbollah Denies Saying It Resumes Attacks on US Forces

A member of Iraqi security forces is seen at Ain al-Asad airbase in the Anbar province, Iraq December 29, 2019. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani/File Photo
A member of Iraqi security forces is seen at Ain al-Asad airbase in the Anbar province, Iraq December 29, 2019. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani/File Photo

Iraqi armed faction Kataib Hezbollah has denied issuing a statement saying it had resumed attacks on US forces, a statement from the group issued on the Telegram messaging app said. 

The denial came hours after a post circulated on groups thought to be affiliated with the Iran-backed armed faction that declared a resumption in the attacks some three months after they were suspended. 

Kataib Hezbollah described that as "fabricated news". 

On Sunday at least five rockets were launched from Iraq's town of Zummar towards a US military base in northeastern Syria, two Iraqi security sources and a US official told Reuters. 

The attack against US forces is the first since early February when Iranian-backed groups in Iraq stopped their attacks against US troops. 


2 Suspects Arrested after Car Attack in Jerusalem

A woman holds a poster bearing the image of 43-year-old Israeli hostage Dror Or as relatives and supporters of hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attacks block the Ayalon highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem near Latrun with burning barrels, during a protest calling for their release on April 19, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
A woman holds a poster bearing the image of 43-year-old Israeli hostage Dror Or as relatives and supporters of hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attacks block the Ayalon highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem near Latrun with burning barrels, during a protest calling for their release on April 19, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
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2 Suspects Arrested after Car Attack in Jerusalem

A woman holds a poster bearing the image of 43-year-old Israeli hostage Dror Or as relatives and supporters of hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attacks block the Ayalon highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem near Latrun with burning barrels, during a protest calling for their release on April 19, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
A woman holds a poster bearing the image of 43-year-old Israeli hostage Dror Or as relatives and supporters of hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attacks block the Ayalon highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem near Latrun with burning barrels, during a protest calling for their release on April 19, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Israeli police said they have arrested two people after a car slammed into pedestrians in Jerusalem on Monday, lightly wounding three.
Footage of the incident taken by a CCTV camera and aired by Israeli media showed a car plowing into three ultra-Orthodox Jews, sending at least two flying over the dashboard, The Associated Press said.
Palestinians have carried out periodic attacks on Israeli cities and towns since the country’s war against Hamas began on Oct. 7. During that time, violence has surged in the West Bank.
Also Monday, Palestinian civil defense in Gaza said it had found 210 bodies on the grounds of a Khan Younis hospital, and Israel's chief of military intelligence resigned over the failure to prevent the Oct. 7 attack, the first senior official to do so.
The conflict, now in its seventh month, has sparked regional unrest pitting Israel and the US against Iran and allied militant groups across the Middle East. Israel and Iran traded fire directly this month, raising fears of all-out war.
The war was sparked by the unprecedented Oct. 7 raid into southern Israel in which Hamas and other militants killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250 hostages. Israel says Hamas is still holding around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.
The Israel-Hamas war has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials, at least two-thirds of them children and women. It has devastated Gaza’s two largest cities and left a swath of destruction. Around 80% of the territory’s population have fled to other parts of the besieged coastal enclave.
The US House of Representatives approved a $26 billion aid package on Saturday that includes around $9 billion in humanitarian assistance for Gaza, which experts say is on the brink of famine, as well as billions for Israel. The US Senate could pass the package as soon as Tuesday, and President Joe Biden has promised to sign it immediately.


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.


Türkiye’s Erdogan in Iraq to Push for Reset of Ties, Cooperation against PKK 

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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Türkiye’s Erdogan in Iraq to Push for Reset of Ties, Cooperation against PKK 

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)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan began a rare visit to Iraq on Monday aiming to reset ties between the Middle East neighbors by inking a raft of deals covering security cooperation against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants, energy and trade. 

His long-awaited visit is the first by a Turkish leader since 2011 and follows years of rocky relations as Ankara ramped up cross-border operations against the PKK based in mainly Kurdish, mountainous northern Iraq. 

Iraq has said such operations violate its sovereignty and have killed civilians, but Türkiye says it must protect itself against the PKK, which it, the US and others have designated as a terrorist group. 

Türkiye plans a new swoop on the militants this spring and has sought Iraqi military cooperation, in the form of a joint operations room, as well as recognition by Baghdad that the PKK poses a threat to Türkiye. 

Cooperation on big economic projects are also on the table. 

Iraq last year launched a $17 billion Development Road project which seeks to turn the country into a transit hub, connecting Asia and Europe with a link between Iraq's Grand Faw Port in the oil-rich south and Türkiye in the north. 

Baghdad is also seeking a deal to secure a larger share of water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, both of which originate in Türkiye and constitute the main source of freshwater in drought-stricken Iraq. 

Iraqi and Turkish officials said more than 20 memorandums of understanding would be signed during Erdogan's one-day visit. 

Bilateral trade was worth $19.9 billion in 2023, down from $24.2 billion in 2022, according to official Turkish data. In the first three months of 2024, exports to Iraq rose by 24.5%, while imports have fallen by 46.2%. 

"The visit comes after nearly a year of preparations by both sides tackling the longstanding issues that complicated the relationship in the past," said Farhad Alaaldin, foreign affairs adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani. 

Erdogan is set to meet Sudani and President Abdul Latif Rashid in Baghdad, then head to Erbil, the provincial capital of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, to meet with Iraqi Kurdish officials. 

The PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984 and more than 40,000 people have been killed since then. 

The conflict was long fought mainly in rural areas of southeastern Türkiye but is now more focused across the border in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan. 

Türkiye has, since 2019, conducted a series of cross-border operations in northern Iraq against the PKK dubbed "Claw". 


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.