Votel to Asharq Al-Awsat: US Deterred Iran in Iraq, Syria… It Could in Yemen

A handout photo made available by German Armed Forces shows a C-130 of the bi-national German-French squadron “Rhein/Rhin” drops relief supplies over the Gaza Strip, 16 March 2024. (EPA/Sherifa Kaestner / German Armed Forces / Handout)
A handout photo made available by German Armed Forces shows a C-130 of the bi-national German-French squadron “Rhein/Rhin” drops relief supplies over the Gaza Strip, 16 March 2024. (EPA/Sherifa Kaestner / German Armed Forces / Handout)
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Votel to Asharq Al-Awsat: US Deterred Iran in Iraq, Syria… It Could in Yemen

A handout photo made available by German Armed Forces shows a C-130 of the bi-national German-French squadron “Rhein/Rhin” drops relief supplies over the Gaza Strip, 16 March 2024. (EPA/Sherifa Kaestner / German Armed Forces / Handout)
A handout photo made available by German Armed Forces shows a C-130 of the bi-national German-French squadron “Rhein/Rhin” drops relief supplies over the Gaza Strip, 16 March 2024. (EPA/Sherifa Kaestner / German Armed Forces / Handout)

The dire humanitarian situation in Gaza constitutes a major point of contention between the United States and Israel, General Joseph Votel, the former commander of the US Central Command, said in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, adding that Israel has eliminated 20 to 30 percent of Hamas so far.  

The four-star General said that the Houthis attacks against navigation in the Red Sea have become a “major problem.” He suggested an increase in the assets of the U.S. military in the region to make it “extremely painful” for the Houthis and Iran, to stop their attacks against the ships and international navigation in the Red Sea, noting that the United States recently “deterred” Iran from continuing its militia attacks in both Iraq and Syria against American forces and interests in the region.  

Votel said he believes that “there is no interest’ for Israel or Hezbollah in a full confrontation. He also expressed "concern" about the ongoing discussions regarding the withdrawal of American forces stationed in Iraq, which could also affect the presence of the US forces in Syria.  

Here is the full interview:  

* Let me start from the situation in Gaza, because the President tried to arrange for some ceasefire during Ramadan. Apparently, it's not the case. And probably that would have some implications from the military perspective, including on the US forces in the region. Your insights, please.  

I think everybody can agree that Israel needs to do what it needs to do to protect itself from the threat of Hamas, but I think a large part of the disagreement from our government standpoint is that the military operation does not seem to take into consideration the extreme humanitarian situation that is playing out on the ground.  

Nearly 80-90 percent of the population of Gaza has been displaced by this conflict, and a military operation while necessary, must also take place in the context of planning and coordinating and synchronizing with the humanitarian community to ensure that we don't we don't exacerbate the humanitarian situation and make things worse than they already are. So, I think this has been the major sticking point between the United States government and the government of Israel toward coming operations particularly in the southern part of Gaza in and around Rafah.  

Humanitarian challenge  

*If you were in the same position you were previously, and had the President needed your advice on the situation, what would say?

I think that some of the actions that we’ve seen by the administration reflects some of the advice that would be provided. For example, one of the things that I would try to emphasize is that we should do those things that are within our capacity to do, like delivering aid by air or by the sea. That's an appropriate thing for us to do. It helps demonstrate that we are attuned to the humanitarian situation, and we are trying to take measures to remedy it, and hopefully these means will provide a way to perhaps address the broader challenge of humanitarian issues in Gaza.

I think secondly, it's important to make sure that we are maintaining very good communications, not just with the Israelis, but with our other partners on the region, and across the region, to make sure that we are sharing best insights and then we are preserving relationships going forward. I am concerned that some of the political discourse that is taking place could be affecting some of the effectiveness of our military to military or intelligence community to intelligence community relationships. So, those are very important.  

Third, I would be encouraging the administration to be stronger against those activities that are outside of the Gaza area, for example, what's happening in the Red Sea. This has become a big problem.   

Not enough  

*While the US is trying to make some arrangements for humanitarian aid either by air or by sea, humanitarian organizations and the UN are saying that this is not enough to prevent famine. After five months of war, what has Benjamin Netanyahu have achieved other than this humanitarian crisis and the destruction of the strip?

I agree that airdrops of humanitarian food supplies are not going to be enough to address the problem. They are a start, and they will address some small portion of the problem. But again, the most effective way of addressing humanitarian situation will be to open up ground lines of communication, ground routes with non-government organizations, UN organizations, other humanitarian aid organizations who can be on the ground to distribute and make sure these materials get to the people that are needed, and can assess the progress we're making. So yes, I do agree what we are doing while it's necessary, it's insufficient to the to the need.

The over the shore option that we're not looking at for bringing up aid through a temporary port has the potential to have more impact. But again, it is just one other way of getting things in there. And there needs to be much more effort put into getting the right organizations on the ground to make sure the aid gets to where it is most needed. I agree with you that it is a humanitarian disaster.  

As to the leader of Israel, Mr. Netanyahu, my own personal opinion here is that what would they have accomplished so far, is they have removed a significant, or at least a good portion of Hamas' ability to effectively attack into Israel. They have neutralized a percentage of the of the Hamas fighters. I've seen estimates 20 to 30 percent.  

*Would you advise the President to put more pressure on Israel in order to try to alleviate this humanitarian disaster? This would have some military implications because the US is the main provider of arms to Israel.

I'm not sure I'm there on making a decision to stop providing all support to Israel. I'm not sure I'm there on that, or I would recommend that. I think the United States is putting a lot of pressure on the Israeli government, on the Prime Minister in particular. I mean War Cabinet Minister Benny Ganz was in Washington last week, and met with a number of our national leaders here. The President by the day has become more strident and more critical of the approach that the Netanyahu government is taking, to how they're conducting operations in Gaza.

I think it's important to keep that pressure up to try to change that. But I also think the United States has to continue to work, to connect all the different parties here, whether it is Hamas and in Israel to try to come to some kind of temporary or permanent ceasefire or some resolution of the hostage situation, or continuing to open up easier ways to get humanitarian aid into the people of Gaza. I think these are three areas where the United States should be continuing to push, and continuing to put pressure not just on Israel, but on Hamas and the backers of Hamas as well. I think it's important to make sure that we are putting equal pressure in all directions here.

Resistance Axis

*On the regional, or probably international dimensions of this conflict in the Red Sea. It seems to me, and probably this is silly to say, that the Houthis are happy that they are fighting America.

I think this is true. So far, the Houthis have derived more benefit by perpetrating these attacks than they have felt the effects of the pressure that we’ve put on them. While there have been a number of strikes that we have conducted and the British have conducted against coastal defense sites, against supply depots, against command and control nodes, they have not been to a level that has convinced the Houthis that they have more to lose than they have to gain by continuing to push these attacks and conduct these attacks. We've just seen waves and waves of them just over this last weekend, a lot of them launched at US military vessels that are operating in the Red Sea.  

So until we are able to do something that convinces the Houthis that the cost of continuing to have to take these attacks or launch these attacks, the cost associated that outweighs the benefit, they will likely continue to do this. And they are deriving a benefit from this. They are there in the news. They have had a significant impact on global shipping through the Red Sea; somewhere between 80 and 90 percent of it has stopped.  

They're being viewed as a group that is standing up against the United States and other Western powers, and they're being seen as a very good and loyal member of Iran's Axis of Resistance. So right now, all of these things are more beneficial to them than the cost associated with the strikes that we have done against them. So we either have to ramp things up and really go after this, and make it very painful for them and Iran who is supporting them, or we have to live with the fact that we're going to deal with these threats for a long time, for until the situation in Gaza is resolved.

*What is your main concern on the situation in the Red Sea for the time being?

 My main answer is that we have to go after the supplier routes and facilitation routes that are continuing to provide the Houthis with all the materials that they have. They’ve been getting these materials for years. So, they have a large supply on the ground. So, while we destroy some things, it's relatively easily replaced. If we want to stop this, we have to cut them off. And we have to go after those facilitators largely at the best of Iran, who are bringing materials into that country. We need to prevent them from doing that. And then in conjunction with our ongoing strike campaign, reduce their ability to launch these attacks. I think that's what we have to do. So that will require more resources. It'll require more focus, it'll likely require more combat to do that.  

These are all things that our government would weigh in when making a decision like this. But in order to address this effectively, we will have to commit more resources, and take more effort to shut this down completely, not just protect ourselves. Just shut down the ability of the Houthis to conduct these types of attacks.

Israel and Hezbollah

*And that might risk the US slipping into a war…

Well, it could. It would certainly require us to deploy more resources into the region that would draw get away from other things that are important to us, and likely could get us involved in more of a protracted conflict with the Houthis or, you know, maybe with Iran over something like this or others in the region. There are definitely risks that are associated with this, and as you know, there's risks involved in everything.  

*Another hot point is the border between Israel and Lebanon. And it's just simmering there, and we don't know what's going to happen in the in the near future, if the Gaza war doesn't stop.

My assessment is that both sides in this case the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Israeli government, neither of them want to have a confrontation along the northern border. That's in no one's interests. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah certainly remembers what happened there the last time when there was an Israeli incursion into Lebanon. The amount of destruction that resulted in, and the pressure that was put on him from the rest of the Lebanese government, and the broader population largely because of the policies that he was pursuing. There is no strong desire to do that.  

That said, Hezbollah will continue to hedge their bets, and they will continue to conduct harassing attacks to make it difficult for Israeli citizens to come back into their homes near the border, and that will continue to put more pressure on Netanyahu. They see it in their interest to continue to launch a few strikes here, a few strikes there, that aren’t overly effective, but which are constant reminders that Lebanese Hezbollah can impact things in Israel.  

It's important that we try to get this back to more of a status quo, where there are very few attacks across the border, and people can go back to living their lives in these areas. I don't know that there's going to be a particularly big breakthrough politically here. I think the best case would be going back to the status quo to the situation before October 7.

*Israel wants Hezbollah to be pushed away from the border.

That's unlikely to happen as well.

*On Syria and Iraq, the US Army posture in both countries and the ramifications of what's going on in Gaza, what do you think?

We've absorbed a lot of attacks here from Iranian allied militias in both Iraq and Syria. That seems to have dropped off since we conducted a series of strikes several weeks ago.

I think Iran has seen that they are vulnerable in this area, and they have recognized that they have a lot to lose by continuing to push these attacks and in potentially put more American lives at risk in the in the region. I think we've been successful in beginning to deter that and trying to return it to a more normal situation. I am concerned about the ongoing discussions that are taking place in Iraq, and to some degree with the United States over the disposition of US troops in Iraq.  

It's my personal view that those troops, about 2,500 or so, that are in Iraq for the purpose of helping the Iraqi security forces with the remnants of ISIS are doing good work, doing important work for Iraq, and important work for the United States. I am concerned that these discussions may lead to the departure of US forces, and as a result, less of a focus on ISIS and other terrorist organizations that may arise in the region. I think the conditions are still around that would allow an organization to do what ISIS did and rise and come back.  

I think the role of the United States plan is helping prevent that right now. I'm concerned that if we have to depart, that becomes much, much more difficult to do, and that raises the risk for the region. Departing from Iraq will have an impact on our troops in Syria as well. They derive a lot of their support from our bases in Iraq and if those are gone, then it will be very difficult to sustain, or we will have to find new ways to sustain our troops and in Syria. There could be some effects in that country as well.

Edge of the abyss

*No matter how you look at the map or the picture in the region; Gaza, Yemen, Red Sea, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, you’d see Iran somehow in the picture. And you right on saying that the US strikes a few weeks ago were kind of effective in deterring Iran. Is that the way that Iran should be dealt with in order to try to contain the mayhem in the Middle East?

The best approach to creating a more stable situation in the Middle East, of course, is diplomatic relations, and opening ties and communication between different parts of the region. The United States has had some efforts in the past to try to reach out to the Iranians; we did this through the nuclear discussion talks that took place.  

Again, we had some different policies in our government that contributed to some of the confusion around this as well. But I think what's important for the long term is that the United States has to take a sustainable approach to the region. We have to be willing to commit some amount of military force to the region to look after our security interest. But more importantly, we have to make sure we're putting in the diplomatic informational and economic aspects into the region that better also as the as equally important as the military one is.  

We’ve got to foster conversations, we've got to foster discussions, we've got to change the nature of the discussion, from one of Iran against the United States, to one of how do we bring Iran into the region effectively. They’ve been around a long time. They are historic country in this part of the region. Their role should be one that is more constructive for the region. And that's only going to be done through diplomatic discourse between the various parties there. We've got to continue to emphasize all that. We've got to be willing to stick with it, and start to address some of these long-term underlying issues of the region.

I mean, we're seeing right now the whole Palestinian issue that has erupted now as a result of an underlying issue that we've known about for decades, we've known as a problem. And now it has come to the head, and it's now brought the region back to the brink. So if there's one good thing that comes out of this, perhaps it is that we can, from this move forward on some way to address the status and the situation of the Palestinians in the Middle East for the long term here. The United States obviously has a policy of the two-state solution, but we have to move forward and address some of these deep underlying tensions and issues of the region, and we need to do it before a crisis arises. 



Three Senior Syrian Officials Face War Crimes Trial in Absentia in France 

An aerial view shows the Conciergerie building (bottom R) and the Palais de Justice, or courthouse, on the Ile de la Cite along the river Seine in central Paris July 14, 2013. (Reuters)
An aerial view shows the Conciergerie building (bottom R) and the Palais de Justice, or courthouse, on the Ile de la Cite along the river Seine in central Paris July 14, 2013. (Reuters)
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Three Senior Syrian Officials Face War Crimes Trial in Absentia in France 

An aerial view shows the Conciergerie building (bottom R) and the Palais de Justice, or courthouse, on the Ile de la Cite along the river Seine in central Paris July 14, 2013. (Reuters)
An aerial view shows the Conciergerie building (bottom R) and the Palais de Justice, or courthouse, on the Ile de la Cite along the river Seine in central Paris July 14, 2013. (Reuters)

Three senior Syrian officials will face trial in absentia in a Paris court on Tuesday accused of involvement in the disappearance and subsequent death of a French-Syrian father and his son.

It is the first time that a serving Syrian official will go on trial for alleged war crimes.

The long-running case revolves around the disappearance and subsequent death of father Mazen Dabbagh and his son Patrick, who were arrested by Syrian Airforce Intelligence agents in Syria in November 2013 and later died in custody.

One of the officers accused of complicity in their disappearance and torture - Ali Mamlouk - is still in the Syrian security apparatus, as a security adviser to President Bashar al-Assad. The two others - Jamil Hassan and Abdel Salam Mahmoud - are a former director and director of investigation at the Airforce Intelligence unit.

None of the three accused will attend the trial in the Cour d'Assises, which is scheduled to last four days.

The Syrian Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the case.

Syria’s government, Assad and ally Russia have rejected accusations of mass killings and torture in a war that the United Nations has said claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

Mazen Darwish, head of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, which is supporting the case, said it was the first to try a serving Syrian official.

He said it would be significant to all Syrians as it pertained to "arbitrary detentions, torture (and) extrajudicial killings", which he described as "systemic behavior by the regime".

There are no efforts to prosecute members of the Syrian government at home in Syria, where critics say the courts serve the president's interests. Previous trials in Europe have targeted former officials.

There has been no accountability yet in international tribunals either, as Syria is not a member of the International Criminal Court. However, the International Court of Justice has ordered Syria to halt torture.


Six Hezbollah Fighters Killed in Israeli Strikes on Homs

Photo published by loyalist media of huge explosion in Ibn al-Haytham Base in south east Homs city.
Photo published by loyalist media of huge explosion in Ibn al-Haytham Base in south east Homs city.
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Six Hezbollah Fighters Killed in Israeli Strikes on Homs

Photo published by loyalist media of huge explosion in Ibn al-Haytham Base in south east Homs city.
Photo published by loyalist media of huge explosion in Ibn al-Haytham Base in south east Homs city.

At least six Hezbollah fighters were killed Monday in Israeli strikes in Syria near the Lebanese border.
“Four of the Hezbollah fighters are Lebanese and two are Syrians,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) Director Rami Abdurrahman, told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Earlier, SOHR said Israeli strikes targeted a Hezbollah headquarters in Al-Qusair south-west of Homs on the Syrian-Lebanese border.
Another strike hit a Hezbollah headquarters used by the Iranian-backed militias south of Homs.
The observatory said that violent explosions sounded as a result of new Israeli air strikes that targeted a site near a gas station located in the al-Auras area near the Homs roundabout south of the city of Homs.
“The Ibn Al-Haytham encampment, which is used by Iranian-backed militias, is located in the area,” it noted.
According to SOHR, one of the Israeli strikes targeted a site near Al-Nabighah Al-Thubyani School, north of the roundabout in Al-Qusair city, south-west of Homs, on the Syrian-Lebanese border. The area is controlled by Hezbollah.
Plumes of smoke rose from the targeted places, while several ambulances headed towards the area. The strikes left a number of casualties, according to primary information.
On Saturday, AFP quoted SOHR as saying that an Israeli drone strike near the Lebanese border targeted a vehicle carrying “a Hezbollah commander and his companion.”
Hezbollah did not announce any deaths among its ranks on Saturday.
In March, the Israeli army struck two Syrian army sites where Hezbollah was operating. The strike was carried out based on “precise intelligence,” the army said on its Telegram account, noting that it “holds the Syrian regime accountable for all activities which take place within its territory and will not allow for any attempted actions which could lead to the entrenchment of Hezbollah on the Syrian front.”
The Israeli Army also said it struck two Syrian army sites in southern Syria, where members of the Lebanese Hezbollah group were stationed.
The Israeli army has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria since the outbreak of the civil war there in 2011, mainly targeting army positions and Iran-backed fighters including from Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
The strikes increased after Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip began on October 7, when the group launched an unprecedented attack against Israel, killing 1,200 people and seizing 252 hostages, mostly civilians.
Israel rarely comments on individual strikes in Syria but has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to expand its presence there.
Since the beginning of 2024, the Syrian Observatory has counted 40 attacks in Syria, including 28 air strikes and 12 ground assaults. The strikes damaged or destroyed about 81 targets, including weapons and ammunition depots, headquarters, centers, and vehicles.
These strikes have killed 137 soldiers and injured 57 others.
The casualties include 21 Iranian members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, 26 Hezbollah members, 12 Iraqis, 28 Iranian-backed Syrian militiamen, 10 Iranian-backed non-Syrian militiamen and 40 regime soldiers.

 

 


Lebanon: Hezbollah Targets Israel's al-Raheb Military Outpost

FILE - Israeli security forces examine the site hit by a rocket fired from Lebanon, in Kiryat Shmona, northern Israel, Wednesday, March 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)
FILE - Israeli security forces examine the site hit by a rocket fired from Lebanon, in Kiryat Shmona, northern Israel, Wednesday, March 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)
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Lebanon: Hezbollah Targets Israel's al-Raheb Military Outpost

FILE - Israeli security forces examine the site hit by a rocket fired from Lebanon, in Kiryat Shmona, northern Israel, Wednesday, March 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)
FILE - Israeli security forces examine the site hit by a rocket fired from Lebanon, in Kiryat Shmona, northern Israel, Wednesday, March 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)

Lebanon’s Hezbollah group announced targeting at dawn on Tuesday Israel’s al-Raheb military outpost on the border with Lebanon, the Arab World Press reported.
In a statement on Telegram, Hezbollah said it targeted the outpost in response to Israel’s war on Gaza and its continued targeting of civilians since October 7.
The Israeli army said earlier that alarm sirens were sounded in north Israel.
The conflict between the two parties erupted on October 8, a day after Hamas launched its surprise attack on Israel, sparking the war on Gaza.
Initially, Hezbollah launched attacks against Israel from southern Lebanon in “support of the resistance in Gaza.” The war has now turned into one of attrition, running along the southern border.
Israel’s attacks on the South have devastated villages and left hundreds of people dead.


CENTOM: More Than 569 Tons of Aid Delivered Across Floating Pier Into Gaza

This handout satellite image courtesy of Maxar Technologies shows tents and shelters for Palestinians displaced by the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas at the Mawasi camp near Rafah in the south of the Palestinian territory on May 15, 2024. (Photo by Satellite image 2024 Maxar Technologies / AFP)
This handout satellite image courtesy of Maxar Technologies shows tents and shelters for Palestinians displaced by the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas at the Mawasi camp near Rafah in the south of the Palestinian territory on May 15, 2024. (Photo by Satellite image 2024 Maxar Technologies / AFP)
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CENTOM: More Than 569 Tons of Aid Delivered Across Floating Pier Into Gaza

This handout satellite image courtesy of Maxar Technologies shows tents and shelters for Palestinians displaced by the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas at the Mawasi camp near Rafah in the south of the Palestinian territory on May 15, 2024. (Photo by Satellite image 2024 Maxar Technologies / AFP)
This handout satellite image courtesy of Maxar Technologies shows tents and shelters for Palestinians displaced by the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas at the Mawasi camp near Rafah in the south of the Palestinian territory on May 15, 2024. (Photo by Satellite image 2024 Maxar Technologies / AFP)

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Tuesday more than 569 metric tons of humanitarian assistance has been delivered so far across a temporary floating pier to Gaza, but not all the aid has reached warehouses.

Aid deliveries began arriving at a US-built pier on Friday as Israel comes under growing global pressure to allow more supplies into the besieged coastal enclave, Reuters reported.

The UN said that 10 truckloads of food aid - transported from the pier site by UN contractors - were received on Friday at a World Food Program warehouse in Deir El Balah in Gaza.

But on Saturday, only five truckloads made it to the warehouse after 11 others were cleaned out by Palestinians during the journey through an area that a UN official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said has been hard to access with humanitarian aid.

The UN did not receive any aid from the pier on Sunday or Monday.


Masam Project Clears over 2,000 Explosives in Yemen in 2nd Week of May

Since the start of the project, a total of 442,077 explosives have been cleared - SPA Photo.
Since the start of the project, a total of 442,077 explosives have been cleared - SPA Photo.
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Masam Project Clears over 2,000 Explosives in Yemen in 2nd Week of May

Since the start of the project, a total of 442,077 explosives have been cleared - SPA Photo.
Since the start of the project, a total of 442,077 explosives have been cleared - SPA Photo.

The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) Masam Project, dedicated to clearing mines in Yemen, dismantled 2,010 explosives in various governorates during the second week of May 2024.

These included 11 anti-personnel mines, 19 anti-tank mines, and 1,980 unexploded ordnances.
Since the start of the project, a total of 442,077 explosives have been cleared, SPA reported.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, through KSrelief, remains steadfast in its commitment to rid Yemeni lands of all explosives. This menace has tragically resulted in the loss of lives and injuries to innocent children, women, and older people.


ICC Prosecutor Seeks Arrest Warrant for Israeli, Hamas Leaders, including Netanyahu

FILE PHOTO: An exterior view of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands, March 31, 2021. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: An exterior view of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands, March 31, 2021. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo
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ICC Prosecutor Seeks Arrest Warrant for Israeli, Hamas Leaders, including Netanyahu

FILE PHOTO: An exterior view of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands, March 31, 2021. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: An exterior view of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands, March 31, 2021. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Monday he is seeking arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in connection with their actions during the seven-month war between Israel and Hamas.

Karim Khan said that he believes Netanyahu, his defense minister Yoav Gallant and three Hamas leaders — Yehia Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh — are responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and Israel.

The prosecutor must request the warrants from a pre-trial panel of three judges, who take on average two months to consider the evidence and determine if the proceedings can move forward.

Israel is not a member of the court, and even if the arrest warrants are issued, Netanyahu and Gallant do not face any immediate risk of prosecution. But Khan's announcement deepens Israel's isolation as it presses ahead with its war, and the threat of arrest could make it difficult for the Israeli leaders to travel abroad.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said the chief prosecutor's decision to seek arrest warrants against Israel's leaders is “a historic disgrace that will be remembered forever.”

He said he would form a special committee to fight back against any such action and would work with world leaders to ensure that any such warrants are not enforced on Israel's leaders, The AP reported.

Also, the Hamas group has denounced the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s request to seek the arrests of its leaders.

In a statement, Hamas accused the prosecutor of trying to “equate the victim with the executioner.”

It said it has the right to resist Israeli occupation, including “armed resistance.”

It also criticized the court for seeking the arrests of only two Israeli leaders and said it should seek warrants for other Israeli leaders.

Both Sinwar and Deif are believed to be hiding in Gaza as Israel tries to hunt them down. But Haniyeh, the supreme leader of the group, is based in Qatar and frequently travels across the region.

Benny Gantz, a former military chief and member of Israel’s War Cabinet with Netanyahu and Gallant, harshly criticized Khan’s announcement, saying Israel fights with “one of the strictest” moral codes and has a robust judiciary capable of investigating itself.

“The State of Israel is waging one of the just wars fought in modern history following a reprehensible massacre perpetrated by terrorist Hamas on the 7th of October,” he said. “The prosecutor’s position to apply for arrest warrants is in itself a crime of historic proportion to be remembered for generations.

The United Nations and other aid agencies have repeatedly accused Israel of hindering aid deliveries throughout the war on Gaza. Israel denies this, saying there are no restrictions on aid entering Gaza and accusing the United Nations of failing to distribute aid. The UN says aid workers have repeatedly come under Israeli fire, and also says ongoing fighting and a security vacuum have impeded deliveries.

Of the Hamas actions on Oct. 7, Khan, who visited the region in December, said that he saw for himself "the devastating scenes of these attacks and the profound impact of the unconscionable crimes charged in the applications filed today. Speaking with survivors, I heard how the love within a family, the deepest bonds between a parent and a child, were contorted to inflict unfathomable pain through calculated cruelty and extreme callousness. These acts demand accountability.”

After a brief period of international support for its war, Israel has faced increasing criticism as the war has dragged on and the death toll has climbed.

Israel is also facing a South African case in the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of genocide. Israel denies those charges.

Khan’s request for warrants in the Israel-Gaza conflict comes 14 months after the court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes, accusing him of personal responsibility for abductions of children from Ukraine.


Israel Intends to Broaden Rafah Sweep, Gallant Tells Washington

An injured Palestinian boy stands next to the rubble of a family house that was hit overnight in Israeli bombardment in the Tal al-Sultan neighbourhood of Rafah in southern Gaza on May 20, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
An injured Palestinian boy stands next to the rubble of a family house that was hit overnight in Israeli bombardment in the Tal al-Sultan neighbourhood of Rafah in southern Gaza on May 20, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
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Israel Intends to Broaden Rafah Sweep, Gallant Tells Washington

An injured Palestinian boy stands next to the rubble of a family house that was hit overnight in Israeli bombardment in the Tal al-Sultan neighbourhood of Rafah in southern Gaza on May 20, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
An injured Palestinian boy stands next to the rubble of a family house that was hit overnight in Israeli bombardment in the Tal al-Sultan neighbourhood of Rafah in southern Gaza on May 20, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

Israel intends to broaden its military operation in Rafah, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Monday told US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
Israel describes Rafah, which abuts the Gaza Strip's border with the Egyptian Sinai, as the last stronghold of Hamas whose governing and combat capabilities it has been trying to dismantle during the more than seven-month-old war.
After weeks of public disagreements with Washington over the Rafah planning, Israel on May 6 ordered Palestinian civilians to evacuate parts of the city and began troop and tank incursions.
"We are committed to broadening the ground operation in Rafah to the end of dismantling Hamas and recovering the hostages," a statement from Gallant's office quoted him as telling Sullivan.
Israel believes dozens of hostages from the cross-border Hamas rampage on Oct. 7 are being held in Rafah.
Western powers and Egypt have voiced concern for the fate of hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians sheltering there, despite Israeli assurances about humanitarian safeguards.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA said on Monday that it estimated 810,000 people had fled Rafah since May 6 - potentially more than half of the city's wartime population.
The statement from Gallant's office said he presented to Sullivan “the provisions Israel implemented for evacuating the population from the Rafah area and for setting up the appropriate humanitarian response.”
 


Ireland's Top Diplomat Concerned over Slow Pace of Justice in Peacekeeper's Killing in Lebanon

28 April 2024, Lebanon, Borj El Mlouk: Vehicles from the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) patrol the village of Burj al-Muluk on Lebanon's southern border with Israel. Photo: STR/dpa
28 April 2024, Lebanon, Borj El Mlouk: Vehicles from the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) patrol the village of Burj al-Muluk on Lebanon's southern border with Israel. Photo: STR/dpa
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Ireland's Top Diplomat Concerned over Slow Pace of Justice in Peacekeeper's Killing in Lebanon

28 April 2024, Lebanon, Borj El Mlouk: Vehicles from the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) patrol the village of Burj al-Muluk on Lebanon's southern border with Israel. Photo: STR/dpa
28 April 2024, Lebanon, Borj El Mlouk: Vehicles from the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) patrol the village of Burj al-Muluk on Lebanon's southern border with Israel. Photo: STR/dpa

Ireland’s top diplomat in a visit to Lebanon on Monday expressed his concern over the slow progress in criminal proceedings against several Lebanese men charged with the killing of an Irish peacekeeper in 2022 in the tiny Mediterranean country.
Micheál Martin, Irish foreign and defense minister, said he was “very, very concerned” about the case. He met with Irish peacekeepers in south Lebanon and with Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib and a representative of the Lebanese defense ministry, The Associated Press said.
Lebanon’s military tribunal last June charged four men with the killing of Pvt. Seán Rooney, 24, of Newtown Cunningham, Ireland, following a half-year probe. Rooney was killed on Dec. 14, 2022.
Only one of the suspects, Mohammed Ayyad, was arrested. However, he was released on bail in November, with officials citing his medical condition. The four others facing charges — Ali Khalifeh, Ali Salman, Hussein Salman, and Mustafa Salman — remain at large.
All five are allegedly linked with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Hezbollah has repeatedly denied any role in the killing.
On the fatal night, Rooney and several other Irish soldiers from UNIFIL were on their way from their base in southern Lebanon to the Beirut airport. Two UN vehicles apparently took a detour through Al-Aqbiya, which is not part of the area under the peacekeepers’ mandate.
Initial reports said angry residents confronted the peacekeepers, but the indictment concluded that the shooting was a targeted attack. The UN peacekeeper vehicle reportedly took a wrong turn and was surrounded by vehicles and armed men as they tried to make their way back to the main road.
“We want justice to be done” and for the killers to be “brought to justice,” Martin told reporters. “We understand the separation of powers. But we are concerned at the slow pace of the trial. And the Irish people want justice”
UNIFIL was created to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon after Israel’s 1978 invasion, and its mission was expanded following the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.
Relative calm prevailed in the border region after that war until the beginning of Israel’s war against Hamas, a Hezbollah ally, in Gaza in October. For more than seven months, Hezbollah and allied groups have clashed near-daily with Israeli forces, with no apparent immediate prospects for a halt to hostilities.


Gulf, Arab Leaders Express Condolences over the Death of Iran's President

FILE - Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi delivers a speech after taking his oath as president in a ceremony at the parliament in Tehran, Iran on Aug. 5, 2021.  (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)
FILE - Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi delivers a speech after taking his oath as president in a ceremony at the parliament in Tehran, Iran on Aug. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)
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Gulf, Arab Leaders Express Condolences over the Death of Iran's President

FILE - Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi delivers a speech after taking his oath as president in a ceremony at the parliament in Tehran, Iran on Aug. 5, 2021.  (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)
FILE - Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi delivers a speech after taking his oath as president in a ceremony at the parliament in Tehran, Iran on Aug. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

Several Gulf and Arab leaders on Monday reacted to the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi who was killed in a helicopter crash in mountainous terrain near Azerbaijan border.
Raisi, a hardliner long seen as a potential successor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and the country’s foreign minister and others have been found dead at the site of a helicopter crash Monday after an hourslong search through a foggy, mountainous region of the country’s northwest, state media reported. Raisi was 63.
Several Arab leaders reacted to his death, the following are reactions to the news:
UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said in a statement: "Our hearts are with you in this difficult time. Our prayers are that God will cover them with His vast mercy and dwell them in His spacious Paradise”.
Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad Al Thani, said on X: "Sincere condolences to the government and people of the Islamic Republic of Iran on the death of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdullahian, and the accompanying officials in the painful helicopter accident, asking God Almighty for mercy and forgiveness for them and for their families with patience and solace. We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return."
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-sudani said in a statement: “With profound sadness and deep sorrow, we received the tragic news of the passing of the President of Iran, Ibrahim Raisi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, and their companions, due to the unfortunate plane crash incident in northern Iran.
“We extend our heartfelt condolences and sympathies to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ali Khamenei, and to the nation of Iran, its government and people. We express our solidarity with the brotherly Iranian people and the officials of the Islamic Republic during this painful tragedy."
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad affirmed Syria's solidarity with Iran and the families of the dead, adding that Raisi's dedication to his work and duties had taken him to East Azerbaijan to inaugurate a vital project for his country, where he was martyred in the line of duty.
Assad added that Syria had worked with the late president to ensure strategic ties between Syria and Iran remained prosperous, recalling Raisi's important visit to Syria as part of enhancing ties for the benefit of both nations.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi mourned the death of Raisi and other senior officials in a helicopter crash. In a statement, Sisi expressed his country’s solidarity with “the leadership and people of Iran in this great loss.”
Jordan’s King Abdullah said on X: "My deepest condolences to the brothers, leadership, government and people of the Islamic Republic of Iran on the death of Brother President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Brother Hossein Amir Abdullahian and those accompanying them, may God have mercy on them all.
"We stand in solidarity with our brothers in Iran in this difficult circumstance”.
The Palestinian Hamas movement conveyed “deepest condolences and solidarity" to Khamenei, the Iranian government, and the Iranian people for "this immense loss."
It praised the deceased Iranian leaders for supporting the Palestinian cause and resistance against Israel and expressed confidence that Iran's "deep-rooted institutions" will enable it to overcome "the repercussions of this great loss."
Head of Yemen’s Houthi Supreme Revolutionary Committee, Mohammed Alo al-Houthi said on X platform: “Our deepest condolences to the Iranian people, the Iranian leadership, and the families of President Raisi and the accompanying delegation... We ask God to grant their families patience and solace. Verily we belong to Allah and to Him we shall return. The Iranian people will remain adhering to the loyal leaders of their people, by God's will."
In a statement, Lebanon’s Hezbollah group also expressed condolences to Khamenei over the death of Raisi.
The country's foreign minister announced a three-day national mourning.


UNRWA: Israel Arrested, Tortured Our Employees

The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini during a joint press conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi in Amman (EPA)
The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini during a joint press conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi in Amman (EPA)
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UNRWA: Israel Arrested, Tortured Our Employees

The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini during a joint press conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi in Amman (EPA)
The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini during a joint press conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi in Amman (EPA)

The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Commissioner-General, Philippe Lazzarini, said on Sunday that aid is hardly arriving to the Gaza Strip, noting that the agency's employees have been arrested and tortured by Israel, and forced to confess to crimes they did not commit.

In a joint news conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi in Amman, Lazzarini said that despite the international community's calls, Israel invaded and attacked the southernmost Gaza city of Rafah on May 6, with half of Gaza's population forced to flee.

He pointed out that the two main crossings in the south, Rafah Crossing and Kerem Shalom Crossing, have turned into conflict zones, and there are currently no crossings to transport aid across the borders.

Lazzarini noted that “198 UNRWA employees were killed, 160 sites were completely or partially destroyed, and employees were arrested, tortured, and forced to confess to crimes they did not commit.”

In January, Israel alleged that 12 UNRWA employees had participated in the October 7 Hamas attacks against Israel.

Later in April, an independent review for the United Nations said Israel failed to support its claims.

Safadi said UNRWA continues to play its role in the Gaza Strip despite all the pressures, affirming that Jordan is committed to supporting the UN Agency.

“The UNRWA role is indispensable and cannot be replaced by any other party because no other party has the ability, knowledge or capabilities that this agency possesses to help the Palestinian people who are facing an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe,” he said.

The Minister added that “the situation in Gaza is still catastrophic and is still worsening at all levels, even if enough food is brought into Gaza, which is not the case.”

Safadi noted that accusations levelled at 12 out of 13,000 UNRWA staff were refuted, “and the attempt to assassinate UNRWA politically failed.”

He said, “The report issued by the independent committee headed by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna confirmed that the agency has all the tools to ensure that what it does is in line with all principles of conduct, ethics and UN charters and regulations.”

Despite all the pressures, the Jordanian Minister affirmed that UNRWA is doing everything it can “to provide aid to 2.3 million Palestinians who are now suffering from this brutal war and its inhumane consequences of killing, destruction and the absence of food, medicine, treatment and education.”

But the Agency is still facing major financial challenges, according to Safadi, who said 16 countries stopped funding UNRWA after the Israeli accusations first surfaced.

He noted that 14 of them reversed their decision and announced the resumption of support for the UN agency.

Safadi also said the kingdom demanded an international investigation into what it said were many war crimes committed during Israel's military campaign in Gaza.

He added that those responsible for documented crimes should be brought to justice.