Israel: UN Agency Boss Should Quit over Hamas 'Tunnel' under Gaza HQ

UN premises are considered "inviolable" in international law and immune from "search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference" © JACK GUEZ / AFP
UN premises are considered "inviolable" in international law and immune from "search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference" © JACK GUEZ / AFP
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Israel: UN Agency Boss Should Quit over Hamas 'Tunnel' under Gaza HQ

UN premises are considered "inviolable" in international law and immune from "search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference" © JACK GUEZ / AFP
UN premises are considered "inviolable" in international law and immune from "search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference" © JACK GUEZ / AFP

Israel's foreign minister called Saturday for the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees to quit, following Israeli claims that a Hamas tunnel had been discovered under its evacuated Gaza City headquarters.

Israel Katz dismissed UNRWA commissioner general Philippe Lazzarini's claim that he was unaware of its presence as "not only absurd but also an affront to common sense".

"His prompt resignation is imperative," he wrote on X, formerly Twitter, AFP reported.

Lazzarini, already under pressure after Israel claimed some UNRWA staff were involved in the October 7 Hamas attack, said the agency had not operated from the compound since October 12.

Instead he called for an independent investigation.

Hamas has previously denied Israeli claims that it has dug an extensive network of tunnels under schools, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure as cover for its activities.

Israel's army and the Shin Bet security agency said operations in Gaza City in recent weeks had led to the discovery of a "tunnel shaft" near a school run by the humanitarian agency.

"The shaft led to an underground terror tunnel that served as a significant asset of Hamas's military intelligence and passed under the building that serves as UNRWA's main headquarters in the Gaza Strip," they added in a statement.

"Electrical infrastructure" in the tunnel -- 700 metres (765 yards) long and 18 metres underground -- "connected" to the agency's HQ, "indicating that UNRWA's facilities supplied the tunnel with electricity", they said.

Documents and a stash of weapons in the UN compound itself "confirmed that the offices had in fact also been used by Hamas terrorists", the joint statement said.

Katz claimed the discovery showed UNRWA's "deep involvement" with Hamas.

UN premises are considered "inviolable" in international law and immune from "search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference".

Lazzarini wrote on X that its staff were forced to leave its Gaza City compound under instruction from Israeli forces as bombardment intensified in the area and had not returned.

"We have not used that compound since we left it nor are we aware of any activity that may have taken place there," he added.

The compound was last inspected in September 2023, he said.

Any suspicious "cavity" found near or under any UNRWA premises was previously reported to the authorities in Hamas-controlled Gaza and the Israelis, and also made public, he said.

The latest claims "merit an independent inquiry that is currently not possible to undertake given Gaza is an active war zone", he added.

"The Israeli authorities have not informed UNRWA officially about the alleged tunnel." Instead the agency learned about it from media reports, he said.

The UN has launched two separate probes into UNRWA, the first into Israeli claims that 12 of its staff may have participated on October 7, and the other a review of its overall political neutrality.

UN chief Antonio Guterres has spoken out in defense of the agency, calling it the "backbone" of Gaza aid.

So too has US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said it played an "absolutely indispensable role in trying to make sure that men, women and children who so desperately need assistance in Gaza actually get it."



Israel Demolishes West Bank Home of Palestinian Accused of Attack

The debris of the Nablus house of Moaz al-Masry, a Palestinian accused of a deadly attack against Israeli settlers - Reuters
The debris of the Nablus house of Moaz al-Masry, a Palestinian accused of a deadly attack against Israeli settlers - Reuters
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Israel Demolishes West Bank Home of Palestinian Accused of Attack

The debris of the Nablus house of Moaz al-Masry, a Palestinian accused of a deadly attack against Israeli settlers - Reuters
The debris of the Nablus house of Moaz al-Masry, a Palestinian accused of a deadly attack against Israeli settlers - Reuters

Israeli troops on Monday blew up the home of a Palestinian accused of killing a British-Israeli woman and her two daughters in the occupied West Bank last year.

The apartment of Moaz al-Masry, who was killed by Israeli forces following the April 7 attack, was demolished in the early hours, Palestinian witnesses and the Israeli military told AFP.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said their medics treated about 15 people after Israeli forces fired tear gas during the raid on the West Bank city of Nablus.

Masry, along with two other attackers, was accused of shooting dead Israeli settler Leah Dee and her daughters Maia and Rina as they were driving near Hamra in the Jordan Valley.

Following a manhunt, the assailants were killed in a military raid on Nablus in May.

Troops overnight into Monday stormed the Al-Makhfiya neighbourhood in Nablus and surrounded Masry's house, a witness told AFP.

Israel routinely demolishes the homes of Palestinians accused of carrying out attacks, arguing that such measures act as a deterrent, while critics say it amounts to collective punishment.

The Red Crescent told AFP they had evacuated multiple residents, including children, from the building housing Masry's apartment.

Violence in the West Bank had flared even before the war in the Gaza Strip between Hamas militants and Israel erupted on October 7.

Since the war broke out, at least 420 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank by Israeli troops and settlers, according to the Palestinian health ministry based in Ramallah.

The latest fatality was 16-year-old Mustafa Abu Shalbak, who the ministry said was shot before dawn on Monday by Israeli forces near Ramallah.

Residents said Israeli forces came under fire as they raided a home in Amari refugee camp.

An AFP photographer saw troops marching two blindfolded Palestinians through a street, while multiple soldiers pointed their weapons at surrounding buildings.

The military said it carried out a "counter-terrorism operation" at the camp and apprehended two wanted suspects.

"During the operation, a violent riot developed, in which suspects hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli security forces, who responded with live fire. A hit was identified," the military said in a statement.

During the violence an Israeli border police officer was also lightly injured, it added.

In recent months Palestinian militants have also carried out numerous attacks against Israeli troops and civilians in Israel and the West Bank, killing at least 17 people, according to Israeli figures.

Israel has occupied the West Bank -- including east Jerusalem, which it later unilaterally annexed -- since the Arab-Israeli war of 1967.

Israeli settlements which are illegal under international law have ballooned over the decades and are seen as a key barrier to peace with the Palestinians.


UN Rights Chief: Gaza 'Powder Keg' Could Spark Wider War

Palestinians inspect damages following an Israeli raid at Kamal Adwan hospital, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian group Hamas, in the northern Gaza Strip December 16, 2023. REUTERS/Fadi Alwhidifa
Palestinians inspect damages following an Israeli raid at Kamal Adwan hospital, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian group Hamas, in the northern Gaza Strip December 16, 2023. REUTERS/Fadi Alwhidifa
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UN Rights Chief: Gaza 'Powder Keg' Could Spark Wider War

Palestinians inspect damages following an Israeli raid at Kamal Adwan hospital, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian group Hamas, in the northern Gaza Strip December 16, 2023. REUTERS/Fadi Alwhidifa
Palestinians inspect damages following an Israeli raid at Kamal Adwan hospital, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian group Hamas, in the northern Gaza Strip December 16, 2023. REUTERS/Fadi Alwhidifa

The Gaza war between Israel and Hamas is a "powder keg" with the potential to spark broader conflict in the Middle East, UN human rights chief Volker Turk said on Monday.

"The war in Gaza has already generated dangerous spillover in neighbouring countries, and I am deeply concerned that in this powder keg, any spark could lead to a much broader conflagration. This would have implications for every country in the Middle East and many beyond it," Turk said in his global update to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

He stressed that it was imperative to avoid any exacerbation of the war in Gaza, warning that any conflagration could have broad repercussions across the Middle East and beyond the region.

Turk also described the military escalation in southern Lebanon between Israel, Hezbollah and other armed groups as "extremely worrying".

"It is imperative to do everything possible to avoid a wider conflagration," he said.

The Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah and Israel have been locked in hostilities for months in parallel to the Gaza war. It has marked the worst conflict between them since 2006.

The Gaza war began when Hamas stormed Israel on Oct. 7 in an attack that killed 1,200 people and resulted in another 253 being abducted, according to Israeli tallies.

The attack drew an Israeli offensive in Hamas-run Gaza. Health authorities in the enclave say more than 30,000 Palestinians have been confirmed killed during the offensive.

Turk said last week that war crimes had been committed by all parties in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. They should be investigated and those responsible be held accountable, he said.


Yemen’s Environmental Chief to Asharq Al-Awsat: We Urge Swift Action for Sinking 'Rubymar'

A satellite image of the British ship targeted by the Houthis in the Red Sea (AFP)
A satellite image of the British ship targeted by the Houthis in the Red Sea (AFP)
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Yemen’s Environmental Chief to Asharq Al-Awsat: We Urge Swift Action for Sinking 'Rubymar'

A satellite image of the British ship targeted by the Houthis in the Red Sea (AFP)
A satellite image of the British ship targeted by the Houthis in the Red Sea (AFP)

With limited resources, the Yemeni government is racing against time to tackle an environmental crisis caused by the sinking of the UK-registered ship “Rubymar” in the Red Sea.

The sinking of the Rubymar, which carried a cargo of fertilizer and oils and previously leaked fuel, could cause ecological damage to the Red Sea and its coral reefs, according to the head of Yemen’s General Authority for Environmental Protection, Faisal Al-Thalabi.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Yemen’s environmental chief revealed that the sunken ship “holds 200 tons of diesel and 80 tons of mazut (fuel oil), both highly dangerous.”

“These substances will seriously harm the Red Sea's unique wildlife and pollute nearby shores and islands,” warned Al-Thalabi.

“The attack on the ship by the Iran-backed Houthi group caused its sinking, complicating rescue efforts,” he added.

The Belize-flagged Rubymar had been drifting northward after being struck by a Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile on February 18 in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a crucial waterway linking the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Al-Thalabi cautioned that the environmental damage from the sunken ship will spread to both surface and nearby groundwater wells near the pollution sites.

Desalination plants, which rely on seawater for drinking water in islands or nearby areas, will also be affected.

Al-Thalabi explained that besides fuel leakage, the marine environment will also be contaminated by phosphate and sulfur fertilizers reacting with seawater.

This reaction releases sulfur and phosphorus ions, reducing oxygen levels and harming marine biodiversity.

Al-Thalabi pointed out that sea pollution will fuel algae growth, depleting oxygen and blocking sunlight for marine life.

He emphasized that these substances, leaking into the seas or sewage systems, harm both the environment and human health.

Government Action

Regarding what actions the government can take with limited resources, Al-Thalabi noted the government recently forming a crisis team, which has taken various measures.

The measures include tracking the ship’s owner and flag state and urging its retrieval.

“Unfortunately, these calls haven’t received responses yet,” said Al-Thalabi.

“Simultaneously, the state has taken urgent steps. A team was sent to inspect the ship, and a contract was made with a specialized company for its salvage,” he added.

According to Al-Thalabi, meetings were held with relief organizations, the United Nations, the International Maritime Organization, and others.

“An appeal was made, highlighting the urgent need for assistance in finding solutions to the challenging situation,” he explained.

The Yemeni official stressed that while the government’s crisis cell is always active, the urgency for immediate solutions has intensified following the ship’s sinking.

Regarding the immediate response to the sinking, Al-Thalabi explained that authorities have enacted a plan, including worst-case scenarios, monitoring coastal areas with the Maritime Affairs Authority cooperating with various groups.

Regarding the possibility of the ship’s hull breaking, causing the sinking, Al-Thalabi suggested this might be a factor due to possible damage from the Houthi missile strike.

However, confirmation requires specialized teams to assess the seabed, which has been delayed due to adverse weather conditions, clarified Al-Thalabi.

He mentioned that a team from the Maritime Affairs Authority, tasked with combating marine pollution, went to the Port of Mokha. After their mission, the crisis cell will have full information in the coming two days.

Urgent Call to Action

With growing concerns about the disastrous environmental impact of the shipwreck, Yemen’s Prime Minister has urged swift international action to address the situation.

During a meeting with US Ambassador Steven Fagin in Riyadh, Prime Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak warned of a major environmental catastrophe caused by the sinking of the ship.

The premier emphasized the need for international cooperation, urging the formation of an emergency team to rescue the Red Sea and tackle the environmental crisis.


Israel Carries Out Biggest Ramallah Raid in Years, Witnesses Say 

Israeli troops raid the Al-Amari refugee camp near Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, on March 4, 2024. (AFP)
Israeli troops raid the Al-Amari refugee camp near Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, on March 4, 2024. (AFP)
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Israel Carries Out Biggest Ramallah Raid in Years, Witnesses Say 

Israeli troops raid the Al-Amari refugee camp near Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, on March 4, 2024. (AFP)
Israeli troops raid the Al-Amari refugee camp near Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, on March 4, 2024. (AFP)

Israeli forces swept into the Palestinians' administrative capital of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank overnight, killing a 16-year-old in a refugee camp during their biggest raid into the city in years, Palestinian sources said on Monday.

Witnesses in Ramallah said Israeli forces had driven dozens of military vehicles into the city, which is the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Palestinian health ministry said Israeli forces shot and killed 16-year-old Mustafa Abu Shalbak while raiding the Al-Amari refugee camp.

The Palestinian news agency WAFA said confrontations broke out as Israeli forces stormed the camp, "during which live bullets were fired at Palestinian youths", wounding Abu Shalbak in the neck and chest.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Violence has surged across the West Bank in parallel to the Gaza war, with at least 400 Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers and settlers, and Israel regularly raiding Palestinian areas across the territory it occupied in 1967.

Israeli forces also tore up a main road in the West Bank city of Tulkarm during a raid there, witnesses said.

WAFA also reported that Israeli forces had stormed the West Bank city of Nablus, and blew up the home of a man previously accused by Israel of carrying out an attack in which a British-Israeli mother and her two daughters were killed in April in the West Bank.

The man, Moaz al-Masri, was killed by Israeli forces in Nablus last May.

Israeli forces detained at least 55 Palestinians in raids across the West Bank overnight, according to The Palestinian Prisoners Club.


Iraq’s Kurdistan Region to Hold Election on June 10 

President of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, Nechirvan Barzani pays his respects to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, following her death, during her lying in state at Westminster Hall, in Westminster Palace, in London, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (AP) 
President of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, Nechirvan Barzani pays his respects to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, following her death, during her lying in state at Westminster Hall, in Westminster Palace, in London, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (AP) 
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Iraq’s Kurdistan Region to Hold Election on June 10 

President of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, Nechirvan Barzani pays his respects to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, following her death, during her lying in state at Westminster Hall, in Westminster Palace, in London, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (AP) 
President of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, Nechirvan Barzani pays his respects to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, following her death, during her lying in state at Westminster Hall, in Westminster Palace, in London, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (AP) 

The semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq will hold parliamentary elections on June 10, the regional presidency said in a statement on Sunday.

Iraqi Kurdistan President Nechirvan Barzani issued a decree on Sunday and approved the date, said the statement.

The vote should elect both a parliament and a president for Kurdish regions which have gained self-rule in 1991.


CENTCOM: Kurilla, Egypt Army Discussed Gaza Humanitarian Aid

In this image obtained from the US Department of Defense, US service members load pallets of humanitarian aid onto a cargo aircraft at an undisclosed location in preparation for an airdrop over Gaza, on March 1, 2024. (Photo by Stephanie SQUIRES / US Department of Defense / AFP)
In this image obtained from the US Department of Defense, US service members load pallets of humanitarian aid onto a cargo aircraft at an undisclosed location in preparation for an airdrop over Gaza, on March 1, 2024. (Photo by Stephanie SQUIRES / US Department of Defense / AFP)
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CENTCOM: Kurilla, Egypt Army Discussed Gaza Humanitarian Aid

In this image obtained from the US Department of Defense, US service members load pallets of humanitarian aid onto a cargo aircraft at an undisclosed location in preparation for an airdrop over Gaza, on March 1, 2024. (Photo by Stephanie SQUIRES / US Department of Defense / AFP)
In this image obtained from the US Department of Defense, US service members load pallets of humanitarian aid onto a cargo aircraft at an undisclosed location in preparation for an airdrop over Gaza, on March 1, 2024. (Photo by Stephanie SQUIRES / US Department of Defense / AFP)

US Central Command Commander Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla has discussed with the Egyptian 2nd Field Army and representatives from several international and nongovernmental organizations the process of delivering humanitarian aid from Egypt into Gaza, CENTCOM said in a statement on Monday.

It said Kurilla visited Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Israel to better understand the security and humanitarian situation and meet with US service members and security partners.

“On Feb. 27, Kurilla traveled to Al Arish and Rafah Gate in Egypt where he met with representatives from several international and nongovernmental organizations, the Egyptian 2nd Field Army, and US embassy leadership to discuss the process of delivering humanitarian aid from Egypt into Gaza. The administrators described the challenges, opportunities, and level of support from the international community to increase the throughput of supplies into Gaza,” said the statement.

The next day, Kurilla visited Jordan where he met with the Jordanian Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Maj. Gen. Yousef Alhnaity, his staff, and other leaders to discuss the Israel-Hamas war, Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, and regional security.

Discussions also focused on opportunities to increase aid into Gaza to address the humanitarian crisis.

On Feb. 28 and 29, Kurilla visited CENTCOM military facilities in Jordan and Syria.

While in Syria, he visited al-Roj and al-Hol displaced persons camps where he met with administrators and dozens of inhabitants to discuss repatriation, rehabilitation, and reintegration of both ISIS detainees and conflict-affected residents. More than 45,000 displaced persons are in both al Roj and al Hol, and over 9,000 ISIS detainees are in Syria.

From Feb. 28 to Mar. 2., Kurilla traveled to Israel and met with Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant, the Chief of the Israeli General Staff, Herzi Halevi, and members of the Israeli army staff.

“The three had wide-ranging discussions on security concerns both within and outside of Israel. The conversations also focused on opportunities to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza,” said the statement.

"This was my 27th trip to the CENTCOM region and every one of these trips allows me to gain a deeper understanding of the security challenges and opportunities as well as the unique perspectives that cannot be attained over the phone or through a video teleconference," said Kurilla.

"These are challenging times in the CENTCOM region, and we rely on the professionalism, commitment and competence of our Service-members as well as the strength of our relationships with our partners to solve them,” he added.


Iraq Launches Operation against ISIS West of Baghdad

An Iraqi army helicopter and military vehicles are seen in the desert west of Baghdad. (Joint Operations Command)
An Iraqi army helicopter and military vehicles are seen in the desert west of Baghdad. (Joint Operations Command)
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Iraq Launches Operation against ISIS West of Baghdad

An Iraqi army helicopter and military vehicles are seen in the desert west of Baghdad. (Joint Operations Command)
An Iraqi army helicopter and military vehicles are seen in the desert west of Baghdad. (Joint Operations Command)

Iraq’s Joint Operations Command announced on Sunday the launch of a major operation to crack down on ISIS in the al-Anbar desert west of Baghdad.

In a statement, the Joint Operations command media center said the operation will include units from the al-Jazira, Anbar and Karbala provinces.

Forces from the Defense and Interior Ministries, Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and anti-terrorism agency will take part in the mission.

The statement added that the operation was being carried out based on intelligence information about terrorism activity in the desert region.

The security units have prepared their plans, which are aimed at defeating the remnants of the ISIS terrorist group and destroying their hideouts, it stressed.

PMF operations commander in the Anbar province Qassem Mosleh said the operation is the largest to be carried out by Iraqi forces in the western desert.

It aims to defeat terrorist plots in Anbar, bolster security and stability and pursue terrorist ISIS remnants, he continued in a statement.

He confirmed intelligence reports that spoke of ISIS activity aimed at undermining security in Anbar.


Rai Refuses Involving ‘Our People’ in South Lebanon in War

Smoke rises from the village of Arab El Louaizeh southern Lebanon following Israeli shelling, as seen from the Israeli side of the border, 03 March 2024. EPA/ATEF SAFADI
Smoke rises from the village of Arab El Louaizeh southern Lebanon following Israeli shelling, as seen from the Israeli side of the border, 03 March 2024. EPA/ATEF SAFADI
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Rai Refuses Involving ‘Our People’ in South Lebanon in War

Smoke rises from the village of Arab El Louaizeh southern Lebanon following Israeli shelling, as seen from the Israeli side of the border, 03 March 2024. EPA/ATEF SAFADI
Smoke rises from the village of Arab El Louaizeh southern Lebanon following Israeli shelling, as seen from the Israeli side of the border, 03 March 2024. EPA/ATEF SAFADI

Political divisions in Lebanon over the five-month escalating war in the South of the country between Hezbollah and Israel intensified lately.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai refused on Sunday to involve the people of south Lebanon in a war they have nothing to do with.
“The Lebanese and our people in south Lebanon have nothing to do with it,” said Rai in his Sunday sermon.
Replying to Rai’s remarks, Jaafarite Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Qabalan said: “Lebanon’s sovereignty, yesterday and today, is up to what the people of the south decide”.
The recent positions come amid a planned visit by US envoy Amos Hochstein to Beirut on Monday.
The US envoy is expected to meet with Lebanese officials as part of efforts to appease the situation on the Israel-Lebanon border.
Lebanese sources familiar with European positions towards Lebanon said that diplomatic western efforts are pushing in the same direction to prevent the situation from escalating into a war in Lebanon.
“In Lebanon, no one should drive our country into war, destruction, killing and displacement. It is useless to involve the Lebanese in general, and our people in the south in particular, in matters of no concern to them”, said Rai in his sermon.
For his part, Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Bishop of Beirut Elias Aude cautioned against the expansion of the Israeli war into Lebanon.
“We all know that our enemy is criminal and vicious, no humanity or conscience can stop it”, said Aude, adding that Lebanon can not bear the brutality of Israel’s crimes.
MP Ali Fayyad of Hezbollah Loyalty to the Resistance parliamentary bloc said on Sunday: “Our right for resistance remains unquestionable as long as our presence is targeted (by Israel) and our land remains occupied...our duty is to respond to deter the enemy and restore security to our villages”.
Qabalan for his part said: “What the Resistance is doing on the southern Lebanese front is a sovereign necessity..maintaining silence through it is a crime”.


Italy Becomes Third European Country to Counter Houthi Attacks in Red Sea 

An Italian destroyer is seen in the Red Sea as part of the European mission to counter Houthi attacks. (Italian military)
An Italian destroyer is seen in the Red Sea as part of the European mission to counter Houthi attacks. (Italian military)
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Italy Becomes Third European Country to Counter Houthi Attacks in Red Sea 

An Italian destroyer is seen in the Red Sea as part of the European mission to counter Houthi attacks. (Italian military)
An Italian destroyer is seen in the Red Sea as part of the European mission to counter Houthi attacks. (Italian military)

An Italian navy destroyer shot down a drone that was approaching it in the Red Sea, where Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi militias are attacking shipping, the defense ministry said on Sunday.  

"In accordance with the principle of legitimate defense, the ship Duilio shot down a drone in the Red Sea" on Saturday, the ministry said in a statement.  

"The drone, bearing similar features to those already used in previous attacks, was located six kilometers (about four miles) from the Italian ship and was flying towards it," it added.  

The Houthis say they are attacking Israeli-linked shipping in solidarity with war-torn Gaza, where Israel is battling Palestinian Hamas militants in a war that has roiled the region since erupting on October 7. 

Defense Minister Guido Crosetto said the Houthi attacks were part of a strategy of hybrid warfare against some countries. 

"The Houthi terrorist attacks are a serious violation of international law and an attack on the security of the maritime traffic on which our economy depends," he said. 

In February, the European Union launched a naval mission to the Red Sea, dubbed Eunavfor Aspides, to protect shipping in the area. Italy said it would supply the admiral in command for the mission. 

Last week, a German warship shot down two drones in the Red Sea. The German navy frigate Hessen, which was deployed earlier this month to the region, shot the drones down within 20 minutes of each one being fired, a defense ministry spokesperson told a news briefing, declining comment on the target of the projectiles. 

During a visit to Canada, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni defended her country’s participation in the naval mission. A third of Italy’s exports pass through the Bab al-Mandeb Strait that lies between the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. 

The unrest has forced several companies to reroute shipments in the commercially vital waterway, driving up delivery times and costs.  

Key Israel ally the United States has led reprisal strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen in a bid to quash the attacks, creating an international force to protect shipping.  

'New tragedy'

Meanwhile, the Houthis vowed on Sunday to continue targeting British ships in the Gulf of Aden following the sinking of UK-owned vessel Rubymar. 

The US military confirmed on Saturday that the UK-owned vessel Rubymar had sunk after being struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile fired by the Houthis on February 18. 

"Yemen will continue to sink more British ships, and any repercussions or other damages will be added to Britain's bill," Hussein al-Ezzi, so-called deputy foreign minister in the illegitimate Houthi government, said in a post on X. 

"It is a rogue state that attacks Yemen and partners with America in sponsoring ongoing crimes against civilians in Gaza." 

The Houthis have repeatedly launched drones and missiles against international commercial shipping since mid-November. The US and Britain began striking Houthi targets in Yemen in January in retaliation for the attacks. 

The Belize-registered Rubymar is the first vessel lost since the Houthis began targeting commercial ships. 

Foreign Minister in the legitimate Yemeni government Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak said in a post on X: "The sinking of the Rubymar is an environmental catastrophe that Yemen and the region have never experienced before. 

"It is a new tragedy for our country and our people. Every day we pay the price for the adventures of the Houthi militia ..." 

Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi vowed that "surprises" were in store for the militias’ enemies. He boasted that the Houthis have so far fired 385 rockets and drones and targeted 54 ships, hitting eleven, since starting their attacks. 

The legitimate Yemeni government has slammed the attacks as an attempt by the Houthis to shirk their responsibilities towards peace. It also accused them of exploiting the war on Gaza to polish their image in Yemen and abroad. 

It has also said the western attacks against the Houthis were useless because the best way to deal with the threat lies in supporting its forces on the ground to reclaim institutions and liberate the Hodeidah province and its ports and other regions held by the Houthis. 

Western countries have so far carried out 300 raids against the Houthis in Sanaa, Hodeidah, Taiz, Hajjah, Saada and Dhamar. The militias have stressed that the attacks have not curbed their military capabilities. 


Cairo Holds Addis Ababa Responsible for Failure of GERD Talks

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry participated on Sunday in the joint consultative meeting with GCC foreign ministers in Riyadh (Egyptian Foreign Ministry)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry participated on Sunday in the joint consultative meeting with GCC foreign ministers in Riyadh (Egyptian Foreign Ministry)
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Cairo Holds Addis Ababa Responsible for Failure of GERD Talks

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry participated on Sunday in the joint consultative meeting with GCC foreign ministers in Riyadh (Egyptian Foreign Ministry)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry participated on Sunday in the joint consultative meeting with GCC foreign ministers in Riyadh (Egyptian Foreign Ministry)

The dispute over Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) returned Sunday to the frontline after Cairo held Addis Ababa responsible for the failure of the latest round of talks to reach an agreement on the operation of the dam.

Cairo’s position was backed by Gulf countries, which refused any action that infringes upon the rights of Egypt and Sudan in the Nile waters.

An Egyptian Foreign Ministry statement said Minister Sameh Shoukry briefed on Sunday his counterparts in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries on developments regarding GERD.

This came during Shoukry’s participation in the joint consultative meeting with GCC foreign ministers in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

Foreign Ministry Official Spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid said Shoukry spoke with GCC countries on Ethiopia’s s uncompromising approach that disregards principles of good neighborliness, leading Egypt to suspend its participation in the negotiations.

Last December, Egypt announced the failure of a round of negotiations on GERD. The talks - held between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia - were previously launched within the framework of the three countries’ agreement to accelerate the completion of the agreement on the rules for filling and operating the dam within four months.

At the time, Egypt’s Ministry of Irrigation said in a statement that the meeting held in Addis Ababa “did not yield any results due to Ethiopia's persistent refusal to accept any of the technical or legal compromise solutions that would safeguard the interests of all three countries.”

GERD has been under construction since 2011 on the Blue Nile, the main tributary of the Nile water.

During Sunday’s meeting in Riyadh, Secretary-General of the GCC Jassim Al-Bedaiwi affirmed that the water security of Egypt and Sudan is an integral part of Arab national security, expressing the Gulf countries' rejection of any action that infringes upon the rights of both countries in the Nile waters.

Dr. Amani El Taweel, director of the African Program at the Center for Al-Ahram Political and Strategic Studies, says the GCC support for Egypt will have a significant impact on the GERD negotiations.

She told Asharq Al-Awsat that the GCC rejection of any action that infringes upon the rights of Egypt in the Nile waters is a political message with implications on the Ethiopian administration.

She noted that Gulf countries have a political influence on Addis Ababa where they have large investments.