Legitimacy Closer to Clearing Houthis from Shabwa

Houthi rebels in Sana’a on December 5, 2017. AFP
Houthi rebels in Sana’a on December 5, 2017. AFP
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Legitimacy Closer to Clearing Houthis from Shabwa

Houthi rebels in Sana’a on December 5, 2017. AFP
Houthi rebels in Sana’a on December 5, 2017. AFP

The Yemeni Army and allied fighters on Friday got closer to clearing the province of Shabwa from Houthis insurgents following fierce battles that led to the liberation of the Bayhan directorate and other surrounding areas, forcing militias to flee.

A spokesman for pro-government forces, Brigadier Abdo Majli, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Yemeni expert teams have already begun removing mines planted by Houthis in Bayhan and other areas ahead of securing a safe return for the residents.

“The victory at the Bayhan-Assaylan front would allow the Army to continue its operation for the full liberation of the province of Shabwa,” Majli said.

He added that on Friday, the military coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen was able to target a boat in Ras Isa in the Lihyah directorate. The boat carried Houthi militias, who were all killed, according to Majli.

He did not rule out that those militias were trying to escape from a Yemeni region to another after legitimate forces were advancing in the area.

According to the spokesperson, the coalition forces killed a large number of high-ranking Houthi officials. “This development will confuse Houthi members and will paralyze their military moves,” he said, adding that the Yemeni army now controls a large number of important positions at the Bayhan front.

Separately, UN special envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said on Friday that “the developments in Sana’a are unacceptable and a violation of international law.”

In a number of tweets, the UN envoy called for an “immediate” end to the violence that the General People’s Congress leaders are being subject to, such as arbitrary detention and intimidation.

Ould Cheikh Ahmad also said he held talks with senior members of the GPC, offering his condolences over the death of its chief former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.



Biden, Iraqi PM to Discuss Partnership as Middle East Tensions Brew

US President Joe Biden shakes hands with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, US, April 15, 2024. (Reuters)
US President Joe Biden shakes hands with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, US, April 15, 2024. (Reuters)
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Biden, Iraqi PM to Discuss Partnership as Middle East Tensions Brew

US President Joe Biden shakes hands with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, US, April 15, 2024. (Reuters)
US President Joe Biden shakes hands with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, US, April 15, 2024. (Reuters)

US President Joe Biden on Monday reiterated Washington's commitment to Israeli security ahead of a meeting with Iraq's prime minister.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, speaking alongside Biden, said their views may be divergent about what is happening in the region.

The US-Iraqi relationship is at important juncture, Sudani said, adding that he would discuss moving from a military relationship to a full partnership.


Israeli Forces Kill Palestinian Teen in West Bank Military Raid

 Mourners react during the funeral of Palestinian Yazan Ishtayeh, who was killed in an Israeli raid, in Salim, near Nablus, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank April 15, 2024. (Reuters)
Mourners react during the funeral of Palestinian Yazan Ishtayeh, who was killed in an Israeli raid, in Salim, near Nablus, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank April 15, 2024. (Reuters)
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Israeli Forces Kill Palestinian Teen in West Bank Military Raid

 Mourners react during the funeral of Palestinian Yazan Ishtayeh, who was killed in an Israeli raid, in Salim, near Nablus, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank April 15, 2024. (Reuters)
Mourners react during the funeral of Palestinian Yazan Ishtayeh, who was killed in an Israeli raid, in Salim, near Nablus, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank April 15, 2024. (Reuters)

Israeli forces killed a Palestinian teenager and wounded three other people during a military raid in the occupied West Bank on Monday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

The killing of 17-year-old Yazan Ishtayeh brought to six the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces or armed settlers since Friday, as Palestinian authorities reported increased settler rampages across the West Bank.

A spokesperson for Israel's Border Police said that undercover border police troops, together with the Israeli army, launched an operation in the city of Nablus to arrest a suspect.

During the activity, there was rioting in which one person threw an explosive device at the troops and was shot dead by the undercover unit, the spokesperson said.

Over the weekend, hundreds of armed Jewish settlers raided Palestinian villages near the city of Ramallah, blocking roads, setting houses and cars ablaze and firing at civilians, medics and civilians said.

Israeli authorities said the escalation began after a 14-year-old Israeli went missing in the West Bank. His body was discovered on Saturday in what Israel said was a suspected militant attack.

The US State Department condemned the killing of the Israeli boy and also said it was increasingly concerned by violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.

In one incident caught on video and published by Israeli rights group Yesh Din on Sunday, a group of masked settlers appeared to set fire to a car in a West Bank town under the watch of at least three Israeli soldiers.

In response to the video, the Israeli military said: "The behavior of the soldiers in the video does not correspond to the values and orders of the army. The incident is being examined and the soldiers will be dealt with accordingly."

Violence in the West Bank was already on the rise before Israel's assault on Gaza, which was triggered by an Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on southern Israel. It has escalated since, with stepped-up Israeli military raids, settler violence and Palestinian street attacks.

In addition to more than 33,000 Palestinians killed by Israel in Gaza, according to Hamas-run authorities, the Palestinian Health Ministry says at least 466 people in the West Bank have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers, among them armed fighters.

In the same period, at least 13 Israelis, among them two members of Israel's security forces, have been killed by Palestinians in the West Bank, according to an Israeli tally.

Palestinians have long aimed to establish an independent state in the territories Israel occupied in 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Most countries view Israeli settlements on occupied land as illegal, a view that Israel disputes.


Israeli Military Official Says Four Israeli Soldiers Wounded by Blast in Lebanon

Lebanese civil defense first responders stand before an impact crater following an Israeli air strike that hit a road in Lebanon's southern village of Alma al-Shaab on April 15, 2024 amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (AFP)
Lebanese civil defense first responders stand before an impact crater following an Israeli air strike that hit a road in Lebanon's southern village of Alma al-Shaab on April 15, 2024 amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (AFP)
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Israeli Military Official Says Four Israeli Soldiers Wounded by Blast in Lebanon

Lebanese civil defense first responders stand before an impact crater following an Israeli air strike that hit a road in Lebanon's southern village of Alma al-Shaab on April 15, 2024 amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (AFP)
Lebanese civil defense first responders stand before an impact crater following an Israeli air strike that hit a road in Lebanon's southern village of Alma al-Shaab on April 15, 2024 amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (AFP)

Four Israeli soldiers were wounded in an explosion hundreds of meters inside Lebanese territory, an Israeli military official said on Monday.

It appeared to be the first such incident to become known since the Gaza war erupted in October, leading to months of exchanges of fire between Israel and Lebanon's armed group Hezbollah.

Hezbollah said in a statement that its fighters planted explosive devices in the Tel Ismail area near the border on the Lebanese side. It said that when a patrol of Israel's Golani Brigade crossed into Lebanon and arrived at the area where the devices were planted, Hezbollah detonated them, leading to deaths and injuries.

Earlier on Monday, the military said four soldiers were injured, one severely, as a result of an explosion of an unknown source during overnight activity along the northern border and that the incident was under review.

Israeli shelling since Oct. 7 has killed around 270 Hezbollah fighters and around 50 civilians, security sources say, and displaced some 90,000 people in southern Lebanon.

Around 60,000 Israelis have been evacuated from the country's northern border area, and 18 people - civilians and soldiers - have been killed on the Israeli side of the border, according to Israeli tallies.


Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, in US Meeting, Calls for Regional Restraint

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (C) and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Tamim (R) arrive for remarks at the State Department April 15, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images/AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (C) and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Tamim (R) arrive for remarks at the State Department April 15, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images/AFP)
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Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, in US Meeting, Calls for Regional Restraint

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (C) and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Tamim (R) arrive for remarks at the State Department April 15, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images/AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (C) and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Tamim (R) arrive for remarks at the State Department April 15, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images/AFP)

Iraq called on all parties to show restraint amid soaring tensions between neighboring Iran and Israel, Deputy Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Tamim said on Monday, as talks on the complex US-Iraq relationship began in Washington.

The meetings come as US ally Israel weighs its response to Iran's weekend missile and drone attack, with the United States and Europe urging restraint.

Tamim, who co-chaired a meeting of the US-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, said Iraq was concerned about its region being "dragged into a wider war that will threaten international security and safety."

"And therefore, we call on all parties for self-restraint and respect the rules of diplomatic works and also international laws," he said.

Iraq is a rare ally of both Washington and Tehran. Iraqi airspace was a main route for Iran’s unprecedented drone and ballistic missile attack on Israel, and Iraqi officials say Iran informed them, as well as other countries in the region, ahead of the attack.

A delegation led by Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani will meet officials across Washington on Monday, including President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

US and other Western officials have welcomed economic reform plans put forward by Sudani, but concerns remain over the influence of Iran-backed groups. Shiite armed groups have engaged in tit-for-tat attacks on US forces linked to Israel's war in Gaza.

The US invaded Iraq in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein and withdrew in 2011, only for troops to return in 2014 to help fight ISIS after the extremist group overran large parts of the country.

Washington and Baghdad are in talks over ending the US-led military coalition in the country, although the Higher Coordinating Committee is tasked with discussing other aspects of the relationship, including economic ties.

Blinken, who reiterated that Washington does not want to see the regional conflict swell, said the meetings would focus on issues including energy security, democracy, the rule of law, climate and water, and noted US private sector interest, especially in Iraq's energy sector.

"Through these efforts we look forward to helping advance the prime minister's affirmative agenda, and seeing Iraq succeed," Blinken said.


Israel Presses on in Gaza as World Awaits Response to Iran Attack 

A Palestinian boy, who was displaced by Israel's military offensive with his family on south Gaza, holds his cat as he attempts to return to his home in north Gaza through an Israeli checkpoint, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in the central Gaza Strip April 15, 2024. (Reuters)
A Palestinian boy, who was displaced by Israel's military offensive with his family on south Gaza, holds his cat as he attempts to return to his home in north Gaza through an Israeli checkpoint, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in the central Gaza Strip April 15, 2024. (Reuters)
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Israel Presses on in Gaza as World Awaits Response to Iran Attack 

A Palestinian boy, who was displaced by Israel's military offensive with his family on south Gaza, holds his cat as he attempts to return to his home in north Gaza through an Israeli checkpoint, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in the central Gaza Strip April 15, 2024. (Reuters)
A Palestinian boy, who was displaced by Israel's military offensive with his family on south Gaza, holds his cat as he attempts to return to his home in north Gaza through an Israeli checkpoint, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in the central Gaza Strip April 15, 2024. (Reuters)

Israel struck war-battered Gaza overnight, Hamas and witnesses said Monday, as world leaders urged de-escalation awaiting Israel's reaction to Iran's unprecedented attack that heightened fears of wider conflict.

World powers have urged restraint after Iran launched more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel late Saturday, though the Israeli military has said nearly all were intercepted.

Tehran's first direct assault on Israel, in retaliation for a deadly April 1 strike on its Damascus consulate, followed months of violence across the region involving Iranian proxies and allies who say they act in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Tensions in Iran "weaken the regime and rather serve Israel", the newspaper Israel Hayom said, adding that this suggested Israeli leaders would not rush to retaliate.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has warned that a "reckless" Israeli move would spark a "much stronger response", while foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said Monday that Western nations should "appreciate Iran's restraint" in recent months.

Tehran has insisted the attack on Israel was an act of "self-defense" after the Damascus strike that killed seven Revolutionary Guards including two generals.

Gaza war grinds on

The Israeli military said it would not be distracted from its war against Tehran-backed Hamas in Gaza, triggered by the Palestinian armed group's October 7 attack.

"Even while under attack from Iran, we have not lost sight... of our critical mission in Gaza to rescue our hostages from the hands of Iran's proxy Hamas," military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said late Sunday.

As mediators eye a deal to halt the fighting, fears persisted over Israeli plans to send ground troops into Rafah, a far-southern city where the majority of Gaza's 2.4 million people have taken refuge.

"Hamas is still holding our hostages in Gaza," Hagari said of the roughly 130 people, including 34 presumed dead, who Israel says remain in the hands of Palestinian fighters since the Hamas attack.

"We also have hostages in Rafah, and we will do everything we can to bring them back home," the military spokesman told a briefing.

The army said it was calling up "two reserve brigades for operational activities", about a week after withdrawing most ground troops from Gaza.

The Hamas government media office said Israeli aircraft and tanks launched "dozens" of strikes overnight on central Gaza, reporting several casualties.

Witnesses told AFP that strikes hit the Nuseirat refugee camp, with clashes also reported in other areas of central and northern Gaza.

Hamas's attack that sparked the fighting resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,729 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

Retaliation fears

The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting Sunday following the Iranian attack, where Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the region was "on the brink" of war.

"Neither the region nor the world can afford more war," the UN chief said.

"Now is the time to defuse and de-escalate."

G7 leaders also condemned Iran's attack and called for "restraint" on all sides, European Council President Charles Michel wrote on X after a video conference on Sunday.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday his government would help do everything to avoid a "conflagration" in the Middle East.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that after Israel's "success" in intercepting the Iranian launches, "our advice is to contribute to de-escalation".

Israel's top ally the United States has also urged caution and calm.

"We don't want to see this escalate," White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told NBC.

After the attack, US President Joe Biden reaffirmed the Washington´s "ironclad" support for Israel.

However, a senior US official said Biden had also told Netanyahu that his administration would not offer military support for any retaliation on Iran.

Word of the impending attack prompted Israel to close schools and announce restrictions on public gatherings, with the army saying early Monday that those measures were being lifted for most of the country.

In Iran, airports in the capital and elsewhere reopened on Monday, state media said.

Fears of a wider regional conflict propelled stock markets lower on Monday.

Truce deal 'on the table'

More than six months of war have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Rumors of a reopened Israeli checkpoint on the coastal road from the territory's south to Gaza City sent thousands of Palestinians heading north on Sunday, despite Israel denying it was open.

Attempting the journey back to northern Gaza, displaced resident Basma Salman said, "even if it (my house) was destroyed, I want to go there. I couldn't stay in the south."

"It's overcrowded. We couldn't even take a fresh breath of air there. It was completely terrible."

In Khan Younis, southern Gaza's main city, civil defense teams said they had retrieved at least 18 bodies from under the rubble of destroyed buildings.

Responding late Saturday to the latest truce plan presented by US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators, Hamas said it insists on "a permanent ceasefire" and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

Israel's Mossad spy agency called this a "rejection" of the proposal, accusing Hamas of "continuing to exploit the tension with Iran".

But the United States said mediation efforts continue.

"We're not considering diplomacy dead there," said the National Security Council's Kirby.

"There's a new deal on the table... It is a good deal" that would see some hostages released, fighting halted and more humanitarian relief into Gaza, he said.


Top Syrian Officer Faces War Crimes Charges in Swedish Court 

The Stockholm District Court is pictured on April 15, 2024, as the main hearing against the former Syrian brigadier general Mohammed Hamo, who stands accused of aiding and abetting war crimes in Syria in 2012, starts here. (Photo by Oscar OLSSON / TT News Agency / AFP) /
The Stockholm District Court is pictured on April 15, 2024, as the main hearing against the former Syrian brigadier general Mohammed Hamo, who stands accused of aiding and abetting war crimes in Syria in 2012, starts here. (Photo by Oscar OLSSON / TT News Agency / AFP) /
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Top Syrian Officer Faces War Crimes Charges in Swedish Court 

The Stockholm District Court is pictured on April 15, 2024, as the main hearing against the former Syrian brigadier general Mohammed Hamo, who stands accused of aiding and abetting war crimes in Syria in 2012, starts here. (Photo by Oscar OLSSON / TT News Agency / AFP) /
The Stockholm District Court is pictured on April 15, 2024, as the main hearing against the former Syrian brigadier general Mohammed Hamo, who stands accused of aiding and abetting war crimes in Syria in 2012, starts here. (Photo by Oscar OLSSON / TT News Agency / AFP) /

The highest-ranking Syrian military official to be tried in Europe on Monday appeared before a Stockholm court accused of war crimes during Syria's civil war.

Former brigadier general Mohammed Hamo, 65 who lives in Sweden, is accused of "aiding and abetting" war crimes and could get a life jail sentence.

The war between President Bashar al-Assad's regime and armed opposition groups, including ISIS, erupted after the government repressed peaceful pro-democracy protests in 2011.

It has killed more than half a million people, displaced millions, and ravaged Syria's economy and infrastructure.

Wearing a dark blue shirt, jeans and sneakers, Hamo listened carefully and took notes as prosecutor Karolina Wieslander read out the charges.

Wieslander said Hamo had contributed -- through "advice and action" -- to the Syrian army's warfare, which "systematically included attacks carried out in violation of the principles of distinction, caution and proportionality."

"The warfare was thus indiscriminate," Wieslander told the court.

The charges concern the period of January 1 to July 20, 2012. The trial is expected to last until late May.

'Disproportionate'

The prosecutor said the Syrian army's "widespread air and ground attacks" caused damage "at a scale that was disproportionate in view of the concrete and immediate general military advantages that could be expected to be achieved."

In his role as brigadier general and head of an armament division, Hamo allegedly helped coordinate and supply of arms to units.

Hamo's lawyer, Mari Kilman, told the court her client denied criminal responsibility.

"In any case he has not had the intent towards the main charge, that indiscriminate warfare would be carried out by others," Kilman said.

Kilman said the officer could not be held liable for the actions "as he had acted in a military context and had to follow orders."

Hamo also denied all individual charges and argued that Syrian law should be applied.

Several plaintiffs are to testify at the trial, including Syrians from cities that were attacked and a British photographer who was injured during one strike.

'Complete impunity'

"The attacks in and around Homs and Hama in 2012 resulted in widespread civilian harm and an immense destruction of civilian properties," Aida Samani, senior legal advisor at rights group Civil Rights Defenders, told AFP.

"The same conduct has been repeated systematically by the Syrian army in other cities across Syria with complete impunity."

This trial will be the first in Europe "to address these types of indiscriminate attacks by the Syrian army", according to Samani, who added that it "will be the first opportunity for victims of the attacks to have their voices heard in an independent court".

Hamo is the highest-ranking military official to go on trial in Europe, though other countries have tried to bring charges against more senior members.

In March, Swiss prosecutors charged Rifaat al-Assad, an uncle of President Bashar al-Assad, with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

However, it remains unlikely Rifaat al-Assad -- who recently returned to Syria after 37 years in exile -- will show up for the trial, for which a date has yet to be set.

Swiss law allows for trials in absentia under certain conditions.

In November, France issued an international arrest warrant for Bashar al-Assad, accusing him of complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes over chemical attacks in 2013.

Three other international warrants were also issued for the arrests of Bashar al-Assad's brother Maher, the de-facto chief of the army's elite Fourth Division and two generals.

In January 2022, a German court sentenced former colonel Anwar Raslan to life jail for crimes against humanity. This was the first international trial over state-sponsored torture in Syria and was hailed by victims as a victory for justice.


US to Announce Additional $100 ml in Aid to Respond to Sudan Conflict

Sudanese refugees gather as Doctors Without Borders (MSF) teams assist the war-wounded from West Darfur, Sudan, in Adre hospital, Chad, June 16, 2023 in this handout image. Courtesy of Mohammad Ghannam/MSF/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
Sudanese refugees gather as Doctors Without Borders (MSF) teams assist the war-wounded from West Darfur, Sudan, in Adre hospital, Chad, June 16, 2023 in this handout image. Courtesy of Mohammad Ghannam/MSF/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
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US to Announce Additional $100 ml in Aid to Respond to Sudan Conflict

Sudanese refugees gather as Doctors Without Borders (MSF) teams assist the war-wounded from West Darfur, Sudan, in Adre hospital, Chad, June 16, 2023 in this handout image. Courtesy of Mohammad Ghannam/MSF/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
Sudanese refugees gather as Doctors Without Borders (MSF) teams assist the war-wounded from West Darfur, Sudan, in Adre hospital, Chad, June 16, 2023 in this handout image. Courtesy of Mohammad Ghannam/MSF/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights

The United States will announce an additional $100 million in aid to respond to the conflict in Sudan, according to a statement seen by Reuters, as Washington seeks to spur international response ahead of Monday's anniversary of the war.

US Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power in the statement said the additional funding, first reported by Reuters, would go toward emergency food assistance, nutrition support and other life-saving aid.

Power is also set to call on the warring parties to stop hindering humanitarian access and participate in "good faith negotiations to reach a ceasefire" in order to prevent famine and further suffering, according to the statement.

"A year ago tomorrow, the people of Sudan awoke to a nightmare," Power said.

"The warring sides turned bustling neighborhoods into battle zones, killing thousands, leaving bodies in the streets, and trapping civilians in their homes without adequate food, water, and medicines."

War erupted in Sudan on April 15, 2023, between the Sudanese army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), devastating the country's infrastructure.

Thousands of civilians have been killed, although death toll estimates are highly uncertain, and both sides have been accused of committing war crimes.

The war has pushed millions into extreme hunger, created the world's largest displacement crisis, and triggered waves of ethnically driven killings and sexual violence in the Darfur region of western Sudan.

Washington's announcement of further assistance comes ahead of a humanitarian conference in France on April 15. The US has urged partners around the world to put greater priority on the conflict in Sudan and step up with further funding at the conference.

"We call on others to join us in increasing support to the people of Sudan and urgently mobilizing additional support for the Sudanese response," Power said.


Allies Urge Israel to Show Restraint after Iranian Attack

France's President Emmanuel Macron addresses the media as France's Minister for the Armed Forces Sebastien Lecornu listens during a visit to the powders and explosives company Eurenco plant in Bergerac, southwestern France, on April 11, 2024. (Reuters)
France's President Emmanuel Macron addresses the media as France's Minister for the Armed Forces Sebastien Lecornu listens during a visit to the powders and explosives company Eurenco plant in Bergerac, southwestern France, on April 11, 2024. (Reuters)
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Allies Urge Israel to Show Restraint after Iranian Attack

France's President Emmanuel Macron addresses the media as France's Minister for the Armed Forces Sebastien Lecornu listens during a visit to the powders and explosives company Eurenco plant in Bergerac, southwestern France, on April 11, 2024. (Reuters)
France's President Emmanuel Macron addresses the media as France's Minister for the Armed Forces Sebastien Lecornu listens during a visit to the powders and explosives company Eurenco plant in Bergerac, southwestern France, on April 11, 2024. (Reuters)

Israel faced growing pressure from allies on Monday to show restraint and avoid an escalation of conflict in the Middle East as it considered how to respond to Iran's weekend missile and drone attack.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned his war cabinet for the second time in less than 24 hours, a government source said. Two top officials signaled on Sunday that retaliation was not imminent and Israel would not act alone, but the results of Monday's talks were not yet known.

Iran's attack has increased fears of open warfare between Israel and Iran, and heightened concerns that violence will spread further in the region. Wary of the dangers, President Joe Biden has told Netanyahu the United States will not take part in any Israeli counter-offensive against Iran.

Since the start of the war in Gaza on Oct. 7, clashes have erupted between Israel and Iran-aligned groups in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq, and Israel said four of its soldiers were wounded hundreds of meters inside Lebanese territory overnight.

It appeared to be the first such incident to become known since the Gaza war erupted, leading to months of exchanges of fire between Israel and Lebanon's armed group Hezbollah.

"We're on the edge of the cliff and we have to move away from it," Josep Borrell, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, told Spanish radio station Onda Cero. "We have to step on the brakes and reverse gear."

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron made similar appeals, all echoing calls for restraint by Washington and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Countries including Belgium and Germany summoned the Iranian ambassadors.

Russia has refrained from criticizing its ally Iran in public over the strikes but expressed concern about the risk of escalation on Monday and also called for restraint.

"Further escalation is in no one's interests," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Iran launched the attack over a suspected Israeli airstrike on its embassy compound in Syria on April 1 that killed seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers including two senior commanders.

The weekend attack, involving more than 300 missiles and drones, caused only modest damage in Israel and no deaths. Most were shot down by Israel's Iron Dome defense system and with help from the US, Britain, France and Jordan.

Italy open to sanctions

Italy, which holds the rotating presidency of the Group of Seven major democracies, raised the possibility of the G7 discussing new sanctions against Iran following the attack.

In an interview with Reuters, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said new sanctions would need the backing of all the G7, which includes Italy, France, Germany, Canada, Japan, Britain and the United States. He suggested any new measures would be focused on individuals rather than whole nations.

"If we need to have more sanctions for people clearly engaged against Israel, supporting for example terrorism, supporting Hamas, it is possible to do it. But we need to be very serious and to work all together," Tajani said.

Asian shares fell and gold prices rose on Monday as risk sentiment took a hit. But oil prices dipped and Israel's shekel rose against the dollar after the comments by two senior Israeli officials - Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and centrist minister Benny Gantz - suggesting an Israeli response was not imminent.

Iran's attack also caused travel disruption, with at least a dozen airlines cancelling or rerouting flights, and Europe's aviation regulator reaffirming advice to airlines to use caution in Israeli and Iranian airspace.

Israel remained on high alert, but authorities lifted some emergency measures that had included a ban on some school activities and caps on large gatherings.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Tehran had informed the United States that the attack on Israel would be limited and for self-defense, and that regional neighbors had been informed of the planned strikes 72 hours in advance.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said on Monday, however, that no pre-arranged agreement was made with any country prior to the weekend attack. US officials said Tehran had not warned Washington.

Iran's attack has drawn applause in Gaza, where Israel began a military campaign against Hamas after the Palestinian group's deadly attack on Israel, killing 1,200 and taking 253 hostages by Israeli tallies. Gaza's health ministry says over 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in the offensive and that the enclave faces a humanitarian catastrophe.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said humanitarian aid getting into the Gaza Strip had increased by a large amount in the last few days, but many Gazans are still displaced by fighting and unable to return home.

"We can live in tents, we just want to return to our homes," displaced Gazan Souad Zayed said the Nuseirat refugee camp. "We're not crying over bricks and mortar, or money or trees or anything, what's important is that they let us return to our homes. There's a lot of people, we're exhausted."


Official Silence as Damascus Returns to Normal After Night of Air Clashes

Syrians on a bridge crossing the Barada River in Marjeh Square in central Damascus on the morning of the Iranian drone attack on Israel (AFP)
Syrians on a bridge crossing the Barada River in Marjeh Square in central Damascus on the morning of the Iranian drone attack on Israel (AFP)
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Official Silence as Damascus Returns to Normal After Night of Air Clashes

Syrians on a bridge crossing the Barada River in Marjeh Square in central Damascus on the morning of the Iranian drone attack on Israel (AFP)
Syrians on a bridge crossing the Barada River in Marjeh Square in central Damascus on the morning of the Iranian drone attack on Israel (AFP)

Syrians had a tough night with explosions rocking the skies, especially in Damascus and the south, as Iran attacked Israel. Syrians waited for an official statement about the blasts, which locals said were caused by “air defenses intercepting enemy missiles.”

A UK-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported that the explosions weren’t just from intercepting unknown projectiles, possibly Israeli.

“Some rockets came from southwest of Damascus towards Hezbollah areas, not just from Lebanon,” said Rami Abdulrahman, the Observatory’s director.

“They weren’t acknowledged publicly to avoid embarrassment for Damascus,” added Abdulrahman, clarifying that Israel didn't attack inside Syria but engaged in air defense to counter the Iranian threat on Israel.

Late Saturday into Sunday, powerful explosions rocked Damascus and its outskirts, especially around the Sayyida Zainab area and Damascus International Airport.

Similar blasts were heard in Daraa, Suwayda, Quneitra (south), western rural Homs, and Jableh on the Syrian coast.

Unofficial Syrian media reported “aerial clashes in Syrian skies between Syrian air defenses and Israeli missiles.”

Pro-government daily “Al-Watan” aired videos titled: “Syrian air defenses stand firm against Israeli missiles.”

On the flip side, media reports suggest that the sounds heard in Syrian skies were caused by Israel intercepting Iranian drones.

The “Voice of the Capital” website clarified that there was “no Israeli attack on military sites in Damascus and its outskirts,” attributing the explosions to “Israeli defenses intercepting Iranian drones and missiles before they reached the Golan Heights.”

As of now, there’s been no official statement about the Iranian attack on Israel and the events in Syrian airspace. Syrian coverage mainly relied on Iranian media reports.

Sunday evening saw Syria’s Foreign Ministry releasing a statement expressing support for Iran.

The ministry affirmed Iran’s right to self-defense and condemned Israeli aggression on Iranian diplomatic premises in Damascus, according to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA).

Life in Damascus appeared normal on Sunday morning after a night filled with the circulation of numerous images and videos purportedly showing Syrian air defenses intercepting Israeli missiles in the Syrian sky.

According to the “Voice of the Capital” website, air traffic resumed at Damascus International Airport after a brief halt due to the Iranian attack on Israel.


How Did Coordination with Allies Benefit Tel Aviv?

The daily life in Tel Aviv on the day following Iran's launch of drones and missiles towards Israel (Reuters)
The daily life in Tel Aviv on the day following Iran's launch of drones and missiles towards Israel (Reuters)
TT

How Did Coordination with Allies Benefit Tel Aviv?

The daily life in Tel Aviv on the day following Iran's launch of drones and missiles towards Israel (Reuters)
The daily life in Tel Aviv on the day following Iran's launch of drones and missiles towards Israel (Reuters)

Before many drones reached Israel, US, UK, French, and Jordanian troops dealt with a big chunk, aiding Israel in halting the Iranian drone attack. Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari called it a significant strategic win.

Stopping the drones gave Israel space to focus on Iranian missiles. Israel’s interception of the Iranian attack cost around a billion dollars. Now, Israel aims to build a lasting alliance after recognizing the importance of joint action.

Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported that the Iranian attack failed after intervention by the US, UK, France, and Jordan.

The newspaper praised this as another success for Israel, showing that these countries didn’t back down from Iran’s threats but fought effectively through careful planning.

Israel’s Channel 12 described Jordan’s involvement as unexpected, highlighting their strategic partnership with the US and their impressive interception of drones.

Despite typically cool relations, Jordan’s actions demonstrated a surprising and genuine strategic alliance with Israel.

According to Haaretz, the successful defense against the Iranian attack highlights the effectiveness of the US-led regional defense system.

Israel returned to normalcy on Sunday after the attack, with the Home Front Command stating that nationwide, Israelis no longer needed to stay close to protected areas, though gathering restrictions and the cancellation of educational activities and school trips remained.

Hagari said that 99% of the aerial threats were shot down, which he said was a strategic achievement.

President Joe Biden confirmed US assistance in destroying almost 300 drones and missiles launched at Israel by Iran.

US military aircraft and missile defense destroyers, deployed to the region last week, supported Israeli air defense systems in intercepting a significant wave of drones and missiles fired from Iran late Saturday night.

American officials confirmed US forces intercepted Iranian drones near As-Suwayda and Daraa in southern Syria, close to the Jordanian border, bound for Israel, without specifying the exact number.

Sources revealed that Jordanian aircraft downed numerous Iranian drones flying through Jordan towards Israel.