UAE Calls for Arab Coalition to Face Threats in Region

UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser
UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser
TT

UAE Calls for Arab Coalition to Face Threats in Region

UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser
UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash stressed the need for a moderate Arab coalition to face the threats in the region. His speech was made during the Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate (ADSD), organized by Emirates Policy Centre.

Building a strong moderate Arab center to address common regional security challenges is already underway, he said, adding that "for this Arab-led approach to be successful, we must continue to develop our own capabilities."

"It is critical that Saudi Arabia and Egypt play a leading role in helping to steer the region in a more positive direction. Their stability is so important for the future of the whole region, and it is also why we welcome the proposal for a Middle East Strategic Alliance – it will allow countries with moderate agendas to work closely with the United States," Gargash stated.

He went on to say that the GCC would be an important part of this alliance.

“Iran has been a primary source of sectarianism in the region," he added. "We believe that Iran is threatening the security of the region's countries by supporting armed militias and its proxies, like Hizbollah in Lebanon and Houthis in Yemen in addition to its use of cyber attacks and carrying out acts of terror in the region and beyond, like those witnessed in Europe."

The minister reaffirmed the UAE's support for the US President Donald Trump's policy toward Iran and his strategy to stand up to its aggressive and destabilizing conduct.

"Another pillar for stability is for the region's countries to pursue good governance. Like other peoples of the world, the region's people seek good health, education and job opportunities; they aspire for prosperity and in case youth in our region have not been promised their dreams will come true, they would opt for extremism," he said.

Gargash continued: "It is now high time for Houthis to de-escalate the situation and start a fresh round of peace negotiations. The ball is now in their court and the international community has to contribute to reaching a peaceful solution to the conflict by getting the Houthis to the negotiating table and cut off military supplies and funding provided to them by Iran."



Gallant: Gaza Deal Won’t Affect Israel’s Hezbollah Fight

 Israeli Defense minister Yoav Gallant (dpa)
Israeli Defense minister Yoav Gallant (dpa)
TT

Gallant: Gaza Deal Won’t Affect Israel’s Hezbollah Fight

 Israeli Defense minister Yoav Gallant (dpa)
Israeli Defense minister Yoav Gallant (dpa)

Israeli Defense minister Yoav Gallant on Sunday said there would be no let up in Israeli action against Lebanon's Hezbollah movement, even if a ceasefire and hostage deal is secured in Gaza, AFP reported.

Gallant visited the military's Northern Command in Safed, which was hit earlier this month by a militant rocket strike from southern Lebanon, killing a soldier.

The Minister said he was keen to assess how Israel was combating increased Hezbollah activity from across the heavily fortified border.

“f anyone thinks that when we reach a deal to release hostages in the south and the firing stops it will ease what is happening here they are wrong,” he said in a video message.

Israel's aim is to ensure the Iran-backed militants do not pose a threat from border areas in southern Lebanon, he added.

If a diplomatic solution to the situation is not possible, “we will do it by force,” Gallant warned.

Talks are underway towards a possible deal for Hamas to release hostages and pause the fighting in Gaza, which was sparked by the militants' attack on southern Israel on October 7.

Since then, there have been near-daily cross-border exchanges of fire between Israel and Hamas's allies Hezbollah on the border with Lebanon, prompting fears of a regional escalation.

On Sunday, the Israeli military said it had intercepted a “suspicious aerial target” in the Upper Galilee region of northern Israel, and rockets were fired at a number of locations.

Since October 7, 10 Israeli soldiers and six civilians have been killed by hostilities in the north, according to an AFP tally.

On the Lebanese side, at least 276 people have been killed, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also 44 civilians, including three journalists.

In Gaza, the Hamas-run health ministry says at least 29,692 have been killed in the war between the militants and Israel.


Captagon File Grows ‘More Complicated’ with Damascus Announcing Seizure of Shipment Bound to Iraq

An Iraqi patrol is seen near the al-Qaim crossing at the Iraqi-Syrian border. (Reuters file photo)
An Iraqi patrol is seen near the al-Qaim crossing at the Iraqi-Syrian border. (Reuters file photo)
TT

Captagon File Grows ‘More Complicated’ with Damascus Announcing Seizure of Shipment Bound to Iraq

An Iraqi patrol is seen near the al-Qaim crossing at the Iraqi-Syrian border. (Reuters file photo)
An Iraqi patrol is seen near the al-Qaim crossing at the Iraqi-Syrian border. (Reuters file photo)

Damascus announced on Sunday the seizure of a shipment of captagon pills bound to Iraq.

State television said the shipment had arrived in Syria from a neighboring country that it did not name. It did not disclose the amount of narcotics that were busted.

The announcement came a day after Iraqi Interior Minister Abdul Amir Al-Shammari said Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani was planning for Iraq to become the “security hub” in combating drugs, reported the state news agency (INA).

He also announced the formation of a joint liaison cell between Jordan, Lebanon and Syria to combat drug smuggling.

Al-Shammari praised the major cooperation with neighboring countries in cracking down on drug smuggling. The cooperation is part of a comprehensive strategy that was prepared in early 2023 and should span three years and aim to achieve 15 goals with 24 partners.

Thorny file

Informed sources in Damascus told Asharq Al-Awsat that the drug file was “growing more complicated” because of the involvement of Iran-aligned militias and several powerful officials.

In 2021, the American New Lines Institute estimated that $5.7 billion was being generated annually by the drug trade.

Damascus appears helpless in answering pressure from Jordan and other Arab countries in cracking down on the illicit business.

Syria is languishing under Iranian debts and a crumbling economy, so it needed to look for alternative sources of income, such as the drug trade, to remain afloat. This has put it in hot water with various Arab countries that have complained about the rise in drug use in the region.

Besides Syria, Lebanon and Iraq have witnessed a spike in drug production that thrived on instability in these countries.

The growing phenomenon has become a threat to Arab peace and national security, most notably in Jordan and the Gulf region.

British and American estimates have said that Syria is the source of 80 percent of the captagon in the world. In 2023, Washington slapped sanctions on several Syrian and Lebanese figures involved in the trade.

Observers have said that the threat of drugs was one of the main reasons why Jordan led efforts to reinstate Syria’s membership in the Arab League, which was seen as precursor to Arab countries normalizing relations with it.

Other issues on the table were the Syrian refugee file and reaching a political solution to the Syrian conflict in line with United Nations resolutions.

However, drug smuggling did not diminish with Syria’s return to the Arab League. Jordan has since dispatched the army to the border with Syria where it often clashes with smugglers.

The Jordanian air force has even carried out strikes against smugglers inside Syria. One attack left ten civilians dead in the Sweida region.

Tensions in relations have since spiked between Amman and Damascus. This did not prevent armed opposition groups in predominantly Druze Sweida to declare they were ready to cooperate with Jordan in cracking down on the smugglers to avert more strikes and civilian casualties.

Jordan has since cast doubt on Damascus’ ability in curbing the illicit activity.


Netanyahu Says Will Conduct Operation in Rafah Even if Hostage Deal is Reached

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (EPA)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (EPA)
TT

Netanyahu Says Will Conduct Operation in Rafah Even if Hostage Deal is Reached

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (EPA)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (EPA)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday an Israeli military operation into Gaza’s Rafah would hand Israel “total victory” over Hamas within the time span of just a few weeks.

“If we have a (ceasefire) deal, it will be delayed somewhat, but it will happen,” he told CBS.

“If we don’t have a deal, we’ll do it anyway. It has to be done because total victory is our goal and total victory is within reach—not months away, weeks away, once we begin the operation,” the PM added.

Netanyahu said if Hamas goes down from its “delusional claims and bring them down to earth, then we'll have the progress that we all want.”

The PM’s comments came while state-linked Egyptian media reported Sunday that negotiations for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza have resumed in Doha between “experts from Egypt, Qatar, the United States and Israel” as well as Hamas representatives.

Lately, an Israeli delegation led by Mossad chief David Barnea was in Paris discussing possibilities of a deal to ensure a fresh ceasefire and the release of captives held in Gaza in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

International pressure for a ceasefire has mounted in recent weeks, as the death toll from Israel's military offensive on the Palestinian territory nears 30,000, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry.

Israel has pledged not to stop its campaign in Gaza until Hamas is destroyed.

On Sunday, the Israeli war on Gaza reached its 142nd consecutive day while the humanitarian crisis is quickly worsening. The UN World Food Program (WFP) highlighted that a quarter of Gazans (576,600 people) have exhausted their food supplies and coping capacities. It said 90 percent of children under the age of 2 face severe food poverty.

And while all areas in the Gaza Strip suffer from a catastrophic humanitarian crisis, residents in the north endure the most. Around 800,000 Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip who are grappling with hunger have resorted to grinding animal feed to make bread due to the prolonged scarcity of wheat flour amid Israel's blockade of humanitarian aid.

Raed Nims, the spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said reports issued by the Health Ministry and government authorities documented the death of children and elderly people due to hunger.

He said the Israeli army is preventing the delivery of aid to the North and Gaza city.

Nims told the Arab World Press that an average of 80 aid trucks entered the Strip following the ceasefire. “We demanded that more trucks be delivered due to the deteriorating situation. However, the number was brought down and less aid trucks are currently delivered to the area.”


Sudan Authorities Block Cross-border Aid to Stricken Darfur

Refugees fleeing the conflict in Sudan queue to collect drinking water from the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) distribution point at Ourang refugee camp in Adre, Chad on December 7, 2023 - AFP
Refugees fleeing the conflict in Sudan queue to collect drinking water from the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) distribution point at Ourang refugee camp in Adre, Chad on December 7, 2023 - AFP
TT

Sudan Authorities Block Cross-border Aid to Stricken Darfur

Refugees fleeing the conflict in Sudan queue to collect drinking water from the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) distribution point at Ourang refugee camp in Adre, Chad on December 7, 2023 - AFP
Refugees fleeing the conflict in Sudan queue to collect drinking water from the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) distribution point at Ourang refugee camp in Adre, Chad on December 7, 2023 - AFP

Authorities loyal to the army in war-ravaged Sudan have blocked cross-border aid to the western Darfur region, a move decried by aid workers and the United States.

The vast Darfur region, bordering Chad, has been one of the hardest hit parts of Sudan since war began 10 months ago between the Sudanese Armed Forces and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

RSF are descendants of the Janjaweed militia which began a scorched earth campaign in Darfur more than two decades ago.

In their current battle against the army, which started last April, the RSF have taken over four out of the five Darfur state capitals.

More than 694,000 people have fled over the border to Chad, according to the International Organization for Migration, but many more remain trapped in Darfur and in need of assistance.

The United Nations has had to limit its work in Darfur to cross-border operations from Chad, but last week the UN's World Food Program (WFP) country director Eddie Rowe told reporters that "authorities have restricted the Chad cross-border operation".

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller on Friday said the United States is deeply concerned by the army's "recent decision to prohibit cross border humanitarian assistance from Chad and reports that the SAF is obstructing assistance from reaching communities in areas controlled by the RSF".

Sudan's foreign ministry, loyal to the army, expressed "confusion and rejection" of the "false accusations" by Washington, AFP reported.

The ministry said the Sudan-Chad border "is the main crossing point for weapons and equipment" used to commit "atrocities" against Sudanese.

A United Nations experts' report in January cited credible evidence that the United Arab Emirates was funnelling "military support" through Chad to the RSF. The UAE has denied the allegations.

Miller, of the State Department, also expressed concern about RSF "looting homes, markets and humanitarian assistance warehouses".

In Brussels, Rowe of WFP said his agency was "engaging with the authorities to ensure this critical lifeline" from Chad remains operational.

It is essential, an international aid worker told AFP on Sunday from Darfur, requesting anonymity so as not to jeopardise their mission.

"Children and babies are already dying from hunger and malnutrition. There will be an immense human impact... and quite possibly large-scale mortality rates," the aid worker said.

"The highest levels of diplomacy need to unblock this situation immediately because millions of lives hang in the balance," the aid worker said, calling it "a huge region already facing an imminent and immense food security crisis on top of a civil war, ethnic violence and state service collapse".

The war has killed thousands, including up to 15,000 in the West Darfur city of El Geneina alone, according to the UN experts.

Washington has accused both sides of war crimes, and said the RSF also carried out ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.


Iraq’s Nujaba: Suspension of Attacks against US Forces Is ‘Calm before the Storm’

A poster of Mushtaq Taleb al-Saidi, who was killed in a US strike in Baghdad in January. (dpa)
A poster of Mushtaq Taleb al-Saidi, who was killed in a US strike in Baghdad in January. (dpa)
TT

Iraq’s Nujaba: Suspension of Attacks against US Forces Is ‘Calm before the Storm’

A poster of Mushtaq Taleb al-Saidi, who was killed in a US strike in Baghdad in January. (dpa)
A poster of Mushtaq Taleb al-Saidi, who was killed in a US strike in Baghdad in January. (dpa)

Secretary-General of the Iran-aligned Nujaba movement in Iraq Akram al-Kaabi said on Sunday that the halt of military operations against American bases in the country was the “calm before the storm”.

In a message on the advent of the middle of the hijri month of Shaban, he stressed that the current calm “was only a temporary tactic aimed at redeployment and mobilization.”

“It is the calm before the storm,” he warned.

Moreover, he alleged that certain sides, which he did not name, “have provided the American forces with information about the resistance and their positions.”

“This demanded a redeployment of our forces and a change in battles tactics,” he went on to say.

He pledged that “more surprises” are in store.

“We are keen on protecting the Popular Mobilization Forces from American attacks,” stated Kaabi.

Commenting on the Baghdad government’s negotiations with American forces over their withdrawal from Iraq, he said the “Islamic Resistance” did not reject the talks, but “we assert that the American occupier is a liar, treacherous and arrogant.”

He added that it would be “delusional” to believe that the US would “yield and withdraw from Iraq through negotiations.”

In January, a US strike in Baghdad killed Mushtaq Taleb al-Saidi, a leading member of the Nujaba who was involved in planning and carrying out attacks against American personnel in Iraq and Syria.


Palestinian Govt to Submit Resignation after Meeting on Monday

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh. (dpa)
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh. (dpa)
TT

Palestinian Govt to Submit Resignation after Meeting on Monday

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh. (dpa)
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh. (dpa)

The Palestinian government is expected to submit its resignation on Monday after holding its weekly meeting.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to nominate Mohammed Mustafa, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Palestine Investment Fund, to form a new cabinet, but will leave it to the factions to agree on a candidate, revealed a source.

Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh had said two weeks ago that the resignation will be submitted “if there were plans to form a new government.”

Palestinian factions and officials were holding intense talks ahead of a meeting they are set to attend in Moscow on Monday.

Abbas is also holding consultations with Arab leaders. He last met with Jordanian King Abdullah II ahead of touring other Arab countries.

Informed sources had said that Abbas was planning to form a new government as soon as the war on Gaza is over.

Its main goal will be to secure Gaza and oversee its reconstruction.

The new government will be formed of experts (technocrats), not politicians.

Mustafa was born in Palestine in 1954. He served in several senior political and economic positions in various Arab and international economic institutions. He also oversaw the launch and management of several local and regional investment funds and companies.


US Says Yemen’s Houthis Ballistic Missile Misses US Tanker Torm Thor 

Newly recruited university students shout slogans during a protest against US-led strikes on Houthi positions, at Sanaa University, in Sana'a, Yemen, 21 February 2024. (EPA)
Newly recruited university students shout slogans during a protest against US-led strikes on Houthi positions, at Sanaa University, in Sana'a, Yemen, 21 February 2024. (EPA)
TT

US Says Yemen’s Houthis Ballistic Missile Misses US Tanker Torm Thor 

Newly recruited university students shout slogans during a protest against US-led strikes on Houthi positions, at Sanaa University, in Sana'a, Yemen, 21 February 2024. (EPA)
Newly recruited university students shout slogans during a protest against US-led strikes on Houthi positions, at Sanaa University, in Sana'a, Yemen, 21 February 2024. (EPA)

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said early on Monday that Yemen's Houthis militias launched one anti-ship ballistic missile likely targeting the MV Torm Thor, but missed the US-flagged, owned and operated oil tanker, in the Gulf of Aden on Feb. 24.

The missile impacted the water causing no damage nor injuries, CENTCOM added in a post on X.

The Iran-aligned group said on Sunday that they targeted the tanker, as the militants continue to attack shipping lanes in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

The US military also shot down in "self-defense" two one-way unmanned aerial attack vehicles over the southern Red Sea on Sunday, said CENTCOM.

The Houthis have launched exploding drones and missiles at commercial vessels since Nov. 19 as a protest against Israel's military operations in Gaza.

The turmoil from Israel's war with the Palestinian group Hamas has spilled over to some extent into other parts of the Middle East.

Apart from the Houthi attacks on vital shipping lanes, Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah group has traded fire with Israel along the Israel-Lebanon border and Iraqi militia have attacked bases that host US forces.


Libya: PFG Threatens to Close Oil Facilities to Press Demands

FILE PHOTO: Members of the petroleum facilities guard stand inside the Libyan state National Oil Corporation (NOC) headquarters in Tripoli, Libya July 14, 2022. REUTERS/Hazem Ahmed/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Members of the petroleum facilities guard stand inside the Libyan state National Oil Corporation (NOC) headquarters in Tripoli, Libya July 14, 2022. REUTERS/Hazem Ahmed/File Photo
TT

Libya: PFG Threatens to Close Oil Facilities to Press Demands

FILE PHOTO: Members of the petroleum facilities guard stand inside the Libyan state National Oil Corporation (NOC) headquarters in Tripoli, Libya July 14, 2022. REUTERS/Hazem Ahmed/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Members of the petroleum facilities guard stand inside the Libyan state National Oil Corporation (NOC) headquarters in Tripoli, Libya July 14, 2022. REUTERS/Hazem Ahmed/File Photo

Libya's Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG) threatened on Sunday to close all oil and gas facilities in the country's western region after the end of a 10-day deadline to authorities to meet their demands, including a 67% salary rise.

Members of PFG, a military group tasked with protecting oil facilities, made the threat in videos posted online.

Video footage on social media platforms X and Facebook showed a group of PFG members in military uniforms closing a feeder valve to the Mellitah oil complex in western Tripoli.

Mellitah is a joint venture between Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) and Italy's Eni. If the complex is closed, that would disrupt the supply of gas through the Greenstream pipeline between Libya and Italy.

NOC said on X that it discussed with the PFG head their demands and "understood" them, but added there "is a necessity of keeping oil installations away from any tensions".

Karim al-Ghamoudi, a member of the PFG said they closed the gate to the Zawiya refinery - also in western Tripoli - saying supply was going normally but "slowly because of crowds at the gate".
"There are only fake promises, and we want them (authorities) to listen to our demands," Ghamoudi said.
Zawiya oil refinery has a capacity of 120,000 barrels per day (bpd), and is connected to the country's 3000,000 bpd Sharara oilfield.
In January, Sharara was closed by protesters from the Fezzan region in the south, prompting the NOC to declare force majeure on the field which was reopened some days later.


Netanyahu Says it is Unclear if Hostage Deal Will Emerge

A displaced Palestinian girl, who fled her house due to Israeli strikes, feeds her brother at a tent camp, near the border with Egypt, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 25, 2024. REUTERS/Saleh Salem
A displaced Palestinian girl, who fled her house due to Israeli strikes, feeds her brother at a tent camp, near the border with Egypt, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 25, 2024. REUTERS/Saleh Salem
TT

Netanyahu Says it is Unclear if Hostage Deal Will Emerge

A displaced Palestinian girl, who fled her house due to Israeli strikes, feeds her brother at a tent camp, near the border with Egypt, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 25, 2024. REUTERS/Saleh Salem
A displaced Palestinian girl, who fled her house due to Israeli strikes, feeds her brother at a tent camp, near the border with Egypt, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 25, 2024. REUTERS/Saleh Salem

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said it was not clear yet whether a hostage deal would materialize from ongoing talks, declining to discuss specifics but saying Hamas needed to "come down to a reasonable situation."
Netanyahu, speaking in an interview with CBS News, added he was meeting with staff later on Sunday to review a dual military plan that included the evacuation of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and an operation to destroy remaining Hamas battalions.

"If we have a deal, it will be delayed somewhat, but it will happen. If we don't have a deal, we'll do it anyway," he told CBS.

Netanyahu’s comments came as US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on CNN that the United States, Egypt, Qatar and Israel have come to an understanding of "basic contours" of a hostage deal for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza.

The deal is still under negotiation, said Sullivan, who added there will have to be indirect discussions by Qatar and Egypt with Hamas.

US President Joe Biden has not been briefed on Israel's plan for military operations in Rafah, but believes civilian life must be protected, Sullivan also said on Sunday in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" program.

"We do not believe that an operation, a major military operation, should proceed in Rafah unless there is a clear and executable plan to protect those civilians, to get them to safety and to feed, clothe and house them," Sullivan said.


Syrian Army Says Downs 7 Drones Around Hama, Idlib

A damaged building following a missile strike in Damascus, Syria, 21 February 2024. EPA/YOUSSEF BADAWI
A damaged building following a missile strike in Damascus, Syria, 21 February 2024. EPA/YOUSSEF BADAWI
TT

Syrian Army Says Downs 7 Drones Around Hama, Idlib

A damaged building following a missile strike in Damascus, Syria, 21 February 2024. EPA/YOUSSEF BADAWI
A damaged building following a missile strike in Damascus, Syria, 21 February 2024. EPA/YOUSSEF BADAWI

Syrian armed forces shot down seven drones aimed at military positions and villages in the countryside of Hama and Idlib, Syrian state media said on Sunday, citing the defense ministry.

The ministry said the drones had been launched by "terrorists", state media reported.