Idlib: Assassinations Eliminate Opposers of Turkish-Russian Agreement

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin attend a news conference in Sochi, Russia, November 13, 2017, Reuters
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin attend a news conference in Sochi, Russia, November 13, 2017, Reuters
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Idlib: Assassinations Eliminate Opposers of Turkish-Russian Agreement

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin attend a news conference in Sochi, Russia, November 13, 2017, Reuters
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin attend a news conference in Sochi, Russia, November 13, 2017, Reuters

Assassination campaigns targeted anti-regime officials in northern Syria, killing a military senior official opposed to the Russian-Turkish agreement on Idlib signed on January.

A joint Russian-Turkish plan to set up a demilitarized zone as a buffer between the Syrian regime forces and Syrian rebels was signed by Russian president Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, at a bilateral summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Syrian opposition media sources said unidentified gunmen assassinated a Guardians of Religion Organization military leader, who went by the alias As-Sayaf, near the town of Kansafra in Idlib’s countryside.

The incident comes a day after the opposition group announced rejecting to cooperate with the Russian-Turkish agreement.

“We (the Guardians of Religion Organization) reject the Sochi agreement on Idlib, and warn of it as this major plot draws parallels with the fallout of Bosnia’s disarmament agreement,” the group’s statement said.

“We advise our brothers to return to God and self-accountability,” the statement added.

The Guardians of Religion Organization is a merger of several al-Qaeda linked factions and Ahrar al-Sham defectors and is active in Idlib and nearby Latakia mountains. They rejected the Russian-Turkish agreement over the northern province of Idlib, saying it was an “existential battle” for the province.

Syrian opposition leader in the Free Syrian Army's National Liberation Front (FNL) said on Sunday that the Guardians of Religion Organization rejecting to collaborate on the Russian-Turkish Idlib agreement would “have no effect.”

On the other hand, Two Ahrar al-Sham members, Ahmed al-Salama and another who remains unidentified, were killed in an explosion targeting one of the group’s checkpoints near a rural village in Idlib.

Local Syrian opposition activists said that factions linked to the Guardians of Religion Organization had targeted a checkpoint for Russian troops east of the city of Idlib, two days after their announcement on rejecting the Turkish-Russian agreement.

Activists added that the group targeted a Russian outpost in Idlib’s Barghithi village, without any casualties being reported.

On retaliatory attacks, Syrian regime forces were reported to have shelled agricultural land in the villages in eastern Idlib.

The Syrian regime and Russian forces have military deployments in Idlib’s from their positions in Abu al-Duhur village.



UN Secretary General Meets Alimi, Pledges Efforts to Renew Truce in Yemen

 Chairman of Yemen's Presidential Leadership Council, Dr. Rashad al-Alimi, addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 21, 2023. (AFP)
Chairman of Yemen's Presidential Leadership Council, Dr. Rashad al-Alimi, addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 21, 2023. (AFP)
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UN Secretary General Meets Alimi, Pledges Efforts to Renew Truce in Yemen

 Chairman of Yemen's Presidential Leadership Council, Dr. Rashad al-Alimi, addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 21, 2023. (AFP)
Chairman of Yemen's Presidential Leadership Council, Dr. Rashad al-Alimi, addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 21, 2023. (AFP)

UN Secretary-General António Guterres pledged ‏to exert all efforts to renew the truce in Yemen, ‏restart the political process, and enable Yemenis to build ‏a state based on partnership and respect for human rights

During a meeting in New York with Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) President Dr. Rashad al-Alimi, Guterres renewed the ‏international organization's commitment to supporting the ‏ PLC and government, the official Yemeni news agency SABA reported.‏

Alimi said‏ that the ‏government is open to initiatives that could lead to a comprehensive ‏solution agreed upon at national, regional and international levels, ‏particularly to those respecting UN resolutions.

He praised the mediation efforts ‏led by Saudi Arabia and Oman to ‏renew the truce and launch a political process under UN auspices.


Ukraine’s Zelenskiy Meets Sudan’s Burhan, Discusses Russian Paramilitaries

In this handout photograph taken and released by Ukrainian Presidential Press Service on September 23, 2023, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (R) speaks with President of the Sudanese Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (L) during their meeting at Shannon Airport, in Shannon, western Ireland. (Handout / Ukrainian Presidential Press Service / AFP)
In this handout photograph taken and released by Ukrainian Presidential Press Service on September 23, 2023, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (R) speaks with President of the Sudanese Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (L) during their meeting at Shannon Airport, in Shannon, western Ireland. (Handout / Ukrainian Presidential Press Service / AFP)
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Ukraine’s Zelenskiy Meets Sudan’s Burhan, Discusses Russian Paramilitaries

In this handout photograph taken and released by Ukrainian Presidential Press Service on September 23, 2023, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (R) speaks with President of the Sudanese Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (L) during their meeting at Shannon Airport, in Shannon, western Ireland. (Handout / Ukrainian Presidential Press Service / AFP)
In this handout photograph taken and released by Ukrainian Presidential Press Service on September 23, 2023, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (R) speaks with President of the Sudanese Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (L) during their meeting at Shannon Airport, in Shannon, western Ireland. (Handout / Ukrainian Presidential Press Service / AFP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday he held an impromptu meeting in Ireland's Shannon airport with the head of the Sudanese Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and that they discussed Russia-funded armed groups.

"We discussed our common security challenges, namely the activities of illegal armed groups financed by Russia," Zelenskiy wrote on Telegram.

He thanked Sudan, which is currently in the midst of a deadly civil war, for its support of Ukraine's territorial integrity.

Russia's Wagner mercenary group has operated in Ukraine throughout Moscow's invasion. Western diplomats and media have said the group is also present in Sudan, although Wagner denied this.


Bombing at Checkpoint in Somalia Kills at Least 15 People, Authorities Say

In this grab taken from video, smoke billows after an explosion in Beledweyne, Somalia, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023. (AP)
In this grab taken from video, smoke billows after an explosion in Beledweyne, Somalia, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023. (AP)
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Bombing at Checkpoint in Somalia Kills at Least 15 People, Authorities Say

In this grab taken from video, smoke billows after an explosion in Beledweyne, Somalia, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023. (AP)
In this grab taken from video, smoke billows after an explosion in Beledweyne, Somalia, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023. (AP)

An explosives-laden vehicle detonated Saturday at a security checkpoint in the central Somalia city of Beledweyne, killing at least 15 people and wounding 40 others, authorities said.

Abdifatah Mohamed Yusuf, the director-general of the Hirshabelle Ministry of Humanitarian and Disaster Management, confirmed the deaths.

“Twenty of the wounded have been admitted to Beledweyne hospitals, while another 20 are in critical condition, prompting a request for their airlift to Mogadishu for advanced medical treatment,” he said.

Hirshabelle is a state that includes Beledweyne, which is the capital of the Hiran region and has been the center of the Somali government’s latest military offensive against extremists from East Africa’s al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Shabaab.

Images on social media showed black smoke billowing and a smashed truck cab blazing at the checkpoint.

Dr. Suleyman Abdi Ali, the director of Beledweyne General Hospital, said the bodies of 10 victims were brought to his hospital.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility from al-Shabaab, which often carries out such attacks and controls parts of Somalia.


Lebanese Army Says It Exchanged Tear Gas, Smoke Bomb Fire with Israel

The Lebanese-Israeli border.
The Lebanese-Israeli border.
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Lebanese Army Says It Exchanged Tear Gas, Smoke Bomb Fire with Israel

The Lebanese-Israeli border.
The Lebanese-Israeli border.

Lebanon's army said it fired tear gas at Israeli forces over the border on Saturday in response to smoke bombs fired at its troops, though Israel said Lebanon started the confrontation.

Tensions have flared along the frontier this summer, with rockets fired at Israel during flare-ups of Israeli-Palestinian violence, and members of the heavily armed Lebanese group Hezbollah or its supporters facing off with Israeli forces.

"Elements of the Israeli enemy violated the withdrawal line and fired smoke bombs at a Lebanese army patrol that was accompanying a bulldozer removing an earthen berm erected by the Israeli enemy north of the withdrawal line, the blue line, in the Bastra area," the Lebanese army said in a statement.

The current demarcation line between the two countries is known as the Blue Line, a frontier mapped by the United Nations that marks the line to which Israeli forces withdrew when they left south Lebanon in 2000.

"The Lebanese patrol responded to the attack by firing tear bombs ... forcing them to withdraw to the occupied Palestinian territories," Lebanon's army added.

The Israeli military said it was Lebanon that started the violence.

"A short while ago, IDF soldiers spotted an engineering vehicle’s shovel crossing the Blue Line from Lebanon into Israeli territory in the area of Mount Dov," a statement from the military said. "In response, IDF soldiers used riot dispersal means."

"The vehicle returned to Lebanese territory," the military said.

UNIFIL, the UN peacekeeping force in the area, said there had been tension on Saturday.

"UNIFIL is in touch with the parties to decrease tensions and prevent a misunderstanding. At the moment we are on the ground, monitoring the situation and trying to bring calm back to the area," spokesperson Andrea Tenenti said. 


Lebanese Troops Rescue 27 Migrants from Sinking Boat off Lebanon’s Coast

This photo released on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, by the Lebanese Army official website, shows a rubber boat with migrants during a rescue operation at the Mediterranean Sea, near the shores of the northern coastal town of Chekka, Lebanon. (Lebanese Army website via AP)
This photo released on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, by the Lebanese Army official website, shows a rubber boat with migrants during a rescue operation at the Mediterranean Sea, near the shores of the northern coastal town of Chekka, Lebanon. (Lebanese Army website via AP)
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Lebanese Troops Rescue 27 Migrants from Sinking Boat off Lebanon’s Coast

This photo released on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, by the Lebanese Army official website, shows a rubber boat with migrants during a rescue operation at the Mediterranean Sea, near the shores of the northern coastal town of Chekka, Lebanon. (Lebanese Army website via AP)
This photo released on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, by the Lebanese Army official website, shows a rubber boat with migrants during a rescue operation at the Mediterranean Sea, near the shores of the northern coastal town of Chekka, Lebanon. (Lebanese Army website via AP)

The Lebanese army and the country’s civil defense recused early Saturday 27 migrants whose boat was sinking off the coast of north Lebanon, the military said in a statement.

The army did not say where the migrants were heading, nor did it give their nationalities.

Over the past years, thousands of Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinian migrants took the dangerous trip from Lebanon across the Mediterranean seeking a better life in Europe. Such migrations intensified since the country’s historic economic meltdown began in October 2019.

Lebanon has hosted refugees for years. It has some 805,000 UN-registered Syrian refugees, but officials estimate the actual number to be between 1.5 million and 2 million. Lebanon is also home to tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, many living in 12 refugee camps scattered around the country.

Over the past months, thousands of Syrian citizens fleeing worsening economic conditions in their war-torn country made it to Lebanon through illegal crossing points seeking better opportunities. Lebanese officials have warned that the flow of Syrian refugees could create “harsh imbalances” negatively affecting the country's delicate demographic structure.

Last month, Lebanese troops detained dozens of Lebanese and Syrian traffickers in the country’s north while they were preparing to send migrants on boats to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea.

A boat carrying migrants from Lebanon capsized off Syria’s coast in September last year, leaving at least 94 people dead, one of the deadliest incidents involving migrants, and was followed by a wave of detentions of suspected smugglers.

In neighboring Syria, a navy patrol stopped a boat Saturday carrying migrants off the coast of Latakia, according to the pro-government Sham FM radio station. It gave no further details, but such incidents are rare in Syria, where a 12-year conflict has killed half a million people and left large parts of the country in ruins.


Yemeni Officials Warn of Disaster Scenario Similar to Derna in Aden

Heavy floods caused material and human damage in Aden last year (X)
Heavy floods caused material and human damage in Aden last year (X)
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Yemeni Officials Warn of Disaster Scenario Similar to Derna in Aden

Heavy floods caused material and human damage in Aden last year (X)
Heavy floods caused material and human damage in Aden last year (X)

Yemeni officials are increasingly concerned about environmental hazards in the country, saying Hurricane Daniel that hit the Libyan city of Derna this month has raised the possibility of similar disasters in Yemen in light of poor urban planning and infrastructure.

The Office of Agriculture and Irrigation in the temporary capital Aden recently warned that the disasters in Libya could be repeated in the areas of Bir Hassan and Huswah in the Aden governorate, and also in the Lahj governorate, where a number of residences are built near the Wadi Tuban stream.

Also, the Office said environmental risks are more possible after the road linking Al-Alam to Al-Husseini, which extends around the Lahj governorate from the east towards the north, was turned into a dam to direct the flow of water to nearby villages and to the city of Aden.

It then called on the Governor of Aden to quickly intervene before “a disaster occurs.”

The Office said the Governor should coordinate with the local authority in Lahj Governorate, and with the ministries of Agriculture and Irrigation, and Fish Wealth to take the necessary measures to avoid any future disasters.

Meanwhile, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, Ahmed Al-Zamki, said he and the competent authorities are concerned about an impending environmental disaster in Yemen.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the ministry expects a flood to occur soon in the region, which witnessed a similar disaster more than 40 years ago.

It is scientifically known that floods have a frequency of 40 to 50 years, Al-Zamki stated.

“In recent years, rain has begun to fall in unprecedented abundance, which portends a disaster,” he said.

The Yemeni official added that water flows take their course over thousands of years, and any intervention to obstruct or change their course could lead to floods along the sides of valleys and streams, and therefore causing damage and disasters.


Iraqi PM to Deliver Iranian Messages During His Visit to White House

PM Sudani meets Brett McGurk, White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, in New York on Friday. (Iraqi Prime Minister's press office)
PM Sudani meets Brett McGurk, White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, in New York on Friday. (Iraqi Prime Minister's press office)
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Iraqi PM to Deliver Iranian Messages During His Visit to White House

PM Sudani meets Brett McGurk, White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, in New York on Friday. (Iraqi Prime Minister's press office)
PM Sudani meets Brett McGurk, White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, in New York on Friday. (Iraqi Prime Minister's press office)

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani is “very excited” to visit the White House before the end of the year, officials close to the PM said on Friday.

Sudani met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in New York on Monday and received an invitation from US President Joe Biden to visit Washington. Iraq did not disclose the official date of the visit, although local media outlets said it is expected to happen before the end of 2023.

The PM’s close associates said the visit will “open the door wide for Iraq to the international community” given the Baghdad government’s isolation due to its close ties to Tehran.

Tehran, in turn, had exerted a lot of pressure on the Iraqi delegation in New York as soon as news of the invitation broke out.

Tehran won’t be the only one eager for Sudani to deliver its messages to Washington. The pro-Iran Shiite factions in Baghdad have a lot of questions and fears that need to be addressed.

Ultimately, Sudani will head to the White House with several issues raised by his allies, whom Washington disapproves of.

Iraqi officials who traveled with Sudani to New York met with the Iranian delegation that was attending the General Assembly. News of his visit to the White House overshadowed the talks with local media saying the “Iranians made a list of demands the PM should deliver to the Americans.”

Among their demands is removing American restrictions on Baghdad that are preventing it from paying financial dues to Tehran and reminding the Iraqis of the need to end American troop deployment in Iraq.

Sudani was not pleased with the way the Iranians approached him, saying the situation in Iraq “demanded a delicate approach.”

Members of the pro-Iran Coordination Framework told Asharq Al-Awsat that Sudani will be met with more pressure from Shiite factions once he returns to Baghdad as they too have their list of concerns and messages.

A leading member of the Framework said the political forces will show great support to Sudani before and during his visit to the White House because “they are in dire need of the Americans” given the dollar crisis Iraq is grappling with.

He noted, however, that not all Shiite factions will support the PM’s visit, especially the armed factions that are aligned with Iran. They will burden him with question related to the United States’ military plans regarding the border between Iraq and Syria and also over the freedom of American navigation in Iraqi skies.

In spite of the contradictions among the Shiite factions, no one wants the visit to be cancelled, rather they view it as an opportunity to remove the pressure the Baghdad government has been enduring for months and they will want to exploit it in Iran’s favor, even if it means undermining and “embarrassing” Sudani in the process.

It will be up to Sudani to strike a difficult balance between his government’s interests in the international community and between pressure from Iran and its allies. Most importantly, he will want to appear as a trustworthy man of state before the Americans, while still not making long-term commitments to them, said an Iraqi politician who works closely with the PM.


Sudan's Army Chief Says He Favors Negotiated Settlement to War

Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, chairman of the ruling Sovereign Council. (AP)
Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, chairman of the ruling Sovereign Council. (AP)
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Sudan's Army Chief Says He Favors Negotiated Settlement to War

Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, chairman of the ruling Sovereign Council. (AP)
Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, chairman of the ruling Sovereign Council. (AP)

Sudan's army chief said on Friday he had not sought military support on a recent regional tour and that his preference was for a peaceful solution to the conflict that has killed thousands and displaced millions of civilians.
General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan also said in an interview with Reuters that he had asked neighboring states to stop sending mercenaries in support of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
War between the army and the RSF broke out in mid-April over plans for a political transition and the integration of the RSF into the army, four years after long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir was overthrown in a popular uprising.
"Every war ends in peace, whether through negotiations or force. We are proceeding on those two paths, and our preferred path is the path of negotiations," Burhan said on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Burhan added that he believed that stalled talks in Jeddah could still succeed.
Burhan has made a series of foreign visits in recent weeks after remaining in Sudan for the first months of the war. The purpose was to seek solutions, not military support, though he had asked other states to block external backing that he asserts the RSF is receiving, he said.
"We asked our neighbors to help us monitor the borders to stop the flow of mercenaries," said Burhan.
RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, said in a video speech released on Thursday to coincide with an address by Burhan to the UN General Assembly that he was ready for a ceasefire and political talks.
Previous claims by both sides that they want peace and are ready for ceasefires have failed to stop bloodshed.
Witnesses say the army's bombardments have caused civilian casualties and that the RSF is responsible for widespread looting, sexual violence and other abuses, as well as participating in ethnically targeted attacks in Darfur.
Burhan on Friday dismissed accusations against the army as propaganda by its rivals. The RSF has denied it is behind the violence in Darfur, and will hold its men accountable for abuses.
Burhan said that army deployment in El Geneina, which suffered the worst mass killings in Darfur, has been limited, hindering their ability to respond.
The violence peaked after the governor of West Darfur was killed on June 14. Burhan said he told the governor to seek protection at a military camp, but the governor had rejected that.
"The armed forces present in El Geneina are not sufficient in number to spread out in every area," he said.


Netanyahu Tells UN that Israel Is Looking Forward to Historic Agreement with Saudi Arabia

 Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 22 September 2023. (EPA)
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 22 September 2023. (EPA)
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Netanyahu Tells UN that Israel Is Looking Forward to Historic Agreement with Saudi Arabia

 Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 22 September 2023. (EPA)
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 22 September 2023. (EPA)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly on Friday that Israel is "at the cusp" of a historic breakthrough leading to a peace agreement with Saudi Arabia, without outlining a clear path over the significant obstacles facing such an accord.

He struck an optimistic tone throughout his roughly 25-minute address — and, once again, used a visual aid. He displayed contrasting maps showing Israel's isolation at the time of its creation in 1948 and the six countries that have normalized relations with it, including four that did so in 2020 in the so-called Abraham Accords.

"There’s no question the Abraham Accords heralded the dawn of a new age of peace. But I believe that we are at the cusp of an even more dramatic breakthrough, an historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia," Netanyahu said. "Peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia will truly create a new Middle East."

There are several hurdles in the way of such an agreement, including Saudi Arabia’s demand for progress in the creation of a Palestinian state — a hard sell for Netanyahu's government, the most religious and nationalist in Israel's history.

Netanyahu said the Palestinians "could greatly benefit from a broader peace," saying: "They should be part of that process, but they should not have a veto over the process."

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down more than a decade ago, and violence has soared over the past year and a half, with Israel carrying out frequent military raids in the occupied West Bank and Palestinians attacking Israelis.

Netanyahu's government has approved thousands of new settlement homes in the West Bank, which Israel captured in the 1967 war and which the Palestinians want for the main part of their future state.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who addressed the General Assembly on Thursday, made no direct reference to efforts to reach a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. But he reiterated the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"Those who think that peace can prevail in the Middle East without the Palestinian people enjoying their full and legitimate national rights are mistaken," Abbas said.

Netanyahu has often seemed to revel in using the podium of the General Assembly to lambast Israel's enemies.

He famously held up a picture of a cartoon bomb in 2012 to illustrate Iran's advancing uranium enrichment. In 2020, he claimed Hezbollah was stockpiling explosives near Beirut's airport, prompting the Iran-allied militant group to organize an immediate visit by journalists, who saw heavy machinery but no weapons.

The map he held up this year made no reference to the West Bank, Gaza or east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in 1967 that the Palestinians want for their future state. The map appeared to show Israel encompassing all three.

The chamber was largely empty during his address, though there was a group of Netanyahu supporters who clapped several times during his speech. Protesters and supporters of Netanyahu demonstrated across the street from the UN headquarters.

Netanyahu referred to the cartoon bomb when he held up the maps, pulling out a red marker and drawing a line showing a planned trade corridor stretching from India through the Middle East to Europe.

He also reprised his longstanding criticism of Iran, which Israel views as its greatest threat. Netanyahu referred to Iran's crackdown on protests, its supplying of attack drones to Russia for use in Ukraine, and its military activities across the Middle East.

Netanyahu called for stepped-up sanctions over Iran's nuclear program, which has steadily advanced since the United States withdrew from an agreement with Iran and world powers to which Israel had been staunchly opposed.

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi, who also attended the General Assembly, urged the US to lift sanctions in order to return to the nuclear deal. Iran has always insisted its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, but the US and others believe it had a secret weapons program until 2003.

Raisi also denied Iran had sent drones to Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. US and European officials say the sheer number of Iranian drones being used by Russia shows that the flow of such weapons intensified after hostilities began.

In an ambiguous turn of phrase during his address, Netanyahu said that "above all, Iran must face a credible nuclear threat." The prime minister's office later issued a clarification, saying he meant to say "credible military threat."

Israel, which is widely believed to have nuclear weapons but has never publicly acknowledged them, has repeatedly said all options are on the table to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.


Israel Strikes Gaza after Palestinians Launch Incendiary Balloons toward Israel

Israeli army vehicle patrols at the border with the Gaza Strip during clashes between Palestinian protesters and the Israeli troops near Nahal Oz, on the border with Gaza Strip, 22 September 2023. (EPA)
Israeli army vehicle patrols at the border with the Gaza Strip during clashes between Palestinian protesters and the Israeli troops near Nahal Oz, on the border with Gaza Strip, 22 September 2023. (EPA)
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Israel Strikes Gaza after Palestinians Launch Incendiary Balloons toward Israel

Israeli army vehicle patrols at the border with the Gaza Strip during clashes between Palestinian protesters and the Israeli troops near Nahal Oz, on the border with Gaza Strip, 22 September 2023. (EPA)
Israeli army vehicle patrols at the border with the Gaza Strip during clashes between Palestinian protesters and the Israeli troops near Nahal Oz, on the border with Gaza Strip, 22 September 2023. (EPA)

Israel carried out a series of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip late on Friday after Palestinian activists launched incendiary balloons into Israel as a week of violence along the volatile frontier intensified.

The rising tensions along Israel's front with Gaza came as fighting in the occupied West Bank surged — to levels unseen in two decades. In the latest bloodshed Friday, the Israeli army killed a Palestinian militant in the northern West Bank.

Palestinian activists have been protesting for the past week next to the fence separating Gaza and Israel. The protests have turned violent, with demonstrators hurling explosives toward Israeli troops, and soldiers responding with tear gas and live fire.

For the first time in the current round of unrest, Palestinian protesters on Friday launched balloons into Israel, blackening large patches of vegetation on the other side of the border. Palestinian health officials said Israeli fire wounded 28 Palestinians during protests along the barrier.  

Hamas, the movement ruling Gaza since 2007, says youths have organized the protests in response to Israeli provocations.

Unrest over the past week has escalated tensions and prompted Israel to bar entry to thousands of Palestinian laborers from the impoverished enclave.

Palestinians in Gaza have launched balloons in the past to protest an Israeli blockade imposed on the territory since 2007. The balloons have caused fires and scorched Israeli farmland, prompting Israel on several occasions to use fighter jets to strike at Hamas.

The evening airstrikes struck three military posts belonging to Hamas, the army said. Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and engaged in numerous smaller battles since Hamas took over the territory.

Palestinian protesters at the border fence on Friday said they were demonstrating against recent Jewish visits to a disputed holy site in the Old City of Jerusalem. Jews revere the hilltop compound as the Temple Mount, home to the biblical Jewish Temples. Today, it is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Under longstanding arrangements, Jews are allowed to visit the site, but not to pray there. But growing numbers of visits — along with scenes of some Jews quietly praying — have raised Palestinian fears that Israel is plotting to divide or take over the site. Israel says it is committed to the longstanding status quo.

Earlier Friday, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian militant in the northern West Bank, Palestinian authorities said. The Islamic Jihad militant group claimed the man as its fighter and identified him as 18-year-old Abdallah Abu Hasan.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said Hasan was shot in the abdomen by Israeli forces early Friday morning in a Palestinian village north of the West Bank city of Jenin.

The Israeli army said the shooting occurred during a nighttime raid in Kafr Dan, a town near the militant stronghold of Jenin. It said Palestinians fired at soldiers and threw explosives. Soldiers shot back, hitting Hasan.

The operation was the most recent in a series of stepped-up raids Israel has been staging in Palestinian areas of the West Bank. Israel claims such raids root out militancy and thwart future attacks.

But Palestinians say the raids entrench Israel's 56-year occupation over the West Bank. The raids, which have been escalated over the past year and a half,also show little sign of slowing the fighting.

Some 190 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since the start of the year, according to a tally by The Associated Press. Israel says most of those killed have been militants, but youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in the confrontations have also been killed.

At least 31 people have been killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis since the beginning of 2023.

Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for their hoped-for independent state.