Iranian FM Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, a Hard-Line Diplomat, Dies in Helicopter Crash

The Iranian national flag flies at half-mast at the Iranian consulate, following the deaths of Iran's President Raisi and Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian, in Karachi, Pakistan, 20 May 2024. (EPA)
The Iranian national flag flies at half-mast at the Iranian consulate, following the deaths of Iran's President Raisi and Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian, in Karachi, Pakistan, 20 May 2024. (EPA)
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Iranian FM Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, a Hard-Line Diplomat, Dies in Helicopter Crash

The Iranian national flag flies at half-mast at the Iranian consulate, following the deaths of Iran's President Raisi and Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian, in Karachi, Pakistan, 20 May 2024. (EPA)
The Iranian national flag flies at half-mast at the Iranian consulate, following the deaths of Iran's President Raisi and Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian, in Karachi, Pakistan, 20 May 2024. (EPA)

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran's foreign minister and a hard-liner close to the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard who confronted the West while also overseeing indirect talks with the US over the country's nuclear program, died in the helicopter crash that also killed the country's president, state media reported Monday. He was 60.

Amir-Abdollahian represented the hard-line shift in Iran after the collapse of Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers after then President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the accord. Amir-Abdollahian served under President Ebrahim Raisi, a protege of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and followed their policies.

He was close to Iran's Revolutionary Guard, once praising the late Gen. Qassem Soleimani, slain in a US drone strike in Baghdad in 2020.

Amir-Abdollahian served in the Foreign Ministry under Ali Akbar Salehi in 2011 through 2013. He then returned for several years under Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was a key player in the nuclear deal reached under the administration of the relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani.

But Zarif and Amir-Abdollahian had a falling out, likely over internal differences in Iran's foreign policy. Zarif offered him the ambassadorship to Oman, but he refused.

He became foreign minister under Raisi with his election in 2021. He backed the Iranian government position, even as mass protests swept the country in 2022 after the death of Mahsa Amini, a woman who had been detained earlier over allegedly not wearing a headscarf to the liking of authorities. The monthslong security crackdown that followed the demonstrations killed more than 500 people and saw more than 22,000 detained.

In March, a UN investigative panel found that Iran was responsible for the “physical violence” that led to Amini’s death.

During the Israel-Hamas war, Amir-Abdollahian met with foreign officials and the leader of Hamas. He also threatened retaliation against Israel and praised an April attack on Israel. He also oversaw Iran's response to a brief exchange of airstrikes with Iran's nuclear-armed neighbor Pakistan and worked on diplomacy with the Taliban in Afghanistan, with whom Iran had tense relations.

Amir-Abdollahian is survived by his wife and two children.



UN: More than Half of Cropland in Hungry Gaza is Damaged

A crop duster plane flies over a field, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, near the Israel-Gaza border, Israel, February 19, 2024.REUTERS/Susana Vera/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
A crop duster plane flies over a field, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, near the Israel-Gaza border, Israel, February 19, 2024.REUTERS/Susana Vera/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
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UN: More than Half of Cropland in Hungry Gaza is Damaged

A crop duster plane flies over a field, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, near the Israel-Gaza border, Israel, February 19, 2024.REUTERS/Susana Vera/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
A crop duster plane flies over a field, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, near the Israel-Gaza border, Israel, February 19, 2024.REUTERS/Susana Vera/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights

More than half of Gaza's agricultural land, crucial for feeding the war-ravaged territory's hungry population, has been degraded by conflict, satellite images analysed by the United Nations show.

The data reveals a rise in the destruction of orchards, field crops and vegetables in the Palestinian enclave, where hunger is widespread after eight months of Israeli bombardment.

The World Health Organisation warned on Wednesday that many people in Gaza were facing "catastrophic hunger and famine-like conditions".

Using satellite imagery taken between May 2017 and 2024, United Nations Satellite Centre (UNOSAT) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that 57% of Gaza's permanent crop fields and arable lands essential for food security had shown a significant decline in density and health, Reuters reported.

"In May 2024, crop health and density across the Gaza Strip showed a marked decline compared to the average of the previous seven seasons," UNOSAT said on Thursday.

"This deterioration is attributed to conflict-related activities, including razing, heavy vehicle movement, bombing, and shelling."

The decline, UNOSAT said, marked a 30% increase in damaged agricultural land since it published its last analysis in April.

Israel's ground and air campaign was triggered when Hamas stormed southern Israel on Oct. 7.

The offensive has killed more than 37,000 people in Gaza, according to health authorities in the Hamas-run enclave, and has caused mass destruction and cut off routes for aid.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday there were more than 8,000 children under five years old in Gaza who had been treated for acute malnutrition.

As well as damage to crop fields and orchards, greenhouses across the Gaza Strip had also sustained significant damage, UNOSAT said.

The Gaza Strip has an estimated 151 square kilometres of agricultural land, which makes up about 41% of the coastal enclave's territory, according to data from UNOSAT.