Iraq Rejects Violation of Jordan’s Sovereignty in Wake of Kataib Hezbollah Threats

Protesters clash with security forces in front of the Israeli embassy in Amman in October 2023. (AFP)
Protesters clash with security forces in front of the Israeli embassy in Amman in October 2023. (AFP)
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Iraq Rejects Violation of Jordan’s Sovereignty in Wake of Kataib Hezbollah Threats

Protesters clash with security forces in front of the Israeli embassy in Amman in October 2023. (AFP)
Protesters clash with security forces in front of the Israeli embassy in Amman in October 2023. (AFP)

The pro-Iran Kataib Hezbollah faction in Iraq “vowed to supply Jordanian fighters with weapons” to defend “our brothers in Palestine.”

A security official from the faction known as Abu Ali al-Askari said: “The ‘Islamic Resistance in Iraq’ is ready to meet the needs of 12,000 fighters ... so that we can stand united in defending our brothers in Palestine.”

He said the group could provide the fighters with “light and medium weapons, tactical rockets, millions of rounds of ammunition and tons of explosives.”

His announcement coincided with the return of protests in condemnation of the Israeli war on Gaza in front of the Israeli embassy in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

More and more protesters have been gathering in front of the mission. They appear to be better organized and have made more demands in spite of Jordan’s intense diplomatic efforts to reach an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and deliver aid to the people.

The demonstrators have also been demanding that the “land bridge” that provides Israel with goods and vegetables be halted

Al-Askari said the fighters would be ready to stop the bridge. The government has said it remains open given contractual obligations between Jordanian businesses and Israel.

Amman has continued its diplomatic efforts to end the war. On Monday, King Abdullah II received Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The leaders underlined the need for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

No sign of threat

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry did not comment on the escalation by the Kataib Hezbollah.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani is meanwhile, preparing to carry out a major visit to the United States where he will meet with President Joe Biden.

An Iraqi security official dismissed Kataib Hezbollah’s announcement. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, he said: “The situation in Iraq doesn’t allow for the armament of groups outside the country for the purpose of carrying out ‘suspicious’ activity.”

“Iraq will not allow the violation of the sovereignty of a brotherly neighbor,” he added on condition of anonymity.

Moreover, he said there were “no indications on the ground” that arms could be delivered to fighters in Jordan. Furthermore, he stated there was no intelligence information to that end, whether from Iraq or regional and international powers.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein also cast doubt on the statements of the armed groups about attacking targets in Israel.

During a recent visit to Washington, he said the use of weapons requires an order from the commander of the armed forces. “No one can take a unilateral decision to wage war on any side,” he added.

The decision to go to war is taken strictly by the parliament, he stressed.

Media theatrics

In Jordan, security agencies dismissed Kataib Hezbollah’s announcement as “media theatrics solely aimed at stoking tensions in the region.”

A Jordanian government source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the country has thwarted in recent months “several attempts and plots by armed groups that are active along the border with Iraq.”

The Jordanian army has bolstered its defense capabilities in recent years “to confront the threats posed by Iraq’s proxies along the northern border with Syria and eastern one with Iraq.”

It revealed that since October 7, pro-Iran Iraqi militias have sought to infiltrate the Jordanian border with the aim of marching towards the Palestinian territories. The Jordanian army has thwarted several of these attempts.

Amman accuses Tehran of seeking to threaten Jordan’s security through its proxies in neighboring countries.

Local security sources have said that the protests in front of the Israeli embassy in Amman are sponsored by Iran, managed by Hamas and carried out by its wings in the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Violation of sovereignty

Head of the Center for Political Thinking in Iraq Ihssan Shmary told Asharq Al-Awsat that Kataib Hezbollah’s announcement is part of a campaign to pressure US allies in the region.

The armed groups are “directly interfering in the affairs of an independent neighboring country,” he continued, noting that the announcement was made as Jordan is already dealing with the protests, which may mean these two developments may be tied to attempts to “unify arenas claimed by the resistance.”

He dismissed the possibility of Kataib Hezbollah delivering weapons to Jordan, saying such a move would be a violation of international laws and may affect relations between it and Iraq.

He predicted that the threats would only encourage Jordan and Iraq to tighten security along their border.

Eilat attack

Meanwhile, the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq” claimed on Tuesday responsibility for a drone attack on Israel’s Eilat naval base on the Red Sea.

In a statement, it vowed to continue its attacks against Israel in retaliation to its assault on the Palestinian people in Gaza.

A “suspicious aerial target” fell within Jordanian territory close to the border with Israel on Tuesday, the Israeli military said after local media reported the crash of a drone in an open area.

The port has come under repeated drone and missile attacks by Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi militias during the almost six-month-old Gaza war.

On Monday, the military said a building in an Eilat naval base had been struck by an object launched from the east of Israel - suggesting that the provenance was Iraq.



Two Palestinians Killed by Israeli Troops in West Bank

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lebanese Gangs Control Crossings on Syria Border

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Around 8,000 people live in these villages.

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

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

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

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


UN Warns: Crisis of ‘Epic Proportions’ in Sudan

Undersecretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo briefs the 15-member Security Council on the situation in Sudan (UN)
Undersecretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo briefs the 15-member Security Council on the situation in Sudan (UN)
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UN Warns: Crisis of ‘Epic Proportions’ in Sudan

Undersecretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo briefs the 15-member Security Council on the situation in Sudan (UN)
Undersecretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo briefs the 15-member Security Council on the situation in Sudan (UN)

The year-old war in Sudan between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) led by Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) commanded by Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, has sparked a crisis of epic proportions fueled by weapons from foreign supporters who continue to flout UN sanctions aimed at helping end the conflict, the UN political chief has said.

Briefing the 15-member Security Council on the situation in Sudan, Undersecretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo said Friday that fighting has spread to other parts of the country, especially urban areas and the western Darfur region.

She then painted a dire picture of the war's impact of over 14,000 dead, tens of thousands wounded, looming famine with 25 million people in need of life-saving assistance, and over 8.6 million forced to flee their homes.

Man-Made Crisis

DiCarlo said that since April 15, 2023, the Sudanese people have endured unbearable suffering.

She mentioned reports of widespread use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, the recruitment of children by parties to the conflict and the extensive use of torture and prolonged arbitrary detention by both parties.

“Thousands of homes, schools, hospitals, and other essential civilian infrastructure have been destroyed. The war has wrecked large swathes of the country’s productive sectors, crippling the economy,” the UN political chief told the Security Council.

In short, DiCarlo described the situation in Sudan as “a crisis of epic proportions. It is also wholly man-made.”

Dire Picture

Echoing that point, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, High Representative for the Silencing the Guns initiative of the African Union Commission, said external interference has been “a major factor” stymying efforts to negotiate a ceasefire and to stop the war.

“External support in terms of supply of war materiel and other means has been the main reason why this war has lasted for so long,” he said via videolink from Post Sudan. “It is the elephant in the room.”

“Yet, the ongoing year-long war has already set Sudan back several decades, he said.

Neither DiCarlo nor Chambas named any of the foreign supporters.

But report said Iran could have sold drones for government forces. Also, the RSF leader, Dagalo, has reportedly received support from Russia's Wagner mercenary group. UN experts said in a recent report that the RSF has also received support from Arab allied communities and new military supply lines running through Chad, Libya and South Sudan.

Al Fasher and Darfur

Edem Wosornu, the UN humanitarian office's director of operations, said, “I find it particularly distressing to see what has happened in Sudan, given where the country was before this conflict started. A safe refuge for more than 1 million refugees. A regional hub for medical facilities and universities. So much of this is now gone.”

Speaking on behalf of UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths, she called on all warring parties to uphold their obligations under international law.

“Extremely concerning levels of conflict-related sexual violence continue to be reported, and aid workers, health workers and local volunteers are being killed, injured, harassed and arrested with impunity,” she said.

In addition, the spiraling violence in recent weeks poses an extreme and immediate danger to the 800,000 civilians who reside in El Fasher and risks triggering further clashes in other parts of Darfur, where more than nine million people are in dire need of assistance, she added.


US Senators Urge Biden to Impose Magnitsky Sanctions on Sudan's Hemedti

Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) leader General Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemedti’ Dagalo (Reuters)
Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) leader General Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemedti’ Dagalo (Reuters)
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US Senators Urge Biden to Impose Magnitsky Sanctions on Sudan's Hemedti

Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) leader General Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemedti’ Dagalo (Reuters)
Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) leader General Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemedti’ Dagalo (Reuters)

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has written an open letter to US President Joe Biden, calling on him to swiftly determine whether or not he intends to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act with respect to Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and its leader, General Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemedti’ Dagalo, both accused of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.

The letter was written by Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Benjamin Cardin, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Jim Risch, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Gregory Meeks, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“We jointly request a determination pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act of whether Sudan's RSF and its Commander have engaged in activity described in subsection of that Act, such as gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against human rights defenders and persons seeking to expose illegal activity by government officials,” the Senators said in the letter.

War Crimes

The bi-partisan letter, which follows the one-year anniversary of the war in Sudan between the RSF and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), mentioned that on December 6, 2023, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the RSF had committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing since the outbreak of fighting in Sudan on April 15, 2023.

The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act authorizes sanctions against foreign persons who commit gross violations of internationally recognized human rights against individuals seeking: to expose illegal activity carried out by government officials; or to obtain, exercise, defend, or promote internationally recognized human rights and freedoms.

“The actions of the RSF and Hemedti, including those described above, more than meet that threshold,” the Senators affirmed.

RSF’s Financial Networks

The Senators then urged Biden to examine the RSF’s financial networks and sources of revenue, such as gold smuggling, and relationships with Russia and Wagner Group, and to assess whether they are also deserving of sanction under the Magnitsky Act for acts of significant corruption by government officials in Sudan.

The letter mentioned that on September 6, 2023, the US Department of Treasury sanctioned Abdelrahim Hamdan Dagalo, Hemedti's brother, as a leader of the RSF. It had also imposed visa restrictions on RSF General Abdul Rahman Juma.

It also stated that gunmen in RSF uniforms abducted and killed human rights activist and lawyer Ahmed Mohammed Abdullah and his colleague Adam Omer in Nyala, South Sudan, while Khamis Abdullah Abakar, the governor of West Darfur, was assassinated while he was in the custody of the RSF, just hours after he had criticized the RSF in a television interview, describing its actions as “genocide.”

In the letter, the Senators also said human rights lawyers, defenders, and democracy activists in El Geneina, West Darfur, faced targeted threats and killings by the RSF and allied militia, including Mohammed Ahmed Kudia, a member of the Darfur Network of Monitors, Khamis Arabab, a member of the Darfur Bar Association, Khidir Sulieman Abdelmageed, the head of the human rights organization Afkar, Abd Elrazeg Adam Mohammed, a member of the Darfur Network of Monitors, Tareg Hassan Yagoub Elmalik, a founding member of the Darfur Bar Association and El Sadeg Mohammed Ahmed Haroun, a member of the Darfur Bar Association who had filed cases against the RSF for its attacks on the Krinding IDP camp in 2021 and 2022.

Also, there have been numerous reported incidents of the RSF targeting journalists, the letter said, adding that the RSF arbitrarily detained dozens of civilians, including political activists.

Aid

On Friday, Senator Cardin delivered a speech on the Senate floor marking one year since the onset of civil war in Sudan, and called on the US and its international partners to ramp up humanitarian assistance for war-affected Sudanese and for impacted populations in surrounding countries.

Cardin also urged the House of Representatives to pass the national security supplemental without delay to bring needed aid to its partners around the world.


Israeli Troops Raid West Bank Refugee Camp, Gaza Fighting Continues

 An ambulance is seen near an Israeli military vehicle during an Israeli raid, at Nur Shams camp, in Tulkarm, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, April 20, 2024. (Reuters)
An ambulance is seen near an Israeli military vehicle during an Israeli raid, at Nur Shams camp, in Tulkarm, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, April 20, 2024. (Reuters)
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Israeli Troops Raid West Bank Refugee Camp, Gaza Fighting Continues

 An ambulance is seen near an Israeli military vehicle during an Israeli raid, at Nur Shams camp, in Tulkarm, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, April 20, 2024. (Reuters)
An ambulance is seen near an Israeli military vehicle during an Israeli raid, at Nur Shams camp, in Tulkarm, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, April 20, 2024. (Reuters)

Israeli forces fought Palestinian gunmen in the occupied West Bank on Saturday in the second day of a raid that has so far left at least two people dead, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, while fighting also continued in Gaza.

Israeli forces launched the raid on the Nur Shams area, near the Palestinian city of Tulkarm, on Friday. A number of gunmen were killed and more arrested, the Israeli military said, and at least four soldiers were wounded in fire exchanges.

Tulkarm Brigades group, which includes fighters from numerous Palestinian factions, said its members were still exchanging fire with Israeli forces on Saturday. At least three drones were seen hovering above Nur Shams, where Israeli military vehicles were massed and bursts of gunfire were heard.

In Gaza, Israeli strikes hit the southern city of Rafah, where over one million Palestinians are sheltering, as well as Al-Nuseirat in central Gaza, where at least five houses were destroyed, and the Al-Jabalia area in the north, health officials and Hamas media said.

The Israeli military said troops were carrying out raids in central Gaza, where they were engaged in close quarter combat with Palestinian fighters. Overall, Israeli strikes in Gaza killed 37 Palestinians and wounded 68 over the past 24 hours, Palestinian health authorities said.

Fighting has continued in Gaza despite the withdrawal of most of Israel's combat forces earlier this month from southern areas.

Rafah is the last Gaza area that Israeli ground forces have not entered in a more than six-month war aimed at eliminating the Hamas group that rules the enclave, following the Hamas attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced wide international opposition to the plan to attack Rafah, where the military says the last remaining organized brigades of Hamas are located and where the remaining 133 Israeli hostages are believed to be held.

The Gaza war has overshadowed continuing violence in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, including regular army raids on militant groups, rampages by Jewish settlers in Palestinian villages, and street attacks by Palestinians on Israelis.

The Palestinian Health Ministry has confirmed the deaths of two people since Friday in Nur Shams, an area that houses refugees from the 1948 war and their descendants. One fatality was identified by Palestinian sources as a gunman. The second was a 16-year-old schoolboy, according to Palestinian officials.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the United States for effectively stopping the United Nations from recognizing a Palestinian state by casting a veto this week in the Security Council.

In an interview with the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, Abbas said the Palestinian Authority would reconsider bilateral relations with the United States.

The West Bank and Gaza are among the territories that the Palestinians seek for an independent state. US-brokered peace talks broke down a decade ago.


Palestinians to Reconsider US Ties after Veto of Bid for Full UN Membership, Abbas says

 Protesters attend a pro-Palestinian demonstration outside Barclays bank, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in London, Britain, April 20, 2024. (Reuters)
Protesters attend a pro-Palestinian demonstration outside Barclays bank, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in London, Britain, April 20, 2024. (Reuters)
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Palestinians to Reconsider US Ties after Veto of Bid for Full UN Membership, Abbas says

 Protesters attend a pro-Palestinian demonstration outside Barclays bank, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in London, Britain, April 20, 2024. (Reuters)
Protesters attend a pro-Palestinian demonstration outside Barclays bank, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in London, Britain, April 20, 2024. (Reuters)

The Palestinian Authority will reconsider bilateral relations with the US after Washington vetoed a Palestinian request for full United Nations membership, President Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview with the official WAFA news agency.

Earlier, China's foreign minister Wang Yi on Saturday said efforts to admit a Palestinian state into the United Nations were a move to rectify a prolonged injustice, state media Xinhua reported.

He made the comments at a joint press conference with his Papua New Guinea counterpart during a visit to country.

The United States on Thursday effectively stopped the UN from recognizing a Palestinian state by casting a veto in the Security Council.

"A prompt admission of Palestine into the United Nations is a move to rectify a prolonged historical injustice," Xinhua quoted Wang as saying.


Egypt Calls on Iran and Israel to Exercise Restraint

FILED - 19 October 2023, Egypt, Cairo: Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry speaks during a press conference at Tahrir Palace. Photo: Stringer/dpa
FILED - 19 October 2023, Egypt, Cairo: Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry speaks during a press conference at Tahrir Palace. Photo: Stringer/dpa
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Egypt Calls on Iran and Israel to Exercise Restraint

FILED - 19 October 2023, Egypt, Cairo: Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry speaks during a press conference at Tahrir Palace. Photo: Stringer/dpa
FILED - 19 October 2023, Egypt, Cairo: Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry speaks during a press conference at Tahrir Palace. Photo: Stringer/dpa

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Saturday urged both Iran and Israel to exercise restraint amid high tensions in the Middle East.
Shoukry said “we are concerned about ongoing escalation in the region.
Separately, Shoukry said Egypt would host a Turkish delegation to prepare for a visit by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to Türkiye in the near future.
Open fighting began April 1 with the suspected Israeli killing of Iranian generals at an Iranian diplomatic compound in Syria. That prompted Iran's retaliatory barrage last weekend of more than 300 missiles and drones that the US, Israel and regional and international partners helped bat down without significant damage in Israel. And then came Friday's apparent Israeli strike that hit near military and nuclear targets deep in the heart of Iran.


Israeli Airstrike in Gaza's Rafah Kills at Least 9 Palestinians, Including 6 Children

Palestinians perform Friday noon prayer on April 19, 2024, next to the ruins of Al-Farouq Mosque, destroyed during Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Hamas group. (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)
Palestinians perform Friday noon prayer on April 19, 2024, next to the ruins of Al-Farouq Mosque, destroyed during Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Hamas group. (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)
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Israeli Airstrike in Gaza's Rafah Kills at Least 9 Palestinians, Including 6 Children

Palestinians perform Friday noon prayer on April 19, 2024, next to the ruins of Al-Farouq Mosque, destroyed during Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Hamas group. (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)
Palestinians perform Friday noon prayer on April 19, 2024, next to the ruins of Al-Farouq Mosque, destroyed during Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Hamas group. (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

An Israeli airstrike on a house in Gaza’s southernmost city killed at least nine people, six of them children, hospital authorities said Saturday, as Israel pursued its nearly seven-month offensive in the besieged Palestinian territory.

Israel's war against the armed group Hamas has led to a dramatic escalation of tensions in an already volatile Middle East.

The strike late Friday hit a residential building in the western Tel Sultan neighborhood of the city of Rafah, according to Gaza’s civil defense. The bodies of the six children, two women and a man were taken to Rafah's Abu Yousef al-Najjar hospital, the hospital’s records showed.

At the hospital, relatives cried and hugged the bodies of the children, wrapped in white shrouds, as others comforted them.

The fatalities included Abdel-Fattah Sobhi Radwan, his wife Najlaa Ahmed Aweidah and their three children, his brother-in-law Ahmed Barhoum said. Barhoum also lost his wife, Rawan Radwan, and their 5-year-old daughter Alaa.

"This is a world devoid of all human values and morals,” Barhoum told The Associated Press Saturday morning, crying as he cradled and gently rocked the body of Alaa in his arms. “They bombed a house full of displaced people, women and children. There were no martyrs but women and children.”

No victims were registered from a second overnight strike in the city.

Rafah, which lies on the border with Egypt, currently hosts more than half of Gaza’s total population of about 2.3 million people, the vast majority of whom have been displaced by fighting further north in the territory.

Despite calls for restraint from the international community, including Israel’s staunchest ally, the United States, the Israeli government has insisted for months that it intends to push a ground offensive into the city, where it says many of the remaining Hamas fighters are holed up.

Such a ground operation has not materialized so far, but the Israeli military has repeatedly carried out airstrikes on and around the city.

The war was sparked by an unprecedented raid into southern Israel by Hamas and other armed groups on Oct. 7 that left about 1,200 people dead, the vast majority of them civilians, and saw about 250 people kidnapped and taken into Gaza. Israel says about 130 hostages remain in Gaza, although more than 30 have been confirmed to now be dead, either killed on Oct. 7 or having died in captivity.

The Gaza Health Ministry said Saturday the bodies of 37 people killed by Israeli strikes were brought to hospitals in Gaza over the past 24 hours. Hospitals also received 68 wounded, it said. The latest figures bring the overall Palestinian death toll from the Israel-Hamas war to at least 34,049, and the number of wounded to 76,901, the ministry said. Although the Hamas-run health authorities do not differentiate between combatants and civilians in their count, they say at least two thirds have been children and women.

The war has sent regional tensions spiraling, leading to a dramatic eruption of violence between Israel and its archenemy Iran that threatened to escalate into a full-blown war.

On Friday, both Iran and Israel played down an apparent Israeli airstrike near a major air base and nuclear site in central Iran, indicating the two sides were pulling back from what could have become an all-out conflict. Over the past several weeks, an alleged Israeli strike killed two Iranian generals at an Iranian consulate in Syria and was followed by an unprecedented Iranian missile barrage on Israel.

Israel has also faced off with the Hezbollah party, an Iranian proxy operating from Lebanon, with the two sides there frequently trading rocket and drone attacks across the Lebanese-Israeli border. Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militias have also joined the fray, launching strikes against merchant ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden in what they say is a campaign of solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza.

Tension has also been high in the occupied West Bank, where an Israeli military raid Friday in the Nur Shams refugee camp killed at least four Palestinians, including three militants, according to the Israeli military, Palestinian health officials and a militant group.

Palestinian health authorities said one of those killed was a 15-year-old boy shot dead by Israeli fire. The Islamic Jihad group confirmed the deaths of three members, including one who it said was a local military commander. The Israeli military said four Israeli soldiers were slightly wounded in the operation.

Saraya al-Quds, the military arm of Islamic Jihad, said its fighters had engaged in heavy gun battles Saturday morning with Israeli forces in the town of Tulkarem, adjacent to Nur Shams. No further details were immediately available. Residents in Tulkarem went on a general strike Saturday to protest the attack on Nur Shams, with shops, restaurants and government offices all closed.

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel, more than 460 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank, Palestinian health officials say. Israel stages frequent raids into towns and cities in the volatile territory. The dead have included militants, but also stone-throwers and bystanders. Some have also been killed in attacks by Israeli settlers.